Review: Thornbrook Park (Thornbrook Park, Book 1) by Sherri Browning

thornbrook parkReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: After the death of her husband, Eve Kendal has only one option when she is disowned by her parents for marrying beneath her. She must leave India and go to London to live with her friend Lady Sophia Averford. The place that has become a new home for her is called Thornbrook Park, and the Dower House is where she will be living for the duration of her stay. Although she is in dire circumstances, she does have a plan for the future. An investment her husband put aside for her will come to fruition soon and when it does, she will use the money available to buy her own house.

Review: The synopsis sounds like the perfect start to Eve’s life, but life is not that reliable when other people are concerned and before long we find that an unscrupulous investor has stolen the money her husband had invested for her, and she is left with nothing. No future and no house to be hers. At least that is what she thinks until she meets Marcus and is instantly attracted to him. Unfortunately for her, he is betrothed to Alice, at least as far as Sophia is concerned, so he is out of bounds to her romantically. That doesn’t stop her having feelings for him though, and the feelings are reciprocated. In fact his interest runs so far that he is willing to help her uncover the mystery of her stolen money and make accountable the cad who stole it.

Good bits:

  • The initial meeting between Eve and Marcus.
  • The setting of the story. Thornbrook Park sounds like a wonderful place.
  • The other characters all have something interesting to hide, so be prepared for some revealing side stories.

Bad bits:

  • It took a long time to get to the good bits.
  • Some of the characters could have been left out.

Summary: As it is set in 1906, the story does mention what happened during that time and how difficult it was for most people who didn’t grow up with wealth. If readers like the period TV series such as Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice, this is one that will thrill readers as some of the characters are believable as is the setting. Eve’s affair with Marcus might sound like a great one for her, but Marcus has problems of his own as he feels the guilt of being alive while many of his friends he served with in the war died.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Thornbrook Park (A Thornbrook Park Romance)

Review: To Seduce an Earl (Seduction, Book 1) by Lori Brighton

to seduce an earlHero: When Alex Weston was young, he was blackmailed into working as a male prostitute in order to keep his family from London’s prisons. He has been thinking of escaping ever since, but the information that caught him then, is holding him captive today. With nothing much better to look forward, Alex decides to stay where he’s at until an intriguing costumer comes to his bed. Can he find the strength to break away from his world in order to keep her there?

Heroine: Grace Brisbane arrives at Lavender Hills quite by mistake. She’s tricked by her stepbrother and has no idea what she’s getting when Alex comes to the bedchamber. Clearly he is not an eccentric book collector. Horribly hurt by her stepbrother’s actions, Grace confronts him and learns the family’s finances are not good. Apparently her stepbrother wanted to help her catch the eye of the Earl of Rodrick, a man Grace has been infatuated with for a while. The Earl prefers experienced women over virgins. Can she gain enough experience to seduce an earl without complete ruination? One way to find out!

Review: I got tired of Alex’s never-ending pity party. The picture painted at Lavender Hills wasn’t ideal, but neither was it so foul that I felt Alex was truly trapped. (Is this a double standard? Yes, it is.) He was trapped mentally in his own apathy about his situation more than anything else. Sure, there are a couple of big brutes standing guard in the halls – it’s called a window. Alex won’t take that escape either because the blackmailing madam of the house would send said brutes to find him. For a man capable of wooing any virgin, he wasn’t as manly or ferocious in his sex appeal and I had hoped. Grace and Alex, when they are together, kept the story moving forward and kept my focus. It’s entertaining, quick, and good for passing time at the airport. I look forward to learning more about Gideon.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Buy: To Seduce an Earl (The Seduction Series)

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To Capture a Rake

to seduce an earlGuest Blog by Lori Brighton, author of To Seduce an Earl

What is a rake? Well, if you’re a gardener it’s a tool used to gather things like grass and leaves. But to the romance reader, a rake is something far, far more interesting.

According to Wikipedia, “A rake, short for rakehell, is a historic term applied to a man who is habituated to immoral conduct, frequently a heartless womanizer.”

Immoral conduct?! Sign me up! For most romance readers, the rake is the ultimate hero, but of course only if he’s changed by the love of the perfect woman. Pick up a romance book, any romance, and most likely you’ll find a rake as the hero. A man who sleeps around with anyone; a man so gorgeous and charming, he can have any woman he wants, and often does. That’s right… they were manwhores and they were the inspiration for my newest historical romance with Amazon Montlake,  To Seduce an Earl.

I know what you’re thinking… my book sounds like every other romance out there. Well, not exactly. Sure, I could have written a book about the typical rake, but I decided to take it one step further and turn the rake into an actual prostitute. The heroes in my newest trilogy actually work in a brothel that caters to women.

Although it sort of started out as a joke, mocking your typical bed-jumping rake, I wanted to bring an element of reality to the situation and make this an emotional experience. You can imagine my relief when I received this review from the website, The Season, “Brighton perfectly captures the detachment sex workers develop to cope with their lives (yes, my day job as a social worker recognized this right away).”

The fact that a social worker appreciated the emotional depth I tried hard to convey, was quite the relief. So, if you have any interest in paid companions (and who doesn’t), or would just like an emotional read, I’m giving away two signed copies of To Seduce an Earl. Just leave a comment and a way to get into contact with you!

Buy: To Seduce an Earl (The Seduction Series)

Review: Lessons in Love (Cambridge Fellows #1) by Charlie Cochrane

by Sharon S., guest reviewer

First off, this m/m was pure romance, and so sweet I think I got a cavity <G>. I am going to call it a historical mystery. It is set at an all male collage in Cambridge in 1905. The author does an amazing job of giving the feel of the time period. The dialogue and descriptions were very convincing. She captured the formal behavior of how educated men of that time behaved.

I *loved* the character Jonty, even his name tickles me. He is a new English Fellow at St. Bride’s Collage. He is playful and cheerful, which is in sharp contrast to Orlando (love this name too). Orlando is a Professor of Mathematics. He is reserved, sour and naïve to life outside of the collage. Despite their differences they become quick friends. A first for Orlando (Jonty introduces him to many firsts, but I am getting ahead of myself <G>).

Jonty comes from a family that loves him, but he grew up in boarding schools and was brutalized by the older boys. He sees his self as a strong survivor and is determined to enjoy life despite his past. He also acknowledges his preference for men, but is a time when you could be arrested for that type of behavior if you flaunted it.

Orlando came from a family devoid of love and affection. He is 28 years old and has never kissed anyone. He completely shut off his emotions and buried himself in his studies. Never, having experienced passion of any sort, until Jonty.

Their attraction happens slowly and beautifully. Jonty knows what is going on, but doesn’t want to scare Orlando away. Orlando has to work through feelings he didn’t know he could have and the fact that they are for his best friend, a man.

Orlando thinking about Jonty:

Back in November, Orlando had no one in his life he could ever call friend. Then, into his world of gown-black and stone-grey, half tones and half a life, had come this vision of blue and gold, like a ray of spring sunshine against a cloudless sky.

(The blue and gold refers to Jonty’s blond hair and blue eyes, I know, right?)

Orlando confesses to Jonty no one has ever said they loved him:

Jonty took Orlando’s hand and rubbed it. Though it was through the layers of leather and wool, there was plenty of intimacy present in the act. “I’m sure your parents did love you, my dearest friend, even if it wasn’t spoken. Some people just find it too hard to say the actual words-it costs too much, you see.”

Oh, yeah. There are tons of these moments that made my heart melt. Like I said, sweet.

By the way, there was a mystery to be solved . Really, the mystery part of the story takes a back seat to the romance and isn’t all that memorable. Someone is killing gay students on campus and Jonty and Orlando help figure it out. I won’t go into any details because it would spoil the mystery. So we will go back to the important thing…the romance!

I would give this 5 stars based on the romance alone, but the mystery was only average.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Lessons in Love: A Cambridge Fellows Mysteries, Book 1

Review: Deadly Love by Brenda Joyce

Deadly Love, a Francesca Cahill Novel, is the first book in the Deadly Series. I’m not one to read a series out of order, which is why when I finished Deadly Vows I had to go back and catch-up!

Francesca Cahill: Our heroine is a bluestocking of the first order. She shuns her beauty and pursues intellectual pursuits. She’s in the middle of her first semester at college, a secret she’s keeping from her parents, and resents her mother’s matchmaking attempts.

Rick Bragg: As one of the series’ heroes, Rick is introduced early. He’s New York’s newly appointed police commissioner. The attention he receives from this is both good and bad.

The Romance: Francesca’s immediately attracted to him, much like she is to her sister’s husband (not a hero), and is determined to catch his attention. Bragg certainly takes notice, but he resists it on multiple levels – most importantly I feel is that he recognizes that professionally right now a romance is not a good idea as it could detract from a case.

Story: When a boy is abducted during a ball, Francesca is determined to help… even if Bragg thinks she’s more of a nuisance. Cryptic notes lead the pair on a wild goose chase around town. The last sentence is a bit misleading because the pair doesn’t actually run around together all that much. Bragg’s always finding Francesca on the scene before/after he’s there to investigate.

Plot Holes: How did the kidnapper, who shall remain nameless, get a hold of a piece of somebody’s ear to trick the police that it was the child’s? The kidnapper is not somebody with access to or perhaps stomach for such an act. Though of course, they did kidnap the kid, so it’s possible. And in the end it doesn’t really matter, because said person I doubt is in the rest of the series.

Conclusion: It’s a great beginning. This fun, fast-paced, Edwardian period mystery series reminds me a bit in feel to Stephanie Plum as it’s lighthearted and one always knows the good guys get the bad in the end.

Series Order:

  1. Deadly Love
  2. Deadly Pleasure
  3. Deadly Affairs
  4. Deadly Desire
  5. Deadly Caress
  6. Deadly Promise
  7. Deadly Illusions
  8. Deadly Kisses
  9. Deadly Vows

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Deadly Love

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Review: Deadly Vows by Brenda Joyce

I saw this on Net Galley and immediately gravitated toward it because of the plotline. Deadly Vows is book 9 in The Deadly Series. Some of you might recognize it as a Francesca Cahill Novel (the name of the heroine) as all the Deadlys follow her as she solves crimes and falls in love.

I picked up the book without knowing any of this however… as a reader with zero background in the series, I think Brenda Joyce did a good job easing new readers into the series. Previous incidents or conversations were alluded to and put in context as needed and as briefly as possible to keep longtime followers from skipping ahead.

But back to the plotline – the heroine Francesca Cahill cannot wait to marry Calder Hart and inadvertently winds up jilting him and breaking his trust when she’s trapped by a thief blackmailing her with a nude portrait of herself – sounds awesome right? It was.

From what I can deduce all Deadlys mix romance and crime solving. Really, I feel there’s something for everyone. The heroine herself is a very contemporary gal while the story is set in New York City around the turn of the century (1902 for Deadly Vows) which means there are still big differences between classes. New York society is akin to English society for Regency lovers. See? Everyone!

There’s a love triangle between Francesca, Calder, and Rick Bragg. To explain the dynamics a little for newbies like me – Rick and Fran met first and were falling in love prior to Rick’s estranged wife showing up and demanding a reconciliation. Francesca cried in Calder’s arms and they fall in love. Rick is the saintly perfect half-brother. Calder is the bad boy billionaire (maybe not that wealthy, but the alliteration was too good to miss. :) ) The half-brothers are very jealous of each other and especially over the relationship Francesca had/has with the other.

Joyce really did a superb job. Francesca chooses the guy I wanted in the end, but hopefully not the end of the series. I am excited that there are eight previous books to read. I better get cracking. ;) If you’re just starting out, reconnecting, or longtime fan here’s the order of the books:

  1. Deadly Love
  2. Deadly Pleasure
  3. Deadly Affairs
  4. Deadly Desire
  5. Deadly Caress
  6. Deadly Promise
  7. Deadly Illusions
  8. Deadly Kisses
  9. Deadly Vows

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Deadly Vows

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Review: The Golden Prince by Rebecca Dean

by Sandra Scholes, guest reviewer

Rebecca Dean in true Philippa Gregory style tells the story of a young prince Edward VIII living a strict early life due to his father the then ruler, King George V, and the young Edward wanted a more interesting life for himself. His life turns around for th4e better when he meets the infamously stunning Houghton sisters, one of which, Lily becomes his favourite; courting her at all the special events they throw. He falls in love with her and discovers for once he feels he is starting to live a little as he had hoped.

His father does not like what his son is becoming though, and young Edward hates the fact he cannot chose her as his wife, as soon he might become king if a series of events happen due to the start of World War 1.

David, Lily’s grandfather mentions a word for what Edward is; Weltschmerz, the sadness of comparing with the state of life with the ideal state at which it should be as Edward is in effect living in a prison as a prince, both as a heir to a grand throne in a confined place, plus his father’s dislike of his choice of woman, and his actually having a life for himself with her. Lily can’t truly understand what he is going through as hers is a life with no responsibilities, and even though she can lighten his mood when she is around him, ultimately, his father can control what he does, and who he sees.

In The Golden Prince, Lily Houghton is the only woman who can save him from a dull life within the palace obeying his father’s every command. With her around he is his own man around his own circle of friends, without constraints. It is a period piece that is interesting only in the use of historical facts within the story rather than the romance angle itself.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: The Golden Prince

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Review: Sloane Hall by Libby Sternberg

by Sandra Scholes, guest reviewer

Inspired by the work of Charlotte Bronte, namely Jane Eyre, Libby hoped to bring back that same romantic feeling with this period work of hers set in the romantic backdrop of the 1920s where many hoped they would become the actors and starlets of the day, Buster Keaton, the famous Clara Bow and smoldering Vilma Banky, but as the director, in this novel reminds those he works with; they can dream, but making it a reality is very far from the truth of what actually happens to those taken on by him for his films.

Leo Bartenstien, a cameraman who has worked with all the greats in cinema history, Harold Lloyd being among them, who has these same dreams of success, money and women, and gives young and impressionable Johnny Doyle a chance at greatness working with him, one screw-up is all it takes for him to lose his job there, but once another comes up elsewhere for a driver’s job over at Sloane Hall, he can’t help but take it up and roll with it – as it involves chauffeuring the delectable Marta Escobar, but the house belongs to the noted silent actress Pauline Sloane who he falls in love with soon enough.

The setting for Sloane Hall is mysterious and beautiful, made more so by the two characters managing to get to know each other through this scenic backdrop, and through knowing her he gains insights to how to make movies and what it entails to be the type to make movie history.

While at his new job, he has touches of nostalgia, thinking of the friends he had made before, feeling sad that he had left them behind. He knows it was to be expected if he was to move on, but it doesn’t stop him remembering what life was like back then. If readers are interested in 1920s period in history, and the actors and actors surrounding it, the directors and producers and filmmaking in general, then they will have a fun time reading this story. It is one that has to have that kind of interest level though as it is mostly centered around that period than being about the romance.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Sloane Hall