‘When a Scot Ties the Knot’ by Tessa Dare

wasttk tdSTORY: On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.

REVIEW: Miss Madeline Gracechurch has always been a shy, retiring girl who would prefer to sketch anything and everything all day. She has never learned to dance and eschews social events. So, as a young lady of fifteen vacationing in Bath, she decided to make up a suitor. She named him Captain MacKenzie from Scotland. Her story is she met him in Bath, they fell in love and he headed to war. She has written many letters to him and mailed them thinking they would end up somewhere in a black hole. This idea has been wonderful for her because with this suitor, she does not have to attend the functions that she dislikes and is allowed to draw all day and write letters to the imaginary Captain. After some years have passed, Madeline decides to get rid of the Captain saying he was killed in the war. She even goes as far as to wear mourning for him. When she “graduates” to the gray color of mourning, she and her aunt move to a castle in Scotland left to her by a relative.

Life in Scotland for Madeline is wonderful. She gets to draw lots of insects and other animals all day and is content. So, when a tall, handsome Scot comes to call and introduces himself as Captain MacKenzie, she is taken aback. Oh, good grief, what is she to do now? He has her letters and tells her he is there to marry her as outlined in the letters and the marriage needs to take place immediately.

Captain MacKenzie has enjoyed the letters he has received all these years and they have been a lifeline for keeping him alive. He has brought several of his men with him and they want to settle right in the area near the castle.

What is Madeline going to do now? Her perfect world has come crashing down. How does she get rid of this man and get her letters back too so he can have no proof of her deception?

This was a cute novel and I enjoyed it very much. My only complaint was that I felt the “catch me if you can” was a bit long, drawn out, and repetitious.

Connie for b2b

‘Longing’ by Mary Balogh

l mbSTORY: Governess and mistress—he wanted her as both.…

The illegitimate daughter of an English lord, Sian Jones abandoned her heritage to live in a stalwart coal mining community in South Wales. Empowered by their cause, she’s engaged to be married to the leader of a revolutionary movement that is bracing itself against the tyranny of English mine owners. But Sian’s principles are unexpectedly shaken when she accepts a job as governess under Alexander Hyatt, the mysterious Marquess of Craille, the oppressive symbol of everything she has come to resist.

She never expected Alexander to upend all her expectations. He is sympathetic to her cause. He is a loving father. A man of wealth and position, he is fatally attractive. And he is offering his heart to the independent woman who has illuminated his life. Now, caught between two worlds, and between the promises and desires of two men, Sian must make a choice that will define her future—one that can only be made in the name of love.…

REVIEW: Sian Jones is a young widow who lives with her grandparents in a coal mining town in Wales.  Her husband died in a mine accident and she herself works underground at a very exhausting job.  Her mother had been the mistress of a wealthy English Lord who is also Sian’s biological father.  Being illegitimate, he never claimed her as his daughter.  However, as she was growing up, she had access to a very good education.

Alexander (Alex) Hyatt, Marquess of Craille, is a widower with a young daughter named Verity.  As the owner of the town’s coal mine, he feels that it is time for him to come to Wales and learn more about the mine and in running it.

Almost all of the citizens of the town work in the mine for wages that barely support them, but find their joy in their church and in singing.  So, when Alex is forced to vote with other mine owners to reduce the wages of the workers ten percent to make up for losses in the market, the hardship suffered by the workers is heavy and resentment against the owners continues to grow.

Alex needs a governess for his daughter and having met Sian out on the hills walking, he offers her the job.  After much hesitancy, she accepts and proves to be a wonderful teacher and Verity loves her so much.  Alex’s attraction to Sian grows and he wants nothing more than for her to stay at the castle and be his mistress and mother to Verity.

Sian loves Alex too but cannot accept his offer.  Even though Sian is the daughter of a Lord, she is still illegitimate and will not accept being a mistress as her mother had been.  In addition, the citizens of the town do not like Sian working for Alex.

This novel gives an in-depth history of Wales, the people and their deep love for their home and for each other.  We see what happens when the workers call for a strike against working in the mine and how they are pressured by a group of unknown men called the Scotch Cattle that pressured people via beatings to join the Chartists to push the government to give into some of their demands.

I enjoyed the story but I felt at times that it was a little long.  However, as the beloved author, Mary Balogh, was born in Wales, I think this book was written as a tribute to her roots and congratulate her on this magnificent saga.

Connie for b2b

‘Groom by Design’ by Christine Johnson

gbd cjSTORY: The Dressmaker’s Daughters: Pursuing their dreams a stitch at a time

Her Heart and Her Business Are on the Line

Dressmaker Ruth Fox gave up her dream of a husband and children long ago. Her family’s floundering dress shop, her ailing father and her two younger sisters require Ruth’s full attention. Though the handsome new stranger in town is intriguing, Ruth is certain he wouldn’t look twice at a plain spinster of twenty-six.

Sam Rothenburg’s connection with the shy young woman next door is immediate, but he knows Ruth will be crushed when she discovers his real purpose in town. Sam is secretly working to open one of his father’s large department stores in Pearlman, Michigan, which will surely put Ruth out of business. How much is Sam willing to sacrifice to claim Ruth’s heart?

REVIEW: Pearlman, Michigan – 1923

Ruth Fox, age 26, is a very skilled dressmaker at the family’s Fox Dress Shop.  Her older sister, Beatrice, married Blake Kensington whose family was very wealthy in town.  There are two younger sisters, Jen and Minnie.  Mr. Fox has been ill with a weak heart for some time and is a patient at a sanitarium.  Mrs. Fox is staying there with her husband.  Ruth has worked very hard to run the shop and make money for the family’s dwindling finances.  Beatrice wants so much to help her family but her husband refuses to provide any funds to do so.

Sam Rothenburg is in town to build Hutton’s Department Store just next door to the Fox Dress Shop. Sam’s father is a wealthy man who has made his money in many ruthless ways.  Sam works for his father building department stores.  The fact that a department store will be built in town has been kept a secret.  Most people think it will be another type of store.  Sam’s father’s goal is to buy the Fox Dress Shop and then close it down.

When Sam and Ruth accidentally run into one another, Sam introduces himself as simply Sam Roth not wanting her to know who he really is.  He is smitten with her and would love to see her use her talents as a dressmaker in his new store.  Ruth is attracted to Sam but doesn’t feel as though she can think of anything but trying to pay the late mortgage bills and keep the shop open.  She feels she cannot think of herself and her own future until her father is well and the shop financially stable once again.

When Sam’s father comes to town to criticize him on his handling of the soon-to-be open store, Sam realizes that he has simply become his father’s puppet and refuses to bow to the man’s demands.  Sam cares about Ruth and her family and does not want to see them lose their livelihood.

Will Sam and Ruth be able to work through the problems they both have with their families and find a way to have a future for themselves?  This is a sweet story with a lot angst experienced by the characters.

Connie for b2b

‘Love’s Rescue’ by Christine Johnson

lr cjSTORY: When her mother dies, Elizabeth Benjamin heads home to Key West, determined to transform herself into the perfect Southern belle her parents always wished her to be. But nothing goes according to plan. Her crippled brother resents her, the servants do not obey her, and Rourke O’Malley, the dashing man she vowed to forget, refuses to relinquish his hold on her heart. Worst of all, it becomes painfully obvious that her father is not the upright man he appears to be.

As family secrets come to light, Elizabeth is faced with a difficult choice: to do her duty and abandon her dreams, or to leave her life of privilege behind to chase the man her father sees as little better than a pirate.

From the first emotional page, author Christine Johnson throws readers into a world of impossible choices, hidden desires, and heart-melting romance in the steamy south. Readers will cheer for Elizabeth and Rourke as they battle the odds and the elements to secure their future.

REVIEW: Key West, Florida 1846

When Elizabeth Benjamin was due to sail to Charleston to find a suitable match, she did not want to leave without saying goodbye to Captain Rourke O’Malley who owned a wrecker boat.  She had known and loved him for a long time, however, her father does not approve of wreckers.  Pressing through a storm and taking her 11-year-old brother, Charlie, with her, she soon was overcome by the flooding waters and Charlie became trapped.  Luckily, Rourke was nearby and rescued them both but Charlie’s legs were injured and left useless.


Elizabeth’s mother has passed away in Key West and Elizabeth decides to return home.  After four years, Elizabeth has not found a man who could compare to Rourke.  Her overbearing Great-Aunt and her black maid, a slave, Anabelle, are accompanying her.  During the harrowing trip home, her ship is caught on a reef just off Key West and Rourke manages to rescue them.

Once home, Elizabeth finds her father and brother unwelcoming to her.  She also finds that she is the heir to a small fortune left to her by her mother.  However, to receive it, she must marry someone approved by her family.  The man her father has chosen is Percival Finch, a man she finds completely offensive.  Elizabeth loves one man only and that is Rourke.

The story continues with the owner of the ship that Rourke rescued and a fight over Rourke’s claim of some of the cargo.  We also find that Anabelle has been married to John, a free man and Rourke’s partner.  John wants his wife and works to find a way to take her and sail away to the Bahamas.  In addition, by reading her mother’s diary, Elizabeth uncovers a shocking secret.

We see Elizabeth’s family constantly forcing her to be with Percival.  I loved the story up until this point. I became weary with the weakness Elizabeth showed at not pushing to stand up for what she wanted in life.  However, the book was a good one and I highly recommend it.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Say Yes to the Marquess’ by Tessa Dare

syttm tdSTORY: Your presence is requested at romantic Twill Castle for the wedding of Miss Clio Whitmore and . . . and . . . ?

After eight years of waiting for Piers Brandon, the wandering Marquess of Granville, to set a wedding date, Clio Whitmore has had enough. She’s inherited a castle, scraped together some pride, and made plans to break her engagement.

Not if Rafe Brandon can help it. A ruthless prizefighter and notorious rake, Rafe is determined that Clio will marry his brother—even if he has to plan the dratted wedding himself.

So how does a hardened fighter cure a reluctant bride’s cold feet?

● He starts with flowers. A wedding can’t have too many flowers. Or harps. Or cakes.

● He lets her know she’ll make a beautiful, desirable bride—and tries not to picture her as his.

● He doesn’t kiss her.

● If he kisses her, he definitely doesn’t kiss her again.

● When all else fails, he puts her in a stunning gown. And vows not to be nearby when the gown comes off.

● And no matter what—he doesn’t fall in disastrous, hopeless love with the one woman he can never call his own.

REVIEW: Clio Whitmore has been engaged to marry Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville, for eight long years.  Piers is a young diplomat who has been on missions for the government which has resulted in their wedding being delayed many times.

Clio has been very patient about her engagement and since she now owns Twill Castle, near the village of Charingwood, she is quite content with living and caring for her large home.  However, she gets word that Piers is to return home soon and their wedding will finally take place.

Piers’s younger brother, Rafe Brandon, is a long time friend of Clio’s and one who was made to feel inferior by his father.  Thus, he left home and made his own way in life by becoming a prizefighter.

Rafe has come to the Castle along with Clio’s older sister and her arrogant husband, and Clio’s younger sister.  They are all there to try and ensure that Clio finally marries Piers.  Thus begins the planning of choosing the right dress, flowers, cake, and church decorations.  Along the way, an old attraction between Rafe and Clio begins to bloom again.  Clio is adamant that she plans to break off her engagement to Piers, but Rafe is determined, despite his obvious love for her, that she must marry his brother.  During Piers’s absence, Clio has become an independent and learned young woman with big ideas for how she wants to improve her home and her life.  But when Piers finally makes an appearance, will she change her mind and marry him after all?

This story was written with a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor that really made me laugh out loud.  Yes, it was rather goofy and silly at times, but that only added to the charm of the story.  Sometimes when we read a book, we just have to relax and go with the story. That’s what makes it an enjoyable read.


Connie for b2b

‘Only Enchanting’ by Mary Balogh

oe mbSTORY: Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, was devastated by his fiancée’s desertion after his return home. Now the woman who broke his heart is back—and everyone is eager to revive their engagement. Except Flavian, who, in a panic, runs straight into the arms of a most sensible yet enchanting young woman.

Agnes Keeping has never been in love—and never wishes to be. But then she meets the charismatic Flavian, and suddenly Agnes falls so foolishly and so deeply that she agrees to his impetuous proposal of marriage.

When Agnes discovers that the proposal is only to avenge his former love, she’s determined to flee. But Flavian has no intention of letting his new bride go, especially now that he too has fallen so passionately and so unexpectedly in love.

REVIEW: Mary Balogh continues her Survivor’s Club series with a fourth installment and in it another survivor, Flavian, gets his own happily ever after. And what a story it is. After I was done reading his story, I wondered which one I loved [notice I didn’t say “like” and that’s because you just don’t “like” this authors stories. You either LOVE them or the opposite of that. I’m one of millions of her fans that loves everything she writes] the most so far. Guess what? I couldn’t choose. Out of the four she wrote up to date, I just love them all because each is unique in itself despite the same tread that binds them all, the war that affected each in a different way. I am looking forward to three more stories in this series and can’t wait to find out the background of those characters.

My heart broke into thousand pieces as I was reading about Flavian’s injuries after his return from the Peninsula. His rage at not being able to speak and understand people around him was heartbreaking. If George, the Duke of Stanbrook hadn’t intervened and whisked him off to his estate, I have no doubt that his family would have committed him to bedlam.  It took three years of loving care and plenty of patience George and the other club members gladly offered in order for Flavian to come out of his nightmare.

Agnes Keeping is a young widow who after her older husband’s death is now living with her sister Dora. When Agnes married at eighteen, she was accepting of and content with, her life. I don’t think she felt that she was missing much not being in society on a regular basis during her marriage, but she did regret not having children. Dora’s friendship with Sophia who married Viscount Darley [another survivor club member] gave her the opportunity to meet Flavian and the rest as they say, is history.

The pace of this story is perfect and the slow progression of their acquaintance and subsequent love is enchanting. Both characters are loving, decent and endearing people.  

There are many moments in this book where I just smiled from ear to ear and then some where I had tears in my eyes. But then, Ms. Balogh does this to me in every book I’ve read so far!

Highly recommending it to all my bookworms.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Tall, Dark, and Royal’ by Vanessa Kelly

tdar vkSTORY: He’s the man behind the mission to track down the illegitimate children of England’s Royal Princes and help them get their due. But his deepest desire is far more personal…

Magnificent and stubborn. Fourteen years apart had not changed Chloe Steele, or Dominic’s love for her. He’d been a street urchin, a boy raised at court, and finally a magistrate, yet he’d never belonged anywhere—except by her side. Now Chloe devoted herself to girls threatened by scandal—like she had been. But she was in danger, and Dominic was determined to help—and hopefully make up for lost time…

Even in childhood, Dominic had made Chloe feel safe. Now she also felt thrillingly flustered by the powerful man he’d become, and by the longing he inspired. Because Dominic meant not only to protect her, but to untangle the lies that had separated them. Yet for Chloe, surrendering to temptation may be easier than risking a future that could ruin them both…

REVIEW: Village of Camberwell  –  April 1815

Dominic Hunter is a magistrate and close friend to Chloe, whom he has truly loved for years.

Chloe has recently returned after she ran away at age 14 at which time she had become pregnant and wanted to hide.  She was taken in and cared for by a wonderful woman who eventually left her estate to Chloe.  The estate is now being used as a home to shelter unwed, expectant mothers.  After the birth, a good home is found for the infants and the young women return to their normal lives without scandal having tainted them.

When Dominic gets word from Chloe’s son, Griffin Steele and his wife, Justine, that Chloe had been injured, he rushes to her side, he finds that she has a bump on her head from being shoved by an irate man whose pregnant ex-girlfriend is staying in her home.  Chloe’s family feels she needs tighter security to protect herself and the young women.

Dominic’s feelings for Chloe has never changed over the years and even though she is now a 40-year-old woman, he is hoping to get her to let go of the past and any mistakes she had made so they can be together.

It turns out that the man who attacked Chloe is part of the Campworth crime lord family.  This is a family to whom one cannot say “no.”  However, when Chloe confronts the crime lord himself, sparks fly.

Can Dominic and Chloe come together and finally find happiness in their lives?  Will Chloe be able to carry on her good works without fearing the Campworth family?

This novella has a good plot, however, as it was the end of a series, I wish the author had added a little more background so readers, like myself, would not have that feeling of walking into the middle of a movie.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher