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)

Get into Bed with Anne Gracie (Author Interview)

AnneGracie4_2Keira: How does a governess become a companion?

Anne Gracie: In my book The Autumn Bride Abby is sacked from her governess job when she smuggles in her sister and two friends for the night. They have nowhere else to stay — they’ve just escaped after being kidnapped and taken to a brothel. Things go from bad to worse, and in desperation Abby goes to break into an old mansion in search of something to steal. Instead she finds aristocratic Lady Beatrice Davenham in dire straits — bedridden and in the hands of lazy and neglectful servants.

So with the old lady’s cooperation she and her “sisters” pretend to be Lady Beatrice’s nieces, thus improving everyone’s situation.

Keira: Why was Lord Davenham in the orient?

Anne: When he was just eighteen Lady Beatrice’s nephew, Max, Lord Davenham had inherited a title and a mound of debts. For the last nine years, he’s been away in the Orient, making his fortune, and now he’s come home. He’s not impressed to find his home invaded by impostors. Especially when his aunt informs him that he’s got nothing to say about it — if she wants to have nieces, she’ll have nieces!

Keira: What is the most interesting Regency rule you’ve come across in your research?

Anne: I honestly can’t think of one — the thing is, people bent “rules” in those days just as much as they do now. The important thing was not to get caught.

Keira: A governess’s most loveable qualities are. . .

Anne: My heroine, Abby is the kind of person who takes care of other people. She’s a loyal friend and sister, and she’s also impetuous — she can’t ignore another person in trouble — and that’s what gets her into trouble. She’s a fighter, too — she stands up to Max from the very beginning.

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There was the sound of a scuffle, and she ran down the last few steps to the landing in time to see Featherby fall to the floor and a tall, dark-haired stranger push past him and enter the house. Before she could gather her wits, he’d crossed the hallway and was racing up the stairs toward her, taking them two at a time on long, powerful legs.

“Stop!” Abby braced herself, flinging her hands out to bar his way. “You can’t come up here.”

She fully expected him to shove her roughly aside, as he’d shoved Featherby, but amazingly, he stopped.

She had an impression of a hard, chiseled jaw, a bold nose, a firm, compressed mouth. And he was tall; even standing three steps below her, he was taller than she. Her heart was pounding. What sort of a man would shove his way into a lady’s house with so little ceremony? At this hour of the morning?

He was casually dressed in a loose dark blue coat, a white shirt, buff breeches and high black boots. His cravat was carelessly knotted around a strong, tanned throat.     Despite the almost civilized clothing, he looked like . . . like some kind of marauder. His jaw was unshaven, rough with dark bristles; his thick, dark hair was unfashionably long and caught back carelessly with a strip of leather. Gray eyes glittered in a tanned face.

A dark Viking—surely no Englishman would have skin that dark, burnished by years under a foreign sun.

“Who’s going to stop me?” He moved up one step.

She didn’t move. “I am.”

Keira: How do you define love?

Anne: I couldn’t — I just know it’s everywhere, all around us, and has many different forms and faces. In The Autumn Bride, for instance, there isn’t just love developing between the hero and heroine, there’s love between the sisters, and between the four girls and the old lady.  The old lady adores her autocratic nephew and even though she drives him to distraction, he adores her too. It’s everywhere — you just have to know how to look for it.

Buy: The Autumn Bride (A CHANCE SISTERS ROMANCE)

GIVEAWAY: 1 copy of The Autumn Bride is up for grabs! Enter by leaving a comment or asking Anne a question!

Review: The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick

paidcompanionHero: Arthur Lancaster, Earl of St. Merryn, needs a fake fiance to distract the ton while he’s hunting a murderer. A real one is too much bother and prone to runaway. So how does one acquire a fake fiance without worrying about the silly chit wanting to actually get married? Arthur devises a great plan to solve the conundrum – hire a paid companion! Such a chit needs funds and will have no illusions. She’ll be well-bred and respectable and everything a real fiance must be in order to pass scrutiny. But so far he hasn’t found one to fit the job – you’d think there would be at least one young lady around wouldn’t you?

Heroine: Elenora Lodge, ex-heiress, lost everything she owned because of her stepfather’s get rich schemes. She manages to secure the farm worker’s positions and steal her jewelry when leaving. The jewelry provides a safety net for a better future. Elenora wants to own a book store and is willing to work as a paid companion to get there, except she can’t find a suitable position all the ones the agency sends her to are cretins and drunkards. Can an unusual proposition yield the results she so desires?

Review: If you like steampunk overtones you will love this romance. The alchemy is a science that just seems like magic involving lasers to make Jove’s Thunderbolt. Even creepy criminal butlers get their just desserts. Loved the hero and heroine. Everything was wonderful in this book and hit all my buttons just right. I love it when books do that – this is a keeper!

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: The Paid Companion

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Review: The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn

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By: Marcia, guest reviewer

Grace Eversleigh has a problem.  She is in love with a highwayman and a Duke.  Neither is marriage material since socially the highwayman with beneath her and the Duke is well above her.  The fact that they are both the same man does not help her situation at all.

Grace is a woman from a good but undistinguished family who was thrown out her home after her parent’s death.  Her only possessions are her self-respect and good name.  Never one to miss a good opportunity, the dowager Duchess of Wyndham hired Grace as a companion.  Late one night while returning home from a local dance in the dowager’s elegant coach, she and Grace are held at gunpoint and robbed by a masked but charming highwayman.  The dowager insists that she knows his voice and is convinced that he is her grandson.  She gives him the ring off her finger as proof.  The next morning the Dowager, accompanied by several servants, kidnap the highwayman for the purpose of returning the dukedom to him.  Never mind that there is a current Duke of Wyndham who has been fulfilling these duties well for many years.

The ring is familiar to Jack Audley.  He has one just like it left to him by his father who drowned in a shipwreck off the coast of Ireland.  His mother survived the same shipwreck, but only lived long enough to give birth to him. Having been raised with love and laughter by his maternal aunt and uncle, Jack was told only that his father was from a good English family.

The underlying theme of this book is about being worthy…worthy of position and love.  For some readers today, this may seem a little farfetched.  After all, today we believe that an individual should go after what they want.  But in England, during the early 19th century, this was not the case.  Duty to one’s family and county were foremost, as well as, knowing one’s place.  This social structure was supported by the prevailing religious belief that God did not intend for man to be happy. It will take tremendous courage for Jack and Grace to take a chance on their personal happiness.

Julia Quinn’s first novel about the Cavendish family is a winner, told with humor and wit.  This is a ‘feel good’ novel where all the characters, including the dowager, are sympathetic and their motivations are clear.  The story moves along smoothly with a tightly constructed plot.  It is a great book to read in summer on a sunny beach or wrapped in a blanket on a cold winter’s day.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Review: The Viscount in Her Bedroom by Gayle Callen

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I loved The Viscount in Her Bedroom by Gayle Callen the third in the Sisters of Willow Pond Trilogy. What I like about Gayle Callen is that you don’t have to read the first two in the trilogy to really enjoy this book. You can pick up at the end and go backwards and have just as much pleasure in the reading of the love matches. The descriptions in this book are so sensual and touching.

The sisters of willow pond found themselves out of money and out of favor in little society, not to mention big society when their father died. Louisa Shelby is the last remaining sister to be unmarried. She doesn’t need to work anymore, but Louisa has found comfort in helping others. Being a companion to elderly women; reading to them, writing letters for them, singing and talking to them makes her feel useful. Louisa left her previous position when the men in the family pursued her as if she were nothing but a common whore. She couldn’t believe that men would treat her differently just because of a lowered status. Never again, she thinks. But when Dowager Wade asks her to come be her companion, Louisa can hardly resist, especially when she factors in Simon Wade.

Simon Wade was blinded in a riding accident. Adrift in the world of the seeing, Simon retreated to his grandmother’s estate. There he has learned to cope reasonably well with being blinded and his manservant Manvil is there for him when he can not let his family into his world. Mostly he is afraid of being seen as a creature to be pitied and refuses to show his personal accomplishments in front of his grandmother, sister… or one Miss Louisa Shelby. Simon is especially worried about Miss Louisa Shelby, before his accident he had heard that she was fast. What kind of an influence would that be on his poor already socially awkward sister? He is determined to make sure nothing untoward happens, but the more he supervises Louisa, the more he’s sure those awful words against her are just that words. Now, however, he wants to ruin her reputation worse than any rumor. He wants her for his own.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: The Viscount in Her Bedroom

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Review: The Girl at Goldenhawk by Violet Winspear

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I would never pick this book up in a secondhand bookstore because the title is strange and the cover is weirder. No wonder Harlequin puts the money and effort into consumer research. It’s all about pretty covers and catchy titles!

The romance takes place in Brazil with references to England and Portugal. Goldenhawk is the name of the hero’s best estate.

The heroine is a very plain girl. Her name is Jaine, appropriate for the phrase plain Jane. Quite often in the novel she is mistaken as a boy. I wanted to jump into the novel and tell her to grow her hair longer and wear less concealing clothes because it’s obvious she’s plain only so much as her aunt and cousin made her so.

Jaine is basically an indentured servant to her cousin and aunt. She’s an orphan and poor relation. Jaine is sent off to take the wrath of the hero as her cousin and aunt depart days before the cousin’s wedding to Pedro de Ros Zanto, a very wealthy landowner and a Duque.

Pedro is amused and determined to hire Jaine out from under her aunt. He promises a life outside of the colorless drab world she’s in and enough money to make it lucrative. Jaine accepts and becomes his son’s companion and caretaker. The son, quite frankly, reads as an excuse for her presence because even with his disability the boy never really makes a big splash or seems to have purpose.

The story is very chaste. We never see anything beyond some passionate kisses. It ends in a bittersweet way similar to Sound of Music. They’re together, but they’re leaving a lot behind in their effort to make it to safety.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: The Girl At Goldenhawk

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Review: Lord Braybrook’s Penniless Bride by Elizabeth Rolls

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This was a terrific novel; very well written and such a treat to read. I absolutely loved Christy and Julian together. Christy is a great heroine and Julian has a very logical mind (which works great for his sister’s situation but not so much for his own) and kind heart, even if it takes him a while to reach some… ahem conclusions.

When Miss Christiana Daventry’s brother sets his sights on Julian Trentham’s half-sister, Julian is determined to stop it by any means necessary. At first he thinks Miss Daventry is in fact Harry’s mistress, but quickly comes to the right conclusion that she is not. Still, he knows exactly how he can used Miss Daventry to break Lissy and Harry up permanently.

Christy is in full agreement that her brother Harry is not the sort of man Lissy should marry and agrees to go into Julian’s employ as a governess and companion. From the inside she can help persuade the headstrong Lissy of her brother’s ineligibility… so long as she doesn’t have to tell either Lissy or Julian her greatest secret to manage it.

For his part, Julian is undeniably attracted to Christy. He can hardly stop thinking about her and he doesn’t know what to do about it. He’s a good man and doesn’t believe in sleeping with his employees, but he can’t deny that having Christy as his mistress would be very pleasant. He keeps his distance when she tells him to back off but one thing leads to another and all of a sudden they must get married to preserve her reputation… but Christy knows her reputation need be protected and so she reveals to him her darkest secret…

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Lord Braybrook’s Penniless Bride

Buy on eHarlequin: Lord Braybrook’s Penniless Bride

Review: The Anonymous Miss Addams by Kasey Michaels

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There are few books that I can’t finish reading. The Anonymous Miss Addams is one that list. Some books make you question how publishing companies work and this is one of them. In two words I can sum up the whole of the book: utter drivel. I have no idea how it got published or why somebody didn’t put a halt to production once the cover was done. The cover to this novel is by far the best thing about the book.

Pierre Standish is a male lead that you’d sooner laugh at then swoon at. Pierre is a fop, pure and simple. He carries a hanky and it’s scented. His diction is by far the worst aspect of his character. He talks like a pansy and acts like one in my opinion. Pierre is definitely a turn off.

Miss Addams is annoying for no other purpose than to be annoying. She lost her memory after taking a spill in the road. Lucky for her she managed to escape into the road when she did or she’d have been killed by her pursuer. Money is involved of course, but the exact reasons why killing her will make the two plotters rich is beyond me. I could not be bothered to find out.

Their first kiss was short and dispassionate with slightly witty dialog bracketing it. She can’t eat unless he’s not perfect and looks human and he can’t eat until he feels human. The plot should have picked up since this is about halfway through the book, but it didn’t. It tried and failed with the mother of her attacker (one of the two plotters) protects her in a shoe store from a man hell bent on kissing her (who is the same man who tried to kill her earlier.)

That ‘kind’ act is rewarded with an offer for the position of companion as Miss Addams thinks to use this woman to protect her from Pierre. But since Pierre is so unmanly in my opinion it’s hardly worth the effort to write it out let alone read.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆