SOMEONE TO TRUST by Mary Balogh

December 17, 2018

A Westcott Novel, Book 5

From the publisher:

During a rare white Christmas at Brambledean Court, the widow Elizabeth, Lady Overfield, defies convention by falling in love with a younger man in the latest novel in the Westcott series.

After her husband’s passing, Elizabeth Overfield decides that she must enter into another suitable marriage. That, however, is the last thing on her mind when she meets Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, at the Westcott Christmas house party. She simply enjoys his company as they listen to carolers on Christmas Eve, walk home from church together on Christmas morning, and engage in a spirited snowball fight in the afternoon. Both are surprised when their sled topples them into a snowbank and they end up sharing an unexpected kiss. They know there is no question of any relationship between them, for she is nine years older than he.

They return to London the following Season, both committed to finding other, more suitable matches. Still they agree to share one waltz at each ball they attend. This innocuous agreement proves to be one that will topple their worlds, as each dance steadily ensnares them in a romance that forces the two to question what they are willing to sacrifice for love. . . .


I usually can rely on Mary Balogh to provide a good story with a nice romance. She does here, but there are so many characters in the first half of the book that I was drowning. And I’ve read the earlier books so they were somewhat familiar. But bringing them all together in this way was a real slog to get through. A disappointment.

11/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SOMEONE TO TRUST by Mary Balogh. Berkley (November 27, 2018).  ISBN 978-0399586101. 384p.

Kindle

Audible


ONCE UPON A RIVER by Diane Setterfield

December 9, 2018

Click book cover to purchase

A beautifully written book set in a small town in England sometime during the reign of Queen Victoria. The town is located along the banks of the Thames river (maybe, as Setterfield herself indicates). It is the same river passing through London,meandering by Oxford and other towns along the bank and it provides the center point for a novel describing events in and around Radcot, one of these towns during another time and place. The “Swan” is the locale near Radcot where the local folk go to enjoy drink and companionship after the day’s work is done.

One day, a man, obviously hurt, staggers into the “Swan” carrying what appears to be a dead little girl. After putting her down he collapses but later disappears. In the meanwhile the little girl proves that she is alive by waking up and astounding the patrons of the tavern by doing so. In the course of time three families claim that the now living, but unfortunately mute girl is, theirs, resulting in many differences of opinion among the residents of the area. The gist of the novel revolves about the thoughts and actions of the various factions setting up a novel written in a style reminiscent of books penned in the period described.

While other readers claim that the novel is a sort of fairy tale there is enough low key descriptions of sex, murder, and evil to dispel this idea. What the book is is a well written story which will keep the reader glued to the pages. There was a long period between this novel and Setterfield’s previous book and reading this one gives rise to the hope that it won’t be that long until her next one appears.

12/18 Paul Lane

ONCE UPON A RIVER by Diane Setterfield. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (December 4, 2018).  ISBN 978-0743298070. 480p.

Kindle

Audible


THE OTHER MISS BRIDGERTON by Julia Quinn

November 26, 2018

Click book cover to purchase

A Bridgertons Prequel

From the publisher:

She was in the wrong place…

Fiercely independent and adventurous, Poppy Bridgerton will only wed a suitor whose keen intellect and interests match her own. Sadly, none of the fools from her London season qualify. While visiting a friend on the Dorset coast, Poppy is pleasantly surprised to discover a smugglers’ hideaway tucked inside a cave. But her delight turns to dismay when two pirates kidnap her and take her aboard a ship, leaving her bound and gagged on the captain’s bed…

He found her at the wrong time…

Known to society as a rascal and reckless privateer, Captain Andrew James Rokesby actually transports essential goods and documents for the British government. Setting sail on a time-sensitive voyage to Portugal, he’s stunned to find a woman waiting for him in his cabin. Surely, his imagination is getting the better of him. But no, she is very real—and his duty to the Crown means he’s stuck with her.

Can two wrongs make the most perfect right?

 When Andrew learns that she is a Bridgerton, he knows he will likely have to wed her to avert a scandal—though Poppy has no idea that he is the son of an earl and neighbor to her aristocratic cousins in Kent. On the high seas, their war of words soon gives way to an intoxicating passion. But when Andrew’s secret is revealed, will his declaration of love be enough to capture her heart…?


I thought that the kidnapping plot was passé, but Quinn brings it back and makes it work, provided you can suspend your disbelief. And I did.

While the publisher’s description calls the men pirates, as does Poppy, they are in fact privateers, a higher class of scoundrel and one usually supported by the Crown. As is the case here, plus a nice twist, that “Captain James” is in reality, a spy of sorts, a courier for the government. But it is a secret, and he cannot tell Poppy his real name or occupation. Nevertheless, she finds herself strongly attracted to him, and he to her.

During her two seasons, Poppy discovered that she couldn’t abide a man who refused to see or appreciate her intellect, and that left her woefully short of suitors that suited. But the Captain delighted in her quick wit and inquiring mind, and she in his.

After being cooped up on the ship for weeks, Captain James takes Poppy to his favorite tavern in Lisbon where they run into some trouble. Just when you think it will be smooth sailing, everything goes awry. But no worries, this is a romance after all, so they do find their happy ending.

This was a fun read and a good prequel to the Bridgerton series. And in very exciting news, Shonda Rhimes is bringing the Bridgerton series to Netflix. Read the details here: BookBub

11/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE OTHER MISS BRIDGERTON by Julia Quinn. Avon (November 20, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062388209. 400p.

Kindle

Audible


THE CHRISTMAS KEY by Lori Wilde

November 18, 2018

Click book cover to purchase

Twilight, Texas, Book 9

From the publisher:

There’s a legend in Twilight, Texas. If you sleep with a kismet cookie under your pillow on Christmas Eve, you will dream of your one true love.

She saw him in her dreams . . .

It’s impossible! Naomi Luther was standing face-to-face with the man she’d dreamed about over a year ago. Was it the magic of kismet Christmas cookies that brought him to her? Or is there an even greater force at work? All Naomi knows is she is falling, hard and fast, for the one man all good sense says she should not have.

She was his buddy’s sister . . .

Rebellious Mark Shepherd found order in the Marines but chaos on the battlefield. In a mission gone wrong, Mark is injured and one of his fellow soldiers loses his life. Haunted by guilt, he arrives in Twilight to keep a solemn promise. But when the Luthers mistake him for their handyman, he’s swept up in playing Santa to his buddy’s orphan son . . . and falling hard for Naomi’s irresistible bright spirit and sweet, sexy smile. But what will happen when she learns the truth?


I’ve only read a couple of the Christmas books in this series and I really liked them a lot. This one not as much.

I loved the characters and they definitely redeemed this book for me. Naomi was just about too good to be true but she had problems, too, even though she kept them fairly well hidden. On the other hand, Mark Shepherd (good name for a Christmas story, no?) was all problems, all the time. A damaged veteran, this was my Veterans Day read and it fit the bill, although I did have a bit of trouble with the unorthodox treatment he received.

I found myself irritated at times as the book seemed a bit forced and repetitive. I did like the Christmas miracle though, that always works for me.

11/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE CHRISTMAS KEY by Lori Wilde. Avon (October 23, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062468277. 400p.

Kindle

Audible


SEDUCED BY A SCOT by Julia London

November 15, 2018

Click book cover to purchase

The Highland Grooms, Book 6

From the publisher:

There’s no matchmaking an unruly heart

When a prominent Scottish family faces a major scandal weeks before their daughter’s wedding, they turn in desperation to the enigmatic fixer for the aristocracy, Nichol Bain. Remarkably skilled at making high-profile problems go away, Nichol understands the issue immediately. The family’s raven-haired ward, Maura Darby, has caught the wandering eye—and rather untoward advances—of the groom.

Nichol assuredly escorts Maura toward his proposed solution: an aging bachelor for her to marry. But rebellious Maura has no interest in marrying a stranger, especially when her handsome traveling companion has captivated her so completely. Thankfully, Nichol loves a challenge, but traveling with the bold and brash Maura has him viewing her as far more than somebody’s problem. Which raises a much bigger issue—how can he possibly elude disaster when the heart of the problem is his own?


These were interesting, unusual characters. Thanks to Donald Trump and Ray Donovan, I am familiar with “fixers” but I don’t recall seeing one in the nineteenth century before. And in the #MeToo era, I rather like seeing today’s morals applied in an earlier century. Maura is an independent woman seeking more than a title and a husband. I’m not sure exactly when that change happened in romances, but I know that it did and these historical romances are all the better for it. Although perhaps not as historically accurate? I don’t know, I will leave that to those that research the era.

That said, I wasn’t thrilled with how all the characters were treated. The secondary characters left much to be desired. Despite that, I still enjoyed this fast read.

11/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SEDUCED BY A SCOT by Julia London. HQN; Original edition (October 30, 2018).  ISBN 978-1335629425. 384p.

Kindle

Audible


KISS ME AT CHRISTMAS by Valerie Bowman

October 29, 2018

Click book cover to purchase

Playful Brides, Book 10

I think I may have read a couple of the books in this series, some of the minor characters seemed somewhat familiar. Bowman takes a very typical plotline in historical romances, the commoner and the royal who can’t possibly marry, and does a terrific job with it.

In this case, Lady Regina has been orphaned at a young age and raised by her uncle. She is firmly “on the shelf” having rejected many suitors as she approaches her thirtieth birthday. Her uncle is dying and it is his final wish to see her married. To that end, she is affianced to a neighboring peer. He is moderately good looking at least, but a snob and a bore and Regina can’t imagine spending her life with this man. But she is a dutiful young woman and makes peace with the decision.

The book opens with Regina visiting a Bow Street Runner whom she met when he was hired to solve the murder of a relative. She was strongly attracted to him, and she decides if she is going to spend her life with a bore, she wants her first time with a man to be her decision. To that end, she visits Daffin Oakleaf, the runner, in his office and propositions him. Badly. She bungles it, he rejects her offer, and she is beyond embarrassed.

But when someone tries to run her carriage off the road, Oakleaf is hired to protect her. Spending all that time together forces them to learn about one another and eventually fall in love. But Oakleaf knows he can’t marry her because of the difference in their stations – or can he?

A delightful romance with some humor, witty dialogue and well developed characters I couldn’t help but care about. Regina was smart and sassy and Oakleaf was dark and damaged. The combination was explosive and made this a really fun read.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

KISS ME AT CHRISTMAS by Valerie Bowman. St. Martin’s Paperbacks (October 30, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250147523. 320p.

Kindle


DUCHESS BY DESIGN by Maya Rodale

October 26, 2018

Click book cover to purchase

The Gilded Age Girls Club, Book 1

From the publisher:

In the first novel of Maya Rodale’s enthralling new series, an English duke vows to make an American seamstress his duchess…

In Gilded Age Manhattan, anything can happen…

Seeking a wealthy American bride who can save his family’s estate, Brandon Fiennes, the duke of Kingston, is a rogue determined to do the right thing. But his search for an heiress goes deliciously awry when an enchanting seamstress tumbles into his arms instead.

…and true love is always in fashion

Miss Adeline Black aspires to be a fashionable dressmaker—not a duchess—and not even an impossibly seductive duke will distract her. But Kingston makes an offer she can’t refuse: join him at society events to display her gowns and advise him on which heiresses are duchess material. It’s the perfect plan—as long as they resist temptation, avoid a scandal, and above all do not lose their hearts.


This is the first book of a new series and it is terrific. I love the time period, the gilded age in New York at the turn of the last century.

While the Duke is from England, he travels to America to find an heiress to save his family from ruin. He feels a tremendous responsibility, and his mother and sisters apparently have no idea what sort of financial straits the family is in – probably because he doesn’t tell them. He is determined to do the right thing, marry a woman with a fortune, he is not looking for a love match. But when he meets Adeline, it turns his world upside down.

Of course there is a case of mistaken identity that adds to the comedy of errors here. The humor is top notch and the characters are charming and fun. The hot sex scenes are also fun.

There is a definite trend in romances for strong, independent female characters and Adeline definitely fits that mold. I loved the references to real women of the time like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, it lends a touch of realism and helps with the suspension of disbelief.

I really enjoyed this read and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DUCHESS BY DESIGN by Maya Rodale. Avon (October 23, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062838803. 384p.

Kindle

Audible

 


AN EARL LIKE YOU by Caroline Linden

October 13, 2018

Click book cover to purchase

Wagers of Sin Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

When you gamble at love . . .

When Hugh Deveraux discovers his newly inherited earldom is bankrupt, he sets about rebuilding the family fortune—in the gaming hells of London. But the most daring wager he takes isn’t at cards. A wealthy tradesman makes a tantalizing offer: marry the man’s spinster daughter and Hugh’s debts will be paid and his fortune made. The only catch is that she must never know about their agreement . . .

You risk losing your heart . . .

Heiress Eliza Cross has given up hope of marriage until she meets the impossibly handsome Earl of Hastings, her father’s new business partner. The earl is everything a gentleman should be, and is boldly attentive to her. It doesn’t take long for Eliza to lose her heart and marry him.

But when Eliza discovers that there is more to the man she loves—and to her marriage—her trust is shattered. And it will take all of Hugh’s power to prove that now his words of love are real . . .


The marriage of convenience, one of the most frequently used plot devices in historical fiction, is at the center of this story. But usually there is more involved than the rich girl marrying a peer, or vice versa, because of financial need. There needs to be some drama to help move the story along, and while their circumstances, both the hero and the heroine, were fraught, it still felt like something was missing.

That said, I really liked these characters and was invested in their outcome.  I liked the secondary characters as well, especially Eliza’s father. He was the heavy here and added the real drama to the story.

This was my first time reading this author, and I would definitely read another of her books. Maybe I’ll look for the first book in this series next.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

AN EARL LIKE YOU by Caroline Linden. Avon (August 28, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062672940. 384p.

Kindle

Audible

 


THE LADY IS DARING by Megan Frampton

October 11, 2018

Click book cover to purchase

The Duke’s Daughters Series, Book 3

From the publisher:

Five well-bred sisters, one sensational scandal. Now the Duke of Marymount’s daughter Ida is about to find love in the most unconventional way . . .

It was easy for society to overlook Lady Ida Howlett; they found her bookish, opinionated, and off the marriage mart. But little did they know that behind a calm exterior beats the heart of an adventuress, one who, determined to discover her runaway sister’s whereabouts, steals a carriage and sets off on a daring mission. Then she discovers she’s not alone! Bennett, Lord Carson, is inside, and he refuses to leave.

Lord Carson’s plans had always been to find a soft, gentle wife who would run his home and raise his children. Still, he makes a bargain with Ida—he won’t desert her during her mad adventure. He’ll make sure she’s safe, and then find a suitable lady to fall in love with. But when rules (and garments) become discarded during this long, intimate journey, it’s soon clear that this surprisingly daring lady is the woman he’s needed all along.


Another excellent addition to Megan Frampton’s body of work. The characters are brought to life and I found Lady Ida to be a real kick. She is feisty and independent but determined (dare I say it?) to live her best life. Bennett at first appears to be the usual royal stick in the mud, but he is surprised to find hidden depths within himself.

I love stories where characters change and grow, and they both do so here. This is a fast, fun romp and a delightful read.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE LADY IS DARING by Megan Frampton. Avon (September 25, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062666673. 352p.

Kindle

Audible

 


A NOTORIOUS VOW by Joanna Shupe

October 9, 2018

Click book cover to purchase

The Four Hundred Series, Book 3

From the publisher:

Joanna Shupe returns to New York City’s Gilded Age, where fortunes and reputations are gained and lost with ease—and love can blossom from the most unlikely charade

With the fate of her disgraced family resting on her shoulders, Lady Christina Barclay has arrived in New York City from London to quickly secure a wealthy husband. But when her parents settle on an intolerable suitor, Christina turns to her reclusive neighbor, a darkly handsome and utterly compelling inventor, for help.

Oliver Hawkes reluctantly agrees to a platonic marriage . . . with his own condition: The marriage must end after one year. Not only does Oliver face challenges that are certain to make life as his wife difficult, but more importantly, he refuses to be distracted from his life’s work—the development of a revolutionary device that could transform thousands of lives, including his own.

Much to his surprise, his bride is more beguiling than he imagined. When temptation burns hot between them, they realize they must overcome their own secrets and doubts, and every effort to undermine their marriage, because one year can never be enough.


This is a terrific serie – I love the time period, 1890’s, and the setting, New York City. Shupe writes wonderfully damaged characters and Oliver Hawkes is no exception. Hawkes went deaf as a teenager, and has put up with derision, taunting and worse for most of his life. It has driven him to the point of becoming a recluse, and luckily, he is wealthy enough to be able to afford it. To see how deaf people were treated at that time was appalling, and I appreciated the historically accurate references.

Lady Christina is another messy character, the daughter of abusive parents. Her mother has been demeaning her for all of her life, leaving Christina with virtually no self esteem and the desire to make everyone around her happy. It would never occur to her that she deserves to be happy, too.

This is a marriage of inconvenience, if you will. Of course it leads to a very happy ending but there are dreadful trials along the way. It was a one night read for me, I couldn’t put it down. A wonderful escape that made me (almost) happy to be living in 21st century America.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A NOTORIOUS VOW by Joanna Shupe. Avon (September 25, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062678942. 384p.

Kindle

Audible