‘Through the Smoke’ by Brenda Novak

bn ttsSTORY: A shocking betrayal…

Riches. Power. An ancient heritage of pride. The Earl of Druridge wanted only for an heir. So when he learned that his wife was carrying another man’s child, he was filled with a thirst for vengeance.

But he wasn’t the one who caused Katherine’s death. Or was he? To his horror, he remembers nothing of that dreadful night, when their last confrontation ended in scorching flame and cold blood.

A forbidden love…

Rachel McTavish, the beautiful daughter of a coal miner, knows something about the fire that took Lady Katherine’s life. In secret, the strong-willed girl strikes a bargain with the desperate earl: he must send his physician to help her dying mother or he may go to the devil—and the scaffold. He agrees, but she is still unsure that her revelation will be enough to save him when so many wish him dead.

Passionately drawn to the nobleman, despite all the doubt and mystery that shrouds him, Rachel wonders if he can really be a murderer. Or if he is the only man who will ever own her heart…

REVIEW: I love ‘Jane Eyre’ so once I read the blurb of this novel, I knew I had to read it. To me, this only had shades of that classic story, but in no way was anything like it. And that is a very good thing. I may have even liked it better!

This is a story of a Truman Stanhope, Earl of Druridge, man who lost his wife in a mysterious fire and almost everyone thinks he murdered her, but being a peer of the realm, no one’s really ready to publicly accuse him of the crime.

It’s also a romance with flawed and complex characters who are trying hard to fit in within the community they both in some way value.

As for the mystery of who killed our hero’s wife, that wasn’t that difficult to figure out, yet in no way did that spoil this story for me.

I enjoyed Truman’s journey as he’s trying to figure out who would murder his wife. For the longest time he believed that someone paid off our heroine Rachel McTavish’s father to do it, but as he comes to know her, he now doubts that theory.

This wasn’t an easy read because of its gothic theme, but everything about it is easy to follow and the characters are a bit on the dark side and yet I still loved their journey to each other.

I’ve now read a few books from Ms. Novak and I’m honestly gob smacked as to when does she find the time to write, with all her philanthropic endeavors. If you’ve never heard of her annual online auction for diabetes research, then you’re missing out on some great auction stuff and a ‘feel good’ vibes after donating to such a great cause. Please check her website and find out more about how you can give, here.

As for her writing, she’s someone that’s good at telling a tale, be it set in 2014 or 1800.

This one’s for all you bookworms that like your romances to have that goth feel, so I dare you to pick it up!

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Once and Future Duchess’ by Sophia Nash

sn toafdSTORY: A duchess in time saves a noble line…

In theory, the Duke of Candover is the most eligible peer in the realm. But in truth, he has a deep aversion to the merest hint of marriage, not to mention two botched engagements which have marked his jaded soul. Now, after a debauched bachelor party that causes public outcry, the Prince Regent is demanding that it’s Candover’s turn to be brought to heel. And Prinny secretly believes that Isabelle Tremont, the Duchess of March, is precisely the lady up to the challenge.

Isabelle must marry, but a day of reckoning with the man she’s loved for years is her greatest fear. If Candover insists she’s too young and innocent for a seasoned world-weary man like him, there’s no shortage of other candidates. Gentlemen of prestige and position. Gentlemen whose attentions are driving Candover to jealous distraction. Yet one abandoned moment under the stars hints that if they can put aside pride and duty, then a love once denied might just be their destiny.

REVIEW: Isabelle Tremont, the Duchess of March, lost her parents some years before leaving no other heir but her.  While only 18-years-old, she is a very intelligent and self-assured young woman with every ability to run her estate.

James is the Duke of Candover is a handsome, wealthy and extremely confident man running his estate with utter perfection.  At age 31, he is not interested in getting married. He was engaged twice, both with disastrous results.  
The Prince Regent has decided that it is time that both James and Isabelle find spouses. While James tends to somewhat ignore this directive, Isabelle is certainly feeling the pressure.  She decides to propose to James only to be rebuffed due to her young age. Little did she know that James was also following her father’s request that he never marry her.  Hurt, but still determined to accept the Prince’s edict, she continues with her search for a husband.
The romance is sweet even though it’s hard to believe that an 18-year-old can be as mature as Isabelle is portrayed.  In addition, James needed a swift kick to crack his too-cool and too-perfect exterior.
This was the fourth book in the Irresistible Royal Entourage Series and, unfortunately, I often find myself grabbing a book in the middle of a series with which I am unfamiliar.  I understand that many authors like to write series, however, I wish each book was clearly designated as such so the reader doesn’t end up jumping into confusion.  I would suggest readers start this series with the books in succession, which an be found on the author’s website here.
Connie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘A Most Naked Solution’ by Anna Randol

ar amnsSTORY: Sometimes the best solution is found in bed…

Lady Sophia Harding: beautiful, blond, and…capable of murder? That’s what Lord Camden Grey intends to find out. It is Camden’s duty to uphold the laws of the land. His neighbor’s pale beauty and winsome grace don’t make her the most likely suspect, but is the innocent and altogether beguiling look in her eyes the truth, or is she secretly a scheming seductress?

Lord Camden Grey is entirely too distracting and too smart. Sophia knows that to keep her family’s secrets, she must avoid any entanglements with the powerful and brutally handsome man. But the pull of their mutual desire is all-consuming. Can Sophia trust Camden with the truth when she knows it might kill the love that has grown between them?

REVIEW: This short novella is a sequel to ‘A Secret in Her Kiss’ which I really liked. The hero of that novel has a sister, and this is her story.

I liked the leads, and the plot was good. The pace was perfect, considering that this is a short story, but then something just went wrong.

How does one explain and reconcile a great premise with a decent plot and good, solid characterization of the characters, with the story told?

What in tarnation happened?

To someone that reads a lot, this was fairly obvious. I blame not the author. She can tell a tale. I read all of her books, and after her début, which I loved [here], I keep bumping into this obstacle of enjoying her work to the fullest in all of her other books. What went wrong? I know that it takes a village to produce a product, but are the villagers still the same ones who helped her produce that first book I liked so much? Or does she need to repopulate her village with new editors and beta readers [I’m free!].

Am I recommending it?! Yes, to all of you that read the first book, only because you’ll get some answers about Sophia. To everyone else?! Yes again, because you might want to ‘sample’ this author and little novellas are best for that purpose.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Sins of a Virgin’ by Anna Randol

ar soavSTORY: There is improper, there is scandalous… and then there is Madeline Valdan.

To the world, Madeline Valdan is a scandalous courtesan, with society’s most eligible gentlemen at her feet. But no one knows her shocking secret: she has never experienced the most intimate touch of any man. So she astonishes the ton by telling them the truth . . . and by announcing the auction of her virginity to the highest bidder.

Handsome and disciplined, Gabriel Huntford knows his time is best spent hunting down criminals from the darkest corners of London. As a Bow Street Runner investigating his sister’s death, he has no desire to join London’s strutting peacocks in this competition when there are more important tasks at hand.

Now, his quest leads him to one of Madeline’s “suitors,” so he agrees to help this sinful woman. But what begins as a business arrangement quickly turns into something more . . . and love blooms with a passion neither one expected.

REVIEW: This book has been on my TBR for a long time and I finally got around to reading it. This is a beginning of the Sinners Trio, about three ex-spies: Cipher, Wrath and La Petit and first up we have La Petit’s story or Madeline, as she is called outside of her spy world.

I did like the hero Gabriel Huntford, a Bow Street Runner turned our heroine’s bodyguard. He was flawed and yet I found him likable. Both characters carry some interesting baggage from their background and that made the story a somewhat interesting for me.

Here’s a story for you, if you can believe it: an ex-spy turned most alluring courtesan decides to auction her most prized possession. Her virginity. Are you buying it? I tried, but in the end, it was really hard to suspend my imagination that far up.

Most of the story focused on the mystery of who wants our heroine dead and is that the same villain that killed our hero’s sister some years ago, pushing the romance to the background. Don’t despair though, you still have some nice tension between the leads, albeit they don’t end up ‘canoodling’ until later in the book.

So if you’re leaning more toward a good mystery and suspense with some romance thrown in, I think you’ll like it. Me? It was okay …

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Sins of a Ruthless Rogue’ by Anna Randol

ar soarrSTORY: Revenge never tasted so sweet…

When Clayton Campbell shows up on her doorstep, Olivia Swift is stunned. For long ago, Clayton was the boy who stole her heart. He’s also the man her betrayal had sent to the gallows. A man she believed dead, now standing before her, looking leaner, harder, more powerful than ever, his haunted eyes filled with a lust she had never seen—for vengeance…

Or burned so hot…

He’s a Crown spy who once faced death and escaped unscathed. Yet Clayton Campbell cannot deny that the sight of Olivia rouses in him something more than a thirst for revenge. Or that the bold beauty would lure him once more into a dangerous game. Only this time, Clayton plans to be the victor—with the tempting Olivia in his bed as his prize. But once passion ignites between them, the hard-hearted agent will face his greatest battle yet—for his heart…

REVIEW: In this second book of Anna Randol’s Sinners Trio series it is Clayton/Cipher’s turn at happily ever after.

Now I know this author can tell a good story, but it’s her plots so far that I’ve been having a hard time with.  If I had a hard time suspending belief in the first book of this series, this one made even harder.

I would love to tell you more, but I really don’t want to put forth any ‘spoilers’ so here’s what I did like.

The characters were strong and compelling with enough of emotional depth for me to like them, but it’s their past that I had a hard time finding credible, and in the end it all sounded unrealistic.

I do recommend it on the writing and characterization alone, but plot wise, be ready to take a leap. If you can do that, and you like betrayal stories with some adventure and intrigue, you’re good to go with this one.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Sins of a Wicked Princess’ by Anna Randol

ar soawpSTORY: In the scorching finale of Anna Randol’s wickedly tempting Trio series, the Wraith takes on a mission—and a princess—he’ll never forget…

Ian Maddox, aka the Wraith, is happy to leave his life as a spy— as soon as he discovers who’s been trying to kill his friends. All clues lead him to the bedroom of an exiled princess. Yet Princess Juliana isn’t the simpering royal he expects, and this irresistible beauty agrees to give him the information he seeks…for a price.

Princess Juliana has never cowered—not even as she fled her burning castle in the midst of a rebellion—so she won’t tremble before the darkly charismatic man who appears in her bedchamber and holds a knife to her throat. Instead, she bargains with the infamous spy to help her retrieve sensitive documents and restore her kingdom. But Juliana quickly finds that Ian is no humble servant, and she never imagines that lessons in thievery will lead to schooling in seduction.

REVIEW: This is the end of Anne Randol’s Sinner’s Trio trilogy and plot wise, was more confusing than the other two. This is Ian/Wraith’s story

I tried liking both the heroine and the hero but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t care much for either. Well, maybe I did a bit more for the hero. He was more developed than the heroine, and less confusing. But not by much.

Here is where I think this whole thing went wrong. When an author builds a ‘country’ that does not exist, it better be damn good and believable to the reader, otherwise it becomes a caricature and along with it, the characters turn into one as well.
Another issue I had with this story was its pace. Seriously, at one point I drew a blank and I just wanted the book to end.

This series in my opinion should have been under the adventure genre with romantic elements. All three books are chock full of adventure and intrigue, pushing romance to the background, and overall, it wasn’t bad, but something went wrong somewhere because it didn’t make me care as much as I wanted to.

In the end, if you’ve read the other two, then by all means do read this one too, but be warned. It will be a slow going.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Capturing the Earl’s Love’ by Jane Lark

jl ctelSTORY: This novella tells the story of secondary characters from The Illicit Love of a Courtesan.

Rupert Stanforth, Earl of Morton, is exasperated by his sister’s choice of friend. Meredith Divine, clings, using Rowena’s plain appearance as a foil for her auburn curls and fuller figure. He would break the friendship, but the more he complains the more time the girls spend together. Ceasing his disagreement, he hopes the friendship will die, believing Meredith will take a wrong-step soon…

Meredith clings to her only friend, Lady Rowena Stanforth, despite the disgusted looks thrown by Rowena’s proud, judgemental brother. Lord Morton cannot abide Meredith because of her low standing but Meredith’s heart favours him… then in his single act of kindness, Meredith grasps an opportunity she cannot resist…

REVIEW: The blurb is sufficient in setting up the story, so I’m not going to go into it much.

The main hero of this story is Rupert, Earl of Morton and a cousin to Edward from the first book in the series, Illicit Love of a Courtesan, and one I recommend highly you read, even though it’s not really necessary for you to do so as this little gem stands on its own merit.

Rupert was a witness to Edward and Ellen’s affair and someone who doubted their love match, even after they married, but slowly he’s been coming around as he watches them display devotion to one another. He finally realizes that this sort of affection and love he dearly wishes upon his own sister Rowena, a young woman who he is responsible for and plans to arrange a suitable marriage for as the head of his family.

Rowena is someone who abides by the rules and etiquette, yet I did get the feeling of strength and some stubbornness in her. She did befriend our heroine, Meredith Divine, a beautiful young woman who comes from the ‘new money’ and a father that’s in trade, and that tells me that she’s not a snob.

I liked her story as well.

As a heroine, Meredith was a bit more complex. We first see her through Rupert’s and and then Rowena’s eyes. We, as Rupert, begin to question her motives of friendship to his sister. We are aware that she is hiding something and as the story unfolds, we see this young woman’s secret desires and dreams slowly begin to crumble and she is given only one chance to take her life into her own two hands and trust her feelings and jump at a chance at happiness.

The reason why I called this story a ‘little gem’ is because it really is. You have to give this author props for ‘cramming’ a lot of book into a handful of pages.

And if you don’t trust my opinion on it, here’s your chance to get it right now as it’s FREE on Amazon / Kobo / Google Play /

ENJOY!

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Baron Next Door’ by Erin Knightley

ek tbndSTORY: Charity Effington learned two valuable lessons from her first betrothal:

1) When one loses the attention of an earl, one gains the attention of every gossip in London.

2) Despite the lingering scandal, she’s not prepared to marry for anything less than love.

After an exhausting Season, Bath’s first annual music festival offers Charity the perfect escape. Between her newly formed trio and her music-loving grandmother, Charity is free to play the pianoforte to her heart’s content. That is, until their insufferably rude, though undeniably handsome, neighbor tells her to keep the “infernal racket” to a minimum.

Hugh Danby, Baron Cadgwith, may think he’s put an end to the noise, but he has no idea what he’s begun. Though the waters of Bath provide relief from the suffering of his war injuries, he finds his new neighbor bothersome, vexing, and… inexplicably enchanting. Before long, Hugh suspects that even if his body heals, it’s his heart that might end up broken.

REVIEW: Charity Effington is living with her grandmother in Bath.  She loves to play the piano and practices it daily.

Next door to her is Baron Hugh Cagwith who is in Bath to “take the waters” by both soaking in them and drinking the foul stuff.  He was in the war and his injuries have left him with a concussion and debilitating spinal injury resulting in severe headaches, back and neck pain.  One day he is awakened by the high octaves of Charity’s music through the walls which exacerbates his pain, driving him crazy.  When he confronts her about it, she is quite insulted and refuses to stop playing.

Charity plans to play her music in the Assembly Rooms of Bath, but when she arrives to apply, she is met by (mean old) Mr. Green who tells her she is just a minute or two late and thus the applications are closed.  Two other young ladies, Sophie, who plays the oboe, and May, who plays the zither, are also disappointed to find that they have been turned away.  However, a kind woman speaks up for them and tells Mr. Green (boo-hiss!) that she will withdraw her application and the three ladies can be a trio.  Thus, they are accepted to play.

As the ladies get together for practice, they learn more about one another.  May is from China and the girls learn a lot from her.  One thing is her Chinese friend living with them, Suyin, who is trained in Eastern massage therapy called “tui na” which helps body aches and headaches.  As Charity is sore from the hours she sits practicing her piano, she is delighted when Suyin demonstrates these massages.

Charity and Hugh continue to see one another and as they share a balcony between their homes.  They often meet up on the balcony and talk.  When Hugh confesses his pain difficulties, Charity insists on showing him some of the massages she has learned where they prove to be a great relief to Hugh.

This is a really great novel from Erin Knightley that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.  I learned a lot from it as well.  It is to be published on June 3, 2014.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘One Night with an Earl’ by Jennifer Haymore

jh onwaeSTORY: Beatrice Reece, Lady Fenwick, has retired from polite society. Everyone knows her late husband treated her abominably, and she simply cannot bear the whispers of the ton. But it’s the night of London’s premier masquerade ball—and Beatrice’s one chance to revel in anonymity. She hopes no one will recognize her beneath her mask, not even the sinfully sexy stranger across the room who holds her captive in his gaze. 

Andrew Sinclair would know beautiful Beatrice anywhere from the gentle sway of her hips, the richness of her hair and the lushness of her body. When he asks her to dance, the attraction is instant and all-consuming. The only woman he’s ever truly wanted is finally in his arms. But when the clock strikes twelve, will this one reckless night fade into the morning light?

REVIEW: Beatrice Reece, the widowed Lady Fenwicke, chooses to stay closeted at home since the death of her abusive husband.  Many people feel she is in some way at fault for his death which is not the case.  However, she certainly does not miss him and the physical abuse he constantly piled on her.  Currently, she is living with her parents who view her with scorn.

When her good friend, Jessica, convinces her to dress up and attend a masquerade party, she agrees only because her parents will be away from the house for the time she will be at the party.

Andrew Sinclair, the ninth Earl of Weston, is more interested in spending his time classifying botany specimens that attending ton events.  However, his friend, Madame Lussier, insists that he attend her masquerade.

Dressed as Lady Persephone, Beatrice is intrigued when a masked Andrew approaches her and they strike up a conversation that leads to a waltz.  As the evening continues, their attraction becomes more intense and thus they leave the party for a walk in the park.  The walk then leads to them to Andrew’s home.  Where will things go from there?

A sweet novella about two people who fall in love quickly this story gets quite hot as well.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher 

Jennifer Haymore’s Top Five …

 … Favorite Book Heroes & Heroines are …

Claire and Jamie (2)

1. Jamie and Claire (Outlander)

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2. Sebastian and Jessica (Lord of Scoundrels)

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3. Lizzy and Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice)

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4. Rhett and Scarlett (Gone with the Wind)

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5. Peeta and Katniss (Hunger Games)

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jh tss‘The Scoundrel’s Seduction’

BOOK BLURB: Temptation Knows No Bounds . . .

Undercover agent Sam Hawkins has devoted his life to protecting king and country. So when he receives orders to assassinate a ruthless traitor, he doesn’t question his mission. But Sam didn’t know his deed had a witness–the beautiful and mysterious betrayer’s wife. Now he has no choice but to take her as his prisoner-one he can neither trust . . . nor resist.

 

Élise, Lady Dunthorpe, will do anything to escape her powerful captor–including seducing him senseless. She didn’t know of her miserable husband’s crimes, but she has secrets of her own, secrets that threaten everything she holds dear. With his piercing dark eyes and gentle touch, Sam inflames Élise’s deepest desires, but how could she ever trust a man who won’t let her go? Caught between the crown he’s sworn to serve and the woman he’s come to love, Sam will risk his heart–and his very life–to keep her safe.

BUY LINKS: Amazon / B&N / iTunes

MINI REVIEW: Ms. Haymore pens another character driven story in her House of Trent series, third and my favorite of the three, or six, as there are three novella’s that are a part of this series too.

Let me tell you, out of all the heroes from each book that Ms. Haymore wrote, Sam will forever be my all-time favorite. He was everything we readers desire in an Alpha hero: good-looking, brave, protective of his family, dedicated to his country and a spy to boot!

Elise was one of those ‘older’ heroines [if you can be called that at 28] and I liked her as her story progressed more than I did at the start of the story.

If you like your romances with an aspect of an action-adventure, than you’re in luck, this book has it.

The fast pace, a very intriguing plot that waves through all the books, made this an enjoyable read for me. I do recommend you read them in order though.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

>>> RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY <<<

jhAUTHOR BIO: As a child, Jennifer Haymore traveled the South Pacific with her family on their homebuilt sailboat. The months spent on the sometimes quiet, sometimes raging seas sparked her love of adventure and grand romance. Since then, she’s earned degrees in computer science and education and held various jobs ranging from bookselling to teaching inner-city children to acting, but she’s never stopped writing.

You can find Jennifer in Southern California trying to talk her husband into yet another trip to England, helping her three children with homework while brainstorming a new five-minute dinner menu, or crouched in a corner of the local bookstore writing her next novel.

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