All posts by kiltsandswords

Blogging about smutty history and the books that make modern ladies swoon.

Where have you been, Kate Robbins?

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Promised to the Highlander by Kate Robbins

Overview by Amazon:
Nessia Stephenson’s world was safe until a threat from a neighbouring clan forces her to accept a betrothal to a man whose family can offer her the protection she needs. The real threat lies in her intense attraction to the man who arranged the match—the clan’s chief and her intended’s brother, Fergus MacKay.

When powerful warlord Fergus MacKay arranges a marriage for his younger brother, William, he has no idea the price will be his own heart. Fergus is captivated by the wildly beautiful Nessia, a woman he can never have.

When the feud between the MacKay and Sutherland clans escalates, Nessia, William, and Fergus all must make sacrifices for their future. Longing and loss, honour and duty. How can love triumph under such desperate circumstances?

I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for a review.
This is the first book I have read by Kate Robbins and all I could think about is WHY have I not found her before? This book is so amazing! I looked at other reviews and it was unanimous that this author and this book are amazing!

I adore books set in the Highlands of Scotland. It’s set in the time period of Stewart reign, so not as common as most Highland books which tend to focus on Robert Bruce and William Wallace. I found the historical plot points interesting and the clan way of life to be well explored.

The heroine Nessia is a treasure. She’s bold and strong and loyal. I totally enjoyed how she was developed as a character. The only challenge for me was that I couldn’t figure out how to pronounce her name accurately and it kind of irked me as I went along, but I appreciated that she wasn’t named something modern in order to make the story more palatable to current trends.

When we meet the hero and heroine they are immediately taken with each other. It’s that visceral pull between two people that is rare and breathtaking. Alas, she has been secured as a wife to Fergus’s younger brother William, who is very pleased with the match. I kept expecting the betrothal to be broken in order to get the romance going between Nessia and Fergus, but I was quite surprised that she did marry William. Immediately I though two things. One, William’s fate was not good. This is a romance novel and clearly Fergus is the hero, so something was going to happen to William. Second, this book was unusual in the fact that most romance novels don’t have the heroine marry someone else and have sex with them. So if you want a tale about virgins slaking their lust with the hero, this story is different than that common recipe.
However, Nessia’s lack of virginity allows for her and Fergus to explore each other without the hold up of maidenly qualms. He’s a brawny man who burns to be with her. Nessia can taste how passionate their encounters will be before he has even touched her. The sex scenes are really well done and very vivid. The book is not over run with smutty embraces, but their lovemaking ties together their relationship and the plot points.

Since there is clan warfare, we get to read about battles and alliances. This isn’t the usual description of practice with a claymore on the tiltyard, but real battles with subterfuge and intrigue. The enemy is evil and his treachery knows no bounds. The secondary characters enhance the plot and play pivotal roles in moving events along.

I still can’t believe I have never read one of Kate Robbins books before. This book is part of a series with more to come. I stayed up way past my bedtime, telling myself just a few more minutes to read, but in the end I couldn’t put it down until I knew how it ended. I was sure there would be a happy conclusion, but I just had to know!
I heartily recommend this book and author. I’m so happy I had the chance to discover her work and will definitely be reading more.

Reviewed for Kiltsandswords

Bonde, Jane Bonde

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Love and Let Spy by Shana Galen
Overview from Amazon:
Her name is Bonde, Jane Bonde…
A beautiful and eligible member of the ton, Jane has more than a few secrets: she’s one of the Crown’s most elite agents. She may be deadly, but she doesn’t know a thing about fashion, flirtation, or love…until Dominic Griffyn shakes up her carefully stirred world and asks her to be his bride. He’s exactly the kind of man she’s not looking for. And he’s dangerous, because falling into his arms is so much more satisfying than saving England from her enemies.

He’s an improper gentleman who needs a wife…
Tall, dark, and tortured, Dominic Griffyn is haunted by demons from his past. When his stepfather insists that he marry, Dominic allows himself to hope that the beautiful but mysterious Miss Bonde might help him forget his troubles. As they grow closer, it’s clear that there’s more to Jane than danger. She might be just what his neglected heart needs.

So I just re-read Lord and Lady Spy and totally forgot that this book was being released this week! This was such a fun read! I adore the premises of the author’s Spy series. The first being a take on Mr. and Mrs. Smith, then True Lies and now James Bond. It’s written with such cheekiness that I couldn’t help but smile as I read how Jane Bonde prefers her drink shaken, not stirred.
The story is a continuation of the Spy series Barbican group who are hunting down the master spy Fonce who has been trying to take out fellow spies and key members of the British aristocracy, royalty and government. Jane has been trained by her guardian known as M for this role since he took her in as an orphaned six year old. She is the best. She is cultured, worldly and deadly. However now the time has come for her to marry and a groom has been selected for her. Obviously for someone who is so independent and capable, this is not a welcome interference. She rebels at the idea, even though the handsome man chosen piques her interest.
Dominic has NO interest in marrying. AT ALL. He is suffering from what is described as post traumatic stress disorder from being abused as a child. He doesn’t form bonds, he doesn’t fit it with society and his family and he doesn’t want to be married. Of course he is interested in Jane, but expresses the futility of a match.
The two main characters dance around one another for most of the story. They come to the realization that escaping the marital plans their families have for them may be impossible. Dominic discovers pretty quickly that Jane is a spy and although he wants to be a caveman and save her, he does understand she is immensely capable and joins her on some missions. For a Regency male, he accepts Jane’s occupation and experience pretty well. It helps make the plot more believable that there seem to be just as many female spies in the Barbican group as there are men. It was funny to read about M’s assistant Moneypence and Miss Qwillen, aka Q the weapons expert. This nod to the James Bond series was a lighthearted addition to the book.
The lust the two feel for each other is tempered by their desire to not be betrothed to each other and because of Dominic’s past abuse. For a moment I thought the book was about to take a page from Fifty Shades of Grey, but the author writes the sex scenes well and realistically for the nature of the couple. Jane is technically a virgin, but experienced enough to know what she wants. Dominic on the other hand, is very new at intimacy and sex. I liked how the author navigated the progression of their sexual encounters and it made it more exciting once they finally got down to it.
The spy plot is central to the book and it ties up the series well. Jane is a fierce agent and she has enjoyed her work as a spy, but through the book starts to question her role and what she wants for the future. It seemed inevitable that she would concede to a life with Dominic and you want to cheer when she does agree to be his wife.
Both characters are well developed. You learn about Dominic and his past. He breeds horses and cares deeply for the work that he does. This added depth and dimension to the character, especially since Jane is a more developed character. It was great to see the other characters from the series make appearance in the book – Wolf, Saint, Blue, Baron…I liked hearing what they were doing since their story was told. I especially liked reading about Adrian and Sophia’s pregnancy.
Overall this was a solid story with good plot developments. It was fun to have such an interesting heroine to read about and see a Regency woman so capable. This was not a typical historical romance per se as the hero had deep personal issues that made him weak and fearful, but it was handled well. He could still be alpha male, but he was her equal in many regards.
There is a new series on the horizon from Shana Galen to be explored. Stay tuned….

An Adventure at Sea

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A Woman Made for Sin by Michele Sinclair

Overview by Amazon

Three best friends are the most eligible ladies in London. But Lady Aimee Wentworth only has eyes for the handsome sailor who captured her heart long ago…Everything She Lost…Lady Aimee Wentworth has grown tired of Reece Hamilton avoiding her. Unable to shake her childhood vow to marry the dashing sailor, she devises a plan that she’s certain will land her in his arms. But before she can act, she’s captured by Reece’s crew, and an ill-timed case of mistaken identity all but shatters her hopes of winning back his affections…Was Worth Everything She Gained. Born the untitled second son of a lord, Reece has resigned himself to the life of a sailor. Unable to provide the luxuries befitting a Lady, he insisted that Aimee seek the hand of a nobleman. But when he discovers her on board his ship he knows there is only one direction in which to set his sails – toward a destiny more adventurous – and more passionate – than either could have ever imagined…

 

So I didn’t read the first book in this series, so I had to do some catch up with the characters.  The main story is about Reece and Aimee, but the secondary characters play a major role in the novel.  At first this was a distraction as the plot of Millie and Charles was just as intricate and detailed as the main characters, but eventually it won me over and I was just as intrigued by Millie’s adventure as Aimee’s.

I love stories where the hero and heroine are at sea.  Trapped on a ship with each other and nothing to do but get it on.  However in this story, Aimee remains hidden from Reece for most of the journey.  When they finally connect, it’s predictable and delicious.  The scenes between the two are spicy and hot.  I enjoyed how she captured the love and respect of the crew and it made her declaration of love of the sea realistic and relatable. 

The author writes well and describes the everyday life of the working class well.  From the lives of the men on the ship to the boarding house Millie lives in, you get a strong sense of what it was like to live in those times.  Most historical romance novels never really describe the lives of the working class and what it meant to have no social net to fall back on.  The author is very vivid in her descriptions of what it is like on a sailing vessel and I learned a lot about ships and the mechanics of sailing.  It wasn’t a boring component of the book, but rather an important component of the plot and blended perfectly with the plot.

As I commented before the secondary character plot line is quite substantial.  Charles sends Millie away and berates her quite soundly.  Probably very realistic for the times.  Of course he suffers regret for what he has done and becomes quite frantic to find her.  It was a tad unrealistic that a woman in this time could pull off the hijinks that Millie does, but it moved the story along and was interesting to read.  Since I didn’t read the first book that had Millie and Charlie’s story, I am not familiar with how they fell in love and got together, but they don’t seem like the most happy of couples and are constantly trying to tame and change each other.  Maybe in the third book (Janelle’s story) they will arrive at a resolution.

This book was an enjoyable read.  It really did feel like two different books being read at the same time.  Aimee and Reece’s romance was funny and sweet and the sex was well written and what I would expect from this genre.  Millie and Charlie’s story was different –  not bad, but definitely given more plot for secondary characters than I have read in the past.  I will read the next book in the series as I hope that Aimee and Charlie are given the same amount of attention in that book that Millie and Charlie were.  Their story was more interesting and exciting.

Crossfire Series Review

imagesCAOU3UC8I should be reading all the ARC books I have been gifted, but instead I am writing about a series that makes my knees weak. And SHOCKER it isn’t a historical romance series! It’s the story of Gideon and Eva from the Crossfire Series.
I started reading these shortly after I read Fifty Shades of Grey, as it was billed as a close contender. Premise similar – hot guy, billionaire, into control and HOT sex scenes. However I found the Crossfire series different than FOSG. I found there was a lot more emotion and intensity. For someone who is not really turned on by a woman being tied up and screwed, this series was everything Fifty Shades was missing.
Gideon is a dream hero. He is hot, wealthy, and an amazing sex machine. Eva is screwed up, beautiful, independent and his kryptonite. I found the story of these two to be mesmerizing (and somewhat unrealistic, but hey this is escapism at it’s best). I adored the story of how the two met and how he chased her and ultimately won her interest. I actually stopped and thought about what I would say if a guy asked me who I was fucking so he could get with me. Kinda hot.
Sex takes a centre stage in these books. No doubt about it. If Sylvia Day was influenced by Fifty Shades of Grey, then awesome because the results are SO much better. Yes Gideon has his issues and so does Eva, but point me to someone over the age of twenty who doesn’t need to drink with girlfriends or see a therapist and I’m shocked.
The pair are sexually addicted to each other and the author writes the sex scenes so well. They are explicit, but man, if you don’t want to be Eva or a fly on the wall, then you are not warm blooded. These books are super charged with scenarios. Even one of these scenes in my life would be forever remembered.
There is an element of murder/suspense involving Eva’s past and it serves as a plot device to move the action along. The separation of the characters only makes it more hot when they do connect. Are you sensing a thread? These books are hot. Some reviews have commented that it’s only minimal plot between sex scenes, but I personally feel that the author really elaborates on the psyches of the characters and why they do the things they do – even if they make little sense since they could be having more hot sex if they stopped being stupid.
I liked Eva. She’s spunky and challenging. She issues ultimatums that I wish I could have the nerve to deliver. She has suffered in the past, but found a real soulmate in Gideon.
Gideon is every woman’s fantasy. He’s been abused and hurt, but man can he be sexy and alpha male. I would love to be in the presence of a man like this. That’s where the author’s talent lies. She makes you want him. In every way. You want to heal him, fuck him and hold him always. I have never met a man like Gideon and probably won’t, but that is what makes these books so awesome. He is unattainable, yet you read it anyway, hoping that the next job interview or coffee run will reveal a Gideon for your own.
Now onto the controversy. When these books were originally published, they were supposed to be a triology like Fifty Shades of Grey. However, when the last one was published OVER A YEAR AGO, it was revealed it was a five parter. UPROAR and outrage on Amazon. I was feeling a little let down too. However I was all for reading more about Gideon and Eva, however there has been no date given for the next book in the series. I check Sylvia Day’s website regulary and nothing. Nada. Zip. She has published other series and books, but nothing for the Crossfire series. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. I’ve read some of her other books, mostly the Highlander series, but this is the one that holds my interest and to not have even a publication date is bad. I feel like I am so invested in Eva and Gideon that I could write the next book. Don’t keep your fans waiting!
My husband is a lucky man because I have read this series and keep re-reading it. It’s smoking hot and exciting and I am dying for the next book to get a release date. Even though I review historical romance fiction, I will make sure to do a review of Captivated By You. Whenever it gets published…grumble, grumble, grumbl

Arrow Hits It’s Mark

downloadThe Arrow by Monica McCarty
Overview by Amazon.com
The talents of legendary marksman Gregor “Arrow” MacGregor are crucial now, as Bruce moves to reclaim his Scottish holdings. Gregor is considered the most handsome man in Scotland, and his fame as an archer is rivaled only by his reputation with the lasses as a heartbreaker. But when his infamous face is exposed during a covert mission, Gregor is forced to lay low. He returns home only to find a new battle waiting: a daring game of seduction involving his now very grown up and very desirable ward, Cate of Lochmaben.

A born fighter, Cate was clinging to life when Gregor rescued her after a vicious English raid on her village left her mother dead. But five years later, the once scrappy orphan Gregor took under his protection has become a woman. Brave, strong, and skilled in warfare, Cate is determined to lay claim to the warrior who refuses to be trapped. The heat in his eyes tells her she has his attention . . . and his desire. But will Gregor allow his heart to surrender before danger finds them, and the truth of Cate’s identity is revealed?

Squee!! This is my FIRST ARC book! I was over the moon to receive an advanced copy of this book to review! I ADORE Monica McCarty’s series. In fact, I recently re-read ALL of the Highland Guard books in anticipation of this book coming out at the end of August. Was I ever thrilled to be gifted a copy. I have now read it three times and let it digest before I wrote a review.
I have been anticipating Gregor’s story since The Chief. What would Monica do with the most handsome man in Scotland? Well, a lot. It’s a great story, full of history and steamy scenes. She is getting to the end of this series (hopefully there are at least two more) and she has made sure to include updates on our favourite heroes since the first book was published.
I enjoyed getting to know Cate and Gregor. They are complex characters who have a lot of baggage. Cate is not only traumatized by the razing of her village, but she hides a secret from Gregor about her parentage (spoiler – not hard to guess if you have been following the books). Gregor is tired of being wanted only for his beauty and the years of war and subterfuge have left him in rough shape. Dealing with Cate is a distraction he doesn’t want or need. However a furlough home allows her time to throw herself at him. I enjoyed how she harbours a deep love for Gregor and believes enough in it to take liberties with his patience and forbearing. I thought it was a cute introduction how she informs Gregor that he has children, although we quickly learn she has adopted way ward children in an attempt to build a family of her own.
Things between the two progress from avoidance and annoyance to passion and trysts. Gregor comes to realize that he wants her and they get. it. on. The sex scenes are well written as usual. I love how he likes to talk dirty, regardless that she’s a virgin and it’s hot. He has a preference for cupboards and dark rooms that is quite naughty. If only every virgin had such a virile and handsome man deflowering them!
But alas, the happy couple are torn apart by misunderstandings and Gregor’s insecurities. It was really hard to read about him turning to another woman. Don’t fret – he doesn’t go all the way, but enough that if you like your hero’s above reproach then this is disappointing. I am impressed that the author actually showed this flaw in the hero. This is the first book where there was a suggestion and almost infidelity. Of course it is witnessed by the heroine and it sets the stage for the final third of the book.
Since Gregor was a bad man, he must suffer. And suffer he does. McCarty makes him the most repentant man in Scotland (and maybe England too). I loved that his fellow Guardsman were witness to this and made it more amusing and heart wrenching. The love of a good woman must be honest and won and Gregor certainly learns this by the end of the book. It made me fall a little harder for him, hearing how broke up and battered he was waiting for Cate. I liked the cave man mentality when he took any man to task for looking or breathing in her direction. The author uses this plot point for some well needed humour and more interaction with the awesome Guardsmen.
I love it when a historical romance hero is brought to his knees. To read about the most handsome man in Scotland begging and lost without his woman was an awesome tale. I know this book will be high on my re-read list and I CAN’T wait for the next in the series.

Rogue with a Brogue

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A Rogue with a Brogue by Suzanne Enoch

Overview from Amazon:
A ROGUE FOR EVERY LADY
London, 1817: Stuck in a Mayfair ballroom thanks to his lovestruck brother, highlander Arran MacLawry wants nothing but a bit of distraction from an arranged betrothal—and a clever auburn-haired lass in a vixen’s mask promises just that…until he discovers that she’s the granddaughter of the Campbell, chief of clan MacLawry’s longtime rival. Despite their families’ grudging truce, falling for fiery Mary Campbell is a notion too outlandish even for this Highlander…
THE THRILL OF THE FORBIDDEN
Raised on tales of savage MacLawrys, Mary is stunned to realize the impressively strapping man in the fox’s mask is one of them. Surely the enemy shouldn’t have such a broad chest, and such a seductive brogue? Not that her curiosity matters—any dalliance between them is strictly forbidden, and she’s promised to another. But with the crackling spark between them ready to ignite, love is worth every risk…in Rogue with a Brogue by Suzanne Enoch

This is an endearing novel. Based on the premise of Romeo and Juliet, we have two members of rival clans who meet by a mere twist in fate. Intrigued by each other, they can’t help themselves and conspire ways to meet up and get to know the person behind the mask. I think the best word to describe this plot point is sweet. It wasn’t creepy and I didn’t feel like Arran was stalking her, but rather inexplicably drawn to her. Of course Mary feels the same way, willing to risk discovery in order to be together.

The similarities with Romeo and Juliet continue: fighting among clans, bethrothals to others, unpleasant family members (her gross first cousin Charles Calder). Once they are discovered by a betrayal, they are both banished to the Highlands. Through some willing friends help, they are able to get word to each other about what the fall out from discovery was. The rest of the novel is about their adventure north – a rescue attempt, two furious clans chasing them, re-united family members and a quick courtship to see if marriage will be the result.

I enjoyed the cunning and ingenuity that Arran and Mary displayed while racing north. The time was well spent as they grew to love each other. My only complaint was that the book had a mild heat. It wasn’t as spicy and steamy as most of Enoch’s books, but since they were hiding in priest hole’s and riding horses, they couldn’t be doing each other all the time. The author describes Arran as sexy, seductive, so I wish I had more of a taste of it.

The end comes swiftly and predictably. This is a romance novel, so therefore the ending was perfect. A good read if you like adventure and a sweet story.
 

The End of the Order

51rG2r6v7RLThe Secrets of a Scoundrel by Gaelen Foley

Overview from Amazon
In The Secrets of a Scoundrel, New York Times bestselling author Gaelen Foley has created her most exciting Inferno Club novel yet!

Nick, Lord Forrester, has a reputation that is legendary— both as a lethal warrior and a wicked lover. But when his rule-breaking ways land him in a Scottish dungeon, he’s left there to rot, until a mysterious lady visits his cell and offers him a way out.

All he must do is risk his neck on the mission she proposes—and obey her every command. One look at the luscious beauty has Nick ready to promise her anything, but he must resist his desire, or she could send him straight back to prison.

Virginia, Lady Burke, is well aware that the powerful ex-spy will try to take command of their quest, but it’s her job to keep him under control. Yet how can she keep this untamable scoundrel under her thumb when all she really wants is to unleash the smoldering passion between them?

I have read all the Order books by Gaelen Foley, in fact I have read all her books. She is a solid writer. She takes you on an adventure and there is mystery, suspense, well thought out plotlines and very steamy scenes.
In the previous Order books, the agents contact Virgil, the gruff Scotsman, was murdered. I love how Foley resurrects him so to speak by creating a daughter no one knew about. Through her story you get to know more about the Order, Virgil and the background of how these lethal assassins came to be.

The story opens with Nick imprisoned for almost betraying the Order, murdering the Prime Minister and wanting to end his association with the Order – which is not allowed. Virginia (Gin) needs help to solve a complex situation and frees him to acquire his skills, but also to allow him the opportunity to redeem himself.

She is beautiful and a widow, he is darkly handsome and the two have sparks right off the bat. They both hold their cards close to their chests and it is enjoyable watching them circle one another, stripping away little pieces to learn who the other person really is and what their motivations are.

Of course Gin hasn’t been totally honest with Nick. There is the matter of her son, the true reason she is on her journey to the Bacchus Bazaar and her intimate knowledge of the Order. Nick has no choice but to run from dire situation to another in order to put the pieces of the puzzle together to solve the mystery. Gin told Nick she wanted to rescue girls who were being sold into slavery (true). She needed to get into an auction called the Bacchus Bazaar in order to do it (true). But also being sold is her father’s diary, stolen by her erstwhile assistant. The diary is written in code, but can be broken. Virgil entrusted it to her and she let it get away. She hides this information from Nick until at least two-thirds of the way through the book and it adds to an already crowded plot line, but does somehow manage to untangle loose ends that didn’t quite make sense.

The story takes them from English countryside estates to Paris to the Mediterranean island of Corfu. So you get a bit of everything in the novel. The imagery is vivid and the author does a decent job describing the methods of travel and the exotic locations.

One of the many reasons Gin wanted Nick to help her was his extensive knowledge of thugs, ruffians and leaders of the Underworld. One such association is with a beautiful French woman named Angelique. The author makes it clear Nick was her stud and plaything. In order to get some information he is intimate with her. Not all the way and Gin doesn’t know AND he is doing it to save her life, but if you prefer your hero to not tangle with another woman at all, then be forewarned. Since Gin is a unstatisfied widow, she hungers for Nick. She’s had a crush on him for years, not that he even knew of her existence. When the two finally connect its steamy.
But as Gin comments, Paris is for lovers and they take advantage of their time there to get to know each other carnally. Nick suffers from broken self-esteem and Gin’s interest is healing to him. Unlike a lot of historical romance novels, Gin is not a virgin so there is not tentative love making and easing the virginal heroine into it. It’s wild and passionate from the start and the author is descriptive about the sex without being crude. I wouldn’t mind waking up in the morning the way Gin does!

There are some elements to the book that distracted for me, such as Nick’s gambling, drinking, wenching past in order to hide his feelings of inadequacies. It was a point that kept coming up and I realize that was to anchor how important the love they were developing was, but it got a little tiresome. Another thing that irked me was Gin’s desire to be an Order agent and how she could all of a sudden take command and over power a ship. It seemed far fetched and when Nick left her in the hold on Rotgut’s ship, I was shaking my head.

I did enjoy the relationship between Gin and her son, Philip. It allowed the reader to see the heroine as more than an absentee parent or a complete ninny. She struggled to parent a head strong teenager and to live her life on her terms. I admired Philip’s tenacity in following the pair and he provided some comic relief throughout the book.

The Promtheans have been put down, the men of the Inferno Club who served the Order are all wedded and mending their hearts and spirits after fighting for some many years. It was a good conclusion, although I would have enjoyed more interaction with the other Order members and their wives, but what can you do?

I look forward to reading Gaelen Foley’s next adventure.

Mr. And Mrs. Smith take on Regency England

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Lord and Lady Spy by Shana Galen

Overview from Amazon:

No man can outsmart him…

Lord Adrian Smythe may appear a perfectly boring gentleman but he leads a thrilling life as one of England’s most preeminent spies, an identity so clandestine even his wife is unaware of it. But he isn’t the only one with secrets…

She’s been outsmarting him for years…

now that the Napoleonic wars have come to an end, daring secret agent Lady Sophia Smythe can hardly bear the thought of returning home to her tedious husband. Until she discovers in the dark of night that he’s not who she thinks he is at all…

 

One of the most underrated movies out there is Mr. And Mrs. Smith. Brad and Angie. Super spies. Sexy. Thrilling. And most of all funny. This book reads like a Regency version of the movie. 

Adrian and Sophia care more about saving England than their marriage. It’s a convienent cover so they can serve the Crown as spies. But once the Napoleonic wars are at an end, they are cut loose.  Taking one last job is an easy choice for the two, although they have no idea that they will inadvertently cross paths. Once they are unmasked as spies and liars, they must work together to figure out a rather nasty plot to get rid of them and damage England’s political landscape. Sound familiar?  It was no hardship to imagine Brad and Angelina in these roles. 

What was fascinating was how the author addresses simple things like Sophia’s attire. Unlike Angelina’s character in Mr and Mrs, she wasn’t able to be running around in black leather pants. The author takes the time to mention how fist fighting in a dress was cumbersome, yet the reminder keeps it fresh that this is the 1800s, not modern day. 

The years of service have left this marriage in a sorry state. The couple are virtually strangers. Sophia and Adrian hide their true nature from each other and society. Sophia even wears frumpy clothes to disguise her beauty so she remains relatively unnoticed in society, therefore free from committees and social teas. 

 

The neglect they have given their marriage is compounded by the fact they are experiencing infertility. This is an issue not often addressed by romance novels, unless the heroine has to produce an heir in record time or a King beheads a wife to get a new young thing. Of course there is a happy ever after – it is a romance novel after all. 

 

The cloak and dagger aspect of the book is well done. You really feel like you are with Adrian and Sophia for their adventures. From stinking alleys to combatting enemies, the action moves at a good pace. The two find each other and get to know the real spouse they married. Since there is no Internet in this time, they can’t fabricate families and identities, so they learn to reconcile who they are with the facts they already know. 

 

Overall, this book is well written, intriguing and the supporting characters enhance the story. The author amps up the heat as the bedroom scenes are quite steamy. Who would have thought a romance novel about a married couple would set off such sparks!  The passion they eventually reveal for each other is realistic and keeps in line with how they fall in love with each other as they learn the truth. 

 

This is the first book in a series of spy novels by the author. I read the next couple of books, but this one was the best of the bunch and I really only kept reading to hear more about what was happening with Adrian and Sophia. 

Well worth reading…a definite keeper!

 

The Magic of Monica McCarty

clear-24f1b1f9614bdeeb1c30a4aa48f963d0[1]I love romance novels set in the Highlands of Scotland. Something about those fierce warriors who wield two handed swords and are passionate lovers to boot. I’ve read many, many novels with the hero being a Chief or renegade clan member, but nothing compares to the books of Monica McCarty. Her website is really well done. She provides information on her research that goes into each new story, including photos of the actual castles or islands. She provides photos of her extensive travels and it’s nice to see her perspective on the Isle of Skye, rather than google images.
She has three series she has written: The Highland Guard, The Campbell Trilogy and The MacLeods of Skye Trilogy. All are well written and fascinating to read. What impresses me the most is her unbelivable accuracy in recounting history. Many of these books are set in time of Robert the Bruce, which is the the very early 1300s. I don’t know how many people were literate then and keeping records, but at the end of every book, she details her research and provides links to more. This is more than a quick google search. As I stated earlier, she actually travels to the locations to get ideas and learn more about the landscape. She also must pour over dusty books and have a Celtic dictonary on hand at all times.
The first review will be on the Highland Guard series. She hasn’t finished writing them yet, goody!!
Her premise behind these novels came from a line in a historical record she found. It linked a MacSorley clan member to being Robert the Bruce’s personal guard, and well known for reeking havoc on the English. Her idea was born to create a phantom army to further the cause of Bruce regaining the throne. Or as she puts it – “Seals in Kilts”.
These men are selected to train and work covertly to upset the English hold on Scotland and ultimately put Bruce on the throne. Of course they are romance novels (and steamy at that), but the history, the adventure and the romance work seamlessly to create a well spun tale that leaves you wondering if it maybe did happen that way. The heroines in the novels are no wall flowers. These are powerful women. Women who make difficult life choices to serve Bruce, be with the man they love and ultimately serve Scotland. It’s refreshing to read a romance novel where you don’t want to smack the heroine for being to stupid to live.

The Highland Guard series takes place over many years. Each story moves along the trials, victories and set backs by the Highland Guard to secure the throne for Bruce. Details such as daily life, the clothing worn and the frailities of life are recounted with intricate accuracy. Once again, you feel safe to lose yourself in the details because you know McCarty did her research. No warrior is whipping out an iphone to check if his little lady stayed put like he told her. Nope, in a McCarty novel, its highly likely she’s shooting an arrow at the enemy at his back.

The series is as follows:
The Chief
The Hawk
The Ranger
The Viper
The Saint
The Recruit
The Hunter
The Knight (novella)
The Raider
The Arrow (released in a month)

Life Changing Historical Romance Books

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So if I had a daughter, I would totally encourage her to read historical romance novels. However I don’t. So I’ll encourage you!

The books that whetted my appetite and lured me like a siren at sea formed my opinion of what a good romance novel should be. 

Enjoy my Top Five Classics

1.  Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught

this is the first romance novel I ever read. It’s a classic, hands down. Elizabeth Cameron is running out of options in order to save her beloved Havenhurst property. She is on the marriage mart to make an advantageous match to save her brother and servants from debtors jail. Whisked away to a risqué weekend party she meets Ian Thornton. It’s instant attraction and bad decisions and a malicious friend. The weekend ends with Elizabeth’s banishment for being wanton. Fast forward a couple of years and things have changed for Ian and Elizabeth. Ian has prospered, becoming very wealthy, which is the opposite for Elizabeth. She is destitute. Her ridiculous uncle has the brillant plan to contact all her former suitors from her come out and see if one will finally take her off his hands. Through a mix up, she ends up with Ian. Things don’t go well, but then they do. They go very well. Only when tragedy is about to happen, Ian steps up and swoops in on his proverbial white horse to save her. Of course this isn’t their happily ever after yet. They almost lose one another yet again. 

This story is so full of second chances it is heartbreaking. The love Ian and Elizabeth have for one another is truly inspiring. The sex scenes are classy and yet descriptive. The secondary characters enhance the plot and add depth and substance to the story. It’s a remarkable journey they take and it is so full of passion and hope. 

M2.  Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss

This story has it all!  Fiery spoiled brat, handsome strong hero, death sentence, time at sea, servitude, pirates, murder, passion. 

Its hard to write a description for this book because it is an epic tale. A marriage of convienence that was never to be. A willful, spoiled woman who got way more than she bargained for. At times I hated the main character Shanna as she could be such a stubborn brat, but the deep abiding love Ruark had for her made her redeemable. This story encompasses so many romance genres – England, pirates, a Caribbean island, the new world, it feels like so many stories in one. The plots moves quickly and along with a murder mystery to solve it keeps the action racing. 

The passion between Shanna and Ruark is beautiful. They are a perfect match for one another. It feels like sparks are jumping off the page whether they are fighting or making up. The author writes with such passion that it makes you want to be on Los Camellos and as if Ruark was stealing into your bed at night. So well written, it embodies a realistic tone of the times and yet lets you be whisked away in a beautiful love story. 

3.  It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas

This is the second book in a quartet by Kleypas and by far the best. It takes place in the early 1800s in a time when being an Earl meant power and glory. Marcus, Earl of Westcliff and Lillian Bowman, an American heiress hate each other intensely. Of course the flip side to hatred is passion and love. The book is a thoroughly enjoyable read of their anomosity and attraction to one another. Their story is full of spine tingling romance and exasperation. I actually cheered when they finally gave in to their base pleasures. Kleypas writes sex scenes so well. Detailed and thorough, but not sleazy. There is a lot of emotion and reverence between the characters. It was fun watching them fight their attraction to one another and to submit to love. I particularly enjoyed the attention to detail about the large estate Marcus owns and the awareness that the good old days of tennant/lord business was ending. The historical details are fascinating in this book. But mostly it’s the love story between the two that makes it an incomparable read. 

4.  Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught 

another book by McNaught makes this list. There is some controversy surrounding this books as some reviewers have protracted that there is a rape scene between the two leads. I abhor violence against women and always watch carefully to see how an author treats rape in books, holding my feminist views up to whether or not I’ll continue to read. However with this book, read many years before the Internet and online reviews by the masses, I never equated it to rape.

The story is a complex love match between a manipulative man and the young woman he longs to have. Whitney is head strong and challenging. Clayton longs for her and is willing to bide his time and let her play her games in order to be the last man standing. I found this to be a tender love story, yet tempestuous and heart wrenching. With McNaught, there is a formula. Once the happy couple reconciles themselves to being together, something will rip them apart. Of course there will be a happy ending, but the journey to get there is fraught with nail biting and thigh clenching moments. They are a passionate couple. Once again, the sex scenes are well written and descriptive, yet not raunchy. Whenever I read this story I feel winded from the highs and lows of the emotional roller coaster the author takes you on. 

5.  Lady Sophia’s Lover by Lisa Kleypas

Another book by Kleypas. She writes so well in her older novels. This book is about a beautiful woman Sophia who seeks revenge on the man she perceives ruined her life. Being a romance novel, of course he didn’t, but that’s the premise behind their amazing love story. Sir Ross Cannon is the magistrate of the Bow Street Runners and an honourable man. Sophia wheedles her way into his life in order to ruin him for sending her younger brother to the gallows years before. Love and attraction blossom and grown into a hot crescendo between the two before the truth comes out.  Lots of plot twists and turns lead them on an incredible journey of redemption. This book is hot. Let me repeat that HOT. The sex scenes scorch the pages and its thrilling that the ‘Monk of Bow Street’ is undoing his fly any chance he can get. The mystery angle adds depth to the story and makes the characters three dimensional. Sophia and Ross fight injustice and learn to find a way to cross not only social classes, but the law and deception. This story makes you yearn and long for a romance like this to happen to you. Did I mention it was really, really HOT?