Tag Archive | Loretta Chase

VIRTUAL TOUR: A Duke in Shining Armor (Difficult Dukes #1) by Loretta Chase

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Not all dukes are created equal. Most are upstanding members of Society. And then there’s the trio known as Their Dis-Graces.

Hugh Philemon Ancaster, seventh Duke of Ripley, will never win prizes for virtue. But even he draws the line at running off with his best friend’s bride. All he’s trying to do is recapture the slightly inebriated Lady Olympia Hightower and return her to her intended bridegroom.

For reasons that elude her, bookish, bespectacled Olympia is supposed to marry a gorgeous rake of a duke. The ton is flabbergasted. Her family’s ecstatic. And Olympia? She’s climbing out of a window, bent on a getaway. But tall, dark, and exasperating Ripley is hot on her trail, determined to bring her back to his friend. For once, the world-famous hellion is trying to do the honorable thing.

So why does Olympia have to make it so deliciously difficult for him . . . ?


Publisher and Release Date: Avon, November 2017

Time and Setting: England, 1833
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 5 STAR TOP PICK

Review by Em

Charming, clever, funny and romantic in equal parts, A Duke in Shining Armor is a wonderful start to Ms. Chase’s newest series, Difficult Dukes.  The difficult duke in this case is trying, for the first time in his life, to do the right thing.  Unfortunately for our beleaguered hero, he’s trying to do the right thing on behalf of a bewildered heroine, who’s become hopelessly entangled in trying not to do the wrong thing.  Confused?  So was he.  Marvelously so.  Our principals are forced together on the road trip from hell, wherein everything that can go wrong, does.  Except, it doesn’t.  Because when the couple finally reaches what they think is the end of the road, their arrival marks the start of a very different kind of journey – a lifetime together.  Just as fate intended.

When Hugh Philemon Ancaster, seventh Duke of Ripley, returns to England after a year abroad, he’s surprised to discover his boon companion, the Duke of Ashmont – aka ‘His Grace with the Angel Face,’ – engaged to be married.  Pressed by Ashmont to act as his best man, Ripley applies himself to the role with gusto – ensuring Ashmont makes it to the altar after a night of carousing and a brief street brawl.  Unfortunately, and despite his best efforts, things quickly go awry.  The bride, Lady Olympia Hightower, is nowhere to be found, and Ashmont is steadily drinking himself into a stupor. Hoping to avoid a scene and eager to move things along, Ripley takes it upon himself to track down the missing bride.  When he does, he’s completely unprepared for the sight that greets him:  Lady Olympia Hightower, dressed in a frothy concoction of lace and tulle and beads, balanced on the window ledge.  After spotting Ripley, she tells him she just needs a breath of air, drops out of the window and starts running; Ripley, the ever dutiful groomsman, is forced to follow. In the rain. Without his hat.

Lady Olympia isn’t quite sure how she found herself on the run from her own wedding. After spending the majority of seven London Seasons as a perpetual wallflower, voted Most Boring Girl of the Season seven years in a row, Olympia had little hope of landing one of the eligible bachelors who paid her little notice.  But when the handsome and wealthy Duke of Ashmont asked her to marry him, Olympia didn’t hesitate to do her duty.  The only daughter of the spendthrift Duke of Gonerby, sister to six brothers, Olympia quickly grasped that marriage to Ashmont was an answer to her family’s unspoken prayers.  Her parents are ecstatic, Ashmont is smitten, and Olympia… well, she’s been having serious second thoughts.  So that’s why, on the morning of her wedding, bolstered by several cups of brandy-laced tea, Olympia finds herself with one foot on either side of the open library window, plotting her escape.  She’s in the midst of a tipsy pep talk when the Duke of Ripley opens the door and spots her.  Fueled by liquid courage, Olympia drops to the ground and takes off.

Olympia tries hard to shake Ripley.  As their road trip from hell gets underway, she’s slightly drunk, frustrated by her uncomfortable attire, and annoyed by her handsome companion.  He refuses to simply let her go and insists, between entreaties to return to the wedding ceremony, on accompanying her to her aunt’s home in Twickenham – where she hopes to hide and ride out the disgrace of bolting from her own wedding.  To her dismay, it soon becomes clear to her that Ripley is nothing like she assumed.  He’s intelligent, clever, funny – his wicked and dry sense of humor is simply delicious – and once she gets a glimpse of him sans clothes (you’ll see), she can’t shake a very inconvenient attraction to… well, every single thing about him.  A sober Olympia finds herself daydreaming about her very stubborn champion, wishing he was the man she was destined to marry.  But after a lifetime spent on the shelf, unnoticed and underappreciated, Olympia’s skewed vision of herself leaves her with all kinds of doubt about her own appeal to a man like Ripley.  Certain she offers little that would appeal to the handsome rake, Olympia is resigned to a life of infamy after jilting the Duke of Ashmont.

Ripley is determined to return Olympia to Ashmont, and even as each of his overly optimistic plans fail, he’s relentlessly hopeful that things will somehow turn out in the end.  He can’t quite believe Ashmont landed Olympia for his duchess, but he tries to do right by his friend.  Meanwhile, as the trip progresses and he’s forced to spend time with Olympia, Ripley begins to recognize she’s everything he never realized he wanted and needed in his own life.   Ripley starts to resent Ashmont, wanting beautiful, funny, sharp and intelligent Olympia for himself.  He’s frustrated by Olympia’s self-doubt and insecurity, and annoyed at the part he played in making her feel that way. She’s magnificent and he can’t help his attraction to everything about her – her mind, her body, her sense of humor, her beauty… Ripley, world renowned rake, falls hard for his bespectacled companion and it’s awesome.

When all his best laid plans go awry, and Ashmont fails to catch up to them, Ripley eventually steers them to the home of his favorite aunt, Lady Charles Ancaster.  Aunt Julia, who practically raised the three Dis-Graces (Ripley, Ashmont, and their friend, Blackwood), is quick to chastise her nephew for his role in the debacle of Olympia’s wedding day… but she also sees what Ripley and Olympia try hard not to – that they’ve fallen in love.  She’s a terrific secondary character, playing a pivotal role in the second act/resolution of the story.  If she wasn’t a fictional character, I’d be tempted to high-five her.

Reader, because the journey – with all of its highlights and lowlights (and there are many) – is such a delightfully entertaining trip, I’m reluctant to spoil it for you.  So I won’t.  Suffice it to say that nothing goes as planned, and in the span of a few short days, Ms. Chase somehow crafts a love match between Olympia and Ripley that feels profoundly real, romantic and special.  Meanwhile, Ashmont and Blackwood desperately try to track the pair down – and Ripley, determined to honor his friendship, tries valiantly not to fall for Olympia.  His friendship and loyalty are tested as the novel comes to a close, but Ms. Chase deftly delivers a happily ever after that honors both.  I’m eager to find out just who the sweetly befuddled Ashmont ends up with – and to discover what’s led to the estrangement between Blackwood and his wife, Ripley’s sister.  Ripley’s story is a marvelous introduction to the trio, and I can’t wait for more of these Difficult Dukes.

Loretta Chase was a favorite historical romance author before I picked up A Duke in Shining Armor. But this romantic, funny, enchanting and redemptive road trip from hell is simply terrific and her best, most memorable work to date.   A Duke in Shining Armor is one of my favorite novels of 2017.


Early morning of 11 June 1833

The Duke of Ashmont was not a very good duke—rather an awful one, actually. And so nobody could be in the least surprised to see him, drunk as an emperor—that was to say, ten times as drunk as a lord—staggering down the steps of Crockford’s Club on the arm of one of his two best friends.

This one was Hugh Philemon Ancaster, seventh Duke of Ripley. Where Ashmont was fair-haired, blue-eyed, and angelic-­looking, Ripley was dark. Unlike Ashmont, he did not appear to be spun of dreams and gossamer, and women did not follow his movements with the moonstruck expressions they accorded His Grace with the Angel Face.

On a good day, someone had said once, Ripley’s face resembled that of a wolf who’d been in too many fights.

Furthermore, though his slightly older title ranked him a notch or two higher in precedence than Ashmont, Ripley was merely as drunk as a lord. He could still distinguish up from down. When, therefore, His Grace of Ashmont showed an inclination to stumble in the downhill direction, toward St. James’s Palace, Ripley hauled him about.

“This way,” he said. “Hackney stand up ahead.” “Right,” Ashmont said. “Can’t miss the wedding.

Not this one. It’s me doing it. Me and Olympia. Have to be there. Promised.”

“You will be,” Ripley said as he led his friend across the street. The wedding had been news to him, the choice of bride a shock: Lady Olympia Hightower, of all women. She was the last girl on earth he’d thought would marry Ashmont—or any of them, for that matter.

Not that Ripley knew her very well. Or at all. They’d been introduced, yes, years ago. That was in the days when respectable persons still introduced Ripley and his two friends to innocent girls. But those were not the kinds of girls the ducal trio wanted. Gently bred maidens were for marrying, and marriage was sup-posed to be years away, sometime in the dim, distant future.

Apparently, the future had arrived while Ripley wasn’t looking.

First the Duke of Blackwood, the other of his two boon companions, had married Ripley’s sister over a year ago, a few days before Ripley left for the Conti-nent. Now Ashmont was doing it. Ripley had heard the happy news mere hours after his return to London yesterday.

No, he’d returned the day before, because today was yesterday now. He’d come to Crockford’s because he wanted a decent meal, and Crockford’s Ude was the next best thing to Ripley’s own chef, Chardot, who’d come down with a foul cold sometime during the Channel crossing.

Chardot went with him everywhere because he was amply paid to do so, and Ripley liked his comfort. Having been forced, for no sane reason, to live like a pauper during his boyhood, he lived like a king now.

Ripley was debating with himself whether, on the whole, he’d better have stayed abroad, when four men spilled out of a narrow court, one crashing into Ash-mont, with force enough to dislodge him from Ripley’s light grasp and push him into a shop front.

Ashmont bounced back with surprising energy. “You clumsy, bleeding, half-­wit! I have to get married, you bloody arsehole!” At the same moment, he drove his fist at the fellow’s face.

One of the man’s friends tried to butt in. With a sigh, Ripley grabbed him by the back of the collar. The fel-low swung at him, obliging Ripley to knock him into the gutter.

What happened after that was what often happened when Ashmont was about: a lot of filthy language and filthy fighting, and men rushing out of the clubs, shout-ing bets, and a female or two screaming somewhere.

Then it was over. Their foes lay strewn about the pavement. Ripley didn’t wait to count or identify them. He collected Ashmont from the railing he’d slumped against and trudged to the corner with him. He sig-naled, and the first in line of the hackneys plodded their way. He threw Ashmont into the decrepit coach and directed the driver to Ashmont House.

Servants waited up, as they were accustomed to do, for Ashmont. They bore him up the stairs to his bed-room and undressed and washed him without fuss.


GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS:  Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of A Duke In Shining Armor by Loretta Chase.  This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance.  Giveaway ends 12/5/2017 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address.  Duplicates will be deleted.


Loretta Chase has worked in academia, retail, and the visual arts, as well as on the streets-as a meter maid-and in video, as a scriptwriter. She might have developed an excitingly checkered career had her spouse not nagged her into writing fiction. Her bestselling historical romances, set in the Regency and Romantic eras of the early 19th century, have won a number of awards, including the Romance Writers of America’s Rita. For more about her past, her books, and what she does and doesn’t do on social media, please visit her website www.LorettaChase.com.

You can also connect with Loretta at: Facebook * ~ * Twitter * ~ * Goodreads * ~ * Amazon

VIRTUAL TOUR: Dukes Prefer Blondes (Dressmakers #4) by Loretta Chase


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Biweekly marriage proposals from men who can’t see beyond her (admittedly breathtaking) looks are starting to get on Lady Clara Fairfax’s nerves. Desperate to be something more than ornamental, she escapes to her favorite charity. When a child goes missing, she turns to Oliver Radford—a handsome, brilliant, excessively conceited barrister.

Having unexpectedly found himself in line to inherit a dukedom, Radford needs a bride who can navigate the Society he’s never been part of. If he can find one without having to set foot in a ballroom, so much the better. Clara—blonde, blue-eyed, and he must admit, not entirely bereft of brains—will do. As long as he can woo her, wed her—and not, like every other sapskull in London, lose his head over her…



Charing Cross

“Look out! Are you blind? Get out of the way!”

Clara hadn’t time to see what she was in the way of when an arm snaked about her waist and yanked her back from the curb. Then she saw the black and yellow gig hurtling toward her.

At the last minute, it swerved away, toward the watermen and boys clustered about the statue of King Charles I. Then once more it veered abruptly off course. It nicked a passing omnibus, struck a limping dog, and swung into St. Martin’s Lane, leaving pandemonium in its wake.

Some inches above her head—and plainly audible above the bystanders’ shouts and shrieks and the noise of carriages, horses, and dogs—a deep, cultivated voice uttered an oath. The muscular arm came away from her waist and the arm’s owner stepped back a pace. She looked up at him, more up than she was accustomed to.

His face seemed familiar, though her brain couldn’t find a name to attach to it. Under his hat brim, a single black curl fell against his right temple. Below the dark, sharply angled eyebrows, a pair of cool grey eyes regarded her. Her own gaze moved swiftly from his uncomfortably sharp scrutiny down his long nose and firmly chiseled mouth and chin.

The day was warm, but the warmth she felt started on the inside.

“I daresay you noticed nothing about him?” he said. “But why do I ask a pointless question? Everybody flies into a panic and nobody pays attention. The correct question is, Does it matter?” He shrugged. “Only to the dog, perhaps. And in that regard one may say that the driver simply put the wretched brute out of its misery. Let’s call it an act of mercy. Well, then. Not injured, my lady? No swooning? No tears? Excellent. Good day.”

He touched the brim of his hat and started away.

“A man and a boy in a black Stanhope gig trimmed in yellow,” she said to his back. Clara was aware of the tall, black-garbed figure pausing, but she was concentrating, to hold the fleeting image in her mind. “Carriage freshly painted. Blood bay mare. White stripe. White sock . . . off hind leg. No tiger. The boy . . . I’ve seen him before, near Covent Garden. Red hair. Square face. Spotty. Garish yellow coat. Cheap hat. The driver had a face like a whippet. His coat . . . a better one but not right. Not a gentleman.”

Her rescuer slowly turned back to her, one dark eyebrow upraised. “Face like a whippet?”

“A narrow, elongated face,” she said. With one gloved hand, whose tremor was barely noticeable, she made a lengthening gesture over her own face. “Sharp features. He drives to an inch. He might have spared the dog.”

Her rescuer looked her up and down, so briefly Clara wasn’t altogether sure he’d done it. But then his expression became acutely intent.

She kept her sigh to herself and her chin upraised, and waited for the wall to go up.

“You’re certain,” he said.

Why should I be certain? she thought. I’m only a woman and so of course I have no brain to speak of.

She said, more impatiently than she ought to, “I could see the dog was barely alive. No doubt boys would have tortured him or a horse would have kicked him or a cart would have rolled over him soon enough. But that driver knew what he was doing. He struck the animal on purpose.”

The stranger’s keen gaze shifted away from her to scan the square.

“What an idiot,” he said. “Making a spectacle of himself. Killing the dog was meant as a warning to me, obviously. A master of subtlety he is not.” When his gaze returned to her, he said, “A whippet, you say.”

She nodded.

“Well done,” he said.

For an instant Clara thought he’d pat her on the head, as one would a puppy who’d learned a new trick. But he only stood there, alternately looking at her then looking about him. His mouth twitched a little, as though he meant to smile, but he didn’t.

“That man, whoever he is, is a public menace,” she said. “I have an appointment or I should report the incident to the police.” She had no appointment. Her visit to the Milliners’ Society was a spur-of-the-moment decision. But a lady was not to have anything to do with the police. Even if she got murdered, she ought to do it discreetly. “I must leave the matter to you.”

“Firstly, nobody was injured but a dog it’s obvious nobody cared about,” the gentleman said. “Otherwise the creature would have been a degree more alive to begin with. Secondly, one doesn’t pester the police about the demise, violent or otherwise, of a mere canine unless its owner is an aristocrat. Thirdly, it’s now clear the fellow was aiming for me when you stepped in the way. I couldn’t see him clearly through the”—he gestured at her hat, his mouth twitching again—“the whatnot rising from your head. But Whippet Face . . .” Now he smiled. It wasn’t much of a smile, being small and quick, but it changed his face, and her heart gave a short, surprised thump. “He’s been trying to kill me this age. He’s not the only one. Hardly worth troubling the constabulary.”

He gave her the briefest nod, then turned and strode away.

Clara stood staring after him.

Tall, lean, and self-assured, he moved with swift purpose through the sea of people surging over the streets converging on Trafalgar Square. Even after he entered the Strand, he didn’t disappear from sight for a while. His hat and broad shoulders remained visible above the mass of humanity until he reached Clevedon House, when a passing coach blocked her view.

He never looked back.

He never looked back.


Publisher and Release Date: Avon, January 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1830s England
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

dukes prefer blondes coverThank you, Loretta Chase, for listening to your fans and giving Lady Clara Fairfax her own happily ever after. We first met Lady Clara, daughter of the Marquess of Warford, in Silk Is for Seduction, when she was unofficially betrothed to her childhood friend, the Duke of Clevedon. She was perfectly beautiful and beautifully perfect – except for one thing.

Clara’s wardrobe was dreadful, and the French-English Noirot sisters were determined to get her as a client for their dressmaker shop. They did obtain her patronage, but in the end Lady Clara refused to marry a man who wasn’t in love with her, and the duke married Marceline Noirot. Lady Clara was disappointed in love in Scandal Wears Satin, but pleased when her brother married Sophie Noirot. And in Vixen in Velvet Lady Clara plays a secondary role as her dowdy cousin Gladys falls under the Noirot sisters’ spell.

With impeccable politeness, Lady Clara simply demanded her own story, and Loretta Chase listened. In Dukes Prefer Blondes (unfortunately title, that), we learn that Lady Clara is much more than just another wealthy, beautiful young lady. She is intelligent and witty and she silently chafes under the oppressive rules of conduct to which ladies of that day were expected to adhere. She dreads becoming the wife of a man who wants her only for her beauty and her fortune. As she becomes resigned to this fate, however, she decides to perform one selfless service before coming under the dominion of some gentleman.

Lady Clara is a patroness of a charity run by the Noirot sisters which trains impoverished women for respectable work. One young woman is concerned about her younger brother, who has stopped attending school and disappeared; she fears he may have been forced into a criminal gang. Lady Clara vows to help her but has not the first idea how to go about it. Fenwick, the Noirot sisters’ pickpocket-turned-footboy suggests that she enlist the help of the eminent barrister Oliver Radford, known to all at the Old Bailey by his schoolboy nickname, “Raven.”

Raven Radford is the last man anyone would choose for Lady Clara Fairfax. Although he is the great-grandson of a duke, he is a commoner who earns his living as a barrister, a barely respectable occupation, given that he defends the dregs of society. He eschews meaningless social events and polite conversation. He knows that he is the smartest man in the room and has no use for fools. In fact, he is known for saying exactly what he thinks to any one at any time. He is passionate about his profession and not much else.

When a beautiful blonde lady strides into his office, he sees through the her frumpy disguise and remembers a dauntless eight-year-old girl who once defended him against his bullying cousin at a Vauxhall family outing. Raven was a schoolmate of Lady Clara’s older brother and of the odious cousin Bernard. To this day, Lady Clara has a chipped tooth where her mouth met Bernard’s elbow. For his part, “Beastly Bernard”, now the Duke of Malvern, has grown into a self-indulgent, utterly irresponsible drunk whom Raven detests.

Before Raven can dismiss Lady Clara for the useless lady he believes her to be, she takes charge of the situation, and by the end of the interview, where she matches him blow for verbal blow, Raven discovers a burgeoning respect for her. Against his better judgment, he finds himself helping her on her quest to find the missing boy.

And so, the first half of this wonderful book features Lady Clara and Raven meeting surreptitiously and doing all sorts of things that would give her mother the vapors. Clara, who wants passion but has never known it, begins to wonder if perhaps that is what she feels for Raven. And Raven, who has always avoided titled young ladies, discovers that he not only desires this lovely woman, he also admires her intellect, her determination, and her fearlessness in the face of his initial disdain.

Naturally, they fall in love but fear to admit it. Raven knows that they come from two different worlds and that neither would fit into the other’s. Nor would Lady Clara’s father ever consent to her marriage to a man could not begin to support the style of life she has always known.

In the end, Lady Clara has to force Raven to the point. Reminding him that she was raised to be a duchess, she declares:

“Perhaps I ought to marry Beastly Bernard,” she said before he could step far enough away from himself to fashion a rational sentence. “He sounds as though he needs someone like me desperately. Being despotic, I should not have much difficulty making something of him. In my experience, men like Bernard are not at all difficult to manage.”

Radford stared at her. It took a moment for his brain to connect to his tongue.

“Bernard,” he said.

“Yes,” she said. “He’s the duke in the family, is he not?”

As expected, Lord Warford does refuse Raven’s request to marry Lady Clara, but when Raven asks for a “fair trial” of the “charges” against him, her parents agree to listen. There they learn that not for nothing is he known as the leading barrister of the day. In a lovely scene, he delivers not only a strong defense of himself but also a stirring oration on behalf of letting Lady Clara be the woman she wants and needs to be. Finally, as Lady Warford reaches for the smelling salts, Lord Warford consents.

“’Mr. Radford is unsuitable on a wide array of counts,” the marquess said.


“Except the most important one,” Lord Warford went on. “He suits you, and you seem to suit him.’”

Loretta Chase is known for her witty banter between leading characters, and she puts her talent to excellent use here. But really, their conversations, while funny, are much more than banter. They actually listen to one another, and although each wants to get their own way, they demonstrate mutual respect and a desire to please the other. But it isn’t just all talk; the chemistry between them jumps off the page, and the wedding night scene is a classic.

In the second part of the book, while the couple adjusts to married life together, they are also put in danger by a band of criminals seeking revenge against Radford, and unexpected events in Radford’s family upend their lives. Some of the sexiness dissipates a bit, but it’s fun to watch them devise a true partnership where each is able to put their talents to the best use on behalf of the other.

As with the other Dressmaker books, clothes are important, and the outrageous fashions of the 1830s are described in loving detail. The Noirot sisters make a cameo appearance because of course Lady Clara must have the most fabulous wedding dress ever created. But really, this is Radford’s and Clara’s story, which means it works well even if you haven’t read the earlier books.

It is no surprise that the immensely talented Loretta Chase has produced another winner. Radford and Lady Clara are a perfect couple on many levels and reading their story was a joy. Dukes Prefer Blondes is highly recommended!


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LorettaLoretta Chase has worked in academe, retail, and the visual arts, as well as on the streets-as a meter maid-and in video, as a scriptwriter. She might have developed an excitingly checkered career had her spouse not nagged her into writing fiction. Her bestselling historical romances, set in the Regency and Romantic eras of the early 19th century, have won a number of awards, including the Romance Writers of America’s Rita. For more about her past, her books, and what she does and doesn’t do on social media, please visit her website www.LorettaChase.com.

You can connect with Loretta at: Website * ~ * ~ *  Facebook * ~ * ~ *  Twitter * ~ * ~ *  GoodReads

A 2015 Retrospective – Our Favourite Books of the Year


It’s that time of year when we start looking forward to another year of great reads, but also look back on the books we’ve read and enjoyed throughout the previous year. Members of RHR’s team of reviewers have chosen some of their favourite books and audiobooks from 2015; maybe they’re books you read and enjoyed, too, or they’re books you meant to read that got forgotten (so now’s the chance to catch up!).

If we’ve missed YOUR favourite books of last year, be sure to let us know yours in the comments!

Caz’s Favourites:

Stella Riley continues her Georgian-set Rockliffe Series with The Player , in which the hero, Adrian Devereux is forced to return from exile in France in order to assume the title and responsibilities of the Earl of Sarre. He left England under a cloud when he was wrongly suspected of the murder of his fiancée, and simply vanished, making his living as an actor – and an incredibly talented one, at that. But his return is fraught with difficulties, not least of which is that his decade of playing a part has left him unsure of who he is any more. Ms Riley has given us yet another swoonworthy hero in Adrian and her writing is a strong and intelligent as ever. The Player is a truly delightful read with a strong storyline, a well-written, tender romance and a cast of well-developed supporting characters.

It Started with a Scandal is the tenth in Julie Anne Long’s popular Pennyroyal Green series, and is a wonderfully romantic story with a bit of a “Jane Eyre-ish” vibe to it, about two people who don’t quite fit in finding that they fit perfectly with each other. Philippe and Elise are from different spheres of life – he French nobility, she a housekeeper – yet they are both fiercely protective towards those they love and desperate to do the right thing by them. Their romance is a delicious slow-burn, full of sexual tension and wonderfully witty banter, and the book is full of warmth and charm.

Lucinda Brant’s Deadly Peril is a popular choice, and deservedly so. It’s the third in her series of Georgian Historical Mysteries featuring the urbane and fiercely intelligent former diplomat, Alec Halsey, and it’s her best yet – which is saying something considering that the previous books are terrific reads. Here, Alec is made to confront some of the less pleasant aspects of his past as he travels to the German principality of Midanich, a place he had hoped never to see again. The plotting is superb – Ms Brant really does have a devious mind 😉 – and the fictional state of Midanich is so brilliantly evoked that I almost had to look it up on a map to see if it was real!  This book – actually, the whole series – is a must for fans of historical mysteries with a strong element of romance.

Alyssa Everett is one of my favourite authors, and her most recent book, The Marriage Act is a terrific, though not always easy, read.  It’s the story of an estranged couple who agree to reunite solely to assure the heroine’s father that they are happy together, and tells how they gradually begin to see that they have both been guilty of mistaken assumptions and of projecting their own hurts and insecurities onto the other. The characterisation and writing are both excellent, and even though there are times that both act in ways that are far from admirable, Ms Everett has written them in such a way as to ensure that even when the reader is thinking “ouch!”, their motivations are understandable.  The chemistry between John and Caroline is terrific and this is a story in which the messiness of the central relationship feels all the more realistic for not being  perfect.

While I’m a big fan of historical fiction, I was unsure about branching out into “alternate” historical fiction a couple of years back when I read Laura Andersen’s Boleyn Trilogy, which is set in a timeline in which Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII a son who lived to inherit the throne. But I was utterly enthralled by the author’s ability to tell a great story while also incorporating a number of real historical events and figures. In The Virgin’s Daughter, Ms Andersen sets up yet another great “what if?” premise by having Elizabeth I married to Philip of Spain and having had a daughter by him. It’s a terrific read, the plot is enjoyably complex (although not confusing), the story is rich in background detail and intrigue and there’s an enjoyable romance running throughout the main story. I’m looking forward to reading more in this entertaining series.

Claudia’s Favourites

M is for Marquess by Grace Callaway

I discovered a new auto-buy author with this book … I’ve now read each of Grace Callaway’s books and loved them – which is exceptional. Gabriel and Thea from this book were two of the best characters I read this year. Both had their difficulties and it was charming to see how they overcame them together, even though it wasn’t always easy for them. This is my favourite book of 2015.

Falling Into Bed with a Duke by Lorraine Heath

This is the first book in a new series by this author, and I loved it. The way these two characters found their way to each other was delightful to read and I can’t wait for the next book.

Love in the Time of Scandal  by Caroline Linden

This is a great book and I really enjoyed how the two central characters worked out their troubles and found a way to each other. Benedict was a delightful hero, he was sweet, warm, charming but could also be wicked (in the nicest way!) and Penelope was the perfect heroine for him. I loved her more for the way she tried to make the best of things.

Lady Wesley’s Favourites:

This was the year that I became an audiobook addict, so for your listening enjoyment I’ve picked some audio titles published in 2015. By the way, I actually have read all of these books and can wholeheartedly recommend the print versions as well.

This year Loretta Chase continued treating her fans to audio versions of some of her classics. The Last Hellion, first published in 1998, pairs Lord Dain’s (Lord of Scoundrels) best friend, Vere Mallory, with crusading female journalist Lydia Grenville. Mallory, who never expected or wanted to be a duke, is probably a bigger reprobate than Dain, and carouses to forget his grief for the loved ones whose untimely deaths elevated him to the Ainsworth dukedom. Grenville, a fearless bluestocking, has no interest in men, and views Ainsworth with utter disdain. The plot is classic battle-of-the-sexes, with dangerous escapades and lots of Chase’s trademark banter. Lord and Lady Dain make cameo appearances, as does Lady Dain’s goofy brother, Bertie Trent, who gets his own HEA. Kate Reading, one of the best in the business, delivers another first-class performance.

Mary Balogh, another leading light in the historical romance genre, continued her Survivors’ Club series with Only a Promise) , narrated by the incomparable Rosalyn Landor. Waterloo survivor Ralph Stockwood, whose wounds are psychic and thus largely invisible to the world, is reluctant to take a wife even though he knows that he needs to. Enter Chloe Muirhead, who wants to marry and have a family but whose hopes have been dashed by scandal in her family. She proposes to Ralph, offering him a marriage of convenience free of pesky feelings of love and desire. Ah, but this is Romance, so it is inevitable that the two will indeed fall in love. Chloe and Ralph are mature adults, however, and thus it is the deliberate, realistic, and poignant manner in which this HEA comes about that distinguishes this story.

Last year, I recommended Grace Burrowes’ entire Captive Hearts trilogy, as I could not pick a favorite from among them, and this year I find myself in a similar quandary. Lucinda Brant, whose books are set in Georgian England, has published three series, but I think the very best is the Alec Halsey Mystery series. The first two volumes – Deadly Engagement and Deadly Affair – came out in audio format in 2015. The third, Deadly Peril, was published in print last month, and the audio version will be issued very soon. Alec Halsey is a career diplomat who was rather chagrined to find himself elevated to a marquessate for services to the crown. He is handsome, intelligent, somewhat enigmatic, intensely honorable, and decidedly his own man, and he gets involved with intrigues and mysteries, while trying to revive his relationship with his first love, a lady who is now a widow. With impressive research and first-class writing, Lucinda Brant vividly recreates 18th century England and deftly combines mystery and romance into one big delightful package that will please fans of both genres. She has found the perfect narrator in British actor Alex Wyndham, whose beautiful baritone perfectly captures the swoon-worthy Halsey, and who is equally adept at voicing females of all ages. Wyndham does not just narrate Brant’s stories, he virtually inhabits Brant’s characters. Listening to him is a joy beyond joy.

Natalie’s Favourites:

The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

This book was the much awaited ending to Willig’s Pink Carnation series. In the final installment the Pink Carnation herself is finally paired with an intriguing turncoat spy and sparks fly. I adored the entire series, and was very happy with this final instalment that brought closure to several characters in Willig’s trademark style.

Death Comes To Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd

This is the third instalment in the Kurland St. Mary Mysteries and follows the curmudgeonly Major Robert Kurland and Spinster Lucy Harrington as they investigate yet another murder. I fell in love with the first two books in the series because our two main characters are both such anti-heroes but slowly they started coming around and in Death Comes to Kurland Hall they finally declare their feelings toward one another. This book falls more on the side of historical mystery but if you don’t mind a very chaste love story, pick up the first two books and then finish with this one.

Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper

This third book in Isabel Cooper’s Highland Dragons series follows Judith MacAlasdair, the third shape-shifting MacAliasdair, and only female. Judith has been living in the ancestral home for 2 decades and is quickly coming on the moment when she will have to leave to hide her immortality from the townsfolk. But when a stranger turns up at the same time as several brutal murders are discovered, Judith realizes she must stay and protect her neighbors. I had read the first two books in this series a while back and when I started this one I was thrilled to have a female shape-shifter as the heroine of the final book in the series.

Sara’s Favourites:

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne
This book had a bit of everything; a deeply tortured hero combined with a strong, supportive and caring heroine. A dark secret and the redeeming power of love. The story was gripping and immersive, giving a reader so much more than just the basic plot of two characters falling in love. It’s an incredible story that I was reluctant to finish, have already re-read, and has made me eager for more.

Diary of an Accidental Wallflower by Jennifer McQuinston
A romance that crosses classes and puts a working man into the spotlight as a hero. What makes the book special is that both main characters have dimension, developing and changing from their experiences throughout the story. The secondary characters are just as appealing and do their job of supporting the story and pushing the main characters in the right directions. This was an early release in the year but still remains a favorite.

I Loved a Rogue by Katharine Ashe
The conclusion to The Prince Catchers series, this story rewards a reader who has followed the breadcrumbs left by the author about her characters and their future. All the threads left hanging from the previous stories are tied up nicely, but the highlight is the romance between two souls kept apart by personal fears and social prejudices. A perfect mix of adventure and emotion in one amazing story.

Wendy’s Favourites:

Deadly Peril by Lucinda Brant: this Georgian mystery, the third in the Alec Halsey series, was just fascinating; it has so many twists and turns that the reader is kept guessing until the last paragraph. A fair indicator of an excellent read as far as I am concerned, is whether I can put it down easily – I couldn’t.

The King’s Man by Alison Stuart: this historical romance set during the English Civil war was my first by this author and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I particularly liked her characters, especially the hero, a bad boy (well only through circumstances) reformed by the love of a good woman. I look forward to more of this author’s work.

The Soldier’s Dark Secret by Marguerite Kaye is an historical romance by one of my favourites. Set in the aftermath of Waterloo, it features a compelling hero damaged by his experiences; as I’m fond of dark and angsty, this hit the spot.

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne: again another first for me, I found this very unusual novel, set in Victorian England strangely compelling. Written in a very unusual style it nevertheless appealed to me with its darker side. Not to everyone’s taste, but definitely to mine.

Tall, Dark, and Wicked by Madeleine Hunter: yet another first for me and I loved it. I thought a barrister as a hero a very original and interesting concept; Ms. Hunter is most definitely on my radar now.


So these are some of our favourite books of 2015.  I’m sure we could all have picked more that we’ve enjoyed, but these have been the titles that have stuck in our memories and those books we’ve put onto our “keeper” shelves.

We’d love to hear from you about the books you enjoyed last year, so please do join in the discussion in the comments!

happy new year








AUDIO REVIEW: The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase, narrated by Kate Reading

last hellion audio

Publisher and Release Date: May 12, 2015 by NYLA

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London, England, c. 1830
Genre: Historical Romance, Audiobook
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

Like thousands of others, I count Lord of Scoundrels as my favorite historical romance, but The Last Hellion is justthisclose to topping my list. I have read them both many times and each time these Loretta Chase titles leave me sighing a romantic sigh with a happy smile on my face.

You can imagine the excitement last year when the audiobook version of Lord of Scoundrels finally came out, with an almost perfect narration by Kate Reading. And now, she has followed up with another excellent rendition of The Last Hellion.

Let me count the ways that I love this book:

1. The hero. Vere Mallory became the seventh Duke of Ainsworth after the deaths of virtually everyone in his family, the last two being his beloved cousin Charlie and then Charlie’s young son, Robin. There was nobody but Vere left to serve as duke, but he had no interest in being a duke. As in Lord of Scoundrels, Ms. Chase writes a heart-tugging prologue explaining the many tragedies that led Vere to become a hell-raising sot who ignores his young wards, Robin’s two young sisters. When urged to do his duty, Vere erupts:

“Why the devil should I consider the title? It never considered me.” He snatched up his hat and gloves. “It should have stayed where it was and let me alone, but no, it wouldn’t, would it? It had to keep creeping on toward me, one confounded funeral after another. Well, I say let it go on creeping after they plant me with the others. Then it can hang itself on some other poor sod’s neck, like the bleeding damned albatross it is.”

Vere’s heart has been so badly wounded that he simply cares for nothing and nobody, not even himself. He is careless in his dress and manner, and he frequents the lowest taverns and gambling hells in London, which is where he first encounters . . .

2. The heroine. Lydia Grenville is lovely – fair-haired and blue-eyed – but she stands nearly six feet tall and prefers to dress in dull black bombazine. She was brought up unconventionally by her late aunt and uncle and was tutored by the Grenvilles’ educated manservant and discovered a talent and passion for writing. Now she is a reporter for The Argus and known popularly as “Lady Grendel” (Grendel being the giant monster in Beowulf). Lydia – acutally everyone in the book calls her Grenville, so I will as well – is a crusading reporter, and her latest mission is to expose the crimes of a procuress who forces unsuspecting country girls into prostitution. As the story opens, Grenville, accompanied as always by her black mastiff Susan, is chasing the madam through the filthy alleyways of Drury Lane in an effort to rescue a girl whom Coralie has just abducted. Grenville grabs the girl and commands Susan to guard her while she and Coralie square off, which leads to . . .

3. The first meeting. Into the melee strides the Duke of Ainswood, who is well known to all the lowlifes gathering to watch the fight. Ainswood assumes that Grenville and Coralie are rival madams and steps in to mediate:

“Ah, now, ladies, ladies.” The tall ruffian shoved another clodpole out of the way and pushed forward. “All this daring and daunting will burst your stays, my fair delicates. And all for what? The smallest problem: one chick, and two hens wanting her. Lots of chicks about, aren’t there? Not worth disturbing the King’s peace and annoying the constables, is it? Certainly not.”

He drew out his purse. “Here’s what we’ll do. A screen [pound] apiece for you, my dears—and I’ll take the little one off your hands.”

Grenville assumes that Ainswood is just another bum until somebody calls him by name. As she prepares to leave the scene with the rescued girl, Ainswood grabs Grenville and gives her a passionate kiss, whereupon she faints. He thinks. Just before her fist meets his jaw and leaves him flat on his back in the mud, which is the beginning of . . .

4. A well-matched battle of the sexes. Ainswood and Grenville do not like nor respect one another and neither will admit their growing physical attraction. Although Grenville seems rather worldly, Ainswood’s kiss was her first and she can’t forget the feelings it aroused. Ainswood is totally bumfuzzled as well, to the point that he invites Bertie Trent (Jessica’s idiotish brother from LoS) to party with him and move into his townhouse. He finds himself drawn to taverns where London’s newspaper reporters tend to gather; he knows subconsciously that he and Grenville have . . .

5. Sizzling chemistry. As Ainswood engineers ways to accidentally run into Grenville and insinuates himself into her life, he steals kisses whenever he can, and Grenville lets him. As things grow more passionate, Ainswood finds himself doing the unthinkable. He proposes marriage, which prompts an example of . . .

6. Hilarious banter between Ainswood and Grenville. Loretta Chase is know for working plenty of humor into her romances, and The Last Hellion is a great example of that talent.

“I should like to know why I am the only woman who has to marry you,” she said, “merely to get what you pay to give other women. Thousands of other women.”

“Leave it to you,” he said, “to make it sound as though you’ve been singled out for punishment — cruel and inhuman, no doubt.”

Grenville turns down Ainswood’s proposal, which is the beginning of his unorthodox courtship. I won’t spoil the rest for you. Honestly, besides these six things, what I like about The Last Hellion is . . .

7. Everything else. There are so many other things that I love about this book beyond the primary story.

    Grenville’s mastiff develops a crush on Bertie Trent, who acts as a true friend to Ainswood, gets some respect , and finds his own HEA.

    Ainswood shows that his heart isn’t completely hardened by doing charitable works behind Grenville’s back.

    Grenville pseudononymously writes a wildly popular serial romance followed by seemingly everyone in London, and Ms. Chase quite skillfully works the twists and turns of that story into her plot.

    Lord and Lady Dain appear several times, and the reconciliation between Dain and Ainswood – two uber-macho men – is touching.

    Ms. Chase was not afraid to make Ainswood a thoroughly degenerate slob nor to let Grenville be obnoxiously stubborn and opinionated.

    The surprising revelations about Grenville’s family, which I did not see coming, even though Bertie Trent did.

And finally – narrator Kate Reading more than does justice to Loretta Chase’s story. That is to be expected, as she is one of the best narrators in the business. She finds just the right voice for each character, handling male and female voices equally well and using regional accents when needed. She is especially well-suited to Ms. Chase’s style, handling the rapid-fire dialogue faultlessly. Loretta Chase and Kate Reading get A++++ from me.

Audio Review: Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, narrated by Kate Reading

LoS audio

Purchase Now from Audible

They call him many names, but angelic isn’t one of them.

Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain, is big, bad, and dangerous to know. No respectable woman would have anything to do with the “Bane and Blight of the Ballisters”, and he wants nothing to do with respectable women. He’s determined to continue doing what he does best – sin and sin again – and all’s going swimmingly…until the day a shop door opens and she walks in.

She’s too intelligent to fall for the worst man in the world.

Jessica Trent is a determined young woman, and she’s going to drag her imbecile brother off the road to ruin, no matter what it takes. If saving him – and with him her family and future – means taking on the devil himself, she won’t back down. The trouble is, the devil in question is so shockingly irresistible that the person who needs saving most is Jessica herself.

Publisher and Release Date: Blackstone Audio, January 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Paris and Dartmoor, 1828
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Rating: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Caz

It’s been a while since I read Lord of Scoundrels, and although I know it’s a very highly regarded historical romance – it topped All About Romance’s top 100 Romances poll yet AGAIN last year – I’d forgotten just how good a book it is.

It was announced sometime in late 2013 that this much-loved book was coming to audio, and fans were eagerly waiting to hear about the choice of narrator and release date. I was among many who had their fingers crossed that Blackstone Audio would choose someone with a proven track-record in romance narration who would be able to do the story justice – and I joined in with the collective sigh of relief when Kate Reading’s name was linked to the project.

Ms Reading is easily one of the best narrators around. She does not narrate a large number of historical romances, although those I’ve heard have been very good indeed, so I settled down with Lord of Scoundrels anticipating an enjoyable audio experience.

And it proved to be extremely enjoyable. For one thing, re-visiting the book served to remind me exactly WHY it has been at the top of AAR’s list for so many years and is such a great favourite with romance readers. It’s beautifully written and characterised – it’s funny, sexy, tender and sweet, and Ms Chase never puts a foot wrong. Dain and Jessica are perfect for each other, and there is never a moment when the reader feels the heroine is behaving stupidly or the hero is too overbearing. One comes away from the novel feeling emotionally satisfied with the story and secure in the knowledge that, whatever life throws at them, they will continue to throw things at each other as they tackle whatever comes their way.

Sebastian Ballister, the Marquess of Dain, is the product of a loveless childhood and has grown up believing it to be his fault because he was ugly and unloveable. His fiery, Italian mother ran away with her lover when Sebastian was eight years old and his autocratic father immediately sent him away to school where the boy was lonely and miserable. Made fun of because of his mother and his appearance (there are frequent references to Dain’s large, Usignuolo nose), he quickly finds that the best way to treat his tormentors is to show no emotion and, when he’s old and big enough, to beat them to a pulp. By the time he inherits his title, Dain is already known as the “Blight and Bane of the Ballisters”, debauched, ruthless and manipulative.

Miss Jessica Trent is vivacious, beautiful and intelligent. At the advanced age of twenty-seven, she is unmarried by choice, and having spent the past ten years living in the households of relatives, acting as an unpaid nanny, she is now determined to set herself up as an antiques dealer, utilising her talent for unearthing treasures in shops and at auctions and then selling them at a profit.

But her brother Bertie has fallen in with bad company and is very quickly running up huge debts they can ill afford, so she has followed him to Paris to put a stop to it. Expecting Dain to be a massive, unrefined brute of a man she is almost floored when she meets him for the first time –

Bertie had told her Dain was a very large man. She had half expected a hulking gorilla. She had not been prepared for a stallion: big and splendidly proportioned

– and falls head-over-heels in lust with him.

From the moment they meet, the sparks fly with a vengeance as Jessica and Dain embark on a game of one-upmanship in which the sexual tension between them is strung so tautly that it seems as though they’ll be ripping each other’s clothes off any minute and heading for the nearest flat surface.

Dain has never felt so drawn to a woman – in fact, he has expressly given women of good-breeding a very wide birth, preferring to take his sexual pleasure with whores and courtesans who will demand nothing of him but money and who are paid to put up with what he sees as his too-big, too-unattractive form. But Jessica intrigues and infuriates him to the point where he can’t stop thinking about her. She stands up to him like nobody – male or female – ever has, and refuses to back down, and Dain quickly realises he’s besotted with her and that if he doesn’t get away from her soon he’ll find himself in serious trouble.

For her part, Jessica is just as besotted, but knows there is no future in it. Dain is an irredeemable blackguard and will never offer her anything but ruin. And much as she would like to be ruined by him, she is sensible enough to know that such a thing would be disastrous for her future plans.

But on the night before her departure for England, fate takes a hand and Jessica is irrevocably compromised. Dain, however, is furious, believing Jessica had set out to trap him and refuses point blank to do the honourable thing.

Miss Trent’s method of “bringing Dain around” is unorthodox but effective – and before long they are heading back to England for a grand wedding. Dain reasons that if he’s got to be leg-shackled, he might as well do it in style.

There are many things to love about this story , not the least of which are the wit and humour, the tenderness and affectionate teasing, the heart-wrenching story of the young Ballister, and Jessica’s determination that history will not be allowed to repeat itself with his son. But for me, the things that really stand out are Jessica’s keen perceptiveness as to Dain’s nature and what lies beneath that impassive exterior, and Dain’s willingness (eventually) to embrace love in both the romantic and familial sense.

As anyone who listens to audiobooks on a regular basis will know, the choice of narrator is key – and I have to take my hat off to Blackstone for choosing the talented Kate Reading to record Lord of Scoundrels. She has a very pleasant reading voice and she skilfully brings out every nuance of humour or pathos in the story. Her characterisations are all clearly differentiated through the use of a variety of different tones and accents, especially when it comes to the secondary characters; and her portrayal of the two leads was very good indeed. Ms Reading is one of the few female narrators around who can adopt a lower pitch to perform male characters without making it sound unbelievable or as though she’s straining her voice, and I thought the bluff drawl she adopted for Dain suited him well. Her vocalisation of Jessica was similarly appropriate, varying between a crisp, no-nonsense tone and a sensual huskiness.

Listening to Lord of Scoundrels was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and it’s certainly an audiobook I will revisit soon and often. I really can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Mad Earl’s Bride by Loretta Chase

Buy now from Amazon

Publisher and Release Date: Avon Impulse, 4 June 2013
RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1820s England
Genre: Historical romance (novella)
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Lady Blue

This story was originally included in the anthology Three Weddings and a Kiss

Dorian, at age twenty, is living a dissipated, jaded life, following in the footsteps of his mother. They both pursue sensual pleasures without any regard for the consequences. Dorian is also fighting his grandfather, the earl, who wants to control him as he does the rest of the family. Then mother becomes very ill, both physically and mentally. Grandfather has her committed to an asylum, and nothing Dorian says will change his mind. Eventually, she dies there.

Rather than submit to his grandfather, Dorian chooses to move to town and work for a living. Grandfather calls a family summit meeting (which Dorian refuses to attend) and the roof collapses, killing all of the family and making Dorian the new earl. But Dorian has started to have symptoms of the same illness which plagued his mother. A doctor confirms that he doesn’t have long to live. He chooses to move to the country with one trusted man to care for him for the remainder of his life, so he won’t have to be put in an asylum, as his mother was. When he is not plagued by the violent headaches (during which he douses himself with laudanum) he actually feels almost normal.

A distant relative, one who is not in line to inherit the title, tries to convince Dorian to marry quickly and try to have a child to carry on the name and the title. Dorian is just as happy to let both die with him. The girl picked to be his bride, Gwendolyn, turns out to be a cousin of one of his few genuine friends. She agrees to the marriage because it will let her fulfill her dream of building a hospital. Now everyone just has to convince Dorian to go along with it. Dorian responds by running away, and becoming trapped in a quicksand-like bog. Gwendolyn, ever practical, rescues him. He is attracted to her and when he finds out her reason for wanting the marriage, he agrees.

Thus begins the bittersweet story of their marriage. Of course they fall in love. Dorian has become a better person. Gwendolyn uses all of her medical knowledge to try to help Dorian battle the illness. He is expected to only have about six months to live. She is able to bring him comfort when he suffers his attacks, and manages to wean him off the laudanum. She discovers she is pregnant, and tries her best to encourage Dorian to want to live long enough to see his child.

This novella packs a lot of punch and emotion into a short story. That usually doesn’t happen. What we have here is an excellent example of love and redemption and happy-ever-after? You bet! Highly recommended.