Tag Archive | Virginia Heath

A Warriner to Protect Her (Wild Warriners #1) by Virginia Heath

a warriner to protect her

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An heiress in distress and an earl in disgrace…

When heiress Violet Dunston escapes from an abduction, she finds an unlikely protector in Jack Warriner – a member of one of England’s most infamous families. Ensconced with mysterious Jack behind his manor’s walls, soon escape is the last thing on Letty’s mind!

Jack may be an earl, but his father’s exploits have left him with nothing to offer except a tarnished name. He’s turned his back on the ton, but with Letty tempting him day and night, he finds himself contemplating the unthinkable – a society marriage!

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Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical, May 2017

Time and Setting: Nottinghamshire, 1813
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Wendy

Virginia Heath’s new Wild Warriners series looks to me to be a winner if A Warriner to Protect Her is anything to go by. The Warriner brothers are gorgeous, well developed, multi layered characters, each with their own story to tell, and I can’t see how Ms. Heath can fail.

Jack Warriner little realises how drastically his life is about to change when, one stormy winter’s night, on his way back from the local tavern, he comes across a terrified young woman, hands bound, a gag around her mouth – stumbling exhausted and frozen with fear. His protective instincts immediately come to the fore and he takes her home to his remote manor which is occupied only by himself and his three younger brothers. Too poor and destitute to afford staff, the brothers are jacks of all trades, caring for each other and trying to eke out a living on their crumbling estate. The author has done a terrific job of developing the relationship between the brothers and I loved the obvious affection, respect and camaraderie between them. All look to Jack, the eldest, as their leader – and it’s not hard to see why his brothers admire and follow him without question. Jack is actually an earl, an appellation he has long since shunned as it only serves to remind him of his notorious father; plus with no fortune or respect to back it up he sees it as an empty title. The four of them have always been cold-shouldered and despised by the locals as a result of their infamous ancestors, but more recently, and still in living memory, their despicable father. The produce and livestock they work so hard to raise and grow has to be traded and sold many miles away as no one wants to do business with the so-called ‘Wild Warriners’. So life really does have to be lived one day at a time with the brothers isolated from the society they have every right to be a part of.

Into this household drops Violet Dunston and immediately the brothers close ranks around her after discovering that she is being hunted by unscrupulous men who are trying to force her into marriage in order to avail themselves of her vast fortune. Because of their isolation and lack of staff, the Warriners are able to keep her safe from her abductors. Violet – Letty – is seriously ill after her ordeal and the brothers care for her tirelessly, Jack even going so far as to sleep on the bedchamber floor which he has vacated for her comfort, until she is out of danger.

Once she is recovered, the penny eventually drops and Letty realises how very poor the family is, she is determined to help them out in some way, especially when it becomes clear that they are too proud to accept her money. She sets out to prove to them all, but Jack in particular, that she is not the useless, beautiful and merely decorative, ‘Tea Heiress’, much lauded by the ton. As it is necessary for her to stay ‘lost’ for a complete month until she can gain control of her fortune, she decides that she will use the time to help the brothers in the house. Firstly by tackling their dusty, uncared for home and then in other ways such as cooking and caring for them, freeing them to be about their many outside duties on the estate.

Although Letty has a great rapport with all four brothers, it is Jack with whom she immediately clicks. She is more than happy to pursue a relationship with him and throws out many hints which are, to her chagrin, rebuffed. Although deeply attracted to her, Jack is too much of a gentleman to take advantage of a situation which he feels she might regret once her month with them is over and she is reinstated into her luxurious life. I did admire the fact that Jack sticks to his guns and refuses to act although sorely tempted. Letty becomes more and more frustrated by his apparent lack of interest in her despite her many invitations – some not too subtle.

Ms. Heath has shown Violet/Letty as two quite different people. There’s Violet, the incomparable of the season, pursued and admired for her beauty and wealth. And then there’s lonely Lettie, orphaned, unloved and feeling very strongly that her beauty and wealth are a millstone around her neck. Her unexpected but fortuitous meeting with the Warriner brothers is like a breath of fresh air in her life because they are prepared to help and keep her safe for no other reason than kindness for another human being, and she immediately warms to them and soon longs to be a part of this loving, dysfunctional family.

The author does an excellent job in developing the relationship between Jack and Letty, and the simmering, controlled sensuality between them fairly hops off the page. Jamie, very astutely, sees the battle his elder brother is fighting and teases him mercilessly about it in his quiet, taciturn manner. And the interaction between all four brothers, especially when the two younger members of the family join in are witty and amusing with a few double entendres thrown in which highlight Ms. Heath’s very amusing take on life and observational view of human nature.

The story nears its end and the ‘baddies’ re-appear – as they must if the story is to make sense and reach a satisfactory ending. Jack and Letty escape and the fraught chase back to London is plausibly achieved and obviously with the pair of them alone on the road for days… well,I’ll leave the rest for readers to find out. I’ll just say that it’s worth the wait!

If I have a criticism it is that the author imbues Letty with superpowers beyond even the most capable and resourceful of young ladies. In a few short weeks, she goes from being completely undomesticated, to cleaning, polishing, cooking (although to be fair her first attempt at cooking is an hilarious disaster) to eventually cooking a full Christmas lunch for five, making bread, washing for five and embroidering handkerchiefs for Christmas gifts in her spare time. I realise that the author had a lot to achieve in a relatively short word count, but this did stretch my credibility one step too far. Nevertheless, A Warriner to Protect Her is a lovely, heartwarming story with characters I loved and certainly want to know more about. Jamie’s is the next story in the series – A Warriner to Rescue Her – and as a secondary character in this book, he made a huge impression on me. I shall certainly follow this series on through to the end.

Miss Bradshaw’s Bought Betrothal by Virginia Heath

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She’d done it! Plain, invisible Evelyn had escaped…

Fed up with being a doormat to her evil stepmother, heiress Evelyn Bradshaw pays a dissolute rake to pose as her betrothed so she can secure her freedom. But then her fake fiancé leaves her with his estranged brother Finn Matlock and disappears!

Having withdrawn from the world the last thing Finn needs is the temptation of a woman, especially one like Evie. She has an irritating habit of causing chaos wherever she goes and being in places she shouldn’t…including, as he soon learns, his heart!

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Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin/Mills and Boon Historical, January 2017

Time and Setting: London and Yorkshire, 1816
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Caz

In Miss Bradshaw’s Bought Betrothal, Virginia Heath offers an enjoyable re-working of the Cinderella story in which our downtrodden – but determined –  heroine is a fully-rounded character with a nicely fleshed-out backstory who doesn’t need to rely on her Prince not-so Charming in order to effect her escape from her horrible relatives.  Prince –or rather, Lord – Grumpy is, however a rather attractive consequence of that escape, and watching the sparks fly as they gradually and quite plausibly fall in love makes for a lovely, romantic read.

Miss Evelyn Bradshaw is twenty-six, plump, frumpy and firmly on the shelf.  Having spent the best part of the last decade nursing first her mother, and then her father when he fell ill some years later, she feels that youth has passed her by and that love and marriage are no longer things to which she can aspire.  Her father’s remarriage to a selfish money-grabber with two equally unpleasant daughters saw Evelyn – Evie – constantly belittled and thrust into the background to the extent that even she believes herself to be practically invisible; but his death offers her the prospect of freedom.  Mr. Bradshaw has left his considerable fortune to Evie, and she is finally determined to escape her step-mother’s orbit, leave London for good and make a life for herself somewhere else.  All Evie has to do is scrape up the courage to announce her plans, but even though Hyacinth Bradshaw has not treated Evie well (although she’s stopped short of getting her to clean the grates and scrub the floors!), Evie has never been able to forget her father’s insistence that she treat her stepmother with respect, and has always done whatever it took to ensure a quiet life.

Unable to just come out and tell Hyacinth of her determination to set up her own home, Evie instead offers the sum of five thousand pounds to the handsome but dissolute Fergus Matlock, Marquis of Stanford, if he will pretend to be her fiancé for the next few months.  The Marquis, who is deeply in debt, agrees to the scheme, and Evie is set to travel to his Yorkshire estate on the pretext of preparing for their wedding. In reality, she will look about for a house to purchase and once she has found one, the betrothal will quietly be ended, and Evie will remain in Yorkshire, well away from London and her stepmother’s constant bullying.

Arriving at Stanford Hall a few days later in the company of her elderly aunt, Evie is pleasantly surprised to discover the place in a much better state of repair than she had been led to believe.  Later that night, when Evie can’t sleep, she wanders down to the library, only to come across Fergus, who is supposed to be staying at a local inn in order to observe the proprieties.  But something is not quite right about him and Evie soon discovers why; he’s not Fergus at all, but his identical twin brother Finnegan, and this is Matlock House, not Stanford House.  It’s clear there is no love lost between the brothers, and Finn makes very clear his displeasure at his twin’s presumption in dumping his fiancée at his house, but Evie refuses to be intimidated by his ungracious manner. Nonetheless, she feels she should remove to Stanford House as soon as possible, but true to form as a cad of the first order, Fergus has already left Yorkshire with the advance on the “fee” Evie had given him.  Finn is not surprised – he tells Evie (not for the first time) that his brother is an unreliable wastrel and that she shouldn’t marry him, but this is the new Evie, the Evie that sticks up for herself and doesn’t cower when confronted with the scowling, brusque brother of a marquis, and she insists that she knows perfectly well what Fergus is and that he suits her well enough.

Finn Matlock is a widower of some three years, and since his wife’s death, has buried himself in this corner of Yorkshire, his life consisting of seeing to his estate business and not much else.  He doesn’t socialise, he doesn’t have guests  – until now – and he wants to keep it that way – so the stirrings of attraction he feels towards his brother’s voluptuous fiancée are both unexpected and unwelcome.  Yet very soon, he finds himself admiring her backbone and determination as much as her lush body and, though he’d never admit it, looking forward to breakfast each day, as that’s the only time of day he dares to let himself spend with her.  Every morning, he not-so-subtly baits her, enjoying her completely unfazed responses to his jibes about his brother and his attempts to persuade her not to marry him, her casual manner of taking no notice of his heavy hints about her departure and the way she ignores his regular criticisms of her – admittedly horrible – clothes (a leftover from the days of Hyacinth’s influence over her wardrobe).

This daily ritual becomes important to Evie, too, as she likes the way Finn challenges her and the person she is when she’s with him. She is sure that a handsome, wealthy man like him could have no real interest in an overly plump, aging spinster like her – even if he wasn’t still in love with his late wife – and recognises that falling for him is a terrible idea.  But even as she realises that, she knows it’s too late for caution; the real Finn, the kind, protective man who hides his deep hurt and true nature beneath that outer shell of bad-temper and cynicism has stolen her heart.

Away from London, Evie transforms from the doormat she’s always describing herself as into a more confident, independent young woman who is looking forward to the rest of her life because it will be one she has built on her own terms.  This is one of the things that makes this version of the fairy tale so appealing;  Evie finds the wherewithal to go out and make a life of her own from within and doesn’t need a man to rescue her – although she does, of course find true love along the way.  And for all his outward grumpiness, Finn is perfect for her.  He is determined to fight his ever growing attraction to Evie, but her vitality and her growing self-confidence are so completely enticing that it eventually proves irresistible; so not only is Evie changed by their association, but Finn also comes to accept that the guilt he still feels over his wife’s death is misplaced, and that he is allowed to be happy and move on with his life.

This is – I think – the fourth book of Ms. Heath’s I’ve read and I continue to be impressed by her strong storytelling and thoughtful characterisations.  While Miss Bradshaw’s Bought Betrothal undoubtedly treads a well-worn path, the author has managed to keep it fresh by throwing in a number of small, but satisfying twists that add depth and insight to this familiar tale.  She writes with a great deal of warmth and humour, creating the most wonderful chemistry between her principals as well as treating us to some moments of poignancy and emotional truth that quite took my breath away.

If you haven’t yet tried a book by Virginia Heath, then you have a treat in store.  I guarantee that if you read this one, you’ll want to go back to read her others and then, like me, will be eagerly awaiting whatever she comes up with next.

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.