The Cajun Doctor by Sandra Hill + Book Giveaway!

****Leave a comment on this review to be entered to win a print copy of the book (US Only). Drawing will be held July 21, 2017 and the winner notified via email. Good luck!****


The Cajun Doctor by Sandra Hill
Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (328 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Dr. Daniel LeDeux and pilot Aaron LeDeux travel to the swampy bayous of Louisiana, where they discover a long-lost family. The usually stoic Daniel, a burned-out pediatric oncologist, is especially startled by the interfering LeDeux matriarch, Tante Lulu, bless her crazy heart, who wastes no time in setting him up with local rich girl Samantha Starr.

Scarred by a nasty divorce from a philandering New Orleans physician, Samantha has sworn off men, especially doctors. When Samantha’s step-brother gets into serious trouble, she must ask Daniel for help. But Samantha faces even more trouble when the handsome doctor casts his smoldering Cajun eyes her way.

The steamy heat of the bayou, along with the wacky matchmaking efforts of Tante Lulu, a herd of animal rescue rejects, including a depressed pot belly pig, and some world-class sexual fantasies create enough heat and humor to make both Daniel and Samantha realize that love and laughter can mend even the most broken heart.

Tante Lulu, thunderbolts and St. Jude are back to help another clueless couple find their destiny in order to fall in love in the latest novel from Ms. Hill, The Cajun Doctor.

When I refer to destiny, the hero, Daniel had actually found his but lost his way. The beginning shows just how deep and dedicated is his compassion for his patients. The loss of a special one cut so deep, Daniel was emotionally crippled and in pain and he retreated in the only way he knew how. It just happens to be in a new location with a whole host of new, challenging and unusual people that won’t leave him to wallow for long.

Because Daniel is so self-focused he totally misconstrues his reaction to Samantha. For a certainty, the heroine does the same so the result is like watching two courting porcupines. As we all know, those spiny critters do manage to produce little porcupettes so I knew it was only a matter of time before Daniel and Samantha realize they are perfect for each other. Until that point is reached, their journey is fraught with entertaining, emotional, surprising and sometimes suspenseful events, and some were even adorable. Okay, when referring to the heroine, make that hugely adorable because she ends up being a foster mother to the most madcap, unusual and quirky characters; the best ones being Clarence and Emily – grins and chuckles abound.

There are quite a few personalities from past novels showing up to give this latest story the flavor of community, continuity and love. Everyone is connected in some way to Tante Lulu. It’s her belief in St. Jude that guides her with assurance, confidence and a guarantee that those she loves, and those she takes to calling family, will find love and love will overcome any and all obstacles. That includes obstacles, internal and external conflicts that my two favorite obstinate people keep tripping over. Even the FBI can’t hide from Tante Lulu.

Eventually, as all good romances do, Daniel and Samantha realize the sparks they’ve been experiencing are from a totally different emotion. Once they figure out that their sexual chemistry is off the charts, they explore it with gusto while they both think that they’re savvy enough not to read too much into it. That’s the ultimate denial, isn’t it? And romance readers know exactly where that is going to lead. Yep, a very satisfying and happy, happy-ever-after ensues and I loved every minute of it.

The Cajun Doctor is a wonderful mix of love, drama, family and hope. I sniffled when Daniel’s personal story arc came full circle. This novel touches base on healing, trusting and people who bring out the best in each other. It has charm, wit and totally engaging. Pick up your own copy and see why Ms. Hill’s Cajun heroes are all that.

Breathless by Beverly Jenkins


Breathless by Beverly Jenkins
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

As manager of one of the finest hotels in Arizona Territory, Portia Carmichael has respect and stability—qualities sorely missing from her harsh childhood. She refuses to jeopardize that by hitching herself to the wrong man. Suitors are plentiful, but none of them has ever looked quite as tempting as the family friend who just rode into town…and none has looked at her with such intensity and heat.

Duchess. That’s the nickname Kent Randolph gave Portia when she was a young girl. Now she’s a stunning, intelligent woman—and Kent has learned his share of hard lessons. After drifting through the West, he’s learned the value of a place to settle down, and in Portia’s arms he’s found that and more. But convincing her to trust him with her heart, not just her passion, will be the greatest challenge he’s known—and one he intends to win…

Though Portia Carmichael and her sister Regan were left with their Aunt Eddy and Uncle Rhine Fontaine and their mother didn’t have the best reputation in town they turned out to be fine adult women. With a bitter assumption of love and relationships from her mother’s example Portia is adamant about not getting married. We probably all have declared what we won’t do and majority of the time we know how that turns out. Will the love bug make its way to Portia and perhaps leave her breathless?

Though this book didn’t quite leave me breathless I did find it entertaining and to be a well written story. The first conversation was between Portia and her younger single sister Regan commenting on Portia’s need to find a man. For any reader that has read previous books by Ms. Jenkins this book pretty much follows suit. There isn’t any surprise or suspense as to will there be a mate for Portia; you know there will be. I would have liked for the story to have started with a neutral subject like the planning of her aunt and uncle’s anniversary dinner or the arrival of Kent Randolph and then later during the relationship between Portia and Kent there could have been some resistance and her hesitation to be involved then be brought up. Emphases on Portia’s underlying mother abandonment issues were repeated through out the book with no resolution; and even though the majority of the book was on Portia’s lack of a love life her relationship with Kent grew so quickly it was all a turn off for me.

I didn’t feel the connection between Portia and Kent. I like that they spent time together, getting to know each other but the physical seemed quick and rush. Men around town were interested in Portia but she paid them no mind but quickly found interest in Kent not even knowing his past. Her hesitation to not marry was so quickly forgotten. I would have liked to have saw something more personal and heartfelt from Portia as to why she so quickly changed her mind about marriage.

I did like that Portia is a strong and independent woman. She realized she was good at bookkeeping and set a goal to open her own business doing bookkeeping for the neighboring businesses. She wasn’t a lady waiting around for a man to take care of her. She had plenty men wanting to marry her but she enjoyed working and having her independence. Her sister Regan also was a woman of independence by delivering mail twice a week with her mule Josephine, which was not kindly looked upon in such early times. Even though their mother disappointed them their aunt and uncle did a good job in bringing them up to be self sufficient ladies.

There were sub-stories that happened around town that gave a filling story. The events that unfold with Uncle Rhine purchasing Old Man Blanchard’s land gave the story more interest because it built conflict and gave something to the stotyline in addition to the romance. There were several characters introduced in the story that I found it distracting trying to keep up with all the names and to figure out who was relevant to the story.

I didn’t read book one in The Old Series, but I was able to follow the storyline okay. However to get the full history and background of the characters it may be best to read book one first. The author has a gift for writing and story telling. The Fontaine and Carmichael’s bring about a fascinating ongoing story as part of The Old Series. I enjoyed the loving family atmosphere, the western setting is so real and the author’s knowledge about riding horses was fascinating to read. I would like to continue with the series just to see will there be more revealed about Portia and Regan’s mother and is there any hope for their relationship to be repaired.

This is a book that I would recommend to a reader that enjoys a love story that is simple with no frills and definitely those that have read book one in The Old Series.

The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis

TROUBLE
The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (384 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

If she has her way . . .

Willa Davis is wrangling puppies when Keane Winters stalks into her pet shop with frustration in his chocolate-brown eyes and a pink bedazzled cat carrier in his hand. He needs a kitty sitter, stat. But the last thing Willa needs is to rescue a guy who doesn’t even remember her . . .

He’ll get nothing but coal in his stocking.

Saddled with his great-aunt’s Feline from Hell, Keane is desperate to leave her in someone else’s capable hands. But in spite of the fact that he’s sure he’s never seen the drop-dead-gorgeous pet shop owner before, she seems to be mad at him . . .

Unless he tempers “naughty” with a special kind of nice . . .

Willa can’t deny that Keane’s changed since high school: he’s less arrogant, for one thing—but can she trust him not to break her heart again? It’s time to throw a coin in the fountain, make a Christmas wish—and let the mistletoe do its work . . .

Jill Shalvis always brings a story that captures and holds this reader captive until I read to the last page.  This story is about trust and letting go of the past.

Willa and Keane have a history, though Keane doesn’t realize why Willa is being almost rude to him when she is completely opposite with any other customer. What he does know is that he likes her, and she intrigues him. He picks up on the fact that he should know her but doesn’t seem to remember when or how he met her. In contrast, she seems to remember, in vivid detail, who he is and how they met and parted.

The secondary characters, like the people she works with are very interesting and worth the mention. They show a side to Willa that would not have been evident if these characters were not present. For example, Willa put Christmas decorations on the wall of the street where a homeless man sleeps. That told me a lot about her true character.

Maybe in the future books one of these secondary characters could star in their own story.

The plot is simple but it was how the story and the characters were portrayed and how it was written that held my interest to the end. I never got bored with their story and Ms. Shalvis didn’t overwhelm me with back story that could have slowed down the pace.

The Trouble with Mistletoe is a perfect read for a cold night and a coffee.

The Devilish Mr. Danvers by Vivienne Lorret

DANVERS
The Devilish Mr. Danvers by Vivienne Lorret
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (199 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

For the first time in her life, Hedley Sinclair holds the keys to her own future. She’s inherited the crumbling Greyson Park, but the disrepair does nothing to dissuade her. No one will ever lock her up again or attempt to take away what’s hers. No one except Rafe Danvers—the charming, fiendish man from Fallow Hall. He’s determined to claim Greyson Park, but if Hedley isn’t careful, he’ll claim her heart as well.

Rafe has every intention of ridding Greyson Park of the conniving Sinclairs once and for all. The last thing he expects is to find the beguiling Hedley—the younger sister of his former fiancée—standing in his way. With drastic measures called for, he plans to marry her off in order to regain control of the estate. The only trouble is, he can’t seem to stop seducing her. Even worse, he can’t help falling in love with her.

Stubborn, courageous and full of spit and vinegar, that describes my initial impression of the heroine, Hedley. She has an unusual name which had the unfortunate side effect of triggering a Blazing Saddles memory. But once I got to know her, all those silly thoughts disappeared as the cleverness and fortitude she exhibited in dealing with her predicament took center stage. She’s a worthy heroine. She’s also no match for a determined matchmaking canine.

Poor Rafe, the hero; he has such a thorn in his side, a chip on his shoulder, all from his treatment by the Sinclair family. It’s rightly earned, so imagine his surprise, and my delight, that the woman who makes his libido go out of control is a dreaded Sinclair. He is so determined to resist her, except, he can’t. The more time he spends with her, the more shocked he becomes, both from what he learns about her and his own reactions. Ms. Lorret truly has written a story that embraces all the most wonderful aspects of romance with Rafe and Hedley as a couple.

This is the second book in the Rakes of Fallow Hall series yet this is a solid standalone read. The overall story arc is the wager between three men. I haven’t read the first book in the series and never once did I feel the lack. This is a fun and entertaining novel all on its own.

There’s humor, witty and fascinating dialogue, and just the right amount of emotional drama to keep a reader engaged page after page. The seduction scenes between Rafe and Hedley are spicy enough to keep a fan nearby just in case. My absolute favorite extravagant and romantic gesture comes from Rafe, he creates something that is so beautiful and unique that the heroine can’t help but believe with all her heart that he truly loves her. It’s actually quite swoon-worthy.

The villains of the piece, the external conflict, actually come from Hedley’s own family. Wow, did Ms. Lorret create some effective despicable characters! I would have turned into a harridan/banshee on Hedley’s behalf. In no way could I have resisted wanting to throttle them for the very act of speaking. Hear me growl.

The Devilish Mr. Danvers should not be missed by readers who enjoy Cinderella themed stories. This one does it justice because this time, the heroine has an active champion to woo and care for her, and through him, others of power who have her back. There are plenty of occasions to cheer for Hedley and Rafe and I encourage historical romance fans to not miss out. Grab a copy and enjoy the ride.

No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Guhrke

MISTRESS
No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Guhrke
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Quince

After spending his youth as one of the wildest rakes in the ton, Lord Denys Somerton has devoted the past six years to putting his past behind him. He is determined to fulfill his duties, find a suitable wife, and start a family, but that plan changes when Lola Valentine—the red-haired temptress from his past—returns to London, sparking the same irresistible desires that almost ruined his life once before.

Lola is a woman with no romantic illusions. She knew love would never be enough for a British lord and an American girl from the wrong side of the tracks. For Denys’s sake, she walked away from him and the glittering life he offered. But when an unexpected inheritance brings her back to London, Lola discovers the passion between them is as hot as ever. Can they vanquish it, or will it burn out of control again and destroy them both?

No Mistress of Mine is a beautifully written story. Its topic is very complex and it takes a great writer to shape it in an interesting cliché less story. Laura Lee Guhrke did just that.

This is the fourth installment in the series An American Heiress in London. It is a story of Lord Denys Somerton and Lola Valentine (real name Charlotte Valinsky). Lord Denys Somerton is a son of an earl and member of the ton, while Lola was a dancer in a Paris when they first met. Their upbringings, their social status, their lives were completely different. But they fell in love (and lust) and became lovers. Only one day after a huge disappointment and a few realizations, Lola decided to leave Lord Denys without revealing the true reasons behind her decision. Fast forward six years and Lola is back in town. To make matters worse for Lord Denys, who decides to marry into his own social circle, Lola is his business partner now. So they are brought together again and they have to find common ground in order to cooperate and work together.

The way Laura Lee Guhrke builds the story is magnificent. Especially since it’s set in 1892 England, a time when social status played a great role in a person’s life and when people rarely married outside their class. The conflict and especially the resolution are done perfectly and believable. I enjoyed reading how Lord Denys and Lola fall in love again. The tension between them is so palpable and their rediscovered passion is so strong.

Lola and Lord Denys are amazing characters. Both his and her individual heartaches are painful. But my hearts goes to Lola a bit more because she had such a horrible childhood and she was forced to grow up quickly in order to take care of herself. She is one of those great, bold, brave and strong female characters that I like a lot and I cheered for her from the very beginning.

The only thing that this story can do without is love making scenes. They seem forced to me, like they are put in the story because they have to be there. Both of them occur near the end of the story. I understand their purpose, but I strongly believe that the story would be just fine without them. No Mistress of Mine is a story is about second chances, overcoming fears, letting go of the past only to finally be able to commit to love in the present, and attraction between characters is unmistakable even without love making scenes.

No Mistress of Mine
is such an emotionally deep story that is worth reading. I highly recommend it to readers who prefer romance novels in general and historical novels in particular.

Her Renegade Rancher by Jennifer Ryan

RANCHER
Her Renegade Rancher by Jennifer Ryan
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (298 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

With their hearts’ desires on the line, nothing can stop the Montana Men

No one knows better than Colt Kendrick that life can change in an instant. He lives without regrets except for one: not making the gorgeous woman he sees every time he walks into the local diner his.

Luna Hill is haunted by the heart-stopping kiss she and Colt never should have shared. Their timing has always been off. Just as sparks begin to ignite again, she is offered a job that will take her far from their ranching town. But when a dear friend dies unexpectedly, leaving Luna a staggering gift, she has a chance to stay and finally make her long buried wishes come true—even ones that involve the sexiest cowboy she’s ever known.

Not everyone is happy with Luna’s good fortune, and as they make their feelings dangerously and abundantly clear when she falls in their crosshairs, Colt will do anything he can, risk everything he has, to keep her safe. Because Luna showed him he has a heart…and it belongs to her.

Sizzling, sweet and sensual with a touch of spice, Her Renegade Rancher has a hero and heroine that makes me love to read romance. Trust, loyalty, honesty, and love abide in spite of all the negativity and danger that presses in on Luna Hill and spills over to her longtime friend (and more) Colt Kendrick.

Jennifer Ryan had my attention from page one, broke my heart in the first chapter, then healed it bit by piece as Luna moves from struggling waitress to determined owner and conscientious caretaker of her inheritance with Colt Kendrick backing her up every step of the way. With more money and power than she’d ever dreamed of having, she tries with all her might to see that the ranch and money her dear, old friend Wayne Travers willed to her is taken care of like he wanted it to be.

However, Wayne’s two sons, his sister and her husband are beside themselves when the will is read. They, goaded by insatiable greed, are determined to take away from Luna what they feel is rightfully theirs. The intensity of their hate, the both subtle and blatant sabotage and worse stalks Luna like a blood-thirsty monster.

The purity of intent on one side of the coin with the greedy, mean-spiritedness intent on the other side make Her Renegade Rancher a true good-against- bad struggle. How love slips in while the struggle is going on creates some heart-warming and ecstatic scenes. Also the family side stories add a special touch to the bringing everything together.

A beautifully written story!

Just Kiss Me by Rachel Gibson

KISS
Just Kiss Me by Rachel Gibson
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (196 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

“Hello, Ms. Vivian . . . it’s been a long time.”

And with those words, Vivian Leigh Rochet nearly melted. It’s been years since she last saw Harrison Whitley-Shuler. She was a teenager scrubbing houses for a living. He was the gorgeous son of rich parents, not fit for the likes of her.

Vivian had vowed to get out of Charleston, become a big Hollywood star, and stick it to the snooty girls who made her cry.

She got what she wanted—and more—but why does her glamorous life seem so trivial?

Harrison got out too . . . making it all the way to Wall Street, until a heart attack forced him to trade in his cufflinks for a good set of hand tools.

Making furniture soothes his soul, but escaping the Whitley-Shuler heritage is nearly impossible. And now he’s come face-to-face with the one who got away. He’s not looking for love. He’s not even looking for sex . . . so why is resisting her the hardest thing he’s ever done?

Dreams drove them leave, responsibility and necessity brought them home, but only love can keep them together.

Vivian Rochet left home to follow her dreams. Now an actress, she once worked in the house of one of the privileged rich families in town. She returns to Charleston when her mother dies but never expected when she lost her only family that she might find a new one.

One of the things I absolutely loved about this book was the pieces of the “Dear Diary” pages from Vivian’s past. I loved reading in the viewpoint of a teenager and the teenage problems that arose.

This book is a romantic story of the first order. It’s also about family. The running theme seemed to be what you see may not always be what you get or what is real. Long buried secrets hit the light of day and with it the lives of everyone changes.

Harrison never thought that girl who used to clean his house would return as a bombshell actress.

Neither did Vivian think that the brooding Harrison Whitley-Shuler would ignite fire in her and make her want things she had given up on. The chemistry and the passion was scorching but the love they have for one another is what really showed up.

The beginning was good but it took some time to capture my attention fully. But when it did, the book was finished in under a couple of hours. As secrets are revealed, choices must be made. Vivian and Harrison can’t keep their hands off each other once they give into the combustible chemistry. I was cheering for them to find their HEA right to the very end.

Romance, love, family…and the past. You can never really leave the past behind but love has a way of softening the problems and pain left behind. Readers who enjoy a good “coming home” romance should give this one a read.

Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long

HOT
Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (384 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Quince

A broken truck, a broken career, and a breakup heard around the world land superstar John Tennessee McCord in Hellcat Canyon. Legend has it that hearts come in two colors there: gold or black. And that you can find whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s love . . . or trouble. JT may have found both in waitress Britt Langley.

His looks might cause whiplash and weak knees, but Britt sees past JT’s rough edge and sexy drawl to a person a lot like her: in need of the kind of comfort best given hot and quick, with clothes off and the lights out.

Her wit is sharp but her eyes and heart—not to mention the rest of her—are soft, and JT is falling hard. But Britt has a secret as dark as the hills, and JT’s past is poised to invade their present. It’s up to the people of Hellcat Canyon to help make sure their future includes a happily ever after.

Hot in Hellcat Canyon has all the right ingredients to be a great story. It has an amazing hero and heroine, who are my favorite combination i.e. he is super popular and rich, while she works two jobs – kind of Cinderella story. It’s set in charming small town full of colorful and funny inhabitants. It deals with some pretty serious issues, but it also funny. And along with all of that it features two fictional Hollywood super stars and one of them, Franco Francone, I liked a lot (and he reminds me a lot of James Franco).

The hero of Hot in Hellcat Canyon is John Tennessee McCord, Hollywood superstar that didn’t get a role he was hoping for and his superstar girlfriend dumps him. His car broke down and he finds himself in the small town of Hellcat Canyon. There he meets the amazing Britt Langley waitress/real estate agent, and a town outsider. She came to the town trying to get her life back together after very bad marriage. J.T. and Britt meet in the bar and there is an instant and very hot attraction between them. They both enter this relationship with their own heavy baggage, although Britt’s is a bit heavier and darker. Due to that, and the meddling of one egocentric character, the conflict between two of them is inevitable. Although the conflict was something expected, the author did great job in plotting and resolving it.

Regardless of all above mentioned I had a hard time reading and rating this story. The reason is the pace. It’s slow and it felt like the author focused more on setting the scene for the next novels in the series rather than developing the relationship and settling the differences between JT and Britt. The parts when the two of them are together are amazing, but when they aren’t the story drags a bit. If the story was more focused on J.T. and Britt it would have been much more engaging.

Hot in Hellcat Canyon is a first story in the Hellcat Canyon series, and from this first installment it’s already very obvious to this reader who might be some future couples. Now that the scene is set, and all characters are in place I am looking forward to reading the next story in the series because Julie Anne Long writes amazing romances. Here’s hoping that one story will feature Franco Francone as a hero.

The Virgin and the Viscount by Charis Michaels

VIRGIN
The Virgin and the Viscount by Charis Michaels
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (292 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

The Virgin

Lady Elisabeth Hamilton-Baythes has a painful secret. At fifteen, she was abducted by highwaymen and sold to a brothel. But two days later, she was rescued by a young lord, a man she’s never forgotten. Now, she’s devoted herself to save other innocents from a similar fate.

The Viscount

Bryson Courtland, Viscount Rainsleigh, never breaks the rules. Well, once, but that was a long time ago. He’s finally escaped his unhappy past to become one of the wealthiest noblemen in Britain. The last thing he needs to complete his ideal life? A perfectly proper wife.

The Unraveling

When Bryson and Elisabeth meet, he sees only a flawless candidate for his future wife. But a distant memory calls to him every time he’s with her. Elisabeth knows she’s not the wife Bryson needs, and he is the only person who has the power to reveal her secret. But neither can resist the devastating pull of attraction, and as the truth comes to light, they must discover that an improper love is the truest of all.

Some historical romances follow a formula that rarely deviate from a certain path resulting in a typical happy ever after. The Virgin and the Viscount isn’t typical at all, and quite frankly, it’s eminently satisfying because of it.

Elisabeth’s beginning in life started out classically enough until a fateful day that made the rest of her life completely atypical, fascinating and worthy. Bryson’s life was horrid, beastly and unfortunately out of his control, until it was in his control and all his choices from then on had one goal – to be proper, dutiful and perfectly perfect while being his own person. Both Elisabeth and Bryson had to overcome amazing adversity but the most challenging and daunting choice they will make is whether or not they are well matched in all ways that matter. The conflict comes from them wanting different things while wanting each other in a passionate way that complicated things to no end. The hardest part was resolving the past before they could have a future, and that’s no easy thing. Because of the varied intricacies that Ms. Michaels plagued her characters with, I found this novel an absolutely fascinating read.

When I said that this book was written in a unique way, I wasn’t stating that lightly. The truths that eventually get revealed gob smacked me and practically unhinged my jaw from the shock. It’s a clever bit of storytelling that bowled me over. I never had an inkling of what was coming, nor what Bryson’s ultimate choice would be.

The mystery person that appears towards the end brought a level of emotional angst and poignant feelings to the story. That person also taught Bryson a valuable lesson which will come in handy with dealing with Elisabeth. Ms. Michaels’ inclusion of this character was a stroke of genius.

The Virgin and the Viscount sounds like a simple, basic story but it’s so much more. It has depth of emotion, wonderful dialogue, sympathetic characters and a powerful romance that grew and blossomed before my eyes. I’m being intentionally vague because the impact of the reading experience hinges on a reader having no clue about the amazing story within its pages. I am only willing to say that the romance between Bryson and Elisabeth worked for me, I enjoyed watching them fall in love in all its bumpy glory and the passionate scenes between them were quite spicy and seductive. This is a book well worth reading and spending time with. I enjoy being surprised and Ms. Michaels wildly succeeded in doing so. I give this tale two thumbs up.

The Fairest of Them All by Cathy Maxwell

FAIREST
The Fairest of Them All by Cathy Maxwell
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Quince

In New York Times bestselling author Cathy Maxwell’s glittering new series, wedding bells are ringing…but which Whitridge twin is the right groom?

The penniless orphan of a disreputable earl, Lady Charlene Blanchard thrives on the adventure of picking the pockets of unsavory gentlemen to survive. But due to her extraordinary beauty and prized bloodlines, she is hand-chosen as a potential bride for the Duke of Baynton, who is on the hunt for a suitable wife to provide heirs. All Char has to do is act the part she was born to play and charm a duke she’s never laid eyes on into proposing. Except the duke turns out to be the tall, dark and sexy stranger who just caught her red-handed as a thief!

Or is he? Jack Whitridge is the duke’s twin who had “gone missing” over ten years ago. Now back in England, he knows that the supposed Lady who has his brother’s love is hardly duchess material—except he needs her to save his adopted country from war. He is willing to bargain with her heart, until he finds himself falling for Char . . .

Who is a right man for her? The one who is not looking for a wife but knows all her secrets, or the one who is looking for a wife, but doesn’t know anything about her?  Although from the very beginning it’s quite obvious who will win Lady Charlene Blanchard’s heart it was interesting to watch how appearances, first meetings and emotions first became complicated in order to be resolved.

Cathy Maxwell does not write typical romance novels. The Fairest of Them All is a sensual novel focused on falling in love without getting in bed or having a marriage of convenience first. This is a novel about love at first sight and Ms. Maxwell wrote it so believably. The pace of the story is a bit uneven, it takes off quickly but doesn’t sustain the pace into the middle. It actually drags a bit only to speed up again. Putting slower parts aside, the question of how Lady Charlene and her hero – Jack Whitridge find their HEA is what pushes this lovely story forward and kept me reading.

Both main characters are amazing. Lady Charlene might be the fairest of them all, but she is also the most courageous and the smartest of them all. She’s a strong woman who is trying her best to get out of a very dire situation. Jack Whitridge is her true soulmate, he is a son of a duke, but he doesn’t have a title. He doesn’t care about it either. Jack knows Charlene’s secret, and as they are getting to know better one another and fall in love, he doesn’t try to change her, he just wants to protect her and to slay a few dragons for her. The connection between them is so sensual, palpable and sincere.

The secondary characters are magnificent too. I refer here to Lady Charlene’s aunt Sarah Pettijohn and Jack’s twin brother Gavin Whitridge. Gavin is a lovable antihero, while Sarah is opinionated actress. From the conflict between two of them it is quite obvious that they will be the main characters in the third installment of the series Marrying the Duke. I cannot wait to see how these two will fall in love.

Although it is a second in the series, The Fairest of Them All can be read as a standalone. I really enjoyed reading it. It is a funny, sensual story that I highly recommend.