Monday, October 21, 2013

Miss Molly Robbins Designs a Seduction by Jayne Fresina

Carver Danforthe, Earl of Everscham, has a reputation of being a wild rogue—not for indulging the ambitions of his sister’s maid. But Molly Robbins’ unique dress designs have caught the eye of society's elite, and if it means her own dress shop, Molly will make a deal with the devil himself—or his proxy, the notoriously naughty earl. But becoming his mistress is not a part of their arrangement. It's right there in the contract’s small print: No Tomfoolery. Until he proposes a scandalous new addendum to their contract...

This lovely romance features as feisty and enjoyable a heroine as anyone could desire- Molly Robbins is a former ladies' maid with moxie, one who left her prospective groom at the altar to branch out on her own as a dressmaker to the ton. She is inspired to make this move by the drunken promise of her former employer to lend her the money to set up the business. Watching Molly find her feet in both business and love is wonderful, and the reader cannot help but wish her happiness. As a hero, the Earl of Everscham is less successful at times, especially when his selfish desires to get his way jeopardize everything Molly has worked to build. That said, it is good to watch him grow more responsible as Molly works her magic, and they do make a lovely couple in the end. Though two members of the same aristocratic family falling for commoners does stretch the imagination, overall this is a delightful read and I'll be on the lookout for more offerings from this author.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

An Untitled Lady by Nicky Penttila

Shocking family news forces Madeline Wetherby to abandon her plans to marry an earl and settle for upstart Manchester merchant Nash Quinn. When she discovers that her birth father is one of the weavers her husband is putting out of work—and a radical leader—Maddie must decide which family she truly desires, the man of her heart or the people of her blood.

An earl’s second son, Nash chose a life of Trade over Society. When protest marches spread across Lancashire, the pressure on him grows. If he can’t make both workers and manufacturers see reason he stands to lose everything: his business, his town, and his marriage.

As Manchester simmers under the summer sun, the choices grow more stark for Maddie and Nash: Family or justice. Love or money. Life or death.

Set in Manchester rather than London, and focused on the emerging merchant class and the problems of industrialization rather than the endless round of balls and entertainments for the ton, this historical romance was a refreshing change of pace in many ways. Maddie, haunted by a past she cannot remember, is a wonderful heroine. Her desperation to carve our a place for herself and to secure someone's love was heartbreaking, especially as the reader can see more clearly than can Maddie that the various people she wants to accept her are too self-interested to do so. Nash is a less successful hero as he too often ignores Maddie's very real need for support and comfort in favor of his commercial interests. The choice he forces upon her is almost the end for Maddie, and made it very difficult for me to like him.

I felt more could have been made of Nash's family- why did he and Deacon have so contentious a relationship with their father? What were his mother's real thoughts on any of it? Why did Nash run away at such a young age, and why didn't his family go after him? These lingering questions aside, the book was interesting, especially the information about the Peterloo Massacre and the insights into the problems of the working class during a time of industrial change in England. All in all, a quite engaging read.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Loving the Earl by Sharon Cullen

Having vowed never to wed again, widowed viscountess Claire Hartford is about to do the unthinkable: travel unaccompanied across the continent in search of a lover. Her adventure begins sooner than expected, when she meets a magnificent cloaked stranger on her ship’s gangplank. He is Lord Blythe, a man whispered about in London’s ballrooms and drawing rooms, a scandalous rogue hell-bent on seduction. Nathan Ferguson curses the day he agreed to look out for his best friend’s wayward sister. The charismatic earl is traveling to Paris to uncover the truth behind his father’s death, but his desire for Claire threatens to be his undoing. From France to Italy, on a journey of passionate discovery and danger, Nathan is honor-bound to protect her—from himself most of all. What can he offer Claire? Only love, as he sets out to prove to the woman of his dreams that she belongs to him—body, heart, and soul.

Well-written and engaging, this delightful historical romance pulled me in from the first page. Claire is a wonderful heroine- recovering from an abusive marriage and determined to take control of her own life for the first time. Nathan was a good foil for her- a jaded earl who scorns Society's rules but is nevertheless conventional enough to watch out for his friend's sister as she travels across Europe. Though there are points where I think the story was glossed over (especially as relates to revelations about Nathan's father at the end of the novel), perhaps reading the others in the series would add greater detail. Nevertheless, this was a great read even as a stand alone, and does inspire me to read more by this author.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Note of Scandal by Nicky Penttila

A desperate composer tricks a principled newspaper publisher into printing a false story, and then falls for him. How can she prove that she’s worth a second chance?


A wonderful Regency romance that captures some of the seedier side of life in that time- the class inequalities, the tragedy of those injured in the war, the sad lack of opportunities for many women.  Olivia is a great heroine, though there were times I wanted her to listen to her inner voice and stand up for herself for once.  Will makes for a great foil to Olivia, struggling to maintain his father's legacy in the face of overwhelming odds.  Though Olivia's motives for getting involved with Merry and Martin don't emerge early enough in the story to make sense, her actions do make more sense when viewed in light of the societal structures of the time.

Well-written with strong dialogue and interesting insights into Regency life, this engaging romance is a delightful read.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Temptation Bay by Anna Sullivan


Maggie Solomon has always been one of Windfall Island's favorite daughters. A beautiful, passionate charter pilot who loves this remote Maine island, Maggie has never cared much for outsiders-until her latest passenger arouses the curiosity of the town . . . and something hot and irresistible in Maggie. With his long, lean looks and razor-sharp wit, the man is temptation itself.

Cop-turned-PI Dexter Keegan is on a covert mission to solve the case that will make his career: uncovering the identity of the Stanhope heir, kidnapped nearly a century ago. No one on this fiercely protective island can know what he's doing, not even the spirited, blue-eyed beauty who infuriates-and excites-Dex. As the desire between them ignites, Maggie becomes the key to the case . . . and the target of an unknown enemy. Now Dex will do anything to protect the woman he's come to love-even risk his own life.

With just enough intrigue to capture the reader's interest, this enjoyable read combines the mystery of a long-lost heir with a modern-day romance.  Maggie is a wonderful heroine- tough and resilient with just a small core of vulnerability to cement her appeal.  Dex is another great character, though I agree with Maggie that his decision to pose as an attorney made little sense given the island's automatic suspicions about outsiders.  There are wheels within wheels in this story, which is obviously the first in a new series.  Though I would have preferred to see the central mystery solved in the course of the book, I am intrigued enough to read the next offering when it is published.