Genre: Historical Romance

Sunday Spotlight: Someone Perfect by Mary Balogh

Posted November 21, 2021 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 6 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: Someone Perfect by Mary BaloghSomeone Perfect by Mary Balogh
Series: Westcott #9
Publisher: Penguin, Berkley
Publication Date: November 30, 2021
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 400
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Sometimes, just one person can pull a whole family apart. And sometimes, it just takes one person to pull it back together. For fans of Bridgerton, New York Times bestselling Regency Romance author Mary Balogh shows how love truly conquers all in this new Friends of the Westcotts novel.
As a young man, Justin Wiley was banished by his father for mysterious reasons, but now, his father is dead, and Justin has been Earl of Brandon for six years. A dark, dour man, he, nonetheless, takes it as his responsibility to care for his half-sister, Maria, when her mother dies. He travels to her home to fetch her back to the family seat at Everleigh Park.
Although she adored him, once, Maria now loathes Justin, and her friend, Lady Estelle Lamarr, can see, immediately, how his very name upsets her. When Justin arrives and invites Estelle and her brother to accompany Maria to Everleigh Park to help with her distress, she begrudgingly agrees, for Maria's sake.
As family secrets unravel in Maria's homecoming, Justin, too, uncovers his desire for a countess. And, while he may believe he's found an obvious candidate in the beautiful 25-year-old Lady Estelle, she is most certain that they could never make a match...

Excerpt

SOMEONE PERFECT – Excerpt

The grass had been newly scythed and looked neat and smelled heavenly. Then, however, the four large flower beds, which, long before Estelle was born, had been cut into the lawn with geometric precision to form four diamond shapes in a larger diamond formation, had ended up looking sadly ragged in contrast. She could have waited for the gardeners to get to them, as of course they would, but she liked doing a bit of gardening and was out here now pulling weeds and cutting deadheads from among the flowers and dropping them all into the basket she carried over her arm. And what a difference the pulling and cutting had made! The flowers in the three beds she had already done were looking considerably brighter and more fully alive again, and now this one did too. She stood back on the grass to admire her handiwork. But something caught the edge of her vision as she did so, and she looked across two large diamonds to the drive beyond.

A horse and rider were just coming into view, and for a moment she brightened with the expectation that Bertrand was returning from his visit to the vicarage in time for tea. The rider was not Bertrand, of course. He had walked into the village. It was the Earl of Brandon, and now Estelle could not even pretend to be away from home. He had seen her. So had his dog, which took a few menacing steps toward her across the lawn before stopping abruptly at something the man had said. She heard the low rumble of his voice but could not discern the actual words.

How very mortifying and unpleasant. Estelle was terribly aware of her ancient cotton dress, faded from innumerable washes and much despised by her maid, who always told her it was too old even for the ragbag. But it was cool and comfortable and was kept strictly for chores such as this one. Her straw hat must be almost as antique. Its brim was limp and shapeless and wonderfully effective in shading her face and neck from the sun. Her gloves were large and elbow length and bright green and ugly. But they kept her fingers and forearms from being pricked, and they kept the dirt from getting beneath her fingernails and the sap from staining her hands. Her shoes . . . Well, the less said about her shoes, the better.

She set down her basket, pulled off her gloves, and dropped them on top of the dead blooms and weeds. She could not do anything about the rest of her appearance. Let him think what he would. She did not much care about his good opinion anyway. She made her way toward him, skirting about the flower beds and eyeing the dog warily. It was panting, its tongue lolling out of its mouth. It was looking at her as though it would be happy to make her its afternoon tea if only its master would be obliging enough to ride out of sight for a few moments.

The man looked as morose as ever. Oh, it was wicked, perhaps, to have taken him in such thorough dislike. No, it was not. He had done nothing to make himself likable. Quite the opposite.

“Captain will not hurt you,” he told her.

“Not when you are here to call him off,” she agreed.

“Cap,” he said. “Shake.”

And the dog, still panting, still gazing intently and hungrily at her, sat on its haunches, lifted one of its giant paws, and dangled it toward her.

Oh dear God.

But he had done it deliberately to disconcert her— he man, that was. To make a cringing female out of her, as he had done by the river. How she wished now that she had left her legs dangling in the water and merely tossed her head— and her hair— in his direction. And raised one haughty eyebrow.

She took a few resolute steps forward, grasped the dog’s paw in a firm clasp, and shook it. It was gigantic. It could flatten her with one swat. And it had lethal-looking claws. Was that what one called them on a dog? Or were they nails?

“How do you do, Captain?” she said before looking up at the earl. Man and dog suited each other. He was gigantic too. And he had those huge hands, neatly gloved at the moment and holding the reins. “How do you do, Lord Brandon?”

He removed his hat. “I wondered, Lady Estelle,” he said, “if I might have a few words with you and Viscount Watley.”

From SOMEONE PERFECT published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Mary Balogh.

 

Wescott

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: November 2021

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 Mary Balogh

Mary Balogh's Headshot

Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Slightly novels: Slightly Married, Slightly Wicked, Slightly Scandalous, Slightly Tempted, Slightly Sinful, and Slightly Dangerous, as well as the romances No Man's Mistress, More than a Mistress, and One Night for Love. She is also the author of Simply Love, Simply Unforgettable, Simply Magic, and Simply Perfect, her dazzling quartet of novels set at Miss Martin's School for Girls. A former teacher herself, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada.


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Review: Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins

Posted October 25, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Forbidden by Beverly JenkinsReviewer: Holly
Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins
Series: Old West #1
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance, Westerns
Pages: 389
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2021 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2021 New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins returns with the first book in a breathtaking new series set in the Old West

Rhine Fontaine is building the successful life he's always dreamed of—one that depends upon him passing for White. But for the first time in years, he wishes he could step out from behind the façade. The reason: Eddy Carmichael, the young woman he rescued in the desert. Outspoken, defiant, and beautiful, Eddy tempts Rhine in ways that could cost him everything . . . and the price seems worth paying.

Eddy owes her life to Rhine, but she won't risk her heart for him. As soon as she's saved enough money from her cooking, she'll leave this Nevada town and move to California. No matter how handsome he is, no matter how fiery the heat between them, Rhine will never be hers. Giving in for just one night might quench this longing. Or it might ignite an affair as reckless and irresistible as it is forbidden . . .

My book club chose Forbidden for this month. I am not a fan of historical Westerns in general. I did really enjoy this one, however. As a friend pointed out, this felt more like a small-town contemporary romance set in the old West, rather than a true Western. While that may not appeal to some, it definitely appealed to me.

I really loved Eddy. She was such a smart, capable woman who stood by her convictions and worked hard for a better future, I easily connected with her. She stood up for herself and wasn’t willing to compromise her ethics or morals, which was lovely. She also had a great sense of humor.

I didn’t care for Rhine as much. I’m not exactly sure why Eddy was fixated on him. She didn’t seem the type to be swayed by the physical only, yet I didn’t see much of a connection between them outside of good ol’ sexual chemistry. He did do a lot of good for the community, but he was such an ass that I really had a hard time liking him.

Forbidden is a well-written, easy-to-read novel. I loved the town, the secondary characters, and Eddy. I even liked the romance. I just wished she’d ended up with someone else.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Old West

four-stars


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Guest Review: A Duke in Time by Janna MacGregor

Posted July 26, 2021 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: A Duke in Time by Janna MacGregorReviewer: Tracy
A Duke in Time by Janna MacGregor
Series: The Widow Rules #1
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication Date: June 29, 2021
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Third Person
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
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three-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

Get ready for lost wills, broody dukes, and scorching hot kissing all over London in A Duke in Time by Janna MacGregor.

Katherine Vareck is in for the shock of her life when she learns upon her husband Meri's accidental death that he had married two other women. Her entire business, along with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a royal supplier, is everything she's been working for and now could be destroyed if word leaks about the three wives.

Meri's far more upstanding brother, Christian, Duke of Randford has no earthly clue how to be of assistance. He spent the better part of his adult years avoiding Meri and the rest of his good-for-nothing family, so to be dragged back into the fold is…problematic. Even more so is the intrepid and beautiful Katherine, whom he cannot be falling for because she's Meri's widow. Or can he?

With a textile business to run and a strong friendship forming with Meri's two other wives, Katherine doesn't have time for much else. But there's something about the warm, but compellingly taciturn Christian that draws her to him. When an opportunity to partner in a business venture brings them even closer, they'll have to face their pasts if they want to share each other's hearts and futures.

Recently widowed Katherine arrives at her husband’s solicitor’s office for the reading of the will.  Unfortunately, she then finds her dead husband’s other two wives in attendance as well.  One is very pregnant!  She wants to talk to the Duke of Randford, her husband’s older brother, but he wants nothing to do with the women or his brother’s business.

Katherine takes matters into her own hands and invites the women, Constance and Blythe, to her home.  She realizes that there is no money to be had from her dead husband and these women’s reputations are on the line.  When the public finds out that they were all married to the same man, all hell will break loose.

While Christian, the Duke of Randford, truly wants nothing to do with the women his brother married, he finally realizes that he can’t just leave them all to their own devices.  He’s surprised when he finds out that Katherine has taken them home and goes there to see if he can be of assistance.  Though he wishes that things were easier, he soon realizes that there is a tangled web.  This on top of the fact that he finds Katherine incredibly attractive and soon wants her for himself.

This was a cute story.  Not only did it deal with the three women as well and the romance between Katherine and Christian, but also with Katherine’s business.  I loved that the author made Katherine more or less a self-made woman who truly didn’t care what the public thought about her.  She wanted the royal commission for her linen business, however, and that forced her to play the ton’s game.

Christian, while acting the jerk at first, soon showed his true colors as a really nice guy.  He wanted to help the women and did all he could to make sure that their reputations wouldn’t be hurt.  I did like Katherine and Christian together, but I found Katherine completely out of character when it came to the sex scenes.  Maybe I’m turning prude in my old age, but it just didn’t fit with her character.  IDK.

Gregor wrote a sweet story with a little twist at the end.  While I liked the book it didn’t love parts of it, including when Katherine was blackmailed for something from her past.  It was ok, but wasn’t too exciting.  Overall a decent read.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5

three-stars


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Joint Review: Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas

Posted July 1, 2021 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Joint Review: Not Quite a Husband by Sherry ThomasReviewer: Holly and Rowena
Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas
Series: The Marsdens #2
Publisher: Bantam Books
Publication Date: May 19, 2009
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Third Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 354
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2021 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Sherry Thomas is one of the hottest new voices in historical romance, garnering the highest praise from today’s bestselling writers (“Entrancing.” —Mary Balogh; “Ravishingly sinful, intelligent and addictive.” —Eloisa James). Now Sherry delivers this powerful story of a remarkable woman and the love she thought she’d never find—with the man she thought she’d lost forever.…

Their marriage lasted only slightly longer than the honeymoon—to no one’s surprise, not even Bryony Asquith’s. A man as talented, handsome, and sought after by society as Leo Marsden couldn't possibly want to spend his entire life with a woman who rebelled against propriety by becoming a doctor. Why, then, three years after their annulment and half a world away, does he track her down at her clinic in the remotest corner of India?

Leo has no reason to think Bryony could ever forgive him for the way he treated her, but he won’t rest until he’s delivered an urgent message from her sister—and fulfilled his duty by escorting her safely back to England. But as they risk their lives for each other on the journey home, will the biggest danger be the treacherous war around them—or their rekindling passion?

Holly: I am a total sucker for second chance romances. When our book club suggested this novel, I was really excited. I was frustrated with Bryony in the beginning, because I didn’t understand why she was so cold toward her former husband. But my heart really ached for her after we found out her reasons for pulling away.

Rowena: I haven’t been in the mood for historicals so I wasn’t all that enthused about starting this one but I am glad that I read and finished it. Like you, I spent a lot of the beginning of this story frustrated with Bryony. I was impatient and just wanted to know why she hated her husband so much. He had to have done something but even he was clueless about what he did so I thought I was going to be pissed at Bryony because it was going to be something stupid but that wasn’t the case at all.

I will say that I spent a good chunk of this book annoyed at one thing or another but I couldn’t stop reading it so I guess that’s a good thing?

Holly: It’s funny because I felt the same way. I wanted to keep reading and find out what was going to happen, and why they were at odds when they both clearly loved the other. But man was I annoyed through a good chunk.

I especially struggled with the dubious consent on both sides.

Rowena: Yes. The dubious consent on both sides pissed me off. Every single time that he did it, I wanted to smack him upside his head and then knee him in the balls because what is wrong with him?? I was so mad on her behalf because she was trying so hard to stay away from him and he just kept right on coming back while she had her guard down…so when she ups and does the exact same thing that I was pissed at him for doing, I wanted to pull her hair and poke her eyes out.

Holly: Exactly. I was so angry at him, and then she went and did the exact same thing. I wanted to smack them both.

Rowena: Once all of their drama is out in the open and they start working together to figure out where to go from here (especially during the attack), I was glad. I will say that Sherry Thomas’ writing style is hard to stay away from. No matter how many times I wanted to smack a bitch in the book, I never once wanted to stop. This was a quick read for me and alls well that ends well so for me, I’d give this one a 3.75 out of 5 rating. You?

Holly: Like you, I didn’t want to stop reading, though. This was a fast read and I easily finished it in one sitting.

I’d give it 3.5 out of 5. It was easy to read and I liked the story overall, but there were some problematic themes for me.

Holly: 3.5 out of 5
Rowena: 3.75 out of 5

The Marsdens

four-stars


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Throwback Thursday Review: Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas

Posted May 27, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 10 Comments

Throwback Thursday Review: Worth Any Price by Lisa KleypasReviewer: Holly
Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Bow Street Runners #3
Also in this series: Worth Any Price
Publisher: Harper Collins, Avon
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 388
Add It: Goodreads
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five-stars
Series Rating: five-stars

Nick Gentry is reputed to be the most skillful lover in all England. Known for solving delicate situations, he is hired to seek out Miss Charlotte Howard. He believes his mission will be easily accomplished - but that was before he met the lady in question.

For instead of a willful female, he discovers one in desperate circumstances, hiding from a man who could destroy her very soul. So Nick shockingly offers her a very different kind of proposition - one he has never offered before.

He asks her to be his bride.

And he knows that this will be much more than a union in name only. For he senses what Charlotte does not yet know - that her appetite for sensuality matches his own. But what Nick learns surprises him. For while London's most notorious lover might claim Charlotte's body, he quickly discovers it will take much more than passion to win her love

This is another novel I recently re-read. It was just as wonderful this time around. I adore Nick and Lottie.

This review was originally posted on June 24, 2009.

Worth Any Price is the 3rd book in Lisa Kleypas’ Bow Street Runners series. I read this book before I read any of the others (naturally) and Nick immediately grabbed me. Right from the beginning I adored him, and that hasn’t changed in all my years of reading romance. I recently re-read this book because of a discussion on Good Reads and I was just as impressed with it this time around.

Lottie Howard has escaped a fate worse than death: Being married to Lord Radnor, a peer of the realm who thinks he’s purchased her and now owns her lock, stock and barrel. Even though it puts her family in a bad position she knows her life will be over if she goes forward with the marriage. She finds a position as a lady’s companion to Lord Westcliff’s mother.

Which is where Nick Gentry finds her. Nick is a bow street runner who takes private commissions on occasion to supplement his income. He was hired by Lord Radnor to find Lottie and bring her back. Radnor has hired several others before Nick to find her with no luck, but Nick is the best of the best and it isn’t long before he locates Charlotte. The problem is that he seems to be completely taken with her himself.

Although he has every intention of taking her to Radnor, he surprises everyone, himself included, by offering for her instead. Although Lottie would prefer to remain single and independent, she knows she needs the protection of marriage if she’s to avoid marriage with Radnor. And if anyone is strong enough to keep her safe from Radnor, it’s Nick Gentry.

They enter into a marriage of convenience, but both are surprised by the depth of passion they feel for each other. Despite their steamy, passionate nights, however, they each hold part of themselves back.

I think the thing I love most about this book is what a unique and unconventional hero Nick is. He’s only had one lover prior to Lottie (though admittedly the madame of a brothel is probably like the equivalent of like sleeping with all of London) and he is very content with his lot in life. He thrives on the rush of being a Bow Street Runner and isn’t just playacting when it comes to his past. He’s very scarred from things that happened in his youth. The only person he really allows himself to be close to is his young niece, and to some extend his sister (who’s story is told in the previous book, Lady Sophia’s Lover).

In this case it’s Lottie who is the strong one. She’s the more balanced of the two, despite her childhood under Radnor’s thumb, and she’s the one who steadies Nick, though he doesn’t realize it. I love that they were able to lean on each other – Lottie on Nick for protection and Nick on Lottie for emotional support.

Plus, the sex is totally hot. Tantric Love-making takes on a whole new meaning with Nick Gentry.

There are issues with it. I hate it ends as abruptly as it does, without giving us more of the story with Charlotte and her family. Particularly her younger sister. I think I really wanted to see her family brought low after they way they treated her, and I never got that. The problems are few and the rest of the story really makes up for them, in my opinion.

Overall this is an emotionally appealing novel about love, redemption and the strange connections formed between two polar opposites. I was sucked in from page one the first time I read this years and years ago, and that didn’t change upon this re-read.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Bow Street Runners

Book CoverBook CoverBook Cover

five-stars


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