Victorian Era (1837-1901)

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*

The Sins of Lord Lockwood by Meredith Duran

The Sins of Lord Lockwood (Rules for the Reckless, #6)The Sins of Lord Lockwood by Meredith Duran

Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Rules for the Reckless, #6

Release Date: February 27, 2018

I loved this book, it is a complex story with many layers that converge into an intense and gripping read.

The book opens days after William Devaliant, the Earl of Lockwood aka Liam marries Anna Wallace, the Countess of Forth (in her own right). He is aboard a prison hulk being beaten, he was abducted and traded for another prisoner. Later he realizes who orchestrated his abduction, his cousin Stephen and he vows revenge.

Fast forward 3 years, 8 months – Anna has left Scotland and traveled to London to confront her errant husband, he disappeared on their wedding night and she hasn’t heard from him since. But she learns he is back in England and is spending HER money and sponsoring artists in his London townhouse and she is going to set him straight. She enters the house and there is a party in full swing, she is appalled by his servants and the debauchery going on around her. She finds Liam on a sofa with a courtesan attached to him like a leech. He rises to greet her and tells her to leave. She refuses and tells him to send his “guests” home. Liam is not in good shape, he took some drug to gain oblivion, but it has only made him muddled. He can’t believe Anna is here and needs to send her on her way. She flat out refuses to go and wants answers – answers he is not willing to give.

Anna makes herself at home and takes every opportunity to vent her anger on Liam. She has come to town to settle some business matters and to get answers – so far she has only more questions. Liam is not the young man she married, but she sees glimpses of him. Where has he been and why did he leave her? The next day they talk again and he tells her what happened to him, but she thinks he is lying. She makes accusations that he does not deny and she seethes.

Liam doesn’t want Anna in his home, he has put his plan into motion and she is a complication he doesn’t need. But seeing her again brings back something he thought he lost, feelings, he FEELS for the first time in years and feelings he thought gone forever. And when she demands he give her an heir and lays down her rules, he agrees, but has a rule of his own. The passion between them is white hot, but neither is willing to bend and they wage a major war of wills.

Liam is no longer the young love-struck boy she married, the past four years have changed him, irrevocably. But Anna is no simpering maiden and she stands up to this new callous Liam. And when she learns the truth, Anna will stop at nothing to save Liam.

The story has several flashbacks to their first meeting, their courtship, wedding day and the fight they had before he disappeared. These flashbacks are well placed in the story and give the read a much better understanding of these two people.

This is not a light read, but neither is it overly dark. It is a meaty, stick to your ribs kind of story with two very flawed people finding their way back to each other, it is a story of revenge, acceptance, forgiveness and love. I was hooked from the first page, it is extremely well written and even with flashbacks, it is paced perfectly. There are steamy love scenes, moments of heartbreak and sorrow, moments of horror, great secondary characters (including Julian and Emma), a shocking twist and a very sweet epilogue. This is the sixth book in the series, but it could be read as a stand alone title with no problems. I loved this book and would be happy to recommend it!

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

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The Woman In The Water by Charles Finch

The Woman in the WaterThe Woman in the Water by Charles Finch

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

WOW! I am in awe of Charles Finch and his writing and I’d give this book more than 5-stars if I could. This has to be the absolute best book of the Charles Lenox Mystery series so far. While it is shown as book #0 in the series because it is a prequel, it is actually something like the thirteenth if you count the novellas. The writing is superb, the characters are fully developed and relatable, and the story is fast-paced, engrossing and detailed.

We are introduced to a young Charles Lenox, just twenty-three years of age and newly living in London on his own. He desperately wants to be a detective, but his few forays into it and his interactions with Scotland Yard have been very disappointing. However, being the tenacious young man that he is, Charles perseveres by honing his knowledge of crimes in London, how they are solved and the details behind them. He does that by buying copies of all of the newspapers and cutting all of the crime related articles out and filing them away.

When one of those newspapers carry the text of a letter claiming that the writer had already committed one ‘perfect’ murder and would be committing another soon, Charles knew he had to be involved. He and his valet, Graham, use the timeline given in the letter and find the case the letter writer must be claiming as his perfect crime. They are off to Scotland Yard to show them their conjecture and to offer their services. Of course, Scotland Yard wants no part of their help, but that doesn’t deter Charles. As he digs and learns more and more – he shares it all with Scotland Yard.

While the murder plot was interesting, detailed and engrossing, I think my favorite parts of the book were the more personal parts. Those are skillfully written and poignant, heartwarming, emotional and sad. We meet Charles’ mother and father and learn of the father, Edward’s, medical diagnosis. How Charles, his mother, and brother Edmund – his father too – deal with that is so bittersweet and lovely. I absolutely adored his father and the efforts he made to ensure that he spent time with each of the family members individually and that they knew he loved them. I loved the descriptions of his fence painting – and I loved that when he finally spoke to Charles about his leaving them he said – “The hardest part of losing a person, Charles, is that grief is only an absence. There is nowhere to go to touch it.”

It was fun to meet the younger, more immature versions of people we’ll get to know and love throughout the series. There is Jane, of course. She’s married to someone else and Charles is heartbroken over that. Graham, of course, is one of my favorite people. Then, we meet a very young and very mischievous John Dallington.

I usually don’t read prequels, especially if I know that someone doesn’t last through the series – especially because of a bad end. I am so very, very happy that I made an exception for this book. It is so well written, so well developed and just such a wonderful read that I cannot imagine having missed it.

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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 Widow by Cerise DeLand

Daring Widow: Those Notorious Americans, Book 2Daring Widow: Those Notorious Americans, Book 2 by Cerise DeLand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Those Notorious Americans #2
Publication Date: 12/1/17

I enjoyed this read even though it is set at a later time than I usually read and is set in France rather than England, Ireland or Scotland (my preferred geographical reading areas). I thought the characters were well developed, the story stayed on-point and the writing was good. This is the second book in the series, but I didn’t feel that I missed anything by not having read the first book in the series. You’ll be engaged by the H/h and will love getting to know them.

The descriptions of Paris are so vivid that they make you feel as if you have lived there yourself. Paris was the exciting place to be at that time and our author makes you feel that excitement.

The main characters in this story are different than many of the lords and ladies you read about. They are less formal and more forward thinking, but this was the Victorian era in Paris rather than the Regency period in London. Remy is of the French aristocracy and a gifted artist – he’s also a rogue and scoundrel where the ladies are concerned. Marianne has been widowed for ten years and she is also artistic.

Remy and Marianne’s relationship heads down many paths and you wonder – almost to the last page, whether they’ll finally get their HEA or not. It goes from Remy wanting an affair/mistress and Marianne wanting nothing at all – to Marianne wanting the affair and Remy wanting more – to – well, you get it – it changes a lot – and often. You’ll experience their joys and their sorrows as well as their personal growth and enlightenment.

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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.”

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