Tag Archive | 19th Century

The Duke (Devil’s Duke #3) by Katharine Ashe

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Six years ago, when Lady Amarantha Vale was an innocent in a foreign land and Gabriel Hume was a young naval officer, they met . . . and played with fire.

Now Gabriel is the dark lord known to society as the Devil’s Duke, a notorious recluse hidden away in a castle in the Highlands. Only Amarantha knows the truth about him, and she won’t be intimidated. He is the one man who can give her the answers she needs.

But Gabriel cannot let her learn his darkest secret. So begins a game of wit and desire that proves seduction is more satisfying—and much more wicked—the second time around…


Publisher and Release Date: Avon, September 2017

Time and Setting: Jamaica and Scotland, 1817/1823
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Em

If you follow my reviews you already know I’m a big fan of Katharine Ashe.  The Falcon Club series is one of my favorites, and I’ve enjoyed each of the books in her spin-off Devil’s Duke series.  The Duke is yet another great addition to her catalog and I enjoyed most of it.  Unfortunately, Ms. Ashe tries to do a bit too much within the framework of her story – touching on abuse and slavery before the novel concludes – and seems to lose sight of the central plot, a second chance love affair between her very compelling principals.  But I liked it anyway!  The principal characters have great chemistry, their love affair spans years and oceans, and it’s another memorable addition to this marvelous series.

Lady Amarantha Vale grew up knowing exactly what kind of man she would one day fall in love with.  As a young girl, discussing love and marriage with her sister Emily, she didn’t worry about her father’s plans for her future; Amarantha was certain she would eventually meet and marry her true love.  At seventeen, she thought she’d found him – the Reverend Paul Garland, a young missionary bound for Jamaica.  Unfortunately for Amarantha, shortly after traveling across the ocean to marry Paul and begin their life together, she meets the true love of her life – naval officer Gabriel Hume, after she’s forced to shelter with him during a horrific hurricane.

When Lt. Gabriel Hume disembarked in Jamaica, he never expected to find himself alone in a cellar with a beautiful, unmarried woman.  Handsome and charming, Gabriel is immediately attracted to Amarantha, but recognizing how frightened she is, sets out to calm her.  The pair end up passing a companionable evening getting to know each other and keeping their fear at bay.  By the time the night ends, Gabriel knows he’s fallen in love with the lovely – engaged – Amarantha, and decides to do whatever he can to win her.

Emerging from the cellar, Gabriel and Amarantha discover an island ravaged by the effects of the hurricane.   Gabriel returns to his ship and Amarantha to Paul – only to discover him busy with plans to repair his damaged church.  She finds work volunteering at a hospital for the island’s poor, and it’s there that Gabriel locates her.  He sets out to woo her away from her fiancé – visiting her every day, lending her a hand whenever he can, and slowly but surely charming the lovely Aramantha.

It’s clear from the moment they meet that these two are destined for each other, but it takes time and patience for Gabriel to convince her to leave her fiancé.  She’s finally decided to break off the engagement when Gabriel receives orders to depart Jamaica.  Amarantha promises to wait for him, but shortly after he sets sail, she learns he’s lost at sea.  Devastated, Amarantha privately mourns Gabriel… until his cousin informs her that he’s alive and living with another woman.  Furious, heartbroken and alone, she marries Paul and vows to forget Gabriel.

This first (and best) part of The Duke is fabulous.  From the first moments in the cellar to their last moments together – when they can barely keep their hands to themselves and Amarantha promises to wait for Gabriel, I smiled and sighed and swooned as these two fell in love.  Gabriel is naughty, patient, kind and sweet, and he works hard to charm Amarantha and win her affections.  Amarantha knows she’s fallen for the handsome captain, but fights her feelings – she’s betrothed to Paul and plans to honor her commitment to him regardless of the love she feels for Gabriel.  When she finally decides to break her engagement and Gabriel begs her to wait for him… Oh reader!  It’s been such a delicious tease hoping for these two to get together… until Ms. Ashe dashes our hopes with the disappointing news that Gabriel has taken up with another woman.  Along with Aramantha, I WAS DEVASTATED.

Five years later, the widowed Amarantha is determined to find her friend Penny, who departed Jamaica for Scotland and hasn’t been heard from since.  She follows Penny’s trail to Leith, where she finds her friend and learns of the Devil’s Duke, a man rumored to kidnap vulnerable women and hold them captive in his remote castle.  Suspicious, Amarantha sets out to discover the truth about the Devil’s Duke and discovers… Well, reader, you know who it is, don’t you?   It’s Gabriel – the man she loved so long ago – but he’s not the man she once knew.

I’m not going to tell you what happens once Amarantha discovers that Gabriel is the Devil’s Duke – or even why and how he’s earned the nickname, because from the moment she discovers why Penny sought out Gabriel, Ms. Ashe’s story goes a bit sideways.  It’s convoluted and messy and difficult to explain without spoiling the plot.  Suffice it to say that while I do think the author makes it work, if the relationship between Gabriel and Amarantha weren’t so delicious, my feelings about this novel might be decidedly different.

But Gabriel and Amarantha are a dynamic and fiery pair.  She thinks he abandoned her; he thinks she gave up on him.  But shh…THEY STILL LOVE EACH OTHER ANYWAY!  From the very beginning, Amarantha demonstrated a willingness to follow her heart – even when it led her to mad, impetuous decisions.  She’s frustrating and difficult to like – because even though she’s loving and loyal to her friends (and her former husband), she’s blind to the hurt she caused Gabriel, and unwilling to accept the blame for their long separation.  She steadfastly followed Paul to Jamaica, only to realize she loved another man.  But then she gave up on Gabriel – with so little evidence of his guilt, and married Paul anyway… Yowsers.  I sympathized – she was young, alone and it looked like Gabriel had played her false, but she gave up so easily!  And Gabriel… when he courts Amarantha in Jamaica and then just patiently lets her burn out all that stubborn anger in Scotland.  Sigh.  I loved him.  I never felt like her let her get away with her selfish shenanigans – reader, he knew she was trying to fight through her feelings for him.  He did!  He took it and took it and then set her straight.  And once he sensed she was relenting, he didn’t let up.  Though I didn’t personally love Amarantha, Gabriel did – and through his eyes, I liked her anyway.  I loved this pair and their sexy love/hate relationship.

Once Amarantha arrives in Scotland and we begin to discover the secrets the Devil’s Duke is keeping, Ms. Ashe moves the plot forward at a furious pace.  It’s compelling reading, and though Ms. Ashe masterfully incorporates elements of slavery and domestic abuse into the narrative, the novel length prohibits her from fully exploring some of the more tantalizing storylines introduced via her secondary characters.  It’s a missed opportunity.

The Duke is sweeping, romantic… and sets the stage for the next book (and couple) to come.  It’s not my favorite in the series, but it’s a worthy addition, and as per usual with Ms. Ashe, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

 

A Rebel without a Rogue (The Penningtons #1) by Bliss Bennet

rebel without a rogue
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A woman striving for justice…

Fianna Cameron has devoted her life to avenging the death of her father, hanged as a traitor during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Now, on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, only one last miscreant remains: Major Christopher Pennington, the English army officer who not only oversaw her father’s execution, but falsely maligned his honor. Fianna risks everything to travel to London and confront the man who has haunted her every nightmare. Only after her pistol misfires does she realize her sickening mistake: the Pennington she wounded is far too young to be the man who killed her father.

A man who will protect his family at all costs…

Rumors of being shot by a spurned mistress might burnish the reputation of a rake, but for Kit Pennington, determined to add to his family’s honor by winning a seat in Parliament, such sala-cious gossip is nothing but a nightmare. To regain his good name, Kit will have to track down his mysterious attacker and force her to reveal the true motivation behind her unprovoked assault. Accepting the mistress of an acquaintance as an ally in his search is risky enough, but when Kit begins to develop feelings for the icy, ethereal Miss Cameron, more than his political career is in danger. For Kit is beginning to suspect that Fianna Cameron knows far more about the shooting—and the reasons behind it—than she’s willing to reveal.

As their search begins to unearth long-held secrets, Kit and Fianna find themselves caught be-tween duty to family and their beliefs in what’s right. How can you balance the competing de-mands of loyalty and justice—especially when you add love to the mix?

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Publisher and Release Date: Bliss Bennet, September 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and setting: London, 1822
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Vikki

A Rebel without a Rogue is Ms Bennet’s début novel, and on the strength of it, I predict a promising future writing historical fiction and romance.

Fianna Cameron is determined to bring down the man who sent her father to the gallows and shredded his character afterwards. When she manages to get into the venue she believes he is attending, she is shocked to learn she has shot the wrong man.

Kit Pennington has no idea why a woman would shoot him, but he’s determined to get to the bottom of it. He seeks out Viscount Ingestrie, who has just returned from Ireland. He hopes the man can translate the etchings on the pistol used to shoot him. When Ingestrie drags in Fianna to see if she can tell Kit what the etching says, she wonders: “Did the English hang attempted murderers as quickly as they executed rebels?”

I was fascinated by the detail of the Irish Rebellion described in the book. The history is what kept me reading in the beginning, because for me, it didn’t really take off until a bit before the half way point. After that, the pacing picked up, the story pulled me in and by the end, I had become invested in the characters.

I didn’t warm to Fianna to start with, because she was so stiff and cold in the first part of the book, but as the story unfolds, she grew on me – and by the end, I liked her. I did, however, wonder why she waited so many years before she decided to seek vengeance on the man she held responsible for her father’s death. By the end, none of that mattered because the growth in her character is amazing, winning my empathy as she softens toward Kit and begins to see there are many shades of gray, both good and bad, even in her enemy.

I liked Kit Pennington’s character from the beginning, although at first he seemed a bit dull. Yet eventually, his passion for his family, his loyalty to the ones he loves, his willingness to accept Fianna and try to discover who she really is under her cold, calculating exterior, won my heart completely.

There is no doubt Ms. Bennet did an amazing amount of research for this book, her detailed accounts of the rebellion woven expertly into her story. Being part Irish myself, I love reading of Ireland’s struggles against British tyranny, and I definitely recommend A Rebel without a Rogue to anyone who enjoys a strong and well-researched historical element in an historical romance.

A Whisper of Desire (Disgraced Lords #4) by Bronwen Evans

a whisper of desire

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Lady Marisa Hawkstone’s nightmare is just beginning when she wakes up naked, with no memory of the night before, lying next to Maitland Spencer, the Duke of Lyttleton — a man so aloof and rational, he’s nicknamed “the Cold Duke.” A scandal ensues, in which Marisa’s beloved beau deserts her. As a compromised woman, Marisa agrees to marry Maitland. But on her wedding night, Marisa discovers the one place the duke shows emotion: in the bedroom, where the man positively scorches the sheets.

Taught from a young age to take duty seriously, Maitland cannot understand his new wife’s demands on his love and affection. Marisa’s hot-blooded spirit, however, does have its attractions — especially at night. In retrospect, it seems quite silly that he didn’t marry sooner. But being one of the Libertine Scholars requires constant vigilance, even more so when the enemy with a grudge against his closest friends targets Marisa. Now Maitland must save the woman who sets his heart aflame — or die trying.

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Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, December 2015

Time and Setting: 19th century
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Claudia

A Whisper of Desire is the fourth book in Bronwen Evans’ Disgraced Lords series, and while I haven’t read the other books and some aspects of the plot span the whole series, I think this book does work as a standalone.

The Duke of Lyttleton is one of the infamous Libertine Scholars and is therefore no stranger to scandal – but he is never involved in them. When he’s found in bed with his best friend’s little sister (both of them drugged and with no recollection as to how they got there), he’s honor bound to ask for her hand. But for him that is no hardship as he already decided that she would make a good wife and he likes what he knows about Lady Marisa Hawkstone; but he is upset that she has been drawn into the scheme of a madwoman who wants to destroy them all.

Marisa is shocked when she finds herself in bed with the Cold Duke, having been ready to accept an offer from another titled gentleman with whom she thought herself to be in love. Now she finds herself married to her brother’s best friend, a man known to be severe and unemotional, and thus, her dream of marrying for love is destroyed.

I enjoyed the book in spite of a few weaknesses. The two principals and the secondary characters are all really likeable, although I did have some issues with Maitland. He is a great character with a tragic past but there were times, mostly in the middle of the story where I found his actions very frustrating.

Marisa is a good heroine; she is very intelligent but also impulsive and emotional. I sometimes had trouble following her reasoning or her emotional development, but nevertheless, I liked her as a person.

The main thing that disappointed me about the book was that we do not see enough of Marissa and Maitland after they managed to clear the first big hurdle in their marriage. I wanted to see much more of their time together and it would have done the book good to give them more time to develop a real relationship.

In spite of that, however, A Whisper of Desire is passionate and heartbreaking and I enjoyed it enough to want to seek out other books in this series.

Audra by Amanda L.V. Shalaby

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Blurb:

Audra Kingsley, a wealthy heiress, may not have seen much of the world, but she knows exactly how she wants her future to play out – and a coming out ball held at her country estate, Kingsley Manor, would suit her just fine. Her father’s wish that she be presented at St. James in London seems silly since she is to marry her neighbor and childhood sweetheart, Lord Crispin Brighton, but she obliges him.

Audra travels to London with her patroness, the eccentric Lady Sutherland, intending to return home as soon as she has curtseyed to the Queen. Unknown to her, Lady Sutherland is in no rush to leave London before the Season is over and intends to show Audra she has more options in the suitor department than Lord Crispin, a second son.

Audra finds herself surrounded by few friends and is forced to attend parties, balls, and operas – all while becoming the object of a secret admirer’s obsession. As Audra struggles to make her way home to her beloved, plans to compromise her into an unwanted marriage are underway.

Publisher and Release Date: Crimson Romance, 29 April 2013
RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting:Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by: Sabrina

When I read the above description I was immediately interested in the story and wanted more. It is very well written and due to the engaging dialog and descriptive scenes I was swept away to 19th century England. This was a great read! I couldn’t put the book down and ended up reading it in one sitting.

As is custom, Lady Audra is to be presented at court. She doesn’t want to be in London, but is determined to make the best of her time away from home. Of course this is before she realizes she have to remain in London for the Season. While an endless round of tea parties and balls doesn’t seem too torturous for most, it is almost unbearable for Lady Audra as all she wants to do is go home to her love, Lord Crispin Brighton.

Lady Audra is sweet, innocent and a bit naïve, but is a lady who knows who she wants and what she wants of their life together. She is steadfast in her affections and that made me like her all the more. And it’s easy to see why. Lord Crispin may not have been always front and center, but we are treated to snippets of their time together. The relationship is treated in a romantic and charming manner. It is clear they are in love as the chemistry fairly jumps off the page. Just a touch or a look and I was trembling right along with Audra. How lovely!

Unfortunately for Lady Audra her time spent in London doesn’t run as smoothly. She and Lady Sutherland are barely on speaking terms, letters to home are going unanswered and while she has made a real true friend or two, she is the recipient of unwelcomed advances from someone she believes is unstable.

As the story progressed I was nervous for Lady Audra and her desired Happily Ever After. Where was Lord Crispin? Why doesn’t she hear from him and why can’t she go home? I thoroughly enjoyed this book and its ending. I can’t think of a better way to pass an afternoon than with this book in hand.

**This title is currently available in digital format for $1.99**