‘House of Shadows’ by Nicola Cornick

hos ncSTORY: London, 1662:

There was something the Winter Queen needed to tell him. She fought for the strength to speak.
‘The crystal mirror is a danger. It must be destroyed – ‘
He replied instantly. ‘It will’.

Ashdown, Oxfordshire, present day:

Ben Ansell is researching his family tree when he disappears. As his sister Holly begins a desperate search, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to an ornate antique mirror and to the diary of Lavinia, a 19th century courtesan who was living at Ashdown House when it burned to the ground over 200 years ago.

Intrigued, and determined to find out more about the tragedy at Ashdown, Holly’s only hope is that uncovering the truth about the past will lead her to Ben.

REVIEW: Queen Elizabeth is married to King Frederick who is a member of the Order of the Rosy Cross. From this group she was given a crystal mirror surrounded by diamonds plus a large pearl known as the Sistrin pearl. Both of these things are said to be powerful and while the force was once used for good, the power has now been corrupted by the greed of men. Thus begins the story of how this mirror and pearl have affected the lives of people from 1596 to the present day.

William Craven was a loyal courtier to Queen Elizabeth for many years. It is said that they had married after the death or King Frederick. Craven did the Queen’s bidding in many different ways. Knowing that the mirror and pearl have now become symbols of evil, Craven thought he had destroyed them. But they resurfaced many years later.

Today, we find Holly whose brother, Ben, has gone missing from their vacation home called Ashdown Mill. The area was once part of a home that Craven had built for Elizabeth. Holly decides to move into the house while the search is on for Ben. When she starts researching the area and the history of Craven and Elizabeth, she uncovers information about the mirror and pearl. In addition, she finds an old diary written long ago with ties to this significant past.

This was an interesting book, but a bit too long and detailed for my taste. It goes back and forth from the 1600’s to present day. History buffs will probably love it.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Reluctant Governess’ by Maggie Robinson

mr trgSTORY: A secretary for the renowned Evensong Agency, Eliza Lawrence may have a pretty face, but she’s much prouder of her mind and her morals. When she’s pressed into temporary governess duty as a favor to her boss, she doesn’t expect to bend one bit for the rakish Nicholas Raeburn. Not even when he opens the door to her half-dressed…

Despite his bad reputation, Nicholas is a man of honor. To Nick’s way of thinking, he doesn’t need any help raising his daughter, Domenica. If only he weren’t so drawn to the meddlesome woman’s sparkling wit and uncommon beauty…

But when an act of misplaced chivalry goes seriously awry, resulting in mayhem and almost murder, Eliza becomes the only woman he can depend upon. Nick will do anything to protect his family, but who will protect him from falling in love with his reluctant governess?

REVIEW: It is 1904 in Edwardian English where we find Eliza Lawrence who works as a secretary at the Evensong Agency managed by Lady Mary Raeburn.  Their motto has always been, “Performing the Impossible Before Breakfast Since 1888.”  Eliza loves her job. She has worked as a governess before but prefers her secretarial job and is proud of her skills.

Lady Mary’s brother-in-law, Nicholas Raeburn, is known as a wicked artist and Continental reprobate.  His specialty is painting nude women.  When he needs a governess, Eliza is coaxed into accepting the job temporarily until a permanent governess can be found.  
When Mary enters Nicholas’ home, she is shocked at the lack of a butler and the presence of nude models who pose for him.  However, she is delighted to meet her new charge, Dominica (nicknamed Sunny).  Her mother was a past lover of Nicholas’ and when she died, she asked Nicholas to take Sunny even though she was not sure that Nicholas was her father.
Nicholas is a devil-may-care man whose family lives in Scotland and owns a well-known Scotch distillery.  His has an easy life and has chosen to live it as he sees fit.
The first night Eliza is there, Nicholas has a dinner party for several of his friends after which they hit the town.  He comes in later drunk and beaten up.  Eliza hears him enter the house and knowing he sounds injured, goes to his aid.  She is already exhausted as the house members have come down with the flu.  When Nicholas also succumbs to the flu, she ends up becoming caretaker to him and others in the house.
While Eliza does not approve of Nicholas’ Bohemian lifestyle, the closeness involved in caring for someone intimately begins an attraction between them that cannot be denied.
This novel is well written and the humor is not to be missed.
Connie for b2b
Complementary copy provided by the author

‘Lady Anne’s Lover’ by Maggie Robinson

LAL MRSTORY: Lady Imaculata Anne Egremont has appeared in the scandalous pages of the “London List” often enough. The reading public is so bored with her nonsense, she couldn’t make news now unless she took a vow of chastity. But behind her naughty hijinks is a terrible fear. It’s time the List helped her. With a quick scan through its job postings and a few whacks at her ridiculous name, she’s off to keep house for a bachelor veteran as plain Anne Mont.

Major Gareth Ripton-Jones is dangerously young and handsome on the face of it, but after losing his love and his arm in short order, he is also too deep in his cups to notice that his suspiciously young housekeeper is suspiciously terrible at keeping house. Until, that is, her sharp tongue and her burnt coffee penetrate even his misery–and the charm underneath surprises them both. Trust the worst cook in Wales to propose a most unexpected solution to his troubles. . .

REVIEW: Major Gareth Ripton-Jones survives the war and returns to his home ready to marry his long-time love, the widow Bronwyn. While helping to fix a roof, he falls and shatters his arm which results in it needing to be amputated.  Bronwyn is now turned off by his appearance and refuses to marry him and later, she is found murdered and the townspeople now think Gareth is her murderer. That’s when Gareth decides to dive into a gin bottle to dull his pain.

Lady Imaculata Anne Egremont is running from London trying to escape her scandalous past and her lecherous father, Lord Egremont.  In order to hide from her past, she applies for a job as housekeeper at Ripton Hall, in Llanwyr Wales and the home of our hero.  Armed with a copy of The Complete Housewife to help her be able to do the job, she decides to darken her red hair and call herself Mrs. Anne Mont.  

Upon arrival, she finds the Major drunk, disheveled and the house in a filthy shambles.  Knowing she needs this job, she does her best to try and clean the house and do some basic cooking, but unfortunately even her coffee is quite disgusting as pointed out to her by the Major.  

Slowly they get to know one another better and Anne works at trying to get Gareth to sober up and straighten his life back. She also realizes that the only way for her to escape her father, she should wed, and thus proposes a marriage of convenience to Gareth. The union would allow her to demand part of her inheritance from her father, which they could use to fix up Gareth’s home.

But then the accidents begin to happen and they realize that someone is trying to hurt them.  Could it be Bronwyn’s real murderer?

While the basic plot here was fine, the explicit and gratuitous sex scenes were totally overdone.  I’m not a prude but I think they could have been tamed down somewhat.  I understand that Anne wanted to escape her father and the scandalous escapades of her past, but I could not understand why she would settle to live in the near-squalor of Gareth’s home especially having grown up in the lap of luxury.

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by my local library.

‘The Lady and the Laird’ by Nicola Cornick

TLATL NCSTORY: An Indecent Proposal!

Lady Lucy MacMorlan may have forsworn men and marriage, but that doesn’t mean she won’t agree to profit from writing love letters for her brother’s friends – letters that become increasingly racy as her fame grows. That is, until she deliberately ruins the betrothal of a notorious laird, Robert, Marquis of Methven.

Past centuries of bloodshed have left the Methven and MacMorlan families bitter enemies and Robert is furious that Lady Lucy’s letters have cost him the bride he needs so urgently to save his ancestral clan lands. Now he makes Lucy a shocking proposal; in return for his silence she must become his wife and provide him with the heir he needs. It is an inconvenient marriage of convenience but can the rugged laird and the bluestocking beauty fight against the power of love?

REVIEW: This is Ms. Cornick’s first novel in Scottish Brides series and it really is a MUST read!

The novel is very funny, entertaining and just too sweet for words!

If you’re familiar with this author, then you already know that her novel’s are populated with strong, complex and always, always witty characters that stay with you a long time, and that’s what you’ll find here as well.

I adored both main characters, but especially Lucy. Her background in regards to her twin sister just took my breath away.

This was a strong woman with some issues that only a strong man could help with. As for Robert, not much was going to stand in this man’s way when it comes to his duty to his Clan.

I also liked the pace of the story. It wasn’t too fast and allowed me to thoroughly immerse into not just the growing relationship between the leads, but also into their respective backgrounds. It’s their lives before they met each other that shaped who they were, and how that would impact their future, if they were to have one.

There are so many, many scenes which made me laugh out loud that I had tears in my eyes…like the scene in which Robert is jilted at the altar and our heroine realizes that he knows this debacle is her fault.

If you’ve never had a chance to read this author, then this is a perfect book to introduce her to you. I promise you’ll find the plot interesting, characters entertaining and the dialogue witty and charming. And let’s not forget those love scenes which will get your blood pumping! Recommending it to all Regency lovers, and especially those who love a man in a kilt!

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by publisher through NetGalley.