Book Review: Lord of Pleasure by Erica Ridley

In the Rogues to Riches historical romance series, Cinderella stories aren’t just for princesses… Sigh-worthy Regency rogues sweep strong-willed young ladies into whirlwind romance with rollicking adventure.

Nondescript “good girl” Miss Camellia Grenville only ever opens her mouth when forced to sing at her family’s musicales. That is, until the night she infiltrates the ton’s most scandalous masquerade ball on behalf of her sister, and finds herself in the arms—and the bed—of the one man she’d sworn to hate.

Irresistibly arrogant and unapologetically sensuous, infamous rake Lord Wainwright always gets his way. When he accepts a wager to turn his rakish image respectable in just forty days, he never anticipates falling for an anonymous masked lover…or that discovering her identity would destroy them both.

From the publishers via Netgalley, in exchange for a review.

Michael Rutland, Lord Wainwright wearies of the erroneous reports and daily cartoons in the press that have him as a rake, all too willing to dispoil young virgins. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy female company – he certainly does – but he has dalliences with older, more experienced women, usually widows, who have little reputation left to protect. Fed up with the cartoons being collected, even by his apparent best friends in his favourite pub, he enters a wager that that he could keep his “hands” clean for forty days. He is determined to win that wager, no matter how boring it will be.

Camellia has spent  her life doing what she believes is right in order to protect her reputation, even if it means having no fun, in the hope of landing a decent marriage. It’s meant that as the eldest of three daughters, her days happily spent on the shelf may be coming to an abrupt and not pleasant end. In order to open the doors to getting her two younger sisters married off, her father has struck a deal for her marriage to an older gentleman she barely knows who has little to interest or excite her. Her parents see her as the quiet mousey one, unlikely to cause a stir, so even as she protests about the match, she is ignored and dismissed.

When an opportunity arises to attend a naughty masquerade ball, incognito, Camellia jumps at the chance.  As the balls are masked, this is the only opportunity that Michael can have some enjoyment, whilst keeping his name out of the scandal papers. Here Camellia meets Lord X – in reality Michael – and both find that the masks and the rules of the ball allow them to be themselves, with no questions asked.

Outside of the balls, Michael and Camellia keep running into each other, especially since the Grenville soirees are one of the few that Michael can attend without causing scandal. Unfortunately Camellia detests Michael (or at least what appears in the press and the rumour mill) and makes sure she lets her feelings known. Michael feels aggrieved at finding someone who doesnt fall at his feet, but begins to realise that his reputation is not completely undeserved.

A rather intimate moment at one of the balls is destroyed by a rather unfortunate and inopportune identification but which gives Cameilla the resolve to stand up for what she wants, and call off the unwanted betrothal. Finally the pair make up and come together as per all good romances.

Not having read the first in the series is not a hinderance, though I get the impression it’s slightly spicier that this one. The main characters get to flirt and show their true selves, whilst feeling constrained by the reputation that their outside personas have generated. Both get the chance to change and show their true selves. There’s only one, slightly sexy scene, so nothing too scandulous! As with many series like this, the book concentrates on the two primary characters with the seconday characters being almost one dimensional – the Grenville sisters are perhaps the most rounded, but are still missing for much of the book, and the brother isnt even named! This is to allow for other books in the series to expand on these other characters.

In Summary: fun, light book; flirtatious in all the right parts; tension between the main characters as necessary, with personal growth on both sides.

 

 

 

Book Review: Aura of Magic: Unexpected Magic Book Four by Patricia Rice

Brighid Darrow, Countess of Carstairs, has endured years of a loveless marriage in order to aid her friends and the people of Northridge. Yet once she is widowed, the village shuns her with accusations of witchcraft—vilifying her unique gift of reading auras. Released from past restraints, Bridey rebelliously embraces her dream of establishing a forbidden school for midwives.
Having spent his life being all that is proper in hopes of earning a title in return for services to the crown, Aaron Pascoe-Ives, illegitimate son of a marquess, is ordered to Northridge to save the royal mines from rioters. Any hope of aid from the beautiful but aloof countess is dashed when his incorrigible twins endanger their young lives by following him, mystifyingly insisting that the Countess of Carstairs is their new mother.
Bridey and Pascoe face ghosts, assassins, and riots—but nothing as perilous as the irresistible attraction between them. With hard-fought goals at risk, they must make the ultimate choice between achieving dreams—or losing each other. 

Received from Librarything, in one of their Early Reviewer Batches. I’ve dipped into this series before, and I think the last attempt was a Did Not Finish (Whisper of Magic). However, even though this is now book 4 in the series, this was easier to read, in part because I’m now getting comfortable with the Malcolms, and all their illegitimate cousins, uncles etc.

Before this book starts, Brighid Darrow has endured years of a loveless marriage in order to the older Carstairs in order to aid her friends and the people of Northridge. When she is widowed (again, before this book has started), the village shuns her with accusations of witchcraft – misunderstanding both her education provided by her Grandfather, as well as her gift of reading auras.  The new Carstairs, a week and cowardly man that is manipulated by his brother Oliver incites the hatred even more by claiming that all that has gone wrong on the estate is as a result to Bridey’s talents. With only her brother Fin still living in the area, Bridey looks to embrace her dream of establishing a forbidden school for midwives.

Meanwhile, two of the Malcolm women are due to give birth any day now, and Bridey is staying at Wystan in order to provide midwifery support. It is here that she meets Pascoe, the King’s problem solver, when the latter is sent to deal with a mining and steel production issue in Northridge. Pascoe needs information but is saddled with two four year olds that keep disappearing and who seem to be in conversation with the spirit of their dead mother. He is hoping that he can offload the twins in the house and under the auspices of the extended family whilst he sorts out the issues with the Carstairs mine and furnace.

Wystan is traditionally used for confinement for the Malcolm women, and has its own secrets and traditions – one of which being that unmarried men are not allowed to be residing there when a child is born, as they have a tendency to get a girl pregnant and fall in love (in no particular order). This allows for Rice to allow for her main characters to have Sexy Time in many of her books and this book is no exception.

Back to the story: the miners and foundry workers are on the verge of rioting;Carstairs is blaming Bridey for witchcraft, especially when an axe falls on his head, almost killing him; Carstairs younger brother Oliver seems to have a deeper influence in the situation than anyone realises, and there’s a banshee in the chimneys that is a little more real than anyone gives credit for.  Ultimately, despite all the supernatural talents of the Ives and the Malcolm families, it is a far more “normal” answer to the problems, and one that everyone has to work together to securing a decent resolution.

Pascoe also finds a way of getting what he realises he wants from life – the girl he loves, a new mother to his children, and making her happy (even if it’s technically illegal).

An easier read than the previous book, and I was much happier in completing!

 

Book Review: Meet Me At Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt

Welcome to Willoughby Close… a charming cluster of cozy cottages, each with a story to tell and a happy ending to deliver…

Ellie Matthews has come to Wychwood-on-Lea to find a new start for her and her daughter Abby. But, life there doesn’t start out as idyllic as she had hoped. While Ellie loves her cute cottage in Willoughby Close, the Yummy Mummies at the primary school seem intent on giving her the cold shoulder, Abby has trouble fitting in, and her boss, Oliver Venables, is both surprisingly sexy and irritatingly inscrutable.

But miracles can happen in the most unexpected places, and in small, yet wonderful ways. Slowly, Ellie and Abby find themselves making friends and experiencing the everyday magic of Willoughby Close. When Oliver’s nephew, Tobias, befriends Abby, the four of them start to feel like family… and Ellie begins to see the kindness and warmth beneath Oliver’s chilly exterior, which awakens both her longing and fear.

Ellie knows all about disappointment, and the pain of trying too hard for nothing, while Oliver has his own hurts and secrets to deal with. When the past comes rollicking back to remind both of them of their weaknesses and failings, will they be able to overcome their fears and find their own happy ending?

Picked up from Netgalley and read over the New Year – it’s only now, in checking reviews that I’ve realised that I haven’t written one for this book!

I’ve previously read A Cotswold Christmas from the same author, and whilst I considered that one a little short and light, this was a better book (possibly because it was longer and therefore room for more character development).

Anyway, Ellie has moved to Willoughby Close with her daughter Abby to get away from a painful past and try and move on.  Abby has previously been bullied at school, and unfortunately it seems it might be happening again at her new school. It doesn’t help that her apparent nemesis (Mallory) – and her mother (Harriet) – move in to the house next door.

Following a shaky start – both of them had different expectations from her working in the university typing pool – Ellie and her boss Oliver start dating. Abby, who swings between being the child and the adult in her relationship with her mother, becomes friends with Oliver’s nephew Tobias.

There’s an interesting take on “blended families”, where  Ellie and Oliver need to navigate Ellie’s relationship with Tobias’ mother, who has sunk into an alcoholic fugue following her husband’s suicide.

Against all odds, Abby also makes friends with Lady Dorothy, who is the old woman who lives in “the big house” – Ellie feels she always started off on the wrong foot with Lady Dorothy, ever since the dog ruined the croquet lawn.

The usual events for a romance happen along the way, and there are the usual bumps in the road – Nathan (Ellie’s ex) turns up unexpected, and Oliver invites Ellie home to meet his parents, having avoided telling her he comes from minor aristocracy and that his parents are horrendous people.

Ultimately, nearly everything gets resolved satisfactorily, but there is room for a future book on Harriet and Mallory, and perhaphs one about Nathan. As I mentioned before, it was a more rounded book than the previous one, so I’m glad I took another chance on this series.

 

Book Review: Romancing the Rogue by Erica Ridley

When the new earl inherits, poor relation Miss Rebecca Bond must wed immediately or be out on her ear. The only man she’s ever loved is summoned to hear the will—but he already rejected her so soundly that they haven’t spoken in years. Yet who better than a rakish Viscount to teach her how to snare a gentleman who appreciates her charms?

Daniel Goodenham, Lord North Barrows, regrets nothing more than the lost friendship with the one woman who treated him like a man, not a title. Fate has given him the perfect pretext to win her forgiveness—even if it means having to matchmake her to someone else. But now that she’s back in his life, he’ll do anything to convince her to choose him instead…

This story was first featured in the Vexed anthology.

I’ve read several of Ridley’s books before so I am pre-approved on Netgalley for many of her books on the site.  This is a relatively short book, with a very limited cast of characters.

Rebecca had a dubious first season, having been shamefull rejected in public by the older (he was 17) Daniel Goodenham who had just inherited his title after the death of his father. She has spent the last five years living in the shadows of Castle Keyvor, but with the death of Lord Banfield everything is now in jeopardy.  The new earl becomes aware of her existance and gives  her an ultimatum: with 5 girls of his own he has no extra time or money to support a sixth: she has mere months to find a husband, or he will choose a husband for her. Her parents long gone, her wardrobe significantly out of date, the chance of a small dowry, and out of practise in flirting etc., she feels she has little chance of finding a suitable husband in time.

She realises that Daniel would be coming up for the reading of the will and that she would make use of his reputation as a rake – without realising that it’s all made up in the press.

Disgusted by his birthday party, where he knows virtually noone but all the young women are flirting for his attention, Daniel comes up to the castle early. I’m not entirely sure how he’s certain that’s where she’ll be – in the need to find Rebecca’s forgiveness. He gets about a week with her before the others arrive for the reading of the will and it doesnt always go well. He finds her infinately more intelligent and talented than he ever hoped, she finds him not the rake that the press had made him out to be.

We dont get to meet the other guests, and certainly dont sit in on the reading of the will – we only get to hear the results, which surprises at least one of the couple. This is a good choice as it doesn’t clutter the story up with 1 dimensional characters who add nothing to the story. The only character that confuses me slightly is the reaction of Mary the maid who seems to have no problem in taking orders from Rebecca, despite (apparently) Rebecca’s non-visibilty around the castle for the last 5 years.

Anyway, a shortish story, that seems pretty standalone, and not requiring an investment in a series of 8 books to find out what happens to everyone involved (as seems the fashion nowadays).

Book Review: The Doctor Wears a Stetson by Anne Marie Novark

 

the-doctor-wears-a-stetsonJessie Kincaid was fifteen and innocent when Cameron asked her to the prom. She lost her heart that night, but his plans didn’t change. He left their small town to pursue his dreams.

Seventeen years later, a trip home leads Cameron McCade back to Salt Fork, Texas and the newly widowed Jessie Devine. Since his return, the fire between them burns as hot as ever. Can they take up where they left off? Can Jessie risk her heart again?

Ebook free from Amazon. I started reading this in the effort to clear some space from my ebook, and if I’m honest – it’s not engaging and the story line is barely remembered just a week after finishing.

Jessie was in love with Cameron well before he asked her to go to prom (after Cameron and his girlfriend split up mere days before the dance). Not long afterwards, Cameron goes to the city to become a doctor, and has come home for his mother’s birthday, having been offered a lucrative job – all he has to do is accept.

Jessie is newly widowed – he husband had been seriously sick – and with the medical bills etc, the garage she inherited from her father is on the verge of bankruptcy. She has drilling rights to the McCade ranch and had vowed to her now dead husband never to sell them back to the McCades – there was some long running feud I long stopped caring to find out about, that meant the rights werent to be sold back out of spite.

Cameron comes back, Jessie has low confidence and is spiralling out of control financially, blah blah hlah.

Sorry, just a completely forgettable story

Book Review: Christmas at the Rekindle Inn by Lori Waters

 

Christmas at the Reindle Inn #BookReviewMary Walker has a habit of giving in when it comes to her mother, but this time her mom went too far. At first glance, the gift seems innocent. Seven days at a lovely Vermont inn in mid-December is Mary’s idea of the perfect Christmas present—that is until she discovers her traveling companion’s identity.

The Rekindle Inn is the last place J.T. Walker wants to spend his Christmas vacation, much less in the company with the woman who’d recently ripped his heart to shreds. A challenge of wills, and the need to show Mary he no longer cares, has him on the plane to Santaville faster than the time it takes to unwrap a candy cane.

The Rekindle Inn specializes in mending relationships, but when the Walkers check in, it will take more than a little Christmas magic to bring these two broken hearts back together. More like a Christmas miracle.

Picked up from Netgalley in exchange for a review, this almost didn’t make it into the Christmas Reading pile, until I was checking my dashboard on the site for another book, and – eeep! It was there ready to read, and my chance of a themed romance was rapidly running out the door!

So: it’s a romance set at Christmas, so you have to suspend any Grinchy-ness if you’re going to survive this book. A week before Christmas, and a month before their divorce is finalised, Mary and JT (Joseph Tanner) (yes, there’s the first of them!), are sent to the Rekindle Inn by their mothers, in the hope they can recover what’s left of their marriage.

They have been separated for 6 months, ever since Mary organised a surprise vacation, only for JT to bail out at the last minute “for work purposes”. Both characters have issues that have contributed to their marriage breaking down – Mary hasn’t trusted anyone since her father walked out on her mother when Mary was 10, and she gives up at the first sign of trouble anywhere in her life. JT has always felt that whatever he did was never “good enough” for his father, so he strove to be the best at his job, whilst neglecting his marriage.  Both of them struggle with communication, with their spouse and family members. Neither have confronted their parents about the trip, or their issues.

Arriving at the Rekindle Inn, the couple realise there is something unusual about the people who make up the staff and the community, starting with the fact that their hosts are called Mr and Mrs Klaus, and virtually no-one is over 5 feet tall. There’s the occasional “slip up” where references are made to “el, I mean staff”.

This is told primarily from the point of Mary, with a little side view from JT.  Some of the secondary characters are more 3 dimensional than others but some are barely sketched.

Once at the Inn, the couple are told about the week’s schedule, which involves time spent apart as well as putting the two of them together as a couple.  Each day is themed, and allows the couple to reflect on what made them fall in love in the first place, and hopefully bring some spark back into their relationship. They do get together – briefly – during the week, but it is the end of the week when Mary’s new boyfriend turns up to pick her up, and JT’s  boss’ daughter continues to try and get her claws into him that almost ruins the reconciliation.  However, as per all good romances, especially one set at Christmas, things work out as wished for!

The Christmas tie-ins were laid on a little thick for my liking, but them’s the breaks. Some people love the book, some people hate it, I found it to be a nice, fast, post Christmas read over lunch one day.

#BookReview: Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky (A Town Called Christmas #1) by Holly Martin

Christmas under a Cranberry Sky

This year spend a wonderful Christmas on Juniper Island, where love can melt even the iciest of hearts…

Piper Chesterfield lives a glamorous life travelling the world and reviewing the finest hotels. She calls nowhere home, she works alone and that’s how she likes it. For long ago Piper decided that to protect her heart she should lock it away.  So when Piper’s next assignment brings her to the newly opened Stardust Lake Hotel for the festive season, the last person she expects to face is Gabe Whitaker, the man who broke her heart so completely she could never love again.  But Piper isn’t the only one who has been frozen in time by heartbreak. Gabe hasn’t forgotten the golden-eyed girl who disappeared from his world without a trace.  Now fate has reunited them on Juniper island, can the magic of Christmas heal old wounds? And can this enchanting town be the one place Piper can finally call home?

From the publishers via netgalley in exchange for a review.  Piper is a professional hotel reviewer, and has spent the last 10 years travelling the world.  As her last review before taking a 6 month sabbatical, she goes to the Stardust Lake Hotel for the Christmas and New Year break. Little does she know that the man who owns the hotel and trying to get it ready is the man she’s been running from for the last 12 years, ever since her father’s death and Gabe unknowingly broke her heart.

Piper has turned up whilst they are still getting the hotel ready for the Christmas period, a fact that isn’t helped by the loss of general power to many of the cabins. That, plus some staff taking a final holiday before the season starts proper, means she ends up helping out with getting the cabins ready, whilst staying with Gabe in his set of rooms. Their connection comes back fairly quickly but it is clear that both of them have issues that need to work out – Pip is devastated that Gabe spent time in hospital after she disappeared, and she has to deal with the fact that apparently his family turned down money from her father to take her off his hands. Throw in the fact that she was in the car when he died, only adds to the fact she’s been running the last 12 years.

The Cranberry Sky is a reference to a Old Wives Tale that the usually green Northern Lights turn red when there is true love in the air. This is seen by Gabe and Pip when they spent a night alone in one of the cabins with a glass roof.

Meanwhile the hotel is concerned that Mr Black – a well known hotel reviewer capable of closing hotels on the back off a review – is expected over the holiday period with noone – including Pip – knowing that Mr Black is Pip. It is Pip’s reticence to declare her proper job as hotel reviewer that is the cause of the new breakdown between her and Gabe. Due in part to the remoteness of the hotel, it is impossible for Pip to do the traditional romance “running away until he follows” act, and they have to work it out with her staying put.

Meanwhile some of the secondary characters are being developed, including Gabe’s sister Neve, and it is the arrival of her ex boyfriend (the actor) that sets up the premise for the next book in the series.  There’s plenty of room for at least two more books in the series – perhaps more depending on who else gets added – whilst developing Pip and Glen into something a little more rounded.

Over all a cozy story for the Christmas season with plenty of potential to take further