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

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.

Marriage Most Scandalous by Johanna Lindsey

MOST
Marriage Most Scandalous by Johanna Lindsey
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (295 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

When Sebastian Townshend, son of the eighth Earl of Edgewood, was banished from his family due to the tragic results of a duel, he vowed never to return to England. Now living on the continent, Sebastian has forged a new identity as a deadly mercenary, The Raven. But his former neighbor, Lady Margaret Landor, has different plans for him. Back in England, Sebastian’s father has had several accidents and Margaret suspects foul play and deception that reach as far back as the infamous duel. Convinced that only Sebastian can set the situation to rights, Margaret arranges a scandalous bargain with him that includes Sebastian’s returning home as her husband. As the newlyweds uncover a deadly scheme, a fierce passion blossoms between them, which neither anticipated — and neither can resist.

I always hope for a happy ever after that satisfies but in Marriage Most Scandalous, the HEA was convoluted, shocking, amazing and yet for all of that, 100% fulfilling. This might be a slightly older book of Ms. Lindsey’s but it packs a powerful romantic punch such that if readers had missed this novel when first published, I encourage them to wait no longer. It’s a great romance!

The book starts off with a predictable scene for the times – a duel of honor. The ending of that prologue was emotional to say the least but the ramifications are felt 11 years into the future and none of them are good. What follows comes about because feisty Lady Maggie won’t quit and is determined to see her goal reached. What she does not know becomes clear and yet what she wants to know becomes integral to her journey. What no one realizes is that Maggie has set in motion of chain of events that no one could have predicted.

I laughed at how she got Sebastian to help her. I liked how grumpy he was and when he tried his The Raven glare at her, she sassed him right back. Maggie refused to let him get to her. But, eventually he does get to her, in the best of ways. And, true to romantic tradition, she gets him right back and softens him up like warmed up clay – still some lumps in there but she won’t totally give up until Sebastian reaches his full potential. His resistance is futile in the light of final truth.

My emotions were taffy pulled all over the place while reading. There are layers upon layers to unravel and as each one is revealed, the pages kept flipping faster. Each chapter is an exercise in amazement and entertainment. There is a mystery to solve and intrigue to puzzle out. The pace is brisk, the dialogue crisp, sometimes saucy and when Sebastian finally seduces Maggie to the ultimate act, it’s romantically sizzling and satisfying.

I had a blast reading Marriage Most Scandalous, and have no qualms about encouraging readers to discover this treat for themselves. The story is meaty, captivating, and filled with full-bodied characters worth getting to know. I enthusiastically tout this novel as a recommended read.

The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries

STUDY
The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (357 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

When Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to help his best friend’s impetuous ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, in her time of need, he knows he’s in for trouble. He’s been hunting for someone to wed, and she’ll just get in the way. Although captivated by the whip-smart, free-spirited beauty, he fears she’d be all wrong as a wife … if she would even take such a gruff cynic for her husband. Too bad he wants nothing more than to have her for his own.

Clarissa has no intention of marrying anyone—not Edwin, whom she’s sure would be an overbearing husband, and certainly not the powerful French diplomat stalking her. But when matters escalate with the diplomat, she chooses Edwin’s gallant offer of a marriage between friends in hopes that it will deter her stalker. She expects nothing more than an amiable union, but their increasingly tempestuous kisses prove more than she bargained for. When her stalker’s vow to expose the lovers’ deepest secrets threatens to destroy their blossoming attraction, will their tenuous bond withstand public ruin, or will Edwin lose all that’s important to him to protect his bride?

The Study of Seduction includes a hefty emotional plot that deals with being a survivor of physical violence at a time when such things were never discussed, dealt with, confronted or acknowledged. Women back in the day were victimized twice over because for some twisted reason, society always seemed to lay the blame on the woman no matter how innocent, pure or precious she was. There were some men who had their heads screwed on straight, their compassion and willingness to put the blame squarely where it belonged, on the criminal, made them unsung heroes; and then there were other men who all too easily believed another man over a woman, misogyny at its most vile. This novel explores the results of those two types of men, and how it dominos in time, and a woman who has to struggle to be perfect for society, play by its rules, act like she’s like every other eligible lady looking to make a match, yet never reveals what happened to her. In fact she’s too embarrassed and has been dealing with it on her own – not that that’s working out too well for her. This is the backdrop of the story in which a reader will watch as a romance between Clarissa and Edwin emerges. The plot is a serious one for sure, but the romance between the hero and heroine is beautiful, poignant, challenging, frustrating (for Edwin) and delightful.

Ms. Jefferies even adds another plot conflict to spice things up. Seriously, The Study of Seduction isn’t for readers who want fluffy, cotton candy, brainless fun. This is flavored like a romantic suspense novel, with a mystery to solve and daring villains that seem to have unlimited power to plague the heroine. Certainly, this book is a page flipper because the pace is brisk, the dialogue is crisp and the personality byplays between Clarissa and Edwin were engaging, entertaining and many times, heart wrenching or just so incredibly romantic, they made me swoon.

Another strong element is the secondary supporting characters. They were such a great asset to the novel as a whole. Considering the sheer meatiness of the plot and the intrigues that abounded, the main characters needed people in their corner and the author provided a wonderful cast to help out. The best part came at the end with a big, happy, unexpected surprise that made the happy ever after extra special and exciting. I was thrilled!

My favorite aspect of the book was Edwin’s love for Clarissa. For readers who feel a romance is healthier when physical expressions are explored, fear not. Edwin works magic and eventually, Clarissa gets into the swing of things and discovers her inner playful siren. It’s all good.

The Study of Seduction is a must read for fans of Ms. Jeffries. This one is a winner. It’s busy, and easy to read even if it’s about a subject that is a little dark because the author balanced everything just right. I cannot think of a single thing that I would change about this novel. It’s well done, well written and an easy book to recommend.

What Happens Under the Mistletoe by Sabrina Jeffries, Karen Hawkins, Candace Camp and Meredith Duran

UNDER
What Happens Under the Mistletoe by Sabrina Jeffries, Karen Hawkins, Candace Camp and Meredith Duran
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (400 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Stunned by the heat of an unexpected kiss on a cold winter’s eve, two strangers from vastly different worlds turn hotheaded principles into burning passion in Sabrina Jeffries’s delightful yuletide story, “The Heiress and the Hothead”.

In the snowy Scottish countryside, Karen Hawkins’s rakish duke has an unforgettable holiday encounter in “Twelve Kisses” when the alluring lady he surprises under the mistletoe is not who he expected, but a long-lost love with a score to settle.

In “By Any Other Name”, Edinburgh is aglitter for Christmastime as Candace Camp sends a curious gentleman in hot pursuit of an intriguing lady in disguise—one who refuses to reveal her true identity, though she fears he has already stolen her heart with his kiss.

In “Sweet Ruin”, will the festive spirit of the season sweep Meredith Duran’s feisty heroine beneath the mistletoe—and back into the arms of the dashing rogue whose carelessness soiled her reputation and sent her into exile in London?

Escape your holidays by leaping into someone else’s! The What Happens Under the Mistletoe collection will transport you to the enchanting drawing rooms of England’s nineteenth century. Each one is a distinct story, though they share the time period and the expected array of Christmas customs; as well as wonderful writing. All the authors share a gift for creating rich and interesting characters, though the circumstances of each story are quite different.

We might well say that each story is ultimately satisfying, but in writing that, what I mean, specifically, is they share a level of predictability. Its great they give us what we want…but this reader would have liked a little more of a surprise inside the ‘gift box’ of the story. Even so, each of these was well worth reading. They are mostly sweet with the occasional something a bit more.

If you want to round out your holiday with a glimpse at old time parties, decoration, various levels of English titles, as well as proper footmen, staff and an array of house-guests ( as well as those ‘not so chance’ meetings under the mistletoe, ) do add What Happens Under the Mistletoe collection to your list.

The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries

SINNING
The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (373 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

American artist Jeremy Keane refuses to return home and take over his father’s business. He’d much rather sample bevvies of beauties abroad, in search of a model for the provocative masterpiece he’s driven to paint. When he meets Lady Yvette Barlow at a London wedding, he realizes she’s perfect for his work—and determines to capture the young heiress’s defiant spirit and breathtaking sensuality on canvas.

No stranger to scandal, Yvette agrees to be Keane’s subject—in exchange for his help gaining entry to the city’s brothels he knows intimately, so she can track a missing woman and solve a family mystery. But when their practical partnership leads to lessons in the art of sinning, can they find a bold and lasting love?

Ms. Jeffries has a wonderful new series on her hands if this first story is any indication of what’s to come. Of course, this was an auto-read for me because I was fascinated with Jeremy Keane from How the Scoundrel Seduces. His character ended up being quite important in that book but in The Art of Sinning he shines as a strong leading man.

Unlike The Dukes Men series which all had villains and mysteries to overcome and solve, Ms. Jeffries’ new Sinful Suitors series seems to be focused on the trials and tribulations of men of title finding suitable matches for their female relations or wards amongst so many dissolute and unacceptable men of the ton. I was greatly amused as to how the whole plan came together and under what circumstances. Then later, to see how it accidentally took off in one scene meant that there will be a lot of interesting books coming my way. I’m very excited.

In this novel, Jeremy continues to have the reputation of a rogue, rakehell and flamboyant painter. Once a reader, through the constant ploys of the heroine, Yvette, finds out about what type of person Jeremy really is they’ll understand why I thought him a perfect leading man and worthy of the title of hero.

Jeremy has angst; an internal struggle from his past that he never fully faced. He puts on a good show and is, for the most part, a functioning human being. The only thing not working is his heart – his ability to love and trust. It takes Yvette’s persistent pursuit of the truth and her wanton, passionate ways to finally reach the wounds hidden inside the hero and her issuance of a poignant and heartfelt challenge before he allows himself to heal. This is truly a character driven romance that is effective because I cared about and was vested in both Jeremy’s and Yvette’s happiness.

The seduction scenes were hot, sensual, well written and well placed throughout the story. I enjoyed Yvette’s enthusiasm and the fact that she could drive Jeremy wild. It was very fun reading.

Many secondary characters are sprinkled throughout the story which is good because I met a lot of interesting people who will make excellent main characters in their own books. I can’t wait.

Even though there isn’t a big external conflict to move things along, Ms. Jeffries knows how to keep the pace of the story moving. Her characters are engaging, witty, funny, quirky and challenging, and the dialogue was key. I enjoyed how Yvette surprised the hero with her choices of vocabulary. I laughed many times throughout the novel.

The Art of Sinning continues to showcase the strength of Ms. Jeffries’ imagination and writing skill. I had an almost impossible time putting the book down because it was that much fun. If not for having to work for a paycheck, I would have been happiest cuddled up on the couch reading this story uninterrupted for the entire day until I reached the final, adorable and entertaining happy ever after. As it was, I read it while I ate breakfast, then supper and then stayed up late to finish it because I simply had to know Jeremy’s big secret, had to know if Yvette would get him to stop blowing in the wind, and had to know who Jeremy’s sister might end up with. It’s not who I thought so I’m all atwitter over it. The Art of Sinning is a must read for new and old fans alike. It’s a winner.

By the way, I don’t usually mention covers but this one was perfect. I blushed every time I looked at it. I think it was the look in his eyes. That was a perfect Jeremy. ::fans self::

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

STILL
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (336 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life–and her relationship with her family and the world–forever.

Talk about putting things in perspective…

I picked this book up at the urging of my book club. We decided to read this book before the movie came out and discuss what we’d read. The discussion hasn’t taken place yet, but I’m sure there will be a lot to talk about.

Having someone who is currently dealing with Alzheimer’s in my family, I doubly wanted to read this book. I’m both glad I did and very much haunted by it. Many people are in the same situation Alice finds herself in–losing her small memories, like where her keys are, where her Blackberry cord went…little things. But it’s the adding up of those little things and adding of some big things that signals the start of the scary part.

Ms Genova writes Alice in a flowing manner. She’s easy to follow. Soon I was swept up in her story and turning pages as fast as I could read. I was right there with her in the story and seeing through her eyes how it felt to have those mental pieces fall apart. My heart ached for her. My heart ached for her husband. The guy is trying to deal, but being a scientist and an extremely intelligent person, he struggles with how to handle the situation. There currently isn’t a cure and even if he wants to find one, he needs to be there for her. Talk about a tough situation.

I won’t reveal the ending, although I’m sure you can assume, but you will need tissues. If you want a book that will move you, make you look at others through a slightly softer filter and make you appreciate what you’ve got in your own life, then this might be the book for you. But seriously, don’t forget those tissues.

How the Scoundrel Seduces by Sabrina Jeffries

SCOUNDREL
How the Scoundrel Seduces by Sabrina Jeffries
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (392 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Investigator Tristan Bonnaud has one aim in life— to make sure that his half-brother George can’t ever ruin his life again. So when the pesky Lady Zoe Keane, the daughter of the Earl of Olivier, shows up demanding that the Duke’s Men find a mysterious gypsy woman, he seizes the opportunity to also hunt for a gypsy friend who knows secrets about George. Tristan doesn’t expect to uncover Lady Zoe’s family secrets, as well… or end up falling for the woman who will risk all to discover the truth

How the Scoundrel Seduces is a wickedly tangled weave that delighted all my senses. As the story unfolded, I was shocked as to the extent of the poison the villain wielded and I became quite bloodthirsty in wanting his comeuppance. Ms. Jeffries has a devious mind because I had to wait and watch the drama and suspense affect Zoe and Tristan throughout the tale and I couldn’t put the book down.

This novel is a standalone read but I do encourage readers to read the previous two books in the Duke’s Men series, What the Duke Desires and When the Rogue Returns, because the deeds of the villain’s treachery tainted all of them. When the ultimate confrontation occurs in How the Scoundrel Seduces, it’s made that much more powerful by my having read the previous two. In fact, it turns out that there was an unknown victim and tragedy that was perpetrated and it broke my heart.

There is a secret that the blurb mentions about Zoe. What astounded me was the connection it forged with the first book in the series. Even though the Ms. Jeffries does include enough back story for a new reader to understand and follow the current plot, readers and fans of the series will find it especially intriguing because it means the author had to step back and create this whole world while keeping the underlying thread and its effects woven throughout. I’m impressed because she succeeded wonderfully.

I enjoyed Mr. Keane. His character kept me guessing because I didn’t know if he was a good guy or a meanie. He was sharp and I kept thinking he’d be a great asset to the Duke’s Men and then I would question his motives and start worrying for Zoe all over again. Jeremy Keane was a wonderful foil that kept me guessing.

The romance between Tristan and Zoe was full of spark, sauce, sensual seduction and fun. It was a delight to watch their love grow. Of course, one of them was a bit clueless what being in love was all about. It was sweet to see how it all resolved.

Secondary characters were important and made this book feel like I was living in a second world. It helps that the previous heroes and heroines from the first two books pop in to help out. In fact, there are these constant digs directed at Dom about someone named Jane that turns the man into a prune. If the author’s intent is to wiggle a juicy bookworm in front of me, rest assured, I’ve taken the bait. It sounds like a story that needs to be told – if only because Dom is the last bachelor standing. We can’t have that now, can we? *grin*

The happy ever after was wrapped up with surprising poignancy. I never expected it to take the turn it did and because of it, it elevated this story from a good read to a really good read. As hard as the act of forgiving is, the benefits are definitely felt by both the characters and me. It was rather emotional.

How the Scoundrel Seduces captures a reader’s imagination and takes them on a journey of discovery, intrigue and romance. It’s a well written story that is sure to entertain if only because Tristen and Zoe are wonderful together. To historical romance fans and readers of Ms. Jeffries’ books, I definitely recommend reading this, her latest novel. She has another winner.

When the Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jeffries

ROGUE
When the Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jeffries
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (365 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Victor Cale never imagined that his sweet, shy bride, Isabella, would use her talents for creating exquisite imitation jewels criminally. But there’s no denying that her handiwork was used in the theft of the Dutch royal diamonds– right after Isa disappeared into the night.

Ten years later, Victor is sent to Edinburgh to investigate a wealthy baron’s mysterious bride-to-be… who turns out to be Isa, masquerading as an alluring widow. No longer the meek girl he once knew, Isa boldly asserts that it was Victor who abandoned her, after he helped steal the royal diamonds!

Piecing together the truth of the past reawakens their volatile passions, which burns hotter than ever. But with a decade of secrets between them, Victor and Isa must trust each other to bring the real thieves to justice– without getting burned themselves.

I love it when a plan comes together. I enjoy it even more when the plan is against someone who believes that they are unstoppable and who have no compunction in using people to get their way. What this one person did many years ago ended up destroying the lives of two young people in love and this story is how they get their lives back. It’s also about how they relearned to love the people they’ve become and like the mighty phoenix, rise from the ashes of the past to embrace a glorious future. It’s the journey of getting from A to B that makes this book an amazing read.

I absolutely adore the heroine, Isa, in this tale. It’s because of how Ms. Jeffries wrote her character that made the difference from a humdrum run of the mill type historical heroine to a woman I can respect, cheer for and be impressed with. Isa is not weak, meek or easily lead. At least, the woman she became isn’t. A reader is first introduced to her when she was innocent, trusting and easily manipulated. Even though it was a drastic measure that set her apart from the people who destroyed the life she had, she’s made her own life, on her own terms and doing a deuced fine job of it. The heroine, when the story really gets going, is woman fully grown and wise to the world. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly, has gained wisdom beyond her years and is a person worth knowing. In short, she’s worthy of the hero.

If anyone has been reading that past few books that Ms. Jeffries wrote, they might remember Victor. He’s come a long way and his story is one I looked forward to reading. In this book, I got to see him as he was early in life, and then when he and Isa are reunited, I saw a man also fully grown, come into his own but for the hero, there’s a lot of bitterness, anger, determination and obsession driving him. He’s also a man of lethal talents and he intends to right a wrong. Except the wrong he intended to right isn’t the one he ends up tackling. That plot twist was divine and thoroughly exciting.

When the book has the two protagonists finally come together and truths are revealed, the book could have fallen apart right there. Why? Because that was the pivotal moment where the author could have had Isa behave as many authors do – and I would have thrown the book at the wall. Instead I was cheering and grinning and I would have given Isa a bear hug if I could have done so. Isa stayed strong. All the lessons she learned, all the beliefs she had and the love she had for Victor gave her a strength that not only did she not shy away from, but used it to good effect. If ever there was a perfect moment in time for a lady to use profanity, it was used to the ultimate good. I felt like saying, “You go girl!” ::fist pump:: I do not believe I have ever felt prouder of an historical heroine as I did at that moment. From that scene on she was my girl. That was how a heroine should be and in my mind, Isa has a theme song, Stand by Your Man by Tammy Wynette. Totally awesome.

Secondary characters are key. Everyone who was in Victor’s or Isa’s life played a role in helping them come together and in dealing with, in a most exciting and effective way, the villains. One of the villains was especially cruel because of the kind of betrayal perpetuated. There was a certain wisdom in how Ms. Jeffries had Isa and Victor choose to deal with it. In a way, it was very noble to give a choice when they’d not given any to Isa or Victor. Showed who had real class and honor.

After being away from each other so long, I was thrilled with how the author handled their rekindled passion. It was like they had to seduce each other all over again, but this time around, there is no blushing bride and awkward groom but a woman and man who know what they like and aren’t shy about going for it. It was steamy, charming, spicy and delightful all at once. The flowers were an over-the-top gesture that just oozed romance. I thought it rather sweet.

The culmination of the plan was very exciting and dare I say it, set the hook for the next of the Duke’s Men to fall into love’s trap. And if the heroine is as feisty as she was in the scene she barreled into, I’m going to be an impatient reader waiting for it. It promises to be very entertaining indeed!

Some readers might think that the risk of telling as many people as Isa did about her whole sordid past and not have even one person think badly or act against her is a trifle too goody-goody but as far as I’m concerned it stood as a testament to the life she’d lived, the woman she’d become and the respect she’d earned by interacting with them. I didn’t think it was unbelievable at all.

Ms. Jeffries has a solid reputation of delivering a high quality story about well-developed characters and a knack for making them a delight to know and read about. When the Rogue Returns is a reinforcement of that well-earned accolade. This is a thoroughly entertaining historical romance that new and old fans should absolutely try. I loved how the author wrapped up the “happy ever after”, making my reading experience complete. This book is definitely getting a high recommend from me.

What the Duke Desires by Sabrina Jeffries

DUKE
What the Duke Desires by Sabrina Jeffries
Publisher: Pocket Books/ Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons, long ago buried his grief for his missing elder brother, Peter, who was presumed dead after being kidnapped. When a mysterious note arrives from Tristan Bonnaud asserting that the Duke’s brother is alive, it leads Max straight to the winsome Lisette Bonnaud, illegitimate daughter of a viscount and Tristan’s sister. Soon he and Lisette are traveling to Paris posing as husband and wife, in search of Tristan, who has disappeared. And the longer he spends with Lisette, the easier it is for Max to see that the line between dukedom and desire is easier to cross than heimagined . . .

If a book can be chosen to be read on only the strength of the prologue, then I’d vote for What the Duke Desires. The premise of the external conflict that taunts and flavors most of the book is found right there. The familial ties and the reasons they are so strong are present in bold clarity. The actions that occur in that short chapter drive the main protagonists into the lives they eventually live. And despite the horror of the beginning, triumph, happiness and justice eventually prevail. The question was, ‘how?’. The story that followed was nothing short of spectacular and all my questions were answered.

Ms. Jeffries knows how to create a villain. I didn’t like him one whit. The author also knows how to create a mystery whose solving ends up introducing surprises, twists and an unexpected boon. Sometimes I knew things the characters didn’t and sometimes they knew things that the author only revealed to me when she wanted to. I never guessed who was who and who he ended up being was still pretty darned cool. Am I being ambiguous? If I had to read through the whole thing to find out the truth, so will a reader have to. It’s worth it.

Plots that go awry make me smile. Lisette’s great idea ended up not so wonderful in actual practice, but it sure started in motion a unique and fascinating romance. It took me on a grand journey filled with adventures and revelations. Each step of the way showcased the strengths and weaknesses of both Max, the hero, and Lisette, the irrepressible heroine.

The internal dialogue of both Lisette and Max was oftentimes enlightening but many times humorous. I had fun watching the heroine fall under the charms of the hero. Neither one set out to seduce or be seduced but that’s what happens. It was great entertainment.

A secondary character played an integral part of moving the conflict and the romance along. It was amazing to see the spurt of jealousy that tore through Max. Equally amusing was when he actually met the guy. I really liked the fact that this character is based on an actual historical figure. It leant a certain firmness and believability to the tale.

Emotions were very much present in this novel. The lead characters had theirs trampled, lifted, dashed and healed. Every time something momentous happened, I felt right along with them. That is high praise and due to the effective writing skills of Ms. Jeffries. The dialogue was great and the romance was perfect. Well, perfect that it ended with a happy ever after. The journey was far from perfect while the hero and heroine learned about each other. The ramifications of the truths they discovered had them saying hurtful things. That’s only human and the best part is the making up. I liked that. But there is more to a happy ever after then just the romance portion. Something else happened to Max, and it made it a bittersweet kind of happy. It was healing and hopeful. I was very pleased.

What the Duke Desires is a passion-filled adventure that has humor, action, and devious storytelling. This is a busy book with a lot of intrigue and surprises to keep the pages flipping. I enjoyed the moments of wit and fun intermixed with the more serious aspects of solving the mystery. I’m most especially happy for Max because he’s finally finding peace with his role as duke. And it’s all thanks to a crazy plot from an unusual heroine, Lisette. I wonder if Tristan’s story is going to be next. If so, it’s going to be another auto-buy because in this story, he seemed synonymous with the word, trouble. How can I resist a potential hero like that?

To Wed a Wild Lord by Sabrina Jeffries

To Wed a Wild Lord by Sabrina Jeffries
Publisher: Pocket Star Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (310 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Drowning in guilt over his best friend’s death seven years ago, Lord Gabriel Sharpe, the Angel of Death, knows his only hope at redemption is a race against a shocking opponent.

Shrouded in darkness for the past seven years, the infamous racer Lord Gabriel Sharpe is known to accept every challenge to race thrown at him. When his next challenge comes in the form of his late best friend’s sister, Virginia Waverly, Gabe is shocked. Yet she presents just the opportunity Gabe needs–marriage to fulfill his grandmother’s ultimatum and ensure his inheritance. What he didn’t count on was needing her love.

And the mystery deepens as another Sharpe has fallen onto the rocky and exciting path of love. Ms. Jeffries once again has entertained and amazed with a romance that seemed doomed from the start only to reveal to readers how perfect and wonderful Virginia Waverly is for Lord Gabriel Sharpe. What a ride!

Anyone who has been following the series will be intrigued by the hints and hazy clues revealed in the beginning of the book. It touches on the overall story arc that is being woven through all of the standalone books in the series. To Wed a Wild Lord is definitely a book that a new reader can get into without fear of feeling lost or uninformed. Everything needed to understand both the underlying mystery and the current turbulent relationship between Gabriel and Virginia is well presented in a natural manner, as though hearing about it for the first time. Yet there is enough there to whet a reader’s appetite to perhaps go back and read the ones that came before. It’s worth it.

In this installment, I got to know what makes Virginia tick and that she’s not so adverse to Gabriel’s attentions, in spite of all the naysayers. I enjoyed how she got carried away with passion and had to face some truths about herself and her motivations.

Gabriel is known as the Angel of Death. It’s a cover that he hides behind but it’s not until he becomes truly serious about Virginia that he figures out what he’s been doing and running from all these years. The journey to when he gets to that part is at times nerve wracking, humorous, sentimental and frustrating. He’s a very conflicted man … until he finally realizes what is important in life. It’s at that point when things get really interesting – when Gabriel faces the greatest challenge of his life – to win Virginia’s love.

The biggest roadblock to the protagonists happy ever after isn’t so much their own internal conflicts, but the web of lies and assumptions that rise up from the past to deal hefty emotional blows. Jealousy and spite from others try to poison their happiness from the beginning, but it turns out that Virginia isn’t a weak minded woman nor is Gabriel that far gone in his quest to run from his demons. They eventually find the strength they need to persevere in each other and together, solve and put to rest something that has haunted both their lives for years. It’s tragic and heartfelt, but healing too.

Secondary characters abound to help keep the plot moving and the hero and heroine motivated. My favorite is Gabriel’s manipulative grandmother, Hetty. There’s a little letter from her in the beginning of the book. After I was done reading, I went back and re-read it — and laughed. There was a hint in there about a possible love interest that was so subtle I missed it. I found it endearing when I realized just whom it might be about. And I know I’m going to enjoy seeing what Ms. Jefferies is going to do about that. Other characters are not so sanguine and brought about some light but effective drama.

The happy ever after is sweet and so satisfying. To Wed a Wild Lord is sheer delight and a romance that hits all the high notes to perfection. It was riveting to the point that I read it in one sitting – a true page turner. Why? Because I so enjoyed Gabriel and Virginia falling in love and the author kept me guessing as to what it was going to take to make the hero see the light – the light of his life. The story embraces romance at its best and was a treat to read. Pick up a copy and see for yourself.