The Reluctant Heart by Lois Stewart and The Forgotten Bride by Lillian Marsh, Look What's in Storage aka Memories Schmemories, VI

August 7, 2017
And then sometime things in storage just make you sneeze.

A long, long, long time ago I read a book. I'm sure you've all experience flitting memories of a scene or a plot, but you just can't remember what book they belong to. Now, I have been searching for a long time for a book and I could only remember the following things: it was an historical romance, the hero is disappointed in love and becomes very drunk. In his drunken state he marries a young woman he doesn't know at an inn. In the morning he awakes, assumes the woman is a prostitute, leaves some coin and returns home. Years later he is about to be married, when a woman shows up with his child, his signet ring and the marriage lines. And, that was all I remembered - not the author, the title or anything. Then just recently I came across a website which has plotlines of lots and lots of Regency romance books. Not only that, but they are categorized. Rubbing my chin I clicked on the "children" category and low and behold I found two books. Either could be the one I sought. The one was The Reluctant Heart (1994) by Lois Stewart and the other one was The Forgotten Bride (1983) by Lillian Marsh. I did a little bit of investigation into the authors, Lois Stewart, aka Diana Delmore, appears to have written between 1983-1996 and then nothing. Lillian Marsh appears to have written only two books and then nothing.

As it turned out the Lillian Marsh book was the one I had been remembering allll of those years. As it also turns out, I'm not sure why this book stuck in my memory because I really cannot recommend it. Everyone who reads a lot eventually has things which are called "pet peeves," things that irritate us, things that press our hot buttons. Over the years some of us have even compiled a list of these "things" (some of us make lists). I will not say much about the Lillian Marsh book except to say it had at least nine of my triggers whereas the book by Lois Stewart had only one of my triggers. After all those years, I found I cannot recommend either books.

Triggers, pet peeves in these two books:
"I’m not good enough" syndrome
All women are bad because of "her"
Hero not catching on to the really EVIL woman and sometimes totally overlooking the heroine because of it.
Long separations, and usually the hero has slept around and the heroine has not. Of course, there was never a woman quite like her...he really tried to forget her, but he couldn't.
Parading around an evil woman to make wife jealous.
Sleeping with other women to forget.
Overreacting, jealous.
Never able to forgive, no matter how nice the other person is.

See, not everything out of storage was a treasure.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality:  Pffffffft

The Famous Heroine by Mary Balogh, Look What's in Storage aka Memories Schmemories, V

August 7, 2017
Another light-hearted story by Mary Balogh - that's two now.
I will have to say I didn't find The Famous Heroine as funny as the Black Umbrella because it also has one of my pet peeves in it. The hero just cannot forget that other woman he
loved, even when the one in his arms is his perfect match. So, it took me a while to like Francis because he was still mooning over Samantha. By the way, Samantha was the heroine from Lord Carew's Bride. Both books are connected to the Stapleton-Downs stories. Just so you know, Mary Balogh's website has a break-down of all her connected books so you don't get lost. This book was released in 1996 and has been re-released as part of a 2-in-1 book with The Plumed Bonnet.

Cora Downes is a heroine - and I mean that in every sense of the way. She saved the young son of a duke from drowning. Now the grandmother of said child is so grateful that she has brought Cora to London as a reward. She thinks that being part of society is a great honor. Here's the thing: Cora is sort of accident prone and the saving of the young boy didn't really happen quite the way everyone thinks. In fact, he didn't really need to be saved, but oh well - now society has a heroine.

Cora is not comfortable hanging with the elite people. She doesn't fit in. When she meets our hero, Lord Francis Kneller, she is wearing shoes which are too small because everyone knows men like women with small feet. But now her feet hurt and she's tripping over everything. Francis saves her from embarrassment and she's ever so grateful. She feels perfectly safe with Francis and she jumps to the conclusion that Francis is a gay man. You see Francis wears brightly colored clothes, is sarcastic and has lots of female friends. She becomes very protective of him, especially when she thinks someone is slighting his character.

Francis on the other hand thinks Cora is amusing. She is just the distraction he needs to get over his boo-hoo heart. He is drawn to her, but that leads to two compromising scenes - the first one they survive, the second one forces them into wedlock. I liked Cora a lot. She's accident prone and has a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. She is also similar to the heroine from Black Umbrella because she is constantly saving things or maybe I should say she gets credit for saving things - poodles, horses, the Prince.

There is a pretty funny scene when Cora is surprised when Francis actually wants her in bed. They talk circles around each other for a while until it dawns on Francis just what Cora thinks - pretty amusing. By the way, he doesn't change how he dresses. This is pretty close to being a screw-ball comedy, and I would have liked it so much better if Francis would have stopped the Samantha/Cora comparisons sooner.

And, once again we have another recommendation for an old Mary Balogh's book.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

The Plumed Bonnet by Mary Balogh, Look What's in Storage aka Memories Schmemories, IV

August 7, 2017
Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover.
The Plumed Bonnet is another 2-in-1 re releases of Ms. Balogh's traditional regency. First published in 1996, it is connected to the Stapleton-Downs series. This is a story of
misconception and misunderstanding. While the story has a strong beginning it is a tad bit slow in the middle but comes to a satisfying ending. The hero of the books is Alistair, Duke of Bridgewater, and he has had a strong presence in some of the previous books. He's the guy in the background handing out wise advice, which he does not follow in his own book. As the story begins he is ruminating about the fate of his friends who were all trapped into marriage. He observes that even though they all appear to be perfectly happy, he isn't about to let anything like that happen to him. No sir, he's going to be on his toes and not fall into any kind of trap. Famous last words.

As his coach travels along his eyes are drawn to woman standing along the side of the road. She is dressed in a fuchsia colored cloak and on her head is a plumed pink bonnet. He instantly jumps to the conclusion that she is a "bird of paradise". For all of you who have never read a Regency novel and are not familiar with that particular cant, a "bird of paradise" is a woman of easy virtue. Now, whether that term is real slang from Regency times or a term invented by the great Georgette Heyer is something which can be debated at a later date. But for now Alistair thinks she's a bird of paradise and he's eager to enjoy her "favors." Well, the supposed bird is our heroine Stephanie Gray and she has run into a bit of trouble.

Stephanie has inherited a fortune - sort of. She needs to claim that fortune and in order to do that she quit her governess job (which she hated), packed her valise of all her worldly goods, put most of her money in that valise, climbed on board a public coach and headed toward her fortune. Well, on the way she ran into some less than honest folk and everything in her valise was stolen. So, she decided to walk - what else could she do? Along the way, she ran into some "show-folk" who lent her some stage clothes - hence the outlandish ensemble. She is ever so grateful for the ride from the nice gentleman. Really grateful, for he saved her life. She proceeds to tell him her story.

I found the carriage ride scene quite fascinating. Stephanie is perfectly honest with Alistair, she tells him almost her entire story, all about her inheritance and how she was robbed, etc. But here's what Alistair hears: blah, blah, blah. All the time she is telling him the truth, he is thinking she's making the entire story up. He is bound and determined to not believe her and that is because he wants her to be something other than what she is. They travel together a couple of nights; he even shows up in the bedroom thinking to have his way with her. She on the other hand thinks he just lost his way; for a kind, fine, gentleman like him would never think of seducing her.

When they arrive at her soon-to-be inherited estate she warns him that his presence may be taken the wrong way. She suggests to him that he should just drop her off and she will walk the rest of the way. But Alistair is still stubborn and he wants to see her squirm out of the lies he thinks she's still creating. He wants to see just how far she'll go. He pooh poohs her and walks right into the marriage trap he was trying to avoid. Unlike a lot of Romanceland books, Alistair does not hold Stephanie responsible for the mistake. He knows it's his own stubbornness that has landed him at the altar and he takes it very calmly. It is also at this point that Stephanie finds out that he isn't a Mr. but a duke. Appearances can be deceiving; Stephanie isn't a strumpet and Alistair isn't a Mr. That particular misunderstanding is cleared up. Then the story journeys down another path and here is where some heavy-duty angst takes over.

The next portion revolves around Stephanie being sooooo grateful to Alistair that she does everything she can to change. She attempts to change into the perfect duchess thanks to some heavy-handed lessons from Alistair's mother. Alistair spends a great deal of time saying the wrong thing to Stephanie which only makes her even more determined to be perfect. When she is eventually the perfect duchess, Alistair realizes that maybe that isn't what he really wants; but how to change her back to the woman he realizes he fell in love with. This is a story filled with some pretty complex people and it takes Alistair and Stephanie a while to realize that neither one of them has to change to be perfect for each other.

I recommend this story.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

Lady with a Black Umbrella by Mary Balogh, Look What's in Storage aka Memories Schmemories, III

August 7, 2018
Yes, This is a Funny Mary Balogh!
Lady with a Black Umbrella by Mary Balogh is one of my all-time favorite Balogh books.  Why? It's funny. Yes, Mary Balogh did write a fun, light-hearted book. This book proves that she can write more than just angst, I just wish she'd do it more often. This is another Signet book, written in 1989 and just recently re-released. It is not connected to any of her other novels.
Our hero, Giles, Viscount Kincade, is having a bad day. Not only did he lose some money in a card game, but sometime during the night he was robbed. Now, he doesn't have the blunt to pay his gambling debt, the bill from the innkeeper or the oh-so-charming barmaid who he spent the night with. He has promised to pay everything he owes on his return to London and they all have begrudgingly accepted his word. However, he is totally embarrassed. You see, dignity is very important to this man and that is too bad because he is about to meet someone who will make him lose his dignity over and over again - Daisy Morrison.

Daisy Morrison is also staying at the inn with her younger sister and she is watching the view of the inn's yard from her window. She notices something which the oblivious Giles fails to. There are three men approaching him from different sides and they appear to be up to no good. This thinking proves to be true when the three men start beating Giles up. Well, what’s a girl to do? She rushes to the rescue, along with her curlers, disappearing freckle cream, nightgown and trusty umbrella. She is incensed and proceeds to whack the crap out of the three attackers. Giles is not necessarily grateful to his savior. In fact, he is just a tad bit afraid of the wild eyed woman - but he thanks her. He and his black eye get in his carriage and head back to London, hoping to leave all the embarrassing moments behind him. God forbid that any of his London friends should find out.

One of Giles’ problems is that he left Daisy behind to her own devices. You see, Daisy likes to help others. She must! She must! She must right wrongs! She doesn't care who she must help, she is oblivious to the niceties of society. She is also oblivious to the havoc she creates. Daisy is a delightful heroine. I found her humorous. She is not a TSTL heroine, and just because she is innocent to the things going on around her doesn't mean she’s written as a farce. Some people may find her irritating, but I believe Ms. Balogh did a wonderful job of writing a very refreshing heroine. When Giles left he didn't know that Daisy was still going to help him. She pays his gambling debt, the innkeeper and even the lady of the evening for him. Then Daisy and her sister leave the inn and journey on their way to London unaware of how angry Giles will be when he finds out what she's done.

Indeed, it doesn't take long for stuff to hit any nearby fan. Giles has sent his man to pay his debt, but the man returns and hesitantly tells Giles that everything has been paid - even the barmaid's inflated fees. In the meantime Daisy, who is 25, has brought her 19 year old sister to London. Daisy believes she will make a wonderful chaperon for her beautiful sister. This is another example of Daisy's manner of thinking. She wants only the best for her sister, so she wants to introduce her to society in London. Even though they are wealthy, they really don't know anyone - so when Giles shows up to confront her, Daisy sees this as a perfect opportunity to introduce her sister. Before Giles knows what is happening, he has promised that his aunt will introduce both Daisy and her sister to society. Of course, Daisy doesn't see the need for herself but she's willing to go through with it - and, besides that wouldn't Giles make a perfect husband for her sister. Giles never has a chance; Daisy is a whirl-wind. It's a lot of fun watching Daisy right wrongs, save dogs, save prostitutes, and thwart kidnappers.

All of it was great fun, but along with the fun is Ms. Balogh's trademark slow-building of a love story between our two protagonists. This is a rare light-hearted Mary Balogh book and I highly recommend it.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

A Promise of Spring by Mary Balogh, Look What's in Storage or Memories Schmemories, II

August 7, 2017
"Get me a Bromide, and Put Some Gin in It!" - The Women, 1939
Now on to A Promise of Spring by Mary Balogh. Originally written in 1990, A Promise of Spring is connected to her Web trilogy. It has also been re-released with The Temporary Wife as part of a package.

Have I mentioned before that Mary Balogh is the queen of angst? Now when I say that I don't mean the kind of angst where the hero has a scar on his face and he can never luv another. No, Ms. Balogh's angst is based on her characters’ insecurities. So, in a lot of her stories there is a plethora of internal thoughts buzzing through our characters’ heads. The Promise of Spring is filled with these thoughts, so be prepared to be bombarded with some heavy-duty contemplation.

The main contemplation in this story revolves around age difference - 10 years in fact. What's the big deal, you may ask. Well, it's the heroine Grace Howard who is older than the hero Peregrine Lampman. That means that there are alllll kinds of insecurities to think about. By the way Peregrine is one of the nicest beta guys ever - almost toooo nice, but more on that later.

Grace Howard is the sister of Abbotsford village pastor Paul. She's a quiet woman, does her duty, cleans his house, and keeps to herself. She sits in the corner sewing when Paul's best friend Peregrine comes to visit. Peregrine is Mr. Sunshine, everyone loves him. He's charming, charming, charming - there just isn't anyone who can find a bad thing to say about Peregrine. Then one day Paul is killed while saving a child, and Grace is left all alone and lost. Everyone in the village was trying to figure out what to do about Grace - and, I do mean everyone. But, before any of their plans could be put into action, Peregrine asks her to marry him. You see he's a nice guy and Paul was his best friend, so it's the least he can do. He proposes; at first Grace turns him down, then thinks better of it. But before she accepts she tells him her secret. The reason she is living in Abbotsford is because earlier in her life she gave birth to a child out of wedlock. Her child died and she and Paul broke with their family and left to live out their lives in the small village. She also tells Peregrine that the father of the child died. Here's comes Mr. Nice Guy again - he indicates that this won't be a problem.

They marry and begin a quiet life, in the quiet little village - she tends the garden and sews and he reads in his little corner. The only fly in the ointment is Grace occasionally wonders if Peregrine will continue to want her after a while. They grow together, they become friends and they have a great sex life. Well, we all know that this bucolic life cannot continue. Grace has finally worked up enough nerve to write her family that Paul has died. She doesn't expect any kind of reply, so imagine her surprise and concern when she gets one which invites her and Peregrine for a visit. Well, the little gray cells just start chattering away - not only hers but Peregrine’s as well. She worries how long Peregrine will be interested in her and, he worries how long he can keep her interested in him. She's sooooo old she can't compete with the younger women and he's sooooo much younger he can't compete with the more sophisticated men. After some thinking, they decide to make the step into Grace's past and try to mend some fences. So more thinking and angst.

Are you keeping count? We have the age difference angst, Grace and Perry's, so that two angstssss', now we have the family angst which would be the father, another brother and the sister-in-law (allll of them guilt-ridden). But the best angst is about to happen - guess who isn't dead? Oops, did Grace tell a little white lie? Gareth, the guy who impregnated Grace alllll those years ago is still alive and now he's the Viscount Sandersford. Guess what else, he still wants Grace. Hey that's not all, Grace doesn't tell Perry that Gareth is the guy, but he finds out anyway. So we have alllll kinds of angst – the “age thing”, the “family thing”, the “old lover”, the “why didn't she say anything”, the “why isn't Perry saying anything”, the “should I leave Perry”, “should I go with Gareth”. There was so much angst going on my ears started to ring. Even with Ms. Balogh’s gentle cohesive writing all of that stuff was a little tooooo much.

Perry, super beta man. I mentioned before that Perry was one of the nicest guys ever and I like nice guys in romance books. But Perry needed to be just a little bit more aggressive. Ms. Balogh wrote him as a pretty passive guy; so passive he doesn't do anything when he figures out who Gareth is. Even when Gareth becomes this extra pushy, obsessive guy, Perry remains passive. He lets Grace make up her own mind, afraid all the time that she will choose overbearing Gareth over him. As always with Ms. Balogh, her words are clear and Perry's actions are clear, it's just that I wished that Ms. Balogh had written him saying something - anything to Grace. Perry does eventually confront Gareth, but Gareth doesn't really care. This was just such a small part in the book, but it weakened the story for me.

You may think I didn't like this book, but you’d be wrong. I did like it. It wasn't the most comfortable book to read and there are some things I would have changed if I'd written it - but I didn't. There was a lot of quiet angst that this couple went through to find their HEA. When I finished reading this book I felt drained. I do give it a recommendation, but just remember it may not be your cup of tea and you might need a gallon of wine to help you get through it. This is a great example of Mary Balogh's strong writing.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh, Look What's in Storage aka Memories Schmemories, I

August 7, 2017
My brain hurts.

I will put out a warning to all my little Petunias - don't glom Mary Balogh. I should know better, I've been reading Ms. Balogh for years, ever since she wrote her first novel for Signet.
But silly me, I discovered some of her early Signets have been turned into electronic books – so, what the hey! It was time to reread!!! Did I go to the library storage area? Did I go to ye' ol' book shelf and pull out my paperbacks? That would be too economical of me - I ordered the electronic copies. And, now I have reread five of her books in a roll. Yes! Five. In. A. Roll. My brain hurts. In case you have never read a Mary Balogh book you should know that you are required to use those little brain cells when you read. You have to feel along with all the characters. It is a requirement! A Mary Balogh book is an experience. A Mary Balogh book is always character-driven, full of emotions and plenty of angst. Are all of them winners? She's written over 60 books, so what would be your guess? She's a very popular writer, been around for a long time and everyone has their favorite Mary Balogh book. Also, not so favorite. And, you are not allowed to skip words, because each one of her words is important to the storyline. So, yes, my brain is overtaxed right now - but it will get over it. Let's take a look at the stories that I reread, starting with The Temporary Wife.

The Temporary Wife was first published in 1997 and has been recently republished along with another of her early books The Promise of Spring. The Temporary Wife is not part of a series or connected to any other book. The Promise of Spring is connected to her Web trilogy.

The Temporary Wife, starring Anthony Earheart, Marquess of Staunton, as our hero and Charity Duncan as our heroine. Anthony has advertised for a governess. Here's the thing, he doesn't have any children. Well, why has he advertised for a governess? Here is how Anthony thinks. He thinks that governesses are desperate, meek, unattractive women - just the kind of woman his father would hate. So, what better way to seek revenge on his father than to marry a perfect doormat of a woman and drag her kicking and screaming to the family estate. He thinks the only way to get this kind of wife is to advertise for a governess and then tell her it's actually a wife job she's interviewing for. Sounds logical to me. But poor Anthony hasn't had too much luck finding a woman gruesome enough or desperate enough to fall in with his plans. Enter Charity Duncan.

Charity needs a job. She wants her family to have a nice comfortable life. But Charity has had problems keeping a job. She's either too pretty or too outspoken so her brother suggests she tone her next interview down a bit. Which she does. Anthony offers her the job of not a governess but a wife. Oh yes, he intends to pension her off after he's had his revenge. Charity is a little surprised, but after a few moments she accepts - sort of. She ups the amount of pension. Poor Anthony, even when confronted with a woman who barters for more money he doesn't have a clue that's she's not as meek as she appears. He thinks he is just imagining the gleam in her eye. If only these guys would read romance novels, they'd know.

Anyway, Anthony is expecting a marriage of convenience. He's expecting to drag his mousy wife to his family estates, irritate his family, especially his father, and leave. It isn't long before Anthony figures out that his wife isn't what he expected her to be. Once he figures out that she's not what he anticipated, he still finds a way to use her against his father. Let me tell you, his father was a hard person to like, in fact I never warmed to him. Anthony's father is a cruel man who also sees a chance to use Charity. So Charity is caught in the middle of these two men who are trying to hurt each other. However, Charity is no martyr. She ever so subtlety maneuvers Anthony's dysfunctional family back together again. There is even a reconciliation between father and son. And, through all of this family quagmire Anthony and Charity fall in love.

The Temporary Wife is one of Mary Balogh's better books. It's an emotional journey for Anthony and Charity and we get to watch from the sidelines as all of it slowly develops. I highly recommend this one.

Time/Place: Regency England

The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn

July 31, 2017
Knock, Knock. Who's there? ah...Who's there?

I've always liked Julia Quinn. I usually can depend on her writing to make me smile or even sometimes make me laugh out loud. I usually go to her when I want to relax. But, for some reason I had a hard time staying with this book. I started it a number of times before I was actually able to make it all the way through. This was partly due to the fact that there was an amnesia theme, and I’m not terribly fond of forgetful heroes. I've read many romances where there is memory loss, and I find that timing plays an extremely important part when the romance centers on the amnesia theme. Memory loss in a romance novel always involves a certain amount of deceit on someone’s part, so the writing needs to be pretty special. If the writing is just a little off, I am left disillusioned with the trickster. So, when I am faced with a storyline which has amnesia as the main component I start my count-down. Enough about me, on to the book.

By the way, this story takes place in the United States during the Revolutionary War, so there is a little bit of a different feel about it. As the story begins we have a wounded Edward Rokesby waking up to the voices of his doctor and Edward's wife. The problem is that Edward doesn't remember his wife, Cecilia. And, there is a good reason for that - she's not really his wife. Now, Cecilia has a very good reason for claiming to be Edward's wife. You see, her brother Thomas served in the army with Edward, in fact Edward and Thomas were close friends and bunk mates. Cecilia received a letter stating that Thomas had been injured and she rushed across the ocean to be with him. However, she can't find him and there isn't anyone in the military who seems to be willing to help her. They are all rather contemptuous of her. When she learns her brother's friend is in the hospital she goes to help, but is turned away. But Cecilia has reached her boiling point and she blurts out that she is Edwards’ wife. They allow her in. So a confused Edward is even more confused because he doesn't remember having a wife. He does remember Cecilia. You see he and Cecilia were corresponding.

I liked the corresponding part of the story. It all begins gradually. Cecilia and Thomas write back and forth, eventually Thomas starts adding little lines about his friend Edward. As time progresses Edward and Cecilia start to write notes back and forth to each other. A friendship of sorts blossoms between the two characters. Even though they don't know it (because what romance couple does), they have fallen in love with each other through the letters. That was a problem for me. As much as I liked the growing affection in the letters, for most of the story they are in a different reality. That reality is based on Cecilia's lies - even though those lies were understandable in the beginning of the story. Yes, I can understand Cecilia's reason for claiming she is Edward's wife. But as the story progresses and she sees how important her telling the truth could be to Edward's recovery, she still maintains the lie. That is where timing comes into play.

There was an ample amount of time for Cecilia to fess up, but she doesn't. Even when she sees that her claims are detrimental to his health she doesn't speak. In fact, she is not the one who spills the beans - his memory comes back on its own. He is a tad bit upset. Then he starts playing games with her, which thankfully didn't go on for too long. In the end, I was not enchanted with either Edward or Cecilia. I could have been enchanted, because the letters were great.

Then we have a problem with dead Thomas. Ms. Quinn did a wonderful job writing about a character we only meet through letters and reminisces. The problem was we find out he's dead after we/I have become attached to him - well, that was a bummer. He was a funny, charming character and he doesn't make it through the book. Pffffffff.

I was disappointed in The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband. For me it lacks the charm and fun of some of Ms. Quinn’s other works. The title also indicates to me that it is a light-hearted romance, which it wasn’t. But the biggest problem I had was with Cecilia and her lies. She had a good reason for keeping her secrets in the beginning, but her continual lie upon lie made her into a weak heroine.  This was not one of Ms. Quinn’s better attempts.

Time/Place: Georgian/Revolutionary War - America
Sensuality: Warm

Holy Cannoli! It's time for Upcoming Historical Releases!!!

July 24, 2017
Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see HEY DELIA!! August 15, 2017 to September 14, 2017. By the way, it is not my fault if a publisher changes the release dates - just so you know, they do not consult me.
Anna Bradley
Lady Eleanor’s Seventh Suitor
The Sunderland Sisters series
September 5
Anna Harrington*
When the Scoundrel Sins
Capturing the Carlisles series
August 29
Annie Burrows
The Major Meets his Match
Brides for Bachelor series
Paperback-August 22, Ebook-Sept 1
Chloe Flowers
The Pirate and the Nun
Pirates and Petticoats series
September 1
Christine Merrill  
A Convenient Bride for the Soldier
Society of Wicked Gentlemen series
Paperback-August 22, ebook-Sept 1
Elizabeth Hobbes
Redeeming the Rogue
The Danby Brothers series
Paperback August 24, Ebook-Sept 1
Jane Ashford
The Last Gentleman Standing
Bluestocking series
September 5
Julia Justiss
Secret Lesson with the Rake
Hadley's Hellions series
Paperback-August 22, Ebook-Sept 1
Lauri Robinson
Winning the Mail-order Bride
Oak Grove series
Paperback-August 24, Ebook - Sept 1
Lisa Berne
The Laird Takes a Bride
The Penhallow Dynasty
August 29
Lorraine Heath
Gentlemen Prefer Heiresses
Scandalous Gentleman of St. James
August 22
Maeve Greyson
Sadie’s Highlander
Highlander Protector series
September 12
Martha Hix
His High-Stakes Bride
Texas Bride series
August 29
Mary Wine
Highland Flame
Highland Weddings series
September 5
Nicole Jordan*
My Fair Lover
Legendary Lovers series
August 26
Rosanne Bittner
The Last Outlaw
Outlaw Hearts series
September 5
Sarah Hegger
Releasing Henry  

Sir Arthur’s Legacy series
August 29
Sarah Mallory
Pursued for the Viscount’s Vengeance
Paperback-August 22, Ebook Sept 1
Shana Galen
Traitor in Her Arms
Scarlet Chronicles series
August 22
Tessa Dare*
The Duchess Deal
Girl Meets Duke series
August 22

The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean

August 24, 2017
One big grovel.

There be spoilers ahead. When last we were with Sarah MacLean and her Scandal and Scoundrels series, Sophie, the youngest Talbot sister, was pushing Serephina's husband into a pond. Serephina is the oldest of the Talbot's. Sophie had a very legitimate reason for shoving Malcolm Bevingstoke into the water: she caught him in flagrante delicto with a woman who was not his wife. Sophie took off on her own adventure and Seraphina just took off. Of course before she did, she lost the child she was carrying. Guilt-ridden, Malcolm has spent 2+ angst-filled years trying to find his wife. Then one day Seraphina shows up demanding a divorce. She wants a new life, one that does not include Malcolm. And, the emotional story of Malcolm and Seraphina begins. Be warned, my Petunias, this is not a carefree laugh riot. In fact, this reminds me a bit of some heavy-duty Mary Balogh books - so be prepared for some soul searching. This is a very emotional ride and I applaud Ms. MacLean for tackling a taboo which is usually avoided in Romanceland - infidelity. There are not many authors who can pull it off (once again Mary Balogh and Eloisa James come to mind). That subject is a bit of a hot button for some romance readers. I've often thought that sometimes authors forget that readers become so entrenched in their books that when someone in the book is emotionally injured, the reader is emotionally injured right along with them. So not only does the character in the book have to forgive the offender, so does the reader. Did Ms. MacLean succeed in creating enough sympathy for Malcolm that we forgive him? She came close and there is one powerful scene in this book which is absolutely gut-wrenching, which I talk about later. This book was hard to review because Ms. MacLean has raised the bar by journeying into territory which most romance authors avoid. Usually, the offending husband/wife dies and the spouse has to deal with leftover feelings, which is made easier by the introduction of a new nicer love interest. But that doesn't happen in this book. In this book the author tries to rehabilitate our hero, and to a lesser extent our heroine. This is a story of rebuilding trust.

The Day of the Duchess is told partly through flashbacks, at least until we get the complete story of how Malcolm and Seraphina's marriage fell apart. When they first meet, Malcolm and Seraphina are instantly attracted to each other, but as the romance continues, they really don't come to know each other. But they cannot stay away from each other. Even though Malcolm intends to marry Seraphina, he doesn’t tell her and she doesn’t guess. Because she does not want to lose him, she sets a trap in which she is caught in a compromising position with him. While he still marries her, he does not forgive her deceit and he makes her life miserable. He becomes one big nasty twit, with his malice culminating in being caught with his pants down. The past relationship, the destruction caused by Malcolm and Seraphina, is very painful to read.

When the book flips into the present time we are faced with a very regretful Malcolm. He wants desperately to be forgiven and be with his wife. But his treatment of her is something she can't forgive. Not only does she have the wound left by his infidelity, she has to struggle with the fact he wasn't there to support her when she miscarried their child. So you see, we have a heroine who has a lot to forgive - there is a lot that we the reader have to forgive. And, here is where it gets a tad bit murky – in the previous book, Malcolm's character may have been written a little bit too irredeemable. It seems to me for Malcolm to be salvaged in this story, the storyline should have been focused mainly on rebuilding the relationship between him and Seraphina. But the author took another route.

Here's the other route. Malcolm comes up with a brilliant idea of how to win his wife back. He'll give her a divorce if she helps him pick out his next wife. So how about a party in the country and let’s invite a number of eligible young ladies. She agrees, but she also brings along all of her sisters - SSSSSSesily, SSSSSSSeline, SSSSSSeleste and SSSSSSSophie. This part of the book was almost a farce. Here is my thought on the mixing of the angst story and the farce story - it didn't necessarily work. The farce would have been great if the whole story had been a farce. Maybe this part of the book was intended as a bright spot in an otherwise intense book. I'm all about books which make me laugh, but this is one time when the laughter was a distraction to some well-written poignancy.

One powerful scene. There is a scene in this story which will steal your breath away. It is one of the most powerfully written few pages I've experienced in a long time. It comes toward the end of the story, but I'm not going to tell you what it is about. If you read the book you will recognize it. There was so much heartrending emotion in this one scene that the hero could have been forgiven - if the author had continue traveling down that road of vivid emotion. And, this scene is what makes this a hard book to review. It was so well-written. This story had so much emotional impact, it didn't need the comedy - the comedy was a distraction.

SSSSSSSS. There is one other scene I want to briefly touch on. The five sisters are all in the same carriage riding home. All five of them. With SSSSSSS - Seleste said this, Sophie said that, Seline said that, Seleste looked there, Sesily smiled, Seleste laughed at something Seline said, Sophie frowned at Sesily, Sistine – oh wait there wasn’t any Sistine. It was all very confusing, I couldn't keep track of who was saying what to who and neither could the author. At one point Sophie is dropped off at her house, says goodbye, see ya; and then there she is on the next page back in the conversation with her sisters. I had to reread that section a number of times to clear my head.

Bottom-line. I do recommend this book. It was a hard story to read and I can only assume it was even harder to write. I congratulate the author on attempting to tackle a Romanceland verboten topic - infidelity. I'm not quite sure she succeeded in redeeming our hero Malcolm but she came awfully close. If she had continued on with that one highly emotional scene toward the end of the book, I think she would have been more successful. But you really should read this story and see what you think. Go ahead, don't be afraid - you can always watch a funny movie afterward.

Time/Place: England 1830s
Sensuality: Hot

Beauty Like the Night by Joanna Bourne

OMG!!! How could I miss this one. 

Joanna Bourne's
Beauty like the Night
Coming out August 1, 2017!
Spymaster series

The Spinster and the Rake by Anne Stuart

July 10, 2017
Hidden Treasures or Look what’s in Storage!
The Spinster and the Rake by Anne Stuart, 1982. Sometimes when you go digging through the dust and cobwebs of the past, all that happens is a sneeze. But other times you find a forgotten treasure and you say to yourself – now I know why this author is still around. Written in 1982 by fledgling author Anne Stuart, The Spinster and the Rake is considered a traditional Regency romance, but this is much more than just traditional. This book has the beginning of Anne Stuart’s powerful voice and one of her manly-men-dark-heroes which she is known for, (though not as dark as her later ones). While nothing can compare to my favorite Anne Stuart book, The House Party, this one comes pretty close. This is a relatively short book, clocking in at 194 pages. But when the writer is Anne Stuart you don’t notice the length of the story. You just sit back and enjoy it.

Plot, plot, plot. What’s the plot? We can make this really short. Gillian Redford is a thirty-year old spinster who is happy to spend her life going from one of her siblings’ houses to another. While her family takes advantage of her, she is also a favorite of her nieces and nephews. She also is not a martyr; she is in control of her life and she doesn’t take too much guff from her siblings. Then we have Ronan Blakley, Marquis of Herrington, and he is one of Anne Stuart’s typical rakes. And, when I say he’s an Anne Stuart rake, I mean he is a real rake, not a pretend rake who is really a good guy in disguise. Well, one rainy evening Ronan and his drunk friend Vivien Peacock rescue Gillian from a carriage wreck. From that moment on this book is filled with delightful banter, great farce, and occasional deep thoughts.

There is also a cute secondary romance thrown in and numerous other little plots – revenge, wagers, seduction.

This was a delightful little package which had a mature couple in the center of all the shenanigans which went on around them. If I had any quibble, it was there wasn’t enough of Ronan’s brain-think. Even with that I highly recommend this story – it has aged well.

Time/Place: Regency England

Seducing Mr. Sykes by Maggie Robinson

July 10, 2017

Seriesosis warning

I'm starting to develop that dreaded disorder called Seriesosis. That's when all the series' start running together. They become interchangeable. You think you're reading one and then it dawns on you that are actually reading a different one - you know, the one about the three orphaned sisters who are trying to find each other or maybe the four friends who attended Oxford and took some kind of blood oath. Well, that's what happened with Maggie Robinson's Seducing Mr. Sykes. Here's what one needs to remember - try not to read two books at one time. I keep trying to put Pudding-On-the-Wold into Ms. MacKenzie's Spinster series, it was all very confusing. I persevered. This is the Cotswold Confidential series, not the Spinster House series!

If you are keeping track of series, (unlike me), this is the one where people with problems are sent. In the previous one, the quaint little Cotswold village seemed like a prison to me. The people are regulated as to their exercise, what they eat, and who they are with. These people with problems are usually sent by a disgruntled relative and that is the case with our heroine Lady Sarah Marchmain. The big difference here is that Sarah does not want to escape her little village prison. In fact she's going to great lengths to make sure she stays. When we are first introduced to her she is on the floor howling. I have to admit, I didn't think that was funny - I thought it was cringe-worthy and I hoped the rest of the book didn't have things in it which were supposed to be funny but weren't. Thankfully, the howling didn't become a big part of the book. Anyway, I liked Sarah a lot. She was an outspoken, honest heroine and there are some funny scenes between the hero and heroine which are just delightful. I enjoyed the relaxed feel of the humor, smiled almost all the way through the book. There was even a handcuff scene which didn't upset me. I know, I know, not a big fan of handcuffs, but this one was cute. 

Ponder moment. Isn't funny how certain triggers, like women wearing men’s clothing works in some books but in others it's just an irritation. Our heroine wore men's clothing in this book, but she wasn't trying to disguise herself as a man. She was quite comfortable in the clothing and at no time during the book did my eyebrows shoot up to my hairline because of those clothes.

Then we have Tristan. He is just trying to do the right thing. He is trying to run the "spa" in place of his father. He is trying to help the villagers keep their income. But then "she" gets in the way. She turns his smoothly run world into chaos and she never looks back. From the very first moment Tristan meets Sarah he loses all control over the situation. He puts up a brave fight, but in the end he is no match for our heroine. 

There are numerous funny stumbling blocks along the way, lots of twists and turns and people showing up. The story comes pretty close to being a screwball comedy. But just when you think Ms. Robinson has overindulged, she slows it down, so the comedy is not over done. 

This story comes a long way in redeeming the rather bumpy start to the series. I do recommend this story. It is a standalone, but you may want to read the first in the series just to follow along - or not. Tristan and Sarah were a cute couple. Sarah was one of my favorite heroines this year - she is the bright spot in the story.

Time/Place: England 1882

Sensuality: Warm/Hot