Tag Archive | Miranda Neville

Secrets of a Soprano by Miranda Neville

Secrets of a Soprano
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Teresa Foscari, Europe’s most famous opera singer, comes to London to make a fresh start and find her long lost English family. Her peerless voice thrills everyone—except Maximilian Hawthorne, Viscount Allerton, the wealthy owner of a rival opera house. Notorious Teresa Foscari is none other than Tessa, the innocent girl who broke his youthful heart. Yet Max still wants her, like no other woman.

Amidst backstage intrigue and the sumptuous soirées of fashionable London, the couple’s rivalry explodes in bitter accusations and smashed china. Tessa must fight for her career—and resist her attraction to Max, the man she once loved and who now holds the power to destroy her.

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Publisher and Release Date: Miranda Neville, 11 April 2016

RHR CLASSIFICATIONS:
Time and Setting: London, 1815
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Jenny Q

I’d long been wanting to read a Miranda Neville novel, and when I saw the description of Secrets of a Soprano, I knew it was the one to start with. I like reading about the Regency period, but after a while Regency romances tend to start getting repetitive, so I’m always looking for something different. A romance featuring an opera singer and a theater owner? Yes, please!

When opera aficionado Max Hawthorne finally gets to see famed soprano La Divina sing, he knows instantly that she is none other than the woman who broke his heart ten years earlier. But how can he reconcile this worldly, widowed diva, rumored to have been mistress to both a Russian tsar and Napoléon Bonaparte, with the innocent young singer he fell in love with while he was on his grand tour? Regardless, he simply must find a way to lure her away from his competition and sign her to sing at his new theater. After an unpleasant reunion, he uses the power of rumor to achieve his goal, but it quickly takes on a life of its own and does far more harm than he anticipated. Putting aside old hurts and still-burning passion proves hard to do when he realizes that La Divina is a carefully cultivated façade, and she is still the girl he loved and lost; but has his betrayal cost him his only chance at real happiness?

Tessa Foscari is finally free of her overbearing husband and free to return to England, the land of her father’s family. She is determined to take charge of her career but finds that handling negotiations and finances is much harder than she anticipated. And she never expected to run into her long-lost love or to find that her feelings for him have never truly faded. In need of money, she accepts various private commissions and quickly becomes the sensation of the London season. But that comes crashing to a halt thanks to Max’s interference. As if dealing with jealous sopranos, amorous tenors, and shady managers wasn’t enough! But Max is instantly contrite and determined to make things right. Can Tessa trust him again? When the misunderstanding that separated them so many years ago is discovered, nothing should be standing in the way of true love, but a dark secret from Tessa’s past threatens their future together.

I loved the background subject of this romance. Much time is spent in the theater and in salons, and music is an ever-present theme, contributing nicely to the ambiance and historical atmosphere. I always like seeing star-crossed lovers reunite, but in this case, I felt like I needed to see more of their youthful romance (which I thought we were going to get more of in flashbacks) to feel that their love was true and to believe that they still loved each other after so much time. There are a couple of sub-plots involving Max’s mother and Tessa’s English relatives that take time away from the main story, and that time could have been put to better use strengthening the reader’s understanding of Max and Tessa’s relationship. And I felt that Tessa was dragging out their road to happily ever after by holding on to old fears just for the sake of doing so. And finally, the grand sex scene I’d been waiting the whole book for was somewhat ruined by the author’s decision to use the rather humorous Italian words for genitalia throughout.

But I still found Secrets of a Soprano to be a mostly enjoyable read, with intriguing subject matter, original characters, and an emotionally satisfying conclusion. Fans of historical romance who are looking for something a little out of the ordinary should find much to admire here.

Christmas in Duke Street by Miranda Neville, Shana Galen, Carolyn Jewel & Grace Burrowes

Christmas in Duke Street

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Christmas in London is a busy time at the little bookshop in Duke Street, for love, literature, and shopping. Four couples come and go and discover that happy ever after makes the perfect Christmas gift. A new anthology from the bestselling authors of Christmas in the Duke’s Arms and Dancing in the Duke’s Arms.
The Rake Who Loved Christmas by Miranda Neville Sir Devlyn Stratton wants to save his brother from an unprincipled adventuress, especially when he meets Oriel Sinclair and wants her for himself. Oriel won’t marry for convenience or become a rake’s mistress. But succumbing to Dev’s seduction is all too tempting.
A Seduction in Winter by Carolyn Jewel He’s an artist and a duke’s heir. She’s sheltered and scarred. Can he show her by Christmas that love can be theirs to share?
A Prince in her Stocking by Shana Galen Lady Cassandra has always done as she’s been told. Meek and malleable, she’s lived a life devoid of passion. When she meets a handsome man rumored to be an exiled prince, she sees one last chance at excitement. Little does she know, too much excitement can be dangerous.
The Appeal of Christmas by Grace Burrowes The best Christmas present is the one he didn’t realize he desperately needed.

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Publisher and Release Date: cJewel Books October 2015

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

Review by Natalie

Duke Street Books, nicknamed ‘On the Shelf’ by an unnamed rake armed with red paint, is a cozy little bookshop on Duke Street; it has become a gathering place for the bluestockings, as well as the novel lovers, of the ton. This Christmas the shop has become a center of activity for several of their loyal patrons.

This is the third installment of Duke anthologies from the pens of four of the most popular authors of historical romance, and Christmas in Duke Street contains four short stories. Each story stand on its own but they are also intertwined, the characters meeting at and returning to On the Shelf thoughout their stories. This is a lovely collection that will get you in the mood for Christmas, even if some stories in the collection do work better than others.

The Rake Who Loved Christmas. Sir Devlyn Stratton loves Christmas, even if it isn’t fashionable among the ton to do so. He enjoys finding the perfect gift for his family members, a small escape from the stresses of the round of visiting and of putting his family affairs in order. When Dev enters On the Shelf in the middle of his holiday shopping, looking for a little warmth from the freezing London weather, he strikes up a brief conversation with Oriel Sinclair – which leaves him wanting more until Oriel leaves with an older, unscrupulous gentleman. Is Oriel really a woman of ill-repute or is she just want Dev needs this Christmas? The relationship between Dev and Oriel uses intrigue and mistaken identity in a very Christmassy way, if that is possible, and I really enjoyed the story.

In A Seduction in Winter, Honora Baynard has spent years toiling away as her artist father’s assistant, hiding her scarred face and following the military career of the only man to ever show any kindness to her. When she learns that Leoline, Lord Wrathell, has returned from India, she hopes that he will be able to repair his relationship with his father, but she knows that it would be too much to hope that he would remember the young girl he once protected. However, when she runs into him at On the Shelf, she realizes that Leoline may have been thinking about her as often as she thought about him. This is possibly my favorite story from this anthology. Instead of a striking beauty, we have a heroine who is physically scarred and has been led to believe that this makes her unacceptable to society at large. This story is as much about Honora coming to the realization that she has more to offer to the world than her face as it is about the romance that develops between her and the handsome hero.

A Prince in Her Stocking: Prince Lucien of Glynaven has lost his kingdom and his fortune in a recent revolution. He has been living on the streets of London while painstakingly searching through the books in On the Shelf in hopes of finding hidden documents that prove his identity. Lady Cassandra has been living under the thumb of her elderly sister-in-law since the death of her husband. Her only solace has been visiting On the Shelf, living in her imagination instead of reality, until the day she meets Lucien. Suddenly her life takes on all the intrigue and adventure she has been craving. This is my least favorite of all the stories in the collection. While Lucien is supposed to be a dashing hero who has lost everything, he does not come off as very sympathetic and Lady Cassandra reminds me a little too much of a love-sick puppy. The two seem to be the least connected out of all our couples and as I finished reading the story, I couldn’t help but think that in six-months’ time, Prince Lucien would dump Lady Cassandra for one of the more statuesque ladies of the ton!

The last story in the collection is The Appeal of Christmas. Barrister Gervaise Stoneleigh has spent years ignoring Christmas, leaving his gift buying to his mentor’s daughter, Hazel. Meanwhile Hazel has spent years wondering if Gervaise might ever see her as something more than just a friend. When a friendly kiss under the mistletoe turns into something more, Hazel makes a request of Gervaise that could destroy their friendship. This story is the wild horse of the series and has a different flavor. I enjoyed it and wished that there had been more room for Grace Burrowes to explore the relationship between Gervaise and Hazel.

All in all Christmas in Duke Street is a warm, inviting read. It got me in a great mood for the holidays and made me wish for my own warm, cozy bookshop to hop into and find romance this season. All four of these talented writers deliver four strong, different reads in this enjoyable addition to the Duke anthologies.

Dancing in the Duke’s Arms – A Regency Romance Anthology by Grace Burrowes, Shana Galen, Miranda Neville and Carolyn Jewel

dancing in the dukes arms

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Why Do Dukes Fall in Love?

Every summer the cream of society gathers at the Dukeries, named for the ducal estates concentrated in one small corner of Nottinghamshire. While the entertainments include parties, balls, and a famous boat race, the ducal hosts and their guests find heartbreak, love and happy endings.

Four heartwarming stories from four bestselling historical romance authors.

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Publisher and Release Date: cJewel Books, 26th June 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England, Nottinghamshire
Genre: Historical Romance (Anthology)
Heat Rating: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Caz

As is common with anthologies, some stories in Dancing in the Duke’s Arms work better than others. My favourite of this set is Miranda Neville’s, The Duchess of Scandal in which an estranged couple find themselves back under the same roof due to a scheduling error. The very proper Duke of Linton proposed marriage to a young lady twelve years his junior, secure in the knowledge that no woman in her situation could possibly turn down such an offer. For the three weeks of their honeymoon, they were blissfully happy, but following their return to London, the rot sets in. Linton takes his responsibilities to his estates and in parliament very seriously, and his days are so full that he unintentionally neglects his eighteen year-old bride, and Althea’s only real company is her twin brother Nicholas. She ends up spending more time with her brother and his rather fast set and getting herself a name as a bit of a flirt. Annoyed at the gossip, and the fact that his wife always seems to be surrounded by crowds of young men, Linton seethes with annoyance and frustration, his admonitions and criticisms of her behaviour becoming more frequent. Things go from bad to worse and after six months, the Lintons agree to live separate lives.

I always like a good second-chance romance, and this, although only novella length, is a good one. The gentle reminders of what their life could have been like are poignant and well-written, as is the gradual reawakening of the couple’s feelings for each other. The greatest danger with the shorter format is that the romance will feel rushed, but it didn’t feel that way here and I thought it was a really lovely read. 4.5 stars

Grace Burrowes’ contribution, May I Have This Duke? does feel somewhat rushed, but I loved it because it was so damn funny and had me laughing on several occasions. The Duke of Hardcastle is put out when the governess to his six-year old nephew suddenly announces her intention of leaving his employ. Miss Ellen MacHugh needs to return to her family in the north of England, and is adamant that nothing will change her mind. He has no idea, of course, that she’s in love with him and doesn’t want to be around when he takes a wife, which is something he can’t put off for much longer.

Hardcastle is engaged to attend the Duke of Sedgemere’s house-party in the Dukeries (and yes, it’s a real place! The county of Nottinghamshire actually contains a large number of ducal estates, and was given the nickname in the nineteenth century), and as his nephew will be accompanying him, so will Ellen, and at the end of the party she will depart for her home.

Even though Hardcastle needs a wife, he doesn’t relish the prospect of being tricked into a compromising situation by a Machiavellian debutante and forced into marriage; and he also doesn’t like the idea of Ellen being pursued by the young bucks at the party. He suggests they provide cover for each other; by acting smitten with one another, she will preserve him from the scheming young ladies and he can protect her from the unwanted attentions of the men.

I admit that things do progress quite quickly and the ending is a bit too perfect, but I didn’t mind that, because the verbal exchanges between Ellen and Hardcastle are so often hilarious. Grace Burrowes has a very distinctive writing style which can seem quite formal – the characters often address each other by their full names, for example, or express themselves in a roundabout way – but here, that formality just adds to the humour and tenderness of Ellen and Hardcastle’s delightfully flirtatious banter. 4 stars

Carolyn Jewel’s An Unsuitable Duchess is the story of the very reserved and stern Duke of Stoke Teversault and the young woman whose sunny, outgoing nature and delight in the world around her shows her to be his complete opposite. The duke has been in love with Georgina for years, but missed his chance with her when she accepted a proposal from another man. Married quickly, she was happy with her husband, but he died a year after their marriage, and she has only just come out of mourning. Stoke is as attracted to her as he ever was, and she can’t forget his kindness to her after her husband died, yet she feels he disapproves of her and doesn’t really like her. It’s obvious that his dislike is nothing of the sort, and that he’s worried about both feeling and showing too much around her, yet he’s drawn to her vivacity and her amazing zest for life.

Georgina – or George, as her friends have nicknamed her – has no inkling of the true nature of Stoke’s feelings for her, but has no problem in identifying hers for him – she is astonished to discover that she desires him, this seemingly calculating, forbidding man who is not at all handsome by conventional standards and who disapproves of her for no reason she can discern.

Georgina is a lot of fun who knows she will never be a model of ladylike behaviour. She loved her husband and obviously had an enjoyable sex-life – she knows what’s what and can own up to what she wants. Stoke is the strong, silent type who doesn’t really know how to act towards the woman he loves and desires to distraction. They’re a mismatched pair, but the attraction between them is impossible to ignore, even though George realises that Stoke will probably break her heart. 3.5 stars

The least successful story of the four is Shana Galen’s Waiting for a Duke Like You, in which the gorgeous piece of male perfection that is Nathan, the Duke of Wyndover literally stumbles across a damsel in distress and has to save her from those who wish to do her harm. Shana Galen has written a number of action-packed romances but translating that to novella format hasn’t worked here, because both elements – the romance and the princess-in-peril plot – are too rushed and require too great a suspension of disbelief.

Princess Vivienne of Glynaven saw her family massacred and barely escaped her home with her life. She has travelled to England to seek the assistance of the king, but a group of assassins are on her tail and it won’t be long before they find her. Knowing that the Prince Regent is due to attend the ball at the Duke of Sedgemere’s house-party, she makes her way to his estate, only to collapse due to cold and hunger. She is found by Nathan, who met her briefly in Glenaven eight years previously and fell in love with her. He has never stopped loving her, but Vivienne never took much notice of him, having a dislike for men who are prettier than she is.

Um… yeah. That was such a daft reason for not liking someone that I just couldn’t buy it. On top of that, the romance never really gets off the ground and the entire thing is just too rushed for my taste. 3 stars

I enjoyed reading Dancing in the Duke’s Arms, even though the quality of the stories varies. But the great thing about an anthology like this is that if you don’t like one story, you can always jump to the next.

Ultimately, it’s worth buying for the Miranda Neville story alone, and the Grace Burrowes one is a nice bonus. The other two didn’t work quite so well for me, but this is still a fun collection and one that’s worth considering as a holiday read as each story can be read in an hour or so while you’re soaking up some sun!

FESTIVE ROMANCE: Christmas in the Duke’s Arms (anthology) by Grace Burrowes, Carolyn Jewel, Miranda Neville, and Shana Galen

christmas dukes arms

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The Duke’s Arms is an undistinguished little inn in the tiny village of Hopewell-on-Lyft. But one Christmas season sees both inn and village seething with adventure, intrigue, rabbits, and, above all, love as four couples find Yuletide happiness.

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Publisher and Release Date: cJewel Books, October 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1817
Genre: Christmas themed Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Lady Blue

A Knight Before Christmas by Grace Burrowes

With her year of mourning at an end, Penelope Carrington must remarry in haste, or her portion of her late husband’s estate won’t be enough to dower her younger sisters. Shy, handsome man of business Sir Leviticus Sparrow longs to give Penelope a marriage proposal for Christmas—and his heart—but Sir Levi must first foil the other bachelors scheming to meet Penelope under the mistletoe in his place.

Leviticus would like nothing more than to marry Penelope, but an unscrupulous woman is trying to force him into an engagement. Being the honorable gent that he is, Leviticus must be sure that he is free, and has to find a way out of this entanglement. Time is running out, and if he is unable to propose, Penelope will be forced to marry someone else. This is a charming story of two people who belong together, and it contains all the warmth you’ve come to expect from Grace Burrowes.

In the Duke’s Arms by Carolyln Jewel

What’s a Duke to do when he’s made an awful impression on the love of his life?

The Duke of Oxthorpe lost his intensely guarded heart to Miss Edith Clay when Edith’s
rich cousin sought to attach the duke’s marital interest. So smitten is Oxthorpe with the former poor relation that he’s gone through intermediaries to sell Edith a property adjoining the ducal seat.

Edith doesn’t much care for the haughty duke, but as Christmas approaches, Oxthorpe reveals himself to be reserved rather than arrogant, considerate, and — blame the mistletoe!— an accomplished kisser. Will Edith hold Oxthorpe’s earlier behavior against him, or will she learn that the best holiday gifts can be the most unexpected?

Oxthorpe is such a reserved man, and I adore him. He’s trying his best to let Edith know that he loves her, but she is oblivious. Edith believe he’s courting her cousin, and never misses an opportunity to promote the match. Despite my continually wanting to tell Edith to open her eyes and see the love waiting for her, I adored this story.

Licensed to Wed by Miranda Neville

If Lord Carbury could learn to take no for an answer, his marriage proposal might earn him a yes!

Wyatt, Viscount Carbury is much too busy to court a bride, but when his childhood neighbor, Robina Weston, is left orphaned and penniless, Wyatt dutifully adds marrying Robina to his list of responsibilities. Wyatt is dismayed to learn that for Robina, poverty and pride are preferable to sharing life with an arrogant, infuriating man who always thinks he knows best.

When Wyatt and Robina must endure Christmas in the country together, antipathy turns to interest, and then to unexpected attraction. Will they fight their feelings, or yield to the surprising gifts the holidays offer?

Wyatt is a very precise sort of man. Every day, he makes a list of items to complete, dutifully crossing them off once accomplished. His latest list includes proposing to his childhood friend, Robina, who’s now impoverished. He feels duty bound to rescue her, and this is the best way to handle it. Surprisingly, he doesn’t find it so easy to do, so it remains each day on his new list. When he finally finds his courage, Robina is not impressed with his proposal skills, and refuses him because she has no desire to be a “duty.” This story is a hoot, and I enjoyed it greatly.

The Spy Beneath the Mistletoe by Shana Galen

Fledgling spy Pierce Moneypence seeks a highwayman and the key to Eliza’s heart.

When weapons designer Eliza Qwillen (Q) and clerk to the mysterious M, Pierce Moneypence, arrive in the English countryside, they’re unprepared for the dangers that await. The operatives are intent upon capturing the highwayman styling himself as the New Sherriff of Nottingham. Secret rendezvous, mistaken identities, and cat-and-mouse games challenge these fledgling agents, but rediscovering their passion for each other is the most rewarding mission of all.

Pierce and Eliza have worked together very well, and both are anxious to take their relationship to the next level. Although we don’t see this encounter, it appears that Eliza was left less than satisfied. Pierce wants to marry her, although when he confesses to Eliza that he doesn’t love her, she turns him down even though she loves him. Pierce is too honest to admit to an emotion that he doesn’t feel. He respects and cares for Eliza, but he believes love is something he may never feel. As he tries to get back into Eliza’s good graces, she leads him on a merry chase as they attempt to capture the highwayman who has been actively robbing people in the vicinity of the Duke’s Arms. Sometimes extraordinary circumstances can make you realize that love is right in front of you all along.

This is an excellent collection of stories by some of today’s top historical romance writers. The stories are enjoyable, fun, and sometimes a little heartbreaking, and the characters are well developed, which is often hard to do in a novella. I wholeheartedly recommend this Christmas read by a stellar lineup of talented authors.