My Historical Christmas recommends [part 1]

ACW JG‘A Christmas Waltz’ by Jane Goodger

BOOK BLURB: To Lady Amelia Wellesley, it seems utterly romantic to surprise her dashing fiancé at his home in Texas so the two can marry by Christmas. But Amelia’s surprise goes awry when Carson Kitteridge calls off their wedding as soon as she arrives, leaving Amelia in disgrace. . .

With nowhere to turn, Amelia finds an unlikely savior in Carson’s brother, Dr. Boone Kitteridge. Boone offers to marry Amelia, sparing her the shame of returning to England unwed. But Boone isn’t just protecting Amelia’s honor; secretly, he finds her irresistible, and the thought of indulging his desire for her is too tempting to ignore. As Boone and Amelia forge a fragile bond, something goes terribly wrong–and it will take nothing less than a Christmas miracle for Amelia to discover who she is destined to love. . .

REVIEW: There are three books in this Christmas trilogy and last year I recommended ‘A Christmas Scandal’ which is book two, and today I’m recommending book three [tomorrow I’ll do book one, ‘Marry Christmas’].

For someone that’s always reading any series in order, I’ve no idea why I read this trilogy out-of-order. It really isn’t necessary for them to be read in order… however, maybe I should have. Because they would have flowed better time wise.

In any case, I’m here to let you know that this is a well written, plotted and executed sweet, sensual and very charming tale.

What I liked best about it is the dialogue and the fast pace of the story as well as strong characterization of hero and the heroine.

I adored Lady Amelia Wellesley who might seem flighty and naïve, but this woman was one strong female. For her to leave her native England and pursue the love of her life [an American Cowboy who proposed to her only because he wanted to bed her] all on her own takes guts.

Boone Kittredge is this small town’s doctor and her fiancé’s brother.  He’s also a total opposite of Carson, and Amelia is having a hard time coming to terms with the man she remembers from England, with the man that he is now, here in America.

Boone is a Beta hero all the way, and I just loved him to pieces. Once we get to know his background, we love him even more. This man has survived much abuse from his father, and it was something that made him into a somber and strong person. As well as someone who has always been there to pick up the pieces of his older brother leaves behind.

I also loved the secondary characters in this tale and was heartbroken at the life and hardships they lived through.

This is a story for every age and any time, not just Christmas.

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CR LBIW SK MJP PR‘Christmas Roses: Love Blooms in Winter’ by Mary Jo Putney,  Patricia RiceSusan King

BOOK BLURB: Love blooms in Winter…

Three rare, historical romance novellas by acclaimed writers Patricia Rice, Mary Jo Putney, and Susan King are collected together here for the first time in this exclusive eBook, Christmas Roses.

“The Snow Rose”, “The Black Beast of Belleterre”, and “The Kissing Bough” weave tales of the joy of unexpected Love, at a special time of year, Christmas – as only these talented writers can.

Discovery in the midst of a clash of clans, hidden desires from an unexpected suitor, and a love once lost and found combine for a truly romantic journey through history.

This tantalizing collection of historical romances also includes all-new introductions and recipes to add to the delight of the season.

REVIEW: This book was going to be a win-win for me because I’m new to only one of the authors in this anthology, Susan King and MJP and PR are my all time favorite authors and I’m in process of hunting down their back list for my Keeper shelf.

Plus, you can’t beat the free recipes that all of them are offering at the end of their stories: Oatmeal Brose, Potato Kale Soup, and Lamb’s Wool Punch may not grace my table this Christmas, but they sure were fun to read.

Here are my thoughts on their stories:

‘The Snow Rose’ by Susan King
Catriona MacDonald is determent to gain the rights from her uncle to her family’s estate and the only man that can help her is a Laird of an enemy clan, the Frasers.

The Laird isn’t much inclined to engage a MacDonald into a fight over a woman’s fancy, so he declines to aid her, but a warrior in his Hall feels that he might offer at least some help to a woman who’s left to fetch for herself in the middle of a winter storm.

My fellow reviewer Leah’s been the catalyst for me to start reading more Medieval romances, and this one’s very fast pacing and so heartwarming that will melt your heart, especially when you find out why Catriona chooses to live alone.

Kenneth was an Alpha male all the way, but still managed to be caring and smart; strong and loyal.

I’ve never been to Scotland but Ms. King did such a great job in describing the world of 16th Century in which Catriona lived in that I may as well have been there with her.

‘The Snow Rose’ will melt your heart!

‘The Black Beast of Belleterre’ by Mary Jo Putney
MJP does a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ so well in this short tale that you won’t even notice it’s a short story.

Lord Falconer is blessed with wealth and vast holdings, but not with good looks.

As a child he suffered an accident which left him disfigured, so he’s been hiding behind a hood. He long ago accepted his fate, and knew that he’d never feel the love of a woman or his child’s small hands around his neck.

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TCICAE EL‘The Cheer in Charming an Earl’ by Emma Locke

BOOK BLURB: For Love…

The second of five impoverished sisters, Miss Elinor Conley knows her dream of becoming a lady is farfetched. When an unmarried gentleman happens by her brother’s smithy, it is up to her to act quickly–and rashly–to secure his interest.

But Grantham Wendell, Earl Chelford, isn’t in the market for anything more than a new horseshoe. What’s a bachelor to do when an innocent miss turns up at his Christmas Eve bacchanalia? He ought to make her leave, but his Twelfth Night party just became more entertaining…

This is story 3.5 in The Naughty Girls Series. To start at the beginning, please see the full-length romance THE TROUBLE WITH BEING WICKED.

PLEASE NOTE! This short novella was first published in the romantic holiday anthology TIS THE SEASON.

REVIEW: I can’t believe that I have every book this author wrote, but never read any of them!

This is a short and quick read with an entertaining cast of characters, like our heroine, Miss Elinor Conley.

Our little miss is in a tizzy as she believes herself doomed to spinsterhood because her little village lacks the suitors, so she decides to convince Grantham, Earl Chelford, whom she just met at her brother’s smithy that they would suit. What could go wrong, right?

Both of these characters were very likable and extremely entertaining.

If you like your novellas with lots of humor, plenty of romance and witty dialogue, Ms. Locke is an author to deliver on all counts.

Now I really have to get to the other books as soon as possible.

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TID CM‘The Inconvenient Duchess’ by Christine Merrill

BOOK BLURB: “Dear Cici and Father,”

“I have come to Devon and married a duke. And I’m more tired and hungry than I have ever been in my life. Please let me come home.”

Compromised and wedded on the same day, Lady Miranda was fast finding married life not to her taste. A decaying manor and a secretive husband were hardly the stuff of girlish dreams. Yet every time she looked at dark, brooding Marcus Radwell, Duke of Haughleigh, she felt inexplicably compelled–and determined–to make their marriage real

REVIEW: I got this book for two reasons, one it was and still is FREE! And the second reason is it has my December theme of Christmas.

Everything in this story worked and meshed well, from our heroine Miranda, who was very ordinary and relatable character, to our hero Marcus who’s an honorable man with a gruff exterior.

Miranda and Marcus felt very real, and their love story and the plot were well-developed. I also liked the dialogue which was entertaining and helped move the story at a nice and steady pace.

Secondary character of St. John, the hero’s brother almost stole the story, that’s how well-developed he was.

I highly recommend it if you like a traditional Regency. The story is highly entertaining, intriguing and its complex characters.

This is a new author to me this year, and I’m sure to read her again. Please feel FREE to download it today!

CLICK ON THE COVER for a FREE DOWNLOAD!!

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THATT RW‘The Holly and the Thistle’ by Regan Walker

BOOK BLURB: A chance meeting at Berry’s wine shop, a misunderstanding and Christmastide all come together to allow the most handsome Scot in London to give Lady Emily Picton the best Christmas gift she’s ever had: a marriage not of convenience, but one of love.

This follows to some extent the first in the Agents of the Crown trilogy, Racing With The Wind, but can be read alone.

REVIEW: Here’s another author that just keeps slipping by me. I have a couple of her books on my Kindle, and I really have to find the time to read her, especially after I read this novella.

From what I could glimpse from this short story, I can tell you that this author does know her craft well and her characters are well drawn, three-dimensional; her plots well-developed and pace fast-moving.

If you like a romance that starts with a mistaken identity, this one is it. The scene in which our hero meets the heroine is priceless, and very well written.

William’s pursuit of Emily is so much more than just entertaining. It’s downright awesome! It really is a must read.

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MAM KR‘Mistletoe and Magic’ by Katie Rose

BOOK BLURB: In Katie Rose’s delightful eBook original novella set in Victorian New York City, a remarkable woman with the gift of second sight must learn to trust her visions while following her heart.
 
Blond, angelic Penelope Appleton possesses breathtaking looks—and a troublesome secret. She and her two charming—and newly married—sisters have inspired quite a following posing as spiritualists. However, unlike her clever sisters, Penelope actually does glimpse the future. On the eve of her coming out at a Christmas ball, Penelope sees a vision of a rakishly handsome dark-haired man who she knows is her destiny. But her premonition comes with a terrible price: She also foretells his death.

Jared Marton takes one look at Penelope and his fate is sealed. He must possess her, heart and soul, even if his efforts to get close to this ethereal beauty are thwarted by her determination to deny the magic between them . . . until a perfect kiss dissolves all barriers to sweet surrender. But when Jared discovers the burden she carries, a perfect love is challenged by the cold winds of fate.

REVIEW: Well finally I leave Regency England and head to Victorian New York!

When I read this short novella, I wasn’t aware that it was a third book in the Appleton Sister’s series, but fear not, this  story is written to stand on its own.

Our heroine Penelope is the youngest of the Appleton sisters and she has a ‘second sight’ which allows her to see the future, even her own.

And here is where this story gets intriguing. In order to stop a tragedy that she foresaw, she’s determined to stay away from the man she loves because she believes that she saw him die

I liked the characters and the suspenseful plot of this little gem and hope you give it a go.

*Melanie for b2b

*Books provided by the publisher through NetGalley & bought by me.

b2b is Three!

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Someone pinch me! Has it really been THREE years already?! WOW!

Another year just whooshed by me…Personally, it has been another year filled with health issues I just wasn’t ready to deal with, but then when are we, right?!

Through it all I found that my hubby’s love can get me through everything life throws at me and that is a blessing I don’t ever want to take for granted.

As always, I still feel blessed with so many of you that are faithfully stopping by, commenting and making me laugh out loud. Your support is appreciated and always welcome. I’m really humbled by the romance community all over the world!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you all!

This year saw our Krissie leave us, but we welcomed with opened arms two of our faithful followers with their unique reviews, Connie and Leah. I was seriously considering shutting the blog down when they jumped in and literally saved me. Please help me welcome them with a huge HIP-HIP-HOORAY!

Since last year our one month-long PUSH-A-BOOK celebration was such a great hit with readers and authors alike, we thought why mess with something that ain’t broke?

Clipart Illustration of a Bunch Of Floating Party Balloons With

So get ready, our bookworms as we’re kicking off our ONE month long celebration on November 1st with Vanessa Kelly and ending it with Anna Campbell.

Throughout the month we’ve invited some of the most hard-working, amazingly creative and way too talented people in the romance community to stop by and help us celebrate. Our invitations once more answered with so much enthusiasm that we just might schedule some visits in twos and threes!

Here’s just a few of the authors that will be coming over… Delilah MarvelleVicky DreilingEileen DreyerDanelle HarmonMaureen Driscoll, Anna CampbellGrace BurrowesMia MarloweMarilyn BrantVanessa KellyLouise AllenShana Galen, Elise RomeNicola CornickJillian StoneSaralee EtterPatricia RicePriscilla ShayBethanne Strasser, Valerie Bowman, Bella Love, Monica BurnsElla Quinn, Caroline LindenSandra OwensTerri BrisbinVictoria Vane, Jenn LeBlanc, Norah WilsonAmanda ScottDonna CummingsNicky Wells, Marguerite KayeBarbara MonajemSaralee EtterDeborah Doucette, Lila DiPasqua, C.C. HumphreysTracy Anne Warren…and a few surprise guests too! There will be prizes…books, and books and some more books, a bookworm heaven, right? There will be many surprises and a Grand Prize as well!

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Won’t you help us celebrate with:

1) Telling us which ‘Book’ would you like to ‘Push’ and why…

2) Subscribing to our Blog…

3) ‘LIKE’ -ing us on our Facebook!

All three are required for a TRIPLE chance to win in the Grand Giveaway!

However, if you’re already a follower and our FB buddy, all you need do is…COMMENT on the upcoming posts and you’re all set to go. Are you ready to PARTEY?!

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‘The Irish Duchess’ by Patricia Rice

 Neville Perceval, the bankrupt Duke of Anglesey, has been burdened since youth with more responsibility than one man should handle. He has finally accepted that he needs to marry a wealthy, gracious lady who will ease his burdens and smooth his political path.

Fiona MacDermot, the rebellious, untamed cousin of an Irish earl, has the freedom and independence Neville has never known. Like the duke, she needs cash to help starving villagers and orphans. Unfortunately, she’d rather earn a living than have anything to do with useless men, and the politicians she knows all belong at the wrong end of a rope.

But when the duke is nearly beaten to death, and Fiona’s looms are lost to a murdering thief, their lives are entangled in ways that threaten their futures. Lust shouldn’t factor into their destinies, but it does, and now they have to find their dreams together, or die trying

EXCERPT:

“Finished with the news sheets, His Grace, Neville Perceval, the Duke of Anglesey drained his brandy glass, picked up his walking stick and high-crowned hat, and set out for home. He had a stack of estate papers on his desk that needed his attention. And his  cousin Blanche had yet another mad scheme for improving the Manchester mills that he must discourage in some manner.

He couldn’t believe he was placed in the position of acting as a bloody tradesman just to keep his wretched cousin from sinking all her coins into improbable schemes for benefiting the welfare of mankind. Mankind was scarce worth the effort.

Neville allowed instinct to guide him home while he lost himself in thought. The Anglesey townhouse occupied a rather large chunk of real estate in one of the older sections of town, one where gaslights had not yet been installed. Accustomed to the dark shadows of trees from the park, Neville gave his surroundings little notice. Even the clammy fog obscuring the pavement did not deter him. He could find his way home blindfolded if needed.

Only the sound of a footstep where there shouldn’t be one finally dragged him from his reverie. One too many violent incidents in these past years of political chaos had taught him caution. Had someone followed him from the club? Why?

One of the things he had learned from Michael, Blanche’s new husband, was how to act quickly and defend himself. Over the years, his lessons with Gentleman Jackson had given him a much needed outlet for frustration. Neville needed no more than the snap of a twig to jump from absentminded thought to full alert.

The scoundrel crashing through the shrubbery caught the full force of the gold-plated knob of Neville’s walking stick. The second scoundrel suffered the brunt of Neville’s fist plowing into his face at such an angle that his jaw fell slack. Neville cursed as still a third leapt from the bushes, and footsteps behind him indicated he’d attracted a crowd.

Giving up any pretense of politeness, he flicked open the sword in his stick, slashed at the man advancing from his side, kicked at the one rising from the street, and heard the sweet sound of a groan as he connected with his soft target. Any triumph he might have felt dissipated the moment a cudgel cracked across the back of his skull.

With a growl of fury, Neville swung and slashed at his opponent, but he’d already realized the futility. There were just too many of them.

As someone grabbed his sword and twisted it from his hand, Neville plowed his fist into still another jaw and had the satisfaction of hearing it crack before the club came down on his skull again.

This time, the Duke of Anglesey crumpled to the street, swearing as the blackness of unconsciousness threatened. He had no heir. He couldn’t die.”

FEATURED AUTHOR: Patricia Rice

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*One lucky Commenter will end up with an eBook [US only] Won’t you join our celebration by:1) Telling us which ‘Book’ would you like to ‘Push’ and why…2) Subscribing to our Blog…3) ‘LIKE’ -ing us on our Facebook!All three are required for a TRIPLE chance to win in the Grand Giveaway!

However, if you’re already a follower and our FB buddy, all you need do is…COMMENT on the upcoming posts and you’re all set to go.

*Clicking on the author’s name/pic will give you their contact info, website or bio. 

*Clicking on the cover of the book will take you to Book View Cafe for purchase. You can get it on Amazon or B & N, too. 

‘The English Heiress’ finally makes it by Patricia Rice

Melanie, thank you for inviting me to stop by to tell the story of how my new historical romance, THE ENGLISH HEIRESS, finally made it into production. Your review tells the book’s story so beautifully that I thought I would simply recite the tale of the book that wouldn’t die.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, THE HEIRESS is a sequel to THE MARQUESS, the second in a series of Regency romances I wrote in the late 90’s. We’re talking about an era when I was  working with Word 6.0 and Internet Explorer version 1. Yahoo had just formed. I probably backed up to floppy disks.

So over a dozen years ago, when the imprint that bought THE HEIRESS closed down and sent back the next two books in the series, I was probably dealing with one paper copy (scribbled on because that’s how I edited) and a half dozen floppy disks that I may have copied over to 3.5” disks before I shoved them in a drawer. I had several other contracts at the time and resurrecting books that were already several years old just wasn’t happening.

Fast forward to 2011. Since I had a physical book to scan, I reissued THE MARQUESS as an e-book, and it started selling extremely well in this new format. But I had no physical book for the next two in the series. The ancient disks had deteriorated, and over the years, I’d tinkered with Michael’s book, so there was no one version, even in manuscript format. The pieces I had were written in an earlier Regency style of excess verbiage and circumlocutions that are the very devil to weed out, and I’d apparently given up on several versions over the years.

But everyone wanted Michael’s story. Readers have been demanding to know what happened to Michael since he first appeared in a Signet Regency in the 80s. I owed readers that story. And now e-books were possible, I didn’t need to find publishers interested in an old book, and I’d run out of excuses not to attempt to bring Michael back to life.

Over this past year I’ve been painstakingly digging old chapters off the disks that weren’t corrupted, scanning  chapters from yellowing pages for disks that were no longer usable, and piecing all the bits together with the files I’d copied into all my computers over the last dozen years. And once I had a full, coherent manuscript again, I edited. And edited some more. Then when my brain was about to explode, I sent the whole thing to the editors at Book View Café, who trimmed THE ENGLISH HEIRESS to its new fast-paced self. After all this, I think I could officially hire myself out as an editor.

“Cut” materials in almost any of my books are dictated by me. I’m a “fly into the mist” kind of writer and sometimes when I’m not entirely certain where I’m going, I do a lot of circling. It may be good material, snappy dialogue, whatever, but if it doesn’t keep the story line moving forward, it gets whacked.

And in the case of THE MARQUESS and THE ENGLISH HEIRESS, I was writing in an older Regency style that required a lot of circumlocutions, which required a lot of repetition, and the verbiage simply stacked up. Adding to that haystack was the fact that I was writing on an old DOS computer with limited capacity, so I wrote and edited everything by hand. (The ghosts in my attic kept crashing my machine and I was terrified of losing text.) And I didn’t have the time or equipment to go back and hack unnecessary scenery.

Since THE MARQUESS made it into print and has been reissued frequently, I’ve edited it several times over the years and no longer have any excerpts at hand. Michael’s book, however, is another story. Scattered over corrupted Word 6 disks and in various versions and hard copy in my basement, I have umpteen versions and edited scenes scattered all over, and trying to remember which version contained what would be a major headache. Even after I pieced the story back together and edited out huge chunks, my fantastic editor at Book View Café, Sherwood Smith, cut nearly 20,000 words of repetitive text. I could probably fill another book with cut material.  Here’s just one small example of text removed from the book.

Even after I pieced the story back together and edited out huge chunks, my fantastic editor at Book View Café, Sherwood Smith, cut nearly 20,000 words of repetitive text. I could probably fill another book with cut material.  I’ll copy the first small excised text I found below. As you can tell, there’s nothing wrong with it. It just doesn’t say anything that hasn’t already been said.

That Blanche’s breath caught when his muscles rippled beneath his coat didn’t mean anything. She admired fine horse-flesh too. Sunny days and the laughter of children made her heart sing with joy. What she felt for Michael was little more.

But it wasn’t the return of a horse or a sunny day she awaited now.

She wanted Michael, the one man in her world she couldn’t have.

I spent so much time putting Michael back together again, I didn’t think I’d ever have the time or patience to bother re-creating the IRISH DUCHESS. But readers have been so wonderfully supportive of THE ENGLISH HEIRESS that I’ve bitten the bullet, made a copy of those old pages, and sent the DUCHESS in for scanning. I may have mountains more of text littering the cutting room floor in the months to come, but I’m finally back in my Regency world and loving it!

~~~~~~~~~~ * * * ~~~~~~~~~~

Melanie here! I just loved The English Heiress, and thought to let you read an excerpt that made me laugh-out-loud. Patricia will be giving away one ebook copy to one lucky commenter that tells us what was protruding from Benington’s back? Are you ready for a clue? Read the excerpt to find out…

While the butler helped Blanche with her bonnet and cloak, Michael generously offered their visitors help with their accouterments. When Michael took Allendale’s hat, an extremely large feather appeared behind the gentleman’s ear. Blanche choked back a cry and covered her laugh as a drooping nosegay of half dead roses peered out of the young lord’s vest pocket after he handed over his cane.

Somehow, Allendale’s coat pockets became lining side out and his cravat fell unfastened. His elaborately ornate pocket watch disappeared from the chain across his vest and came to rest—Blanche blinked in astonishment as she discovered the watch dangling from the belt on the back of Benington’s coat.

Benington fared little better. With his back toward the others so Blanche’s maid could divest him of his great coat, he hadn’t yet noticed Allendale’s newly rearranged attire. Aside from the pocket watch dangling from his back and the knob of a walking stick protruding from his coat neck, he didn’t appear seriously harmed until he turned around.

This time, Blanche couldn’t bite back a gasp of laughter at the lady’s red sash replacing his usually pristine white cravat. How in the world had Michael come across that sash?

She’d thought it safely in her wardrobe with the gown to which it belonged. She didn’t have much time to muffle her giggles before Allendale and Benington came face to face and stared at one another in incredulity. ‘What the devil are you wearing on your neck, Bennie?’ Allendale asked peevishly.Benington snatched at the back of his neck, seeking the object prodding him between his shoulder blades.

Grabbing the knob and pulling, he gave Allendale a stare of disbelief. ‘My neck! What is that dangling from your collar? An ostrich feather? And what do you mean coming into a lady’s presence with your cravat like that? I swear…’

Blanche’s peal of laughter swiveled both men in her direction. She couldn’t help it. Her eyes watered, and she nearly bent double in her attempt to contain her chortles. If Michael had hoped to assuage her grief while telling her suitors they were unwanted, he’d succeeded. The ostrich feather swayed over Allendale’s eye, and the ostentatious pocket watch chose that moment to play its merry chimes. Even Blanche’s maid bit back a grin, and the butler covered his mouth, hiding his mirth.

Allendale and Benington looked at each other again as if questioning the sanity of the house’s inhabitants. ‘Ummm, that nosegay looks a little wilted, Allendale,’ Benington observed a trifle doubtfully. ‘What nosegay? I…’ Glancing down, his lordship pulled the wilted roses from his pocket, then frantically searched for the watch that he could hear but which didn’t rest in its place of honor. ‘My watch! Where’s my watch?’ When the giggling maid pointed at Benington’s back, he swung the other man around and cried out loud.

‘My watch! What the devil…?’ Both men caught on at once, swinging around to glare at Michael. Blanche erupted in another gale of giggles when she realized Michael, naturally, was nowhere in the vicinity. ‘Oh, please. Oh, please…’ She couldn’t get the words out through her laughter. ‘There’s a mirror in the parlor, so you may straighten yourselves out. Please forgive him. He thought I needed a jester today.’

She pointed at the room on her left, covering her mouth again as a soft tenor singing an Irish ballad drifted from the hallways above. Michael hadn’t left then, just conveniently misplaced himself. She was going to kill him, if she didn’t die laughing first.

‘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.