Tag Archives: marriage

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

What would you do if you were visiting the neighbors next door while your 6 month old daughter slept in her crib and returned home to find her gone? Kidnapped! That horrible scenario is the premise of the novel, The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena.The police are called but their investigation yields very little and not even the couples plea for help through the press or the offer of a lucrative reward (provided by some wealthy grandparents) turns up enough insight to provide a substantial lead in the case. As Detective Rasbach conducts multiple interviews with the parents, Anne and Marco Contis, he starts to believe it’s an inside job involving either one or both of them despite their united front and obvious frantic distress. He even suspects the child, Cora, is dead.

Despite the lack of pertinent information, things begin to happen, secrets are revealed, marriages become stressful, and friendships are torn apart. Anne can’t help but despise her once close friend, Cynthia Stillwell, who didn’t want little Cora mucking up her dinner party, forcing them to leave their child home alone when the babysitter canceled at the last minute. On top of that, she’s angry about the drunken hanky lanky on the porch, probably at the very moment her child was being kidnapped. How could her husband respond to their neighbor’s flirtation? With everything going wrong, she suspects the worst.

It’s up to Detective Rasbach to unravel the case, discover the real criminal(s), and hopefully recover a living babe and not a corpse. Numerous twists and turns keep the reader guessing until the final few chapters.

While this book had potential and did deliver on the suspense, there were a few flaws which took away from my enjoyment. Number one was the simplistic narrative and the use of present tense which at times made for awkward reading. Then there was the repetition, a constant “let me gather up the facts” – listing them over and over as if the readers are idiots who can’t keep a thought in their head. However it is a quick read and there are enough clues that the climax is more of an “Oh yes, I see” and not a “Huh?” plus the ultimate conclusion has a sense of poetic justice. Still, the writing itself held the book back and there were a couple of loose ends which didn’t make sense.

Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I also received a “hard” copy from Goodreads.

Advertisements

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.

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 Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff is a tale of survival for two women, each with something to hide from the Nazis. Noa at sixteen has been seduced by a leering eye and long after the German Soldier is gone she finds herself pregnant and homeless when her unforgiving father shows her the door. Her Dutch heritage, blond hair and blue eyes, allows her asylum in a home which nurtures unwed mothers, the right sort who can contribute their offspring to the utopia fostered by the motherland. Now Noa, once again homeless, finds employment at the local train station, earning a meager keep by cleaning the grounds. It is in this capacity that she discovers a train car full of screaming infants, taken from their mothers and in danger of dying from neglect and the cold elements. Not thinking, she grabs one and runs off through the bitter winter night, collapsing somewhere in the woods from exhaustion. Luckily she is found by some circus folk, whose performers are at their winter quarters preparing for the spring season. The kind hearted ringmaster takes her in along with her (circumcised) “brother” on the condition that she learns to become an aerialist for the trapeze act. Her teacher, Astrid, has her own sad saga. Born into a circus family, she fell in love and married a high ranking German Soldier. Unfortunately her Jewish faith eventually caused a problem for her husband with him being asked to “divorce” his wife. Returning home she discovers that her entire family has disappeared and the circus disbanded. Her carney neighbor, Herr Neuhoff, is still allowed to perform, providing entertainment in selected locations throughout Europe, and she is invited to stay. Adopting a stage name, she continues the career which she had followed since birth, hiding her Jewish heritage within the big top. At first Astrid resents the younger Noa, reluctantly teaching her the ins and outs of an act which normally takes years to develop. Eventually though they form a bond, protecting one another from an outside world which threatens harm on a regular basis.

Don’t expect a feel good story, this is, after all, the era of Nazi Germany where everybody’s life is in danger for one reason or another. However, the trappings of the circus make this tale somewhat unique and anyone who has been lucky enough to attend such a performance will be fascinated by the particulars of the daily doings necessary to run the show. The tale is alternately told from the viewpoint of the two female characters, but despite the interesting setting and some details based on true events, I felt the plot dragged at times with too many repetitive reflections of the angst facing the two women. While there is a lot of movement, especially towards the end of the book, there are also long drawn out passages where nothing important seems to be happening. This is a 300+ page book which could have been edited down and tightened up to make for a fast paced more enjoyable read. Three and a half stars

A thank you to Netgalley and Mira Books 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 Haven’s Deception by Donna Lea Simpson

In Lord Haven’s Deception by Donna Lea Simpson, Jane Dresden finds herself in a quandary when her invalid mother sends her off with her sister, Lady Mortimer, to be married to some Viscount (with a reputation as a somewhat surly man) in Yorkshire. Originally promised to have a say in the matter, the distraught Jane decides to make a run for it once they reach the local inn, perhaps finding a home with her former nanny. However her escape goes awry when, disguised in a barmaid’s clothes, she is groped, loses her belongings, and ends up running through unfamiliar territory finding refuge in a barn. The next morning Mary Cooper, a young widow with a baby, takes the poor girl in, mends her “clothes”, and offers her hospitality with no questions asked, referring to her as her cousin Jenny to the outside world. Jane/Jenny, has always dreamed of the simple life in a cottage somewhere on the countryside, but soon discovers it’s a lot more work than she realized. While not wealthy, she has always had servants to do the chores, evidenced by her smooth, uncallused hands. Mary says nothing but watches wisely as she tries to teach her new charge some of the simple tasks necessary for existing on ones own.

Mary is experienced with deception as Lord Haven also finds solace in her humble abode, dressed in casual garb as he visits for a meal, happy to escape, at least for a little while, the responsibilities of caring for his estate, Haven Court. While Mary is grateful for his generosity of allowing her to stay on in her home after the death of her husband, she knows her place and refuses any advances, knowing he doesn’t love her just the solace she provides. When “Gerry” meets “Jenny” there is an instant attraction which develops into more as they explore the countryside taking walks together on the moors. After exchanging a kiss they both realize this duplicity can’t continue, each believing they can’t marry outside their station in life no matter what their heart dictates, not realizing that this entire time their marriage was already in the works.

There are also a slew of interesting characters back at the estate, including a shrewish mother and wisecracking grandmother and two sisters, one prim and proper, the other a wild child. Grand, who can be quite crude, is also astute and figures out the situation as Lord Haven scours the countryside for the missing, feared abducted, Lady Jane, not realizing Jenny is the one he seeks.

There is so much potential in this story in spite of the stupidity of the characters, yet it fails on several levels. First, there really isn’t enough plot to carry an entire novel, a novella would have been more fitting. Second, the filler was a continued repetition of thoughts and feelings which detracted from the whole. This is disappointing, especially considering there was an opportunity to do some revisions since this Regency Romance was previously released as A Country Courtship in 2002. So while I did enjoy the marvelously eccentric characters, I can’t give this book more than two and a half stars.

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