‘Lord Fenton’s Folly’ by Josi S. Kilpack

lff jskSTORY: Lord Fenton is a gambler, a dandy, and a flirt—and he must marry or else he will be disinherited, stripped of his wealth and his position. He chooses Alice Stanbridge for two simple reasons: he once knew her as a young girl, and she is the least objectionable option available to him.

However, Alice has harbored feelings for Fenton since their first meeting ten years ago, and she believes his proposal is real. When she discovers it is not, she is embarrassed and hurt. However, a match with the most-eligible bachelor in London would secure not only her future but that of her family as well.

Determined to protect herself from making a fool of herself a second time, Alice matches Lord Fenton wit for wit and insult for insult as they move toward a marriage of convenience that is anything but a happy union. Only when faced with family secrets that have shaped Fenton’s life does he let down his guard enough to find room in his heart for Alice. But can Alice risk her heart a second time?

REVIEW: Lord Charles Fenton is the son of Lord and Lady Chariton.  Charles’s father has always been a mean man and unfaithful to his wife excusing his behavior by saying that is just what men do.  Thus, their marriage is a very cool one.  In retaliation toward his father for his coldness toward him and his mother, Charles has enjoyed living the easy life of gambling, heavy drinking, dressing in foppish clothes, and generally acting the fool.

Charles has been friends for many years with the Stanbridge family, going to school with their son and being friends with their daughter, Alice, since she was quite small. Alice enjoys drawing and gardening.  Alice has adored Charles and when he promises her as a small child that one day he will marry her and in the meantime, he will arrange for her to have her own garden, she is thrilled and promptly falls in love with him.  But when she learns later that he did not mean his proposal, her heart is broken and she hates him.
For many years after, Charles and Alice continue to dislike one another and can hardly be civil to each other when they happen to meet.  So, when Charles’s father demands that he marry and cease his gambling and foppish lifestyle, Charles and Alice are horrified to learn that a marriage of convenience has been arranged between them.  It appears that her family needs money and Charles needs a good woman for a wife.
The marriage starts off fairly well but they both decide to reside apart.  Charles’s mother and Alice are great friends and live in the same house.  Lady Chariton has a bad cough and is quite frail.  Alice does all she can to try to use her knowledge of herbs to help the cough and to tempt her appetite.  As her health continues to fail, Alice and Charles come together to do what they can to make his mother comfortable.  In doing so, they begin to learn more about one another that allows them to put aside their past differences and see the possibilities of a good marriage for them.
This book was written beautifully.  The author developed the characters so perfectly and it was fun to watch them grow and mature.
Connie for b2b
Complementary ARC provided by the publisher

‘All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue’ by Sophie Jordan

atwtrar sjSTORY: There was once a lady who loathed a lord…

Lady Aurelia hasn’t always hated Max, Viscount Camden, her brother’s best friend. In fact, as a besotted girl, she thrived under his kind attention – sure that he was the most noble and handsome man in the land. Until her young heart discovered what manner of rogue he really was. Now, though she enjoys nothing more than getting on his last nerve, she can’t deny Max drives her to distraction—even if she tries to pretend otherwise.

…and a lord who was confounded by a lady.

Max cannot recall a time when Aurelia did not vex him. If she was not his friend’s sister, he would stay far away from the infuriating vixen. Unfortunately, they are always thrown together. At parties and family gatherings…she is always there. Infuriating him, tossing punch in his face, driving him mad…until one night, she goes too far and he retaliates in the only way he can: with a kiss that changes everything.

REVIEW: Lady Aurelia has always had a crush on her older brother Will’s, friend, Max Chandler, the fourth Viscount of Camden. Max would often visit their home when Will and Max were off from school. However, at age eight, Aurelia’s fantasy is ruined when she sees Max tup a maid. She is angry, disillusioned and takes her frustrations out in her usual way – by drawing a caricature. This one is of Max with a tiny penis and titles it “Cockless Camden.” The problem is that her private sketchpad is found by some of Camden’s friends. He is laughed at and retains the moniker for years. Although Aurelia regrets her action, she remains angry with Max.

As the years pass, Aurelia continues to vex Max and the two of them can hardly stand to be in the same room together. While Aurelia has no real prospects for marrying, she is close to becoming a spinster and Max is a man who has no desire to ever marry. But when their disdain for one another suddenly catches fire and turns to passion, they’re both taken aback.

Aurelia is a good artist and enjoys leaving her caricatures of people in public places. Max, on the other hand, is afraid that she is going to get caught some day and be terribly embarrassed This is a cute story about two stubborn people. The fact that they care enough to irritate each other shows me there is attraction between them.

I have enjoyed Sophie Jordan’s books and the signature humor she adds is the icing on the cake. It’s always great when a book makes me laugh out loud. I hope others will read this story too.

Connie for b2b

‘In the Spinster’s Bed’ by Sally MacKenzie

itsb smkSTORY: At Spinster House, a woman can enjoy the spoils of single life—or find the love of a lifetime…

It has been twenty years since Lord William Wattles laid eyes on Annabelle Frost. Still, he remembers everything—her ethereal beauty, her bookish intelligence, her surprisingly modern attitudes about love…and lust. But Belle’s allegedly wanton behavior led her father to send her away to save the family’s reputation. Now she resides at Spinster House in the village of Loves Bridge, where an unmarried lady can live—and in Belle’s case, support herself as a librarian—in peace…

Beautiful, passionate Belle—sworn off marriage? William can’t believe the woman he once knew could end up like this. But when the hands of fate bring him to Loves Bridge, his long-lost love might just end up back in his arms. Is their unwavering desire worth the sweeping scandal that is sure to follow them both? Absolutely.

REVIEW: Miss Belle Frost, age 37, lives in Loves Bridge and work as the town’s librarian. She goes by the name of Miss Annabelle Franklin. The daughter of a vicar, she was thrown out of the house when it became known that she was pregnant. She and William Wattles had become lovers and when she realized she was pregnant, she did not want to tell William because she was only a vicar’s daughter. So, she kept her secret from him. Thus, she traveled to Loves Bridge to live the quiet life of a spinster under an assumed name. It has been 20 years and she is known as the Spinster House spinster. As it happens, the town has a home where a spinster can stay for life for until she marries. So, she has had a peaceful life alone and has adopted a cat.

Lord William Wattles, age 38, is the third son of a peer of the realm. His two older brothers, Albert and Oliver are married but their wives have produced only daughters. When William was younger, his father realized that he did not appear to be cut out for big things so he bought William his colors and he entered the Army. Now years later, William has married Hortense, a daughter of an Earl. Unfortunately, it turns out that Hortense is a woman hooked on partying, spirits and cocaine. Her wantonness is such an embarrassment to William that he has decided to leave town for awhile hoping gossip about his wife will soon die down. He chooses the town of Loves Bridge.

When William meets Belle, he immediately recognizes her but she tries to convince him that he is mistaken. But William knows who she is and remembers their past. When he comes to her house, their old attraction takes over. But, William is called away when his wife overdoses and dies. William returns to Loves Bridge but is called away again when his father dies.

Belle does not want to tell William about the past and her pregnancy but she fears she as become pregnant again. She feels she cannot tell him because she is still just a vicar’s daughter and he needs to marry a younger woman of higher breeding and produce an heir.

What will happen to their love and passion? Is it strong enough to keep them together?

This was a nice novella about love that remains true for a long time.

Connie for b2b

‘When a Scot Ties the Knot’ by Tessa Dare

wasttk tdSTORY: On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.

REVIEW: Miss Madeline Gracechurch has always been a shy, retiring girl who would prefer to sketch anything and everything all day. She has never learned to dance and eschews social events. So, as a young lady of fifteen vacationing in Bath, she decided to make up a suitor. She named him Captain MacKenzie from Scotland. Her story is she met him in Bath, they fell in love and he headed to war. She has written many letters to him and mailed them thinking they would end up somewhere in a black hole. This idea has been wonderful for her because with this suitor, she does not have to attend the functions that she dislikes and is allowed to draw all day and write letters to the imaginary Captain. After some years have passed, Madeline decides to get rid of the Captain saying he was killed in the war. She even goes as far as to wear mourning for him. When she “graduates” to the gray color of mourning, she and her aunt move to a castle in Scotland left to her by a relative.

Life in Scotland for Madeline is wonderful. She gets to draw lots of insects and other animals all day and is content. So, when a tall, handsome Scot comes to call and introduces himself as Captain MacKenzie, she is taken aback. Oh, good grief, what is she to do now? He has her letters and tells her he is there to marry her as outlined in the letters and the marriage needs to take place immediately.

Captain MacKenzie has enjoyed the letters he has received all these years and they have been a lifeline for keeping him alive. He has brought several of his men with him and they want to settle right in the area near the castle.

What is Madeline going to do now? Her perfect world has come crashing down. How does she get rid of this man and get her letters back too so he can have no proof of her deception?

This was a cute novel and I enjoyed it very much. My only complaint was that I felt the “catch me if you can” was a bit long, drawn out, and repetitious.

Connie for b2b

‘Second Chance Cinderella’ by Carla Capshaw

scc ccSTORY: “I’ll Wait for You Forever.” 

Heartbroken when her childhood love never returned, Rose Smith soon learned she had even greater worries – she carried his child. Ten years later as a housemaid in London, she encounters Samuel Blackstone. The kind youth she adored has turned bitter with success. Feeling out of place in Sam’s high-society world, Rose fears what he may do when he learns of their son….

A wealthy stockbroker, Sam is used to getting what he wants. And when he learns that Rose bore him a son, he wants to claim his family. But he’ll have to convince Rose to trust him again if he’s to have any hope of meeting the boy… or recapturing her heart.

REVIEW: Rose Smith and Sam Blackstone grew up in an orphanage. They were always close and Sam promised he would always take care of Rose. School was easy for Sam but Rose had what we would today call dyslexia and never could learn to read. When Sam became a young man, he decided to move to London to try and earn his fortune. He promised Rose he would return for her and they would then be together forever, but he never returned.

Ten years later finds Rose scurrying to her job as a maid in the home of a wealthy family. Sam sees her go past and is sure it is his Rose. When he sees her again, she has been hired to serve at a dinner party in his home. Sam has become a very successful and wealthy stockbroker. Rose is shocked to see him and especially his cold reaction to her. There is a young woman acting as hostess at his table and declares that she and Sam will soon be wed. The young woman is accompanied by her father who tries to grope Rose. At the end of the evening, Rose drops onto a bench in a corner from sheer exhaustion and falls asleep. Sam carries her upstairs to a guest room where she stays overnight.

Why is Sam being so cruel to her by hiring her to serve him? Sam wonders where Rose has been all these years. The last he heard, she had gotten married and he could not find her.

Rose had borne a son named Andrew some months after Sam left her. Who was the man she had married and why wasn’t Sam able to find her?

Sam realizes that his love for Rose has never died and he also finds that the son she bore is his child. He wants nothing more than to have Rose and his son in his life to share everything he has with them. Thus begins a journey to get Andrew that turns into a nightmare for both of them.

There are a lot of twists and turns in this book. This is an interesting story and even though it is an Inspirational Historical Romance novel, I found it to be peppered with a bit too many religious references.

Connie for b2b

‘Lily in Bloom by Tammy Andresen

lib taSTORY: Lily Carter has one chance to save her family from destitution. She must marry.

The real question now is who? Lily longs for one man, but her attempts to attract Eric Sampson are foiled at every turn. Eric can’t see a future when he’s still tangled in his past, and Lily is forced to consider other suitors despite loving Eric.

When one suitor comes forward who could threaten Lily’s well-being, Eric must set his doubts about marriage aside to protect her. But events have been set in motion neither of them can stop. Will his past destroy both their futures?

REVIEW: April 1854

Lillian (Lily) Carter, age 19, lives with her brother, James, and his wife, Elise. James is the owner of Seacoast Shipping in Kinnebonk, Maine, a shipbuilding business. Lillian’s parents have passed away and James and Elise are preparing Lily for the upcoming season in Boston.

Upon leaving the dress store where she is being fitted for new clothes, Lily is accidentally knocked down by the rambunctious son of Eric Sampson. Eric is very close to his son and as the boy’s mother has passed away, he tries to be father and mother to him. The boy and his father apologize profusely and Lily graciously accepts. When Eric introduces himself to Lily, James and Elise, they learn that he is quite wealthy and the owner of some of the ships that James’s company has built.

As Lily and her family and Eric see one another more at soirees, Lily and Eric become more and more attracted to each other. Lily and Eric’s son have become great friends as well so it is no surprise when Lily and Eric become engaged. Eric’s sister-in-law, Kathryn, is not happy about the announcement of the engagement because she has always wanted Eric for herself.

But danger lurks. It appears there are others who are not happy about the engagement either and when Lily is kidnapped, Eric is frantic to find her and to find out who this enemy is and why.

This story is fast paced with lots of suspense. The hero and the heroine suffer through many difficulties as they fight their way to their happy ever after.

Connie for b2b

‘A Spirited Affair’ by Lynn Kerstan

asa lkSTORY: They were both quite sensible. Until they met.

A Footloose Beauty

How dare her guardian stop sending her allowance? The very independent Miss Jillian Lamb leaves her beloved countryside and travels to London to set matters straight with the obviously pompous and old-fashioned Earl of Coltrane. She’s been on her own for quite some time, thank you, and has devoted her life to helping the widows of war veterans. She has no desire to enter society or have a stranger meddle in her life.

Nothing prepares her for the shock of discovery. The Earl, a veteran himself, suffering from permanent injuries, is hardly old and out of fashion. In fact, he’s fairly irresistible, with extraordinary blue eyes. He is, however, stubbornly prepared to do his duty as her guardian. His immediate mission? To present his wayward ward to the ton and find her a husband.

A Man Of His Word

How has one sharp-witted young woman taken control of his household overnight? Mark Delacourt, Earl of Coltrane, finds his gentlemanly manners tested to their limits; his courtly charms have been rusty ever since his return from the war in a wheelchair.

Determined to follow the rules of decorum, he’ll battle her willfulness and see her wed according to society’s demands. And yet once she becomes a sensation, his heart tells him he may be making a terrible mistake.

REVIEW: Mark Delacourt, the Earl of Coltrane, has finally returned from war. During that time, he had been a spy for the Foreign Office in Napoleon’s France. He had been caught and tortured in a French prison. Mark’s father had always been a very hard, cold, and unloving father and to escape his father, his mother had run away to her native France when Mark was very young. Mark is now left with a lot of pain in his back from many times of meeting the rack while in prison. Currently, he is attempting to catch up on correspondence and other pressing matters now that his father has died and he is the Duke.

Miss Jillian Theodosia Lamb is the daughter of a man who spent his life traveling to foreign countries in search of treasures that he, in turn, would sell to collectors back in England. His biggest collector had always been Mark’s father. So, after the death of her father, Jillian became a ward of the old duke and now she is Mark’s ward. Jillian had previously been living in her old home with a few retainers and had a fairly profitable farm going.

When Jillian arrives on Mark’s doorstep, wet and feisty, he is surprised to find that she is his ward and she claims that she has not been receiving monies as she had been before the old duke died. When Mark learns the whole story, he decides that Jillian should remain in London and have a season under the watchful eye of his aunt, Margaret. Ill-mannered and outspoken, Jillian fights this but finally submits. In no time, Jillian has become a lovely butterfly and is in huge demand by the eligible gentlemen looking for a wife.

Jillian and Mark have been at odds with one another from the first time they met. Mark feels that she is an out of control hoyden and she thinks he was an old stick. Determined to see that she does not get into trouble, Mark attends the same soirees as Jillian and he soon finds he is attracted to her as well. Is there a chance that the two of them can learn to accept one another’s true personalities to allow them to find love?

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and had quite a few laughs at the antics of Jillian. Both characters are beautifully developed and the “side” characters of the story are also well written.

Connie for b2b

I thank Belle Books and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this terrific novel.