‘A Fallen Lady’ by Elizabeth Kingston

aflSTORY: Six years ago, to the outrage of her family and the delight of London gossips, Lady Helen Dehaven refused to marry the man to whom she was betrothed. Even more shockingly, her refusal came on the heels of her scandalous behavior: she and her betrothed were caught in a most compromising position. Leaving her reputation in tatters and her motivations a mystery, Helen withdrew to a simple life in a little village among friends, where her secrets remained hers alone.

For reasons of his own, Stephen Hampton, Lord Summerdale, is determined to learn the truth behind the tangled tale of Helen’s ruin. There is nothing he abhors so much as scandal – nothing he prizes so well as discretion – and so he is shocked to find, when he tracks Helen down, that he cannot but admire her. Against all expectations, he finds himself forgiving her scandalous history in favor of only being near her.

But the bitter past will not relinquish Helen’s heart so easily. How can she trust a man so steeped in the culture of high society, who conceals so much? And how can he, so devoted to the appearance of propriety, ever love a fallen lady?

REVIEW: I’ve only recently discovered this author and the two medieval books she wrote, I just loved. This one is set in Regency period and while the plot was slow moving, I thought the story revolved mostly around the developing characters and their growing relationship. I believe the complexity of the characters (and trust me, both characters had a lot of issues that only with time would be resolved) and their growing romance are as much of a plot as the real reason behind their meeting and the heroine’s past.

Our hero Stephen is sharp, intuitive and funny while the heroine Helen, is  strong, witty and vulnerable. No wonder Stephen was taken with her, despite her reputation.

The story not just starts slow, but it moves at a sedate pace throughout and to some this might be an obstacle. To me, I rather thought it was a conscious decision on the part of the author. I believe that if this story was given a fast pace, we would have lost the point of what it really takes for two vastly different, extremely complex individuals to not just fall in love with one another, but to accept each others flaws and circumstances that brought them together.

Some stories are written to entertain and titillate, some to make us laugh and some to make us cry. This story actually has all of those elements but it also makes us think. We are forced to see the society and its people of Regency Era as they truly were. A society that treated women as property and put very little value on them.

Elizabeth Kingston and Nicholas Boulton are a force to be reckoned 🙂 I love them both.

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review

‘The Bride’ by Julie Garwood

tb jgSTORY: By the king’s edict, Alec Kincaid, mightiest of the Scottish lairds, must take an English bride. And Jamie the youngest daughter of Baron Jamison, is his choice. From his first glimpse of the proud and beautiful English lady, Alec felt a burning hunger stir within him. This was a woman worthy of his fearless warrior’s spirit. And he aches to touch her, tame her, possess her…forever.

But with the wedding vows, Jamie pledges her own secret oath: She will never surrender her love to this Highland barbarian. He was everything her heart warned her against — an arrogant, brooding scoundrel whose rough good looks and seductive embrace fire her blood. But when strange accidents begin to threaten Jamie’s life and an old rumor that Alec killed his first wife spreads anew, something far more dangerous than desire threatens to conquer her senses.

REVIEW: I read this book decades ago [this is the first book in Lairds’ Fiancées series] and thought to revisit it once more but in audio.tb jg o Let me say this up front. My love of romance started with Jude Deveraux and Julie Garwood so I’m a huge fan. However, sometimes what has been written and read decades ago, can be quite different from reading it today. I’m so happy to report that this story was even better today than years ago. I loved everything about it, especially Rosalyn Landor. She made the words written come alive. Her accent was spot on, be it English or Scotts.

As for characters, all were three dimensional and complex, especially the heroine, Jamie.  Her sweetness and lovability was contagious. You can’t help but like this self-deprecating and self-sacrificing character. She was adorable.

On the other hand, I had some doubts about Alec. At the start of the story we see a lot of arrogance, but as the story develops, we get to know him better and to like him more. He was strong yet caring of his clan and especially of his English wife. Wonderful Alpha male with some sensitive beta hero characteristics.

I thoroughly enjoyed this fun and funny medieval romance. The author made me believe in these two and their story. I was vested in them but the mystery within made me a bit antsy. Thank God it all worked out!

Years after it’s written, this story still stands strong. Highly recommending!

Melanie for b2b

‘Fair, Bright, and Terrible’ by Elizabeth Kingston

fbat ekSTORY: Wales is conquered, and Eluned has lost everything: her country, her husband, her hope. All that remains is vengeance, and she will stop at nothing to have it. Certain there is no trace within her of the idealistic girl who loved Robert de Lascaux a lifetime ago, she agrees to marry him to advance the fortunes of her son, to avoid the nunnery, and most importantly – as an easy way to gain access to the man upon whom she will avenge Wales.

When Robert is asked to marry the woman he has loved for eighteen years, he never hesitates. But the lady who greets him at the altar has so little in common with the girl he adored that he begins to doubt that there is anything left of her bold and passionate younger self. Marriage to her might gain him the fortune and status his family has always wanted, but no wealth has ever mattered to him as much as Eluned has. And she, it seems, does not want him at all.

Trapped in a web of intrigue, revenge, and desire, they cannot forget their past – but can they share a future? The fascinating world of medieval Wales is continued in this riveting companion novel to The King’s Man.

REVIEW: I loved the first book in this series and was on pins and needles waiting for this story. I have to say that I had my doubts about the author’s ability to make me like let alone love the character I so thoroughly disliked in the previous story. Let me say that I was stunned at authors ability of expanding and developing such a rich and deeply flawed, yet likable heroine. Eluned imbued humanity that is all of us. The layers to her character made this woman very relatable.

But I digress! Let me start at saying that this story is of Gwenllion’s mother, Eluned, who was dead set in the first book to fight King Edward I of England and who worked hard at deceiving Ranulf and even her own daughter by attempting to drag her into war. Ranulf spoiled her plans and in this story we see the results of it.

“It all ended in cold flesh. This prince, the war, and every life: it ended in cold flesh, no matter how hot the blood that had once pounded through it. She had always known this, of course. But there is knowing a thing, and then there is feeling the truth of it cut you open and close around your heart.”

As the story opens, we witness Eluned’s heartbreak as the last rebellion is thwarted and her beloved Wales is thoroughly into hands of a ruthless King of England and once again her faith is being decided by men, her son and the king. This time she decides to seemingly accept their will, but is still plotting a revenge for the man that had cost her dearly.

It’s this desire for revenge that stands in her way of finally being happy. I loved the way the author took her time to give me the backstory of Robert and Eluned. It touched my heart at how difficult and painful it was for her to fall in love and then abandon that love, only to rediscover it once more in her forties.

I adored the hero! Robert was so young when he fell in love with her and he’d lived with this feeling all of his adult life. He’d put this woman on a pedestal and he hoped that the marriage that has been arranged by the King would rekindle all the passion they felt when they conducted their affair.

“We think memories are truth,” she went on, calm and relentless, “but they deceive us even as we cherish them. The truth is that many years ago, we were foolish and arrogant. We lusted and we sinned. We called it love. But that summer ended long ago.”

“Do you tell me your love ended with it?”

My heart went out to him when he finds that this woman is nothing like his beloved Eluned. I had tears in my eyes as he notices that the birthmark on her neck is not on the side that he remembers it being.  This small, seemingly insignificant fact has a profound affect on him.

“Love,” she said, and moved her head in a little gesture of dismissal. The golden veil still hung at one side of her face, because he had only freed one pin. It shimmered with her movement, trailing down the side of her neck to her shoulder, reflecting the little light from the fire.

That was when he saw what was wrong. The birthmark on her throat was there. It was everything he remembered  – the size and color, the height from her collar bone, the teardrop shape – except it was on the right side of her throat. Not the left. Yet he remembered it vividly, exactly. He closed his eyes and saw it, a bright image preserved over the years. In his memories he ran his finger across that mark and opened his mouth over it and looked for it every time she threw her head back to laugh as they sat in dappled sunlight. He had thought of it a thousand times over the years. He remembered that mark on the left side of her throat as well as he remembered her saying I will love you until I die.

He opened his eyes and looked at her, his breath coming too fast. He had remembered it wrong. It was as simple as that. As damning, as awful as that: he had remembered it wrong.”

Ms. Kingston did an outstanding job in delivering one of the best second chance in love tropes I’ve ever read.

If you’re a lover of history, you’ll revel in this story because it is told with care and obvious research. If you’re a lover of second chance romance, I beg you not to miss this one. If you are a fan of Nicholas Boulton, you’ll swoon!

Melanie for b2b

‘The King’s Man’ by Elizabeth Kingston

tkm ekSTORY: Ranulf Ombrier’s fame throughout 13th century England for his skill at swordplay is rivaled only by his notoriety as King Edward I’s favorite killer. Ranulf’s actions have gained him lands, title, and a lasting reputation as a hired butcher. But after years of doing his king’s bidding, he begins to fear for his mortal soul and follows his conscience away from Edward, all the way to the wilds of Wales.

Gwenllian of Ruardean, Welsh daughter of a powerful Marcher lord, has every reason to leave Ranulf for dead when one of her men nearly kills him. As a girl she was married by proxy to a man Ranulf murdered, only to become a widow before she ever met her groom. In the years since, she has shunned the life of a lady, instead studying warfare and combat at her mother’s behest. But she has also studied healing and this, with her sense of duty to knightly virtues, leads her to tend to Ranulf’s wounds.

Saving her enemy’s life comes with consequences, and Gwenllian and Ranulf are soon caught up in dangerous intrigue. Forced together by political machinations, they discover a kinship of spirit and a surprising, intense desire. But even hard-won love cannot thrive when loyalties are divided and the winds of rebellion sweep the land.

REVIEW: Earlier this month this title was free, with audio narration offered at $1.99, and I just couldn’t pass it up. Was I ever glad to get it! I have to say that I never got to read it because the narration done by Nicholas Boulton was amazing. He is one of those narrators that can suck you in a story and never let you go.

This is one of those medieval stories that involves two very complex characters and is filled with emotional and intense moments from start to finish.

I loved the heroine and her personality and I liked the way the author handled her dilemma about who she really was and who she wanted to be. As for the hero, if you’re a sucker for a strong, alpha male that is torn between his loyalty to his king and redeeming his soul, you’ll fall in love with Ranulf.

Elizabeth Kingston is a new to me author but not for long. I’m looking forward to listening to her upcoming stories in this and other series. She created a world very realistic and a romance that will stay with me for a long time.

Melanie for b2b

‘The Rebel Princess’ by Judith Koll Healy

trp jkhSTORY: Paris, October 1207. There is nothing that Princess AlaÏs of France wants more than to settle down with her lover, William of Caen, and to reveal to his ward, Francis, that she is his mother. but intrigue is afoot in the palace, and tensions are pushed to the brink when a much prized relic is stolen and young Francis goes missing. frantic for his safety, AlaÏs will risk life and limb to find the boy—donning a disguise to outwit cunning enemies as she makes her way into unfamiliar territory to save her son, and perhaps prevent a bloody holy war that threatens her beloved France.

From the opulent halls of Paris to austere monasteries in the south of France, The Rebel Princess combines history and suspense in an unforgettable tale involving one of the most enigmatic and intriguing female figures in medieval history.

REVIEW: Where to start? This was a very, very, very long read for me. I would start reading it and stop, then repeat the exercise for the next month and a half.

For me, reading this historical fiction which, mind you, was very well written and full of many, many historical events, was pure torture.

It might be (but I doubt it) because I hadn’t read the book before it, THE CANTERBURY PAPERS. Or it might be too much of history and not enough of fiction; but whatever it was, I wasn’t able to connect to it. That doesn’t mean that you’ll fail to connect as well. Your tastes might lead you to love it.

I’ll blame my personal taste, and not the style of writing or the prose, that caused me to disconnect with the protagonists and the story itself.

In all honesty, I can’t recommend it to romance lovers; BUT I can to all you history buffs, and for that reason alone I’m giving this novel Four Roses. I’ll be glad to pass it along to someone that would appreciate it more than I did.

Melanie for RRAH

‘Perfect Strangers’ by Rebecca Sinclair

ps rsSTORY: Gabrielle Carelton is one of Queen Elizabeth’s most devoted ladies-in-waiting. But her loyalty is put to the test when Her Majesty commands her to marry Scotsman Collin Douglas. When Gabrielle is kidnapped by Collin’s twin brother, not even Good Queen Bess can save her. Dubbed the Black Douglas, devilishly handsome Connor is known throughout the land for his magnificent feats of strength and cunning. But now he is in need of an heir.

An English bride will bring peace to the warring nations — and give him the son he craves. What he doesn’t expect is a woman as passionate as she is proud … and a desire that knows no boundaries. Set against the pageantry and savage splendor of 16th-century England and Scotland, here is the story of a man and a woman who begin as enemies and strangers — and find a love that will triumph against all odds.

REVIEW: All I have to say is, WOW! This book blurb doesn’t do this book justice. It seems that the author has published this story in 1996, and did some ‘ironing’ of it and re-published it last year. I’ve never had the pleasure to read this author before, but that will certainly change right now.

This was such a warm and touching story. It’s so much more than just romance. It’s a painting of a time long gone, yet brought to life in such vivid detail. I was made to want to belong to Elizabeth’s court only because I wanted to shelter our heroine from the Queen, who only knew how to humiliate her.

Oh, and then she meets the hero, and what a hero he turns out to be! He is one alpha male all the way, and the only man that would make sure she would become a strong woman, and his equal.

This is very, very well written and paced to perfection, character driven, and filled with humor and romance in equal measures.

I highly recommend it.

Melanie for RRAH

‘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