‘The Bridegroom Wore Plaid’ by Grace Burrowes

TBWP GBSTORY: In an effort to preserve the family estate, Ian MacGregor, the Earl of Balfour, must marry for money. When a promising match emerges in the form of Genie Daniels, a rich English heiress, Ian begins devising a strategy to woo her.

When he meets Genie’s poor cousin Augusta, he discovers a new avenue to Genie’s heart. But after spending time with Augusta and falling for her charms, Ian begins to question whether or not he’s willing to forfeit his heart to save the family name…

REVIEW: The first line in this novel states the plot perfectly:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single, reasonably good-looking earl not in possession of a fortune must be in want of a wealthy wife.”

Ian MacGregor is a Scottish Earl now head of his family searching for a wealthy heiress to add “coin” to the family coffers.  Therefore, Willard Daniels, Baron of Altsax and Gribbony, brings his wife, daughters, Eugenia and Hester Daniels, his sister-in-law, the widowed Mrs. Julia Redmond and niece, Augusta Merrick to stay as guests at the MacGregor home with an eye toward marrying Eugenia to Ian.  Sharing the MacGregor home are Ian’s brothers, Gilgallon, Connor and his sister, Mary Frances.

As the reader is drawn into the story, we find that sometimes love cannot be arranged because the heart finds its own path.  As the characters get to know one another, attractions build and love finds its way.  But, there is evil in the mix which takes the story on another turn.

I admit that it took me awhile into the book to figure out which character was which.  One of my pet peeves with a novel is trying to “digest” a lot of characters thrown at me right at the beginning of a book.  It’s aggravating and frustrating to keep them separate.  However, Grace Burrowes’s talent at creating real characters and expressing their personalities and feelings once again comes through beautifully in this novel.

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by the author.

‘In Love With a Wicked Man’ by Liz Carlyle

ILWAWM LCSTORY: What does it matter if Kate, Lady d’Allenay, has absolutely no marriage prospects? She has a castle to tend, an estate to run, and a sister to watch over, which means she is never, ever reckless. Until an accident brings a handsome, virile stranger to Bellecombe Castle, and Kate finds herself tempted to surrender to her houseguest’s wicked kisses.

Disowned by his aristocratic family, Lord Edward Quartermaine has turned his gifted mind to ruthless survival. Feared and vilified as proprietor of London’s most notorious gaming salon, he now struggles to regain his memory, certain of only one thing: he wants all Kate is offering—and more.

But when Edward’s memory returns, he and Kate realize how much they have wagered on a scandalous passion that could be her ruin, but perhaps his salvation

REVIEW: For all those that thought Ned, one of the secondary characters from Ms. Carlyle’s Fraternatis series should have his own story, get ready! Here it comes! 

Ned Quartermaine is very handsome and sophisticated, but not a likable fellow. He’s been through a lot as a child and that has taught him to always look out for number one. himself. He’s a calculating and ruthless owner of a very notorious high-end gambling establishment. His patrons are crème de la crème of aristocracy, and they know better than to cross him. Wicked is something this man is closely acquainted with. As we meet Ned after the accident as ‘Edward’ we can’t help but like him. The combination of wicked ‘Ned’ and charismatic ‘Edward’ makes him simply irresistible.

Kate, Lady d’Allenay is practical, plain and reliable. She’s not a beauty like her younger sister, but she has a radiance, wit and charm that shine through her. She cares deeply for her title, lands and especially for her family. Honesty is something she values above all else.

Now, as trope’s go, this one has been done to death, yet Ms. Carlyle manages to infuse her story with two interesting, entertaining and very likable characters that you’ll ever meet.

Kate and Edward made this story shine! Kate may not captivate the ton, but she enchanted Edward, yet once Ned came out of his coma, he doubted she would give him a chance. I thought they were adorable together. The characters were well-developed and Ms. Carlyle has just proven to me once again, why I love her story telling. She takes her time in introducing these characters not just to each other, but to me, the reader. She doesn’t rush the plot or the romance. The tension is built slowly and carefully so that I can feel it in my bones. I’m made to savor their attraction and then…*sigh* …as they come together, I turn into a puddle! Once more the author impresses with a wit and originality in dialog as she pens another enchanting tale that is joining my keeper shelf.

Oh how happy I was after I was done with this book! To read a story you love from an author you love, is a very special thing. It makes you feel fuzzy, proud and giddy-all at once! Please don’t miss this well written, steady paced story that offers a solid plot that will immerse you into Kate and Edward’s world so deeply that you’ll be sorry to leave them after you’re done reading their story.

‘In Love with a Wicked Man’ is one book you cannot afford to miss this year.

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the publisher through Edelweiss.

Carla Kelly’s Christmas Collection

CKCC CKSTORY: The Christmas Ornament: When the father of his now-deceased best friend hints that he should consider his daughter as a potential wife, Lord James Crandall isn’t sure he can get past the fact that he used to tease her mercilessly when she was just a girl. But once he finds out how brilliant her mind is, he’s not sure he can get past the fact that she’s a woman. Add in the fact that her charms have garnered the attentions of other gentlemen, Lord Crandall is in for quite the roller coaster Christmas.

Make a Joyful Noise: Widower Marquis Peter Chard is grateful for his two children, but not so grateful when his mother gives him the chore of recruiting people for the parish Christmas choir competition. When recently widowed and pregnant Rosie Wheatherby turns up with the voice of an angel and the looks to match, Lord Chard isn’t about to let her get away from the choir . . . or his family.

An Object of Charity: Stuck on land while his ship is being repaired, Captain Michael Lynch is approached by his late first mate’s niece and nephew. Learning they are destitute, he decides to take them home with him for the holidays, returning for the first time in 22 years ago. As he spends more time with them and unburdens his heart to the young woman, she replaces his hurt with love in time for a very special Christmas.

The Three Kings: After her brother is shot by the French in Spain, Lady Sarah Comstock is forced to travel across the war-torn countryside with a Spanish Colonel. As Christmas quickly approaches, Sarah learns about the Three Kings giving gifts to the Christ child and finds a gift of her own that she can share—her heart.

REVIEW: It’s not really a Christmas if you don’t read or re-read Carla Kelly Christmas story, and in this book you get four!

This is a reissue, so pay attention because you might own it already, and in that case, dig it out and reread it. It’ll make you feel warm all over again…

All four blurbs are sufficient enough to give you a good hook to each story, so I’m skipping on summarizing them for you.

This collection of four short Christmas novellas is classic Carla Kelly and even though the stories are short, each one delivers on plot, pace and depth of characters. Each story is unique, heartwarming and sweet romance.

I adored the hero of the first one as he awkwardly approaches the woman he finally realizes is his equal and a love of his life.

Again in the second story, I just fell for the hero that ‘fell’ into his mother’s scheme and found love in the most unexpected place.

The third story was a bit darker than the other three, and I rooted for the hero that finds himself as well as someone to love.

And in the last story, our heroine who is English finds out that she can love someone who is not. This story was fast moving with action, but it ended abruptly and it left me wanting.

Each of these stories has a bit of everything for everybody: romance, humor and what we all need for the Christmas season, faith in humanity and in our Savior.

Highly recommended!

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

‘It Happened under the Mistletoe’ by Valerie Bowman

IHUTM VBSTORY: When Oliver Townsende escapes to his friend’s house for a Christmas party, he intends to avoid the hordes of marriage-minded misses who have been dogging his steps in London ever since he inherited a dukedom. He soon learns a bit of Yuletide peace and quiet is too much to ask for.

When he encounters Miss Cerian Blake, who’s dodging her own unwanted set of admirers, the two decide to join forces and fake an infatuation to keep their suitors at bay. But when a bough of mistletoe becomes involved, will their Christmastime prank turn into a love to last all seasons?

REVIEW: I can read Valerie Bowman’s books anytime, anywhere! I tune everything and everyone out when I read her books. She writes funny, sensual and romantic characters so well that they feel like my friends. By the time I reach the end of the book, I hate to leave my new friends. I want to stay just a bit longer among them…

This novella was too short for me, yet it packed a punch and accomplished so much within the confines of a ‘novella’.

I have no doubt that you’ll love the hero as much as the heroine. Both were so charming and witty I kept chuckling and laughing as they tried to navigate their budding relationship and many envious guests at the house party that they’re both attending.

I also liked the secondary characters; Kate Townsende was such charming hostess [from Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage], Sir Gilliam and Lady Selina were positively squirming with envy, but Lady Selina’s mama took the cake and I loved, just LOVED when she got hers!

Oh, and I must not forget the cat! As a ‘cat lady’ myself, I always appreciate when authors have them milling about and causing mischief! This cat was one smart cookie! 

Even though the story was short, it lacked nothing. It was sweet and charming from the first scene to the last. This is a perfect little novella for all of you that have never read this author and for us who have become her champions. We don’t want you to miss out on her great talent, so we’ll be spreading the word!

It Happened Under the Mistletoe is out TODAY!
Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

‘Stroke of Midnight’ by Olivia Drake

SOM ODSTORY: He’s no Prince Charming. She doesn’t have a pumpkin coach. Sometimes love is nothing like a fairy tale; it’s even better…

It’s Never Too Late

The infamous Laura Falkner has returned to London society in disguise. Determined to clear her father’s name, she becomes a companion to elderly Lady Josephine—only to learn the woman’s nephew is none other than Alexander Ross, the devilish Earl of Copley, the man Laura once loved with all her heart. The same man who’d accused her father of theft and forced them to flee England.

To Fall Head Over Heels In Love

Alex has never forgotten Laura—or forgiven himself for letting her go. Today, Laura is as lovely—and stubborn—as ever, and her attempts at crime-solving are putting her in danger. The only way Alex can keep her safe is to marry her. But how can this notorious rake convince Laura that his heart is true…before the clock strikes twelve?

REVIEW: Laura Falkner has returned to London in disguise after learning that her father has died.  

Martin Falkner was accused of stealing a prized jewel from a very influential lady of the Ton. When incriminating evidence is found in his office, he and his daughter Laura, flee the country for Portugal where they stay in hiding for 10 years.  

When Martin returns suddenly to London without telling Laura, she follows him only to find that he is dead. Determined to find out who killed her father and believing that her father is innocent, vows to solve the mystery of who truly stole the jewel.  

Disguised as a dowdy spinster, she lands a position as companion to Lady Josephine.  As luck would have it, Lady Josephine is the aunt to Alex Ross, Lord Copley.  

Years ago, Alex and Laura had been an “item” so when Alex discovers Laura is back in town, they are both skeptical of each other yet find that their attraction is still alive.  Together, they work to find out who stole the jewel.  The reader meets different members of the Ton and sees the feelings they have about Laura and her father.  The different characters involved are woven well together to make a great mystery and love story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more novels by this author.

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by my local library.

‘Longbourn’ by Jo Baker

L JBSTORY: If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.
 
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.

Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic—into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars—and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own.

REVIEW: ‘Longbourn’ is a story that centers on the downstairs members of the home of the Bennet family as in Elizabeth Bennet of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ fame.  

We meet Sarah, a housemaid and her younger helper Polly,   along with Mr. and Mrs. Hill, the butler and housekeeper.  While the Bennet family is not extremely wealthy, they are comfortable.

We see the daily grind that the servants must face with the constant and endless chores that exhaust them and wreak havoc on their bodies. When a young man named James Smith comes looking for work, the downstairs members are happy to have him help with many of the chores. He works as footman and driver and jack of all trades for the family.  

Before long, an attraction starts between Sarah and James.  The underlying story of his background starts to slowly unravel as the book goes on keeping the reader totally mesmerized. Without giving out any secrets about the ending of this book, suffice it to say it surprised me and all ends came together beautifully. 

The author’s ability to describe the daily grind of each member of the downstairs truly makes the reader realize how difficult the servant’s life was.  Her descriptive talents left me awed.  As well, we have peeks into the lives of each member of the Bennet family which makes one feel like they have been privy to secrets that others were not.

I highly recommend this book whether you are a ‘Pride and Prejudice’ or Jane Austin fan.  It’s a fabulous story and one you won’t soon forget.

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by my local library. 

‘Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait’ by Grace Burrowes

LJCP GBSTORY: What Lady Jenny wants for Christmas…

For Christmas, soft-spoken Lady Jenny Windham craves the freedom to pursue her artistic ambitions, though it will mean scandalizing her ducal parents and abandoning all hope of a family of her own. She confides her plans to successful artist Elijah Harrison when he’s commissioned to paint a portrait of her small nephews, because assisting Elijah will bring Jenny that much closer to her heart’s desire—won’t it?

…Will break both their hearts.

Elijah Harrison finds in his unlikely assistant not only an inspiring muse and unappreciated talent, but also a lovely and passionate woman. If Elijah supports Jenny’s career, his own professional interests will suffer, but more significantly, he will lose Jenny forever. Both Jenny and Elijah must choose between true love and a lifelong dream

REVIEW: Well, it looks like we’ve come to the end of Grace Burrowes’ Windham series, and I for one am already feeling the loss of this unique, entertaining and fun family.

In ‘Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait’ we get to know better Lady Jenny and we welcome back all the Windham brood as they try in their own way to help their youngest sister to decide which one of her dreams she should embrace.

As usual, Ms. Burrowes continues to successfully mix her flowery prose with unique characters and entertaining and interesting plots.

I loved everything about this story but what impressed the most is how accurately the author portrayed the life of the youngest sibling who albeit loved by everyone in her family, was misunderstood and lonely most of the time. Her talent was obvious, yet it was overlooked because she was a female. This is where our hero comes in handy, and with his help, she is finally ready to accept and embrace her dreams.

Reading Grace Burrowes tales can only be described as being enveloped in your favorite quilt and the feeling of security and warmth, familiarity and love is palpable and ever-present.

To be honest, I’m not ready to say goodbye to any of the Windhams…

I want to bide with them some more, so if this truly is the last of the tales, I’m comforted by knowing that they’re only as far from me as my book shelf.

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.