“This Fierce Splendor” by Iris Johansen

STORY: Ever since she was a little girl, Elspeth MacGregor has dreamed of completing her father’s quest to find the legendary lost city of Kantalan. After poring over textbooks, atlases, and tribal legends, Elspeth knows everything there is to know about the ancient metropolis—except how to reach it. Now she’s made the journey to Hell’s Bluff, Arizona, in search of the man who may be her last hope of reaching Kantalan, despite his dangerous reputation . . . or maybe because of it.

The last thing Dominic Delaney needs is to lead some stubborn scholar around on a wild goose chase. A wanted man, Dominic has never had time for fairy tales. But there’s something about Elspeth’s fiery determination that has him willing to suspend disbelief . . . and something about Dominic that has Elspeth falling for the wrong man. Now, to reach the magnificent riches of Kantalan, the mismatched pair must first conquer the dark mysteries of desire.

REVIEW: How in the world did I ever miss this book by Iris Johansen?! And not just this story, but all the Delaney stories. I always loved Ms. Johansen’s writing but it has been quite awhile since I’ve read any of her books, and now that I’ve been reintroduced to her, I’ll make sure to hunt down her back list.

This book has been originally printed by Bantam Books in 1988 and it is being offered to us by Loveswept from August 8 (sold by Random House Digital, Inc.) and I couldn’t have been gladder about it. I am hoping they’ll offer us the series in Kindle format.

Our heroine of this story is Elspeth MacGregor, bookish girl who grew up with her father, the scholar. For the longest time she’s helped her father with his discoveries, notably the discovery of the lost city of Kantalan. After her father’s passing she decides to leave her home in Scotland and embark on an adventure an ocean away and a quest to prove the existence of this long forgotten city. In order for her to succeed in this attempt she needs and is in a search of one man who can guide her to it and his name is Dominic Delaney.

Dominic Delaney knows he is a hunted man. Years ago, he killed a young man in a fair gunfight, but family of that man, he knows, will never let him be. And because of that, Dom, even after the pardon he receives from the Law, he knows that he must stay away from everything and everyone that is dear to him. Hell’s Bluff, Arizona, is his home now, and life spent drinking, whoring and playing cards is all he knows of late.

The story of how this hard, cynical and at times brutish man falls in love with a plain, yet very passionate woman is one not to be missed. The author spares us nothing by taking us on an adventure of epic proportions. She takes her time in drawing us a picture of a Wild West that is brutal, unforgiving and uncivilized, yet we can’t help but see the humanity of all those people we come in contact with. We are aware of everyone around our hero and heroine, and as we come to know them, we can’t help but accept them, flaws and all. Ms. Johansen introduces a slew of second characters that will live with us for a long time. I’ll never be able to forget Count Andre Marzanoff, Patrick and Silver Dove, Rising Star and Josh, Brianne and William, and especially Malvina and Shamus Delaney, the matriarch and patriarch of this very intriguing family. The author had created a world of complex main and secondary characters with depth, so that when we met them they seemed real and three-dimensional. Ms. Johansen knows her craft and she knows her audience as well, and she went all out in creating a world in which all are welcome to partake. Regardless of what your genre is, you’ll enjoy it. There’s a treasure hunt, romance and real friendship and as always with this author, plenty of historical accuracy. Now, if only I could find a happily ever after of Dominic’s nephew Patrick, I’d be a happy camper!

If you like epic saga’s, Western or just plain old romance that is truly breathtaking in its scope and telling, you will be happy to read this story and once you do, you’ll be tracking the rest of the series down, just as I did.

* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

“The Taming of the Rake” by Kasey Michaels

STORY: Meet the Blackthorn Brothers — three unrepentant scoundrels infamous for being mad, bad and perilous to love…

Charming, wealthy and wickedly handsome, Oliver “Beau” Blackthorn has it all … except revenge on the enemy he can’t forget. Now the opportunity for retribution has fallen into his hands. But his success hinges on Lady Chelsea Mills-Beckman — the one woman with the power to distract him from his quest.

Desperate to escape her family’s control, Lady Chelsea seizes the chance to run off with the notorious eldest Blackthorn brother, knowing she’s only a pawn in his game. But as Beau draws her deep into a world of intrigue, danger and explosive passion, does she dare hope he’ll choose love over vengeance?

REVIEW: Have you ever bought a book for its cover? If you have, then you’ll agree with me that Ms. Michaels’ Daughtry series had the most colorful covers, and I don’t usually do this, but just once I thought why the hell not?! And I was so glad I went with my gut feeling! I just fell in love with all the stories and with Ms. Michaels’ prose.

In ‘The Taming of the Rake’ she introduces us to a new family, the Blackthorn’s and all three Bastards. Beau, Jack and Puck have all been born out-of-wedlock and the reasons behind that are as fascinating as this first tale of happily ever after of Beau and Lady Chelsea Mills-Beckman.

Being born on the wrong side of the blanket, young Beau Blackthorn got an early education about what that means. On a day when he decided to declare himself and his love to Lady Madeline, he is made fun of by the young woman and brutally whipped and cast out by her brother while young Lady Chelsea watched on.

Lady Chelsea never forgot the young man who was in love with her sister and always thought him a strong and honorable man in spite of his illegitimacy. It is him that she runs to when many years later her brother is forcing a marriage on her with his personal ‘soul savior’.

There’s a lot to recommend this book and I’ll start with Ms. Michaels’ writing style, than go to the plot, dialogue and pace of the story. Every character in this book is flawed, yet Ms. Michaels’ writing gave them depth, dimension and everyone felt like a real person, like you knew them. Her plot is unique and all three brothers’ take on their illegitimacy is unique to their personalities. The dialogue is second to none. It was witty, fast and full of spicy retorts even from secondary characters! The pace of the story was relentless and no matter what, you had to keep up with it. I’m looking forward to the next two installments in this series and I wouldn’t mind a Prequel to this series in which we get to know the Marquee, their father as well as their mother. Now, that should be interesting!

It’s been such a pleasure and joy to take a trip with Beau and Chelsea and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Let the fun begin! This is without a doubt a triple F read! Fun, fast and fabulous! A keeper all the way!

* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

“The King’s Courtesan” by Judith James

STORY: Lady libertine, judgmental lord. HER BODY IS A BATTLEGROUND

Sensuous, beautiful and determined, Hope Matthews is a favored mistress of the king. Her many charms have helped her rise from the gutter to the king’s bed. But with the new queen’s impending arrival, her nights in the royal chamber— and her hopes for security—will swiftly come to an end.

HIS HONOR A DISTANT MEMORY

Haunted by his past, hardened by the recent civil war, Captain Robert Nichols lives only for revenge. When told he must marry the king’s courtesan to provide a cover for their affair, he’s faced with a new low. Both are pawns of a great man, but married to their dreams of independence, their clash is inevitable. Can these two wounded souls realize the answer to all their dreams might lie in each other’s arms?

REVIEW: I’ve now come to look forward to Ms. James’ books with a sort of nervous anticipation like a child looking forward to digging into its Christmas or Birthday gift. And what a gift it was!

Through her (dare I dub it Restoration Trilogy?!) she has introduced me to a period that before “Libertine’s Kiss” I knew very little, and thanks to her wonderful writing, I now am eager to learn more about.

The hero of this tale is none other than Captain Sir Robert Nichols, who we’ve met in the previous book. In that story, I’ve thought him cool, subdued, calm and a bit opinionated. Oh, how I loved getting to know him better in this story. The author has allowed our heroine Hope Mathews to slowly peel off our heroes layers and as the last layer fell away, I found myself enchanted with the Captain.

This story opens in 1651 London as young but not so innocent to the world, Hope Mathews is rescued by a young soldier from being trampled by other soldiers who were in a parade. She feels that maybe, just maybe her dreams might come true and her knight in shining armor could rescue her from the life she’s known all her life. Alas, it wouldn’t be this man and until that day comes, she’s destined to go back to the brothel and her mother who owns it. Little does she know of her mother’s plan to auction her off.

It is now 1662 and Captain Sir Robert Nichols hasn’t had a decent nights sleep in years. The reason behind this man’s nightmares goes way back to his childhood and after years of seeking revenge for the wrong done to his family he is on the verge of finally getting the last man responsible for all his heartache.

Charles Stuart is about to marry his Portuguese bride, and our heroine Hope who against all odds has risen to the rank of Mistress to the King, knows that she needs to move on and that the time has come for her to leave the court. She knows the world is ruled by men, so she feels the pressing need to approach the King in regards to her future.

While Robert is baffled by King’s decree to give up all of his wealth and properties one day, the summons to appear in court the next stuns him even more.

As she enjoys her May Day celebration, which Charles asked her to host with him, Hope is full of happiness and pride at her accomplishment. In her wildest dreams, or nightmares for that matter, she would have never imagined herself betrayed and married all at the same time.

Robert is given no choice by the King. In order for him to keep his home from his mortal enemy, who requested it from the King, he must marry the King’s whore.

The relationship between these two was electrifying from the get-go. Both exuded sexuality and the attraction they felt for each other even when arguing, was palpable.

In Hope, Ms. James has created a character that’s a mix of innocence, sexuality and charm. I was touched by this woman-child who managed to keep her identity and use her own perception of the world to her advantage.

Her life was not an easy one, yet she never lost her humanity. She stayed true to herself, and that is what our hero needed. He couldn’t help but be drawn to her sweet and idealistic nature. His tormented soul craved her light and not even a King could stand in the way of these two lovers. The road to their happily ever after is paved with lust, arguments, intrigue, some more arguments, danger and then some more arguments…You get the picture!

Judith James can paint with her words the picture of Restoration period and bring to life King Charlie and his court for me any time! Reading her novels is the closest I can come to living them.

*To buy this book, click on its cover and to find out more about the author, click on her name*

* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

“A Lily Among Thorns” by Rose Lerner

LilyAmongThorns_225STORY: HER SAVIORIt was him. Serena couldn’t breathe. She’d been looking for him for years—the man who’d lifted her out of the dregs of London’s underworld. She remembered that he’d looked like an angel. But either she’d embellished or he’d grown up. Because he didn’t look like an angel now. He looked like a man, solid and broad, and taller than she’d thought. And now he needed her help.

HIS SIREN – Solomon recognized her as soon as they were alone in the dark. He’d not forgotten that night five years ago either. But Serena had changed. She was stronger, fiercely independent and, though it hardly seemed possible, even more beautiful. She was also neck-deep in trouble. Yet he’d help cook a feast for the Prince Regent, take on a ring of spies, love her well into the night—anything to convince her that this time he was here to stay.

REVIEW: Rose Lerner had me at a title of this book. “Like a lily among the thorns, so is my darling among the maidens.” No doubt you’ve heard this quote at least once in your life. It’s from Song of Solomon 2:2 and sets a perfect plot for this love story. Make no mistake; this is one heart pounding, heart wrenching all out heartwarming love story.

Solomon Hathaway’s friends from Cambridge thought it was time he lost his virginity, so they brought him to the best whore house in London. Young Solomon dreaded as much as he anticipated this encounter. Once left alone with a young woman who to his keen eye looked almost pathetic, he couldn’t go through with it and as he’s about to bolt out of the room, he throws to her his whole allowance and heads for the proverbial ‘hills’!

Seven years later, Solomon is in a need of help recovering stolen earrings that belong to his family, and he’s pointed in a direction of Lady Serena, who is known to have been a bed partner of many, but now is an inn owner with a lot of ties to the underworld of London. Solomon needs only one look of her in the dark to realize that in front of him is a beautiful woman and not that pathetic girl from long ago.

Lady Serena made a mistake seven years ago by falling in love with a young footman in her father’s house and by trying to run way with him she sealed her fate and took a hold of the rains of her future by becoming a prostitute. On that long ago, but never forgotten night, when a young man showed her compassion by giving her his purse filled with a lot of money, she makes the decision to become her own person, however flawed.

Seven years later, she remembers it all like it happened the day before and her feelings are confusing her. This woman is not a meek person. She’s strong, fiercely independent and she never wants or needs any man to lord over her. She’s not used to showing her feelings and affections not because she can’t or won’t but because she doesn’t know how. She’s never received hugs or words of love, so once she gets exposed to it, she’s literally in a panic and her physical reaction of being suffocated is something she is unable to control.

No way in hell can you read this love story and not feel for these two. Their HEA is fraught with intrigue, pain, regrets and suffering, but neither was willing to give up on each other until they faced the only enemy that stood in their way-Serena’s fear of losing her self-worth.

Everything in this book was superb, from the writing, the dialogue, and the plot and secondary characters. It all flowed seamlessly with a perfect pace. Speaking of secondary players, I loved them all. From Rene, the French Spy to Sophy, her right hand at the ‘Arms’; from his family to her ‘family’ of misfits! All of them pulled at my heartstrings, especially the secondary love story of two spies. Even that was pulled off with grace and such wonderful care!

If you’re in a mood for a character driven love story full of intrigue, passion and plenty of suspense, I recommend this book with all my heart! Now, I need to get me Ms. Lerner’s first book “In For a Penny”. I have no doubt that I’ll love it as much as this one.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy of provided by NetGalley

“Lessons in Indiscretion” by Karen Erickson

STORY: Widowed Lady Julia Renwick is still young enough to crave a man’s touch; but she’s too old to think that the Earl of Bedingfield could see her as anything more than a family friend. Garrett Walker is handsome, charming and only 26 years old—the perfect catch for any one of this year’s debutantes.

Garrett has no interest in the maidens vying for his attentions. He wants only Julia. With just two weeks left in the season, he makes a bold move by asking her to dance. When she counters with a shocking request of her own, Garrett eagerly agrees.

Soon, they are stealing away for passionate encounters at every society event they attend. Garrett introduces Julia to excitements she never knew existed, and her newfound confidence quickly attracts other eligible men. It’s not long before Garrett realizes he must find a way to keep the lady all to himself…

REVIEW: By now, if you’re one of my blog followers, you already know my weak spot for older woman/younger man stories. You all know that I’ve basically ‘robbed the cradle’ as it were, by marrying a young man that’s twelve years my junior, and that I’m enjoying every minute of our life together. And because of that, it came as no surprise to me how easily I identified with Lady Julia Renwick. Here she is, at thirty-one and a widow that most of her married life suppressed her sexuality. Her husband was older than she and her passionate nature had been subdued by his proper lovemaking. As this story opens, she finally makes the decision to take a lover. This decision wasn’t made lightly. She even has a man in mind.

Garrett Walker, the Earl of Bedingfield is twenty-six years old, and he’s known Julia since he was fourteen. His father was friends with her husband and they belonged to the same circles. He watched her from afar and liked her very much. He respected her and now that she’s widowed, he wants her as his lover. His desire for her is overwhelming and all-consuming for him to wait, so he sets out to seduce her.

As these two passionate people come together for a one Season’s liaison, we’re treated to a very hot and sensual romance that is too short. I wanted this to keep going, and going and going!

I loved this strong and determined woman. She acknowledges who and what she is. She has no grand illusions about this ‘affair of the lust’ and she is more than ready to experience the passion only Garrett can give her.

Oh, and now I come to Garrett! From the moment he asks Julia to dance with him, I just knew I’d like this rascal! He doesn’t give a rat’s ass of what society thinks of him. He is arrogant, handsome, and sought after by a bevy of beauties, married and unmarried.  He wants none, but Lady Julia. Every scene written with them just sparkles and sizzles! From the garden scene, then the carriage scene and their bedroom scene, I just enjoyed it all. The end of their story just made me cry. How cool was this Dude! I’m not spoiling it for you when I tell you I shed happy tears at the way they get their HEA! Karen Erickson wrote a very erotic romance that melted my heart and gave me a hero to remember for a long, long time. So the long and short of it is this: Lady Julia Renwick and Garrett Walker were putty in the hands of Karen Erickson who has managed a perfect balance between romance and erotica with this short yet still sweet and heartwarming story.

 

*To buy this book, click on its cover, to visit Author’s website, click on her name*

* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

RRAH August reviews

Well, now with my son’s wedding behind us, I’m relieved all went with a minor hitch (DJ never showed up, but replacement did from another firm 30 minutes into the wedding reception) and the newlyweds are now back from their Honeymoon to enjoy life together.

I’ve also had some time to turn some of my reviews to Romance Reader At Heart  website and I’ll briefly let you know which books are worth reading and which you just might postpone for later or skip altogether. To read my full review just click on the title, and to find out about the author of the book, please click on their name.

TOO WICKED TO LOVE  by Debra Mullins was a very quick read and I liked it a lot. As soon as I started reading this book, I had a feeling that I should have read the first book of this trilogy. I’m sure that I would have appreciated the story more. It really had all the elements of what a historical romance should—a very handsome and likeable hero and an untrusting heroine. As for the villain, this dude was off the charts! I gave it Four Roses and if you haven’t read it, you should, but do get the first one too. I think you might get the better picture of our hero.

JUST LIKE HEAVEN by Julia Quinn was just that. Heaven. By now if you haven’t read this author GET THEE TO THE BOOKSTORE! Any book you pick by her, you’ll end up a winner! I’ve yet to read one that’s bad. This chick knows her craft and NEVER disappoints. Period. Most of us that are her fans, were hoping sooner or later she’d gift us with this series and now that I’ve got my first story of Smythe-Smith’s sisters, I’m just itching for more. I believe the book stands on its own, but if you want to get the full impact of this family, you should scour the used book stores or get her earlier books from Amazon.

NOTORIOUS by Nicola Cornick was one of those well written books with a wrotten heroine. Boy, oh boy! This woman was some piece of work. I didn’t like her one bit. Talk about a manipulator! I’m not going to give the story away, but I warn you. If you like your heroines meek, sweet and virginal, you’ll not like this one. However if you like them pathetic, manipulative and plain bitchy, then you’ll love her! I gave this book Four Roses ONLY because it engaged my emotions to an umpteenth degree. It also made me want to read WHISPER OF SCANDAL, which is the first book in ‘Scandalous Women of the Ton’ series. I did like the fact that it’s a stand alone regardless of being a fourth book in the series.

THE BED AND THE BACHELOR by Tracy Anne Warren ends her Byrons of Braebourne series. TEMPTED BY HIS KISS was the first one and Cade Byron’s story. Jack Byron’s story was in SEDUCED BY HIS TOUCH, followed by AT THE DUKE’S PLEASURE. All of them were exceptionally good, well written and very interesting.

WICKED DELIGHTS OF A BRIDAL BED was their sister Mallory’s story, and I thought it fell short. I just didn’t think it was as good as it should or could have been. THE BED AND THE BACHELOR, which is Drake’s story, was a let down as well. What the hell happened to Drake?! I liked him better in the earlier book. As for our heroine, once she commits the unthinkable, I lost all compassion for her. There must have been a better way to accomplish her ‘mission’. If you’ve never read this author, don’t start with this book. I fell in love with Ms. Warren’s work through her ‘Trap’ series in which she displayed her awesome sense of humor. I’ve all her ‘Mistress’ trylogy, but they’re still on my TBR. I’m hoping to get to them by the end of the year.

DANCING WITH MR. DARCY actually has twenty authors but has introductions from Sarah Waters and Rebecca Smith, the great-great-great-great-great niece of Jane Austen. This quick and witty read is a must for all Jane Austen fans. You’ll really appreciate the range in talent in this book. All of the stories were fun, well written and just a joy to read. I also urge you to read the biographies of those that have had too much fun in penning their stories. I’m thinking, just for the pure joy and fun, maybe I should penn one?  How cool it would be. Just for mayself, mind you:)

SEVEN YEARS TO SIN by Sylvia Day I saved for last. This was an ARC that I bid on eBay as a donation towards a friend in need. Ms. Day signed it and sent me a bag full of goodies with it, and for that I’m forever grateful to her.

What can I tell you about this book that will convince you to get out there and get it as soon as it hits the bookstores?! It has one of the hottest Prologues I’ve EVER read! I truly couldn’t put it down once I started to read it. Thank God it’s summer and my DH loves BBQ! Everything about this story was perfection. My heart went to both hero and heroine. These two waited a long time for their happily ever after and in Ms. Day’s hands they thrived. She also has a secondary love story that was just as well done as the main. I promise you, without a doubt that you’ll love this book. Worth every penny and more!

So there you have it my bookworms:) That’s it for August from me and RRAH! I would like to remind you all that Jenny Brown, Tiffany Clare, Joanna Bourne and a slew of other authors will be stopping by very soon and you’re welcome to stop by, comment and enter our contests:)

“One Night in London” by Caroline Linden

STORY: A bargain that was all business . . . and pure passion.

Neither wealth nor beauty will help Lady Francesca Gordon win custody of her young niece Georgina, saving the girl from a cruel stepmother; she needs London’s top solicitor for that. But when Edward de Lacey, son of the powerful Duke of Durham, hires away the one man who can do the job, Francesca decides Edward himself must champion her case . . . if only she can melt the dashing lord’s stony heart.

Edward has reason to be guarded, though. London’s tabloids have just exposed a secret that could ruin his entire family. When Francesca offers a unique chance to undo the damage, Edward is forced to agree to a partnership . . . and now, each moment together feeds the flames of his scandalous longing for the passionate widow. But when Georgina disappears, fate will test them both . . . and leave their love hanging in the balance.

REVIEW: I am not a long time Caroline Linden fan. I discovered her books only last year (A Rake’s Guide to Seduction; What a Rogue Desires; What a Gentleman Wants; What a Woman Needs) when I ordered all four of these through Amazon. I was very impressed by her style of writing, but what I loved most were the heroines she writes about. Every one of them is strong, independent and very three dimensionally drawn female, so I wasn’t surprised by Lady Francesca Gordon.

But I’m a bit ahead of myself. Before I get to our heroine, I must tell you of a very unique premise that Ms. Linden came up with for this series she named ‘The Truth About the Duke’.

The story opens with Duke of Durham on his death-bed awaiting his heir Charles, Lord Gresham to arrive so he could ask his forgiveness. His other two sons, Edward de Lacey, the spare and Captain Gerard de Lacey, the hero, were with him to offer him comfort and forgiveness, neither knowing for what, as he breathed his last.

Soon, Ned and Gerard found out from their father’s solicitor, that some sixty years ago the Duke had been married than parted ways with the woman shortly after, but not bothering to get a divorce, or at least find out if the woman lived or died before he married their mother in April of 1774. Needles to say, all three brothers would need to pull their resources to keep this secret buried while trying to find out the truth. They could not afford a scandal and rumor. Edward, the cool, calm and collected one, would immediately find a worthy Lawyer, if and when they needed one. Gerard, being a man of action and not much patience, would head out in search of a blackmailer who’d been sending their old man letters with demands. As for Charlie, they’ve all come to the conclusion that he should just stay put and do what he does best: debauch!

I have to tell you, my heart went out to Edward. Here’s a man who did everything that has ever been expected of him, and loved doing it. Edward reminded me so much of that son from the Bible in the story of a ‘Prodigal Son’. You know, the one that did all the work and never was praised for it, while the son who’d squandered everything was welcomed with open arms.

And now I get to tell you about our heroine and what a woman she turns out to be! She’s an independent widow and a woman that knows her mind. There is nothing in this woman that’s pretentious. She wears her emotions and her heart on her sleeve and for that and many other passions that bubble through in her demeanor, she freely admits is the Italian in her to be blamed on.

Francesca needs a good Lawyer. This man will help her fight a custody battle against a widow of her late brother-in-law, who took her niece and disappeared.  In one meeting, her hopes are raised and dashed by Wittiers, a solicitor extraordinaire, who almost accepts her case, but is called away by none other than Edward de Lacey.

These two, Francesca and Edward, were polar opposites. She is impulsive and loud; passionate and quick-witted; he is calm, calculating and disciplined. When these two meet, the sparks fly and as they come to terms with each other, we are treated to a slow and sensual love story that is so real, so full of emotion. Their first sexual encounter left me with butterflies in my tummy! It was scorching my computer screen!

I really loved Francesca! You got to love a woman that knows who and what she is and when she sees something she wants, she goes for it. I loved the part in which our hero realizes the difference between what he ‘wants’ and what he ‘needs’. That part touched me deeply as I remembered my husband telling me once that I was everything he never wanted. Divorced woman of two teenagers AND twelve years older than him! But I was everything he needed…

Ms. Linden gave us a delightful first book in this series that features three-dimensional characters with a strong, fast paced and unique plot and a very interesting subplot about child custody.  This is a FIVE stars, A+ and just all-around awesome introduction to this series. I am looking forward to Charlie’s story as much as Gerard’s. This is a keeper and a MUST READ!

*I received this book from the publisher via netgalley.com