GHOST FIRE by Wilbur Smith

September 9, 2019

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Smith brings us another action adventure with this one featuring members of the Courtney family. Theo and Constance Courtney have grown up in India in the protective environment normally experienced by ex pats from England. The story opens as the area they live in is being attacked by enemies looking to conquer the city. The two are told by their parents to remain in their house in order not to be affected by the combat going on around them. Constance is determined to see what the war looks like and runs off to a section of the wall protecting the city, and Theo, looking to protect her goes after her. When their parents come home and see them gone, they dash to the wall to bring the two home. In an accident caused by a cannon ball hitting a section of wall, their parents are killed with Theo and Constance made orphans.

With the two siblings forced to take care of themselves, Smith moves them through world centers in which France and England are at war with each other. All events and areas in which these events take place have been researched by the author in order to present an accurate description of what is happening to both Theo and Constance. They become separated and Smith follows each as they interact with the events they find themselves involved in.

The story culminates in the New World of North America where the battles between England and the French and Indians continue. Theo, due to circumstances, arrives there and through his own brave actions becomes an officer in a ranger group that is attached to the British army sent to fight in the new world. The story ranges through the skirmishes and battles that took place during the period resulting in a British victory and a migration west into new lands. The Indians that sided with the French in the war are portrayed by the author quite well. He describes their life style and beliefs using Theo’s being forced to become a member of a tribe due to events he meets with.

Wilbur Smith usually paints his protagonists with a heroic brush making them larger than life. My own feeling is that this action enhances a good story making it better. His ability to fully paint a picture of a period and area involved in his books coupled with heroic people is a welcome trademark in his novels. He is a prodigious writer with his books welcomed by his readers with the faith that he will continue to produce fascinating novels for many more years.

9/19 Paul Lane

GHOST FIRE by Wilbur Smith. Zaffre (September 3, 2019). ISBN   978-1499862249. 432p.



THE DUCHESS IN HIS BED by Lorraine Heath

August 29, 2019

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A Sin for All Seasons, Book 4

From the publisher:

For a duchess with practical desires, falling in love is an inconceivable part of her plan…

As owner of the Elysium Club which caters to women’s fantasies, Aiden Trewlove is accustomed to introducing adventurous ladies to sin and vice. But he is uncharacteristically intrigued by the mysterious beauty who visits his club one night, yearning to indulge in the forbidden—with him. Drawn to her indomitable spirit, he breaks his rule of never becoming personally involved with his clientele and is determined to fully awaken her desires.

A recent widow, Selena Sheffield, Duchess of Lushing, has never known passion, not until Aiden’s slow, sensual seduction leads her on a journey of discovery and incredible pleasure. But her reasons for visiting the notorious club are not all that they seem.

As Selena’s motives become complicated by love, she finds herself with a most unexpected choice: forge ahead with a secret plan that could secure her future—or follow her heart which could prove ruinous.

This is one of my favorite series, and book number four is a terrific addition.

The Duchess of Lushing is quite calculating, which normally turns me off. But Heath does such a good job of explaining why she has to be that way that I was all in. I have to say that for the first time in a very long time, I actually wondered how this couple was going to get to their happily ever after. The obstacles just seemed insurmountable, and I can’t even remember the last time I felt that way about a romance. So kudos to Heath, well done!

Aiden Trewlove is the protagonist here, and I remembered him and his businesses from the previous books. And considering how many books I read, that is really saying something. The Trewlove brothers have been well introduced in earlier books in the series, so I think this is one series that is best read in order.

Like most of Heath’s books, there is a lot of steamy sex on these pages, so if that is not your thing, feel free to move along. On the other hand, I loved this book and read it in one go. I was so involved with these characters and this story, especially as I couldn’t see a way out for them. But a happily ever after is a romance requirement, and the denouement was worth all the worry. An another excellent read from one of my favorite authors.

8/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DUCHESS IN HIS BED by Lorraine Heath.  Avon (August 20, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062676061. 400p.




August 25, 2019

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Girl Meets Duke, Book 3

From the publisher:

They call him the Duke of Ruin.
To an undaunted wallflower, he’s just the beast next door.

Wealthy and ruthless, Gabriel Duke clawed his way from the lowliest slums to the pinnacle of high society–and now he wants to get even.

Loyal and passionate, Lady Penelope Campion never met a lost or wounded creature she wouldn’t take into her home and her heart.

When her imposing–and attractive–new neighbor demands she clear out the rescued animals, Penny sets him a challenge. She will part with her precious charges, if he can find them loving homes.

Done, Gabriel says. How hard can it be to find homes for a few kittens?
And a two-legged dog.
And a foul-mouthed parrot.
And a goat, an otter, a hedgehog . . .

Easier said than done, for a cold-blooded bastard who wouldn’t know a loving home from a workhouse. Soon he’s covered in cat hair, knee-deep in adorable, and bewitched by a shyly pretty spinster who defies his every attempt to resist. Now she’s set her mind and heart on saving him.

Not if he ruins her first.

Just when I thought I would have to give up on historical romances with 21st century problems, Tessa Dare proves it can be done. Thank goodness! The #MeToo movement has hit Regency England and Dare does it proud.

This book is a perfect example of the Regency genre, it has it all. Love: of course. Humor: lots of it. (A parrot that learned to speak in a whorehouse; need I say more?) Sex: just enough to keep things interesting. Plus chemistry galore, an unusual plot line, terrific secondary characters, and more. The characters come to life on the page, their backstories are believable, and of course, they get their happily ever after.

Another terrific entry into a wonderful series. I loved this book!

8/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE WALLFLOWER WAGER by Tessa Dare. Avon (August 13, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062672162. 368p.




August 20, 2019

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The author, in an afterward, indicates that he had found an ad in the British Chronicles for the year 1797 looking for an individual to live a completely isolated life for seven years. This person would have no contact with other people for the period. If the seven years passed with no contact with the outside world, and after obtaining a report from the person, a stipend would be paid for life each year for as long as the individual lived. Nathan could find no further information about the ad’s results and finally decided to write a novel detailing possible results for both the buyer and the seller of this strange service.

That is precisely what is detailed in the book. Herbert Powyss, in the interest of publishing the results of said experiment to present to the Royal Society in London, hires John Warlow to live in three rooms in the house Powyss lives in. He is to live in complete isolation from the outside world. Food and other necessities would be delivered to Warlow via a dumb waiter and to relieve him of worries about his wife and children they would receive a cash allowance for the period of the experiment. Conditions would involve no contact with anyone other than receipt of the necessities sent silently via the dumbwaiter.

The novel becomes a very intriguing read in two ways. First, of course, is the actions of all the people involved in the account. Details are discussed for Warlow and Powyss as each begins to play their parts. Also, others involved including Warlow’s wife, and the servants working for Powyss are major parts of the story. The period in which the novel takes place is during the French Revolution and the ensuing entrance of Napoleon and French militarism including war with England. These conditions play out in the background and have an effect on the personnel involved with the story. Second, and the most interesting part of the narrative, are the psychological changes each participant undergoes. How does Warlow react through the complete loneliness he experiences. The feelings held by Powyss confronted by both the conditions created by him as part of the experiment as well as meeting with Warlow’s wife every time she passes by to pick up the allowance she receives while her husband cannot work. The servants all have some obligation towards Warlow – readying his meals, sending books and other items contracted by him for the course of his confinement, cleaning his clothes and emptying the chamber pot used for waste disposal.

The novel is impossible to put down before completed. The world of almost 250 years ago is described and Nathan brings in conditions during that time and how they influence what is happening in the novel. A different novel and one that is guaranteed to capture and keep the readers’ interests.

8/19 Paul Lane

THE WARLOW EXPERIMENT by Alix Nathan.  Doubleday (August 20, 2019). ISBN  978-0385545334. 272p.



NEVER A BRIDE by Megan Frampton

August 17, 2019

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Duke’s Daughters, Book 4

From the publisher:

The next thrilling installment in Megan Frampton’s scintillating A Duke’s Daughters series.

She’s a deliciously scandalous woman who is no man’s bride…

He’s a black sheep, forced to return home.

Together, they enter a make-believe betrothal that shocks London society…

After twelve years in Her Majesty’s Navy, Griffith Davies must leave his sea-going life of outrageous freedom behind, forced to rejoin London society as the heir to the Duke of Northam. But though he is now shackled to the land, he has no desire to wed some innocently dull young thing.  Who best to shield him from the matchmakers than a woman as notorious as he?

Lady Della Howlett’s reputation was tattered years ago, so entering into a false engagement with Griffith is hardly going to make matters worse. What’s one more shock to the ton to set their tongues wagging? And this pact certainly has its pleasures; the passion Griffith commands in her goes well beyond their agreement. Could her feelings might be more honorable than she’d first imagined?

Soon, Griffith and Della are arousing more than scandal, they’re courting heartbreak.  And more than their reputations could still be at risk.

I was really enjoying the latest trope of having 21st century characters inhabiting the 18th century. By that I mean strong, independent women with careers and men who appreciate them. But this time really felt like it was beyond the scope of suspending disbelief. I’ve read books two and three of this series and enjoyed them, but this one was definitely my least favorite.

Lady Della’s story was a familiar one. As a young girl, she is talked into running away with a young man her family is sure to disapprove of, and, as it turns out, with very good reason. What does she see in him? Well, he listens to her when no one else does. When she finds herself pregnant, she leaves him, somehow figuring she will manage on her own in Regency England. She ends up living with another young mother from the Caribbean, whose husband is missing. Together they take in all kinds of strays, from young girls to kittens to furniture.

Griffith is a man who loves his job as captain of a ship in her majesty’s navy. What was interesting (and completely unrealistic) is that both of these characters, Griffith and Della, are fierce defenders of the poor, the homeless, the low born. They truly are a match made in heaven, especially sexually. Della is a dominant, and Griffith loves how she orders him about and takes the lead in everything. When he tries to, he is punished.

This was just too much for me. I finished it as it was a very quick read, but I didn’t love it and I’m very sorry to say, cannot really recommend it.

8/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

NEVER A BRIDE by Megan Frampton. Avon (April 30, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062867407. 368p.



THE DOLL FACTORY by Elizabeth Macneal

August 16, 2019

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The author sets her story in the London of the 1850’s and sets it very well, describing the city at that time with both its problems and also its attractions. She does an excellent job of presenting the persona involved with their distinct personalities and their reactions to their own time.

The Great Exhibition, a huge hall, is being erected in 1850 in London to showcase as many of the symbols of life at the time, as well as objects that might illustrate the future. Among the exhibitions are portraits done by the artists of the day. The building has an important part to play in the events depicted in the novel.

Iris is a young lady that, due to her background and lack of money, works in a shop making items for the woman in charge. Her sister Rose works with her. As the novel begins, Iris goes to the grounds of the Great Exhibition to have a look at this marvel. In passing she bumps into Silas, whose forte is obtaining either by purchase or killing birds and other animals, mounting them and selling them to artists to use as models in their paintings. Iris forgets the encounter, but Silas imagines that she fell in love with him at that moment. Silas is a psychopath with these tendencies beginning during his early life when he fantasized that a girl he knew was secretly in love with him. When she didn’t respond to him he lured her away from their area and in a secluded woods killed her.

Iris delivers an order from her shop to an artist named Louis Frost. He is struck by her beauty and asks her to model for him. Iris consents but indicates as part of her terms that Louis teach her to paint as well as paying her for the time. The artist later notes that Iris has the talent to become a first class artist, and also falls in love with her, and she with him.

The novel is dedicated to describing the interactions between the three people. It is extremely well done and while the ending is a direct output of the actions of the characters and not a surprise, it provides a good read with the desire instilled to buy more books by Elizabeth Macneal.

8/19 Paul Lane

THE DOLL FACTORY by Elizabeth Macneal.  Atria/Emily Bestler Books (August 13, 2019). ISBN 978-1982106768. 368p.



CAGING SKIES by Christine Leunens

August 8, 2019

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There is no doubt about the fact that Leunens novel is a fabulous book. It makes any reader feel that. How can anything else be possible?

The story opens in Vienna, Austria at the time when Austria entered into a union with Nazi, Germany allowing Hitler to take control of the Austrian government. Johannes Betzler, a young man enters into the spirit of what the Nazis espouse by immediately joining the Hitler Youth movement and attempting to get his parents to do what the Nazis think everyone should do.

At an initial point of the story Johannes stumbles on the fact that his parents are actually hiding and protecting a Jewish girl. The author does an excellent job in describing Johannes’ mixed feelings and why he ends up doing what he does. As the reader is drawn into the story he or she learns about Johannes and Elsa’s reactions to both the radically changed political climate and the fact that Jewish people and other selected minorities are used as scapegoats by Hitler to move Germany into war.

Leunens utilizes hard hitting prose, sarcasm, and black comedy to bring out a book that will be impossible to forget. That it is an all-nighter is a natural for writing that drags in any reader that picks it up. The novel is in the process of currently being developed as a motion picture and is at this writing available in 16 countries. A major literary talent has emerged and I for one, am anxiously awaiting her future novels.

8/19 Paul Lane

CAGING SKIES by Christine Leunens. The Overlook Press (August 6, 2019). ISBN 978-1419739088. 304p.




July 26, 2019

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Diamonds in the Rough, Book 4

From the publisher:

A woman with a shocking past…

Branded a money-hungry con artist for marrying the elderly Duke of Tremaine days before his death, Viola Cartwright has found refuge in her work at St. Agatha’s Hospital. No one must know the painful reason behind her marriage. She steers clear of attachments—until Henry Lowell, heir to the Viscount Armswell, lands on her operating table after a duel. Charming and wickedly handsome, Lowell is one of London’s most inveterate scoundrels. Yet he may not be all that he appears.

And the man who can promise a future filled with love…

Posing as an unrepentant rake has helped Lowell avoid women pursuing him only for his title. But now that duty has finally called on him to marry, he finds himself entranced by the mysterious, independent-minded Viola. Then her late husband’s son returns from overseas, contesting Viola’s inheritance. Lowell longs to help her and sets out to convince Viola that a strategic union may be the best way to save all she holds dear. But can he also persuade her to take a chance on love…?

I am really enjoying the latest trope of having 21st century characters inhabiting the 18th century. By that I mean strong, independent women with careers and men who appreciate them. Viola and Lowell certainly fit the new standards and in a way that is always believable.

Viola is a skilled surgeon, trained by her father since women certainly couldn’t go to medical school back then. She marries a much older man, and is criticized for it, which I did find a bit surprising since that was certainly very common back then. Rich old men were considered catches for the young debutantes of the day so I wasn’t sure why Viola was considered a gold digger – all the young girls vied for the best titled men they could land but I guess since her father worked for a living instead of being titled gentry, that puts her out of the running. Sadly, her husband died quite soon after their marriage, leaving the marriage unconsecrated and Viola some money. Even more sadly, her husband’s son violated her before the marriage so she in no virgin.

Viola wants to use that money to open her own hospital, another seriously unlikely event of the day but what the hell, I bought it here. And Henry Lowell is the perfect man for her, although of course it takes quite a while to get to their happily ever after. The way the ton is portrayed is with the usual pettiness and vindictiveness, leaving me wondering why anyone even cared what they thought. Upper crust society was a strange beast, to be sure.

This is an interesting and well written series, and this book ends with strong hints as to the couple to be featured next. I’m looking forward to it.

7/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE INFAMOUS DUCHESS by Sophie Barnes. Avon (March 26, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062849748. 384p.



ONE FINE DUKE by Lenora Bell

July 23, 2019

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School for Dukes, Book 3

From the publisher:

USA Today bestselling author Lenora Bell returns with her third book in the sexy School for Dukes series.


Raised in the countryside by her overprotective uncle, Miss Mina Penny’s dream of a triumphant London season is finally here. She determined her perfect match long ago: Rafe Bentley, the wickedest rake of them all. There’s only one very large, very unyielding obstacle: Rafe’s brother Drew, the reclusive Duke of Thorndon.


This was supposed to be simple. Duke goes to London. Duke selects suitable bride. Love match? Not a chance. But when Drew meets Mina, she complicates everything. How can a lady armed with such beauty and brains fall for his irresponsible degenerate of a brother? Drew vows to save her from heartbreak and ruin, no matter the cost.


But Mina is no damsel in distress. She’s daring, intuitive, passionate…and halfway to melting Drew’s cold heart. And although Mina thought she knew exactly what she wanted, one breathtakingly seductive kiss from Drew changes everything. Now Mina must decide between long-held dreams and dangerous new desires. Could her true destiny lie in the arms of a duke?

I read the second book in this series but somehow missed the first (what else is new!) I have it loaded on my Kindle and ready to go because I really liked the books in this series (and her other series) that I’ve read. So the first book is What a Difference a Duke Makes and is followed by For the Duke’s Eyes Only and then this one. In case you want to read in order.

Mina is a twenty-first century feminist stuck in the 18th century but not really letting that stop her. She is determined to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a spy, even though both her parents were killed while engaged in their work. But she is not exactly like the mother she idolizes, only it takes a Duke to show her the error of her ways.

There is a lot of sex in this book and it is well done. I guess there is just too much twenty-first century in here to be truly believable as historical fiction, but really who cares when the story is funny, sexy and moves quickly. You can’t help but root for the damaged hero and heroine to find their way to one another. And for once, you can really judge this book by its cover as it is perfect – and that is not something I think happens very often.

If you like humor, sex, and adventure in your romance, you will love this book as much as I did. I will read the first book soonest and review.

7/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ONE FINE DUKE by Lenora Bell. Avon (July 23, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062913074. 304p.



BARK OF NIGHT by David Rosenfelt

July 17, 2019

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An Andy Carpenter Novel, Book 19

This is Rosenfelt’s 19th novel featuring Andy Carpenter and his more than slightly askew team of helpers. Andy, as most of his fans know, is a defense lawyer who has inherited money and consequently would rather not work at his profession. In spite of his predilection, each novel features him picking up the defense of a person​ charged with murder. He is helped in building up the defense of his client by his wife Laurie who was previously a law enforcement officer and now acts as his investigator.
In addition there is Marcus, silent but a deadly weapon who defends him, an office manager who would rather be retired and normally is found resting, and several other individuals including an assistant manager of an FBI office, a police chief and an assistant lawyer. Most important are his two dogs, who do nothing but get walked while Andy thinks things through.
The author’s unabashed love of dogs, especially Golden Retrievers, is showcased in his novels. Andy and his partner Willy own and operate a center for the saving and placement of stray dogs. In Bark of Night, the action is begun when Andy is called by his veterinarian to check out a dog that has been given up with an order to destroy it. Andy takes the dog and places it in the Center and asks his partner to look after the animal, to not destroy it and await developments.
Sure enough, beginning at this point Andy is dragged into a situation where he must defend a young man accused of murder. Rosenfelt takes this novel up several notches which makes a good read into a better one. The plot brings a national criminal activity to the attention of the FBI, Homeland Security and the police forces of many jurisdictions around the United States.
The author does an excellent job of bringing all the threads in the book to a very clever conclusion while allowing his readers their normal satisfaction with the novel. The writing style, as always, is clever tongue-in-cheek, and does influence the reader to finish the book in one sitting. It is a given that there will be future novels featuring Andy and his helpers, the defense of someone on trial, a dog or dogs and a good time had by all.
7/19 Paul LaneBARK OF NIGHT by David Rosenfelt. Minotaur Books (July 16, 2019). ISBN 978-1250133090. 304p.