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

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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Book Review: Lord of Secrets by Erica Ridley

 

Heath Grenville is the problem-solver for London’s elite. Unmask the devious cretin skewering the ton with audacious caricatures? With pleasure. His success should keep the powerful happy. But when his work leads him to a young lady outside his class, surely he won’t do anything so scandalous as to fall in love…

By day, Miss Eleanora Winfield is a proper, unremarkable paid companion. By night, Nora’s skillful hands sketch the infamous penny caricatures rocking high society. Nora desperately needs the money…and her anonymity. But how can she keep them both, when she’s fallen for the one man whose livelihood and reputation requires him to expose her?

From Netgalley, this is number 5 in this series, and I have read several of the earlier books, Lord Of Pleasure Lord of Night and Lord of Temptation.

Heath Grenville is the problem solver for London society, sorting out tawdry affairs etc that could embarrass his friends and relations. It also makes him privy to secrets that other people have, and which some people would pay anything to find out about.  One thing  he doesnt know is the identity of the person doing the caricatures that are cutting too close to the bone. It becomes clear that the person doing the drawings does not just hear about the events they draw, they were actually there when it happened.

Meanwhile he becomes enraptured by the red headed woman who appears at social events but seems remote and disengaged – till he realises that she is not in his class and therefore he shouldnt even be talking to her, never mind inviting her to dance. She has come to town to be a paid companion and her job relies on her not exciting any scandal. It turns out that she produces that caricatures to show her brother (who lives on the family farm with their grandparents) what’s happening whilst she’s away – it just so happens she cant read or write, so her only choice is to draw.

Unfortunately, it turns out that her brother has sold some of these pictures and they have landed back within London society, and are causing trouble. She tries to rectify things, but what she does only makes things worse. Meanwhile she tries to keep her distance from Heath, but he keeps pursing her – she doesnt know whether he already knows what she’s done, or for reasons more personal.

Anyway, we see some characters from previous books, shocks abound, and as per all good romances, things work out nicely in the end.