Tag Archive | Jane Ashford

VIRTUAL TOUR: Lord Sebastian’s Secret (The Duke’s Sons #3) by Jane Ashford

cvr-lord-sebastians-secret_-jane-ashford

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Proud. Cunning. Battle-hardened. Lord Sebastian Gresham is the epitome of military might and excellence. He’s wealthy. The son of a Duke. There’s just one problem: he can’t read. It’s those damned words. He doesn’t see them in the same way everyone else does. It’s a secret he’ll never tell, certainly not to his new bride-to-be.

Brilliant. Witty. Beautiful. Lady Georgina Stane has always known she’d make the perfect bride, that is, if her eccentric family didn’t scare off every potential suitor from London to Bath. After carefully orchestrating a London season with her parents out of the picture, she secured an engagement to an impeccable gentleman. And when Lord Sebastian arrives at her family’s estate to meet her parents, she’s not about to let their antics ruin her perfect marriage.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, January 2017

Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Lady Cicely

Can love survive secrets? Lord Sebastian Gresham is madly in love with Lady Georgina Stane and she with him; however, they both harbor secrets.

Georgina’s secret comes to light the moment Sebastian steps foot in her family home. Georgina fears it will affect Sebastian enough for him to call off the wedding, and it soon appears her fears may be well founded.

Sebastian is terribly ashamed of his secret. So ashamed his family isn’t aware of it, and it’s something only his trusted valet knows. It’s a secret he prays his beloved will never uncover, for if she does he worries she will no longer love him. When Sebastian’s secret comes to light will it cement the love between them or break them apart?

A pack of pugs, an eccentric family (and that’s putting it mildly), mischievous sisters, and a loon governess provide added stress to the lovebirds while entertaining the reader.

Lord Sebastian’s Secret is the third in Jane Ashford’s series The Duke’s Sons. Ms. Ashford writes a sweet tale of love no matter the circumstances, and her writing style pulled me into feeling each character’s fears. She had me laughing at the antics of Georgina’s family, holding my breath in anticipation of Georgina’s reaction when she learns Sebastian’s secret and weeping when Georgina learns what it is and the way she handles it.

This is the first book I have read of Ms. Ashford’s, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Her mention of Sebastian’s family, their suspicions of his difficulty and the way they handle it has me wanting to go back and read the rest of the series.

EXCERPT

Sebastian closed his eyes and gritted his teeth. He could all too easily picture the astonishing news that he had eloped running through his family—the letters flying back and forth, the disbelief and consternation. The surreptitious brotherly smirking. An image of his mother’s astonished face made him wince.

“Some people think I don’t care about convention,” muttered the marquess. “Not true. And this was too much. An elopement!”

“Except that it wasn’t, Papa,” Georgina pointed out. “It was an unfortunate accident. I think you might have had more faith in my character.”

Frowning at the floor, the older man said something too softly to be heard. Sebastian thought it might have been,

“It wasn’t you I was worried about.”

“The duchess is sending your brother,” said Georgina’s mother. She tried to speak blandly, but Sebastian got a clear sense of a woman getting the better of an argument at last.

The marquess glared at the group with a mixture of defiance and contrition.

“Which brother?” Sebastian asked.

“Randolph,” supplied his hostess.

Sebastian groaned softly. If anything could have killed his appetite at this point, the news that a brother had been dispatched to sort him out would have done it. He supposed this was his mother’s idea of just retribution for what she probably characterized as “antics.” She would have known that he would never elope.

If she’d had to send a brother, she could’ve drafted Robert. He’d have made a joke of the whole matter and charmed everyone so thoroughly that they saw it the same way. Alan or James might have refused to be embroiled in such a tangle at all. Nathaniel was still on his honeymoon. Mama couldn’t order him and Violet about quite so easily, anyway.

Randolph, though. Sebastian nearly groaned again. Randolph was usually glad for an excuse to take a few days’ leave from his far-northern parish. And he positively delighted in helping. Sebastian supposed that was why he’d become a parson. Part of the reason. He’d also been asking “why” since he could speak. According to family legend, that had been the first word Randolph learned. Sebastian certainly remembered being followed about by a relentlessly inquisitive toddler.

Nathaniel, a responsible six-year-old, had become so tired of saying he didn’t know that he’d taken to making things up. Sebastian still sometimes had to remind himself that discarded snakeskins were products of reptilian growth rather than intense surprise. Sebastian smiled. Randolph had spent several months trying to startle snakes out of their skin after that tale.

Then Sebastian’s smile died, and he put down his last sandwich. Randolph would revel in Mr. Mitra and the marquess’s lectures on reincarnation. There would be no end to his questions, or to the incomprehensible discussions after the ladies had left the dinner table. Sebastian only just resisted putting his head in his hands.

Georgina was looking at him, though, her expression anxious. He tried a reassuring smile. From her response, he judged that it was only marginally effective. He bolstered it, vowing to deal with Randolph. He would face anything to save her distress.

Georgina stood, holding her still half-full plate to her chest. “I believe I’ll go to my room now,” she said. “I’m quite tired.”

Her father looked guilty, her mother approving. Sebastian wondered at the determination on her face. It seemed excessive for a walk up a few steps. Was her leg hurting? One look at her father told him he would not be allowed to assist her to a bed.

Night had deepened by the time Georgina managed to hunt down Hilda and corner her in a little-used reception room, where she’d apparently been holed up for a good while, judging from the cake crumbs. Georgina stationed herself between her youngest sister and the door and confronted her with hands on hips. “Have you lost your mind?” she demanded.

For a moment, it seemed that Hilda might deny everything, but then she slumped back on the sofa and let out a long sigh. “I only meant to leave you overnight, but everything went wrong from the very first. Whitefoot didn’t like being led. He jerked the rein right out of my hand and ran away. I had to take your Sylph to the Evans farm before I could chase after him. It took hours before I got him there as well.” She paused and looked indignant. “Emma abandoned me! She turned tail and rode home. And she’s been practically hiding in her bedchamber ever since.”

“Perhaps she feels a sense of remorse for having done something absolutely outrageous,” Georgina suggested.

Hilda wrinkled her nose. “Well, we came back first thing the next morning to get you.”

“That does not excuse…”

“And you were gone!” Hilda actually dared to look reproachful. “As if you’d vanished into thin air.”

“Thick mud, more like,” said Georgina.

“If you had just waited, or only walked a little way along the trail, we would have found you. And there wouldn’t have been such a very great fuss. Why didn’t you? How could you be so clumsy as to fall into a gully?” Hilda cocked her head. “I never even knew it was there.”

“Don’t even dream of blaming this on me!” Georgina gazed at her sister. They were alike in coloring and frame, but apparently their minds ran on entirely different paths.

GIVEAWAY

There are TEN (10) copies of the first book in The Duke’s Sons series – Heir to the Duke up for grabs – enter the giveaway at Rafflecopter!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

jane-ashford_-author-photoJANE ASHFORD, a beloved author of historical romances, has been published in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, and Spain, as well as the United States. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews.

You can connect with Jane at www.janeashford.com * ~ * Facebook * ~ * Goodreads

A Radical Arrangement by Jane Ashford

a radical arrangement

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Sir Justin Keighley was everything that repelled Margaret Mayfield in a man. He was shocking in his opinions, arrogant in his manner, rude in his actions, and completely without respect for the common decencies of civilized society.

Margaret was everything that Sir Justin detested in a woman. She was shy, retiring, obedient to her parents, almost embarrassed by her own beauty, and ignorant of virtually every phase of real life in the real world.

Needless to say, they both did everything in their power to escape being matched with each other. Somehow everything was not enough….

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, August 2015 (Reissue of a title originally published in 1983)

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Heat Level: 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Wendy

Jane Ashford’s A Radical Arrangement was originally published in 1983 and is a gentle, if thought provoking, Regency romance. I wasn’t surprised to read at the end that the author had been inspired by Georgette Heyer.

The title pretty much sums up the book – for once a title that actually describes the book! Sir Justin Keighley is extremely radical in his politics, so-much-so that he is a terrifying prospect to the gently reared Miss Margaret Mayfield, who has been brought up to obey her rather overbearing parents without question. Her father, an eminent politician, holds views in direct opposition to Sir Justin who is admired and revered by certain factions of society, and has a certain magnetism which means that although the local gentry doesn’t approve of him, they dare not ignore him and he is therefore invited to events for politeness sake. It is at one such event at her parents’ home, that Margaret first encounters him.

Margaret is a pale, insipid example of her upbringing, brought up to believe that she must always do as she is told, that she is female and men always know best. Sir Justin is the product of forward thinking parents who questions and actively works to improve the lot of the working classes – and he despises the sort of young woman that Margaret is, a young woman quite unlike his mother who takes part in political debates and thinks for herself.

Through a comedy of errors Justin and Margaret end up in a compromising situation, but she refuses to marry her nemesis and he flatly refuses to marry her. Margaret runs away when her mother tries to force the issue and Sir Justin feels honour bound to pursue her and bring her back, although he still has no intention whatsoever of marrying her even if she should change her mind.

When he finally catches up with her she ends up shooting him accidentally, and they explaining it away to locals by saying that they have been attacked by a highwayman. Sir Justin is insensible so Margaret takes the decision for them to pose as brother and sister and accepts shelter at the local inn where, with the help of the local midwife, she nurses him back to health. Through all that has happened though, there is no burgeoning attraction between the two, no connection, despite the fact that Margaret has performed the intimate tasks necessary to nurse a man back from death’s door. It just didn’t seem as though Justin actually liked her.

Up until now I have probably described Sir Justin as a perfectly wonderful man, albeit a rather arrogant one, but this is not so! He comes over as a sarcastic, judgemental and unlikeable person. I’d like to have given the wishy-washy Margaret a damn good shake. She doesn’t have an original thought in her head to begin with but eventually, after the break from her parents and being subjected to the overbearing and opinionated Sir Justin and his radical views, she starts to think for herself. He gives her a book to read which sounds fascinating – An Examination Of The Need for and the Principles For Political Reform of the British Governmental System! He takes her on a tour of the area to meet a number of poor families living on the breadline, something she had never ever known about in her sheltered life. At this point I had to question how he knew about all of these poor families since this is far from his own home and lands and he has been bedridden for weeks! Still at least Margaret starts to think for herself, becomes more interesting and starts to see a side of life she had never known existed.

There’s an awful lot packed into this fairly short novel, but it’s a nicely written story and to begin with I thought I would love it. But as I read on, I became disappointed as I really think the author missed an opportunity to rework the story (I’m assuming she looked at it again after more than 20 years) to develop the romance between the protagonists, give Justin a bit of a makeover and instil a little “oomph” into Margaret. For whatever reason, she didn’t do so.

A lot of thought and research has gone into the writing of this story, although a few little modernisms and Americanisms slipped in. I liked Justin’s take on life and his desire to ‘do’ something; I just wish he had been more likeable before we got to the last chapter! A Radical Arrangement is an entertaining read, but ultimately, the romance leaves a lot to be desired.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Married to a Perfect Stranger by Jane Ashford

Married to a Perfect Stranger

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Mary Fleming and John Bexley are the “white sheep’ of their large families, written off as hapless, boring—and thus suitable for each other. But they’re no sooner married than John is sent off on a two-year diplomatic mission.

Upon his return, John and Mary find that everything they thought they knew about each other is wrong. They’ve changed radically during the long separation. They have to start all over. It’s surprising, irritating—and somehow very exciting . . .

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EXCERPT

John Bexley reined in his hired horse on a slight rise and gazed down at the red brick manor, somnolent under the August sun. Eager as he was to get to London, he’d felt he must detour west into Somerset to fetch Mary. Her family’s decision to put her under the care of a great-aunt while he was away just showed he was right to fear that such a shy, quiet girl couldn’t arrange a journey on her own. And now that he was here, the sight of this place soothed him; it looked the very essence of English country comfort and peace.

John’s knock was answered by an aged butler. He gave his name, stepped in, and inhaled the familiar scents of beeswax polish and potpourri. The place reminded him of his own home farther north. Golden light pooled on the wooden floor and gleamed on the stair rail. In the rooms on either side of the entry, the furnishings were classic and inviting. Mary had certainly had a beautiful and serene spot in which to wait for him. “Mary’s husband,” he added when it seemed as if the old man didn’t know what to do with him. “I believe I am expected.”

“Yes, si…”

A filthy, hysterical chicken shot through the rear door of the dining parlor on his left, skidded in a turn around the table, and raced past him, neck extended, screeching, flapping its mottled wings. A little boy slathered with mud came racing after it, careened off the doorjamb, and staggered across the entryway, leaving streaks and globs of dirt in his wake. The old butler stiffened in horror.

The bird hopped across a flowered sofa in the front parlor, stitching it with muddy tracks, circled the delicate carpet, and looped back toward John. The boy in pursuit slipped, fell, jumped up, and turned to follow. He flapped muddy hands at the fowl in an inept attempt to trap it.

What seemed like a herd of adults jostled into the dining parlor, then surged forward. “Arthur!” snapped a young woman, her voice crackling with authority.

“It isn’t my fault,” the boy shouted over the wild squawking. “I pulled her from the mire. Fox was after her. I never shot her or nothing.”

As the crazed chicken surged past him, John bent, reached, and snatched hold of its legs. When he straightened, he held the muddy bird upside down, at arm’s length, well away from his clothing. It flapped and protested; flakes of dirt dropped to the floor.

“Good!” said the managing female, striding from the dining room into the hall. “Take it from him, Alice, and put it outside at once.”

The middle-aged maid jumped to obey like a subaltern responding to a commanding general. The butler relaxed. The boy stood to attention. “It wasn’t me, I swear,” he repeated. “I rescued ’er. I killed three rats as well. Would have been four, but I…”

“Very well, Arthur,” the woman replied. “Go now and get cleaned up.”

The boy finally noticed the mud sliding from his clothes to the polished floor. His face shifted from defensive to horrified, and he slunk out. In the same moment, John realized that the woman with a voice like a sergeant major was his meek little sparrow of a wife.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: March 3, 2015, Sourcebooks Casablanca

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London, England, 1816
Genre: Regency Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

I always enjoy a marriage-of-convenience story, and Married to a Perfect Stranger delivers exactly that. John and Mary are viewed by their respective families as pattern-cards of propriety. As such, they seem to make a perfect match, and so, after a short courtship in Bath, they marry. Soon afterward, John, who works for the Foreign Office, is sent away on a diplomatic mission to China, and the book opens nearly two years later as he returns. Just before reaching England, John’s ship hits a rock, and as the ship is sinking, John goes below to rescue his boss, Lord Amherst, while his feckless colleague, the Honorable Edmund Fordyce refuses to help. Fordyce’s middle name might as well be Villain.

But the events of the past two years have changed both John and Mary. John, considered the least talented of four sons, found a new sense of purpose and confidence on his mission. He looks forward to setting up household in London with his shy, biddable wife, a woman who John could teach to become a fine diplomat’s wife. Mary, however, has spent their time apart caring for her somewhat addled great aunt Lavinia, a thankless task foisted upon her by her bullying mother. In learning to run Lavinia’s household and deal with her ancient group of servants, Mary has gained new self-assurance. She also has come to realize that her frequent sketching is more than just a hobby. She is what we now might call a “visual thinker” (and appears to suffer from a reading disorder), and to truly understand a situation she needs to draw the people involved. Drawing is key to her understanding and to her ability to communicate with others.

John and Mary’s reunion gets off to a bumpy start. “What has happened to you?” he blurts out to his wife, now a managing female with an air of command. When Mary stands up to him, John is quickly back on his horse and headed for London. Three weeks later, Mary arrives at their house in London, hoping for the best, but John is distant, rather haughty, and secretive about his work. He is a complete arse and impossible to like. Mary, on the other hand, is quite sympathetic and eager to please.

These two have a lot to learn – about life, marriage, and one another, and the book tells a lovely story of two people sincerely committed to making their marriage work. After several confrontations, they reach an agreement to start afresh, and it helps that there is physical attraction between them. John and Mary become a team and must stand up to the scorn and resistance of their own families and John’s office colleagues in order to make a life for themselves.

If the book had concentrated on that, I would have liked it better, but the author adds an espionage plot that I did not find quite convincing. But the story of John and Mary’s relationship – which gradually grows into mutual support, attraction, respect, and love – is very satisfying.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JaneAshfordJane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. Her romances have been published all over the world. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

You can connect with Jane at her website * ~ * ~ * Facebook.