Review – How the Dukes Stole Christmas by Tessa Dare, Sophie Jordan, Sarah MacLean, and Joanna Shupe

About the Book:                                                               Christmas magic is in the air… From the ballrooms of London, to abandoned Scottish castles, to the snowy streets of Gilded Age New York, four bestselling authors whip up some unforgettable romance…with a little help from some enchanted shortbread.

“Meet Me in Mayfair” by Tessa Dare
Louisa Ward needs a Christmas miracle. Unless she catches a wealthy husband at the ball tonight, the horrid, heartless Duke of Thorndale will evict her family from their beloved Mayfair home. But when her friend begs to switch dance cards, Louisa finds herself waltzing with the enemy: the horrid, heartless–and unexpectedly handsome–Thorndale himself. Now the duke’s holding her future in his hands…and he’s not letting go.

“The Duke of Christmas Present” by Sarah MacLean
Rich and ruthless, Eben, Duke of Allryd, has no time for holidays. Holidays are for whimsy and charm–the only two things his money cannot buy. Lady Jacqueline Mosby is full of both, even now, twelve years after she left to see the world. When Jacqueline returns for a single Christmas, Eben can’t resist the woman he never stopped loving…or the future that had once been in reach. It will take a miracle to convince her to stay…but if ever there were a time for miracles, it’s Christmas…

“Heiress Alone” by Sophie Jordan
When Annis Bannister’s family leaves her behind in the rush to escape an impending snowstorm, she finds herself stranded in the Highlands, left to fend off brigands terrorizing the countryside, robbing homes locked up for winter. Her only hope falls on her neighbor, a surly hermit duke who unravels her with a look, then a kiss … until she fears the danger to her heart outweighs the danger of brigands and snowstorms.

“Christmas in Central Park” by Joanna Shupe
Women all over America devour Mrs. Walker’s weekly column for recipes and advice. No one knows Rose, the column’s author, can’t even boil water. When the paper’s owner, Duke Havemeyer, insists she host a Christmas party, Rose must scramble to find a husband, an empty mansion, and a cook. But Duke is not a man easily fooled and she fears her perfect plan is failing–especially when Duke’s attentions make her feel anything but professional. To save her career will she give up her chance at love?

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                               How the Dukes Stole Christmas: A Holiday Romance Anthology

My Review:                    

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Four outstanding authors have teamed up for an amazing collection of Christmas novellas, three set in England, and one in America.  Each story includes a mention of some shortbread cookies, which are rumored to have special capabilities, though they taste like dirt.  There’s also a clever salute to various Christmas movies or novels, such as Home Alone, A Christmas Carol, etc.  This collection is top notch – entertaining, and sometimes emotional.  I greatly enjoyed reading HOW THE DUKES STOLE CHRISTMAS, and highly recommend it.  I just wonder, are those cookies really magical?

Meet Me in Mayfair by Tessa Dare

Louisa Ward must find a wealthy husband immediately, or her family will be ousted from their home.  She’s hoping to meet some eligible men at her friend, Fiona’s, party.  Unfortunately, Fiona has some secretive plans of her own and pleads with Louisa to fulfill all her dances.  One of those dances turns out to be with none other than the new Duke of Thorndale, the very man who called in her father’s debt, and may cause them to be evicted.  James never planned on inheriting a title, and is tired of the fawning and single ladies fighting for his attention.  Louisa’s plain speaking and lack of deference catch James’ attention, and circumstances find them spending the next several hours together.  MEET ME IN MAYFAIR is a warm and delightful story of two people falling in love one enchanted evening, and working through the ensuing difficulties.

The Duke of Christmas Present by Sarah MacLean

       

Eben James and Jacqueline “Jack” Mosby were childhood best friends, then lovers who intended to marry.  Their homes were next door to each other, and there was a secret passage which was often used by Jack to sneak to Eben’s room.  When Eben inherits the title of Duke of Allryd, he discovers that he is all but penniless, and vows to repair all the damage done by his father.  His hard work consumes him, and he postpones his marriage until such time as he’s solvent again.  All Jack wanted was to be a partner with Eben, but instead he becomes more and more distant.  Finally, feeling that she has no place in his life, Jack leaves to be companion to her aunt and travel the world.  Twelve years pass, with Eben living only to work, until one Christmas Eve, Jack shows up.  Is there any chance this couple who never stopped loving each other can find a way to bridge the great chasm between them?  THE DUKE OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT is a painful, yet beautiful tale of second chances, which is guaranteed to bring a lump to your throat and a few tears to your eyes.

Heiress Alone by Sophie Jordan

Annis Ballister cannot believe that her boisterous family packed up from their Scottish vacation, and hurriedly left, intending to outrun the impending snow, leaving her behind with only two servants.  Even worse, the weather is so bad, it appears that Annis may be here for months.  When a neighbor arrives, intent on removing the servants to his home for safety, he grudgingly orders Annis along, too.  Annis is mortified at having to face the Duke of Sinclair again, as they had a disastrous meeting a week ago, with her family mistaking him for a servant, and her sisters blatantly scheming how to lure the duke into marriage.  The rough-around-the-edges- duke made short work of sending the Ballister family away a week ago, but now he finds he’s growing quite fond of Annis, whose plans are about as far removed from marriage as it’s possible to get.  HEIRESS ALONE is a passionate story with a duke determined to win the lady he never knew he wanted or needed, and some sneaky servants determined to make sure the unwilling lady changes her mind.

CHRISTMAS IN CENTRAL PARK by Joanna Shupe

    

Rose Walker desperately wants to be a reporter, but has instead become a popular advice columnist, who is portrayed as an older, well-to-do, married woman.  When the owner of the newspaper she works for, Duke Havermeyer, insists that she host a holiday dinner party, Rose knows she can’t refuse, or her job will be in peril.  The problem is, Duke doesn’t know that her whole background is fictitious, so Rose has to find a husband, some servants, a borrowed home, and plan a fabulous dinner.  Rose’s sham dinner appears to be coming together, and her deception seems to have worked.  What could possibly go wrong?  Duke is a hard man, a workaholic who abhors lies above all else.  I did have one major issue with this story, and that’s Duke’s interaction with Rose, a woman he believes to be married.  That colored my opinion of him even though he subsequently showed a willingness to make some major changes in his life.  CHRISTMAS IN CENTRAL PARK is a passionate story of a couple who manages to navigate a rocky path to find love and forgiveness.

 

Posted in Christmas, Historical Romance, Joanna Shupe, Review, Rose, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, Tessa Dare | Leave a comment

Review – A Most Unsuitable Match by Julia Justiss

About the Book:

Shunned by the ton
How will she find a husband?

Part of Sisters of Scandal: After her mother’s latest outrageous affair, innocent Prudence Lattimar has fled to Bath. With her dubious background, she must marry a man of impeccable reputation. A clergyman with a title would be perfect. And she must steer clear of Lieutenant Johnnie Trethwell—his family is as notorious as hers, no matter how funny, charming and unfailingly honourable he is!

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:
A Most Unsuitable Match (Sisters of Scandal Book 1)

My Review:                      

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Prudence Lattimar comes from a very scandalous family.  She and her siblings are known as the “Vraux Miscellany” due to their being sired by different fathers.  Pru’s debut has been postponed multiple times, and the latest delay is due to another scandal her mother was involved in, albeit unwittingly.  Knowing that remaining in town will only make her situation worse, Pru retreats to Bath with her Aunt Gussie.  Pru longs for a solid marriage and children, and hopes to meet someone, perhaps a clergyman, who will overlook her scandalous family, and build a life with her in the country.  If it takes Pru behaving impeccably and suppressing her natural vivaciousness, she’s willing to do that.

Lieutenant Johnnie Trethwell is a former soldier who is in Bath visiting his Aunt Pen, while recuperating from an injury.  Johnnie’s family is somewhat notorious, as well, and he has a reputation as a rake and an adventurer.  Johnnie’s plans are to find investors to support his proposed trading business, and when he’s well, that means he’ll continue traveling the world.  Throughout Johnnie’s life, it was Aunt Pen who supported him and showed him love and affection.  Now she’d like to see him marry a respectable young lady.

It’s inevitable that Pru and Johnnie meet.  Each is aware of the other’s reputation, and that it’s not beneficial, or even wise, for them to form any kind of acquaintance.  Yet, they immediately click.  Neither of them felt any need for being anything other than their true self while with the other, and Johnnie is charmed by Pru’s genuine personality.  Pru, in turn, sees the caring and honorable man behind the rakish reputation.

I love how Johnnie and Pru didn’t judge the other.  He could see that Pru’s behavior has been impeccable, and the way he defends her publicly is swoonworthy.  Though they know they each need a different type of person, they can’t help but feel a great friendship and camaraderie along with a potent attraction.  They struggle to keep their relationship just at the friend level, but some things just can’t be denied.

A MOST UNSUITABLE MATCH is a lovely, heartwarming story of two people who are wrong for each other while being perfect for each other.  Their future goals are polar opposites  — she seeks a quiet life in the country while he plans to travel to faraway places.  Johnnie’s and Pru’s journey to a happy future together takes them through some self discovery, and some prejudice and treachery.  I love a hero who truly turns out to be a genuine hero, and that’s the case here.  A MOST UNSUITABLE MATCH is a warm, entertaining and romantic story which I greatly enjoyed and recommend.    ~Rose

Posted in Historical Romance, Julia Justiss, Review, Rose | Leave a comment

Review – A Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe

About the Book:

Joanna Shupe returns to New York City’s Gilded Age, where fortunes and reputations are gained and lost with ease—and love can blossom from the most unlikely charade

With the fate of her disgraced family resting on her shoulders, Lady Christina Barclay has arrived in New York City from London to quickly secure a wealthy husband. But when her parents settle on an intolerable suitor, Christina turns to her reclusive neighbor, a darkly handsome and utterly compelling inventor, for help.

Oliver Hawkes reluctantly agrees to a platonic marriage . . . with his own condition: The marriage must end after one year. Not only does Oliver face challenges that are certain to make life as his wife difficult, but more importantly, he refuses to be distracted from his life’s work—the development of a revolutionary device that could transform thousands of lives, including his own.

Much to his surprise, his bride is more beguiling than he imagined. When temptation burns hot between them, they realize they must overcome their own secrets and doubts, and every effort to undermine their marriage, because one year can never be enough.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                         A Notorious Vow: The Four Hundred Series

My Review:                      

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

A childhood illness caused Oliver Hawkes to completely lose his hearing by about the age of thirteen.  Oliver became proficient at lip reading, and continued to pursue his education and to socialize.  When it became apparent that he was being mocked and thought of as less than human, he decided to withdraw from society, remain secluded at his home, and pursue his invention of a hearing device.  Though Oliver had obviously learned to speak from a young age, he now is silent, fearing that his voice has changed.  He learns sign language and carries a small notepad to communicate.  His carefully controlled environment is disrupted when his pet dog insists on taking him to his garden, where he finds an unconscious and injured beautiful young lady.

Lady Christina Barclay and her parents have traveled from England to stay with their American cousins.  Her family is impoverished, and Christina’s parents hope to marry her off to the highest bidder and restore their fortune.  When she is forced to consider the suit of a repulsive and elderly man, Christina finds solace in strolling in the gardens of her reclusive neighbor, though she is clearly doing so uninvited.  When Oliver’s dog inadvertently causes her to fall and injure herself in his garden, Oliver carries her into his home and summons a doctor.

Oliver’s first reaction is concern for Christina.  When it’s certain that her injury is minor, he inquires as to why she was in his garden.  Christina explains, and tries to charm Oliver into allowing her to continue to visit, but he firmly tells her that he insists on his privacy.  Though disappointed in his refusal, Christina continues her visits, and is eventually caught by Oliver, who ends up relenting.  They develop a friendship, with him telling her about the hearing device he’s working on, and her telling him of her family’s woes, and how they want to marry her off against her will.

Christina’s parents, in particular, her mother, are so vile that they are almost caricatures.  Their total disregard for their daughter is truly loathsome, as they long to fill their coffers, which their own  reckless living depleted.  You’ll have to read the book to discover the lengths to which mother dearest will go to achieve her goals.  Her machinations lead to a marriage of convenience between Oliver and Christina.

Though Oliver intends not to consummate the marriage, and to eventually seek an annulment, he finds Christina very desirable.  He at first runs hot and cold – approaching her, then backing off.  Soon he can’t resist any longer, and they begin to share a loving and passionate relationship.  All does not go well, as Christina’s parents will not go away, demanding more from Oliver.  There are also other enemies who seek to have Oliver’s fortune, and to have him declared incompetent.

I really don’t know how Christina became such a loving and caring person with the example her parents set.  She was totally under her mother’s thumb, and I so badly wanted her to stand up for herself, which she didn’t do, even after her marriage.  On the other hand, she brought joy and love to Oliver’s previous sterile existence.  She accepted his deafness as a matter of course, encouraged him to use his voice with her, and learned sign language.  When Oliver was victimized by his enemies, she stood by him, and worked tirelessly to save him.

The fate that befell Oliver truly made me shudder.  There will always be unscrupulous behavior, and thieves ready to capitalize on an opportunity, but the misconceptions of people toward deafness are truly mind boggling.  I would have liked to see a more definite reckoning for all the villains, as I had the niggling feeling that they would all come back to wreak more havoc at a future date.

I found A NOTORIOUS VOW to be an intense and passionate read, with characters who are flawed, but still I couldn’t help loving.  Oliver did exhibit substantial growth, as he realizes that much of what happened to him was due to his own actions.  I love the chemistry and passion between this couple, who are well deserving of their hard won happy ending.   ~Rose

Posted in Historical Romance, Joanna Shupe, Review, Rose | 1 Comment

Review – Last Night With the Earl by Kelly Bowen

About the Book:

After Waterloo, Eli Dawes, Earl of Rivers, was presumed dead—and would have happily stayed that way. He’s no longer the reckless young man he once was, and only half as pretty. All he wants is to hide his scars away in his country home. But when he returns home and tries to sneak into his old bedroom in the middle of the night, he’s shocked to find someone already there.

Rose Hayward remembers Eli as an arrogant rake who helped her late fiancé betray her. Finding him stealing into the house currently rented by Haverhall School for Young Ladies doesn’t correct her impression. Her only thought is to get him to leave immediately. Yet the tension between them is electric, and her painter’s eye can’t help but admire him, scars and all. He might be back from the dead, but now Rose will do anything to make him feel truly alive.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                  Last Night With the Earl: Includes a bonus novella (The Devils of Dover)

My Review:                 

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Six years ago, Rose Hayward, the daughter of a wealthy baron, fell in love with, and became engaged to Anthony Gibson.  The betrothal introduced her to society, where she tried to fit in.  One of Anthony’s best friends, Eli Dawes, shared a passion for art with Rose, and the two became friends.  Eli even allowed Rose the freedom to view his art gallery at any time.  Both men went off to war together, but before they left, and unknown to Eli, Anthony betrayed Rose in a horrible way.  His cruel actions caused her to become a laughingstock and ridiculed everywhere she went.  Rose was so traumatized, that she withdrew from society, and devoted herself to teaching art, and painting portraits which bring out the true beauty of those who feel ugly or flawed.

Before Eli became a soldier, he lived a rakish lifestyle.  The handsome heir to the Rivers earldom fell hard for Rose, but kept his feelings a secret because she was engaged to his best friend.  At the bloody battle of Waterloo, Anthony is killed, and Eli is severely injured and scarred.  The injuries cause him to look at his life seriously, and he decides to stay away from England, and let himself be presumed dead.  He hides in Belgium for six years until an investigator finds him, informing him that his father has died, and he’s now the earl.  Finally, Eli decides to return home, but not to London.  He’ll stay at his remote Dover estate, away from society, and manage his holdings through lawyers, messengers, and clerks.

Eli returns to find that his Dover estate has been leased out to a school, run by Rose and her sister.  Since he and Rose were friends, he is bewildered at Rose’s initial hostility toward him, not knowing that she believes him part of Anthony’s cruel actions to her.  It’s not long before they get the truth sorted out, and Rose realizes that Eli had nothing to do with Anthony’s cruel games.  With their friendship renewed, Rose begins her campaign to bring Eli back from the half existence he’s been living, and to make him comfortable in his own skin again, even with his drastically altered appearance.

Rose is one magnificent woman.  The mental pain she suffered from her former fiancé’s cruelty ran very deep and almost destroyed her.  Though she won’t brave society again, she will make sure that she shows everyone she paints their genuine attractiveness and worth.  I love how she chose to give rather than become bitter.  Soon, Eli is comfortable with Rose, and her brilliant planning takes him along a path where he realizes that he can also become a better person and make a difference to many lives.

Eli’s attraction for Rose never died, and she now is free to return his feelings.  Their chemistry together is amazing, and they begin a relationship, which Eli wants to last a lifetime.  The earldom and his plans require that he return to town, and facing society is something that Rose is just not strong enough to handle.  Though she loves him, she can’t become his wife.

I loved seeing Eli become stronger, and less self conscious, while becoming a truly caring and giving man.  His determination to never give up on his relationship with Rose was beautiful to see.  LAST NIGHT WITH THE EARL is yet another wonderful story from Kelly Bowen, who has a gift for writing characters I fall in love with and stories that captivate me.  Eli and Rose are both wounded, and in need of healing.  First, Rose brings Eli back to life, little knowing that he will soon return the favor.  LAST NIGHT WITH THE EARL is an emotional and passionate romance with elements of kindness, courage, forgiveness and acceptance, and is one I savored and highly recommend.   ~Rose

 

Posted in Historical Romance, Kelly Bowen, Review, Rose | 2 Comments

Review – For the Duke’s Eyes Only by Lenora Bell

About the Book:

If adventure has a name…it must be Lady India Rochester. The intrepid archaeologist possesses a sharp blade and an even sharper knack for uncovering history’s forgotten women. Unfortunately, she has one annoying weakness: the dangerously handsome Duke of Ravenwood. Former best friend. Current enemy. And the man who dared to break her heart.

Daniel Bonds, the Duke of Ravenwood, is a thrill-seeking antiquities hunter who only plays by one rule: Never fall in love. He’s in it for the fortune and glory. At least that’s what he wants the world to think. He’s sworn to hide his tangled web of secrets, especially from the one woman he cares about and will protect at any cost.

But when a priceless relic is stolen from the British Museum, the rivals must align forces. Racing to recover the stolen antiquity and avert an international disaster? All in a day’s work. Avoiding their buried feelings? More and more impossible. For love is about to become the greatest treasure of all.

The grand adventure begins…now!

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                   For the Duke’s Eyes Only: School for Dukes

My Review:              

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

I could tell right from the beginning that I was going to love FOR THE DUKE’S EYES ONLY, and that it was going to break my heart.  India and Daniel are both children of dukes, lived on neighboring estates, and were betrothed to each other almost from birth.  Even as children, they were the best of friends and loved each other.  They spent their days together, hunting for treasure, and envisioning how their future would be when they were married and travelling the world, becoming archaeologists. Their idyllic days come to an end when Daniel’s father dies, and is under a cloud of suspicion of being a traitor.  While still just a boy, Daniel becomes the Duke of Ravenwood, and moves away to the home of a family friend, who raises him.  Eventually, Daniel’s letters to India become less frequent, then they stop completely.  India still holds out hope, and when it’s finally time to make her debut, she can’t wait to share a dance with her friend and betrothed.  Daniel, however, stages a scene that is guaranteed to kill India’s feelings for him and to drive her away permanently.  He is successful, and the once beautiful friendship and camaraderie is a thing of the past.

The years pass, and India, now twenty-six, has become a successful archaeologist.  She has seen Daniel, now known as Raven, become a rake, a heavy drinker, and a treasure hunter with dubious methods.  Their paths have crossed on occasion, and their current interactions are biting and sarcastic.  What India doesn’t know is that Daniel was recruited to become an agent for the crown very soon after his father’s death.  His mentor strongly suggested that Daniel have no ties, so that no one could retaliate against him by harming his loved ones.  Daniel took that advice to heart, actually splitting from his family and deliberately ruining his relationship with India, whom he never stopped loving.  His rakishness is greatly exaggerated, as is his drunkenness, which he uses as a cover for his investigations.

India manages to sneak into a “male only” meeting where she is able to view a precious artifact, and realizes it’s counterfeit.  Daniel is nearby, as is his mentor, who is very impressed with her sharp eye.  Daniel’s next assignment is to travel to France to retrieve the original stolen item, and surprisingly, India is going along, though not by Daniel’s choice.  As you can imagine, Daniel is doing his best to stay in character, but the time spent constantly in India’s company causes some cracks in his facade. India catches glimpses of her childhood friend and the man she always imagined Daniel would become, and begins to wonder about what caused the drastic changes in him.  India, herself, finds her sharp edges and wariness softening a bit, and soon their explosive chemistry bursts forth.

Daniel and India coming together after all these years is just so right and so perfect.  I hated the choices Daniel made, though he made them believing he was doing the right thing, and working for the greater good.  He also never gave up on trying to prove his father innocent of treason.  Though he had to hide it, his love and admiration for India never faltered.   India became a bit hardened to protect her own heart, but I still love her fierceness, her intelligence, and her dedication.  FOR THE DUKE’S EYES ONLY is an absolutely brilliant, well written story that works on all levels from the poignancy of the opening chapter, to the adventure, to the rekindled romance, to the fiery passion.  If a couple ever belonged together, it’s Daniel and India.  The sad years of separation made the reconciliation so much sweeter, and this story truly touched my heart.  I highly recommend FOR THE DUKE’S EYES ONLY, and it becomes part of my keeper collection and goes on my favorites list.   ~Rose

Posted in Historical Romance, Lenora Bell, Review, Rose, Top Pick | 5 Comments

Review – Christmas Revels V by Anna Allen, Kate Parker, Hannah Meredith, and Louisa Cornell

About the Book:

Christmas with the Regency Lords and Ladies is Always Unexpected—So Let the Revels Begin

Mr. Hunt’s Christmas Caller – After his anticipated betrothal falls apart, Matthias Hunt wants nothing to do with Christmas festivities. Yet, when quiet, demure Constance Blackwell unexpectedly gives him a piece of her mind, he wonders why he never considered her. Delivering gifts for her aunt, Constance dreads facing Mr. Hunt in the wake of her hasty words. After years of secretly loving her neighbor, she can hardly expect a Christmas miracle… until the weather changes.

The Christmas Gamble – In exchange for her guardian’s gambling debts, Lizzie Hancock is pledged to marry the Earl of Stonebrook, a man she’s never met. When she arrives for the Christmas wedding, the bridegroom is missing, the servants are secretive, and a prodigal brother has returned. Could Lizzie gain everything she desires—if she’s willing to gamble on love?

The Gnome and the Christmas Star – The Earl of Marle has an uncanny ability to judge political candidates, but he’s a failure in matters of the heart. After years spent caring for her late husband, the Dowager Viscountess Lyndon fiercely clings to her new independence. An unlikely meeting offers them both a second chance at happiness, but a Christmas miracle is needed to claim it.

A Perfectly Ridiculous Christmas – Valerian, Viscount Keynsham will do anything to ensure his best friend’s marriage to a wealthy heiress, including claim the man’s three young Creole daughters as his own. Lady Catherine Chastleton needs a manageable husband to claim her inheritance. As the children try to keep their stories straight, Christmas will be anything but manageable.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                               Christmas Revels V: Four Regency Novellas

My Review:                      

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Mr. Hunt’s Christmas Caller by Anna Allen

Matthias Hunt has just faced being rejected by the second woman he’s courted, and he hates being the subject of pity and gossip.  Constance Blackwell has been reduced to living on her aunt’s charity, and has secretly loved Matthias for several years.  As she makes her customary Christmas Eve delivery of preserves to her neighbors, Matthias invites her in, out of the nasty weather.  As they sit and chat, time passes very quickly and they are greatly enjoying each other’s company.  Soon it’s clear that the ice and snow will not allow Constance to return home, much to the delight of both of them.  Their warm and cozy interlude is broken by not one, but two, unwelcome stranded travelers – including the gossiping biddy Mrs. Lancaster, and Nerissa Merryweather, the woman who turned down Matthias’ proposal.  Only now it appears that she’s changed her mind.  MR. HUNT’S CHRISTMAS CALLER is a warm and emotional story with a mature hero and heroine who seem on their way to finding happiness, as long as a scheming and mercenary young lady doesn’t get her way.  I love this touching story!

The Christmas Gamble by Kate Parker

Lizzie Hancock is on her way to meet and marry her fiancé, Lord Stonebrook.  The engagement was arranged by her guardian in order to offset his debts.  They arrive to find Lord Stonebrook mysteriously missing, and his servants reluctant to provide much information.  Soon, another guest arrives – a man claiming to be Gabriel, Lord Stonebrook’s younger brother, who has been away for fifteen years.  It becomes apparent that there are strange goings-on and cover-ups.  What has happened to Stonebrook?  Is the new arrival really Gabriel?  And why does Lizzie wish that he was her fiancé, instead of the mysterious lord she has yet to meet?  There are some surprising twists and some smiles in THE CHRISTMAS GAMBLE, a yuletide romance with a bit of suspense.

The Gnome and the Christmas Star by Hannah Meredith

Sophia is a widow, and she has one more stepson to see settled before she feels she can move on with her own life.  Henry was badly injured while serving as a soldier, and has become withdrawn and solitary.  Sophia feels that if Henry could rekindle his interest in politics, he might rebound, so she arranges a visit to the Earl of Marle.  The earl, Duncan, is a powerful figure in politics, and he invites potential candidates to his home to determine if he’ll offer his support.  Duncan is a widower, though his wife left him before she passed away.  Unfortunately, a derogatory comment by her caused him to be dubbed as, “The Gnome,” though he’s a very handsome man, if short in stature.  Over the Christmas holiday, Sophia and Duncan, both who had marriages that were less than love matches, become very attracted to each other, and begin to consider planning a future together.  I absolutely love that Duncan and Sophia are mature and intelligent people.  THE GNOME AND THE CHRISTMAS STAR is a warm and satisfying story which has an epilogue that is pure delight!

A Perfectly Ridiculous Christmas by Louisa Cornell

Viscount Keynsham feels somewhat responsible for the death of his dear friend, Thynne’s, wife three years ago, though she was the one who made the choice to follow them when they were soldiers.  Since then, Thynne was cast off by his father, and has become a habitual drinker.  Keynsham has taken Thynne and his three daughters to live in his own home, and has searched for an heiress for his friend to wed.  Thynne loves his daughters, and he’s willing to make a match with someone he doesn’t love.  Keynsham has arranged for Thynne’s potential wife, Lady Catherine, to visit for Christmas.  He plans to assess her character and see if she’s the type of woman who would make a loving stepmother to the three girls she knows nothing about.  The girls also have a mixed heritage, which is bound to affect their position is society in years to come, so it’s crucial that Catherine be willing to support them.  Initially, Keynsham concocts a wild scheme to say that the girls are his daughters, while he observes Catherine’s interaction with them.  Catherine and Keynsham develop a strong passion for each other, but how can he possibly take away the fiancée of his friend who’s already lost so much.  A PERFECTLY RIDICULOUS CHRISTMAS is a bit of a madcap adventure, but also a warm and very satisfying holiday romance.

Posted in Anna Allen, Christmas, Hannah Meredith, Historical Romance, Kate Parker, Louisa Cornell, Review, Rose | Leave a comment

Review – Mrs. Brodie’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies by Shana Galen and Theresa Romain

About the Book:

Mrs. Brodie’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies appears exclusive and respectable, a place for daughters of the gentry to glean the accomplishments that will win them suitable husbands.

But the academy is not what it seems. It’s more.

Alongside every lesson in French or dancing or mathematics, the students learn the skills they’ll need to survive in a man’s world. They forge; they fight; they change their accents to blend into a world apart. And the staff at the academy find a haven from their pasts…and lose their hearts.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                  Mrs. Brodie’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies

My Thoughts:                

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

At Mrs. Brodie’s school, the students are trained not only in the expected tasks a young lady should know, but also, surprisingly different things – like self defense and “creative” calligraphy.  These two novellas tell the stories of two employees at the school, and both are about receiving a second chance at love, one of my favorite tropes.

The Way to a Gentleman’s Heart by Theresa Romain

Jack Grahame and Marianne Redfern were childhood friends, then lovers who planned to marry.  Jack’s family was poor, and when Jack’s father arranged a marriage for him to a wealthy merchant’s daughter, Jack’s sense of responsibility made him accept.  The situation would have been bad enough for Marianne, but the way she found out was truly devastating.  Her humiliation caused her to leave the comfort of her family and travel to town, determined to make a living on her own.  She was lucky enough to be employed at Mrs. Brodie’s Academy, first as a maid, then an assistant cook, and now as the head cook.

Eight years have passed, and Jack has been widowed for two years.  The marriage was not happy, and the details were quite unusual.  He finally comes to visit Marianne, in his own words, to ask her forgiveness.  Marianne is shocked to see Jack, and surprisingly, decides to put him to work assisting her until she employs a new helper.  It’s not long before their old familiar passion flares up, but that is only the surface reaction, as, underneath there are still misunderstandings and mistrust between them.  When Jack is called home, they part on rocky terms, and possibly forever.

THE WAY TO A GENTLEMAN’S HEART is a sweet, yet painful read, dealing with making tough choices when everything is not simply black or white, letting go of pride, and opening your heart to forgiveness and acceptance.

Counterfeit Scandal by Shana Galen

Bridget Lavery and Caleb Harris fell in love and planned to marry eight years ago.  At that time, Caleb was an agent for the foreign office, and when he disappeared, Bridget was informed that he was killed.  Bridget was expecting their child, and accepted a proposal from a man who was smitten with her and agreed to accept the baby.  Unfortunately, her husband’s ineptness landed them both in debtor’s prison, and Bridget temporarily placed her son, James, in an orphanage until she was able to reclaim him.  When Bridget is finally released, her husband has died, and she is forced to seek employment.  She luckily is accepted as a teacher at Mrs. Brodie’s Academy, and saves every bit of money until she has enough to afford her own lodgings, and have her son back with her.

Bridget’s bad luck continues when she discovers that the orphanage where she left James has burned down.  No one is able to tell her where all the children were moved.  Then, to her amazement, she runs into her “dead” fiancé, Caleb, who is staying at the very same lodging house.  It turns out that Caleb did not leave Bridget by choice.  His assignment was extremely dangerous and confidential, and now he is a wanted man, with a substantial bounty on his head.  When Bridget tells Caleb about their son, James, he agrees to help her find him on the condition she not reveal his relationship to James.  Caleb feels he has no future, and has no desire to embroil his former love and his son in his tattered life.  When Caleb is recognized by a prominent underworld figure, it appears all hope is lost.

COUNTERFEIT SCANDAL is a sad tale of true lovers parted by circumstances beyond their control.  It’s heartbreaking to see how Bridget was forced to part with her beloved son after losing the man she loved.  Her life was not an easy one, but neither was Caleb’s, as his life was constantly in peril while he performed his duties for his government.  It seems that Bridget and Caleb deserve a much needed miracle if they are to have any chance of reuniting with their lost son and with each other, but sometimes the sweetest rewards are ones that were the hardest to come by.

Posted in Historical Romance, Review, Rose, Shana Galen, Theresa Romain | Leave a comment

Review – The Paris Wedding by Charlotte Nash

About the Book:

Ten years ago, Rachael West chose not to move to Sydney with high-school sweetheart Matthew. Instead she stayed on the family wheat farm, caring for her seriously ill mother and letting go of her dreams. Now, Matthew is marrying someone else. And Rachael is invited to the wedding, a lavish affair in Paris, courtesy of the flamboyant family of Matthew’s fiancée – a once-in-a-lifetime celebration at someone else’s expense in Europe’s most romantic city.

She is utterly unprepared for what the week brings. Friendships will be upended, secrets will be revealed – and on the eve of the wedding, Rachael is faced with an impossible dilemma: should she give up on the promise of love, or destroy another woman’s life for a chance at happiness?

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                 The Paris Wedding: A Novel

My Review:                      

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

For two years, teenage sweethearts and lovers Rachael West and Matthew Grant spent all their time together, planning their future, and enjoying the intense feelings that come with first love.  Then Rachael’s mother was diagnosed with a debilitating illness, and Rachael became her caregiver while Matthew went off to school.  Though they kept in touch at first, it wasn’t long before Matthew let Rachael know that his plans had changed, and they seemed not to include her.  Over the next decade, Rachael managed the family farm while caring for her mother, whose health declined steadily.  Now at age twenty eight, Rachael’s mother has died, and along with her intense grief, Rachael has to decide what path to take for her future which had been put on hold for so long.  Before she makes any decisions, an invitation arrives in the mail – a wedding invitation – for Matthew and his fiancée, Bonnie.

Bonnie is a prominent socialite from a very wealthy family, and the wedding is going to be an extravagant affair held in Paris.  The invitation includes all costs covered to the wedding.  Rachael never got over her love for Matthew, and the last thing she wants is to watch him marry another.  Yet, as she talks the situation through with her best friend, Sammy, and ponders it, perhaps this is the way to finally put an end to all her foolish dreams of a reconciliation and move on with her life.  She accepts the invitation, with her friend, Sammy, as her guest, and begins to make her plans.  Rachael sadly neglected herself over the last decade, so now she tries to make up for lost time, getting a new haircut, a manicure, and some lovely new dresses, which she, herself, designed.

The first face to face meeting with Matthew after all this time seems to leave them both thunderstruck.  The full schedule of activities leaves them no time for any real conversations, but both are very aware of each other, and can’t seem to keep their eyes off each other.  Ironically, Rachael finds herself liking Bonnie, who is very kind to her, and works tirelessly for charity.  She appears genuine, lovely, and not the clichéd spoiled rich girl.  Rachael also meets Antonio Ferranti, a renowned photojournalist, who is actually the official wedding photographer as a favor to his friend, Bonnie.  Antonio is a handsome and compelling man, and he appears to have an interest in Rachael.  They spend some time together, and Rachael finds him attractive, but she forgets all about him when Matthew finally gets some alone time with her.

Rachael’s intention was to be able to move on, but how can she when all the love she felt for all these years won’t die?  When Matthew tells her of his regrets, and his own feelings for her, what path will she take?  THE PARIS WEDDING is an emotional roller coaster ride which captivated me from beginning to end.  Each time I thought I knew which way things were heading, they took a twist.  All of the main characters are sympathetic, but flawed, as we all are.  This is so much more than a love story – there is family, pain, loss, bad decisions, regrets, second chances, letting go, and new beginnings.  I had to read this amazing book in one sitting to find out how all was resolved.  THE PARIS WEDDING is fascinating, full of complex characters, and is so memorable, that it’s still resonating with me a week after I finished reading it.   ~Rose

 

Posted in Charlotte Nash, Contemporary Romance, Review, Rose | Leave a comment

Review – The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews

About the Book:

She Wanted Sanctuary… 

Helena Reynolds will do anything to escape her life in London, even if that means traveling to a remote cliffside estate on the North Devon coast and marrying a complete stranger. But Greyfriar’s Abbey isn’t the sort of refuge she imagined. And ex-army captain Justin Thornhill–though he may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome–is anything but a romantic hero.

He Needed Redemption… 

Justin has spent the last two decades making his fortune, settling scores, and suffering a prolonged period of torture in an Indian prison. Now, he needs someone to smooth the way for him with the villagers. Someone to manage his household–and warm his bed on occasion. What he needs, in short, is a wife and a matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to acquire one.

Their marriage was meant to be a business arrangement and nothing more. A dispassionate union free from the entanglements of love and affection. But when Helena’s past threatens, will Justin’s burgeoning feelings for his new bride compel him to come to her rescue? Or will dark secrets of his own force him to let her go?

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                   The Matrimonial Advertisement (Parish Orphans of Devon Book 1)

My Review:                    

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Helena Reynolds is desperate.  The loving uncle she remembers from her childhood seems to have changed into a monster since he inherited the earldom from her deceased father and brother.  Though he has the title and all the entailed properties, the wealth was all left to Helena.  And he wants it.  Desperation has driven him to go so far as to physically abuse Helena, and to arrange to have her committed and declared insane – all so he can control her wealth.  Not seeing any other solution, Helena answers an advertisement for a mail order bride in Devon, and steals away to meet her future husband.

Justin Thornhill is a former soldier who now bears the physical and emotional scars due to his imprisonment and torture while serving in India.  He has succeeded in purchasing the home that was a long time goal of his, but it’s lonely and not as satisfying as he expected it to be.  His man of business suggests a mail order bride, and Justin agrees to a mature, sensible woman who won’t mind the isolation or his scars.  What he gets is a beautiful young woman who is obviously hiding secrets and running away from something.  Though Helena is not the type of woman he requested, he is taken by her poise and beauty and decides to go ahead with the marriage.

Helena instinctively knows that Justin will be able to keep her safe, and she’s anxious to marry immediately to put herself beyond her uncle’s reach.  Within days, they wed, only to have her uncle’s henchman beating on their door, demanding that Helena return with him.  Though Justin proclaims their marriage makes Helena his responsibility, the paid thug threatens that the earl will have the marriage declared void due to Helena’s instability.  Justin is just as determined to keep and protect his new wife, and with his friend and lawyer’s advice, they decide to return to town.  The plan is to be very visible as a couple, showing that Helena is perfectly sane, and thwarting her uncle’s plans.

Our couple still hasn’t consummated their marriage, but are slowly falling more in love with each other every day.  While Justin now knows Helena’s secrets, she doesn’t know his.  Justin has as many scars on the inside as he does outwardly.  There are things that happened while he was in India that haunt him, and his birth makes him feel unworthy of Helena, who is a true lady.  Once they appear to have resolved the threat of Helena’s uncle, Justin decides that Helena deserves a much better man for a husband, even though he loves and desires her.  Will Helena decide to fight for their marriage?  And even if she does, will the determined Justin ever give in?

THE MATRIMONIAL ADVERTISEMENT is emotional, romantic, and beautifully written, although the despicable acts done to Helena while she was institutionalized made my skin crawl.  It’s truly mind shattering to realize just how easy it was for a dishonorable person to have a relative declared insane and “put away.”  Justin is not a perfect hero, but he’s an honorable and strong man, and I loved him.  I admire Helena for all she endured without breaking, and how she fought her uncle, and then for her marriage.  Mimi Matthews always writes fully developed characters and heart touching stories which are so satisfying to read and to savor.   ~Rose

Posted in Historical Romance, Mimi Matthews, Review, Rose | 3 Comments

Review – More or Less a Countess by Anna Bradley

About the Book:

Finding a worthy husband should be simple for three beautiful debutantes in Regency London. But the Somerset sisters have a way of making it delightfully complicated…

Violet Somerset has always preferred a library to a ballroom, but to please her grandmother she agreed to one London season. With nothing to show for it but heartbreak, she’s reconciled to spinsterhood. Until a notorious rogue known as the Devil of Dare requests an introduction to her timid, gentle youngest sister, Hyacinth. Violet will do anything to stop the match—even if it means posing as Hyacinth herself.

Nicholas Balfour, the Earl of Dare, is enjoying the life of a rake far too much to take a wife. But he must keep his promise to his grandmother. He’ll simply choose the meekest bride he can find, install her at his estate, then carry on as before. Hyacinth sounds perfect—until he discovers that her sweet demeanor hides the tongue of a viper and the mind of a bluestocking.

As Violet’s ruse threatens to unravel, however, she may find the tables turned. Soon she may have no choice but to tolerate her handsome fiancé—or fall in love with him.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                           More or Less a Countess (The Somerset Sisters)

My Review:                  

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Nicholas Balfour is the second son, the spare, and always felt he was in the shadow of his beloved older brother, Graham.  Nick and Graham were the best of friends, but their father, the Earl of Dare, while never actually cruel to Nick, showered his favor and attention on his heir.  When Graham died, Nick tried to step up into a role he never wanted, but it seemed there was no pleasing his father.  Finally, desperate to escape his own grief and feelings of inadequacy, Nick flees to the continent and begins living a rakish lifestyle, seeking whatever pleasures take his fancy.  Then Nick’s father dies, and he’s forced to return to cold England, leaving warm Italy, and his even warmer mistress behind.  While Nick intends for his stay in England to be brief, his aunt, Lady Westcott, holds the purse strings, and she has different plans.

Violet Somerset is a bluestocking, and her debut into society wasn’t successful, to say the least.  Her playing, singing, and dancing all leave something to be desired, and she often found herself the object of cruel remarks.  The only gentleman to show her kindness and friendship, Lord Derrick, fell in love and married her friend, Honora.  With the object of her affections now wed to another, Violet focuses on writing and illustrating a book about London – its history and its people.  One evening, while escaping a ball for a few quiet moments in the library, she is interrupted by the scandalous Earl of Dare and a female companion, who also decided to escape the ball, but for a totally different reason.  Unaware that someone else is in the room, Dare and his companion proceed to have a quickie while an astonished (and amused) Violet observes.

While at dinner, Nick is seated close to Violet’s sister, Hyacinth, and he later hears her playing beautifully.  Knowing that his aunt will not let him leave England until he weds, Nick decides to pursue Hyacinth – at least his wife will be beautiful and talented.  He plans on an introduction, but instead approaches Violet, who looks very much like Hyacinth.  Violet, still inwardly laughing at the earlier encounter she witnessed, advises Nick not to call on her.  Nick, ever confident of his charms proceeds to call on Violet anyway, still assuming that she is Hyacinth, and that she will shortly succumb to him.  Violet is anxious to send Nick away, but it becomes clear that he could be useful to her, escorting her around town to locations where she can research and do sketches for her book.

Thus begins the relationship built on deception from both sides – Nick plying his charm to quickly win an unwanted bride, and Violet, letting Nick think she is Hyacinth, while using him to escort and protect her.  But, as they say, love is strange.  Nick finds himself enjoying his time with the avowed bluestocking.  Her genuine thirst for knowledge and her natural curiosity and enthusiasm begins to charm him.  Violet also begins to appreciate Nick’s innate courtesy, protectiveness, and his willingness to answer her questions.  He never mocks her, he shows her exquisite care, and acts the true gentleman around her.  It’s not long before they are caught embracing, and a quick marriage is in their future.

After the initial anger and confusion over Violet pretending to be Hyacinth, they marry.  Violet sincerely apologizes, and Nick forgives her.  His thoughts on their wedding day:

He was going to make love to her tonight, and when they were both sated and she was lying in his arms, he was going to dream about her smile, and that flirtatious little laugh.  Tomorrow he would make her laugh again, and for every tomorrow afterwards, whenever that laugh was on the edge of her mouth, he would catch it on his lips.

Only Nick’s heart is broken before he ever holds her in his arms.  He makes a shattering discovery, and all his dreams of love and happy ever after are dead.  The wonderful man Violet fell in love with has retreated behind the cold eyed rake, whose only intention now is to see his wife pregnant and to return to his mistress.

Author Anna Bradley certainly knows how to write some heart wrenching scenes.  I had tears falling several times as this wonderfully flawed, deeply in love couple broke each other’s heart and trust.  Both Violet and Nick were strong in many ways, yet very vulnerable.  In particular, Nick’s insecurities over his stellar older brother kept him from accepting the truth.  Their eventual happiness is so well deserved, and the culmination of their passion is hot and beautiful.  I found MORE OR LESS A COUNTESS to be a highly emotional, romantic, and breathtaking read that is Anna Bradley’s best writing to date.   ~Rose

 

Posted in Anna Bradley, Historical Romance, Review, Rose | Leave a comment