Review: Her Prodigal Passion (Mayhem in Mayfair, Book 4) by Grace Callaway

her prodigal passionHero: Paul Fines would love to reclaim his fortune through prizefighting. He’s good at boxing and thinks he could make it work. But everybody remembers his disgrace through gambling and drinking over the loss of a girl. His family and friends doubt his skill and ability to stay out of trouble… all except Charity, his sister’s best friend.

Heroine: Charity Sparkler, the daughter of a jeweler, has loved her best friend’s brother for a long while. At his worst, she visited him in a dangerous part of London and provided some creature comforts… not that he noticed as drunk as he was. He thought she was someone else which hurt dreadfully.

A marriage of convenience: Paul is a ladies man and at the start of the novel slept with two married twin sisters. It bites him in the butt later when one tries to sneak into his bed again to publically humiliate her husband. Paul can’t kick her out so he climbs out a window and across the building… only to collapse on Charity in the drawing room and compromise her at a house party. The only proper thing to do is wed.

Never gild a lily: Charity’s father has led her to believe all her life that she is an ugly duckling. She might be a little plain, but she’s not ugly. Is his intention to be unkind or cruel? Whatever his intentions, Charity is meek and bookish and incline to home and shop.

Review: Charity was and will be Paul’s biggest supporter. He needs someone like that in his life. Paul finds Charity very pretty now that she is out of her spots stage. He can’t imagine a marriage with anyone else – but isn’t very good as assuaging Charity on this. Their marriage will be more than either can hope for… but not for Charity’s father who is heavily indebted to another man. How will the young couple be able to handle the heavy weight of a bitter man’s debt? I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Grace Callaway is a remarkable writer. I loved the scene in the prologue where Paul seduces Charity. Very sexy!

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Her Prodigal Passion (Mayhem in Mayfair)

Review: Her Wanton Wager (Mayhem in Mayfair, Book 2) by Grace Callaway

her wanton wagerHero: Gavin Hunt owns the Underworld, a premiere gambling hell in the heart of London. He has plans to enact revenge upon the man who scarred him and left him for dead while setting a house on fire. When Gavin survived, he was blamed for the fire and was imprisoned aboard ship anchored on the Thames for years. Clawing his way out and to the top wasn’t easy, and now the revenge he’s wanted for so long is finally in his grasp and nothing will stop him from taking it, not even his heart.

Heroine: When Persephone “Percy” Fines discovers her brother has gambled away all of his shares to the family business to Hades himself, she wants to save her brother from a terrible fate. Going toe-to-toe with the man she wagers her virginity against the shares. It is a wager she plans to win, because there is no other choice, but unfortunately she rolled the die and must resist seduction for six nights. Can she love the man who holds her family’s fate?

Review: I loved the Greek mythology overtones to this story, the heated seductions, the night in the Vauxhall Gardens (chase sequence too) and the snippets of Percy’s novel at the top of each chapter. I especially loved that while revenge was Gavin’s original goal, he became so smitten with Percy that he wanted to win the wager to have her not destroy her. He was constantly trying to figure out how to achieve both outcomes, but mostly how to win Percy. At the end in the epilogue, I thought their last hashing out of who won the bet to be very cute. Her Wanton Wager is a great read that is sexy, fun and very enjoyable!

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Her Wanton Wager (Mayhem in Mayfair #2)

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A Conversation between Grace Callaway, #1 National Bestselling Regency Author of “Her Husband’s Harlot” and audiobook narrator Erin Mallon

her husband's harlot

Erin: What was the experience of listening to the Her Husband’s Harlot audio for the first time? This is your first title to be released as an audiobook, right?

Grace: I got tingles all over! It is a very special experience to hear one’s work performed … to literally have life breathed into the words. I have to confess that not only was this my first title to be released in audio format, but also the first audio book I’ve listened to. Given that Her Husband’s Harlot is an erotic Regency romance, I wasn’t sure how the work would come across read aloud. But after I got over blushing at the steamy scenes (gee, did I really write that?), I was truly impressed at how your performance evoked a spectrum of emotional responses, from titillating to humorous to heart-warming.

To return the question, when you first read the book, which scene came alive for you the most? Which one did you think would be the most challenging to perform? And which came to you most readily?

Erin:  The opening scene hooked me in immediately! I love when writers trust themselves and their readers enough to forgo a lot of exposition upfront and instead dive right into juicy conflict, so I was excited to find that on the first page we were already wandering the halls of a brothel with Helena in hot pursuit of her husband.  That opening chapter has so many rich layers for a narrator to explore.  I mean, a disguised woman trapped in a dark closet with her new husband who doesn’t recognize her while they watch a bawdy threesome who don’t realize they’re being watched?  Does it get any more fun than that?

There are several times in HHH when a character chooses to disguise his/her voice.  This was definitely a challenge! I wanted to honor these moments of the story while staying certain that the listener was always hip to the charade (and clear on who was speaking).  This meant keeping the core components of the voices consistent in those situations and yet altering them just enough to convincingly dupe the other characters in the scene.  The moments where Nicholas’s anger and shame cause him to slip into his native accent created similar challenges.

Chris and Rob, the amazing guys who run Brick Shop Audiobooks have the sharpest ears around, so they kept me on track and let me know if I’d missed the mark and needed a do-over.

As for which scenes came easiest, I have to say any and all between Marianne and Helena.  Marianne was such a treat to play!  I found her character to be equal parts love and disdain, and the opposite of Helena in so many ways, that switching between the two roles became a fun little roller coaster ride for me.

Did the characters sound the way you “heard” them in your head while writing them? Were there any surprises?

Grace: I was amazed at how you got the nuances of all the characters. The heroine and hero were exactly how I heard them in my head. No real surprises … which I think was a good thing!

Given that there are quite a few characters in the story, I was also impressed by how unique they all sounded . What was your process for figuring out how you would perform a character?

Erin MallonErin: I find constraints can be a great boost to creativity.  Knowing I only have my voice to work with teaches me to be very specific and intentional with the choices I make.  Though, even without the physicality I rely on in stage work, there are many avenues to explore in creating character in audio books.  There’s pitch, gender, rhythm, dialect, and most importantly the abundance of clues great writers such as yourself give to us narrators.

For central characters like Helena and Nicholas I wanted to create voices that sat easily in my vocal range but even more importantly, voices that were easy on the listeners’ ears.  After all, they’ll be listening to them for a solid 12 hours and 14 minutes!  Once I had the main characters established, I had a great deal of fun figuring out the supporting cast, though the choices were always sparked by the writing itself.  For example, when I was investigating Paul Fines I picked up on a haughty yet lovable air he seems to carry with every word he says, so I felt I could take his voice to more dramatic places and still keep him grounded.

There’s a lot of freedom and fun in the confines of that tiny booth!

You mentioned that the HHH audiobook somehow helped you in writing your next book (this made me very happy to hear). Can you explain what you meant by that?

Grace: I was working through a scene in Her Wanton Wager (the next installment of the Mayfair in Mayhem series) and felt that something in the heroine Percy’s reaction did not ring true. I happened to be reviewing the audio of Her Husband’s Harlot at the same time, and hearing your performance of Percy (a secondary character in that novel) brought home to me one of the traits that I love best about her: her playfulness and the way she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Hearing Percy’s “voice” inspired me to take the scene in a different direction—one that ultimately proved so much fun to write and was authentic to her personality. So thank you!

And from the point of view of a narrator, what draws you to a script? What aspect of a written piece inspires your best performance?

Erin: I think what draws me to want to hang out with friends is the same thing that draws me to want to narrate a book.  Do I want to spend time with these people?  Do I enjoy their company?  Do I want to learn more about them?  For me, falling in love with the characters is a prerequisite to doing great work.  We narrators spend hours (sometimes days) alone in a dark little room, and thanks to the company of your fascinating characters, my days spent working on Her Husband’s Harlot were happy days indeed!

009_rtGrace’s Bio: Grace Callaway writes steamy historical romances set in the Regency and Victorian eras. Her debut manuscript, Her Husband’s Harlot, was a 2010 Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® Finalist and a #1 National Regency Bestseller.

Outside of writing, she holds a doctorate from the University of Michigan and practices clinical psychology in a medical setting. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family and has a passion for hiking, cooking, and all things BBC.

Buy: Her Husband’s Harlot (Mayhem in Mayfair #1) [ebook], [audiobook]

GIVEAWAY: 1 copy of Grace’s e-book is up for grabs! Open to all. Enter by leaving a comment – why do you love audiobooks? Last day to enter is Dec 23rd, 2012.

Review: Her Husband’s Harlot (Mayhem in Mayfair, Book 1) by Grace Callaway

her husband's harlotReviewed by Carla F.

Summary: When she accidentally finds among her new husband’s things a party invitation with a lewd illustration on the back and the words, “Get Thee to The Nunnery”, Lady Helena Harteford recognizes it as the name of a brothel. She knows that Nicholas plans to go to that party. After all, since their disastrous wedding night, he hasn’t come to her bed. She decides to don a mask and go to the brothel to beg her husband not to take a whore. If he does, it will break her heart.

Nicholas decides to go to a brothel because he doesn’t want to subject his lovely, innocent wife to anymore of his carnal desires. He knows that if she knew of his past that she would be shocked, appalled, and would wish she had never married him.

Things don’t always turn out the way you expect…

Review: I devoured this book in a couple of hours! I just love how Helena and Nicholas fancy each other like mad, but suffer so much from their own insecurities. They both believe their spouse is is ashamed of him/her. It takes them a long time to get past this and accept themselves. I also liked how Helena (even though she is shy) later on decides to take charge and seduce her own husband.

The mystery involving Nicolas’s background is one that keeps the reader’s interest. You want to know who the villain is.

One thing that I couldn’t believe: The part where Helena goes back to the whore house as the masked lady and sends a note to Nicholas to come visit her there. Even though he doesn’t know who she really is, he shows up, beds her, and pays her!

Recommended: If you love a story with a heroine who is a wallflower with a backbone of steel or a damaged hero then you will love this one too.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Her Husband’s Harlot (Mayhem in Mayfair #1)