Too Dangerous for a Lady (Company of Rogues #16) by Jo Beverley

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Lady Hermione Merryhew, daughter of an impoverished marquess, already has her share of problems. The last thing she needs is an intruder in her bedroom, especially not a fugitive thief. She should scream, but the shabby rascal is a man from her past.

Six years ago, at her first ball, dashing Lieutenant Mark Thayne failed to steal a kiss, but succeeded in stealing a little of her heart. She’s older and wiser now. She can’t toss him to the wolves. Besides, she wants that kiss.

Now Viscount Faringay, Mark has never forgotten Lady Hermione, but he mustn’t involve her in his dangerous life. He’s infiltrated the Crimson Band, violent revolutionaries who plan a bloodbath in London, and if he survives the night he will be able to destroy them. Hermione is involved, however, and only he can protect her.

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Publisher and Release Date: Signet, April 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Maggi

I love a Regency spy plot with a good dash of romance, and the spy story in Too Dangerous For A Lady, Jo Beverley’s sixteenth novel her Company of Rogues series is well researched and well written. Ms Beverley does a great job of interlacing the story through an unsettled era in English history, when the Industrial Revolution and the Corn Laws caused great poverty and uncertainty among the poorer classes. Dissident groups fought for change and there were those who, influenced by the French Revolution, sought to bring about a revolution in England.

Lady Hermione Merrydew, is traveling with her cash-strapped family to visit a dying great-uncle, who they hope will leave them some money. While staying overnight at an inn, Mark, Viscount Faringay slips into her bedchamber. He is escaping with stolen papers, having infiltrated a renegade group, but he allows her to believe he is down on his luck and has become a thief. Despite being in shabby clothing, and supposedly on the run, Mark evokes those strong feelings in Hermione that she felt for him six years ago when he was the dashing Lieutenant Mark Thayne. At her first ball, the young officer going off to war tried to steal a kiss, and stole a piece of her heart. In the inn bedroom, Hermione bestows that kiss on him and trusts him enough to allow him to remain for the night. The strength of their attraction is obvious, as they both carry a small token from that first meeting. I warmed to Hermione immediately. She is feisty and knows her own mind but doesn’t expect the kiss will lead anywhere, even though she may face a horrid arranged marriage if the great-uncle does not have money.

When Hermione is unwittingly drawn into danger, Mark fights to protect her. What follows is a fast paced exciting chase across the countryside.

Ms Beverley describes Mark as “an anti-terrorist undercover cop” who has infiltrated a band of British would-be revolutionaries. He is a good character too, quite ruthless and single minded in his pursuit of the organization known as the Crimson Band, and the evil French woman at its helm. It’s a very satisfactory conspiracy story. But as good as the spy-plot is, it does tend to take over somewhat from the hero and heroine’s burgeoning romance. I would have liked a bit more romance, but it’s only a quibble. If you enjoy an excellent Regency spy story steeped in historical facts, Too Dangerous For a Lady is a thoroughly decent read, as all Jo Beverley’s books are.

A Mistress for Major Bartlett (Brides of Waterloo #2) by Annie Burrows

A mistress for major bartlett

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Major Tom Bartlett is shocked to discover the angel who nursed his battle wounds is darling of the ton Lady Sarah Latymor. One taste of her threatens both her impeccable reputation and his career!

An honorable man would ask for her hand, but Bartlett is considered an unrepentant rake by polite society; sweet Sarah would be spurned as his mistress and even as his wife. He demands she leave, but Sarah is just as determined to stay by his side—and in his bed!

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Publisher and Release Date: Mills & Boon Historical, June 2015
RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Belgium, 1815
Heat Level: 1.5
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Caz

This is the second book in a trilogy of stories by different authors that are collectively entitled Brides of Waterloo, written to mark the two hundredth anniversary of that momentous battle.

I read the first book, Sarah Mallory’s A Lady for Lord Randall recently, and enjoyed it, so was eagerly anticipating this instalment, in which the heroine is Lady Sarah Latymor, sister to Justin Latymor, the titular Lord Randall of book one.

Towards the end of that book, Randall and his crack team of riflemen, known throughout the army as “Randall’s Rogues” because its members are the “raff and scaff of the military gathered into one troop”, are plunged into the thick of the fighting. During the onslaught, Sarah’s twin brother, Gideon, is killed and after the battle, she discovers Justin is Missing in Action. Devastated by the loss of her twin and possibly of her eldest brother, too, Sarah insists on joining the search for Justin, accompanied by Mary Endacott, the young schoolmistress with whom Justin is in love.

When Sarah is separated from the search-party, she stumbles across a badly wounded officer whose uniform indicates he must be part of her brother’s regiment. She defends him from a couple of French peasants who are intent upon murder, and with the help of two of his men, manages to convey him back to Brussels. She recalls the last time she’d seen Major Thomas Bartlett, tall and wickedly handsome, a man whose reputation with the ladies made it inconceivable that a respectable young woman like Sarah could ever have anything to do with him. But war makes for strange bedfellows, so to speak, and Sarah does the previously unthinkable. Instead of consigning the major to the local military hospital, where it is likely he will be viewed as too close to death to bother with, she is persuaded by his men to take him back to her rooms and nurse him herself.

In fact, she was going to have to breach practically every rule by which she’d lived. She’d always taken such pains to keep her reputation spotless that she’d never been without a chaperon, not even when visiting the ladies’ retiring room at a ball. She could scarcely believe she’d just encouraged two hardened criminals to install the regiment’s most notorious rake in her bedroom.

Sarah is simultaneously amazed at herself and terrified. Not only is she going to jepoardise her reputation, but looking after a seriously injured man is a huge responsibility, and not one she feels adequately prepared to cope with.

All her life, she’s struggled with feelings of inadequacy; she’s not beautiful enough, not clever enough, not resourceful enough, not brave enough. She knows what everyone thinks of her, that she’s a “spoiled, empty-headed society miss”, whose thoughtlessness causes problems for others to solve. Yet Ms Burrows shows us over and again that despite what she thinks, Sarah is not those things, and gives us enough backstory to explain how she came to those conclusions. And like Sarah, Tom Bartlett is a man with little self-esteem; his father was a bankrupt who committed suicide and left his son to the care of relatives who mistreated him; and he has grown up feeling as though he is worthless.

The thing I most enjoyed about the book is something for which others have criticised it; namely that it is principally a “two-hander” that takes place in one room. Personally, I think that is the ideal setting for two people who don’t know each other to spend time together getting to know each other and falling in love – and that’s exactly what happens. Sarah gains confidence as she begins to see that Tom is improving in her care, and he finds that having someone around who thinks the best of him rather than the worst, enables him to see himself more clearly and perhaps realise that he isn’t as black as he’s been painted. The part that doesn’t quite ring true, and why I haven’t graded the book more highly, is in Tom’s persistence in the belief that he isn’t worthy of Sarah, and her insistence that she doesn’t want to get married, even after they’ve slept together. The latter is always something I find problematic in historicals, given the importance placed on virginity and the stigma attached to unwed mothers and their children.

Apart from those things though, A Mistress for Major Bartlett is an enjoyable, well-told story, in which the author has made excellent use of her historical backdrop. So many books set at this period reference Waterloo, but few of them take the reader there or use it as more than a convenient reference point. Here, the descriptions of the aftermath of battle at the beginning of the book are vividly powerful, putting the reader firmly on those blood-soaked fields of Belgium. Both protagonists are well-rounded characters and the slow-burn romance between them is very nicely done. It’s an enjoyable, quick read, and one I’d certainly recommend to anyone who likes their historical romance to be sprinkled liberally with actual history!

The Breaking Dawn by Jayne Castel

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A historical romance adventure set in 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England – a time when only the strong survived.

A Mercian village girl and a Welsh prince. When two worlds collide, an unforgettable love story unfolds.

It is the summer of 641 A.D., and the Kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria are about to do battle.

Merwenna of Weyham accepts the hand of a young warrior who is about to march to war. But when her betrothed does not return, she takes matters into her own hands and goes in search of him.

Welsh battle lord, Prince Cynddylan, leads a host of warriors to help Mercia fight Northumbria. In doing so, he forms a fragile alliance with one of Britannia’s most ruthless warlords – King Penda of Mercia.

In the wake of the Battle of Maes Cogwy, the lives of many will change.

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Publisher and Release Date: Jayne Castel, April 2015

RHR Classification:
Time and setting: 641 A.D., Anglo-Saxon England
Genre: Historical Romance/Medieval Romance
Heat Level: 1
Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewed by Vikki

A Breaking Dawn is an emotionally-charged read from the first page to the last which is set in a period of history about which I have read very little. Merwenna tugged at my heart strings as she searches for answers.

When she accepts Beorn’s marriage proposal, the last thing Merwenna expects is for him to then tell her they must wait for the handfasting until he returns from battle. He has joined the fyrd King Mercia has called up to vanquish his enemy.

Three months pass without any word from Beorn, so, unable to wait any longer, Merwenna and her brother to travel to Tamworth to seek news of her betrothed. When they arrive, the merchant who gave them a ride demands payment, either in coin or Merwenna’s virtue, and a scuffle breaks out. Fortunately, the Mercian Queen intervenes and invites them to the castle.

When Merwenna’s brother gets into trouble, he is cast out but Merwenna remains. She must find out if Beorn yet lives. When the king arrives, she seeks information regarding her betrothed, only to find out from the Prince of Powys, that Beorn was killed in battle. Grief stricken, Merwenna leaves to travel home without the escort the queen had promised. On the way, she is attacked and rescued by the Prince of Powys, who then escorts her home.

Although she mourns Beorn, the attraction between Merwenna and the prince, Cynddylan ap Cyndrwyn cannot be denied. Can a young Mercian village girl and a prince overcome their vast differences and find true love?

While I did have a few problems with some of Merwenna’s decisions, I loved her character. She has a brave heart and is willing to face danger to save those she loves. I fell in love with Dylan right way. He’s a wonderful hero, a strong warrior considerate of the people in his life, especially Merwenna.

I thoroughly enjoyed the romance between the couple. The chemistry between them is combustible, although I did have a bit of a problem with Merwenna falling in love with another so soon after losing her betrothed. I realize it was necessary for the story, but it would have been more believable and put Merwenna in a better light if at least six months had passed.

What I enjoyed most about A Breaking Dawn was the fascinating look at the period of history in which the book is set. Ms. Castel very skilfully brings this troubled and brutal time to life sp that I was able to lose myself in the daily happenings of the story, which is something I love. Her descriptive writing style greatly enhanced this story.

If you enjoy a well-written medieval romance with a fantastic hero and plenty of action along the way, then you will love A Breaking Dawn. I certainly did, and Ms. Castel is an author I will be looking for in the future.

This story can be obtained as part of the Kindle Unlimited program and has a novella at the end.

A Duke But No Gentleman by Alexandra Hawkins

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The Duke of Blackbern and the Marquess Norgrave have always had the wildest of friendships. Best friends growing up, they bask in the pleasures the rich, opulent world that London has to offer, consuming drink and women at their leisure.

But Norgrave has always been a step behind. Blackbern can best him at anything—playing cards, riding horses, and bedding women. So when the stunningly beautiful but innocent Lady Imogene Sunter strays across their path, both men agree a friendly competition for the lady’s affections cannot hurt.

But when Blackbern’s feelings turn into something deeper and Lady Imogene’s desire become clear, Norgrave will do anything to win the wager. Only one man can lay claim to Lady Imogene’s heart… and one shocking act will change them all irrevocably…

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Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, June 30, 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1792
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Tristan Rooke, the Duke of Blackbern, and Cason Brant, the Marquess of Norgrave, are what we today call “manwhores.” Incredibly attractive, virile, promiscuous and wild, they pursue, seduce and often share women. They are best friends but it is a competitive friendship that has an undercurrent of strain to it.

Norgrave did not truly care which woman Tristan bedded as long as he ceased behaving like a bore. The realization dampened his ardor.

This very dark and rather sinister novel is set in England in the Georgian era. Prolific but new-to-me author Alexandra Hawkins draws the reader into a world of decadent privilege that often gives in to the raw, uninhibited nature of men. It reminds me of some of the sexy and forbidden men in Jane Austen’s novels: John Willoughby, George Wickham, and Henry Crawford.

The opening line says it all: “Norgrave was a madman.” With this observation, made by Tristan, Norgrave’s friend and partner in debauchery, the story is pretty much set against the seductive and dangerous rake. And Norgrave really is a rake. He is also a hedonist who unashamedly displays his sexual prowess in front of others. He loves the chase but tires quickly of his conquests and becomes lewdly excited by any resistance to those pursuits. Even Tristan, who is like a brother to him, knows his friend’s perverse predilections but, sadly, he also chooses to mostly ignore them. I think it’s because Tristan secretly fears Norgrave’s temper and the loss of his friendship. Until one terrifying night changes everything forever.

Warning: There are rape scenes in this book, but they are not overly explicit and take place mostly off stage. They are shocking and, of course, very disturbing, but Ms Hawkins writes them well. The distasteful behavior, sex, and mind games here remind me of Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, published a decade before the events in this novel. You know something bad is coming – it’s mentioned in the summary – but you just can’t stop reading because it’s so engrossing.

Lady Imogene Sunter is a duke’s daughter, whose father is very close to the King, so her family has high hopes for a good match for her. Tristan, despite his title of duke, is not one of them. But his seductive wiles work on her and she eventually succumbs to his charms and persuasion.

Norgrave has always thrust women at his friend and Tristan, being both weak and a man, almost always gives in. But lately Tristan has resented his friend’s constant interference and manipulation. When Tristan meets Imogene at a ball, he makes bold, suggestive, and very ungentlemanly remarks to her that surprised this reader (but in an unexpected and refreshing way), but Imogene is intrigued and flattered by his unwavering attentions.

But when Norgrave discovers Tristan’s newest interest, he proposes a distasteful wager that tests Tristan’s conscience and his will. For all their amorous adventures, they have never seduced maidens, instead choosing courtesans and more skilled women who know the rules and how to play their wicked games. Tristan is attracted to Imogene but feels compelled to vie with Norgrave for her virtue. He also believes he can win her and thus, keep her safe from Norgrave.

Until Tristan falls for the lady in earnest, despite his initial dishonorable intentions. At that point, Tristan almost seems to fear Norgrave’s reaction instead of standing up to him.

Imogene is a beautiful young woman whose mother rightly warns her against both Tristan and Norgrave but, when they both start to court her, her father feels it might make other worthy gentlemen notice her; and he’s right. But Imogene’s curiosity gets the better of her and she quickly chooses Tristan over his friend.

Imogene is very young and impressionable and has no experience with men at all, least of all libertines like Tristan and Norgrave. The way that Tristan speaks to her is direct and sensual, and it captivates her. She is drawn to him and swept off her feet. But Tristan, while as adventurous as Norgrave, knows the line between seduction and rape.

An exciting and tension-filled duel opens the novel, setting a tragic tone for the story and also presenting a vivid feel for the time period. There is also mention of the ironically titled Modern Chivalry by Hugh Henry Brackenridge, published in 1792, the same year this story takes place. I like the juxtaposition of honor and danger that infuses the novel.

A smart, wicked, and gripping morality tale, this is the first book in Ms Hawkins’ Masters of Seduction series, and I will definitely be reading the next one, as well as more by this author.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: An Unconventional Courtship (a Cotillion Ball novella) by Becky Lower

An Unconventional Courtship

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Charlotte Ashcroft knows her family would never approve of her attending a women’s rights speech in New York City alone. So when a busybody from back home confronts Charlotte, she grabs the man in a jaunty blue hat nearby and introduces him as her escort.

George Fitzpatrick had boarded the new omnibus intent on nothing more than a ride from one point to another. Until that gorgeous young blonde suddenly claimed he was her chaperone. What’s an up-and-coming young banker to do but help a lady out?

Charlotte knows exactly what she wants, but can she convince a man who is her opposite that he can’t live without her?

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EXCERPT

Charlotte herded her charges—Emma and Katie—onto the large omnibus, which was basically an oversized carriage with room for about twenty hardy souls inside. For a lesser fare, a seat on the top of the bus, open to the elements, could be had. Regardless of the price, no ladies ever rode out in the open. Charlotte stopped and glanced up at the men seated on the top. One young man in particular caught her eye as he tipped his bowler hat to her.

“Shall we join the merry men on the top of the bus?” she asked her friends half-jokingly. She would appreciate getting a closer look at the nice gentleman with the jaunty, blue hat that sported a small feather at the brim. And all the men sitting on top of the bus seemed to be having fun, unlike those stuffed like sardines inside the conveyance.

Emma and Katie squealed unhappily at the idea. With a shrug of her shoulders, Charlotte nodded her head and smiled at the young man before she joined her more timid friends inside the bus. An assortment of men and women were crammed into the seats, and the four horses attached to the bus strained under the load. Soon, they were underway down Broadway to lower Manhattan.

Many stops later, Charlotte and her friends arrived at their destination. As she exited the omnibus, Charlotte cast a glance to the top, searching for the young man who had caught her eye earlier. He was no longer there. She sighed softly. They were ships passing in the night. In a city the size of New York, the chances of running into one person again were slim. He would become merely a fragment of a memory of the day she’d spent listening to one of the premier advocates for women’s equality and being slightly scandalous herself. With a smile on her face, she planted herself between her friends, taking their arms.

“Let’s move on to the second part of our big adventure, shall we, and hear what Fanny Wright has to say to us. The omnibus ride was fun, don’t you think?”

Emma laughed out loud. “Which part? The smelly man next to me or the young man who pinched my bottom?”

“How about you, Katie?” Perhaps Charlotte had been too lost in thought about the man above her to pay close attention to what was going on around her.

“There was one young man sitting next to me who seemed to take quite a shine to me. He’s a blacksmith. His arms and shoulders were enormous! His name is Carrick McCray, and I told him I’d be taking a stroll with you ladies in the park tomorrow afternoon, if he were so inclined to join us.”

“See what an exciting day it’s been already? And we’ve yet to hear Fanny.”

“Charlotte? Is that you?”

Charlotte cringed inside her Sunday best, lavender dress. She knew that voice. Accepting her fate, she turned to face the old busybody.

“Well, hello there, Mrs. Beasley. How are you this fine Sunday afternoon? Are you also planning to attend Frances Wright’s speech?”

Mrs. Beasley’s spine straightened at the suggestion, and her gaze pierced Charlotte. “Heavens, no. I have no wish to fill my head with such nonsense. Where is your mother? I should say hello.”

“Mother’s not with us today. We took the omnibus to get here.”

“What? Without a male escort? Is your mother aware of what you’re doing, young lady?”

Charlotte glanced around the street where they had been dropped off. Suddenly, she spied a familiar hat in the crowd. A blue hat with a feather tucked into the grosgrain ribbon. Her heart began to race as he came toward her.

“Ah, but we do have a proper male escort.” She wrapped her hand around the man’s arm, bringing him, if somewhat reluctantly, to her side. “This is our chaperone, Mrs. Beasley.” Charlotte turned her eyes toward the man and held her breath, silently pleading with him to catch on to her plight.

He executed a proper bow toward Mrs. Beasley, and Charlotte let out her breath a bit at a time. “George Fitzpatrick, at your service, Mrs. Beasley.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

BeckyLowerBecky Lower lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Valentine by Heather Grothaus

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Introducing the Brotherhood of Fallen Angels — an epic new series set in the medieval Holy Land, where four heroic Crusaders find themselves caught in the crosshairs of revenge, devotion—and love…

He’s a man of passion and principle. But would he kill for his convictions? That’s the question that has Valentine Alesander fighting for his innocence. He’s been accused, along with three other Brothers, of orchestrating the horrific siege at the Christian fortification of Chastellet. Could this fatefully-named Crusader be a lover, a fighter, and a traitor? One woman from his past is about to find out.

Gorgeous, free-spirited Lady Mary Beckham has escaped her guardians in England to travel across the world—and find the notorious Valentine. Years ago, she was promised to him…and now she wants out of their marriage contract. Mary wants to wed another and requires Valentine’s blessing—until she discovers they share a tempestuous attraction. But with a vengeful band of sworn enemies at Valentine’s heels, is desire worth the risk of losing…everything?

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Publisher and Release Date: Lyrical Press 23 June, 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 12th Century Europe
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Jill

Valentine Alesander, a Spaniard of noble birth, has lost his title, family and wealth. Now a man without a home, he finds himself in Syria, right after the Christian defeat at Jacob’s Ford. Here he comes across a man whose two friends have been taken to Damascus as prisoners by Saladin’s victors. When Valentine joins forces with these three men, unjustly considered traitors to the Crown and now on the run, they take refuge in an abbey in Austria.

Lady Mary Beckham has been betrothed since birth. But at twenty-six years-old her husband-to-be still has not come for her. And she has fallen for another man. However, before she can marry him she needs to find her fiancé and ask him disavow his marriage claim to her. When she learns that a monk in an Austrian abbey has information on her wayward fiancé’s whereabouts, Mary leaves England for Austria.

Set in 12th century Europe, this is a really entertaining Medieval romance. Though written with great historical detail the pace doesn’t slow down. Both Valentine and Mary (or Maria as Valentine calls her) are wonderful characters. Their romance builds slowly, and comes to life on their road trip through Europe and back to England. Wanted by both his family and pursued by those wanting to bring him (and his three friends) to justice, Valentine’s story is full of action and adventure.

I started this book thinking it would be a dark, almost grim read given the era. Valentine is not quite the brooding and taciturn hero I thought he would be. He has an almost amiable personality, and there are quite a few touches of humour throughout. Not quite what I was first expecting, but nevertheless, an entertaining read.

For anyone looking for a change-of-pace, something different to the overdone Regency setting in historical romances, or if you enjoy Medieval historicals, then Valentine is a recommended read. I’m looking forward to the other stories in this series. Next up, scholar and architect Adrian Hailsworth’s story.

The Beautiful One by Emily Greenwood

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A PICTURE SAYS A THOUSAND WORDS…

The ton is buzzing about The Beautiful One, a striking figure in a scandalous book of nude sketches. Only two men know the true identity of The Beautiful One, and they are scouring the countryside, determined to find her.

BUT NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES…

The unlikely center of the scandal, Anna Black is forced to flee home as disaster looms. Her tomboy’s heart and impertinent tongue serve her well when she meets the most brooding viscount ever to darken a drawing room. Will Halifax, Viscount Grandville, has his reasons for pushing people away, and when his tempestuous teenaged ward arrives on his doorstep, he presses Anna to take on her care. As Anna begins to melt the Viscount’s frozen heart, she knows the more she loves, the more she has to lose. For although Will cares nothing for what makes Society titter, he has yet to see The Beautiful One.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, June 2, 2015

RHR Classifications: Historical Romance
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Natalie

Anna Black is tired of running and hiding. Months after the death of her father an influential member of the ton approaches her with a book of nude sketches… sketches of Anna. She is shocked to realize her father’s assistant had spied on her and created the sketches. She tries to reason with the aristocrat, but he wants Anna to pose for him in the nude as Aphrodite and be revealed to the ton as the beautiful woman in the book. Doing such a thing will ruin her, so she leaves her country home and has been on the run ever since, trying to make her way north to her aunt’s house where she hopes to find solitude and safety. She has been working under a false name as a seamstress at a girls’ school in the hopes of securing enough money to finish her journey, when one of the school’s wards is expelled. Anna finds herself acting as chaperone, accompanying Lizzie to the home of her uncle where she will hand the girl over to her guardian.

Will, Lord Grandville, lost all that was dear to him when his wife died in an accident. He has spent the last year shut up in his estate mourning his former life. The last thing he wants to find on his doorstep is his sixteen year-old ward. To add insult to injury the soaking wet, frustrating school chaperone has insisted that Lizzie cannot return to the school – they simply will not take her back. Frustrated, angry and confused by the presence of this infuriating woman, Will first propositions her and then regains his composure and implores her to stay on as a governess for his niece until he can find a new school for her.

Anna is stunned at the reception both Lizzie and herself have received from her uncle and feels terrible for the young girl. She remembers what it was like to feel lonely and invaluable. Even though she wants to continue running, she decides to stay and make sure that Lizzie is well looked after, at least until her uncle makes other arrangements.

The Beautiful One is a strong romance novel from a new-to-me author. I enjoyed the characters of Anna and Will and both their back stories, but even more surprisingly I also enjoyed the supporting characters. Instead of writing Lizzie as your typical historical-romance-ward, a vain, pampered, and ridiculous sixteen year old, Ms Greenwood gives the character a chance to break the mold. Lizzie has been through a great deal of heart-break in the last few years and her uncle is the only person she has left in the world. Like any sixteen year old, she comes up with some cringe-worthy plans to try and make things go her way, but most importantly she is a character who is more than just a plot device and she grows and learns throughout the novel. The same can be said for Will’s step-mother. Instead of writing an evil-step mother role for Anna to contend with, the author gives us Ginger, a woman who has made mistakes with her step-sons but would like the chance to make amends.

Will and Anna’s storyline moves very fast with Will falling, not exactly in love, but maybe ‘in-lust’ with the tomboyish, independent Anna almost immediately and with Anna breaking her role as governess very quickly and finding herself acting like she is on equal footing with Lord Grandville early on. I enjoyed the characters and the depth of feelings Ms Greenwood was able to write for them and felt that the author left you wanting more from this little world she has created. I look forward to the next book in the Scandalous Sisters series.

His Captive Princess by Sandra Jones

his-captive-princess

Earned respect is sweet… but deserved revenge is sweeter.

Warren de Tracy was assured the Welsh village of Dinefwr would be an easy conquest, as would the widow of its fallen prince. Wedding her will appease the locals and win the respect of his liege, the usurper King Stephen.

Instead, Warren is ambushed, taken prisoner by a hooded Welshwoman with skin that glows like moonlight. If he must die at her hands, at least his honorable death will silence the whispers of disloyalty hanging over his name.

Princess Eleri has never seen a knight as stoic—and as eager to die—as Warren. She’d love to oblige the bastard, but something in his ocean-blue eyes stays her hand. Plus, suspicion nags at her, for the arrows that wounded him and killed his men are Norman, not Welsh.

A ghostly prophecy portends danger that thrusts the enemies closer together, where hate explodes into passion that won’t allow Eleri to surrender Warren to her vengeful clan. But returning him to his king breaks more than it mends…and for Warren, retaliation will be sweet, indeed.

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Publisher and Release Date: Samhain, April 28, 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 12th century Wales and England
Genre: Historical romance
Heat Level: 2
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review by Jenny Q

I am always looking for historical romances that stand out from the crowd, whether because of an unusual setting or time period or because of unconventional characters and plot lines, and so I was drawn to His Captive Princess. And happily, this book has all of those elements!

First, I loved the Welsh setting and the historical period. King Henry I has died and Stephen and Maude (the Empress Matilda) are fighting over the throne. England is in turmoil, and of course that carries over to their neighbors. The story makes good use of the historical background, and the political maneuverings are incorporated into the story, making this much more than a “wallpaper” historical romance.

The characters are also fantastic. A Norman knight, torn as to which ruler deserves his allegiance and anxious to make amends for wrongs committed in the past, travels into the wild forests of Wales to fulfill his duty and cement an alliance by wedding a widowed Welsh princess – and finds much more than he bargained for. Ambushed, wounded, and taken prisoner, he can’t help but admire the beautiful woman who takes him directly to a hostile Welsh prince and leaves him to his fate only to reappear and kidnap him again, this time for her own purposes.

Captivated by the enemy warrior with striking eyes and warned of impending disaster by the old crone only she can see, Princess Eleri takes things into her own hands. Determined to keep her deceased husband’s clan from bringing war on their heads and to save the warrior from a cruel death, she forms a plan to deliver him into the bonds of slavery in her father’s lands instead, and leads a daring clandestine mission through the mystical forests of her homeland. But she never counted on the unseen danger lurking in the woods, or on falling in love with her handsome prisoner. When she realizes she’s not the only person with plans for Warren, Eleri is forced to make a difficult decision.

Warren has plans of his own for the woman who loved him and abandoned him to an uncertain fate. But even the best-laid plans can go awry, and when he finally has the opportunity to wreak his own sensual brand of vengeance on the woman he can’t forget, a new threat forces Eleri and Warren to work together to save themselves and the future they’ve only just realized they want to have together. But is their love enough to overcome the differences of their homelands and the enemy that wants them dead, or are they doomed to suffer a tragic fate?

There are two things holding me back from rating this book more highly. Firstly, I think the romance could have been a bit more developed. It’s obvious why Eleri and Warren would lust after each other in the early days of their relationship, but I would have liked to see more interaction to deepen their relationship and really make me feel that Eleri and Warren were falling in love with each other. We sort of skip over what lies between lust at first sight and true love. And secondly, the supernatural aspect of the story seemed superficial and served mainly as a crutch for questionable decision-making on Eleri’s part. There’s no insight into how Eleri’s ability to see the old crone who predicts death has played out in the past, or how she connects with that part of herself. It just sort of seems to be tacked on, and if it were removed, the story would pretty much be the same without it.

But overall, I enjoyed this action-packed story filled with historical ambiance. The characters are unique and have great chemistry, and their relationship is surprisingly and deliciously sexy. I will definitely read more from Sandra Jones!

VIRTUAL TOUR: Duty and Desire (Hearts of Honour #2) by Elise de Sallier

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Grace Daniels, the village of Hartley’s resident midwife and herbalist, would like nothing more than to ease the suffering of Jonathan Loring’s young son, Peter. But the widowed Blackthorn estate manager is as prejudiced against her illegitimacy as he is her “witchy” profession. When Peter’s physicians say they can do no more for the boy, Jonathan finds himself in the unenviable position of having to turn to the woman whose skills he has scorned.

Drawn together out of duty, Jonathan and Grace’s relationship soon becomes characterised by a not-so-hidden desire. Having found a degree of independence unheard of for a lady, Grace has no intention of submitting to the bonds of matrimony. Not that Jonathan, who has lost his inheritance and has to work for a living, is in any position to propose.

With marriage out of the question, their only option is both shocking and dangerous . . . to become lovers.

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EXCERPT

Grace Daniels pulled her cloak tightly around her shoulders. The blustery wind tugged strands of her long, black hair free from her bun, intent on using them to whip her face. To add insult to injury, the misty rain—which she could have borne quite easily—was now falling in heavy splats. Several icy drips had worked their way through her worn, woollen wrap, sending shivers down her spine.

What joy.

As the midwife and herbalist for the village of Hartley, Grace traipsed around the countryside in all sorts of weather, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a trial. She really should have taken up William, the viscount Blackthorn, on his offer to supply her with a horse-drawn chaise. How she would find time to care for a horse was beyond her. There were so few hours left in her day already, certainly not enough for a decent night’s sleep on the rare occasion she wasn’t called out to assist with a birth or an emergency. If the viscount knew the reason for her reluctance, he would probably offer to pay for a stable boy to assist her. But Grace didn’t like to feel beholden—not even to her best friend’s husband—although it was somewhat unavoidable, considering he now funded her work.

Startled by a horse’s whinny, she looked over her shoulder to see—as if conjured from her imagination—just the sort of hooded chaise William had suggested would be suitable for her needs. Unfortunately, the driver was more likely to appear in her nightmares than her daydreams.

Jonathan Loring, retired military officer and the Blackthorn Viscountcy’s new estate manager.

“Get in. You can ride with me the rest of the way up to the manor.”

Grace bristled at her unwelcome rescuer’s tone even as the wind tugged at the ribbons of her bonnet. Personable in appearance, with golden hair and a close-trimmed beard, Mr Loring was already well-respected by the local populace, though he had a knack for rubbing Grace the wrong way. If she were a cat, she would have hissed.

“Don’t dawdle, Miss Daniels,” he added in his typically autocratic manner. “There’s no point getting any wetter than you already are, unless you enjoy impersonating a drowned rat?”

Grace narrowed her eyes. She would have given a great deal to be able to turn her back on the obnoxious man and keep walking, but a not-so-distant clap of thunder heralded a strengthening in the storm. If only she hadn’t misread the weather.

“Oh, very well,” she muttered, clambering aboard with little of the attribute for which she was named evident in either movement or demeanour. To make matters worse, the bench seat was barely wide enough to accommodate them both. Leaving a respectable distance between them simply wasn’t possible, as she was forced to squeeze into the narrow space between the sidewall and Mr Loring’s immovable thigh. Thankfully, he made no comment about her damp skirt pressing against him, merely jerked his chin towards the prancing bay gelding.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t climb down to assist you, but Ned’s hard to handle in this weather.”

After placing her bag next to her feet, Grace gave him a withering glance. “That would have been unnecessary, as I am quite capable of getting into a vehicle unaided. It also would have been unwise, as it’s plain to see you need to keep both hands on the reins lest your horse bolt. I’ve no desire to be bowled over and left facedown in the mud.”

“Neither do I, which is why I wasn’t fool enough to attempt the manoeuvre.” Mr Loring huffed a breath while urging his horse to trot up the steep, muddy road that led to Blackthorn Manor. “I was merely trying to explain my less-than-gentlemanly behaviour.”

“Since we both know I’m not a lady, the gesture would have been wasted. Unless you’re trying to convince me you would show the same courtesy to your average, run-of-the-mill servant?”

“If a woman needed my help, then I would render assistance regardless of her station,” he replied, biting off each word as if displaying the early signs of lockjaw.

While the man was as irritating as a prickle in one’s shoe, Grace couldn’t deny she received an inordinate amount of pleasure from goading him.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, June 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, Early 19th Century
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Caz

duty and desireDuty and Desire is the second book in the author’s Hearts of Honour series, but I don’t think it’s necessary to have read book one, Passion and Propriety, to be able to understand and enjoy it. The story is refreshingly different for an historical romance and I really enjoyed the slow-burn romance between the two protagonists, which is very-well written and developed.

Grace Daniels is the midwife in the village of Hartley, near the estate of Viscount Blackthorn and his wife Hannah, her childhood friend. The illegitimate child of a baron, she was tolerated by his family until his death, but she was then cast out and left to her own devices. She was taken in by her great-aunt, a herbalist and midwife, learned from her and has built up a considerable reputation as a healer.

Widower Jonathan Loring is the viscount’s estate manager, his former commanding officer and his closest friend. Born into an aristocratic family, he was forced to seek employment after resigning his commission in order to care for his seriously ill son. His older brother has gambled away his own fortune, stolen Jonathan’s inheritance, and his financial situation is such that Jonathan is now the sole support for his mother and sickly sister, Penelope. Sending what money he can spare to them and the expensive medical treatments he has sought for his son have brought him to the brink of penury, yet he stubbornly refuses to ask for Grace’s help, believing her traditional, natural remedies and treatments to be only one step removed from “witchery”.

But when an expensive and experienced London physician tells Jonathan there is nothing to be done for Peter and to resign himself to the inevitable, he finally swallows his pride and asks Grace for help.

Jonathan and Grace have an acrimonious relationship, begun in the previous book. He dismisses her as nothing more than a quack, and she gives as good as she gets, rather enjoying the opportunity to bait him. But as she cares for his son, the pair begins to see each other in a different light, and to acknowledge the reluctant attraction that lies buried behind their animosity. Their relationship is beautifully developed and progresses at a sensible pace – fast enough to make it satisfying to read, but not so fast as to make it unbelievable. The first frissons of physical attraction between them are delicious, and their longing for each other just leaps off the page.

Unfortunately, however, the truth of both their situations makes it impossible for Grace and Jonathan to marry. He cannot afford to support a wife, and her dedication to her profession caused her long ago to decide against matrimony. After all, what husband would be willing to put up with a wife who is often called away all hours of the day and night? And how can a woman with such a busy practice possibly undertake the duties of a wife? These facts leave them with few options. They either resign themselves to a life apart, or enter into a clandestine affair – which, if discovered, could ruin Grace entirely.

It’s always a refreshing change to read about characters in historical romances who aren’t rich or titled, and that is definitely one of the things that attracted me to this book. It’s an interesting move on Ms de Sallier’s part to introduce a storyline involving food-allergies into the story, and she lays the groundwork for it very well, so that Grace’s treatment for Peter’s illness never feels as though it is some convenient miracle cure that is present merely to fulfil the needs of the plot.

My criticisms of the book are few, and those are mostly concerned with the last few chapters or so, which feel a little rushed and in which things are resolved a little too conveniently. The reasons Jonathan and Grace are unable to marry are not spurious on his part – having to support his mother and sister as well as pay for expensive medical treatments had almost ruined Jonathan financially; but I was less convinced by Grace’s “I can’t marry you because of my career” stance.

Otherwise, however, Duty and Desire is a very enjoyable story in which the two principals are engaging, dedicated and compassionate characters. The writing is solid, in spite of the odd turn of phrase here and there which feels a little forced, but the romance between Jonathan and Grace is lovely. Their physical encounters are infused with both sensuality and tenderness, and there is no doubt of the depth of the emotional connection between them.

Highly recommended.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

elise de sallierA great believer in living happily ever after, Elise began her lifelong obsession with the romance and paranormal genres when she was far too young to be reading either. After more than thirty years of marriage to her very own romantic hero, she now knows great relationships don’t just happen, they take work . . . which doesn’t mean writing about them can’t be a whole lot of fun!

While raising a family, Elise established a career as a counsellor and family therapist. Seeking an escape from the stresses of her work, she discovered the world of fan fiction, and her timid writer’s muse made its voice heard. After 2.3 million hits, 20,000 reviews, and an e-mail from an acquisitions editor at The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, her life found a new and fascinating direction.

Elise likes to see her characters grow, experience passion and adventure, tackle some difficult issues, and find lasting love . . . eventually.

You can connect with Elise at: Twitter * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Goodreads

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Ballad Beauty by Lauren Linwood

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After ten years apart, Boston schoolmarm Jenny McShanahan receives a letter from her beloved father that instructs her to join him in Texas. She has no idea that he’s become Famous Sam McShan, the Robin Hood of the West. She arrives to find Sam already gone, but he left instructions for Jenny to hire a guide and rendezvous with him in Nevada.

Texas Ranger Noah Daniel Webster knows Sam personally because his father, Pistol Pete Webber, was Sam’s longtime partner in crime. When Pete is killed during their last big score, Noah requests the assignment to bring Sam to justice. Going undercover, he volunteers to act as Jenny’s escort across the dangerous prairie, using her to track her outlaw father’s location.

As they journey through rough country, love blossoms—but Noah knows the second he arrests Sam, his betrayal will kill Jenny’s love for him. Should the lawman do his duty as a Ranger, or should he let love rule? The choice Noah makes will change their lives forever.

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EXCERPT

Jenny crumpled into a heap on the ground. Her weeping turned into harsh, guttural noises. The sound of it broke Noah’s heart. He scooped her up in his arms.

“There, now. It’s okay, honey. It’ll be fine. You’ll see,” he murmured.

She buried her face against his shoulder. He sat down on a stump near the fire and stroked her hair. He whispered mostly nonsense to her, in gentle, soothing tones, trying to quiet her sobs.

He hated it when a woman cried. Yet if anyone had something to cry about, it was Jenny McShanahan. He hated Sam in that moment more than he’d ever thought possible. The outlaw abandoned this sweet woman when she was but a child and spun her dreams of future happiness. Now those dreams had splintered into a thousand pieces.

“Jenny?”

She raised her tear-stained face as she clutched his shoulders for support. He still held her on his lap, an arm about her waist. She bit her lower lip as it quivered uncontrollably. A fresh wave of tears cascaded down her cheeks.

“Damn him.” Noah brushed his knuckles across her soft, wet cheeks. “I’m so sorry, honey.”

His hand slipped to the back of her neck and drew her close to him. He needed to comfort her, and so he did it the only way he knew how.

He kissed her.

It was the sweetest kiss in his life. It made him want to protect her from everything bad. He wanted to keep Sam and the world at bay for a few minutes.
Instinctively, he deepened the kiss and felt her tentative response. He realized she’d never been kissed before, and the thought pleased him. He tightened his hold around her waist. She melted in his arms.

Noah wanted her. More than he ever wanted a woman he’d held.

The kiss turned from gentle to possessive. His hand went up to caress her face and then pushed into her upswept hair. The pins fell away. Honeyed curls cascaded about her shoulders. His fingers ran through the waves as he deepened the kiss and strove to make them as one, if only for a few moments.

He pulled away from her mouth and pressed his lips along her jaw to her ear. He nibbled lightly on her earlobe and was rewarded with her shiver of pleasure. He claimed her mouth again, a fierce tenderness racing through him. His hand fell from her hair and went to fondle her breast when he stopped himself. What on God’s green earth was he doing?

A man kisses a nice girl like this too much, and it leads to an end of his freedom. If there was one thing he wasn’t interested in, it was settling down. Passion be damned. He could find this kind of pleasure with any crib gal.

He abruptly broke the kiss and pushed Jenny from his lap. He stood up, his knees weak, but his resolve strong. Until he looked at her.

She was more tempting than any female he’d ever laid eyes upon, and he’d seen his share of beautiful women. Her lips were swollen and full from their passion, her moss green eyes misty. The hair tumbling down her back gave her a wild look. This was no sexless schoolmarm but a tiger waiting to be awakened. He knew he’d just messed with fire. He needed to put it out before it raged out of his control.

“We can never do that again,” he said flatly.

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TO WIN A COPY OF BALLAD BEAUTY, ENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER. THE GIVEAWAY IS OPEN FOR SEVEN DAYS, AND THE WINNER WILL BE NOTIFIED SHORTLY AFTER THE CLOSING DATE.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

linwoodLauren Linwood became a teacher who wrote on the side to maintain her sanity in a sea of teenage hormones. Her historical romances use history as a backdrop to place her characters in extraordinary circumstances, where their intense desire for one another grows into the treasured gift of love. Her romantic suspense novels feature strong heroes and heroines who unite to defeat a clever antagonist and discover a deep, abiding love during their journey.

A native Texan, Lauren lives in a Dallas suburb with her family. An avid reader, moviegoer, and sports fan, she manages stress by alternating yoga with long walks. She plans to start a support group for House Hunters addicts—as soon as she finishes her next piece of dark chocolate.

You can connect with Lauren at: laurenlinwood.com * ~ * ~ * Blog * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Amazon * ~ * ~ * Goodreads.