‘Uncovering Secrets’ by Barbara Hinske

us bhSTORY: This third book in the beloved Rosemont series (but easily read as a stand-alone) finds Mayor Maggie Martin knee-deep in the financial problems facing Westbury. With a stagnant investigation into the fraud and embezzlement that brought the town to the brink of bankruptcy, Maggie needs results—now. The bad guys, however, are always one step ahead, with bribes and blackmail at their disposal.

Her late husband’s mistress also has an ace to play against Frank Haynes and his cronies. But the woman’s plan for revenge may be derailed by her daughter’s sudden illness. Will Haynes slip through the net once again?

Meanwhile, Maggie is busy planning her wedding as Roman forms an unlikely alliance with a litter of kittens. And Rosemont’s attic gives up its secrets; some welcome, some not. While Maggie delights in a newly discovered collection of vintage silver, Frank Haynes is on a mission to establish his claim to Rosemont. Surprisingly, his cold heart may not be impervious after all.

Dive in as Maggie seeks her silver lining.

REVIEW: Maggie Martin moved from southern California after her husband, Paul, passed away. Now she lives in her beautiful stone manor home Rosemont, in the midwest.  She is engaged to John Allen, a veterinarian.  In addition, she is the Mayor of Westbury.  Her job has been difficult as she is working to clean up past financial fraud and embezzlement that nearly wiped out the town workers’ pension plan.  She has been criticized by many people in town, including the press.  Some people she used to think of as friends seem to be involved in this fraud.  But Maggie is tough and has no intention of stepping down.

Frank Haynes is a big critic of Maggie and is jealous of her owning Rosemont.  He thinks he has found a way for him to claim ownership of Rosemont and is working toward that end.  The man is quite wealthy and somewhat of a philanthropist in town as he supports several good causes.  He seems to to have two faces in that he is somewhat of a crook but has a soft heart.

Another thug in town is Chuck Delgado who served on the town council with Frank Haynes.  Maggie is working to prove that these two men orchestrated the embezzlement scheme.

Frank Haynes’ assistant, Loretta, was having an affair with Maggie’s husband Paul, before he passed away.  Loretta is a single mother with three children, one of whom is becoming progressively sicker with a kidney problem.

Maggie has two grown children, Susan, an attorney who is dating a man who makes her very happy.  In addition, her son Mike, is married and the father of twin daughters.

Rosemont is a huge home and when Maggie has a chance to explore the attic, she finds an enormous cache of silver pieces, many of which are very rare.  She gets it appraised, insured and safely locked away.  Some she will sell, and some keep for her children’s future.

We follow Maggie as she plans for her wedding to John in June.  Her life is never a dull moment.  There is constant work involved in keeping up with her job as mayor, including the in-depth investigation in the town’s fraud and embezzlement problem.  In addition, she has found herself the surrogate mother for a litter of kittens which requires frequent feedings.

This is the third novel of the author’s Rosemont series.  Unfortunately, I have yet to read the first two but I will need to do that soon as I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  I think it would make a terrific TV series.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘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 seem 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

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Third Wife’ by Lisa Jewell

ttw lj2STORY: A tragic accident? Or suicide?

Her grief-stricken husband, Adrian, is determined to find out.

Maya had a job she enjoyed; she had friends. They’d been in love.

She even got on with his two previous wives and their children. In fact, they’d all been one big happy family.

But before long Adrian starts to identify the dark cracks in his perfect life.
Because everyone has secrets.
And secrets have consequences.
Some of which can be devastating.

REVIEW: Maya Wolfe was a sweet young woman in love with her husband, Adrian.  Surprisingly, her life was a strange one in that her relationship with her husband’s two ex-wives and all of their children was good.

Adrian first married Susie with whom he had two children.  Then he met Caroline and divorced Susie to marry Caroline with whom he had three children.  Some years later, he met Maya, fell in love with her, divorced Caroline and married Maya.  Yes, Adrian is a busy man who seems to be in love with love.  The families are all friends and spend holidays and vacation times together.  Adrian loves his kids and strives to be with them as much as possible.

One day, Maya goes to a bar, gets insanely drunk and steps out in front of a bus where she is killed.  All Adrian is left with is “Why?” – oh – and Maya’s cat.  Knowing he is not a cat person, he puts an ad up to find the cat a home and a young woman named Jane answers the ad and comes to see the cat.  She tells Adrian that she will think about it and let him know.

As Adrian struggles to come to grips with Maya’s death and what could have driven her to this end, certain clues emerge that seem to point to this not being an accidental death.  Perhaps the Wolfe family is not as stable as one would think.  Problems with each of the children appear and when threatening emails addressed to Maya (that she had hidden) Adrian takes matters into his hands and involves the police in the investigation.

What happened to Maya?  Who sent those awful messages to this sweet woman and why?  Who is this Jane person?  She seems to be involved somehow.

The characters are well written and the story is interesting.  However, I felt that Adrian was a clueless clod.  I enjoyed this novel but cannot say that I was very impressed with it.  As this is the first of the author’s novels that I have read, I think I would be willing to read more and hope they will be better than this one.
Connie for b2b

‘Love’s Rescue’ by Christine Johnson

lr cjSTORY: When her mother dies, Elizabeth Benjamin heads home to Key West, determined to transform herself into the perfect Southern belle her parents always wished her to be. But nothing goes according to plan. Her crippled brother resents her, the servants do not obey her, and Rourke O’Malley, the dashing man she vowed to forget, refuses to relinquish his hold on her heart. Worst of all, it becomes painfully obvious that her father is not the upright man he appears to be.

As family secrets come to light, Elizabeth is faced with a difficult choice: to do her duty and abandon her dreams, or to leave her life of privilege behind to chase the man her father sees as little better than a pirate.

From the first emotional page, author Christine Johnson throws readers into a world of impossible choices, hidden desires, and heart-melting romance in the steamy south. Readers will cheer for Elizabeth and Rourke as they battle the odds and the elements to secure their future.

REVIEW: Key West, Florida 1846

When Elizabeth Benjamin was due to sail to Charleston to find a suitable match, she did not want to leave without saying goodbye to Captain Rourke O’Malley who owned a wrecker boat.  She had known and loved him for a long time, however, her father does not approve of wreckers.  Pressing through a storm and taking her 11-year-old brother, Charlie, with her, she soon was overcome by the flooding waters and Charlie became trapped.  Luckily, Rourke was nearby and rescued them both but Charlie’s legs were injured and left useless.

1850

Elizabeth’s mother has passed away in Key West and Elizabeth decides to return home.  After four years, Elizabeth has not found a man who could compare to Rourke.  Her overbearing Great-Aunt and her black maid, a slave, Anabelle, are accompanying her.  During the harrowing trip home, her ship is caught on a reef just off Key West and Rourke manages to rescue them.

Once home, Elizabeth finds her father and brother unwelcoming to her.  She also finds that she is the heir to a small fortune left to her by her mother.  However, to receive it, she must marry someone approved by her family.  The man her father has chosen is Percival Finch, a man she finds completely offensive.  Elizabeth loves one man only and that is Rourke.

The story continues with the owner of the ship that Rourke rescued and a fight over Rourke’s claim of some of the cargo.  We also find that Anabelle has been married to John, a free man and Rourke’s partner.  John wants his wife and works to find a way to take her and sail away to the Bahamas.  In addition, by reading her mother’s diary, Elizabeth uncovers a shocking secret.

We see Elizabeth’s family constantly forcing her to be with Percival.  I loved the story up until this point. I became weary with the weakness Elizabeth showed at not pushing to stand up for what she wanted in life.  However, the book was a good one and I highly recommend it.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Dancing in The Duke’s Arms’ Anthology by Grace Burrowes, Shana Galen, Miranda Neville, Carolyn Jewel

ditda gb sg mn cjSTORIES: Why Do Dukes Fall in Love?
Every summer the cream of society gathers at the Dukeries, named for the ducal estates concentrated in one small corner of Nottinghamshire. While the entertainments include parties, balls, and a famous boat race, the ducal hosts and their guests find heartbreak, love and happy endings.
Four heartwarming stories from four bestselling historical romance authors.

MAY I HAVE THIS DUKE? by Grace Burrowes
The trouble with Houseparties. . .
Gerard Hammersley, Duke of Hardcastle, is dragooned by an old friend into attending a house party, though Hardcastle refuses to fall prey to the matchmakers who relish such gatherings. He recruits his nephew’s prim, prickly governess, Miss Ellen MacHugh, to preserve him from being compromised by the conniving debutantes, and offers in exchange to deflect the drunken viscounts who plague Ellen.

. . . Is that they must end.
Ellen agrees to Hardcastle’s scheme for two reasons. First, she’s been attracted to His Grace since the day she laid eyes on him, and knows that behind Hardcastle’s lack of charm lies a ferociously loyal and faithful heart. Second, she’s departing from Hardcastle’s household at the conclusion of the house party, and two weeks safeguarding His Grace’s bachelorhood is as much pleasure—and as much torment—as she can endure before she leaves him.

DUCHESS OF SCANDAL by Miranda Neville
Too Many Scandals
After months of marriage, the Duke of Linton agreed to live apart from his wife. Thrown together due to a scheduling error, Linton finds Althea still has the power to make his heart race. Linton seems different from the critical, indifferent man Althea married. But though she burns for him as a lover, can she trust him to be the husband she needs?

WAITING FOR A DUKE LIKE YOU by Shana Galen
There’s no such thing as the perfect hero…
Nathan Cauley, tenth Duke of Wyndover, is so handsome ladies swoon—literally swoon. His blond hair and blue eyes certainly draw attention at the Duke of Sedgemere’s house party, but Nathan doesn’t want a fawning young miss for his duchess. He stumbles upon a bedraggled woman sleeping under Sedgemere’s bridge, and his protective instincts stir. When he recognizes her as the princess he fell in love with eight years before, he’s determined to win not only her affections but her heart.

Or is there?
After revolutionaries massacre Princess Vivienne’s family, she and the head of her guard flee to England. Before they can reach London to beg asylum, assassins kill the last of her defenders. Vivienne is alone and on the run when the Duke of Wyndover comes to her rescue. She barely remembers meeting him years before, and isn’t comfortable with gentlemen who are more attractive than she is. Nathan is more than a pretty face, though, and when the assassins return, he might just prove to be the duke Vivienne has been waiting for.

AN UNSUITABLE DUCHESS by Carolyn Jewel
The Duke of Stoke Teversault has well earned his reputation for bloodless calculation. Indeed, recently widowed Georgina Lark has no idea he’s loved her since before her late husband swept her off her feet. Stoke Teversault means to keep it that way. The cold and forbidding duke and the blithe and open Georgina could not be less suited in any capacity. And yet, when Georgina and her sister arrive at his home, his ice-bound heart may melt away.

Georgina Lark has never thought of thought of the Duke of Stoke Teversault as a man capable of inducing passion in anyone. He’s long disapproved of her, but she will be forever grateful to him for his assistance after her husband died.

REVIEW: ‘May I Have This Duke?’ by Grace Burrowes

After being pressured by his grandmother, Gerard Juvenal Rene Beaumarchand Hammersley, Eighth Duke of Hardcastle, is looking for someone to be his Duchess. Gerard lives at Hardwood Hall with his nephew, Christopher, who lost his parents and is being raised by his uncle.  Miss Ellen MacHugh, has been Christopher’s governess for the last 3 of his 6 years.

Although Gerard loves his nephew, he has always been aloof with Ellen.  Ellen has never cared for him because he appears to be cold-blooded and curt.  One day, Gerard summons her to his office to inform her that she and Christopher will be accompanying him to a two-week house party at Sedgemere House in Nottinghamshire.  She agrees but tells him that she will be leaving immediately after the house party as she is putting in her two-week notice.  Shocked at her notice, Gerard tells her that she simply cannot leave him while he is searching for someone to be his Duchess.

At the house party, the hostess approaches Ellen to say that the numbers of men and women are off and she needs Ellen to step in and be a guest.  In addition, she offers the use of her own gowns for Ellen to wear.  As Ellen is the granddaughter of an Earl, her background allows her to blend right in.

When Gerard sees how lovely she is, he realizes that he has had a beautiful and intelligent woman right under his nose for the last 3 years and begins to woo her.  Ellen is flattered but is adamant that she will be leaving in 2 weeks.

Will Gerard be able to change her mind?  Can he convince her to marry him and be his Duchess?

I loved this totally delightful novella.  The storyline is good and there are some humorous bits as well.

‘Waiting for a Duke Like You’ by Shana Galen

Nathan Cauley, tenth Duke of Wyndover, needs an heir.  Currently, he is a guest at the Sedgemere House Party.  Although he does not care for games at these events, he agrees to go on a scavenger hunt. One item he needs is a smooth stone and thus he heads down to the bridge.  

Her Royal Highness Princess Vivienne Aubine Calathe de Glynaven is the only surviving member of the royal family of the Kingdom of Glynaven.  They had all been slaughtered during yet another revolution that has tried to oust the royal family.  Vivienne has been running trying to escape the assassins. Filthy, exhausted, hungry and thirsty, she stops at the bridge for a drink of water and passes out.

When Nathan comes upon Vivienne at the bridge, he immediately carries her to safety.  It is feared that if she hides in the Sedgemere home, the assassins would certainly look for her there and possibly massacre the people in the home.  Therefore, Nathan secrets her to his nearby home, Wyndover Park. Now that she is clean and fed, she still has problems sleeping with dreams of the massacre and seeing the bodies of her family members.  She is hoping to appeal to Prinny to provide her with asylum, however, Nathan helps her realize that to do so would result in political problems for the regent.

The harmony that Nathan and Vivienne experience during their close time together ends up in an attraction that neither of them can deny.  But for how long can she escape the assassins?  How can she ever live freely again?  What about the growing love that she and Nathan feel for one another?  Can they ever hope to live a normal life together?

Once again, Shana Galen has written a terrific novel full of intrigue, action and romance.  I enjoyed the story immensely and know others will as well.

‘Duchess of Scandal’ by Miranda Neville

The Duke of Linton is a very wealthy man owning a total of 12 mansions.  He has been estranged from his younger wife for several years now.  The Duchess Althea is 12 years younger than him.  As she was so immature and unused to society, she fell right in fun but without using the proper restraints.  Althea has a twin brother, Nicholas, a wastrel, who seems to always be spending his time being idle with Althea.  In addition, Althea knew that Linton has a mistress which only angered her more.  Her lack of self-control and silliness with her brother resulted in her embarrassing and angering Linton which led to many arguments and finally to their estrangement.  

Linton has just arrived at The Chimneys, one of his properties which is near Sedgemere where there is soon to be the Dukeries Cup, an annual rowing race.  Upon arrival, he finds Althea is there as well.  He realizes that he has made a mistake in the dates she would be at The Chimneys but decides to stay for a time anyway.

Nick is also there and brought along Nigel Speck, an odious man who is always trying to make improper and unwelcome passes at Althea.  Both Nick and Nigel have plans to stay for the summer.  It turns out that Nick owes Nigel a large debt and, thus Nick decides to enter the rowing race in hopes of winning the purse so he can repay the debt.  So, with the help of Linton, Nick practices his rowing every day in preparation for the race.

Now that Althea and Linton are together every day and the fact that she has matured quite a lot, opens them both up to a better understanding of their individual personalities.  Will this time together help them to heal and resolve their differences?

A well written story with some engaging characters.

‘An Unsuitable Duchess’ by Carolyn Jewel

Miss Georgia Lark, 23, has been recently widowed after just one year of marriage.  A striking woman with orange hair and freckles, George, as she is called by her friends, has decided to attend the Sedgemere house party.  She is accompanied by her sister, Miss Kitty Hunter, a lovely young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes.

The Duke of Stoke is a tall and feared man.  He has always cared for Georgia but does not approve of people calling her George.  He thinks it is simply too familiar.

As part of the entertainment, George has put together a treasure hunt.  She has drawn maps for people to follow and at the end, there will be treasure for them to find.  But when the treasure goes missing before the hunt has even started, George is quite perturbed and intent on discovering who took it.

As George and Stoke find themselves together more and more, secrets come to light and their attraction grows.

I admit that I had a difficult time following this particular anthology because the number of characters and their past was somewhat confusing.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Maid for Romance’ by Ruth J. Hartman

mfr rhSTORY: Leah Hunter must choose between two men. Valet Daniel Barlow makes her laugh, fills her heart with delight, and answers her body’s desire for love. But Felton Kensington would give her a better life. Security. Prestige. And choosing him would take away the one thing that plagues her mind with worry and confusion.

Felton Kensington scoffs at the valet’s attempt to steal away Leah. With what Felton has to offer, he’s quite confident Leah will be his. In every way.

Daniel Barlow knows what he wants. And that’s Leah Hunter. He’s trying everything in his power to win her over. But competition from Felton Kensington is stiff. How can a valet compete with a wealthy gentleman?

REVIEW: Leah Hunter used to be a maid but has recently become the companion to Cecelia Radcliff.  She loves her job and is truly a good friend to Cecelia.

Daniel Barlow is the valet to Mr. Radcliff.  He is a handsome and friendly man who likes to flirt with Leah. Leah tries to deter him from doing so as she does not want anyone to think she is not doing her job.

Leah is a total cat lover so one day when she spots a cat outside that seems to be ill, she hails the passing Daniel to help her.  He wraps the cat in a blanket and take it upstairs to a safe place in the barn.  Shortly, the “illness” of the cat is discovered as she begins to give birth to kittens.  Leah is so impressed with how Daniel knew what was happening and how to help the cat.

Soon, Leah and Daniel are told they will be accompanying Mr. and Mrs. Radcliff to a house party for a few days where they will continue with their duties.  Leah has been given some nicer dresses by Cecelia and is told she may participate with the other guests.

Mr. Felton Kensington was a classmate at Eton with Mr. Radcliff and is part of the party.  When he sees Leah, he is quite taken with her and with the approval of the Radcliffs begins to court her.  Daniel becomes jealous and is afraid that Felton is just looking for sport from her.

Leah is pleased with the attention from Felton but is torn.  Even though he is a wealthy man and can offer her a comfortable life, she feels her heart belongs to Daniel.  Their times together have always been happy ones.

What will she do?  Can she be happy marrying a valet?  Oh, but let’s not forget dear Uncle Percy whom we met in another Ruth Hartman novel.  How does he come into play here?

Ms. Hartman has written yet another delightful love story that is sweet, fun and clean.  I hope others will discovers her novels and enjoy these terrific stories.  Please check out my review of “His Lady Peregrine” where we first met Uncle Percy.

Connie for b2b

‘Virtue and Valor’ by Collette Cameron

perf5.000x8.000.inddSTORY: Bartholomew Yancy never expected to inherit an English earldom and had no intention of marrying. Now, the Earl of Ramsbury and last in his line, he’s obligated to resign his position as England’s War Secretary, find a wife, and produce an heir. Only one woman holds the least appeal: Isobel Ferguson, an exquisite Scotswoman. Brought to Scotland to mediate between feuding clans, he doggedly woos her.

Disillusioned with men pursuing her for her attractiveness, rather than her unusual intellect, Isobel has all but abandoned any hope of finding a husband in the Highlands. Not only does she believe Yancy no different than her other suitors, he’s a notorious rake. She’s been told he’s practically betrothed. Therefore, his interest in her cannot possibly be honorable, and so she shuns his attentions.

When Isobel is mistakenly abducted by a band of rogue Scots, Yancy risks his life to rescues her. To salvage her compromised reputation, her brother and father insist she marry him. Yancy readily agrees, but Isobel—knowing full well she’s fated for spinsterhood by refusing his offer— won’t be coerced into marriage.

Can love unite a reluctant earl and a disenchanted beauty?

REVIEW: Bartholomew Yancy, Earl of Ramsbury, has always been attracted to Isobel Ferguson, a Scottish lass and the sister to Laird Ewan McTavish.  Yancy is headed to meet with Ewan as there have been tribal disputes going on and he needs to see what needs to be done.

Isobel is a very independent and intelligent young woman who enjoys looking for fossils on her land. However, with the uprisings occurring, her family members have instructed her that she is not to leave the immediate area without being accompanied by protectors.  When Yancy arrives in Scotland, he reinforces the edict that Isobel stay safe.  However, she is stubborn and eludes them to continue her fossil search.

But when she is abducted by some of the rebels, life gets quite difficult for her.  Yancy soon realizes he is indeed in love with Isobel, and thus begins his difficult search for her placing his own life in danger. Although she had been very foolish to have begun this folly, she is very lucky to have Yancy searching for her.

There were times I had a difficult time keeping up with the action in this story and the numerous characters.  While I have enjoyed many of Ms. Cameron’s books in the past, I have to say that this was not my favorite.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author