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.


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.


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.

WOO’D IN HASTE by Sabrina Darby

May 21, 2014

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The Taming Series

Biana Mansfield has been stuck at home for two seasons now while her older sister, Kate, has been off having a grand old time. After their mother passed, their father indulged Kate’s every whim and her latest is making sure she doesn’t have to compete with Bianca for a husband. Kate convinces her father that she needs to marry before Biana debuts, and he aquieses. Bianca and Kate have a temptestuous relationship but luckily, Kate’s been away with their stepmother for months.

Their little brother needs a tutor, and when Lucian Dorlingsley, heir to the Earl of Medford, sees Bianca he is smitten. His friend convinces him to become the boy’s tutor, “Luc Dore”, insuring that he gets to know Bianca. That ruse works, until they fall in love and Bianca finds out he’s been lying to her.

This is a very quick read but could have used a little more depth. The plot is thin, the characters interesting albeit shallow, and the predictable ending lacks spark. A very quick read for sure.

5/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

WOO’D IN HASTE by Sabrina Darby. Avon Impulse (May 20, 2014). ISBN 978-0062304858. 160p.


May 18, 2014

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At the Kingsborough Ball (Book 2)

This is the second book in the Kingsborough Ball trilogy. The series is founded “at the Kingsborough Ball,”a lavish event at the heart of the first book in the series, The Trouble with Being a Duke, and this book begins at the same event. These books do not have to be read in order.

Lady Rebecca has been orphaned, and her aunt and uncle take her in. She is of marriageable age and their goal appears to be to marry her off to the highest bidder. She feigns madness for a couple of years to avoid this end but time runs out.

Unfortunately, the two highest bidders are both fifty years older than she is. Barnes seems to like the “trophy wife” theme, but in this case the trophy wife to be has no intention of living that life. Instead, she sneaks into the Kingsborough Ball, and meets Daniel Neville.

Neville is a notorious rake and heir to the Marquis of Wolvington. He is also orphaned and his aunt and uncle have threatened to cut him off financially unless he mends his ways and finds a bride by the end of the month. Off to the ball he goes, where he is ostracized by all the good girls looking for a husband.

Then he spots this gorgeous woman in a scandalous scarlet dress. There is a mutual attraction and need, and Daniel pursues Lady Rebecca, but finds he can’t outbid her other suitors. Things take an even more scandalous turn and then they have to live with the consequences.

There is the requisite happy ending, of course. But there are also lots of obstacles along the way and some explicit sex. It is a very fast paced story and Barnes really knows how to draw the reader in – I read it in one sitting.

I am looking forward to the last book in the series, The Danger in Tempting an Earl. The teaser of a first chapter of that book is in the back of this one.

NOTE: As of this writing, Kindle version available for $.99!

5/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE SCANDAL IN KISSING AN HEIR by Sophie Barnes. Avon (December 31, 2013). ISBN 978-0062245175. 384p.



April 26, 2014

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At the Kingsborough Ball

I really like historical romances, but they have to be well written – Eloisa James has spoiled me. I am delighted to have found another good author in Sophie Barnes.

This is the first book in the Kingsborough Ball series. It appears the books following all get their start at the same event, the ball given by the Anthony Hurst, the Duke of Kingsborough. This is the first party held at the estate in more than five years, since his father became ill and eventually died. A year later, Anthony decides that returning to the habit of hosting their annual event is just what his mother needs to help pull her out of mourning.

Tradition holds that it be a masked ball, and Cinderella is the theme, replete with a glass slipper carved of ice, and a pumpkin inspired carriage outside, with an artist on hand to sketch couples who deign to sit inside it.

To honor his father’s memory, the Duke realizes that he needs to change his rakish ways, find a bride and produce an heir – and he meets the girl of his dreams at the ball. She is beautiful but masked, and gives her name as “Miss Smith.” The family quickly realizes that she is lying about who she is and that she’s not on the guest list, but the Duke is smitten. Fireworks are set for midnight, and of course “Miss Smith” disappears, but the Duke is determined to find her.

Isabella is an avid reader of fairy tales, and dreams of meeting her prince. But as the daughter of a carriage driver, she knows that it’s impossible, especially as her parents have an arrangement with Mr. Roberts, who has been calling on her weekly for a year. He hasn’t proposed, but she suspects he will, and she feels it is her duty to marry him. He is a wealthy entrepreneur and will help take care of her family, and he is looking for what we now consider a trophy wife.

Barnes excels at creating tension, making the pages just fly by until the requisite happy ending, but not before throwing several obstacles in the way – as well as a bit of sex.

I am looking forward to the next book in the series, The Scandal in Kissing an Heir, especially after reading the first chapter which is included in the back of this book.

4/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE TROUBLE WITH BEING A DUKE by Sophie Barnes. Avon (August 27, 2013). ISBN 978-0062245076. 384p.