‘Through the Smoke’ by Brenda Novak

bn ttsSTORY: A shocking betrayal…

Riches. Power. An ancient heritage of pride. The Earl of Druridge wanted only for an heir. So when he learned that his wife was carrying another man’s child, he was filled with a thirst for vengeance.

But he wasn’t the one who caused Katherine’s death. Or was he? To his horror, he remembers nothing of that dreadful night, when their last confrontation ended in scorching flame and cold blood.

A forbidden love…

Rachel McTavish, the beautiful daughter of a coal miner, knows something about the fire that took Lady Katherine’s life. In secret, the strong-willed girl strikes a bargain with the desperate earl: he must send his physician to help her dying mother or he may go to the devil—and the scaffold. He agrees, but she is still unsure that her revelation will be enough to save him when so many wish him dead.

Passionately drawn to the nobleman, despite all the doubt and mystery that shrouds him, Rachel wonders if he can really be a murderer. Or if he is the only man who will ever own her heart…

REVIEW: I love ‘Jane Eyre’ so once I read the blurb of this novel, I knew I had to read it. To me, this only had shades of that classic story, but in no way was anything like it. And that is a very good thing. I may have even liked it better!

This is a story of a Truman Stanhope, Earl of Druridge, man who lost his wife in a mysterious fire and almost everyone thinks he murdered her, but being a peer of the realm, no one’s really ready to publicly accuse him of the crime.

It’s also a romance with flawed and complex characters who are trying hard to fit in within the community they both in some way value.

As for the mystery of who killed our hero’s wife, that wasn’t that difficult to figure out, yet in no way did that spoil this story for me.

I enjoyed Truman’s journey as he’s trying to figure out who would murder his wife. For the longest time he believed that someone paid off our heroine Rachel McTavish’s father to do it, but as he comes to know her, he now doubts that theory.

This wasn’t an easy read because of its gothic theme, but everything about it is easy to follow and the characters are a bit on the dark side and yet I still loved their journey to each other.

I’ve now read a few books from Ms. Novak and I’m honestly gob smacked as to when does she find the time to write, with all her philanthropic endeavors. If you’ve never heard of her annual online auction for diabetes research, then you’re missing out on some great auction stuff and a ‘feel good’ vibes after donating to such a great cause. Please check her website and find out more about how you can give, here.

As for her writing, she’s someone that’s good at telling a tale, be it set in 2014 or 1800.

This one’s for all you bookworms that like your romances to have that goth feel, so I dare you to pick it up!

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Why Earls Fall in Love’ by Manda Collins

mc wefilSTORY: Society often makes strange bedfellows—and even more surprising betrothals…

IS IT A REASON FOR ROMANCE?

Young widowed Georgina Mowbray is settling into her role as Lady Russell’s companion quite well—until the lady’s nephew Dominic, the Earl of Coniston, arrives in Bath for a visit. Georgie’s always found him shallow and too smooth, and trusts him as much as she trusts most men…which is to say, not at all. But Con turns out to be more intriguing than she remembers—and completely irresistible…

OR A PROMISE OF PASSION?

Pretty, practical Georgie is nothing like the women Con usually woos—especially since she seems blind to his charms. But his elderly aunt is so fond of her that Con is determined at least to be sociable…with the occasional flirtation thrown in just for fun. But things take a serious turn when a dangerous figure from Georgie’s unhappy past appears and threatens to bring her harm. Con will do whatever it takes to keep Georgie safe. And if he can show her that all men are not menaces, he might be able to keep her in his arms and never let go…

REVIEW: Mrs. Georgina Mowbray is a war widow making her living as a companion to Lady Russell. They are currently staying in Bath to allow Lady Russell to take the waters in hopes that it will help her arthritis problems.  They have developed a close relationship and friendship.

Dominic, the Earl of Coniston and known as Con, is the nephew of Lady Russell and has arrived to visit her.  Although a polished man, Georgina does not trust him or even men in general.  While his charms attract her, she does all she can to ignore them.
When Georgina begins to see someone outside the window who looks like her dead and abusive husband, she becomes very frightened.  Georgina confides in some of her friends who knew her when she was married and they all share some secrets not known to the reader.  **Here I admit that I did not read the first novel in this trilogy which made putting the events of the story lines together quite confusing.  However, Con is drawn to her and steps in to find out who the mysterious person is haunting and taunting Georgina.
A nice romance novel that I enjoyed.  I’m thinking that perhaps the third novel of the trilogy will help solve the mysteries into which Georgina’s friends have been woven.
Connie for b2b

‘Why Dukes Say I Do’ by Manda Collins

mc wdsidSTORY: Even in London society—where everyone knows what you did last season—you never know who’s next in line to walk down the aisle, inWhy Dukes Say I Do
True Love Is Often Found

With her whirlwind social life in London, Lady Isabella Wharton has little interest in the customs of the country. But when her godmother asks her to pay a visit to her bachelor grandson in Yorkshire, Isabella can’t refuse. It behooves her to please the old dowager, since she harbors one of Isabella’s most scandalous secrets. So off she goes to see the newly-titled—and notoriously rustic—Duke of Ormond…

Where You Least Expect It

Trevor Carey doesn’t care about what goes on behind ballroom doors. He is content with the simple life—and isn’t ashamed to admit it to a society flirt like Lady Isabella. But the country air brings out a different side of Isabella—one full of longing and passion. Can her sophistication be hiding a desire for love? When a blackmailer from the city arrives to threaten Isabella, Trevor will shield her from harm—even travel to London. Can the duke tackle the ton on Isabella’s behalf …and manage to keep her all to himself?

REVIEW: This is my first time reading Ms. Collins and I’m already in love with her heroes and heroines!

By now you all know that, for me, if the characterization is much more appealing to read about than the plot, and prose comes third on my list. I need to connect with the characters to enjoy their journey and Ms. Collins gave me that, so I was a very happy camper.

Let me tell you right off the bat. This is a grown up novel and it deals with a lot of painful issues both hero and the heroine had to deal with, resolve and accept. Despite the baggage both brought to the relationship, I found the story easy to read, understand and connect with every player in the story. Ms. Collins plotted the story so well, that the villain was coming at me from the left field and I didn’t see him coming!

I highly recommend it to all my bookworms that want to read a highly entertaining, well plotted and executed as well as sweet, sensual and very enjoyable read.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Perks of Being a Beauty’ by Manda Collins

mc tpobabSTORY: The beautiful Miss Amelia Snow is not accustomed to being snubbed by the gentlemen of the ton. But when her mother dies unexpectedly, forcing Amelia to take employment as companion to a wealthy cit’s daughter, she quickly learns to play down her looks or risk losing her position. When her employers, the Smithsons, decide to throw a country house party, she is determined to fade into the background. But how can she when the Smithson’s guest of honor is Lord Quentin Fortescue, the childhood friend who stole her heart?

Younger son, Lord Quentin Fortescue, is far more interested in his host’s cotton mills in the north than he is in courting the man’s dim-witted daughter. But it’s the girl’s companion who makes him look twice. Years ago, Miss Amelia Snowe rejected his proposal without a backward glance. Quentin has molded himself into just the sort of man she’d have wanted back then, but is Amelia still the smug beauty who broke his heart? And can either of them risk their newfound positions to indulge the fiery attraction that burns between them?

REVIEW: This is a novella which is a part of the Ugly Ducklings series that I have yet to read. I probably would have appreciated this heroines redemption more if I met her in the earlier books, but regardless of my coming ‘late’ to this ‘party’ and thanks to Ms. Collins, I did get the ‘picture’ early on and liked the ‘wee story’ a lot.

If you’re a fan of this author, this is a must because a ‘bad girl’ learns her lessons well and is redeemed, but if you’re new to this author, you may want to play catch-up’ and get the first two books of this series. I’ll be doing the catching up because I like what this author’s offering to me. She tells stories that are pulling at my heartstrings, and I’m all for that. The best part of this story is the hero. I loved this hero. Quentin was charming, understanding and witty and just a perfect match for someone like Amelia, who was once a proud girl, and yet there were so many factors to her pride and consequent redemption.

Hey, you may as well pick this one up if you never read Manda Collins. It’s a book that might start you with this author.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Cut from the Same Cloth’ by Kathleen Baldwin

kb cftscSTORY: Aunt Honore is up to her old tricks, only now she’s meddling in her mysterious nephew’s life…

Why does the powerfully built, golden-haired, Lord St. Evert dress like an overdone Dandy? His outlandish wardrobe belies the hard unyielding lines of his face. Whoever he is, he’s ruining Elizabeth Hampton’s desperate scheme to secure a rich husband. Terribly vexing, to arrive at the most fashionable Breakfast Party of the Season wearing a perfectly stunning Chinese silk gown, only to discover Lord St. Evert is clad in unmentionables cut from identical cloth.

Humiliating. And insufferable! Why, the devil, must he show up in fabrics Elizabeth searched so diligently to procure? To say nothing of the long hours she spent secretly stitching her creations together. He must be stopped. She is determined to spy out his perplexing game, and put an end to his interference.

Scarlet O’Hara meets the Scarlet Pimpernel

St. Evert despises pretension of any kind. He cannot abide the self-important airs put on by some members of the Ton and takes pleasure in making a mockery of Brummell’s fashion strictures. Conceited frauds! Hadn’t his grandfather’s snobbery made his mother’s life a misery? All the more maddening to discover that the one woman who captures his interest is the biggest pretender of all. He vows to teach Miss Elizabeth Hampton a lesson she won’t soon forget.

REVIEW: Lady Elizabeth Hampton is at a crossroads in her life.  Her father went in search of his son who sailed to America and never returned.  Now, her father is missing as well.  As her twin brother is too immature to take over supporting her, she relies on her seamstress skills to make her own clothes.  She is proud of the unique fabrics she finds to make her dresses.  She is now in London in search of, hopefully, a wealthy husband.

Valen, Lord St. Clare is the son of a noble man and a commoner mother.  His father is quite ill and is pushing him to get married and settled before he passes on.  Unwilling to do so, he agrees to travel to London and attend some balls. 
Have you ever gone to an event and found that another person was wearing your same dress?  Pretty upsetting isn’t it?  Well, imagine that it’s a man who comes into the room wearing the same fabric as your dress!  Now, that’s mind-boggling and exactly how Elizabeth felt when she meets Valen.  He comes in dressed in pantaloons the same fabric as her dress with some eye-popping colors.  Not only is his taste is clothes absolutely atrocious, but he looks like a big oaf as well.  Valen is quite amused at Elizabeth’s irritation due to his dress and decides to irritate her further by following her and purchasing the same fabric that she does for his own clothes to keep up the humiliation.
Valen’s Aunt Honore feels that Elizabeth is a good match for Valen and invites her and her brother to their home.  Being thrown together like that has Valen and Elizabeth getting to know one another better and they both realize that their first impressions were wrong.
This is a novel that runs the whole gamut of they can’t stand each other to they love each other.  The story of getting to know one another is sweet and the humor is huge!  Aunt Honore is a total hoot and the nicknames Elizabeth and Valen throw around for each other makes the reader chuckle.  And don’t miss the titles of each chapter.  Another great laugh.  As a matter of fact, don’t miss this novel at all.  You will love it.
Connie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘The Once and Future Duchess’ by Sophia Nash

sn toafdSTORY: A duchess in time saves a noble line…

In theory, the Duke of Candover is the most eligible peer in the realm. But in truth, he has a deep aversion to the merest hint of marriage, not to mention two botched engagements which have marked his jaded soul. Now, after a debauched bachelor party that causes public outcry, the Prince Regent is demanding that it’s Candover’s turn to be brought to heel. And Prinny secretly believes that Isabelle Tremont, the Duchess of March, is precisely the lady up to the challenge.

Isabelle must marry, but a day of reckoning with the man she’s loved for years is her greatest fear. If Candover insists she’s too young and innocent for a seasoned world-weary man like him, there’s no shortage of other candidates. Gentlemen of prestige and position. Gentlemen whose attentions are driving Candover to jealous distraction. Yet one abandoned moment under the stars hints that if they can put aside pride and duty, then a love once denied might just be their destiny.

REVIEW: Isabelle Tremont, the Duchess of March, lost her parents some years before leaving no other heir but her.  While only 18-years-old, she is a very intelligent and self-assured young woman with every ability to run her estate.

James is the Duke of Candover is a handsome, wealthy and extremely confident man running his estate with utter perfection.  At age 31, he is not interested in getting married. He was engaged twice, both with disastrous results.  
The Prince Regent has decided that it is time that both James and Isabelle find spouses. While James tends to somewhat ignore this directive, Isabelle is certainly feeling the pressure.  She decides to propose to James only to be rebuffed due to her young age. Little did she know that James was also following her father’s request that he never marry her.  Hurt, but still determined to accept the Prince’s edict, she continues with her search for a husband.
The romance is sweet even though it’s hard to believe that an 18-year-old can be as mature as Isabelle is portrayed.  In addition, James needed a swift kick to crack his too-cool and too-perfect exterior.
This was the fourth book in the Irresistible Royal Entourage Series and, unfortunately, I often find myself grabbing a book in the middle of a series with which I am unfamiliar.  I understand that many authors like to write series, however, I wish each book was clearly designated as such so the reader doesn’t end up jumping into confusion.  I would suggest readers start this series with the books in succession, which an be found on the author’s website here.
Connie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Wicked Designs’ by Lauren Smith

ls wdSTORY: The League of Rogues takes what they want—but have they taken on too much?

For too long Miss Emily Parr has been subject to the whims of her indebted uncle and the lecherous advances of his repulsive business partner. Her plan to be done with dominating men forever is simple—find herself a kind husband who will leave her to her books.

It seems an easy enough plan, until she is unexpectedly abducted by an incorrigible duke who hides a wounded spirit behind flashing green eyes.

Godric St. Laurent, Duke of Essex, spends countless nights at the club with his four best friends, and relishes the rakish reputation society has branded him with. He has no plans to marry anytime soon—if ever. But when he kidnaps an embezzler’s niece, the difficult debutante’s blend of sweetness and sharp tongue make him desperate for the one thing he swears he never wanted: love.

Yet as they surrender to passion, danger lurks in Godric’s shadowed past, waiting for him to drop his guard—and rob him of the woman he can’t live without.

Product Warnings:
This novel includes a lady who refuses to stay kidnapped, a devilish duke with a dark past, and an assortment of charming rogues who have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into

REVIEW: Emily Parr is a well read and educated young lady who prefers her books to anything else. Yet her life is uneasy as she is at the mercy of her uncle who is desperate for funds and his lewd and offensive partner.

Godric St. Laurent, the Duke of Essex, is a man with a devil-may-care attitude toward life who spends his time with his four fellow rakes known as the League of Rogues.
Godric decides to kidnap Emily and hold her as ransom to receive payback from her embezzling uncle.  Playing at being ignorant about things in life, Emily makes many attempts to escape.  Little did the Rogues know that they had a smart little hellion to contend with.  As Emily and Godric spend more time together, attraction grows and sexual tension builds.  Godric is taken by Emily’s talents and intelligence and she by him as they begin to enjoy life together.
I loved the natural way Godric and Emily got to know one another and the humorous times in this story.  The other Rogues added so much that it was like one large family.
This is a great romance novel with “real” characters and “real” life situations which is hard to find in a good novel these days.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope that other readers will read it too.
Connie for b2b
Complementary copy provided by the author