September RRAH reviews & October preview…

The last couple of months have been exciting for me, more on a personal level then the professional and I’m hoping October will be tamer. Never the less, as always, a bookworm like me, finds the time to put its nose in a book. For September I have only three books reviewed for Romance Reader At Heart and all three were excellent reads and I highly recommend them.

I’ll start with an author that’s probably familiar to all, Suzanne Enoch and “A MATTER of SCANDAL” which I found just delightful in its entirety! This was such a fast and fun read that I finished it too quickly and then wanted to start over again, because I didn’t want to leave this fun world the author took me in. If you’ve never read Ms. Enoch, you might as well start with this one, and if you have then you know without a doubt what she’s capable of and how much fun you’ll have reading and for that matter re-reading her books!

My next book was as much fun as the first and when I heard that Shana Galen’s “LORD and LADY SPY” is available for review I jumped on it. I’m probably in a minority of people who loved the movie “MR. and MRS. SMITH” so my expectations were very high for this Regency take on it. Boy, oh boy! I was so happy when my expectations were not just met, but surpassed! Ms. Galen is one of those rare breeds of authors that can put forth stories of ‘angst’ and ‘humor’ separately as well as together. I wish the ‘Muse’ never leaves her side! This pair will have you laugh-out-loud and make you tear up to the point that you’ll ask for more! I honestly can say that I wouldn’t mind following their life, and that says a lot for the talent of this young author!

And now I get to tell you about a novel that completely took me by surprise and that is Janet Woods’ “LADY LIGHTFINGERS”. This story made me warm all over. This was a story of a true Heroine and the road to her hero was very romantic and heartwarming, and exciting, and it will make your heart melt. This story is a journey of discovery, determination, independence and perseverance of a girl who knew herself and accepted herself for what she was, yet knew that she could and would be more than what Society dictated. The romance within the novel is sweet rather than spicy hot, and brought to mind Carla Kelly’s novel I recently read that could be put into this category “BEAU CRUSOE”. By the way, for an awesome review of that book, please visit Kathryn and you’ll know what I mean.

And there you have it, my bookworms! Can you believe that October is knocking on our doors already?! This month is full of great authors that will stop by and play with me and I’m beside myself from excitement. We start with Eileen Dreyer on October 3rd, and she’s bringing all her Drake’s Rakes over!

Shana Galen’s Lady Spy was so gracious to agree and stop by on October 10th, and answer a few questions for us, so I hope you’ll stop by as well and meet this hot-tempered and hot-blooded female!

On October 13th Rose Lerner will be here and she’s bringing Solomon and his ‘Lily’, and I can tell you I’m so much looking forward to their visit!

And then Joanna Bourne will be stopping by on October 17th and talk about Adrian/Hawk and I can only bow and say as Wayne and Garth would I’M NOT WORTHY! I’M NOT WORTHY! (For that matter I may as well say that in regards to all my guests for this month!)

To finish off the month I’ve invited someone I never met in ‘real’ life but it seems I’ve known forever! Dare I call her FRIEND?! Is it possible to know someone well even though you never laid eyes on them?! If it is, and I’ll dare, Ashley March is a friend, confidante and an author to look out for and I invite you to come over October 26th and meet her (who knows maybe we could ask Mr. March to accompany her…I hear he’ll have a book soon, too) and maybe tell us about…their projects coming up and their romance!

Until then, happy reading and happy upcoming Holidays if I miss you in the next couple of months!

“A Scandalous Proposition” by Wendy Soliman

STORY: When a beautiful woman bursts into Lord Adam Fitzroy’s room at an inn seeking refuge, he assists her. His curiosity is piqued when he later spots her entering the local house of ill repute. The next day he is shocked when his mother introduces the woman as her new paid companion. His mother adores Florentina, so Adam agrees to keep her nightly activities a secret…on one condition: she must spend one wicked night with him.

Florentina Grantley is both scandalized and intrigued at the prospect, but she worries that the dashing war hero will quickly discern her lack of experience. True, she’s no innocent—but she’s a widow, not a whore. Yet she can’t explain the true reason behind her alliance with the brothel’s madam, or the danger she faces if exposed.

As their initial tryst grows into something deeper, the stakes become higher. What will Adam do when he discovers Florentina’s deception?

REVIEW: Major Lord Adam Fitzroy is a soldier, traveling home on leave from his post. He is travel weary, and stops at an Inn. As he is about to partake of a meal that he’s in no mood to eat, a woman bursts in on him and he chooses to hide her under the tablecloth, and once she’s out of danger, he offers to escort her to the place of her destination. Unbeknownst to him, the Lady he helps is his mother’s companion and she’s being pursued by an unsavory character.

Florentina Grantley is not who she represents herself to be, and before long she regrets not telling the handsome hero her true identity. But to do that, she needs to trust him, and that doesn’t come easy to Tina. In order to evade her pursuer, she grants Adam permission to escort her to safety, but not quite home. And that’s when all the misunderstanding starts.

Throw in Phillipa, Adams sister-in-law (his one time love) now married to his ailing brother the Duke, and you have even more entanglements.

I liked both Tina and Adam, I hated Phillipa and the Duke was an arrogant and weak man who let a woman walk all over him.

I’m a bit torn about this book. While I liked it, or liked three-quarters of it at least, I also found myself not liking parts of it. For awhile I thought two different writers were writing it. For example, if I liked the first chapter, by the second I would feel like something’s off, not ringing true to the characters I was introduced to. Some scenes were so heartwarming and so well written, and then some just felt stilted and awkward, while some were just unnecessary.

In the end, the plot kept moving the story along, despite the ‘voice’ straying, and since most of the story ‘felt’ right, I will recommend the read. In the spirit of fairness to Ms. Soliman, I am unfamiliar with her work, and to that end I’ll seek out her other stories to ‘get the feel’ for her prose.

*To buy this book, click on the cover*

*To learn more about the author, click on her name*

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

“In Total Surrender” by Anne Mallory

STORY: The first kiss was dangerous enough…

Andreas Merrick is the king of London’s dark underworld, having amassed unimaginable wealth and power…and a fierce reputation that leaves even the bravest men quaking in their boots. Yet one person is maddeningly unintimidated by his fearsome presence: the persistent Miss Phoebe Pace.

And one kiss always leads to another…

Equal parts honey and steel, Phoebe will stop at nothing to find her missing brother and save her family. Though associating with Andreas means peril and scandal, she never expects to experience a passion so intense that it threatens to consume her. But enigmatic Andreas is no ordinary man to love. He brings dangers from all sides – without and within – while tempting her beyond her wildest dreams…

REVIEW: This is my first time reading Anne Mallory, and I was glad to have stumbled on to her! As this was a part of her ‘Secrets’ series, I thought it best to read them all, and I was glad that I did. That’s not to say that the stories can’t be read or can’t stand alone. I chose to do it only because of my own personal preference. I found out that even though each book tells its own individual story, I always get the ‘feel’ for it by reading its predecessor first. “One Night Is Never Enough” helped me greatly to understand Andreas and his personality and I highly recommend it as well.

Andreas Merrick was one of those heroes that you can’t help but fall in love with, especially when introduced to his painful past. As for the heroine, Phoebe Pace, she will steal your heart with her gullible nature and sunny disposition. As I was reading it, I kept seeing Meg Ryan’s smile and funny banter while Toby Stephens’ throaty voice was Andreas in my mind.

The relationship between the two was developed in stages and that was perfectly fine with me. Their wit, their sparks, and their opposite personalities were very enjoyable and thoroughly entertaining. The chemistry, sexual tension and the anticipation created by the author, was so well written that once those two came together, I couldn’t help but sigh!

Anne Mallory’s style of writing was refreshing and every character she introduced us to was three-dimensional and the plot kept the story moving with measured speed. The author does an outstanding job in drawing you into the story and caring for the characters she created. If you love your hero intriguing, quiet and strong while he falls for a bubbly, bookish and brave heroine, you just can’t miss this story! It is a fun, moving and an overall exciting read.

*To buy this book, click on the cover*

*To learn more about the author, click on her name*

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

“Romancing the Countess” by Ashley March

STORY: Sebastian Madinger, the Earl of Wriothesly, thought he’d married the perfect woman-until a fatal accident revealed her betrayal with his best friend. After their deaths, Sebastian is determined to avoid a scandal for the sake of his son. But his best friend’s widow is just as determined to cast her mourning veil aside by hosting a party that will surely destroy both their reputations and expose all of his carefully kept secrets…

Leah George has carried the painful knowledge of her husband’s affair for almost a year. All she wants now is to enjoy her independence and make a new life for herself-even if that means being ostracized by the Society whose rules she was raised to obey. Now that the rumors are flying, there’s only one thing left for Sebastian to do: silence the scandal by enticing the improper widow into becoming a proper wife. But when it comes to matters of the heart, neither Sebastian nor Leah is prepared for the passion they discover in each other’s arms….

REVIEW: The above blurb does a wonderful job in teasing the brain and getting my ‘reader juices’ bubbling with a question about how do you get two people with so much baggage to accept the wrong done to them, grieve for the loss and fall in love within 302 pages?!

And the answer is to trust this young, new and upcoming author, Ashley March, who seems to know her characters and trust them to guide her hand in penning their story.

Leah George has always done the right and proper thing. She married a man chosen for her, and she did her best to make her parents and her husband proud of her, so after witnessing her husband’s infidelity, she yet again does what’s proper. She keeps a ‘stiff upper lip’, walls off her true feelings, and pretends a happy marriage. Until the day her husband dies.

After a year of private grief that infidelity of her husband brought to her, the loss of his life brought on a feeling of a relief. She is free. Free to say, do or be who she truly is and that is something she was never allowed to be.

Sebastian, Earl of Wriothesly, had a perfect marriage. He adored his wife and son; he lived a happy and contented life. His perfect world came crashing down with his beloved wife’s death and with the knowledge that she took his best friend for a lover and left him behind to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the carriage accident.

This is Ms. Ashley’s second book and in both she deals with an issue that is not much popular with either the authors or readers of romance genre. The big “I” word. Infidelity.

In the case of her first book “Seducing the Duchess” our hero was unfaithful to his heroine for six years, before he realized that he adored his wife, but was blinded by his pride and revenge to see it for what it is.

In this case, both hero and heroine were forced to deal with the betrayal of their spouses and Ms. March has done her characters proud in both cases. It would have been so easy to ‘paint’ Ian and Angela as uncaring, uncouth and lust crazy adulterers, yet she left that ‘painting’ to be in the ‘eye of the beholder’, in this case the reader. She has taken the issue seriously, making no judgements on a subject that is neither ‘black or white’. Now, that takes guts!

While Leah had a year to accept the betrayal, Sebastian’s acceptance was still fresh and the hurt was deep. What a treat this character driven story was! I was most intrigued by our hero and heroine and the way they went about accepting and dealing with their emotions towards not just their cheating spouses but with their emotions towards each other. After years of knowing each other, their attraction wasn’t instantaneous, yet the sparks between Sebastian and Leah kept igniting. Great care was given in developing and establishing a real relationship, albeit strenuous at times, between these two, so when their passion takes over we’re happy for them.

There are so many moments that touched my heart but the first one that brought tears to my eyes was on page 8, in which Sebastian’s mind is numb as he reads the note of his wife’s accident, and in it he finds out that Ian was with her. There are so many things running through his mind, and then the last thought: “She hadn’t been lonely, after all.” I mean, just two pages earlier, he was so anxious to go see her, be with her, love her, and then-BOOM! She really didn’t need him, after all. WOW! That must have hurt…

I’m very impressed with this new author and her writing is clear, crisp and fresh. She infused her characters with depth and intelligence, yet still gave them flaws so that they felt real to me. Her ability to convey human emotion is very well written and the pace of the story just right. Not too fast and not so slow that you’d be bored by it. The story was engaging from the beginning, and kept my interest ‘till the last page. For that I give credit to the author that created the characters who were well-rounded and believable. After reading “Romancing the Countess” I loved it so much I bought “Seducing the Duchess” and “Romancing Lady Cecily” which I read and highly recommend as well.

So, in the end all I have to say is: Watch out Romance World! Ashley March has arrived!

“Unclaimed” by Courtney Milan

STORY: Her only hope for survival…

Handsome, wealthy and respected, sir mark turner is the most sought-after bachelor in all of London—and he’s known far and wide for his irreproachable character. But behind his virtuous reputation lies a passionate nature he keeps carefully in check… until he meets the beautiful Jessica Farleigh, the woman he’s waited for all his life.

Is to ruin the man she loves…

But Jessica is a courtesan, not the genteel lady sir mark believes. Desperate to win free of a life she despises, she seizes her chance when mark’s enemies make her an offer she can’t refuse: seduce mark and tarnish his good name, and a princely sum will be hers. Yet as she comes to know the man she’s sworn to destroy, Jessica will be forced to choose between the future she needs—and the love she knows is impossible.

…coming September 27, 2011

REVIEW: We have all heard that old adage that the ’beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and reading this second book in Turner trilogy I can’t help but apply it on both, hero and heroine. Morality, in their case, was truly in the eyes of the beholders.

It’s been five years since we last saw Mark Turner, who is now twenty eight, and very, very famous. The fame’s not so much a burden to him, although he feels that the point which he tried to convey with his book ‘A Gentleman’s Practical Guide to Chastity’, has been misconstrued and taken to the heights in which he’s not so comfortable with.

The society, led by the Queen, has put him on that proverbial ‘pedestal’ and everywhere he turns he can’t help but see the displays of worship towards himself. Thinking to escape the hubbub of it all, he takes a trip to his small hometown and hopes that the memories of his youth might bring him some modicum of peace.

Jessica Farleigh was a courtesan, and because she is done with all of her protectors, now in a need of money and freedom from the pain of her last ‘protector’, she risks everything and approaches him with a proposition, but not for ‘services rendered’ of the usual kind. This time he would pay her for seducing one man who stands in his way of gaining a position that he desires, Sir Mark Turner.

Just when you think you figured that Courtney Milan can’t get any better, there she goes AGAIN! This is her second book in Turner series, and I’ve savored, chewed and then gobbled it up! What a wonderful world she’s created with Turner brothers! Ash was a sweetheart, but Mark was an angel, even though he wouldn’t want me to call him that. Being a virgin is not what he wants to define him, but rather being just plain ‘man’ with all his flaws is what he wants everyone to see.

As for Jessica, she was such a strong and yet vulnerable woman and very torn between what she knew she had to do, and what she knew in her heart was very wrong to do. Being and accepting oneself as a ‘fallen woman’ she knew that someone as pure of heart and highly respectable as Sir Mark, was unattainable, and not even to be dreamed about. Yet she found fighting her strong feelings toward him.

The society can be a ‘cruel bitch’ when it comes to love between these two, but Sir Mark didn’t give a fig and he went out of his way to show the folks of this small town, as well as Jessica, that ‘fallen women’ always had a man behind them that pushed them.

In the end I recommend you read this because she continues to gift us once more with a unique plot, fast pace, passionate romance and plenty of humor. This one was an eARC, but let me assure you I will be in line at my local book store as this is a keeper all the way!

If you’ve never read Courtney Milan books, I’m positive that you’ll love this story and run out and track her other books. I would. However, if you’ve read all of her books, you’ll add this one to your keeper shelf. I did. Even though she’s new to many, she’s got some very good titles under her belt already like “Proof of Seduction”, “Trial by Desire”, “Unveiled”, “Unlocked” and an anthology “The Heart of Christmas”. All of them I highly recommend and by now this author is on my ‘auto buy’.  I’m not surprised with Ms. Milan’s writing any more. I’m eagerly awaiting her stories that are always honest, heartwarming and heartbreaking, but always full of witty dialogue and strong characters that will literally leave you breathless.

*To buy this book, click on the cover*

*To learn more about the author, click on her name*

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

“The Vow” by Juliana Garnett

STORY: She was the enemy he must destroy–no matter how much he wanted her….

Let the rich, dazzling voice of Juliana Garnett wrap you in the passion and pageantry of another time–and the tale of two well-defended hearts that must finally surrender…to desire.

She vowed she’d never yield…to the treachery of his plans or the heat of his passion….

Sent by William of Normandy to quell a brazen Saxon rebellion, Luc Louvat believed his mission would be easily accomplished. For what foolish Saxon lord had any hope of triumphing against an army of seasoned Norman knights?

But the great warrior was in for a shock…surprised first by the ferocious battle the wily old lord waged–and then by what he discovers when he meets his adversary face-to-face: no crusty, aging nobleman this, but an exquisite princess with a face as fragile as a flower–and a will as steely as the sword she wields.

Suddenly Luc finds he’s waging a dangerous new war…aimed at the defenses of a fierce Saxon beauty who threatens to conquer his warrior’s heart

REVIEW: I rarely venture out of my Regency World of Romance and step into Medieval World of Romance and when I do my hopes and expectations are high. This book was published in 1998 by Fanfare, but last month (8/8/2011) was rereleased by Loveswept for Kindle and I was lucky to get an eARC of it for an honest review.

Having never read the author I was pleasantly surprised to find her prose to my liking. The hero and heroine, the medieval setting, decent pace and even the fairly predictable plot were quite good and kept my interest from the start.

As the story opens, we get the glimpse of our heroine, Ceara (Keera) at sixteen and we already know that she’s a handful for her father, Lord Balfour of Wulfridge as she confronts him on his fealty to the bastard King William. At eighteen, much has changed in Ceara’s world, but she has stayed the same, willful, strong and brave as always.

Luc Louvat is a Norman Knight whose bravery and fealty to the King William is well-known and upon finding out that Lord Balfour has broken his word, William is incensed and wants the man brought to him in chains and for that he needs Luc and his brave knights. William promises Luc an earldom and all of Wulfridge as a prize.

I’m not sure that this story will appeal to all of you, but if you liked BRAVEHEART, you just might like this story which is chock full of a battles and political intrigue. That’s not to say that it lacks in sensual department. On the contrary, this couple’s tale is not just interesting but very entertaining and very sensual. If you’ve never read the original, I think you should give it a try this time around.

*To buy this book, click on the Kindle cover*

*To learn more about the author, click on the original cover*

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

 

“Never Miss a Chance” (Kellington 2) by Maureen Driscoll

STORY: A duke’s daughter isn’t supposed to court scandal in Regency England. She isn’t supposed to involve herself in controversial causes. And she most especially isn’t supposed to expect love in a ton marriage. But Lady Elizabeth isn’t just any duke’s daughter. She’s a Kellington. And her expectations are somewhat higher than most people’s.

Marcus Redmond, the Marquess of Riverton, has been in love with his best friend’s sister for years. When Lizzie’s reputation is damaged, he offers her marriage, hoping she will come to care for him eventually. But can the upright, staid Riverton make a love match with the impulsive, passionate Lizzie – especially when there are those who are determined to come between them?

NEVER MISS A CHANCE is a sizzling romance with a touch of humor. It’s the second book in the Kellington series about the Duke of Lynwood and his four siblings. The series started with NEVER A MISTRESS, NO LONGER A MAID.

REVIEW: First, if you haven’t heard of Maureen Driscoll, it’s okay, that’s why I’m here, to tell you all about her, BUT you’ll have to come back tomorrow and read my interview with her and if you’d like to win ANY of her books, all you have to do is comment and I’ll let her choose the winners (THREE) by the end of the week.

Second, if you haven’t read the first book “Never a Mistress, No Longer a Maid”, it’s okay, this one stands on its own, BUT I think you should for the simple reason that you’ll understand the family dynamic  so much better. The author has created such an interesting and fun family that it truly feels like I could hang out with them, even the Duke, whose story I’m looking forward to.

Now, let me tell you why I liked this book even more then the first: The sensuality of this one is OFF the charts! That’s the first thing I noticed upon finishing it and I was so happy about it.

Lady Elizabeth Kellington is the one and only sister in this family and her brothers adore her, as long as she stays out of politics! This bluestocking could never do that, and this is where our heroine encounters a world of trouble, not just with her family in particular, but with society in general. After a copy of her ‘Toward the Enlightenment of England: A Treatise for the Reformation of Property Rights, the Right of Women in Marriage and Universal Suffrage’ (wow, that was a mouthful) is published under her REAL name, Lizzie is surprised to find herself on the outs with most of the society and even with the group that she founded. She is stunned by their reaction and what’s worse, all the gentlemen that might have been her suitors, now are shunning her, and the ones that would not suit (rakes, gamblers and reprobates) are knocking on her door, thinking her a fair game.

Marcus Redmond, Marquess of Riverton is Duke of Lynwood’s best friend and a man who has loved Lizzie a long time. Not that he would ever admit to it. Loving and fantasizing about ones best friend’s sister is not what one does, but there it is. He just can’t help think her a Goddess, albeit one with some radical ideas.

In order for these two to come together, Lizzie and Marcus needed to recognize and accept the feelings both had for each other. Their mutual respect was the starting point to this romance and the slow realization on Lizzie’s part, that a man almost ten years her senior could want her, and for that matter that she might be falling in love with him, was oh so fun to watch!

All the characters, secondary included, are genuine and dialogue full of wit. The plot is not rushed and gives the reader ample time to truly see why these two should be together. I’ve now come to expect Ms. Driscoll to put forth a three-dimensional and fast paced story (and let’s not forget HOT) that will keep me entertained from the first to the last chapter, and she doesn’t disappoint!  She’s introduced a character of Tara in this story and I’m glad she gave her just the right amount of space to hook us into the next installment and Arthur’s story.