Tag Archive | Regency Romance

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

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

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

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, January 2017

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

Review by Lady Cicely

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXCERPT

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

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

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

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

“It wasn’t you I was worried about.”

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

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

“Which brother?” Sebastian asked.

“Randolph,” supplied his hostess.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That does not excuse…”

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

“Thick mud, more like,” said Georgina.

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

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

GIVEAWAY

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

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

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The Discerning Gentleman’s Guide by Virginia Heath

the-discerning-gentlemans-guide

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Choosing a wife is not a task that should be undertaken lightly.”

Bennett Montague, sixteenth Duke of Aveley, is seeking the perfect bride. He’s narrowed his search to five worthy “Potentials”… until the arrival of his aunt’s companion unravels his carefully laid plans.

Having fought for everything she has, Amelia Mansfield is incensed by Bennett’s wife-selection methods. But as she’s forced to spend time in his company, she begins to see another side to Bennett—and that man is infinitely more tantalizing and enticing…

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Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical, November 2016

Time and setting: London 1816
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Wendy

I thoroughly enjoyed A Discerning Gentleman’s Guide by new-to-me author, Virginia Heath. It put me in mind of the acclaimed contemporary romance The Rosie Project which also follows the path of a gentleman who has decided that it is time to take a wife and clinically sets out to find one following a written set of rules. In A Discerning Gentleman’s Guide it is Bennett Montague, sixteenth Duke of Aveley, who is following this path – two hundred years earlier – and he is referring to a manual/pamphlet he has actually written, using wisdom gleaned from his father. With its aid he has narrowed down the field of potential brides who might meet his exacting requirements. That is until he meets his aunt’s companion, the completely unorthodox and delectable Amelia Mansfield. She does not tick any of his boxes; nor is there a set of rules to abide by when physical attraction or even Cupid takes a hand.

Bennett is the only child of a distinguished politician who lived by a set of rigid guidelines – to the detriment of his family. The duke’s younger brother, George, had always disagreed with this philosophy and sought – without much success – to mitigate the worst effects of his brother’s teaching upon his son. Years later, Bennett continues to be ruled from the grave by his father’s ethics and opinions and as a result has become a stuffy workaholic. By no means an unkind or uncaring man he simply appears to lack imagination and seems incapable of thinking outside the box – or at least the box his father has created; working himself into the ground, treading his well worn path of duty-above-all-else; without deviation.

Amelia Mansfield has a chequered, tarnished past which is no fault of her own but has survived and lives to tell the tale, albeit with a strong disrespect for the aristocracy and a passionate need to help the less fortunate. She has been plucked from obscurity by Bennett’s aunt and employed as that lady’s companion. Lady Worsted likes Amelia’s no nonsense and outspoken approach to life and they rub along very well together. Inevitably Bennett and Amelia meet when Lady Worsted pays her annual visit to her sister, the duke’s mother. At their first encounter Amelia is outrageously dismissive and under-enthused about being in the presence of a duke. And Bennett, who is not used to such irreverence, is confused by this but also by the fact that he is attracted to her. Amelia is equally confused – because although Bennett is stodgy and pompous, he’s also drop-dead gorgeous and it goes against the grain as she simply cannot like trust or tolerate aristocrats.

Virginia Heath does an excellent job of developing the romance between these two disparate characters and bringing it gently to a point where they meet their prejudices and their growing love – in the middle. Both are warm and likeable and I loved how Amelia opens Bennett’s eyes to her way of thinking and finally takes him into the world of poverty she knows so well and that he thinks he knows exists, but doesn’t really believe until he sees and experiences it for himself. There are some excellent secondary characters, too; Uncle George, the amusing, unorthodox younger brother of the duke who has been the real role model throughout the young duke’s life and Lovett the butler, who regularly imbibes the duke’s port and brandy and is regularly and half-heartedly admonished by his master. The affection between the aristocrat and his servant is obvious and rather touching and from the beginning, this affection gives the reader an insight into Bennett’s real character.

The poverty and despair of the people in some of the worst parts of London are conveyed in a very real and shocking manner and I was impressed by the way Virginia Heath managed to combine authentic historical facts, a warm and sweet romance and even comedy into one novel and make it work. I loved the moment that Bennett actually throws away his manual and trusts his own instincts. I will definitely be reading more of this author’s work.

Highland Temptation (Highland Knights #3) by Jennifer Haymore

highland temptation

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When Lady Emilia Buchanan discovers that her despicable father has been scheming against the crown, she turns to the Highland Knights for protection—and retribution. Spirited away to a safe house on the outskirts of London, Emilia is surprised to find herself sharing close quarters with a soft-spoken, musclebound Highlander. Before long, curiosity gives way to an alarming attraction. Emilia has learned firsthand from her father that men are not to be trusted. She just never met one so honorable and loyal, so powerful and, yes, tempting.

Ever since Waterloo, Colin Stirling has struggled with memories that haunt him night and day. Driven near to madness, he no longer trusts himself with meaningful relationships of any kind. At least in this temporary sanctuary, Colin can withdraw from the world—that is, until his stunningly gorgeous charge learns the full depth of his pain. In Emilia, Colin sees a kindred spirit with battle scars of her own. He also senses a chance to heal . . . and to find love.

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Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, August 23, 2016

Time and setting: London, 1816
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Vikki

I have been a fan of Jennifer Haymore’s ever since I read A Hint of Wickedyears ago. She is one of my auto-buy authors; her stories are always well-developed, her characters are complex and steal the show and I have yet to read one of her books where I have not fallen in love with them.

After a brutal beating, Emilia Buchanan runs in terror from the one man who should protect her above all others – her father. Months ago, the Highland Knights had protected him, and she had met the handsome Sir Colin Stirling.

When Colin becomes her protector and takes her to safety, Emilia at last finds out that there is an honorable man willing to protect her with his life. When her father catches up to them and grabs Emilia, Colin is determined to get her back.

Can he find her in time, or will her father exact his revenge on his only daughter before Colin can make her his own forever?

Highland Temptation starts out fast and stays that way until the end. The plot is well thought out, with plenty of action, and the romance is satisfying. The chemistry between Emilia and Colin is fantastic – I truly wanted them to find their happy ending.

Emilia is an endearing character who has not had an easy time of it since her mother passed away. Her father is a physically abusive bastard, so under the circumstances, it’s no wonder she is wary of men. Her self-esteem is extremely low, but her inner core is too strong for him to permanently break her. She really comes into her own under Colin’s tender care.

Colin is my favorite kind of hero, a man who has suffered great hardship, but refuses to let it destroy him. He is a true warrior, determined to protect Emilia even if it may mean laying down his life to do so. He suffers greatly from what is known today as PTSD, but what he believes is madness. I loved how Emilia is able to convince him she loves him even when he is in the throes of one of his episodes.

Highland Temptation is a great adventure with plenty of perils along the way. While it’s not my favorite of the series, it is still a great read and if you enjoy an emotionally-charged romance with amazing characters, then you should give it a try. I thoroughly enjoyed getting glimpses into the lives of the other knights and their fair ladies. I can’t wait to read the stories of the other still unattached heroes in this great cast of characters.

SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: A Scandalous Proposal (The Little Season #2) by Kasey Michaels

A Scandalous Proposal

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Who would have thought a man could tire of being fawned over and flirted with? Ever since Cooper Townsend returned from France as a hero with a new title, he has been relentlessly pursued by every marriageable miss in London. Perhaps that’s why the unconventional Miss Daniella Foster is so appealing. She doesn’t simper or flatter. She only wants him to help unmask her sister’s blackmailer, and Coop has never been so intrigued…

Let every other woman in London fight over His Lordship’s romantic attentions. Marriage is the last thing on Dany’s mind…at least until she samples his illicit kisses. Now, as a mutual enemy races to ruin Coop’s reputation and Dany’s family name, an engagement of convenience will spark an unlikely passion that might save them both.

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Publisher and Release Date: HQN Books, April 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting:
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review by Sara

In A Scandalous Proposal, fame isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

At least that’s what Lord Cooper Townsend comes to find when he becomes the darling of the ton after the release of two stories of his heroics in France. These highly exaggerated tales of his time fighting Napoléon and saving widows and children from the French army have made it impossible for Cooper to go anywhere without being mobbed. His popularity has become a joke to his friends but is much more of a nuisance to Cooper, especially as the anonymous author of the pamphlets has hinted at knowledge of events that no one but Cooper and a select few should know. Those small hints, hidden in the pages of both stories, become threats that all will be revealed in a third and final story that could ruin not only Cooper but also highly placed members of society unless he pays to keep the author silent. Unable to risk exposure, Cooper begins an investigation to find the blackmailer and keep them from ever publishing again.

Cooper is not the only member of the ton facing ruin at the hands of a blackmailer. Lady Cockermouth made the foolish mistake to trust that a correspondence with a secret admirer would remain secret. With the threat of her secrets being exposed to her husband or the gossips in town, Lady Marietta shuts down emotionally and it’s up to her younger sister Daniella Foster to take up the fight. Unfortunately Dany is young and in over her head. What she really needs is a hero who will help her track down the blackmailer; and her prayer is seemingly answered when she literally runs into Cooper Townsend and finds a way to enlist him to her cause.

A story like A Scandalous Proposal reads almost like it was ripped from today’s entertainment news feeds. People love to build up celebrities but also love to watch them get caught in scandals of their own making. Cooper’s instant celebrity comes with a high price; his privacy is taken from him and his life is instantly under a microscope. Meeting Dany and falling for her is refreshing to Cooper because she is unmotivated by his new rank or his exploits while a soldier. She only knows him for who he is, and as they learn about each other she cares only for the man he will be once his celebrity has died down.

Where the story loses a bit of its charm is in how unnecessarily complicated the blackmailing plot becomes. I was disappointed when the motivation behind the blackmail was revealed because it was quite anticlimactic and served only as one giant plot device to put Dany and Cooper together when their normal circumstances wouldn’t have. Even the explanation of what Cooper was protecting didn’t have the gravity it needed to help readers understand why he’d risk everything to keep the blackmailer quiet.

I think some of the problems just come from Ms. Michaels’ style of writing. Her characters carry on long conversations full of parries, jabs, innuendos and other details to move things along and it’s a wonder any of them can catch their breath! Some of these scenes work beautifully to show the relationship between characters, from the friendly teasing of Cooper’s best friends to the relationship between Dany and her sister. However in other scenes. similar conversations are so overloaded with banter that pertinent information gets lost. There needed to be more quiet moments for Cooper and Dany to just reflect and feel for each other rather than having to constantly express themselves.

When the dialog isn’t weighing it down, A Scandalous Proposal is a light and enjoyable story, and in spite of that reservation, I’ll be looking forward to the next book of the The Little Season series.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

kaseymichaelsKasey Michaels is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 110 books (she doesn’t count them). Kasey has received four coveted Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly, three for historical romance, The Secrets of the Heart, The Butler Did It, and A Gentleman By Any Other Name, and for the contemporary romance Love To Love You Baby. She is a recipient of the RITA, a Waldenbooks and Bookrak Bestseller award, and many awards from Romantic Times magazine, including a Career Achievement award for her Regency era historical romances. She is an Honor Roll author in Romance Writers of America, Inc. (RWA), and is a past president of Novelists, Inc. (NINC), the only international writers organization devoted solely to the needs of multi-published authors.

Kasey has written Regency romances, Regency historicals, category books including novellas and continuities and a few series “launch” books, and single title contemporaries. She has coped with time travel, ghosts, trilogies, the dark side, the very light side, and just about everything in between. Hers is also the twisted mind behind her ongoing Maggie Kelly mystery series starring a former romance writer turned historical mystery writer whose gorgeous hunk of a fictional hero shows up, live and in color, in her Manhattan living room – to melt her knees, to help her solve murders, and to leave the top off her toothpaste. And, says Kasey, she’s just getting started!

Find Kasey at <a href=www.kaseymichaels.com>kaseymichaels.com</a> and on <a href=https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKaseyMichaels>Facebook</a>.

Reason to Wed (Distinguished Rogues #7) by Heather Boyd

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Richard Hill, the Earl of Windermere, might desperately require a wife and heir, but thoughts of duty fly from his mind when he rescues Esme, Lady Heathcote, from the embarrassment of a failed affair. They usually never agree about anything. He’s never even kissed the vexing widow. But when the opportunity arises to whisk her away for a no-strings-attached rendezvous, Richard can’t imagine a better way to spend a moonlit evening.

Esme has never lacked for admirers, but having Lord Windermere’s company goes a long way to ease the pain of losing her suddenly betrothed lover. And when Windermere suggests an affair, Esme is intrigued by the blazing-hot connection even while knowing their relationship has no future beyond his house party.

But as with any temptation, it’s a bargain they’ll soon regret.

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Publisher and Release Date: LLD Press, December 2015

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

Review by Lady Wesley

Esme, Lady Heathcote, a merry widow, is friends (but nothing more) with Richard Hill, the Earl of Windermere. The first thing I liked about this book is that the main couple is mature: Richard is 43 and Esme is 36 (or maybe older, as she has been known to lie about her age), so they’re downright elderly by the standards of Hollywood and historical romance!

Reluctantly recognizing the need to marry and beget heirs, Richard organizes a house party brimming with young, prospective brides. Among the guests are Esme and her current amour, but when that gentleman suddenly announces his engagement to one of the young lovelies, Richard is appalled to think of Esme suffering such embarrassment. His solution: offer to engage in an affair-of-convenience with Esme for the duration of the house party.

“Why not?” thinks Esme. It could be enjoyable and would help her save face before the other guests. Esme is already helping Richard by acting as his de facto hostess and as time passes, Richard realizes that he is becoming smitten with her. She would make a perfect countess, apart from the fact that Esme knows that she would not be a good wife for Richard, as he needs an heir and she is barren. Moreover, Esme has no interest in marrying again and surrendering her independence.

I liked Esme; she is strong and determined but not without softness. In most other Regency romances, a woman like Esme would be cast as the wicked Other Woman, but here she is a character deserving of our admiration. Richard is admirable as well. This series is called Distinguished Rogues, but I’m not sure that Richard is really a rogue. When he falls for Esme, he falls hard, and that’s always fun to watch. Esme refuses marriage, but I never felt that she was stringing him along for no good reason.

I always enjoy house party stories because I like watching the interplay among the guests. This book handles that aspect very well and also includes lots of humorous banter between Richard and Esme. There’s a bit of ludicrousness about Richard’s family tradition of abducting brides, but that passes quickly. All in all, Reason to Wed was a quick, fun read – just the thing for a rainy Saturday afternoon. Heather Boyd is an author I will definitely read again.

The Art of Taming a Rake (Legendary Lovers #4) by Nicole Jordan

the art of taming a rake

Despite his notorious reputation, Quinn Wilde, Earl of Traherne, has mostly honorable intentions. So when beautiful Venetia Stratham boldly enters a gentlemen’s club, demanding that Quinn stop courting her sister, he does what any bachelor would do: He kisses her. With her sharp wit, intoxicating passion, and surprising vulnerability, Venetia is irresistible—except for all this nonsense about threatening to shoot Quinn. But when clandestine enemies make an actual attempt on the earl’s life, Venetia is implicated. To save her good name, Quinn does what any true gentleman must do: He proposes.

Thus Venetia finds herself wed to arrogant, wickedly sensual Quinn, whose devilish ways are as legendary as his rumored skills as a lover. Yet vexingly, her body rebels against her vow to remain immune to his many charms. If only she could reform the infuriating nobleman—without diminishing his undeniable allure. As Venetia discovers that a true rake is hard to tame, Quinn faces an even greater challenge: winning his wife’s fragile trust . . . while defending both their lives.

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Publisher and Release Date: February 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London, 1817
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Claudia

When Venetia Stratham breaks off her engagement in front of the ton, she is shunned by both society and her own parents. She travels to Paris in order to lick her wounds, but decides to return to England when she hears that Quinn Wilde, the Earl of Traherne, is wooing her sister. Not only is Wilde a known rake, he is also the man who brought her former fiancé to their wedding smelling of cheap perfume and still in his evening clothes from the day before.

Quinn has always admired Venetia, but knows she does not hold him in high regard and knows he deserved her censure. He is trying to re-discover a family heirloom when Venetia finds him and demands his promise to not to marry or seduce her sister.

When during one of their meetings Quinn is shot and Venetia is suspected of shooting him, she finds herself married to him and has now to find a way to overcome her mistrust of all men.

I enjoyed the book so much I’ve already re-read it :) It has an engaging storyline, and while the mystery element is fairly low-key, it kept me sufficiently interested to know what was going to happen next. The romance is very well done, and I especially liked the sexual tension between Quinn and Venetia and seeing him give her the time to get to know him and to become comfortable with the notion of being married to him. Their attraction to each other heats the pages and you can feel their marriage of convenience turn into something more throughout the story.

The two main characters are attractive, although I found Venetia a little difficult to like as she is very biased (against Quinn) and it takes her a while to overcome that. But when she finally does, it is a convincing change. Quinn, though, is a perfect hero. I loved his character – strong, protective, reliable and especially tender when Venetia needs it the most.

The secondary characters are very engaging as well, and I am certainly going back to read the previous books in the series, but most of all I am waiting anxiously for Kate’s book.

One thing I will say is that I wished there had been an epilogue, as I would have loved to have seen more of Quinn and Venetia together after they had finally confessed the truth of their feelings for each other, but for the most part, I am happy with the way the story turned out and with the way their romance progressed.

All in all, The Art of Taming a Rake is a highly recommended book for lovers of stories with mystery, sizzling attraction and a sweet, sensual romance.

The Best of Both Rogues by Samantha Grace

best of both rogues
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Lady Eve Thorne was devastated when Mr. Benjamin Hillary left her at the altar. She’s no longer that starry-eyed young woman, and now that he’s back, he can go hang… At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. Eve has a new man in her life, and Ben is nothing but trouble.

The worst thing Benjamin Hillary ever did was abandon his bride-to-be on their wedding day. The hardest thing he will ever have to do is watch her marry another man. But once Ben realizes he might have a chance, he’ll do just about anything to win back Eve’s heart—anything.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, July 7, 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1817, 1819, London
Genre: Historical romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

This is a second chance romance, a popular trope I love – Persuasion, anyone? – but Samantha Grace’s latest book makes it a little hard to swallow.

When Ben Hillary returns to England, Eve Thorne is about to be betrothed to Sir Jonathan Hackberry, an archaeologist and a man who is not bothered by Eve’s scandalous past. Ben’s abandonment, however unintentional, ruined her reputation and Eve’s protective older brother, Sebastian, has never forgiven him. But Ben claims he still loves Eve and has always regretted his hasty and un-gentlemanly departure, even though he never even wrote her a single letter during the entire time he was away! The reason Ben left Eve is not very plausible or even a good enough explanation. We’re told he was wracked with profound (and debilitating) guilt over a youthful infatuation with a tradesman’s daughter and he suffers panic attacks, one of which strikes him at the altar on his wedding day. I don’t quite understand what triggers it, perhaps other than his too tight cravat? Anyway, he runs away on one of his family’s ships to India and is gone for two years, leaving Eve with a beautiful necklace, a broken heart, and her good name in tatters.

Eve is a stronger heroine than we are first led to believe based on her depiction in the previous book in the series, In Bed with a Rogue, in which she is a sad and pitiable character indeed, having been jilted at the altar with rampant gossip swirling around her. Here, however, she displays a quiet, inner strength that will serve her well. She is the stronger of the two in their relationship. She gives Ben another chance, she helps him through his angst-ridden nightmares and attacks, and she keeps them together by refusing to leave him even as he tries to push her away. Most women would have given up, but not Eve. In our twenty-first century mindset, however, we might call her a doormat.

Ben tries desperately to win Eve back in improbable and often silly ways, such as accompanying her to one of her pet charities or showing up uninvited at balls and parties. These are the parts of this sweet romance that are a bit too cloying. On the other hand, their few love scenes are brief but quite descriptive and passionate.

I give Eve a lot of credit for forgiving Ben but their resolution is too convenient. I liked Eve’s fiancé more than I liked Ben. Jonathan Hackberry is a generous, likeable, and genuinely funny character, who is very smart and, until he feels compelled to do something he doesn’t really wish to do, a true gentleman. He is not quite what he seems and that makes him even more interesting, possibly even more so than Ben! But this thread in the novel is just left to wither away, unresolved, and this frustrates me. I find his background and aura much more intriguing than Ben’s sad guilt issues and I hope Ms. Grace has plans to write Jonathan’s full story.

Even toward the end of the book, Ben still hasn’t resolved his past issues of self-reproach over the death of his childhood love. Eve’s patience is that of a saint and, at one unbelievable point, Ben contemplates separating himself from Eve yet again to deal with his troubles. I find him a rather weak hero; he really needs to see a psychologist.

Despite my reservations, Samantha Grace writes a nice story in an engaging style that doesn’t drag. It’s breezy and light read for readers who have read her previous books and those who like their romance on the less angsty side.

Never Resist a Rake (Somerfield Park #2) by Mia Marlowe

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Can he fool his new family?

John Fitzhugh Barrett, surprised to learn he is heir to a marquessate, is determined his new status won’t mean giving up his freedom. But as families from all over England descend upon Somerfield Park for the shooting season, their unmarried daughters are lining up to bag the newest trophy buck – him.

Or is he only fooling himself?

John’s instinct for self-preservation inspires him to divide his attentions between a scandalous young widow, and the safely ineligible Rebecca Kearsey, daughter of a destitute baron.

The charade gives John the illusion of controlling the game but when he loses his heart to the beautiful Rebecca, all bets are off.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, June 2015

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

Review by Natalie

Since finding out that he is the legitimate heir to the Somerset marquisate and not the bastard he had been raised as, John Fitzhugh Barrett has spent most of the last few months getting himself into trouble around London. He is enraged and frustrated that he was made to believe he was nothing as a child but is now expected to rise to the occasion and forgive the very people who gave him away. He knows his circumstances have already tarnished his reputation in society and so he has found his own group of rag-tag socially unacceptable friends with whom he can run amok.

Rebecca Kearsey is the daughter of a lesser Baron, one who has sold of a substantial portion of his family estate to pay his gambling debts and for expensive health treatments for his wife. Rebecca knows that between her blue-stocking ways and her father’s financial situation she is practically invisible to the members of the ton. So far this has provided a certain amount of relief, meaning she has been able to go to museums and art exhibitions without the cumbersome chaperones that other young women in society have to deal with.

When John gets in over his head at a boxing match he considers backing out, until a bound and gagged Rebecca is brought out as the trophy for the winner. This encounter starts the ball in motion for the relationship between these two outsiders. Rebecca and John end up saving each other in different ways throughout the book. John needs to be set straight and to make an effort with his family as they are reaching out to him while Rebecca has to handle the shady dealings and fall-out over her father’s gambling debts.

The relationship between John and Rebecca is coaxed along by John’s new, extended family who want him to succeed in his new role as well as accept and forgive them. The interactions between John’s new sister-in-law and his grandmother are a great deal of fun to read and you find yourself rooting for John to forgive his family as much as hoping that he and Rebecca will end up together.

There are some situations that are hard to believe, such as Rebecca being allowed into John’s room while he is lying in bed, but when reading a historical romance sometimes you have to suspend your disbelief. John and Rebecca are a well matched couple, bringing out the best in each other and helping each other heal the wounds caused by society’s unwillingness to accept them. Never Resist a Rake is another strong story in the Somerfield Park series by Mia Marlowe. It was fun to revisit several characters as well as to get to know these new ones.

Chasing the Other Tisdale by Jessica Jefferson

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She’s the other sister . . .

Overshadowed by the beauty of her older sister, Lillian is better known as the other Tisdale; unremarkable and unsure how she will ever deliver on the promise of her family’s name.

He’s a rake in need of reforming . . .

Will Colton leads a frivolous existence, embracing notoriety instead of managing his family’s fortune. Determined to forget his financial burden and his father’s growing resentment, he maintains a lifestyle dedicated to pleasure and self-indulgence.

When Will is invited to the Tisdale estate for an extended holiday, he never expects to become friends with the forgettable Lillian. But when a family secret comes to light, he must choose between leaving London and protecting the honor of one woman or staying and risking the reputation of another.

Upon his return, Will finds the girl he left behind has come out of the shadows and into her own. Lillian’s finally the center of attention, and not all of it good. With his own reputation in tatters, can a reformed rake lure her out of the hands of London’s bachelors and back into his own arms? Can he escape his past and reclaim her heart, or has he lost her forever?

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Publisher and Release Date: Soul Mate Publishing, February 25, 2015

RHR Classifications:

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

Review by Maria Almaguer

The third book in Jessica Jefferson’s charming Regency Blooms series, telling the stories of four sisters with floral names who come from a loving, titled, and prosperous family, is a rather melancholy and dramatic book, quite different in tone from the first two. I’m not sure if it’s due to personal circumstances or the mood of the story itself, but this book lacks the joie de vivre found in the other stories, and I was disappointed. The events in this book take place before the first one as, in that book, Lilly is already married. Because of this, I feel it’s best to read the series in order for a better understanding of plot progression and events.

Lillian – Lilly – Tisdale is the second eldest daughter in the respectable Tisdale family. The daughter of a viscount, all four Tisdale sisters are expected to marry well. But Lilly isn’t as poised and beautiful as Ambrosia, her elder sister, who is about to have her first London season. A lady who enjoys quiet pursuits and is also an accomplished artist, Lilly is insecure in both her looks and personality.

Will Colton, an old school friend to Thomas, Lilly’s elder brother, is a profligate rake on holiday from Oxford when he first meets seventeen-year-old Lilly at a family house party on the Tisdale estate. He is caught in the act of seducing another woman when Lilly literally falls into his arms. Will is charmed by Lilly and, by the time he leaves the house party to go back to Oxford, they agree to a friendly correspondence.

Two years pass as they write often to each other and Will finds himself telling Lilly things he has never told anyone. We learn about Will’s unhappy family life, his questionable and painful past, and the choices that eventually force him to leave the country. During this time Lilly, too, matures and grows more confident and self-assured. When they meet again, after a tragedy, they rekindle their friendship and it blooms into romance, but misunderstandings must be overcome for them to find their happy ending.

This story is a bit too long and actually rather sad. Yes, it ends happily, but it seems an arduous road to get there and as a result, it isn’t as fun as the other books in the series, especially the second, which is full of humor and light.

Ms Jefferson’s writing moves along nicely and she writes a good story, but some of the secondary characters are a little flat. I don’t quite get the feel for the family dynamics in this book as I did in the others, especially since the Tisdale family is a close and companionable one.

The romance between Lilly and Will has some passionate moments but again, they feel tinged with sadness as their story is filled with poor communication, separation, and unexpected circumstances.

The final book in the series will feature the youngest Tisdale sister, Rose, a voracious reader and writer; I just hope it’s a happier story than Lilly’s.

RETRO REVIEW: Reforming Lord Ragsdale by Carla Kelly

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Emma Costello owed a debt of honor to one of the most dishonorable lords in the realm. The infamous Lord Ragsdale was as rich as sin, as sinful as he was rich, and as heartless as he was handsome. But he had saved Emma from a fate worse than death when he stopped a lecherous brute from buying her as an indentured servant.

It was Emma’s turn now to save Lord Ragsdale from his wicked ways. She had to find a way to stop his drinking, his gaming, his wild revelry. She had to make him break with his mistress, the superbly sensual Fae Moulle. She had to make him a suitable suitor for the ideal wife that the prim and proper Lady Clarissa Partridge would be. And above all, she had to keep his lustful eye from lingering too long on herself–even as she struggled to keep her own growing desire from undoing all her hard work in the unmaking of this irresistible rake.

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Publisher and Release Date: Signet, October 1995

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Regency Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars

Review by Lady Wesley

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of romance novels that have brought me to tears. To that list I must add Reforming Lord Ragsdale.

John Staples, Marquess of Ragsdale, is an unrepentant rake. Not the handsome, charming, amiable kind of rake frequently found in romance novels. He’s a drunkard who neglects his duties (although he is good to his mother). He’s too lazy to hire a valet or to replace the secretary he fired for stealing. He’s even too indolent to rid himself of his stupid mistress, whom he doesn’t even like. His behavior is not like that of other romance heroes either. In one early scene, we find him waking up drunk, fully clothed, and filthy from his own vomit. It’s just another typical morning. Later, he visits his mistress and “attempting exercise far beyond his capacity,” he leaves embarrassed and sulky.

He was disfigured by the loss of an eye while fighting in Ireland, which is also where he witnessed a mob murdering his father. He’s wracked with guilt because he was unable to save him, and he hates the Irish with a passionate vengeance. When his American cousins, Robert and Sally Claridge, arrive for a visit, he immediately dislikes Sally’s indentured Irish servant Emma Costello, although he finds himself intrigued to learn that she has knowledge of Greek mythology and Shakespeare. When cousin Robert tries to put up Emma’s indenture as stakes in a card game, however, even Lord Ragsdale is horrified at the inhumanity of it. He rescues Emma by offering his two excellent horses in her place. Suddenly, he owns Emma’s indenture, and she indignantly pledges to repay him the two thousand pounds that the horses cost.

I said earlier that Lord Ragsdale was unrepentant, but in fact there is a part of him that knows he’s wasting his life. He wants to be better, but his lassitude is too consuming. One night, in a drunken haze, he begs Emma to reform him, and she immediately sees her chance. She will reform this worthless man, and in so doing earn her release.

It turns out that Emma is an educated, talented, and ruthlessly strong woman whose life was ruined in the battle between England and Irish rebels. She dislikes the English no less than Lord Ragsdale abhors the Irish. Between them, however, a reluctant friendship develops, as she sets about organizing his finances, getting rid of the mistress, and stopping his out of control drinking. Emma encourages Lord Ragsdale to find a wife, and indeed he becomes the ideal fiancé for Miss Clarissa Partridge, a perfect little society chit of the sort he always expected to marry.

Eventually, Emma comes to trust Lord Ragsdale enough to share her past with him, and he goes out of his way to help her find out the fate of her lost family. Their friendship slowly turns to love, but they both know, without discussing it, that there is no future for them together. As the story enters its final pages, Lord Ragsdale is set to marry Clarissa, and Emma is leaving England, and the reader despairs of a happy ending. But fear not . . . .

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The plot is engaging, with plenty of humor as well as angst; the language sparkles. There’s no sex – just a couple of kisses – but there’s something better: real, unselfish love between two people who never expected to find it.