Nicholas: Lord of Secrets (The Lonely Lords Book 2) – Grace Burrowes

Sometimes you just need a book like this one…it’s like a warm blanket on a chilly night…a balm for the soul…hope for the weary of heart.  Corny?  Maybe a little – but this book is all heart and Grace Burrowes never disappoints.  So, if you need a good cry and a wish to renew your hope in true and selfless love, please read this little gem!  The plot is rich, the side characters are well developed and interesting, and the love is steamy yet delightfully sweet.  And if you love big guys like I do, you’re going to find yourself falling in love with the gentle giant, Nicholas Haddonfield.

Nicholas (Nick), despite his sketchy past, is a true and honorable gentleman and when he makes a promise to his dying father to marry, he is determined to follow through.  The timing was perfect.  Just as he sets out to begin the inevitable marriage hunt , he stumbles along a lovely lady in need of a hero.

Leah has had a scandalous past of her own.  With no love or support from her devious father, the ever practical Leah is making preparations to fulfill her aristocratic duties, as well, by marrying an old lecher her father has pawned her off unto.  That is, until she happens along the gallant, deliciously handsome Nick.  Willing to take any measure to offer her protection from her scheming sire, he offers for her hand, but under one condition – a “white” marriage.  Leah struggles with accepting under this condition (especially since she is so sexually attracted to Nick), but remains hopeful that Nick will, at some point, decide to give her not only his body, but his heart.

The problem is Nick’s honor…he is too stubborn to let go of his past, too mired in his own fears and misconceptions, and too selfless to give himself completely over to Leah’s safekeeping.  But he’s not just hurting himself by denying the physical aspect of their marriage – he is deeply wounding his wife that he has made a promise to protect.  His biggest fear is whether he can protect her from himself?  And at what cost?  The price of love?

Swoon!

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The Temptation of a Gentleman – Jess Michaels writing as Jenna Petersen

This is one of those authors that I’m so very glad I gave another shot.  Even after reading one of her books a couple of months ago and finding it too “explicit” for my tastes, I vowed to give her one more try.  Her writing is excellent and she writes “smart reads” with complicated (but not overly so) plots and many twists and turns that keep me on my toes until the very end!  I’ve read quite a few of her books recently, but this one stands out most as one of my new favorites!  If you can get through the slow beginning, you’ll be rewarded with mystery, intrigue, romance, and a climatic plot twist you’ll never see coming!

Noah Jordan, a former spy for the government, has been given one last assignment – to investigate a potential murder in the countryside.  Finally ready to settle into his new role as the titled head of his family and future husband to a perfectly respectable young debutante, this is his last respite in the country before the reality of his new life begins.  He promises his soon to be betrothed that he will remain faithful and return soon to London.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t look forward to this new future with anticipation, but rather with dread and trepidation.

But when Noah meets Marion Hawthorne, a successful merchant’s daughter, he is instantly smitten.  When he finds out that she has been “sold” into marriage to the suspected murderer in his case, he knows that he must do whatever it takes to save her from the lecherous clutches of her soon to be husband.  He involves her in the case in an effort to keep her close for protection – but things go awry when Marion devises her own plan to escape her undesirable fate.  Even though Marion is a diversion he wasn’t expecting, he finds that she’s one he simply cannot live without.  A rich tale of romance and mystery.  Bravo!

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Seduced By a Lady’s Heart – Christi Caldwell

In case you’ve wondered…I haven’t taken a complete hiatus here, but I HAVE been dreadfully uninspired to write a review about any of the turds in the gigantic wheelbarrow load of horse crap that I’ve read over the last couple of months.  I have adopted a new motto, in fact…”Life is too short to read sh*tty books.”  I buy them (sometimes in entire series) and then I feel this ridiculous obligation to read the drivel because I paid what…a dollar for it?!  Maybe $3 for it?!  Well no more, friends…NO freaking MORE!  So the other day, I closed yet another bad read on my kindle and downloaded a new book I’ve been dying to read!  And that gets me to the book I’m ready to review here.

If you know me, you know I love me some Christi Caldwell.  She’s classy, she’s smart, and she’s consistent.  Her characters are well developed, her stories are interesting, and the love scenes are steamy without being sleezy.  And she’s a heck of a nice person!  What more can you ask for?  So let’s get to the thick of it:

Admittedly, I’m not a “widow/widower” story line fan, but I took a chance and I couldn’t be happier!  Eloise Yardley has had an all encompassing love for her childhood friend, Lieutenant Lucien Jones, for as long as she can remember.  But after Lucien falls in love and marries another, Eloise decides she will do the same.  Unfortunately, love was not in Eloise cards – how could she ever give her heart to another while her only true love was still living and breathing on this earth?

Little did she realize how closely Lucien had come to death.  He had certainly faced hell head on.  After his father bought him a commission and he went to war, he returned bitter and ravaged (both body and mind).  After he learned that his cherished wife and the infant son he had never met had died while he was at war, he contemplated ending it all.  Finally, with the help of the Marquess of Drake and his wife, he willed himself to keep living.  His first step was accepting the employment that the Marquess offered him.  It’s a huge side step in his life – far different than the pampered life he led as a spare to an heir.  Things are just starting to turn around for Lucien – he’s happy to live a simple life with purpose.  No one knows his past and he holds the key to a new and promising future.

Meanwhile, Eloise is on a mission – she needs to get Lucien home to see his dying father, and hopefully, to end this burning hatred Lucien feels toward his sire.  Eloise adores Lucien’s family and wants them to mend the rift keeping them apart before it’s too late.  But her intentions for seeing Lucien aren’t entirely chivalrous.  Widowed Eloise has her own motives – like finally capturing the heart of her true beloved.  But Eloise is a distraction that Lucien doesn’t need in his new life (so he thinks), but as he comes to know her as the passionate woman she has become, he finds the temptation difficult to resist.  But it’s hard to compete with a ghost of a woman and even harder to engage the heart of a emotionally shuttered man hell bent on living a life free of connections to his family or his past.

Five stars!  I was so emotionally connected to the characters, it was painful to see the book come to an end.  Bravo, Christi!

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Heart of Duke – Christi Caldwell

Lady Imogen has been plopped in the teapot and left steeping in scandal after her nefarious fiance broke their betrothal and proceeded to wed her OWN SISTER!  She hides herself away, too mortified to even show her face to her own sister and ex-fiance, let alone the ton haute.  But one constant in Imogen’s life is her dear friend, Lady Chloe Edgerton.  She provides an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry upon, and a good natured laugh to lift her spirits.  It is only natural for Imogen to seek out her friend (often) during this difficult time in her life.

What Imogen doesn’t realize is that the Edgerton family has plenty of scandal of their own…but it’s hidden and dark and eating away at the “spare to the heir,” darkly handsome Lord Alex Edgerton.  His older brother, the Marquess, has tired of Alex’s debauchery and gives him an ultimatum.  If he wishes to keep his allowance, he will make himself useful and upstanding and chaperone his unwed sister, Chloe.  What Alex doesn’t realize is that Chloe is part and parcel with her fiery haired friend, Lady Imogen, especially now that Imogen’s life has been upended by her run away finance.  It’s a frustrating predicament for Alex, but he finds that the more he is around her, the more he finds himself not only dreaming of Imogen romping in his bed, but as (gasp) a partner for life.  But alas, can Imogen ever give her heart to another notorious rogue and can Alex ever allow himself the love he so richly deserves?

…my only complaint was a lack of, er consummation, to this great love story.  As always, Christi is always classy, not trashy and her books always include rich and deep character development.  I loved both of these characters!!!  Bravo!!!

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The Scoundrel’s Lover (The Notorious Flynns Book 2) – Jess Michaels

Annabelle Flynn is looking to wed – to make a respectable match in the upper Ten Thousand of the English gentility.  Annabelle is lovely, she is spontaneous and passionate, and she’s also tainted by the scandals left in her brothers’ and her departed father’s wild wakes.  Although Rafe (her oldest brother) has settled down as the Duke, Crispin is still running wild with little regard for his own reputation, let alone those of his family.  Regardless, Annabelle still loves her brother Crispin dearly and when Rafe takes the tough love approach, Annabelle takes matters into her own hands.  When she finds out that Crispin is acting recklessly at the club of debauchery owned by a family friend, Marcus Rivers, she dons a masquerade mask and walks right into the club in the hopes of saving her brother’s lost soul herself!

What she finds are the most arousing of images…and a scorching kiss from Marcus himself.  Marcus has watched Annabelle from afar for years.  He has loved her since he’s locked eyes on her person…but there is no future in his feelings since Annabelle deserves far better than a wretch like him – an owner of a house of sin and perched far below her social status.  She’s like a spotless white lily and he’s as dark as the dankest corner of his devil’s den.  However, he understands what drives innocent Annabelle into his club – he can respect devotion to one’s family and when it comes to Crispin, he views him much like a brother and offers his protection and his agreement to allow Annabelle into the club (in disguise to preserve her reputation) to watch out for her brother’s welfare.

But another bargain is struck – one in seduction.  Annabelle can’t fight her attraction to Marcus or her hidden and dark desires, so she comes to Marcus for not only her brother’s sake, but for her own – for her passion.  Allowing him everything BUT her virginity, (she’s saving THAT for her future husband) she and Marcus embark on a dangerous and forbidden love affair.  Just when Annabelle’s hope for a society match comes to fruition, she begins to question the importance of such a match in her life if she can’t have a man like Marcus by her side.  He isn’t just a club owner to her…he’s a man of integrity, concern, passion, and love.  Will she realize that true love is her’s for the taking if she’s willing to take a risk or will she give up the passion that she and Marcus share for the sake of a loveless society pairing?

Overall, this is a good, but downright dirty read.  I guess it’s be expected that some of the scenes are a bit, well, explicit, given the setting of the book itself.  Regardless, if you’re looking for a quick read full of raunchy romps…go for it.  I’m still trying to decide if I want to read the third installment.

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The Ugly Duchess – Eloisa James

I have only done it maybe…I don’t know…3 times before – I reread a book.  I realized I never wrote a blog entry about this book and well, it deserves one!  I’m a HUGE Eloisa fan and this book did NOT disappoint in the least.  A spin on the Ugly Duckling tale, it’s a beautiful story of friendship, trust, betrayal, and everlasting love.

James Ryburn and Theodora Saxby (Daisy or Theo for short) have been friends since childhood.  In fact, when Theo’s father passes, he entrusts his wife and daughter in the care of James’ father, the Duke of Ashbrook, who houses them and oversees their finances and Theo’s investments and dowry.  But the old Duke falls on hard times…he recklessly gambles away properties, takes “loans” from Theo’s dowry, and tries to invest in the most ill fated of schemes.  Disgusted with himself and desperate, he finds a solution penned by the Devil himself…he suggests that James marry the less than lovely Theo to gain what’s left of her sizeable dowry to bail them both out.

James is repulsed by his father’s unsavory actions and would do just about anything to protect Theo, who was raised like a sister to him.  Well…not exactly a sister.  Since she turned 16, he didn’t think of her as a sister at all – ogling her breasts at the dinner table and covering his, er, lustful reaction with his napkin is not brotherly at all.  He honestly cannot understand WHY society, or his father for that matter, finds his dear Daisy as anything less than beautiful.  Lithe and graceful with an aristocratic bone structure, he cannot help but find her perfectly to his taste!  Marrying her would be NO punishment for him, but convincing her to see him as anything other than a brother might prove a challenge and keeping the secret of the pretenses of their marriage could very well destroy any happiness they might find together.

Theo (Daisy…confusing, I know), finds James to be border line ridiculously handsome.  A true friend and older brother figure, she knows his popularity and support will help her easily win the man of her dreams, Lord Geoffrey Trevelyan.  But then James does something completely ridiculous – he proposes right in front of the Prince Regent and she suddenly realizes that she doesn’t seem him as a brother at all…but as a red blooded and handsome romantic that she cannot wait to spend the rest of her life with.  So long Lord Trevelyan!

Life is great – wedded bliss, in fact, at least for a couple of days until Theo learns the ugly truth about the basis of her marriage.  She immediately evicts the old Duke and James from her house and her life.  James knows Daisy and he knows she was serious when she said she never wanted to see him again.  He boards his last remaining unentailed piece of property, a ship, and heads off in an effort to prove himself worthy of Daisy’s respect and love.  Someday, he will return and he will prove his undying love for his swan.  But when he returns, a hardened pirate who nearly lost his life several times over at sea, he doesn’t get the warm and fuzzy reception he was hoping for.  Worst of all, his sweet swan has changed…although even more lovely in his eyes, she’s become chilly and hardened and certainly NOT receptive of his hot “advances.”  How will he ever get his Daisy to find comfort and love in his arms again?  And can she ever trust the very man who made her lose all faith in the sentiment?

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Desires of a Baron – Rose Gordon

I’ve waited a full 24 hours after finishing this book to post and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about this book…but I can tell you that I felt like I was walking a thin line throughout this story line.  The reason has everything to do with the Baron himself.  Giles Goddard is introduced in the Secrets of a Viscount and admittedly, I was intrigued by the dark stranger of few words; faithful friend to Sebastian Gentry.  Perhaps I had forgotten or maybe the idea was just introduced in this installment, but I come to find out that Giles is considered “incompetent” due to a birth injury involving his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.  Supposedly, this left him unable to articulate his thoughts.  Now this hits pretty close to home.  All three of my children had their cords around their necks, but my youngest was born blue and lifeless due to her cord being so tight around her neck – so tight, in fact, that it had to be cut off of her.  I worried about her health so incessantly, I gave myself debilitating migraines.  I still wonder how her birth may have affected her ability to learn or her behavior.  This was one reason that this book bothered me so greatly.

The second is the fact that Giles certainly does have some type of articulation issue in the book – obvious and almost painful through his truncated thoughts and his near constant embarrassment over his inability to effectively communicate his thoughts, along with his debilitating fear that he will not understand what he has been told.  There is an innocence to him due to this and it almost feels wrong to read about his love life (based on shallow reasons such as “I like kissing you” as a reason to marry) and his intimacies in the bedroom.

This brings me to his love interest, the fallen Lucy Whitaker.  She, too, is introduced in other books in the Scandalous Sisters Series.  Lucy waffles back and forth in the beginning of the book, trying to figure out if she’s choosing the right brother, since she made a poor decision over another set of brothers in the past.  It’s hard to understand what drives her passion for Giles over his brother, Simon, other than Gile’s obvious tenderness toward her illegitimate son, Seth.  Neither character felt very deeply developed and the basis of their “love” seems juvenile and in bad taste.  So, I suppose that sums it up for me.  Poor taste…but I still love you, Rose.

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