I have an ARC copy of What Happens at Christmas by Victoria Alexander. It's a soft cover in color copy. One of the major supporting characters in this book is the focus of Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagements and is the hero of the next full length book - The Importance of Being Wicked.Anybody interested should leave a comment to this post and include an email address. You can leave like this if you want: letyourmindalone at hotmail dot com.
Ok, so...... I was looking forward to reading the teensy ebook Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagement by Victoria Alexander. I thought the main charcter was super cool in the most recent book What Happens at Christmas (in which he is a supporting character) - very charming & witty (was a little more interesting than the hero, quite honestly). In the book he mentions to the hero how he wrote letters to him over the years telling him of his many past broken engagements. This little ebook is the story behind those engagements. I think they first listed the price on Amazon @ $2.51, however.....I looked at the reviews on Amazon and the majority of them were 1 star negative reviews. I was baffled, but after reading them, I think most reviewers had bad preconceptions of what this was. It seemed like they expected it to be a regular romance and to be longer. I knew it was going to be a shorty and based on the description and the author's own description made me think it will be amusing vignettes told mostly through letters about an interesting character. I wrote Kensington (for whom I am a reviewer) and asked them to either send me a copy or else put a copy on Net Galley and I could get it there. Finally - I checked Net Galley the other day & they had put it there (along with the next book in the series) - except that you can just click "Read" instead of the usual "Request" for the novella.
After reading it, I found it to be exactly as I expected. I don't think it's fair to just call it a "teaser" for the next book. It is 3 little vignettes that are amusing & shed more light on an interesting potential hero. The first two help explain what happens in the third. I think - if you've read What Happens at Christmas and you are as charmed by Win as I was and you plan on reading the next full length book in which he is the hero - you should read this novella.
The story starts out with Jack Armstrong returning home to England after living life as a military man for the past five years in the wilds of Canada. He is returning home to an estate and a wife whom he married in name only and hasn’t seen since the day he married her five years ago. All those many years ago, he went to visit one of his lifelong friends, Giles Hamilton. Giles had only just married. When Jack arrived, it was to find his friend gravely ill and his new bride Elizabeth grief-stricken. While on his deathbed, Giles makes his friend and his wife promise to marry so that his wife will be taken care of when he’s gone. Though shocked, they both agree. After Giles dies, Elizabeth tries to let Jack off the hook but Jack says he is honor bound to keep the promise. After getting his new wife set up at his estate, Jack immediately takes off back to the military. The marriage is never consummated before his leaving. While gone, they exchange letters. While not amorous in nature, Elizabeth is extremely heartened by the missives from Jack and starts to have tender feelings toward him. However, about two years into their marriage, Jack’s mother dies. Elizabeth had been her caretaker while he was away. It’s at this time that a gossipy matron brings Elizabeth stories of Jack’s current liaisons with all kinds of women from a native woman to a married woman. She tells Elizabeth that no one is even aware he is married because of how flagrantly he flaunts his conquests. She tries not to show how hurt she is by this news. She had never believed that her husband gotten from a deathbed promise, marriage never consummated, would be entirely faithful while he was away in the military. However, she thought that he did have more respect for her than these wild tales of his escapades would have her believe. So when his mother dies, she sends him a shorter, more curt note than was her custom. Meanwhile, Jack notices the difference in his wife’s letters which he actually enjoyed and wonders for the reason. What the old gossip had told his wife was pretty much accurate except that he was foolish and arrogant enough to believe that she would never find out. When he comes home at last, he brings his wife presents in hopes to soften her up so she will fall in with his plans to start producing an heir. He is very surprised to find a more confident woman, made more attractive by that confidence. In no time, without any shouting or violence, just with clever maneuvering, Elizabeth is able to get him to explain himself and to let him know how things will be from now on. Jack agrees to start being faithful if she eventually provides him with children. However she says that they have to get to know each other and ease into a physical relationship at her comfort level. I really didn’t think I would like this book because of Jack’s past behavior. However once he came home, this became a really sweet love story as they got to know and appreciate each other. As their relationship progresses and you watch them fall in love, you become more invested in the story. In spite of all obstacles, their love wins out. I would definitely try another book by this author.
This is Book 4 in the “Lords of Deliverance” series. Some readers might think that it is imperative to read the previous books in this series before reading this one. However, I have always believed that a good book can stand on its own merits – especially when the story is character driven. I feel like this is one of those books. I have not read all of the previous books in this series but I was able to really enjoy this one.
Jillian Cardiff moved to a remote mountain town in Colorado after a brutal attack by demons. She was attacked while working down in Florida. Fortunately somebody came by and the demons scattered, and she lived to tell the tale. It’s while out collecting firewood on a snowy day, that she finds a naked man frozen, yet still alive, in a snow bank. She immediately takes the man home and warms him up. All Reseph manages to remember is his name. Everything else is a blank to him. While staying with Jillian, he helps her out while flirting pretty heavily. Even though there is an intense physical attraction between them, Jillian is reluctant to give in to the feelings for a few reasons. Reseph has amnesia and she doesn’t want to take advantage of him while he’s vulnerable. Also, there is a killer on the loose which doesn’t make the best time to start an affair. The biggest reason is that she has had bad luck with relationships – her ex-fiancé is a prime example. She’s reluctant to get physically involved and risk getting emotionally involved. For me, this is the best part of the story – the two of them getting to know each other and fall in love. Things would be perfect if not for a few things. Something or someone is killing animals and people in the surrounding area. It could be a psycho or it could be the work of demons. Some local suspicion falls on Reseph at first because he is a stranger and nobody, including himself, knows his past. Reseph starts to doubt himself when he senses the presence of evil and suspects that the demons are drawn to the area because he’s there and he has some kind of affinity with the evil. I enjoyed the drama of Reseph trying to control the part of him that was Pestilence and I was very happy how things worked out in the end for Jillian and Reseph since I was totally sucked in by their love story. My heart broke for them at times. I will say that the revelation that connects Reseph/Pestilence to Jillian’s past was almost a little too much, but other than that I loved this story. I look forward to Reaver and Harvester’s story.
Louisa (the heroine) is from a wealthy family but not from nobility. She is intelligent and loves to read. Although Nicholas (the hero) married Louisa for her quiet demeanor, obvious intelligence, and huge dowry rather than for her looks, he thinks her smile is lovely and likes her warm brown eyes. Nicholas was a notorious rake in his early days. However, after watching his wastrel father destroy himself and those closest to him with his gambling and flagrant womanizing, he vowed to be nothing like him. He aims for stability, both financially as well as personally. His wife is very unhappy with their unsatisfactory sex life but is unsure how to communicate that to her husband so she sublimates her desires by reading gothic romances. Nicholas thinks that he is doing right by his wife by not ravishing her and overwhelming her with his masculinity and sexuality. It is somewhat of a shock to him when Louisa first tries to clue him in. However, after talking to others, he quickly realizes that he needs to figure out how to fix the situation and take action. I like that it didn’t take him long to figure things out. I also liked the gradual seduction of Louisa’s sense – given the time restraints of a short story. I also liked the fact that Nicholas read one of his wife’s romances to see what some of her erotic triggers might be. I also love that he made one of his wife’s favorite fantasies come true in a very real and vivid way. This is the first thing I’ve read by this author and have been reluctant in the past to try some of her books based on the content but I liked the focus in this book on the hero & heroine.
“Beauty and the Brute” by Virginia Henley
The hero & heroine in this story went through with an arranged marriage in name only when she was 13 and he was 18. The main story takes place 3 years later when she is 16 and he is 21 and they have been apart for those 3 years. Some readers had a problem with the ages of the main characters but I didn’t for a few reasons. First, I realized that back then (circa 1719) & with lifespans being what they were, that was the norm. Comparing people that age then with people that age nowadays is like comparing apples and oranges. Also, the age difference between the two was only 5 years – for me that’s different from an old man deflowering a young girl. After exchanging wedding vows, he goes off on his Grand Tour and she goes to a London academy for young ladies. Sarah can’t get over the very bad first impression of him. Charles was a typical thoughtless 18yr old boy and said some insulting, snarky things to Sarah when he had just met her. Perhaps an older, more mature woman would have either brushed off his comments or else set him straight, but for a young girl those comments stuck with her. During their time apart, they both matured, physically and in all other ways. Sarah’s figure became more womanly and less girlish. She also gained more self-confidence and became very intelligent and known for her fine wit. Charles likewise became more manly in appearance and, after traveling, sickness, and being exposed to different cultures, gained an empathy for others and depth as a person. Charles is captivated by Sarah when he first sees her after 3 years, not realizing she is his wife. When he does find out who she is, it only strengthens his resolve to win her heart. Sarah, by comparison, is intent on plotting revenge for the way he acted toward her when they were younger. Her plan is “love’em and leave’em”. In the end, of course, she falls for him just as much as he fell for her. I was very happy that, perhaps because of the story length, there was not a long estrangement at the end.
“Not Quite a Courtesan” by Maggie Robinson
Prudence Thorn is a prudish widow of 10 years. It takes collector and auctioneer Darius Shaw to awaken her sexuality. I liked the hero in this story much more than the heroine.
I was hooked after the first book in this series so I was very anxious to read book 2. It did not disappoint. There were three main baddies in this book. I thought for sure that one of the bad guys would end up being Harvey Jekyll but was proven wrong. Like the first book, a lot of this book focuses on the persecution suffered by “unnaturals”. It seems very fitting to me, that Jekyll now gets that same kind of treatment being an unnatural himself now. I enjoyed meeting the new supporting characters like Bill the golem, as well as characters from the first book like Tiffany, the mummy Ramen Ho-Tep, Mrs. Saldana, & Jerry the zombie. I look forward to reading more about how Bill is doing in future books. As soon as I was introduced to the mummy madam Neffi, I was hoping that she & Ramen would get together. I really ended up getting invested in Jerry’s storyline and Dan’s investigation into finding Jerry’s heart & soul. Senator Balfour was a truly loathsome villain. I was hoping for his demise and that of his “Unnatural Acts Act”. Given the fact that I read this around election time, I saw a lot of parallels between Balfour and some real life politicians. Between the Unnatural Acts Act, and the Smile Syndicate the unnaturals had so much to deal with and there was a definite oppressive mood in parts of the book. In spite of some of the heavier stories, like the plight of the mixed race couple (vampire/werewolf), there are a lot of funny & sweet characters & moments in this book that make it worthwhile for me. I liked the developments in Dan & Sheyenne’s relationship.
For me, this book was all about female power, female sexuality, and magic. Lady Octavia Grenville is dying. She wants to have an adventure and lose her virginity before she dies. Who better to choose as an object of desire to accomplish both goals, then the sexy rake Matthew, the Earl of Sutcliffe? She has studied his delectable naked form in her hidden stash of naughty colored prints (no Playgirl magazine back then). She cleverly arranges for him to be invited (never knowing that he already was invited) to a scandalous party in hopes of seducing him or having him seduce her. When Matthew first meets her, he is intrigued by her and is at the same time suspicious of such a seeming innocent being at such a gathering. They eventually do click and sparks fly. Afterwards, he does believe that she really is dying and not just trying to trap him into marriage. Matthew has been on a melancholy and suspicious bent ever since he killed his brother when the brother was turned into a vampire by the evil vampiress Esmeralda.
Meanwhile..... Olivia thinks she is a witch because not only does she notice that her health seems to mysteriously improve after every sexual encounter she and Matthew have, she exhibits pyrokinesis & telekinesis - and all this freaks her out a lot. Little does Olivia know that she is actually a Succubus. Not only does she have that to deal with, but she discovers that she is pregnant. This throws a wrench into everybody's plans. Matthew doesn't believe in love, doesn't think he can love after what happened w/ his brother and after watching his parents' loveless marriage and the unhappiness it caused them. While he thinks he is just sexually obsessed w/ Olivia he offers to marry her out of duty. She would like to turn him down flat believing that a marriage made out of a sense of duty is worthless - however she agrees once she finds out she is pregnant.
There are some twists and turns, involving Mrs. Darkwell, Lucifer the Prince of Darkness, a MFM married vampire trio, female powerful paranormal types trying to enslave men and take over the world, a love curse, and all kinds of male paranormal baddies trying to kill Olivia & baby to stop the women taking over the world thing, and of course the requisite X-rated sexual vinegnettes.
I enjoyed this book, but Black Silk is still my fav book by this author. I would love to see in future books in this series if Mrs. Darkwell & the librarian vamp Guidon get together.
Dan “Shambles” Chambeaux is a zombie private detective. One night he was investigating his girlfriend’s murder when somebody shot him in the back of the head. In the world the author has created, there was an event called “The Big Uneasy”. After the Big Uneasy, there was an increase in all kinds of paranormal or “unnaturals” like ghosts, zombies, vampires, werewolves, etc. Not only did Dan come back as a zombie, but his girlfriend Sheyenne came back as a ghost. Sheyenne was a nightclub singer before her untimely death but now helps around the office for Dan & Robin at Chambeaux & Deyer Investigations. Robin is Dan’s business partner and young, passionate lawyer for all things paranormal. Robin & Dan will often help out on the same case. Dan, Robin, and Sheyenne are all very likable. I enjoyed reading about Dan’s many clients and got involved in their sometimes funny, sometimes sad struggles. It was fun reading about Dan’s client Ramen Ho-Tep and his struggle to emancipate himself from the museum. I was happy how things worked out for the mummy & the Wannovich sisters. I was very saddened by the death of one of the clients and was glad to see him avenged at the end. I enjoyed the world building and meeting all the cool characters that inhabit that world.
I also found this book satisfying as a mystery. I knew from the beginning that the anti-unnaturals hate group Straight Edge would be somehow involved in the bad things happening around town. I wasn’t surprised so much by who the bad guys were, so much as the how & why.
This was not a book that I would have chosen if not for getting it through the Publisher as an early review book, but I’m glad I did get it. Having just finished it, I am excited to just get the next book in the series Unnatural Acts. I look forward to reading about the regulars and what happens this time around.
For those of you who love highlander books - you should give this series a try. For those of you who don't think you can stomache another highlander book if your life depended on it (like me) - you should give this series a try. For those of you who like paranormal historicals - you should give this series a try.
Ciara is the heroine of this book. She is a wolf shifter. Years ago, when she was a young girl, she watched her ornery older brother and his douche bag buddy get turned to ash by a dragon shifter. They got burned because the db buddy was about to wail on two Ean (bird shifter youths) for no good reason. Ciara was about to put a stop to things and come out of her hiding place - but was not fast enough. Who was that dragon shifter? Our hero - Eirik, prince of the Ean shifters. Part dragon shifter and part raven shifter. These two meet up when Eirik and Lais (eagle shifter) come to hang out for a spell and work with Talroc's clan (hero of book 2). Since her brother's death, Ciara has been an adopted daughter of Talroc (the Laird & wolf shifter) and his wife Abigail.Sparks fly between the two right away. However, Ciara is slower to accept the idea of a mating between the two. Ciara tries to resist getting too emotionally invested in anybody after what happened with her brother and parents.
This was another fab story in this fab series. Loved the two main characters & their romance, nice to see old familiar characters, and cool new characters. The shifter myth is explored in greater detail and added to as well. Look forward to reading about Paindeal (cat shifters) in future books. Appreciated the glossary at the end w/ some common terms.
When I first read the description on the back of the book and I read the first part of the book when Amy & Kellan hook up almost immediately, I thought this book would be simply a fun, flirty, sexy bit of brain candy - lots of fun but not much substance. However, the story turned out to be heavy on substance. The three Sorentino sisters – Amy, Rachel, and Jenna – have not had an easy time for most of their lives. Their father was perhaps not a totally black hearted villain, but a man who played fast and loose with his family’s money and was careless with the safety and security of his wife and daughters. Their mother has a myriad of health issues, both mental and physical. Rachel stayed close to home and tried to work the land and take care of her family that way. Jenna had a somewhat wild youth, having a baby boy early in life, but changing her wild ways after embracing motherhood. Amy chose to run away as soon as she could. She honed her skills as a chef and eventually was cast, and became a finalist on the cooking reality show Ultimate Chef Showdown. Amy’s one vice is cowboys. She sees a good looking cowboy and she gets all hot and bothered. While on the show, she fell for the machinations of fellow contestant & all around jerk Cowboy Brock McKenna. Unfortunately for Amy, it was in the midst of the pressure of the reality show and her relationship with Brock that she found out about her father’s sudden death and her mother’s ill health. These things created the perfect storm and she went on a hysterical tirade and was humiliated on national television. She has come back to the family home at Catcher Creek to help take care of their mother, lick her wounds, and earn money turning the old homestead into a successful inn and café. For me, this story is all about the characters and the layered relationships that they all have. It’s the characters that make this story so powerful. Kellan is more than just a sexy guy Amy sees in a cowboy hat. He’s not even a real cowboy. He comes from a severely damaged home life. His father was a criminal and a druggie always in and out of jail. His mother is also a drug user. At a young age he and his younger brother Jake were put into foster care. When Jake got out & grew up he was bitter about how things worked out with his family but became a good cop. Kellan went looking for the rich part of his family with a chip on his shoulder. What he found was a very shady uncle. Eventually Kellan made it on his own and has a successful ranch and helps out his community. A lot of the conflict in this book comes from Kellan’s family associations and how that is connected to the problems going on with Amy’s family. I liked Amy & Kellan and thought they were both two very good people. I was happy with how Amy’s family troubles resolved at the end. I look forward to reading more stories about Amy’s sisters and Jake. I’m kinda hoping that somehow Jake & Jenna hook up.
This is the third book in this cozy mystery series but only the first one that I have read. Gwen is a NY transplant living and working in the south. Despite the odd moment or two of culture shock, she has carved out a good business, taking over her late uncle’s kosher deli. It has been a slow and steady process involving settling in the community, hiring reliable staff, and building a clientele. One of the things that are consuming Gwen in this book is trying to win the Best Mid-Range Restaurant Award. Everything and everyone seems to be conspiring against her. Amid the hustle and bustle of daily business activity, Gwen comes in early to open the shop and get the special rye bread delivery. She is surprised to find the bread truck still parked out back at a time when it should have already come and gone. She is even more surprised when she slips on the blood of the murdered man – who just so happens to be the guy delivering the bread. She has a very realistic reaction to experiencing something so traumatic. I did not warm to Gwen immediately, but she grew on me through the course of the book. I liked the relationships and interactions between all the deli co-workers. Dani was a fun character – she was sweet and not quite as ditzy as she first appears. I found the mystery engrossing and the characters interesting.
The only part that disappointed me was the possible new love interest for Gwen. I feel like the author was legitimately leading up to Gwen and Robert being romantically involved and then, out of left field, she and the reader find out that he is actually gay. I felt very let down because they seemed to click and have good chemistry. I’m glad that, at the end, they seem to be on friendly terms but it was still a surprise.
I couldn't resist because it was free & I liked the first (and so far only) book I had read by this author.
Marcus is a Duke and a widower. On her deathbed, his slightly evil mother tells him that she promised an old friend that he would marry the friend's ward. Needless to say he is not thrilled about this prospect. He has enough to deal w/ looking after/rebuilding his crumbling estate and dealing with his scapegrace younger brother.
Lady Miranda Grey is the daughter of a peer......but a peer who has gambled away the family fortune. Miranda's father isn't totally a baddie. He got the wake up call and did hard manual labor to try and keep the family together and keep Miranda from winding up on the street selling herself or being a man's mistress. She goes to visit the Duke with low expectations but he does the right thing and marries her.
I was worried at first, having read these kinds of stories before, that the no good evil brother would completely muck things up beyond salvaging. Luckily things didn't go as bad as I feared, but I was very relieved when Marcus & Miranda finally came clean with each other.
This book reminded me a little of the films High Society & The Philadelphia Story. Maggie and Spencer were married and divorced years ago. Maggie is about to marry for a second time when her ex-husband makes a surprising appearance. She was a rich socialite and he was a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks with a messed up family life. Against the odds they start dating, fall in love, and marry. Then it goes terribly wrong, terribly fast. You find out, through conversations, as well as from the story told from each of their own point of view exactly what happened to tear their marriage apart. The description on the back of the book is a little misleading. Spencer eventually wants to win Maggie back, but the initial reason he came back was for revenge – to show her and everybody else who didn’t think he could be successful how wrong they were. They each have hurt and believe they’ve been wronged by the other. Spencer was always well-liked by Maggie’s father, sister, best friend, and staff. He is very charming when he wants to be. I was worried at first, after learning about Spencer’s original motives for coming back into her life that Spencer would carry out his revenge plan. Luckily, it didn’t take long for his heart to thaw and both of them gave in to their renewed feelings. It was fun watching the two of them fall in love again.
I hadn’t read the previous first book in this series, but after reading this book and liking it, I will definitely give it a whirl. Nikki is a celebrity realtor who is also an amateur private investigator. I was worried at first that this story would be a little too hard-boiled for my tastes, but I found it to be interesting and a lot of fun. Nikki is a very likable, non-obnoxious protagonist. She is temporarily living with her famous movie star mother while she is having work done on her house. It is while at her mother’s that she witnesses and then gets involved in an argument between childhood friend and family gardener Jorge and the druggie, loser son of her mother’s famous next-door neighbors. Some threats are made and then Eddie (the loser) is found dead in an alleyway dumpster with Jorge’s gardening shears imbedded in him. Jorge is understandably thought of as suspect number one and promptly arrested. Nikki then makes it her mission to prove Jorge’s innocence, even without his help. I enjoyed following Nikki’s investigation as she questions the various suspects – and there are a lot since most people had a reason to dislike Eddie. The story kept me guessing right up until the end. I enjoyed meeting all the supporting characters like Nikki’s celebrity buddy Marshall, Nikki’s brother Jimmy, and the mysterious Mr. M. Nikki’s boyfriend Jeremy seemed nice enough, but he was very much on the periphery and I was sort of hoping Nikki would wind up switching her affections to the nice, Robert Redford look-alike. I look forward to reading more books in this series.
The opening of the book is strictly from Larissa’s point of view, and what little I learned intrigued me. Larissa Whitney comes from a very wealthy family. She is portrayed in the tabloids a kind of Paris Hilton. At the start of the book she is running away, not just from her cold-hearted father, but from her reputation. For me, this book was more chick-lit than a traditional romance. This book is the story of Larissa’s journey of self-awareness. She seems to recognize what’s wrong with her life, but having been emotionally damaged for so long by her domineering father; she’s not quite sure what direction to take with her life. Jack Sutton is somebody who comes from a similar background as Larissa. Years ago they had an intimate relationship until it crashed and burned. By chance, Jack comes upon Larissa as she’s hiding out. Through the course of this book, Jack says a lot of very nasty things to Larissa. In spite of how wrong he is by saying them, I believe he says those hateful things because he sees so much of himself in Larissa. It really reflects how he feels deep down about himself. If it wasn’t for how Larissa responds to these attacks, I wouldn’t continue reading the book. One of the things I liked about this story was how off-balance she kept Jack by her retorts during their verbal sparring. I felt like she was always in control of any of their conversations, no matter how Jack acted or what he said. I also really liked how Larissa changed her life and stuck up for herself with her father on her own, without help from any man in her life. I was happy that Jack came around and changed his ways at the end, but for me this story was all about the evolution of a woman.
At the opening of the book, Miss Cynthia Banester and Lord Kenton go for a moonlit stroll in the garden. They each go for their own very different reasons. Cynthia is looking to help her family out financially by marrying a wealthy man. Jack Briggs, masquerading as Lord Kenton, is an actor hired by the Earl of Spayne to pretend to be his long lost son, marry money, and produce an heir. Not knowing Jack’s plans, she pulls a pistol on him to get him to stay with her until someone comes to discover them and make them marry. This is no problem to Jack because in his mind, it fits in with his plans and he is extremely attracted to Cynthia. They have a brief courtship and then marry. It’s not until directly after the wedding, when Jack speaks to Cynthia’s father, that they finally learn the truth about each other. Cynthia’s family is just about broke & Jack is actually an actor playing a part and not actually Lord Kenton. They both feel cheated and angry with each other. Jack decides to go visit his “father” the Earl of Spayne with his new bride and ask his advice. At this point the marriage is still not consummated. The Earl seems understandably disappointed but very gracious to Cynthia. He says that no matter what, he will look upon her as a daughter. The Earl’s plan was originally for Jack to go off and have a fake tragic accident after making good. I enjoyed the relationship between the Earl and Jack. They end up having a kind of Father/son relationship. Jack helps the Earl with investment & estate matters. The Earl never planned on having any more children after his first one because he was a homosexual and couldn’t work up enough enthusiasm to try again. After talking it over, they all come to the conclusion that the source of everyone’s troubles seems to be Henry de Warde. He is the Earl’s slimy younger brother, and the one who scammed Cynthia’s father out of a huge chunk of change. They all decide to continue as if everything’s fine and Jack really is Lord Kenton. They decide to go back to London and see if they can rattle de Warde and see if they shake something loose from him that they can use against him. It’s during this time that they fall for each other a little bit. Jack seemed like a very charming, amiable guy through this – although I thought he was a little cruel toward the end the way he used Cynthia in the plan to ruin de Warde. Cynthia’s mother was an interesting woman to read about, having been an actress when she met Cynthia’s father. The ending is a surprise ending but I enjoyed it and was grateful for the info packed epilogue to wrap things up.
At the opening of the book, it’s the morning after Jackson Worth and Sammie Gold had a one night stand in Las Vegas. You are able to get the story of how that came about through his point of view and hers. Jackson Worth is a cowboy and a suave businessman. He has strong family ties and is generally a nice guy. Sammie Gold had a successful boot shop in a different state, but her boyfriend ended up stealing from her and caused her business to sink. Sammie’s best friend is married to Jackson’s brother. The friend asked Jackson to look after Sammie and encouraged them to become business partners since Jackson has more money than he knows what to do with. So now Sammie’s boot shop is located in Arizona. They had the one night stand in Vegas because they were both there for a business convention. Sammie had a little too much to drink so she doesn’t have a good memory of their night together. The morning after, she and Jackson decide to put it behind them and pretend it never happened. However, they both can’t stop thinking about it. Jackson almost has a fetish about the different sexy boots Sammie wears, but he soon is attracted by her personality as well. It’s because he was burned in the past by a former love that keeps him from recognizing and acting on his feelings for Sammie. Although the details of their last intimate encounter are a little hazy, Sammie knows that she finds Jackson super attractive, and the more she finds out about him and gets to know him, her attraction just quadruples. They also end up spending a lot of time together because of family connections, and because Jackson is a very involved and helpful business partner. Throughout the book the two of them keep breaking their pact not to get intimate again. They find the attraction between them too strong and that they just like spending time together. This was a sexy story with good characters.
Alana is a wealthy marketing executive in New York City. She grew up with a domineering, psychologist mother who, in Alana’s words, wanted a companion not a daughter. Her mother is pressuring her to go on a tropical vacation with her. That is absolutely the last thing that Alana wants so she decides to run away to this ranch in Montana that her friend told her about. The Sundance Dude Ranch in Blackfoot Falls, Montana is marketed toward single women looking for a fun getaway with gorgeous men littered about. That is something that women gush about in the reviews of the ranch – all the hot men around. Most of the men either enjoy the attention or laugh it off. One man who dislikes the attention is Sheriff Noah Calder. With his rugged good looks, women think he’s a piece of eye candy worth pursuing. Noah just finds it annoying. When Alana first gets to town, her luggage and purse are stolen. When she goes to report it to Noah, he thinks her physical description matches that of a female grafter that he just got a bulletin about. Because he’s unsure of her, he offers to put her up at his place as a way of keeping an eye on her. The attraction between the two is hot. It’s not all sex between the two. They get to know each other and find they have some things in common. They both have complicated relationships with family. Alana grows as a person and blossoms in this different environment. Removed from the influence of her controlling mother, she finds that she has a lot of inner strength and hidden talents. She’s also able to form close relationships and grow emotionally. I liked the romantic and yet realistic ending & hope to read more about this couple in later books.
Evie Stryker has a complicated relationship with her family. Years ago, Evie’s mother May became a widow to a man who was her one great love. Shortly thereafter, she was intimate with a stranger and became pregnant with Evie. May was a widow and an adult and there was nothing shady about what May did but in her mind she was betraying her late husband. Consequently, she never had, or acted like she had normal maternal feelings toward her daughter. Evie always felt like she was an outsider within her own family. She felt like her mother favored her older brothers, and her brothers didn’t know how to act with her. When she was old enough, Evie moved out and lived on her own. Up until recently she was working as a cheerleader for a big name team. She had an accident while working and seeing it happen on television, her family came down to get her and bring her back to their small town of Fool’s Gold to care for her and repair the family relationships. Evie ends up living & working next to her brother’s partner and family friend Dante Jefferson. They begin hanging out and develop a kinship. They are both have painful pasts, and are a little overwhelmed at times by the cozy small town atmosphere and holiday enthusiasm. Reading the previous book in this series, I was unsure if I would like Evie. I should have known better. The author has created a series with textured stories and complex, interesting characters. Evie still has a lot of hurt from the past but throughout the book she grows as a person and heals emotionally. It was great to watch her interact with her dancing students and the cat she adopts. You don’t read as much about Dante’s inner life, but you get little bits here and there that help you understand why he is the way he is. Before reading this story, I was hoping that at some point she would have a heart-to-heart with Charlie or her ballerina mom, since they could both relate to Evie in different ways. I was happy that those conversations did happen. Overall, great story once again, nice romance, and great characters. I look forward to reading more books in this series and other books by this author.
Declan Reeves, Lord Cashelmore meets bookshop owner Paulette Hamilton at a very trying time in his life. He is a widower with a very young child to raise and he is under a cloud of suspicion because his late wife died in suspicious circumstances. For the sake of his daughter, he leaves the family home in Ireland and travels to England. Paulette Hamilton knows all about the importance of family, being one of many sisters. One of her passions in life is running the family bookshop, making it a success, and making plans for the opening of the location. Paulette has always said she likes fair-haired, easy going men, so when Declan walks into her shop she discards him immediately since he is a tall, dark, “Mr.Rochester” type. Her first impression is that he is too dangerous for the likes of her. However, after only a few visits to the shop, they both become enamored. She finds that despite his outward appearance and the whispers that follow him about his past, he is actually a nice, charming man and a totally devoted father. There are a lot of sweet moments in this book, and some humor, but there are also a lot of gothic elements: the late wife dying under suspicious circumstances, the young child who has not spoken since her mother’s death, clandestine meetings. This was my favorite book in this series so far. The main characters and their romance were enjoyable. The heroine’s friends and family were all helpful to the main couple. I enjoyed the relationship between Paulette and Declan’s daughter Mara. I feel like this story was a very good 2-for-1: a great romance with a mystery.
Camille, Lady Lydingham is a wealthy widow looking to marry again. She doesn’t need to marry for money but is looking for romance. Her first husband, while a good man was older and she feels like she kind of missed the boat when it came to romantic love. She meets a Prince who is trying to sweep her off her feet. She decides to let him. She wants to charm him with a traditional English family Christmas. There is just one problem for Camille – her family is rather eccentric by the standards of the day. Luckily for her, they happen to be out of the country conveniently leaving her mother’s ancestral home empty. She hatches a very ambitious and somewhat crazy plan. She gives all the servants, except for the trusted butler, paid vacations and hires a troupe of actors to fill in for servants as well as her family. If she can’t naturally have the kind of family that would make for a traditional, picture perfect Christmas, then she’ll pay for one. The only one she confides in is her married twin sister, Beryl. Her plan runs into the first snag when she runs into Grayson Elliott. She and Grayson have a tangled history. They grew up together and became good friends. She developed romantic feelings at some point but she felt that he only thought of her as a friend or a sister. It is not until the day of her wedding that he comes to her declaring that he loves her and asks her not to go through with it. She is dumbfounded. He had never given her any indication that he was interested in her that way. She is shocked and a little angry that he waited until that moment to tell her his feelings. From his point of view, he never realized how strong his feelings were until she was going to be married. When she reacts badly, he leaves her and goes abroad for several years earning his fortune. He never had the safety of a title, being orphaned at a young age and being taken in and raised by his aunt & uncle. They never see or speak to each other for those years, each blaming the other for how things worked out between them. When seeing each other again for the first time, all those feelings come back to them and the bulk of the book is them working through those feelings. The romance was very sweet. As usual with this author, the circumstances and supporting characters make for some very funny situations which get more and more absurd in the best possible way. I loved Grayson’s cousin Win. He was very charming, witty & I look forward to the two upcoming stories that the author plans to come out with about him. I loved how everything worked out in the end, with Camille’s family, the charade, the Prince, and the ending scene between the hero & heroine was very sweet. For fans of this author’s “Effington” series, Avalonia gets a shout out.
The hero of this story is Alexander Edgware, the ninth Earl of Xavier. Through the course of this book, he goes through a process of self-discovery. Though wealthy, his parents died at a very young age and he was pretty much left to his own devices with only servants to attend to his basic needs. As an adult, he is considered a rake and he is a living legend in society. With no close friends or family around him on a regular basis to give him a reality check, Alex even thinks of himself in the third person and has a mental numbered list of expressions he displays given the circumstances. This persona of the notorious Earl of Xavier has little to do with Alex’s own personality. He uses it like a mask and something to insulate himself from others. He is known for making and winning wagers with his very odious cousin, the Marquess of Lockwood. These wagers give Alex no real joy, he just feels as though he must keep winning them as part of his Earl of Xavier act. At the start of the book, Lockwood wants to wager Xavier that he can’t have a paragon of virtue stay for the duration of one of Xavier’s infamous house parties. These parties are typically only attended by rakes & less virtuous women. Xavier takes the wager but his condition is that no innocent should be ruined or forced to participate in anything beyond the pale. To make the wager less lurid than Lockwood originally intended, while still remaining true to the basic wager, he adds some respectable guests like his slightly younger cousin Jane and a few matrons. The object of the wager, as selected by Lord Lockwood, is Miss Louisa Oliver. Louisa and Xavier have a slightly tangled history. Louisa was engaged to James. Louisa’s step-sister Julia ended up marrying James. Everyone believes, erroneously, that Xavier told the scandal sheets about James & Julia’s first assignation.
This story caught my interest because I enjoy stories about house parties. However, what made me really enjoy this story and set it apart from many other historical romances was the depth of the character exploration. The slow, charming evolution of the relationship between Xavier and Louisa is very sweet & very interesting. They are both kind of taken aback by their attraction. I think Xavier is the first to see them as being soul-mates. It’s through his relationship with Louisa that Xavier starts to discover who he really is and even tells her to call him “Alex”. “Alex” is the real person, while Xavier is the façade. I liked the connection between Louisa and Alex. They both have a love of learning & literature. I love the way he chooses to finally tell her he loves her & even the engagement ring has a lot of meaning to the both of them.
The entire story is not heavy. There are some funny moments. I liked Jane and hope to read a book about her.