Review: Bought for Revenge by Sarah Mallory

bought for revengeReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Captain Lucas Blackstone has, unlike many of his men he served with returned from the battle of Waterloo unscathed. By coming back, he hopes to renovate what was once his family’s mansion, but seeing it in its current state causes him concern.

Debutante Annabelle Havenham’s father has to settle with his debtors and the only way he can is to sell the mansion he has come to see as his home. He thinks Captain Blackstone is the worthy buyer, yet he wants more into the bargain if he is to get his revenge on her father for what he had done in the past.

Review: Lucas comes to Annabelle’s father pretending to be a Mr Monserrat to avoid problems, but even in this deceptive manner, Annabelle’s father thinks he recognises him. Little by little, Lucas plans to take the loathed Mr Havenham down, knowing no one can prevent what will come to pass. Once Lucas meets Annabelle he has feelings for her as she is a strong-minded woman who wants to be seen as an equal in relationships. He wants to take down her father, yet he also has a hard time making her a worthy pawn in his game. Lucas makes the mistake of getting too close to her, close enough to have feelings for her that could cloud his judgement if he wants revenge against her father. He does have a heart, though but he keeps it in check for his own sake if he is to make her father pay for his past sins. In doing so, he puts his future and that of Annabelle’s at risk – she might never trust him after he tells her he wants to ruin him. He was after all a child when the incident happened and as a result, he could be alienating the only woman who would love him back, and the one man who, if Annabelle would accept his offer of marriage, would accept his offer of marriage without question.

Good Bits:

  • Annabelle’s first meeting with Lucas.
  • The interesting business of the Havenham family painting that makes Lucas very nervous indeed.
  • The mysterious cousin Hugh and how he fits into the story.

Summary: What starts out as a heated romance novel soon turns into a murder mystery both Lucas and Annabelle have to solve before it is too late. I found this an enjoyable and gripping novel that twists and turns really well until the satisfying reveal at the end.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Bought for Revenge

Review: The Escape (Survivor’s Club, Book 3) by Mary Balogh

escapeReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Sir Benedict Harper, a former soldier who has survived the Napoleonic wars wants to return home to get some kind of support and companionship. He could meet any woman, but Samantha Mc Kay is aided by Benedict who believes she must leave her oppressive in-laws. Benedict gets her safely to Wales where she can claim an estate she has since inherited.

Review: This is the third in the Survivor’s Club series, the first being The Proposal, and the second, The Arrangement. This book is the latest in the saga, and also one of the most interesting.

It might be a simplistic plot as Ben helps Samantha flee her oppressors in order to make a new life for herself, but it is more than that. Harper is a man left with war wounds he can’t easily get over. He feels as though he has nothing to offer a woman as handsome as her, and this gives him a dark outlook on life, one he doesn’t mean, but one that leaves him feeling quite sorry for himself. Ben has unwittingly inherited the family title, yet he is not a well enough man for the role of running the estate. Samantha has to contend with her in-laws after the members of her family die one by one and she is left alone with the others running her life. As she feels like she has let this happen, they now control her every movement preventing her from seeing visitors or going on long journeys to see friends. Her only outlet is to wander around the gardens with her dog at her heels.

Ben first meets her while she is out with her dog but it doesn’t go well but thankfully he makes it up to her. The story is a steadily paced one with both Ben and Samantha thinking about how each other will react to the love they feel. As she is in deep mourning, she has to act rather unhappy around everyone, even him, but when she reveals she wants to dance, he knows that she doesn’t want to feel that way anymore, instead she wants to get on with living her life, even enjoying it.

Good bits:

  • Ben’s reaction to Samantha and her dog while out riding.
  • Beatrice trying to be an outrageous match-maker for Ben!
  • Samantha’s friendship with her dog.

Summary: Though Samantha has reservations about Ben, she can only take action if she is to get the life she wants away from Bramble Hall. The Escape like More Than a Mistress and No man’s Mistress has remarkable characters weaved into a captivating story where anything can and will happen.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: The Escape (Survivor’s Club Book 3)

Audio Review: The Wicked Wallflower (Bad Boys and Wallflowers, Book 1) by Maya Rodale

wicked wallflowerHeroine: Lady Emma Avery is a respectable wallflower with the nickname the Buxom Bluestocking from finishing school. She is one of London’s Least Likely (to Misbehave) and in her own opinion least likely to be married by the next finishing school graduate ball, which marks the end of her fourth Season. Her long-time “beau” has yet to come up to scratch. Her friends, Olivia and Prudence, propose a wild idea of announcing their engagement. It was risky, but surely a gentleman could not refuse once it was so publically announced. While composing the letter, one of them said if Emma was going to risk scandal then they should go big or go home.

It’s all fun and games until someone actually sends the letter to the newspaper. Then it’s too late — and instead of a financially strapped second son of a viscount, the most eligible bachelor is declared the groom-to-be, and not just any bachelor, but a duke! Emma just knows she is ruined!

Hero: Blake, the Duke of Ashbrooke, is about to find out his past behavior can and will catch up to him. His charmed life of being the toast of a party, London’s most desirable rake and duke, and participating wild dares are not going to help him now. His backers desert him on his difference engine project and stress that it’s because of the man leading the project not the idea. They can’t trust him. Suddenly he needs a respectable wife… or at least the appearance of one until the financing is secure.

When the London Weekly posts his engagement announcement to a women he’s never met, he has the solution to his problem. He arrives at her drawing room to make it official – or failing that official long enough for them to try their hand at winning his aunt’s fortune in this year’s annual Fortune Games. Ashbrooke always likes a challenge so when the lady says no – he takes matters into his own hands.

Review: I loved this book from the main characters to the side characters to the romance. It checked all my boxes. My favorite parts were the love-letter writing on Emma’s bed and then Blake’s fulfillment of their fake courtship. He created a rundown gazebo, built a trellis, and said some of the prettiest proposals. Le sigh. He kind of goofs it all up at the end and could have come around a little quicker, but overall he’s one dreamy duke. The story ends as it begins with a potential scandal in the making. I wholly recommend to anyone looking for a fun and silly romp.

Narrator: I very much enjoyed listening to Carolyn Morris narrate. She pronounced clearly, naturally, and was easy to understand. I loved her portrayal of the hero and heroine and her accent and acting really pulled the story together cohesively. She had a very good presence and gave the story life. I’d listen to her again.

Rating: ★★★★½

The Wicked Wallflower (Wallflower Trilogy Book 1), Wicked Wallflower (Audiobook)

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Review: The Secrets of a Scoundrel (The Inferno Club, Book ) by Gaelen Foley

galen foley secrets of a scoundrelReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Nick Forrester is a legendary rake of a lord, and after living the life of a warrior and ex-spy he’s stuck in a dungeon in Scotland until Lady Virginia Burke lets him out, on one condition – he must agree to be her spy on a mission dictated by her, and her alone. Nick can’t help but take a fancy to her, and she in turn admires his half naked body while she discusses the mission with him in his cell. The question is, will she be able to resist him enough to complete the mission?

Review: I love humour in period novels so this one instantly took my fancy. Lord Forrester (Nick) is a rake, a cad and whatever else you could call him. He’s had women at his feet for years, yet since his last impropriety, he has found himself in dire straits. Virginia tries to rescue him out of his situation, yet is it more a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire, or is her proposal enough to make him want to take her up on it?

As a private investigator she had worked on a case about a young girl who, it seemed has been abducted by a gang of white slavers. If she can get this ‘scoundrel’ to help her track down the gang, and retrieve the girl, she feels she would have been some use to the ones who hired her, but without Nick’s strength and previous spying experience, she feels she can’t find them to bring them to justice.

Good bits:

  • Nick’s thought that Gin is a widow, ‘Praise God!’
  • John Carr, Gin’s associate and a “very beautiful young man.”
  • The big reveal of who Lady Virginia (Gin) really is.
  • Nick’s favourite pudding!

Summary: Nick might be a rake, but he is interested in Gin. He is surprised at who she really is, and understands that he knows more about her than he thinks. She, once letting him out of jail keeps his reputation intact back at the Deepwell Estate. I liked the initial chemistry between the two, the intense yearning they feel at being in each other’s company and the end result of their interest. This, for me was essential Regency reading.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: The Secrets of a Scoundrel (Inferno Club)

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Audio Review: Disciplining the Duchess by Annabel Joseph

Disciplining the DuchessHero: The Duke of Courtland is known for his subversive bedroom behavior and his uncomfortable preferences. He’s also known for his rigid control and decorum… but that just confirms these “uncomfortable habits.” He’s a dom and is into spanking – the news reaches his father-in-law and fiancée and suddenly he’s jilted while the bride runs off with another. Determined to leave it behind, Court goes to a house party and comes across a most intriguing creature.

Heroine: Miss Harmony Barrett is a spinster in the making. She’s been on the marriage mart for five seasons and is still unmarried. She’s very good at repelling gentlemen of consequence away – but who wouldn’t repel a greasy overblown aristocrat, decades older than yourself? She’s not even allowed to waltz since the debacle at Almacks. A genuine bluestocking, Harmony prefers her books on Mongol hordes over idle chitchat with girls her own age. When it comes to the hero and Mongols, she’s a bit of an airhead.

Review: Harmony is a heroine determined to land herself in the suds. She wants to see a Roman wall so badly she runs off without telling anyone. Lucky for her the Duke was interested in her safety to the point of willingly leg-shackling himself to her in order to fulfill her stubborn desire. (Heroine believes for as long as possible there will be no consequences to her misadventure.) The story is definitely erotica and for the most part works really well and comes across sexy. But as with most BDSM set-ups the hero is unaware of when he takes it too far and it causes emotional and physical strife for the heroine. That’s always difficult for me especially when the reasoning behind the “big punishment” is so stupid. Court wants Harmony to be a society duchess, but he’s oblivious to her own desires and the fact that she’s apparently incapable of proper behavior in front of company. He tries to mold her into something she’s not and that there is the “uncomfortable habits” for me. I quite liked the heroine just as she was – earnest, eager, and ditzy. The heroine pulls off a “perfect submission” as an innocent punishment for the hero (she’s really trying to be exactly what he wants.) It becomes very clear to Court that the perfect sub and featureless woman is not what he truly desires… and then comes the groveling. Epilogue was meh for me. Overall, why it works so well is how much it reads like a “normal” Regency romance novel with a little extra added.

Narrator: Emma Kent is great. She makes the heroine sound young and airy (and occasionally earnestly ditzy). She handled the bedroom scenes very well and in a way that pulled you further into the story. In my opinion she was integral in how the novel read to listeners. I can’t think of another narrator that would have fit as perfectly as she did.

Length: 11 hrs and 56 mins

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Disciplining the Duchess, Disciplining the Duchess (Audiobook)

Review: A Promise of Spring by Mary Balogh

temporary wifeHero: Sir Peregrine “Perry” Lampman is a good guy and effortlessly charming. He’s the toast wherever he goes. He has many male friends and many female admirers. He’s the toast of most parties as everyone adores him and respects him. He’s a beta hero and is kind in a way more romance novel heroes are not depicted. He stands apart for that kindness and his gentleness. He’s unflappable, sturdy, and trustworthy.

Heroine: Grace Howard is a spinster living with her vicar brother, who is dead at the start of the novel. When Perry offers for her hand in marriage to save her from destitution she confesses that she is not a virgin and once had a child (now dead). She implies the father of the child is dead. He still wishes to marry her because of his friendship with her brother.

Review: The sex scenes in this book are very mild. Perry is invested in them, but Grace is absent. It’s the only word I can think of to describe it. She lies there and holds him but doesn’t actively participate in their intercourse. It made perfect sense in the beginning because of both character’s pasts and personalities. That said, it bugged me that she never allowed herself to be coaxed into a more active role. Was she really so broken? Could Perry’s love not heal her? The inner monologue for both characters was stuck on repeat. All could have changed if they overcame an unwillingness to voice their wants, needs, and desires either because they felt lacking or were too embarrassed or both. In short, this is a slow romance with a focus on renewal and reconciliation. It gets credit for being a different storyline than the usual fanfare.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Buy: The Temporary Wife/A Promise of Spring

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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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Get into Bed with Samantha Grace (Author Interview 3)

defies a dukeKeira: You believe everyone has a story worth remembering. What is a story that has surprised and touched you from your work with aging adults?

Samantha Grace: Probably the most common thing I ask people is how they met their spouse. One couple I worked with met on a train to Chicago. Another met on a street corner the day the man returned from war. One lovely, devoted couple met while on a double date, only they each were out with another person. Then there was a story of a couple that fell in love through letters. She read an article he had written in a newspaper and wrote a heartfelt letter telling him how touched she was by his writing. They exchanged correspondence and love blossomed.

­My favorite stories came from a couple that met when they were musicians during the thirties. She was a singer and he was a band member, and they performed together at a fancy hotel. (This was the Big Band days, which already has an air of romance to me.) After only knowing him a few days, she marched up to him after rehearsal and said she was going to marry him. She was right, except she became much more than his wife. She was the love of his life. The gentleman also had great tales about run-ins with gangsters and playing in speakeasies. I could’ve listened to them tell stories all day. But the best part was how they told the stories together, as if their stories wouldn’t be complete without the other’s participation.

Keira: How does that translate into your writing?

Samantha: I never use these couples’ stories in my books, but they inspire me. I think I’m most drawn to the couples that met in a fun situation and developed a deep friendship over the years, in addition to being mates. Maybe that’s the reason I enjoy adding a little humor when my hero and heroine meet and building a friendship between them before they fall madly in love.

Keira: A gentleman from the Regency era looks for a wife who fits these qualities…

Samantha: Well, it depends who you ask in Lady Vivian Defies a Duke. Lady Vivian’s brother thinks a young lady who is obedient, docile, and domesticated makes a good wife. The Duke of Foxhaven thinks if he valued those characteristics, he could get a dog. Luke really isn’t looking for a wife, but he’s drawn to Vivian’s adventurous spirit, kindness, and freshening curiosity.

Keira: Haha! Love it! Some might say gentlemen from today look for this particular quality…

Samantha: I think modern men want a wife who will be a companion to share in the activities they enjoy. That might mean having an adventurous spirit. I’ve met a lot of women who started hunting, golfing, riding motorcycles, etc. because that’s what their husbands liked to do, and they’ve found they love those things too.

Keira: What is the weirdest (at least in terms of today’s mores) Regency rule you’ve encountered?

Samantha: I think it’s strange that it was considered scandalous to wear drawers when they first came on the scene. I believe the outrage came from the fact the trim was often visible beneath the skirts. It’s hilarious to me that a little frilly lace would send someone into the vapors, but going commando was perfectly fine. It does make writing love scenes easier for authors, though.

Keira: Why does Lady Vivian Worth flout the rules of her era?

Samantha: I wouldn’t say she actively sets out to break the rules. She just lives life at a full gallop. Sometimes she’s impulsive and that gets her into trouble. I loosely based her personality on my daughter who lives life fully and without reservations. I admire her bravery and determination. This characteristic leads to accidents for my daughter, whereas Vivian is more likely to wind up in trouble, but their responses are similar when they get hurt. They may shed a tear or two, but then they pick themselves up and try once again to tackle the world.

Keira: How did the Duke of Foxhaven get his name?

Samantha: I know Luke Forest is a stone cold fox, but that’s not how he got his name. LOL. I think of all the Forests as too clever for their own good, and they are a very close-knit, loyal family. Their parents created a safe haven for them all their lives, and they flourished in a happy home. Foxhaven just seemed to fit, and of course Luke inherited the title from his father.

Keira: Does he ever find that other man to fulfill the role of husband to Lady Vivian in Lady Vivian Defies a Duke? ;)

Samantha: Now, I can’t answer that without spoiling the story, but let’s just say she ends up with her perfect match.

Keira: What is your favorite moment in the book?

Samantha: It’s hard for me to pick a favorite moment. I really enjoyed the time I spent writing Luke’s and Vivian’s story. They were a fun couple, but I guess if I had to pick just one, I’d say the moment Luke opens up about his accident is my favorite. It’s sweet, tender, and deepens their connection. It’s no longer about physical attraction, but about trust and compassion. It’s not easy to admit to weaknesses, especially if the person is in a position where others look to him to be strong. To be able to open up to another person and have her listen without judgment is priceless.

I’d love to ask readers a question. When the heroine and hero meet for the first time, this is often called the meet-cute or cute meet. It’s an entertaining way the couple comes together for the first time, for example, when Edward is lost in Pretty Woman and stops to ask Vivian how to get to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, and she makes him pay for directions. What is one of your favorite cute meets from a movie or book?

samantha graceAuthor Bio: Samantha Grace is the author of several Regency romance novels. Lady Vivian Defies a Duke is the final installment of her Beau Monde Bachelor series. Publisher’s Weekly describes her stories as “fresh and romantic” with subtle humor and charm. She writes what she enjoys reading: romantic comedies about family, friendship, and flawed characters who learn how to love deeply.

Samantha is a part-time hospice social worker, moonlighting author, and full time wife and mom. She enjoys life in the Midwest with her husband, two witty kids, and a multitude of characters that spring from her imagination. To learn more about Samantha’s books, you can visit her website at: www.samanthagraceauthor.com.

To Connect with Samantha, you can find her at:

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Buy: Lady Vivian Defies a Duke (Beau Monde Bachelor)