Thursday, April 30, 2009

MY SEDUCTION by Connie Brockway

My Seduction by Connie Brockway (Published by Pocket Books, 2004)
Three young men are driven by an oath they have taken unto themselves to pledge their service to the three surviving daughters of the man who gave his life to save theirs. As children, each of these young men had been saved from Scotland’s post Culloden destitution by monks to be honed and raised as warrior assassins. Bound together by their childhood horrors, raised as brothers, these three young men secretly assign themselves to one sister, telling the family that if ever they need assistance, the sisters should simply send a yellow rose to the Abbey at St. Bride’s in Scotland’s Highlands and they will be there as quickly as they can. Leaving behind a rare yellow rose bush with the family, they quietly leave and scatter to the four corners of the world.

MY SEDUCTION is the story of one of those warriors, Christian McNeill, and Lord Nash’s widowed daughter, Kate Nash Blackburn. Christian, or “Kit” as he is known, the son of a Scottish whore, a seasoned soldier who is hard, gruff and cynical and has never known softness or gentleness in his life. He is scarred in both body and soul. However, like all proud Highlanders, he is loyal and once his word is given, he will die rather than go back on it. He is also committed to discovering who betrayed him and his friends while on a secret mission in France. Kate Nash Blackburn was once one of the cosseted daughters of an English nobleman who loved dancing at balls, gossip and the latest fashions. She was married a year, when her dashing husband, a Lieutenant in his Majesty’s army, died on route to India. Six months later, the family received word that her father, who had been secretly meeting with France’s Louis XVI’s deposed government, traded his life for three Scottish spys. On the heels of this devastating news, comes word from her father’s solicitor that the annuity they had been living on had also died with their father. The once flighty Kate takes it upon herself to raise money by selling their belongings, settling unpaid bills and doing everything in her power to keep her sisters together and out of the poor house. Kate becomes the rock holding everyone and everything together.

Several years later, worn out, afraid and desperate, Kate accepts an invitation to a relative’s home in Scotland hoping to appeal to their good nature for monetary assistance. It is on the harrowing journey to Scotland, having been abandoned by her maid in a disreputable tavern and on the verge of being assaulted by ruffians that Kit McNeill steps out of the shadows and come to her assistance. He explains to a much surprised Kate that he has received her rose and will do all in his power to get her safely to her destination. And, thus begins a journey that will change both their lives.

MY SEDUCTION is the first of Connie Brockway’s Rose Hunters Trilogy. This is a wonderful book! I was totally engaged right from the first page. There are several interesting mysteries that are woven into Kate and Kit’s story. Betrayal of the foulest kind, murder, smugglers, danger and a dark secret are contained in this intricate plot. Connie Brockway’s descriptions of the Highland Moors are vivid and detailed. The romance is intense and lovely. I absolutely adored Kit’s character (what a hero!) and Kate was his perfect match.

Be warned. The great mystery is not solved in the end of this book. For it continues in MY PLEASURE, the second in Connie Brockway’s Rose Hunters trilogy. Needless to say, I highly recommend MY SEDUCTION and look forward to the continuing saga in MY PLEASURE! I have it and will be reading and reviewing it soon. ;)

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Highland Scandal by Julia London (Published by Pocket Books, April 21, 2009)
Jankin "Jack" MacLeary Haines, Earl of Lambourne is a man on the run. He is fleeing England from allegations of adultery with the Princess of Wales. As he is traveling through his native Scotland, he is abducted by a group of Highlanders and brought before Laird Carson Beal. Laird Beal quickly learns Jack’s status and about the bounty hunters that are hot on his heels. He makes Jack a proposition - handfast with his niece Elizabeth "Lizzie" Drummond Beal or be turned over to the prince's men and be hung for high treason. (Handfasting is an antiquated Scottish custom where a man and a woman vow to live as man and wife for a year and a day. At the end of that time, the couple chooses to either enter permanently into marriage or split.) Given Jack's choices, he reluctantly agrees. For her part, Lizzie has been abducted from her home by her Uncle Carson. She had been quietly living on her small impoverished estate on Beal land, in mourning for her dead father, and caring for her crippled sister. Her uncle threatens to turn her over to the constable for her mounting debts if she does not handfast with this stranger. Fearing for her sister's welfare and safety, Lizzie unwillingly goes through with the ceremony. Lizzie believes that her uncle is trying to thwart her chances of a respectable marriage with a rival clan member with whom she has an "understanding." Right from the beginning, however, Jack suspects there is more to the situation than just an ancient rivalry between clans and is determined to discover it.

HIGHLAND SCANDAL is heartwarming story about a rogue you can't help but like and a hellion you can't help but admire. Jack is charming, witty, kind and experienced in English ton society. Lizzie is tenacious, independent, and headstrong and has only known the country life in the Scottish highlands. And yet, the attraction and the sparks they ignite in each other are there from the beginning and only grow as the story progresses. Fight the attraction as they might (and, oh, they do try), they can’t help but be drawn to the other.

I thoroughly enjoyed this second book in the series of The Scandalous Novels by Julia London. When Jack and Lizzie are quite literally forced into each other’s company, the repartee is lively and entertaining. The “odious” Uncle Carson is portrayed and written well, making him a character you thoroughly despise. The secondary characters of Charlotte (Lizzie’s sister) and Newton (Charlotte’s guard/protector) only add to this delightful tale. Julia London has another winner with HIGHLAND SCANDAL. It is a fun, romantic read and I would recommend it.

I look forward to the next book in this author’s Scandalous Novel series, A COURTESAN’S SCANDAL, due out in November, 2009.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Secret Wedding by Jo Beverly

The Secret Wedding by Jo Beverly (Published by Signet, April 4, 2009)
Sixteen year old Lieutenant Christian Hill learns of another officer's plans to ruin a besotted 14-year old heiress, forcing marriage to appropriate her considerable funds. Hill's knight errand plan goes awry when during his attempted rescue of the Miss Dorcas Froggatt, he is forced to kill the blackguard. Cries of murder immediately arise as Miss Froggatt's domineering Aunt Abigail arrives on the scene. In order to save her niece's reputation, Aunt Abigail threatens Hill with the gallows unless he marries her. Knowing he will be leaving the continent in a few days to fight in the French and Indian War, and seeing no way out, he reluctantly exchanges vows with the frightened Dorcas. He leaves with his regiment shortly thereafter and completely puts this unfortunate affair out of his mind.

Ten years later . . . Christian Hill has inherited a title and is now known as Viscount Grandiston. Dorcas has dropped her first name, and is now using her middle name Caro. Both parties have been told the other is dead. Christian becomes concerned when he learns that someone is making inquiries about him and wonders if his child bride is indeed deceased. Caro wants to marry, but has no real proof her soldier husband is truly deceased. When Viscount Grandiston visits Caro's family's business, neither of them recognize the other. Caro believes he is her husband's heir who is after her inheritance. She masquerades as a married woman in order to extricate information from Viscount Grandiston. The two are involved in a series of mishaps and adventures together and inevitably fall in love. However, Caro does not want to give up her independence nor her inheritance, which her family worked many years in trade to obtain. Herein lies the conundrum.

I enjoyed the interactions of the two main characters in the beginning of the book through their adventures. There is one terrifically amusing incident involving a vicious killer "Hessian cat-rabbit." And, the Marquess of Rothgar, the ever powerful patriarch of the Malloren family, along with his feisty and independent wife, Diana, Lady Arradale, do play their parts in this story. I always enjoy a visit with Rothgar and Diana. However, there were several factors in this book that overwhelmed my entire enjoyment of the story.

Try as I might, I could not like Caro. I could understand her fear of someone trying to take her family's inheritance from her, especially in England's Georgian period, but she takes it to the extreme and I could not find any sympathy for this selfish, greedy woman. Christian is constantly getting her out of serious scrapes, and she is anything but grateful. She convinces herself that she will be able to work things out and marry Christian, who she still believes to be her husband's heir. But, as soon as she learns the truth about him, she completely changes her mind. While, all along, it is she who has been making up one lie after another. She claims to love the man, but turns around and cries rape in front of witnesses when caught with him and cornered. In addition, her lady's companion is in the act of poisoning Christian to murder him and is thwarted at the last second. Caro is upset about this, but does nothing to make certain that his fanatical would-be murderer is confined so as not to harm another. The end just sort of fizzled out for me with a capitulation on Caro's part.

I love Jo Beverly's books and enjoy her writing immensely. Her books are always historically well researched and witty. This was one book, however, that I will be donating to my local library.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sins Of A Wicked Duke by Sophie Jordan

SINS OF A WICKED DUKE by Sophia Jordan (Published by Avon Books, 2009)
Fallon O’Rourke has been sacked from one maid position after another, her pride and stubbornness, as well has her fight to keep her virtue intact, being the main reasons for her dismissals. While fleeing yet another employer’s unsavory advances, Fallon encounters a gentleman who tries to come to her aid. She shortly learns that this "gentleman" is known in the ton as the "Demon Duke." Dominic Hale, a consummate libertine, is a man who truly believes he has a heart of stone, his spirit having been broken as a child. He is constantly seeking distractions, trying to feel anything to break through the numbness of his heart, before a life of depravity became second nature to him.

Desperate to keep a position long enough to earn enough money for her dream of a small home of her own and tired of fighting off the advances of her employers, Fallon decides to impersonate a man and apply for a position of a footman. It is with great reluctance and no small amount of trepidation that she applies for just such a position at the palatial home of Dominic Hale, Duke of Damon.

As the story evolves, you discover two lonely, tortured souls, their hearts tragically wounded young in life and desperately seeking some form of relief from their haunted pasts. The characters are complex and very well developed. The interactions between Fallon and the Dominic sizzled with heat. Learning about the tragedies that formed them into the people they had become, their individual, skewed perceptions of the world and how those flawed perceptions affected their lives made for an intriguing and very interesting story. I liked Fallon, despite her stubborn nature, because she was a survivor and cleverly used her wits and courage to survive. And, I couldn’t help liking Dominic, as I watched him change and struggle as his feelings for Fallon grew. Also, despite his trying to live up to his depraved reputation, Dominic had a definite code of honor. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

This is my first book by this author. I wouldn't hesitate to pick up another book written by Sophie Jordan again.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tempted At Midnight - Jacquie D'Alessandro

TEMPTED AT MIDNIGHT by Jacquie D'Alessandro (Published by Berkley Sensations, April 2009)
Lady Emily Stapleford has a problem. Due to her father's unwise investments, her family is on the brink of financial disaster. Lady Emily had hopes of following in the footsteps of her closest friends and fellow members of The Ladies Literary Society by listening to her heart and marrying for love, not the cold, business-like match that members of the ton usually contract.

In order to be able to accomplish this, Lady Emily devises an improbable plan to help her recoup her family's fortune. Inspired by The Ladies Literary Society's latest reading selection, Lady Emily decides to plant a seed in the minds of the ton that a female vampire is running amok. Then, she will be able to sell her manuscript about a lady vampire and, once again, her family will be financially solvent. Vampire, you ask? Yes, for these Mayfair misses don't regularly meet to discuss Shakespeare, as any well-bred, proper young lady of the ton would, but devour and discuss salacious books such as “The Ghost of Devonshire Manor,” "Memoirs of a Mistress" and "The Gentleman's Vampire Lover."

Complicating everything is Logan Jennsen, a mysterious and secretive American who is rumored to be the wealthiest man in England. Lady Emily believes Logan to be uncivilized and uncouth, while Logan believes Lady Emily to be an uppity, hothouse society diamond. Yet, neither of them can stop their fascination with the other and each encounter they have sizzles with heat. Logan has his own problems as a vicious stalker threatens his business, everyone he holds dear and possibly uncovering of his own secret past. The brash, bold “colonial” unwittingly becomes embroiled in Lady Emily's "vampire" scheme and the two find themselves in a life and death struggle.

TEMPTED AT MIDNIGHT is the fourth and final story in Jacquie D’Alessandro’s Mayhem in Mayfair series of four books. Emily and Logan's story beautifully concludes a sensational series. In each book, Ms. D’Alessandro delivers everything you could wish for in a romance novel: wonderful characters which are skillfully crafted, witty dialogue, warmth and charm, honest emotion, mystery and heat. The characters quickly become familiar friends that you enjoy catching up with in each book of the series. I found myself laughing out loud at many of the circumstances and clever dialogue. The heroines of the books, the Ladies Literary Society, are portrayed as intelligent, warm women, not without their flaws and idiosyncrasies, who genuinely care for each other, support each other and who share their thoughts, hopes and dreams with each other. The heroes, also, are far from your run of the mill, upper echelon, ideal members of the ton.

When I finished SEDUCED AT MIDNIGHT I commented on this board that I found myself sitting there with a silly smile on my face and saying "aaaahhh, what a great book." It seems that, once again, Ms. D’Alessandro’s final book of the Mayhem in Mayfair series has produced that same reaction. Immediately upon finishing TEMPTED AT MIDNIGHT, I found myself with that same silly smile on my face. Aaaahhh, what a great series!
I loved these books and highly recommend them. They are "shelf keepers" one and all.

The entire series of Jacquie D’Alessandro’s Mayhem in Mayfair series in reading order is: SLEEPLESS AT MIDNIGHT (Sarah and Matthew’s story), CONFESSIONS AT MIDNIGHT (Carolyn and Daniel’s story), SEDUCED AT MIDNIGHT (Julianne and Gideon’s story) and TEMPTED AT MIDNIGHT (Emily and Logan’s story).

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory

The Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory (Published in 2004 by Simon & Schuster) Set in the early, unpredictable years of Elizabeth I’s reign, The Virgin’s Lover is full of court intrigue, plots, schemes and power plays. The story follows three main characters: Queen Elizabeth I, William Cecil, her canny and shrewd Secretary of State, and Lord Robert Dudley, her childhood playmate and aspiring lover. William Cecil despairs of a woman’s ability and capability to rule England and subtly endeavors to guide Elizabeth in her role as queen. Lord Robert Dudley is married, his family in disgrace from his grandfather’s and father’s acts of treason, and trying to rise out of the depths to restore his families’ former glory and power in England’s court. As Lord Robert’s star steadily rises, he and Cecil are at constant war and in a struggle for power to win Elizabeth’s affection and the control of England. In the background, but never far from the minds of everyone, is Lord Robert’s innocent wife, Amy Dudley, who has ever been constant in her love and loyalty to Lord Robert, despite his sometimes cruel behavior towards her and his certain abandonment of her. The entire story leads to an unsolved crime of passion which has fascinated historians for centuries.

Philippa Gregory’s descriptions of life in the Elizabethan court are detailed and historically accurate. The constant plotting, scheming and ever present intrigue by the main characters are mind boggling, but sadly true. I found the book to be a slow start because of all the background history on the characters involved, but it definitely picked up speed as the story developed and moved along. You find yourself as frustrated as Cecil is as he tries to counsel a strong-minded, stubborn, vein, unhappy woman who is in the throes of her first love, while watching his country come to the brink of a war with France which it would very probably lose. You will also find yourself shocked by the lengths Lord Robert will go in order to regain his family’s former glory and power. But, you will also learn how deeply he was affected by the loss of his family’s former wealth, title and estates and understand his motivation. And, all the while, you will feel total sympathy for Amy, Lord Robert’s lonely, lovely wife who, through no fault of her own, is shamed because of her husband’s not so secret affair with the Queen of England.

If you are interested in life at court in Elizabethan England, no one writes it better or more accurately than Philippa Gregory. Two other recognizable titles of Ms. Gregory’s are “The Other Boleyn Girl” (2008) and “The Other Queen” (2008). Both excellent reads.