THE DUKE’S ACCIDENTAL BRIDE by Eva Devon

August 5, 2022

From the publisher:

Never trust a rake to find you a husband…

Lady Jaqueline Peabody is extremely vexed. Her nemesis, the Duke of Stone, has just ruined her life by matching her sister with a perfect gentleman. Except the gentleman in question has little in the way of income. With the family fortune in tatters, it means Jacqueline is tasked with marrying well—and must bid adieu to her dreams of a lovely spinsterhood with her pianoforte.

James Haven has a respectable title and a rogue’s reputation. After all, love and passion can lead only to disaster. While he’s eschewed marriage for himself, he enjoys great success with matching London’s most eligible ladies and gentlemen. So if Jacqueline needs a wealthy husband, he’ll find her one. Love need not apply!

Only, James is having the devil of time finding the perfect husband for the spirited female. And certainly not because he’s falling for Lady Jacqueline, who heats his desire and dares to stand slipper-to-boot with him. Ridiculous. But, when scandal erupts, Jacqueline’s hopes for the perfect husband might be replaced by the perfect rake…

https://amzn.to/3QlB6Zb

Jacqueline, or Jack as she is known to her family and friends, is newly on the marriage mart. She has been studying pianoforte in Vienna, but when her father dies penniless, she must return home. Their next-door neighbor and her brother’s best friend, the Duke of Stone, has arranged a match for her sister, but she is marrying a vicar, which will do the family no good. It falls to Jack and her brother to marry money and fill the family coffers again.

The Duke of Stone loves matchmaking, a rather unusual hobby for a Duke, but no one can argue with success. All the matches he’s made are thriving and happy. But Jack isn’t happy that she will be forced to marry to save her family, and reverting to her wild childhood ways, she wears her brother’s clothes and climbs the tree outside the Duke’s window, launching herself into his private rooms.

The Duke is mesmerized by the very nature and spirit of this young woman who he used to play with as a child. Now he’s like to play with her again, but he cannot. The Duke’s parents had a terrifying marriage, and his father descended into madness before passing away. Sure he will inherit that madness, he is determined not to marry and certainly never to fall in love. Until he meets Jack again and she completely upends his life.

This was an enjoyable read and a quick one. I would have liked to see more character development, but there is enough angst to get me invested. The happy ending is guaranteed, of course, and it was fun getting there.

8/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE DUKE’S ACCIDENTAL BRIDE by Eva Devon. Entangled: Amara (August 1, 2022). ASIN: ‎B0B1BWCZ4T. 280p.

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Spotlight Review: THE GUNSLINGER’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING MATRIMONY by Michelle McLean

July 26, 2022

Gunslinger, Book 2

From the publisher:

At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, desperate-to-retire gunslinger Adam Brady has exactly two rules. And one of them is never, ever get married. So he’ll be danged when his dreams of permanently avoiding the bounty hunter on his tail in Desolation, the only town where notorious men like him can find respite, comes with one helluva string attached. The town has a new rule: gunslingers welcome―if they get a job…or marry.

Without realizing it, Adam stumbles into a big town wedding and accidentally marries Nora Schumacher, a sassy-mouthed mountain of a woman with legs as long as his wanted poster. So what’s a gunslinger to do but get himself unhitched and find a job. Any job. Except Adam keeps getting fired, one odd circumstance after another. And he’s running out of options.

Desolation was supposed to be his safe haven. Except, he’s not only running from his past but from the irresistible woman he married. And worse, he’s finding that he rather likes the enticing, if damnably independent, wife of his. But some men just aren’t the marrying kind. Only, if he leaves, his own life won’t be worth living. If he stays, he puts the lives of his newfound family and the woman he loves on the line. So much for Desolation being the answer to all his problems.

https://amzn.to/3RXNJeK

This is a very funny book that is sort of anomaly, at least in my reading experience; it’s an historical cowboy romance. All the other cowboy romances I’ve read are contemporary, featuring a lot of rodeo stars or ranch hands or ranch owners. This book is set in the Wild West, and features gunslingers, which you don’t hear much about anymore. 

Adam is on the move, trying to escape his past. He’s quick with a gun, so successful at his past occupation, but he’s tired of it. All he wants to do is settle down somewhere and feel safe. When he stumbles into the small town of Desolation, he starts to think he found his place. Much to his surprise, the sheriff is a former gunslinger himself, and he has instituted some rules for the people in his town. They need to either be married or find a job within the first thirty days of arrival, or they need to go.

Adam doesn’t want a wife. He’s had some bad experiences and with the wanted posted hanging over his head, he doesn’t want to endanger any woman. But when he arrives in town, he finds himself in the midst of a crowd, and somehow he ends up married to Nora, the tall, good looking woman standing next to him. He refuses to sign the marriage certificate though, but the preacher says he’s married in the eyes of God, and isn’t sure how to go about ending things.

Nora needs a husband, although just temporarily. Ever since her mother passed away, her father has become a drunk. He takes all the money that Nora earns and drinks it away. He’s sold off part of the farm they live on, and she is afraid he will lose it all in a poker game or sell it off. She inherits the farm but not until she turns thirty, several years off, or gets married. Hence her need for a husband.

Meanwhile, Adam tries very hard to find a job. But the townspeople are all about helping Nora, so every job he gets turns into a disaster and that is the basis of all the humor in this book, and it’s pretty funny. But the more time he spends with Nora, the more his feelings for her grow stronger, and for her as well. But when his nemesis, a marshall, shows up, Adam knows he needs to get away but before he can, Nora is captured.

There is some suspense here, but mostly a lot of laughs and a bit of sex. This is a really fun read and a fast moving story. I did read the first book in the series, Hitched to the Gunslinger, but it is not necessary. These books stand alone and can be read in any order. I enjoyed them both, and hope another book is in the works.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE GUNSLINGER’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING MATRIMONY by Michelle McLean. Entangled: Amara (July 26, 2022). ISBN: 978-1649372123. 368p.

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Spotlight Review: A MATTER OF TEMPTATION by Stacy Reid

July 5, 2022

From the publisher:

Miss Wilhelmina “Mina” Crawford is desperate. Having been ruined in the eyes of society years ago for one foolish, starry-eyed mistake, she spends her days secreted away at her family’s crumbling estate, helping her brother manage the land but not able to truly live life the way she’s always dreamed. When her brother admits to just how dire their finances have gotten, she takes it upon herself to procure employment…but the only one who will even consider the scandalous idea of a female secretary is the brilliant, ruthless, and infuriating Earl of Creswick.

Simon Loughton, the Earl of Creswick, needs help if he wants to finally pass the reform bill he’s been championing for years and secure the vote for England’s most vulnerable constituents. Too bad help comes in the form of a woman with breathtaking nerve, fiery red hair, and a sense of humor to match.

Now temptation―disguised as a lovely, clever-mouthed devil―lives and works under Simon’s very roof. And Mina finally feels as though she’s truly living life to her wildest dreams. But even the most incendiary of kisses can’t incinerate Mina’s past…or the shocking secret that could ruin them both.

https://amzn.to/3yqzupZ

Mina is a strong female protagonist in a sea of weakness. Orphaned, she and her twin brother are close; so close, that when he foolishly challenges the Earl of Creswick to a duel, she takes his place and bests the heretofore unbeaten swordsman. Astonished to realize he was beaten by a girl, the Earl offers her a job as his secretary in a time when women just didn’t do that sort of thing. Desperate for the money, she agrees but quickly they become very close, which irks him to no end.

Theirs is a bumpy relationship at first, but as they get to know one another, things start changing – except while the Earl knows of her reputation, there are still secrets she has yet to share. The Earl is being pressured by his family to marry, and he is so uninterested he tells his grandmother to pick anyone she likes and he’ll marry her. Until his feelings for Mina overtake his logic.

This was a fun read, with lots of witty banter, well developed characters, some hot sex, and interesting politics of the time. I found myself completely engrossed in their world, and had a good time while there.

7/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A MATTER OF TEMPTATION by Stacy Reid. Entangled: Amara (June 28, 2022). ISBN: 978-1649370969. 400p.

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DESPERATELY SEEKING A DUCHESS by Christi Caldwell

May 27, 2022

All the Duke’s Sins, Book 2

From the publisher:

What happens when an impoverished duke with a reputation for being a rogue collides with a strong-willed heiress who wants to explore the world? An unlikely friendship…and unexpected passion.

Cailin Audley doesn’t fit in with Polite Society. A life spent among the working class taught her to value her independence in a way no newfound fortune or glittering ballroom could ever erase. When a major misstep sees the new heiress whisked away to the English countryside, Cailin soon realizes the vexing lengths her family will go to see her settled.  But having risked her heart once before, Cailin has no interest in the men of the ton—especially not the frustratingly charming Duke of St. James.

Courtland Balfour, the Duke of St. James, devoted brother and notorious rogue, despises what he must become—a fortune hunter. But with the ducal coffers drained by his late, spendthrift of a father, Courtland knows his duty lies at the altar and he will do anything to ensure a future for his siblings. Just his luck that the one lady who could make this new fate bearable, who enflames him like no other, is the one woman who wants nothing to do with him or his title.

But when an act of desperation inadvertently lands he and Cailin at the heart of another scandal, Courtland knows better than to waste his chance. Surely he can convince Cailin to love him?

“Packed with familial warmth and peppered with humor…An endearing romance.”—Kirkus

https://amzn.to/3z2CUku

I didn’t read the first book in the series, or the prequel novellas, and that really felt like a disadvantage here. Cailin is one of four illegitimate children of a duke. Their mother, his mistress, apparently never told him that she had children.  I guess he visited her so infrequently that he never noticed her pregnancies? I found that a bit odd, but maybe I should have read the earlier books, so that’s on me.

Courtland is the elder identical twin, so he inherits his father’s title and properties. Unfortunately, his father was a terrible person and basically left his family in severe debt. Things are so bad there is talk of debtor’s prison. His twin, Keir, has a very well paying position with another Duke, Cailin’s father. When he asks Keir to try and persuade his children to come visit, Courtland offers to go in his stead, as he more charming than the very serious Keir and has a better shot of getting them to agree. Instead, he is shot at and beaten by Cailin and her brother, so returns home without them. 

Keir loses his job because of Courtland and Cailin, and things are not looking good for the family. Courtland knows he needs to marry an heiress, but every time he and Cailin are together, their chemistry just leaps off the page. 

So the storyline was a bit confusing for me at times, but I got enough of the gist of it to see where it is going. I didn’t love Cailin, but I liked Courtland a lot, which was a surprise to me. There is no rush to romance here, and the ending felt a bit muddled to me as well. I didn’t love this book (obviously) but I did like it enough to go back and read the first one before passing judgement. 

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

DESPERATELY SEEKING A DUCHESS by Christi Caldwell. Atria Books (April 5, 2022). ISBN: 978-1982190484. 336p.

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Spotlight Review: THE GOOD LEFT UNDONE by Adriana Trigiani

May 17, 2022

From the publisher:

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

From “a master of visual and palpable detail” (The Washington Post), comes a lush, immersive novel about three generations of Tuscan artisans with one remarkable secret. Epic in scope and resplendent with the glorious themes of identity and belonging, The Good Left Undone unfolds in breathtaking turns.

Matelda, the Cabrelli family’s matriarch, has always been brusque and opinionated. Now, as she faces the end of her life, she is determined to share a long-held secret with her family about her own mother’s great love story: with her childhood friend, Silvio, and with dashing Scottish sea captain John Lawrie McVicars, the father Matelda never knew. . . .

In the halcyon past, Domenica Cabrelli thrives in the coastal town of Viareggio until her beloved home becomes unsafe when Italy teeters on the brink of World War II. Her journey takes her from the rocky shores of Marseille to the mystical beauty of Scotland to the dangers of wartime Liverpool—where Italian Scots are imprisoned without cause—as Domenica experiences love, loss, and grief while she longs for home. A hundred years later, her daughter, Matelda, and her granddaughter, Anina, face the same big questions about life and their family’s legacy, while Matelda contemplates what is worth fighting for. But Matelda is running out of time, and the two timelines intersect and weave together in unexpected and heartbreaking ways that lead the family to shocking revelations and, ultimately, redemption. 

“Trigiani conveys the beauty of Italy, the hardships of war, the taste of family recipes, and the enduring love of family.”—Library Journal (starred)

“[An] immersive saga. . . . A celebration of family and a paean to the power of storytelling.”—People, “Book of the Week”

https://amzn.to/37StqwZ

Trigiani gives us another gem; three generations of women, their stories interwoven from 1929 through World War II through present day, from a small village in Italy to Scotland and the expulsion of “Britalians”, history comes alive on the page, as does the food, the family, and the scenery.

Trigiani is one of my favorite writers and favorite people! She is so full of life, and her exuberance carries over on her pages. bringing every story she tells to life. Sadly, she is not on a book-a-year schedule; in fact, it’s been about four years since her last book, Tony’s Wife. In that review, I said “reading Trigiani is an immersive experience into Italian family life and food and love,” and that tradition continues here, with the Cabrelli family.

Matelda Cabrelli is nearing the end of her life, and wants to share her life and her mother’s life stories with the next generations. They are a family of jewelers, but they are working class – the sell the jewelry they make to the upper classes. Matelda’s mother, Domenica, starts the story with her life in a small village where she became a nurse, and met and married first a Scotsman, then her childhood best friend. she really wants to share her life stories with her granddaughter, Anina, and we all get drawn in.

This book has a slow start, but quickly becomes unputdownable. The descriptions of the locations, and especially the food, are exquisite. But it’s these women who invaded my life and my dreams and will be staying with me for a long time to come. I don’t want to give anything away – one of the treats of reading a Trigiani novel is watching events unfold and lives change. Don’t miss it.

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE GOOD LEFT UNDONE by Adriana Trigiani. Dutton (April 26, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593183328. 448p.

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HIGHLAND JUSTICE by Heather McCollum

May 6, 2022

Sons of Sinclair, Book 3

From the publisher:

As the new chief of Clan Mackay, Gideon Sinclair knows the importance of maintaining order at any cost. To keep the conquered clan in line, Gideon must mete out ruthless justice or risk losing their precious new peace. But from the moment he meets Cait Mackay―aye, from the moment the sweetness of her lips captures his―all of Gideon’s careful objectivity is well and thoroughly compromised.

Cait knows that kissing the brawny Highlander is a dangerous game. It was bad enough she picked his pocket to feed the children in her care, but sometimes a desperate woman must disguise her crimes any way she can. Only her act of deception has made things worse… Because one kiss with the Highland’s most brutal chief leaves her breathless and out of her depth.

Now Gideon must choose between his duty and his heart when his lovely thief is accused of treason against the king himself.

Each book in the Sons of Sinclair series is STANDALONE:

* Highland Conquest

* Highland Warrior

* Highland Justice

https://amzn.to/3Fmj1Wx

I read the first book in this series, Highland Conquest, but somehow I never got the second book. So here I am, reviewing the third and I have to say it’s true, they definitely stand alone. And they are so good!

This series is set in Scotland during the 1500s, so a fascinating time period. This book begins each chapter with a rule of law that was used during that time and I found those so interesting, and each law explained ties into the story. The main characters are Cait, a beautiful young widow, and Gideon, one of the sons of Sinclair. They were raised as the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and Gideon is the Horseman of Justice. He makes the laws, and he enforces the laws, determining each suspect’s guilt or innocence. But when he meets Cait, everything changes.

Cait was married off when she was 15 years old by her father, to settle some debts. Her younger sister Willa was part of the package deal. But her husband was a cruel man, and told her she didn’t conceive because she’s a cold woman. She believes that until she meets Gideon.

Cait loves babies, and she takes in any children that need a home. Gideon is impressed with her good heart, and there is a strong attraction there. But when her oldest child, Jack, is accused of heinous crimes, Gideon must decide between helping Cait with her child, or the helping James, the King of Scotland, as ordered.

I really enjoyed this story and this time period. I haven’t read much set back then and I find it so interesting. These characters really touched me, and now I have to backtrack and try to find the second book in the series that I missed. If you like historical romances with some steamy sex, this is a good one.

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HIGHLAND JUSTICE by Heather McCollum. Entangled: Amara (April 26, 2022) ISBN:‎ 978-1649370761. 400p.

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TO MARRY AND TO MEDDLE by Martha Waters

April 15, 2022

The Regency Vows, Book 3

From the publisher:

The “sweet, sexy, and utterly fun” (Emily Henry, author of People We Meet on Vacation) Regency Vows series continues with a witty, charming, and joyful novel following a seasoned debutante and a rakish theater owner as they navigate a complicated marriage of convenience.

Lady Emily Turner has been a debutante for six seasons now and should have long settled into a suitable marriage. However, due to her father’s large debts, her only suitor is the persistent and odious owner of her father’s favorite gambling house. Meanwhile, Lord Julian Belfry, the second son of a marquess, has scandalized society as an actor and owner of a theater—the kind of establishment where men take their mistresses, but not their wives. When their lives intersect at a house party, Lord Julian hatches a plan to benefit them both.

With a marriage of convenience, Emily will use her society connections to promote the theater to a more respectable clientele and Julian will take her out from under the shadows of her father’s unsavory associates. But they soon realize they have very different plans for their marriage—Julian wants Emily to remain a society wife, while Emily discovers an interest in the theater. But when a fleeing actress, murderous kitten, and meddlesome friends enter the fray, Emily and Julian will have to confront the fact that their marriage of convenience comes with rather inconvenient feelings.

With “an arch sense of humor and a marvelously witty voice that rivals the best of the Regency authors” (Entertainment Weekly), Martha Waters crafts another fresh romantic comedy that for fans of Julia Quinn and Evie Dunmore.

“Sure to delight Bridgerton fans.” —USA TODAY

https://amzn.to/3uwuy1V

This is my first time reading this author, so I haven’t read the first two books in the series – but I could tell I was missing information. Nevertheless, the story pulled me in and the characters came to life on the page.

Lady Emily was an interesting character; a dutiful daughter, an intelligent woman, and a woman always in complete control of her emotions. When Lord Julian proposes this marriage of convenience, Emily is thrilled to escape from under her parents iron-fisted rule, and happy to jilt the man who’s been squiring her about for a few years, without a proposal in sight. Not that she wants to marry the odious man, but the scandals that have befallen her family leave her out of the running for most men.

But Julian is different. He owns a somewhat disreputable theater and is estranged from his family because of it, especially his father who gave him an ultimatum to either sell the theater or he would be cut off. Julian is making tons of money from the theater and doesn’t need his father’s money, but deep down he would like his approval. So he hatches this plan to marry a proper society woman in hopes of getting the ton to come to his theater – the wives, not just the mistresses.

Of course they fall in love, but both are afraid to admit it, and to admit what it might mean for their plans. But no worries, Julian and Emily mend fences, support one another, and get their happily ever after. Now I have to find the first two books in the series!

4/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

TO MARRY AND TO MEDDLE by Martha Waters. Atria Books (April 5, 2022). ISBN: 978-1982190484. 336p.

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Spotlight Review: HIS LESSONS ON LOVE by Cathy Maxwell

February 3, 2022

A Logical Man’s Guide to Dangerous Women Novel, Book 3

From the publisher:

New York Times bestselling author Cathy Maxwell’s delicious Logical Man’s Guide to Dangerous Women series continues with this provocative romance between a reprobate earl and a sensible spinster who agree to marry under scandalous circumstances. Perfect for fans of Sophie Jordan and Sabrina Jeffries. 

Lesson #1: A man, even titled and handsome, cannot be careless forever.

The Earl of Marsden—better known as Mars to all—has lived his life by his own rules…until he is presented with a very big problem in a very tiny package—a baby girl, his daughter cast off by his ex-mistress. Mars won’t let his child be cast adrift, except he doesn’t know the first thing about babies.

Panicking, he turns to a woman for help. Not just any woman, but Clarissa Taylor, village spinster, matron-in-training, and Mars’s greatest critic. Still, who better to tend a motherless child than a woman who was abandoned as a babe herself?

Lesson #2: Life always plays the upper hand—especially when it comes to love. 

Clarissa desperately wishes to not to be beholden to anyone. She has spent a lifetime being pitied by the village. Her plan is simple—to use what the intolerable earl will pay her to become her own woman. It all sounds so straightforward until the threat of scandal sends her and the one man she can’t abide toward . . . marriage?

Mars and Clarissa are about to learn the greatest lesson of all—that sparks always fly when the iron is hot

https://amzn.to/3uh7ioZ

I haven’t read Maxwell in a few years, so I missed the first two books of this series. That said, I kind of knew there were stories before it (I thought just one) but it didn’t really matter. I didn’t feel like there were any holes in the story or that I was missing some crucial plot point. It stands alone beautifully – but now I want to read the first two books in this series!

Mars is local royalty in this small town and his nemesis has been a foundling raised by the village cleric and his wife, Clarissa. They just rub each other the wrong way. But when an ex-paramour dumps a baby in his lap and takes off, he falls in love instantly but quickly realizes he is in over his head. While the baby isn’t a newborn, she is well under a year old and he has zero experience with babies. He turns to the town matrons, who immediately push Clarissa to take care of the babe.

Clarissa can’t stand Mars, but as an abandoned baby herself, she can’t bear the thought of this little girl growing up unloved, so she reluctantly agrees to help out. Fairly quickly Mars realizes that he needs a wife and mother for his daughter, and somehow manages to convince Clarissa to take on the role. There is some family drama going on that adds some hurdles to their happily ever after, but that is the fun of a romance!

I really enjoyed this book. I like learning how babies were fed and cared for when they didn’t have a mother to nurse them, for instance. Mars and Clarissa both had interesting back stories and I liked getting to know them. I couldn’t help but root for them to find their happily ever after, and there was some real chemistry between them – along with some hot bedroom scenes. This was a terrific Regency romance, so if you enjoy those, don’t miss this one.

A Logical Man’s Guide to Dangerous Women, books in order:

  1. His Secret Mistress
  2. Her First Desire
  3. His Lessons on Love

2/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HIS LESSONS ON LOVE by Cathy Maxwell. Avon (January 25, 2022). ISBN: 978-0062897350. 400p.

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GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE by Diana Gabaldon

January 21, 2022

Outlander, Book 9

From the publisher:

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Diana Gabaldon returns with the newest novel in the epic Outlander series.

The past may seem the safest place to be . . . but it is the most dangerous time to be alive. . . .

Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall were torn apart by the Jacobite Rising in 1746, and it took them twenty years to find each other again. Now the American Revolution threatens to do the same.

It is 1779 and Claire and Jamie are at last reunited with their daughter, Brianna, her husband, Roger, and their children on Fraser’s Ridge. Having the family together is a dream the Frasers had thought impossible.

Yet even in the North Carolina backcountry, the effects of war are being felt. Tensions in the Colonies are great and local feelings run hot enough to boil Hell’s teakettle. Jamie knows loyalties among his tenants are split and it won’t be long until the war is on his doorstep.

Brianna and Roger have their own worry: that the dangers that provoked their escape from the twentieth century might catch up to them. Sometimes they question whether risking the perils of the 1700s—among them disease, starvation, and an impending war—was indeed the safer choice for their family.

Not so far away, young William Ransom is still coming to terms with the discovery of his true father’s identity—and thus his own—and Lord John Grey has reconciliations to make, and dangers to meet . . . on his son’s behalf, and his own.

Meanwhile, the Revolutionary War creeps ever closer to Fraser’s Ridge. And with the family finally together, Jamie and Claire have more at stake than ever before.

https://amzn.to/33bF2Jm

It’s been a long wait – seven years – for the ninth book in this series, and Gabaldon has said she will end it with the tenth book. I hope it’s not another seven years! Because it has been that long, I feel the need to discuss the series in general, in addition to this new book.

Gabaldon’s educational background: Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and a PhD in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology, (plus an honorary degree as Doctor of Humane Letters). I’ve met her a few times and heard her speak several times. I mention this because she was primarily a researcher in science, so when she decided to write a novel, she figured the best/easiest way for her to do that was to utilize her research skills. I think she also, if not directly then subconsciously, also sought to write the book she would want to read.

This series defies categorization and genre. When I worked for Borders, it was shelved in the Romance section. Another big bookstore chain had it shelved in Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and Amazon classifies it that way as well. I believe it was Barnes & Noble who just had it in the General Fiction section, and honestly, that is where it should be. The books are also very long, and getting the first book published was not easy. Publishers like to put everything in a slot, and they couldn’t do that with Outlander. It was over 600 pages, another no-no. But the right editor found it, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Speaking of history, to me this series is basically historical fiction with a time travel element and romance. The time travel is done very well. The main character, Claire, was a nurse during WWII. After the war, she and her husband go on vacation to Scotland. There are standing stones, like Stonehenge, there, and Claire falls through the stones to the 1700s. There she meets and marries Jamie, and theirs is a romance of the ages, still going strong 20+ years later. The time travel isn’t a constant thing at all. Claire does go back to her own time for a while, but that’s all I will say about it – I don’t want to spoil anything.

The history is well researched and presented in a way that feels very personal, and that I think, more than anything else, is Gabaldon’s gift. I may have learned about the battle at Culloden in school, but she put me there, in the battlefield, along with everything that led up to it and everything that followed. Eventually, Jamie and Claire make their way to America, prior to the Revolutionary War, and again, we get to live it. We can see what life was like, what they ate, how they lived.

This newest book takes place in 1779 in North Carolina, with forays to Savannah and Charles Town (Charleston) and even Philadelphia. While George Washington doesn’t make an appearance, his and some other famous names are dropped.

Instead of focusing primarily on Jamie and Claire, the story is spread between them, their daughter Brianna and Roger and their family, Jamie’s son William, and to a lesser extent, Jamie’s nephew Ian and his family. There are skirmishes on Fraser’s Ridge between Tory loyalists and those, like Jamie, with allegiance to the new country, and it ultimately ends on a battlefield at King’s Mountain with its aftereffects. There is love, war, and mostly what life was like in the 18th century in America.

Bottom line? Gabaldon’s latest was worth the wait. While not the strongest book in the series, it is definitely a good read.

If you haven’t read them, I envy you the chance to do so. This is the series that I wish I could read again for the first time. These are the books I would want to have with me if I was stranded on a desert island. I’ve read them all at least twice, and I’ve listened to the audiobooks of all of them but this one…yet.

This series truly must be read in order:

  1. Outlander
  2. Dragonfly in Amber
  3. Voyager
  4. Drums of Autumn
  5. The Fiery Cross
  6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes
  7. An Echo in the Bone
  8. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood
  9. Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone

There is a TV series based on the books, “Outlander” on the Starz network. Each season follows one book, but it does veer away from the source material now and then. The casting is fantastic, and Gabaldon herself pops up now and then! You can also purchase individual episodes or seasons on Amazon Prime, or stream the entire series on Starz.

1/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE by Diana Gabaldon. Delacorte Press; First Edition (November 23, 2021). ISBN: 978-1101885680. 928 pages.

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AFTER DARK WITH THE DUKE by Julie Anne Long

January 7, 2022

The Palace of Rogues, Book 4

From the publisher:

Sparks fly when a daring diva clashes with an ice-cold war hero in the newest thrilling romance in USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long’s Palace of Rogues series.

She arrives in the dead of night, a mob out for blood at her heels: Mariana Wylde, the “Harlot of Haywood Street,” an opera diva brought low by a duel fought for her favors. But the ladies of the Grand Palace on the Thames think they can make a silk purse from scandal: They’ll restore her reputation and share in her triumph…provided they can keep her apart from that other guest.

Coldly brilliant, fiercely honorable, General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk, is revered, feared, desired…but nobody truly knows him. Until a clash with a fiery, vulnerable beauty who stands for everything he scorns lays him bare. It’s too clear the only cure for consuming desire is conquest, but their only chance at happiness could lead to their destruction.

The legendary duke never dreamed love would be his last battleground. Valkirk would lay down his life for Mariana, but his choice is stark: risk losing her forever, or do the one thing he vowed he never would…surrender.

https://amzn.to/3zxcK7I

Mariana has a mob after her. Two men fought a duel, purportedly over her, and she is on the run. The opera singer cannot perform while the ton is up in arms about this brouhaha. She has heard about The Grand Palace on the Thames and the women who own it, and decides to see if they will let her hide out there for a while.

Of course they do, and get the idea of having Mariana perform to inaugurate their brand new ballroom. It will take a little time to decorate and arrange everything, and meanwhile, they house her and feed her. One of their other guests is the Duke of Valkirk, and they immediately butt heads. Eventually he really insults her, breaking the rules of decorum the house insists upon. His punishment is to give her Italian lessons. Spending all that time alone together leads them down a different path, as anyone who has ever read an historical romance can guess.

Valkirk is revered throughout England, and is hiding out himself. He had published his memoirs and they were a huge bestseller. Now his publisher wants a sequel, and he is trying to write in solitude at the boarding house at the docks, under the radar of anyone in his social circle. But as he gets to know Mariana, he becomes smitten. Eventually things progress until he offers to set her up as his mistress. That isn’t exactly what she had in mind.

There are some difficulties in reaching the happy ending, much of them Valkirk’s own doing, but they get there eventually. It is a lot of fun taking this journey with them. Long adds another terrific entry into this wonderful series, best read in order:

  1. Lady Derring Takes a Lover
  2. Angel in a Devil’s Arms
  3. I’m Only Wicked with You
  4. After Dark with the Duke

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

AFTER DARK WITH THE DUKE by Julie Anne Long. Avon (November 30, 2021). ISBN: 978-0063045095. 384 pages.

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