Tag Archives: London

Third Son’s a Charm (The Survivors, Book 1) by Shana Galen

Ewan Mostyn, the third son of the Earl of Pembroke, fought for the British in the Napoleonic Wars. His company, composed of other non-heirs, started out with thirty but only twelve survived the suicidal missions, now known as Dravens Dozen. Mostyn, referred to as The Protector, split his time as a bouncer at Langley’s Gaming Hell and hanging out at Draven’s Club with his wartime comrades. His reputation as a tough, no nonsense guy attracted the attention of the Duke of Ridlington who had need of Ewan’s services. The Duke’s daughter, Lady Lorraine Caldwell, had convinced herself she was in love and in her willful, head strong manner, had attempted to elope. Luckily her love interest refused the honor if it meant his “beloved” would be cut off without funds.

Moysten had no interest in being bodyguard to a spoiled heiress until he discovered her beau was none other than his despised cousin Francis. Francis, a favorite of his father, had been the bane of Ewan’s existence since his mother’s untimely death. Francis used his uncle’s favor to get away with hurtful bullying which always seemed to result in a punishment for Moysten instead of the perpetrator. The Earl’s disdain for his youngest son stemmed from his inability to read (most likely due to dyslexia) and his failure at schooling. Ewan’s stuttering and insecurities contrasted with the slick manner of Francis whose good looks and charm were assets his cousin lacked. The Protector knew that Francis was more attracted to Lorrie’s dowry than he was to her beauty and it would be his pleasure to thwart his nemesis plans.

Lorrie’s long winded babbling was in sharp contrast to the quiet reticent Mostyn who took his bodyguard duties seriously. Despite her youthful ways, Lady Lorraine had a kind heart and was simply looking for an outlet for her passionate nature. Opposites attract and soon Mostyn found it difficult to resist giving his “client” a taste of what she’d be missing if she ran off with Francis. While just a kiss, he was appalled for overstepping societal boundaries and attempted to keep his distance while still fulfilling his duties, but the young debutante was having none of it and the two found themselves in close proximity as they each helped the other work through their personal issues. An additional subplot involved the Duke rekindling a romance with his still lovely wife after years of growing apart.

While Third Son’s a Charm by Shana Galen had a lot of potential, it was just a bit too long for the content. The crush on Francis continued way past her inamorata with Ewan and the plot climax came a little too late to save the day. Galen does, however, know how to write a passionate sexual interlude which will keep the readers hot and bothered. I especially liked the repartee between the secondary characters who will be the subject of other Regency Romances in The Survivors series. Hopefully the plot line of these future books won’t drag in the middle like this one. Three stars.

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

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Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

At 70 something, Claudia Hampton is at a facility dying of cancer where she decides to write a history of the world, in essence her history. Yet this is not to be a boring tome, but a kaleidoscope of memories switching back and forth over time, like a shuffled deck of cards, as thoughts of past events flit through her mind. One of the nurses asks the doctor if she was a somebody due to her high handed behaviors. With an offhand remark he responds that it appears so, some sort of writer in her day.

And what a “day” that was. Born in England in 1910, losing her father in the first world war, Claudia and her brother Gordon are a handful that their mother can’t or won’t control, so they forge their own path, constantly competing even on the minutest of levels. At the age of ten she asks God to kill her brother so she can win a foot race and when her brother is victorious she decides to become an agnostic. Constantly bickering, the two are as close as two siblings can be, with Gordon becoming a renowned economist and Claudia achieving acclaim through her writing as both a journalist and an author.

During World War II she finds herself in Cairo, Egypt, a lone women trying to get a scoop at the front lines even though her gender precludes her from gaining proximity to the action. Through a series of events while she is nevertheless attempting such a feat, she meets the love of her life, Tom Southern, and the two spend precious time together visiting the sights during the day, reserving the evenings for romantic rendezvous’ whenever Tom can get leave from his duties as an Armored Tank Commander. Their affair is not destined to survive the war, and Claudia ends up back in London with a new lover, Jasper, a half Russian aristocrat. Through a series of serendipitous events, she ends up impressing an editor who bolsters her career. There’s a child, no marriage but an arrangement of sorts, a movie about Cortez, a harrowing car ride with a renowned actor, a quasi adoption, and an ongoing narcissistic relationship with her brother alongside a barely tolerable nod to his wife, Sylvia.

Through the various flashbacks as well as visits from her relatively few well wishers, we get a glimpse of the woman she once was – someone who commanded attention through her manner of dress, comportment, wit, and style retaining the ability to stun even as she grew older until during her last days on earth she relives these moments, summing up the pieces of her life (thus immortalizing her soul).

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively was the winner of the Man Booker Prize in 1987. This book was often referred to as the “housewife’s choice”, but it actually has a lot of charm for any reader. My favorite aspect about literature is authors who have a unique way of presenting themselves, authentic rather than pretentious, who know how to shape a phrase in such a way as to enchant the reader. Lively is just such an author. I delighted in the idea of a kaleidoscope approach to ones past, plus there were numerous witty remarks imbedded in the text which led me to smile with a chuckle or two. Then, to top things off, there were some interesting tidbits of information. The details of the interactions between Cortez and the Aztecs was fascinating, as was the grittiness of the fighting in Egypt, a location of World War II which we sometimes neglect with our focus on Japan or Germany. Yes, the warfront extended to Africa and those interactions have a direct impact on our current political climate.

Lively, who was born in Cairo in 1933, speaks from first hand knowledge vividly describing the desert, transporting the reader into an almost virtual experience of those war torn times. Although Lively calls this an anti-memoir, using her life as a prompt to create this fictional story, I can’t help but believe that there’s a significant piece of herself wrapped up in Claudia’s persona peeking out through the words. While the majority of the book was written from a narrative/third person viewpoint, several scenes were repeated through the eyes of one or two of the other characters, each who sees a specific event from a slightly different perspective (like looking at life through that ever changing kaleidoscope). Four and a half stars.

The Forbidden Duke (The Untouchable Series, Book 1) by Darcy Burke

There are good guys and bad guys in The Forbidden Duke by Darcy Burke. The bad guy is Lord Haywood, a Duke who takes advantage of a debutante thereby ruining her reputation, sentencing her to a life of ostracism out in the country while he merely gets a slap on the wrist, allowing him to continue in his rakish ways. Our heroine, Miss Eleanor Lockhart, after nine years of this seclusion, suddenly finds herself with no place to live when her father loses his funds in a risky scheme and is forced to sell their home and move in with his sister. The invite does not include her, nor can she stay with her sibling as her sister’s husband, a rector, refuses to house a proven “harlot”. Left to her own devices she applies for the role of companion and lands a position with Lady Satterfield, a Countess who doesn’t seem to mind Nora’s past, blaming it on the vagaries of The Ton. It doesn’t take long for Lady Satterfield to realize Miss Lockhart’s worth, deciding to give her a second chance by sponsoring her for another season with the express hope that Nora can find a husband who will provide comfort and security. Lady Satterfield, one of the good ones, has a stepson, Titus St John, Duke of Kendal, who she adores. Every year she features a Ball and his Lordship dances the first dance with one favored female partner. Her Ladyship appeals to Kendal to pay particular attention to her housemate to give Nora the opportunity to start out on the right foot. The Duke, always aiming to please his beloved stepmother, agrees despite his reticence to appear in public.

Titus has troubles of his own. A wild one in his youth, he has determined to change his ways, shunning most of society and keeping to himself, thus earning the title, The Forbidden Duke. Feelings of guilt for his part in Nora’s ruin (influencing others to run amok) as well as the anguish he caused his now dead father weigh heavily on his conscience. Yet he finds Miss Lockhart a bright light who attracts his attention despite his reticence to get involved with the opposite sex (beyond his carefully selected mistresses). Their lives become entangled as the season progresses and feelings of doubt cloud both their minds as Nora is courted by some likely future husbands. Lady Satterfield stands back and let’s events unfold, only wanting what is best for her sweet protégée but also hoping for a happily ever after for her cherished stepson.

There are some highlights of this Regency Romance, including the marvelous cast of secondary characters from the delightful, benevolent hosts, Lady Satterfield and her husband, to the supportive Lady Dunn who also gives a nod of approval to the heroine. I wouldn’t be surprised if these individuals turn up in future novels of the Untouchable Series. The major drawback of this particular book is the dry dialogue (although there are a few gems such as the interaction between Titus and his mistress) and the continued repetition of the main characters’ reflections including a tendency to repeat the same information in their conversations. This was a short one, only a little over 150 pages (more of a novella), negating any excuse for all the filler. Granted not much happens, but it should have been a sweet little romance. However, there was nothing candy-coated about the steamy sex scene between the two lovers designed to titillate the reader. I just wish the author hadn’t taken one of the seemingly nice suitors and turned him into such as cad. There had to be some other way to bring the two love birds together. Still, worth a quick read. Three stars.

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

The Chaperone’s Secret by Donna Lea Simpson

Amy Corbett, governess to the Donegal family in Ireland, was upgraded to the role of Chaperone to their 18 year old daughter Bridget who publicly eschewed marriage, but changed her mind when confronted with the love of a handsome young English Gentleman who could afford to keep her in a lifestyle in which she would be more than happy to become accustomed, resulting is a swift marriage. The Donegals, tooting Amy’s success, attracted the attention of Duke Sylverton who was having difficulty getting his spoiled youngest daughter to accept a proposal, and suddenly Miss Corbett found herself in the whirl of the London Ton attending all the entertainments offered during The Season. Her charge, Lady Rowena Revington, was amazingly beautiful, but also willful and not inclined to give up her personal pleasures for life as a wife to some stuffy aristocrat. Rowena made a habit of enticing gentleman to declare their love then handily rejecting them, all while maintaining an air of impeccable decorum. This worried Amy, not just for the hurt feelings of all these lovelorn men, but also her own personal fate if she failed at her task, as she had little funds and no where to go. However, if successful, the promised bonus would allow her to live a modest lifestyle out in a little cottage in Kent, perhaps using her talents as a seamstress to meet her basic needs.

Lord Dante Pierson, a viscount who was considered a rogue and a rake by polite society, sees Lady Rowena’s visage as she travels by in her carriage and decides that this is the angel who can bring about his transformation. His heavily mortgaged home of Delacorte needs attention especially since the land steward, Mr Lincoln, has disappeared with the quarterly earnings of the staff. Unfortunately, Pierson has been in the habit of ignoring his problems through a haze of drink and gambling. In fact, when he sees this transforming vision, he is too drunk to walk unaided, relying on two women of the night to assist him to his home. To add insult to injury, Rowena is having a good laugh at his expense when her carriage splashes the Viscount as it passes.

Somehow Lord Pierson, with the assistance of his best friend, Lord Bainbridge, must find a way back into the good graces of society so he can properly woo this prospective lady love. When Rowena learns of his naughty past, she seems interested, so Amy encourages the relationship. Pierson tries to get in Miss Corbett’s good graces so she’ll allow the outings necessary in a proper courtship, and Amy earns the confidences of the viscount as he vows to make improvements to his home so his heirs will have something worthwhile to inherit. Bainbridge also shows her some courtesy as he watches out for his friend’s interests. With the advice of the more experienced Chaperone, Mrs Bower, Amy tries to do the right thing for all parties concerned, ignoring her own growing feelings towards the kind hearted Pierson.

There are a few twists and turns in The Chaperone’s Secret by Donna Lea Simpson leaving one wondering who, if anyone, will end up together in the end. Simpson also delves into the topic of the life of the lower classes during the Regency Era and how they are dependent on the largesse of their employers who expect long hours of work for little pay with the constant threat of being kicked out without a reference leading to a life on the streets.

Originally published in 2004 as Lord Pierson Reforms, Simpson presents an Interesting premise with likable characters (even the unredeemable daughter seemed to have a heart) and while there is a bit too much repetition, it is not overwhelming. Perhaps a little more show and a little less tell would make this a better read.

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

A Lady’s Choice by Donna Lea Simpson

Donna Lea Simpson continues the Saga of the Neville family in her Regency Romance A Lady’s Choice. In the first book, Lord Haven’s Deception, Lord Haven finds true love with Miss Jane Corbett, and in the second book, The Debutante’s Dilemma, youngest sister Pamela lands a husband who loves her despite her hoydenish ways. Now it’s Rachel’s turn to discover her future path in life. At Pamela and Lord Strongwycke’s wedding breakfast she sits beside her fiancé, Lord Francis Yarnell, who scorns the behavior of her family and friends. There’s Grand, an outspoken, often lewd grandmother whose inappropriate innuendos on married life make Rachel cringe. Even family friend Colin Varens embarrasses her when he calls for the newly married couple to share a kiss.

Yet once Pamela is on her honeymoon, Rachel feels lost. Despite their differences, she had recently begun to rediscover their childhood connection and now feels the loss despite her own future as a wife to a Marquis. Yet here she is in London, finally able to enjoy all the pleasures of a Season. If only her stiff and proper fiancé weren’t so domineering. Rachel begins to wonder what married life will offer as she deals with an overbearing future mother-in-law who even has plans to accompany them on their honeymoon. Her betrothed seems to make all the decisions expecting her to acquiesce to his whims while ignoring her wishes. His once admirable autocratic qualities dim as he continually criticizes her friends, wishing to ban her from socially interacting with those he considers culturally inferior, including Grand. Suddenly a marriage of convenience doesn’t look so promising.

In the wings is Colin Varens, a country gentleman from back home, and his sister Andromeda, a nonconformist with a large heart. The two are house sitting for Lord Strongwycke taking care of his niece Belinda, a true rebel who consistently finds herself in trouble. Rachel takes comfort in their presence, despite the censure of her husband-to-be. Colin has been in love with his beautiful neighbor for years, continuing his courtship even while anticipating her inevitable rejection, but has now come to accept their new status as friends. To work out his frustrations he has focused his attentions on pugilism, winning acclaim as the local boxing champion. In London he finds a mentor, Sir Parnell Waterford, to teach him the ropes so he can try his hand with the London crowd. Andromeda is horrified by her brothers “hobby” and does everything she can to deter him, even appealing to Sir Parnell. Rachel supports Andromeda’s endeavors but is fascinated by the sight of the muscular, bare chested Colin as he exhibits his talents in the ring.

As the Regency Romance progresses, Rachel’s former icy interior begins to melt and she discovers a new depth of character to counter her former superficiality. In the end she finds a path which meets the needs of all concerned.

Originally published as Rachel’s Change of Heart in 2003, this novel starts out strong with some wonderful characterizations and witty dialogue. There are even some interesting incidents, just not enough to carry an entire book. Except for an obnoxious mother of the groom, there really aren’t too many obstacles to provide tension, despite the tale of two romances and secondary issues dealing with boxing and slavery. With quite a bit of tell and not enough show, the story contained an excess of repetition with an emphasis on the main characters’ inner contemplations. A shorter, tighter story, perhaps a novella, would have been more pleasing. A pity!

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

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.

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.