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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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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.

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.

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel

“Even things that seemed ordinary or ugly at first could be beautiful,” thinks Rachel, the daughter of a paleontologist, accurately depicting the dilemma of this strikingly intelligent, talented, but plain young woman who wants to go to university and study in the same field as her father. Despite her unusual upbringing as an assistant to her exacting dad, Professor Cartland, a women in the 1880s was not expected to be a scholar, let alone have a profession. She is destined to be a wife and mother even though Rachel spurns all the social events created for matchmaking. Without a mother to guide her, Rachel lacks the finesse of a socialite befitting her father’s prestigious station. Samuel Bolt, also motherless, has been trained to assist his Quaker father, “Professor” Michael Bolt, in similar pursuits. Father and son are both good looking and used to charming the women they meet, but it is different with Rachel who intrigues Sam with her mesmerizing blue eyes.

To make matters more complicated, their fathers are bitter rivals out to best one another, even if their methods lack a sense of honor. With the prevailing theme mirroring the Hatfields vs the McCoys, the young couple are destined to fall in love despite their fathers’ enmity. Add in an archeological dig at a bone bed out in the Badlands of Nebraska where the Lakota Sioux threaten their very lives as the two competing professors hunt for the perfect dinosaur fossil, and you have the plot of the book, Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel.

Not everyone acts honorably and there is enough disgusting violence to please the lovers of rowdiness in their western novels. It is difficult to feel connected to any of the characters whose egotistical pursuits in the name of science seem underhanded and self serving. The young lovers, despite their flaws, try to do the right thing in most situations, but both have difficulty looking beyond their own needs. After they finally tie the knot, the reader is exposed to the stumbling awkwardness of their first sexual encounters, but one can’t help but root for a successful outcome for the two youngsters after they survive the numerous adversities which keep getting thrown their way. The book alternates between Sam and Rachel’s narration as the story unfolds.

What pushes this book up a notch is that the premise is loosely based on The Bone Wars (also known as the Great Dinosaur Rush), an intense rivalry between Dinosaur Hunters Edward Cope and Othniel Marsh. Who knew that a true story about two scientists hunting for prehistoric fossils could be so entertaining?

Four stars for a quick and eventful read perfect for the YA crowd and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A Marquis for Mary by Jess Michaels (The Notorious Flynns #5)

Mary Quinn is surrounded by happily married couples – sister Gemma and Crispin Flynn (The Widow Wager), Crispin’s sister Annabelle and Marcus Rivers (The Scoundrel’s Lover), and his brother Raphael with wife Seraphina (The Other Duke), even fellow debutante Georgina and her fiancĂ© Paul Abbott (No Gentleman for Georgina). Yet after four seasons, Mary is still alone. To make matters worse, her prestige seeking father, Sir Oswald Quinn, has threatened to take control of her future with his own aspirations foremost in his mind. Crispin and Gemma have assured Mary that she can stay with them indefinitely, but she is still worried that her life is in jeopardy. That is, until a handsome stranger reveals himself while she is hiding on the terrace to escape her father’s attention during a ball. Edward, the Marquis of Woodley, is drawn to her beauty and innocence, especially since his first marriage was to a devious women out to destroy anyone who crossed her path. Even so, he never would have spoken to Mary if he knew she was related to Gemma and Crispin Flynn who both played a major role in his gruesome past. Too late, though he tries to run from her, the chemistry already exists and with a few kisses, their fates are sealed (along with the help of the scheming Oswald). Mary is excited to have finally found the perfect man to share her future with, but both their families are a little reticent about this betrothal. After all, Edward has been withdrawn from the world for the past three years and suddenly banns are being read and a wedding is on the horizon. Since the Marquis doesn’t want their marriage to be encumbered by his past, he shares his secrets, so Mary can understand some of the trauma which continues to plague his thoughts. Yet, there are still enemies who do not want to see him happy. Can true love conquer the perils which threaten their happiness?

A Marquis for Mary (The Notorious Flynns #5) by Jess Michaels is the perfect novella with just enough angst amidst the loving to titillate and entertain the lover of Regency Romances. Wrapping up some of the loose ends of The Widow Wager, those who have enjoyed the Notorious Flynns series are reintroduced to old friends as well as some manipulative adversaries. There is just enough (perhaps a tad too much) of the back story to keep new readers in the loop. While the Flynn Saga is now complete, our favorite characters are bound to be present in the spin off series, The Wicked Woodleys, as some of the enigmas surrounding Edward’s family are explored.

Four stars. This review also appears on Goodreads.