‘Lady Wild’ by Máire Claremont

lw mcSTORY: Victorian England is about to go wild…

Lady Ophelia longs to be independent, daring and bold, but her mother’s illness has stolen the last of her creative fire. Condemned to an isolated country cottage after the death of her idealistic father, she and her mother are forsaken by family and all of society. Disappointed by those she once trusted, Lady Ophelia lovingly nurses her dying mother knowing that her own dreams of being an artist will never be realized. That is until she meets a devilish aristocrat who reawakens her desire to be wild.

Viscount Stark has never known love. Reputed to be a rebel and a rake by all, at heart he is anything but. When he meets Lady Ophelia, he is struck by her haunting presence, dignity, and honor. Will he continue to play his wicked games and risk ruining the last of Lady Ophelia’s wounded heart? Or will he dare to be the gentleman he always wanted to be and unveil a love he never thought possible?

EXCERPT:

“You’re a perfect stranger,” she said.

“I came upon you for a reason, or are you one of those strange modern people who believe that all is at random?” He stroked back a lock of damp, fiery red hair clinging to her cheek. “That there is no order, and that the soul is a figment of our desperate pinings for meaning to our seemingly meaningless world?”

“You speak the words of a poet,” she whispered.

“And you shall have consumption if we don’t get you out of these soaked garments.” He set her down, making certain her feet had found purchase upon the soft earth before turning her and working at the lacings of her gown.

“What are you doing?” she gasped.

“Ensuring you don’t die of exposure.”

“By taking off my frock?”

“Yes, and giving you my coat.” His usually sure fingers stumbled over the lacings. How many women had he extricated from their far more elaborate clothes? More than he could ever recall. But this woman? Trepidation dumbed his movements. “Then I shall see you home. Is that acceptable?”

She hesitated then replied,“It seems logical.”

“I am nothing if not logical,” he teased.

“I somehow doubt that, sir.”

“My lord, actually,” he corrected.

“I beg your pardon?”

Slowly, carefully, painfully, he worked the laces of her bodice, not daring to allow his fingers to wander over her delicate back as he exposed her flesh. With each inch of damp undergarment he exposed, he found his brain flying off and something quite different taking over his actions. And it wasn’t exactly lust. Lust he knew quite well, and this burning was not just one of bodily desire, but the mystifying possibility that he had found a better reflection to his damaged soul. Could fate be at work here? The circumstances certainly were remarkable.

He leaned in, bending his head down to accommodate for the several inches of difference in their heights, and whispered, “My lord Viscount Stark, if you must know.”

She tensed but didn’t pull from his grasp. “How fortunate for you, my lord viscount.”

The fabric of her gown peeled away from her corset and chemise, which had become transparent. He ached to slip his fingers beneath the thin fabric and caress the delicate skin of her back, but he refrained. “Yes, it is. I promised whilst you were in the river to tell you who I am. No prince, alas.”

Her shoulders straightened, a strange prickliness giving her body starch. “Princes, I should think, are far and few between.”

“So are lords.”

“Lords seem to be everywhere,” she countered, a brittle note to her voice.

“You know many?”

“I know enough.”

“Enough to have clearly harbored an unfavorable disposition toward them?” he observed dryly.

“Please, just continue on with your task.” She shivered, and a delightful display of chilled skin mirrored what she might look like when overcome with desire. It was a damned appealing image.

He teased his fingers along the base of the wool bodice, inching it away from her white corset and chemise, sliding it down her arms. “You can continue to call me sir or mister, if it gives you more pleasure.”

She tossed her head at that, her hair, the color of the setting sun, flying over his hands. “What I call you does not change who you are.”

The feel of her slightly wet, silken locks stole his breath. The waist-length strands spilled over his fingers. He longed to wind them with his palm, grip her nape and take her sweetness in a wicked kiss. “I suppose not. What shall I call you?”

“Ophelia, of course.”

He frowned. There was more to her name. He felt certain of it. “Yes, but—”

“Plain Ophelia will do.”

“You could hardly ever be called plain.”

She snorted.

She was so unlike the other women of his acquaintance, fanciful and strange. He couldn’t help himself. He liked her. Andrew gazed down at her through heavy-lidded eyes, the air about them growing tangible with his growing desire for her.

“Come now,”he said. “Has no one ever told you of your beauty?”

She flushed, heady at his nearness. Whether she realized it or not, she tilted her head back slightly, her lips parting, baring the slightest hint of pink tongue. “You are so. . .”

“Handsome?” he teased.

“Odd.”

Andrew drew her to him and lowered his mouth to hers. Unthinking, he took her lips, kissing with a softness he had not felt in a decade. It made no sense, the desire to meld her body to his own.

The taste of her was sweet, mint leaves and unsurety, as she gasped against his assault. Her hands gripped his arms, hard at first, but then she yielded, her body pliant.

A pleasure so great he could scarce countenance it overwhelmed him. She was the answer to his unknowing pleas that he find solace in this broken world.

And how could he ever let that go?

REVIEW: Let me start this review by addressing the cover. I’m not a fan of this cover but I am a HUGE fan of this author. I’ve read, or more like gobbled up, everything she’s written so far and I’m sure I always will.

Even though she’s an ‘up and coming’ romance author, she is someone to watch out for. Her writing style is unique as much as her characters are; her stories are well written, researched and plotted while she still manages to populate them with characters that are strong, appealing and intriguing.

This is a short novella that does an excellent job in introducing us to the new Wicked Games series, and I could go on in praising Ms. Claremont’s skills in telling a compelling, touching and heart wrenching story of two people who are thirsting, craving affection and love, which they finally satisfy with each other, but I’ll leave that for the other reviewers.

What I want to do here is use this opportunity and tell you why this novella was written and try to compel you to buy it.

You see, this author wrote it to raise $10,000 for donation to Hospice. Many of you may not know, but her mother and father died losing their battle with cancer, both spending some months on Hospice. She says “It’s such an incredible organization and I don’t know how my mom or dad and I would have made it without the support of the staff. It’s wonderful that so many people raise money for cancer prevention! But I also think it’s important to help those who’ve sadly reached a point in which terminal illness is the reality. Death is expensive and painful. Thankfully Hospice helps with nursing, counselors, medication, and sometimes even bills. They provide relief for the caretaker. I can’t tell you how huge that is. I’m sure many of you already know. So, together, let’s help make the crossing over of a terminally ill person a little more peaceful, a little more loving, a little more free of fear.”

Now, how can we not help after such a heartwarming plea? I for one am honored to do so, especially after having a personal knowledge of what Hospice is all about. I had my mother, mother-in-law and my aunt benefit from the loving care of wonderful people from Hospice. While I hope to God you never have to go through what our families did, I also pray that if you do, you may be assured that Hospice is an organization that will always be there for you, as it was for us.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘The Dark Affair’ by Máire Claremont

mc tdaSTORY: Lady Margaret Cassidy left a life of nobility behind in Ireland, forsaking her grieving homeland to aid war-ravaged men in England. Still, she never expected a cruel turn of fate to lock her into an unwanted betrothal with one of her English patients—much less one as broken and dangerous as Viscount Powers.

Wrecked by his tragic past, Powers’ opiate-addled sanity hangs precariously in the balance, leaving him poised to destroy anyone who dares to utter the names of the wife and child he still so deeply mourns. So when he is forced to marry Margaret in exchange for freedom, he is shocked by the desire to earn her trust, her body, and—most alarming of all—her heart….

REVIEW: In this third novel of Ms. Claremont’s Mad Passions series we reconnect with James Stanhope, Viscount Powers who came to aid of Lady Mary in ‘Lady in Red’. Have no fear, you don’t have to read that story in order to follow this one, although come to think of it, maybe you should. Lady Mary has a significant part to play in James’s story as much as he did in hers. The relationship they built is very strong and the scenes between James and Mary are heartbreakingly tender because of their intimate knowledge of what the other is going through.

If you’re a fan of ‘tortured hero’ trope, please don’t pass this one up. I can’t tell you how much I loved it. Everything about this hero touched my heart. I was pulling for him from the first page and the satisfaction I got as I watched his courage emerge out of despair, was elating.

Maggie was the only woman for James. Without her tenaciousness, her determination and strong spirit, this man would still be lost. She may have appeared to be cold, calculating and without warm emotions, but once you start to know her, to see behind all this front veneer, you start to understand this amazing woman.

This is without a doubt a character driven, fast-paced and emotionally draining story that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish.

I can’t praise it enough! If you haven’t read this series yet, you’re missing out on a wonderful prose, solid plots and a pace that will give you an adrenaline rush you won’t soon forget.

Melanie for b2b.

Complimentary copy from the publisher.

 

‘Lady in Red’ by Máire Claremont

LIR MCSTORY: Lady Mary Darrel should be the envy of London. Instead, all society believes her dead. For Mary holds a secret so dangerous, her father chose to keep her locked away…and have a grave made for her near her mother’s. Driven to the edge of desperation, Mary manages to escape the asylum, only to find that her fate yet again rests in the hands of a man…

Edward Barrons, Duke of Fairleigh, longs for some way to escape the torment of his father’s crimes. In Mary’s warrior spirit and haunted gaze—which so mirrors his own—he finally sees his path to redemption. He will stop at nothing to keep her safe, even as she seeks revenge. But will the passion they discover in each other be enough to save them from their demons?

REVIEW: Lady Mary, daughter of the Duke of Duncliffe, has just escaped from an insane asylum where she had been placed by her father after the death of her mother, Esme. He put her there after she witnessed him murdering her mother.  Subjected to unspeakable treatment, rape, swill for food and constantly dosed with laudanum, her body and her mind are very weak.  Mary travels by foot to her mother’s friend, Yvonne, in hopes of finding shelter.

Edward Barrons, Duke of Fairleigh, is a tormented man filled with guilt over many crimes that his father committed.  

Yvonne feels that Mary will be safer staying with Edward who takes her in and strives to help her adjust to normal life again and to help her get over her dependency on the laudanum.  In helping her, Edward finds a feeling of salvation in payment for his father’s crimes.

This novel is dark at times and will make the reader cringe at the abuse that Mary suffered and the evil of some men.  However, it is also a lesson in the patience, caring and love of human beings helping others to heal from difficulties in their lives.

I was very impressed with the depth of sensitivity and knowledge of the author in understanding and expressing the pain, fear, frustration and anger suffered by Mary.

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by the author 

TDA MC

MEL’S THOUGHTS: I want to thank Connie for such a great and concise review of this extraordinary tale. We read it at the same time, and I just thought I needed to let you all know how much this story touched me as well.

Reading this book had me hold my breath on more than one occasion; it made my hands shake from anger at the society of the day; it brought tears to my eyes from pure impotence I felt in not being able to hold these two souls in my arms and in theTDL MC end I shed some more tears, but this time of happiness at finally witnessing good win over evil.

Máire Claremont is quickly earning her space on my ‘keeper shelf’ with her wonderful writing, believable plots and heroes and heroines who are willing to risk their souls for their happiness and never give up on themselves.

Please, please be sure to read this book, and the series of Mad Passions, starting with ‘The Dark Lady’ and coming in March, 2014 ‘The Dark Affair’.

*Book provided by NetGalley

‘The Dark Lady’ by Máire Claremont

TDL MCSTORY: Lord Ian Blake has returned from India a broken man. Years ago, he pledged to Lady Eva Carin—his childhood companion and first love—that he would bring her husband back alive. His failure haunts him. But even his jaded soul can’t anticipate the shocking sight of beautiful, independent Eva confined in a madhouse.

Locked in an asylum, forgotten by society, Eva is adrift in both body and mind. For Ian to break her free, they must cross a powerful enemy—and prove her sanity to England’s unforgiving aristocracy. But the biggest danger of all may come when the secrets of Eva’s tragic past are finally unlocked.

REVIEW: The first word that came out of my mouth as I’ve finished reading this story was WOW… and then I exhaled.

‘The Dark Lady’ by Máire Claremont is her début, and what a début it is!

If you’re like me, one of those bookworms that have a need for the book to grab them from the first page, then you’re in luck if you decide to read this book. You’ll be on pins and needles ‘till the end.

For a change this story develops in 1865, Victorian era and what a contrast to Regency era it is. For some reason it looks like women suffered even worse than in the earlier years. This is the case with our heroine. This woman, as the story opens, is in hell and she’s hanging by a thread.

Lady Eva Carin not only lost her husband, but soon after suffered a loss even greater than that, a loss of her son in an accident of her making. Thomas, her brother-in-law who is now the new Lord Carin, uses her pain and devastation to his advantage and commits her to an asylum in which for the past two years she’s endured many ‘disciplinary’ treatments ordered by the woman who runs the place, such as a regular dose of opium to a point of addiction, many beatings and more.

Lord Ian Blake is back from India and as much as he dreads coming face to face with Eva, he knows that he ows her the truth about Hamilton’s death, and feel that this as his only opportunity of redeeming himself in her eyes and coming to terms with his role in it. He’s been haunted with memories of not just Hamilton’s death but also with their life as children as all three have grown up together in a wonderful home provided by Hamilton’s father, Lord Carin. He took in both Eva and Ian after their individual parents died. As they grew together, boys were always vying for love and approval of the old man but it was Hamilton who started envying the bond that had developed between his father and Ian.

Ian on the other hand hadn’t realized that his earnest admiration and love for Lord Carin was a sore point to his best friend so whatever he did to please him, Hamilton viewed it as a challenge and affront to his own character. Even Eva was in some way touched by their rivalry. While they all were aware of her duty to marry Hamilton, they also realized that she had more in common with Ian than Hamilton, but neither Eva nor Ian voiced their thoughts or feelings out loud as that would be a breach of duty and bring much hurt to the man who they both loved like a father.

Ian is shocked to find out that she’s been committed, but once he enters the hell she’s been living, he is livid and enraged. The only thing stopping him from committing murder is the thought of saving the poor creature who is now Eva.

What an awesome characterization of a woman on a brink this was. I was brought to tears as Eva goes through so many emotions, not believing her eyes or her laudanum infected mind that there is someone who cares if she’s dead or alive.

And then there’s Ian caught between his quilt over his best friend’s death and desire for the woman he always loved but could never allow himself even a dream of having.

Beside being well written and plotted, paced to perfection with many moments of hair-raising action,  this is without a doubt, one of the best haunting, poignant and heart wrenching stories of love I’ve read in a while.

Bookworms, mark your calendars for February 5, 2013 and remember that as the arrival of Máire Claremont. This author is here to stay and I welcome her with open arms.

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.