Murder at Half Moon Gate by Andrea Penrose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“I requested and received this e-book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”

Earl of St. Seville by Christina McKnight

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

Series: Wicked Earls’ Club, #11

Release Date: March 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christin’s Splendid Spinster’s Society by Charlotte Stone

Christin's Splendid Spinster's Society

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“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*

Death of an Unsung Hero by Tessa Arlen

Death of an Unsung Hero (Lady Montfort Mystery #4)Death of an Unsung Hero by Tessa Arlen

Barbara’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Lady Montford Mystery #4
Publication Date: 3/13/18

Well, their carefully guarded secret is out. Lady Montford and Mrs. Jackson solve mysteries, and they are very good at it! Everyone knows and smiles about it, but our erstwhile investigators aren’t aware that everyone knows. So, it is entertaining to see their reactions throughout the book when one person or another mentions their penchant for solving mysteries.

This book is just exactly what I’ve been wanting in the series, a glimpse of Lady Montford’s family – especially her husband. He’s been a shadow figure in the previous books and we had learned that he was tolerant of her investigations, etc. but we really didn’t know him. I was delighted to meet him and came to admire him greatly. He is every inch the gentleman, loves his family, loves his country, loves his wife and supports her in every way. I love their relationship. So, thank you, Ms. Arlen, for providing this view of Lord and Lady Montford and their children.

This story begins about two years after the last book ended – we are well into World War I. England’s citizens have geared up and patriotism is at an all-time high. Everybody is contributing – all of the horses have been conscripted and are serving on the continent just as the men are. At home, everyone’s attention is on growing food to feed the army and producing munitions and other items that are needed. Everyone pitches in, even the aristocracy. Not only is the son and heir to the Montford title serving as a pilot in the RAF (though he is home injured at the moment), the daughter is serving with the Women’s Land Army, and the parents have started a hospital, Haversham Hall Hospital, for the treatment of those who have been shell-shocked.

I love the history in the book, especially about the budding science of psychiatry for helping the shell-shocked victims of the war. All too often, those suffering from shell-shock were further tortured with electro-therapy and other ways of quickly getting them ‘well’ and back to the battlefield. The doctor’s at Haversham Hall Hospital used both talk therapy and a type of ergo therapy – which is basically performing everyday tasks – like farming, harvesting, gardening to help them work through their issues.

Lady Montford and Mrs. Jackson are a formidable team when it comes to investigating crimes. They are so different, you would think that they’d never get along – but they are more friends than employer/employee. Lady Montford is more of an intuitive thinker and Mrs. Jackson is more of a logical step-by-step thinker. Their strengths play off each other and they soon solve whatever crime is at hand.

All crime stories require a victim, but I just hate that the victim required for this story was Captain Sir Evelyn Bray. It seems he had found himself during the war. He’d been a bit of a profligate before, but his bravery and leadership shone once he joined the military. He suffered a great injury during the Battle of Beauville Wood while he was trying to save the remaining men in his troops. When he awoke, he had no memory of who he was or what had happened. He was then sent to the Haversham Hall Hospital to see if Major Andrews could help him with his groundbreaking therapies. After only a few weeks, he was beginning to get his memory back. Then, he was murdered.

There are suspects aplenty in this mystery and you don’t want it to be any of those walking wounded at the hospital. Could it be someone on the staff? What about those individuals in the neighborhood who think the patients at the hospital are cowards who are shirking their duty rather than going back into battle where they belong. It is a twisted tale and you begin to wonder how in the world anyone will find the solution – but they do.

I can certainly recommend this book. I love the characters and plot. From early on, I had a good idea of who the culprit was and was anxious to see if I was right and if I was, to see how they did 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.”

Lost to a Spy by Sharon Cullen

Lost to a Spy (All the Queen's Spies, #3)Lost to a Spy by Sharon Cullen
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: All the Queen’s Spies, #3

Release Date: March 13, 2018

Sharon Cullen delivers another fast paced, intrigue filled installment of All the Queen’s Spies with Lost to a Spy!

Lady Emma Hamilton is pulled into the world of espionage when she is injured and left for dead after witnessing a murder and is knocked unconscious by the explosion of Kirk o’ Fields.

Tristian Fitzherbert hears the explosion and goes to investigate, what he finds is an unconscious woman lying in the street. He takes her back to his print shop and tends her injuries. Tristian is a spy for Queen Elizabeth, his primary mission in Scotland has been to incite dissention against Queen Mary, he does this by printing and distributing suggestive placards about the queen, her consort and advisors. He is not sure what to do about the woman he has found, she is obviously well born, but she was alone when he found her, so he is not sure if she was an innocent bystander or if she was part of the plot to blow up Kirk o’ Fields.

He has even more questions later when she wakes, he has had a visit from LaGrange and knows that the king is dead and that Lady Emma Hamilton, is missing from the palace and is most likely his mystery guest. Emma doesn’t trust men, her marriage to Angus Hamilton was awful and when he died, Queen Mary invited her to live at the palace and restored her dowry to her, giving her the means to live independently. Emma is wary of Tristian at first and doesn’t tell him her real name or the whole truth about what she witnessed.

Tristian is kind and attentive to Emma and soon she feels comfortable with him in a way she has never felt with a man. She confides in him about her past and finally about what she witnessed the night of the explosion. She is upset when he tells her the king is dead and wants to return to the palace to comfort Mary. But she is too weak from her injuries and Tristian urges her to wait.

Emma and Tristian become close, she is amazed how he makes her feel safe and she asks him to be her lover. Hesitant at first, Tristian gives in and soon they both know that what they share is rare, but any relationship between them is impossible.

When Emma learns that Tristian is responsible for the inflammatory placards, she is hurt and returns to the castle. But with fresh eyes Emma begins to realize that maybe Mary is not as innocent as Emma believed and when she overhears Bothwell demanding that the town’s printers be brought in for questioning, she knows Tristian is in danger.

Emma doesn’t know what to believe or who to trust, but she knows that she has to warn Tristian. But will she convince him to leave? And can she return to her former life now that she has found love and learned that all she believed to be true is wrong? Can a highborn Lady and a lowborn Spy have a future?

This was a very well written, well paced novel with wonderful characters, steamy love scenes, lots of intrigue and suspense. I personally felt that there was a little too much modern verbiage and that Tristian and Emma love happened too fast and was not as believable as I would have liked. But overall, it was a good read and I enjoyed the story. This is the third book in the series, but it could be read as a stand alone title with no problems. I am happy to recommend this book and can’t wait to see what Ms. Cullen has in store for LaGrange and Margaret!!

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

Earl of Pembroke By Lauren Smith

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

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“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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