‘Price of Desire’ by Lavinia Kent

POD LKSTORY: A Military Hero and a Despairing Wife . . .

Captain Wulf Huntington and Rose, Lady Burberry, become lost in pleasure on an anonymous afternoon and evening caught in time.

But reality intrudes sooner than either thought possible when both learn the other’s true identity and all the reasons why their love cannot be. He must return to military life and she to the only life she knows.

Until . . .

Years pass and now the widowed Rose seeks another husband. At a country house party organized to meet eligible men, an angry Wulf intrudes. He wants answers from Rose, answers she is not willing to give. Will past betrayals and secrets keep the lovers apart or will they come to embrace a love for all time?

REVIEW: This is the second installment of Ms. Kent’s Desire series, and this is Rose’s story and the price she pays for giving into her desire to be free of worry for just one warm summer afternoon.

The hero of this story, Captain Wulf Huntington, we met briefly in the first book and I just knew this guy was going to be complex and compelling. He’s an Alpha hero to the bone, big, strong and handsome; man who’s been through hell while in battle at Waterloo and whose personal story, when he finally breaks down and tells it, will break your heart.

In the Prologue, we meet the young Lady Rosalind Burberry who is tending her own gardens and is having a ‘fight’ with a rose-bush that’s too stubborn to budge, and out of the blue a young, strong and way too good-looking man stops by to help her out with it. Both are immediately taken with each other, regardless of her married state, which of course he knows nothing about. Talk about sexual tension!

Wulf is on his way to Lord Burberry with an errand and coming upon this beautiful woman who is flirting with him and is desirous of his ‘full’ attention is what he feels something he needs to cleanse himself from all the carnage he’d witnessed from the battles he’s been into, and Rose feels that after many years of celibacy in her married life, it’s something her soul just had to give into, to prove that she’s still a woman. Neither is aware that the price they’ll be paying for that afternoon would be high and the memories would be with both through the next five years of their life.

Once more Lavinia Kent goes all out in her characterization of these two very stubborn, very strong and very passionate people. I loved them both and yet I wanted to strangle Rose! No, I’m not going to tell you why. You’ll need to read the book to find out why.

There’s so much I want to ‘blurt’ out about this book, but if I start ‘gushing’ I’m sure I’ll be giving away too much of the plot! Needles to say, there’s a mystery here too, great dialogue and secondary characters of Marguerite, Rose’s sister and Tristan, Wulf’s friend as well as a comeback of a sort by Lady Smythe-Burke and her nephew, Duke of Westlake.

There’s only one thing I found a bit too irritating and it’s Rosalind’s indecision and constant back and forth in her own reasoning about why she’s set on a course of action. I think it just went on too long. That however did not make me enjoy this book any less.

For some reason, I noticed that this book is even longer than the first by a good margin, yet only priced at $2.99. I highly recommend it and hope you’ll sample it on Amazon, like I did, and buy it.

I cannot tell you how eager I am to read the last book in this trilogy, ‘Taste of Desire’ which will be Tristan’s story. I just read the sample of it and went numb, and I bet you would too! It’s coming out in late February and I am glad it’s a short month!

*Book bought from Amazon.

‘Hint of Desire’ by Lavinia Kent

HOD LKSTORY: An Enigmatic Duke . . .

Arthur Alexander DeWolf, the eighth Duke of Westlake, lacks for nothing in life . . . except a woman who will stir his blood for longer than one night. Until fate steps in on his morning ride and he stumbles across Lily St. Aubin, Countess of Worthington.

A Desperate Young Woman . . .

It is on the worst day of her life that Lily meets the imperious duke. Helpless and unable to resist, she has no choice but to trust that this dangerously handsome man will protect her and newborn son. But, as trust begins to grow between them, danger lurks ever closer . . . danger that could destroy Lily. And their newfound love.

REVIEW: Lavinia Kent is an author I started to read from her first début in 2009 with ‘Talent for Sin’ [here are my thoughts on that series and my review of 'What a Duke Wants'].

She has impressed me with her grasp of regency society, her smart plotting and entertaining dialogue. Her books are sensual and never overtly sexual, while her characterization of every player she introduces are three-dimensional and intriguing, and so ‘in my face’ that I tend to get very emotional while reading. If an author writes a character or a situation which engages my emotions, I think they achieved their goal. Even in the situations where I could wring a heroine’s neck for acting stupid!

This book, the first in her Desire Trilogy, she opens the heroine’s story with her at the edge of the cliff looking at her husband’s dead body down below…and I was hooked!

From the first scene, this story grabs you and never lets you breathe easy

In Lily St. Aubin, Countess of Worthington, she gives us a heroine that is complex and yet easily liked. Her life’s story is hinted at from the start, but once she voices it, we are struck dumb by the rawness of her ordeal and our rage at her enemy.

Arthur Alexander DeWolf, the eighth Duke of Westlake is a man born and bred to his heritage. He’s exactly what his father wanted him to be: strong of will and reserved in his emotions. Honor is always something he’ll put front and center and love, affection are only words that he’s long forgotten the emotions that go with them. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly; is revered and respect by one and all, and when he meets Lily, he’s filled with boredom of what his life has become. He never expected that one person would come to mean to him so much that he’d forgo everything he’d ever stood for.

There’s so much to recommend this book and I’ll start with the love story that was so well told, it made me cry! There’s plenty of intrigue and mystery, some really well written sensual scenes, villains galore, and secondary characters that’ll make you laugh out loud, especially Lady Smythe-Burke, Gertrude and Nanny.

One other thing I noticed with this book. At the time I got it, it was FREE [regularly priced at $1.99] and I assumed it was a short novella but once I got it I noticed it had 4899 locations. That in no way is ‘short’! Worth more than its price and I am frankly baffled by it…

FREE through Amazon.

‘Wyoming Bride’ by Joan Johnston

WB JJSTORY: After three months in a mail-order marriage, Hannah Wentworth McMurtry is a widow—pregnant, alone, and near death in the Wyoming wilderness. Though she is saved by a man with a face cut from stone, she still grieves the husband who died on their journey west. Hannah needs a husband, but does she dare marry another stranger?

Flint Creed has also lost someone he loved—when the woman he hoped to marry chose his younger brother instead. Now he must find a ranch wife of his own. But every female in the remote Wyoming Territory is too old, too young, or already married . . . until he discovers Hannah on the prairie. Flint doesn’t pretend to love her, but he doesn’t tell her he loves another woman, either. Hannah doesn’t pretend to love him, but she doesn’t tell him about the child she carries. Though danger surrounds them on the Wyoming frontier, the greatest threats of all are the secrets within—revelations that could destroy the new life Hannah and Flint have begun to cherish.

REVIEW: I was looking forward to reading the second book in this series ever since I read the first one!

Ms. Joan Johnston’s tales are new to me, but I’ve already tracked down almost all of her back list and hope to read them in between my Regency World.

What originally attracted me to this particular series, and for that matter this author, is the way she develops not just her characters, but the families within those stories. Everything about her books just has that feel of ‘saga’. They’re all connected and just sort of ‘grow’ on you…You just get hooked, and once you read one story, off you go to next and on and on!

This time we have Hannah’s story and as much as I liked her, I was on a war path with her twin, Hatty. Holy Crap! She might have driven me to murder were I her sister! If there was trouble to be had, she was in it to her eyeballs!

‘Wyoming Bride’ picked up where ‘Texas Bride’ left off and Hannah is doing exactly what her sister did, marries a man just to save herself and her two sisters, from the orphanage.

It was great to watch Hannah become strong and decisive woman. Like I said, character development seems to be one of many talents Ms. Johnson has.

As for our hero, Flint Creed, I thought him a very complex and it was too much fun being in his head, just waiting for him to figure out that the woman he thinks is his ‘soul mate’ is nothing but an infatuation.

And then we have the secondary characters, Ransom and Emaline, which are as well drawn as the first and following them was even more fun!

There were many times I wanted to strangle this idiotic chick and tell Ransom to drop her like a hot potato!

If you’ve never read any of Joan Johnston’s books, here is what you’re missing: great writing, wonderful three-dimensional characters and stories that have an epic feel to them. She excels in bringing her readers to go through sadness to elation within a paragraph! That’s a gift!

Looking forward to Hatty’s story which will be out later this year, ‘Montana Bride’ and then, the one I can hardly contain my excitement for, Josie’s in ‘Blackthorne’s Bride’!

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

‘Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure’ by Sophie Barnes

LAEA SBSTORY: It’s going to be a wild ride . . .

Lady Alexandra Summersby is not your average society miss. Not only is she more likely to climb a tree than she is to wear a dress, but she has also sworn off marriage. Alex loves taking chances, which is how she finds herself embroiled in a secret mission as she races across the country with the Earl of Trenton. But Alexandra is about to discover that the real danger lies not in duels, but in her completely unexpected reaction to Lord Trenton’s company.

Michael Ashford, Earl of Trenton, is a man of duty. Honorable, charming, and a hit with the ladies, he’s never had trouble staying focused—until now. Lady Alexandra is like no other woman he’s ever met, and suddenly the prospect of marriage seems far more appealing. Now, to convince Alexandra that a life together could be an adventure like no other . . .

REVIEW: This is the first book of The Summersby’s series and I already have the second ‘There’s Something About Lady Mary’ on my Kindle.

As a reviewer, once I’m done reading the book, I do one of two things: if I loved the book, I write my review right away, and if I didn’t care for it, I take my sweet time and debate the matter trying to figure out the reasons behind my dislike of it. The longer I debate, the more I dread writing a review because I am at that point finding too many things I don’t like. It so happens to be the case with this book.

First, I understand what Ms. Sophie Barnes was going for and the title is a given. She tried to give me a contemporary take of the historical regency era story and the titles of her books are the first indication of her attempt. You know, something like what Kieran Kramer is doing with great success, I might add. Alas, Ms. Barnes is in my opinion, not even close to achieving her goal.

That said, I must say that the writing has potential, but the people around her [read EDITORS] should have taken their job more seriously and helped her iron out a story that had good bones by correcting her lack of knowledge about history, dialogue and plotting.

The author attempted to cram everything from adventure, romance and intrigue with a fast pace and in quick succession, so that what should have been a light regency romp came out silly and bland attempt at regency romp.

Despite it, I did like her characterization of the main players and that is the only reason I will give this author another chance by reading a second book in this series. I fervently pray she hired some new editors though.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

‘Return of the Viscount’ by Gayle Callen

ROTV GCSTORY: Her marriage of convenience seems far too convenient . . .

Desperation drove Cecilia Mallory to seek a union with a stranger—one who would wed her sight unseen and grant her full access to her inheritance with no expectations whatsoever. She anticipated, perhaps, an older, undesirable, equally desperate husband—never the young, vibrant, and devastatingly attractive man who answered her call. What could such a man really be after?

Unknown to Cecilia, Viscount Michael Blackthorne, a soldier and gentleman, owes a debt of honor to Lady Cecilia’s father, and granting her unusual request to wed seemed a worthy way to repay it. But an unseen threat perilously close at hand is convincing Michael that his true responsibility is to protect the beautiful, warm-hearted lady he has married . . . the woman he is unexpectedly coming to love.

REVIEW: As book blurbs go, the above one is just perfect in setting up this story of redemption, respect and love.

Ms. Callen gave a wonderful characterization of two very strong people who knew what they wanted out of life very early on in their lives. Both had carried much of the baggage passed on to them from their respective parents and were determined never to repeat the mistakes their parents made, and in doing so made sure to stay away from situations that would have them marry.

At eighteen, Lord Michael Blackthorne enlisted in the army and was shipped out to India because his father had insisted he marry for the wrong reasons. Going against the wishes of the man he had no respect for, young Michael vowed to advance himself not by purchasing his commission but by hard work and sheer determination to prove to his family that he is a man of honor. While there he meets our heroine’s father who takes him under his wing and teaches him to become that man.

Cecilia Mallory had a good childhood even though it was visited with some tragedy that had profoundly altered the course of her life. As a very impressionable girl, she was forced by her mother to do some things that made her uncomfortable and in some way that contributed to her decision not to marry, even though as she grows into a woman, her beauty and dowry are very much sought after. After the death of her father in India, she decides to reach out to her father’s protégé and friend, Lieutenant Michael Blackthorne in hopes that he would be able to ease the pain of her loss.

As the two become ‘pan-palls’ if you will, they come to respect and understand each other well enough for Cecilia to feel comfortable in proposing to Michael a marriage by proxy and in name only for the reasons of obtaining her financial freedom from her guardian. Michael knows in his heart that he owes a debt to her father and he agrees to her proposal out of that duty. Neither is aware of Lady Destiny’s plan for them both.

This was such an easy read and I credit that to a very interesting plot, involving some mystery of who is willing to risk everything by ending Cecilia’s life. The mark of a good plot is when the reader decides she [that’s me] knows who the villain is, than second guesses it through the end of the story.

Then there are some secondary characters, such as heroine’s brother Oliver and friend Penelope that made me want to shake them all into tomorrow!  

If you’re Gayle Callen fan, this is no brainer  and you’ll no doubt get this book, [believe it or not, this is one author that now I have every book she's written, but have yet to read some of her earlier series] which by the way is the first in her new trilogy, The Brides Redemption which is about “What happens when three soldiers who need to be redeemed meet three women who need to marry?” I’m looking forward to reading the second book Surrender to The Earlwhich will be out in June 2013. If you’ve never read this author, I’d say you’re missing on some well written, well thought out and well plotted stories which accompanied with a bit of action,  witty dialogue and great characterization, make up for wonderful and easy read.

*Book provided by AVON through EDELWEISS.

‘The Ugly Duchess’ by Eloisa James

TUD EJSTORY: How can she dare to imagine he loves her…when all London calls her The Ugly Duchess?

Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke’s passion. Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months.

Theo would have given it a lifetime…until she discovers that James desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry. Society was shocked by their wedding; it’s scandalized by their separation.

Now James faces the battle of his lifetime, convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan.

And Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, All’s Fair in Love—or War.

REVIEW: It appears that Ms. James is well on her way to give us her take on many fairy tales most of us have grown up with. After A Kiss at Midnight’ [her take on Cinderella], When Beauty Tamed the Beast [her take on The Beauty and the Beast] andThe Duke is Mine [her take on The Princess and the Pea] we’re now on The Ugly Duchess [her take on The Ugly Duckling] and coming in May 2013, Once Upon A Tower’ which will be her take on Rapunzel.

Personally, I found out that I’m not such a fan of authors relying on ‘tried and true’ stories to give them a spring-board for retelling of them. It’s like taking a much-loved movie and remaking it over and over making me wonder if anyone out there has or can come up with an original idea.

That said I am here to tell you that Ms. James had managed, despite the predictability and underlying thread through this series, to surprise me with a fresh, entertaining and compelling retelling of each fairy tale story so far.

If you’ve never read this author, picking up any of these stories will give you a pretty good idea as to her writing and voice. Both are very good and this story is no different.

I liked the characterization of both hero and the heroine, decant pace and that which this author excels the most in, the dialogue. As for the plot development, after much deliberation with myself and deeper look at the motivation of both characters, I decided that it was plausible for these young people to be rash at the start of their romance and act according to their assumptions of each other. After all, what would a fairy tale be without suspending our beliefs and give into believing Eloisa’s wonderful story weaving?

And now I find myself looking forward to Ms. James’ take on Rapunzel and her May 2013 release of  ‘Once Upon a Tower’ which is a“…version of Rapunzel (though she says there’s a little Romeo and Juliet thrown in as well).”

Now how can I say NO to that?!

*Book provided by AVON through EDELWEISS.

‘The Lady Most Willing: A Novel in Three Parts’ by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James & Connie Brockway

TLMW JQ EJ CBSTORY: At the behest of three of the most talented historical romance authors writing today, you are cordially invited to a ball. No, a party. No . . . a kidnapping.

Taran Ferguson, laird of his clan, is determined that his ancient (if not so honorable) birthright be secured before he dies. When both his nephews refuse to wed, the old reprobate takes matters into his own hands: he raids a ball and makes off with four likely brides . . .

Miss Marilla Chisholm—the bonniest lass in Scotland, and an heiress to boot.

Miss Fiona Chisholm—her older sister, another fine choice (but for that tiny stain on her reputation).

Lady Cecily Tarleton—true, she’s an English beauty, but very, very rich.

Miss Catriona Burns—without name or fortune, clearly someone made a mistake.

Oh, yes. And one very irate duke.

Because somewhere there must be one lady most willing to love a Scottish lord.

REVIEW: This collaborative story is the second one for these three bestselling authors and as of now it’s been for 2 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

If you’ve not read the previous collaborative work from these women, then you might not realize that this is one continuing story through the book, woven by all three authors. This kind of collaboration doesn’t happen often because all three stories must align seamlessly in order for the book, as a whole, to be fully enjoyed.

I am sorry to say that I found that in this case they didn’t. If I can tell which parts were written by Julia and Eloisa, being more familiar with their work, then the collaboration wasn’t a full success, in my opinion. The story in itself, as predictable as I found it, wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as I expected, especially coming from the authors I have such great respect and love for.

All three stories left me in want of something more, something a bit deeper, a bit meaningful and less predictable. The writing was good, plot so-so and pace varied from author to author, which in the end wasn’t a bad thing. Maybe that’s why in the end of it, I was left conflicted about which parts I liked and which left me cold.

My conclusion was, despite good and familiar writing of the two authors I greatly admire, I enjoyed it less  because all three stories felt rushed thus the book felt incomplete even though everyone reached their happy ending. Don’t misunderstand me. I liked it, I just didn’t love it.

Book provided by Avon through Edelweiss.