Tag Archive | Marguerite Kaye

The Harlot and the Sheikh (Hot Arabian Nights #3) by Marguerite Kaye

the harlot and the sheikh

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A defiant woman… in a desert king’s world!

Inheriting a broken kingdom, Prince Rafiq made a vow – to restore its pride by winning a prestigious horse race. To ensure success he hires an English expert. But even notoriously controlled Rafiq is shocked when his new employee is introduced… as Miss Stephanie Darvill!

Stephanie is determined to leave her shameful past and broken dreams behind – she will prove to Rafiq she deserves his trust! But this hard-hearted desert sheikh calls to Stephanie in the most primal of ways…dare she give in to her wildest desires?

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Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical, February 2017

Time and Setting: Arabia 1815
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Wendy

If there’s one thing readers can be sure of with a Marguerite Kaye novel it’s superb writing, in-depth and expert research and captivating storytelling. In The Harlot and the Sheikh the third in her Hot Arabian Nights series we meet another of Ms. Kaye’s capable, independently-minded heroines. And even though I’ve never been attracted to ‘sheikh’ stories in general – I adored this one with its delectable but flawed leading-man and a heroine ahead of her time with nothing left to lose but maybe everything to gain if she can only pull off her audacious ploy.

Miss Stephanie Darvill has left home under a cloud after a liaison with an officer in her father’s regiment left her reputation in tatters. Her father has a considerable reputation as a veterinary surgeon attached to the Seventh Hussars and Stephanie has worked alongside him most of her life and is now almost as knowledgeable as he. Prince Rafiq al-Antarah’s string of valuable blue-blooded race horses are in danger from a mysterious disease which has beset his stud and which thus threatens his bid to win the prestigious Sabr, the famous endurance race that is key to the prosperity and prestige of his people. Some years earlier, Rafiq’s father lost the race in a moment of madness which has had far-reaching consequences not only for Bharym, but for Rafiq personally. Forced to make a decision based on his father’s actions, the prince is now severely troubled and feels that winning the race is the only way to make amends for his own actions.

When Stephanie arrives and declares herself to be at the palace at his invitation Rafiq is astonished and not a little displeased, because he had expected her father to respond to his request for help.  Stephanie persuades him that she is up to the job and as time is short and there is no one else he can call on, Rafiq gives her a contract as his Royal Horse Surgeon. Besides which, he is not a little impressed by her temerity, determination and strength of character not to mention her attractiveness and an ability to speak his language like a native, a fact for which she can thank her Egyptian mother.

These are two of Marguerite Kate’s most compelling characters yet. Stephanie has been badly hurt but is strong and determined to gain her independence, a fact she thinks will help her to rise above her fall from grace and repay the faith her parents’ have placed in her. She is highly intelligent, determined and shows she is no pushover as she fronts up to the prejudices she faces in Rafiq’s stables where a woman’s presence is considered to be unlucky. Rafiq is immediately struck by her uncompromising honesty, not a quality he has experienced much in his dealings with others. Stephanie doesn’t promise to save his beloved horses but she promises to try. Rafiq is utterly honourable as well as being the most deliciously handsome man that she has ever encountered and it isn’t long before the two are exploring their physical attraction to each other, although after her previous experience, Stephanie is naturally wary and anxious not to make this relationship into something it is not.

I loved the way Ms. Kaye developed the romance between Rafiq and Stephanie; the attraction between them simmers from their first meeting and builds slowly and sensually. He winkles out her past – bit-by-bit – and shows her by word and deed that he is not remotely shocked, and gradually helps her to rebuild her sense of her self-esteem by his actions and attentions to her. In turn she teaches him a little about bending his long held views and rules and relaxing the strictures in his everyday life and in his palace. In short, Rafiq begins to see Stephanie as a breath of fresh air and she quickly becomes a necessity in his life.

Marguerite Kaye has a special ability to drop the reader into place and time, the sights, smells, soft sand beneath feet, even the tinkling of water from a fountain – all are an experience one can almost see, smell, feel and hear – it is one aspect of her writing that I have always admired.   The Harlot and the Sheikh boasts a beautifully crafted romance between two captivating characters and a clever, plausible plot which Marguerite Kaye has backed up in her author’s notes showing us her extensive research into many of the areas covered in this story. I highly recommend this novel and after meeting Christopher Fordyce towards the end of novel I am really looking forward to meeting him again when he gets his own story in the last of the series.

Scandal at the Midsummer Ball by Marguerite Kaye and Bronwyn Scott

scandal at the midsummer ball

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Two forbidden relationships…one house party to remember!

THE OFFICER’S TEMPTATION by Marguerite Kaye

Colonel Fergus Kennedy must make a suitable match at the Midsummer Ball. But when this officer encounters sultry acrobat Katerina Vengarov, he finds himself torn between duty…and heart-stopping, irresistible passion!

THE DEBUTANTE’S AWAKENING by Bronwyn Scott

Kael Gage is the last person at the Midsummer Ball Miss Zara Titus should speak to—and anything more is definitely off-limits! But the notorious rake seems determined to awaken this innocent debutante’s every desire…

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Publisher and Release Date: Mills & Boon / Harlequin Historical, May 2016

Time and Setting: England, June 1817
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Wendy

These two stories, running concurrently, take place at a house party being hosted by the powerful Duke and Duchess of Brockmore. Marriages, political alliances and business deals are brokered at this annual event; the attendees know why they are privileged enough to gain a coveted invitation and play the game…..almost. I loved this concept and it was interesting to see how these two authors approached it. And also to see the protagonists from each story occasionally appearing in the other. Given that these authors live thousands of miles apart and have never met, it must have been a difficult feat to perform especially as it is seamlessly well done. I am a fan of Marguerite Kaye’s work but this was my first time reading Bronwyn Scott.

The Officer’s Temptation by Marguerite Kaye. 4 stars

Colonel Fergus Kennedy has been invited to the house-party at the behest of the Duke of Wellington. Fergus who has fought his way to the top under his own steam, is a highly thought of man of honour and integrity, and also one of the Iron Duke’s brightest protégés. After a couple of peace-time years vegetating behind a desk, he is eager for a more challenging role, which comes in the form of a possible posting to Egypt. There is only one fly in the ointment; the posting is for a married man and his wife must be capable of becoming a diplomatic hostess. Desperate to return to active service, Fergus is resigned to his fate. If he must marry, then he will and he is prepared to make the pre-ordained match if the lady and he like each other. The lady happens to be the niece of The Duke of Brockmore and she is NOT prepared to be matched with Fergus.

Lady Verity Fairholme has other ideas and gives Fergus no encouragement at all, and he quickly comes to realise that he actually doesn’t like being treated as though he were the dirt on the bottom of someone’s shoe. An encounter with the captivating and talented Russian gymnast, Katerina Vengarov who has been employed, with her brother, to provide the entertainment for this year’s Russian themed party, also shows him that making such a cold-blooded match is not within his power. The attraction between this unlikely pair is instant: they recognise it but it seems an impossible scenario – how can the situation possibly be resolved?

I loved Fergus’s and Katerina’s characters, Ms. Kaye crafts strong, independent women and gorgeous, likeable men, and these two are no exception. How the situation is resolved is interesting, as with Katerina’s help, Fergus has a light-bulb moment. This author is exceptionally good at showing us the different sides of a situation. The much lauded Wellington WAS a brilliant soldier and he DID inspire his officers and men to follow him – but he was also an egotistical man who manipulated his followers, mostly for his own good. The author has done a great job within the confines of a novella without compromising either the romance or the deeper moral issues she has raised. I’d really like to see the outcome of the enterprise that Katerina and Fergus embark upon – perhaps as another story with Alexandr, Katerina’s brother, as the hero.

The Debutante’s Awakening by Bronwyn Scott. 3.5 stars

Miss Zara Titus is a last minute addition to the guest-list. Her long standing betrothal has been broken and her mother is anxious to plaster over the broken engagement and find a replacement husband for her daughter without delay. Zara is quite enjoying her new found freedom and has no intentions of going along with her mother’s machinations – but the Viscountess doesn’t know that. As the Duke is introducing her to other guests she is aware of the eyes of a handsome, bold young man on her, and feels immediately drawn to him. It is quickly made clear to her by the duke that he is not for her – which of course only makes her more interested.

Kael Gage has only managed to gain entry to the party with the help of a friend; and I must add here that I’m not sure if I missed something important but I can’t quite see how he did it. If the Duke of Brockmore’s invitations are so coveted I can’t see that a man such as he could have obtained one, even with the help of a friend. Kael lives on the fringe of polite society; the impoverished grandson of an earl, he has only a small estate which he uses as the stud-farm that provides his income. He is not considered to be a good match; this only serves to make him a more exciting prospect to Zara. The pair embark on a flirtation and Kael begins to teach Zara how to rebel in style. They are physically attracted to each other and although Zara is fairly ripe for seduction, Kael behaves honourably and stops short of ruining her completely even though the rebellious Zara is ready for more.

I liked both of Bronwyn Scott’s characters but particularly Kael Gage who, although boldly handsome and rakish, also has a vulnerable streak. He’s been deeply hurt in the past and has developed his outer roguish persona as a coping mechanism. A charming stud if you like, and useful for only one thing as far as women of the ton are concerned. As a result of this hidden vulnerability he can’t help feeling unworthy of the beautiful, wealthy and eminently marriagable, Zara. As the pair begin to feel more than just a physical attraction the story takes a deeper and more serious turn, I liked the way the author developed the sensitive and far more important issues underpinning this apparently light and flirtatious story.

All in all, Scandal at the Midsummer Ball is a good, solid read by these two authors. I particularly liked the way they handled the characters of the Duke and Duchess of Brockmore, a couple in their fifties, married for three decades and still very much in love. The fact that they are childless is mentioned more than once and I thought it a nice touch to point out that although this fact has been a great sadness to them it hasn’t been the most important issue in their long and happy marriage.

The Widow and the Sheikh (Hot Arabian Nights #1) by Marguerite Kaye

the widow and the sheikh

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Abandoned in the desert, Julia Trevelyan finds herself at the mercy of Azhar, an imposing yet impossibly handsome Arabian merchant. Determined not to be intimidated by her rescuer—or their sizzling attraction!—she asks for his help…

But Prince Azhar is in fact the rightful heir to the Qaryma throne, returned from exile to take back his inheritance! He knows a dalliance with the enticing English adventuress is out of the question, yet he can’t deny the temptation to claim both his throne… and Julia!

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Publisher and Release Date: Mills & Boon/Harlequin Historical, 23 March 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Arabia, 1815
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Caz

Anyone who regularly peruses the romance sections of bookshops or the romance listings at Amazon will know that sheikhs are popular romantic heroes in many contemporary love stories. But there aren’t all that many to be found in historical romances, so I was intrigued when I saw that one of my favourite authors was writing a series set in the early nineteenth century in which the heroes were to be sheikhs. Marguerite Kaye has already written a couple of books which feature such characters (Innocent in the Sheikh’s Harem and The Governess and the Sheikh ) – but now comes her Hot Arabian Nights series, the first of which, The Widow and the Sheikh tells the story of a young Englishwoman and a desert prince, who find themselves trapped by circumstances and faced with difficult choices.

Julia Trevelyan awakens alone in her tent in the desert, drugged, robbed and abandoned by the guides she had hired for her journey. The widow of an eminent botanist, she is bound by her deathbed promise to her late husband to complete his final book and then see it published. But all her samples have been stolen along with her money and possessions and she is going to have to find a way to regroup so that she can begin her work again in order to complete the task. Fortunately, a fellow traveller who introduces himself as Azhar finds her and offers his help, explaining that he is a businessman and trader on his way to the kingdom of Qaryma. He offers to escort her to the capital where, he says, she will find everything she needs.

Julia gratefully accepts his proposal, but gets more than she had bargained for when, upon arrival at the Al Qaryma, Azhar reveals that he is in fact the Crown Prince, returning there for the first time in ten years. What he doesn’t immediately disclose is that his real purpose in returning is to assess the state of the kingdom and after a month, abdicate in favour of his brother, who has been ruling as regent since the death of their father.

Azhar is a deeply honourable man, but does not wish to be trapped by the demands of his position. He and his father never really saw eye-to-eye which, a decade earlier, led to Azhar’s leaving Qaryma determined never to return. He has made his own way in the world, growing a successful business empire that he enjoys running and is eager to get back to. To start with, all his focus is so strongly bent upon handing the kingdom over to his brother that he fails – or refuses – to acknowledge that all is not as it should be. But he cannot remain blind for long, and, realising that an outsider can offer a unique perspective, asks Julia to remain for one month, during which he will help her to catalogue the various and rare plants of his kingdom in return for her promising to tell him the truth about the things she sees around her in his kingdom and at the court. And, of course, this extended period of time together will also allow them to further explore their strong mutual attraction.

Both Julia and Azhar are well-drawn and engaging characters, but their determination to do the right thing means that making a life together looks to be an impossibility. Having experienced marriage to a man who, though not physically cruel, did not value her or see her as a person in her own right, Julia is now intent on retaining her independence. To this end, she decides to allow herself a month out of time; a month in which to explore her sexuality and desires with her attractive, fascinating rescuer – but after that, she will return to England and make a new life for herself there.

The romance between these two people from different worlds is beautifully written and extremely well developed. Their relationship is mutually beneficial on many levels, and I liked that Azhar trusted Julia enough to be able to share his concerns with her. She is able to provide valuable insight, while he shows her that her husband’s lack of response to her was far more of a reflection of the man’s own insecurities and fears than any fault of Julia’s. The attraction between the couple is so strong it leaps off the page, and they are not shy of acting upon it when the time is right. Ms Kaye is one of those authors who can write an intensely sensual love scene in just a few paragraphs, a talent she employs to great effect here; the scene in which the couple finally make love is one of the most deliciously romantic and sexy I’ve read in quite some time.

It’s evident that Ms Kaye knows her stuff and that her research is extensive. The idea of a western woman and a sheikh as a couple might seem outlandish, but truth really is stranger than fiction as the author reminds readers in her note at the end of the book, recalling the life of Lady Jane Digby – who was married to a sheikh. And this is one of the many things I always enjoy about her books; not only do I get to read a superbly developed romance with strong, well-drawn characters who pull me into the story, but she knows her history, too. Added to that, her descriptions of the desert landscapes, the exotic flora and opulence palace and grounds are so evocative as to put the reader right there among the shifting sands or the scented gardens.

If I have a complaint, it’s one that is engendered by the fact that the author has done such a great job in setting up her story. Azhar’s dilemma – being torn between his desire to live his own life and his innate sense of duty – is so vividly written and so incredibly well explored, that the resolution, when it comes, seems somewhat anti-climactic. That’s not to say that it’s implausible – because it most definitely isn’t – and of course, it’s wonderfully romantic. It just feels a little too easy given what has gone before. But it works and I liked that Ms Kaye has left readers with the sense that while love has triumphed, both characters are well aware that the path they have chosen will not be an easy one.

Even allowing for that minor reservation, The Widow and the Sheikh is such a strongly written, beautifully romantic story that I’m giving it five stars. It’s one of the most moving books I’ve read recently, and one I have no hesitation in recommending.

A 2015 Retrospective – Our Favourite Books of the Year

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caz

The Soldier’s Rebel Lover (Comrades in Arms #2) by Marguerite Kaye

soldiers rebel lover

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When Major Finlay Urquhart was last on the battlefield, he shared a sizzling moment with daring Isabella Romero. Two years later, Finlay has one final duty to perform for his country, one that reunites him with this rebellious senorita! Except Isabella has her own mission, which means that no matter how much she craves Finlay’s touch, she can never tell him the truth. But she’s underestimated Finlay’s determination to protect her, and soon she finds herself letting her guard down, one scorching kiss at a time!

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Publisher and Release Date: Mills & Boon, October 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Basque Country, Spain – 1813/1815
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Wendy

This, the second in Marguerite Kaye’s Comrades in Arms duo, is set during the aftermath of the Peninsular campaign or what the Spanish preferred to call the War of Independence. It has at its centre, dashing and honourable Major Finlay Urquhart and bold, beautiful Isabella Romero.

Finlay is at a loose end after the bloody war that has seen so many of his comrades killed and injured; however, he is a career soldier, so when his friend and army colleague, Lieutenant Colonel Jack Trestain (Wellington’s code breaker from The Soldier’s Dark Secret) requests his help on a delicate matter, he eagerly complies. He is to mount a covert mission in which he will attempt to find and repatriate the elusive Spanish partisan, El Fantasma (The Ghost). El Fantasma is still very much operational in post-war Spain and has become an embarrassment to both governments. In Spain, he is surreptitiously printing and circulating propaganda leaflets proclaiming the rights of the common man: Spain has returned to a feudal culture, the Inquisition has returned, freedom of the press has been lost, and poverty and injustice is rife. From being a respected ‘soldier’ for the cause he has now become a dangerous traitor and must be removed. The threat to Wellington is also keenly felt; the duke and his coterie do not wish for certain, less savoury aspects of his leadership during the war to become known, either to the Spanish or the British public, especially as he makes his bid to become Prime Minister. So the race is on, who can get to El Fantasma first? Whomsoever catches The Ghost, will almost surely dispose of him, as what can be safely done with him? Finlay and Jack have their own agenda – they don’t feel that El Fantasma deserves death when he was responsible for saving hundreds of lives.

Finlay has a very weak lead in his search for El Fantasma; he has never forgotten his meeting with the bold, dark eyed beauty he encountered one dangerous night two years previously whilst Britain and Spain were allies in fighting the French. She has stayed vividly in his mind and he remembers that she told him she had direct contact with the partisan he seeks. He therefore sets out – with the cover story of being a wealthy wine merchant – to find the lovely, brave young warrior from the little information she gave him on that night. He finds her, not working on the estate she had mentioned, but very much to his surprise, living as a high born lady, sister of the wealthy owner of that estate, the largest vineyard in the area.

I find it difficult to explain why I did not immediately connect with Isabella. Marguerite Kaye normally excels at creating strong, likeable female characters, but I did not whole-heartedly take to Isabella. She did not seem to me to be the type of woman who would appeal to the pragmatic and discerning Scottish born Major Urquhart, a man with bucket loads of integrity and who is also by the way, utterly gorgeous! This is a man who has dragged himself up against the odds, through the ranks of the British army, without benefit of a wealthy and influential family and been so successful in his career that he is brought to the notice of Wellington himself. Sarcastically the Iron Duke dubs him ‘The Jock Upstart’, even while using his considerable talents to his own ends. Isabella makes some very thoughtless decisions based on her ideals, and although – with the help of Finlay – she eventually sees the error of her ways, I found it hard to credit that an intelligent woman in her position would think in such a way, without thought to the cause and effect of her actions. She isn’t lacking in courage – but perhaps in sense. In spite of this, however, I did eventually warm to Isabella (thanks to Finlay’s view of her) and by the end of the story I was happy enough with her.

That’s my only biggish niggle though, because as usual Ms. Kaye has crafted a thoughtful and beautiful love story with impeccable historical research. The sensuality and attraction between the protagonists is sparkling and when they eventually get together, which is way down the story line, the scene is beautiful and tastefully done.

What I particularly like is the way this author always draws parallels between history and life today. Whether she does it intentionally or not, it shows her to be a thoughtful and caring person. Nothing much has changed in the way our returning soldiers are treated after fighting for their country. Through her careful research, Marguerite Kaye has shown Wellington – the great hero – as a vain and egotistical man, deeply and unfairly critical to the soldiers who had no choice but to follow HIS orders. Comrades in Arms is a serious and thought provoking duo of stories about the dark and sordid side of war and the effect on the people left to pick up the pieces; the glorified side is definitely played down. Ms. Kaye never disappoints in her content and it is rare for me to be unhappy with one of her characters. All in all, The Soldier’s Rebel Lover is a highly recommended, excellent historical romance.

Never Forget Me by Marguerite Kaye

never forget me
Purchase Now from Amazon

A KISS GOODBYE

1914

As war looms, genteel Flora yearns to be more than just an observer. She finds a revolutionary kindred spirit in soldier Geraint—but will their fragile love be crushed before it can start to bloom?

DEAREST SYLVIE

1916

Soldier Robbie cannot forget his one hedonistic night in Paris with beautiful waitress Sylvie. But as Europe burns, can these two star-crossed lovers ever be reunited?

FOREVER WITH ME

1918

Nurse Sheila is horrified to discover her new boss is the French surgeon she woke beside after Armistice Day! Fighting for their love will be the bravest thing she’s ever had to do….

Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical, July 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: First World War Scotland and France
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Maggi

Marguerite Kaye drew me in completely with these three powerful stories of love in times of war. While I would have liked to have had a bit more action, that’s not what these stories are about. They are stories of loss but also stories of hope and new beginnings. The emotional scenes between the three couples are compelling and the love scenes are beautifully rendered and sizzle!

A KISS GOODBYE begins in Scotland with a Laird’s family dealing with the changes the First World War will bring. We are thrust into the disruption people suffer during wartime, where families and lives are torn apart never to be the same again. Even the wealthy and the privileged cannot avoid heartbreak and loss. The beautifully drawn lovers and the heartrending settings are very stirring. My one grumble is that I wanted to remain a little longer with Flora and Geraint. But that was due more to the quality of Ms Kaye’s engaging writing than anything else. I was quickly drawn into the second novella, DEAREST SLYVIE, so it’s a very small grumble. I quickly became engaged with the impossible love Sylvie and Robbie share, not knowing if he would survive the war.

FOREVER WITH ME, the third and final novella, wraps up the three stories and brings us full circle, while looking to the future where a new world awaits, especially for women.

There are so many delicious descriptions of character that it’s impossible to pick a favourite, but here’s one from the first novella:
“She didn’t walk across the room so much as float, though Geraint could see that her feet in their delicate little shoes were firmly planted on the antique rugs that covered the floor…”

– which leaves the reader in no doubt of the privileged life Flora leads, and allows a small glimpse into her character, as well as Geraint’s attraction to her.

These three interesting and interconnected WWI stories are filled with deep emotion, love, loss and tender romance. Never Forget Me is highly recommended.

The Undoing of Daisy Edwards / The Awakening of Poppy Edwards – two novellas by Marguerite Kaye

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Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical Undone, July 1, 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London, 1923 / Los Angeles, 1924
Genre: Historical Romance novellas
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars / 4 stars

Reviews by Maria Almaguer

The Undoing of Daisy Edwards

London, 1923

Stage actress Daisy Edwards goes looking for escape at a wild party. Instead she finds reckless passion with a total stranger. Like Daisy, Dominic Harrington is reeling from the Great War, desperate to feel again. But the erotic force of their encounter leaves Daisy unsure whether to run or succumb….

Even if he hadn’t met her in a police cell, Dominic would have no doubt that Daisy is trouble. For the first time in years, he feels intrigued, aroused and vibrantly alive. Both insist there will be no promises, only the rapture of the moment. Pleasure is its own reward—but when it’s this addictive, how can they ever walk away?

The Awakening of Poppy Edwards

Los Angeles, 1924

Broadway producer Lewis Cartsdyke has come to Hollywood with a business proposition for starlet Poppy Edwards. But as he’s watching her sing in a downtown club, dressed in a man’s suit that skims her lush curves, a much more wicked proposal comes to mind.

Poppy has fame, wealth and an aversion to love. Lewis offers the kind of passion she craves—delicious, sensual heat without complications. Night after night she abandons herself to sensation, promising she won’t lose her heart the way her sister did. But for Lewis, uncomplicated is no longer enough—and soon he won’t be satisfied until he’s claimed all of Poppy in blissful surrender.

The bewilderment, sadness, and devastation of the Lost Generation is beautifully evoked in Marguerite Kaye’s dual novellas in her A Time for Scandal series: The Undoing of Daisy Edwards and The Awakening of Poppy Edwards. Like Let’s Misbehave by Rae Summers (which I reviewed last year), both of these stories have a dark and melancholy tone yet, since they are romances, there are hopeful and happy endings.

In The Undoing of Daisy Edwards, Daisy and Dominic are merely going through the motions of life, both simply trying to cope day by day with the aftermath of loss and grief from the Great War. Daisy is a widow and a stage actress who loses herself in drinking and partying while Dominic, an aviator, is the second son and heir to a neglected and unwanted title. When they meet, they are two terribly lonely hearts whose passion ignites into an explosive affair. And both are content for just that; it helps them forget their mutual pain in mindless pleasure.

Of course, it develops into much more and it’s interesting that it’s Dominic who initiates the emotional part of their relationship while Daisy fights it all the way. Their conversations are lovely to read and are written from both characters’ points of view, in the uncommon first person voice, a unique and effective device here. I feel it makes the story all the more compelling, especially since it is essentially a short story (only seven chapters long).

Marguerite Kaye’s style is direct, concise, and very powerful. The tone is quiet and reflective throughout and I really felt Daisy’s and Dominic’s pain at the same time as there is a joy and hope in their newfound relationship.

The Awakening of Poppy Edwards is Daisy’s sister’s story. Poppy escaped London and the pain of the war’s devastation for a career in the exciting and new motion picture industry in sunny Los Angeles. She couldn’t bear to witness Daisy’s pain and so she escapes into moviemaking, creating a financially successful (but emotionally empty) life for herself.

Lewis Cartsdyke is a confident and handsome producer who has his eye on Poppy’s stardom and is hoping to make her a star in the upcoming talkies. When he first meets her in her guise as Vera, a singer in a nightclub, dressed à la Marlene Dietrich in a man’s suit, he knows who she is and is captivated by her. He breaks his own rule about mixing business with pleasure and a one night stand turns into something more. When she learns the truth behind his career motives for her, Poppy is reluctant to engage in an affair, but she can’t stay away from Lewis.

Lewis holds his own pain deep inside; he was an ambulance driver in the Great War who, like Ernest Hemingway, saw great horror and death. But he is determined to survive and move on with his life. Poppy just wants a business arrangement with sex on the side, until Lewis pushes her for more, much like Dominic in the first story. I like that it is the men in both of these stories who want more from the women in their lives.

I really enjoyed the descriptions of Poppy’s beautiful house, especially her kitchen, plants, and pool – it creates a very nice domestic feel and brings normalcy to an otherwise somber story, an apt reflection of her calm and orderly home life devoid of emotional feeling.

The complicated and loving relationship between the two sisters is told from their respective points of view in each story, but its spare detail (and the satisfying ending in the second novella) is a beautiful footnote toward healing.

These are two graceful stories (that should be read together) by an author I’d love to read more of.

Flirting with Ruin by Marguerite Kaye (free download)

 Published: June 2012

Publisher’s Blurb:

LadyRosalind Rhees has dedicated her life to being as scandalous as possible–it’sthe only way she can escape society’s expectations. Unfortunately, flirtingwith ruin hasn’t been as exciting as she’d hoped. Untilshe meets Major Fraser Lennox at a country party–and gets a taste of just howdelicious forbidden desire can feel… But is she daring enough to follow herheart on the strength of one sizzling night?

Tags: Romance, Historical, short-story

Time Frame: England 1815

Rating: 4 stars

Heat Level: 2

REVIEW BY LEE ANNE:

Flirting with Ruin is the first in the Castonbury Park series by Marguerite Kaye. It’s agreat introduction to the series full of romance and passion. Lady Rosalind is a widow who is looking for a little excitement in her life. Her husband was puritanical and felt the marriage bed should be endured rather than enjoyed. She meets Major Fraser Lennox at a country party and finds out that passion does exist and she’s more than capable of it!

Thiswas a great short story and introduction to the Castonbury Park series. We met many characters in this story and I can’t wait to read all of their stories inthe following books. Lady Rosalind is a wonderful character full of life and trying to find her excitement while staying within the confines of proper society. Major Lennox is war hero, who is trying to find his way now that the war is over. Both are very well developed characters for such a short-story. I read it in about an hour. The story flows well and keeps the reader engaged. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Forthe month of July this book is available for free from Amazon. The following is a blurb from the author’s page.

Castonbury Park – Free Download

To celebrate the August release of the first book in the fabulous Regencyupstairs/downstairs series Castonbury Park,the novella prequel, Flirting with Ruin will be FREE forthe month of July. In Canada and the US you can download it from Harlequinand all major ebook retailers. In the UK, you can download it fromMills&Boon here. So what are you waiting for!

More exciting news – the series will be coming out in print as well as digital in North America. The books will be released by HQN as duos, with the first twoa vailable for pre-order. My book (3), The Lady Who Broke the Rules, is teamed with Lady of Shame by Ann Lethbridge, and will be sold under the title CastonburyPark: Ladies of Disrepute, which I think says it all. The links are on thebook page, and I’ll update them as the other books become available. Enjoy your free download, and do let me know what you think of it.  Linkto author’s page: http://www.margueritekaye.com/2012/07/castonbury-park-free-download/

AMAZON LINK: http://www.amazon.com/Flirting-Ruin-Castonbury-Park-ebook/dp/B007OTTW1I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343156674&sr=8-1&keywords=flirting+with+ruin