Victorian Era (1837-1901)

Mesmerized by Candace Camp

Mesmerized (The Mad Morelands, #1)Mesmerized by Candace Camp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The Mad Morelands #1
Publication Date: December 26th, 2017 by Harlequin Books (first published October 1st, 2003)

PHENOMENAL read!!! I have a feeling I am going to run out of superlatives before I am through reading this entire series. I read the sixth book in the series first – because I received a review copy. I was so in awe of the writing, the story and the Moreland family in that book that I just had to go back and read all of the first books. Boy am I glad I did. I can’t think of a better introduction to a series than this book! I also now have the rest of the books in my reading queue so I can get them read before the next one comes out.

Stephen St. Leger is the second son of an Earl. He never expects and certainly didn’t want to inherit the title – but he has and now he’ll have to do his best by it. He had lived in America – Colorado – for the last ten years and had made a fortune in silver mining, now he had to sell out and head back to England – something he didn’t think he’d ever do. He didn’t leave on the best of terms with his older brother and it was all over a calculating, cold, self-centered woman. Stephen met her and fell in love (at least he thought it was love) and then when he proudly introduced her to his family, she promptly went after his brother because he had the wealth and title. Stephen and Roderick had harsh, hurtful words and Stephen left for America.

Upon his return to England, he spends several months at their country estate – Blackhope – in order to familiarize himself with the running of the estate and its tenants. At the end of the season, he heads to London to pick up his mother, sister, and his brother’s widow and return them home. What he finds when he arrives is chaos. His mother has been seeing a ‘medium’ and she is totally convinced that this woman can speak to the dead – specifically to Stephen’s dead brother. She invites this woman, her daughter and their ‘sponsor’ to come back to Blackhope with them. Before that happens, Stephen decides to attend a séance just to see how they work. While there, he grabs onto a woman who he is sure is an accomplice to the charlatan medium. His whole body jolts when his hand wraps around her wrist. They are thrown out of the séance and she is absolutely and completely furious with him – but gives him her card anyway.

Olivia Moreland is the daughter of a duke. Theirs is a very large, loving, and unconventional family. That unconventionality is what has earned them the epithet of ‘The Mad Morelands’. Olivia is incensed when one of the first things out of the mouth of the stranger who dared to grab her during the séance is a referral to her family as The Mad Morelands. She sets him in his place quite thoroughly, but she hands him one of her business cards. You see – she is an investigator whose mission is to expose all of those fake mediums who have invaded London in the last few years. They both leave and she never expects to see or hear from him again. Just imagine her shock when he turns up at her office the next day and asks to hire her.

She travels to Blackhope the following week and the strange events begin immediately. She has a vision upon arrival (all of the Morelands seem to have some special ability) and she is shocked. Nothing like that has ever happened to her before. The strange occurrences just continue and they keep you riveted – turning the pages as fast as you can read them. Is the villain a real live person or a ghost? Or – is it both?

I cannot recommend this book highly enough! It is an exciting page-turner – I couldn’t put it down once I started reading – and yes, that meant an all-nighter. I loved being introduced to the Moreland family and particularly liked Olivia’s Great-Uncle Bertrand as well as Stephen’s sister Belinda. I can’t wait to meet the rest of the Moreland clan in their own books!

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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.”

Deceiving the Earl by Kirsten S. Blacketer

Deceiving the EarlDeceiving the Earl by Kirsten S. Blacketer

Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: N/A

Release Date: May 10, 2018

Adele Prescott is the sole survivor of a fire that claimed her entire family, rescued and nursed back to health by loyal servants, she is now on a quest to find out who was responsible for the death of her loved ones. Disguised as her maid, Anna, who sadly perished in the blaze, Adele takes a position as housemaid to Christopher Underwood, the Earl of Dorrington, her father’s friend, partner and her prime suspect.

Christopher rues the day he ever found the mysterious piece of metal that has destroyed his life. He has tried to make amends by hiring all of the Prescotts displaced servants, but he wants to do more – he wants to know who set the fire that destroyed their research and the metal itself. When he hires a new maid, who was scarred by the fire, he is even more determined to find the truth.

Adele wants to hate Christopher, but as she gets to know him, she becomes convinced that he is not her enemy. There is an undeniable connection between them, but neither is in a position to explore it, instead they dance around each other, trying to learn the others secrets without revealing their own.

When Christopher asks the maid “Anna” to impersonate Adele to draw out the killer – she agrees, but has conditions. Christopher proceeds to give her “lessons” on being a lady and is surprised how quickly “Anna” learns. After a dance lesson that turns heated, Adele decides that she must tell him the truth and worries how he will react. Christopher takes the news well, but becomes worried for her safety. They decide to proceed with their plan, but Christopher has reasons to change the conditions he agreed to, Adele is not happy, but when she learns the reason, she reluctantly agrees.

But before these two can have their HEA, they must reveal all their secrets, deal with murder, kidnapping and betrayal.

This is a well written, fast paced story with wonderful characters, steamy love scenes, lots of secrets, heartache and finally a soulmate type love. I did think the story could have benefited from an epilogue because the story ended quite abruptly.

I would happily recommend this book and look forward to reading more of this author’s work!

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

The Designs of Lord Randolph Cavanaugh by Stephanie Laurens

The Designs of Lord Randolph Cavanaugh (The Cavanaughs, #1)The Designs of Lord Randolph Cavanaugh by Stephanie Laurens
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: The Cavanaughs, #1

Release Date: April 24, 2018

Lord Randolph Cavanaugh aka Rand, the younger half-brother of Ryder Cavanaugh, Marquess of Raventhorne has carved out a life for himself as an investor. He is currently on his way to see William Throgmorton, an inventor with a project due in less than a month, whom he has not heard from in months. Throgmorton’s invention is the Throgmorton Steam-Powered Horseless Carriage. As the exhibition at Birmingham is going to be attended by Prince Albert, Rand wants to make sure the project is on schedule and ready for presentation – he has a lot invested in this venture and will do whatever is necessary to ensure Throgmorton’s success.

He arrives at Throgmorton Hall just as a loud explosion sounds, followed by the members of the house filing out and smoke escaping the opened door. He immediately offers his assistance to an older woman coming down the stairs, he settles the woman and then sees a young man being led from the house by an enraged young woman. A woman that makes Rand look twice…

Miss Felicia Throgmorton is not a fan of inventors, she has seen the carnage their obsession can produce and wants no part of it! When the explosion shakes the house, she immediately gets her staff and Cousin Flora out and then gets her brother, William John out. On the lawn she notices a stranger – a very handsome stranger with Flora. The man introduces himself and she sees her brother go pale. Rand asks to speak to their father and learns that he passed away months ago.

Concerned about his investment, Rand decides to stay for a few days and work with William John. He is attracted to Felicia, but has no time for a romance, this project is and will remain his first priority. But that doesn’t stop him from getting to know her a bit better. For her part, Felicia is shocked and angered by her brother’s deceit regarding the funds he received for the invention – Felicia now realized how imperative it is that the engine is a success. She grudgingly offers her assistance and is soon pulled into the thrill of the invention process.

But there are those that are not as excited at the prospect of Throgmorton’s success, who will do whatever is necessary to see the engine fail. Rand and Felicia will grow closer as they work together with her brother and each other to ensure the engine is ready for the exhibit and to thwart any attempts at sabotage. Along the way, they will find a love that neither was looking for, but soon realize has been exactly what was missing in their lives.

This book is classic Stephanie Laurens, it has all her signature elements, a strong, intelligent hero paired with an equally intelligent heroine, steamish love scenes, a dash of danger, a bit of intrigue, a soulmate type bond, a twist that changes everything and a wonderful cast of secondary characters. The book is a little wordy, but I kept turning pages to see what was going to happen next! I was fascinated by the invention process and I actually felt a little sorry for the villain. The epilogue perfectly set up the next book in the series without taking anything away from Felicia and Rand.

I happily recommend this book and am looking forward to Kit’s story!

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

His Wicked Charm by Candace Camp

His Wicked Charm (The Mad Morelands, #6)His Wicked Charm by Candace Camp

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The Mad Morelands #6
Publication Date: 3/27/18

This book is absolutely perfect! It begins with a wedding and ends with a wedding and sandwiched between is a kidnapping, a mystery, an unexpected villain, mysticism, jealousy, unwelcome suitors, paranormal powers, and a lovely romance. I cannot believe that I have missed the first five books in the series and I certainly intend to remedy that! I had no trouble reading and following the book without having read the others in the series.

Constantine (Con) Moreland is the son of a Duke and publicly portrays himself exactly as he is. He’s fun-loving, nice (very nice), appealing, humorous, irreverent, impulsive and feels that the rules, at best, are just guidelines. He’s also handsome as sin, never gets lost, and just doesn’t know what to make of Lilah Holcutt. With Con – what you see is what you get.

Lilah Holcutt is the exact opposite of Con. She follows the rules, abhors scandal, is ever the prim and proper miss, likes her feet planted firmly on the ground, – and maybe she’s a bit judgmental. She is NOT flamboyant, she doesn’t crave excitement and adventure and she isn’t driven by wild uncontrollable passion. She doesn’t like Con because he is a rule breaker and – well – he teases her and that makes her think that he doesn’t like her.

We begin our story with the wedding of Alex, Con’s twin brother, and Sabrina, Lilah’s best (and only) friend. Not long after the wedding festivities are over and the happy couple has left for their honeymoon trip, Lilah’s life is back to its normal, prim, proper and boring ways. Her very, very, very staid aunt and uncle are back to finding her a proper, appropriate husband. On a particularly boring day, Lilah remembers that she promised to loan Olivia (Con’s sister) a book and decides to take it over to her. When she arrives, she learns that Olivia is out with her mother and sisters and Lilah decides she’ll just leave the book – but – Con intercepts her. As they are speaking, they learn that Con’s mother and sisters have been kidnapped. Con dashes out to the location and Lilah insists on accompanying him. Chaos, pure chaos is the scene that greets them when they arrive at the location. The Duchess and her daughters and daughters-in-law have been kidnapped and there are no clues.

After some consultation with the family, Con and Lilah take off in pursuit of the kidnappers. Con has always had the unique ability – he doesn’t get lost – and always seems to know which direction he should go. That is certainly useful when trailing the kidnappers. Strangely, that ability seems to be stronger, more acute when Lilah is near him. Luckily, they find the duchess and the ladies with her and just as Con and Lilah are rescuing them – they rescue themselves.

That begins a story filled with more twists and turns than a knotted rope. Who was the real target of the kidnapping? Was it really the duchess? Was it Kyria? Was it Sabrina? Did the kidnappers miss their real target? Who was the villain? Was it Sir Jasper? Was it the Dearborn’s (again)? Was it somebody totally new? What key is the villain looking for? What does it open? Where could it be? Oh! What an exciting adventure. You’ll love the search and the discovery and you’ll absolutely love Con and Lilah finding their HEA. I adored Lilah’s growth as she discovers who she really is and what she values in life.

I highly recommend this book and I can assure you I’ll be catching up with the rest of the series very, very soon!

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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.”

Lady in Waiting by Marie Tremayne

Lady in Waiting (Reluctant Brides, #1)Lady in Waiting by Marie Tremayne
Tracy’s rating: 3/3.5 of 5 stars

Series: Reluctant Brides, #1

Release Date: March 13, 2018

Maybe 3.5

This book started out at a gallop, then slowed to a trot and finally ended with a sprint to the finish.

Clara Mayfield is desperate, after helping her sister elope and dragging her family into scandal, she has finishing the season with no prospects until the vile Baron Rutherford asks for her hand. Clara would rather be a spinster than marry the Baron, but her nouveau riche parents long to be accepted by the ton and will not listen to her protests, leaving her no choice but to run away.

With the help of her maid she finds a position in the home of the reclusive William Halstead, the Earl of Ashworth. William has sequestered himself away in the county since the death of his father, older brother and brother in law. He suffers from flashbacks and panic attacks since the accident that claimed his loved ones and has no desire to be part of society. But when he meets Clara, while saving her life, he feels alive for the first time in almost two years. He walks away from her and is shocked and disappointed when she is at his home applying for a position in his under staffed household. At first he refuses to hire her, but finally agrees to a probationary period, he asks her name and she tells him her name is Helen.

For me the story really slowed down at this point, there is not a lot of interaction with Clara/Helen and William, it is mostly Helen the housemaid trying to fit in with the “below stairs” employees and her relationship with his niece, Rosa. While the scenes with William are sparse and fleeting, there is an undeniable attraction between them, but they never spent enough time together for me to believe there was any real connection between them.

The story progresses slowly and there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but when the author begins to wrap up the story, it gains a second wind and takes off like a rocket. And when Clara’s past finally catches up with her, will William be able to forgive her deceit?

I thought this was a decent debut, the writing is a bit on the wordy side and the relationship between William and Clara could have used a bit more development, there were also some inconsistencies and one glaring title error (which is not that bad considering there were several titled characters in the book). But overall, the story was good and I think with time this author will be a strong voice in the HR genre.

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

Lady Be Reckless by Megan Frampton

Lady Be Reckless (Duke's Daughters, #2)Lady Be Reckless by Megan Frampton
Tracy’s rating: 3.5/4 of 5 stars

Series: The Duke’s Daughters, #2

Release Date: February 27, 2018

Lady Olivia Howett wants to make everyone happy, she also hates injustice in any form, so she believes that she is the perfect woman to marry Lord Carson, the man her sister Eleanor was supposed to marry, and it doesn’t hurt that Olivia is in love with Bennett, Lord Carson. Convinced that marrying him is the perfect solution, she gets him alone and proposes. When he tells her that he is not interested, she is angry and humiliated. He leaves and she is ready to indulge in a good cry when someone in the back of the room speaks up.

Edward Wolcott is the acknowledged bastard son of financier Mr.Beechcroft and best friend to Bennett. He was in the room avoiding the snide remarks about his birth and the not so discreet snubs. He overheard the entire interlude with Olivia and Bennett and offers her some advice, when she asks who he is, she ends up insulting him and he leaves.

Later they meet again when she is trying to find her sister, Bennett introduces them, Edward offers to help her find her sister and Olivia apologizes, she asks if everyone snubs him and is upset to learn that they do. She decides that she can help him (after all helping is what she does best), and then Bennett will see how wonderful she is and realize that he should marry her.

When Edward gets home that night, his father tells him that he is ill and only has months to live. He wants to see Edward settled and accepted before he dies and makes him promise to find a suitable wife. Edward agrees to try. The next day Bennett asks him to distract Lady Olivia and turn her interest elsewhere. Edward doesn’t understand why Bennett is not as captivated by her as he is, but he agrees.

When Olivia sees Edward later, she launches her plan to help him. He confesses that he needs to find a bride and offers her a large donation to her favorite charity if she will help him.

Olivia dives into this project head first and make every effort to see Edward accepted. They spend time together and Olivia begins to doubt her feelings for Bennett, because she is attracted to Edward. Olivia loves spending time with Edward, for the first time in her life she is completely free to be herself and she likes it. She invites him and his father to dinner and hopes to further his social acceptance and find him a bride – a plan that isn’t nearly as appealing as it started out being.

When her mother humiliates her at dinner and she runs out, Edward comes to comfort her and she kisses him. Later she tries to remind herself that it is Bennett she loves and she is trying to find a wife for Edward, not marry him herself. When Edward announces that he is returning to the country with his father and says that he will send her the donation, she kisses him – again. He kisses her back and then tells her this is goodbye. Olivia doesn’t understand what she is feeling and she goes to see him and brings him a gift and collects the donation.

A week passes and Olivia admits that she misses him and that she is not in love with Bennett, but Edward is gone and she will most likely not see him again. She also begins to make some discoveries about herself. She is ashamed to realize that she doesn’t really listen to people and always assumes that she knows what is best for everyone. She wants to change and becomes closer to her twin. When her mother tells her that Bennett has invited them to the country and is sure that he is going to propose, Olivia isn’t sure how she feels or what she will do if Bennett does propose.

They arrive and learn that they are staying at Mr. Beechcroft’s home and not Bennett’s – Olivia is overjoyed to see Edward and when they are alone, sparks fly. Olivia returns to the others and finds her sister Pearl, she tells Pearl that she kissed him (again) and that she might love him. Pearl suggests she tell him how she feels. She makes a plan but is sidetracked when they visit the village, she saw some children and assumed they needed help and charged in to “save” them. Her efforts are not well received and she is humiliated. Edward comforts her as they walk back and tells her she needs to learn to ask if someone needs help, not just act like she knows what is best for everyone, she agrees. When rain threatens, they detour to a vacant shed and one thing leads to another – but before they go too far, she tells him they should marry and lists the reasons why it is a good idea. Edward takes offense and leaves her – he is incredibly sensitive about his birth and felt like she was taking pity on him. He loves her, but he can’t be with her.

Olivia is bewildered and doesn’t know what she did wrong, then realizes that while she listed all the benefits marriage would have for them both – she never told him how she feels about him. Her sisters urge her to speak to him and when they speak the misunderstanding is quickly resolved.

But Edward still has demons to conquer and Olivia has to stand up to her parents, who are ready to marry her off to Bennett.

This was an interesting story, not what I was expecting and not like any other Megan Frampton book I have ever read. The story moves at a quick pace and while there is definitely significant change in Olivia, I didn’t really see the same change in Edward. I don’t know exactly what I felt was missing from the story, but I didn’t feel like it was everything it could have been. The writing is good, the love scenes steamy, the conflicts don’t drag out and there is a very nice HEA. It is the second book in the series, but it can absolutely be read as a stand alone title.

*I am voluntarily leaving a review of an uncorrected eARC that was provided to me by Edelweiss and the publisher*

The Devilish Duke by Maddison Michaels

The Devilish DukeThe Devilish Duke by Maddison Michaels
Tracy’s rating: 4/4.5 of 5 stars

Release Date: February 27, 2018

There was a lot to like about this book and I really enjoyed the author’s writing style, she was able to change the tone of the book going from fun and flirty to down right terrifying and back to fun without disrupting the flow of the story, which in my experience is quite impressive, especially from a debut author!!

Lady Sophie Wolcott and Devlin Markham, the Duke of Huntington meet when Sophie falls out of tree after spying on the man of her dreams and seeing him propose to another woman. Devlin aka the Devil Duke is in the midst of a heated tryst when Sophie lands in the bushes. He helps her up and sends his trysting partner on her way. He and Sophie talk for a bit and she is surprised that she is not nearly as heartbroken as she thought and that she is attracted to Devlin – but that will never do because he is a rake and she will never, ever let herself fall for a rake.

A year later, Devlin is meeting with the Queen, he needs her approval for the construction of the Trans-Atlantic Cable, a project he is heavily invested in. The Queen refused to sign unless Devlin gives up his rakish ways and settles down with a respectable woman. Devlin is not happy about being blackmailed by the Queen, but agrees. He knows exactly who he is going to marry – Lady Sophie, the woman who didn’t fall for his charms and the woman he hasn’t been able to forget.

Sophie has decided that she is not going to marry, she will devote herself to the orphanage that her mother supported and be content with that. So when she hears that both her former crush Richard, Lord Abeland and the rake she can’t forget Huntington are both looking for wives, she feigns disinterest. Later that evening she sees Richard and knows that what she felt was just a youthful infatuation and she is over him, but Huntington is a different story, when he approaches her and flirts and says they should marry, she is tempted, but after seeing what her mother endured at the hands of a rake, she just laughs it off. He promises her a huge donation for her orphanage and tells her he will call on her the next day.

The next day Sophie has two visitors, first Richard shows up, he wants to know if Sophie has heard from a former resident of her orphanage, Jane. Jane worked as a housemaid at his home until his wife died, and now he is looking for a missing journal, he is not accusing Jane, but needs to talk to her. Sophie admits that she hasn’t heard from Jane, but will write to her. Unbeknownst to Sophie, Jane has been murdered and now the murderer thinks Sophie knows who he is and has her in his sights. When Devlin arrives, he and Richard begin to argue and things escalate quickly. Mabel, Sophie’s aunt walks in and sends both men on their way. But she is giddy thinking both men are courting Sophie.

Later that evening Sophie’s man of affairs comes to see her with terrible news – the property that the orphanage leases has been lost by the owner in a card game and the new owner is going to tear the place down and build row houses. Sophie learns that the new owner is none other than Devlin and tells her man that she will handle it. She goes to see him and they strike a bargain – she will marry him and he will deed her the property and give a monthly donation, they seal the deal with a kiss. They break apart when someone screams and a small boy runs in the room. Nicholas is Devlin’s ward, but he looks like he could be his son, and when Sophie asks, Devlin is completely honest with her. Sophie tells Nicholas that she and Devlin will marry and promises to take him to visit the orphanage. Devlin then informs Sophie that they will marry within the month.

Sophie returns home to find Tina, another maid in the Crowley residence waiting to see her – Tina tells her that Jane has disappeared and she is worried – what Sophie doesn’t know is that Tina talked to Jane before she left and knows who the killer is and has tried to blackmail him – Tina asks if Sophie has heard from her and Sophie then asks her butler if she has gotten any mail – it seems like her mail for the last couple of weeks has disappeared. She promises Tina she will look into Jane’s disappearance. When she goes to pick up Nicholas, she asks Devlin if he can get her an invite to the Crowley’s house party – at first he refuses, the parties are not suitable for innocents – but when she tells him why, he agrees, but insists on going with her.

Tina and her fiancée Robbie meet with the killer and get what he promised them…

That night at the opera Sophie learns that Devlin has sent their engagement announcement to the paper – before she has told her family. They encounter his Aunt, the dowager Marchioness of Brampton, who clearly hates Devlin. And then her brother shows up unexpectantly and overhears, he punches Devlin and refuses to let Sophie marry him. Sophie has had enough for one night and tells Devlin to call on her tomorrow. Mabel fills Sophie in on Devlin’s family and her heart softens towards him. When the butler brings Sophie her mail, she learns that their footman was murdered the night before and when she learns that he too worked for the Crowley’s she is sure there is something nefarious going on. She decides to call on the Crowley’s and runs into Devlin as she is leaving. She tries to get him to leave, but when he hears where she is going, he insists on going with her. They leave the Crowley’s with more questions than answers. They chat on the ride back and Devlin kisses her – when they return to her home, her brother opens the carriage door and grabs her – this time Devlin punches him – they move into the house and the two men have at it – Sophie calls for her doctor friend and Devlin is upset to realize that Alec McGuiness is in love with Sophie – Daniel (her brother) thinks that it is hilarious that the rake is falling for his sister and that he thinks that he can actually control her – the two men form a truce.

When Sophie arrives at the Crowley’s, she learns that Jane and Tina are dead. Even more disturbing, it seems like someone is trying to frame Devlin for the murders. She begs him to speak to his aunt, believing that she can clear things up, but Devlin refuses. They make love and Sophie knows she is lost, but Devlin makes it clear that he can never love her. She is hurt, but accepts that he never made any promises to her and tries to shut off her feelings. Devlin is sorry that he hurt her and doesn’t like this new cold Sophie, but before they can work things out Devlin is called away with an emergency.

Sophie decides to take matters into her own hands and ends up in the hands of the villains instead. Can Devlin find her before it’s too late? Will he be able to tell her that he was wrong to push her away and that he loves her?

This was a very good book with a very good mystery and several twists and turns that kept me guessing until the end. And there was a huge OMG moment when the real villain was revealed. The book is well written, flows great, had somewhat steamy love scenes, wonderful secondary characters, a truly awesome declaration scene and a very hard won HEA.

I would be happy to recommend this book and will definitely be looking out for future books by this author – I didn’t give the book 5 stars because there were some minor inconsistencies in the story, some modern verbiage and a major title flub at the end of the book – but nothing that ruins the flow or the story.

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

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