Tag Archives: Kidnapping

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.

Advertisements

Diary of Anna the Girl Witch: Foundling Witch by Max Candee, illustrated by Raquel Barros

Of all the genres, the one which is the most difficult to master is the creation of a satisfying children’s book. Unfortunately, Max Candee, the Swedish author, has not quite found that sweet spot of success with his book, The Diary of Anna the Girl Witch: Foundling Witch. It’s not that his story is lacking since I enjoyed the engaging tale of the orphan Anna discovered as ammbabe amongst the Bears in Siberia by a kindly fur trapper. Upon reaching the age of six, her Uncle Mischa brings her to an orphanage in Switzerland and the story opens at the private boarding school which Anna attends due to a generous trust fund (gotta love those Swiss Bank accounts) that will provide her with the financial security necessary to support her on any quest which crosses her path. Add in some evil doers and the fact Anna has special powers, and you potentially have the start of something great.

The issue then is the delivery. Candee decided to create a book which is part diary, part first person narrative using simple text which doesn’t fit the age of the characters. Anna is an intelligent thirteen, not eight or even ten. In addition, children have become quite sophisticated in their reading material, note another book about witchcraft – Rowling’s Harry Potter series – which is a lot darker and more sophisticated than this story. Or examine the higher level of text in the malicious Series of Unfortunate Events. So the question is: “Who is the audience?” Not YA or even middle school, but perhaps those in the elementary grades (yet not too young). Despite the numerous kid friendly illustrations by Spanish artist Raquel Barros, which are a huge positive for this publication, this is definitely not a picture book.

Yet I’m sure this new series would please the average child especially if it were presented in a different format. Do away with the diary and narration, taking the exact same story, and change it into a graphic novel. Viola! Perfecto! The possibilities are endless. Barros is more than capable of extending her delightful drawings into a pictorial description of Anna’s adventures. The author has the imagination and talents to redraft this saga into something quite exceptional. Graphic novels are also a popular emerging genre, especially those written specifically for children, having already been embraced by middle and high school students. The Anna the Girl Witch series could be one of those ground breaking books which would delight a much broader audience.

Problem solved. So when Anna receives the bizarre gifts from her unknown mother on her thirteenth birthday and slowly discovers she is a witch with an affinity for the moon, we will visually experience her awe and power as she fights the lurking evil which threatens her friends at the school she attends. A female teen protagonist who saves the day is just the sort of role model young girls need to read about as a means of their own empowerment.

So there it is. Right story, great illustrations, wrong format.

A thank you to Netgalley and Helvetic House for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Two and a half stars.

This review also 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.

A Taste of Seduction by Bronwen Evans (Disgraced Lord Series, Book 5)

Lord Hadley Fullerton and his next door neighbor Lady Evangeline Stuart are in love, even though the future will require a conservative lifestyle. Hadley, as the second son to the Duke of Claymore has a limited income based on his fledgling vineyard, while Evageline, despite her beauty, comes from a fatherless family who has lost its income due to her mother’s gambling habits, so lacks a proper dowry to attract the wealthy husband her mom envisions. She doesn’t care that they can’t afford a season since her true love is the handsome Hadley. By the time they agree to elope, they’ve already explored their passion through every act but penetration. The evening they exchange promises, Evangeline convinces Hadley to give in to their passions and consummate their relationship. Thinking they are to wed, he allows himself to be seduced by his one true love.

Five years later, Hadley is a bitter man. He avoids close relationships with women after being spurned by Evageline who absconded to Scotland with a rich titled gentleman. He even agreed to wed his brother’s best friend’s sister, a mousy plain spinster, because it would be a marriage without emotion. Yet as his thirtieth birthday and the impending nuptials near, he starts to have second thoughts. Then Evangeline, the now wealthy widow, reappears and acts as if she did nothing wrong. Her presence enrages Hadley, even while he finds himself still attracted to his former fiancĂ©. Evangeline has a different take on the whole situation, and she, too, is angry because Hadley let her go so easily and did not come and rescue her from an unwanted fate.

While the two lovebirds sort out their feelings, giving in to their mutual passions despite their differences, a series of complications arise. The mystery woman who is trying to ruin the lives of the six Libertine Scholars, strikes once again. This time the reader gets some answers, but there are still too many questions remaining to get complete closure. Kidnappings, murder, and mayhem overwhelm the close friends as one of their number disappears and they must admit that the only way to find him alive is to trust their enemy.

A Taste of Seduction by Bronwen Evans ends unfinished leaving the reader wanting more. There are surprises intermixed with exciting developments and lots of loose ends plus the fear that the next book in the Disgraced Lord series, A Night of Forever, will also end in tragedy. This Regency Romance is definitely a four star book.

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

A Touch of Passion by Bronwen Evans (Disgraced Lord Series, Book 3)

Lord Grayson Devlin, now Viscount Blackwood, became a member of the Flagstaff family when his parents and sister were killed in a carriage crash. Instead of thinking of him as one of her brothers, Lady Portia has been in love with Greyson since her coming out ball when she was sixteen years old. There was a moment when he seemed to return her feelings, but then war beckoned and off he went with her brother Robert and close pal Christian Trent, to fight the French. After the Battle of Waterloo, Greyson returned a different man. He had been unable to save Robert, his best friend, who was now dead or Christian who suffered scars from devastating burns. Full of self reproach, he vowed to never put his heart on the line again. It was just too painful to lose the ones he loved especially when it seemed that everyone he truly cared about died, leaving him behind to grieve.

The independent, unconventional Lady Portia vowed to marry no one but Greyson and only if he unconditionally returned her feelings. Yet, at the age of twenty four, she still longed to experience the passion she knew would ignite between them if only he would return her favors, so when she received a missive from Greyson to meet her at the scandalous Vauxville Gardens, she could not resist the chance of a romantic rendezvous. Unfortunately, it was not Greyson, but a kidnapper paid to bring her to a sultan’s harem in Egypt. Greyson, who had promised Robert to watch over his little sister, immediately set off to rescue Lady Portia before she came to harm. Despite attempts to dispel the rumor mill with tales of illness, the word was out that the Viscount was involved with her disappearance. In order to salvage both their reputations, a wedding was mandatory, but Portia refused to have any part of nuptials which didn’t include love and respect as a part of the marriage vows, preferring her current spinsterhood despite the impending scandal.

And thus the tug of war between the two love birds begins, with a push pull, yes no, do I don’t I, maybe yet, I want you but, sort of relationship. Of the first three books in the Disgraced Lord Series, A Touch of Passion is the most complete, even if it is a tad too long, dragging near the end. While Bronwen Evans has a tendency to repeat the details too many times, first with thoughts, then with explanations, then with further explanations, until the reader thinks “enough already”, at least this tale had quite a bit of action in the plot. This volume expounds upon the friendship between the Libertine Scholars and explores the loving relationships of the two already married couples and their families. Rounding out the story provides some humorous moments, especially when jealousy rears its ugly head. Headway is also made in discovering the identity of the mystery woman bent on destroying the reputations of the six comrades, threatening their lives as well as those close to them. The search for true love by the women and the avoidance of love by the men seems to be a theme which is interwoven in all the tales. Unfortunately, their ideals of love are simplistic and kind of sappy, despite the steamy sex scenes.

Some of the sexual situations, such as in the harem, are unusual, bordering on erotica. Grayson’s rescue of Portia from Alexandria defies logic, but sets an adventurous tone which reflects the heroine’s high spirited nature. Don’t look for accuracy in the Regency details, but instead focus on the overarching mystery as the glue which holds the series together. Three stars.

Thank you to Netgalley and Loveswept for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A Promise of More by Bronwen Evans (The Disgraced Lord Series, Book 2)

As a child, Lord Sebastian Hawkestone, Marquis of Coldstone witnessed both his mother and father try to outdo each other’s infidelities in retaliation for perceived hurts, supposedly as a response to the heartache from their all-consuming love. After his parents’ death, Sebastian was left the guardian of his two younger sisters, Marisa and Helen, raised by their capable Aunt Alison. As a defense mechanism, the Marquis pledged to never get personally involved with any woman, even refusing to take a mistress. Despite his repulsion of love, Sebastian still was obligated to get married and start a family, so when Lady Beatrice Hennessey confronted him about the damage he had done to her family after the dueling death of her brother, Douglas Hennessey, the Baron of Larkwell, he decided that she was an adequate choice. Her plain looks wouldn’t tempt him, and after she was with child he could leave her at his country estate and continue his rakish ways. Plus marriage would give him the respectability necessary to launch his sisters into society.

Unfortunately, Sebastian’s plans fall by the wayside when the newly weds discover there was a plot to discredit and destroy the Libertine Scholars and that Doogie’s death was really a murder used to besmirch Lord Coldstone’s good name. Beatrice was horrified for guilting the Marquis into marriage, but he felt she was just another victim in this evil plot of revenge. Together they try to discover what really happened that fateful day and the more they work as a team, the more Sebastian recognizes her outward beauty and inner integrity. What started as a marriage of convenience becomes much more than he had planned. She, too, feels an attraction to her handsome husband who tenderly teaches her the intricacies of lovemaking and awakens her passionate side. Who knew that Henpecked Hennessy would have such a depth of character.

In A Promise of More (Book Two in The Disgraced Lord Series) by Bronwen Evans, we once again meet the six comrades of the Libertine Scholars (minus one who is off in Egypt rescuing the kidnapped daughter he has pledged to protect, the subject of Book Three, A Touch of Passion). On the sidelines is Christian Trent, Earl of Markham and his wife Sabrina whose story is found in A Kiss of Lies, (Book One). Both are in hiding to prevent the enemy from discovering they are still alive after an almost successful murder attempt. Some additional clues concerning the overarching mystery binding the series together are revealed.

While I was looking forward to reading Sebastian’s story since he was so likeable in the previous book, I was disappointed by his behaviors towards Beatrice. Instead of being understanding, he treats her with disdain and threats any time she crosses him or behaves contrary to his wishes. He would often abandon her in search of someone else, behaving like a bastard, even though he eventually returns home realizing it is his wife he truly desires. Beatrice wasn’t a blameless spouse as she kept a big part of her life a secret, although I couldn’t blame her for not wanting to share her news with such an inconsistent husband. Neither inspired the trust which they both sought.

A major problem, as in the first book, was the repetition of thoughts and even actions as each of the protagonists continue their bad behaviors and agonize over their situations including a wife searching for true love and a husband avoiding any semblance of emotional commitment, doing his best to ignore his wedding vows. Sebastian could see the love sick look in his wife’s eyes, a condition which usually sent him running to the next lover. Beatrice wanted to seduce Sebastian into loving her, but often earned her reputation as “Henpecked” Hennessey by berating him. He in turn got angry and viciously lashed out, hurting them both. This made it difficult to root for the couple. The sex, however, was steamy. Sebastian certainly earned his reputation as an accomplished lover. The villains, Lord Dunmire and Lady Christina, were truly evil, with actions totally motivated by self gratification, to the point of insanity.

While I liked Book Two in the Disgraced Lord Series better than the initial book, the promise shown in the first half was marred by aspects which dragged, especially the repetitive introspective flow of thoughts which resulted in a sappy love story instead of a romance. With some more even pacing and editing, this would have been a tighter, more enjoyable read. Once again, a little research into the terminology and life style of the Regency Period would have been appreciated.

Three stars.