Tag Archives: courtship

It Started With A Kiss (The Worthingtons, Book 3) by Ella Quinn

Lady Louisa Vivers is excited to participate in her first season, if only she could get rid of the attentions of love sick puppy Boswell, who fancies her for a wife. Everyone knows she is too strong headed and his tendency to dither makes them ill suited. On top of that dilemma, she thinks she is falling in love with Gideon Rothwell, a newly titled duke. Even while wearing gloves there is an undeniable spark of electricity when he touches her hand. He feels it too, but there is no way he can marry. His recently departed father who suffered from dementia has left their finances in ruins, first with gambling debts and then with an expensive mistress who continues to line her coffers with a forged writ of purchase. Yet, Gideon can’t help himself and after exchanging some passionate kisses on a terrace at a ball, Louisa announces their betrothal. Not what Gideon had in mind, but what else would such an innocent infer from his improper advances. Anyway, marriage doesn’t seem like such a bad option. He’s in love and wants his sweetheart in his bed. If he had his way they’d be married right away, but waiting two weeks for Louisa’s mother to arrive from out of town seems doable. Yet the scheming man has several ideas of some lustful activities before the nuptials, if they can ever be left unchaperoned, a difficult feat with such a large family keeping watch. Then there’s his close friend Matt, the Earl of Worthington, whose eagle eye is on the outlook to protect the reputation of his younger sister. Luckily Gideon’s mom heartily approves and even provides them with the opportunity for some “alone time”.

However, not all is smooth sailing in It Started With a Kiss, Book Three of the Worthington Regency Romance Series by Ella Quinn. There are some people out there who don’t like the way Gideon is handing his father’s debt and vow revenge. Gideon, mistakenly tries to keep the sordid details a secret from his bride to be, but the forceful Louisa expects honestly and wants an equal marriage sharing the good with the bad. How she will react to these omissions is an issue that just might put a crimp in their relationship. Despite everyone’s advice, Gideon stubbornly sticks to his plan unwittingly putting everyone he loves in danger.

On the plus side is a continuation of the lives of the characters from both the Worthingtons and the Marriage Game series. Matt Worthington and Gideon are school chums along with Marcus Finley and Sebastian Rutherford who both were married about a year (to Phoebe and Anna) prior to the start of this tale. Even Kit Featherton, nicknamed Mr Perfect, makes an brief appearance, dancing with a neglected debutante at his mother’s ball. Via all the previous novels, the reader is familiar with numerous members of The Ton, including their past and future endeavors.

Unfortunately, this one just made me work too hard. It would have made a great novella, but there was so much repetition that it dragged as a full length book. While the ending picked up, there was a vast middle which seemed endless. After awhile Gideon’s stubbornness and Louisa’s obsessions were annoyingly over the top. Despite a couple of witty back and forth repartees, most of the conversation was mundane, and the sex scenes were kind of placid, not the passionate encounters found in most of the other narratives. There just was not enough plot to carry the day. Three stars is generous.

A thank you to Netgalley and Kensington Books for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This review also appears on Goodreads.

Mistletoe, Mischief, and the Marquis (Book 3.5, The Heirs’ Club of Scoundrels) by Amelia Grey

Seth, the second Marquis of Wythebury, is on his way to visit Crispin, Duke of Hurst, for the Christmastide Season. After being housebound for the past year to take care of his two young nephews after the untimely death of their parents, Seth is more than willing to spend quality time with a fellow member of The Heirs’ Club. Little does he expect the reception he gets from Lillian Prim, Crispin’s sister-in-law, who has the nerve to abscond with Heron and Fallon for a pre-breakfast snowball war of tag, with himself being her main target. Despite her youthful innocence, Lillian is not afraid to stand up to the Marquis, criticizing him for being too harsh on his wards, hovering over them and not allowing them to participate in the normal boisterous outdoor games common to mischievous boys. To prove her point, she volunteers to oversee their lessons if Seth will allow them some quality open-air activities. Duped into agreeing, Seth can’t help but admire Lillian’s spunk, and the two develop an instant attraction that is difficult to deny. Yet the dilemma remains, can the staid Marquis and the willful Miss Prim find a common ground to develop a relationship beyond their lustful amorous feelings towards one another? In other words, is love enough to sustain a marriage between two such different personalities? Wythebury has only a few days to convince the reticent Lillian that they are indeed the right match.

Mistletoe, Mischief, and the Marquis, a Regency Romance by Amelia Grey is book 3.5 of the Heirs’ Club of Scoundrels series. Crispin and his expectant wife Gwen (from novella 2.5, The Duke and Miss Christmas) are the hosts of this winter house party with hints that there is some matchmaking intent towards the two invited guests. With eldest sister Louise married to Bray, Duke of Drakestone, (Book 1 of the series, The Duke in My Bed), only two of the Prim Sisters remain for future books, fourteen year old Sybil and ten year old Bonnie, both as much of a handful as middle sister Lillian who is actually considered the most serene of the bunch. While the four other siblings only make token appearances in this narrative, their existence is a constant throughout the series.

Luckily this book was a novella, since the theme was very one note. Despite its short length, Grey continually repeats the main characters concerns over their attraction to each other. Since it’s love at first sight, it doesn’t take long for the kissing to commence or for Seth to propose marriage when Crispin finds them in a compromising situation (although Crispin did much worse to his wife Gwen before their betrothal). Everyone respects Lillian’s right to refuse this offer for what she is convinced will be a disastrous marriage. The plot reaches a somewhat quick, although not unexpected resolution, leaving the reader to wonder whether with a little less repetition, a little more plot development involving the secondary characters, plus a lengthier courtship (Lillian gave in way too easily), this would have been a much better book.

Despite these flaws, it is difficult not to be entertained by the antics of both Seth and Lillian, as well as the two lads (one who partakes of too many sweets and pukes into the bushes – ah, the follies of youth). Perfect for an afternoon of vicarious romance. Three and a half stars.

A thank you to Netgalley and Swerve for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

A Most Inconvenient Wish by Eileen Richards (A Lady’s Wish, #3)

It’s been five years and two kids since elder sister Anne married Nathaniel Matthews (An Unexpected Wish, A Lady’s Wish Book One) and three years since younger sister Juliet married Nathaniel’s little brother Tony, (An Honorable Wish, A Lady’s Wish Book Two), now the beauty of the family, Sophia Townsend, decides to climb to the top of the Fairy Steps and make her marriage wish. Unfortunately, the pesky Scott, Ian McDonald, who a partnered with her brothers-in-law, follows her up to the top, and in exasperation at his interference she makes the wrong wish in A Most Inconvenient Wish (A Lady’s Wish Book Three) by Eileen Richards.

While her siblings married for love, Sophia just wants the comfort of a title and the excitement of the whirlwind of London society, but Nathaniel vows there will be no more seasons. He’s ready to permanently settle down at The Lodge with his wife and children. Sophia has turned down all her suitors, none which have fit her ideal. Yet she has one last chance, inviting Lord Geoffrey Bateman and his sister Lady Catherine for a house visit. The Earl was especially attentive this last season, with The Ton abuzz about the expected proposal. Unfortunately, Geoffrey arrives with his new bride to be (along with her generous dowry) in toe. While he enjoyed his time with Sophia, Bateman needs to marry for money. Love was never a part of the picture. He’s so desperate that he even tries to broker a marriage between the wealthy sheep farmer Ian and his sister to get the cash he needs to maintain his dignified lifestyle. McDonald, whose father was the steward for the Bateman estate, wants nothing to do with the deal, but is willing to purchase the land neighboring their two properties at a fair price.

Complications ensue as the house guests don’t always display the best manners, and Sophie rues the day she impulsively invited them into their midst. The antagonistic relationship between Sophia and Ian fluctuates between harmony and discord as the two try to decide if their vastly different goals matter in the grand scheme of things.

While Richards always comes up with an interesting plot with a compelling beginning and ending, she has trouble somewhere in the middle, meandering about with too much repetition amongst the action. She definitely needs a reminder to show and not tell and tell and tell again. Better a tight 250 page Regency Romance than a rambling one of 300 pages. I was often confused, especially regarding the inconsistent actions of the characters, and the vague generalizations alluded to in the text. Was Geoffrey a decent, but proud man caught in a difficult situation, or was he a raving lunatic? The mantra about desperate men doing desperate things didn’t quite cover some of his (or his sister’s) evil behaviors.

This story, however, has a little more meat to it than book one. Three stars.

This ARC was provided by Netgalley and Lyrical Press in exchange for an honest review. The same review appears on Goodreads.

An Unexpected Wish by Eileen Richards (A Lady’s Wish,#1)

An Unexpected Wish by Eileen Richards starts out as a sweet little Regency Romance where a poverty stricken girl, Miss Anne Townsend, makes a magical wish for a handsome man to fall in love with her, then turns around and literally bumps into the good looking gentleman from the neighboring property. Nathaniel Matthews has been in London for the past five years making his fortune in investments, but has returned after a summons from his beloved grandmother, Lady Danford.

Anne and her sisters, abandoned by their ne’er do well brother, are a baronet’s orphaned daughters who are leasing the old gamekeepers cottage on the Matthew’s estate. Sisters Sophia and Juliet are undeniably the beauties in the family, but Anne’s inwardly perceived plainness is misplaced causing her to blame the attentions of both Cecil Worth, the local vicar, and Nathaniel on her secret wish on the Fairy Steps. While the vicar is abhorrent, she can’t ignore the passion which Nathaniel evokes and finds herself in one too many compromising situations which threaten to ruin her reputation. It doesn’t help that she is constantly meandering about, often unescorted.

While Anne hoped to marry Sophia off to Tony in order to stave off starvation, Nathaniel feels his little brother is not mature enough for marriage and threatens to cut off his allowance if he weds. Anne wonders how she can survive another winter without taking charity from the kindly Lady Danforth who pays her to be a companion. The situation becomes even more convoluted as her relationship with Nate escalates beyond her control and Anne finds it impossible to keep her distance despite her continued assumption that his romantic inclinations are based on fey instead of real feelings. Complications crop up when her wayward brother, Sir John, turns up desperate to find her mother’s jewels in order to stave off the creditors who threaten his well being. These said jewels are nowhere to be found, yet that fact fails to keep the debt collectors from their door.

This tale showed so much promise, but there just wasn’t enough plot to sustain a full length novel, necessitating repetitious dialogue, thought, and actions about why Anne can’t marry the man she loves which could have been overcome by expanding the character development of the siblings and townspeople. Even the climax was anticlimactic, despite the numerous plot twists, although the couple did finally consummate their relationship, instead of continuing to tease the reader with everything but the actual act.

There were so many holes in a story which showed so much potential, that I was disappointed instead of entertained. What started as a four dissolved into a three and then morphed into a two and a half.

This ARC was provided by and Lyrical Press in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

A Night of Forever by Bronwen Evans (The Disgraced Lord Series, Book 6)

Arend Asbury, the Baron of Labourd, seems fearless, but that is only because he doesn’t really care whether he lives or dies. While he is totally devoted to his boyhood friends, the Libertine Scholars, he feels he is not worthy of their loyalty due to his despicable actions during the five years he was abroad in Paris. So while searching for the woman who is seeking revenge on his friends and their wives and children, he is more than ready to take chances which might get him killed for his efforts. After all, he, too, is a target of revenge in retaliation for the sins of their evil fathers. The main candidate is Lady Victoria, the woman the Libertine Scholars suspect of being the ruthless, vindictive killer out to avenge the gang raping incident which ruined her life when she was just a young girl.

Lady Isobel Thompson, Victoria’s step daughter, is a natural suspect, especially since Isobel always seems to be in the midst of the action when vengeful acts occur. Arend thinks she is either a spy, or worse, in cahoots with her stepmother. The Baron willingly puts himself in harm’s way by becoming her faux fiancĂ©, as a means of keeping her under surveillance while the group tries to verify their suspicions. Isobel, who has her own agenda, is more than happy to assist Arend if he helps her prove Victoria is behind the death of her father.

Despite Arend’s good looks and impenetrable aura, his French origins and an unsavory reputation as a rake causes Isobel to have second thoughts. Although he is one of the richest men in England due to the diamond mines he discovered in Brazil (another secretive part of his past), once they go their separate ways she’ll be considered ruined. While her own generous inheritance will be more than enough to entice a proposal, Isobel wants a love match, not a marriage of convenience. Sensing Arend’s deep seated hurt, Isobel thinks she can heal him with her love, but only if he’s willing to trust her with his darkest secrets, actions which he feels are shamefully dishonorable, and will lead to rejection.

Even though they have a mutual distrust, there is an magnetic connection which draws them both together. Mentally they try to resist, but their sexual energy cannot be denied. Arend is torn, he wants to seduce the truth out of Isobel, while protecting her virtue in case she is innocent. It’s her innocence which attracts him, yet there is a sense of doubt, especially since his experiences with beautiful women always seem to end in life altering betrayal.

A Night of Forever by Bronwen Evans is the sixth book in The Disgraced Lord Series. The other five libertines have discovered their true loves and it is now Arend’s turn. The plot begins where A Whisper of Desire (#4) ends, then runs parallel to A Taste of Seduction (#5) before going off on its own tangent. Arend, the dark horse, is the most enigmatic and haunted of the six friends and his mysterious back story is slowly revealed, one piece at a time, through his thoughts and Isobel’s probing questions. While the first two thirds of the book is riveting, the last third dragged, despite the climatic, although absurd conclusion. Yet the reader is glad to finally get some closure to the entire six book vengeance plot which uncovered some dark, unsavory incidents.

Arend’s sexual prowess was exciting at first, but became repetitious as the lovemaking became a one note chorus. A skilled lover should definitely have some varied tricks up his “sleeve” to satisfy a woman without compromising her virtue (which became silly once Isobel was no longer a virgin).

Staying true to the mores and vernacular of the Regency Period is not a forte of Evans, but she did wrap up the saga in a nice neat bow. Or did she? There are a few side characters who did not get their “happily ever afters”, so a couple future books are necessary to tidy things up.

A helpful addition to this book is the Preface by Christian Trent, the Earl of Markham, the featured character in A Kiss of Lies (the first book in The Disgraced Lord Series) who gives a brief overview of events, and the Meet the Libertine Scholars section containing an annotated list of the already featured Libertines (5) and their spouses. For the next book, I suggest Evans add in the various children and their origins (since not all of the offspring are a result of the various marriages). Additional characters (especially those to be featured in the upcoming books) should also be included.

Three and a half stars (it was a four star book for the first half) and a thank you to Netgalley and Loveswept Books for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Longbourn by Jo Baker

In the Regency Era, just like today, there were the haves and the have nots. Those who had, even modestly, owned at least one servant to do the menial tasks of cooking, cleaning, washing, and any other chore which required rugged labor. The have nots really had little choice as poor families tended to be large and had to kick out the older children to fend for themselves. Illness and death due to childbirth left many young ones homeless living on the streets or trying to survive in the workhouses. Female servants needed to guard their reputations since dismissal could push them into a life of prostitution.

A gentleman with an annual allowance, such as Mr Bennett from Pride and Prejudice, could afford more than one servant. Jo Baker, using clues from Jane Austin’s novel, began to construct a backstory, rewriting the tale from the viewpoint of the employees who ran the household while Mrs Bennett tried to marry off her daughters. While the main characters make various appearances, it’s the life of the cook, Mrs Hill, her elderly butler husband, and the two young servant girls, Sarah and Polly, who become the focal point of the novel Longbourn. Add in a young wanderer, James Smith, who is hired to do
odd jobs including driving the family about and serving the meals, and you have the cast of characters.

The story opens with Sarah trying to get the girls’ clothes clean on washday (Elizabeth’s petticoats always seemed to be especially muddy) when she sees James wander by and starts to wonder. She continues wondering after James becomes the family’s footman since he is especially quiet and doesn’t seem to pay any attention to her, although he teases the younger Polly. Yet she can’t help but be grateful when he picks up some of the more strenuous chores such as carting in the water and cleaning up the muck laden boots.

Life gets interesting when Bingley comes to stay at nearby Netherfield. The handsome mulatto groomsman, Ptlomey, who hand delivers the various missives back and forth between his master and Jane, provides a diversion for Sarah with his colorful descriptions of the long imagined London. Sarah must act as lady’s maid when the five girls attend the ensuing social events, aggravating the chilblains on her hands as she irons and arranges their hair and clothing.

While the story follows along with the basic plot of the original novel, Baker creates this parallel story of the servants lives providing a different view of the inhabitants of Longbourn where Mrs Bennett is treated as a more sympathetic character while Mr Bennett is portrayed as a louse and a fool. The reader gets a closer look at what life was really like at the beginning of the 19th century without automobiles, electricity, washing machines, central heating, and plumbing (someone had to empty those chamber pots and wash those filthy nappies when babies were around). The Bennett sisters, while kindly towards the housemaids (even giving Sarah and Polly a choice of one of their old dresses after their father agreed to finance some new frocks), were also self centered, thinking only of their own comforts while others did the actual work. Reflecting the mores of the era, Baker does an excellent job of opening our eyes to how the other half lived.

While I would not say that the author has the same word smithing talent as Jane Austin, Baker does a credible job creating an enjoyable read. This is one of many published “adaptations” of the Bennett saga and is definitely worth a look. Between three and a half and four stars.

WEDDING NIGHT WITH THE EARL BY AMELIA GREY (THE HEIRS’ CLUB OF SCOUNDRELS TRILOGY, BOOK 3)

I was looking forward to reading the final installment of Amelia Grey’s The Heirs’ Club of Scoundrels Trilogy, unfortunately Wedding Night With the Earl fell far short of my expectations. While the main characters showed promise, there simply wasn’t enough of a plot to carry an entire book. This should have been a Regency Novella or perhaps a simple romantic Short Story.

Adam Greyhawke has unexpectedly come into an inheritance and a title along with finding himself shackled with his five year old orphaned heir, Dillon. Due to his new responsibilities, Adam must return to London after a two year absence where he meets up with his best friends, Bray and Harrison. Both childhood buddies have been supportive of his overwhelming grief and self imposed exile after the horrific loss of his wife Annie who died in childbirth. Adam has vowed never to remarry so as not to repeat the tragic loss of another spouse and babe. Yet on his first night back in society he discovers the beauteous Katheryn Wright who bewitches him by repeatedly refusing to partner him in a dance. Kathryn has suffered her own loss due to a tragic carriage accident which resulted in the death of her parents and siblings, leaving her slightly crippled at the age of seven. Living with her father’s siblings who coddle her due to her infirmity, her uncle, the Duke of Quillsbury, insists that she choose a husband from amongst her numerous suitors by the end of her current third season. While she has several gentlemen on her short list of possible future mates, it is the ineligible Earl of Greyshawke who has stolen her heart. He boldly gives Kathryn her first kiss (one full of passion, not a gentle peck) bringing to the surface the ardent feelings which have so far been absent in her life. Despite Adam’s determination to stay away from the vixen who has stirred his blood with her willingness to comply with each of his scandalous actions mirrored by her own innate desires, the two are thrown together on numerous occasions where they unable to keep their amorous tendencies at bay. Only through a strong will is Adam able to avert the consummation of their relationship. In Kathryn he sees an intelligent, independent woman who, with the proper encouragement, should be able to throw away her cane and even learn to dance. In order to find true love, both must be willing to take a leap of faith and overcome the millstones from their past.

A plus was the addition of friends Bray and Garrison whose romances were told in Books One and Two of the series. Both wives, Louisa and Angelina, are expecting so they were not involved in the social scenes. References were also made to the Prim siblings who were prominent in the first book, A Duke in My Bed and the novella, The Duke and Miss Christmas. I would have liked to have seen some of these lively characters take a more active role, perhaps spicing up some of the gaps in this story. Instead the book is full of repetitive reflections replacing the potentially exciting activity which would have taken the storyline to the next level rather than leaving us with a staid plot. Even the sexual encounters became tedious.

With better character development (especially of the secondary characters), less introspection, and some much needed action, this story would have been a more interesting read. The title is also misleading as the Wedding Night is a relatively brief interlude which doesn’t occur until almost the end of the book. Two and a half stars. This review also appears on Goodreads.

I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.