‘Once a Rake’ by Eileen Dreyer

OAR EDSTORY: All he wants is her help . . .

Colonel Ian Ferguson may be a rake, but he’s no traitor. Accused of trying to kill the Duke of Wellington, the disgraced Scotsman is now a fugitive–from the law, the army, and the cunning assassin who hunts him. Wounded and miles from his allies, Ian finds himself at the mercy of an impoverished country wife. The spirited woman is achingly beautiful . . . and hiding some dangerous secrets of her own.

All she needs is his heart . . .

She was a child nobody wanted. Now for Lady Sarah Clarke, holding on to her vanished husband’s crumbling estate is her final chance to earn respectability. She knows that hiding the devastatingly handsome Ferguson will jeopardize her home. Common sense demands that she turn him in. But a single, delirious kiss shatters her resolve . . . and awakens a passion that neither of them can escape.

REVIEW: Lady Sarah Clarke, “born on the other side of the blanket,” is the wife of Lord Boswell Clarke, who has recently signed up to join up with the military and fight in the war.  As she has not heard from him in months, many assume that he has been killed.  Sarah’s day consists of working to care for her husband’s crumbling estate, Fairbourne, along with his self-centered mother and sister.  With very little money to be had, this is a constant trial that has fallen completely on Sarah’s shoulders.  Her husband’s cousin and neighbor, Martin Clarke, believes that Boswell is dead and wants Sarah out so he can claim the estate for his own.

Colonel Ian Ferguson is a Scottish man who has distinguished himself in the war but now stands accused of trying to assassinate the Duke of Wellington.  Wounded, he is on the run and finds himself at the Clarke estate.  When Sarah discovers him, she cannot help but hide him and treat his severe wound. 

As Sarah and Ian get to know one another, attraction follows and they realize they cannot be parted.

Eileen Dreyer has written a story of love and commitment that completely tests all the mettle that the characters possess.

I loved this book and the story of Sarah and Ian will leave you sighing. 

Connie for b2b

*ARC provided by the author.

MEL’S THOUGHTS: Here’s another book that deserves our two reviews,

I’m a huge fan of this author and this series. I’m probably the only one that liked Diccan, one of Drake’s Rakes in ‘Never a Gentleman’. The reason behind it was the great characterizations this author does. Her heroes are complex. They’re not one-dimensional and there to ‘look and act macho’ but each one is unique in looks, his specialty and his background. They are a diverse group of men that are loyal to their King, Country and family.

And as for the heroine of this book, Ms. Dreyer did an outstanding job in paring this strong, willful and independent woman with one of her best heroes, Ian Ferguson.

Once more Ms. Dreyer gave me a well written plot, sensual romance and fast pace. Loved it!

*ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

‘It Begins with a Kiss’ by Eileen Dreyer

STORY: Fiona Ferguson wants nothing more than to flee Miss Lavinia Chase’s Finishing School. Rather than the safe haven the girls’ families presume it to be, the school is intent on making its charges conform to the rules-by any means necessary. For Fiona, the only thing worse than staying at the dreaded “Last Chance Academy” would be abandoning the friends she’s made there. But when she receives word from home that her sister is in trouble, Fiona plots her escape . . .

A devoted spy in service to the Crown, Alex Knight takes his duties very seriously. His latest assignment-to ensure that the incorrigible Fiona remain safely at school-turns out to be far more of a challenge than he expected. After matching wits with the fiery Scottish beauty, he learns that the greatest danger of all . . . begins with a kiss.

REVIEW: I’m not sure about you, but I love, LOVE Prologues, and this novelette fills this category to a tee in regards to the upcoming new series from Ms. Dreyer.

She cleverly introduces her next three heroines, and the hero of her upcoming full length novel here, and gives me a cliffhanger that made my mouth form an “OH” and “MY’ and “GOD”!

Let me back up a bit and tell you that the characters of all the girls introduced will peak your interest; the setup, of all of them having resided at the Last Chance Academy for some time, and the abuse they endured that bonded them for a life time, was a great teaser for me. No way will I pass up on finding out more about that bond; about that friendship which will be as much of a story as the HEA’s from each girl.

I loved where this story left off, and my imagination soared, which makes the anticipation of Alex’s and Fiona’s HEA that much sweeter.

Ms. Dreyer’s female characters are strong, witty and always too smart for their own good, so Fiona promises to be one of them; while Alex I expect will be Alpha, with shades of Beta and those are heroes to die for.

To tell you more would spoil this short, sweet and well written intro to this new series that I enjoyed a lot.

*To buy this book, click on the cover*

*To learn more about the author, click on the name*

* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

‘A Lady’s Revenge’ by Tracey Devlyn

Let me start off by saying that I might be one of those readers that appreciates a tortured hero story more often than not. Tracey Devlyn’s debut without a doubt qualifies as one of the darker stories I’ve read, and it leaves me conflicted as to why, in the end I didn’t connect to the heroine as much as I should have…

From the first page, I had the feeling that I was missing something of great importance…like the start of the story. Don’t misunderstand. The story’s beginning is great. The hero is in France with his friend looking to rescue a fellow spy, this infamous Raven and they’re in this dark place; the heart of the enemy’s torture chambers and you can smell the stench of the place as the author is very good at conveying it to us, and the suspense is in itself tortures to the readers. The author was well on her way of telling me a great story, yet I felt like I was dropped in the middle of it, and not taking the journey from the start.

Guy Trevelyan in rescuing Raven finds that the woman he loved ever since his childhood has become a spy and is now laying hurt and broken in this chamber of hrrors.

As the story develops, we find out the reason behind our heroines choice to become a spy and why she is reluctant to surrender to her feelings for Guy. We also get introduced to some nasty characters and one in particular, the nefarious French agent who is obsessed with Cora and as long as he’s alive, our heroine will never have peace.

Again, I’m not sure what kept me from enjoying this story, as much as I should. It had all the right ingredients. It was set in 1804 Regency and my favorite era; it had a hero to die for and a tortured heroine; passion and love were great so what went wrong?

Was it too much of reality even for me? The scenes in which the author portrays the brutality and pain were very real and Cora goes through much of physical abuse and that just might have been a bit too much even for me to read through. Or was it her stubbornness that was off putting to me? It has been a month now since I’ve read it and after all this time, I can remember the characters, the scenes and the places yet I still feel disconnect and I can’t really blame the author as she has written a good story. It moved at a slower pace than I would have liked, but the plot as predictable as it was, kept me interested and reading.

If you’re looking for a light read, this one is not for you. However, if you’re looking for something that’s dark and deep with lots of shades of gray, this just might be a read for you. In the end I’m giving this read my four quills for its writing alone.

*This review posted on Romantic Crush Junkies Reviews eZine*

September RRAH reviews & October preview…

The last couple of months have been exciting for me, more on a personal level then the professional and I’m hoping October will be tamer. Never the less, as always, a bookworm like me, finds the time to put its nose in a book. For September I have only three books reviewed for Romance Reader At Heart and all three were excellent reads and I highly recommend them.

I’ll start with an author that’s probably familiar to all, Suzanne Enoch and “A MATTER of SCANDAL” which I found just delightful in its entirety! This was such a fast and fun read that I finished it too quickly and then wanted to start over again, because I didn’t want to leave this fun world the author took me in. If you’ve never read Ms. Enoch, you might as well start with this one, and if you have then you know without a doubt what she’s capable of and how much fun you’ll have reading and for that matter re-reading her books!

My next book was as much fun as the first and when I heard that Shana Galen’s “LORD and LADY SPY” is available for review I jumped on it. I’m probably in a minority of people who loved the movie “MR. and MRS. SMITH” so my expectations were very high for this Regency take on it. Boy, oh boy! I was so happy when my expectations were not just met, but surpassed! Ms. Galen is one of those rare breeds of authors that can put forth stories of ‘angst’ and ‘humor’ separately as well as together. I wish the ‘Muse’ never leaves her side! This pair will have you laugh-out-loud and make you tear up to the point that you’ll ask for more! I honestly can say that I wouldn’t mind following their life, and that says a lot for the talent of this young author!

And now I get to tell you about a novel that completely took me by surprise and that is Janet Woods’ “LADY LIGHTFINGERS”. This story made me warm all over. This was a story of a true Heroine and the road to her hero was very romantic and heartwarming, and exciting, and it will make your heart melt. This story is a journey of discovery, determination, independence and perseverance of a girl who knew herself and accepted herself for what she was, yet knew that she could and would be more than what Society dictated. The romance within the novel is sweet rather than spicy hot, and brought to mind Carla Kelly’s novel I recently read that could be put into this category “BEAU CRUSOE”. By the way, for an awesome review of that book, please visit Kathryn and you’ll know what I mean.

And there you have it, my bookworms! Can you believe that October is knocking on our doors already?! This month is full of great authors that will stop by and play with me and I’m beside myself from excitement. We start with Eileen Dreyer on October 3rd, and she’s bringing all her Drake’s Rakes over!

Shana Galen’s Lady Spy was so gracious to agree and stop by on October 10th, and answer a few questions for us, so I hope you’ll stop by as well and meet this hot-tempered and hot-blooded female!

On October 13th Rose Lerner will be here and she’s bringing Solomon and his ‘Lily’, and I can tell you I’m so much looking forward to their visit!

And then Joanna Bourne will be stopping by on October 17th and talk about Adrian/Hawk and I can only bow and say as Wayne and Garth would I’M NOT WORTHY! I’M NOT WORTHY! (For that matter I may as well say that in regards to all my guests for this month!)

To finish off the month I’ve invited someone I never met in ‘real’ life but it seems I’ve known forever! Dare I call her FRIEND?! Is it possible to know someone well even though you never laid eyes on them?! If it is, and I’ll dare, Ashley March is a friend, confidante and an author to look out for and I invite you to come over October 26th and meet her (who knows maybe we could ask Mr. March to accompany her…I hear he’ll have a book soon, too) and maybe tell us about…their projects coming up and their romance!

Until then, happy reading and happy upcoming Holidays if I miss you in the next couple of months!

Debut Author Stefanie Sloane

This just isn’t fair! Chicago just had snow yesterday, and now we’re going through a downpour that will last us TWO days! I also can’t believe it’s Easter already. It certainly doesn’t feel like it. I left the house this morning and it was 35! I’m back to my winter coat and gloves! This sucks! The only good thing about this: I have the next three days off-with pay. What can I say? My boss ROCKS! The bad thing: spring cleaning. Has to be done, so I better get on it, but I’m betting I’ll find some time to read. I always do :)

Speaking of, in doing some more of my RRAH reviews I’ve come across a new author, Stefanie Sloane. She Debuts next month with her first book in Regency Rogues Series, with “The Devil in Disguise” which I reviewed for RRAH. By now you all know that when I stumble on to a good book/author, and ESPECIALY a good début author, nothing will stop me in spreading the word.

This author just blew me away with the books that I’ve read so far. Everything in them was exceptional and I just could not believe that she’s not written before. In the first book and Iron Will’s story she introduces us to the group of young men that belong to The Young Corinthian Gentlemen’s Club,  This was not your ordinary club and its members were titled (and not so titled) men of various skills which comes very handy when conducting their secret affairs. The man that’s in charge of this operation is Carmichael (hoping for his story, as his voice is strong through both books, so far), a very, very intriguing fellow. Every character has been developed with utmost care and so vivid that will feel like they’re right in front of you. What I’m most impressed is Ms. Sloane’s way with words, specifically the dialogue which is very witty and perfectly paced. She gives us enough tidbits hooking you into eagerly awaiting the next instalment, and that is a pure gift only a few authors posses. Both books were a treat from start to finish.  Ms. Sloane has created a wonderful world of intrigue, love, and adventure that I’ll be sure to follow. Welcome to my Keeper Shelf, Ms. Sloane!

Book Trailer

“The Devil in Disguise” opens the series with “Iron Will”.

Clairemont, is a wicked rake with little regard for society—a most unlikely suitor for the prim and proper Lady Lucinda Gray. But his latest assignment for the Young Corinthians, an elite spy organization, involves protecting her from a kidnapping plot and to do this, the notorious “Iron Will” must get close to Lucinda, and convince her that he’s a man worthy of her attention. It is a simple enough task to use his devilish charm to seduce her, but William never would have guessed that he’d become enthralled by the lovely Lady Grey—or that he’d lose his own heart in the bargain.

Beautiful and fiercely intelligent, Lucinda has managed to gracefully sidestep even the most persistent suitors. Until the Duke of Clairemont, that is. His rugged features, sinfully sensuous mouth, and piercing eyes are as alluring as the champion thoroughbred he tantalizingly offers in exchange for the honor of courting her, and she finds it hard to resist either temptation. The feelings he stirs in her both excite and arouse, urging her on despite the very real danger he represents. But when the truth is revealed, will Lucinda risk her heart and her life for a chance at everlasting love?

“The Angel in My Arms” is the second book in Regency Rogues Series and the review of it is here.

Injured in the line of duty, Young Corinthian agent Marcus Maxwell, the Earl of Weston, travels to his country estate to recover—or so he believes. His superior’s request that he investigate a smuggling ring run by Napoleon sympathizers seems ridiculous at first, but then becomes all-too threatening as pieces of a treacherous puzzle begin to fall into place. And the most troubling piece of all is Miss Sarah Tisdale, an unconventional beauty whose lust for life is rivaled only by her ability to drive Marcus to distraction. When her family comes under suspicion, Marcus must watch her very, very closely…even if her touch ignites the deep, fiery desire burning just beneath his cool façade.

When it comes to suitors, Sarah’s lush curves and perfectly kissable lips aren’t enough to compensate for her outspoken and willful nature. Sarah’s tasted disappointment before, and she long ago decided that she’s better off without an overbearing husband. Still, flirting with the sinfully handsome Marcus is a pastime worth savoring—even when it leads to wicked pleasures. But when Sarah’s life is in jeopardy, Marcus discovers that the fire between them can no longer be denied—and that he’ll do anything to keep her in his arms.

Third instalment, “The Sinner Who Seduced Me”  is as good as the other two.

A dedicated Young Corinthian agent, James Marlowe accepts the riskiest of missions—go undercover as a traitor and infiltrate a deadly French crime organization. As he heads to Paris, he is prepared for all matters of intrigue—everything but a surprise encounter with the only woman he ever has loved. Five years ago, the exquisitely stunning Clarissa Collins spurned his love, breaking his heart in the process. Now, the accomplished painter is in peril up to her lovely neck and only he can protect her.

Blackmailed by a mysterious man who threatens to destroy her world, Lady Clarissa cannot imagine a crueller fate. Until she is reunited with James Marlowe, the enthralling man who seduced Clarissa body and soul, then betrayed her. Despite the hurt and misunderstanding that still simmers between them, their enduring passion ignites anew, leaving the two breathless with desire and need. With their lives and England’s safety hanging in the balance, they have little choice but to put the past behind them and work together to save everything they hold dear. As they attempt to escape the clutches of the malicious forces holding them, can Clarissa and James find their way back to each other hearts…this time forever?

By browsing her website, I’ve found out that she’s working on three more books in the series, with stories of Lord Dashiell Matthews, the Viscount of Hardwicke, Langdon Young, the Duke of Bedford and his fiancee Lady Sophie Afton. I’m so looking forward to all of them. Here’s what’s coming up in book 4, 5 and 6 of Regency Rouges:

“The Saint Who Stole My Heart” is Dash’s story will be out May 2012.

Lord Dashiell Matthews, the Viscount of Hardwicke, remembers little of Lady Elena Barnes beyond her slight build, mousy character, and bookish ways. Her unavoidable presence at Hardwicke House would be inconvenient, true, but a woman could hardly prove enough of a distraction to interfere with what was the most important case of Dash’s life—ferreting out the monster who’d murdered a dear friend’s mother many year before.

Dash would, of course, live to regret such an assumption.

As for Elena, a trip to London to retrieve a priceless book is troublesome, though not nearly as much as the feelings the viscount inspires in her. His touch elicits feelings from Elena that she’d only ever read about. Her skin tingles. Lord Hardwicke is as handsome as she remembered—actually, more so as he’d grown into his frame in a rather attractive manner—and as dim as a ha’penny tallow. Or is he? The more time Elena spends with the man, the greater her suspicions grow regarding his intellect and just what he might be up to as they’re thrown together in the search for an individual known only as the Rook.

“The Scoundrel Takes a Bride” is Sophie’s story will be out September 2012.

Lady Sophie Afton wants one thing and one thing only: Revenge against the man who ruthlessly killed her mother fifteen years before. Painstakingly preparing herself for the task and awaiting just the right moment, she approaches Lord Carmichael armed with the skills required of a spy and the knowledge that the Corinthians have reached an impasse in her mother’s case despite all the progress made by her dear friend Viscount Hardwicke. The Rook was only the beginning. Another man cut her mother’s throat, but it will take a woman to bring his identity to light.

Carmichael cannot refuse her. And just at the moment Sophie believes she’s on the cusp of experiencing the defining moment of her life, Nicholas Young appears. The younger brother of her betrothed, Nicholas had disappeared years before into the wild of the East Indies, where, if rumors were to be believed, he’d made his fortune through questionable means. In truth, Sophie had given little thought to her childhood friend. Until now. There was no denying that she adored Langdon Young, Nicholas’s older brother and the man she was meant to marry. But the moment Nicholas stalks back into her life, Sophie knows she will never belong to another. His touch inspires desire, his kisses need, and his skin on hers brands Sophie for life.

Aided by her Corinthian counterparts, with Nicholas at her side, Sophie delves into the dangerous depths of the London crime world in search of what she’s longed for her entire life. Or is it? Can revenge mean more than love?

“The Hero Meets His Match” is the sixth and Langdon’s story will be out February 2013.

Langdon Young, the Duke of Bedford, sees little left in life to recommend itself. He’d loved Sophie Afton and she’d left him for his brother, effectively destroying all that was to be Langdon’s future. Such betrayal finds him weighing the worth of what he’s devoted his time to, namely the Young Corinthians—and coming up short. Until his brother and former fiancée ask the impossible of him: Track down the man who had ordered the killing of Sophie’s mother fifteen years before and finally secure the peace they’d all longed for nearly their entire lives.

Langdon cannot deny that he’s wished for nothing else his entire Corinthian career, and so he agrees to undertake the task armed with the little that is known about the man and one strategic ally: the infamous Lord Rupert Crowther, Earl of Blackwell’s widow, Lady Grace. Rumor has it that the lady’s father lost her in a card game to the earl and her fortune had only deteriorated from there. Blackwell was a brute made even more so when he’d lost the entirety of his wealth in various gambling hells across London. He’d turned to nefarious activities as a means of income and ultimately killed himself when the authorities had enough to send him away for good. A small stipend from a distant cousin is all that stands between Lady Grace and the poor house, and so she reluctantly agrees to supply Langdon with all that she knows of the crime organization—which is, as it so happens, a considerable amount due to Lord Blackwell’s dealings with the group.

Lady Grace could not be any more different from Sophie Afton if she tried. Exiled from polite society and wiser than Langdon feels he is himself, the widow is heartbreakingly vulnerable yet surprisingly resilient. Her strength and weakness call to him like a siren’s song, forcing him to realize that he’s never really known love—until now. Lady Grace attempts to resist temptation, having sworn off men forever. But the Duke speaks to her body and mind like no other, urging her to give herself completely to him.

Despite the stalwart support of the Corinthians, Langdon and Grace find themselves caught in a deadly web that threatens to consume them alive. Will they escape to realize the love that can save them both?

BTW: How about those Romance Trading Cards? I LOVE THEM :)

“The Tudor Secret” by C. W. Gortner

STORY: Summer, 1553: Brendan Prescott, an orphan reared in the household of the powerful Dudley family, is brought to court, where he finds himself sent on an illicit mission to King Edward VI’s brilliant, enigmatic sister, Princess Elizabeth.

But soon Brendan is compelled to work as a double agent by Elizabeth’s protector, William Cecil—who promises in exchange to help him unravel the secret of his own mysterious past.

A dark plot swirls around Elizabeth’s quest to unravel the truth about the ominous disappearance of her seriously ill brother, King Edward VI. With only a bold stable boy and audacious lady-in-waiting at his side, Brendan plunges into a ruthless gambit of half-truths, lies, and murder.

REVIEW: I love reading historical fiction, as well as watching it on film, especially the Tudor era. “The Tudor Secret” was my first exposure to C. W. Gortner and I could not be happier with the introduction to this Author.  

For the most part, this is a coming of age story. Brendan is a very young man, more a boy, thrust into the inner circle of King Edward VI’s court which was a place full of intrigue and danger. We find out very early on that Brendan is intelligent and resourceful, and he manages to hold his own. It was such a joy to read, see and feel a twist on a history through Brendan’s eyes. He finds himself a pawn in Dudley’s conspiracies and gets recruited by William Cecil as a spy. The Author pulls in characters like William Cecil and Frances Walsingham to give us a great view of how spying had started. I’ve asked myself if it’s believable that a boy such as Brendan would be able to approach the royals to the extent that he did, and the answer was yes. After all, he was not a stranger to some of the major players, notably Robert Dudley, his brothers  and his entire family. He grew up with those men, and their mother wanted him in court for a specific reason which was THE “mystery” of Brendan’s birth. When all the pieces fall into place, and Brendan confronts Cecil, my heart just brakes as I see him age before my eyes…

“I was beyond reason. An abyss opened beneath my feet, full of horrors I did not want to see……. How could she have left me in ignorance, all these years? How could she have not realized that, in the end, what I did not know might be the one thing used against me?”

 “I thrust out a hand,’No more. Please, I – I cannot bare it.’”

From the first chapter of this book, you can’t help but be drawn to his story. It is one bumpy ride for our Hero and I loved every minute of his journey. I was inside Brendan Prescott’s thoughts; feelings and footsteps as he walked, ran and rode to his destiny. His voice was loud and clear through the book and I got to like the boy and I’m eagerly anticipating watching him grow into his own in the second installment which will be published sometime in 2012.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the secondary characters which are just delightful, fun and witty. I do hope we see more of Peregrine and Fitzpatrick. With them by his side our Hero became more real to us. I’m also looking forward to learning more of “Robin” Dudley, Queen Elizabeth’s Favourite, and often thought to have been her lover. And lets not forget Master Shelton who our Hero needs to face in regards to the “Secret”.

C. W. did an awesome job of incorporating historical facts with fiction of the era. Historical figures of that time were so accurately painted with words that I found myself there in the midst of their intrigues.

If you’re looking for a hot romance, you might be a bit disappointed, but that should not detract you from enjoying this book. Please don’t misunderstand. There is a love story within, lust as well, but not as much as some might prefer.

At the end, the Author gave us a well written, captivating, complicated, enjoyable, richly told and very interesting story which I heartily recommend.