Barb’s Reviews

To Love A Duchess by Karen Ranney

To Love a Duchess (All for Love, #1)To Love a Duchess by Karen Ranney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: All for Love #1
Publication Date: 7/31/18

This is a lovely read that is emotional and compelling. It is well paced, well plotted, and well written. The characters are fully three-dimensional and very likable and relatable. It is also very sad and melancholy in its telling of grief, despair, and loss.

Suzanne Whitcomb, the Duchess of Marsley, is merely existing. There is no joy, no happiness, no goodness – just nothing left in her life. All that mattered in her life died two years ago in a terrible accident. She just complies with everything now – her father orders her to attend a function and act as hostess – she does it – no questions, no arguments. Her disagreeable maid orders her to take her potion – she takes it – even though it makes her feel strange and her mind feels fuzzy.

Adam Drummond is a spy – a member of the Silent Service. He joined the army when he was just a small boy and he was grateful to have done it. He’d been born and raised in a tenement in Glasgow, so the army providing food, safety and warmth were more than he’d ever had. He’d become a decorated hero and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. He’d also lost his wife six years ago in a terrible, terrible attack. He’d left the army and joined a new part of the War Department called the Silent Service.

Adam’s latest assignment was different than any he’d had before. He was undercover as the majordomo at the home of a duke that the War Office had reason to believe was a traitor. It was Adam’s task to find the proof and he was determined to complete his mission successfully because he thoroughly despised that particular duke and he was sure that the War Office was correct in believing the duke to be a traitor. It didn’t matter that the duke was now dead. What mattered was finding justice for all those deaths that he was sure the duke had caused.

What Adam doesn’t count on is the very sad, grieving duchess. How can such a lovely creature be so mournful over such a dastardly man? She seems haunted – and sometimes she doesn’t seem to be totally there. Does she drink? As the weeks move on and they have more and more interactions, he learns her story and is more and more attracted to her. He knows, of course, that a boy born in a Glasgow tenement cannot have a duchess. However, the attraction is mutual and as the case comes to an end – he can hardly say goodbye.

I love how he actually listens to her, to her opinions and then believes her. I also love how she comes to trust him and always feels safe around him. Their journey into love and an HEA is a lovely thing.

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“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.”

The Unexpected Wife by Caroline Warfield

The Unexpected Wife (Children of Empire Book 3)The Unexpected Wife by Caroline Warfield

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Children of Empire Book #3
Publication Date: 7/25/18

Oh! This book reached out, grabbed me by both ears and pulled me into this wonderful story that takes place just at the beginning of the first Opium War in the Pearl Delta area of China. I rarely read anything that doesn’t mostly take place in England, Scotland or Ireland, so I was a little hesitant about reading this. Well, I certainly shouldn’t have been – the author’s descriptions of the place, the tensions, and the people made me feel as if I were right there surrounded by those Chinese junks waiting to see what would happen next. One of the things that I thought was wonderful is that the author didn’t try to whitewash the English and their participation in the opium trade into China. She showed the terrible effects of opium on people and it’s near impossibility to get away from – and she did all of that without writing a dark story.

I absolutely adored both the hero and the heroine. One of the things I liked about the hero was that he wasn’t the tallest male in any room nor were his shoulders so wide that he filled a door as he walked through. He was a normal, everyday kind of person. Wow – imagine that! I also liked that he loved unashamedly – no denials, no angst, and no terrible dark secrets. How absolutely refreshing. Now, for the heroine – I loved her strength and determination. However – there is a very fine line between being strong and determined and being TSTL and this heroine was teetering right on the knife edge of that line. She was thoughtless on occasion – not considering how her actions could adversely affect someone else. She is presented as much smarter than that.

Zambak Hayden is the oldest child of the Duke of Sudbury. She chafes at the restraints placed on her by society just because she is a female. Why can’t she be the heir since she is the oldest child – instead it goes to her younger brother? Why can’t she be included in the discussions on politics and strategy, etc. – after all it fascinates her and she is better at it than anybody else. There is a woman on the throne, so why can’t women have more prominent roles in society? Why is her only option to marry and become an irrelevant broodmare?

Charles Wheatly, the Duke of Murnane, has spent the last year in deep mourning for his son. He’s still mourning and he needs something to do to pull him out of his fugue. When his uncle, the Earl of Chadburn and his mentor, the Duke of Sudbury deliver a missive to him – from Queen Victoria – he cannot refuse the mission that it contains. He must go to Macao, China and gather information on the rising tensions between the Chinese and the English over the opium trade. Opium is totally illegal in China, yet the English keep filling the Chinese ports with opium and addicting the Chinese population. The Chinese pay for the opium with silver – and then the English use that silver to pay for Chinese tea. For the English, it is all about the tea and the Chinese be-damned. The Chinese government is starting to make noises about taking firm action to cut out the opium trade and Charles must investigate for the Queen to see where things really stand.

It really turns out that his mission is threefold.
• First, of course, is the Queen’s mission.
• Second is to find and keep safe the Duke of Sudbury’s two children. Sudbury’s son and heir, Thorn, became addicted to laudanum when it was given to him as a painkiller after a very serious accident. He can’t shake it and has taken a ship to Macao, China – supposedly to work for the East India Company, but it is really for the access to opium. Zambak knew what Thorn was doing and dressed as a male and snuck aboard the same ship.
• The third is added after Charles is underway to China. He discovers that his wayward wife, Julia, is in the area. It is his intention to find her and drag her back to England and divorce her. She left him after a few months and has whored herself out all over the continent for the last twelve years. He hasn’t dealt with her before now, because he didn’t want his son Jonny to go through the scandal of a divorce because Jonny had a congenital heart condition. However, Jonny died a year ago and his mother didn’t even come to see him or to attend his funeral. “The woman who deserted her son for a lover, who found Jonny’s illness disgusting.

At first Charles and Zambak are at odds with each other because she believes that Charles is there because her father sent him to spy on her and to take her back to England. As they come into contact more and more, they become attracted to each other. It was nice to see that they fell in love slowly and each knew that they couldn’t do anything about it because of Charles’ marriage. No, there is no adultery (other than Julia’s) – so if adultery is one of your trigger points, know that you are safe with this one. They do get their HEA, but it isn’t in the way you think it might be.

The tensions are palpable, the danger will make your heart beat faster and the love that grows between Zambak and Charles is lovely. I highly recommend this wonderful book!

Please check out my reviews at:
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“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.”

 

Duke of Scandal by Gaelen Foley

Duke of Scandal (Moonlight Square #1)Duke of Scandal by Gaelen Foley

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Series: Moonlight Square #1
Publication Date: 10/13/15

This was a quick and easy read – but – it definitely wasn’t a historical. Yes, it says it is, but all of the conversations, situations, actions, etc. were thoroughly modern. If you replaced the carriages with cars, you’d have a contemporary story. The ‘hero’ was the biggest man-ho I think I have ever read and the ‘heroine’ was such a saccharine Pollyanna that it was totally unbelievable. Strangely enough, I did still enjoy the read. I wouldn’t care to read it again, but I did enjoy it while I was reading it. Maybe because it was more lighthearted than serious.

Jason Hawthorne, the Duke of Netherford, had a lonely childhood with parents who didn’t love – or even like – each other nor did they care about him. He was raised by very well paid servants – so he grew up thinking that if you wanted someone to take care of you, then you had to pay them. Therefore – he paid for everything he wanted – including the bedroom activities. He also sired two – yes, TWO – illegitimate children. You might think one is an accident and forgive him as long as he took care of the child etc. but two isn’t forgivable. They were also by two different mothers. I will give him credit that he took care of them and regularly went to visit them, but still – you’d think that having been raised in the situation he was, that he’d be very careful not to put another child in that same situation. He is totally worthless – his one ‘useful’ thing is supporting a house full of artists – a painter, a composer, a scientist, a sculptor. He has no useful interests at all. Just a spoiled rich kid. I absolutely failed to see any reason at all why the heroine (or any other woman) would dedicate her life to loving him. I’m sure she remembered the boy he was as they were growing up, but, goodness, after eight years of his current behavior, you’d think she would see him differently. He’s always cared about his best friend’s sister – but he has avoided her for eight years. He promised her brother he wouldn’t pursue her and besides – she’s much too good for the likes of him.

Felicity Carvel has loved the boy who grew up on the neighboring estate, Jason, all of her life. He is her brother’s best friend and they spend all of their time together. She adores Jason and finally, at the age of fifteen, she decides to make her feelings known to him. He is shocked and rebuffs her – and then he avoids her for the next eight years.

Felicity’s brother is off on an expedition to the Himalayas and she desperately needs to reach him. The ONLY person who would know how to reach him is the sponsor of the expedition, Jason. Felicity has no choice but to contact Jason about sending word to her brother. When she doesn’t get answers to her letters to Jason, she shows up at his home – hoping mostly to speak with his secretary to get the information she needs. As she is close to leaving, Jason makes an appearance – very unkempt, barefoot and obviously still in yesterday’s clothes – Felicity is shocked but speaks to him. Then, she sees the two harlots peeking out from a door upstairs and promptly takes her leave.

That visit, and the reason for it, cause Jason to decide that he needs to step in and protect Felicity since her brother isn’t there. It is nice to watch Jason realize how much he cares for Felicity – and that he always has and to see them get their HEA.

I’m still debating whether I’ll read the next book or not. I am a bit intrigued by Rivenwood, so I might give that one a read, but if it feels as modern as this one, then it will be my last book in this series.

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One Moonlit Night by Gaelen Foley

One Moonlit Night (Moonlight Square, #0.5)One Moonlit Night by Gaelen Foley

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Moonlight Square 0.5
Publication Date: 9/11/15

This novella is a delightfully warm and sweet introduction to the Moonlight Square series. The characters are all great – not a clunker in the bunch (especially Trinny’s father) and the story flows quickly and smoothly. One thing I really loved is that the two main characters were open and honest with each other, there were no huge, ugly secrets hanging over their heads and they actually talked. Wow! How different is that?

I loved the conversations and witty repartee between Gable and Trinny. They are both bright and funny and totally relatable people. Their internal dialogue is as entertaining as their verbal dialogue.

Gable Winston-McCray, Viscount Roland, is basically a man ‘ho. I’m not normally a fan of that trope, but it was handled really well in this book. Gable is living the high life, he’s heir to an earl, he’s handsome, he’s charming, and he has it all. The ladies pursue him, he doesn’t have to pursue them. He thinks he is the happiest of men – until he has his grand epiphany. “You were right about me, Trinny. I see that now. But you were wrong about one thing… A leopard can change his spots”. So, while he was a womanizing rake, he won me over when he was so kind to Trinny.

Lady Katrina (Trinny) Glendon is the oldest of six sisters and at two and twenty she is having absolutely no luck on the marriage mart. She is just an odd duck – everyone thinks so – especially her sisters. Her latest prospect for a husband has just gotten engaged to someone else and her sisters are blaming her for ruining their chances. Because she is the oldest, the younger sisters cannot marry until she does and that doesn’t appear to be happening and the sisters are fiercely angry. After a particularly hateful argument with her sisters she flees the house and runs into the park across from their home – she just needs a good cry.

Trinny cries her heart out – deep, wrenching sobs. What can she do? Her sisters expect her to marry, but she just can’t seem to attract any serious suitors. What is wrong with her? Why is she such an odd duck? Then, she hears “Ahem”. She looked up with swollen eyes and red nose to see a tall, broad-shouldered figure standing in the moonlight.

Their meeting in the gazebo in the park was one of my very favorite scenes. He was so sweet and caring and they were so honest with each other. I loved that the Glendon girls had given all of the bachelors in the neighborhood nicknames so they could keep them all straight. Gable’s nickname was Lord Sweet Cheeks and that was her first thought when she recognized him.

I loved the ending and it very nicely sets up the next book.

Please check out my reviews at:
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“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.”

The Duke Who Lied by Jess Michaels

The Duke Who Lied (The 1797 Club Book 8)The Duke Who Lied by Jess Michaels

Barbara’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: 1797 Club
Publication Date: 7/24/18

Another well-written tightly plotted addition to the 1797 series. It is the story of Hugh Margolis, Duke of Brighthollow, and Miss Amelia Quinton. Both characters are very likable and relatable, and when you add in visits from other 1797 Club members you have a warm and lovely book.

The 1797 Club was started in the year 1797 by several friends who were all future dukes. Most of them were from abusive, non-caring, disinterested families — especially the fathers. So, the club was a way for them to band together and help and protect each other since they weren’t getting that from their families. Hugh was from one of those uncaring abusive families. Nothing Hugh ever did was good enough and Hugh soon learned to hide all feelings from his expressions. Then, Hugh became the youngest of their group to inherit his title – and he also inherited the guardianship of his young, eight-year-old sister, Libby. Hugh loved Libby fiercely and would do absolutely anything to protect her.

A little over a year ago, Hugh noticed a change in Libby, but he didn’t pursue it because he had a lot going on. After all, all teenagers go through difficult phases don’t they? Then, when it was too late, he found she was on her way to Gretna Green. The scoundrel had the audacity to laugh at Libby when Hugh found them – he was only after her fortune. Hugh felt so much guilt – he let the scoundrel get away with what he had done to Libby in order to protect her reputation. That just ate at Hugh. He had paid the scoundrel a huge sum of money to stay quiet and Hugh also felt guilty for providing him with the means to look like a respectable part of society – and what if he used that to snare another innocent young miss.

Miss Amelia Quinton is engaged to the most wonderful man and she loves him with all her heart. She is walking on air – until she isn’t. Her father informs her that she will not be marrying the love of her life – she will now be marrying Hugh Margolis, Duke of Brighthollow because the duke owns all of her father’s debts. Her world has crumbled and it is Hugh’s fault – she hates him – hates him with every fiber of her being and she tells him so. To no avail – they are still married.

It was lovely to watch them dance around each other – she hates him – he feels guilty for having to deprive her of the man she thinks she loves. Can they come to love and respect each other? Can they have their HEA? When she discovers the truth, can she forgive his lies? This is a lovely read and a wonderful romance.

Now, my personal opinion is that his lie wasn’t all that bad and it probably saved her life – so – my thought is – what is to forgive?

I highly recommend the book.

Please check out my reviews at:
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“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.”

Highland Wrath by Madeline Martin

Highland Wrath (The Mercenary Maidens, #3)Highland Wrath by Madeline Martin

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Mercenary Maidens #3
Publication Date: 7/17/18

Oh! Be still my heart. This book was mesmerizing, poignant, sweet, fulfilling, and the absolute perfect ending to the series. My heart beat faster and faster as Sylvi and Ian along with Percy, Isobel, My Lady and Liv draw nearer and nearer to the mercenaries who murdered Sylvi’s family. Can six stand against dozens? There is non-stop action, an exceptional storyline, a mystery that keeps you guessing right up until the end, wonderful, lovable and relatable characters and I absolutely could not put it down once I read the first word.

Sylvi has intrigued me since the first book in the series. I knew she had an epic tale to tell and I was certainly correct in that. She’s strong, intelligent and determined to avenge the deaths of her entire family. Her family was ruthlessly murdered when she was only eight years old – she was the only one to have survived having her throat cut. She closed down all of her feelings except her desire for revenge and she trained her body to be a killing machine. She had followed and copied the moves of someone she referred to as My Lady until the lady finally noticed her and agreed to teach her. It is seventeen years later and Sylvie is now at her peak – all she has to do is find them. All she knows is that the leader has only half of his left ear.

To keep herself and the other ladies afloat, Sylvi occasionally accepts jobs – even sometimes taking the life of someone else. She has just such a job now. She is to find and kill Ian Campbell and take his body to the people who want him dead. However, Ian isn’t quite as easy to kill as she thought – and when she hears what he has to say while he’s guessing who paid her to kill him – well, she doesn’t want him dead any longer. Together they come up with a plot to make the villains think Ian is dead so Sylvi can follow them when they take his body back to their leader.

Ian Campbell is the oldest son of Laird Campbell, but he’s renounced his position as heir because he has no desire to be the kind of man his father is. His brother Kyle can have the job. Laird Campbell is a harsh laird and rules with a firm hand. When Ian’s father committed an act Ian couldn’t live with, Ian left home and has drifted aimlessly in the year since then. He even spent a few months with a band of mercenaries.

Ian is instantly intrigued and attracted to the lovely lass who has just tried to murder him in his sleep. Yet, somehow, for some reason, he trusts her with his life. So, when she suggests an outrageous plan, he goes along with it.

Once Sylvi gets her revenge, it doesn’t feel quite so sweet. Something is missing and she discovers yet another mystery she has to solve – this was all even more tragic than she originally thought.

Be prepared for a wild ride of revenge, love, betrayal and multiple HEA’s in this tightly plotted, perfectly executed ending to a wonderful series. I highly recommend it. You can read it as a stand-alone, but goodness I don’t know why you’d want to – the first two books in the series are wonderful too!

I almost forgot to mention — there is a to-die-for epilogue. I absolutely think all books need an epilogue, but this one sets the example of what all of the others should be like. All I can say is – Well Done Ms. Martin!

Please check out my reviews at:
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“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.”

Upstaged by Murder by C.S. Challinor

Upstaged by Murder (Rex Graves Mystery, #10)Upstaged by Murder by C.S. Challinor

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Series: Rex Graves Mystery #10
Publication Date: 7/8/18

Another excellently written and well-plotted addition to the Rex Graves Mystery series. While this is a part of a series, you would be perfectly fine reading it as a stand-alone book. If you are interested in exciting, fast-paced action, you won’t find it in this book. It is a logical progressive mystery where Rex interviews subjects, examines evidence and comes to a conclusion – usually not a conclusion being pursued by the police investigators.

Rex and his new bride have come to London from Edinburgh in order to pack up her old house. It is just to be a quick long-weekend trip to finish the packing up and then heading back to Edinburgh. While in London, Rex and Helen decide to attend the opening night production of a local amateur theater. Rex and Helen are seated in the front row, in the uncomfortable chairs – and Rex can’t help but doze a little bit.

When there is a refreshment break between acts, everyone hears a scream which is part of the play and a loud bang – which is NOT part of the play. The curtains are closed, so the audience can’t see what has happened, but the crew and cast are quickly moving to the area. What caused that loud bang? Well, it was the sound of the gun that took the life of the beautiful, sweet star of the show, Cassie Chase.

There are many suspects including the entire cast and crew. Everybody loved and admired Cassie and nobody can think of anyone who would wish her harm. Rex and the police inspector had to question everyone – and eliminate everyone except the guilty party.

Rex talks to witnesses and suspects and examines evidence until an idea begins to form in his mind. He is sure he knows who did it and even how, but he has no proof. So, he does the type of reenactment that you see in a lot of the old style murder mysteries. He calls everyone together and they reenact the scene at the time of the murder. A classic who-done-it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and hope you will as well.

Please check out my reviews at:
Blog: https://flippinpages.blog/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/flippinpages…
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FlippinPagesRev
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BarbBookReview

“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.”

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