Tag Archive | Emily Larkin

Claiming Mister Kemp (Baleful Godmother #4) by Emily Larkin

claiming mr kemp

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Lucas Kemp’s twin sister died last year. He’s put aside his mourning clothes, but not his heartache. If Lucas ever needed a friend, it’s now—and who should walk in his door but Lieutenant Thomas Matlock…

Lucas and Tom are more than just best friends; they’ve been in love with each other for years. In love with each other—and pretending not to know it.

But this time, Tom’s not going to ignore the attraction between them. This time, he’s going to push the issue.

He’s going to teach Lucas how to laugh again—and he’s going to take Lucas as his lover…

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Publisher and Release Date: Emily Larkin, February 2017

Time and Setting: England, 1808
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Wendy

I have heard such great things about Emily Larkin recently and read some excellent reviews from respected reviewers and friends. When I was offered the opportunity to read and review Claiming Mister Kemp I jumped at the opportunity and was not disappointed. From the first page to the last, I was invested in this delicious love story, the fourth in the author’s Baleful Godmothers series and shall definitely read the first three books on the strength of it. Having said that, it can be read as a standalone, especially as I believe it is the only m/m romance of the series.

Lieutenant Thomas Matlock has arrived back from Portugal in time to celebrate the birthday of his long-time friend, Lucas Kemp, only to find him completely inebriated and wallowing in solitude and tears as he remembers his twin sister, Julia. who died tragically, sixteen months earlier. Tom knows he loves Lucas as more than a friend, and following a recent brush with death he is determined that he will not not hide it from Lucas any longer. Tom is aware that he risks their long and close friendship but has decided that the time has come to acknowledge his desire and love and to make Lucas face up to it at the same time. Living in an era when they could be hanged for their sexual proclivities, Tom is risking a lot more than simple rejection.

Very much the worse for drink, and with his defences down, Lucas shares a passionate encounter with Tom. The next day he is ashamed but nevertheless having had a taste of what a relationship with Tom can bring him he can’t help secretly craving more. The next few fragile weeks pass and their tentative steps towards a relationship and maybe love seems possible, and for the first time in the dreadful months since the death of his beloved twin, it seems likely that Tom’s love and support may help Lucas to retreat from the edge of the black abyss on which he has been teetering.

These are two very compelling characters. Tom, the devil-may-care, army officer who has little material wealth and needs to work for a living is a happy, upbeat chap whom I couldn’t help liking. And then there’s the utterly gorgeous, privileged Lucas, rich, handsome and hopelessly innocent to boot. He has tried to be ‘normal’ but despite his best attempts has had no success with the opposite sex and is deeply ashamed of that fact and the fact that he is so strongly attracted to his best friend.

I loved this voyage of discovery for these two lovely men who have nursed their secret love for one another since their youth and Tom’s determination to make Lucas accept and acknowledge his love and desire without shame. Claiming Mister Kemp has quite a small word count and yet the author has managed to convey sensuality, love and passion whilst still acknowledging and highlighting Lucas’s reluctant love and overwhelming guilt. The story doesn’t feel rushed, which is no doubt helped by the fact that the lovers have a shared past – albeit as friends. Ms. Larkin certainly carried me along on this ride and she had me rooting for these two young men every step of the way; I wanted Lucas to overcome his guilt and for him and Tom to arrive at their well-deserved happy ending.  This is a compelling, heart-warming story and now that I have experienced an Emily Larkin gem I shall certainly put her on my reading list for the future.

Trusting Miss Trentham (Baleful Godmother #3) by Emily Larkin

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Letitia Trentham is noteworthy for three reasons. One, she’s extremely wealthy. Two, she can distinguish truth from lies. Three, she’s refused every man who’s ever proposed to her.
Until Letty receives a proposal she can’t turn down.

Icarus Reid barely survived the Battle of Vimeiro. He lives for one thing-to find the man who betrayed him to the French. He doesn’t want to marry Miss Trentham; he wants to use her talent for uncovering lies.

Suddenly, Letty finds herself breaking the rules, pretending to be someone she’s not, and doing things a lady would never do. But her hunt for the truth may uncover more than one secret-including the secret that haunts Icarus day and night. The secret he intends to take to his grave…

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Publisher and Release Date: Emily Larkin, January 2016
Time and Setting: England, 1808
Genre: Historical/Paranormal Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Sara

Emily Larkin is an author I’ve quickly come to admire. The men and women who populate her Baleful Godmother series are allowed to be plain in looks or sometimes broken in spirt but their stories are layered and compelling. In Trusting Miss Trentham the journey for the main characters to find love and redemption is difficult yet the payoff was considerable.

Miss Letitia Trentham knows when someone is lying. It’s an ability she chose on her twenty-first birthday from a fairy required to grant one wish to the female members of her family. Ever since that night Letitia has used her gift to weed out unwanted suitors and for six seasons it’s revealed the bitter truth that all of the men asking for her hand are more interested in her fortune than her heart. After declining yet another proposal Letitia’s night is off to a poor start when she’s approached by a soldier who seems to know about her truth-telling ability and has an unusual request for her: help him find justice for his men who were betrayed by one of their own. Torn between doing the proper thing of dismissing him or helping a man clearly in distress, Letitia takes the chance to use her ability to do something important.

Icarus Reid, recently retired from the King’s army, has one last mission to carry out and he’s willing to use whatever means necessary to discover who betrayed him and his men to the French. When a friend mentions Miss Trentham’s unique ability to sense lies he approaches her, desperate to use that skill while questioning the two most likely suspects. He’s surprised when she agrees to his plan despite the risks it poses to her reputation but Reid won’t allow this chance to find justice for his men slip away. Their first interview with a former soldier clears the man but their second interrogation reveals more suspects but no clearer a picture of who sold out his countrymen.

Dismayed that Reid’s quest could meet a dead end without her assistance Letitia arranges for them to travel together without anyone knowing she’s gone. The man that Reid once was would have immediately baulked at the idea of taking Letitia anywhere unchaperoned; however that person was lost forever on the banks of a river in Portugal. Now, he’s haunted nightly by memories of their senseless deaths and the torture he faced at the hands of French soldiers. Those nightmares make him cry out, alerting Letitia to his suffering. Unwilling to let her companion face another sleepless night Letitia finds a way to care for him that would scandalize her family but is necessary to give Reid some peace.

Their nightly routine allows Reid to rest but each morning after he senses just how much his presence jeopardizes Letitia’s good name. His mind tries to keep her at arm’s length but his heart needs her by his side as he faces the demons that have possessed him for months. Little by little their relationship moves from just a partnership to one that is completely new for Letitia. She loves Reid despite his wounded soul; but how can she plan a future with a man who has given up on living?

Trusting Miss Trentham has some dark undercurrents and can be quite heart-wrenching as readers are pulled deeper into Reid’s despondency. For a man driven by ideals such as duty and honor, his anguish at believing those have been stripped from him is palpable. It takes Letitia’s forceful approach of confronting that pain and looking at it from another angle for him to even begin to crawl out of the darkness. Reid is an interesting mix-up of hero types in a romantic story; he’s alpha-like in his relentless drive and his refusal to confront his feelings but those emotions lie so close to the surface that at other times he’s a beta-like man overwhelmed by how much he does care. His healing process over the course of the story feels realistic for what Reid endured and one can see that there is still a long way to go; however that he trusts Letitia and lets her help him are the most important steps.

I love Letitia for her indomitable spirt and her innocence. Her truth-sense may have protected her but it also put her into a gilded cage that not much could penetrate. Letitia could only let her guard down around people like her cousins who don’t seek to use her for their benefit. Once she agrees to work with Reid it puts her on a path of discovery, where sometimes white lies are necessary and some people have to lie to themselves to protect important personal secrets. A strong facet of Letitia’s character is her unselfishness and drive to help Reid no matter the cost to herself. She makes some mistakes while on that path but her need to see him heal is a mission more important to her than finding Reid’s traitor. Each little concession Reid makes is a major victory in Letitia’s eyes and she comes to love the man uncovered as he lets go of the past.

The magical aspects of Trusting Miss Trentham are kept very low-key so everything hinges on the journey Reid and Letitia take together both in body and mind. Just like the first book of the Baleful Godmother series there are two secondary characters who I am eager to see get their own story told and perhaps get another glimpse of Reid and Letitia’s continuing road towards a happy ending.

Resisting Miss Merryweather (Baleful Godmother #2) by Emily Larkin

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She sees things no one else does…

Sir Barnaby Ware made a mistake two and a half years ago. A massive mistake. The sort of mistake that can never be atoned for.

He knows himself to be irredeemable, but the captivating and unconventional Miss Merryweather is determined to prove him wrong.

The daughter of a dancing master and a noblewoman, Miss Merryweather had an unusual upbringing. She sees things no one else sees—and she says things no one else says.

Sir Barnaby knows he’s the villain in this piece, but Miss Merryweather thinks he’s the hero—and she is damnably hard to resist…

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Publisher and Release Date: Emily Larkin, December 2016

Time and Setting: England, 1807
Genre: Historical Romance (novella)
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Lady Blue

With much trepidation, Sir Barnaby Ware is en route to visit his former lifelong best friend, Marcus Langford. A little over two years ago, Barnaby betrayed Marcus in the worst possible way, and immediately deeply regretted what he had done. His attempt at apologizing was angrily rebuffed by Marcus, who was still bitter and hurting from Barnaby’s actions and the resulting devastating effect on his life. Now that some time has passed, and Marcus has found happiness with his new wife and child, he’s ready to forgive and attempt to renew his friendship with the man who was once closer than a brother.

Anne Merryweather is cousin to Marcus’s wife, Charlotte, and she knows the history of the dissolution of Marcus and Barnaby’s friendship. She and Charlotte intend to do what they can to encourage a reconciliation. The problem is that Barnaby is now totally beaten down by the knowledge of what he’d done. When Marcus rebuffed him, he lost all sense of his own self-worth, and, in truth, doesn’t feel he deserves forgiveness, or even any good thing in his life, including love.

Anne possesses a keen intuition, and she can see that Barnaby only wants to leave and leave Marcus in peace . She tries to help Barnaby to accept Marcus’s overtures of friendship and forgiveness while also trying to help him see that he needs to forgive himself, and that one mistake needn’t define his whole life. It’s immediately obvious that Anne and Barnaby have a great rapport and are attracted to each other. Yet, Barnaby won’t take the relationship any further than friendship because he feels unworthy of Anne’s love.

Anne is a terrific heroine. I loved her attitude, her outlook, and her determination. She is also of Charlotte’s family line, and that means that on her upcoming twenty-fifth birthday, she will be gifted with a supernatural power, as dictated by the Fey tradition that has been handed down through the female line.  Barnaby’s remorse and pain are heartbreaking. While he certainly did commit a grievous transgression against his dearest friend, there were other contributing factors.

Although this novella can be read as a standalone, I definitely recommend reading Unmasking Miss Appleby, which is Marcus and Charlotte’s story, and shows the extent of hurt Marcus suffered. Resisting Miss Merryweather is a lovely story of redemption, forgiveness, love, and magic. Emily Larkin has a writing style that I adore, and I wholeheartedly recommend this novella, as well as the previous book.

Unmasking Miss Appleby (Baleful Godmother #1) by Emily Larkin

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She’s not who she seems…

On her 25th birthday, Charlotte Appleby receives a most unusual gift from the Faerie godmother she never knew she had: the ability to change shape.

Penniless and orphaned, she sets off for London to make her fortune as a man. But a position as secretary to Lord Cosgrove proves unexpectedly challenging. Someone is trying to destroy Cosgrove and his life is increasingly in jeopardy.

As Charlotte plunges into London’s backstreets and brothels at Cosgrove’s side, hunting his persecutor, she finds herself fighting for her life—and falling in love…

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Publisher and Release Date: Emily Larkin, November 2016
Time & Setting: London, 1805
Genre: Historical Romance with Fantasy elements
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 5 stars

Review by Sara

I love when authors successfully merge two romantic subgenres without losing the tone a reader expects from each. Emily Larkin carefully folds supernatural elements into her Baleful Godmothers series so that the world building doesn’t get lost in the historical setting. The first book Unmasking Miss Appleby balances the magic and the romance perfectly into a story that I highly recommend.

Charlotte Appleby’s life has not turned out exactly as she had hoped. While she is grateful to her father’s sister for providing her a home after his death, she is far from a welcome member of the household. Suffering the family’s constant disrespect wears on Charlotte to the point that she dreams of finding a way to be independent but is unhappy with the options afforded an unmarried woman. Working as a governess or school teacher has no appeal and positions that offer the most income are only open to men. On her twenty-fifth birthday Charlotte is mulling over her future when a dark fairy arrives in her room claiming to owe her one wish as part of a centuries-old pact with the female members of Charlotte’s mother’s family. Wary of the woman and the magic she offers, Charlotte is careful to learn about the gifts the fairy can bestow. With the fairy quickly losing patience Charlotte chooses the power of metamorphosis. Charlotte can now become anyone or anything she wishes.

Charlotte seeks her independence in London by changing her appearance to a young man. Her new form includes all of the physical attributes of the opposite sex, but her mind remains that of a woman, and she can now experience life without the restrictions society places on a female. Charlotte – now Christopher Albin – applies for employment as secretary to the influential Earl of Cosgrove using a forged set of references but an eagerness the earl appreciates. She is hired on the spot and is quickly thrust into the earl’s investigation of who might be vandalizing his house and arranging attacks on him at night.

Marcus Langford knows he has both personal and political enemies but never thought they would stoop to petty crimes or assault to get the better of him. The last few years of his life have been marred by the scandal of his wife’s suicide and the rumors of her affairs in the gossip sheets. These recent attacks just add insult to injury; however Marcus will not let them dissuade him from fighting to outlaw slavery in England and the colonies. During the last attack his secretary was gravely injured and the new applicants for the position seem scared at the prospect of working for a moving target. Christopher Albin is the first applicant to seem cautious of the danger but still ready to jump into the position. Marcus is quickly impressed with Christopher’s analytical nature as they start searching for possible perpetrators of the crimes. ALbin’s enthusiasm for the job is only surpassed by his naiveté about the less savory aspects of London society and Marcus cannot help but like the young man.

The close working relationship Charlotte and Marcus develop causes Charlotte to feel sexual attraction for the first time. The physical responses to her interest could be disastrous if Marcus were to see them in her male form but Charlotte cannot help falling even deeper for her employer the more they uncover during their investigations. Taking some advice Marcus innocently gives to Albin about a man’s need to slake his lust, Charlotte creates a way for her to seduce Marcus in her true form, offering him clues about his attackers if he’ll sleep with her. Their liaisons become more intimate on a personal level as Marcus reveals another side of himself to Charlotte the woman while still being friendly and open to Albin the man. As the threat to Marcus escalates it becomes harder for Charlotte to keep the two sides of herself from being exposed to the man with whom she has fallen in love.

The paranormal elements of Unmasking Miss Appleby are easily integrated into Charlotte’s story as she learns about her family’s legacy along with the reader. She is unsure about her new abilities so we experience her fear and excitement at the same time as she does. Magic is an unknown force in the regular world so when things are revealed to Marcus his responses are just as genuine as my own might be. It’s very easy to be caught up in the romantic tension between Charlotte and Marcus and forget that she is wearing another face entirely for the closeness they share. In the beginning I wondered if Ms. Larkin was trying to send a very subdued message about the nature of attraction being a mental thing rather than a gender question, but things return to the status quo when Charlotte begins her seduction as a female.

I’ve read many romances with a woman disguised as a man but Ms. Larkin takes that idea to the extreme with Charlotte’s complete physical transformation. All of the little quirks an author normally folds into the heroine’s masquerade are explored and yet they feel fresh since Charlotte isn’t just wearing pants, she is anatomically a man with all of the responses that go with it. Along with all of her newfound knowledge about being a male Charlotte also comes to appreciate what it means to be female and to embrace her own sexuality. She offers herself to Marcus believing the encounter will strictly be a physical response to her attraction; however she finds that sharing herself with Marcus gives her power and a freedom that she never had before.

I could go on forever about how enjoyable reading Unmasking Miss Appleby was. From the clever twist in a standard romantic device to a story of female empowerment in a restrictive time there are many magical things for a reader to discover.

The Spinster’s Secret by Emily Larkin

spinster secret

Penniless spinster, Matilda Chapple, lives at isolated Creed Hall, dependent on the austere charity of unloving relatives and under pressure to marry a man twice her age. In an attempt to earn enough money to escape this miserable existence, she writes a series of titillating ‘confessions’. Her secret is safe — until battle-scarred Waterloo veteran, Edward Kane, reluctantly accepts the commission to uncover the anonymous author’s identity. While staying at bleak Creed Hall, Edward finds himself unaccountably drawn to his host’s lonely niece. Can Matilda conceal the secret of her scandalous writings, or will Edward discover that the spinster and the risqué authoress are one and the same person? And when Matilda feels the need to experience sex as her fictional courtesan does–will she lose her heart to Edward, along with her virginity?

RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting – England, 1815-16
Heat Rating: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 STARS

I confess that I enjoyed this novel much more than I thought I would, given that I’m not a big fan of this sort of premise – one that a quick read of the synopsis seems to suggest is merely an excuse to string together a series of sex scenes.

But as soon as I began to read The Spinster’s Secret I realised that this is one of those occasions where it really isn’t possible to judge a book by its synopsis.

Matilda Chapple (Mattie) is grateful to her miserly uncle for giving her a home when she was orphaned, but Mr Strickland is a man who could rival Ebeneezer Scrooge when it comes to parsimony and she longs to escape her dour existence at Creed Hall where life is repetitive, dull and dutiful; rooms are constantly cold because Strickland stints on coal, meals are unappetizing because he won’t countenance a sauce or have food cooked any way other than boiled and the only books allowed are religious tomes or classics.

But Mattie is determined not to spend her entire life in shabby grey dresses or in a dry, colourless existence. Her ambition is to be able to save enough money to enable her to purchase and run a small boarding house at the seaside so that she will be able to live independently. But she has no money of her own and thus hits upon the idea of secretly writing an erotic novel in order to earn the money she needs.

I admit, I rolled my eyes at the idea. But I imagine it is entirely plausible that such material would have been written by women as well as men, even in the nineteenth century – and so I decided that perhaps the premise wasn’t so ridiculous after all.

The story is straightforward and well told. Although set in the Regency period (shortly after Waterloo), the setting is different from many of the other historical romances set in the same period. This one is set away from London and the protagonists are not titled, rich or good-looking. The atmosphere at Creed Hall is oppressive and grim and there are no glittering balls or parties or rides in the park.

There are, of course, many novels in which one of the protagonists – usually the heroine – is initially seen by the hero (and society) as being plain or awkward, but along the way some sort of transformation takes place. Here, however, that is not the case. Mattie is almost six-feet tall with a Junoesque figure; and while certainly not ugly, is not immediately prepossessing. Edward Kane is a giant of a man – six-feet-six – is missing half an ear, a couple of fingers and sports some dreadful scarring gained at Waterloo. He is also burdened with a large dose of survivor’s guilt and continues to suffer flashbacks and nightmares as the result of his experiences.

Despite their outward appearances, both Edward and Mattie are very attractive, likeable characters. They are able to laugh together and share an interest in literature –even though that is something Mattie does not have many chances to exercise, given her uncle’s injunction on novel reading. Mattie is not one to rail against her fate or rebel against her uncle’s strictures –she knows how much she owes him and in fact feels guilty about the fact that she is deceiving him by writing her stories. It is only when he tries to marry her off to one of his acquaintances that she rebels by refusing to do so that Strickland becomes really unpleasant toward her, continually berating her for her lack of beauty and obedience.

Ever more determined to gain her independence, Mattie continues to write her salacious stories, the ‘confessions’ of Chérie a fictitious courtesan (much of which is cribbed from either Fanny Hill or from the diary of a former countess that Mattie discovered, hidden in a secret cupboard). Having no sexual experience herself, she relies heavily on her sources and they have so far provided enough inspiration. However, in order for the publication of the ‘confessions’ as a book, Mattie’s publisher needs one more thing. An account of the young Chérie’s wedding night and the “plucking of her virgin flower”.

Mattie is at a loss. Neither the novel nor the diary give her much of an idea as to what it is like to lose one’s virginity, and carefully asking her widowed friend (companion to Mattie’s aunt) does not yield much information either.

So she does the one thing she can think of and asks Edward to take her to bed. He is stunned by her request, but not at all unwilling and – unable to talk himself out of it – agrees.

To be fair to Mattie, she is not just asking for the sake of her writing; she likes Edward very much – in fact, she is probably half-way in love with him – and finds him physically attractive. But she feels guilty at the fact that she is using him in order to gain the experience she needs in order to finish her book.

This was another of the parts of the story that I thought I would find it hard to accept, but strangely enough, by the time it happened (about three-quarters of the way through), Ms Larkin had done such a good job of making me care about what happened to Mattie and Edward that I was rooting for them to get together. I did think that perhaps Edward overcame his scruples about bedding a well brought-up virgin rather quickly, but the author had developed the relationship between them so well that it wasn’t a major problem.

For me, that’s a really important point. There were some elements to this story that might have made me wince had the writing been poor, or if I hadn’t felt such a strong emotional connection between the characters. To my mind, a really good writer is one whose work I can enjoy even though I am aware of inconsistencies or improbabilities in their stories. And in spite of the weaknesses I have highlighted, I did enjoy this book and would certainly recommend it to anyone who is looking to read a slightly unusual regency-era love story.

This title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

About me

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader. I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back! I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too. I post all my reviews at Caz’s Reading Room and at my Goodreads page, so please come and say hello!