Saturday, September 10, 2016

Review: No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Guhrke


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The final book in Laura Lee Guhrke's An American Heiress in London series features Denys, fun, theater-loving Viscount Somerton: heir to an earldom -- who, six years ago, used all of his money, and mortgaged his estate to fund a theater production that headlined his mistress, Lola Valentine. It was a gamble that failed miserably, both critically and financially -- and, to add salt to the wound, Lola eventually left him, after rejecting his offer of marriage. Denys has since picked up the pieces of his near-bankrupt life, and has regained the trust of his family. He's getting ready to court his childhood friend, Lady Georgiana -- and life seems to be going smoothly for him.

Until he receives news that his partner in the Imperial Theater has died, and has left his half of the theater to his former mistress. Old resentments, and old pain become new again as our former lovers try to redefine their business partnership. The power struggle is inevitable, but I felt Denys was really caught off guard by Lola's return to his life -- Lola plans to revive her theater career, and prove to the London theater community that she is an actress, and also plans to be an active partner in running the Imperial.

Lola's presence threatens to destroy the fragile trust that Denys and his father Earl Conyers have built up, and also threatens to destroy the budding relationship he has with Lady Georgiana. So much was at stake for Denys, and I didn't see what Lola had to lose -- she really could just pack up and leave any time she wanted: with or without her, the theater would continue to operate, and she would continue to receive her share of the profits -- that, and the money she inherited from Henry Latham, could allow her to live comfortably the rest of her days.

So why return to London? Why risk an established career and reputation in New York? Why risk a confrontation with a spurned former lover? There are a lot of unexamined motivations that drive Lola forward, and I kept waiting for her to realize them.

Denys, on the other hand, stood to lose everything he had worked for up to that point -- and, if I were him, I would have taken the option to sell their half of the theater (as he and his father discussed). but, there was still a part of him that really longed to be with Lola, and that's the reason he stays and works with her. Denys's motivation is simple: it's love -- it has always been love. During their first relationship, Denys was prepared to sacrifice everything and marry Lola, and it's still that fundamental desire that propels him to make the decision to trust Lola again.

There's a lot of tension in Denys and Lola's encounters -- so many truths unsaid, so many emotions kept hidden -- especially on Lola's part. She was worried that Denys would see her differently if he knew everything about her past, and, perhaps there was a part of Lola that doubted Denys's love, and she kept trying to test it. As I read further, I felt that Lola's doubts were unfounded -- yes, Denys was young when he first proposed to her, and, yes, Denys didn't know the full extent of her scandalous career before they met -- but Denys gave me the impression that he knew what he was doing, and he knew what he felt.

But, perhaps, Denys wasn't completely aware of the class difference between him and Lola, or that he chooses to ignore it. I understand that Lola worried about how her affiliation with Denys could affect his standing in society as Viscount Somerton. Lola knows she cannot be selfish, and separate Denys from everything that he has grown up with. She made the painful decision of walking away all those years ago -- it was a selfless, but painful sacrifice that hurt both of them.

I did love the idea of history repeating itself: Denys is in the same situation he was in all those years ago. They're getting a second chance at their relationship, and we wonder whether our hero and heroine have learned from the past, or will the outcome be the same?

Finally, I would like to see Lady Georgiana get her happy ending. While Denys explains that he made no overt statement about his intentions towards her, it was very obvious where their relationship was headed -- but it was all interrupted by Lola's reappearance. I really thought she and Denys had a very good relationship.

No Mistress of Mine is Book 4 in Laura Lee Guhrke's An American Heiress in London series. To find out more about Laura Lee Guhrke and her books, click below:
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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Book Review: Will's True Wish by Grace Burrowes


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One of this novel's wonderfully novel treats is a family named after trees -- Willow Dorning is our hero, the second of many Dornings, a titled, but impoverished family. Four of them are in London for the Season, with the sole purpose of finding Grey, the eldest, and the Earl of Casriel, a wife. Will is especially invested in this endeavor, because, having his older brother married would mean freeing him from the responsibilities of being the heir. I love how steady Will is. He provides great support to his brother, the Earl, who clearly depends on him. He's also able to reign in his siblings. Perhaps his calm comes from being a dog trainer, which he views more as a passion project than as a means to make money. Will really, really loves dogs.

Susannah Haddonfield is also in London, accompanying her sister Della, and hoping to get her married. Susannah is also invested in her family's endeavor, because, having Della finally married, would allow Susannah to retire quietly in the country and enjoy her life of spinsterhood. On the surface, things seem to be going well for Della (and Susannah): she's enjoying the attentions of a handsome gentleman, Viscount Effington, who seems to be getting ready to propose to her at the end of the season, but, as the Season progresses, speculations about Della's parentage start to circulate around the ballrooms, and Susannah wants to know who is the source of these damaging rumors.

Then, dogs start to go missing, leaving a trail of heartbroken, and desperate aristocratic owners wanting their beloved pets back -- and suspicion falls on Will and his brothers.

I love how Grace Burrowes presents separate, but connected problems to our hero and heroine: it shows that Susannah, on her own is capable, and Will, on his own, is similarly able -- and I have no doubt that they would have figured out the solutions on their own, but, when they lean in, and contribute their time and skills to help the other -- there's just a magnification of each other's strengths and weaknesses. It was really exciting to see them work together.

Then there is their shared problem: Susannah and Will love each other, but Will (literally) can't afford to get married yet -- he has an older brother to marry off, younger brothers to settle down, and his own finances to take care of. He's asked his brother in-law to invest what little he has earned from training dogs, and he's hoping to reap the benefits of his investments some time in the future -- but not yet. Susannah doesn't really care about the money, but she respects that Will has goals that he wants to accomplish, and she's there to help him.

I'm trying to think of how to describe Susannah and Will, and they're really not the most interesting members of their family -- or the most distinguished. The most unique thing about Susannah is her love for Shakespeare, and the thing that makes Will stand out from all his siblings is his love for dogs -- but these are loves that both our hero and heroine have pursued passionately and diligently. They're really the boring middle children, but, there's something so comforting and so apt that these two would find and fall in love with each other, and you know that they will pursue this relationship with the same passion and diligence.

Once again, Grace Burrowes presents tension and conflict that simmer just a little on the surface -- a lot of it occurs quietly in the shadows and the backrooms of London. The author presents all the clues: missing pets, bear baiting, a titled peer who secretly desperately needs money, etc. It seems easy to connect the dots, but Burrowes excels in surprising you when you least expect it.

All in all, this was another satisfying offering from this beloved author.

Will's True Wish is Book 3 in Grace Burrowes's True Gentlemen series. To find out more about Grace Burrowes and her books, click below:
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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Book Review: Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas


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Helen Ravenel isn't the first frail, but strong beauty that Lisa Kleypas has written about: there's Evie from The Devil in Winter, there's Win from Seduce Me at Sunrise, there's Tasia from Midnight Angel -- and Kleypas always pairs them with very strong, very capable men. It's a great pairing that always produces very interesting chemistry, as the couples explore the dichotomy between strong/fragile, virile/ultra-feminine, dark/luminous -- but Kleypas never does a disservice to her heroines by suggesting that they are less than their male counterparts -- she always shows that, hidden beneath that delicacy and innocence are cores of steel that do not bend or break when tested.

Rhys is Welsh and a businessman, which makes him an outsider of Helen's world, and Rhys has always felt that he needed to prove himself to society. Despite his wealth and success, Rhys feels he still doesn't have what he needs to validate himself: society's acceptance and approval. In the early chapters of the book, Rhys remembers how he thought Helen was repulsed by his size, his lack of upbringing, etc, and he resented her for it.

Despite my excitement (and love) for Cold-Hearted Rake, it took me a while to finally buy and then read Marrying Winterborne, the second book in the Ravenel series. Here's why -- I wasn't certain there was a story left to tell here: Rhys and Helen are attracted to each other, and got engaged very quickly in the first book -- yes, there was that kiss and the grand misunderstanding that ensued, leaving Rhys to believe that Helen had broken off their engagement, and for Helen to wonder what she did wrong. This picks up a few weeks after the first book, and Helen and Rhys are trying to negotiate the new terms of their newly-restarted engagement. I wondered what sort of tension and obstacle Kleypas would come up with to test our couple's love and resolve --

I didn't like the bargain Rhys and Helen struck -- exchanging sex for the engagement, and there were times I felt that our couple only "communicated" when they were physically intimate. Outside of the bedroom, their conversation didn't seem to progress beyond Rhys's hatred for Albion Vance (the villain in this story) and also how he feels he isn't gentle enough with Helen. In return, Helen's only role seems to be to placate and assure him that he takes very good care of her. I understand that Helen wanted to delay the wedding, so that she could observe the mourning period for her brother, but, they way they behaved in society (traveling from Eversby Priory to Ravenel House in London, and then back) and then going out to Winterborne's didn't seem characteristic of people in mourning. Yes, it added to the tension of "will they or won't they (get married)" -- but it felt more like a convenient excuse rather than a sincere desire to me.

The obstacle Kleypas placed in the path of our hero and heroine is Albion Vance -- I'm trying to recall if this enmity is something that was established in the previous story, but I could see why Helen was hesitant to talk to Rhys about Albion Vance. A lot of the conflict is really internal: Helen carried the burden and guilt of her secret, which she knew, could potentially destroy her relationship with Rhys.

What I did like is how Helen gradually becomes more and more assertive as she spends more time with Rhys. I love how she ventured out on her own, with the help of Dr. Garret Gibson -- and how, eventually, she realizes that she is her own person, and that she doesn't need her family or Rhys to define who she is. Her one great act of courage came at the end when she had to make a difficult decision between pursuing her own happiness, or to continue as she is -- and be content in making others happy.

The standout characters here are Dr. Gibson and Mrs. Fernby -- both employed at Winterborne's. Mrs. Fernby is the unblinking, and terribly loyal secretary, who handles all of Rhy's affairs. It's amazing she handles everything so capably, and that she doesn't cower to Rhys -- she voices out something that I kept thinking about: that Rhys ought to do the decent thing and protect Helen's reputation. Dr. Gibson is a revelation -- literally and figuratively -- I look forward to reading more about the new doctor Rhys has hired in future books. (There seem to be some sparks between her and Tom Severin.) ^_^

Marrying Winterborne is the second book in the Ravenel Family series. To find out more about Lisa Kleypas and her books, click below:
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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Happy Release Day! To Kiss a Thief by Susanna Craig (ARC Review, debut author)


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To begin, I read this book in one night -- with all the things that are happening in my life, that's a big deal for me, because it usually takes me a week to finish one book.

Sarah Pevensey's father arranged a marriage for her with St. John Sutcliffe, Viscount Fairfax, and heir to the Marquess of Estley -- after two weeks of married life, Sarah still isn't convinced that she and St. John are a good fit. She worries about her future with St. John's coldness and indifference, but her marital problems are small compared to the problems that face her when she was found in a compromising position with another man during the ball to celebrate their marriage, and then being accused of stealing the Sutcliffe Family sapphires.

Believing her family had turned their backs on her, and believing her new mother-in-law, Sarah agrees to Lady Estley's plan to disappear from St. John's life.

It's three years later, and Sarah, as the Widow Fairfax has lived a quiet and comfortable life in the small village of Haverhythe -- she doesn't know that her husband fought a duel for her, and believing he had killed Captain Brice, the man who was with Sarah that fateful evening, quickly left the country and set off for the West Indies.

But St. John is back, and, when he discovers that his wife had not died (as his family had told him), sets out to find her -- intending to conclude the unfinished business between them. He wants to discover what happened to her that night, and what happened to his family's sapphires.

It's a strange reunion for our estranged couple who never wanted to be married to each other, but I have to admire St. John's determination to honor his marriage vows, even when Sarah offers him a way out. It's one of the many questions that the author addresses in her story: how do you convince two married people in an arranged marriage that there is a happily-ever-after for them? Would Sarah's perceived indiscretion matter? Would the missing sapphire necklace matter? Should they?

Their first foray into their marriage didn't start off well, but Sarah and St. John have an opportunity to try again -- but, can they build a new relationship on a foundation of unanswered questions? It doesn't help that Sarah never gives St. John a direct answer, but, instead, constantly challenges his faith in her by letting him arrive to his own conclusions based on what he observes of her.

This is a novel that has a lot of twists and surprises, but none of them are unexpected -- the author does a wonderful job of leaving enough hints and clues, so that we, too, can come to a our own conclusion about who is/are responsible for the tangle that Sarah and St. John find themselves in.

It's truly a compelling read from beginning to end.

To Kiss a Thief is Book 1 in Susanna Craig's Runaway Desires series and her debut novel. To find out more about Susanna Craig and her books, click below:
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Disclosure: I received this ARC via Netgalley. Thank you to Susanna Craig and Lyrical Press for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.














Sunday, August 14, 2016

99-cent historical romances

Hi, all!

Here's this week's featured 99-cent historical romance novels found on Amazon --


Major Lord David by Sherry Lynn Ferguson
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

185 pages, 36 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.2 stars)

Decades of war with France are over and Napoleon Bonaparte is safely confined on Elba. Yet Major Lord David Trent finds his homecoming far from peaceful. His father, the Duke of Braughton, is determined to see his son wed, and he has a very specific bride in mind his neighbor's daughter. David cannot recall that the neighbor even has a daughter, much less one he might find appealing! And after years spent fighting on the Peninsula, he is in no mood to be ordered to court anyone. Wilhelmina Caswell has always been in love with Lord David, as her family is well aware. Her preference, and the designs of both their fathers, would seem to make the match inevitable. But as the spring of 1815 advances along with an emboldened Bonaparte, a looming battle threatens thousands of lives and one growing love at Waterloo.



To Lure a Proper Lady by Ashlyn MacNamara (Duke-Defying Daughters Book 1)
$0.99 on Amazon
About the book:

257 pages, 56 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.2 stars)

When Lady Elizabeth Wilde and her sisters are summoned once again to their chronically anxious father’s deathbed, she’s shocked to find that his worries are at last justified. He’s terribly ill, and Lizzie suspects poison. But when she seeks help from the Bow Street Runners, her request is answered by a rough-hewn rogue known only as Dysart. Though his irreverent charm by turns shocks and captivates her, a man of Dysart’s background is an altogether inappropriate choice for a duke’s daughter -- isn’t he?

Although Dysart has his reasons to disdain polite society, the promise of supplemental income from a noble’s coffers is too tempting to deny. But if Dysart means to apprehend the culprit who poisoned the duke, he’ll need to avoid any and all distractions -- like the delicious swish of Lady Elizabeth’s hips. Yet as the investigation begins to unearth secrets he’d rather remain hidden, Dysart must decide at a moment’s notice whether to hold Elizabeth at arm’s length ... or pull her dangerously close.



A Lady's Guide to Kiss a Rake by Tanya Wilde (Misadventures of the Heart)
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

219 pages, 36 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.4 stars)

SHE IS PLAYING A DANGEROUS GAME ...

When Lady Josephine accepts a wager to lure a kiss from the most scandalous and depraved rake in England, she thought it an easy enough task. But one glimpse at the man in question and she foresees her reputation going up in glorious flames. It will not stop her from winning the wager, however, not even the vexing Marquis of St. Aldwyn, who is determined to stay firmly planted in her path to victory.

HE IS NOT PLAYING ANY MORE GAMES ...

The Fifth Marquis of St. Aldwyn, Damien Grenville, has come to the conclusion that he has lost his mind. Why else would he be drawn to the reckless Lady Josephine? And when he begins to realize she is up to no good, will he do everything in his power to ensure her reputation remains intact or will he decide to seduce her himself? But danger lurks in the shadows and when Lady Josephine is taken, Damien will stop at nothing to get her back.



How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Kate McKinley (What Happens in Scotland Book 1)
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

121 pages, 54 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.1 stars)

Lucas Alexander, the ninth Duke of Arlington, is a man who gets what he wants. So when he sees the alluring Miss Pippa Welby from across a crowded ballroom, he vows to make her his. But the bold and spirited Pippa has sworn never to marry into the haute ton. Now Lucas must win her the only way he knows how -- one wicked kiss at a time.

The daughter of a wealthy tradesman, Pippa has been sneered at by the upper echelons her entire life. So when the duke arrives on her doorstep with an invitation to her own engagement ball -- to him -- in ten days, Pippa hatches a daring plan. She must lose the duke before the ball, or risk losing her own heart.



Captured by a Laird by Margaret Mallory (The Douglas Legacy Book 1)
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

280 pages, 119 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.5 stars)

THE DOUGLAS LEGACY
The Douglas sisters, beauties all, are valuable pawns in their family’s bitter struggle to control the Scottish Crown. But when powerful enemies threaten, each Douglas lass will find she must face them alone.


CAPTURED BY A LAIRD
Haunted by his father’s violent death, David Hume, the new laird of Wedderburn, sets out to make his name so feared that no one will dare harm his family again. The treacherous ally who played on his father’s weakness is dead and beyond David's vengeance, but his castle and young widow are ripe for the taking. The moment David lays eyes on the dark-haired beauty defending her wee daughters, however, he knows this frail-looking lass is the one person who could bring him to his knees.

Wed at thirteen to a man who tried daily to break her spirit, Lady Alison Douglas is looking forward to a long widowhood. But when the fearsome warrior known as the Beast of Wedderburn storms her gates, she finds herself, once again, forced to wed a stranger. Alison is only a pawn to serve his vengeance, so why does this dark warrior arouse such fiery passion and an unwelcome longing in her heart?

With death and danger looming, these two wounded souls must learn to trust each other ... for only love can save them.

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