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VIRTUAL TOUR: Devil’s Moon by Amanda Scott

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The last place Sir David “Devil” Ormiston expected his moonlight chase of a horse thief to end with was in a lady’s bedchamber. He is shocked to find that the raider he has pursued is no man, but a defiant beauty in disguise-and the woman he’s vowed to protect at all costs. Face to face with a girl Dev thought he knew, the ever confident, marriage-resistant knight may learn that he is defenseless against the desirable woman she has become.

A LADY’S SECRET Lady Robina Gledstanes will do anything to keep her family’s land out of the hands of her greedy kinsmen-except willingly submit to the handsome, cocksure Devil Ormiston. Dev’s help may be just as dangerous as the threats lurking outside her castle. But when enemies scheme to steal the castle’s treasure, Robina must risk losing something even more precious-her heart.

EXERPT

Watching Dev, Robina was grateful for his restraint. They reached the graveyard soon afterward and dismounted to look at the grave. She sensed Rab’s presence strongly as they stood there, but he kept silent, too.

“What is it, Robby? Art sad again?”

Startled, she said, “Not sad, just pensive.”

“I think you have been pensive since I arrived, or longer,” he said. “Keeping secrets, or thinking about Rab?”

Uncertain how to reply, since the truth was unacceptable, she realized that silence was just as bad. Dev would surely suspect that she was keeping something from him.

She would have liked to tell him about the jar of coins, but Rab’s warning was sensible. And, in truth, whether Dev was currently master of Coklaw or not, the money belonged to Benjy, not to Dev.

The thought was disheartening, and she wished Rab would recall that he had trusted Dev. Confiding in him should be not only safe but sensible.

Rab, however, remained as silent as his grave.

“We should head back down,” she said with a sigh.

“Keeping secrets then,” Dev said grimly. “Don’t you trust me?”

“Oh, Dev, no, don’t think that,” she said, putting a hand to his arm, shocked that he had so nearly guessed her thoughts. “I know I’ve been a bit difficult, but—” Breaking off when he grinned, she said bluntly, “Do you think that was funny?”

He shook his head and bit his lower lip.

“Damnation, David Ormiston, do you dare to laugh at me now?”

“Nay, nay, I’m striving mightily not to laugh or to say what I’m thinking.”

“Just what were you thinking?”

“That when you refuse to tell me what you are thinking and then say that I’m mistaken to suspect a lack of trust, you make me want to kiss you one minute and put you over my knee the next. But, by heaven, if you swear at me again, I’ll—”

“I won’t swear,” she said hastily. “But neither will I tell you all I think. Some things are still private, sir, one’s thoughts especially so. But if you want to kiss me again,” she added, feeling suddenly and strangely shy but determined, “you may.”

“May I?” He raised his eyebrows. “I will admit that I enjoyed your kiss when we were here before. But others would say that I’d taken advantage of you.”

“They would be wrong,” Robina said. “I kissed you first. I wanted to know how it would feel, and now I want to know if it feels the same way whenever one kisses a man. I do trust you with my virtue, Dev.”

“Do you, Robby? You should not be so trusting. Sithee, I’m not certain I can trust myself. You’re a mighty tempting wench. But there are rules.”

“Bother the rules,” she said. “Do you not want to kiss me?”

“Aye, sure, I do,” he responded, pulling her roughly into his arms.

Uncertain now, but curious, she looked up and tried to gauge his mood. But he allowed her no time for that before his lips claimed hers, hot and demanding.

As he held her close, she heard him moan quietly in his throat.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date:  Hachette Book Group, March 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Medieval Scotland
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Susan

Scott_Devil's Moon_MMHigh-strung and headstrong, Lady Robina is a wild child who doesn’t ask for permission from family, friend or foe once she sets her mind on a course. Sir David “Devil” Ormiston, the hero in the tale, is a hardened warrior who is loyal to the core and gifted with an eagle eye that enables him to see what others miss. Devil and Robina are connected through her older brother Rab, who had been Devil’s best friend. When Rab is killed, Dev and Robina discover they share a genuine friendship and a binding attraction which blossoms into a comfortable romance. Theirs isn’t a hot and steamy passion but a soft and kindly relationship.

The author describes picturesque landscapes and creates an atmosphere that feels more like Regency England than the rugged era of the early 1400’s during the reign of King Henry IV. The period dialogue is accented with a Scottish brogue reminiscent of the lingo used in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, but the attitudes of the characters are representative of classic Regency stories, particularly as shown in Robina’s behavior in presenting herself as a proper lady on the surface and concealing her mettle from all men but Dev. The action is meant to be lively but falls flat, often causing confusion about who is allied to whom.

The romance is comfortable, as the principals are two characters that are in agreement with each other. Secondary characters pop in and out without providing much of significance. The story concentrates on Robina and her relationships as everyone who is introduced proves to have a connection to her. It’s a story that has been told many times before about a lady who straddles the line between being proper and defined according to the dictates of polite society, and showing her true colors as a fiery warrior in her own right and finding a man who loves her for being the spirited fighter she is.

GIVEAWAY

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott, Amanda Amanda Scott is the author of over 62 romance novels and the recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA Award. She lives in Folsom, California, outside of Sacramento. She is a fourth-generation Californian.

You can connect with Amanda via her website or find her on Facebook.

Expressly Yours, Samantha by Becky Lower

expressly yours

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Samantha Hughes has one day to escape from her wicked uncle, and a sign in the post office is her answer. She’ll cut her hair to pose as a man and become Sam Hughes, a Pony Express rider.

Valerian Fitzpatrick doesn’t want the weight of responsibility that his brothers have in the family business. Fortunately, the Pony Express offers a chance to make his own way in the world.

He assumes his new buddy, Sam, is on the run from the law, until she’s hit by a stray gunshot and he has to undress her to staunch the wound. Friendship quickly turns to attraction—and more—but when Sam’s uncle tracks her down, she is forced to run yet again.

Val’s determined to find her, but will a future with Sam mean giving up the freedom he’s always craved?

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Publisher and Release Date: Crimson Romance, March 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Colonial America
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Susan

A charming love story, Expressly Yours, Samantha delves into the Colonial American lore that romanticizes the Pony Express, the first government funded mail service in America. Terms like “stagecoach stations,” “hitching posts,” and “pioneer wagon trails” have meaning as the author incorporates the vernacular of early Americans into the story. It’s a short history lesson about a part of American culture that is rarely visited in high school textbooks.

Though Becky Lower shows a broad knowledge base of the terms that were common in Colonial America, she isn’t able to separate herself from common 21st century lingo such as “mean dude,” “subterfuge,” and “protect [their] way of life” when referring to the Native American Indians who are referred to as “Injuns” but never savages which they would’ve been by Colonial Americans. The author’s compassion towards American Indians is present throughout the story. Such modern ideas and concepts are scattered throughout the book, which at the heart is about Samantha Hughes and Valerian Fitzpatrick, both Pony Express riders.

Sam must pass for a boy in order to be a rider, a job she wants because of her love of horses and the chance to be on her own and away from her abusive uncle who wants to sell her to a bordello Madame. Val’s reason requires more speculation on the part of the reader, assuming that he enjoys working with horses. Unlike Sam, he is close to his family who loves and protects him in return.

The author enlightens readers about the pledge which the riders must take, a type of knight’s oath of fealty to his liege lord. Although Sam’s situation is very different from Val’s, the two find a common link in their joy in riding and taking care of horses, and their desire to perform an important service for their country. Their integrity is inspiring, though the author does more telling of the tale than of expressing what the characters feel and what sparks their emotions. The writing lacks a personal touch and tends to lay out the action rather than putting the characters, and by extension the readers, in the middle of it.

The premise entices readers of romantic fiction but the minor complication involving Sam’s uncle, who interferes in her life, is pushed into the story to create friction. It’s overly dramatic and takes away from the story’s plausibility. Perhaps it’s my 21st century mind which sees it that way, but it was very convenient when Sam’s uncle seemed to be prescient and was able to locate her – though she left no trail – and deduce that she was disguising herself as a boy to be a Pony Express rider. There is no evidence to suggest he could figure it out on his own. In fact, Sam’s uncle is constantly described as being ignorant.

The love story between Sam and Val, however, buds nicely and believably. Their affection for one another feels genuine and Val’s protective nature, which is spurred on by Sam, fits his character. They are a couple that is made to be together.

Expressly Yours, Samantha charms readers with a romantic pair made to be together and set in the backdrop of Colonial America. Though the author misses the opportunity to describe the stretch of prairies and plains which the riders cross to deliver the mail, it focuses mostly is on what is important, the bond between Sam and Val, which puts emphasis on humans being loving to each other.

The Secret of Pembroke Park by Julie Klassen

secret of pembroke park

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Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her–a longtime friend–has fallen for her younger, prettier sister.

When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll’s house left mid-play.

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor’s past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure.

Hoping to improve her family’s financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks…or very real danger?

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Publisher and Release Date:  Bethany House Publishers, October 2014

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

Review by Susan:

Julie Klassen has received a number of accolades from book reviewers, attributing such characteristics as “thrilling,“ “engrossing,“ and “fantastic” to her historical romance The Secret of Pembrooke Park. I must be in the minority because I never felt moved to attribute such traits to the story. “Delicate” and “pensive” are the adjectives I would use to describe the characters, and “slow” and “intellectually driven” is how I would evaluate the pace and content of the read, which has been said to be suspenseful and intriguing by reviewers.

The romance that blossoms between Abigail Foster and William Chapman is a gentle one that blooms gradually. Readers are drawn to their kindly manner and strong sense of family responsibility, and by extension would like to see them come together; however, other external factors cause doubt and make us question their suitability for each other. Both are shy about revealing their thoughts and feelings to one another.

The characters conservative manners and use of proper language reflect the Regency Era, although the surroundings and layout of the landscape could be reflective of either Colonial America or the English countryside. The author does not spend much time in describing the atmosphere, which according to book reviews is gothic in nature (how can they tell by the narration?). The author devotes much of the story to the style of the characters’ garments and the finery of their furnishings.

Little action takes place; instead the focus is on mundane dialogue, common topics addressed in the conversations, and passages about the daily activities of the characters. In this regard, readers may relate the story to novels like Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey.

A secret about Pembroke Park is alluded to from the start about Pembrooke Park, and readers are told that the Fosters are related to the Pembrookes, though their direct lineage is not revealed. Though their bloodlines are connected, the Fosters are not in line to inherit the estate. It’s a shaky foundation that seems more contrived than plausible.

The premise about a secret at the manor grabbed my interest and kept me turning the pages; however, the secret wasn’t as interesting to me as seeing Abigail and William come together. The book is less effective as a mystery novel than as a sweet romance, which the story passes without reservation. Strong human emotions are not engaged but the ending is satisfying with Abigail and William closing the deal to be together.

The Duke’s Offer by Felicity Goforth

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Practical Charlotte Barton can’t be bothered with suitors, busy as she is helping her widowed father run his successful pottery works. And yet Lord Charles Randell, having ridden all night to deliver the news that Charlotte’s father lies ill far from home, cannot seem to forget her. Before he can speak to her of his feelings, his cash-strapped brother, the Duke of Walmer, pursues Charlotte for what he supposes is her large inheritance. Now Charles must decide whether to reveal his brother’s true motives or to stand aside so the lady he loves can become the next Duchess of Walmer.

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Publisher and Release Date:  Musa Publishing, December 2014

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

Review by Susan

A cozy read, The Duke’s Offer takes the reader into the household of Charlotte Barton, the sole daughter of a potter.  Her relationship with her father bears similarities to the bond between Belle and her father from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  Theirs is a love that the author spends a great deal of time nurturing and explaining to the audience.  Charlotte’s sorrow over her father’s illness is thoroughly explored as the author walks the reader through her feelings, using language that is strong enough to affect the reader and make them hope for his speedy recovery.

Lord Charles Randell is a polite young man who has been friends with the Bartons for some time.  His attentiveness to Charlotte’s feelings and needs makes him a likeable character with a calming temperament and courteous demeanor that is reminded me a little of Laurence (“Laurie”) from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.  He has shown Charlotte only platonic affection, but it is revealed that his feelings run deeper and he wants to be her protector, her provider, her husband.  Their love is wholesome and their need for one another is apparent to the reader.

Though Charles’s brother Richard, the Duke of Walmer, comes into the picture as a potential suitor for Charlotte’s hand, it is a flimsy attempt to inject doubt into the story, because Ms Goforth’s narrative style clearly shows that Richard’s charming words are superficial.  The two brothers never have a confrontation over Charlotte, which is a disappointment.  The last few chapters wrap up the story neatly as it is discovered that Richard’s intentions are mercenary and Charles comes in to save the day and proposes to Charlotte.

There are few surprises in the story and the characters have limited facets which is a bit of a disappointment.  The intimate scenes lack sensuality but are laden with words of affection.  The tale has a fairytale feel as Charlotte, in her most desperate moment, is rescued by a chivalrous gentleman whose love for her is unconditional.

A Desperate Wager by Em Taylor

a desperate wager
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Nathaniel Spencer, the Fourteenth Duke of Kirkbourne wakes up with an almighty hangover and a wager note in his pocket stating he has agreed to marry the Earl of Brackingham’s daughter. And he can’t even remember ever meeting the chit. Clearly his drinking has got out of hand. Lady Sarah Steele is horrified when her father announces that the Duke of Kirkbourne has agreed to marry her and even more horrified that her father wagered her hand in a game of cards. Not only that, but the earl has not told the duke of the riding accident that left Sarah paralyzed when she was sixteen. But he’s dying and she knows he wants to see her settled before the inevitable happens.

Despite Nate’s drinking and Sarah’s possible complicity in the earl’s plan, they agree to marry. But when accidents start to happen, the newly-weds must deal not only with the fact they are practically strangers, but they must find out who is trying to kill one or both of them. Nate’s drinking problem and Sarah’s disability are only a couple of the hurdles they must face to find lasting love.

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Publisher and Release Date: Em Taylor, August 2014

RHR Classifications:
Location and Setting: Regency England
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 3 Stars

Review by Susan

A duke and the daughter of an earl are thrust into a marriage arranged by the young lady’s father, the Earl of Brackingham in Em Taylor’s Regency Romance A Desperate Wager. It’s a situation which the duke and lady fear will turn into a nightmare. Instead, the author writes their story as a fairytale, a type of fantasy that two wounded souls attain when led by the hand of fate. The premise will pique romance readers’ interest, although the development of the plot isn’t as refined as it could have been.

Nate Spencer, the Duke of Kirkbourne is discovered wallowing in his misery at the start of the tale. He and his friend Crosby had previously engaged in a curricle race but when Crosby’s carriage crashed and killed him, the cross which Nate bears is suffocating him and causes him to become a careless drunk. The Earl of Brackingham believes he has the solution to the duke’s sorrow – marriage to his crippled daughter, Lady Sarah Steele.

The characters’ inconsistencies come to light early in the story. For instance, Nate comes off as a reckless reprobate instigating a hazardous race with his best friend, though he turns honorable when he finds a note in his pocket informing him that due to losing a game of cards with Brackingham he has agreed to marry Brackingham’s daughter. He honors the wager and marries Lady Sarah, then goes on to becoming a sensitive and responsive husband to her. What happened to his careless ways? It’s a tad too far-fetched for this spoiled duke to suddenly become such a paragon. This part of the story seems influenced by a female sense of fantasy, making it hard to believe that Nate’s abrupt turnaround is plausible.

Sarah’s behavior is also contradictora. As someone who is partially paralyzed from the waist down due to a horseback riding accident, she is miraculously able to walk without her crutches at certain points in the tale and able to feel pleasure in her lower limbs during the couple’s intimate moments. It is admirable that the author has fashioned a heroine with a physical disability and a hero who has an emotional one, but these handicaps only hamper them when the author chooses to acknowledge their impairments, which confuses the audience.

The story contains an element of danger as someone is out to destroy the couple. This question mark entices the reader to stay involved in the plot, although it’s a disappointment when the villain is revealed. The motive for the villain’s actions is flimsy and ends up making the story anticlimactic.

While reasonably entertaining, the story could be better polished and the dialogue could show more action. It’s a very restrained read as the characters are all mild-mannered and express a handful of emotions that are well under control. The language is stiff and the lives of the characters have an easy flow making it difficult for readers to identify with them. The love affair of Nate and Sarah is picture perfect giving the story the traits of a fairytale but not something which readers can apply to reality.

OUR YEAR IN REVIEWS – FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2014

2014

The beginning of a new year is a time both for looking forward and looking back, and the RHR team has put together our list of our favourite reads from the last year. It’s a varied selection, but they’re all stories that our reviewers have enjoyed and rated very highly, so perhaps you’ll find something here that you missed out on to add to your TBR pile.

Caz’s Picks


I’ve had a really good year, book-wise, so selecting just a handful of titles as the best of 2014 was really difficult. There are so many I could have chosen, but here are the ones which have really stuck with me throughout the year.

The King’s Falcon by Stella Riley. A new book from one of my favourite writers after a twenty-year absence – Christmas came a few months early for me this year! This is the third book in a series of interconnected stories set during the English Civil War. As with the books which preceded it, Ms Riley has created a superb love story, rich in historical detail, this time set in Paris, whence our hero has followed the exiled King Charles II. It’s a beautifully written, hugely enjoyable read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Traitor (Captive Hearts #2) by Grace Burrowes

Others have mentioned Ms Burrowes’ Captive Hearts trilogy among their favourites of the year, and for me, it was the second book which was the standout among three already exceptionally strong stories. This is the story of a man who, through no fault of his own, found himself in an impossible situation and yet managed to help many others. It’s heart-breaking yet ultimately uplifting, and Sebastian St. Clair earned himself a place on my list of favourite heroes.

Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne

To say that I was eagerly anticipating the release of Rogue Spy is probably the understatement of the year! I’ve enjoyed every book in this splendid series, and this instalment more than lived up to expectations. There’s plenty of fast-paced action, a tender romance, lots of humour, and a shocking denouement which had me on the edge of my seat. It’s intelligently and beautifully written – and in Thomas Paxton, Ms Bourne has created another multi-layered, compelling (and sexy!) hero.

The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

This, the final full-length novel in Ms Milan’s Brothers Sinister is a real tour-de-force. I can’t imagine that anyone picking it up could fail to be drawn in by the story, which is, as one would expect from Ms Milan, splendidly written, full of warmth and humour, possessed of a wonderful grasp of the social issues of the time, and which boasts two complex and very well-rounded central characters.

Claudia’s Picks


The Heart of the Phoenix by Barbara Bettis

This is a wonderful and sometimes heart-breaking love story with a strong central relationship and great characters.

Passion and Propriety by Elise de Sallier

This is a beautifully simple story that focuses on the development of the relationship between the central couple, William and Hannah. The romance is very well-written and deeply felt, a perfect blend of strong characters, interesting story and a passionate relationship.

Jill’s Picks


Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon

For me the Outlander series comes as close to perfect as possible, with a blend of history, romance, action, adventure and family saga, and a near-perfect weave of fact and fiction. This is the 8th book in the series, and my second favourite after the original, Outlander. With mature, intelligent prose, historical facts and details, believable characterisations and dialogue, gripping story-telling and touches of humour, this whole series makes compulsive reading.

Without Words by Ellen O’Connell

Ms O’Connell always writes memorable couples. Her heroines are as likable and as memorable as her heroes…no mean feat. For readers who love a true western, a slowly-building romance, realistic characters, believable dialogue in an authentically-rendered setting, and action and adventure aplenty, Without Words is highly recommended.

An Heir of Uncertainty by Alyssa Everett

An Heir of Uncertainty is yet another beautifully-written romance as well as an engrossing mystery from Alyssa Everett. Lovely prose, two likable leads, a gentle, slowly-building romance and a captivating whodunit. For those who enjoy more depth to their historical romances, a clever mystery and well-researched plot.

My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas

Though more action and adventure, than ballrooms and boudoir, My Beautiful Enemy is everything you’d expect from a Sherry Thomas novel. An incredibly entertaining and enjoyable historical adventure, delivered with Ms Thomas’s usual lush prose and a beautiful romance.

Lady Blue’s Picks


Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh – a wonderful story of a wounded warrior who is enchanted by a down-to-earth widow who makes him feel safe. The widow falls head over heels for the first time in her life, and decides to take a chance on love.

The Captive by Grace Burrowes – a tortured prisoner of war who suffered great losses tries to pick up the pieces of his life. The love and care of a good woman heals him, but doesn’t stop his need for revenge. Grace Burrowes’ exceptional writing was kicked up yet another notch in this amazing trilogy, which includes The Traitor and The Laird.

When the Duke Was Wicked by Lorraine Heath – a young duchess by birth being pressured to marry asks the man she has loved for years. He has suffered such painful loss, that he refuses to ever love again. This is a beautiful and emotional story of two people wounded in different ways who manage to find love and happiness. This epilogue is worthy of winning awards.

Lady Wesley’s Picks


I’ve selected three novels and one series that I can unreservedly recommend to lovers of historical romance.

Sherry Thomas, whose writing is impeccable but whose plots are sometimes hit-or-miss for me, hit it out of the park with The Luckiest Lady in London, a clever variation on the story of the gorgeous, perfect man marrying the impecunious, plain girl. And then falling in love. This is a deep and complex story, but I could not help but enjoy the subtle humor. Louisa is stunned beyond belief to find the London’s “Perfect Gentleman” is paying attention to her, and Felix is annoyed that Louisa, unlike every other lady of the ton, doesn’t like him.

Despite its annoying modern movie-inspired title, Laura Lee Guhrke’s How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days features an American-born duchess who is perfectly happy for her husband to continue his explorations in Africa. Permanently. When he returns after five years, she is horrified to learn that he wants to be a real husband. Despite Edie’s reservations, Stuart persuades her to let him try to win her over, but she has booked passage back to America on a ship that leaves in ten days. Stuart must be the most patient and understanding romantic hero I’ve ever read, as he tenderly, but determinedly, tries to help heal Edie’s wounds. It is a lovely love story, and nothing feels contrived or trite.

Since her debut in 2012, Alyssa Everett has become a favorite author of mine. Her stories are well-crafted and beautifully written. In An Heir of Uncertainty, she deftly mixes romance and mystery. When a distant relative dies, Colonel Win Vaughan unexpectedly inherits a wealthy earldom. Upon arriving at his new estate, however, it turns out that the widowed countess is pregnant. If she has a boy, he will be the earl, and Win will once again be a struggling farmer. Win finds himself falling for Lina, but he is also the prime suspect when someone tries to kill her. Can Lina trust him with her heart and her safety?

Finally, I am recommending the entire Captive Hearts trilogy by Grace Burrowes, because it’s impossible to pick a favorite. In this series, which is rather darker in tone than her other books, the author is simply at the top of her game. These are the stories of three men profoundly affected by their experiences in the Peninsular Wars. Christian, Duke of Mercia, hero of The Captive, was imprisoned and tortured by the French. His captor, British-born French officer Sebastian St. Clair, is the unlikely hero of The Traitor, and St. Clair’s major domo, half-Scots half-Irish Michael Brodie, is featured in The Laird. Their relationship does not end with their post-war return to Great Britain, and there are elements of espionage, betrayal, and shock as they each explore what happened to them in France. As they rebuild their lives, each man finds that forgiveness, encouraged by the unconditional love of the right woman, can free their imprisoned hearts.

Maria’s Picks


My Lady, My Lord by Katharine Ashe
Freaky Friday meets the Regency era in England in this breathlessly romantic and original historical. Frenemies and neighbors Ian and Corinna find fate offering them an unexpected chance at a romantic truce. This is one of the most charming, clever, intelligent, and entertaining romances I have read this year.

The Bride Says Maybe by Cathy Maxwell

I listened to this, the second book in Maxwell’s lovely Brides of Wishmore series, set in Regency era Scotland, narrated in a lovely Scottish brogue by Mary Jane Wells. This is a truly joyous romance about Tara Davidson, a spoiled and ruined heroine with a broken heart, who learns to love the rough around the edges Breccan Campbell, known as the “Beast of Aberfeldy,” and the one man who won’t fall for her histrionics. Their love story is beautiful to listen to as they navigate through the early days of their arranged marriage.

One Bite Per Night by Brooklyn Ann
Vincent, Lord Vampire of Cornwall, is a kind and honorable man who finds everlasting love with Lydia, a compassionate mortal who only sees the good in him, not the monster he believes himself to be. This is the second book in the tongue-in-cheek Scandals with Bite series by Brooklyn Ann, who describes her works as “supernatural smut.” But it’s so much more than that. Ann really knows how to tell a story, and a very, very romantic one at that.

The Other Harlow Girl by Lynn Messina
Lynn Messina has created another enchanting historical Regency romance with this utterly charming and beguiling sequel to The Harlow Hoyden, which I reviewed earlier this year. Lavinia Harlow is the good sister (and also an amateur botanist with aspirations to be a member of the British Horticultural Society) but where has that got her? She’s a pitied spinster who lost her loser of a fiancé, but when she meets the good and kind Felix, a very proper gentleman, they both throw caution to the wind in the quest for true love. A sweetly sexy romance by an author to watch.

Susan’s Picks


Secrets in Scarlett (The Rookery Rogues, Book 2) by Erica Monroe

Sergeant Thaddeus Knight of the Metropolitan Police is tough on the outside with a gentle soul inside. Poppy O’Reilly is a woman with many secrets, all of which Thaddeus embraces the challenge of discovering. The pair make for a enthralling read.

Lord of the Shadows by Kathryn LeVeque

Sir Sean de Lara is the Lord of the Shadows, performing the deadly deeds which King John requires to be done. Lady Sheridan St. James rises to head the House of St. James, a company intent on dethroning King John. Circumstances draw Sean and Sheridan together, not as foes but as friends. Friends whose attraction runs deep. They battle a world that is determined to keep them apart but in true knight-in-shining-armor fashion love prevails.

Knight Storm by Ria Cantrell

Lady Rhianna du Montefort dreams of a maelstrom sweeping across Montefort Keep. She soon realizes that the storm comes is in the form of a brooding knight, Sir Erik Ragnorsen, who has been ordered by his liege lord to take Rhianna for his wife. The friction between the two is magnetic and takes readers along their tumultuous ride to opening up their sensual desires to the audience‘s delight.

Vikki’s Picks


The Wandering Harlot by Iny Lorentz

This may very well be the best book I read 2014. What an amazing book. There is tons of history interwoven through the story in a masterful way. Marie is an incredible character rising above tremendous hardships most women could not endure. I was so glad when she got her HEA! I can’t wait to read the next book in this series. I can understand why this book sold over two millions copies in Germany. I am so glad it is available in English.

A Matter of Grave Concern by Brenda Novak

What an amazing and unique story. It kept me glued to my seat from the first page to the last. I just love Brenda Novak’s writing style. It’s so smooth and flowing. I immediately fell in love with Abigail, an easy character to love. She’s feisty and determined, yet innocent of the dangers of the world. This is a story of overcoming adversity and danger, filled with deep emotion and passion.

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Those are the books we particularly enjoyed in 2014. What about you? Have we missed out on something really good that you are just bursting to tell us about? Please let us know in the comments what were your favourite reads last year.

 

FESTIVE ROMANCE: A Christmas Reunion by Donna Hatch

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Heartbroken at the news that her betrothed has wed another woman, Emily is determined to pick up the pieces of her life and enjoy Christmas with her family. ​

Newly returned from war, Bennett holds a secret and will do anything to ensure Emily, his only true love, never discovers it…even if it means losing her.

Fate reunites the star-crossed lovers and reveals the truth that will either unite them or drive them apart forever.

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Publisher and Release Date: The Wild Rose Press, November 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Susan

Short and sweet, A Christmas Reunion is a Regency romance featuring childhood sweethearts separated by war that honors the gentleman soldier and reveres the devoted lady who refuses to give up on her man. The story focuses on the relationship between Captain Bennett Seton and his English Lady, Emily Annesley set against the backdrop of the Peninsula War. It’s a tale about overcoming self-imposed obstructions that keep a love from blossoming with impediments that are all too relatable to real life circumstances and a handful of characters that are perceivably human.

The story launches from Emily’s point of view as she receives a letter from her fiancé, Captain Bennett Seton, claiming that he has married another woman during the time he has spent fighting the French in Spain. The points of view transition smoothly between Bennett and Emily so audiences can glean their individual perspectives. As Bennett returns home battered and bruised in spirit and crippled by the war, he feels unable to be the man that Emily knew and wanted to marry. He believes he is saving her from a life of misery by falsely claiming he has married another. Little does he realize that Emily’s love transcends his physical appearance. She says it best when she tells him that she loves his heart, mind and soul. Her character represents the public’s impression of the Regency Lady, a romantic at heart and devoted to the core.

The emotions which the couple stir in each other resonate an authenticity that audiences can experience at the same time with the characters. Emily’s broken heart is felt by the reader and Bennett’s sorrow at the hurt he causes her has an equal impact. The writing is penetrative, able to draw the reader into Bennett’s and Emily’s lives and mentally encouraging their reunion. The story contains universal themes which audiences can share with the characters, inspired by the couple’s willingness to overcome self-inflicted obstructions.

Secrets in Scarlet by Erica Monroe

secrets scarlet
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When a girl is murdered at a factory in one of London’s rookeries, Sergeant Thaddeus Knight of the Metropolitan Police comes in to investigate. But it’s not just the factory owners that Thaddeus wants information on–the devilishly intriguing Poppy O’Reilly is a puzzle he’d like nothing more than to solve. Protecting her young daughter is the most important thing to Poppy, and Thaddeus threatens the false identity she’s carefully constructed. The last thing she should do is allow Thaddeus close to her family, yet she can’t stay away from him. With danger around the corner, will the secrets of a scarlet woman lead to their undoing?

Publisher and Release Date: Quillfire Publishing, September 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, Industrial Revolution
Genre: Historical Romance with mystery elements
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Susan

Secrets in Scarlet is a story that readers can fall in love with instantly. Its hero, Sergeant Thaddeus Knight (who is aptly named), is the heroine’s champion, a champion of the innocent in particular the heroine, Poppy O’Reilly’s daughter, and a champion of the wrongfully accused specifically Poppy’s brother Daniel. A romantic historical hero in every sense of the label, Knight makes audiences believe in the goodness of human nature.

A fascinating tale that is very well-written with a cast of believable characters, Secrets in Scarlet provides a unique perspective on Regency England, addressing the dismal conditions of London’s rookeries, the unconscionable oppression imposed on factory workers, and the lucrative prospects of engaging in criminal activities such as coin clipping, counterfeiting, and trafficking/fencing goods.

Depicting England’s underprivileged is a challenge, requiring the author to give audiences a grasp of guttersnipe and the cockney lingo, which is something Ms Monroe manages admirably.

She shows not only a keen understanding of Regency England’s disadvantaged and neglected but also of the atmosphere emerging during the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. The intricate details about weaving textiles and fabrics and using looms are written intelligently, dotted with historical facts and interspersed with interesting dialogue and narration that enables the reader to observe the situation first-hand. The story is well paced with perceptive annotations so audiences can keep up with the evolving stages of the plot, which entails a murder mystery and the amorous feelings blossoming between Thaddeus and Poppy.

The story is written from the point of view of the un-affluent, projecting a sympathy for their hardship and struggles which touches a sensitive chord in readers. It’s a cheerful moment when Poppy and Thaddeus find their way to each other amidst obstacles such as the lies which Poppy espouses to safeguard her family and Thaddeus’ insecurities which deny him from believing he’s an honorable man deserving of a woman who loves him. Secrets in Scarlet is a moving love story that depicts happiness flourishing among the deprived of Regency England. It’s refreshing to see that happiness isn’t exclusive to England’s privileged aristocracy, and the author makes such an ideal seem attainable in this time period.

Misadventures in Seduction (novella) by Robyn DeHart

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With five siblings to care for, Prudence Hixsby’s duty comes first, even if it means becoming a spinster. When the eldest – and most cherished – of her younger brothers decides to join the war, however, Prudence is determined to keep him safe. So she strikes a bargain with an old acquaintance: her body in exchange for her brother’s safety. In the dead of the night, she slips into the bed of a man whose touch is both fierce and passionate… little knowing she’s just seduced the wrong man. Harrison Carlisle, the Duke of Sutcliffe, never imagined that the lovely Prudence would honor his bed, or just how bewitching those lush curves could be. Yet he keeps a gentleman’s silence. After all, a spy for the Crown can ill afford to marry. But when Prudence’s brother is killed, they find themselves uniting to track down the traitorous murderer. And while death lurks within the shadowy world of espionage, there is also passion… and the unbidden thrill of a seduction!

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Publisher and Release Date: Entangled Publishing, September 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Susan

What begins as an exciting adventure ignited by mistaken identities that manifest into a sensual romance, Misadventures in Seduction, a Masquerading Mistress novella by Robyn DeHart, falters at the endin,g rushing the couple into a matrimonial union that isn’t convincing. The early stages of Harrison Carlisle and Prudence Hixsby’s union are finely scripted. The Duke of Sutcliffe and the Hixsby family’s spinster are brought together under unusual circumstances, giving their desire for one another an opportunity to catch fire. Add an elite spy organization and a traitor to King George intent on funding Napoleon’s return to power while posing as a liaison between the king and the spy ring, and the gist of the story sounds entirely thrilling.

Prudence and Harrison’s reaction to one another has all the makings of the reader’s favorite daytime so-opera couple. In an effort to keep her impetuous brother safe after he joins the British army, Prudence agrees to have a one-night stand with an influential figure who can secure a position for her brother that will keep him away from the front lines.   Unfortunately, Pru slips into Harrison’s bed instead, and has an evening filled with sensual love-making. The body language and graphic descriptions are tasteful while stirring carnal thoughts, but by the time Pru realizes that it was Harrison whom she had bedded, the moment has passed the point of affecting readers.

Harrison is again involved in another case of mistaken identity when the influential figure whom Pru had intended to bed pretends to be him (Harrison) in an assassination attempt on the Prince Regent. This part of the tale draws the reader deeper into the plot but the author skims over important pieces of information which would make the connection for the reader. There is a pivotal scene when the king’s men have cornered Harrison and Pru and the two escape, but the tension is contrived and written expressly in order to give Pru a chance to use a blade and act as the protective figure. From this point on, the story has an artificial tone as the pair discovers the identity of the traitor/assassin and they confront him.

Cases of mistaken identity draw the protagonists together and later influence them to join forces, knowing they make a good team. If the ending of the story had been as well developed as the beginning, this would have made for a thoroughly engaging Regency Romance.

Murder at Rudhall Manor by Anya Wylde

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A murder and a theft have been committed at Rudhall Manor. A box of jewels has vanished and Lord Sedley, a lusty old aristocrat, has been stabbed six times in the chest. It is all very mysterious, and the Sedley family and the servants have decided that Miss Lucy Anne Trotter, a recently employed governess, is to blame for the unfortunate events.

The legendary and wickedly handsome Marquis, Lord William Adair, learns of the matter and decides to uncover the truth. Lucy, however, has little faith in blue blooded creatures—even if they possess dashing good looks— and, accompanied by two naughty pugs and a moody raven, decides to investigate and unmask the killer herself.  But the hunt for the killer turns out to be far more complicated than she anticipates—what with snooty servants, warts in odd places, mixed up love affairs, agitated chickens and dreadful disguises ruining her plans.

Soon she begins to wonder if, for once, she is in over her head

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Publisher and Release Date:  Anna Wylde, June 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre:  Historical Comedy
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Susan

Adventurous, intelligent, and well-mannered, Lord William Adair is the star of Anya Wylde’s Regency thriller Murder at Rudhall Manor. Though the main character is Lucy Anne Trotter, the governess to the children of Lord Sedley’s youngest son, it is the agile and fearless Lord Adair, Marquis of Lockwood, to whom audiences gravitate. From the beginning, Adair manages to engage the reader as he arrives at the sleepy town of Blackwell in a hot air balloon. Talk about making a grand entrance! Adair is instantly likeable and the character that the audience trusts and looks to to solve an old-fashioned murder mystery.

Adair is a type of Sherlock Holmes character, able to make intelligent deductions after it is learned that Lord Sedley has been stabbed and a box of family jewels is missing from Rudhall Manor. The marquis decides to investigate the murder and the burglary on behalf of Sedley’s son who is his friend. When the townsfolk suspect Lucy Trotter is the murderer and thief, Adair turns into her champion, convinced of her innocence.

While enjoyable, the narrative sometimes has a lackluster tone, as when describing humdrum activities told from Lucy’s perspective, which provide trivial information and little substantial enlightenment regarding the plot. The reader is unable to glean anything about the situation from her observations such as “The journey was short” or “It was decidedly odd.” The author describes scenes seen in Lucy’s head, but the reader may not share the character’s thoughts and thereby is lost in the monologues. The writing becomes a one-sided conversation where Lucy is talking to herself, bouncing off ideas with herself but never letting the reader inside her mind. Though Lucy is a transparent character, meaning the reader follows her thoughts and analyses throughout the novel, it is logic that eludes her as she misses clues which Lord Adair picks up.

The author treads off the beaten path with the relationship between the marquis and the governess. Instead of honing a romantic liaison between the two, Adair and Lucy develop a friendship without romantic entanglements. There are efforts to inject comedy into the situation as Lucy fumbles the investigation and Adair rescues her from tripping over her own two feet. They make a complimentary pair while maintaining a platonic relationship. Lucy’s clumsiness is relatable to audiences as she proves to be an amateurish detective. Adair becomes her knight, her Professor Henry Higgins (á la My Fair Lady) without acting haughtily or flaunting his superiority. He treats her as an equal though he is far more logical.

An amusing story, Murder at Rudhall Manor has its exciting moments interspersed with flat periods as Lucy’s conversations with herself are inadequately translated for readers to follow. The murderer isn’t obvious but the plot comes together once the identity of the killer/thief is revealed. Witty scenes are strategically placed to hold the reader’s attention as the rapport between the lowly governess and the logical marquis express a natural compatibility, giving them credibility as a likeable pair.