Genre: Victorian

Guest Review: The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne

Posted August 11, 2016 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: The Highlander by Kerrigan ByrneReviewer: Tracy
The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels series #3
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication Date: August 2nd 2016
Genres: Historical, Romance, Victorian
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four-stars

They call him the Demon Highlander. The fearsome Lieutenant Colonel Liam MacKenzie is known for his superhuman strength, towering presence, and fiery passion in the heat of battle. As Laird to the MacKenzie clan, the undefeated Marquess has vanquished his foes with all rage and wrath of his barbaric Highland ancestors. But when an English governess arrives to care for his children, the master of war finds himself up against his greatest opponent... in the game of love.

Defying all expectations, Miss Philomena is no plain-faced spinster but a ravishing beauty with voluptuous curves and haughty full lips that rattle the Laird to his core. Unintimidated by her master’s raw masculinity and savage ways, the headstrong lass manages to tame not only his wild children but the beast in his soul. With each passing day, Liam grows fonder of Miss Mena—and more suspicious. What secret is she hiding behind those emerald eyes? What darkness brought her to his keep? And how can he conquer this magnificent woman’s heart... without surrendering his own?

Mena St. Vincent has lived a horrifying life for the past five years. She was raised in idyllic Hampshire by a father who loved and cared for her; educated her and only wanted the best for his daughter. He married her off to a new neighbor who seemed like a good man. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case at all. Mena’s husband beat her, used her body and then had her committed to an asylum when he didn’t want her around any longer. Mena is saved after writing to a friend. That friend helps dress her and prepares her to be a governess to a man in the highlands. This way Mena can hide from her husband and his family while her friends try to get her insanity judgment overturned by the courts.

Mena is definitely intimidated by her new employer – the man they call the Demon Highlander – but she also sees another side to him. She sees a man who would do anything for his two children, a man who has lived a hard life and a man who just wants what’s best for his clan. She starts to fall for him pretty quickly but obviously nothing can come of it as she’s already married – even though he doesn’t know that.

Liam MacKenzie has been off in battle for many years but is now back to keep his clan alive and thriving – as well as to be with his children. He knows that he’s not done right by them after being gone for so long but he wants to make amends. He knows almost immediately that it’s a bad idea to have Mena around as he’s incredibly attracted to her but he can’t make himself send her away. Liam’s children have also taken to her and that’s not happened with the last few governesses. He tries to deny his attraction but he soon can’t any longer. He knows Mena wants him too but he also knows she’s hiding something. He has no idea who huge the secret is but that won’t stop him from giving her his heart.

The Highlander is only the second book I’ve read by Kerrigan Byrne but I’m certain it won’t be my last. This author certainly knows how to write some intriguing highlanders and I loved reading about them. She also writes pretty great sexual tension and while things happened fast for the H/h it was all more than believable.

I really liked Liam and Mena together. Yes, they tried to keep away from each other but it was impossible. Mena knew that she shouldn’t let her heart fall for Liam but between what she saw underneath the gruff surface and how he treated his children she just couldn’t help it. Liam knew that Mena was in hiding but he thought it was just from someone who abused her – not from a husband. I have to say I was disappointed that he didn’t immediately believe Mena when he did find out the truth but with his dead wife’s background it was kind of understandable. He realized his mistake quickly and moved on and I liked that about him.

If you want a good highland romance then you should pick this one up. The first part of the book was a bit hard to stomach as it takes place in the asylum but after that it gets lighter so just keep that in mind. 🙂

Rating: 3.75/4 out of 5

four-stars

Review: Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas

Posted July 20, 2010 by Holly in Reviews | 9 Comments

Review: Love in the Afternoon by Lisa KleypasReviewer: Holly
Love In The Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas
Series: The Hathaways #5
Also in this series: Tempt Me at Twilight, Married By Morning
Published by Macmillan
Publication Date: June 29th 2010
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, Victorian, General
Pages: 352
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four-half-stars

As a lover of animals and nature, Beatrix Hathaway has always been more comfortable outdoors than in the ballroom. Even though she participated in the London season in the past, the classic beauty and free-spirited Beatrix has never been swept away or seriously courted...and she has resigned herself to the fate of never finding love. Has the time come for the most unconventional of the Hathaway sisters to settle for an ordinary man—just to avoid spinsterhood?

Captain Christopher Phelan is a handsome, daring soldier who plans to marry Beatrix's friend, the vivacious flirt Prudence Mercer, when he returns from fighting abroad. But, as he explains in his letters to Pru, life on the battlefield has darkened his soul—and it's becoming clear that Christopher won't come back as the same man. When Beatrix learns of Pru's disappointment, she decides to help by concocting Pru's letters to Christopher for her.

Soon the correspondence between Beatrix and Christopher develops into something fulfilling and deep...and when Christopher comes home, he's determined to claim the woman he loves. What began as Beatrix's innocent deception has resulted in the agony of unfulfilled love—and a passion that can't be denied...


I have to be honest and say I wasn’t really looking forward to this book until the very end of the last book. Up until that point, Beatrix still seemed very young to me. Even after the last book I still had reservations about her as a heroine.

I should have had more faith in Kleypas. Both Beatrix and Christopher were delightful. I loved the premise behind their romance. The letters they exchanged really set up the romance beautifully. It was easy to see how they’d fallen in love with each other as Christoper was at war, and Beatrix waiting at home for him. Those first few chapters were so emotionally charged they pulled me in completely.

But Christopher doesn’t realize it’s Beatrix he loves. Because Beatrix has been writing her letters in the name of her friend, Prudence Mercer. Pru shared Christopher’s first letter with Bea and it was obvious to her that he needed someone to correspond with. The selfish and shallow Pru didn’t want to hear tales of war, and refused to respond to him. So Bea offered to do it instead, agreeing to signing Pru’s name to the letters.

When Christopher returns home he expects to find Miss Prudence Mercer waiting for him. He knows she loves him, just as he loves her. But Pru isn’t there waiting, and he realizes he needs time to decompress before going to her in London. That’s when he runs into Beatrix Hathaway. He’s always thought Beatrix was unconventional, and not in a good way. He’s surprised to see she’s grown into a beautiful woman, one he desires. Not that it matters, since it’s Prudence he loves. But still, he’s a man and he noticed. He also starts noticing other things about Beatrix – how comfortable she is to be around, how understanding she is, and how much she challenges and frustrates him.

Once he reaches London it isn’t long before he realizes Prudence Mercer did not write the letters he received. She’s nothing like the woman he corresponded with. But who then? Certainly not..Beatrix Hathaway?

Christopher is a young, foolish, vain boy when he leaves for war. He’s what you would expect a spoiled, entitled man to be. But the things he sees in battle change him. He comes home with darkness in him, and a better understanding of himself and the word. It was really interesting seeing the way he matured. He also suffers from PTSD. I think Kleypas did a really excellent job of showing how that effects a soldier.

Beatrix was everything I expected from the earlier novels – loving and caring, helpful and more interested in animals than humans. She was also stronger and much more mature than I expected. I guess I always saw her as the youngest Hathaway, always into mischief and taking care of animals, so I didn’t think of her as a woman. She feels terrible guilt over writing letters to Christopher as Pru, but she just couldn’t not write to him. It was easy to see how something that started innocent got out of hand the longer it went on.

I loved that they admitted their feelings for each other early on. Neither of them play coy, or try to deny what’s between them. Christopher is worried that he’s too damaged for Beatrix. Not in a “I’m a martyr” kind of way, but he has very real concerns that, as a result of his PTSD, he might hurt her at some point. He’s against marrying her because he’s afraid of himself. But he doesn’t deny that he loves her, or try to pretend his feelings aren’t what they are, or try to push her away. I loved that.

I also loved how Beatrix stood beside him and pushed him to get better. She didn’t let him wallow in his misery, or fall into depression. She was just exactly what he needed.

Though this was a darker novel than some of the others in the series, it still had moments of great humor. There’s one scene in particular where I was literally laughing out loud. I won’t spoil it, but it has to do with squirrels. You’ll have to read it yourself to see what I mean.

It was lovely to see the Hathaway’s again, as always. The family is so quirky and strong. I adore them. Kleypas once again managed to include scenes with them without taking away from the main romance, which was great.

One last thing I have to mention: Beatrix’s animals. I loved all her pets. The goat scene was hilarious, and I loved the hedgehog. But it was Albert, Christopher’s terrier, who really stole the show. It was heartbreaking to see how much he was suffering, and delightful watching Beatrix work with him.

While I enjoyed Married by Morning more than many others, I’d have to say Love in the Afternoon was more emotional and deeper.

4.5 out of 5

The series:

Mine Till Midnight
Seduce Me at Sunrise
Tempt Me at Twilight
Married By Morning
Love in the Afternoon

This book is available from St. Martin’s Press. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

four-half-stars

Review: Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas

Posted June 15, 2010 by Holly in Reviews | 9 Comments

Review: Married by Morning by Lisa KleypasReviewer: Holly
Married By Morning by Lisa Kleypas
Series: The Hathaways #4
Also in this series: Tempt Me at Twilight, Love In The Afternoon
Published by Macmillan
Publication Date: May 25th 2010
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, Victorian, General
Pages: 352
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four-stars

For two years, Catherine Marks has been a paid companion to the Hathaway sisters—a pleasant position, with one caveat. Her charges' older brother, Leo Hathaway, is thoroughly exasperating. Cat can hardly believe that their constant arguing could mask a mutual attraction. But when one quarrel ends in a sudden kiss, Cat is shocked at her powerful response—and even more so when Leo proposes a dangerous liaison.

Leo must marry and produce an heir within a year to save his family home. Catherine's respectable demeanor hides a secret that would utterly destroy her. But to Leo, Cat is intriguing and infernally tempting, even to a man resolved never to love again. The danger Cat tried to outrun is about to separate them forever—unless two wary lovers can find a way to banish the shadows and give in to their desires...

Kleypas is always a favorite and I was especially looking forward to this book. The tension between Cat and Leo has been building for 3 books now, and I was very interested in seeing where she was going to take them.

Cat has a secret and Leo wants to know what it is. He wants to know all of her secrets, especially the ones hidden under her clothes. But he knows it’s a bad idea. She is scared to death of Leo finding out her secrets, because she knows once they’ve been revealed she’ll have to leave..and she isn’t ready to give up the Hathaways just yet.

But they both surprise each other. Cat isn’t the uptight spinster she pretends to be, and Leo isn’t as callous and shallow as Cat has always thought him. I really liked that the twist here with Leo wasn’t that he was afraid of falling in love because he knew he’d be bad at it, but because he knew he’d be too good at it.

“And you still love her.” Catherine’s voice was bleak. “That’s why you’ll never marry.”

“No. I have an extraordinary fondness for her memory. But it was a lifetime ago. and I can’t ever go through that again. I love like a madman.”

“It might not be like that again.”

“No, it would be worse. Because I was only a boy then. And now who I am, what I need … it’s too damned much for anyone to manage.” A sardonic laugh rustled in his throat. “I overwhelm even myself, Marks.”

No one is more surprised than Cat when she realizes Leo isn’t the man she’s always thought him.

“Poor Darling. It’s all right. Nothing fearsome down here. Take a deep breath. You’re safe.”

Catherine continued to lie in his arms as she caught her breath. She tried to take in the fact that Leo, her enemy and tormentor, was calling her “poor darling” and petting her. His lips brushed her temple and lingered gently. Holding still, she absorbed the sensation. She had never been attracted to men of this size, preferring those of less intimidating stature. But he was strong and comforting, and he seemed so genuinely concerned, and his voice was like dark velvet wrapping around her.

How perplexing.

Although this wasn’t my favorite Kleypas, I did enjoy it quite a bit. The end bothered me, mostly because I felt like it was thrown in almost as an after-thought, just to add conflict. Plus, the conflict so paralleled that of Tempt Me at Twilight it was like I experienced deja vu.

That aside the book was very well done. I loved the banter between Marks and Leo and how they constantly surprised each other. The way he teased her and got her all riled up was hilarious.

“What about fidelity?” Catherine asked in outrage.

“Fidelity is so passe. It’s laziness, really, not bothering to go out and seduce new people.”

I also liked that Kleypas included the other Hathaways in a believable, yet unobtrusive way. They didn’t take over the story, but enhanced it with their natural flair.

“You seem to think you have a choice,” Cam said. “but you have it backward. Love chooses you. The shadow moves as the sun commands.”

“How I enjoy Romany sayings, ” Leo marveled. “And you know so many of them.”

There was also quite a bit of general humor laced throughout, which at times had me laughing out loud.

“Ahhh…” The innkeeper made an ominous sound and bent to write in the registry book. “Don’t give in, sir. They never leave when they say they will. When my mother-in-law visits, the mice throw themselves at the cat, begging to be eaten.”

While this wasn’t my favorite Kleypas, it was still an entertaining read. The strong character development and witty banter is what we’ve come to expect and the romance was well done.

4 out of 5

The series:

Mine Till Midnight
Seduce Me at Sunrise
Tempt Me at Twilight
Married By Morning
Love in the Afternoon

This book is available from St. Martin’s Press. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

four-stars

Review: The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee Guhrke

Posted November 5, 2009 by Holly in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee GuhrkeReviewer: Holly
The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee Guhrke
Series: Girl Bachelors #2
Also in this series: And Then He Kissed Her, With Seduction in Mind
Published by Harper Collins
Publication Date: October 13th 2009
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, Victorian, General
Pages: 384
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four-stars

She thought she was the luckiest woman in London . . .
Surviving on a seamstress' income and a steady stream of fantasies, Prudence Bosworth has always longed for love and romance. Then she inherits a fortune from the father she's never seen, with the stipulation that she wed in one year. Prudence is determined to marry for true love, and after seeing firsthand the splendid chivalry of a certain duke, only one man will do . . .
Rhys de Winter, the Duke of St. Cyres, hides his cynicism behind a quick wit and an even quicker smile. He must marry an heiress, and as luck would have it, the pretty little seamstress-turned-heiress is exactly what he needs. But he never expected to fall for Prudence, and when his shocking deception is revealed, he will stop at nothing to win her back . . . even if it means renouncing every last one of his wicked ways.

 

The Wicked Ways of a Duke is the second book in Laura Lee Guhrke’s Girl-Bachelor series, which is based around four working-class women who call themselves girl-bachelors. I read and enjoyed the first book, And Then He Kissed Her, so I was looking forward to carrying on with the series.

I had some issues – namely that the heroine had major self-image issues and the author kept referring to her as “plump” when she was described as anything but. In this case the author actually gave the heroine’s measurements and they’re pretty much spot-on with mine. I take offense to being called “plump”, which I most certainly am not (and even if I were, that’s an offensive word, IMO). Also, the hero was a complete ass for the first 1/2-3/4 of the book.

However, the author really turned it around for me. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed both characters at the end, and how glad I was to see them fall in love. I almost put the book down because of my frustrations, but I’m glad I finished it.

Prudence was a down-to-earth kind of girl who wanted to be a dreamer. She was a realist about her situation and did her best to stay focused on the here and now, but she couldn’t help daydreaming about a better life and someone to share it with. I really liked her.

St. Cyres was a complete ass for the first half of the book. Prudence thinks he’s a true gentleman who cares for her, and he plays her and manipulates her without even a pinch of his conscience. He needs to marry an heiress and that’s all that matters to him. At first I was really put off by him, but as the story progressed I really warmed up to him. Although he doesn’t want to admit it, we as the reader can see him falling in love with her. Because he was such an ass, watching him fall was sweet indeed. Plus it helped that Prudence didn’t make it easy for him.

The story got off to a rocky start, but I’m glad I hung in there and kept reading. Annoyances aside, this was a cute story.

3.75 out of 5

The series:

Book CoverBook CoverBook CoverBook Cover

This book is available from Avon. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

four-stars

Author Spotlight Review: Tempt Me At Twilight by Lisa Kleypas

Posted October 30, 2009 by Holly in Features, Reviews | 9 Comments

Author Spotlight Review: Tempt Me At Twilight by Lisa KleypasReviewer: Holly
Tempt Me at Twilight by Lisa Kleypas
Series: The Hathaways #3
Also in this series: Married By Morning, Love In The Afternoon
Published by Macmillan
Publication Date: September 22nd 2009
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, Victorian, General
Pages: 384
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three-half-stars

Poppy Hathaway loves her unconventional family, though she longs for normalcy. Then fate leads to a meeting with Harry Rutledge, an enigmatic hotel owner and inventor with wealth, power, and a dangerous hidden life. When their flirtation compromises her own reputation, Poppy shocks everyone by accepting his proposal—only to find that her new husband offers his passion, but not his trust.

Harry was willing to do anything to win Poppy—except to open his heart. All his life, he has held the world at arm's length...but the sharp, beguiling Poppy demands to be his wife in every way that matters. Still, as desire grows between them, an enemy lurks in the shadows. Now if Harry wants to keep Poppy by his side, he must forge a true union of body and soul, once and for all...

 

Before picking up Tempt Me at Twilight, I’d heard many others complain that they were disappointed with it. I think I can see why it didn’t measure up to some of her others, but I thought it was pretty well done.

I liked Harry. There’s something very compelling about him. He wants Poppy more than anything else in the world and makes no apologies for his methods in getting her. I liked the way his mind worked and the way he took care of so many but kept them at a distance, with the exception of Poppy. I really liked that he couldn’t figure out exactly why Poppy was different, she just was.

To be honest I don’t remember much about Poppy from the previous books, so I didn’t go into this with any preconceived notions of her. In the end I found her to be fun and refreshing. She was just what Harry needed. She was strong and intelligent and I liked that she stood up for herself even when she was backed into a corner. She always did what she considered right after looking at all the angles. It isn’t very often we get a heroine that does that.

The two of them together were spectacular. They had great chemistry, even when they were holding themselves back from each other. Not just physical chemistry either, but you could see that they just clicked. I did think their relationship grew kind of stale toward the middle. The beginning and end were wonderful, but toward the middle of the book I found myself becoming impatient, wanting them to just get on with it already!

Even so, I’m glad LK took her time with them. Their marriage started under less than perfect circumstances and I’m glad she used the entire length of the book to address the issues, rather than clearing them up in a few pages. She really excels at writing romances that span a good length of time and are stronger for it.

I loved that the secondary characters (the employees of Harry’s hotel) got involved in their relationship. They really added extra flavor to the story. As did the Hathaways. It’s always a pleasure to see them. They could liven up any story. If anything I’m even more intrigued by Miss Mark’s, Poppy and Beatrix’s companion. I really wish LK would just hurry up and reveal her story!

I was disappointed in what happened at the very end of the book. There was a suspense/mystery plot that seemed to crop up out of nowhere. It seemed unnecessary and even a bit silly. It’s been weeks since I read this book and I’m still scratching my head of why she didn’t cut that last part out. It served no purpose other than being filler. The story had pretty much ended by that point, hadn’t it?

Otherwise I really enjoyed it. Now if only she’d give us Leo’s book!

3.75 out of 5

The series:

Mine Till Midnight
Seduce Me at Sunrise
Tempt Me at Twilight
Married By Morning
Love in the Afternoon

This book is available from St. Martin’s Press. You can buy it here or here (once again I’m not listing an e-format link because I think it’s ridiculous for St. Martin’s to set the price so high. $14 when the mmp is $7.99? I think not).

three-half-stars