Book Review: A Surprise Christmas Wedding by Phillipa Ashley

A Surprise Christmas Wedding by Phillipa Ashley #BookCover #BookReview

Experience the magic of a perfect Cumbrian Christmas.

It’s been a year since Lottie’s fiancé walked out, leaving her heartbroken. But things start to look up when she lands her dream job at a beautiful Lake District estate, with a handsome groundskeeper for a neighbour.

So when Lottie is asked to organise a last minute Christmas wedding at Firholme, she can’t wait to get started. Until she meets the couple, and discovers that Connor, the man who broke her heart, is the groom-to-be.

As snow falls on the hills, can Lottie put aside her past to organise the perfect winter wedding? And will there be any festive magic left to bring Lottie the perfect Christmas she deserves?

This starts with a romantic holiday ahead of Christmas between Lottie and Connor which ends with a major surprise, which rapidly sours the whole experience.

There are spoilers below. Dont read the review if you dont like ’em – read the book instead!

A year later and Lottie has started a new job at Firholme as a Wedding and Events coordinator. Her sister is now in remission from the cervical cancer that she had been diagnosed at the same time Connor had split from Lottie. Lottie has a new neighbour – a rather rugged and handsome outdoorsman called Jay (with added dog). Her new boss is desperate for a Christmas wedding to added to their repertoire in order to help get the business off the ground. The opportunity comes in the form of an Australian woman (Keegan) who comes in on the off chance the venue has the time and space. Little does Lottie know, but the groom is her ex….Connor.

Of course, all this is a shock to Lottie, who is still in love – in part – with Connor. Between them they agree to not mention their shared history to Keegan, which turns out to be a really bad idea. During the planning of the wedding, it all comes out, and the wedding is in jeopardy just ahead of the wedding day.

Slight spoiler: The wedding DOES go ahead, but not without drama, including snow hampering attendance, and the generator not kicking in when the fuse blows.

I will admit I felt the story went on a little too long – e.g. the aftermath from the wedding continued long after the wedding concluded, including the whole (newish) story of Jay and his brother Ben, and why they had fallen out the previous Christmas. There’s another whole subplot over Seb, a child that is probably not Jay’s. There is also a subplot about Jay and Lottie finally getting together, celebrating Christmas together and with each other’s respective families.

Nevertheless, it’s still a relatively short book, at roughly 300 pages. My gripes are predominantly with myself, who was rushing for an ending, and the book didnt end when I thought it would.

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!

Book Review: Midnight Bargain of a Runaway Marchioness by Patricia Haverton

Midnight Bargain of a Runaway Marchioness by Patricia Haverton. Woman in yellow dress on staircase, back to reader, looking over left shoulder

“You’re my world and I’m incapable of not loving you.”

When her mother sneaks inside her bedroom at night and begs her to flee, Lady Rhodeia wastes no time. With only a small bundle and the clothes on her back, she runs away, hoping against hope that her betrothed won’t ever find her.


There are two things Emmet MacLachlan, Marquess of Maynardshire, hates above all else: the Season and matchmaking. Furious at his meddling mother, he hopes a night ride will calm the beast in his gut. Until he finds an injured woman in the middle of a storm.

With Rhodeia’s true identity hanging above them like the executioner’s ax, Emmet is determined to escape with her to Scotland and start anew. A plan that quickly goes sour when Rhodeia’s father announces a bounty for her. And unbeknownst to them all, the beast that claws at Emmet’s gut has flesh, bone, and a heart made of stone.

Lady Rhodeia is an only child, who is generally ignored by her father – at least until he sees her use in marrying her off to the Earl of Carrington. Carrington is an older man, with a reputation for being a drunk, a Cad and a cheater, having a thing for younger women, and disposing of them when he’s bored.  Rhodeia’s mother is of much the same mind as her daughter – both are horrified at the thought of the marriage, so Rhodeia’s mother arranges for her to escape the house and travel to Rhodeia’s aunt in Scotland.

However, things don’t go entirely to plan and Rhodeia gets caught in a nasty storm, which results in her spraining her ankle falling off her horse and having to take refuge in a nearby abandoned cottage.  Little does she know, it’s not as abandoned as she initially thought, with Emmet Maclaclan, the Marquess of Maynardshire also taking cover. He has recently returned from India following the death of his father, in order to take over the running of the estate.   He finds the estate has been run into the ground, in part because of his mother’s frivolous spending and his father’s mis management and adultery.   Emmet also seems to be an eternal disappointment to his mother due to no interest in dressing accordingly, making the right connections, and by refusing to marry the woman who dumped him for another man 8 years previously. 

Meanwhile, Emmet and Rhodeia travel to London, in order to get Rhodeia’s ankle looked after. Neither of the MCs have told the other who they really are, not wanting to expose themselves as something more. Both do it for secrecy at the beginning but then cant think of ways to correct the other.

Two weeks later, Rhodeia’s father has been searching for Rhodeia, as he cant see beyond the marriage. He believes that Rhodeia is in London, and employs investigators to find her. Meanwhile Emmet’s mother employs an investigator to find out what Emmet’s getting up to, since he’s being so secretive.

Finally things come out into the open, at roughly the same time as Emmet and Rhodeia realise they love each other. Both get to confront their respective parents and at least Emmet’s mother has some reason behind her behaviour (even some of it is objectionable and she cant see anything wrong with it).  

The book draws parallels between the two leads and how they refuse to meet the expectations of the dominant parent which is a nice change to the standard Romance book – it’s usually only one Main Character that has the issue and it’s the other to teach that they can be loved by someone else. The Secondary characters are decently rounded out, considering – not enough that I would expect subsequent novels containing these SCs, but a bit better than other novels.

This was a reasonable (if unchallenging) Romance novel – slightly better than a lot of the other Romance novels, but not in the realms of Georgette Heyer (who I will say is in her own league!)

Book Review: The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber

 

WHAT WOULD MAKE YOUR CHRISTMAS PERFECT?

For Cassie Beaumont, it’s meeting her perfect match. Cassie, at thirty-three, wants a husband and kids, and so far, nothing’s worked. Not blind dates, not the Internet and certainly not leaving love to chance.

What’s left? A professional matchmaker. He’s Simon Dodson, and he’s very choosy about the clients he takes on. Cassie finds Simon a difficult, acerbic know-it-all, and she’s astonished when he accepts her as a client.

Claiming he has her perfect mate in mind, Simon assigns her three tasks to complete before she meets him. Three tasks that are all about Christmas: being a charity bell ringer, dressing up as Santa’s elf at a children’s party and preparing a traditional turkey dinner for her neighbors (whom she happens to dislike). Despite a number of comical mishaps, Cassie does it all — and she’s finally ready to meet her match.

But just like the perfect Christmas gift, he turns out to be a wonderful surprise!

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Book Review: Faro’s Daughter by Georgette Heyer

Skilled in the art of card playing, Deborah Grantham, a gambler’s daughter, uses that skill as her sole means of support as mistress of her aunt’s elegant and exclusive gaming club in 18th-century London. The beautiful young must find a way to restore herself and her aunt to respectability, preferably without accepting either of two repugnant offers. One is from an older, very rich and rather corpulent lord whose reputation for licentious behavior disgusts her; the other from the young, puppyish scion of a noble family whose relatives are convinced she is a fortune hunter.

Lady Mablethorpe was aghast. Her young son, Adrian wanted to get married Miss Deborah Grantham–a gambling-club wench! Thus she sent her trusted nephew, the vastly wealthy, clever, and imperturbable Max Ravenscar, speeding to the faro tables to buy the hussy off. A renowned gamester, and the first to own that he is untroubled by a romantic disposition, Ravenscar regards all eligible females with indifference, preferring horses, cockfighting or cards.

To Ravenscar’s surprise, Deb turned out to be besides remarkably handsome, witty, and–he could scarcely believe it–well-bred. Nevertheless, he expected she’d be grateful far the price he offered to give up her young suitor. Arrogant Ravenscar always gets his way and comes to buy her off, an insult so scathing that it leads to a volley of passionate reprisals, escalating between them to a level of flair and fury that can only have one conclusion. As they lock horns, they become increasingly drawn to each other. Amidst all the misunderstandings and entanglements, has Ravenscar finally met his match?

Regular readers of this blog know that I do have a thing for Regency Romances. Last year I decided to swear off certain Romances, especially from non-established authors who I’ve found tend to write (or edit/publish) for an American audience (it was having London Regency distances being measured in “blocks”).

Anyway, Georgette Heyer is one of those authors who escape the exemption by being one of the better quality Regency Romance authors, and I’ve written reviews on a number of her books before.  In late 2019, I managed to pick up a whole swathe of her books by various means, and this was one of the first in the pile to be read. You’ll have to forgive me, as I actually read this a few months ago and I’ve only just gotten around to reviewing it.

The set up is relatively standard: a young man, soon to be of age, has been frequenting the gambling houses and has taken an idea that he is in love with Deborah Grantham, the niece and Faro table hostess in one of the more genteel Gambling Houses. (Faro is a card game that ultimately got replaced by Poker).   Adrian’s mother is horrifed to find out who her son plans on marrying, so sends her older and richer nephew to sort things out.

Expect the usual comedy of errors, where people grow up, fall in love with people they didn’t expect, plans that go awry, huge bets placed/lost/won, and somethings not being what people thought.   Everything gets sorted out well in the end.

The one relationship I have issues with is, unfortunately that of the hero and heroine. Yes, both are head strong and like getting their way. Deborah (having grown up in gambling houses) knows how to handle men and over amorous suitors, however, the behaviour she displays towards Ravenscroft in particular (and why he puts up with) I never got to understand. Therefore I never truly believed in the Chemistry and Romance between the two, for which I am saddened.

On the whole, I like Heyer books, and despite this not being one of her better books (in my opinion), it will not prevent me from reading the other books of hers I’ve picked up recently.

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: 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: Never Say Duke by Erica Ridley

Yes, Virginia, there is a Viscount…

Miss Virginia Underwood cannot resist rescuing a stray. Her latest find turns out to be a surly, reclusive war hero trying to recover from his wounds in peace. He doesn’t want her help—and Virginia definitely doesn’t want to fall in love. Not when a future with him would mean returning to the the same haut ton who laughed her out of Town during her very first Season.

Theodore O’Hanlon, Viscount Ormondton, sequestered himself far from London to heal in anonymity. For now, he can be himself. As soon as he returns, he’s meant to wed the woman his father selected years before. But when Miss Underwood turns his carefully mapped life upside-down, Theo must decide which battles are truly worth fighting for.

I received a copy of this book via Netgalley, and is the fourth in the “12 Dukes of Christmas” series.

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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

The Convenient Marriage by Georgett Heyer. Book cover. #HistFic #RomanceWhen 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!