Review: The Beauty Within by Marguerite Kaye

 Beauty Within by Marguerite KayeReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Considering he thought he was only as good as the subjects he painted, prominent artist, Giovanni di Matteo is a modest man and often wonders why women of a certain age throw themselves at him, and although others who have commissioned paintings from him think him as an amazing artist, he is unsure of his talents. Giovanni has been at the top of his profession for many years since he had come to England, but his enthusiasm for painting as waned, his muse, his subject matter, not piquing his interest.

Although Giovanni is supposed to be commissioned to paint Lord Armstrong’s sons, he has a yearning to paint his daughter Cressida once he sets eyes on her, even if she is forbidden to him. Cressida, like Giovanni is intelligent and accomplished in scientific matters. She lives and breathes it and isn’t one to consider men, let alone marrying one that her father arranges. He does not regard his daughter as anything other than marriage material, while his sons are those he holds in much higher regard; so much that he wants him to paint his sons rather than her. For him this is annoying as all he wants to do is paint the elusive and attractive Cressida. When they talk in her father’s absence, she points out his dissatisfaction at his own work. He believes it only relies on the rules and principles of mathematics to appear brilliant. His work wasn’t always like that, earlier, he painted from the heart, full of enthusiasm and vigour, and even if he got harsh criticism for being at one with his art, he at least was true to himself back then.

Marguerite gives readers a first hand account of what Giovanni is like as a person. They get to see his whole personality in this volume, his thoughts that his painting hasn’t inspired him until he meets Cressida, the woman who fires his heart and gives him the drive to paint again. Giovanni finds her a beautiful woman who is overlooked by her family, mainly her father who is more concerned with his precious sons. It is easy to get into the story and the characters are made real by their backgrounds and personalities. Readers can be sure they will be entertained by this story, and it will be one to introduce them to future novels by this author. This is steamy and romantic, and one that if you don’t already, you will have an interest in art by they end of it! This is well worth a 5 star rating.

Likes:

  • Marguerite Kaye has an excellent grasp of the technical process of art, and the reader can feel she has researched it in full to make her character of Giovanni Di Matteo believable.
  • Cressida plays the role of the ‘ugly duckling sister’ very well, yet doesn’t realise how beautiful she is inside as well as out.
  • There is the contrast of Cressida’s cruel stepmother and father to her natural niceness.

Dislikes:

What’s not to like?

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: The Beauty Within (Harlequin Historical)

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Three Reasons Why Dating During the Regency Period is Like Dating Today – But Sexier

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One of the many reasons I like reading Regency romances, is how dating is portrayed. It’s courtly. Upon closer examination though, I find there isn’t that much difference between dating back then and dating today. It just sounds sexier. Here are three areas dating is the same, but where I still think Regency dating habits come out sexier.

  1. Networking: Today we use online dating. You create a profile, agonize over your photo, worry about how others perceive you on your profile. In the Regency dating relied on networking too and it was grander. Where we use online dating, the Regency period used parties, galas, and balls. How often do you host or attend parties? Not very often I suspect. Start getting your friends together and encourage them to do the same and to bring new people to the group. You never know! Your special someone might be a friend of someone else you know.
  2. Background Checks: The Regency did their background checks sexier too. They conducted them through morning visitation, walks through the parks, through servants, etc. Meeting with people is a great way to share gossip and check facts. The ton is very elite and everybody knew everybody and their business. The world today is larger in that sense. It doesn’t seem that you really know much about anybody. Still, you have a nifty tool in your pocket that can do the same thing – It’s called the Internet. Want to see if someone is telling you the truth about themselves? Google it. Want to know more in general about the person you are dating? Facebook stalk. Not as sexy, but still an accurate account.
  3. Financial Match-Ups: I read recently that a common practice on a first date with someone is to ask them their credit score. If the score mentioned isn’t agreeable the date will end and a second date will not follow. Sounds harsh? Perhaps. On one hand though, it does make some sense. You want to improve your lot with marriage not get saddled with your partner’s bad financial habits/decisions. The members of the ton during the Regency period felt the same. There were plenty of marriages based on mutual financial benefit. Many marriages would have been arranged by the parents and some of my favorite romances are arranged marriages or marriages of convenience that turn out to be so much more.

In what other ways does dating sound sexier in Regency romances? Or I invite you to tell me why dating now is sexier than dating back then!

Photo Credits: Raenef

Review: The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer

Summary: When Gervase Frant returns to England to become the new Earl of Stanyon he finds his welcome home to be not so welcoming. Turns out his stepmother and half-brother would have been happier had he died in battle!

As he faces his stepmother’s resentment and his brother’s disdainful jealousy, a chilling midnight presences in his room disturbs his sleep followed closely by several possibly fatal accidents at every turn. Somebody is clearly trying to finish the job that Napoleon failed to do.

The obvious suspect is Martin, his half-brother. With Gervase dead, Martin would be free and clear to assume the title he’s sure is rightly his. But could it really be Martin? He seems so wet behind the ears. Of course it could be his stepmother, Lady St. Erth, but she would more likely encourage another to do it than get her hands dirty herself.

Until Gervase can figure it out he’s lucky to have his cousin and steward Theo watching his back along with his best friend and his stepmother’s young guest, Drusilla.

Review (with spoilers): The romance between Drusilla and Gervase was placed on a major back burner and was complicated in the beginning with Marianne who could have easily been his romance interest (it’s on the back cover even). Gervase winds up eschewing Marianne because she’s too innocent—if blinded to what “flirting” could do to increase a man’s assurance of her interest. Her heart isn’t likely to be touched by him and he yields the floor to other suitors like Martin.

Drusilla comes to Gervase’s attention when she rescues him from injury and with her ever practical air. Too be honest, Drusilla’s admiration is expected by the reader because after all Gervase is titled, wealthy, dresses fashionably (read dandy) and always pleasant tempered, but her admiration is told instead of shown by Heyer so the whole thing comes across flat, which is too bad because the story is pretty good other than that.

I enjoyed the story more for figuring out who wanted Gervase dead. The villain came as a surprise… well okay, I suspected said villain once but couldn’t come up with motive so dismissed rather quickly. That just means I have to brush up on my Regency some more!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: The Quiet Gentleman

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Review: Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

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Amanda Grange picks up where Pride and Prejudice ends. Jane and Elizabeth are getting ready for their double wedding, both eager and anxious about the life spreading out before them. On the way to the wedding, Elizabeth experiences a brief foreboding chill but shrugs it off as wedding nerves. The ceremony goes smoothly, Darcy’s vows stirring deep emotions in both.

It’s when they leave the reception that things start taking a turn for the worse. Through the reflection in the glass of their carriage Elizabeth spies a flash of torment crossing Darcy’s features, but a quick look at the real man shows smooth features. Elizabeth believes she has imagined it… unexpectedly he changes their wedding tour plans and routes them from the Lake District to a direct route to France over the channel.

Elizabeth is unconcerned about this change, but wholly concerned with Darcy. She can’t help but compare her expectations to the reality of her marriage to Darcy. He does not visit her bedchamber the first night or the next or the next. When they are together during the day Darcy is everything attentive, kind, and devoted, but at night he disappears.

As Elizabeth struggles to find reasons for this strange behavior, she meets a dizzying array of friends, family, and strangers over the continent. Some people and places inspire a great deal of trepidation in Elizabeth and she spills her worries to Jane in a series of letters.

It’s not until the last one hundred pages that things really begin to unravel and Darcy’s mysterious behavior is revealed. I was surprised by how flawless the transition was from Austen’s Regency romance to Grange’s Gothic flavored romance. Grange has a talent with words and uses this talent to create a believable paranormal filled with stunningly chilling atmosphere and mystery.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Buy: Mr. Darcy, Vampyre

Review: Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts by Mitzi Szereto

by Sandra Scholes, guest reviewer

Just as when Jane Austen had written this novel over a hundred years ago, Mrs. Bennet finds out that Netherfield Park is to be let to a gentleman of means and position in society, and, she finds out, he is also a very handsome man indeed. It isn’t long before everyone hears about him all over the place and he becomes the talk of the town. Of course everyone knows the tale of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth, the two most unlikely people in Regency England to ever get together, but this is a different story altogether told of the broader aspects of sex and sexuality.

The Mr. Bennet from the original story is now a randy older man who is trying to rekindle his youth, drawing pictures of naughty women in various states of undress to turn him on. Both he and Mrs. Bennet need someone to marry their daughters, and the eligible and handsome Mr. Darcy proves to be a perfect match, only he has little love for those around him, especially the country folk, and a biting wit and sarcasm that lands him in trouble with Elizabeth, who he earlier rejects as a potential wife.

At a gathering of the Bennet daughters and eligible men, Lydia, one of the Bennet daughters wasn’t typical of women in that period, not when she is meeting up with soldiers, and letting them take advantage of her young body with such easy pleasure. While others enjoy watching this spectacle at the gathering, Mr. Darcy is in regret at seeing Elizabeth again and thinking of her in a different way. This alone stirs his heart and his loins, (yes a lot of crotch activity goes on in this short novel.)

Mitzi has decided to write a more intense and sensual piece which never originally contained sex of any kind, as a brief affair in that day would have surely meant trouble for the woman in question. Despite the sexy times, Mitzi has kept the story faithful to how Austen would have written it, so the style of it is perfect, and flows well.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts

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Review: Never a Mistress, No Longer a Maid (Kellington Book One) by Maureen Driscoll

Story: Nurse Jane Wetherby and Lord Edward Kellington have a very brief and hot affair behind enemy lines at the Battle of Waterloo. Jane convinces Edward (Ned) of her widowhood when in fact she’s an unmarried virgin – talk about your virginity surprise! Of course the dunderhead ruins it all by proposing they continue the illicit affair instead of proposing marriage. Jane disappears and because he doesn’t know her real name he can’t find her when he comes to his senses.

They meet again seven years later when Ned shows up in Marston Vale to do his duty and pay to the family, which as we all know means he’s got to get hitched whether he likes it or not and trust me he does not. The bride-to-be in question was loosely arranged between the parents and is an unkind scheming woman Ned has no interest in – though he’s quite interested in the kind surgeon he meets riding in – very interested. Now he’s just got to convince her to marry him!

Review: This is a stunning and beautiful romance. I couldn’t put it down, which I feel is a good indicator of how fabulous it is! :) There’s quite a lot going on in this novel: a second son of a duke turned soldier/spy, mistaken identity, virginity surprise, a bastard secret baby from the union, another woman/arranged marriage, a wicked grandfather, a murder, several attempted kidnappings, one real one, the heroine’s a surgeon, and at least one more thing to tie it all together. I was swept up in the adventure and rooted for the characters from the first paragraph and I think you will be too. Be sure to pick this book up if you like Regency romances and anything else I’ve mentioned to this point. I can’t wait to see what else Maureen Driscoll turns out next! I’m particularly looking forward to Lynwood’s romance.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Never a Mistress, No Longer a Maid (Kellington Book One)

Regency Romance versus Historical Romance

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What is regency romance and how does it differ from historical romance?

You may well recognize Jane Austen as a regency romance writer. She is best known for works such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

So what makes an authentic regency romance?

Well if you look at Pride and Prejudice you can see quite clearly the basic setup of a regency romance. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet stir the hearts of readers as they bicker and dance around each other, but a key element to the novel is that their romance is not the only one. Miss Jane Bennet and Mr. Charles Bingley also fall in love in this classic tale, though perhaps with fewer hindrances on the characters’ part.

To break it down:

Regency romance is based in the early 19th century and will normally revolve around a comedy of manners. The romances are very chaste and do not include conversations about sex between the main characters. In several cases, there will be a side romance to the main one. This of course applies only to Regency romance and romance written around the actual time period. Modern Regency romances include sex and overt (sexualized) flirting.

The monarchs you will find in regency romances are George IV and William IV. Some novels may be included in this genre, even if George III is ruling, though technically speaking he is not part of this era. George III is before the regency era. The period starts when he was declared insane by the Parliament Regency Act and his son was placed on the throne as acting king. The regency (and post-regency) period ends prior to Queen Victoria’s reign.

Time Frame: 1810-1820, generally speaking.

Historical Romance on the other hand is considered to be everything prior to WWI in history. Contemporary attitudes usually color the writing enabling the female lead to be more educated, witty, or relatable. There are many sub genres to this type of romance including but not limited to Viking, pirate, colonial United States, and Western.

In conclusion, regency romance is included in theme of historical romance as a separate and more distinct subgenre.

Review: A Marriage of Inconvenience by Susanna Fraser

by Carla F., guest reviewer

Summary: Be quiet. Be obedient. Don’t displease the family. Don’t reveal your true feelings. These are the rules that Lucy Jones has lived by since she and her brothers were saved from the workhouse by their uncle and aunt after the death of Lucy’s parents. Lucy has always been very grateful to the family for that.

She is surprised when her handsome cousin Sebastian offers for her hand in marriage. Lucy has been in love with Sebastian for a long time and even though she knows that Sebastian doesn’t love her, she accepts. However, Sebastian’s mother wants to keep the engagement a secret until Lucy’s cousin Portia is married.

Before the wedding Lucy and Sebastian travel to the home of Portia’s intended. There they meet the dashing Lord Selsley (James Wright-Gordon) and his beautiful sister Anna. Lucy is dismayed and hurt to see that Sebastian is very attracted to Anna, but then Lucy is drawn towards Lord Selsley.

Review (perhaps spoilers): This story is a prequel to The Sergeant’s Lady, which was about Anna. Fraser has written this story about Anna’s brother James, but a lot of the story has to deal with Anna and Sebastian’s courtship and unhappy marriage. The stories are so intertwined that it would be difficult to not tell them together, and in fact, the story is told from the point of view of all four characters. Having Anna’s and Sebastian’s points of view makes this seem less like James and Lucy’s story. I certainly didn’t want that to happen because James and Lucy are two great characters.

James is not your typical Lord in a romance novel. The point is made that he is short. (I cannot remember ever reading a romance where the hero was considered short.) He is arrogant; he is vain about his clothing and his horsemanship. With all that though he loves his family, particularly his sister and wants to protect her at all costs. He is also intelligent, and has a good sense of humor. Most importantly he is not a snob. He doesn’t look down on people like Lucy who are in a lower level of society.

Poor Lucy. It would be horrible to be rescued from a workhouse, but then to never really feel a part of the family and worry about you and your brothers being safe and secure. She is afraid of “making waves” so much that she makes herself unobtrusive and buries her real personality. It is not a surprise to learn that she has control issues.

Overall: The characters of hero and heroine make this a wonderful read. It will also be of interest to anyone who read The Sergeant’s Lady and want to read the background about Anna and her first marriage. (Reading this one has made me want to dig up my copy of that book and reread it.)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: A Marriage of Inconvenience