September 20, 2021

A League of Extraordinary Women, Book 3

From the publisher:

Going toe-to-toe with a brooding Scotsman is rather bold for a respectable suffragist, but when he happens to be one’s unexpected husband, what else is an unwilling bride to do?

London banking heiress Hattie Greenfield wanted just three things in life:

1. Acclaim as an artist.
2. A noble cause.
3. Marriage to a young lord who puts the gentle in gentleman.

Why then does this Oxford scholar find herself at the altar with the darkly attractive financier Lucian Blackstone, whose murky past and ruthless business practices strike fear in the hearts of Britain’s peerage? Trust Hattie to take an invigorating little adventure too far. Now she’s stuck with a churlish Scot who just might be the end of her ambitions….

When the daughter of his business rival all but falls into his lap, Lucian sees opportunity. As a self-made man, he has vast wealth but holds little power, and Hattie might be the key to finally setting long-harbored political plans in motion. Driven by an old desire for revenge, he has no room for his new wife’s apprehensions or romantic notions, bewitching as he finds her.

But a sudden journey to Scotland paints everything in a different light. Hattie slowly sees the real Lucian and realizes she could win everything–as long as she is prepared to lose her heart.

The Instant USA Today Bestseller!
One of Marie Claire’s most anticipated romances of 2021!
One of Cosmopolitan’s most anticipated fall books of 2021!
A BuzzFeed Best Summer Read of 2021!

This was my first read of this author or series. One of my reviewers, Caitlin, read the first book, Bringing Down the Duke, and loved it. I meant to read it, but forgot – so many books, so little time! I liked this book a lot and didn’t really feel like I was missing anything having not read the first two books in the series. I may poke around my Kindle though; I probably have both of them on there somewhere.

The main character, Hattie, is a suffragist and an artist. She is not titled, but her father is a very wealthy man so her life is easy. As easy as it gets for women in Victorian England. Her parents indulge her interest in art by allowing her to take classes at Oxford. When she hears about a tour being given for a private collection of art, she decides to ditch her protector/chaperone/security guard, and sneaks out to the exhibit. But when she gets there, no one seems to know anything about a tour. They leave her in one of the rooms filled with art and sculpture and tchotchkes galore, and then a man comes in, walks up to her and kisses her. She slaps him good, and that is the meet cute.

The man is Luke Blackstone, and it is his home that she is visiting but he doesn’t know about any tours. He just knows she is an unaccompanied woman, and like many who have visited him in the past, he assumes she is visiting to have sex with him. He is also not of the gentry but is possibly even wealthier than her father. Blackstone has a terrible reputation as he has bankrupted many of the aristocracy by collecting their debts.

Blackstone is intrigued and attracted. A short time later, an actual tour is planned but somehow Hattie ends up alone in the drawing room with him and he tries to kiss her again – and she leans in for it. Unfortunately for her, the mirrors in the room are actually two-way mirrors, so her family and friends all witness the kiss. Blackstone quickly announces they are betrothed, and gets to working out a deal with her father as was often done.

Hattie is angry that she is being forced into a marriage with a man she doesn’t know. But she is attracted to him and after speaking to him about what she wants in a marriage (which I found quite unbelievable for the times) he acquiesces to her demands and they marry. The wedding night is not great, but he is kind and when she asks him to stop, he does. And the next night. And so on. But other things happen to cause her to want to leave, and her best friend is an expert at helping women escape bad situations and arranges for her to go to France. But Blackstone is one step ahead and whisks her off to Scotland before she can leave him.

Blackstone owns a mine in this small town and is trying to determine how to help the people who work there. Hattie visits some of the local women and decides to learn how to take their photographs, in an artistic way, in hopes of creating a gallery show to raise money for the town. They are forced to stay in the only inn in town in a single room with only one bed and the marriage is finally consummated.

But when Hattie finds out her husband basically paid for her and figures out that he arranged for them to be caught so they would have to marry, she is angry and asks to leave. Blackstone agrees even though he is in love with her. Eventually, he goes to her and they work things out.

This was a very interesting book, I liked learning about early photography and the mines and the miners lives. I did find it a bit slow and had a hard time believing the characters behaviors in the time period. But suspending disbelief is part of the deal and I did like the book enough to go look for the earlier books in the series.

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMAN by Evie Dunmore. Berkley (September 7, 2021). ISBN: 978-1984805720. 432 pages.



WHEN YOU WISH UPON A DUKE by Charis Michaels

September 17, 2021

Awakened by a Kiss, Book 2

From the publisher:

USA Today bestselling author Charis Michaels returns to her Awakened by a Kiss series where overlooked fairy tale characters get their own happy endings, with a captivating romance about Miss Isobel Tinker and the duke who makes her believe in magic.

All it takes….

After a childhood spent cavorting around Europe with a dangerous crowd, Miss Isobel Tinker has parlayed her experience and language skills into a safe, reliable life. Working as a clerk in Mayfair’s Everland Travel Shop, she dreams of someday owning her own travel agency and has vowed never to leave the familiar shores of England ever again. When a handsome duke arrives at her doorstep, she realizes her staid existence is about to take flight.

…is faith and hope

Jason “North” Beckett, the Duke of Northumberland, desperately needs a travel guide. He’s inherited a dukedom but has a final mission for the Foreign Office—rescuing his wayward cousin from Nordic pirates. Isobel Tinker is the ideal translator, discreet and unknown, but she’s also uncooperative, stubborn, and disarmingly beautiful.

And a little bit of trust

In exchange for her help, North promises Miss Tinker her own travel agency upon return and strict professionalism at sea. Isobel cautiously agrees but soon realizes “strict” and “professional” are not how she would describe her feelings for the irresistible duke. As their adventure sweeps them to the shores of Iceland and beyond, can temptation and growing trust give way to the magic of wild, passionate love?

I’ve read a few of this author’s books from a few different series and I’ve liked them all, but this is the first book I’ve read in this series.

Isobel is a unique character, especially for historical fiction. She is the offspring of nobility (her father) who had an affair with her mother, a famous, well regarded actress. As a young child, her father came around often but eventually stopped. Isobel traveled with her mother throughout Europe as she performed. A bunch of the children of the cast and crew ran wild, traveling together and getting into all sorts of trouble, and Isobel was no different.

Isobel’s all grown up now and managing a travel agency for a lovely family. But when the couple who owns it dies, she has to deal with their son, who is lazy, lewd, and just not a very nice person. But she manages because she needs the job and the apartment it comes with above the shop.

The Duke of Northumberland, North as he is known, inherited the position after his father and two older brothers passed away. He never wanted the title. He has been working as a spy for the Foreign Office, and dreads giving it up to run the family estate. He has one last mission, to rescue his cousin and his associated who have been taken captive by pirates in Iceland. North asks Isobel to help, as she has traveled extensively there and knows the language.

It takes a lot of convincing and a major bribe – her own travel agency in her own building with an apartment for her -and she eventually agrees. There is a mutual attraction between Isobel and the Duke, which intensifies as they travel together, but there is also a lot of excitement (pirates!) and drama before they get to their happily ever after. This was a very fast read, and I really liked the characters. I will go back and read the first book, and then just have to be patient and wait for the next.

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

WHEN YOU WISH UPON A DUKE by Charis Michaels. Avon (August 24, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062984975. 416 pages.




HIGHLAND THIEF by Alyson McLayne

September 9, 2021

The Sons of Gregor MacLeod, Book 5

From the publisher:

This Strong Laird is no Match for the Stubborn Lass He’s Long Had His Heart Set On

When a Highland laird decides to marry, nothing can stand in his way…not even the bride.

No one ever accused Kerr MacAlister of being a nice man. Everyone would agree, however, that when the laird makes a promise, nothing can stop him. Which is why everyone knows Isobel MacKinnon will end up his wife.

Isobel spent most of her childhood in love with the tall, dark, and sexy Scot. It wasn’t until she was fifteen and failed to entice Kerr into kissing her that things turned sour. Now, Kerr is the one trying to entice her, but Isobel won’t be swayed…no matter how tempting he might be.

Then Kerr discovers she may be eloping with someone else, and he has a choice to make―is this Highlander’s fate to steal her away himself, to a place where both love and danger lurk, or let her go and face losing her forever?

This author was new to me, as was the time period; the book starts off in 1453. Isobel has something most women of the day do not. Her mother granted her permission to choose her own husband, where pretty much all marriages are arranged by families but Isobel can say no. Most unusual. But the laird of their neighboring clan, Kerr, has decided to marry her even though she isn’t very nice to him. He knows he did something to make her angry, but he doesn’t know exactly what it was.

Isobel is sister to the laird, and while he is in charge of all their people as judge and jury, Isobel handles the little discrepancies that help make peace among their people. The way she does this is by setting traps or tricking them, ultimately humiliating the offender and making everyone happy that justice has been served. But she’s never been able to trick Kerr, he sees everything. But she’s not done trying.

Kerr realizes that the only way she will agree to marry him is if they spend some time together. Isobel plans a trap for him, telling him she is going to elope with another man. He finds her waiting by a boat, and the next thing you know he jumps in it with her and starts rowing away to the other side of the loch. The only fear Isobel has is of the water as she can’t swim, so she is panicky. Kerr tries to get her agree to go back, but she is angry and won’t do anything he wants. That leads them right into the middle of an army that is trying to take over Kerr’s clan.

There is a lot of action and fighting in this story, along with some humor. Kerr and Isobel have a steamy relationship, both in bed and out, but eventually they find their way to marriage and their happy ending.

This was a fast read and while the tricks plotline grew old for me, for the most part I enjoyed this. It’s always a pleasure to visit the Scottish Highlands, even if I can’t get there in person!

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HIGHLAND THIEF by Alyson McLayne. Sourcebooks Casablanca (August 24, 2021). ISBN: 978-1492654629. 384 pages.





September 6, 2021

The Palace of Rogues, Book 3

From the publisher:

USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long continues her Palace of Rogues series with a brand-new romance about an ambitious American and a headstrong British heiress.

Nothing can stop Hugh Cassidy’s drive to build an American empire…unless it’s his new nemesis, the arrogant, beautiful, too-clever-by-half Lady Lillias Vaughn. The fascination is mutual. The temptation is merciless. And the inevitable indiscretion? Soul-searing—and the ruination of them both. Hugh’s proposal salvages Lillias’s honor but kills their dreams for their futures…until they arrive at a plan that could honorably set them free.  
But unraveling their entanglement inadvertently uncovers enthralling truths: about Lillias’s wounded, tender heart and fierce spirit. About Hugh’s stunning gentleness, depth, and courage. Soon Hugh knows that as surely as he’d fight a thousand battles to win her…the best way to love Lillias means breaking his own heart. 

I think this is my favorite book of the series so far! This series is supposed to conclude with the next book, but who knows. It seems simple enough to add characters who are staying in the boarding house at the center of the story.

Hugh Cassidy is an American from New York. His mentor’s daughter has taken off for England, and Hugh offers to go after her. He can’t help thinking of her as a possible wife, but he is more concerned for her father, who is very worried. Hugh is staying in the boarding house, and because he has building/construction experience, he volunteers to help out the ladies who own the house.

Then an aristocratic family comes to stay in their newly acquired addition to the boarding house, an annex with suites for families. They are having some trouble with a snake missing in the house, and are staying put until it is found. The eldest daughter, Lady Lilliana, appears to be a typical debutante. She’s gorgeous and expected to make a good match with a titled man, and those plans are pretty much set in stone. But when Hugh enters the annex to work, he finds her there, smoking. He brings her back to her father and tells him, and she is grounded for a couple of weeks.

Hugh is immediately taken with Lady Lilliana, but realizes she is out of his league. Nonetheless, they start spending some time together, until they are caught in an embrace by her family and some friends. Hugh immediately realizes her reputation is on the line, and tells everyone they are engaged.

The only fly in the ointment is that Lilliana is in love with her childhood friend, except that he is expected to follow a long standing family tradition and marry a cousin. Lilliana is devastated, but can’t show it. Hugh realizes what she is feeling, and cares enough about her to try and help her land the man of her dreams. But when she does, she realizes that Hugh is the man for her.

There is a lot of drama, laughter, and some sizzle before Hugh and Lilliana reach their happy ending. This was a fast paced story and I just loved it.

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

I’M ONLY WICKED WITH YOU by Julie Anne Long. Avon (August 24, 2021). ISBN: 978-0063045088. 400 pages.




ANGEL IN A DEVIL’S ARMS by Julie Anne Long

September 5, 2021

The Palace of Rogues, Book 2

From the publisher:

From USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long comes the second book in an exciting new historical romance series, the first since her beloved Pennyroyal Green series.

He has devil’s blood in his veins. At least, that’s always been the legend. How else could the Duke of Brexford’s notorious bastard son return from the dead? The brutal decade since Lucien Durand, Lord Bolt, allegedly drowned in the Thames forged him into a man who always gets what—and who—he wants. And what he wants is vengeance for his stolen birthright . . . and one wild night in Angelique Breedlove’s bed.

Angelique recognizes heartbreak when the enigmatic Lord Bolt walks into The Grand Palace on the Thames, and not even his devastating charm can tempt her to risk her own ever again. One scorching kiss drives home the danger.

But in the space between them springs a trust that feels anything but safe. And the passion—explosive, consuming—drives Lucien to his knees. Now his whole life depends on proving his love to a woman who doesn’t believe in it . . . because his true birthright, he now knows, is guardian of Angelique Breedlove’s heart.

I really liked the first book in this series, Lady Derring Takes a Lover, which ended on a cliffhanger and still, I somehow missed this next book! But as the third book just came out (and the last book is due in November) I decided to catch up.

I think it is helpful to have read the first book, but probably enough explanations are given to make this an easy read for someone new to the series. The story is set at The Grand Palace on the Thames, a boarding house near the docks in London, so not the best neighborhood. But the two women who run it, Angelique and Delilah, have something in common – Delilah is the widow of an earl, and Angelique was her husband’s mistress. The first book explains how they end up living and working together, but all you really need to know is they are as close as sisters. Delilah met her husband in the first book, and now it is Angelique’s turn.

The first book ended with a mysterious stranger reserving the best room in the boarding house. In this book, he turns up. He is Lord Bolt, who has long been thought dead. He was thrown into the river ten years earlier, and when a body was found, it was assumed to be him. Instead, he was rescued by a passing ship and he worked on that ship for ten years, learning a lot and earning a lot. Now he’s back in London for revenge.

The characters who live in the boarding house are the source of much of the humor. Bolt doesn’t quite seem to fit in, yet he makes it his business to do so. Meanwhile, he and Angelique have some sizzling chemistry. He is looking for one and done, she is not. Eventually they find their way to one another and their happily ever after.

This was a fine sequel to the first book and there is definitely some heat here along with the humor and the drama. All in all, I really enjoyed it and went right for the next book in this series – review to follow!

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ANGEL IN A DEVIL’S ARMS by Julie Anne Long. Avon (October 29, 2019). ISBN: 978-0062867490. 368 pages.





August 30, 2021

The Westcott Series, Book 9

From the publisher:

Is love worth the loss of one’s freedom and independence? This is what Mrs. Tavernor must decide in the new novel in the Westcott series from New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh.

When Harry Westcott lost the title Earl of Riverdale after the discovery of his father’s bigamy, he shipped off to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, where he was near-fatally wounded. After a harrowing recovery, the once cheery, light-hearted boy has become a reclusive, somber man. Though Harry insists he enjoys the solitude, he does wonder sometimes if he is lonely.

Lydia Tavernor, recently widowed, dreams of taking a lover. Her marriage to Reverend Isaiah Tavernor was one of service and obedience, and she has secretly enjoyed her freedom since his death. She doesn’t want to shackle herself to another man in marriage, but sometimes, she wonders if she is lonely. 

Both are unwilling to face the truth until they find themselves alone together one night, and Lydia surprises even herself with a simple question: “Are you ever lonely?” Harry’s answer leads them down a path neither could ever have imagined…

I think there are too many books in this series. I’ve not really had this issue before, and I’ve read some pretty long series; for example, Virgin River has 19 books and I’ve read them all. I’ve read about half of the Westcott series, but I really felt like I was slogging through this book. The entire first chapter is just introducing the family and all those characters from previous books. Then it seems like every time one of them is mentioned, there is a brief explanation of their circumstances or relationship, making this a very slow read for me.

I liked the characters, at least the main characters, and their story was a good one. Lydia is a young widow of the church vicar. Her husband was a charismatic and fervent leader, which led him to make some interesting life choices. He was also very good looking, and Lydia fell head over heels for him. But the marriage wasn’t a happy one, not that anyone ever suspected. He called her his “helpmeet” and made her feel as if her only purpose was to serve him and God. She wasn’t allowed to think or feel or have friends outside the church.

Lydia is much beloved in this small village. The vicar died while saving a child from drowning, elevating him to practically saint status – along with his widow. But it’s been more than a year, and it is time for Lydia to start living her life. She refused to move home with her father and brothers, and instead purchased a small cottage at the end of town where she lives alone, without even a servant. So when Harry is seen entering her home, then again at night, the scandal is real.

Harry is turning thirty, and his enormous family wants him to come to London. He doesn’t want to go, he doesn’t want a birthday party, and he really doesn’t want his family picking out a wife for him. He does attend the local parties he is invited to, and he finally meets Lydia, whose cottage is basically at the end of the driveway that leads to his estate. He ends up walking her home where she blurts out a few remarks about loneliness, and intimates that she would be open to taking Harry as a lover.

This is a small village, but Harry is intrigued. Lydia is not the woman he thought she was, a shy, retiring, invisible helpmeet. And he likes her. Things progress but there is that scandal, which in these times means marriage. But Lydia refuses him.

Lydia loves her freedom and independence. For the first time in her life, she is making all her own decisions and has some women friends. She is not willing to give that up to “obey” another husband.

We all know how this ends, and there is enough interesting backstory to keep the story moving, although all those pesky relatives slow things down too much for my taste. I think it is time I retired from reading this series. Probably.

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SOMEONE TO CHERISH by Mary Balogh. Berkley (June 29, 2021). ISBN: 978-1984802415. 416 pages.






August 24, 2021

Gunslinger, Book 1

Gray “Quick Shot” Woodson is the fastest gun west of the Mississippi. Unfortunately, he’s ready to hang up his hat. Sure, being notorious has its perks. But the nomadic lifestyle―and people always tryin’ to kill you―gets old real fast.

Now he just wants to find a place to retire so he can spend his days the way the good Lord intended. Staring at the sunset. And napping.

When his stubborn horse drags him into a hole-in-the-wall town called Desolation, something about the place calls to Gray, and he figures he might actually have a shot at a sleepy retirement.

His optimism lasts about a minute and a half.

Soon he finds himself embroiled in a town vendetta and married to a woman named Mercy. Who, judging by her aggravating personality, doesn’t know the meaning of her own name. In fact, she’s downright impossible.

But dang it if his wife isn’t irresistible. If only she’d stop trying to steal his guns to go after the bad guys herself.

There goes his peace and quiet…

This was a very different read for me. It’s an historical cowboy romance, and I really loved it!

Gray is a gunslinger who has the reputation of being unstoppable, with a trail of dead bodies behind him to prove it. Turns out he “accidentally” got into it when he was defending himself. He learned to shoot as a child, and is quite skilled, but he is really tired of people trying to kill him just for the prestige of it.

Gray ends up in the little town of Desolation, where he meets Mercy. She offers him a place to sleep and meals if he will help her with one of her neighbors. It seems the man is trying every which way to get his hands on the property she just inherited when her father passed away. He tries proposing, threatening, offering money, but she doesn’t want to sell. Gray agrees to basically be her bodyguard, but when push comes to shove, Mercy blurts out that he is her fiancé, and the fake romance takes off.

Gray is a bit of a curmudgeon, and all he is really interested in is food and napping, but Mercy is a terrible cook and his naps keep getting interrupted. When he ends up shooting the gun out Mercy’s nemesis’s hand, the whole town is intrigued. But the sheriff is scared and takes off in the middle of the night. Gray is offered the position, which he finds hilarious as he’s always been on the wrong side of the law but eventually he takes it. And he soon learns what it means to be accepted, by a woman and a town.

Mercy and Gray marry, and he soon learns that caring about people may be dangerous to his health. Things come to a head with a shootout in the streets and of course, the happy ending. This was a really fun read, a hot romance, and I couldn’t put it down. Really looking forward to the next book in this series!

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HITCHED TO THE GUNSLINGER by Michelle McLean. Entangled: Amara (August 24, 2021). ISBN: 978-1649370228. 1330 pages.







August 17, 2021

Clandestine Affairs, Book 2

From the publisher:

Diana Quincy returns with the second novel in her Clandestine Affairs series featuring a steamy romance between a working class London bonesetter who is dangerously attracted to her mysterious noble client.  

A seduction that could ruin everything . . .

Hanna Zaydan has fought to become London’s finest bonesetter, but her appealing new patient threatens to destroy everything she’s worked so hard for. With each appointment, the daughter of foreign merchants is slowly seduced by the mysterious former soldier. She’s smart enough to know Griff is after more than he’ll reveal, but whatever it is, the bonesetter’s growing desire for the man just might tempt her to give it to him.

An attraction that cannot be denied . . .

Rumors that he killed his own parents have followed Thomas Ellis, Viscount Griffin, practically since he was a boy. More than a decade after the tragedy, Griff receives a tip about his parents’ killer . . . one that takes him straight to a beautiful bonesetter. Griff is convinced Hanna is a fraud, but she stirs genuine feelings in him that he thought had perished along with his family.

Hanna has a gift for fixing fractured people, but can she also mend a broken heart? More importantly, will Griff let her?

I read the first book in this series, Her Night with the Duke, and really liked it, so I was happy to get my hands on this one. This is a terrific romance with the most fascinating heroine.

I never heard of a bonesetter before, but based on the work she does in this story, it is sort of a cross between a chiropractor, orthopedist, and maybe physical therapist, all rolled into one. Hanna is not allowed to go to medical school, she is a young woman, but nothing stopped her from learning from her father. He, too, was a bonesetter, and from the time she was a young girl Hanna knew this was her destiny. The only problem is that the medical community thinks of bonesetters as charlatans and quacks.

Griff’s parents were murdered when he was a teenager and he hasn’t heard from his sisters since. His father’s best friend was named his guardian, and he took care of Griff as best he could. Eventually, Griff joins the army until he is severely injured and sent home. His shoulder, elbow and wrist were injured and never healed properly, leaving him in constant pain for years. His guardian, a doctor and head of a local hospital, tells him to just give it more time and offers opium, which Griff is avoiding at all costs.

Griff happens to be nearby when a young man along with a group of his rowdy friends, approaches Hanna, offering his wrist up as being “injured” to see if she’ll fall for it. Not only doesn’t she fall for it, she is so angry and embarrassed at being made a spectacle that she dislocates his wrist. Before she can walk away, Griff notices the unusual sapphire pendant she is wearing. It was his mother’s, and had disappeared after her murder.

Thinking it may lead him to whoever murdered his parents, he goes to visit the bonesetter under the pretext of his war injuries. She examines him, and there is chemistry between them. She says she thinks she can help him, and by manipulating his shoulder, she relieves the pain he has been in for years. He is amazed, but still curious about the necklace. She prescribes a salve to be strongly massaged into his joints and eventually helps his elbow and wrist as well. Griff was on the precipice of suicide; he just didn’t know how much longer he could live with the pain but after her treatment, he was a new man.

His guardian doesn’t believe that she actually helped him. He thinks it is a coincidence because he felt that at some point it would just heal on its own, and he thinks it did. But Griff knows better. He gets closer to Hanna, even bringing her another patient, but his guardian is set on having her thrown out of London.

Griff and Hanna can never be together. He is of the aristocracy, and she is of the working class. Even if he wanted to look past that, Hanna is also Arab and her family would never allow her to marry outside her race. With all these seemingly insurmountable odds against them, the mystery of his murdered parents, and the struggles Hanna is having with the hospital board, it is quite the hurdle to get to their happily ever after.

This was a terrific love story and Hanna was an intelligent, interesting character. I liked the mystery that was entangled in the story, and of course, the happy ending. I think this books stands alone beautifully, but do read the first one as well, it was also a really interesting read.

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

TTHE VISCOUNT MADE ME DO IT by Diana Quincy. Avon (July 27, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062986818. 384 pages.




THE DUKE GOES DOWN by Sophie Jordan

August 8, 2021

The Duke Hunt, Book 1

From the publisher:

New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan begins the all new The Duke Hunt series with the illegitimate son of a duke who meets his match in the daring daughter of a vicar. 

The Bastard Rogue…  

Peregrine Butler’s privileged blue-blooded world is rocked to the core when it is revealed he was born before his parents’ marriage and therefore is not the legal heir to the dukedom. Facing ruin, Perry must use his charm and good looks to win an heiress—all the while ignoring his fascination with the one interfering and alluring chit who is intent on sabotaging his efforts.  

The Lady Vicar…  

Everyone knows Imogen Bates, the virtuous daughter of the senile vicar. She can write a sermon in a day and spot a rogue in a second, so she sees right through Perry’s seductive façade. But Imogen’s plan to protect the heiresses of her beloved Shropshire from the erstwhile Duke of Penning, the bane of her existence since childhood, soon turns into something altogether unacceptable for the proper lady … who suddenly finds herself longing to keep his heated glances and tempting kisses all to herself.  

It is almost inconceivable to go from being a wealthy Duke to a commoner with nothing, but those are the circumstances in which Perry finds himself. Luckily, his mother lives in the dowager house and she takes him in, but he is not enjoying his stay there. It is difficult to go back to living with your mother when you are an adult and have been living on your own for years. Especially since she isn’t thrilled to have him there, and is pushing hard for him to marry one of the local heiresses.

But there is a problem with his plan. Imogen Bates has had it in for Perry since they were kids, when he was mean to her repeatedly over the years. She’s never forgotten the hateful things he said to her, and when she realizes he is looking to marry money with one of the young women in their small village, she is determined to save them from him. She starts spreading rumors about him and it has the effect she wanted. But then she realizes that the girls’ fathers don’t care so much about the rumors, until she comes up with one that they will care about.

Meanwhile, Perry has been spending some time with Imogen and her father, and he is falling for her. But when he finds out she is the mastermind behind the rumors, he is livid. Imogen has been fighting her feelings for Perry, but eventually she realizes she loves him, but also knows they can’t have a future. She is the daughter of an impoverished vicar, dependent on the Duke’s keeping them in town. So there is a lot against them, but this romance has the requisite happy ending.

Assume the title of this book is double entendre; this was a steamy romance with terrific characters who come to life on the page. I have enjoyed Jordan’s previous series, and this looks to be another winner. Don’t miss it.

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE DUKE GOES DOWN by Sophie Jordan. Avon (July 27, 2021). ISBN: 978-0063035638. 352 pages.




NONE OF US THE SAME by Jeffrey K. Walker

August 5, 2021

Sweet Wine of Youth, Book 1

From the publisher:

Fiery Deirdre Brannigan had opinions on everything. She certainly hated the very idea of war in 1914. Childhood pals Jack Oakley and Will Parsons thought it a grand adventure with their friends. But the crushing weight of her guilty conscience pushes Deirdre to leave Ireland and land directly in the fray.

Meanwhile the five friends from Newfoundland blithely enlist. After all, the war couldn’t possibly last very long…They learn quickly how wrong they are and each is torn apart by the carnage in France.

What began with enthusiastic dreams of parades and dances with handsome young soldiers turned into long days and nights in the hospital wards desperately trying to save lives. And for the good and decent young men in fine new uniforms aching to prove themselves worthy on the field of battle, the horrors of war quickly descended. But it is also the war which brings them together.

Deirdre’s path crosses with Jack and Will when they’re brought to her field hospital the first day of the slaughter on the Somme. Their lives part, their journeys forward fraught with physical and emotional scars tossing them through unexpected and often painful twists and turns. But somehow, a sliver of hope, love and redemption emerges. And their paths cross again in St. John’s. When the guns finally fall silent, can Deirdre overcome her secret demons through a new life with battered Jack? Can shell-shocked Will confront his despotic father’s expectations to become the man his young family deserves?

One of the strongest antiwar books I have read. The author indicates that it was planned as the first of three books dealing with people caught up in the horrific battles of World War I. His incredible research is one of the many factors contributing to the draw of the situations confronting five characters that take part in the war and in so doing change their lives and outlooks forever.

The first part of the book deals with the entrance of the world into a war that all thought would not last very long and drawing into it characters that were residents of Newfoundland in Canada. Prior to their enlistment an Irish lay nurse (trainee) volunteered to work at a hospital directly serving the British front. Deirdre Brannigan starting her career at a hospital in Ireland wanted to do more in her chosen profession left to aid the wounded of the war.     

The battles that the soldiers took part in were the landing at Gallipoli fighting the Turkish army with the accompaniment of mass slaughter and then against German troops at the Somme in France, with much more of the same death and horror. Deirdre, for her part, got her baptism of fire as men and sometimes parts of men that were victims of artillery and machine guns were brought into her hospital for treatment. She became emotionally traumatized at the sight of the human carnage that flowed through her workstation but was forced to carry on driven by the circumstances she found herself in. The men developed friendships that only the circumstances they found themselves in can cause to develop. One of them, seriously wounded met Deirdre and the two found love together.     

At the war’s end all returning to home find a truism about war and combat. After battle, killing and fighting no one is ever the same again and it is almost impossible to return to the life lived prior to the war. It is almost the same as if many returning soldiers still have major wounds.  Mr. Walker opens a description of men being “shell shocked” by exposure to constant killing and battle.   

The attitude at the time was that officers that suffered from this disease were telling the truth and were allowed to rest while enlisted men were simply lying to get out of combat and punished. It wasn’t until later years that the condition was recognized as a genuine condition exacerbated by combat and treated as best as possible as PTSD (post traumatic stress disease). 

It is sure that this novel will stay with any reader and is again, one that cannot be put down until finished. 

8/2021 Paul Lane

NONE OF US THE SAME by Jeffrey K. Walker. Ballybur Publishing (May 16, 2017). ISBN: 978-1947108004. 285 pages.