Book Review: One Night to Remember by Erica Ridley

One night to Remember by Erica Ridley #BookCover #BookReview

Notorious whip Giles Langford is surprised to learn his blacksmith is a girl, shocked to realize she’s the out-of-his-league sister of a duke, and horrified to discover he’s fallen in love with the impossible-to-tame woman anyway. With no money and no title, Giles has nothing to offer but his heart…

Felicity Sutton knows poverty firsthand, and she’s never going back. She might miss the smithy, but not the relentless desperation of no home and an empty belly. Of course she’ll accept the stability of a wealthy ton suitor. As for the penniless daredevil she loves, well… At least they’ll have one night to remember.

Meet the unforgettable men of London’s most notorious tavern, The Wicked Duke. Seductively handsome, with charm and wit to spare, one night with these rakes and rogues will never be enough…

I got this book a while ago, read part of it, but in going through my Netgalley library etc I realised I hadn’t finished it or reviewed it. This is my attempt to rectify that

This fits in with other books by this author (in this and other series) where it is female centric, and the woman often finds herself rebelling against expectation in order to find themselves

Much of this is over 2 weeks where Cole (aka Colehaven) has entered into a bet with another member of the gentry, which he bets that his curricle will beat the curricle of the other (Silas) in a race in two weeks time

Cole has promised his sister (the Lady Felicity) that it would not be him riding the curricle – in fact he has engaged the best smith in town (Giles) to maintain his curricle and drive it. The main/only proviso – that Lady Felicity is the apprentice to help on upgrading the curricle.

Over the next 2 weeks, Giles and Felicity fall in love, all whilst Felicity is trying to make an catch in the TON that would give her the stability she needed whilst allowing her the freedom to do what she wanted. Ultimately a major decision needs to be made – what does Felicity need more – the apparent stability of a titled husband, or love?

This was a decent story, but reading this a year after reading the other books in the series was interesting. It can easily be read alone, as whilst there are references to other stories in the series, this story is not dependant on having read the other stories in the series. There is ONE reference to distances being measured in “blocks” – a personal bug bear of mine when reading stories written for the American Market, but written about Regency London. Gah!

2020 Blogger Resolutions – An End Of Year Update

It’s now traditional for me to set goals at the beginning of the year, then reflect how I’ve done by the end. Following my failure to achieve these the last few years, I’ve significantly dropped my numbers, in the chance of actually meeting a couple!  Here is how I performed against the 2020 resolutions

Book pages text
Patrick Tomasso via Upsplash

    • Increase subscribers to this blog to 1000, excluding twitter followers

running very hot at 950+

    • Increase annual page hits to this blog (to 7000)

Despite the lower number of posts, I’ve still managed to get more views this year than what I achieved over the last 5 years, with a reasonable 7217. I’m not entirely sure what I did right! WordPress have changed the way things are done, including the editor. I cant say that I’m impressed with it overall, but much of that could be down to not liking change.

    • Increase twitter followers to @brumnordie (to 950)

Still not there – still hovering around the 778 mark, give or take. A loss in functionality has meant that I dont know exactly who I have lost or gained, but it is usually smaller authors, who dont engage with me, then unfollow when I have failed to engage them at the level they hoped. Until recently I got Google Alerts in order to seek out what I hoped would provide me with some more content, but I found myself drowning in emails, and not getting any contentI found useful.

    • increase twitter followers to @bxbrum (to 280)

I’ve relinquished posting rights to BXBRUM, so have not been tracking numbers for much of 2020. Therefore this is redundant.

    • Read and review 50 books. 50% to be paperbooks or audiobooks.

50? Who said 50? Whatever the number, I’m not even close. I’ve not even hit 50% of the 20 books challenge I have on goodreads

    • Get my Netgalley ratio into the 72% range (from 66%).

I’ve tried to increase my ratio, but with the overall lack of reading, this is not as high as I’d hoped

    • To aid in reading the books that I already have there will be a moratorium on requesting books from Netgalley or LibraryThing, and reviewing books I already have

Done.

    • Make better use of twitter, including the analytics, scheduling content.

It’s been a mixed bag this year. Overall, i have interacted less on twitter, but the numbers on the blog make me wonder. I have tried more targeted tweets, so romance novels in Feb, Christmas in Nov/Dec. Something seems to be working.

    • Take part in twitter chats such as #ContentHour, #BrumHour

See above. To be honest, I’ve not been as active in chats as I should have been. The things I wanted to talk about simply weren’t happening

    • Make use of scheduling and planning software

See above

    • Release more books via Bookcrossing, either in OBCZs or via RABCKs.

LOL. Not happening. I’m using my apartment foyer as a pseudo-shelf, leaving the occasional set of books out. They *are* going, but I’m struggling to workout what people like (as opposed to “i’m bored, I’ll read anything” syndrome.) Odd choices e.g. Mort by Terry Pratchett has gone, Joan Collins went and came back, a Debbie MaComber Christmas Romance apparently never left!

Book Review: SpellBreaker by Charlie M Holmberg

A world of enchanted injustice needs a disenchanting woman in the newest fantasy series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician.

The orphaned Elsie Camden learned as a girl that there were two kinds of wizards in the world: those who pay for the power to cast spells and those, like her, born with the ability to break them. But as an unlicensed magic user, her gift is a crime. Commissioned by an underground group known as the Cowls, Elsie uses her spellbreaking to push back against the aristocrats and help the common man. She always did love the tale of Robin Hood.


Elite magic user Bacchus Kelsey is one elusive spell away from his mastership when he catches Elsie breaking an enchantment. To protect her secret, Elsie strikes a bargain. She’ll help Bacchus fix unruly spells around his estate if he doesn’t turn her in. Working together, Elsie’s trust in—and fondness for—the handsome stranger grows. So does her trepidation about the rise in the murders of wizards and the theft of the spellbooks their bodies leave behind.

I got this as a freebie on Amazon, and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. This has a world narrative already set up, there is no “I’m going to explain something that is different because I think you’re stupid”. There is some explaining going on, but nothing that patronises the reader – it’s relevant, timely and dealt with appropriately.

London 1895. There are spell makers and there are spell breakers. Every skilled and licenced Spell Maker are called “Master”, even the women. This is a highly regulated field, which usually means that only the rich get to take part. The less rich (but with talent) tend to be unlicenced and therefore effectively practice outside the law.

This is down as a “duology” and therefore not a trilogy. 2 parts, not 3. Ok. Makes a nice change.

This book establishes the world, and the main characters. The narrator is Elsie, who was (apparently) abandoned by her parents and siblings when she was much younger, and the finding her family has been much of her focus. Another part of her focus has been what she calls “the Cowls” i.e. those hidden in the shadows but still directing her spell breaking skills. She is sent on various jobs – unfortunately only realising (often too late) what those tasks meant.

Meanwhile, during one of her early spells, Elsie is found by Bacchus Kelsey, and the two strike a bargain – she breaks some spells for him, and he wont betray her secret.  His mother is Portuguese, his father English, and he is based in Barbados where he spends a lot of his time in the sun, so he’s a lot darker than the locals. Not much is made of this, which is hopefully a good thing. Just enough to remind readers that “not all leading men have to be white, you know?”. I just hope this is not seen as a tokenism thing – there is noone else like Bacchus in the story, more’s the pity.

Whilst most of the story is told from Elsie’s point of view, we get some stories from Bacchus, at least where he attempts to look after his friend’s estate (the whole reason for meeting Elsie), plus his attempt to become a Master Spellmaker – through legal means, of course! If there is a downside to this book, it is that Bacchus and his attempt to become a Master SpellMaker is a tad underused.

Anyway, the threads start to come together in the last third or so of the book and because I don’t do spoilers I wont give away what happens here!. It pulls all the threads together whilst setting up the chance at a second book, which wont me out till 2021 (naturally, lol!). First freebie in ages where I’ve looked up the following book – that says a LOT!

 

 

Book Review: The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris takes the reader back to Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, and the now accepted chocolatier, Vianne Rocher, continuing to practice her own brand of chocolate magic. How things have changed, even Francis Reynaud, the priest, once her fiercest critic is now a friend. Vianne has lost her summer child, Anouk, to Paris and the man she has fallen in love with. She finds some comfort that her winter child, the special Rosette will never leave her. Rosette doesn’t attend school, does not speak, has a companion that only few can see, Bam, the monkey, and has a special gift for art and drawing. Snow makes an unexpected appearance, and the winds of change are blowing, heralding death, unstoppable chaos and a confrontation between different forms of powerful magic, that of chocolate and ink. Vianne has a desperate sense of foreboding, the tarot cards, Death, The Fool and The Tower, promise a future that is to test and challenge her.

The death of Narcisse, the florist, triggers conflict and the entry of a newcomer with no feet taking over his shop premises. The mysterious Morgane and her reception by the village carries uncanny echoes of Vianne’s experiences on first settling in the village. Whilst many do not get Rosette and belittle her, Narcisse becomes close to the child after catching her stealing strawberries. He bequeaths his wood to Rosette, the strawberry thief, to be held in trust for her until she is of age. Whilst Rosette is overjoyed, Narcisse’s daughter is less than happy, looking for ways to challenge the bequest. Narcisse had rejected the church and was not fond of Reynaud, but he leaves behind a confession for Reynaud that tells of his heartbreaking background and history, particularly his close relationship with his beloved sister, Mimi, afflicted with seizures. Reynaud carries a heavy burden of guilt from his actions as a child that had such tragic outcomes, events he has never dared to speak of, which he is certain will see him roundly condemned by all. He is afraid that Narcisse knew of his secret. Morgane appears to wield a power over the community and Rosette that makes Vianne so afraid that she will do anything to make her leave.

Joanne Harris is a remarkably beguiling storyteller, infusing dark fairytales in the narrative, of Rosette, the snow child, with her own magic, her ‘accidents’, and her ability to influence the winds. She focuses on human insecurities, frailties and fears, of a casting of magic that disturbs the natural order of things and how natural forces will inexorably topple such unnaturalness. The magic of ink takes hold of a village and community, giving them what they need rather than what they want, including the mark of Cain, and with it comes the inevitable changes that life brings. This is a beautifully written and immersive read, and it is such a pleasure to return to this village and all its diverse characters, even the unlikeable ones! If you are drawn to the whimsical, the bewitching, and glorious storytelling, then this is a novel for you. Highly recommended! Many thanks to Orion for an ARC.

Vianne Rocher has settled down. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, the place that once rejected her, has finally become her home. With Rosette, her ‘special’ child, she runs her chocolate shop in the square, talks to her friends on the river, is part of the community. Even Reynaud, the priest, has become a friend.

But when old Narcisse, the florist, dies, leaving a parcel of land to Rosette and a written confession to Reynaud, the life of the sleepy village is once more thrown into disarray. The arrival of Narcisse’s relatives, the departure of an old friend and the opening of a mysterious new shop in the place of the florist’s across the square – one that mirrors the chocolaterie, and has a strange appeal of its own – all seem to herald some kind of change: a confrontation, a turbulence – even, perhaps, a murder…

The 4th – and nominally the last – book in the “Chocolat” series, this follows the Peaches for Monsier Le Cure book previously reviewed on this blog. The writing style has changed slightly, so there are now multiple voices – Vianne, Reynard (Le Cure) and Rosette (BAM! from previous books) in particular.

Vianne still has the Chocolate Shop and continues to feel uncertain, even when she has been accepted; Anouk is now in Paris, coming back to Lansquenet with a secret, just in time to share it for Easter; Reynaud is still haunted by what he believes is true (and we get to hear more of how and why he fears the boat people).

Vianne still believes that her “winter child” (Rosette) – the one who rarely speaks – will stay with her forever. Meanwhile Narcisse dies, leaving various legacies to people – most of his estate to his daughter; his strawberry patch to Rosette (the Strawberry Thief of the title); and a confession (of sorts) to Reynard…..the latter which goes around various people of the community, so we all get to hear a peace.

Narcisse has left a “confession” for after his death that is essentially a history of why he is a bit of a git.  This narrative/diary is read mainly by Le Cure, but, as part of the story, is passed around various characters in the story.

Meanwhile, the florist’s shop is let, to a tattooist called Morgane (her of the two artificial feet). She reminds Vianne too much of the usurper she encountered in The Lollipop Shoes, and therefore Vianne doesnt trust her, especially when Rosette seems all too enamored of the new woman across the street.

So the story has multiple threads, and multiple timelines for what is, essentially, an entwined story. Everyone is important. All threads come together (I wont provide spoilers so I will be knowingly vague). In essence: i enjoyed this book, especially as part of a series. It can be read on it’s own, but is always helpful to read in order/context

 

FYI the “Strawberry Thief” is referred to in the book as a design by William Morris, and more information (Including an image) can be found here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: One Night of Passion by Erica Ridley

Meet the unforgettable men of London’s most notorious tavern, The Wicked Duke. Seductively handsome, with charm and wit to spare, one night with these rakes and rogues will never be enough…

Lifelong romantic Thaddeus Middleton is on the hunt for a wife. He hopes to find a woman more attracted to him than to money. Instead, he finds himself drawn to a spitfire who isn’t interested in him at all! At least, that’s what she says when she’s not kissing him beneath the stars…

Miss Priscilla Weatherby will inherit a fortune… provided she remains unwed and scandal-free. Easy enough, until she meets a man more dangerous than haughty lords and heartless rakes. Thad is a sweet, sexy delight, whose passionate embrace will ruin everything—including her! She’ll sacrifice anything for independence. Even love…

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Book Review: Watch the Wall, Miss Seeton by Hamilton Crane

Have the smugglers made a grave mistake?

Customs & Excise are tracking a gang of cigar-smugglers who operate on the quiet Kent coast near Plummergen, home to retired art teacher Miss Emily Seeton. Their attempt at a midnight ambush goes wrong, and a man is found dead.

As Miss Seeton sketches the most notorious tomb in Plummergen churchyard – the one built for 19th-century smuggler Abraham Voller – she meets a young American tourist. He claims to be a descendant of the Voller family, but is he a truly innocent ancestor-hunter, or do smugglers inherit their trade?

When the school concert includes a performance of Kipling’s “A Smuggler’s Song” it begins to seem that everyone is at it … but we can rely on Miss Seeton to ensure that the police will get their man, and the smugglers’ dreams will go up in smoke!

Serene amidst every kind of skulduggery, this eccentric English spinster steps in where Scotland Yard stumbles, armed with nothing more than her sketchpad and umbrella.

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Book Review: In the Garden of Temptation by Cynthia Wicklund

HONOR – Adam Stanford, Earl of Ashworth, has always done the right thing.
DESIRE – Lady Catherine Bourgeault, lonely and rejected, longs to experience passion, to love just once in her life.
TREACHERY – The Baron Bourgeault, to what extremes will an obsessive, unstable man go to achieve his own dark ends? 
SEDUCTION – In the face of a love that will not be denied, Adam and Catherine risk everything to be together.
BETRAYAL – What price must Catherine and Adam pay for a forbidden love in a time when honor meant everything?

When I came to write this review, I went searching for where I had picked it up – I got it for free from Amazon back in 2014 and in a way I was glad I hadn’t spent any money on it.

From the beginning, it is clear that Baron Bourgeault is more than a little odd – much older than his young, pretty wife Catherine, he has a dubious reputation in town and is rarely invited to polite society. He therefore stays in his run down residence, rarely inviting people to stay, and therefore restricting Catherine’s social circle. He does have one thing on his side: a pair of identical grey stallions, that he occasionally invites young men down to inspect, with the prospect of buying.  He invites Adam Stanford down, but generally acts appallingly, ensuring that Catherine and Adam end up in each other’s arms.

 

It’s only when Catherine becomes pregnant, and the Baron bans her from seeing Adam again (and allowing him to claim the child as his own) does the whole sordid plan come out: the Baron needs an heir, but has a fear of being touched. He had married Catherine in an attempt to overcome this phobia, but it proved to not be the case. Therefore he has spent the last 7 years inviting men to the estate in the hope that they will squire Catherine in order to get her with child, and give him the male heir that he wants.

Catherine gives birth to a girl, which sends the Baron into even deeper depths of madness, effectively pimping his wife out mere days after giving birth, in order to get pregnant again. It turns out that the man she has been told to seduce is a friend of Adam’s and she is able to tell her tale and enable a confrontation between Adam and the Baron, resulting in a successful resolution of the situation.

Overall, I found the whole premise just down right creepy……after 7 years of being humiliated and pimped out, was Catherine really that unaware of what her husband’s motives were?  All the staff were well aware of what was going on, and how badly she was being treated, and none offered any kind of help or support (even gossiping with other servants in the local area).  By the time that Adam and Catherine get to have their first meal together, the Baron has been so, well, weird, that it was hard to see the connection between the two soon to be lovers, and the apparent disconnect between the two continued for the rest of the book. I didnt get any sense of believable “burning passion”, or “true love”.

None of the servants were particularly well developed and generally remained one dimensional. Willie, as the Baron’s henchman, had the potential to be more rounded, but just came across as a leering degenerate (I’ve seen others describe him as an “Igor” character), with no apparent motivation apart from being able to spy on pretty girls and creep them out.

During and after reading this book, I did have a distinct feeling of “why did I bother?”

 

 

Book Review: Saving Grace by Sandy James

Grace Riley is on the run—from her past and from her fears. The victim of a violent rape at the hands of a rich politician’s son, she must “disappear” to escape his constant attempts to recapture her. Moving from cattle drive to cattle drive as a cook, she avoids her tormentor for nearly twenty years. When she discovers that the brother she gave up for adoption after their mother died in childbirth was orphaned at an early age, she is frantic to verify that he’s safe. She tracks him to a cattle ranch in Montana.

Widower Adam Morgan owns the Twin Springs ranch, but finds himself falling into a life of loneliness. Although he enjoys spending time with his grown daughter and the two men he rescued when they were living on the streets, he longs to meet a woman he can love. Living in the Montana territory where men greatly outnumber women makes finding a new wife difficult. Weary of working cattle, he is ready to make some changes in his life.

Grace falls ill on her journey, but she manages to make it to the Twin Springs ranch where her brother is supposed to be living. Adam takes her in, concerned for her health and the reason she’s searching for one of his adopted sons. Their chemistry is immediate and intense, but can Grace heal from her past of pain and fear? When her secrets are finally revealed, can Adam forgive her deceptions and learn to love again?

From Netgalley in exchange for a review.

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Book Review: No Perfect Magic by Patricia Rice

Will Ives, the bastard of the late marquess, is as strong, handsome, and smart as his titled brothers, but he has no interest in society or book learning. His unique gift for training highly-prized rescue dogs is all he needs. His peace is shattered the day the beautiful but eccentric Lady Aurelia demands his help in finding a child no one knows is missing. 

The daughter of a duke, Lady Aurelia has everything: wealth, beauty, and a family known for their good works. Unfortunately afflicted with hyper-acute hearing, she spends most of her time cringing in her room. She wants to please her father and make a good match, but how can she when every dinner, tea, and ball is pure torture? 

When a child only she can hear cries for help, Aurelia must find a way to turn her affliction into the gift it is, before it’s too late. Will, in turn, must overcome his reluctance to work with a lady who makes him feel inadequate in all ways but one. 
With the reluctant aid of Will and his dogs, the pair sets out on an unusual journey that will surely lead to heartbreak— or a love against all reason. 

Book 6 in the Malcolm series which I received from LibraryThing as part of the Early Reviewers monthly batch.  Will is one of the illegitimate Ives offspring, whose gift is “talking” to dogs and training them for search and rescue. He believes he knows what type of woman he should get married to – even has someone in mind – and just hopes that she will leave him in relative peace to do what he wants. Therefore, when he is confronted with the Lady Aurelia, she is apparently the exact opposite of his ideal woman: small, impossibly petite, rich and apparently more than a little scatter brained. However, the two off them go off to find a child lost in the woods that only Aurelia can hear.   it is the result of finding this child that occupies the rest of the book, and brings the two people closer together, and allows both to find the peace they were looking for.  We get to understand what it’s like for Aurelia to have such sensitive hearing, what Will manages to do for her without even trying, and what both suffer when they are apart from each other. Continue reading

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 weak 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.

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