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!


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

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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.


Buy: To Buy a Bride

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Review: Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney

Dark Mirror can be summed up in four words: magic, romance, time travel.

The Story: When Lady Victoria (Tory) Mansfield performs magic in front of a bunch of witnesses at her mother’s annual lawn party her father banishes her to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for magic tainted aristocrats.

There Tory meets two very different girls. The first is Elspeth, the biggest outcast at Lackland Abbey. She’s can’t wait to leave, but refuses to reject her magic to make that escape. In fact she openly embraces it. Then there is Cynthia, a bossy conceited roommate, who like Tory wants nothing more than to get out of Lackland as soon as possible which means renouncing magic.

When Tory discovers an underground secret society of Lackland students working to learn and embrace their magic instead of get rid of it, she’s intrigued. In a world where upward mobility and good matches hinged on how normal you were, what could possibly entice nobles to give up the luxuries of being wealthy privileged sons and daughters? In a word: nationalism. The threat of Napoleon invading Britain is enough to spark pride and determination to see Britain through impending war no matter the cost.

One night they get raided and during the escape Tory distracts the mages and mortals hunting them. A chase forces her into a dead end with a large mirror. Thinking she could hide behind it, Tory touches it and finds herself transported to the future, during WWII.

The Romance: While the story focuses primarily on themes like girl power, coming of age, accepting yourself and making the right choices, there is also a romance. As the only son of a Duke, Marquis Justin Allarde, is the most eligible boy at Lackland Abbey. Sparks of magic sizzle between Tory and Allarde the first time their gazes lock together. It’s something Allarde fights tooth and nail because of his own secret, one that’s haunted him, hanging over his head for a long time. A secret that threatens their romance before it even has a chance to blossom.

I’m ready for the sequel. Are you?


Buy: Dark Mirror

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The Peerage of England


When reading romance novels about English gentry and nobility I always wonder about the rankings. I know diddlysquat about this subject, mostly because I am American. I decided to do some digging to see if I could sort the matter out. Luckily there are a lot of resources on the matter.

The first thing I was determined to find out was the order of the rankings. I always thought an Earl was as noble as a Duke or fairly similar. An Earl is far less substantial than you might think. In fact they seem to be quite plentiful; perhaps that is why so many romance novels include an Earl. A Marquis, on the other hand was more substantial than I gave credit. For some reason, I always assumed it was on similar footing as a Viscount. Whoops– social faux pas, anyone?

The order of rank is as follows:

  1. Duke/Duchess
  2. Marquis (alternative spelling: Marquess)/Marchioness
  3. Earl/Countess
  4. Viscount/Viscountess
  5. Baron/Baroness

Baronets and Knights are not peers. A baronet is a hereditary knight. The title of Sir goes down through the generations. His wife is referred to as Lady.

The rarest rank of nobility is the Duke with his dukedom, making Barons by their rank far more abundant.

About the only thing I got right was the order of the Viscounts and Barons.

Did you know there were several peerages?

The isles of Britain and Ireland had in total five different peerages. Those of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom! No wonder the country has so many names in history! Also, a noble man could belong to more than one peerage!

Labels of Address (loosely):

This doesn’t include salutations of correspondence. The first bit is how to do the introduction on the different levels of nobility followed by how to address them in formal speech.

  • Duke/Duchess: His Grace/Her Grace (insert title); His Grace/Her Grace
  • Marquis/Marchioness: Most Honorable (insert title); Lord/Lady
  • Earl/Countess: Right Honorable (insert title); Lord/Lady
  • Viscount/Viscountess: Right Honorable (insert title); Lord/Lady
  • Baron/Baroness: Right Honorable (insert title); Lord/Lady

Review: The Pirate Lord by Sabrina Jeffries and Deborah Martin

by Carla F., guest reviewer

It started out with an interesting premise and it ended OK, but there was so much in the middle that bugged me.

In The Pirate Lord, Sara Willis, a reformer, decides that she is going to try to expose the conditions of convict women who are being transported to New South Wales by getting on a ship and going with a group of them. After convincing her step-brother Jordon, the Earl of Blackmore, that she is of age and that he can’t stop her, she heads off on a ship as a teacher for these women. This ship is soon captured by pirates. What the pirates want is not treasure but the convict women. In attempt to save these women, Sara threatens the pirate Captain with retaliation from her powerful “brother”. Unfortunately for her, Gideon Horn, the Captain hates the nobility and in fact targets ships owned by and/or carrying nobles. This has earned him the name, The Pirate Lord. Once Gideon finds out that Sara’s brother is an earl, he decides to take Sara along with the other women.

Things I didn’t like (possible spoilers):

1. The crew on Gideon’s ship are “cleaner” than the crew of the ship headed for New South Wales. OK I don’t really want to read about dirty, nasty pirates either. Still it made me think of Errol Flynn and his Technicolor crew.

2. These pirates don’t want the women just to have their wicked way with them. They want wives because they are “retiring” and moving to an island paradise. Sara thinks that this is an awful thing to do to these women, and it cannot be allowed to happen. This leads me to #3.

3. Sara was an extremely annoying character who will not open her eyes and actually see what was going on. She has a captain and crew who have promised not to harm any of the women.  Gideon even decides to give the women a week to be courted and will let them choose their husbands. Time and time again Gideon agrees to Sara’s requests/demands and yet Sara continues to believe that what is happening is so horrific and that no compromise is acceptable. At one point Gideon gets “forceful” with Sara to try to teach her the difference between him and a bad man, but that doesn’t last long. Sara doesn’t think that Gideon can be good man because, after all, he is a pirate (said multiple times).

4. There is the snake incident. On the island, while Gideon and Sara are talking, a black mambo appears from the tree over her shoulder. Gideon manages to cut off the snake’s head without any harm to Sara. Naturally, this freaks her out, and she winds up in Gideon’s arms for comfort. This leads to intense kissing and eventually Gideon pushes her up against a tree to continue further. Hello! There is a decapitated snake laying on the ground! A snake that came from a tree! Isn’t she concerned? If this had happened to me, I would have been halfway back to England before the snake hit the ground.

As I said at the beginning, I thought the idea of a reformer heading off in a ship to help convicts was an promising idea, but there were just too many problems with the book. If you really love pirate stories, like other Sabrina Jeffries  or Deborah Martin books, or are not bothered by the same things that I am, you might like this book.


Buy: The Pirate Lord

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