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Sinful Scottish Laird (Highland Grooms #2) by Julia London

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Widowed and forced to remarry in three years’ time or forfeit her son’s inheritance, Daisy Bristol, Lady Chatwick, has plenty of suitors vying for her hand…and her fortune. But a letter from a long-lost love sends Daisy and her young son to her Scottish Highland estate to buy time for his return. Along the way she encounters the powerful Cailean Mackenzie, laird of Arrandale and a notorious smuggler, and she is utterly—though unwillingly—bewitched.

Cailean has no use for any Sassenach in his glen. But Daisy’s brazen, flirtatious nature and alluring beauty intrigue him. When her first love appears unexpectedly at her estate, Cailean knows that a passionate woman like Daisy cannot marry this man. And to prevent the union, Cailean must put his own life at risk to win her heart.

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Publisher and Release Date: HQN, February 2017
Time and setting: Scottish Highlands, 1742
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Rating: 3 stars

Review by Vikki

Sinful Scottish Laird is an entertaining read, although it is a little slow to start.

Daisy Bristol, Lady Chatwick packs up her household and young son and flees the unwanted advances of her many suitors while she awaits the return of her lost love. Although she must remarry or lose her son’s fortune, she wants love if possible. What she does not count on is the overwhelming attraction she feels for Cailean MacKenzie, the Laird of Arrandale, her closest neighbor.

Cailean is determined to remain a bachelor, and while the lassie on his neighboring estate is bonny, he has no use for her – after all, she’s English – but the attraction between them is too strong to ignore. Her suitor turns out to be a captain in the Royal Navy bent on bringing Cailean’s smuggling days to an end. He cannot stand the thought of the man touching Daisy, or any man for that matter, but he could never consider marrying a Sassenach.

Can Daisy convince him to change his mind, or will he remain a stubborn Scot to the end and deny them the chance of ever-lasting happiness?

I struggled with Daisy’s character for much of the book and never really connected with her, other than on those occasions when she was involved with her son, Ellis. Her love for him comes through loud and clear. She comes across as somewhat of a flake in her dealings with others, and she seems indecisive as well, vacillating between her feelings for Cailean and Robert, the man she thinks she wants to marry.

Cailean is a hero I could love. His tender care for Ellis won me over and his relationship with his family speaks well of his character. However, I did not feel the chemistry between him and Daisy, nor could I understand why he wanted her, which is probably my main problem with the book – the chemistry between Daisy and Cailean just wasn’t strong enough for my taste. One thing I love in a romance is the slow build of sexual tension between the hero and the heroine, and it was lacking here.

Nonetheless, I am glad I had the opportunity to read Sinful Scottish Laird. The pacing overall was a little slow, but it does have an excellent ending. I also quite enjoyed Ellis, who had surprisingly good character development, and there are several enjoyable secondary characters who help move the story along.

Married for His Convenience by Eleanor Webster

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A plain countess…

Tainted by illegitimacy, plain Sarah Martin has no illusions of a grand marriage. So when the Earl of Langford makes her a proposal which will take her one step closer to finding her half-sister, she can’t refuse!

Sebastian’s dreams of romance died with his late wife’s affair, so now he needs a convenient wife to act as governess for his silent daughter. Yet Sarah continues to surprise and challenge him, and soon Sebastian can’t deny the joy his new bride could bring to his life – and into his bed!

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Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical December 2016

Time and Setting: England, 1794
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Wendy

The title of this book attracted me as I’m rather fond of the ‘marriage of convenience’ trope. There are a number of  potentially interesting plot lines in this story, but there are far too many of them going on at the same time to be plausible and none are particularly well developed, making it an easy book to put down.  What saved it – enabling me to give it 3 stars – is that it is nicely written with likeable characters.

Sarah Martin has led a rather sad life which luckily, has barely touched her – she has been blessed with a sunny disposition and mostly sees life through rose-coloured spectacles. Sarah lived the first years of her life with her older sister, Charlotte, and their glamorous mother in London, only rarely seeing her rather austere, much older father. After her mother’s death she discovers that she is illegitimate and that Charlotte is her half-sister; and unless I missed something in this tumult of happenings, I couldn’t quite work out at what point Charlotte disappeared into the depths of London. Perhaps it was when Sarah’s father made it clear that he was prepared to care only for Sarah… but in any case, he takes her home her to his wife. I bet that went down well! His wife is mentally unstable but is also a religious zealot and I’m sure her condition couldn’t have been helped by having her husband’s bastard dropped onto her when she herself is childless. Eventually he ups and dies leaving kind and caring Sarah to the not so tender mercies of her guardian.

Sebastian, Earl of Langford, needs a mother and carer for his severely traumatised daughter, who is part of just one of the too many plotlines running through this story. Suffice it to say that the child has withdrawn into herself and refuses to speak. Both his son and daughter were taken to France by his adulterous wife when she ran off with her lover, and he is now desperate to rescue his son.  His wife is now dead at the hands of Madame Guillotine and although Sebastian’s little girl has been returned to him, she has been so badly affected that she is unable to cast any light on what has happened to her brother. Understandably, Sebastian is not in a romantic state of mind and in his desperation to do the right thing, seeks for help with his little girl which in turn will free him to continue his search for his son.

Sebastian has witnessed Sarah rescuing and caring for a rabbit that had been caught in a trap. He sees this kind, soft-hearted girl in action whom he sees has a calming effect on damaged creatures and so it occurs to him that despite her dubious birth, she’ll do fine. He no longer wants love and finds it difficult to trust, so the fact that she has a caring and nurturing manner is good enough for his purposes. He eventually persuades Sarah to marry him, although not without difficulty, as she is aware that her lack of beauty, social skills and bastardy make her a poor match for an earl.  But once Sebastian mentions that they will go to London, she immediately agrees. Again another plot line that I will not go into.

Honestly, my head was buzzing by this time and I kept losing track of what was happening. I liked the main characters and there are some amusing moments, such as when Sarah is drunk on her wedding night, but on the whole the entire story is full of implausible plot lines, animals and children popping up all over the place. For instance, there’s a boy called Fred who listens at doors and immediately understands and acts upon complicated instructions. And there’s Sarah racing across the country on a horse when she can barely ride and with no clue as to where she’s going but miraculously ending up in the place she needs to be! There’s a mysterious character called The Lion – I’m still confused about him! And then there’s the authors unfortunate proclivity with the ‘word’ um… I started noticing this about one third of the way through the book and it was very irritating.

This was a difficult book to grade, because as I said the writing is good and the characters are likeable but it seems to me that the author has an overactive imagination and could have shared these plots amongst three books and developed them further to greater effect. So yes, Married for his Convenience did live up to its title, because the hero and heroine did marry for his convenience but there was just too much going on for plausibility.

My Rogue, My Ruin (Lords of Essex #1) by Amalie Howard and Angie Morgan

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The Marquess of Hawksfield’s lineage is impeccable and his title coveted, but Archer Croft is as far from his indulgent peers as he can get. His loathing for the beau monde has driven him to don a secret identity and risk everything in order to steal their riches and distribute them to the less fortunate.

Lady Briannon Findlay embraces her encounter with the Masked Marauder, a gentleman thief waylaying carriages from London to Essex. The marauder has stirred Brynn’s craving for adventure, and she discovers an attraction deeper than the charming thief’s mask.

Brynn is a revelation, matching Archer in intelligence, wit, and passion. Stubborn and sensuous in equal measure, she astonishes him at every turn, but when someone sinister impersonates Archer’s secret personality, and a murder is committed, Archer begins to think he doesn’t stand a fighting chance without her.

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Publisher and Release Date: Entangled Publishing, November 2016
Time and Setting: England, 1817
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 3 stars

Review by Sara

I appreciate that new voices are appearing in the world of Historical Romances when only a few years ago some claimed the genre was dead. Amalie Howard and Angie Morgan have some good ideas to bring to the table in their first release My Rogue, My Ruin but not everything in the story works within the constraints of its historical setting.

What drew me into the story was the promise of a Robin Hood type hero and Lord Hawksfield is certainly dedicated to his mission to rob from the rich to give back to the poor. Archer Croft sees the debauched behavior of his father, the Duke of Bradburne, as the worst example of the privileged few controlling the wealth while the masses struggle daily. His mother was the first to teach him charity and compassion towards others when she raised one of her husband’s bastard children as her own daughter. After the duchess died,  Archer took it upon himself to continue her charitable work but found that the family’s coffers were being drained constantly by his father’s dissolute lifestyle. Having no control over his the duke’s expenditures, Archer instead turns towards other peers by creating a highwayman persona of the Masked Marauder who robs the carriages of the elite. Their wealth is redistributed and Archer’s conscience is clear since no one is truly hurt in the exchange.

During one of his evening raids as the Marauder, Archer stops the carriage of his neighbor Lord Dinsmore and his family. The plan for this robbery was the same as all of the others until he sees the man’s daughter, Lady Briannon. He’s impressed with the young woman’s bravery in the face of danger and there’s just a hint of attraction sparking between them even as he takes her jewelry. When he meets her later that evening as himself, he’s almost angry that she cannot recognize him as the man who she stood toe-to-toe with only hours earlier.

Lady Briannon is more than a little shaken up by her encounter with the Masked Marauder, but she is also uneasy over her reunion with her neighbor Lord Hawksworth, who is aloof and distant and such a contrast to his congenial father. As Brynn enters society she and Archer keep meeting each other but he throws out such mixed signals she cannot get a read off the man. One moment he seems interested in pursuing their acquaintance and then minutes later he is pushing her away. Archer would be the last sort of man Brynn would want to marry as she is more comfortable embracing her passions while he seems closed up and distant from everyone.

Circumstances are working against Brynn’s wish when she manages to put the clues about the Marauder’s identify together with some of the things she’s come to notice about Archer. Before she can even wrap her head around that discovery, a tragedy hits the Croft household and she is the only person who can provide Archer with an alibi to keep an investigator from learning his secret. To protect Archer and the Marauder from prosecution Brynn makes the ultimate sacrifice to her future by claiming she and Archer are betrothed. Knowing she has just tied herself to a man unwilling to marry, Brynn’s only hope is to help him find the person framing the Marauder for murder and then to end their fake betrothal with her heart intact.

At its core, My Rogue, My Ruin is a character driven story about Brynn and Archer’s passionate natures and how it drives their lives. A chronic illness in Brynn’s childhood has made her embrace each day of her life as she tries to experience as much as possible. She wants to feel that same exuberance in whomever she marries but doesn’t believe that Archer has an unguarded side. Archer has hidden his truest self behind so many masks that it’s become difficult for him to define the lines between the man, the Marquess and the Marauder. Both characters believe they are best serving their passions by continuing on the same paths and not letting the other person know their innermost thoughts or feelings. As they seek out the person trying to destroy Archer’s reputation and accept their betrothal they each find a better path by sharing themselves.

Unfortunately the co-authors’ inexperience with the Historical genre rears its head more than once as everything unfolds and it can take a reader quickly out of the story. Little anachronisms can normally be ignored, but there is a fairly large one that happens just after the mid-point that is world-shaking to a reader like me, who looks for a degree of historical accuracy. There are also several unanswered questions about secondary characters that feel less like a set-up for a sequel and more like storylines that failed to develop or were added just for the sake of creating problems for Brynn or Archer. I did like how the true villain of the story was kept a secret right up until the end when usually I can sniff out the likely suspect within a few pages of the crime. Perhaps with a little more attention to the setting and important historical details both authors will have more success with any follow-up books to My Rogue, My Ruin.

Miss Millie’s Groom by Catherine E. Chapman

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It is the summer of 1914 and Britain teeters on the brink of war. Society girl, Millicent Awbridge, is oblivious to the impending conflict and preoccupied with the recent shooting of her horse. When she confronts the culprit, Ryan O’Flynn, a groom in her father’s service, Millie finds romance rather than hostility. The encounter sparks a series of events that brings Millie’s burgeoning womanhood to fruition.

Millie and Ryan’s affair is conducted in secret but Millie’s aunt has her suspicions and is determined to bring an end to it. Inevitably, the war also impacts on the young people’s lives and others are implicated in the muddle. Will Millie and Ryan ever be truly united?

A sweet romance, set in England during the First World War.

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Publisher and Release Date: Catharine E. Chapman, September 2016

Time and setting: England, 1914-1919
Genre: Historical Fiction with Romantic Elements
Heat Level: 1
Rating: 3 stars

Review by Vikki

Millicent Awbridge is a bit of a hoyden, enjoying a rousing gallop more than the role of society girl her aunt Rose intends her to be. When her beloved horse has to be put down, Millie is filled with rage and seeks out the culprit who did the deed.

Ryan O’Flynn is a groom in Millie’s father’s stable and the young man who had to destroy the horse. Millie’s anger quickly turns from ire to attraction. Ryan, realizing how unsuitable it would be for them to entertain that attraction does all he can to discourage the strong-willed and determined miss,  even going so far as to join the army and then heading off to war.

When Ryan returns following an injury, the pair see each other again at the hospital where Millie works. The attraction between them is as strong as ever, but Millie’s aunt has thrown an obstacle in their path.

Will Millie and Ryan find a way to move beyond the difference in class and find the love they both crave, or will Millie’s aunt’s machinations keep them apart?

Miss Millie’s Groom was different than I expected, but a very interesting read.The pacing is steady for the most part, although, at times it does slow a bit too much, due to too much telling rather than showing.

Millicent’s character is vivacious, endearing and determined. I truly enjoyed her character a great deal from the first page to the last. She reminded me of Sybil from Downton Abbey; in fact, this novel has other overtones from that drama.

Ryan O’Flynn is an interesting hero, but I did not get to know him as well as I would have liked. Most of the story is told from Millie’s PoV, so I didn’t glean very much of Ryan’s insights and feelings. He is a likable character, though somewhat reminiscent of Tom Branson (also from Downton Abbey), although perhaps not quite as fierce in his radical beliefs.

While Miss Millie’s Groom does have a romance, it is more of a glimpse of a young girl’s coming of age during the Great War. I did enjoy the romance between the Millie and Ryan, but I would have liked to have been a more fleshed out.  The same is true of the characters.

Fans of Downton may enjoy Miss Millie’s Groom, but please don’t expect the brilliance of that drama. This is a sweet story, but it lacks depth. Nonetheless, I did enjoy it, and I am glad I had the opportunity to read it.

VIRTUAL TOUR: The Untouchable Earl (Fallen Ladies #2) by Amy Sandas

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Lily Chadwick has spent her life playing by society’s rules. But when an unscrupulous moneylender snatches her off the street and puts her up for auction at a pleasure house, she finds herself in the possession of a man who makes her breathless with terror and impossible yearning…

Though the reclusive Earl of Harte claimed Lily with the highest bid, he hides a painful secret-one that has kept him from knowing the pleasure of a lover’s touch. Even the barest brush of skin brings him physical pain, and he’s spent his life keeping the world at arms’ length. But there’s something about Lily that maddens him, bewitches him, compels him…and drives him toward the one woman brave and kind enough to seek to heal his troubled heart.

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EXCERPT

“Are you going to try the champagne?” she asked.

He looked at the elegant glass in his hand. The act had become such an ingrained habit that he never even thought about it anymore. But then, no one else seemed to notice when he did not actually raise his glass to drink.

“I prefer not to have my judgment clouded.”

In truth, he never consumed anything that might promote a loss of control while among society. He had to be ever diligent if he was to successfully maintain his composure.

Perhaps tonight more than ever.

“Then why pour yourself a glass?”

“It has become habit, I suppose. A way to blend with my peers and avoid drawing attention.

She tilted her head. A smile played about the cor¬ners of her mouth. “You do what you can to blend in, whereas I’ve always secretly wished I possessed some quality that might help me to stand out. We make an odd pair, my lord.”

Avenell’s lips curved upward involuntarily. “We do indeed, Miss Chadwick.”

He hadn’t intended the intimate tone that had crept into his words, but in seeing her eyes widen with that barely perceptible reaction she had to him, he was glad for it. Knowing he could cause the involuntary response made him feel as though they were on a bit more equal ground.

“Will you call me Lily?” she asked with a modest dip of her chin. “It feels odd to be so formal, considering our…association,” she added hesitantly.

It took him a moment to gather himself enough to respond. “Would you like me to call you Lily?”

“Yes. I think so.”

He nodded.

“Shall I call you Avenell?”

Hearing his name on her lips created a fine point of pressure in his chest. He instinctively squared his shoulders in defense. Although he was pleased she would allow him the intimacy of using her given name—in fact, he intended for her to share far more intimacies with him—he could not do the same in return.

“I prefer you address me as Lord Harte.” He knew his words sounded cold, but there was no help for it. “Or my lord.”

A shadow slid across her expression at this response. Her mouth curved softly downward in a way he found intensely alluring. A tiny line formed above her brow, then quickly disappeared. He could see his refusal bothered her. For a moment it appeared she might dispute him, but she held her tongue.

While she remained silent, Avenell felt an unusual desire to provide some sort of explanation. Not all of the truth, perhaps, but something to help her under¬stand that the denial was not a personal rejection.

“I have never kept a mistress,” he began, carefully easing into what he needed to say.

“I recall you telling me as much,” she replied. “And of course, you know I have never been one before.”

Her tone was gentle, and her features were set in a perfect expression of serenity, but he could have sworn he detected a note of dry humor in her tone. Her composure despite the subject matter astounded him. She was so unlike the typical modest young lady.

Something in the steadiness of her gaze urged him to glance away, to look anywhere but at her. He resisted the temptation and began again. “I never entered into such an arrangement because I knew there would be an expectation of certain liberties that I cannot allow.”

There was a long pause, during which the point of pressure in his chest spread outward. Then she tilted her head in a subtle gesture.

“What sort of liberties?” she asked softly.

Her voice had changed. It was difficult to identify exactly what it was, but it warmed him. Made him feel a burst of impatience, a wave of deeper desire. He took a moment before he replied.

“You will understand more fully soon enough. But I promise, I will not allow my limitations to lessen the pleasure you experience during our association.”

A blush pinked her cheeks. But she did not look away.

“And what of your pleasure, my lord?” Her voice was soft and low. Smoky, like her eyes.

It weaved through Avenell’s senses and hit him hard in the gut. Heat scored through his insides on a direct path to his loins. He had suspected from the start that her gentle manner had lured him so strongly. But the unexpected boldness in her query had an intense effect on him.

His arousal roughened his tone as he answered, “My pleasure is assured. Do not doubt that.”

The pink in her cheeks spread down across her chest and the upper swells of her breasts, but still she held his gaze. He wondered what she might be thinking. Her stillness was disconcerting when he sensed so much going on inside her.

After a few moments, her lashes swept low as she looked down at the glass of champagne held lightly in her hands.

Avenell set his own glass on the mantel over the fireplace and turned to face her more fully. It was time to begin.

“Come here, Lily.”

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, November 2016

Time and Setting: 1812-1817, London
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Avenell Slade – an unfortunately purple name, to say the least – the impenetrable Earl of Harte, cannot bear to be touched. Much like Christian Gray, the troubled hero of E.L. James’ bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey, Avenell is so touch averse that he seeks assistance from Madame Pendragon and the skilled ladies at her pleasure house. As a child, Avenell was traumatized by a medical condition and so he recoils from any human contact. Of course, as a result, he has never bedded a woman and is that rarest of specimens, a male virgin. There is no detail about how the brothel’s women help Slade as this takes place entirely in the novel’s Prologue, but I am curious as to how they attempted to help him. Because he is still afraid of touch when he meets the heroine.

Lily Chadwick is the plain and retiring middle sister of the Chadwick family, struggling to make a good match after their mother’s death and their father’s gambling left them indebted to a persistent and threatening man, Mason Hale, who is eager to collect his money.

In a desperate move Hale, for his own personal reasons, kidnaps Lily and whisks her off to Madame Pendragon’s brothel, who auctions off Lily’s virginity to the highest bidder. In a great coincidence, Avenell just happens to be there that night and buys Lily in order to protect and save her. Of course, things don’t quite work out that way.

While Ms. Sandas writes well, I find the story a bit farfetched and melodramatic. The hero’s gothic-style name, the reasons for his touch aversion, and the determination of Lily to shed her purity don’t ring quite true.

Avenell is a rather cold and odd character; I don’t understand what Lily sees in him except a dark and damaged man who sets her on fire every time she looks at or touches him (accidentally, of course). Then again, Lily figures she is already ruined and has nothing to lose by living out the erotic fantasies she reads about in her favorite steamy novels.

This is the second book in Ms. Sandas’ Fallen Ladies series, a dark story that is nothing at all like her sparkling and delightful novella, Relentless Lord, that I loved. The plot of the first book in this series (Luck is No Lady runs concurrent to this one so it may be helpful to read that one first though it isn’t necessary. The premise of three close and very different sisters (Emma, the eldest and headstrong sister from book one and Portia, the youngest) who find love in an unorthodox way with improper gentlemen – an oxymoron to be sure – is interesting but not very exciting. Indeed, after the brothel auction, the story seems to drag by trying to create unbearable sexual tension between Lily and Avenell in the delay of their inevitable mutual seduction.

Lily is an unremarkable heroine who, once she decides to make herself available to Avenell, seems determined to make their relationship work no matter what; in this case, at great risk to her reputation as well as that of her sisters. She is the staid, quiet sister who has self-educated herself on sex and wants the freedom to experience the sensual side of life.

Avenell’s reasons for his problems with touch are eventually revealed but by then it seems anticlimactic. Their relationship is based solely on sex because they seem to spontaneously combust when they are together. And they talk a lot about how difficult it is for him to accept her touch. However, he has no problem with touching her. Odd, that.

However, the secondary characters (especially Portia, the independent and outspoken youngest sister, and Angelique, the sisters’ free-spirited and fun chaperone) are well depicted and the close family relationship dynamic is heartwarming to read. In fact, I wonder if it would almost be better for them to remain a household of independent women rather than seek marriage as its inevitable end. But then it wouldn’t be a romance, would it?

Read this for the solid writing but be ready to suspend a lot of disbelief.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


amy-sandasAmy Sandas’ love of romance began one summer when she stumbled across one of her mother’s Barbara Cartland books. Her affinity for writing began with sappy pre-teen poems and led to a Bachelor’s degree with an emphasis on Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She lives with her husband and children in Wisconsin.

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

How to Impress a Marquess (Wicked Little Secrets #3) by Susanna Ives

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TAKE ONE MARQUESS: Proper, put-upon, dependable, but concealing a sensitive artist’s soul.

ADD ONE BOHEMIAN LADY: Creative, boisterous, unruly, but secretly yearning for a steadfast love, home, and family.

STIR in a sensational serialized story that has society ravenous for each installment.

COMBINE with ambitious guests at an ill-fated house party hosted by a treacherous dowager possessing a poison tongue.

SHAKE until a stuffy marquess and rebellious lady make a shocking discovery: the contents of their hearts are just alike.

Take a sip. You’ll laugh, you’ll swoon, you’ll never want this moving Victorian love story to end.

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EXCERPT

George stared at a painting of what appeared to be the blurred image of a woman with flowing hair. Or was that a flowing gown? In any case, something was flowing around her. Blobs of blue and green paint were splattered along her feet and around her head—if that indeed was her head and not another random blob.

“Good heavens, what blind sot vomited that?” George wondered.

The man’s jaw dropped. Tears actually misted his eyes. “I—I did.”

Damn. George should have known as much. “I’m sorry, my good man, I didn’t mean… It’s most colorful,” he grappled.

“I admire the subtle depth in the shades of blue and so much symbolism in those…well, whatever those splotches are at the bottom.”

“Water lilies, Lord Marylewick,” a familiar dusky voice said. Behind the man, Lilith materialized in all her brilliance. “It’s A Muse Amongst the Water Lilies,” she stated as if it were readily apparent Dutch realism.

Whenever Lilith appeared, George had the sensation of walking from a pitch-black room into the piercing sunshine.

He needed time for his eyes to adjust. When they did, he didn’t approve of what he saw. Her lustrous auburn locks, adorned with flowers, were loose and flowing over her azure robe and gauzy shawl. From the way the thin silk of her robe rested on her ripe contours, he could only guess that she wore no semblance of undergarments. That tiny vein running over his temple began to throb, as did another part of his body.

“There, there.” She hugged the distraught artist. “Don’t let the horrid Lord Marylewick distress you. He has the sensibilities of a dishcloth.”

She impaled George with a glare. “You see, Lord Marylewick, it’s about capturing the ethereal and fleeting. Those moments when the beautiful morning light illuminates the garden in all its blues, greens, and golds. It is not a representation of reality, but a sensation captured in time. A sensual impression of a moment. And philosophically, we could argue that all we have are mere impressions of a greater reality.”

George’s mind had left off after the “impression of a moment” part. With Lilith now standing beside the painting, he could see the resemblance in the flowing gown and hair and splotches.

“Lilith!” he barked. “That had better not be your impression in those ethereal blobs.”

By God, she was a grown toddler. He couldn’t turn his back on her for a moment or she would be playing near fire or gleefully shedding her clothes for some filthy-minded artist. He didn’t wait for her answer but seized her wrist and dragged her through the nearest door, which led to a paneled study with a leather sofa stacked with pillows.

Cluttering the walls were paintings of pale-skinned, nude ladies gazing off to some sorrowful horizon. Luckily,
these paintings appeared to be from King George III’s reign, when Lilith hadn’t been born yet to pose for them.

He shut the door behind them. She sauntered to the mirror and began to curl her locks around her finger and then let them unfurl in spirals about her cheeks. There was a dangerous, ready-for-battle tilt to the edge of her mouth, lifting the little mole above her lip.

“Lilith, did you pose for that…that…Tart Amid Blue Pigeon Cack painting? And in a rag even a Covent prostitute would think twice about wearing for fear of attracting the wrong clientele?”

Anger flashed in her eyes for a half second, and then a delicious smile curled her lips. A warm shiver coursed over his skin.

“And what if I did?” Her eyes, the color of coffee, gazed at him from under her thick lashes. He couldn’t deny their sultry allure. “What would you do? Tuck me away to another boarding school? But I’m all grown up.” She shook her head and made a clucking sound. “What to do with a grown woman who dares to have a mind of her own?” She snapped her fingers. “Ah, why not control her by taking away her money?”

With gentlemen and ladies of his set, he might say that he “spoke on the level” or “gave the news straight.” There was nothing straightforward or level about Lilith. She was all curves and turns. Conversing with her was akin to Spanish flamenco dancing with words.

“I never took your money away,” he said, feeling like a weary father cursed with an errant, irresponsible child.

“And if I truly controlled you, I would never have consented to your living with your father’s cousins. Your grandfather warned me about the Dahlgrens. Nor would I have consented to use his hard-earned money for this ridiculous party. Or allowed you to pose for illicit impressions of fleeting moments.”

“Good heavens, I never posed for anyone! The painting was in the man’s imagination—that mental faculty you are woefully missing, darling. I merely dressed as the muse in the painting as a lark for the exhibit opening.” She tossed back her wrists. “You know, a muse who inspires artists to great heights of fancy.”

“Lilith, the only people you are inspiring are unsavory men to low depths of debauchery.”

“Unsavory men?” She raised her arms and draped her gauzy shawl across his head and over his eyes. “I didn’t know you found me inspiring, Georgie.” The peaks of her unbound breasts lightly brushed against his chest. Ungentlemanly desire pooled in his sex.

“Lord Marylewick,” he corrected in a choked voice and pulled her garment from his person. “And try to behave with some semblance of propriety.”

“Propriety, propriety, propriety.” She tapped her finger on the side of her mouth, as if she were searching her memory for the meaning. “I remember now. It’s when you address a lady, such as myself, as Miss Dahlgren.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t realize I had addressed you inappropriately. But if one insists on acting like a child… You are, what? Three and twenty, and continuing to romanticize this ramshackle lifestyle that any lady of good sense would—”

“It’s the Lord Marylewick patronizing play!” She clasped her hands. “I adore it! In fact, I know every line. Wait. Wait. No, don’t continue.” She withdrew the cane and hat from his hand, letting her fingers flow over his skin.

“Allow me.” She placed the hat over her head, the flowers sticking out around the brim. She scrunched her eyebrows.

“It’s high time you grew up, my little lamb, and threw yourself to the wolves of high society.” She croaked like a stodgy man of seventy-five, not George’s thirty-one years.

He regretted coming here. He should have driven home to gentle, fictional Colette. And when they hauled Lilith into police court, he would say to the judge, “You see what I must suffer?”

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, November 2016
Time and Setting: England, 1879
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Wendy

I began reading this book expecting great things, especially with a foreword by Eloisa James telling us that the characters reminded her of Julia Quinn’s, whose stories and characters I love. The writing is good and there are some interesting characters in the story, but they didn’t resonate with me and given the story touches on some fairly serious issues, there was the potential for more layers and depth to be added. Instead there is so much inconsequential dialogue that I could hardly concentrate on what was important, and the overall effect is one I can only describe as trite.

George, Marquess of Marylewick has the unenviable task of keeping his ward, Lilith Dahlgren, in order and that young lady has no intention of making his life easy. He controls the fortune left to her by her grandfather and would be happy to relinquish responsibility of Lilith to a husband of whom he approves. The thing is, Lilith is an self-confessed Bohemian and supporter of artists on whom she generously but naively spends her limited funds. George can see that she is being taken advantage of by her late father’s unscrupulous cousins and their artistic cohorts, and therefore keeps her on a fairly tight rein; Lilith resents his intrusion and control in her life.

George – on the surface – is a rather stuffy, unbending, aristocrat who takes his many responsibilities to extremes. He is everyone’s rock, his mother’s, his sister’s, his tenants and albeit, unwillingly, Lilith’s. He especially takes his loyalty to Disraeli, the prime minister to extremes and what he sees as his duty to his country – very seriously. As a result, George’s sensitive, artistic nature has been tamped down, although we do get glimpses of his sensitivity through a series of flashbacks to his youth. And Lilith, with her perceptiveness and love of the arts, soon uncovers George’s well buried secret and when she does is determined to free him from the confines of duty.

Lilith was pretty much abandoned as a child when her father was killed in a duel and her mother re-married George’s Uncle. When their new young family started arriving she was sent off to boarding school and forever after felt unwanted and unloved by George’s family. Lilith supplements her allowance by secretly writing a serialised story under an assumed name which is published in a magazine, a story that has become very popular. In fact Colette, the heroine, has become something of an icon and more than one gentleman is in love with the fictitious character, including the staid and starchy George. He is unaware that the writer bases the Sultan – the villain of the ongoing saga – on him. Each time he does something which she considers high-handed Lilith further denigrates him in her writing and society hates the Sultan even more. I found this fictitious storyline running parallel with Lilith’s and George’s own lives to be irritating and slightly ridiculous; are we really expected to swallow the fact that intelligent men and women slavishly follow or are in love with Colette and hate the despised Sultan to the point where it is openly discussed? We only need a pantomime audience to be catcalling to complete the silliness!

I never felt George’s attraction to Lilith, even though I did feel sorry for the way he had been treated and bullied as a child. I kept hoping that I would feel some real empathy for him, but it never happened. Lilith, abandoned and apparently unloved, should have evoked some sympathy but I just found her attention-seeking and down right annoying – rather like a spoilt child. As to the supposed growing attraction between Lilith and George; it comes over more as a bad case of growing lust, especially on George’s part, as we are constantly told how a certain part of his anatomy is behaving when he sees Lilith. The first kiss takes place very early on, comes completetly out of nowhere and feels completely wrong and out of place. There are also far too many Americanisms and modern terms for my liking. Maybe there are some who might enjoy Ms. Ives’ writing style and find it amusing but How to Impress a Marquess is not a book that I will retain for my keeper shelf.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

susanna-ives_-author-photoSusanna Ives started writing when she left her job as a multimedia training developer to stay home with her family. Now she keeps busy driving her children to various classes, writing books, and maintaining websites. She often follows her husband on business trips around Europe and blogs about the misadventures of touring with children. She lives in Atlanta.

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

Live The Dream by Claire Lorrimer

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A young couple are forced to part at the onset of war … but dream of being reunited one day.

August, 1939. When it becomes clear that war is about to break out with Germany, twin sisters Dilys and Una Singleby are forced to leave their studies in Munich and return home to England. Heartbroken at being parted, Dilys and her Norwegian student boyfriend, Kristoffer, vow to be reunited as soon as it’s possible.

However, as the months pass, a series of misunderstandings and misguided actions keep the lovers apart. When she discovers she’s pregnant, Dilys, unable to contact Kristoffer, is driven to desperate measures to ensure that she can keep her baby and avoid bringing disgrace to her family. Kristoffer meanwhile joins the Resistance and faces dangerous times ahead. It seems as though the pair are destined never to meet again … can true love find a way?

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Publisher and Release Date: Severn House, October 2016

Time and Setting: WWII England 1939
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1/2
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Wendy

I was drawn to the synopsis of this story as I’m rather partial to a war time romance featuring star crossed lovers. And in Live The Dream the author certainly touches on almost every conceivable scenario of what could ‘cross the lovers’. In fact, I felt as though she tried to pack way too much into what is a fairly small word count.

Identical twin sisters Una and Dilys Singleby are seventeen as Hitler begins his march of tyranny across Europe. They have been having the time of their lives in Munich, supposedly studying, but mostly partying. When their father sends them a second telegram instructing them to return home immediately, they ignore it as they did the previous one. Putting his panic down to the fact that he is an MP and therefore likely to overreact, the girls just carry on with their lives, refusing to believe that the charming German boys with whom they are friends would ever turn against them. When their father suddenly arrives from England and demands that they pack for home immediately, Dilys is distraught as she is given no opportunity to say goodbye to her boyfriend, Norwegian student, Kristoffer Holberg. They have made a commitment to each other and become lovers and neither has considered the possible ramifications of their actions. After being torn apart the couple is desperate to re-unite, but firstly Dilys’ father and then Kristoffer’s, scuppers any likelihood of a reunion. By the time four months have passed, the innocent Dilys, and her slightly more worldly-wise, sister, Una, have put two and two together and realised that Dilys is pregnant; by mutual agreement they keep the secret for another three months.

In the meantime the girls have begun working as receptionists for the local vet, widower, James Sherwin. James is quick to notice Dilys’ pregnancy and offers her marriage as a way out of her predicament. In all of this time their mother has not realised that Dilys is pregnant, even though she is wearing a smock and is approximately seven months gone by this time. I know that the parents were each busy with their war work – but really..?

The most compelling part of this story is the well researched and thorough historical content told in great detail and with a confident knowledge, and I enjoyed that very much. We travel through the various stages of the Third Reich’s invasion and occupation of each European country and eventually Britain’s reluctant but necessary participation. In particular I found the details about Norway’s occupation and the work of its Resistance movement fascinating and we see Kristoffer’s, involvement as a partisan in an intricate plot. I’m assuming this plot to be historically correct – but in any case I found it engaging and it held my attention. Ms. Lorrimer does an excellent job in showing war as it really was in all of its stark reality. However, her character development leaves a lot to be desired, because it’s flat and one dimensional. I didn’t feel Dilys’ despair when she was on the brink of having her baby taken away for adoption, nor her appreciation for James’ enormously generous and selfless actions in saving her; even though she said she was grateful – I didn’t feel it. Another thing that really annoyed me was, that from the time of James’ introduction I lost count of how many times the twin sisters referred to him as “old”. I was astonished to learn eventually that he was only thirty four – sixteen years older than Dilys. I was fully expecting to be told he was at least fifty. I did not feel the love between Dilys and Kristoffer either, even though we are constantly told how much they love each other. Finally, the ending is farcical, implausible and comes over as contrived; it feels as though it’s just been added as an afterthought so as to give the story a dramatic ending. I admit that I would have been tempted to abandon this book because the romance is unremarkable and the numerous coincidences stretch implausibility to the limit. As it stands, the excellent and well told WWII historical content made the book worth reading, but it’s not something I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night (Winner Takes All #2.5) by Kate Noble

miss-goodhue

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Cecilia Goodhue is a schoolteacher with a past, living with her sister and her husband in a tiny English village. Resigned to a quiet life, Cecilia is surprised when she finds out that her young cousin has run off with a man of no means.

Cecilia had once been a teenaged girl who also fell for a young man’s charms—only to be devastated by his betrayal. Determined to not let her cousin meet the same fate, she heads off to London to but is shocked when her investigation leads her right to the front door of the very man who broke her heart: Theo Hudson.

Together, they reluctantly embark on finding her cousin and returning her to her family. During their searching in London, it soon becomes clear that they both remember their short-lived romance differently and perhaps now, years later, they have a fresh chance at love.

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Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Star, September 2016
Time and Setting: Regency London
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 3 stars

Review by Sara

Short stories can be difficult to review. An author only has so much page space to have her main characters believably fall in love, so most of the time the plot will move quickly and rely heavily on reuniting former friends, lovers or other close characters. Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night falls into this category and from the description I was hoping the leads would be older and a bit more mature about rediscovering love together. It doesn’t quite work out that way.

Cecilia Goodhue used to be a romantic young woman. When she was sixteen, she followed her heart and ran off with the ward of a neighboring baronet, but unfortunately her father and his caught up with them and their elopement ended before they could say their vows. Her fiancé abandoned her at the inn where they had stopped and left her ruined in the eyes of her family and their small community. Ten years later and Cecilia is still paying the price for her youthful mistake. She has found a home with her sister and vicar brother-in-law but Cecilia is constantly under suspicion that she could act out again and shame their household. Her life now revolves around the community school where she works and living as quietly as possible to avoid any scandals.

When a letter arrives informing Cecilia and her sister that their young cousin has eloped with an officer it seems to them that history is repeating itself. Hoping for a better outcome than her own sad story Cecilia decides to chase after her cousin and either bring her home or make sure that she’s happily married to the young man. Cecilia has her friend Leticia Turner provide her with a contact in London where she can stay and get help in tracking down her wayward cousin. Cecilia knows that time is of the essence to catch up with the pair so she rides overnight on the mail coach to arrive on the doorstep of the Earl of Ashby. Knocking on the front door she is unprepared to come face to face with her past in the form of Mr. Theo Hudson, the man who broke her heart all those years ago.

Theo is just as shocked to see Cecilia standing on the doorstep of his employer’s townhouse. He had only just arrived himself at Lord Ashby’s home having received a summons that the peer had an important task for Theo’s law firm. As it turns out, that task is assisting Cecilia in finding her lost relation but Theo is convinced that his former betrothed is on a wild goose chase. He is annoyed at being stuck with the woman who a decade before destroyed his belief in love when she broke their engagement to find a man of better means. Theo found success practicing law in the intervening years but never let himself get close to another woman for fear they’d hurt him as deeply as Cecilia did.

With only a few clues to go on Cecilia and Theo try to retrace her cousin’s steps or find someone in town who recognizes the vague description they have of the suitor. Their partnership begins awkwardly as neither one has ever really made peace with the past; however the more they work together or discuss the chances of the young runaways having found true love it puts all of the events from that infamous night under the microscope. The spark of attraction Cecilia and Theo shared before is quickly rekindled but it might not be enough to forgive a decade’s worth of regrets.

Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night stems from one of my least favorite romantic tropes of a big misunderstanding pulling two lovers away from each other. Cecilia and Theo were lied to by their respective fathers and believed that they were betrayed by the person they had trusted with their affection. What bothered me about the story is that after these events neither character manages to get over that hurt and it changes how they see themselves or how they live for ten years. Theo throws himself into working and pushes personal relationships aside to protect himself. Cecilia becomes a shell of the exuberant woman she used to be for fear of being shunned by her community or having no place to live. In fact, both characters are very much arrested in their development and it shows in how petty Theo treats Cecilia initially or in how she cannot stand up to the local village women who take advantage of her. It’s only towards the end that Cecilia realizes that she is unhappy with her life but then cannot see a way out of the rut she’s created.

The timeframe of a single day also stretches the believability of the story considering all the baggage each character has to unload. To have them restart a relationship without thinking of the consequences this time shows just how immature these supposedly mature people are.

I know that I’m splitting hairs over what is intended to be a light and enjoyable story of lovers reunited but I couldn’t get behind Cecilia and Theo’s relationship. All the steps in between where they really talk with each other and truly forgive the past are missing or are abbreviated due to the small page count. Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night is a quick read which fits nicely into the Winner Takes All series or as a standalone short story but it shouldn’t be an indication of what to regularly expect from this author.

A Scot in the Dark (Scandal & Scoundrel #2) by Sarah MacLean

a scot in the dark

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Lonesome Lily turned Scandalous Siren

Miss Lillian Hargrove has lived much of her life alone in a gilded cage, longing for love and companionship. When an artist offers her pretty promises and begs her to pose for a scandalous portrait, Lily doesn’t hesitate . . . until the lying libertine leaves her in disgrace. With the painting now public, Lily has no choice but to turn to the one man who might save her from ruin.

Highland Devil turned Halfhearted Duke
The Duke of Warnick loathes all things English, none more so than the aristocracy. It does not matter that the imposing Scotsman has inherited one of the most venerable dukedoms in Britain—he wants nothing to do with it, especially when he discovers that the unwanted title comes with a troublesome ward, one who is far too old and far too beautiful to be his problem.

Tartan comes to Town

Warnick arrives in London with a single goal: get the chit married and see her become someone else’s problem, then return to a normal, quiet life in Scotland. It’s the perfect plan, until Lily declares she’ll only marry for love . . . and the Scot finds that there is one thing in England he likes far too much . . .

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Publisher and Release Date: Avon, September 2016

Time and Setting: London, 1834
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Wendy

Having absolutely loved Sarah MacLean’s The Rules of Scoundrels series, and read all four novels back to back, I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to read and review A Scot in the Dark.

What a huge disappointment. Having romped through the earlier novels mentioned, I actually struggled to finish this one, and it was only Ms. MacLean’s eloquent writing skills that kept me reading and eventually dragged the book up into the three star bracket. The silly title of the novel should have given the game away; I’m assuming it is a play on words referring to the 1960’s farcical, Inspector Clouseau/Pink Panther film A Shot in the Dark, although I can’t see how that relates to this book at all.

Alec Stuart, twenty first Duke of Warnick, a Scotsman with a strong dislike of anything or anyone remotely English, has been recalled from the depths of Scotland to deal with a scandal his English ward has embroiled herself in. Alec had very reluctantly, five years previously, inherited the dukedom by default after the demise, in quick succession, of seventeen of his predecessors. Amongst his many responsibilities, his ward, Miss Lily Hargrove is about to give him the biggest headache of all.

Lilian, exquisitely beautiful, but without friends or a place in society, has spent most of her adult life in near isolation since the death of her land-steward father left her under the guardianship of the Dukes of Warnick – of which there have been so many. Somehow in the tumult that followed the demise of the string of would-be dukes, her existence has been forgotten, and she has lived quietly and simply, living in one of the many ducal residences and receiving the allowance she is entitled to from the estate under the terms of her wardship. Her nonentity as a person is suddenly changed, however, by her association with a talented but unscrupulous artist, who has offered her love and marriage; in return – she must sit for a nude portrait, which would be for his eyes only. Lonely Lily as she has been dubbed by society, is taken in by his smooth talking. Her world comes crashing down around her ears in front of all of London when her lover makes it very clear, publicly, that she is just his model and that he has no intention of marrying her. And worse, he has set a date to reveal his masterpiece and Lily’s nakedness to all and sundry. With ruin and ostracism staring her in the face she is in dire straits and without friends, and so it is, that after five years, Alec has finally been roused to take his responsibilities to his neglected ward seriously.

Alec has no liking for society nor for its dictates and even less liking for the English as a race. Here I must add that I found his constant harping on about his dislike of the English, REALLY IRKSOME! he blames everything that has ever happened to him on the English and really his reasons are all pretty trivial. He is a handsome man, large, exceedingly tall and broad, described as brutish by some, and yet women still want him, but only for his obvious attractions. He is treated like a stud, A Scottish Brute, and this only adds to his general dissatisfaction with life in general but especially with the English.

Although Lily wants to cut and run, Alec wants her to stay, believing – rightly – that the scandal will follow her wherever she goes. He decides that the best way to deal with it is to get her married off to an aristocrat before the date of the portrait’s public revelation in ten days time and to this end, he draws up a list of eligible, titled, but penniless aristocrats and instructs Lily to choose her future husband. Some pretty ridiculous scenarios follow – one of them involving a silly dress decorated with dogs – which just added to my general annoyance and difficulty in taking this novel seriously.

It is obvious that the Lily and Alec are attracted to each other but Alec is convinced that he is nothing but a big, brutish, uncouth Scotsman and believes Lily is far too perfect for him. Why? She’s been publicly disgraced and is the daughter of a land steward whereas he’s a duke. I could not believe in the attraction between them and found the constant, will-they-won’t-they, really frustrating.

A Scot in the Dark doesn’t even begin to compare with some of Ms.MacLean’s, earlier, deeper, more meaningful novels, and I was really disappointed with it. I’m hoping that this is just a blip and I can look forward to more great work from this author.

A License to Wed (Rebellious Brides #2) by Diana Quincy

a license to wed
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Lady Elinor Dunsmore made the mistake of falling for her older brother’s best friend, who vanished after a night of unbridled passion. Six years and a lifetime later, their eyes meet across a Paris salon. Her friends and family believe she’s dead, but Elle is very much alive. She’s now associated with a ruthless general, who wants her to seduce the man who broke her heart in order to learn his deepest secrets. Is Will a mild-mannered scholar—or the notorious agent they call The Razor?

The bastard son of an earl and an actress, Will Naismith always knew he was an unsuitable match for Elle Dunsmore, no matter how powerfully he ached for her. And yet he almost allowed his desires to spoil her glittering future. After the agony caused by Elle’s supposed death, Will has devoted himself to the Crown, but his entire life has been leading up to this unexpected reunion. As much as he still wants her, though, he must not succumb to lust once again. For his mission is delicate—and Elle is delectably dangerous.

Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, July 2016
Time and Setting: Regency England/Napoleonic France
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3 Stars

Review by Jenny Q

After the sudden death of Elinor Dunsmore, the young woman he loved, Will Naismith spent the next six years throwing himself into his work, traveling the globe and rooting out information close to home, all in service to the English crown. We first met him in Spy Fall, where he helped Elinor’s brother unmask a traitor and discover the whereabouts of Elinor’s daughter. Now in Paris on a new assignment, Will is shocked to come face-to-face with none other than Elinor herself, very much alive, the darling of post-Revolution society, and mistress of one of France’s most dangerous men. As Elle evades his questions, discounting the love they once shared, and continues to grace the arm of the man Will is tasked with stopping before he can divulge state secrets, Will realizes this Elinor is nothing like the woman he once loved beyond all reason, and she’s likely a traitor to her homeland. When one of his top agents goes missing and a connection to Elinor is uncovered, Will must put the past behind him and fulfill his duty to king and country, no matter the cost.

Will Naismith is the last person Elle ever expected to see in Paris. Though she wants nothing more than to lose herself in his embrace – which still sets her heart racing after all these years – she has no choice but to keep him at arm’s length. That is until her ruthless companion – one of Napoléon’s generals – tasks her with seducing Will in an effort to uncover the identity of Le Rasoir, England’s top intelligence officer in France. Since the general is holding the whereabouts of her missing daughter over her head, Elle is forced to comply. Even though she has secrets of her own, nothing prepares her for the secrets Will is hiding or the lengths he is willing to go to in the name of duty. But as the two circle each other in an effort to outsmart and outlast, all while attempting to deny the connection between them, the game they are playing turns deadly, and both will have to decide what they are willing to risk for love, for each other, and for the chance at a future they never thought they could have together.

I had such high hopes for A License to Wed based on how much I enjoyed the first book in the series, Spy Fall. Finding out that Elinor was alive when everyone thought her dead for the past six years was a shocking twist, and I couldn’t wait to find out where she had been and how her loved ones would react to the news. Unfortunately, most of it fell flat for me. I couldn’t believe that Will didn’t immediately demand answers or keep pressing Elinor for the truth, and I found Elinor’s flippant treatment of her return from the dead to be very callous and selfish. Nor did I find a satisfactory explanation for where she’d been, how her family came to think she was dead in the first place, and why she never bothered to disabuse them of that notion. And so much of the angst between Will and Elinor could have been cleared up if they had just TALKED to each other. Misunderstandings are one of my least favorite plot devices in romance. To me, it’s a hallmark of a weak plot, and there was so much to work with in this story that it really could have been better developed. I thought I was going to get a tale of two spies caught up in a dangerous game of intrigue, but that’s really not what happened at all. And Will and Elinor’s romance lacked the witty banter and sexy innuendo that made Spy Fall so good.

I was invested enough to keep reading to see how it would all end, and there were some exciting moments and touching scenes of tenderness along the way. In browsing other reviews, my feelings are definitely in the minority. If you loved Spy Fall, you’ve got to read A License to Wed for the continuation of the story, but overall it did not live up to my (admittedly high) expectations.