‘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

‘An Unsuitable Bride’ by Jane Feather

aub jfSTORY: The headstrong and beautiful Alexandra Douglas is summoned to London from the seminary for young ladies upon the death of her father, Sir Arthur Douglas. There, the family lawyer explains to her that she and her invalid sister, Sylvia, have been left penniless, disinherited, delegitimized. Her father had divorced her mother on the grounds of insanity, making the children of the marriage illegitimate, but still allowing him to remarry. On Sir Arthur’s death, his considerable wealth and estates passed to a distant relative, while his widowed second wife and stepson received handsome inheritances.

Alex is determined to get the inheritance that she and her sister are due.When she sees an advertisement for a librarian at her former family home, she applies in the guise of an impoverished middle-aged spinster with experience as a school librarian.But when The Honorable Peregrine Sullivan arrives for a weekend of hunting with Alex’s stepbrother and immediately notices that the librarian is not who she appears to be, she finds it impossible to keep her distance.

With her elaborate scheme unraveling and her future in jeopardy, Alex must rely on her wits—and her new love—to make sure justice is served.

REVIEW: Alexandra Douglas and her sister, Sylvia, who is an invalid have been left penniless after the death of their father. The home she has known and that should be rightly hers has been passed down to her greedy cousin. A very intelligent girl, Alexandra chooses to dress herself as an old lady and infiltrate her old home under the name of Alexandra Hathaway to work as a librarian cataloguing the very extensive family library.

In addition, she is advising her cousin (who does not recognize her) on how best to invest money in growing interests. Due to his ignorance of money, she is also skimming off profits for herself. Peregrine Sullivan visits the home and wonders who this frumpy, intelligent woman is. He decides to follow her when she makes a short visit to her sister.

When he discovers who she really is and the beautiful woman under the disguise, he works to win her heart. However, Alexandra is a stubborn and proud woman who would never agree to marry and be kept by a man who would also care for her sister. She has decided to continue her deception until she has made enough money to care for her sister’s life.

Will she continue to pull off this trick? Read this novel and you will find out what happens to her and if she and Peregrine are united in the end. There is a lot of nail biting but a good read!

Connie for b2b

‘Forbidden to Love the Duke’ by Jillian Hunter

ftlad jhSTORY: Lady Ivy Fenwick is desperate. Since her father’s fatal duel, she and her sisters have sold off every valuable possession to make ends meet. With the manor stripped bare, Ivy has one last resort: Apply as governess to the Duke of Ellsworth’s wards.

James should have known better than to hire the desirable lady who had fallen on hard times—and who tempts him at every turn. As her employer, he tries valiantly to remain noble and not let a kiss they shared as strangers years ago entice him. Yet the more he learns of Ivy’s secrets, the more he wants her. And when another suitor proves aggressive, James is confronted with a challenge: Surrender Ivy or fight for the woman he’s come to love against all odds, knowing that it takes a scoundrel to trump a scoundrel.

REVIEW: England 1813

Lady Ivy Fenwick and her three sisters, all named after flowers, live in their crumbling home, Fenwick Manor which has been around since the Tudor times.  Their mother passed away years ago and their father was killed in a duel after he had been caught cheating at cards.  The sisters have had to sell off many of the artifacts in the house to keep themselves going.  In addition, they have a private garden where they grow most of what they eat.  However, things are still quite dire which has inspired Ivy to look for a position as a governess.

James, the Duke of Ellsworth, lives nearby Fenwick Manor in his home, Ellsworth Park. Intrigued by Fenwick Manor, he is looking to perhaps purchase the property.  But when he approaches the property, he realizes that it houses four lovely women all ready to defend their home.

Soon after, James finds himself in charge of caring for two children so he immediately advertises for a governess just at the same time that Ivy advertises looking for a position.  Although there are many applicants for the job, James selects Ivy and is quite happy with his choice.

Thus begins an attraction between James and Ivy that cannot be denied.  At the same time, another man has heard that there might be treasure hidden in Fenwick Manor and does what he can to flatter the sisters to gain entry into their home and their lives.

The story has a good plot, however, the addition of the man inserting himself into Fenwick Manor could have been left out of the story.  For me, it was just too much and seemed to take away from the story of James and Ivy.  However, there are some humorous parts that will certainly make the reader smile.

Connie for b2b

‘Once a Wallflower, At Last His Love’ by Christi Caldwell

oawalhl ccSTORY: Responsible, practical Miss Hermione Rogers, has been crafting stories as the notorious Mr. Michael Michaelmas and selling them for a meager wage to support her siblings. The only real way to ensure her family’s ruinous debts are paid, however, is to marry. Tall, thin, and plain, she has no expectation of success. In London for her first Season she seizes the chance to write the tale of a brooding duke. In her research, she finds Sebastian Fitzhugh, the 5th Duke of Mallen, who unfortunately is perfectly affable, charming, and so nicely… configured… he takes her breath away. He lacks all the character traits she needs for her story, but alas, any duke will have to do.

Sebastian Fitzhugh, the 5th Duke of Mallen has been deceived so many times during the high-stakes game of courtship, he’s lost faith in society women. Yet, after a chance encounter with Hermione, he finds himself intrigued. Not a woman he’d normally consider beautiful, the young lady’s practical bent, her forthright nature and her tendency to turn up in the oddest places has his interests… roused. He’d like to trust her, he’d like to do a whole lot more with her too, but should he?

REVIEW: Surrey England

Hermione Rogers is a strong young woman.  Her mother passed away several years ago leaving her father in a state of deep depression.  As such, their family finances are dwindling and Hermione is doing her best to keep things going.  Her older sister, Elizabeth, had a fever some years back which affected her mind leaving her mentally as that of a child.  She also has two younger twin siblings, Addie and Hugh both of whom look to her for guidance.
Hermione’s aunt has provided funds for Hermione to go to London for a season in hopes of her making a match and, thus saving the family from financial ruin.  While Hermione is agreeable to this, her first true love is her writing.  She has penned several stories under the nom de plume of Mr. Michael Michaelmas.
Sebastian Fitzhugh, the fifth Duke of Mallen, was taught to accept his responsibilities and has done a good job of it.  He’s quite content as his life is now.  However, his mother is pushing him to attend more soirees in hopes of finding his perfect duchess.
When Sebastian eyes Hermione at a dance, he is intrigued by her being absorbed with sitting and jotting things down on her dance card.  Thinking it strange that she is not simply watching the other dancers, he follows her as she heads down a hallway only to discover her sitting at their host’s desk writing away.  Thinking he is trying to accost her, she pushes to get away from him when he is only interested in what she is writing.   He becomes quite charmed by her and the feeling is mutual for her.  He just cannot figure her out but is afraid to become too involved with her because he might find himself ensnared by the parson’s mousetrap.
Ms. Caldwell has once again perfected her characters and expressed their emotions so well  which grabs the reader.  There is so much more to the story but I don’t want to give too much away.  Suffice to say, you will love this novel.  Christi Caldwell has nailed it again!
Connie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘Miss Winters Proposes’ by Frances Fowlkes 

mwp ffSTORY: An unseemly proposal…

Juliet Winters has come up with a wonderfully devious plan to avoid marrying her vile cur of a cousin. First, she’ll propose marriage to her handsome, reclusive neighbor, Lord Colwyn. Then, once she has both name and financial support, she’ll be able to pursue her true (if rather unladylike) passion — breeding dogs. But when Lord Colwyn rejects her proposal… Juliet must take matters into her own hands.

The last thing Benjamin Colwyn expected was for the spirited Juliet to blackmail him into marriage — especially not by kidnapping his beloved canine companion. Yet despite his yearning for peace and isolation, he finds himself wanting to help her, if only to protect her from a marriage to a disreputable scoundrel. He certainly doesn’t expect the woman who pilfered his dog to steal his heart, as well…

REVIEW: Surrey England, Winter 1818

Juliet Winters, age 24, is red-haired and freckled.  The daughter of a rich baron, Lord Roughton, all Juliet cares for is raising dogs that are part of an incredible line begun by her father.  Juliet is being pressured to marry her odious cousin, Frederick Winters, who enjoy politics.  He is a truly vile man and has played many dirty tricks to get information from some members of Parliament.
As Juliet is adamant about not marrying Frederick and decides to turn to her reclusive neighbor, Lord Colwyn.  Benjamin Stephenson Colwyn, the sixth Viscount Colwyn is in needs of funds.  The owner of a prize dog, now expecting puppies, he needs the financial security he can gain from the sale of the puppies.
Juliet figures that if she marries her neighbor, she will be free to spend her days with her dogs.  When she drops in and frankly proposes to him, he is surprised and simply turns her down saying he has no need of a wife.  However, Juliet is ready for this and volleys that if he does not marry her, he will never again see Artemis, his prize English Pointer.
Thus begins a cute story of a stubborn young woman and a man totally charmed by her.
Connie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

‘The Duke of Dark Desires’ by Miranda Neville

tdodd mnSTORY: Wanted: Governess able to keep all hours . . .
Rebellious Julian Fortescue never expected to inherit a dukedom, nor to find himself guardian to three young half-sisters. Now in the market for a governess, he lays eyes on Jane Grey and knows immediately she is qualified—to become his mistress. Yet the alluring woman appears impervious to him. Somehow Julian must find a way to make her succumb to temptation . . . without losing his heart and revealing the haunting mistakes of his past.

Desired: Duke skilled in the seductive art of conversation . . .
Lady Jeanne de Falleron didn’t seek a position as a governess simply to fall into bed with the Duke of Denford. Under the alias of Jane Grey, she must learn which of the duke’s relatives is responsible for the death of her family—and take her revenge. She certainly can’t afford the distraction of her darkly irresistible employer, or the smoldering desire he ignites within her.

But as Jane discovers more clues about the villain she seeks, she’s faced with a possibility more disturbing than her growing feelings for Julian: What will she do if the man she loves is also the man she’s sworn to kill?

REVIEW: London 1802

Julian Fortescue, the new Duke of Denford, now finds himself quite rich.  Many heirs to the title have died in rather quick succession over the years leaving numerous people contesting the final decision of naming Julian as the new Duke.  Now that that is all settled, he can relax and enjoy his life.

When Julian’s mother leaves her three daughters by her second husband with him while she accompanies her third husband to America for an extended length of time, he is totally exasperated.  He never had a chance to get to know his half-sisters because their father never wanted him around.  His first priority is to hire a governess.

As it happens, Jeanne-Louise de Falleron, now calling herself Miss Jane Grey, is out for revenge against Julian.  She believes that he is the Fortescue family member responsible for the deaths of her parents and two sisters in France when they were executed during the French Revolution.  When she presents herself for the job, Julian is impressed with her and her beauty and immediately hires her.

She settles in well and really enjoys being with Julian’s sisters and teaching them.  They enjoy meeting in his library in the evening as they discuss the progress the girls are making.  Julian finds himself very attracted to her and they begin a type of flirtation.  Can Jane put aside her hate of Julian to give into her own attraction to him?

The story follows Jane as she seeks to find out more about Julian and if he is truly the one to blame for her family’s deaths.  In the meantime, Julian is seeking a way to bring some valuable paintings back to England that was rescued during the Revolution.

This is a nice romance novel which brings in some very interesting history as well.  Miranda Neville fans will find that she has once again given her readers a special treat.

Connie for b2b