Anthology

No Dukes Allowed by Grace Burrowes, Kelly Bowen, Anna Harrington

No Dukes AllowedNo Dukes Allowed by Grace Burrowes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Stand Alone
Publication Date: 5/15/18

What a delightful concept – none of the heroes are titled gentlemen. As a matter of fact, all of them seem to have a distinct dislike, for some or all, of the titled, privileged folks of the ton. Include that three of my favorite authors (Grace Burrowes, Kelly Bowen and Anna Harrington) wrote the stories and you have a keeper. I really do have to congratulate a couple of the authors on the names they chose for their dukes – Riddington (because they wanted to get rid of him?) Pomperly (because he was pompous?) Sorry, those names just tickled my fancy.

Architect of My Dreams by Grace Burrowes – 3.5 Stars

I enjoyed this story but thought it was a bit too modern for the time in which it is set.

The Dowager Duchess of Tindale is twenty-eight years old and free from a less than happy marriage. Her husband didn’t mistreat her, he was just oblivious to her. He married her for one reason only – her money and to produce an heir. She feels guilty because she never produced that heir – and now he is gone. However, she really likes his cousin who inherited the title – he always treated her with fondness and respect.

Eugenia ‘Genie’, Dowager Duchess of Tindale, has absolutely had it with her new neighbor in Mayfair. He’s building a gentleman’s club and there is constant hammering, shouting, banging and all of the other sounds of construction going on at all hours. So, the tiny little woman marches out her door and into his yard and confronts him. The ensuing conversation is wonderful as she takes him to task.

Three days later, she has traveled to Brighton – only to discover that her noisy neighbor is there as well. There is an instant attraction and they spend time together and come to love each other. However, there is a very nasty fly in the ointment. Someone else wants to marry her (for her money, of course) and has threatened to ruin the man who inherited her former husband’s title as well as her neighbor, Adam Morecambe.

The solution is delightful and there is even an epilogue – I just love epilogues – and this one is just perfect.

Pursuit of Honor by Kelly Bowen – 4 Stars

Diana Thompson and Oliver Graham were childhood friends who did everything together. Oliver’s family had contracted a betrothal for him with Hannah when they were just children. So, Oliver and Diana always knew he’d marry someone else – but – well – they were only friends anyway. Oliver leaves England to pursue his fortune and is gone for ten years. When he returns, he learns that his sister disappeared six years ago and he is determined to find her. The only clue he has is that, at one point, she was in Brighton.

Oliver travels to Brighton to find his sister and sees Diana at a ball. It is a funny scene because Diana looks as if she is having a conversation with a potted plant. She is really talking to Hannah who does NOT want to see Oliver. She’s not happy with the betrothal.

Diana has long been pursued by a duke (Riddington) who is determined to make Diana his mistress. Diana refuses him, but he won’t take no for an answer. This same duke also hates Oliver – so you can imagine that he wants to thwart the growing recognition of love between Diana and Oliver.

Of course, there is also the little matter of Hannah. How can Diana and Oliver pursue their love and still be honorable toward Hannah? Well – turns out Hannah solves that little issue for them.

All seems lost when Oliver leaves Diana to punish the man who seduced his sister. However, we have all learned how clever and resourceful Oliver is. Oliver’s way of punishing the seducer is absolutely priceless. You will love it!

The Double Duchess by Anna Harrington 4-Stars

This is a lovely, poignant, second-chances love story.

Maxwell Thorpe is the son, but not the heir, of a minor baron and he has to make his own way in the world. He joins the army and is gravely injured early on and is sent to the Royal Hospital in Brighton to heal. While there, he meets and falls in love with Belinda who is all heart, filled with sweetness. She helps heal his soul as well as his body. The wondrous thing is – Belinda loves Maxwell as much as he loves her.

After release from the hospital, Maxwell is posted to India. He receives two letters on the same day – one is from Belinda begging him to come home and save her from having to marry someone else in order to save her family from ruin – the second one is from the brother of a duke, who asks Maxwell to please give Belinda up because he wants to offer for her and he promises that he will do all in his power to see that Belinda has everything in life. Maxwell knew that he didn’t have the money to save her family and that if he married her and brought her with him, she’d be living in poverty. So, he makes the hardest decision he’s ever – or will ever – make. He writes to Belinda and tells her that the army is his life and she should forget him.

Belinda marries the duke’s brother – and he later becomes the duke. He does all in his power to make Belinda’s life happy and when he dies, he leaves her a very wealthy woman. Belinda has always loved Maxwell – no matter what – but she hates him. He betrayed her at the worst time in her life.

As Belinda walks into a meeting at the Royal Hospital in Brighton she is shocked and dismayed to see Maxwell across the table. Her anger flares and then gets even hotter when she finds out why he is at her beloved hospital. She’ll fight him tooth and nail to keep him from succeeding in his mission.

You’ll love both Belinda and Maxwell. Their love was truly epic and it was wonderful to see how they worked their way back toward each other. The fact that they thwarted another duke (Pomperly) in the process just puts the icing on the cake.

These lovely stories are all well written and complete within themselves. The only thing that would have made it better would have been a group epilogue showing all of the couples at a get together a year or so later than the stories in the book. Maybe a re-visit to Brighton for all of them – and all of them with babies and happy family stories.

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Ladies of the Stone: A Scottish Romance Anthology by Eliza Knight, Madeline Martin, Cecelia Mecca & Lori Ann Bailey

Ladies of the Stone: A Scottish Romance AnthologyLadies of the Stone: A Scottish Romance Anthology by Eliza Knight
Tracy’s rating: 4.5/5 of 5 stars

Release Date: April 24, 2018

This was a really fun anthology – four novellas centered around the legend of the Heart of Scotland, a mythical stone that holds the soul of Scotland and the ladies chosen to protect it. The basic gist of the stories is that the Heart of Scotland must be protected, if it falls into the wrong hands, Scotland will suffer. Each time a protector dies, the stone returns to the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye and is guarded by the priestess, until the new protector arrives. Every protector has a mark, a small dagger on their hip, they also have a special power, that usually intensifies after they take possession of the stone. For each protector there is a nemesis, who also has a mark on their hip and a power – each protector will have to fight to keep the stone safe – classic good vs evil.

The Highlander’s Quest by Eliza Knight – 4 stars – The daughter of Julianna and Ronan Sutherland, Julia Sutherland, is called to be the new protector of King David II, the boy king of Scotland. She doesn’t want to leave her mother, who is recovering from poisoning, but duty comes first. She goes to Dunfermline Palace to report to the Earl of Moray, the young king’s regent. When she arrives she is stopped by Alistair Campbell, Moray’s personal guard. It is definitely not a case of love at first sight! When the young king is kidnapped, Julia will be drawn to the pools and will have to choose between duty to her king or let the stone fall into the hands of a villain. Julia and Alistair will have to work together to save both the king and the stone. Nice story, lots of action, steamy love scenes and a HEA.

Cassandra by Madeline Martin – 5 stars – Cassandra Thomas is the most recent youngest daughter born to the line of Beaumont women – the youngest daughter of this line is always born with a gift/power, at her birth her grandmother predicts that not only will Cassandra have a powerful connection to the earth, but she will also be called upon as a protector of the stone. Cassandra feels the burden of expectation her entire life and feels like a disappointment to her family, when at the ripe old age of 20 she has shown no real evidence of her gift. But all that changes when the mark of the protector appears on her hip and she is drawn to the pools on Skye. Fergus needs the stone, his king is holding his son captive, a son Fergus has never seen and will not release him until Fergus delivers the Heart of Scotland AND the protector. Cassandra and Fergus meet when they both arrive at the pool – Fergus bests her and takes the stone. Cassandra follows him – which suits his purposes. Along the way to the king, Cassandra will come into her powers and Fergus will help her learn to harness her gift. They will fall in love, but will he be willing to save her at the cost of his son? This was the most “magical” of the novellas, it had some anguish, steamy love scenes, action and a seemingly impossible HEA.

The Protector’s Promise by Cecelia Mecca – 4 stars – William “Court” Thornhurst, an Englishman and seneschal of Camburg Castle is drawn to the pools on Skye and the stone as is Lady Marion of Ormonde. Court get the stone and is pursued by Marion. Marion is the protector, she has anticipated and trained for this her entire life – there is no way she is going to let Court keep the stone. When she confronts him, he takes her captive, he will not give her the stone, he doesn’t know why, but he knows the stone will help him win his heart’s desire. Marion isn’t giving up – she will get the stone. As they travel, they are attracted to one another, but they are enemies and resist the pull. Marion wears down Court and he promises to give her the stone after he completes his mission. Marion must convince him that his mission will destroy the truce between their countries and that he doesn’t need the lands and title he craves to be worthy. This was a sweet story, with steamy love scenes, a bit of angst and very interesting ending.

The Highland Guard and His Lady by Lori Ann Bailey – 4.5 stars – Leslee MacKinnon is the current protector of the stone, she has an unusual gift, she can “read” objects, she can see visions of the past and can feel the objects owners feelings. She is at Holyrood Place to translate an ancient text for the Queen. She meets Duncan Douglas, captain of the guard, when she tries to enter the queen’s apartments. Duncan is immediately drawn to her and feels oddly protective of her. Duncan is the distant cousin to Lord Darnley, the Queen’s consort, the father of the prince and Duncan’s only living family. They both feel the attraction, but she knows nothing will come from it – she will return to Skye and he is needed at the castle. They grow closer and Leslee trusts him with her secrets, which he seems to accept without question. But when Leslee’s nemesis tries to claim the stone, will Duncan choose Leslee or will he choose to stand by the only family he has left? This was a great story, lots of emotion, steamish love scenes and the most original and entertaining fictional interpretation of Lord Darnley’s death that I have ever read.

Overall, this was a wonderful collection, all the novellas follow the same theme, but they are all stand alone stories, they all incorporate true historical figures and events, they are all well written, entertaining, steamish and each have a touch of magic. I am happy to recommend this anthology and would be interested in reading more from all of these authors.

It Started With a Whisper by Various Authors

It Started with a WhisperIt Started with a Whisper by Dawn Brower
Tracy’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Release Date: January 23, 2018

Overall this was a very good anthology and each novella was well done and none of them felt rushed.

One Moonlit Tryst, Amanda Mariel, 4 stars – Colin Brooks, Earl of Harcourt and Reginald St. John, Viscount Lovell are the best of friends, one night while out carousing, Reg is shot down by a woman and Colin says he could get any woman. They make a wager – Reg bets him a thousand pounds that he cannot win the woman of his choosing. He chooses Lady Tabitha Pemberton, he has to charm a kiss from her before the end of the season.

Lady Tabitha and her twin Lady Priscilla have decided to enjoy their first season and vow not to marry until their next. They keep all their suitors at an arms length. Colin begins to court her, but not overly – he has a plan. Reg and Pricilla form a friendship and watch the game being played between Colin and Tabitha with delight.

They grow closer and just when Tabitha believes she can give this man her heart, a shocking revelation from his past comes to light and she is heartbroken. But this is no longer a wager for Colin and he will do whatever he can to win back the woman he loves.

Good story, no steam, interesting twist, HEA

Love Me, Lord Tender, Deb Marlowe, 4.5 stars – William Grey, Lord Tensford has become infamous in Lady X’s column and known as Lord Terror for the horrible way he treats his female relations. Nothing could be farther from the truth, but gossip persists. He needs to marry a heiress to save his failing estate, but no woman is interested in Lord Terror – except Lady Hope Brightly. She finds him charming and when he saves her from an unwanted suitor, she calls him Lord Tender. The name sticks and now he is having an even harder time with the gossip. Hope feels awful and sets out to make things right. Will really likes Hope and wishes her dowry was larger and he could afford to marry her, but it is not nearly enough, so he accepts her help in finding a wife.

Hope wants him for herself, but she has to know that he wants her more than he wants money. Will will have to make difficult decisions and prove himself to win the woman he has come to love.

Great story, loved Will & Hope, great ending, no steam, great secondary characters (whose stories I would definitely read), HEA

The Lady Loves Scandal, Christina McKnight, 4.5 stars – Lady Sybil Anson and Gideon Lyndon, Viscount Galway are in love and soon to be betrothed. The night before the contracts are to be signed, Sybil visits Gideon and they share a passionate kiss and whispers of their hopes an dreams. They are interrupted by a late night visitor for Gideon. He kisses her goodbye and tells her he will see her tomorrow. But he never shows.

A year later, Sybil is on the verge of becoming betrothed again. She loved Gideon, but hasn’t heard from him since that night, save a cryptic note saying he would see her as soon as he could. She assumed he was dead, because nothing short of death would have kept them apart. But on the very night she is to accept the Duke of Garwood, Gideon returns to her. She wants answers before she will give him her heart again, but answers are the one thing Gideon cannot give her.

Will Gideon be able to win back the only woman he has ever loved, or will his secrets destroy any hope of a HEA?

Great story, loved Sybil and Gideon, no steam, secrets, angry brothers and bounty hunters and finally a very sweet HEA.

The Scandalous Widow, Erica Monroe, 4.5 stars – This is a second chance at love / murder mystery and it is very well done. Gabriel Sinclair, Principal Officer for Bow Street has responded to a murder outside a bawdy house in the rookeries, it seems like a simple case of robbery gone wrong and he is ready to call it done when he realizes who the victim is – Philip Forster, Earl of Wolverstone – Gabriel’s one time best friend and husband of the woman Gabriel loves.

Jemma Foster, Countess of Wolverstone is sure that here brother in law David killed his brother and she needs help proving it. The only man she trusts is the last man she wants to see – Gabriel Sinclair. The man she walked away from to make her family happy and the man she loves. It has been three years since they have seen each other, but the passion is still there, stronger than ever.

Jemma and Gabriel work together to solve the mystery of who really killed Philip and why. They also slowly begin to reconnect. But when Jemma starts to get too close to the truth, will Gabriel be able to save her and have a second chance to win the woman he has always loved?

Wonderful story, lots of interesting historical facts and a really nasty villain, no steam, some violence and a HEA.

How to Land an Earl in Ten Days, Ave Stone, 5 stars – this was my favorite story in the book! Reese Delacy, Earl of Darling is consoling his heartbroken friend Capt Lucien Gates. Lucien has been thrown over by his betrothed and is drowning his sorrows. Reese doesn’t believe in love and tells Lucien that he could make any woman fall in love with him, just by being charming. Lord Daniel Westham overhears him and they make a wager – Reese has ten days to make a woman fall in love with him – winner gets 200 pounds. Trouble is Lady X gets wind of the wager and no woman will give Reese the time of day. Enter the Duchess of Hythe (Lucien’s grandmother) she is sponsoring Cara Beckett for the season, Cara is from Bermuda and is only in England for one reason – to garner votes for the Turks Salt Trade bill, her family’s livelihood depends on Bermuda’s right to free salt trade on the Turk islands. Her father was dear friends with the duchess and she has been kind to Cara, helping her meet the peers she needs to speak with, but the duchess wants more for her. Cara is single minded in her quest, she has lost so much, her father and her betrothed and the business is all she has left besides her sisters. She cannot fail them! When the duchess and her friends learn about the wager, they come up with their own wager – they will have a woman let Reese think he is winning and then bring him down a few pegs and Cara is the perfect woman for the job. The duchess convinces Cara to go along with her and Cara reluctantly agrees.

When Reese meets Cara, he pours on the charm and Cara is hard pressed not to fall for him. She needs votes and Reese offers to help her. He introduces her to voting members and at the same time courts her. When the opportunity to visit the Hadleigh fair, she agrees to go. Archibald Atherton and his sister Emma insist that she stay with them for the three days and of course Reese is going. While at the fair, Cara sees her sister’s betrothed, but he avoids her, she wonders why and tells Reese, he warns her not to mention that Ballantyne is betrothed to her sister and that he can’t explain in the crowd why. Cara wants answers but will wait. Reese tracks down Ballantyne and asks about Cara’s sister – Charles Ballantyne is the man who stole Lucien’s betrothed – Charles says that he had no formal betrothal with Cait and Reese punches him. Reese returns to the group, but is withdrawn and during dinner Cara is sure he is angry with her. When her dinner partner seems interested in her political dealings, she tries to focus on him. Chopwell suggests they meet to discuss the vote and Emma shows them to parlor and leaves them to talk. Chopwell attacks Cara and Arch and Reese barely are in time to save her.

Reese takes her to her room and then returns to deal with Chopwell – he calls him out and goes to check on Cara. This is when she learns about Charles’ betrayal of her sister – it is all too much and she lashes out at Reese – she tells him she knows about the wager and he is no better than Chopwell.

Reese is hurt and angry, but he will leave her alone, he returns to London to prepare for the duel – it is the least he can do for her. She is upset when she learns he left and Lucien is demanding answers – Emma is drawn into things and even though she is secretly in love with Lucien, she can’t tell him what she knows, she also thinks that Lucien is in love with Cara and is a little heart sick. Lucien returns to London for answers, but hits a dead end.

Cara returns and confides all to the duchess, who vows that everything will work out. She then calls for reinforcements. Reese refuse to call on Cara, thinking that is her wish, so the duchess has her work cut out for her. Cara feels terrible about the things she said, she admits to herself that she cares for him and may love him – but everything has gone terribly wrong.

Cara reenters society and works to get the votes she needs. She is at a ball and sees Reese, but he tries to avoid her, but when he is drawn into the group around her, he helps her further her cause and he realizes he loves her. He decides to take a chance and talks to her, but Cara still has a secret and she hopes that when she comes clean, Reese can forgive her.

This was the shining star in the anthology for me, again this is a no steam novella, but it is brimming with sexual tension, secrets, witty banter, very likable leads, great secondary character (who are begging for their own stories!) a well meaning meddling duchess and a sweet HEA.

Lady Hoyden’s Secret, Dawn Brower, 3.5 stars – Lady Helena Carter has after 3 seasons accepted that she will not marry, but that is all right because she has a plan. When her brother forces his friend Oliver Hunt, Marquess of Dashville to dance with her, she solidifies her plan. Five years later, Helena’s plans are just about ready to pay off. She is Lady X and has finally earned enough money to support herself until she is old enough to access her trust. She has been very successful and her favorite person to roast in her column is Oliver aka Dash.

Dash has grown up a lot since the night he danced with Helena, Lady X’s column had made him realize what a jerk he was and he has changed. He wants a wife and figures if Lady X sees him make amends with Helena, the task of finding a wife will be easier. He tried to reconcile with Helena, but she is having none of it. Oliver really sees her for the first time and decides then and there, Helena will be his wife. Now all he has to do is convince her that he has changed and is the perfect man for her.

He asks her for a second chance and she shoots him down and takes off. He follows her and finds her snooping in a desk, they kiss and she tells him to leave her alone. But fate has other plans and when they end up in Scotland together and he learns her secret and seems to accept her, she is thrilled. But when they are caught in a heated embrace and told they will have to marry, it seems like Oliver will get his wish,. However, Helena is not ready to concede defeat. Will Oliver be able to win over the woman he knows he loves or will Helena let past hurts and rejection doom her to a life spent alone?

This book was ok, there is a lot of modern verbiage, some completely unbelievable scenarios (especially for a Regency), no steam and an unlikable heroine – but Oliver is this books saving grace, he is wonderful and I can’t imagine why he loves Helena.

All in all this was a very good anthology, while none of the novellas are steamy (mores the pity) they are all well done and paced nicely. I would be happy to recommend this book.

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

When a Lord Loves a Lady, A Waltz with a Rogue Collection by Collette Cameron

When a Lord Loves a Lady - A Waltz with a Rogue Collection Books 1 - 5When a Lord Loves a Lady – A Waltz with a Rogue Collection Books 1 – 5 by Collette Cameron
Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Release Date: October 23, 2017 (for the box set, each novella is already available)

What a great anthology!

A Kiss for Miss Kingsley – 4 stars
Olivia and Allen have a history, three years ago they were in love and wanted to marry, but before Allen could ask for her hand, her father decided to move the family to the Caribbean. Allen is frantic and asks Olivia to run away with him, when she refuses, he tells her that it is over between them.
Olivia was heartbroken, she left for the Caribbean a few days later and didn’t return for three years. Upon her return, her Aunt persuades her to attend a ball being given by Allen’s parents. Unsure but unable to deny that she wants to see him again, Olivia attends. Allen is looking for a wife, he knows know that he was unfair to Olivia, but she is gone and he must do his duty. He attends the ball with the intent of finding a bride and is stunned when Olivia is announced. When he asks for a dance, they both know that their feelings are still strong, but after so much time, can they find what they once shared?

Bride of Falcon – 4 stars
Ivonne (Allen’s sister) aka Ivy and Chancy Faulkenhurst aka Falcon have known each other for years, he is one of her brother’s oldest friends and the first man Ivy ever loved. Falcon left for India 6 years ago, hoping to make his fortune and be able to ask for Ivy’s hand. But things did not work out for him, first he invested his savings with a man and never heard from him again and then was injured and has returned to England with no money and no prospects. He accepted Allen’s invitation to attend the ball and hopes to get a glimpse of the woman he loves before he goes home. But uncomfortable in the crowd, he escapes to the garden, where he overhears Ivy being accosted by a suitor. When she tells the man she will never marry him and he demands to know why, Falcon steps forward and tells him that she was already promised to someone. Ivy is overjoyed to see Falcon, even though he broke her young heart when he left and he never replied to her letters. These two dance around each other and there are some misunderstandings and assumptions that almost keep them from their HEA.

Her Scandalous Wish – 5 stars
When I first started this book, I didn’t think I would accept whatever reason Ms. Cameron came up with for keeping these two apart for so long – but I was wrong! Philomena and Branford were in love, but 6 years ago, he believed she perished in a fire and he was heartbroken. Over the years he has become a rake, but no woman has touched his heart and he knows that no one ever will. Newly returned for the Caribbean and still adjusting to the title he never expected to inherit, he attends a ball with his sister and is shocked to find out that Philomena is still alive. Philomena is trying to grant her brother’s wish to marry before he dies, she spies Bradford and slips out on the terrace to avoid him, she was badly burned in the fire that killed her parents and almost died herself, but what hurt the most was Branford’s desertion. When the two share a kiss and are caught by her brother, he demands the Branford either meets him for a duel or marries his sister. Unwilling to fight, he offers for Philomena, who begs her brother to retract his challenge. When her brother collapses, she frantically agrees to marry. These two must get to know each other again and there will be many obstacles in the road to their HEA – but what an amazing journey it is!!

To Tame a Scoundrel’s Heart – 5 stars
This was my favorite book in the set – I loved Nic and Katrina! Nic was raised to believe he was the bastard son of a duke and he has made his living as a privateer. But now he has unexpectedly inherited a dukedom and two young half-sisters. He knows he needs to marry a woman who can take care of the duchy and his sisters, so he can return to the sea. When he meets Katrina, he thinks she will be perfect for the job, until he finds out that she is all but betrothed. Unwilling to let her go, he enlists her help in finding a bride. Katrina has been infatuated with Nic for years, but she has put that behind her and is looking forward to marrying her Major. Problem is, she can’t quite get her heart to believe that Richard is the man she wants. The more time she spends with Nic, the more confused she becomes. For his part, Nic has decided that he cannot have Katrina, because she deserves a man that will love her and will not leave her for the sea, but he is not convinced that Richard is that man. When Richard returns, Katrina finally realizes that Nic is the man she loves. Faced with the knowledge that he might lose her, Nic admits that he loves her more than he loves the sea and sets out to win her heart. SIGH….I am a little bit in love with Nic.

The Wallflower’s Wicked Wager – 5 stars
Shona is a peeress in her own right and is being pursued for her title and fortune, she has not had an easy life and longs to be loved for herself. While eluding a grasping fortune hunter, she trips and falls in the lake. Morgan Le Draco is a war hero but since the accident that cost him his eye and left him scarred, he is lost, estranged from his father and without a fortune or prospects, he has no idea what he will do. When a young woman falls in the lake, he doesn’t hesitate to save her. When they finally reach the shore, he expects her to be horrified by his appearance, but is delighted when she doesn’t seem bothered by his scars. Shona and Morgan have an instant attraction. When they make their way back to the house party, Shonna is confronted by a nasty woman and makes a wager with the woman – that by weeks end, she will have a kiss from the most handsome man at the party and she means Morgan. These two share a mutual dislike for their parents and both have painful pasts, as they spend time together, their bond and friendship only get stronger. But there are others determined to keep them apart and their doubts in themselves and each other, almost cost them the love of a lifetime.

This was a really wonderful anthology, I had read some of the stories before when they were first released as novellas, but I enjoyed reading them altogether even more! The writing is great and each story is well paced and well done. While the novellas are not steamy, the love scenes are appropriate to each story and I didn’t mind the lack of steamier scenes. I would happily recommend this boxed set!

Christmas Revels IV – Anthology

Christmas Revels IV: Four Regency NovellasChristmas Revels IV: Four Regency Novellas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Christmas Revels #4
Publication Date: 10/30/17

What a wonderful anthology – Four sweet, clean, happy stories with lovely HEA’s. If you want steam, you won’t find it in these stories, but they are very sweet and romantic. I was only familiar with one of the authors, but they were all great, so I’ll be looking for more of their books!

The Sergeant’s Christmas Bride by Anna D. Allen
While the scenario is highly improbable, it was a delightful story. I just loved Jacob. He is one of the sweetest and most caring heroes I’ve read in a long time. Sergeant Jacob Burrows has just returned from fighting in America. He’s tired to the bone and just wants to sleep before he continues on to his destination. He has just bedded down when he’s rudely awakened by someone holding a gun on him. Imagine his surprise when he finds out that the person with the gun is a woman and he’s at his destination.

Elizabeth FitzWalter needs a husband – quickly. She’s a Viscountess in her own right since the death of her very much-loved brother. It is amazing who and what comes out of the woodwork when a female inherits wealth and a title – she needs to avoid all of that. I like her very much. She is brave, intelligent, self-sufficient and loving. What a pair Elizabeth and Jacob make.

Home For Christmas by Hannah Meredith
Charity Fletcher lived her whole life squirreled away at her father’s country estate. She was totally neglected by him. She was lonely, but she didn’t actually realize that. Then, her father, a Baron, dies without leaving her anything at all and she is at the mercy of her cousin, Horace, who inherited. So, imagine her surprise and delight when she receives a bequest of a cottage by the sea and five-thousand pounds from someone she’s never heard of. She packs her belongings and she and her servant, Lucy Dibble, head to their new home. What they find is a shock. The cottage is much larger than Charity expected and is in a sad state of disrepair.

Colonel Lord Gilbert Narron has returned from the wars where he was wounded. His leg pains him horribly and he just needs a place where he can be alone and recuperate. So, he rents a seaside cottage and he and his servant, Sergeant Holly, set out. Finally, after many grueling days of traveling, he finally arrives at the cottage. As he enters the cottage he catches a glimpse of an intruder who is trying to cudgel him. He reacts automatically and punches the culprit. Yes, you guessed it – his attacker was a woman.

It takes Charity several days to recover enough to get out of bed – and by then, Gil has taken over the house, the repairs, hiring servants, etc. He even hired a companion to live with them and told everyone he was her cousin.

It is lovely to watch these two forge a truce and come to work together to solve a mystery. Then, of course, it is also lovely to see them grow to love each other.

I thought the Epilogue was the absolute best part of the book. I love the brothers bantering and seeing their lives several years down the road.

A Memorable Christmas Season by Kate Parker (one of my favorite authors)
I enjoyed this story of second chances, but I really wish it had been longer because a couple of things left me hanging. For instance – Susanna Dunley, Dowager Countess of Roekirk is supposed to be a very sympathetic character and she really is given all she’s been through. However, she had a chance at real love and turned it down. What left me hanging was that the story says she was ‘forced’ for marry Roekirk, however, there was no mention of how or why other than Will had nothing to offer. Say what! So, I liked the hero much more than I liked the heroine.

This story includes murder, a spymaster, blackmail and a traitor – Oh! My!

Will Marsden, newly minted Earl of Keyminster, came from nothing to have the King bestow an earldom on him for services rendered to the crown. Thirty years ago he was totally in love with Susanna only to have her turn him down and marry the Earl of Roekirk. Will was devastated and immediately chose to leave England as a spy and later a diplomat. He was totally surprised when he received an invitation to a Christmas Ball at the new Earl of Roekirk’s home.

When he arrives, it is to be drawn into hiding a body and possibly covering up a murder. Is Susanna a murderer? Will he protect her? Who is the dead man and why was he in Susanna’s home? Will Susanna and Will renew their love and finally get their HEA? You’ll just have to read the story to find out.

A Perfectly Unforgettable Christmas by Louisa Cornell
This was actually my favorite of the four stories!

Wounded in body and spirit during a drunken, midnight carriage race, Lucien Rollinsby, Viscount Debenwood wanted nothing but peace and quiet and to be left alone. Imagine his dismay when he awakens (at three in the afternoon) to the clanging of the gate next door – constantly back and forth accompanied by several loud thumps- and also the screeches of a querulous banshee.

Lady Caroline Chastleton McAlasdair, daughter of a Duke, is dismayed to see that the small, quiet, off-the-beaten-path home that she had asked her brother to find for her stay in London was actually in the middle of Mayfair. She wanted to be obscure so that she could be sure that her father would not learn of her stay in London. He is a selfish, hateful, uncaring, mean-spirited man and she wants nothing to do with him, after all, he forced her into an unwanted marriage when she was only fifteen.

Both Caroline and Lucien have some very deep and dark secrets. They can share those secrets and either ruin their budding relationship or find forgiveness and love. They have much to overcome and it is a lovely thing to watch them grow.

I loved all of the supporting characters in this story, but I particularly liked Lily, Caroline’s daughter. She is a real little hoyden and is delightful. Then, there is the long-suffering Redford, Lucien’s butler. The banter between Lucien and Redford is absolutely priceless

“I requested and received this e-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.”

Christmas in Kilts by Various Authors

Christmas in KiltsChristmas in Kilts by Bronwen Evans
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Release Date: October 31, 2017

A very good anthology – all the novellas have a nice Christmas type theme and I enjoyed all the stories, some more than others.

A Highlander’s Hope by Terri Brisbin – 3 stars – Iain is a widower and finally ready to remarry after losing his beloved wife 5 years ago. The woman he has his heart set on is Robena, he knows their joining will not be easy and will cause talk, because Robena is a prostitute. He met her years ago when visiting Rob and Anice, they became lovers and friends. He knows she is the woman for him, despite their age difference and her unsavory past. Now all he has to do is convince her. Robena has not had an easy life and she knows her place, she loves Iain, but refuses his offer for several reasons, primarily because she is barren and so far beneath him in station. Can these two get a Christmas miracle?

A Highlander’s Christmas Wager by Lecia Cornwall – 4 stars – Caught in a snowstorm, Meggie and her grandmother take refuge at the last castle in Scotland that Meggie wants to see. Home of Magnus, the man she believed she loved and loved her, until he married another. Magnus is elated to welcome Meggie into his home, he has been widowed for months and Meggie is just what he needs. Along with Meggie, Magnus has two other guests staying due to the storm, his brother in law Charlie (whom he hopes to match with his sister) and a neighboring laird, Hugh (who is there at his clan’s urging to marry Magnus’ sister). When the three men spy Meggie, they make a wager as to who can claim her kiss first. This is a sweet story with two HEA’s and an appearance by the fearsome McLeod!!

A Scot for Christmas by Bronwen Evans – 4 stars – Dougray is a widower who has grieved for his late wife for 6 long years but is finally letting go of her memory to fulfill a promise to his father to help a neighboring clan. Dougray will marry Fiona, the laird’s daughter to help the clan financially, as he will not accept help in any other way. Emma has loved Dougray for years and was heartbroken when he married, resigned to a spinster’s life, she tags along with her brother to Dougray’s house party with a firm purpose – to taste the passion her spinster life will not allow. Dougray is shocked to see Emma, she has grown into quite the beauty in their years apart and he is unwillingly attracted to her. So when she asks him to be her lover, he knows he should refuse, but his desire outweighs his common sense. Terrified to love again, he was not prepared for Emma and after an incredible night together, he tells her that is the end. Not ready to let him go, Emma goes to confront him, but overhears him talking to his cousin about marrying Fiona. Heartbroken, she runs away before hearing him declare his desire to marry Emma instead. This novella was by far the steamiest of the five and boasts 3 HEA’s!

Leftover Mistletoe by Lavinia Kent – 4 ½ stars – Emma is having a bad day, her maid has run off with her luggage and left this pampered and sheltered Miss alone to fend for herself on the mail coach. Her only traveling companion is a scruffy looking drunk who is snoring. James Barran is not have a good day either, his horse was stolen forcing him to ride in the coach and slowing him down. Time is of the essence because he has a wedding to stop! But when the coach stops, Barran realizes something is amiss, the horses and the driver are long gone and he finds a note from his best friend Robert, telling him to take shelter in the cabin and he will rescue him, once he has wedded and bedded Barran’s sister. Emma twisted her ankle exiting the coach and is bewildered as to why this is happening. She doesn’t want to go with Barran to the cabin, but what choice does she have? When they reach the cabin and he learns who she is, Barran knows what must be done, and he tells Emma they will have to marry. The rest of the story is them getting to know each other and some amusing mishaps (thanks to Emma). By the end of the story, I really believed that they would be happy together.

Sweet Home Highlands by May McGoldrick – 5 stars – this was my favorite novella in the book, it is the story of Gregory Pennington and Freya Sutherland. Freya is guardian to her niece Ella, but since her grandfather’s death, Ella’s grandmother has been questioning whether Freya is capable of caring for her. She has demanded Freya attend her and prove her worthiness. To prove her stability, Freya has agreed to marry her father’s heir, thus proving Ella a home and a financially stable future. She is not happy about the marriage, but the cost it worth it if it means Ella will stay with her. Her discontent grows once she meets their escort, Penn. These two have an instant chemistry, they sizzle! But Penn is not sure how he feels and has plans, plans that do not include a wife and child. And Freya has made a promise and she must marry. With a little help from Ella, these two finally get a HEA.
I thought this was a really good collection and would be happy to recommend it.

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

Mists and Moonrise by Various Authors

Mists and Moonrise: The Reluctant Brides CollectionMists and Moonrise: The Reluctant Brides Collection by Kathryn Le Veque, Eliza Knight, Madeline Martin, Laurel O’Donnell, Catherine Kean and Elizabeth Rose

Release Date: 06/20/17

Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a nice collection of never before published novellas, they are all based on the legend of the ill-fated lovers Kael & Aelwen. While all the stories are rooted in the legend, they are not connected and are all easily read as stand alone titles.

Lady of the Moon, Kathryn Le Veque – 4.5 stars. This is the story of Samarra & Rhodes. When Rhodes refuses to marry the woman his father has chosen for him, his father hires Samarra to abduct him and deliver him to the cave in St. Agnes. His father believes that if Rhodes touches the wall with his betrothed, he will fall in love with her and willingly marry. This was a story of “insta-love”, but it is very well done and surprisingly believable. The story moves at a fast pace, has a lot of action, a little steam and an ironic twist.

Laird of Darkness, Eliza Knight – 5 stars. This is the story of Rosamond and Tierney. Rosamond’s father has abandoned her in the cave at St. Agnes to punish her for rumors at court (which are actually about her twin sister). Tierney has been held prisoner at the tower of London for the last ten years, he was branded a traitor when he saved the Bruce’s life in battle. He has finally been released and is returning to Scotland to reclaim his lands and title when he finds Rosamond in the cave. Tierney rescues Rosamond and on the journey back to Scotland, they share a kiss that leads to a misunderstanding. Once resolved, the decide to marry. They return to Scotland, marry and declare their love before Tierney must leave on a mission for the Bruce. This was one of my favorite novellas in the book, it is fast paced, well written, very steamy, had a believable love story and best of all – Eliza Knight says that this is just the beginning of their story, that she will be following this up with a full length novel later this year (Yay!!)

The Highlander’s Untamed Lady, Madeline Martin – 5 Stars. This is the story of Diana & Evander. Evander’s people are starving so he accepts a bride from England sight unseen as her father has offered him an outrageous dowry to marry her. Diana has been imprisoned by her father for refusing to marry, she manages to escape only to be chased by Evander. He catches up with her in the cave at St. Agnes and tells her that they are to marry and return to Scotland. She of course refuses, leaving Evander no choice but to drug her (and her two pet wolves). They travel back to Scotland and Diana begins to realize how wrong she was about Evander. They marry as soon as they reach his castle, but Diana is not ready to share all her secrets with Evander and tries to keep him at arms length, but the more she gets to know him, the more she admires him. Once Diana admits to herself, that she is in love with him, she takes the ultimate leap of faith and shares her darkest secret. Evander is all you could want in a hero – I loved him! It seems like these two are destined for a HEA, when an unexpected twist threatens to tear them apart. This was my favorite novella – it is well written, emotional, steamy and has a really sweet ending.

Bravest of them All, Laurel O’Donnell – 3.5 Stars. This is the story of Luke and Nessa. Luke has known Nessa for most of her life, they grew up together and Luke is betrothed to Nessa’s older (spoiled/vain) sister Melwyn. Luke has been in France with the girls father for years fighting in the war, their father was struck down and Luke is returning with him to England. They arrive to find that Nessa has been abducted – the villain mistook her for her sister. Luke immediately sets out to rescue her, but his party is betrayed and ambushed. He manages to escape with Nessa, but their story is far from over. Luke is injured when the traitor catches up to them and they must run for their lives. The more time they spend together, the more they realize that they love each other. Once they reach her father’s castle, Nessa has decided that she cannot betray her sister and tells her father that she does not love Luke. This leads to a misunderstanding that almost costs them the love of a lifetime. While I found the story entertaining and well rounded, it did wrap up a bit too quickly and ended abruptly. It was well written and had a lot of action, but there was no steam at all and the heroine comes across as a martyr.

That Knight by the Sea, Catherine Kean – 3.5 stars. This is the story of Garret and Adaline (Addy). Six years ago Garret and Addy were in love, but Garret was sent away. Six years later, Addy believes Garret is dead and is on the verge of being married to a man she detests. Garret is a mercenary and has survived the last 6 years by his sword, when the man who helped him gain his knighthood requests that he abduct Addy, he immediately refuses, the lord then blackmails Garret into compliance. Garret still loves Addy, but he does not believe he is worthy of her because of his part. When he abducts her, she does not recognize him, but it does not take her long to figure out who he is. She begs him to release her, but he refuses – until he learns that he has been double crossed. He tries to get Addy away, but she escapes him and all hell breaks loose. It doesn’t look good for our lovers, but help comes from an unexpected source. This novella had a lot of potential, but there were a lot of typos and some inconsistencies that dimished the story for me.

Pirate in the Mist Elizabeth Rose – 2.5 stars. This is the story of Brody and Gwen. Brody is the captain of a pirate ship, his crew has mutinied and forced him overboard. He swims to a deserted island and spends a week building a raft. He is picked up by a passing fishing boat, only to go overboard again while rescuing the captain’s daughter, Gwen. They find the raft (?) and make it to shore, where they enter the cave in St. Agnes. They touch the wall and immediately fall in love – at least Gwen does. They leave the cave and head to an inn, where miraculously Brody’s long lost friend is the owner. Gwen learns some awful truths about her family and Brody wants to protect her. He decides that he is also falling in love with her and wants them to marry. This story was just too short to do it justice – it seemed rushed and totally unbelievable. If it was longer and the author had time to build up the story and develop a stronger relationship between Gwen and Brody, I think it could have been at 4 star read.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read and for the price, you can’t go wrong – I happily recommend this book

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an ARC provided to by the author*

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