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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

'You're smile lacks meaning.'

The Wicked Heir (Spare Heirs #3)  by Elizabeth Michels


                                       
  
'You're smile lacks meaning.'
And just like that Fallon St. James' life takes a different course.

I really liked St. James but struggled with Lady Isabelle Fairlyn. In someways she seemed too childlike for St. James. At moments I found it hard to relate to her. She seems so young with a head (and diary) full of a young woman's dreams. We're told her diary is full of swooping letters with 'silhouettes of flowers and swirls of ink fashioned into vines.' However there are moments when Isabelle is no shrinking violet. (And that's when I like her). She is searching for her true love. At about the age of sixteen she fixated on another Spare, Mr. Kelton Brice, as that person. Isabelle  is now three years older. To her Brice is the epitome of the perfect partner. She has plans for him!
His friend and fellow Spare, Fallon St James, just doesn't cut it. He's too serious and brooding  in appearance and manner. He doesn't smile and he can be quite off putting. But appearances can be deceptive and Isabelle discovers previously unlooked for depths in this gentleman she terms piratical.
St James is the leader of the Spare Heirs Society, a secretive organization that has influence spread in all sorts of places. He needs to focus on the Society and its various tentacles to ensure its profitability.
When Isabelle is threatened by Reginald Grapling, a man who has mysteriously escaped from prison; a man previously hunted and brought to justice by the Heirs, Fallon must act quickly to find him and at the same time protect Isabelle. Fallon may be trying to save Isabelle but who will save him from the powerful attractions he feels for her?
In the end their story is one of action, mystery and a reluctant romance.
Isabelle's twin sister Victoria has her own story, that plays out somewhat here. She seems to me to be a very interesting character. I am looking forward to her involvement with the Spares.

A NetGalley ARC

*** 1/2

...' love is rare and special.' But can he acknowledge it?



                               

Chloe Somerton knew what poor was. Being poor as a young child had led her into illegal activities. Now the past was behind her. Chloe's sisters had married well and this was her time. Chloe had set her sights on the pleasing, wealthy, young earl, Lord Henry Sefton. (As Chloe was young as well this hardly seemed difficult to me. On the other hand Chloe's 'hand to mouth' existence as a child has made her older in experience of the not so charming side of life.)
Chloe had not reckoned with Henry's mentor--Michael Keswick, the Duke of Cameron. Michael is an emotionally battle scarred veteran of Waterloo. His scars, worn on the inside, are not obvious but just as deadly and damaging. Michael has a duty to his dead friend's son and thwarting Chloe becomes a central game. 'Chloe Somerton [might be] the picture of beauty, grace, and innocence,' but Michael recognizes her from the past and is determined that his young charge shall not succumb to her wiles. What he fails to recognize is the frisson of attraction that sizzles between himself and Chloe.
Chloe throws down the gauntlet. The battle is on. As Chloe attempts to bring Lord Henry to heel, she realizes that all is not well with Michael. Knowing how terrible memories can effect one's behaviour, Chloe finds herself compulsively drawn towards helping Michael despite the knowledge that he can destroy her. As the tug of their attraction for each other grows Chloe finds herself in a different sort of peril and Michael finds himself emotionally out of his depth where Chloe is concerned. And what of his responsibilities towards Henry? Hovering over all this is Michael's fear that in his traumatic episodes he will harm someone. That fact stops him from seeking his own happiness. 
Gabrielle has used the historical background, the returned veterans of the European Theatre, combined with the plight of the poor, to effect. A pleasing end to the Somerton sisters' stories bringing (to my mind) a version of Beauty and the Beast revisited.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Misinterpreted love

Denying the Duke (Lords & Ladies in Love #3) by Callie Hutton


                               

Patience suffered! Suffered a lost love, suffered an unenviable betrothal to a man who preferred courtesans, suffered a brutish father and then had to suffer marriage to a man who didn't give her choices.
As she considers her situation she realizes her whole life has been one of no choice! What Patience wants is to be courted! Is that too much to ask?
Alex, bemused and frankly out of touch, as he is fresh from six years as a soldier, firstly at Waterloo and later working with the war office. His latest assignment was to bring home a traitor--Lord Loverly. It was on the voyage home that Alex discovered his brother had died in highly salacious circumstance. Alex was now the Duke-a Duke with many problems. How to confront his situation and his brother's wife, Alex's youthful love. Added to that is the news that Loverly has escaped. He is now a threat to Alex's person and also Patience's.
Which all means that the situation is ripe for misinterpretation and bungled communication between Alex and Patience.
I was intrigued by the couple of mentions of Loverly's daughter who has disappeared. Are we going to come across her in the future? Mmm!
Frankly there were times when I was just plain annoyed with the two central characters.
It feels that denial works both ways. Alex really wants to deny the dukedom but just plain can't and Patience wants to deny Alex if he can't treat her in the way she wants, which she finds hard to give voice to.

A NetGalley ARC

***

Friday, July 7, 2017

Turbulent seas of love and danger!

Addicted to the Duke (Imperfect Lords #1) by Bronwen Evans


                            

A terrible burden sears the soul of Alexander Sylvester Bracken, Duke of Bedford. Driven by guilt and the fear of opium addiction, Alex will sail into danger taking his past and future with him. Death seems sweet but maybe not as sweet as Lady Hestia Cary.  
Six years ago Alex rescued Hestia from his deadliest enemy, the Turkish pirate Murad. Hestia fell irrevocably in love with Alex. Alex needed to steer clear of Hestia. He is a danger to both her and himself.  Now Hestia's father is seemingly dead. Hestia is in danger from her father's heir and her heart is in danger from Alex. For her safety Hestia will accompany him on the voyage. The journey to the Mediterranean will test Alex's resolve with every league sailed. 

A NetGalley ARC

****

Old hurts and new mysteries exposed!

Scandalous Ever After (Romance of the Turf #2) by Theresa Romain



Certainly this Romance of the Turf story took a different direction. Old yearnings, death and mysteries play out between Wales and Ireland.
Lady Kate Whelan was widowed when her husband was killed in a steeplechase race. She's the daughter of a Welsh racing baronet, Sir William Chandler. Kate had been married to an Irish Lord, Conall Ritchie Durham, the late fifth Earl of Whelan. Con's best friend was a Welshman, the laconic, humorous Evan Rhys, a noted antiquities expert. I loved Romain's turn of phrase, such as when she described how Evan and Con first met and the pranks they got up to.   As Con states, it was from a 'trellis of such events ... did their friendship cling and grow.'
Evan has been in love with Kate since he first met her. They had been the best of friends. Evan however has not seen Kate since Conall died, two years ago. He blames himself for Con's death. 
I enjoyed Evan's wry, self separating burst of humour and the way Kate responded in kind. I  enjoyed his conversations with himself with regard to Kate.
The hurt of Evan's retreat and of Kate's puzzlement to that action lies between them. 'Con's death had [indeed] changed many things.'
Returning to Ireland with Kate prior to leaving for Greece, errant thoughts and emotions previously tamped down rise to the surface.
Horses do play a part in this story, although the plot line takes off into unexpected places. They are more a back drop to the action. Action that unfolds into old grievances and revenge.
The tension and connections between these Kate and Evan are well played and all results in an excellent read. 

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Captivating and dangerous--in more ways than one!

Lord of Lies (Fallen Ladies #3) by Amy Sandas


                                

I loved this Fallen Ladies episode. There was something about the energy between the enigmatic and fascinating Dell Turner and Portia Chadwick that really exploded off the page.
Clever and intelligent Portia is a restless soul looking for more than the acquiescent debutant's role. It seems Dell is the answer.
Their meeting is under difficult circumstance. Lily, Portia's sister has just been kidnapped and Portia's somewhat doddering great aunt Angelique takes her to someone who might help, the mysterious Nightshade!
The story is littered with other interesting characters. Hale, a boxer and his search for his daughter Claire, Thomas the young contact agent for Nightshade caught my eyes, as did a young boy met in the latter part of the story.
From the ballrooms of the ton to the brothels in the dank alleys of London--the action ranges high and wide, fast and dangerous.
I was so caught up with this story that I am about to reread the others in The Fallen Ladies series to review the dovetailing of the stories that the puzzle of the Chadwick sisters presents to us.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Treason and true love!


The tale of two innocents really with a whole lot of feelings and not really knowing what to do with them. Well that changes somewhat (thanks to the 'French' pamphlet) Captain!Lady Magdalen Keith, the illegitimate daughter of a consummate Jacobite, the Earl Marischal of Scotland, has raced to London to try to free her father from the Tower. Although a representative of Aberdeenshire in the new British Parliament, the Earl was arrested after Prince James' abortive attempt to land his armada at the Firth of Forth.
Navy lieutenant Lord Aiden Murray is commander of a Scottish vessel that has been enfolded into the English navy. He's a virgin and wants to put that part of his life to rest. Aiden and Maddie originally meet at a masquerade at her father's castle in Stonehaven.
Between trying ro rescue Maddie's father, hiding their Jacobite leanings, and court intrigue in the guise  of a delectable widowed countess, things become very active--almost too so. 
A slow start, the story picked up and had some 'on the edge of your seat' moments as Aiden  and Maddie flee into the highlands.

A NetGalley ARC

***

A pleasing read!




                            


Quite a beautiful story about a man who doesn't fit into the role thrust upon him and a woman betrayed by choices thrust upon her.
Bran Crowther, Earl of Knighton can't stand to be back in England. Indeed he figuratively and literally is chafed by the burden. He fled the constrictions and oppressiveness of England and his family at a young age. He found himself in Barbados. Now duty has called him back.  Dubbed a defiant child by his mother, Bran is touted as the Defiant Duke.
Joanna Shaw now had freedom from a doomed marriage but what will she do? There is a definite attraction between Jo and Bran. Bran needs an heir and Jo's eight year marriage resulted in no children. 
These two hurt souls come together healing each other, although with some mishaps on the way.

A NetGalley ARC

**** 1/2

Puzzles and intrigue!


A bit of a slow start leads into an interesting plot where a somewhat OCD heroine who has difficulty lifting her gaze from mathematical pursuits into the real world.
Lady Daphne Forsyth has led a difficult life hampered by a father who used her mathematical genius to line his own pockets.
Now, having been left a share of her benefactress' estate and relishing the puzzle set for her to solve Daphne, finds herself with acquaintances, other young women equally as gifted in differing areas of expertise. For a lonely focused young women this is 'passing strange.'
The challenge concerns the legendary Cameron Cipher that supposedly relates to a fortune in a hidden Jacobite treasure trove.
What Daphne wants most though is to develop different skills. An entanglement with her benefactress' nephew the Duke of Maitland (not though marital) she feels will be a useful experiment. Well that just throws Dalton Beauchamp, the Duke. Talk about having the tables turned. 
Couple this conundrum with solving a puzzle that will lead to hidden treasure, throw in a murder and the story becomes a satisfying regency romp--if somewhat unusual.

A NetGalley ARC

****

The favoured few--their stories continue

Three Weeks with a Princess (The Improper Princesses) by Vanessa Kelly

 


                               

Lia Kincaid has been raised by her grandmother, the mistress of the Marquess of Lendale, on the Lendale estates. Lia Kincaid is the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of York.
The new marquess, Lia's childhood friend, Jack Easton is concerned for Lia's welfare. Lia feels she should continue in the women of the family's footsteps and become a courtesan. She need a protector and perhaps Jack would be a good first choice to practice with. Jack is shocked and tempted but this is his childhood friend. Added to that, it's imperative for Jack to marry wealth.
Lia flees to London and her mother, a famous actress, with the thought of a life treading the boards. Things of course becomes so much more entangled!
I found Jack somewhat insipid character and Lia is almost too good to be true.
Despite these short comings an interesting plot develops in this latest contribution to the trials and tribulations of three illegitimate princesses.

A NetGalley ARC

*** 1/2