‘The Seduction’ by Brenda Joyce

STORY: Dominic Paget, the earl of Bedford, will do anything to resume spying upon Britain’s enemies. Badly wounded, he is put in the care of a beautiful gentlewoman, Julianne Greystone, only to discover that her sympathies lie with his enemies. Yet he can’t help but seduce the woman who saved his life—hoping she never learns of his betrayal.

Julianne is captivated by the wounded stranger she believes is a revolutionary hero. Until she discovers the truth…her “hero” is the privileged earl of Bedford. Devastated and determined to forget him, Julianne travels to London. But when she finds herself in danger, it is Bedford who comes to the rescue. Now Julianne must navigate the intrigues of a perilous city, the wild yearnings of her own heart and the explosion of their passion….

REVIEW: The above book blurb summarizes the story quite well, so I’ll get on in telling you my thoughts about it.

I recently set through 16 episodes of a BBC series from 1970’s called ‘POLDARK’ which is set in 1790’s Cornwall, and it was breathtaking in scenery as well as accuracy of those times. If you have Netflix, I highly recommend you see it as it will bring the setting of Ms. Joyce’s book to life.

If you’ve followed my blog and read my reviews, you know by now that I hate, HATE spoilers, so it will be darn hard to tell you my thoughts without divulging any of them. This is my first ever Brenda Joyce read and without being familiar with her I have to tell you that I have mixed feelings about this book.

First, I loved the plot and the setting. The French Revolution was a time of upheaval, intrigue and social change that France and the world would never forget. It was a time when our hero Dominic Paget willingly went into danger as an English spy and risked everything for his family and his country. The author did an amazing job bringing to us the history of the revolution through Dominic’s point of view and that is the only thing that kept me reading this story.

As the son of a French Aristocratic mother and an English Aristocratic father, presumably he was brought up as a gentleman, with morals and honor as his guiding compass. Speaking the language fluently was one of the reasons he survived in France for as long as he did, undetected, but in the end it was luck and our heroine’s brothers that came to his aid once he was discovered and wounded.

From my first encounter with Julianne I had an impression that she was smart, sharp and very intelligent. She is well read and independent, yet a bit naïve. She lives in Cornwall with her older sister and brothers who love her dearly and are aware of her radical views and associations with the local French sympathizers. On many occasions they’ve voiced their concerns and asked her to stop being as vocal about her views as the government was sure to be watching, but our heroine was full of idealism and chose to ignore those warnings.

And here is where I met a problem with this story.

Both brothers made the decision to drop off a dying man, who they both knew the real identity of, yet deliberately deceived both of their sisters by letting them think him a stranger and a smuggler.

They then leave a stranger alone in their home with these two single young women…

Julianne draws her own conclusions about the identity of Dominic/Charles, and of course she comes to the wrong one and our hero lets her believe that he is a wounded French soldier.

And then she starts drooling and mooning all over a man who she hardly knows. She gets so infatuated that she lets him seduce her, not once, not twice but one full month, not ever taking in account her reputation or the reputation of her family nor thinking of the consequences of those encounters.

And now we come to our hero, who I truly, TRULY thought to like (I am a HUGE sucker for a tortured hero trope), but even after all the things Dominic went through I had a hell-of-a-time liking a man that admits to lack of morals in him during the time of war and systematically and deliberately sets out to seduce a virtuous girl who saved his life thus dishonoring not just the girl, but the family that took him in.

What follows is a deception gone wrong while family loyalties get tested over and over.

In the end, I enjoyed some of the story, but I just couldn’t accept nor warm up to the characters as written. I want my heroes to have morals, and my heroines to have backbone. Neither of them did. The prose alone recommends this book, and as this is the first book in the series The Spymaster’s Men, I will read the second in hopes that I will love the next hero and heroine. That said I will let you decide if you’d like to read this story.

*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*

Join the Reader Rally!

Hello our Bookworms! Now that the Holidays are behind us, and we’ve gained a pound… or five, we think it’s time we all joined the rally-READER RALLY that is. b2b has decided to take part in a rally that is hosted by  the folks at Romance At Random.

Reader Rally is a blog hop which will start on January 17th and end on January 31st (winners will be announced on February 1st)  that is composed of authors, bloggers and reviewers who are inviting all of you to join in this MAMMOTH sprint in which each site will be giving away a brand new release book (print or e-book) of their choice.

Our blog is under A Place for All Romance and Book Lovers! title and I hope you stop by and enter our giveaway of a brand new release from Laura Lee Guhrke.

‘Trouble at the Wedding’ is a third Abandoned at the Altar story from Ms. Guhrke and we thought to give one of you a chance to win a signed copy.

Annabel is about to marry the perfect man…

 The last thing Miss Annabel Wheaton desires is true love. She learned the hard way that love makes a woman foolish and only leads to heartache. That’s why she agreed to marry an earl who needs her money. He’s got a pedigree and a country estate, and he won’t ever break her heart. There’s only one problem…

 Christian isn’t about to let her marry that pompous prig…

Christian Du Quesne, Duke of Scarborough, thinks this stubborn heiress is about to make the biggest mistake of her life, and he’s determined to stop her. Tempting beautiful women is Christian’s forte, after all. When her family offers him a nice sum of money to stop the wedding, he’s happy to accept. Falling in love with Annabel wasn’t supposed to be part of the bargain…

BUT, we also thought to make this a bit interesting so how about you tell us in 140 characters or less why would you like to win this book. I’ve never read this author, but will have a chance to meet her on January 25 when she visits Anderson’s Bookshop (the local book store) in Naperville, IL and can’t wait for the opportunity :)

Ms. Guhrke will appear with her friend and author (and one of my all time fave chicks) Julie Anne Long! Can I say ANTICIPATION! Please, please spread the word around and come join the fun for both of these events!

‘The Sons of the Revolution’ by Shana Galen

The first in a trilogy of three brothers struggling to reconnect and restore their noble heritage in the aftermath of the French Revolution, each losing his heart along the way.

Twelve years after fleeing their burning château, Julien Harcourt, Duc de Valère, searches for his lost twin brothers. His frequent travels between England and France at a time when the exiled Napoleon is reported to be marshalling his troops raises the suspicions of English authorities who set secret operative Sarah Smith on his trail. A risky game of cat and mouse leads the two from the ballrooms of London to the prisons of Paris and into a fragile love that neither dares to hope for.

A very dangerous attraction…

Julian Harcourt, duc de Valere, is more than willing to marry the lovely young lady his mother has chosen. Little does he know, she’s been sent to prove him a spy and a traitor.

And an even more dangerous secret…

Sarah Smith’s mission is to find out whether the Duc’s trips to the Continent are as innocent as he claims, but the way he looks at her is far from innocent…

Their risky game of cat and mouse propels them from the ballrooms of London to the prisons of Paris, and into a fragile love that may not survive their deceptions.

Twelve years in a French prison have left the once dashing Armand Harcourt, Comte de Valère a hollow shell of his former self. Though safely back on English soil, Armand remains locked in a prison of his mind, unable to interact with the glittering social world that was his rightful place. When his family hires the beautiful and determined Felicity Bennett to teach Armand, he is shaken by the onslaught of desire Felicity awakens in him. As Felicity slowly helps reclaim Armand, their passion begins to blossom into a transcendent love capable of healing the scars of both their pasts.

Twelve years in prison has stripped him of his humanity…

Armand, Comte de Valère has lost the ability to interact with polite society, until his family hires him a beautiful tutor, and he starts to come alive again…

Saving him is her only chance to escape a terrible fate…

Felicity Bennett vows she’ll do whatever it takes to help Armand fight back the demons that have held him captive for so long…

With Felicity’s help, Armand begins to heal, until a buried secret threatens to destroy their growing passion…

The Marquis de Valère escaped certain death in the French Revolution and is now an infamous privateer. Out to avenge the death of his mentor, Bastien discovers himself astonishingly out of his depth when confronted with a beautiful, daring young woman who is out for his blood…

Revenge should be sweet, but it may cost him everything…

The Marquis de Valère escaped certain death in the French Revolution and is now an infamous privateer. Out to avenge the death of his mentor, Bastien discovers himself astonishingly out of his depth when confronted with a beautiful, daring young woman who is out for his blood…

Forgiveness is unthinkable, but it may be her only hope…

British Admiral’s daughter Raeven Russell believes Bastien responsible for her fiancé’s death. But once the fiery beauty crosses swords with Bastien, she’s not so sure she really wants him to change his wicked ways… 

I am in the middle of re-reading the first two books of this series and I had to stop and tell you how much I love  them. Bastien’s story (previously titled ‘The Making of a Rogue’ and in my mind it will always be THAT title and THIS cover) is coming out next month on February 7th and I needed to get into the story, ergo my immersion into the series.

I would ask you to please click on the book covers and read some of the excerpts of each book and let me know what you think of it.

I thought each book was so well written and in spite of the setting and plots, all had managed to be amusing, witty and fun as well. All three books cover the period of the French Revolution (1789-1799) in France and Georgian Era (1801) in England and the author did an awesome job taking us through such a turbulent time in history.

If you haven’t read Shana Galen lately or at all, I think it’s time you picked up one of her books. She can make you cry in one paragraph, and by next she just might have you in stitches-laughing! Not many authors can do that.

She went all out in creating a wonderful series full of intrigue and sensual and romantic love scenes. The dialogue in each story is full of charm and wit, and the pace in all three flows perfectly. This is one of the best series I’ve read and just thought to share :)

Now, back to the second book….

MY RUTHLESS PRINCE by Gaelen Foley

This is the fourth and by far the most anticipated story of Gaelen Foley’s Inferno Club members. If you’re not familiar with them, then here it is in a nutshell.

The Inferno Club is a cover for very special elite of men who belong to The Order of St. Michael and whose purpose is to protect the King and Country against The Promethean, the evil association of another elite group of men who want to rule the world and destroy England.

So far we’ve met Max, Rohan and Jordan. All three are Knights of the Order of St. Michael, and have trained since childhood, as their fathers before them and as their children will after them, in protecting the Realm.

This is Drake’s story, and I have been looking forward to it ever since Max found out from Virgil, their fearless leader, that Drake’s team had been killed on the Continent. By the end of Max’s story we find out that Drake is alive, in the enemy hands and after being tortured, he is now being groomed to be one of them.

Ms. Foley cleverly weaves Drake’s story through each of the previous three, and I highly recommend you read them in order, as to do otherwise would totally ruin the experience of Drake’s back-story.

In MY WICKED MARQUESS, we witness the horror he is put through while tortured. We follow him through his confusion and watch him while his loyalties are tested over and over again through MY DANGEROUS DUKE and MY IRRESISTIBLE EARL. In MY RUTHLESS PRINCE, he puts everything on the line, his own life along the life of a woman he always loved, for his King, Country and the Brotherhood of the Order. He finally takes the steps necessary to end the evil allowed to run rampant through most of the world.

The first time we meet Emily Harper is in Drake’s dreams, as a ‘girl with violet eyes’ who helped him survive all those days spent in the dungeon. He didn’t even think she was real, until they came face to face in MY IRRESISTIBLE EARL. He comes to realize and slowly remember this young woman as his childhood playmate and the daughter of his father’s gamekeeper, and as such way beneath his station in life. Yet he knew instinctively that she is trustworthy and loyal. At the end of MY IRRESISTIBLE EARL Drake uses Emily to escape the Order and join the Promethean.

As MY RUTHLESS PRINCE opens, we encounter Emily on Drake’s heels as she plans to ‘save him’ from himself and in the process gets herself taken in by them. Together, they are now stuck in the remote Alps, not knowing if they will ever have a chance to escape, and in Emily’s case, not even certain if Drake wants to.

To finally witness Drake’s happily ever after was pure bliss. No man has been put through so much heartache and pain and his endurance to be rewarded in the end with a love of a woman such as Emily, was something I greatly looked forward to.

There is just too much to recommend this read. Ms. Foley has outdone herself with Drake’s story and I loved the pace and the plot, not to mention the sensuality of the hero and heroine. The characters were without a doubt three dimensional, strong and full of wit.

Drake and Emily jump off the pages and are brought to life in such a way that they feel real and our feelings are made to run deep with want for their happiness and the desire for them to crush the enemy. The author made sure early on that we got invested in them and I can tell you, their story brought me to tears as many times as it brought me smiles!

What impresses most is this young woman’s enduring love and devotion to a man she loved since she was a little girl and a man who had gone through fire, literally, to prove his loyalty to not only her but to his friends and his king and country. Now, that I call true grit!

Ms. Foley has also displayed her uncanny ability in developing the secondary characters to such a degree that even they seemed real, three dimensional and I for one am very grateful to her for taking the time and care with them. They were all there with a purpose and not just for ‘show’.

We see Virgil Banks and James Falkirk, and neither is good or bad, but human to the extreme. Then we meet up again with Malcolm and Niall Banks, father and son who will stop at nothing and go through anything and anybody to attain their ultimate goal of power and revenge.

I can honestly say that as much as I loved this story, Ms. Foley has thrown me a curve ball, and I was not a happy camper with it. I saw her point, but never the less, I was disappointed the direction she took with it.

Regardless of my disappointment, I loved Emily and Drake’s story while they went through danger and intrigue; revenge and hatred; conspiracy and betrayal; desire and passion which were all on display and heightened my enjoyment to an umpteenth degree.

And I must mention also her ability to bring back all the Knights that we met in the previous three books, like Max St. Albans, Marquess of Rotherstone, Rohan Kilburn, Duke of Warrington, Sebastian, Viscount of Beauchamp and Jordan Lennox, Earl of Falconridge without over powering the story with their bigger than life personalities but rather enriching the plot. They brought their humor, brain and brawn to this story which will keep you in suspense, in thrall and constantly second guessing good guys as much as the bad guys!

The only drawback I see to this story, and for that matter to this series, is that you really should not read it out of sequence. For the maximum enjoyment these stories should be read in order and I highly recommend each one. All have everything that a romance should and then some! Every one of them should be a five quill read and if you haven’t read them yet, please make sure you do. You will not be disappointed.

*This review posted on Romantic Crush Junkies Reviews eZine*

THE PRICE OF TEMPTATION by Lecia Cornwall

This story is a sequel to Ms. Cornwall’s debut novel SECRETS OF A PROPER COUNTESS in which a secondary character of Lady Evelyn Renshaw was pivotal to that story. You don’t necessarily need to read the first to enjoy the second. The book can be read as a standalone, but I’m one of those people that just can’t pass up a good read so I welcome the opportunity to connect to the characters better, to enjoy their back story and watch them slowly come to their own.

In the last book, Evelyn’s husband is pronounced a traitor to his country and he promptly disappears, leaving Evelyn to his disgrace and in desperate need of protection from his enemies, the Crown and from her own family. Seven months is a long time to be living in a limbo, not knowing if you’re still a wife or a widow. She is being watched in secret and in plain sight, and all this intrigue is finally beginning to wear her spirits down and the fear is slowly closing her inside of her home.

One early morning she decides to venture out for a ride in Hyde Park, not wanting to encounter anyone, knowing if she did she would be shunned and despised for her husband’s actions, and while riding she is confronted by a man who claims is sent by Napoleon to retrieve a ‘Gonfalon de Charlemagne’ which is a banner that her husband has and he is demanding she return it to him.

Out of the mist comes another rider, looking like a true warrior, and in the process of rescuing her, he gets shot.

Captain Sinjon Rutherford, third son of the Earl of Hallivell, is back in England and looking for a man that can save him from a noose. On his way to fight a duel with a man that is the cause of all his troubles, he can’t help but offer assistance to a Damsel in distress and for his gallantry is rewarded by a graze of a bullet in his sward arm!

To top off this unfortunate incident, he gets arrested and taken in for questioning by Adam De Courcey, Earl of Westlake and who knows exactly for what purpose Sinjon is in London. In order to save himself, Adam offers him a deal he can’t refuse.

If he doesn’t do as ordered by Adam, he will hang, so he agrees to be ‘employed’ by Evelyn as her footman in order to spy on her and retrieve the banner which is a legend and a symbol to the French, and if the banner is to fall into their hands, their soldiers will be under the assumption that nothing, no bullets or muskets can hurt them. The object is highly sought out for that reason alone and England would like to posses it and keep it out of France. As Phillip was the last one to have it, it stands to reason that it still might be somewhere in his house, and Evelyn might or might not be aware of it, so Sinjon agrees to this arrangement, but doesn’t feel much proud of it.

First, I loved Ms. Cornwall’s debut, and I was looking forward to this sequel and she didn’t disappoint me with Evelyn’s story.

The characterization of Evelyn was right on! This was a woman that did everything right and proper; she walled off her feelings and allowed only the façade to be seen and for it, she got mistreated by the society, her family and her husband. Everyone took her for granted and thought to run roughshod over her. It was fascinating to watch her slowly come to the realization that she could never please them no matter how she acts, and to see her gain her strength and loose the fear. I was elated to watch her fall in love with her ‘footman’ and dare the rules that the society put upon them.  I also felt sorry for Sinjon who knowingly deceives her, but is just torn up about it and by the time he means to come clean with his deception, the whole thing unravels and starts to crumble all around him.

Ms. Cornwell had every element covered in this story. Her heroine was flawed but heartwarming; her hero strong yet his regard and tender feelings for Evelyn show him to be a man with sense and strong sensuality. While he kept holding back his true identity from her, it didn’t stop him from wondering if she’d care to hear it. It mattered and proving himself innocent of the charges brought against him became vital to him. Especially when confronted with a fact that Evelyn was close to and had trust in Lord Creighton, his accuser and a man who actually committed all those dastardly deeds he was being blamed for.

Watching the truth come out, and Sinjon and Evelyn come together was extremely entertaining and fun.

The plot was intriguing and kept me reading and guessing from page to page. The villains were vicious and cruel, so much so that it evoked a few growls from me!

This story was quick paced and entertaining. The secondary characters were three dimensional and very much memorable and all perfectly tuned in while highly interesting. Evelyn’s sisters, Eloisa and Charlotte, gave me plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. She even gave us comedy of errors so funny that I had tears in my eyes while laughing!

I am very impressed with Ms. Cornwall’s writing voice, her plotting and characterization, witty dialogue and prose. Both books kept my interest with these elements that are highly required for my reading pleasure.

If you’re looking for a beautifully written love story filled with very well developed characters who will keep you entertained, then look no further. Everything in this story fits together very well and the romance will have you wanting a ‘footman’ of your own. I’m proud to recommend it and give it my five quills!

*This review posted on Romantic Crush Junkies Reviews eZine*

SINS OF THE HIGHLANDER by Connie Mason with Mia Marlowe

From the first paragraph you’re sucked in as the authors are letting us into Rob’s dream and it is a dream that Rob keeps having frequently of loving his dead wife. These dreams are the only thing that keeps this man who everyone calls ‘Mad Rob’ somewhat ‘sane’. Without having Fiona’s ‘visits’ in his dreams he would be lost and the pain would truly drive him insane.

They were married on Christmas day and twelve days later, by Epiphany, she was abducted by Lachlan Drummond, repeatedly raped by him, and one day she jumped out the tower window to her death.
Rob has lived with this knowledge and hate towards Lachlan for two years, and finally he is ready to spring revenge on the man who hurt his Fiona. He aims to have an ‘eye for an eye’ and is planning to crash Lachlan’s wedding and take his bride, Elspeth Stewart.

Elspeth Stewart is a dutiful daughter and in order to please her father she is willing to wed a man of his choosing, Laird Lachlan Drummond. Accepting this marriage, doesn’t make her happy as much as it makes her apprehensive. Right before she is to say her vows Mad Rob enters the Kirk on his black stallion and dumps her across his lap, telling Lachlan that if he wants his bride in one piece, he is to come to Caistal Dubh in one month’s time so they could finally have it out. Coming any sooner, let alone follow him, would certainly bring on her death!

What follows is a story of Rob and his men, with Elspeth in tow, making their way to his castle, while Lachlan and her father are following a trail that clever Elspeth leaves for them. However, once Elspeth learns the truth behind Rob’s thirst for revenge against Lachlan, she slowly realizes that Rob saved her from the same faith.

This story is brimming with action; the plot is full of twists and turns and the characters of Elspeth and Rob had me sigh and cry while I followed their road to happily ever after. To listen to Rob finally tell Elspeth about his love for his wife was heartbreaking not only for Elspeth but for the reader too.

To have these two authors take a fairly unoriginal trope of ‘bride abduction’ and turn it into a unique and heartwarming tale is awe inspiring.

I loved taking this danger filled journey with our hero and heroine. To watch them fight off an attack by a pack of howling wolves exhilarating and fun. Along the way they’ll come across many secondary characters that will aid them and we’ll come to care for them as well.

I was riveted by both Elspeth and Rob and their strong feelings for each. Both had a hard time accepting and admitting it to themselves let alone to each other. As someone who has The Sight, Elspeth was hoping it would help her ‘see’ what might come next, but alas every time a vision appears it seems to be just a bit too late.

Rob has regrets and the quilt he feels in not being able to protect his Fiona, is something that he has a very hard time coming to terms with. Oh, and wait until you meet the villain and Elspeth’s attended, Lachlan. What a piece of work this dude turned out to be. It has been awhile since I’ve encountered such a thoroughly despicable human being. This man had not only raped and tortured Fiona, but he felt not a bit of remorse and planned to do the same to Elspeth. She was only means to an end for him, and worth only the dowry she brings. Besides lying to her parents, which was the least of his numerous sins, he at one point accuses her of witchcraft and plans to see her burned. As far as villains go, this guy is second to none!

But our hero is ever ready to come to Elspeth’s rescue and to read the last chapters of this book was one pure pleasure! I’ve literally paced the floor with my Kindle, rooting for Rob to end that bastard’s days once and for all.

Can you tell I liked this book? I hope that you can because I certainly gave enough clues! This is one fast paced journey that I was made to feel a part of, and for that I must thank the authors who are masters of their craft. I have no doubt that this book will be one of the best reads of 2012. I will not be surprised if it is nominated and awarded a prize. Everything in it is prize worthy.

I have to admit that I am stunned at Connie Mason’s and Mia Marlowe’s writing. SINS OF THE HIGHLANDER does not read as a co-written story. I am not sure who wrote which part, or how does that work anyways? Everything flowed seamlessly and I couldn’t tell that it was written by two people.

This is one story that all Highlander fans will love, but especially Connie Mason’s fans that have been waiting for this story for some time now. I also think that Mia Marlowe’s old and new fans will love this collaborative work and ask for more! As for myself, I have added two new authors to my wish list, my to be read pile and an auto buy list. Need I tell you this is a five quill read or will you deduce this from my review? I wish you a happy reading!

*This review posted on Romantic Crush Junkies Reviews eZine*

Downton Abbey

I’m sitting here and waiting for the second season of a show that hit our shores last year on my local WTTW Chanel by the name of ‘Downton Abbey’. I am such a sucker for anything History in general and English in particular. I swear in my past life (if you believe in those) I must have been born English!

Well, I loved this Masterpiece Theater show so much that I thought to let some of you that haven’t heard of it, know that the second season is upon us in about 23 minutes.

The show is set in Edwardian Era, following the lives of the aristocratic family and their servants. It reminds me a lot of ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ from years ago.

The series is created by Julian Fellows (Gosford Park), starring Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, and Elizabeth McGovern. Last year it brought itself six Emmy Awards out of twelve nominations, and one of them went to Dame Maggie Smith (the mother of my Muse Toby Stephens) and I couldn’t be happier for her and the show.

The rumor is that the show is one of the most expensive ones ever produced (and I do believe it) and the reason for the short season (it consists of only four episodes per).

Trailer for the first Season:

 

Season Two Trailer:

 

By the way, the show is filmed at Highclere Castle and the place is breathtaking.

Instead of me telling you how good the show is, why don’t you check it out for yourselves?

Here is the link to ALL of its EIGHT episodes (both seasons) and a Christmas Special. ENJOY!