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Etiquette With the Devil by Rebecca Paula

etiquette with the devil
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Clara Dawson always followed the rules, until one terrifying night when her inheritance is stolen and the man responsible is left for dead. Desperate to outrun her troubles, she accepts a governess position at the crumbling gothic manor of the mysterious Ravensdale family. Caring for three orphaned children gives her a purpose, but her vulgar employer, Bly Ravensdale, holds dangerous secrets that may shatter Clara’s newfound safe haven. Yet this stubborn brute compels Clara to abandon her etiquette at every turn, and she can’t stay away.

Disowned by his family, Bly Ravensdale travels the globe as an explorer and agent of the British Crown until his brother’s passing leaves him saddled with three young wards. Charged with returning them to the family’s vacant ancestral seat in the English countryside—the one place he wishes to avoid at all costs—Bly quits the role of spy to play family man. But a man nicknamed Devil rarely gets a clean start in life, even with the aid of the prudish yet lovely governess, Clara. Despite her cold exterior, Bly finds himself drawn to her, even as an enemy from his deadly past resurfaces seeking vengeance. Can he protect all that he has suddenly come to hold dear?

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Publisher and Release Date: Rebecca Paula, September 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Yorkshire, England 1882
Genre: Historical Gothic Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review by Natalie

Clara is a woman who has spent her entire life toeing the line. Never really accepted by society because of the circumstances of her birth, she has followed the rules as a way of ensuring her survival. But when her existence becomes threatened by a sinister plot, she decides to make a run for it and finds herself accepting a position as a governess; a suitable place for a young woman to blend in and find safety.

Bly Ravensdale has lived a life of intrigue as an explorer and agent for the crown. Nicknamed ‘Devil’, he long ago gave up any thoughts of redemption, but his brother’s death leaves three orphaned children in his care and when he is forced to take his charges to the ancestral home he finds himself in a place he would rather forget.

When I first began this book I was hesitant because I don’t like starting series when they first come out- call me impatient – and would rather wait until all or at least most of the books are available so I can devour them in one weekend. I was also a little worried about the plot of Etiquette with the Devil, one that couldn’t help but remind me of Jane Eyre.

Happily the book was worth reading, even though it IS the first in a series. Clara is a very strong character who handles her situation in an original and resilient manner so that it is easy to find yourself rooting for her. Bly can be a little heavy-handed; he is a sexier, more rugged version of Rochester, and like him, he doesn’t seem to believe that he could ever deserve redemption, especially in the form of the love and devotion of a kind woman.

I really enjoyed Etiquette with the Devil. There were times that the writing could have used some extra polish. but overall the premise is a good one, and is an interesting take on a familiar story. Clara hasn’t let her circumstances overwhelm her and she becomes a formidable foil to Bly’s demanding, overwhelming male presence. I am happy that Rebecca Paula managed to give her a spine so that it didn’t seem as though she were just moping around yearning after Bly. The book is fast-paced and has a tendency to jump back and forth in the time-line, giving the reader little snippets of information when needed. I wanted more of both characters and was sad to end the book; overall this is a strong story from Rebecca Paula and I look forward to reading more in the series.

A 2015 Retrospective – Our Favourite Books of the Year

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It’s that time of year when we start looking forward to another year of great reads, but also look back on the books we’ve read and enjoyed throughout the previous year. Members of RHR’s team of reviewers have chosen some of their favourite books and audiobooks from 2015; maybe they’re books you read and enjoyed, too, or they’re books you meant to read that got forgotten (so now’s the chance to catch up!).

If we’ve missed YOUR favourite books of last year, be sure to let us know yours in the comments!

Caz’s Favourites:

Stella Riley continues her Georgian-set Rockliffe Series with The Player , in which the hero, Adrian Devereux is forced to return from exile in France in order to assume the title and responsibilities of the Earl of Sarre. He left England under a cloud when he was wrongly suspected of the murder of his fiancée, and simply vanished, making his living as an actor – and an incredibly talented one, at that. But his return is fraught with difficulties, not least of which is that his decade of playing a part has left him unsure of who he is any more. Ms Riley has given us yet another swoonworthy hero in Adrian and her writing is a strong and intelligent as ever. The Player is a truly delightful read with a strong storyline, a well-written, tender romance and a cast of well-developed supporting characters.

It Started with a Scandal is the tenth in Julie Anne Long’s popular Pennyroyal Green series, and is a wonderfully romantic story with a bit of a “Jane Eyre-ish” vibe to it, about two people who don’t quite fit in finding that they fit perfectly with each other. Philippe and Elise are from different spheres of life – he French nobility, she a housekeeper – yet they are both fiercely protective towards those they love and desperate to do the right thing by them. Their romance is a delicious slow-burn, full of sexual tension and wonderfully witty banter, and the book is full of warmth and charm.

Lucinda Brant’s Deadly Peril is a popular choice, and deservedly so. It’s the third in her series of Georgian Historical Mysteries featuring the urbane and fiercely intelligent former diplomat, Alec Halsey, and it’s her best yet – which is saying something considering that the previous books are terrific reads. Here, Alec is made to confront some of the less pleasant aspects of his past as he travels to the German principality of Midanich, a place he had hoped never to see again. The plotting is superb – Ms Brant really does have a devious mind 😉 – and the fictional state of Midanich is so brilliantly evoked that I almost had to look it up on a map to see if it was real!  This book – actually, the whole series – is a must for fans of historical mysteries with a strong element of romance.

Alyssa Everett is one of my favourite authors, and her most recent book, The Marriage Act is a terrific, though not always easy, read.  It’s the story of an estranged couple who agree to reunite solely to assure the heroine’s father that they are happy together, and tells how they gradually begin to see that they have both been guilty of mistaken assumptions and of projecting their own hurts and insecurities onto the other. The characterisation and writing are both excellent, and even though there are times that both act in ways that are far from admirable, Ms Everett has written them in such a way as to ensure that even when the reader is thinking “ouch!”, their motivations are understandable.  The chemistry between John and Caroline is terrific and this is a story in which the messiness of the central relationship feels all the more realistic for not being  perfect.

While I’m a big fan of historical fiction, I was unsure about branching out into “alternate” historical fiction a couple of years back when I read Laura Andersen’s Boleyn Trilogy, which is set in a timeline in which Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII a son who lived to inherit the throne. But I was utterly enthralled by the author’s ability to tell a great story while also incorporating a number of real historical events and figures. In The Virgin’s Daughter, Ms Andersen sets up yet another great “what if?” premise by having Elizabeth I married to Philip of Spain and having had a daughter by him. It’s a terrific read, the plot is enjoyably complex (although not confusing), the story is rich in background detail and intrigue and there’s an enjoyable romance running throughout the main story. I’m looking forward to reading more in this entertaining series.

Claudia’s Favourites


M is for Marquess by Grace Callaway

I discovered a new auto-buy author with this book … I’ve now read each of Grace Callaway’s books and loved them – which is exceptional. Gabriel and Thea from this book were two of the best characters I read this year. Both had their difficulties and it was charming to see how they overcame them together, even though it wasn’t always easy for them. This is my favourite book of 2015.

Falling Into Bed with a Duke by Lorraine Heath

This is the first book in a new series by this author, and I loved it. The way these two characters found their way to each other was delightful to read and I can’t wait for the next book.

Love in the Time of Scandal  by Caroline Linden

This is a great book and I really enjoyed how the two central characters worked out their troubles and found a way to each other. Benedict was a delightful hero, he was sweet, warm, charming but could also be wicked (in the nicest way!) and Penelope was the perfect heroine for him. I loved her more for the way she tried to make the best of things.

Lady Wesley’s Favourites:

This was the year that I became an audiobook addict, so for your listening enjoyment I’ve picked some audio titles published in 2015. By the way, I actually have read all of these books and can wholeheartedly recommend the print versions as well.

This year Loretta Chase continued treating her fans to audio versions of some of her classics. The Last Hellion, first published in 1998, pairs Lord Dain’s (Lord of Scoundrels) best friend, Vere Mallory, with crusading female journalist Lydia Grenville. Mallory, who never expected or wanted to be a duke, is probably a bigger reprobate than Dain, and carouses to forget his grief for the loved ones whose untimely deaths elevated him to the Ainsworth dukedom. Grenville, a fearless bluestocking, has no interest in men, and views Ainsworth with utter disdain. The plot is classic battle-of-the-sexes, with dangerous escapades and lots of Chase’s trademark banter. Lord and Lady Dain make cameo appearances, as does Lady Dain’s goofy brother, Bertie Trent, who gets his own HEA. Kate Reading, one of the best in the business, delivers another first-class performance.

Mary Balogh, another leading light in the historical romance genre, continued her Survivors’ Club series with Only a Promise) , narrated by the incomparable Rosalyn Landor. Waterloo survivor Ralph Stockwood, whose wounds are psychic and thus largely invisible to the world, is reluctant to take a wife even though he knows that he needs to. Enter Chloe Muirhead, who wants to marry and have a family but whose hopes have been dashed by scandal in her family. She proposes to Ralph, offering him a marriage of convenience free of pesky feelings of love and desire. Ah, but this is Romance, so it is inevitable that the two will indeed fall in love. Chloe and Ralph are mature adults, however, and thus it is the deliberate, realistic, and poignant manner in which this HEA comes about that distinguishes this story.

Last year, I recommended Grace Burrowes’ entire Captive Hearts trilogy, as I could not pick a favorite from among them, and this year I find myself in a similar quandary. Lucinda Brant, whose books are set in Georgian England, has published three series, but I think the very best is the Alec Halsey Mystery series. The first two volumes – Deadly Engagement and Deadly Affair – came out in audio format in 2015. The third, Deadly Peril, was published in print last month, and the audio version will be issued very soon. Alec Halsey is a career diplomat who was rather chagrined to find himself elevated to a marquessate for services to the crown. He is handsome, intelligent, somewhat enigmatic, intensely honorable, and decidedly his own man, and he gets involved with intrigues and mysteries, while trying to revive his relationship with his first love, a lady who is now a widow. With impressive research and first-class writing, Lucinda Brant vividly recreates 18th century England and deftly combines mystery and romance into one big delightful package that will please fans of both genres. She has found the perfect narrator in British actor Alex Wyndham, whose beautiful baritone perfectly captures the swoon-worthy Halsey, and who is equally adept at voicing females of all ages. Wyndham does not just narrate Brant’s stories, he virtually inhabits Brant’s characters. Listening to him is a joy beyond joy.

Natalie’s Favourites:

The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

This book was the much awaited ending to Willig’s Pink Carnation series. In the final installment the Pink Carnation herself is finally paired with an intriguing turncoat spy and sparks fly. I adored the entire series, and was very happy with this final instalment that brought closure to several characters in Willig’s trademark style.

Death Comes To Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd

This is the third instalment in the Kurland St. Mary Mysteries and follows the curmudgeonly Major Robert Kurland and Spinster Lucy Harrington as they investigate yet another murder. I fell in love with the first two books in the series because our two main characters are both such anti-heroes but slowly they started coming around and in Death Comes to Kurland Hall they finally declare their feelings toward one another. This book falls more on the side of historical mystery but if you don’t mind a very chaste love story, pick up the first two books and then finish with this one.

Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper

This third book in Isabel Cooper’s Highland Dragons series follows Judith MacAlasdair, the third shape-shifting MacAliasdair, and only female. Judith has been living in the ancestral home for 2 decades and is quickly coming on the moment when she will have to leave to hide her immortality from the townsfolk. But when a stranger turns up at the same time as several brutal murders are discovered, Judith realizes she must stay and protect her neighbors. I had read the first two books in this series a while back and when I started this one I was thrilled to have a female shape-shifter as the heroine of the final book in the series.

Sara’s Favourites:

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne
This book had a bit of everything; a deeply tortured hero combined with a strong, supportive and caring heroine. A dark secret and the redeeming power of love. The story was gripping and immersive, giving a reader so much more than just the basic plot of two characters falling in love. It’s an incredible story that I was reluctant to finish, have already re-read, and has made me eager for more.

Diary of an Accidental Wallflower by Jennifer McQuinston
A romance that crosses classes and puts a working man into the spotlight as a hero. What makes the book special is that both main characters have dimension, developing and changing from their experiences throughout the story. The secondary characters are just as appealing and do their job of supporting the story and pushing the main characters in the right directions. This was an early release in the year but still remains a favorite.

I Loved a Rogue by Katharine Ashe
The conclusion to The Prince Catchers series, this story rewards a reader who has followed the breadcrumbs left by the author about her characters and their future. All the threads left hanging from the previous stories are tied up nicely, but the highlight is the romance between two souls kept apart by personal fears and social prejudices. A perfect mix of adventure and emotion in one amazing story.

Wendy’s Favourites:

Deadly Peril by Lucinda Brant: this Georgian mystery, the third in the Alec Halsey series, was just fascinating; it has so many twists and turns that the reader is kept guessing until the last paragraph. A fair indicator of an excellent read as far as I am concerned, is whether I can put it down easily – I couldn’t.

The King’s Man by Alison Stuart: this historical romance set during the English Civil war was my first by this author and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I particularly liked her characters, especially the hero, a bad boy (well only through circumstances) reformed by the love of a good woman. I look forward to more of this author’s work.

The Soldier’s Dark Secret by Marguerite Kaye is an historical romance by one of my favourites. Set in the aftermath of Waterloo, it features a compelling hero damaged by his experiences; as I’m fond of dark and angsty, this hit the spot.

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne: again another first for me, I found this very unusual novel, set in Victorian England strangely compelling. Written in a very unusual style it nevertheless appealed to me with its darker side. Not to everyone’s taste, but definitely to mine.

Tall, Dark, and Wicked by Madeleine Hunter: yet another first for me and I loved it. I thought a barrister as a hero a very original and interesting concept; Ms. Hunter is most definitely on my radar now.

 

So these are some of our favourite books of 2015.  I’m sure we could all have picked more that we’ve enjoyed, but these have been the titles that have stuck in our memories and those books we’ve put onto our “keeper” shelves.

We’d love to hear from you about the books you enjoyed last year, so please do join in the discussion in the comments!

happy new year

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caz

Christmas in Duke Street by Miranda Neville, Shana Galen, Carolyn Jewel & Grace Burrowes

Christmas in Duke Street

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Christmas in London is a busy time at the little bookshop in Duke Street, for love, literature, and shopping. Four couples come and go and discover that happy ever after makes the perfect Christmas gift. A new anthology from the bestselling authors of Christmas in the Duke’s Arms and Dancing in the Duke’s Arms.
The Rake Who Loved Christmas by Miranda Neville Sir Devlyn Stratton wants to save his brother from an unprincipled adventuress, especially when he meets Oriel Sinclair and wants her for himself. Oriel won’t marry for convenience or become a rake’s mistress. But succumbing to Dev’s seduction is all too tempting.
A Seduction in Winter by Carolyn Jewel He’s an artist and a duke’s heir. She’s sheltered and scarred. Can he show her by Christmas that love can be theirs to share?
A Prince in her Stocking by Shana Galen Lady Cassandra has always done as she’s been told. Meek and malleable, she’s lived a life devoid of passion. When she meets a handsome man rumored to be an exiled prince, she sees one last chance at excitement. Little does she know, too much excitement can be dangerous.
The Appeal of Christmas by Grace Burrowes The best Christmas present is the one he didn’t realize he desperately needed.

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Publisher and Release Date: cJewel Books October 2015

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

Review by Natalie

Duke Street Books, nicknamed ‘On the Shelf’ by an unnamed rake armed with red paint, is a cozy little bookshop on Duke Street; it has become a gathering place for the bluestockings, as well as the novel lovers, of the ton. This Christmas the shop has become a center of activity for several of their loyal patrons.

This is the third installment of Duke anthologies from the pens of four of the most popular authors of historical romance, and Christmas in Duke Street contains four short stories. Each story stand on its own but they are also intertwined, the characters meeting at and returning to On the Shelf thoughout their stories. This is a lovely collection that will get you in the mood for Christmas, even if some stories in the collection do work better than others.

The Rake Who Loved Christmas. Sir Devlyn Stratton loves Christmas, even if it isn’t fashionable among the ton to do so. He enjoys finding the perfect gift for his family members, a small escape from the stresses of the round of visiting and of putting his family affairs in order. When Dev enters On the Shelf in the middle of his holiday shopping, looking for a little warmth from the freezing London weather, he strikes up a brief conversation with Oriel Sinclair – which leaves him wanting more until Oriel leaves with an older, unscrupulous gentleman. Is Oriel really a woman of ill-repute or is she just want Dev needs this Christmas? The relationship between Dev and Oriel uses intrigue and mistaken identity in a very Christmassy way, if that is possible, and I really enjoyed the story.

In A Seduction in Winter, Honora Baynard has spent years toiling away as her artist father’s assistant, hiding her scarred face and following the military career of the only man to ever show any kindness to her. When she learns that Leoline, Lord Wrathell, has returned from India, she hopes that he will be able to repair his relationship with his father, but she knows that it would be too much to hope that he would remember the young girl he once protected. However, when she runs into him at On the Shelf, she realizes that Leoline may have been thinking about her as often as she thought about him. This is possibly my favorite story from this anthology. Instead of a striking beauty, we have a heroine who is physically scarred and has been led to believe that this makes her unacceptable to society at large. This story is as much about Honora coming to the realization that she has more to offer to the world than her face as it is about the romance that develops between her and the handsome hero.

A Prince in Her Stocking: Prince Lucien of Glynaven has lost his kingdom and his fortune in a recent revolution. He has been living on the streets of London while painstakingly searching through the books in On the Shelf in hopes of finding hidden documents that prove his identity. Lady Cassandra has been living under the thumb of her elderly sister-in-law since the death of her husband. Her only solace has been visiting On the Shelf, living in her imagination instead of reality, until the day she meets Lucien. Suddenly her life takes on all the intrigue and adventure she has been craving. This is my least favorite of all the stories in the collection. While Lucien is supposed to be a dashing hero who has lost everything, he does not come off as very sympathetic and Lady Cassandra reminds me a little too much of a love-sick puppy. The two seem to be the least connected out of all our couples and as I finished reading the story, I couldn’t help but think that in six-months’ time, Prince Lucien would dump Lady Cassandra for one of the more statuesque ladies of the ton!

The last story in the collection is The Appeal of Christmas. Barrister Gervaise Stoneleigh has spent years ignoring Christmas, leaving his gift buying to his mentor’s daughter, Hazel. Meanwhile Hazel has spent years wondering if Gervaise might ever see her as something more than just a friend. When a friendly kiss under the mistletoe turns into something more, Hazel makes a request of Gervaise that could destroy their friendship. This story is the wild horse of the series and has a different flavor. I enjoyed it and wished that there had been more room for Grace Burrowes to explore the relationship between Gervaise and Hazel.

All in all Christmas in Duke Street is a warm, inviting read. It got me in a great mood for the holidays and made me wish for my own warm, cozy bookshop to hop into and find romance this season. All four of these talented writers deliver four strong, different reads in this enjoyable addition to the Duke anthologies.

Night of the Highland Dragon (Highland Dragons #3) by Isabel Cooper

night of the highland dragon
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They say,” said the girl, “that people disappear up there. And I heard that the lady doesna’ ever grow any older.””The lady?” William asked.”Lady MacAlasdair. She lives in the castle, and she’s been there years, but she stays young and beautiful forever.”

In the Scottish Highlands, legend is as powerful as the sword-and nowhere is that more true than in the remote village of Loch Aranoch. Its mysterious ruler, Judith MacAlasdair, is fiercely protective of her land-and her secrets. If anyone were to find out what she really was, she and her entire clan would be hunted down as monsters.
William Arundell is on the trail of a killer. Special agent for an arcane branch of the English government, his latest assignment has led him to a remote Highland castle and the undeniably magnetic lady who rules there. Yet as lies begin to unravel and a dark threat gathers, William finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of the Highlands…and the woman he can neither trust nor deny.

He prays she isn’t the murderer; he never dreamed she was a dragon.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, June 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Scottish Highlands, 1898
Genre: Historical Romance/Fantasy
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Natalie

Like her brothers, Lady Judith MacAlasdair is a nearly immortal shape-shifter who has managed to keep her identity safety hidden from the local villagers and society alike. All the MacAlasdair siblings have managed this over the centuries by periodically leaving their ancestral home at different intervals and returning decades later as a younger relative. During this last turn living at home, Judith has come to relish her small, insular village life. She understands that some suspect that there are secrets on the estate but that they are willing to keep those secrets because the MacAlasdair family has always done its best to protect and help their neighbors.

Meanwhile, Special Agent William Arundel, who has secrets and special abilities of his own, has arrived in Loch Aranoch. William works for a secret branch of the government that hunts down demons, and his most recent investigation has lead him to the door of Lady Judith, a woman who never seems to age. The two immediately distrust each other and when local farm animals turn up mutilated they each suspect the other of committing the crimes. But to find out what is happening in Loch Aranoch, Judith and William must call a truce. As they work together to protect the town their respect grows to understanding and attraction.

As I was reading Night of the Highland Dragon I realized that I had actually read the first book in the series, Legend of the Highland Dragon, when it came out in 2013. I loved the story, which was an interesting mix of period romance and fantasy. Ms Cooper definitely delivers with Night of the Highland Dragon,which is just as entertaining as its predecessors. The relationship between Judith and William is interesting, since they both have abilities and need to dance around each other, trying to figure out how much the other knows. The mystery aspect of the book is an extra bonus, giving the romance a place to grow without using some of the regular ‘misunderstanding’ tactics that can start to feel formulaic.

After finishing the novel, I was excited to go back to the first and second in the in the Highland Dragons series and read all of the books. While Night of the Highland Dragon works as a stand-alone novel, it is always a great feeling to be able to jump right back into the lives of awesome, well-written characters. Pick up one – or all three – in the series and settle in for a romance filled winter!

The Lure of the Moonflower (Pink Carnation #12) by Lauren Willig

the lure of the moonflower

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In the final Pink Carnation novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, Napoleon has occupied Lisbon, and Jane Wooliston, aka the Pink Carnation, teams up with a rogue agent to protect the escaped Queen of Portugal.

Portugal, December 1807. Jack Reid, the British agent known as the Moonflower (formerly the French agent known as the Moonflower), has been stationed in Portugal and is awaiting his new contact. He does not expect to be paired with a woman—especially not the legendary Pink Carnation.

All of Portugal believes that the royal family departed for Brazil just before the French troops marched into Lisbon. Only the English government knows that mad seventy-three-year-old Queen Maria was spirited away by a group of loyalists determined to rally a resistance. But as the French garrison scours the countryside, it’s only a matter of time before she’s found and taken.

It’s up to Jane to find her first and ensure her safety. But she has no knowledge of Portugal or the language. Though she is loath to admit it, she needs the Moonflower. Operating alone has taught her to respect her own limitations. But she knows better than to show weakness around the Moonflower—an agent with a reputation for brilliance, a tendency toward insubordination, and a history of going rogue.

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Publisher and Release Date: NAL, August 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Portugal, 1807/8
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Natalie

Let me begin by saying I have been reading the Pink Carnation series from (almost) the beginning. I have always loved the strong, funny, and exciting characters the author has scattered through her books. So, for the sake of transparency dear reader, this may not be the most un-biased review. When I first received The Lure of the Moonflower, I didn’t realize it was the last book in the series and was both sad to see a favorite series ending and skeptical. So many other series become strained as the author produces more and more books, stretching plots and characters thin but Lauren Willig had managed to keep her books fresh and quick witted. How could the final story in this series, the one that gives an inside look at the legendary Pink Carnation herself and an ending to her daring story, live up to the expectations I had from the first eleven books and assorted novellas?

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. As always Lauren Willig produces an intelligent, well researched, historically accurate plot with witty and interesting characters as well as the perfect dose of sexual tension. It is 1807 and Jane Wooliston is in Lisbon working as a British spy in the fight against Napoleon and his troops. Her mission is to find Mad Queen Maria, who has been hidden away. Jane’s effectiveness is restricted by the fact that she isn’t familiar with the country, nor can she speak the language. To complicate matters her contact is none other than Jack Reid, the French/British double agent who has proved to be loyal to no one but himself. Of course Jack is skeptical that Jane is a spy – let alone the legendary Pink Carnation – but after convincing him, the pair begin to admire and respect the other’s skills and commitment; and as they work together that admiration grows to mutual attraction.

As Jane and Jack roam the countryside, they realize how much alike they are and the sparks begin to fly. I not only loved the relationship between the couple, but I also adored that Ms Willig had several other favorite characters make small appearances throughout the book giving readers the chance to catch up with old friends along the way. It was both gratifying and sad to say goodbye to this wonderful, engaging series but I am so pleased with The Lure of the Moonflower. It went above and beyond my expectations and was the perfect finish to a great series!

You’re The Earl That I Want (Lords of Worth #3) by Kelly Bowen

Bowen_You're the Earl That I Want_MM

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THE EARL DOTH PROTEST . . .
For businessman Heath Hextall, inheriting an earldom has been a damnable nuisance. The answer: find a well-bred, biddable woman to keep his life in order and observe the required social niceties. But it’s always been clear that Lady Josephine Somerhall is not that woman. Once a shy slip of a girl, Joss is now brilliant, beautiful chaos in a ball gown.

. . . BUT THE LADY KNOWS BEST
In her heart, Joss has always loved Heath, the one person she’s always been able to count on. That doesn’t mean she wants to marry him though. Without a husband, Joss can do as she pleases-and now, it pleases her to solve the mystery of an encoded file given to Heath by a dying man. It’s put Heath in peril once, and Joss won’t let that happen again. She’ll do what she must to ensure the earl’s safety. And to remind him that what she lacks in convention, she makes up for in passion.

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Publisher and Release Date: Forever, September 2015

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

Review by Natalie

Heath Hextall has done everything he can to keep his family together, his newly inherited title and lands in good standing, and build his father’s soap business into an empire. If that meant giving up the things he most wanted in life and always doing what was expected of him then so be it. Now that his life has become stable and he has been (mostly) accepted as a member of the ton he has decided to take the next step; select a wife from the eligible debutantes to become his partner and help him run his household. Heath asks his childhood friend, the Duke of Worth, to suggest some suitable candidates.

Worth is dubious of his friend’s intentions but none the less is happy to have him around, especially since his own younger sister, Joss, has returned from her adventures on the continent. Before Worth can even began looking for a suitable partner Joss and Heath collide into each other and much to Heath’s chagrin are thrown together on a treasure hunt – and then on the hunt for a possible murderer.

Joss has spent most of her life careening around the world, learning languages and making a way for herself in spite what is expected from a woman of her station. It helps that her brother supports her in her endeavors and that her mother is known throughout society for her own eccentric behavior. Joss is happy to be home with her family, although her first foray into polite society has not gone as well as she hoped. That’s when she finds herself in the presence of Heath Hexall, her older brother’s friend and the person who made her felt safe and cared for as a child. Suddenly the adventurous world Joss has built for herself doesn’t seem as rewarding without Heath by her side.

Heath and Joss are both engaging characters and the book is filled with lots of action and suspense from the beginning. It is easy to fall in love with these two characters, knowing that they had always had a way of both protecting each other and getting on each other’s nerves. The relationship that grows between them is well-developed, especially because Kelly Bowen manages to let Heath tame certain parts of Joss as well as having Joss reviving Heath’s long-buried spirit of adventure.

The mystery Ms Bowen sets up at the beginning of the book is intricate and made all the more intriguing by the fact that Joss, her family and servants seem to be far more comfortable around intrigue than your average aristocrats should be.

You’re the Earl That I Want is the third in the Lords of Worth series, and because I have not read the first two books, there were times that I was left wondering about certain characters. In the end, however most of those were explained as having been major players earlier in the series. Joss and Heath are supported by a handful of other characters who are interesting all on their own and I look forward to reading the first two books in the series to learn more about their backgrounds and storylines.

RELEASE BLITZ: You’re the Earl That I Want (Lords of Worth #3) by Kelly Bowen

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THE EARL DOTH PROTEST . . .
For businessman Heath Hextall, inheriting an earldom has been a damnable nuisance. The answer: find a well-bred, biddable woman to keep his life in order and observe the required social niceties. But it’s always been clear that Lady Josephine Somerhall is not that woman. Once a shy slip of a girl, Joss is now brilliant, beautiful chaos in a ball gown.

. . . BUT THE LADY KNOWS BEST
In her heart, Joss has always loved Heath, the one person she’s always been able to count on. That doesn’t mean she wants to marry him though. Without a husband, Joss can do as she pleases-and now, it pleases her to solve the mystery of an encoded file given to Heath by a dying man. It’s put Heath in peril once, and Joss won’t let that happen again. She’ll do what she must to ensure the earl’s safety. And to remind him that what she lacks in convention, she makes up for in passion.

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EXCERPT

Joss watched him, wanting to smooth the troubled lines from his forehead. “I once knew a boy who told me, when he was grown up, he would become a pirate king and sail his own ship to the four corners of the world in search of treasure,” she said quietly.

His mouth twisted but his eyes remained hard. “That boy grew up. And discovered that there were no such things as pirate kings, and no time to search for treasure.”

“Yet that boy now owns his own ships.”

“He does.”

“And what stops him from sailing them where he pleases? What stops him from doing and taking what he truly wants?”

Bowen_You're the Earl That I Want_MMHis eyes caught hers and held them trapped within their brilliant blue heat. The remoteness was gone, replaced by a sudden predatory hunger that made Joss swallow convulsively. Her breath stuttered, anticipation and desire roaring to life and sending frissons of longing pulsing through her. The question she’d flung at Heath was swirling around in her brain now, demanding an honest answer from her own conscience.

What was stopping her from taking what she truly wanted? Because what she wanted was standing before her in perfectly tailored evening clothes, his hands clenched around a pile of newspapers, looking at her with such raw covetousness that it was making her nearly drunk with a reckless want.

“Perhaps one day I’ll take you there,” she said into the sudden silence.

Heath stilled. “To Bombay?”

“To start.” She’d meant it to sound like a jest, but it came out as an invitation. “I could take you a lot of places.” Holy hell, but what was she doing?

Heath seemed to have stopped breathing, though he took a step closer, his scent enveloping her. Instantly her mouth went dry, and a steady throb built in her belly. She squirmed, but she was backed against the desk and had nowhere to go. Sanity was rapidly disintegrating around her, crumbling beneath an overwhelming ache to touch this man. To have him touch her.

“Of course I don’t have my own ships, so I’d have to hitch a ride on one of yours.” She barely recognized herself.

There were reasons why she shouldn’t do this, she knew. She just couldn’t think of one right now.

Heath’s expression shifted suddenly, as if something within him had given way. He took another half step closer, close enough that he was pressed against her skirts now, the hard steel of his legs nudging hers apart so that he dominated her space and trapped her against him. He dropped the newspaper carelessly and braced his hands on the edge of the desk on either side of her waist, bringing his lips a breath away from hers.

“Would you take me?” she whispered, and neither of them could pretend she was still talking about ships.

“Yes,” Heath rasped.

And then he kissed her.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

kelly bowenKelly Bowen grew up in Manitoba, Canada. She attended the University of Manitoba and earned a Master of Science degree in veterinary physiology and endocrinology. But it was Kelly’s infatuation with history and a weakness for a good love story that led her down the path of historical romance. When she is not writing, she seizes every opportunity to explore ruins and battlefields. Currently, Kelly lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two boys, all of whom are wonderfully patient with the writing process. Except, that is, when they need a goalie for street hockey.

You can connect with Kelly at: www.kellybowen.net * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter

Never Resist a Rake (Somerfield Park #2) by Mia Marlowe

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Can he fool his new family?

John Fitzhugh Barrett, surprised to learn he is heir to a marquessate, is determined his new status won’t mean giving up his freedom. But as families from all over England descend upon Somerfield Park for the shooting season, their unmarried daughters are lining up to bag the newest trophy buck – him.

Or is he only fooling himself?

John’s instinct for self-preservation inspires him to divide his attentions between a scandalous young widow, and the safely ineligible Rebecca Kearsey, daughter of a destitute baron.

The charade gives John the illusion of controlling the game but when he loses his heart to the beautiful Rebecca, all bets are off.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, June 2015

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

Review by Natalie

Since finding out that he is the legitimate heir to the Somerset marquisate and not the bastard he had been raised as, John Fitzhugh Barrett has spent most of the last few months getting himself into trouble around London. He is enraged and frustrated that he was made to believe he was nothing as a child but is now expected to rise to the occasion and forgive the very people who gave him away. He knows his circumstances have already tarnished his reputation in society and so he has found his own group of rag-tag socially unacceptable friends with whom he can run amok.

Rebecca Kearsey is the daughter of a lesser Baron, one who has sold of a substantial portion of his family estate to pay his gambling debts and for expensive health treatments for his wife. Rebecca knows that between her blue-stocking ways and her father’s financial situation she is practically invisible to the members of the ton. So far this has provided a certain amount of relief, meaning she has been able to go to museums and art exhibitions without the cumbersome chaperones that other young women in society have to deal with.

When John gets in over his head at a boxing match he considers backing out, until a bound and gagged Rebecca is brought out as the trophy for the winner. This encounter starts the ball in motion for the relationship between these two outsiders. Rebecca and John end up saving each other in different ways throughout the book. John needs to be set straight and to make an effort with his family as they are reaching out to him while Rebecca has to handle the shady dealings and fall-out over her father’s gambling debts.

The relationship between John and Rebecca is coaxed along by John’s new, extended family who want him to succeed in his new role as well as accept and forgive them. The interactions between John’s new sister-in-law and his grandmother are a great deal of fun to read and you find yourself rooting for John to forgive his family as much as hoping that he and Rebecca will end up together.

There are some situations that are hard to believe, such as Rebecca being allowed into John’s room while he is lying in bed, but when reading a historical romance sometimes you have to suspend your disbelief. John and Rebecca are a well matched couple, bringing out the best in each other and helping each other heal the wounds caused by society’s unwillingness to accept them. Never Resist a Rake is another strong story in the Somerfield Park series by Mia Marlowe. It was fun to revisit several characters as well as to get to know these new ones.

The Beautiful One by Emily Greenwood

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A PICTURE SAYS A THOUSAND WORDS…

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

BUT NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES…

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

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

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

Review by Natalie

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

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

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

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

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

VIRTUAL TOUR: Going Rogue by Jessica Jefferson

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The ribbon means you have it all – beauty, wealth, power … everything but love.

Miss Meredith Castle leaves behind everything she knows to join her great aunt in London and become leader of the infamous girls’ club, The Ribbons. She’s willing to make whatever sacrifices necessary to redeem her ailing mother, even if that means leaving her childhood love behind to scale London’s social ladder.

When Derek Weston’s best friend receives the offer of a lifetime, he encourages her to take it. Unwilling to let her go completely, he chases after her, only to find the sweet girl he loved replaced by a spoiled debutante. A broken man, he leaves London to start a new life at sea.

Five years later, Meredith realizes her reign as Queen of the Ball is about to come to an end, if she doesn’t do something to fix her tarnished reputation. Pairing up with the Season’s newest wallflower seems like the perfect plan, until she finds out her demure friend is being pursued by the very man she thought she’d never see again. Only, Derek Weston isn’t who he used to be. He’s inherited a Scottish title and grown into an arrogant man she barely recognizes; yet in her heart, she knows she still loves him. Torn between her past and an uncertain future, can she find a way back to the life she used to have and the boy who once adored her?

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EXCERPT

“You couldn’t love me.” Meredith’s shoulders fell. “You haven’t seen me for over a year—too much has changed. It’s too late.”

“A year means nothing when I’ve known you for a lifetime,” he argued.

“A year is a lifetime.” She shook her head. “I’m not the person I used to be.”

“Of course you are. After you come home—”

“Middlebury is no longer my home and I can’t go back. There’s nothing for me there.”

“Except me?” He’d meant it as a bold declaration of his intentions. But his confidence was wavering and he knew the words were as much a question as they were anything else.

“Don’t you see—I can’t marry you.” Her words cut like a knife. “I’ve a real chance here. Aunt Cynthia thinks I can be a duchess. An actual duchess! Can you imagine? Think of all I can do for my mother.”

“I had no idea you held such lofty aspirations,” he said quietly, the ring tucked tightly within his fist.

She looked down. “You said it yourself once—I deserve more than what life in the village has to offer me. How can I settle for being the wife of an officer when I have a real chance at a title?”

He dropped the ring on the floor, the weight of it finally too much to bear. “Somewhere along the way you seem to have forgotten what’s truly important, Mere.”

“And what’s that?”

“Love, friendship, loyalty…”

She shook her head. “My mother followed love and look where that got her. She has nothing now but a crumbling house and stacks of bills. It takes far more than love to make a life—it takes a fortune.”

And then he knew. This shell of a woman was certainly not his Meredith. His Meredith would never be so callous—so ruthless. It was her eyes, hair, and smile—but not her spirit.

The girl he loved was nowhere to be found in the woman in front of him.

Derek cleared his throat. “You’ve changed.”

She looked at him. “We’re just too different now. I had hoped that it would be easy, that you’d just forget about me over time. Why do you think I stopped writing all those months ago?”

It was the final blow to their friendship. Meredith hadn’t been as busy with her lessons as he’d thought. He knew the truth now—perhaps he’d known it all along. She hadn’t been too busy to write, she’d been too busy for him. She’d been trying to end their friendship amicably by simply ignoring the fact it had ever existed.

“I shouldn’t have come here,” he said quietly.

“Probably not.” She wrapped her arms around her middle, just as she had when she was younger. His heart ached for the memory.

He needed to leave, to be as far from this place as he could get. But there was one thing he couldn’t leave without.

Taking her by the arms, he pulled her close, and kissed her fiercely.

She didn’t resist.

She returned his kiss with just as much emotion, her arms snaking their way up his chest. Before she’d left, he’d stolen a brief kiss. The chaste exchange hadn’t lasted but a second, both of them so inexperienced. But he’d spent nights dreaming about it, imagining all he’d do differently given the opportunity again.

Now, she kissed him with a skill that he didn’t bother to question. He knew someone else had taught her, but he didn’t care. He wanted her to remember him, remember this moment. He kissed her with every intention of scarring a memory into her consciousness so that after this, every kiss she’d ever receive would pale in comparison to his. He poured every ounce of himself into it—every feeling he’d ever hidden, all the love he’d ever felt for her. His tongue plunged deeper, exploring the secret places inside her mouth.

This kiss was the requiem for what was to become his past.

When he felt her knees start to buckle, he knew it was time. Derek pulled away. His gaze locked briefly with hers.

Her eyes were heavy with desire and her lips were red and swollen from the pleasurable assault.

He said nothing. Instead, he walked straight for the door— ready to leave the place where his vision for the future had been shattered into thousands of irreparable shards.

And he’d be damned before he tried to pick them up.

OUR REVIEW


Publisher and Release Date: Soul Mate Publishing, May 2015

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

Review by Natalie

Meredith Castle has been given the chance to live out every girl’s dream when her wealthy great-aunt offers to sponsor her for a season in London and give her the chance to make a successful match. But Meredith is devastated – she doesn’t want to leave the only home she has ever known or Derek, her closest childhood friend. She wants to refuse the offer but knows that a good marriage will give her the opportunity to provide a better future for her sick mother. Before Meredith leaves, Derek kisses her and tells her that his feelings go deeper than friendship. Meredith wants to stay and marry him, but Derek refuses. He tells her that she will regret settling for him and he doesn’t want her to resent him, but he swears to make himself into a better man.
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Derek writes to Meredith weekly while she is in London and he cherishes the letters she sends to him, but her responses become more infrequent and Derek believes that her studies must be consuming all her time. When his father finds the money to buy him a commission, Derek feels that he is finally able to go to Meredith and properly ask for her hand in marriage, but when he arrives the woman he finds is not the girl he loved. She laughs off his marriage proposal and breaks his heart.

Five years later, Meredith has become the leader of an exclusive girls’ club. They drink and dance their way through the night and are the talk of the ton. But as she nears twenty-four, Meredith realizes that she has lost her good reputation and needs to settle down before it become impossible to find a husband. She begins to mentor London’s newest wallflower, Ophelia, in the hopes that the friendship will help repair her own reputation. To her chagrin Meredith soon learns that Ophelia’s hand is being pursued by none other than Derek, who has not only gained a title but also owns and operates a successful company.

It’s easy to write a virtuous heroine that your readers will love because she is inherently good, but I think it is harder to write a less likeable female lead and still pull off a good love story. From the beginning of Going Rogue, Jessica Jefferson gives you characters that you should hate, but cannot help loving. Meredith Castle is a woman who has been spoiled rotten, and spent five years as a ‘mean girl’, yet you can’t help but have sympathy for her situation. She was forced to accept a lavish new lifestyle in order to protect her ailing mother and in the process lost herself. Derek is almost the opposite. He runs away from the person he was and becomes a rogue. Both Meredith and Derek have hidden their hearts to protect themselves.

These two were meant for each other and every scene makes you laugh at their foolishness or fan yourself from the heat of their encounters. I read Going Rogue in one night because I wanted to see how Meredith would find her true self again and how Derek would accept that he had changed just as much and not always for the better.

Ms. Jefferson has written two interesting characters who make you want to hit and hug them at the same time. I am excited that this is just the first in the Ribbons and Rogues series and I hope to see more intriguing characters in future stories.​

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica JeffersonJessica Jefferson makes her home in Almost-Chicago with her husband, nine and three year old girls, guinea pigs, and English bulldog Pete. When she’s not busy trying to find middle-ground between being a modern career woman and Suzy-Homemaker, she loves to watch “Real Housewives of [insert city here]” and performing unnecessary improvements to her home and property.

Jessica writes Regency-era historical romance with a modern twist, infused with humor. She always tries to create endearingly flawed heroes and one of a kind heroines that you’ll want to continue knowing long after you read the last page.

You can connect with Jessica at: www.jessicajefferson.com * ~ * ~ * www.embracingromance.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads.