Sunday, October 23, 2016

99-cent and $1.99 Historical Romance Novels

Only For His Lady by Christy Caldwell
$0.99 on Amazon

About the novella:

114 pages, 29 reviews (Avevage customer rating: 4.9 stars)

***Please note, "Only For His Lady" was previously featured in the "With Dreams Only of You" collection. It now features a prologue and epilogue! It is an approximately 30,000 word novella.

A curse. A sword. And the thief who stole her heart.

The Rayne family is trapped in a rut of bad luck. And now, it's up to Lady Theodosia Rayne to steal back the Theodosia sword, a gladius that was pilfered by the rival, loathed Renshaw family. Hopefully, recovering the stolen sword will break the cycle and reverse her family's fate.

Damian Renshaw, the Duke of Devlin, is feared by all--all, that is, except Lady Theodosia, the brazen spitfire who enters his home and wrestles an ancient relic from his wall. Intrigued by the vivacious woman, Devlin has no intentions of relinquishing the sword to her.

As Theodosia and Damian battle for ownership, passion ignites. Now, they are torn between their age-old feud and the fire that burns between them. Can two forbidden lovers find a way to make amends before their families' war tears them apart?

Three Weeks to Wed by Ella Quinn
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

320 pages, 81 reviews (Average customer rating: 3.9 stars)

In the first book of her dazzling new series, bestselling author Ella Quinn introduces the soon-to-be Earl and Countess of Worthington -- lovers who have more in common than they yet know. The future promises to be far from boring ...

Lady Grace Carpenter is ready to seize the day -- or rather, the night -- with the most compelling man she's ever known. Marriage would mean losing guardianship of her beloved siblings, and surely no sane gentleman will take on seven children not his own. But if she can have one anonymous tryst with Mattheus, Earl of Worthington, Grace will be content to live out the rest of her life as a spinster.

Matt had almost given up hope of finding a wife who could engage his mind as well as his body. And now this sensual, intelligent woman is offering herself to him. What could be more perfect? Except that after one wanton night, the mysterious Grace refuses to have anything to do with him. Amid the distractions of the Season he must convince her, one delicious encounter at a time, that no obstacle -- or family -- is too much for a man who's discovered his heart's desire ...

Luck is No Lady by Amy Sandas
$0.99 on Amazon
About the book:

417 pages, 43 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.6 stars)

He's the dangerously charming owner of a gambling hell.
She's the brilliant daughter of a gentleman drowning in debt.
Forced to use her talent for mathematics to save her family, Emma finds herself drawn from London's glittering ballrooms deep into its gritty underworld ... and discovers there the pleasure of falling from grace.

Emma Chadwick always assumed she'd live and die the daughter of a gentleman. But when her father's death reveals a world of staggering debt and dangerous moneylenders, she must risk her good name and put her talent for mathematics to use, taking a position as bookkeeper at London's most notorious gambling hell. Surrounded by vice and corruption on all sides, it is imperative the ton never discovers Emma's shameful secret or her reputation -- and her life -- will be ruined.

But Roderick Bentley, the hell's sinfully wealthy owner, awakens a hunger Emma cannot deny. Drawn deep into an underworld of high stakes gambling and reckless overindulgence, she soon discovers that to win the love of a ruthless scoundrel, she will have to play the game ... and give in to the pleasure of falling from grace.

"You should not have kissed me," she replied breathlessly.
"I do a lot of things I shouldn't. It does not mean I won't do them again."

An English Bride in Scotland by Lynsay Sands
$1.99 on Amazon

About the book:

389 pages, 242 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.3 stars)

Annabel had planned to become a nun. But when her mother arrives at the Abbey to bring her home to marry a Scottish laird -- her runaway sister’s intended husband -- her life takes a decidedly different turn.

And though Annabel isn’t the wife he’d planned for, strong, sexy Ross McKay is taken with his shy, sweet bride.

Annabel knows nothing about being a wife, running a castle—or the marriage bed. But her handsome new husband makes her want to learn. When Annabel’s life is threatened, Ross vows to move the highlands itself to save her and preserve the passion that’s only beginning to bloom.

The Bride by Julie Garwood
$1.99 on Amazon

About the book:

388 pages, 816 reviews (Average customer rating: )

By edict of the king, the mighty Scottish laird Alec Kincaid must take an English bride. His choice is Jamie, youngest daughter of Baron Jamison -- a feisty, violet-eyed beauty. Alec aches to touch her, to tame her, to possess her ... forever. But Jamie has vowed never to surrender to a man she considers a highland barbarian.

Alec is everything Jamie’s heart has warned her against—an arrogant scoundrel whose rough good looks speak of savage pleasures. While Kincaid’s scorching kisses set fire to her blood, she is determined to resist him ... until one rapturous moment quells their clash of wills, and something far more dangerous than desire threatens to conquer her senses ...

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
$1.99 on Amazon
About the book:

565 pages, 354 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.4 stars)

The Duke of Jervaulx was brilliant and dangerous. Considered dissolute, reckless, and extravagant, he was transparently referred to as the ′D of J′ in scandal sheets, where he and his various exploits featured with frequency. But sometimes the most womanising rake can be irresistible, and even his most casual attentions fascinated the sheltered Maddy Timms, quiet daughter of a simple mathematician.
Friday, October 21, 2016

Book Review: Never Trust a Pirate by Anne Stuart

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

In the second book of Anne Stuart's Scandal in the House of Russell series, she features two characters who aren't who they claim to be: Mary Greaves, is really Madeline Russell, the second of three daughters of the disgraced shipping magnate, Eustace Russell, who died while being investigated for embezzling his own company. And Thomas Morgan isn't really an English privateer-turned-shipping magnate, but Luca, a Gypsy, with a less-than-pristine background.

Following the same theme of cat-and-mouse, Maddy enters Thomas's house as Mary, a maid-of-all-work, hoping she could find some evidence to exonerate her father. Maddy doesn't count on being attracted to Thomas, and it proves to complicate her already-complicated situation: she's the help, and he's her employer; and, he's also supposed to be her enemy.

Unlike Bryony, Maddy is beautiful and still has prospects, fending off (but also considering) the proposal of an aging lord, but she is more determined to clear her family's name and restore a bit of her family's status in society. To say that life in service came as a culture shock to Madeline is an understatement -- and I got the sense that Stuart reveled in going into detail just how far down the Russells had fallen. Madeline continues to reminisce about the luxuries of her past life as she scrubbed and cleaned Thomas's house. In many instances, she looks at her hands and bemoans their current condition, knowing she could never have them be smooth and flawless ever again.

There was a part of me that felt that the author dwelt too much on this detail of Maddy's life -- but there was also another part of me that felt it was necessary for Maddy to go through this trial by fire. And I have to admire her for her tenacity -- a lesser person would have given up after an hour with the dust and the bats, but Maddy remained. A lesser person would have quit after being asked to work to the point of exhaustion, and then given very little to eat and very little time to rest. But Maddy was fighting for something greater than herself -- and I'm glad to see that our heroine isn't just a self-absorbed heiress intending to regain her life of comfort. What Maddy was fighting for was for her and her sisters to regain their father as they had known him: a man who worked hard, and provided well -- and it is tragic that their last memory of him is that of a man on the brink of a breakdown, suspicious of everything and everyone.

I liked seeing Thomas and Maddy dance around each other -- they both know they're there under false pretenses. Thomas is trying to marry a lady who would cement his position in society, but the part of him that is Gypsy, Luca, is suffocating under all the politeness and manners, and yearns to break free and sail away. Thomas knows Maddy/Mary isn't who she claims to be, and he is just waiting for her to make a slip. There's a clear attraction between the two, but I don't see a development in the relationship -- there's definitely admiration and respect, but I don't see love nor do I see how it could've developed in such difficult and limited circumstances.

But I have to admire that neither one compromises on their principles because of lust -- Maddy is focused on her goal to find evidence, and Thomas wants her to admit her real identity first. The author maintains a tense dynamic between our hero and heroine -- then she introduces a silent, unseen villain who is intent to do bodily harm to Maddy. This is the other weakness of the story -- the villain isn't clearly established, and I was initially confused about who he was in the story. As the story gained momentum, though, it because clearer who he was and his connection to the downfall of Maddy's father.

I felt that the author was considering two endings for our heroine: one involved the ship named after her, which Thomas had been wanting to acquire. It was clever for the author to put Maddy in this interesting position: neither Maddy nor her sisters knew that Maddy still owned something of monetary value. They had believed that all of their possessions had been seized. Thomas wanted to buy the ship, but needed to locate the owner to sign it over. I would've wanted to see how this particular plot thread would have played out: it would restore something to Maddy and her sisters, and put them in a less-desperate situation. But the author decided to resolve this in the conventional way: with Thomas and Maddy falling in love with each other.

Anne Stuart sets the stage very well for the third, and final book in the series: the list of suspects has been narrowed down to one, but, even the sisters agree that he is the most unlikely of villains. It will be very interesting to see how the author plans to resolve this mystery.

Never Trust a Pirate is Book 2 in the Scandal in the House of Russell series by Anne Stuart. To find out more about Anne Stuart and her books, click below:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Review: No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Guhrke

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

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:

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Book Review: Will's True Wish by Grace Burrowes

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

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:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Book Review: Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas

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

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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