Victorian Era

Death In St. Petersburg by Tasha Alexander

Death in St. Petersburg: A Lady Emily Mystery (Lady Emily Mysteries)Death in St. Petersburg: A Lady Emily Mystery by Tasha Alexander

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Lady Emily
Publication Date: 10/10/17

Okay, I admit it – I loved the book! The writing is superb and the descriptions put you right there with the participants. I love Emily and Colin – what a strong, loving, caring, and supportive couple they are! What threw me was having to constantly stop and sound out the Russian names. Normally with unusual (to me) names, I just decide what they are going to be and call them that whether it is correct or not. For some reason, I couldn’t do that with this book – maybe it was because I was loving the book and wanted to get the names correct.

Colin Hargreaves travels all over in his role as a spy in support of the crown. Lady Emily usually stays home worrying about him and entertaining herself with solving her own mysteries. However, when he is sent to St. Petersburg, Emily also gets an invitation to visit her friend in St. Petersburg. She knows Colin won’t let her go with him, so she leaves the day after him – and sends him a missive letting him know she is on her way and letting him know that she can stay with her friend while she’s there or she can stay with him – whichever he prefers. Of course, he wants her with him!

Colin spends his days and often long into the night working on his mission while Lady Emily spends her time with her friends and attending various entertainments. Then, there is the opera. Swan Lake featuring a new ballerina in the dual role. She is flawlessly beautiful and graceful beyond compare – so – finding her dead body, covered in blood, directly after the performance is really shocking. Add a fabulous stolen Faberge Egg underneath her body and you have a real mystery on your hands.

Lady Emily has been asked to investigate the death, by a friend of the victim, because they have no confidence in the state’s investigators. The suspects and motives are legion. Is it an old love, a current love or one of the many wealthy and high-ranking men who want to be her lover? Investigating in a foreign land isn’t easy, but Lady Emily solves the case, and the perpetrator may surprise you.

I like that the chapters switch between the current time (January 1900) which is told in the first person by Lady Emily and the earlier years told from Katenka’s point of view. Seeing the friendship between Katenka and Irusya Nemetseva in those earlier years is very nice. They give you a real feel for what it must have been like in ‘the state system’ in place in Russia at the time.

There are many political undercurrents in the case and any one of them could have bearing on the case. Then, add in the delightful Sebastian Capet (from earlier books) and you have a real mystery. Who stole the egg? Is that why the dancer was murdered? Was she involved in political intrigue? Was she just in the wrong place at the wrong time? You’ll just have to read the book to see.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!

“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 Scot Beds His Wife by Kerrigan Byrne

The Scot Beds His Wife (Victorian Rebels)The Scot Beds His Wife by Kerrigan Byrne

Series: Victorian Rebels, #5

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Tracy’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Kerrigan Byrne has delivered another amazing installment in her Victorian Rebels series!

The blurb for this book doesn’t even begin to skim the surface of this book and in my opinion is a tad misleading. Gavin St. James, Earl of Thorne is a man-ho – he is a gorgeous man and takes full advantage of his effect on women. He uses his “wiles” to get what he wants and right now he wants Erradale and the only thing standing in his way is Alison Ross.

When Samantha Masters met Alison Ross traveling to Scotland was the last thing on her mind, after all, it isn’t every day that you rob a train and kill your husband. Desperate to get away, she agrees to Alison’s outrageous scheme. Go to Erradale, assume Alison’s identity and prevent Gavin from claiming her lands. Alison doesn’t’ really want Erradale, she just doesn’t want Gavin to have it or an Mackenzie for that matter – understandable considering Gavin’s father killed hers.

It is impossible to give an in depth review of this book without spoilers, so all I am going to say is – READ THE BOOK! The writing is stellar, the story flies, there are secrets upon secrets, steamy love scenes, heartbreak, deception, betrayal, life and death moments, a heroine with a very dirty mouth and a hero who likes it. There are wonderful secondary characters, cameos from Liam and Mena and the introduction of “the Rook” – who may or may not be another brother – but after reading about him, I am going to re-read the Highwayman to see if I can find the connection! The book is a little dark, but not as dark as some of the previous books and of all the heroes she has written, Gavin is the only one that I would consider “reformed” at the end of the book.

I can’t recommend this series highly enough – this book is the fifth book in the Victorian Rebels series, but it could be read as a stand alone title, however, you will enjoy it much more if you have at least read the previous book “the Highlander”.

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

An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry

An Echo of Murder (William Monk, #23)An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry

Barbara’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: William Monk #23
Publication Date: 9/19/17

William Monk just keeps on getting better. In many series that have run this long, the stories become repetitive and predictable, but not so with this series. Each new book is exciting and interesting and you never know where it will lead because it is always filled with twists and turns that will keep you guessing right up until the end.

Monk is called out early in the morning to a warehouse near the river. The crime is a grisly murder that has some resemblance to it being ritualistic. The victim is an immigrant from Hungary who was well respected and well liked within his community. Who would want to kill him?

After a week or more of investigation there are no leads and Monk is worn totally out. Then, another early morning call and yet another grisly murder – of a well-liked Hungarian immigrant. Then, they just keep coming – all respectable, well-liked men of the Hungarian immigrant community. Is it somebody with a vendetta against Hungarians? Immigrants? Or are they just random? Monk is sure they are all the work of the same killer because they are all identical.

Hester, Monk’s wife, gets involved because of a very old friend that she thought had died 16 years earlier. Is that old friend the madman killing Hungarians? Surely not – he’s a sweet gentle man. Hester and Monk’s ward (for lack of a better word) also becomes involved in the case because he has befriended and come to admire Fitz, Hester’s old friend.

Did Fitz commit the murders? If not, who did and can they prove any of it? You’ll just have to read it to see because I don’t want to tell too much and spoil the story for you.

I’m already looking forward to Monk #24.

“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 Traitor’s Club: Hugh by Laura Landon

The Traitor's Club: HughThe Traitor’s Club: Hugh by Laura Landon
Tracy’s rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Series: The Traitor’s Club, #2

Release Date: September, 12, 2017

This was a quick read for me and I enjoyed idea of the story.

Lady Annalise Lyman aka Nellie is a spinster, she hates London and would like nothing better than to retire to the country – which she plans to do just as soon as she marries off her youngest sister.

Lord Hugh Wythers is the second son of a Marquess and a rake – since his return from the war, he has spent his time pursuing all the delights London has to offer, that is until his father cuts him off – he tells Hugh that he is gifting him an estate and Hugh will have to live off the profits. Hugh hates the country and will do anything to stay in London. His initial plan is to marry an heiress and use her money to continue living the life he loves, but when he is turned down yet again, he gets rip roaring drunk and hatches a new plan – he will marry a plain woman. He explains his plan to his friends and then falls off the balcony, literally landing at the feet of Nellie. In a drunken haze, he kisses her and tells her she is perfect because she is homely.

The next day, after he sobers up and his friends tell him what a jerk he was, he calls on Nellie to apologize. While he doesn’t consider her a candidate for the position of his wife – he is drawn to her kind and generous nature.

When Nellie learns that her sister may have to move far away because they don’t want to take the management of her father’s estate from her, Nellie reaches out to Hugh and offers her services as estate manager. Hugh agrees, but insists that they marry.

They marry and go to the estate – it has been agreed between them that Hugh will stay a short while and then return to London. Nellie makes him promise not to return. After a month together, Hugh leaves and at first is overjoyed to return to London. But as time passes, he misses Nellie and writes to her. Nellie has also missed Hugh, but can’t bear the pain of his leaving her – unbeknownst to him, she conceived and she hasn’t told him, nor has she read any of the letters he has sent.

Six months pass before Hugh returns and is shocked to learn that she is with child, he insists on staying until the child is born. Hugh doesn’t want to return to London, but Nellie is insisting that he goes after the birth of their child.

I though the book was well written, but there are formal address issues (which might be corrected in the final published copy – but I am basing my review on what I read) Hugh is the second son of a marquess – he has an honorific title of Lord Hugh – NOT Lord Wythers. The love scenes are there, but they are muted and would be best described as lukewarm. Nellie is a strong heroine, but she suffers from low self-esteem because of her looks and Hugh comes across as very selfish and self-serving. But they are really both loyal and honorable people who stupidly think they are doing what is best for the other. I did like both of them and hoped that they would figure out how to compromise and have a happy marriage before it was too late.

This is the second book in the series, but it could easily be read as a stand alone title.

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

Where Dreams Merge by Maureen Driscoll

Where Dreams Merge (Jasmine Cottage Book 2)Where Dreams Merge by Maureen Driscoll
Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Released: July 20, 2017

Series: Jasmine,Cottage, Book 2

Grace Moore and Carter Beckett, Earl of Wainwright meet for the first time at Arabella and Jonathan’s wedding (Where Hearts Meet), but the two are known to each other because Carter writes political articles for a London paper and Grace delights in writing to him to comment on his work and to correct his spelling errors. When Carter finally meets her, he realizes he has met his muse.

Carter has been staying with Christopher Aston, Lord Audsley trying desperately to write his novel, but the words will not come – that is until he meets Grace. He convinces her to work with him as his editor and the two form a friendship and exchange some very amusing letters. Carter is attracted to Grace, but a long standing family agreement prevents him from declaring himself to her. He hopes that he will be able to work things out so he might be able to offer for Grace, but until he does, he cannot make her any promises.

Grace is aware of Carter’s prior understanding and wishes with all her heart that they could be together, but she also concedes that she is not of his world and they will probably never be anything more than friends. When Carter tells Grace he must return to London for the Holidays, she believes that will be the end of their relationship – but Carter insists that she and Emma come to London, he promises to help the sisters contact their grandfather’s solicitor and try to help them contact their parents. He makes arrangements for them to stay with Audsley and has Audsley’s widowed cousin, Lady Endicott chaperone them.

In anticipation of Grace’s arrival, Carter meets with Lady Cecile – the woman his parents hoped he would marry, though no formal betrothal was ever made, there has always been an understanding between the families. Carter believed that when Lady Cecile became linked to another Lord, that their “understanding” had ended, but he is dismayed to find that Cecile has been jilted and expects Carter to marry her. He tells her in no uncertain terms that he will not marry her and that he has met another woman, he asks Cecile to release him from the “understanding”. Cecile agrees, but begs Carter to pretend to court her for a few weeks to help ease her back into society after being jilted. Carter is reluctant, but feels he owes her that much and decides to recruit his brother Jeremy to escort Grace while he attends Cecile.

Enter Jeremy Beckett, the younger brother, dashing, handsome and a former spy – the man has hero material written all over him! Jeremy and Grace become fast friends – which leads to a lot of hilarious scenes with Carter becoming jealous and imagining all the ways he could beat his brother to a pulp. But when Jeremy’s life is threatened and by extension Grace – Carter will stop at nothing to save them both.

I really loved this book, it is well written, it flowed well, it has some laugh out loud moments, a little bit of angst, some nail biting moments, a couple of plot twists that change everything for the sisters, a bit of steam and finally a beautiful soulmate type of love.

While this is the second book in the series, it could easily be read as a stand alone title. I highly recommend this book and am looking forward to reading the next installment!

The Greatest Challenge of Them All by Stephanie Laurens

The Greatest Challenge Of Them All (Cynster Next Generation Novels Book 6)Barbara’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Devil’s Brood Trilogy #3
Publication Date: 7/13/17

Stephanie Laurens always entertains us with charming characters, exciting plots, and characters that you will never forget. Her words just fly off the page, grab you and pull you right into the story and don’t let you go until it is done.

This book is an exceptional wrap-up to the trilogy. You really can’t read this book as a stand-alone because it is part of a trilogy with an overarching mystery that must be solved for Queen and Country.

The first book featured Sebastian Cynster (Devil’s heir) and Antonia Rawlings (eldest daughter of the Earl of Chillingworth) who are sent to Kent to investigate a missive sent to Drake Varisey (Heir to the Duke of Wolverston) saying that the sender has important information he must share. As they investigate, they discover that the plot involves a large shipment of gunpowder being sent to London.

The second book featured Michael Cynster (Devil’s second son) and Cleo Hendon (only daughter of the Jack and Kit Hendon of Hendon Shipping Company). The gunpowder has now reached London and Michael and Cleo have to locate it and stop the plot if they can.

This book, the third and final one, features Lord Drake Varisey and Louisa Cynster (only daughter of Devil – also known as Lady Wild in the ton). Their task is to stop the gunpowder from being delivered to its final destination, identify the target and identify the mastermind behind the plot.

All of these ladies are strong, bold, intelligent, and determined not to be left out of the investigation. Louisa has a long history with Drake – their families have always been friends and Louisa has always known that Drake was the one for her. Drake basically always knew that Louisa was the one for him, but he was fighting it tooth and nail because he thought that love and marriage would be a weakness in his role for the Crown. However, when Louisa insinuates herself, uninvited, into the investigation, he soon comes to value how much she can contribute.

All three of the couples are featured in this book although the main focus is on Drake and Louisa. All of the couples are zipping all over London trying to investigate different aspects of the plot as well as trying to keep up their social obligations as betrothed couples.

Of course, one of my favorite characters is Lady Osbaldestone who is absolutely ancient by now and has been featured in many of the Cynster novels.

The mystery is intense and the target is unexpected as is the mastermind and his reasons for the plot. You’ll just have to read the story to find all of that out.

The Importance of Being Scandalous by Kimberly Bell

The Importance of Being ScandalousThe Importance of Being Scandalous by Kimberly Bell
Tracy’s rating: 2 of 5 stars

Series: The Tale of Two Sisters, #1
Release Date: July 25, 2017

This book did not work for me. I usually like the friends to lovers trope, but I was disappointed with this story.

Amelia “Mia” Bishop and Nicholas “Nick” Wakefield have been friends forever – along with Amelia’s sister Julia. The three of them were inseparable as children and for his part, Nick has been in love with Amelia for as long as he can remember, but his family does not approve of hers (this was my first bone of contention – the author never explains why Amelia’s family is shunned – it is implied that there was some scandal and it is also implied that it is because of Julia – but it is never clearly explained to the reader). He leaves for his grand tour without ever telling Amelia of his true feelings. He writes to her everyday that he is away – but never sends the letters.

Amelia misses Nick, but she is content to stay home with her sister Julia. Julia was born with some sort of spinal issue and has a limp – I am not sure why, but it seems that she is part of the reason her family is shunned and she has been kept out of society. Amelia is fine with that as well, but things change when she becomes engaged to an earl.

Nick returns home after two years to find things have drastically changed, first his father is suffering from dementia and his mother doesn’t want Nick’s brother (the heir) to know and he learns that the love of his life is engaged to marry another man.

Nick and Amelia reunite, and she is confused by the feelings she has for him. Nick still hasn’t told her how he feels and is sort of a wuss. He is willing to keep silent and wallow in heartbreak until his friend Jasper “Jas” shows up unannounced. Even with Jas’ prodding, Nick will not tell Amelia how he feels.

Amelia begins to have second thoughts about her engagement and when her fiancé refuses to stand up for her sister, she tries to break things off with him. He threatens to sue her father if she does not marry him and she decides that she must make him break things off with her.

The rest of the story is Amelia with the help of Jas trying to do outrageous things to make the earl dump her.

I really didn’t care for this book, I thought Amelia was immature, Julia was a whack-job, Nick was a wuss and Jas was over the top. The writing was ok – but some of the banter between the sister was just annoying and there was a lot of modern verbiage. The story moved at decent pace and the idea of the story was good – but the execution combined with the fact that the author clearly doesn’t understand nobility titles or correct formal address and didn’t give the reader enough backstory to understand why Amelia’s family was shunned, just ruined the book for me.

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

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