Jan 212013
 

Affair Charlotte Arkendale needed a new ‘man of affairs’ and a bodyguard. Into her life comes Baxter St Ives, the bastard son of an Earl, who is investigating Charlotte as a possible blackmailer and murderer. After all no one really knows where her income comes from. Baxter is a chemist not a fighter and believes everything can be worked through by remaining in control and with logic, what he doesn’t anticipate is his loss of control when it comes to Charlotte.

It soon becomes apparent that dark forces are conspiring against the two of them in a deadly game, can they figure out the puzzle before anyone else gets hurt?

I really loved this book from the first page and I was drawn straight into the story and stayed gripped throughout. I am not convinced it was historically accurate but to be honest the story was so good I didn’t care. There were lots of references to science but not in too much depth I am pleased to say – I want a romance not a chemistry lesson.

Baxter had a habit of saying ‘bloody hell’ a lot, even in the presence of ladies - definitely not the done thing. Although I have to say Baxter is really not your typical gentleman, he reminded me a bit of Clark Kent  - mild, unassuming and a bit geeky but when those glasses came off, wham he could really let loose! His tendency to see everything logically made for some interesting conversations with Charlotte, particularly with matters of the heart but I was totally in love with him.

Charlotte seems to have no fear which I found hard to believe at times, particularly as she has a younger sister relying on her. She was bossy and could be irritating at times but underneath it all she is just an insecure woman struggling with unfamiliar feelings.

The story focused a lot on the murder mystery angle and not so much on the romance, but you always know it will end happily ever after. The villain was obvious to the reader from the start but it took our protagonists a while to join the dots, by which time other innocent people had been caught up in his plans. The information about mesmerism was interesting and added another dimension to the story.

This was a great read, enjoyable, witty at times and the nerd triumphs – as a bit of a nerd myself that makes the story even better!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Amanda Quick
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Jan 112013
 

This review is a series review of the four books that make up the Duchess Quartet by Eloisa James.

The books in order are

  • Duchess in Love
  • Fool for Love
  • A Wild Pursuit
  • Your Wicked Ways

The books revolve primarily around three women of the Ton, very different to the regency misses I usually read about.

Duchess in Love: Number 1 in series (Duchess Quartet) We have Ambrogina (Gina), Duchess of Girton – married as a child to the 18 year old Camden Serrard, now the Duke of Girton, who promptly ran away to Greece before consummation. Twelve years on she wants an annulment, leaving her free for a proper marriage. Cam takes one look at her and starts to think marriage might not be too bad after all.

The ‘Infamous’  Esme Rawlings is also estranged from her husband and has created quite a reputation for taking lovers herself while her husband lives with his mistress. Esme takes great delight in behaving outrageously in public and flirting at every opportunity, but when she decides she wants a child she needs to review her lifestyle and identify her priorities.

Helene, Countess Godwin has a husband who kicked her out and moved his mistress into her bedroom three years ago. They are incapable of speaking to each other without arguing and being in the same room is an ordeal. She has been the epitome of respectability although her situation is the topic in many a parlour. Helene is desperate for a baby, and when her husband will not divorce her she takes drastic action, deciding that no more will she be respectable Helene. She will find a man to father her baby, divorced or not.

Fool For Love: Number 2 in series (Duchess Quartet) Esme has her story running through the first and second books before finally getting her ‘happy ever after’ in book three. This would have frustrated me were it not for the fact I had all four books, so I could read them one after the other. Helene gets her happy ending in book four but again, her story builds all the way through the series. Because of this it would be very annoying to read them out of order so I would suggest start with the first one, otherwise you will have no idea what is going on!

In each book we have a number of different story lines going on and it was sometimes hard to remember  who was doing what with whom. Book one covered Gina and Cam’s romance primarily, but also involved another friend of hers – Lady Carola Periwinkle who is estranged from her husband Lord Tuppy Periwinkle.  Having realized she is still in love with him, her friends start giving advice on how to seduce Tuppy back into her bed. I enjoyed this book although it wasn’t my favourite of the series. Ms James has a wonderful way of writing which is at times humorous, but is always descriptive. There is sex of course and the sex scenes are written well without being too crude. Gina is a strong character but because of this I find it hard to understand why she imagines herself in love with Lord Bonnington who is a total bore and prude.

A Wild Pursuit: Number 3 in series (Duchess Quartet) In book two, there is the continuing story of Helene and her scandalous husband and while Esme also features heavily, the main happy ever after is between her nephew by marriage Simon Darby and Lady Henrietta McLellan. Henrietta feels she will never marry due to a deformity which could kill her, as it killed her mother if she were to ever have a child. What man would want to marry someone who could not have children. Along comes Simon with no paternal instincts but guardian to two adorable little girls – adorable in Henrietta’s eyes if not Simon’s.  Henrietta dares to believe she could find happiness until her dreams are shattered following a conversation with her step-mother. This was probably my favourite book of the series and I particularly enjoyed a well bred lady trying to bring up the subject of a sheath without actually saying what it was.

In book three we reach the conclusion of Esme’s story and also have a side story involving Stephen Fairfax Lacey and a ‘fallen woman’ Lady Beatrix Lennox.  Now this is where it really does get confusing, with Stephen at one point being ‘engaged’ to Esme, ‘lover’ to Helene and smitten with Bea – quite an achievement for a staid Member of Parliament. It does of course get worked out in the end but I cannot say too much more for fear of ruining Esme’s ending.

Book four focuses on Helene and was my second favourite of the series.  Throughout the other books Helene is seen as some downtrodden wife who is too weak to do anything about her errant husband. In this book however the tiger turns – well, partly. I found some of Helene’s decisions surprising, but I guess after being put down for so many years it takes more than a new haircut and wardrobe. Rees really is portrayed as a total jerk in previous books and indeed for the first half of this book he stays true to that persona. He is a selfish musician who thinks only of his own needs, including in the bedroom – no wonder Helene detests all that ‘bedding’ business. As the book progresses though we get to understand some of his reasoning and it all seems to come back down to parents – parents in the 19th century have a lot to answer for it seems.

With these four books, no matter what my initial feelings for the characters were, by the end of the series I was in love with all of them. Because the books were all linked, the three main characters popped up all the time so we get flashes of their lives and their sexy husbands! Poetry, Shakespeare and the Bible are all quoted with frequency – usually appropriately but at times it did become a bit tedious – I am not a fan of any of those!

Your Wicked Ways: Number 4 in series (Duchess Quartet) These books give a fascinating insight into what life was like for women in this time. For example, a woman cannot divorce a man for adultery (after all it is expected) and a woman can only get divorced if there is public proof of her adultery, and then only if her husband allows it. If she wishes to get remarried following divorce it requires an act of parliament! It also made a refreshing change to read about women who were less than perfect, even scandalous, in marriages that were definitely not perfect. However, I still expected it to all turn out happily ever after in the end and the author does not disappoint.

Overall I loved this series, I enjoyed having more than one romance  going on in each book (seven happy endings for the price of four) but am very glad I had them all available to read at once. These are full length books which are available as e-books for only £2.99 each (as at Jan 2013) an absolute bargain and definitely worth a purchase if you enjoy historical romance, particularly if you want a change from the virginal debutante and the rake.

Book Information
  • Author: Eloisa James
  • Series: The Duchess Quartet
  • Format: Kindle
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

 

Oct 012012
 

My Scandalous Viscount: Number 5 in series (Inferno Club) A member of the secret Inferno Club and a ‘lady of information’, a spy with secrets to keep and a woman who cannot resist poking her nose into other peoples business. Viscount Beauchamp (Sebastian Walker) and Carissa Portland are an unlikely pairing who end up married because Carissa just cannot mind her own business.

With one of the Inferno Club teams in Germany and an investigation into the Order occurring in England, Beau has his hands full trying to juggle Order business. The last thing he needs is a wife who will not do anything he asks and seems to be keeping secrets of her own.

I absolutely loved this story which takes place during the timeline of the previous book (My Ruthless Prince) but is set in England. If you read that review you may remember I commented on there being more plot and less romance. This story turns that around a bit and while we have a good suspense storyline, the romance element is strong – much to my delight.

Carissa and Beau have been touched upon in previous books and it was great to get their story. If you haven’t read any previous books you could be forgiven for thinking everything was a bit fast and I do recommend reading this series in order as it makes much more sense when loose ends are tied up.

Beau is a romantic at heart and I totally loved him, but as I have said before I am a sucker for romance. There is the obligatory falling out, which I knew was coming practically from the moment they were married, but true love always triumphs. Carissa is, like all of the authors heroines, strong willed and refuses to be ruled by any man, and despite her good intentions she just cannot help but poke around. It is endearing however rather than irritating.

The story arc relating to the Prometheans is all tied up in this novel but we are introduced to two new spies who will have their own stories and I cannot wait.

I’m unsure what the storyline will be for the future books, other than a good romance, with the loose ends being tied up but knowing Ms Foley, there will be an excellent sub plot in there somewhere.

If you love historical romance I really cannot recommend this series highly enough, I absolutely love it – please, please start at the beginning though with My Wicked Marquess.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Gaelen Foley
  • Series: The Inferno Club (5)
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Aug 092012
 

Thief of Shadows: Number 4 in series (Maiden Lane) Winter Makepeace is the manager of the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children, Lady Isabel Beckinhall is part of a syndicate of wealthy women helping the home financially so their paths frequently cross. While he annoys her by being so solemn and rigid, there is something about him that intrigues her. Winter has dedicated his life to helping the poor of St Giles and has no intention of allowing himself to become involved with a woman now or in the future. There is also the matter of a major secret he hides, one which could cost him his home and his life.

I really enjoyed this book. This is the fourth in the Maiden Lane series and I really recommend you read the previous three before starting this one. It follows on immediately from where book three finishes and it will definitely ruin earlier books if you read this first.

The traditional protagonists roles were reversed here, Isabel is the experienced woman – a widow who has had the odd lover since her husband died, while Winter is totally inexperienced in matters of both the heart and making love. Together they make quite the odd couple, add in the fact that Winter is a normal person while Isabel is high born and things start to get complicated.

I cannot say too much about the plot without ruining previous books so I will just go on about how much I loved it. Winter has been an ever present character in previous books but we have had very little information about him so it was great to get more insight into his character. It is also very unusual to find a man in these types of books so inexperienced,  although I have to say he is a quick learner, it did not spoil the story at all and the sex was still hot hot hot! As with all these books there is a side story going on, a mystery of sorts which Winter is right in the middle of.

One of the things I like about this series is more time is spent dealing with the seedier part of London than with the ballrooms and musicales. We get an insight into how hard life was in the slums of London in the Georgian era and how important it was that places like the Home for Unfortunate infants existed. While this is fiction I have no doubt things were as bad as described, if not worse, and at times it was heartbreaking.

If you have not yet read Elizabeth Hoyt and you enjoy historical romance this series is definitely for you. Start with book one – Wicked Intentions. If you have already read the previous books in the series, what are you waiting for? I think this is the best so far.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
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Jul 092012
 

The Reasons for Marriage (MIRA) Jason Montgomery, Duke of Eversleigh, has finally realised he has to take a wife before his aunts go and choose one for him. He has a list of what the perfect wife should be, and love does not even come into the equation; a wife who will be happy to spend her time running his estate and allow him the freedom to continue with his forays in London.

Lenore Lester has no desire to marry, is very happy living in the country looking after her father and running the household. Her brothers parties allow her the chance to play hostess, but she makes sure to make herself as inconspicuous as possible particularly given the type of gentlemen who are usually invited. Unfortunately the Duke of Eversleigh saw through her disguise immediately and set about signalling his interest while seeing her as his perfect wife.

I enjoyed this story as I do with all of Stephanie Laurens books. I think this is an early book with the hero and heroine not as bolshy as in some of her later books, but that made a nice change to read and it was very easy to fall in love with both of the characters. This is very much more a pure romance story than some of her other books and left me with a warm fuzzy feeling at the end. The story flowed nicely and I think was probably more faithful to the sort of behaviour you might expect in Regency England with regards to courtship and marriage, than some other historical romances I have read. While sex sells (and there is sex in this book make no mistake) it is refreshing to find a book more about the romance than the sex.

If you like your romance with suspense or other major plot lines this book may not be for you but me, I love a pure romance story :)

You can clearly see how the authors writing has changed with her later books but I love both styles and will definitely be looking to read further books about the Lester family.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Stephanie Laurens
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jun 252012
 

Devlin Kimball has spent 12 years grieving for his family and is finally coming close to what happened that fateful night, ensuring he can have his revenge on the ones responsible. His only relative left - the Dowager Viscountess Strathmore faithfully pays his bills thinking he is gambling his life away.

Lizzie Carlisle is companion to the aforementioned Dowager Viscountess and is nursing a broken heart, choosing to hide herself away in the country. When his aunt dies, Devlin and Lizzie are unexpectedly thrown together – can Devlin carry on with his need for revenge while ensuring Lizzie is not pulled into the dark side?

Wow, oh Wow, this book is amazing! There is so much going on right from page one that I was completely sucked in. The different facets of the plot move along at speed as we go from one to the other and back again. The murder mystery aspect is brilliant – we know who the guilty parties are right from the prologue but knowing when, how or even if they will get their comeuppance is something we are kept guessing with right until the end. I really cannot say enough how quickly and easily I was drawn into the story, it completely captivated me.

I love the description Ms. Foley puts into her books and this one is no exception, it was as easy to picture the characters and their interactions as if I was watching it myself. I loved all the characters in this book including the secondary ones – well except for the dastardly evil bad guys of course! But they too were very well written and easy to hate!

The romantic element was good and I totally fell in love with Devlin, I wanted to make him all better myself.

This is number five in the Knight Miscellany series and while I have not read any of the previous books it did not really matter. There is some follow on and I guess the preceding book has been slightly spoiled for me by what was mentioned here but it will not stop me reading it and all the others before that one too.

This is probably one of the best historical romances I have read. If I could give it more than 5 stars I would! While I love romance I think the addition of such a strong suspense plot is what made this extra enjoyable.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Gaelen Foley
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

 

May 182012
 

A reluctant war hero, Hugo comes from a wealthy middle class family becoming a Lord by virtue of heroic acts in the Napoleonic Wars. He has a chip on his shoulder the size of a mountain, particularly towards the upper class members of society – excluding his best friends of course. They call themselves the Survivors Club and look forward to their reunion once a year where they can reflect and renew friendships.

Lady Gwendoline Muir lost her husband to a freak accident and has a permanent limp from a riding accident. She has had no desire to remarry, being content with her life and her extended family. While visiting an acquaintance, circumstances conspire to have her at the house where Hugo and his friends are staying.

Tracey’s review

What a fantastic book, this is historical romance at its very best in my opinion.

Hugo is  a scowling hero, he rarely smiles in the book but when he did it made my heart go a-flutter – it probably wouldn’t have happened if he scowled less and smiled more and the author describes him so well I could see it very clearly. I really enjoyed the fact that Hugo came from a different background to the usual in these books and I so wanted to give him a big hug and make it all better. I do feel at times he could have been a bit more masterful and less ‘woe is me’ and there was one instance when I wanted him to turn round and hit someone. At the end of the day though it did all fit in with his uneasiness at not being being part of the ton by birth and his survivor’s guilt.

As a widow in her 30′s Gwendoline knows her own mind and has been around the ton long enough to be able to steer Hugo and his sister as appropriate. It was interesting to see the heroine being a sponsor at a ton ball instead of the one being swept off her feet. It makes a change for the female to be the self assured one and not the male.

This book is very romantic, but at no point did the story become boring or too mushy. The descriptions were excellent and it was good to see how the other half live in the regency period, not just the ton. The love affair was not all plain sailing of course - it never is, but the difficulties and problems seemed very real and true to the period in history. Unlike a lot of similar books the relationship was a  slow burn rather than from hello to sex in no time at all! At the end of the book I had that satisfying warm fuzzy feeling I so love.

The prose, description and sheer romance of this book are fantastic and I look forward to more books about the ‘Survivors Club’.

This is only the second book by this author I have read but I am definitely looking forward to more and I think I have a large back catalogue to catch up on!

Grete’s Review

I’m a relative newcomer to historical or regency romance, having been persuaded to try it by Tracey.  I’ve loved the authors I’ve tried so far and this is the first book by Mary Balogh I’ve read.  It had a bit more of a formal tone to the writing than I expected but it’s not a bad thing, just different from some of the other authors.  It did take me a little while to get into it but once I’d warmed to the characters, I was hooked and couldn’t put it down.

Like Tracey, I loved seeing two sides of the regency period, both upper and middle class, and how they stay separate and view each other and then what happens when they mix.  The catalyst for the successful blend is definitely Gwen who is a wonderful character and as wounded in her heart as the members of the Survivors Club.  I love that it didn’t make her bitter and resentful, instead she was sweet and generous with a brilliant touch of humour.

Hugo, poor man has been to hell and back and again, I can only agree with Tracey on his rare smiles.  They were used to brilliant effect by Mary Balogh and had a lot of impact when they appeared.

I liked the build up of the romance, that first passionate encounter was really well timed and the following ‘will they, won’t they’ added a lot of tension but wasn’t frustrating in the least.

This is definitely not a book filled with clever plot twists and turns and in all honesty, it would have ruined it, had it been.  It is simply pure passionate and wonderful romance at its best.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Mary Balogh
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

May 142012
 

Drake Parry, the Earl of Westwood has turned traitor and betrayed the Order and his fellow Inferno Club members. Emily Harper, a gamekeeper’s daughter who has loved him since childhood does not believe this and follows him to the wilds of Bavaria hoping to prove to them all, and herself, that he could never turn into what they said. On finding Drake it seems her worst fears have been realised, that this hard, deadly and furious man is not the one she remembered – is hope really lost?

Another great story from Gaelen Foley although I have to admit not my favourite. This is the second Inferno Club novel I have read but the fourth in the series. There are a lot of references to things that happened in previous books that have a big impact on this story, and with that in mind it would have been better to read this series from the beginning. I easily managed to pick up the threads of why Drake is where he is but I do think this may be why I did not enjoy it quite as much.

The plot very definitely overshadows the romance in this book although in all fairness there is no ‘do they or don’t they’ as it is clear they are in love from the beginning. While I do love my romance the plot was very gripping and I was on the edge of my seat throughout, it was very tense! It is clear there have been large chunks dealing with Drake and Emily in previous books and if I had read the previous ones I would be much more invested in the characters. Having said that, I love Drake which is probably a good thing as if I was even more invested it would have been even more intense and I would probably have been in tears!

My only criticism would be Emily – would a female, even a gamekeeper’s daughter really trek halfway across Europe alone and with little money in the 1800′s? That’s the power of love I guess, even if it does seem a bit far fetched!

Overall another great book definitely worth reading if you are a fan of Gaelen Foley or historical novels in general.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Gaelen Foley
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Apr 232012
 

A dying man’s plea on a battlefield in France and a solemn vow made in payment of a debt leads Colonel Lord Aiden Bedwyn to Ringwood manor and Miss Eve Morris. Realising the extent of her plight Lord Aiden offers her a marriage based on pure convenience intending to leave her alone to live her life. He reckoned without his brother the Duke of Bewcastle!

This is a story by an author I have never read before and I absolutely loved it. It seemed to have a much sounder historical basis than the usual regency romances I read (but in reality I do not know that much about the period!) and the behaviour of Aiden and Eve seemed much more what you would expect of individuals in this time period.

The descriptions within the book were rich and easy to picture without being over the top. There was not as much sex as in some other regency books – but there was some and what there was, was enough for the story!  While there was no major plot, action or adventure running alongside the relationship between the two protagonists,  the story had me completely captivated throughout. Don’t get me wrong, a lot happens and it was plenty to keep the story moving.

It was very much about introducing the Bedwyn family as well and I understand the other siblings (there are a few – yay lots of books) will be getting their own stories also. I look forward to finding out more about them and cannot wait to read more books by this author.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Mary Balogh
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Apr 042012
 

Christian Allerdyce, the Marquess of Dearne is the last remaining bachelor among the men of the Bastion Club. After the devastating betrayal he suffered 8 years ago he has no desire to take a wife even though he knows he soon must.

Lady Letitia Randall has no-one to turn to when her husband is murdered, her brother has disappeared making him the prime suspect and in desperation she calls upon the one person she thinks can help.  He also happens to be the one person who betrayed her when she needed him most.

I really enjoyed this book which had a solid interesting and believable plot alongside the romantic element. As you can probably tell from the brief words above there is a major misunderstanding between our two protagonists. I do find myself getting annoyed when a major misunderstanding drags on too long and starts to take over the story. Fortunately this does not last much past a hundred pages and, while other issues arise from it, I did not have to spend my time getting annoyed because of it!

The Bastion Club series is a different style of books from other ones by Stephanie Laurens, such as the Cynster series, in that the romance story always seems secondary to the action element. By action I do not mean pistols at dawn or fighting scenes,  more the fast paced ‘whodunnit’ element of the plot. There is of course plenty of sex and with Letitia not being an innocent virgin, these scenes move along quite rapidly and get very steamy *fans self a few times!*

I was surprised at the reaction of the ton to seeing Letitia frequently in the company of another man so soon after her husband’s demise and not really questioning it. I guess the same rules on scandal don’t apply to a widow in her late twenties as they do for a young innocent.

While the main characters in this book are Christian and Letitia we finally get to learn more titbits regarding my favourite character in this series – Dalziel. The epilogue is very tantalising and we get to find out his title.  I cannot wait to read the next book as finally the mystery surrounding who he is will become clear.

Overall, another great book by Stephanie Laurens, the more of hers I read the more I want to read. Fortunately she is a very prolific writer and I have lots more to go.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Stephanie Laurens
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)