Regency Era (1811-1820)

It Happened In The Highlands by May McGoldrick

It Happened in the Highlands (The Pennington Family, #2)It Happened in the Highlands by May McGoldrick

Barbara’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: The Pennington Family #2
Publication Date: 3/27/18

This exciting and interesting tale is the second installment in May McGoldrick’s Pennington Family series. It is well paced, well written, and well plotted. Don’t let the book blurb fool you, he didn’t exactly walk away from the betrothal because of the gossip. So, if that description puts you off – as it did me – I’d say give it a chance – because it isn’t exactly accurate. I won’t give you his reasons because you need to read the book to find out. Now, I WILL say that I understand his reasoning, but NOT his timing. He was a very smart and capable man and should have recognized his dilemma long before he did. So, as I said – if that trope bothers you and you are thinking of not reading it because of it – give it a chance, I think you’ll like it.

We met Josephine Pennington (Jo) in the first book of the series – Romancing the Scot. You couldn’t help but like her in that one. She’s no less likable in this one, but I did feel she was a bit of a doormat. I really did enjoy watching her grow a spine. It wasn’t that she wasn’t smart and decisive, she just couldn’t stand conflict – especially when that conflict involved her. She allowed others to gossip viciously about her without any confrontation at all – she’d just run away. That forced everyone who loved her, especially the males, to be more and more protective of her. I was so very happy to see her grow a spine – and use it toward the end of the book. There is a scene with Lady Nithsdale at around the 95-96% mark that you will absolutely LOVE!

Captain Wynne Melfort is the younger son of a hateful, vindictive, spiteful, bigoted Baron – and his mother is as bad as his father. It would take a lot for a very young man to go against them and society. I was glad to learn that he found his bravery and was an accomplished leader in the Royal Navy. I think it took him a while, but he did get there. I believe my main reservation about him is his timing. I do sort of understand his reasoning for jilting Jo, what I question is his timing. Early on in the relationship, he knew ALL of the things he used as an excuse – he could have just skipped the proposal altogether or given her a choice to jilt him earlier. Instead, he made the decision for both of them. Then, he tells her in a letter! Granted, he called on her, but when she was out he left a letter breaking their engagement – say what! Talk about cowardice.

Sixteen years after the broken betrothal, Wynne is retired from the navy and has gone into partnership with his ship’s surgeon. They have opened an innovative hospital for people with mental illness. Wynne is the director of the hospital and the surgeon, of course, is the doctor. (BTW – you’ll love the doctor and I’m sure we will see him in his own story later). Wynne is also a widower with a son, Cuffe (wish I knew how to pronounce that). They are in the Highlands and Cuffe is having a hard time adjusting to the changes in his life.

They have a patient in their hospital who is uncommunicative – but he keeps sketching pictures of the same woman. Once Wynne sees the sketches, he recognizes the woman immediately – it is Jo. Wynne knows how important it is to Jo that she find her origins and Wynne thinks maybe this patient might hold a clue to those origins. So, he has Dr. McKendry write to Jo and include a copy of the sketch. Wynne knows that Jo will come to the hospital to see the patient, and he plans to be away while she is there – except she shows up earlier than expected.

The story leads the two of them into discoveries of many kinds. Discoveries about themselves, discoveries about their feelings for each other, discoveries about how strong they really are – so many things. As they search for Jo’s origins, they have to deal with villains, love and a lonely, unhappy little boy.

While I liked the first book better, this one is still a great read and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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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 Undercover Duke by Jess Michaels

The Undercover Duke (The 1797 Club Book 6)The Undercover Duke by Jess Michaels

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: The 1797 Club #6
Publication Date: 3/27/18

Another winning read in Jess Michael’s 1797 Club series. This one is slightly different simply because we have never met this particular member of the club before and the members of the club don’t show up at all until we’re about half-way through the book. That was kind of nice because we got the opportunity to know the main characters before we started interacting with the other members of the club. That said, I think I would have enjoyed a bit more active participation from the club rather than them playing a pretty passive role.

Lucas Vincent, Duke of Willowby, had a very unhappy life. Both of his parents hated him and he had no idea why until he was about sixteen. Then, everything blew apart. Luckily for him, he had made friends with a number of other future dukes when he started school. Almost all of them have horrible parents and they banded together to help each other through life. When Lucas was eighteen, his father died and Lucas became the duke. Lucas wanted no part of the duchy and he started to work for the Crown as a spy. He had determined that it was his destiny to die in the field and he cut all ties with his friends in order to protect them – from enemies who wanted to harm him and from any grief they might suffer on his demise.

Diana Oakford lost her mother when she was very young and had only her father left in her life. He was a gifted physician who was tasked with taking care of her country’s spies. When her father dies on a mission, she is heartbroken beyond belief. She is a gorgeous woman with dark hair and full lips and the most spectacular jade colored eyes and she is also a healer like her father

Lucas was on a very, very secret mission trying to capture a traitor who had caused the deaths of several spies and had also stolen secrets and sold them to the enemy. The worst part – that traitor is one of their very own spies. When Lucas sees George Oakford (Diana’s father) peeking from behind some shrubbery, he is surprised, but pleased to have some aid. Then, as Lucas is beginning to climb up the trellis to enter the house and capture the spy, shots ring out. Lucas is hit in the leg, loses his balance and falls, then another shot – and another. Lucas stirs to consciousness for a second and sees the dead body of George Oakford beside him. Grief! Then blackness.

Lucas’ injuries were grave and he wasn’t recovering well after six months. His wounds were not healing up as they should and his pain was almost unbearable. The Earl of Stalwood, Lucas’ boss, and head spymaster, needed Lucas back in action and he wanted to help his friend, so he approached Diana Oakford to take over Lucas’ treatment. Stalwood seemed to think that it might give both of them a chance to heal – Lucas from his injuries and guilt over the death of George and Diana from the loss of her father.

The attraction between Lucas and Diana is instant and it doesn’t take them long to get down to business – like rabbits. I thought that all happened a bit too quickly but I liked them as a couple. They complimented each other very well. Once they shared their deepest and darkest secrets they became even more invested in each other. Diana doesn’t trust men though and when she feels Lucas has betrayed secrets, she leaves him.

For me personally, I would have liked for the book to be just a bit longer and to include more action by the club members. The addition of an epilogue would have been good – maybe to be six months or so after the wedding and maybe show some development between Lucas and his mother. Another thing I would have liked to have seen is what happened to the family of Boyd Caldwell. I know what happened to George and would have liked to know if a similar fate befell Boyd’s family since it befell Diana.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the series is wonderful. I can highly recommend it.

The other books in the series are:
The Daring Duke #1
Her Favorite Duke #2
The Broken Duke #3
The Silent Duke #4
The Duke of Nothing #5

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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.”

Murder at Half Moon Gate by Andrea Penrose

Murder at Half Moon Gate (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery #2)Murder at Half Moon Gate by Andrea Penrose

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars (I’d give it more if I could)

Series: Wrexford and Sloane #2
Publication Date: 3/27/18

Penrose’s second book in the Wrexford and Sloane series provides intriguing insights into the main characters pasts and their relationship as well as a mystery that will keep you guessing right up to the very end. The book is fast-paced and very well written. It can certainly be read as a stand-alone book, but you’ll miss all of those formative interactions among all of the characters and their relationships with each other. I’ve now read both books in the series and they are both outstanding!

The Regency period sees the very early beginning and the burgeoning of social and technological changes within England. Science and technological innovation were changing the way people lived and worked. Social order was beginning to change as well and was constantly challenged by satirical cartoonists who were actually quite powerful in molding public opinion. I think that the fact that our author chose Sloane as a very gifted and influential satirical cartoonist and Wrexford as an earl who is a gifted scientist is a big part of what makes this series very appealing to me. The characters are wonderful, fully-developed, humorous, brave and intelligent and when you add in an excellent dose of great history and an excellent mystery, you just can’t go wrong.

Wrexford is a bored, pragmatic, cynical, emotionless man who is also a gifted scientist. He governs his life by scientific principles. No emotions, only empirical evidence, and the step-by-step scientific process need apply! That is – unless Charlotte is involved and then – well maybe it is a little harder to be pragmatic and emotionless.

Charlotte Sloane has secrets – many secrets. Wrexford knows some of her secrets, but not all of them. One of Charlotte’s secrets is that she is the political satirist known as A. J. Quill. It is very important that she keep that secret, though Wrexford knows it, because it is how she earns her living. Were it to become known that A. J. Quill was a woman, nobody would publish her work and she would starve. Charlotte also has a large network of street urchins (boys and girls) as well as other important contacts that keep her up-to-date on what is going on. She always seems to be one step ahead of everyone else when it comes to her cartoons. Charlotte is also a pragmatic lady who always strives to control her emotions.

The prologue begins with a heart-pumping chase through the worst part of London. A thick mist from the river is covering the area and the wind is howling (I love the word the author used – skirled – isn’t that perfect it). Our victim is new to London and is hopelessly lost – and finally – he is brutally attacked and killed. Elihu Anthony is an inventor who is on the cusp of patenting a brilliant ground-breaking new technology that will increase the power of steam engines. The patent is worth a fortune for whoever manages to file for it first. Now – what will happen to the patent? Is it the Luddites who are trying to prevent the patent? Is it a greedy investor? Is it family?

Wrexford and his friend Christopher Sheffield are returning home from a gaming hell and take a route through the more unsavory parts of town and discover a lifeless and mutilated body at Half Moon Gate. Not only is the body mutilated, but his clothes are cut and ripped at the seams. Wrexford and Sheffield notify Bow Street, give their account and then go on home. Later, Wrexford is visited by Isobel, the wife of Mr. Anthony and she asks him to solve the case because Bow Street isn’t taking it seriously. That sets us off on a chase that leads to places and events you wouldn’t imagine. There are so many suspects and all of them are very viable – but you won’t guess who the real culprit is until almost the very end (unless you peek).

Raven and Hawk are featured again in this book and they are delightful. They are the street urchins that Charlotte taken into her life and is trying to encourage them to actually live with her and give up their street ways. They are leery of doing that, but she’s winning them over.

Click on the title to see my review of the first book – Murder on Black Swan Lane.

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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.”

Earl of St. Seville by Christina McKnight

Earl of St. Seville  (Wicked Earls' Club #11)Earl of St. Seville by Christina McKnight
Tracy’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: Wicked Earls’ Club, #11

Release Date: March 20, 2018

Sinclair Chambers, Earl of St. Seville aka Sin is “rescued” by James Lane, Earl of Desmond when James sees Sin being attacked in an alley. He brings Sin back to his carriage and learns that he is the son of an old friend. He insists on bringing him home and having his injuries tended. Sin just wants to return to his rented rooms and await his meeting with Coventry at the Wicked Earls’ Club.

He goes with the earl and while waiting for the doctor, a beautiful young woman comes in the room, when she asks who he is and his purpose in her home, he flees. But it will not be the last time he sees the lovely Lady Patience Lane.

Patience’s mother was the famed pugilist Ivory Bess before marrying the earl, she died too young because of complications related to her fighting. Patience has made it her life’s work to inform and warn others of the dangers of fighting, to the point where she is almost a social outcast. She meets Sin again when he defends her at a ball against Lord Holstrom. Holstrom is the man Sin is in London to meet. He hopes Holstrom will set up prize fights for him so he can earn money to save his family and the people of his estate from destitution.

Patience waits for Sin outside his rooms, she wants to thank him for defending her. He is gracious and kind to her and when they part ways, she follows him. She is horrified to see him fighting and knows he will lose. Despite her quest, she knows a lot about fighting from time spent with her mother and at one time she even considered fighting herself. But watching her mother die turned her away from the sport. After the fight, Patience goes to Sin and takes him back to his rooms. She learns why he is fighting and makes a deal with him, she will train him, but in return he must abide by her rules and give up fighting. He agrees, but still intends to follow through with his plan.

Patience teaches Sin the art of fighting, but when she realizes he has not been honest, she is heartbroken. Can Sin win back the woman he now knows means the world to him and still save his people? Can Patience forgive him and let go of her past pain? Will her brothers ever get invited to the Wicked Earls Club?

I have read this author before and not really cared for her writing, in fact, I swore never to read her work again, so when I realized that I would be reading her WEC for our blog, I was not really thrilled, but recently I read an anthology and I really liked her contribution, so I decided to read this book with an open mind and I am grateful that I did, because Sinclair Chambers is probably one of the best heroes I have ever read, I really loved him. This book has a few typos, some misused words, a title error, no steam and a fair dash of angst, but I loved it, Patience and Sinclair are characters that will not be easy to move on from, they are perfectly imperfect and I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is the eleventh book in the Wicked Earls’ Club series, but it can easily be read as a stand alone (as they all can).

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

Christin’s Splendid Spinster’s Society by Charlotte Stone

Christin's Splendid Spinster's Society

Barbara’s Rating – 3.5 stars rounded down to 3
Series:  The Spinster’s Society #7
Publication Date:  3/15/18



I have wanted to see what Aaron’s story was going to be since the beginning.  He is so deep down angry.  Actually, that anger is to cover a very deep hurt.  I this book we find out about his childhood and what caused his anger – and we meet the woman who, along with his wards help him learn to control his anger.

Over the last couple of books, we’ve learned how Aaron Walsh, the Earl of Jeanshire, came to have two tiny girls as his wards.  He’s adapted really well to that but needs a governess for them.  Upon the recommendation of his friend Alice Lockwood (book 2), he visited the Potter Agency for them to help him find the perfect governess.  Once he met Mrs. Christin Potter, he knew why Alice had recommended her.  The attraction was instant and undeniable.  He soon decided he wanted her – for more than just a tryst.

Mrs. Christin Potter was a troubled lady.  She’d successfully run the Potter Agency singlehandedly since the death of her husband, but she couldn’t save her only niece from the wicked step-father that had custody of her.  All she could do was pay him to keep Tina fed and clothed – but she was sure he wasn’t doing that.  Then – during her current visit – he told her he needed two-hundred pounds from her or she could never see her niece again and that the man he owed the money to would be taking Tina ‘in payment’.

Aaron helps Christin with her problem of a brother-in-law and brings her and Tina to his home for safety.  There, he finds his estranged mother as well.  Since Christin will need a chaperone in order to remain in his home, he tolerates his mother – barely.

Christin manages to soothe the savage beast and helps Aaron to find some peace in his life.  However, there are still secrets – deep dark secrets – held by the Men of Nashwood and it sounds as if they are all about to break out into the light.  Will those secrets put them all in peril?  I can’t wait to see and I also can’t wait to see what and more importantly, who, Zedock Sudworth is.  We all know he can’t be who he is pretending to be.

Now, there are only three Men of Nashwood who remain unmarried.

The Men of Nashwood: Click the names to see the review
Emmett Starr, Earl of Ashwick – featured in book 1 with Lorena Cullip
Calvin Lockwood, Very rich landed gentry – featured in book 2 with Alice Wilkins
Francis Cullip, Duke of Valdeston – featured in book 3 with Genie
Morris Kidd, Duke of Cort – featured in book 4 with Sophia
Rollo Kerry, Rich landed gentry – featured in book 5 with Florence Crew (a lady’s maid)
Hugh Vance – Marquess of Edvoy – featured book 6 with Taygete as the heroine
Aaron Walsh, Earl of Jeanshire – featured in this book with Christin Potter as the heroine
Sir William Tift
Julius Hext, Marquess of Darvess
Franklin Lockwood, Very Rich Landed Gentry

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Earl of Pembroke By Lauren Smith

Earl of Pembroke (Wicked Earls' Club, #10)Earl of Pembroke by Lauren Smith

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Wicked Earls Club #10
Publication Date: 3/13/18

Goodness, gracious me! This delightful novella makes the heart go pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat – thrum, thrum. I think this might be the sweetest and most romantic book I have read in a long while. Lauren Smith’s writing and turn-of-phrase are delightful, the characters are so well defined that you want to claim them as personal friends and the romance was just sigh worthy. James may be a member of the Wicked Earls Club, but he certainly does not personify its reputation – he is honorable to a fault. The only reason he is a member is so he can retreat into its dark and silent rooms when his responsibilities begin to weigh him down.

We met Gillian Beaumont in several earlier books in the League of Rogues series and I liked her then, but she just shines in this one. She is beautiful, brave, intelligent, level-headed and absolutely devoted to her friend and employer Audrey Sheridan. Gillian is the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Morrey. Her father had loved both her and her mother, but he failed to provide for them in his will. So, when he died, she had to take care of her mother and chose to enter into service as a lady’s maid. She has half-siblings, but she’s never met them and is sure they don’t know of her and wouldn’t want to meet her if they did. She has met the most wonderful man, his kisses thrill her and he makes her dream. She knows that is all it can ever be – but dream she does.

James Fordyce, The Earl of Pembroke is handsome, charming, and has a heart of gold. He adores his ailing mother and does all in his power to care for her. Family means the world to him. He’s met, and kissed the most intriguing lady – and now she has disappeared. He has to find her, but how. While he is puzzling over her, he starts to put some pieces to the puzzle together and realizes she is in danger and he needs to rescue her from the hellfire club known as the Unholy Sinners of Hell.

After the exciting rescue, the book focuses on the romance between the two. He pursues, but she knows they cannot be a couple. When Audrey tricks her into attending a house party that James is attending, they have a wonderful week – and a painful one.

Their HEA is wonderful. Would you like an example of some of the sweet and romantic things James says?

“But beauty is not merely that of one’s face and form. It extends far deeper, into the mind and soul. That beauty grows with time rather than fades.”

“There has only ever been joy for me when I’m with you. When you’re here, it’s like feeling the sun on my face after a cold winter”

See – I told you pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, thrum, thrum, thrum.

I highly recommend this delightful novella and all of the other books in the League of Rogues series.

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The Dream of a Duchess by Linda Rae Sande

The Dream of a Duchess (The Widowers of the Aristocracy, #1)The Dream of a Duchess by Linda Rae Sande

Barbara’s rating: 3.5/4 of 5 stars

Series: The Widowers of Aristocracy #1
Publication Date: 1/19/18

This well-plotted and well-written novel is very busy and basically follows two couples. This is not a steamy book, but it is sweet. The main couple is Lady Isabella Tolson and Octavius, Duke of Huntington, but I liked the romance between David Fitzwilliam, Earl of Norwick and Clarinda (Clare) Brotherton.

Lady Isabella is plundering through her mother’s (Arabella) belongings and finds a very old and worn letter with just a signature of ‘D’. She wonders who ‘D’ might be – because it sounds like a fairly intimate letter. She also has an old and worn calling card that her mother had given her when she told her that if anything ever happened and she needed help, to contact that person – David Fitzwilliam. Later that same afternoon, Isabella finds her father bent over her mother’s lifeless body and she’s convinced he’s murdered her. Isabella flees to London to find David Fitzwilliam.

Lady Isabella ends up at the brothel, The Elegant Courtesan, owned by David Fitzwilliam. She has ridden on horseback all night, is tired and bedraggled and terrified of her father. After hearing Isabella’s story, David knows he has to hide her in order to keep her safe until he can discover the truth or until her father dies – whichever comes first.

David sends an urgent message to Octavius and asks him to come to the brothel right away. After reading the entire missive, Octavius hurries out. After a discussion, they agree that the best place to hide Isabella is at the Octavius’ country estate, Huntinghurst. Since Isabella is horse-mad, it is the perfect location for her.

This tale covers several years – April 1813 through the Epilogue in March 1816. There were a number of things that just aren’t Regency appropriate – or at least it didn’t seem so to me. For instance – at around the 27% mark we have the maid changing into livery, when maids didn’t wear livery – footmen wore livery and sometimes the coachmen, but not the maids. Then we have the lady asking the butler his name in conversation. There was a lot of handshaking going on. I don’t think the ladies shook hands in that period – the gentlemen probably didn’t either. We also have servants, like Mr. Jenkins using the front door and everyone referred to one of the stable hands as Master George. I’ve never heard of the seat at the head of the table (the host’s seat) being called a carver – is that what it is called? I know there is a type of armed chair that is called a carver maybe that is how she was using it. Just wanted to mention a few that just didn’t seem right to me.

The story seems to portray Maxwell Tolson, Earl of Craythorne as a despicable villain and I just didn’t buy that. He was a very large man who was gruff and had a temper, but he didn’t beat his family or much of anything else that I can see. He truly loved his wife and his daughter. He was betrayed in that his bride was expecting another man’s child when they married –he never knew – but he always felt she was in love with someone else. That must have been a very hard thing to live with.

I loved that the story took place over a longer period of time because it should have allowed for a slow growth of affection and love. However – there were few visits between Isabella and Octavius. As you read through the story it shows long periods with no visits – but toward the end, they mentioned that he visited something like two days per month.

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