Genre: Regency

Review: The Earl Takes All by Lorraine Heath

Posted April 21, 2016 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: The Earl Takes All by Lorraine HeathReviewer: Rowena
The Earl Takes All by Lorraine Heath
Series: Hellions of Havisham #2
Also in this series: Falling into Bed with a Duke, The Earl Takes All, The Viscount and the Vixen
Published by Avon
Publication Date: April 26th 2016
Genres: Romance, Historical, Regency
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

One summer night, Edward Alcott gives in to temptation and kisses Lady Julia Kenney in a dark garden. However, the passion she stirs within him is best left in the shadows as she weds his twin, the Earl of Greyling. But when tragedy strikes, to honor the vow he makes to his dying brother, Edward must pretend to be Greyling until the countess delivers her babe.

After her husband returns from a two-month sojourn, Julia finds him changed. Bolder, more daring, and more wicked—even if he does limit their encounters to kisses. With each passing day, she falls more deeply in love.

For Edward the embers of desire sparked on that long-ago night are quickly rekindled. He yearns to be her husband in truth. But if she discovers his ruse, she will despise him—and English law prevents him from marrying his brother’s widow. Yet he must dare to risk everything and reveal his secrets if he is to truly take all.

The Earl Takes All is the second book in the Hellions of Havisham series and it packed an emotional punch because everything that I was afraid was going to happen in the last book…happened and I was so scared to read this one because I didn’t know how to feel about what I knew was going to happen. If that doesn’t make any sense, sorry but that’s what I got for you.

Albert and Edward Alcott are twins that lost their parents when they were young boys. They were shipped off to live with the Marquess of Marsden at Havisham Hall, a friend of their fathers who was going to raise them along with the Duke of Ashebury and his own son, Locke. The Marquess of Marsden is known in the ton as the Mad Marquess because he’s gone mad ever since the love of his life died. He didn’t pay much attention to the boys when they were younger so they had free reign to run wild all over Havisham. They earned their reputations as the hellions of Havisham but they’re all grown up now. Ashe has married and taken his rightful place as the Duke of Ashebury. Albert has married and taken his rightful place as Earl of Greyling.

Edward and Locke are the lone bachelors in their group and the two of them have different reputations. Locke is the quiet one, the one everyone thinks is going to follow in his father’s footsteps and turn mad just like him. Before I get into the rest of my review, I am so looking forward to getting more Locke in his book. I’m so anxious to see where Heath takes his character because I love the hell out of him and we’ve gotten little information about him so far. Edward, on the other hand is the group weasel. He’s a dick to his sister in law, he lives his life with abandon not caring one whit about anything real or lasting. He lives for adventure and is known as the group scoundrel. The worst of the lot.

Edward invites Albert to go on one last safari with him before Albert’s baby is born and won’t have time for adventures anymore. It was to be Albert’s last hurrah before settling down for good into the family life. When tragedy strikes on the safari, Edward comes home with a promise to Albert to fulfill and a whole lot of regret.

Lorraine Heath hit me in the feels at every turn in this book. First there was Albert’s death and then Edward’s promise and then as the story unfolds and you see Edward and Julia getting closer and closer and your heart pounds because it’s such an impossible situation for Edward but what other course was there for him? What else could he have done to protect his brother’s child and wife?

Oh man, this book was good. Lorraine Heath really shines with these complex characters and stories. I tried to prepare myself for the angst that I knew was waiting for me within the pages of this book but like Edward, the romance that blossomed between him and Julia knocked me on my ass. I didn’t think I could love any of the hellions more than I loved Ashe but holy cow, Edward. I wasn’t prepared for the wealth of love I would develop for him. I think I loved him more than Julia did.

I thought Heath did a wonderful job of balancing the new romance between Edward and Julia without taking away from Julia’s love for Albert. There were little moments where I was unsure how things would work out for the both of them but I never once doubted the love between both Albert and Julia and then Edward and Julia. I really loved that she didn’t sacrifice one character to further another character’s story. This book was handled with a sensitivity that I think would be hard to write without making the reader hate one, if not all of the characters involved so I was impressed with Heath’s efforts. There wasn’t a thing that was taken lightly, nothing was brushed over and I liked that.

This was a good book and even with the complicated romance, I highly recommend.

4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars

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Guest Review: The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries

Posted April 1, 2016 by Whitley B in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: The Study of Seduction by Sabrina JeffriesReviewer: Whitley
The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Sinful Suitors #2
Also in this series: What Happens Under the Mistletoe
Published by Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: March 22nd 2016
Genres: Romance, Historical, Regency
Pages: 384
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four-half-stars

A marriage of convenience ignites into a passionate love affair in the hotly anticipated second novel in New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries’s addictive Sinful Suitors series!

When Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to help his best friend’s impetuous ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, in her time of need, he knows he’s in for trouble. He’s been hunting for someone to wed, and she’ll just get in the way. Although captivated by the witty, free-spirited beauty, he fears she’d be all wrong as a wife...if she would even take such a gruff cynic for her husband. Yet he wants nothing more than to have her for his own.

Clarissa has no intention of marrying anyone—not Edwin, whom she’s sure would be an overbearing husband, and certainly not the powerful French diplomat stalking her. But when matters escalate with the diplomat, she chooses Edwin’s gallant offer of a marriage between friends in hopes that it will deter her stalker. She expects nothing more than an amiable union, but their increasingly tempestuous kisses prove more than she bargained for. When her stalker’s vow to expose the lovers’ deepest secrets threatens to destroy their blossoming attraction, will their tenuous bond withstand public ruin, or will Edwin lose all that’s important to him to protect his bride?

I have…things to say. Because this book tackles rape, and it does it very well, but this is a topic dear to me, so it makes me quite wordy.

But first, let’s talk about the whole rest of the book. 😛 I loved Clarissa and Edwin. They had some great chemistry together, their banter was snappy, and they just had this genuine affection for each other that I loved. The fact that they have history and start the book already comfortable with each other helps here, it lets the narrative really delve deeper into their relationship and establish it as something with many layers. (I mean, I like books where the couple meet in the pages, of course, but hot damn do I love me some “already crushing on each other” storylines.)

The story was good, and the stalker was super creepy in the best and worst ways, although I do feel like after the midpoint he…was rather forgotten about by the plot. Clarissa and Edwin just hared off to be shmoopy, which is always fun, but it did feel a bit like a detour into a different novel.

Okay, on to the rape. Like I said, it’s done pretty well. Like, maybe 90% well. The actual event happened in backstory, and the parts in the book focus on Clarissa still dealing with the effects. I loved her so much for presenting us with a strong, vivacious survivor. Not that other portrayals aren’t valid (there are so many ways to respond to that, after all), but Clarissa’s determination to live a full of happy life gave us such a nice alternative to the ‘broken’ survivor narrative. She was presented as someone who had managed to emotionally recover, but she refused to marry because she was not able to get over her fear of sex. (And, to be fair, that was presented partly as a lack of information; she had no idea that consensual sex worked/felt different.)

Edwin was a dear, very respectful and supportive and patient. Even when he had no idea why Clarissa was enjoying his kisses one minute and fighting him the next, he didn’t get aggressive, and when all the info came to light and he was great. The very best part? Zero victim blaming from anyone in the book. The second best part? HYMEN MYTHS! Oh thank heaven, a book finally points out that hymens don’t 100% always have to tear.

Some scenes were really hard to read, though. When Clarissa has a flashback (as happens multiple times in the book)? It’s very vivid. When her stalker is stalking it up? His attitude and his behavior and his speech just made my skin crawl. These sections, though, were supposed to be hard to read, so A+ for that.

But then…well, then we get to the other 10%. For all I loved a lot of the points here, a few things really bothered me. Like, Edwin was great to Clarissa…but only after she came clean about her past. I feel like, given what we find out about him, he should have been able to guess sooner. But more than that, I’m really uncomfortable with “you have to meet my standard, regardless of how hard that is for you, before I’ll support you.” He knew enough at that point to treat her right without forcing her to tell him the details of the most traumatic event of her life. And they had a great conversation afterwards, but the book could have reached that point a bit more…consensually.   Second, the veneration of man-on-top sex. I get the value in facing one’s fears (it’s a trigger for Clarissa) but the book attributed all kinds of other, “yay we’re a real couple now” meaning to her finally being comfortable with that position.

Third, I wanted the stalker to just be a stalker. He was so thoroughly “entitled dude just destroying lives because he feels like he’s owed.” There are jerks who just lash out because they feel slighted, logic be damned. The book felt like he needed a rational reason. Made for an exciting ending, but eh.

Again, most of the book was really great. I really don’t want to take away from that fact by drawing out its flaws. On the other hand, whenever a book comes so close to 100%, I feel like these sorts of discussions are even more important. Not to disparage the books (let’s face it, ‘right’ wouldn’t be right for everyone anyway), but because they are going to generate thoughts and discussions and it’s important not to let things slip under the rug.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars

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Review: The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long

Posted December 31, 2015 by Holly in Reviews | 6 Comments

Review: The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne LongReviewer: Holly
The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long
Series: Pennyroyal Green #11
Also in this series: Like No Other Lover, I Kissed an Earl, What I Did For a Duke with Bonus Material, How the Marquess Was Won, It Happened One Midnight
Published by HarperCollins
Publication Date: September 29th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, Regency, General
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Bound by centuries of bad blood, England's two most powerful families maintain a veneer of civility . . . until the heir to the staggering Redmond fortune disappears, reviving rumors of an ancient curse: a Redmond and an Eversea are destined to fall disastrously in love once per generation.

An Enduring Legend

Rumor has it she broke Lyon Redmond's heart. But while many a man has since wooed the dazzling Olivia Eversea, none has ever won her—which is why jaws drop when she suddenly accepts a viscount's proposal. Now London waits with bated breath for the wedding of a decade . . . and wagers on the return of an heir.

An Eternal Love

It was instant and irresistible, forbidden . . . and unforgettable. And Lyon—now a driven, dangerous, infinitely devastating man—decides it's time for a reckoning. As the day of her wedding races toward them, Lyon and Olivia will decide whether their love is a curse destined to tear their families apart . . . or the stuff of which legends are made.

The Redmonds and Everseas have been rivals as far back as anyone can remember (it’s rumored one killed the other in 1605 over a stolen pig..or something…and that started the feud). When Lyon Redmond sees Olivia Eversea at a ball, he’s immediately draw to her, despite knowing his family’s history with hers. They can’t stay away from each other. ..until the night she betrayed him and forced him to leave.

For five years, Lyon hasn’t been seen nor heard from and Olivia decides it’s time to move on with her life, so she accepts the proposal of Viscount Lansdowne. She doesn’t love him…yet. But they have a strong affection for each other and she knows he’ll be easy. If she still isn’t quite over Lyon Redmond, well…no one has to know.

Lyon knows he and Olivia have unfinished business, so he engineers it so they have a week together. But this time he’s not going to bend to her. It’s time Olivia fought for him…for them.

I was worried this book wouldn’t live up to all the hype. Especially since their story was drug out over the course of the entire series. I’m happy to report I really enjoyed the book.

Lyon and Olivia’s story is told in alternating past and present chapters, so their story – both past and current – is revealed slowly. Their situation has never been black or white, but rather several shades of gray, some lovely and light, others dark and barren. Their love for one another came across easily, but both felt betrayed by the other, and letting go of those feelings was the true struggle.

Throughout the series, I’ve had the hardest time with Olivia. She seemed haughty and put on an air of being too good for others. That may not have been the case, but that’s what I took away from her actions in previous books. When we saw a bit of the situation from Lyon’s point of view in I Kissed An Earl, my negative feelings for Olivia solidified into outright dislike. Yet Olivia won me over and I was really pulling for her and Lyon. She ended up being a complex character who had many layers.

In the years since Lyon left, Olivia has lived in a suspended state, alternately praying for his return and cursing him for leaving. She finally realizes he isn’t coming back and decides to move forward with her life.

Which is, of course, when Lyon decides to kidnap her and take her aboard his ship. He’s spent his time away from Olivia alternately hating her and trying to become the man she expected him to be. But he can’t move on until they resolve what’s between them, and he doesn’t believe she can either. She nearly broke him when she sent him away from her the first time, but he realizes she’s worth fighting for..as long as she’s willing to fight as well.

At the heart of this story is Lyon’s determination to force Olivia to face her fears about them and the future.

“I believed you saw something fatal and irredeemable in me, and I quite simply couldn’t bear it, Olivia. Now I know that you were just a coward. It really wasn’t more complicated than that.”

 

Olivia could have been too much, but her quick acceptance of her part of the blame for their separation redeemed her.

All the rumors and legends were right.
She had broken his heart.
And in so doing, she had willfully, perhaps permanently, broken her own.
And everyone else’s who loved him.
All because she’d been too afraid to fight for him.

That’s not to say Lyon was completely blameless. When Olivia calls him out for leaving and not coming back, my heart nearly broke. For all her outward dismissal of his absence, her sense of abandonment and feelings of betrayal were almost palpable.

For all that, I believe their breakup and subsequent separation allowed them both to grow into the people they needed to be for their relationship to truly work. Both needed to grow up a bit, and accept their faults as well as develop their potential. Lyon especially needed to be out from under his father’s thumb.

I did become frustrated with Olivia at the end. I’m not sure why it took her so long – or, more to the point, why she let it go as far as it did – before she ceded to the inevitable. I was literally cursing her at the end. Yet I can’t deny the final resolution worked for me in a big way.

The epilogue was strange and I’m not quite sure how to feel about it. Is it the start of something new, or just a way for the author to end the series? I’ll be interested to see what happens with that.

This was a lovely tale, both heart-wrenching and exciting. Long excels at writing complex, beautiful stories and The Legend of Lyon Redmond was no exception. Despite their trials and tribulations, their story could have ended in no other way.

At the quiet heart of the storm of sparks around them was a strange, peaceful certainty. This person was meant for me.

4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars

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Review: When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare

Posted August 24, 2015 by Rowena in Reviews | 4 Comments

Review: When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa DareReviewer: Rowena
When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare
Series: Castles Ever After #3
Published by Avon
Publication Date: August 25th 2015
Genres: Romance, Historical, Regency
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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four-half-stars

On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shy, pretty, and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter . . . and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He's wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters . . . and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.

Tessa Dare strikes again!

I knew that I was going to enjoy this one and I wasn’t disappointed. Tessa Dare delivers yet another historical romance that touched my heart, made me laugh and made fall in love with both the hero and the heroine. She’s proven time and time again that she deserves to be on my auto-buy list and she proved it yet again with this one.

Miss Madeline Gracechurch is shy. Painfully shy. So much so that being in a crowd gives her anxiety and when she’s of age to come out and have her season, she’s terrified. She doesn’t like attention and being in crowds makes her want to vomit so it doesn’t come as a surprise that she lies to get out of attending balls and participate in her season. The lie? Oh, only that she already met the man of her dreams, her future husband, Captain Logan MacKenzie but he’s fighting in the war so she can’t marry him right now. She’s going to wait for him. To keep up pretenses, Madeline starts writing letters to Captain Logan MacKenzie and what started off as something to get people off her back turns into a huge lie that goes on for years. The lie gets to big that it takes on a life of its own. She gets a castle for her efforts in keeping up the charade but when Captain Logan Mackenzie shows up at her castle door and wants to make good on the promises they made to each other…Madeline is confused and terrified at the same time.

Captain Logan Mackenzie has waited years to find out who the lying Miss Gracechurch is. He pictured her as a plain, bratty young woman but the woman he was expecting was not the woman he got. Even though he’s never laid eyes on this woman, she’s got something he wants and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

Including marrying the lying little wench.

Being in the army wasn’t easy for Logan and it wasn’t easy for the men that he led into battle. Everything that they were promised upon their return to their home of Scotland was not waiting for them after the war and in an effort to take care of his men, he takes them to Madeline’s castle and takes up residence.

Seeing these two battle wits at the same time that they were battling their own battles made for an entertaining read. I loved seeing Madeline and Logan come together. It wasn’t love at first sight. Their love grew over time and overcame a whole lot of obstacles and I enjoyed every minute of their story. Their romance was fun and steamy and everything I’ve come to love from Tessa Dare’s books and I just really liked it all.

I loved both Logan and Madeline but I also loved the secondary characters as well. Madeline’s Aunt was great fun and so was Logan’s men. They were all fleshed out characters that stood out and they were fun to get to know. I’m really thirsty for more from this series and I hope we’ll get some more. This series is great!

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

This book is available from Avon. You can purchase it here or here in e-format. This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

four-half-stars

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Guest Review: Forbidden to Love the Duke by Jillian Hunter

Posted February 4, 2015 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Forbidden to Love the Duke by Jillian HunterReviewer: Tracy
Forbidden to Love the Duke by Jillian Hunter
Series: The Fenwick Sisters #1
Published by Penguin
Publication Date: February 3rd 2015
Genres: Historical, Regency
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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three-half-stars

Lady Ivy Fenwick is desperate. Since her father’s fatal duel, she and her sisters have sold off every valuable possession to make ends meet. With the manor stripped bare, Ivy has one last resort: Apply as governess to the Duke of Ellsworth’s wards.

James should have known better than to hire the desirable lady who had fallen on hard times—and who tempts him at every turn. As her employer, he tries valiantly to remain noble and not let a kiss they shared as strangers years ago entice him. Yet the more he learns of Ivy’s secrets, the more he wants her. And when another suitor proves aggressive, James is confronted with a challenge: Surrender Ivy or fight for the woman he’s come to love against all odds, knowing that it takes a scoundrel to trump a scoundrel.

Tracy’s review of Forbidden to Love the Duke (The Fenwick Sisters Affairs #1) by Jillian Hunter.

Ivy and James “met” at Ivy’s debut. He was completely taken with her and stole a kiss. She was smitten from the word go even though he was masked and she had no idea who he was.

Five years later James is back from the war (which is where he left the day after he first met Ivy) and he’s interested in her home, Fenwick. When he arrives home he also discovers that his brother’s kids are in residence as their mother has abandoned them to run off with her lover (their father is still fighting in the war). He puts an ad in the paper for a governess the same day that he sees an ad seeking a governess position and realizes it’s Ivy. He hires her for the children and pursues her relentlessly.

Ivy and her three sisters have been living half lives for the past 5 years. Their father fought in a duel and died the day after Ivy met James. They have been barely surviving at Fenwick but are adamant about keeping creditors and those who would take Fenwick from them away from them. She is excited and scared about being a governess as she’s not sure that she can do the job – she is the daughter of an Earl, after all. She does a fine job, however, and makes the children her priority – even though James keeps getting in the way.

On top of the children and her feelings for James there’s a man, Sir Oliver, a poet, who shows up at Fenwick trying to court Ivy. He, of course, has ulterior motives as he heard there’s a treasure hidden within Fenwick somewhere. Although his motives stink he does find himself caring for the Fenwick sisters – of course that doesn’t stop him for looking for the treasure.

The story was a good one although it was a bit slower than I expected it to be. I really liked Ivy and her sisters and their fortitude in the face of adversity. James was a good guy for the most part. I liked him with Ivy and I thought he was pretty darned understanding of the poet despite his dislike of him.

Although the story was good it didn’t have a whole lot of conflict. It was more Ivy trying to make her decisions about James and Oliver looking for the treasure although even that part was a bit abbreviated. I would have liked to have seen more sister interaction before James showed up – just to show their solidarity – but it was what it was. I look forward to reading more about the Fenwick sisters in the future.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

This title is available from Signet Select. You can buy it here or here in e-format. This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

three-half-stars

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