Review: The House in Quill Court by Charlotte Betts

HouseQuillCourt

Narrator – Anne Dover Audible Audio, 13 hours and 2 minutes

Published January 7th 2016 by Hachette Audio UK Rating: 5*

In 1813, Venetia Lovell lives by the sea in Kent with her lovely, frivolous mother and idle younger brother.  Venetia’s father Theo is an interior designer with whom Venetia shares his passion and talent for design.  While he is away traveling for new and exciting items and accoutrements for his wealthy clients, Venetia and her family are always excited waiting for him to come home.  In the meantime Venetia daydreams of one day having an interior design shop where she and her father can display only five finest in home furnishings.

Just before Christmas a handsome but fairly hostile stranger, Jack Chamberlaine, arrives at the Lovell’s cottage to deliver terrible and life-changing news.  Venetia’s beloved father is dead, her life turned topsy-turvey, and with no other options available to them Jack has come to escort the family to their new home in London -to the house in Quill Court.   Consequently, Venetia’s creativity, courage, and strength will be stretched to the limit, and the impossibility of discovering a love far greater than she ever could have imagined could be hers if only she can stay alive long enough to claim it!

***  I was totally immersed in this book from page one.  I loved Venetia right from the beginning, for her kindness in dealing with her frivolous and anxiety ridden mother and a little less for her catering to her lazy spoiled brother.   She was smart and her passionate artistic nature was a delight where I could almost feel her creativity flowing right through me.    I also felt her pain and disappointment in discovering her father’s ‘other’ family.     Unfortunately, Jack Chamberlaine, her father’s ward, was a little more difficult to warm up to having grown up with the ‘other’ family, he naturally felt that Venetia and her family were the upstarts and wouldn’t treat her step-sister kindly.  These were Jack’s assumptions without ever even trying to get to know Venetia.

The story was filled with great depth and very detailed scenarios.   All of which touched upon several of the secondary characters who all played really great parts in the overall story including, of course, some of the nasty villain(s) and their loathsome cohorts.  As I listened, the story and the all the characters seemed to find themselves up against the wall so many times and sometimes they were saved and other times, not so much.   As mentioned before the scenario’s and the villain were very well put together and trying to discover how the villain always seemed a step ahead of every plan will keep the reader on edge.

Bottom Line:   I loved this book, the story itself, the fast-pacing and the wonderful narration by Anne Dover.   This is highly recommended and I urge you to give this new author (at least for me) a try.   Highly enjoyable.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Most Dangerous Duke in London by Madeline Hunter

MostDangerousDuke

Paperback, 304 pages                      Publication: May 30th 2017 by Zebra

ISBN13: 9781420143904                   Series: Decadent Dukes Society #1

Rating:  5*

Adam Penrose the Duke of Stratton fled England for his mother’s homeland of France shortly after his father’s mysterious death. Now, returning to England his reputation as the dangerous duke of dueling in France, precedes him.  Because of some of the rumors in England that a particular family was a source of Adam’s father’s ruination, the Cheswick family reached out to Adam to offer him their beautiful younger daughter as a bride to bind the two families together and avoid any more dueling.

 

Lady Clara Cheswick’s  grandmother (and her brother the new Earl) had arranged a meeting to propose a truce with Adam and to introduce him to his prospective bride to be. Naturally, they offered him the hand of Clara’s much younger sister. However, at first sight, Adam decides that Lady Clara would suit him much more. Unfortunately, Clara’s single purpose in life was to continue to pursue her efforts in creating and publishing a journal she hoped turn into a weekly magazine of sorts.  Of course, Adam

instantly refused the younger daughter’s hand. However, his attraction  to one Lady Clara was hard to deny.   Moreover, what were Adam’s true motivations – ruin his enemies favorite daughter, or discover what transpired all those years ago that led to Adam’s father’s death?

***   I have been a fan of Madeline Hunter for many years and have always found her stories to be full of twists and turns with characters that come alive and are fully fleshed out with emotions and motivations.  I loved Clara right from the start.  Luckily she knew her own worth and because her father had left her extremely well off, she was able to follow her dreams of creating a journal/magazine with essays, recipes, news worthy articles and even gossip…. Probably a forerunner to Good Housekeeping for the discerning woman.

Adam was a wonderful hero who was deeply disturbed by his father’s death and the way his mother had been treated so badly she fled back to France after her husbands death.  It was natural to feel that Adam would want to ruin the family he believed responsible for his father’s ruination and demise, but right from the start the reader understood that Adam would never hurt a woman, but simply wanted to discover for himself the truth of what had caused the rumors and problems.

Bottom line:  This was a fully robust story and I loved the courting that Adam went through to gain Lady Clara’s affection. The sensuality was created slowly with deep feelings and I was engaged right from the very beginning.    Loved this book and can’t wait for the next books in this new series.

Marilyn Rondeau

 

Review: Wed to A Spy by Sharon Cullen

WedToASpy

Publication: May 23rd 2017 by Loveswept ASIN:   B01M6ATB84

Series:  All the Queen’s Spies #1 Rating: 4*

I’m beginning to think that there was more spying done during the middle ages than what goes on today.  Not only spying but assassination plots and betrayals abounded during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary which happens to be the setting of WED TO A SPY.

Aimee de Verris was just a young maiden in love with a charming French courtier but she was banished from the French court by Catherine de Medici.  Aimee was told to join the court of Queen Mary and report back to Catherine any information that would be useful.

Simon Marcheford has been a spy for Queen Elizabeth for many years and wants nothing but to settle down and swears that this is his last mission before he retires.   He is sent to Queen Mary’s court and while he is trying to discover a diabolical plot against Mary she orders him to marry her cousin Aimee de Verris and asks that he discover if Aimee is a spy from the French court.

***  Lots of threads to spin in this mystery of spies, betrayals and planned murders.  Having been watching the TV series of REIGN  I had some knowledge of the different characters and historical significance of what was going on.   However the romance between Aimee and Simon was fresh and appealing in it’s innocence and eventual passion.   After a murder occurred in front of Aimee who happened to be standing close to Queen Mary, Aimee was immediately put in a dangerous spot that pointed to Aimee’s involvement (which obviously was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time).  Here was where Aimee began to see Simon for the wonderful husband, man and protector he became after he rescued and helped Aimee escape Scotland to England.

Bottom line:  The character development was skillfully done, and the slow and sensual attraction between Simon and Aimee was slowly built and cleverly worked to perfection as Aimee discovered the difference between infatuation and true love.   Actually, this was a quite enjoyable read where history and fiction blended beautifully together.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Bad Luck Bride by Jane Goodger

BadLuckBride-Goodger

The Brides of St. Ives #1

Expected publication: June 13th 2017 by Lyrical Press

ASIN : B01LX89UI9 Rating:  4*

It’s bad enough when a bride waits for a groom who ultimately never shows up for the wedding vows, but when it happens for the THIRD time, said bride now gets dubbed “The Bad Luck Bride”.   Lady Alice Hubbard has had enough – frustrated and subdued Alice returns to her family’s estate in St. Ives and is now determined to accept her lot in life – as a doting spinster.   Although to her great surprise, an old friend Henderson Southwell shows up.  Henderson was not only her deceased brothers BEST friend, but Henderson had been Alice’s secret and cherished love. Henry as only Alice called him, the person Alice had held in her heart since the day she met him.

When Alice’s brother Joseph had died, Henderson was devastated blaming himself for not being with him the night most thought he had taken his life.  Henderson was so upset, he then left directly after the funeral and no one had heard from him until he showed up at Alice’s wedding claiming he was there to ‘stop’ her from marrying.   He knew that her family would never accept him because of his lack of aristocratic blood but somehow he knew that eventually, Alice would be his.

***   THE BAD LUCK BRIDE was a good read with crisp writing and an interesting fun plot that I quickly became immersed in the story.   Alice and Henderson had virtually grown up together since Joseph and Henderson had formed a close bond during their school years.  Henderson was welcomed into the Hubbard household and was treated like a member of the family, but once he showed his attraction to Alice the family gathered round and let him know how inappropriate his intentions toward Alice were.   After all, he was illegitimate with no real claim to any type of aristocratic background.

Naturally, Alice didn’t see it that way but then who shows up but the errant groom who now wants to make amends and beg for Alice’s forgiveness.  What does one do, when faced with following your heart or following the wishes of your beloved family?

Bottom line:  THE BAD LUCK BRIDE was a good start to a new series as I discovered a new author to me.   I enjoyed Goodger characterizations of Alice and Henderson, and actually came to like Alice’s previous suitor who kind of grew on you after a while.  Couple that with a little bit of a mystery regarding Joseph’s supposed suicide and several other accidental deaths and it leant another layer to a very nice romance.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Bad Luck Bride by Janna MacGregor

BadLuckBride

Series: The Cavensham Heiresses (Book 1) Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks (May 2, 2017) ISBN-13: 978-1250116123

Rating:  5*

Most of the ton were shocked to hear that the “cursed” Lady Claire Cavensham was about to marry Lord Alexander Hallworth especially when it was apparent that the ball she was intending to announce her betrothal to another Lord, failed to said Lord who sent a note instead.  However, Lord Alexander had an inkling of what was going on and rushed to Lady Claire’s aid.

What left Claire breathless though, was Lord Alexander’s pronouncement of his esteem for Claire and asking that she do him the honor of becoming his bride.   Claire hardly knew Alexander but after three other engagements that all ended in disaster, and now the fourth about to disintegrate, Claire was hardly in a position to refuse.

***   I have to say I feel honored  to have been able to read an advanced copy of THE  BAD LUCK BRIDE by Janna MacGregor.   At 352 pages I was so ensnared that I couldn’t put it down.   Not only was the writing fresh and engaging, but the dialogs, the plotting, and the buildup of such a sensual romance was intoxicating.

This is not to say that Claire and Alex didn’t have issues.  Claire was still reeling over the death of her parents many years back and the powerful tangle of her emotions of that horrible accident haunted  her

still.   Alex on the other hand, felt immense guilt over the suicidal death of his young sister and was bent solely on revenge of the person he held responsible.  Both Claire and Alex had to come to grips with these haunting events that threatened any happiness they might be able to find together.

To me I found this a very powerful and emotional read waiting and hoping that one or the other would finally open up and let the pain flow out to be shared and let the healing begin.  When that happened the love they had each been afraid admitting to would be a most glorious end to such a wonderful story.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Code of Honor by Alexa Aston

CodeOfHonor.jpg

(Knights of Honor Series Book 3)

ebook, 210 pages

Publication: March 28th 2017             by Dragonblade LeCleRe Publishling, Inc.

ASIN   B06X6K3456 Rating: 4*

In a bold and horrific beginning the Earl of Sandbourne banishes his supposedly unfaithful wife to a convent. After trying to stop his father from striking his mother again, Michael was beaten back by his father, whereby, he jumped on his horse and swore to never return home until his father was dead and he could restore his mother to her rightful place of honor as the countess.

Fifteen years later, the newly knighted Sir Michael Devereux serves Lord Geoffrey de Montfort at Kinwick Castle.   Asked to organize the honor guarding for Lord Geoffrey and his family as they traveled to visit Lord Geoffrey’s sister and attend the wedding of their niece Michael was thrilled and honored to be chosen.   Michael unknowingly falls in love with a horse-mad maiden he helped to foal a mare and assumed she was part of the stable workers.

Lady Elysande is furious at her step-father for not listening to her pleas to call off her betrothal which was made when she was but a child.  As her wedding day approaches, she is full of dread especially as she has also fallen in love with the honorable knight who helped her foal her mare.  It almost seems like fate has intervened when she hears that her betrothed died on the way to the wedding, but unfortunately, his aged father plans to step in and take over for his son.

***   I have to say I really enjoyed this story, to only because I have been following along with the, Knights of Honor series, but because each book in this series had wonderful characterizations which made me fall in love with the characters.

Just when you thought the Elysande’s problems were over along comes this beast of a supposed father-in-law who after burying his only son wanted to jump in and marry his dead son’s betrothed! The events  leading up to the show down between Elysande and her step-father and finally her mother’s support still made you think all would be well.   But, there was more in store for these ill-fated lovers and some really neat surprises as well.

Bottom line: Fast pacing, great writing and a wonderful story make this one highly recommended Historical Romance fans should hurry to read!!!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Highland Duke by Amy Jarecki

TheHighlandDuke

Paperback, 384 pages

Expected publication: March 28th 2017 by Forever

ISBN13: 9781455597802 Series:   Lords of the Highlands #1

Akira Ayres was a healer above all else and when she happened upon a brawny Scot with a musket ball in his thigh, Akira had no doubt she must act to save him.   Even though the hated English were closing in on them Akira could not let another man die for not being brave enough to tend his wounds.   Even as Akira does her best to ease his pain and help him out she was definitely intimidated by the fearsome and huge brutally handsome highlander who refused to tell her his name.

Geordie knew that if Akira ever knew he was the Duke of Gordon, both of their lives would be forfeit.  The only way to keep her safe was to keep her by his side day and night.  However, the more time he spent with the sassy lass, the harder it seemed to let her go.  Despite the difference in their social standing Geordie was determined to make Akira his.

***  Again this is a new author to me and don’t you know I am just going to have to put Ms. Jarecki on my author watch list.   I really enjoyed THE HIGHLAND DUKE with its fast pace, great writing and and  wicked good dialogs.  I wasn’t always happy with Geordie assuming that his elevated status was insurmountable to making Akira an honest woman – I understood it – I just didn’t like it!

There were a lot of scenario’s where Akira was captured and released – some of them were even quite humorous but most were not.  However each attempt to free Akira was devilishly clever and the entrance of Akira’s Uncle Bruno was for me one of the highlights of the hit and run scenario’s found in the book .

Bottom Line:   Don’t be afraid of new authors – Ms. Jarecki’s THE HIGHLAND DUKE brought me a lot of pleasure and I highly recommend to fans of Scottish Historicals!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh

SomeonetoHold

Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Published February 7th 2017 by Berkley Books

(ISBN13: 9780451477804) Series:  Westcott #2

When Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale died he left behind a huge fortune, along with a life changing secret that will forever change the lives of the family he left behind.  It would also send his children on journey’s of self discovery.

Now that the secret of her father’s bigamous marriage to her mother the daughter , once proud Lady Camille Wescott, is simply an illegitimate Miss Camille Wescott without a title.  Refusing a portion of the fortune her half-sister Anastasia generously wanted to gift all of her new-found half-sibling relatives, Camille stubbornly leaves London to teach at the Bath Orphanage that her new-found step-sister had grown up in and was employed as a teacher before the discovery that she was the only legitimate issue of the Earl of Riverdale.

To add insult to injury, Camille’s maternal grandmother had hired an artist to paint portraits of her and her sister.   The artist being a young man who had grown up with her sister in the orphanage and whom Camille determined was still in love with Anastasia, even though Anastasia was now blissfully wed to Avery Archer, the duke of Netherby.

***  Once again, Mary Balogh has written a story that will capture your heart in a very strong and powerfully emotional way.  SOMEONE TO HOLD has a plethora of unforgettable characters, some nice and some not so nice.  Camille the heroine of this story was not easy to like but as she evolved into her new reality one sees the strength and determination that helped her to become a much nicer person, who actually seemed to grow a heart.  Being so stubborn Camille was determined to prove herself capable as a teacher and she did this remarkably well where she gained as much from the exercise she taught her pupils to understand living within your means as well as learning economies she had never thought of.

The romance between Joel the Artist and Camille was slowly and thoughtfully developed into a beautifully sensual love story.  Bottom Line:  SOMEONE TO HOLD was a beautiful, sensual, and sensitive read which I can highly recommend!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Courtship: A Novella by Grace Burrowes (Windham Book 0)

TheCourtship

Print Length: 120 pages   Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca (November 6, 2012)

ASIN: B0095VT3RG Rating:  4-1/2*

This is the first introduction to the Windham Series by author Grace Burrowes.  It is in Novella form and quite short but chock full of romance and the gallant gentlemen, as well as the not so gallant rogues who inhabited the aristocracy at that time.

Percy Windham, is the kind and generous second son of the Duke of Moreland.  At a house party he found the woman of his dreams in the shy retiring, beautiful Esther Himmelfarb, poor relation to her wealthier relations who take shameless advantage of Esther’s kind-heartedness.     But Percy sees Esther as the perfect, kind, generous and intelligent lady she truly is and sets out to woo her away from the curious eyes of the woman who were throwing themselves at him.

Bottom Line:   Very short but sweet and with much to recommend it as well as giving a great nibble of what to expect in the upcoming series!

Marilyn Rondeau