Tag Archives: England

Forbidden Knight by Diana Cosby

Forbidden Knight by Diana Cosby is a sweet little Scottish Medieval Romance, short enough to read in an afternoon, long enough to be chockful of action. Mistress Alesone MacNiven is under the protection of the rightful King of Scotland, Robert the Bruce, when she comes across a group of men on horseback. Not sure if they pay allegiance to Bruce or his mortal enemy, Lord Comyn, she sends a masterful warning shot with her arrow, barely missing the heart of Sir Thomas MacKelloch. Leary of each other’s intentions, Thomas binds the maiden to keep her from escaping so he can verify her story of being the King’s healer. Once truths are revealed, the two find themselves on the way to safety in Avalon to avoid a disaster which would tear Scotland apart. Each has a series of secrets which affect their outlook on life and both feel a growing affection which doesn’t fit into either of their future plans. The road is not easy, not just because of the tough terrain, but also because the enemy is on their tail, and anyone who helps them also becomes a target. While this Medieval tale is full of violence, it is tempered with love as Sir Thomas and Alesone both attempt to reconcile their pasts. Although this is Part 2 of the Forbidden Series, you don’t need to have read the plot of Book1 to gain an understanding of the moral codes of the times.

Although well written and despite the exciting fight scenes, there was a little too much repetition in the intimacy department as the two lovers agonize over their feelings and despair that this is a romance which can never happen. With a lot of teasingly passionate moments, in the end there’s a nice twist which promises a happily ever after in spite of their doubts. The historical background regarding the Knights Templar and the strife over who will rule Scotland is an added plus.

Three and a half stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing an 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.

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

The question isn’t whether the teenage Queen Victoria had a crush on her elderly Private Secretary, the question remains about what sort of feelings Lord Melbourne had towards Her Majesty.

Daisy Goodwin in both her book and PBS miniseries Victoria extensively used Queen Victoria’s diaries to weave her tale of Alexandrina Victoria’s ascension to the throne. Unfortunately, although Victoria kept all encompassing diaries about not just her actions, but her thoughts and attitudes towards life, her youngest daughter Beatrice edited these reflections (at her mother’s request), copying them over and burning the originals. Thus it is only the redacted words which were left behind. Still, Goodwin was able to glean that Victoria definitely had more than just daughterly feelings towards the 58 year old Prime Minister. The gallant, amiable gentleman did everything he could to please his young mentor, yet despite their closeness, even he at times became the target of her ire.

The novel has Victoria mildly flirting with the man who seems charmed by her youthful exuberance although he keeps his personal feelings private knowing it would be inappropriate for him to have a romantic relationship with the young Queen. Victoria is drawn to his life of tragic romance when as Charles Lamb his wife Caroline ran off with the salacious author Lord Byron gallivanting throughout London Society causing scandalized tongues to wag. Caroline returned to her husband after being dumped by the “evil” Lord, and proceeded to publish a “fictionalized” novel containing thinly veiled details of her affair. Lamb suffered from these insults but remained by her side as she died of dropsy at the age of 42.

Trouble followed the now Lord Melbourne as his name was romantically linked to another lady and brought to court charged with adultery or as they called it “a criminal conversation”. Despite these scandals, he was able to retain his role as Prime Minister of England and ultimately became the Personal Secretary of a Queen who was fascinated by his lovelorn past.

Victoria monopolizes so much of Melborne’s time that one wonders how he was able to fulfill his role of Prime Minister. Her devotion to the man was revealed when she refused to accept his Tory opponent, Sir Robert Peel, as a replacement when Melbourne attempted to step down (after almost losing a vote on an important measure), forcing Parliament to decline his resignation to keep the government intact.

Goodwin introduces us to life at Buckingham Palace in 1837 where the willful young Queen has temper tantrums, throws things about, and sulks if she doesn’t get her way. Victoria was mean to her mother, obsessed with her hair and wardrobe, and unaware of the needs of those who surrounded her, lacking any sort of empathy for the very people who fulfilled her demands. However, what can one expect of a child kept isolated and under the thumb of a controlling mother (who forced “Drina” to sleep on a cot by her side and did not allow her daughter to walk down the stairs unassisted), brought up under the auspices of a predestined life of royalty.

My favorite scene is when her two cousins are visiting and Ernest strikes up a conversation with Victoria while the others are vigorously eating their meal. To his astonishment, the footman takes away his dinner mid bite. Although he complains he hasn’t finished, the fact is that when the Queen is done eating, everyone is done as well. (And the Queen was infamous for gulping down her food). Of course the reader knows this will happen since this is not the first mention of this tradition within the pages of this book.

While lengthy, the book only deals with the early years of Victoria’s reign up to the point where she asks her handsome cousin Albert to be her husband. (The mini series proceeds a little farther to when her first of nine children are born).

I was slightly disappointed. There was so much fascinating material here to be fictionalized, yet Goodwin kept repeating the same thoughts or ideas through the voices of numerous characters. I appreciated that the author used actually quotes, but at times the dialogue was too staid and as in many historical novels featuring biographical content, the author included too many particulars from the past, although I personally liked the mention of hairstyles and clothing choices as well as the social scenes such as the various balls, dancing, and the trip to Windsor. Perhaps too much attention was paid to some of the specific events which shaped those first few months of her reign. An author needs to pick and choose their focus so we don’t get bogged down in unnecessary minutiae. If I wanted to read a nonfiction book detailing Queen Victoria’s life I would have read Victoria: the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird (which I just might do).

Nevertheless, I did enjoy this book and recommend it to others. Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley and St Martin’s Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This review also appears on Goodreads.

A Love to Remember (The Disgraced Lords, #7) by Bronwen Evans

I’ve just gotten back from a little trip to England to visit my old friends from The Ton, you know, the Libertine Scholars, and do I have some juicy gossip to share. It seems Philip Flagstaff, the Earl of Cumberland, has been having an affair with Her Grace, Lady Rose Deverill, the Wicked Widow. It’s a perfect arrangement because neither one is interested in matrimony. Rose had a terrible first marriage, forced to marry an older man who was, shall I say, not very considerate of her “needs”. The only good thing that came from the relationship was her son, Drake. Of course, she did inherit the estate (her father wasn’t a total fool when handing her over to a distasteful elderly husband) and her son will be the Duke of Roxborough when he reaches his majority. In the meantime The Marquis of Kirkwood is his guardian, watching out for his interests. Luckily, the kind man has pretty much stayed out of her business, but she expects he soon will be making some demands. After all, it’s no secret that Philip was seen dancing with the current popular debutant and ignoring her at the latest fete. If their affair is truly over, Kirkwood might think it time for her to settle down, especially since she’s only twenty six and still lovely.

It’s not that she and Philip don’t get along, they do very well in the boudoir together, more than okay. It’s just that Philip is still grieving for his brother, Robert, who sacrificed his life at the Battle of Waterloo in order to protect his “little brother”. It’s Philip’s fault that Robert is dead so he doesn’t feel he’s entitled to the title he inherited. Philip has been a screwup all his life and he doesn’t believe he’s deserves any happiness, especially not with the beautiful and charming Rose. No, marriage is out, not to Rose, not to anyone. Let the succession line fall to his younger brother, a clone of Robert and more worthy of the honor.

Unfortunately, Philips sister, Lady Portia (remember how she was kidnapped and sold to a sultan’s harem in Alexandria, rescued in the nick of time by Philip and her future husband, Lord Greyson Devlin) is none too happy about her brother’s behavior. The others think he’s a fool as well. Then when he showed up at Serena’s dinner party with another woman, they practically attacked him. Poor Rose had to deal with this public display of humiliation.

It will take a miracle to shake some sense into that man. Or perhaps a disaster that needs the help of those six friends (and their wives) to resolve. I’m curious to see how it all works out. There are so many rumors, but that would be telling.

A Love to Remember by Bronwen Evans is a continuation of the Libertine Scholars saga. Now that Arend has his happy ending and the mystery woman that was trying to destroy their lives has been captured, the six men and their wives are living in wedded bliss raising the numerous children who seem to come in waves. However, Philip’s life has not been resolved. When his brother, the seventh Libertine Scholar was killed in battle, the others vowed to look out for his wellbeing. After all, his sister is married to Greyson and family is family. Rose, Lady Portia’s best friend, is also an honorary member of the group. Plus Rose’s son is best friends with Henry, a young boy under Sebastian and Beatrice’s care, so Evans is obligated to “tie up the loose ends”.

I was excited to touch base with all the characters from the first six book in the The Disgraced Lords series. Since each of the storylines overlapped in some way, there’s only been about two years between the beginning tale and this book. While A Love to Remember can serve as a stand alone, reading the other novels will give a better perspective on the wide cast of characters.

As enjoyable as I found this novel, which had a twist or two in the plot, I was disappointed that the author felt the need to be so repetitive. Yes, Rose was in love and wanted to marry Philip. Yes, Philip felt honor bound to never marry as a penance for his brothers death, but how many times did we need to hear this? Too many times if you ask me or enough to detract from the whole. Once again, Evans needs to tighten up the plot and leave out the miscellaneous – more libertine scholars, less introspection. She did, however, include some juicy dialogue, as the two lovers exchanged some sexy reparte.

As a reminder, lovers of Regency Romances who like accuracy in the details from this era should avoid this series. However, those who like a good romp with a happily ever after ending should dig right in. Three and a half stars.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

Potent Charms by Peggy Waide

If Phoebe Rafferty wants to gain her inheritance and not be at the mercy of her bitter Aunt Hildegard, she has six weeks to find a husband. With the promise of a title and an estate, the lovely American born “heiress” should have her pick of suitors, but she wants love, not convenience. Luckily, while trying to avoid the dictates of British society, she slips away from yet another country dance finding herself in the same room as fellow slacker Stephen Lambert, Duke of Badrick, with their amusing repartee leading to a relationship which teases the reader with possibilities. Phoebe finds herself attracted to the rogue, but no matter how attractive he finds the damsel, he can only offer the role of mistress, not wife, due to a family curse. Five women have died over the past three generations of Badricks and two were his former wives. Determined to be the one to stop the curse, Stephen vows to be the heir who never weds and put an end to this nightmare in the book Potent Charms by Peggy Waide

All Phoebe knows is that as their passion grows her resistance weakens. His desires are also strong and he stubbornly sticks to a plan to seduce her into acquiescence while she’s convinced that her allures will lead to a more favorable sort of proposal. Their back and forth banter through numerous events brings them closer to fulfilling their need for one another so when Phoebe proclaims her love Stephen assumes that she has agreed to be his in all but name. Wrong. Despite her loss of innocence and the various scandals associated with her dalliances, there is a decent gentleman in London society who is more than willing to make her his wife. Now the question is: Can Phoebe settle for comfort over love? And will Stephen allow another man to bed her?

The dialogue is clever, the characters dynamic, the plot moves along with detours to a hidden room in a secret passage, a gypsy camp, a fox hunt, a house party, a museum tour, and numerous other social events, all with opportunities for the two lovebirds to hook up, each time moving their romance a little closer to consummation. Yet the plot is a little too busy, with too many unfulfilling sex scenes, and too much whining over a seemingly stagnant situation. In other words, those six weeks seem an eternity. The supporting characters have some bite, but their matchmaking motivations are also repetitive. My advice is to tighten up the plot, and save some of the extra drama for another novel. Stephen’s selfishness along with a quick temper and a tendency to use his fists to resolve his anger issues, does not help us root for a successful outcome. Phoebe could have done better. Luckily the story moves along quickly. Readers who want their Regency Romances to be accurate in details containing somewhat plausible actions and behaviors should definitely skip this one. Three and a half stars.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

We all know that King Henry VIII was obsessed with his legacy which is one of the reasons he ended up with six wives. It also led to England’s break with the Pope who refused to annul Henry’s first marriage. When the King died, his only son Edward became the new King of England at the age of nine, with the crown being controlled by a series of “advisers” whose chief purpose was to line their own pockets, profiting from pilfered land and the titles and funds associated with those properties. Whether King Edward VI, at the age of fifteen, died of TB or was poisoned is still up to conjecture, but immediately prior to his death he signed a proclamation naming his cousin, Lady Jane Grey and her progeny, next in line to the throne in order to keep his older half sister, Mary, from taking control of the country. Mary had different ideas about the succession, imprisoning Lady Jane and eventually beheading her for treason. Jane’s total term as Queen lasted only nine days. Queen Mary I, a devout Catholic, sought revenge for her father’s persecution against the priesthood by beheading self proclaimed Protestants, earning her the title of Bloody Mary. After five years on the throne, Mary died childless, possibly of ovarian or uterine cancer, and her younger half sister Elizabeth ascended to power and ruled for forty five years undoing the damage of Mary’s fanaticism by encouraging the Protestant Church to grow and flourish.

Many writers have replicated these events in books and various theatrical events. However, when three YA authors got together, they decided it would be fun to create an alternative interpretation of these historic events and present an irreverent version of the fate befalling the Tudors in the 1550’s. Instead of dealing with a religious conflict in My Lady Jane, the authors, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, elected to bestow an alter ego to the population, allowing select individuals to have a separate “personality” in the form of an animal. These Edians were discriminated against by the Verities – those individuals who did not have the shape shifting gene.

In this fantasy, King Edward barely manages to escape a death by poison, changing into a kestrel and flying to safety. Lady Jane finds herself married to Lord G who is a horse by day, while she morphs into a ferret each night. Using their animal forms, the two are able to allude their executioners. Filling in the blanks with real and imaginary details, the three authors painstakingly paint an absurd portrait of love, romance, betrayal, and conflict as Edward seeks a path back to the throne. Unfortunately, the fantasy portion is in direct conflict with reality, so they also need to develop an imaginative conclusion which somewhat coincides with the realm of possibility.

The readers can tell the authors had a good time ad-libbing an amusing variant to English history. They did their research, visiting such locales as the Tower of London and interviewing historians about the sequence of events. They even threw in some salacious tidbits, such as the scandalous behavior of Lady Jane’s mother running off with the horse master, which sounds like fiction, but is actually true. Unfortunately, I found the entire book too silly for my taste, and at times annoying, especially since the plot dragged on and on for close to 500 pages. While I normally have a sense of humor, (I enjoyed Spelled by Betsy Schow, a twisted version of The Wizard of Oz) and am no stranger to books featuring shape shifters or alternate paths (Think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith), this book fell short.

Now don’t let me keep you from reading this novel. There are many who loved the premise and its implementation (it was even voted the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction in 2016), I’m just not one of them. However, kudos for introducing a whole generation of readers to the little known historical event where Lady Jane Gray served a brief stint in the monarchy of England. So for finding a unique way to educate the average reader – three stars. (If you want to read a superior fantasy, although not written to be humorous, that involves animals and humans – please check out Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy).

A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot in the Houses of Parliament by John Preston

While A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot in the Houses of Parliament by John Preston wasn’t exactly what I expected, despite my reluctance, I found myself sucked into the true story regarding the leadership of the Liberal Party in the British Parliament beginning in 1965. Jeremy Thorpe with his friends Peter Bessell and David Holmes wheel and deal their way throughout the book. If their strategies were limited to politics there wouldn’t have been much of a story, but Thorpe was an active, often indiscreet, homosexual whose affair with the handsome, unstable Norman Josiffe (also known as Norman Scott), led to many grief stricken moments of despair over the possibility of discovery. Out of desperation, Thorpe even plotted an unsuccessful attempt on Scott’s life which ended in his resignation and a major trial featuring barrister George Carman on the defense team. How this natural born, but flawed, leader was ruined makes a fascinating tale. Told through the viewpoints of the various players, the author has done an incredible amount of research to put their authentic voices in the forefront providing more than enough details to substantiate the events. There is even a final chapter describing what happened to the major players in this drama after the trial was over.

While this book is very readable, it is a tad too long and I wish some of the details could have been condensed or omitted although I realize the author wanted to be thorough.

What astonished me is that there were still laws on the books prior to 1967 which proclaimed homosexual acts between consenting adults a criminal offense and that even after that date such a tendency could result in the loss of a job. Due to this policy, blackmail became a very real threat for the numerous individuals mentioned who were secretly in the closet. In an era where Gay Marriage is legal (at least in the United States), it is hard to fathom the hardship faced for those who were not born heterosexual. Yet, even with laws protecting their rights as citizens, society still too often gangs up and harasses members of the LGBT community.

Preston includes a comprehensive index and a list of acknowledgements which reference the numerous titles he used in his research of the events surrounding this scandal.

Four stars and a thank you to Other Press and Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.