Review: An Heiress at Heart by Jennifer Delamere

An Heiress at HeartReviewed by Zarabeth

This story follows our heroine, Miss Lizzie Poole, on her quest to fulfill a promise and prove a hidden heritage. I loved Lizzie and was rooting for her from the very first page. Ms. Delamere does a wonderful job of helping us identify with Lizzie despite her numerous blunders throughout the book. To be fair, our poor Lizzie is attempting to assume the identity of her dead best friend in order to expose a family secret while avoiding a scandal that would ruin everything she’s ever worked for — no easy feat!

Our hero is the quintessential unwilling Lord of the genre. A 3rd son who chose the path of the clergy only to be forced into the title by the death of his older brothers. The woman Lizzie is pretending to be is his brother’s widow, a.k.a completely forbidden and a symbol of all the pain that has happened in the past few years. So, of course, they fall in love with each other despite their best efforts!

Last, bot not least, we have the man who destroyed Lizzie’s life trying to do so again.

Can she keep up her facade? Can she escape her nemesis? Can our protagonists accept their love for each other despite Lizzie’s betrayal?

Well, I can’t tell you!

But, I can tell you that Ms. Delamere weaves a lovely story and you should read it!

One quick note is that since our hero is a clergyman, do not come to this story expecting burning passion or erotica.

This is a love conquers all story, no sex required. For that reason I give it 4 stars. Enjoy!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: An Heiress at Heart (Love’s Grace)

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Review: When You Give a Duke a Diamond (Jewels of the Ton, Book 1) by Shana Galen

when you give a duke a diamondHero: William, the Duke of Pelham requires an ordered, structured, planned life that runs punctually, right down to the very minute one begins to eat breakfast and the minute one finishes. So how did he earn the name Dangerous Duke? All William will reveal is that he does not want or need anything or anyone to disturbed his solid, steady, disciplined life… which he never knew was deadly dull until she showed up on his doorstep.

Heroine: Lackluster would never be the first word you thought of when thinking about Juliette, a celebrated courtesan in London, dubbed by Prinny as the Duchess of Dalliance. When the scandal sheets randomly link Juliette with William, she knows she must remain in the public eye just as he knows he must not. So when he snubs her, Juliette takes matters into her own hands and stir things up with the excitement the Duke so desperately needs.

Oh the Suspense: The Duke’s fiance, Elizabeth, is murdered on the night he snubs Juliette and the only eye witness? Juliette! Which begs the question, if a murder occurs in the middle of the social party of the year and the body goes missing, did it really happen? Juliette suspects Lucifer, the gambling hell owner, who scared her good the night before the party; but that doesn’t rule out Oliver Clifton, Juliette’s ex-husband.

Review: When You Give a Duke a Diamond… he’s going to want to marry her! Even if he doesn’t know it just yet. He’ll try to convince himself he doesn’t want her, love her, because she’s “spoiled goods” – a totally inappropriate candidate, even if she’s already used to being called a Duchess. She just won’t be his… or will she?

I liked the two villains, though you never knew how far either would go. I wish the hero and heroine has less tormented backgrounds, but they were a good match for each other despite it.

Conclusion: A fun romp! And a lovely twist on a classic romantic trope – the courtesan in name-only.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: When You Give a Duke a Diamond (The Fallen Ladies)

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A Maiden’s Mistake

maidens mistakeGuest Blog by Elizabeth Ashtree, author of Maiden’s Mistake

I was thrilled to have Maiden’s Mistake published by Musa as an ebook, my first experience with epublishing after having a number of books published in print by Harlequin Superromance.  It was great fun to write a historical novel after sticking to contemporary romance previously.

One of the most entertaining aspects of writing Maiden’s Mistake was researching and weaving in facts about household plumbing that would have been modern by the standards of 1865.  In fact, the water flowing through the house plays a significant role in how the story concludes.  The wonder that a pair of characters feel when they first come upon a bathtub and shower with hot and cold running water and a flush commode was delightful to write.  Yet, Maiden’s Mistake is also a serious story about a man with a tragic past and the woman who brings happiness back onto his life.

Here’s the short outline for the story:

Knowing he can never have children of his own, Jonathan Everleigh, Earl of Mercia, marries scandal-plagued Juliette Markham, saving her from disgrace. But when he finds his ruined bride is still a virgin on their wedding night, Jonathan vows to annul their marriage. Then Juliette discovers that she actually is with child, this time from her wedding night, and she is as determined to stay married as he is to leave her. When Jonathan’s past catches up with them, the Earl and Lady Mercia must navigate their marital problems, countless dangers, and a final confrontation with the madness plaguing them. If they can make it out alive, love might be there waiting for them on the other side.

In some of my novels, I’ve been exploring the idea of children we love even though they are not our own.  So, in Maiden’s Mistake, I wrote a story about a tormented hero willing to marry this disgraced young woman, who’d been taken advantage of by a cad, partly to gain and heir,  he’d been told he was infertile from injuries in his youth–a secret he kept from everyone.  When she shows up a virgin on their wedding night, he feels betrayed when other men would be delighted. Then, another twist, she becomes pregnant from that wedding night, and he feels again betrayed and wants to know who’d gotten her with child.  It seems impossible that these two will be able to work things put to live happily ever after.

If I were to offer writing advice, I’d say the second most important thing about writing romance is to keep the tension and emotion at the highest possible level page after page by developing characters who seem destined to never work things out.  The first most important thing about writing any novel is: finish the manuscript.  My son is a writer, currently in a Masters of Fine Arts program for creative writing, and he remembers growing up with that advice ringing in his ears.  When he said he wanted to write, I told him he needed to finish a manuscript.  And he did!   That kind of determination — the perseverance to finish a draft even though it may need more editing –is what will carry a writer to publication.  I write from a lengthy synopsis, but not everyone has success with that.  Partly, I choose this method because I know I’ll need to write a synopsis to submit a manuscript to a publisher — I might as well write one first and use it to guide the story.  However, I do deviate sometimes from what I originally planned.  Characters develop identities and “speak” for themselves sometimes.  I know intellectually that the voices in my head ate not real, but they often seem to belong to actual people with unique personalities who tell me their stories.  All I have to do is write them down.

Getting in touch: I have a web page at www.elizabethashtree.com, a blog called Telling Tales at elizabethashtree.blogspot.com, and I’m on Twitter @eashtreebooks.

Buy: Maiden’s Mistake

Review: Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee

Hero: Blake Harrison needs a wife, yesterday, in order to complete the terms of the will of his late father. They never saw eye to eye and this is just one more thing he’s being manipulated to do, but Blake has a plan. He’s going to hire himself a bride because the last thing he needs to do is marry somebody and have them get the wrong idea. At first, any gal who understood the game plan would have been good for him, but when he meets the heroine all bets are off.

Heroine: Samantha Elliot is the owner of an elite matchmaking firm that caters to the wealthy. She guarantees to find you the right match for you at this time in your life plans. When Blake turns down her three perfectly good matches with women just like the women he usually dates she’s curious. Then he offers her ten million dollars for a one-year marriage contract… but only if she’s the bride. Can she return to the life of privilege she knew once before or will scandal rear its ugly head?

Review:  This was a cute, fast paced read (it has to with only 220-some pages). There’s sex in the story so don’t equate cute with clean/sweet romance. Cute means the story is adorable and well-done. I liked the premise for this marriage of convenience story, sure it’s been done before (lots of departed family members like to decree weddings in their last will and testaments) but I thought it was handled nicely. I really liked when Blake gets outmaneuvered again by his departed dad with another caveat in the will that only appears after certain criteria was met. Bybee has a good use of the mean-spirited (“evil”) ex. Could have done without the mentally ill sister though.

Recommended: If you like MOC romances, contemporary romance, Dukes, and category romances.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Wife by Wednesday

Review: Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds

What If: After six months had passed from the first proposal/letter and Elizabeth received another proposal from a gentleman of modest means, one she knew from childhood, and she said yes?

Summary: Elizabeth accepts a childhood friend’s proposal, knowing she was fond of him, but not in love. She accepted for mercenary reasons, knowing she could no longer hope for Jane to make a good match when she was still so obviously in love with Mr. Bingley. If only she had known Darcy and Bingley were right around the corner! But how was she to know they would show up at Longbourn looking to court the ladies who stole their hearts?

Good:

  • That Darcy worms his way into Longbourn as Bingley’s companion and doesn’t give up even though Lizzy is very off the market.
  • Darcy’s possessive, jealous side. It’s hot. Like burn your sheets up, hot. Favorite quote coming up.
  • That Lizzy learns her own heart and is willing to risk all for her own liberty and happiness.
  • That Lizzy has a deeply valid concern for refusing Darcy when he proposes again (pg 147 for those who care to know)… and that Darcy figures out how to get around Lizzy. (Love how Mr. Bennet uses Mrs. Bennet to advantage, bwuahaha!)
  • That Darcy has a rival!

On the Other Hand:

  • Of course Mr Covingon is not much of a rival. He’s a valid choice for marriage with a comfortable home, quazi gentry, a land owner, a farmer, good to his mother, interested in Lizzy, etc. But he lacks passion, depth, and his interest can’t stand up to reputation breaking scandal. He may have Lizzy’s hand but her heart is not such a sure thing.

Bad:

  • The awful petnames. “Best beloved?” What’s wrong with a simple “Darling” or just plain Elizabeth or Lizzy?

Favorite Quote:

Darcy was silent as he wrestled with his own demons. He had never intended it to go so far; he knew full well that he would have taken her if she had not asked him to stop. His toying with her responses at the end, provoking her and demanding verbal submission to replace the physical one he craved, revealed an uncontrolled part of himself he had always harshly repress. But, by God, it had been gratifying to hear her say she wanted him, and to see her helplessly entangled in the pleasure he was giving her. There was, he thought, less of the gentleman and more of the predatory tiger in him than he cared to admit… (page 208)

The bolded part is my doing – it’s also my favorite part of the quote. Seriously hot, and I do mean hot! Love it!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Mr. Darcy’s Undoing

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Scandal!!! 11 Things You Do Today That Would Have Got You into BIG Trouble in Jane Austen’s Time!

Rebecca Ann Collins, guest blogger and author of Expectations of Happiness and the Pemberley Chronicles series

Thank you very much for your invitation to contribute to your blog.

“Scandal- just what were the dreaded consequences?”

On the first question- it is difficult to answer this question fully without “letting the cat out of the bag” so to speak and revealing essential elements of the plot, which won’t be much fun for future readers of the book.

However, if I may speak generally, there were certain social conventions and rules for conducting courtship and romance that were accepted by most people, especially in country towns and villages of 19th century England, although these were largely ignored by the Regent and his courtiers. When these conventions were broken, there were inevitable consequences particularly for young women- gossip, social isolation and in certain extreme cases- an entire family tainted by the disgraceful behaviour of one of its members. (Note the effect of Lydia’s elopement with Wickham on the Bennet family in Pride Prejudice.)

However, in post revolution France, things were much freer, so the fact that young Margaret Dashwood meets her gentleman, while travelling in romantic Provence makes things somewhat easier for her than if they had met in Devon or Dorsetshire. But, when they return to England, she must face the consequences, which can range from gossip and social condemnation to losing her job as a teacher of young girls. How Margaret, deeply in love, yet sensitive to her situation and the possible repercussions on her family, handles this dilemma is part of the process of maturing as a woman.

11 Things You Do Today That Would Have Got You into BIG Trouble in Jane Austen’s Time:

As to the things one could do today, that would have been an absolute faux pas in Jane Austen’s time- nineteenth century society was set about with a variety of rules and conventions based mainly upon status and privilege in what was a class-based hierarchical order.

Many of these seem plainly ridiculous to us, but were nevertheless strictly observed in that era.

(1) For a lady, accepting an invitation to lunch or dinner with a gentleman friend- or (2) accepting a ride in a gentleman’s vehicle unchaperoned or (3) just spending too much time with one gentleman at a party or dance was not considered proper. (4) Dancing more than three dances with the same man was “not done” unless they were engaged to be married. (5) Physical intimacy was out of the question and cuddling or kissing in public- even if one was engaged- was a complete no no!

Any or all these faux pas could have brought instant censure upon any young lady at the time, while today such an encounter would be a non- event, regarded as part of normal social interaction in modern society.

Things would have been even worse if either the gentleman or the lady was married- as in Vanity Fair- since this would surely have started rumours running about their moral standards. This does not mean that such liaisons did not occur- just that they were discreetly undertaken and concealed from the busy bodies and gossips.

(6) Walking alone with a gentleman, unaccompanied by a chaperone or another member of the family or (7) standing in the street, talking to a gentleman, even if he was an acquaintance, was frowned upon and regarded as “boldness” that was unbecoming in a lady. (8) Undue familiarity or worse- “flirting” was disapproved of, although it was clearly a pastime that Jane Austen herself indulged in!

(9) There were also innumerable “courtesy” rules- which applied in a class conscious society regarding “introductions” and who spoke to whom first etc- all of which were rather silly- as Jane Austen herself makes very clear in several of her novels. The pompous Mr Elton (in Emma) refuses to “notice” Harriet Smith- when invited to dance with her- he thinks she is “beneath his notice.”

(10) While male and female cousins were permitted to use each other’s Christian names in conversation, outsiders were not. Permission to do so had to be obtained by asking and was usually a sign of some level of intimacy or close friendship. For a male acquaintance to use a lady’s Christian name when addressing her instead of Miss- Xxxx was unpardonable! Sounds bizarre today, when virtually everybody is on first name terms, but that’s how it was.

(11) There were complex rituals and codes about calls and visits too. No question of just “dropping in” on someone without notice! Rules applied especially in town-to who could call on whom, how they presented themselves- having first presented their cards, of course, at what hour they should visit, how they should dress for the occasion, how long they could stay etc. A man or woman who broke these unwritten rules could be cruelly snubbed. (Remember how Mr Collins is put down when he introduces himself to Mr Darcy at the Netherfield Ball?) Sounds weird in this age of mobile phones, Facebook and twittering; but then there were no problems of “hackers” getting in on your private conversations either! So, it’s a case of swings and roundabouts.

And, while Miss Austen saw many of these conventions as quaint and ridiculous, and occasionally found good reasons for breaking them herself, (as she writes in some of her letters to her sister Cassandra)- she, like many other women in society, mostly conformed to the rules. In her novels, however, she often took the chance to poke fun at the presumption and pomposity of those who made them.

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Buy: Expectations of Happiness

Rebecca Ann Collins Website- www.rebeccaanncollins.com

Review: Courtesan’s Kiss by Mary Blayney

Forewarned: This novel does not include a courtesan heroine. Sorry. :) That said this novel will provide you with a very good time.

Mia Castellano is going home in a disgrace from a failed engagement. One misplaced kiss ruins everything respectable about her in the eyes of the ton and Lord David Pennistan. She knows her life will have to change, the original course it was on can no longer be and to that end she decides she wants to be an independent lady. If she’s already scandalous, why not add a little more scandal to the mix? Her ideas about courtesans are especially scandalous.

Too scandalous for David, who could care less about escorting Mia back to her ward’s and his brother’s home. He will because doing so will gain him an audience with his brother and the chance to petition him for financial backing on his mill project. This mill project means everything to him and is his bid for financial independence from his brother. He understands it will change the ton’s opinion on him but he doesn’t care. He will never be helpless again.

Favorite Scene: Mia fishing in her under things and David coming across her. It’s adorable.

About the only thing I could truly have done without was the whole reason for them to get sequestered. If it was anything but what is was—the fear of contagion, disease, sickness—I would have enjoyed it more.

I have the one of the earlier book in the series on my TBR shelf. I think I just may dust it off – even if it might turn the Mia I know and love in Courtesan’s Kiss into a less than desirable character (which there are allusions too throughout.)

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Buy: Courtesan’s Kiss

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Review: A Gentleman Never Tells by Amelia Grey

The Heroine: After witnessing her fiancé and sister in each other’s arms, Lady Gabrielle desires to be kissed in a similar manner and to break off her engagement. The man she meets in the park inspires her to take a risk and steal a kiss.

The Hero: Rendered speechless with desire, Viscount Brentwood accepts a kiss from the lady in the mist only to be embroiled in scandal and to lose his mother’s dog. He’s upset, but not overly so, to find himself Gabrielle’s newest fiancé. All he wants to know is why she did it… and perhaps to steal a few more kisses.

Review: I love a hero who isn’t upset at anything or everything (though sometimes heroes who are can be fun too ;)). Gabrielle is mortified to have accidentally snared the Viscount and is determined to convince him that a duke’s daughter is the worse sort of woman to marry.

All her attempts though, Brent can see right through and it amuses him instead of angers him. You can’t help but love a hero who is willing to sit through the worst dull and tedious piano recital and commend the heroine for making the afternoon so bad she drove everyone out leaving them alone to kiss some more.

What I didn’t like was the heroine’s feisty aunt (too convenient/cliché) and the sister/fiancé (I don’t see that ever working especially after Gabrielle confronts the man to make an honest woman of her sister.)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: A Gentleman Never Tells, A Gentleman Never Tells (UK)

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