‘The Seduction of Sarah Marks’ by Kathleen Bittner Roth

tsosm kbrSTORY: England, 1857

After a blow to her head, Sarah Marks awakens in a strange bed with a strange man and no memory of how she got there. Her handsome bedmate, Lord Eastleigh, tells her she’s suffering from amnesia, and the best course of action is to travel home with him until she recovers her memory.

Lord Eastleigh has his own reasons for helping Sarah and keeping her close. Reasons he cannot tell her. As they struggle to restore her memory, their undeniable, inadvisable attraction grows—until Sarah finally remembers the one thing that could keep them apart forever.

REVIEW: This story is Kathleen Bittner Roth’s debut and I loved it!

The book blurb gives you enough of the storyline, so I’m going to tell you what I liked about this story and why I think you’ll like it too.

First, let’s talk about our hero. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this man and the reason for it is because he is such a flawed and complex character that you have no choice but to care for him, even though at times you want to smack him. But most of the time, you just want to hug him!

As for our heroine, she is as flawed and possibly even more complex than our hero, and no mater her actions, I found myself willing her to persevere in her quest to find out who she is and where she belongs.

I also found the romance between these two perfectly paced and the chemistry electric, even when our main protagonists were at daggers drawn and at cross purposes.

As I finished reading this story, I wholeheartedly wished for all the secondary characters to find their happily ever after. They have truly enhanced this story, from Mum, Eastleigh’s eccentric grandmother who thinks she’s the Queen Mother, to Will, Eastleigh’s younger sister who dresses in men’s clothing and is overly protective of her brother. And don’t even start me on Sir Crocodile! You need to read the book to find about this man!

To close, this début is well written, well plotted with some curve balls that were not expected and plenty of twists that will keep you guessing and reading until wee hours of the morning.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Married to a Perfect Stranger’ by Jane Ashford

mtaps jaSTORY: Mary Fleming and John Bexley are the “white sheep’ of their large families, written off as hapless, boring—and thus suitable for each other. But they’re no sooner married than John is sent off on a two-year diplomatic mission.

Upon his return, John and Mary find that everything they thought they knew about each other is wrong. They’ve changed radically during the long separation. They have to start all over. It’s surprising, irritating—and somehow very exciting…

REVIEW: John and Mary Bexler were only married for a month before he was sent off for two years with a diplomatic group to China.  Not having much time to really get to know one another, John’s return has really put a strain on their relationship.

Mary spent the time that John was gone as a companion to her Aunt Lavinia trying to help her but sadly watching as she slowly descended into dementia.  During this time, Mary has grown by learning to run her aunt’s home and become a mature and somewhat independent woman.  She has also had time to indulge her passion for drawing.  She has a special talent for being able to look at a person and see deep into them and then transform their “real” face to paper. Mary’s ability to draw faces becomes both a good and bad thing in the story.  To give out more information would be a spoiler.

John has matured as well and has worked hard to establish himself in the diplomatic scene.  He chose this route in life after being constantly put down by his two older brothers as they thought he needed to just work for them.  Because of this, he still does not have a lot of self-confidence.  He is also afraid that Mary may not fit into his diplomatic circles and is now questioning his marriage.  He sees how she has matured and has developed a take-charge way about her from her responsibilities caring for her aunt. John sees this as somewhat threatening to him.

John begins making nightly forays into seedy areas of London trying to search for information.  (This actual reasoning isn’t made very clear in the story.)  When Mary discovers this, she is upset and worried and John retaliated by arguing with her.

Mary is a strong character, but John comes across as a man who is still smarting from his brothers’ treatment of him and has yet to form a backbone and self-confidence.

The story is one that I’m sure many couples today face after a long absence from one another, i.e., after military deployments.  It surely must take a while for each other to settle back into their relationship.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘True Sisters’ by Sandra Dallas

ts sdSTORY: In 1856, Mormon converts, encouraged by Brigham Young himself, and outfitted with two-wheeled handcarts, set out on foot from Iowa City to Salt Lake City, the promised land. The Martin Handcart Company, a ragtag group of weary families headed for Zion, is the last to leave on this 1,300-mile journey. Three companies that left earlier in the year have completed their trek successfully, but for the Martin Company the trip proves disastrous. True Sisters tells the story of four women from the British Isles traveling in this group. Four women whose lives will become inextricably linked as they endure unimaginable hardships, each one testing the boundaries of her faith and learning the true meaning of survival and friendship along the way.

There’s Nannie, who is traveling with her sister and brother-in-law after being abandoned on her wedding day.

There’s Louisa, who’s married to an overbearing church leader who she believes speaks for God.

There’s Jessie, who’s traveling with her brothers, each one of them dreaming of the farm they will have in Zion.

And finally, there’s Anne, who hasn’t converted to Mormonism but who has no choice but to follow her husband since he has sold everything to make the trek to Utah.

REVIEW: It was extremely well written and kept my interest all the way through it. The story takes place in 1856 and is based on the true story of newly converted Mormons from England. It follows them on their journey by ship across the Atlantic to the U.S. and by pushing their belongs via handcarts from Iowa 1,300 miles to Salt Lake City, Utah. The deplorable conditions, bad weather, lack of food, clothing and medical care tests their faith to the extreme.

Their amazing strength and determination to reach their Zion is described by the author and the characters committed to their goal. I admit that I had mixed feelings reading this book. A part of me wondered why on Earth anyone would put themselves through this while another part of me admired their unfailing determination. I do hope that readers read this book for what I think is the reason is was written which is to portray especially the strength of women in this journey.

I am not a Mormon and do not necessarily support their religion, however, I feel that everyone has a right to worship in their own way.

Connie for b2b

I was lucky enough to win an ARC of this book from Bookreporter.com.

‘Wicked My Love’ by Susanna Ives

wml siSTORY: A smooth-talking rogue and a dowdy financial genius…

Handsome, silver-tongued politician Lord Randall doesn’t get along with his bank partner, the financially brilliant but hopelessly frumpish Isabella St. Vincent. Ever since she was his childhood nemesis, he’s tried—and failed—to get the better of her.

Make a perfectly wicked combination…

When both Randall’s political career and their mutual bank interests are threatened by scandal, he has to admit he needs Isabella’s help. They set off on a madcap scheme to set matters right. With her wits and his charm, what could possibly go wrong? Only a volatile mutual attraction that’s catching them completely off guard…

REVIEW: Isabella St Vincent and Viscount Randall have known and disliked one another since they were children. Their fathers formed a bank together many years ago which has been quite successful.  Isabella is a tall, intelligent, clumsy, no-nonsense, and unfashionable 29-year-old woman who wears glasses.  Randall is a handsome, happy-go-lucky guy always looking to carry on his tradition of teasing Isabella.  When their fathers passed away, the two of them inherited the bank.

Isabella figures she will never marry and is happy to be a member of the Mary Wollstonecraft’s Society Against the Injurious Treatment of Women Whose Rights Have Been Unjustly Usurped by the Tyrannical and Ignorant Regime of the Male Kind.

This only adds to Randall’s amusement and teasing of Isabella.

When Isabella and Randall discover that an employee of the bank may have purchased fraudulent stocks, they are afraid that it may mean certain ruin for the bank.  Thus, they take off on a venture to find this scoundrel and hopefully save the bank.

Their madcap adventures start out as rather humorous but quickly become somewhat overdone.  Yes, there are a lot of very funny parts, however for me, the excessive vulgar language seems totally out of place for the time period and tends to distract from the reader’s believability of the characters.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Soldier’s Dark Secret’ by Marguerite Kaye

tsds mkSTORY: The truth behind the hero Officer Jack Trestain may have been one of Wellington’s most valued code-breakers, but since Waterloo, he’s hung up his uniform. If only he could just as easily put aside the tortured memories he carries deep within; Perhaps enchanting French artist Celeste Marmion might be the distraction he so desperately craves?

Except Celeste harbors secrets of her own, and questions that she needs Jack’s help to solve! With Celeste’s every touch an exquisite temptation, how close can Jack get without revealing his darkest secret of all?

REVIEW: England – August 1815

Jack Trestain is a highly decorated an admired code-breaker who has just returned from fighting against Napoleon.  He is living with his brother, Charlie, and family at their home, Trestain Manor.  Charlie has inherited the home and title from their father and he and his wife have been working hard to re-do the home and the grounds.  Jack is having a difficult time settling back home.  Nightmares of the things he has seen and experienced during the war fill his nights leaving him exhausted and with a constant feeling of guilt.

Celeste Marmion is an artist raised in France and has been commissioned by Charlie Trestain to paint the gardens of Trestain Manor before its planned transformation.  Celeste was sent to school at age 10 by her mother who was always indifferent to her.  Her mother’s essential desertion has always hurt and troubled Celeste and now she is on a mission to find out more about her.  She uses her talent of painting to make money to support herself.

As a guest at the manor, Celeste and Jack meet and are almost instantly attracted to one another.  They each recognize the other as someone who is suffering from bad experiences in their pasts which only draws them closer together.  When Celeste shares a letter with Jack she had received from her estranged mother, Jack quickly agrees to accompany her to France to work with the clues they have to solve the mystery of her mother’s past.

These characters are brilliantly written to reveal two wounded people looking to one another for solace. Celeste is hurting because she feels her mother never loved her and Jack feels a terrible guilt for people he may have harmed or was unable to help save during the war.

Once again, the author has created a novel that has obviously been researched in-depth to share with the reader not only a great story but the history of the war itself.  I know readers will enjoy Jack and Celeste’s story and finish the novel with a feeling of satisfaction having read a story that will long remain with them.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘What a Devilish Duke Desires’ by Vicky Dreiling

Dreiling_What a Devilish Duke Desires_MM

STORY: Will A Few Flirtatious Steps

Harry Norcliffe never wanted to inherit his beloved uncle’s title. The rigidity of the ton, the incessant reminders from his marriage-minded mama that he must settle down with a highborn lady and produce an heir and a spare: it’s all such a dreadful bore. So when his mother asks him to take part in a dancing competition, he patently refuses. The last thing he needs is another chore . . . until a beautiful, brilliant, delightfully tempting maid makes him rethink his position.

Lead To A Scandalous Seduction?

Most women would be over the moon to be pursued by a wickedly handsome-not to mention wealthy-duke like Norcliffe. But Lucy will not be any man’s trophy. She could use a friend, though, and what begins innocently soon ignites into desire. As Lucy tries to resist Harry’s scorching kisses, he makes an utterly irresistible offer. Enter the dance contest with him, and win a prize that could change her life forever . . . if falling in love doesn’t change it first.

REVIEW: What a Devilish Duke Desires’ is Vicky Dreiling’s third story in her Sinful Scoundrels series and a really sweet romance. This was Harry’s story and if you’ve read the previous two books, you’ll remember Harry as a young man who Earl of Bellingham literally “fished” out from the Thames and befriended. The story is a stand alone, but if you do have a chance to read the other two, you’ll appreciate his back story that much more.

In this story we see Harry coping with his beloved uncle’s death and newly acquired title, as well as with society in general. He manages to navigate the latter but when it comes to dealing with his mother, he is having a hard time putting her off and letting her know in no uncertain terms that when it comes to his marital state, he is well capable of taking care of it all on his own.

Lucy, a commoner living with her grandmother in a part of London that isn’t all that safe, is a hard-working young woman who at the start of the story loses her full-time job as a seamstress and now has to relay on her part-time position of a dance instructor’s assistant. When the said instructor shows up drunk and is called out by the lady who hired him to teach her young girls dancing, our heroine is devastated because she is expecting to be dismissed as well. But the opposite happens, and now she is being helped by the grand lady in teaching not just her girls but other members of the ton as well.

I find stories about aristocracy mixing with commoners to be a hard sell, yet Ms. Dreiling is a master of her craft and I should have had more faith in her storytelling.

I loved these two so much. Both were so sweet and so innocent yet when push came to shove, both showed how strong they can be. It was so much fun watching these two come together!

For a story filled with fun dialogue and a unique plot, don’t look no further.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘At His Command: Historical Romance Version’ by Ruth Kaufman

ahc rkSTORY: Could she defy her king for love? England 1453: King Henry VI sends Sir Nicholas Gray to protect the recently widowed Lady Amice Winfield from undesirable suitors. Though Nicholas intrigues her, she yearns to run Castle Rising without a man’s control.
Nicholas has no interest in marriage, but can’t deny he’s attracted to Amice. He’s surprised to finally find in Castle Rising a place he feels at home.

A kiss sparks desire neither can ignore, yet serving opposing factions seeking to govern England threatens to pull them apart. At court, the king and queen reject Amice’s pleas and choose a new husband for her, a highly-ranked lord who’ll provide connections and coin for the king’s depleted coffers that Nicholas cannot.

How can she follow the king’s command when she’s a scribe for his rival? How can she marry another man when she’s falling in love with Nicholas?

ahc2 rkREVIEW: Medievals are not my usual fare, as you know. I’m more of a Regency/Victorian era chick. However, this book’s blurb intrigued almost as much as the fact that the author is offering her readers two versions of it, one with and the other without sexual content. I opted to read the one with ;)

I must admit that after I was done reading it, I wondered why I am not reading this particular genre more often. There’s something mystical in a good medieval romance. I credit the authors prose and wonderful descriptions of knights and court life, which have drawn me into another time and place. What an awesome way to learn History! One of the great things about this book was the way it showed the intrigue of the court of Henry VI.

Reading this book was like watching a movie. All the historical details enhanced the intriguing plot, while the relationship between our hero and heroine kept the story moving at a fast pace. While the story is very detailed, it never detracts from the storyline, but rather adds to it and makes it more real.

This is Ruth Kaufman’s debut novel and a wonderful start to a series. She gave us two complex and intriguing characters as well as an interesting and entertaining plot, and mixed with some historical figures of that era, this was a fascinating read.

And if a book lingers in my mind for more than two weeks, then I say the author has certainly deserved to be put on my keeper shelf.

Melanie for b2b