Tag Archives: Historical Romance

Review: Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

Devil in SpringDevil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
Historical romance released by Avon on February 21, 2017

An eccentric wallflower  . . .

Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger.

A cynical rake  . . .

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.

A perilous plot  . . .

After succumbing to Gabriel’s skilled and sensuous persuasion, Pandora agrees to become his bride. But soon she discovers that her entrepreneurial endeavors have accidentally involved her in a dangerous conspiracy—and only her husband can keep her safe. As Gabriel protects her from their unknown adversaries, they realize their devil’s bargain may just turn out to be a match made in heaven . . .

​Oh. My. God. You guys. So, Devil in Winter is one of my most favorite Lisa Kleypas novels – and probably one of my favorite romances across the board. So. When I learned there was a novel about Sebastian and Evie’s son … well. The anticipation was great. I have to say, Devil in Spring lived up to the hype. I haven’t read many historical romances the past few years, but after reading this one, I think I need to get back on that horse. Definitely I need to catch up on books one and two of the Ravenels series. (Cold-Hearted Rake, and Marrying Winterborne). Reading Devil in Spring made me happy. I read it in a few hours. I picked up the book and read until I got too hungry, grudgingly ate breakfast, and then went back to reading until the end. I already know I’ll be re-reading it. In fact, I read this book in print which should tell you something, because I’m pretty sure that literally I last read a print book in 2013. (It’s also why I’m not quoting anything –  because I didn’t mark pages.)​

Lady Pandora Ravenel is a delight. Truly she’s so self-deprecating, bright, fun, and lovely. Her splendid wry sense of humor … she’s someone you want to be friends with. (I wouldn’t mind being her either, really…) I loved her indomitable spirit. A tragic incident in her past has dictated her entire life, but despite that she does her best not to let it control her. In fact, she’s been cheeky even since that event. (No spoilers!) I loved how she “gravely” informs Gabriel that she’s “barely house broken.” I loved that Pandora warns Gabriel she walks in circles, which she actually does … and then most importantly, that he finds it charming! Pandora is so much herself, but she also takes into account the wants of others. She’s caring even while fiercely independent.

Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent​ is such a good guy. (But then what else would you expect from someone who grew up with Evie as a mother? And of course we all knew that Sebastian would be a wonderful father, once Evie settled him down.) Gabriel had been certain he wanted the perfect society wife. Not to love, but to take her place at his side as the future duke and duchess. Gabriel has always been very aware of the responsibilities – both current and future. He’s blessed and knows that he’s been blessed in life. I didn’t love the (to my mind minor) “proclivity” of his – it felt a bit as if it was trend jumping in romance world, but hey, maybe. It also did fit the narrative, so that made it ultimately ok with me. ​He’s always been image and socially conscious, and has seen how his father’s past affected both his father and him. Nevertheless, Gabriel gets to know Pandora quickly, and is just so taken with her. He’s smitten, and loves her desperately. He loves her more than she loves him, and is okay with it. [And real world nod – that’s what Joe Biden says about him/his relationship with his wife Jill! <3]

​I have to say that I wasn’t sure on the marriage, initially. The meet cute, as it were, and both characters reluctance. Pandora’s reluctance carries through, but Gabriel becomes “pro-marriage” very quickly. Specifically, pro-marriage to Pandora. He’s captivated by Pandora, but the instant attraction/want/need on his part was a smidge too much for me. ​However, I did really appreciate Pandora’s resistance to the institution of marriage. She has extremely valid concerns, and Gabriel understands them. There are a few times where he wants to argue with her, but realizes he can’t because she makes extreme sound and logical points. Gabriel’s acknowledgment of that won him major points. He also works to reassure Pandora that he wants her to remain her own person – as much as he can. I also liked the host of social issues Ms. Kleypas incorporated into the story so skillfully. The setting and time period were very important.

Now, another reason I accepted Gabriel being taken so quickly is because he has ample reason to adore Pandora. Of course duty and responsibility is a big part of want to marry her – but it’s not the reason. I loved that both families gave them an out. No matter the scandal, neither family wants their loved one to suffer for the rest of his or her life. That both Gabriel and Pandora were given a choice was so important. Not only does Pandora’s cousin (and family) want the best for her, you get the sense that Sebastian and Evie would’ve put a stop to things if they felt Pandora would have been miserable. Of course their initial concern is for their son, but they also care about their future daughter-in-law. Not just for her as a potential addition to the family, but as a person in general.

The “courtship” is condensed into a weeklong visit, but it’s described in detail, and Gabriel and Pandora get to spend a lot of time together.​ I really appreciated that Gabriel and Pandora got to know each other a bit before agreeing to the marriage. I loved that Gabriel, who has never really had to work for the attention or affection of the opposite sex found himself in such a foreign situation, desperately trying to convince Pandora that she wants to marry him. Or at least should. He’s charming, sweet, and a little devious. After all, no son of Sebastian’s would be entirely good. (Or of Evie’s either, because she’s got quite the naughty streak too.)

​Speaking of Sebastian and Evie, I loved their scenes – that they open the book, but don’t dominate it. They’re the parents everyone wants … or the couple everyone wants to be. Gabriel also knows that he was lucky to have them. It was so nice to read a book populated by good characters. Ones who appreciate what they have, and thankful for it. Pandora also appreciates the love and support that she has now from her family.​ And that both characters have families that are so understanding they allow the lovebirds to have time alone, to get to know each other, and fall in love. And when Evie tells Pandora about the fox cubs. I’m pretty sure if you look carefully, you can still see where my heart was ripped out and bleeding on the floor.

​It isn’t ​all just romance and emotion spilling everywhere – there’s a lot of humor too. Pandora’s “facts” – her willingness to tease both Gabriel and herself. (Her noting she can’t marry Gabriel because people will think she’s shallow.) All of Gabriel’s antics to capture Pandora’s attention. I loved that her mind never stopped and was everywhere all at once. I can relate perfectly. Gabriel also doesn’t get angry or arrogantly demand her focus – he appreciates the challenge that is his new wife. And more than meets it.

Ms. Kleypas does a masterful job at writing dynamic, nuanced characters that are strong, but not overbearing. They stand for themselves, but don’t bulldoze others. Nor do they have to. They’re human, and caring, emotional, loving, argumentative, difficult, and perfect as characters. ​​There were scenes that almost made me cry, but in the span of a few pages, I was snort laughing. Ms. Kleypas runs you through the gamut of emotions in Devil in Spring. I’m not a “huggy” person, but when I finished the book I considered hugging it. Because it was just so wonderful. Expectations met. Mischief managed. ​I can’t wait for the next story … but in the mean time, I’m definitely re-reading Devil in Spring and catching up on the Ravenels series.

Grade: A

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here (the mass market paperback is currently only $4.98!) or the kindle copy here.

Guest Review: Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

Paige’s review of Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Historical romance released by Avon in 1977, republished in 2016 as part of their Diamond Anniversary

ShannaFrom New York Times bestselling author Kathleen E. Woodiwiss comes one of her most iconic and beloved romances of all time…

A pact is sealed in secret behind the foreboding walls of Newgate Prison. In return for one night of unparalleled pleasure, a dashing condemned criminal consents to wed a beautiful heiress, thereby rescuing her from an impending and abhorred arranged union.

But in the fading echoes of hollow wedding vows, a solemn promise is broken, as a sensuous free spirit takes flight to a lush Caribbean paradise, abandoning the stranger she married to face the gallows unfulfilled.

Ruark Beauchamp’s destiny is now eternally intertwined with that of the tempestuous, intoxicating Shanna. He will be free . . . and he will find her. For no iron ever forged can imprison his resolute passion. And no hangman’s noose will keep Ruark from the bride— and ecstasy—that he craves.

Originally published in 1977, Shanna tells the tale of a spoiled little rich girl and the convicted criminal turned bondsman (which is a nicer way of saying “slave who works to pay off their debt and eventually can go free but are treated like trash by anyone with a title”) whom she marries in order to gain a name. Why does she do this? To get her father off her back, because she’s so spoiled that every man she meets, she finds fault with. She even rejects one because his shirt is fraying a bit at the edges.

When I told one of my friends that I was getting ready to read a Woodiwiss novel, she got super excited and told me that Ruark (how do you pronounce that, anyway?) was her very first book boyfriend and that I was just going to love him.

I didn’t. At all.

When we first meet him, he’s rude and gruff. I suppose it’s understandable because he’s in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit, and then after she strikes a bargain to marry him, she finds a way to screw him over (I told you she’s a spoiled brat). So, of course he’s pissed. But the thing is, he’s already calling her “my love.” How is that possible? He’s known her for what, a day? Sorry, I don’t buy instalove. Not even in historical romance. Or maybe especially in historical romance, because back then men were expected to court women for some time. Granted, this isn’t the typical HR, but still.

I was supposed to have this review to Lime by 5/28. It’s now 6/6. For that, I’m truly sorry, but it really did take me that long to read this book. Usually I can power through a novel in a single day (I read the last few Harry Potter books all on release day, making my roommate think I’m insane), but I had the worst time getting into this book. I didn’t really have much interest in the characters until about 70% into the book—after they’re captured by pirates and Shanna starts showing that she’s growing up a little bit, and she’s got some backbone.

For the life of me, I still don’t understand why Ruark loved her from the beginning. She was like a Katy Perry song. Hot one minute and cold the next. If I were him, I would’ve gladly walked away the first time she told me to sod off. I’m too old to play games. And (I know I already said it, but it bears repeating) she’s such a spoiled, childish, selfish brat! But apparently, her beauty excuses all that…or something. I swear, every single person that she came across in the book talked about how gorgeous she was. It got to the point where my eyes hurt from rolling so hard every time I read about her beauty. She was such a [expletive deleted] every time she got near Ruark that I wanted to slap the supposed pretty off her face. Every sexual encounter between Shanna and Ruark ended with her calling him names and accusing him of taking advantage of her. Um, there were quite a few times that she went to him, if I recall correctly. And she’s the one who struck the original bargain, which included them spending the night together “as husband and wife.” She screws him over, berates him, and teases him, denies him his rights as her husband even as she gets viciously jealous when he even looks at another female (though he’s so head-over-heels for her—for whatever reason—that he barely notices anyone else exists). What does he see in her?

At 672 pages, there is far too much book. I found myself skimming through the endless description of trees and landscape and clothing. I almost felt like I was reading the romantic version of Moby Dick. So. Many. Words. And it’s soooo slow.

I feel the need to draw attention to the insane amount of references to rape in the book. Performing a search on my Kindle, there are eight different instances where rape is mentioned (although that doesn’t count the times it’s referenced indirectly), most of which are Shanna afraid she’s about to be raped or Ruark talking or thinking about it. A few examples that I highlighted:

“It was all Ruark could do to hold in check the urges that flooded him and to keep himself from simple rape.”

“Madam, rape does have its rewards, even if they be one-sided.”

“She rose from the bed and sought cover, aware that she must garb herself or face the prospect of rape.”

“Perhaps she seeks from me some violence so she can have reason to hate me.” (Shanna is wearing a sexy nightgown found in the bedroom they’re essentially trapped in while they’re with the pirates.)

I was so disturbed by these casual mentions of rape that I talked about it with Lime. I also noticed that my friend who’d told me she loved Shanna was re-reading a Woodiwiss book as she took time off from her own work. I looked through the comments, and noticed that someone said the books were rather “rapey” but they still loved them. *jaw drops* Whaaaat?

If a book were written like this nowadays, the author would be slammed with hate mail and the book would receive a million one-star reviews. Long, ranty posts would appear on Facebook and on blog posts about the mistreatment of women in fiction and how rape is never okay—not even to joke about. But apparently, it was okay enough in 1977. As it stands now, Shanna has 3,536 five star reviews, 2,409 four star reviews, 1,365 three star reviews, 409 two star reviews, and 174 one star reviews. It boggles my mind that so many people loved this book so much. To each their own, I suppose, but I just can’t get behind a book that nearly bored me to death with a heroine that I wanted to stab in the throat, and a hero that was basically a doormat (who excused, if not glorified rape in his thoughts).

Going on Limecello’s grading scale, I’d give Shanna a D (can I give it a D- ?) only because the last 30% was slightly entertaining.

Grade: D

You can buy a copy here.

Guest Review: The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean

Liza’s review of The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean
Historical romance released by Avon on December 29, 2015

The Rogue Not TakenLady Sophie’s Society Splash

When Sophie, the least interesting of the Talbot sisters, lands her philandering brother-in-law backside-first in a goldfish pond in front of all society, she becomes the target of very public aristocratic scorn. Her only choice is to flee London, vowing to start a new life far from the aristocracy. Unfortunately, the carriage in which she stows away isn’t saving her from ruin . . . it’s filled with it.

Rogue’s Reign of Ravishment!

Kingscote, “King,” the Marquess of Eversley, has never met a woman he couldn’t charm, resulting in a reputation far worse than the truth, a general sense that he’s more pretty face than proper gentleman, and an irate summons home to the Scottish border. When King discovers stowaway Sophie, however, the journey becomes anything but boring.

War? Or More?

He thinks she’s trying to trick him into marriage. She wouldn’t have him if he were the last man on earth. But carriages bring close quarters, dark secrets, and unbearable temptation, making opposites altogether too attractive . . .

I’ve enjoyed Sarah MacLean’s books in the past so I was excited to get a new book from her. I wanted to learn more about Sophie Talbot and see if she could find her happiness. I absolutely love reading about a rogue in historical romances, and Kingscote, the Marquess of Eversley fit the bill completely.

I absolutely adored Sophie Talbot from the moment she hit the page. She is such a strong and protective character. She will do whatever it takes to protect her sisters and her family. I also love that she had the strength of character to know she didn’t want to remain in London and found a way to leave.  Sophie is extremely intelligent and her love of books on every subject only endeared her more to me. I did think that for such an intelligent woman, Sophie didn’t plan ahead very well and really was very naive in how she saw the world. I really felt like she saw much of the world through rose-colored glasses.

I’ll say right from the start that I didn’t love King when we first met him. I loved the idea of the rogue who ends engagements, but he was pretty much all about himself at first and it put me off him for a bit. Even though I didn’t love him in the beginning, I still saw his potential to be charming. I also really liked how quickly his protective nature seemed to kick in when it came to Sophie. He still remained a tool towards Sophie through much of the book, but I started to see there was more to his character the longer they were together. King will never be my favorite hero in a Sarah MacLean story, but I did feel like he redeemed himself enough in the end for me to at least like him.

The Rogue Not Taken was a very slow read for me. While the attraction was there between Sophie and King from pretty much the minute they met, it took so long for their relationship to move from constant nitpicking to something more. I did find many of the situations both Sophie and King got themselves into quite funny. In fact as the romance built so slowly for me, the humor is what kept me reading. I did love the more attracted King and Sophie became to one another the more they found ways of spending more time together. I need to point out that since I read more contemporary romances than historical romances, I have to remind myself most of the romantic build up is slower with a historical romance. I really did love the romance between King and Sophie once it moved from more than companions who just picked at each other like kids on a playground.

Overall, I enjoyed The Rogue Not Taken. I would definitely read more books by Sarah MacLean. In fact, I really want to know more about Sophie’s sisters and I somehow missed Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover, where Sophie was first introduced. While I had some issues with The Rogue Not Taken, I still would recommend it to other readers. I really enjoyed Sarah MacLean’s voice and look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

Grade: B-

You can buy a copy here.

Release Day Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: An Indecent Invitation by Laura Trentham

Hey friends – more misadventures and misfortunes abound, so expect even more oddly timed posts and playing fast and loose with time. However, not today! This was a long ago scheduled post with Laura Trentham! It’s Tuesday, and time for an exclusive excerpt so we can all bask in the comfort of regularly scheduled programming, and a lovely tease of an upcoming romance. And as you see, today is release day! So everyone enjoy the excerpt, and remember to congratulate Laura on her newest book being available to the world! Whee!

An Indecent InvitationKeeping her safe is difficult, keeping a proper distance from her is downright impossible.

Lady Lily Drummond understands only too well the danger of spy work. Her father, a preeminent master spy, has been missing for months, and her brother barely survived his final mission for the Crown. Lily is still determined to help find her father, no matter how hard her brother and his best friend try to keep her in the dark.

Busy trying to untangle the web of deceit surrounding the Earl of Windor’s disappearance, Crown spy Gray Masterson also has to ensure Lily Drummond, the gangly, awkward child who was his constant shadow growing up, doesn’t get herself ruined at her London debut. But the girl with scraped knees and elbows has evolved into a lush, sensual beauty surrounded by a bevy of suitors.

Realizing Lily is going to investigate on her own if he doesn’t let her join the hunt for her missing father, Gray assumes he can give Lily a few minor tasks to pacify her, but he quickly learns she is a valuable asset. Moreover, she fairly crackles with life and warmth—things he craves after his dark years in service.

Warning: This book contains spies, scandals, naughty liaisons in houses of ill repute, men who think they know everything and women who know they do not.

Gray offered his arm with a slight inclination of his head, and Lily tentatively laid her hand on his forearm, glancing up at him under her lashes. His faint smile seemed sly and had her biting her lip.

He guided her out the doors before her waffling conscience had a chance to protest. Instead of staying on the balustrade, safe with the other couples and smoking gentlemen, he led her down the steps and into the greenery, his hand clamped over hers, barring protest.

“Now then, a bit of privacy. Tell me, my lady, you never answered my question, has a gentleman won your favor?”

She snatched her hand away and withdrew a few paces. With only dim light cutting the shadows, Gray loomed. An innate fierceness, masked by the pomp of the ball, distilled into the darkness and surrounded her with ominous intent. Did she really know him after so long?

“An offer has been made but my brother is set to decline on my behalf.”

He stroked his bottom lip, and her eyes followed as if he were a mesmerist. “Have you enjoyed your introduction to the ton?”

“It’s been…entertaining.”

“That was a mere platitude. Tell me the truth.” He flipped her words, a smile playing behind his finger.

“The truth? It’s been disappointing. Most of the gentlemen have been like Montbatton, obsessed with horses or carriages or cravats. Do they think I give a jot about such things?”

“What do you give a jot about?” he asked with a hint of derisive amusement. “Embroidery? Balls? Dresses?”

“I care about the war. How men come back maimed everyday—body and spirit. How women are left widows to care for their children on almost nothing. How no one here—” she gestured back to the ballroom with her fan, “—seems to notice. Or care.”

Her words wiped the amusement from his face. He took a step forward, close enough to touch, but neither of them made a move. “You speak from experience.”

The darkness was now her friend, offering welcome camouflage. “My brother was horribly wounded.”

“He’s better now.” It was more statement than question.

“Is he? He drinks too much, wakes with nightmares too often, becomes angry with little provocation. He works himself into exhaustion every day to keep from falling into melancholy. I worry about him. What happens if I’m not there to bully him back to life?”

He squinted at the hedge as if it held deep wisdom. “Your brother is lucky to have you.”

“You’ve been in the fighting, haven’t you?”

His gaze travelled back to her face, and the moment stretched. “Yes.”

“Have you been injured?”

Again, he paused before whispering, “I have my share of scars.”

Now she did touch him, laying a hand on his forearm. He covered her hand with his, and for a mad moment, she wished neither of them wore gloves, wished she could entwine their bare fingers. Solid ground beckoned. This talk made her too vulnerable, and didn’t she have a part to play?

She pulled her hand from under his and forced out a false, jarring laugh. “I need to return, sir. My chaperone will surely have missed me by now, and there will be a list of gentleman I’ve disappointed.”

“Of course, let me escort you back inside.” He backed into a shaft of moonlight and waited with an outstretched hand. His hair shone black and he stood straight and strong. He had always been the stalwart port in the violent storm that was her father.

She took his hand, and he tugged her forward too quickly. Her toes tangled in the hem of her dress. She grabbed at his biceps for balance, the thick ropes of muscle flexing. His hands spanned her waist and then slid down to where her hips flared. The sensation set off a fine trembling in her knees.

Their faces were inches apart. Firm lips above a squarely masculine jaw caused her to worry her bottom lip with teeth and tongue. His nostrils flared, and in answer, she inhaled, his scent clean and woodsy. He had never smelled quite so appealing when she was a child.

He moved closer, and she parted her lips. Her brain held no sway. Her body completely ignored its instructions to push away, escape. Instead, her back arched, her face tilted up, and her hands roved over his shoulders. Her heart beat against the tight confines of her stays, trying to escape.

Was Gray going to kiss her? Did she want him to?

Her lungs pulled in much needed air, and on the exhale, she breathed his name.

The intimacy of his name disintegrated his befuddlement. Christ, had he lost all commonsense? First to pull her into him and then to almost kiss her? His body was charged for a full-out sensual assault, his hands ready to explore the too-tempting soft curves pressed into him. He thrust her away and snatched his hands back as if she had the plague.

He covered his confusion with menace. “Lily Drummond. Rafe would spank your bottom if he knew you’d accompanied a man to the gardens.”

“If he knew the man who lured me out was you?”

Her well-made point pierced like an arrow. “I was trying to teach you a lesson,” he said with pompous undertones.

“Perhaps I was trying to teach you one as well.” She sniffed and adjusted her gloves.

“What was that, pray tell?”

“Never steal a lady without first making sure you know her name.” She swept by and tapped him on the chest with her fan.

They walked side by side to the balustrade, but he didn’t offer an arm this time. “Obviously I’m a fool, but you’ve changed dramatically from the little girl I left at Wintermarsh.”

“It’s referred to as growing up,” she said pertly, but then sadness and accusation wove through her words. “If you had come to visit, my changed appearance wouldn’t be such a shock. Rafe needed you. Last autumn was horrid.”

Guilt was not an emotion he allowed lest it overwhelm him. It rose like bile just the same. “Do you not think I wanted to be there? To get Rafe home, I indentured myself to Sir Hawkins. The last eight months weren’t enjoyable for me either.”

She cut her eyes to him, her voice small. “Are you angry with me?”

He had to think on it. In disbelief, flummoxed, shocked, yes. But amused, entertained and fascinated as well. “Devil if I know why I’m not. You led me on quite a merry chase.”

Copyright © 2015 Laura Trentham
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication

So what’d you think? 😀 You can read another excerpt here or buy a copy here. Happy newest release, Laura, and congratulations on the newest Spies and Lovers book!

Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: An Unsuitable Duchess by Carolyn Jewel

Dancing in the Duke's ArmsAn Unsuitable Duchess by Carolyn Jewel The duke of Stoke Teversault has well earned his reputation for bloodless calculation. Indeed, recently widowed Georgina Lark has no idea he’s loved her since before her late husband swept her off her feet. Stoke Teversault means to keep it that way. The cold and forbidding duke and the blithe and open Georgina could not be less suited in any capacity. And yet, when Georgina and her sister arrive at his home, his ice-bound heart may melt away. Georgina Lark has never thought of the duke of Stoke Teversault as a man capable of inducing passion in anyone. He’s long disapproved of her, but she will be forever grateful to him for his assistance after her husband died. It’s been a year since she’s realized he’s not the man she thought. Can she convince him to open his heart to her?

An Unsuitable Duchess– excerpt from Chapter 12 by Carolyn Jewel, from the Anthology Dancing in the Duke’s Arms.

George tensed when she saw Stoke Teversault walking the path to the pond. She wished she hadn’t decided to come here, but she had and now it was too late to hide. She could be as cool as he could be. She would be.

It was her plan to pretend she’d not seen him, and then, when he saw her, he could decide to walk away. He would return to the house, and no one need admit that there was no repairing the break between them that had existed since the day she’d told him she was not in love with his brother.

She was prepared to have him avoid her as he had these past two days. He continued walking. Why? Why hadn’t he taken the chance when he’d had it? He was a clever man. He would know he could turn away. It wasn’t too late yet. She kept her eyes forward, but she could hear him coming nearer. Now, she thought. Now, he must realize he was at the very limit of where he could retreat with their pretense of ignorance intact.

Mrs. Lark.”

She did not love Lord William but that had not been enough to fix whatever had gone wrong. She would rather go back to his disdain of her than endure knowing she had made this painful for him. She hid the rest of the bread she’d cadged from the duke’s chef in her reticule. “Good morning, Your Grace.”

He stood on the path, unmoving.

She steeled herself, but the words she’d rehearsed a dozen times flew out of her head. “I wish I could fly or turn invisible. Or could travel back in time to never make a fool of myself.”

I beg your pardon.”

But I have. Made myself foolish to you, I mean. We shouldn’t have come. Kitty and I.” She sank into the drama that had overwhelmed her these past days. “I should never have let Lord William convince us to come here. I did so want Kitty to have a chance to meet fashionable people. With Hugh away, we don’t see many gentlemen worthy of her. I was selfish for I so wanted to see Teversault for myself. I ought to have known you would prefer we not come here.” She drew breath. “Therefore, I’ve decided that we shall leave.”

Mrs. Lark. There is no reason for you to leave. You have not troubled me in the least.”

She stared across the water, then looked at him, determined to make things right between them. “Except when you feared I meant to marry your brother.”

He held her gaze, and her stomach swooped. “I am a difficult man to know and more difficult to befriend, I’m told.”

I can’t think who’d dare tell you something like that.” The birds had stopped singing, as well they must. What creature would risk displeasing Stoke Teversault?

His smile was pained. “You needn’t leave on my account, unless what you mean to say is that you cannot tolerate me.”

She dug her toe into the gravel then realized she oughtn’t. “I did not say that.”

If you leave, I will think you believe it.”

She stared at him, perplexed. He was serious. She narrowed her eyes at him and then smiled and extended her hand to him. “Good morning, Your Grace. How delightful that you should decide to walk here at the same time I did.”

For the space of two heartbeats, he did not react. Then, he took her hand and bent over it. “A happy coincidence, indeed.”

Lovely morning, don’t you agree?” she said when he’d released her hand.

Yes.” He stood beside her and watched the water with her. The swans and several of the ducks had swum away one she’d stopped throwing them treats. “Not too warm.”

Not yet. Perhaps later, though.” She was going to learn how to behave with the duke if it killed her, and she thought it would. “I do prefer cooler weather. Don’t you?”

His arrival brought the birds to the edge of the pool, with the ducks being quite vocal.

Yes.” He drew a hunk of bread from his pocket. The noise from the birds increased. “Better for the nerves, one hears.”

Yes. Nerves.” She didn’t want to look at him but she did. He looked especially fashionable today, with his beaver hat and a greatcoat of chocolate wool. “One does wish to avoid a case of the nerves.”

He tore off bits of bread and tossed them onto the water. The swans floated close, necks arched gracefully. He turned his head to her, and she froze, and then hated herself for being caught in his gaze. His nose was too long and too boney, his cheeks too sharp, and his mouth was as hard as his heart. “Greedy beggars.”

Yes, they are.” She forced herself to reply when she’d rather stare at his face and ponder why she found him so attractive. “Beautiful, greedy beggars.”

He tore off more bits of bread and extended a handful to her. “Would you like to feed them?”

George opened her reticule and took out the bread she’d shoved inside. She held it up. “I came prepared.”

Chef muttered something about nice fat ducks this morning.” He laughed and tossed his handful of crumbs onto the water. “When I am in residence, I cannot bear to think of not bringing them something in the morning.”

Why don’t you instruct the staff to make sure they get something?”

He hesitated, then said, “I do.” His features returned to hard nonchalance, while she took her turn tossing bits of bread. “I believe you’re wrong about my brother.”

What do you mean?”

He is fond of you.”

As I am fond of him.”

More than he is of any other.”

You’ve no cause for worry.” She put a hand on his upper arm, and he glanced at her, one eyebrow arched. “It’s very odd to me, but nevertheless true, that though Lord William is handsome, unfairly so, I should say, I feel no spark of…” How frank should she be? Enough, she understood, to put his fears to rest. “There is no attraction between us. I believe I ought to feel something in that nature, for what woman would not find in him much to admire?” She lifted her hands in a gesture of her helplessness in the face of such facts. “Yet…”

Review: Never Judge a Lady by her Cover by Sarah MacLean

Never Judge a Lady by her Cover: The Fourth Rule of Scoundrels by Sarah MacLean
Historical Romance released by Avon on November 25, 2014

Never Judge a Lady by Her CoverBy day, she is Lady Georgiana, sister to a duke, ruined before her first season in the worst kind of scandal. But the truth is far more shocking—in London’s darkest corners, she is Chase, the mysterious, unknown founder of the city’s most legendary gaming hell. For years, her double identity has gone undiscovered . . . until now.

Brilliant, driven, handsome-as-sin Duncan West is intrigued by the beautiful, ruined woman who is somehow connected to a world of darkness and sin. He knows she is more than she seems, and he vows to uncover all of Georgiana’s secrets, laying bare her past, threatening her present, and risking all she holds dear . . . including her heart.

Ten years after her ruination, Lady Georgiana has re-entered society in hopes of finding a suitable husband. Not that she really wants to be married. Instead, Georgiana wishes to marry a titled gentleman to secure her daughter’s future and the life she might someday want.

Duncan West, the powerful owner of five London papers, knows a great story when he sees one and Georgiana’s search for a husband is bound to be great copy. But after innocently discovering one of Georgiana’s identities, Duncan sees an opportunity to finally escape his own buried secrets from his past. In exchange, his publications are at her disposal while searching for a husband.

Their bargain is dangerous, yet necessary. Duncan is considered to be the most powerful man in all of London, second only to the mysterious owner of the Fallen Angel, Chase. One slip in this game of cat and mouse could reveal too much and result in each losing everything. For Duncan, it is his empire of publications. For Georgina, her gaming hell.

Their relationship is one of mutual respect and admiration. Their conversations are witty and intelligent and sexy. And the chemistry between the two is straight up combustible.

But as with any good romance, smart people aren’t always so smart, so of course her fellow scoundrels recognize they’ve each found their perfect match long before our hero and heroine. Even better, her business partners have no problem with teasing Georgiana mercilessly about it.

She looked down at her cards, cheeks hot. “I hate you.”

Which one of us?” Temple asked, playing a card.

All of you.”

It’s a pity, as we are your only friends,” Bourne said.

It was true. “And asses every one of you.”

They say you can tell a man by his friends,” he replied.

It is a good thing I am a woman,” she said, discarding.

MacLean manages to fill in all the gaps and wrap up all the loose ends of not only this series, but that of her Love by Numbers series. All those characters readers have come to know and love have their happy ending. With one exception – Caroline. And I have faith MacLean will remedy that situation in the future.

Grade: A

You can buy a copy here.

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.