Nothing Like a Duke by Jane Ashford


Nothing Like a Duke by Jane Ashford
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (335 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

A Georgette Heyer-esque tale of high society in the glittering Regency

Lord Robert Gresham has given up all hope that the beautiful Flora Jennings will ever take him seriously. He heads to an exclusive country house party to forget about Flora, but his plans are thwarted when she suddenly arrives.

Their attraction flares, but their romance becomes complicated when the sinister Anthony Durand shows up and threatens Flora. Every bone in Robert’s body says to save her…but he’ll have to learn that some damsels in distress can save themselves if he truly wants to win her heart.

Jane Ashford creates a memorable story, full of conflicts, about a brilliant young woman who wants respect for her accomplishments and wants to fight her own battle, yet longs for love. Woven into the story is a hero who finally comes to recognize the wisdom of his father’s words: “restraint and knowing when to exercise it is a far more arduous discipline than unconsidered action.” While the setting of the story may seem more-of-the-usual, the mystery, suspense, humor, revelations, and LOVE keeps one turning pages.

Flora Jennings, daughter of a scholar and trained to be acute, observant, active, to use her intelligence, does not fit into haut ton society. However, she is at a house party at the country home of the Earl and Countess of Salbridge. Harriet Runyon, a distant relative and her chaperone, tells her a smile is a tool to be used to pry information out of people, to smooth things over, and can be a wonderful substitute when one does not wish to answer a question.

Lord Robert Gresham, the son of a Duke, not the heir or the spare, but the son who is the “Pink of the ton” knows Flora from their intellectual discussions and argues, but was not expecting to see her at a house party at his friend’s country estate—a house party loaded with men who are wellborn, well-heeled, well-behaved; men, one of whom, might be a suitable husband for the Earl’s sister, Lady Victoria.

However, Victoria has her mind made up. She wants Robert and feels she has a right to him because of a childhood promise. She has no idea he is more stimulated by a fine mind than he is by a low cut neckline.

Add to that the arrival of two unwanted guests who remind Flora of one of the most terrifying experiences of her life an Flore becomes unsure of her ability to the world of the ton the way Robert had adapted to her intellectual world on Russell Street.

Probably the most interesting of all the arrivals is the little dog Robert rescued on his way to the party. He is a philosophical, wise little fellow, Robert names him Plato. I was always delighted to see him appear, because he was always in the know before anyone else.

Jane Ashford sweeps the reader into the story at once. She makes the story sparkle with love scenes that send the senses soaring, with lovers that have unfailing respect for each other, and with an altogether satisfactory tying up loose ends—a story that lets the reader sigh with pleasure at the end—delighted about how well everything turned out.

Back to Your Love by Kianna Alexander


Back to Your Love by Kianna Alexander
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (348 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

What would you give for a second chance?

Xavier Whitted has a lot on his plate. As a hardworking businessman, mentor to troubled teens, and aspiring politician in his Southern hometown, the daily demands never let up. A weekend at the beach for his best friend’s wedding is exactly what he needs. What he doesn’t need is to run into the woman who broke his heart ten years ago.

Imani Grant is more beautiful, confident and intelligent than ever, and their connection is still sizzling. But Imani harbors a secret that could destroy both their blossoming careers. She knows she has to keep her distance, but Xavier is determined to win back her heart–consequences be damned.

Back to Your Love is a gentle story with flawed but still admirable characters. The friendships and kinships are supportive and strong.

Imani Grant, now a doctor of dermatology, left home after high school graduation with determination to pursue her goals. She’d left with a broken heart that had never healed. Now, ten years later, she is home with a successful practice.

She and Xavier Whitted, who dumped her instead of proposing to her when they graduated high school, still have undeniable chemistry and caring that bring them together in a way that sends the blood racing.

Xavier, a CPA by profession and an avid social worker, sets in to regain Imani’s trust, not an easy task. He knows he handled a life-changing situation very poorly ten years ago. He is determined to correct that mistake.

Kianna Alexander filters in back-story and slips in foreshadowing that keep the reader intrigued. However, the internal conflicts Imani struggles with drive the story along a obstacle strewn path. While she tells herself, “The truth will set you free,” she can’t come to terms with guilt she carries.

For this reader, the love scenes crop up more often than needed. They are explicit but well-written. They just lose some impact by repetition.

Kianna Alexander does a beautiful job of writing about how the bad characters’ and the good characters’ lives get mixed up and influence both Imani’s and Xavier’s professional and personal lives. She does a masterful job of bringing all things together for that happy-ever-after.

Smooth enjoyable reading!

The English Duke by Karen Ranney


The English Duke by Karen Ranney
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (277 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

For years, Martha York has been fascinated by a man she’s never met—Jordan Hamilton, the new Duke of Roth and protégé to her inventor father. Could the elusive gentleman possibly live up to his brilliant letters? When Martha travels to his estate to carry out her father’s last bequest, she discovers that the answer is a resounding yes, for the duke’s scientific mind belies a deep sensuality…

Jordan was determined to complete his prototype alone, but it’s impossible to resist the alluring young woman who shows up at his door. Working together, they grow ever closer, until a case of mistaken identity leaves him bound to another. A woman’s heart may be more complex than the most intricate invention, but Jordan must find a way to win Martha’s, or lose the only woman who can truly satisfy him…

The English Duke is a delight. The characters are diverse and each of them has a mind of his or her own with no one acting the shrinking violet. Martha York will see that her dead father’s wishes are carried out. Jordan Hamilton, the reluctant new Duke of Roth, is not interested in her father’s wishes and tries to ignore Martha—not going to happen!

How the story unfolds has one turning pages, all the while giving rapt attention to the twists and turns in the plot.

The author takes the reader into the late nineteenth century of England society with remarkable descriptions of settings and advancements in technical inventions, along with the social changes that are being forced on the peerage at the time. Money is a big issue.

Josephine, Martha’s half-sister, and Reese, Jordan’s friend are soon seen as antagonists that bear watching. Also, Martha’s grandmother who is not above doing a little manipulating, is to be watched. These characters keep the cauldron bubbling with conflicts that beset Martha’s plans again and again. Josephine soon became the antagonist that I loved to hate. Her self-centeredness and amoral attitude are beyond belief.

Martha’s intellectual prowess is equal to Jordan’s. Her long working relationship with her inventive father sets her apart. She and Jordan soon work in harmony as they try to fix one little flaw in her father’s last invention—a torpedo ship.

How Karen Ranney weaves together back story, the supporting characters, a love story that seems ill-fated, and leaves no loose ends is masterful.

The English Duke is a joy to read.

You May Kiss the Bride by Lisa Berne


You May Kiss the Bride by Lisa Berne
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (289 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

In an unforgettable debut, Lisa Berne introduces you to the Penhallow Dynasty—men destined to marry, but hesitant to love.

Wealthy and arrogant, Gabriel Penhallow knows it’s time to fulfill his dynastic duty. All he must do is follow the ‘Penhallow way’: find a biddable bride, produce an heir and a spare, and then live separate lives. It’s worked so well for generations, certainly one kiss with the delectable Livia Stuart isn’t going to change things. Society dictates he marry her, and one chit is as good as another as long as she’s from a decent family.

But Livia’s transformation from an original to a mundane diamond of the first water makes Gabriel realize he desperately wants the woman who somehow provoked him into that kiss. And for all the ladies who’ve thrown themselves at him, it’s the one who wants to flee whom he now wants. But how will he keep this independent miss from flying away?

A rags-to-riches story, You May Kiss the Bride is not a happy story much of the time and love seems an impossibility. How the author weaves love in among all the manipulation, gossip, conflict, and intrigue makes page-turning reading.

This is especially true since Gabriel Penhallow does not hold women in high esteem and is not looking for love. He just needs a suitable woman of society–intelligent, has substantial wealth, and in good health—to produce his heirs.

His managing grandmother met Lady Glanvilles and daughter, Cecily in Bath and declares Cecily to be good wife material for Gabriel. The two of them attend a house party at the Glanvilles, with Gabriel intending to ask Cecily to be his wife.

To escape the vacuous activities of the house party, Gabriel Penhallow rides out alone and gets lost in the forest. He sees Livia Stuart. He is entranced. She looks like a ragged but beautiful wood sprite. But his haughty elite self surfaces and he tosses coins to her for information on how to get back to the Glandvilles. BIG MISTAKE!

Livia Stuart, the poor orphan relative sent home to Ealdor Abby from India when she was very young,expects and gets nothing.more than food and shelter from her wastrel Uncle Charles and her “medicine” addlepated Aunt Bella. She has no money, no education, and no prospects; even though she’s now of marriage age. She is Lady Glanvilles and Cecily’s charity case. They, snobbish and snide, give her Cecily’s hand-me-down clothes and invite her to events at their home.

How Livia and Gabriel become betrothed and plan to use each other sets up conflict, rejection, loneliness, and heartbreak. Not until Gabriel and his grandmother come to recognize their self-centeredness and entitlement attitudes almost destroyed what they hold dear, do they come to recognize the value and joy of having Livia in their lives.

Lisa Berne creates a compelling story with great pacing that is an early nineteenth century rollercoaster ride. GOOD ENTERTAINMENT!

Texas Homecoming by Leigh Greenwood


Texas Homecoming by Leigh Greenwood
Night Riders Series

Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (419 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

She’s his last chance to find peace…

Cade, Captain of the Night Riders, is determined to lead his men home to Texas to recover from a long and brutal war. But when a fellow Rider betrays the team, Cade sets aside his hopes for peace and swears he will hunt down the traitor no matter what it takes…

He has a foolproof plan to use the feisty Pilar diViere to lure her traitorous brother out of hiding. And yet when he takes the dark-eyed beauty into his arms, Cade can’t help but remember the passionate past they shared. He would do anything for a chance to rekindle that flame…even spare her brother’s life.

The war has changed them all, and each of the Night Riders must decide what is more important: love or revenge?

Leigh Greenwood once again gives the reader an adventure with characters that come alive on the pages as they pull the reader into conflicts, joys, pains, dreams, struggles, and LOVE.

Cade Wheeler’s and the few remaining Night Riders’ lives are in shambles after the Civil War, as are the ranches in Texas that they go back to. They are hoping to build new lives for themselves. But finding the traitor, Laveau diViere, who had caused the death of so many of their comrades, is a number one priority for them all.

They find Pilar, Laveau’s sister, and his grandmother at the Wheeler ranch, routed from their ranch and opulent hacienda by squatters—an explosive situation. Pilar works like a slave, while her aristocratic Grandmother never leaves her room, but beraes Pilar continually and haes Earl Wheeler. Pilar copes with unending hours of hard work, and contends with Earl Wheeler, Cade’s grandfather, a cantankerous, mean old man, who knows no boundaries, emotional or physical. My goodness, how I wanted to throttle that old man and Senora diViere! My anger still bubbles up when I think of how they used people, even their grandchildren to try to gain what they wanted. Leigh Greenwood creates characters that are real beyond words.

The men set in to brand longhorn cattle that have run wild for all the years of the war, all the time keeping an eye out for Laveau and for thieves that would take the cattle they had gathered. As the author weaves in the unique personalities of these hardworking, war-weary men, each of them becomes so alive and adds layers of speculation to the story—who are they and what will become of them.

Neither Pilar nor Cade was reared with love; neither of them is even sure they know what love is. Moreover, the treachery of her brother, Laveau, stands between them. How they work through the tangled mess of life, at that time in history, and find love makes page-turning reading.

Leigh Greenwood is a master story teller who makes the world and the people he writes about come alive for the reader. EXCELLENT READING!

Dangerous Games by Tess Diamond


Dangerous Games by Tess Diamond
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (369 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Maggie Kincaid left the FBI two years ago and didn’t look back . . . until now. A senator’s daughter has been abducted, and the nightmare set in motion isn’t just familiar to Maggie, it’s personal. She’ll need all the help she can get to bring Kayla Thebes home alive—even if that help comes from a hot-as-hell ex-soldier who plays by his own rules. . .

For Jake O’Connor, negotiation equals weakness. But he’s immediately drawn to the sexy former agent who epitomizes strength. It isn’t long before he and Maggie are working together 24/7, learning to read each other’s signals and wanting much more.

But for Maggie and Jake, letting their guard down—even around each other—may be dangerous. Now, as they close in on a kidnapper with nothing to lose, their first mistake could shatter a young girl’s last chance…

“I-got-your-back” secret service story, Dangerous Games, is an adrenaline junkie’s paradise. My anxiety level skyrocketed every whip stitch. The “bad guys” who have power, money, and connections in high places that the “good guys” have to outsmart is mind boggling.

Maggie Kincaid, ex-FBI and overloaded with emotional baggage, is coaxed back to the FBI to negotiate for the release of fourteen-year-old Kayla, Senator Thebes’ daughter. IF you happen to be a woman who has succeeded in a male-dominated profession, you can empathize with Maggie. Many of the male agents that are not as good at their jobs as she is at hers make her life miserable—adding to her load of grief, anger, and guilt that she has lived with for years.

Jake O’Connor, former Army Ranger, now best at his job of handling sensitive D. C. political issues, becomes part of the mass of people at Senator Thebes” house. He is to see to the senator’s interest. His self concept is in good shape, even though, he too has nightmarish past events in his career that haunt him. He is not threatened by Maggie’s abilities. He can see her expertise in negotiating and gravitates to her. What a team they make!

Tess Diamond does a superb job of outing the “bad guys” one by one. Cold chills made me shudder as she brought their values to light. The kidnapper really surprised me. How Ms. Diamond makes it all so believable is a masterful bit of writing. Even better is the way she reveals Maggie’s dedication and determination to save Kayla, even when the odds are sky high against her.

There are characters one loves to love and many others one loves to hate. Oh, yes, even a sex scene gets worked in amid all the chaos. A gripping story!

Hidden Bloodlines by Karen Van Den Heuvel


Hidden Bloodlines by Karen Van Den Heuvel
J. C. Classified Series
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (296 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Gutsy Colorado attorney Victoria Bailey has just successfully prosecuted a serial killer—or has she? Betrayed by her college sweetheart, she’s vowed to remain single and dependent on no one but herself. All goes according to plan until her best friend’s wedding rehearsal. A missing groom, a murdered trial assistant, and an unexpected encounter with two men from her past bring her well-controlled life crashing down.

Highly decorated, retired Navy SEAL Christian Van der Kruis has seen much death and is ready to experience a new life. Now part of a global special ops organization, he attends a wedding, never expecting to be brought face-to-face with death and the only woman he ever loved…Victoria.

Victoria, a successful lawyer, is unease about a case she won. Had she prosecuted the right man? She is determined to put business aside when she arrives at the legendary hotel and chapel where she is to be bridesmaid for her friend, Elizabeth. How her case and the wedding party get all mixed up together creates some nail-biting reading.

With all the evil doings going on, getting a wedding worked in seems almost impossible. However Karen Van Den Heuvel weaves together, old grudges held since the settling of Eutis Park, Colorado, a wedding party where the groom goes missing, a haunted hotel and its ties to a building in Denver that Elizabeth bought; the revisiting of an old love gone awry, the blooming of a new love; demonopathy, exorcism, and more. She keeps the reader on edge with strange noises, rooms with secret doors, old hidden tunnels occupied by evil doers, a possessed little boy, a strange acting new law partner, and a freak storm in March.

Victoria’s encounter with David, the man who, without warning, dumped her to become a priest brings back old memories and hurts that shaped her life the past few years. However when she encounters his brother Christian, an ex-Navy SEAL, who now has a search and rescue business, she sees and responds to him differently than she did in college. This is, indeed, a ray of sunshine in a dark, stormy story.

While I felt like I’d come in at the middle of a movie, I was glued to the story, reading like mad so as not to miss important information. I’m not sure I ever got all the characters straight. However, the story is so compelling, I just had to keep reading to see how all things worked out.

Karen Van Den Heuvel has a unique writing style. She does a masterful job of tying up loose ends and finally slips in more than one happy-ever-after that I always love to see.

A Heart Made for Love by Linda Tillis


A Heart Made for Love by Linda Tillis
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (302 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

In rural Florida, 1903, Mae Hinton cares for her father and younger brothers, trying to fill her deceased mother’s shoes. Her life is shattered and her faith tested when her innocence is stolen by roving miscreants. Left unconscious, unable to identify her attackers, she pledges to help other victimized women. She pursues an education and learns to deal with bigoted ministers, well-to-do hypocrites, and men with higher regard for their livestock than their women.

Edward Finch is nearly done with medical studies in England when he comes home for the holidays. Love flourishes, and Mae seems close to achieving her dreams of both true love and a haven for victims, once she can explain to him why she carries a pistol. Then her new-found happiness is upset by a murder as one of her attackers returns. She may settle this herself…or she may find that vengeance truly belongs to God.

The foreshadowing and the spiritual connection the Hintons have with the dead Ruth Hinton make A Heart Made for Love intriguing. While living, Ruth taught her children to be responsible to family and to love the Lord. After her death, her spirit communes with the children and with Garth, who’d been a loving husband.

When trouble comes and innocent Mae Hinton “pays for the sins of others’ as Dr. Walters, her long-time friend and mentor, says, the Hintons rally together, do what has to be done, and stay strong with the help of Ruth’s spirit.

Mae’s horrific experience sets the whole family on a new course in life, with Dr. Walters help. The doctor’s nephew, Dr. Edward Finch, and Mae fall in love. While this love story adds a special emotion, it is not the major part of the novel. As the story moves along, a lot of characters get involved.

The page-turning part of the story begins when Mae inherits a vast estate where she, with the help of her family, begins her home for abused women and children.

The heir, Langford Hardwick, who had expected to inherit it all and still could have it all under a given condition, becomes an antagonist on a mission. The journey the reader is taken on with Hardwick; add a very different layer to the story with a lot of new characters and some horrible events.

The past and the present get intertwined as good and evil engage in battle.

How Linda Tillis ties up loose ends and creates a happy-ever-after for so many of the characters is captivating. A story that starts with such a shocking event that ends with such promise for so many realizing their dreams coming true, leaves one feeling life, with work and the right attitude, even bad things can be used to bring about good things.

Igniting the Countess by Lisa Torquary


Igniting the Countess by Lisa Torquary
Publisher: New Concept Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (151 pages)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Loraine Durant, widowed Countess of Crawford, lives her life for her toddler son, the heir of the late count. But the world seems to go out of its axis when she lays eyes on the new breath-taking footman. She fights arduously the flaming attraction she feels for him, deeming it inappropriate, failing notoriously. With the shadow of scandal looming over her, she had to stay away from him. When she discovers he is much more than a servant, it is too late and he already hates her.

Garth Evans is the bastard son of a Marquis, trying to make his unprivileged way in the world and avoiding trouble with women. Being constantly in the presence of the Countess proves to be a hellish temptation and he can hardly keep his hands off her. After they part, he thinks she is as whimsical and frivolous as any other lady of her rank. Now, he hates her for all she represents. Wrenching passion threatens to break his resolve to keep her at arm’s length, his desire for her about to burst at any moment.

Volatile sexual chemistry between a countess and a footman is not a good idea in early nineteenth century England. To act on it or not to act on it is the driving force in Igniting the Countess.

Loraine, Countess of Crawford, is a widow and the mother of a baby who will one day be the Count of Crawford. She is very circumspect while she stays in society to insure her son’s position in years to come. However, when a new footman comes to work, her body goes haywire longing for something she’d never experienced with her unloving husband.

Garth Evans, the new footman, is the bastard son of Marquis of Warwick. He tries to be strictly business, but he too is beset with an overpowering need to be with the Countess. How the two of them cope with their attraction to each other heats up the pages and keeps the reader turning those pages in haste.

The Dowager Countess, a go-by-the-social-rules hardliner, forces Loraine to make a heart-breaking choice. The footman must be fired and she must continue in the Ton Society where predatory males pursue her for gain and the “ladies” watch her like a hawk looking for a misdeed in her behavior or the consequences would be unthinkable as far as Loraine is concerned.

Garth Evans, well-educated and striving to better his position in life, rages at the unfairness of things, as he wrestles with his emotions and works to prosper. His dismissal without a word from Loraine as to why gives him a “get-even” attitude that changes the tone of the story.

While the theme and characters are pretty much “the usual,” and the love scenes done so often they became a little much, the story is an attention-keeper. Lisa Torquary weaves the story with unique twists and entertains the reader. Her writing style makes for smooth reading, never intruding on the story.

My Fair Duchess by Megan Frampton


My Fair Duchess by Megan Frampton
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (274 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

The unexpected duchess

Archibald Salisbury, son of a viscount, war hero, and proficient in the proper ways of aristocratic society, has received orders for his most challenging mission: Genevieve, Duchess of Blakesley. How she inherited a duchy isn’t his problem. Turning her into a perfect duchess is. But how can he keep his mind on business when her beauty entices him toward pleasure?

It was impossible, unprecedented…and undeniably true. Genevieve is now a “duke”, or, rather, a duchess. So what is she to do when the ton eyes her every move, hoping she’ll make a mistake? Genevieve knows she has brains and has sometimes been told she has beauty, but, out of her depth, she calls on an expert. And what an expert, with shoulders broad enough to lean on, and a wit that matches her own. Archie is supposed to teach her to be a lady and run her estate, but what she really wants to do is unladylike—run into his arms.

“Trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” is how Genevieve feels when she inherits a neglected duchy and becomes Duchess of Blakesley.

She is the neglected daughter of a wastrel duke. She has been raised by servants. She’s had no training in how to be a duchess much less in how to tend to the business of the duchy that has been shamefully neglected. However, because of a special dispensation granted generations earlier, the direct heir, regardless of gender, inherits the duchy of Blakesley.

Though neglected by her father, she has a grandmother who has confidence in Genevieve, and she also has a godmother who sends her own steward to help Genevieve maneuver through the quagmire of the ton and the business of owning and managing of the duchy.

The steward, retired army captain Archibald Salisbury, estranged third son of a viscount, is not all that happy about having to go where his family might see him, but he arrives in London to do the task Genevieve’s godmother sent him to do.

Straight away, he sees a strategy is needed. His army training kicks in. He sees Genevieve as a raw recruit with no ammunition–she has no suitable wardrobe; she does not know how to be haughty, act grandiose, or give terse orders to the servants; she has no clue about how to do duchy business, last, but not least, she draws him like a magnet. She’s beautiful, sensible, kind, honest, direct, sensitive, resilient, and has a delightful sense of humor. Consequently, even though they are in the same house, he communicates with her by letter if possible rather than be in her company—great way for the author to move the story along.

He guides her through all the social and business hazards of mid-nineteenth century England. She learns well, but her faux pas in her personal relationship with him throws a spanner in the works that creates a conflict that sends him running. Now she’s very capable, titled, wealthy, but so alone—calls herself an idiot.

How Megan Frampton weaves a love story throughout the story and how she resolves the conflicts to give Archie and Genevieve their happy-ever-after is a work of art. Good reading!