The Devil and the Heiress

She never imagined he would be both the villain and the hero of her story…

Violet has always played the role of dutiful daughter. Quiet, biddable, accommodating and inobtrusive. Until she discovers that her parents’ indulgence is outweighed by their mercurial nature. After her sister was offered to a duke like a sacrificial golden lamb, Violet mistakenly assumed that the family had secured the status it had been denied because of the gleam of its new money.

“Her parents wanted her to host dinner parties and show Mrs, Astor that they were very much worthy of her guest list. … She would be pretty and mild and never utter a word that would cause anyone the slightest discontent.” (Ch. 5)

Violet must make a choice : to marry the odious Lord Ware or to run away. “The red shone bright against the white of her palm. In that moment, that’s how she felt. A tiny bloom of insurrection in the midst of conformity.” (Ch. 5)

Her choice is clarified by the alluring, inscrutable Lord Leigh. He is reputed to be a scoundrel. Yet she dreams of kissing him. When he offers his assistance in the guise of a getaway conveyance, she reluctantly accepts it. After all, they are not bound for the same destination, and she does not have the wiles to tempt him.

But Christian, Earl of Leigh, is not immune to her wiles. He is simply adept at hiding his attraction. He has nefarious plans, and he will not compromise Violet until forcing her hand is unavoidable. But all of his plans go awry when they meet with tragedy on the road. Christian’s purpose and desire coalesce when the possibility of losing Violet because of his selfish, reckless behavior becomes all too real.

I loved watching the growth of feelings between Violet and Christian. I loved his empowerment of her and the ways that she soothed his battered heart and dug her way beneath his armor. This wonderful story has so many of my favorite romance tropes: roadtrip, forced proximity, courageous rescue, reforming the rake, writer heroine.

The author’s meticulous research into the rights and situations of women in the late nineteenth century, the intricacies of the transatlantic trade as the Industrial Age reached its heyday, and the very real bargains that happened between Gilded Age American heiresses and members of the English aristocracy is evident on every single page. I highly recommend this beach read if you want to lose yourself in a story that celebrates true love as the only gold worthy of appreciation.

4.5 Stars.

When Starlings Fly As One: Nancy Blanton

A captivating novel of 17th century Ireland.

Merel is ecstatic when she is finally given permission to disappear into the forest with her sketchbook. She finds peace from her demanding mistress and the space to think freely. A murmuration of starlings disturbs her stolen moments, and becomes an omen for the dark days that follow.

Merel is torn between her growing love for the Tynan, the estate’s horse marshal, her ties of loyalty to the mistress of the castle, and her desire to forge her own path. When the castle comes under siege from the MacCarthy clan.

Merel’s story is about a young woman’s journey of self-discovery, but it is also about her struggle to reconcile the competing loyalties in her life. It is about convincing others to trust her abilities and finding the inner strength to have faith in her own resilience and tenacity.

Set against the backdrop of 17th century Ireland, the plot delves into the social and political intricacies of a divided landscape. It uses the alternating narratives of Merel and Tynan to explore how warfare, rebellion and tumult affect the lives of everyday people.

This was an unputdownable, fascinating dive into a historical era and situation that has been obscured.

Lady August

A heroine who is content to be a governess – at least that’s what she tells herself. She’s far too independent, and, after all, she’s ruined and inured to the stigma of her illegitimacy and the complications it has caused in her life. Even though a family of her own would be wonderful, that means she would have to find a man she’s willing to take on.

In an uncanny twist of unexpected fortune, she is suddenly an heiress and the world is her oyster. It’s the last thing August expected. She’s now subjected to waltz lessons and interminably boring dinners. Her pragmatism is not appreciated and is viewed as an obstacle to be overcome rather than an asset to be cultivated. And then there’s her stoic solicitor….

Firstly, he’s a lot more appealing than the doddering old man she has met with in the past. Secondly, he has shoulders that take up the entire doorway. Thirdly, he has a mesmerizing blue gaze and a cleft chin she has an insatiable urge to press her thumb into. She is inexorably drawn to him. She much prefers his company to being thrown into the ton’s pool of ravenous sharks and reeled in like a fat worm on a hook.

And Brooks can’t stay away from this contradictory woman. She plagues him with her insouciance. She bedevils him with her laughter. She asks far too many questions and goads him to uncomfortable self-examination.

“He did not want her to look at him that way. Soon she would start asking all sorts of questions in an attempt to get to the core of him, to find out what made him “him”. He was unsure if he knew the answer himself, and he would rather August not get to it first.”

I loved this delightful, slow burn, clean regency romance. It features a hero with motion sickness and a penchant for whiskey and a heroine who has no qualms whatsoever about remaining true to herself. There is a vividly portrayed cast of side characters, sparkling dialogue, and a sufficiently abhorrent villain. Best of all, it is a luscious gem of a story about falling in love about falling in love because of, and despite, your best intentions.

4.5 Stars.

How to Survive a Scandal

Think warm thoughts….

A rescue from a wrecked carriage leads to dishabille and disaster…

When Benedict rescues Amelia from her capsized carriage, he doesn’t think about the repercussions. He just knows he needs to find the closest shelter available and get her warm as fast as he can. She is pale, her pulse is weak, and she’s talking nonsense. Of course he still notices how delectable she is. But he ignores that side of his brain because he knows they are complete opposites. She is a spoiled belle of society and he is a self-made man- the result of an affair between a notorious noblewoman and her brawny footman.

She’s suddenly issuing commands like an ice princess, and the only way to quiet her down is to pull her into his lap. Of course the moment he is settling in, the door bangs open and they have the attention of an audience. Her father demands they marry – she is on the verge of receiving a proposal from a duke and she refuses. But her duke avoids scandal at all costs — and he can’t afford to wed a woman whose scandalous encounter is on the tip of every tongue. So Benedict does the valiant thing and rescues the reluctant damsel in distress. He assures her that their marriage will be one of convenience, in name only.

Amelia is flummoxed by her handsome husband. She wanted a spouse and a household she could control. She wanted a relationship that didn’t make her dependent or weak. And her husband’s glimmering gaze definitely makes her weak in the knees. She can’t help staring at his biceps, or how he fills out his breeches, She can’t help but admire his quicksilver mind and his accomplishments. And she’s falling fast.

He can give her the purpose and security she longs for, and she can give him the peace and confidence he needs. But first they have to admit how they feel and simply surrender to it.

I absolutely adored this lush historical romance with all my heart. A huge thanks to Netgalley and Forever for the chance to read it in exchange for an honest review.

Talk Bookish to Me

Everyone grows up eventually…even college boyfriends.

Talk Bookish to Me was a perfect escape about second chances.

Kara and Ryan were inseparable in college- that couple nauseatingly wrapped up in each other and joined at the hip. The tied with a bow, rose colored glasses couple everyone else was envious of. But they were young, and life got in the way. They couldn’t keep doubt and mistrust from intruding on their relationship – and they are both still nursing the wounds from their mutual meltdown.

Kara still hates Ryan with the fire of a thousand suns. He broke her trust and shattered her heart. And now he’s standing on front of her – miraculously the groomsman in her best friend’s wedding. She wants to thrash him with the roundkick of all roundkicks. But she wants to lean into the crook of his neck and feel his arms around her too. And her competing desires make her grumpy and mean.

When a disaster named Duke strikes, Ryan and Kara become victims of forced proximity. Kara offers up her space because she is trying to help her best friend and keep the momentum and inspiration going so she can meet the deadline for her new romance book. The coincidence of Ryan’s sudden appearance and the banishment of her writer’s block is not something she wants to examine too closely.

The charge between them is inexorable and they can’t ignore it. If they choose each other again, there’s a very definite possibility that their secrets will drive them apart again. Is the heartache and surrender worth it?

I loved this sweet romantic comedy. A huge thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Sweet Rowan

You’ll need something to hold onto….

Keira has done it again. This sweet, slow burn romance snagged me hook, line and sinker.

Penny is pretty certain that her purpose in life is to rekindle her magic. She thinks a sojourn in Scotland, masquerading as a governess under an assumed identity, is the answer.

But her charges prove to be a bit intractable, and are much harder to win over than their beguiling father. Malcolm of sly humor and mussed hair, of doting fatherhood and conscientious stewardship made me crave my own Scottish sojourn.

This gorgeous love story unfolds with a tender poignancy that nearly made an extended bout of sighing and pearl grasping a reality. (The sighing happened, but I didn’t have any pearls on hand🤣).

I absolutely adored the arch looks over the shoulder, the brushing of fingers against wool coats, and the teasing banter between the hero and heroine.

If you need a reminder of how hearts can be healed, what the power of true magic is, and how to find a place your heart calls home, then this is the book for you!

Gilded Serpent

The wolves are at the door— both literally and figuratively.

Are you craving an epic series? The Dark Shores series delivers. It has the fiery, rebellious spirit of Star Wars, the heart and soul of Gladiator, and two pairs of star-crossed lovers whose lives are being shaped by impossible choices and encroaching darkness.

The latest book in the series, Gilded Serpent, is about clinging to hope when the world is crumbling beneath your feet. It is about choosing love against all odds and doing everything you can to preserve it.

Marcus knows that a legionnaire’s loyalty should be to the glory of the empire. But he has never been more himself than he is with the pirate princess who is his captive. He is determined to protect Teriana, even if his secrets will destroy any love she feels for him.

Killian is gifted by the god of war. He has been a weapon for others, a tool of hurt and destruction. The quiet, bookish girl with emerald eyes is the first to see beyond his shield. He loves Lydia, and will fight for their future- even if the universe seems to be conspiring against them.

The stakes are escalating as the world succumbs to blight and evil on one shore and corruption and greed on the other. Marcus, Teriana, Killian and Lydia are all that stand against the rising tide. The war has only just begun.

I savoured this one as long as I could- until I couldn’t resist finishing. The cliffhangers will haunt me until the next release.

Her Dark Lies

Hidden agendas and windswept cliffs will give you Du Maurier’s Rebecca vibes…

From the moment Claire sets foot on the isolated island estate of her fiance, the wild beauty and dark majesty of the island captivates her. But her nerves are rattled from a close encounter prior to their departure, and she can’t let her guard down enough to enjoy her lush surroundings. From the beginning, she senses that she is that one puzzle piece that doesn’t quiet fit in, a wren thrown in the coop with a bird of paradise.

Sometimes smiling isn’t enough…

The wealth just feels ostentatious to Claire, and even though Jack is solicitous, he seems both preoccupied and distracted. When the weather takes a turn for the worse, everyone is trapped and there’s an ominous villain on the loose.

What happens when you lose electricity…

This character driven suspense had me in its grip from start to finish. I was looking for Ms. Danvers and Pennywise around every corner. The plot twists were unpredictable and I had no idea who was telling the truth, who was hiding their true motives, and who was a cold-blooded killer beneath their polite facade. The build was slow because of the intricate descriptions of the setting – but they only added to the ambience for me.

I highly recommend this modern gothic romance if you enjoy Mary Stewart or Daphne Du Maurier.

The Runaway Bride

This ARC was provided courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this sweet road trip romance. Kitty and Jack’s story is one about new beginnings, and the journey of self discovery that happens when you let go of guilt and regret.

When Kitty’s life falls apart, she needs to reinvent herself. Her spirit has been broken by the controlling, oppressive life she runs away from. She leaves everything behind on her wedding day when she witnesses the ultimate betrayal.

She’s hoping that her knight in shining armor isn’t a serial killer. He feeds her and clothes her. He seems relatively harmless, and his canine companion is wonderful. Jack and his pregnant dog Sandy rescue her. Jack gives her a roaming home, a new adventure, and safety and security.

Kitty begins to see herself as a strong, independent woman. She begins to confront the demons in her past. She finds love and freedom. She makes a choice- but the one man she wants to claim as her own has his own demons to battle.

This was a sweet, wonderful, slow burn romance. I loved both MCs and wanted to strangle the villains.

Meet Me in Paradise

This book was so wonderful.

It’s about the many different kinds of bravery. It takes courage to carry on, courage to step outside your comfort zone, courage to let go.

It’s about the sacrifices we think we are making for those we love, but are actually walls we are erecting for self-preservation. It’s about tearing down those walls brick by brick.

It’s about self-deception and erroneous assumptions.

Marin agrees to leave her cocoon of ten years for a sisters’ getaway. It turns into another type of adventure altogether when she meets Lucas. As he shows her around the island, she doesn’t recognize her flirty, forthright alterego. She takes risks, embraces danger, and loses her moorings.

The reason behind Marin’s solitary escape will turn her world upside down and result in an epiphany that changes her life.

Recommended if you settle in with this spectacular debut:

-A box of tissues within easy reach.
-No early morning appointments because you won’t be able to put it down once you pick it up.