What a Lady Demands by Ashlyn MacNamara

What a Lady Demands by Ashlyn MacNamara is Book 2 of the Eton Boys Trilogy, a series of books about three best friends and the way their paths intersect through their discovery of love. In Book 1, the honorable, upright Alexander Sanford experiences his own tribulations in the courtship of Henrietta Upperton, the intriguing sister of the main character from another book by MacNamara called A Most Devilish Rogue. Alex’s younger sister, Cecilia, faces ruin from her actions including the kidnapping of her nieces while under her watch. It is no wonder she fleas from her brother’s constant chastisement.

Now in Book 2, Cecilia is determined to win back her brother’s respect. She applies for a job as governess with Sanford’s former best friend, Richard Blakewell, Viscount Lindenhurst. As a young girl of fifteen she was infatuated by Lind’s handsomeness even though he was nine years her senior. At the age of twenty three, she desperately tries to convince Lind she is responsible enough for the post. Demonstrating the required obedience, loyalty, and an impeccable morality is a stretch, but Cecilia is determined to be successful, especially after she meets his crippled son, Jeremy, who needs all the love and support she can provide. Cecilia realizes something is not right when she discovers that there are only two remaining original staff, the housekeeper and butler, the rest having been summarily dismissed for flimsy reasons. The housekeeper is closed mouth and uncooperative, but Cecilia is able to pry from her bits and pieces of Lind’s story involving the death of his beloved wife and the near drowning of his son at the nearby lake. Between the guilt from this disaster and the horrible wounds Lind received during the Napoleonic wars resulting in a leg injury which limits his movements, his behavior towards others is rigid, stifling, and mean tempered. For example, the staff give their weekly reports by standing at attention while The Lord has his evening meal, even though they are bone tired at the end of the workday. This disregard for feelings extends to his son who is a lost soul at the age of five, not understanding his father’s lack of love. Cecilia does her best to resolve the inner conflict within Lind, so he can develop a relationship with his son and hopefully return her fond feelings. Complicating matters is attempts of blackmail by Eversham, the man who took her virtue, and Lind’s obsession for revenge on his former friend and classmate, Rowan Battencliffe, the main character in Book 3 of the series.

Ashley MacNamara has an easy way with words and describes exhilarating love scenes in her stories, but a good Regency Romance requires a little more. In this particular book it is difficult to identify the villain. Sanford is insufferable and unsympathetic to his sister’s plight. Eversham is just plain evil in his plot to ruin Cecilia. The reader is unsure of whether to hate or feel sorry for Rowan’s impending doom. This is because the main character, Lord Blakewell, is infinitely unlikable. He is mean, self-centered, with little regard to other’s welfare. His affair with Cecilia is not born of love, but his own need for comfort and lust. The fact Cecilia stays and tries to reform the bastard says a lot about her character. Yet our heroine is flawed as well.

Still, I recommend this novel for an interesting, fast paced story with plenty of action and some lively sex scenes. I give it three solid stars.

I also would like to thank the Random House Publishing Group (Loveswept) for allowing me to download this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.

Dare to Love by Alleigh Burrows

If you like a good Regency Romance with some exhilarating sex scenes, then you’ll love Dare to Love by Alleigh Burrows. The story is, for the most part, fast paced and holds your interest throughout. There are a few sections which could have been eliminated or condensed, but they did not distract from the whole. I must admit, there were times I felt I had previously read this book, even though it is a new title, and there were few surprises in the plot line, nevertheless, it was an enjoyable romp.

Lady Nivea Horsham has secretly been in love with her older brother William’s best friend, Adair Landis, since the boys spent holidays at her home and included her in their dramatic play acting. They were the knights and she was the damsel in distress. Unfortunately, Nivea did not grow up to be a beauty. A little overweight and seemingly shy, after five years on the marriage mart she is destined to be a spinster. The noted rake, Lord Dare is asked to accompany Nivea to her family’s home in the country, but when the carriage wheel is damaged, they are forced to travel on horseback in order make it in time to attend her sister’s wedding. Since Nivea is on the shelf, there seems to be no need for a proper chaperone. (A little far fetched in my opinion). Thus begins the love story as Nivea reaches out to her childhood crush and he, at first aloof, gradually begins to respond to her ministrations. While Nivea is kindhearted and loving, Dare is nasty and cruel, due to his childhood in an abusive family. It takes most of the novel to break through his self imposed barriers to find the kind of man worthy of the love Nivea bestows. Most of the lose ends are nicely tied up and the future looks rosy for the reformed, newly annointed Marquess of Raynesforth and his bride.

The major problem with this story is that Dare is not a likable character. Yes, he’s devastatingly handsome, but his actions towards women are hurtful and his words lash out everyone, even his best friends. You wonder why anyone tolerates his presence. The fact that he was verbally abused and lashed with a whip as a child, easily explains his behavior, but it does not make his horrid manner acceptable. However, the brief flashes of his humanity gives the reader a reason to accept this character. Plus, he is an attentive lover, even though he rejects the women he seduces immediately after the act is completed. Dare’s continued attraction towards Nivea surprises his sensibilities and makes his behaviors ocellate between lust and rage. Despite the fact he considers himself a gentleman, his actions seem to defy this title. Dare is too busy avoiding the marriage mart to observe the niceties, including offering his hand to Nivea once he has taken her virginity. No, he believes she is the one who is trying to entrap him while she is simply confused, but supportive. Thus the push pull of their relationship.

The minor characters are well defined and add relevant details to the story. In fact, it is hoped they will appear in Burrow’s future literary endeavors, since this is her first novel. Nice job!

I give this book four stars.

I would like to thank Kensington Books for allowing me to download this novel for free in exchange for an unbiased review.

Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip

Well, Secret of A Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip has a happy ending, sort of, but the rest of the novel deals with the trials and tribulations of the main character, Spring Swallow who experiences a life full of drama. Even the so called “good times” are fraught with bad behaviors by the people around her. It seems that Spring Swallow flees one disaster only to land in another – first from marriage to a ghost husband, then to protect herself from enemies of her revolutionary husband, and finally to escape the clutches of her nasty husband addicted to gambling and other evils. Interwoven throughout Spring Swallow’s travels in 1930’s China (from Soochow to Peking) is the story of Auntie Peony, who teaches her the fine art of embroidery, and her adopted sisters, Purple, Leilei, and Little Doll. Spring Swallow has a natural aptitude in the intricacies of Sooxiu embroidery, the finest in the world, and it sustains her throughout her many difficulties.

Although Secret of a Thosand Beauties is an easy read, Spring Swallow’s journey gets a little cumbersome as her thoughts on life are too often repeated. It is also wearying reading about her many troubles. Too many. The most interesting character is Auntie Peony. She is the true Secret of a Thousand Beauties. In her youth, Peony, the master embroiderer in the royal place, has a forbidden love affair with the emperor. Bits and pieces of her life are slowly revealed, but there are some unanswered questions left dangling for the reader to puzzle out on their own. How much better to have told the same story from her point of view, with the “adopted” daughters a subsidiary storyline. That is the novel I wanted to read.

However, I did enjoy the Chinese proverbs, symbolism, folklore, and cultural idiosyncrasies sprinkled throughout the book, as well as the background on the importance that embroidery played in Chinese culture.

An interesting but slightly flawed storyline, to which I give three stars.

I want to thank Kensington Books for allowing me to download this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.

Melt by Selene Castrovilla

In the novel Melt by Selene Castrovilla, Dorothy’s family has recently been relocated to Highland Park where she is just beginning to find some new friends when she meets Joey. Even though he’s from the wrong side of the tracks, they feel an instant connection. To Joey, she’s like a porcelain doll, but Dorothy assures him she won’t break. Yet this is not your typical good girl loves bad boy story. Joey has a big secret which can make a difference. Will Dorothy still want him once she finds out about his abusive pop? Can Dorothy melt away the divide which seperates them? Can she reach the inner Joey before it is too late? Will he let her? Will their parents get in the way of their romantic dreams?

This is a story which needs to be told. Domestic abuse has been a secret which society has kept hidden for way too long and Selene ably ferrets out the truth through the tale of her two main characters, Dorothy and Joey. Despite Joey’s past bad behaviors, you can’t help but like him and root for sweet Dorothy to be successful in her quest to reform his destructive ways. The style is a quick and easy read, alternating between each character’s thoughts and actions. A definite four and a half stars for a YA novel which grabs you from page one.

Thank you to the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) for allowing me to download a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Beguiling the Earl by Susanna Medeiros

Beguiling the Earl is Book 2 in the Landing The Lord Regency Romance series by Susanna Medeiros. Catherine Evans, younger sister to Louisa who is married to The Marquis of Overlea (her story can be found in Book 1 – Loving the Marquess), is one month into her first season on the marriage mart. She finds it dull since she is secretly in love with her brother-in-law Nicholas’ best friend, the Earl of Kerrick. When her crush finally arrives in London, Lady Catherine sets out to seduce Kerrick who secretly returns her affection. Despite various obstacles, including the disapproving Nicholas, Catherine and Kerrick are drawn together romantically and secretly consummate their relationship. Unfortunately, Kerrick finds himself indebted to the Duke of Clarington (a plot line from Book 1) and agrees to spy on the treasonous Lord Worthington by courting his daughter Rose. Kerrick reveals all to Catherine and pledges to marry her once his task is completed. Catherine decides to befriend Rose and they quickly become close friends. Complications ensue but love prevails. Although Worthington is arrested, there is some doubt as to his guilt and there is still an unrequited love to explore leading to the plot of the next novel in the series.

I give this book three and a half stars. The storyline was readable, the romance was delightful, but the entire book lacked substance. The plot seemed to serve as a lead in for the next book in the series. Although Kerrick and Catherine were well drawn, the other characters lacked substance and even motivation. Why did Nicholas disapprove of Kerrick? What was behind Charlotte’s actions? Who was the Duke of Carington? There was too much repetition of the main characters’ thoughts and feelings and not enough development and action in the story. It was like reading two thirds of a book which abruptly ended without a successful wrap up.

However, in spite of these shortcomings, I did enjoy the book and want to thank CrushStar Multimedia LLC from NetGalley for letting me download this novel for free in exchange for a honest review.

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