Book Review: The Last Hours by Minette Walters

The Last Hours by Minette Walters

For most, the Black Death is the end. For a brave few, it heralds a new beginning. 

When the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church cites God as the cause, and religious fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness.

But Lady Anne of Develish has her own ideas. Educated by nuns, Anne is a rarity among women, being both literate and knowledgeable. With her brutal husband absent from Develish when news of this pestilence reaches her, she takes the decision to look for more sensible ways to protect her people than daily confessions of sin. Well-versed in the importance of isolating the sick from the well, she withdraws her people inside the moat that surrounds her manor house and refuses entry even to her husband.

She makes an enemy of her daughter and her husband’s steward by doing so, but her resolve is strengthened by the support of her leading serfs … until food stocks run low and the nerves of all are tested by continued confinement and ignorance of what is happening in the world outside. The people of Develish are alive. But for how long? And what will they discover when the time comes for them to cross the moat? 

From Atlantic Books via Netgalley.

It’s 1348 and news comes through Dorset that there is a sickness that has started in the small port of Melcombe and is spreading like wildfire. Since people become sick and turn black with seeping blood as they die, the sickness is nicknamed “The Black Death”.

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Book Review: Texas Christmas by Holly Castillo

Gabriella Torres loves returning home to San Antonio for the holidays–the decorations, the magic and her large family. As icing on the cake, she will serve as midwife for one of her cousins. Her Christmas visit also provides a temporary distraction from a looming obligation.

Luke Davenport has traveled across the world to accept the role as town doctor in San Antonio. But when he arrives to domestic chaos, the sheriff offers his hospitality and Luke can’t turn down the offer. While he’s embraced by all, Luke tries to keep his distance. His past remains a threat and the alluring Gabby Torres makes him dream of a brighter but impossible future.

When Gabby learns that Luke has never truly experienced Christmas, she sets out on a mission…to make this Christmas the best that Luke could ever have. As they spend intimate moments together, Luke begins to lose his heart to the woman who is showing him what life as part of a family could be like. When the ghosts of their pasts rise up to haunt them, will Christmas magic and love be strong enough to guarantee the happiness they’ve always dreamed of?

From Tule Publishing via Netgalley.

I didn’t know that this was number 4 in the series, but I thought it stood on it’s own pretty well. The secondary characters are pretty well rounded, and there’s no unnecessary exposition as to why they behave a particular way – invariably they just do what they need to do.

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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: Lord of Night by Erica Ridley

Unlike proper debutantes, Miss Dahlia Grenville is secretly Robin Hood in a bonnet. Her home for wayward girls has too many dependants and not enough donations. But just as she’s about to pull off the heist of the Season, she tumbles straight into the arms of the handsome detective who has sworn to deliver Mayfair’s mysterious thief straight to the gallows.

Highly principled Bow Street runner Simon Spaulding’s world is black and white. There’s no mastermind too clever, no criminal alive who can escape the hangman. Until he realizes the delightful young lady he’s been courting is a liar and a thief. Suddenly, his career—and his heart—are in peril. How can he bring her to justice when it means losing her forever?

From Netgalley in exchange for a review. This is the third in the “Lord of” series, and therefore a companion piece to Lord of Pleasure. It’s standalone enough for me to not twig for the first few chapters and there is little overlap between the two stories. Continue reading

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: 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.

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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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