Tag Archive | Grace Burrowes

Looking Back at 2016 – Our Favourite Books of the Year

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Amazingly, another year has passed, and it’s time for us all to look back at the books we most enjoyed reading in 2016. Here are some of the books chosen by the RHR team as their favourites of the year; if you’ve read any of them do you agree with our assessment? What are your own personal favourites of 2016? Please stop by and tell us what you read this year that you loved!

 


Caz

I’ve had a pretty good year in terms of books; I’ve read and listened to more than 250 titles this year and have rated the majority of them at 4 stars or higher, which is a pretty good strike rate! That said, choosing favourites is always difficult and they change from day to day. So bearing that in mind, here goes…

 

 

A Gentleman’s Position by K.J Charles is the third book in her excellent Society of Gentlemen series, set in the final days of the Regency.  This story takes an in-depth look at the problems inherent in falling in love outside one’s class – as the two protagonists, Lord Richard Vane and his extremely capable valet, David Cyprian struggle to reconcile their feelings for one another with their relative social positions.  The story is compelling, the romance is beautifully written and developed and the sexual chemistry between the principals is absolutely smoking.  This series has without question been one of the best historical romance collections in recent years, and is well worth a few hours of anyone’s time.

Forevermore is the seventh and last book in Kristen Callihan;s wonderful Darkest London series of historical paranormals, and it brings this incredibly inventive series to an action packed and very fitting close.  The author skilfully draws together a number of plotlines sewn in earlier books, a real treat for those of us who have followed the series from the beginning; there’s plenty of action, steamy love scenes, a complex, fast-moving plot, heartbreak, angst … in short, Forevermore delivers all the things that have made all the books in this series such compelling reads.  I’m sorry the series has ended, but it ends on a real high, and I fervently hope that Ms. Callihan might one day return to this fantastical twilight world of shifters, angels, GIMs and demons.

Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt.  I do love a bad-boy hero, and there’s no denying that Elizabeth Hoyt set herself quite the task when she decided to turn the gorgeous, manipulative, devious and dangerous Valentine Napier, Duke of Montgomery into a romantic hero.  But she does it with aplomb, and without turning Val into a different character in order to effect his redemption.  The sexy game of cat-and-mouse played between the completely outrageous duke who thinks nothing of wandering around naked (well, he’s gorgeous, so why should he deprive people of the sight of him?!) and having the most inappropriate conversations with his housekeeper; and said housekeeper who is by no means insensible to Val’s charms, but who is sensible enough to know that he’s trying deliberately to rile her and not to take the bait – is wonderfully developed, and the relationship that emerges is one of surprising equality.  Duke of Sin is a thoroughly enjoyable novel and the eponymous duke is one of the most charismatic characters ever to grace the pages of an historical romance.

A Splendid Defiance by Stella Riley has been one of my favourite historical romances for the past thirty years, so I was delighted when the audiobook version, narrated by the massively talented Alex Wyndham became available just before Christmas.  Set during the English Civil War, the book tells the true story of the small garrison of just over three hundred men who held the Royalist stronghold of Banbury castle in Oxfordshire against an opposing Parliamentary force of almost ten times their number.  Against this superbly presented historical background, Ms. Riley develops an unforgettable romance between cynical, Royalist captain, Justin Ambrose and Abigail Radford, the sister of  a die-hard Puritan.  This is a real treat for anyone who enjoys their historical romance with an emphasis on the historical; the characterisation is superb, the romance is beautifully developed, and the audiobook is performed by one of the best narrators around.  Seriously – don’t miss it.

Jane Steele by Lindsay Faye, narrated by Susie Riddell.  With the tagline – Reader, I murdered him – there’s no question that Jane Steele – the book AND the character – is inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and there are a number of key moments and events during this book that relate directly back to the classic novel. But this is ultimately a refreshing and somewhat unusual tale that very quickly takes on a life of its own. Jane is a remarkable and compelling character; a quick-witted survivor who doesn’t take crap from anyone but who nonetheless feels like a woman of her time, and what keeps her the right side of the listeners’ sympathies is that she’s motivated by love and loyalty.  We follow her through her time at school, her subsequent life in London and thence to a position as governess to the ward of Mr. Charles Thornfield, a British, Indian-born ex-army doctor with whom she eventually falls in love.  The writing is fresh and witty and the story is a terrific mixture of gothic romance and detective story featuring a unique protagonist, and I highly recommend the audiobook, as the narration by Susie Riddell is very good indeed.


Heather C.

The Duke of Deception by Darcy Burke – I loved the secrets being kept between the hero and heroine and how that pushed the story forward.  They weren’t simply a complication to tangle over.

The Daredevil Snared by Stephanie Laurens- This is the third book in the series and the best so far in my opinion. It isn’t often I say that!  There is less mystery than in the previous books and more action/adventure – with dire consequences.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Scandal by Kathleen Kimmel. The best romance I have read this year.  The romance felt so real and hot, the characters were infuriating (in the best way), and the story forced the heroine WAY out of her comfort zone! Made me immediately pick up the other books in the series.


Jenny Q

Forevermore by Kristen Callihan

I have been a big fan of the Darkest London series from the very beginning, and while I am sad to see it come to an end, Forevermore is one heck of a satisfying conclusion. If you’re a fan of historical paranormals, or if you’ve never read one and want to give the genre a shot, this series, (along with Bec McMaster’s London Steampunk series), is a great place to start. It’s a complicated world of elementals, werewolves, demons, spirits, and fae, and revolves around the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals, tasked with managing them all. Forevermore gives readers pretty much everything we want in a series finale. I love how this story brought some threads back together from previous books and showed how everything that has happened to our favorite characters was set in motion and why. It was really cool how Kristen Callihan sort of brought everything full circle, not just for the story world but for some of the characters. The ending made me cry, and the epilogue made me smile. Forevermore is a riveting tale from beginning to end, and a worthy, powerful, and emotional conclusion to an outstanding series.

Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie

Sally Christie’s debut novel, The Sisters of Versailles, about a family of five sisters, four of whom became mistresses of Louis XV, made my list of best books of 2015, and so I was anxiously awaiting my chance to read the sequel, The Rivals of Versailles. It picks up right where we left off, only now the story is being told by Jeanne Poisson, the young and beautiful commoner who will become known to history as the unparalleled Madame de Pompadour. Quickly rising from humble roots, she immerses herself in lessons and becomes the most elegant and cultured woman at Versailles, a patron of the arts and architecture, and a politically savvy negotiator, guiding Louis through two decades of wars and diplomatic relations. I highly recommend this series for lovers of French history and readers who love to read about real women who make their mark on the world against all odds. This book is so complex in its many layers and in its lush depictions of court life in all its beautiful ugliness that I don’t feel my review can do it justice. I can’t wait to see how Sally Christie will bring this chapter in French history and the glory days of Versailles to an end in the final book, The Enemies of Versailles.

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Heather Webb, Hazel Gaynor, Beatriz Williams, Jennifer Robson, Jessica Brockmole, Kate Kerrigan, Evangeline Holland, and Lauren Willig

This is an excellent collection of short stories by nine talented historical fiction authors. While the stories are not interconnected, they do all share a common theme, the Armistice that ended World War I, and these stories really capture the conflicting emotions that the end of the war brings. Of course, there is joy and celebration but also a sense of uncertainty. Is it really over? What comes next? What do we do now? What was it all for? How do we go on as before when none of us will ever be the same? The stories are wonderfully varied, giving the reader a glimpse into different aspects of the war and life on the home front in Britain, Belgium, and France. All nine stories are good. There’s not a weak offering among them, though some did resonate with me more than others. All for the Love of You by Jennifer Robson, Something Worth Landing For by Jessica Brockmole, and Hush by Hazel Gaynor stand out as my favorites. These stories of love and war are beautifully written, encompassing the entire range of emotions and shades of humanity, and will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading them.


Lady Cicely

Wicked Highland Wishes by Julie Johnstone

Julie Johnstone has written a riveting tale of love, the desire to do what’s right and throws in some curve balls I didn’t see coming all to great effect.  Bridgette is a strong heroine who goes through ordeals that would truly break a lesser woman.  I bawled at what she goes through then bawled some more as she comes out even stronger.  And Lachlan?  I wasn’t prepared to fall hopelessly in love with this hero!  His adoration, love and patience is what true heroes are made of.

This is one of those rare stories that will sit with you long after you have read it.

Rebel Warrior by Regan Walker

Ms. Walker hits the ground running with this tale of love among war, politics, and betrayal. Her ability to infuse history into her tales without overwhelming the reader is a wonderful talent to have.  Rebel Warrior is an engaging tale that will have the reader thinking they have it figured out only to have the hero and heroine be given a story hiccup and the reader thinking “now I’m not sure” which only fuels the reader’s desire to find out what happens next.

Rescued by a Lady’s Love by Christi Caldwell

Christi Caldwell takes a slight departure from her usual writing style by going a little over to the dark side.  This little trip is a heart wrenching tale of two people who have every right to hate the world and the circumstances that have forced them into that world.  While keeping with the description of the Duke of Blackthorne from previous stories Ms. Caldwell slowly peels the layers back revealing how and why he is the way he is.  She makes the reader feel every ounce of pain and self-loathing both characters suffer and at the same time giving hope that there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

Blythe: Schemes Gone Amiss by Collette Cameron

Another hit by the extremely talented Collette Cameron that will have you laughing & crying all at the same time. Her wit combined with the strength of her characters will draw you in and not let you go.  Looking forward to her next installment to see which Culpepper Miss has me laughing out loud.

Lady Wesley

My favorite reads of 2016 include some old best-loved romance writers and a new-to-me author of mystery/romance stories.

After a fairly ‘meh’ first book in The Ravenels series, Lisa Kleypas got her groove back with Marrying Winterbourne. Rhys Winterbourne joins the ranks of Derek Craven (Dreaming of You) and Lord St. Vincent (Devil in Winter) as one of her most memorable and enticing heroes. I listened to the audio version narrated by Mary Jane Wells, who gets 10+ stars for her performance. Her Rhys Winterbourne is simply the sexiest, swoonworthiest hero I’ve ever heard from a female narrator, and I’m reliably informed that her Welsh accent is excellent. (It is – Ed.)

Once Upon a Dream was a triple delight for me. Two of my favorite authors: Mary Balogh and Grace Burrowes. One of my favorite settings: country house parties. My favorite duke – the Duke of All Dukes: Wulfric Bedwyn, Duke of Bewcastle. No way was I not going to like these two novellas. Balogh’s story takes us back Bedwyn World, a place that I came to love when reading her Slightly and Simply series. Our heroine, Miss Eleanor Thompson, played a secondary role in Slightly Dangerous, when her sister Christine married the top-lofty Duke. Eleanor appeared again in Simply Perfect, when Claudia Martin married the Marquess of Attingsborough, and Eleanor took over Claudia’s role as headmistress of a girls’ school in Bath. It was great fun to see this forty-year-old lady get her HEA. Burrowes gives us a widowed father of young boys who play matchmaker for their father and the daughter of an immensely wealthy cit. As usual, Burrowes excels at writing adorable yet realistically mischievous and exasperating children.

Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series of four novels and one novella – each of them first-rate – features Keira Darby and Sebastian Gage. Now comes the fifth novel in the series, As Death Draws Near, and I believe it is the best yet. Keira and Gage interrupt their honeymoon to investigate the murder of a nun at a convent in Ireland. Although the mystery drives the plot, this book is also a strongly character-driven love story. It is absolutely lovely to watch Keira and Gage navigate through the early days of their marriage. Keira has grown since we met her in The Anatomist’s Wife, but she still harbors insecurities relating to her unhappy first marriage, the notoriety resulting from her work, and her rejection by society. As for Sebastian Gage, he remains handsome, stalwart, and devoted to Keira. His character is not as inclined to introspection as hers, but we do see him trying to navigate, not always successfully, between being Kiera’s husband and being her partner in investigation. Anna Lee Huber is a supremely talented author, and these books are complex, impeccably plotted, and clearly well-researched.


Sara

Duke of My Heart by Kelly Bowen

The idea of a Regency era “Fixer” who is both a peer and a woman shouldn’t have worked as well as it does. Kelly Bowen allows readers to quickly forget the implausibility of her storyline by engaging us with two highly intelligent characters who match wits, clash over control and somehow fall in love while searching for a kidnapped woman. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the investigation underlying all of their interactions but the story works best in the small moments where the heroine Ivory is allowed to be both strong and independent but still have a woman’s heart to be lost to the right partner.

The Hunter by Kerrigan Byrne

I didn’t believe that Kerrigan Byrne could create a darker and more tortured hero than she did in last year’s The Highwayman but somehow she turned a sociopath into a man to fall in love with. The emotional walls Christopher Argent has erected to protect himself slowly crumble when he interacts with his target Millie LeCour and he begins to see the value of living through her eyes. Mille has her own problems to overcome but the brilliance of her character is that she meets her challenges with courage and never lets them damage her spirit. The mix of his dark soul to her inner light makes their relationship all the more intense. Twists in the story show a reader that sometimes true evil can hide behind the friendliest of faces while true love can heal over scars built from a lifetime of pain.

To Lure a Proper Lady by Ashlyn Macnamara

This book introduced me to one of my favorite characters of the year. Dysart starts off as a snarky Bow Street Runner full of contempt for the nobility but is slowly revealed to be a principled and honorable man. This story also had one of the best romantic partnerships with Dysart and his heroine Lizzie investigating the suspicious illness of her father along with other problems around the estate. I was reminded of the TV show Castle and the partnership of Castle/Beckett in how well Dysart and Lizzie work together but also tease and dance around their intense sexual chemistry. Dysart’s cleverness and dry wit alone make this book a keeper and the romance he finds with Lizzie made it all the more enjoyable.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare

In a year full of drama Tessa Dare delivers a romantic-comedy that merges two separate series into a satisfying conclusion for them both. It’s a meeting of opposites when a buttoned-up former spy tangles with a spirited woman to solve a whodunit and save their reputations. Seeing the long suffering Charlotte Highwood all grown up and finding her match was so much fun! The lighter tone of the storyline allows for outrageously humorous moments such as a regency sex-ed discussion full of modern iconography, a child detective on the trail of a “murderer” and a completely garbled declaration of love. There are serious moments too but they never detract from the pure entertainment value of the book.

Unmasking Miss Appleby by Emily Larkin

This was the surprise hit of 2016 for me. Emily Larkin mixes Historical and Paranormal elements into a book that never skimps on characters to sell the fantasy. Pushing the limits of the “woman in pants” storyline by adding the quirk of magic, the title character Charlotte Appleby experiences life for a few weeks as a woman embracing her sexuality and as a man understanding friendship and cameraderie. Charlotte’s physical transformation rather than just a disguise adds a subtext (perhaps inadvertently) about the nature of attraction and of gender being something intrinsic to the person rather than how they look on the outside. I loved seeing Charlotte discover that magic comes in many forms, from the supernatural kind to the type that sparks between people perfect for each other.


Wendy

There was never any doubt that a Stella Riley novel would feature in my ‘best of books published in 2016’ but which to choose? It was extremely difficult as she has had four audio books and one print published this year. In the end I settled on the long awaited Lords of Misrule, the fourth in her Civil War series. And my reason? It’s simply fabulous – a great feast of a book combining what I love best, terrifically researched historical content and a subtle but beautifully developed romance.

Lucinda Brant will always have a place on any ‘best of’ list of mine if she’s had something published within the year. This time she has brought together her fabulous Salt Hendon books in a boxed set in both a print version AND an audio version with the stupendously talented Alex Wyndham narrating it. With both being published within 2016 I’ve had the loveliest of times both reading and listening, and being transported back in time to Ms. Brant’s knowledgeably written and extensively researched, opulent and exciting Georgian world.

One of the queens of historical romance began a new series this year and in her usual understated, subtle manner, Mary Balogh has hooked me in. Someone to Love is an original and fascinating start to her new series and I was thrilled to not only read it but but also to have the pleasure of discussing the characters personally with Ms. Balogh at the Historical Romance Retreat. This author doesn’t need to rely on complicated plot lines to sell her books – her strengths lie in her years of writing and life experience which I feel always comes across, and I love everything she produces.

One of my greatest reading pleasures has always been historical fiction and in particular books about the Plantagenets. There are no historical fiction writers whom I enjoy more than Elizabeth Chadwick and The Autumn Throne, the third and final book in her fascinating Eleanor of Aquitaine series is quite simply superb. Ms.Chadwick’s knowledge of the period and scholarship is mind boggling. All of her books are eloquently written, with exceptional attention to detail, but this series in particular really struck a chord with me and I finished it with a thirst to learn as much as I could about this fascinating historical character.

My final choice is a bit of a departure for me. K.J Charles is a new-to-me author in 2016 and was recommended by a respected reviewer friend. M/M historical romance is not something I had ever considered trying, nor to be honest, even knew existed. But I’m so glad I gave this author a try because I loved her Society of Gentlemen series and in particular, A Gentleman’s Position. This is such a clever story, taking place at a time when gentlemen could be executed for their predilections. But this story is about so much more than that, and the way the author develops the plot and brings it all to a satisfactory and plausible conclusion is very skilful. The love between her characters is tender and believable and the historical content is in-depth, real and fascinating.


All books in this list are linked to Amazon, so click to find out more!

 

The Soldier (Windhams/The Duke’s Obsession #2) by Grace Burrowes, narrated by James Langton

the soldier audio

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His idyllic estate is falling down from neglect, and nightmares of war give him no rest. Then Devlin St. Just meets his new neighbor….

With her confident manner hiding a devastating secret, his lovely neighbor commands all of his attention, and protecting Emmaline becomes Devlin’s most urgent mission.

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Publisher and Release Date: Tantor Audio, June 2016

Time and Setting: Yorkshire, England 1818
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 3,5 stars (4 stars for the story / 3 stars for the narration)

Review by Wendy

I always enjoy Grace Burrowes quirky writing style, it has a warmth and ‘homeliness’ about it which is quite unique and very recognisable as the author’s very own. The Soldier second in her Windham series, features Lt. Colonel Devlin St.Just, newly created first Earl of Rosecroft, who is the epitome of this author’s likeable, down-to-earth, male characters. Although I haven’t read all of the various series’ attached to this book, it wasn’t too hard to follow – even with the numerous friends and family members who pop up throughout the story, and I would say that it can be read/listened to as a standalone.

Devlin St.Just is the eldest – though illegitimate – son of the Duke of Windham, but lived with the Windham family from the age of five and has always been accepted and loved by the duchess and his younger half-siblings. For most of his adult years, Devlin was a soldier and fought with honour at Waterloo. Throughout the story it is obvious that he is suffering from what we know today as PTSD; obviously a sensitive and caring man he is tortured by flashbacks, nightmares and even – initially – impotence. He also suffers with a serious drink problem which his younger brother, Valentine, has helped him to overcome, although he still has to fight his urges for the liquor bottle – especially on a bad day.

On his arrival at his new estate, Devlin is presented with his predecessor’s by-blow, a small girl who was recognised by her father and grandfather, the old earl. Devlin understands, with the knowledge of someone-who-has-been-there-and-done-that, how important it is for the all but feral little Bronwyn – or Winnie as she is most commonly known – to be loved and accepted. It’s one of the really nice aspects of the story; the way Grace Burrowes shows this connection and understanding between the fully grown, product-of-his-past, man, and the tiny vulnerable little girl. Along with Winnie comes her very attractive, also illegitimate cousin, Emmaline Farnham. Emmie has lived on the edge of village society, barely tolerated by all but the local vicar who has a long-held affecton for her. Emmie is the only one who has ever really shown Winnie love, but as she is forced to earn a living – working herself into the ground in the process – baking for the local community, she has not been able to give much of her attention to her charge.

Emmie and Devlin are drawn together by their similar pasts but also by the love and concern they share for Winnie. It soon becomes apparent that the two belong together but Emmie has a secret which she is determined not to reveal, and for the second half of the book, as their attraction to each other ratchets up, she seems to do nothing but cry! And whilst I admire the fact that Grace Burrowes doesn’t shy away from mentioning bodily functions, I did get a bit fed up with Devlin talking about her ‘menses’ being the cause. Apparently with five sisters he knew all about such things! However, menses and bodily functions aside, I really liked Devlin; he develops throughout the story into a thoroughly decent and likeable man, his insecurities only making him more endearing and loveable. The author captures little Winnie perfectly. The child reacted as I would expect a child of her age to behave in certain situations, especially given the insecurities and tragedies she has suffered.

I do not think that James Langton was a good choice to narrate this story. Whilst he captures Devlin quite adequately and effectively portrays his caring side, I found his use of an Irish accent a little over the top. Devlin had lived with his Irish mother for only the first five years of his life and I find it difficult to believe that after well over twenty years living amongst the aristocracy, he wouldn’t have lost his strong Irish brogue. Emmie is described as extremely attractive with long blonde hair (which, in true Grace Burrowes fashion, Devlin likes to brush for her!), but as I said previously she cries a lot, and Langton’s high pitched tone of voice highlights her as a rather whingy, whining, misery. She was not a character I liked a great deal anyway, but the tone of voice employed dispelled any image in my mind of attractiveness. The vicar, whom Grace Burrowes indicated as handsome, caring and tolerant in her written portrayal of him has been given a lisping, foppish voice with a rather patronising edge to it. But by far the worst characterisation is that of Douglas Allen, Viscount Amery (Douglas – Lonely Lords, #8) apparently a rather dishy, youngish man, with a wife, stepdaughter and new baby who sounds like a pompous, ninety year old, his voice croaky and elderly.

As usual Grace Burrowes’ use of Americanisms is annoying. The sorts of muffins we eat for breakfast in England are toasted and not the sorts of things you can just put in your pocket (unless you want a pocket full of melted butter and jam!) and there is even mention of rabid dogs! Did we have rabid dogs in England in the nineteenth century? And a swing on the porch – reminiscent of the Deep South of America but not something I’d expect to find on a Yorkshire estate. On the whole, though, The Soldier is a solidly and empathetically written story, covering quite a few serious issues which are still relevant today.

Once Upon a Dream by Mary Balogh & Grace Burrowes

Once Upon a Drea

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In Another Dream by Mary Balogh, Miss Eleanor Thompson has found satisfaction as the director of a respected school for girls. The life of a dedicated educator offers many rewards and much meaning – but also more loneliness than Eleanor anticipated. She accepts an invitation from her sister, Christine, Duchess of Bewcastle, to attend a Bedwyn house party, never dreaming the summer curriculum might include stolen kisses and true love.

In The Duke of My Dreams by Grace Burrowes, banker’s daughter Anne Faraday is cast into the company of Elias, Duke of Sedgemere, at house party in the Lakes. Anne warms to the lonely man and conscientious father behind the title, and Elias becomes enthralled with the brilliant, burdened woman beneath Anne’s genteel facade. Liking turns to love under the Cumbrian summer moon, but family obligations, secrets, and a prodigal duck conspire to thwart the course of true love.

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Publisher and Release Date: Grace Burrowes Publishing, April 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

Fair warning to our faithful readers: the following is a giddy fan-girl review.

Two of my favorite authors: Mary Balogh and Grace Burrowes. One of my favorite settings: country house parties. My favorite duke – the Duke of All Dukes: Wulfric Bedwyn, Duke of Bewcastle. No way was I not going to like these two stories.

I’m giving this book five stars, based upon how very much I enjoyed reading it. Some of my HR friends, whose opinions I respect, have been more critical, with one calling these two novellas “just reader-friendly, predictable, comfort romance reads.” Just?? After some of the stinkers that I have read lately, that sounds like exactly what I want.

Mary Balogh’s story takes us back Bedwyn World, a place that I came to love when reading her Slightly and Simply series. Our heroine, Miss Eleanor Thompson, played a secondary role in Slightly Dangerous, when her sister Christine married the top-lofty Duke of Bewcastle. She appeared again in Simply Perfect, when Claudia Martin married the Marquess of Attingsborough, and Eleanor took over Claudia’s role as headmistress of a girls’ school in Bath. (Although Eleanor is pushing forty, she was destined to marry well, as all of the teachers at Miss Martin’s school went on to marry aristocrats.) On her way to a summer house party at Bewcastle’s estate, she stops at an inn to wait out a sudden storm, and while enjoying a quiet cup of tea she is accosted by an overly precocious ten-year-old girl. Georgette Benning is traveling with her young brother and their father. Although it is slightly improper, Eleanor enjoys a lovely dinner with Mr. Benning, and the next morning the travelers go on their separate ways.

Eleanor is quite surprised, therefore, when the Benning family arrives the next day to join Bewcastle’s house party. It turns out that “Mr. Benning” is in fact the Michael Benning, Earl of Staunton, and Christine has invited him with the expectation that he is on the verge of proposing marriage to another guest, a proper young miss with a dragon of a mother. The children have other ideas, however, and their antics help bring Eleanor and Michael together. Interestingly, Wulfric also plays matchmaker and there is a lovely scene where he counsels Eleanor after she confesses her unhappiness with running a school: “Sometimes our dreams lead us in the wrong direction and it would be foolish to continue pursuing them out of sheer stubbornness or the fear of disappointing others. There are other dreams waiting to be dreamed — the right dreams, the ones that will lead to contentment.”

If you haven’t visited Bedwyn World before, this novella probably will not appeal to you. Characters from almost all of the previous books are mentioned, along with the many children they have brought into the world. The plot is not particularly inventive. Indeed, it is very reminiscent of Ms. Balogh’s 1991 story The Best Christmas Ever (recently republished in Christmas Gifts). Young Georgette is a bit too eloquent for a ten-year-old and there is a jarring scene where Michael asks Eleanor whether she is a virgin when it’s clear that even if she is she won’t be for long. But for me, the romance was lovely, and visiting with Wulfric and Christine and rolling down that infamous hill with the rest of the Bedwyns was a joy.

Purely by accident, Grace Burrowes’s story bears some resemblance to Mary Balogh’s. Both feature slightly older and quite independent heroines who fall in love with widowed fathers and in both stories, the children play pivotal roles in bringing the couple together. The respective fathers’ attitude toward their children is quite different, however. Michael Benning is devoted to his, and his prospective fiancee’s desire to send them away to school is his first clue that she may not be the one for him. I had the impression, however, that Ms. Burrowes’ hero, Elias, Duke of Sedgemere, did not dote on his three little boys in the same way. He loved them, of course, but did not quite know what to do with them and frequently found himself apologizing for their behavior when they were just being typical little boys.

At first, Anne Faraday does not seem like the woman to bring this family together. She is the commoner daughter of an immensely wealthy banker, dedicated to taking care of her father. Although she moves among the ton, the ladies really do not like her and the men simply want to marry her money. Elias likes her, however, and when they are thrown together during the house party, he finds himself falling in love with her. She works magic with his little boys and teaches Elias how to let loose and enjoy their company. When they are caught in a compromising situation, however, she adamantly refuses to marry him, for she has a secret that she believes prohibits her from ever marrying. Elias figures out what it is, but this reader did not, and I can’t think of any other historical romance heroine with this particular secret.

At times, it was hard to know whether Anne was falling in love or just in lust. I enjoy a little hotness in my historical romances, but I do think that the author got a bit carried away, what with Elias and Anne getting it on at every available moment and in places where they could easily be caught. I also found that the presence of the Duke of Hardcastle was superfluous to requirements. He is Elias’s best friend and determined to dodge the matchmaking mamas. Other than that, he doesn’t do much. There really wasn’t much time for Burrowes to write those long, heart-felt conversations between gentlemen that she is so good at. If, however, you have read her May I Have This Duke in the anthology Dancing in the Duke’s Arms, you already know that he is going to meet his match when Elias and Anne throw their own house party.

Giving a rating to an anthology can be tricky unless the reader’s opinion of each story is exactly the same. In this case, I give the Balogh story five-plus stars and the Burrowes a four. If, like me, you consider these ladies to be two of the very best historical romance authors publishing today, I am confident that you will enjoy Once Upon a Dream.

Will’s True Wish (True Gentlemen #3) by Grace Burrowes

will's true wish

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It’s a dog’s life…
Will Dorning, as an earl’s spare, has accepted the thankless duty of managing his rambunctious younger siblings, though Will’s only true companions are the dogs he’s treasured since boyhood. When aristocratic London is plagued with a series of dognappings, Will’s brothers are convinced that he’s the only person who can save the stolen canines from an awful fate.

But the lady’s choice…
Shy, bookish Lady Susannah Haddonfield has no patience with loud, smelly beasts of any species, but must appear to like dogs so as not to offend her sister’s only marital prospect. Susannah turns to Will, an acquaintance from her most awkward adolescent years, to teach her how to impersonate a dog fancier. Will has long admired Susannah, though he lacks the means to offer for her, and yet as they work together to rescue the purloined pets, it’s loyal, dashing Will who steals Susannah’s heart.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, February 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

I love Grace Burrowes’ historical romances and have read almost all of them. Over the years I have noticed that her heroes – besides being handsome, charming, and lovable – are decidedly devoted to their horses. The author obviously loves horses and it shows. She clearly loves and understands dogs as well, and her affection for them is evident throughout Will’s True Wish. Several dogs play featured roles in the story, and each of their personalities comes through as clearly as those of the human characters.

Our heroine is Lady Susannah Haddonfield, one of the sisters of Nicholas, the Earl of Bellfonte. Susannah is in London for the season to chaperone her younger sister, Della. Seven years ago, during Susannah’s début season, she was the victim of unfounded rumors and nasty tricks perpetrated by two mean sisters who pretended to be her friends. Our hero, Will Dorning, was kind to Susanna then, and ever since, she has secretly felt a tendre for him. Although Will was attracted to Susannah, he was the second son of a purse-pinched earl and not looking for a wife, so their friendship never blossomed into anything serious. Susannah is now resigned to being on the shelf, but is determined that her sister will not be the subject of gossip. There is some reason for her concern, given that Della, who is small and dark, looks nothing like her tall, blond Haddonfield siblings.

Will is dedicated to taking care of his family – older brother Grey, the Earl of Casriel, and their rowdy younger brothers Cam and Ash. (As you will see – and for reasons not explained – the brothers are named for trees – Grey Birch, Willow, Sycamore, and Ash. Their sister is Jacaranda, after the fragrant, blooming sub-tropical tree. Brothers Valerian and Hawthorne are mentioned but do not appear in the narrative.) Will has forged the beginnings of a career training herding and working dogs; he is a sort of dog whisperer to the ton and is particularly devoted to his own dog, a gentle giant of a mastiff named Georgette.

One day as Cam is walking Georgette in the park, the usually well-behaved dog becomes over-excited and relieves herself on Lady Susannah’s parasol. Actually, Georgette may have been aiming at the knee of Viscount Effington, who raised the unfurled parasol to strike at the dog. This is just the first instance of a dog knowing people better than other people do. Effington is a nasty piece of work, but he is courting Della and Susannah is encouraging the match. He constantly carries around a spoiled little pug named Yorrick, which doesn’t bother Della, but Susannah really doesn’t like dogs at all. When Will comes to call on the Haddonfield sisters with a replacement parasol, Susannah asks him to help her overcome her aversion to dogs. Her motivation is a bit of a stretch for this reader: she is worried that Effington will be offended and hold it against Della if her realizes that her sister is not a dog lover.

So begins Will and Susannah’s reintroduction to one another, and Grace Burrowes has written a lovely story of two mature people falling in love and having to face the very real obstacles that confront them. Will simply does not have the income to support a wife, and he also feels obligated to continue helping his older brother corral their younger siblings. I love the way that Will and Susannah discuss these issues directly and without any Big Misunderstanding. Susannah is a wonderful heroine – strong and assertive without being hoydenish.

While the romance grows, very strange things are happening. It appears that Della is somehow blackmailing the Duke of Quimby’s young, handsome heir, Jonathan Tresham. The evil Effington, who is secretly broke, is forcing his friend Fenwick to spread nasty rumors about Della, thinking that her ruin will garner him a larger dowry. And we learn of a series of dog-nappings involving the pets of wealthy families. At Susannah’s insistence Will becomes involved in trying to find the culprits and of course, she becomes involved in the adventure as well.

Somehow, Grace Burrowes keeps all of these balls in their air and produces a happy ending for everyone, including all of the dogs. Will’s True Wish is a sweet story full of romance, adventure – and dogs – and I recommend it both to lovers of canines and fans of Burrowes’ marvelous story-telling talent.

Christmas in Duke Street by Miranda Neville, Shana Galen, Carolyn Jewel & Grace Burrowes

Christmas in Duke Street

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Christmas in London is a busy time at the little bookshop in Duke Street, for love, literature, and shopping. Four couples come and go and discover that happy ever after makes the perfect Christmas gift. A new anthology from the bestselling authors of Christmas in the Duke’s Arms and Dancing in the Duke’s Arms.
The Rake Who Loved Christmas by Miranda Neville Sir Devlyn Stratton wants to save his brother from an unprincipled adventuress, especially when he meets Oriel Sinclair and wants her for himself. Oriel won’t marry for convenience or become a rake’s mistress. But succumbing to Dev’s seduction is all too tempting.
A Seduction in Winter by Carolyn Jewel He’s an artist and a duke’s heir. She’s sheltered and scarred. Can he show her by Christmas that love can be theirs to share?
A Prince in her Stocking by Shana Galen Lady Cassandra has always done as she’s been told. Meek and malleable, she’s lived a life devoid of passion. When she meets a handsome man rumored to be an exiled prince, she sees one last chance at excitement. Little does she know, too much excitement can be dangerous.
The Appeal of Christmas by Grace Burrowes The best Christmas present is the one he didn’t realize he desperately needed.

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Publisher and Release Date: cJewel Books October 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Natalie

Duke Street Books, nicknamed ‘On the Shelf’ by an unnamed rake armed with red paint, is a cozy little bookshop on Duke Street; it has become a gathering place for the bluestockings, as well as the novel lovers, of the ton. This Christmas the shop has become a center of activity for several of their loyal patrons.

This is the third installment of Duke anthologies from the pens of four of the most popular authors of historical romance, and Christmas in Duke Street contains four short stories. Each story stand on its own but they are also intertwined, the characters meeting at and returning to On the Shelf thoughout their stories. This is a lovely collection that will get you in the mood for Christmas, even if some stories in the collection do work better than others.

The Rake Who Loved Christmas. Sir Devlyn Stratton loves Christmas, even if it isn’t fashionable among the ton to do so. He enjoys finding the perfect gift for his family members, a small escape from the stresses of the round of visiting and of putting his family affairs in order. When Dev enters On the Shelf in the middle of his holiday shopping, looking for a little warmth from the freezing London weather, he strikes up a brief conversation with Oriel Sinclair – which leaves him wanting more until Oriel leaves with an older, unscrupulous gentleman. Is Oriel really a woman of ill-repute or is she just want Dev needs this Christmas? The relationship between Dev and Oriel uses intrigue and mistaken identity in a very Christmassy way, if that is possible, and I really enjoyed the story.

In A Seduction in Winter, Honora Baynard has spent years toiling away as her artist father’s assistant, hiding her scarred face and following the military career of the only man to ever show any kindness to her. When she learns that Leoline, Lord Wrathell, has returned from India, she hopes that he will be able to repair his relationship with his father, but she knows that it would be too much to hope that he would remember the young girl he once protected. However, when she runs into him at On the Shelf, she realizes that Leoline may have been thinking about her as often as she thought about him. This is possibly my favorite story from this anthology. Instead of a striking beauty, we have a heroine who is physically scarred and has been led to believe that this makes her unacceptable to society at large. This story is as much about Honora coming to the realization that she has more to offer to the world than her face as it is about the romance that develops between her and the handsome hero.

A Prince in Her Stocking: Prince Lucien of Glynaven has lost his kingdom and his fortune in a recent revolution. He has been living on the streets of London while painstakingly searching through the books in On the Shelf in hopes of finding hidden documents that prove his identity. Lady Cassandra has been living under the thumb of her elderly sister-in-law since the death of her husband. Her only solace has been visiting On the Shelf, living in her imagination instead of reality, until the day she meets Lucien. Suddenly her life takes on all the intrigue and adventure she has been craving. This is my least favorite of all the stories in the collection. While Lucien is supposed to be a dashing hero who has lost everything, he does not come off as very sympathetic and Lady Cassandra reminds me a little too much of a love-sick puppy. The two seem to be the least connected out of all our couples and as I finished reading the story, I couldn’t help but think that in six-months’ time, Prince Lucien would dump Lady Cassandra for one of the more statuesque ladies of the ton!

The last story in the collection is The Appeal of Christmas. Barrister Gervaise Stoneleigh has spent years ignoring Christmas, leaving his gift buying to his mentor’s daughter, Hazel. Meanwhile Hazel has spent years wondering if Gervaise might ever see her as something more than just a friend. When a friendly kiss under the mistletoe turns into something more, Hazel makes a request of Gervaise that could destroy their friendship. This story is the wild horse of the series and has a different flavor. I enjoyed it and wished that there had been more room for Grace Burrowes to explore the relationship between Gervaise and Hazel.

All in all Christmas in Duke Street is a warm, inviting read. It got me in a great mood for the holidays and made me wish for my own warm, cozy bookshop to hop into and find romance this season. All four of these talented writers deliver four strong, different reads in this enjoyable addition to the Duke anthologies.

Daniel’s True Desire (True Gentlemen #2) by Grace Burrowes

daniels true desire

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Daniel Banks is a man of the cloth whose vocation is the last comfort he has left–and even his churchman’s collar is beginning to feel like a noose. In an attempt to start his life over, Daniel accepts the post of vicar in Haddondale, a position supported by the Earl of Haddonfield. There Daniel meets Lady Kirsten Haddonfield, to whom life has also dealt multiple unkind blows. Daniel’s interest is piqued by Kirsten’s unsentimental attitude toward her misfortunes, and by the kind-heartedness the lady keeps well hidden. Kirsten is much taken with Mr. Banks and his genuine compassion for others, despite his own troubles. When Providence intervenes, and Daniel and Kirsten can become engaged, their happiness seems complete…. though every garden has at least one nasty, sly, determined serpent.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, November 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Caz

In Daniel’s True Desire, the second in Grace Burrowes’ True Gentlemen series, we travel once again to Haddondale, the village near the estate of Nicholas, Earl Bellfonte. Having told his story in the Lonely Lords series, the author has turned her attention to Nick’s sisters, all of them tall, blonde, forthright and fiercely loving of friends and family, just like their older brother. Even though this novel is loosely related to several other books and there are a number of recurring characters, it’s possible to read it as a standalone – although I’d definitely recommend looking at the family trees on the author’s website and then catching up with some of those earlier stories.

Readers of those will already have met the Haddonfield ladies, the earl himself, and David, Viscount Fairly, whose wife Letty is the sister of the eponymous Daniel – the Reverend Daniel Banks, recently appointed by Nick to the living at Haddondale.

Lady Kirsten Haddonfield is prickly, sharp-tongued and, quite frankly, something of a grouch. She is not looking forward to her impending visit to London for her youngest sister’s come-out, which is bound to stir up gossip concerning certain … irregularities in the family, as well as raking up unpleasant memories of her two broken betrothals.

But beneath the outward grumpiness is a young woman whose faith in life and in herself has been badly shaken, and who cares deeply for those around her. She feels wasted tucked away in Kent, and longs for something to DO, especially given that she has resigned herself to spinsterhood.

As a younger man, Daniel Banks led a fulfilling life, nurtured by a loving father, realising his vocation as a clergyman and being assigned to a good living. But his disastrous marriage a decade before, to a young woman who was completely unsuited both to him and to the life of a country vicar’s wife, has gradually worn him down and he is even finding it hard to enjoy his calling, which is the one thing in his life he feels he has left to him. And worst of all, he has left behind him his five year old nephew, Danny, who, until the spiteful Olivia Banks spilled the beans, believed Daniel to be his father, and whom Daniel had cherished since the boy was given into his care as a baby. Now that Letty is settled with Fairly, she is in a position to provide for the boy, and even though it broke his heart, Daniel believed it best for Danny to return to his mother.

When Daniel and Kirsten meet, there is an instant affinity between them, as though each can sense the other’s carefully hidden discontent. Daniel finds Kirsten’s brutal honesty refreshing and is quickly able to see beneath her surface veneer of prickliness to the caring woman beneath; and Kirsten finds herself taken with the handsome vicar whose competence, sense of humour and quiet aura of compassion cause her to reassess her position when it comes to men and marriage.

But even though Daniel is estranged from Olivia, he is still married and cannot divorce her and occupy any sort of position within the Church. Without any other way of making a living, he could not support Kirsten; and with his wife continuing to threaten to expose the truth about Danny’s parentage, he is facing a life without love or true companionship.

There is a lot to enjoy in this book besides the lovely, bittersweet romance that blossoms between two people who have been knocked about a bit by life. Grace Burrowes excels at writing stories about community, friendship and family; her characters function within the world she has created for them, so they feel as though they have lives of their own that continue even when we are not reading about them. Among the books’ highlights are the focus on the bonds that develop between the group of unruly boys who are brought together under Daniel’s tutelage, and the way the author explores the various kinds of love; between lovers, siblings, parents and children. She skilfully addresses the issue of what is the best thing for a boy in Danny’s situation, and once again writes children that speak and act like real children, and not as precocious moppets whose sole function is to be cute and bring the protagonists together at the end of the story.

Something else I always enjoy about Ms Burrowes’ books is the way in which she writes such strong male friendships. I loved the interactions between Nick, Fairly and Daniel, and the way in which the two lords close ranks around Daniel when he needs their help.

Daniel is a wonderful hero, a warm, compassionate man who has no idea of his own attractiveness or his effect on women – and who is having to live with a poor decision made early in his life. Even though he is struggling with the fact that, were he in any other profession, he would be able to divorce his wife and still make a living, I liked that he doesn’t actually have a crisis of faith and that the author’s solution to his marital issues is, therefore, one I wasn’t expecting. The one false note struck in the book (and the reason for the 4.5 stars rather than 5) is to do with one particular plot point which is too much of a magical “fix” for something which isn’t – in real life – magically fix-able.

Overall, however, Daniel’s True Desire is a sweetly romantic, emotionally satisfying read and one I’m more than happy to recommend.

Tremaine’s True Love (True Gentlemen #1) by Grace Burrowes

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He’s had everything he could ever want…until now

Wealthy wool magnate Tremaine St. Michael is half French, half Scottish, and all business. He prowls the world in search of more profits, rarely settling in one place for long. When he meets practical, reserved Lady Nita Haddonfield, he sees an opportunity to mix business with pleasure by making the lady his own.

Nita Haddonfield has a meaningful life tending to others, though nobody is dedicated to caring for Nita. She insists the limitations of marriage aren’t for her, then Tremaine St. Michael arrives-protective, passionate, and very, very determined to win Nita’s heart.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca 4 August 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Wendy

A recent convert to Ms.Burrowes’ novels, I had often found her complicated family trees a bit off-putting as regards the various and complex familial relationships that run through her various series, but I was persuaded to read Darius: Lord of Pleasure and the Captive Hearts series by two respected friends/reviewers and immediately loved her quirky, intelligent writing style.

Tremaine St.Michael of mixed Scottish/French descent has a childhood past that has left him slightly bitter and unsure of his own worth, and although he is a gentleman, he is very firmly ensconced in trade and proud of the fact. He is a clever businessman, preferring to increase his already immense fortune by his wits and acumen and not to depend on his aristocratic background. He is quite at liberty to call himself Comte, a title inherited from his French Father, but prefers to be known as just plain Mister and comes over as a modest, unassuming man. He is quietly determined to achieve his goal, which is to purchase a large flock of impressive Merino sheep from Nicholas, the Earl of Bellefonte. Further traits that emerge slowly to Tremaine’s credit are his kindness and thoughtfulness, which are perhaps not immediately apparent, but in his unassuming manner he is a man who is quite delectable and very easy to like.

Lady Bernita Haddonfield, or Nita as she is known to her nearest and dearest, the eldest of the Earl’s unmarried sisters is a forthright, attractive blonde, who had been lady of the manor until her brother’s recent marriage. She cares for her large family in a more motherly than sisterly way, and after a brief, unsatisfactory brush with romance in her youth she has now eschewed marriage. Much to the consternation of her family, but especially Nicholas, she has all but become the local physician, following in her mother’s footsteps, but in a far more in-depth and dedicated manner. She is also very well read and practices some very controversial and state of the art medical methods which puts her at odds with the local physician and vicar. Nita is in great demand and refuses no one her time and skill. Even the notorious, local loose woman, who has had numerous children by as many different men – an outcast in society – who began life as the daughter of a respected local, minor gentry family – feels able to call on Nita without fear of condemnation or judgment and the story actually begins with Nita attending the birth of yet another addition to the family of this poor, downtrodden woman. Ms. Burrowes, realistically and emphatically describes the abject squalor and surroundings of this there-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I mother and her tribe of poorly clad, starving children.

Tremaine and Nita spend time together, and are witness, on a daily basis, to the caring side of each other. Although neither wants or seeks marriage, their admiration for each other starts to grow until they are more deeply attracted to each other than either would have wished for – the perfect combination – or so it seems.

The main conflict in the story comes from the fact that Nita is subjecting herself – and by association, her family – to all manner of contagious diseases. Immersing herself so thoroughly in her medical practices and visiting the unhygienic homes of the poor of society is not considered an acceptable pass-time for a lady of high rank. Nita does not consider the risk to herself and will not listen to her critics, although she is sensible enough to stay away from the nursery where the tiny heir to the earldom resides.

This is a delightful and unusual story that shows a very sympathetic side to Grace Burrowes’ writing. Homosexuality is mentioned, again in an extremely thoughtful and non judgemental way – I liked this addition and there is also a sweet secondary romance.

While not perhaps as spine-tinglingly romantic as Darius, or as deep and angsty as the Captive Hearts series, I really enjoyed Tremaine’s True Love, and I think Grace Burrowes has begun a series which will capture the interest of her followers and add a few more fans. My only reservation – and it is a real pet hate of mine – is to do with the modern terms peppered throughout which I would have thought that a writer of Ms. Burrowes calibre, with her evident extensive research (she must have read a lot to be able to write with such authority on sheep!) and eye for detail, would have conquered by now. Still, it’s a lovely read, with wonderful, well drawn characters I could not help admiring. I will definitely be reading this series as each book is released, so it’s a definite thumbs up from me.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Tremaine’s True Love (True Gentlemen #1) by Grace Burrowes

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He’s had everything he could ever want…until now

Wealthy wool magnate Tremaine St. Michael is half French, half Scottish, and all business. He prowls the world in search of more profits, rarely settling in one place for long. When he meets practical, reserved Lady Nita Haddonfield, he sees an opportunity to mix business with pleasure by making the lady his own.

Nita Haddonfield has a meaningful life tending to others, though nobody is dedicated to caring for Nita. She insists the limitations of marriage aren’t for her, then Tremaine St. Michael arrives-protective, passionate, and very, very determined to win Nita’s heart.

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A MESSAGE FROM GRACE BURROWES

What makes a man a gentleman?

GraceBurrowesFor a romance writer, this question has to be answered in every book, because implicit in the term “hero” is something of the gentleman. Heroes need not be charming, handsome or wealthy, and they might not even be obviously heroic, at least at the start of the book, but they have to be worthy of our loyalty for the duration of an entire book.

In the True Gentlemen series, I took three men who’d wandered across my pages in previous stories — Tremaine St. Michael, Daniel Banks, and Willow Dorning — and found them each a happily ever after. Tremaine is a flinty business man, Daniel is poor and pious, Willow finds polite society an enormous trial and would far rather be with his dogs. These fellows were not obvious choices as romance heroes, but they each had something that tempted me to write stories for them.

When we met Tremaine in an earlier book (Gabriel: Lord of Regrets), Tremaine was convinced that he’d found a good candidate for the position of wife. He offered marriage, listing all the practical advantages to both parties, and he congratulated himself on how much sense his proposed union would make.

The lady turned him down flat, and as a gentleman is bound to do, he graciously ceded the field. He didn’t like it, he didn’t entirely understand how or what he’d lost, but he wished the happy couple well.

Daniel’s role in David: Lord of Honor was to charge to London with sermons at the ready in an attempt to restore his sister’s honor. The very man Daniel accused of wronging that sister had already set her back on the path to respectability.

Oops. But again, being a gentleman, Daniel wishes the couple every happiness, even if doing so costs him the future he’d envisioned for himself and his loved ones. Like Tremaine, he’s a gracious and even dignified loser.

Willow’s appearance in Worth: Lord of Reckoning is brief, but he too is determined to see a sister rescued from a possibly compromising position, and again, rescue is simply not on the heroine’s agenda.

In all three cases, the true gentleman acts in the best interests of those he loves and is responsible for, regardless of the inconvenience or cost to himself. Because Tremaine, Daniel, and Willow were honorable, I liked them. I trusted them, I wanted them to have the happiness they clearly already deserved.

In the Nicholas Haddonfield’s sisters — Nita, Kirsten, and Susannah — I found ladies willing to oblige my ambitions for these men. In each case, our hero has lessons yet to learn, and in each case, his inherent honor wins the day. He might not be handsome, wealthy, or charming in the eyes of the world, but because he’s a true gentleman in the eyes of his lady, he wins her true love.

I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them!

READ OUR REVIEW OF TREMAINE’S TRUE LOVE TOMORROW!

EXCERPT

Wealthy businessman Tremaine St. Michael has concluded that marriage to Lady Nita Haddonfield would be a prudent merger of complimentary interests for the mutual benefit and enjoyment of both parties… or some such blather.

Tremaine rapped on Lady Nita’s door, quietly, despite a light shining from beneath it. Somebody murmured something which he took for permission to enter.

“Mr. St. Michael?”

Tremaine stepped into her ladyship’s room, closed the door behind him and locked it, which brought the total of his impossibly forward behaviors to several thousand.

“Your ladyship expected a sister, or a maid with a pail of coal?”

Treamine's True Love“I wasn’t expecting you.” Lady Nita sat near the hearth in a blue velvet dressing gown. The wool stockings on her feet were thick enough to make a drover covetous. “Are you unwell, Mr. St. Michael?”

“You are not pleased to see me.” Did she think illness the only reason somebody would seek her out?

She set aside some pamphlet, a medical treatise, no doubt. No vapid novels for Lady Nita.

“I was not expecting you, sir.”

“You were not expecting me to discuss marriage with you earlier. I wasn’t expecting the topic to come up in a casual fashion either. May I sit?”

She waved an elegant hand at the other chair flanking the hearth. Tremaine settled in, trying to gather his thoughts while the firelight turned Lady Nita’s braid into a rope of burnished gold.

“You are pretty.” Brilliant place to start. The words had come out, heavily burred, something of an ongoing revelation.

“I am tall and blond,” she retorted, twitching the folds her of her robe. “I have the usual assortment of parts. What did you come here to discuss?”

Lady Nita was right, in a sense. Her beauty was not of the ballroom variety, but rather, an illumination of her features by characteristics unseen. She fretted over new babies, cut up potatoes like any crofter’s wife, and worried for her sisters. These attributes interested Tremaine. Her madonna-with-a-secret smile, keen intellect, and longing for laughter attracted him.

Even her medical pre-occupation, in its place, had some utility as well.

“Will you marry me, my lady?”

More brilliance. Where had his wits gone? George Haddonfield had graciously pointed out that Nita needed repose and laughter, and Tremaine was offering her the hand of the most restless and un-silly man in the realm.

The lady somehow contained her incredulity, staring at her hands. “You want to discuss marriage?”

“I believe I did just open that topic. Allow me to elaborate on my thesis: Lady Bernita Haddonfield, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife? I think we would suit, and I can promise you would know no want in my care.”

A proper swain would have been on his damn bended knee, the lady’s hand in his. Lady Nita would probably laugh herself to tears if Tremaine attempted that nonsense. Lady Nita picked up her pamphlet, which Tremaine could now see was written in German.

“Why, Mr. St. Michael?”

“I beg your pardon?” Tremaine was about to pitch the damned pamphlet in the fire, until he recalled that Nita Haddonfield excelled at obscuring her stronger emotions.

“Why should you marry me, Tremaine St. Michael? Why should I marry you? I’ve had other offers, you’ve made other offers. You haven’t known me long enough to form an opinion of my character beyond the superficial.”

This ability to take a situation apart, into causes, effects, symptoms, and prognosis was part of the reason she was successful as a healer. Tremaine applied the same tendencies to commercial situations, so he didn’t dismiss her questions as coyness or manipulation.

She wasn’t rejecting him either. She most assuredly was not rejecting him.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes’ bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish and Lady Eve’s Indiscretion. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.

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Dancing in the Duke’s Arms – A Regency Romance Anthology by Grace Burrowes, Shana Galen, Miranda Neville and Carolyn Jewel

dancing in the dukes arms

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Why Do Dukes Fall in Love?

Every summer the cream of society gathers at the Dukeries, named for the ducal estates concentrated in one small corner of Nottinghamshire. While the entertainments include parties, balls, and a famous boat race, the ducal hosts and their guests find heartbreak, love and happy endings.

Four heartwarming stories from four bestselling historical romance authors.

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Publisher and Release Date: cJewel Books, 26th June 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England, Nottinghamshire
Genre: Historical Romance (Anthology)
Heat Rating: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Caz

As is common with anthologies, some stories in Dancing in the Duke’s Arms work better than others. My favourite of this set is Miranda Neville’s, The Duchess of Scandal in which an estranged couple find themselves back under the same roof due to a scheduling error. The very proper Duke of Linton proposed marriage to a young lady twelve years his junior, secure in the knowledge that no woman in her situation could possibly turn down such an offer. For the three weeks of their honeymoon, they were blissfully happy, but following their return to London, the rot sets in. Linton takes his responsibilities to his estates and in parliament very seriously, and his days are so full that he unintentionally neglects his eighteen year-old bride, and Althea’s only real company is her twin brother Nicholas. She ends up spending more time with her brother and his rather fast set and getting herself a name as a bit of a flirt. Annoyed at the gossip, and the fact that his wife always seems to be surrounded by crowds of young men, Linton seethes with annoyance and frustration, his admonitions and criticisms of her behaviour becoming more frequent. Things go from bad to worse and after six months, the Lintons agree to live separate lives.

I always like a good second-chance romance, and this, although only novella length, is a good one. The gentle reminders of what their life could have been like are poignant and well-written, as is the gradual reawakening of the couple’s feelings for each other. The greatest danger with the shorter format is that the romance will feel rushed, but it didn’t feel that way here and I thought it was a really lovely read. 4.5 stars

Grace Burrowes’ contribution, May I Have This Duke? does feel somewhat rushed, but I loved it because it was so damn funny and had me laughing on several occasions. The Duke of Hardcastle is put out when the governess to his six-year old nephew suddenly announces her intention of leaving his employ. Miss Ellen MacHugh needs to return to her family in the north of England, and is adamant that nothing will change her mind. He has no idea, of course, that she’s in love with him and doesn’t want to be around when he takes a wife, which is something he can’t put off for much longer.

Hardcastle is engaged to attend the Duke of Sedgemere’s house-party in the Dukeries (and yes, it’s a real place! The county of Nottinghamshire actually contains a large number of ducal estates, and was given the nickname in the nineteenth century), and as his nephew will be accompanying him, so will Ellen, and at the end of the party she will depart for her home.

Even though Hardcastle needs a wife, he doesn’t relish the prospect of being tricked into a compromising situation by a Machiavellian debutante and forced into marriage; and he also doesn’t like the idea of Ellen being pursued by the young bucks at the party. He suggests they provide cover for each other; by acting smitten with one another, she will preserve him from the scheming young ladies and he can protect her from the unwanted attentions of the men.

I admit that things do progress quite quickly and the ending is a bit too perfect, but I didn’t mind that, because the verbal exchanges between Ellen and Hardcastle are so often hilarious. Grace Burrowes has a very distinctive writing style which can seem quite formal – the characters often address each other by their full names, for example, or express themselves in a roundabout way – but here, that formality just adds to the humour and tenderness of Ellen and Hardcastle’s delightfully flirtatious banter. 4 stars

Carolyn Jewel’s An Unsuitable Duchess is the story of the very reserved and stern Duke of Stoke Teversault and the young woman whose sunny, outgoing nature and delight in the world around her shows her to be his complete opposite. The duke has been in love with Georgina for years, but missed his chance with her when she accepted a proposal from another man. Married quickly, she was happy with her husband, but he died a year after their marriage, and she has only just come out of mourning. Stoke is as attracted to her as he ever was, and she can’t forget his kindness to her after her husband died, yet she feels he disapproves of her and doesn’t really like her. It’s obvious that his dislike is nothing of the sort, and that he’s worried about both feeling and showing too much around her, yet he’s drawn to her vivacity and her amazing zest for life.

Georgina – or George, as her friends have nicknamed her – has no inkling of the true nature of Stoke’s feelings for her, but has no problem in identifying hers for him – she is astonished to discover that she desires him, this seemingly calculating, forbidding man who is not at all handsome by conventional standards and who disapproves of her for no reason she can discern.

Georgina is a lot of fun who knows she will never be a model of ladylike behaviour. She loved her husband and obviously had an enjoyable sex-life – she knows what’s what and can own up to what she wants. Stoke is the strong, silent type who doesn’t really know how to act towards the woman he loves and desires to distraction. They’re a mismatched pair, but the attraction between them is impossible to ignore, even though George realises that Stoke will probably break her heart. 3.5 stars

The least successful story of the four is Shana Galen’s Waiting for a Duke Like You, in which the gorgeous piece of male perfection that is Nathan, the Duke of Wyndover literally stumbles across a damsel in distress and has to save her from those who wish to do her harm. Shana Galen has written a number of action-packed romances but translating that to novella format hasn’t worked here, because both elements – the romance and the princess-in-peril plot – are too rushed and require too great a suspension of disbelief.

Princess Vivienne of Glynaven saw her family massacred and barely escaped her home with her life. She has travelled to England to seek the assistance of the king, but a group of assassins are on her tail and it won’t be long before they find her. Knowing that the Prince Regent is due to attend the ball at the Duke of Sedgemere’s house-party, she makes her way to his estate, only to collapse due to cold and hunger. She is found by Nathan, who met her briefly in Glenaven eight years previously and fell in love with her. He has never stopped loving her, but Vivienne never took much notice of him, having a dislike for men who are prettier than she is.

Um… yeah. That was such a daft reason for not liking someone that I just couldn’t buy it. On top of that, the romance never really gets off the ground and the entire thing is just too rushed for my taste. 3 stars

I enjoyed reading Dancing in the Duke’s Arms, even though the quality of the stories varies. But the great thing about an anthology like this is that if you don’t like one story, you can always jump to the next.

Ultimately, it’s worth buying for the Miranda Neville story alone, and the Grace Burrowes one is a nice bonus. The other two didn’t work quite so well for me, but this is still a fun collection and one that’s worth considering as a holiday read as each story can be read in an hour or so while you’re soaking up some sun!

VIRTUAL TOUR: The Duke’s Disaster by Grace Burrowes

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Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm, exercises the pragmatism for which he’s infamous when his preferred choice of bride cries off, and her companion, Lady Thea Collins, becomes his next choice for his duchess. Lady Thea’s mature, sensible and even rather attractive-what could possibly go wrong?

As a lady fallen on hard times, Thea doesn’t expect tender sentiments from His Grace, but she does wish Noah had courted her trust, lest her past turn their hastily arranged marriage into a life of shared regrets. Is His Grace courting a convenient wife, or a beautiful disaster?

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EXCERPT

The Duke and Duchess are having a rocky start to their marriage, also to their day…

“Your tea, Duchess.”

Noah had woken up beside his wife—again, despite all plans to the contrary—creating another first for him. Thea had risen several times during the night to tend to herself. He hadn’t realized that monthly courses caused a woman’s rest to be interrupted.

Crashingly bad planning, for a lady’s sleep to be disturbed when she most needed rest.

“You’re not about to steal my tea?” Thea held out the cup, her gaze shy as she sat propped against the headboard.

“Where’s the fun in stealing what’s freely offered?” Noah settled in beside her and filched a bite of her cinnamon toast. “Would you rather have chocolate this morning?”

“Because?”

“You’re”— Noah waved a hand in the direction of her middle—“indisposed.”

“I am not indisposed.” Thea set her teacup down with a little clink. “The discomfort has passed, as it always does. You needn’t be concerned.”

“I am not concerned, Thea.” Not greatly concerned, now that she’d stopped ordering him to go away and was ready for a proper spat. “I am attempting in my bumbling way to dote. You will allow it.”

Drat. He’d given another order.

“You couldn’t bumble if one gave you written instructions, Anselm,” Thea said, looking a little less peaked for having run up her flags. “That was my toast you appropriated.”

“Appropriation is what happens when one’s wife can’t appreciate a little doting. You’re being stingy with the tea, just as you were stingy with the covers. How long does this indisposition last?”

Her chin came up. “I am the Duchess of Anselm. I am not stingy with anything, but you are a very presuming husband.”

“Doting.” Noah took Thea’s free hand to kiss her knuckles— lest she mistake his point. “Also in need of my duchess’s guidance on this one marital matter.”

“This is so personal.” Thea’s gaze was on their joined hands— for Noah would not have her haring off in a fit of mortification. “I didn’t think you’d be a personal sort of husband. You were supposed to appear in my dressing-room doorway a few nights a month, silently take a few marital liberties, and then leave me in peace. We’d trade sections of the Times over breakfast the next morning.”

“Prosaic.” Boring and exactly what Noah himself had envisioned. “Hard to see any doting going on, though.”

“Husband?” Thea’s tone was hesitant. “Thank you, for keeping me company last night. I would not have known how to ask.”

“I suppose that’s the definition of doting.” Noah lingered at the cart to assemble a plate. “It’s the little things you can’t bring yourself to ask for, that an attentive spouse will enjoy providing to you. Bacon or ham?”

“A little of both, please.”

“Feeling carnivorous?”

“I’m a trifle indisposed. I need the sustenance.”

Noah piled both ham and bacon on Thea’s plate, and stole better than half of it, because he needed the sustenance too.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 7 April 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Caz

The Duke's DisasterIn The Duke’s Disaster, Grace Burrowes paints an incredibly realistic portrait of the situation faced by two people who marry for the sake of expediency and then realise that they will have to work at it if they’re going to have any chance of making a go of things.

Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm, comes from a family in which the men are famed for their sexual promiscuity. Unlike most of his male relatives, Noah is not licentious or irresponsible – not that it makes much difference to the tarnish that exists on his family name; or the gossips, who believe him to be cut from the same cloth as every other Winters male. In order to fulfil a deathbed promise, Noah is planning to marry, and has selected himself a suitable bride from the year’s bevy of simpering debutantes. On the verge of proposing, he is put out to discover that he has been pipped to the post by someone else, and although his amour propre is somewhat wounded, he is nonetheless quite relieved, as he doesn’t want to live his life shackled to a “giggling twit”. But he still has to find a wife, and instead turns to his former intended’s companion, Lady Araminthea Collins, who is, most unusually, an earl’s daughter. For an earl’s daughter to be in service is almost unheard of, but Thea’s family is in straightened circumstances, and her brother, the new earl, seems determined to drink himself into an early grave, exhibiting no care for Thea or their younger sister. Thea is shocked by Noah’s proposal and determined to turn him down – but when she realises that becoming his wife will enable her to keep her sister from having to tread the same path, she accepts, and they are married three weeks later.

The thing I adore about this book is the way in which it concentrates almost exclusively on the development of the relationship between Noah and Thea. The marriage of convenience/arranged marriage is a common theme in historical romance – and one of my favourites – but even so, the story of this one manages to be something out of the ordinary. We’re shown the pitfalls of marrying someone you hardly know, and how difficult it can be to adjust to having another person to consider besides oneself. It doesn’t help that Thea is keeping a pretty big secret from Noah, something which puts their fledgling marriage on the rocks immediately and about which he is both bitter and frustrated. Yet the more he comes to know Thea and to care for her, the more he comes to see that her situation is likely not her fault and that she’s deserving of compassion and understanding rather than censure.

Then there’s the fact that Noah is keeping a secret of his own – or rather, one belonging to someone else he doesn’t feel at liberty to reveal. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but he is nothing if not honourable, and as the story progresses, it becomes clear that he’s a man for whom family is incredibly important, and who will do whatever he has to do in order to clear up whatever messes have been created by his less responsible relatives. As these now include Thea’s wastrel brother, Noah spends a lot of time with the young man trying to get him to mend his ways, and do his duty by his sisters. Unfortunately, the new earl isn’t especially welcoming of his brother-in-law’s efforts, and while it would have been easy to have him take Noah’s advice to heart and become suddenly reformed, Ms Burrowes doesn’t take that road, and the story is the better for it.

All the characters, from the two protagonists to the secondary ones are very well fleshed-out, and the central relationship is beautifully developed. Noah describes himself at the beginning as “not nice” – and it’s true that he is somewhat autocratic and that he can say some rather cutting things – but Ms Burrowes expertly charts his progress from single man to caring husband, and it’s a delight to read. Noah and Thea suddenly realise that they don’t know each other at all well, even though Thea had spent time in his company as companion to her charge. Both are so used to being self-sufficient that they don’t share easily, but I watched them gradually come to trust each other and own their vulnerabilities with immense satisfaction.

One of the things Ms Burrowes does so well in the book is to show all those little details and small intimacies that are present within long-term relationships, but which are often overlooked because they’ve become so ingrained. I loved the breakfast routine the couple quickly establishes; Thea is not a morning person, so it’s Noah who fixes her tea, then drinks half of it while also snitching her toast. Thea very quickly becomes accustomed to sleeping (as in actual sleeping!) with her husband, enjoying the warmth of his large body and the comfort of his presence, and dreading the day when they will do the same as other tonnish couples and sleep in separate beds.

As is ever the case with this author, the descriptive prose is beautiful and her ability to find the emotional heart of both characters and story never ceases to amaze me. She has a very distinctive writing style which I admit may not be to everyone’s taste, although personally, I like it very much. As an example, Noah and Thea constantly refer to each other as “Husband” and “Wife” throughout the story. In the hands of a lesser author this might seem like affectation, but Ms Burrowes turns the words into the most intimate of endearments that feel perfectly natural coming from the mouths of these characters.

The Duke’s Disaster is a truly delightful read that takes a well-used trope and – incredibly – has something new to say about it. Highly recommended.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

GraceBurrowesNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes’ bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish and Lady Eve’s Indiscretion. The Heir was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010, The Soldier was a PW Best Spring Romance of 2011, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish won Best Historical Romance of the Year in 2011 from RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight was a Library Journal Best Book of 2012, and The Bridegroom Wore Plaid was a PW Best Book of 2012. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.

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