Audio Review: Her Secondhand Groom (The Grooms, Book 3) by Rose Gordon

secondhand groomHero: Patrick Ramsey, needs a woman. She must like children, be good with children, and able to teach children. And Viscount Drakely will get what he needs – a motherness – or a mother and a governess for his three girls (Celia, Helena and Kate), all rolled up into one female. He knows the perfect woman to fill the position – Juliet Hughes, because her family borrowed money to send her to school and to give her a London Season and are indebted to him.

Heroine: Miss Juliet Hughes, was educated at London’s finishing school for young ladies. She’s plain. She’s common. Not at all like her sister, Henrietta, who Patrick thinks is her and the one he wants. He doesn’t bargain for Juliet to be confident, determined, and strong-willed. She is his match and equal in every way and she won’t let him look down on her.

Review: If you like mistaken identities and big misunderstandings, you’ll love Her Secondhand Groom. Juliet tries to tell Patrick he’s wrong but he won’t listen now that he has a plan to put in motion. I liked Juliet’s nickname for Patrick – Lord Presumptuous. She’s a heroine who can call her hero out on his idiocy and pigheadedness. She does it so charmingly too. I liked her relationship with the girls and how they all interacted. About the only thing that doesn’t work is Patrick’s devotion to his dead wife who he later calls manipulative.

Narrator: Louisa Murray has a very nice voice and I enjoyed listening to her narrate the story. She was very lively in her recitations between Juliet and Patrick. I would listen to Louisa again.
Length: 8 hrs and 56 mins

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Her Secondhand Groom (Groom Series Book 3), Her Secondhand Groom (Audio Book)

Review: How to Marry a Marquis (Agents of the Crown, Book 2) by Julia Quinn

how to marry a marquisHero: James Sidwell, the Marquis of Riverdale, and agent to the crown, is good at uncovering secrets and finding bad guys. When his aunt informs him of a blackmailer, he is quick to ride to her rescue for she is like a mother to him. At her behest he arrives in disguise as the new estate manager and immediately has suspicions about his aunt’s companion, Elizabeth Hotchkiss.

Heroine: Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of four, is trying with few successes to raise her siblings. The lack of money is a constant worry for her as she’s trying to figure out how to keep the family together and pay for her brother to go to school. In Lady Danbury’s library she finds a silly book about how to marry a marquis. Reading it, she and her sister decide she must practice on a live subject… and the new estate manager would be perfect!

Review: I love when characters become the butt of their own schemes. When James offers to help Elizabeth find herself a husband, little does he know he will want her for his very own. Lady Agatha Danbury is a crafty old woman who shouldn’t be underestimated. She will make you laugh. A couple of characters are introduced, who are probably from the first book in the series, and didn’t add much for me. Overall, an easy read with a fluffy center.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: How to Marry a Marquis (Avon Romantic Treasure)

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Review: Cynders and Ashe by Elizabeth Boyle

cynders and asheHeroine: Ella Cynders is a companion for a young lady in love with a gentleman, whom her family doesn’t approve. Ella agrees to switch places with her charge during a masked ball to allow the young couple to elope. That night she dances in the arms of her fairytale prince… the Viscount Ashe. It’s true love… but midnight comes too soon and all fake princesses turn back into pumpkins.

Hero: Lord Julian Ashe is supposed to meet his true love at the family gala – it happens to the lot of them. When he loses the girl with whom he spent an enchanting evening, Julian is uncertain what to do. He tried and couldn’t track her down and she hasn’t appeared at four other balls… this is his last chance to find her again and make her his forever.

Review: This is a perfect story to read on a rainy day or while soaking in a tub covered in bubbles. It’s short, but decadent and contains all you could want in a Regency fairytale. It’s lighthearted, quick, and scrumptious! And don’t you just love the cover? :)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Cynders & Ashe (A Short Story)

Review: The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh

temporary wifeHero: To say that the Marquess of Staunton does not have a good relationship with his father is an understatement. When summoned to return home after eight years of separation, he decides to thwart his father’s matrimonial plans by finding his own wife first. He wants to embarrass and wound and decides the lowest he is willing to go – a plain biddable working gentlewoman – and advertises to find her. But of course, advertising for a wife is out of the question so he advertises for a governess. After she has served her purpose, Anthony will pension her off and go back to his usual routine.

Heroine: Miss Charity Duncan saw her future spin out before her as a dull and bleak thing. She would be an aunt and a sister, but never a wife or mother. She would always need to support her family in one role or another. Too beautiful to gain work as a governess, she disguises her beauty and answers an ad that will change her life. Mr. Anthony Earheart’s proposal is outrageous and yet… it could be the answer to her family’s debt. She does not expect him to be a Marquess anymore than he expects her to beautiful and vivacious. They’re both in for a surprise.

Review: I hugged this book a couple of times while reading it because it was so good. This is definitely staying on my favorite’s shelf. I can’t believe I picked up The Temporary Wife from a community table at my condo. Mary Balogh’s writing pulled at my heart and reminded me why I loved to read romances. I’d rate six stars, if my rating system went up that high. What I liked best: Staunton discovering that his heart can be touched and transforming into a better man, their first time together at a hotel on the way to his father’s estate, and Charity’s ability to win over everyone determined to look down on her – including Anthony’s ducal father.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: The Temporary Wife/A Promise of Spring

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Story Tropes: Rags to Riches

in-her-dreamsGuest blog by Katherine Givens, author of In Her Dreams

One of my favorite romance tropes is the rags to riches story. I’m not talking about the traditional Cinderella story with talking mice and a pumpkin turned carriage. I’m talking about a hero who went from a street urchin dwelling in the streets of St. Giles to a self-made man who is now a decorated war hero or a successful factory owner. And all this while, as he’s risen through the ranks, his heart has only belonged to one woman. The sheltered daughter of a duke.

Or how about the destitute woman who works as a governess for meager wages? She teaches the ward of her bachelor employer and wears plain clothes, but beneath her exterior is an intelligent, vibrant woman. It is these qualities that capture the heart of her employer.

There are several examples of these rags to riches tales that do not include the talking mice. Look at Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff, the antagonistic hero, is a poor gypsy boy when the father of Catherine Earnshaw brings him to Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff is orphaned when he is found in the streets of Liverpool. With gypsy blood in his veins, he is an outsider to kinder society, but that does not prevent him from losing his heart to Catherine. The two do love one another. Catherine even remarks that their souls are one and the same, but she marries another. Edgar Linton. Distraught, Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights for two years. When he returns, he is smartly dressed, wealthy, and educated. He is self-made, and he did it all for Catherine. Even if he isn’t with his love until the hereafter.

Another example is Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The heroine, Anne Elliot, had been engaged to Captain Frederick Wentworth at a young age. However, her family encouraged her to break off the engagement due to Wentworth’s poor and dire living conditions. He was, after all, only a mere commander in the army. Anne gives in and does as her family seeks, but she never stops loving him. Eight years pass until Wentworth reenters Anne’s life. When he does, he is wealthier due to his service during the Napoleonic Wars. His hard work during the wars earned him 25,000 pounds. On top of that, he is dashing, determined, and successful. A man of consequence all through his own willpower. And, of course, he makes for the perfect hero throughout the course of Persuasion.

These characters rise from their poor conditions, only to gain all the riches in the world. Hard work and backbreaking labor are their friends. They know what poverty is like and appreciate wealth when it is finally achieved. On top of improving their lot in life, they often manage to find love. Heathcliff and Catherine reach their love in the afterlife, when their souls become one. Anne and Wentworth are lucky enough to find love in life, and they do not abuse one bit of it.

My debut novella, In Her Dreams, with Harlequin Australia’s Escape Publishing lacks the rags to riches trope. However, it remains my favorite storyline. The novel I am nearly done writing has the rags to riches trope, and I can’t wait to be able to share it. For now, I am excited to share my novella In Her Dreams, which was just released today! In Her Dreams doesn’t have the rags to riches storyline, but it has my second favorite story trope. Entangled love affairs between two sisters and their suitors.

In Her Dreams

A flirty, fun, mix-and-match romance about two sisters who are betrothed to the wrong men…

Evangeline Vernon is a woman on the verge of spinsterhood — until the prim and proper Duke of Manchester steps in. Her family is pleased with the match, but the duke is not the passionate man Evangeline craves. Her heart belongs to an alluring, golden-haired gentleman, perfect in every way…except one: he doesn’t exist.

Angela Vernon is everything a proper, well-brought-up woman should be. She knows her place and understands society’s expectations — which include not being jealous of her sister and not coveting her sister’s suitor. But how can she bear the heartache of watching the only man she loves marry not only her sister, but a woman who doesn’t see past his exterior to the man he is beneath?

Buy: In Her Dreams

katherine givensIn Her Dreams is Katherine’s debut novella, which is published with Harlequin Australia’s imprint Escape Publishing. She is working on a number of other projects and always has ideas flooding her head. In her spare time, Katherine loves to read about history, craft jewellery, and play with her ornery kitten named Bucky. To learn more about Katherine and her writing, please visit the following sites. She loves to hear from readers.

Buy: In Her Dreams (novella)

Review: Rumours Among the Heather by Amanda Balfour

rumors among the heatherReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Juliana Hastings is in a dire situation after being left destitute from her unfortunate father’s death. She is still in mourning, but has to get her life together, and wonders how she will be able to cope when her fiancé decides to jilt her. Her only hope is to become a governess for Matthew McDonald.

Matthew McDonald is in a dire situation as he becomes a fugitive when the Jacobite Rebellion ends. When he turns to Juliana who he has come to know as a great friend, confidante and lover, she gives him all he needs – yet when he is caught, he thinks she has betrayed him and continues to hate her even though she still loves him. When he is set free later, he wants to find Juliana and get his revenge.

Review: Matthew has the aid of his friend to get him safe passage to freedom at the beginning, but events soon change for the worst. Amanda brings the characters together under the worst of circumstances, while Matthew is busy trying to get away from his attackers; Juliana wants to get closer to him to be work for him. Matthew has a nephew, Ian whose mother died who doesn’t talk for long periods of time, leaving him with a boy who doesn’t want to learn through stubbornness. Juliana likes the challenge though and accepts his terms even though she is perceived to be too young for the position of governess.

He is surprised at her bluntness and temper, but intrigued that she had been brought up to be a genteel lady. The further into the story I got, I felt Matthew became more and more intrigued by her even though she says she doesn’t want to flirt with him, and just wants to get her job done. Her actions seem to betray her thoughts, leading her down a path she can’t come back from.

Good bits:

  • Matthew’s altercation with a footpad in the street – daring to say the least!
  • Having a pub called the Pig and Whistle.
  • Matthew notices Juliana tries to hide her beauty, but he knows a pretty girl when he sees one.

Bad bits:

  • The story takes a while to get really interesting.

Last thought: Amanda has gone to a lot of trouble to portray a beautifully ‘bonnie Scotland’ that can be loved by all, especially the characters that enrich the entire novel.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Rumors Among the Heather

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Review: The Duchess Hunt (House of Trent, Book 1) by Jennifer Haymore

duchess huntReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Sarah Osborne and Simon Hawkins have known each other for a very long time. Some time has passed since they last saw each other. Upon his return, a mystery is afoot. I love a story that starts off with a mystery. I have to follow because I need to know when the mystery gets solved.

Sarah was the child of an employee and as an adult she is now an employee herself. This was probably the norm back in that time period because everyone stayed within his or her “station”. Simon is a good man who looks at a person beyond their station. I’m glad that this practice has long since changed.

There is one scene where Luke, Simon’s brother shows up a little “under the weather”. As I read the scene, I have to wonder if he’s going to have his own book. And in going over to Jennifer’s web site, http://www.jenniferhaymore.com, I find out that book two titled The Rogue’s Proposal will be his story. The book will be coming out in November of this year. They have a sister Esme and she has a novella titled The Devil’s Pearl, which came out in May.

Jennifer will keep you on your toes because just when you think everything is going well for Simon and Sarah, she gives the reader a “What?” moment. At this point you have no choice but to keep reading otherwise you won’t know how things turn out.

This is most certainly a story of true love especially when nothing can stand in the way – including what other people think. If you’re looking for a story that will make you feel good at the end but with a mystery – a mystery that is not solved by the end – you will want to pick up a copy of Jennifer’s book. And if you haven’t read Esme’s novella, I’ve already picked up my copy, you’ll have plenty of time to get it read before November.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: The Duchess Hunt (House of Trent)

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Audio Review: A Night Like This (Smythe-Smith Quartet #2) by Julia Quinn

night like this julia quinnHero: Daniel Smythe-Smith, the Earl of Winstead, has finally returned to England after several years spent abroad, living in fear of his life. He’s gotten good at looking over his shoulder, but he must admit it’s really nice to not need to do that. When he meets his cousin’s governess, Daniel knows she hiding something and he is intrigued and lays a hot pursuit to win her affections. But even with the assurances of his friend, a man he shot and nearly killed over a card game, a powerful and ruthless enemy is after him still. But who? He doesn’t like that whoever it is, is willing to put Anne in danger.

Heroine: Anne Wynter is not who she appears to be, a governess to three young ladies. Her past hides a secret she must run from constantly and use every precaution to keep. A change of name, sending letters by different post offices, moving to London, it is all to avoid a single man who broke her heart at 16. Anne knows she was born and bred a lady, but as tempting as Daniel is, she doesn’t know if she can risk her heart once more.

Review: Daniel is a beta hero, perhaps not by choice, but because of circumstances. A young noble man on the run is unlikely to develop alpha tendencies, but that said, he’s clever in his pursuit of Anne and arranges meetings all the time when she least expects him. In real life, I’m not sure such an approach would work, because Anne gave a lot of “no” signals which Daniel ignored. Anne gives as good as she gets however, and punishes Daniel for his sneakiness by making him participate in playacting his cousin’s original play (which is terrifyingly horrendous and involves unicorns). The best aspect to both characters is that they never let the horrible set of circumstances they found themselves in to bitter them. Both Daniel and Anne stayed true to their original natures, perhaps a little more cautious and wiser, but ultimately fundamentally the same. I loved their meet-cute at the musical and kisses…. and Hugh definitely intrigues me as a reader. I am ready to read his romance!

Narrator: Rosalyn Landor is one of my favorite narrators. She makes any book a pleasure to hear.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: A Night Like This

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