Elizabethan Era (1558-1603)

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!

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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.”

Courtly Scandals by Erin Kane Spock

Courtly Scandals (Courtly Love, #2)Courtly Scandals by Erin Kane Spock

Series: Courtly Love, #2

Release Date: March 19, 2018

Tracy’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars!

The Elizabethan era is by far my favorite HR sub-genre, unfortunately Elizabethan era books are few and far between, so I was delighted to see this book listed on NetGalley and while I had never read anything by this author, I was excited to dive into the glittery, treacherous world of Queen Elizabeth’s court and I am happy to say Ms. Spock did not disappoint!

This a complex tale of the fictional Mary Montgomery and Sir Charles Fitzjohn, set among the very real members of Queen Elizabeth’s court. Mary was introduced in the first book Courtly Pleasures (which I haven’t read, but will be soon!) as a member of Frances LeSieur’s household. Mary has been invited to stay for the Christmastide festivities by her dear friend Anne, Countess of Oxford, to whom she was a companion for many years until she was sent home ruined and heartbroken, thanks to Anne’s husband Edward, Earl of Oxford. But even with the shadow of Oxford hanging over her, Mary looks forward to spending time with Anne and enjoying all the revelry the court has to offer before she returns to her duties with the LeSieurs.

She meets Charles the first night due to the interference of her friend Blanche Parry, they immediately feel a connection and even though Mary believes she is not fit to marry, she is delighted to flirt and dally with Sir Charles. She knows that nothing can come of the flirtation, but she is determined to squeeze every minute of joy she can get out of her time at court.

Charles is a guardsman to the Queen and a bastard by birth, in this era illegitimate children had many limitations, Charles is luckier than most, his father raised him and gave him his name, but that doesn’t change the fact that he cannot own land or marry without special permission. Something he never gave a second thought about until he met Mary.

When Mary unwittingly becomes the center of scandal, Charles will do anything to help her clear her name. But for Mary, things go from bad to worse and any dreams of a happy life seemly disappear. She begins to realize for the first time that she does have choices and support comes from the most unlikely of sources. And when she is at her lowest, she is given opportunities that exceed any hopes and dreams she has ever had.

Can these two find a happy ever after? Or will secrets and vicious gossip tear them apart forever?

I loved this book, it is well written, flows perfectly, has steamy love scenes, lots of intrigue, a delightful blend of fact and fiction, secrets, forbidden desires and finally a very sweet HEA with a epilogue! This is the second book in the series, but I had no problems reading this book as a stand alone (although, I will be going back and reading the first book!!!) The only reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars is because there was a bit more modern verbiage than I would have liked and a few typos (which may be corrected by publication). But even with those very minor issues, I highly recommend this book and will be looking forward to reading more by this author!!

*I am voluntarily reviewing an eARC that was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher*

Lost to a Spy by Sharon Cullen

Lost to a Spy (All the Queen's Spies, #3)Lost to a Spy by Sharon Cullen
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: All the Queen’s Spies, #3

Release Date: March 13, 2018

Sharon Cullen delivers another fast paced, intrigue filled installment of All the Queen’s Spies with Lost to a Spy!

Lady Emma Hamilton is pulled into the world of espionage when she is injured and left for dead after witnessing a murder and is knocked unconscious by the explosion of Kirk o’ Fields.

Tristian Fitzherbert hears the explosion and goes to investigate, what he finds is an unconscious woman lying in the street. He takes her back to his print shop and tends her injuries. Tristian is a spy for Queen Elizabeth, his primary mission in Scotland has been to incite dissention against Queen Mary, he does this by printing and distributing suggestive placards about the queen, her consort and advisors. He is not sure what to do about the woman he has found, she is obviously well born, but she was alone when he found her, so he is not sure if she was an innocent bystander or if she was part of the plot to blow up Kirk o’ Fields.

He has even more questions later when she wakes, he has had a visit from LaGrange and knows that the king is dead and that Lady Emma Hamilton, is missing from the palace and is most likely his mystery guest. Emma doesn’t trust men, her marriage to Angus Hamilton was awful and when he died, Queen Mary invited her to live at the palace and restored her dowry to her, giving her the means to live independently. Emma is wary of Tristian at first and doesn’t tell him her real name or the whole truth about what she witnessed.

Tristian is kind and attentive to Emma and soon she feels comfortable with him in a way she has never felt with a man. She confides in him about her past and finally about what she witnessed the night of the explosion. She is upset when he tells her the king is dead and wants to return to the palace to comfort Mary. But she is too weak from her injuries and Tristian urges her to wait.

Emma and Tristian become close, she is amazed how he makes her feel safe and she asks him to be her lover. Hesitant at first, Tristian gives in and soon they both know that what they share is rare, but any relationship between them is impossible.

When Emma learns that Tristian is responsible for the inflammatory placards, she is hurt and returns to the castle. But with fresh eyes Emma begins to realize that maybe Mary is not as innocent as Emma believed and when she overhears Bothwell demanding that the town’s printers be brought in for questioning, she knows Tristian is in danger.

Emma doesn’t know what to believe or who to trust, but she knows that she has to warn Tristian. But will she convince him to leave? And can she return to her former life now that she has found love and learned that all she believed to be true is wrong? Can a highborn Lady and a lowborn Spy have a future?

This was a very well written, well paced novel with wonderful characters, steamy love scenes, lots of intrigue and suspense. I personally felt that there was a little too much modern verbiage and that Tristian and Emma love happened too fast and was not as believable as I would have liked. But overall, it was a good read and I enjoyed the story. This is the third book in the series, but it could be read as a stand alone title with no problems. I am happy to recommend this book and can’t wait to see what Ms. Cullen has in store for LaGrange and Margaret!!

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

Bound to a Spy by Sharon Cullen

Bound to a Spy (All the Queen's Spies, #2)Bound to a Spy by Sharon Cullen
Tracy’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: All the Queen’s Spies, #2

Release Date: October 24, 2017

Rose Turner is a fish out of water in Mary’s court, she would rather be running free outside than engaging in gossip and doing embroidery. Every chance she gets, she slips away, one night upon returning to the castle, she overhears a plot to kill the Queen’s husband, shocked she runs away, not realizing she dropped her shawl.

Will Sheffield is a spy for Queen Elizabeth, he is at court under the pretense of being a childhood friend of the king. He saw Rose enter and drop her shawl, but was not able to retrieve it before Lord Lysle exits the room. Worried for her safety, he garners an introduction and they form a friendship of sorts.

Rose has been sent to court to find a husband, but her family is neither wealthy or noble, so she is surprised when Lord Lysle takes an interest in her. She is still struggling with what to do with the information she overheard and is unsure who she can trust. When she revisits the location of the secret meeting, trying to learn who was speaking, she is caught by Will.

Desperate to keep her safe, but unable to disclose his mission and unwilling to let her be a causality, Will decides to share some of his information with Rose, including Lord Lysle’s involvement. Rose is hurt when she learns the “truth” about Will and tells him to leave her alone.

Will doesn’t understand why he can’t let Rose go and approaches her again in a few days. There is something between them and he isn’t ready to let it go. They share some passionate encounters, but Will knows he will be leaving soon and cannot offer marriage to Rose.

When Rose finally decides what she must do with the information she overheard, everything goes horribly wrong for her.

When Will learns that Rose is missing, nothing will stop him from finding her. He knows he cannot ask his fellow spies to help him, so he goes to her family. Once Rose is safe again, it becomes clear that she will not be able to remain in Scotland and Will will have to make a decision.

This was a really good story, it was well written and the story flowed nicely with a lot of violence, some steamy-ish love scenes, a lot of intrigue and some very tense, nail-biting moments and finally a hard earned HEA. I would have liked another chapter or an epilogue with their life in England, but even without that, I enjoyed this book.

This is the second book in the series, but it could easily be read as a stand alone title and I am happy to recommend it.

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

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