THE WICKED DUKE by Madeline Hunter

May 30, 2016
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Wicked Trilogy, Book 3

No, I haven’t read books 1 & 2 and I don’t think I’ve ever even read this author. But as has been my experience with historical romances, it doesn’t matter in the least.

The Duke of Aylesbury, Lancelot Hemingford, was the second son and was never supposed to inherit the title. But his brother died, and Hemingford is under a cloud of suspicion since the coroner hasn’t ruled murder out. Hemingford reluctantly moves to the country, laying low until his innocence can be proven.

His neighbor brings him an intriguing offer; marry his niece, and he will use his influence to see the Duke’s name cleared. Refuse, and he will produce a witness claiming Hemingford poisoned his brother. Reluctantly, Hemingford agrees to the marriage.

Marianne Radley is a bit leery of the Duke. He has a reputation as a rake, but when he proposes, she has her own reasons to accept. Neither of them thought this marriage would be anything but a convenience, but Hemingford is intrigued by his new wife’s intelligence, curiosity and passion, and she with his.

Interesting characters and the mysterious death of a duke combine to make this romance a real page turner. Guess I need to root out books 1 and 2.

 

05/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE WICKED DUKE by Madeline Hunter. Jove (May 31, 2016). ISBN 978-0515155181. 384p.

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SWEETEST SCOUNDREL by Elizabeth Hoyt

April 24, 2016
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Maiden Lane, Book 9

Way back in 2010, I read a couple of Hoyt books in The Legend of the Four Soldiers series and I liked them a lot. But I haven’t read her since; why, I’m not sure. After reading Sweetest Scoundrel, she is definitely back on my radar.

As my regular readers know, I work with a woman who is a huge romance reader and she often recommends books for me, which is how I found Hoyt originally. I picked up this book because it was short listed for the Romantic Times “Historical Romance of the Year  for 2015. I’d actually read most of the other books on that list so now I’m trying to hunt down the few I missed. If you like historical romances, it’s a great way to find new books to try.

Sweetest Scoundrel is a very fitting title. This book was a bit different than the usual because the main characters weren’t titled. Our hero is Asa Makepeace, AKA Mr. Harte, owner of Harte’s Folly, a theater and garden of entertainment. He is in the process of rebuilding, using funds from his backer, a Duke, although we never actually meet him. Instead, we meet his man of business, who in this case happens to be his half-sister, Eve Dunwoody.

Eve’s father was a Duke, but Eve is a by-blow, but her half brother takes care of her. Eve suffers from a traumatic event that happened earlier in her life, rendering her terrified of dogs and men. Her brother has provided her with a bodyguard who has been with her for ten years.

When Eve approaches Harte about how he’s spending his money, she is quaking in her shoes. He is a big, virile man, just the type to terrify her. But she is resolute and determined to go about her business. She moves a small desk into his office and begins her accounting of his books – or lack thereof.

Eventually they come to depend on one another, and Harte teaches Eve about her body and sex. There are some very erotic scenes in this book and yes, Harte is the sweetest scoundrel who helps Eve find her happily ever after – and she, his. A wonderful read and I will be looking for more books in this series.

04/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SWEETEST SCOUNDREL by Elizabeth Hoyt. Grand Central Publishing (November 24, 2015). ISBN 978-1455586363. 368p.

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ONLY A PROMISE by Mary Balogh

July 5, 2015
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Survivor’s Club Series, Book 5

Just to recap, this series focuses on a group of men who all sustained injuries during the Napoleonic Wars. The Duke of Stanbrook, having lost his son in that war, had invited this group of men with various serious injuries, and one woman who had the misfortune of seeing her husband tortured and killed, to recuperate at his estate. They spend a few years there healing, form an eternal bond, and after they have healed enough to return to the world, they meet up once a year at the estate to renew their bonds.

By this fifth book, four of the men have married – all but Ralph Stockwood, next in line to be the Duke of Worthington. He lost his childhood friends in the war, and suffers extreme guilt that he talked them into fighting. While physically scarred from the war, it is the emotional scars that have truly crippled him.

With the Duke more than 80 years old, his mother and grandparents are pressuring him to marry quickly and produce his own heir. But Stockwood feels cold and empty inside, and hesitates to make a union when he knows he will make his bride unhappy. Nevertheless, with his title and his money, girls are lining up for him.

The Duchess has a young companion, Chloe Muirhead, who has had quite a bit of scandal and heartache in her young life. At 27, she has no prospects at all. When Stockwood arrives for a visit, he overlooks her presence and has a frank talk with his grandmother about his marital prospects. The next morning, Chloe steels her nerve and makes him a proposal –  a marriage of convenience. Neither wants nor expects love, but Chloe would like her own home and a family, and Ralph needs a wife and heir. They marry quickly, and prepare to face society.

Chloe and Ralph overcome many obstacles, which of course bring them closer together. Theirs is a slow growing love, which takes them both by surprise. The sex scenes were surprising to me, almost chaste and somehow seem fitting for the time period and this marriage – but that eventually changes.

Once again Balogh creates wonderful characters and a magical romance. I loved it.

7/15 Stacy Alesi

ONLY A PROMISE by Mary Balogh. Signet (June 9, 2015). ISBN 978-0451469670. 400p.


THE ESCAPE by Mary Balogh

September 21, 2014

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Survivor’s Club Series, Book 3

Just to recap, this series focuses on a group of men who all sustained injuries during the Napoleonic Wars. The Duke of Stanbrook, having lost his son in that war, had invited this group of five men with various serious injuries, and one woman who had the misfortune of seeing her husband tortured and killed, to recuperate at his estate. They spend a few years there healing, form an eternal bond, and after they have healed enough to return to the world, they meet up once a year at the estate to renew their bonds. And apparently each year, at least one of them will marry.

The Escape centers on Major Sir Benedict Harper, who had his legs crushed during the war. He was told that he would never walk again and the surgeon wanted to amputate, but he refused, and through sheer strength of will, has fashioned two canes that allow him to walk, albeit slowly, and with some pain.

Benedict is out riding and decides to try jumping a hedge, which he accomplishes but unfortunately, when he lands he scares a young woman and her dog, and his horse gets a bit spooked. He gets the horse under control and then notices the woman has fallen on her behind. His temper gets the best of him and she storms off.

It turns out she is Mrs. Samantha McKay, recently widowed after caring for her invalid husband for many years after he was injured in the war. Their meeting doesn’t get off on the best foot, but Benedict’s sister helps make amends. Then Samantha finds out that the home she thought was hers has been given to her brother-in-law and his family, and she is being sent to live with her puritanical in-laws, so she decides to run away to a cottage by the sea in Wales that her mother had bequeathed her.

Benedict offers to accompany her, and she reluctantly acquiesces. During that trip, that learn a lot about each other, and they fall in love but are hesitant to admit it. The village in Wales is dominated by a mansion on top of a hill that overlooks the town and the sea, and it turns out to be owned by the grandfather Samantha never met. Family issues are complicated, and Benedict leaves for several months to allow Samantha to finish her mourning for her husband, and to get to know her recently found family.

This is another terrific story in what has turned into a favorite series. I’m looking forward to the next book, but as an added treat, there is a short story called “The Suitor” that is included in the paperback that stands alone, but also ties up a loose end from The Arrangement.

9/14 Stacy Alesi

THE ESCAPE by Mary Balogh. Dell (July 1, 2014). ISBN 978-0345536068. 416p.


WHAT A DUKE DARES by Anna Campbell

September 18, 2014

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Sons of Sin #3

I found this title on the Top 10 Romance Fiction: 2014 list by Donna Seaman for Booklist. I had read a couple of titles on the list and liked them, so thought I’d give this one a try. I’m glad I did.

Yes, once again I am starting a series in the middle, this is the third book, but I didn’t feel like I missed a thing.

When Camden Rothermere, the Duke of Sedgemoor, proposes to Penelope Thorne, she turns him down and he is not happy about it. They grew up together, Penelope’s brother is Cam’s closest friend, and she’s been in love with him for years. But he has some serious dysfunctional family stuff going on, and love is not in any equation for marriage for him. Pen takes off, travelling through Europe until her brother passes away several years later. Cam’s made a deathbed promise to bring Pen home, and finds her under attack in the Alps.

Cam rescues Pen, and begins an arduous trip back to England. Along the way, they are forced to travel as husband and wife to avoid scandal, but when they run into some trouble, they really have to get married – but can they make this marriage work? Will Pen have her heart broken by a loveless marriage? Will Cam keep on avoiding love despite their passion?

I really enjoyed this Regency romance. The characters are believable, the settings are interesting and the romance is hot in this fast, fun read.

9/14 Stacy Alesi

WHAT A DUKE DARES by Anna Campbell. Forever (August 26, 2014). ISBN 978-1455557905. 432p.


THE PROPOSAL by Mary Balogh

August 23, 2014

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The Survivors Club series, Book 1

So I committed the cardinal sin – I started reading this series with the second book, The Arrangement. I liked it so much I went back and found book 1. Happily, the third book in the series, The Escape , is also available.

This series focuses on a group of men who all sustained injuries during the Napoleonic Wars. The Duke of Stanbrook, having lost his son in that war, had invited this group of five men with various serious injuries, and one woman who had the misfortune of seeing her husband tortured and killed, to recuperate at his estate. They form an eternal bond, and after they have healed enough to return to the world, they meet up once a year at the estate to renew their bonds. And apparently each year, one of them will marry.

This book centers around war hero Lord Trentham, who suffers from what today would be called post traumatic stress disorder. He is of the middle classes, but received his title from the King for his heroism during the war. He has arrived for their annual retreat and is walking on the beach when he finds a young woman who has trespassed, and seriously sprained her ankle. Lady Muir is a young widow and is terribly embarrassed to be carried back to the manse. The chemistry between them is palpable.

They both have lived through violence and death, and their differences seem too much to overcome. Meanwhile Lord Trentham’s young half sister needs his help to find a husband, and he needs Lady Muir’s help to that end. After much soul searching, eventually they all find their happy ending.

Balogh creates interesting characters with real depth, and we can’t help but root for them. This is a fast read and a good one.

8/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE PROPOSAL by Mary Balogh. Dell; Reprint edition (May 28, 2013). ISBN 978-0440245308. 384p.


THE ARRANGEMENT by Mary Balogh

August 15, 2014

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I can’t believe I’ve never read this author before – Balough is one of the queens of the Regency romance, and now I know why.

This is the second book in the series, which focuses on a group of men who all sustained injuries during a battle. This book centers around Vincent Hunt, Lord Darleigh, who was blinded when a cannon misfired.

Our heroine is Sophia Frye, born a lady but whose father was a rake and a gambler and cut off from his family. When her mother left, he raised her but when he passed, she was left in care of family members who didn’t care about her and barely kept her fed and clothed.

Lord Darleigh’s family is determined to get him married, and he escapes their matchmaking attempts to return to his hometown, and a ball is thrown in his honor. Sophia’s aunt and uncle are determined that he shall marry their daughter, and a scheme is hatched to get them in a compromising position and force the issue.

But Sophia interferes, enraging her family who throw her out into the night. Lord Darleigh hears what happened and approaches Sophia with an unusual arrangement. He is tired of his family’s matchmaking and he knows he needs a wife; she needs a place to live and someone to take care of her. An arrangement is reached, and within a week of meeting, they are wed.

Sophia is bright and imaginative, and it was fascinating seeing her come up with ideas to give her blind husband more independence, including what has to be one of the earliest examples of using a guide dog.

This is a richly detailed story with warm, engaging characters and a happy ending, of course. A terrific read and I look forward to exploring more from this prolific author – she has written more than 60 novels.

8/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE ARRANGEMENT by Mary Balogh. Dell (August 27, 2013). ISBN 978-0345535870. 400p.


MISS MOLLY ROBBINS DESIGNS A SEDUCTION by Jayne Fresina

August 10, 2014

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Sydney Dovedale (Book 4)

This is a rather unique historical romance. Molly Robbins is a poor ladies’ maid who leaves her bridegroom at the altar. She makes her way back to the Earl Carver Danforthe’s home, where she spent years taking care of his sister. In a drunken moment, the Earl had offered her money to start her own dressmaking business, and she decides to take him up on it.

The earl has always been intrigued by the woman he calls “Mouse” and knows that she has never approved of his rakish lifestyle. He agrees to the loan, and finds great amusement in the contract she proffers, which includes a clause that says no “tomfoolery.”

Her business takes off, and his interest in it and her continue to grow. When he returns her contract with the tomfoolery clause crossed out, she agrees to become his mistress but only for a set period of time, which works for him – until he realizes he’s in love with her. But can a titled earl find happiness with a ladies’ maid/dressmaker?

I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Molly, a strong female character in Regency England, was most unusual, the earl had an interesting backstory, and almost all the characters were well developed. I also enjoyed the humor sprinkled throughout. Looking forward to more from this author.

8/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MISS MOLLY ROBBINS DESIGNS A SEDUCTION by Jayne Fresina . Sourcebooks Casablanca (February 4, 2014). ISBN 978-1402285011. 384p.


THE TRUTH ABOUT LEO by Katie MacAlister

August 6, 2014

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I was not familiar with the author, but when this book appeared on the Library Reads August list, I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, this is the first book I’ve gotten from a Library Reads list that was disappointing.

Purportedly a Regency romance, this didn’t feel that way at all. I would describe it more as a screwball comedy that happens to be set in Regency England, but the humor and especially all the sexual innuendo felt much too modern to fit the time period.

Dagmar, an impoverished princess of Danish and English descent, is forced to flee her home in Copenhagen, when her cousin, the Prince Regent, threatens to send her to a French convent unless she leaves his house and country. Not having any other family to rely on, and no money for passage anywhere, the solution to her problems just falls into her lap – or rather, her garden.

Julia, her companion, tells her there is an unconscious man lying in the garden. The doctor says he won’t last the night, but Dagmar puts her nursing skills to the test. When he is finally able to mumble a bit, she ascertains that Leo is an English soldier and unmarried. She gets the Prince to send over the Bishop to marry them, thus securing passage to England with her soldier/husband.

Weeks later, when he finally shakes off his fever and regains complete consciousness, he finds himself married with no recollection of the woman or the wedding. Upon arrival in England, Dagmar explores her sexuality freely and they fall in love, but she  is feeling guilty about how she married him and is constantly offering to set him free.

Meanwhile, they are houseguests of the Daltons, whose relative was murdered years earlier in Copenhagen and they are hopeful that Dagmar can help them find the murderess. Leo’s friends, the Brittons, add a lot more crazy to the story and madcap hijinks ensue until the happy ending.

This was a quick, silly read and I doubt I’ll read anything else by this author. Not my cup of tea for sure.

8/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE TRUTH ABOUT LEO by Katie MacAlister. Sourcebooks Casablanca (August 5, 2014). ISBN 978-1402294457. 384p.


THE DANGER IN TEMPTING AN EARL by Sophie Barnes

July 28, 2014

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At the Kingsborough Ball (Book 3)

This book is a Regency romance, which Wikipedia defines as follows:

Regency romances are a subgenre of romance novels set during the period of the British Regency (1811-1820) or early 19th century. Rather than simply being versions of contemporary romance stories transported to a historical setting, Regency romances are a distinct genre with their own plot and stylistic conventions that derive from the works of Jane Austen (and to some extent from distinguished Austen progeny such as Georgette Heyer and Clare Darcy), and from the fiction genre known as the novel of manners. In particular, the more traditional Regencies feature a great deal of intelligent, fast-paced dialog between the protagonists and very little explicit sex or discussion of sex.

I’m bringing this up because it seems to me that this definition is now in a state of flux, due to the enormous popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Or more to the point, the profitability of romances with explicit sex seemingly has changed the Regencies from tame to taking a walk on the wild side. I, for one, am enjoying the change.

According to the author’s Goodreads page, this is the last book in the Kingsborough Ball series. The books all begin at the same lavish affair, a hugely popular ball given by Anthony Hurst, the Duke of Kingsborough. As this is the first party held at the estate in more than five years, it is a very big deal and the ton are out in full force.

Lady Katherine and Lucien grew up together, neighbors who played together. But as they grow up, Lucien realizes that he is in love with Katherine, but they cannot marry. She is destined to marry a man with a title, and he is the second son. He joins the army to escape, and she marries Lord Crossby, Lucien’s rival all through school.

But Lady Crossby is desperately unhappy in her marriage, although she doesn’t let anyone know about the abuse she endures. Then several events conspire to bring Lucien and Katherine back together – his elder brother and father die, and Lucien inherits the title of Earl. And Lord Crossby dies as well, leaving Katherine a widow with a young baby.

Katherine is convinced that Lucien just regards her as a friend and after her horrible marriage, she has no desire to be married again. Lucien needs a wife, but he only wants Katherine. They are at crossed points until she slowly realizes that her childhood friend has grown up to be a most desirable man. There is also a mystery that runs through all these books that is resolved here, so the mystery is a much larger part of this story.

I enjoyed these characters and the while these books don’t stress the history of the era, they are fast, fun reads and this one was no exception. There was some explicit sex, so if you are used to traditional Regencies peeking through the bedroom door, keep in mind this door has been flung open wide, which works for me.

I’m not sure why Barnes has decided to end the series here. Each book stands alone and they do not have to be read in order. As I haven’t read a whole lot of Regencies, I’m not sure if this device of starting each book at the same ball is a common ploy, but I liked it and thought it was very well done. I’ll be looking for more from this author.

7/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE DANGER IN TEMPTING AN EARL by Sophie Barnes.  Avon (July 29, 2014). ISBN 978-0062245182. 384p.