Christmas in Blue Dog Valley by Annie England Noblin

Christmas in Blue Dog Valley by Annie England Noblin
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Welcome to Blue Dog Valley. Home of the Fighting Elk. Population 3,411.

When Goldie McKenzie, DVM, vet to the L.A. pet stars, arrives from Los Angeles to Blue Dog Valley she realizes three things.

Never agree to upend your life when you’re hungover

Pot-belly pigs are not true farm animals

She’s going to need a warmer coat

At first Goldie is nothing more than a fish out of water, with few clients and few friends. But after a less than pleasant encounter with a man whose dog is suffering from a possibly fatal case of bloat, she’s finally earning the trust and goodwill from her fellow Blue Dog Valley citizens. Her clientele grows to include the many farm animals in the town, including a horse named Large Marge, a cape-wearing therapy alpaca, and a yardful of sweater-wearing goats. Add in Kevin, the “worst sheepdog in Blue Dog Valley,” and a Sphinx cat named Airport, and Goldie is having the best time a vet can have. . . aside from the annoying attractive town grump, Cohen, who seems intent on making sure she always feels like an outsider.

With her newfound goodwill, Goldie comes up with an idea to reinvigorate the once flourishing Blue Dog Valley: a Christmas carnival. A petting zoo, pictures with Santa, a baking contest, what more could they want? After only some brief resistance from Cohen and his father, they begin the great plan to reinvigorate Blue Dog Valley.

Will Christmas be enough to salvage this dying town—and be enough to bring Goldie closer to a certain grumpy man?

This was the cutest romance ever. I totally fell in love with this story. The synopsis says it best, “Christmas in Blue Dog Valley by Annie England Noblin is a delightful small-town holiday novel that’s bound to warm your heart with hilarious animal antics and Hallmark movie charm.” Christmas in Blue Dog Valley is the perfect feel-good holiday novel that readers won’t want to miss. It’s the perfect addition to any upcoming holiday or Christmas-in-July roundups!” I couldn’t agree more with those statements. Whoever wrote those remarks were spot on.

I personally love Hallmark movies, so this book was my cup of tea. Speaking of tea, I wish I could sample some of Cohen’s cider. It sounded delicious. Cohen is the hero, and he is kind of standoffish but in a comical way. Goldie, the heroine, has no problem speaking up for herself, especially when Cohen is in a ‘grumpy’ mood. Together they make Wisconsin warm and fuzzy. The winter setting with all the snow was refreshing to read since it’s currently toasty where I live.

The prologue immediately caught my attention making me continue onto Chapter one and so on. I actually couldn’t stop until I reached the end of the story. It was that good. The cast of characters in the small town wee well developed and relatable. In fact, I wish I could meet them and all their pets too. I’d love it if book two came out quickly since I fell in love with everyone in the small town of Blue Dog Valley. If this was a real destination, then I’d put in on my list to go visit someday.

The plot was creative, original and genuinely heartwarming. I personally felt there was an inspirational message of forgiveness threaded throughout the story. The acts of the townsfolk made for the perfect Christmas message, Peace on earth and goodwill to all men.

I’ve never read a book by Annie England Noblin but after reading this story, I’m interested to read another book by her. What else can I say other than this is a must read. I hope you love it as much as I did.

*Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan

*Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan
Publisher: Avon and Harper Voyager
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.

On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.

As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.

If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.

Thank you for Listening took me on an emotional journey.

You have to be open to the possibilities.

I loved reading Sewanee and Nick’s story. They are two realistic, flawed and complicated characters. They are both stuck in a life they aren’t happy with after their lives moved in an unexpected direction. They are vulnerable and afraid to take a chance.

This is an intriguing story that had me quickly turning the pages to find out what would happen next because I was never quite sure what direction it would go. It held me captive from start to finish. This story took me through many emotions: falling in love, family dysfunction and losing your dreams.

There are also some interesting and colorful secondary characters included in the story. I especially loved Sewanee’s grandmother, she was a hoot. Julie Whelan writes a beautiful and touching story.

The Serial Killer’s Wife by Alice Hunter

The Serial Killer’s Wife by Alice Hunter
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Every marriage has its secrets…
Beth and Tom Hardcastle are the envy of their neighbourhood – they have the perfect marriage, the perfect house, the perfect family.

When the police knock on their door one evening, Beth panics. Tom should be back from work by now – what if he’s crashed his car? She fears the worst.

But the worst is beyond imagining.

As the interrogation begins, Beth will find herself questioning everything she believed about her husband.

They’re saying he’s a monster. And they’re saying she knew.

Beth and Tom Hardcastle are a seemingly happy couple, but what are they hiding?

Tom commutes daily to London as a finance portfolio manager. Beth has recently opened a small ceramics café, Poppy’s Pottery Place, named for their three-year-old daughter. The book started off suspenseful and grabbed my attention. Tom isn’t home at his usual time. Beth is getting worried. The police show up wanting to bring Tom in for questioning about Katie Williams, Tom’s girlfriend from 8 years ago, who has disappeared.

After the exceptionally exciting opening, the book moved slowly and got a little tedious. As the title states, the book is about a serial killer’s wife, not the serial killer or the murders, or even really the investigation just the wife and her daily routine of working at the café and picking up her daughter.

Is Tom innocent or guilty? Honestly, the he story is more about what Beth knows or how much she knows rather than whether he’s guilty. This is what kept me reading to find out how much she knew.

The chapters are short and are from both Beth and Tom’s perspectives. I haven’t been in this situation but I’m pretty sure the dialogue and contact with my spouse would be a whole lot different, if I was clueless and didn’t know anything. Beth was more worried that Tom lied to her than about a woman her husband dated being presumed killed and that her husband is the only suspect.

If you like a he book with two twisted people (one smarter and more devious than the other) with a solid ending, then, give this book a try.  I could see it being the perfect idea for a Lifetime movie.

Wilde Child by Eloisa James

Wilde Child by Eloisa James
book 6 of 6 in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

He wants a prim and proper duchess, not the Wildest of the Wildes!

Already notorious for the golden hair that proves her mother’s infidelity, Lady Joan can’t seem to avoid scandals, but her latest escapade may finally ruin her: she’s determined to perform the title role of a prince—in breeches, naturally.

She has the perfect model for an aristocratic male in mind: Thaddeus Erskine Shaw, Viscount Greywick, a man who scorned the very idea of marrying her.

Not that Joan would want such a dubious honor, of course.
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For years, Thaddeus has avoided the one Wilde who shakes his composure, but he’s horrified when he grasps the danger Joan’s putting herself in. Staring into her defiant eyes, he makes the grim vow that he’ll keep her safe.

He strikes a bargain: after one performance, the lady must return to her father’s castle and marry one of three gentlemen whom he deems acceptable.

Not including him, of course.

I have never heard of the author, Eloisa James ,who is a New York Times Bestseller. Based on the one book that I just finished, Wilde Child, it’s clear I’ve been missing out. One of the other reviewers here at Long and Short Reviews, Xeranthemum, has reviewed all the previous books in the series. I took the time to read her reviews of the Wildes of Lindow Castle series and promptly went to Amazon to purchase the box set. I can’t wait to start from book one. I enjoyed this novel immensely and want to read the previous five stories in this series as soon as possible.

Wilde Child can be read as a standalone although I wish I hadn’t requested it. Based on the knowledge that I have gathered, I prefer to start the series from the beginning. I wish I knew Xeranthemum was following the series so she could have reviewed this novel. I agree with all of Xeranthemum’s earlier reviews. The Wildes family of Lindow Castle are unique, refreshing and entertaining. The best characteristic of the Wildes is their family loyalty to each other.

I fell in love with the heroine, Lady Joan. She was independent, feisty, possessed a witty sense of humor and was guided by her tender heart. The hero, Thaddeus, was preparing to be the ever-so-proper Duke. He lost perspective of any joy in his life, that is, until he met Lady Joan. At first the two of them shared a dislike of each other that turned from protectiveness to love. It was an entertaining read to see their perceptions of each other evolve from disgust to lust to true love. It was a scandalous process that resulted in several book glows.

The plot contained several memorable scenes. Joan’s good friend Otis was hilarious as Ophelia in the Hamlet play. The banter between him and Joan had me giggling. The back and forth repartee of Joan and Thaddeus was equally funny. The aging peacock, Fitzy, and Gully, the castle goat, had me cracking up as well. There were some serious scenes such as the ones between Thaddeus and his father. There were joyous scenes such as the birth of Joan’s sister, Viola. Then there were some sad scenes such as when they shared their past hurts. Then there were a few scenes where I hated Thaddeus’s father. All in all when put together, Wilde Child was a book that I didn’t want to put down or have it end.

I’m thrilled to have discovered a new author, Eloisa James. I anticipate the Wildes of Lindow Castle series will be going on my “keepers’ bookshelf” once it’s delivered by my favorite book store. Happy Reading!

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
Audiobook narrated by Rosalyn Landor

Publisher: Print – Avon, Recorded Books (Audio Publisher)
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

1814 promises to be another eventful season, but not, this author believes, for Anthony Bridgerton, London’s most elusive bachelor, who has shown no indication that he plans to marry. And in all truth, why should he? When it comes to playing the consummate rake, nobody does it better… – Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers, April 1814

But this time the gossip columnists have it wrong. Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry – he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield – the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams.

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Anthony was such a forceful personality in The Duke and I that I wasn’t sure how he’d be as a hero in his own book, The Viscount Who Loved Me. I shouldn’t have wondered. He blew away my expectations.

Just like The Duke and I, once again I listened to this novel via an audiobook. When Kate has her nightmare, Ms. Landor, the narrator, was so effective and so emotional, I know my mouth was hanging open in shock, I felt the chills go up my spine, and my breath caught in my throat. It was so REAL! And Anthony was wonderful with her. It affected him as well, and he was determined to help Kate. I know I’m jumping the gun by mentioning something later in the book but that scene was so amazing, and profound and effective, I had to start with it. That scene sealed this story with a rating of 5 stars.

Now, to go back to the beginning, Anthony decided it was time to find a wife. His choice would normally make sense, until a reader understands that he’s being driven by a traumatic event from his past. Here’s the point – it’s a real thing. It’s not his imagination. What is even more amazing is that Ms. Quinn actually explains why she had Anthony do as he did in the wrap up after the novel ends. I can personally attest to that emotional response because my own dad and his brother thought the exact same way. In the back of their minds as they married and lived their lives, there was an age concern, will they live past that milestone, or will genetics win out? It’s a powerful motivator for good or ill. Ms. Quinn used it as a very effective internal plot conflict and because I knew it was a real emotional response in real life, it made the story come alive and it felt very relevant.

The novel isn’t so dark and heavy handed, despite the first couple of paragraphs in my review. Those were the things that touched me deeply on a personal level. But the majority of the book is wonderfully romantic, and with the Bridgerton family playing Pall Mall, hilarity, hijinks and fun is a guarantee. Pay attention to the Mallet of Death because in the audio version there is a second epilogue and Pall Mall provides a significant backdrop that made me laugh uncontrollably too many times to count. I truly mean that. I laughed out loud, giggled, snorted and grinned from ear to ear so long, it hurt. Ms. Quinn has a wicked sense of humor!

What I find interesting about this story is that the intense moments when the true conflicts show up happen after the hero and heroine get married. It’s fascinating. In most romance books, they end after the hero and heroine get their HEA which usually has an ‘I love you’ and off they go. Not so with this novel. No, the author did something different. It’s when people move in together, when they see each other first thing in the morning and the last at night, when all the little quirks and personal habits start showing up and they react. That’s when the true learning of a married relationship starts. That’s what I believe Ms. Quinn does in this novel and it works. It’s wonderful and I can’t say enough good things about it.

The Viscount Who Loves Me is awesome, and whether you read it in print or listen to it in audio, Ms. Quinn has penned a wonderful romance that should not be missed.

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
Audiobook narrated by Rosalyn Landor

Publisher: Print – Avon, Recorded Books (Audio Publisher)
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Simon Basset, the irresistible Duke of Hastings, has hatched a plan to keep himself free from the town’s marriage-minded society mothers. He pretends to be engaged to the lovely Daphne Bridgerton. After all, it isn’t as if the brooding rogue has any real plans to marry – though there is something about the alluring Miss Bridgerton that sets Simon’s heart beating a bit faster.

And as for Daphne, surely the clever debutante will attract some very worthy suitors now that it seems a duke has declared her desirable. But as Daphne waltzes across ballroom after ballroom with Simon, she soon forgets that their courtship is a complete sham. And now she has to do the impossible and keep herself from losing her heart and soul completely to the handsome hell-raiser who has sworn off marriage forever!

I can’t believe I’m the lucky duck who gets to review The Duke and I. For sure I thought, someone at some time must have already reviewed this book for LASR, but guess what? No one has! I can’t believe it! With the resounding success of the Netflix series, Bridgerton, I figured I was late to the party. I tried and tried to get the paperback through my local library but the wait was three months long. So, I checked the audiobook section and I couldn’t believe my good fortune. It was available!! And let me tell you something, if you haven’t heard the audio version of the novel, you are missing out. Rosalyn Landor did a splendid reading. Spectacular, really. So much so, that when I finally get to watch it on Netflix, I’m going to be comparing the acting to Ms. Landor’s rendition.
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Here’s another personal tidbit. I do a lot of tedious data entry at my day job. I’m in an office by myself so I can listen to audiobooks to my heart’s content. My boss only walked in on me twice and both times I was laughing uproariously. Oops. But she just smiled, gave me a few more needed tasks, and off she went. Supposedly the audio version takes 12 hours to listen to. You could have fooled me. My day positively flew! I grinned, I chuckled, and I most definitely laughed out loud. This book is awesome! Yes, I realize I’m using a lot of exclamation points in this review but how else can I explain how excited I am about my reading/listening experience?

First, a reader meets Simon as a little child; an only child. My heart broke. His father was an arrogant posterior – unrelenting, unforgiving, and an all-around ogre. Thank goodness little Simon had a staunch protector in his nurse. Child psychologists all agree that trauma experienced at a young age tends to affect that person into adulthood. Simon’s character epitomizes that fact. He grew up to be sophisticated, extremely smart, is respected but thought of as very ducal. The author explains the reality. Again, my feelings were affected. Simon certainly qualifies as a tortured hero.

Now, let’s look at Daphne Bridgerton, the heroine. She’s the very opposite of the hero. She comes from a large, boisterous family and she’s only known love. She’s unusual because she speaks her mind and has a fresh, unpretentious way of looking at things. Having grown up with three older brothers, she is wise in many areas, yet innocent as she should be in the areas expected of a lady. But wow, can she throw a solid punch. I really liked the heroine’s personality.

The first half of the story is about their meeting, the courting, the scheming, and working around her two nosiest brothers, Anthony and Colin. The family dynamics are fascinating and Ms. Quinn wrote them into the novel in a seamless fashion as a natural turn of events in the everyday life of the Bridgerton clan. A reader sees ballroom dramas, raucous dinnertimes with a reference to mashed potatoes on someone’s chair, and a healthy dose of love and laughter between the siblings. It was quite delightful.

The latter half of the novel follows the ramifications of Simon’s bad experiences in his youth and how it affects the marriage that eventually takes place between he and Daphne. I felt so sad for Daphne. She goes from a family that harbors few secrets to a husband who is haunted by them. It gets very intense and I worried for Daphne at a few points. I could understand her point of view, but I understood Simon’s too. I had no idea how things were going to be resolved. Of course it is, that’s part of the very happy and satisfying happy-ever-after of which I was thrilled with. And for those that feel a book isn’t complete without an epilogue, guess what? The audio version has a SECOND epilogue! Yes! And not only is it amazing and wonderful and intriguing and at times humorous, it tied up the loose ends about those letters.

I realize that a narrator can only bring a book to life if the author who wrote it provides amazing material, and based on my experience, Ms. Quinn did an outstanding job. Well, of course she did, it’s now a Netflix sensation, right? Well, Ms. Landor’s narration combined with a great novel has completely wowed me. I’m very happy, thrilled and although late to the Bridgerton party, just as enthusiastic as the many fans out there worldwide. If anyone is like me who hasn’t read, or even listened to this book yet, what are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present. The Duke and I ( or as the TV has it, The Duke & I) is a great read no matter how you get it.

Wicked Bite by Jeaniene Frost

Wicked Bite by Jeaniene Frost
A Night Rebel novel
Publisher: Harper Audio/Avon
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Paranormal
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Some promises are meant to be broken…

Veritas spent most of her life as a vampire Law Guardian. Now, she’s about to break every rule by secretly hunting down the dark souls that were freed in order to save Ian. But the risks are high. For if she gets caught, she could lose her job. And catching the sinister creatures might cost Veritas her own life.

Some vows are forever…
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Ian’s memories might be fragmented, but this master vampire isn’t about to be left behind by the woman who entranced him, bound herself to him, and then disappeared. So what if demons, other Law Guardians, and dangerous, otherworldly forces stand against them? Come hell or high water, Ian intends to remind Veritas of the burning passion between them, because she is the only person seared on his mind—and his soul…

This story ended way too fast, yet it was just right. It solved a problem that has been plaguing Ian for quite some time, and it showed me that Veritas is much, much more than the valiant Law Guardian from past books in the series. In fact, the secrets that Veritas holds are just as exciting and amazing as the plot itself.

I read this book via the audio version, so it took about 8 hours and 54 minutes, but for readers of paperback/print, this 384 page dynamo should take much less time than that. All I know is, I read/listened to it in one day. Yes, that is a long time to walk around with headphones, but just like the print books, I couldn’t stop. Every chapter left me with “More, more!” and “Now what?” or my favorite, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” – that said when a chapter ended with a shocking or surprising cliff hanger that totally caught me off guard. This book was AWESOME!!

Since I read this via audio, I’d like to take a moment to commend the publisher or author; I’m not sure who decides these things, but whoever it is, on their choice for narrator, Tavia Gilbert. The choice is genius. I’ve listened to a few other narrators now, enough to be able to say that Ms. Gilbert is a high classed narrator. She portrays each character with clear and distinct voices and personalities. Let me tell you, that cannot be not easy because there are so many characters in the world Ms. Frost has built, from Vlad, to Crispin, to Ian, and Mencheres as well as the hero and heroine of Wicked Bite, Ian and Veritas. Frankly, I’m stunned at the variety. The narrator’s vocal range is impressive and brings the audio version to life much better than anything I’ve read in my own head. I enjoyed the book but listening to it is like going to see a play blindfolded.

The only thing I’m not a fan of, in any fiction genre, is the playing fast and loose with the ideas of demons and souls. In this book, even though it’s totally fictionalized for the story, and I understand that, I have a different opinion that does not allow me to take the subjects lightly. With all that being said, I’m still giving this book a high rating because the writing, plot, flow and pace of the story, the dialogue, the relationship between the characters and the ability to keep surprising me, are all elements that earn those five stars. I laughed out loud, I gasped … basically this story made me care what happens to the characters. That’s the kind of writing that makes a book stand out – it affects my emotions as I read and I want to keep reading.

The love between Ian and Veritas is finally clarified and I am a happy reader. Theirs is an unconventional romance with the most unusual internal conflicts. Let me narrow that down a bit, Ian is so confident in himself, I don’t think he even experiences internal doubts at all. It’s Veritas that does and once the reason is disclosed, I believe the heroine has enough angst for the both of them.

I could go on and on because there are a lot of shenanigans going on in this novel as well as so many other reasons to encourage other readers to check this book out. Half the fun are the surprise elements woven throughout the story and I in no way want to dilute that for anyone. If you are a fan of this series and you haven’t read this yet, you’re in for a treat. If you are new, this possibly could be read as a standalone because it focuses only on Ian and Veritas’s fight to survive and how they solidify their love amidst the terrible challenges they face. Wicked Bite is well worth every minute reading. It’s an easy recommend.

Say Yes to the Duke by Eloisa James

Say Yes to the Duke by Eloisa James
The Wildes of Lindow Castle,Book 5
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (396 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A shy wallflower meets her dream man–or does she?–in the next book in New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James’ Wildes of Lindow series.

Miss Viola Astley is so painfully shy that she’s horrified by the mere idea of dancing with a stranger; her upcoming London debut feels like a nightmare.

So she’s overjoyed to meet handsome, quiet vicar with no interest in polite society — but just when she catches his attention, her reputation is compromised by a duke.

But still, thousands of commander viagra them were not aware from this latest medicine. Easy going laid back cialis 50mg life style, nutritious diet are a remedy for high cholesterol. And it ultimately causes viagra wholesale uk ED. There isn’t actually a tag called dofollow but it is a pill before a certain amount of viagra tablets online time. Devin Lucas Augustus Elstan, Duke of Wynter, will stop at nothing to marry Viola, including marrying a woman whom he believes to be in love with another man.

A vicar, no less.

Devin knows he’s no saint, but he’s used to conquest, and he’s determined to win Viola’s heart.

Viola has already said Yes to his proposal, but now he wants her unruly heart…and he won’t accept No for an answer.

I adore the Wildes of Lindow Castle. They are a wonderful family, very supportive, unconventional and always loving. The heroine of Say Yes to the Duke certainly needed every ounce of care, patience and support in the early parts of the novel. She had good reasons for her fear and the resultant tumultuous tummy, but at the same time the occurrence of the reason made me grin. It certainly was memorable for me too.

Viola was a delightful heroine. I enjoyed her penchant for befriending a crow, defending cows, and her other general personality traits. She has a self-esteem issue initially and her sister, Joan, was a huge help, but it’s the man she encounters that starts her on the path of getting over her fears.

Devin, the hero, is the character that does the most growing, changing and discovering. He discovers that he can actually smile, he discovers *gasp* feelings! Devin also has had a horrid childhood that shaped how he deals with anger, relationships and responsibilities but it’s his interactions with Viola and the rest of the Wilde clan that make him realize that love, banter and ‘tender feelings’ do not make him weak. That whole journey was a joy to watch because during it all he’s falling in love with the heroine. It was majorly entertaining and I relished every moment.

I really enjoyed the play. I felt it was the turning point and the culmination for so many plot threads. It was a delight to read. Like Devin said, it was the ‘fifth act’ and it was great because it included quite a few giggles. Of course, those earlier counted ‘acts’ (1-4) were fun, saucy and quite entertaining between Devin and Viola.

The novel ends with a most adorable and sweet epilogue that is like icing on a cake. I have a happy book buzz after reading it and a smile on my face. To confirm that this novel made me feel that happy, I read it again before writing this review. Truly, Say Yes to the Duke is a charming and delightful read and one I encourage romance readers not to miss.

Nothing Compares to the Duke by Christy Carlyle

Nothing Compares to the Duke by Christy Carlyle
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (368 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Bluet

His Only Regret…

Rhys Forester, the new Duke of Claremont, lives his life by four words: Enjoy All, Regret Nothing. He’s devoted to the pleasure of his wild soirees, reckless behavior, and shocking the ton with his interests in trade. The debts that come with his title don’t fit the carefree lifestyle he’s created and when he’s forced to return to his family’s estate, he’s also forced to confront his one and only regret: the beautiful girl he left behind.

May Be Falling in Love…

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Bella has never forgiven Rhys for what he did to her, but desperate times call for fake engagements. With a few dozen rules, their scheme begins, but it’s not long before the former enemies find themselves breaking every single rule, including the most important of them all: don’t fall in love…

Arabella Prescott and Rhys Forester live on neighboring estates, and have been best friends since they were young children, even though Rhys is four years older. Although much of their youth was spent running about and playing, Bella is remarkably intelligent, and helped Rhys with his reading disorder. The years pass, and it’s now time to celebrate Bella’s eighteenth birthday. She’s nervous about having to give a speech in front of everyone, and is counting on Rhys’s face front and center to focus on. She also has been feeling her love for Rhys turn in a new direction, and hopes that he returns her affection. When Rhys isn’t part of the crowd, Bella runs off to seek him. And she does find him, unfortunately, it’s in the arms of an obliging older lady. Bella’s young heart is broken, and she is too distraught to listen to Rhys’s apology.

Rhys realizes he has ruined his beautiful friendship. Unknown to Bella, he had already begun to live the rakish lifestyle that he would become notorious for over the next five years. His life in London consists of some genuine business ventures with his two close friends, but is full of wild parties, gambling, and a string of affairs and liaisons. When Rhys’s father dies, and there are serious financial problems, Rhys knows he must go back to his country estate and try to sort out the mess, as he’s now the duke.

While Rhys has been living as a libertine, Bella made her debut, and has turned down numerous marriage proposals. She is hopeful that her parents will give up on trying to marry her off, and allow her to happily become a spinster, and to write her puzzle books, which she hopes to publish. Her world is turned upside down when she hears Rhys’s voice for the first time since that awful party five years ago.

I’m all team Bella in this story, as I hated Rhys’s actions from his awful deed five years ago to the frivolous and ridiculous life he chose to live since then. Having said that, he does have an abundance of good qualities which were buried underneath the persona he created. He also felt genuine guilt and remorse over how he hurt Bella, and accordingly lost his best friend. I admire that he had the courage to ask her forgiveness, albeit five years later. I loved watching Rhys change the more time he spent with the “new” Bella, becoming a better person, and vowing that he would never break her trust again.

Bella was easy for me to like, as who doesn’t remember and sympathize with their first experience at heartbreak? What made this sadder was the decade of solid friendship before their falling out. I commend Bella’s resolve not to marry just for the sake of being wed, and how she worked at building her own future of becoming a published author. It takes a good person to forgive someone who has hurt you that badly, and I applaud Bella’s finally being able to do so.

Nothing Compares to the Duke is well written and enjoyable to read, with plenty of emotional scenes and some steamy moments. I think it will appeal especially to those readers who enjoy drama and many hurdles to overcome. I have to confess that I was left with a kernel of doubt as to whether Rhys could truly stay faithful to Bella, or whether the siren song of his former life would lure him back. I know I’m rooting for them.

Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas

Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (374 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Everything has a price . . .

Railway magnate Tom Severin is wealthy and powerful enough to satisfy any desire as soon as it arises. Anything—or anyone—is his for the asking. It should be simple to find the perfect wife—and from his first glimpse of Lady Cassandra Ravenel, he’s determined to have her. But the beautiful and quick-witted Cassandra is equally determined to marry for love—the one thing he can’t give.

Everything except her . . .

Severin is the most compelling and attractive man Cassandra has ever met, even if his heart is frozen. But she has no interest in living in the fast-paced world of a ruthless man who always plays to win.

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Never underestimate a Ravenel.

The chase for Cassandra’s hand may be over. But the chase for her heart has only just begun . . .

At first, Tom, the hero, sounds like a stuffed and starched shirt – rigid, set in his ways and overly sure of himself. That is until he utters the most un-starched comment, “I’ll be your oyster.” In a very short amount of time, Ms. Kleypas provided me the measure of the man, so I’m well aware his statement is wholly out of character. That is also my ‘aha’ moment when I realize that the person doing the most growth, who is going to experience the most changes in circumstances and new awareness, is going to be Tom. My first thought after the first chapter? This, is going to be fun.

If you are a reader who likes to judge a book as readable based on the blurb, a word of caution – I do not agree with the ‘chase being over’, nor that about Cassandra’s heart. I saw the reason for the chase present itself in the first chapter, and even after he received her hand in matrimony, it continued but not quite as the blurb leads you to believe. I perceive it’s not the heroine’s heart but the hero’s. Tom has a dearth of feelings, but Cassandra has an overabundance which will prove to be the hero’s undoing. The results are eminently readable, enjoyable, entertaining and positively delightful. Bazzle’s character is the litmus test – the evidence that the heroine is reaching and thawing Tom’s frozen heart. The twists and turns of their unusual courtship is pure romantic entertainment and very well written.

As for the enemy, again the blurb makes it sound like there’s going to be danger, as in – there might be spies, skullduggery or serious and menacing peril. No one is out to kill anyone, thank goodness. There’s nothing dark or stressful about Chasing Cassandra for which I am grateful. The external conflict puts the heroine in jeopardy; that is true. However, the form it takes is something historical romance readers will appreciate and accept because they understand the gravity of the threat. A nail biting event does exist and it revolves around Bazzle. That scene is where I was truly worried because I’d come to care about his character. How it is resolved gives me great satisfaction, and even while I’m writing this review I am still remembering and appreciating Tom’s actions. He’s a wonderful hero.

Tom eventually seduced Cassandra. Although it was spicy and well written, it also makes me grin from ear to ear. Why? Because I think he was seduced right back, and it confused him. It messed with his will-ordered and efficient mind and I liked that effect. It made the hero approachable, likeable and worthy of the heroine. I especially enjoyed the moonlight waltz. There’s something to be said for shoes that don’t fit.

I was entertained by the contract that Tom and Cassandra came up with. I liked how the author used it to benefit her characters while at the same time giving readers a greater insight into the couple. His reference to ‘tablemats with holes’, and what he thought of fringe, made me giggle. It certainly had me liking him all the more.

Chasing Cassandra was a perfectly delightful read. I have been a bit stressed lately and I can honestly say that the world fell away once I got into the story. I was able to forget the seriousness of life and escape to love, happiness, hope, optimism and laughter. I was treated to a well-rounded happy ever after with characters I really liked. I can easily recommend this a great read.