Genre: Historical Romance

Review: The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

Posted January 24, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: The Duchess War by Courtney MilanReviewer: Holly
The Duchess War by Courtney Milan
Narrator: Rosalyn Landor
Series: The Brothers Sinister #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: December 8, 2012
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Library, Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 270
Length: 11 hours and 3 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Historical Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-half-stars
Series Rating: five-stars

Sometimes love is an accident.

This time, it’s a strategy.

Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly—so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don't get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.

But that is precisely what she gets.

Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he’s up to, he realizes there is more to her than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he’s determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match...

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan is the first book in The Brothers Sinister series. This started out a bit slow for me, and I didn’t love the narrator, but it picked up around the 25% mark and I fell right into it. I ended up buying the ebook so I could alternately read and listen, because I wasn’t ready to stop the story.

This book is filled with twists and turns. Every time Minnie stood up to Robert or called him out on his behavior, I cheered. I really loved how strong she was. Her strength wasn’t always out front or in your face, but she always persevered and I loved that about her. I was so wrapped up in this story my heart hurt for both of them at different times. I want to smack them, hug them, then smack them again in turn.

The relationship Robert had with his brother was strong and lovely. I really enjoyed all of his friends and how they slowly brought Minnie into their group. While parts of this were slow, I can’t deny I was wrapped up in it and couldn’t wait to see how things would turn out.

Filled of strong characters, witty dialogue and a heartwarming love story, The Duchess War is a book I’ll read again and again.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

the Brothers Sinister

Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

four-half-stars


Tagged: , , , , , ,

DNF Review: The Highlander’s Bride by Michele Sinclair

Posted January 16, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

DNF Review: The Highlander’s Bride by Michele SinclairReviewer: Holly
The Highlander's Bride by Michele Sinclair
Narrator: Anne Flosnik
Series: The McTiernays #1
Publisher: Zebra
Publication Date: June 1, 2007
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Escape
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 318
Length: 10 hours and 24 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
dnf

BOUND BY DUTY

Highland laird Conor McTiernay had always dreamed of an enduring love. But the reality of women who desired him only for his title and lands made him swear off marriage forever. That is until he first set eyes on the Englishwoman his men found hiding in the forest. Beneath the dirt and grime it was clear Laurel Cordell was beautiful. But would she prove to be yet another beguiling seductress or had Conor finally found the one woman who could lay claim to his heart?

DRAWN BY DESIRE

Laurel trusted that the Scottish chieftain would keep her safe from the cruel laird from whom she had escaped. Looking deep into Conor's silver eyes she saw not only his calculating warrior ways but his quick arousal to passion. But before they can explore the growing desire between them, their newfound love is threatened by secrets from her past. . .

The Highlander’s Bride by Michele Sinclair is the first book in The McTiernay’s Brothers series. I don’t believe I’ve read Sinclair before, but the premise sounded good so I downloaded this from the Audible Escape package. I’m not sure if it was the story or the narrator, Anne Flosnik, but I DNF’d it pretty early in.

Conor and his brothers are on the way home from another brother’s wedding when they come upon a woman who has been sorely abused. They all want to keep her safe, but Conor especially is very attracted to and protective of her. Laurel is on the run from another Highland Laird, and she’s guarding some big secrets from her past. She agrees to travel with the McTiernay brothers because she thinks they can keep her safe, but she’s surprised at how much she trusts Conor from the start.

Almost from the second they meet they’re extremely attracted to each other. That’s fine, except they think of nothing BUT how attracted the other is. That, and how good the other smells. They’ve been traveling for the better part of a week through the Highlands, but he smells manly and attractive and she smells of lilacs? I’m not buying it. Laurel’s secrets were alluded to, as well as Conor’s mistrust of women in general, but I wasn’t interested enough in either to keep listening.

I might try to read it at some point in the future to see if it works better for me.

Rating: DNF

dnf


Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Review: Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long

Posted January 2, 2020 by Rowena in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne LongReviewer: Rowena
Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long
Series: The Palace of Rogues #1
Also in this series: Lady Derring Takes a Lover , Angel in a Devil's Arms
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Series Rating: five-stars

A mistress. A mountain of debt. A mysterious wreck of a building.

Delilah Swanpool, Countess of Derring, learns the hard way that her husband, "Dear Dull Derring," is a lot more interesting—and perfidious—dead than alive. It's a devil of an inheritance, but in the grand ruins of the one building Derring left her, are the seeds of her liberation. And she vows never again to place herself at the mercy of a man.

But battle-hardened Captain Tristan Hardy is nothing if not merciless. When the charismatic naval hero tracks a notorious smuggler to a London boarding house known as the Rogue's Palace, seducing the beautiful, blue-blooded proprietress to get his man seems like a small sacrifice.

They both believe love is a myth. But a desire beyond reason threatens to destroy the armor around their hearts. Now a shattering decision looms: Will Tristan betray his own code of honor…or choose a love that might be the truest thing he's ever known?

Lady Derring Takes a Lover is the first book in Julie Anne Long’s The Palace of Rogues series. I picked this book up because it came highly recommended by Holly. I wasn’t in the mood for a new to me historical romance for a while now, was content to re-read a bunch of Julie Garwoods and some Judith McNaught oldies but man am I glad that I finally picked this one up. I cried a lot while reading this book. Julie Anne Long had me in my feels. I loved everything about this book.

From beginning to end, Lady Delilah Derring rocked my socks. The amount of growth and spine that she showed throughout the entire book just really worked for me. I was invested in what she was building with her late husband’s mistress, of all people, and I just loved that there was no job too big or too small that she wouldn’t have done. She was a survivor through and through and in the end, I was so hot damn proud of her, I cried.

Lady Derring’s husband died, leaving behind more debt than she knows what to do with, a down on her luck mistress, and a run-down building that used to be The Palace of Rogues. Needing to figure out her next move, Delilah makes plans to turn the run-down building around and create a business that will help sustain a life for herself, for her young ladies maid that has nowhere to go, and a new friend that has lost her way. Unbeknownst to her, an investigation was opened on her late husband and Captain Tristan Hardy is on the case. While Delilah, Angelique, and their small staff are hard at work, trying to get this hotel up and running, Captain Hardy is running down every lead he can find that will lead him to some answers about some cigars that he thinks Lord Derring might have been involved with.

Tristan’s investigation leads him to go undercover and booking himself a room at The Grand Palace on the Thames. He needs to figure out if Lady Derring was in cahoots with her husband over the stolen cigars and what better way than to get some answers than by looking through the hotel room by room himself and asking questions of the staff and of Lady Derring herself?

Watching Tristan and Delilah battle wits throughout this entire book made me so happy. There were times when I wanted to smack some sense into Tristan but for the most part, they were a great pair. They complimented each other well and I loved seeing them grow closer and closer with each passing day. I loved all of Delilah’s rules, I loved seeing Tristan grow to love those rules himself and I loved seeing each of the roommates get to know each other. When we finally figure out who the bad guys are, I freaking laughed out loud but when everything comes out? I cried like a baby. It wasn’t an easy story to read but I thought Julie Anne Long did a wonderful job of building us up, breaking us down and then putting us all back together again. This was a wonderfully romantic story and I really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to read Angelique’s book.

Final Grade

4.25 out of 5

The Palace of Rogues


Tagged: , , , , , ,

Guest Review: When the Marquess was Mine by Caroline Linden

Posted December 31, 2019 by Tracy in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: When the Marquess was Mine by Caroline LindenReviewer: Tracy
When the Marquess Was Mine by Caroline Linden
Series: The Wagers of Sin #3
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 400
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

In the game of love…

Georgiana Lucas despises the arrogant and cruel Marquess of Westmorland even before learning that he's won the deed to her friend Kitty's home in a card game. Still, Georgiana assures Kitty the marquess wouldn't possibly come all the way to Derbyshire to throw them out—until he shows up, bloody and unconscious. Fearing that Kitty would rather see him die, Georgiana blurts out that he's her fiancé. She'll nurse the hateful man back to health and make him vow to leave and never return. The man who wakes up, though, is nothing like the heartless rogue Georgiana thought she knew…

You have to risk it all

He wakes up with no memory of being assaulted—or of who he is. The bewitching beauty tending him so devotedly calls him Rob and claims she's his fiancée even as she avoids his touch. Though he can't remember how he won her hand, he's now determined to win her heart. But as his memory returns and the truth is revealed, Rob must decide if the game is up—or if he'll take a chance on a love that defies all odds.

Georgiana Lucas is visiting her friend Kitty and her family when they receive a message from Kitty’s husband.  It just says that by no means are they to let the Marquess of Westmorland into the house.  The family has no idea what’s going on as Kitty’s husband is non-specific as to why.  When Georgiana is out riding with a groom, she sees a man being attacked and insists on scaring off the attackers and helping the man back to Kitty’s house.

When they finally get the man back to the house, some of the mud from the road rubs off and Georgiana sees that it’s the Marquess of Westmorland.  Georgiana knows that Kitty can be vindictive (at least she could be when they were in school together) and since her husband told her not to let Westmorland enter the house, Georgiana knows that Kitty might not help him, even though he’s injured.  Georgiana panics and tells Kitty that the man is her fiancé Robert Sterling.

Georgiana stays with Westmorland day and night while he fights for his life, and the family is touched by how dedicated she is when in fact she’s just scared he’ll wake up and utter his true identity.  Fortunately for Georgiana, Westmorland wakes up and has no idea who he is.  Before Georgiana can tell him the truth, the doctor spouts that he is Robert Sterling and that he’s Georgiana’s fiancé.  Oops.

So begins the romance of Georgiana and Rob. Rob believes that Georgiana is his fiance, so he treats as he would a fiance – with kindness, compliments and love. He’s also amazed that the beautiful woman by his side is his.  I loved watching Georgiana fall in love with Westmorland and learn that he wasn’t the complete ass she believed him to be. He’s actually very sweet and kind and I loved him to pieces! Yes, he liked to gamble and drink, but what young buck of that time didn’t?  Their time spent together was lovely and Linden did a great job with this couple.

When Rob gets some of his memory back, he’s not upset at Georgiana for not telling him the truth – he’s too in love with her by that time.  He’s encouraged by his family to forget her, but he just can’t.  He heads back to London and his friend reminds him how he had agreed to help him catch a smuggler.  This was subtly mentioned at the beginning of the book but not in any detail.  Though there was that mention, it still felt as if this part of the book was tacked on and I didn’t really care for it.

Overall I really enjoyed this book.  When I read a Linden book it reminds me of how much I like her as an author and now I need to go read more of her stories.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Wagers of Sin

four-stars


Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Sunday Spotlight: Forever My Duke by Olivia Drake

Posted December 29, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight: Forever My Duke by Olivia DrakeForever My Duke by Olivia Drake
Series: Unlikely Duchesses #2
Also in this series: The Duke I Once Knew
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Series Rating: three-stars

“I find Miss Fanshawe to be quite charming—for an American.”—The Prince Regent
Hadrian Ames, the Duke of Clayton, needs a bride. He even has the perfect one picked out. That is, until he meets the lovely, free-spirited Natalie Fanshawe. She’s the opposite of what a man of his high rank should desire in a wife—an outspoken American who has never even set foot in a London ballroom.
But Natalie doesn’t have time to be swept off her feet by a handsome duke who must be a spoiled scoundrel like every other British lord. And she couldn’t care less about Hadrian’s title. After all, it’s not as if he actually worked to attain his wealth and status. He surely can’t understand what it’s like to be a busy woman, planning to open a school while trying to reunite a six-year-old orphan with his English relatives. Nevertheless, Hadrian launches his campaign to win her heart. Can the utterly delightful American beauty ever find a way to love him…despite his being a duke?

Excerpt

Excerpt from Forever My Duke by Olivia Drake

Reaching up, the boy tugged the tablecloth back down to conceal himself. Hadrian was tempted to haul him out by his ear and frog-march him out of the room. But it was too late, for the door was already opening. A woman stepped into the parlor.

His heart rocked in his chest. The world faded as he stared at the vision standing before him.

Pretty seemed too tame a word to describe her. Appearing to be in her mid-twenties, she had a frank gaze and an aura of distinction that set her apart from the ladies of his acquaintance. She was tall and willowy, her chin held high, as if to take pride in her height. In the glow of the firelight, several curls of dark sable hair had escaped her chignon to frame her face with its pert nose and rosy lips. Her skin had a healthy glow as if she’d spent a good deal of time outdoors without a parasol. The cinnamon-hued gown with its long sleeves and plain scoop neckline would be considered pitifully drab by London standards, yet it skimmed her feminine curves in a way that lent her a natural flair.

Hadrian tried to put his finger on precisely why she fascinated him. He had seen plenty of other lovely women over the years, but none of those others had affected him on quite such a visceral level. Perhaps it was her eyes. They were a deep, vibrant green that lit up like sunlight on emeralds when she smiled.

As she did now. “Pardon me for intruding, sir. I’m looking for a little boy.”

Her melodious voice held a faintly foreign flavor which he tried to place. Not Welsh or Irish or Scottish or even Cornish. It was as mysterious and appealing as the woman herself.

As she gazed inquiringly at him, Hadrian realized he was still sitting and gawking like a dolt. He shot to his feet. If that scruffy imp belonged to her, he could not imagine she was one of the upper ten thousand, yet he felt compelled to show her the respect afforded a lady.

He bowed. “Ma’am.”

She gave him a distracted look and then ventured closer, gazing around the small parlor. “Leo? I know you’re in here. I saw you go through this door when I was coming down the stairs.”
Hadrian held an inward debate. As much as he admired this splendid creature, he had a gentleman’s distaste for tattling. It was an unwritten rule that males did not betray one another’s secrets. Especially not to the female of the species.

Or did that honor exclude disobedient cubs like Leo? Fortunately the dilemma was resolved without any duplicity on his part. With a small cry, she sprang forward and lifted the edge of the tablecloth to peer underneath it.

“There you are, you naughty child!” she said on a trill of laughter. “That’s quite the clever hiding spot.”

“It wasn’t very clever since you found me,” Leo griped. “Well, come out of there at once,” she said, watching as he scrambled to his feet. “And next time, mind that your toes don’t stick out.

Now, pray make your apologies to the gentleman for disturbing his dinner.”

“Sorry, mister.”

“There’s no harm done,” Hadrian said, forgetting that he’d chastised the lad for that very thing only moments ago.

“Sometimes Leo doesn’t stop to think about his actions,” the woman said ruefully. “It is a trait we are working on modifying. In the meantime, I must thank you, sir, for being so understanding.”

Her mouth curved in that appealing smile, she leaned over the table and extended her hand to Hadrian.

Startled, he realized that she meant for him to shake it as a gentleman would do to his equal. Not even the grandest grande dame of society would commit such a faux pas with a man of his rank. A lady might offer the back of a gloved hand to be kissed, but only after having curtsied to him. Nevertheless, he found himself clasping her hand, keenly conscious of the warmth of her slim fingers.

“It was my pleasure,” he murmured.

The feel of her bare silken skin heightened the intensity of her effect on him. He felt as giddy as a school- boy meeting his first pretty girl. It made no sense, for he prided himself on being a man in firm control of his emotions and somewhat jaded by the allures of the fairer sex.

She must have sensed his reaction, for her gaze widened slightly and a rosy blush tinted her cheeks. Her expression held a frank curiosity about him, as if she, too, were puzzled by the unseen energy of attraction. As they stared at each other for timeless moments, Hadrian felt as if he were drowning in those gorgeous eyes. He had the strongest urge to reach out and unpin her hair, to see those sable tresses tumble around her shoulders and bosom.

It was only when she gave a tug that he realized he was still gripping her hand. He loosened his hold, and she stepped back, the sparkle of warmth on her features dimming to a mask of politeness. She lowered her gaze to the boy, who had wandered to the hearth and picked up a stick of kindling to poke at the fire.

“Put that away, Leo, and come along. Your bath is growing cold.”

He abandoned the stick, but dug in his heels. “Don’t want no bath.”

“Proper grammar, please. And the bath is necessary, for tomorrow you are to meet your grandfather.” She took hold of Leo’s hand and guided him away, pausing only to toss a quick, heart-stopping smile over her shoulder. “Good evening, sir. Do pardon us again for the intrusion.” A moment later, they disappeared out into the corridor and shut the door. The muffled grumble of Leo’s protests gradually died away.

It took a moment for Hadrian to feel like himself again. A trace of her alluring feminine scent lingered in the air. Now that she was gone, it seemed ludicrous that a stranger could affect his equilibrium to such a degree. Her poised manner did not fit the lower orders, so he had been wrong about the boy being the offspring of servants. Rather, she must be an overnight lodger here, another traveler stranded by the freezing rain. He hadn’t noticed a wedding ring, yet it seemed reasonable to assume that a husband awaited her upstairs.

Logic dispelled the remainder of Hadrian’s undue reaction. She was the very opposite of his preferences, for he liked women who were dainty and sophisticated. Her appeal perhaps could be explained away by the fact that he’d discharged his latest mistress a fortnight ago and had been on the lookout for another to catch his interest. But he strictly confined his liaisons to willing widows and discreet courtesans.

Not mothers with young children.

He resumed his seat at the table and took up his newspaper, though the printed words failed to hold his attention. Instead, he frowned into the dying flames of the fire while his mind continued to mull over the intriguing encounter. Despite the faint accent, she had a refined mode of speech, possessed a natural grace, and displayed a charming blush.

Yet the handshake was curious behavior, indeed. She was clearly a rustic who was unfamiliar with the protocol of curtsying to a gentleman. Even if she was unaware that he was the Duke of Clayton, she ought to have recognized him as a man of consequence. He wasn’t offended, only baffled as to what it might reveal about her background.

Devil take it. She would have to remain a mystery. Tomorrow, they’d each set forth to different destinations, never to cross paths again. He wouldn’t waste another thought on a fleeting encounter with a nameless beauty.

Especially not when he was on his way to acquire the perfect bride.

Unlikely Duchesses

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: December 2019

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Olivia Drake

Shortly after graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism, Olivia Drake sold her first novel two weeks after sending it to a publisher. She now lives in Texas in a cozy cottage with a feisty cat, a loving husband, and two wonderful daughters who still come back whenever they want a home-cooked meal.

Many of you already know Olivia as Barbara Dawson Smith, author of 24 historical romance novels. She is a New York Times bestseller and winner of numerous honors, including the Golden Heart Award and the coveted Rita Award for excellence in the historical romance genre.


Tagged: , , , ,