Book Review: A Testament to Murder by Vivian Conroy

Suspenseful from the first page to the last, A Testament to Murder is perfect for fans of And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and Crooked House

A dying billionaire. Nine would-be heirs. But only one will take the prize…

At the lush Villa Calypso on the French Riviera, a dying billionaire launches a devious plan: at midnight each day he appoints a new heir to his vast fortune. If he dies within 24 hours, that person takes it all. If not, their chance is gone forever.

Yet these are no ordinary beneficiaries, these men who crossed him, women who deceived him, and distant relations intent on reclaiming the family fortune. All are determined to lend death a hand and outwit their rivals in pursuit of the prize.

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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: The First Village by Ian M Evans

Wales AD 383 is the most remote province of Roman-occupied Britain, colonised for over 300 years. Magnus Maximus, known to the Celts as Macsen Wledig, has grown restless with his role as general of the Roman army in Britannia. His nights are broken by dreams of an impossibly beautiful Welsh maiden. He sets his sights on moving his legions out of Britannia to challenge Gratianus – the emperor of the Western Roman Empire.

Flavius Arcadius is less than enamoured by his general’s plans. The army’s withdrawal will leave his family, neighbours and all of Britannia unprotected and at the mercy of internecine conflict between the local tribes and the even greater threat of pagan invaders from the east. He does, however, have a vision for the future – a fortified villa surrounded by a self-sufficient community – if only he could find a way to stay behind when the legions move.

 

 

Being a fan of authors like Lindsey Davies, Robert Harris, etc. I do have a thing for ancient (e.g. Roman) History. Therefore I had high hopes for this book. Woe!

I got to Chapter 9 – where they were *still* talking about, maybe, perhaps, going to their boss in regard to looking for the tottie he’s been dreaming about. I stopped there. Can I have a little more action please, and less as to why he’s not shagged the local freed, rich, woman who may or may not be giving him the run around?

It can/could have been good – other reviews imply it’s great later on in the story. However, I really couldn’t wait.   Too much talking, too much dry exposition, too little stuff happening….Unfortunately, too little to keep me engaged….

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Master and God by Lindsey Davies

From “New York Times” bestselling novelist Lindsey Davis comes an epic novel of first-century Rome and the Emperor Domitian, known to all of the Roman world as “Master and God”
Set in the reign of the Emperor Domitian in first-century Rome, “Master and God” is Lindsey Davis’s meticulously researched epic novel of the life and times surrounding the last of the Flavian dynasty of emperors. Gaius Vinius is a reluctant Praetorian Guard the Emperor’s personal guard and a man with a disastrous marriage history. Flavia Lucilla is also in the imperial court and she is responsible not only for having created the ridiculous hairstyle worn by the imperial ladies but for also making toupees for the balding and increasingly paranoid emperor. The two of them are brought together in an unlikely manner a devastating fire in Rome which then leads to a lifelong friendship.Together they watch Domitian’s once talented rule unravel into madness and cruelty, until the people closest to him conspire to delete him from history. As an imperial bodyguard, Vinius then faces a tough decision. “Master and God” is a compelling novel of the Roman Empire from the height of power to the depths of madness told from the perspective of two courtiers and unlikely friends who together are the witnesses to history.”

 

Via my bookgroup, this is the next book to be added to both my #HistoricalFictionReadingChallenge and #PaperOnlyReadingChallenge

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Book Review: One night for Seduction by Erica Ridley

When the Wicked Duke dares the Duke of Colehaven to find a suitor for an unmanageable ward, Cole immediately accepts. He’s on a winning streak, and besides, how unmarriageable can a pretty young lady be? He appoints himself bodyguard and duenna, only to discover his own desires may be the greatest danger of all.

Supposed wallflower Diana Middleton lives a double life, bringing dishonest businessmen to justice. Shaking off a meddling duke should be child’s play. Yet the more they lock horns, the more she wants to lock lips. Her scandalous secrets would derail his political career. But surely there’s no harm in one little seduction…

 

Received as an ebook from Netgalley. Much as I hate to admit this, I think I’m going to have to step away from these kinds of books for a while – I found this particular story too close to too many others by the same author (she:   bookish woman, very good at maths hides her skills from men in order to not surrender anything to anyone, but now she finds love etc……he: a duke who runs a tavern that allows men from most levels of society to drink).

The execution was fine, there was a good relationship between the two main characters, I have just read this same story too many times in the last year or so, so I’ve become more than a little jaded on it.

Book Review: The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman

The year is 1507, and a friar has arrived in Tierkinddorf, a remote German village nestled deeply in the woods. The village has been suffering a famine, and the villagers are desperately hungry. The friar’s arrival is a miracle, and when he claims he can restore the town to prosperity, the men and women gathered to hear him rejoice. The friar has a book called the Malleus Maleficarum—“The Witch’s Hammer”—a guide to gaining confessions of witchcraft. The friar promises he will identify the guilty woman who has brought God’s anger upon the town; she will be burned, and bounty will be restored. Tierkinddorf is filled with hope. Neighbors wonder aloud who has cursed them and how quickly can she be found? They begin sharing secrets with the friar. 

Güde Müller, an elderly woman, has stark and frightening visions—recently she has seen things that defy explanation. None in the village know this, and Güde herself worries that perhaps her mind has begun to wander—certainly she has outlived all but one of her peers in Tierkinddorf. Yet of one thing she is absolutely certain: She has become an object of scorn and a burden to her son’s wife. In these desperate times her daughter-in-law would prefer one less hungry mouth at the family table. As the friar turns his eye on each member of the tiny community, Güde dreads what her daughter-in-law might say to win his favor.

Then one terrible night Güde follows an unearthly voice and the scent of charred meat into the snow-filled woods. Come morning, she no longer knows if the horror she witnessed was real or imagined. She only knows that if the friar hears of it, she may be damned in this life as well as the next.

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Book Review: Wish Upon A Duke by Erica Ridley

Christopher Pringle, the brother from the previous book (Kiss of a Duke), is in Cressmouth for the month to find a wife.

Ignored and protected whilst his brother was single, now the banns have been read for the wedding, Christopher has become the centre of attention and he hates it.

Penelope, his future sister in law, arranges for her friend Gloria Godwin to play matchmaker, in part because Gloria knows everyone in town.

Unfortunately, Christopher has little confidence in Gloria, having seen her lead an astronomy viewing, whilst making up names for every constellation. Little does he realise that she does know the names, but she has an active imagination and uses this section of her walking tour to entertain and engage the children.

Gloria introduces him to a number of eligible women, based on his stated criteria, but he doesn’t connect with them in the way he connects with Gloria. Gloria on the other hand does become jealous at his apparent ease in making new friends – a side effect of never staying in the same place for long.

The two ultimately have one thing that could separate them permanently: she doesn’t want to leave home, he never stays in one place for more than a month. Each have their reasons, and it needs one of them to relax their short term needs for the long term goal. As the month comes to an end, someone has to make a decision about what happens next.

As with the other stories in this series, this is a light-hearted piece, that is occasionally amusing, and a good afternoon read

Book Review: The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

When Lord Marcus Drelincourt, Earl of Rule,  offers for the hand of the oldest and prettiest sister of the Winwood Family, he has no notion of the distress he causes his intended. Beauty Lizzie Winwood already is promised to Edward Heron, an also impoverished military, who she loves, but the wealthy Earl of Rule wants her as his wife. Lizzie’s younger sister Horatia conceives a dazzling plan to avert a nuptial disaster, and offers herself, since he really wants to marry into this family. He has lots of money but they have an old family line. Everyone knows Horry isn’t that beauty and has a stutter, but she’ll do her best to keep out of the Earl’s way and make him a good wife.

He agrees, and dazzling Horatia marries the powerful Earl of Rule. Theirs was a convenient marriage, she was only saving her sister from a loveless match, rescuing her family fortune, and providing herself with a life of ease. Hers was a marriage made not in heaven but in the coolly logical mind of a very self-possessed young woman. As her new husband’s attentions fall elsewhere, Horry begins to feel increasingly unhappy. Then she meets the attractive and dangerous Lord Robert Lethbridge and her days suddenly become more exciting. But there is bad blood between Horry’s husband and her new acquaintance, and as complications and deceptions mount, the social tangle grows ever trickier to unpick.

She suddenly finds — to her own tremulous surprise — she had fallen deeply in love with the man she had married for money. But was it too late, now that she was but a heartbeat away from betraying both him and herself? Her reputation was about to be ruined. But the Earl of Rule has found just the wife he wants, unbeknownst to Horatia, the Earl is enchanted by her. There’s simply no way he’s going to let her get into trouble. Overcoming some misguided help from Horatia’s harebrained brother and a hired highwayman, the Earl plans to defeat his old enemy, and wins over his young wife, gifting her with a love that she never thought she could expect.

Reading this book ahead of it’s republication it highlights just what current romance writers owe to people like Heyer, but also how they often pale when the books are compared to books like this.

 

Horry, the 17 year old youngest Winwood girl, she of the stammer and the peculiar eyebrows, hears that Marcus Drelincount is about to offer for her older sister, who is already in love with a man of limited means. The Winwood family have a “good” name (but also a bad turn for gambling, and heavily in debt due to Pelham, the only son). Drelincourt, 35, has the money but who could do with marrying into a “good” old family. To him, it is irrelevant which of the sisters he marries, so when Horry offers to marry him instead of Lizzy, he accepts.

Horry is not in love with her husband – both know it is a marriage of convenience, but she finds out that her husband gives his affections elsewhere. So in order to feel a little happier, she starts going out, spending copious amounts of money and gambling far too much. She falls in with Lord Lethbridge, who she continues to be friends with, despite Rule asking her to stay away – she doesnt know that Lethridge has a reputation and has already tried to ruin Rule’s sister, amongst others. He is also an inveterate gambler.

Things go too far when Horry goes to a party she’s agreed to not go to whilst her husband is away, and Lethbridge kidnaps her into his house in order to take advantage of her. Judicious use of a poker gives Horry the chance to escape, but in the preceding struggle, her bodice is ripped and an unmistakable brooch falls to the ground. The last third of the book is to do with the getting the brooch back before Rule finds out (which he does anyway, long before anyone else realises).

During the course of the book, there are duels, drunken gaming sessions, kidnapping, foolish siblings and their friends, misunderstandings, and highwaymen available to do anything for the right price. We also get to see a woman’s toilette, so we find out about different hairstyles, what they are called, and the beauty spots/patches that were much in fashion at the time.

Some of the story is a little predictable to modern readers, but that’s because many of the scenes have been reused in later books. Heyer keeps Horrie’s chatter to a minimum, knowing that the keeping up the stammer in print would lose her readers. Therefore we get to hear more about how Pel and his friends talk to each other than Horrie and Rule. Lizzie and the other immediate female family members disappear from the book almost immediately after the wedding and are only seen on occasion, and then from a distance.

It’s a tad more challenging than some of the modern day romances, but no less enjoyable for this!

 

 

Book Review: Once Upon A Duke by Erica Ridley

Beware romantic spirits from Christmas past…

Due to the terms of an estranged relative’s will, the Duke of Silkridge must revisit the cold, unforgiving mountains where he lost everything he once loved. As soon as he rights his family legacy, he’ll return to London where he belongs. He definitely won’t rekindle the forbidden spark crackling between him and the irresistible spitfire he’d left behind…

Noelle Pratchett is immune to charming rakehells like the arrogant duke. He stole her heart, stole her first kiss, and then stole away one night never to return. Now he’s back—and so are all the old feelings. Noelle knows he won’t stay. But how can she maintain her icy shields when every heated glance melts her to her core?

The Twelve Dukes of Christmas is a laugh-out-loud historical romance series of heartwarming Regency romps nestled in a picturesque snow-covered village. After all, nothing heats up a winter night quite like finding oneself in the arms of a duke!

Just in time for Christmas! The start of a new series, set in a snow filled village (cressmouth) described as so far north “the next town is in Scotland”. It’s January, when the Duke of Silkridge is visiting his maternal family’s house to hear the will of his recently deceased maternal grandfather.

Silkridge dislikes Christmas, the town and his grandfather for various reasons, including being born at Christmas, his mother dying not long after, his father also dying several years later (also at Christmas), and his grandfather blaming him for his part in his mother’s death….giving him reason to deny Silkridge the pendant with the only known picture of Silkridge’s mother.

He is annoyed to hear that the town has unofficially been renamed as “Christmas”, and the house he thought would be in a deep state of disrepair was actually warm and homely. It turns out that his grandfather had given the town a reason to exist (not fade away) and that everyone in the village seems to have a reason to love Mr Marlowe.

He sees Noelle on the first night, and both remember the attraction between them previously. Noelle, not understanding his history with his grandfather cannot understand his animosity, which seems to be made worse when Marlowe’s will only gives him the locket if he finishes the aviary by the end of the month.  Things are made worse when he finds out that Noelle has been asked to be his assistant, since she has reinvigorated the counting house over the previous 4 years.

Whilst not a rip roaring laugh, this book certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously – e.g. Silkridge reacts to everything as “humbug!”, the aviary contains a sick pygmy goat nicknamed “Tiny Tim”, and there’s a general cheeriness around the place that puts paid to Silkridge’s Scrooge-like mood. As per all good romances, things work out in the end with both characters having learnt that they both have value, not only because of what they do but of who they actually are.

Having read several books by this author before, I can see there are plenty of unique characters in the wings just waiting for their own books to be written.

Book Review: Lord of Vice by Erica Ridley

Vice merchant Maxwell Gideon is wickedly handsome, sinfully arrogant, and devilishly ruthless. Rumour has it, his gaming hell has the power to steal souls and grant miracles. Truth is, Max only owns half of The Cloven Hoof. He’d buy out his silent partner if he knew the man’s identity. But it’s hard to focus on business matters when a fallen angel tumbles right into one’s lap…

Miss Bryony Grenville has a well-earned reputation as an unrepentant hoyden. But even the gossipiest of the pinch-faced matrons ruling High Society could never imagine the daughter of a baron secretly financing the ton’s most infamous gambling parlour. Its maddening, sexy proprietor doesn’t suspect a thing… and two can play at temptation!

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