‘A Lady’s Guide to Skirting Scandal’ by Kelly Bowen

algtss kbSTORY: Lady Viola Hextall is bored—of the ocean, her chaperones, and the woeful lack of available dukes on the ocean voyage from London to New York. Scrambling for any diversion short of jumping overboard, Viola strikes up a conversation with the ship’s rough-hewn, blue-eyed surgeon—and discovers an immediate cure for what ails her…

To Nathaniel Shaw, Viola has the bearing of a lady and the spirit of an adventurer—an unlikely combination that he finds utterly irresistible. So he’s hoping to convince Viola to leave the stifling ballrooms of London high society behind because there is a big, wide world just waiting for them to explore—together.

REVIEW: Lady Viola Hextall is sailing from England to New York as instructed by her brother to acquire some “life experiences.”  It appears that when she did something wrong, her brother, the Earl of Boden, insisted that she not have a season in London, but that she be introduced to society in America.  Not at all pleased with this outcome, Viola’s dream has been to marry a Duke and become a Duchess.  Of course, she has no particular Duke in mind.  That is just her goal.

On the ship, Viola is chaperoned by Miss Yates and Miss Woodward who seem more like jailers to her than real women.

Also on the ship and tasked with keeping as eye on Viola is a friend of her brother’s, Mr. Nathaniel Shaw. He is a surgeon who was in the Army and is now headed to the Missouri territory in America where he plans to settle.

Nathaniel and Viola strike up a conversation and Viola takes an interest in his knowledge of the medical field.  Since she doesn’t appear to be squeamish and is truly interested, Nathaniel shares some of his anatomy books with her.  When Viola drops by his office, she is fascinated with the medical instruments and wants to learn more.  When a ship’s seaman is injured, Viola steps right up and assists Nathaniel with the man’s treatment which impresses Nathaniel immensely.

Their togetherness soon grows into an attraction that cannot be denied.  What can the future hold for two people poised to go on different paths in life?

This is a novella that was well written by the author.  I have enjoyed her novels and look forward to reading more.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘My Enchanting Hoyden’ by Julie Johnstone

meh jjSTORY: A bargain born of desperation ignites into passion as one lord’s quest to save his family leads to the discovery that he can never settle for less than love.

Forsaken, abandoned, and duped, Miss Jemma Adair has no other recourse but to request her grandfather’s help to avoid living on the streets. His asking price? She must marry a neighboring lord’s odious son. Thankfully, there is a way out of her dilemma—ensuring the rake never asks for her hand. But what is Jemma to do when her ally is an all-too handsome silver-tongued lord with a penchant for poetry that makes her question giving her heart to another man?

Philip De Vere, Lord Harthorne, wishes to marry for love, but inherited debt and family obligations force him to seek a wealthy wife. Yet experience has taught him that ladies of the ton prefer rogues to gentlemen with a poet’s soul. But when an unrepentant hoyden claims to know a thing or two about how to make a man a rake, Philip finds he cannot resist Jemma’s offer or her.

REVIEW: Miss Jemma Adair and her twin sister, Anne, are 18-years-old and help their mother run the family bakery in New York.  The girls’ father left their mother years ago.  When their mother learns she has 60 days to fully pay for the loan on the bakery or they would have to vacate, the shock kills the already ill woman.

The Duke of Rowan arrives from England and introduces himself to the girls as their mother’s father.  He announces that he is taking them back to his estate in England where they will be tutored for six months and learn to be proper young ladies.  Then, they will be introduced to the ton where husbands will be found for them.  Jemma and Anne have always heard that their grandfather is a cold man who turned his back on his daughter when she ran off and married a man only wanting her dowry.  It turns out that her grandfather never gave her the dowry after she defied him.

In England, the girls comply as directed by their grandfather, yet Jemma is a stubborn young woman who professes that she does not want to marry, but instead to run her own bakery.  Anne, on the other hand, is more amenable to marry.  Although she is a very beautiful young woman, she is self-conscious due to a somewhat crippled leg she was born with.

Philip DeVere, Earl of Harthorne, is facing financial difficulties from failed crops and the like and needs to marry a woman with a large dowry.  He has the care of his mother as well and doesn’t want to worry her about their finances.  Philip is a good man and detests the thought of having to marry for money.  He would rather get a job but knows that it would upset his mother and he would also be looked down upon socially.

When Jemma and Philip meet at a soiree, he is immediately smitten with her red hair and equally fiery personality.  Philip is a man who loves to write poetry and feels that if he were more of a rake, he would attract some rich women.  So, Jemma agrees to help him become a rake.  The gentleman in him finds him rescuing her from the advances of rakes so the tables turn somewhat.

We watch the relationship of Jemma and Philip grow from friendship into love but not without a lots of bumps in the road along the way.

Once again, Ms. Johnstone has penned a delightful story of a hoyden and her loving gentleman that is certain to make readers sigh.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘Dancing in The Duke’s Arms’ Anthology by Grace Burrowes, Shana Galen, Miranda Neville, Carolyn Jewel

ditda gb sg mn cjSTORIES: Why Do Dukes Fall in Love?
Every summer the cream of society gathers at the Dukeries, named for the ducal estates concentrated in one small corner of Nottinghamshire. While the entertainments include parties, balls, and a famous boat race, the ducal hosts and their guests find heartbreak, love and happy endings.
Four heartwarming stories from four bestselling historical romance authors.

MAY I HAVE THIS DUKE? by Grace Burrowes
The trouble with Houseparties. . .
Gerard Hammersley, Duke of Hardcastle, is dragooned by an old friend into attending a house party, though Hardcastle refuses to fall prey to the matchmakers who relish such gatherings. He recruits his nephew’s prim, prickly governess, Miss Ellen MacHugh, to preserve him from being compromised by the conniving debutantes, and offers in exchange to deflect the drunken viscounts who plague Ellen.

. . . Is that they must end.
Ellen agrees to Hardcastle’s scheme for two reasons. First, she’s been attracted to His Grace since the day she laid eyes on him, and knows that behind Hardcastle’s lack of charm lies a ferociously loyal and faithful heart. Second, she’s departing from Hardcastle’s household at the conclusion of the house party, and two weeks safeguarding His Grace’s bachelorhood is as much pleasure—and as much torment—as she can endure before she leaves him.

DUCHESS OF SCANDAL by Miranda Neville
Too Many Scandals
After months of marriage, the Duke of Linton agreed to live apart from his wife. Thrown together due to a scheduling error, Linton finds Althea still has the power to make his heart race. Linton seems different from the critical, indifferent man Althea married. But though she burns for him as a lover, can she trust him to be the husband she needs?

There’s no such thing as the perfect hero…
Nathan Cauley, tenth Duke of Wyndover, is so handsome ladies swoon—literally swoon. His blond hair and blue eyes certainly draw attention at the Duke of Sedgemere’s house party, but Nathan doesn’t want a fawning young miss for his duchess. He stumbles upon a bedraggled woman sleeping under Sedgemere’s bridge, and his protective instincts stir. When he recognizes her as the princess he fell in love with eight years before, he’s determined to win not only her affections but her heart.

Or is there?
After revolutionaries massacre Princess Vivienne’s family, she and the head of her guard flee to England. Before they can reach London to beg asylum, assassins kill the last of her defenders. Vivienne is alone and on the run when the Duke of Wyndover comes to her rescue. She barely remembers meeting him years before, and isn’t comfortable with gentlemen who are more attractive than she is. Nathan is more than a pretty face, though, and when the assassins return, he might just prove to be the duke Vivienne has been waiting for.

The Duke of Stoke Teversault has well earned his reputation for bloodless calculation. Indeed, recently widowed Georgina Lark has no idea he’s loved her since before her late husband swept her off her feet. Stoke Teversault means to keep it that way. The cold and forbidding duke and the blithe and open Georgina could not be less suited in any capacity. And yet, when Georgina and her sister arrive at his home, his ice-bound heart may melt away.

Georgina Lark has never thought of thought of the Duke of Stoke Teversault as a man capable of inducing passion in anyone. He’s long disapproved of her, but she will be forever grateful to him for his assistance after her husband died.

REVIEW: ‘May I Have This Duke?’ by Grace Burrowes

After being pressured by his grandmother, Gerard Juvenal Rene Beaumarchand Hammersley, Eighth Duke of Hardcastle, is looking for someone to be his Duchess. Gerard lives at Hardwood Hall with his nephew, Christopher, who lost his parents and is being raised by his uncle.  Miss Ellen MacHugh, has been Christopher’s governess for the last 3 of his 6 years.

Although Gerard loves his nephew, he has always been aloof with Ellen.  Ellen has never cared for him because he appears to be cold-blooded and curt.  One day, Gerard summons her to his office to inform her that she and Christopher will be accompanying him to a two-week house party at Sedgemere House in Nottinghamshire.  She agrees but tells him that she will be leaving immediately after the house party as she is putting in her two-week notice.  Shocked at her notice, Gerard tells her that she simply cannot leave him while he is searching for someone to be his Duchess.

At the house party, the hostess approaches Ellen to say that the numbers of men and women are off and she needs Ellen to step in and be a guest.  In addition, she offers the use of her own gowns for Ellen to wear.  As Ellen is the granddaughter of an Earl, her background allows her to blend right in.

When Gerard sees how lovely she is, he realizes that he has had a beautiful and intelligent woman right under his nose for the last 3 years and begins to woo her.  Ellen is flattered but is adamant that she will be leaving in 2 weeks.

Will Gerard be able to change her mind?  Can he convince her to marry him and be his Duchess?

I loved this totally delightful novella.  The storyline is good and there are some humorous bits as well.

‘Waiting for a Duke Like You’ by Shana Galen

Nathan Cauley, tenth Duke of Wyndover, needs an heir.  Currently, he is a guest at the Sedgemere House Party.  Although he does not care for games at these events, he agrees to go on a scavenger hunt. One item he needs is a smooth stone and thus he heads down to the bridge.  

Her Royal Highness Princess Vivienne Aubine Calathe de Glynaven is the only surviving member of the royal family of the Kingdom of Glynaven.  They had all been slaughtered during yet another revolution that has tried to oust the royal family.  Vivienne has been running trying to escape the assassins. Filthy, exhausted, hungry and thirsty, she stops at the bridge for a drink of water and passes out.

When Nathan comes upon Vivienne at the bridge, he immediately carries her to safety.  It is feared that if she hides in the Sedgemere home, the assassins would certainly look for her there and possibly massacre the people in the home.  Therefore, Nathan secrets her to his nearby home, Wyndover Park. Now that she is clean and fed, she still has problems sleeping with dreams of the massacre and seeing the bodies of her family members.  She is hoping to appeal to Prinny to provide her with asylum, however, Nathan helps her realize that to do so would result in political problems for the regent.

The harmony that Nathan and Vivienne experience during their close time together ends up in an attraction that neither of them can deny.  But for how long can she escape the assassins?  How can she ever live freely again?  What about the growing love that she and Nathan feel for one another?  Can they ever hope to live a normal life together?

Once again, Shana Galen has written a terrific novel full of intrigue, action and romance.  I enjoyed the story immensely and know others will as well.

‘Duchess of Scandal’ by Miranda Neville

The Duke of Linton is a very wealthy man owning a total of 12 mansions.  He has been estranged from his younger wife for several years now.  The Duchess Althea is 12 years younger than him.  As she was so immature and unused to society, she fell right in fun but without using the proper restraints.  Althea has a twin brother, Nicholas, a wastrel, who seems to always be spending his time being idle with Althea.  In addition, Althea knew that Linton has a mistress which only angered her more.  Her lack of self-control and silliness with her brother resulted in her embarrassing and angering Linton which led to many arguments and finally to their estrangement.  

Linton has just arrived at The Chimneys, one of his properties which is near Sedgemere where there is soon to be the Dukeries Cup, an annual rowing race.  Upon arrival, he finds Althea is there as well.  He realizes that he has made a mistake in the dates she would be at The Chimneys but decides to stay for a time anyway.

Nick is also there and brought along Nigel Speck, an odious man who is always trying to make improper and unwelcome passes at Althea.  Both Nick and Nigel have plans to stay for the summer.  It turns out that Nick owes Nigel a large debt and, thus Nick decides to enter the rowing race in hopes of winning the purse so he can repay the debt.  So, with the help of Linton, Nick practices his rowing every day in preparation for the race.

Now that Althea and Linton are together every day and the fact that she has matured quite a lot, opens them both up to a better understanding of their individual personalities.  Will this time together help them to heal and resolve their differences?

A well written story with some engaging characters.

‘An Unsuitable Duchess’ by Carolyn Jewel

Miss Georgia Lark, 23, has been recently widowed after just one year of marriage.  A striking woman with orange hair and freckles, George, as she is called by her friends, has decided to attend the Sedgemere house party.  She is accompanied by her sister, Miss Kitty Hunter, a lovely young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes.

The Duke of Stoke is a tall and feared man.  He has always cared for Georgia but does not approve of people calling her George.  He thinks it is simply too familiar.

As part of the entertainment, George has put together a treasure hunt.  She has drawn maps for people to follow and at the end, there will be treasure for them to find.  But when the treasure goes missing before the hunt has even started, George is quite perturbed and intent on discovering who took it.

As George and Stoke find themselves together more and more, secrets come to light and their attraction grows.

I admit that I had a difficult time following this particular anthology because the number of characters and their past was somewhat confusing.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Virtue and Valor’ by Collette Cameron

perf5.000x8.000.inddSTORY: Bartholomew Yancy never expected to inherit an English earldom and had no intention of marrying. Now, the Earl of Ramsbury and last in his line, he’s obligated to resign his position as England’s War Secretary, find a wife, and produce an heir. Only one woman holds the least appeal: Isobel Ferguson, an exquisite Scotswoman. Brought to Scotland to mediate between feuding clans, he doggedly woos her.

Disillusioned with men pursuing her for her attractiveness, rather than her unusual intellect, Isobel has all but abandoned any hope of finding a husband in the Highlands. Not only does she believe Yancy no different than her other suitors, he’s a notorious rake. She’s been told he’s practically betrothed. Therefore, his interest in her cannot possibly be honorable, and so she shuns his attentions.

When Isobel is mistakenly abducted by a band of rogue Scots, Yancy risks his life to rescues her. To salvage her compromised reputation, her brother and father insist she marry him. Yancy readily agrees, but Isobel—knowing full well she’s fated for spinsterhood by refusing his offer— won’t be coerced into marriage.

Can love unite a reluctant earl and a disenchanted beauty?

REVIEW: Bartholomew Yancy, Earl of Ramsbury, has always been attracted to Isobel Ferguson, a Scottish lass and the sister to Laird Ewan McTavish.  Yancy is headed to meet with Ewan as there have been tribal disputes going on and he needs to see what needs to be done.

Isobel is a very independent and intelligent young woman who enjoys looking for fossils on her land. However, with the uprisings occurring, her family members have instructed her that she is not to leave the immediate area without being accompanied by protectors.  When Yancy arrives in Scotland, he reinforces the edict that Isobel stay safe.  However, she is stubborn and eludes them to continue her fossil search.

But when she is abducted by some of the rebels, life gets quite difficult for her.  Yancy soon realizes he is indeed in love with Isobel, and thus begins his difficult search for her placing his own life in danger. Although she had been very foolish to have begun this folly, she is very lucky to have Yancy searching for her.

There were times I had a difficult time keeping up with the action in this story and the numerous characters.  While I have enjoyed many of Ms. Cameron’s books in the past, I have to say that this was not my favorite.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘The Cavendon Women’ by Barbara Taylor Bradford

tcw btbSTORY: The aristocratic Inghams have been served by the Swann family for centuries. The Cavendon Women follows these two families’ journeys from a weekend in the summer of 1926 through to the devastation of the financial crash of 1929.

It all begins on a summer weekend in July of 1926, when, for the first time in years, the Earl has planned a family weekend. Everyone is intrigued by the invitation, and everyone has their own reasons for accepting it. As the family members come together, secrets, problems, joys, and sorrows are revealed. And as old enemies come out of the shadows and the Swanns’ loyalty to the Inghams gets tested in ways none of them could have predicted, it is up to the Cavendon women to band together and bring their family into a new decade, and a new way of life.

Told with Barbara Taylor Bradford’s trademark attention to detail and passionate prose, The Cavendon Women will grip readers as they follow the beloved characters through times of triumph and turmoil.

REVIEW: Cavendon Hall, England – 1926

Cavendon Hall is now 175 years old and consists of over 180 rooms.  Charles Ingham, the Sixth Earl of Mowbray, is now head of the family.  A widower, he has one son and heir, Miles, and four grown daughters, Daphne, Dulcie, DeLacy, and Diedre.

For years and years, the Ingham family has been served by the Swann family and both families have always been true and faithful friends.  To this end, Charles Ingham has fallen in love with Charlotte Swann and plans to marry her.  His son, Miles, is estranged from his wife who left him and who never could conceive.  He is in love with Cecily Swann but cannot persuade his wife to give him a divorce.  The daughters all share beautiful blond hair and clear blue eyes.  Each of them has established their own lives and are happy.  The novel takes us through the daughters finding the man of their dreams.  Along the way, the family meets with pain and sorrow, yet manages to stick together and keep up their close family and their huge home.

The book spans the time from 1926 to the disastrous financial crash of 1929.  We get to know the members of the Ingham and Swann families and how their lives all intertwine.  The Cavendon women prove themselves to be very strong and able to keep their family together as they enter the new decade.

This book is a follow-on to the author’s first novel, “Cavendon Hall.”  I enjoyed that novel very much and truly looked forward to reading this new one.

Barbara Taylor Bradford is an author that does not disappoint.  I am sure that readers will enjoy reading about this time period and the vast changes that occurred then.

Connie for b2b

‘The Invention of Sarah Cummings’ by Olivia Newport

tiosc onSTORY: Sarah Cummings has one goal in life–to break into Chicago’s high society. Desperate to stop serving dinner and to start eating at society tables, Sarah alters cast-off gowns from the wealthy Banning women to create lustrous, flattering dresses of her own. On a whim at a chance meeting, she presents herself as Serena Cuthbert, weaving a fictitious past to go with her fictitious name.

But as she gets closer to Simon Tewell, the director of St. Andrew’s Orphanage, Sarah finds that she must choose between the life she has and the life she dreams of. Will she sacrifice love to continue her pretense? Or can Simon show her that sometimes you don’t have to pretend for dreams to come true?

Olivia Newport brings us back to Prairie Avenue to explore the place where class, social expectations, and romance come together. Readers will enjoy following the intrepid Sarah as she searches for true love in a world of illusions.

REVIEW: Sarah Cummings grew up in the St. Andrew’s Orphanage in Chicago.  Later, she got a job as a maid with the Banning family.  She is a very talented seamstress and has made over many dresses that have been passed down to her by her employer.  She dreams of being part of the Chicago social scene.  On her days off, she likes to dress up and explore the shops.

One day, Sarah happens to meet socialite Lillie Wagner in a hat shop.  Seeing her nice dress, Lillie assumes she is also a socialite.  When introducing herself, Sarah says she is Serena Cuthbert and tells a story of being the daughter of a wealthy couple who are now out of town.  Lillie and Sarah meet often for lunch or dinner and Sarah meets some of her society friends, one of whom is Brad, a handsome and dashing man working with the presidential campaign.

Trying to keep her two lives separate, Sarah works to get as much time off as possible from her job, often exchanging favors with another maid.  As she serves dinners in the Banning home, she is always afraid that she might meet up with someone that she has met at a society party under the guise of Serena.

Sarah’s sewing skills are called upon by the director of the Orphanage, Simon Tewell, so she agrees to give sewing lessons to some of the girls providing them with skills that will help them find a good job when they leave the Orphanage.

But when her two lives finally meet up and she is caught in her lie, Lillie is angry and hurt.  Brad’s attentions soon become more unwelcome and aggressive.  In the meantime, Simon Tewell is showing his admiration and more for her.  Which route in life will she choose?

This was a well-written novel with well-developed characters.  While I understood Sarah wanting more from life for herself, the lies she told to get there were bound to catch up to her.

Connie for b2b

‘Eight Hundred Grapes’ by Laura Dave

ehg ldSTORY: There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide…

Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.

But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.

Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets…

REVIEW: Dan is a scientist who has always wanted to make wine.  So, he takes a big step of finding the perfect acreage in California and with the help of his wife, Jen, forms The Last Straw Vineyard.  Twin sons, Bobby and Finn, and a daughter, Georgia, grow up in the midst of the winery, becoming well-educated on the wine making process.  But for Georgia, it has always been a true love.

After Georgia graduated from law school, she works for some time in a law firm in Los Angeles.  There, she met Ben, an Englishman, to whom she is engaged and soon to marry.  Their plan is to move to London after the wedding which is to be held at the family winery.  But when Georgia is at her last wedding gown fitting, she sees Ben walking down the street with a beautiful woman and a little girl. Georgia runs out of the store to say hello to Ben.  But his look of guilt combined with the little girl calling him “Daddy” shocks her and sends her driving straight home to the winery.  As her brothers both live nearby, she hopes that being back in the bosom of her family will help her decide if she can go through with the marriage or not.

Hoping to find comfort, Georgia soon realizes that she may just have to “take a number.”  Her brother, Bobby, married and father to twin sons of his own is having marital problems, and her other brother, Finn, unmarried and running a bar, has his own problems as well.  Oh, but let’s not forget Mom and Dad. They are estranged and have just signed papers to sell the winery to a conglomerate that produces wines comparable to “Two Buck Chuck.”

With the last harvest season upon them, the family comes together to pitch in.  At the same time, souls are bared and problems are shared.

What a completely dysfunctional family and Georgia is the worst.  Back and forth on her decision to marry Ben:  yes, no, yes no.  Gah!  My head was spinning!  Yes, there is a bit of humor in the book but I simply found it one that did not appeal to me.  However, there are many people who have loved it.  So, give it a try and share your review.

Connie for b2b