Tag Archives: The Ton

A Dream of Redemption by Bronwen Evans (Book Eight, Disgraced Lords series)

Clarence Homestead was too good looking for his own comfort and he avoided the admiring glances from the females he encountered. Little did he expect to catch the eye of Lady Helen Hawkestone, the sister of his patroness, Marissa Maitland, the Duchess of Lyttleton. Although Clary has considered the beautiful Helen an angel ever since their first meeting five years prior (when he was awaiting news of the fate of the wounded Marisa), he knew that his low born life and past indiscretions nixed any thought of a relationship. His focus was on serving Maitland and his wife who together had rescued him from a sleazy existence in a brothel. In return, he acted as Her Grace’s personal secretary and overseer of the numerous orphanages the couple acquired and “renovated”.

Yet when Lady Helen decides to get involved in this charitable endeavor, Clary balked, not only because of his inner feelings of attraction, but to protect the innocent twenty three year old from the sordidness of life on the other side of aristocracy. His instincts were correct when the newest acquisition revealed a manager who more than dabbled in the human trafficking of children. At Helen’s urging, they not only rescued the most recent abduction but put a stop, at least temporarily, to these nefarious activities.

Helen, as stubborn as her unconventional sister Marissa, refuses to accept Clary’s objections to a future together, despite the revelation of his disreputable upbringing. After placing herself in numerous compromising situations, the two finally succumb to their mutual passion. Despite Helen’s feelings, convincing her over-protective, hot-headed brother Sebastian, the Marquess of Coldhurst, to sanction their relationship is an insurmountable task. A twist of fate necessitating a life or death rescue changes the dynamics leading to a relatively happily ever after for a couple who prefer a quiet life in the country to the scandal mongering attitudes of London and The Ton.

A Dream of Redemption by Bronwen Evans is the eighth book in the Disgraced Lords series. While you don’t need to have read the other seven books dealing with the Libertine Scholars and their romances to enjoy this one, I would recommend reading book four, A Whisper of Desire, to familiarize yourself with Marisa and Maitland’s unlikely marriage as well as the gritty details of the circumstances surrounding their involvement with a den of inquiry and the unfortunate experience which followed. The dark tone begun in this book is continued in book eight, which deals with the seedier side of life instead of focusing on the frivolities of a season in London. Of necessity is the constant reference to marrying the “wrong sort of person” which would lead to ostracism not only by polite society but even ones own family (in fear of their reputations being tarnished by association). Although 1820 is just past the era of the Prince Regent, I would still call this a Regency Romance.

While this action packed plot had such potential, the constant repetitious back and forth between Cary and Helen detracted from the whole. A bit of consolidating/editing would have definitely improved the tale, despite several hot and steamy scenes between the two lovebirds which are sure to entertain. Catching up with some of the Libertine Scholars and their wives was a definite plus for those of us who have been along for the ride from the beginning. Three and a half stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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A Perilous Passion by Elizabeth Keysian

After a mishap in the army fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, Rafe Pemeroy, the Earl of Beckport, needs to clear his name. What better way than exposing the head of a smuggling ring who is selling secrets to the French and assisting their attempts to invade England? Posing as a country squire, Mr. “Seaborne” attempts to gain the confidence of the locals. Unfortunately, he suspects they are all somehow involved with the smuggling aspect of the scheme, a practice he frowns upon. Thus he mistrusts everyone in the seaside town of Dorset, including Miss Charlotte Allston, a headstrong miss who seems to be everywhere he looks. Little does he know that the woman who has captured his heart is actually the daughter of Abraham Cutler, the notorious smuggler from the North Sea who was murdered before he could finish giving evidence and receive a Royal Pardon. Despite Rafe’s misgivings about becoming romantically involved, he can’t stop feeling the connection between them, especially since Charlotte is constantly showing up at inconvenient times and places.

To keep them both safe, Charlotte and her mother have changed their names and moved in with Aunt Flora. Mrs. Cutler requires her daughter to be chaperoned, usually by her somewhat lax sister, due to a previous indiscretion where Charlotte attempted to elope with her childhood sweetheart, Justin Jessop. Justin, now serving in the army in Scotland, sends her letters full of complaints about his mistreatment at the hands of his military superiors, so it isn’t a complete surprise when he turns up in Dorset in search of his former love. By this time Charlotte has become infatuated with Lord Beckport (instantly recognized by her Ton savvy mom) and realizes that this previous relationship was just puppy love and not the real thing. Jessop, considered an army deserter, needs her assistance to survive, so she turns to Rafe to provide backup support. Numerous complications could easily mess up Rafe’s plans to stop the enemy from landing on British soil, but by working together the three “patriots” might find a way to rescue each other and their country.

Elizabeth Keysian has presented the reader with some interesting characters in the Pre- Regency Romance, A Perilous Passion, book one in the Wanton in Wessex series. Unfortunately, the majority of the plot centers around the meandering Charlotte and the judgmental Rafe, ignoring the potential of the flighty Aunt and her apothecary “friend”. Told from alternative points of view, we learn the secrets about the two lovers who have a tendency to dwell on their pasts a tad too much. Despite a strong beginning, the middle of the novel sagged a bit while waiting for the next spate of action. The dastardly villain did not disappoint and the resolution of everybody’s troubles made for an acceptable happily ever after, even for the jilted Justin Jessop. The various attempts at humor revolving around sneezing and an allergy to horses did not quite hit the mark, but the romance was more than satisfying.
Romance

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

The Rogue is Back in Town by Anna Bennett (The Wayward Wallflowers, #3)

Disclaimer: Much of the plot line of The Rogue is Back in Town, book three in the Wayward Wallflower series by Anna Bennett, ignores the societal rules and mores of the Regency Era. If you can suspend your sense of logic and accept the characters’ actions, no matter how ridiculous, then you’ll enjoy the author’s breezy style. If you’re a stickler for accuracy, skip this series.

The little bit we’ve seen of Juliette Lacey in the first two books of the series has shown us a spoiled little sister allowed to blurt out inappropriate comments including references to sexual activities. Due to her unrestrained behavior, it shouldn’t be surprising that the youngest of the Lacey sisters would be the most passionate.

At the masquerade ball held by Alexander Savage, the Duke of Blackshire, in
I Dared the Duke, Julie had a tryst with Nigel Travis, the Marquess of Currington, whose kisses turned her mind towards romance. Yet afterwards the gentleman remained scarce, neither calling or sending a message to the besotted girl.

Disturbed that her inappropriate behavior might reflect badly on her family, imagine Julie’s surprise when a disheveled Samuel Travis, with similar looks and build to his handsome brother Nigel, turns up at her door. Her reaction turns to horror when Sam nonchalantly requests her eviction from the place her Uncle Alister, Lord Wltmore, has called home for the past forty years. Seems Nigel has discovered the tumbledown townhouse is a part of his recently inherited estate and he’d like it back. Of course the headstrong girl refuses to leave until she is provided with proof, but the desperate Sam must stay put until he completes the assigned task. After some negotiation, Julie agrees to let Sam remain (hidden from outside eyes) posing as a research assistant to her Uncle.

Sam’s resemblance to her crush Nigel evokes Julie’s sensuality and the electric attraction between the two housemates soon results in an inappropriate liaison. While the scandalous Sam is prone to over indulge in drinking, gambling, and wenching, the true scoundrel is Lord Travis who has a hidden agenda which defies the outward gentlemanly manner presented to society.

Foolishly, the headstrong, independent Juliette tries to resolve this crisis without disturbing either sister (or their well connected husbands). To complicate matters, her attraction to Sam turns steamy with the two lovers having difficulty keeping their hands off each other. Perhaps Julie is responding to Sam’s vulnerability or his innate desire to be respected. Uncle Alister has a positive influence on his new assistant and the two develop a heartwarming bond. Determined to find a purpose in life, Sam strikes out on his own. He truly loves Julie and is resigned to accept her choices, hoping that if he can prove himself worthy she’ll choose him. Of course, events spin out of control and someone needs to play the hero.

One wonders whether the randiness of the three Lacey sisters is due to the untimely death of their parents, or perhaps for the ridicule they previously experienced as the Wilting Wallflowers. Either way, each was easy to seduce, succumbing to their lusty nature almost instantly after meeting their perspective paramours. Samuel, known for his prowess in the bedroom, is a worthy partner for the amorous Juliette. Definitely steamy!

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.

I Dared the Duke by Anna Bennett (The Wayward Wallflowers, #2)

Perhaps what I liked best about the Regency Romance, I Dared the Duke by Anna Bennett, is the emphasis on the importance of family. Elizabeth Lacey has a strong bond with her two sisters, Margaret and Juliette, as well as her Uncle Alister, Lord Wltmore, who “adopted” them when their parents were killed in a carriage accident. Alexander Savage, the Duke of Blackshire, adores his grandmother, the Dowager Duchess, the only family he has left. Both main characters suffered trauma in their lives involving the tragic death of loved ones with Alex still bearing scars around his neck from the devastating fire which killed his parents. It’s not a wonder that these two find sympathy for one another, but not without first developing a contentious relationship, arguing over the treatment of the chief object of their attention – Lady Blackshire.

At the request of her uncle, Beth has agreed to serve as companion to the elderly Duchess and she resents the Duke’s request to convince her charge to hasten to their country estate instead of remaining in her beloved London. Beth finally agrees to help Alex with his request but only after he grants his grandmother three “wishes”.

Beth quickly discovers that the Duke is a hoax. Although he is ornery, underneath all the bluff is a decent, caring heart. His undeserved reputation as a reprobate who has seduced numerous wives throughout The Ton, is a myth. In fact, his sexual experience is somewhat limited and he is tentative with his romantic liaison with Beth. She, however, only feels the power of their attraction, despite her questions about his intentions. Little does she know that it was his offhand comment which cemented the title – the “Wilting Wallflowers” on the three sisters when they entered society.

Eventually Alex has to reveal the real reason for his concern – he has been the target of numerous murder attempts. Not wanting his grandmother or Miss Lacey accidentally hurt in the crossfire, he pleads with her to move to the safety of the country. By this time the two have become quite “close” and Beth, who likes to be in the center of the action, wants to help discover the culprit’s identity. Of course, chaos ensues.

As in Book 1 (My Brown-Eyed Earl) of the Wayward Wallflower series, in Book 2 the details and vernacular ignore the accepted mores of the Regency Era. Yet the witty banter and easy reading style overcome some of the unlikely plot details. Alex’s behavior doesn’t always mesh with his role as Duke, yet his gruff exterior hiding a compassionate soul is endearing to the reader. While the pig-headed Beth isn’t as likable as her sister Meg, the reader can’t help but root for her happily ever after. A major annoyance is the repetitive reflections by the two protagonists as the author flits back and forth detailing their individual points of view. Some selective editing could easily take care of this exasperating tendency.

Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

My Brown-Eyed Earl by Anna Bennett (The Wayward Wallflowers, #1)

William Ryder, the Earl of Castleton, has had a thing for Miss Margaret Lacey since they were young, so he was astonished when she staunchly rejected their fathers attempt to arrange a marriage between them (not that he was pleased that his disreputable dad was choosing his bride-to-be). Now, seven years later, he finds Meg in his home applying for a job as governess for the set of six year old twins recently dropped off at his door. The precocious Valerie and Diana are the illegitimate offspring of his cousin who died in a freak accident. Their mother, his cousin’s mistress, threatened to place them in an orphanage if he wasn’t willing to provide for them. The honorable Will would never abandon his best friend’s children to such a fate, but the rambunctious girls obviously needed a steady hand. The Earl, whose own father has been indifferent, fears he doesn’t have the ability to be a good parent, so he turns to what he hopes is “professional” help. Unfortunately, Meg has zero experience, just a need to earn some money to keep her sisters and uncle out of the poorhouse. Of course, once she realizes the potential boss is her former jilted fiancĂ©, she is ready to decline the position. Yet, Will is intrigued and makes her an offer she can’t refuse, so Miss Lacey finds herself wrapped up in the lives of her two charges as well as garnering the attention of the distinctly handsome Castleton.

My Brown-Eyed Earl by Anna Bennett is book one in The Wayward Wallflowers series. Meg and her younger sisters Elizabeth and Juliette have been living with their Uncle Alister, Lord Wiltmore, the only family member willing to offer a home to all three girls after the tragic death of their parents (killed in a storm on that fateful night Meg rejected the marriage proposal). Full of guilt, Meg stoically believes it is her obligation to care for the family. While the somewhat oblivious Uncle Alister has provided them a loving home, his limited funds do not allow for luxuries like fancy gowns. That’s why the sisters have been dubbed The Wilted Wallflowers by The Ton and despite their beauty, their drab attire brings them nothing but scorn and ridicule.

Set to remain a spinster, Meg is determined to earn enough to provide some luxuries for her siblings. With kindly attentions, while visiting the dressmaker to add to the twins wardrobe, Will offers to purchase her a new gown as well, but the proud Meg refuses to even consider the idea. Luckily, the Earl looks beyond her attire and his former feelings are rekindled. Meg is not immune to his charms and they quickly find themselves romantically involved. Encouraged by his mother to take a wife, Will wonders if Meg has the capacity to fill the role of Countess. A series of misadventures seem to indicate otherwise, but first impressions can be deceiving. Whether the Earl can convince his lovely governess to put aside her guilt and find her own happiness is the ultimate goal.

While I loved the witty repartee between Will and Meg, along with the lovable characters Bennett has created (especially the twins), there were some definite flaws in this Regency Romance. In fact, if you like your historical novels to accurately reflect the era, then this is not the book for you. The author plays fast and loose with the mores of the time, ignoring the high standards for maintaining a spotless reputation – such as a current debutante living unchaperoned with a bachelor. Even if all was innocent (which it wasn’t) the scandal would be far reaching. Then Meg’s friend Charlotte, also a governess, openly appears in society with her employer, seemingly as a couple. Neither a likely scenario! In addition, the conversations, although witty, were full of vernacular unbecoming for polite conversation. Despite these and other discrepancies, this book was not without its charm. Yes, there were the muddled accounts of the lovers past as well as a clumsy attempt to provide a little excitement via an inquisitive mystery man, but there were also some interesting interactions, often comical, which compensated for all the flaws.

With a little better attention to the appropriate details, a more complete backstory, and some fine tuning to the plot/climax, this could have been a four+ star book. Still, I’ll give it three and a half stars for its easily readable writing style and humor.

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

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.

Too Wicked to Kiss (Scoundrels and Secrets, Book 1) by Erica Ridley

Miss Evangeline Pemberton has a gift or perhaps it’s better to describe it as a curse. The daughter of a gypsy, she has inherited the ability to see “visions”, whether from the past, present, or future, just by touching another. Her mother, forced to marry in the face of disgrace, has died at the hands of her sadistic husband, forcing Evangeline to run away or face the cruelty of a stepfather that feels he owns her and her power. Unfortunately the woman she has turned to in desperation is also quite despicable and she finds herself at a house party in a creepy mansion owned by Gavin Lioncroft, a known killer, with the task of helping compromise her friend Susan, Lady Stanton’s daughter, into matrimony to that very owner of Blackberry Manor. Little does Evangeline expect to develop feeling for the handsome, gruff man who has a tendency to react with his fists, nor does Gavin know how to combat the instant attraction they feel towards one another.

Also at the gathering is Lioncroft’s sister, Rose, with her husband, Lord Hetherton, and their children, as well as Rose’s brother-in-law, Benedict Rutherford and his wife Francine, plus their cousin Edmund. An elderly, doddering gentleman, Mr Teasdale has also been invited (targeted) as a prospective husband for Rose’s eldest daughter Nancy. Hetherton turns out to be a real piece of work so when he turns up dead nobody, except perhaps his children, seem upset. His insulting behavior gives everyone a motive, but the prime candidate is the host who publicly threatened to kill his brother-in-law after witnessing the results of his spousal abuse. Somehow Evangeline’s gift has been revealed, although she claims her insight is because she hears messages from God, and she sets out to discover the truth, hopefully proving Gavin’s innocence. Mayhem ensues. While everyone wants to leave ASAP, it is Jane’s thirteenth birthday and she has been promised a party so they all stay to celebrate resulting in the best day of her life (despite her recent father’s murder), giving Evangeline time to discover the identity of the true murderer.

While this started out as an enticing read Too Wicked to Kiss by Erica Ridley turned out to be long winded with internal repetitive narratives which distracted from the whole. Disguised as a Gothic story, instead of being mysterious, much of this Regency Romance is nonsensical. While there were some potentially interesting characters, none of the secondary cast of players was fully developed. The reason Miss Susan Stanton (one of the better defined individuals) was banned from society and thus reduced to entrapping a husband, was lame and the reader is at a loss for the irrational behaviors of her mother. Edmund was constantly drunk which was perhaps a reason for his inappropriate crudeness which would never have been tolerated at a house party, and the other guests were just as one sided in their descriptions. The children, however, were a delight, and injected some light heartedness into a dark theme. I also couldn’t understand why the Lioncrofts blackballed their brother after their parents death since it was all obviously an accident. Under all the handwringing there was a decent plot, but you had to search to find it. This is Book 1 of the Scoundrels and Secrets series.

Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on my blog, Gotta Read.