‘For the Love of the Duke’ by Christi Caldwell

ftload ccSTORY: After the tragic death of his wife, Jasper, the 8th Duke of Bainbridge buried himself away in the dark cold walls of his home, Castle Blackwood. When he’s coaxed out of his self-imposed exile to attend the amusements of the Frost Fair, his life is irrevocably changed by his fateful meeting with Lady Katherine Adamson.

With her tight brown ringlets and silly white-ruffled gowns, Lady Katherine Adamson has found her dance card empty for two Seasons. After her father’s passing, Katherine learned the unreliability of men, and is determined to depend on no one, except herself. Until she meets Jasper…

In a desperate bid to avoid a match arranged by her family, Katherine makes the Duke of Bainbridge a shocking proposition—one that he accepts.

Only, as Katherine begins to love Jasper, she finds the arrangement agreed upon is not enough. And Jasper is left to decide if protecting his heart is more important than fighting for Katherine’s love.

REVIEW: Winter 1814, London

Lady Katherine Adamson, age 19, has reluctantly agreed to accompany her twin sister, Anne, on another of her madcap schemes.  Anne wants to visit the Frost Fair which is held on the frozen Thames River for people wanting to make purchases from different vendors for Christmas.  Katherine has been petrified of water ever since she fell into the river when she was a child and nearly drowned.  But Anne insists that they go to the Fair in search of a heart-shaped pendant with the promise that the wearer will then find the love of a Duke.  This was the case for their older sister, Aldora who met and married Lord Michael Knightly brother to the very wealthy Marquess of St. James.  Both girls are hoping to make a good marriage.  Sadly, their father had squandered the family’s money before he died leaving the family with very little.

Jasper Waincourt, Eighth Duke of Bainbridge, age 27, is a miserable man.  Three years ago, he lost the love of his life, his wife and their son, in childbirth.  Since then, he has blamed himself and feels as though he murdered his wife.  He hates the Christmas season and his reclusive living has helped to earn him the reputation of the Mad Duke. He usually stays at his home, Castle Blackwood, a medieval Norman Castle.  As an only child growing up, he didn’t know affection as his parents never truly loved each other.

So, it is a special thing that Jasper’s friend, the Marquess of Guilford, has managed to get him to leave his Castle and venture to London.  It was very fortuitous they were attending the Frost Fair at the same time Katherine and Anne were, because the ice cracked and the icy water dragged Katherine in.  With great bravery, Jasper was able to pull her from the water and save her life.  Wrapping her in his coat, he took her home.  Katherine was very grateful but when trying to thank Jasper, she is totally taken aback by his cold attitude and non-solicitous manner.  Both are aggravated at the other as he feels that she should have been chaperoned and she feels that he has no right to speak to her that way.  Ah, but they do continue to run into one another around London and their encounters end up with them trading barbs.  Actually, they are attracted to one another but don’t want to admit it to themselves.

Knowing that she needs to marry, Katherine takes it upon herself to propose to Jasper.  Will he accept?  If they are to marry, will their different personalities allow them to be happy?

There is so much more to this story of the heartbreaking sadness that Jasper has borne.  Can it be overcome by the love of a good woman?  This is one of those stories that you want to pick up and reread immediately.  It’s that good.  I found it sad, romantic and happy and sexy.  When I read a really good book like this, I wish I could award it six stars.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘Secrets in Scarlet’ by Erica Monroe

sis emSTORY: When a girl is murdered at a factory in one of London’s rookeries, Sergeant Thaddeus Knight of the Metropolitan Police comes in to investigate. But it’s not just the factory owners that Thaddeus wants information on–the devilishly intriguing Poppy O’Reilly is a puzzle he’d like nothing more than to solve.

Protecting her young daughter is the most important thing to Poppy, and Thaddeus threatens the false identity she’s carefully constructed. The last thing she should do is allow Thaddeus close to her family, yet she can’t stay away from him. With danger around the corner, will the secrets of a scarlet woman lead to their undoing?

REVIEW: April 1832, Spitalfields London

When Sergeant Thaddeus Knight with the Metropolitan Police finds a young girl who had been beaten severely and stabbed, he rushes to get her to the hospital.  She refuses to say who did that to her but sketches the letter “L” just before she dies in his arms.  This is reminiscent of another young woman seven years earlier who died in the same way.  This second death only heightens Thaddeus’s determination to find the murderer.  However, his boss, Inspector Whiting, is not supportive of his work and says that it is not worth their time.  Whiting thinks that crimes such as one Thaddeus solved when he found some jewels stolen from a countess are more important that the murders of young girls from Spitalfields.  Furious at Whiting, Thaddeus is still determined to find the murderer.

Thaddeus loves his job much to the chagrin of his family.  As the second son of a second son of a Duke and a very well-educated man, he could have a much better and safer job but will not leave his job with the Police.

Poppaea (Poppy) O’Reilly works on a loom at the Larker Textile Factory.  Her hours are very long – from early morning to late at night.  However, she is determined to do whatever it takes to give her baby daughter a good life and, hopefully, send her to a finishing school one day.  When she found herself pregnant and unmarried, Poppy changed her last name and moved to London.    The father would have nothing to do with her and she was ostracized by her townspeople.  She is very ashamed about what happened to her.

While Thaddeus is investigating the murder of the women who had worked at the Larker Textile Factory, he meets Poppy and is intrigued by her beauty, her spirit and her positive attitude toward life.  They find that they have a love of books so when she sees the wonderful library he has in his home, she is enthralled.

When Poppy and her friend, Abigail, discover some questionable activities at the Textile Factory that the Larkers are doing, life becomes very perilous for her.  Knowing what Poppy has uncovered and their growing attraction to one another finds Thaddeus doing all he can to solve this mystery.

It was very enlightening to read about the difficult life that people in this rough area of London had lived and their determination to make the best of their lives was inspiring.  I think readers will enjoy both the romance and the mystery combined in this novel.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘Once Upon a Christmas Kiss’ by Manda Collins

mc ouackSTORY: When Sir Lucien Blakemore arrives at his cousin’s estate for a week long Christmas party, he’s shocked to see Miss Winifred Nightingale among the other guests. Employed by his neighbor back in Yorkshire, the governess with the lovely eyes has always seemed off limits, but she’s visiting here as a guest—and there’s nothing like a little mistletoe to make the spirits bright…

Miss Winifred Nightingale never dreamed a holiday visit with her sister would lead to both ladies spending Christmas as the local lord’s guests. But the big surprise is when she finds the handsome Sir Lucien Blakemore staying there too. Their attraction between is undeniable, but will an old nemesis and a party guest bent on mischief make their first kiss under the mistletoe their last?

REVIEW: Sir Lucien Blakewell has been invited to his cousin’s country estate in Yorkshire for Christmas.  Jeremy, Lord Hurst and his wife, Helen, have invited a number of friends and neighbors to join them with a total of 14 guests.

Two sisters have been included in the party.  One is Miss Winifred (Winnie) Nightingale who is the governess to Lucien’s neighbor, the Duke of Ormand.  Having met her before, Lucien and Winnie have developed a friendship of sorts.  Winnie’s sister is Miss Cordelia Nightingale, the local schoolmistress.

Some of the guests have made Winnie and Cordelia feel unwelcome due to their social rank.  One guest, Lord Leaming, is making Winnie feel uncomfortable due to his having accosted her when she was the governess for six months to the Earl of Tuthill’s two daughters.

The days pass and the guests engage in various Christmas activities such as ice skating, sledding, and gathering of greenery to decorate the house.  As they continue their friendship, Lucien and Winnie’s attraction grows.  In addition, Cordelia finds herself in love with another guest.

When strange incidents begin with the intention to physically injure Winnie, Lucien becomes very protective in the search to find out who this person is.

Without giving away anything more, I can only say that this is such a romantic story.  Winnie is a very strong woman and Lucien is quite smitten with her.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘You Knew Me When’ by Emily Liebert

el ykmwSTORY: Best friends forever… until life got in the way. Katherine Hill left her small New England hometown in pursuit of a dream. Now, twelve years later, she’s a high-powered cosmetics executive in Manhattan and a much glossier version of her former self, unrecognizable to her family and old friends. Not that she would know—she hasn’t been home in over a decade.

Laney Marten always swore she’d never get “stuck” in Manchester, Vermont. No, she was destined to live out her glamorous big-city dreams. Instead, she wound up a young wife and mother. That was when her best friend ran out.

When Katherine receives word of an inheritance from former neighbor Luella Hancock, she reluctantly returns home to the people and places she left behind. Hoping for a second chance, she’s met by an unforgiving Laney, her former best friend. And there’s someone else who’s moved on without her—someone she once loved.

Tethered to their shared inheritance of Luella’s sprawling Victorian mansion, Katherine and Laney are forced to address their long-standing grudges. Through this, they come to understand that while life has taken them in different directions, ultimately the bonds of friendship and sisterhood still bind them together. But are some wounds too old and deep to mend?

REVIEW: Kitty and Laney became best friends when they were children.  After Kitty’s mother was killed in a freak accident, she and her Dad moved to Manchester, Vermont.  Laney lived there with her parents and her brother, Grant.  Between their two houses was a large estate belonging to Luella, a fairly wealthy and childless widow.  She had a swimming pool in her back yard and invited Kitty and Laney to enjoy themselves during the summer.  Kitty and Luella were very close and Kitty became the daughter Luella never had.  Before long, the friendship between Kitty and Laney became the closest ever.  They spent all their time together and even made plans for being together at college and then sharing an apartment in New York City.

When they were finally to attend college, Kitty, Laney and Grant had agreed that they would go to a nearby college.  By that time, Kitty and Grant were in love and being together was so important to them. However, when through the help of a friend of Luella’s, Kitty received a notice that she had been accepted to a university in New York City, she decided to accept.  Laney and Grant were both very unhappy that Kitty would not be with them, however, she did manage to get back home on vacations.

After college graduation, Laney’s and Kitty’s plan to move to New York unexpectedly met a roadblock when Laney found herself pregnant with her boyfriend, Rick’s baby.  Laney figured that their plans would go on the back burner until after her baby was born.  At the same time, Kitty received an outstanding job offer in New York City that she could not resist.  But, she had to be there the next day. Laney was furious at Kitty for leaving and she never got to say a proper goodbye to Grant.  That was when their friendship completely fizzled.

Fast forward 12 years and both Kitty and Laney are notified that Luella has passed away and that they are both named in her will.  Meeting back up after all these years is a very difficult thing.  Kitty, now known as Katherine, is a dynamic executive, beautiful and wealthy.  Laney is married to Rick and the mother of Gemma.  Grant has dated a young woman but has never married.  When the attorney handling the will tells them that they must both work together to clean out Luella’s house, sell the furnishings and the house itself, then split the proceeds, they are frustrated at being thrown together like this.  Laney still hates Kitty for leaving years ago and Kitty feels bad for having done so.

Why had Luella put this stipulation in her will?  Why force the two women to be together?  Why put Kitty and Grant together as well?

This book was interesting in how it flipped back and forth between the past and present.  It gives readers an huge insight into the solid friendship that Kitty and Laney had when they were young and the promises they had made to each other to always be together.  Laney feels betrayed by Kitty.  But, is Kitty really guilty?

I liked the characters; however, Laney made me want to smack her now and then.

I think readers will enjoy this story of true friendship and how it all resolves itself.

Connie for b2b

‘Always a Rogue, Forever Her Love’ by Christi Caldwell

cc aarfhlSTORY: Miss Juliet Marshville is spitting mad. With one guardian missing, and the other singularly uninterested in her fate, she is at the mercy of her wastrel brother who loses her beloved childhood home to a man known as Sin. Determined to reclaim control of Rosecliff Cottage and her own fate, Juliet arranges a meeting with the notorious rogue and demands the return of her property.

Jonathan Tidemore, 5th Earl of Sinclair, known to the ton as Sin, is exceptionally lucky in life and at the gaming tables. He has just one problem. Well…four, really. His incorrigible sisters have driven off yet another governess. This time, however, his mother demands he find an appropriate replacement.

When Miss Juliet Marshville boldly demands the return of her precious cottage, he takes advantage of his sudden good fortune and puts an offer to her; turn his sisters into proper English ladies, and he’ll return Rosecliff Cottage to Juliet’s possession.

Jonathan comes to appreciate Juliet’s spirit, courage, and clever wit, and decides to claim the fiery beauty as his mistress. Juliet, however, will be mistress for no man. Nor could she ever love a man who callously stole her home in a game of cards. As Jonathan begins to see Juliet as more than a spirited beauty to warm his bed, he realizes she could be a lady he could love the rest of his life, if only he can convince the proud Juliet that he’s worthy of her hand and heart.

REVIEW: April 1819 – London

Jonathan Tidemore, Fifth Earl of Sinclair, is now head of his family which consists of his widowed mother and four younger sisters:  Patrina age 19, Prudence age 15, Penelope age 13, and Poppy age 12.  While Patrina has had her come out, the 3 younger sisters are still in the schoolroom.

Once again, his sisters have managed to run off their fifth governess so Jonathan’s mother is completely frustrated and insists that it is Jonathan’s turn to find a new governess.  In addition, his mother is once again pressuring him to get married and provide a suitable countess that will carry on the Sinclair line. As he had been jilted once, Jonathan is still hesitant to to make that step.

Juliet Marshville, age 22 and her brother Albert, age 20 have recently lost their father making Albert the new Baronet.  Instead of settling down to his duties, he has instead gambled away much of their inheritance.  With debt collectors breathing down his neck, Albert is trying to push Juliet to wed the odious, Lord Williams.  Albert’s cruelty to and hatred of his sister knows no bounds.  When Juliet was 13, Albert pushed her off a tree top resulting in her leg being shattered.  Today she walks with a limp.  All she wants is to escape to their family home, Rosemont Cottage, and live out her life in peace, far away from her hateful brother.  However, when she finds that Albert has lost the property while gambling, she is devastated.

Juliet discovers that Jonathan Tidemore, is the man who won Rosemont Cottage from her brother, so she decides to approach him and ask for him to please return it to her.  Instead, he offers her the job of governess to his sisters.  If she is able to shape the young hoydens into proper English ladies, he will make sure that the property is returned to her and only her.  As she really has no other choice, she immediately agrees.

An intelligent young woman, Juliet works well with the young girls who take a liking to her and are willing to take their instruction from her.  Juliet is kind and makes learning interesting and fun for them.

Meanwhile, the interactions between Jonathan and Juliet occur more and more often and their attraction to one another begins to blossom.  Even though Juliet is the daughter of a Baron, she feels that any true, future relationship between them is not to be so she holds onto her dream of one day being able to live in peace in her cottage.  Ah, but will love be denied?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and there is so much more to the story that I cannot reveal here.  Just know that you must read this book.  It’s romantic, fun, and sweet.

Connie for b2b

‘The Daughter of Highland Hall’ by Carrie Turansky

ct tdohhSTORY: Eighteen-year-old Katherine Ramsey travels to London with her family to make her debut into society and hopefully find her future husband. Her overbearing aunt insists she must secure a proposal from a wealthy young man who is in line to inherit his father’s title and estate. But Katherine questions her aunt’s plans when she gets to know Jonathan Foster, a handsome medical student and strong Christian who is determined to protect the poor and vulnerable in London’s East End.

When a family scandal puts a damper on Katherine’s hopes for the season, she has time to volunteer with Jonathan, caring for children in one of London’s poorest areas, and romance blossoms. Katherine’s faith grows and she begins to envision a different future with Jonathan. But when Katherine’s work in the East End puts her in danger, Jonathan distances himself from Katherine to protect her. A wealthy suitor reappears, and Katherine must choose which path to follow.

REVIEW: 1912, London.  Katherine (Kate) Ramsey is preparing to enter the social season by being presented at court.  While she is looking forward to the season, she is somewhat bored with all the things she must remember to do.  As she lost her parents years ago, she is living with her cousin, Baron William Ramsey of Highland Hall.  Her aunt, Lady Louisa Gatewood has undertaken Kate’s training for her presentation.  However, Lady Louisa is a harsh and pushy woman who has added to Kate’s frustration and taken away from some of the fun and excitement of her season.

Cousin William Ramsey, a widower, has become engaged to his children’s governess.  Many of the ton are appalled at this, but William and Julia are very much in love and looking forward to their wedding.

Julia is the sister to Jonathan (Jon) Foster.  Jon and their parents have returned from India after an extensive time as missionaries.  Their father has had medical problems and requires rest.  Jon is attending medical school.  When he graduates, he is unsure of whether he will return to India to continue his parents’ mission and offer medical care. He is also on course to head the local St. George’s Hospital.  Another path that interests him is continuing his work at the Daystar Clinic in the East End of London where he can offer free medical care to people who cannot afford it.

Kate and Jon are drawn to one another because she is interested in his work and wants to offer her help however she can.  While Kate’s Aunt Louisa is trying to match her up with a wealthy man, Kate is looking to find someone she can truly love and one with whom she can share her love of God.  Is Jon that man?

This book will be published October 7, 2014.  I have strived to add some teasers but no spoilers to my review.

This the second book of Carrie’s series.  The first book is “The Governess of Highland Hall” followed by this one, “The Daughter of Highland Hall” and the third book, “A Refuge at Highland Hall” will be published in October 2015.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘In Bed with a Rogue’ by Samantha Grace

sg ibwarSTORY: He’s the Talk of the Town

The whole town is tittering about Baron Sebastian Thorne having been jilted at the altar. Every move he makes ends up in the gossip columns. Tired of being the butt of everyone’s jokes, Sebastian vows to restore his family’s reputation no matter what it takes.

She’s the Toast of the Ton

Feted by the crème of society, the beautiful widow Lady Prestwick is a vision of all that is proper. But Helena is no angel, and when Sebastian uncovers her dark secret, he’s quick to press his advantage. In order to keep her hard-won good name, Helen will have to make a deal with the devil. But she’s got some tricks up her sleeves to keep this notorious rogue on his toes…

REVIEW: May 1819.

Baron Sebastian Thorne is not a happy man.  The woman he planned to marry has been “stolen” by his best friend, the Earl of Ellis.  In order to drown his sorrows, he is deep in his cups from drinking.  Having sent his driver home earlier, he decides to walk home.  Bad decision!  He is immediately attacked, beaten and robbed in the streets of Whitechapel by footpads and left unconscious.

Lady Helena Prestwick a widow from Aldmist Fell in Scotland, is in London searching for her four sisters, Cora, Pearl, Gracie and Lavinia.  Helena and her sisters were very young when their mother died and their father turned to drink.  As the oldest, Helena did all she could to care for her sisters until the day her father literally sold her to her husband so her father could get money for his needs.  Now, that Helena is a widow, she is determined to find her sisters and get the family back together.  She fears that they are working in a brothel.  So, she and her trusted friend, Fergus, are out most nights searching the brothels.

Lucky for Sebastian, Helena happens upon him the night he is beaten and takes him home to nurse his wounds.  Grateful for her help and attracted to her as well, he agrees to aid her in her search for her sisters.

She soon finds her sister, Lavinia, who lives as the courtesan of a wealthy and kind man who loves her and wants to marry her.  Her youngest sister, Gracie, is living with Lavinia.  Cora is married to a butcher and the mother of several children.  Pearl has not been found.

As Sebastian and Helena become more enmeshed into one another’s lives, their attraction grows and romance blossoms.

The family members and other characters in the story are all so very well written.  I could just picture each of them perfectly.  I think readers will truly enjoy this story of strength, love and determination.

Connie for b2b

Book provided by the publisher