HIS STUDY IN SCANDAL by Megan Frampton 

June 2, 2023

School for Scoundrels, Book 2

From the publisher:

Megan Frampton’s deliciously witty A School for Scoundrelseries follows the adventures of five gentlemen who navigate life—and love—in London. Here, a dashing young businessman enters into a liaison with a widowed Duchess. Perfect for fans of Sarah MacLean and anyone who loves Bridgerton!

Alexandra, Duchess of Chelmsworth, is tired of pretending to mourn a husband who squandered a fortune and never bothered to give her the time of day, much less any attentions at night. So, the still-beautiful duchess cuts up her mourning gowns, deciding to experience the pleasures long denied her by daringly visiting the Garden of Hedon. It is there the ton anonymously gives in to their deepest desires, and where Alexandra finds herself in the arms of a mysterious man. She willingly gives in to the passion he offers her, fully believing she would never see him again.

But she is shocked to soon discover he is none other than Theo Osborne, who is continually being pushed forward as a husband—for Alexandra’s own daughter! While his wealth would save the family from financial ruin, his intentions are clear: he has no interest in anyone but Alexandra. And though he tempts and teases her, she is determined not to give her heart to any man. But what started as a sensuous game turns into something much more…

“Frampton serves up both spicy sex scenes and hefty emotions that will leave readers wanting more. This passionate love story keeps the series going strong.” — Publishers Weekly

“Frampton follows up the first “School for Scoundrels” book, Her Lessons in Persuasion, with another scorching pairing. Recommended for romance fans who like it hot, hot, hot.” — Library Journal


Frampton writes steamy historicals, and this one is no exception. The sex starts early on and continues, on and off, for what feels like most of the book. Not that I’m complaining – she writes great sex scenes.

Alexandra is a duchess who has been in mourning for two years since the death of her husband. Well, she looks and acts like she’s in mourning, but in actuality, she is glad to be rid of her arrogant, domineering, despot of a husband. Unfortunately, his son is now the Duke, and he learned well from his father. If anything, he is even worse because he has mismanaged the family’s money to the point where he is arranging a marriage for Alexandra’s daughter, his half-sister, based solely on finding someone willing to forgo a dowry and pay off his debts.

The day her mourning is up, Alexandra destroys her black clothing and her stepdaughter, who is older than she is, takes her to the Pleasure Garden for the evening. There, Alexandra meets Theo, and he introduces her to sex for pleasure. Theo is a self-made wealthy man who comes from humble beginnings. He was orphaned as a baby, and was eventually adopted by Mr. Osborne, who was alone and longed for a family. Theo is part of a group of men from similar backgrounds; they were children in the same orphanage and have stayed friends. He is also an owner of the pleasure garden and often spends time there.

Theo, who is 32, is completely smitten with Alexandra, who is 40. I loved that May-December aspect to this romance. Unfortunately, it is his last night at the pleasure garden, as he is going to be engaged soon and he is a most honorable man. Much to their surprise, it turns out that Theo is the man set to marry Alexandra’s daughter. Talk about a nightmare!

I don’t want to ruin the story, so I’ll just say that everything gets resolved with the requisite happy ending, but there are a lot of twists and turns, drama and more drama, plus all that sex before it gets there, and that is half the fun!

6/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HIS STUDY IN SCANDAL by Megan Frampton. Avon (May 23, 2023). ISBN:‎ 978-0063224223. 352p.





HIGHLAND BEAST by Heather McCollum 

May 26, 2023

Sons of Sinclair, Book 4

From the publisher:

Bàs Sinclair is the cold and brutal hand―and sword―of justice across the Highlands. He has one destiny: to bring fear into the hearts of guilty men. But when he is called to execute a midwife for her crimes, he cannot raise his weapon. For Bàs already knows this lovely, part-wild creature. After all, she gave him his first and only kiss…

Shana Drummond will do anything to protect her beloved sister. Now her cruel, merciless brother-in-law has called upon Bàs to have Shana killed for crimes she didn’t commit. She can’t reconcile the cold, lethal warrior before her with the gentle one she met―nay, kissed―only days before.

But mercy from Bàs can only lead to one thing: war among the clans. A war that will test allegiances, tear families apart, and challenge everything Bàs knows about himself and his heart. Because once this Highlander knows love, nothing will stop him from keeping Shana safe…even if it means destroying his own destiny.

Each book in the Sons of Sinclair series is a STANDALONE:
* Highland Conquest
* Highland Warrior
* Highland Justice
* Highland Beast

Coming Oct 2023: Highland Surrender


I really enjoy the setting of this series and they can each be read as a standalone. That said, the stories are built around these four brothers, whose father has named as the Four Men of the Apocolypse. There is a sister, too, and I guess her story will be the last book in the series.

This book focuses on Bas, who name means Death. He was named Death because his mother died when he was born, not an unusual circumstance in the 16th century. He is the executioner of the family. He has been brought up to kill those who have been found guilty and condemned to death. It’s his job, and he is very good at it. But because he is feared by everyone who sees him, he has never met a woman who didn’t cower or hide from him. Until Shana.

Bas discovers Shana as she enters his property with a newborn baby in her arms. Turns out it is her sister’s baby, and they think the father is going to kill the newborn because he found out his wife was cheating on him. There is much more to the story than that, and it takes a lot of finagling before the whole story comes out. Meanwhile, Bas is determined to keep them safe.

Bas has been with a woman, his brothers paid for the privilege, but Shana is the first woman who seems unafraid of him. In fact, she is really drawn to the gentle giant. She has no knowledge of his job, only sees that is kind and good natured and takes care of all sorts of animals in his care. He adopts any kind of stray and as long as he names them, they will be safe with him.

They have a lot of hurdles to get over in this story, and there is a lot of action and fighting before they reach their happily ever after. I love the way the family are always backing each other up, even when Bas declares war, which is not his role in the family. Nonetheless, they all fall in behind him.

Shana and Bas make a perfect couple; if he’s death, then she is life as she is a midwife and Bas loves that about her. All in all, this was a very fast paced story and the main characters are brought to life on the page. Another excellent entry into this Scottish series.

5/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HIGHLAND BEAST by Heather McCollum. Entangled: Amara (April 25, 2023). ISBN:‎ 978-1649370778. 384p.





Spotlight Review: LOYALTY by Lisa Scottoline

April 18, 2023

From the publisher:

#1 bestselling author Lisa Scottoline presents Loyalty, an emotional, action-packed epic of love and justice, set during the rise of the Mafia in Sicily.

Loyalty can save a soul—or destroy one.

    Franco Fiorvanti is a handsome lemon grower toiling on the estate of a baron. He dreams of owning his own grove, but the rigid class system of Sicily thwarts his ambition. Determined to secure a better future, Franco will do anything to prove his loyalty to the baron. But when the baron asks him to kidnap a little boy named Dante, Franco makes a decision that will change his life—and even the history of Sicily—forever.

    Gaetano Catalano is an idealistic young lawyer whose devotion to justice is tantamount to a calling. He’s a member of the Beati Paoli, a real-life secret society of aristocrats who investigate crime in Palermo, a city riddled with graft. Gaetano sets out to find the boy and punish the kidnapper, but his mission leads him to a darker place than he had ever imagined.

    Meanwhile, Mafalda Pancari is a new mother rejoicing at the birth of her daughter, Lucia, when disaster strikes. And Alfredo D’Antonio is a reclusive goatherd under constant threat of being discovered as a Jew. How the lives of these unforgettable characters collide makes Loyalty an epic tale of good versus evil, as the story twists and turns to its monumental showdown.

    Readers will be transported to the dramatic and ruggedly beautiful island of Sicily, the jewel of the Mediterranean, where lush lemon groves and mouth-watering cuisine contrast with a turbulent history of colonization and corruption. Scottoline brings her decades of thriller writing to historical fiction, creating in Loyalty a singular novel that no reader will be able to put down.

“Scottoline brings nineteenth-century Sicily alive in this historical thriller…Every scene is a full sensory experience, as Scottoline weaves lemon-scented breezes, the ocean’s sounds, and sun-baked piazza stones into a timeless, tragedy-strewn story of love, power, and redemption. History fans will appreciate the novel’s well-researched foundation, especially concerning the origins of the Sicilian Mafia and early mental-health institutions.” —Booklist (starred)

“Scottoline brings her characters to life, instilling them with wit and intellect as they navigate the corruption of Sicily’s law enforcement. Historical crime fiction fans will be riveted.” —Publishers Weekly


I love Lisa Scottoline – she is an incredible writer and a truly special human being. Many years ago, I was assigned her book Killer Smile for review at Library Journal. I loved that book and gave it a starred review. I was working for the Palm Beach County Library System at the time when one of my co-workers came running up to me to say I had a phone call, and it was Lisa Scottoline. Everyone was jumping up and down with excitement! We’d never had a New York Times bestselling author call our library, and everyone followed me to the back so I could take the call. Lisa called to thank me for my review, which had never happened before (or since!) I had never met her, but I did several years later at a library convention. And she remembered me! It was just the most surreal experience. I’ve met her several times since then, and she did a standing-room-only book talk for my library. A truly remarkable human being I am proud to call a friend.

With that out of the way, yes I can still do an unbiased review of her books, mostly because as I pointed out when I started this review, she is an incredible writer. She takes complicated stories like this one and makes them not only engrossing reading, but seriously unputdownable. I dreamt about these characters during the two nights I spent reading this book.

The publisher provided a good synopsis, and I don’t want to muddy the waters except to say that these characters propel the story and will be staying with me for a long time. Sicily is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and Scottoline brings that beauty to the page in addition to all the drama – but it’s the drama that is at the heart of this story. Book groups will find a lot to discuss here as well.

I hope you’ll read it and love it as much as I did.

4/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

LOYALTY by Lisa Scottoline.‎ G.P. Putnam’s Sons (March 28, 2023). ISBN:‎ 978-0525539803. 432 p.



Spotlight Review: THE PROSPECTOR’S ONLY PROSPECT by Dani Collins 

April 4, 2023

From the publisher:

After eight days in a cramped stagecoach, divorcée Marigold Davis already regrets her decision to come to Denver City to marry. She certainly didn’t realize she’d signed up for mosquitoes, mud, and scores of rough men eyeing her like a hot meal on a cold day. But with her life in Kansas all but incinerated, Marigold needs a husband. Even if she’s not the bride that gold prospector Virgil Gardner is expecting…

Virgil Gardner has a reputation as a grumpy hard-ass, and he’s fine with it. He’s also no fool―this is not the woman he agreed to marry. It takes a tough-as-nails woman to survive the harshness of a Rocky Mountain gold claim, and this whiskey-eyed, gentle beauty is certainly not the type. Now it’s just a matter of how quickly she’ll quit so he can find a wife who will stick. Someone who can care for the only thing he values even more than gold–his children.

But Marigold isn’t about to give in. Cramped in a one-room shack. Berry picking turned into a bear escape. Or cooking for an entire crew of bottomless pits. She’s got more grit than most. And just when Virgil starts to realize his replacement bride might be the treasure he’s been looking for, an unannounced guest arrives…to change everything.

“Collins mines the setting for both danger and humor, providing the perfect backdrop to this sensuous romance. Readers won’t want to put this down.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review


I love cowboy romances, and this historical story is a good one. Set in the Kansas territory long before statehood, Virgil Gardner runs a gold mining operation. His wife is gone, leaving him with three children – two of whom are his. He takes care of all of them as best as he can, but he needs a wife, so he advertises for one.

The woman who shows up, Marigold, is actually the sister of the woman he agreed to marry. Virgil is a good man, albeit short-tempered and suspicious of most people, especially women. He cannot abide liars or cheats and feels like he was taken advantage of by this woman. He agrees to allow her to be his housekeeper but takes marriage off the table. Marigold loves children and is educated, so she is happy to take on her new role. She has never lived under such rugged conditions, and there is a definite learning curve. But she enjoys the children and even becomes friendly with the men working for Virgil, much to his displeasure.

Virgil is also surprised to find that he is drawn to the sassy woman and isn’t quite sure what to do about it. Eventually, they realize they have a strong physical attraction, which surprises Marigold – she had a horrible marriage, yet something about Virgil is warming her heart. Virgil and Marigold’s relationship blows hot and cold, and the men are all seeing more to it than they are. Just when you think everything is finally going to work out, there is a wrench thrown in the works that causes a massive setback. But no worries, a happy ending is just around the corner.

The historical aspects of this book were really interesting, and seeing how people lived under such extreme conditions was also fascinating. I liked these characters a lot, and this was a really good story. If you like historical westerns, this is a good one. The romance is just the icing on the cake!

4/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE PROSPECTOR’S ONLY PROSPECT by Dani Collins.‎ Entangled: Amara (March 28, 2023). ISBN:‎ 978-1649373410. 352 p.



March 3, 2023

From the publisher:

USA Today bestselling author Stacy Reid’s addictive tale of two lost people who are found…by each other

London is buzzing with the news that James Winters, the Duke of Wulverton—thought lost at sea a decade ago—survived in the harsh wilderness of the Yukon. Now he’s been returned to his family, his responsibilities, and a nightmarish world of artifice and noise. He has three weeks to become a refined, elegant duke for the Queen…or doom the entire family to ruin and scandal.

Promising psychologist Jules Southby knows a lot about disguises. She’s secretly been living as a boy since birth, enjoying the freedoms of men and knowing little about how to behave like a woman. When she meets the alluring duke, she’s unprepared for his raw, masculine beauty and icy intelligence…or that he can see through her darkest secret.

Jules has very little time to transform the duke into a true semblance of an English gentleman. Yet his very presence seems to unravel her in every way. Their attraction is stark and achingly real—and forbidden. But loving the lost duke would mean losing every sacrifice she’s made to earn her freedom…


A Duke raised by wolves? Pretty much. Although he was 18 when he disappeared into the Yukon, James, the Duke of Wulverton, survived for 10 years in the wilderness to return home to England, a completely changed man. His mother hires Dr. Southby, an alienist, and his son Jules to determine if the Duke has lost his mind or if he can return to society and the role he is required to play. The Duke is incensed to find Dr. Southby invading his privacy and ignoring his wishes, but something about Jules makes him think they could work together. Jules has been living as a male her whole life, and no one suspects a thing, but she somehow senses that the Duke knows her secret.

Working closely together makes Jules face her feminine side, and once they start sleeping together, she soon realizes that while she has not been brought up as a girl, she is easily acting one with the Duke. Their problems are two-fold; they are falling in love but Jules has no desire to live as a woman and give up her freedom, and the Duke only wants Jules yet he is expected to marry a young woman from a prominent family, but he cannot bear to be touched by anyone, other than Jules, and has no desire to be with anyone other than Jules. This is quite the dilemma.

James and Jules become lovers until they are forced apart by her unwillingness to play the part he needs. There is a happy ending, but it is a bit tricky to get there. The plot was a bit far-fetched but I went with it. I liked these characters and the underlying plotline about the psychology of the Duke’s situation. There is a lot of graphic sex throughout, so if that is not your thing look elsewhere for your next read. I thought it well done and ultimately enjoyed the book.

3/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE WOLF AND THE WILDFLOWER by Stacy Reid. Entangled: Scandalous (February 27, 2023). ISBN:‎  979-8378521623. 300p.




Spotlight Review: THE DUKE’S SECRET CINDERELLA by Eva Devon

February 21, 2023

Never a Wallflower, Book 3

From the publisher:

Charlotte Browne could just kick herself. What on earth possessed her to tell the Duke of Rockford that she is a lady? But something about the duke’s handsomeness and kind intelligence makes Charlotte blurt out the teeniest, tiniest falsehood. Now it’s too late to admit she’s just plain Charlotte of no particular importance―with cinder-stained hands, a wretched stepfather, and no prospects for marriage…

Rafe Dorchester, Duke of Rockford, has done what every self-respecting duke must do―avoid marriage at all costs. But the only thing stronger than the duke is his mother. When she lays down the highest ultimatum, he’ll need to find a duchess. Immediately. Only, when he calls on a potential bride, he instead finds the pert, fresh-faced Lady Charlotte. Rafe was warned to never mix the business of marriage with pleasure, but when it comes to her…oh, business would be a splendid pleasure.

One passionate, illicit kiss sends Charlotte fleeing, leaving only a delicate blue ribbon behind. For Rafe can never discover her secret, or it will ruin her beloved sister’s chance at marriage. But the duke knows that when you’ve found the one person that ignites you, body and soul, nothing can keep you away.

Each book in the Never a Wallflower series is STANDALONE:
* The Spinster and the Rake
* Much Ado About Dukes
* The Duke’s Secret Cinderella


I read the first book in this series and really enjoyed it, but missed the next book. I will go back and read it for sure. This is the third book in this series. and it was pretty good.

Charlotte is your stereotypical stepdaughter, banned from society and kept busy cleaning and basically being her stepsister’s lady’s maid. Fortunately, they are as close as real sisters, so there is no bad stuff going on with them. The bad stuff comes from Charlotte’s stepfather, a nice twist on the Cinderella story. Charlotte lost her father so early that she doesn’t remember him at all, and lost her mother when she was still pretty young. Her stepfather is a cruel, tight-fisted man, at least with her; he’s much more generous with his daughter, Francesca, but both girls live in fear of his violent temper and demanding ways.

Rockford is a most unusual Duke; beyond wealthy, of course, but also kind and caring and using his position and power to improve the lives of impoverished Londoners, especially the children. His family started a foundling hospital for orphans, and it is his dream to take over that responsibility. He is very close with his mother since losing his father at a young age. The men in this family don’t seem to live very long, and his mother is determined that he will marry and have his heir and a spare lined up before anything happens to him. He can’t say no to her, but when she gives him her “list” of young women he should court, there is only one name on the list, Francesca.

Charlotte has scrounged together enough money to free one of the servants from the horrors of debtors’ prison. Her stepfather had him placed there, mostly to punish Charlotte and the other servants. But on her way to the prison, someone tries to attack her. She is armed with a brick and fends him off, with a little help from a nobleman. He turns out to be the Duke of Rockford, and he insists on accompanying her to the prison. When she realizes that she lost the money she brought to free her friend, Rockford steps up and takes care of it. He is completely smitten with this outspoken, caring young woman.

When he calls on Francesca per his mother’s instructions, he is delighted to find Lady Charlotte also living there. They have real chemistry, but beyond that, they share the same concerns about the poverty around them as well as their views on love.

Charlotte has lied about who she is, and when Rockford wants to marry her she refuses, explaining that she is not good enough for him, but doesn’t come clean. This goes on for most of the book and honestly, it made the story drag a bit. But I hung in there because I knew the happy ending was coming, and much to my surprise, there were several twists I never saw coming that made it all worthwhile. I really enjoyed this book, despite the lag in the middle, and look forward to reading the book I missed, as well as the next one in this series.

2/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE DUKE’S SECRET CINDERELLA by Eva Devon. Entangled: Amara (February 21, 2023). ISBN:‎  978-1649372413. 384p.





Spotlight Review: THE DUKE GETS EVEN by Joanna Shupe

January 24, 2023

The Fifth Avenue Rebels, Book 4

From the publisher:

By beloved USA Today bestselling author Joanna Shupe, the fourth installment in the Fifth Avenue Rebels series about a secret affair between a free-spirited heiress and an uptight duke which turns more passionate than either could have imagined. 

A rebellious heiress.

A duke in dire straits.

An anonymous midnight tryst.

To escape the shackles of marriage, Nellie Young purposely ruined her reputation a long time ago. Now she dedicates herself to hedonistic pleasures only, like kissing a handsome stranger in the ocean under the moonlight…

To save his estate, the proper Duke of Lockwood must marry the perfect bride—wealthy, with an unblemished reputation. While in New York he’s the perfect gentleman, and no one knows he’s suppressing his darkest desires. The last thing he needs is another scandal.

Except Nellie sees through Lockwood’s charade, straight to the real man underneath. This uptight duke is far more than he lets on, and she can’t resist him. Their secret affair turns scorching, far more than either expected. And when his beautiful rebel finds an unconventional cause, Lockwood has to decide if he’s willing to sacrifice everything to keep her.


I read the first book in this series, The Heiress Hunt, and really enjoyed it. I’m sorry I missed the next two but will go back and read them for sure. This is the fourth and probably the last book in this series.

Nellie Young is the daughter of a railroad magnate who lost her mother way too soon. This is set during the Gilded Age, the boom years of the 1880s in New York City. If you’ve enjoyed the HBO show, The Gilded Age, you will feel right at home here. And here’s a terrific teaser: Teddy Roosevelt makes an appearance.

The Duke of Lockwood is desperate to marry an heiress. His father lost all their money, and all he has left is his home in London and his country home. And a mother who is waiting none too patiently for him to do his duty and marry rich. Unfortunately, the Duke has met and proposed to a few young heiresses in NY, but all those engagements were broken. There are lots more debutants for him to choose from so he isn’t too worried.

Lockwood had a serious illness as a child which left his heart weakened. The doctors prescribe daily exercise, and he chooses to swim. While in New York, he swims in the ocean, usually late at night. The book opens with such a swim, but in this case as he is headed back to shore, he spies a beautiful young woman – could she be a mermaid? As he gets closer she wraps herself around him and he realizes that she is both naked and not a mermaid. Nellie is completely enchanting, at least until she realizes that he is not the man she thought she would be meeting during her midnight swim.

Lockwood is immediately smitten, but Nellie knows who he is and that she is not the demure, scandal-free girl for him. She has been flouting the rules of society since her debut and is quite up front about it. Nonetheless, they keep running into each other and soon enough realize they have this incredible chemistry, so hot it consumes them both.

Nellie is bound and determined to help women learn about their bodies, reproduction, and birth control despite the fact that it is illegal for women to learn such things. It was an interesting parallel to what has been going on in this country since Roe was overturned.

There are many obstacles to overcome before Nellie and the Duke find their happy ending, and fun for us, they maneuver down a scorching hot road to get there. If you enjoy steamy historical romances, you won’t want to miss this one. I loved it.

1/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE DUKE GETS EVEN by Joanna Shupe. Avon (January 24, 2023). ISBN:‎  978-0063045071. 384p.






January 6, 2023

The Shadow Lairds

From the publisher:

Ailsa Connery has waited three long years to finally escape her enslavement at Stirling Castle and reunite with her clan. But her carefully laid plans are completely destroyed by the arrival of the infamous Highland warrior known as Dubh Mahoun, the Black Devil…who has plans of his own.

Kallum MacNeill’s fearsome reputation has long allowed him to keep hidden his secret double life of freeing enslaved captives across the land. It’s only when he kidnaps a servant lass―quite by accident―that he finds himself facing a wee predicament. He must accompany the lass home or risk her exposing his true identity. It’d be easy enough…if the feisty hellion didn’t fight him at every turn.

As they make their way to the Highlands, the perils the two must face are surpassed only by their constant sparring. Soon, their heated sniping sparks heat of a totally different kind. The kind that ignites a hunger that could consume them both. Yet the difficult journey is no match for the dangerous secrets they’re about to uncover.


This author is new to me and I am so glad I found her! This was a historical Scottish romance with a twist – the main characters are people of color. I haven’t come across this, or talk of slavery, in a Highlands romance before and I really liked it.

Ailsa is a light skinned Black woman who was visiting the King with her clan. But as they were leaving, she was captured by the King’s guard and forced into servitude. No one from her clan ever came looking for her and no one in the King’s court would listen to her. She was a free woman of color, but no longer. All the clans were returning for a celebration, and Ailsa saw this as her opportunity to escape back to her clan.

Kallum is a fierce warrior and isn’t too thrilled to be going to this fete, but he needs to compete for his clan. He is a free Black man, and has been accepted as a brother to the laird’s son, soon to inherit the title. What they don’t know is that Kallum is also known as the Shepherd, because he rescues slaves and shepherds them to freedom. No one knows his identity which keeps him safe.

As he is preparing to leave with several slaves in tow, he realizes the princess’s servant isn’t among them, so he goes searching for her. To his surprise, she doesn’t want to go with him, but he takes her anyway. As they journey towards freedom, she is forced to explain why she doesn’t want to go. Kallum is concerned because it seems to him something is amiss in that her clan never came back for her. As they travel together, they fall in love but there are some serious obstacles in their way, not the least of which is the bounty on her head.

The struggle proves worthwhile, however, and Kallum and Ailsa eventually find their happy ending. This was an intriguing story, and a one night read for me. I hope to find more books in this series.

12/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

NEVER CROSS A HIGHLANDER by Lisa Rayne. Entangled: Amara (December 27, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1649370952. 448p.





Spotlight Review: CINDERELLA AND THE DUKE by Lydia Drake

January 3, 2023

From the publisher:

Miss Julia Beaumont has exactly one night to find herself a husband…

The Weatherford Ball is the last chance Julia Beaumont has to escape the clutches of her horrid stepmother. Any potential husband will do―rich, poor, even a reasonably well-groomed walrus. But all of Julia’s matrimonial chances are completely obliterated…thanks to the actions of an infuriating and utterly rakish duke.

Gregory Carter, Duke of Ashworth, would never risk his cherished bachelorhood by flirting with marriage-starved debutantes. But one look at the luscious and refreshingly clever Julia, and he simply can’t resist a stolen kiss―scandal be damned. Then just as things start getting deliciously interesting, the lady flees…leaving only a slipper behind.

And it must have been one dandy of a kiss. Because now Julia has proposed to him. After all, the lady needs a husband, and this roguish duke will certainly do. It’s simply a matter of making him the perfect scandalous offer…


Julia is the Cinderella in this story. She lost her mother as a young child, her father remarried, hoping to find a good mother for Julia. But when her father dies, her stepmother’s true colors come out and she decides to keep Julia at home as her personal servant. She isn’t locked in the basement, but she may as well be. She isn’t allowed to participate in the marriage mart that the ton favors. That is until her young stepsister makes her debut.

When Julia’s stepmother falls ill, it is up to Julia to chaperone her stepsister at the ball of the season. Julia has no ballgowns, or mice or even a fairy godmother to help make her one. But she does have some gowns of her mother’s, and the ability to sew and make the necessary repairs and alterations, which she does. While at the ball she witnesses the notorious rake, the Duke of Ashworth, called out to fight yet another duel. She gets an idea to rescue him and it works. The duke has determined never to marry as he favors cavorting with the unhappily married women of the ton. But these duels are getting tiresome, so when Julia offers him a way out, he goes for it.

Julia’s idea is for them to marry in name only. That will get all the husbands off his back, and will let Julia escape her stepmother and the life she abhors. The only problem is their chemistry is off the charts. They decide to consummate the marriage, for Julia’s protection, then just live their own lives. Best laid plans go awry when they really fall for each other, but there are roadblocks, always, until they find their happily ever after.

This was a really fun read and a good way to kick off the new year! The characters were charming and the story more or less believable, with some steamy scenes to keep things interesting. I can only hope that this is the start of a series.

1/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CINDERELLA AND THE DUKE by Lydia Drake. Entangled: Amara (December 27, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-1649373144. 352p.





Spotlight Review: HEARTBREAKER by Sarah MacLean 

December 20, 2022

Hell’s Belles. Book 2

From the publisher:

New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean follows her highly acclaimed Bombshell with Heartbreaker, featuring a fierce, fearless heroine on a mission to steal a duke’s secrets…and his heart. 

A Tempting Thief

Raised among London’s most notorious criminals, a twist of fate landed Adelaide Frampton in the bright ballrooms of Mayfair, where she masquerades as a quiet wallflower—so plain and unassuming that no one realizes she’s the Matchbreaker…using her superior skills as a thief to help unwilling brides avoid the altar, all while hiding her own scandalous past.

A Powerful Duke

Henry Carrington, Duke of Clayborn, has spent a lifetime living in perfection and has no time for the scandals that arise every time Adelaide ends another groom. His own reputation is impeccable—and the last thing he needs is a frustrating, fascinating woman discovering the truth of his past, or the secrets he holds close. 

A Perfect Match

When the two find themselves on a breakneck journey across Britain to stop a wedding, the duke has no choice but to follow her across Britain on a trip filled with bad weather, bad luck, and a surprising lack of beds. Adelaide soon realizes that this perfect duke kisses like a proper scoundrel, and is turning out to be a thief in his own right…one who won’t stop until he’s stolen her well-guarded heart.


MacLean turns the Victorian romance genre on its head with this feminist spin and I’m into it! Both of these books stand alone, and I can say this because I read the first book, Bombshell, just over a year ago and honestly didn’t remember many details, yet I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It didn’t feel like I was missing a thing.

The Hell’s Belles are a group of women with a mission to save their peers from disasterous marriages and other of life’s challenges. This book centers around Adelaide, the “Matchbreaker.” She herself was saved from a marriage in which her father was basically selling her to a man she had no interest in marrying, a not uncommon practice in Victorian England. Matches were made, especially among the upper class (the ton) because of financial need, status, or tying together families to amass more power. Not so lovely reasons to get married!

Adelaide is not of the upper class. In fact, her father runs one of the most notorious gangs in London, and she was raised to be a thief and a pickpocket, or “nipper,” and she is one of the best. Unfortunately, she learned the hard way and was imprisoned the first time when she was only 8 years old. She has changed her name and is now under the protection of the Duchess, one of the Belles whose money and influence gives them great latitude to help other women. Unfortunately, this time it is Adelaide who needs the help.

A young woman witnessed her father, a member of the aristocracy, murder a fellow aristocrat. Now he wants her dead. Yes, you read that right. Women were so dispensable in jolly old England! Instead, she elopes with the younger brother of the Duke of Carrington.

The Duke is a confirmed bachelor, and he is happy his brother found someone to love. He fully supports the marriage, but the girl’s father has hired some ruffians to find and kill them both. Adelaide to the rescue, only she has help in the Duke. While their relationship is somewhat adversarial – she steals something he greatly values and the race is on. As they cross England to try and reach the Duke’s brother before the happy couple is killed, Adelaide and the Duke fall in love. He has secrets that preclude him from marrying, and she has major self-esteem issues. But no worries – a happy ending is in store.

This was a fun read and I enjoyed these characters and the story. It was fast-paced and had some humor, along with some heat! If you enjoyed the first book in the series, I think this one was a bit better. If you haven’t read the first one, you can still read this one and it won’t feel like you’re walking into the middle of something. MacLean is a smart writer and does a really good job with series. This book is on many of the best books of the year lists so give it a try!

12/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HEARTBREAKER by Sarah MacLean. Avon (August 23, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0063243248. 352p.