‘An Affair with a Notorious Heiress’ by Lorraine Heath

aawanh lhSTORY: The son of a duke and an infamous mother, Alistair Mabry, Marquess of Rexton, fought his way to respectability. Now, the most eligible bachelor in London, marriage-shy Rexton will take only a wife with an impeccable reputation, good breeding, and a penchant for staying out of the gossip sheets. But when he strikes a deal to be seen “courting” a sweet young debutante whose notorious older sister has blemished her chances for marriage, Rexton is unexpectedly drawn to the highly inappropriate, calamitous Tillie, Lady Landsdowne herself.

After a scandalous incident that sent shockwaves throughout society and disgraced her, Tillie refuses to cower in the face of the ton. Instead, she will hold her head high as she serves as chaperone for her younger sister, but Tillie is convinced Rexton’s courtship is shrouded with secrets—ones she vows to uncover. However, doing so requires getting dangerously close to the devilishly handsome and forbidden marquess…

REVIEW: This is book four in Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series but can be read as standalone. This latest series might be familiar to her fans because the heroes in the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James first appeared in the Scoundrels of St. James series. Please note that you can enjoy the Scandalous Gents without having read their parents’ stories, yet once you read Gents, I have no doubt you’ll be tracking the Scoundrels and enjoy them as much, if not more so.

As the story opens, our hero, Rexton may not be all we’re used to in Alpha males, but as the plot develops so does his character, and by the book’s end, I guarantee you’ll fall in love with him almost as much as our heroine did.

Tillie and Rex’s story has everything you want in a romance, and then some. Their chemistry from the moment they meet is scorching and their dialogue was so much fun to read.

I am a huge fan of Lorraine Heath and I’ve read almost all of her books. Her books are on my Keeper shelf because regardless of the genre she writes about, be it a western, regency or Victorian, she manages to suck me in.

Even though the romance is slow building, I found the pace to be fast and all the characters well developed.

High marks and highly recommended!

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review

Spotlight on Janna MacGregor and ‘The Bad Luck Bride’!

blb

blb jgBOOK BLURB: All were shocked at the announcement of the “cursed” Lady Claire Cavensham to Lord Alexander Hallworth, the Marquess of Pembrooke, especially since she is already engaged to another unfortunate Lord. Perhaps she will make it to the altar this time with one of these fine gentlemen! —Midnight Cryer

No one is left breathless at the imperious pronouncement of her engagement to Lord Pembrooke more than Claire. She hardly knows the dangerously outrageous man! But after three engagements gone awry and a fourth going up in glorious flames, she isn’t in a position to refuse…especially once she realizes that Lord Pembrooke makes her want to believe she’s not a bad luck bride anymore…

Alexander requires the hand of his enemy’s fiancée in marriage in order to complete his plans for revenge. It’s his good fortune that the “cursed” woman is desperate. However, what begins as a sham turns into something scandalously deeper. The beguiling lady has no business laying claim to his heart. But as a mission of revenge turns into fiery passion, Alexander wants nothing more than to break Claire’s curse…and lead them both to their hearts’ desire.

BUY LINKS: AmazonBNGoogle PlayiBooksIndieboundKobo

EXCERPT:

Alex smiled in earnest. “I would never allow you to be humiliated in front of society. I’m trying to help you.” Somehow, he had to convince her of that fact, then the idea of marrying him would be much easier to accept.

She blinked rapidly, then turned back to him and, for an instant, appeared startled to see him there. “That’s very gallant, my lord. Truly, thank you for the effort. But I must leave.”

This night could not end with her escaping, so he tried another tactic. “You need to protect your Wrenwood estate and your wealth from lechers who would feed upon your vulnerability. Not to mention stop that ridiculous curse.”

“I have two.” She held up two gloved fingers.

“Two? Two what? Curses?” No one at his club had uttered a peep about another curse.

“Estates. I have two estates, Wrenwood and Lockhart.” She returned his stare.

Her answer was unexpected, but his business experience had taught him to show nothing. The report from his private investigator had not mentioned additional properties. Thoughts were percolating if she chose to disclose this information.

A razor of lightning split the sky. She flinched and took a step closer to him, but her reaction had nothing to do with him. It was the storm.

Her gaze darted to the exit of the alcove, then she returned her attention to him. With a slight shrug of her shoulders, his evening jacket fell into her hands. She offered it to him. “My lord, good night.” Outside their hideaway, the voices of a man and a woman floated in the air.

Alex put his hand on her shoulder to prevent her escape. “Will you give me some assistance? I seem to have lost my valet.” He quirked an eyebrow. “Besides, if you leave now, whoever is out there will see us.”

She ventured a halfhearted grin and held his jacket in two hands. With a little persistence, he wrestled his way into the evening coat. Her hands smoothed the material across his shoulders and back, causing a pleasant sensation to cascade through him at the slight touch.

Claire took several steps toward the pathway. In a flash, he moved beside her and grasped her elbow. When he brought her close, something flared between them as he gazed into her haunted eyes. Whether the desire to keep her next to him was passion or the need to protect a vulnerable woman made little difference. He pulled her into the shadows and brought his mouth to her ear. “Wait until they pass.” The warmth from her skin beckoned.

A flash of lightning lit the gardens and the alcove.

With a gentle hand, he pushed her against the wall and stood to the side so he blocked her body from view.

A clap of thunder cracked as if the sky were breaking. It rolled into a loud rumble that refused to die.

“Please.” Her whisper grew ragged as she struggled for breath. In one fluid motion, she pulled the lapels of his evening coat toward her. She buried her face against his chest and pressed the rest of her body to his, almost as if she sought sanctuary inside. “Don’t leave me.” Her voice had weakened, the sound fragile, as if she’d break into a million pieces.

“I won’t. I promise.” Alex pulled her tight. One hand sank into the soft satin of her skirts while the other slid around the nape of her neck to hold her close to his chest. It was the most natural thing in the world to hold her. Her body fit perfectly against his.

With the slightest movement, she pulled away. Her eyes wildly searched his. For what, he couldn’t fathom.

He lowered his mouth until his lips were mere inches from tasting her. Madness had consumed him. All he wanted was to kiss her thoroughly until she forgot her fear—until she forgot everything but him.

Her breath mingled with his, and the slight moan that escaped her was intoxicating. Nothing in his entire life felt as right as this moment. He bent to brush his lips against hers.

“Pembrooke? Have you seen Lady—”

Claire leaned back and released his lapels. Without her warmth, he experienced a sudden loss of equilibrium. He turned with a snarl to greet the intruders.

Immediately, Lord Fredrick Honeycutt and his sister, Lady Sophia, took a step back as their eyes grew round as dinner plates.

The first to recover, Honeycutt announced, “I see you found Lady Claire.” He bowed his head slightly, then lowered his voice. “The Duke of Langham is looking for his niece and is directly behind us.”

A sense of wariness flooded Alex’s mind when Claire’s uncle strolled forward and came into sharp focus. As he stood, his feet spread shoulder width apart, the duke’s presence commanded everyone’s attention. His visage held the hint of a smile, but the two large fists resting by his sides were the real barometer of his mood. “Claire, are you all right?” The affection in his voice was at odds with the fury flashing in his eyes.

REVIEW: This is a debut book of author Janna MacGregor and as such, its prose and plot were surprisingly very good. If you’re expecting a contemporary telling of a historical fiction story, you’ll not get it.

As revenge tropes go, this was told well and while I’m not a huge fan of this particular trope, I thought the author handled the story well thus giving me characters I came to like regardless of their deception.

Besides revenge, you’ll find deceit and  betrayal as well as the “curse” that our bride was under, so get ready for a fast paced story with plenty of chemistry between Alex and Claire.

If you’re on the lookout for a new author, I think you should give Janna MacGregor a try.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

jmgAUTHOR BIO: Janna MacGregor was born and raised in the bootheel of Missouri. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes.

She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and two smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pugs. She loves to hear from readers. The Bad Luck Bride is her first novel.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Website / Twitter / Facebook /

‘Goodnight from London’ by Jennifer Robson

gfl jrSTORY: Ruby Sutton gets her big break: the chance to report on the European war as a staff writer for Picture Weekly newsmagazine in London. She jumps at the chance, for it’s an opportunity not only to prove herself, but also to start fresh in a city and country that know nothing of her humble origins. But life in besieged Britain tests Ruby in ways she never imagined.

Although most of Ruby’s new colleagues welcome her, a few resent her presence, not only as an American but also as a woman. She is just beginning to find her feet, to feel at home in a country that is so familiar yet so foreign, when the bombs begin to fall.

As the nightly horror of the Blitz stretches unbroken into weeks and months, Ruby must set aside her determination to remain an objective observer. When she loses everything but her life, and must depend upon the kindness of strangers, she learns for the first time the depth and measure of true friendship—and what it is to love a man who is burdened by secrets that aren’t his to share.

REVIEW: Here I go again! I’m on a role with this genre  😉 WWII stories and movies are my latest obsession. But not all are well researched, plotted and written as I’m finding out. Not this story though! I liked this one a lot and there was a lot to like.

The heroine Ruby caught my interest from the first page,  and the plot of an American woman reporter going to London as WWII approaches was intriguing, as much as our heroine’s past. As our heroine get’s to know her new surroundings, we are right beside her as author’s wonderful prose and research shines through and sucks us in as Ruby tries to survive and at times thrive as her new life takes root.

The novel is well written and researched and the romance between Bennett and Ruby was sweet and relatable because it moved at a realistic pace, regardless of war and its horrors. I also liked a slew of supporting cast, from Kaz to Vanessa, but it’s the descriptions of the ravished city that touched me the most.

At ground level, near what once may have been a set of stairs, a group of men in steel helmets and boiler suits were pulling at the debris, shovels at the ready, their muttered instructions to one another barely audible above an undercurrent of noise that Ruby didn’t at first recognize. It was sort of low, keening cry, reminiscent of an animal in distress, and it made the hair on her nape stand on end and her breath catch at her throat.

She turned her head this way and that, trying to discern what she heard, and then she realized it was coming from the people around her, men and women alike, some of them covering their mouths with their hands to contain their horror.

The sound rose and rose, and then the crowd parted before her, and she stood and watched mutely as two men shuffled past with a stretcher. On it was a blanket-draped body, far too small to be that of an adult, and as the men stepped free of the debris the blanket shifted, only to reveal a tiny shoe, its leather wizened and twisted by fire and water …

The horror of that one shoe fell on her, a body blow that stole the breath from her lungs. She took a step back, closed her eyes, but the image would not flee, it was still there even in the darkness. She could see it, see the child’s little foot, so still and cold. How was she ever to wipe such sight from her mind?

This story is heart wrenching and heartwarming and I highly recommend it.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Jane Austen Project’ by Kathleen A. Flynn

jap kafSTORY: England, 1815: Two travelers—Rachel Katzman and Liam Finucane—arrive in a field, disheveled and weighed down with hidden money. They are not what they seem, but colleagues from a technologically advanced future, posing as a doctor and his spinster sister. While Rachel and Liam aren’t the first team of time travelers, their mission is the most audacious yet: meet, befriend, and steal from Jane Austen.

Carefully selected and rigorously trained by The Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics, disaster-relief doctor Rachel and actor-turned-scholar Liam have little in common excerpt their extraordinary circumstances. Circumstances that call for Rachel to stifle her independent nature and let Liam take the lead as they infiltrate Austen’s circle via her favorite brother, Henry.

But diagnosing Jane’s fatal illness and obtaining an unpublished novel hinted at in her letters pose enough of a challenge without the convolutions of living a lie. While her friendship with Jane deepens and her relationship with Liam grows complicated, Rachel fights to reconcile her true self with the constrictions of 19th century society. As their portal to the future prepares to close, Rachel and Liam struggle with their directive to leave history as they found it…however heartbreaking that proves.

REVIEW: I honestly didn’t expect that this story would grab my imagination as much as it did. I’m a fan of Jane Austen and her amazing stories and am really glad to have read this mind boggling tale.

There’s so much I loved about this book, from an impeccable research to complexity of the plot and characterization, I thought the author did a magnificent job in catapulting me into Jane Austen world.

If you’re a fan of Jane Austen, SyFy and if you like reads that would make you wonder “what if …” this is a must for you. Highly recommend it!

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Alice Network’ by Kate Quinn

tan kqSTORY: 1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth …no matter where it leads.

REVIEW: I’m a huge fan of WWII movies (The Poet; Shining Through; Anthropoid and many more), so I thought to try and check out some WW books and see if I’d like them too.

What I liked a lot about this story was a couple of things, characters and the setting was a given as soon as I started to read this story, but what wasn’t obvious was how dark and at the same time, humorous it was. It really encompassed the whole of humanity and I liked that very much.

The story jumps between after WWII and a year into WWI. The connection between the two heroines was perfectly plotted and I was at the edge of my seat as I second guessed every clue I was given by the author.

I adored Charlie St. Clair and Eve Gardiner was someone who impressed the hell out of me.

If you’re looking for a gripping, suspenseful and hear breaking and heart warming story, look no further.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Devil in Spring’ by Lisa Kleypas

diw lkSTORY: An eccentric wallflower…

Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger.

A cynical rake…

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St.Devil-in-Spring-1 Vincent, has finally been caught-by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.

A perilous plot…

After succumbing to Gabriel’s skilled and sensuous persuasion, Pandora agrees to become his bride. But soon she discovers that her entrepreneurial endeavors have accidentally involved her in a dangerous conspiracy-and only her husband can keep her safe. As Gabriel protects her from their unknown adversaries, they realize their devil’s bargain may just turn out to be a match made in heaven…

REVIEW: ‘Devil in Spring’ is Lisa Kleypas’s third story in her latest historical series, The Ravenels and this is Pandora and Gabriel’s happily ever after. If you’ve never read ‘Devil in Winter’, a story of Gabriel’s parents, then you’ve missed out on one of the best romance novels ever written. However, you don’t have to have read it to get the gist of this story and Gabriel’s character.

He is someone who grew up knowing his destiny and duty of one day becoming a duke, yet the love of his parents had allowed him the freedom to play the field and at the moment we meet him, his parents are not happy with him because he is having an affair with a married woman. He, on the other hand, is very happy with the situation and doesn’t have plans of breaking it off any time soon. That is until he crosses paths with our heroine and they get caught in a compromising position.

As for our heroine, Pandora, we’ve had a pleasure of meeting her from the start of this series and out of all the Ravenel’s, she stood out the most because of her unique outlook on life. I believe all Ravenel’s sisters have had a hard upbringing, but Pandora was a precocious child and she bore the brunt of her father’s anger the most. She is finally coming into her own and with help from her brother in law, looking forward to being a business woman. She never planed on marriage and a husband because she doesn’t want to give up her freedoms. All that changes after they’re caught.

What I loved about this story the most are the characters of Gabriel and Pandora and the way they handled the situation they found themselves in. I loved the courting and enjoyed the banter. I was happy when they entered into marriage without the “convenience” being any part of it. I reveled in Gabriel’s confusion of trying to figure out who this girl was.

“His annoyance drained away, displaced by a rampage of heat and delight. His heart began to thump with the force of his need to be alone with her. To be inside all that energy. Everything in him had just ignited like a bonfire of cotton sedge. He wanted her, wanted her, with all the reckless, self-indulgent desire he usually managed to keep contained. But it made no sense. He was a civilized man, an experienced one with sophisticated tastes, and she was . . . holy God, what was she?”

What I had a bit of a problem with was big enough to make me enjoy this story less. When I’m taken on a ride, I’d like to finish that ride with a bang, and having us witness all the trials and tribulations of these two awesome characters, I feel that the author had let me down in not taking me into the wedding ceremony itself. One moment they’re engaged and the next, in a carriage going to their honeymoon destination.

The secondary plot made sense only because of the further introduction of the young copper with Ravenel’s eyes, otherwise was wasted on me.

Should you read it? You bet! It looks like Lisa Kleypas is back to writing historical novel’s and I am glad for it.

Let me also suggest the audio for this story. I kept going between the two and I must say the narrator, Mary Jane Wells, rocks!

Melanie for b2b

‘The Dressmaker’s Dowry’ by Meredith Jaeger

tdd-mjSTORY: An exquisite ring, passed down through generations, connects two women who learn that love is a choice, and forgiveness is the key to freedom…

San Francisco: 1876

Immigrant dressmakers Hannelore Schaeffer and Margaret O’Brien struggle to provide food for their siblings, while mending delicate clothing for the city’s most affluent ladies. When wealthy Lucas Havensworth enters the shop, Hanna’s future is altered forever. With Margaret’s encouragement and the power of a borrowed green dress, Hanna dares to see herself as worthy of him. Then Margaret disappears, and Hanna turns to Lucas. Braving the gritty streets of the Barbary Coast and daring to enter the mansions of Nob Hill, Hanna stumbles upon Margaret’s fate, forcing her to make a devastating decision…one that will echo through the generations.

San Francisco: Present Day

In her elegant Marina apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Sarah Havensworth struggles to complete the novel she quit her job for. Afraid to tell her husband of her writer’s block, Sarah is also hiding a darker secret—one that has haunted her for 14 years. Then a news headline from 1876 sparks inspiration: Missing Dressmakers Believed to be Murdered. Compelled to discover what happened to Hannelore and Margaret, Sarah returns to her roots as a journalist. Will her beautiful heirloom engagement ring uncover a connection to Hanna Schaeffer?

REVIEW: Sarah Havensworth, age 30, and her husband, Hunter, are at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco attending a fancy charity event hosted by Sarah’s mother-in-law, Gwyneth. Sarah does not care for mingling with large crowds of people but when Gwyneth asks for her help with these charity events, she knows she cannot refuse.

Sarah’s master’s thesis is due soon. It consists of a novel she hasn’t finished writing due to writer’s block. She is more interested in the history of San Francisco and has written many well-received articles along that line. When she searches for stories of old San Francisco, she discovers one about two missing dressmakers in the late 19th century. The girls were thought to have been murdered. Thus begins Sarah’s story.

Hannalore Schaffer – San Francisco – 1876

Hanna and her siblings are at the mercy of their drunken father. He takes what little money they earn and then beats them. Often, Hanna will go hungry so her siblings can eat. Hanna works as a seamstress at a tailor’s shop and hides some of the money she makes under a floorboard at home. She hopes to save enough to run away with her siblings.

Margaret O’Brien works with Hanna and is in a similar situation having the responsibility for the care of her many siblings.

One day, two gentlemen come into the shop for repairs to some clothes. Their names are Lucas Havensworth and his cousin, Robert. Lucas is very kind to the girls but Robert is arrogant with them.

One Sunday afternoon, Margaret and Hanna meet to enjoy a few hours walking around San Francisco. There, they see Lucas and Robert who stop and talk to them. As the two men prepare to depart in a carriage, a drunk man accosts Hanna and Margaret, but Lucas intervenes and punches the man. The man becomes very angry and swears he will kill the girls one day.

The story switches back and forth from 1876 to present day San Francisco. We see the very desperate way many people in the city lived and how they struggled. We also see the enormous amount of drinking and opium places and the people addicted to them. As Sarah delves further into researching what happened to the girls, she finds she being threatened by someone who doesn’t want her to find out the truth. In addition, she is hiding something very awful from her own past.

For some reason, this book just didn’t grab me as being realistic. I’m not sure I can say that I would care to recommend the book. I believe this is the author’s first novel so I look forward to reading what she writes next as I think every author needs second chances.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b