Tag Archives: Avon

Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: The Duke of Dark Desires by Miranda Neville

You guys!!! Today we have the always fabulous Miranda Neville visiting with us today! She’s got a super exciting new book coming out on December 30th (yes, only a week away) – and The Duke of Dark Desires has gotten a lot of good buzz. And even the guy(s) at NPR are reading it! No shit!

See? Ok so it’s from an article about [a burger] from Shake Shack … but doesn’t that kinda make it more awesome?

Ok, so you know, the book information now – which is why you’re all here. 😉

The Duke of Dark DesiresWanted: Governess able to keep all hours . . .

Rebellious Julian Fortescue never expected to inherit a dukedom, nor to find himself guardian to three young half-sisters. Now in the market for a governess, he lays eyes on Jane Grey and knows immediately she is qualified—to become his mistress. Yet the alluring woman appears impervious to him. Somehow Julian must find a way to make her succumb to temptation . . . without losing his heart and revealing the haunting mistakes of his past.

Desired: Duke skilled in the seductive art of conversation . . .

Lady Jeanne de Falleron didn’t seek a position as a governess simply to fall into bed with the Duke of Denford. Under the alias of Jane Grey, she must learn which of the duke’s relatives is responsible for the death of her family—and take her revenge. She certainly can’t afford the distraction of her darkly irresistible employer, or the smoldering desire he ignites within her .

But as Jane discovers more clues about the villain she seeks, she’s faced with a possibility more disturbing than her growing feelings for Julian: What will she do if the man she loves is also the man she’s sworn to kill?

Jane found Oliver Bream thoroughly amusing. She couldn’t take his declaration of passion seriously, and wondered how good an artist he was. The duke didn’t strike her as a man who would accept inferior performance in anyone he hired. Then she thought of the way he’d engaged her as governess with the slimmest of qualifications. On second thought Bream might be a complete incompetent.

“Does the duke buy your pictures?” she asked.

“Oh no! Julian would never do that.”

“What happened to the pictures in here?” She pointed at six dark rectangles in the paint where art had been removed. “There are similar marks all over the house.”

“One of the dukes was a patron of Hogarth. If that’s what hung there it is a tragedy. Julian’s taste in painting is execrable.”

“Maligning me again, Oliver?”

The sight of him in the doorway, color heightened by exercise and his black hair so disheveled she itched to sweep it off his forehead, made the slight, fair-haired artist fade from her consciousness. Denford grinned at Bream with an unveiled affection that presented a new facet of the dark duke, and a most appealing one. Not that she needed a new reason to find him attractive.

“Julian!” Bream said. “I’ve been making the acquaintance of Miss Grey. She is a goddess, an Aphrodite or Artemis.” He showed no embarrassment at speaking in such extravagant terms, and the duke merely cast his eyes heavenward. Jane would have done the same but she didn’t want to hurt Bream’s feelings. He was quite harmless, she was sure, and she wasn’t a woman to object to being addressed like this. She knew men, Denford included, found her beddable; she also knew that she wasn’t a great beauty.

“What is your name, Miss Grey? I cannot think of you like that. It’s such a barren name. I’m sure your Christian name reflects your matchless beauty.”

“I am afraid it is Jane.”

“Never mind. You need no adornment. From this day forth, Jane is the finest of names and shall belong only to you.”

“There may be a few thousand ladies who will object.” She stole a look at Denford to share her appreciation of the nonsense.

Their glance of amusement turned hot and dark. She wrenched her eyes away and sipped her cooling tea.

“Are you in love again, Oliver?” the duke said.

“I have never been in love before, never! Jane has made me forget every other woman.”

“Doubtless true, until the next one comes along. I don’t wish to make light of your charms, Miss Grey, but I think I should mention that Oliver finds a new object of his adoration on average once a week. If his passion for you lasts a month you can claim to have inspired an exceptional degree of devotion. Héloïse and Abélard, Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice and Dante, Oliver and Jane. You will join the list of the world’s most celebrated lovers.”

Jane couldn’t help it. She started to laugh. Fortunately Bream seemed undisturbed, merely continuing to gaze at her as though moonstruck. “I am honored to have inspired you, Mr. Bream,” she said, shooting a duke a warning look. “I shouldn’t laugh but His Grace is quite droll in his way. Please believe that I do not mean to mock you.”

“Don’t worry, Jane. I’m quite used to Julian and never take the least notice of him.”

“True enough,” the duke said.

“Your Grace,” Jane said. “I have a request if you can spare me a few minutes.”

“I do hope it’s one I’ll enjoy fulfilling. If so, I’ll agree to anything.”

“I doubt this matter will affect your pleasure either way.”

“You disappoint me again. Oliver, just this once do what I ask and leave. Go up to the Blue Saloon to prepare for your pupils. I need to speak to Miss Grey.”

“My request is not a private one.”

“You’ve made that perfectly clear, alas. Go, Oliver.”

“You will be coming, Jane, won’t you?”

“Of course, Mr. Bream. I won’t be long. The young ladies will be down soon with their drawing materials.”

She watched him go with some trepidation, leaving her alone with Denford. He took a place at the table and, as though he had all the time in the world, poured himself some coffee. She ought to be safe from her unruly desires at nine o’clock in the morning with the humdrum accouterments of breakfast spread on the table; nevertheless she averted her eyes from his lips on the rim of the china cup.

“Oliver doesn’t always show such good taste,” he remarked. “The array of women he has loved in the five or six years I’ve known him is positively dizzying. They have only one trait in common: that of being unattainable. Women always seem able to resist him.”

“What makes you think I could? Mr. Bream is a very agreeable young man. For all you know he could be the kind of man I prefer.”

“No, he isn’t.”

“What kind of man do you think I prefer?”

She peeked at him from lowered eyelids and found him staring at her with a wolfish smile. “The matter is still under investigation but I am making progress. You are flirting with me.”

“I am not!” But she was, of course. Dalliance should be the last thing on her mind, especially with a member of the Fortescue family. She stiffened her spine and tried to think like a governess. “Last night,” she began, “I was up late.”

“Do go on. Your bedtime habits interest me greatly.”

“I found Laura crying in bed.”

“Oh.”

“She was well, thank you for your concern, merely missing her mother. But had she been ill no one would have known. Miss Bride was, as usual, in a drunken stupor.”

“Is this your request, that I dismiss Bridey? I won’t do it. For your information, Miss Grey, Bridey suffers badly from rheumatism. If she were a fine lady maybe she’d dose herself with laudanum. It happens she prefers a nip of whiskey to make the aches and pains of age easier to bear at night.”

“Not just at night, but that’s not the point. I wouldn’t presume to recommend you dismiss one of your servants. I was going to suggest, rather, that I sleep up in the nursery, where I can keep an eye on your sisters’ well-being.” She didn’t mention that this morning she’d been woken on Laura’s bed by the sound of Fenella trying to sneak out. She didn’t want to get the girl in trouble again. “They need more attention than Nurse Bride can give them.”

“You can give them attention when they aren’t asleep.”

His patent indifference raised her hackles. “They are your sisters,” she said, striving for calm. “They would appreciate more attention from you too.”

“I promised to take them to the theater, didn’t I? Under certain circumstances.”

“Your Grace,” she said, as politely as she could. “I am asking you for permission to move to the nursery floor. It’s more suitable than the room you gave me.”

“You don’t like your quarters?”

“Of course I like them. Who would not?”

“Then keep them. I’ll hire a maid for the nursery to watch the girls at night. Better still, you choose someone. You’ll have to work with her. Pick someone alert.”

“The rooms you gave me should belong to your duchess, not to a governess.”

“Since I have no duchess, it pleases me to have you use them.”

“I’ll be honest, Your Grace. I do not feel at ease in the rooms adjacent to yours. The door between the dressing rooms is locked, but I don’t have the key. I presume you do.”

“I thought I’d made myself clear last night,” Denford said with a look that made her think it better not to arouse his enmity, “but apparently it bears repeating in daylight. You have nothing to fear from me. I am not interested in unwilling women and you may sleep in peace, knowing that I have no intention of using that door.”

“Good,” Jane said. There wasn’t much more she could say or do, apart from speaking to herself very firmly about wishing the door to remain closed. “Now I must go. It’s time for the lesson, and I shouldn’t leave the young ladies alone with Mr. Bream.”

“Heaven forbid,” the duke said, pouring more coffee. “He’s a danger to all womankind.” She turned her back smartly, but he called to her when she was halfway to the door.

“One more thing, Jane. Should you decide to knock on my door, I will welcome you in.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Yeah? What’d you think?

Make sure you check out Miranda’s super sleek sexy awesome site while you’re at it. Especially since you can read another excerpt here, in case you weren’t convinced yet. We’ll wait. … Ok done? Now go buy a copy. 😀

TBR Challenge Review: I Married the Duke by Katharine Ashe

I Married the Duke by Katharine Ashe
Historical romance published by Avon Romance on August 27, 2013

Arabella Caulfield, one of three orphaned sisters, has clung to an ancient gypsy prophecy as the only way to save her family from endless heartbreak. Now she has twelve days to reach a remote French castle and fulfill her destiny: to marry a prince.

Along the way, Arabella meets Lucien Westfall, decorated naval captain and the new Duke of Lycombe. She thought he was a pirate. He thought she was a governess. Two wrongs have never made such a scandalously perfect right.

(And because I feel the blurb on Katharine’s page better describes the book…)

She thought he was a pirate. He thought she was a governess. Two wrongs have never made such a scandalously perfect right.

On the way to marry a prince in a castle a lady should never:

Bribe an infuriatingly arrogant and undeniably irresistible ship captain,
Let him kiss her senseless on a beach,
Battle assassins at his side, or
Exchange wedding vows with him, even under the direst circumstances.

But daring, determined Arabella Caulfield isn’t just any lady. And Luc Westfall is no ordinary shipmaster. He’s the new duke of Lycombe, and to defeat a plot that could destroy his family he must have an heir. Now he knows just the woman for the job . . . and he’s not above seduction to turn this would-be princess into a duchess.

Confession – this month I messed up 🙂 I had the prompt in my calendar, and it says “Western: Contemporary or Historical” – but I only hovered over the date and saw “or historical” so … >.> I thought general historicals were on the table. Nevertheless it was a happy mistake, because I “rediscovered” historicals. I’ve been wanting to read a book by Katharine Ashe, and I Married the Duke was one more recently added to my calibre library. Kismet!

Arabella Caulfield is a fantastic heroine. She’s so practical and determined, very rational and realistic … and yet her whole driving force is something a gypsy woman told her when she was a child. It’s a great juxtaposition. Bella is written with such depth and just comes alive from the page. In a way, Bella provides for her family and is the most pragmatic. She knew what she wanted, and went for it, through schooling, her making money to support her family, and becoming a finishing governess. On the other hand, she’s determined to marry a prince. It’s just so out there, that I didn’t (couldn’t?) really think about it. Bella is so friendly I just loved her. The fact that she’s willing to throw Luc’s words back in his face, and take matters into her own hands is also great. It’s hard to explain, but Arabella is how you want every romance heroine to be – unique, her own person, smart, and human.

Lucien Westfall is quite the hero. (I love an understatement, don’t you?) He’s a pirate, a future duke, a former officer in the navy, a rogue, and an all around marshmallow. I loved him. He’s so capable, yet flawed, inept, but amazing. As you can see, Ms. Ashe does a great job developing her characters. Luc has a wicked sense of humor which is compounded by the company he keeps. I liked that Luc isn’t arrogant, despite the fact that everyone expects him to be the duke (and in fact begin addressing him as such). Luc is rather wicked, and actually starts out brusquely with Bella. So much in fact that for a little bit I questioned if he actually was the hero or not. It was a nice take, and really fit with the story. He of course also has a hero-complex, which fit.

There’s just so much about this story that’s woven into the plot I’m having a hard time not talking about it. (My own rules, I know!) I loved the fact that this book stands alone, and has its own “happily ever after.” However, it is clearly part of a series, and the overarching story is not yet finished (and should be at the conclusion of the trilogy, as there are three sisters, and it is driving me crazy.) The prologue is interesting, but I was pretty skeptical about it. It also leads to so many questions. I know Arabella has the goal of marrying a prince, and at the beginning of the book she’s on her way to meet one … but also as a career move – he’s hired her. It’s this mix of prudence and fantasy. Which I suppose any good romance is.

I have to admit, I looked at the cover, and the cover quote is from Lisa Kleypas. She wrote “Katharine Ashe writes with eloquence and power.” The eloquence I could figure, but the “power” really caught my attention. Having read this book, I see it. Ms. Ashe tells a compelling story, with excellent writing. The characters are so dynamic, with a great dialogue and banter. The pacing and flow is perfect. I’m just so annoyed it’s only the first book in the series because I hate waiting. I’m so impatient to see how the story ends, because there are so many questions. The girls’ origin, the ring, what prince, and there are still two books to go! If anyone has read it, I’d love to discuss with you in the comments what pairings you suspect, because I have an idea or two.

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Clearly, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical romances, and in fact, anyone who enjoys romances in general. I’ve already told a friend to read it. If the gypsy aspect makes you skeptical – go with it. I think you’ll be really happy.

Grade: A-

You can buy a copy here or read an excerpt 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.

TBR Challenge Review: Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost

Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost
Paranormal romance released by Avon on March 26, 2013

Dating the Prince of Darkness has its challenges…

Leila’s psychic abilities have been failing her, and now she isn’t sure what the future holds. If that weren’t enough, her lover Vlad has been acting distant. Though Leila is a mere mortal, she’s also a modern woman who refuses to accept the cold shoulder treatment forever–especially from the darkly handsome vampire who still won’t admit that he loves her . . .

Like choosing between eternal love and a loveless eternity . . .

Soon circumstances send Leila back to the carnival circuit, where tragedy strikes. And when she finds herself in the crosshairs of a killer who may be closer than she realizes, Leila must decide who to trust– the fiery vampire who arouses her passions like no other or the tortured knight who longs to be more than a friend? With danger stalking her every step of the way, all it takes is one wrong move to damn her for eternity . . .

I really enjoyed Once Burned, and I was really excited when I learned Twice Tempted would be out this year. I liked Vlad when he had cameo appearances in Ms. Frost’s other books. (I actually haven’t read the Cat and Bones books, but liked her spinoffs a lot.) Anyway despite not liking series (especially ones that don’t really stand alone), nor first person point of view, I was into this book. (What faint praise, eh?)

Leila is an incredibly strong heroine. We’d already seen this in Once Burned, but here I liked that Ms. Frost took it to the max. Leila is the heroine everyone wants to read about, and wants to be. She has the strength to make difficult decisions, and not to settle. But, beyond having self worth and a clear idea as to her own importance and identity, she’s considerate. Leila is willing to admit when she’s wrong, and make concessions. Leila isn’t a wilting female, but she isn’t stupid about it either. (She might risk herself, but it isn’t necessarily reckless, or thoughtless.) I say this because her powers take a massive toll on her throughout this book.

Vlad is, well… Dracula – although nobody can call him that – of course. I felt, however, that he wasn’t as developed in this book. So much of what happens between him and Leila is implied, or hidden. While I love heroine centric books, it seems that Vlad almost faded from notice at times. His deeply possessive nature is entertaining, and a bit thrilling, but I just felt I would have liked to see a bit more from and about him. Vlad made huge sweeping romantic gestures, but they simply didn’t have the massive impact or thrill I might have expected.

I don’t know what it is about this book. There were emotional moments. Some when I almost got a bit teary, a few when I chuckled out loud. Leila is so real. And her inner (evil) voice of self doubt is something I think we can all relate to. And yet, something about it just felt… off to me. I know a lot of people loved it – but also that to some people, Vlad’s spinoff has been disappointing.

I’m in the camp that likes it, and will probably re-read it (although I will say I liked Once Burned a lot more…) but I really want this all to be done with by book three. Enough. Even though I really do like Vlad and Leila. So this is me crossing my fingers and hoping. I’d love to see them visit future books, with more than cameos, but these two need resolution. I think also because the “villain” in this case was minor. I know Leila and Vlad’s relationship needed a lot of developing, but it almost seemed secondary.

Twice Tempted is definitely a book I enjoyed reading. It’s a good book, and I happily recommend it to people who like Jeaniene Frosts’ paranormals. Even for people who like paranormal romances in general. (Although in this case I think reading the first book in the series is crucial. Even all the other spinoffs would be helpful, especially Mencheres’s story, Eternal Kiss of Darkness. However, personally, if Vlad and Leila’s doesn’t end with a third book, I might be tapping out. We’ll see. (Or, at the least, I’ll be waiting until the series ends to read all the books at once.)

Grade: C+

You can read an excerpt here or 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.

Review: One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean

Cheryl’s Review

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean
Historical romance released by Avon on January 29, 2013

Lady Philippa Marbury is . . . odd

The brilliant, bespectacled daughter of a double marquess cares more for books than balls, for science than the season, and for laboratories than love. She’s looking forward to marrying her simple fiancé and living out her days quietly with her dogs and her scientific experiments. But before that, Pippa has two weeks to experience all the rest—fourteen days to research the exciting parts of life. It’s not much time, and to do it right she needs a guide familiar with London’s darker corners.

She needs . . . a Scoundrel

She needs Cross, the clever, controlled partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, with a carefully crafted reputation for wickedness. But reputations often hide the darkest secrets, and when the unconventional Pippa boldly propositions him, seeking science without emotion, she threatens all he works to protect. He is tempted to give Pippa precisely what she wants . . . but the scoundrel is more than he seems, and it will take every ounce of his willpower to resist giving the lady more than she ever imagined.

Almost three years ago, a friend called me after reading Sarah MacLean’s Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake telling me I must absolutely read this book. “You’ll love it!” she said. I’m happy to say she wasn’t wrong. Since that time, Sarah MacLean has been on my automatic buy list.

Pippa Marbury is almost too smart for her own good. The kind of woman who is certainly book smart, but isn’t the most intelligent of people when it comes to common sense. As a result she often speaks to people she shouldn’t, goes places she shouldn’t, and puts herself in situations she should avoid at all costs. She speaks plainly to others and wants nothing more than the same in return when she asks a question. She often asks those beneath her social standing to use her first name instead of her title and she’s also unwilling to pass judgment on others based simply upon society’s beliefs. It’s not that she doesn’t comprehend the societal proprieties, it’s that she doesn’t really give a damn. While some readers might find her to be naïve, I prefer to think she’s a woman ahead of her time.

Cross, a ginger-haired accountant and no-good second son of an Earl, is a man haunted by irreparable mistakes in his past. While his backstory as the disappointing spare isn’t all that original in historical romance, I do like how he has worked hard to reform himself well before the heroine arrives on scene. As co-owner of The Falling Angel, Cross has appointed himself protector of the women who work there, even helping those who wish to get out of the profession find work elsewhere. He is a good man doing his best to remain on the straight and narrow. Unfortunately for him, Pippa tempts him, not only physically but intellectually at each and every turn.

While the attraction between Pippa and Cross is present from the beginning, the romance develops at a snail’s pace. But when one considers the fact Cross’s business partner is Pippa’s brother-in-law, and that Pippa is to be married in a matter of days, their reluctance to act on their feelings makes sense. MacLean makes the most of the pacing, maxing out the sexual tension by repeatedly throwing both characters into the face of temptation.

“Tell me, Lady Philippa.” He raised a hand, one finger lingering at the indentation of her upper lip, a hairsbreadth from touching her. “In your study of anatomy, did you ever learn the name of the place between the nose and the lip?”

Her lips parted, and she resisted the urge to lean toward him, to force him to touch her. She answered on a whisper. “The philtrum.”

He smiled. “Clever girl. It is Latin. Do you know its meaning?”

“No.”

“It means love potion. The Romans believed it was the most erotic place on the body. They called it Cupid’s bow, because of the way it shapes the upper lip.” As he spoke, he ran his finger along the curve of her lip, a temptation more than a touch, barely there. His voice grew softer, deeper. “They believed it was the mark of the god of love.”

She inhaled, low and shallow. “I did not know that.”

He leaned down, closer, his hand falling away. “I’d be willing to wager that there are any number of things about the human body that you do not know, my little expert. All things that I would happily teach you.”

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover definitely meets all my requirements for a great romance. More than once I caught myself laughing out of pity for poor Cross and his having to deal with a very inquisitive, very intelligent, very frustrating woman. Then there were heart wrenching moments when Pippa believed no man would ever be attracted to her due to her oddness. And as if that weren’t enough, MacLean throws in a good dose of angst, more than once leaving me to wonder if these two were going to have their happily ever after.

While this is the second book in the series, I don’t think it is absolutely necessary to read the first one. But why would you want to skip Penelope and Bourne’s story? Enjoy both I say! I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading the next in the series.

Grade: B+

You can buy a copy here.

Review: Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase

Liz’s Review

Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase
Historical romance released by Avon on June 16, 2012

From the Journals of Sophia Noirot: A dress is a weapon. It must dazzle his eye, raise his temperature . . . and empty his purse.

A blue-eyed innocent on the outside and a shark on the inside, dressmaker Sophy Noirot could sell sand to Bedouins. Selling Maison Noirot’s beautiful designs to aristocratic ladies is a little harder, especially since a recent family scandal has made an enemy of one of society’s fashion leaders. Turning scandal to the shop’s advantage requires every iota of Sophy’s skills, leaving her little patience for a big, reckless rake like the Earl of Longmore. The gorgeous lummox can’t keep more than one idea in his head at a time, and his idea is taking off all of Sophy’s clothes.

But when Longmore’s sister, Noirot’s wealthiest, favorite customer, runs away, Sophy can’t let him bumble after her on his own. In hot pursuit with the one man who tempts her beyond reason, she finds desire has never slipped on so smoothly . . .

I haven’t ever read anything by Loretta Chase before, mainly because her genre is historical and that’s not my go-to (…which is paranormal.  Now, if she wrote about werewolves at balls wearing the latest fashions from London, I might jump right on that!).  But once I read the description and saw the gorgeous cover, I wanted to check it out.  I follow several discussion boards about romance books and Loretta’s have come up time and again, so when I had an opportunity to get an ARC of one of her books, it was no contest.

Sophy Noirot is adorable.  I absolutely loved her character.  She was a clever mix of innocent maiden and sultry temptress.  She was used to seeing skin as a dressmaker, and her sister Marcelline is married and has shared secrets of the bedroom with her, but other than kissing, she’s still an untried woman.  In a time when women fainted frequently and spectacularly, Sophy is a breath of fresh air.  She dons costumes and crashes high class affairs to spy for a gossip rag, she only faints when she needs to create a distraction, and she is fiercely protective and loyal to her sisters and their business.  When Clara, the sweet, extremely innocent younger sister of Harry Longmore finds herself in an incredibly compromising position, Sophy shows herself to be witty, selfless, and willing to do anything to see all their problems solved.

Harry Longmore is a rake.  I love that word when it describes a man in a historical novel.  It brings to mind all sorts of seedy, naughty things.  But the truth is that I really didn’t know what the term meant so I had to look it up.  I was positive that Longmore was a rake, but I had to make sure.  Turns out…it’s a perfect word for him.  A rake, which I’m sure you historically-reading folks know, is a man that’s wanton, loose, corrupt and many other fun things.  Basically, a male whore.  Good times!  But underneath the gorgeous visage, the tailored clothing, and the unashamed way he plays with women, is a man who loves his family and will do anything for them.  And he’s completely entranced by Sophy from the start.  When the book shifts to his point of view, we’re treated to his hilarious inner monologue as he argues with himself about his self control where Sophy is concerned, and his growing feelings for her.  Charming and protective with a wry sense of humor, he’s a great leading man.

The most innocent of the women in the story is Longmore’s sister Clara.  So innocent!  I loved her, I felt sorry for her, I wanted to stand up to the rogue who put his hands on her myself!  When she runs away, I admired her courage even as I cringed knowing just how unprepared she would be for the real world.  But the very act of running away spoke volumes about one woman who had enough of polite society telling her what she could and couldn’t do with her body, and who she could do those things with.

Sophy’s sisters are background players but important to Sophy, not only as her business partners but as her family.  Marcelline and the youngest, Leonie, help Sophy as she and Longmore set out to find Clara and bring her home and fix the awful mess she found herself in.  And little Fenwick, the pocket-picking orphan that Sophy takes under her wings is charming and endearing.  I loved his cockneyed accent, the way he used an “f” in place of “th”, so he would say “fings” instead of “things”.  Longmore spends a good bit of time correcting the poor boy.  Sophy uses him to spy around town in exchange for giving him a place to stay and food to eat.  His addition to the adults in the story was funny and added another layer to an already colorful cast of characters.

Sophy, as a dressmaker, is privy to the highest fashion and the descriptions of her outfits were vividly painted.  I could picture the lace and bows, the billowy sleeves and the outrageous hats.  I’m really glad I didn’t live in a time when I had to have so many layers on!  What an ordeal to get dressed and undressed.

While I often say that I won’t read historical novels, I do actually have a few good reasons for it.  One, I don’t like to read stories where the heroine is a virgin.  They squick me out and I find them (often) hilariously overrated.  We should all be so lucky (but I digress).  And I really don’t like reading about the time in history when double standards were so ridiculous.  I loved that Loretta broached this very subject during a conversation between Sophy and Longmore, when she suggested that he took advantage of her by being such a good kisser and she was overwhelmed.  How easy it would be for him to do something to her to “ruin” her in public, when she was dizzy from being kissed so well.  This double standard is what bothers me about historical novels, that a man can feel up a woman and walk away unscathed with only the “rake” moniker as a warning to future women, but the woman herself is sometimes forced to marry said rake to save her good name and that of her family.  I know that this is historically accurate, but it’s part of why I don’t (usually) read novels from this time period.  I’ll take books after women’s lib for $500, Alex.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel.  Once I opened the book, I found myself completely entranced with the world that Loretta spun and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The characters were well developed, the descriptions of the people, clothing, and journey were amazing, and the plight of not only Sophy but her sisters and Clara were engaging.  I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

Grade: B+

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