‘Emily and The Dark Angel’ by Jo Beverley

eatda jbSTORY: Emily Grantwich lives quietly with her crippled father and eccentric aunt, managing the family’s land, until the fateful day she walks down the main street of Melton Mowbray and is showered with Poudre de Violettes, thrown by a lady of loose morals at the handsomest man Emily has ever seen.

He is Piers Verderan, known by many as the Dark Angel. His friends lay the blame for his scandalous ways on his troubled past. No decent woman should be seen in his company, but Emily must dutifully manage her father’s estate-which Verderan’s land adjoins.

Soon Emily learns that the Dark Angel is very dangerous, especially to her sanity and her heart…

REVIEW: Our heroine, Emily Grantwich, is a spinster of twenty-six, intelligent, nice and witty. She has run her crippled father’s house and property for three years in hopes of her brother’s return from the war. She’s a sensible woman who strives always to do the right thing and never crosses the line of respectability. Emily’s innocence was refreshing, and that innocence let the author have fun with her character. I just loved the “pudding” scenes.

Much of the book centers around Devonshire during the hunting season. Since I’m not familiar with this subject, I just loved Ms. Beverley’s background history of it. From this book, I gather that most Englishman of that era had a passion for it. It was very enjoyable and enlightening to find out about.

Piers Verderan is there for two reasons: the hunting and his inheritance.  He’s inherited a property bordering Emily’s home.  With a nickname like Dark Angel, our hero is very much a rake. He’s a man who is reputed to have abandoned his own mother to a life of poverty.

I loved the way these two meet for the first time. It was such a fun scene. While walking home from a business meeting, Emily gets almost run over by our hero, who’s leaving his lover’s house. She’s caught in the crossfire of the two bickering lovers, but instead of bullets flying, only Poudre des Violettes ends up covering them head to foot. Piers feels guilty and responsible for bringing this folly on Emily, so he offers to walk her home, and against her better judgment, Emily accepts.

At first, Emily finds it hard to trust him as people around her worn her of him and his reputation. She’s a bit baffled by those stories because he’s been so helpful and kind to her. Piers is making her feel desirable and good about herself. Emily can’t help but feel drawn to this very unique man. She struggles with her feelings for him, but eventually she realizes that her “Dark Angel” is not so dark at all. She can’t help but fall in love with a man that helps her break out of the mold that the society of that time had put her in.

Both Emily and Ver are very likeable, and the events in which they find themselves in are truly fun and full of laugh-out-loud moments. We also get to catch up with Lord Randal Ashby and his wife Sophie from THE STOLEN BRIDE as they make their cameo appearance. It is one of the few books which had me laughing out loud.

EMILY AND THE DARK ANGEL is another of Ms. Beverley’s well-written and well-plotted stories, with sharp dialogue and full of witty and fun characters.

I found out that this book is part of a series which began with LORD WRAYBOURNE’S BETROTHAL, continued withTHE STANFORTH SECRET and THE STOLEN BRIDE. Besides EMILY AND THE DARK ANGELLORD WRAYBOURNE’S BETROTHAL is the only other one I’ve read. I’ll make it a point to get the other two, as I’d like nothing better than to find out the love story of those characters as well.

Melanie for RRAH

‘To Pleasure A Duke’ by Sara Bennett

tpad sbSTORY: It has taken Eugenie Belmont but a moment to decide whom to marry…

Unfortunately the gentleman in question, the Duke of Somerton, hasn’t yet offered—a mere formality for a confirmed member of the Husband Hunters Club of Miss Debenham’s Finishing School. Like her friends, Eugenie is unwilling to wait demurely until the perfect mate happens by. And, despite the handsome duke’s imposing reputation, she can feel his heated glances in her direction are charged with desire…and possibilities.

Saddled with a dukedom, a haughty dowager, and an irresponsible younger sister, Sinclair St. John is far too occupied with important matters to indulge in romantic whims. But for the first time in his life, a brazen temptress has him utterly distracted. He could—and he should—dismiss her and court someone more befitting his station. But he is irresistibly drawn to this bewitching woman…and must match her game of seduction, move for passionate move.

REVIEW: This is my first ever book by this author, and my last, sad to say.

I honestly don’t know where to begin. It’s really not that easy for us reviewers to talk about books we couldn’t connect, let alone talk about the ones we outright didn’t like. However, as much as we don’t like talking about it, we nevertheless, must.

After reading this book, I wanted to figure out why I didn’t like it, and ultimately it fell to poor writing, or more specifically, poor characterization. Try as I might, nothing about this story appealed. The couple left me cold and not involved. The story’s pace was just okay, and everything else felt just ‘read it before’ and cartoonish.

So, in the end, in all honesty, I can’t recommend it.

Melanie for RRAH

‘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