I started reading this swashbuckling, sea-faring historical romance last night and finished it with a satisfied sigh at 2:30 am. A bloodthirsty pirate...moreI started reading this swashbuckling, sea-faring historical romance last night and finished it with a satisfied sigh at 2:30 am. A bloodthirsty pirate bent on revenge, sultry Caribbean nights, a brooding hero and the feisty heroine who turns his ship - and his life - upside down; this book has it all.
Victor Cale has been nursing a grudge against his wife for ten long years. Though they had been married only a week, he believed they had a love that...moreVictor Cale has been nursing a grudge against his wife for ten long years. Though they had been married only a week, he believed they had a love that would last a lifetime. But that was before his young wife made a fool of him and left him to take the blame for the jewel theft she and her family engineered. Now living in London, Victor, the newly discovered cousin to a duke, is not cut out to live a life of leisure so when a friend, who owns Manton Investigations, has a request to investigate a woman in Scotland who sounds suspiciously like his wife, Victor jumps at the opportunity. Maybe, finally, he'll get an answer to the question that's waited ten long years to be answered. Why?
At eighteen years of age, Isabella was already a talented jewelry designer specializing in paste replicas but remarkably innocent in the ways of the world and easily manipulated by her family. For the past ten years she's believed that her husband, the man she loved more than life, abandoned her after stealing priceless jewels from her employer. But she's not that naive young girl any longer. Extricating herself from her family, she's become a strong woman who has made a name for herself in the jewelry industry and has a good career and reputation in Scotland. The only thing missing is an answer to why Victor betrayed her all those years ago.
As the truth of what really happened all those years ago unfolds, Isa and Victor face the fact that the feelings between them burn brighter than ever. But ten years of hard feelings and mistrust are not easily overcome and a secret that one of them is keeping may bring their new-found love to a screeching halt.
Sabrina Jeffries is one of my "go to" authors who rarely disappoints. One of the things I enjoy about her books is her willingness to venture outside the box. When the Rogue Returns, the second book in Jeffries' new Duke's Men series features a hero and heroine who are Dutch. I don't think I've seen that before. The heroine is in trade, and proud of it, and while the hero has new-found connections to a duke, he's led a working life and is more comfortable there than among the peerage. Another thing I like about this book is the growth of the characters. They are both very young when first married and, while still married, they have each changed significantly during their years apart. The spark that first ignited their young love is still present but they need time to get to know the people they are today and grow together as a couple. I appreciate the fact that Jeffries gives them that time and that she doesn't make it easy. They've mistrusted one another for a long time. Those doubts and feelings don't just disappear overnight, especially when tested by someone determined to keep them apart. The action is fast-paced, the story line intriguing and the dialogue between the hero and heroine is snappy and realistic. The supporting cast moves the story forward and gives us a glimpse into the next book in the series which, if my guess is correct, will be filled with fireworks aplenty. I can't wait!
4.5 Stars ~PJ Ausdenmore As posted at The Romance Dish (less)
Experience has taught Lisette Bonnaud the inadvisability of depending on a man. The illegitimate daughter of an English viscount and his French actress mistress, Lisette's papa promises time and again to marry his mistress but never follows through. He makes a lot of promises to Lisette and her brother, Tristan as well but they never seem to come to fruition either. And when he dies, Lisette's half-brother, George Manton, the viscount's elder legitimate son (readers will remember him as a young bully in Twas the Night After Christmas) makes certain the then fourteen-year-old Lisette and her mother are cast from their home without a penny and puts a price on Tristan's head for taking a thoroughbred horse that was rightfully his. Only with the help of the younger legitimate son, Dom are Lisette, her mother and her brother, Tristan able to escape to France.
England, twelve years later...
Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons, has known for years that his older brother is dead though many seeking to cash in on the Dukedom over the years have claimed to be the kidnapped heir. Max is stunned to receive a note from Tristan Bonnaud claiming that he has proof that Peter lives but before he can verify the claim, Tristan disappears and an enraged Max arrives at Dom's home, site of Manton Investigations, demanding to know his whereabouts. With Dom on a case in Scotland, only Lisette is there to weather the confrontation with the Duke who is sure Tristan is running a scam and determined to see him pay the price for it. Lisette may be beautiful but she also possesses the same iron will and intelligence as her brothers and is not the least bit impressed with the peer in her foyer. Though she hasn't heard from her brother in months, she knows without a doubt that he would never try to scam the Duke and isn't about to let the arrogant man ruin the life for which Tristan has worked so hard. The arrogant, aloof Duke has finally met his match.
Returning to England after her mother's death, Lisette Bonnaud lives with her brother, Dom, managing the office of his company, Manton Investigations but what she really wants is to become one of his agents. She's smart, capable and certain she can do the job as well as any man. She's also unconditionally loyal to her brothers, Tristan and Dom. Tristan has a good life and a good position in France. She's not about to let an arrogant Duke go haring off in a temper and destroy that. The only way she'll give him any information about Tristan is if he agrees to let her go with him. She's certain that, together, they will be able to find her brother and uncover the truth. She and the Duke pose as an ordinary husband and wife for the journey to Paris; in her mind, a simple and effective solution. Reality, however, turns out to be far more complex as pesky emotions like desire...and affection...begin to creep in. They both know that a match between a Duke and the illegitimate daughter of a viscount is doomed. Lisette isn't about to put herself in another man's control and Max has his own reasons for not offering marriage but sometimes what the head knows, the heart refuses to acknowledge.
Sabrina Jeffries brings us another fast-paced, engaging, historical romance filled with danger, passion and unforgettable characters. Loosely tied to her Hellions of Halstead Hall series, readers of those books will note references to familiar characters such as Jackson Pinter, Gabriel Sharpe and, of course, our hero, the Duke of Lyons. They will also not be one bit surprised that Lisette's half-brother, George Manton is still a bully, just older, richer and more powerful - not a good combination for Lisette, Tristan and Dom. This is not a sequel, however, and you do not need to have read those books before reading What the Duke Desires.
I really fell hard for Max. While there are times I wanted to whack him over the head for his dukely arrogance, he won my heart with his caring and protection of Lisette's honor. Max also carries some heavy burdens and my heart broke for him as he struggles with his feelings for Lisette, determined to not subject her to the misery and heartache his own mother faced during his father's final days. He's a complex man who has held himself apart from love and affection and has fears that form a shield around his heart. It will take a very special woman to tear those walls down and convince him to take a chance on love.
Lisette is one of my favorite Jeffries heroines - smart, strong and independent, with a clear understanding of her place in the world and the touch of vulnerability that comes with that place. Her insight, caring and willingness to risk her heart regardless of what a future with Max might bring spoke to my heart and her ability to hold her own with her duke and not let his natural arrogance take over, without undermining his masculinity, had me cheering her all the way.
What the Duke Desires is going to my keeper shelf to await the next two books in the series. Here's hoping that wait won't be too long!
Returning to London in 1817, Sir Martin Powell is ready to put a life of political intrigue behind him but the Prince has one more assignment before h...moreReturning to London in 1817, Sir Martin Powell is ready to put a life of political intrigue behind him but the Prince has one more assignment before he can do that. He's sending Sir Martin to the English Midlands to investigate rumors of an uprising against the Crown. Before he leaves London, at the urging of a friend, Martin pays a visit to an exclusive brothel. Still grieving the death of his beloved wife and unborn child on the streets of Paris during the war, he has no interest in a romantic entanglement but one night in the arms of a skilled courtesan will help him forget, if only for a few hours. It should have been that simple, but when Martin confuses the brothel owner's directions and opens the wrong door, what he discovers is a woman who will challenge everything he thinks he wants...and does not want.
Life has not been easy for Katherine, Lady Edgerton. The daughter of an earl, Kit is married off to a man old enough to be her grandfather who then dies shortly after their marriage, leaving her with very few resources. She moves in with her ailing sister and brother-in-law to care for her sister but cannot help but be wary around her sister's cruel husband, the Earl of Rutledge. Her sister has barely taken her final breath when the man tries to force himself on Kit, telling her she was the one he had wanted all along and now meant to have. Escaping, Kit takes refuge with the only person she can trust, her former nanny, now the owner of an exclusive brothel. When Martin accidentally enters her room, Kit is intrigued by the handsome man with the gentle manner. Still shaken from her earlier encounter with the Earl, she's soothed and intrigued by this man who treats her with reverence and makes a decision that will change the course of her life.
Regan Walker once again seamlessly blends together real events and people with fictional characters and her own imagination in a book that flows beautifully from beginning to end. Following the war with France, England enters a period of social unrest and economic change, a tumultuous time into which Walker's characters are plunged. Danger surrounds them as Martin, who marries Kit to keep her safe, works to prevent a revolution while at the same time nurturing a relationship with his new wife while keeping her in the dark as to the reason they are really in the Midlands. To the passion that flares between them from the beginning, they slowly forge a friendship that gradually deepens into love. Danger, Martin's secret life and a nasty villain bent on revenge against Kit, combined with the peaks and valleys of a marriage of convenience that is evolving into something more, give us a story that's sure to keep readers, as it did me, flipping pages late into the night to find out what happens next.
Walker's books are impeccably researched, immersing the reader into the time and place in which they are set. Her characters are well formed and believable. Kit and Martin had me rooting for them from the beginning. Martin, in particular, won my heart with the way he treated Kit. Secondary characters add to the richness of the overall story with those from the first book in the series giving readers a peek into their post-HEA lives and introducing Martin's brother, the hero of the next book, an intriguing privateer I can't wait to visit again.
Maris, Countess of Kelby loves her husband. As the daughter of his secretary and best friend of the earl's daughter, Maris grew up on the earl's count...moreMaris, Countess of Kelby loves her husband. As the daughter of his secretary and best friend of the earl's daughter, Maris grew up on the earl's country estate and has admired him from a young age, sharing his scholarly passion for the archaeological treasures uncovered by him as well as the previous Earls of Kelby. Ten years ago, following her father's death, the earl married Maris to protect her. Though they do not have a physical relationship, they have a genuine affection between them and Maris would do anything to make her elderly, dying husband's dearest wish come true. Which is how the sheltered and very proper countess comes to be standing in London's notorious Reining Monarchs Society, a private club where people can act out their sexual fantasies in private, facing a very naked and uncooperative Captain Durant, and determined to stay until she has convinced him to carry out the task for which he took her husband's money.
Coming home after leaving the military to find his beloved younger sister in serious health, Reynold (Reyn) Durant knows he needs a sizable sum of money to move his sister out of London and give her damaged lungs a chance to heal. It could be her only hope of survival. A vaguely worded advertisement in the London List gives him the means to help his sister but, after taking the money, Reyn's conscience intervenes and he decides he can't sleep with another man's wife for money..no matter how desperately that man needs an heir to save his estate - and his life's work - from his villainous nephew. That's before he meets Lady Kelby; a prim, proper, starchy and surprisingly innocent thirty-four year old woman to whom the worldly Reyn is inexplicably drawn.
This storyline usually doesn't appeal to me but in Maggie Robinson's talented hands, it works. She brings together a buttoned-up woman who has never known passion in her life and a charming, passionate rogue who shows surprising gentleness and vulnerability. Then she throws them into a situation where a happy ending seems impossible but, as this is a romance, we know somewhere down the line a happy ending awaits. I like that Robinson takes her time with these characters, allowing them to gradually come to know one another and us to know them. I also appreciate the fact that she keeps their emotions tied to reality; showing the pleasure Maris experiences as she slowly opens her mind and heart to a physical connection with a man while at the same time dealing with the guilt in knowing that these wondrous feelings are a result of betraying her husband - not so much physically, but emotionally - even though he's been more of a father to her than a true husband. Then there's Reyn; a surprisingly gentle and vulnerable man who finds himself developing genuine feelings for this woman who is beyond his reach, because she is married but also because of her station, her education and the fact that she is five years his senior.
There's plenty of sizzle in this book but it was ultimately the complexity of the characters, the emotional depth and tenderness that kept me immersed in the story. The secondary cast of characters is richly drawn, especially Reyn's sister. The villain of the story is dealt with in an interesting, and humorously fitting, manner though I felt he got off a bit too easy considering his crimes. But, in the end, I was not as concerned about his fate as that of Reyn and Maris.
Don't let the premise of this book or the fact that neither the hero nor the heroine is very likable in the beginning put you off. Stick with the story and you will be rewarded with a hero and heroine who reveal themselves to be worthy characters with genuinely good hearts who deserve the tender, heartwarming and thoroughly satisfying romance that Maggie Robinson has given them.
Orphanage to governess to thief is not the typical path to everlasting love but Abigail Chantry is not your typical historical romance heroine. Abby l...moreOrphanage to governess to thief is not the typical path to everlasting love but Abigail Chantry is not your typical historical romance heroine. Abby loves her governess position and the children in her charge but puts it all at risk when she learns that her innocent younger sister has been kidnapped and is being held in a London brothel. Abby rescues her sister who refuses to leave without another young woman, also kidnapped, and the abused maid who engineers their escape, earning them all a dangerous enemy in the process. Sacked from her governess position for bringing the young women into her employer's home, Abby uses her meager savings to rent lodgings for the four but funds quickly dwindle and when her sister becomes desperately ill, Abby has no choice but to turn to thievery. She enters an upper window of a nearby mansion, which she believes to be unoccupied, looking for something that will give her enough money to pay a doctor for her sister. What she finds is an elderly woman in much worse straits than Abby could imagine.
Lady Beatrice Davenham is being horribly neglected and taken advantage of by her scurrilous staff. Her only relative, her nephew, is in India and she has been isolated (by her staff) from any friends who would come to her aid. Abby cannot turn her back on this lady who shows her kindness and, when Lady Beatrice hears Abby's story of how she came to be in her situation, she invites Abby, Jane, Damaris and Daisy to live with her. The four young women, now known as the Chance sisters, Lady Beatrice's nieces from the country, move in, fire the staff and set about restoring the feisty Lady Beatrice to health and setting the house to rights. Everything is going swimmingly until the day he comes home.
Max Davenham was not yet twenty when he inherited his title and discovered the damage his uncle had wrought on the family fortune. Unwilling to allow his beloved aunt to discover that her husband had left her penniless, Max struck a deal with a wealthy manufacturing mentor: business advice and a loan to be repaid in ten years plus a promise that sealed Max's fate...for life. Over the past nine years, Max and his partners have built a successful import business in India, the loan has been repaid in full but the promise hangs heavy on his mind. When an alarming letter from one of his aunt's friends arrives, Max knows it's time to return to London; to free his aunt from the people taking advantage of her and to fulfill the promise he made to the man who saved his family all those years ago. Only trouble is, the people he thinks are taking advantage are actually her rescuers and the "leader" of this feminine gang is pushing all of his buttons; buttons he can't afford to have pushed because honor demands that nothing can come of his growing attraction to Abby. Or can it?
Anne Gracie is a master of family dynamics, whether the families in question are those of blood or choice. In The Autumn Bride she brings us an appealing blend of both with all the love, heartache, mischief and joy inherent in such relationships. Of course, there's plenty of Gracie humor in this story as well. The scenes where Lady Beatrice explains the family connection between the "nieces" and herself are some of the funniest I've read, with Lady Beatrice's "creativity" and Max's reaction especially humorous.
I fell in love with these characters from the beginning of the book. By the final page, they had ceased to be simply characters in a story and had become family of the heart; people about whom I care; one more family created by Ms. Gracie. Not just the main characters but the rich cast of secondary characters as well. I'm now fully invested in their happiness and the assurance that Anne Gracie will do her best to bring us the happy-ever-after endings that they each deserve.
Witty banter, humor, heartfelt emotion and heartwarming romance make this well-paced book from Anne Gracie another for the keeper shelf. Don't miss The Autumn Bride. I highly recommend it.
If you enjoy love, laughter, witty banter and delightful entertainment from beginning to end then I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Lady Most W...moreIf you enjoy love, laughter, witty banter and delightful entertainment from beginning to end then I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Lady Most Willing...
When Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway get together it is, quite simply, magic.
I've read everything written by Eloisa James and, for my money, ONCE UPON A TOWER ranks as one of her best. With humor, heart and exquisite prose, Ms....moreI've read everything written by Eloisa James and, for my money, ONCE UPON A TOWER ranks as one of her best. With humor, heart and exquisite prose, Ms. James takes the reader along on the journey of a young couple who meet, marry and begin to fall in love without really knowing one another. It will take growth, compromise and understanding on both their parts to overcome the inevitable obstacles, as well as put the past to rest, before they can move forward as a couple and achieve their happy ever after. I found the characters to be well-defined and believable, capturing my interest and eventually my heart, especially in the wonderful epilogue. This one is going to my keeper shelf!(less)
Miss Juliet Shelby lives on the fringes of the ballroom, a wallflower who does her best to go unnoticed. She wasn't always that way. As a young girl,...moreMiss Juliet Shelby lives on the fringes of the ballroom, a wallflower who does her best to go unnoticed. She wasn't always that way. As a young girl, she was the most animated of the three cousins who have been dubbed the Ugly Ducklings by a spiteful young woman of the ton. But, as a young teen, while living in Vienna with her parents, Juliet was critically injured in an accident, resulting in amputation of her left foot - an injury that left her self-absorbed mother horrified and embarrassed by her now "crippled" daughter. Juliet returned to London two years later a changed person; quieter, more subdued, telling no one of the severity of her injury, not even Maddie and Cecily, her cousins and two best friends.
Juliet isn't the only one who has grown up with a less than perfect parent. Lord Alec Deveril has spent the past several years trying to undo the damage done to his family name by his reprobate of a father in order to insure a good future for his younger sisters. A gorgeous man, he is a leader of the ton's young fashionable set but, as of late, as grown weary of it and knows it's time to find a wife and settle down. His criteria is simple: find someone likable but for whom he feels not one iota of passion. His late parents offered him a front row seat to the devastating consequences of a passion filled marriage. He briefly considers Maddie as a potential candidate but it's the quiet, self-possessed Juliet who continues to draw his eye.
When Mrs. Turner, Juliet's beloved music teacher, a woman who, over the years, has been more a mother to her than her own mother goes missing, it's Alec who offers his help in the search. As Juliet and Alec spend more time together, they forge a friendship and gradually a fondness for one another that then blooms into desire and, finally, love. But there are many obstacles to a happy ending for these two. Juliet's mother is determined to marry her off to a slimy older man Juliet has good reason to fear, her mother has done her best to convince Juliet that no man will ever find her desirable once he knows of her amputation and Alec fears the reprehensible actions of both his father and his uncle will make it impossible for him to love a woman passionately and bring her happiness. Then there's the mystery of Mrs. Turner's disappearance with twists and turns aplenty and a lurking danger that could put both Juliet and Alec in harm's way.
I loved this story so much. I've read it three times and have no doubt I will read it many more times in the future. I applaud Manda Collins for creating Juliet, a physically imperfect heroine who is absolutely perfect in the eyes of her hero. Collins knows the subject well and brings to her character the realistic physical and emotional challenges as well as the quiet strength and determination that make Juliet one of my favorite heroines ever. Watching her grow throughout her journey and finally come into her own was wonderful. I cheered for her, hurt for her, feared for her and wanted to do unspeakable things to her witch of a mother for her but not once did I ever pity her.
I usually prefer my heroes dark but Alec just may have won me over to the blond side. He's a wonderful man with a kind heart who champions Juliet, protects her, desires her and, ultimately, loves her with every breath of his being. The scene when they first make love is so exquisitely beautiful it brought tears to my eyes and the declaration he makes about Juliet after the villain is vanquished shows how much he respects and understands her and made me want to stand and cheer.
The passion sizzles in this book and while Collins delves into deeply emotional issues she also infuses her stories with plenty of humor along with a terrific secondary cast. One of my favorite scenes is between Alec and Maddie while they wait for Juliet to be fitted for new gowns at the dressmaker's. I won't give away any spoilers other than to say it gives the reader a peek into the inner workings of Maddie's mind, something that has Alec pondering how useful she would have been to Wellington during the war, and has me anticipating her book even more. I have the feeling she's going to lead Monteith a very merry chase!
If you haven't read Manda Collins yet, now's the perfect time to start. How to Romance a Rake is going straight to my keeper shelf. I highly recommend it!