Audio Review: The Unexpected Duchess (Playful Brides, Book 1) by Valerie Bowman

unexpected duchessHero: Newly appointed by the crown, Lord Derek Hunt, the Duke of Claringdon, made a promise to his friend Julian, who is dying. His moniker among the ton is the Duke of Decisive for he makes quick decisions and sticks to them – winning many battles and honors because of it, including his dukedom. He will wed Lady Cassandra because it not in his nature to be indecisive or to change his mind. But a kink quickly appears in his plan when a friend of the lady in question insists Cassandra is not interested.

Heroine: Lady Lucy Upton will not let her dear friend be coerced into a courtship with the dashing duke. Cassandra is in love with another and waits for his return from the war. If the duke and Cassandra’s mother had their way, Cass would be wed before the fortnight was out. When Cass asks for help, Lucy does what she does best – interfere and deliver cutting set-downs. But it doesn’t scare Claringdon off. Instead he comes back for more again and again and Lucy’s traitorous heart hopes it’s because of her and not Cass.

Review: One of my favorite scenes is the verbal wit challenge between Derek and Lucy. He asks her to dance and she says “no.” He must then come up with 20 cleverer ways to turn a gentleman down for a dance. I won’t share my particular favorites, because they’re just too good to give away. I also enjoyed Derek wooing Lucy by writing letters to her appearing to be from another suitor. She sees the differences between the letters and the person and can’t quite make them fit, but doesn’t suspect Derek is writing to her.  The friendship between the ladies is strong, which is nice to see. The story itself is silly and very humorous. I would only change the timing of Derek’s change of heart and the start of his pursuit of Lucy sooner. For somebody decisive, he was too hesitant to break a promise that needed breaking.

Narrator: Alison Larkin could deliver on Lady Lucy Upton. She brought much life to the heroine and brought out her personality and wit. She delivered Lucy’s set-downs with a flourish!

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: The Unexpected Duchess, The Unexpected Duchess (Audiobook)

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Review: Knight of Love by Catherine LaRoche

knight of loveHero: The hero has a complicated name. He is Wolfram von Wolfsbach und Ravensworth, also known as Wolf, the English Earl of Ravensworth. He first meets the heroine when he’s undercover as a blacksmith in Prince Kurt’s court, where he finds her being publicly whipped for a small infraction to the amusement of the Prince. Barely able to contain himself, Wolf watches and then volunteers to carry Lenora upstairs where he gives her a large knife for protection.

Heroine: Despite appearances to the contrary, Lady Lenora Trevelyan is not a damsel in distress. She is resourceful and determined to make her escape on her own… no knight in shiny armor needed. She successfully escapes her abusive fiancé, Prince Kurt von Rotenburg-Gruselstadt and is galloping toward freedom and safety with the English/German diplomat… and gets captured by rebels just days down the road. The head of the rebel camp is none other than the blacksmith who gave her the knife.

Review: The hero is an unusual mix of beta and alpha characteristics. He’s very flowery in his language, chivalrous, and believes in love at first sight, but is also skilled at war, believes in civil rights of man (and woman,) and carefully controlling to ensure all is in his favor. For my tastes, I would have had less flowery language and more determined wooing. Wolf arranges a wedding to Lenora in order to protect her – this battlefield wedding is hardly legit as she didn’t give her consent. Still, he consummates the marriage in a forced seduction that evening. It is a heartbreaking (and erotic) experience for both of them which makes it successful. That night destroys what trust Lenora had in him. Now she’s plotting a new escape… but it’s harder to break the touch of silk than the touch of iron. There’s also an erotic scene where Lenora is in full control of Wolf and that is also successful as it is healing for both. I felt the story fell short when it changed locations from Germany to England. It was a night and day difference and the smoldering passion cooled quickly. Definitely a memorable read.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Knight of Love

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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Review: The Lady in Question (Effingtons, Book 7) by Victoria Alexander

lady in questionHeroine: Lady Philadelphia (Delia) Wilmont is the identical twin sister of Cassandra Effington. Delia is considered the sensible sister while Cassie is the reckless sister. So it comes as a complete shock to everyone when it is Delia who invokes a scandal by running off and marrying a rake. Before society can get over the scandal, her husband dies and makes her an infamous widow. When she finally returns to society, it is not as herself, but as her sister. For one glorious evening she is in the arms of the handsome Viscount St. Stephens. He seems wonderfully familiar, but she’s not sure why.

Hero: Viscount Anthony St. Stephens is an agent for the crown and has for the past little while been serving as Lady Wilmont’s butler… in disguise, of course. Delia could be in danger because of the actions of her late husband (who also happens to have been a good friend). Anthony is also in her house in order to discover clues as to why Lord Wilmont behaved as he did. Why did Wilmont marry Delia when the job only called for flirtation? All too soon the viscount understands and wants to marry the lovely widow himself…

Review: Loved the trumped up angst. Delia is afraid to reveal she’s the scandalous sister to Anthony, but Anthony knows because he’s the butler of her household. He’s at first in a position where he can’t tell her who he is without compromising the mission and then later can’t tell her without ruining their relationship.

I liked Anthony’s time as Gordon, the elderly butler. He and Delia were able to become friends through his actions. He gained her trust (for a little while) and at times was avuncular in his role trying to assist her in her daily decisions. They have very few walls between them as Gordon and Delia. This worked for me because we, as the reader’s knew Anthony was far from avuncular in his true regard for Delia and Delia was blissfully unaware of the whole quagmire until it is revealed.

The one glaring error I felt came when Anthony so easily trusted Delia’s uncle, the duke. As a spy there must have been some way to confirm the man’s position and loyalties. This whole “trust me because I say I am who I am” didn’t work for me. It especially didn’t work because Delia’s uncle was the whole reason behind Wilmont’s mission to woo Delia in the first place. Get close to the Effingtons and discover if they are loyal or not to the crown.

It’s a sweet romance with a lot of great moments.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: The Lady in Question (Effington Family)

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Review: To Buy a Bride by Roberta Leigh

to buy a bride roberta leighHero: Luke was once the stable boy on Philippa’s family estate, where his mother also worked. Now he’s grown into a powerful and wealthy businessman and he’s got his eye out for a bargain. He also has a secret which has nothing to do with bargains and everything to do with the heart.

Heroine: If Philippa doesn’t marry Luke, her twin brother will be ruined financially and thrown into jail for borrowing funds from the family’s struggling business. Luke can supply them the funds needed to stay afloat and keep the illegalities under wraps… for a price… control of the company and her hand in marriage.

Review: This is one of those stories where the persons involved could have saved themselves a lot of heartache and grief by talking it out. And if the siblings had been willing to sell the family estate, they would have been fine too… so naturally they don’t because the house is a symbol of happiness and family to them both, but especially to Philippa.

With a little time and space to absorb the consequences of the decision to not sell/marry, Philippa would have been better adjusted. She comes off a little bratty (and high-strung) because she wants the house, the money, and not have to give anything in return. Luke could have worked his charm on her a bit more, but then his ex-girlfriends shows up and he gets the brilliant idea to use Rose to make Philippa jealous. It works. She is jealous and is surprised by her emotions.

Overall, not my cup of tea.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: To Buy a Bride

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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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Review: The Hawk (Highland Guard, Book 2) by Monica McCarty

the hawk Monica McCartySeries Overview:

Handpicked by Robert the Bruce to help him in his quest to free Scotland from English rule, the elite warriors of the Highland Guard face their darkest days. When Bruce is forced to flee, his bid for freedom rests on the shoulders of one extraordinary warrior.

Hero: Erik MacSorley is a ladies man and an excellent seafarer. When he rescues a half drowned woman from the water, he doesn’t expect to want her. Imagine his surprise when his charm and considerable good looks can’t sway her heart! He will have to try harder to win her over.

Heroine: Lady Elyne (Ellie) de Burgh may not be as resistant to Erik’s devil-may-care attitude as she seems. Pretending to be a nursemaid upon capture, she is hiding more than one secret. But then, so is Erik. What will happen when they reveal all?

Review: There’s a lot of background and narrative in this book. It is a stylistic choice and at times can be overwhelming for a casual read, but if you enjoy a bit more substance and meat to a read, this will do the trick. For me, it was more than I wanted and distracted me from the romance of the novel (which is more my meat and potatoes). The slow boil romance is gentle and filled with wit and sass.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: The Hawk: A Highland Guard Novel

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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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