Temptation has Green Eyes (Emperors of London #2) by Lynne Connolly

Temptation has Green Eyes

She holds the key to more than a fortune…

There’s more to love than meets the eye…

The daughter of a wealthy merchant, Sophia Russell has no interest in marriage, especially after a recent humiliation—and especially not to Maximilian, Marquess of Devereaux. But it’s the only way to save herself from fortune hunters—and those who wish to seize a powerful connection she prefers to keep secret—even from her future husband…

Marrying Sophia is the only way Max can regain the wealth his father squandered on an extravagant country palace. And while Max and his bride are civil, theirs is clearly a marriage of convenience—until a family enemy takes a questionable interest in Sophia—one that may lead all the way to the throne. Forced to become allies in a battle they hadn’t foreseen, the newlyweds soon grow closer—and discover a love, and a passion, they never expected…

Publisher and Release Date: Lyrical Press, February 2015
Time and Setting: 1750s London
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2.5
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Caz

This is the second book in Ms Connolly’s Emperors of London series set in the Georgian era, in which readers follow the stories of members of a wealthy and influential family whose imperialistic names (Julius, Nicodemus, Alexander, Maximillian etc.) have earned them that particular nickname.

Maximillian Wallace, Marquess of Devereux has spent most of his adult life working to pull his family out of the debt accumulated by his late father and has finally managed to put them back on solid ground thanks to a combination of his business acumen and hard work. He is about to put the finishing touches to a deal with Thomas Russell, one of the shrewdest and wealthiest traders in the City, a deal which will secure his financial security and that of his family for some time to come.

The deal is all but done when Russell puts forward a suggestion that he hopes will sweeten the bargain even further. His daughter Sophia is his only heir and not only will she bring a considerable sum of money to her husband when she marries, but through her, her husband stands to inherit all Russell’s business interests. Added to that, she has a good head for business and would prove an asset in running those interests. Unfortunately, however, Sophia has recently been made the subject of cruel gossip by a young man who sought to force her into marriage, and if Russell doesn’t get her married quickly, the rumours will ruin her prospects entirely.

Max knows what is being offered, and while he doesn’t like the fact that Russell is only too well aware that he’s making an offer Max would be a fool to refuse, he can’t deny that he is very tempted. Sophia hasn’t made much of an impression on him on the few occasions he has seen her, but he quickly decides that a marriage under such circumstances will be as good as any and agrees to marry her.

Sophia, on the other hand, is not at all pleased at being forced into marrying a man she does not love, regardless of the fact that he’s titled and undeniably attractive. But such was a woman’s lot during this period, and she eventually gives in to her father’s rather unpleasant methods of persuasion and the wedding takes place.

Following an unsatisfactory wedding night, during which the intensity of his desire for his new bride took him completely by surprise, Max decides to wait a while before returning to her bed. Realising that spending time with her but not touching her is going to be very difficult, he starts spending more and more time away from home, living more or less the same life he led before his marriage. Max is actually rather pleased with the bargain he has made; Sophia is pretty and intelligent, and he likes her. In his self-satisfaction, however, he fails to see the way Sophia is shunned and sidelined in society when he is not at her side. She is a “cit” (a commoner whose wealth comes from trade) whose name has been linked to scandal, and while Max assures her that being married to one of the Emperors of London will lend her consequence and ensure her acceptance into his world, it takes a stern talking-to from his cousin to make him see that Sophia is not doing so well on her own.

Unfortunately, his neglect of her has left Sophia grateful for the friendship she is offered from another quarter, one her husband is determined she not pursue. The Dankworth family are long-standing enemies of the Emperors, known to be Jacobite sympathisers who will do anything and use anyone in their quest to re-instate a Stuart monarch. When Sophia makes a startling discovery about her parentage, she is unwittingly drawn into a plot that could have far-reaching consequences – consequences that the Dankworths are only too ready to exploit.

The way Ms Connolly depicts the world of Georgian London is impressive. Her descriptions of the fashions, customs and lifestyles of the great and the good are very informative and successfully give the reader a strong sense of time and place. The characters are well-written and Sophia is an engaging heroine, if perhaps a little modern in outlook at times. The sub-plot concerning the machinations of the Dankworths is full of intrigue and I enjoyed the story overall, but the romance is underdeveloped, and that’s where the book falls down for me. Max and Sophia don’t spend a great deal of time together “on the page” getting to know each other after their marriage, and when things between them begin to improve, they seem to go from being distant with each other to being unable to keep their hands off one another in the blink of an eye. There is little or no actual relationship development, which is rather a let-down as I had enjoyed that aspect of the previous book, Rogue in Red Velvet.

In spite of that reservation, however, I did enjoy the story and will certainly be looking out for the next book in the series.

Warrior’s Surrender by Elizabeth Ellen Carter

warriors surrender

A shared secret from their past could destroy their future…

In the years following William the Conqueror’s harrying of the North, Lady Alfreya of Tyrswick returns to her family home after seven years in exile. But instead of returning victorious as her dead father had promised, she returns defeated by Baron Sebastian de la Croix, the Norman who rules her lands.

To save her gravely ill brother’s life, Alfreya offers herself hostage to her enemy. As Alfreya gets to know her new husband, she finds he’s not the monster she feared, and their marriage of convenience soon becomes a bond of passion. But Sebastian is a man with a secret—one that could destroy him.

As a series of brutal murders haunt their nights, the man who betrayed Alfreya’s father returns claiming to be her betrothed. He has learned Sebastian’s secret and will use it to further his own ambition—using Sebastian’s own family—which will destroy Sebastian and mark him a traitor, and plunge an unprepared England into war with the Scots…

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Publisher and Release Date:Etopia Press, November 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Northumbria, England – 1077
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by: Claudia

Warrior’s Surrender is the first book I have read by this author, and I was impressed by her world-building and with the storyline. Equal parts romance and action, the story also provides a very detailed picture of life of the period. We get a lot of information on clothing, food, customs and rituals which is skillfully woven into the story of Sebastian and Alfreya (Frey).

Sebastian de la Croix is a powerful leader of men, a just and merciful man who holds the loyalty of his own men and the people he inherited through conquest. He has his own fears and secrets but is always fair and determined to do what is right. He is a strong character who is not afraid to allow the people around him to develop and exercise their strength and to make the most of their lives – which gains him the devotion of his people. He also understands Alfreya’s character and her need for time and understanding, which gains him her love.

Both of them together are an interesting and enchanting combination as they rival each other in passion and sense of loyalty and honor.

Of course there is also a villain in the person of Drefan, a well-connected, well-funded rebel with few scruples, who uses everything and everyone to get what he wants; as well as some interesting secondary characters who are not all impressed with the development of the relationship between Sebastian and Frey. I especially loved Dom, the honest priest, who is not afraid to speak his mind.

The book is well written and we get to know the two principals well, Frey especially. Her gradual coming to know Sebastian leads to her falling in love with him, and this part of the story is very engaging. The problem, however is that the reader sees very little from Sebastian’s PoV. Ms Carter can clearly write with emotion and intensity, but this is not applied to Sebastian’s side of the story, which is a disappointment. At one point in the book, Sebastian and Frey are forced to spend an extended period of time apart. During almost the whole of that time, we are in Frey’s PoV, seeing her anguish and unhappiness, but we get almost nothing from Sebastian’s PoV; and the eventual resolution to the situation is dealt with in just a couple of sentences. This could have been a very emotionally intense part of the story, but as it is, it falls completely flat and is a big disappointment.

I also got the impression that Ms Carter was given a strict instruction as to page-count, because the final quarter of the story feels rushed and I felt cheated out of an ending that was as well-written as the rest of the book.

Warrior’s Surrender is a passionate story about honor, chivalry and love, set in tumultuous times; and although I have some misgivings about some parts of it, I would certainly read more books by this author.

What a Devilish Duke Desires by Vicky Dreiling

what a devilish duke desires

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WILL A FEW FLIRTATIOUS STEPS

Harry Norcliffe never wanted to inherit his beloved uncle’s title. The rigidity of the ton, the incessant reminders from his marriage-minded mama that he must settle down with a highborn lady and produce an heir and a spare: it’s all such a dreadful bore. So when his mother asks him to take part in a dancing competition, he patently refuses. The last thing he needs is another chore . . . until a beautiful, brilliant, delightfully tempting maid makes him rethink his position.

LEAD TO A SCANDALOUS SEDUCTION?

Most women would be over the moon to be pursued by a wickedly handsome-not to mention wealthy-duke like Norcliffe. But Lucy will not be any man’s trophy. She could use a friend, though, and what begins innocently soon ignites into desire. As Lucy tries to resist Harry’s scorching kisses, he makes an utterly irresistible offer. Enter the dance contest with him, and win a prize that could change her life forever . . . if falling in love doesn’t change it first.

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Publisher and Release Date: Forever, February 2015

RHR Classifications: Historical Romance
Time and Setting: London 1822
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3 Stars

Review by Natalie

Harry Norcliffe’s beloved uncle has unexpectedly passed away; but instead of receiving condolences and sympathy from his social acquaintances he has been busy ignoring their callous congratulations on his luck at inheriting his uncle’s title and fortune. Dodging several match-making mamas – including his own – has been Harry’s only priority in the past few months. But as he returns to England, looking for solace in familiar surroundings and friendly faces, he realizes that he is the last bachelor in his close-knit circle. He now feels the weight of his duty to produce an heir to continue his family name.

Lucy Longmore has been an outsider all her life but that hasn’t stopped her from trying to make her way in the world; although admittedly her current predicament, suddenly unemployed and acting as caregiver to her blind grandmother, seems daunting. Lucy has been struggling to make ends meet and to fit in for so long that she has trained herself to keep her eyes on the prize. When things suddenly take a turn for the worse she scrambles to find suitable employment in a last ditch effort to keep her head above water. Working as a maidservant is the best she can hope for while still struggling to find clients as a dance instructor.

When Harry saves Lucy from a beggar trying to steal her wages he is immediately taken with her self-assuredness although not so impressed with her self-defense skills. Harry can’t seem to get the red-headed beauty off his mind and as the two keep running into each other he begins to believe that married life might not be so terrible after all. Lucy, on the other hand, is skeptical of such a fine man showing interest in her, a common maid. She knows that she must stay level headed if she is to resist the temptation of such a charming gentleman.

Lucy and Harry are two very modern characters. Vicky Dreiling writes Harry as unprepared and more than a little unsure of himself in regards to his new title, although, he had to have been aware that as the only male heir the day when he would have to shoulder that responsibility was fast approaching. Lucy is an educated, possible noble-woman disguised as a maid with a past that has caused her to build up walls to protect her from society. And in the middle of all this is the ton’s version of Dancing with the Stars, thought up and staged by Harry’s mother for no other reason than to catch a suitable wife for her son.

I was not a huge fan of Ms Dreiling’s writing style but I did like the characters she put together and the plot that she wove through the novel. Each time Lucy and Harry were together, we were shown a little more of what motivated them, but many of the scenes between the pair had a tendency to drag on. Lucy insisted on stating her belief that their social rankings were too disparate for there to be any chance of a real relationship to anyone who would listen… multiple times… at length… which had a tendency to make me feel a little less sympathetic towards her. Several times when reading both her spoken dialog and internal dialog I wanted to shout “Okay enough already – so if you are too different to be together then either do something about it or stop complaining!”.

Harry has several excellent scenes where he stands up to both his mother and to Lucy while trying to convince them both that Lucy is the woman for him. He also takes some actions that, while not very likely of a gentleman of his standing in the period, would make any longtime reader of Regency romances say “finally – a guy who gets things done!” but even so, he’s more charming gentleman than Devilish Duke. The ending is not surprising, given the clues that have been left through the novel about Lucy’s family background, but it works well to tie up their relationship and left me feeling content for their future. I liked What a Devilish Duke Desires for the characters and plot but definitely felt that some of the conversations and internal dialog could have been cut without losing any essential details.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Inevitably a Duchess by Jessie Clever

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Richard Black, the Duke of Lofton, waited for her, watching as the agony of marriage broke the woman he loved. Lady Jane Haven had to find a reason to survive, a purpose to carry on when it seemed God would not just let her die. But when fate finally offers them a chance to be together, a treasonous plot threatens to keep them apart. And when it becomes more than just a matter of survival, Jane must find the strength to be his duchess.

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EXCERPT

“Do you not think it could become my signature style? Perhaps I could start a trend.”

Richard smiled at her in the near dark.

“It does nothing for your hair,” he said.

She raised an eyebrow.

“And since when have you become concerned with an acceptable palate for my coloring?”

“Oh, I think you will find fashion has always been one of my strong suits.”

Jane looked down at his feet.

“It’s nice to see the mud has been removed from your shoes,” she said flatly, drawing a grin to his face.

“At least my shoes match,” he said and watched an irritated blush creep up Jane’s face.

“It was only the one time, and you rushed me,” she said, rather defensively.

“That was your claim at the time, but I still find your argument to be largely unsupported.”

She narrowed her gaze at him, and even in the darkness, he could feel the strength of her stare.

“I believe you changed the subject, Your Grace.”

He grinned but decided to leave the conversation where it was.

“They snatch a body nearly every night,” he said.

“And that is unusual?”

Richard nodded.

“Most body snatchers have a concern for discovery and only operate on certain nights during a given period. Although, some gangs have come to appreciate the influence of those that may save them from punishment for their consequences, there are still more bands that do not have the fortunate circumstances of having such aid. It is one of those bands that the War Office began to monitor some weeks ago.”

“What is it that is suspicious about their activity other than its frequency?”

“They are securing a large sum of money for their wares that is unaccounted for.”

Jane adjusted as the carriage made a turn, and Richard gripped his bench tighter.

“This gang of resurrectionists are making a substantial amount of money from digging up dead bodies from graveyards and selling said dead bodies to medical schools?”

“Yes,” Richard said with a nod.

“So what is this group doing with the money?”

Richard smiled.

“That is precisely the question the War Office is asking, my lady,” Richard said. “Are you sure you have no desire to pursue an intelligence profession?”

Jane rolled her eyes at him. He saw the movement even in the near dark.

“Do not be absurd, Your Grace. Perhaps they are sending the money to help compatriots in France or something.”

Richard shook his head.

“There is no evidence of international transactions. The money seems to simply disappear.”

It was Jane’s turn to frown.

“Money cannot simply disappear, Richard. There must be someone behind it.”

He nodded as he looked out of the window. They were approaching the theater, and the carriage slowed to accommodate the sudden increase in traffic. He looked again at Jane, marking the delicate outline of her pale face in the dark, the whites of her eyes flashing even as their unreadable depths melted away into nothing. His mind raced over their current conversation, and he marveled at what an unlikely topic they had taken up.

He knew very well that it was not any woman who would not only love his sons as much as he did but who could also follow and add to a conversation that involved dead bodies and illegal monetary exchanges. As Richard had plainly seen in his marriage to Emily, some women had heart, and other women had intelligence. It was remarkable to find a woman who had both, and he had found it in Jane. But what that would mean was yet to be seen.

“That is precisely what has attracted the attention of the War Office.”

The carriage stopped in front of the theater, and Richard heard the tiger jump from his perch. He moved to open the door, handing Jane down to the waiting servant.

A steady stream of elegantly dressed ladies and fashionably coifed gentleman already moved into the theater, and it was then that Richard realized he had not asked Jane what they were seeing. He gripped Jane’s hand in his as they made their way toward the entrance.

“My lady, it appears I have forgotten what it is that we are to see this evening,” he said, squeezing Jane’s hand in his.

He looked over to her in time to see the small smile on her lips.

“That is because I did not tell you what it was we are seeing,” she replied, and he thought for an instant, she was fighting a laugh.

He felt a prickle of awareness run up the back of his neck. He wanted to reach up and swat it away as if it were a physical thing.

“It is not-“

“It is actually,” Jane said, turning her face up to him in a broad smile.

He let her hand slip from his in a move of utter defeat.

“Again? Isn’t there another opera they would care to perform this season?”

Jane smiled radiantly up at him.

“You know as well as I that Monsieur Devereaux’s portrayal of Tamino is all the rage this season, and it is only fashionable that we should attend another performance.”

“We’ve already attended two,” Richard said, trying not at all to hide his exasperation.

Jane only smiled.

“Perhaps one day you will better handle your social responsibilities.”

“If anyone had told me regular opera attendance would be demanded of a duke, I would have passed on the title long ago,” he grumbled, moving to take her hand in his once more as they moved with the stream of people.

“And I would ask that you not fall asleep this time,” Jane murmured quietly.

He looked down at her blinking.

“I did not fall asleep-“

“You snored,” she whispered, “And it drew the attention of nearly everyone in the theater.”

Richard straightened and looked at the ladies and gentlemen moving in front of him.

“Well, then perhaps people found me more entertaining than Devereaux’s Tamino.”

“Perhaps,” was all Jane said as they entered the theater.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JessieCleverheadshotArmed with the firm belief that women in the Regency era could be truly awesome heroines, Jessie Clever began telling their stories in her Spy Series, a thrilling ride in historical espionage that showcases human faults and triumphs and most importantly, love.

Jessie makes her home in the great state of New Hampshire where she lives with her husband and two very opinionated Basset Hounds.

You can connect with Jessie at her website * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Google+ * ~ * ~ * Pinterest * ~ * ~ * Goodreads.

Lady Honor’s Debt (novella) by Maggi Andersen

lady honors debt

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Freedom. That’s all Lady Honor Baxendale wants—for her sisters and for herself. Honor has a bold plan to become financially independent, using a skill she learned at her father’s knee. She seeks the help of a solicitor and is pleased with her choice…as long as she can resist the solicitor himself.
Lord Edward Winborne has been happy to come to the aid of his four sisters in the past. But when a neighbor’s daughter, Lady Honor Baxendale, requests his help for a dangerous scheme she has in mind, he feels it his duty to dissuade her. When that fails, he wants to protect her, and then somehow finds he wants to do more. Much more.

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Publisher and Release Date: Maggi Andersen, January 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer rating: 4 Stars

Review by Vikki

Lady Honor’s Debt is a fast, delightful read. Edward is an endearing hero, honorable, loyal and true and such a refreshing change from the usual alpha-males, who most of the time are rakes. Not that there is anything wrong with a rake – after all who doesn’t want to see a good woman reform him? But Edward is not one, and for me, he stole the show in this sweet love story.

Lady Honor is on a quest. She desperately wants to save her sister from an arranged marriage and gain freedom for herself at the same time. Her step-father has different plans for her. He wants her to marry a much older man of consequence. If she wants him to give her sister Faith a season in London, she must convince him that she will consider the duke’s proposal while stalling for time.

When Lady Honor shows up at his office requesting his help with her daring plan, Lord Edward Winbourne dares not turn her away. After all she is in need of protection, most of all from herself. As a solicitor and her neighbor, he feels duty-bound to offer her his assistance. The fact that he is attracted to her certainly complicates matters. While his mother may want him to set up his nursery, as the third son of a Marquess, he had not planned to concern himself with a family until he has his career well established. His need to protect Honor is why I fell in love with Edward’s character.

Following an incident which causes the duke to withdraw his suit, Edward realizes he is in love with Lady Honor. Will he win her affections and protect her from harm, or will Honor’s stubborn independence keep her from allowing him into her heart and lead her into more trouble than she ever imagined?

I enjoyed reading Lady Honor’s Debt and was rooting for them to find their HEA throughout the entire light-hearted tale. Edward is the perfect man for Honor and I love how he goes about winning her love. Oh, and I must mention, the book cover is stunning!

It took me a bit of time to warm up to Honor’s character, and I’m afraid I never felt as if I ever truly understood her. I would have liked a little more depth, to have been able to get inside her head and find out what she was thinking and feeling.

Nonetheless, this story is an enjoyable read. I can easily recommend Lady Honor’s Debt if you are looking for an engaging love story with a very nice ending. I look forward to reading the next book in this series, since I enjoyed meeting Faith – Honor’s sister – a great deal.

Soulbound (Darkest London #6) by Kristen Callihan

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Once two souls are joined . . . When Adam’s soul mate rejected him, there was more at stake than his heart. After seven hundred years of searching, his true match would have ended the curse that keeps his spirit in chains. But beautiful, stubborn Eliza May fled-and now Adam is doomed to an eternity of anguish, his only hope for salvation gone . . .

Their hearts will beat together forever No matter how devilishly irresistible Adam was, Eliza couldn’t stand the thought of relinquishing her freedom forever. So she escaped. But she soon discovers she is being hunted-by someone far more dangerous. The only man who can help is the one man she vowed never to see again. Now Adam’s kindness is an unexpected refuge, and Eliza finds that some vows are made to be broken . . .

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Publisher and Release Date: Forever, February 24, 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1888
Genre: Historical/Paranormal Romance
Heat Level: 3
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Jill

soulboundLondon, 1885 and Miss Eliza May, an American, arrives in England on the run from troubles in Boston. But when tragedy strikes her on England’s shores her ‘rescuer’ comes in the form of Adam, king and creator of the GIM (Ghosts in the Machine). Recognising her as his soulmate, Adam binds her to him, wrist-to-wrist with a gold enchanted chain. But Eliza May wants to escape; and she doesn’t believe in soulmates.

Three years later after she’s been rescued from Adam’s grip and living with her fae aunt, she wonders if she hasn’t exchanged one form of enslavement for another. When her past captures up with her, it’s time to run again, and she turns to the one person who can help.

This series is one of only a handful of paranormal romances that I follow. It’s a fantastic blend of historical and paranormal/supernatural. Soulbound is possibly on par with my favourite book of this series, book #1 Firelight. The ending is somewhat unexpected, but understandable, though did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the story.

Previously, Adam’s binding of Eliza could have been seen as enslavement. She was unwilling and desperate to escape. His reasons are given here in this instalment; his atonement and the trust that builds between them is gratifying.

This can be read as a standalone, but there are a number of characters from previous books that make appearances, and the world is better understood, this story more appreciated, if you’ve read the series. Next up (I think) will be Miss Layla Starling and Sin’s (St John) story.

Kristen Callihan manages to keep this series flowing with exceptional writing, imaginative world-building, sweet romances, sexy times, interesting characters and captivating storylines. Who could ask for more?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristen CallihanKristen Callihan is an author because there is nothing else she’d rather be. She is a three-time RITA nominee and winner of two RT Reviewers’ Choice awards. Her novels have garnered starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as being awarded top picks by many reviewers. Her debut book, Firelight, received RT Book Reviews’ Seal of Excellence, was named a best book of the year by Library Journal, best book of Spring 2012 by Publisher’s Weekly, and was named the best romance book of 2012 by ALA RUSA. When she is not writing, she is reading.

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Misunderstood – A Pride and Prejudice novella, by Reina M. Williams

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Miss Maria Lucas, after jilting her fiancé, has traveled to Pemberley for the Christmas season. She hopes her visit to childhood friends Kitty and Lizzy will ease the discomfort she’s felt at home after disappointing her parents’ plans for her marriage. But she could not marry the man they chose—there is only one man she can give her heart to, a man she believes she will never see again.

Mr. Denny arrives at Pemberley, not a very welcome guest to Mr. Darcy. But, as a friend of Darcy’s new brother-in-law, Sir Camden, Darcy opens his home to Denny. Soon, Denny finds himself opening to new feelings for the lovely Miss Maria Lucas, and he acts to make this Christmastide one of new beginnings. As Denny shows the party at Pemberley his true nature, Maria hides some of her truths from Denny. Forgiveness and happiness dance within reach—can they claim their partners by Twelfth Night?

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Publisher and Release Date: Amazon Digital Services, December 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance, novella
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Who but Jane Austen aficionados remembers Maria Lucas? Or even knows who she was? The almost invisible and impressionable younger sister of the overly practical Charlotte is all grown up here in Reina M. Williams’ fourth Regency Love at Pemberley novella. So much so that she has even had a London season and, like Jane Austen herself, accepted an offer of marriage and then broke the engagement almost immediately. Perhaps that is the most shocking and exciting thing that Maria Lucas has ever done, to the disappointment and disapproval of her social climbing family.

Still, it’s a shame and embarrassment that Maria carries with her on a Christmas visit to Pemberley, where she is enjoying some time with her old friends, Kitty, now married to Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Lizzy Bennet (now Darcy), mistress of Pemberley. Both Kitty and Elizabeth are in the throes of marital bliss and babies, something that Maria hopes for as well. She pines for a man who unknowingly stole her heart a few years earlier: Lieutenant Denny, now Mr. Denny, once a friend to the notorious George Wickham, who eloped with Lizzy’s gauche and precocious younger sister, Lydia.

Denny is now tainted by association with that rogue Wickham. But he’s a good sort who had a difficult upbringing and now wishes to start a new life and a family. The influence and effects of war on his personality are aptly portrayed in the descriptions of his life and career.

A friend to Sir Camden – Georgiana’s handsome husband from my favorite book in the series, Miss Darcy Decides - Denny has also been invited for the holidays to Pemberley, much to the annoyance of, who else? The serious and stern Mr. Darcy who upholds his lofty reputation.

I have to say that the romance between Denny and Maria is super fast and not very exciting. We read she has always had a crush on him and then he views her with great interest. It’s extremely tame and almost staid.

This is a very sweet series so if you’re looking for spice, you will have to look elsewhere as Ms Williams describes her stories as “family centered.” But even Jane Austen wrote of sexual tension between Elizabeth and Darcy, subtle as it was. But it is still there.

“…Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.”

The Big Misunderstanding between Denny and Maria is brief and rather silly. It’s the weakest part of the story but it’s over so quickly – this is a novella – it doesn’t spoil the entire story.

Ms Williams writes in a very clear and leisurely style with pleasant attention to interior decor and food of the Regency period. As it is Christmas and, specifically, Twelfth Night, there are some nice descriptions of the decorations and traditions but, other than that, it doesn’t really have a holiday feel to it; the joie de vivre of Austen’s characters is missing.

Misunderstood is an agreeable but overly formal romance.

A Bride for the Season by Jennifer Delamere

Delamere A Bride for the Season for web

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Lucinda Cardington is is close to being “on the shelf”, which is no real problem for her as she has more serious pursuits in mind. In her opinion are dreams of romance for silly young ladies like her sister. Yet when her sister places herself in a compromising situation with London’s most scandalous bachelor she tries to interfere and places herself in the spotlight, which means, she is in need of the one thing she never wanted: a husband.

James Simpson is a rake, no arguments about that. But he is well-versed in escaping marriage traps. at least that is what he is convinced of – till one lady ensnares him in a scandal, which forces him to do the honorable thing and offer marriage. But her father won’t agree to a dowry unless James can also find a suitable husband for the lady’s elder sister—quiet, reserved Lucinda Cardington. As James gets to know the vibrant, charming, and passionate woman behind Lucinda’s shy exterior, he comes to the distressing realization that he is betrothed to the wrong sister.

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Publisher and Release Date: Forever, November 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency London
Genre: Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by: Claudia

As I love Rake/Wallflower stories, I had high hopes for this book. I expected a romantic story full of humor and sparks between the central couple and perhaps with some misunderstandings. In A Bride for the Season, I definitely got the misunderstandings but not the sparks, the humor and the real development of a relationship.

Lucinda Cardington is not concerned with the same things that occupy the minds of most society ladies. Instead of looking for a husband and dreaming of romance, she is using her time for good works and to further her interest in photography. When her sister Emily places herself in a compromising situation, Lucinda attempts to rescue her – and is promptly trapped in the same scandal.

James Simpson is a rake well-versed in escaping marriage traps, but he underestimates his latest flirt, Emily Cardington, who thinks herself deeply in love with him. But when both Emily and her sister are caught up in a scandal, James offers for Emily. But the lady’s father knows that this is his best possibilty to marry Lucinda off as well and so he makes a deal – James must find a husband for Lucinda or he will not receive Emily’s dowry. But as James gets to know Lucinda better so he can try to find the right man for her, he realizes that “the right man” might well be him.

James and Lucinda are well-matched as each possesses characteristics the other lacks. At the beginning, James is apt to see everything as a joke and is a bit too nonchalant for my taste; but he develops well during the story so that by the end, his character is much more balanced and mature and he displays a true sincerity.

Lucinda, on the other hand, is a little more problematic because of her “holier-than-thou” attitude, which I felt did not really sit well with her character. I have no problems with religious references in books, but here they often seemed to come out of nowhere, and were somewhat heavy-handed. On the positive side, she is a well developed character right from the start.

I had some issues with the pacing of the story, and the ending felt rushed and forced. It was also difficult to like most of the characters – and some were downright annoying, especially Emily, who is not only childish and reckless but who is exactly the same at the end of the book as she is at the beginning.

All in all, A Bride for the Season was a pleasant read but I came away from it feeling a little disappointed.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Secret of Pembroke Park by Julie Klassen

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In the spring of 1818, twenty-four-year-old Abigail Foster fears she is destined to become a spinster. Her family’s finances are in ruins and the one young man she truly esteems has fallen for another woman — her younger, prettier sister Louisa.

Forced to retrench after the bank failure of Austen, Gray & Vincent, the Foster family optimistically pool their resources for another London Season for her sister in hopes of an advantageous alliance. While searching for more affordable lodgings, a surprising offer is presented: the use of a country manor house in Berkshire abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to the imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left, the tight-lipped locals offering only rumors of a secret room, hidden treasure and a murder in its mysterious past.

Eager to restore her family fortune, Abigail, with the help of the handsome local curate William Chapman and his sister Leah, begins her search into the heavily veiled past aided by unsigned journal pages from a previous resident and her own spirited determination. As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light. Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks…or very real danger?

PURCHASE LINKS: Amazon * ~ * ~ * Barnes & Noble * ~ * ~ * Christian Book.com * ~ * ~ * The Book Depository * ~ * ~ * Indie Bound

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EXCERPT

Secret of Pembrooke blog tour sidebar graphicMr. Arbeau drew back his shoulders. “Well, I think it is time we went in.” He turned toward the door.

Mac Chapman stiffened and scowled. “Go in? Whatever for?”

“Why, to show Mr. and Miss Foster around the house. My client has offered to let the place to them for a twelvemonth, if it meets with their approval.”

Abigail did not miss the stunned look father and son exchanged. They were certainly not happy to learn people might be moving into the abandoned house.

Mr. Arbeau returned his attention to the padlock, struggling to unlock the rusted old thing. But Mr. Chapman handed his son the gun and strode forward, pulling a tangle of keys from his coat pocket.

“Allow me,” Chapman said. “That key ye have is for the door itself.”

Mr. Arbeau stepped aside, offense sparking in his dark eyes. “By all means.” Noticing a rusty orange-brown smear on his silky black palm, he wiped his gloved hands on a handkerchief.

Mr. Chapman employed one of his keys, and the padlock gave way. He unhooked it from the heavy chain and pulled the links from between the door handles.

The son offered, “My father has kept the roof and exterior in good repair over the years, as I believe you will see.”

Mr. Arbeau surveyed man, dog, and gun. “And taken it upon himself to padlock the place and act as self-appointed guard?” he suggested, black eyebrows raised high.

“What of it?” Chapman said, setting the chain aside.

“I suppose it is you we have to thank for the barricade on the bridge?”

“There have been attempted break-ins in the past.”

Her father said, “Youthful dares and vandals, I’d guess?”

“No, sir. Ye guess wrong. Treasure hunters. Thieves.”

“Treasure hunters?” Abigail asked sharply.

Mac Chapman looked at her directly, and at such close range, she was struck by his intense green eyes. “Aye, miss. Brought on by old rumors of treasure hidden in the house. In a secret room.” His eyes glinted. “Stuff and nonsense of course.”

“Of course,” she echoed faintly. Treasure? Abigail wondered. Could it be?

He inserted a second key into the door lock. “Stuck eighteen years ago, and I doubt disuse has helped matters.” He butted his shoulder against the wood while pressing the latch. The door released with a shudder, then creaked open.

“Well, Mr. Chapman,” the solicitor said, “would you like to do the honors of giving us the tour?”

“It’s just Mac, if ye please. And no thank ye.”

His son said, “I wouldn’t mind seeing it, Pa. I haven’t been inside since I was a boy.”

Mac gave him a pointed look. “I am sure ye have important duties to attend to.”

He met his father’s steely gaze. “Ah. Yes, I suppose I do.”

Movement caught Abigail’s eye. She looked over her shoulder and saw a young woman step through the gate, accompanied by a girl of eleven or twelve. They crossed the courtyard, then stopped in their tracks at the sight of the visitors.

Mac Chapman tensed. “Will,” he said under his breath, “take Leah home, please. Kitty too.”

The young man looked up sharply at something in his father’s tone. “Very well.” He gave a general bow in their direction, then turned and strode quickly away in a long-legged stride. He put an arm around the pretty woman and took the girl’s hand.

His wife and child, perhaps? Whoever they were, the young man gently turned them, leading them past the stable and out of view.

“Are you sure you won’t accompany us, Mac?” Mr. Arbeau asked again, adding dryly, “Make sure we don’t steal anything?”

Mac looked through the open door and into the hall beyond with an expression riddled with . . . what? Longing? Memories? Regrets? Abigail wasn’t sure.

“No. I’ll wait here and lock up after ye leave.”

The stale, musty odor of dampness met them inside a soaring hall. Some small creature skittered out of sight as they entered, and Abigail shivered. Cobwebs crisscrossed the balustrades of a grand staircase and draped the corners of portraits on the walls. Dust had settled into the folds of draperies covering the windows and into the seams of the faded sofa beside the door. A long-case clock stood like a silent sentry across the room.

Mr. Arbeau pulled a note from his pocket and read from it. “Here on the main floor are the hall, morning room, dining room, drawing room, salon, and library. Shall we begin?”
Their tentative steps across the hall left footprints on the dust-covered floor. They walked into the first room they came to—it appeared to be the morning room. Through it, they entered the dining room, with a long table and candle chandelier strung with crystals and cobwebs. The table held the remnants of a centerpiece—flowers and willow tails and perhaps . . . a pineapple? The arrangement had dried to a brittle brown cluster of twisted twigs and husks.

Next came the drawing room, and Abigail stared in surprise.

It appeared as though the occupants had just been called away. A tea set sat on the round table, cups encrusted with dry tea. A book lay open over the arm of the sofa. A needlework project, nearly finished, lay trapped under an overturned chair.

What had happened here? Why had the family left so abruptly, and why had the rooms been entombed for almost two decades?

Her father righted the chair. Abigail lifted the upturned needlework basket, only to discover a scattering of seed-like mouse droppings beneath. She wrinkled her nose.
Her father posed her unasked question. “Why did the former occupants leave so suddenly?”

Arms behind his back, Mr. Arbeau continued his survey of the room. “I could not say, sir.”

Could not, or would not? Abigail wondered, but she kept silent.

They looked briefly in the shuttered salon and dim library, its floor-to-ceiling shelves crammed with abandoned books. Then they slowly mounted the grand stairway and rounded the gallery rail. They looked into the bedchambers, one by one. In the largest two they found carefully made beds, tied-back bed-curtains, moth-eaten clothes lying listless in wardrobes, and bonnets and hats on their pegs. In the other rooms, they found beds left unmade, bedclothes in disarray and bed-curtains hastily thrown back. In one of these rooms, a chess set waited for someone to take the next turn, as though abandoned midgame. In another room stood a dolls’ house, miniature pieces neatly arranged; clearly a cherished possession. Abigail’s gaze was arrested by a small blue frock hanging lifeless and limp from a peg on the wall.

Again, she shivered. Where was the girl who once wore it now, eighteen years later?

GIVEAWAY

Win One of Four Fabulous Prizes

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In celebration of the release of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, four chances to win copies of Julie’s books and other Jane Austen-inspired items are being offered.

Three lucky winners will receive one trade paperback or eBook copy of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and one grand prize winner will receive one copy of all eight of Julie’s novels: Lady of Milkweed Manor, The Apothecary’s Daughter, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Tutor’s Daughter, The Dancing Master, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park, one DVD of Northanger Abbey (2007) and a Jane Austen Action Figure.

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour starting February 16, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, March 9, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Julie Klassen’s website on March 16, 2015. Winners have until March 22, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to residents of the US, UK, and Canada. Digital books will be sent through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Good luck to all!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author Julie Klassen 2015 x 200Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about Julie and her books at her website, follow her on Twitter, and visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

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In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her…and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes.

That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

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Publisher and Release Date: Howard Books, March 10, 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Victorian Era, Hampshire, England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 Stars

Review by Lady Blue

Rebecca Ravenshaw and her family left their English home when she was four years old, and moved to India, as her father pursued his calling as a missionary. During the following two decades, Rebecca’s brother died of illness, and her parents were killed in the Indian uprising. Only the actions of a loyal servant kept Rebecca safe, and as soon as she could, she made her way back to England, with intentions of moving back to her family home and beginning a new life. Upon arriving, Rebecca finds that several months ago, another young lady came to the home, claiming that SHE was Rebecca. She took up residence in the house, and began to live Rebecca’s life. Under mysterious circumstances, she died, rumored to have taken her own life. At that time, the house was deeded to Captain Luke Whitfield, a distant relative, and the presumed heir.

Rebecca, is, of course, looked at with suspicion. She contacts the family attorney and begins the process of trying to reclaim what is hers, since she has been declared dead, and the house has been deeded away. Luke, at first, doubts her identity, but chooses to play the gentleman, and moves to the gatehouse, leaving her to live in the main house until all is settled. Luke is handsome and charming. The former soldier had been looking for a place to put down roots and thought he had found it. Despite his doubts about Rebecca’s true identity, he finds her attractive, and the feeling is mutual.

Before there is even a chance for a romance to develop, many questions have to be answered, and the situation has to be untangled. Who was the woman who impersonated Rebecca, and how did she know so much about her life? Was Luke involved in her death? Is the imposter’s maid, who now works for Rebecca, friend or foe? Is Luke only interested in Rebecca so he can still have the estate if she is found to be the real heiress?

I have always loved romances with a gothic tone, the kind where you’re never sure if the hero is innocent or guilty. Sandra Byrd is a new author to me, and she has written a captivating story. Right from the start, and through the whole book, I felt Rebecca’s emotions – her puzzlement, shock, pain, and her burgeoning love for Luke. I couldn’t put the book down, as I was so anxious to find answers to all the mysteries, and everything was resolved very satisfactorily. While I personally enjoy much more heat and intimacy in a romance, Ms. Byrd was able to express a lot of feeling with a look or a light touch. Rebecca has a strong faith, which is to be expected, since she was the daughter of missionaries. This was an integral part of her character, and I felt that it was a genuine part of the story. If you’ve enjoyed some of the “old school” gothics by Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, or even Mary Stewart, I think you’ll like Mist of Midnight.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

authorSandraByrd
Sandra Byrd is a best-selling author and has earned Library Journal’s Best Books of the year pick twice, in 2011 for To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, and in 2012 for The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr. She’s twice been a Christy Award finalist, for To Die For and for Let Them Eat Cake: A Novel.
You can connect with Sandra at: her website * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Instagram * ~ * ~ * Pinterest.