‘Prince of Ravenscar’ by Catherine Coulter

STORY: In April 1831, her grace Corinne Monroe wants her widowed son, Lord Julian, to marry her best friend’s daughter, Miss Sophie Wilkie. Julian last saw Sophie when she was twelve years old, silent, skinny, and always staring at him. However, his mother is nothing if not persuasive, and Julian reluctantly accompanies her to London to meet the young lady.

And he knows that whatever happens isn’t going to be good.

Lord Devlin Monroe, Julian’s nephew, is very fond of his intriguing reputation in society: he delights, he frightens, he brings on delicious shudders. He’s enjoying an extraordinarily pleasant bachelor life until Miss Roxanne Radcliffe and her niece, Miss Sophie Wilkie, appear in London society, and he finds himself wondering how he could have enjoyed midnight alone.

Julian and Devlin must discover what really happened three years earlier when Julian’s first wife, Lily, was found dead. If they don’t find out the truth, their lives could be ruined. And there is another, even more perfidious, danger that lurks in the shadows, waiting.

REVIEW: I have enjoyed this authors written word for many-a-year, until I read ‘The Valcourt Heiress’. I was disappointed and disillusioned by her writing, never thinking to pick up any of her upcoming novels. And then LibraryThing.com has offered this one and I thought, why not?! I’ll give CC one more chance.

I was honestly afraid to pick it up. I didn’t want this book to be bad as the previous one. I wanted to WILL it to be good. It took me months to finally succumb and read it, that’s how afraid I was!

Let me be clear and reiterate one fact: I was a HUGE fan and I read almost ALL of her historical romances, ‘Sherbrooke Bride’ series being one of my favorites [for my reviews of these please click on the names of the books].

I enjoyed her writing; her prose and plotting; her fast pace and witty dialogue and most of all, the chemistry of her main and secondary players. She knew how to hook me from the first page to the last. Her character had depth and her plots were interesting and very entertaining. So what happened to THAT Catherine Coulter? The one that wrote those wonderfully witty stories that kept me reading way into the wee hours of the morning?! Why isn’t there ANYONE in her inner circle letting her know that the work she’s putting out there is lacking that main ingredient that we expect of her; imagination.

Or is she so jaded by her success that she doesn’t care what her audience, mainly her fans, think of her work. I am as much baffled by this latest inferior piece of work that I can only describe as train wreck, as I am disappointed. As a faithful fan I am deeply hurt by her lack of respect for my intelligence, taking me for granted as she and her ‘team’ are relying on me buying her work for no other reason but her well-earned reputation of a great story-teller that is decades old. It is not enough; not any more. I am older and wiser, and I will NOT be fooled again.

I’ll not bore you with synopsis as you can surmise the book from its blurb above (which is better than this book, trust me), but I will tell you why you should not spend your hard-earned money on it.

It is very hard for us reviewers out there to review a bad novel. We are human and our feelings get hurt by spending time reading work that lacks in prose, plot and characterization. We want to be entertained and wooed; we want to be engaged and touched; we want to escape the reality of our daily lives and that’s why we read romance. Yet when the book lets me down and my feelings of utter lack of respect on the part of the author [not going to even mention her ‘team’] literally makes me want to hurl every curs word I know at all of them, I find it hard to refrain, but I must. So, here is my review: this novel is not worth your time, money and attention. You deserve better. Especially from Catherine Coulter. She owes us an apology for wasting time, money and energy invested in reading this bland ‘salad of words’.

The characters are cardboard cut outs, cartoons if you will; the plot is inane and unnecessary; and the ‘witty dialogue’ a cornucopia of gibberish, a salad of words strewn around to fill the pages required for a hardcover novel.

There is no chemistry between ANY of the characters who I found bland and lackluster and boring at best. They were one-dimensional and unlikable, failing to pull me in, keep me interested. I was left not giving a fig about any of them!

Please, head my words, they are not lightly given: this book is so bad, it is not even funny!

ARC provided by publisher through LibraryThing.com.

‘Wicked at Heart’ by Danelle Harmon

STORY: The Beauty is Lady Gwyneth Evans Simms, a fiery and independent young widow who has won wide renown for her campaigns to aid the unfortunate and the oppressed. Fearlessly determined, she turns her passionate energy upon the prison hulks anchored in England’s harbors… unwittingly throwing herself against a ruthless adversary and into the most perilous fight of her life.

The Beast is Damon Andrew Phillip deWolfe, the rude and arrogant Marquess of Morninghall, a lone wolf of a man with devil’s eyes and a temper blacker than hell. Tall, dark, and very, very dangerous, the last thing he needs or wants is this intrepid virago interfering in his life. But only Gwyneth can exorcise the personal demons that haunt Damon’s black soul… and teach him to love, once again.

REVIEW: As this story opens, our young hero is only fifteen years old and we witness his first sexual encounter with an ‘older’ woman. This, combined with his childhood abuse, will turn him into a man who is in constant state of rage, anger and physical pain.

Damon de Wolfe, the sixth Marquess of Morninghall did everything he could to disengage himself from humanity. He embraced and fed his rage keeping it close for so long, that IT was the only thing that kept him going. He treated everyone around him with disdain and contempt and our heroine needed to be one strong female in order to see through all that pain and stand up to IT and him, to save this man’s broken heart.

Lady Gwyneth Evans Simms is a very likable heroine, but not to our hero. He sees her as an interfering and troublesome woman who he would like nothing more than to physically posses and humiliate. He is in for a rude awakening as this particular woman is not easily manipulated. She is on a mission to help mistreated prisoners who are on his ship. To say that the sparks fly when these two strong-minded people clash, is an understatement!

The above blurb adequately summarizes the story and it’s not necessary for me to elaborate more on it, however I will tell you of my reasons why I liked the story, and disliked the hero (well, through almost half the story).

Ms. Harmon, through her previous four books I’ve read from her, has proven to me that she’s a great story-teller. Through her writing she can engage a range of my emotions and that’s a sign of a good author. This story made me angry, smile and cry. And then, at the very end, it left me confused and I felt let down. Our hero and heroine have their well deserved happy ever after and in the end, that’s what counts, yet the ending might have been just a tad clearer.

Despite it, I really enjoyed this highly emotional story. Its pace was fast and characters interesting, so it kept me engaged all the way through the end. This is not your cookie cutter story and its hero is someone you’ll need to have patience with. His journey from deep darkness was worth taking and I was glad to have watched him come out better for it.

ARC provided by the Author.

Goodnight Sweet Demelza…

For all you young’ens who are not familiar with Demelza, I am here to introduce her and the series, to you.

Angharad Rees “was a Welsh actress, best known for her British television roles during the 1970s, and in particular her leading role as Demelza in the 1970s BBC drama series Poldark.”[Wikipedia],

‘Poldark’ was a BBC television series based on the novels written by Winston Graham which aired in England from 1975 to 1977. In the late ’70s I found myself back in the ‘Old Country’ Yugoslavia, back then, married and very lonely at night as my brand new husband was working third shift. Serbian TV just about that time started running a serial called ‘Poldark’ and I was so happy not have had to read the subtitles, but what made my heart sing was the wonderful love story of Ross and Demelza. The main story centers around Captain Ross Poldark who was played to a tee by an actor whose name I never heard before, Robin Ellis. I honestly think that any other actor would have ‘overact’ this larger than life character. The producers, or which ever power that be chose this young actor to play this role, deserves a medal. Robin Ellis WAS Ross and we all ‘ate him up’ as he stole our hearts.

Ross Poldark arrives home from the American Revolutionary War and finds out that his life will never be the same again. His father has passed on; the farmlands and copper mines they’ve owned, are now being sold; his uncle has claimed the estate and the love of his life and his secret fiancée Elizabeth, played by Jill Townsend, is now engaged to his cousin Francis, played by Clive Francis. As Ross slowly sets out to rebuild his life and accept the union of Francis and Elizabeth, he comes across an urchin ‘boy’ who will steal his heart. Demelza, played by the beloved  Angharad Rees, is a poor, hungry, fifteen year old girl who hasn’t eaten in a long while. Their first meeting takes place at a fair, where she’s caught steeling bread.

Ross feels sorry for and feeds the poor urchin, and after some persuasion from Demelza, he offers her shelter and work at his home. It didn’t take long for Demelza to ‘clean up’ and for Ross to start liking her. However, the love of his life, Elizabeth, was always on his mind and it took Ross awhile to realize that his life has been blessed by Demelza, and he finally admits his love to her.

Even though the main characters drove most of the stories, this was an ensemble series and the secondary characters had their own troubles. Who can forget  Dr. Dwight Enys played by Richard Morant, a young new doctor who comes to serve the small mining community and finds himself falling in love with a married woman, Keren Daniel, who ends up killed by her husband after he discovers her infidelity. For a long time Dwight blames himself for her death, but one encounter with a very rich and very spoiled heiress Caroline Penvenen played by Judy Geeson, starts a relationship that will eventually end up in a marriage.

And then there are his old servants, Jud and Prudie Paynter played by Paul Curran and Mary Wimbush, that brought so much humor to their characters and to the series as well. And what would one of these series be without a villain, and this one had it in George Warleggan who was played to perfection by Ralph Bates. George Warleggan hated Ross with a passion and he wanted to own everything that Ross owned and loved, so he went after Elizabeth and eventually married her (after Frances died).

But what stunned me the most was the setting of this drama. It was set in Cornwall, and with its breathtaking scenery of cliffs, coves and beaches, it was pure magic.

And talking of magic, Angharad Rees’ portrayal of Demelza was magical, too. When Demelza smiles, her whole face lights up and we cannot but bask in it. She was THE ultimate romance heroine and someone that I credit for pointing me to romance novels. I just found out (through Robin Ellis’ Blog) that she passed away at the age of sixty-three. My heart goes out to all her family, friends and millions of fans. She will be always fondly remembered by all of us that adored her portrayal of Demelza. None of us can ever forget that smile that lit up the small screen like millions of stars upon the night sky.

I have never had the pleasure to meet her in person, but a few months ago I read a story that was set in Cornwall and I thought of ‘Poldark’ series so I thought to Google it and see if I can see what happened to some of the cast members, but that night I ended up re watching the WHOLE series. I also found out that Robin Ellis would be coming to my local Barnes & Nobles promoting his new cook book and ‘Making Poldark’ book as well, and I was NOT going to miss this chance to meet ‘Ross’. What a real treat that was! My husband and I had a ball meeting Mr. and Mrs. Ellis and a few of his ardent fans as well. You can also read Robin’s tribute to her here and listen to it here (about 2 hrs. and 40 min. in-move the line to the #).

Tell us if you ever saw POLDARK and your thoughts about it. Who started you on the romance ‘trip’ and how long ago?

‘Heart of Rock’ by Karyn Gerrard Giveaway

STORY: Irishman Brogan Byrne is at the pinnacle of rock music success in 1974. Handsome, charismatic, with a three-octave voice, you’d think he had it all. But Byrne sinks to new depths of depravity with women, liquor, and drugs.

Carly Montgomery is an ambitious record executive offered an opportunity to be manager for the last leg of Byrne’s tour. Though she’s detached and tough as nails, Carly’s cool façade comes under attack. Somehow Byrne manages to slip by her frosty defenses.

Brogan, for his part, is broken inside. A memory weighs on his soul and affects his actions. Is Carly the one woman to help him forget his guilt and heal his heart of rock?

REVIEW: Let me see if I can describe this story in one sentence….Best things come in small packages and this short, hot, sensual and unbelievably sweet love story is perfect summer read.

Have any of you seen Tom Cruise in his latest movie ‘Rock of Ages’? He played your typical 80’s Rock Star and oh. em. gee. did he do an awesome job! Well, our hero was just like that. He inoculates himself with drugs, drink and sex (not necessarily in that order) in order to keep his heart rock solid and from engaging it in any of his relationships, from his brothers, girlfriend, band mates. And then he hits the ‘rock bottom’ and it’s ‘do or die’ decision time….

Carly has been managing rock stars for a few years now, and stepping in to manage this mess of a man could either help or ruin her career, but she has no choice and if anything, she welcomes the challenge. Never would she dream that in doing her job, her heart would be involved to a point that she might get it broken….

As I said earlier, this is not a long read, but boy was it good. Karyn Gerrard can write erotic scenes as well as she can write the sweet and tender ones. If you are looking to be entertained with a love story filled with sensuality and tenderness all at the same time, grab this read when you head out to the beach, pool or even a road trip [as long as someone else is driving!]. You won’t be sorry and you’ll be highly entertained!

Here’s TC to get you in a mood for this story….

Now, relax, click here for some inspiration Karyn had in writing this story….and for your greatest enjoyment of this fun excerpt from ‘Heart of Rock’!

“Where the feck am I again?”

Looking at him, Carly shook her head. “Are you going to become one of those pathetic, burnt out, brain-fried bastards who need index cards wherever you go so you know what city you’re in?”

He interrupted her and in an uninterested tone explained, “Love, I always needed index cards to tell me what city I was in.”

She sighed in exasperation but continued, “We’re still in Philly in a private VIP lounge at the airport waiting on a flight to JFK. In New York. You have a concert in two nights, remember?”

“Far out,” Brogan mumbled in annoyance.

“Guess I’ll have to introduce myself again. Carly Montgomery. I’m your new manager. Byron quit last night. I suppose you don’t remember that, either.”

“No. I really don’t remember. The show went well, I suppose.”

“Yes, the concert went fine. What happened after the show caused the concern. You all but trashed the dressing room at the Spectrum. Your mess is going to cost a pretty penny, Nigel is not impressed.”

“Carly? How original. Copy Carly Simon, did you?”

He watched as her jaw set in annoyance. “I don’t copy anybody. My name is Cara, but my family has called me Carly since I could crawl — and why am I explaining this to you?”

Brogan blinked and had a good look at this infuriating-as-shite woman. She was no more than 5’3”, her hair was long and wavy, dyed some two-tone shade of black with bright red streaks throughout. She wore a skintight black leather skirt and sexy four-inch black pumps. A tight gold tiger-patterned sweater hugged her feminine curves. Under the six layers of makeup he supposed she was attractive enough, no raving beauty but adequate. Her voice, however, sounded like nails on a chalkboard.

“I don’t have to stay here. You can’t keep me. I’ll find my own feckin’ way to New York —”

Carly whistled shrilly through her teeth. The door to the private lounge swung open. A man as big as a Volkswagen with a human head on it stood before Brogan with his legs apart and tree trunk-sized arms crossed defiantly.

Carly’s laugh sounded smug and amused, which pissed him off further. “This is Giovanni. Gio gave you the cold shower, remember?”

He interjected again, this time more sarcastically, “Love, it’s not the first cold shower I ever had.”

“Regardless, he’ll be your shadow going forward. Gio will keep you in line. Make sure you’re a good boy and behave at the venues in future.”

“I need a drink.” Brogan snarled.

Carly inclined her head toward the counter. “There is fresh coffee in the pot, and some donuts in the box. That’s all you’re getting for now.”

Jaysus Christ. He clasped his hands together to keep them from shaking. He did need a drink — badly. Times like this, he wished he smoked. He could use a fag right now. He was sober for the first time in days. Well, he would try to stay somewhat lucid for the show itself. But after the concert was over he would put aside the few restraints. Stalking the stage and whipping the crowd into a wild froth wasn’t enough for him. He always needed more. His irritated gaze roamed over the huge man in front of him. Great. His own gorilla.

“Listen to me, Byrne. I’ve been around enough rockers these last three years to see the signs. Your own band can’t stand you. They went to Nigel. They will be around you only for prerequisite rehearsals and the show itself. The rest of the time? They don’t want to know you. They demanded separate travel and different hotels, though I can’t see that happening. You’re arrogant even to your own family and to your girlfriend,” Carly hesitated. “You don’t remember a thing, do you?”

Brogan Byrne didn’t know why he acted this way and didn’t know how to stop. This monster lived inside him, and it had resided there for a long time. The demon was a voracious beast. Even now it clamored and groaned. The beast wanted to be fed. The only thing quieting the fiend was drugs and sex. He needed some type of hit. He glanced over at Gio. If Tiny wasn’t here he could put the moves on this Carly. Jaysus, where did that come from?”

Like Karyn Gerrard Author page on Facebook

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Buy ‘HEART OF ROCK’ at Silver Publishing,  ALL ROMANCE, Amazon.

‘Friday Mornings At Nine’ by Marilyn Brant

STORY: Every woman remembers her firsts: Her first kiss. Her first lover. And her first time contemplating an affair…

Each Friday morning at the Indigo Moon Café, Jennifer, Bridget and Tamara meet to swap stories about marriage, kids and work. But one day, spurred by recent e-mails from her college ex, Jennifer poses questions they’ve never faced before. What if they all married the wrong man? What if they’re living the wrong life? And what would happen if, just once, they gave in to temptation…

Soon each woman is second-guessing the choices she’s made–and the ones she can unmake–as she becomes aware of new opportunities around every corner, from attentive colleagues and sexy neighbors to flirtatious past lovers. And as fantasies blur with real life, Jennifer, Bridget and Tamara begin to realize how little they know about each other, their marriages and themselves, and how much there is to gain–and lose–when you step outside the rules.

REVIEW: Jennifer is married to Michael, mother to twin girls, and works as freelance web designer.

Bridget is married to Graham, mother of three and had just recently started work again.

Tamara, married to Jon, has one son and is stay-at-home mom.

These three middle-aged women meet each Friday at the Indigo Moon Cafe, to share their lives with each other.

Tamara’s husband is a lawyer who’s never home. Keeping company with her neighbor, a very handsome writer seems a thing to do. As their only son is off to college, she’s left all alone. Lonely and bored she makes her home and especially her garden a sanctuary of sorts.

When Jennifer receives an unexpected message from her ex-boyfriend arrives, she has a choice to make. See him with telling her hubby, or not see him and not tell her hubby?!

Bridget gets a job at Dr. Luke’s dental office, and both are happy to discover that they share their love for cooking…

The suspense of this tale is in trying to figure out which one of these women will succumb to infidelity. To be honest, I didn’t see it coming, and hope you won’t either.

Marilyn Brant went out on a limb with this story, calling it romance, and while some will no doubt not see it as such, once you get into the story, vest yourself in these complicated, sometimes frivolous yet very human characters, you’ll see the romance of it. What drew me to this story at first was the subject matter, but what grabbed me and held me captive was the humanity of the story.

You’ll appreciate this author’s serious thought and consideration to this topic which I’m sure wasn’t an easy thing to do when writing romance. She went all out in making sure we, the readers, would have the full story and in the end we were left to accept the decisions of these women without any prejudices and judgments. Now, that I call some crafty writing!

This was one book I wasn’t looking forward to reading and after I was done with it, I had a hard time penning a review of it. This story needed digesting and coming to terms with. Stories of these three women were just hitting too close to home. I identified with all three of them. I saw bits and pieces of myself in them, and like them, had at one time or another come with that same dilemma, so in the end I did…well, this is not about me, is it?

If you like well written contemporary stories, with lots of humor and plenty of reality, this one’s for you. I’d say if it comes to ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ and this one, skip the ‘Shades’. You’ll be glad you did!

Time for …’My DH’s FB stats’!

Could never figure out how what would seem to be otherwise educated, professional men somehow end up fooling themselves into thinking that wearing a dead rat on their head is going to fool anybody? And why are the wives, brothers and friends of these dudes not stepping up and saying “Hey man, you look completely retarded and by the way, even if you still had hair, you couldn’t get laid in a woman’s prison with a handful of pardons!”… Late night TV rules!

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Evening post BBQ stroll on the “Good side” of town with one of Mel’s HIGHLY potent Clown Killers disguised in a Starbucks cup. Slight buzz, warm and listening To Carolla on a podcast. ENJOYING myself!

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Life lesson: ALWAYS get three estimates and NEVER trust an Internet review. Should have gone to see my man Al right off. Used him years ago but he’s getting older and slowing down. Still a throw back to the 70’s in his office. Lots of shitty knotty pine paneling in the office, a popcorn wagon and a weird squeaky overhead fan that I remember from TEN YEARS ago! Meaning, he’s been listening to it squeak for more than a decade and never bothered fixing it. After about 10 minutes I’d would have ripped the fucking thing out of the ceiling, but that’s just me. Also sporting the same haircut since 1958. Al’s awesome!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~ ~

So some dizzy broad calls in and asks this C***t how she can get out from underneath her under water mortgage on some P.O.S. condo she owns. But she’s “Fortunate” because she has a really good job and is getting married in the fall and she doesn’t want to take the loss EVEN THOUGH she can afford her payment. So what does this T**t tell the caller to do?… Bust out and DON’T pay her mortgage so she’ll qualify for a short sale. BLAMES the banks for not helping?!!! Helping??? She CAN afford the F’n payment! WTF kind of cry baby nation have we become for the love of Christ, where THIS is acceptable advice? You’d be considered a common dead beat bust out 50 years ago pulling this kind of move!… Where’s my Tylenol???!!!

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No shortage of products for lunatics being advertised on late night TV. I still want to know who’s putting pen to paper and committing literally millions of dollars to these fococtic ideas? I’m still of the opinion it’s the Chinese testing the waters to see if we’ve dumbed ourselves down enough to invade us at this point.

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Putting that “Italian Trash” out to the curb man. Melanie’s always arguing with me that if it came down to either an Aventador or that Murcielago SV, she’d always go with the SV. It’s a “numbers game” she says. Limited production, special edition, investment grade. She can appreciate the new technology, but that girl can’t get enough carbon fiber in her automotive diet. Give her a gated 6 speed and that heavy Lambo clutch, and she’s definitely in her element. FORZA!

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Sam Drucker of Green Acres out lived Eva Gabor but not Zsa Zsa Gabor. Cheech’s career somehow outlived Chong’s but now even though Tommy Chong’s prostate is on fire, I’m still not willing to count Zsa Zsa out by a long shot.

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So….you’re telling me the monkey in charge of changing the number on “Number of accident free days” plaque managed to cut his finger while trying to change said number? And by the way, NEVER managed to even complete the number change correctly? YES….. EVERYONE is a fuck up!!!! And the scariest part?… I’m not at all surprised! It’s over. It’s been over for a long time.

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So I pull into the Mobile station to top off the tank and all seems to be going well until the dingbat in the BMW next to me suddenly pulls out with the gas nozzle still working. Next thing I see is this thing on the ground pumping gas all over the place. Thinking I’m going to end up in a fucking explosion, I hurriedly stop my pump, jump in the car and move it out into the street. The dizzy broad then comes back, STILL on her phone and continues to fill her tank at the same pump, acting like nothing happened? At least 10 gallons of raw fuel all over the place and thank God it’s raining! POINT BEING: You are more likely to be killed by some dingbat American chick on a cell phone in a car than any terrorist! Also interesting, according to the guys working at the station, almost ALL of the drive offs without paying are women. Distracted just a bit are we?

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Definitive proof that we really are just a society of fucking morons, as validated by corporate America. Somewhere, someone in the marketing department at Hershey’s said “Hey man, all we have to do is make the text bigger on the packaging and reduce the chocolate to as thin as the width of a nickel and the monkeys will keep paying us a buck for it and think they’re actually getting more!” Seems to have worked, because at first glance I thought it was bigger too. The good news is that an L.A.U.S.D. “Diploma” is still only 75 cents out of this vending machine.

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We’ve come a long way. A dozen roses is practically free and a gallon of gas exceeds 50% of the minimum wage. At least they let you watch sports center while they’re screwing you. Cable TV in the gas pumps man. Can’t go 30 seconds without some sort of stimulation. No wonder everyone’s rolling around with some form of ADHD these days.

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1:04 a.m. Central time. Nothing to do but enjoy this balmy starry night on the patio listening to the hum of central air conditioning units and the fountain. Enjoying the last White Russian because I just ran out of half and half. If I were in L.A. I’d head down to the Ralph’s in my bathrobe and pay in loose change for another carton… But I’m not in L.A. at the moment. The “Dude” abides. Man.

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12:00 midnight officially April 1st. My lovely wife’s Birthday. On my way upstairs to surprise her.

‘The Marquess’ by Patricia Rice

STORY: Scarred in a duel over a feckless woman, Gavin Lawrence leaves America to take up his new duty as Marquess of Effingham, vowing never to care about others again. But lurking in the secret passages of his crumbling manor house is a courageous and exceedingly annoying young woman in terrible danger.

The self-sufficient daughter of a soldier, Dillian Whitnell guards her injured cousin in isolated Arinmede manor after an attempt on both their lives. Dillian hadn’t expected the new marquess to notice her, but his stubborn refusal to believe she’s a ghost turns into a hide-and-seek game that leads to increasingly close encounters. A game where irritation turns to intrigue, and intrigue to a forbidden passion as the real villain emerges from the past.

REVIEW: This story was such a pleasure to read. Patricia Rice gives us her version of the beauty and the beast, and I really liked her take on it.

Gavin Lawrence, recently titled Marquess of Effingham, a badly scarred man, has finally arrived in England to claim his title and properties, including an old and run down castle with hardly any servants. His brother Michael accompanies him for this adventure, and as younger brothers go, Michael is ever so obliging in throwing Gavin for a loop, and the latest one is particularly troubling to this impoverished newly minted aristocrat.

Dillian Whitnell has lived with her young cousin Lady Blanche Perceval for a while now, and to many in the society, she’s known as Miss Reynolds, Blanche’s companion. The pretence is deliberate even though the name is legitimate. The women have become very close confidants and mostly rely on each other, and not on Lady Blanches cousin, young Neville, Duke of Anglesey who neither of them trust and are suspecting of trying to kill Blanche.

The two main characters were very likable once you got to know them better and understand their backgrounds. Trust never came easy to them and trusting each other took some time. Once Gavin finds out who Dillian really is and learns of her childhood, he can’t help but admire the woman she’s become. The same goes for Dillian, although it was much harder for her to get to know the man behind the scars.

What I also appreciated in this story is the realness brought to the love scenes between the two. There was no coyness in them and the chemistry was purely sexual in the beginning. Both individuals knew what they wanted from each other, and frankly neither wanted nor could offer more, at the time. I liked that.

Even though the story starts off a bit slow, I understood the reasons behind it. The author chose that course in order for me to get familiar with the cast of characters as well as the setting of the plot, and I for one appreciate that she did. It helped me to understand the dynamic between the main and secondary characters, and the relationship between the hero and the heroine. As the story develops, so does the plot and the pace is picked up. Ms. Rice knows her craft and there were no loopholes left in this well written, very solid and highly entertaining mystery filled romance.

As beauty and the beast stories go, this one’s one of the best I’ve read so far. I also read the sequel to it, The English Heiress, which is Michael and Blanches story, and recommend it highly as well.