‘The Devil Takes a Bride’ by Julia London

tdtab jlSTORY: A plan born of desperation…

Once the toast of society, Grace Cabot and her sisters now await the shame of losing high status and fine luxuries upon the death of the Earl of Beckington. The dire circumstances are inevitable unless, of course, Grace’s wicked plot to seduce a wealthy viscount into marriage goes off without a single hitch. But once a stolen embrace with the wrong man leads her to be discovered in the arms of Geoffrey, the Earl of Merryton, her plan takes a most unexpected—and scorching—twist.

…and altered by passion.

Governed by routine and ruled by duty, Geoffrey had no desire for a wife before he succumbed to Grace’s temptation. Though his golden-haired, in-name-only bride is the definition of disorder, he can’t resist wanting her in every way. But once her secrets meet his, society might consider their lives to be ruined beyond repair…while Geoffrey might just see it as a new beginning.

REVIEW: The Earl of Beckington has passed away.  His second wife, Lady Beckington and his four stepdaughters, Honor, Grace, Prudence, and Mercy Cabot are now finding themselves without the funds that they used to enjoy.  The Earl’s son by his first marriage has taken over as heir.  The large dowries the girls had always expected have now been significantly lowered and the girls are afraid that no one will want them.

Grace Cabot decides to take her future into her own hands and plots to be found being seduced by a well-known rake, Lord Amherst.  The plan goes well until the person she meets in the dark turns out to be Amherst’s brother, Jeffrey Donovan, The Earl of Merryton.  When they are caught, he agrees to immediately wed Grace and takes her to his home, Blackwood Hall.  Jeffrey has a reputation for being a very cold man but Grace hopes that she will be able to learn to love him and find out about the real person inside him.

Jeffrey is a man ruled by habit and perfection.  He has an obsessive compulsive personality resulting from the cruelty he was subjected to by his father.  In addition, much of his thoughts are filled with sexual depravity.  He thinks of himself as a mad man and tries to keeps his habits secret.

As Grace and Jeffrey settle into Blackwood Hall, she realizes that he has a problem and does all she can to help him relax his stringent ways which is not an easy task.  However, she is relentless and hopes to help him with his problem.  However, Grace has a secret too.  Her mother is mad and continues to go downhill.

The story is a perfect example of OCD and their sexual encounters are quite explicit.  This is a different type of story that may appeal to many people.  I enjoyed Grace and found her to be a strong woman. However, Jeffrey is a person that I would find hard to like.

Connie for b2b

‘Wagers Gone Awry’ by Collette Cameron

wga ccSTORY: Brooke Culpepper resigned herself to spinsterhood when she turned down the only marriage proposal she’d likely ever receive to care for her family. After her father dies, a distant cousin inherits the estate and becomes their guardian but permits Brooke to act in his stead.

Heath, Earl of Ravensdale is none-too-pleased to discover five young women call the dairy farm he won and intends to sell, their home. Desperate, pauper poor, and with nowhere to go, Brooke proposes a wager. His stakes? The farm. Hers? Her virtue. The land holds no interest for Heath, but Brooke does and he accepts her challenge.

Brooke loses, and her devastation is compounded when the cousin arrives, intending to haul the Culpepper misses off to London. Heath astounds himself and proposes in order to apply for guardianship of the other girls.

Does Brooke dare marry the handsome stranger who’d been bent on compromising her? Will Heath regret his impulsive gesture, or will unexpected love flourish?

REVIEW: Esherton Green, Cheshire England

April 1822
Brooke Culpepper, age 23, has a heavy load on her slim shoulders.  Since her parents passed away five years ago, she has been tasked with caring for her sister, Brette, and her three cousins, Blythe, and twins, Blaike and Blaire.  In addition, she has the responsibility of running their Esherton Dairy Farm.  Money is very sparse and she has to do all she can to try and make money to buy a new bull for their cows, otherwise there will be no more new calves.  The five ladies are all beautiful, blue-eyed blondes and each of them works hard to raise money via selling herbs, fruit and vegetables, sewing, and giving piano and voice lessons.  Their own food supplies are minimal and their clothes are nearly thread-bare, but they are happy being together.
When Brooke’s father died with no male issue, the estate passed to a distant cousin, Sheridan Gainsborough.  In those five years, the girls have never seen him even though he is also their guardian.  He is simply a greedy man who has “allowed” them to remain at the farm for half of the profit from it.  To prove Sheridan’s stupidity, he loses the property in a gambling wager to Heath, the Earl of Ravensdale.  Heath hates country life, preferring city life and his constant stream of kept women, whom he insists that they be clean and disease-free.
Heath travels to Esherton Green to investigate his new property finding five beautiful women inside.  Arriving in the midst of a violent storm, he is soaked.  The Dairy Farm is but a few miles from his good friend’s home where he had stayed.  Tristan, the Marquis of Leventhorpe, is another confirmed bachelor.  Heath comes across as a jerk only interested in making a deal with Brooke that she become his new mistress and in exchange, he will let her family continue to live at the farm.  But when Heath goes missing after leaving Esherton Green, Leventhorpe arrives to investigate and finds Heath has been knocked out and drugged.  How could this have happened?  It is necessary that Heath stay at the farm to recuperate and Leventhorpe refuses to leave him.
Brooke is forced to pay out what little money she has for a physician to attend him, in addition to feeding him what little food they have.  How will this all turn out for the ladies?
I loved this story and don’t want to give away anymore spoilers.  Suffice to say that readers are going to fall in love this series.  The characters are written perfectly.  I cannot wait for the next books in the series to see what is in store for each of the ladies.
Connie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘A Dangerous Passion’ by E. E. Burke

adp eebSTORY: Will love survive when passion and ambition collide?

Henry Stevens has sacrificed everything, including his honor, to build a railroad empire. At the worst possible time a rival shows up who could destroy him, unless he can devise a plan.

Life in a small village is too quiet, too ordinary for a free spirit like Lucy

Forbes. When her father lands a job out West, she packs her books and her dreams and eagerly sets off to pursue romantic adventures she’s only read about. The moment she sets foot in Kansas, she’s thrust into the gritty reality of an untamed frontier, and into the arms of an enemy.

Her would-be suitor, Henry,is as passionate as he is ambitious. But the secretive man her father has been sent to investigate has a ruthless reputation that makes him a dangerous adversary. Fearing for her future, Lucy resolves to unmask the arrogant railroad chief and expose a villain.

What she doesn’t expect to find is a hero.

REVIEW: I used to be a huge fan of western movies. I grew up on Spaghetti Westerns, called that because they were filmed in Italy with mostly Italian actors, and which jump started Clint Eastwood’s career. As far as western romance is concerned, I have a few go-to authors, such as Kaki Warner, Caroline Fyffe and E. E. Burke.

I have to tell you guys, ever since I binge watched ‘Hell on Wheels’, I have been intrigued by the railroad building business. The railroad building is a fascinating story to me. Those men and women, who were participating in building it, were strong and brave. Let me tell you, this was dog eat dog time and only strong would prevail.

And speaking of the strong, that’s exactly what the hero of this story is.

Henry Stevens is in charge of the Katy Railroad expansion out West and he has a lot of problems that he has to deal with and he really didn’t expect to deal with Major Robert Forbes and his daughter Lucy who have arrived from the East in a most inopportune moment possible. Major Forbes is the man with a mission to find out what’s going on with Katy Railroad, while his strong-willed and beautiful daughter is looking for adventure in the West.

‘A Dangerous Passion’ is a well told, well researched and fascinating read that will take you deep inside the world of railroad building culture. It will also make you laugh as the dialogue is nothing short of brilliant. If you’re like me and are missing your weekly dose of ‘Hell on Wheels’, grab this one and let it take you back to a time of danger, dusty wild west, and entertain you with this tender and passionate love story.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author.

‘My Seductive Innocent’ by Julie Johnstone

msi jjSTORY: Miss Sophia Vane, a hoyden of the first order, makes an unlikely match when she weds Nathaniel Ellison, the rich and wary Duke of Scarsdale. What starts with an unexpected friendship soon blooms into a fiery passion.

But a betrayal plunges Sophia into the thorny world of London Society and entangles her in a labyrinth of manipulation and jealousy that will test the strength of her marriage. Behind her husband’s sudden icy facade, Sophia believes dwells the caring, passionate man she loves. To break through the barriers and reclaim their happiness, they must do more than simply cast away their pride. They must fight for their very lives.

REVIEW: London 1820

Nathaniel (Nathan) Ellison, Marquess of Deering and fifth Duke of Scarsdale, is a very wealthy and handsome man.  He became Duke when his parents died in a carriage crash 12 years ago.  His widowed aunt, Harriet, and his cousin, Hughbert Ellison, live with him.  Hughbert (simply known as Ellison) walks with a limp from a carriage accident some years ago where Nathan was driving.  Nathan has always felt guilty and Ellison feeds on his guilt.
Sophia Vane, age 19, is a young woman who works for her father, Frank, a drunk and a gambler, at the Breeding Tavern.  Her mother died when she was young.  In addition, she has a younger brother, Harry, age 8, who was born as the result of a liaison between Frank a barmaid who left Harry on his doorstep right after he was born.  Sophia has always cared for and protected Harry from Frank’s rages and viciousness.  Many are the times that Frank has beaten her.  Sophia has been saving up so she and Harry can run away.  Frank has said he is going to sell Harry to be a chimney sweep which terrifies Sophia.
When Nathan stops by the tavern one day looking for a man in the area who sells horses, he sees Sophia being mauled by a man and he rescues her by beating up the man.  As Sophia shows him where the man lives, they are accosted by robbers and Nathan is shot.  Back at the Tavern, Sophia takes care of him and his wounds.  She is puzzled at his refusal to take laudanum for his pain.  (There is a reason which readers will learn about.)  When Frank steps in unjustly accusing Nathan of seducing his daughter, Nathan proposes to her to save her and Harry.  Thus begins their life together.
How will Sophia, a tavern wench, fit into Nathan’s life and become a Duchess?  Will she be accepted by his family and the ton?  Sophia is a very strong young woman and the story of watching her learn to become a Duchess is great fun.
Without giving out any more spoilers, I think readers will truly enjoy Julie Johnstone’s latest novel.
Connie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘What a Woman Needs’ by Caroline Linden

wawn cl reSTORY: Charlotte Griffolino knows a rake when she sees one—and the man her niece longs to marry most definitely qualifies. Stuart Drake is handsome, charming—and penniless. That he is interested in more than Susan’s considerable inheritance is highly unlikely. That he will be immune to Charlotte’s allure is even more unlikely…

With a Viscount title in his future, Stuart expects it shouldn’t be difficult to marry an heiress. Still, once he meets Charlotte, how hard will it be to charm her? Quite, actually. Now Stuart has only one option: to take revenge on her through seduction. But learning what this woman needs might only leave him hungry for more…

BOOK BLURB [2005 EDITION]: How hard can it be to marry an heiress?wawn cl or

Not terribly, Stuart Drake thinks, if you’re good-looking, charming, and in line for a Viscount title, which, fortunately, he is. To end his penniless existence, he simply has to convince his intended bride’s shrewish, wizened old guardian that he isn’t a fortune hunter…which, unfortunately, he is in the extreme. Still, once he meets the old witch, how difficult could it prove to charm her?

Quite, actually. Escpecially when the lady in question is temptation made flesh—a gorgeous widow with a reputation for knowing a rake when she sees one, having bedded many herself. She’d rather die than let Stuart win. And with his plans thwarted, Stuart has only one option: to take revenge on his tormentor through seduction. But learning what this woman needs might only leave him hungry for more.

REVIEW: As you can see, this is a 2015 edition with a beautiful new cover.

Stuart Drake is a rake of sorts but has now been reined in by his father for being in one scandal too many.  His father has totally cut him off from his allowance and he is nearly penniless and even relying on his friends for a place to stay.  As he has no other choice, he needs to marry a wealthy heiress soon.

Miss Susan Tratter is a young girl who is a great bride prospect.  She is very pretty, has a generous dowry and is totally infatuated with him.  But there is a problem in the form of her chaperone/guardian/widowed/aunt Charlotte.  She is totally against Stuart courting Susan because she has had lots of experience with men like him.  At 30 years of age, she has lived many places in the world and has a “past” as well.

As Stuart presses his attentions upon Susan, the very beautiful Charlotte plots to best him at his own game by flirting with him to show that he truly is a fortune-hunter.  However, the “game” begins to heat up as their bantering leads to an attraction.

When Susan goes missing and Charlotte is found to have an intruder who has broken into her home looking through some items left to her by her late husband, Stuart and Charlotte band together to find out where Susan is and who is this thief and what is he looking for.

The characters and intertwining plots make for a very gripping story that will keep the reader up late not wanting to put the book down.  I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and hope others will read it too.  The backgrounds of Stuart and Charlotte are not to be missed.

This is a re-release of the novel originally published in 2005.  It’s really nice to see great books brought out again so new readers can enjoy a great story.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘Married to a Perfect Stranger’ by Jane Ashford

mtaps jaSTORY: Mary Fleming and John Bexley are the “white sheep’ of their large families, written off as hapless, boring—and thus suitable for each other. But they’re no sooner married than John is sent off on a two-year diplomatic mission.

Upon his return, John and Mary find that everything they thought they knew about each other is wrong. They’ve changed radically during the long separation. They have to start all over. It’s surprising, irritating—and somehow very exciting…

REVIEW: John and Mary Bexler were only married for a month before he was sent off for two years with a diplomatic group to China.  Not having much time to really get to know one another, John’s return has really put a strain on their relationship.

Mary spent the time that John was gone as a companion to her Aunt Lavinia trying to help her but sadly watching as she slowly descended into dementia.  During this time, Mary has grown by learning to run her aunt’s home and become a mature and somewhat independent woman.  She has also had time to indulge her passion for drawing.  She has a special talent for being able to look at a person and see deep into them and then transform their “real” face to paper. Mary’s ability to draw faces becomes both a good and bad thing in the story.  To give out more information would be a spoiler.

John has matured as well and has worked hard to establish himself in the diplomatic scene.  He chose this route in life after being constantly put down by his two older brothers as they thought he needed to just work for them.  Because of this, he still does not have a lot of self-confidence.  He is also afraid that Mary may not fit into his diplomatic circles and is now questioning his marriage.  He sees how she has matured and has developed a take-charge way about her from her responsibilities caring for her aunt. John sees this as somewhat threatening to him.

John begins making nightly forays into seedy areas of London trying to search for information.  (This actual reasoning isn’t made very clear in the story.)  When Mary discovers this, she is upset and worried and John retaliated by arguing with her.

Mary is a strong character, but John comes across as a man who is still smarting from his brothers’ treatment of him and has yet to form a backbone and self-confidence.

The story is one that I’m sure many couples today face after a long absence from one another, i.e., after military deployments.  It surely must take a while for each other to settle back into their relationship.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘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