Review: Owned (The Billionaire Banker, Book 1) by Georgia Le Carre

ownedReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Millionaire Banker Blake Law Barrington sets his eyes on the incredibly gorgeous Lana Bloom and cannot help what he thinks about her. He wants to have her, bed her and own her as she is young and innocent, unlike him. He is a man who knows what he wants, and how to ensnare those who don’t understand the type of man he is, but Lana has her own agenda, as her mother runs the risk of dying from her illness, she decides in that despair to offer herself to a rich man so she can pay for her mother’s expensive treatment. Blake however sees her as an attractive proposition and wants her, thwarting the other man who also had desires on her.

Review: The concept is a really sound one; it shows Lana’s desperation to help save her mother even though it means her being owned by a man who sees most women as sex objects. Though it isn’t the sort of story a feminist would read as it makes out every woman has a price on their bodies if misfortune heads their way at some point in their lives, Lana handles the situation as best she can, even going so far as being ready to leave him once she gets what she wants. Lana does start out with only her mother’s welfare in mind, but sooner than later she develops an affection for the rich man who has brought her into the very strange world of power and riches – wealth for him comes as part of his life whether she likes it or not, but there is something she doesn’t know about Blake she might not ever want to find out.

Lana grows inevitably to like him beyond all the glitz and glamour, wealth and position, but as she has only money in mind, she wishes she could actually form a real relationship with him outside of that. This for her is nothing more than a pipe-dream, though as she also doesn’t want to get involved with a man who has secrets.

Good Bits:

  • Written in first person POV.
  • This is full of throbbing passion and sensuality.
  • They do say that opposites attract, and this is pretty much what this novel is about.

Summary: As it makes some women look like money-grabbers, this novel isn’t for everyone. I liked how the story started and what it hoped to achieve. It’s a sizzler that is full of passion and has a lot to say of what some women think love really is. I found myself looking forward to book 2.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Owned (Billionaire Banker Series Book 1)

Review: The Bad Baron’s Daughter by Laura London

bad baron's daughterHeroine: Katie Kendricks’ father has disappeared. He’s done it a time or two before but has never been gone for so long. It wouldn’t be a problem, except his creditors are breathing down Katie’s neck and frightening her. Her plan to reach her friend’s bar, The Merry Maidenhead, in London is met with success… but her plans to stay do not when she upsets a regular brute in the bar who wants to show her a lesson or two.

Hero: Lord Linden is a rake of the first order. He goes from one amusement to the next as the mood strikes him. He is easily bored with the London life, but what gentleman isn’t? Having once worked for the War Office, he recognizes on second look that the barboy is in fact a bargirl and is moved to rescue her from the lowlife attempting to teach her a lesson in the middle of the bar. When the owner of the Merry Maidenhead pimps her out, he’s disgusted at the man but pays him fifty pounds to save the girl from the other brute lined up… the more he learns about the girl, the more he’s certain he’s not good for her, but clearly someone needs to watch out for her as someone wants her dead.

Review: The hero, Lesley Byrne, Lord Linden, has made his way onto my favorite heroes list. He reminds me of Justin Alastair from These Old Shades, who is also one of my favorite heroes. There’s a striking contrast between his elegant ennui and his sincere desire to protect the heroine… even from himself. He wants her desperately, but can’t bring himself to debauch her and take her innocence. He’s frustrated and irritated by these new feelings and can come across cruel, violent, or forgetful, but he’s the opposite underneath his outward shell. That dichotomy is what makes it work for me.

The writing is nearly flawless. There was a time or two when a character would make an observation mentally and another character would also expound on it mentally as if in agreement. I had to reread those passages to see if I had missed something. Overall this was a delightful Regency romp that I wish I had known about sooner! It is well worth getting a hold of this book because I believe you will want to keep it on your favorite’s shelf and revisit often. I know that is what I will be doing.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: The Bad Baron’s Daughter

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Audio Review: Thunder and Roses (Fallen Angels, Book 1) by Mary Jo Putney

thunder and rosesHeroine: Methodist schoolteacher Clare Morgan is not noble, but she has noble ideals. Her village is in trouble and she’s determined to do her late father’s memory proud and find a solution. The one that comes to her is to petition the Demon Earl. She remembers him as a young boy when he would meet with her father and she can’t believe the stories the villagers say about him. But when he places a lucrative and impossible price on his aid, she’s not so sure anymore. What kind of man demands a respectable woman give up her reputation and live with him for three months, knowing the villagers will think the worse?

Hero: Nicholas Davies, the Demon Earl, is the legitimate son of a nobleman and a gypsy. His mother gave him to his cruel grandfather, for a bag of gold. His grandfather would have happily seen the estate go to someone else, and worked to ruin it. The betrayal of his youth coupled with his traumatic childhood growing up in his grandfather’s home has made Nicholas the man he is today. So when the little schoolteacher, Clare, comes to him for aid, he puts a devilish price on his intervention and support. He never expects her to agree to it, so while he must care again and fight alongside her to save the community that rejected him in the past, he’s looking forward to stealing his daily kisses… and if Clare can be persuaded, more.

Review: I loved the bet, the stolen kisses, and the chemistry between Nicholas and Clare. The narrator, Peter Bishop, did a good job. It’s always a treat to be read to by a male narrator in this genre.

This book was on a fast track to a 4.5 or 5 Star rating, with great scenes like a summertime dip in the pond with imported penguins. Then, midway through it fell apart for me and if you want to know why, you should note that spoilers and personal opinions lie ahead.

What didn’t work for me was finding out along the way that Clare felt like an impostor in her own skin. Her faith falls short of the face she gives to it around others and that bothered me. I like when a character is true to their faith and I don’t particularly enjoy reading about doubts of God’s existence and if we’re a good Christian if we don’t feel like connect with Him. Clare’s doubts about her faith are the excuse for why she can be with Nicholas, because she never really felt like she belonged and that’s crap. I would have much preferred a line of thought that went more like this… Nicholas is not the Demon Earl he’s been made out to be, I find that each day I am falling more in love with him, and because of this I am willing to be with him. I felt the line of reasoning given in the book, cheapened Clare’s character and the romance between her and Nicholas.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Thunder & Roses

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Review: From Dirt to Diamonds by Julia James

from dirt to diamondsHero: Angelos Petrakos lives for revenge. The elegant woman before him is a fraud. He knows her true identity as a smartass street-wise witch. She stole from him and then made a fool of him. For those offences he plans to make her pay… again… and first up on the chopping block is her current beau. He’s got to go.

Heroine: Thea Dauntry transformed herself after that incident. She changed her name, appearance, and character and then clawed her way to the top to become a successful supermodel. Angelos’ reappearance in her life spells disaster and comes at the worst possible time. Giles is a viscount and represents the last step on Thea’s road to safety and happiness… if only Angelos would leave her alone!

Review: Angelos is a classic Harlequin hero who is not only at turns overbearing and arrogant, he is also guarded, deeply distrusting, and quick to assumptions. He’s positively beastly to Thea at times, and yet despite knowing this, he’s a great hero just because he’s perfectly willing to be an unreasonable ass and tell the rest of the world to go to the devil. He’s also willing to unbend, admit mistakes (give him time, this isn’t an every day occurrence), and has eyes only for the heroine. The reason he works is because of the format of the romance – it’s built on angst and if you love angst – this novel has it in spades. For instance, Thea’s background is a dark one with a drug-addicted mother and grandmother, both prostitutes. She vows to never become like them… is it any wonder that an indecent proposal five years ago sparked such a tempest in her?

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: From Dirt to Diamonds (Harlequin Presents)

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Review: Darius (Lonely Lords, Book 1) by Grace Burrowes

darius grace burrowesQuick Synopsis: Virgin wife needs to be knocked up in order to keep inheritance when elderly husband dies. Stud in need of money accepts old man’s contract to seduce his wife and get her pregnant. They fall in love.

Hero: Darius Lindsey no longer enjoys being the “male mistress” (closer to gigolo) to the unhappy, bitter, callous women of the ton. He has needed to continue in the role due to finances, his father having cut him off, but Darius doesn’t pursue it because he likes it. So when an elderly Lord William Longstreet asks him to impregnate his wife and pay him handsomely for it, Darius sees it as a way to escape the clutches of a pair of women who are making his life hell. He doesn’t expect to like the man’s wife and then he falls for her…

Heroine: Lady Vivian (Vivie) wants a child, but she never thought she’d get one like this. She also understands her husband’s motives. She gave her husband a list of gentlemen she’d pick and her husband picked Darius from the list. With two people to watch out for in her life – her step-father,Thurgood Ainsworthy – and her husband’s illegitimate son’s wife, Portia – Vivian is going to need strength. Darius teaches her how to find it and makes sure she is ready to protect their child.

Review: Grace Burrowes is a compelling author. I love her books. I loved Darius and I loved the setup of a man purposefully cuckolding himself in order to protect the wife after he died. That was pretty sexy… of course the husband wasn’t in love with the wife (and he was way old, grandpa old) but married her to save her from her step-father’s schemes after his wife died. Still it was admirable. I loved the month interlude between Vivie and Darius, very engaging, quite sexy, and it smoldered. However Darius continuing to service the two jaded bisexual ladies, Lucy and Blanche, after he returned to London at the conclusion of the month with Vivie was not. He was incapable of standing up for himself, which was not at all admirable and it made me question his ability to care for Vivie in the future. He does eventually redeem himself, thank goodness especially because he was adamant Vivie be strong for their child. When he finally took his own advice I was very happy. All-in-all the book is beautiful and emotionally rich.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Darius (Lonely Lords)

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Review: Barefoot in the Rain (Barefoot Bay, Book 2) by Roxanne St. Claire

barefoot in the rain roxanne st claireReviewed by Cara Lynn

Barefoot in the Rain is the story of Jocelyn Bloom, who is a life coach to the stars. It also continues the story of some of the other characters in this book, including her friends.

I have to say I did not enjoy this book. When I read, I prefer to read for enjoyment, maybe even romantic suspense (not hard-core suspense), or I read non-fiction to learn something, but I don’t really want to read about problems in a fiction book. Or worry about what the problems might reveal.

Jocelyn has fled back home, because the tabloids are accusing her of being the mistress of a famous actor, possibly breaking up his marriage. Fifteen years earlier she had fled home, vowing never to return, because of her extremely abusive father. Unknown to her, he now has Alzheimers or something similar — or maybe not. (He does, it appears.) She is taking the heat to protect the actor’s wife.

It is a testament to the author that I cared enough about the characters to continue reading it. I did not like the juxtaposition of all the Alzheimers and memories of abuse throughout the whole story.

The book begins with a prologue in which Jocelyn and her next door neighbor, Will Palmer, a boy she has known all her life, who had offered a place of refuge whenever her father went after her mother, are about to consummate their innocent love, when her father, the sheriff of the town, barges in, pulls a gun on Will, threatens him with attacking her (he hadn’t.) He is totally out of control. You really don’t know what he did to her until you continue reading the book. I was afraid her father had raped her (he hadn’t.) (Thankfully.)

The main story is how she and Will fall in love again. (They always were on some level.) Complicating matters is that he has been taking care of her father for some time, since he also returned home, out of pity or compassion.

Because of this trauma associated with her first sexual experience, she is still a virgin. (Her friends don’t know this.)

There is a teaser chapter of the next book in the series where Zoe and Oliver, the doctor who had hurt her, get back together again (I’m sure.)

I’m not at all convinced or the reason for her father’s abuse. I also have some knowledge of a similar situation, not a family member, of dementia or Alzheimers or loss of memory (no abuse was part of it.) So there were parts of the book which I assume were researched, but didn’t jive with what I am personally aware of. For all these reasons, I give the book 2 stars. That said, I would like to read the next book in the series which is, as I said, Zoe’s story.

There is forgiveness of her father and renewal of love, perhaps unreasonably. It wasn’t convincing to me, at least.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: Barefoot in the Rain (Barefoot Bay)

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Review: When You Give a Duke a Diamond (Jewels of the Ton, Book 1) by Shana Galen

when you give a duke a diamondHero: William, the Duke of Pelham requires an ordered, structured, planned life that runs punctually, right down to the very minute one begins to eat breakfast and the minute one finishes. So how did he earn the name Dangerous Duke? All William will reveal is that he does not want or need anything or anyone to disturbed his solid, steady, disciplined life… which he never knew was deadly dull until she showed up on his doorstep.

Heroine: Lackluster would never be the first word you thought of when thinking about Juliette, a celebrated courtesan in London, dubbed by Prinny as the Duchess of Dalliance. When the scandal sheets randomly link Juliette with William, she knows she must remain in the public eye just as he knows he must not. So when he snubs her, Juliette takes matters into her own hands and stir things up with the excitement the Duke so desperately needs.

Oh the Suspense: The Duke’s fiance, Elizabeth, is murdered on the night he snubs Juliette and the only eye witness? Juliette! Which begs the question, if a murder occurs in the middle of the social party of the year and the body goes missing, did it really happen? Juliette suspects Lucifer, the gambling hell owner, who scared her good the night before the party; but that doesn’t rule out Oliver Clifton, Juliette’s ex-husband.

Review: When You Give a Duke a Diamond… he’s going to want to marry her! Even if he doesn’t know it just yet. He’ll try to convince himself he doesn’t want her, love her, because she’s “spoiled goods” – a totally inappropriate candidate, even if she’s already used to being called a Duchess. She just won’t be his… or will she?

I liked the two villains, though you never knew how far either would go. I wish the hero and heroine has less tormented backgrounds, but they were a good match for each other despite it.

Conclusion: A fun romp! And a lovely twist on a classic romantic trope – the courtesan in name-only.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: When You Give a Duke a Diamond (The Fallen Ladies)

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How Does One Become a Courtesan?

Courtesan's Lover

Guest Post by Gabrielle Kimm, author of The Courtesan’s Lover

First of all, thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog!

Your question – ‘how does one become a courtesan?’ did make me smile.  I wondered at first how a classified ad might read:

Career Opportunities for the Broad Minded:

Thinking of making a fortune, and hoping to retire in luxury?  Do you have style and charm, sex-appeal and courage?  Is your sense of timing immaculate?  Prepared for anything?  Yes?  Then you might just be standing on the brink of an extraordinary and highly lucrative career as … a courtesan.  No formal qualifications required, though experience is preferred.  Lack of moral scruples advised.  Enthusiasm is a must. 

Being a little more serious, though, many Renaissance courtesans were in fact introduced to the profession by their mothers, who had most likely been courtesans themselves, and had hopes of being kept in their old age by their offspring in the lavish style to which they had become happily accustomed.  As it happens, Francesca, my eponymous courtesan, is an exception to this rule – as a devoted mother to her two daughters, she expresses her disgust at the thought of maternal procuring at one point in the book:

“Unlike me ,” she says, “(I discovered this life late, compared to most),  most courtesans are born to it – born into harlotry – like that little snake, Alessandra Malacoda, who, if I am to believe the Neapolitan gossips, was introduced to the delights of the bedchamber at the age of ten by her pimping whore of a mother.  No doubt La Malacoda has made her mamma proud of her.  And she plans, so I have been told, to be just as proud of her own daughter.  Hoping she’ll be kept in luxury in her old age, no doubt.  The child is four.  God! – the very thought makes me retch.”

In contrast to the more lowly street-walking prostitutes (or puttane), the courtesans never worked for pimps.  Those who had been introduced into the profession by their mothers would have had patrons procured for them by those mothers; others would have worked with, say, a manservant, and provided their own clientele.  Unwanted patrons were quickly dismissed, and so, to a large extent, a courtesan’s diary was filled only with those men she was happy to see and entertain.

Gabrielle KimmEven within the luxurious world of the high-class courtesan, though, there lurked the threat of danger and disease.  The great Veronica Franco, probably the best-known of the Renaissance Venetian courtesans (and subject of the film ‘Dangerous Beauty’), talked about this.  I include a quote from Franco before the start of The Courtesan’s Lover.  She says:

“  To expose yourself as prey to so many men, with the constant risk of being despoiled, robbed or killed; with the chance that one man, one day, may take from you everything you have acquired with many, over a long time;  to say nothing of the other dangers – of insult and contagious, frightful disease.  ”

Yes, it’s true that a courtesan in Renaissance times might not have faced the grueling terrors that an enslaved and drug-addicted modern sex worker is forced to face every day, and the courtesans may have lived lives that others might see as luxurious, but the bottom line was that they were selling sex, with all the inherent dangers that such a lifestyle brought with it.  On top of everything else, too, at this period in history, there lurked the terror of damnation – the courtesans knew that what they were doing, in the Church’s eyes, was a mortal sin.  Towards the end of The Courtesan’s Lover, at a point at which Francesca’s life seems to be falling in on her and crushing her, she says:

Behind all the tawdry trappings, I have to face the fact … that I’m nothing but a whore.  I earn my scudi on my back.  Strip me of my finery and I am no different from any street puttana.

What was the difference between a mistress and a courtesan?  This is a difficult one.  In  many ways the courtesans were businesswomen – astonishingly independent, acute, even feminist, businesswomen.  They may have slid into emotionally-charged affairs from time to time, and become to all intents and purposes mistresses of whichever man it happened to be; they may have become allied to one particular patron, to the exclusion of all others, for a protracted period; but in the end, they were at heart professional lovers.  I suppose you could sum it up by saying that any courtesan could be a mistress, but not every mistress could be a courtesan.  Does that make sense?

It’s been great fun exploring the world of the courtesan and discovering how extraordinary they were.  I suppose, that in our comparatively liberal, sexually-emancipated world, there is no need for creatures like courtesans any more, but I can’t help thinking, having spent such a lot of time in their company of at least one of them over the last couple of years, that life is perhaps a little less colourful for their loss.

I do hope you enjoy The Courtesan’s Lover – and thank you again for inviting me onto the blog!

Gaby x

Buy: The Courtesan’s Lover