Tag Archive | Top Picks

A Lady’s Code of Misconduct (Rules for the Reckless #5) by Meredith Duran

a lady's code of misconduct

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Trapped in the countryside, facing an unwanted marriage and the theft of her fortune, Jane Mason is done behaving nicely. To win her freedom, she’ll strike a deal with the most dangerous man she knows—a rising star in politics, whose dark good looks mask an even darker heart.

The bitter past has taught Crispin Burke to trust no one. He’ll gladly help a lovely young heiress, provided she pays a price. Yet when a single mistake shatters his life, it is Jane who holds the key to his salvation. And in a world that no longer makes sense, Crispin slowly realizes that she may be the only thing worth fighting for…


Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Books, February 2017

Time and Setting: England, 1860
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Caz

Fans of Meredith Duran have had a fairly long time to wait between the publication of her last novel – Luck Be a Lady – and this new one, which is billed as the fifth in her Rules for the Reckless series, but I’m pleased to report that the wait, while frustrating, was well worth it. In A Lady’s Code of Misconduct, she has once again dazzled me with the beauty and focus of her writing, and her ability to craft a tightly-knit, intriguing plot and wonderfully complex, imperfect and highly intelligent characters who very quickly take on lives of their own in the mind of the reader.

The story centres around the political career and machinations of Mr. Crispin Burke MP, the second son of Viscount Sibley and most definitely the black sheep of his family. With ambitions to become Prime Minister, Burke has steadily drawn many in the Commons to his side by means of threats, blackmail and bribery; his name is a byword for corruption in parliamentary circles and it seems as though he is about to achieve his goal. His Penal Reform bill, a punitive, unfair piece of legislation, has enough support to defeat the government and unseat Palmerston.

Burke’s closest ally is Philip Mason, a man with as black a heart and as few principals, and who is currently supporting himself and his family at the expense of his niece, Jane, whose father left his considerable fortune to her at his death. Mason is unable to touch the principal amount, but has been syphoning off everything he could for years, and intends to marry her to his son in order to keep the money in the family. Jane is twenty-three, but has never had a season and is not allowed to go beyond the gates, so she has, in effect, been a prisoner for the past six years. But worse than all that is the fact that she has had to pretend to be a brainless ninny for all of that time. Her late parents were progressive, so she was well-educated and brought up to think for herself and not to be afraid to express her opinions – but her uncle believes women should be seen and not heard and Jane has had to suppress that side of herself while she has bided her time and waited for an opportunity to escape.

Finally, that opportunity has arrived – only to be thwarted by the odious Crispin Burke. Even though Jane has encountered him numerous times over the years, this is the first time she has really talked to him or even been close to him, and she is simultaneously surprised and repelled to discover that he holds a strange fascination for her. He’s a beautiful man, no question, but he’s ruthless, amoral and rotten to the core and his methods disgust her – but he offers her some advice and a way of avoiding her uncle’s wrath, in exchange, naturally, for something he wants – information on something involving Mason. Jane has no alternative but to agree to do as he asks.

Not long after this, and shortly before the final reading of his bill, Burke is attacked and left for dead on the London streets. Having taken his advice and inveigled her uncle into bringing her to London, Jane hatches an audacious plan, one that was also suggested to her by Burke, albeit with a different outcome in mind. She uses a fraudulently obtained – but legitimate – marriage certificate and announces that she and Burke were recently – and secretly – married. She will shortly be a widow according to the doctors, and her marriage will release her father’s fortune into her hands, meaning that she can finally achieve her dream of travelling to New York and making a new life for herself.

Of course, things don’t go according to plan and Crispin survives – although there are big gaps in his memory and he can remember little of what happened over the past five years. Now caught in a lie, Jane feels guilty and unsure, but decides that she needs to play along with the fake marriage, at least until the legalities surrounding the release of her inheritance are completed. I’m normally a little sceptical about amnesia plots, but didn’t blink when I learned that this book used one, because I knew that Meredith Duran would make it work. She does that and then some; the way she transforms Crispin from a ruthless, conscienceless politician to a man of honour and sound principles who genuinely wants to make the world a better place is brilliant, but more importantly, it’s believable. There are still facets of the old Burke remaining – the keen mind, the devilish sense of humour, the aura of implacability and sense of his being a dangerous man, but the more he finds out about his old self, the more determined he becomes to face the demons of his past, eradicate them and move on.

Because he can’t afford others to see how much his injuries have affected him, Crispin asks for Jane’s help in navigating his way through all his political alliances and connections. She can’t deny that being able, after so long, to use her brain and have her opinions listened to and respected is incredibly flattering and freeing, or that the ‘new’ Crispin is compassionate, thoughtful, unexpectedly vulnerable and incredibly attractive.

Jane is just as satisfyingly complex a character as Crispin, and her story of self-discovery is equally compelling. Her situation as the virtual prisoner of her uncle evokes sympathy, and her character is set up as a kind of representation of truth and justice… yet as the story progresses, she is shown to have been as deceitful and secretive in her way as Crispin has been in his. The way that she comes to understand herself more, and also to understand what drove Crispin to take the path of blind, conscienceless ambition is superbly done, as is Crispin’s conviction that no matter what he can or cannot remember, his feelings for Jane won’t change. I loved that Jane tries to spare him learning the worst of himself and that when he does, it just makes him stronger and all the more determined to become a better man.

The chemistry between the protagonists is intense, and their romance develops believably and at a realistic pace. Jane gradually overcomes her suspicions and opens herself to the attraction she realises she has long felt for Crispin, even though she can’t quite let go of her fear that the ‘old’ him could return at any moment. And I loved that Crispin never questions his marriage; for him, Jane is his rock from the moment he awakens, building on the hints of interest she sparked in him even before his attack and showing clearly but subtly that his feelings for her run deep.

A Lady’s Code of Misconduct is a must-read for fans of this author and of historical romance in general. The political background is interesting, well-researched and smoothly incorporated so the reader never feels as though they are being given a history lesson, and the plot which gradually emerges – relating to the information the ‘old’ Crispin was seeking from Jane – is intriguing and suspenseful. Add in the wonderful romance and two compelling but vulnerable and flawed protagonists, and you’ve got an un-put-downable book which I’m already sure will go down as one of my favourite books of the year.

Historical romance really doesn’t get better than this.

Loving the Lost Duke (Dangerous Deceptions #1) by Louise Allen

loving the lost duke

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A duke confronting his demons. A beauty resisting love.

Almost seven years ago the young Duke of Calderbrook left England for the self-imposed exile that seemed the only way to save his life. Now Cal is back, a grown man bent on taking back his birthright and discovering who so nearly killed him – even if they prove to be someone he loves.

The truth, revenge, then a suitable marriage are Cal’s aims, but his determined quest is stopped in its tracks by Society beauty Sophie Wilmott. He wants Sophie and Sophie, armoured against love by her own secrets, wants Cal. He needs to keep her safe, she needs to guard her heart – but death is waiting at the heart of the Duke’s great house and only courage and love are going to give them the strength to overcome it.


Publisher and Release Date: Louise Allen, January 2017

Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Lady Blue

It’s time for Gareth Thorne, the “lost” Duke of Calderbrook to return home. Cal, as he is called by his family and friends, inherited his title as a young boy, and was raised by his uncle, whom he loved and considered a second father. Yet accident after accident happens to the young duke, causing broken bones and injuries that narrowly missed being fatal. He also suffered agonizing bouts of illness which left him weak and defenseless. When Cal overhears a conversation in which someone thinks he is being poisoned, he knows he needs to take action to save his life. Since he’s too weak to fight, he makes a plan to leave his home and stay one step ahead of anyone who might want to track him down. He arranges careful management of his estates and interests and writes regular letters to his uncle and cousin to ensure that he is not declared dead. Now, almost seven years later, Cal returns, a strong, determined man. He’s ready to claim his dukedom and find out whether it was his uncle or his beloved cousin, Ralph, who was trying to kill him.

Sophie Wilmott is having a private conversation with her dear friend, Toby, at a ball, and they’re discussing her requirements for marriage. Now twenty-four-years-old, she has been out for seven years and has not accepted any proposals. In addition to her exacting list of requirements, Sophie also has a scandalous incident from her début year, one which she has hidden from everyone. When Toby leaves her, she is shocked to find that another man had been behind them, listening to their whole conversation. While being embarrassed at having her list known to someone else, she is even more surprised to find that this gentleman is none other than the “lost” Duke of Calderbook, returned home at last.

Rather than being put off by Sophie’s requirements, Cal admires her method, and the fact that she doesn’t want or expect love to be part of the equation. Due to Cal’s experiences, he has no desire for love either, he’s not even sure he believes in it. Still, he does want to marry and produce an heir, and the beautiful and interesting Sophie seems to be an ideal candidate. Sophie’s experience with first love at the age of seventeen has left a bitter taste in her mouth, and she wants to select a spouse based on practical factors. She also needs someone who will be understanding and forgiving, as she won’t deceive her future spouse into believing that she is innocent.

Cal begins to court Sophie in earnest, and they genuinely like each other and have a sizzling chemistry. When Cal is finally ready to propose, Sophie confesses her secret, letting Cal know that she understands if he can’t accept her past. While inwardly Cal is gravely disappointed, he still wants to marry Sophie, and they become engaged. He also has yet to confess his own secrets to her, but he plans to do that at the upcoming houseparty.

Author Louise Allen has crafted a pair of outstanding protagonists in Loving the Lost Duke. Cal is intelligent, resourceful, brave, honorable, kind and sexy. When I saw his willingness to accept Sophie’s past, I fell a bit in love with him myself. Sophie is his perfect match. I love the fact that she was too honorable to try to deceive him, and how she was willing to help him find the truth about his family. This book had it all for me – an intriguing mystery, a delicious hero, subtle humor, a surprising resolution, steam, and a very satisfying romance.

A 2015 Retrospective – Our Favourite Books of the Year


It’s that time of year when we start looking forward to another year of great reads, but also look back on the books we’ve read and enjoyed throughout the previous year. Members of RHR’s team of reviewers have chosen some of their favourite books and audiobooks from 2015; maybe they’re books you read and enjoyed, too, or they’re books you meant to read that got forgotten (so now’s the chance to catch up!).

If we’ve missed YOUR favourite books of last year, be sure to let us know yours in the comments!

Caz’s Favourites:

Stella Riley continues her Georgian-set Rockliffe Series with The Player , in which the hero, Adrian Devereux is forced to return from exile in France in order to assume the title and responsibilities of the Earl of Sarre. He left England under a cloud when he was wrongly suspected of the murder of his fiancée, and simply vanished, making his living as an actor – and an incredibly talented one, at that. But his return is fraught with difficulties, not least of which is that his decade of playing a part has left him unsure of who he is any more. Ms Riley has given us yet another swoonworthy hero in Adrian and her writing is a strong and intelligent as ever. The Player is a truly delightful read with a strong storyline, a well-written, tender romance and a cast of well-developed supporting characters.

It Started with a Scandal is the tenth in Julie Anne Long’s popular Pennyroyal Green series, and is a wonderfully romantic story with a bit of a “Jane Eyre-ish” vibe to it, about two people who don’t quite fit in finding that they fit perfectly with each other. Philippe and Elise are from different spheres of life – he French nobility, she a housekeeper – yet they are both fiercely protective towards those they love and desperate to do the right thing by them. Their romance is a delicious slow-burn, full of sexual tension and wonderfully witty banter, and the book is full of warmth and charm.

Lucinda Brant’s Deadly Peril is a popular choice, and deservedly so. It’s the third in her series of Georgian Historical Mysteries featuring the urbane and fiercely intelligent former diplomat, Alec Halsey, and it’s her best yet – which is saying something considering that the previous books are terrific reads. Here, Alec is made to confront some of the less pleasant aspects of his past as he travels to the German principality of Midanich, a place he had hoped never to see again. The plotting is superb – Ms Brant really does have a devious mind 😉 – and the fictional state of Midanich is so brilliantly evoked that I almost had to look it up on a map to see if it was real!  This book – actually, the whole series – is a must for fans of historical mysteries with a strong element of romance.

Alyssa Everett is one of my favourite authors, and her most recent book, The Marriage Act is a terrific, though not always easy, read.  It’s the story of an estranged couple who agree to reunite solely to assure the heroine’s father that they are happy together, and tells how they gradually begin to see that they have both been guilty of mistaken assumptions and of projecting their own hurts and insecurities onto the other. The characterisation and writing are both excellent, and even though there are times that both act in ways that are far from admirable, Ms Everett has written them in such a way as to ensure that even when the reader is thinking “ouch!”, their motivations are understandable.  The chemistry between John and Caroline is terrific and this is a story in which the messiness of the central relationship feels all the more realistic for not being  perfect.

While I’m a big fan of historical fiction, I was unsure about branching out into “alternate” historical fiction a couple of years back when I read Laura Andersen’s Boleyn Trilogy, which is set in a timeline in which Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII a son who lived to inherit the throne. But I was utterly enthralled by the author’s ability to tell a great story while also incorporating a number of real historical events and figures. In The Virgin’s Daughter, Ms Andersen sets up yet another great “what if?” premise by having Elizabeth I married to Philip of Spain and having had a daughter by him. It’s a terrific read, the plot is enjoyably complex (although not confusing), the story is rich in background detail and intrigue and there’s an enjoyable romance running throughout the main story. I’m looking forward to reading more in this entertaining series.

Claudia’s Favourites

M is for Marquess by Grace Callaway

I discovered a new auto-buy author with this book … I’ve now read each of Grace Callaway’s books and loved them – which is exceptional. Gabriel and Thea from this book were two of the best characters I read this year. Both had their difficulties and it was charming to see how they overcame them together, even though it wasn’t always easy for them. This is my favourite book of 2015.

Falling Into Bed with a Duke by Lorraine Heath

This is the first book in a new series by this author, and I loved it. The way these two characters found their way to each other was delightful to read and I can’t wait for the next book.

Love in the Time of Scandal  by Caroline Linden

This is a great book and I really enjoyed how the two central characters worked out their troubles and found a way to each other. Benedict was a delightful hero, he was sweet, warm, charming but could also be wicked (in the nicest way!) and Penelope was the perfect heroine for him. I loved her more for the way she tried to make the best of things.

Lady Wesley’s Favourites:

This was the year that I became an audiobook addict, so for your listening enjoyment I’ve picked some audio titles published in 2015. By the way, I actually have read all of these books and can wholeheartedly recommend the print versions as well.

This year Loretta Chase continued treating her fans to audio versions of some of her classics. The Last Hellion, first published in 1998, pairs Lord Dain’s (Lord of Scoundrels) best friend, Vere Mallory, with crusading female journalist Lydia Grenville. Mallory, who never expected or wanted to be a duke, is probably a bigger reprobate than Dain, and carouses to forget his grief for the loved ones whose untimely deaths elevated him to the Ainsworth dukedom. Grenville, a fearless bluestocking, has no interest in men, and views Ainsworth with utter disdain. The plot is classic battle-of-the-sexes, with dangerous escapades and lots of Chase’s trademark banter. Lord and Lady Dain make cameo appearances, as does Lady Dain’s goofy brother, Bertie Trent, who gets his own HEA. Kate Reading, one of the best in the business, delivers another first-class performance.

Mary Balogh, another leading light in the historical romance genre, continued her Survivors’ Club series with Only a Promise) , narrated by the incomparable Rosalyn Landor. Waterloo survivor Ralph Stockwood, whose wounds are psychic and thus largely invisible to the world, is reluctant to take a wife even though he knows that he needs to. Enter Chloe Muirhead, who wants to marry and have a family but whose hopes have been dashed by scandal in her family. She proposes to Ralph, offering him a marriage of convenience free of pesky feelings of love and desire. Ah, but this is Romance, so it is inevitable that the two will indeed fall in love. Chloe and Ralph are mature adults, however, and thus it is the deliberate, realistic, and poignant manner in which this HEA comes about that distinguishes this story.

Last year, I recommended Grace Burrowes’ entire Captive Hearts trilogy, as I could not pick a favorite from among them, and this year I find myself in a similar quandary. Lucinda Brant, whose books are set in Georgian England, has published three series, but I think the very best is the Alec Halsey Mystery series. The first two volumes – Deadly Engagement and Deadly Affair – came out in audio format in 2015. The third, Deadly Peril, was published in print last month, and the audio version will be issued very soon. Alec Halsey is a career diplomat who was rather chagrined to find himself elevated to a marquessate for services to the crown. He is handsome, intelligent, somewhat enigmatic, intensely honorable, and decidedly his own man, and he gets involved with intrigues and mysteries, while trying to revive his relationship with his first love, a lady who is now a widow. With impressive research and first-class writing, Lucinda Brant vividly recreates 18th century England and deftly combines mystery and romance into one big delightful package that will please fans of both genres. She has found the perfect narrator in British actor Alex Wyndham, whose beautiful baritone perfectly captures the swoon-worthy Halsey, and who is equally adept at voicing females of all ages. Wyndham does not just narrate Brant’s stories, he virtually inhabits Brant’s characters. Listening to him is a joy beyond joy.

Natalie’s Favourites:

The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

This book was the much awaited ending to Willig’s Pink Carnation series. In the final installment the Pink Carnation herself is finally paired with an intriguing turncoat spy and sparks fly. I adored the entire series, and was very happy with this final instalment that brought closure to several characters in Willig’s trademark style.

Death Comes To Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd

This is the third instalment in the Kurland St. Mary Mysteries and follows the curmudgeonly Major Robert Kurland and Spinster Lucy Harrington as they investigate yet another murder. I fell in love with the first two books in the series because our two main characters are both such anti-heroes but slowly they started coming around and in Death Comes to Kurland Hall they finally declare their feelings toward one another. This book falls more on the side of historical mystery but if you don’t mind a very chaste love story, pick up the first two books and then finish with this one.

Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper

This third book in Isabel Cooper’s Highland Dragons series follows Judith MacAlasdair, the third shape-shifting MacAliasdair, and only female. Judith has been living in the ancestral home for 2 decades and is quickly coming on the moment when she will have to leave to hide her immortality from the townsfolk. But when a stranger turns up at the same time as several brutal murders are discovered, Judith realizes she must stay and protect her neighbors. I had read the first two books in this series a while back and when I started this one I was thrilled to have a female shape-shifter as the heroine of the final book in the series.

Sara’s Favourites:

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne
This book had a bit of everything; a deeply tortured hero combined with a strong, supportive and caring heroine. A dark secret and the redeeming power of love. The story was gripping and immersive, giving a reader so much more than just the basic plot of two characters falling in love. It’s an incredible story that I was reluctant to finish, have already re-read, and has made me eager for more.

Diary of an Accidental Wallflower by Jennifer McQuinston
A romance that crosses classes and puts a working man into the spotlight as a hero. What makes the book special is that both main characters have dimension, developing and changing from their experiences throughout the story. The secondary characters are just as appealing and do their job of supporting the story and pushing the main characters in the right directions. This was an early release in the year but still remains a favorite.

I Loved a Rogue by Katharine Ashe
The conclusion to The Prince Catchers series, this story rewards a reader who has followed the breadcrumbs left by the author about her characters and their future. All the threads left hanging from the previous stories are tied up nicely, but the highlight is the romance between two souls kept apart by personal fears and social prejudices. A perfect mix of adventure and emotion in one amazing story.

Wendy’s Favourites:

Deadly Peril by Lucinda Brant: this Georgian mystery, the third in the Alec Halsey series, was just fascinating; it has so many twists and turns that the reader is kept guessing until the last paragraph. A fair indicator of an excellent read as far as I am concerned, is whether I can put it down easily – I couldn’t.

The King’s Man by Alison Stuart: this historical romance set during the English Civil war was my first by this author and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I particularly liked her characters, especially the hero, a bad boy (well only through circumstances) reformed by the love of a good woman. I look forward to more of this author’s work.

The Soldier’s Dark Secret by Marguerite Kaye is an historical romance by one of my favourites. Set in the aftermath of Waterloo, it features a compelling hero damaged by his experiences; as I’m fond of dark and angsty, this hit the spot.

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne: again another first for me, I found this very unusual novel, set in Victorian England strangely compelling. Written in a very unusual style it nevertheless appealed to me with its darker side. Not to everyone’s taste, but definitely to mine.

Tall, Dark, and Wicked by Madeleine Hunter: yet another first for me and I loved it. I thought a barrister as a hero a very original and interesting concept; Ms. Hunter is most definitely on my radar now.


So these are some of our favourite books of 2015.  I’m sure we could all have picked more that we’ve enjoyed, but these have been the titles that have stuck in our memories and those books we’ve put onto our “keeper” shelves.

We’d love to hear from you about the books you enjoyed last year, so please do join in the discussion in the comments!

happy new year








Deadly Peril (Alec Halsey Mysteries #3) by Lucinda Brant

Deadly Peril

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Winter 1763. Alec, Lord Halsey is sent on a diplomatic mission to Midanich, imperial outpost of the Holy Roman Empire, to bargain for the freedom of imprisoned friends. Midanich is a place of great danger and dark secrets; a country at civil war; ruled by a family with madness in its veins. For Alec it is a place of unspeakable memories from which he barely escaped and vowed never to return. But return he must, if he is to save the lives of Emily St. Neots and Sir Cosmo Mahon. In a race against time, Alec and the English delegation journey across the icy wasteland for the castle fortress where Emily and Cosmo are imprisoned. The severe winter weather is as much an enemy as the soldiers of the opposing armies encamped along the way. Awaiting him at his destination is the Margrave and his sister, demanding nothing less than Alec’s head on a pike.

Publisher and Release Date: Sprigleaf PTY Ltd., November 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1763; London, England & Margraviate of Midanich, Holy Roman Empire
Genre: Georgian Mystery/Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

I adored this book, but it is difficult to review for several reasons. First, it is the third volume of the Alex Halsey Mystery series, and the first two books contain a lot of highly relevant backstory. Unlike some series, this one really needs to be read in order. Moreover, there are so many twists, turns, and surprises throughout the story that it is virtually impossible to write a thorough review without spoilers. (The publisher’s blurb simply sets up what we learn in the first few chapters.) And finally, this book, and indeed the entire series, is so wonderful that I want you to read for yourself without any hints that I might throw out in my review.

One of the things that I have come to admire about Lucinda Brant’s writing is how intricately layered her plots are. She reveals things throughout the story, which keeps the reader from becoming frustrated, but also holds back enough that the ending always is a surprise. She has the ability to deftly combine mystery and romance into one big delightful package that will please fans of both genres.

So – rather than writing a typical review, I’m going to tell you a bit about the series and what I loved about this book, starting with the primary cast of characters who populate all three books.

Alec Halsey – the younger son of the Earl of Devlin, Alec Halsey chose to make his living as a diplomat. He is a truly swoon-worthy romantic hero: handsome, intelligent, somewhat enigmatic, intensely honorable, and decidedly his own man. After the death of Alec’s odious elder brother, Alec became the earl but he soon was elevated to a marquessate by the King in recognition of his services to the Crown.

Emily St. Neots – a beautiful, spirited young lady whom Alec had once thought to marry, although he was not deeply in love with her.

Selina Jameson-Lewis – the woman with whom Alec fell deeply in love at a young age. Her family thwarted their romance and forced her into a marriage with an older, cruelly abusive man. Selina is now a widow, but she an Alec have had to deal with some difficulties while rekindling the love that both of them still feel for one another.

The Duchess of Romney-St. Neots – a redoubtable old lady who is Alec’s godmother and also Emily’s grandmother. Nothing and nobody intimidates her.

Plantagenet Halsey – Alec’s uncle and an outspoken member of the House of Commons, who despite his noble connections is something of a republican happy to offer his opinions freely. He is more of a father to Alec than Alec’s actual father ever was (and there is a story behind that). He and the Duchess of Romney-St. Neots have a tetchy relationship (and there may be a story behind that too).

Sir Cosmo Mahon – Alec’s closest friend, Sir Cosmo is rotund, jovial, and loyal to those he loves. He is a cousin to both Emily St. Neots and Selina Jameson-Lewis.

As the book opens, Alec is emotionally reeling after Selina rejected his proposal of marriage. Then he learns that Emily and Sir Cosmo, who are touring Europe, have been detained and imprisoned by the new Margrave of Midanich, Prince Ernst. Ten years before the events in this book, Alec was a junior official in Midanich, a small principality in the Holy Roman Empire. For reasons that I cannot divulge, he was thrown in the ruler’s reputedly escape-proof dungeon, from which he did in fact escape. Now, the Margrave demands that Alec return to Midanich to negotiate for the release of his friends. Although Alec fears that his life could be in danger, his honor and his affection for his friends demand that he go.

Midanich is in the midst of a civil war, following the death of the old Margrave, with Prince Ernst under attack by his younger half-brother Prince Viktor. Ernst is a weak, unstable man, known to be under the influence of his mysterious, insane twin sister Princess Joanna. In the opening chapter, it appears that Joanna hastens the old Margrave’s death by placing a pillow over his face. Castle Herzfeld, Prince Ernst’s impregnable fortress, is a hotbed of intrigue; courtiers await developments, but nobody can truly trust anyone, and the prince’s desires are often irrational and unpredictable. The plight of the people of Midanich is dire; this civil war follows years of occupation by foreign troops in connection with the Seven Years’ War. As winter approaches, they face shortages of food and fuel, and Prince Ernst’s army maintains control with draconian ruthlessness.

Alec’s trip is fraught with peril, and his plans for a discreet arrival in Midanich are thwarted when both the Duchess of Romney-St. Neots and Selina Jameson-Lewis, as well as Alec’s Uncle Plantagenet, finagle their way into his party. When this ill-assorted group arrives in Midanich, the adventures begin, with the first occurring shortly after they get off of the boat. To reveal more would deprive the reader of enjoying the myriad twists and turns that follow. As a long-time fan of the mystery genre, I must say that the plotting is impeccable. Midanich is full of intrigue; there were so many developments that I simply did not anticipate, yet none of them was the least bit implausible. There is a touch of romance here, as well, as Alec and Selina begin to find their way back to one another in a most surprising manner.

Novels that convey a strong sense of place have long been a favorite of mine, and in this regard the author’s impeccable research impresses beyond description. The bleak winter landscape, along with the accompanying sights and sounds, utterly transport the reader to another time and place. Not everything is left to the imagination, however, and I commend the reader to Ms. Brant’s delightful Pinterest page full of images displaying things mentioned in the book – including castles, clothing, furniture, horses, and various accoutrements of late 18th century life.

Although Lucinda Brant has been publishing books for several years, my first encounter with her work was a mere five months ago, and I have now read all seven of her full-length books. Every one of them is worthy of five stars, but I think that Deadly Peril is possibly the best yet. It is, quite simply, a perfect combination of mystery, romance, and history.

Alec, Lord Halsey's Nécessaire de Voyage (Tea/coffee travel set), inherited from his mother, consisting of porcelain teapot, coffeepot, cups with saucers, sugar bowl, milk jug, tea canister, candle warmer, all in a lined leather trunk with lock and key. From the author's Pinterest page.

Alec, Lord Halsey’s Nécessaire de Voyage (Tea/coffee travel set), inherited from his mother, consisting of porcelain teapot, coffeepot, cups with saucers, sugar bowl, milk jug, tea canister, candle warmer, all in a lined leather trunk with lock and key. From the author’s Pinterest page.

Freedom to Love by Susanna Fraser

02_Freedom to Love CoverPurchase Now from Amazon

Louisiana, 1815

Thérèse Bondurant trusted her parents to provide for her and her young half-sister, though they never wed due to laws against mixed-race marriage. But when both die of a fever, Thérèse learns her only inheritance is debt—and her father’s promise that somewhere on his plantation lies a buried treasure. To save her own life—as well as that of her sister—she’ll need to find it before her white cousins take possession of the land.

British officer Henry Farlow, dazed from a wound received in battle outside New Orleans, stumbles onto Thérèse’s property out of necessity. But he stays because he’s become captivated by her intelligence and beauty. It’s thanks to Thérèse’s tender care that he regains his strength just in time to fend off her cousin, inadvertently killing the would-be rapist in the process.

Though he risks being labeled a deserter, it’s much more than a sense of duty that compels Henry to see the sisters to safety—far away from the scene of the crime. And Thérèse realizes she has come to rely on Henry for so much more than protection. On their journey to freedom in England, they must navigate a territory that’s just as foreign to them both—love.


Publisher and Release Date: Carina Press, January 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and setting: 1815, New Orleans, England, Canada
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Review by Vikki

Freedom to Love pulled me in from the first page when Henry Farlow awakens in the aftermath of the Battle of New Orleans with a hole in his side, ‘cold mud beneath him and a dull gray sky above’.

Dozens of dead soldiers lie scattered around him and panic sets in – he must get away before the grim reaper realizes there is one still alive. Reaching what appears to be a deserted plantation, he gathers his strength and staggers into the slave quarters, where he hears young female voices speaking a language that sounds similar to French, his mother’s native language. He drops to his knees, his hand held out in front of him, for the beautiful young woman has a pistol aimed at his head.

Thérèse – a cuarterona – and her mulatto half-sister, Jeanette, realize the handsome British soldier is badly wounded. Setting aside her sister’s objections, Thérèse decides to help the injured man to the house and treat his wounds. For several days, his body is ravaged by fever, but Jeanette is a talented healer and Henry begins to slowly recover.

When Thérèse’s cousin shows up to claim his property, he attacks Jeanette. Henry defends her, but accidentally kills him. This begins their mad dash to freedom across the south and to the hills of Tennessee and on to Canada, receiving help along the way from folks against slavery, and then on to England.

Can the love Thérèse and Henry have found on their journey withstand the judgmental prejudice of his family if they find out that she is one-eighth African, or will it tear them apart forever?

Freedom to Love deals with the issue of interracial marriage and the problems that can be created when races intertwine with delicacy and finesse. The love and acceptance that grows between Henry and Thérèse had me close to tears from the sheer beauty of it. It is so refreshing to read a story where the hero and heroine actually like each other from the beginning and the love grows out of mutual respect.

I truly fell in love with the characters in this story. Each has their own distinct personality and is as fully fleshed out as the hero and the heroine. Jeanette plays an important role, and I feel that I grew to know her on a much deeper level than I normally do with a secondary character. What can I say? I loved this book and did not want it to end!

Ms Fraser has clearly done a great deal of research in order to write this compelling love story – her attention to historical detail really brings the period to life. This is not the typical Regency romance where the only real concession to period detail is that the lords and ladies flirt and dance in beautiful gowns.

If you enjoy historical romances with a little more depth, filled with sexual tension that makes you root for the couple to come together, then do not miss Freedom to Love. I am sure you will enjoy this fantastic story as much as I did.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover by Sarah MacLean


By day, she is Lady Georgiana, sister to a duke, ruined before her first season in the worst kind of scandal. But the truth is far more shocking-in London’s darkest corners, she is Chase, the mysterious, unknown founder of the city’s most legendary gaming hell. For years, her double identity has gone undiscovered…until now.

Brilliant, driven, handsome-as-sin Duncan West is intrigued by the beautiful, ruined woman who is somehow connected to a world of darkness and sin. He knows she is more than she seems and he vows to uncover all of Georgiana’s secrets, laying bare her past, threatening her present, and risking all she holds dear…including her heart.

Purchase Links: Amazon * ~ * ~ * Barnes * ~ * ~ * iTunes * ~ * ~ * Kobo


Publisher and Release Date: Avon, 25 November 2014

RHR Classifications
Time and Setting: London, 1830s
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 STARS

Review by Caz

I have thoroughly enjoyed each of the books in Ms MacLean’s Rules of Scoundrels series, but I think Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover is quite possibly the best of the lot!

The author has very cleverly kept her readers on tenterhooks regarding the identity of the mysterious and enigmatic Chase, the founder of and fourth partner in London’s premier gambling establishment, The Fallen Angel – and I’m sure it’s no exaggeration to say that we were shocked, awed and excited when, at the end of the previous book in the series, Chase was revealed to be a woman.

In fact, she is none other than Lady Georgiana Pearson, sister of the Duke of Leighton, whom readers met in the author’s earlier Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord. Aged seventeen and pregnant, Georgiana had fled to Minerva House in Yorkshire in order to escape the censure of her family and the pressure they would bring to bear on her to force her to give up her child.

That was almost a decade ago, and in the intervening time, Georgiana devised the perfect revenge on the society whose double standards make a whore of a young woman who dares to bear a child out of wedlock while slapping a man on the back for sowing his wild oats. Recruiting partners with as much to gain and little to lose as she had, she established the Angel, membership to which has become one of the most sought after invitations in all of society.

Georgiana’s daughter, Caroline, is now nine years old, and when in London, resides with the Duke of Leighton and his family in an attempt to distance the girl from her mother’s sins. Georgiana keeps a fairly low profile, venturing out on the odd shopping trip or excursion, but not attending society events. When a rather nasty cartoon appears in one of the London scandal sheets, it’s brought home forcibly to Georgiana that her daughter is growing up, and will soon need to assume a position in society – but what position? As the child of an unwed mother, Caroline will face censure and social ostracism if Georgiana doesn’t do something to secure her respectability, and there is only one way she can do that – marry a man with a title. Her three partners – Bourne, Cross and Temple – are all living proof of the fact that having a title goes a long way towards crushing gossip, so Georgiana sets her sights on an impoverished viscount of impeccable lineage and reputation – and one she knows will be amenable to a white marriage.

If Georgiana is to make such a match, however, she is going to have to return to society. At one of the first balls she attends in London, she is not surprised to find herself the subject of much behind-fan-tittering, hushed whispers and cruel gossip. Having faced down a group of bitchy debutantes, she then finds herself alone with newspaper baron Duncan West, whose close association with the Fallen Angel and its owners has made him into a kind of honorary “fifth partner”, and with whom she has had a number of professional dealings over the past few years – but as Chase, not as Georgiana.

In fact, Chase and West have never met face-to-face. Their business has all been conducted through an intermediary in the form of Anna, the madam at the Angel, Chase’s (presumed) lover – and Georgiana’s public persona. In the years of their association there has been an unacknowledged attraction between them, but it’s only now that Georgiana starts to feel the real force of that attraction. West is dazzlingly handsome, shrewdly intelligent and almost indecently wealthy, and it’s clear from the outset that he’s one of the few men in society able to equal her in intellect and power.

For his part, West is immediately drawn to this beautiful but fiercely clever woman and impressed by her determination to give her daughter the life she herself was denied. Given that one of his newspapers is responsible for circulating some of the most recent gossip about her, West offers to help to restore Georgiana’s standing in society and pave the way for the respectable marriage she aims to make.

But Georgiana is not the only one keeping secrets. West, too has something to hide, something way back in his past that has the potential to destroy him completely, something which the one man beyond Chase’s influence will not hesitate to use to bring him down if West refuses to do as he is told.

The relationship that builds between the couple as they circle around one another is utterly delicious and the chemistry between them is scorching. There are layer upon layer of secrets lying between them, yet even as they become closer – both emotionally and physically – they continue to find it difficult to give their trust completely to the other. Eventually, Georgiana’s reluctance to trust Duncan with her ultimate secret sets in motion a chain of events which threatens her safety and his very existence.

Much as I’ve fallen for Bourne, Cross and Temple, Duncan West is my favourite hero of the series. Perceptive, clever, deeply honourable and utterly gorgeous, he is, quite simply, sex-on-legs and a perfect match for Georgiana who is one of the most strongly characterised and admirable heroines I’ve come across in the pages of historical romance. She’s pragmatic and clear-sighted, and unlike so many “unconventional” heroines, knows that she has to function within society’s rules, rather than constantly chafing against them. Of course, gets her own back on society in a deliciously unusual manner, her choice of weapon a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer.

In Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover, Sarah MacLean has crafted an intelligent and compelling story with an intricate plot and a strongly characterised central couple. Along the way, she also manages to include several very pertinent observations relating to the place of women in the society of the time, and to remind the reader that there was often a much seedier and darker side to its denizens hidden beneath the surface veneer of propriety and politesse.

But this is at its heart, a beautiful, poignant and wonderfully written love story, as well as an absolutely superb ending to one of the most captivating series of books I’ve read in recent years. I will miss Ms MacLean’s Scoundrels, but am delighted to be able to report that Bourne, Cross, Temple – and Chase – have left us on a real high and to say that I have enjoyed every minute I’ve spent with them.



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Sarah MacLean grew up in Rhode Island, obsessed with historical romance and bemoaning the fact that she was born far too late for her own season. Her love of all things historical helped to earn her degrees from Smith College and Harvard University before she finally set pen to paper and wrote her first book. Sarah now lives in New York City with her husband, baby daughter, their dog, and a ridiculously large collection of romance novels. She loves to hear from readers. Please visit her at www.macleanspace.com

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

The Highwayman by Judith James

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England, 1680


Known to some as Gentleman Jack and others as Swift Nick, Jack Nevison preys on the wealthy, stealing coin (and the occasional kiss) on England’s darkest roads. Jack’s dangerous deeds are legend, but the thrill of a highwayman’s life is growing cold—until he meets the intrepid travel writer and spinster, Arabella Hamilton.

Beautiful and bold, Arabella Hamilton may come from the world Jack despises, but she’s a kindred spirit at heart. When circumstances bring them together the sparks ignite—yet they remain on opposite sides of society and the law and with each encounter they risk more. To be together, will one of them have to give up their world forever?!


Publisher and Release Date: Halfpenny House September 25, 2014

RHR Classifications:

Time and Setting: England, 1680
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 STARS

Review by Lady Blue

John Harris (aka John Nevison, aka Swift Nick, aka Gentleman Jack) has chosen to leave behind his birth name because he wants no connection to his abusive father. He tried being a soldier, then later became a highwayman. For years he has led a carefree existence, building up a notorious reputation. He steals from the wealthy, usually bestowing a kiss on his female victims, which they willingly give because he’s a very charming fellow. Time and time again, he’s had narrow escapes, yet now this life seems to be losing some of its allure. Jack accepts a job to deliver a package, and discovers that the package is a woman. He assumes she’s a runaway wife, or an unhappy daughter that he’s restoring to her family. When he delivers he, and sees that she’s immediately mistreated by a cousin trying to force her into marriage, Jack decides to return later and rescue her.

Arabella Hamilton is wealthy, a countess by birth, and single by choice. She has no wish to marry the sleazy cousin who has had her kidnapped, and is now holding her prisoner. Later that night, Jack comes back, sneaks in her window and leads her to freedom. He arranges a scenario where her cousin will be framed for a crime and imprisoned, so Arabella can live freely.

This is the start of a relationship between the countess and the thief. They feel a liking for each other immediately, and develop a friendship. Meeting is difficult, as Jack is still a wanted man when he is near Arabella’s home, not to mention that her reputation would be blackened if she were found to be acquainted with him. Arabella is unconventional and loves to write and travel; and one of those trips takes her to Jack’s neck of the woods, where he is free to live openly. She hides her own identity, and is just known there as Jack’s friend.

With each meeting, their bond and their affections grow stronger. Eventually they become lovers, knowing they don’t have a future, but choosing to live in the present. Soon, that’s not enough. They have fallen in love, yet can’t fathom any way to be together permanently. Their differences sometimes lead them to say hurtful things, and to part, but they keep coming back to each other however they can.

Jack had such a painful childhood, that he never imagined he’d want to marry anyone. Yet Arabella fulfills him, heals him, and fills the empty place in his life. Arabella never thought to marry, but Jack brings her love and excitement and happiness. Together they are perfect. Both of these characters are wonderful people brought to life in an emotional and sometimes heart-breaking story. How can this possibly work out for them?

Judith James based these characters on real-life people, as she’s done in previous books. Her writing is beautiful, exciting, and entertaining. I was enchanted by this book – it’s one of those that leaves you with a book hangover – in the best sense of the word. I highly recommend this and it’s definitely one of my favorite books of the year.

Darling Beast (Maiden Lane #7) by Elizabeth Hoyt

darling beast

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Falsely accused of murder and mute from a near-fatal beating, Apollo Greaves, Viscount Kilbourne has escaped from Bedlam. With the Crown’s soldiers at his heels, he finds refuge in the ruins of a pleasure garden, toiling as a simple gardener. But when a vivacious young woman moves in, he’s quickly driven to distraction . . .


London’s premier actress, Lily Stump, is down on her luck when she’s forced to move into a scorched theatre with her maid and small son. But she and her tiny family aren’t the only inhabitants—a silent, hulking beast of a man also calls the charred ruins home. Yet when she catches him reading her plays, Lily realizes there’s more to this man than meets the eye.


Though scorching passion draws them together, Apollo knows that Lily is keeping secrets. When his past catches up with him, he’s forced to make a choice: his love for Lily . . . or the explosive truth that will set him free.


Publisher and Release Date: Grand Central Publishing, October 2014
RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1741, London, England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars

Review by Lady Wesley

You might think that an author would begin to run out of ideas when she reaches the seventh volume in a series. In Elizabeth’s Hoyt’s case, however, you would be wrong. In Darling Beast she takes the Maiden Lane series into a new neighborhood with new characters while at the same time tying the story in with the earlier books.

In Duke of Midnight, Apollo Greaves escaped from his wrongful incarceration in Bedlam, with the help of his sister Artemis and his new brother-in-law, the Duke of Wakefield. Now he is living in a shed on the grounds of Harte’s Folly, a pleasure garden and theater that was nearly destroyed by fire. Mr. Harte is helping Apollo hide while Apollo is designing and building a new garden.

Lily Stump moves into the few habitable rooms left in the theater with her seven-year-old son, Indio, and nursemaid, Maude. Lily is a well-known actress but since she is under contract to Harte and since he has no theater in which she can perform, she is short on funds. When Indio, tells her that there is a monster living in the gardens, she laughs it off – until one day she sees the monster for herself as he emerges unclothed from a pool.

Lily is immediately suspicious of her son’s new friend. Apollo is unable to speak because of injuries he suffered in Bedlam. When Lily tries to question him, he can’t reply, and she thinks that he is simple-minded. Because he is hiding from the law and doesn’t know if he can trust Lily, he allows her to assume that he is just another one of the laborers hired to work for Harte.

Despite his mother’s warnings, however, Indio and his naughty dog, Daffodil, can’t stay away from the pond, and when Apollo rescues Daff after she fell into the water, Lily begins to realize that there is more to Apollo than she first thought.

Through much of the book, Apollo cannot speak, but he begins to communicate with Lily by writing. She has no idea that he is a fugitive nor that he is the heir to an earldom. Indio and Daff bring the couple together, in a way that is utterly charming. Cute children and animals are not something that every author can do well, but Hoyt excels here.

Another appealing element of this book is that nearly half of the story takes place in the garden, and even though it is ruined there is something rather enchanting about the place. Apollo is a true landscape gardener, and he sees what no one else can, as in this scene (after Apollo begins to regain his voice):

“Where are we?”

“The heart,” he said, his voice low and rasping. “The very . . . heart of my future garden . . . the center of the maze.”

She shivered at his words. This place didn’t look any different from anywhere else in the garden, but garden hearts, she supposed, like human hearts, could be disguised.

“I can’t see it,” she said.

He took a step toward her and turned her to face the same way as he, her back against his chest. “Here,” he said, wrapping his arms over her shoulders to hold her hands. “There’ll be a folly . . . of some sort right here . . . beneath our feet. A fountain or . . . waterfall or statue. Benches for lovers to sit and . . . kiss. The entrance will be over here” — he pointed to a space to the right — “and the maze . . . will wind all around us . . . like an embrace.”

Slowly he turned with her, tracing with his outstretched hand his imaginary maze.

“You have so much faith,” she whispered.

She felt him shrug behind her. “It’s there already . . . just waiting for the right person . . . to find it and bring it alive,” he said softly in her ear. “A maze . . . is eternal, you know, once discovered.”

It wouldn’t be Maiden Lane, though, if we didn’t have some danger and darkness. Apollo is desperate to find the person who actually committed the murders for which he was accused. The soldiers are on his trail. And Captain Trevillion, even though he has been invalided out of the army, is grimly determined to see Apollo back in Bedlam, while the real murderer has plans to pin one last crime on him. And Indio’s mysterious parentage actually may place him in danger.

In addition to Trevillion, other Maiden Lane characters are part of this story – Maximus and Artemis, of course, Hero and Phoebe, and even the absent Makepeace sibling, Asa. An intriguing and rather outrageous new character, the Duke of Montgomery, is introduced, and it isn’t clear whether he is friend or foe.

I think that Darling Beast is the most romantic book in this series, and I recommend it unreservedly. If you’ve read the previous Maiden Lane books, you definitely will not want to miss this one. And even if you haven’t read them, this touchingly tender story works just fine as a stand-alone.

Sweet Madness by Heather Snow

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Ever since her husband’s sudden and tragic death, Lady Penelope Bridgeman has committed herself to studying the maladies of the mind, particularly the trauma of soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars. It is this expertise that brings the Marquess of Bromwich’s family to her door. 

Gabriel Devereaux’s unexpected and unpredictable episodes are unlike any Penelope has studied. The once proud soldier has been left shaken and withdrawn, but Penelope manages to build a fragile trust between them. Strangely, Gabriel seems completely lucid when not in the grips of his mania, and during the calm bouts between, she is surprised by how much she is drawn to him. 

Despite his own growing feelings, Gabriel knows that he is fit for no one and is determined to keep Penelope away from his descent into madness. But even though she knows firsthand the folly of loving a broken man, Penelope cannot stop herself from trying to save him, no matter the cost.

Publisher and Release Date: April 2nd 2013 by Signet Eclipse
RHL Classifications:

Time and Setting: England, 1817

Genre: Historical Romance

Heat Level: 2

Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

Sweet Madness is the third in Heather Snow’s Veiled Seduction series and for my money the best. The heroines are the true stars in each of these stories. In Sweet Enemy, she’s a bluestocking chemist who has no interest in marriage. In Sweet Deception, she’s a mathematical savant trying to use her skills to solve a series of murders.

In this book, Lady Penelope is neither a bluestocking nor a genius. Rather, she’s a society miss (whom we met in the first book as the heroine’s cousin) whose husband died six months after their wedding. With our 21st century knowledge, we quickly can see that he was bipolar, but in 1817 that disease was unknown. All that society saw was a handsome, charming, vibrant, energetic young man enjoying life, but Pen saw him during the dark times and blames herself for his suicide.

For two years she has been withdrawn from society and is still dressing in deep mourning attire. During that time, however, she has come to know several veterans of the Napoleonic wars who suffered from what then was called “battle fatigue.” At the hospital set up by her cousin’s husband, she has worked to help these men and has met with some success. Her therapy is based on a combination of her common sense, her deeply empathetic personality, and her study of the British “associationist” school of thinking (an early, simplistic version of today’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

Gabriel Devereaux, her late husband’s cousin, is confined in a luxurious but nonetheless brutal asylum for the insane. His mother asks Pen to discover whether she can help him, but most of Pen’s efforts are stymied by the asylum’s starchy director. When Pen gets him away from the asylum to her cousin’s country estate, her patient, dedicated work begins to help him deal with some of his traumatic war experiences. Moreover, he has no more of the sudden, violent episodes that put him in the asylum in the first place.

During their weeks together, Pen and Gabriel’s relationship becomes one of deep trust and genuine affection. Actually, for several years Gabriel has been carrying a torch for Pen, and she begins to wonder if she can perhaps love again, even though this man clearly has psychological problems. Gabriel realizes that Pen needs rescuing from her past as much as he does, so he tries to help her as she is helping him. It’s lovely to watch this story slowly unfold on the page, but the good times cannot last.

Gabriel’s younger brother and his grasping wife take steps to have Gabriel officially declared non compos mentis, and he and Pen must travel to London for the dramatic showdown. At this point the ending seemed rushed to me, but perhaps that’s because I had begun to suspect what could be behind Gabriel’s episodes. I didn’t understand it all, though, and to me the last chapter felt like the closing scene in “Murder She Wrote” where Jessica Fletcher explains how she solved the crime.

Heather Snow always includes plenty of well-researched history in her stories, and here we learn about the horrible plight of war veterans, their widows, and their children, who were utterly without any support system after the Napoleonic wars ended.

But ultimately, this is a romantic, sometimes sad, but ultimately joyful story of two people working together to overcome obstacles – both external and those of their own making. I highly recommend Sweet Madness as well as its two predecessors. Although there is some overlap in characters among these three books, they need not be read in order.


With New Years being a time of reflection, a number of our reviewers have taken the time to list some of their personal favorites books of 2012. Review links are included as provided. (Click image gallery for slideshow)

CAZ’S PICKS (with and review links below)

1.   A Splendid Defiance by Stella Riley :Romantic Historical Fiction at its best, this tells the true story of the siege of Banbury Castle during the English Civil War alongside a wonderfully written fictional romance between a Cavalier and a local Puritan girl.

2. A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick : A prequel to her William Marshal books, this tells the story of William’s father, John who was a truly extraordinary man.

3. A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant :Grant is already “up there” as a superb writer of historical romances, even though she has only published two books so far.  This début novel was beautifully written and had a very unusual premise – one I don’t think I’ve come across before – and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

4. The Lady of Secrets by Susan Carroll : A thoroughly engaging tale of witchcraft, treachery and love in Stuart England.  One of a series which has made me want to check out the others.

5.  An Infamous Marriage by Susanna Fraser :One of the best Historical Romances I’ve read, this is a wonderful story of two people whose marriage took place under less than auspicious circumstances, but who work at it to find a lasting love.

6. The Parfit Knight by Stella Riley : I know Ms Riley has already appeared on this list, but I had to include this as one of my favourite romances of 2012, if not ever!  Originally published in the 1980s, it was revised and reissued in 2012 and this was the first time I’d read it.  It’s beautifully written, the romance is just perfect and the hero is to die for.

7. In for a Penny  by Rose Lerner: An above average HR that uses one of my favourite tropes – the marriage of convenience.  There’s plenty of warmth and humour and the author has an excellent eye for social detail.

8. Wedded Bliss by Barbara Metzger : Another “oldie”, but oh, what a find this was.  I loved it from start to finish and spent most of the time I was reading with a grin on my face.  Funny, sweet and tender – what’s not to love?

9. Before Versailles by Karleen Koen: Before Louis XVI became known to the world as “The Sun King”, he was a young monarch, somewhat impulsive and not quite ready for the responsibility that lay on his shoulders.  The story is full of court intrigue and nefarious dealings as we see Louis begin to shoulder the burden of kingship.

10. The Emperor’s Conspiracy by Michelle Diener : A page-turner of a Romantic Mystery based on the true story of Napoleon’s plot to undermine the British financial system.  Not without its flaws, but very hard to put down, nonetheless.


The Black Hawk Joanna Bourne,  Devil in the Making Victoria Vane,  A Body in Berkley Square Ashley Garner, The Dark Enquiry Deanna Raybourn, Unraveled Courtney Milan, Affair Amanda Quick, The Gentle Wind’s Caress Anne Brear, My Scandalous Viscount (The Inferno Club) Gaelen Foley, Deadly Affair: A Georgian Historical Mystery Lucinda Brant, Winning the Wallflower (Novella) Eloisa James


1)  Defiant by Pamela Clare, 2) The Duchess War by Courtney Milan, 3) Beautiful Bad Man by Ellen O’Connell, 4) The Devil DeVere Series by Victoria Vane, 5) Keowee Valley by Katherine Scott Crawford, 6)  The Last Renegade by Jo Goodman, 7) The Duke’s Tattoo by Miranda Davis, 8) A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan, 9) The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan, 10) An Infamous Marriage by Susanna Fraser, 11) The Road Back by Liz Harris


1. The Gilded Fan by Christina Courtenay, 2. The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele, 3. The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott, 4. A Waltz At Midnight by Crista McHugh
Books not released in 2012, but read in 2012 that blew me away:
5. The Way by Kristen Wolf, 6. With a Sword in My Hand by Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem, 7. Out of the Ashes by Lori Dillon, 8. Another Chance by Michelle Beattie,9. Speak Easy to Me by Christine DePetrillo,10. The Silk Box by Shirley Mihoko Hairston


The Devil DeVere Series by Victoria Vane, When you Give a Duke a Diamond by Shana Galen, Laiden’s Daughter by Susan Tisdale, Findley’s Lass by Suzan Tisdale, The Recruit by Monica McCarty, Sword of the Raven by Diana Duncan, A Breach of Promise by Victoria Vane


I Am The Chosen King by Helen Hollick (Saxon England), Secrets of an Accidental Duchess by Jennifer Haymore (Regency England),  Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot (Medieval France & England), Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick (Medieval England – Empress Matilda),  Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn (Ancient Rome – Emperor Trajan), The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Phillipa Gregory (Medieval England),  The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges (1880s Russia), The Heretic Queen by Michelle Morgan (Ancient Egypt – Queen Nefertari), The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman (World War II – Germany), A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick (Medieval England – King Stephen)

 LADY BLUE’S PICKS (with commentary)


The Ugly Duchess / Eloisa James – wonderfully written, but heartbreaking story of love, pain, separation, and reconciliation

No Longer a Gentleman / Mary Jo Putney – a youthful mistake takes 10 years of a young man’s life until he is rescued

A Scandalous Scot / Karen Ranney – two people mired in scandal find an unlikely love

A Week to be Wicked / Tessa Dare – a lovely read with a scholarly heroine

Heart of Brass / Katy Cross – outstanding steampunk romance where even mind control can’t make our hero forget his wife

Rules to Catch a Devilish Duke / Suzanne Enoch – our hero is not quite so devilish, and falls for a most unsuitable lady

The Art of Duke Hunting / Sophia Nash – delightful installment in the “Duke” series, an arranged marriage that works

The Duke’s Perfect Wife / Jennifer Ashley – the MacKenzie family saga continues with the duke and his love reunited

Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight / Grace Burrowes – two people with secrets, and out-of-sync with the world are perfectly in sync with each other

Firelight / Kristen Callihan – outstanding paranormal romance, he made a bad decision when young which is now changing him, body and soul, unless her love and fire can save him


The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot, The Dragon’s Harp by Rachael Pruitt, The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe, The Rake by Mary Jo Putney, The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner, Comanche Moon by Catherine Anderson, Deception by Kris Kennedy, Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell


Defiant by Pamela Clare, Firelight by Kristen Callihan, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley, The Salt Bride by Lucinda Brant, A Lady’s Pleasure by Robin Schone,  Findley’s Lass by Suzan Tisdale,  The Courtship by Grace Burrowes, The Sometime Bride by Blair Bancroft, and Honorable Mention goes to: A Lady’s Lesson in Seduction by Barabra Monajem and The Wild Heart by Gina Rossi


The Second Empress by Michelle Moran, The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley,  The Queen’s Secret by Victoria Lamb, Still Life With Murder by P B Ryan, The Raven’s Heart by Jesse Blackadder, House of Women by Anne Brear, The King’s Spy by Andrew Swanston, Legacy of Blood by Alex Connor, Ruby Red by Kerstin Gear [YA],An Older Evil by Lindsay Townsend


1. Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koem, 2. The Many Lives & Secrete Sorrows of Josephine B. (Josephine Bonaparte, #1) by Sandra Gulland , 3. The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran, 4. Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati,  5. The Scarlet Lion, 6. Tale of Passion, Tales of Woe (Josephine Bonaparte, #2 by  Sandra Gulland), 7. Wintercombe  by Pamela Belle (no image avail.), 8. The Last Great Dance on Earth (Josephine Bonaparte, #3) by Sandra Gulland, 9. Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor , 10. An Honourable Estate by Elizabeth Ashworth

GENEVIEVE’S PICKS (with review links)

The Virgin Cure By Ami Mckay 

Angela’s Ashes By Frank Mccourt

Keowee Valley By  Katherine Scott Crawford

Dare The Wild Wind By Kaye Wilson Klem 

Black Hawk By Joanna Bourne 

The Winter Sea By Susannah Kearsley

Bride Of The High Country By Kaki Warner 

Colorado Dawn By Kaki Warner 

Redemption On The River By Loren Deshon 

10 Water For Elephants By Sara Gruen