The Christmas of a Countess by Linda Rae Sande

The Christmas of a Countess (The Holidays of the Aristocracy Book 1)The Christmas of a Countess by Linda Rae Sande

Barbara’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: The Holidays of the Aristocracy #1
Publication Date: 10/24/17

What a delightfully funny, totally unlikely and improbable tale. It reminds me of those zany old romantic comedy movies from the 1940’s (like My Favorite Wife with Cary Grant & Irene Dunn) where you have a handsome, sophisticated man, a beautiful wife and lots of witty banter. If you are a regency purist, it will probably make you a bit insane. However, if you can suspend that and just enjoy a funny, romantic tale you’ll find yourself chuckling. While you don’t get explicit sexual descriptions you definitely have a libidinous bunch of characters – think rabbits – with varied and sundry locations.

Milton Grandby, Earl of Torrington, had loved his best friend’s sister since she was a child. He’d missed out on his chance to win her hand and she married another. He never married – just assumed he’d die still unmarried. At the beginning of each season he would choose a different widow to escort to all of the functions of the season – and at the end of the season, he’d buy her a parting gift and go on his way. Then, Adele is widowed and he has his chance with her.

Adele Slater Worthington knew Milton Grandby and she also knew his reputation, so when he approached her, she assumed that he wished for her to be his widow of the season. Imagine her surprise when he proposes shortly after that – and declares his love. She doesn’t believe him at first but, over time, he proves that he really does love her.

Our story begins when Milton decides that they need to spend the Christmas period at his country seat. While making the arrangements Milton learns that his valet, Alonyius Banks, has a brother who is near death. Alonyius isn’t interested in stopping at his home to see his brother even though it is right on the way. However, the coach with the Earl and the Countess manages to get through the weather to the country seat, but the coach with the servants, valet and ladies maid, is stranded.

We actually have two romances – one between the valet and ladies maid and then the continuing romance of Milton and Adele. There is much more to Alonyius than it would seem at first and you’ll learn all about it as you progress through the story.

One of the things I really like about the story is that all of the main characters are mature – in their late thirties and even into the mid-forties. The author assures you are aware that they are older because she keeps referring to their grey hair — especially the grey chest hair.

There are so many inaccuracies and improbabilities that it isn’t worth the time to go through all of them, but I’ll speak of a few.

  • There are the conversations – they might take place today, but they would definitely not have taken place during 1816. I’m speaking of almost every conversation in the book – between servants, between masters and servants, etc. They are witty and funny and I enjoyed them, but they are definitely inappropriate for that time.
  • There is the interaction between Milton and Alonyius as well as between Adele and Alice Simpkins. Their conversations are much too personal to be believable. For instance, at one point Milton says “Good God, Banks! She just needs a good lay.” And then goes on to suggest that Alonyius give her (Alice) a tumble. Then, there is the encouragement of a wedding, sharing of expensive gowns and jewelry, etc.
  • There is the choice of Alonyius’ profession. It just isn’t a believable choice given his background. I won’t explain more, but you’ll see why when you read the book
  • There are ‘old sayings’ sprinkled throughout the book – some were true to the time period and others were not – for instance ‘The whole nine yards’ wasn’t a saying until the 1900’s – but – ‘In for a penny, in for a pound’, was period accurate. I didn’t check them all, but it was an easy enough thing to do.
  • There is the lack of proper address. It is dismissed as a concern because Milton doesn’t like it. I don’t believe that would have been honored during that time period and it would have been so easy to just get it right.

This was a fun and enjoyable read – as long as you can put aside any issues with period correctness.

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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

Merry Christmas, My Viscount by Emily Windsor

Merry Christmas, My Viscount (Rules of the Rogue)Merry Christmas, My Viscount by Emily Windsor

Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Rules of a Rogue, #1.5

Release Date: November 28, 2017

This was a very sweet Christmas novella that is tied into the Rules of the Rogue series, but could easily be a stand alone title.

Spymaster and newly minted viscount, Asher Rainham is attending a holiday house party being hosted by his friend and former spy Lucas. Asher is a very sweet man who happens to be perceived as a bit odd by most people, he has a keen ability to read people, calculate odds and it a bit socially awkward. The book opens with Asher being perplexed by Mrs. Lily Mereworth, for the first time in too long to remember, Asher cannot read someone and it fascinates him.

Lily Mereworth is a distant cousin and dear friend of Rosalind, Lucas’ wife. She is a widow who is trying to find herself again after years of an unhappy marriage. She has concocted a list of things to accomplish before Christmas Eve, things that will help her reclaim her former joy and happiness. And she has managed to complete all but two things on her list – Drinking Absinthe and seducing a rogue – both of which she hopes to do at this house party.

Lily and Asher do not start out on the best of terms, she beats him at cards and he unintentionally insults her. But neither can really deny the growing attraction. Lily tries to ignore the feelings Asher invokes, because she doesn’t want to remarry and she is pretty sure Asher is not a man who would dally with a woman.

Asher wants Lily, but treads carefully, he knows he wants more than Lily is ready to give, but he is determined to win her in the end.

The story is well written, flows nicely, has a lot of amusing scenes, a few steamy-ish scenes, a great cast of secondary characters and a very well earned HEA. One of the things I liked best about this story is that Asher and Lily are not your stereotypical hero and heroine – they are both older, he is not a rake and she is not a dewy eyed virgin, it was a nice change of pace from the atypical historical romance and much appreciated by this reader.

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

Christmas at Thorncliff Manor by Sophie Barnes

Christmas at Thorncliff Manor (Secrets at Thorncliff Manor, #4)Christmas at Thorncliff Manor by Sophie Barnes

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Thorncliff Manor #4
Publication Date: 12/5/17

This is a delightful read with a mystery, hidden doors, tunnels and rooms, missing treasure and four romances. I have not read the other books in this series, but that didn’t detract from enjoying this one – it just made me want to go back and read them! If you are a Regency purist, this book may set your teeth on edge because it does contain some anachronistic language, phraseology and social standards, etc. I am usually one of those purists and frankly, I just enjoyed the book!

Lady Duncaster is quite a matchmaker and she’s invited her good friends Lord and Lady Oakland along with their four remaining unmarried daughters to spend Christmas with her. She’s also invited four imminently eligible bachelors to spend Christmas there as well. She won’t interfere, but if they come to know and love each other while they are at Thorncliff Manor, that is a good thing. They know each other already, they just need to spend some time together.

Fiona Heartly is the youngest of the four sisters and doesn’t feel there is any hurry for her to marry. She’s sweet, refined, good-natured, witty and mischievous. She is also obsessed with finding her great-aunt’s jewelry box that she is sure is hidden somewhere at Thorncliff. Edward, Earl of Chadwick is a long-time friend of the Heartly family and he and Fiona have always been close despite their age difference. He has also fallen in love with her. Can she ever see him as anything other than a friend?

Emily Heartly always has a sketchbook in her hand, but she never lets anyone see her drawings. They are private and she just feels they are good enough for anyone to see. Will the Marquess of Montsmouth be able to convince her to show him her sketches? He is a renowned art lover and expert. Will he love her sketches? Will he love her?

Laura Heartly is a published author and a genuine romantic. The Duke of Lamont has two young wards who need a lady in their lives – but he deserves love too. Can they come together and love each other?

Rachel Heartly is a scientist, very smart, very focused and very practical. She’s so focused that she has no time to worry about social skills, hair styling or fashion. Viscount Belgrave is the cousin of the Duke of Lamont. He’s very kind, good natured and curious. He loves discussing science with Rachel. Can they find love with each other?

They all have quite an adventure on their way to love and happiness and along the way, they solve a decades-old mystery and find a treasure. This is a fun read.

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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.”

Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Elizabeth Hoyt

Once Upon a Christmas Eve (Maiden Lane, #12.6)Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Elizabeth Hoyt
Tracy’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: Maiden Lane, #12.6

Release Date: December 5, 2017

This was a sweet (and surprisingly steamy) little Christmas novella.

Adam Rutledge, Viscount d’Arque (Remember him from ML#5 Lord of Darkness?) hates Christmas, but he loves his grandmother, so agrees to travel with her for the holidays. When they are caught in a snowstorm and their carriage is wrecked, Adam sets off to find shelter for them – imagine his surprise and dread when the only house nearby is that of Godric St. John’s mother and that she is hosting a Christmas house party, whose guests include Godric, Megs and his step-sisters.

Adam asks for assistance and is welcomed by the family, by all except Sarah St. John – she hates him, well not him in particular, she hates rakes and Adam is a self-proclaimed, unrepentant rogue.

Sarah and Adam banter back and forth, each is fascinated by the other, but Sarah has no more love for rakes than Adam has for innocents. Forced into each others company, they begin to see there is more to the other than just a label – Sarah has a reason to hate rakes and Adam has reasons to scorn love, but there is a lot more to Sarah than her past and Adam may not be the rogue she thought he was.

This was a sweet story of opposites that turn out to be a matching pair and find a love of a lifetime.

The book was short, but it was well written and fleshed out, the love between them did seem a little out of the blue, but overall it was a very good story with steamy love scenes and delightful cameos by Godric and Megs St. John.

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by the author’s assistant/publicist*

A Scottish Lord for Christmas by Lauren Smith

A Scottish Lord for Christmas (Sins and Scandals #3)A Scottish Lord for Christmas by Lauren Smith

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Sins and Scandals #3
Publication Date: 12/5/17

Scrumptiously, deliciously different tale of love. Lauren Smith always delights us with her wonderful way of developing wonderful characters and writing compelling stories for them. This book – and this series certainly attests to that.

This stories in this series begin with a house party in book one of the series. Leopold Graham, Earl of Hampton was almost ‘pockets to let’ and needed to find a rich wife. He had his sights set on Millie, but he didn’t like her very much. So, Leopold gets his HEA in the first book and Millie gets hers in the second book – and now, in the third book, Millie’s sister gets her HEA.

As this tale begins, Leo and Ivy are engaged and Owen has just ‘ruined’ Millie so they have to marry. Millie and her parents leave Rowena at the house party while they go to their neighboring estate to make arrangements for Millie’s wedding to Owen. Rowena is so nervous because she’s just had her first season and this is her first house party. She’s afraid she’ll make a mistake and fall flat on her face even with Leo’s mom as her chaperone.

During dinner that night, all of the ladies are all a’ twitter about Quinn MacCauley, Lord Forres, a Scottish Earl. Rowena is half-way down the table from him, but she finds his voice mesmerizing and her eyes are constantly drawn to him.

The next day, while taking a walk in the gardens, Rowena sees a small girl running her chubby little legs off – directly for the slippery, frozen fountain in the garden and there is nobody running after her. Rowena hikes up her skirts and takes off at a full run and manages to snare the little sprite just before she pitches headlong into the fountain. She is about two or three years old and she was looking for ‘fishies’. Rowena hugs her close and falls in love with the child. She has no idea who the child belongs to or why she would be all alone in the garden. Then, the child’s nurse comes puffing up to Rowena and explains that the little girl is a bit of an escape artist and that she is the daughter of Lord Forres who is a widower. At about that time, Lord Forres himself runs up and is surprised to see his daughter, Blair, being held in the arms of a stranger because she will not usually have anything to do with people that she is not totally familiar with.

Quinn was totally, completely, profoundly and irrevocably in love with his wife and her death devastated him. If it weren’t for his sweet bairn, he wouldn’t have made it through. Now, he has decided to find himself a wife – not because he wants to, but because Blair needs a mother and he needs someone to oversee the household part of the estate so he can be free to manage the rest. He wants someone who is totally different than his first wife because he doesn’t want any reminders. Since Maura was a Scot, he looked for an English woman, etc.

Whomever Quinn decided to marry, she would have to understand that there would never be love between them. It would always be a marriage of convenience – no love, probably not even affection. However, he couldn’t help but be attracted to Rowena who was sweet, gentle and kind – and she genuinely cared for his daughter. Once he decided to propose he was really surprised when Rowena accepted.

Their journey, most especially Quinn’s journey, to finding love and happiness is a delightful read. I couldn’t put it down. The characters were wonderfully developed and I was truly invested in the story and their happiness.

See my reviews for the first two books:
An Earl by Any Other Name – Book 1
A Gentleman Never Surrenders – Book 2

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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 Christmas Stranger by Anna Campbell

The Christmas StrangerThe Christmas Stranger by Anna Campbell

Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Release Date: November 14, 2017

Kitty Hall is at her wits end, her son Joss refuses to settle down and ignores all the nice girls she has placed in his path. In desperation, she writes to his godfather, Dr. Thomas Black and asks if he would help her find a bride for Joss. Dr. Black is about to refuse when he remembers that his cousin’s daughter is working as the housekeeper at his estate in the north. When her mother died five years ago, he meant to see her settled and find her a husband, but he never got around to it. Seems like he can kill two birds with one stone. Joss is a gifted architect, so Dr. Black requests that he go to Thorncroft Manor and give him suggestions for updating the house. He means to write to Maggie and let her know and to Kitty to tell her the plan, but he gets sidetracked and forgets.

Maggie Carr is not looking forward to spending Christmas alone, she has been alone too much since her parents died. But alone she will be, because she wouldn’t ask Jane to stay with her and miss time with her family. After Jane leaves, Maggie settles in for the night only to be awoken by a banging at the door.

Joss barely made it to Thorncroft with the blizzard raging, but he is here now and no little slip of a girl is going to keep him out. Maggie is shocked when Joss shows up, she would love nothing better than to kick him out, but if Dr. Black sent him, she doesn’t have the right and the storm is too bad. Shaking with cold as they are standing in the foyer arguing, she refuses to go with him to the kitchen. So Joss picks her up and tosses her over his shoulder and takes her himself.

Joss is a gentle giant, he was raised a gentleman, but his manners are a bit rusty. He knows he should leave, but Maggie sparks something in him he has never felt before. He wants to know more about her.

As they spend time together, they form a friendship and Joss does his best to bring some joy in her life. When an impromptu kiss unleashes the barely passion he feels for her, he knows he must leave. He wants Maggie, but he will not dishonor her, he will return later once Jane has returned and court her properly.

Joss sets out and Maggie is heartbroken, she knows she loves him and wonders if he will return and if he does will the magic between them be the same. She feels even more lonely now that she has ever felt and worries about his safety. Later that night, Joss returns, half frozen. The road was impassable and his horse was lame.

Maggie immediately takes charge and gets him warm and fed. After Joss retires, she goes to his room, determined to make memories with Joss that will sustain her after he is gone.

This was a sweet, slightly steamy little novella. The writing was wonderful and the story was well paced. The story is amusing and heartfelt and it has a wonderfully sweet epilogue.

I happily recommend this novella, it is set at Christmas, but it is not overly “Christmas-y”, it is just a great story about two wonderful people meeting and falling in love around Christmastime.

*I was provided a copy for review by the Author*

Sophia’s Spirited Spinster’s Society by Charlotte Stone

Sophias Spinsters SocietyJPGBarbara’s Rating 4 of 5 stars
Series:  The Spinster’s Society #4
Publication Date:  11/15/17

This is the fourth book in the Spinster’s Society series by author Charlotte Stone.  I have to say that I love the tales themselves – they are interesting and have a different take on things.  The characters are fun and I enjoy seeing the repeat characters and watching them grow as friends and individuals.

I’m not sure how much research this author actually does on the Regency period, but if you are a purist for forms of address (they are so simple who wouldn’t get those right), social norms, etc. these books will definitely ring your bell.  For instance – a character has been hiding the fact that she is, in fact, a Viscount’s daughter.  Whenever that is revealed, a big deal is made that she is now referred to as Madam and not Miss.  Say what!    In FORMAL written correspondence she would be addressed as Madam, but, in speech, she would be addressed as or referred to as Miss.

Sophia has been a very interesting character throughout the books so far and it was great to see that she finally got her story.  She and her father aren’t in the normal areas of society.  They are the avant-garde before there was such a thing.  Sophia is an intelligent, bright, lively, passionate, caring young lady.  She’s totally dismayed at her strong attraction to Morris because she knows that the illegitimate daughter of a tailor can never hope for a future with a Duke.

Morris is just as attracted to Sophia as she is with him.  At first, he thinks he’ll pursue her and sate his attraction and then be on with his life.  No woman ever rebuffs him – but Sophia does.  He pursues her – until he is the one who is totally in love. However, she won’t believe it because she thinks his goal is to marry a Lady.

It is fun that we actually get two love stories in this book.  There is the main story with Sophia and Morris, but there is also a love story for Morris’ mother and Sophia’s father.

It is also fun to see the ladies of the Spinster’s Society lead the Men of Nashwood on a merry chase.  The gentlemen plot to get the ladies to marry them

Definitely a fun read.

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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.”

Our reviews for the previous books in this series:
Book 1 – Lady Lorena’s Spinster’s Society
Book 2 – Alice’s Shameless Spinster’s Society
Book 3 – Genie’s Scandalous Spinster’s Society

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