Tag Archive | Caroline Linden

At the Christmas Wedding by Caroline Linden, Maya Rodale and Katharine Ashe

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Snowed in at a castle full of handsome lords, three young ladies are about to have the holiday of their lives…

Map of a Lady’s Heart by Caroline Linden

The road to happily-ever-after… With Kingstag Castle full of guests and the snow falling, Viola Cavendish has her hands full making sure the Christmas house party runs smoothly. The unexpected arrival of the Earl of Winterton and his nephew Lord Newton upends everything. Not only is Lord Newton flirting with the young ladies Viola is supposed to chaperone, Lord Winterton himself makes her pulse race.
Always takes some twists and turns Wesley Morane, Earl of Winterton, has come to Kingstag Castle in search of a valuable atlas, and he refuses to be deterred by the snow, the house party, his nephew, or even the most ridiculous play ever staged. But before long the only map he wants is one that shows him the way to Viola’s heart…

Hot Rogue on a Cold Night by Maya Rodale

Jilted by a duke: Lady Serena Cavendish was born and bred to be a duchess. Too bad, then, that the Duke of Frye mysteriously and suddenly ended their betrothal.
Seduced by a Rogue: Greyson Jones, an agent of the crown, is the only one who thinks being jilted has made Serena more alluring. When he lucks into an invitation to a Christmas house party at Kingstag Castle to cheer her up—and perhaps find her a husband—he seizes the opportunity to win her heart before they might be parted forever.
On the way to the altar: Their journey to happily ever after involves a ridiculous play, a lovesick swan, a mysterious gift and, of course, a kiss.

Snowy Night with a Duke by Katharine Ashe

The last time Lady Charlotte Ascot bumped into the Duke of Frye, she climbed a tree to avoid him. Sometimes it’s simply easier to run away than to face her feelings for him — overwhelmingly passionate feelings that no modest lady should have! Now, on her way to Kingstag Castle to celebrate the holidays with friends, Charlotte is trapped by a snowstorm at a tiny country inn with the duke of her steamiest dreams.
But Frye has a secret of his own, and Christmas is the ideal time to finally tell the woman he’s always wanted the whole unvarnished truth. Better yet, he’ll show her…

Publisher and Release Date: The Lady Authors, October 2017

Time and Setting: Regency England
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance anthology
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars overall (4, 3 and 5 for the individual novellas)

Review by Em

I’ve enjoyed quite a few holiday themed stories in the latter half of 2017, so I picked up At the Christmas Wedding with high expectations. In this latest collaboration from Caroline Linden, Maya Rodale and Katharine Ashe, a group of friends and strangers find themselves snowbound at Kingstag Castle for a holiday house party. Thus, a group of handsome lords and lovely ladies are afforded ample opportunity to make mischief whilst spending their free time staging an elaborate (ridiculous) play. The novellas comprising At the Christmas Wedding take place concurrently, and feature the same cast of characters – but that’s where their similarities end. Each romance is delightfully charming in its own way – but only one stole my heart. Romantic, festive, short and sweet… this is the perfect pick-up during a lazy holiday afternoon.

Map of a Lady’s Heart by Caroline Linden (4 stars)

When the Duke and Duchess of Wessex are unexpectedly called away shortly before the start of their Christmas house party, responsibility falls to Viola Cavendish, the duchess’s secretary. Calm, unflappable Viola tries not to worry over the group of young people descending on the household, but with the duke and duchess away, the dowager duchess ill and unable to chaperone her three daughters and their guests, and an aunt who delights in all things naughty and wicked… well, Viola has doubts about her own abilities to manage the situation. She’s giving herself a mental pep talk when a pair of unexpected guests arrive. Wesley Morane, Earl of Winterton, accompanied by his nephew Lord Newton, has come to speak to the duke about a rare atlas he might have in his collection.

Wesley Morane is desperate to locate an atlas that formerly belonged to his father, and is convinced the duke is the new owner. He’s dismayed to learn the duke is away, but arriving in the midst of a house party – with guests of similar age to occupy the attentions of his bored, spoiled nephew – and an opportunity to peruse the duke’s library at his leisure, he’s not unhappy with the situation. He pays little heed to the ridiculous play being staged by the duke’s youngest sister, but nonetheless finds his search unexpectedly distracted by Viola.

Viola is irritated by the surprise arrival of the Earl of Winterton and his nephew, but unhesitatingly folds them into the assembled party. Unfortunately, however, Winterton is a handsome and distracting guest. She finds herself seeking him out when the group is assembled and caught out when he seems to return her interest. Following an early misunderstanding when Viola realizes Winterton inveigled an invitation to the house party under false pretenses, the two form a friendship of sorts. Viola is sympathetic to Winterton’s interest in the atlas, but unconvinced the duke will part with it.

As the house party continues apace, Viola and Wesley find reasons to be together. Viola, resistant to an affair with Wesley, inexorably finds herself drawn to him, and Wesley is similarly unable to resist her. Their longing for each other is intense and wonderful, and the passionate, clandestine love affair that follows is superbly done; I enjoyed every bit of it. Map of a Lady’s Heart is a sophisticated second chance love story, though I found the secondary plot – the bizarre and unfunny play (no matter how hard Ms. Linden tried to sell it) written by the duke’s youngest sister – distracting and unnecessary.

Hot Rogue on a Cold Night by Maya Rodale (3 stars)

Much like other novels by Ms. Rodale, I loved the idea of Hot Rogue on a Cold Night much more than the actual story. Greyson Jones, a close friend of the Duke of Frye, has long loved Lady Serena Cavendish, but her longstanding engagement to his friend meant he could never pursue her. When Frye inexplicably jilts Serena, Greyson adds further insult by insinuating, in public, that being jilted has finally made her interesting. When Mr. Jones shows up at Kingstag – without Frye -Serena tries hard to hide her dismay (and hurt), slighting Greyson and focusing her attentions on another, more eligible, gentleman in attendance.

Greyson – who is due to leave for India in a week’s time – regrets the words that hurt Serena and knows he will have to work fast to win her over. But he believes his life – as a diplomat destined to travel the world for Crown and country – will appeal to the much sheltered Serena. Clearly out of her depth as a house party hostess, curious about the world around her, Greyson sets out to show her all the amazing adventures she might miss in settling. The play, which was so irksome in the first novella, fortuitously places him in close proximity to Serena and chances to show her what a partnership between them might mean.

I liked all the elements that made up this story – including the ridiculous play – and Greyson, charming, suave, and supremely dry, is pure romance catnip. Unrequited love is a favorite trope of mine and he wears it well. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as fond of the seemingly fickle Serena. She’s insecure, slightly silly and only starting to learn what kind of woman she wants to be. I never could see what (beyond her beauty) Greyson saw in her, but since I’m not marrying her, I wish him all the best.

Snowy Night with a Duke by Katharine Ashe (5 stars)

Snowy Night With a Duke is the best and most romantic of the three novellas that comprise At the Christmas Wedding. I swooned, sighed and melted over this much too brief love story; if had to pick a favorite short story of 2017, this would be a frontrunner.

Charlotte Ascot, after a prolonged absence from England, is en route to Kingstag when her carriage gets trapped by a snowstorm and she’s forced to bide her time at a tiny country inn with other similarly stranded travelers. Charlotte has been (hiding) in America ever since a last painful encounter with the Duke of Frye wherein she climbed a tree in order to avoid him. The pain of her unrequited love and sadness over his betrothal – to her closest friend – was too much to bear. She’s determined to overcome her feelings for Frye… when, much to her surprise, she spots him in a battle of fisticuffs in the courtyard of the inn.

The Duke of Frye, masquerading as Mr. Horace Church, is enjoying a staged fight with good friend Lord Fortier when he spots Charlotte Ascot (whom he’s loved since childhood) standing on the threshold of the inn. Distracted, he misses his cue and takes a hard shot to the chin. Frye can’t believe his eyes; he thought Charlotte was still in America… but she’s here. When she approaches him in the stables (where he’s been tossed for fighting) to clean his wounds, and begins berating him for fighting, Frye isn’t quite sure how to handle her. Under the nomme de guerre Horace Church, he and Lord Fortier – who do the odd job on behalf of the Crown – are on the hunt for a con-man who takes advantage of elderly travelers. They think they have their man… but Frye can’t risk Charlotte revealing his identity and putting the investigation at risk.

Charlotte is undaunted by Frye’s vague responses to her questions, while he, thrilled that she is finally back in England, matches her quick wit and tough questions with his own delicious interrogation about where she’s been and why she hid from him. The conversation marks the start of a new slightly adversarial relationship between these star-crossed lovers.

The chemistry sparkles and snaps between Frye and Charlotte and fortunately for us, so does the passion. They finally stop fighting it and finally give in to the fantasy of loving each other that they’ve both nurtured in their secret hearts for years. But Frye is keeping one last secret from Charlotte and he’s determined to push her away.

Well folks, Frye is romantic, awesome, and sexy and Ms. Ashe gives him some of the best dialogue I’ve read this year. Charlotte, his similarly marvelous match, hears him out and then tells him how things are actually going to go. Yep, she sets him straight. It’s brilliant, they’re brilliant and if I have a complaint about Snowy Night With a Duke, it’s that I wish it were longer.

Dressed to Kiss (anthology) by Madeline Hunter, Caroline Linden, Myretta Roberts and Megan Frampton

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True love never goes out of style…

Once renowned for creating the most envied gowns in London, Madame Follette’s dressmaking shop has fallen far out of fashion. The approaching coronation of King George IV offers a chance to reclaim former glory by supplying stunning new wardrobes to the most glittering society in Regency England. In the face of long-held secrets, looming scandals, and the potential ruin of their shop, the dressmakers of Follette’s are undaunted, not even by the most unexpected complication of all: true love.

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Publisher and Release Date: Caroline Linden, September 2016

Time and Setting: London, 1821
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Sara

The best romance anthologies are where the stories are linked around a common theme or a single moment. In Dressed to Kiss all four authors have set their stories in and around a dressmaking shop that has seen better days but has a second chance to succeed with the upcoming coronation of King George VI. The women (and one man) who work in the shop each have unique stories to tell and each author puts wonderful spin on love beating the odds.


Madeline Hunter opens the book with her story The Duke’s Dressmaker. Head seamstress of Madame Follette’s dress shop Selina Fontane has made a new life for herself in London after leaving her small village in disgrace years earlier. She allowed herself to fall in love with a visiting lord who promised marriage but left her with a ruined reputation. Now she is put in the very awkward position of designing the wardrobe for the young woman who married her erstwhile suitor. Fortunately the client has no idea of Selina’s history with her husband but her brother-in-law Lord Barrowmore recognizes Selina right away. Selina fears that Lord Barrowmore will cost her an important patron for the shop while Barrowmore fears that a spurned woman could be a problem for his brother’s new wife. The reunion of former adversaries quickly morphs from a tentative truce into an affair of the heart. Barrowmore finds himself attracted to Selina and realizes that his perceptions of her as a scheming title grabber might have been misplaced. Selina makes peace with her ruined courtship years before and her eyes are opened to just how handsome and noble Barrowmore really is.

I loved how the emotional connection between Selina and Rand, Lord Barrowmore grows throughout the story. Both characters are rational about their budding relationship and they keep in mind their strange connection and their differing places in society. Both are comfortable with each other and Selina understands that what Rand offers her is what is expected of a man in his position. Fortunately Rand is also a man who is willing to ignore those expectations to keep close the love that is important to him. 5 stars


Myretta Robens is a new-to-me author and her story The Colors of Love is a cute addition to the mix. Junior seamstress Delyth Owen has a slight problem. She can design some of the best and most innovative gowns produced by Madame Follette’s but her choice of color is completely inappropriate for London fashions. A scathing review by a fashion columnist puts her job in jeopardy and Delyth is scared her one chance to design real dresses rather than costume pieces has been ruined. When a very fashionable brother and sister enter the shop looking specifically for Delyth, she hopes that her prayers have been answered to land an important client who also appreciates her design sensibility. Little does she realize that Mr. Simon Merrithew, author of Aglaea’s Cabinet fashion column, has set up his sister to play an interested party only to learn if Delyth is completely what she seems or if she is praying on helpless clients to make a mockery of the ton and the fashionable elite.

Delyth is guileless and a very sweet heroine. It has always been her dream to design clothing and her openness and joy makes her the kind of character a reader wants to root and cheer for when she gets everything she deserves. Her relationship with Simon was sweet too in that she quickly shows Simon that his cynicism has tainted how he looks not only at colors or fashion but in how he lives his life. I wish that their characters had a bit more depth to them; however their romance is cute and fits nicely with all the other stories in the collection. 3 Stars


Megan Frampton has some fun bringing two awkward characters together in her story No Accounting for Love. Henry Dawkins has always been the bookkeeper at Madame Follette’s dress shop, working first for his mother and now for his sister Felicity. Painfully shy and uncomfortable in such an overly-feminine environment, Henry usually hides in his small office, content to work behind the scenes. He is forced out of his hidey-hole when the daughter of an old family acquaintance arrives in the store with her companion Katherine Grant. Henry knows the young woman has always had a crush on him and he’s tried to dissuade her interest as gently as possible; however he lets himself get caught up in her new schemes if only to get close to the witty Miss Grant. Katherine enjoys getting to know Mr. Dawkins but is afraid that a relationship with him could cost her her position as a respectable companion. Knowing that society might frown on any potential relationship keeps Henry and Katherine on guard, but true love manages to push through both of their defenses.

Henry and Katherine are perfectly adorkable together. He’s a big man, uncomfortable about his size as well as his middle class status. Katherine is always aware of her curvier figure and how it challenged her during her own seasons. At the beginning of the story both of them seem slightly uncomfortable in their own skins. By coming together they realize that what they’ve seen as shortcomings might be attractive in another person’s eyes. Just as in the first story, there is an undercurrent about how London society judges people by their class and how each level is expected to remain with their own. I appreciated that Henry and Katherine find a way to buck the rules to find real happiness with each other. 4 Stars


Caroline Linden finishes out the quartet in A Fashionable Affair by bringing things back to the operator of Madame Follette’s, Felicity Dawkins. She has been a part of her mother’s shop ever since she learned how to sew and it is her dream to see the struggling business find a renaissance through innovative design. In the year she’s been in charge, Felicity has hired the right seamstresses and managed to land a few highly regarded patrons in society. What she doesn’t know is during that same period Lord Carmarthen has been working to create a renaissance of his own on the street on which her shop is located that doesn’t involve Madame Follette’s staying open. His dream is to rebuild Vine Street in a modern style and bring in new merchants. He’s managed to buy out all the other shops on the street but Felicity refuses to sell unless he can find a location with as much prestige as what she’s giving up. Their battles over the shop and real estate in the city get their blood heated, but it’s the underlying attraction between them that keeps that fire burning. It’s a challenge to Felicity’s heart to know that the one man she’s ever wanted could cost her a legacy she’s also dreamed of for years.

Felicity and Evan, Lord Carmarthen, start off on the wrong foot with each other but there is a mutual respect for how they each see the future. Before meeting Felicity, all of Evan’s plans were just business and while he understood there was a personal cost to some people it never touched him. Knowing her, loving her and seeing the other side of things makes it all very personal. Felicity and Evan don’t shy away from their feelings and use them to make their union stronger even with the challenges of her business and his development plans. This story reminded me of the film You’ve Got Mail which has always been a favorite. It was a perfect way to close out the anthology knowing that the future was secure for Madame Follette’s.  5 Stars

VIRTUAL TOUR: Six Degrees of Scandal (Scandalous #4) by Caroline Linden

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Olivia Townsend is in trouble and out of options. Pursued by a dangerous man in search of a lost treasure she doesn’t possess, she’s got only two things in her favor: her late husband’s diary, which she was never meant to see… and the man who was her first—and only—love. Losing him broke her heart, though she’s been careful to hide it for the last ten years. But when he comes to her aid and vows to stand by her, no matter what, she can’t help but hope things will be different for them this time.

James Weston has blamed himself for letting Olivia down when she needed him years ago, and now he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe—and to win her trust again. He’s confident he can outwit the villain chasing Olivia. But being so near her again threatens to expose every secret in his heart … even those that he swore would stay hidden forever.

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EXCERPT

James pulled off his boots, and then his stockings, and then—to Olivia’s shock—he climbed up and stood on the highest rock, letting the water foam over his feet and wet his breeches. “Don’t you want to climb up?”

She looked longingly at the rocks. The thought of water running over her feet and ankles was tempting, but not worth it. “I’d get wet, and my mother would be displeased.”

“Pity that. It’s great fun.”

Slowly she looked down at her shoes and stockings. Maybe if she held up her skirts, very high . . . But that would also be improper. “I’d better not.”

“Oh,” he said in disappointment. “You’re a coward.”

Olivia’s eyes widened. “How rude!”

He shrugged, kicking at the water and sending a spray over the grass. “I can tell you want to get up here but you won’t.”

“I’d get all wet . . .”

“So walk around until your feet and skirt dry. That’s what my sisters do.”

Olivia stole another look at the frothing stream. “Your sisters climb up there?”

“And they’re even younger than you. But if you’re too scared . . .” He started to climb down.

Her mouth firmed. She was not scared. “Those rocks are slippery. I don’t want to fall.”

He grinned as if he knew he’d won. “I’ll hold your hand.”

And he did. Olivia peeled off her stockings and slippers, folded up her skirts as high as she dared—all the way above her knees—and carefully stepped into the water. She gasped at the cold initially, but it was a hot day and soon the water felt blissful. James held her hand as promised and coaxed her to stand on the topmost rock at the edge of the waterfall. She balanced on the wide flat stone and a grin spread across her face. The water rushed over her toes and ankles and she thought she’d never done anything this daring in her whole life. “How did I never discover this?”

Still holding her hand, James laughed. “Good girls stay at home.”

“So I’m a bad girl for coming out here?”

“No,” he said. “A curious girl. I like that kind.”

That allayed Olivia’s moment of worry. Curious didn’t sound so terrible. She exchanged a tentative smile with James.

When their feet had gone numb, he helped her climb down and back onto the grass.

“Do you play dolls still?” he asked as he put his boots back on.

Olivia shook out her skirts, relieved to see that she had kept dry except for a small spot on one side.

“Sometimes.”

“Good. Follow me.” He started off.

“Mr. Weston!”

He turned at her indignant cry. “Call me Jamie. James if you must. You might as well come meet my sisters, who drove me from the house today with begging me to play dolls. My mother said I had to entertain them but they don’t like the way I play dolls.” He made an aggrieved expression. “Why can’t a doll put on a fine dress and then have a sword fight with another doll? What else have dolls got to do all day?” He shrugged. “You probably know better how to do it the way they want.”

“But—I can’t—”

“Why not?”

“I can’t go into town without permission,” Olivia finally said. Privately she was curious to meet the Westons. Her parents didn’t view most of the local families as their equal, and Olivia and Daphne weren’t allowed much contact with other children. And even though she didn’t spend as much time with dolls as Daphne did, she wasn’t immune to wanting to see the Weston girls’ dolls, which were sure to be much finer than anything at Kellan Hall. But if Mother saw her, she’d be in such trouble.

He grinned as if sensing another victory. “We don’t live in town anymore. We took possession of Haverstock House this week, right over the hill.”

Her eyes popped open. Haverstock House was the finest house in the county, and lay between Kellan Hall and town. It belonged to the elderly Earl of Malke, who rarely visited since his wife’s death. Now the Westons owned it?

“I expect my mother will call on your mother soon, now we’re neighbors,” he went on. “Will she let you come visit then?”

Olivia doubted it. “Perhaps.”

Jamie Weston flashed his confident grin once more. “I’ll wager a copper penny she will.”

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Avon, April 2016
RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1822, England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

six degrees scandal coverWhat should a woman do when her first love, the man who deserted her in a time of need, returns a decade later ready to risk his life to save her from a murderous villain?

In the exciting, romantic conclusion to her engaging Scandalous series, Caroline Linden presents the story of Olivia Herbert and James (Jamie) Weston, who grew up on neighboring estates in Kent. The two families did not socialize, however, as Jamie’s father was an (immensely wealthy) attorney and Olivia was the daughter of a (spendthrift) baronet. Lady Herbert, adhering to the rigid class distinctions of the day, considered the “upstart Westons” to be beneath her notice. As the Herberts’ fortunes decline though, and when Jamie appears to show an interest in Olivia, Sir Alfred and Lady Herbert’s prejudices began to crumble.

Unbeknownst to them, Jamie and Olivia have fallen madly in love and given in to their passion, expecting that parental approval of their betrothal would be forthcoming. Eager to prove himself to his father and not realizing how precarious the Herberts’ finances have become, Jamie leaves on a business trip before formally asking for Olivia’s hand – a decision that proves disastrous for Olivia when her parents insist that she marry Henry Townsend, a man she doesn’t even know. Henry’s wealthy father has agreed to pay all of Lord Herbert’s debts to order to obtain a sensible wife for his frivolous son. When Olivia’s frantic letters to Jamie go unanswered, she sees no choice but to marry Henry; Jamie returns to find that Olivia has been married for four days. Olivia is furious and broken-hearted but she treats him with cool civility, as she wants to maintain her friendship with his sisters.

Ten years pass, and while Olivia remains close to Abigail and Penelope Weston, Jamie sees to it that he rarely crosses Olivia’s path. Olivia’s marriage is not a happy one but neither is it a horror. When Henry suddenly dies, however, Olivia finds that he has spent his inherited fortune and left her penniless. Henry’s friend, Viscount Clary, repeatedly visits Olivia, initially expressing sympathy but ultimately demanding that she return an item that belongs to him. Olivia has no idea what he is talking about, but his manner becomes increasingly threatening. After Clary tries to force Penelope Weston to tell him Olivia’s whereabouts, almost killing her (see Love in the Time of Scandal), Olivia flees London in search of Henry’s solicitor. He had sent Olivia a record-book that she believes may shed some light on Henry’s business, and she is beginning to suspect that that business was possibly illegal and that Clary was involved.

After visiting the solicitor and getting nowhere, Olivia is walking home near dark and is followed by a shadowy figure. Fearing that it is Clary, she grabs a nearby shovel and wallops the stranger – who turns out to be Jamie. He has followed her to Gravesend to protect and help her, and thus begins a beautiful second-chance romance mixed with a road-trip aimed at resolving a puzzling mystery.

Six Degree of Scandal Teasers 3The unwinding of Henry Townsend’s schemes is very well done and kept me turning the pages far past my bedtime. But the beauty of this book is in Olivia and Jamie finding the happiness that eluded them a decade earlier. Jamie has never stopped loving Olivia, and he bitterly regrets his failure to be there when she needed him.

This time, he wasn’t going to let her down. This time, he wasn’t leaving her until Lord Clary was in prison and every nasty, dirty secret of Henry’s had been exposed and burned, and Olivia lost that worn, tense expression. And if she could be persuaded to give him another chance, he wasn’t going to let her go, either.

For her part, Olivia has spent ten years feeling like a fool for giving Jamie her love and trust, but with his return to her life, she realizes what she has forfeited by refusing his friendship.

Suddenly she wished she hadn’t done it. It had protected her wounded young heart, but at the cost of a friendship that had sustained her since she was a child. If she hadn’t pushed him away, Jamie might have helped her endure her lonely, loveless marriage. Henry wouldn’t have cared. And Olivia knew that, if she had asked, Jamie would have advised her when Clary started hounding her.

Olivia is an admirable heroine; she is strong and determined to solve her own problems. When Jamie offers his help, however, she is not too proud to accept and to forgive him. Jamie is utterly lovable and perhaps a little too good to be true, but I don’t object to that in my romance heroes. All of the main characters from the earlier books put in an appearance, but I was particularly struck by lovely vignette of one of the minor characters, a charming old fisherman/smuggler who helps them even though he does not have to. ‘A man’s oath is his bond,’ he said quietly, ‘but when a fellow dies . . .’ He shrugged. ‘I allow some duty is owed to the chap’s widow.’

All in all, Six Degrees of Scandal is a most enjoyable book, and I believe that the author has so deftly woven in details from the other books that this one works quite well as a stand-alone. If you have read those books, however, you may be wondering about Lady Constance, the courtesan whose supposedly true stories of her erotic adventures, 50 Ways to Sin, have consumed the ton with speculation about the author’s true identity. Her identity is indeed revealed here and I can almost guarantee that you will be surprised. Well done, Caroline Linden.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linden, CarolineCaroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a math degree from Harvard University and wrote computer software before turning to writing fiction. Ten years, twelve books, three Red Sox championships, and one dog later, she has never been happier with her decision. Her books have won the NEC Reader’s Choice Beanpot Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, and RWA’s RITA Award. Since she never won any prizes in math, she takes this as a sign that her decision was also a smart one. Visit her online at www.carolinelinden.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads

A Study in Scandal (Scandalous #2.5) by Caroline Linden

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After a youthful infatuation went terribly wrong, Lady Samantha Lennox gave up all thought of suitors and happily-ever-after. But when she angers her strict and demanding father, the Earl of Stratford, he retaliates by arranging a marriage for her to a man she could never admire, much less love. In a panic, Samantha flees to London, only to find herself lost, alone, and nearly kidnapped—until an unlikely hero saves her.

Lord George Churchill-Gray is an artist, not a knight in shining armor, but he doesn’t hesitate to rescue Samantha from disaster and offer her temporary sanctuary. He wouldn’t mind if she repaid him by modeling for his latest painting. He’s enchanted by her face… her smile… all of her, really. But with every study he sketches, he falls a little more in love with her, and Samantha begins to suspect her scandalous actions might lead to the sort of love she never thought to find…

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Publisher and Release Date: Caroline Linden, February 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1822
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Caz

This novella falls between books two and three (It Takes a Scandal and Love in the Time of Scandal) in Caroline Linden’s Scandalous series, and tells the story of Lady Samantha Lennox, the sister of Benedict (hero of book three) and daughter of the cruel and dictatorial Earl of Stratford.

Ms Linden very quickly outlines Samantha’s backstory in the first chapter, but readers of the other books will know that when little more than a girl, she stole a large sum of money from her father in order to help a friend. Unfortunately, her plan backfired and Stratford accused Sebastian Vane of stealing it, and it’s only at the end of It Takes a Scandal that Samantha is eventually persuaded to put things right.

The earl is a harsh and unforgiving man, and intends to punish his daughter by marrying her to the depraved son of a marquess, a man many suspect to be mad. There is nothing her brother or mother can do to help her, and Samantha must resign herself to a life even more miserable to the one she has lived hitherto.

The author very quickly paints a picture of Samantha as a lonely and unhappy young woman, which is not surprising given that her father is unloving, dictatorial and downright nasty, and she has never been allowed to have any friends or, at the advanced (for the time) age of twenty three, any suitors.

When she next goes into Richmond to do some shopping, she impulsively boards the coach for London, intending to find her brother, Benedict, at his regiment’s quarters. When she arrives, she is almost immediately accosted by a couple of men who attempt to abduct her, but are thwarted by the intervention of a gentleman who saves her when she is pushed into the river. He takes her back to his lodgings and gives her into the care of his landlady, insisting on giving up his own rooms so that Samantha can stay the night.

The young man is George, Lord Churchill-Gray, the youngest son of the Duke of Rowland, known familiarly as Gray. He is a gifted artist, and hopes to soon have some of his paintings exhibited by the Royal Academy.

When she recovers from her ordeal, Samantha initially pretends not to know who she is or what she is doing in London, although Gray is sure she is pretending to amnesia simply because she doesn’t want to tell. After a couple of days, she is well enough to go home, and decides that is what she must do; she has no money and no friends to go to and thus no alternative but to return home.

But Gray sees how terrified she is, and eventually she tells him something of her story, although does not reveal her identity as a daughter of the Earl of Stratford, knowing that Gray’s father is one of the earl’s oldest enemies.

He arranges for her to remain at his lodgings and the time Samantha spends there is the happiest she’s ever known. Whether she’s helping with the housework or cataloguing Gray’s paintings, she has a degree of freedom and the friendship of a handsome young man – and even though she knows little of men, begins to wonder what it might be like to be kissed and held; and to dream of something more than friendship.

Samantha and Gray are attractive protagonists who are perfect for each other. There’s a lovely scene in Gray’s studio when he asks her to draw something (all well-bred young ladies learned to draw) and together they produce a cute little scene which tells Gray more than Samantha realises about her situation. He is a true gentleman, considerate, kind and honourable, who wants the best for Samantha and who is prepared to fight for her when the worst happens, and Stratford finds out where she is.

In spite of the relatively small page-count, the two protagonists are strongly characterised and undergo a good amount of character development. Samantha learns what it is to live rather than simply exist and gains the courage to stand up to her father; Gray is devoted to his art, but discovers that there are some things in life that are even more important. The romance is sweet and well-developed and I’d certainly recommend A Study in Scandal to fans of this 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

VIRTUAL TOUR: Love in the Time of Scandal by Caroline Linden

TVTLoveInTimeofScandal-CarolineLinden

Purchase Links: Amazon * ~ * ~ * B&N * ~ * ~ * iTunes * ~ * ~ * Kobo

Penelope Weston does not like Benedict Lennox, Lord Atherton. He may be the suave and charming heir to an earl, as well as the most handsome man on earth, but she can’t forget how he abandoned a friend in need— nor how he once courted her sister, Abigail. He’s the last man she would ever marry. If only she didn’t feel so attracted to the arrogant scoundrel . . . .

Once upon a time, Benedict thought he and Penelope got along rather well. Though he needs a wealthy bride to escape his cruel father’s control, spirited Penelope just doesn’t suit his plans for a model marriage—until a good deed goes awry, and scandalous rumors link his name to Penelope’s. She might not be the quiet, sensible wife he thought he wanted, but she is beautiful . . . beguiling . . . and far more passionate than he ever imagined. Can a marriage begun in scandal become a love match, too.

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EXCERPT

She repressed the urge to walk the other way. She hadn’t seen him since they last parted, when he’d reluctantly helped solve a years-old mystery that had tarred the name of the man Abigail loved. Sebastian Vane had stood accused of stealing a large sum of money from Lord Atherton’s father, and Atherton himself had done nothing to disprove it—even though he’d once been Sebastian’s dearest friend. Penelope grudgingly admitted that Atherton had been fairly decent after that, but she still thought he was insincere and always had an eye out for his own interest, whatever truth or justice demanded.

It wasn’t until Atherton turned and looked toward them that Penelope realized she was staring at him. She quickly averted her gaze and turned her body slightly, hoping he hadn’t actually noticed her. However, that only gave her a good view of Frances’s face, which was glowing with joy.

Because … Penelope closed her eyes, praying she was wrong. Because her brain was fitting together details, just moments too late, and they were adding up to one dreadful conclusion. Atherton was heir to the Earl of Stratford, who was a very wealthy man. He was appallingly handsome, which Penelope only acknowledged with deep disgust. And when she stole a quick glance under her eyelashes, she saw that he was heading directly for the pair of them.

Oh Lord. What could she say now?

“Miss Lockwood.” Penelope gritted her teeth as he bowed. His voice was smooth and rich, the sort of voice a woman wanted to hear whispering naughty things in her ear. “How delightful to see you this evening.”

“I am the one delighted, my lord.” Blushing and beaming, Frances dipped a curtsy. “May I present to you my good friend, Miss Penelope Weston?”

His gaze moved to her without a flicker of surprise. He’d seen her, and was obviously more prepared for the meeting than she was. “Of course. But Miss Weston and I are already acquainted.”

Penelope curtsied as Frances gaped. “Indeed, my lord.”

“I—I didn’t know that,” stammered Frances, looking anxious again. “Are you very good friends? Oh dear, I wish I had known!”

“No, we hardly know each other,” said Penelope before he could answer. “It was a passing acquaintance, really.”
Atherton’s brilliant blue eyes lingered on her a moment before returning to Frances. “The Westons own property near Stratford Court.”

“Then you’re merely neighbors?” asked Frances hopefully. “In Richmond?”

“A river divides us,” Penelope assured her. “A very wide river.”

Atherton glanced at her sharply, but thankfully didn’t argue. “Yes, in Richmond. Unfortunately I’m kept here in London most of the year. I believe my sister Samantha is better acquainted with Miss Weston.”

“Indeed,” said Penelope with a pointed smile. “I hope Lady Samantha is well.”

“Yes,” said Lord Atherton after a moment’s pause. “She is.”

Too late Penelope remembered about Samantha. In their zeal to clear Sebastian Vane’s name so Abigail could marry him, the Weston girls had inadvertently resurrected a dark secret of Samantha’s, one her brother had claimed would lead to dire consequences for her. Penelope hadn’t wanted to cause trouble for Samantha, but Sebastian had been accused of murder and thievery; Abigail’s happiness depended on exonerating him, and Samantha was the only person who could help. Penelope cringed to have brought it up, but Atherton did say she was well, so the consequences must not have been as bad as he’d predicted. Still, she did truly like Samantha—far more than the lady’s brother—and she was sorry to have been so cavalier with her name.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Avon, May 26 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London, England
Genre: Regency Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

This is the third full-length title in Caroline Linden’s excellent Scandalous series, featuring secondary characters from the earlier books, but it works quite well as a standalone read.

LOVE IN TIMEAlthough Penelope Weston is an heiress with an immense dowry, she remains unwed after several seasons mixing with the ton. For one thing, she is not an aristocrat but simply the daughter of a successful attorney who made a fortune in the coal business. For another thing, she is far too spirited and outspoken to appeal to those young gentlemen who are looking for sweet, biddable wives. And now, Penelope is feeling rather lonely. Her best friend has married a rakish viscount (Love and Other Scandals), and her dear sister Abigail has recently wed Sebastian Vane, the Weston’s neighbor in Richmond (It Takes a Scandal).

A sweet, biddable wife with a fortune is exactly what Benedict Lennox, Lord Atherton, heir to the Earl of Stratford, is looking for. To that end, he courted Abigail (in the previous book) but lost her to his childhood best friend, Sebastian. It never occurred to him to court Penelope, as she was not at all the kind of lady he sought. Benedict is desperate for a wealthy wife, however, in order to escape from under the financial control of his abusive, sadistic father. Penelope took Benedict in dislike, convinced that he never loved her sister. Moreover, Penelope thought that Benedict was cruel to Sebastian and responsible, along with the earl, for Sebastian’s loss of his property and for being accused of thievery.

Benedict is now courting Penelope’s shy young friend, Frances Lockwood. When Frances asks Penelope whether she should accept the expected offer from Benedict, Penelope tells her to follow her own heart, with the result that Frances rejects Benedict – who is furiously certain that Penelope had something to do with it.

At a rout one evening, Penelope goes to the aid of her childhood friend, Olivia Townsend, and inadvertently becomes the object of her attacker’s unwanted attentions. Fortunately for Penelope, Benedict walks in and fights off the irate Lord Clary. Despite their enmity, Benedict is nothing but kind and solicitous toward Penelope, but unfortunately, Frances Lockwood and her mother find the couple in this suggestive situation, and Mrs. Lockwood angrily accuses Penelope of merely pretending to be Frances’s friend and scheming to get Benedict for herself.

Penelope is prepared to endure the gossip if Mrs. Lockwood spreads her story, but what develops is a vile, ugly rumor that Penelope is a loose woman who has consorted with many men. Benedict realizes that Clary is getting his revenge, and the only way he can see to protect Penelope is to marry her, a prospect that Benedict is surprised to find somewhat appealing. Seeing no other choice, Penelope reluctantly agrees. Like Benedict, there is something appealing about this marriage idea.

It’s great fun watching Benedict and Penelope figure out how they’re going to go about building a marriage. One thing helps: they have sizzling chemistry between the sheets, something that rather surprises them both. Ms. Linden has written great banter between them, and even their arguments have a certain charm. The story is long on talk and short on action during the first half, but this is not a criticism. It was fascinating to “listen” to them get to know each other, and Ms. Linden has a real talent for writing engaging, believable dialogue.

The drama comes later in the book – from Benedict’s horrible father, who makes it clear that he does not approve of their marriage. Benedict is finally free of the old man, however, and little by little he reveals the misery of his early years to Penelope, whose close, loving family stands in blunt contrast. Indeed, it’s fairly difficult to figure out how Benedict became such a charming, honorable man, given his father’s cruelty. I have to say that the earl is slightly over the top; the lengths he is willing to go are horrifying, and thus the book becomes a bit too melodramatic for my taste toward the end.

There is also a mystery involving Penelope’s friend Olivia Townsend, but this plot line is left unresolved a the end of the book, so I’m assuming that another volume in the series is planned. If so, I’ll definitely be reading it.

GIVEAWAY

For a chance to win a journal to keep track of all your own scandals, plus print copies of the first two books in Caroline Linden’s Scandalous series, LOVE AND OTHER SCANDALS, and IT TAKES A SCANDAL, enter at Rafflecopter. The runner up will win print copies of the books.

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Follow the tour HERE.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linden, CarolineCaroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a math degree from Harvard University and wrote computer software before turning to writing fiction. Ten years, twelve books, three Red Sox championships, and one dog later, she has never been happier with her decision. Her books have won the NEC Reader’s Choice Beanpot Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, and RWA’s RITA Award. Since she never won any prizes in math, she takes this as a sign that her decision was also a smart one. Visit her online at www.carolinelinden.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads

Love and Other Scandals by Caroline Linden

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Blurb:

Joan Bennett is a breath away from being a spinster. She’s had four seasons without a suitor. After reading a shockingly sensuous book, Fifty Ways to Sin, Joan decides perhaps it’s time to stop being proper and start being sinful, while she’s still young enough to enjoy it. And what better partner than her brother’s drinking mate, Viscount Burke? He seems the type to know how to give a lady a lascivious adventure.

It seems that the viscount has qualms about trifling with a friend’s sister. That’s the way to end up betrothed. And he doesn’t want that—or does he?

Publisher and Release Date: Avon, 30 July 2013
RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating:4.5 stars

Review by Lady Blue

Joan’s first encounter with Tristan happened when she was a child, and he burst into her bedroom. He was her brother’s friend, visiting from school, and they were wreaking havoc (as boys do) and causing Mama to disapprove of him from that day forward. Tristan has been orphaned, and raised by his uncle, along with uncle’s wife, who despises him because he will inherit the title which would go to her son, IF, she had produced one. So, Tristan has never known love, and has chosen to act outrageously in order to get attention and obtain invitations to friends’ homes.

As the years pass by, Joan has become a wallflower, with no suitors. She isn’t really unattractive, but she is tall, and her petite mother dresses her in ruffles and lace and feathers, which are totally wrong for her. She is fully under her mother’s thumb.

Joan and Tristan don’t know each other that well, but when they meet, they needle each other. On one occasion, they dance, and poor Mama is scandalized, and urges Joan to never do that again. She has never forgiven Tristan for his behavior at her home when he was a child, and she harps on his current reputation.

Mama takes ill, and is urged to leave the city to recover. Joan’s brother now has to handle some family business out of town, so he imposes on Tristan to keep an eye on Joan while she is being chaperoned by their scandalous Aunt Evangeline. Aunt is very different from Mama. She takes a look at Joan, and sees that everything she wears is wrong. Soon there are new clothes, a new hairstyle, and Joan is looking very attractive. Tristan comes to call, and do his duty. He really had been attracted to Joan before, even in the ugly clothes, but now he is stunned.

Before we know what has happened, Joan and Tristan are off on one adventure after another. He brings excitement and fun to her life, and she brings love to his, the love he has never known before. This unlikely couple has fallen in love, and now have to face the disapproval of her family.

The beauty of this story was watching the love develop between Joan and Tristan. Both have had to deal with unhappiness in some form, and their differences seemed to fit together perfectly. Their adventures were entertaining, as well. This is recommended as a feel-good read.