Tag Archives: London

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.

Lord of Chance (Rogues to Riches, Book 1) by Erica Ridley

With Philip Fairfax it’s feast or famine. His parents, living at the edge of The Ton have no idea on how to manage their expenses, so more often than not they have to sell their possessions in order to stay in their rented London townhouse, unless, of course, Philip has a lucky streak playing cards. It seems their son has been gambling since his teen years, keeping his family afloat on more than one occasion. We first met Phillip in Erica Ridley’s Dukes of War series when he’s present at the marriage of his sister Sarah – (both times). When Sarah needs time to think he whisks her off to his friend’s house, Lady Katherine Ross. Everything works out nicely for his only sibling, and now she’s happy with her husband and twin sons living not far from their family home.

Too bad Phillip isn’t doing as well in the Regency Romance, Lord of Chance by Erica Ridley. His usual luck has been eluding him and he’s had to flee to Scotland to evade his creditor. Philip needs 2000 pounds or it’s debtor prison – and how can he help his parents if he’s in jail. Yet the charming, affable young man always has hope. Surely he can talk his way into getting more time to come up with the cash. Plus tonight has been especially lucrative, thanks to his lucky charm, Lady Fortune, sitting in the corner watching them play. Yet somehow, she’s the one who ends up with the 200 pounds and he’s left without enough blunt to pay for a place to sleep. Escorting the lady back to her room, she is assailed by an unsavory character. Thinking to save the day, he discourages the intruder by claiming to be her husband and she agrees. Little do they realize that publicly stating their marital status is the same as exchanging their vows before a magistrate – or at least it is a legally binding marriage by Scottish Law. Now Phillip is the husband to Charlotte Devon and she has added a whole mess of burdens to her own stack of problems. Seems the young miss is searching for a reputable life after growing up the bastard daughter of a courtesan. If only she could find her father, perhaps he would accept her with open arms. The family jewels, which she wears in the hopes of being identified, are her only connection to the Laird she hopes to smoke out of hiding. Now she must follow her husband back to London and give up her dreams of respectability. Even worse, how will he feel when he discovers her mother’s profession. Since the two look so much alike, men are always pointing a finger in recognition, an embarrassing situation she wants to avoid. Perhaps Phillip and Charlotte, each with their own millstone to carry, can resolve their issues together as a husband and wife team. If not, there is always annulment, as long as they don’t consummate the marriage, which might be difficult because there is an amorous feeling growing between the two who now physically live and sleep together.

One can’t help but root for the charismatic Anthony who endeavors so hard to take care of his family which now includes a wife. Charlotte, however, is an unknown, who attempts to be supportive, but tends to be a little self centered and narrow minded while trying to resolve her “daddy issues”. Anthony, of course, comes through in the end, finding an unusual means of digging himself out of the hole he’s created. He’s also learned his lesson and gives up his gambling habit (a little hard to swallow, but okay) replacing it with a new “hobby”. Charlotte also has an “eye opening experience” which affects her outlook on life and promises to repair her strained relationship with her mom. With money issues taken off the table, here’s to a happily ever after ending for the young couple as the Rogues to Riches series continues.

Three and a half 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.

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.

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.

The Red Queen (The Cousins War, Book 2) by Philippa Gregory

Even at the age of twelve, Lady Margaret Beaufort knew that God had destined her for greatness. Looking for visions similar to what her idol Joan of Arc experienced, Margaret spent so much time praying she had nuns knees. Wanting to enter a convent and become a Mother Superior, she was disappointed when her mother married her off to Edmund Tudor, an advantageous match. Since her mother, Margaret Beauchamp, only bore one daughter with no heirs for the Duke of Somerset, it was up to Margaret Beaufort, cousin to King Henry VI of England, to beget the next Lancaster as a potential heir to the throne. By marrying Edmund, her son would be a Tudor, doubly blessed.

Not in the plans was the rebellious York family who were determined to take the throne for their own. The reigning King of England suffered numerous maladies, often sitting silently staring out into space for extended periods of time. The subjects became weary of an invalid ruler, paving the way for Edward of York to become the reigning monarch. Some felt Edward’s good luck came from his beautiful wife, Elizabeth Woodville who many believed was born a witch from a mother who was also a witch. Margaret knew for sure that she had bewitched Edward with her beauty. The fertile Queen bore many children, including two sons, who were imprisoned in the Tower of London for their safety when Richard claimed the throne from his brother after Edmund succumbed to illness. Both boys, who were the true heirs, mysteriously disappeared with only speculation to determine who actually was responsible for their supposed deaths.

Margaret, widowed when her first husband was killed in battle, was given to another man, Henry Stanford, and remarried at the age of fourteen. While they never conceived any children, he was gentle with her. Yet it was her brother-in-law Jasper who she secretly loved, and it was also Jasper who raised her son, Henry Tudor. At first the two lived in Wales, but they had to escape and go into hiding in Brittany to escape threats from those loyal to Edward. As Tudors they believed that the Lancaster family were the true royals, not the imposter Yorks. Margaret has a hard time convincing her husband to fight beside her son, and in the end Stanford pledged his loyalty to King Edward who had promised peace. When he, too, was killed in battle, Margaret, now that her mother was also deceased, finally got to choose her own husband.

Thomas Stanley was a man who hedged his bets, always choosing the winning side. This was not a love match, but a marriage between two conniving individuals seeking their own agenda. They bidded their time, patiently serving the York King and Queen, first Edward and Elizabeth Woodville, then Richard and Anne Neville, until their chance to seize the throne could be realized. Yet when Margaret’s plan to bring her son Henry to power failed, she was imprisoned in her own home, her land and belongings all given to Stanley. Still she waited and plotted, arranging the promise of a betrothal between Elizabeth’s daughter to her son, a brilliant match done with the foresight to align both the Lancaster and York names together to appease the fickle public. Yet complications ensued when King Richard became besotted with the comely miss, wishing to marry her despite her pledge to marry Henry. Since she was also his niece, this idea did not go over well with his subjects, so when Queen Anne died he sent Elizabeth of York to Margaret, her future mother-in-law, to safe guard her reputation.

After Margaret witnessed an eclipse of the sun, she was convinced this was a sign from God that Henry would soon be King. With a group of mercenaries, Henry and Jasper set out once more to take the throne by force. King Richard’s troops outnumbered theirs but they had a new military trick up their sleeve which slowed down the battle and in the end, when Lord Stanley finally decided to intervene on behalf of his wife’s son, Richard was killed and King Henry VII attained the position he was destined to hold. At last Margaret received her rightful title, “My Lady the King’s Mother” and Lord Stanley assumed the role as father to the King of England, with the expectation of a generous reward for his loyal service as well as an opportunity to wield power from behind the throne.

Tales of the War of the Roses are not for the faint of heart. This book is filled with violence, self righteousness, pettiness, gluttony, and villanous acts fueled by ambitions which lead to ones friends quickly becoming ones enemies as even family members switched loyalties (depending upon who seemed to hold the most promising position of power). This is an intense, incredibly detailed text, which captures the flavor of the times, told from Margaret’s point of view, except for a few narrations of the vicious battles which determined the outcome of history. The reader gets a good taste of the egotistical nature of Lady Margaret, as well as the violent dishevelment of the times.

The CD is expertly read by Bianca Amato, who brings the reader into the fold, giving us a more complete understanding of Lady Margaret’s motivations beyond Philippa Gregory’s words. Despite a few historical discrepancies (yet who really knows exactly what happened in 1485) The Red Queen (The Cousins War, Book 2)is well researched, well told, and well received. Five stars.