Monthly Archives: May 2017

Blackthorne’s Bride by Joan Johnston

Blackthorne's Bride (Mail-Order Brides #4)Blackthorne’s Bride by Joan Johnston

Barbara’s rating: 4 of 5 stars  (Actually 3.5 Stars)

Series: Mail Order Brides #4
Publication Date: July 25, 2017

My rating would actually be 3.5, but I rounded up to 4 because I really did enjoy the story.

The story follows Marcus Wharton, Duke of Blackthorne and American Josie Wentworth. It has a really exciting beginning with Marcus and his best friend coming upon a Sioux renegade whipping a young woman (Josie) who is tied to a post and stripped to the waist. She’s almost dead and Marcus rescues her. Marcus is fascinated by the girl’s bravery and instead of leaving her in the care of someone in America, he brings her aboard the ship he is taking back to England. However, when he gets there, he turns the arrangements for her care and eventual return to America up to his best friend. Since Marcus is marrying his best friend’s sister as soon as they return to England, he doesn’t want his rescue of the girl to cause any issue with Fanny – his betrothed. Things really go awry from there – Fanny dies, Josie has been virtually imprisoned on one of Marcus’ properties (without his knowledge), Marcus’ estate is bankrupt and he has to marry an heiress. The rest of the story is filled with Marcus and Josie getting together and falling in love. I won’t give you a step-by-step because that will spoil the story for you.

What didn’t I like?

  • The author really needed to do more research. Evidently, she normally writes westerns or contemporary novels and that is probably why this book just doesn’t ‘feel’ right for the time period and the place. A couple of examples of where more research would help.
    • Marcus is NOT a royal duke, but the author mentions that over and over and over in the book. In order to be a ROYAL DUKE he must be the son or grandson of the current reigning monarch and the story doesn’t say anything about that at all.
    • Spencer and Clay are not Lord’s. As children of a second son, they would be plain Spencer and Clay. They do not have an honorific.
  • The regular use of the term ‘mail order bride’. That is a common American term, and I understand that is the name of the series, but it isn’t a normally used term in England and therefore, the Duke wouldn’t think of himself as marrying a mail order bride. He would think in terms of him having a marriage of convenience.
  • I didn’t like Fanny – and maybe I wasn’t supposed to. She is supposed to be this ethereal, sweet, and angelic (too good to be true??) person, but she does some pretty rotten things.
  • The ending/solution just felt rushed to me. I could have done with less of the book on the American part of the family and more on the resolution of the issues between Josie and Marcus.

What did I like?

  • I absolutely LOVED the epilogue – it was a great wrap-up for the story.

“I requested and received this book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”

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Traitor In Her Arms By Shana Galen

Traitor in Her Arms (The Scarlet Chronicles, #1)Traitor in Her Arms by Shana Galen

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The Scarlet Chronicles #1
Publication Date: August 22, 2017

Galen’s captivating descriptions paint a picture of Paris during the French Revolution that just sucks you right into the time and place. Breath coming fast, heart pounding, blood racing – you won’t be able to put it down once you start reading.

I’d like to address one thing right from the start. I have read several reviews that complained that the romance wasn’t front and center in this book. I sort of thought so too – at first. Then, I thought about it awhile and realized that there can’t be anything much more romantic than a man braving the horror that was Paris during the revolution – because he wanted to keep a woman safe. Yes, there were other factors involved, but keeping her safe and protected was at the front of everything he did. So, to me the romance was as front and center as the intrigue and danger.

Lady Gabrielle McCullough is a childless widow who is now hounded by some very nasty creditors trying to collect on massive debt left by her gambling husband. She has no money and no way of paying these creditors – one of whom wants to sell her into prostitution to recoup his debt. Gabrielle turns to theft in order to stave them off and she has become a very adept lock picker and thief. When she is approached by the Scarlet Pimpernel to take on a rescue mission in Paris, she decides to do it.

Lord Sedgewick is living a lie and he’s being blackmailed to keep that lie a secret. His blackmailer is a sleazy lady with tentacles everywhere and she wants to know the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. She tells Ramsey that she’ll turn over all of the incriminating documents to him if he will go to Paris and uncover the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Ramsey feels he doesn’t have a choice because the lives of his family, tenants and the local village depends on him.

Gabrielle and Ramsey are drawn to each other in the backdrop of the intrigue, suspense, danger and ghoulishness of the Reign Of Terror during the French Revolution. They learn to love and trust each other, but that love and trust are hard won because they are both very flawed individuals dealing with extremely stressful times. The descriptions of the streets of Paris, the prison conditions, the mob rule and blood thirst are so captivating that you will shiver with dread of what might come next. How can they survive this ordeal, escape Paris and stay in love? You’ll have to read it to see.

One thing I question is the reason for Gabrielle having to be responsible for her husband’s debt. Her husband was a viscount and he had no sons. So, some other male heir would have inherited the title and the debts along with it rather than the widow. That male heir would also have inherited responsibility for seeing after Gabrielle. Anyway – that didn’t really bother me because the story was so good – but – I did question it!

“I requested and received this book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”

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Scandalous Ever After by Theresa Romain

Scandalous Ever After (Romance of the Turf)Scandalous Ever After by Theresa Romain

Release Date: 7/4/17
Series: Romance of the Turf, #2

Tracy’s rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe 3.5 stars

Kate, the Countess of Whelan and Evan Rhys have a history. Evan has been in love with Kate since the day he met her – as the bride of his best friend. The three of them shared a deep friendship – but all that changed when Kate’s husband Con died in a racing accident.

Evan left shortly before Con died, after they had a heated agreement. Evan finally gave in to his anger of the way Con treated Kate and his responsibilities. He left never intending to return.

Two years later, Kate is back in England trying to secure a loan to pay off her late husband’s debts and to save her son’s legacy. She learns that Evan is lecturing not far from her families home and she seeks him out. Evan has been fighting depression his entire life and Kate seems to be the only person that keeps the “gray” from consuming him. He has stayed away for the last two years because he feels unworthy and guilty. But seeing Kate again smashes all his reasons for staying away. He has been trying to find the source of forgeries used to smuggle and Kate’s appearance is the perfect excuse to return to Ireland.

They try to pick up their friendship where they left off, but there are things that need to be said and feelings that need to be explored. When they take their relationship to the next level, Kate immediately regrets it – even though she instigated the interlude. Kate wants things with Evan to be like they were and can’t understand his withdrawal from her.

They return to Ireland and begin to investigate the forgeries and their feelings for each other. Each of them learns some hard truths and begin to come to terms with the changes between them.

When Evan’s life is in peril – Kate finally acknowledges her true feelings and lets go of her fears and past hurts.

I liked the story, but I didn’t love it. The writing felt a bit disjointed and was at times confusing to follow. Although, I was impressed with the author’s portrayal of Evan – his unrequited love for Kate, his guilt over Con, his struggle with depression and his refusal to accept a half-life with Kate – it was really well done and completely believable.

All in all a decent read and I would be happy to recommend it to others.

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher*

Say Yes To The Scot: A Highland Wedding Box Set

Say Yes to the Scot: A Highland Wedding Box SetSay Yes to the Scot: A Highland Wedding Box Set by May McGoldrick

Barbara’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publication Date: June 20, 2017

Four of my favorite authors provided works for this anthology – so, it is only natural that I LOVE it.

This tale is loosely (very loosely) based on the Princess and the Pea fairytale. Laird Alex Munro of Culmore has to find a wife in five weeks or break a generations long pact. However, the ‘Pea’ is missing and they must have the ‘Pea’ which is the official engagement ring. Not only is the Pea missing, but the neighboring Laird has been attacking and burning the crofters on Munroe lands. After one such raid, Alex finds Cait MacLeod in the woods near the burned out cottage. Alex doesn’t believe Cait’s story and believes she is part of the raiding parties. Cait quickly wins the love of his Clan and even the potential brides who are visiting the keep – but – Alex is still wary of her. They have a long road to find their HEA, but it is a good read to get them there.

A MATCH MADE IN HEATHER by Anna Harrington
This is a story of second chances. Ten long years ago Arabel and Garrick were going to elope. Then, on the night of the elopement, Arabel tells Garrick that she cannot go because of a family situation that has just developed. Garrick is heartbroken and just doesn’t understand why she always chooses her family over him. Then, when she thinks he has left her, she can’t forgive him. There are huge misunderstandings in this story and you wonder how they can get past them. Given what happened to him, I would have thought Garrick would be the one unable to forgive, but it was Arabel who kept clinging to her hurt and anger. Frankly, she got on my last nerve, but finally came around so they got their HEA.

I think this was my favorite story in the anthology. I LOVED the characters. They were well developed and fully formed, but I’ve never seen anything by McGoldrick that wasn’t absolutely excellently done! Be prepared – there are some really giggle-worthy moments in this book! Elizabeth and Alex were betrothed as children and raised far apart, so they never met. Their lives were very different – she thought him a barbaric Highlander and he thought her a pampered, simpering, spoiled little princess. Both of them want out of the engagement, but the other doesn’t know that. So, when Elizabeth tries to trick Alex into thinking she was in love with someone else so he’d break the engagement, things go really awry. They end up in the middle of a rain-swollen river fighting for their lives. It is funny how those near-death experiences bring you to being honest – and they were finally honest with each other and agreed to cancel the engagement. So – how do they get their HEA – well – you’ll just have to read the anthology to find out.

THE SCOT SAYS I DO by Sabrina York
This was my second favorite of the stories in this anthology. I loved Catherine’s friends, especially Elizabeth and hope to see their stories in the future. Duncan and Catherine were in love, but it was just not meant to be. She was the Lairds daughter and he was the stable hand – she was twelve and he was not. You have to wonder if there is any way for them to ever have a HEA. Years later, Catherine returns home from a ball to find that her brother has lost their entire estate – homes, land, money – all of it – and now that former stable hand owns it all. He also wants to marry her. Why in the world would he want to marry her now when he walked off and left her so long ago without even saying goodbye. I hope you’ll read this delightful, funny and entertaining story to see how they finally get their HEA. There are twists and turns and even an evil dude – everything you could possibly want.

“I requested and received this book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”

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The Detecting Duchess By Kate Parker

The Detecting Duchess (Victorian Bookshop Mystery Book 5)The Detecting Duchess by Kate Parker

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: A Victorian Bookshop Mystery #5
Publication Date: May 26, 2016

Kate Parker gives us yet another delightful, intriguing, mystery and adventure set in Victorian England. I feel as if I have waited absolutely FOREVER for this book – and it has been about a year-and-a-half – much too long since the last release. I hope the next book won’t be as long in coming! I also hope the author doesn’t decide to make this the last of the series because I can see so many delightful storylines in this newly wedded state!

Miss Georgia Fenchurch is the middle-class owner of an antiquarian bookstore. She is also a member of the Archivist Society and the fiancé of the Duke of Blackford. The Archivist Society was formed to help individuals who can’t or haven’t been helped by Scotland Yard. It was in one such investigation that Georgia met the Duke of Blackford.

Over the course of the books in the series the Duke has wooed Georgia. He had a time convincing her that she could still be who she really was and be his Duchess at the same time. Finally, in the last book he managed to convince her to marry him! I was so excited – and now – this book brings us to the wedding – so – what trouble can Georgia get into with only a few days left until the wedding . . . .

Eight days before her wedding, Georgia gets a visit from Eugenie Munroe who begs her to find Greyson Burke who is an investigator for the crown. Georgia is itching for something to do in order to keep her mind off the upcoming wedding, but after she hears Eugenie’s tale, Georgia is sure she won’t be able to solve it before the wedding and will only agree to taking on the case if she can involve all of the Archivist Society in the case.

Eugenie had been in Egypt with her uncle who had been tasked to solve the robbery of gold coins valued at over a million pounds. Eugenie’s uncle had been murdered in the course of the investigation and she and Greyson had taken up the task of finding who had committed the murder.

Several murders and an ocean crossing later, the investigation lands on English soil. However, Greyson has disappeared and Eugenie has no idea where to turn – so – she turns to Georgia Fenchurch.

As Georgia investigates, there are attacks upon Eugenie and later on Georgia. Then there are more murders and many, many suspects. Then add abductions and more threats of murder before all is solved. Goodness what an exciting ride through the twists and turns of a delightful investigation.

Then, of course, we have the wedding. Oh! what a romantic time that is. Blackford’s wedding gift to Georgia absolutely could not be any more perfect. My goodness my heart was all aflutter!

I highly recommend this book and hope it delights you as much as it did me!

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Three Weeks with a Princess by Vanessa Kelly

Three Weeks with a Princess (The Improper Princesses, #2)Three Weeks with a Princess by Vanessa Kelly
Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Improper Princesses, #2

Release Date: 6/27/17

Jack, the new Marquess of Lendale is Lia Kincaid’s oldest and dearest friend. Lia is the granddaughter of the previous Marquess’ mistress and the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of York. She lives with her grandmother in Bluebell Cottage on Jack’s estate, Stonefell.

Since the passing of his uncle, Jack has made some shocking discoveries, the main one being the ghastly state of the estates finances. He has no idea how he is going to be able to support the estate, let alone Lia and her grandmother. Jack has loved Lia for as long as he can remember, in a strictly platonic way, but seeing her again after so long, he begins to realize that Lia is no longer a little girl and is horrified by the lust he feels for her.

When Lia realizes that Jack is not in a position to support them any longer, she hatches a plan. She will move to London with her mother and become an actress – the only problem with her plan is that she can’t sing, dance or act. Her grandmother suggests that she become a courtesan and Jack is adamantly opposed to this plan – he assures Lia that he will always take care of them.

Lia loves Jack and doesn’t want to burden him, so she slips off to London without telling him. Lia knows that Jack will have to marry a rich woman to save the estate and knows that she and her grandmother will only cause him grief. When she arrives in London, she realizes her options are limited and being a courtesan might be the only thing she is qualified to do.

When Jack finally tracks her down, Lia learns that she has an extended family that she never knew about. Chloe, Dominick, Charles and Gillian all welcome Lia with open arms and tell her they will help her find a husband, by launching her into society. Again Jack is not happy with this plan, Lia is his responsibility and he wants her to go back to Stonefell.

Lia is still certain that she will have to become a courtesan and as much as she appreciates her new family, she continues to pursue her original plan and ends up needing to be rescued more than once. After one such rescue, Jack and Lia share a passionate encounter and Jack declares that they will marry. Lia knows that marrying Jack will ruin him and refuses – but they make a bargain, three weeks to either come to an agreement or Jack will help her find a protector.

What could possibly go wrong?

This is a wonderful addition to the Improper Princesses series! It is well written, flows nicely, has a lot of twists and turns, some laugh out loud moments, some tense moments and some very thought provoking scenes, it is not as steamy as most of the other books in the series, but the love scenes are on the warmer side. This is the second book in the series, but it could be read as a stand alone – however to truly appreciate Gillian’s role in this book, you should read the previous book, My Fair Princess.

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher*

Murder On Black Swan Lane By Andrea Penrose

Murder on Black Swan Lane (Quill Mystery, #1)Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Quill Mystery #1
Publication Date: June 27, 2017

An impeccably written, exciting, intriguing, engrossingly tangled and twisted regency mystery. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it. The characters are fully developed and deep with flaws and secrets I’m sure we’ll learn more about as the series goes on. I am so very excited that this is a series and we will get to know them all better. If you are a fan of Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries, you will absolutely LOVE this one.

This is the first book I have read by Andrea Penrose or any of her other pen names — Cara Elliott for Grand Central and Andrea Pickens for NAL, but I can’t wait to read more of this series and to also check out her other Regency mystery series.

I have to admit that my two favorite characters in the book are the two street urchins – Raven and Hawk. They are intelligent and wise beyond their years and even though they have lived their lives, alone, in the stews of St. Giles, they still have sweet and innocent hearts. It will be interesting to see if, over time, they give up being street urchins and let Charlotte care for them.

Since the series is named Quill Mystery, I assume that the main character will be Charlotte Sloane, also known as A. J. Quill. She is the most popular satirical cartoonist in England, but she must guard her identity and gender. She is very intelligent, feisty and not afraid of anything – at least she thinks she isn’t. One of the facts that is uncovered in this mystery is the facts behind the death of her talented artist husband Anthony. She also has another, even bigger, secret in her past and it is hinted at, but not revealed in this book.

The Earl of Wrexford has a brilliant, logical scientific mind and thinks he is incapable of any of the softer feelings. He is also a brilliant chemist – although he keeps that part of his life well hidden. All is logic with Wrexford. So, when everyone thinks he’s the person who murdered a Reverend he’s been publicly feuding with, he decides that he must solve the murder in order to save himself. His first order of business is to uncover the identity of A. J. Quill who has been skewering him in cartoons. The drawings are absolutely too accurate and therefore the artist must know something. There is also some hinted mystery with the death of Wrexford’s brother and I came to feel as if that was what caused Wrexford to close himself off from the softer feelings in life.

Although there is no romance in this book between Charlotte and Wrexford, they do develop a friendship and I hope it will develop into a romance over the course of the series. We do see a bit of ‘softening’ in Wrexford over the course of the book.

The secondary characters in the book are also great and it will be fun to watch their growth over the course of the series. There is Wrexford’s valet cum lab assistant who is smart and sassy. Then, there is Wrexford’s friend who is always short of funds and isn’t thought to be particularly intelligent. We also have a Scot doctor who does the autopsies and is gifted at interpreting what he is finding – Oh shades of St. Cyr Mysteries with their Scot anatomist.

The mystery is full of twists and turns and people with intertwining plots. You’ll have a time figuring out who murderer is and how all of the plots fit together.

“I requested and received this book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”

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