His head hurt.
Correction, his head really hurt.
It was hard to tell, though, just what sort of pain it was. He might have been shot through the head with a musket ball. That seemed plausible, given his current location in New York (or was it Connecticut?) and his current occupation as a captain in His Majesty’s army.
There was a war going on, in case one hadn’t noticed.
But this particular pounding—the one that felt more like someone was bashing his skull with a cannon (not a cannonball, mind you, but an actual cannon) seemed to indicate that he had been attacked with a blunter instrument than a bullet.
An anvil, perhaps. Dropped from a second-story window.
But if one cared to look on the bright side, a pain such as this did seem to indicate that he wasn’t dead, which was also a plausible fate, given all the same facts that had led him to believe he might have been shot.
That war he’d mentioned… people did die.
With alarming regularity.
So he wasn’t dead. That was good. But he also wasn’t sure where he was, precisely. The obvious next step would be to open his eyes, but his eyelids were translucent enough for him to realize that it was the middle of the day, and while he did like to look on the metaphorical bright side, he was fairly certain that the literal one would prove blinding.
So he kept his eyes closed.
But he listened.
He wasn’t alone. He couldn’t make out any actual conversation, but a low buzz of words and activity filtered through the air. People were moving about, setting objects on tables, maybe pulling a chair across the floor.
Someone was moaning in pain.
Most of the voices were male, but there was at least one lady nearby. She was close enough that he could hear her breathing. She made little noises as she went about her business, which he soon realized included tucking blankets around him and touching his forehead with the back of her hand.
He liked these little noises, the tiny little mmms and sighs she probably had no idea she was making. And she smelled nice, a bit like lemons, a bit like soap.
And a bit like hard work.
He knew that smell. He’d worn it himself, albeit usually only briefly until it turned into a full-fledged stink.
On her, though, it was more than pleasant. Perhaps a little earthy. And he wondered who she was, to be tending to him so diligently.
“How is he today?”
Edward held himself still. This male voice was new, and he wasn’t sure he wanted anyone to know he was awake yet.
Although he wasn’t sure why he felt this hesitancy.
“The same,” came the woman’s reply.
“I am concerned. If he doesn’t wake up soon…”
“I know,” the woman said. There was a touch of irritation in her voice, which Edward found curious.
“Have you been able to get him to take broth?”
“Just a few spoonfuls. I was afraid he would choke if I attempted any more than that.”
The man made a vague noise of approval. “Remind me how long he has been like this?”
“A week, sir. Four days before I arrived, and three since.”
A week. Edward thought about this. A week meant it must be… March? April?
No, maybe it was only February. And this was probably New York, not Connecticut.
But that still didn’t explain why his head hurt so bloody much. Clearly he’d been in some sort of an accident. Or had he been attacked?
“There has been no change at all?” the man asked, even though the lady had just said as much.
But she must have had far more patience than Edward, because she replied in a quiet, clear voice, “No, sir. None.”
The man made a noise that wasn’t quite a grunt. Edward found it impossible to interpret.
“Er…” The woman cleared her throat. “Have you any news of my brother?”
Her brother? Who was her brother?
“I am afraid not, Mrs. Rokesby.”
“It has been nearly two months,” she said quietly.
Mrs. Rokesby? Edward really wanted them to get back to that point. There was only one Rokesby in North America as far as he knew, and that was him. So if she was Mrs. Rokesby…
“I think,” the male voice said, “that your energies would be better spent tending to your husband.”
“I assure you,” she said, and there was that touch of irritation again, “that I have been caring for him most faithfully.”
Husband? They were calling him her husband? Was he married? He couldn’t be married. How could he be married and not remember it?
Who was this woman?
Edward’s heart began to pound. What the devil was happening to him?
“Did he just make a noise?” the man asked.
“I… I don’t think so.”
She moved then, quickly. Hands touched him, his cheek, then his chest, and even through her obvious concern, there was something soothing in her motions, something undeniably right.
“Edward?” she asked, taking his hand. She stroked it several times, her fingers brushing lightly over his skin. “Can you hear me?”
He ought to respond. She was worried. What kind of gentleman did not act to relieve a lady’s distress?
“I fear he may be lost to us,” the man said, with far less gentleness than Edward thought appropriate.
“He still breathes,” the woman said in a steely voice.
The man said nothing, but his expression must have been one of pity, because she said it again, more loudly this time.
“He still breathes.”
Edward felt her hand tighten around his. Then she placed her other on top, her fingers resting lightly on his knuckles. It was the smallest sort of embrace, but Edward felt it down to his soul.
“He still breathes, Colonel,” she said with quiet resolve. “And while he does, I will be here. I may not be able to help Thomas, but—”
Thomas. Thomas Harcourt. That was the connection. This must be his sister. Cecilia. He knew her well.
Or not. He’d never actually met the lady, he felt like he knew her. She wrote to her brother with a diligence that was unmatched in the regiment. Thomas received twice as much mail as Edward, and Edward had four siblings to Thomas’s one.
Cecilia Harcourt. What on earth was she doing in North America? She was supposed to be in Derbyshire, in that little town Thomas had been so eager to leave. The one with the hot springs. Matlock. No, Matlock Bath.
Edward had never been, but he thought it sounded charming. Not the way Thomas described it, of course; he liked the bustle of city life and couldn’t wait to take a commission and depart his village. But Cecilia was different. In her letters, the small Derbyshire town came alive, and Edward almost felt that he would recognize her neighbors if he ever went to visit.
She was witty. Lord, she was witty. Thomas used to laugh so much at her missives that Edward finally made him read them out loud.
Then one day, when Thomas was penning his response, Edward interrupted so many times that Thomas finally shoved out his chair and held forth his quill.
“You write to her,” he’d said.
So he did.
Not on his own, of course. Edward could never have written to her directly. It would have been the worst sort of impropriety, and he would not have insulted her in such a manner. But he took to scribbling a few lines at the end of Thomas’s letters, and whenever she replied, she had a few lines for him.
Thomas carried a miniature of her, and even though he said it was several years old, Edward had found himself staring at it, studying the small portrait of the young woman, wondering if her hair really was that remarkable golden color, or if she really did smile that way, lips closed and mysterious.
Somehow he thought not. She did not strike him as a woman with secrets. Her smile would be sunny and free. Edward had even thought he’d like to meet her once this godforsaken war was over. He’d never said anything to Thomas, though.
That would have been strange.
Now Cecilia was here. In the colonies. Which made absolutely no sense, but then again, what did? Edward’s head was injured, and Thomas seemed to be missing, and…
Edward thought hard.
…and he seemed to have married Cecilia Harcourt.
He opened his eyes and tried to focus on the green-eyed woman peering down at him.
In her first story outside of England, Julia Quinn takes the reader to Revolutionary New York. Without getting too bogged down in the conflict, she presents her hero, Edward as a British officer who lost his memory. Upon awakening from an injury, he discovers his best friend’s sister by his bedside. Cecilia had claimed to be his wife and Edward believes her. Their relationship had previously been built on notes through letters between Cecilia and her brother. In addition to that past, the best part of their relationship was the support between Cecilia and Edward. While he is injured, she cares for him and when Cecilia is given bad news, he supports her tenderly. This was a heartwarming book to read and Julia Quinn has excelled at creating likable and relatable characters. In the story she’s created, it actually makes sense for Cecilia to claim to be Edward’s wife. Quinn does an excellent job of pulling off one of the most unbelievable tropes- the amnesic hero.
Description: Just shy of fifteen years old, and during a fake and impromptu wedding ceremony, Lily Scott married her best friend’s brother, Henry Dalton.
It seemed harmless enough until he leaned in and whispered to her his true feelings, amorous words she has been unable to forget: Now you’re mine, forever and always.
Unfortunately, growing up pulls them apart and transforms Henry into a pompous scoundrel. When they meet again at a house party hosted by Henry’s sister, will Henry remember his once faithful promise to Lily?
I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a romance novel that didn’t have an intimate scene between the hero and heroine. Even novella, like Mine, Forever & Always is, usually have a sex scene. This book was a sweet story about Lily and Henry. When they were younger, they participated in a fake wedding, like children do. Over the years, they grew apart, mostly due to Henry becoming a man about town. They’re reunited at a house party where it’s clear that their childhood affection has turned to attraction. Similar to Pride and Prejudice, there are many scenes of verbal sparring between Lily and Henry. Overall, this was a quick but enjoyable read.
Received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Book 1 in The 1797 Club Series
The Daring Duke
The wild and charismatic Duke of Abernathe is the kind of friend anyone would wish to have. He even formed the 1797 Club, consisting of ten men who would all be dukes. But he has full-throatedly declared he will never marry and no one understands why.
But Miss Emma Liston doesn’t care why. A longtime wallflower with an absentee father who is a scandal waiting to happen, she needs to marry. Now. She decides to take a wild chance and ask the help of her friend Meg’s brother James. She asks him to pretend he’s interested in her just long enough to gain the attention of others. He agrees but is quickly taken aback by how easy everything is with Emma.
When her father returns, threatening her with a terrible future, their courtship swiftly becomes all too real. Will James ever reveal the true man beneath the outer shell? And can Emma discover her own worthiness before it’s too late?
Review: I’d like to start this review by apologizing for the initial blank post. With the snow storm yesterday, I didn’t get a chance to go on my computer and update the scheduled post to include the review. Thank you for your patience and please enjoy my review of The Daring Duke!
The Daring Duke is the introduction to Jess Michaels’ 1797 Club series. The club, consisting of ten dukes or future dukes, gets its name from the year it was founded. James, the hero, creates the group at Eton as a child after being abused by his father. The purpose of the club is for the ducal heirs to learn how to be dukes and support one another. I quite enjoyed this premise and am looking forward to reading the future books. While the titles were all a bit overwhelming at first, this book mostly focused on James and his two best friends. The trauma of James’ childhood would go on to have a lasting impact on him and be his motivation behind later actions.
We meet grown-up James again at a ballroom where we are also introduced to the heroine, Emma. She is a blue-stocking and a wallflower. After recently having re-read Lisa Kleypas’s Devil in Winter and then devouring her new Devil in Spring, I was primed to read about another wallflower. They’re one of my favorite tropes because people always underestimate them. It is clear that Emma is attracted to James but she believes that he will never see her. However, a newly forming friendship between Emma and James’ sister, Meg, means James and Emma are now in each other’s company a lot more. Emma needs to marry soon because of her horrible family while James wants to avoid the ton’s marriage market. While they both are attracted to each other, James comes up with a way for them both help each other. By courting Emma, the ducal James will make her more attractive to other suitors. Once their courtship ends, James can plead a broken heart and avoid the match-making mothers.
At times throughout the book, the courtship plot wore a bit thin. It was obvious to everyone around them that James was starting to care for Emma but he kept denying his feelings. This continued even as they had secretive amorous encounters. Emma, in the meantime, was forced to fend off her overly zealous mother. When Emma’s father returns, circumstances force both James and Emma to truly examine their feelings for each other.
Some additional things I enjoyed about the book: The acknowledgement that Emma’s mother was equally as horrible as her father. She was constantly manipulating her and I was afraid that her horribleness was just going to be brushed aside.
Also, Meg! I adored James’ sister and I can’t wait to read about her again. I have a feeling she’s going to be in the next book.
Overall, this was a really pleasant read. James and Emma were both likable characters who still had personal trauma’s to overcome. This book was an excellent start to the series. It’s clear that all the dukes are going to have books and there were some interesting tidbits dropped about them throughout this story. I’m definitely going to continue with this series.
Rating: 4 out of 5!
Written by Jess Michaels:
USA Today Bestseller Jess Michaels began writing full-time in 1999 after being encouraged by her husband to follow her dream. Since then she has published over 50 novels and novellas under three different pen names with several major publishers, small presses and via self-publishing. Her erotic historical romances have been national bestsellers and won awards from booksellers and readers.
Check out The Clubhouse to join The 1797 Club!
*Received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
a new series about dashing, charismatic dukes—
and the women who tame them…
The last thing Alexander Russell, the 9th Duke of Kinross, wanted to do was mingle with his guests. He could put the time to better use. Nor did he have friends among the throng. Acquaintances, perhaps, but few could be called more than that, especially after this afternoon when he’d been subjected to a humiliating rout.
Nevertheless, Alex forced himself to enter the ballroom, pasting a smile on his face that hid his true feelings.
The ballroom had been polished like a seldom worn crown. The three rows of four brass and crystal chandeliers illuminated every inch of the massive room, reflecting light off the windows and making the floor shine.
The jewels in the crown were the women, most of whom had taken to the idea of a fancy dress ball with enthusiasm, choosing costumes ranging from stunning to amusing with a few ridiculous examples in between. A half dozen hapless husbands were dressed to compliment their wives’ choices, but most men were attired in black evening dress.
At least twenty-five of them had witnessed his drubbing this afternoon.
Tonight’s entertainment was the last time he’d have to stand here and smile fatuously. He couldn’t wait for them all to be driven back to the train station tomorrow morning, en route to their various homes. The Scottish Society for Scientific Achievement could go to hell and with it their annual medal.
Someone in this room was a traitor. Not to country, even though they might well stoop to that. Someone here, being feted and entertained, had betrayed him. That was the only reason Simons had won the damn medal. Alex’s research was nearly word for word with the other man’s. His subjects were more numerous, however, numbering in the thousands to Simons’ hundreds. Even Simons’ conclusions, enumerated on the last page of his paper, had sounded too close to his own words. But his findings had been submitted to the Society a good three months before Simon’s. Three months, yet Simons had been the one critically acclaimed.
Someone had leaked the results of his research. Either a member of the Society attending this ball, the last event of a torturous week of hosting at Blackhall Castle, or someone to whom he’d confided about his work.
“You must learn to trust people, Alex,” his mother had once said to him.
He couldn’t remember why she’d offered up the sentiment, but he could remember the occasion. They’d been standing in Blackhall’s chapel and watching as the bronze plaque had been affixed to his wife’s last resting place.
He could also recall his response. He’d turned to her and said, “Why?”
She hadn’t an answer, which was a pity. Perhaps her words could have softened his emotion. Ruth, the late Duchess of Kinross, hadn’t been faithful, a fact that had been tearfully admitted by her sister.
“You mustn’t hate her, Alex. Ruth always wanted admiration. When you were too busy to give it to her, she sought it elsewhere.”
His wife would have enjoyed this ball. She would have purchased something ruinously expensive to wear, and no doubt a little shocking. She would have flitted among the guests, charming everyone. He could almost see her golden hair bobbing as she turned to greet one person then another. The noise level was intense in the ballroom and his memory furnished her laughter. Those who’d never come to Blackhall would leave with praises for her on their lips.
She made us feel so welcome.
What a gracious person the duchess is.
How beautiful she is and that gown!
Ruth had a bright and receptive approach to life. If it was interesting or exciting, Ruth wanted to experience it. Her blond beauty was only enhanced by her trilling laugh, a smile that she used to great advantage and a skilled, almost manipulative way, she had of making any man feel as if he were the most important person in a room.
Ruth collected people the way other women collected gloves. She had dozens of friends, each one of whom thought she was the most important person in Ruth’s life. They never figured out that Ruth didn’t care about them individually. She only wanted the adulation such friends brought to her. The more important, titled, or wealthy the better. He had come to believe it was the same reason she’d married him.
By the second month of his marriage he realized she didn’t give a flying farthing for him. He was just a mark on a mental scorecard, an item no more important than a scarf from her dresser or a gown from her armoire.
After her death he’d been approached by one poor sod who’d openly wept about her passing. He’d wanted to ask the man if he genuinely believed Ruth had loved him, then realized that the truth wouldn’t serve any purpose.
As far as he was concerned, Ruth wasn’t capable of loving anyone other than herself.
He had no doubt that, given the passage of years, she would have still charmed people. They would have said things like: she hasn’t changed, has she? She’s still one of the most beautiful women in Scotland, isn’t she?
Ruth would have gloried in their comments. She would have draped herself in diamonds whose sparkle matched that in her eyes. Did you hear that, Alex? They did enjoy themselves, didn’t they? We should entertain again soon, I think.
Even perched in the middle of the Highlands, Blackhall Castle had once been known for its hospitality, its entertainments, and its beauty.
The beauty had never faded even though it took a fortune to maintain. The entertainments were fewer lately; he hadn’t the inclination to invite hoards of people to his home. And the hospitality? At the moment, he wished them all to perdition, including the men from the Society in their evening attire, clustered in small groups around the ballroom.
Who would Ruth have dressed as tonight? He suspected she would prefer to come as herself, the Duchess of Kinross. Or perhaps she would have stolen her sister’s costume. Mary was Cleopatra, her long, white tunnel like dress adorned with an intricate gold necklace. His mother was Queen Elizabeth, if he didn’t miss his guess, complete with a bright curly red wig.
Why was Ruth at the forefront of his mind tonight? Because he felt betrayed again? Because this was the first ball they’d held since her death three years ago? Because he’d been made raw with this feeling that he’d been a fool?
The orchestra his mother had hired was excellent. They were playing a waltz and a great many people were dancing. He should be a good host and greet his guests, but he had neither the will nor the ability to mask his emotions that well. He was furious, the rage building with each moment he stood there.
He waited until a footman was near, then gave him an order in a low voice. In moments the young man returned with a tumbler filled with whiskey.
“Watch me,” he said. “When it’s empty, I want you to bring me another one.”
“Yes, Your Grace.”
He didn’t drink often, but tonight he was going to with the single minded pursuit of drunkenness. He could only remember two times he’d done something similar in recent memory: the day he’d learned his wife had been unfaithful and the day she’d died in childbirth, taking his heir with her. Or perhaps the child hadn’t been his after all, a question he’d never have answered.
Tonight seemed an excellent occasion as well. He was facing the destruction of a dream, one brought about by someone he’d trusted.
“You must learn to trust people, Alex.”
The echo of his mother’s voice intruded into his thoughts.
Why seemed as good a word as any in response. Or perhaps a resounding no would suffice.
Now a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, she prefers to keep her adventures between the covers of her books. Karen lives in San Antonio, Texas.
By: Vanessa Kelly
Releasing August 30, 2016.
First, Vanessa Kelly brought readers The Renegade Royals. Now, in a delightfully witty new series, she introduces The Improper Princesses—three young women descended from royalty, each bound for her own thrilling adventure . . .
Despite being the illegitimate daughter of a prince, Gillian Dryden is happily ignorant of all social graces. After growing up wild in Italy, Gillian has been ordered home to England to find a suitable husband. And Charles Valentine Penley, the excessively proper, distractingly handsome Duke of Leverton, has agreed to help transform her from a willful tomboy to a blushing debutante.
Powerful and sophisticated, Charles can make or break reputations with a well-placed word. But his new protégée, with her habit of hunting bandits and punching earls, is a walking scandal. The ton is aghast . . . but Charles is thoroughly intrigued. Tasked with taking the hoyden in hand, he longs to take her in his arms instead. Can such an outrageous attraction possibly lead to a fairytale ending?
Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2016/05/my-fair-princess-improper-princesses-1.html
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28109694-my-fair-princess
Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/172996-the-improper-princesses
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Vanessa_Kelly
Vanessa Kelly is an award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Her current series, The Renegade Royals is a national bestseller. Vanessa also writes USA Today bestselling contemporary romance with her husband, under the pen name of VK Sykes.
Rafflecopter Giveaway (a Grand Prize winner to get a $25 Amazon gift card; and four runners up to receive a copy of CONFESSIONS OF A ROYAL BRIDEGROOM and HOW TO MARRY A ROYAL HIGHLANDER.)
Link to Rafflecopter Page, http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/521ac4c81109/?
Her grandmother let out a heavy sigh, and even Griffin shook his head. The duke, however, simply regarded her with a perfectly unruffled manner, as if she were some recently discovered species, only vaguely interesting. Gillian began to get quite a bad feeling that she’d finally met her match.
She’d been hearing for weeks how Leverton was the key to solving Gillian’s little problem, as her family called it. According to them, he was perfectly suited to guide her into society’s good graces, and perfectly capable of managing away even the most troublesome elements of her background.
He must be a bloody perfect miracle worker, if that was the case.
As she cautiously eyed him, she couldn’t help concluding that he did seem rather perfect in some respects. He was certainly prettier than she was, with thick, tawny-colored hair, striking blue eyes, and a face straight off a Greek statue. And he was certainly a good deal more stylish than she was, although that was true of almost anyone. But even she could appreciate the way his beautifully tailored coat showcased his broad shoulders, and how his breeches clung to his muscled legs with nary a wrinkle. As for his cravat, it was practically a work of art.
In fact, he was so damn perfect it made her stomach hurt. She’d been drawn in by perfection before, and it had almost ruined her.
“Stop trying to shock us, Gillian,” her grandmother said. “You know quite well it won’t work.”
“Au contraire, Lady Marbury,” Griffin said. “I find myself quite riven with horror.”
He flashed Gillian the conspiratorial smile that always made her feel someone truly did understand her. And, more important, Griffin didn’t find her wanting, unlike apparently everyone else in London. She couldn’t wait to shake the dirt of England from her boots and return to Sicily—the sooner, the better.
“Miss Dryden is quite right,” Leverton said.
Gillian frowned. “I am? About what, exactly?”
He slowly crossed the room to her. He didn’t prowl, precisely, but something in the way he moved made her think of . . . a wolf, perhaps. Slipping silently through the night as he hunted in silence.
An exceedingly clever wolf, she guessed. One with very sharp teeth well suited for ripping apart a person’s carefully ordered life.
Leverton’s height forced her to tilt back her head to meet his gaze, and she found herself staring into eyes a beautiful shade of cobalt. She had to admit they were really quite amazing.
“Please believe me, Miss Dryden, when I say I meant no insult. I was merely surprised by a few details regarding your situation. It caused me to forget my manners.” A glint of amusement lurked in his gaze.
Her stomach twisted at the notion that he might be laughing at her. But when he smiled, her stomach seemed to untwist and start dancing with butterflies.
“Come, my dear girl,” he said in his beautifully cultured voice. “I beg you to forgive me before I’m compelled to do something drastic—like throw myself at your feet. That would be embarrassing for both of us.”
“Bloody coxcomb,” Griffin muttered.
Leverton ignored the aside, keeping his attention on Gillian. Her heart began to thump and heat crawled up her neck. “Oh, very well,” she grumbled. “I forgive you.”
“You are most gracious,” Leverton said. “Now, perhaps we can start over and leave all this awkwardness behind.”
“What a splendid idea,” Grandmamma said. “Your Grace, my granddaughter, Miss Gillian Dryden.”
The duke bowed as if she hadn’t just tumbled through the door, and as if they hadn’t just spent the last few minutes insulting each other.
“Gillian, I have the pleasure of introducing you to the Duke of Leverton,” Grandmamma added.
“Good Lord. I know who he is,” Gillian replied, not hiding her exasperation.
“Then make him a curtsey, my dear. A proper one.”
Repressing the urge to roll her eyes—one curtsey was as good as another, as far as she was concerned—Gillian dipped down and quickly came up.
Leverton’s eyebrows ticked up. On him, she rather expected it was the equivalent of a horrified gasp.
Well, nobody ever said she was graceful, at least when it came to that sort of silliness.
“Hmm,” he said. “We’ll have to work on that.”
“It’s all nonsense, if you ask me,” Gillian said. “All this bowing and scraping like a peasant before his master. Perhaps you’d like me to polish your boots while I’m at it.”
His disapproving gaze made her blink, and she almost took a step back. This was a man who did not like being crossed.
“Gillian Dryden, you will cease acting like heathen,” her grandmother rapped out.
“I had no idea you had revolutionary tendencies, Miss Dryden,” the duke said. “How very interesting. And no, I would not like you to polish my boots. My valet would not approve.”
Now he sounded bored. And if he was bored, he would be more likely to go away and leave her alone. Splendid.
Still, she couldn’t help feeling irked by his dismissive tone and demeanor. The Duke of Leverton was certainly a snob and probably a fop. She didn’t know which was worse.
“Why would you think I have revolutionary tendencies, sir?” she added in a sugary-sweet voice. “Is it because I think I’m as good as anyone else, despite my unfortunate social status?”
Gillian braced herself for the expected put-down. She’d grown used to being labeled a prince’s by-blow, or worse. It was best to simply accept it and then do her best to avoid anyone who looked down on her because of her parentage. She’d learned that hard lesson a long time ago.
The duke studied her for a few moments before replying. “Of course you are.”
“Of course I am what?” she asked.
“As good as anyone else. Any sensible person must think so,” he said.
“That eliminates most of the ton,” Griffin said.
Leverton seemed to weigh her brother’s droll comment. “I believe your assessment is too pessimistic, Steele. Shall we say, perhaps fifty percent?”
The exchange was so silly that Gillian had to laugh. Leverton’s eyebrows ticked up again, but not, she thought, with disapproval. Then he flashed her another dazzling smile that made her feel like the floor had just tipped sideways.
“That’s much better,” he said.
She shook her head, exasperated. “I don’t understand any of this.”
Description: A marriage of convenience ignites into a passionate love affair in the hotly anticipated second novel in New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries’s addictive Sinful Suitors series!
When Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to help his best friend’s impetuous ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, in her time of need, he knows he’s in for trouble. He’s been hunting for someone to wed, and she’ll just get in the way. Although captivated by the whip-smart, free-spirited beauty, he fears she’d be all wrong as a wife … if she would even take such a gruff cynic for her husband. Too bad he wants nothing more than to have her for his own.
Clarissa has no intention of marrying anyone—not Edwin, whom she’s sure would be an overbearing husband, and certainly not the powerful French diplomat stalking her. But when matters escalate with the diplomat, she chooses Edwin’s gallant offer of a marriage between friends in hopes that it will deter her stalker. She expects nothing more than an amiable union, but their increasingly tempestuous kisses prove more than she bargained for. When her stalker’s vow to expose the lovers’ deepest secrets threatens to destroy their blossoming attraction, will their tenuous bond withstand public ruin, or will Edwin lose all that’s important to him to protect his bride?
For some reason, I had been putting off reading Sabrina Jeffries new series. However, last week, I found the first book in my closet (yes, I have a book closet) while looking for something to read. While I did stop and start the book, that was more because new books came out last week and not do to The Art of Sinning itself. That being said, I found myself enjoying the second book, The Study of Seduction, more than I enjoyed the first book. In The Art of Sinning, it was clear the next book would be about Edwin and Clarissa. There were sparks between them and their jabs at one another were similar to Beatrice and Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing (and we all know how that ends). This book took the attraction a step further and included a marriage of convenience between the couple! Edwin is best friend’s with Clarissa’s cousin and protector. When her cousin is forced to go to the Continent, he asks Edwin to watch out for Clarissa. She has been receiving unwanted attention from an attachee of the French Embassy. Edwin, of course, agrees to help out. The situation between Clarissa and her pursuer quickly escalates, leaving Edwin no choice but to marry Clarissa.
What I enjoyed most was the depth of character the author develops for both Clarissa and Edwin. At first look, Edwin is a stodgy lord while Clarissa is a flirty and stubborn lady. However, underneath their exteriors, Edwin carries an attraction to Clarissa which explodes into sensuality. Their conflict stems from their attraction to one another. Clarissa’s gusto hides scars from her past. As they grow passed their initial banter, each begins to trust one another and reveal their secrets. In my opinion, watching Edwin and Clarissa peel away their layers of defense is what makes this such a diverting read.
Rating: 4 out of 5!
Received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Keeping Up with the Cavendishes #2
By: Maya Rodale
Releasing June 28, 2016
In the second novel of Maya Rodale’s enchanting Keeping Up with the Cavendishes series, an American heiress finds her reputation—and heart—in danger when she travels to London and meets a wickedly tempting rake
Lady Amelia is fed up with being a proper lady and wishes to explore London, so one night she escapes . . . and finds herself in the company of one Alistair Finlay-Jones. He’s been ordered by his uncle to wed one of the American girls. How lucky, then, that one of them stumbles right into his arms!
Alistair and Amelia have one perfect day to explore London, from Astley’s Amphitheater to Vauxhall Gardens. Inevitably they end up falling in love and making love. If anyone finds out, she will be ruined, but he will win everything he’s ever wanted.
When Amelia finds out Alistair has been ordered to marry her, he must woo her and win back the angry American girl. But with the threat of scandals, plural, looming . . . will he ever catch up to the woman he loves?
Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2016/05/chasing-lady-amelia-keeping-up-with.html
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27161188-chasing-lady-amelia
Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/153521-keeping-up-with-the-cavendishes
Maya Rodale began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence and it wasn’t long before she was writing her own. Maya is now the author of multiple Regency historical romances. She lives in New York City with her darling dog and a rogue of her own.
Link to Rafflecopter Page, http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/521ac4c81072/?
“Ah, Lady Nansen. Lord Nansen!” The duchess and her charges paused before a couple that looked just like all the others Amelia had been introduced to: they were of an indeterminate middle age, decked in an array of brightly colored silks and satins, and honestly, a bit jowly and gray.
“I haven’t yet introduced you to my nephew and nieces.”
“And we have been dying to make their acquaintance,” Lady Nansen said, fanning herself furiously. “The ton has spoken of nothing else.”
The duchess performed the introductions. Upon meeting James, the new duke, fawning ensued.
Everyone fawned over James these days—but then when his back was turned they whispered about how his father was a horse thief and that James had been raised in the stables and how tragic it was that Durham was now in his hands.
“And Lady Claire.”
Amelia watched as they took in Claire’s spectacles and her distracted, impatient demeanor. She had not mastered the slightly vacant look of a simpering miss and with a brain as sharp as hers, never would. Amelia watched as Lady Nansen decided that Claire would never be an “incomparable,” or whatever they called the popular girls of the ton, and flitted her attention to the next sister.
Amelia watched as her middle sister glided into an elegant curtsy. The duchess beamed. Lady Nansen judged.
“Your practicing is paying off,” Amelia murmured. She’d caught Bridget curtsying in front of the mirror in the ballroom for an hour last Thursday.
“Do shut up, Amelia,” Bridget said through gritted teeth. Unlike the other Cavendish siblings,
Bridget actually cared about fitting in here. She was obsessed with learning and following the rules.
“And Lady Amelia.” She gave a smile somewhere between gargoyle and simpering miss, but perhaps more on the gargoyle side of the spectrum.
“You must have your hands full, Duchess, trying to make so many matches.”
“It does give one something to do all day,” the duchess replied, with a tight-lipped smile that
Amelia dubbed the One Where I Am Smiling Even Though I Hate What You Just Said. “But I do have every confidence that they will make splendid matches. In fact, I have someone special in mind for Lady Amelia this evening.”
The duchess beamed at her charges, as if they hadn’t been foiling her every effort to marry them off. Amelia began to dread meeting “someone special.”
“I say, Duke,” Lord Nonesuch or whatever began, “do you have an opinion on any of the horses running Ascot?”
The lords always asked James for his opinion on which horse would win a race, so they might win a wager. And then they turned around and made snide remarks about his experience raising and training horses—as if he were beneath them because of this knowledge. Even though he now outranked them.
“I do,” James said, smiling easily.
“Don’t suppose you’d tell a friend who you think will be the winner?” Lord Nansen or Nancy said jovially, with a wink and a nudge.
“I might,” James replied.
This was a conversation he’d had before and Amelia had begged him to do something nefarious, like deliberately suggest a losing horse. But James refused and just smiled like he knew the winner and never said a word.
“I suppose you’re going to build up Durham’s stables,” his lordship said.
“Nansen, he doesn’t have time for horses,” his wife said in that exasperated way of wives. “He must find a bride first.”
The duchess beamed, an I-told-you-so smile.
Then Lady Nansen turned and fixed her attentions on Amelia. Her fan was beating at a furious pace.
“And Lady Amelia, have you found any suitors you care for?”
“After having met nearly all of England’s finest young gentlemen, I can honestly say that no, I have not found any suitors that I could care for,” Amelia said. “But I do have a new appreciation for spinsterhood. In fact, I think it sounds like just the thing.”
Just the thing was a bit of slang she had picked up. Sticking forks in her eye was just the thing (but only with the good silver!). Flustering old matrons with an honest and direct statement was just the thing.
Lady Nansen stared at her a moment, blinking rapidly as she tried to process what Amelia had just said.
“Well your sister seems to have snared the attentions of Darcy’s younger brother,” she said, evidently disregarding Amelia and focusing on Bridget, the one who cared about fitting in and finding suitors.
“Are Lord Darcy and Mr. Wright here tonight?” Bridge asked eagerly. Too eagerly. “I haven’t seen them.”
“It’s not a party without Darcy,” Amelia quipped.
Darcy spent the majority of every social engagement standing against the wall, glowering at the company, refusing to dance, and begging the question of why he even bothered to attend.
But that was neither here nor there and no one deigned to reply to Amelia, so she sighed and lamented her choice in footwear quietly to herself. When Lord and Lady Nansen took their leave and sauntered off, the duchess turned and fixed her cool, blue eyes on Amelia.
“You might endeavor to be a touch more gracious, Lady Amelia.”
The Duchess always said everything in perfectly worded, excruciatingly polite phrases. Translation: Lord above, Amelia, stop acting like a brat.
“I’m just . . . bored.”
And homesick. And unhappy. And dreading the future you have planned for me. And a dozen other feelings one does not mention when one is at a ball.
“Bored?” The duchess arched her brows. “How on earth can you be bored by all this?” She waved her hand elegantly, to indicate everything surrounding them. “Is all the splendor, music, and the company of the best families in the best country not enough for you? I cannot imagine that you had such elegance and luxuries in the provinces.”
Everyone here still referred to her home country as the provinces, or the colonies, or as the remote American backwater plagued by heathens, when Amelia knew that it was a beautiful country full of forthright, spirited people. It was her true home.
They operated under the impression that there was no greater fun to be had than getting overdressed and gossiping with the same old people each night, in crowded ballrooms in a crowded city.
She missed summer nights back home on their farm in Maryland, when she would slip outside at night with a blanket, to look up at the vast, endless expanse of stars.
This, no matter what the duchess said, just did not compare.
“We already met half these people at the six other balls we have attended this week,” she said. “The other half are crashing bores.”
Crashing bores was a phrase Amelia had read in the gossip columns. The violence of it appealed to her.
“I suppose it would be too much to ask you to pretend to act like an interested and engaging young lady.” Then, turning to Lady Bridget, the duchess said, “I daresay she couldn’t.”
With that, the duchess turned away.
She turned away, leaving the words hanging in the air, floating to the ground, just waiting for
Amelia to pounce on them.
“Well that was a challenge,” Claire said.
“I’m not certain she could manage it.” Bridget sniffed.
“Is that a dare?” Amelia asked, straightening up. Oh, she would pretend all right. She would pretend so well they’d all be shocked. It would give her something to do at least. “Because I will take that dare.”
“I’d like to see you try,” Bridget replied. Then, muttering under her breath she added, “For once.”
Amelia reddened. Admittedly she hadn’t been taking this whole sister-of-the-duke business seriously. But she would show them. So instead of sticking her tongue out and scowling at Bridget, Amelia stuck her nose right up in the air and turned away.
I’ve been hesitating in reading the first book in this series. I was afraid that I would end up comparing it too much to Pride and Prejudice. So I decided to skip the first book and read the second. Now that I’ve finished Chasing Lady Amelia, I want to go back and reread the first book! Inspired by Roman Holiday, this book was a delightful romp through Regency London. Lady Amelia, an American whose family newly inherited a dukedom, feels stifled by the constraints of society. An accidental dose of laudanum led Lady Amelia into the arms of Alistair Finlay-Jones. Finding Amelia wandering the streets of London and unable to tell him where she lives, he returns her to his apartments. A meeting with his uncle the morning informs him that the woman in his bed is the one his uncle wants him to marry. In order to court Amelia, he joins her the next day on an adventure through London. As the couple falls in love during their adventure, reality and society threaten to destroy their fragile bond.
This book was a light-hearted, fast read. While Alistair has demons from his past and a horrible relationship with his uncle, that did not cast shadows over the humor and adventure in this book. Both Amelia and Alistair are struggling to find their place in a society with constricting rules. They are both outsiders, but discover within one another, that they have met their other-half. The appearances by Lady Amelia’s family and Lord Darcy have made me intrigued enough to read the first book and to continue to follow the series!
I’m interrupting my posting schedule to present the cover reveal for Lisa Kleypas’s Devil in Spring! I recently read the first two books of her Ravenel series and enjoyed them. However, I’m more excited for the next book because it will feature the son of two of my favorite characters: Evie and St. Vincent from Devil in Winter! While you count down the days until February 2017, here’s the article in Bustle and the new cover!
Description: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bedding Proposal comes a seductive new novel about the most devilishly dangerous men in London…
When Lady Esme Byron happens upon a gorgeous naked man sleeping beside a secluded country lake, she can’t resist the impulse to sketch him. But when her highly improper drawing is mistakenly revealed at a party, she finds her once-pristine reputation in tatters.
Gabriel, Lord Northcote, may be a notorious rakehell, but he is still stunned to find himself accused of despoiling a duke’s sister—especially since he’s never set eyes on her. When Esme’s six irate brothers demand a hurried trip down the aisle, he has no choice but to comply. He thinks he can forget about his inconvenient bride but Esme Byron is no ordinary woman and Gabriel is about to learn just how unforgettable she can be.
It has been a while since I read a Tracy Anne Warren book and, to be honest, I wasn’t really impressed with the last few books in this series. However, for some reason, the youngest Bryon sister, Esme, has always stood out in my mind. So when her book was released, I put aside my disinterest in the series and decided to read it. I’m glad I did!
Esme is an artist and a bit of a rebel. That combination leads her into trouble when she decides to draw a naked man she spies on her neighbor’s property. This, of course, leads to a scandal when that picture is accidentally revealed at a house party. Thus, Esme and her model, Gabriel, while they have never meet, are forced to get married. I have a fondness for books where the couple have to get married and then are forced to figure out their relationship as they slowly start to fall in love. This book follows those plot points. Two strangers are forced to marry and figure out their lives together. I did like that Gabriel didn’t hold a grudge against Esme for causing their situation. It was clearly her fault and he could have easily blamed her. Instead, the conflicts in their relationship steam from his childhood scars. Esme starts the book as a young girl whose impulsive nature gets her forced into a marriage. However, as the book goes on, she starts to mature and temper her impulsiveness. She begins to settle into her life as a wife and mistress of the manor but does so while remaining true to herself. Gabriel, in turn, learns to work through the emotional trauma of his past and to rely on his wife. Overall, a very pleasant read.
Rating: 4 out of 5.