Friday, January 31, 2014

ARC Review: Must Love Dukes by Elizabeth Michels (Debut Novel)

Click here to preorder the book on Amazon (Release date: February 4, 2014)
Click here to pre-order the paperback copy at The Book Depository

The first thought that came to mind as I was reading through the early chapters of Elizabeth Michels's debut novel, Must Love Dukes, is that she mixed up the sequence of the love story. And this is a good thing. Her hero and heroine end up sleeping together first and then spend the rest of the novel figuring out what kind of relationship they have. It's a refreshing change from the conventional love story. The novelty of the beginning piqued my interests and made me excited for how the author would lay out the rest of her story.

In between the beginning and the end, we read about how Devon wrestles with his attraction to Lily and his sense of betrayal because he doesn't know if he can forgive or trust her when she stole his pocket watch after their night together and then also discovering that she lied about her name, and her life. A battle of wills ensues as Devon seeks Lily's help in exacting his revenge against his late father's detractors. It's a test for both Lillian and the readers as Devon instructs her to do some seemingly mundane tasks for him. Part of me wondered about Devon's intentions and shared Lily's debate on whether she should trust him and go through with the task. It would have been so easy to just refuse him --

"When you dance the next waltz with Hingsworth, you will place this in his pocket without his notice." He pulled a handkerchief free, holding it between his fingers in front of her.

"I do not wish to be near that man, much less have my fingers in his pockets."

"As much as it warms my heart to know that you only enjoy delving into my pockets, this is what you must do to keep my silence. It's for your own reputation, Lily. I can just as easily tell the world what happened between us."

"What is the significance of this handkerchief?"

"It is the metaphorical handkerchief waved at the beginning of a great race. Its whiteness is a symbol of your unblemished past and purity. It's a square of linen, which represents the paths of our lives woven together in this moment." A smile broke across his face.

"You know that's not what I meant. What will this do? What will happen? Does this handkerchief belong to Hingsworth?"

"No, as it happens, it is an old one of mine. But that's no consequence. Do as I say and all will go to plan."

"What plan?"

"You will see." He grinned.
- loc 1411 to loc 1420

But, I guess it is a testament of Lily's love for Devon. Even when she didn't realise it (yet), something within her innately trusted Devon and recognised that this is a man who cannot possibly do anything wrong. So, she accomplishes her tasks and then see the results of her action/contribution to Devon's schemes. This led me to reflect on a second point: was Devon in sole control of their relationship? It seemed like it because he would issue a dare and Lily would follow. In fact, the blurb highlights the role of "dares" in Devon and Lily's courtship.

What is a "dare"? I think this word has taken on a bit of a negative connotation in our times (to mean something foolish or reckless) but, it actually means to have the courage to do something. This is exactly what Lily needed to do in her life: her elder brothers are dictating what she should be doing for her own sake and for the sake of their family -- but it is not what Lily wants to do. Her protests fall to deaf ears as her brothers, especially Solomon Phillips, continues to pull her hither-and-to like a puppet for their own pleasure and advancement. Even if it was not Devon's primary intention, he actually gave Lily the tools to speak her own truth when he dared Lily to do those tasks for him.

Their courtship does not happen in the traditional sense, but it is to be expected from a couple who did not meet in the usual way. Still, I kept waiting for the same spark of attraction and awareness that blazed so brightly in the early chapters to show up in the latter chapters -- but, sadly, it does not and I thought this was a lost opportunity for the author -- because the conversation between Lily and Devon at the Stag and Doe tavern over sangarees was amazing and the chemistry between the two was so very obvious. Throughout the story, they never discuss or revisit what happened to them a year ago: there is no confrontation, no explanation -- and, I felt a bit frustrated when they ignore the building blocks that they had laid out a year ago and built a new relationship on a different foundation.

Reading this story made me realise how impatient I am as a reader -- when an action happens, I want the explanation for that action to happen now (or, at least, soon); when the hero or heroine says something, I want the explanation for it now (or, at least, soon) -- this is not the case for this story. This is a story that requires a great deal of trust and patience from the readers. In fact, the reason behind Lily's theft of Devon's pocket watch (which happens in the first three chapters) is not explained until the very end of the story.

Elizabeth Michels poses a lot of questions at the start of the story (Why did Lily follow Devon into the bar? Why did she steal the pocket watch? Why didn't Devon say who he was? etc.) and, to her credit, she does a good job of building up suspense before revealing all in the end. My one small, small problem with it, however, is that I honestly thought the reason wasn't substantial enough to justify the loss of Lily's virginity to Devon. It was too big a sacrifice and I don't know if this makes the heroine incredibly noble or incredibly unwise.

Devon's motivations were much easier to understand. His father died with the world thinking he was mad. Devon has inherited the dukedom and, sadly, the same reputation and is known in society as "The Mad Duke" -- is Devon really mad? No. I actually loved how intelligent he was and how differently he saw the world.

"You know you tilt your chin to the right when you're angry?"

"Shhhh. We are enjoying the view in silence."

"Right." A moment passed and all the while she could feel his gaze on her. "The Himalayan goral gets a similar peevish look when you near its young."
- loc 1778

Is he loveable? As the title asks/requires us to? I have to admit that Devon has a certain charm and he does endear himself to me as a character -- especially in the end, when the situation calls on Devon to take on a dare of his own: To love Lily and to show the world just how much he does.

Must Love Dukes is the first book in Elizabeth Michels's Tricks of the Ton series and her debut historical romance novel. It will be released on February 4, 2014. To find out more about Elizabeth Michels, click below:

Disclosure: I received this ARC via Netgalley. Thank you to Elizabeth Michels and Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Blog Tour: A Game of Chance by Lauren Linwood (Review + Giveaway)

Love Saves the World welcomes Lauren Linwood and her novel, A Game of Chance!

For this blog tour, Lauren is hosting a tour-wide Rafflecopter Commenter Giveaway for a $10.00 Amazon or B&N Gift Card and five (5) digital copies of A Game of Chance. To visit Lauren's other stops, click here.

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About the book:


Gambler Jed Stone journeys to California to track down Simon Morgan, the man responsible for his best friend’s death. Arrested for robbery and murder upon arrival, Jed is shocked to see his face on a wanted poster. He escapes before his hanging, unaware that the man guilty of those crimes is the twin brother he never knew existed. In a case of mistaken identity, Jed acquires the most famous whorehouse in San Francisco in a rigged card game his twin is meant to win.

Lily Frontiere takes over running Lucky Lil’s from her dying mother, the house madam who shielded her by sending her away to boarding school. Lily’s intelligence and astonishing resemblance to her mother help in her charade, but she’s entered a world she knows little about. She clashes with the handsome stranger who turns up with the deed to Lucky Lil’s in hand, yet she is attracted to the charming risk taker.

Jed asks Madam Lil to stay on as he learns the business and is fooled by Lily’s performance until he stumbles upon the real Madam Lil and learns the truth behind Lily’s deception. His admiration for Lily blossoms into love.

But Simon Morgan seeks both Lily’s hand and ownership of Lucky Lil’s—and he will go to any means to possess both. Will Jed foil his nemesis while bringing his outlaw brother to justice and win Lily’s love?

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My Review:

Four names to remember: Jed Stone, Cal Hart Fisher, Lillian Frontiere and Lily Frontiere. These are the central characters in Lauren Linwood's western-set historical romance, A Game of Chance. After serving as a soldier and making his way through the South making a living as a gambler, Jed Stone has come to the West to seek his fortune and to find a man named Simon Morgan, who is responsible for his friend, Louis's death. Unfortunately, the first thing that happens to Jed when he arrives is to be arrested for crimes committed by a man named Cal Hart, who is a dead-ringer for Jed.

After escaping the hangman's noose in a prison riot, Jed finds himself at Lucky Lil and makes the acquaintance of the house's owner, the beautiful (albeit older) Lil Frontiere.

What the world does not know is that it is the madam's young daughter, Lily Frontiere who has been masquerading as Lil these past few months. The real Lil has been sick and is dying. Lily has done a good job filling in her mother's shoes and to keep their business afloat -- but all of it is for naught, when her mother reveals of her past gambling debts and that Lucky Lil's has been mortgaged with payments due in a month.

Before Lily could make any decision regarding their business, ownership of Lucky Lil's changes hands in a card game and the new owner is no other but Jed Stone.

Lily really wants to hate Jed for so many reasons: for usurping their business, for his ill-treatment of one of her girls, Sarah Jane, and for their first meeting at her friend, Max's house. But the Jed Stone working with her is a far cry from the Jed Stone who would physically abuse Sarah Jane and would be so rude to Lily -- how could two such disparate personalities exist in one being?

Lily bit the inside of her cheek. The welts and bite marks that had covered Sarah Jane's body filled her memory. How could she be so easily persuaded by the man that stood in front of her? Did he truly not remember his previous, abominable conduct?
- loc 2114

The simple answer is that they don't. A man named Cal Fisher is also in town and he looks exactly like Jed Stone. Cal also happens to be Max's great grandson and heir to Max's fortunes -- except that Cal has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

It was a bit tricky to keep track of the Cal/Jed confusion but Linwood does a good job of creating very distinct personalities for the two and, while distinct, it is not to say that one is a saint and the other a sinner. Jed admits to the mistakes of his past and is sincere in trying to better his life. It is this quality that Lily admires so much about him.

One thing I wondered about the Jed/Cal identity mix-up is how it could have been perpetrated in the town. I understand why Lily would be confused because she had been away to boarding school but, I would have thought the locals and long-time residents of the area would have known who Cal was because of his connection to Max Fisher, who seemed to be the wealthiest and most important man in their area. It also seemed like such a wild coincidence that Jed grew a beard to change his appearance and that Cal was sporting a beard at the same time (in the wanted poster) and then, when Jed decides to shave it off and grow a must ache, Cal does the same. But, then again, I have read (in real life) how twins seem to have a sort of link and that coincidences such as this is natural. However, in the story, there were people who could've clarified the confusion at an earlier point (the sheriff? Max or Harold?) but, I understand the need to prolong the suspense over the two characters.

What I loved more was the Lillian/Lily masquerade. It's ironic that Lillian had exerted such great effort and expended such great energy to protect Lily from their "business" -- but Lily is very good at it. She keeps better books and is very fair to the girls in her employ. At first, Lily is only playacting -- but, as the months pass, she slowly forgets herself as she pretends to be her mother more and more. It is a brave decision for Lily, who is very young and very innocent -- and becomes a little bit complicated when she becomes attracted to Jed, who is, in turn, attracted to her pretending to be her mother. Is it the sassy and sexy Lil that Jed is attracted to?

I also loved the parallelism in the situation of the hero and heroine: both have an "other" side which they must wrestle with and the movement from awareness, to denial to acceptance is very clear and quite heartening. It's such a gentle love that develops between the two and I thought it was nice that it was a deliberate choice for them to be together (not driven by lust or desire).

"I must be a mess!" she cried, thinking how her tears had caused the heavy eyeliner to smear.

Jed smiled at her. "You're a beautiful mess." He kissed her soundly. "And you're my mess." He kissed her again.
- loc 3508

The story really gains momentum after the initial setup of the story, which was a bit confusing, and the latter part of the story is quite the page-turner. In the end, Linwood skill at telling a story shines through and she definitely won me over with the very loyal and steadfast Harold, who serves as butler and friend to Max.

Disclosure: I received this review copy from the tour organiser. Yes, this is an honest review.

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About the author:

As a child, Lauren Linwood gathered her neighborhood friends together and made up stories for them to act out, her first venture into creating memorable characters. Following her passion for history and love of learning, she became a teacher who began writing on the side to maintain her sanity in a sea of teenage hormones.

Lauren’s novels focus on two of her favorite eras, medieval times and the American Old West. History is the backdrop that places her characters in extraordinary circumstances, where their intense desire and yearning for one another grows into the deep, tender, treasured gift of love.

Lauren, a native Texan, lives in a Dallas suburb with her family. An avid reader, moviegoer, and sports fan, she manages stress by alternating yoga with five mile walks. She is thinking about starting a support group for Pinterest and House Hunters addicts.

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For this blog tour, Lauren is hosting a tour-wide Rafflecopter Commenter Giveaway for a $10.00 Amazon or B&N Gift Card and five (50 digital copies of A Game of Chance. To visit Lauren's other stops, click here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Throwback Thursday: Historical Romance Edition #18

Thank you to Shabby Blogs ( for the free frame!

Happy Thursday, everyone! And welcome to a new feature on Buried Under Romance and Love Saves the World.

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.

The Historical Romance Edition:
Since Mary of Buried Under Romance and I are unapologetic lovers of historical romances, we've decided to focus on our beloved genre.

Here are our rules:
1. It must be posted on a Thursday.
2. It must be a historical romance novel published before October 3, 2008.

Lord Ruin by Carolyn Jewel (Published December 2002)


Ruan Bettancourt, the Duke of Cynssyr, intends to marry London's most beautiful debutante. A case of mistaken identity forces him to marry her sister, spinster Anne Sinclair. Before long, he's head-over-heels in love with his wife while Anne is determined to make the best of her unwanted marriage. Can the man society calls “Lord Ruin” convince Anne he's fallen in love in with her?

I don't know how I found Carolyn Jewel, but I'm glad I did. She has a very unique voice in historical romance and I've once referred to her prose as beautifully strange. She took a break from historical romances in 2009 to write paranormal romances but I'm really, really glad that she's back to writing historicals. Her current series, Seducing the Scoundrels is quite amazing and I'm looking forward to the next instalment.

To find out more about Carolyn Jewel and her books, click below:

Head over to Mary @ Buried Under Romance and Ki Pha of Doing Some Reading for their picks for Throwback Thursday.^_^

Fellow historical romance readers are welcome to join us. Enter your link below so we can visit your TBT: HR Edition post for the week! (Then go here to copy the Link code to your blogs.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Devil DeVere Series Spotlight with Kindle Fire Giveaway!

Victoria Vane is celebrating the new covers (and cover redesign) of her The Devil DeVere Series with a Kindle Fire Giveaway!

The Devil DeVere series is an amazing series of stories and has been recognised with the following awards:

"The “Devil DeVere” series is a variation on the rake’s progress, or the rake’s reformation, except that is doesn’t start with said rake as the main character—a device that is amazingly clever on Vane’s part and allows her to circle in on DeVere without revealing too much at the outset… The series is erotic and sexy, and sometimes you want to shake the characters until their teeth rattle, but it is absolutely marvelous... This one should be read with bonbons. And a fan!" -- Marlene Harris for Library Journal
Library Journal Best E-Book Romance 2012
LR Café Best Series nominee 2012

IND'Tale RONE nominee
Night Owl Reviews Top Pick
IRC Reader Choice Best Historical Nominee

IND'Tale RONE nominee
Night Owl Reviews Top Pick

IND'Tale RONE nominee
The Romance Reviews Best Erotic Historical nominee
Night Owl Reviews Top Pick
The Romance Reviews Top Pick
LR Café Best Historical Romance nominee 2012
Two Lips Reviewer's Choice Winner 2013

IND'Tale RONE nominee
Night Owl Reviews Top Pick
The Romance Reviews Top Pick
LASR Reviews Book of the Month December 2012
Swept Away by Romance Best Historical Romance of 2012
Two Lips Reviews Recommended Read

The Devil DeVere Series - Library Journal Best E-Book Romance 2012

With the Devil in Charge ... there could be Hell to Pay!

She needs a protector ... Once seduced by whispered promises of a faithless lover, Phoebe Scott is determined to make a name on the Covent Garden stage, but after three years of bit parts, she realizes she'll never achieve her goals on her own merits. Acknowledging her success is dependent on a powerful patron, Phoebe is now resolved to find a protector to secure her future. With this goal in mind, she seeks out the best prospects at London's most notorious brothel.

He's avowed to celibacy ... Sir Edward "Ned" Chambers has been lost and lonely since his wife's death in childbirth. Burdened with blame, he has sworn to a life of celibacy, but after three years, he is inwardly edgy, irritable, and increasingly discontent. Perceiving the cause behind Ned's unhappiness, as well as the obvious cure, his best friend and rake of the first order, "The Devil" DeVere, is hell-bent to return Ned to the land of the living. DeVere's machinations result in an outrageous wager that could lead Ned to a new love ... or land them all in the Tower!
All bets are off in in this racy Georgian romp!

(Romantic comedy with mature content)

The Devil DeVere Series - Library Journal Best E-Book Romance 2012

All's Fair in Love and Abduction

In the second installment of the award-winning Devil DeVere series, Ned's daughter Vesta is preparing for her come-out only to have her world turned upside down when her father returns from London with a bride of his own! Put out that he is so wrapped up in Phoebe, Vesta accompanies her godmother, Diana, to town where she meets and falls instantly in love with the gallant Captain Hewett DeVere.

"Hew" DeVere, younger brother to Viscount Ludovic "The Devil" DeVere, has returned from the war with plans of selling his commission and settling down. He quickly becomes enamored of the older but beautiful Diana, and barely notices eighteen-year-old Vesta. When Hew fails to respond to her feminine charms, Vesta takes extreme measures to capture the object of her desire, but Hew didn't survive the worst of the war only to succumb to Vesta's wayward wiles.

"You conniving creature! How can you possibly think I could ever love such a spoiled, petulant, self-absorbed, and scheming little wretch?"

Proving the adage that opposites attract, this hilarious romp pits the would-be huntress against the gallant hero in an epic war of wills. (Romantic comedy with mature content)

The Devil Devere Series- Library Journal Best E-Book Romance 2012

Sometimes the Devil is Disguised as a Gentleman ...

In this third installment of the award-winning Devil Devere series, DeVere is finally center stage when Ned, Annalee, and her cousin, Diana arrive at DeVere's estate for a weekend of horseracing. From the first meeting, DeVere makes his interest in Diana acutely known. Although she sees no harm in a light flirtation, she doesn't intend to become another notch on his bedpost. Nevertheless, DeVere fascinates her.

Ned gave her a meaningful look. "I hope you'll take extreme care in any dealing with him. He is ruthless and calculating when he chooses to be and has a strong predilection to manipulate and exploit the vulnerabilities of others when it suits his purpose. He just can't help himself. It's not that he's evil incarnate or anything like that; it's just that he has low tolerance for weakness, incompetence or buffoonery."

Diana lifted her brow. "You know I am no fool, dear Edward. I take full responsibility for my actions and have already made clear what I am willing and not willing to sacrifice."

Althought DeVere is outwardly arrogant, ruthless, unpredictable and manipulative, the private man is quite another creature -- intensely loyal and fiercely protective of those few he cares about. Diana also maintains a false front to the world. Her twelve year marriage is a mockery and she feels unfulfilled and undesireable which makes her all too vulnerable to Devere's dangerous charm. After events take an unexpected turn, Diana's most erotic fantasies become reality when she seeks comfort and affirmation in the devil's arms. But little does she know that the fire he ignites within her will burn long after she leaves Woodcote Park.

Awards and Accolades for The Devil you Know

Library Journal Best E-Book Romance 2012
Night Owl Reviews Top Pick
TRR Top Pick
TRR Best Historical Romance Nominee
LR Café Best Historical Romance nominee
Ind'Tale Magazine Rone Award nominee

The Devil DeVere Series - Library Journal Best E-Book Romance 2012

The Devil is the True Tempter of Women

In this fourth installment of the award-winning Devil DeVere series, Diana has come to London as her goddaughter's chaperone. Wanting to avoid her erstwhile lover at all costs, she nevertheless has no choice but to appeal to DeVere for help when Vesta mysteriously disappears. Although once nearly consumed by her passion for DeVere, four years has reduced the former inferno to bitterness and ashes.

Ludovic's time abroad has only served to deepen his debauchery. He's become jaded, world-weary, and bored. He also recognizes with self-annoyance that the marks of his discontent have only increased upon a certain person's arrival in London. When Diana makes her appearance in his den of iniquity in all of her glorious self-righteous fury, he suddenly feels alive again.

"Damn you to hell, DeVere!" she cried, jerking out of his hold. "Yes, I want you now, but I would despise myself for it the moment we finished."

"Why?" he asked, confounded.

"Why? Because I once confused passion for deeper feeling. I won't make that mistake again."

"But don't you remember how it was between us? I can bring you rapture. You know that. What harm is there?"

She scoffed, "Surely the same words the serpent whispered to Eve."

While DeVere is once more hell-bent to have Diana back in his bed, she will do whatever it takes to bring him to his knees. (Mature Content Warning)

The Devil DeVere Series - Library Journal Best E-Book Romance 2012

This short erotic installment in the award-winning Devil DeVere series can stand alone as a complete story, but also serves to bridge The Devil's Match and Jewel of the East (Salime and Simon's story).

In her last month of pregnancy, Diana, Viscountess DeVere, has barely settled into her new life and role as "the devil" DeVere's wife, when her increasingly restless husband receives an urgent summons to London. When Diana inadvertently discovers a message he received from a known courtesan with whom he was formerly linked, she fears her marriage is over before it has begun.

They were barely three months into a marriage that had begun on rather shaky ground. Was it possible that for him, the novelty of it had already worn off? This had always been Diana's greatest fear, for Ludovic was a man with a voracious sensual appetite, one he had honed with years of endless variety and constant, unrestrained indulgence. Diana, on the contrary, had known only one true lover--this same perplexing man who was now her husband -- the one who had made her heavy with his child ... and now left her alone in a cold bed.

The Devil DeVere series - Library Journal Best E-Book Romance 2012

In the fifth installment of the award-winning Devil DeVere series, DeVere once more plays the unlikely cupid by bringing together Simon (The Trouble with Sin) and Salime (The Devil's Match), two injured souls who find ultimate healing in each other's arms. (This title may be read as a standalone.)

Maimed by misfortune ... healed by love ...
His wounds run deep ... Having once lived his life only for larks, laughter, and ladies of easy virtue, Captain Simon Singleton has returned from war a shambles of a man. Although free from six years of captivity, he's still fettered by fears that confine him to a life of seclusion.

Her scars are well-hidden ... Once the crowning jewel of the most lavish brothel in London, the exotic Salime finds her reputation and livelihood destroyed by a bitter rival. With a closely guarded secret stripped away, she fears no man will ever desire her again. Seeking aid from one who once saved her life, Salime accepts a proposition to become a companion to his war-scarred friend.

But love is the eternal cure ... When circumstance brings these two damaged souls together, fate ignites a love story worthy of the Arabian Nights.

(Mature content warning)

The Devil DeVere Series - Library Journal Best E-Book Romance 2012

Every Devil Has A Beginning ...
In this first of three prequels to the award-winning Devil DeVere series, we meet Ludovic, Ned, and Simon as youths in this riotous Georgian romp written in the tradition of Fielding's Tom Jones.

Since their first meeting at Westminster, Ned, Simon, and DeVere had forged an iron-clad bond that had maintained them through nearly six years. From the outset, Ludovic's scandalous family secrets had set him apart from the other aristocratic scions as an "untouchable." Deny it as he tried, the ugly truth remained that his mother was indeed the biggest whore in England, and his presumed father, the viscount, no less than a pox-ridden madman.

Likewise, Simon Singleton's poetic proclivities had instantly made him the bullies' mark, and even Edward Chambers' great size had served as little deterrent for the upper classmen's taunts when accompanied by adolescent awkwardness and a broad North Country drawl.

By the end of the first form, however, DeVere's finely honed shell of arrogance, Ned's increasing brawn, and Sin's rapier wit, had given birth to an unholy triumvirate that came to wreak perpetual and unchallenged havoc upon Westminster School. Now, it appeared their illustrious reign had come to an inglorious end.

Intent on serving up revenge on their tyrannical schoolmaster, a prank with the king's lion goes comically awry, leading to a startling chain of events.

The Devil DeVere Series - Library Journal Best E-Book Romance 2012

This second prequel to the award-winning Devil DeVere series is a comedic romp featuring aspiring poet, Simon "Sin" Singleton.

The Trouble with Sin ... Is the devil within ... Sin has lived only for larks, laughter, and ladies of easy virtue, eluding defying, and flouting all manner of authority until his impetuous misdeeds finally catch up with him.

Ned asked, "Are you not still bound for the clergy, Sin?"

Simon heaved a deep sigh. "It is my dear Mama's fondest wish for me to join the church, but I fear my nature is quite incompatible with a theological vocation. I have searched deeply, and cannot seem to summon an inkling of pious sentiment, which makes me an exceedingly poor candidate for the clergy."

"Even so, why would you wish to dirty your hands with something like this?" "The answer is simple, Ned -- I need the money."

"But you receive a more than adequate allowance."

"That he mostly squanders on women of easy virtue," DeVere drawled.

"Admittedly," Simon confessed, unabashed. "But now my father has reduced my quarterly and demands a full account of every ha'penny. I tell you, it is humiliating in the extreme! Unless I wish to live under such a yoke for the next three years -- which I positively do not -- I must make my own living. If I must travail for my bread, how better than by the fruits of my pen?"

"So you seek to combine your love of poetry and lewd women by writing poetry about lewd women?" Ned replied dryly.

Simon clapped Ned on the back. "Precisely! Don't you see the ironic beauty of it?"

"What do you suppose will happen when your dear, devout mama gets wind of this?" Ned asked.

"I have taken every precaution to ensure my anonymity." Simon retrieved the book from DeVere. "My contribution to this little work is, and shall forever remain, a well-kept secret."

The wage of Sin... is twenty-five percent of the net.

It seems a fantasy come true when Simon is offered an independent income by combining his two great passions -- poetry and lewd women.

Unfortunately, maintaining anonymity may be much harder than he thought ...

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Victoria is offering a Kindle Fire to one lucky reader! Enter through the Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Author Website:
DeVere Fan Site:
Author Blog:
Facebook: Author Victoria Vane
Twitter: @authorvictoriav
Monday, January 27, 2014

Blog Tour: The Twelfth Night Wager by Regan Walker (Interview + Giveaway)

Love Saves the World welcomes Regan Walker, who is currently on a blog tour for her book, The Twelfth Night Wager.

Regan will be awarding a copy of three (3) of her books, Racing with the Wind, The Holly and the Thistle, and The Shamrock and the Rose to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

To drop by Regan's other stops, click here.

For this stop, Regan very graciously answered some questions that I posed to her. Here is my Q&A with Regan Walker:

LStW: Your novella, The Twelfth Night Wager is set during the holiday season.  Do you have a favourite holiday in the year?
Regan Walker: It would probably be Christmas. I love the way they celebrated it in Regency England. During the period 1811-1820 when Prince George ruled as Prince Regent, the celebration of Christmas was more subtle than ours today. To my way of thinking, perhaps they were better for it. Christmastide, as they called the season, began with Christmas Eve and continued to Twelfth Night, or January 5th, followed by the Feast of the Epiphany the next day, the official end of the Yule season. The Christian faith was very much a part of the season as were family and friends. They didn’t give gifts to each other, except for a small toy to the children and gifts to servants on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.

LStW: Your hero is a rake and your heroine is a virtuous widow.  Who or what inspired you to create Christopher and Grace?
Regan: Well, since the premise of the story is a wager to seduce a virtuous widow, I knew I was dealing with a rake in Christopher, Lord Eustace. In contrast, Grace is probably the most sensitive, biddable heroine I’ve ever conceived. Lovely and loveable. Eustace is in his 30s and a very experienced man, able to lure any woman to his bed. Grace, while a widow, is wise in some ways but inexperienced in others. And she is in her early 20s. If you asked me to picture them, it would be Gerard Butler and Evan Rachel Wood.

*Photos provided by author.

LStW: Your novel is about a wager between Christopher and his friend.  Have you ever made an interesting wager?  What was the outcome?
Regan: You’ll find it ironic that I would write a story centered around a wager and the wagering culture of Regency England when I am not a gambler. I am a risk taker in life, certainly, but never have I made a wager. I do however say to my friends, “I’d bet that’s going to occur,” or words to that effect. And often I am right. Comes with being a lawyer for so many years and a student of people.

LStW: Many of your novels are set in Regency London. What is the appeal of that period/setting?
Regan: It was an interesting time, a time of transition. While the period from 1811-1820 in England was characterized by a Prince Regent who lived a debauched lifestyle, and courtesans might have been treated better than the wives of arranged marriages, a young lady of the nobility would be raised in a certain manner with certain expectations of proper behavior. So there were stark contrasts. There was more freedom for women, particularly widows, than there had been, and more going on in history than you might think. The war with Napoleon ended in 1815, bringing changes to both countries, and the world was on the brink of the Industrial Revolution. And England would see its last war with America. These events feature prominently in my novels in my Agents of the Crown trilogy.

LStW: What's next for Regan Walker in 2014?
Regan: I’m very excited about my new pirate Regency, Wind Raven. It should be released in early spring. The hero is Captain Jean Nicholas Powell, a wealthy British merchant and a former privateer for England. The heroine, Tara McConnell, is an American and a very different woman than Nick has ever encountered. There will be some exciting shipboard scenes, I promise.

Beyond that, I have the prequel to write, To Tame the Wind. But before the prequel consumes me, I’m finishing a medieval I started after Racing with the Wind.

The Red Wolf’s Prize is set in England in 1068, two years after the Conquest. The idea for the story grew out of my fascination with the idea of one culture conquering another. I wondered what a high-spirited young English woman would do when all those Normans invaded her lands. Given that I like strong-willed heroines, it was just the kind of question I like answering. I had no idea what a challenge it would be to research life in the 11th century. I’ve spent hundreds of hours on the Saxon culture, what they wore, how they lived, what they ate. Then, too, I had to learn about Norman knights—their culture, their attitudes toward the English, and the battles fought after the Conquest. Even the horses they rode became a subject for research (they did not, for example, ride their warhorses—destriers—all over the countryside). Tentatively, The Red Wolf’s Prize will be released in the fall of 2014.

Thank you, Regan! Very excited for all the wonderful stories you have lined up in 2014!

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About the book:


On a dull day at White’s, the Redheaded Rake agreed to a wager: seduce and abandon the lovely Lady Leisterfield by Twelfth Night. After one taste of her virtue, he will stop at nothing less than complete possession.


“Speak of the devil,” said Lady Claremont.

The five women looked toward the doorway that led to the smaller book room. There on the threshold stood Eustace, in a dark blue coat over a white shirt and buff-colored breeches. Grace thought him very dashing. When his eyes focused on her, followed by a warm smile, her heart skipped.

She thought she heard Priscilla Wentworth let out a sigh. Apparently Eustace had made another conquest. How tiring it must be for him, she thought to herself, all those ladies falling at his feet. But even to herself, that sounded like jealousy.

He strode to their table, stopping along the way to greet other guests playing cards. When finally he reached them, he wished the group of five women good-day.

“How’s the card game going, ladies?”

“It’s not whist,” said the countess, “but ’twill do as it’s loo.” She chuckled at her own rhyme, and the ivory feather above her silver locks flicked in jaunty fashion. Emily rolled her eyes.

Eustace chuckled, too. “You look well settled into the game.”

“Have you just come from the fox-hunt?” Grace asked.

“I have. But you can be thankful I first cleaned off the mud. It’s positively soggy out there. Still, it was worth it; Ormond, Alvanley and I had a good run through the woods.”

“It sounds delightful,” said Emily. “I love the sounds of the bugle and the hounds eager to give chase to the wily fox. Did you catch him?”

“Sadly, yes. The end of the chase is always so…final, and somehow disappointing.”

Eustace’s words drew her attention and she noticed his serious expression. She had the feeling he wasn’t talking only about fox-hunts.

Buy the book at:

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About the author:

As a child Regan Walker loved to write stories, particularly about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors thought her suited to the profession of law, and Regan realized it would be better to be a hammer than a nail.

Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding Prince Regent who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool.


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Regan will be awarding a copy of three (3) of her books, Racing with the Wind, The Holly and the Thistle, and The Shamrock and the Rose to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

To drop by Regan's other stops, click here.
Saturday, January 25, 2014

Review: Stand and Deliver Your Love by Killarney Sheffield

Click here to get your copy on Amazon

When Killarney Sheffield contacted me about reviewing her books, she gave me a choice from her titles. I took a look at her backlist and the premise of Stand and Deliver Your Love intrigued me the most.

Here's what drew me to it: Sarah, the heroine, wasn't born to poverty. In the beginning of the story, we get the sense that she is a genteel woman living in reduced circumstances and is making the best of it. She lives with a group of orphans -- children she has rescued and care for. And money is tight. Sarah becomes a reluctant Robin Hood, only hoping to take enough to ensure her ragtag family's survival. Sarah is a caring and warm person and has a gift for medicine. She really looks out for the people around her and, if it wasn't because they were truly desperate, I don't think Sarah would willingly resort to thieving. Later, when more of Sarah's history is revealed, she becomes an even more admirable character. I loved her resilience and her determination to survive.

Byron, Marquis of Hampton, is haunted by the horrible accident that left him with a limp and caused his fiancee to take her own life. He has been living a quiet life in the country but the king's summon has him traveling to London on a stormy night. Byron blames himself for the accident that took Clarissa's life two years ago. He has never forgiven himself for the accident and has often wished for an end to his suffering.

The author has created two leading characters who are very relatable and sympathetic. You feel that these are people who deserve a happy ending.

How they meet is also very curious: it's her first ever foray into being a highwayman and he has just escaped from his carriage, which had fallen because of the bad weather. His valet and driver are both dead and he is badly injured. Needless to say, her first attempt was a bust and she ends up empty-handed and an injured man to care for. I was a bit confused with this point: Byron had asked the coach to stop and asked for help -- the next minute, Sarah is there, exclaiming "Stand and Deliver!" -- and then, the next clear sense of narration I get is that Sarah is picking up Byron from where he fell and has no choice but to bring him home with her. Did the other coach escape? How?

I didn't mind this so much because I enjoyed what develops next: he's a lord and used to giving orders but Sarah isn't intimidated by him at all -- and the dialogue between them is very spirited and biting. It's especially great to see Byron, who seemed half-dead and disinterested with living before the accident, be brought back to life: trading barbs with Sarah and teasing her. You can sense that this is the turning point for him.

“I was not crying,” she informed him icily, “I was cutting onions.”

“Ah, I see. I must say that is a relief.” He gave her a bored look that matched his tone.

Sarah dumped her handful of peelings into a small bucket by the door. Facing him, she lowered her eyelids coyly. “Why is that? Do a maiden’s tears frighten you?”

He smirked. “No. However, they do make you look very unbecoming when your nose is all red and runny.”

“Well, luckily for me I am not trying to impress you then,” Sarah answered stiltedly and approached the bed.

Byron grinned, a wicked gleam in his blue eyes. “I find that hard to believe, since I have never met a woman who did not strive to impress me.”

“My, but you are certainly full of yourself this morning. Makes one wonder though ...”

His brows arched, betraying his skepticism. “Makes you wonder what?”

Sarah gave him a taunting smile. “Well, one who is usually so impressed with himself is often only covering for other, shall we say, inadequacies.”

He threw back his head and laughed, the hoarse baritone reverberating throughout the room. “You must have undressed me, so you should know in my case that is definitely not true.”
- p. 30

How love develops between them is another point of confusion for me: there's the standard revelation of backstory, which succeeds in bringing the two closer, but, how they finally end up in bed seems more a result of seduction rather than love. (Read pages 46 - 49). Also, Byron's revelation about his feelings for Clarissa caught me a by surprise because I was expecting him to declare that she was the love of his life, instead, he confesses to Sarah that he was marrying Clarissa for her dowry.

"Three years ago, I met Clarissa at a ball. At my father's insistence, I began courting her. She was sweet and innocent -- I guess I lost my heart to her right away. My father pressured me to propose to her because she had a sizeable dowry. ..."
- p. 41

Our hero and heroine have two obstacles in their way: Sarah's past (and her criminal activity) and Byron's lack of money (and his tenuous position in society because of his father). There's a point in this part of the story, as the author was moving towards resolving these problems that I felt as upset as Sarah did with Byron's treatment of her. I kept thinking, at the back of my head, that Byron had a plan -- but there was no clue to it in the story. Thankfully, there was a plan, which was a bit convoluted but it does succeed in solving Sarah's problem.

I think I would have enjoyed this story more if I didn't need to puzzle out some parts/scenes as I read through it. Overall, I thought this was a good read.

To find out more about Killarney Sheffield and her books, click below:

Disclosure: I received this review copy from the author. Thank you, Killarney Sheffield, for the opportunity! Yes, this is an honest review.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Blog Tour: One Night of Surrender by Evie North (Review + Giveaway)

Love Saves the World welcomes Evie North and her novella, One Night of Surrender, which introduces her new series: The Brothers Mortmain.

Evie will be awarding the entire set of five stories in the first series of Knights of Passion, her self-published short stories, either from Amazon or Smashwords to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Drop by Evie North's other stops by clicking here.

* * *

About the book:


It’s his last night on earth ... and his final wish will be her command.

The Brothers Mortmain, Book 1

Like his two brothers, Sir Gervais Hawley, son of the Earl of Mortmain, is reckless and wild. But now his days are numbered. Given up to the Bow Street Runners for robbing a coach, he has been sent to Newgate to hang.

Every man on death row is granted a final wish -- if he has the money. Gervais has more money than most, and his final wish is for a taste of something sweeter than mere food. He wants Katherine, a woman falsely imprisoned. For one night in her arms, he will pay the debts that will set her free.

From the moment she saw Gervais in the corridors of Newgate, Katherine felt the spark of attraction. In exchange for her freedom, she agrees to his terms: one night in his bed, obey his every command.

Their passionate encounter is more than Katherine ever expected. And as the cock crow draws near, her body and heart crave more. But Gervais is headed for the gallows ... unless fate intervenes.

And now, in barely the time it had taken for a candle to burn down an inch, Gervais Hawley had shown her what her life could have been like if she’d chosen a different man. A man who cared for her. Who loved her.

“Why did you ask for me?” The question spilled out of her.

He shrugged one shoulder. “I saw you. You are beautiful. Why not?”

Katherine wasn’t satisfied with the answer but she supposed she couldn’t expect anything more. What did she want? A vow of undying love from a man about to be hanged? She was being foolish.

Make the most of this night, a voice whispered in her head. Take what you can. Because who knows what tomorrow will bring for you?

Getting to his feet Gervais stretched his arms as far above his head as possible in the low ceilinged room, having to bow his body outwards to complete the movement. Katherine found herself admiring his lithe, powerful form with new eyes. This man, this body, would take her soon. He would be joined with her, giving her pleasure, and she realised with a sense of amazement at her own daring that she was impatient for it to be so.

Buy at Samhain:
Buy at Amazon (Kindle):
Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook):

* * *

My Review:

Gervais is the youngest son of the Earl of Mortmain who craves adventure. His latest stunt is disguising as a highwayman and robbing traveling coaches. It is this recklessness that landed him in Newgate and one night away from the hangman's noose. His last wish is a night with another inmate at Newgate: Katherine -- who has been jailed for her lover's debts.

A stranger has asked for one night with her and has offered, in exchange, to pay off the debts that have kept her in jail. Katherine is reluctant to agree but it is the man's dying wish -- and it would buy her her freedom.

The premise of this e-novella intrigued me: one night and then the hero is sent to the gallows. It's an inescapable situation because both the hero and the heroine are imprisoned in Newgate. One room, one night. And they've only just met.

It's a setup that, I wish, more authors would write about because there is such a wealth of possibilities in exploring this scenario, the idea of "one last day" and what characters would do in that situation -- and Evie North's story is a great example.

What I liked about One Night of Surrender is how emotional the scenes were between Gervais and Katherine. The sense of urgency is palpable as they only have a few hours with each other -- and it is a night spent loving. I loved Gervais. Considering it was his last night alive, he was incredibly thoughtful and mindful of Katherine's needs and wants. The author intersperses revelations about each character as the night progresses and we discover so much about Katherine and Gervais, which made me to feel a bit sad and a bit wistful for the two of them and made me wish that there was more than that night for them.

The second half of the story follows Katherine after she is released from prison. While this half didn't have the same weight and emotional pull as the first half of the novella, I appreciated being able to see what happens to Katherine after that one night. While reading this part, I kept thinking how the author has a great sense of pacing and "time in fiction" -- considering that she was writing a novella, she was able to move her story forward by months without making the transition seem abrupt or rushed. In the end, we see a sweet love story resolved quite nicely and happily.

Evie North is definitely an author that I will be reading again.

Disclosure: I received this review copy from the tour organiser as part of the blog tour. Yes, this is an honest review.

* * *

About the author:

Evie North is a writer of erotic historical romance. Once Evie goes into her writing zone, she vanishes into a world of medieval knights and regency rakes, and the ladies who tame them. Here happy endings are obligatory and the bedroom door is left firmly open.

One Night of Surrender is her first novella and is the first in a Regency trilogy about the Mortmain Brothers.

Evie’s Smashwords page:

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Evie will be awarding the entire set of five stories in the first series of Knights of Passion, her self-published short stories, either from Amazon or Smashwords to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Drop by Evie North's other stops by clicking here.

Throwback Thursday: Historical Romance Edition #17

Thank you to Shabby Blogs ( for the free frame!

Happy Thursday, everyone! And welcome to a new feature on Buried Under Romance and Love Saves the World.

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.

The Historical Romance Edition:
Since Mary of Buried Under Romance and I are unapologetic lovers of historical romances, we've decided to focus on our beloved genre.

Here are our rules:
1. It must be posted on a Thursday.
2. It must be a historical romance novel published before October 3, 2008.

Mistress of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle, published September 2008


Real Pleasure Can't Be Taken ...
Granddaughter of a renowned courtesan, Maybelle de Maitenon has no interest in her grandmother's school in London where gentlemen receive instruction -- in the art of seduction. Her only desire in life is to remain independent, free from men and the shackles of marriage. But when Maybelle lays eyes on Edmund Worthington, the Duke of Rutherford, at a soirée, and hears of his scandalous reputation, she decides he's the perfect person for her to have a tryst with no strings attached ...

It Must Be Given ...
Unbridled passion has again muddied Edmund Worthington's family name. After his very public dalliance with the strikingly beautiful and sensual Maybelle, his mother insists he marry her. But much to the Duke's surprise, Maybelle scoffs at his proposal. Never has he encountered such a brazen -- and maddeningly irresistible -- woman. But when Maybelle's grandmother falls ill, forcing Maybelle to take over the operation of her school, Edmund devises a plan to make her his. He enrolls in the school, where no one other than Maybelle must give him expert lessons in carnal pleasure ...

In 2008, many of the historical romance novels I was reading featured titled lords and gently-bred ladies and the stories involved courtship in ballrooms or at house parties. There was an occasional story about spies and intrigue. And a few stories about pirates. Then I stumbled upon Delilah Marvelle's debut historical romance novel and was amazed by it. It's a memorable story and incredibly well-written -- but, the most amazing thing about it is that Marvelle has chosen to write about a school of pleasure and of the woman who gives instructions on that subject matter -- and the author frames it all in a very candid, honest and romantic dialogue.

I knew, when I read this debut, that she would be an author that I would love forever. (By "forever" I actually mean 6 years and 11 books ... and counting!)

To find out more about Delilah Marvelle and her books, click below:

Head over to Mary @ Buried Under Romance and Ki Pha of Doing Some Reading for their picks for Throwback Thursday.^_^

Fellow historical romance readers are welcome to join us. Enter your link below so we can visit your TBT: HR Edition post for the week! (Then go here to copy the Link code to your blogs.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Happy Release Day to Victoria Vane and to Jewel of the East!

Today we celebrate the release of Book 5 in Victoria Vane's very lush, very sexy The Devil DeVere series: Jewel of the East. (This is Simon's story! Finally!)


Having once lived his life only for larks, laughter, and ladies of easy virtue, Captain Simon Singleton has returned from the war with the colonies a shambles of a man. Now free from six years of captivity, he's still fettered by irrational fears that confine him to a life of seclusion. 

Once the crowning jewel of the most lavish brothel in London, the exotic Salime finds her reputation and livelihood destroyed by a bitter rival. With a closely guarded secret stripped away, Salime fears no man will ever desire her again. Seeking aid from one who once saved her life, Salime accepts a proposition to repay her debt by becoming a companion to his war-scarred friend.

Circumstance brings these two damaged souls together; but fate ignites a love story worthy of the Arabian Nights.


Medford Abbey, Kent -- 1785

A sharp rap soon sounded on the door. Ludovic, Viscount DeVere glanced up from his periodical to the entrance of a liveried footman. "A message for you, my lord."

The servant offered the wax-sealed missive on a silver salver. "It was delivered by a most ... unusual ... courier." The footman gave a sniff of disdain.

"Indeed? What do you mean?" Ludovic asked in a bored drawl.

"'Tis a behemoth blackamoor, my lord."

"Mustafa?" Ludovic threw down his periodical and snatched up the missive. "What the devil?"

"He awaits in the kitchen. Insufferable rude creature he be. Just stands all akimbo. Refuses to speak or to depart without an answer from your lordship."

"The man cannot speak. He has no tongue. They took it when they castrated the poor devil."

The footman's eyes bulged. He involuntarily crossed his legs. Ludovic broke the seal and scanned the contents with a deepening frown.

Most honored Efendi,

It is with the greatest humility that I appeal to he who once safeguarded my life. It is with exceeding distress that I must entreat you once more, being much in need of a friend and protector.

Your most devoted and obedient servant,

Ludovic read the cryptic note once more. Salime in want of a protector? What a sticky situation that created. At first he wondered why she'd appealed to him, but then again, there were few people she trusted. Given their shared history, he would never deny her aid. Moreover, Salime had been instrumental in helping him to achieve his present state of connubial bliss. For that alone he owed her his undying gratitude.

"Tell him I shall be in touch with his mistress shortly…and that she should notify me at once should her circumstances become any more ... distressed."

"Aye, my lord." The much-chagrinned footman departed.

Ludovic glowered after the departing servant. Salime had never been in want since coming to London. He wondered what could be behind her request, but then abandoned both letter and the dilemma the moment another surprise came bursting into his library. "Ned?" Ludovic leaped up to greet his best friend. "What the devil has brought you all the way from Yorkshire to Kent?"

"I have most portentous news, DeVere," Ned sputtered with excitement. "News I could hardly relay by messenger. So I came down myself."

"What kind of news? Out with it, Chambers," Ludovic commanded.

"Mayhap you should pour us a drink first."

Ludovic lifted a sardonic brow. "A drink? Not so urgent after all?"

"'Tis fortification you'll need for the shock you're about to receive."

"Shock? Me? You know I am not easily shocked, Ned." Ludovic paused with his hand on the brandy decanter and a slight frown marring his face. "Come to think of it, I'm damned if I can recall a single occasion that has wrought from me such a profound reaction as shock."

Ned flung himself into Ludovic's favorite chair. "There's a first for everything, DeVere. Now that drink?"

Ludovic sloshed amber liquid into two glasses, handing one to the would-be herald, who downed it in one draught. Ludovic quirked a brow.

"It was a devilish long ride," Ned explained.

"All to deliver this shocking report of yours?" Ludovic perched a hip on the corner of his mahogany desk.

"Yes! It's Lazarus all over again!"

"Lazarus? Am I to surmise that someone has been miraculously raised from the dead?"

"Actually, he might as well have been," Ned declared. "I can hardly countenance it after all this time."

"You are trying my patience, Ned."

"It's Simon. He's returned."

"Good God!" The glass slipped from his hand to shatter at Ludovic's feet. "You can't mean Sin is alive after all this time? He was pronounced killed in action six years ago."

"I mean exactly that!" Ned exclaimed. "He is indeed alive and may even be in London as we speak. I have the news straight from Baron Singleton. His ship was expected to arrive several days ago."

"Why am I only hearing of this now? I see the bloody Singleton regularly at Parliament."

"Probably because the good baron doesn't like you, DeVere. He believes you were an abominable influence on his son."

"Then he would be right." Ludovic smirked and then stared at the shattered glass at his feet.

"Looking a bit white there, my friend. This is known as shock."

"Admittedly, I am incredulous. How can this be? Where the devil has he been?"

"Interned as a prisoner of war for the greater part of six years."

"Six years? In all that time there were no exchanges?"

"Very few. The colonials refused to give up ours when they claimed their men were only released on the point of starvation and death. I daresay 'tis no exaggeration. I've seen a number of reports on the deplorably inhumane conditions of our prison hulks. Indeed it's said that the colonial prisoners set fire to the Whitby, choosing to go down in flames, rather than die of starvation and disease." Ned shook his head. "What a hellish business war is."

"But if Sin was a prisoner, he should have been released nigh on a year ago when the treaty was signed."

"Apparently he was too ill to travel. Only made it as far as Bermuda before he was struck with the bloody flux or some such and required months of convalescence ... poor sod."

"We must go to him, Ned. At once."

"He'll not be the same man," Ned voiced what they were both thinking.

"No," Ludovic shook his head. "Likely never again."

* * *


Victoria Vane is an award-winning author of smart and sexy romance. Her collective works of fiction range from historical to contemporary settings and include everything from wild comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Her biggest writing influences are Georgette Heyer, Robin Schone, and Sylvia Day. Victoria is the founder of Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers and the Romantic Historical Lovers book review blog. Look for her sexy new contemporary cowboy series coming from Sourcebooks in 2014.

Twitter: @authorvictoriav

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: Wicked Designs by Lauren Smith

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

Godric, the Duke of Essex is part of a group known as The League of Rogues, whose only pursuit is pleasure and whose exploits are well-known to all the ladies through the gossip columns. They are all men of means and consequences and, while it may look like they take everything lightly, The League of Rogues protect their own and will exact their pound of flesh if necessary.

Such is the case of Emily Parr, whom the League has kidnapped because of her Uncle Albert's debt against Godric. Godric had meant it to be a ruthless and cold-blooded act but, when he finally comes face to face with his captive, he begins to have second thoughts about his intentions. Emily takes him and the rest of The League by surprise: she is dauntless in her attempts to escape, fearless in the face of these men, and disarmingly beautiful and innocent. Godric and his friends are out of their element: they don't know if they ought to fall in love with her or tickle her or throttle her --

It is a similarly strange experience for Emily, who has lived an isolated and lonely life with her uncle since her parents died tragically. She is on her way to London for her first Season, hoping to make a match so that she can finally access her inheritance and enjoy a little bit of freedom. When she wakes up in Godric's house, her first (and second, and third) instinct is to escape but, as she gets to know The League better, she realises that her captivity might not be such a bad thing after all.

Wicked Designs is the first book in Lauren Smith's The League of Rogues series and introduces the five gentlemen: Godric, Cedric, Charles, Ashton and Lucien -- all quite young, titled, and handsome. Usually, books in a series would focus on individual members but Smith has chosen to keep all five rogues as active participants in Godric and Emily's story. I see this as both a plus and a minus. On one hand, we see the dynamics of the League and the unique personality of each member. (Ashton stands out as being the sensitive and perceptive one.) The author does a good job of giving each member his own voice and identity and I am already very curious about Lucien and Horatia's backstory. (Horatia is Cedric's sister.)

All five members are attracted to Emily and some of the members have seriously considered pursuing her -- and, if the rules of The League are any indication, this is not the first time it has happened. It's clear what these gentlemen love and it's clear what they are, rogues. What makes The League interesting is that they know who they are and don't apologize for it. "We're rakes not bastards. We seek to love women, not spurn them." (loc 1034)

On the other hand, the romance falls on the wayside as the emphasis of the story seems to be on the camaraderie within the group and how Emily fits in. With so many characters and conversations, I thought this story dragged a little and Emily and Godric's relationship wasn't developed as deeply or as convincingly. Granted, the author did share a bit of Godric's backstory (via Ashton) but I didn't think Emily and Godric interacted enough to merit an "I love you" declaration so quickly.

There is already conflict between Godric and Emily: Is it Love or Lust? Should she stay or go? Etc -- but things becomes more complicated when a man named Blankenship enters the picture. This man is the epitome of villainy and evil intentions. It makes Emily's situation very difficult: if she stays with Godric, her reputation will be beyond repair and she will be living with a man who desires her but not love her. But, if she escapes, her uncle will marry her to Blankenship. She is truly caught between a rock and a hard place.

There's a lot to enjoy in Lauren Smith's first foray into writing historical romance -- one scene especially stands out (and is the reason why I will follow this series). Emily encounters Evangeline, Godric's former mistress and this is the conversation:

"It is not an easy decision, I understand. You are a pawn in other men's games. Although I am loath to admit it, at the moment, I am as well. Pawns are always sacrificed. It is not fair, but that is our lot, n'est pas? ..."

Evangeline was right. ... What choice did she have? She was a pawn.

"The thing about pawns," Emily said, almost to herself, "is if they reach the other end of the board, they become a queen."

A smile flitted across Evangeline's lips. "You play chess. Tres bien. ... You are a beautiful girl, and I believe you are no fool. You can find a protector." Again, she paused, as though lost in memories. "It is how I survived. I am still crossing the board, as it were."
- loc 3369 to 3381

I felt the story was a bit too long and it took too long for the conflict to be resolved, despite an opportunity presenting itself in an early chapter (Chapter 9) -- but there's something about Smith's storytelling that keeps you interested and reading until the very end. Overall, a good read.

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

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the author. Yes, this is an honest review.


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