‘The Duchess’ by Danielle Steel

td dsSTORY: Angelique Latham has grown up at magnificent Belgrave Castle under the loving tutelage of her father, the Duke of Westerfield, after the death of her aristocratic French mother. At eighteen she is her father’s closest, most trusted child, schooled in managing their grand estate. But when he dies, her half-brothers brutally turn her out, denying her very existence. Angelique has a keen mind, remarkable beauty, and an envelope of money her father pressed upon her. To survive, she will need all her resources–and one bold stroke of fortune.

Unable to secure employment without references or connections, Angelique desperately makes her way to Paris, where she rescues a young woman fleeing an abusive madam–and suddenly sees a possibility: Open an elegant house of pleasure that will protect its women and serve only the best clients. With her upper-class breeding, her impeccable style, and her father’s bequest, Angelique creates Le Boudoir, soon a sensational establishment where powerful men, secret desires, and beautiful, sophisticated women come together. But living on the edge of scandal, can she ever make a life of her own–or regain her rightful place in the world?

From England to Paris to New York, Danielle Steel captures an age of upheaval and the struggles of women in a male-ruled society–and paints a captivating portrait of a woman of unquenchable spirit, who in houses great or humble is every ounce a duchess.

REVIEW: Lets start this review by admitting that I’ve never been a huge fan of Ms. Steele, but I did read a few of her books which I liked. I’ll not go so far as to say that this story wasn’t written by the author, as some other reviewers have suggested, but for an accomplished author as Ms. Steele, this book is unacceptable.

Now, let me tell you what didn’t work for me in this book.

I believe if the story was told only from the heroine’s POV, it would have resonated better, but the thin plot made this story not just improbable, but totally unbelievable and most of the story, especially the ending, predictable. It annoyed me to no end that the story was told from everyone’s POV. But what was most annoying was that the whole book read more as a movie script and not as a novel.

As for romance? Well, there wasn’t much of it throughout the story and when finally our heroine falls in love, the story is rushed through and I felt absolutely no connection between the two. If I was the editor of this story, I would have made the author rewrite the ending. Huge disappointment there!

There are only two things that I thought were done well, and that’s the heroine’s character development and growth. I liked watching her grow into a woman of principle and strength, however improbable her journey was. The second thing was Gideon Emery’s narration.

In the end, I do not recommend this read. I’m truly disappointment in it.

Melanie for b2b

‘Three Weeks with a Princess’ by Vanessa Kelly

twwap vkSTORY: Lia Kincaid, illegitimate daughter of the Duke of York, comes from a long line of notorious women. Raised by her grandmother, formerly mistress to the late Marquess of Lendale, she has little hope of a respectable marriage. But the new marquess, her childhood friend, Jack Easton, would make a very desirable protector . . . if he weren t too honorable to take her to bed.

It s bad enough being saddled with a title he never desired. Now Jack must resist the beautiful woman he desires far too much. Duty calls, and he is duty-bound to choose a wealthy bride.

But then Lia makes another outrageous suggestion: asking Jack to devise some tests to find her the perfect paramour. Tests that involve flirting, kissing, and other pleasurable pursuits. Tests that, in a matter of weeks, could transform friendship into the ton s greatest scandal, igniting a passion even duty can t deny. . .

REVIEW:  This is the second story in the Improper Princesses series and I’ve loved it as much as the first. Once more Vanessa Kelly’s characterization and plot manage to make me laugh and care for the protagonists.

Lia and Jack’s back and forth totally made this read engaging and enjoyable for me. Their “friends to lovers” story was sweet and heartwarming and I liked every minute of their growing romance.

If you’re looking for a story well written with an intriguing plot, peppered with witty dialogue and steamy romance, look no further. This is it.

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review

‘Lord Dashwood Missed Out’ by Tessa Dare

ldmo td A snowstorm hath no fury like a spinster scorned!

Miss Elinora Browning grew up yearning for the handsome, intelligent lord-next-door…but he left England without a word of farewell. One night, inspired by a bit too much sherry, Nora poured out her heartbreak on paper. Lord Dashwood Missed Out was a love letter to every young lady who’d been overlooked by gentlemen—and an instant bestseller. Now she’s on her way to speak in Spindle Cove when snowy weather delays her coach. She’s forced to wait out the storm with the worst possible companion: Lord Dashwood himself.

And he finally seems to have noticed her.

George Travers, Lord Dashwood, has traveled the globe as a cartographer. He returned to England with the goal of marrying and creating an heir–only to find his reputation shredded by an audacious, vexingly attractive bluestocking and her poison pen. Lord Dashwood Missed Out, his arse. Since Nora Browning seems to believe he overlooked the passion of a lifetime, Dash challenges her to prove it.

She has one night.

REVIEW: This novella comes between books four and five in Spindle Cove series and if you haven’t read the stories in the previous books, you just might be a bit lost, so I do recommend you read them first before getting to this one.

The series is set in Spindle Cove which is home to many women who’ve made this place their refuge from society. They made it their home and are trying to discover ways and means of getting on and accepting themselves for who they are and each one will learn to stand for what she believes in. They are a ‘motley crue’ of women, with one thing in common: freedom from men.

This is Nora’s story and out of all the books in this series, this one is my least favorite. I just had a hard time with the plot as well as with the characters. They just didn’t click in my mind and when that happens, I just can’t enjoy the road to happily ever after.

However, I had a lot of fun reading and catching up with the characters from the previous books, so in the end I do recommend this story to all of you that have invested in this series.

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review

‘Seven Years to Sin’ by Sylvia Day

syts sd1STORY: The longer the resistance…

Seven years ago, on the eve of her wedding, proper Lady Jessica Sheffield witnessed a licentious scene no innocent young miss could imagine. Shocked, yet strangely titillated, she’d held her silence regarding scandalous Alistair Caulfield, and walked down the aisle as expected. But through years of serene, unremarkable marriage, Caulfield’s image remained burned into her imagination, fueling verysdc illicit dreams…

…the sweeter the reward

Alistair ran far from the temptation of the prim debutante with the fire of passion in her eyes–all the way to the West Indies. As a successful merchant, he has little in common with the rakehell youth she knew. But when newly widowed Jessica steps aboard his ship for a transatlantic passage, seven years’ worth of denied pleasures are held in check by nothing more than a few layers of silk–and the certainty that surrender will consume them both…

sdc7REVIEW: I can honestly state that this is one of the hottest prologues I’ve ever read!

Lady Jessica Sheffield grew up in an abusive home, so it is no wonder that to our hero, she always appeared ‘cool as a marble statue’. In trying to protect herself as well as her younger sister, this young woman learned early on that hiding her emotions and suppressing her passions was essential to her survival. On the evening before her wedding to a man of her father’s choosing, she shares with our hero a moment that will haunt her for the next seven years.

Alistair Caulfield, on the other hand, was the youngest of four brothers, yet grew up craving affection. As a young man, he hid that need by behaving badly. He realizes that after their unique encounter, his life would never be the same.

I was really moved by these two characters as each slowly comes to the realization that their love for each other should be given a chance.

This story is one that features well-developed and very vivid characters with moving and poignant dialogue. As usual, Ms. Day gifts us with a secondary love story that is as much moving as the first—that of Hester, Jessica’s younger sister, and Michael Sinclair, her brother-in-law.

The romance between Alistair and Jessica is truly not to be missed. SEVEN YEARS TO SIN is a definite keeper!

BTW: I love this books original cover the best.

Melanie for RRAH

‘Someone to Love’ by Mary Balogh

stl-mbSTORY: Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune that will forever alter the lives of everyone in his family—including the daughter no one knew he had…

Anna Snow grew up in an orphanage in Bath knowing nothing of the family she came from. Now she discovers that the late Earl of Riverdale was her father and that she has inherited his fortune. She is also overjoyed to learn she has siblings. However, they want nothing to do with her or her attempts to share her new wealth. But the new earl’s guardian is interested in Anna…

Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, keeps others at a distance. Yet something prompts him to aid Anna in her transition from orphan to lady. As London society and her newfound relatives threaten to overwhelm Anna, Avery steps in to rescue her and finds himself vulnerable to feelings and desires he has hidden so well and for so long.

REVIEW: The Earl of Riverdale has died without a will. His son, Harry Westcott, has not quite reached his majority which necessitates that Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, become his guardian until he reaches age 21. Harry is a handsome young man and now he will be extremely wealthy. He appears to understand his responsibilities and is prepared to follow through with them.

It is soon discovered that the late Earl had an illegitimate daughter who he has always supported. The Earl’s widow feels that the girl should be contacted and told her father has passed away and be given a final settlement. The woman is doing this not because she cares for the girl but because she does not want her children to know about their father’s by-blow.

Anna Snow has lived at an orphanage since she was 4-years-old. She is now 25. She is still at the orphanage were she works as a housemother, helps the matron, Miss Ford, and also teaches. While she has had a few proposals, Anna has turned them down. After her mother died, she went to live with her grandparents for a few years before he father came and took her away.

When Anna receives a letter asking her to go to London to meet with a solicitor, she is quite nervous. It turns out that her mother was still married to the late Earl when she died which makes her his heir and his other children are illegitimate. She is now a very rich woman.

As the news settles in, she is not surprised at the reaction from her brother and sisters to her. She is so happy to find that she has siblings and she wants them to stay in the home with her. However, their pride will not allow it and they refuse.

One of her new-found aunts is determined to help get her properly attired and to teach her to interact with the ton.

Avery is a small man and very handsome. He dresses impeccably and his mannerisms are cool and very proper. As a Duke, he is quite sought after by the young ladies but has not found the woman he cares to marry.

As Anna and Avery get to know one another, he is taken with her genuineness and lack of guile. When Anna learns that he father had lied to her grandparents and they thought she had died, she is sad. However, to find that they are still alive makes her so happy. Se wants to see them. By then, Anna and Avery have decided to marry and travel together to visit her grandparents.

There is so much more to this story. We find what a good soul Anna is and Avery is a lot deeper than anyone knows. His own secrets that he finally shares with Anna end up making them the perfect couple.

This is another perfectly written novel by Mary Balogh. She is an author who will go down in history for her incredible writing. I highly recommend this book. It is the first novel of a series and I look forward to the next book.

Connie for b2b

‘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