Favorite Quote: “Nothing about you could ever be ugly to me.”
The third and final installment of Joanna Chamber’s historical M/M romance brings a conclusion to this poignant and sensual love story between two men who defy convention and society’s edicts to be together. Lush emotional scenes and heartfelt declarations only serve to remind us that no matter what gender is being presented, love is a gift and should be viewed as such.
Enlightened picks up five months after Beguiled ended. David was badly injured when he helped a friend escape her abusive marriage. His lover, Lord Mundo, takes David to his country estate to recover and they use the time to indulge in their growing passion far away from prying eyes and judgemental tongues. But David knows something is wrong; Mundo seems to be drifting further away with each passing day. When David’s learns his mentor is dying, David and Mundo travel to London and David agrees to perform one last act to ensure his mentor’s daughter will be safe. While in London Mundo’s father pays a surprise visit and delivers some shocking news that makes David question Mundo and their relationship.
David Laureston, an Edinburgh Advocate, has always been ashamed of his love for men. A complicated man whose sexual preferences have cause him pain and confusion in the past. His ethics continuously war with his passions. He knows he should not be attracted to men but is unable to resist. Especially concerning Lord Mundo. Mundo breaks through David’s walls and has him imaging the seemingly impossible-a lifetime together.
The two were linked, quite inextricably, his affection for Mundo exposing him in ways that horrified him. The protective barriers he’d spent a lifetime building up felt like they were crumbling away in the face of the emotions he was helpless to deny.
Lord Mundo Belfour, a Scottish Lord, was a self proclaimed hedonist who did not see his enjoyment of male companionship as a hindrance to his eventual marriage and procreation of a heir. It was merely an itch to be scratched. David is the only man who has ever made Mundo question his actions and feel something beyond physical attraction.
“I thought you were naive, till you made me see that life I’d always wanted [...] didn’t amount to anything at all. I wasn’t going to have it all. I was going to have nothing. You saved me from that.”
The intense and unavoidable chemistry takes a softer note in here, having gone far beyond the initial base attraction. We are shown the intimacies that exist when two people fall in love. The confusion and conflict our two protagonists struggle with strikes a poignant note in your heart as you wonder how this can possibly work. David’s near death brings out a side of Mundo that both enchants and scares David. Seductive and heartfelt dialogue and actions speak of our lovers deep feelings towards one another.
“So very like you to want to put things right,” Murdo murmured. He turned his head till their eyes met, and his dark gaze was warm with affection. His lips sought David’s, and their mouths moved together in a consoling kiss that had nothing to do with passion. “David,” he said, when they broke apart. “David.” He said David’s name like it meant something all on its own. Like a vow. Like a promise.
The continuing arc comes to a head as David sets in motion a plan that will protect his friends once and for all; helped along by a most unexpected source. Events set in motion by David’s plan creates an unintended domino effect that leads to an exciting and well earned conclusion for this trilogy.
Joanna Chambers’ Enlightened trilogy has been a joy to read and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.
Stormy Persuasion (Malory-Anderson, #11) by Johanna Lindsey Historical Romance Paperback, 384 pages June 10, 2014 Galley Books
Reviewed by Tori
Jacqueline and Judith Malory are more than cousins; they are best friends. Having grown up together, they are dismayed to find their parents are separating them for their first debut into society. James Malory made a promise to his wife’s family many years ago that his daughter, Jacqueline (Jack), would have her coming out in America. This doesn’t bode well for the bosom cousins. Jack and Judith beg and plead until Judith’s parents give in and allow her to travel to America with Jack. Neither girls have any plans to fall in love their first season; especially Judith as her dreams are filled with a certain “ghost” who haunts the house next door.
Nathan Tremayne isn’t a ghost but a smuggler with a mission and time is running out. Set up and captured, his freedom depends on his helping to capture a group of dangerous men. Nathan finagles a job aboard the Malory’s ship (The Maiden George) when he discovers his quarry is in America. He is surprised to find Judith aboard and even more shocked when he discovers she not only knows who he is, but begins to blackmail him into spending time with her. Passion builds and love begins as Judith and Nathan play a dangerous game, but when accusations are made and Judith turns her back on him, Nathan decides to cut his losses and finish out his mission.
When the past comes back to haunt the Malorys, Nathan grabs the reins and turns the tables on Judith. This time she will do his bidding. But love follows no rules and soon Nathan is fighting for more than his freedom…he is fighting for Judith’s heart.
First off, let me say I’m SHOCKED we at Smexy Books have never reviewed a Judith Lindsey book. So, we are effectively popping our Lindsey cherry with this one. ”Holla!!”
Judith Lindsey’s favorite family, the Malory’s and Anderson’s, are back in a new adventure involving love on the high seas. Stormy Persuasion is the eleventh book in the Malory-Anderson series and focuses on brothers James and Anthony Malory’s two oldest girls-Jacqueline (Jack) and Judith. Both eighteen, they are getting ready for their coming out but as you all know, nothing ever goes as planned with the Malorys. This lightweight mild multi plotted storyline is filled with humor, intrigue, adventure, and romance. The high energy of the Malory/Anderson clan keeps the story moving along at a steady pace. Though the eleventh in the series, it is quite easy to follow along with as Ms. Lindsey interjects past storylines, tying them effortlessly into the present, allowing readers to get the general idea of who everyone is in regards to relationships.
I’ve always enjoyed this series though it has been hit or miss for me. Some of the stories I have devoured, unable to read them quick enough while some barely managed to hold my attention. Stormy Persuasion falls in the middle. The beginning starts out promising with Judith and Jack scheming to get Judith’s mother to agree to allow her to sail to America with Jack. We learn about the supposed deserted mansion and Judith’s secret crush on the ghost that haunts it. While on board ship, Judith sees her ghost and realizes he is very much a flesh and blood man. Suspecting smuggling and/or thievery, she demands an explanation as to why he is on board her family’s ship or she will go to her father and tell him her suspicions. Nathan refuses and Judith in return blackmails him into attending her in order to extract information from him. As they spend more time together, Judith’s convictions begin to waver and her attraction to him strengthens.
Visiting with the Malorys again was a treat. Lindsey has built such a gregarious LARGE family. Lively, rambunctious, and intelligent, this family embraces it’s aristocracy but tempers it with a mischievous side that shines through at the most inappropriate times. The men are the perfect alpha males who drag their feet reluctantly towards romance but once they find the one, they love with their whole hearts. The women they love are witty, clever, and usually extremely stubborn when it comes to what they want. They are a class act that delivers with aplomb.
While Judith is definitely a Malory, she didn’t engage me as much some of the other characters did. I found her a quick to judge and assume the worse and it wasn’t attractive. Lindsey portrays her rather too well as an young over privileged member of gentry. She is childish at times, especially when she interacts with Nathan. There were also few scenes where her reactions after the fact didn’t mesh up to how I felt a young women of this era would or should react.
Nathan is a more realistic and well rounded character. He has a complicated rather inspiring backstory and his reasons for his current occupations make sense. I found it hilarious the way he makes her come to him and he treats her with amusement and caution. He feels Judith is just amusing herself with him while he has some very good incentives to not fail on his mission. He dislikes the ‘nabobs’ as he calls the aristocratic set and with good reason. The chemistry between he and Judith is there but I’d be hard pressed to say why they were attracted to one another. The romance blossoms slowly, very low-key, neither of them giving the words both need to hear. I wasn’t sure until the very end if they would even work together.
The main conflict blends well with the various subplots sprinkled throughout; keeping the book from centering only on Judith and Nathan. Newly discovered relatives regenerates a past storyline and provides clues for book twelve. The dynamic Malorys provide more then enough giggles; James and Anthony’s never ceasing bickering and boxing and Jack’s introduction to her possible HEA, whom she affectionately refers to as ‘The Bastard.’
All in all a fast read that easily chased away a rainy afternoon, but the story dragged at times on the ship with the constant back and forth between Judith and Nathan. I found the beginning and ending held the excitement and drama I wished for the entire book. Regardless of my few qualms, I am looking forward to book twelve, title and release date to be announced.
An enjoyable NA based on the roaring 20s. Jazz, prohibition, and violence all revolve around a young lady, Tiny, whose small time bootlegging father i...moreAn enjoyable NA based on the roaring 20s. Jazz, prohibition, and violence all revolve around a young lady, Tiny, whose small time bootlegging father is kidnapped by a gangster. Tiny lies, scams, and works all angles as she tries to save her father and resist falling in love with the son of the man who kidnapped her dad. A fast paced with plenty of action and steam. Looking forward to book 2-Speak Low. (less)
Favorite Quote: “You de Piaget have strange and unwholesome ideas of independence.”
Isabelle de Piaget, the last child of Rhys and Gwen de Piaget, is tired of being unnoticed and referred to as “that one” by all the suitors who invade her family’s estate wanting to see if her sister Amanda is indeed married and unavailable. When she received a missive, commanding her to come to France or her grandparents’ lives will be forfeit, Isabelle sees this as a chance to get out from underneath her family’s suffocating protectiveness and become her own person. When her boat to France crashes off the coast, she is rescued by a broody man with no memory to who she is and why she is there.
Gevarse de Seger, Lord of Monsaert, has enough to worry about in his own life then trying to discover who a lost servant boy belongs too. Gervase places the bedraggled urchin he rescues to scrubbing floors until he realises that this boy is none other than Isabelle de Piaget and her family, especially her over zealous brother Nicolas, may not appreciate the humor when learning their beloved sister was scrubbing Gervase’s floors. Gervais knows he needs to get word to her family of her health but her beauty and wit ensnares him while her keen mind shows that she may hold the key to his problems.
Working towards the truth takes Isabelle and Gervase on a merry chase as lies and deception slowly unravel to reveal the viper(s) in their midst. Romance takes root and shows our couple that love can bloom at the most unexpected time and all it takes it is a single look.
I have enjoyed Lynn Kurland’s historical romances for years. Ms. Kurland has a wonderfully lyrical and engaging voice that gently guides her characters through the intricate rituals of courtship and love. What I truly enjoy about her stories is the air of innocence in them. The love affairs her characters embark upon are heartfelt and humorous as the romance unfolds. The physical love scenes are almost always non existence or off scene. One delightful aspect of her stories is you’re never sure if this will be a straightforward historical romance, with both protagonists from the same time period, or if she will engage her time traveling storyline, tossing one of them in the future or dragging one back into the past. Or perhaps both.
Dreams of Lilacs is a sweet love story about two people who feel judged by their looks. In here, we stay firmly in the past. This story, rather like her last few, has a gentler feel to it. The passion and energy that was present in her earlier stories isn’t present though I did see a glimmer of it at times. The focus is more on the couple and their journey to their happily ever after rather than the mystery(s) that surround them. Smooth writing and a steady pace makes for easy reading but the tension and drama wasn’t a strong feature here. The main conflict develops admirably but I was a little dismayed by the easy copulation of the villain(s) and the matter of fact way it is resolved. I think this is why I prefer her time traveling romances over the era fixed ones. They are more rambunctious as past meets present and the protags have to ride the culture shock. In here, the flirting and dialogue is appropriate for the time period but is so subtle and polite, it’s hard to get excited about what’s happening at times.
Heavily character driven, it’s the players in this story that brought it to life for me. The humorous dialogue is a prevalent force and I found myself smiling incisively through out here. Isabelle is a delightful heroine; bold, strong, devious, loyal, beautiful, and charming-like all the di Piagets. She embraces her quest and uses her wits and ingenuity to figure out who’s trying to hurt her family and why. As the baby of the family, she just wants to be noticed as a woman in her own right. She feels no one really sees her.
“I have spent my whole of my life , standing in the shadows, saying nothing at all.”
Gervase is a broody man whose frowns and bad moods masks his physical pain. Once one of the most feared knights in France, he was badly injured in a fire and became the subject of speculation, rumors, and pity. He now stays at his estate, struggling to cope with his disabilities, his six inquisitive brothers, and running his large estate. His entertaining grumpiness, dry wit, and steadfast honor makes him the perfect match for Isabelle.
“I can’t send her home yet.”
“Because, she’s still missing her memories. The shock would be too great. She might return home and find her family nothing but strangers. Ask yourself what kind of man would leave a rare flower of that sort in a spot exposed to too much wind and rain.”
As Gervase and Isabelle spend more time together, their witty banter sparks powerful chemistry; drawing him and his family into Isabelle’s colorful abet crazy orbit.
“Lying is a sin.” “So in grumbling overmuch.” “I don’t grumble. I express my opinions in stately, measured tones.”
She not only enchants Gervase but his entire estate. From his blood thirsty five year old brother to the head groomsman, no one is safe from Isabelle’s charm or gentle manipulation.
The romance is very soft and dreamy in its reveal. As I stated earlier, there is no sex. Light kisses, stolen touches, and lots of scorching looks is about all you’re going to get but it works. Isabelle is a lady of breeding and Gervase is a knight of honor. He wants her as his wife and he’ll do nothing to sully her or his honor. Of course, that isn’t a problem once her brothers, Miles and Robin show up to offer advice, threats, and even more laughter. However, even they cannot not stop Gervase and Isabelle from engaging in some deliciously sweet flirting.
He shot Miles a warning look, then gathered her in his arms. “I will,” he whispered against her ear, “consent to be led about however you will if you’ll simply agree to look at me twice.”
“You will not.” “You might be surprised.” “I might be convinced to look at you more then twice, then.” “We must elude them at our earliest opportunity.”
A Kurland story wouldn’t be a Kurland story if family didn’t get involved. And the de Piagets arrive in force to “rescue” Isabelle from the beast of Monsaert. Their infectious humor and demonstrative swaggering only adds to the overall appeal of the story. Miles and Robin arrive post haste, determined to protect Isabelle. Both decide to join her in her quest and make sure Gervase keeps his naughty hands and lips to himself. Jocelin, one of Gervase’s brother’s, provides much laughter as he protects Gervase’s back all while teasing him about his romantic intentions towards Isabelle.
“Lord Rhy’s is going to murder you.” Jocelin said thoughtfully. “But if I murder Guys at the same time, then I inherit the title. If I’m exceptionally clever, I might convince our lovely guest to look at me instead of you.” He smiled happily. “Life has a way of rewarding lads with good hearts, don’t you think?”
The main conflict is a light undercurrent that flows in and around the romance. Extremely low key, Kurland reveals clues sporadically until we arrive at the point of no return. Everything wraps up rather fast in that aspect. I felt that portion of the storyline failed a bit in it’s undramatic reveal. I had pretty much guessed who it was and the reasons why. There aren’t but a few reasons someone would try and kill a Lord. I did wish the conflict would have balanced better with the romance.
All in all, Kurland pens an enjoyable lightweight historical romance filled with humor, love, and a wee bit of mystery. Perfect reading for a lazy day. Each of her romances in this and her coordinating series can be read as stand alones as each storyline consists of a single couple finding their happily ever after. I believe, but am not one hundred percent sure, this in the 16th book in the de Piaget series and the 20th book in the MacLeod/de Piaget series.
The Magpie Lord is a dark and humorous M/M PNR that pits a male witch and a newly inherited Earl against a malevolent force that has targeted the Earl...moreThe Magpie Lord is a dark and humorous M/M PNR that pits a male witch and a newly inherited Earl against a malevolent force that has targeted the Earl. The romance is hinted at-both parties are attracted to one another but the mystery is the prevalent force that drives this story. Light sarcastic humor and witty banter balances well against the conflict. Strong protags and secondary characters help o push the story along at an engaging pace.
I’ve always enjoyed Jennifer Haymore’s lush and emotionally plump historical romances. The House of Trent series has been particularly enjoyable as it builds upon the trope of impossible connections forming between unlikely candidates. A seductive and somewhat somber series that divulges into the scandals and secrets of an aristocratic family.
The Scoundrel’s Seduction is the third book in Haymore’s historical romance suspense series-The House Of Trent. Focusing on the first born, Samuel Hawkins, we finally learn the reasons behind his quiet deadly nature and frequent disappearances. Though the first born, his illegitimacy forbid him from inheriting the title when the former Duke passed away. Employed as a spy for the Crown, Sam lives his life where he feels the most comfortable- in the shadows.
Our heroine, Lady Elisa Dunthrope, escaped to England as a child when her family fell victim to the guillotine’s kiss during the French Revolution. Pushed into marriage at a young age by her uncle, she has suffered for her French heritage and her husband’s dreams of grandeur. Dreams that lead him to betray his country. After seeing her husband murdered before her eyes, Elisa is dragged into a deadly game of cat and mouse where everyone wants her dead. Her only hope is a man whose very nature demands he never trust her.
The story starts out with a heavy hand towards action and intrigue when our hero, Samuel Hawkins, is forced to take prisoner the wife of the man he just assassinated. A spy for the Crown, Samuel learned that Lord Dunthrope was selling secrets to the French. The verdict for this treason? Death. However, no one expected Lady Dunthrope to be in residence. As a witness to the murder, Samuel can’t let her go. Now Samuel has to figure out how how involved she is in this conspiracy and what to do with her once he gets his answers.
While I liked it overall, I found it didn’t engage me. The storyline moves extremely slow and the majority is filled with Sam and Elisa getting to know one another and pontificating on the benefits and drawbacks of their growing attraction to one another. Samuel wants her from the beginning but unable to prove or disprove her loyalties leaves him unsure if he should act on it. He’s also put out a little that Elisa doesn’t seem to be grieving for her late husband or even particularly upset that Samuel murdered him. The plotlines are predictable with very little tension or apprehension. I expected more action and conflict because of the spy storyline.
The characters are well developed but I felt like I they were missing something. Both were extremely even natured people. Their back stories are revealed in a matter of fact way; interjected at the appropriate times to ensure the reader understands the reasons behind their actions. It’s acceptable but not inspiring. Even the conflicts between them are low key and easily overcome. The “insta love” aspect is prevalent and while the chemistry between them is believable, I wanted more emotional involvement. I wanted Elisa to rage at being held captive and once more not in control of her life. I want Sam to get angry about his childhood and the seemingly intractable situation he now finds himself in. It was all very ce la vie.
The romance itself is delicious with plenty of whispered promises, steamy touches, and passionate love making. I liked that as both had been married before so no games are played and they are very honest with one another. Elisa isn’t forced to play the blushing virgin and Samuel doesn’t have to hold back his desires. Elisa has no issues with telling Samuel how much she wants him and boldly initiates their love making at times.
Haymore intertwines the main storyline with the ongoing arc concerning the disappearance of Sam’s mother-Duchess of Trent. Fortunately, this is resolved and in all honesty, was the most interesting part of the story. We learn the reasons about why she left and it makes sense though I’m at a loss to understand why certain things were done the way they were. We spend a fair amount of time with the Trent siblings but again, something was missing. I didn’t get the same connection with them as in her previous installments.
For me, the story really picked up in the last 25%. The story moves fast and furious once the Duchess is reintroduced and the villains behind spy ring reveal themselves and make their move. The ending is justifiable though anti climatic as we knew what would happen from the beginning and nothing was really left to the imagination or chance.
Though I will continue to read Ms. Haymore’s romances and am looking forward to Esme’s story, this was not my favorite installment in this series.
Book has potencial with more editing and development both character & story wise. Nothing is addressed beyond a cursory level. Lots of unanswered...moreBook has potencial with more editing and development both character & story wise. Nothing is addressed beyond a cursory level. Lots of unanswered questions and undeveloped plot lines. (less)
Favorite Quote: “To win a man’s heart, a woman must have the mind of a diplomat, a general, and Cleopatra, all in one.”
Lady Anne-Sophia Duncombe is running from an abusive father whose last scheme almost killed her. He wants her with child and will do anything to accomplish that. Sophia manages to escape her father and hide with the help of a friend. She decides the only way to avoid recapture is to become a commoner. She disguises herself up as a widow and seeks employment at Rougemont, home to the insane Earl of Devon.
Wilhelm Montague, the Earl of Devon, is thought to be insane. A tortured war hero tainted by scandal, he is suffers from savant autism. He remains closeted on his country estate, safe in his routines and composing his beautiful brilliant music; a necessary release of his illness.
When Wilhelm meets the newest member of his household, he is stunned by the chemistry that blazes between them. He knows instinctively she is hiding secrets but finds himself drawn to her beauty and intelligence. When danger comes to Rougemont, Wilhelm and Sophia must push through their fears in order to triumph over the evil that seeks to destroy them both.
Song For Sophia is a delightful historical romance filled with mystery, suspense, sizzling chemistry, and sparkling dialogue. Set in the Victorian era, this strong character driven story features a hero and heroine so supremely built, their characterization catapults this from good to fantastic. Well plotted with a healthy balance between the conflict and romance. Strong dialogue is punctuated with humour and wit, written without flowery prose or overly saturated angst, entrances the reader and draws them into the story. Darkness shadows our protagonists yet their journey to true love is a bright shining thread that intertwines through the storyline.
I loved Sophia and Wilhelm from their first meeting. Both are strong, intelligent, strong willed characters who have been victimized by life but able to rise above it. They each have been alone for so long that it takes awhile for their minds to acknowledged what their souls already know-they are one. Neither of them sees the other as damaged. They are both accepting of who the other one is and that only enhances the joy that occurs when they begin to embrace and accept it. I loved the banter between them. It reflects their personalities and intentions so well we watch their acquaintance turn into friendship, then love.
“Lord Devon,” she greeted dryly in the same tone she might say, “you impish prankster.” He shrugged one shoulder to mean, “So, you finally figured it out. Bravo.” “The only havoc I see here is the dreadful cataloging. For one so meticulous, it strikes me as odd that the alphabet should be beyond you.” He nodded thoughtfully.”Perhaps I had them organized chronologically by genre.” “You have the Bible next to Homer.” “Fiction.”
Sophia is a wonderful mixture of fragility and steel. She had defied incredible odds to survive the horror that is her father and continues to fight her way towards complete freedom, using whatever means are necessary. She hates being deceptive but her staying safe also guarantees the safety of others.
“You said before I may keep my secrets and I shall. I promise, you would like me less without my mystery.”
Wilhelm is fabulous with his patience and steadfast ways towards Sophia. He handles her with care; knowing that she needs to trust herself and him before they can go forward. His complete acceptance of her and her story makes him a true hero in my eyes. He assures her repeatedly that no matter what she does or where she goes, he will always be there for her.
“This is a peaceful place. I vow you have nothing to fear. And you may keep your secrets, Madam.”
The romance evolves at a realistic pace, allowing Wilhelm and Sophia time to get to know one another and deal with their personal issues. Wilhelm's illness causes him great consternation while Sophia remains on constant vigil. The chemistry and sexual tension between Wilhelm and Sophia is so emotionally charged you can feel it leaping off the pages. Their love scenes are deliciously sensual and revealing. The internal and external dialogue between one another is both humorous and heart wrenching. Trust is hard won but once it’s earned, it’s a silken tie that binds them to one another with the strength of steel.
Ms. Densley does a fantastic job of blending the suspense of the story with the romance. Non stop action speeds the story along at an engaging pace as the conflict begins to weave its way into the main conflict. While there is much going on, Ms. Densley clear and concise writing leaves little confusion. With each scene we watch Wilhelm and Sophia face their fears and overcome obstacles. Neither the plot nor romance is sacrificed. They balance and complement each other through the entire book.
Moriah Densley paints a beautiful love affair in her historical romance debut and I for one look forward to reading more from her in the future.
Favorite Quote: “It had felt like forever, and it had felt like no time at all.”
SOME SPOILERS FROM BOOK ONE
In book one, Provoked, we met Junior Advocate David Laurenston whose actions in the Scottish Insurrection landed him onto some very powerful people’s lists. He begins an affair with a hedonistic and influential Scottish Lord, Lord Mundo Balfour. When their affair comes to mean more to them than was intended, harsh words are spoken and they part.
Beguiled picks up two years later. David is now a full fledged advocate and is required to make an appearance during a ball being given for King George IV’s visit to Scotland. A trip to his tailor results in seeing his ex lover, Lord Balfour again. They reconnect and soon David is swept up once again in Balfour’s glittering world of opulence and passion. When the past seeks him out, David finds himself drawn into a chain of events that are out of his control. Helping to correct a wrong will place David in danger and threaten not only the love that is developing between Belfour and himself but his career, and possible his life.
This historical series is told by David Laureston. There is a resolution of the main conflict but the romance remains questionable. David is a complicated man whose sexual preferences have cause him pain and confusion in the past. His ethics continuously war with his passions. He knows he should not be attracted to men but is unable to resist. Especially when he sees Lord Mundo again. Mundo breaks through David’s walls and has him feeling things that speak of romance, love, and a lifetime of pleasure. He makes him think of the future.
Lord Mundo is/was a hedonist who did not see his enjoyment of male companionship as a hindrance in his eventual marriage and procreation of a heir. It was merely an itch to be scratched. David is the only man who has ever made Mundo question his actions and feel something beyond physical attraction. He regretted his harsh words two years ago and in seeing David again, he does everything he can to bring him back to his bed.
Their romance is more passionate and emotionally based in this book. The chemistry remains intense but their dialogue and actions speak of their deepening feelings towards one another. When David walked away two years ago, he was not prepared for the bleakness that enveloped him. It almost crippled him. David fears it will be worse this time around as he knows there is no future for he and Mundo. As the story progresses we learn that David was not the only one feeling the separation and desolate feelings. Mundo also regretted their separation. Sensual love scenes and a well crafted ending gives readers a glimpse of hope that these two men may have a chance at happiness despite their political and social differences.
The main conflict is a tense filled plotline that addresses social injustices towards woman and the working class for this era. Chambers brings back two characters with whom David has strong ties with. A suspected traitor whose brother he defended and failed and a young woman whose unrequited crush on David caused her to make a terrible choice. David’s innate loyalty and sense of justice leads him to create a clandestine plan to save both people from those who seek to do them harm.
The ending is an action packed affair that wraps up the main conflict in an acceptable resolution but leaves David in dire straits. Mundo comes to his rescue and we are left at a pivotal point that will affect both men. I look forward to book three and seeing how Ms. Chambers will bridge the differences between our heroes and what will become of the two people for whom David made the ultimate sacrifice.
Jacob's Return is an emotionally powerful love story that sets up beautifully and takes you on a heartbreaking journey of love, loss, and redemption....moreJacob's Return is an emotionally powerful love story that sets up beautifully and takes you on a heartbreaking journey of love, loss, and redemption. Though set among the Amish, this is not a religious story.(less)
William, The Duke of Lamont, wakes one morning only to discover himself laying in an unknown bed, covered in blood. Unable to remember what has happened, he finds himself accused of killing his soon to be step mother, Mara Lowe.
Forced to leave his birthright, a new man rises from the ashes of his former life of privilege. Nicknamed the Killer Duke, William, now calling himself Temple, along with three other disgraced men, operate a gambling hall named the Fallen Angel. For twelve years, Temple has reigned over the darkest parts of London; bare knuckle boxing in penance for his supposed crime. Money, women, and fame drip from his fingertips. But the only thing he wants and can’t have is redemption.
Until she reappears.
Mara Lowe never planned on returning to London but when her brother gambles away her fortune at Temple’s gambling hall, she is forced back into the world she ran from. She never expected Temple to be accused of her murder when she set her original plan in motion. And though she knows her actions caused his downfall, she is unable to feel much regret. With her new life hanging in the balance, she needs her money desperately. She approaches Temple with a proposition. She will reveal herself, letting London and the world know that he did not kill her, effectively restoring Temple’s honor and his place in society if he will forgive her brother’s debt.
Temple agrees but with conditions. He has suffered for twelve years and now he has his revenge in hand to do with what he pleases. Temple wants to humiliate Mara for what she has done to him. He wants her to suffer as he has. As Temple and Mara dance around the lies, pain, and attraction, Temple realizes that the circumstances that led to that night twelve years ago are far more complicated than he imagined. Now Temple must decide if vengeance is worth losing everything he never knew he wanted.
No Good Duke Goes Unpunished is a dark emotional historical romance that batters at the heart with harsh repeating blows. A story of betrayal and redemption that allows for a realistic journey from hatred to love. Heavily character driven, our protagonists are well defined with quicksilver personalities, passionate natures, and tragic shadowed pasts. MacLean digs deep into their psyches to show us what is really buried beneath the hard exterior they show the world. Two people who have survived the best way they know how.
Temple and Mara both were victims in this story. Born into luxury, you would think they had it all. But as their histories are revealed, you realize that the glitter often hides a rotten core. The wealthier you are, the less control you have over your destiny. Mara was a hard character to like. You can sympathize with her but the choices she made are hard to forgive when you see the impact they had on Temple. Part of the problem is she didn’t seem to show any real remorse for what her actions did to Temple. She knew what she did had been wrong and feels badly but what we see from her is an attitude that suggests that she cannot change the past so there is no need to dwell on it. Once she contacts Temple and offers her proposition, it seems, once again, that she is using him to her own benefit. Just as she did twelve years ago. As you get to know Mara, you realize that she did the only thing she knew to do and there were mitigating circumstances involved. Circumstances that pushed the situation further then it should have gone. Namely, Mara’s brother, Christopher.
Mara was only sixteen when she was essentially sold into marriage to Temple’s father. Sixteen and engaged to a man three times her age, whom we learn is as bad, if not worse, than her own father. Her actions to escape what she feels is a deal with the devil didn’t play out the way she had anticipated and Temple suffered for her decisions. She feels bad for everything that happened but she is honest to herself that she wouldn’t have changed what she did.
“She’d never meant for that charming young man-all muscle and grace and wide, smiling mouth-to become the unwitting victim in her escape. Not that she tried to save him. It was too late for apologies. She made her bed…now she must lie in it”
Mara did what she could as a young girl with absolutely no power or control over her life. She has grown much in her time away from London. She is not the scared little girl she once was. She has matured, gaining in strength and self assurance in her time on her own and that shines through as she now pays her own penance by running an orphanage for illegitimate boys.
Temple is an enigma. Looking like a hardened thug with his large muscular frame and inked skin, his heart is one of a gentleman. Regardless of what he has done over his lifetime, his honor has remained intact-no matter what he thinks. Your heart will break as you learn the extent of what he has gone through. Rejected by society, he was forced to survive on the streets of London, painstakingly climbing his way up from the gutter to the throne he now sits upon. All while having to listen to the whispers and feel the stares at his back…reminding him that the world sees him as a murderer.
“The whispers followed him through filth and sin, marking time. At first he had pretended not to hear the word, but as the years passed, he had embraced it-and the epithet turned honorific. Killer.”
Though he plans to ruin Mara as she ruined him, he finds himself balancing on a precipice as he gets to know her better. He sees her strength, compassion, and willingness to work hard for the sake of others. He cannot comfortably consign her to the role of villain. He wants her in his life but is unsure if he can trust her.
Undeniable chemistry singes the pages as these two engage in a battle of wills. Though no actual physical scenes till the end, the emotional dialogue sweeps you up and places you dead center into the turmoil that directs their lives. Anger, lust, vengeance, and redemption all serve as base to their burgeoning relationship. As their romance slowly develops, Mara shows Temple that she sees him for the man he has always been. She helps him reclaim his title and the life he had before and she also shows him that he hasn’t been as miserable as he professes. Temple, in turn, shows Mara that not all men are users and that he would give up everything to make sure she knows she is loved.
This was the greatest gift she could give him, even if it would take the greatest sacrifice she had ever made.
The one where she gave up everything.
Temple’s friends play a large part in the story. It’s a comfort to the reader that Temple had such strong friendships to lean on. They offer a deeper look into Temple’s life as they have been with him since the beginning and have seen the damage Mara caused. They believe Mara to be the enemy and treat her accordingly, especially as her brother keeps doing things to cast even further suspicion on Mara. It’s only when they see how Temple is beginning to feel for Mara that they start to hint to Temple that a lifetime of possible happiness is worth more than a single act of vengeance. They also provide some humor to help offset the bleakness the story holds. Mara’s boys are a delight and also offer insight into Mara’s emotional state and the reasons behind her actions.
The majority of the book focuses on Temple and Mara’s journey to forgiveness. It’s a dark story that highlights our protagonists internal demons and their subsequent ability to forgive themselves and one another. It’s not an easy story to read and MacLean doesn’t offer the reader any reassurances that either of them will make it out alive- emotionally or physically.
The ending is a series of climatic scenes that show us just how much Mara and Temple care for one another. Mara finally does what she should have done years ago but Temple realizes at the last moment that she is more important to him than his own life. If I had any qualms, it was Mara taking so long to tell Temple what really happened that night and her reasons for why she did it. We are made to understand why she held out for so long but it causes for some dragging in the story and also causes readers to hold on to their ire of Mara for longer. I was also never fully convinced that Mara would have ever made things right if she hadn’t needed her money back.
Regardless, I enjoyed Temple’s story and believe fans of Sarah MacLean and angst driven historical romances are sure to enjoy her latest offering. Temple may very well be her darkest and most romantic hero to date. Chase’s story is up next and I for one cannot wait.
A short Christmas novella with a beauty & the beast trope. Short and sweet with predictable plot lines and ending. Small exceprt into Ms. Beverly'...moreA short Christmas novella with a beauty & the beast trope. Short and sweet with predictable plot lines and ending. Small exceprt into Ms. Beverly's next full length novel is included. (less)
Favorite Quote: “I know what it’s like to get it all wrong. To do nothing but harm when you meant only the best.”
Book two in Ms. Bradley’s Worthington series, And Then Comes Marriage, is the story of Pollux (Poll) and Castor (Cas) Worthington. Dubbed the Devilish Duo, these outrageous twins use their looks, charm, and competitive nature to play games of the heart with women. When Poll meets the lovely rich widow Miranda Talbot, he seeks to set up a liaison as everyone knows widows are fair game. Poll and Miranda burgeoning friendship blossoms until Miranda is almost injured in an explosion and is rescued by Cas. Thinking he is Poll, Miranda gives him a passionate kiss in thanks and is shocked by the instant chemistry that explodes. When Miranda discovers the truth and seeks to dissolve her association with both, they beg the chance to court her with the better man winning her hand.
As Miranda, Poll, and Cas circle around each other, with each man determined to be the victor, they draw the straight laced Miranda out of her shell. Married at a young age to a much older and socially rigid man, Miranda was always the epitome of respectability. In his death, Miranda is finally free to be who she wants rather than what was required of her. When the twins antics set in motion a series of events that only serve to alienate Miranda from society, they find themselves for the first time ashamed of their past deeds and must make amends for their devious behavior.
I adored the first book in this series, When She Said I Do. A delightfully funny and erotically charged story, lightly twisted around a Beauty and the Beast theme. While I found this book also amusing and steamy with some plum love scenes, I didn’t get the same buzz from it. There is an underlying darkness to it as we witness the emerging relationship between the three protagonists and their individual issues which causes unnecessary conflict in the book. I would almost call this a coming of age story in that while Miranda is older than the twins (she’s thirty and they are twenty one), all three of them are emotionally immature. Though it starts as a game of sorts, this becomes the first true romantic relationship for all three when their emotions enter the equation.
Miranda and Cas are well matched. Miranda watched her parents drama filled marriage crumble and disintegrate, leaving her an orphan disgraced by their scandal. Her loveless marriage reiterated what she felt growing up and she never wants to find herself under someone’s thumb again, at the mercy of their needs and desires. Cas was used by a conniving older woman who took advantage of his age and passionate nature. He likens himself to a puppet, dangling by strings and unable to control his own life. Both are content with their lives and their control over their lives but when they meet, the passion explodes between them and they find themselves wanting to lose the very control they struggle to maintain.
“Kissing Miranda felt like flying, like falling, like spinning out of control and never wishing to land.”
Sensual love scenes with bits of erotica spice up this historical romance. Cas is a naughty, naughty boy whose desires manifest themselves in some interesting ways when he is around Miranda. Some mild dominance games eschew though neither truly want that sort of relationship. This is an exploration of feelings and desires; both seeking to bring the other joy and sexual respite.
"When I am through with you, you will flaunt that lovely body like the jewel it is."
Interesting subplots and conflicts makes the story much more than a simple historical romance. Miranda has to deal with her intractable sister in law whose Puritan notions are offended by Miranda. Cas and Poll have been warned by the Regent himself to stop their scandalous ways or else. Vivacious secondary characters keep the story moving along at a steady pace though they do over shadow the protagonists at times. The Worthingtons hold a strong position in the story line and remain somewhat amusing pains in the butt. Still narcissistic, self absorbed, and nosy as ever; they continue to cause mayhem wherever they go. Attie, the youngest Worthington and budding sociopath, still entertains and I liked that Miranda gave her the attention she was seeking. Various characters from When She said I Do appear, intent on trying to help Miranda and Cas on their journey to happily ever after. But as usual, they cause more harm than good.
More emotional and angsty than book one, there is still some humor within the story though not as much. I will admit that Cas and Poll disappointed me many times in here, especially towards the end when everything comes to light. I felt they both got off rather lightly. Their behavior was quite despicable and more groveling was necessary in my mind. Miranda’s pain broke my heart.
“Oh I thought I had hurt before. I was so very wrong.”
As with most romances, our hero and heroine have a hard journey towards their happily ever after. Love is tested but always triumphs in the end when our lovers finally admit their feelings and embrace the inevitable. Overall an enjoyable story with interesting characters though I missed the spark that the first book had.
Favorite Quote: “…I hate what I am at time, but at least I accept myself enough to realize I can’t lie my way through life…”
David Lauriston, a junior advocate in Edinburgh, finds himself under suspicion for radical sympathies when he defends a group of weavers accused of treason. His life becomes even more complicated when a chance sexual encounter with a mysterious man leaves David both confused and wanting more.
Lord Murdo Balfour is a worldly cynical man who believes life should be enjoyed to the fullest and nothing is off limits. Though he never indulges in repeat performances with the same man, his one night with David has left him feeling raw, unsatisfied, and hungering for more.
As David seeks to uncover the spy who betrayed the weavers to the local magistrate, he fears his mysterious lover has a more sinister reason for being in town. And the truth could do more then just break his heart…it could get him killed.
Provoked is a historical m/m romance set in 1800 Edinburgh, Scotland, based on the Scottish Insurrection. The first in a series, Chambers effectively builds an uneasy romance between two completely different men whose loyalties and morals that separate them are as effective as a yawning chasm. A suspenseful mystery only reinforces their differences when the traitor David seek, leads him straight to Lord Balfour.
This is my first time reading Joanna Chambers and I was impressed with the tone and flow of this story. With a length of only 216 pages and told from David’s point of view, it is presented with the intention that this is but a single chapter in David’s life so there is no resolution to either the romance or the main conflict.
Our protagonists are both well developed as Chambers takes the time to build them; highlighting their background and differences. David is ashamed of his feelings for men and views it as failing on his part. Caught by his father in a compromising situation, he finds himself balancing on an ethical precipice, caught between his desire for men and his knowledge that society views this desire as an abomination. His increasing guilt leads him to try and ignore his and Balfour’s growing attraction for one another even as he finds himself unable to resist that attraction.
Balfour, a self proclaimed hedonist, doesn’t see his love of men as a sin, yet he also doesn’t see himself falling in love with one. It is merely an itch to be scratched. Yet, from his first meeting with David, he feels different. He is angry that he cannot simply push his feelings for David aside. He wants more and we see hints of jealousy and hurt in his dialogue with David as David continues to refuse to play the way Belfour wants.
It’s unusual to see many female characters in an M/M romance yet in here they aren’t only present but given viable places in the storyline. Both Balfour and David have interactions with two particular women whose interests in the men only add even more conflict. I am intrigued by the roles they will play in the future of these two men’s lives. I also enjoyed the interactions we have with David’s family. His father, though disappointed in him, still loves him dearly and wants what every parents wants. For their children to be healthy, happy, and safe.
As I stated above, this is but a merely chapter in David’s life so there is no resolution to the storylines. We aren’t left with a cliffhanger but more of a to be continued… I am interested in seeing where Ms. Chambers takes this series and looking forward to the next installment.
Favorite Quote: “No pretend son of his was going to go through life unwanted or unloved.“
Everett Gerard left home as a young man and never returned. He has spent many years traveling, burying himself in a haze of alcohol and sex. When he finally rouses himself to read the many letters his bailiff has been sending to him for months; telling him of a young boy who is claiming Everett is his father, he travels to his estate to see for himself. Once Everett sees the boy, there is no doubt he’s a Gerard but he knows for fact the boy is not his. Gerard figures he will deal with the boy and the abbey, then head back to London. But he never figured on Miles Kenway.
Miles Kenway, the Abbey bailiff, loves his job and the estate. A man who has never been content to stay in one area for long, he finds himself settling and wanting to being the Abbey back to its former glory. When a young boy appears at the Abbey, claiming Everett Gerard is his father, Miles finds himself at wits end trying to keep the boy from destroying the estate with his pranks and wild mischief. When Everett finally appears, Miles is both elated and unsettled by his attraction to Everett.
As Miles and Everett circle each other and their forbidden desires, unsure how to circumvent the delicate balance between master and servant, they find they must unite when the boy’s real father appears and threatens everything they have have.
The Gentleman’s Keeper is an sweet historical romance that tells us a story of two men, who for various reasons, have run away from life. When a young boy enters their lives, they begin to see that see that love is an encompassing emotion that has the ability to heal if they have the courage to hold tight with both hands. Well written with no drag time or unnecessary conflict or drama. In fact, there is hardly any conflict or drama, period, which surprised me due to the subject matter. The few misunderstandings are cleared up within a page or two. While a balance exists between the romance and the plotline , I would have enjoyed a more indepth journey into the romance’s evolution from lust to love. It is all assumed in a tell rather than show way.
Both Miles and Everett are pleasant characters who both find peace and contentment from one another the moment they meet. They have a nice chemistry together that tells you they will do fine together in the long run. Adding the care of the young boy into the mix further solidifies the rightness of these two men together. It also goes far in showing that family is a mixture of love and care-no matter the genders. Our villain is more pathetic than evil and his plans only serves to bring forth the commitment both men need to make to one another.
All in all, The Gentleman’s Keeper is an easy romantic read that won’t blow you away but will leave you content in the end.
Lady Nell Daughtry has arrived with her family to help get her sister down the aisle and safely married to Prince Frederick of Lautenberg. It’s not that her sister doesn’t want to marry Frederick, she adores him and wants to be his wife one hundred percent. Unfortunately, her family suffers from a family phobia certain ailment that causes them to undermine themselves before their big day. Basically, they freak out and run away. Nell is there to make sure this does not happen. She, however, never expected to be faced with her own failed engagement.
Nine years ago, Robert Knightley was convinced Nell loved him as much as he loved her but when she began to grow distant and pull away from him, he decided to cut his losses and walked away from her. Now the diplomatic envoy to Lautenberg, Robert is shocked to see Nell appear with the wedding party but soon decides that they can behave as adults. His job is to oversee everything in the wedding goes smoothly.
Nell tries to hide her sister’s increasing panic attacks, but Robert notices and confronts her, demanding the truth. She tells him everything and soon they make a pact that places them in close quarters for the rest of the week. As Nell and Robert reconnect, confidences are shared and both realize that they have been given a second chance to correct the mistakes they made ten years ago.
A Return Engagement was previously released in the anthology, Royal Bridesmaids. Now, released on its own as a novella, Stephanie Laurens brings us a sweet story about true love and second chances. Nell never understood why Robert just walked away from her and their relationship. She was expecting a proposal and instead was left with a broken heart. I enjoyed meeting Nell and Robert. I liked we were dealing with two older, more mature characters. Their romance flourishes beautiful amidst the main storyline in a slow manner, giving us and them time to realise their mistakes and unfounded assumptions. The ending gives us our happily ever after in a cute and delightfully sweet manner.
Favorite Quote: “You’re exactly who I thought you were.“
Lord Lukas Hawkins, the rakish second son of the House of Trent, has never found a wager he couldn’t win or a woman he couldn’t seduce—until his search for his missing mother leads him to a mysterious encounter with a beautiful stranger.
Luke’s mother has been missing for months, and while his honorable older brother Simon, Duke of Trent, leads the official investigation from London, Luke sets out on a somewhat seedier path. Sources have told him his mother was last seen with a scoundrel named Roger Morton, but their association isn’t clear. Was she kidnapped or did she go willingly?
While searching for Morton, Luke meets Emma Anderson, a secretive beauty with her own reasons for hunting Morton. At first Luke laughs at the idea of allowing a woman to join him in his search, but soon Emma’s insights into Morton—like the woman herself—prove impossible to resist. (Goodreads)
Some light spoilers if you haven’t read book one-The Duchess Hunt.
The Rogue’s Proposal is the second book in Haymore’s angst driven historical series-The House Of Trent. Focusing on the second son, Lord Lukas Hawkins, we learn the reason behind the demons that drive this man over and over to the edge of despair. Revealed as a temperamental rogue with appetites for all things depraved, Lukas has a deep dark secret that precipatates his actions.
Book one, The Duchess Hunt, revealed that Lukas was not the son of the former Duke of Trent. One of the many affairs that the Duchess of Trent had resulted in Lukas birth. The duke agreed to raise Lukas as his own though we eventully learn that all was not well in that situation. Lukas upbringing shaped him into the man he is today; coloring his relationships with his family and women in general. When he is approached by a woman who offers to help him search for his mother in return for his help apprehending the man who ruined her family, Lukas finds himself at an impasse. He wants Emma desperately in his bed but only on her terms. For the first time ever, he is putting someone before himself.
Emma Anderson is a gentile lady who learns that hard way that her marriage was a complete farce. A beautiful widow who now must have Lukas help in order to gain back her family fortune and restore the shine to their name. She is instantly attracted to Lukas but knows that romance has no place in their dealings. Her mission demands success. She doesn’t want to be a forgotten notch in his bedpost and realistically knows she has no place in the life of a Duke’s brother.
While I enjoyed The Rogue’s Proposal overall, it didn’t appeal to me as much as book one did. I found it more lightweight emotionally then book one and less defined. The plotlines are predictable with little tension or apprehension to offset the monotony. We spend a majority of the book following Lukas and Emma to Scotland, then back to London as they search for the mysterious Roger Morton who has been connected to the Duchess’s kidnapping.
The characters are well developed but I felt like I was missed something in their evolution. Lukas is constantly telling us just how bad he is but we don’t see it. He does nothing even remotely bad, evil, or even sexually deviant throughout the whole book. In fact, he’s very chivalrous to Emma and everyone around him. We are led to believe this is Emma’s influence but I didn’t see anything she did to warrant this supposed miraculous change in Lukas.
Emma is a good person. A saint. In fact, Lukas refers to her as “angel.” We are told she was quite the hoydon as a youngster. I saw faint evidence of this; though towards the end when the pace picks up, it is more evident. She isn’t argumentative or course in speech. She isn’t pushy or a know it all. She’s…perfect. We are told that she gains strength and self esteem but having never seen her before, I have no idea is this is really true. She has some inner misgivings concerning Lukas but slips rather easily into his bed and his sexual games. Not many apprehensive or second thoughts. That I found hard to believe. Even if she was predestined to enjoy, I would have expected a young woman to have some qualms about bondage. Her navite is glaringly apparent here.
The romance is sweet, sexy, and rather uncomplicated. Any misunderstandings cleared up fast. Emma shows us the supposed strength she’s gained in here which goes far in convincing Lukas she loves him regardless of how the world sees him. Steamy love scenes made for more enjoyable reading and I liked that Haymore is a bit more visual in this aspect.
The reveal behind Lukas demons is a sad but age old story. I liked how Emma helped Lukas heal. It’s a poignant storyline in it’s lack of emotion. Lukas deems he was deserving and that brought a few tears to my eyes. I will admit I found it hard to believe no one knew, though. I can’t fathom that no staff or god forbid, his mother didn’t have a clue. Servants knew EVERYTHING back then. I’m wondering if this will be addressed later in the book.
I think my overall problem with this installment is we are told more than we are shown and there is a lack of humor and lighthearted moments. The conflict is staid and everything is laid out matter of fact and in perfect order. As I stated earlier, there is no real sense of adventure in here. No stimulating intrigue or suspense. No standing on the precipice, quivering in anticipation wondering what will happen. We never at any time doubt what will happen.
For me, the story really picks up in the last 25%. More action is introduced as we get a few sparse clues to the Duchess’s kidnapping, which leads me to believe this will not be solved until the last book, and Emma’s situation. Though, in Emma’s situation, we really do not learn any of the ‘whys’ involved which confounded me. It was a rather intriguing storyline but we are left to our own devices in trying to understand the villain’s reasons.
The ending is justified though anti climatic as we knew what would happen from the beginning and nothing much is left to the imagination or chance.