‘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

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‘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

‘Flowers from the Storm’ by Laura Kinsale [Audiobook]

FFTS LK pcBOOK BLURB: He’s a duke. He’s a mathematical genius. He can’t talk and he’s locked in a lunatic asylum. Only a modest Quaker girl can reach him, but when she helps him to escape, she’s swept into his glittering aristocratic world, her life torn apart by his desperate attempt to save himself.

Laura Kinsale personally chose the exceptional talent of Nicholas Boulton to narrate her classic romance Flowers from the Storm – cited by readers of The Washington Post and Glamour magazine as “one of the greatest love stories of all time” – creating a fresh and unique work that brings all the power and intensity of the original to audio.

REVIEW: Is there anyone out there that has NOT read or reread this book in the past 20 Toby Stephens as Christianyears? If there is, then for God’s sake, what are you waiting for?! Find it! Read it! PLEASE! Or better yet, listen to it. It is as much enjoyable as reading it because of the brilliant narration of Nicholas Boulton. Trust me!

I honestly don’t remember when was the first time I read this book, but I make the time to reread it at least once a year, and every time I do, it’s like the first time. It never fails to bring me to tears on exactly the same scenes as the first time I read it.

Everything about this story is brilliant. Laura Kinsale wrote one of the greatest love stories of my time and not many can come close to knocking it down from the pedestal I placed it on.

Christian and Maddygirl

If I were casting this as a TV movie, there would be only one couple that would do justice to the roles of Christian and Maddy, and that is Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson, who were awesome as Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre in 2006’s mini series adaptation of ‘Jane Eyre’.

If you’ve never seen it, here it is, the first two episodes and the other two will follow…

Ruth Wilson as MaddygirlAnd now, here’s my Audible review of ‘Flowers From the Storm’.

Enter a headline for your review:

Brilliant story and brilliant narration!

If you could sum up Flowers from the Storm in three words, what would they be?

Heartbreaking; Romantic; Sensual

Who was your favorite character and why?

That would be the heroine, Maddy Timms. The conflict she went through between her religious beliefs and the responsibility and strong attraction to Jarvaulx was extraordinarily written, which tells me that the author did her homework when it came to the knowledge of Quaker Beliefs.It was fascinating watching her character grow and develop right in front of me!

What about Nicholas Boulton’s performance did you like?

Nicholas Boulton was brilliant as each character emerged, especially the hero. He made meToby Stephens and Ruth Wilson as Christian and Maddy from Flowers From the Storm cringe as I felt the frustration The Duke of Jervaulx was going through; he made me laugh as I listened to the Duke’s friends and servants; he melted my heart as he read the sensual scenes….*sigh*…

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The scene in which Maddy tries to bring some dignity to Christian by dressing him in his own clothes and then realizing that she had him all dressed in his riding outfit complete with spurs, is heartbreaking as he is devastated to realize that he’s not to leave his cell….

Ruth Wilson and Toby stephens as Mr Rochester and Jane Eyre 2006Any additional comments?

This is without a doubt one of the most romantic stories I have ever read [and I have read a lot of them], but it’s not just that. This is a love story of epic proportions; a story of conflict of not so much good and evil, but of one’s inbred religious beliefs versus one’s faith in humanity.

I applaud the author for her brilliant writing of Christian’s speech impairment which made me acutely aware of his pain, frustration and impotence.

As for narration…The voice of Nicholas Boulton was mesmerizing as he read every character in the book to perfection. He was brilliant as Christian, showing me the frustration and rage so well written by the author, and as Maddy, with her thee/thou Quaker speech. And then he acted out to perfection Christian’s friends, Maddy’s father, Christian’s Aunt….and on and on…What a range this man has! Awesome job Mr. Boulton!

FFTS LKUNABRIDGED

by Laura Kinsale

Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

Whispersync for Voice: Enabled