Thursday, May 5, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Historical Romance Edition (Featuring: Led Astray by a Rake by Sara Bennett)


Thank you to Shabby Blogs (http://shabbyblogs.com/) for the free frame!

Happy Throwback Thursday, everyone!

What is Throwback Thursday?
Traditionally, Throwback Thursday celebrates nostalgia, asking participants to post a personal photo or an image from their past -- usually from 5 to 10 years ago. There are a lot of book blogs that also do a book-related Throwback Thursday.



Blurb:
The hunt is on for the perfect husband ...

Beneath Livy Monteith's icy blonde exterior beats a passionate heart, a heart that will not abide by society's rules. No, Livy will simply not marry the proper young man her parents have chosen for her husband. She'd rather die! But even her friends at Miss Debenham's Finishing School are shocked by the man she desires. Lord Dominic Lacey, the man they call Wicked Nic, is quite handsome, even more notorious, and every bit a scoundrel.

Nic thinks he knows all about Livy. She's a proper young lady from an upstanding family, the kind of woman any respectable man would be thrilled to take as his bride -- but Nic is not a respectable man. For Livy, even being seen with him would lead to certain scandal. So why is the ravishing innocent doing everything in her power to seduce him? Bedding her would be a delight. But a sinful night with a man like Nic would lead a girl very far astray indeed ...

To find out more about Sara Bennett and her books, click below:


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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

ARC Review: Much Ado About Highlanders by May McGoldrick (Release date: May 3, 2016)


Click here to buy the book on Amazon (Release date: May 3, 2016)

After I finished reading this book, I went online and started looking for more romances based in Scotland/the Highlands -- I realized that I really, really enjoy reading them, and it's a welcome break from all the Regencies that I read. The pace is different, and the themes and problems that the characters face focus more on the safety and well-being of the clan, and the protection of the Highlands.

Much Ado About Highlanders is the first book in May McGoldrick's Scottish Relic Trilogy. The relic in question are four pieces of a stone tablet, which gives its owners special powers. Kenna MacKay was given one of the stones by her late mother, but she isn't aware of its full power. She has lived at the priory for the past six months, and has returned home to attend her cousin's betrothal. Kenna is also a gifted healer, something her mother also passed down to her.

Kenna is feisty and brave, and possesses a very sharp tongue and a cynical view towards marriage. Her cousin, Emily MacDougall, is about to marry a Lowlander in order to help their clan defend against the English, who are slowly encroaching on to Scottish lands. Kenna isn't very subtle in how she tries to persuade her cousin to refuse the arrangement -- and I wondered how someone so young could be so bitter about marriage.

Then we discover that Kenna is actually married, but it wasn't consummated, because Kenna ran away from her husband on the night of their wedding. I thought it was clever how May McGoldrick reveals this very surprising aspect of Kenna's life right when she was inadvertently kidnapped by her own husband --

Alexander and James MacPherson are on a mission to recover one of their ships, which was taken by Emily's father, and is now part of her dowry. The plan is to exchange Emily for the ship, but the plan goes a bit awry when they kidnap Kenna along with Emily. Alexander hasn't seen his wife in six months. They parted badly, with Kenna finding him drunk and in the bed of another woman. Yes, it was a prank orchestrated by his brother, Colin, and yes, he should have tried to explain it to Kenna -- but, Alexander's pride was bruised when his wife couldn't even give him the benefit of the doubt. But now they have a chance to clear the air and smooth things out -- if only the world would cooperate.

While Alexander and Kenna have a personal conflict to sort out, a bigger threat is looming: a man obsessed with the stones has been wreaking havoc through Scotland, and killing everyone in his way -- and now he is after Kenna's stone.

There is also a subplot that involves Kenna's cousin, Emily, and Alexander's brother, James -- I see why McGoldrick chose the title because the stories of these four characters somehow mirror Shakespeare's Hero, Claudio, Benedict, and Beatrice -- and they experience the same romantic travails as Shakespeare's characters.

A lot of the problems between the two couples center on a misunderstanding and plans not going as they should -- and this is something readers will either enjoy or dislike. I was a bit wary that, when Emily discovers the scheme concocted by some "interested parties" in order to get Kenna and Alexander together, she copies it in order to spend more time with James -- but I appreciate the author's intention. It's the same scheme, but the reactions are different, and the paths to resolution are different.

Kenna's healing ability lends a supernatural feel to the story, but McGoldrick is very good to keep this from becoming too much about mystic and magic: she credits Kenna's mother for giving her daughter the skills for healing, and the stone is just an extra boost, especially for desperate times. There are still two more stones out there, and each one has a different owner and power, so I'm very interested to see how this trilogy will end.

Much Ado About Highlanders is released today, May 3, 2016. To find out more about May McGoldrick and her books, click below:
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Disclosure: I received this ARC via Netgalley. Thank you to May McGoldrick and St. Martin's Press for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.






Monday, May 2, 2016

Book Review: The Rogue You Know by Shana Galen


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Click here to buy the paperback at The Book Depository

Lady Susanna Derring is suffocating under her mother's hovering, and she longs to break free of the strictures of society. Because of her brother's scandalous marriage, Susanna is now being pressured to marry and marry well in order to restore her family's reputation in society -- but, invitations have been scarce, and Susanna's mother is more and more desperate for Susanna to find a good match: to the point of micro-managing her daughter's life.

Gideon Harrow is tired of the life he leads and wants out, but the price of his release from London's underworld is a necklace, which Gideon successfully steals -- only to lose control of it to Susanna. Gideon needs Susanna to return the necklace, and Susanna needs Gideon to help her see more of the world.

An agreement is struck, and the two embark on an adventure to Vauxhall Gardens, which sounds safe and fashionable enough -- except that it happens in the middle of the night, and with neither our hero or heroine possessing funds or resources to get them to their destination.

Fellow readers who follow Shana Galen on Facebook know that she has a soft spot for Disney's Tangled, and she has finally adapted themes from the movie to a historical romance novel. Like the movie, Susanne and Gideon encounter danger and hijinks -- and conquer every obstacle with a mix of head, heart and a lot of laughter -- it helps as well that Gideon has the gift of a silver tongue, and Susanna is charming in her naivete.

I love the idea of the heroine venturing outside of her safe and comfortable world to discover the world beyond -- I think there is always a disparity between the dream and reality, and it's always interesting to see how characters come to terms with the wide gap. But, in Susanna's case, while she does experience the difference, I thought it was nice that she was still able to walk away from the adventure with her idealism and optimism intact.

Which are two things that Gideon lacks in his life: Gideon is the epitome of what truly happens in the outside world -- where he's had to fight for every scrap and space, and where safety and stability are luxuries he cannot afford. Our hero is tired of being constantly watchful, and he wants to experience a different kind of life.

But how do you connect these two very unlikely paths? How does a thief end up loving and marrying the sister of an earl? It's difficult, but not impossible -- but, where Marlowe gets a Cinderella moment (where she discovers she is the daughter of a marquess), there's, sadly, no such magic for Gideon -- it raises a challenge for our heroine, whose family is already tainted by her older brother's marriage to Marlowe, a former thief. Would she sacrifice her family for the sake of her personal happiness?

What I thought was missing from this novel is deeper characterization: the author does a good job of presenting Susanna's motivations for "escaping" at the start of the novel, but her personality is limited to that moment. Yes, she's determined to see Vauxhall Gardens, and, yes, she doesn't really have a sense of what truly happens outside of her home and the ballroom -- but, that's about it. The same is true for Gideon -- in truth, I thought he was more interesting and more nuanced in Marlowe's story than his own.

I also didn't like the scene in the tavern (read: Chapter 4), which felt too similar to a scene in Tangled. Granted it's an important scene in the movie and in this book, because it show's that Susanna is a force of goodness, and she's able to draw people in because of her freshness -- I just wished the author found another way to do it.

Shana Galen's dialogue is amazing, though -- and she captures, perfectly, the difference between how Gideon's mind works and how Susanna thinks -- the banter is witty and funny, and also very sweet.

"How much farther to your conveyance?" she asked.

"What?"

Her head jerked up. No way could she see anything in the dark, but she had her left foot raised for inspection. "Hasn't anyone ever told you it is rude to answer what? The correct phrase is either pardon or excuse me."

...

"Listen, Strawberry." He bent close to her pretty face and those large brown eyes. "I don't give a damn about your rules. I'm in this for the goddamn necklace, not your lessons on ... deportment."

Her body flinched in surprise. He had a few surprises left.

"Your language is deplorable. I must assume since you know words like deportment, you use profanities intentionally."

"Assume whatever the hell you want."

She made a sound of complete and utter disgust. He knew the feeling. "Take me to the conveyance. I want this night over forthwith."

God save him.

"I don't forthwith have a conveyance."

"What?"

He smirked. "You mean pardon?"
- page 57 - 58

The Rogue You Know is Book 2 in Shana Galen's Covent Garden Cubs series. To find out more about Shana Galen and her books, click below:

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Free and Discounted Historical Romance Novels


The Netherfield Affair by Penelope Swan (Dark Darcy Mysteries Book 1)
FREE on Amazon

About the book:
192 pages, 38 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.4 stars)

A Regency mystery for Jane Austen fans! A re-telling of Pride and Prejudice ... re-imagined with mystery and intrigue along the way!

When Elizabeth Bennet goes to stay at Netherfield Park to keep her sick sister company, she is surprised by eerie noises in the night and ghostly faces at the attic windows. Could the rumours about the country manor being haunted be true? Then a midnight encounter with a tall, dark stranger thrusts Elizabeth straight into the path of scandal and danger. As she races to unravel the mystery, she finds unexpected assistance from the handsome but arrogant Mr Darcy. Is such a proud, reserved man to be trusted?

A romantic Regency mystery inspired by Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice! This is the first book in the Dark Darcy Mysteries -- a Pride and Prejudice variation combining mystery and romance. * Each book in this series features a standalone mystery which is resolved, but the overall story of Darcy and Elizabeth's courtship is told over the 4 books of the series.

The Netherfield Affair (Book 1)
Intrigue at the Ball (Book 2)
The Poisoned Proposal (Book 3)
Secrets at Pemberley (Book 4)



Gentlemen Always Play Fair Over 1400 pages of historical romance. (Gentlemen, Rogues and Lords)
$0.99 on Amazon

About the boxed set:

31 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.4 stars)

A five book collection of Scottish and English medieval, regency, and victorian historical romances by best-selling authors

MY LORD WICKED by Cheryl Bolen
What woman would dare make her home at eerie Marshbanks Abbey, perched on a stony hill in remote Northumbria? It is said its owner, the brilliant botanist, Lord Stacks, killed his beautiful bride there ten years earlier.

Unaware of the tales of Lord Stacks' wickedness, Freddie Lambeth comes to live with her guardian, and through his caring blossoms from a plain, shabbily dressed girl to a lovely young woman. Freddie and Lord Stacks come to need each other as his flowers need sunshine, but Stacks cannot allow himself to love her. His own wickedness has destroyed any chance for happiness.

HIGHLANDER IN HER BED by Allie Mackay
Tour guide Mara MacDougall stops at a London antique shop -- and spots perhaps the handsomest bed ever. Then she bumps into the handsomest man ever. Soon Mara can't forget the irresistible -- if haughty --Highlander. Not even when she learns that she's inherited a Scottish castle.

Spectral Sir Alexander Douglas has hated the Clan MacDougall since he was a medieval knight and they tricked him into a curse -- the curse of forever haunting the bed (the very one that Mara now owns) that was once intended for his would-be bride. But Mara makes him feel what no other MacDougall has -- a passion that he never knew he'd missed.

MY HIGHLAND LORD by Tarah Scott
London Heiress kidnapped by the Marquess of Ashlund, read the headlines. Yet no one tried to save her.

British spy Phoebe Wallington searches for answers to exonerate her father of treason. Her quest veers off course when she's kidnapped by suspected traitor Kiernan MacGregor, the Marquess of Ashlund. But someone wants him dead…and Phoebe stands in the killer's way. The only way to save her reputation and protect Kiernan is to marry him.

MY LADY THE SPY by Barbara Devlin
Can the mind forget what the eyes have seen?

L’araignee, The Spider, is England’s most notorious spy -- and Lady Rebecca Wentworth’s alter ego. After her partner in espionage is killed in the line of duty, Rebecca returns to London, only to discover a traitor has compromised the war effort from the highest levels of the vaunted Counterintelligence Corps. To lure the villain into the open, Rebecca embarks on a new mission, acting as prey for a dangerous enemy. But it is the handsome former Navy captain tasked with her safety that presents the greatest threat, when she falls in love.

THE WICKED LADY by Brenda Jernigan
The Thief
When Trevor Claremont was blind-sided by a pickpocket on the docks beside his clipper ship, he tracked down the culprit -- only to face a feisty, emerald-eyed beauty who stirred his hungriest desires. Seeing a solution to his pressing problem of finding a bride to please his dying grandmother, he offered her a deal: marriage to him ... or prison, never imaging that this little cut-purse would also steal his heart.

The Sea Captain
Kristen Johnstone realized she’d been outfoxed by this handsome Englishman and reluctantly agreed to a marriage in name only. Soon, she traded rags for resplendent gowns, black alleys for drawing rooms, and fury for fiery passion in the arms of her new husband. But when the scandalous secrets of her past came to light, she would risk everything, including her heart to save a love more precious than gold.



Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran (Rules for the Reckless Book 2)
$1.99 on Amazon

About the book:

385 pages, 133 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.4 stars)

A LADY WITH A SECRET

Running for her life, exhausted and out of options, Olivia Holladay wants nothing more than the chance to make a home for herself. So when she realizes that the infamous Duke of Marwick might hold the key to her freedom, she boldly disguises herself as the newest and bravest in a long line of the duke’s notoriously temperamental housekeepers. Little does she know that the wickedly handsome Alastair de Grey has very different plans for her.

A MAN WITH A PASSION -- FOR VENGEANCE

As his new employee, Olivia is a fearless upstart. As a woman, the daring redhead is just what Alastair needs to rouse him from darkness to the siren call of revenge. He has suffered a betrayal so deep that he will use whatever means necessary to destroy his enemies —- even his brazen and beautiful domestic. But his vengeful plan fails to account for his single weakness: an irresistible and growing passion for the enigmatic Olivia.



One Tempting Proposal by Christy Carlyle (Accidental Heirs Book 2)
$1.99 on Amazon

About the book:

432 pages, 25 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.0 stars)

Becoming engaged? Simple. Resisting temptation? Impossible.

Sebastian Fennick, the newest Duke of Wrexford, prefers the straightforwardness of mathematics to romantic nonsense. When he meets Lady Katherine Adderly at the first ball of the season, he finds her as alluring as she is disagreeable. His title may now require him to marry, but Sebastian can’t think of anyone less fit to be his wife, even if he can’t get her out of his mind.

After five seasons of snubbing suitors and making small talk, Lady Kitty has seen all the ton has to offer…and she’s not impressed. But when Kitty’s overbearing father demands she must marry before her beloved younger sister can, she proposes a plan to the handsome duke. Kitty’s schemes always seem to backfire, but she knows this one can’t go wrong. After all, she’s not the least bit tempted by Sebastian, is she?



Her Every Wish by Courtney Milan (Worth Saga Book 1.5)
$2.99 on Amazon
About the novella:

134 pages, 27 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.1 stars)

Crash has never let the circumstances of his birth, or his lack of a last name, bother him. His associations may be unsavory, but money, friends, and infamy open far more interesting doors than respect ever could. His sole regret? Once lovely, sweet Daisy Whitlaw learned the truth about how he made his fortune, she cut him off.

Daisy’s father is dead, her mother is in ill health, and her available funds have dwindled to a memory. When the local parish announces a charity bequest to help young people start a trade, it’s her last chance. So what if the grants are intended for men? If she’s good enough, she might bluff her way into a future.

When Crash offers to show her how to swagger with confidence, she knows he is up to no good. But with her life in the balance, she’s desperate enough to risk the one thing she hasn’t yet lost: her heart.

Her Every Wish is a companion novella in the Worth Saga. It stands on its own, but those who wish to read in order might want to read the first book in the series, Once Upon a Marquess, before this one.



Tangled Reins by Stephanie Laurens
$2.99 on Amazon

About the book:

296 pages, 25 reviews (Average customer rating: 3.8 stars)

Miss Dorothea Darent has no intention of ever getting married, certainly not to a rogue such as the Marquis of Hazelmere. A disreputable scoundrel, he is captivated when they meet by chance and is determined to win her heart, even while she's busy dazzling the rest of London society. Now Dorothea has a choice to make: stick with her plan to remain a respectable spinster, or run into the arms of her dashing stranger ...

Read the very first novel by #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens.

A regency historical romance set in London, England. Previously published.
Friday, April 29, 2016

Book Review: Gabriel by Grace Burrowes


Click here to buy the book on Amazon
Click here to buy the paperback at The Book Depository

One of the things that I notice when I read a Grace Burrowes novel is her use of words -- where one usually finds the word "move over", she uses, instead the word "budge up" -- and there's a lot of budging up happening in both Beckman and Gabriel's novels, as our heroes cuddle up with their heroines. It's idiosyncratic, yes, but it also is the perfect word to encapsulate the moment and capture the intimacy that exists between her characters. And Grace Burrowes is very eloquent in how her characters express themselves.

We already know that Gabriel is more than just a steward, and he has finally decided to resurface and claim his rightful place in society. Gabriel North is actually Gabriel Wendover, Marquess of Hesketh, who went to France to rescue his younger brother, Aaron, only to be ambushed and injured. Gabriel believes someone wants him dead, so he decided to disappear for a while to recover from his wounds, and also to observe his brother from a distance, because he believes it was his brother who orchestrated the ambush in France.

Gabriel's story is connected to Beckman's story, because a lot of Gabriel's backstory unfolded in the latter's book. And they are involved with the Hunt sisters, whose lives are fraught with secrets, a lot of them center on Allie Hunt, the young daughter of Sara.

One of the most difficult things that Gabriel has to do is to say goodbye to Polly Hunt, the cook at Three Springs, whom he has developed an attachment to. Polly is understandably heartbroken, but, with her sister's new relationship with Beckman Haddonfield, and with Gabriel leaving, she sees it as a sign that it might be time for her to move on. So Polly accompanies Tremaine St. Michael and tries to restart her painting career, with Tremaine now managing her commissions.

It's a lot of goodbyes and a lot of hellos, and a lot of confusion as Gabriel rises from the dead: for one, it throws a monkey wrench into Aaron's marriage to Gabriel's former fiancee, Marjorie. The marriage contracts state that Marjorie is engaged to the Marquess of Hesketh, and, at the time of Gabriel's disappearance, it was his younger brother who held the title, but now that Gabriel is back, Marjorie's mother is determined that her daughter remains married to the Marquess, whoever it may be.

Of all the surprises, the most surprising of all is Gabriel finding Polly Hunt napping in a chair in his house. It's been two months since he left Three Springs, and he hasn't heard from Polly -- and now he finds her in his house, hired by his brother to paint portraits of the family. There is a tug of war within Gabriel who wants Polly to stay, but also needs her to leave, for the sake of her own safety -- as long as he hasn't uncovered who was responsible for the ambush that has left him permanently scarred and in pain, he knows that none of his loved ones are safe.

I have to admit to being baffled by the mystery and by its resolution: Burrowes presents it as very dire, and builds it up really well by leaving hints as to who did it and for what reasons. We already know it isn't Gabriel's brother, who clearly loves him and was devastated by his "death" -- and all signs point to another person, but -- when everything is revealed in the end, I just felt let down. And the excuse provided didn't help either.

But, the whole middle part was very good: I wish Burrowes just focused on the confusion regarding the title and Aaron and Marjorie's marriage, and delved into untangling this legal knot. Gabriel's brother was put in a very difficult position: he doesn't want to retain the title, but he very much wants to retain the wife that goes with the title. It doesn't help that Gabriel is a bit ambivalent about getting the title back, and definitely averse to getting the wife that goes with the title, because Gabriel wants Polly Hunt -- and being Marquess would be another reason Polly would use against him: no one would accept a Marquess marrying the cook. Not that Gabriel cares -- after two years of working as a steward, Gabriel has learned to see a person's value not from their titles or clothes, but from the work they do.

The title is just one reason why Polly refused Gabriel's proposal. Polly has another, more potentially damaging reason for not accepting Gabriel -- and it has to do with Sara and Allie. I thought Grace Burrowes did a good job of showing the very complicated relationship that families have: to have that kind of love, and then to have that same degree of resentment inside -- a lot of the dynamic between the three Hunt ladies as explored in Sara's story, and it all culminates in Polly's story, with a very heartbreaking confrontation and confession.

Aaron and Marjorie have not consummated their marriage, because Aaron always believed that his brother would come back. Their marriage began under duress, and Aaron initially married Marjorie out of duty -- but, after two years together, despite the outward indifference, Aaron discovers that he is reluctant to give up his wife. What ensues, however, is a very confusing, protracted conversation between Aaron and Marjorie, because neither one wants to admit (openly) how much they really care for one another. It got a bit frustrating that they never progressed past needing an heir, in case Gabriel never marries, etc. etc.

Overall, I enjoyed Gabriel's story and saw at as an essential follow-up read to Beckman's story, but it isn't without flaws.

Gabriel is Book 5 in Grace Burrowes's The Lonely Lords series. To find out more about Grace Burrowes and her lovely books, click below:

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