‘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

‘The Baron’s Betrayal’ by Callie Hutton

tbb chSTORY: It’s been two years since Lady Marion Tunstall lost her husband at sea. Two years of sorrow and grief. Only now has the young, comely widow finally re-entered society. It isn’t until she and her family attend the merriment of a country dance that Lady Marion sees her dead husband, alive and well… and faints dead away.

Lord Tristan Tunstall has no choice but to confess—he is alive, yes, but not a whole man who can be a husband and father. When he offers her a divorce, however, Marion stubbornly refuses. Now she has forced herself back into his life, and into his home and (oh, God forgive his weakness) his bed. He cannot stop himself from wanting her. Loving her. But can he live with the secret she is keeping from him?

REVIEW: September 1815 – Northampton England

Lady Marion Tunstall became a widow two years ago when her husband, Lord Tristan Tunstall, was lost at sea.  Her grief has been devastating for her but she has finally agreed to attend an soiree with her brother and family.  When she sees her “dead” husband on the arm of another woman, Mrs. Lorelei Gibbons, she faints dead away.

The story goes that Tristan has survived the shipwreck but lost his memory.  During his convalescence, he helped to care for another survivor, Everard Gibbons who eventually passed away leaving an inheritance to Tristan.  Everard’s mother, Lorelei, arrives at her son’s side just as he is dying.  When Tristan regains his memory, he invites Lorelei to stay with him as a companion and he is like a son to her. Why does he need a companion?  It turns out that while he has regained his memory, he has been left blind.  Feeling that he is not a whole person, he makes the decision to not let his wife know he has survived.  While he loves Marion dearly, he wants to stay away from her hoping that she will someday meet and marry a “whole” man.

Lorelei Gibbons was the one who took Tristan to the soiree telling him they were going somewhere else. He is angry when he finds what she has done but she did it to try and get him to get back with his wife.

Marion’s brother is furious with Tristan because he knows that Marion wants to be with him.  But Tristan wants to divorce her so she can be free to marry again.  Marion begs Tristan to let her be with him, but he keeps refusing.  This is essentially the gist of the story.  It is back and forth encounters between the two where Marion wants him but his pride won’t let her in.

This was almost like watching a game of tennis.  While I think the author wrote the story well, the stubbornness of Tristan and his self-pity soon became old.  Although I have not read other books by this author, I look forward to doing so.  I’m hoping that it is just me that was somewhat disappointed with this novel.

Connie for b2b

Copy provided by the publisher

‘An Unlikely Suitor’ by Nancy Moser

aus nmSTORY: Lucy Scarpelli, an Italian dressmaker from New York, befriends socialite Rowena Langdon as she’s making her summer wardrobe. It’s an unlikely friendship, but one that Rowena encourages by inviting Lucy to the family mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. Grateful for Lucy’s skill in creating clothes that hide her physical injury, Rowena encourages Lucy to dream of a better future.

One day Lucy encounters an intriguing man on the Cliff Walk, and love begins to blossom. Yet Lucy resists, for what man will accept her family responsibilities? Rowena also deals with love as she faces a worrisome arranged marriage to a wealthy heir. And Lucy’s teenage sister, Sofia, takes up with a man of dubious character.

All three women struggle as their lives, and those of each unlikely suitor, become intertwined in a web of secrets and sacrifice. Will any of them find true happiness?

REVIEW: New York City – Summer 1895

The Scarpelli family is barely scraping by.  Dante Scarpelli was killed in an accident while working on the docks.  Lucy, in her mid-20s and her sister, Sofia, a teenager, live with their mother, aunt and uncle in a run-down tenement.  Lucy and Sofia work long hours in the garment district, while Mamma makes flowers for hats at home.  Then comes a notice that they are going to be evicted.  In addition, their aunt and uncle plan to move across the country and join their son.  Lucy takes it upon herself to find new lodgings for them.  Luckily, she accidentally bumps into a gentleman who owns a dressmaking shop and is looking for a renter for the upstairs apartment.  Lucy is thrilled with the apartment and the gentleman arranges to hire Lucy, Sofia and their mother to work in the shop.  Life begins to improve for them until the man who handles accounts for the owner, Mr. Bonwitter, begins to harass Lucy and Sofia in the back of the shop.  The man makes life difficult for the girls having to always be on the lookout for him.

When Rowena Langdon comes to the shop to have some dresses made, Lucy notices how unhappy she appears to be and that she has a limp.  The clothes made for her do not fit correctly due to damage she received to her leg as a child.  Lucy takes it upon herself to remake a gown for Rowena with special padding to make the dress fit her imperfect body.  Rowena is thrilled and asks that Lucy be the one to make all of her clothes as she will soon be heading to Newport for the summer season.  The owner of the shop and Sofia are jealous of her good fortune but Lucy is so delighted to see Rowena happy.

Rowena has always been a shy young woman embarrassed by her limp.  She is so pleased with the friendship she has made with Lucy and finds a way to have her come to Newport and work on her clothes.  When Lucy gets a break to walk along the grounds, she meets a very nice young man whom she calls Dante after her father.  They continue to meet and soon become friends.

When a costume ball is decided upon, Sofia and Mamma join Lucy in Newport to help make the costumes.

This is a lovely, clean, Christian novel that I enjoyed immensely.  It clearly defines the differences between the classes in the late 1800s.  Each character is well written and their personalities clearly defined.  I certainly enjoyed the book and look forward to reading even more from this author.

Connie for b2b

‘More Than a Duke’ by Christi Caldwell

mtad ccSTORY: Polite Society doesn’t take Lady Anne Adamson seriously. However, Anne isn’t just another pretty young miss. When she discovers her father betrayed her mother’s love and her family descended into poverty, Anne comes up with a plan to marry a respectable, powerful, and honorable gentleman— a man nothing like her philandering father.

Armed with the heart of a duke pendant, fabled to land the wearer a duke’s heart, she decides to enlist the aid of the notorious Harry, 6th Earl of Stanhope. A scoundrel with a scandalous past, he is the last gentleman she’d ever wed…however, his reputation marks him the perfect man to school her in the art of seduction so she might ensnare the illustrious Duke of Crawford.

Harry, the Earl of Stanhope is a jaded, cynical rogue who lives for his own pleasures. Having been thrown over by the only woman he ever loved so she could wed a duke, he’s not at all surprised when Lady Anne approaches him with her scheme to capture another duke’s affection. He’s come to appreciate that all women are in fact greedy, title-grasping, self-indulgent creatures. And with Anne’s history of grating on his every last nerve, she is the last woman he’d ever agree to school in the art of seduction. Only his friendship with the lady’s sister compels him to help.

What begins as a pretend courtship, born of lessons on seduction, becomes something more, leaving Anne to decide if she can give her heart to a reckless rogue, and Harry must decide if he’s willing to again trust in a lady’s love.

REVIEW: London England – 1815

Lady Anne Arlette Adamson, age 20, has caused her mother much frustration simply because she is not yet betrothed.  Anne’s twin sister, Katherine, is happily married to the Duke of Bainbridge.  Anne is a lovely young lady with beautiful golden hair. As a highly spirited gal, she is not willing to settle for just any man.  She wants to marry a Duke, just as her sister did.  She knows that the Duke of Crawford is in the market for a wife.  He is extremely wealthy and would surely suit her.

Harry Falston, the 6th Earl of Stanhope, age 30, has a reputation as a total rogue.  Because he is known for these ways, Anne decides to meet up with him in the conservatory while at a dance for she wants to enlist his help.  She wants him to teach her how to seduce a man.  Using these skills, her hope is to gain a proposal from the Duke of Crawford.

Harry is intrigued by Anne but is hesitant to help her.  When she tells him that if he doesn’t help her, she will find someone else who will instruct her, he reluctantly agrees.  His heart is truly not in this as there was a beautiful woman in his past who tried this same thing with him and ended up breaking his heart.

As they meet to discuss things, Harry finds that Anne is not the silly person he originally thought she was.  When he learns of the difficulties she has faced in her life, he realizes she is indeed a strong young woman simply seeking a happy and secure future.

Oh, but there is a true evil rogue by the name of Lord Rutland who would gladly seduce Lady Anne. Thus, Harry realizes that she and her reputation could be in danger and he finds himself becoming a man who really cares.  And, oh my, he might be falling in love!

Again, Christi Caldwell, has wowed readers!  She writes such wonderful novels with characters that tugs at the reader’s heartstring while providing us with numerous laughs.

This is Book 3 in the author’s “Heart of a Duke Series.”

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘Stages of Desire’ by Julia Tagan

sod jtSTORY: To be or not to be—in love…

As a ward of the Duchess of Dorset, Harriet can hardly expect more from a match than the ringing endorsement of “from what I’ve heard, the man is financially secure and his teeth are quite regular.” After all, she’s only the lowly daughter of traveling actors, not the actual daughter of the duchess.

William Talbot, Earl of Abingdon is set to marry the duchess’s daughter. After his elder brother’s scandalous death, his family’s reputation is paramount, and he’ll allow nothing to damage it again. But when Harriet disappears to save her father from debtor’s prison, the scandal threatens William and his intended’s family. The simple task of fetching the duchess’s runaway ward turns complicated when Harriet insists on traveling with her father’s acting company. William’s forced to tag along, and finds himself entranced. The stage transforms Harriet into a free-spirited, captivating beauty. But, someone’s been sabotaging the theater company, and instead of facing scandal, William and Harriet discover a threat not only to their growing passion, but to their lives…

REVIEW: London 1808

Harriet Farley is the ward of Eleanor, the Duchess of Dorset.  Harriet’s parents were actors.  Her father still works with Farley’s Players but is slowly losing his business due to his constant drunkenness.  After her mother passed away, Harriet, age 12, went to live with the Duchess and her daughter, Lady Marianne.  Since Eleanor’s husband passed away 3 years ago, she has come to realize that she is suffering some financial woes.  Harriet has also acted as companion and hand maiden to Lady Marianne who currently has her eye on marrying William Richard Talbot, the Earl of Abingdon.  He is a very wealthy man who also owns Poundridge Hall, the family’s estate outside London.  As for Harriet, the Duchess is pushing to pair her with Mr. Hopplehill, the sixth son of a baron and who works at Barings Bank of London.  A tall girl with fairly large feet, Harriet towers over most men she meets.  But when she met Mr. Hopplehill, she was appalled.  He was much shorter than she, older, balding and sweating.  Yuk! As the soiree is at the home of the Earl of Abingdon, Harriet decided to escape the party and find a place to hide out.

William Talbot is a very intelligent man who studied medicine and has a passion to find cures for diseases.  His biggest goal is to find a cure for the malaria that has long plagued his sister, Claire.  So, when he finds Harriet alone in his library enjoying his books, they strike up a conversation and begin discussion plays.

When Harriet learns that her father is indeed on the verge of losing his acting business, she decided to flee to him and see if she can help in some way.  William Talbot is enlisted to go after her and bring her back.  Thus begins a comedy of errors that throws Harriet and William together trying to keep the acting company together.  In doing so, thus begins an attraction and romance between them.  But what about Marianne to whom William is supposedly betrothed?  Will Harriet’s reputation be ruined?

There were parts of this story that I enjoyed but I must admit that it dragged for me at times and it took a lot of concentration to keep up with the characters and plot twists.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher