Tag Archive | Georgian England

Married for His Convenience by Eleanor Webster

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A plain countess…

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

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

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Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical December 2016

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

Review by Wendy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duke of Pleasure (Maiden Lane #11) by Elizabeth Hoyt

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IN THE ARMS OF DANGER

Bold. Brave. Brutally handsome. Hugh Fitzroy, the Duke of Kyle, is the king’s secret weapon. Sent to defeat the notorious Lords of Chaos, he is ambushed in a London alley-and rescued by an unlikely ally: a masked stranger with the unmistakable curves of a woman.

IN THE HEAT OF DESIRE

Cocky. Clever. Courageously independent. Alf has survived on the perilous streets of St. Giles by disguising her sex. By day she is a boy, dealing in information and secrets. By night she’s the notorious Ghost of St. Giles, a masked vigilante. But as she saves Hugh from assassins, she finds herself succumbing to temptation . . .

ONE KISS WILL CHANGE THEIR LIVES FOREVER

When Hugh hires Alf to investigate the Lords of Chaos, her worlds collide. Once Hugh realizes that the boy and the Ghost are the same, will Alf find the courage to become the woman she needs to be-before the Lords of Chaos destroy them both?

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Publisher and Release Date: Forever, November 2016

Time and Setting: London, 1742
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Wendy

It’s difficult to believe that Elizabeth Hoyt has managed to keep interest in this series alive for so long, with readers continuing to eagerly await each new book. And surprisingly – because this has not always been my experience with other long running series – the stories seems to be getting stronger. I really enjoyed Duke of Pleasure, and in fact I think it is my favourite so far.

I loved the main protagonists – Hugh Fitzroy, Duke of Kyle is a charismatic, gorgeous man although perhaps Duke of Pleasure is an inappropriate moniker because he is actually quite a vulnerable and serious man. His main concern is to win the love and trust of his motherless sons but he has also been tasked, by his father King George II, with bringing down the Lords of Chaos. This secret society of depraved aristocrats is an evil force to be reckoned with, and as well as their nefarious activities, they wield immense power within the upper echelons of society. Then there’s Alf – street urchin/information dealer/gatherer by day, Ghost of St.Giles by night. Normally the trope of a girl passing herself off as a boy does not appeal to me but Elizabeth Hoyt pulls it off admirably here, and I adored the cheeky, cocky, girl/boy character who was tempted to kiss her duke.

Hugh had left England for the continent after his marriage – which had started out as a passionate love match – fizzled out, to be replaced by a soul destroying hatred, with fierce rows and his wife’s perfidy driving them apart. He left in order to preserve his sanity and only returns when he hears of his wife’s death and in order to comfort the small sons who barely remember him and are hurting and grieving for their mother. He has returned an embittered man, vowing never to allow love to cloud his judgement again. Mindful of his duty to his little boys, however, he has already chosen his wife’s replacement – that is until a tiny phantom throws a spanner in the works.

Alf, abandoned by her mother at the age of five, has learned to take care of herself. She was fortunate enough to be rescued and cared for in the early days  by the leader of a street gang, who reasoned that she would be more likely to survive if she dressed and acted like a boy. Consequently, this is the only life she has ever really known and now aged twenty-one, her cohorts and people around her in the slums of St Giles know her only as Alf – the boy. She has left the gang, and has an extraordinary talent for climbing and making a quick escape across the rooftops and overcrowded slums where she lives. She has also been taught to fence with much skill and success by a previous – now retired – Ghost of St. Giles, Godric St.John and has regular fencing lessons with him to hone her skills. It is on one of her nightly patrols of the slums as The Ghost that she comes into contact with Hugh Fitzroy who is investigating a lead to the Lords of Chaos and finds himself cornered in the filthy backstreets of St. Giles. She and Hugh fight together and defeat his attackers but before leaving to escape back across the rooftops Alf impulsively kisses Hugh before running off into the night.  He feels an immediate attraction to the lithe, slim body that is undoubtedly a woman beneath the mask and costume, and is confused by the stirring of excitement and interest that he hasn’t felt in a long while. The next day, by coincidence, Hugh sends one of his men to find Alf – the known information dealer – to see if the street boy can find any information on the Lords of Chaos, never guessing that she is the phantom fighter – and kisser – who saved his life.

From then on it is only a matter of time before the ghost and Alf are revealed as the lovely young woman she is beneath the boys trappings and Hugh is in a dilemma. On the one hand he relishes the excitement she stirs in him and which he thought was long gone, but on the other hand he wants peace and security for himself and his boys with the women he has chosen to be his wife.

Elizabeth Hoyt has an immense talent for drawing her readers into the world she has created. She is bold and outrageous, her sexy love scenes earthy but not crude, her storylines well-crafted and intriguing. There seems to be a duke on every street corner and – even more unlikely in this case – one who is seriously attracted to a girl who dresses and acts like a boy during the daytime and runs around in a ridiculous harlequin costume by night, fights like a man and drops her h’s! And yet we believe in these characters, love them, root for them and most of all, want them to be happy. This is the attraction in Ms. Hoyt’s writing – she doesn’t pretend to conform, she’s imaginative, her characters larger than life, compelling and likeable. Duke of Pleasure is a thoroughly enjoyable read with lovely characters and I’m eagerly looking forward to Duke of Desire next year.

To Kiss a Thief (Runaway Desires #1) by Susanna Craig

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In this captivating new series set in Georgian England, a disgraced woman hides from her marriage – for better or worse…

Sarah Pevensey had hoped her arranged marriage to St. John Sutliffe, Viscount Fairfax, could become something more. But almost before it began, it ended in a scandal that shocked London society. Accused of being a jewel thief, Sarah fled to a small fishing village to rebuild her life.

The last time St. John saw his new wife, she was nestled in the lap of a soldier, disheveled, and no longer in possession of his family’s heirloom sapphire necklace. Now, three years later, he has located Sarah and is determined she pay for her crimes. But the woman he finds is far from what he expected. Humble and hardworking, Sarah has nothing to hide from her husband-or so it appears. Yet as he attempts to woo her to uncover her secrets, St. John soon realizes that if he’s not careful, she’ll steal his heart…

Publisher and Release Date: Lyrical Press, August 2016

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

Review by: Heather C.

Sarah thought that her marriage to St. John would make her the happiest of women, but little did she realize that it would all quickly be snatched away from her, and she would have no idea how or why! Within a day of their nuptial ball she is accused of theft and is whisked away to a small seaside village where she is left to survive on her own. Several years later, St. John finds his wife and is determined to prove she stole from his family, but what he finds makes him question his views on Sarah and everything he has known.

The bulk of To Kiss a Thief takes place once St. John has found his wife again on the shores of a poor fishing village. There is a very short introduction which details the events that transpired on the night of the ball, and the reader will be left just as confused as Sarah about what exactly transpired. While this is sometimes confusing, it keeps the reader on the same level as Sarah, who doesn’t know what happened either, partly she was in an inebriated state, and St. John, who knows what he saw but which clearly wasn’t all it seemed at the time.

The relationship between Sarah and St. John is rocky throughout the novel. They did not know each other very well prior to their marriage and the accusations against Sarah have further pushed them apart. They don’t trust each other, they question the other’s motives and vacillate back and forth as to whether they are going to be able to have a real chance at a relationship. I loved the back and forth that occurred between these two, which was funny and real. Right up until the end I wasn’t sure if they were going to be able resolve their issues or not – and I think I would have been happy regardless of which way the book ended as it was well crafted.

The question as to whether Sarah took the expensive family necklace lingered throughout the novel and we don’t get the answer to the question until the very end of the book. I didn’t exactly predict the outcome – although I was on the right track – so it’s not entirely predictable and made sense given the events which took place during the story without being obvious. While this was the main point of conflict within the story, it wasn’t the main plotline; that would go to the romance between Sarah and St. John.

The main characters could sometimes be infuriating. Sarah was a tad too naïve at the beginning of the novel – and in some ways throughout – although she does grow and adapt to her new way of life and I really liked her by the end. St. John is a little bit all over the place. He was very willing to accept that his wife was a thief and stole the jewels, but continually questions that conviction while still holding on to it like a lifeline. He alternately wants her to be guilty and innocent, and struggles against those conflicting ideas. With that said, his conflict kept him an interesting character.

I was very satisfied with this novel as there was an excellent mix of romance, a little intrigue, action, and character development. To Kiss a Thief was a well-written and evenly balanced read and I am excited to see what comes next from this author.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Wylde at Heart by Rosemary Foy

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May 1789, near the village of Fernsby, Kent, Lady Anne Dankworth sits in her bedchamber in fear. Her husband, a nationally acclaimed military hero, has just threatened to have her deported. There is only one man in the whole of England she can trust with her secret.

Wylde by name and by nature, disgruntled rogue and sea-merchant Sir John needs only to gaze into her dark fathomless depths to know he is still affected by her. But after 20 years, Anne is a changed woman. Gone is the hot-headed temptress from their youth, replaced instead by a cool, serious, good-wife.

In this race against time, admitting their true passion is only the start. The scandal Anne and John uncover will strike fear in the heart of England’s elite—where integrity, love and honour—may well cost them their lives.

All the while, the enemy prepares to strike.

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EXCERPT

“You are another man’s wife, Anne.”

“I am a woman pleading for your assistance! Does your reputation extend to refusing aid to a woman in distress?”

“Not if your distress were real,” he retaliated. “However, you come here with neurotic fancies. Your daughter is about to get married, and you are back at Graystone Manor living with your father who has never been easy, indeed, appears to despise you, and a husband who needs assistance from his comrades about issues beyond your ken. You are anxious and fragile. Who can blame you?”

“You maintain this is in my mind? That I am shallow, some poor mother of the bride, insipid in thought, delusional like my poor mother? Is this what you believe?”

He labored up from his chair. “It was never my intention to offend you. I apologize if you have misconstrued my comments as a reflection on your mother’s health and death. However, as an advisor, a man who has experience of this world, I tell you your family, the military, or perhaps the advice of a leech, are better placed to answer these concerns. Not me. Anyway, I am in the midst of preparations for my next voyage.” He turned away and began walking to the door.

His indifference sent her reeling. The scandal sheet had the facts of the matter—he was an ornament, but hardly brilliant. About as useless as the weaponry adorning his walls.

“You’ve changed.” She remained in her chair. “Where is the man London talks of, who loves adventure and danger? Are you so exhausted by your thrilling living? Is this what life has done to you? One sore leg after an altercation with a jealous husband and you’re a cripple? My request would require two hours of your time in Margate.”

He turned to face her, his gaze like stone, his hand curling and uncurling on the stupid walking stick. The John she knew would never have admitted to such infirmity. She needed his influence and damn him, but she would demand it.

“John, there are rumors in Fernsby that you do not leave the house. Making these enquiries would give you something to do. You can hardly walk, let alone balance on a ship’s deck in rough seas.”

In an instant, his expression went blank.

Empty as a pocket.

She closed her eyes. She’d pushed too far.

He leaned on his stick, turned, and went through to the hall, the stick tapping an echo on the cold marble tiles, his voice colder. “Unfortunately, the cripple can’t help,” he called over his shoulder. “I have heard nothing of artists in the neighborhood, and I repeat…your husband, as head of his household, is better placed to make inquiries.”

She retrieved the gloves from her purse, taking her time to stand and exit his horrible reception room. He put her in her place—at the feet of her husband.

“Either way, it seems someone is admiring your beauty from afar,” he continued, his clipped voice echoing from the main hall where the marble tiles bounced and slapped his cruel sardonic quips in her face. “A romantic notion that should keep your marriage alive, as I am sure your visit to my house will inspire your husband’s affection once he learns of it. It does for most women, even with the reputation of a cripple.”

She fitted her gloves, pushing each finger into its stall, fiddling with the shiny yellow buttons which were too gay and dainty. “You must not ever mention this visit to my husband,” she called back. If he could not bother, neither would she.

“Oh, believe me, this visit is forgettable.” He laughed humorlessly.

Her hands shook as she placed her reticule into the crook of her arm so as to readjust her hat as she followed him out to the hall. “You haven’t changed, John. Always running away when situations became tough. Even now. I did wrong to believe more of you.”

“That was always your problem, wasn’t it, Anne? You never believed in me at all.”

“You never gave me reason to.” At his growl, she let her mouth break into a gaping hole making hollow sounds. “So, thank you, on behalf of the Fernsby Ladies Literati, for your kind and generous donation.” She paused, letting her eyes rake over him one final time. She wanted to unglove her hand and hold it out to him, to have his angry hot lips graze her bare knuckles. One last touch to brand his name into her bones.

But she also longed to slap him. Hard. To hear her hand crack sharp against his arrogant stubbled cheek. To have it hurt him red stinging sore, to leaving him feeling, but for a moment, some of her pain.

Instead she nodded, turned, and crossed the hall to the door his manservant held open.

“See you in another twenty years,” John said, his tone full of boredom.

His stick tapped on the tiled hall, and she turned at the doorway determined to have the last word.

But all utterance died.

Two young women waited halfway on the stairs, holding their arms out to him, crimson and indigo dresses falling off their shoulders, disheveled hair, smiles wide, inviting him up in lewd whispers. He stretched out his arms to them, then leaned forward to get his foot balanced on the stair, his vest rising against his white shirt, as if already undressing. A gray pistol nestled near his spine, close to the hand of the coaxing woman. Not so crippled.

Stinging needled the back of her eyes, her ears hummed, her throat gripped tight, and her chest hurt to breathe. She turned and stepped into the afternoon sunshine, while a pickaxe mined rock-hard ruby chambers in her heart.

Dear God, the agony of scars ripped bare. Neither good enough, nor bad enough.

Forgotten.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

rosemary-foyWhen not studying medical research in dementia care, Rosemary Foy escapes into writing historical romance—it’s a yin-yang thing. She and her ever-patient husband, along with their two beautiful daughters, live beneath Mt Canobolas in regional Australia. Her love of social history and the tranquility of landscapes, together with the cherished friendships of like-minded romance readers and authors, all play a part in the world she creates in her stories.

Author’s Note: Writing historical romance creates a wonderful opportunity to weave fiction with fact. One of Joseph MW Turner’s (1775-1851) last paintings, mentioned in chapter 20, was entitled ‘The Angel Standing in the Sun’ (1846). Indeed, Joseph Turner said of Margate, “dawn clouds to the east and glorious sunsets to the west…the loveliest skies in Europe”. I have also been fortunate to research newspaper articles circa 1789 when writing Wylde at Heart. The items mentioned in this story have been adapted from actual published accounts. I hope you enjoy the rich authenticity of the language in these snippets, which is not generally available in today’s popular literature.

Visit with Rosemary on her website at https://rosemaryfoy.com/
And Pinterest: https://au.pinterest.com/rosemaryfoy123/

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: To Kiss a Thief (Runaway Desires #1) by Susanna Craig

to kiss a thief'

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In this captivating new series set in Georgian England, a disgraced woman hides from her marriage-for better or worse…

Sarah Pevensey had hoped her arranged marriage to St. John Sutliffe, Viscount Fairfax, could become something more. But almost before it began, it ended in a scandal that shocked London society. Accused of being a jewel thief, Sarah fled to a small fishing village to rebuild her life.

The last time St. John saw his new wife, she was nestled in the lap of a soldier, disheveled, and no longer in possession of his family’s heirloom sapphire necklace. Now, three years later, he has located Sarah and is determined she pay for her crimes. But the woman he finds is far from what he expected. Humble and hardworking, Sarah has nothing to hide from her husband-or so it appears. Yet as he attempts to woo her to uncover her secrets, St. John soon realizes that if he’s not careful, she’ll steal his heart…

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EXCERPT

Mayfair, June 1793

Sarah Pevensey Sutliffe had never before noticed how much light was cast by candles thrust into a darkened room.

It seemed two wax tapers were more than sufficient to illuminate her total humiliation.

As the library filled with light and people, Sarah leapt to her feet and immediately made two more regrettable discoveries.

First, the glass of wine she had drunk—or had it been two glasses?—made the floor pitch rather alarmingly, and second, her gown felt oddly loose about the bodice. Clutching the ivory silk to her breast with one hand, she waved the other behind her back, searching for something against which she might steady herself.

But Captain Brice, on whose knees she had been so precariously perched just moments before, was no longer within arm’s reach. He had stood in the presence of ladies.

The Marchioness of Estley. The Honorable Miss Eliza Harrington. Mama.

Ladies—among whom she was no longer to be classed, if the expressions on the faces now confronting her were any indication.

Five sets of eyes took in the disorder of her gown and the darkness of the library and drew the inevitable conclusion. Only Mama looked away, her face turned into Papa’s shoulder. Beside Sarah’s parents stood her father-in-law, the Marquess of Estley, a thundercloud darkening his brow. Lady Estley’s wide eyes darted to and from the fan she was fiddling with, as if she had witnessed some horrific accident and was trying to make herself look away. Next to the marchioness, Miss Harrington clutched the brass candelabra in a steady hand; the flickering candlelight danced across her deep red curls, flame against fire.

Sarah’s startled gaze fell last on the impassive face of St. John Sutliffe, Viscount Fairfax. Her husband of just two weeks. His pale blue eyes betrayed not even a glimmer of surprise.

It had only just occurred to her to wonder what could have brought them all there at once when Captain Brice spoke. “Lady Fairfax felt a bit faint. I was merely offering her some assistance,” he drawled in a tone that quite clearly said he expected no one to believe such a preposterous tale.

Horrified that she had allowed Captain Brice to set the tone of her defense, Sarah closed her eyes. But rather than settling her nerves, she was instantly assaulted by the memory of the scene that had sent her scurrying for safety.

The leaf-screened alcove outside the ballroom. Eliza Harrington’s long, pale fingers spread possessively over her husband’s chest. Plump red lips curled in a wicked smile against his ear. Whispered words Sarah longed to unhear.

“Your father may have made you marry her, Fairfax. But he cannot make you do more.”

“No. She will never have my heart.” Her husband’s hand coming up to clasp Eliza’s where it lay. “And you know why.”

A throaty, suggestive laugh. “I do.”

Captain Brice had found Sarah fumbling blindly with the stubborn knob on the library door, although it had proved to be unlocked. The wine he had offered had been cool and crisp, a balm to her hot, angry tears. His whispered consolations had been more welcome still. “Who would dare to distress the bride at her nuptial ball?” he had murmured, drawing her against the breadth of a shoulder made somehow broader by his regimentals.

Sarah jerked herself back to the present and met her husband’s eyes. She suffered no illusions that his indiscretions would excuse her own. As their eyes locked in mutual distrust, her field of vision narrowed and everyone else fell away. For a moment, it was just the two of them. She stretched out her hand, grasping for words of explanation. “My lord, I—.” But the wine seemed to have hobbled her normally quick tongue.

“Lady Fairfax.” So cold, so formal. Had she ever heard his voice sound otherwise?

“This is not what it seems, my lord,” she insisted. “I swear I am innocent.”

St. John cut his gaze away.

Forgetting the state of her gown, Sarah took a step toward him. Her slipper caught the hem and jerked the neckline even lower.

“Innocent?” Lord Estley’s eyes—ice blue, like his son’s, and capable of freezing the object of their gaze with a single glance—darted over her rumpled skirts and gaping bodice. “Not precisely the word I would have chosen.”

Sarah felt a traitorous blush stain her cheeks.

Just then, Miss Harrington whispered something in the Marchioness of Estley’s ear. That lady’s eyes grew wider still, and she gave a soft, shrill sort of scream. “My sapphires!”

Sarah swept her hand across her throat, expecting to brush against the heavy, old-fashioned collar of gems her father-in-law had placed on her neck earlier that evening, proof to the dazzling assemblage of titles to which he had been about to introduce her that this merchant’s daughter was now one of their own. “Presented to my ancestor by Queen Elizabeth herself,” Lord Estley had said proudly, drawing her attention to a portrait of a man in doublet and hose, posed with one foot on a globe and a cache of blue gems spilling from his hand. “Only a Sutliffe lady wears these jewels.”

Sarah’s icy fingertips encountered nothing but an expanse of gooseflesh.

“Those sapphires have been in my family for eight generations. Where are they?”

Try as she might, she could not remember when she had felt the gems last.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

susanna craigA love affair with historical romances led Susanna Craig to a degree (okay, three degrees) in literature and a career as an English professor. When she’s not teaching or writing academic essays about Jane Austen and her contemporaries, she enjoys putting her fascination with words and knowledge of the period to better use: writing Regency-era romances she hopes readers will find both smart and sexy. She makes her home among the rolling hills of Kentucky horse country, along with her historian husband, their unstoppable little girl, and a genuinely grumpy cat. Visit her at www.susannacraig.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/susannacraigauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SusannaMCraig

The Salt Hendon Collection by Lucinda Brant

salt hendon collection

This special edition brings together two of Lucinda Brant’s best-loved books, Salt Bride and its sequel Salt Redux. For this comprehensive edition we listened to reader requests; the original prologue to Salt Bride has been reinstated and the first edition cover art has been added. Also included is a 20,000-word bonus novella, Salt Angel, a new extended version of Fairy Christmas (previously published in A Timeless Romance Anthology: Silver Bells Collection) featuring well-loved characters from the Salt books. The Salt Hendon Collection is a great introduction to Lucinda Brant’s unique storytelling and her richly romantic 18th century world.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sprigleaf Pty, June 2016
Place and time: England, 1760s
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Wendy

This is the second read for me of Lucinda Brant’s Salt Bride and its sequel Salt Redux, this time with the added bonus of the original prologue to Salt Bride having been reinstated and with the inclusion of a novella which was originally published as Fairy Christmas in an anthology and which has been newly extended for its addition to the set. The novella, light and sweet – neatly ties off the complete boxed set. The Salt Duo was my first foray into Lucinda Brant’s gorgeously sumptuous Georgian world and I am now an addict of this author’s work and devour everything she has written and wait with eager anticipation for future work. I thoroughly enjoyed these stories – probably even more than I did initially – especially as I now fully appreciate the extensive research and work Ms. Brant undertakes on each and every book on her fabulous backlist.

The added prologue, which had already been removed when I read Salt Bride (due to some controversy over its content), was not as shocking as I had expected. It tells the story of Miss Jane Despard’s miscarriage and, in my opinion, is very sensitively handled, with just the right amount of information revealed. However, having read the book with and without said prologue, I do not believe the story lacked anything by its absence. Ms. Brant very successfully drip feeds the circumstances of Jane’s miscarriage throughout Salt Bride; and on reflection, I would conclude that I preferred the edition without the prologue as the gradual revelations of past events add an element of mystery to the story.

Both Salt Bride and Salt Redux feature one of the most memorable female villains I have ever encountered. Lady Diana St. John, Salt’s cousin, is truly an exceptional bad-girl, highly intelligent, but criminally insane, she operates in such a rational, self possessed manner that her madness is hidden beneath her cloak of self-assured entitlement. She features, highly in both of the novels, and the prologue, already mentioned, and completely steals the show with her machinations and downright, badness. The lengths she goes to to achieve her objectives are truly mind boggling but so expertly does Ms. Brant develop Diana’s character that she manifests as alarmingly believable. I wondered how the author would give Diana the comeuppance she deserves and when it came, I was not disappointed.

I loved the character of Magnus Sinclair, Earl of Salt Hendon. He’s an utterly gorgeous man who has been raised to feel completely comfortable in his own skin and fully accepts his powerful position. But he is finally knocked off his pedestal and brought down to the level of a mere mortal by the love and devotion of the serenely beautiful Jane Despard. The first book is very much about the traumatic events leading up to their forced marriage (a premise I love in HR) and the development of their romance; it is already in its infancy when they marry, but they have some way to go. And we see Salt finally becoming a more human, down-to-earth man and a loving husband and future father. The second book features Salt and Jane with a growing family but highlights Salt’s best friend, diplomat, Sir Anthony Templestowe who has recently returned from St.Petersburg where he was the darling of the Russian court. Salt’s little sister Caroline (Caro), and Antony (Tony) have loved each other for a while, but a high profile incident at the end of Salt Bride sent Tony into virtual exile to Russia. He now returns in order to help find a solution which will immobilise his diabolical sister, Diana, once and for all, but also to hopefully mend some fences with Caro. Anthony is a darling man but also a self-confessed alcoholic and I loved that Lucinda Brant tackles this very real problem in a pragmatic and practical manner, making it perfectly clear along the way that it can’t ever be resolved. Anthony has faced that – as alcoholics must – but more importantly, he has accepted that the fight with his addiction is an ongoing one. He is a lovely man and his vulnerability just serves to make his character more real and compelling. Caroline, too, has confessions to make before they can reach their HEA and the two make an interesting and charismatic couple.

Lucinda Brant expertly brings all of her primary characters together to bring Diana down – no mean feat – and I wondered, more than once, how she managed to keep her intricate plotting and placing of characters clear in her head. There is so much going on, especially during the dramatic culmination, that I had to think twice about where everyone was at any given time. Lucinda Brant doesn’t just write spine tingling romance – she always throws in an element of clever plotting and mystery and it is one of the aspects of her writing that I love; she keeps us guessing.

The novella is a nice addition and as I said, brings the whole series to a neat conclusion with not one but two delightful romances. Three of the characters appeared in the Salt Duo as secondary characters and the third, Prince Timur-Alexei Nikolai, makes his first appearance in the novella. Lucinda Brant has a pleasing way of including every age group in her romances; we are never too old for love and the elderly Russian Prince is an absolute sweetheart. His addition to the Fairy Christmas a delightful touch and his love story makes for a perfect ending to a terrific series. I loved the Salt Hendon collection and if you have never read a Lucinda Brant historical romance or mystery, this is a good place to start. Highly recommended.

To Wed a Rebel by Sophie Dash

to wed a rebel

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“It was done, they were bound, all was finished…”

A fighter, a drinker and a notorious seducer, Isaac Roscoe was the last man that innocent Ruth Osbourne would ever consider as a husband – but that was before Roscoe ruined her prospects and reputation!

Now destitute and disinherited Ruth is faced with an impossible choice, a life on the streets or exchanging vows with the man who put her there. Yet, knowing that marriage was Roscoe’s last wish, Ruth knew her revenge would be best served by saddling him with a reluctant wife.

Determined to punish Isaac for his actions Ruth will stop at nothing to destroy him, body and spirit. Until it becomes clear that nothing she can do will hurt her disloyal husband more than he can hurt himself…

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Publisher and Release Date: Carina Press, May 2016

Time and Setting: England, 18th century
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating:
4 Stars

Review by: Heather C.

Ruth has what any young woman would want: a betrothal to a most eligible bachelor. Unfortunately, he is dull and not at all her type, but she is happy to have her future secure and hopes that everything will work out. Someone else has other plans for her though, and they don’t involve her marrying her intended, and that is where Isaac comes in. Isaac has been hired to ruin Ruth so that she is no long fit to marry -and he’s good at his job, but the surprise result of his plan gone awry is that Isaac and Ruth wind up wed and have to navigate their mutual hatred for their circumstances.

I love reading stories where there is not an instant romance, but the couple has to work for it. That is the case in To Wed a Rebel and man are there obstacles to be overcome! Ruth had her life all mapped out and would be soon marrying one of the richest, eligible bachelors, but she doesn’t really like him. She is practical and is just trying to fulfill her mother’s request that she never be a burden to her family – but in her heart she is settling.

Isaac Roscoe is a rogue – and I kept thinking of him in that way through the whole book, to the point where I thought a better title would have been To Wed a Rogue because I didn’t find him much of a rebel. In an effort to avoid family obligations he has made a job of taking contracts to ruin women to get them out of various marriage arrangements; dirty and deceitful work, but he rather enjoys it and typically has no qualms about doing it. But his contract to ruin Ruth bothers him in a way that the others have not; he finds her charming and sweet, and an all-around nice person. So when his mission ends in a success (sort of) he’s sorry things had to work out the way they do – until he is forced to marry Ruth. The two battle it out throughout the novel as they try to wrangle their feelings about what happened early in their relationship with new feelings that grow as they get to know each other. Their relationship develops slowly, which makes sense given their background, but at times their blindness to each other’s intentions was frustrating beyond measure!

Beyond the events of the early part of the novel which revolve around the ruination of Ruth, there is plenty of action in the story. There is a plot to save a friend, having to navigate Isaac’s family, as well as the all-around trouble Isaac tends to find himself in through his less-than-legal activities. All of these events and adventures serve to help Ruth and Isaac get over their animosity toward each other and come together.

There are only a couple of sex scenes in the book and while they are not graphic the bedroom door is definitely open. But the scenes are relevant to the development of the romance and even set up yet another roadblock down the road in their love/hate relationship, and they are well done.

Overall, To Wed a Rebel worked for me. Even though there are many problems between Isaac and Ruth, the reader is rooting for them at the end and I look forward to reading other books by Sophie Dash.

Mad for Love (Highland Brides #0.5) by Elizabeth Essex

mad for love

Set a thief…

Rory Cathcart’s appreciation of the exquisite makes him the perfect man to expose forgeries and root out fraud in London’s tempestuous art world. But when his latest investigation into forged paintings puts him squarely in Mignon du Blois’ shaky sights, he finds himself deep in trouble, and captured by something more powerful than mere beauty.

To catch a thief…

The moment Mignon stops a rakish thief from making off with one of her father’s brilliant forgeries, she knows she’s found the perfect man to help her steal back a priceless statue, and save her family from unspeakable scandal. She has no intention of falling for Rory’s Caledonian charms, nor his seductive Scottish persuasions. From the drawing rooms of the ton to the auction rooms of the art world, the pair embarks on a madcap adventure to save them both from ruin. But will the love they uncover be most priceless treasure of all?

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Publisher and Release Date: ERB Publishing, March 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and setting: London, 1790
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Jill

Marie (Mignon) du Blois and her father, Charles have fled Paris and the upheavals of the French Revolution to settle in London. In order to support themselves, her father, a forger of fine art, fobs replicas off on to unsuspecting and clueless English buyers. Mignon, afraid he will be caught and jailed, continually tries to talk him into giving it up, but her pleas fall on deaf ears.

Rory Cathcart works for Christie’s auction house and is a specialist in spotting art forgeries. When he hears of Charles du Blois’ latest forgery, he sets out to expose him and in so doing hopes to further his own career. While Mignon and her father are out one evening, Rory breaks in to their house, but unbeknown to him, Mignon has stayed at home. When she catches Rory in the act of stealing one of her father’s forgeries, he introduces himself to Mignon as Rory Andrews.

When Charles is caught in a difficult situation of having one of his forged sculptures authenticated for insurance purposes by none other than Rory Cathcart, Mignon hires Rory Andrews, her gentleman thief, to steal the sculpture where it’s on public display in the gallery at Somerset House.

Set in 1790, Mad for Love is a prequel novella to Elizabeth Essex’s new Highland Brides series. This is certainly different to anything I’ve read previously by Ms Essex, and in fact, I wasn’t prepared for the fun, light tone of the story. She writes that it was a homage to one of her favourite caper movies, and a more apt description would be hard to find for this delightful novella.

The first full novel in this series, Mad about the Marquess is due out in April 2016. Rory has a number of friends who I’m guessing will feature in the upcoming novels.

Mad for Love is a very enjoyable start to this new series by Elizabeth Essex, and would suit readers who enjoy romantic comedies and lighter historical romance.

Because of Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys #1) by Julia Quinn

because of miss bridgerton

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Sometimes you find love in the most unexpected of places…

This is not one of those times.

Everyone expects Billie Bridgerton to marry one of the Rokesby brothers. The two families have been neighbors for centuries, and as a child the tomboyish Billie ran wild with Edward and Andrew. Either one would make a perfect husband… someday.

Sometimes you fall in love with exactly the person you think you should…

Or not.

There is only one Rokesby Billie absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is George. He may be the eldest and heir to the earldom, but he’s arrogant, annoying, and she’s absolutely certain he detests her. Which is perfectly convenient, as she can’t stand the sight of him, either.

But sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humor…

Because when Billie and George are quite literally thrown together, a whole new sort of sparks begins to fly. And when these lifelong adversaries finally kiss, they just might discover that the one person they can’t abide is the one person they can’t live without…

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Publisher and Release Date: Avon, April 2016

RHR Classifications:
Place and Time: England, 1779
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Wendy

It’s really nice to see the Bridgertons back again in this first of Julia Quinn’s Rokesby series – after all they’re like old friends to most of us. And at first glance, she’s picked up where she left off, with her witty and sparkling dialogue, strong and independent heroine and handsome, honourable hero.

Billie Bridgerton is twenty-three, unwed and always getting into scrapes. Her nearest neighbours, who just happen to be her family’s oldest and dearest friends, also have three sons of marriageable age and although it’s never said outright, Billie is more or less expected to end up with one of the younger Rokesby brothers. As well as being the wish of both mothers, Billie, too, has always assumed that this would be the case, and she’s happy enough not to have to put herself out too much. Edward and Andrew, along with their sister Mary, had been her playmates when they were all children and they are all still very close. There’s another brother, George, Viscount Kennard – the heir to his father’s earldom – but Billie and George don’t really get on. He’s a few years older, he’s stuffy and – well he’s just not in the equation!

Except, of course, for when he is.

In her usual gung-ho manner, Billie has climbed a tree in pursuit of a cat which needs saving – the problem being that said cat doesn’t want to be saved and Billie ends up stuck on a roof with a badly sprained ankle and no way of returning to terra firma. Until, that is, the last man in the world she wants to see her in such a situation turns up and offers to help. George Rokesby finds a ladder, climbs up to rescue his reckless neighbour – but the evil cat does for him too! The ladder ends up on the ground and George AND Billie are stranded on the roof together with no obvious way down and evening approaching. Eventually, Andrew – who is home on leave from the Royal Navy due to a broken arm – happens along in the nick of time and they reach the ground safely. Their sojourn on the roof is probably is the most time the two hapless good Samaritans have ever spent in each other’s company, let alone actually conversed; but the seed is sown and after George carries Billie all the way home – well the rest is a foregone conclusion. Eventually.

George and Billie are both likeable characters, but have their own insecurities to deal with which round them out and make them more than just a ‘nice’, attractive pair. George feels useless because his brothers are serving their country and he is stuck at home, and Billie, while strong-willed and witty, dislikes the idea of being out of her comfort zone where she is known and everyone forgives her eccentricities. She’s been one of the lads for so long that even her parents take her for granted; the only person who truly sees her is George.

There’s a half-hearted attempt to inject some angst into the story which I won’t go into other than to say that it isn’t particularly successful, but really, the novel is about how George and Billie discover ways in which to come to terms with their lot in life through their new found love for each other. It’s a nicely written, pretty much angst free, sweet little love story and I enjoyed it. It pressed all the feel-good buttons but didn’t make me lose any sleep. In true Julia Quinn fashion, there is some nice, witty, and at times, funny, dialogue – although in fact there was a point at which I felt there was TOO MUCH dialogue. But on the whole, Because of Miss Bridgerton is a nice start to the series, which, judging by the name, will be about George’s brothers finding true love. I shall look forward to them.

AUDIO REVIEW: The Mésalliance (Rockliffe #2) by Stella Riley, narrated by Alex Wyndham

The Mésalliance audio

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

The Duke of Rockliffe is 36 years old, head of his house, and responsible for his young sister, Nell. He is, therefore, under some pressure to choose a suitable bride. Whilst accompanying Nell to what he speedily comes to regard as the house-party from hell, he meets Adeline Kendrick – acid-tongued, no more than passably good-looking yet somehow alluring. Worse still, her relatives are quite deplorable – from a spoiled, ill-natured cousin to a sadistic, manipulative uncle. As a prospective bride, therefore, Adeline is out of the question. Until, that is, a bizarre turn of events cause the Duke to throw caution to the wind and make what his world will call a mésalliance.

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Publisher and Release Date: Stella Riley, March 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1775
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: Content: 5 stars/Narration: 5 stars

Review by Wendy

I adored The Mésalliance, the second in the Rockliffe series, even more than The Parfit Knight, if that’s possible. How can Stella Riley keep improving upon perfection? Every book of hers I read, or in this case listen to, enthrals me more.

The Duke of Rockliffe, whom we met in The Parfit Knight, is doing his brotherly duty and reluctantly attending a house party with his younger sister, Nell. At this party he makes the acquaintance of Nell’s friends, twins Diana and Althea Franklin. He is also surprised to see a young woman whom he had met a few times eight years previously. At that time Adeline Kendrick was a girl of sixteen, quite evidently gently born, but happily running wild. On investigation he is told that she is an orphan and lives with her paternal grandfather. The girl had made enough of an impression on him that he remembers her, but although the young woman he sees now is recognisable, she is also drastically changed. A close relative of the Franklin family, Adeline has been coerced into becoming the much despised companion of her aunt, and is treated little better than a servant. She has learnt – the hard way – to hold her tongue, but occasionally, using her intelligence and quick wit, is able to deliver a well deserved barb to her persecutors, and in the process retains her dignity and self respect. There is conniving and matchmaking in the air; Diana, who has always been encouraged by her mother to believe herself incomparable, is in reality a beautiful, vain, spoilt brat. With an eye to becoming a duchess, she attempts to compromise Rock into marriage, but these machinations go spectacularly wrong and instead results in his making an offer of marriage to Adeline.

I loved the central protagonists, especially Rockliffe, who is the epitome of the perfect hero. Tall, dark and handsome, he is urbane, poised and unerringly courteous, except when he is administering a suavely, softly-spoken set-down so perfectly delivered that often the recipients have no idea that they have been insulted. He has oodles of integrity and an innate, deep down kindness, which is shown time and time again as the story progresses. Then there is Adeline, on the face of it a completely unsuitable duchess. She is no beauty, yet she has captured Rock’s attention in a way that no other woman ever has, something he is at a loss to understand. As their marriage settles down, her cool tranquility, understated elegance, intelligence and that indefinable something I can only call sex appeal, become even more captivating; and as she gains in self-assurance, Rock falls more deeply under her spell and finds it increasingly difficult to maintain his legendary self-control around her.

The conniving of Diana has set the scene for the events that follow, rather like the collapsing of a house of cards, where every action has an effect on the next. The marriage between Rockliffe and Adeline is only really the beginning as we listen in awe to Stella Riley’s intensely dramatic and emotional story ratcheting up to a terrifically explosive culmination which is so skilfully achieved that I wondered where it all came from! Emotions are so raw by the time we reach the end that I defy anyone not to feel deeply moved and also not to have to wipe away a tear or two. In fact, I cannot think of another book that I have read with a more emotionally satisfying ending.

Alex Wyndham’s acting talents and smooth, deliciously pleasing voice are particularly suited to this beautifully written, character driven story which adapts itself so perfectly from print to audio. So sensitively does he interpret Ms. Riley’s rollercoaster ride of emotions that it is obvious that the author and her narrator are completely in-tune. I was especially moved by his portrayal of the swoon-worthy Rockliffe, which is spot-on; as are his interpretations of the group of admirable, honourable and gorgeous friends, Amberley, Jack Ingram and Harry Caversham. Male friendships are something Stella Riley writes particularly well in all of her novels and in this one I think she has surpassed even herself. Alex Wyndham not only captures and highlights the affection between these men but we are also never in any doubt as to whom we are listening to during their interactions. Mr Wyndham’s portrayal of Rock’s gradual unravelling as we head towards the intensely moving climax of the story is touching to say the least. By the end, I was left feeling wrung-out but well satisfied and I wait in anticipation for the release of The Player, the next in this series. Stella Riley has shown her deeply insightful understanding of human nature in The Mésalliance , and if you’re looking for intelligent writing, a cleverly contrived plot, plenty of angst and a soul deep, spine-tingling romance then look no further, because I promise you won’t be disappointed.