Tag Archive | Shana Galen

Traitor in Her Arms (The Scarlet Chronicles #1) by Shana Galen

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After her late husband leaves her in debt to some dangerous people, Lady Gabrielle McCullough is forced to become a thief. In the intervening years, her skills have not gone unnoticed. After being recruited by the Scarlet Pimpernel, the mysterious do-gooder spiriting aristocrats out of revolutionary France, Gabrielle crosses the Channel for the most daring mission of her life. Accompanying her is the Earl of Sedgwick, a thief in his own right and an enticingly masculine presence. The man is not to be trusted—nor is Gabrielle’s body when he’s near.

Ramsey Barnes would not say he is an honorable man. His whole life has been based on a lie; why change now? Although it pains him to deceive the tantalizing Gabrielle, he’s working toward an altogether different objective: unmasking the Scarlet Pimpernel. If Ramsey fails, his blackmailer will ruin him. But when Ramsey’s confronted with the carnage of the Reign of Terror, he seeks refuge in Gabrielle’s heated embrace. Now he faces a terrible choice: betray the woman who’s stolen his heart—or risk losing everything.

Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, August 2017

Time and Setting: Paris, 1793
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Sara

In Shana Galen’s latest book Traitor in Her Arms the legendary Scarlett Pimpernel and his mission to save French nobles during the Revolution is the catalyst to many events in the story. I was surprised how little we see of the man himself but he still plays a very important role. Two secret quests, one to save an innocent woman’s life and the other to learn the Pimpernel’s true identity bring heroine and hero together under the best and worst of circumstances.

Lady Gabrielle McCullough has a secret. The debts her late husband left behind put her on the verge of ruin but she’s been hiding the truth with the assistance of a wealthy friend. When selling paintings and family heirlooms wasn’t enough to settle things with a few unscrupulous money lenders, Gabrielle turned to thievery. Her skills have grown over time and she’s managed to grab more than a few choice pieces while attending the social gatherings of the Season. Her next target is an antique lapis lazuli necklace that belonged to Cleopatra which should earn her enough to pay off the final creditor. Breaking into the owner’s room to collect the necklace wasn’t a problem; however her task is complicated when she finds another thief is already in the room and has grabbed the jewels.

Ramsey Barnes, the Earl of Sedgewick hasn’t been very honest with the ton himself. Most of his deceptions are fairly harmless but when someone learns his deepest secret, Ramsey could face ruin. Unwilling to risk his lands and the people who depend on the earldom, Ramsay hopes that he can steal the rare and valuable necklace to bribe his blackmailer to give up her evidence against him. With the piece in hand Ramsay never expected Gabrielle McCullough to appear in the room on a similar mission to take the necklace. Ramsey distracts Gabrielle with a kiss and leaves the building with the jewels but all his effort is pointless when his blackmailer refuses to trade. Instead she uses her power over Ramsey to force him on an almost impossible mission with the promise of his freedom when the task is complete. With no other options Ramsey accepts her challenge to learn the true identity of the elusive Scarlett Pimpernel.

Gabrelle’s anger at losing the necklace to Ramsey is paired with frustration at her own attraction to the man. Her financial crisis hasn’t left Gabrielle any time to play the merry widow and any interest in Ramsey would distract her from collecting enough money to settle Lord McCullough’s debts. Fearing she’s out of time and options Gabrielle is saved from penury when she’s invited into a darkened drawing room and a stranger offers her the chance to become a heroine. The Scarlet Pimpernel is thought to be a myth in Gabrelle’s social circles but the man is real and he knows all about her skills at obtaining rare objects. He tells Gabrielle a tale of a Frenchwoman and her daughter who are slated for execution unless he can find and collect the precious Le Saphir Blanc bracelet. The Pimpernel believes that Gabrielle’s familiarity with Paris and her lock-picking skills will enable her to find the Le Saphir Blanc and negotiate for the woman’s release from prison. Gabrielle is hesitant to accept the Pimpernel’s mission but she cannot ignore the horrors happening on the Continent.

Traitor in Her Arms gets off to a slow start while Gabrielle and Ramsey’s different paths are laid out; however they quickly converge as the reality of the Revolution is revealed to them both. In the style of many an adventure, the couple soon find themselves protecting each other from unexpected dangers and complications to both of their missions. Ms. Galen pulls no punches when describing the fervor of the French citizens to destroy the nobility and some of the atrocities committed are very hard to digest. Both Ramsey and Gabrielle initially approach their tasks as either impersonal transactions or noble quests to save innocent lives, but when they see what the French are doing to their own it changes that perspective for them both and it forces them to reevaluate what is important in their own lives. The relationship between them grows from that new perspective and they each learn to trust despite Ramsey telling Gabrielle that it’s dangerous to put any faith in him.

The story requires a suspension of disbelief that can get in the way of the romance and the dual missions surrounding the Scarlet Pimpernel. Gabrielle may have good intentions in going to Paris but she’s completely out of her depth when it comes to the deceptions and maneuvering it takes to complete her job. Ramsey and other characters must come to her aid more often than not and it becomes frustrating to see just how useless she really is. It’s also somewhat disturbing to have Ramsey following along with Gabrielle and pushing her to succeed when we know that his motivations are mostly selfish. Their love story is awkwardly woven throughout important plot points and I cringed at a completely inappropriate sex scene while they’re running for their lives. Too much of the story’s focus is on the Revolution and the madness that had overtaken the French, giving less time for a believable romance to develop.

I’ve always enjoyed Shana Galen’s books for their romantic adventures but Traitor in Her Arms seems more intent on exploring the Scarlet Pimpernel’s legacy than showcasing its own main couple. I plan on continuing with the Scarlet Chronicles series but with an understanding that the books are historical fiction with a romantic slant.

VIRTUAL TOUR: I Kissed a Rogue (Covent Garden Cubs #3) by Shana Galen

I Kissed a Rogue

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Once she spurned the man…
When the Duke of Lennox hires Sir Brook Derring, England’s best investigator, to find his daughter, Brook intends only to rescue the lady and return to his solitary life. He deals with London’s roughest criminals every day of the week; surely he should be able to endure seeing his first love again—the perfect girl who broke his heart…

Now her life depends on him
Lady Lillian-Anne Lennox has always done her best to live up to her father’s standards of perfection—at the cost of following her heart. When she’s kidnapped and her perfect life is shattered, Lila has another chance. Together, Lila and Brook navigate not only the dark and deadly side of London, but the chasm of pride and prejudice that divides them.

EXCERPT

She had to escape. She couldn’t die down here, in the rank dark, alone. She might deserve such a death, but she’d fight it with every last ounce of strength. She’d almost freed her hands by twisting and working the rope against her chafed wrists until it slackened. Her captors hadn’t tied it very tightly, but that was the only mistake they’d made.

Lila had no idea how long she’d been in the dank, cold cellar, but she knew the moment her life went completely astray. The carriage had raced along the dark streets of London, the familiar clip-clop of the horses’ hooves almost like music in her ears. She’d pulled her thick pelisse more tightly around her bare shoulders and rested her dancing slippers on the warm brick at her feet.

All she’d wanted was her cozy bed and a cup of tea. She hadn’t even cared that by leaving her cousin Rose’s betrothal ball early, she risked her father’s wrath in the morning. She’d attended the betrothal tea, the betrothal dinner, and now the betrothal ball. Would that Rose marry and be done with it. It was during that uncharitable line of thinking that she heard John Coachman call out and the carriage slowed.

Lila had parted the curtains in an effort to see what was the matter, but all she’d seen was the swirl of London fog and the amorphous shapes of the outriders moving to stand protectively in front of the carriage door. She’d sighed with impatient annoyance.

“Now wh—?” She’d clamped her mouth shut at the sound of a thump and an unfamiliar man’s voice. The carriage rocked as the horses danced with fear. She waited for John Coachman’s reassuring words and heard only a muffled shout and the pop of what sounded like her father’s rifle.

Her heart pounding in fear, she’d slid one lock into place and was reaching for the other when and a tall, lanky man yanked the door open.

He’d smiled, his thin lips and cheeks stretching over his facial bones. “Hello, Lady Lillian-Anne.”

From there, everything was a blur. She’d been dragged from the carriage, hooded, and pushed against the conveyance, her hands roughly bound. Lila had been so shocked at her mistreatment, she hadn’t even screamed, and then she’d been lifted and tossed over a man’s shoulders. She hadn’t been carried far before she’d heard the squeak and squeal of a door being pried open and the echo of boots on slatted wood floors. Another door and then another and her captor had carried her down a flight of stairs and dropped her on her bottom.

She’d screamed then and scurried backward, only to run up against a pair of hard boots. A voice, much like the one who’d greeted her, hissed in her ear. “Shut yer potato hole. Keep quiet or I stuff my drawers down yer throat. You hear me, Duchess?”

She’d nodded and closed her mouth. She’d pulled her legs in and hunched her shoulders, making herself small, waiting for what seemed an eternity for what was to happen next. Would they rob her? Rape her?

She was not a duchess, only the daughter of one. She had the wild thought that perhaps the men wanted her stepmother, the Duchess of Lennox. But, no. They’d called her Lady Lillian-Anne. They knew who she was. They’d planned the abduction and whatever was to come next.

Lila had shivered, her body shaking uncontrollably with fear and cold. Finally, the man moved away. At his word, the others followed, and she heard their boots on the stairs and then the thud as the door closed.

She’d sat on the hard floor, the small pebbles and rocks digging into her skin through her silk ballgown and the pelisse. She jumped at the creaks and pops of the building settling, fearing each minute sound was the men returning for her. Gradually, she grew accustomed to the sounds but not the smell, never the smell. Something had died down here—many somethings—and with the hood over her face, she could only imagine. Lila envisioned rat corpses responsible for the sharp, sickly fragrance that burned her nostrils. When she began to imagine human bodies, she bit her lip hard to stop the rising panic.

Strange that in the middle of London, all was silent but for her teeth chattering.

They’d stopped chattering now—after too many hours to count. Lila was too numb to feel the cold any longer. The rope around her wrists was all she cared about. She twisted and pulled until finally she managed to squeeze one hand free. She bit her raw lip against the pain of the rough rope sliding against her bare skin. The gloves she’d painstakingly inched off might have protected her bare skin, but they were one more layer between her and freedom.

With a wince, her wrists slid apart, and she exhaled softly, hugging her arms around her chest. Her shoulders throbbed, and the simple act of rotating them in the opposite direction was sheer bliss. She felt for the opening of the hood she wore and quickly tore it off. Charcoal gray replaced the blackness. If the cellar had openings of any kind, she couldn’t spot them in the dark of night. She prayed it was still night and that morning would show her some sort of escape.

And not a stack of rotting bodies.

She had to find a way out. By now her father must have realized she’d been abducted. He would be frantic with worry. Had her captors sent a ransom note? Was that what this was about? Colin would make the duke pay it. Colin and Lila had grown closer since their mother’s death. He wouldn’t allow their father to ignore a ransom note.

If there was a ransom note.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, March 2016
RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Caz

I’ve enjoyed the previous entries in Shana Galen’s Covent Garden Cubs series (Earls Just Want to Have Fun and The Rogue You Know), and have been looking forward to this, in which the hero is Sir Brook Derring, an important secondary character in the earlier books. Brook is a detective – a most unsuitable profession for the brother of an earl – but even so, he has acquired a fearsome reputation and is widely known – by both the criminal and upper classes – to be the best of the best at what he does.

I Kissed a Rogue opens In Media Res, with our heroine, Lady Lila, having been kidnapped on her way home from a society event and desperately seeking a way to escape. Unfortunately, however, her evening is about to get even worse when she witnesses the murder of a man she later learns is a prominent MP; the murderer isn’t about to leave alive someone who could identify him.

Which hero is your match-Upon learning of her abduction, Lila’s father, the Duke of Lennox, immediately sends for Brook and charges him with finding his daughter. Brook is simultaneously worried for Lila and annoyed with the duke who, seven years ago, had refused his offer for Lila’s hand and had him more or less thrown out of the house. But Brook is a professional and isn’t about to allow any personal feelings to get in the way of his doing his job. Lila is found, rescued and returned home, but that is not the end of the matter. Brook tells the duke that Lila’s life is in danger because of what she’s seen, that he needs to arrange extra protection for her and, ideally, the whole family needs to leave London.

The duke, however is not convinced the danger is that great, and besides, this Season is Lila’s last chance to find a husband. His young wife – Lila’s stepmother – will certainly not countenance the idea of leaving London at this time, especially not considering her determination to get Lila married off and out of the house for good.

Lennox demands that Brook be the one to guard Lila, but he declines, saying that isn’t what he does, and in any case, his being seen everywhere with an unmarried lady will lead to gossip and damage her reputation. But the duke is a wily old fox; he inveigles Brook into marrying Lila so that he can stay with her without compromising her and promises an easy annulment once the murderer is found and dealt with. For the first few days of his marriage, Brook manages to convince himself it hasn’t happened, staying away from his flat and working hard to discover the identity of the killer. But when Lila’s location is discovered and she is attacked, it’s clear that she can’t remain in London and Brook whisks her away to a tumbledown cottage on one of his family’s country estates.

It’s here that the couple finally has some breathing space in which to address the acrimony that lies between them. Seven years ago when she was in her first season, Lila was the feted beauty of the day, dazzling the men, stealing other débutantes’ suitors, starting and feeding gossip about the girls she didn’t like: she was a prototype Mean Girl. Then in his early twenties, Brook was just one of the many young men who were captivated by her, but even though she flirted with him, she didn’t really think of him as a person, just as one of the long line of young man ready to lay themselves at her feet. When he proposed marriage, she didn’t believe him to be serious and laughed it off, wounding him deeply and then forgetting him almost entirely.

The premise is a mix up of several tropes I generally like; forced/arranged marriage, second-chance romance, and friends-to-lovers – but while those elements work well together, I didn’t enjoy the book quite as much as I’d hoped to. The pacing around the middle slows considerably and that section is little more than a succession of sex scenes which, while undoubtedly well-written, don’t add much to the development of the characters or the story. Lila and Brook are attractive individuals, but the way Brook insists on holding on to his resentment for so long didn’t sit quite right with me. He’s dashing, handsome and terribly competent, and no matter his insistence that he doesn’t care about Lila, it’s clear through his actions that he does still care, very much. He is understandably bitter over her past treatment of him and treats her badly as a result, which made it difficult for me to completely believe that he was in love with her by the end of the book.

On the other hand, Ms Galen does a terrific job with Lila’s character, especially when it comes to showing how she has matured into a thoughtful, self-aware woman who knows that she is now reaping the seeds sown by her younger, thoughtless self. I really felt for her in the early stages of the book when it was revealed that she was more or less unwelcome in her own home and when she realises how badly she had treated Brook all those years ago.

I enjoyed the book in spite of those reservations and the large numbers of Americanisms that kept popping up (someone in 19th century England would never say “do it, already”, for example, and it’s not “I could care less”, but “I COULDN’T care less”), but I can’t deny that I was a little disappointed overall. However, there’s no question that I Kissed a Rogue is a well-written and very readable story, and I’m sure that fans of this author will enjoy it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ShanaGalenShana Galen is the national bestselling author of fast-paced adventurous Regency historicals, including the RT Reviewers’ Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Her books have been sold in Brazil, Russia, and the Netherlands and featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. She is a happily married wife and mother of a daughter and a spoiled cat and lives in Houston, Texas.

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.

The Rogue You Know (Covent Garden Cubs #2) by Shana Galen

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She’s beyond his reach…

Gideon Harrow has spent his life in London’s dark underworld-and he wants out. A thief and a con, he plans one last heist to finally win his freedom. But when everything goes wrong, he finds himself at the tender mercies of one of Society’s most untouchable women-Lady Susanna Derring.

…and out of her depth.

Susanna has spent her life in London’s glittering ton, under the thumb of a domineering mother-and she wants out. When a wickedly charming rogue lands at her feet, she jumps at the chance to experience life before it’s too late. But as she descends into London’s underworld, she finds that nothing- not even Gideon-is as it seems. As excitement turns to danger, Susanna must decide what price she’s willing to pay…for the love of a reformed thief.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, September 2015

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

Review by Maria Almaguer

This book is classic Shana Galen adventure and excitement. She is the skilled master at creating tense moments and nail-biting action in her well-choreographed and realistic chase and fight scenes.

Susanna Derring is the younger, sheltered, and fearful (of her mother) sister of Lord Dane, who married Marlowe (Earls Just Want to Have Fun), Gideon’s crony and former Covent Garden Cub. The Cubs are a group of child thieves similar to those in Lorraine Heath’s Scoundrels of St. James series.

Susanna longs to escape her quiet and boring life and yearns for a life beyond tea and fashions. She grabs hold of it when Gideon Harrow literally comes crashing into her life. Gideon has stolen a necklace and is on the run from his gang when he runs to Marlowe’s in-laws’ townhouse in Mayfair, hoping for a safe haven. With this necklace (which he is withholding from the Cubs), he hopes to escape his life of theft and begin a new and respectable life. But Beezle, the leader of the Cubs, is on to him and is on the hunt for him all over London.

Susanna comes upon Gideon and impulsively blackmails him into taking her to Vauxhall Gardens where, she suspects, her mother long ago enjoyed an encounter with her one true love. Susanna is curious about this since her mother is so stiff and proper to the point of humiliating Susanna publicly and often. If Gideon agrees to take her to Vauxhall, she’ll return the necklace.

I liked Gideon and wanted more from his point of view. He’s a sympathetic portrait of someone who found himself in poor circumstances and is now desperately trying to get out and make his life better.

Susanna is a friendly and rather naive free spirit who has been stifled by her mother’s expectations of a good match for her and the drills of proper decorum. During her two days in the dirty streets of London with Gideon, she really lets loose and has the adventure of a lifetime. Along the way, she befriends nearly everyone she meets (including some downright scary characters in Gideon’s world), rescues a ragtag and loyal dog, enjoys intimacies with a most improper man, and runs helter-skelter all over London’s poor neighborhoods as they flee from Gideon’s many enemies.

Their goal of eventually visiting Vauxhall Gardens seems almost anticlimactic considering all that they go through to get there. And Susanna’s law-abiding brother, Brook, is connected to the Bow Street Runners so her exploits eventually end.

The secondary character development of Susanna’s mother, Dorothea, is nicely portrayed as she comes to terms with how her mistakes have impacted her children’s lives. Ms Galen creates sympathy for a woman who, at the story’s beginning, doesn’t seem very deserving. I also liked the minor characters Susanna and Gideon met in the course of their breathtaking escapades; they add a richness and authenticity to the novel. I could smell the stench and see the dirt and refuse in the streets and hear the coarse accents of the lower classes. All of these aspects lend a great richness to the storytelling without being cloying or manipulative.

The romance between Susanna and Gideon is very sweet, almost innocent, and seems to build slowly despite their few days’ acquaintance. The author writes with feeling and heart and their encounters simmer with passion as they get to know each other in truly trying circumstances.

This is another fine addition to Ms Galen’s Covent Garden Cubs series. Brook’s story is next and I look forward to reading this serious brother’s happy ending.

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!

SPOTLIGHT AND GIVEAWAY: Earls Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen

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His heart may be the last thing she ever steals…

Marlowe is a pickpocket, a housebreaker-and a better actress than any professional on the stage. She runs with the Covent Garden Cubs, a gang of thieves living in the slums of London’s Seven Dials. It’s a fierce life, and Marlowe has a hard outer shell. But when she’s alone, she allows herself to think of a time before-a dimly remembered life when she was called Elizabeth.

Maxwell, Lord Dane, is intrigued when his brother, a hired investigator, ropes him into his investigation of the fiercely beautiful hellion. He teaches her to navigate the social morass of the ton, but Marlowe will not escape so easily. Instead, Dane is drawn into her dangerous world, where the student becomes the teacher and love is the greatest risk of all.

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EXCERPT

Earls Just Want To Have Fun“While I do not usually object to a woman in this position,” Dane said quietly, “I must confess something about the dagger between your lips is less than romantic.”

Marlowe reached for the dagger, but he was faster, grasping her hands and pinning them at her side. She lost her balance and settled on top of him, and he pushed her down so that she would fall forward if she tried to swing her legs out from under her.

“What, exactly, are you doing?”

She couldn’t answer, not with the dagger in her mouth, and she shook her head, shaking her arms to indicate she wanted to be freed from his hold.

“What’s the matter? Can’t speak with a knife between your lips? Hazard of your profession, I assume.” He began to rise, sliding her along his body, as he did so. Even beneath the layers of bedclothes, she could feel the strength and power of him. His hands, remarkably strong, held hers at her sides. Nothing she did would free them. He was far too strong. It was times like this she hated being a woman. Gideon would have freed himself easily. He was also tall enough that he wouldn’t have needed to climb onto the bed.

When the swell was sitting, with Marlowe conveniently in his lap, he leaned forward so his face was inches from hers. “Drop the knife.”

She wanted to tell him it was a dagger, a subtle but important distinction, but she couldn’t speak and hold on to her weapon. And she couldn’t think very well with her body pressed against his. Something about their positions made her skin tingle and her belly flutter. She should want to pull away. Instead, she fought the urge to push closer, to rock against him. What the bloody hell was wrong with her?

“Drop the knife or I’ll take it.”

She laughed. Just let him try.

“Very well.”

To her surprise, he leaned closer, his lips moving so near to hers she could smell his breath. Like the rest of him, it smelled clean. She was so intent upon smelling his breath, so intent upon the heat of his body pulsing against hers, she forgot to move her head back, and she jolted in shock when his lips touched hers. What was he doing? Kissing her?

But then his teeth flashed and closed on the dagger’s blade, and she reacted too slowly. He yanked it from her mouth, and she had no choice but to let it go or risk the blade cutting the corners of her sensitive flesh.

“Bastard!” she yelled. He released her hands then, allowing the dagger to drop into one of his. She swung at him, and her fist collided with a satisfying thunk against his cheek. But her satisfaction was short-lived as he recovered easily and flipped her over. Suddenly, she was beneath him on the bed, and all the warmth from the bedclothes and his body were covering her. She bucked immediately, trying to throw him off, but he was solid and heavy, and when his hands grasped her wrists and pinned them to the pillow, she knew she was trapped.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ShanaGalenShana Galen is the bestselling author of passionate Regency romps, including the RT Reviewers’ Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Kirkus says of her books, “The road to happily-ever-after is intense, conflicted, suspenseful and fun,” and RT Bookreviews calls her books “lighthearted yet poignant, humorous yet touching.” She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston’s inner city. Now she writes full time. She’s happily married and has a daughter who is most definitely a romance heroine in the making. Shana loves to hear from readers, so send her an email or see what she’s up to daily on Facebook and Twitter. Visit her website at www.shanagalen.com.
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FESTIVE ROMANCE: Christmas in the Duke’s Arms (anthology) by Grace Burrowes, Carolyn Jewel, Miranda Neville, and Shana Galen

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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.

RETRO REVIEW: The Making of a Duchess by Shana Galen

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A very dangerous attraction…

Julien Harcourt, Duc de Valère, is more than willing to marry the lovely young lady his mother has chosen. Little does he know, she’s been sent to prove him a spy and a traitor…

And an even more dangerous secret…

Sarah Smith’s mission is to find out whether the Duc’s trips to the Continent are as innocent as he claims, but the way he looks at her is far from innocent…

Their risky game of cat and mouse propels them from the ballrooms of London to the prisons of Paris, and into a fragile love that may not survive their deceptions

Publisher and Release Date:  Sourcebooks Casablanca, June 2010

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

Review by Susan

Shana Galen crafts a truly entertaining read with The Making of a Duchess, the first installment in the Sons of the Revolution trilogy.  The action takes place during the Reign of Terror and later, during the ascension of Napoleon.  The book tells the story of Julien Harcourt, the Duc de Valère, and English governess Sarah Smith, who impersonates a countess in order to wheedle her way into Julien’s world.  She does so at the request of her employer Sir Northrop, the head of England’s Foreign Affairs Office who suspects Julien of being a traitor to England and requires an innocuous young lady to inveigle her way into Julien’s life.   Adventure, deception, secrecy, espionage, and romance – all have a significant share in Ms Galen’s story as two unlikely people come together and turn out to be a for a made-for-each-other couple.

Ms Galen studiously integrates period details into the story without overwhelming the reader with facts about the leaders who dominated the time and its political environment.  The story informs about the social conditions during this tumultuous era, making the characters personable as if they are people whom the reader would know if they lived during this time.

The images Ms Galen paints in the opening chapter as Julien and his mother are escaping an angry mob puts a vivid picture in the reader’s mind about the level of danger that threatened the French aristocracy during the period surrounding the Revolution. The two are forced to flee their family’s estate without Julien’s two young brothers, Armand and Sebastian.  Their outcome weighs heavily on Julien and his mother, who hold out hope that the boys are still alive.

Sarah was orphaned as a baby, raised at an all girl’s academy, and later trained to be a governesss. Her character experiences the most growth as she undergoes a transformation from impish young miss to dignified (fake)countess Sarafina Artois, a French émigré who is the daughter of a friend of Julien’s mother.  Bound by duty to his family, Julien allows Sarah to live under his roof in England where she must spy on him and discover what he does during his multiple trips to France.  Originally thinking their contract has no emotional attachment, the pair gradually learns to trust one another with their secrets, which strengthens their bond as their relationship blossoms into a heated love affair.

Ms Galen’s descriptive writing makes it easy for the reader to absorb the atmosphere surrounding the characters.  The animated dialogue creates intimacy between the characters as the reader acts as a voyeur looking in from afar at this world fraught with life and death situations that engross the imagination.  The French Revolution has the potential to fodder indelible romances and Ms Galen has found endless inspiration from its pool.

Lord and Lady Spy by Shana Galen

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Lord Adrian Smythe may appear a perfectly boring gentleman, but he leads a thrilling life as one of England’s most preeminent spies, an identity so clandestine even his wife is unaware of it. But he isn’t the only one with secrets…

She’s Been Outsmarting Him For Years…

Now that the Napoleonic wars have come to an end, daring secret agent Lady Sophia Smythe can hardly bear the thought of returning home to her tedious husband. Until she discovers in the dark of night that he’s not who she thinks he is after all

Publisher and Release Date:  Sourcebooks, September 2011

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

Review by Susan

The Scarlett Pimpernel meets the 2005 action adventure flix Mr. and Mrs. Smith in Shana Galen’s romantic intrigue Lord and Lady Spy.  Lady Sophia Smythe, aka Agent Saint, and Lord Adrian Smythe, aka Agent Wolf, are married in public but secretly they are spies for the Barbican Group.  The only hitch is that neither one knows that the other one is a spy for the same group which serves the British Crown to weed out enemies loyal to Napoleon.

The plot is fascinating, plunging the reader into a James Bond type scenario where the Smythes play investigators, competing with each other unknowingly at first to capture their quarry.  When the Barbican Group downsizes and the Smythes are laid-off as operatives, the pair craves adventure but don’t know this side of each other until Lord Liverpool brings them together to discover the identity of his half brother’s murderer.

Ms. Galen’s attention to detail during the fight scenes makes easy to picture the choreography and action.  The reader never feels lost during the narration, and is always able to follow the sequence of events and trail of clues.  The author is equally skilled at describing the sensual and emotional aspects of the Smythes’ relationship.  It’s an entertaining story with characters that touch readers’ hearts and evoke compassion.  Sophia and Adrian begin as strangers but move forward together to become life long partners in an emotionally satisfying conclusion.

If You Give a Rake a Ruby by Shana Galen

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Fallon, the Marchioness of Mystery, is a celebrated courtesan with her finger on the pulse of high society. She’s adored by men, hated by their wives. No one knows anything about her past, and she plans to keep it that way.Warrick Fitzhugh will do anything to protect his compatriots in the Foreign Office, including seduce Fallon, who he thinks can lead him to the deadliest crime lord in London. He knows he’s putting his life on the line . . . To Warrick’s shock, Fallon is not who he thinks she is, and the secrets she’s keeping are exactly what makes her his heart’s desire.

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks, 5 March, 2013
RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting:  Regency England
Genre:  Historical Romance
Heat Level:  3
Reviewer Rating:  4 Stars

Review by Susan

Three women from dubious backgrounds pose as celebrated courtesans in Shana Galen’s Fallen Ladies series.  The Prince Regent dubs the trio “The Three Diamonds”, an appellation which fosters their notoriety.  Juliette is gifted with the sobriquet “Duchess of Dalliance”.  Lily is named the “Countess of Charm”, and Fallon (aka Margaret) is called the “Marchioness of Mystery”.

If You Give a Rake a Ruby, the second book in the series, tells of the love match between Warrick Fitzhugh, the son of a prominent earl, and Fallon, the daughter of a street whore and a con artist.  Together, they uncover the illicit operations of a crime lord who is behind the plot to kill England’s elite network of spies in His Majesty’s Secret Service.  The story keeps the reader wanting to see if the pair gets their man while keeping them emotionally entangled in Warrick and Fallon’s struggle to keep their hearts safe while giving in to their desire for each other.

Galen takes the reader from the lavish ballrooms of London’s upper crust to the city’s ghettos and rookeries occupied by brothels and gaming hells.  The contrast gives the story depth as the lead characters go where they need to in order to uncover the scheme implemented by an underground crime ring.

Galen crafts intriguing backgrounds for Warrick and Fallon.  The son of a wealthy English lord, Warrick should be a privileged prig, but the author surprises the reader with his rugged nature and his loyalty to England’s Foreign Office to combat crimes being perpetrated by those whose sole intention is to commit treasonous acts against England.  Fallon may not have as lofty an aspiration, but she is equally devoted to her country, assisting her fellow compatriots and using her façade as a courtesan as a ruse to gain access into the private chambers of those set on committing treason.  She is a type of Mata Hari in the early 19th century with the beauty of a siren and the fighting skills of a martial arts expert.

To Give a Rake a Ruby refers to Warrick, who is considered a playboy among England’s ton and to Fallon, who has a liking for rubies, her gem of choice.  They are an unlikely match who make a perfect match.

Twined with elements of mystery, intrigue and romance, Galen holds the reader captive in Warrick and Fallon’s entanglement with a crime lord.  She creates an original storyline with characters whose inspiration comes from several different sources and whose journey takes readers in another direction from where Galen led them in her first book of the series, When You Give a Duke a Diamond.  Anticipate being freshly romanced in To Give a Rake a Ruby from Sourcebooks.