A Wonderful Medieval Tale

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The Heart of the Phoenix by Barbara Bettis
Overview by Amazon:
Lady Evelynn’s childhood hero is home—bitter, hard, tempting as sin. And haunted by secrets. A now-grown Evie offers friendship, but Sir Stephen’s cruel rejection crushes her, and she resolves to forget him. Yet when an unexpected war throws them together, she finds love isn’t so easy to dismiss. If only the king hadn’t betrothed her to another.

Can be cruel

Sir Stephen lives a double life while he seeks the treacherous outlaws who murdered his friends. Driven by revenge, he thinks his heart is closed to love. His childhood shadow, Lady Evie, unexpectedly challenges that belief. He rebuffs her, but he can’t forget her, although he knows she’s to wed the king’s favorite.

And deadly

When his drive for vengeance leads to Evie’s kidnapping, Stephen must choose between retribution and the love he’s denied too long. Surely King John will see reason.

Convict the murderers; convince the king. Simple. Until a startling revelation threatens everything.

Barbara Bettis is a very skilled writer. She takes a time period that doesn’t have a lot of record keeping and weaves historical facts with a great love story. The period in time is after King Richard’s reign and Prince John is about to ascend the throne. Although there is no mention of Robin Hood, the politics of the day are craftily woven into the story.

Evie has had a crush on Sir Stephen for years. And then years go by until she sees him again. He is forced into escorting her home from France to England. After a cryptic letter from her brother Henry about becoming betrothed, she is anxious to get home as fast as possible.

Stephen has been deeply embedded in fighting for the crown and fighting an enemy called the Dragon. The intrigue and danger only adds to the plot line. He must carry out three missions now. Continue his work for the Brotherhood of the Phoenix to capture the Dragon, return Evie to England safely and NOT give in to the lust he feels for her.

I love novels where they are racing across the countryside, dodging danger at every turn and living only for the moment. The author describes their journey with great imagery and emotions. Evie has gone from being Stephen’s ‘shadow’ to his personal tormentor. He finds her lush and womanly, yet he is duty bound to protect her and his mission. This makes for lots of arguments, heated looks and a few hot kisses.

Evie meets her intended by accident as they secure passage to England. Sir Fulk is at first charming, but she quickly sees the underbelly of a snake. It makes her long for the continued protection of Stephen and she must move quickly to undo this horrible betrothal.

Once they reach England, the stakes get higher. Murdering outlaws, kidnapping, death all surround the
group as they pursue their goals. The tension only pushes Evie and Stephen together. The love scenes are hot and steamy. No longer is Stephen impartial and resigned to Evie’s fate with Sir Fulk. He would rather die than see her tied to him. That means he must complete his mission as quickly as possible so he can get to Prince John and seek his favour. This is made harder by a traitor in their midst.

The intrigue and mystery had me catch my breath a few times as I was so caught up in the twists and turns of the story. Like most great hero’s Stephen has a past that is haunting him and is the motivation for him to do his work for the brotherhood. Being with Evie helps him to let go of his past and begin to plan for a future.

Like most historical romance novels, we want the happily ever after. This book ties up the winding and twisting plot very nicely and provides the reader with a satisfying ending. If you enjoy stories set in medieval England with buxom heroines, handsome hero’s, fights to the death and evil plots for the crown, then this is a definite read. It kept me well entertained and I found myself whispering encouragement to the characters and groaning when they stumbled.

An EXCELLENT Introduction to a Gothic Adventure

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The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall (A Dark Seductions Novel) by Lauren Smith

Overview by Amazon:

A thrilling gothic romance from Entangled’s Otherworld imprint…

To defeat a dark evil, they must face his family’s past…

Bastian Carlisle, the Earl of Weymouth, doesn’t believe in ghosts. Even though tragedy and mysterious hauntings have driven his family away from his ancestral home, Stormclyffe Hall, he is determined to restore the castle to its former glory. His plans are disrupted when a stubborn American shows up on his doorstep hoping to pry into his family’s tragic history.

Jane Seyton, an American graduate student, is convinced there’s more to the tragedy of Stormclyffe Hall than history claims. Ever the scholar, she is determined to discover the truth, even if it means putting up with the arrogant, yet sexy, Bastian.

Although Bastian wants nothing to do with the pushy American, it soon becomes clear that something evil is in the house—and that something is targeting both Jane and Bastian. The two must join forces to purge the ghosts of Stormclyffe Hall once and for all—even as they try to fight a physical attraction between them that grows more and more impossible to deny.

I have never read a Gothic novel before. I read this one well past midnight, alone in my house and let’s just say that I have never noticed how many creaks and groans there are to my house! This book was a wonderful adventure, with enough paranormal activity to make a non-believer feel shivers as they read this story.

When the book opened, I thought I was going to be reading a historical romance novel, but then it jumps to modern day. Although it is set in Modern day England, the story weaves back and forth between the present and the past. In some respects, it made me think of the movie Possession with Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart as scholars who are researching the past of Victoria poets, though the similarities end there. This book is like a much darker and somewhat scarier version of Suzanne Enoch’s book Twice the Temptation, where a cursed necklace haunts the past and the future. But once again, these two examples only tickled my memory when I was reading this book. This book is nothing like them, with the exception of the past and present colliding.

Stormclyffe Hall has called to Jane for years. She inadvertently started her dissertation on it because a book fell off a shelf all the way in America and she was captured by the photograph. This castle and the history of Weymouth has been her life for the past four years. Finally granted permission to visit the property, but not the personal family documents, she is eager to get away.

Leaving behind a life in America to study in England is helping her mend her heart over her broken engagement. Her former fiancée just couldn’t understand her obsession with this old pile of rocks.
The minute Jane gets to Weymouth; it seems like electricity runs through her. It’s that feeling of a bit of déjà vu, but also that you are exactly where you are supposed to be at the right time.

She meets playboy, scholar and owner of Stormclyffe, Bastian, the current Earl and within moments the plot goes into overdrive. She has been put in parlour where she views the portrait of the beautiful Isabelle. The story centers around the love match of Isabelle and Richard in 1810. Jane wants to know why Isabelle killed herself, Richard follows soon after due to drinking and since that time the family has been cursed. Fires, deaths, car accidents, hangings and very strange events that can’t logically be explained occur to this family and the estate.

While gazing at this portrait, she realizes that she is a very, very close resemblance to the late Isabelle. When she meets Bastian, within moments they are passionately attached to each other whispering love words that neither of them would dare know. This is the first of many creepy and sometimes special moments that the past reveals itself through these two new acquaintances. They are promptly horrified that they were making out once the spell is broken; in fact Jane has to fasten her pants. They are drawn to each other with a magnetic pull, one that they can’t seem to deny.

Bastian has every intention of humouring Jane and showing her the library and then sending her on her way. This changes after he’s has her in his arms. He doesn’t quite know what’s happened, but his need to restore the castle is like the drums of battle. He can’t fight it.

More creepy things happen. More things jump out at night and during the day. More visions of a ghostly woman in a white dress. More warnings to leave the premise before people are hurt. But the two of them can’t let go. When retrieving Jane’s possessions from her inn, they realize she had been staying at the former home of Isabelle. Creepy coincidences like that occur until they uncover that Jane is actually a distant descendant of Isabelle’s family. Now it’s like fate is sealed. She is meant to be there until they get to the bottom of this.

But the wicked and evil forces won’t let them be. As they dig further, the ghosts of Richard and Isabelle are very active, but so is the evil force that drove them apart and has cursed the family. Let’s just say that reading this book at night only highlights the suspense. I couldn’t put this book down until I knew the truth. What happened to Richard and Isabelle all those years ago, who is the evil stalking Jane and the castle, and what is going to happen with Bastian and Isabelle??? I really liked both characters. Bastian is not the reclacitrant playboy Jane assumes he will be. He is a hot, lusty, young Lord and with help from his ancestor Richard is claiming the woman he wants. I felt relived for Jane once I realized how inevitable it was that she would end up at Stormclyffe manor. It was her fate and thankfully Bastien was there to be her partner and saviour.

Through all the weird going on, Bastian can no longer feign that it’s nature or an odd wind blowing. He’s just as deep as Jane in this mystery, especially since it directly involves him. But what concerns him almost as much are the feelings her is developing for Jane. They laugh together (despite the setting), they dance, they listen to 70s rock and the genuinely get to know one another. The relationship may be very young (only a few days old), but it is as if they have old souls who recognize one another and won’t let go. Bastian does try to send Jane away to safety, but she feels just as invested as she is the target of the evil and a relation to Isabelle.

While most historical romance novels and contemporary have a mystery to solve, this one straddles the space between the past and the present. This book makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you want to leave the bathroom light on after reading!

We all want good to triumph over evil, love to win out in the end and there be a happily ever after. No wonder Gothic novels were so popular in the 1800s. After reading my first one, I see the appeal and the interest. Although this once was so well written, so well-conceived and plotted out that something after this may be a disappointment. I LOVED this book. It’s so exciting when you find a new author to read and you love all their work. Lauren Smith is so talented at weaving a well written story, full of outstanding characters, settings and plot.

One Lady, Five Lords

league of rogues

Wicked Designs (The League of Rogues Series) by Lauren Smith

Overview by Amazon:

The League of Rogues takes what they want—but have they taken on too much?

For too long Miss Emily Parr has been subject to the whims of her indebted uncle and the lecherous advances of his repulsive business partner. Her plan to be done with dominating men forever is simple—find herself a kind husband who will leave her to her books.

It seems an easy enough plan, until she is unexpectedly abducted by an incorrigible duke who hides a wounded spirit behind flashing green eyes.

Godric St. Laurent, Duke of Essex, spends countless nights at the club with his four best friends, and relishes the rakish reputation society has branded him with. He has no plans to marry anytime soon—if ever. But when he kidnaps an embezzler’s niece, the difficult debutante’s blend of sweetness and sharp tongue make him desperate for the one thing he swears he never wanted: love.

Yet as they surrender to passion, danger lurks in Godric’s shadowed past, waiting for him to drop his guard—and rob him of the woman he can’t live without.

I once read that Jane Austen never wrote a single scene with just men. The rationale was that since she had never been alone with a man or men, she didn’t know what they talked about, therefore she couldn’t write about it. For many women in the Georgian and Regency eras, this would have been a very true fact. Women were highly chaperoned and moved in flocks, and however unjust it was men could do as they please, where women were held to very strict and high moral expectations..

That is why I loved this book so much! This book was FUN! It’s not often you read a historical romance novel that has all the usual elements really well done, but on top of it, the book had you smiling and laughing.

Emily has been kidnapped by the League of Rogues. The kidnapping in itself was hilarious with blunders and missteps. She has been spirited away to one of the members, Godric’s country estate. The purpose is to compromise her in retaliation for the business dealings Godric has with her spineless uncle Albert. They do not plan on actually doing any physical harm to her and this is not a ménage type of story. Just a simple kidnap until enough damage has been done to her reputation that her uncle will suffer.

What made this book so enjoyable was the time Emily spent with the five Lords. They are all very different men and exhibit a lust for life. They take Emily under their wing and spend time with her as if she were one of them. They never treat her like a sister, as they talk about things in front of her that no well-bred lady should be privy too. They all have an interest in the beautiful young lady and it was fun to watch them all have a go at wooing her.

Emily is NOT happy to have been taken. Although she didn’t like her current situation with her Uncle as he was plotting to give her to his horrible business partner Blankenship, she is faced with an even more challenging position as captive. Her escape attempts are so funny. She shows really ingenuity and cunning to try to defeat the League men. She pretends she can’t speak Greek and eavesdrops on their plans, she pretends she can’t ride and manages to outride them all, and she manages to bribe the staff to do her bidding. Each attempt was charming and I was crushed for her when she would be dragged back each time. As a reader, you know it’s a great book you are reading when you are so emotionally invested in the lives of the characters. I wanted Emily to stay there because the alternative was a horrible situation. I liked that they guarded her and cared for her.

All the men try to woo her. One brings her a puppy (although it is more for the reason that the puppy will make noise if she tries to escape), one takes her fishing, one engages in conversations about her feelings and one tries to seduce her (well, they all try in some way).

Godric is the reason that she has been kidnapped. Since he laid eyes on her, he has been drawn to her. He knows the other men are interested, but once she shows some interest in return, she belongs to him. The other men are still protective, but watch the courtship between to two develop, intervening when necessary.
Godric is a lusty man. He desires her, but like most Lords he has a past that has given him a cold heart and a strong temper. He doesn’t believe in love and marriage is out of the question. However, seduction is definitely on the agenda. He slowly wears down her defences and like a flower blooming; he slowly awakens her to the beauty of intimacy. The love scenes were so well written. Emily has her first kiss and one of the Rogues tells her she kisses with her heart, so of course it scared the pants off Godric.

As time passes, Emily is happy in her situation. She enjoys the Rogues and the protection they are providing, as danger most certainly lurks. Blankenship wants Emily badly. He wants to degrade her and defile her sexually. He enlists various characters to spy and abduct Emily. She believes she must try for a final escape to save the Rogues and Godric from death by Blankenship. She doesn’t succeed, but it solidifies for Godric that he can’t live without her. He’s not able to choke out the love words she wants, but in his marrow he knows that he can’t live without her.

Eventually, Blankenship’s machinations get results. He is able to get Emily away from the Rogues. Godric and the League are her Knights in shining armour and save her from a dreadful fate. Emily is a smart woman. Before she will say any vows, Godric must willingly say those words that she must hear. He gladly does because he knows that she is the one.

This book had all the elements of a perfect historical romance novel. The hero and heroine at odds with each other. Evil men willing to do harm to innocent ladies. A slow, burning seduction that lights up the pages with hot love scenes. But what really made this book stand out were the humour and the comradery amongst the League. It was so enjoyable to read about them whiling away the hours as gentlemen friends with a lady in tow. There were no pretensions about who they were and it wasn’t as if they treated Emily as one of the guys, but rather as a partner in crime. This is a delightful read and I’ve already read the next book in the series and I hope the author hurries up and writes the third book as I can’t wait to learn more about these wonderful and charming Rogues and the ladies who love them.

A PERFECT Scottish Story

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Captured By A Laird (The Douglas Legacy) by Margaret Mallory

Overview by Amazon:

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

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

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

One of my very favourite authors is the late, great Kathleen Woodiwiss. She wove an excellent story, full of vengeance, cunning, revenge, lust and love. This book reminds me greatly of her story The Wolf and the Dove. Although it was written in 1974, there seems to be something about feuding Lords and ladies of the castles that keeps making this an interesting plot line.

Alison is not your typical heroine. She has been widowed by a repugnant man that she despised. She despised him so much that she took his bed into the yard and burned it. The only shining light in her life is her two beautiful daughters. She hasn’t had an easy life, being married at 13 to a brute who humiliated her daily and make her life hell. Once she is free of him she thinks that she has the freedom she has longed for. With political men surrounding her life, she is remarkably naïve in this hope.

Her knight in shining armour is the ‘Beast’, David Wedderburn. He takes her castle and forces her to marry him. The author is descriptive in the cattle raiding and fear mongering he unleashes on the border lands, but it doesn’t distract that David is actually a very good person. He wants vengeance for his father and uncle’s murders and the injustices done to his clan, but he shows leniency and mercy to his enemies.

He is startled when he meets Alison. The plan was always to marry her, but he is blown away by her beauty and grace. He thanks his lucky stars, but quickly learns that he will have to woo his new bride. She desperately wants to be the kind of wife that a husband turns to in confidence, but with her brothers and Clan Douglas blowing in the wind, he doesn’t take her interest seriously. The story revolved a lot around the two of them getting to know one another.

The daughters and David’s brothers play a large part in the story. They make the new family unit more complete. The challenges of David’s brothers are borne by Alison and in turn he takes his role as step father to heart. Alison’s mother gave her a black stone to guard herself with. I love how the author wove in the mysticism of Scottish culture into the story. It’s such a beautiful part of the culture and the stone definitely served its purpose.

As Alison is a widow and has borne children, she clearly knows what happens in the marital bed and is revolted by the thought of returning to it. David must woo her gently. He awakens lust in her and for the first time she feels pleasure. She understands how great it can be between a man and a woman. David is a patient and gentle lover. The love scenes are so well written and you actually felt Alison’s joy at this surprising revelation and happiness in her new union.

But the enemies at the gate don’t stay there for long. There is a lot of plotting and evil lurking and swirling around the new family at Blackadder. Alison and David’s newfound peace is tested again and again. The new lovers are still carrying deep scars and they drive them apart. Only when the ultimate sacrifice must be made, do the two of them work together to thwart their enemies.

The ending was so great! When I look at the models on the cover of the book, I truly imagine that this is what their life will be like. I loved the epilogue that shares a glimpse into the future. Clan life is everything in Scottish culture and reading this story made me wish I was part of one too.

A Short and Sweet Love Match

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The Love Match (A Sisters of Scandal Novella) by Lily Maxton

Overview by Amazon:

Hampshire, 1818

To her family, Olivia Middleton is a problem of the most vexing sort. With her eldest two sisters married off, Olivia is now the target of her mother’s matrimonial scheming. Shy and somewhat plain, Olivia prefers the thrill of a gothic novel to the hunt for a husband. And as far as her family is concerned, something must be done… But Olivia has no interest in the men paraded before her.

Only the charming and infuriating Mr. William Cross (a rake in the making, and certainly not a suitable husband) holds the slightest fascination for her…

After watching his father die of a broken heart, William has sworn never to wed for a love match. Yet he’s intrigued by the bookish Olivia. And though he tried, staying away from her turns out to be impossible. But a scandalous liaison lands them both on the marriage block, William is shocked when Olivia refuses to wed for anything less than love – propriety be damned.

Now William must do the unthinkable… learn to love his reluctant fiancée.

This was a fun book to read on a sunny afternoon. It has a great plot, a house party, young eligible characters and two people who enjoy each other.

Olivia really enjoys Gothic novels. It made me wish I could read one of these novels from this time as they seem like fun (although there is likely nothing scandalous in them). She longs to hide away from society at this house party she has been literally dragged to by her mother. Her mother was a riot – especially since she isn’t my mother. She is obsessed with her youngest daughter capturing a titled man for marriage. Her other two daughters are married, but there is reference to how messy those matches seem to have come about.

William notices quiet Olivia. At first he interacts with her to save her from the bitter Lady Sarah, but as he gets to know her, he come to quite like her. William is a mere mister, but still considered a catch. He famously declared that he would not marry unless it was for love. Well, that declaration spread like wildfire through the ton and instead of chasing off debutantes and their matchmaking mamas, he is now under immense scrutiny. Who will be the one he loses his heart too?

This is a quick read as it is a novella. There was more than enough material to have written a full length novel, but it’s short and things move quickly. William and Olivia share confidences and time together in the library at night. He writes, she reads. However it quickly turns into kisses and then a whole lot more. After one night of kissing, they spend the rest of the time at the house party exploring each other’s bodies, thoughts and wants. They are falling for one another, yet William has not thought past the weeks at the house party.

To get the plot moving, they are found in flagrante by none other than evil Lady Sarah. She delights in their misery. Lots of yelling ensues along with a proposal from William. But Olivia is determined to marry for love or not at all. Her mother is having fits over the whole affair and it was rather humorous to watch her be denied the lofty title she so desired.

William has to face his conscience. What does he want? Does he love Olivia? They both are back in London dealing with the aftermath of the scandal. Olivia is firm on her expectations in life – she is ruined. She has no illusions that love will come to her. But it does and in such a sweet way. William realizes his heart before too long and claims the woman he needs in his life.

For a shorter story, this was a sweet read. The characters were well developed and interesting. I loved the time they spent together at night and it reinforced what a great match they were. The ending was so tender and special. If only all women were as lucky to have a man declare himself as William did.

A Unique Historical Romance Novel

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Secrets in Scarlet (The Rookery Rogues Book 2) by Erica Monroe

Overview by Amazon:
When a girl is murdered at a factory in one of London’s rookeries, Sergeant Thaddeus Knight of the Metropolitan Police comes in to investigate. But it’s not just the factory owners that Thaddeus wants information on–the devilishly intriguing Poppy O’Reilly is a puzzle he’d like nothing more than to solve.

Protecting her young daughter is the most important thing to Poppy, and Thaddeus threatens the false identity she’s carefully constructed. The last thing she should do is allow Thaddeus close to her family, yet she can’t stay away from him. With danger around the corner, will the secrets of a scarlet woman lead to their undoing?

As I read this book, an interesting item popped up on my twitter feed. It was a link to an article in USA Today written by Madeline Hunter (an author I really enjoy). She was writing about how publishers dislike historical romance novels set outside of England. She taps a few of her colleagues to get their experience, and they confer with her assessment. Books set outside of the traditional Regency period of the Upper ton in England are NOT a publisher dream – and also not as likely to make the best seller list. I can think of some of my favourite books that are set in lush tropical settings or humid faraway lands, like Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss and the Ascension Trilogy by Galen Foley. Many historical romance novels are set in the wilderness of the new world or the bustling streets of India. I’ve enjoyed them all, but I guess I’ve been conditioned to seek and enjoy the stories of the upper crust of London and their sprawling estates in the countryside.

This got me thinking about the types of characters typically featured in historical romance novels, not just the setting. Most books tend to focus on the Lords and Ladies of the manor. Sometimes the gentry and those in professions are explored. But usually they are relegated to minor supporting roles, such as the doctor or banker the Lords rely on. Lisa Kleypas has bucked this trend with her Bow Street Runner series and this book was reminiscent of this series.

This was a solid, good romance story. It proved that whether you are wealthy or not, love finds people in all circumstances in life. It isn’t often that a historical romance novel explores the lowest classes of people. The main character Poppy didn’t start that way, she came from a solid family home, but through her poor choices, she is forced into a dire living.

It was fascinating to read about the lives of the poor in England in the 1830s. The author provides a great deal of research to the story about how the poor eked out a living and the dangers that were a persistent and common threat.

Poppy works at a looming factory where there has been a murder. It is being investigated by a rather determined Thaddeus, an officer with the Met. The Met are not Bow Street Runners, with their ha’ penny novels and romantic illusions. They patrol the meanest streets and the worst rookeries to stop crime before it starts.

Thaddeus is an honourable man. He comes from a well to do family who despises his chosen profession. He wants to make a difference, and therefore befriends Poppy to do some reconnaissance for him on what is really going on in the factory run by the evil Larkers. The mystery surrounding a young woman’s death and the true business ventures of the Larkers makes for an exciting mystery. This plot line was great and I held my breath as I worried about the danger they were both facing.

Poppy has one motivation in this book. To care for her infant daughter. Seduced by a bored Lord and abandoned with child, she was stained with a Scarlett A and forced to leave her home. She has fallen on hard times and has a few family members helping her so that she doesn’t have to turn to prostitution to support her daughter. She is weary of Thaddeus as what he is asking is dangerous to her position and to the secrets and lies she carries with her daily.

The investigation brings the two of them closer. They discover similar interests, like how much they enjoy reading. What surprised me about this book was how young the characters are. In most novels, the woman is in her early 20s and the man pushing 30. Poppy is 19 and Thaddeus is only 24. Yet they seem like old souls as the things they have witnessed in life have aged the joy out of life.
Thaddeus realizes that his interest in Poppy goes beyond the investigation. He wants her, even as socially unacceptable as she is to his position in life. He struggles with the lies she has told him, but respects that she is making her way in life.

The mutual attraction between the two is always lurking in the background. Poppy is afraid of physical intimacy as the birth of her daughter is a strong motivation to stay chaste, yet she is drawn to the wonderful qualities about Thaddeus. He lusts for her like no other woman. You get the sense that he is not an experienced man, as he adorably refers to a pamphlet he has read on how to pleasure a woman. A few drinks, a bad day, men stalking Poppy, ends up with a wonderful and hot scene in a bar where they are overcome with lust and need. It was a great scene and it takes the relationship from a stage of careful interactions to full reality.

As with most people who live in Spitalfields, things aren’t easy. These two don’t have a perfect resolution to the drudgery and filth surrounding their lives. They both have to bend to compromise on a future. Although the ending is very satisfying and I was hoping for the events that occurred, you are left with the knowledge that they are one in a million.

I think it was great to read a historical romance novel that didn’t trivialize the lives of the downtrodden and the lead characters thought more of safety and daily existence than bonnets and gowns. This book fits the category of historical romance novels, but it was a refreshing read and a great reality check on the world at that particular time.

A MUST Read!! The League of Rogues Blew Me Away

his wicked seduction

His Wicked Seduction (League of Rogues) by Lauren Smith

Overview by Amazon:

Can the League’s most wicked rakehell be tamed? Or has this Rogue fallen too far?

The League of Rogues, Book 2

Horatia Sheridan has been hopelessly in love with Lucien, her brother’s best friend, ever since he rescued her from the broken remains of her parents’ wrecked carriage. His reputation as London’s most notorious rakehell doesn’t frighten her, for under his veneer of cool authority she has glimpsed a man whose wicked desires inspire her own.

Lucien, Marquess of Rochester, has deliberately nurtured a reputation for debauchery that makes every matchmaking mother of the ton quake with fear. His one secret: he is torn between soul-ripping lust for Horatia, and the loyalty he owes her brother.

That loyalty is put to the test when an old enemy of the League threatens Horatia’s life. With Christmas drawing near, he sweeps her away to his country estate, where he can’t resist granting her one wish—to share his bed and his heart.

But sinister forces are lurking, awaiting the perfect moment to exact their revenge by destroying not only whatever happiness Lucien might find in Horatia’s arms, but the lives of those they love.

I LOVED this book. I LOVED the characters. I LOVED the intrigue and mystery. I loved it so much that I have already purchased the first book in the series and can’t wait to start reading it.
This book has everything in it that you want. Unrequited love, passionate sex scenes and a villain out to destroy a close group of friends. I haven’t yet read the first book, but it was no problem picking up on the plot and what the current state of affairs are.

Horatia and Lucien have danced around each other for years. He is her older brother’s friend and a rake of the first order. He has been coolly disdainful of her since an immature incident years ago. She harbours a deep love for Lucien and has remained unmarried and unwilling to change that status as no one has ever tempted her as he does.

One night she pulls the ultimate prank and winds up at a pleasure garden, served up to Lucien as his new plaything and bedmate for the evening. Lucien knows exactly who it is right away. We know that he is not an unaffected as he pretends. He is cold and distant to her because he is scared to death of the feelings Horatia provokes in him. When she lands in his lap as a tasty morsel, he can’t resist. Although he leaves her technically a virgin, he gives in to the losing battle of ignoring her and sets them both aflame with passion.

The League of Rogues is being plagued by a former school mate. He is out for revenge and nothing is off limits. In the book, we see this evil villain do despicable deeds and go after family members. He bribes staffs, pokes and prods his way into the lives and households of the League members. His threats prompt the men to take action and they split up. Horatia and Lucien, along with their families end up in Kent for the Christmas season to take shelter from this nefarious foe. However, it also means that Lucien can’t run away from Horatia and must face what is between them. It helps that his mother is firmly on her side and plots her own intervention, which was hilarious.

While Lucien and Horatia figure out what is between them and what they want, they also must contend with her brother Cedric. He is opposed to any match between the two and knowing this makes it harder for the two to come together.

While in Kent, it seems like a fairy tale. They waltz; they kiss in libraries and steal away to a Gardener’s cottage for romantic interludes. Lucien is changing. He is no longer the libertine who seeks his pleasure in devious ways. He still maintains some of his kink, like his red ribbons, but he is learning what a real relationship is and that he has been wasting his time not claiming Horatia. I adored the interplay between the two. Such high emotions and crashing lows as they struggle to come together. It was so well written that I had a pang in my chest when Lucien would turn cold and away from the love Horatia was offering him.

The cast of characters in the book make it so appealing. The League members were featured and some background provided that I am sure will be elaborated on in future novels. We see how happy Goderic and Emily are (from the previous book) and that married life suits them just fine. I adored Lucien’s family and his brothers were great comedic relief. Horatia’s brother and sister provided a sounding board for her emotions and her past. They also were great characters in the story and I became invested in their lives and happiness too.

The sex scenes are steamy hot! Lucien likes control in the bedroom. He has honed his skill as a lover and puts it to full use seducing Horatia. However, just as he is adapting to new emotional needs, he is learning to become a different type of lover. He cherishes Horatia and their lovemaking was amazing. These scenes were so well written. When I first read that he likes red ribbons to tie up his lovers to feed his need of dominance, I thought it had shades of fifty in it, but it was not designed that way. He is just a dominant man who as head of his family, a Lord of the realm and fierce lover and needs to be in control.

This book blew me away. It was too short! I wanted more! I can’t wait until the next story comes out
which I believe will be about Cedric, Horatia’s brother. He has suffered a terrible injury and there seems to be a particular lady that can help him regain his life. Can’t wait to read more by this author. This was a grand slam in my opinion.

An Epic Avenger

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Alanna by Kathleen Bittner Roth (When Hearts Dare Series)

Overview by Amazon:

Wolf caught the faint scent of cinnabar and roses.

The girl turned her head and stared boldly at him, her cool demeanor at odds with the fire in her look. And then her lips parted, as if she needed more air. A punch of lust hit Wolf’s groin.
There was pure sin in his startling blue eyes.

The moment hung suspended between them, and then expanded as his feral gaze held hers. Stranger? Not to Alanna. He went by the name of Wolf, and he was a legend in these parts, known from San Francisco to Boston as a relentless tracker of lost persons. His quest to find his mother’s killer would lead him to Alanna…and his destiny.

In his arms, she would never be lost again. . .

So this book is part of the When Hearts Dare Series by Kathleen Bittner Roth. I recently read and reviewed Celine, so I was very familiar with the characters and the back story. I think this is one book that is best read in order of the series. To truly understand Wolf and his anguish it helps to know about the life he was leading before this book began, because it is an entirely different existence.

There is a lot of plot in this book and a lot of settings. From San Francisco to Boston to Scotland and back, the characters journey to uncover the past. It’s a tangled web the author has woven full of intrigue, interesting cultural elements and the road to self-discovery.

Wolf is an orphan who vividly remembers the murder of his mother when he was a child. The rest of his formative years were a blur. He longs to find the man who killed his mother and destroyed his family. He wears her garnet earring as a remembrance to his mission in life and his goal. He has spent the past being a tracker in the mid-west of America. But now it is time for him to learn who he really is and use his skills as a hunter to find and deliver retribution to the man who took his life away.

He boards a ship bound for Boston as that is where he was when his mother was murdered. Once aboard the ship he runs into the beautiful Alanna Malone whom he had a brief encounter with at the hotel in San Fran. She is the kind of woman to make a man lose his mind. Lush, sensual, mysterious are all perfect adjectives for the raven haired beauty. They dance and flirt around one another over the voyage, but they are heavily monitored by her overbearing and rude parents. They have been fighting and clawing their way into the upper echelon of Boston society and have made a match for her with a prominent son. The ship’s captain, Thomson is very familiar with Wolf and the family and shares tidbits of who Alanna really is and the fire beneath the cool exterior. He almost encourages Wolf to seek her out as he despairs almost as deeply as Alanna about the upcoming nuptials.

Alanna despises the way she is treated as a commodity by her parents. She holds them in contempt and makes no bones about how she feels about her future. She sees Wolf as the future. It’s one of those character traits where she seemed to know she is destined to be with him.

Once they land in Boston, Wolf loses three weeks on a fruitless journey to find his past. He is dismayed to discover the truth has been covered up and his digging is making some enemies. He has some contact with Alanna and her bodyguard ‘The Old Chinese’. Alanna has arranged the meeting so the Old Chinese can help him recover his memories and get to the truth.

This is where the book became really interesting. The Old Chinese is not just a bodyguard. He has essentially raised Alanna. They take Wolf to ‘the farm’ which is in reality his dojo. The Old Chinese is a martial arts master, as well as schooled in the art of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. He begins to train Wolf, as he has done with Alanna and countless others. Wolf is incredulous that the closely guarded and highly prized Alanna possesses a black belt and lives in this ultimate universe. I could hardly believe it as well! But the point of this plot was to use it as a tool to help Wolf learn to open his heart and to trust he could love, since all he has known is abandonment.

Wolf’s enemies find him after a soiree he attends and waltzes with Alanna. Her fiancé is a horrible, snivelling little man and sends goons after Wolf. He barely survives the attack and is hidden away by the Captain and Alanna. He takes a long time to heal, sending others to do the investigative work of his past while he recovers. He learns that he must go to Scotland to find another piece of the puzzle.

Before he goes, the electric passion that exists between them is ignited. They finally consummate their carnal relationship from just touches and kisses. Alanna knows in her gut that he is the one for her. Wolf doesn’t just see her as another woman to share passion with. He may not admit love, but he feels her being to his core. The sex scenes are hot and intense. The Old Chinese has left them a lover’s guide and Alanna has been an apt pupil. Although she is a virgin, she is eager to be in her lover’s arms and embrace his touch and taste. They part after this with the promise that they will be reunited once Wolf has faced his past once and for all.

Wolf travels to Scotland where he learns the truth about his ancestory and the evil that lurks in Boston, so treacherously close to his beloved Alanna. He has to make peace with the past and claim his heritage before he can go and get her; although not a day passes he doesn’t ache for her and the promise of a future.

Alanna, the Old Chinese and their entourage are not willing to wait and make the journey to Scotland. Alanna is pregnant with Wolf’s child. He is overjoyed to see her and they quickly make up for lost time in the bedroom – yay more steamy scenes! However she knows a piece of his past that she knows will break his heart and possibly their relationship. When she reveals what she knows, he casts her off. This seems unbearably harsh, but Wolf’s character has been revealed, his whole being has been about avenging the demise of his family. Danger follows Alanna and the Old Chinese to Scotland and they are set upon in Wolf’s castle. Old Chinese is grievously injured and Alanna is kidnapped.

This is where the book got a little wonky for me. This should be the moment that Wolf becomes the hero and races after her and his unborn child. But he doesn’t. He stays in Scotland and drinks. He communicates through letters to Alanna, but makes no attempts to get her back. It is only when his friend Turner (from the previous book) kicks his butt into action that he goes to claim his woman, who is being treated horribly by her fiancé and parents.

They reunite in Boston and the whole mystery of Wolf’s past is open. There are no more secrets and no more dark shadows. They are able to move on with their lives and start again in the place that Wolf should have always been.

There are a ton of secondary characters to the story. Most add a deeper element to the plot points and make the story richer. I despised the Malone’s and Alanna’s fiancé, so the author did a great job at making them evil and unworthy of redemption. The twists and turns of the past resurfaced piece by piece and it was easy to follow as the story unfolded.

This was a great book. I really enjoyed reading it, but I am still smarting at Wolf’s rejection of Alanna in Scotland. It shows how strong of a character she was to endure all she did, not only for their love, but for their child. I forgave Wolf when he went and made things right, but I wanted to take away his Scottish whiskey and make him walk the fires of hell for being a straight up jerk. His sojourn in Scotland made the story lose some steam as months passed and very important parts in the characters’ lives. But I can live with this lapse as overall the book was a well told tale that had me rooting for Alanna and Wolf, cheering and crying in all the right parts.

Tons of Secrets and Tons of Guests

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The Shocking Secret of a Guest at the Wedding (Millworth Manor) by Victoria Alexander

Overview by Amazon:
The bride and groom cordially request your presence for a wedding at Millworth Manor. . .
Guests will include Jackson Quincy Graham Channing, New York City banker, and Lady Theodosia “Teddy” Winslow, wedding planner to the finest families in England.
Introductions shall be followed by light conversation, dancing, flirtation, arguing, reconciliation, and an impulsive kiss that both parties are quite certain they will never repeat.

Until they do.

A mutually beneficial fake engagement will be accompanied by all manner of very real complications, scandalous revelations, nefarious schemes, and one inescapable conclusion:
That true love–unlike the perfect wedding–is impossible to plan. . .

This book took me a while to get through. I enjoyed the story as there were so many twists and turns to the story that every time I thought it would follow a predictable path it introduced another character or twists.

What I really liked about this book was the evolution of Jack. From staid and stodgy banker to a man who doesn’t know what he wants in life to an adventurer. He was a fun character. He always seemed to have a gleam in his eye and it was great to watch him grow as a person. As he discovers his father’s legacy and England, he feels like a fish out of water. Eventually he becomes more confident in his new life and much of that is thanks to his relationship with Theodosia. She is the catalyst for his change. She helps to make England and all that it offers much more appealing. He starts to take chances and wants to become a hero, and he gets his opportunity with Teddy.

I really liked a lot of the secondary characters. Jack’s long lost father, Basil is a treasure. He is so excited to reconnect with his long lost son. He’s led such an adventurous life and he is a dashing character. I also really liked Lucy Merriweather; Jack’s at one time almost fiancé. She shows such spunk and I truly loved her outlook on life. I’d love to read a book about her and what life has in store for her. I have not read the other books in the Millworth series, so the widowed sisters were interesting. They all married older men and then once widowed seemed to live the life they always wanted. It didn’t detract from the story since I didn’t read their stories, but it was intriguing to know what happened in their lives previously.

Theodosia was a solid character. She has been left with her father’s crushing debts and found a unique way to solve the problem by being a social events planner. Through the book she comes to realize that this is something she wants to do even when the debts are paid off. Business is unbecoming in a female at this point in history, but she has the fortitude to be honest and open about what her goals are.
The relationship between Jack and Teddy starts as a simple, flirty dance. It develops into a friendship, with many challenging moments in between. The ‘I like him, I hate him’ element of the beginning of the relationship was a bit tedious. Like, just make up your mind woman!! He isn’t there to do you harm, so what is the problem with being a proper lady and not making tart comments to him. I’ve lost track at how many times she had to apologize to him. They end up faking an engagement, which is Jack’s first attempt at being a hero. She resents this and yet is grateful. There was a long segment in the book where they do typical things that engaged couples do, but it just seemed tedious. The long winded conversations that seemed to go round and round wore on me. They never seemed to say very much or went over the same point repeatedly. They share two kisses pretty early in the book and then nothing forever. It would have made the relationship more believable if they had been getting hot and heavy with each other. That would have made a fake engagement into a reality quicker and realistic rather than conversations that were contradicted repeatedly.

Don’t get me wrong. I liked both Jack and Teddy. It was just a very slow moving romance. In fact I was shocked at how the book ended. The epilogue saved the day.

The title of this book is the Shocking Secret of a Guest at a Wedding, yet there were so many guest and so many shocks that it was astounding! Although all the puzzle pieces fit together, you kept expecting the wedding to happen and not another secret coming out. Lots of elements to weave together and it was done well. My only disappointment was the slow development of the relationship between Jack and Teddy. If I had a hot, smart, titled and wealthy man dogging my steps, I’d be thrilled and racing my way to the priest.

A Scottish Cinderella and Her Prince

prince who loved me

The Prince Who Loved Me (The Oxenburg Princes) by Karen Hawkins

Overview by Amazon:

Romance sizzles in this Cinderella story set in Scotland, the first in a sparkling new spinoff series from New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins.

Prince Alexsey Romanovin enjoys his carefree life, flirting—and more—with every lovely lady who crosses his path. But when the interfering Duchess Natasha decides it’s time for her grandson to wed, Alexsey finds himself in Scotland, determined to foil her plans. Brainy, bookish, and bespectacled, Bronwyn Murdoch seems the perfect answer—she isn’t at all to the Duchess’s taste.

Living at the beck and call of her ambitious stepmother and social butterfly stepsisters, Bronwyn has little time for a handsome flirt—no matter how intoxicating his kisses are. After all, no spoiled, arrogant prince would be seriously interested in a firm-minded female like herself. So…wouldn’t it be fun to turn his “game” upside down and prove that an ordinary woman can bring a prince to his knees…

This was such a fun story to read. It had all the hallmark elements of a Cinderella story, but the story was so lighthearted and fun that it never felt bitter or harsh like some retellings of the classic tale. Bronwyn is a bookish, spinster who is firmly on the shelf. Her father remarried when she was sixteen in hopes of finding a step mother who could mould her into a lady. Sadly, the hopes of her step mother were not to be. Bronwyn’s father is an inventor and he heavily relies on Bronwyn’s intellect and time as his assistant. She has no interest in the fripperies and trappings of being a lady. She loves to read and enjoys her country lifestyle. She also got two step sisters in the marriage, and unlike the Disney Cinderella story, she cares deeply for her sisters. They are the beautiful ones who people fawn all over and have the most promise at making a good match. At times the author made Bronwyn seem dowdy, however when she is revealed through the eyes of her lover, we see a beautiful woman, if not conventional for the time.

While she is reading in the garden one day, she makes the acquaintance of a huntsman. They talk about books and dogs. And somehow that talking turns to a hot kiss. She runs off leaving her slipper behind. Little does she know that the man who now has her shoe is a huntsman, but also a prince.
We get to know Alexsey through a house party being thrown at a nearby estate. He is one of four princes and visiting with his grandmother. He is half Romany and his role and future is to work to ensure their survival. His grandmother is a dragon. She’s like one of those older people you meet who is so cutting and sharp you instantly long to run away. She lords the position of keeper of the Romany over Alexsey and pushes him into making a match of marriage.

Alexsey has designs on Bronwyn as she will be an interesting way to pass the time at the boring house party. He tells his friend Strathmore that he will make her want him, seduce her and then leave. He sees nothing wrong with this because she will be satisfied with his attentions in bed and Bronwyn herself has told him she is happy with her existence and doesn’t wish to marry or change anything.

How wrong they both are. As her sister Sorcha is being flung at Alexsey, Grandmother is interfering, Step mother is fretting, and Bronwyn and Alexsey seek out quiet moments to spend together. He plans to seduce her, but also enjoys getting to know her and do mundane things like read with her. Bronwyn knows what is happening, as she overheard a careless conversation between Alexsey and Strathmore and she knows the few weeks they have together will be her one shot in life at passion.

She plans to make Alexsey burn for her and then leave him wanting. But as it is with passion, that’s not how it works. They both set each other aflame. The love scenes were tender and scorching at the same time. I loved how her Scottish accent came peeking out when she was vexed or in the throes of lust and I adored how he spoke a mix of his native language and English. They shouldn’t have been a great fit on paper, yet the chemistry they created together made it impossible there wouldn’t be a happy ending to this story.

I really enjoyed all the characters. Bronwyn is stalwart and intellectual. She’s the kind of friend you want to have for life because she is so true to herself and giving. Alexsey could be a rake, but he deeply cares for his Romany folk and fought with his Grandmother’s wishes to be with the one woman who made him feel love for the first time. He adored that Bronwyn had pride and didn’t want to be a princess unlike every other insipid female at the party. The secondary characters were also great additions to the story. His friend Strathmore was the sounding board for his developing feelings (and also provides a GREAT surprise), the sisters were loving and so good to Bronwyn and even the step mother was caring in her own way. She tried to respect and understands Bronwyn without making her feel like less of a family member because she chose a different path in life. The Grandmother was the ultimate manipulator of the story. She made me laugh so many times, especially when she plotted and flummoxed Alexsey’s plans. Her threats to turn servants into goats were a charming touch.

This was a heartwarming story to read. I loved the Cinderella elements to the plot and it was filled with wonderful characters that were interesting and fun to get to know. A great book to curl up with and lose yourself for an evening. I’m so looking forward to Wulf’s story which is the next in the Oxenburg Princes series.