Tag Archives: courtship

Lord of Night (Rogues to Riches, Book 3) by Erica Ridley

First of all, suspend all sense of reality, and forget that this book takes place during the Regency era since there’s a lot in this plot which would otherwise not make sense.

Lord of Night by Erica Ridley, Book 3 of the Rogues to Riches series, deals with Dahlia, the middle sister of the Grenville family. In Book 2, Lord of Pleasure, eldest sister Camellia, a prodigy known for her singing talent throughout the Dukes of War series, has wed the Earl of Wainwright and gone off to pursue her passion for opera, a fate which would ordinarily have caused social ruin for the entire family. If that weren’t enough of a scandal, Dahlia runs St Giles School for Girls, a boarding home for indigent girls teaching them skills which will keep them off the streets as beggars, thieves, or, even worse, prostitutes. Unfortunately, running a business costs money for things like rent, uniforms, supplies, food, etc. Dahlia, whose father is a Baron, needs to maintain her connections with The Ton to solicit the necessary funds to keep the doors open, and she isn’t above a little pilfering, playing a sort of Robin Hood, to protect her interests. Her mother and the rest of society don’t understand her fervent dedication and wonder aloud why she doesn’t devote her efforts to running a finishing school for the right type of patron instead of wasting time on those ruffians.

Enter Bow Street Runner Simon Spaulding, passing by while the Night Watchman is playing hooky, who rescues Dahlia’s latest recruit, a girl in danger of being robbed and raped by the dangerous element in the notorious St Giles neighborhood. Spaulding arrests the ruffian and promises to return to make sure they are all safe, a departure from his usual routine which becomes a habit of sorts. All of a sudden he finds himself actively involved in the life of the two dozen “refugees” and their matron, even giving up an hour of his time each week to assist in their dancing lessons. While he becomes fond of the students, it’s their teacher who has beguiled him, teaching him that his life should include something besides work. Yet if he wants that promotion he needs to capture the Thief of Mayfair, then perhaps he might even consider matrimony. Unfortunately, he doesn’t realize that Dahlia isn’t quite what she seems and that certain maiden also knows that she can’t marry an inspector, even if he is the bastard son of a Duke. If she wants her school to continue she needs someone with deep pockets willing to support her “little project”, (not to mention that marriage would transfer all the property she owns over to her husband’s domain). She can’t allow that to happen which is why she’s made special arrangements with her best friend and partner, Faith.

This is her dilemma, that and her growing attraction to the officer who would reject her if he knew the truth about her real identity and her thieving ways, especially since they have supposedly been confiding in one another.

This is one of Ridley’s better stories, full of charm as the young “ladies” find their voice, the detective discovers the joys of friendship, and Dahlia falls in love. There are a couple of twists before the two lovebirds find their happily ever after with appearances by some of the characters from previous books.

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

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Lord of Pleasure (Rogues to Riches series, Book 2) by Erica Ridley

Michael Rutland, the Earl of Wainwright, commonly referred to as the Lord of Pleasure, is sick of constantly having his life appear as a caricature in the newspapers. It’s not his fault that women are taken not just with his title, but also his good lucks. All he does is try to be polite and complimentary to those he meets – so, why the fuss? And if he does consider a tryst with a woman of his acquaintance, it’s not with a debutante, but a more worldly woman, often a widow. He’s not the sort to take advantage or “ruin” a young lady. Yet, his critics accuse him of all sorts of things, mostly sordid. To make matters worse his best friends, Maxwell Gideon and Lord Hawkridge, have taken to displaying those very illustrations around his favorite hangout, the Cloven Hoof. Determined to change his reputation he vows to live quietly and keep his face out of the “comics” for forty days. Bets are made and the wager begins. No saint, he decides to attend the Duke of Lambley’s infamously bawdy Masquerade Ball for some discreet entertainment. Here he meets and becomes fascinated by Lady X. Of course, the rules of the establishment are “no names” (thus the masks) and neither Lambley or the amiable doorkeeper Phillip Fairfax are talking (see Lord of Chance, Book One of the Rogues to Riches series).

Then there’s Miss Camellia Grenville whose parents have just revealed she is to marry Mr Irving Bost from out of the way North Umbria. He’s coming in a month to start the marriage process, willing to make her his wife, sight unseen, based on her reputation as a good girl who never causes trouble – unlike her two hoyden sisters, Dahlia and Bryony. Despite having a father who is a Baron, the Grenville family seems to live on the fringes of The Ton, with their claim to fame the popular musicales they perform in their home. Middle daughter Dahlia runs a school for disadvantaged girls and has developed a distaste for Lord Wainwright when he inadvertently criticizes her endeavor causing her to lose some prospective critical funding. All three sisters band together in their hostility towards the earl who seems as frivolous as the scandal sheets imply. When they do meet, he is not given a warm welcome but asked to leave. The eldest daughter intrigues him with her bluntness versus the swooning he usually gets from females, even ones at the advanced age of twenty six. Little does he know that she’s the beautiful and alluring Lady X who is stealing his heart. Nor does she suspects he’s the bewitching Lord X who charms her each Saturday while she takes advantage of her last moments of freedom before the unwanted looming marriage.

Well written and intriguing with witty repartee and some interesting side trips, Lord of Pleasure is one of Erica Ridley’s better Regency Romances – Book 2 in the Rogues to Riches series. While the Musicales at the Grenville home featuring Camellia as the soloist, accompanied by her sister Bryony and brother Heath (Dahlia has no musical talent), have been repeatedly referred to as a must see event in the Dukes of War series, the sisters have never been front and center and the trio presents an interesting dynamic. The cluelessness which over shadows the entire affair provides a few head wags and while the Grenville parents seem heartless in marrying off their eldest daughter who would prefer to spend her days reading or huddling with her siblings, they truly love her and want what’s best. They even support, albeit reluctantly, their headstrong offspring in some outrageous life choices (see future books in the series).

While the author’s tendency to repeat the main character’s angst is evident, it seems under control and only mildly annoying and we won’t mention those parts of the book which don’t reflect the Regency period.

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

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.