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

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.

It’s Hard Out Here for a Duke by Maya Rodale


It’s Hard Out Here for a Duke by Maya Rodale
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (369 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Some Mistakes…

When American-born James Cavendish arrives in London tomorrow, he’ll become the Duke of Durham. Some might be ecstatic at the opportunity. Not James. He’s a simple man, fond of simple pleasures. And right now, nothing could be more pleasurable than spending his last night of freedom with a beautiful stranger.

Are Far Too Good…

One wild night, Meredith Green, companion to the dowager Duchess of Durham, said yes to a man she thought she’d never see again. Suddenly, they’re living under the same roof, where Meredith is expected to teach James how to be a duke—while trying not to surrender to temptation a second time.

To Be Forgotten

For a duke and a commoner, marriage would be pure scandal. Yet nothing has ever felt as right as having Meredith in his arms…and in his bed. Soon he must choose—between a duty he never desired, and a woman he longs for, body and soul…

One wild night and two lost souls can equal love—after a few bumps in the road.

This is the fourth book in this series, but I can tell you I wasn’t stuck or confused. Yes, I started in the middle of the series, but Ms. Rodale does a great job of not only keeping the reader up to speed on the characters, but keeping the story fresh. The nice thing about this book is if you’re not familiar with the others in the series, it reads like a standalone. That’s good since, yeah, I started this series at the end.

James, the hero, is rather bland. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to root for him or move on. I wanted to like him, but he’s almost so simple…I just didn’t connect. I didn’t feel a connection to either James or Meredith and wanted to so much. I wanted to be excited and feel some tension. I didn’t. That doesn’t mean the book was bad. Far from it. I could tell she longed for him, but I wanted more depth. I also wished she hadn’t been portrayed as quite as much of a martyr. She was a real person with real desires. If that desire had shone through a bit more…wowza.

But the longing glances and desire was there. I hoped there would be more witty dialogue and fun, but maybe that’s just because James isn’t a witty, silly kind of guy. That’s not horrible. It’s just him.

If you want a historical book that’s interesting and has characters you won’t forget, then this might be the book for you. Having read the blurbs for the other books, I’m intrigued.  I know I’ll be checking out the rest of the Cavendishes.

Married to Claim the Rancher’s Heir by Lauri Robinson


Married to Claim the Rancher’s Heir by Lauri Robinson
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Historical
Pages: Full length (288 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

To claim his heir…

…he must marry his enemy!

Gabe Callaway is outraged when feisty Janette Parker lands on his doorstep with her orphaned niece—though he soon realizes little Ruby is heir to his ranch! If Janette wants money, he’ll pay her off to keep the little girl in her rightful place. But all Janette wants is Ruby… Will Gabe do whatever it takes to claim his heir—even marry Janette?

If you have not read a Lauri Robinson book then I don’t know what you are waiting for. This is my fifth one and apparently she’s written thirty four. Why didn’t I discover her books sooner? Better late than never.

Sometimes when you read multiple books by the same author they become monotonous. This can’t be said about Ms. Robinson’s novels. I’m flabbergasted at how the author has once again delivered a flawless writing style that articulated an eloquent and fluent plot. Married to Claim the Rancher’s Heir is another original work of art by Ms. Robinson filled with relatable characters and heartwarming drama that left me with unforgettable memories.

Gabe Callaway, the hero, was headstrong, handsome, and responsible with an endearing sensitive side that appeared on several occasions when he was around the heroine, Janet Parker.

Janet Parker was equally as headstrong, beautiful, and capable of taking care of herself. When Janet and Gabe were together it was fun to see who could outwit the other. I was thoroughly entertained when they were ultimately both outwitted by someone unexpected – a hilarious plot twist.

There’s so much more to this story than the synopsis alludes to. There is a tiny suspense story line involving Janet. I was riveted to the book well past my bed time. It was swoon worthy how Gabe became her protector.

I emphatically implore readers to read Married to Claim the Rancher’s Heir. I fell in love with Gabe and Janet and the epilogue sealed the deal.

Bitter Blues by Ursula Renee


Bitter Blues by Ursula Renee
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (188 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Despite their different backgrounds, Randy Jones agreed to take Cassie Ann Porter for better and for worse. He never considered how much worse things could get, but he finds out after he returns home from serving in the army during World War II. Unable to find a job, he has to depend on his wife to support the family, which includes their two daughters, who at first refuse to have anything to do with him.

Cass works at the shipyard, one of many women employed to fill in while the men were gone to war. Her employer doesn’t replace her and the others because he can pay them so much less than he would men, yet she would like nothing better than to be a stay-at-home wife and mother.

When a good intention goes wrong, Randy wonders if he and Cass have made a mistake in going against society’s rules. Can the “worse” ever get better?

Oh how a new relationship can start out like sweet jazz. The swaying of your heart, and the rhythm of the emotions but then the tapping of life’s reality may eventually reveal to you how easy it is for the rhythm change the tune to the bitter blues.

In this sequel to Sweet Jazz, Cassie Ann Porter and Randy Jones are now married with children. Will they allow society’s convention on their marriage to turn their music to bitter blues?

There are many risk when one is involved in a mixed race relationship. There is a risk in losing their relationship with their family and friends, and possibly even the relationship that they may have with their children. It is a sacrifice but also can bring about a stronger unity to the family.

I enjoyed the author’s writing style, which includes small details that help the reader see and visualize the characters as well as the scenery. Cassie and Randy are likable character’s and they are also a lovable couple to read about.

Cassie and Randy’s marriage is believable. They are dealing with issues such as lack of communication, lack of finances and they also have a misplacement of love that bonding connection that comes after a couple has been apart.

I wanted Cassie to give Randy a break. He has a lot of adversities going against him. He served his country and now he’s home and isn’t able to be a provider to his family. Right now Randy’s focus is to find a job that will offer stability and support. His love for music and playing the saxophone seems to be what he holds on to but sadly in the beginning of the story he doesn’t even play. I am all for a man being a man, being that supporter but I also believe everyone should enjoy life and have something they enjoy that brings them happiness.

I wanted to see that closeness and bond of the two back on stage or even in their own home but with Cassie so scared to publicly acknowledge Randy as her spouse after all of the sacrifices that he has made to be with her. She has her family and loved ones but Randy doesn’t have anyone else. Not only does Randy feel less than a man in his own home, but to add to his worries his daughters do not have a closeness with him. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Randy. His love and protectiveness as a father hindered his thinking when he took his daughter to the nearest doctor. Randy’s eyes do not see color or racial barriers. He functions off of love and, though this is a good thing, Cassie doesn’t see the outcome as such. She is worried more about the repercussions or the outcome if their relationship is known publicly.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the story so I’ll say I did enjoy the book. I liked that the author did a sequel to Sweet Jazz so that the readers can follow Cassie and Randy to see where life lead them and how they faired. This is a realistic plot that a lot of people can relate too and even if they can’t relate to the characters and their position in the story they can learn a lesson of looking for the good in what people do, seeing their efforts and not just the outcome that couldn’t have been foreseen when they are doing something out of love, and not malice.

This is an enjoyable read that I do recommend.

Wild Lily by Cerise DeLand


Wild Lily by Cerise DeLand
Publisher: Totally Bound Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (257 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Money can buy anything, can’t it? Those brash Americans–their dollars and charms work wonders. Until they learn that money can buy anything…but love.

Lily Hanniford has all the qualities an impoverished nobleman could want in a wife. She’s beautiful, educated and funny. Too bad, she has a penchant for riding astride like a man. Too bad, she’s an American with a shrewd, wily father. But she’s unwilling to be sold to the highest-ranking nobleman. She wants a purpose in life…other than presiding over a drafty castle and a loveless marriage bed. Then she accidentally meets a man she can’t resist.

Julian Ash, Marquess of Chelton, doesn’t need a wife. He needs luck at cards…or a way to persuade Killian Hanniford to pay more for his family’s shipping line. But Lily is charming and her wild streak appeals to Julian who has always followed the society’s rules. Now he discovers that being wild with Lily is not only fun, it’s necessary to his life. And so is she.
They struggle to throw convention to the wind. But can they be wildly happy together if they can’t heal old wounds?

Lily is the daughter of an American billionaire. Julian is the son of an impoverished Duke. In Victorian England this usually means a marriage of convenience for her to get a title and him to get money to recover the family fortunes.

Complete fascination with each other smudges the boundaries of propriety but Julian is determined not to marry Lily to help the family coffers. Lily doesn’t want to be married for her father’s fortune, she wants a man to love her for herself.

Their relationship develops well and the minor characters in the book lend credence and depth to the story. Also interesting is the humor that Lily brings to the situation. The differences in their upbringing cause many upsets but also a lot of laughs.

I would mention that toward the end of the story a few editorial comments have been left in presumably by mistake. These caused a hiccup in concentration and if they are removed the book would be a wonderful read. I hope the author considers writing more about the minor characters in future books as it would definitely pique my interest.

A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake


A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full length (464 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Cholla

After the sudden death of her troubled mother, struggling Harvard grad student Kate Drayton walks out on her lecture—and her entire New England life. Haunted by unanswered questions and her own uncertain future, she flees to Charleston, South Carolina, the place where her parents met, convinced it holds the key to understanding her fractured family and saving her career in academia. Kate is determined to unearth groundbreaking information on a failed 1822 slave revolt—the subject of her mother’s own research.

Nearly two centuries earlier, Tom Russell, a gifted blacksmith and slave, grappled with a terrible choice: arm the uprising spearheaded by members of the fiercely independent African Methodist Episcopal Church or keep his own neck out of the noose and protect the woman he loves.

Kate’s attempts to discover what drove her mother’s dangerous obsession with Charleston’s tumultuous history are derailed by a horrific massacre in the very same landmark church. In the unimaginable aftermath, Kate discovers a family she never knew existed as the city unites with a powerful message of hope and forgiveness for the world.

A woman on the run from her future runs straight into a past that she hadn’t been expecting. Kate is fleeing the loss of her mother and searching out secrets that were kept from her. However, when she meets a little boy one morning, her world is turned upside down and the secrets kept for so long are about to come unraveled.

Time is a fluid thing and A Tangled Mercy proves this as the story weaves between the past and the present. Written in chapters alternating between present day Charleston, South Carolina and the same city in 1822, a terrible and beautiful story unfolds, bringing the two timelines together. At first, I was so confused, not able to understand how any of it might connect. However, the author is a master at dropping hints and giving clues that you don’t even realize you’ve picked up until it all comes together.

I loved Kate from the very beginning. It’s hard not to like her. She’s smart, she’s sweet, and she’s completely devoted to her family. Losing her mother shakes her world to its foundations and in a way, I think it brings her to herself. Her interactions with Gabe are the sweetest and most fun parts of the story.

Tom Russell’s story is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, this half of the story isn’t anything new or surprising as our history is filled with many such sad tales. However, I hadn’t ever heard about the failed slave revolt that the historical half of this novel focuses around. For me, it was interesting to learn about it in such a first-hand sort of way.

A Tangled Mercy is an informative and enjoyable trip through Charleston, South Carolina. The author paints an amazing picture of both timelines and doesn’t shy away from the less appealing parts of the narrative. The racism and horrors of life are equally represented in both timelines, making it an evocative and haunting story.

Dead and Breakfast & Other Stories by Marilyn Todd


Dead and Breakfast & Other Stories by Marilyn Todd
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (154 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Not all detectives are heroes.
And when the dead can’t defend themselves, help comes from the most unlikely sources.

It might be from P.I.s with offices in unusually high places (“Heaven Knows”). It might come from shapeshifters in love (“Stakes & Adders”). Hell, it could even come from…you’ve guessed it, Hell. (“667, Evil and Then Some”). But whether you’re cruising a narrow boat down an English canal (“The Way It Is”) or taking a break on an idyllic French lakeside (“Dead & Breakfast”), justice is like the endings in these stories. You never see it coming.

Listening to what a character doesn’t say is sometimes just as important to listening to what they do say.

In “Something Rather Fishy,” Stevie and her accomplice, Patti, ran multiple scams on unsuspecting strangers in order to steal their money or sell them products that were nothing at all like what was advertised. What I enjoyed the most about their scams was how much thought was put into them. Stevie put a lot of time into figuring out how to get people to do what she wanted without them realizing what was happening. I definitely didn’t see the ending coming, and that was a good thing. It fit the tone perfectly while still being a pleasant surprise.

There were some tales in this collection that I thought could have used more clues about what was really going on in them. For example, “The Great Rivorsky” showed what happened when a magician’s attempt to accomplish that famous trick involving sawing a woman in half didn’t go as he had planned. As amused as I was by the main character’s narration, I needed more details about what was going on to figure out why his assistant was so badly injured and who might have been responsible for it.

A small, sleepy town isn’t typically where anyone would expect to find three murders over the course of a short period of time, but that’s exactly what happened in “The Longboat Cove Murders.” The muted reactions of the townsfolk to the first few murders shocked me. They also made me curious to find out what happened and why no one was panicking about the suddenly high death rate in their community.

I’d recommend Dead and Breakfast & Other Stories to anyone who is in the mood for mysteries that require their audience to pay close attention to detail in order to solve them.