Victorian Era (1837-1901)

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!

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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.”


Six Weeks with a Lord by Eve Pendle


Meet the Author:

Eve lives in England and writes angsty, snarky and passionate Victorian era romance. She has National Trust membership, a big-boned cat, and a crazy dog. She loves wearing dresses and eating chocolate.

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About the Book:


Grace Alnott is out of time. To save her younger brother from an abusive guardian, her merchant father’s will demands she must marry a peer. Handsome but destitute Everett Hetherington, Earl of Westbury agrees to her offer of a marriage of convenience but stipulates she must live with him for six weeks. No matter how honorable he seems she can’t allow him to get too close, because the aristocracy cannot be trusted.
Six weeks. Major Everett Hetherington, new Earl of Westbury, has exactly six weeks to convince the very independent Grace Alnott to spend the rest of her life with him. Despite her belief she doesn’t belong in his world, he must tempt the alluring Grace into staying, because he has fallen for her. Hard. He just has to ensure she never discovers his secret.
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Tracy’s Review:

Six Weeks with a LordSix Weeks with a Lord by Eve Pendle
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Grace Alnott returns from finishing school to learn that her father is dead and has left her nothing but her dowry, a dowry she will only get upon her marriage to a peer. Her father named Lord Rayner as guardian to her young brother and expects Grace to marry him.

Grace despises Lord Rayner, he is an awful man and she plans to petition the Chancery court for guardianship of her brother Henry. But to do that, she needs money. She makes it known that she is looking for a marriage of convenience and is willing to split her dowry with her new husband.

Everett Hetheringon, the Earl of Westbury needs a rich bride. His father and older brother both neglected the estate and left behind huge debts, when his younger brother tells him of Grace with her dowry of 50,000 pounds, it seems like the answer to his prayers. He offers for Grace and learns that he will only get half of the dowry and she doesn’t plan to live with him. They make a bargain – she will live with him for six weeks and he will not take his “husbandly rights” – he agrees but he is not completely honest with her – he plans to seduce her into staying and claiming her entire dowry to pay off his brother’s debt.

They marry and return to his estate, she doesn’t trust men and tries to keep Everett at arms length, she hasn’t told him what she plans to do with her half of the dowry instead she told him that she wants to be an independent woman and travel. But over the course of the first few weeks, they form a friendship and she tells him about her brother and Lord Rayner. He offers to help her with her problem, but still doesn’t disclose his plan to keep her entire dowry. He woos her with kindness and kisses.

Grace begins to fall in love with him and thinks that he may be a man she can trust with her heart, and after a visit from Lord Rayner, she is sure of it. She decides to wait until the six weeks is up to tell him of her feelings, but lets him consummate the marriage.

The morning after the six weeks is up, she is excited and in love, she wants to tell him and is just waiting for the perfect moment. But everything goes terribly wrong and Grace is heartbroken. Everett tries to explain and swears that his love for her is true, but he needs the money to pay the debt and thinks that is more important than getting guardianship of Henry. Grace decides to return to London and Everett doesn’t stop her. But a visit from his mother makes him realize what he has given up and what he has to do to win back Grace. But is it too late?

This was a well written book that moves along at a steady pace, with likable characters, steamy love scenes, a nasty villain, interesting secondary characters and a true chemistry between Grace and Everett. I really enjoyed the book and would happily recommend!

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

Scandal Above Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Scandal Above Stairs (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #2)Scandal Above Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Kat Holloway #2
Publication Date: 7/3/18

This is the perfect follow-up to Death Below Stairs. The mystery is multi-faceted, we meet a new character, we learn more about the continuing characters and we feel as if we are in Victorian London in 1880. The descriptions of life both above and below stairs just make you feel as if you are right there in the kitchen with Kat making those lovely meals. You feel the heat of the stove, smell the lovely odors of the dishes Kat is preparing, and feel the tension of the timing and delivery of those meals. The writing is flawless, the plot well planned and executed and the characters are interesting, fully developed and totally three dimensional.

The main new character is Tess, Kat’s new kitchen assistant. You’d think Tess and Kat would be totally incompatible because they seem to be polar opposites – oil and water. Tess is free-spirited, undisciplined, improper, and she’s also a former ‘tea leaf’ (thief). I absolutely loved Tess’s exuberance and flinging her arms around the prim and proper Kat and giving her a huge hug. Tess is intelligent and learns quickly and she appreciates the opportunity to learn and grow. She is also totally loyal. I loved her and she quickly became one of my favorite characters. We also learn of but don’t actually meet, Tess’s brother. It will be interesting to see if he plays much of a role in future books.

We learn a bit more about the past of the enigmatic Daniel McAdam – just enough to whet our appetites to learn more in future books. We have some small hints of who his employer MIGHT be, but don’t learn anything of real substance there. I really like Daniel and wonder what changes, if any, he’ll make in his employment and lifestyle since his son was injured and his feelings for Kat seem to be growing.

Lady Cynthia reappears in this book as does Elgin Thanos. Talk about opposites attracting. I love these two characters and truly hope to see a meaningful relationship develop there. We’ll have to wait and see what develops there.

The story begins with a disaster in the kitchen. The whole roast pig, the crowning glory of the meal Kat had created for this dinner party, lay on the floor amid cracked pottery. Bits of vegetables and sauces rolling everywhere. Anyone else would have run from the kitchen in tears, but not the capable, intrepid Kat Holloway. She immediately rearranges the courses and prepares additional dishes. Not what she would have preferred, but a perfectly acceptable meal. Then, after that long and stressful day, Lady Cynthia wants to speak with her. Goodness – can’t it wait? Well, it turns out that it can’t.

Lady Cynthia’s friend, Clemmie (we met her and two other friends in the last book), is in a terrible pickle. Three of her husband’s very valuable paintings have been stolen from their home – and her husband is blaming her. There is no evidence of any break-ins and nothing else is missing. Clemmie is a gambler and loses frequently, so she constantly owes large amounts of money. Her husband had recently refused to cover those losses any longer, so he accuses her of stealing the paintings to pay off her gambling debts. She didn’t do it. So, Lady Cynthia asks Mrs. Holloway to help her friend.

As soon as Kat meets with Clemmie and hears the entire story, she is sure she knows what happened – who and how, but not why. The why of it unwinds slowly and surely throughout the book to reveal quite a big snarl.

In the meantime, Davis, the butler, mentions to Kat that he has seen Daniel McAdam working in a pawnshop. Surely not! During her next day-out to visit her daughter, Kat decides to return home by way of the pawn shop – just to see if it really was Daniel. It was! During the visit, she learns that Daniel is investigating the disappearance of antiquities from the British Museum and some of those involved are very dangerous thugs.

Over the course of time, Kat and Daniel learn that their investigations are intertwined – like the strands of a rope. These people are very dangerous and Daniel doesn’t want Kat involved, but, of course, she’s going to do what she can to defend Clemmie and to help Daniel where she can.

There are multiple murders, attempted murders and a tragic accident before all is solved. The villain might surprise you, but it might not. The wrap-up is lovely with all of the injured being cared for and . . . maybe there is something developing there.

I’m really enjoying this series and particularly Kat and Daniel. I can only wonder what our author has in store for them. How will their lives change if they marry? Kat is a live-in domestic, so how can she continue her employment should she marry and live with Daniel? How would that change her relationship with Lady Cynthia? We surely don’t want to lose her! I wonder if Daniel isn’t employed by Whitehall – if he is, how will that affect a marriage with Kat? Would she help him with cases? Will they both finally get their children to live with them? So many questions, so very much to look forward to in this delightful, well-written series!

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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.”

Daring the Duke by Lana Williams

Daring the Duke (The Seven Curses of London Book 7)Daring the Duke by Lana Williams
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Seven Curses of London, #7

Release Date: June 12, 2018

Still reeling from the death of her beloved friend, Lady Lillian Bartley goes to London with one goal in mind – to make Elijah Waters, the Duke of Burbridge pay for breaking her best friend Helena’s heart. Lillian is a sweet, loving, loyal person, she doesn’t blame Elijah completely for Helena’s death, but she feels that he was a major factor. Helena had fallen fast and hard for Elijah when he danced and flirted with her at a ball. Later she receives a letter from an “admirer” wanting to meet with her – but when he doesn’t show, she falls into a fit of despair and when she becomes ill, fails to fight for her life and dies. Lillian believes that Elijah sent Helena the letter and toyed with her affections and she will do the same to him – she will make him fall in love with her and reject him as he did Helena.

But when she meets Elijah, she has a hard time reconciling the man who so callously hurt her friend with the kind man who is obviously dealing with his own grief over the recent death of his father. Lillian’s plan begins to unravel before it even starts – she is consumed with self doubt and questions herself, her worth and her motivations.

Elijah has his own doubts and guilt to deal with, he is attracted to Lillian, but he is not ready for a wife. The death of his father hit him hard and he spent most of the previous year in a haze of alcohol and meaningless dalliances to staunch the pain. Now he has finally realized that he owes it to his father to be a better man and take up the reins of the duchy. Elijah tries to do the right things, but besides the estate, his mother is suffering. She has turned to drinking to cope with her pain and Elijah feels responsible. When Lillian saves his mother from a potentially humiliating scene, Elijah begins to wonder about her reason for being so nice to his mother. But as time passes, he realizes Lillian is a truly beautiful person and he longs to know her better. When he suggests a ride in the park, Lillian agrees, only to be hurt when he fails to show. She then begins to question her decision to not hold him liable for Helena’s pain. What Lillian doesn’t know is, Elijah’s mother is on death’s door. She consumed some doctored spirits at a party and was poisoned. Elijah was not with her at the time, because he was out looking for the man who is selling altered liquor – he believes that his mother was subjected to it the night she almost caused a scene. He was given a copy of the Seven Curses book by Lillian’s brother Viscount Frost and read that things can be added to liquor to improve potency and shelf life while cutting costs – but the true price is high – many of the additives are poisonous.

When Elijah realizes he missed his meeting with Lillian, he rushes to see her – she forgives him and promises to visit the Duchess, but her own insecurities have taken root and the budding relationship they had may never blossom as a result.

Elijah doesn’t understand the change in Lillian, but he is grateful for her attention to his mother. The Duchess is finally starting to move past her crippling grief, thanks in part to Lillian. Elijah decides that Lillian is the woman for him and sets out to court her. But Lillian can’t seem to accept his attentions, she cares for him, but doesn’t feel worthy of his attention. So when an opportunity to help him by finding the apothecary that is suppling the additives to liquor distributor, she jumps at the chance to prove herself worthy of his love.

I thought this was a well written, emotional story that did true justice to how people grieve and the harmful effects of self-doubt. Lillian and Elijah are both dealing with insecurities and both are grieving, I liked how Ms. Williams dealt with both issues and I found the storyline of the tainted/altered liquor completely fascinating. There are no love scenes in this book beyond a couple of stolen kisses, so the heat level is low, but I didn’t feel like the story suffered from the lack. I thought this was a well done story that tackled some very sensitive issues and still managed to have a HEA. And while this is the seventh book in the series, it can easily be read as a stand alone title.

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

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*

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