Book Review: Confessions of a Courtesan by Elizabeth Charles

Based on the true story of Elizabeth Armistead, one of the most notorious and successful courtesans of 18th century England.

From the harsh streets of London, Lizzie Cane rose to become the celebrated mistress of earls, dukes, and even a prince! Then at the height of her career, she risked everything she had struggled to gain by breaking the courtesan’s cardinal rule…Never fall in love.

Another, average freebie from Amazon, and less unsettling than the last one in its premise.  This is a fictionalised version of the real courtesan Elizabeth Armistead (born Crane), who crawls out of the gutter to become a whore, then a courtesan, and then the wife of the politician Charles Fox.

Details of the working life in a brothel is relatively detailed, but the sex details soon disappear and are largely ignored. The list of her conquests is long and a tad confusing when you are trying to remember who is who. The size of the circles she ends up in is fairly small, so the same people end up going around with the same “fallen women” and it’s not long before everyone is pretty much sleeping with everyone else’s exes. The one that upsets Armistead the most is Perditia Robinson, who inspires extreme jealously in Armistead, especially when she is out with a current or previous patron.

The book starts and ends with the warning that a courtesan must “never fall in love” as if there is some foreshadowing of some great calamity/ies for Armistead if she doesn’t heed the warnings. Far from it it seems. As she gets older she realises that she has fallen in love with her friend Charles Fox, and they finally settle down and get married (albeit in secret). The biggest “disaster” this seems to entail for Armistead is that she has to settle down (with someone with dubious levels of debts) and not actually sleep around.  Much of the book also references America trying for independence, and the general politics going on in Britain at the time.

This is clearly made for the American market, with little consideration for the market outside of this, as I can tell from one of my bugbears in these kinds of books. Despite stating the author had done “large amount of research” all characters referred to the season of “autumn” as “fall”. It was repeated multiple times in this book. It is a purely American word and not used in England to describe the season. (In other recent Romance novels I’ve come across Regency English people announcing that somewhere was “only a block away” (it’s not a measure of distance the Brits use).

So in summary: Not the worst (creepiest) Romance I’ve read recently, an annoying Americanism that kept interrupting the flow of the story, and a romp through a turbulent time in British history.



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 wide 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: A Christmas Flower by Bryan Mooney

Miracles are like snowflakes—no two are alike, but each one is precious and beautiful. This Christmas, Dr. Beth Harding could use a few miracles. The hospital she runs in River Dale, New Hampshire, is being shut down, unless she can convince the Scrooge-like board to save it. At least her closest friend, firefighter Logan Mitchell, is home for the holidays to offer a broad shoulder to lean on.

In California, Logan is a smoke jumper, but jumping into a romance with his best friend scares him more than any forest fire. After losing his parents at sixteen, Logan was taken in by Beth’s family. As kids, they were like brother and sister. Now they’re grown up, and sparks keep flying between them. If only Beth wasn’t already engaged. Maybe with a Christmas miracle or two, Beth can keep those hospital doors open—and two dear friends can finally allow their one true love to blossom.

From Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley. Some Spoilers below.

On some level, Logan has always been in love with Beth, but it’s only since her mother died earlier in the year that he’s begun to realise his true feelings. He works out as a fire jumper in California and it gives him the best thrill in his life. When he hears that his old boss has been injured in a blaze, and with the California fire season over, he returns home to check on things. With budget cuts, the local fire brigade is short on staff, so Logan is persuaded to take on some cover. The budget cuts also mean that the accountants plan to close the hospital that Beth’s mother set up – and to do it by New Year.

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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: Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles: the Driftwood Inn by Phillipa Ashley

Christmas has arrived on the Cornish Isles of Scilly, bringing mistletoe, surprises and more than a sprinkle of romance . . . Fans of Poldark and Carole Matthews will love this brand-new festive read from the author of the bestselling Cornish Café series.  For Maisie Samson, this Christmas is going to be different. After years working in a busy Cornish pub, she’s moved back to quiet Gull Island where she grew up, to help her parents run the family inn. But even though she can’t wait for the festive season to arrive, Maisie cannot shake the memories of what happened to her last Christmas – the day she lost everything. She keeps herself busy, setting up the tree and hanging mistletoe ready for her first proper family Christmas in years.

Until a new arrival to the island walks into her bar and changes everything. Australian backpacker Patrick is looking for a job for the low season. When Maisie takes him on, she doesn’t expect him to last the week, but to her surprise Patrick is the perfect fit. Charming and handsome, could Maisie allow herself to hope that she and Patrick could be more than just colleagues?

As Christmas approaches, Maisie finds herself dreading the spring, when Patrick is due to leave. With the help of a little Christmas magic, can Maisie get the happily ever after she always dreamed of?


From the Publishers, via Netgalley in exchange for a review.

This is the first book I’ve read this year with “Christmas” in the title, and I promptly got told off by someone for starting Christmas early (it is September after all).  I tried to explain about lead times, and sales etc, but to no avail.

This is the first in a new series by this author (I have read Christmas at the Cornish Cafe before, from the same author) and is set on the Scilly Isles, and Gull Island in particular.  Whilst Gull Island is small with a smattering of businesses, the book has been set up with enough secondary characters split across a number of islands to allow for books to be added to the series.

This is the first Christmas and New Year that Maisie has spent on her home island in more years than she cares to admit. Her previous job – running a successful pub “on the mainland” – stopped the previous Christmas due to personal reasons. Her parents run the Driftwood Inn, and have semi-retired now that that Maisie is running the joint.  She has an immediate attraction to “The Blond” (who she finds out later is called Patrick), an Australian who has come to the UK because of a promise made to a recently deceased friend.

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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