‘Never Turn Away’ by Maureen Driscoll

NTA MDSTORY: When Bow Street Inspector Joseph Stapleton is sent to Oxfordshire to help the daughter of an earl, little does he know how the mission will affect him personally.

Lady Evelyn Williams must marry within weeks, but she has never met a gentleman of the ton whom she would even consider as a potential husband. Then she encounters the brave, handsome man from London.

NEVER TURN AWAY is the story of a love that defies society’s expectations. It is the conclusion — for now — of the Kellington series of Regency romances.

REVIEW: I looked forward to this story as much as I dreaded it; it was finally time for our Stapleton, the infamous Bow Street Runner to have his HEA, but it is also to be a last Kellington book; not what I was looking forward to.

I can tell you I loved each story that has been written so far, and even though our Joseph is only an ‘honorary’ brother to the Kellington brood, his story is as well told as all the others.

The plot was well-developed and executed with clues to the villain well hidden; every character that has been introduced to us, helped the main characters come more to life; pace of the story had a steady flow and never lagged; the intimate scenes were spontaneous and sensual and bringing all the Kellington’s in to help this romantic couple out, was a stroke of genius.

But what I loved most of all was the dialogue; no matter if it was spoken or thought by our couple, Kellington’s, Evelyn’s suitors or secondary characters, I merrily chuckled from page to page.

Here is Evelyn’s thought about one of her suitors:

“One well-meaning gentleman had even told her she would be better served if she appeared to be less smart and more agreeable. She had responded by telling him he would be better served with more time spent in a library and less time dispensing asinine advice.”

In a Mrs. Trowbridge’s store [who has two daughters she’d gladly throw into Joseph’s direction], while perusing the merchandise, she spots the coin purse.

“Evelyn wagged the hideous thing about as if it were the crown jewels. “This is a fine piece of artistry. Did Anna or Marida paint the cow?”

“That, Lady Evelyn, is not a cow. It is my mother.”

Evelyn telling Joseph about the men she meets and how they would all like her to hand over her life to them, with her finances.

“I’m a lady, not an idiot.”

Here’s Lizzie talking to all the Killington’s:

“When do men ever do the right thing when it comes to romance?” asked Lizzie.

“What about when I offered to marry you?”

“You are only proving my point, albeit wholly unintentionally. That was the most bloodless proposal I have ever heard. You offered to take Liam’s damaged sister off his hands, as if offering to take in a troublesome cur.”

“There were similarities,” said Ned.

“And you, nodcock, were unable to find the woman you loved for seven long years. And you, Arthur, almost lost Vanessa because you were afraid of a Romany prophesy.”

“What about me?” asked Hal.

“If I were to list your mistakes, we would be here all day. The point is we must find a way to bring Evelyn and Joseph together and, if you insist, I suppose we can leave poison and drugging out of it.”

Between the servants of all these households, and the Kellington’s, our couple had no chance in hell of staying apart.

Bottom line, this was a wonderful ending to a wonderful series. I loved every moment spent with all the characters, from little Vi and her parents, Ned and Jane; Marcus and Lizzie; Arthur and Vanessa; Hal and Melanie; Liam and Rosalind, and now Joseph and his Evelyn, and I’ll be sure to visit with them often in the years to come.

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the author.

‘The Trouble with Princesses’ by Tracy Anne Warren

TTWP TAWSTORY: On the threshold of receiving her royal inheritance and tired of the London Marriage Mart, Ariadne has decided to defy convention and declare her independence. She will not seek a husband—she will take a lover instead, no matter how notorious she may become.

The prince of a small European kingdom, renowned bachelor Rupert Whyte, is in London to enjoy a last bit of freedom before choosing a wife. When he learns about Ariadne’s scheme to take a lover, he decides he must prevent her from embarking on such a ruinous course.

What begins as a well-deserved reprimand quickly spins out of control when Rupert agrees to give Ariadne a few lessons in lust. But just how far will their passion go? And will their forbidden liaison lead them too far astray to turn back?

REVIEW: Princess Ariadne is from the nation Nordenbourg.  She is in London where she is spending her sixth season searching to find the perfect someone to marry. However, Ariadne is not your typical young lady of the times, never mind even that she’s a Princess.  She is bored with the thought of giving up her freedom to spend her life with just one man.  Instead, she wants to take a lover.  As a very happily married woman, her friend, Emma, is appalled at the idea and tells her that she is being very foolish.

Emma’s brother, Prince Rupert, heir apparent to Kingdom of Rosewald, is also in London for the season.  His father, whose health is failing, is continually impressing upon him that he must marry and be ready to take over as King.  Ariadne and Rupert begin a flirtation with a path that eventually leads to her taking him as her lover. 

Lord Selkirk is having financial problems and is looking for ways to compromise Ariadne so that they will be forced to marry and he will have access to her funds.  

Where does the affair of Ariadne and Rupert lead?  What will Lord Selkirk do to complete his plan?

This is a totally delightful novel which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I liked the characters of Ariadne and Rupert as they both had great harmony.  It made me laugh and it was a perfectly romantic read. 

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by the author.

‘Wine in my Sippy Cup’ by Deborah Dove

WIMSC DDSTORY: A sophisticated, put together career woman prior to having kids, now Liz Cartwright is lucky to go to the bathroom by herself, much less get out of the house wearing matching shoes and a clean shirt. While she is preoccupied with the sometimes mind-numbing responsibilities of motherhood, her husband is becoming increasingly distant and preoccupied with work, giving Liz the distinct impression that she is losing her husband along with her sense of identity. Armed with a book on spicing up her sex life purchased at a sex toy party and the help of her three best girlfriends, Liz embarks on an all-out attempt to rejuvenate her marriage and find personal fulfillment.

However, things in Liz’s life have a tendency to fail with hilarious results, and her attempts to woo her husband are no exceptions. Despite numerous setbacks—a pantiless tennis court seduction gone awry, a stolen vibrator and an unfortunate incident involving a thong—Liz is determined to reclaim her romantic mojo, until a chance encounter with her first love and a hobby that inadvertently turns into a job opportunity make Liz reevaluate what love inside marriage means and the price she is willing to pay to reclaim her sense of self-worth.(

REVIEW: Liz Cartwright used to have a great job in marketing that she truly loved.  That was until the children started to arrive.  Now, the mother of three and the owner of 10 pounds from each of these babies, she is a frazzled stay at home Mom working hard to keep it all together.  The wife of a very busy attorney who works long hours, most of the household responsibilities and childcare fall on her shoulders.

Liz has several good friends with children with whom she gets together.  They try to have a girl’s night out every so often and enjoy their chance to laugh and share some wine.  

Feeling like she is not getting the support from her husband, Liz purchases a book with ideas on livening up their sex life.  In addition, her friends gift her with the Little Blue Bunny vibrator that plays a huge part of getting laughs in this book.  

When Liz encounters Charlie, an old flame, he invites her to use her talents in marketing and photography by spending a weekend in California attending the opening of a new home development.  Feeling ignored by her husband, will Liz let her old attraction to Charlie lead her to do something she will regret?

The antics of Liz, her friends, kids and family members will keep you laughing throughout this book.  However, there are some very serious and poignant aspects of the story that will also make you want to grab a tissue.

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by my local Library.

‘The Rogue’s Proposal’ by Jennifer Haymore

TRP JHSTORY: Lord Lukas Hawkins, the rakish second son of the House of Trent, has never found a wager he couldn’t win or a woman he couldn’t seduce—until his search for his missing mother leads him to a mysterious encounter with a beautiful stranger.

Luke’s mother has been missing for months, and while his honorable older brother Simon, Duke of Trent, leads the official investigation from London, Luke sets out on a somewhat seedier path. Sources have told him his mother was last seen with a scoundrel named Roger Morton, but their association isn’t clear. Was she kidnapped or did she go willingly?

While searching for Morton, Luke meets Emma Anderson, a secretive beauty with her own reasons for hunting Morton. At first Luke laughs at the idea of allowing a woman to join him in his search, but soon Emma’s insights into Morton—like the woman herself—prove impossible to resist.

REVIEW: Do you like a HOT story?  Well, you have come to the right place.  The Rogue’s Proposal is steamy all the way through.

Lukas Hawkins is a man on a mission.  He’s trying to find his mother who has been missing for some months now.  While she has a tendency to go off with her lovers, this time it is feared that she has been kidnapped by a villain known as Roger Morton.  

As the second son of the House of Trent, Lucas has decided to look for his mother by infiltrating the lower classes to seek whatever information he can find about his mother.  While sitting in a bar one night, Emma Curtis approaches him and asks for his help in finding murderer of her husband, Henry Curtis.  Together, they take off on a journey filled with intrigue, mystery and lots of passion.

Ms. Haymore has written this novel to depict the strength of Emma and the devils that plague Lukas.  Putting the pieces together to follow this story to the end was like an intriguing jigsaw puzzle that has those tricky pieces that make you determined to find where they go.  

I recommend it highly as I know the reader won’t be able to put it down.

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by the author.

‘The Bachelor’s Bargain’ by Catherine Palmer

TBB CPSTORY: Can a length of lace—more air than thread—be her family’s salvation?

Housemaid Anne Webster will stop at nothing to save her family from their dire circumstances. Even if it means accepting the proposal of the roguish Ruel Chouteau, Marquess of Blackthorne, who has just returned to England from the Americas under a veil of mystery. Both have their own agendas—she to use his riches, and he to use her lace-making skills—but neither could have dreamed what they would discover on the other side of their scheming.

As always, society tattler Miss Pickworth has a thing or two to say about this scandalous union. Unless they want their plans aired in her column, Anne and Ruel must keep their banter to a minimum and play the role of a happy couple.

He’s handsome and arrogant; she’s smart and obstinate. But can Anne and Ruel put their differences aside to fend off an unexpected foe?

REVIEW: Anne Webster is a housemaid in the home of the Blackthorne family.  The daughter of a radical Luddite now imprisoned for his teachings, she is also a talented lace maker.  In her spare time, Anne has spent a year making an intricate piece of lace that she hopes to sell and make enough money to free her father from prison.

Believed to have been killed in the war in the Americas, Ruel Chouteau, Marquess of Blackthorne, has returned to England to claim his title.  After a bout of drinking with the men in his family and in a fit of foolishness, he proposes marriage to Anne who accepts.  

Ruel has a secret plan to make lace so when he discovers Anne’s lace making talent, he’s really delighted.  However, someone is out to kill Ruel but misses and hits Anne instead.  She becomes very ill but is treated by Ruel’s blacksmith and good friend Walker, who is an American Indian living in England.  Through his ministrations, she is healed.

Anne and Ruel head to France where war is about to break out and they end up involved in the fighting at Waterloo.

This story goes back and forth and while it was interesting, many of the events just seemed so unbelievable to me.  However, if you like a story that keeps constantly moving and doesn’t get boring, this might be just for you.

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by my local Library.

‘The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie’ by Jennifer Ashley [Audiobook]

TMOLIM JABOOK BLURB: The year is 1881. Meet the Mackenzie family–rich, powerful, dangerous, eccentric. A lady couldn’t be seen with them without ruin. Rumors surround them–of tragic violence, of their mistresses, of their dark appetites, of scandals that set England and Scotland abuzz.

The youngest brother, Ian, known as the Mad Mackenzie, spent most of his young life in an asylum, and everyone agrees he is decidedly odd. He’s also hard and handsome and has a penchant for Ming pottery and beautiful women.

Beth Ackerley, widow, has recently come into a fortune. She has decided that she wants no more drama in her life. She was raised in drama–an alcoholic father who drove them into the workhouse, a frail mother she had to nurse until her death, a fussy old lady she became constant companion to. No, she wants to take her money and find peace, to travel, to learn art, to sit back and fondly remember her brief but happy marriage to her late husband.

And then Ian Mackenzie decides he wants her.

REVIEW: I read this book awhile ago and decided to get an audio of it because I was curious to find out how the story would play out through Lord Ian’s voice. I should have been better left off  still wondering about it and not putting myself through ‘torture’ of listening to a most horrific narration I’ve ever heard. I’m not being mean here. I’m telling you the truth as I see it [or rather ‘hear’ it’].

Let me tell you  a bit about this book. The author did an outstanding job in creating this man, and a brilliant strategy in starting her new series with such a complex, sexual and tortured character. KUDOS Ms. Ashley!

north-and-south-ending[1]

I can’t pass up a book about a tortured hero, and Lord Ian MacKenzie definitely was that. He was not a ‘normal’ little boy as his brothers were and because his father thought him ‘mad’ he was locked up at an early age in an asylum.

There they subject him to all sorts of ‘modern’ techniques, such shock treatments and ice baths, which were supposed to ‘cure’ him. That is until his brother the new Duke, rescues him after their father’s death.

Daniela Denby-Ashe as BethAll those years behind the asylum’s locked doors left Ian having trouble dealing with crowds, yet his mind is sharp, genius like. His speech tends to be blunt, but is precise and he never speaks unless there’s something to say and worth hearing. He is a connoisseur of everything and anything that is perfect in shape, color or form, and can spend hours upon hours just staring at it; deconstructing and admiring it.

Beth Acklerly, the heroine of the book is not your typical heroine either. She may have been brought up in an impoverished home, left a poor vicar’s widow, but after a rich employer leaves her all of her fortune, Beth finally feels in charge of her life.

She accepts a proposal from a man not because she loves him, but because she doesn’t want to be alone, and that’s when she meets Lord Ian, a man who intrigues her, and someone who she is sexually attracted to.

Both Ian and Beth are as flawed as two characters can be, but both of their pasts have thought them to ‘read between the lines’ and forgo the pretense, thus grabbing the opportunities presented to them in what life is offering them now.

I highly recommend you read NOT listen to it, and here’s why I don’t recommend you listen to it.

First, I wish this was narrated by a male narrator with a Scott’s accent. That would have beenRichard Armitage as Lord Ian ideal and pleasurable. It would also have made me buy all the books that have come after it.

Second, the female narrator is … [I’ll try to be as gentle as I can and maintain my cool here; I don’t want to be cruel, but I must be honest!] laughable. Her narration was stilted as she tried but failed miserably in her Scottish accent; her voice is highly pitched almost every time she ends a sentence and extremely annoying. I ask you to listen to it and dare you to tell me I’m wrong.

Honestly, I wanted to cry from frustration as I know that this should have been an awesome Audiobook if only

And speaking of ‘if only’ here are the actors that I would have cast as Lord Ian and Beth, Richard Armitage  and Daniela Denby-Ashe. Have you ever seen either of those actors before? I loved them in ‘North and South’ and I think you will too. Check it out!

And here’s my Audible review:

Enter a headline for your review:

Touching romance ruined by narration.

If you could sum up The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie in three words, what would they be?

Unique; Romantic; Sensual

What did you like best about this story?

It’s the hero that makes this story unique. Reading it, I could feel his pain. I also loved the relationship portrayed between the brothers.

Would you be willing to try another one of Angela Dawe’s performances?

No.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Meet the woman who tamed the mad Lord Ian Mackenzie

Any additional comments?

I was very, VERY disappointed with the narration of this wonderful and well written book. Ms. Dawe was not able to portray the most important character of this story which was Ian. His character came across too wooden, stoic, That is not what he was.Ms. Dawe’s narration is too fast, too forced and I’m sorry to say, extremely annoying. Every sentence has a high pitched ending.

Frankly, I am surprised that a woman was chosen to narrate this story. If this story had been narrated by a male narrator, I believe it would have been better. I would be willing to buy it again in that case.

Melanie for b2b

TMOLIM JA AThe Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie: Highland Pleasures, Book 1

by Jennifer Ashley

UNABRIDGED

Narrated by Angela Dawe

Series: Highland Pleasures, Book 1

Whispersync for Voice-ready

‘The Secret Life of Miss Anna Marsh’ by Ella Quinn

TSLOMAM EQSTORY: Since she was a young girl, Anna Marsh has dreamed of Sebastian, Baron Rutherford asking for her hand in marriage. But that was in another life when her brother Harry was alive, before she vowed to secretly continue the work he valiantly died for. Now as Sebastian finally courts Anna, she must thwart his advances. Were he to discover her secret, he would never deem her a suitable wife…

Sebastian has always known Anna would become his wife someday. He expects few obstacles, but when she dissuades him at every turn he soon realizes there is much more to this intriguing woman. Somehow he must prove to her that they are meant to be together. But first he must unravel the seductive mystery that is Miss Anna Marsh…

REVIEW: This is the second book in Ella Quinn’s The Marriage Game series, and it’s as delightful as her début ‘The Seduction of Lady Phoebe’.

I thoroughly enjoyed the characterization of both hero and heroine, but Anna’s intelligence and strong will was written so well that at times I cringed wondering if Sebastian would give up his pursuit. He was such a cute character and you just couldn’t help but like him and think of all his actions as “what a typical male”!

Both were strong and determined to do what’s best for the other, which didn’t necessarily mean that they wanted one and the same thing. I liked the pace in which the romance progressed and the overall pace of the book as well.

As for the plot, just as I thought it was a bit predictable, Ms. Quinn ‘pitches’ me a curve ball and managing to totally blindside me!

Bottom line: ‘The Secret Life of Miss Anna Marsh’ was as good as her début. It was interesting, entertaining and sensual, with some expected and some not so much, twists and turns that had me smile, sigh and make me wonder about the third book. Looking forward to reading it!

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.