Tag Archive | Theresa Romain

Scandalous Ever After (Romance of the Turf #2) by Theresa Romain

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Does love really heal all wounds?

After being widowed by a steeplechase accident in Ireland, Lady Kate Whelan abandons the turf. But once her mourning is complete, her late husband’s debts drive her to seek help in Newmarket amidst the whirl of a race meet. There she encounters antiquities expert Evan Rhys, her late husband’s roguish friend―whom she hasn’t seen since the day of his lordship’s mysterious death.

Now that fate has reunited them, Evan seizes the chance to win over the woman he’s always loved. But once back within the old stone walls of Whelan House, long-held secrets come to light that shake up everything Kate thought she knew about her marriage. Now she wonders who she can trust with her heart―and Evan must decide between love and a truth that will separate him from all his heart desires.

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, July 2017

Time and Setting: England, Wales and Ireland, 1818
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Caz

This second full-length novel in Theresa Romain’s Romance of the Turf series takes up the story of Kate Durham née Chandler, the elder Chandler daughter, widow of the Earl of Whelan and mother of two young children.  Scandalous Ever After is the sort of strongly written, character-driven and emotionally satisfying romance at which this author excels, and there’s a dash of mystery, too, which eventually turns out to be linked to one of the secondary plotlines featured in book one, A Gentleman’s Game.

When Kate was just seventeen, she was swept off her feet by the handsome Conall Durham, and after a whirlwind courtship, married him and left England to live at his estate in Ireland.  Con’s best friend, Evan Rhys, a Welsh historian and archaeologist, was a frequent visitor, and the three of them spent many an evening together chatting, laughing and sampling the excellent local whiskey.  Evan and Kate developed a strong and – they’d thought – lasting friendship, even though unbeknownst to Kate, Evan had fallen in love with her the moment they met.  Over the years, Kate watched Con running up debts he couldn’t pay and put up with his infidelities – and while Evan remonstrated with his friend, Con continued on his own merry way until he was killed as the result of a fall from his horse.  Shortly before this, the two men argued violently, after which Evan left and has never returned; he and Kate haven’t seen each other in the two years since Con’s death.

Kate hasn’t been home to Newmarket since she married, but she is back in England now, hoping to ask her father for help in settling the massive debt Connor left behind.  While she’s there, she attends a lecture on antiquities – and specifically, the way in which the collectors’ market is currently being inundated with fakes – given by her old friend Evan Rhys.  She has been hurt by his continued absence from her life and hopes they can regain something of their former friendship, unaware of the true nature of his feelings for her and that he harbours some guilt about the argument he and Con had on the day he died.  Evan is surprised to see Kate, but can’t deny that he’s missed her – and decides to woo her now that she is free and out of mourning.  But he knows it won’t be easy; over the years Kate has placed him in the role of “dependable friend” and he’ll have to take things slowly if he is to get her to see him as a lover.

Unfortunately for Kate, Sir William is unable to help her with her financial woes, so she decides to return to Ireland and Evan offers to escort her, telling her that he wants to look into the sudden flood of fake antiquities that appear to have been made from stone that comes from close to the Whelan estate.  Once there, it becomes apparent that not only does Evan have cause for his suspicions but also that Con’s death was no accident – and that the machinations of the mysterious villain who cast a long shadow in the previous book continue to pursue the Chandler family, although to what end is not yet apparent.

Scandalous Ever After is a skilfully blended story of romance and mystery, with the focus very firmly on the fragile new relationship that Kate and Evan are building together.  They have terrific chemistry and their many verbal exchanges are witty, funny and utterly delightful; such naturalistic dialogue is one of this author’s strengths, and it’s much in evidence here as Kate and Evan flirt, argue and tease their way towards a new understanding of themselves and each other.  That’s not to say it’s an easy journey for either of them, especially after Kate takes a leap of faith and invites Evan to her bed – and almost immediately regrets her decision, because she is scared that by changing the nature of their relationship she will lose his friendship, and she couldn’t bear that.  Over the years, she has become so many different women – wife, mother, countess, manager – that she has lost sight of herself and her own wants and needs.  Spending time with her family – and with Evan’s on the way to Ireland (no matter that both families are very, very different) – has brought into sharp focus the fact that she doesn’t really fit in anywhere, not in Ireland and not at home; and if she loses Evan’s friendship she will be truly alone.  She tells him she wants them to forget their one night together and go back to the way things were – and can’t understand why Evan doesn’t agree it’s for the best, and why he eventually begins to pull back from her.

Evan is a gorgeous beta hero; an intellectual who can crack a dirty joke along with the best of them and whose concern and love for Kate shines through in his words and actions.  He’s kind, charming and perceptive, but his upbringing by a mother who constantly belittled him has left him a little emotionally bruised and he’s suffered bouts of depression throughout his life – something Kate tackles superbly, offering understanding, compassion and acceptance.

The love story is beautifully nuanced and the love scenes are sensual as we see Evan and Kate tentatively exploring the possibilities for more than friendship at the same time as they fear to take the steps that will irretrievably change things between them.  It’s true that Evan is now more willing to put his heart on the line while Kate struggles with the fear that she could lose him and allows that fear to push her to retreat from him and from what she really wants; and there were times this reader found Kate’s reticence just a teeny bit frustrating.  Yet in the two years since Con’s death, Evan allowed his fear of rejection to keep him far away from the temptation Kate presented, so he, too, has been guilty of running from his deepest desires.

My one complaint about the story overall is that Kate’s inability to realise why Evan is so hurt when she wants to ‘go back to how things were’ goes on a little too long – and it’s hard to believe she can really be so obtuse about it when he has been her closest friend for so many years.  That point knocked my final grade down a little, but didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book and isn’t going to prevent my recommending Scandalous Ever After to others.

Passion Favors the Bold (Royal Rewards #2) by Theresa Romain

passion favors the bold

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DESPERATE MEASURES
Georgette Frost’s time is almost up. On her twenty-first birthday, the protections outlined in her late parents’ will are set to expire. With prospects for employment or marriage unfavorable at best, she decides to leave London and join her brother, Benedict, on a treasure hunt for gold sovereigns stolen from the Royal Mint.

DANGEROUS LIAISONS
Lord Hugo Starling has always felt protective of his friend Benedict’s sister, Georgette. So when he discovers her dressed in ragged boy’s clothes, about to board a coach for parts unknown, he feels duty bound to join her search. But mystery piles upon mystery as they cross England together, not least of which is the confounded attraction between them. As Georgette leads him to a reward he never expected, Hugo realizes he’s embarked upon the adventure of a lifetime…

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Publisher and Release Date: Zebra, February 2017

Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Jenny Q

I’ve been hearing lots of good things about Theresa Romain, and I’m always down for a good treasure hunt, so I decided to make her Royal Rewards duology my introduction to her work. While I can find no fault with her writing, and she created some very intriguing characters in Benedict and Charlotte in Fortune Favors the Wicked, I thought their backstories needed more fleshing out to make them fully plausible, and the plot didn’t turn out quite as I expected, though it had a wonderful ending that made me cry. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed the sequel, Passion Favors the Bold, much more.

All of England is talking about the crime of the century, the theft of fifty thousand newly minted gold coins from the Royal Mint, and those that aren’t simply talking about it are trying to find it in order to claim the five thousand-pound reward. Suddenly, the English countryside is swarming with fortune hunters, and the merest hint of a gold sighting attracts them in droves. When Georgette Frost pieces a few clues together from newspaper reports and realizes her brother, Benedict, is right in the middle of the action, she determines to join him. But she doesn’t count on Lord Hugo, her brother’s best friend, thwarting her plans when he discovers her in a coaching yard, dressed as a boy and preparing to traverse the countryside unescorted. Unwilling to give up on her dream of leaving her sheltered existence in her family’s bookstore behind, she convinces Hugo to escort her to her brother, and thus begins her hopeful adventure.

Lord Hugo Starling is an unapologetic scholar, preferring the company of books and blueprints to that of people. On the outs with his father ever since a medical error led to the untimely death of his twin brother, he has devoted his life to the study of medicine and dreams of opening a state-of-the-art hospital. But he can’t do so without funds, and without his father’s support or that of the royal societies, finding the stolen money and claiming the reward could be his only chance to see his dreams realized. But what starts out as a plan to drop Georgette off with her brother and strike out on his own quickly becomes something else. Drawn to Georgette’s unfettered joy at being out of the city, befuddled by the feelings she elicits from him, and thinking they have stumbled onto the right track when they cross paths with a Bow Street Runner, Hugo decides to keep Georgette by his side and search for the gold together. They are each determined to go their separate ways once the gold has been found, but as they travel from village to village in search of clues, learning more about each other in the process, their partnership of convenience turns into much more. And as they close in on the stolen gold, he finds himself not only fighting his feelings for Georgette, but fighting for their very lives.

This was a really fun read. Georgette is my kind of heroine. After years spent as little more than a housemaid, although a well-loved one, helping in the bookstore formerly owned by her parents and caring for her cousin’s children, with little prospects for anything else, she decides to take her future into her own hands, to step out of her comfort zone and into adventure, and I admire that. I loved her cheeky wit and the banter between her and Hugo. And I loved how she brought out another side to him, though often very much against his will. Watching her run circles around him as he tried to remain in control was great fun. But her joy was often tempered by the reminder of the future she faced if they were unsuccessful in finding the gold, and her insecurities and self-doubt are things all women can relate to.

My only real complaint is that, as in the first book, I was expecting much more of a treasure hunt, but, as in the first book, they spend a lot of time doing other things and getting sidetracked and sort of accidentally stumble onto it. So that aspect of the plot was a bit disappointing for me. And of course it takes Hugo too long to realize what he’s got going with Georgette, that what he thinks he wants is not necessarily what he needs. But I did not figure out who the villain behind the theft was before the reveal, which was a pleasant surprise, and I really liked how everything came together in the end. Overall, this is a fun Regency romp with engaging characters, and something a bit different in historical romance.

Fortune Favors the Wicked (Royal Rewards #1) by Theresa Romain

fortune favours the wicked

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As a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Benedict Frost had the respect of every man on board–and the adoration of the women in every port. When injury ends his naval career, the silver-tongued libertine can hardly stomach the boredom. Not after everything–and everyone–he’s experienced. Good thing a new adventure has just fallen into his lap…

When courtesan Charlotte Perry learns the Royal Mint is offering a reward for finding a cache of stolen gold coins, she seizes the chance to build a new life for herself. As the treasure hunt begins, she realizes her tenacity is matched only by Benedict’s–and that sometimes adversaries can make the best allies. But when the search for treasure becomes a discovery of pleasure, they’ll be forced to decide if they can sacrifice the lives they’ve always dreamed of for a love they’ve never known…

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Publisher and Release Date: Kensington, 29 March 2016

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

Review by Caz

Theresa Romain is a busy lady right now, having not one, but TWO historical romance series on the go. The first full-length novel in her Romance of the Turf series was released a couple of months ago (A Gentleman’s Game), and now comes Fortune Favors the Wicked, book one in the Royal Rewards series.

I, for one, am only too pleased, because Ms Romain has become an auto-buy author for me over the past couple of years, so I’m certainly not going to say “no” to more of the warm, witty and clever stories which are her trademark. When I pick up one of her books, I know I’m going to get a well-written story that features strongly-drawn, attractive characters that I can come to care about, and in which the romance is kept to the fore even as she makes good use of whatever background she has chosen to use.

Fortune Favors the Wicked sees a former courtesan and a blind ex-naval officer team up in order to try to discover the whereabouts of six trunks of newly-minted gold sovereigns that were recently stolen from the Royal Mint. Rumours have drawn them both to Derbyshire and to a village near the home of Charlotte Perry, daughter of the local vicar. Ten years earlier, Charlotte was ruined by the young man with whom she believed herself in love, and left with no other options, removed herself to London where she carved herself out a life as La Perle, a high-flying courtesan. But now, she has had enough of that life and is determined to leave it behind forever – hence her desire to find the missing coins and claim the reward, which she plans to use to look after her family.

Lieutenant Benedict Frost joined the Navy when he was twelve and travelled the world, but a severe illness four years ago left him blinded and unable to continue in his career. He now lives on half-pay and a pension in cramped apartments at Windsor Castle as a Naval Knight, but this has the downside of meaning he can never leave or get married, as if he does he will lose his home and his pension. He has worked extremely hard at learning to function without his sight, and, unlike the typically beastly, self-pitying, blind heroes so often found within the pages of romance novels, is charming, witty, sexy and completely adorable. Like Charlotte, he has family to take care of, in his case a younger sister for whom he wants to provide a decent dowry.

Benedict’s good friend, Lord Hugo Starling, is also a friend of the Reverend Perry and has arranged for Benedict to stay at the vicarage while he is searching for the gold. This naturally throws him and Charlotte together and they agree to seek the treasure together – which has the added advantage of enabling them to explore the mutual attraction that sparks between them. Each can contribute different things to their endeavour; Benedict may not be able to see, but he is extremely intelligent, logical and notices practically everything, while Charlotte is equally clever, strong and very determined.

The search for the coins is an intriguing plot device, but is most definitely secondary to the romance between Charlotte and Benedict, which unfolds at a good pace and which is by turns funny, sexy and sweet. Benedict is refreshingly good-natured and open, and although I’m not normally a fan of courtesan heroines, there is something about Charlotte’s underlying vulnerability that drew me to her. I also appreciated that she’s a sexually active heroine who is not completely anachronistic. Both she and Benedict are very likeable and so wonderfully normal as to be rather extraordinary in a genre that is full of extremes; and their problems feel very real. Charlotte has been dogged by guilt for the past ten years; Benedict feels purposeless, but as they grow together they help each other to see that perhaps their perspectives are skewed and to find a way forward.

Fortune Favors the Wicked is a truly delightful novel and one I have no hesitation in recommending. It’s beautifully written and perfectly paced; full of gentle humour, some not-so-subtle innuendo and a couple of truly engaging protagonists, it’s the sort of book you want to cuddle up with and hug.

VIRTUAL TOUR: A Gentleman’s Game (Romance of the Turf #1) by Theresa Romain

A Gentleman's Game

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How far will a man go…
Talented but troubled, the Chandler family seems cursed by bad luck—and so Nathaniel Chandler has learned to trade on his charm. He can broker a deal with anyone from a turf-mad English noble to an Irish horse breeder. But Nathaniel’s skills are tested when his stable of trained Thoroughbreds become suspiciously ill just before the Epsom Derby, and he begins to suspect his father’s new secretary is not as innocent as she seems.

To win a woman’s secretive heart?
Nathaniel would be very surprised if he knew why Rosalind Agate was really helping his family in their quest for a Derby victory. But for the sake of both their livelihoods, Rosalind and Nathaniel must set aside their suspicions. As Derby Day draws near, her wit and his charm make for a successful investigative team…and light the fires of growing desire. But Rosalind’s life is built on secrets and Nathaniel’s on charisma, and neither defense will serve them once they lose their hearts…

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EXCERPT

When the farmer had led his chestnut away again, Nathaniel dangled the medal before Rosalind’s face. “Look there, Rosalind Agate. I’ve finally won a medal, and I didn’t even have to tidy myself up for a meal.”

“Or arise early.” At the end of its white ribbon, the medal turned in a slow breeze. It was a small circle of some silver metal, maybe tin, buffed to shine and catch the eye. “It’s pretty,” she said. “I’m glad he gave it to you. He wouldn’t have won without your help at the right moment.”

“Oh—well.” He shrugged this off, then stuffed the medal into the pocket of his waistcoat, from which the ribbon poked out alongside his fob. “This is a pleasant village, isn’t it? If home felt like this, I mightn’t be so eager to take to the road.”

“And how does it feel to you?” She couldn’t seem to stop asking questions. Her tidy control was packed away. Today she was a woman who danced, and who owned a ribbon so green it would bring a man to his knees.

The thought made her smile as she blinked up at Nathaniel. His eyes were blue, as blue as the Suffolk sky in springtime. She had learned the shade of their brightness.

Slowly, he smiled. “It feels,” he said, “like the sort of place where a man might kiss a woman with a crown of red flowers in her hair.”

Her heart thudded a bit faster; her knees went watery. “It does feel that way,” she whispered. “To me too.”

He tipped up her chin, his hand strong yet gentle along the line of her jaw. “Thank God for that.” And there in the shadow of a building once devoured by flame, he lowered his lips to hers.

* * *

Once their lips met, Nathaniel could not imagine how he had waited so long to kiss her.

Oh, there were reasons on reasons not to. She was his father’s secretary, and he had some sort of business arrangement with her about…something…

Honestly, who cared about the reasons why not? There were even more reasons why this was right.

The soft, almost hesitant curve of her mouth before he covered it with his own.

The surprised inhale that smoothed into a hmmm of pleasure.

The sweet-spiced taste of her as her lips parted, letting them fit together more deeply with his. As the tip of his tongue brushed hers, setting them both to shivering, he tasted the candied almonds. He tasted the heat of her and breathed in her scent. She was flowers and laughter and all the joys of a muddled morning. Of a race won. A medal for doing what was right.

Her hands wound around his neck, nails trailing lightly through his short-cropped hair. He could have groaned at the feeling, gentle and intimate, and he bent to wrap her more closely within his embrace. His hand trailed from her face to her shoulder to her back to fit her close to him. To press against her, solid and smiling and crimson-crowned and lovely.

She made another little hmm, and he went tense as a bowstring at the erotic sound. He laced his fingers into her plaited hair beneath its wreath of blooms. Feeling the shape of her head through her sleek hair was intimate. He almost felt as though he were holding her thoughts. Could he tell what was on her mind? How could he understand her, a woman so eager for sweetness but who had never yet claimed it?

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2 February 2016

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

Review by Wendy

A Gentleman’s Game – the first book in Theresa Romain’s new Romance of the Turf series – has a freshness and quirkiness in style that sets her apart from a lot of others out there at present. I confess to knowing nothing whatsoever about the world of horse racing, which is the basis for the series, but even though I had to concentrate hard to get into the story, my lack of knowledge didn’t actually cause me any problems while reading.

The characters, however, I adored immediately. Was there ever a more charmingly disarming, completely-unaware-of-his-own-attractiveness hero than Nathaniel Chandler? For me he steals the show; and his treatment of and kindness to, his father’s secretary – the unfathomable Rosalind Agate – with her mysteriously secret agenda, is the kind of treatment and kindness any woman would give her eye teeth for. Rosalind too is an extremely likeable character, modest, no nonsense and efficient. “her accent as tidy and crisp as the angled streets of Mayfair”. She suffered horrific scarring to her body after a childhood accident and bears it all in a pragmatic and non-self pitying manner, preferring to dwell on the positives rather than the negatives, in that the scars remind her to be thankful that she is alive.

Nathaniel is forever trying to please his critical, overbearing father, but is always found wanting and left frustrated by his inability to please him. Sir William Chandler does not trust his son to carry out any really important task on his own, despite the fact that Nathaniel travels the length and breadth of the country at his Father’s bidding, successfully carrying out his orders. Although there is a family of four siblings, the only two who have any closeness to speak of are Nathaniel and his younger sister Hannah (heroine of ). The family fragmented when their mother died and Sir William left his young and grieving children to travel on the continent before contracting an illness that left him wheelchair bound and eventually brought him home; albeit still very much in control of his faculties and unwilling to share the running of his horse training and stud farm business. Father and son have never quite recovered from this episode in their lives and I thought it clever of Ms. Romain to introduce the subject of alcoholism into the story as a possible result of their estrangement. Nathaniel’s lack of self worth and loneliness is astutely picked up by Rosalind, herself having being all but alone since her accident at age thirteen.

I loved the journey and funny little stories surrounding the horses and the young couple on the road to Epsom where two of the Chandler’s thoroughbreds are to compete in the Derby. However, I felt that there was too much going on to allow me to completely enjoy the delightful love story developing between Rosalind and Nathaniel. And too, quite a complicated ‘espionage’ plotline which didn’t quite add up with too many odd character names, threads and loose ends. Perhaps the rest of the series will reveal more. I did, however, adore Theresa Romain’s beautifully drawn characters – especially the divine Nathaniel, and her very compelling style which has definitely wetted my appetite for more of her work in the future.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

TheresaRomainHistorical romance author Theresa Romain pursued an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. She then worked for universities and libraries, where she got to read even more. Eventually she started writing, too. She lives with her family in the Midwest.

The Sport of Baronets (Romance of the Turf #0.5) by Theresa Romain

The Sport of Baronets
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The lives of Sir Bartlett Crosby and Hannah Chandler have been marked by fierce competition between their elite families…the perfect breeding ground for a mutual attraction neither can deny.

Bart hopes to conquer “the turf” through victory in a much-touted match. Should his heavily-favored colt win, the Crosby reputation and fortunes would be revived. Bart’s plan seems poised for success until the lovely Hannah Chandler, daughter of a noted rival trainer, turns up claiming ownership of the colt. When Hannah insists on claiming her purchase, the prize colt disappears from Bart’s stable. Theft or treachery? As Hannah and Bart rush to solve the mystery before race time, they uncover a scandalous truth about their families’ pasts-a truth that has the potential to either destroy both their futures, or to guide them to a love they never imagined.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, November 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Newmarket, 1817
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Sara

If I had to pick a single word to describe The Sport of Baronets it would be “adorable”. The story is sweet, there are no major hang-ups to the central relationship and I genuinely enjoyed the main characters. Theresa Romain couldn’t have picked a better way to introduce her new series to a potential reader.

Horseracing is the industry for the community of Newmarket and has been the lifeblood to the Crosby and Chandler families for generations. With a longstanding competition between stables, the ultimate test for their breeding program is the annual Two Thousand Guineas Stakes. This year Sir Bartlett Crosby has put all of his hopes of renewing the family fortunes on his prized colt, Golden Barb. When Hannah Chandler, youngest daughter of his stiffest competition, claims that she’s bought the horse right from under him, Bart is naturally shocked and angry at the presumption. His feelings quickly move to shock and confusion when the horse is stolen right from his own stables by a trusted groom.

Willing to put their suspicions of the other aside for the sake of the welfare of the colt, Hannah and Bart team up to investigate the theft by using their knowledge of the racing community. Their partnership digs deeper into the histories of their families when it’s discovered that the horse’s true ownership is tied to more than a bill of sale. Spending so much time together in close contact gives Hannah a chance to question Bart about life outside of their village and realize that he’s not quite the calculating devil her father paints him. For Bart, learning more about Hannah’s interests in both racing and her future allows him to confide some of his own dreams and fears. As the race draws closer and the mystery of the horse’s disappearance gets shadier, they both find that what is most important to them has changed significantly.

The feud between the Crosby and Chandler families isn’t quite the next Montagues vs. Capulets but it was a great starting point to put Bart and Hannah at odds without needing too much backstory. Once they begin working with each other it’s quickly understood that they’ve been told more about the other family’s treachery without having experienced it themselves. It was wonderful to be inside both of their minds as they take a closer look at that longstanding rivalry and figure out if it’s even meaningful to them in their current circumstances. As Bart and Hannah become more informal with each other the stigmas of their surnames are set aside to allow them to just be comfortable with one another. From there, attraction and infatuation play their roles to get Bart and Hannah talking about more than a missing horse.

There is something so charming about Bart and Hannah’s relationship. From the moment they meet each other in his stables their teasing and witty dialog just zings through the chemistry they have together. Hannah’s desire to become independent plays well against Bart’s need to prove himself within their community. They have both put all of their dreams on the line in the form of one racehorse and that almost shared dream allows them to confide in one another and open up, where their families would have had them working to destroy that dream. I loved that the move from rivals to friends to more grows organically, with their physical relations more in line with what would have been comfortable for a woman of Hannah’s upbringing. It’s just enough for them to realize they are compatible with each other on many levels.

Ms. Romain packs quite a bit of set-up for her Romancing the Turf series into the story but I never felt I was being hit over the head with the details. Events open up on the eve of a major racing event and through Bart and Hannah’s investigation into the missing colt we get to meet the players within the racing community. Through Hannah we learn about her siblings, one of which is the hero of the first full length book, and their own ties to the Jockey Club or Newmarket stables. We even get a taste of just how important horse racing had become to the upper classes and just how devious some could be to profit from it. It’s a tall order to ask any novella to launch the next three to four stories, but after finishing The Sport of Baronets I’m already eager to jump back into this world for more.

Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress by Theresa Romain

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ONE GOOD PROPOSITION DESERVES ANOTHER . . .

Heiress Augusta Meredith can’t help herself—she stirs up gossip wherever she goes. A stranger to Bath society, she pretends to be a charming young widow, until sardonic, darkly handsome Joss Everett arrives from London and uncovers her charade.

Now they’ll weave their way through the pitfalls of the polite world only if they’re willing to be true to themselves . . . and to each other . . . .

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, January 2015

Time and Setting: Bath, England
Genre: Regency Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars

Review by Lady Wesley

Theresa Romain is a new-to-me-author, but based upon this book, I will definitely be reading her other titles. I picked this one because it sounded different from so many other Regency romances, and I was not disappointed.

Hero without title or fortune. Check. Joss Everett is an Anglo-Indian with no fortune who toils as secretary to cousin, the indolent Lord Sutcliffe.

Heroine without title or prospects. Check. Augusta Meredith is wealthy, yes, but as heiress to her father’s beauty products company, she is not accepted as a member of the ton.

Setting outside London. Check. When Augusta’s friend Lady Tallant needs to take the waters of Bath, Augusta goes along as her companion. For reasons not entirely clear at first, Augusta decides to masquerade as “Mrs. Flowers,” a respectable widow, and since practically nobody in Bath knows her, she can get away with it.

We soon learn that Augusta has decided that she needs to take a lover, one who does not know that she is fabulously wealthy. She is finding the task challenging, however, until she encounters Joss Everett. He knows who she really is, but he agrees not to reveal her identity.

Joss is an intriguing character. He has worked for many years as a man of business to his cousin Lord Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe, who is being blackmailed, promises Joss one hundred pounds if he finds the blackmailer. Joss has followed the trail to Bath, where one of the blackmail notes was posted. He desperately wants the money so he can leave his cousin’s employ. Sutcliffe is utterly self-centered and treats his cousin abominably, but we don’t quite hate him because he is so clueless about his behavior. At times, he is almost funny.

Joss reluctantly accepts Augusta’s help in searching for the blackmailer, and she arranges for him to meet several gentlemen who might have knowledge that would help. At the same time, Joss and Augusta are becoming closer to one another and moving from flirtation to attraction to intimacy, where they finally can show their true selves.

The progress of their romance is beautifully revealed through long conversations between them. Although there is a mystery, there is not a lot of action, but the dialogue and the introduction of several secondary characters keeps the air of suspense alive.

Theresa Romain excels at creating interesting, complex characters – not just the hero and heroine but the supporting players as well. Augusta’s friend, Emily, Lady Tallant, has a small but heart-breaking role. Lord Sutcliffe is a typical wealthy, spoiled aristocrat, but he has a few redeeming qualities. Lord Chatfield, who helps Joss with his investigation, is charming but rather intimidating in his vast power.

Ms Romain’s talent for dialogue stands out, from witty banter to heartfelt confessions between Joss and Augusta, and her characters’ voices are true to the period. She also paints a vivid picture of Bath – from the climate to the geography to the familiar sites such as the Pump Room.

Even though I occasionally became impatient with conversations that lasted longer than I would have liked, I truly cannot criticize anything about this book. It was a pleasure to read from start to finish.

FESTIVE ROMANCE: Season for Desire by Theresa Romain

season for desire

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Like her four sisters, Lady Audrina Bradleigh is expected to marry a duke, lead fashion, and behave with propriety. Consequently, Audrina pursues mischief with gusto, attending scandalous parties and indulging in illicit affairs. But when an erstwhile lover threatens to ruin her reputation, Audrina has no choice but to find a respectable husband at once.

Who would guess that her search would lead her to Giles Rutherford, a blunt-spoken American on a treasure hunt of his own? When a Christmas snowstorm strands the pair at a country inn, more secrets are traded than gifts—along with kisses that require no mistletoe—and Audrina discovers even proper gentlemen have their wicked side…

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Publisher and Release Date: Zebra, 7th October 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, December 1820
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Caz

In this, the final book in her Holiday Pleasures series, Theresa Romain has skilfully melded together a tender and insightful romance and an intriguing mystery which takes her hero and heroine on a journey across a England at Christmastide – and on a journey of personal discovery.

Lady Audrina Bradleigh, the fifth and youngest daughter of the Earl of Alleyneham, has, since her début, cultivated a slightly scandalous reputation as an act of rebellion against her autocratic and uncaring father. Unfortunately for her, what has hitherto been little more than a series of excursions into dark, secluded corners with her dance partners has turned into something far more dangerous. One of her suitors has decided his debts won’t wait any longer, and has drugged and kidnapped her with a view to marrying her in order to get his hands on her dowry.

Giles Rutherford and his father, Richard, have left their home in Philadelphia in order to search for a set of valuable jewels that belonged to his late mother, the daughter of a marquess. When she fell in love with an American jeweller’s apprentice, her family took away everything of value that she owned – with the exception of this set, which she hid before running away with her lover. Giles has travelled to England with Richard in order to fulfil his mother’s dying request – that her jewellery be found and used to the benefit of her family.

Father and son have been travelling around the country and have recently arrived at The Goat and Gauntlet inn in York when they receive an unexpected – and odd – message from the Earl of Alleyneham, more or less ordering them to put a stop to his youngest daughter’s flight and to detain the couple until he arrives.

Giles takes umbrage at the earl’s high-handedness and is reluctant to get involved, but Richard, never one to pass on “an adventure” is only too pleased to be offer their assistance.

When the earl arrives, he is absolutely furious – but with Audrina rather than her unscrupulous abductor. She is to remain with the Rutherfords and Lady Ingram (an old friend of the family) until after her sister’s wedding, in case the scandal that threatens to surround her causes the prospective bridegroom – a duke – to call off the nuptuals.
Once her father has left, Audrina has no alternative but to join the Rutherfords’ quest for the missing jewels – and to embark upon an adventure that will change her life.

Season for Desire is a thoroughly enjoyable story which brings the traditions of a Regency Christmastide vividly to life. Of course, the path of true love is never without its pot-holes, and there are a few bumps along the way for Giles and Audrina. She is perhaps a little too quick to act first and think later, but as the story progresses and she begins to rediscover her sense of self-esteem, she realises that she no longer needs to fulfil anyone’s low expectations. Giles is a lovely hero – kind, perceptive and reliable – but he fails to see that he’s living his life for everyone except himself. He’s taken on the responsibility of looking after his younger siblings while he also tries to make sure his father’s flights of fancy don’t get too out of hand. This – coupled with the fact that he has eschewed his desire to become an architect so as not to disappoint Richard, who dreams of setting up shop as a maker and designer of jewellery, and his concern that he has inherited an arthritic condition from his mother which renders him unsuitable for marriage to anyone – weighs very heavily on Giles’ admittedly broad shoulders. He can’t abandon the family that needs him in order to remain in England with Audrina, and he certainly can’t ask an earl’s daughter to cross an ocean to an uncertain future.

The relationship between the two principals is tender, passionate and written with a great deal of warmth and humour. It’s clear they belong together, but before that can happen they have to confront the fact that they have been living with false perceptions of themselves which they have to adjust before they can become the person they are meant to be, and be with the person they are meant to be with. I enjoyed the way Giles and Audrina are able to help each other with that adjustment, but ultimately, these are decisions and choices they have to make for themselves, and I was particularly impressed with the way Ms Romain dealt with that aspect of their respective journeys.

There is a strong and quite large cast of secondary characters in the book, many of whom get to narrate the story at certain points, which I admit, I did find a little jarring. It’s usual in a romance to have the story told from both the hero and heroine’s point of view, but in this book, the POV jumps around a bit, which did detract a little at times from the principal story. That said, the characters themselves are all very well rounded out, especially the waspish, be-turbanned Lady Irving, who is one of those terrific, sharp-tongued mature ladies one often finds in the pages of historical romances – a lady with an opinion on everything who isn’t afraid to voice it but who is, underneath, a little lonely and not at all as dragon-like as she seems.

Theresa Romain has become a favourite author of mine over the past couple of years. Her stories are intelligently written, strongly characterised and show her to be a talented storyteller, all traits exhibited in Season for Desire. I enjoyed the slow-burn romance and was thoroughly drawn in by the mystery surrounding the puzzle boxes. If I have a criticism, it’s that the book is perhaps a little “busy” – the large number of secondary characters and secondary storylines did distract me sometimes – but overall, I was captivated by the mystery and by the two central characters and their story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

TheresaRomainHistorical romance author Theresa Romain pursued an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. She then worked for universities and libraries, where she got to read even more. Eventually she started writing, too. She lives with her family in the Midwest. Please visit her at http://theresaromain.com.

You can connect with Theresa at: Website * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads

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To Charm a Naughty Countess by Theresa Romain

Charmnaughcount

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Can a reclusive duke…

Brilliant but rumored mad, Michael Layward, the impoverished Duke of Wyverne, has no success courting heiresses until widowed Lady Stratton takes up his cause—after first refusing his suit.

Win London’s most powerful countess?

Caroline Graves, the popular Countess of Statton, sits alone at the pinnacle of London society and has vowed never to remarry. When Michael—her counterpart in an old scandal—returns to town after a long absence, she finds herself as enthralled with him as ever. As she guides the anxiety-ridden duke through the trials of London society, Caroline realizes that she’s lost her heart. But if she gives herself to the only man she’s ever loved, she’ll lose the hard won independence she prizes above all.

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, May 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1816
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Lady Blue

I have a weakness for heroes who are a little bit mad, and Michael Layward, the Duke of Wyverne certainly fits the bill. He fled London as a young man eleven years ago, unknowingly leaving behind a scandal, and almost ruining Caroline in the process. His first taste of passion shook him to the core, and determined not to be like his father, he retired to his country estate in Lancashire. Caroline had to live down the ridicule of having her suitor flee after they were caught in a passionate kiss. When Michael doesn’t return, Caroline accepts the proposal of an earl forty years her senior in order to save face.

As the years pass, Caroline has been a dutiful wife, working on restoring her reputation. Michael has inherited the title of Duke upon his father’s death, and has stayed in Lancashire, pouring money into his estate, and working on inventions and improvements. The winter of 1816, though, is about to do him in. Spring doesn’t come, there are no crops, there is no more money, and no more credit is extended to him. His man of business convinces him that he must find an heiress to marry, so he reluctantly returns to London. Caroline has since been widowed and was left a large fortune by her late husband. She has become a wealthy, powerful woman, who has both suitors and lovers.

While Caroline shows one face to the world, she has never loved a man other than Michael. Over the years, she has kept track of all his experiments, inventions, and investments. For his part, Michael has not allowed himself to think of Caroline, as she represented to him a lack of control. He was determined not to be the libertine his father was. People of the ton have long memories, though. As Michael returns to town, some comments start to be made about the decade old scandal, and Michael’s supposed madness. Caroline decides that she will help Michael find his heiress bride and help him ease into society, killing two birds with one stone. Her helping him should bring a halt to the old scandal talk, and he needs polishing to move into society. It isn’t long before Michael proposes to Caroline, telling her that he “likes her best.” That’s not good enough for Caroline, so she refuses the proposal. She still plans to find him a wife, though.

Michael is very ill at ease in society, and is constantly saying nothing, or the wrong things, or doing unacceptable things. Caroline does a stellar job of turning each and every incident around, she is a master of spin. Still, one by one, the bridal candidates fall by the wayside. Michael only feels truly at ease with Caroline, and her love for him is burning again. Yet, his mind doesn’t recognize love, and Caroline won’t accept less. They become closer, and Michael finally gives in to the passion that he’s been fighting for eleven years, and they become lovers. Now Michael is certain that Caroline will marry him, but he doesn’t speak of love, and Caroline says no again.

I was so wrapped up in Michael, wondering exactly what his mental condition was, and hoping that Theresa Romain would provide the answer for me with an afterward at the end of the book. (She did.) He broke my heart, with all his missteps, and errors. He was so brilliant, yet couldn’t see what Caroline needed from him. I also found myself willing Caroline to take what he had to offer, that it was all he was capable of giving. But happily, I was wrong. These two complemented each other so well, one’s strength filling the void where the other was weak. This book will take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions, but it comes to a very satisfying end. I highly recommend it.