Author Archives: Cheryl

Review: Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare

Cheryl’s Review of Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare
Historical Romance released by Avon on December 30, 2014

Book CoverAfter eight years of waiting for Piers Brandon, the wandering Marquess of Granville, to set a wedding date, Clio Whitmore has had enough. She’s inherited a castle, scraped together some pride, and made plans to break her engagement.

Not if Rafe Brandon can help it. A ruthless prizefighter and notorious rake, Rafe is determined that Clio will marry his brother–even if he has to plan the dratted wedding himself.

So how does a hardened fighter cure a reluctant bride’s cold feet?

• He starts with flowers. A wedding can’t have too many flowers. Or harps. Or cakes.
• He lets her know she’ll make a beautiful, desirable bride–and tries not to picture her as his.
• He doesn’t kiss her.
• If he kisses her, he definitely doesn’t kiss her again.
• When all else fails, he puts her in a stunning gown. And vows not to be nearby when the gown comes off.
• And no matter what–he doesn’t fall in disastrous, hopeless love with the one woman he can never call his own.

Clio Whitmore was a patient woman. Engaged at the tender age of 17 to Lord Piers Brandon, the future Marquess of Granville, she agreed a long engagement would be for the best since she had no knowledge of how to run a diplomat’s household. She was content to be the dutiful bride-to-be. But as the years passed, she went from belle of the ball to a running joke, having bets placed on potential wedding dates and being referred to as Ms. “Waitmore”. When she inherits a castle of her very own from her Uncle Humphrey, Clio decides she’s done waiting. Only one thing stands in the way of her moving on with her life– her engagement. With Piers out of the country, she has to convince his younger brother, Rafe, to sign the dissolution papers.

Rafe Brandon turned his back on polite society at the age of twenty-one to become a champion prizefighter. Years later, he lost his title and his father. With his brother still out of the country, the management of the Granville properties falls on his massive shoulders. Rafe wants nothing more than to make a comeback and reclaim the prizefighting title he lost, but he can’t do that until Piers returns to England. When Clio arrives in his warehouse wanting him to sign dissolution papers on his brother’s behalf, Rafe refuses and takes it upon himself to plan her wedding in the hopes she will change her mind.

When Rafe arrives at her castle, they come to an agreement: Clio must participate in the wedding plans, selecting flowers, dresses, cakes and music. In return, if at the end of the week she still does not want to marry Piers, he will sign the dissolution papers. But the more time Rafe spends with Clio, the more he is reminded of the girl he once knew.

The girl needs finishing.

That had been the common wisdom, back when the engagement was first announced. While Piers sailed for India to launch his diplomatic career, Clio was meant to remain in London for “finishing.” Rafe didn’t know what the devil “finishing” meant, but he knew he didn’t like it. Within a few years, she’d been finished indeed. Everything remotely unique or spirited about her had been scrubbed off, pinned back, or drill straight out of her demeanor.

So he’d thought.

But apparently, the old Clio was still in there somewhere—the Clio he’d rather liked, before the dragons had taken her in their clutches and stifled her with ten coats of lacquer.

The Clio he had no right to be admiring now.

Without a doubt, Rafe is perhaps one of the most swoon-worthy heroes I’ve read in quite some time. The man takes romantic gestures to a whole new level. Of course, it’s under the guise of wedding planning, but at the end of the day, he wants Clio to be happy. And if his brother is the man to make her happy, then so be it. Clio is just as fantastic. Knowing the castle will be expensive to maintain and her money will last only so long, she plans to turn her castle into a brewery. She’s a proper Englishwoman who knows her beer! Throw in a bulldog who likes wedding cake, a socially awkward, yet brilliant younger sister and a fight promoter with a quizzing glass, you have in my opinion the greatest cast of supporting characters that I’ve read in any of Tessa Dare’s novels. Add to that a lot of laughs, a few tears and some steamy love scenes with our dirty talking hero, and you end up with what I consider to be my absolute favorite of all of Tessa Dare’s books.

Grade: A

You can read an excerpt of the book here, or buy it here.

Review: A Bride for the Season by Jennifer Delamere

Cheryl’s Review of A Bride for the Season by Jennifer Delamere
Historical Romance released by Forever on November 25, 2014

A Bride for the SeasonLucinda Cardington doesn’t care that she is close to being “on the shelf.” She has more serious pursuits in mind and is perfectly content to leave dreams of romance to silly young ladies like her sister. Yet when her sister places herself in a compromising situation with London’s most scandalous bachelor, the entire family’s reputation comes perilously close to ruin. Suddenly Lucinda is in the limelight . . . and in need of a husband.

James Simpson’s rakish ways have finally caught up with him. Snared in a scandal that for once is not his doing, he is forced to do the honorable thing and offer marriage to the lady. But her father won’t agree to a dowry unless James can also find a suitable husband for the lady’s elder sister-quiet, reserved Lucinda Cardington. As James gets to know the vibrant, charming, and passionate woman behind Lucinda’s shy exterior, he comes to the distressing realization that he doesn’t want her in anyone’s arms but his own . . .

The third book in The Love’s Grace Series, A Bride for the Season is a sweet romance with strong Christian themes. Delamere captured the Victorian setting beautifully. The story was well paced from the start and never lost momentum.

Lucinda considers herself a godly woman, one who hopes to live a solitary life in the future, enabling her to focus on her faith and her charitable work. However, she often participates in what would be considered scandalous behavior for the time period. She goes on unchaperoned outings with her sister’s husband to be, unconcerned about proprieties especially if he is indulging her love of photography. Lucinda even shares a kiss with her brother-in-law to be. In other stories, I would not find this bothersome, but with a heroine that is often described as godly and upstanding, I find it difficult to reconcile her behavior.

James will one day inherit a property from his great aunt which will require a substantial amount of money to maintain. It is for this reason his marriage to Emily, Lucinda’s younger sister, must be profitable. Wanting his eldest daughter married, Lucinda’s father makes Emily’s dowry contingent upon James finding a suitable husband for Lucinda. It is for this reason he searches out Lucinda and often tempts her with an opportunity to put her photography knowledge to use.

As these two characters become friends, their attraction for each other grows. There are several touching moments where James encourages Lucinda to stand up for herself. But in the end, there were just too many things that didn’t work for me, the ending especially.

Grade: C

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

Review: Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

Cheryl’s Review:

Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare
Historical Romance released by Avon on May 28, 2013

What’s a duke to do, when the girl who’s perfectly wrong becomes the woman he can’t live without?

Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, has no desire to wed this season–or any season–but his diabolical mother abducts him to “Spinster Cove” and insists he select a bride from the ladies in residence. Griff decides to teach her a lesson that will end the marriage debate forever. He chooses the serving girl.

Overworked and struggling, Pauline Simms doesn’t dream about dukes. All she wants is to hang up her barmaid apron and open a bookshop. That dream becomes a possibility when an arrogant, sinfully attractive duke offers her a small fortune for a week’s employment. Her duties are simple: submit to his mother’s “duchess training”… and fail miserably.

But in London, Pauline isn’t a miserable failure. She’s a brave, quick-witted, beguiling failure–a woman who ignites Griff’s desire and soothes the darkness in his soul. Keeping Pauline by his side won’t be easy. Even if Society could accept a serving girl duchess–can a roguish duke convince a serving girl to trust him with her heart?

Let me preface this review by saying I’m an unabashed Tessa Dare fan. It began with the first Spindle Cove novella, Once Upon a Winter’s Eve, and steamrolled from there. While impatiently waiting for the next book in the Spindle Cove series, I plowed through her entire backlist. And while I loved some books more than others, not once was I disappointed.

Pauline Simms is a barmaid at The Bull and Blossom, Spindle Cove’s unique tea room by day, tavern by night establishment. She’s strong, loyal and cusses like a sailor. What I adored most about Pauline was despite her being a serving girl, she aspires to something greater. A Duchess? Absolutely not. What she wants is to open a recirculating bookstore in Spindle Cove, to fill the shelves with poetry and romance and a little naughtiness as well.

Griffin York first appeared in Colin and Minerva’s story, A Week to be Wicked and he was a bad, bad man. Okay, not really. He was the stereotypical wealthy nobleman of many a historical novel who spent an exorbitant amount of money and time drinking, gambling, and bedding numerous women. He was a bad boy Duke with the reputation to prove it. But it became very clear early on that Griffin had changed. Drastically. Something so traumatic happened that not only made him change his ways, but retreat from society as well.

The progression of their relationship is very organic, both acknowledging this undeniable attraction between them. Also their class difference is a very prominent plot point. While Pauline finds a future with Griffin impossible, he doesn’t. Neither does his mother. It’s not that they are ignoring society’s established rules, but their vast wealth enables them to do what they want. If you are the fourth richest man in all of England, making people like you probably isn’t necessary or a priority. Also, I love that Griffin repeatedly points out his past is far from exemplary.

I would be remiss to not mention Griffin’s mother, the Duchess of Halford, as I regard her as the very best of secondary characters in the Spindle Cove series. First impressions led me to believe she was going to be an overbearing woman, forcing her son to produce an heir for family and country. Happily, I was proven wrong in my assumptions. It was lovely to see a mother with genuine concern for her son’s future happiness, even if she couldn’t bring herself to tell him this directly. And despite being the well-bred English rose, she too has her own quirks and imperfections.

Any Duchess Will Do certainly has a “My Fair Lady” quality, as well as “Pretty Woman.” When Griffin confronts a London bookseller regarding his mistreatment of Pauline days earlier, you know how it is going to end. You know what’s coming and love it despite its predictability. Writing characters that readers come to know and love is Tessa Dare’s specialty. Many of the tropes used have been seen time and time again in historical romance, but it’s the characters, who make us laugh and cry, that make this series truly special.

For those who’ve read the entire Spindle Cove series, the epilogue ties everything in a lovely bow, giving readers’ one last glimpse into the lives of characters we came to know and love. If you haven’t read any of the series, might I suggest you start at the beginning with A Night to Surrender and move on from there? You won’t be disappointed.

Grade: A

You can read an excerpt here, and buy a copy here.

Review: A Bride by Moonlight by Liz Carlyle

Cheryl’s Review

A Bride by Moonlight by Liz Carlyle
Historical Romance released by Avon on February 26, 2013

Royden Napier, Baron Saint-Bryce, is tall, dark, and ruthless—and on the hunt for a dangerous beauty . . .

On the eve of her escape to the Continent, bold, beautiful Lisette Colburne accepts a proposal she dare not refuse: masquerade as the future bride of the steely-eyed Royden Napier and help him solve his most dangerous case. Soon Lisette is in even greater danger—of losing her heart to the one man with the power to destroy her . . .

Estranged from his aristocratic family, the enigmatic Napier has forged a reputation as Scotland Yard’s most relentless police commissioner. He’s vowed to bring Lisette to justice—but with every forbidden kiss and every tantalizing touch, he finds himself becoming less convinced of her guilt . . . and more certain he must have her. But when danger touches Lisette, can he save her?

It isn’t often I come across a romance where the hero is an assistant police commissioner for Scotland Yard, so I was immediately intrigued. What made this book even more tempting was a lawman who blackmails the heroine into posing as his betrothed. I snapped this one up, super excited for the adventure.

Lisette Colburne is my favorite kind of heroine. She’s a feisty redhead who is highly intelligent and extremely cunning when she needs to be. But most of all, she is a survivor. At a young age, she lost everyone dear to her. Shipped off to relatives in Boston, she learned the newspaper business from her uncle. Upon his passing, she returned to her native England, seeking revenge on the one man she held accountable for her great losses. She goes to drastic lengths, posing as a man and working for a London paper, all the while tracking her foe. Sadly, her backstory is far more exciting than her current situation of a 27 year old spinster who volunteers as a teaching assistant.

Royden Napier is the kind of man who sees most everything in black and white. But when he learns his father (the assistant police commissioner before him) may not have been the most honorable of men, his outlook begins to change and Royden is forced to admit he’s had a bit of a blindspot where his father is concerned. As you would expect any detective to be, he is smart, intuitive and has an ability to read others extremely well. A man who was raised to dislike the aristocracy comes to realize they might not be as bad as he one thought.

Admittedly, this is my first Liz Carlyle book, so perhaps if I’d read those that preceded it, I wouldn’t have been as lost in the first several chapters. A large cast of characters along with unexpected point of views created additional confusion. These opening chapters, albeit integral to the story, were work to read. Not until chapter four do Lisette and Royden have their first real interaction without the distraction of other characters. But I was immediately taken with them as I felt chemistry between the two leapt off the page.

However, it wasn’t long for my excitement to wane once again. After Royden and Lisette arrive at his family’s estate, they are soon separated, each focused on the mystery at hand. Again, another large cast of characters are introduced, understandably because the estate houses many of Royden’s relatives. As a result I found myself irritated when Royden would converse with one of his many cousin’s for pages and pages and Lisette would be busy with another relative. In my opinion, there was very little romance between the two. As a matter of fact, they spend a great deal of time purposely avoiding one another.

So somewhere in the middle of this all, I lowered my hopes as the romance became more of a subplot. Also, not having read the previously released title, I felt a certain couple were given far too much attention in the opening and ending of this book. Afterwards I looked up the book released prior to this one and found these people were indeed the hero and heroine of that title. If I’d read their story, perhaps I wouldn’t have minded their appearance as much. But as I haven’t read it, I found them to be a distraction.

In the end, it was a well written story with great cast of characters and a nice little mystery. It simply comes down to not enough romance for me. A real shame since I did so enjoy Lisette and Royden.

Grade: C-

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.