THE DUCHESS DEAL by Tessa Dare

August 23, 2017

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Girl Meets Duke, Book 1

Tessa Dare is one of my favorite romance writers, and this is the first book of a terrific new series. It’s already gotten a ton of publicity; it’s one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books of Romance for 2017 and an Amazon Best Romance of August 2017 – and I agree.

The Duke of Ashbury has returned from the war badly damaged from a rocket blowing up near him. He almost died and has severe scarring on half of his body and face. The fiancée he returned to is repulsed by him and breaks their engagement. But he has a duty to produce an heir and needs to find a wife.

When the seamstress who made his fiancée’s wedding gown shows up at his home demanding payment for the dress – which she is wearing, and it’s hideous – he asks her a few questions about herself. Turns out Emma Gladstone is the daughter of a vicar and is unmarried, and the duke proposes on the spot. She thinks he’s playing games with her but quickly finds out he is serious, and they marry.

The Duke tells her all she has to do is get pregnant as quickly as possible, then he will give her a house in the country for her own. There she will raise their son and he won’t bother her again. Except she is strongly attracted to the Duke, but he is so damaged, both mentally and physically, he doesn’t believe it or even want to believe it.

They reach their happily ever after but only after some really hot love scenes – several of them, in fact. Dare is known for her explicit sex scenes and she really does a great job here, something lesser writers fumble with. These are fully realized characters as well, and you can’t help rooting for them along with their household staff who are plotting to get them to fall in love.

If you’re a Tessa Dare fan, you will be happy with this new series opener and if you’re unfamiliar with this writer, you might want to become better acquainted. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DUCHESS DEAL by Tessa Dare. Pamela Dorman Books (August 15, 2017).  ISBN 978-0735223493. 352p.

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THE DARE AND THE DOCTOR by Kate Noble

August 17, 2017

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Winner Takes All, Book 3

I really enjoyed the first two books in this series, so I was sorry to see I missed this one when it came out late last year, but I’m happy I found it now.

Margaret Babcock is an only child and heir to her father’s fortune, but she is not your typical young woman. She has no real interest in men or dating; rather she is a botanist and gardener, working day and night in her conservatory in her mother’s memory. She has an ongoing correspondence with Dr. Rhys Gray, a physician who understands and appreciates her work, as she does his.

When she reports to him that she has bred a new rose that can repeatedly bloom in England’s crazy climate, he contacts the Royal Horticultural Society on her behalf, and she is extended an invitation to bring her roses to London. Women are not allowed to join the society or attend their meetings, but they will come to her to see the roses.

Margaret stays with family friends and they turn over their conservatory for her use. While in London, a young woman befriends her, but it turns out that she is the intended for one Dr. Rhys Gray. Margaret insists they are just friends, but as they spend time together they both soon realize that they have much deeper feelings for one another than just friendship.

Rhys’s family situation dictates that he marry his intended, and it seems he has no way out of his familial obligation. But this is a romance and true love will win out. This is a fairly chaste romance but a very enjoyable read.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DARE AND THE DOCTOR by Kate Noble. Pocket Books (November 22, 2016). ISBN: 978-1476749402. 384p.

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THE SCANDAL OF IT ALL by Sophie Jordan

August 9, 2017

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 The Rogue Files, Book 14

I know I’ve read at least some of the books in this series, but I don’t remember any of them being this hot. Smoldering hot!

Graciela, the Duchess of Autenberry, is originally from Spain and has been widowed for a long while. The marriage was abusive but for the children’s sake, she has kept alive the fairytale version. The ton never really accepted her as one of their own due to her Spanish background, and her dark, sultry looks don’t help.

When Graciela’s closest friend tells her about a club where she can find a lover, she is tempted. It has been a very long time since her husband died. So she goes, but to her horror, her stepson and his best friend, Lord Strickland, are there.

Mortified, she tries to hide but Strickland finds her. He has always been drawn to her but their relationship and their age difference doesn’t work. Strickland helps her hide from her stepson, but takes advantage of her – until he has her begging for more. They become lovers, despite her reservations about their age difference, but circumstances conspire to leading them down a different path.

I like Sophie Jordan’s books, and if you enjoy historical romances that pretty much cross over to erotica, this is the book for you.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE SCANDAL OF IT ALL by Sophie Jordan. Avon (July 25, 2017). ISBN: 978-0062463623. 384p.

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BLACKTHORNE’S BRIDE by Joan Johnston

August 4, 2017

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A Bitter Creek Novel, Book 15

Marcus Wharton, the Duke of Blackthorne is visiting America with his best friend when he witnesses a horrifying sight. The Sioux have a young American girl, Josie Wentworth, tied to a post and are whipping her within an inch of her life. The Duke approaches and offers his knife and a gold watch for the girl, and manages to get her away. He takes her with him on a ship back to England and nurses her as best as he can. When he gets home, he asks his friend to take care of her and make sure she gets home to America once she is healed. The Duke is about to be married.

Unbeknownst to the Duke, his orders are not followed and she ends up as a maid at his property far from London. The Duke’s wife dies in childbirth and a few years later, the Duke realizes that unless he marries an heiress, he will lose all his property. He advertises for a wife but can’t find anyone suitable and the clock is ticking.

One day a Pinkerton detective shows up at Josie’s residence to tell her that she is an heiress. He helps her to London where she answers the Duke’s ad for a wife. He doesn’t recognize her, but falls for her anyway.

There are a lot of twists and turns in this romance and I really enjoyed it. It is easy to see why Johnston has so many fans! I haven’t read any of the books in this series and I don’t think it mattered one iota. Johnston offers an unusual story (at least to me) and it was a good one.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BLACKTHORNE’S BRIDE by Joan Johnston. Dell (July 25, 2017). ISBN 978-0399177743. 432p.

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DANIEL’S TRUE DESIRE by Grace Burrowes

July 27, 2017

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True Gentlemen, Book 2

I loved the first book in this series, the second one not quite as much, but it’s still a really good read. I just had a harder time getting into it for some reason.

Daniel Banks has just started his new position as vicar in the small town of Haddondale, where the Earl of Bellefonte rules. Daniel has had some complications in his life – his sister had a baby, Danny, out of wedlock, who Daniel has been raising. She’s recently married a man of title, and they want to raise her son. But Danny is not happy without his papa, AKA Uncle Daniel.

Daniel is also married, to Olivia, who is a conniving bitch of the highest order. She wants nothing to do with sweet little Danny save for what she can use him for – blackmail, for a starter. Daniel and Olivia separate, he to his new post, her supposedly to family in the north. In reality, she is having an affair with a cousin and plotting and scheming against her husband.

While settling in to his new job, Daniel meets Lady Kirsten who runs the household. There is an immediate attraction and she is saddened to learn that he is married, and he is too ‘good’ to pursue anything while he is.

Eventually things conspire their way, but not without lots of hurdles and some behind closed doors sex. A happy ending is reached, and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

5/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DANIEL’S TRUE DESIRE by Grace Burrowes. Sourcebooks Casablanca (November 3, 2015). ISBN: 978-1492621027. 448p.

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THE LIGHT WE LOST by Jill Santopolo

June 20, 2017

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Lucy and Gabe met as students at Columbia University in New York City – on September 11, 2001. Yes, that September 11th. There was that shared trauma, but something more and Lucy was upset to find out shortly thereafter that Gabe had a girlfriend. But she moved on.

Until they met again. And it didn’t work out again. Or the next time. Star crossed lovers? Perhaps. And then finally the time was right.

By then Lucy was a successful children’s television producer and Gabe had found his calling in photojournalism. They quickly moved in together and were deliriously happy. At least Lucy was. They were in love, but Gabe was feeling stifled in his career. He wanted to go to where there were wars, where he thought his photographs might make a difference. And without telling Lucy, he arranged for such a job. Until he had to tell her because he was leaving. She was crushed.

Lucy eventually moved on. She met a man and slowly, very slowly, he wooed his way into her heart and eventually they married. But Gabe kept popping up every few years or so. At a reunion. On a stopover in NY. Lucy’s husband wasn’t a fan, but he dealt with it as best as he could. And Lucy was happy, for the most part. But Gabe was always there in her heart and after thirteen years, their history would finally catch up with them in a devastating way.

This book was unputdownable and I loved it, despite shedding tears along the way. The writing reminded me of Rainbow Rowell and especially Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, so if you are fan of those authors, try this one.

A terrific, terrible modern romance.

6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE LIGHT WE LOST by Jill Santopolo. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (May 9, 2017).  ISBN 978-0735212756.  336p.

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THE ALICE NETWORK by Kate Quinn

June 18, 2017

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She resisted.

The Alice Network was a real spy ring comprised of women during World War I led by Louise, the “Queen of the Spies.” This completely fascinating book is historical fiction based on rather mindblowing facts. It moves back and forth between World War I and the end of World War II with one character, Eve, the link between the wars.

Eve was a young girl with a stutter who really wanted to contribute during the war. She was recruited into the elite Alice Network, where she worked undercover as a waitress named Marguerite in a restaurant in Lille, France during the war.

The owner of the restaurant, René Bordulon, was a collaborator with the Germans, and all the top German brass frequented his restaurant. Eve was fluent in French, English and German but because of her stutter, she was able to play the simpleton who barely spoke French. Eventually René made his move on Marguerite, and they began an affair. She was petrified but got so much good information over pillow talk that it was worth it.

Meanwhile American Charlie St. Clair was on the hunt for her cousin, missing since the end of WWII. Charlie had a “little problem,” she got pregnant while at college and her mother has taken her to Europe for her “appointment” to get rid of the little problem. But Charlie wants to find her cousin Rose, her best friend growing up, and she refuses to believe that she is dead as her parents have told her. Shortly after arriving in Europe, she runs away from her mother and meets Eve, an older woman now with horribly disfigured hands, a vile mouth, and a severe case of PTSD. Nonetheless, Eve agrees to help and her driver, a big Scotsman, drives off with the women in search of Rose.

The story moves back and forth between Eve’s time as a spy during the war and the search for Rose, and eventually the story becomes even more intertwined. This is riveting stuff even though at times, it was quite difficult to read. The author’s notes at the end parses fiction from fact and the facts heavily win out. An excellent read for fans of historical fiction, especially with a women’s bent. This would be a fabulous choice for a book discussion as well.

6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ALICE NETWORK by Kate Quinn. William Morrow Paperbacks (June 6, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062654199.  528p.

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THE GIRL WITH THE MAKE-BELIEVE HUSBAND by Julia Quinn

June 7, 2017

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A Bridgertons Prequel: Rokesbys, Book 2

Cecelia Harcourt is in trouble. Her brother is in the army, fighting in the colonies when she gets a letter informing her that he has been injured and is in the hospital. Her father has just died, her mother died many years earlier, and a loathesome cousin has come sniffing around, trying to talk her into marrying him. He suspects he may inherit if her brother is dead, but Cecelia wants no part of him. She could go live with an aunt, but that doesn’t appeal either.

Instead, she gathers up the strength and the courage to sail to the colonies, try and find her brother and nurse him back to health. But when she finally arrives, no one seems to know where her brother is, he is presumed missing. But she does find her brother’s best friend, Captain Edward Rokesby. He is lying in a makeshift hospital and has been unconscious for a week after receiving a terrible head wound.

The doctor in charge won’t let her help Edward until she blurts out that she is his wife, and that changes everything. She is permitted to sit by his side and nurse him back and a few days later, he regains consciousness – along with amnesia. He has no memory of the previous few months.

Oh what a plot we weave when first we practice to deceive – and while deception seems to be at the heart of a lot of romance novels, Quinn’s expertise and experience really show here. The story is believable and compelling, and I finished it in one very late night. Another excellent read from a Romance Writers of America’s Hall of Fame author.

6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE GIRL WITH THE MAKE-BELIEVE HUSBAND by Julia Quinn. Avon (May 30, 2017). ISBN: 978-0062388179. 384p.

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TREMAINE’S TRUE LOVE by Grace Burrowes

May 26, 2017

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True Gentlemen, Book 1

Not sure how I missed this, but this book was a 2016 RITA Finalist for Historical Romanace and now that I’ve read it, I know why. And look at me, starting a series with book 1! This book is from 2015, and there are two more out already. I found it on a list from Overdrive, the company from which my library (most libraries) gets most of their ebooks. Luckily I found the next two in my library on the shelf (thanks, Barbara!) especially since the ebooks have a waiting list. The fourth book in the series, His Lordship’s True Lady, comes out in June – at least on Kindle. I should be all caught up by then.

Tremaine St. Michael is of mixed heritage, Scottish on his mother’s side and a French comte on his father’s. But mostly he is a man of commerce, always wheeling and dealing and making himself a fortune in the process, mostly in the sheep/wool business. He’s visiting the Haddonfield’s in hopes of buying their rare Merino sheep. But it is the eldest daughter, Nita, who is distracting him from his business.

Nita has decided she’s never going to marry. She inherited her mother’s gift of healing, and much prefers taking care of her neighbors than staying at home. But Tremaine is unlike any of the men she has met before. Their chemistry is interesting to watch ignite.

The usual drama ensues, including a duel which doesn’t come up as often as you would think in these historical romances, so that was a nice touch. I also like that the setting was in the country, not in London like a lot of historical romances. A bit of sex, nothing too graphic, but enough to make it interesting. It was a fun, fast read and I can understand why it was nominated for the RITA award.

5/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TREMAINE’S TRUE LOVE by Grace Burrowes. Sourcebooks Casablanca (August 4, 2015) ISBN: 978-1492621027. 416p.

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THE SECOND MRS. HOCKADAY by Susan Rivers

May 12, 2017

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Placidia Fincher becomes the second Mrs. Hockaday when, at age 17, she marries Major Gryffith Hockaday. He is almost twice her age, recently widowed and left with a very young son. She agrees to marry him and the next day they return to his home, a 300 acre farm in South Carolina. The Civil War is raging, and after a couple of days of marriage, the Major returns to his post leaving his teenage bride in charge of his home, his baby, his farm and his slaves.

The Major doesn’t return home for two years, spending much of that time in a Union prison. Upon his return he learns that his wife has become pregnant and had a baby during his time away, the baby died and she is accused of murder and on her way to jail. There are a lot of plot lines threaded throughout, and a number of characters so I had to pay close attention to keep it all straight.

This is an epistolary novel, written in letters, journal entries, etc. which always gives a very intimate, voyeuristic feeling to the reader and this is no exception. There are some very dark chapters, as is to be expected during war time in the South, but it is restrained. The violence is there but is not gratuitous and is never over the top. The book is loosely based on a true incident, and the writing style is interesting and seems accurate to the time period although the lack of some punctuation is difficult at times.

One of the things I liked best about this book was that it’s a woman’s perspective of the Civil War, and the difficulties that women faced were very different from the men. A most compelling read and an excellent debut novel.

5/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE SECOND MRS. HOCKADAY by Susan Rivers. Algonquin Books; First Edition edition (January 10, 2017).  ISBN 978-1616205812.  272p.

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