A Secret in Her Kiss by Anna Randol

A Secret in Her Kiss

Setting: Regency 1815


There is improper, there is scandalous… and then there is Madeline Valdan.

To the world, Madeline Valdan is a scandalous courtesan, with society’s most eligible gentlemen at her feet. But no one knows her shocking secret: she has never experienced the most intimate touch of any man. So she astonishes the ton by telling them the truth . . . and by announcing the auction of her virginity to the highest bidder.

Handsome and disciplined, Gabriel Huntford knows his time is best spent hunting down criminals from the darkest corners of London. As a Bow Street Runner investigating his sister’s death, he has no desire to join London’s strutting peacocks in this competition when there are more important tasks at hand.

Now, his quest leads him to one of Madeline’s “suitors,” so he agrees to help this sinful woman. But what begins as a business arrangement quickly turns into something more . . . and love blooms with a passion neither one expected.

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For her debut novel, Anna Randol writes an exciting adventure romance, with a daring heroine and a strong, protective hero you’ll love watching fight not to be together.

Unlike most Regency romances, this novel takes place in the exotic locale of Constantinople which automatically makes this something fresh in a genre that seems so limited in its choice of setting. I loved the detail and the descriptions of Eastern Europe; I could almost see myself walking the streets and smelling the market goods.

We’ve got a feisty heroine and a hero who is forced to protect her one last time. Both of them want out of their respective careers but are thrust together for one last mission. This results in a will-they-won’t-they romance as both try to fight their attraction even though it’s so obvious they’re meant to be together 😉 I enjoyed the hot tension and watching how their defenses came down the more time they spent together.

Besides the sexy romance, we’ve got an exciting spy adventure story which involves a murder, a secret code and bandits! This book keeps you thoroughly entertained as you follow Marie and Bennett as they try to solve the mystery-and stay alive.

All in all, a fantastic read from a new author. I look forward to reading more Ms. Randol! 😀

Sensuality Rating: Hot ;)

Verdict: A wonderful debut! Not to be missed!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Accidental Wedding by Anne Gracie

Setting: Regency 1819


When Nash Renfrew wakes in the bed of lovely Maddy Woodford, he has no memory. In the days following his accident, he is charmed by her bright outlook on life, but he lives for the nights, when she joins him chastely-more or less-in her bed. When his memory returns, Nash asks for just one more night before he leaves. But it’s one night too many and it creates a scandal that leaves him no choice but to offer her marriage. 

With five orphaned half-siblings in her charge, Maddy needs the security Nash offers and can’t resist the promise of passion she’s experienced in his embrace. Well born, but poverty-stricken, Maddy knows she’s not the wife he planned on, but he’s everything she’s ever dreamed of. 

But will passion be enough? He’s a diplomat who knows Czars and Princes and Grand-dukes and she’s just a country girl who’s never even been to a ball. 

Can their new-found love survive, or will this accidental marriage destroy her dreams and his career?

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Anne Gracie pens another great romance full of tension and emotion. Despite my initial caution over the done-to-death premise, this book ended up being quite a winner!

Anne takes the usual amnesia plot and gives it a fresh twist. The hero is a famous and wealthy diplomat who falls off his horse, hits his head and ends up in the care of a young, impoverished woman with-wait for it-five children under her care. Not exactly the most perfect of matches. Of course the romance would have only worked if he had hit his head and forgotten his own name.

Amnesia plots are one of the most used romance tropes so I thought there could be nothing new in the telling of this story, but I put my faith in Anne’s storytelling abilities. And I’m glad I did because even though the story was too predictable, the characters and the interactions between them made me keep reading. First off, the wonderful heroine Maddy Woodford who’s worked her hard her whole life and is pretty much Cinderella, except with five young siblings. I love how she’s strong, determined and optimistic and yet vulnerable in the sense that she’s been alone for too long. Nash was a great hero too, willing to protect Maddy even though all he wants to do is take her to his bed. 😉 These two were adorable and great together and you just couldn’t help but root for them.

And the children! How adorable they were! They really added to the flavor of the book and I enjoyed reading their interactions with the hero. There’s also a dash of mystery too in a mysterious person who wants to boot Maddy out of her home.

It takes place in the country in England, so not a very exotic setting. And even though Nash is a diplomat, most of the action happens in and around Maddy’s cottage. But Anne’s skill as a storyteller and her great characters made this book hard to put down. There’s a lot of emotion and tension in the books reminiscent of Mary Balogh, only it’s a lot more spicy 😛

Pick this one up if you get the chance. It’s a great alternative on a lazy afternoon. Just don’t start it at night! 😀

Sensuality Rating: Hot ;)

Verdict: Give this one a shot! It’s worth it!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase

Setting: Late Regency 1835


From the Journals of Sophia Noirot: A dress is a weapon. It must dazzle his eye, raise his temperature . . . and empty his purse.

A blue-eyed innocent on the outside and a shark on the inside, dressmaker Sophy Noirot could sell sand to Bedouins. Selling Maison Noirot’s beautiful designs to aristocratic ladies is a little harder, especially since a recent family scandal has made an enemy of one of society’s fashion leaders. Turning scandal to the shop’s advantage requires every iota of Sophy’s skills, leaving her little patience for a big, reckless rake like the Earl of Longmore. The gorgeous lummox can’t keep more than one idea in his head at a time, and his idea is taking off all of Sophy’s clothes.

But when Longmore’s sister, Noirot’s wealthiest, favorite customer, runs away, Sophy can’t let him bumble after her on his own. In hot pursuit with the one man who tempts her beyond reason, she finds desire has never slipped on so smoothly . . .

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This is another great addition to Loretta’s very original series about three dressmakers in London. Wit, humor and adventure awaits the reader behind the gorgeous blue cover of this beautifully written Regency romance!

The heroine Sophia Noirot was introduced in the last book as being immensely clever and persuasive when it came to marketing the sister’s dress shop. Her latest challenge comes in the form of the Earl of Longmore who can’t seem to get her out of his head! But it’s no smooth road for these two as Longmore’s mother hates the dressmakers and of course there’s the major class difference. But Sophia can’t get him out of her head either! And when his sister goes missing, putting the shop’s future at stake, Sophia and Longmore must team up to save her, which puts temptation way too close for comfort 😉

I loved Sophia’s character-she was smart, hilarious and so manipulative it was dazzling to read. Loving acting myself, I loved how Sophia could assume any character she wanted to suit her purposes. Her personality made for some really fresh and funny scenes. I wasn’t big fan of the hero though-I like my heroes more articulate and charming. Longmore struck me as more of a jock type personality. But seeing these two interact, it was clear they were right for each other. I would have liked to understood why Longmore liked Sophia though-it was never mentioned the why, except that he did, right from the start of the book. However, every scene seemed to crackle with the unspoken tension the two shared.

The rest of the characters shone too, with my favorites being Longmore’s sister (I wonder if she’ll be getting a spin off book of her own), and Longmore’s mother who reminded me of Austen’s Mrs Bennet with her over-dramatic faints and sighs. I did wish I could see more of the couple from the first book though but that was a minor point.

Plot-wise, it was simple and yet so addictive I just couldn’t put it down. The road trip trope? It’s been done before and yet this was somehow too intriguing. I think Sophia’s actress character played a big part but another part of the reason was because of all the descriptions of the different places Longmore and Sophia went to try and find his sister-you felt as if you were right there with them and could envision all the scenes. As with the first book in the series, I loved all the passages at the start of each chapter which were taken from real-life historical sources. It made the book seem like it could have actually happened!

All in all, this was a very beautifully written romance with great characters and a very entertaining plot. I can’t imagine a better way to spend an afternoon 🙂

Sensuality Rating: Hot 😉

Verdict: Another great read from the amazing Loretta Chase! Highly recommended!

Rating: 4 and a half out of 5 stars

The Proposal by Mary Balogh

Setting: Regency


In Mary Balogh’s engaging and seductive new novel of drama and romance, a woman comfortable in her solitude allows temptation to free her heart, when a daring war hero shows her how truly extraordinary she is.
Gwendoline, Lady Muir, has seen her share of tragedy, especially since a freak accident took her husband much too soon. Content in a quiet life with friends and family, the young widow has no desire to marry again. But when Hugo, Lord Trentham, scoops her up in his arms after a fall, she feels a sensation that both shocks and emboldens her.
Hugo never intends to kiss Lady Muir, and frankly, he judges her to be a spoiled, frivolous—if beautiful—aristocrat. He is a gentleman in name only: a soldier whose bravery earned him a title; a merchant’s son who inherited his wealth. He is happiest when working the land, but duty and title now demand that he finds a wife. He doesn’t wish to court Lady Muir, nor have any role in the society games her kind thrives upon. Yet Hugo has never craved a woman more; Gwen’s guileless manner, infectious laugh, and lovely face have ruined him for any other woman. He wants her, but will she have him?
The hard, dour ex-military officer who so gently carried Gwen to safety is a man who needs a lesson in winning a woman’s heart. Despite her cautious nature, Gwen cannot ignore the attraction. As their two vastly different worlds come together, both will be challenged in unforeseen ways. But through courtship and seduction, Gwen soon finds that with each kiss, and with every caress, she cannot resist Hugo’s devotion, his desire, his love, and the promise of forever.

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Loved this book! Balogh does it again with another touching read and a great introduction to her new 7 book series about a group of war survivors, each with their own scars (physical or mental) from the war.

The heroine is the lonely, limping cousin of a previous Balogh heroine-one who was long overdue for a happy ending of her own. Despite her handicap, Gwen is cheerful and generous, always ready to help out her friends and family. She is the perfect lady. At the start we see her forced to endure the company of a whiny, selfish friend. Gwen escapes to the seaside and ends up spraining her ankle, which is how she meets our hero.

On the opposite end of the scale, we have Hugo who has never fully recovered from his psychological war scars. He wears a tough, cold exterior to hide the fact that he feels guilty for living when his comrades have all perished in the war. He’s a middle class man who has just gained a title and he can’t stand the upper classes. When these two meet, there are instant sparks-of dislike. But the more time they spend together, the more both realize how much they have in common. But Gwen has no desire to marry again and Hugo has to persuade her to think otherwise. As far as characters go, I liked both Hugo and Gwen but they weren’t super special in any way. I did admire Gwen’s cheerfulness despite how lonely her life was and the fact that her husband and son died previously. It was sweet watching them fall in love and try to deny it.

As with all Balogh novels, this book focuses more on the character than the plot so if your taste is more towards an exciting fast-paced  adventure romance, this isn’t for you. Reminiscent of Jane Austen novels, this book is more for people who appreciate a deeper look into the workings of human nature. As touching as it is wise, this book will be sure to bring a few tears to even the strongest readers.

Overall, this is a great, emotionally touching read, perfect for a quiet day in. Can’t wait for the next book! 😀

Sensuality Rating: Warm

Verdict: Great start to a new series! Balogh is back in the game!

Rating: 4 and a half out of 5 stars

If I Fall by Kate Noble

Setting: Regency 1823


Every great romance comes with a risk…

After a duke’s betrayal, the resilient Sarah Forrester reinvents herself as the Golden Lady: society’s leading light, the beautiful and witty life of the party. It’s all a façade of course-one that protects her from another intimate disloyalty. When her old friend, Lieutenant Jackson Fletcher, returns to London, he is determined to rediscover the true and trusting Sarah he once knew. It’ll take more than a kiss and a promise. It might even call for an innocent and necessary deception.

Then Jackson is enlisted to help capture the lead suspect in a murder— a man who happens to be Sarah’s most ardent suitor. Jack must continue the deception, and weathering this newest and gravest betrayal will be Sarah’s ultimate test. But as Jack’s passion for her grows, he must also reveal his own secrets. And as the killer turns his attention to his pursuers, more than love and trust is put at risk.

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Anyone who loves the work of Tessa Dare will enjoy this fresh, witty, sparkling Regency romance with a twist!

This is a redemption story featuring the jilted fiance from Follow My Lead and her childhood friend. Brokenhearted, Sarah has decided to make herself over and becomes a cold, calculating b—-. Well you get the idea. The only person capable of saving her from herself is the one man who knew her best as a carefree, friendly child.

Things progress predictably at first with Jackson meeting our aloof heroine and wondering what happened to the nice girl he once knew. But things take an unexpected turn when Jackson decides to disguise himself as Sarah’s childhood idol the Blue Raven (a famous national spy) in order to elicit a reaction from her and discover if the real Sarah is still there. The premise is a bit far fetched but it’s fun and makes for a lot of funny scenes. And things get even more interesting when Jackson’s disguise leads him to a real murder!

As a couple, Sarah and Jackson are wonderful together especially those moments when Sarah lets down her guard. It was a great idea to make Jackson a childhood friend as it made it a much more satisfying ending for a heroine I felt very sorry for in the previous book. I would have liked to have seen more of Jackson and Sarah reminiscing on their childhood memories though as I felt the mystery aspect took away from that.

Another great thing about the book was the history. You can tell Ms Noble did her research and there were a lot of new things I learned about the 1800’s like the war between Britain and Burma. I love the way she writes as well: It flows, it’s poetic, funny and very witty.

Part mystery and espionage, this light, happy read will be sure to put a smile on your face. Remember: If you fall, let it be because of a good book like this one 😉

Sensuality Rating: Very warm!

Verdict: Funny, fast-paced and exciting! An exhilarating ride! 😀

Rating: 4 and a half out of 5 stars

The Temporary Wife/A Promise of Spring by Mary Balogh

Setting: Regency


In two classic tales of Regency-era romance from New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh, the vagaries of love have a way of challenging the most convenient arrangements.
Miss Charity Duncan has no illusions about Lord Anthony Earheart’s proposal. The arrogant aristocrat has made it painfully clear what he wants: a wife who will enrage the father he despises and then disappear from his life. In exchange, Charity’s family will receive the money they desperately need. But after Charity agrees to this mockery of matrimony, she soon discovers a startling fact: She has fallen for Anthony, and breaking their marriage vows may also break her heart.
Grace Howard has every reason to be devoted to Sir Peregrine Lampman. After all, the gallant gentleman rescued her from poverty by making her his bride. Even more nobly, he did not withdraw his affection after she confessed to a youthful folly that had compromised her virtue. But Grace did not tell the whole truth about the handsome lord who betrayed her—and now the one thing she’s kept from Perry threatens to destroy her last chance at true love.

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Two tales of people overcoming the trails of the past are brought together and are beautifully told by one of the romance genre’s most talented writers. You won’t be disappointed in this collection with its warmth, unique-ness and poignancy.

The first story we have is about a woman who is forced to marry a man in order to feed her family. This is a very typical set-up as the hero is out for vengeance against his family and marries the heroine in order to fulfill it. But even the most common stories shine in the hands of Mary Balogh and though things may appear done before, you will be surprised and pleased by how this story turns out. Both hero and heroine are more than they appear. I give it a 4 stars out of 5.

The second story was less typical and was a great change from the usual romance storyline. We have a woman who has a past lover who comes back to challenge her current marriage. This one had a more mature, deeper, meaningful feeling to it and some readers may find to hard to like as it is not romantic and contains no great declarations of love or grand gestures. This is about a more gradual type of love. The heroine was admirable and I loved how patient and undemanding the hero was. But watching as the heroine overcomes her past is worth reading this story. A definite 4 out of 5 stars!

Mary Balogh is more than just a romance writer. She is an observer of human nature. And just like her famous predecessor Jane Austen, her stories are always full of real, layered people that aren’t perfect and great insights into the human heart. This book is no exception. You will be deeply touched by both stories. Don’t expect lots of sex and eroticism though sexual tension is always there in a Balogh novel, simmering just beneath the surface.

Again, if you’re looking for some heart warming, touching, more traditional romance with great sexual tension, than pick this one up. You’ll love both stories and want more!

Sensuality rating-Minimal-Very traditional style Regency romance

Verdict: Another great read for those of you who like more traditional romances and can’t get enough of Mary Balogh!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea by Sophia Nash

Setting: Regency


Six Regency heroes—One royal hangover

An infamous night has been lost to memory. The scandalous Dukes of the Royal Entourage must make amends. The first step is a heroic rescue.

One of England’s most disreputable peers, Alexander Barclay, Duke of Kress, has stumbled upon a perfect opportunity for redemption. Having been exiled to Cornwall by the Prince Regent himself, Barclay discovers lovely Roxanne Vanderhaven clinging to the edge of a cliff, stranded there by her murderous blackguard of a husband . . . just waiting to be rescued.

Back on solid ground, Roxanne is desperate for a new life— once she’s retaliated for her husband’s despicable actions. Surprisingly, she finds herself drawn to her unlikely champion, certainly the last man in England she could count on. Yet, the infamous Duke of Kress isn’t quite the scoundrel he seems . . .

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The Hangover set in the Regency? Sounds like one hell of a ride doesn’t it? Sophia begins her exciting new series with the story of Alex, the duke whose smuggled alcohol caused the biggest royal scandal of the era! Alex also ends up losing his fortune and as a result is commanded by the Prince Regent to seek out a rich respectable heiress in order to make amends.

Enter Roxanne Vanderhaven, a married woman with no fortune at all whose husband tries to kill her by leaving her dangling on the side of a cliff. Clearly, these two have a long way to go before they find their happily ever after! But it’s well worth a read as you’ll discover in this lighthearted, witty tale of two people who never expected to find love.

Sophia Nash is a new author for me and one I can now say will become one of my must-reads. She has this great sense of comedic timing and the dialogue in the book is full of witty, tongue in cheek humor. It was also fast-paced and very engaging. However, some readers may find the plot a bit far-fetched if traditional Regencies are more your thing.

I will say though that I wish there had been more focus on Alex and Roxanne’s blooming relationship then the drama surrounding the murderous husband. I felt the characters weren’t fleshed out enough and seemed like your typical HR hero prototypes. I did like Roxanne a lot though and found her witty comments one of the highlights of the novel.

Other than that, the book thrived on the witty dialogue and the fresh, albeit slightly improbable plot line. If you like your romances less traditional and more adventurous than you’ll love this.

This is a great light read that will definitely brighten up your day!

Sensuality rating-Hot 😉

Verdict: Fun and witty read! Recommended!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

Setting: Late Regency 1831


What a scoundrel wants, a scoundrel gets . . .

A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.

A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to such unexplored pleasures.

Bourne may be a prince of London’s underworld, but he vows to keep Penelope untouched by its wickedness—a challenge indeed as the lady discovers her own desires, and her willingness to wager anything for them . . . even her heart.

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After very much mostly enjoying Ms. MacLean’s first series Love By Numbers, I figured I would enjoy her next series about four fallen aristocrats living in the underworld of London trying to find their way back to society. A great premise and something different from the usual ballroom and afternoon tea drama. I knew it would be good but not this good. Sarah MacLean has really outdone herself here! I’m so glad I read this book as I can safely say it is one of the best romances I have ever read! 😀

This is a story about two very different people who are thrown together and despite the odds end up falling in love.

The heroine is Penelope Marbury, the jilted fiance from Eleven Scandals to Win a Duke’s Heart who was described in a very unflattering light as ‘the grape’ by that book’s very feisty and scandalous heroine. A very odd choice for a heroine as there was nothing particular special about Penelope except that she is so proper and so perfect. But she really shines in this book and I admired the way MacLean pealed back the perfect, demure (dare I say dull?) exterior and revealed a woman of inner strength and selflessness. She ends being a heroine you quite admire, perhaps more than the usual daring, feisty heroines.

As for the hero, Bourne was not just your typical arrogant, rakish so called ‘bad’ hero with a heart a gold: he really was a scoundrel and he had real problems which took time to overcome, especially his desire for revenge. He was admirable, particularly for driving himself to make a good life for himself as part owner of The Fallen Angel gaming hell after he had everything taken from him.

It wasn’t easy liking these two protagonists and it says something that MacLean manged to make both way more than they first appeared and making us root for their happy ever after. They were amazing together and you really believed they were meant for each other. Putting their childhood letters in at the start of every chapter was a very nice touch and allowed us access to their past association. Alot of their scenes had me sighing and truly touched by the real emotions they held for each other. She had to come to terms with the fact he isn’t the man she used to know and he had to accept the fact that if he wanted a future with her, he had to stop his revenge. There isn’t an easy way out for these two but that makes the ending so much more enjoyable.

MacLean writes in a style that reminds me of Anna Campbell, particularly for this book with its dark undertones and focus on the characters’ feelings. Be warned, this is not a happy, light read. There are moments of lightness though, with lots of funny scenes with Penelope’s sisters and some great scenes between the four heroes of this whole series. I enjoyed the peek into the world of Regency gambling, rife with danger and risk.

I also loved the wit, humor and emotion in her writing. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, I was surprised at how things ended up. What an amazing read! 😀

Overall, this book is a great example of what historical romance can be when done right. It is funny, deep, touching, romantic, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable! Some readers might be put off by how ‘prudish’ and ‘dull’ the heroine was at the start but stick with the book and I promise you’ll be surprised. It was a joy reading this book and I’m now very impatient to read book 2 and return to the world of The Fallen Angel!

Sensuality Rating: HOT!

Verdict: Absolutely brilliant. Highly recommended. You won’t be able to put it down!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare

Setting: Regency


Welcome to Spindle Cove, where ladies with delicate constitutions come for the sea air, and men in their prime are…nowhere to be found.

Or are they?

Spindle Cove is the destination of choice for certain types of well-bred young ladies: the painfully shy, young wives disenchanted with matrimony, and young girls too enchanted with the wrong men. It is a haven for those who live there.

Victor Bramwell, the new Earl of Rycliff, knows he doesn’t belong here. So far as he can tell, there’s nothing in this place but spinsters…and sheep. But he has no choice, he has orders to gather a militia. It’s a simple mission, made complicated by the spirited, exquisite Susanna Finch—a woman who is determined to save her personal utopia from the invasion of Bram’s makeshift army.

Susanna has no use for aggravating men; Bram has sworn off interfering women. The scene is set for an epic battle…but who can be named the winner when both have so much to lose?

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I’ve always loved Tessa Dare’s poetic way of writing. As someone who enjoys writing herself, it’s a joy reading her lyrical prose. Tessa never fails to disappoint and I had so much faith in her writing, I had to get this book. Sadly, it didn’t quite meet my expectations and I found myself wondering what went wrong with her usually brilliant 5 star plots.

The premise itself was great. A secret village full of independent women which is invaded by a bunch of military men which cause things to get turned upside down. Such a great fresh idea! My problem in this book though, lay with the hero and the heroine and their lackluster romance.

Bram is your typical alpha male hero, though a leg battle wound has left him with a few scars. Susanna is your feisty, strong independent women but she’s also got some scars (caused mainly by a horrible bloodletting experience she had as a girl). The thing was the romance failed to impress mainly because there was no struggle. The back of the book was misleading, suggesting an epic battle of wits and a love-hate relationship ala Pride and Prejudice. What we get instead are a few fights and the hero and heroine are in love and pretty much together already halfway through the book! So much for romantic tension!

I also had to sometimes roll my eyes at the cheesiness and some of the love scenes which were a bit and over the top and happened too soon especially given how the heroine was supposed to be a leader of this man-hating community.

On the plus side, the characters were fleshed out, the dialogue was witty and entertaining, a lot of the scenes between the men and women fighting over Spindle Cove were hilarious and the plot was very engaging. I just wish the romance could have been better written.

Still, this was a very good start to a very interesting series and I’m looking forward to reading book 2.

Sensuality Rating: HOT!

Verdict: Not amazing but still a good read!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Famous Heroine/The Plumed Bonnet by Mary Balogh

Setting: Regency


Beloved New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh spins two classic stories of Regency England—splendid novels of mistaken identity and unmistakable passion, where marriage is only the beginning of true love.

Cora Downes has beauty, spirit, and money, but no breeding. Yet when she gains renown for a daring rescue, she finds herself thrust into high society. Innocent and adrift in a world of beautiful banquets, bejeweled gowns, and snobbish standards, Cora is quickly compromised into a marriage—to a frivolous lord whose interests seem to lie elsewhere. But could piercingly blue-eyed and well-mannered Francis Kneller turn out to be the most unexpected love of her life?

Alistair Munro, the Duke of Bridgwater, is looking for love outside the bounds of polite society. And that’s what he expects to receive when he rescues a seemingly disreputable girl in a colorful bonnet off the side of the road. Yet Stephanie Gray, a former governess, has recently come into money and is eager for a proper match with a well-born man. Sure that he’s sullied her name, Alistair offers marriage to make amends. And in this unlikely union, Stephanie and Alistair make a welcome discovery—that sometimes it’s possible to marry first, then fall in love.

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As a huge fan of Mary Balogh, I love getting my hands on anything and everything she writes. Very rarely does she turn out a bad book so when I heard a new book featuring two re-issued classic novels of hers was coming out, I had to read it! The book is well worth the money and what’s better than getting two great stories for the price of one? 😀

Both stories in this collection are part of a broader linked series that began with Dark Angel/Lord Carew’s Bride. The hero of the first book (The Famous Heroine) was the rejected suitor in Lord Carew’s Bride so I was looking forward to reading his happy ending. Both stories dealt with major misunderstandings and were both marriage of convenience tales. In both stories the hero and heroine make certain assumptions of each other before ending up in marriages that began badly but naturally turn out well.

My favorite story was The Famous Heroine which I found funny and lighthearted. It’s always great to see a beloved character getting his/her well-deserved happy ever after. The heroine mistakes the hero for being gay which I found hilarious and original. The heroine was very likable and was a great match for the hero. I loved their chemistry and how they gradually came to love and respect each other after a bad beginning. It was sweet, honest story.

The second story (The Plumed Bonnet) took some time to get into and I found it harder to enjoy mainly because the chemistry was lacking. The hero meets the heroine on the road, thinking her a prostitute and ends up ruining her by accident and then having to marry her to make up for it. She feels majorly obliged to him and does not dare to be herself and he won’t open up to her. They spend most of the book in awkward conversations as neither is comfortable with the other. Over the course of a month, they try to make their marriage work despite the big misunderstandings and it’s not till very near the end do things finally start looking up for them. It didn’t feel natural and seemed like they forced themselves to fall in love, rather than falling in love naturally. It wasn’t very romantic, though it held my attention as it definitely was a different take on a typical romance trope.

Overall, both stories were very well-written and were both engaging despite the lack of an exciting plot. If you like your romances focused more on the characters and their emotions rather than the plot, Mary Balogh is for you. This was a pretty good read!

Sensuality rating-Minimal-Very traditional style Regency romance

Verdict: A great read if you like more traditional romances with emotional depth.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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