The Viscount and the Vicar’s Daughter by Mimi Matthews

The Viscount and the Vicar’s Daughter by Mimi Matthews
Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (241 pgs)
Heat Level: sweet
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

England, 1861. A world-weary rake and a prim vicar’s daughter are thrown together during a holiday house party. Will they discover there’s more to each other than meets the eye? Or will revelations from the past end their fragile romance before it begins?

After years of unbridled debauchery, Tristan Sinclair, Viscount St. Ashton has hit proverbial rock bottom. Seeking to escape his melancholy, he takes refuge at one of Victorian society’s most notorious house parties. As the Christmas season approaches, he prepares to settle in for a month of heavy drinking…until an unexpected encounter changes his plans–and threatens his heart.

Valentine March is not the drab little spinster she appears to be. When her new job as a lady’s companion lands her smack in the middle of Yorkshire with England’s most infamous rake, she resolves to keep her head down and her eyes fixed firmly on her future–a future which most definitely does not include a sinfully handsome viscount.

A friendship is impossible. An affair out of the question. But when one reckless act binds them together, will two star-crossed souls discover there’s more to each other than meets the eye? Or will revelations from the past end their fragile romance before it begins?

Unexpected and enthralling are the best words to describe Mimi Matthews’ romance, The Viscount and the Vicar’s Daughter. Its hard to know where to begin… perhaps with a word about characters, as they are first and foremost. The mostly no good young viscount Tristan is unexpectedly sympathetic; the dear, unattached lady, Valentine, is equally unexpected, as her artistic proclivities are closer to her heart than making the required match…

No spoilers here! Suffice to say, we kick off with two likeable main characters, quickly realize that some of the lesser are also Very Much Not the required respectable Victorian types, and the unexpected is only compounded. Well before the house party kicks off, I was completely enthralled.

I can’t fault this one: it’s the best romance I have read in ages.

Tempest by Beverly Jenkins

Tempest by Beverly Jenkins
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full length (346 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

What kind of mail-order bride greets her intended with a bullet instead of a kiss? One like Regan Carmichael—an independent spirit equally at home in denims and dresses. Shooting Dr. Colton Lee in the shoulder is an honest error, but soon Regan wonders if her entire plan to marry a man she’s never met is a mistake. Colton, who buried his heart along with his first wife, insists he only wants someone to care for his daughter. Yet Regan is drawn to the unmistakable desire in his gaze.

Regan’s far from the docile bride Colton was expecting. Still, few women would brave the wilds of Wyoming Territory for an uncertain future with a widower and his child. The thought of having a bold, forthright woman like Regan in his life—and in his arms—begins to inspire a new dream. And despite his family’s disapproval and an unseen enemy, he’ll risk all to make this match a real union of body and soul.

Regan is a mail order bride. She and the doctor have written several letters to each other. He’s looking for a mother for his child. She’s looking for adventure and figures Wyoming will provide it. But their first meeting didn’t go well. After the stage was set upon by robbers, she got out her rifle and took care of them. When she sees more riders coming she shoots at them, too. Unfortunately, the man she hit was her intended…

Ms. Jenkins always writes a good story and this one is no exception. Her words flow well and she creates conflict as well as love in her stories.

The doctor was expecting a lady from back east. She was hoping for a love match. No one lied in their letters but meeting each other changes expectations. He has no interest in love. She wears denims and can do much more than household duties. Even worse, she has her own money.

Her husband’s mother-in-law hates her and has browbeat the young daughter. Another woman in town wanted him for herself and she’s very critical of Regan. But Regan can hold her own.

One of my favorite lines was when the girl asks her new momma if she and daddy were going to jump around on the bed like her friend’s parents did. Sure, that’s what they were doing…

With lots of odd relatives and friends, the two grow closer together. It’s great fun to watch how they respond to the challenges.

This was a very good read.

Legends of Persia by Jennifer Macaire

Legends of Persia by Jennifer Macaire
Book Two – Time for Alexander series

Publisher: Accent Press Ltd.
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (280 pages)
Heat level: Hot
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

When Ashley Riveraine jumped at the chance to travel back in time to meet her hero Alexander the Great, she never thought she would end up staying there…

Following Alexander the Great’s army on its journey across Persia, Ashley is walking the knife edge of history. As a presumed goddess, Ashley is expected to bless crops, make sure battles are won and somehow keep herself out of the history books.

Can Ashley avoid the wrath of the Time Institute while keeping the man she loves alive?

A major road trip adventure, this story does a fine job displaying quirky people and the problems they encounter in their epic quest across an ancient land. Modern-day Ashley goes back in time and is married to her hero, Alexander the Great. What could possibly happen here?

Legends of Persia is the second in this series, continuing the story of Alexander expanding his kingdom while searching for his and Ashley’s kidnapped son. What a man won’t go through to save his boy. Because there are many battles to go through over the years, Alexander gets seriously hurt, more than once. His recovery, and Ashley’s responses, are one of many good ways a reader gets to know them better. However, serious injuries are only one way we get to know them and their friends and enemies. The human relationships between exotic characters bring interesting scenarios to light. Ashley has to face her husband taking yet another wife because history says he married this other woman and fathered her children—to interfere could get Ashley eliminated from time as a punishment. What does she think as she stands and watches this wedding? What does Alexander think? The unrolling of episodes such as this is woven skillfully through the story.

This is not technically a romance. True, Ashley and Alexander are married and in love, and they act like it, but they are not alone in the relationship. He has other wives, and she has another lover. There is jealousy but not enough to destroy the main relationship. This novel is also very spicy, with unconventional and very hot love scenes. If one is offended by non-traditional “love scenes”, this would not be the book to read. If a reader doesn’t mind this or can get past it, then it becomes obvious that the scenes either develop the plot or the characters or simply just show life as it was thousands of years ago, with different human values.

Customs and values change, but human emotions are the same, and this comes out. Though, those human emotions go through the filter of a different culture and time and can inspire eye-opening revelations.

At first, I found myself wondering at times if what happened in the book was good for the characters, but the way these types of scenes are written, it becomes clear that they are appropriate for the setting and the characters. Put in this context, our concepts of feelings such a love may widen upon reading about these complex love relationships.

Mundane details like meals are delightful for putting us in average scenes, making them more realistic. There are good details about different types of festivals with one memorable and spicy festival in particular—not for the squeamish. Other scenes, like a rape, are offensive in themselves, but how do the characters handle them? A reader will keep turning pages to find out.

Deep ponderings come up. Alexander talks about descendants and ancestors—food for thought. Even though this is a road trip, with battles and big things happening around the interesting details of everyday life, in the background there is a sense of urgency behind this story. Ashley knows that Alexander dies young, and she knows when. As each passing year happens, she feels fate pushing down upon them.

This story will have a reader reconsidering conceptions of several things. It ends on a calm note with the promise of great adventure ahead. I would recommend this story to anyone who would enjoy unconventional but deep love with some violence mixed in, with a story that does a good job with character development and world-building.

No Earls Allowed by Shana Galen

No Earls Allowed by Shana Galen
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

It is a truth universally acknowledged
that a lady can do anything a man can do:
and in high-heeled dancing slippers.

Lady Juliana, daughter of the Earl of St. Maur, needs all the help she can get. She’s running a ramshackle orphanage, London’s worst slumlord has illicit designs on her, and her father has suddenly become determined to marry her off.

Enter Major Neil Wraxall, bastard son of the Marquess of Kensington, sent to assist Lady Juliana in any way he can. Lucky for her, he’s handy with repairs, knows how to keep her and the orphans safe, and is a natural leader of men.

Unfortunately for both of them, the scandal that ensues from their mutual attraction is going to lead them a merry dance…

Three and a half hours was all it took to read this book from cover to cover. Ms. Galen provided hours of entertainment in the process of sharing Lady Juliana and Major Neil Wraxall’s story of falling in love and finding out true love can even include rats. Rodents play a very unique sort of role as a catalyst and I am pretty impressed with the author’s skill. Why? Because by the end of the book, the author had me feeling fond of them too, and anyone who knows me knows I don’t like rats.

I liked Juliana’s spunk, determination and was charmed by her great capacity to love. She was at times innocent, ferocious and silly, and when push came to shove, courageous. She wears the mantle of heroine quite well and I liked her.

Neil is the one with a huge chip on his shoulder, and with good reason. It’s a good thing the hero has some solid friends to back him up. In fact, I liked meeting two of them and I hope to meet them again because they sound like they have some VERY interesting stories to tell. In any event, they sure played important roles in keeping Juliana and Neil safe. Something that wasn’t always easy to do.

The only thing that bothered me about this whole novel was Neil’s ability to solve just about anything – stairs, rats or boys. He seems to know what to do and when to do it. The author credits his success with his ability to lead and survive from being in the military, but when it comes to kids and their reaction to him, Neil seemed to always know just what to do and the kids, mostly, all fell in line. For some reason the children never offered that same respect to Juliana no matter what she did for them, and then, in walks a man and Poof! Within 24 hours he has them doing chores and burning toast. Too easy. I still liked Neil though.

The bit of drama and well written suspense is due to a dastardly villain that has deviant designs on the heroine. It’s a classic villainous trope but Ms. Galen brought Mr. Slag to evil glory with his actions and dialogue and his ultimate comeuppance. The fight scenes, though few, were well presented – not gory or gratuitous but effective and exciting.

Juliana does provide an emotional tension when she reveals why saving the boys in the orphanage is so incredibly important to her. The HEA is not just about the heroine and hero but the children too. I had happy feelings when all was said and done.

Yes, the title is amusing, but No Earls Allowed is packed with solid storytelling prowess that is a testimony to Ms. Galen’s writing talent.

I was never bored with any chapter, I couldn’t stop reading and many times I did laugh out loud. I was thoroughly enchanted with this novel and believe fans are going to gobble this one up. It’s an awesome romance. I absolutely recommend this book.

My Daring Duchess by Julie Johnstone

My Daring Duchess by Julie Johnstone
Publisher: DBA Darbyshire Publishing LLC
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (190 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

When a lady bent on ruining rogues and a duke set on revenge attempt to derail each other’s plans, passion erupts into a love for the ages.

After being left brokenhearted by a duplicitous rake, Anne Adair no longer desires a husband—she wants justice. She’s traded in her foolish dream of happily-ever-after for the much more sensible one of thwarting the blackhearted lords who prey on innocent debutantes. But her first mission proves rather complicated when the dashing, devilish Duke of Kilmartin comes to the aid of her target.

Simon Sedgewick, the newly titled Duke of Kilmartin, never thought he would return to England, let alone attend a ball full of simpering lords. But when his oldest friend’s reputation is being smeared and Simon discovers that the perpetrator is none other than his enemy’s granddaughter, his long-festering desire for vengeance flares to life.

The moment Simon spies Miss Anne Adair across the glittering ballroom, he knows that the ravishing beauty is the perfect instrument for the retribution he thought lost to him. He does not know, however, that Anne has devised a scheme of her own. And soon, these two wary hearts will discover that the best laid plans are no match for love.

This is a lovely regency book with a daring heroine and a revengeful hero. Anne sets out to get revenge or reform a rogue who has ruined her friend. As she plans her attack she meets Simon who also has a reputation as a rogue. The plan falls into place, but she begins to have doubts. Is all as it seems or has someone been lying to get their revenge?

This is one of the better books that steps outside the bounds of Regency propriety. Well written, although there are a few typos, but these are easily overlooked in the flow of the story. Anne’s quest brings the past into the Regency present which will hopefully solve a lot of bitter heartache.

Although this book didn’t grab me and make me sorry to put it down, it was still a very pleasant read with lots of intrigue and excitement.

Lera’s Sorrow – Darkliete, Book One by Gail Gernat

Lera’s Sorrow – Darkliete, Book One by Gail Gernat
Publisher: Andrea James Publishing
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (58 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Lera and her cousin have completed their long childhood and their training as healers. Sent to their grandparents back in Madean, they must negotiate the strange new world, attain their werwinstans. Fate intervenes in the shape of handsome young Ian, very human and very poisonous to the elven. Trying out her independence for the first time in her life, what will Lera decide? Where will she discover her loyalty to lay, with love or with duty?

Elves, I love elves! This is a story with a difference as Lera has come to her grandparents to be officially accepted as a healer. During the celebrations she bonds with.a human prince and this causes untold problems which is not helped by the lies of a pooka.

For such a short book, this story is full of emotion and intrigue, plus there’s an evil queen and a handsome prince. What more could a reader want when opening a fantasy book? Lera’s healing helps her through bad times but also puts her in danger which adds a bit of spice to the story.

Well written, easy to read and gives satisfaction. Recommended.

What a Difference a Duke Makes by Lenora Bell

What a Difference a Duke Makes by Lenora Bell
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (384 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Mistflower

Wanted: Governess for duke’s unruly children
Edgar Rochester, Duke of Banksford, is one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in England, but when it comes to raising twins alone, he knows he needs help. The only problem is the children have chased away half the governesses in London. Until the clever, bold, and far-too-enticing Miss Mari Perkins arrives.

Lost: One heart to an arrogant duke
Mari knows how to wrap even the most rebellious children around her finger. But their demanding, wickedly handsome father? He won’t be quite so easy to control. And there’s something else she can’t seem to command. Her heart. The foolish thing beats so wildly every time the duke is near.

Found: A forbidden passion neither can deny
As his employee, Mari is strictly off-limits. But what if she’s the one breaking all his rules? In the game of governess versus duke, how can Edgar maintain his defenses when the only thing he wants to do is let the tempting beauty win . . .?

“What a difference a good book makes” should be the subtitle of this book! Actually it was better than good, it was amazing. Can I just sing that? A MaaaZingg!

I absolutely love when a book makes me laugh. I can recall three separate times that I cracked up. I had to re-read it a few times until I got the giggles out. I just love connecting with a book like that.

As a retired preschool teacher I really related to the heroine, “Mari with an i—it rhymes with starry.” I respected how she developed a trusting relationship with the hero’s children, Michel and Adele. For nine year old twins they were a handful. Mari demonstrated developmentally appropriate, hands-on, child process oriented art and engaged open-ended interaction. It’s no wonder the children responded to her the way they did. She treated them with respect yet held them accountable for their actions. She set boundaries and expectations with appropriate consequences and was consistent and gave love with positive reinforcement. Yes, I noticed and applaud all that accurate child development detail in a romance book! If I was looking for a governess for my children then I’d consider myself lucky to have her in my employment. Mari wasn’t the only well-developed character is this story.

I had the opportunity to bond with the hero as well. Edgar Rochester, Duke of Banksford was a man in need of being rescued and it obviously had to be Mari or myself but unfortunately I can’t be transported into the plot. Life is so unfair. At least I got to live it through Mari. Edgar was intelligent, kind and just made me smile. He was a tad stubborn but what hero isn’t? It’s part of their charm. It makes the reading much more pleasurable when they realize they are being stubborn and give in.

Who doesn’t grow fond of children? Okay, not everyone, but I do. Michel and Adele were adorable. After all they went through, it was heartwarming to see them in a thriving home thanks to Mari, Edgar and his entire staff. I can’t leave out Edgar’s sister, India when mentioning well developed characters. She was hilarious. I was happy to see that she is going to have a book of her own.

Of course there were a couple of characters that made me clench my fists such as Edgar’s mother and Mrs. Trilby. Ooooh, if I could get my hands on them. I’d teach them a thing or two about being nice. However, you’ll have to read how they turned out.

The plot was brilliant and honestly, refreshing. It flowed smoothly with unexpected thread plots. There is more to this story than what the synopsis says. There’s a plot twist involving Mari that is quite captivating.

The writing style as well as the plot and cast of characters is really what made the book amazing. I thought it was a unique writing style to incorporate proverbs within Mari’s conversations. It was truly entertaining. I am compelled to share with other readers that this is the first time when I’ve finished a novel that I Googled something that was mentioned in the story. I was intrigued with the plot regarding fire brigades and how they chose which fire to put out based on which insurance that property had. I didn’t know about that history nor about the steam fire engine that was invented. If you don’t know about both subjects then I’d Google those two things prior to reading this book, but it certainly isn’t necessary. The author did an exceptional job explaining it. I was more curious if it was factual.

The icing on the cake for me was the epilogue. I LOVED it. This was my first Lenora Bell novel and it won’t be my last. I’ll be looking for India’s story, For the Duke’s Eyes Only” coming out in October 2018! Until then I definitely recommend reading What a difference a Duke Makes! It’s captivating, sexy and a heartstring tugger.

Grinders Corner by Ferris Craig and Charlene Keel

Grinders Corner by Ferris Craig and Charlene Keel
Publisher: Red Sky Presents
Genre: Historical (Vintage)
Length: Full (368 pgs)
Heat level: Sensual
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Grinders Corner explores the world of taxi dance halls in the 1960s in all its raw hilarity. Saucy, sassy and sexy, but not the least bit erotic, it follows the adventures of three young women trying to survive in the glitter palaces of Los Angeles.

Like lambs led to the slaughter, Uptown, a newly divorced English major with panic anxiety disorder and no job skills, Voluptua, an out of work actress, and Mouse, a former child star trying to make a comeback all struggle to make enough tickets to pay the bills. Things get complicated when Uptown falls in love with a customer who happens to be a priest.

In Grinders Corner it was a simpler time, long before gentlemen’s clubs and pole dancers, and it happened in a place where shy, lonely men could talk to women, even dance with them, with no fear of rejection—for about fifteen cents a minute.

This book is a hoot! This is not the standard rom/com… it’s a book where misfits come together and make for themselves a new reality!

I had no idea that “taxi dancers” still existed into the 60s. I thought it was exclusive to the 20s and 30s. It was interesting to get a glimpse of a different time and a different way of living.

The story is told from the point of view of Uptown; however, it is based on true events in the life of author Ferris H. Craig (Mouse, in the book).

The characters are wonderfully drawn and some of the experiences described in the book were truly “laugh out loud”-able. Uptown starts the job as a naïve woman but under the tutelage of her new friends, Mouse and Voluptua, soon gets an education like she never experienced before.

Kudos to the authors for such a fun, entertaining work!

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Sanctity of Life by Jennifer E. Whalen

Sanctity of Life by Jennifer E. Whalen
An Enemy Loved Novel

Publisher: Lilac Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full Length (156 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Deep in the Black Forest of Germany, dark experiments have been taking place since WWII. Now the secrets are in danger of being exposed. Who will live? Who will die? Can it be contained?

Sometimes science causes more problems than it solves.

The dialogue was well done. This was a fast-paced story, so there wasn’t a lot of room for lengthy descriptions or discussions. I liked the fact that the characters’ conversations were kept as short as possible. That was exactly how I’d expect members of the military and government to behave when they were trying to contain a threat to the security of their nation.

There were so many characters in this story that I found it really difficult to remember who was who. I kept mixing everyone up, and it only became tougher to remember who everyone was once the pacing picked up and the characters began to find themselves in dangerous situations.

One of the things I always like discovering is a character who makes intelligent decisions regardless of what’s happening around him. There were several characters in this book who had good heads on their shoulders. No matter how other people reacted around them, they always paid close attention to their surroundings and thought logically about what they should do next. I appreciated that.

The time jumps were confusing to me. Some of the scenes were set in 1945 while others happened in 1918. Since I was struggling so much to remember who all of the characters were, it was strange to suddenly meet new people or to see someone in a different part of his or her life than they’d been a few scenes earlier.

My favorite sections of this story were the ones that explained what was going on with the dark experiments in full detail. I’m a big fan of science fiction about medical advancements that don’t turn out the way their creators intended them to. The author did a good job at explaining why these attempts were having such poor results and hinting at what would happen if the scientists continue to push the boundaries of what the human body is capable of.

Sanctity of Life should be read by anyone who loves the idea of science experiments gone terribly wrong.

The Pleasures of Passion by Sabrina Jeffries

The Pleasures of Passion: The Sinful Suitors Series by Sabrina Jeffries
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (387 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

When Niall Lindsey, the Earl of Margrave, is forced to flee after killing a man in a duel, he expects his secret love, Brilliana Trevor, to go with him, or at the very least wait for him. To his shock, she does neither and sends him off with no promise for the future. Seven years and one pardon later, Niall returns to England disillusioned and cynical. And being blackmailed by the government into working with his former love to help catch a counterfeiter connected to her father doesn’t improve his mood any. But as his role as Brilliana’s fake fiancé brings his long-buried feelings to the surface once again, he wonders who is more dangerous—the counterfeiter or the woman rapidly stealing his heart.

Forced to marry another man after Niall was exiled, the now widowed Brilliana wants nothing to do with the reckless rogue who she believes abandoned her to a dreary, loveless life. So having to rely on him to save her father is the last thing she wants, much less trusts him with….But as their scheme strips away the lies and secrets of their shared past, can she let go of the old hurt and put her pride aside? Or will the pleasures of their renewed passion finally enable them both to rediscover love?

True love can withstand exile by choice, heartache born of misunderstandings, deception from necessity and a daring scheme meant draw out the bad guys as it draws two hearts back together forever.

Sound epic enough? This is classic Sabrina Jeffries and why this author draws me back time and again. Having said that, I’ve missed this delightful new series, The Sinful Suitors. With one book, she has me hooked and searching out the beginnings and anxiously waiting for the next installment.

Bree and Niall might be considered star crossed in the beginning but in truth, they wouldn’t have been ready to start a life together even had circumstances been different. The ups and downs, regrets and moments of joy in Bree’s life taught her to guard her heart. I loved that Niall was persistent to remind her that theirs was a soul deep connection that could heal her heart.

One of the reasons that I love a good Regency romance is all the social conventions of the time period, the absurd rules and class warfare. I know not the normal reasons but a good romance author knows how to work through or, when necessary, work around those issues and give the hero and his lady an opportunity to earn the love of lifetime. Ms. Jeffries does that very thing with Bree and Niall’s story.

Bree has learned that if she’s going to have a life for herself and her son, she’ll have to take control of their destiny and not depend of hapless, faithless men who constantly fail to see a woman’s strengths beyond her looks. She’s sometimes a little too stubborn but I was happy to see that Niall was patient and perceptive. He didn’t just tell her he thought she was smart and capable he demonstrated that he believed it, too. Smart man.

Readers who loved The School For Heiresses, The Duke’s Men, The Hellions of Hallstead Hall and all of Sabrina Jeffries other fantastic series will be thrilled to drawn into a new “family”. That’s one of the hallmarks of her series books. She creates families that aren’t always blood related but they have even deeper connections that matter and last long after the final page.

This is another fine example of the cleverness that is Sabrina Jeffries. Perfect read for any time of the year.