Archives

AUDIO REVIEW: Treacherous Temptations by Victoria Vane, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman

Treacherous Temptations audoi
This audiobook may be purchased from Audible via Amazon

A reluctant heiress resigned to her fate…

Mary Elizabeth Edwardes possesses one of the largest fortune’s in England, but has no desire to leave her quiet country existence… and even less to acquire a husband she cannot choose for herself.

A dissolute nobleman bent on retribution…

Trapped in a duplicitous existence since scandal destroyed his fortune and family name, Lord Hadley Blanchard has spent the better part of a decade posing as a disaffected exile while spying and seducing in the service of the English Crown.

A dangerous game of seduction, and intrigue…

By employing the full measure of his seductive charm, he woos the ward of the man who destroyed his life, little knowing that winning Mary’s fortune will mean risking his own treacherous heart.

add-to-goodreads-button
Publisher and Release Date: Victoria Vane, January 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Georgian London 1728
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2.5
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars for content, 3.5 stars for narration

Review by Wendy

This enjoyable, well-written, wickedly sexy Georgian romance has a sweetly innocent heroine and a charming, dissolute rogue at its centre and – to add some extra intrigue – a malevolent, conniving stepmother.

Miss Mary Elizabeth Edwards finds herself an unwitting pawn in a dangerous game. She is a country girl, and though gently raised and very rich, she is no sophisticate and therefore ripe for manipulation. Lord Hadley Blanchard, the son of a disgraced earl, has been living a hand-to-mouth existence on the continent since his father’s suicide seven years previously. Whoring his way through life and also spying for the crown, he is decadent, charming and dependent on his step-mother, Barbara, Countess of Blanchard, for pin money in order to be able to continue his dissipated life style. She summons him back to England with a proposal that will make them both rich; he is to seduce and marry the unworldly Mary, the idea being that he and Barbara will carry on their torrid and incestuous affair while they live off Mary’s money. Hadley has grown tired of his uncertain, Tom-cat lifestyle, and wishes to cut his ties with Barbara and see his father’s name cleared, the Blanchard estates returned and his title re-instated.

Hadley’s puppet master, Sir Richard, was also the instrument of his father’s downfall and now a spymaster with his finger in many pies, he holds Hadley’s life in the palm of his hand and constantly tweaks the reins. He is also Mary’s guardian and in control of both her fortune and marriage prospects, with no intention whatsoever of allowing the disgraced earl’s son access to his ward. As well as controlling both Mary and Hadley he is also lover to the devious and depraved Barbara, Countess of Blanchard.

In this way, Victoria Vane has cleverly intertwined the main characters into a clever and plausible plot in this rather witty and risqué romp.

To begin with, Hadley’s charming exterior is artfully manufactured for the sole purpose of catching and ensnaring the innocent Mary, but soon he becomes enchanted with her innocence. His ennui and cynical attitude begin to drop away and the kind and generous young man who existed before his father’s disgrace and his own exile starts to re-emerge. Mary, although no fool, is nonetheless dazzled by the handsome and debonair nobleman.

The story takes a dark twist and suddenly Mary’s very life is in danger. Always having an eye to the main chance, her guardian has a list of influential men drawn up as possible candidates for her hand with no care for how sexually deviant or elderly they may be. All he cares about is that they will further his own political career, so Mary will go to the highest bidder.

With the developing – but secret – romance between Mary and Hadley kept under wraps, they tread a dangerous path while Hadley attempts to keep Mary safe. Certain revelations about Hadley’s past throw her into a dilemma, and she has nowhere to turn; no one to trust. Hadley has been hoist by his own petard. Now that he has found and recognised his love, and realises he wants nothing from her other than herself… but she does not believe him.

The narration by Stevie Zimmerman is really quite well done. She handles the large cast with confidence, portraying the devious and dastardly Barbara and the oily, corrupt Sir Richard particularly well. While Hadley is masquerading as a primped, powdered and pomaded Italian nobleman, she effects drawling, bored aristocratic tones, but as Hadley returns to his more honourable self, she effects a subtle change and adopts a pleasant, manly voice with just the right amount of inflection to render him more likeable. I didn’t really connect with her portrayal of Mary, however, who at times comes over as whinny and a bit pathetic, although Ms. Vane has written her as a strong, sensible character. My main complaint though, is with the production quality. There is a tinny, slightly echoey background, as if Ms. Zimmerman was recording in a tunnel and I found it quite disconcerting. I listen to a lot of audiobooks and I rarely come across this problem.

On the whole, I enjoyed this audio version of Treacherous Temptations. it has a well thought out, plausible plot line and expertly captures the outrageously decadent and opulence of the Georgian era to a tee with sumptuous descriptions of the fashions, wigs, powders and patches of the times.

Rebel Bride by Elizabeth Moss

rebel bride

Purchase Now from Amazon

He is under her spell…

Hugh Beaufort, favoured courtier of King Henry VIII, likes his women quiet and biddable. Susannah Tyrell is neither of these things. She is feisty, beautiful, opinionated and brave. And Hugh is fascinated by her – despite himself.

Their lust is undeniable…

When Susannah pulls her most outrageous stunt yet and finds herself lost in the wilds of England, Hugh must go to her rescue. Neither of them is prepared for the dangers that lie in wait. But most dangerous of all is their desire for one another. Alone together in the forest, far from the restraints of court…

Their passion knows no bounds

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, December 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1536, Yorkshire, London, England
Genre: Historical erotic romance
Heat Level: 3
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Susannah Tyrell is a free spirited young woman, which is a very dangerous thing to be in 1536. And though she is only eighteen, she has a surprising knowledge of and desire to have sex.

Hugh and Lord Wolf, Susannah’s brother-in-law, are old friends and comrades in the tense court of King Henry VIII. Hugh is tasked with the dismantling of the monasteries and the confiscation of their wealth when he is asked to escort Susannah back to her home in Yorkshire as a favor to Wolf, who is married to Eloise, Susannah’s older sister.

Susannah practically throws herself at Hugh Beaufort, a sincere, somewhat bland, and rising young clerk to the king. He is far below Susannah’s station as she is the daughter of a knight. Hugh is drawn to Susannah but I couldn’t help but wonder how much of his attraction to her was more because she was offering herself freely to him; any man would be flattered and want that.

But Susannah loathes boring old Yorkshire, yearns for excitement, and is betrothed to a man her father’s age. She wants no part of being a wife, or any man’s property for that matter. So she foolishly (and bravely) runs away without a plan and quickly comes to danger when Hugh comes to her rescue. But this time, their passion cannot be denied.

God protect me from respectable young virgins, he prayed fervently. For their ruination shall also be mine.

Susannah’s continued foolishness is bold, rash, and she is rather selfish and spoiled. I didn’t have much sympathy for her. The times are perilous – Queen Anne Boleyn has recently been executed and everyone is suspicious of everyone else – and the fact that Susannah fails to see that she cannot possibly live as a woman alone in England in 1536 is unbelievable. However, no doubt there were women like Susannah, who felt stifled under the laws of men where women were possessions to be owned and discarded, something that Susannah refuses to be. Her nonconformist and reckless nature could have ended disastrously but, luckily for her, it works out.

As in Wolf Bride, Ms. Moss creates an atmosphere rife with gripping tension and fear. Spies are everywhere and no one can be trusted. She details the business of the destruction of the monasteries and their worth to the king, women’s nipple-revealing and risque fashions, as well as the swift promotion of plain Jane Seymour to queen barely a week after Anne Boleyn’s death.

The romance between Hugh and Susannah is really more lust than love and some of the explicit love scenes are awkward with purple prose. Neither Hugh nor Susannah seem to take heed of any possibility of pregnancy and Hugh’s position to the king is in jeopardy because of his relationship with her. But neither seems to really care or take it too seriously, despite the risks. They just can’t seem to get enough of each other and there is not much personal growth in their characters.

Susannah’s sister, Eloise, and her husband, Lord Wolf, hero and heroine in the first book in Ms. Moss’s aptly-named Lust in the Tudor Court erotic historical series, are prominent characters here so it’s helpful but not necessary to read that book first. That novel is more compelling and suspenseful than Rebel Bride and Lord Wolf a much more magnetic and sexy hero.

KATHRYN LEVEQUE’S DE WOLFE PACK Kindle World!

12045769_10208069338358150_4210876005101863757_o

Hi everyone! I am dropping by today on behalf of the fifteen fabulous authors involved in launching  KATHYRN LEVEQUE’S DE WOLFE PACK SERIES, Amazon’s very first historical KINDLE WORLD. I am particularly excited because it also marks the release of BRETON WOLFE, my first historical romance in almost two years and the start of a whole new series! (Look for IVAR THE RED and THE BASTARD OF BRITTANY in 2016!)

BRETON WOLFE BY VICTORIA VANE

BRETON WOLFE

She swore to defy him to her dying breath…But passion blurs the line between love and hate…

The bluest blood and the hardest heart… at least when it comes to marriage… The daughter of a duke and granddaughter of a king, Adele of Vannes was bartered at birth in a marriage treaty for the sole purpose of producing a royal heir. When her philandering husband is slain by Norse marauders, she is coerced to wed again in order to protect her home and her people. Adele knows that her beloved Brittany needs a strong hand to survive, but how can she ever reconcile her bitterness and hatred with the desire she feels for her mortal enemy?

She’s the jewel he seeks for his Breton crown…A Barbarian bent on building a dynasty, Valdrik Vargr, ‘the Norse Wolf,’ is renowned for both his bravery in battle and shrewdness in statecraft. Setting his sights on claiming the kingdom of Brittany, he knows that siring sons from royal blood would solidify his hold, but the woman he would claim as his queen refuses to have him. Will he fuel her hatred by taking her to his bed, or will the man who strikes terror in the hearts of men be reduced to wooing his bride?  

Only $1.99 on Amazon

Introduction to the De Wolfe Pack Kindle World

Kathryn Le Veque’s World of De Wolfe Pack  is an absolutely amazing multi-author series with 14 new novels all based on THE WOLFE , the book that launched a huge bestselling medieval romance series (THE WOLFE, SERPENT, WALLS OF BABYLON, SCORPION, THE LION OF THE NORTH).  I can’t tell you how excited I am to be a part of this group of tremendously talented authors all lending their skills to William and the gang. We’ve got books set in the Wild West, Scotland, dragon shape-shifters, contemporary times… so many new stories!

Enter the Medieval World of England’s greatest knight, the man known as The Wolfe of the Border. Sir William de Wolfe is a man of honor and skill, but beneath that professional exterior beats a heart of passion and tenderness. Worlds collide and revolve around William de Wolfe, his Scottish wife Jordan, and his stable of legendary knights as a great Medieval universe of pageantry and passion bleeds out into past, present, and future. What de Wolfe ancestors or descendants will establish their own great worlds within the de Wolfe realm?

BOOKS IN THE DE WOLFE PACK Kindle World

[metaslider id=11652]

 

Please join us from 8 am PST to 8 pm PST for The World of de Wolfe Pack Spotlight Event with lots of fun and prizes. It’s an all-day, drop-in event and we hope to see you there!

Wolf Bride by Elizabeth Moss

wolf bridePurchase Now from Amazon

England, 1536

Bound to him against her will…

Lord Wolf, hardened soldier and skillful lover, has come to King Henry VIII’s court to claim his new bride: a girl who has intrigued him since he first saw her riding across the Yorkshire moors.

Eloise Tyrell, now lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne Boleyn, has other ideas. She has no desire to submit to a man she barely knows and who – though she is loath to admit it – frightens her not a little.

Then comes that first kiss…

It awakens in both a fierce desire that bares them to the soul. But as the court erupts into scandal around the ill-fated Queen, Eloise sees first-hand what happens when powerful men tire of their wives.

Dare she surrender her body and her heart?

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, May 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1536, the Tudor court, London and Yorkshire
Genre: Erotic historical romance
Heat Level: 3
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Earlier this year, I read Alison Weir’s excellently written The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn. This is a perfect fictional complement to that book. Though Boleyn is not the heroine of this story, the political machinations of her speedy path to execution are constantly in the background of this tautly written novel, and the effects of the politics in the Tudor court reach out all across England, even when the hero and heroine are in far off Yorkshire. Duty, obedience, and honor are of utmost importance to King Henry VIII and, as a soldier, Lord Wolf is constantly at the king’s beck and call. But his good standing with the king must never be taken for granted, especially since his wife, Eloise, is one of Queen Anne Boleyn’s ladies-in-waiting.

This highly charged and erotic historical romance is a departure from my usual Regency era fare. But as a history buff, I appreciate Ms. Moss’s engaging writing style, the vivid and well-drawn characters, and the richly portrayed historical setting of Tudor England.

Eloise Tyrell is a pretty young woman from the Yorkshire countryside in the delicate and enviable position of maid to a queen. She covertly observes Queen Anne’s scandalous flirtations with men in the animated and free love atmosphere of the court, but is smart enough to realize she must also ignore what she sees.

Eloise also enjoys a youthful infatuation with Simon, the youngest son of a baron, but quickly becomes disillusioned when he shockingly suggests they become lovers after her arranged marriage with Lord Wolf, a childhood acquaintance; after all, it is the usual behavior at court. This is something Eloise cannot condone and, when Lord Wolf boldly claims her for his own in a breathless and seductive first meeting, Eloise is startled, cautious but curious, and promises him complete fidelity. It irks her that Wolf distrusts her, however.

“Now that she was promised to Lord Wolf, it was no longer acceptable for her to speak so freely with other men, however innocent her intentions.”

Be forewarned that the sex in this book is extremely graphic, but it’s also very smoothly written and enjoyable to read. The loose sexual and moral atmosphere of the Tudor court is acceptable and rampant, much like the court of Charles II depicted in Nina Mason’s Devil in Duke’s Clothing. For example, if the king desires another man’s wife in his bed, that man will comply or be liable for the consequences and eventual disfavor and exile.

After their hasty marriage, Eloise and Wolf enjoy a vigorous and adventurous sex life, yet both are unsure of the other’s true feelings. As an arranged marriage, neither expects to feel such an intense attraction or need for one another, but it is undeniable. A woman is her husband’s property, free to use and dispose of at will – witness King Henry’s treatment of his own wives – so Eloise walks a fine line between satisfying her husband yet not losing parts of herself.

“She must learn to be cold, to separate her heart from the clamoring desires of her body. Just as Wolf did.”

Wolf is a strong and bold hero, both physically and emotionally, a brave and fearless soldier who has the king’s ear, and who introduces Eloise to the far edges of sensual pleasures, much to her fear, surprise, and delight. With each lusty encounter, their love grows ever stronger but each holds heartbreak from their pasts and jealousy must be overcome. Moreover, Wolf secretly admires and reveres Eloise’s spirit, as it intrigues and fascinates him, as revealed in his conversation with Hugh Beaufort, the king’s clerk:

“I must bring Eloise to acknowledge me as her lord and master, your are right there. But I shall not do so at the expense of her spirit. A broken wife is no wife at all, but a poor drudge.”

Lord Wolf is also a keen diplomat and smartly maneuvers ways to turn the king’s eyes far from Eloise to keep her safe…and for himself alone, though he must display flagrant and unsavory behavior to achieve his aims. Their growing love and trust is real and believable and I really like how the author displays their personal vulnerabilities. Against his initial intentions, Wolf comes to love Eloise, something he vowed he’d never do after a past relationship gone sour.

“His pride had been wounded, his already sore heart broken. And he had sworn never to love again, for love was just a mask that hid a man’s baser needs.”

Ms. Moss writes with skill, keeping the excitement and suspense ratcheted at a high point to the very end. When Eloise and Wolf are summoned from their newly wedded state back to London so that Eloise can provide testimony regarding Queen Anne’s fate, they are thrust into a dark and scary world of deceit, terror, and injustice. Spies are everywhere, privacy is rare, and a promiscuous court surrounds them. How they maintain their control and sanity makes for an intense read.

To say there is a lot of history here is an understatement as it infuses every single page. For example, Ms. Moss observes the absence of wearing undergarments and the reasons behind it, Latin phrases, period appropriate vocabulary for everyday objects – trencher for plate, for example – fashions, real life historic figures, and the dark and cold corridors of the royal palace.

Eloise’s younger and equally strong-willed sister, Susannah, is the heroine of the second book in the blatantly named Lust in the Tudor Court series. I will definitely be reading the rest of this series as well as more by Elizabeth Moss.

A must read for all Tudor-philes and erotic romance fans alike. Highly, highly recommended.

Devil in Duke’s Clothing by Nina Mason

devil in dukes clothingPurchase Now from Amazon

Maggie York, a convent-raised foundling, knows the Duke of Dunwoody’s sexual tastes are a shade or two darker than normal, but marries him anyway—partly because she has no other prospects and partly because, try as she might, she can’t seem to stop fantasizing about her dashing guardian.

Two years ago, a voyeuristic experience involving him lured her from the garden of innocence into the orchard of forbidden fruit and she’s been hungry for more ever since.

Robert Armstrong, the duke, is a Roman Catholic whose extreme devotions as a child colored his desires as a man. He’s also a slave to the times in which he lives–and to his king. Everything he is, everything he holds dear, depends on staying in Charles II’s good graces.

Unfortunately, Maggie isn’t the king’s choice of brides for the young Duke of Dunwoody. Now, to make amends, Robert must choose between the lesser of two evils: whore his wife or be reduced to a penniless commoner.

Whose interests will Robert choose to serve, his own, the king’s, or the woman he loves?

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Nina Mason. January 2015

RHR Classifications:

Time and Setting: 1680, Scotland
Genre: Historical Erotic Romance novella
Heat Level: 3
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

John Cleland’s Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure was published in 1749 and promptly banned. Describing the life and (gasp!) carnal pleasures of a prostitute, it is a titillating, uninhibited, descriptive work and its blatant narrative leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. Perhaps its greatest controversy isn’t its graphic nature but rather, its assertion that women derive pleasure from sexual intercourse. Indeed, women who enjoy sex have always been viewed as cheap and immoral while men are lauded for their virility and prowess.

In this very well-written and lustful erotic historical novella, Nina Mason tells the story of a young woman’s sexual awakening in clear but historic period language in all its crassness, bawdiness and, given its historical emphasis on the politics of Catholicism during the reign of Charles II, counter to religious teaching.

Maggie York is the young ward of Robert, the naughty Duke of Dunwoody. She has long known that the young and handsome duke enjoys a vigorous and unorthodox sex life, but she is surprised to learn that he desires her for his bride. As an unprotected female with no prospects, she marries Robert for security but, unbeknownst to her, he has long admired and loved her, the girl his father intended for his bride when his family took her in under questionable circumstances.

Maggie has had a complicated crush on the young duke ever since she secretly watched him have sex with her maid two years earlier. Maggie, a devout Catholic raised and educated by nuns until the age of ten, is shocked but is just as shocked to find that she actually enjoys watching and also becomes aroused by what she sees. She reasons she must be a sinner if she likes what she observes but can’t quite find it in herself to be ashamed. After all, why should men be the only ones who enjoy sex?

“Yes, ‘twas a sin, but surely God would forgive her if she said a rosary or two. She was, after all, only witnessing the sinful act, not taking part.”

and

“She’d been abandoned by her parents, treated badly by the sisters, ignored by the saints, and told by the religion she embraced she was lesser in God’s eyes because she lacked a penis.”

Robert is an attentive and loving husband, eager to initiate his bride to the pleasures of lovemaking. Maggie is cautiously willing to indulge her husband if it will keep him from straying but, in exchange for allowing him to introduce her to his proclivities, she asks him to educate her in the classics, philosophy, and the sciences, as well as in pleasures of the flesh.

The bold and direct conversations between Robert and Maggie are enlightening and eye-opening, not just about sex but also about the views of men and women in the Catholic faith. Maggie learns that Robert is reading Paradise Lost by John Milton, but he prefers the views of Margaret Cavendish, a duchess who was also a writer and scientist. Such thoughts and belief explorations are dangerous in the current political climate and to Robert’s precarious position in the court. Maggie is intelligent, well read, and self-educated and is eager to learn more. Science meets religion in radical tomes mentioned in the text, including On the Use of Flogging in Venereal Affairs and in the Office of the Loins and Reins, published in 1629 by a German physician.

But Robert’s past in the debauched royal court of Charles II soon comes to haunt their newlywed happiness in the Scottish countryside. It seems that Robert married without royal permission and the ramifications of that disobedience impact the last few chapters of this tight and gripping novella. When they are summoned to Edinburgh, Maggie discovers just what depravity Robert and the court intends.

The licentiousness of the royal court is shocking to read but is based on rigorous historical research on which the author prides herself. That a supposedly Catholic regime would partake in wife swapping, whoring wives to placate a king, and orgies and ménages is not for the faint of heart. I am impressed and astounded by Mason’s presentation, her rich and colorful use of language and vocabulary, and the relaxed sexual mores rampant in the royal court.

“I’m a Catholic, Maggie. Do I need a reason to feel guilty?”

I found myself looking up certain words used for sex and body parts and they are all historically accurate according to the king of dictionaries, The Oxford English Dictionary. But some of the prose and sentence structure are humorous and border, at times, on the purple:

After several more thrusts, her cork burst, spraying orgasmic effervescence through her body.

or

She’d be royally screwed in more ways than one.

But I am disappointed (and shocked) by Robert’s actions as well as his reasoning in the final chapter. However, I suppose it suits the actions and plot of the story. I’m still not quite sure of his devotion to and love for Maggie but, given the lax morals of the court, I suppose he’s better than most.

Warning: if explicit sexual descriptions and adventures alongside Catholic scripture make you uncomfortable, this is not a book for you. But if you enjoy well-written, saucy, and ribald historical fiction, you will really enjoy this book.

Bite at First Sight by Brooklyn Ann

bite and first sight
Purchase Now from Amazon

When Rafael Villar, Lord Vampire of London, stumbles upon a woman in the cemetery, he believes he’s found a vampire hunter—not the beautiful, intelligent stranger she proves to be.

Cassandra Burton is enthralled by the scarred, disfigured vampire who took her prisoner. The aspiring physician was robbing graves to pursue her studies—and he might turn out to be her greatest subject yet. So they form a bargain: one kiss for every experiment. As their passion grows and Rafe begins to heal, only one question remains: can Cassandra see the man beyond the monster?

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, April 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1823, London
Genre: Paranormal historical romance
Heat Level: 2.5
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Regency vampire romance! Who knew? Beginning with her fun debut, Bite Me, Your Grace, Brooklyn Ann has created a sexy and original series; it’s thrilling, romantic, and very under appreciated.

But what makes this series (and particularly this story, the third book in the Scandals with Bite series) stand out is the eloquent writing and excellent pacing. Ms Ann writes with a strong and engaging style that pulls you in from page one and doesn’t let go.

The hero and heroine, Cassandra and Rafael, are strong and passionate characters with complex personalities and insecurities. But their exciting love story grows gradually, sensually, and beautifully.

Throughout the story, there is a vampire revolution afoot to thwart Rafael’s power as well as some fascinating medical history including the appearance of a real life historical figure, Thomas Wakley, founder of the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet.

Lady Cassandra Burton is a widow and a countess whose one and only marriage was a great disappointment best forgotten. Science and medicine and facts are her life’s passion but, as a woman, she cannot pursue her knowledge and experience publicly in Regency England. But she determinedly studies the human body and educates herself.

When Rafael Villar, Lord Vampire of London, comes upon Cassandra in a cemetery digging up a body for use in her studies, he reluctantly takes her prisoner. They have met in social circles previously and there is a mutual and simmering attraction. Rafael must either change Cassandra or kill her and neither is an attractive option to him. So he appeals to the lordly and powerful vampire Elders and, while awaiting their decision, he takes Cassandra into his home, thus thoroughly ruining her reputation.

But Cassandra is used to being the odd one out ever since her lonely childhood and doesn’t mind the social snub of being thought of as Rafael’s mistress. Instead, she throws herself into her work, which is her life. Until Rafael entices her with something just as meaningful.

Don Rafael Villar is a feisty and prickly personality and he has been a cranky secondary character in the last two books, so I was excited to read about his happy ending and how the author would make him into a likable hero.

The love scenes are highly erotic but also breathlessly romantic and loving. Rafael and Cassandra come to love each other by giving; he encourages her to study with Thomas Wakley privately in his home and she heals his long-deformed and limp arm. Their love is born out of gratefulness as much as attraction and it turns into a fierce devotion that is lovely to read.

Every single one of the love stories in this unique and colorful series is strong and passionately romantic; they don’t have to be read in order. Even if you don’t like vampires or vampire stories you will enjoy this book if you appreciate a good love story.

One Wicked Weekend (novella) by Charlotte Russell

one wicked weekendPurchase Now from Amazon

Hugh Drake attended the scandalous house party to help a friend, but what he found was a woman he could never relinquish.

FROM THIS NIGHT FORWARD

As a newcomer to Lord Bruton’s scandalous house party, Hugh Drake was to choose first from the proffered female flesh. He would take the woman whose eyes and body excited him most, whose lips and tongue would do all of the things he had been told a true lady never did. He would select the woman who would need all he wanted to give—and less. He would choose she who showed him both strength and desperation, and who would be the answer to his secret mission. He would choose an angel and a temptress, a protégé and a partner. He would choose his future wife.

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Boroughs Publishing Group, December 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2.5
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Ever since I read my first F. Scott Fitzgerald story in college several years ago, I have enjoyed and appreciated the brief format of short stories and novellas. It’s a skilled writer who can weave a tight and engaging story, with characters the reader cares about, in a small number of pages, and then reach a satisfying and happy resolution. Charlotte Russell, whose first book, A Spy’s Honor, I glowingly reviewed here a few months ago, has achieved that in this delightful house party romance.

Hugh Drake is a handsome and honorable gentleman, who resists his natural youthful and lustful sexual urges with a conscience drilled into him by his beloved grandmother. He is a kind and likable fellow with a solid sense of honor and duty.

Hugh is at Lord Bruton’s country house party – or, rather, orgy – to search for and retrieve a provocative and incriminating letter written by his friend’s fiancée. While there, he meets Catherine Trent, who he at first believes is playing the role of a stern-faced and serious governess, alongside three other women “entertaining” the gentlemen at the house party: a shepherdess, a milkmaid, and a housemaid.

The lurid plans of the party are for four gentlemen to indulge with a different woman for four days and nights. Initially, Hugh selects Catherine because he senses that she doesn’t really want to be there, a fact that pricks his protectiveness and sets off warning bells since he thought that all the ladies were there voluntarily. He wishes to shield her from the dissolute activities, a fact that Catherine finds charming, incredible, and endearing.

But Catherine doesn’t want Hugh to be too honorable, especially since she needs the money that Bruton has promised her for her willful participation in the party’s debauched festivities, and is prepared to do whatever she needs to do to secure it. Besides, she’s also very attracted to Hugh. But he steadfastly and reluctantly refuses her advances and charms with great difficulty. Hugh offers to pay her the promised money and take her to his pious grandmother for safety until she can procure a suitable position as a governess.

The affinity between Hugh and Catherine is infectious. They get to know each other during the party’s raunchy daily games and wagers as well as the candid conversations in their shared bedchamber. In public, they must pretend to be completely besotted with each other so they won’t have to change partners while remaining chaste in their bed, something that isn’t too hard to fake. But when Bruton begins to get irritated at Hugh’s apparent unwillingness to share and exchange bedmates, they realize that their time together is dangerously limited.

The secondary story of Hugh’s secret hunt for the damaging letter pairs nicely with the budding romance between Hugh and Catherine. Each learns of their respective pasts and secrets as the romance grows ever stronger.

Catherine is a refreshing and no-nonsense young woman, brave in the face of being a woman alone and without family in Regency England. She doesn’t cry and give up in frustration; she is determined to make the best of things and gets out of sticky situations with bravado and quick thinking.

Hugh eventually comes to appreciate Catherine’s independent and unorthodox views on life; he realizes she is more free than he is. The way these two find a common ground is presented in a sweet and fun way.

The sex scenes are scorching hot but always manage to advance the story. The sex games at the house party are shocking and wild but the way that Hugh and Catherine maneuver (and survive) them is quick-witted and funny.

One Wicked Weekend is a very amusing and entertaining novella. Charlotte Russell writes with a joyous and lighthearted quality and her characters are worth caring about. She is an author with promise and I want to read more.

Sense and Sensuality: Caroline’s After Dark Georgian Romance by Alicia Quigley

SenseAndSensualityPurchase Now from Amazon

Everyone’s favorite, ever-practical Caroline, Countess of Eskmaine returns in full force in this After Dark novel. A challenge from her sister-in-law Allegra, Duchess of Gravesmere, puts Caroline on the dance floor with the next man who asks her to dance. The irrepressible rake, Tristan, Baron Gresham is recently returned from Venice, bored with the life of a libertine. Attending a ball, he decides to ask Lady Eskmaine for a dance. Determined to teach Allegra that she is capable of handling her own affairs, Caroline accepts Lord Gresham’s invitation.

The moment their hands touch, the attraction is undeniable. Neither knows, however, what the other is seeking. Caroline, tired of being the paragon of common sense in the family, wants to let go and live a little. The return of her old adversary, now obviously interested in her, may be just what she needs. Tristan, on the other hand, wishes to leave behind his rakish lifestyle and become a proper English gentleman. Beautiful, intelligent and dependable Caroline fills his thoughts as the one woman with whom he’d like to build that life.

What happens when the immovable, sensible Caroline meets the irresistible, sensual Tristan? Will he ignite passion’s fires within her, giving her the release she needs? Will she bring him the contentment and love he so deeply desires? And just what is Lady Manning up to this time?

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: A Heyer Love LLC, October 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Georgian Venice and London
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2.5
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Tristan, Baron Gresham, is a rake of notorious reputation who has lived the high and dissolute life in Venice for several years before homesickness prompts his return to England. He is tiring of his empty life and his thoughts have lately turned to a certain elegant lady he has never quite forgotten: Caroline Ansley, the Countess of Eskmaine, a beautiful and charming widow with a young son who is considered the epitome of charm, respectability, and kindness. Several years ago, Tristan was involved in a contretemps with Caroline’s sister-in-law, Allegra, and Caroline’s brother, Adam, the Duke of Gravesmere, before their marriage. Apparently, Caroline gracefully smoothed the situation over, to the relief of those involved as well as the ton at large.

But Caroline is now bored and weary of all the above accolades and attributes to her personality. So when Tristan expresses a blatant interest in her, she is intrigued and uncharacteristically amenable. She boldly proposes a discreet liaison strictly for pleasure, no strings attached. He is surprised and flattered and only too happy to accept.

So they embark on a passionate affair that fairly singes the pages, but it is very tastefully written. Their conversations during their time together (along with their frank and provocative sex talk) reveal great passion as well as the growing attachment between them. Shown in contrast to the debutante season for the extremely young Cecilia, Caroline’s determined niece who is visiting from Yorkshire, we see that Caroline and Tristan are an older and more mature couple who, though they know what they want, are nevertheless constrained by the dictates and proprieties of polite society.

“But you are a man, and gossip only enhances your reputation…As a woman, mine would be ruined.”

Even as Caroline falls hard for Tristan, she refuses to allow herself to admit her love for a man who is renowned for his past promiscuity and conquests. She fears he will eventually tire of her.

She must remember, she told herself, that those moments with him were a passing pleasure. She must not confuse their affair with the actualities of life.

We don’t quite get enough of Tristan’s point of view here and, though he is a very likeable and magnetic character, I would have liked to have seen more of a transformation on his side from libertine to devoted swain. In fact, this is the only reason I did not give this book 5 stars as I love it in every other way.

Though Caroline and Tristan are minor characters in a previous book in the series, I did not feel confused by other characters’ situations in the storyline. Although the past relationship between Caroline’s brother and sister-in-law (in which Tristan played a crucial role) is fascinating enough that I may want to read A Duchess Enraged.

The fashions and decor, while not elaborately or exhaustively described, are enough to get a sense of the Georgian period: the complicated and cumbersome fashions and powdered hair, for example. There is also mention of the League of Armed Neutrality and a scene set in the Chapter Coffee-House in London.

Author Alicia Quigley has a clever premise with her Traditional series running concurrently with her After Dark Georgian Romance series. The Traditional are sweet love stories sans the passion and sex while the After Dark series are the exact same stories told with added spice and heat. It’s a unique idea catering to both tastes in historical romance; indeed, the author’s web site is called aheyerlove.com, a tribute to Georgette Heyer, the queen of the traditional Regency (sweet) romance. However, since this reader prefers her love stories on the sensual side, I cannot comment on how Ms Quigley’s sweet stories compare to the erotic.

Ms Quigley writes in a clear, concise style that flows well and I found myself enjoying the story very much and wondering what would happen next. I must add that, during the time I was reading this, I was experiencing a very stressful period in my life and it very much helped me to forget all my troubles and greatly entertained me. But I have to say that the cover leaves much to be desired for a sexy romance.

Soulbound (Darkest London #6) by Kristen Callihan

Soulbound-Release-Week-Blitz

Purchase Links: Amazon * ~ * ~ * Barnes & Noble * ~ * ~ * BAM * ~ * ~ * IndieBound
iBooks * ~ * ~ * Kobo

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 . . .

add-to-goodreads-button

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?

GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.

You can connect with Kristen at: her website * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads

Rook and Raven by Julie Harvey Delcourt

rook raven

What do a profligate Earl, an immortal and evil Viking priest and an ancient prophecy all have in common? The beautiful young actress Jessamy Powers. A woman with a dark secret and possibly the key to an endangered kingdom’s rise or fall.

A kingdom in the mists is more than just a myth and London is about to find itself at the epicenter of mystery, terror, romance and the revelation that legendary figures still exist. Immortal evil is as determined to destroy as immortal guardians are to protect a great legacy and a great love.

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Julie Harvey Delcourt, February 2014

RHR Classifications: Regency England, Celtic, Fantasy, Arthurian lore
Time and Setting: London, Celtica/Avalon
Genre: Historical Romance; Fantasy
Heat Level: 3
Reviewer Rating: 3 Stars

Review by Natalie

If you are looking for a fantasy-filled, mythical book about King Arthur, Vikings and a beautiful actress set in Regency England – then look no further! Rook and Raven is your ticket to just such a magical world, because Julie Harvey Delcourt has created a story that melds together the mythical island of Avalon, evil Viking priests and the strictly regulated society of the ton.

When Jessamy Powers was jilted 7 years previously by the love of her life, Sebastian St. Just, Earl of Redsayle, she didn’t think she could find the strength to go on. After years spent pining for him and hearing sorted tales about his lascivious lifestyle, Jessamy has moved on with the help of close and fiercely loyal friends. As a sought-after actress, she performs to sold out audiences and hob-nobs with the best of London society.

Sebastian has returned from his exile to his mother’s home country. He has played the part of cad and man-about-town for years only as a cover; his real purpose is to act as an agent of a fallen king and assassin. His return to London society marks the start of new coup, one that will hopefully return the true King of Celtica to his throne.
But before Sebastian can embark on his journey he finds himself face to face with a woman he has never forgotten.

As Jessamy and Sebastian struggle to tame their emotions, a dark world rises around them and while Sebastian resists bringing Jessamy into his new life in fear of her safety he realizes she may already be involved and in danger.

Rook and Raven is the first instalment in the author’s Celtic Kingdom series; a blend of historical romance, fantasy and Arthurian lore. Jessamy and Sebastian are two very promising characters, as long as Ms Delcourt can keep them from continually falling into the same tired and true lovers’ dilemmas over the next two books, such as keeping secrets from each other in an erroneous attempt to ensure their safety. Jessamy is a strong heroine who may or may not come from a line of strong and powerful women, while Sebastian is breaking the mold of his Viking heritage to be with her. Almost as important is the cast of supporting characters: their childhood friend and Sebastian’ rival for Jessamy’s affections, David; King Conal, who is fighting to return his family to the throne; Bishop, a spy and mentor to Sebastian; Birdie, Jessamy’s childhood nanny who has followed and protected her and knows more about the truth of Jessamy’s past than she lets on. Each character comes with their own baggage and back story, leaving the reader thirsty to know more.

There is also a darker presence in the book in the form of a religious order of ancient Vikings who have waited a millennia to gain control over the ancient, magical kingdom of Celtica. Now that they have it they will stop at nothing to eradicate the original inhabitants of the island and steal their magic for themselves.

Rook and Raven contains some darker, sinister plot twists that will leave the reader uncomfortable at times. Several scenes include violence, both in regular and magical form, but there also is a handful of intimate scenes involving unknown characters which I suspect may ultimately reveal unpleasant secrets. These scenes in particular can be difficult to read knowing where the author is likely taking the story. The plot and character of the Celtic Kingdom series shows real promise but Ms Delcourt’s writing could have used a little help from an editor. Parts of the story sometimes felt like a grab bag of genres; having fantasy, Arthurian legend, Celtic magic, Vikings, religious fanaticism, Regency England and historical romance all in one book can feel like too many cooks in the kitchen.

At times, I found myself unsure as to whose voice I was reading, and in addition, the names and places can get a little confusing, especially in reference to the flashbacks and memories of supporting characters. Similarities also exist between the story lines in Rook and Raven and other recent fantasy series; the reader will easily see which authors have influenced the author. But even so this is a strong first in a promising series and makes me want to watch for more books from Julie Harvey Delcourt.