Tag Archive | Georgian Era

Stormswept by Sabrina Jeffries

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The first wedding night that Lady Juliana St. Albans spent with the dark and daring Rhys Vaughan was intoxicating, the heady culmination of her new husband’s driving hunger and her own awakened sensuality. When he mysteriously disappeared the next morning, she waited for him in hope and desperation. And when he was finally proclaimed dead in a shipwreck, she bitterly mourned the loss of her love.

The second wedding night that Juliana spent with Rhys Vaughan was six years later, after he returned to claim her just as she was about to wed another. This Rhys was different—bolder, harder, and convinced that she’d betrayed him. Only their blazing passion remains from their years apart. But is it enough to light their way through the maze of mystery, menace, and mistrust—to the love they once shared and would have to find again?

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Publisher and Release date: Pocket Books, July 2016

Time and setting: England & Wales 1777/1783
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5

Review by Lady Cicley

Lady Juliana St. Albans has a tendency to land herself in trouble and then run away, something she has found herself doing quite frequently. First, when she attends a meeting of the secret political society, the Sons of Wales and then makes her escape only to find herself face to face with Rhys Vaughan, the son of the man that people say her father cheated out of his estate. Second, the following morning when Rhys shows up on her doorstep and outs her to her father who promises punishment; and finally when she finds herself running away with the man who has captured her heart in such a short time. Her heart soars with their wedding night only to break the next morning when she learns of his impressment on a warship. With her husband’s disappearance she agrees to her family’s wishes in keeping her marriage a secret with a demand of her own.

Rhys Vaughn grew up bowing to his father’s wishes: only speaking the English language, attending the best English schools, and touring the continent like a true English son. Even so, Rhys’ heart will always be Welsh. This has led him to this meeting of the secret group, Sons of Wales; a meeting where a bewitching lass catches his eye. A lass that soon earns his mistrust when he finds out she is the daughter of the man who stole his inheritance. Yet she is bewitching, and before long, Rhys and Juliana are meeting in secret and agreeing to run away together.

For six years Juliana has never lost hope that her husband will return. A hope that dies when her brother’s investigator tells her that her husband is dead. Now a widow Juliana bows to her brother’s wishes and agrees to marry another; at least until the impossible happens the night of her engagement ball.

Rhys has had six long years to harden his heart and let his mistrust of Juliana grow. When Rhys returns he is intent on claiming what is his and meting out just punishment, but the wife he finds is no longer the young girl who ran away from her troubles. She’s a woman who will fight for what she wants and can give as good as she gets but is that enough to break through his calloused heart and earn his trust? Can Rhys ever learn to trust her again and does Juliana even want him any more?

Juliana’s initial refusal to submit to the wishes of her family following her husband’s disappearance hints at the woman she will become. I admired the growth and independence that she achieves in the years after Rhys’ disappearance and sympathized with her shock upon his return. The determination she shows in her desire to regain Rhys’ love and trust is another point to be admired, which makes her slip into despair when she realizes she may never have it again all the more heartbreaking.

Rhys’ pain and suffering, along with the lies he was told, make his thirst for revenge understandable and he thinks he has the perfect plan. He suffers a barrage of emotions from his firm belief that Juliana betrayed him up until the moment she slips into despair and he realizes what she means to him, even though he is still not sure he can trust her. I could feel the battle within as Rhys tried to reconcile the fact that he still loved Juliana with his reluctance to trust her.

Stormswept is a reissue of a book originally published in 1995 by Sabrina Jeffries, writing as Deborah Martin. Ms. Jeffries has long been one of my “go-to authors” although it had been quite a while since I’ve read one of her books, this one reminded me why I enjoy this author’s writing. A great author is one who can engage the reader’s emotions; Ms. Jeffries accomplishes that and so much more.

Stormswept is filled with mistrust, lies, heartbreak, revenge, and devious relatives; all things that help make up a good story. Overall, it’s an excellent read and I highly recommend it.

AUDIO REVIEW: Noble Satyr by Lucinda Brant, narrated by Alex Wyndham

noble satyr

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon

1740s France and England. Abandoned to fend for herself at the court of Versailles, Antonia turns to her distant cousin, the all-powerful Duke of Roxton, to help her escape the attentions of a lecherous nobleman. Roxton is an unlikely savior-arrogant, promiscuous, and sinister. Antonia’s unquestioning belief in him may just be his salvation, and her undoing.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sprigfield Pty Ltd., November 2015

RHR Classifications:
Place and time: France of Louis XV and England of George II
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Wendy

Noble Satyr the first in the Roxton Family Saga, is a simply superb, classy, character-driven story which ably sets the stage for the subsequent books, Midnight Marriage, Autumn Duchess and Dair Devil.

The love story between the unashamedly dissolute Renard Hesham, 5th Duke of Roxton, and the very young, but determined Antonia Moran, would seem, on the face of it, to be unlikely. Renard believes (for despite his morals, he does have his own code of honour) that the eighteen year-old, innocent beauty is not for the likes of him, and yet somehow, as the story progresses, the listener is left in no doubt that they are, in fact perfect for each other, and the slowly developing sensual and tasteful love story between them is breathtaking.

Antonia has been cast adrift. She is an orphan and under the guardianship of her absent, dying grandfather who is coerced into betrothing her to the Viscomte d’Ambert, the excitable and erratic son of Roxton’s cousin. The predatory Comte de Salvan has his own devious and lecherous reasons for wanting the marriage, wanting to bed Antonia as well as to secure her large fortune. Antonia begs the Duke to rescue and protect her from this alliance, claiming her distant relationship with him and reminding him of her late father’s wish that he take care of her. Antonia thinks herself very clever in forcing Roxton into saving her from Salvan’s clutches, when in fact he is a man who cannot be forced into anything by anyone unless he wants it. He is enchanted by her innocence and intelligence, finding her to be a breath of fresh air in the grossly licentious and corrupt court of Louis XV.

The content of all Lucinda Brant’s stories is very different, but she always takes so much time and effort to set her glittering stage; charming and exotic but with fascinating glimpses into the excesses and curiously fascinating, hedonistic times of the Georgian era. Her depictions are so carefully researched and described by her that I wouldn’t be surprised to see the outrageously primped, powdered and perfumed Comte de Salvan suddenly appear and totter towards me in his outrageous high heels. On the other hand, Ms. Brant’s description of Roxton’s unpowered, long, dark, plaited hair is the exact antithesis of the preening males of the court. He does not conform as do the other overdressed peacocks, preferring his own understated style. Sensuality is very high on the agenda, yet Ms. Brant manages to convey this without going into endless prose; one scene in particular, which I will not reveal, but I guarantee will leave the listener tingling, is one where we are left feeling as though we have witnessed something rather special though in fact the door is very firmly shut in our faces.

Once again, the delectable Alex Wyndham gives a fantastic performance. His portrayal of Roxton epitomises the handsome, charismatic though slightly bored aristocrat, his tone perfectly conveying dissolution and ennui, while also hinting at the kindness and the love he eventually cannot hide. As the story progresses and Roxton begins to allow his reluctant attraction to Antonia, the modulation of the narrator’s voice changes subtly so that, with just a slight alteration in tone, we can hear that Roxton is succumbing, his reservations crumbling.

Antonia is exquisitely portrayed. Mr Wyndham highlights her rather unconventional take on life, playing her exactly as written – intelligent and precocious but playful and quite obviously virginal although certainly not boring. With her sweetly pronounced French accent, it’s no wonder Roxton is captivated, even against his better judgement, and all this comes over distinctly and clearly in Ms. Brant’s addictive storytelling and in Mr. Wyndham’s intuitive interpretation of her words. Lord Vallentine, Roxton’s long time friend, a kindly, warm character is perfectly characterised as a rather stolid but honourable nobleman, sometimes flustered and blustering but nevertheless pleased to be the butt of Antonia’s persistent teasing. Salvan’s voice is oily and slimy – in my mind’s eye I see a caricature of a ludicrously overdressed little man with greedy, licentious eyes – I can almost hear Salvan smacking his lips! So talented and expert is Alex Wyndham at his craft, that it is hard to believe he is single-handedly performing such a large group of fascinating characters.

The entire Roxton Saga is just sublime, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. All the titles CAN be listened to as standalones, but when they are all so very good – especially with the added benefit of Alex Wyndham’s superb narration – I can’t imagine why anyone would want to stop at just one.

Breakdown of Grade: 5 stars for content, 5 stars for narration.

Deadly Peril (Alec Halsey Mysteries #3) by Lucinda Brant

Deadly Peril

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Winter 1763. Alec, Lord Halsey is sent on a diplomatic mission to Midanich, imperial outpost of the Holy Roman Empire, to bargain for the freedom of imprisoned friends. Midanich is a place of great danger and dark secrets; a country at civil war; ruled by a family with madness in its veins. For Alec it is a place of unspeakable memories from which he barely escaped and vowed never to return. But return he must, if he is to save the lives of Emily St. Neots and Sir Cosmo Mahon. In a race against time, Alec and the English delegation journey across the icy wasteland for the castle fortress where Emily and Cosmo are imprisoned. The severe winter weather is as much an enemy as the soldiers of the opposing armies encamped along the way. Awaiting him at his destination is the Margrave and his sister, demanding nothing less than Alec’s head on a pike.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sprigleaf PTY Ltd., November 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1763; London, England & Margraviate of Midanich, Holy Roman Empire
Genre: Georgian Mystery/Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

I adored this book, but it is difficult to review for several reasons. First, it is the third volume of the Alex Halsey Mystery series, and the first two books contain a lot of highly relevant backstory. Unlike some series, this one really needs to be read in order. Moreover, there are so many twists, turns, and surprises throughout the story that it is virtually impossible to write a thorough review without spoilers. (The publisher’s blurb simply sets up what we learn in the first few chapters.) And finally, this book, and indeed the entire series, is so wonderful that I want you to read for yourself without any hints that I might throw out in my review.

One of the things that I have come to admire about Lucinda Brant’s writing is how intricately layered her plots are. She reveals things throughout the story, which keeps the reader from becoming frustrated, but also holds back enough that the ending always is a surprise. She has the ability to deftly combine mystery and romance into one big delightful package that will please fans of both genres.

So – rather than writing a typical review, I’m going to tell you a bit about the series and what I loved about this book, starting with the primary cast of characters who populate all three books.

Alec Halsey – the younger son of the Earl of Devlin, Alec Halsey chose to make his living as a diplomat. He is a truly swoon-worthy romantic hero: handsome, intelligent, somewhat enigmatic, intensely honorable, and decidedly his own man. After the death of Alec’s odious elder brother, Alec became the earl but he soon was elevated to a marquessate by the King in recognition of his services to the Crown.

Emily St. Neots – a beautiful, spirited young lady whom Alec had once thought to marry, although he was not deeply in love with her.

Selina Jameson-Lewis – the woman with whom Alec fell deeply in love at a young age. Her family thwarted their romance and forced her into a marriage with an older, cruelly abusive man. Selina is now a widow, but she an Alec have had to deal with some difficulties while rekindling the love that both of them still feel for one another.

The Duchess of Romney-St. Neots – a redoubtable old lady who is Alec’s godmother and also Emily’s grandmother. Nothing and nobody intimidates her.

Plantagenet Halsey – Alec’s uncle and an outspoken member of the House of Commons, who despite his noble connections is something of a republican happy to offer his opinions freely. He is more of a father to Alec than Alec’s actual father ever was (and there is a story behind that). He and the Duchess of Romney-St. Neots have a tetchy relationship (and there may be a story behind that too).

Sir Cosmo Mahon – Alec’s closest friend, Sir Cosmo is rotund, jovial, and loyal to those he loves. He is a cousin to both Emily St. Neots and Selina Jameson-Lewis.

As the book opens, Alec is emotionally reeling after Selina rejected his proposal of marriage. Then he learns that Emily and Sir Cosmo, who are touring Europe, have been detained and imprisoned by the new Margrave of Midanich, Prince Ernst. Ten years before the events in this book, Alec was a junior official in Midanich, a small principality in the Holy Roman Empire. For reasons that I cannot divulge, he was thrown in the ruler’s reputedly escape-proof dungeon, from which he did in fact escape. Now, the Margrave demands that Alec return to Midanich to negotiate for the release of his friends. Although Alec fears that his life could be in danger, his honor and his affection for his friends demand that he go.

Midanich is in the midst of a civil war, following the death of the old Margrave, with Prince Ernst under attack by his younger half-brother Prince Viktor. Ernst is a weak, unstable man, known to be under the influence of his mysterious, insane twin sister Princess Joanna. In the opening chapter, it appears that Joanna hastens the old Margrave’s death by placing a pillow over his face. Castle Herzfeld, Prince Ernst’s impregnable fortress, is a hotbed of intrigue; courtiers await developments, but nobody can truly trust anyone, and the prince’s desires are often irrational and unpredictable. The plight of the people of Midanich is dire; this civil war follows years of occupation by foreign troops in connection with the Seven Years’ War. As winter approaches, they face shortages of food and fuel, and Prince Ernst’s army maintains control with draconian ruthlessness.

Alec’s trip is fraught with peril, and his plans for a discreet arrival in Midanich are thwarted when both the Duchess of Romney-St. Neots and Selina Jameson-Lewis, as well as Alec’s Uncle Plantagenet, finagle their way into his party. When this ill-assorted group arrives in Midanich, the adventures begin, with the first occurring shortly after they get off of the boat. To reveal more would deprive the reader of enjoying the myriad twists and turns that follow. As a long-time fan of the mystery genre, I must say that the plotting is impeccable. Midanich is full of intrigue; there were so many developments that I simply did not anticipate, yet none of them was the least bit implausible. There is a touch of romance here, as well, as Alec and Selina begin to find their way back to one another in a most surprising manner.

Novels that convey a strong sense of place have long been a favorite of mine, and in this regard the author’s impeccable research impresses beyond description. The bleak winter landscape, along with the accompanying sights and sounds, utterly transport the reader to another time and place. Not everything is left to the imagination, however, and I commend the reader to Ms. Brant’s delightful Pinterest page full of images displaying things mentioned in the book – including castles, clothing, furniture, horses, and various accoutrements of late 18th century life.

Although Lucinda Brant has been publishing books for several years, my first encounter with her work was a mere five months ago, and I have now read all seven of her full-length books. Every one of them is worthy of five stars, but I think that Deadly Peril is possibly the best yet. It is, quite simply, a perfect combination of mystery, romance, and history.

Alec, Lord Halsey's Nécessaire de Voyage (Tea/coffee travel set), inherited from his mother, consisting of porcelain teapot, coffeepot, cups with saucers, sugar bowl, milk jug, tea canister, candle warmer, all in a lined leather trunk with lock and key. From the author's Pinterest page.

Alec, Lord Halsey’s Nécessaire de Voyage (Tea/coffee travel set), inherited from his mother, consisting of porcelain teapot, coffeepot, cups with saucers, sugar bowl, milk jug, tea canister, candle warmer, all in a lined leather trunk with lock and key. From the author’s Pinterest page.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Moonstone Conspiracy by Elizabeth Ellen Carter

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PURCHASE LINKS: Etopia Press Bookstore * ~ * ~ * Amazon * ~ * ~ * B & N iBooks * ~ * ~ * Kobo * ~ * ~ * Google Play * ~ * ~ * ARE * ~ * ~ * Scribd

Revolution in France, rebels in England, and one woman caught in the crossfire…

For her unwitting participation in a plot to embezzle the Exchequer, Lady Abigail Houghall has spent the last two years exiled to the city of Bath. A card sharp, sometime mistress, and target of scandalous gossip by the London Beau Monde, Lady Abigail plots to escape her gilded cage as well as the prudish society that condemns her. But the times are not easy. France is in chaos. The king has been executed, and whispers of a similar revolution are stirring in England. And because of her participation in the robbery plot, the Spymaster of England is blackmailing her into passing him information about the members of London’s upper crust.

When the dashing English spy Daniel Ridgeway takes a seat at her card table and threatens to expose her for cheating, she has no choice but to do as he demands: seduce the leader of the revolutionaries and learn what she can about their plot. As she’s drawn deeper into Daniel’s dangerous world, from the seedy backstreets of London to the claustrophobic catacombs of a war-torn Paris, she realizes an even more dangerous fact. She’s falling in love with her seductive partner. And the stakes of this game might just be too high, even for her.

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EXCERPT

“I’m glad you remembered our appointment.”

Abigail recognised the droll voice and so did not even bother opening her eyes.

“It’s not yet midnight,” she replied and felt the couch shift as Daniel’s weight settled down into it.

“In our business, we take opportunities whenever they occur.”

Abigail opened her eyes and opened her fan to hide a yawn. He did not look fatigued. If one was to assign his expression right now, she would have described him as being studiously nonchalant.

“And what business are we in, Mr Ridgeway?”

“A very dangerous one.”

“I don’t recall signing up for a dangerous business,” she retorted, keeping her voice low to prevent anyone overhearing. “If my experience of your business over the past two years is any guide, stultifying boredom would be a better description.

“You can tell Aunt Druscilla that my obligation to her is complete. I’m going abroad at the end of this season.”

A slow feline grin spread across his face.

“Are you now?”

Fatigue fled and Abigail straightened in her seat, ready to rise to the challenge.

“Are you going to stop me?”

“I don’t particularly care what you do after this season,” he told her. “If you can’t give me what I want by the end of June, then you’re not half the woman Blakeney thinks you are.”

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Etopia Press, July 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England and France 1790/3
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Caz

moonstone conspiracyMoonstone Conspiracy is the follow up novel to this author’s earlier Moonstone Obsession, in which Lady Abigail Houghall appeared as a conniving, bitchy rival for the hero’s affections. Taking a villain and turning them into the hero(or heroine) is always a tricky thing to pull off, and as I haven’t read the previous book I can’t positively say if Abigail is redeemed here, or if she’s a different character; but whatever the case, she makes for an engaging, gutsy heroine who is transformed over the course of the story from a woman facing an uncertain future to one who finds happiness while also discovering an inner strength she’d never dreamed she possessed.

Abigail had been a high-class courtesan and mistress to many influential men, including the Prince of Wales himself. Having been exiled to Bath following an ill-advised blackmail attempt, she is making a living at the gaming tables, determined to make enough money to be able to eschew the society that condemns her and make a new life for herself somewhere else. Unfortunately, however, when the handsome Daniel Ridgeway takes a seat at her table and threatens to expose her for cheating, Abigail has no choice but to listen to the proposal he brings her from England’s spymaster – who is none other than Sir Percival Blakeney.

Blakeney has heard of a plot by French-backed British revolutionaries to blow up the merchant fleet in the Thames and start a series of co-ordinated riots throughout London and needs more information. Abigail, who owes a debt to the government for not exposing her earlier misdeeds, has no alternative but to follow Sir Percy’s instructions, which are to seduce the man they believe to be the ringleader and find out what she can. This doesn’t sit at all well with Daniel who, in spite of what he knows of Abigail’s reputation, has found her to be intelligent, engagingly forthright and has come to rather admire her.

I was surprised when this part of the storyline was resolved less than half-way through the book, which turns out to have two separate stories, the second being when Abigail accompanies Daniel to post-revolutionary France to search for his dear friend and colleague, Jonathan Sawyer.

It’s here that the real meat of the story lies, as Abigail and Daniel face extreme hardship and the daily threat of death in strife-torn Paris. Their romantic relationship has been set up nicely in the first part of the book when we see them progressing from an initial distrust and reluctant attraction to a working partnership and friendship. In the second part, that attraction deepens amid the heightened tensions and emotions of their perilous situation, but the further they become embroiled in their mission, the farther away seems any prospect of happiness for them.

I enjoyed reading Moonstone Conspiracy and it’s clear that Ms Carter’s research into the political background of her story has been extensive. The sections that describe the horrors of a devastated Paris in the throes of blood-lust and then the couple’s journey through the French countryside are very well done and put the reader right in the middle of the action. Daniel makes a very attractive hero, and Abigail’s character growth is exceptional as she shows herself to be incredibly resilient and resourceful, even in the worst possible circumstances.

I had a couple of issues with some aspects of the pacing and construction of the book though; there’s the occasional bit of head-hopping and I don’t think the flashback sections are well placed, because they interrupt the flow. I usually love the use of flashbacks in a narrative, but they didn’t work for me here.

I also didn’t care much for Ms Carter’s appropriation of Baroness Orczy’s famous Pimpernel. I know he’s a fictional character and that The Scarlet Pimpernel is a book in the public domain, but I fail to understand why the author couldn’t have invented her own spymaster general – it’s been done often enough by others. It’s a matter of personal preference I suppose, but it felt like lazy writing to me, and took away an element of credibility from the whole of the story.

Those reservations aside, however, Moonstone Conspiracy is definitely a book to consider if you’re a fan of well-written, skilfully-plotted espionage stories, and I would certainly be open to reading more by this author.

GIVEAWAY

Elizabeth Ellen Carter will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

E.E CarterElizabeth Ellen Carter’s debut novel, , was published in 2013 by Etopia Press. Earlier that year, the Regency adventure romance had been shortlisted in the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Awards for Best Unpublished Manuscript. Set in England and France during the French Revolution, it was heralded as ‘edge-of-seat adventure and intrigue’ and ‘a rollercoaster of love, blackmail, ill-gotten gains, treason and trickery’ with Carter described as ‘a writer worth keeping an eye on’ with ‘a hint of classic suspense novelist Daphne du Maurier’.

Her second novel, Warrior’s Surrender, was published by Etopia the following year, and her short story Moonstone Promise (a spin off from Moonstone Obsession) appeared in Etopia’s Valentines Heat anthology.

Carter is currently working on her fourth novel, set in ancient Rome and tentatively titled Dark Heart, which will bring together the elements for which she has become known in just a few years – in-depth historical detail woven through gripping adventure and captivating romance.

The author lives in Australia with her husband and two cats. A former newspaper journalist, she ran an award-winning PR agency for 12 years.

You can connect with E.E Carter at: www.eecarter.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Pinterest.

VIRTUAL TOUR: The Lady Meets Her Match by Gina Conkle

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Rough-around-the-edges Cyrus Ryland rose from humble origins to become England’s wealthiest citizen and most eligible bachelor. Called the King of Commerce, he thinks nothing of marriage until he hosts a masked ball and discovers an alluring woman hiding in his study. After one dance the lady vanishes, leaving behind a single shoe. The hunt is on, but finding her is only half the battle.

Claire Mayhew wants her hard won independence…a mid-town shop of her own. She resists the scorching attraction with Mr. Ryland — her new landlord, but Cyrus isn’t a man who gives up easily.

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EXCERPT

“Mr. Ryland, on your first visit to my shop, you questioned my accounts. Now do you plan to inspect how I manage the messengers?” She was being a little tetchy, but that assessment of his touched a sore spot. “As long as I pay my rent come Friday, whatever else happens is no concern of yours.”

He cracked a smile. “Not afraid to put me in my place, are you?” BookCover_TheLadyMeetsHerMatch

“As in reminding you that you’re my landlord and you’ve no business giving me such commentary? I’m happy to. I doubt you share your opinions with the male proprietors who rent from you.”

Frayed nerves and a morning fraught with mishaps put her on edge. To admit this to him would be akin to acknowledging a chink in her shopkeeper’s armor. She wasn’t choosing her words with care but let them flow nonetheless.

“Duly noted, Miss Mayhew. I admit I haven’t changed my mind on this venture of yours,” he asserted.

“At the table, even you acknowledged the dangers preying on women in London. At least my sister’s business proposition must prove some goodwill during this trial period.”

She heard him, but her vision caught on the curious red ribbon. Ryland glanced at the box under his arm, his stance relaxing.

“This is the other reason for my visit today,” he said quietly, holding out the wooden box. “It’s for you.”

Her gaze snapped up to his. “For me?”

Claire reached out, accepting the gift with cautious hands. She hefted the box gingerly up and down, checking the sides.

He chuckled. “I promise there’s no viper inside.”

“You bought me a ledger, didn’t you?” Her tone lacked all enthusiasm. A rectangular account book could fit inside the box. So would a shoe.

“If I did, you must agree a ledger would do you good.” His brows slammed together, a small vertical line forming above his nose. “But you won’t know until you open it.”

GIVEAWAY

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

gina cGina writes Viking and Georgian romance with a softly sensual side. She loves history, books and romance…the perfect recipe for historical romance writer. Her passion for castles and old places —the older and moldier the better— means interesting family vacations. Good thing her husband and two sons share similar passions. When not visiting fascinating places she can be found delving into the latest adventures in cooking, gardening, and chauffeuring her sons.

You can connect with Gina at: www.ginaconkle.com * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Pinterest. You can sign up for Gina’s newsletter .

Stages of Desire by Julia Tagan

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To be or not to be — in love…

As a ward of the Duchess of Dorset, Harriet can hardly expect more from a match than the ringing endorsement of “from what I’ve heard, the man is financially secure and his teeth are quite regular.” After all, she’s only the lowly daughter of traveling actors, not the actual daughter of the duchess.

William Talbot, Earl of Abingdon is set to marry the duchess’s daughter. After his elder brother’s scandalous death, his family’s reputation is paramount, and he’ll allow nothing to damage it again. But when Harriet disappears to save her father from debtor’s prison, the scandal threatens William and his intended’s family. The simple task of fetching the duchess’s runaway ward turns complicated when Harriet insists on traveling with her father’s acting company. William’s forced to tag along, and finds himself entranced. The stage transforms Harriet into a free-spirited, captivating beauty. But, someone’s been sabotaging the theater company, and instead of facing scandal, William and Harriet discover a threat not only to their growing passion, but to their lives..

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Publisher and Release Date: Lyrical Press, January 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and setting: England, 1808
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Rating: 4 stars

Review by Vikki

I am pleased I had the opportunity to review Stages of Desire, an intriguing story of a young woman torn between two worlds, her birth family – a troupe of traveling actors – and the aristocratic family she has lived with for six years. She became a member of the ducal household when the daughter of the duke grew ill, and he believed she needed the companionship of someone her own age. The arrangement works out well for Lady Marianne, however Harriet Farley never quite fits in with society, always among them, but never truly accepted.

It is now time for both young ladies to find husbands. The widowed duchess has her sights set on the Earl of Abingdon, a very wealthy and well-favored gentleman, for her daughter. For Harriet, she has picked out Mr. Hopplehill, an older, portly gentleman, the sixth son of a baron. While Lady Marianne is pleased at the prospect of marrying the earl, Harriet finds Mr. Hopplehill a poor choice since he is quite a bit shorter than she and while kind, a bit of a bore.

When Harriet receives word that her father is in trouble, she asks to go to him, but the duchess refuses. Harriet takes matters into her own hands and leaves without the duchess’s approval. When the duchess finds out she has gone, she sends Lord Abingdon after her.

This starts the couple on a series of misadventures. As they travel together the attraction grows and even though, the earl is expected to offer for Lady Marianne, the pair gives into the overwhelming passion they feel for each other. Due to a misunderstanding the following morning, they part on less than the best of terms.
Will Lord Abingdon remain steadfast to the dictates of society, or will he break the chains holding him and chose the love that he secretly feels for Harriet?

This is a fascinating book that deals with serious issues, but while it could have been a dark story, it is not at all. There are so many plot twists that at times it was difficult to follow, but not in a bad way. The surprises along the way kept the pace brisk and enjoyable.

Harriet is a wonderful character, determined and full of life, definitely a spunky kid archetype, a bit of a free spirit as well. I loved her take charge attitude, and she does not stop until she has achieved her goals, whether it is brow beating her father into doing what is needed for his troupe, or going so far as to take to the stage as an actress to save the play.

On the other hand, Lord Abingdon is all about doing his duty as an earl, even though what he desperately wants is to be a physician. As the second son, he never expected to inherit the title and studied medicine at Oxford. He is ready to sacrifice his happiness because of this duty and comes very close to making the biggest mistake of his life.

Some of the decisions William makes do not sit very well with me and because of this, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. Of course the couple gets their HEA – it’s a romance novel after all – but everything just comes together too quickly. I would have liked to see a bit more emotion from Harriet. I do not think I would have been as forgiving as she.

Nonetheless, it is an engaging story and I quite enjoyed most of the book. I do recommend giving it a read if you like stories with interesting plot twists and plenty of surprises along the way. While this is definitely a full length novel, the pacing is very fast, and I finished the book very quickly. I always enjoy a story that entertains and titillates my mind and this one does both.

The Rebel’s Promise by Jane Godman

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Purchase now from Amazon

In December 1745, Jacobite troops led by Bonnie Prince Charlie march on Derby intent on seizing the throne. Rosie Delacourt’s quiet existence is thrown into turmoil when she rescues a rebel lord from certain death. A passionate attachment blossoms but there is a price on Jack’s head and he must flee the country. Before he leaves, he makes Rosie a promise that he will return and claim her as his bride. Rosie believes that Jack has been killed in battle at Culloden. She is threatened with ruin and forced into a distasteful betrothal. When Jack returns, he is unable to hide the anguish he feels at her betrayal … and Rosie dare not risk both their lives by telling him the truth. It seems the only feelings which remain between them are bitterness and anger. But, when danger throws them together again, they are reminded of the tenderness they once shared.

Publisher and Release Date: Front Porch Romance, 2 January, 2013

RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: Georgian England, 1745
Genre:  Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating:  4 stars

Review by Susan

Set in the English countryside in 1745, The Rebel’s Promise transports readers to the time of the Jacobite Rebellion giving them an image of what life was like then, what fears the people had, and the unsettling conditions they faced.  The author clearly did her research thoroughly, as between the melodrama and steamy love scenes, there is an authenticity about the characters, who seem as though they could have actually lived during this time period, dealing with the political corruption and economic turmoil which engulfed English society in the mid-1700s.

Rosie Delacourt finds herself unintentionally entangled with Jack St. Anton, a Scottish nobleman who is wanted by British troops for committing the treasonable act of supporting Bonnie Prince Charlie.  Gravely injured and alone, Jack is nursed back to health by Rosie.  Their budding romance flourishes as the king’s troops start to close in on Jack, causing him to flee in order to save both their lives.  Time goes by and Rosie never hears from Jack and she fears that he is dead.  When her neighbour, Sir Clive, threatens to tell the troops that she nursed the man they’re after, she agrees to wed him in exchange for his silence.  Jack later returns to discover that his beloved has married another man.  Bitterness and anger consume him until he discovers her reasons for marrying Sir Clive.  Together, they turn the situation in their favor as Clive meets his demise.

Traveling from the English countryside and its lush rural estates to London’s high society, The Rebel’s Promise makes it easy to imagine what the aristocratic world of the 18th century was like.  Unfortunately, the conflicts between the hero and heroine are contrived as the author uses more narration than dialogue and action between the characters to tell the tale.   Though the language used by the characters is authentic for the time period, the progression of the tale lacks a natural flow, but the happy ending leaves the reader feeling gratified.

The Pirate Captain, Chronicles of a Legend by Kerry Lynn

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Blurb:

This adult historical fiction is a seafaring adventure meant to entertain both the sailor and the landlubber. Having lost hearth and heart to the Stuart Uprising, Cate Mackenzie, a fugitive war criminal, purchases passage on a ship bound for the West Indies. En route she is kidnapped-a case of mistaken identity-by Captain Nathanael Blackthorne, the pirate captain. Accustomed to blood, musket, and cannon, life aboard the pirate ship isn’t the hell Cate expects. She is instantly drawn into Nathan’s bloody rivalry against Lord Breaston Creswicke-the man who forced Nathan into piracy-and Commodore Roger Harte, Creswicke’s puppet. They are an “unholy alliance” of ambition and power, Nathan a rat terrier on their heels. The impending arrival of Creswicke’s fiancé is too much temptation. This is a story of two scarred people, blinded by their defenses. It’s the story of trust, or rather, the lack of. It’s the story of a loss of faith and disbelief that Providence might ever smile again.

Publisher and Release Date:
RHL Classifications: By The Board Publishing, September 2012
Time and Setting: Georgian Era
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Emery

A Diamond in the Treasure Trove

 

When I first accepted this book for review, I didn’t realize I was taking on an epic work of 614 pages, but fortunately, I was also taking a long trip and decided this book would be the perfect solution to fill the long hours in flight. With any work of substantial length, one is always half- prepared for a lot of slogging through or even skimming long and dull passages of descriptive narrative,  but as descriptive as this book was,  there was never a dull moment. The cast of characters is colorful and interesting. The hero and heroine are both highly sympathetic. The story is told primarily through Catherine “Cate” Mackenzie’s POV with briefer sections written from Blackthorne’s perspective. I was immediately sucked into the pirate world and never looked back. I will add here that The Pirate Captain bears many so many resemblances to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series that I would almost call it “Outlander: the Pirate edition.”

Cate is a Jacobite on the lamb after she and her husband Brian, the nephew of a Highland Laird, fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie. Brian was wounded in battle and later taken prisoner and after six years with no word of his fate,  Cate believes him dead. She has been on the run all this time as she is also wanted by the crown for treason. It is while trying to escape to the West Indies in order to begin a new and anonymous life that Cate is abducted by pirates. While Cate begins her adventure as a prisoner, she eventually comes to embraces her fate as a “pirate woman.” I loved Cate’s strong character. She was a woman who had suffered greatly but never wallowed in self pity. She always strove to make the best of her situation — even as a pirate captive.

Captain Nathanael “Nathan” Blackthorne’s was a fascinating character indeed — intense, wildly unpredictable, charming and dangerous. I thought he was physically molded a bit too closely after Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow for my taste and I found this to be quite distracting at times. Nevertheless, I was fascinated by him and could easily see how Cate would fall for the enigmatic Blackthorne. And she does fall. Hard. This is where I give enormous props to the author. The relationship between Cate and Nathan simmered slowly from their first encounter and continued this slow and steady burn for about five hundred pages. I never would have expected the author to be able to maintain such a high level of sexual tension for so long, and it was fabulous. I was almost as desperate for Cate and Nathan to be together as they were, but the consummation was well worth the wait. Hot without being overly explicit, the love scene between Cate and Nathan was one of the most romantic I have ever read.

The majority of this book is set at sea with the plot involving a great deal of what pirates do — raiding and pillaging at sea while doing their best to evade capture. There are a number of close calls involving Blackthorne’s nemesis (a relationship that closely mirrors Jamie Frazer and Black Jack Randall), and there is a great deal of description of life at sea. With all the nautical terminology employed, it would seem the author possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of tall ships and pirates, but I never found any of this tedious. On the contrary, I enjoyed the descriptions of sailing and the battle strategies employed by the clever Blackthorne. I was fairly entranced for the majority of six hundred plus pages and emotionally engaged every time a cannon fired.

On the lighter side, I was particularly enamored of Captain Blackthorne’s colorful and creative epithets:

 “A goddamned, swivel-tongued son-of-a-double-eyed Dutch whore.”

“Avast! Away you! Get your goddamned bloody hands off me you cod-faced, motherless bastards. I’ll have every one of you hocked and heaved before the night’s out.”

Although highly engaging, impeccably researched, and extremely well-written, this diamond is not without flaws, and I found a few editing errors and anachronistic slips (pants and trousers versus breeches and ass instead of arse). As to the story itself, there are a number of subplots, one of which involves an act of antagonism and revenge when Blackthorne abducts his dire enemy’s fiancée. I almost wished this had been omitted from the book as I found the fiancée’s character unsympathetic and extremely annoying. I could see how the author intended to use her to instill some levity in the story but I didn’t find the solution that was eventually employed very believable.

Lastly, and most importantly for romance readers, this book does not end with a happily-ever-after, but an unresolved to-be-continued, that left me feeling terribly unfulfilled. Similar to the Outlander series, it seems this pirate adventure will continue over several books to come. This lack of resolution, however, is the only thing that kept me from giving this book 5 glowing stars.

The question now remains if I will invest the time in the next installment of Kerry Lynn’s pirate chronicles. The answer — indubitably. Will I resent the wait — absolutely!

That Kind of Woman by Paula Reed

 That Kind of Woman

Published: January 31, 2013

Publisher’s Blurb:

“Just tell me why! Why is it that you could break every rule for my brother, but you cannot bend a single one for me?”

Upon the death of his older brother, suddenly Andrew Carrington has everything he never asked for: the title of Earl of Danford, a once-sweet daughter turned rebel, a rakehell younger brother — and the temptation of his late brother’s exquisite widow under his roof. It was scandalous enough when the late earl married the bastard daughter of a duke and his outrageous mistress, but if anyone were to learn the even more shocking secret Miranda Carrington hides, it would hurt everyone she loves, including handsome, take-charge Andrew — the Carrington brother she wishes she had met first…

Tags: Romance, Historical, England

Time Frame: England 1811

Heat Level: 2

REVIEW RATING : 5 stars

REVIEW BY LEE ANNE:

At birth we are dealt a hand of cards by which we use as we live our lives. The cards that are dealt to us are tied to our parents and the circumstances of our birth. We may exchange cards as life goes on in order to improve our chances or make things better. But no matter what, we are always tied to our parents and the circumstances of our birth. That can never change.

For Miranda Henley, that has been evident from the very beginning. She was born on the wrong side of the sheets. Her father is a duke and her mother, his mistress. While the duke and his mistress flaunt the rules of  polite society, it is Miranda who bears worst of the gossip. For, she is nothing better than a whore’s daughter. Good for nothing other than a turn in the sheets. Until George, Lord Danforth.

George and Miranda marry. On their wedding day, she meets George’s brother Andrew and feels an instant attraction to him. But she’s married to George now. Miranda soon makes a horrifying discovery about George and finds that while they be married, she will never be his wife.

Andrew goes back to the continent to fight Napoleon. While overseas, he and Miranda develop a friendship through letters. Andrew is called home when George is dying and is forced to take on the roles of his brother. For Andrew is now the Earl of Danforth. The attraction between Andrew and Miranda blooms. Oh! The scandal!

Miranda and Andrew embark on an affair that will break your heart. For as much as they care about each other, they can’t be together. Miranda is his sister-in-law and English law will not allow them to marry. Now Miranda has become no better than her mother. She’s the mistress of a man she cannot marry.

This story will rip you to shreds. It is filled with heartache and misery. English polite society is not really that polite. If you don’t follow all their rules and do things exactly as society deems you should, you get ripped to shreds. Heaven forbid you should be little bit different, or born out of wedlock. Now, you’re just trouble.

I cried the entire time I read this story. My heart broke for Miranda. Through no fault of her own, she’s been shunned, gossiped about and treated little better than trash. While my heart broke for her, I also applauded her. She held her head high and lived her life above reproach. She played by the rules and did what was asked of her. She did it all with a quiet dignity. Until it was too much. Then she lashed back and let them have it. I was cheering for her while at the same time, I was crying for her.

Andrew was the perfect officer and gentleman. He did was he was supposed to do. He lived his life in the service of King and country. Even though it hurt his daughter, he did what was expected. His only fault? Falling in love with his dead brother’s wife. He learned so many lessons from those around him, even those he considered his enemy. It was amazing to watch.

Miranda and Andrew both went through amazing transformations. None of it easy. They grew as people and learned what matters. They did finally get their happily ever after, but I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how it was going to happen.

**At the time of the review, this book was available from Amazon for $5.99**

ABOUT LEE ANNE:

I am a happily married mother of three very busy children.  Most of my time is spent chauffeuring my kids to their various activities. I cram reading into any spare moment I have. Some days I can have an hour or two and others I’m sneaking in quick reads while waiting on the kids to finish their soccer or gymnastics practice. I like to read a wide variety of genres but I definitely prefer romance. I can’t really pinpoint a favorite author as it changes on a regular basis. I absolutely love finding new authors and giving their stories a chance to be heard. We all have a voice in our heads writing stories and those voices should be given a chance to be heard.

Lady Eve’s Indiscretion by Grace Burrowes

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Pretty, petite Evie Windham has been more indiscreet than her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Moreland, suspect. Fearing that a wedding night would reveal her past, she’s running out of excuses to dodge adoring swains. Lucas Denning, the newly titled Marquis of Deene, has reason of his own for avoiding marriage. So Evie and Deene strike a deal, each agreeing to be the other’s decoy. At this rate, matrimony could be avoided indefinitely…until the two are caught in a steamy kiss that no one was supposed to see.

RHFL Classifications:

Heat Level 2

Historical Romance

REVIEW RATING: 4.5 STARS

Review by Caz

This is the seventh book in the Windham series, and another very enjoyable read from Grace Burrowes.

The story centres around the Duke and Duchess of Moreland’s youngest child, Lady Eve who, since having a serious riding accident seven years earlier, has cut herself off emotionally from her family and from the world in general.  She isn’t a recluse, she has simply lost her former joie de vivre; she continues to attend society events, make calls and do all the things expected of the daughter of a duke, but she is just going through the motions.

Her parents and siblings are all aware of the differences in Eve, but none of them knows what to do to help her; especially as Eve does not admit that there is anything wrong.  In this day and age, when we are familiar with the concept of counselling, it seems strange that Eve is allowed to continue in this vein for seven years without anyone trying to do anything to help – but this is the early nineteenth century, and there is also the sense that her parents and siblings don’t want to interfere for fear of making things worse.

There is one person who starts to get through to her however, and that is Lucas Denning, newly-minted Marquis of Deene, who is a long-standing family friend and neighbour.  He and Eve have rather an abrasive relationship to start with – they seem to like to annoy and argue with each other – but Deene is incredibly perceptive about Eve’s needs and is able to discern when she needs space and time to come to terms with things and when she needs pushing.

While being attentive to Eve, Deene is also struggling to come to terms with the workings of his estates and his finances, all of which have been under the stewardship of his cousin for a number of years.  His cousin is strangely reluctant to hand over the reins;  Deene’s preoccupation with his preparation for a custody battle over his dead sister’s child at first prevents him from being suspicious, but he eventually begins to smell a rat and enlists the help of Joseph Carrington, (Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight (The Duke’s Daughters, #3)) to discover exactly what is going on.

One of the things I enjoy very much about Burrowes’ writing is the way she allows the relationships between her protagonists to develop over time.  In the books of hers I’ve read so far, the hero and heroine haven’t acted hastily on their attraction to each other and in fact develop a friendship before anything further happens between them.  That is the case here, too, although there are quite a few stolen kisses in the first part.  Eve is actually set on a “white” marriage (i.e, one in name only) but doesn’t tell anyone exactly why – and when she and Deene are caught in a compromising situation she is adamant that she doesn’t want to marry him, despite the fact that she is more than half in love with him.  She is eventually forced to capitulate (as the alternative would be her father and/or brothers calling Deene out!) and despite her fears, their marriage begins well and Eve is happy for the first time in years.

Of course, this state of affairs can’t last – and Eve’s jumping to rather an illogical conclusion is perhaps somewhat convenient for the sake of the plot.   It is just about plausible, considering her previous insecurities and fears, but the way their marriage hits the rocks because of it doesn’t quite work for me.

Burrowes’ writing is, as always, a joy and her depiction of the familial relationships is excellent.  The relationship between Eve and Deene is affectionate and very tender and I thought the way in which Eve gradually opens up and starts to ‘find’ her true self again – through Deene’s  patience and understanding – was very well done indeed.

If, like me, you like a good, character-driven romance, then this is definitely a book to add to your TBR list!

With thanks to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for the review copy.

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.