Saturday, January 31, 2015

Book Review: Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare

Say Yes to the Marquess: Castles Ever After by Tessa Dare
Click here to buy the book on Amazon
Click here to buy the paperback at The Book Depository

****Warning: This review contains spoilers.****

"Think about it, Rafe. I'm a trainer and promoter. It's what I do all the time. I find two people, evenly matched. Send out the word. Draw crowds to see them in the same place. ..."
- p. 33

The first thing I noticed when I read this book was how audacious Tessa Dare is in comparing love and marriage to boxing. It's a riddle that the author asks at the beginning of the novel and I knew I needed to keep reading if I wanted to find out how they were connected. Clio has been engaged to Piers Brandon for the past 8 years, and she's tired of waiting. When she inherited the castle, she saw it as a sign to stop waiting and move on with her life. The castle represented security for her -- fortification against the future. That, no matter what would happen with Piers and their engagement, she would always have her castle, because it is something that was given to her and would be hers alone. She just needs Rafe Brandon to sign some papers for her.

"He doesn't want me." Her voice broke. "Can't you understand that? Everyone knows. It took me too many years to see the truth. But I'm done waiting. He doesn't want me, and I no longer want him. I have to protect my heart."
- p. 18

Rafe has been given powers to oversee to Piers' business while his brother is away. He's been fine with signing for expenses and whatnot, but he never expected Clio Whitmore to show up at his doorstep and asking him to sign for something that would greatly affect all of their lives. Rafe has been his family's black sheep, but he is determined not to muck up his brother's affairs. He plans to convince Clio of his brother's devotion but, what he doesn't count on is having to reveal his own feelings for Clio.

Clio and Rafe are both misfits, neither one fitting in well in society -- and it's part of the charm of this book, how it recognises and honors individual quirks: Clio's a lady who possesses an amazing, amazing palate with tasting ale. Rafe is a lord, whose passion is boxing. I especially loved Portia and her mathematical mind. Tessa Dare plays a bit with the idea of what we see on the surface and what lurks beneath: one would not expect the Whitmore sisters to be anything more than society misses and one would not expect Rafe to be anything more but a bored aristocrat raising hell. Then there's Bruiser, who is a stand-out character, by the way, who has decided to "game" the system. He's been given an opportunity to reinvent himself in the castle, and he's decided to be an "Esquire" -- it was a bit funny how Bruiser was able to reduce society's very complicated rules into a very simple formula: when there is a problem, a monocle solves all.

Rafe looked at it. "A quizzing glass. Really."

"I'm telling you, these things scream upper crust. You should get one, Rafe. No, I mean it. Someone talks over your head? Quizzing glass. Someone asks a question you can't answer? Quizzing glass."

"You honestly think a stupid monocle is all you need to blend in with the aristocracy?"

Bruiser raised the quizzing glass and peered at Rafe through the lens. Solemnly.
- p. 32

It made me laugh, but it also made me think about how quickly we judge people based on their appearance, but there's always more to people, and there's always more to their story.

Case in point: Piers Brandon, the absentee fiance. Throughout the novel, we get the impression that Piers is a terrible person -- as cold and distant as Clio describes him to be. We sympathize with Clio and warm to the idea of Rafe, who is there and who shows Clio that she is valued. This was a difficult love story, and I felt a bit sad for Rafe, who was made to choose between his own heart and his brother's. He'd loved Clio ever since they were children, but he had to hide his feelings from everyone, because he knew Clio was promised to his brother. He sacrificed his own happiness for the sake of his brother and their family. I'm not sure there's a right or wrong in this -- and I honestly wouldn't have known what to do if I were in Rafe's position.


When Piers returns, we discover he isn't really a bad guy. In fact, he's quite heroic and amazing -- and he really did care for Clio. Which leads me to the one small point of dissatisfaction: when Piers explains his absence and the lack of communication, I didn't know how to feel about Clio, who had made me believe the worse in Piers. Piers isn't such a bad guy, and I really felt his story needed a better ending. (The next book in the Castles Ever After series is coming out in August, When a Scot Ties a Knot -- based on the title, I don't think it's about Piers.)

This revelation does answers the riddle of the similarity between love and boxing: in boxing, matches aren't just haphazardly arranged -- they are carefully considered so that both sides are evenly-matched and that they get a good fight out of the arrangement. Piers is perfect, but he wasn't perfect for Clio. Clio and Rafe are complement each other: their temperaments and dreams are on the same plane and their hearts beat to the same rhythm.

A final thought: it's inevitable to compare Clio to The Odyssey's Penelope (and Tessa Dare does make this comparison in the novel) -- I kept thinking about who is more admirable: the one who waited twenty years, or the one who didn't, because we've long thought of Penelope as the gold standard of faithfulness. The question now is: Is Clio less faithful because she didn't keep waiting for Piers? I'm guilty of holding Clio up to such impossible standards and realised that it's part of her story: she's not infallible and she's not perfect -- and she knows it. But she's really trying her best to live the best life she can live, given the resources that she has.

I have to admit that I was a bit scared to read Say Yes to the Marquess, because I really loved the first book in this series, Romancing the Duke, and I was worried this second book might not live up to my expectations. It did not. Because it created a whole new set of expectations for me. It showed a different side of Tessa Dare: the side that was willing to test out the mix of humour and emotion and characters that she has done in Say Yes to the Marquess.

This is Book 2 in Tessa Dare's Castles Ever After series. To find out more about Tessa Dare and her books, click below:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Historical Romance Edition

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.

Tender the Storm: The Devereux Trilogy - Book One by Elizabeth Thornton, published 1991

Book 1 in the Deveraux Trilogy

Zoe Deveraux is a fearless seventeen-year-old. Though disguised as a schoolgirl, when she is spirited out of France by Rolfe Brockford, Marquess of Rivard, her life changes forever. Posing as a Revolutionary, Rolfe is on a mission to rescue innocents from the bloody horrors of the guillotine.

Once in London, Rolfe finds himself unwilling to abandon the waifish girl and shocks polite society by taking her as his bride -- in name only. What began as a marriage of convenience quickly grows into something altogether different. But Rolfe and Zoe face countless challenges—from political intrigue to their own pride, jealousy, and fiercely guarded secrets. Now, as the strife in Europe hits its peak, two stubborn hearts must make the ultimate alliance.

I've read a few books by Elizabeth Thornton (Trap Trilogy plus some stand-alone novels) and really enjoyed them -- this one is currently FREE on Amazon. Elizabeth Thornton published 28 books before her death in 2010. Her last published work was A Bewitching Bride (2010) which completed her Seers of Grampion series.

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

Amazon Author Page

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.)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Free and Discounted Historical Romance Novels

Before this week's feature of free and discounted historical romances, I'd like to present another debut novel that I stumbled upon on Amazon:

About the book:
The night that changes everything ...
Life for Victoria Lacey should be perfect. And it is -- perfectly boring. Agree to marry a lord who has yet to inspire a single, solitary tingle? Why, of course. Smile as though this is not the thousandth time he’s mentioned hounds and hunting? It’s all in a day’s work for the oh-so-proper sister of the Duke of Blackmore. Surely no one would suspect her secret longing for heart-racing, head-spinning passion. Except, perhaps, a dark stranger ... on a terrace ... at a ball where she should definitely not be kissing a man she has only just met.

The obsession that leads to ruin ...
Hatred, not love, drives Lucien Wyatt, Viscount Atherbourne, to tempt the “Flower of Blackmore” into sin. Her brother has done unthinkable damage to Lucien’s family, and he intends to exact revenge in the only way left to him: Ruining his enemy’s sister, then stealing her from Blackmore by making her his own.

The woman who will set fire to her husband’s heart
As Lucien carries out his ruthless plan, tutoring his new bride in the finer points of pleasure, her surrender leaves him breathless ... and soon a new obsession awakens -- a scandalous fascination with his irresistible wife.

And now for this week's selection of free and discounted historical romance novels:

About the novella:
At a house party in Berkshire ...
Miss Ivy Barnett was warmly welcomed into society as the American niece of Lord Kendal, but she quickly discovered that the Englishmen she met were no more interesting than their American counterparts. At least, not until she met the straitlaced Earl of Claymere, the most unattainable bachelor in all of England who made it known to one and all that he would not marry for at least another decade.

No one could have predicted ...
Claymere had never met anyone like the bold and beautiful Miss Barnett, and her effect upon his senses was dizzying. One passionate embrace led to another, and suddenly, Claymere could not imagine a life without her. He proposed, and she rejected his proposal. A year ago, he would have felt relieved. But not now.

About the book:
** REVISED EDITION -- added content **

Kenesy MacLeod returns home after a failed marriage alliance in France to find her world in turmoil: her best friend married to an English sympathizer, her mother at death’s door, and her father imprisoned and thought dead. As an English lord descends to claim her father’s lands, Kenesy escapes north with her mother and brother, and runs straight into the arms of the outcast Highlander.

Driven from home and family by a crazed father, Broccin Sinclair refuses to stand aside while the English invade his beloved Scotland. But who should he champion? The freedom fighter who saved his life, the family who has forgotten him, or the woman who captured his childhood heart?

About the book:
In Karen Hawkins' Charlotte's Bed - Uninterested in domestic bliss, Lady Charlotte treasures her freedom as a wealthy, unmarried lady living with her best friend, the spritely Duchess of Roxburghe, and assisting in that lady's energetic matchmaking endeavors. But now -- shockingly -- the duchess has turned her sharp ambitions on none other than Lady Charlotte herself. Charlotte's having none of it. She likes her life and her freedom, but when ​an old love from her past reappears, ​the mysterious and dark Angus Reeves, ​Lord MacThune, ​ and attempts to woo her with an exciting, thrilling kiss, Charlotte begins to wonder if perhaps -- just perhaps -- 'domestic bliss' might mean something other than what she originally thought ...

In Ava Stone's Promises Made, Lady Elspeth MacLaren loves everything about London -- the ballrooms, the entertainments, the handsome single lords in want of a wife. Unfortunately, she already has a betrothed ... She just doesn't know it yet. A decade ago, Captain Griffin Reid made a deal with the devil. In exchange for leaving Scotland and joining the Dragoon Guards, his family's land and legacy will be returned to him after he marries one-time neighbor Ellie MacLaren. Unfortunately, the lady in question has her heart set on marrying some English lord and living out her days somewhere south of the border. And before Griff knows what's happened, he finds himself trying to win the heart of the lady who always should have been his.

In Claudia' Dain's Chasing Miss Montford, Miss Elaine Montford is a debutante on the hunt for a titled husband. Then again, who isn't? In the London Season of 1804, every young woman with a mama who has spent the money to buy an appropriate wardrobe and find a house in Town to showcase her virginal, blushing daughter expects said daughter to do her duty to her family name by marrying a man with a title, and social connections, and a well-established estate. Elaine Montford, who is virginal and can blush nearly upon command, is not averse to this plan. It's only that she has yet to meet the man who meets her mama's qualifications. Roger Ellery of the 10th Regiment of Light Dragoons is not that man. However, Roger Ellery is the man she meets. In Hyde Park. It is quite clear that he believes he is rescuing her, even if she is not in need of rescuing. Then again, perhaps she is ... And it all started out so innocently, too.

In Deb Marlowe's A Waltz in the Park, James Vickers once believed honor and family duty to be his life's work. Now he knows better -- and he's appointed himself as silent witness to his father's sins. His greatest goal is to act as the continuously pricking thorn in his lordship's side -- and scandal is his greatest weapon. He has no use for an innocent young miss. Propriety is Miss Adelaide Stockton's most important asset. She must be all that is prim and proper if she's to live down her parent's misdeeds and have any hope of catching a husband. She must avoid scoundrels like Vickers at all costs. Yet fate has thrown them together -- and given each a key to the other's ambition. A bargain is struck ... but together they find that gaining what one desires most is far more difficult than a waltz in the park.

About the book:
The third deliciously sexy novel in the New York Times bestselling Duke’s Men historical romance series, featuring an investigator who sets out to find gypsies -- and unexpectedly finds love.

Investigator Tristan Bonnaud has one aim in life -- to make sure that his half-brother George can’t ever ruin his life again. So when the pesky Lady Zoe Keane, the daughter of the Earl of Olivier, shows up demanding that the Duke’s Men find a mysterious gypsy woman, he seizes the opportunity to also hunt for a gypsy friend who knows secrets about George. Tristan doesn’t expect to uncover Lady Zoe’s family secrets, as well ... or end up falling for the woman who will risk all to discover the truth.

About the boxed set:
Ten full-length novels from ten queens of historical romance! This is a powerhouse medieval collection from reader favorites Glynnis Campbell, Tanya Anne Crosby, Ceci Giltenan, Claire Delacroix, Catherine Kean, Eliza Knight, Kathryn Le Veque, Anna Markland, Laurel O'Donnell & Suzan Tisdale.

MY CHAMPION by Glynnis Camppbell
When Duncan de Ware finds plucky maiden-in-distress Linet de Montfort challenging pirates, he goes undercover to rescue her, despite her insistence she can take care of herself. Linet, caught in a high seas adventure, soon realizes her only hope is trusting her mysterious champion -- with her life and her heart.

THE MACKINNON'S BRIDE by Tanya Anne Crosby
Scottish chieftain Iain MacKinnon refuses to bow to the English. When his young son is stolen by the English, he captures the daughter of his enemy, planning to bargain with the devil. But even as Page blames her captor for welching on a contract with her father, she suspects the truth ... the shadows hold secrets. Now only the love of her reluctant champion can save the MacKinnon's Bride.

THE ROGUE by Claire Delacroix
Merlyn stole Ysabella's heart with his charm and his mystery and they wed in haste. Ysabella left her rogue of a husband when she discovered that he deceived her. Five years later, he returns, as alluring as ever, asking for her help. Does she dare to trust him anew?

Niall MacIan, needs Lady Katherine's dowry but he has no intention of giving her his heart in the bargain. He believes all women are self-centered and deceitful. Can the lovely and gentle Katherine mend his heart and build a life with him or will the treachery of others destroy them?

DANCE OF DESIRE by Catherine Kean
Desperate to save her brother's life, veiled Lady Rexana Villeaux dances for Fane Linford, High Sheriff of Warringham. She entices Fane with the passion in her soul -- and he's tempted. Rexana reluctantly marries Fane, but as she learns more about her husband tormented by secrets, she cannot deny his love.

Laird Jamie Montgomery is a warrior sent to the Highlands on the orders of William Wallace. Temptation in the form of an alluring lass, could be his undoing. Lady Lorna Sutherland can't resist Jamie's charms. Though she's been forbidden, she breaks every rule for the pleasure of his intoxicating embrace.

ARCHANGEL by Kathryn Le Veque
Sir Gart Forbes, premier knight for the de Lohr dynasty, falls in love with a woman he can never have. Or can he? Divine intervention comes in many forms in this deeply passionate love story.

The year is 1066. The world is about to change forever. Can love survive and flourish amid the carnage, hatred, betrayals and dangers of the Norman Conquest? Juicy historical fiction. An intimate story of passion,ambition, conspiracy, and vengeance.

ANGEL'S ASSASSIN by Laurel O'Donnell
Damien is an assassin, a man with a tortured past. Sold into slavery, he is trained to kill. Lady Aurora of Acquitaine is the epitome of purity and goodness. When Damien enters Aurora's life, tempting her with promises of forbidden lust, he threatens to tear her peaceful world apart.

ROWAN'S LADY by Suzan Tisdale
Walls have been built around two lonely souls. Is love enough to help tear them down? Will fate keep Rowan Graham and Lady Arline apart?

About the book:
Miss Elsie Stanhope resided in Nottinghamshire, an area so rich in titled gentlemen, so felicitous for marriage-minded mamas, it was called "the Dukeries." Indeed, Elsie had been betrothed since childhood to the heir of a dukedom. She had no expectation it would be a love match. Still less that she would enter into a shockingly scandalous affair with an altogether different sort of lover. And the very last thing she imagined was that the mysteries of his birth would be unraveled with as many unforeseen twists and turns as the deepest secrets of her heart.

About the book:
Wanted: Governess able to keep all hours ...

Rebellious Julian Fortescue never expected to inherit a dukedom, nor to find himself guardian to three young half-sisters. Now in the market for a governess, he lays eyes on Jane Grey and knows immediately she is qualified -- to become his mistress. Yet the alluring woman appears impervious to him. Somehow Julian must find a way to make her succumb to temptation ... without losing his heart and revealing the haunting mistakes of his past.

Desired: Duke skilled in the seductive art of conversation ...

Lady Jeanne de Falleron didn't seek a position as a governess simply to fall into bed with the Duke of Denford. Under the alias of Jane Grey, she must learn which of the duke's relatives is responsible for the death of her family -- and take her revenge. She certainly can't afford the distraction of her darkly irresistible employer, or the smoldering desire he ignites within her.

But as Jane discovers more clues about the villain she seeks, she's faced with a possibility more disturbing than her growing feelings for Julian: What will she do if the man she loves is also the man she's sworn to kill?

Happy Reading~ 
Thursday, January 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Historical Romance Edition

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.

Christmas Pie by Emma Craig, published December 1997

Unlike most girls her age, Polly doesn't go out with friends to parties or on sleigh rides with charming beaus. She stays home to take care of her ailing mother and only dreams of a world of boundless riches and endless fun. But when shopping for a Christmas gift in Chinatown, she receives a mysterious coin from an ancient-looking woman -- and watches as a wonderful series of events begins to unfold.

I know Christmas is over, but I saw this cover at our local used bookstore and I knew I wanted to feature it for TBT:Historical Romance this week. Honestly, who can resist a book with the word "pie" on the cover? ^_^

Emma Craig released her debut novel in 1997, Rosamunda's Revenge and proceeded to publish 6 novels and contribute in 3 anthologies between 1997 and 2001. Her last published book as Emma Craig was in 2001, Gabriel's Fate. She's currently writing as Alice Duncan.

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

Amazon Author Page
Author Page on the Historical Romance Writers website

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.)

Blog Tour: Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress by Theresa Romain (Review + Giveaway)

I'm so, so pleased to spotlight Theresa Romain's Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress, the latest instalment in her The Matchmaker Trilogy. Augusta and Joss's book was released last January 6, and to celebrate the release, Sourcebooks Casablanca is giving away five (5) copies of It Takes Two to Tangle (book 1 in the trilogy). Enter via Rafflecopter below.

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About the book:

Title: Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress
Series: The Matchmaker Trilogy #3
Author: Theresa Romain
ISBN: 978-1-4022-8405-2
Pubdate: January 6th, 2015

One good proposition deserves another ...

Heiress Augusta Meredith can’t help herself -- she stirs up gossip wherever she goes. A stranger to Bath society, she pretends to be a charming young widow, until sardonic, darkly handsome Joss Everett arrives from London and uncovers her charade.

Augusta persuades Joss to keep her secret in exchange for a secret of his own. Weaving their way through the treacherous pitfalls of a polite world only too eager to expose and condemn them, they begin to see that being true to themselves is not so bad ... as long as they’re true to each other…

Historical romance author Theresa Romain pursued an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. She then worked for universities and libraries, where she got to read even more. Eventually she started writing, too. She lives with her family in the Midwest.

* * *

An Excerpt:

She tilted her head, setting the loose curl free again. “Are you doing what you wish?”

Doing what he wished? No, of course he wasn’t.

Right now he wished he could make her smile as she had when giving away her gloves. He wished he could dispense with his conscience and plead for her to take him as a lover. He wished he could pluck the pins from her sunset hair and send it tumbling over her naked skin, wished he could stop kissing her only to make her cry out in pleasure.

But always, in the face of a wish, came prosaic reality. A scarred wooden table, a plate of mutton and potatoes, a wedge of cheese. An adequate fire and a roof over one’s head. Such a reality was perfectly acceptable, even if it didn’t hold the luster of a gemlike fantasy.

“I try to wish,” he said in a calm voice, “for what I know I might attain. For respectable employment for a reasonable wage. For a reasonable employer.”

This brought a faint smile to her features, but the expression fell away in another instant. “That seems a very small dream.”

“What on earth do you mean by that? It’s a very suitable dream.”

“But it’s not really a dream, is it? It’s what you have now, just shuffled about a bit.”

Again, he folded his arms. She lifted her hands, placating. “As you say, it’s perfectly suitable. And if you insist that it’s exactly what you want, then I suppose it is a dream, after all.”

Of course it wasn’t a dream. It was good sense. It was practicality. “I don’t know what else I ought to wish for. This is my life. I am a man of business for a nobleman.” Remembering Chatfield’s words, he added, “I am not in bodily danger, nor in mortal peril. It could be far worse.”

“It could be. But if you want it to be better ...”

“Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to buy happiness.”

“No one is fortunate enough for that.” She turned over her fork and scratched the tines into the surface of the table. “That’s not what I meant. I know happiness can’t be bought, or I would have bought it.”

Buy Links:

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My Review:

After having read almost all of Theresa Romain's books (I haven't read Season for Desire), I've come to appreciate Theresa Romain's wonderful sense of humour -- her novels are fun to read, and she's really able to imagine smart-funny moments between her characters, revealing sharp minds and clever wits. Which brings me to the second thing I love about Romain's books: she writes her characters very well: they are multi-faceted and many-layered -- granted some facets are chipped and/or cracked, and some layers are wrinkly and/or frayed, but that is all part of the charm of the world she makes.

In Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress, Augusta is a woman who has it all: she's the sole heiress to her family's beauty business and is about to take control over her own fortune (both in the financial sense and the future-destiny sense), but Augusta lacks the two things she longs for the most: her parents and love. She's in Bath with her friend, Lady Tallant -- both of them seeking to recover from events that have left them both a bit bruised and hurting.

There are three things to pay attention to when reading Theresa Romain's latest novel:
1. The scandalous reason why Augusta Meredith, heiress to Meredith Beauty, is in Bath masquerading as a widow
2. The blackmail plot that Joss Everett is trying to solve
3. The dynamic between Augusta, wealthy heiress whose fortune came from trade, and Joss, blue-blood, albeit half-blood who is employed by his cousin

"I cannot allow anyone to have that sort of control over me. Once I trusted a man too much, and he abandoned me. This time, I shall do the choosing. All I require is a lover. I will take him, then leave him, when I see fit."
- loc 190

At the beginning of the story, we get the impression that Augusta pretending to be the widowed Mrs. Flowers is a whim, but, as the story unfolds, we discover the reason why -- and it is heartbreaking. Augusta believes that taking control of her romantic life, by seeking a lover -- on her own terms -- is going to help solve her problems. But, she never realised how difficult it was to find one -- until she bumps into Joss Everett.

Joss Everett is a complex character: he's very, very closely connected to a baronetcy, but he has always walked on the peripheries of society because of his Hindu blood and color. The curious thing about Joss is that he has accepted his role as his cousin's sidekick (in the guise of his man of business). His cousin, Lord Sutcliffe, does not respect him or value him -- and Joss has allowed this treatment to continue. We see into Joss's thoughts and we know he hates how his cousin treats him, but we also see that he believes the glass ceiling is set very low for him (and that he can't break through it) -- case in point: even his greatest dream is truly just a modest one.

"I try to wish," he said in a calm voice, "for what I know I might attain. For respectable employment for a reasonable wage. For a reasonable employer."
- loc 1895

There is a blackmail plot in the story, which involves Lord Sutcliffe and a pregnant maid, but there's surprisingly very little action and chase -- because the focus of the story is the developing relationship between Augusta and Joss. There's a lot of talking, but it is talk that one needs to pay attention to carefully, because there's so, so much revealed in their conversations. It's wonderful to see how their feelings evolve through their dialogue. At the onset, it's all careful flirtation and humour, and then it becomes deeper and more sincere, until, finally, real intimacy and honesty.

"You would do, Mr. Everett."

He froze halfway to a stand, eyes fixed on Augusta's gloved hand on his sleeve. "I would do?" Dropping into his chair again, he added, "I presume you mean as a lover?"


He lifted his chin, looking down his high-bridged nose at her. "Because I am convenient? Or because I am entirely unworthy of marriage?"

His tone froze her fingers, and she withdrew her hand to her lap. "Because" -- she raised her own chin -- "you bathe regularly and are not bad looking. As I mentioned previously."

"I may swoon."
- loc 202 (their first encounter in Bath)

* * *

"But if it's all right with you, I would like to stay here for a short while and be Augusta."

"Were you concerned that you might become someone else?"

"Yes. Or -- maybe concerned that I would not. I'm not sure how to tell." She lifted her head, then traced an ancient scar in the wood of the desk. "Every caller for Mrs. Flowers requires me to lie more and say less. I can't say anything that's true of my real self; I have to be so careful. And so I wind up saying nothing and smiling like a doll."
- loc1668

Loss is one of the central themes in this story (the other is finding a sense of belonging), and Romain really explores this through her supporting characters, Lady Tallant and Lord Chatfield (I'd love to read more about these two) -- Lady Tallant is in an amazingly loving relationship and has given birth to an heir and a spare, but her recent miscarriage of a daughter has proved devastating. She is in Bath trying to regain herself. Lord Chatfield is a marquess and wields incredible power in the form of the knowledge and information he possesses, but he lost his leg when he was a younger man. As I mentioned earlier, Romain's characters are perfectly imperfect, and each one exists for a reason.

Everyone had something grieve, did they not? A leg, a parent, an inconstant lover. There was always something more that could be lost.

Which meant there was always something for which to be grateful.
- loc 1542

We can see the characters go through the stages of grief, and the author is respectful of the time each one needs to deal with their own losses (the most heartbreaking is, perhaps, Lady Tallant's.) -- it is very encouraging to see each one come to terms with it at the end of the story.

Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress is a great story to conclude Theresa Romain's The Matchmaker Trilogy. Now to find time to read Season for Desire, so I can finally say that I've read all of Romain's books. ^_^

Disclosure: I received this review copy via Netgalley for this event. Thank you to Theresa Romain and to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.

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To celebrate the release of Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress, Sourcebooks Casablanca is giving away five (5) copies of It Takes Two to Tangle (book 1 in the trilogy).

Rafflecoptor Link: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: For Love of the Duke by Christi Caldwell

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

We've read about different kinds of brokenness in romance novels, and how love heals this. But, in the case of Jasper (and of Ryder from Eva Devon's Once a upon a Duke), love itself is what needs to be healed. The problem with these two heroes is not that they lack the ability to love, but at they had loved so much and had gotten burned in the process.

The challenge for them to learn to love again. Romance is always about the idea of finding "The One" and Jasper had found her, and lost her. Is it really possible for him to find another "one?" It's a question that Jasper thought he had answered with a "no" and this is where the problem begins: when he meets Katherine, a spark lights up in him, and he struggles to squelch it, fearing that he is betraying his late wife's memory.

...Since Lydia's death, he'd lived the past three years, three-hundred and ... his mind spun ...

Was it fifty-three days?

Or fifty-four?

Panic built in his chest; it pounded away at his insides as he confronted the nauseating truth -- he'd lost count of the days since Lydia had been gone.

His gut clenched. How, in a matter of days, had this happened?
- loc 1288

Katherine knows that Jasper has experienced a terrible tragedy, and she wants to help him move forward. But, how? Katherine is a wonderful heroine. She's a pragmatist, in contrast to her twin, who is a bit more romantic. Katherine is a bit wary of love because of her father's betrayal and has vowed to protect her own heart from such devastation. At the beginning of the story, Katherine seemed a bit passive, allowing her twin, Anne to take the lead in their quest for a heart pendant believed to win whoever wears it the heart of a duke. As the story progresses, Katherine shows her real self -- a woman who thinks and acts for herself. When faced with the very real and immediate danger of her marrying her despicable cousin, Katherine takes it upon herself to find a way out: she arranges her own marriage of convenience to Jasper. She's not perfect, though -- or infallible: she believed she would be able to guard her heart against Jasper and that they would have a relationship free of messy entanglements.

Christi Caldwell was really able to tap into the deeply painful and emotional wellspring of loss and grief. I understood Jasper's confusions about what he felt for Katherine juxtaposed with his feelings for his late wife. In her bio, the author cites Judith McNaught as a writing influence, and I could feel the same high drama and strong emotion in her novels.

The dialogue was excellent and I enjoyed the interaction between Jasper and Katherine, especially the scene in the bookshop. I loved the dynamic between Katherine and her sister -- twins, who are physically alike, but who react to the world so differently from one another.

"Does the pendant stipulate as to the qualities of the duke? Must he be handsome? Or can he be a doddering, old letch?"

Anne wrinkled her nose. "Whoever would any young lady desire a doddering, old letch?"

"Why, indeed? So then, it is the heart that is more important? Or the ducal title?"

Anne angled her head, and again the bonnet pitched lower over her eyes. She nibbled at her lower lip, and then said, "Why, I rather think they are of equal importance."

Katherine took a deep breath and forced herself to count to ten before speaking. "Anne, there is not an overabundance of eligible young dukes in the market for a wife."

Her sister held up a finger encased in the white kidskin glove. "Ahh, but we do not need an overabundance of dukes, Katherine. We merely require two."
- loc 49 to 60

The one character I didn't like so much was Jasper's friend, Guilford -- who had taken on the role of therapist. I appreciated his support of Jasper, but he seemed very one-note in his repeated attempts to help Jasper heal. (Too proselytizing)

I really enjoyed this novel, and plan to follow this series.

For Love of the Duke is the first book* in The Heart of the Duke series by Christi Caldwell. To find out more about the author and her books, click below:


Disclosure: I won this book from a giveaway hosted by the author. Yes, this is an honest review.

*There's a prequel to For Love of the Duke called In Need of a Duke , which is a 94-page novella and tells the story of Aldora, Katherine and Anne's older sister.


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