‘The Baron’s Honourable Daughter’ by Lynn Morris

lm tbodSTORY: When her stepfather suddenly dies, Valeria Segrave finds she must take charge of her grieving mother and the vast estate which now belongs to her six-year-old half brother, the new Earl of Maledon. Though capable, Valeria is frustrated to find each day brings a new struggle as she tries to establish her authority with servants, stewards, and solicitors-all men. As a young woman with no blood relation to the earl, they are all too ready to dismiss her. 

Much to her chagrin, she must rely on the assistance of her stepfather’s distant kinsman, Alastair, Lord Hylton. He is handsome and noble, and Valeria senses under the veneer of his gentlemanly behavior that she never measures up to his expectations of a refined lady. In light of that, accepting his help and feeling under a burden of gratitude to him is almost unbearable. Even when Valeria leaves the country estate for the glittering London Season, where she gets into a series of escapades, Lord Hylton is always there to witness, criticize, and correct her behavior. But if Alastair insists on engaging in a battle of wits and wills with the lively Valeria, she’ll stop at nothing to prove that he’s met his match

REVIEW: Valeria Segrave is the daughter of the late Baron Guy Segrave and the stepdaughter of the Earl of Maledon.  The Earl is a heavy drinking man who disgraces his wife by openly chasing after loose women. The Earl has a son, St. John, with Valeria’s mother.  When the Earl dies suddenly, her mother is devastated.  In his will, he leaves only a small portion to his wife and the rest to his 6-year-old son and heir, St. John.  Sadly, the Earl had secretly taken Valeria’s monies left to her from her father and used it for himself.  As the Earl had spent heavily and foolishly, Valeria and a family friend, Lord Alastair Hylton, assume the responsibility of overseeing the inheritance for St. John.

As Valeria is now 20-years-old and has never had a season in London, her mother decides that it is time for her to get her chance and they all journey there and take up residence in the Maledon London home. Known for being an outspoken, yet somewhat unworldly young woman, Valeria finds herself always at odds with Alastair who takes it upon himself to keep an eye on her and criticizes her should she do or say something improper.  The animosity that Valeria feels toward Alastair continues to grow and she decides to escape convention and attend a masked ball which is certainly a place she should never have been.  Unfortunately, Alastair is at the ball, recognizes her and immediately takes her home in shame. Her remorse at having over-stepped her bounds makes her physically ill.  Her shame at the scolding Alastair gives her only makes her feel worse.  When she finally realizes her growing attraction to him, she feels that she has lost any chance she may have had with him.

Will they be able to work out their differences and get past her indiscretions?

This is the first book that I have read by Lynn Morris and I look forward to searching out more of her books.  The meticulous descriptions of life in Regency England are a wonderful lesson in itself.  I thought I already knew a lot about the period, but she took the education even further.  The story was a truly good one with a slight religious undertone.  But, be sure to sit down and absorb each and every description in this book.  It is a wonderful resource.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

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‘The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride’ by Victoria Alexander

va tsaotsotbSTORY: The bride and groom cordially request the presence of…

The bride’s sister, Delilah, the very proper widowed Lady Hargate, and Samuel Russell, the groom’s friend, a very eligible, slightly improper bachelor, at their upcoming wedding.

Lady Hargate and Mr. Russell, previously acquainted during one unforgettable night in New York City when caution—and clothing—were thrown to the wind will choose to pretend they have never met before.

The lady plans to avoid love and its complications at all costs. The gentleman intends to change her mind.

Guests are invited to enjoy the many diversions of Millworth Manor—delightful grounds, lavish drawing rooms, secluded corners—and the chance to discover that one night may have been only the beginning…

REVIEW: Delilah, Lady Hargate has been widowed for some years now.  On her way to meet up with her sister, Camille, who is also a widow preparing to marry again, she participates in a scandalous liaison with a man she didn’t really know.  Her thinking is that this is a one-night stand and that she would never meet this man again.  Imagine her enormous surprise when she is introduced to him again as the American friend of her sister’s fiancé.  Meeting Samuel Russell again has thrown Delilah into a tizzy but she is determined to act aloof and not give into his veiled teasing of her.  However, as they spend more time together, their teasing becomes more serious which eventually leads to even more of an attraction.

This is a clever but light story with lots of amusing bantering between the characters which provides the reader with a lot of chuckles.  However, I wished that there might have been more seriousness shown rather than the overdone one-upmanship.
Connie for b2b

MEL’S THOUGHTS: Victoria Alexander is one of my all time favorite authors and so far all of her books have been my Keeper Shelf worthy, this one included, however…As much as I loved the writing and three P’s (plot, prose & pace), clever dialogue and humor [which Ms. Alexander’s book’s are always filled with], I was a bit disappointed with the characterization of the heroine. Delilah wasn’t my ‘cup-a-tea’ and I just couldn’t warm up to her. I did like the hero very much and for me, he made this book worth reading.

This is book 3 in What Happens at Millworth Manor series and I think while they may stand alone, reading the previous two books [and in order, What Happens At Christmas (Millworth Manor, #1) Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements (Millworth Manor, #1.5) The Importance of Being Wicked (Millworth Manor, #2)] helped me greatly in following and enjoying this story.

Am I recommending it? Hell yes! It’s Victoria Alexander! However, be warned that you may loose patience with this heroine while enjoying everything else in the book.

For my reviews of the previous books in this series, go here and here.

Melanie for b2b

Complementary copy provided by the publisher.

‘Solsbury Hill’ by  Susan M. Wyler

smw shSTORY: The windswept moors of England, a grand rustic estate, and a love story of one woman caught between two men who love her powerfully—all inspired by Emily Bronte’s beloved classic, Wuthering HeightsSolsbury Hill brings the legend of Catherine and Heathcliff, and that of their mysterious creator herself, into a contemporary love story that unlocks the past.

When a surprise call from a dying aunt brings twenty-something New Yorker Eleanor Abbott to the Yorkshire moors, and the family estate she is about to inherit, she finds a world beyond anything she might have expected. Having left behind an American fiancé, here Eleanor meets Meadowscarp MacLeod—a young man who challenges and changes her. Here too she encounters the presence of Bronte herself and discovers a family legacy they may share.

With winds powerful enough to carve stone and bend trees, the moors are another world where time and space work differently. Remanants of the past are just around a craggy, windswept corner. For Eleanor, this means ancestors and a devastating romantic history that bears on her own life, on the history of the novel Wuthering Heights, and on the destinies of all who live in its shadow.

REVIEW: Eleanor Abbott is finally realizing success with her own business in New York when she receives a call from the family estate in the Yorkshire moors that her aunt is seriously ill and is asking her to travel to see her while she is still alive. Certain that she won’t be gone long, she agrees and arrives to find a large estate on the moors. Her aunt is so happy to see her and Eleanor is happy to be able to talk about her late mother, sister of her aunt. As her aunt is bedridden and very weak, she busies herself exploring the estate and walking the moors.

She meets Meadowscarp (Mead) Macloed who lives there and cares for the estate. They strike up a friendship as he teaches her about the estate and the surrounding area. She learns that she is to inherit the estate when her aunt passes and is not sure whether she wants to stay there or return to her life in New York. Her long time boyfriend in New York has recently cheated on her and she is torn between him and her growing attraction to Mead.

Eleanor encounters ghosts as she walks the moors and concludes they are Heathcliffe and Catherine from Emily Bronte’s book, “Wuthering Heights.”

This book was very difficult to understand and I think the author was pushing very hard to make a plausible story here. However, I give her credit for her story telling and for the wonderful descriptions of Yorkshire.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by my library.

‘Temptations of Anna Jacobs’ by Robyn DeHart

rdh ttoajSTORY: Love and justice…

When Drew Foster is released from prison, he doesn’t much care about salvaging his soiled reputation. Though he’s working undercover, everyone in Victorian London believes him guilty of the Jack the Ripper murders and that his brother paid for his “innocence.”

Despite her genteel upbringing, Anna Jacobs is intent on finishing medical school and becoming a physician. Society’s ridicule has never bothered her, but when her brother, the Yard’s best detective, is scorned for letting Drew go, she confronts the one man who can set the record straight at a ball. She certainly doesn’t count on the rogue being dashing and handsome, nor on him stealing a passionate kiss.

Anna’s brazen contempt for his dangerous reputation captivates Drew, but he is harboring secrets that make him unfit to court any proper woman. As he finds himself an outsider among his colleagues at Scotland Yard, the feisty beauty offers up her medical knowledge to assist him on the case. But when the real killer returns to London to continue his reign of terror, can Anna find safety in Drew’s arms?

REVIEW: The hunt for Jack the Ripper continues in this second book of Robyn DeHart’s Dangerous Liaisons series.

Because of the important and significant part of the background of our hero and the villain, I would recommend you read the first book of this series ‘The Secrets of Mia Danvers’ before you go on to this story. I loved the way the author set up the mystery of the villain, as well as Drew’s past as a wastrel and an alcoholic which are both important to this story.

Ms. DeHart knows her stuff and continues to dangle me on a string as I follow Anna and Drew while they follow the clues to this monster of a villain.

There are so many things I loved about this book, but none so much as I loved the character of a smart, tenacious and enchanting Annabelle Jacobs. I loved the way she stood for herself and for what she believed and for a female in Victorian England to attend medical school and not look for a husband, is rare indeed.

I also liked the way the author characterized our hero, Drew. Here was a man who was forced to deal with a lot of baggage; to look at himself with brutal honesty; accepting who he is and asking for forgiveness and help, again for Victorian England, was rare indeed and it took a lot of courage.

As for the horrific nature of the crimes committed by Jack the Ripper and the fact that Anna was a student of medicine, the author did an amazing job in giving us a realistic look at the police evidence yet still wasn’t gruesome or distasteful to read about.

As the mystery unfolded and we got another glimpse into this monsters mind, we still haven’t figured out who he is, yet we do have at least a good clue, so I’m really anxious to read the last book in this trilogy.

I highly recommend this story for its romance, mystery and characterization of our hero and heroine. I don’t know why, but their romance reminded me of that scene in ‘Pretty Woman’ where Julia Roberts meets Richard Gear half way up the sliding ladder, and says “…she rescues him right back.”

This is what I took from the romance of Drew and Anna. With her open nature and patience, she knew and accepted this man for who he was; a man with a problem who did his best to atone for his past mistakes and a man who would accept her as she is, intelligent and way too talkative.

Loved it!

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy from the publisher

‘Surrender to the Earl’ by Gayle Callen

gc stteSTORY: She wanted a favor, not a fiancé.

Audrey Blake’s impromptu plan-asking a visitor to help her take ownership of her rightful property-is unraveling in spectacular fashion. Robbed of her sight by a childhood fever, Audrey has been kept in virtual seclusion by her family. And now the enigmatic Robert Henslow, Earl of Knightsbridge, has complicated her scheme to gain independence, insisting they pretend to be engaged.

Duty brought Robert to Audrey’s doorstep. As for what makes him propose marriage…it might be guilt. Compassion. Or something far more urgent and unexpected. Their counterfeit union was supposed to be for Audrey’s benefit. Yet it’s Robert who yearns to prove to the intriguing Audrey how much they both have to gain by making it real-and convincing her to submit to the most blissful passion

REVIEW: This second book of the Brides of Redemption trilogy in which three friends and soldiers who are returning to England from India in a need of redemption after an incident that all three were involved, we watch Robert Henslow, Earl of Knightsbridge meet his true love.

I loved the first story, Return of the Viscount [my review is here] and I was really looking forward to this one.

You know how some books lean more to either heroes or heroines, meaning we have more of a character development of one and not enough of the other? Well in this one I was pleasantly surprised that both Audrey and Robert were equally represented by the author as she did an outstanding job in characterizing and fully developing both characters to such extent that I saw and felt them and their emotions very clearly.

It’s Robert’s turn to try and redeem himself to a widow of a man that he feels responsible for dying in that incident in India, two years ago. He is willing to do anything to help young widow of Martin Blake and upon meeting her and offering his help he’s shocked to learn of the way that Audrey’s family is treating her and her blindness.

Audrey Blake was badly used by her husband whose reason for attaching himself to a blind woman was getting his hands on her dowry so he can purchase his commission to go to India, which he did after their wedding night, leaving his bride with her family that despises her blindness and has Audrey as a virtual prisoner within the walls of their home. No wonder she sees Robert as her only means of escape!

However, our hero watches her closely and proposes they get to know each other a bit better before he agrees to her plan of helping her gain her independence by taking her to a property that she inherited.

Robert is pleasantly surprised to see that she’s more than capable of running a household, and upon realizing that the only reason her family is tolerating her is that ability of doing all that work for her father’s house, he decides to help her out. I thought the author did a magnificent job in setting the pace for these two to slowly become acquainted and watching them develop affection for each other was truly special and poignant.

I truly enjoyed the slow pace of this delightful tale, and am looking forward to the next book. Hope you give it a go.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy from the publisher

‘The Heiresses’ by Sara Shepard

ss thSTORY: The series follows one of the most prestigious and wealthy families on the Upper East Side who have built their entire fortune on the business of diamonds.

Due to a clause the grandfather placed in his will, only his granddaughters are set to inherit his massive fortune…these are the heiresses. After the death of their cousin, the remaining heiresses try to figure out if the family curse is real or not, and if not, who killed their cousin, and more importantly, which one of them is next on the hit list?

REVIEW: The Saybrook family has been in the diamond selling business for several generations and have amassed a fortune.  There are five women who are considered to be the heiresses to the family fortune.  They are Poppy, Rowan, Aster, Corrine and Natasha.  When Poppy dies from what appears to have been a jump from her office window in New York, the FBI is called in to investigate.  The family is convinced that she would never have taken her own life and someone must have pushed her to her death.  Thus, the mystery begins as to who would have done this as why.

We follow all the heiresses as we slowly get to know them and try to figure out if someone in the family could have killed Poppy and if so, who.  There is an online gossip site that reports events in the lives of the Saybrooks and no one knows how they get the insider information that they post.  This leaves the family feeling even more vulnerable wondering who will be targeted next.

This is a very good mystery that keeps the reader guessing all the way to the end to figure out the killer. There is also an interesting part that may leave things open for a sequel.  I think that once readers get “hooked” on the story, they will eagerly await a sequel if there is to be one.

My only problem with the book is the vast amount of characters that the reader must “digest” all at once. This is a pet peeve of mine, however, other readers may be better able to accept this. 

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

‘Vintage’ by Susan Gloss

sg vSTORY: At Hourglass Vintage in Madison, Wisconsin, every item in the boutique has a story to tell . . . and so do the women who are drawn there.

Yellow Samsonite suitcase with ivory, quilted lining, 1950s…
Violet Turner had always dreamed of owning a shop like Hourglass Vintage. Though she knows the personal history behind each precious item she sells, Violet refuses to acknowledge her own past. When she is faced with the possibility of losing the store, she realizes that, as much as she wants to, she cannot save it alone.

Taffeta tea length wedding gown with scooped neckline and cap sleeves, 1952…
Eighteen-year-old April Morgan is nearly five months along in an unplanned pregnancy when her hasty engagement is broken. When she returns the perfect 1950s wedding dress, she discovers unexpected possibilities and friends who won’t let her give up on her dreams.

Orange sari made from silk dupioni with gold paisley design, 1968…
Betrayed by her husband, Amithi Singh begins selling off her old clothes, remnants of her past life. After decades of housekeeping and parenting a daughter who rejects her traditional ways, she fears she has nothing more ahead for her.

An engaging story that beautifully captures the essence of women’s friendship and love, Vintage is a charming tale of possibility, of finding renewal and hope when we least expect it.

REVIEW: This is a novel written for women encompassing a lot of the trials and stresses that many of them face during their lifetime.

Violet is the owner of Hourglass Vintage, a boutique featuring vintage clothing for women.  Violet has been divorced for five years from a man whom she married too young and who turned out to be a loser.  She loves her shop and is always on the lookout to find vintage pieces.  She has just found out that the owner of the building from whom she rents her shop has decided to sell the building and she will soon be evicted.

April is an 18-year-old girl who is engaged to Charlie and who accidentally got pregnant.  Charlie is from a very wealthy family and is poised to start medical school.  His parents are adamantly against them getting married and their engagement has just been cancelled.

Amithi Singh has found that her husband of 40 years, Naveen, is having an affair and she is devastated.  A woman who has always been an excellent seamstress she now finds herself at loose ends.

These three women meet at Hourglass Vintage and find a friendship that brings them together and helps the three of them to share their problems and find a solution to them.  Their problems in life are real and the author has done a wonderful job in portraying them as such.   I enjoyed this book and look forward to more novels from author Susan Gloss.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by my library.