A Matter of Sin by Jess Michaels

July 22, 2014 Historical Romance, Reviews 0 ★★★★

A Matter of Sin by Jess MichaelsA Matter of Sin by Jess Michaels
Series: Ladies Books of Pleasures #1
Published by Samhain Publishing on July 15, 2014
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 242
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
The widowed Lady Isabel Avenbury has one remaining younger sister to shepherd into an advantageous marriage, and then she will be free. Free to take a lover to fill her lonely nights—the only option left for a woman on the delicate edge of a certain age.

Except when she chaperones her sister to a country house party, she is taken aback by her sudden, undeniable attraction to the host. And deliciously scandalized when she finds a copy of the notorious, much-gossiped-about Ladies Book of Pleasures in his library.

When Seth Rowland, Marquis Lyndham, notices his book is missing, his interest is piqued as to which of the potential young brides at his party has absconded with it—and he’s shocked to discover it’s Isabel. Though older than the women he’d planned to court, the powerful beauty exudes a sensuality he cannot ignore.

The book inspires them to begin a desperate, passionate affair. But their time together is running out and they must choose. Follow society’s rules, or take a chance at love.

Married young to a man almost three times her age and widowed only a few years later, Lady Isabel Avenbury is used to taking care of others.  After the death of her parents, she took in her two younger sisters and raised them almost as if they were her own children.  But while she may possess good mothering skills, Isabel is barren and cannot have children of her own.  And although Isabel is only 28, she is considered too old by Society’s standards to marry any of the Season’s eligible bachelors.  But Isabel isn’t looking to marry.  Instead, she plans to take a lover just as soon as she can marry off her last single sister.

Seth Rowland, Marquis of Lyndham, needs to marry as quickly as possible and start producing heirs to please his mother and ensure the title remains in the immediate family.  Seth had no interest in marriage until his older brother tragically died, but now his mother is throwing a house party filled with the Season’s most eligible females and Seth is expected to marry one of them.  He cringes at the thought of tying his life to any one of the flighty, unintelligent cardboard cutouts currently parading around his house.  That is, until he see Isabel step out of the carriage with her sister.

Seth knows he can’t touch her and Isabel must focus on finding her sister a husband, but when Seth catches her stealing the Season’s most talked-about book — The Ladies Book of Pleasures — from his library, their attraction ignites a love affair that refuses to bend to Society’s rules.

I really like Isabel’s character.  As women, I think it’s very easy for us to get caught up in taking care of those around us to the detriment of ourselves.  Isabel had to marry a man she didn’t love in order to provide for her two younger siblings.  Like many women, she sacrifices some of the things she wants from life to ensure that those she loves don’t have to go without.  And although Isabel embraces her role with upbeat optimism that everything will work out, she is also realistic about how Society views her inability to have children and the limitations placed on her as a result.   It’s a universal theme that fits seamlessly into this story.

It is also the driving catalyst of conflict between Isabel and Seth.  Theirs is a beautiful love story because readers see from the start the attraction they feel towards each other, know that Seth has felt that attraction since before Isabel was married but was unable to pursue her since was already betrothed, and they now must contend with Seth’s pressing need for children and Isabel’s inability to give them to him.  The romance is sensual, heartwarming, and made exciting by Isabel and Seth’s attempts to conceal their affair from the multitude of guests in and around the house.  (Everything is more fun when you think you’re being sneaky about it!)  And yet, Seth and Isabel struggle with their feelings for one another believing that they must conform to Society’s expectations regarding marriage and children.  Watching them try to figure out the difference between “what is right” and “what is right for them” is such a sweet, uplifting journey.  You really want to keep reading well past “The End.”

Overall, A Matter of Sin is a delightful series starter and I can’t wait to read Grace and Jacinda’s stories too.  I highly recommend reading this book — Passionate, tender, and comforting, you just know that Seth and Isabel are going to craft a beautiful HEA for themselves.

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It’s Monday: What Are You Reading? #2

July 21, 2014 It's Monday 6

itsmondaywhatareyoureadingmeme

It’s Monday: What Are Your Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey that showcases the books we hope to start and/or finish in the upcoming week.

Last week I did some shuffling of my reading list after I posted my meme answers, so the first selection this week is one I didn’t get a chance to finish last week.  Whoops!

What I read last week:

  • The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie

  • A Matter of Sin by Jess Michaels

  • Seduced by Fire by Tara Sue Me

This week’s selections are:


 

when the duke was wicked coverThey are England’s most eligible bachelors, with the most scandalous reputations. But for the right woman, even an unrepentant rogue may mend his ways . . .

Lady Grace Mabry’s ample inheritance has made it impossible for her to tell whether a suitor is in love with her— or enamored of her riches. Who better to distinguish beau from blackguard than her notorious childhood friend, the Duke of Lovingdon?

With no interest in marriage, Lovingdon has long lived only for pleasure. He sees little harm in helping Grace find a proper match. He simply has to teach the lovely innocent all the ploys a scoundrel uses to gain a woman’s favor— by demonstrating his wicked ways. But as lessons lead to torrid passion and Grace becomes ensnared in another man’s marriage plot, Lovingdon must wage a desperate gamble: Open his heart fully—or risk losing the woman he adores . . .

 

the surrender of miss fairbourneA woman running a prestigious London auction house? Preposterous! But that is exactly what Emma Fairbourne intends to do when her father dies, leaving her the reins of this fabulous enterprise.  Of course, she is not addlepated enough to do this openly and scare away her wealthy collectors.  So she and her friend concoct a deception, hiring a handsome and charming front man who will do her bidding…

All would have proceeded smoothly–if it weren’t for the maddening interference of Darius, the arrogant Earl of Southwaite, who has been her father’s “silent partner” and now shares ownership of Fairbourne’s.  An earl, of course, has no interest in running an auction house–and Darius is certainly not interested in allowing the lovely Miss Fairbourne to run it either, her ludicrous scheme notwithstanding.  Clearly the business must be sold.

But the headstrong Emma is like no other lady he has ever encountered, refusing to follow his dictates.  Holding his temper in check, Darius decides to attack on a different front.  There is another way to achieve her surrender, one far more pleasurable for both of them…

 

confessions of a royal bridegroomThey are the Renegade Royals, illegitimate sons of the Royal Princes, each finding his rightful place in society–and the woman destined to be his perfect match. . .

Some men are born into scandal. Others pursue it with a passion. Griffin Steele, secret son of the Duke of Cumberland, is guilty on both counts. Yet somehow London’s most notorious scoundrel has been saddled with an abandoned baby boy–and with the unflappable, intriguing spinster summoned to nurse him. . .

Justine Brightmore may be a viscount’s niece, but she’s also a spy’s daughter, determined to safeguard the infant when his suspected royal parentage makes him a target. Yet how to protect herself from the rakish Griffin? Marriage might shield her reputation, but it can only imperil her heart, especially with a groom intent on delicious seduction. . .

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Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas

July 17, 2014 Historical Romance, Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry ThomasLuckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas
Published by Berkley on November 5, 2013
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 298
Format: eBook
Goodreads
five-stars
Felix Rivendale, the Marquess of Wrenworth, is The Ideal Gentleman, a man all men want to be and all women want to possess. Even Felix himself almost believes this golden image. But underneath is a damaged soul soothed only by public adulation.

Louisa Cantwell needs to marry well to support her sisters. She does not, however, want Lord Wrenworth—though he seems inexplicably interested in her. She mistrusts his outward perfection, and the praise he garners everywhere he goes. Still, when he is the only man to propose at the end of the London season, she reluctantly accepts.

Louisa does not understand her husband’s mysterious purposes, but she cannot deny the pleasure her body takes in his touch. Nor can she deny the pull this magnetic man exerts upon her. But does she dare to fall in love with a man so full of dark secrets, any one of which could devastate her, if she were to get any closer?

I absolutely adore this book!  It has everything I crave in a 5-star book: snappy dialogue, great characters, a fun plot, and of course a delightful HEA.  As soon as I finished reading Luckiest Lady in London, I wanted to start it all over again!

Louisa Cantwell is as pragmatic and ordinary as they come.  Not a great beauty or terribly well-endowed in the bosom department, she is the epitome of average.  Except when it comes to her near-ruthless pragmatism.  Louisa comes from a mildly poor family.  Her father was a failed fortune hunter and although her mother still enjoys a dower income that can support the household for now, once her mother dies, Louisa and her three sisters will be left with nothing.  Each of her three sisters have issues that could prevent them from marrying, so it falls to Louisa to marry the richest man she can realistically convince, cajol, or connive into matrimony.  Intelligent and determined, Louisa spends years perfecting her social graces so that when a generous Aunt agrees to put Louisa through a Season in London she is as prepared as possible to make a brilliant match.

Like Louisa, Felix Marquess of Rivendale hides behind the persona he has built for London society – “The Ideal Gentleman.”  He is shrewd, wickedly intelligent, and is convinced love is a weakness that will destroy any relationship as it did to his parents.  Growing up, Felix’s mother despised Felix’s father and as a result Felix’s father grew cold to everyone around him.  As a child, Felix was caught in the middle, forced to act as a pawn in his parents’ game of mutual manipulation and deceit.  As he grew up, Felix began learning how to play his parents’ game and became a master manipulator in his own right.  He learns to deduce exactly what people are thinking, guessing with startling accuracy what secrets the people of London society hide behind fluttering fans and cups of whiskey.

One of the things I loved most about this book is that Louisa and Felix are a perfectly imperfect pair.  Both hide their true emotions behind a wall – the mask they built for polite society – while underneath they both simmer with barely retrained passion.  Louisa wants Felix and isn’t afraid to let him know it.  But she doesn’t trust him and she isn’t afraid to tell him that either.  Felix is seven kinds of emotionally scarred thanks to his unloving, manipulative parents.  Much of this book was about these characters and how they needed to grow together to make their marriage work, despite these issues lying between them.  The dialogue is playful and teasing, but can be heart-wrenching and poignant too.

A beautiful tale of learning to love others when you don’t even love yourself.  Of learning what it means to let go and trust someone with your heart and soul, knowing they can break you with only a single word.

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Waiting on Wednesday #2

July 16, 2014 Waiting on Wednesday 4

New WoW“Waiting on Wednesday” is a weekly meme-post hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It spotlights upcoming book releases that we are eagerly anticipating.

This week, the spotlight is on…


 

roguewithabroguecoverRogue with a Brogue by Suzanne Enoch

Publication date: July 29, 2014

London, 1817: Stuck in a Mayfair ballroom thanks to his lovestruck brother, highlander Arran MacLawry wants nothing but a bit of distraction from an arranged betrothal—and a clever auburn-haired lass in a vixen’s mask promises just that…until he discovers that she’s the granddaughter of the Campbell, chief of clan MacLawry’s longtime rival. Despite their families’ grudging truce, falling for fiery Mary Campbell is a notion too outlandish even for this Highlander…

Raised on tales of savage MacLawrys, Mary is stunned to realize the impressively strapping man in the fox’s mask is one of them. Surely the enemy shouldn’t have such a broad chest, and such a seductive brogue? Not that her curiosity matters—any dalliance between them is strictly forbidden, and she’s promised to another. But with the crackling spark between them ready to ignite, love is worth every risk…in Rogue with a Brogue by Suzanne Enoch

So, dear readers, what is your “waiting on” pick of the week?  Shout ‘em out in the comments below.  I’m always looking for a great book!

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I Am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith

July 15, 2014 Historical Fiction, Reviews 0 ★★★★

I Am Livia by Phyllis T. SmithI Am Livia by Phyllis T Smith
Published by Lake Union Publishing on May 1, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 390
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon First Look
Goodreads
four-stars
At the tender age of fourteen, Livia Drusilla overhears her father and fellow aristocrats plotting the assassination of Julius Caesar. Proving herself an astute confidante, she becomes her father’s chief political asset—and reluctantly enters into an advantageous marriage to a prominent military officer. Her mother tells her, “It is possible for a woman to influence public affairs,” reminding Livia that—while she possesses a keen sense for the machinations of the Roman senate—she must also remain patient and practical.

But patience and practicality disappear from Livia’s mind when she meets Caesar’s heir, Octavianus. At only eighteen, he displays both power and modesty. A young wife by that point, Livia finds herself drawn to the golden-haired boy. In time, his fortunes will rise as Livia’s family faces terrible danger. But her sharp intellect—and her heart—will lead Livia to make an unbelievable choice: one that will give her greater sway over Rome than she could have ever foreseen.

I received this book for free from Amazon’s First Look program which is open to all Prime members.

Pulling from historical record, Ms. Smith creates a wonderful fictionalized account of the turbulent life of a young Livia Drusilla, wife of Rome’s first emperor, Octavian, also known as Augustus Caesar.

The book opens close to the eve of Julius Caesar’s assassination – unhappy senators are plotting his death and the return of the ideal Roman Republic.  Livia’s father is amongst these men as Livia stands on the outskirts trying to figure out what is going on and how everything will play out for her family.  Even at this young age, Livia shows the promise of the political shrewdness and calculating demeanor she will become known for in years to come.

Not a great deal is known about Livia, although certainly more than most other women of the time.  She is often villainized in popular culture (see “I, Claudius”) for her cold, cunning demeanor and supposed use of poisons to get her way when diplomacy fails.

However, I am Livia presents a more sympathetic, human side to Livia’s character.  We get to see the intelligent young girl learn what it means to love and be a wife, the young woman grieve the loss of family as she begins to make a family of her own, and the Emperor’s wife struggle to run an empire spanning most of the known world while faced with the potential crumbling of her passionate marriage and loss of a husband.

I felt the book was slow to start.  In fact, I put this down for quite a while before coming back to finish it.  There is a lot of time jumps and glossing over of detail through the book, but since the book spans about 15 years of Livia’s life and is written as if this was an older Livia’s documenting her memoirs, this style actually works really well.  The cast of characters here is simple and easy to follow and the book comes to a natural, almost seamless conclusion.

I Am Livia is rich in historical detail without feeling like a textbook.  The story is an emotional and compelling look at one of the most powerful and influential woman in Ancient Rome.

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It’s Monday: What Are You Reading? #1

July 14, 2014 It's Monday 0

itsmondaywhatareyoureadingmeme

It’s Monday: What Are Your Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey that showcases the books we hope to start and/or finish in the upcoming week.

This week’s selections are:


 

thewinterbridecover

Damaris Chance’s unhappy past has turned her off the idea of marriage forever. But her guardian, Lady Beatrice Davenham, convinces her to make her coming out anyway—and have a season of carefree, uncomplicated fun.

When Damaris finds herself trapped in a compromising situation with the handsome rake Freddy Monkton-Coombes, she has no choice but to agree to wed him—as long as it’s in name only. Her new husband seems to accept her terms, but Freddy has a plan of his own: to seduce his reluctant winter bride.

Will Damaris’s secrets destroy her chance at true happiness? Or can Freddy help her cast off the shackles of the past, and yield to delicious temptation?

 

the secret diary of anne boleyn cover

Robin Maxwell’s debut novel introduces Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth: one was queen for a thousand days, the other for more than forty years.  Both were passionate, headstrong women, love and hate by Henry VIII.

At the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, her mother’s private diary is given to her by a mysterious lady.  In reading it, the young ruler – herself embroiled in a dangerous love affair – discovers a great deal about her much maligned mother.

Through Anne’s writing, Elizabeth finds an echo of her own dramatic life as a powerful young woman at the center of England’s male establishment and, with the knowledge gained from it, makes a resolution that will change the course of history.

 

when the duke was wicked cover

They are England’s most eligible bachelors, with the most scandalous reputations. But for the right woman, even an unrepentant rogue may mend his ways . . .

Lady Grace Mabry’s ample inheritance has made it impossible for her to tell whether a suitor is in love with her— or enamored of her riches. Who better to distinguish beau from blackguard than her notorious childhood friend, the Duke of Lovingdon?

With no interest in marriage, Lovingdon has long lived only for pleasure. He sees little harm in helping Grace find a proper match. He simply has to teach the lovely innocent all the ploys a scoundrel uses to gain a woman’s favor— by demonstrating his wicked ways. But as lessons lead to torrid passion and Grace becomes ensnared in another man’s marriage plot, Lovingdon must wage a desperate gamble: Open his heart fully—or risk losing the woman he adores . . .

So….It’s Monday.  What are YOU reading?  Let me know in the comments below!  🙂

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Murder at Westminster Abbey by Amanda Carmack

July 11, 2014 Historical Fiction, Mystery, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Murder at Westminster Abbey by Amanda CarmackMurder at Westminster Abbey by Amanda Carmack
Series: Elizabethan Mystery #2
Published by Signet on April 1, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Goodreads
four-half-stars
1559. Elizabeth is about to be crowned queen of England and wants her personal musician Kate Haywood to prepare music for the festivities. New to London, Kate must learn the ways of city life…and once again school herself as a sleuth.

Life at the center of the new royal court is abuzz with ambition and gossip—very different from the quiet countryside, where Kate served Elizabeth during her exile. Making her way among the courtiers who vie for the new queen’s favor, Kate befriends Lady Mary Everley. Mary is very close to Elizabeth. With their red hair and pale skin, they even resemble each other—which makes Mary’s murder all the more chilling.

The celebrations go on despite the pall cast over them. But when another redhead is murdered, Kate uncovers a deadly web of motives lurking just beneath the polite court banter, and follows the trail of a killer whose grievance can only be answered with royal blood.

This is my favorite type of mystery!  An intelligent, female amateur sleuth solving crimes in the richly-detailed setting of Tudor England.  Add a dash of romance, a puzzle with a natural yet surprising solution, and pull heavily from historical record and it’s no mystery why this book earns a well-deserved spot on my keeper shelf!

This is the second novel in Carmack’s ‘Elizabethan Mystery’ series.  Although there are a few references to the event sof the prior book, you do not need to read it to enjoy this one.

The story opens on the day of Elizabeth I’s coronation barge procession down the Thames River to the Tower of London.  Kate Haywood, a talented musician in Elizabeth’s court, becomes embroiled in the investigation of a series of seemingly unrelated murders of red-headed women that Kate soon learns is ultimately targeting England’s new queen.  Through her cunning observational skills and relative unobtrusiveness as a servant, red-headed Kate must figure out who is behind these murders before the culprit kills Elizabeth – or Kate herself!

I really enjoyed Carmack’s fictional portrayal of historic characters.  Besides Elizabeth, many other well-known names of the time play more than just a passing part in this historical mystery.  Robert Dudley, William Cecil, and Kat Ashley are just a few of these characters.  It is clear Ms. Carmack has done significant research into the lives, personality, and temperaments of the real-life characters appearing in her novel.  The level of detail, even subtle detail like the smell of the Thames, make this book a real treat for anyone who loves historical fiction.

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Waiting on Wednesday #1

July 9, 2014 Waiting on Wednesday 6

New WoW“Waiting on Wednesday” is a weekly meme-post hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It spotlights upcoming book releases that we are eagerly anticipating.

This week, the spotlight is on…


 

leo-cover-179x300 The Truth About Leo by Katie MacAlister

Publication date: August 5, 2014

From Amazon:

Dagmar Marie Sophie is a poverty-stricken Danish princess whose annoying royal cousin is about to have her stuffed away in a convent. When she finds a wounded man unconscious in her garden, she sees a way out of her desperate situation.

Leopold Ernst George Mortimer, seventh earl of March, and spy in the service of the king, finds himself on the wrong end of a saber and left for dead. He wakes up not remembering what happened…in the care of a beautiful woman who says she is his wife.

Back in London, Leo-with the help of his old friends the eccentric Britton family-sets out to unravel what he’s forgotten… Is Dagmar truly the wonderful, irrepressible woman who makes his heart sing, or is she a dangerous enigma bent on his destruction?

 

So, dear readers, what is your “waiting on” pick of the week?  Shout ’em out in the comments below.  I’m always looking for a great book!

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The Accidental Duchess by Madeline Hunter

July 8, 2014 Historical Romance, Reviews 0 ★★★★

The Accidental Duchess by Madeline HunterThe Accidental Duchess by Madeline Hunter
Series: Fairbourne Quartet #4
Published by Jove on June 3, 2014
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Goodreads
four-stars
When Lady Lydia Alfreton is blackmailed over the shocking contents of a manuscript she once wrote, she must go to the most desperate of measures to raise the money to buy back the ill-considered prose: agreeing to an old wager posed by the arrogant, dangerous Duke of Penthurst. At least Penthurst is a man she wouldn’t mind fleecing—and she’s confident she’ll win.

Penthurst long ago concluded Lydia was a woman in search of ruinous adventure, but even he is surprised when she arrives at his house ready to bet her innocence against his ten thousand pounds—a wager he only proposed to warn her off gambling.

When she loses to a simple draw of the cards, Lydia is shocked. Now, her problems are twofold: a blackmailer determined to see her pay and a duke determined to tame her rebellious ways.

One misstep and Lydia could find herself ruined—or bound to the seductive man who would make her his duchess.

I really enjoyed reading this book.  When I picked it up, I had no idea it was part of a series (oops!), but after reading The Accidental Duchess I am going out to the bookstore at the next available opportunity to purchase the other three (followed by a re-read of this delightful story).

Lydia Alfreton is a slightly older heroine, headstrong, and independent, but also aware of the limitations society places on her – and how to get around those limitations!  Lydia has no problem circumventing her lackadaisical Aunts in order to make her way to Mrs. Burtons, a famous gaming establishment for the rich and powerful.  Known for her incredible luck at the gaming tables, it is precisely that trait coupled with her innocent naivete that lands her in deep water with villain Algernon Trilby and the book’s hero the Duke of Penthurst. The Duke is confident without being arrogant and must take charge when Lydia lands herself in scandalous trouble halfway to Scotland.  While he sees fit to tease Lydia, making her worry and wonder if he will collect on a reckless bet of her virtue, he does so without coming across as overly-aggressive or inconsiderate.  Indeed, his steps to save Lydia from certain ruin seem almost noble (and ironically funny when you know a little bit about what happened when he was made Duke at fifteen).

The dialogue is crisp and the banter between Lydia and Rosalyn had me laughing out loud at their antics.  I would certainly love to be a spectator to any of their arguments!  On that note, the secondary characters in this novel are neatly flushed out instead of remaining mere plot devices.  Penthurst’s circle of friends are the heroes of their own books in this series so it is understandable why they jump off the page, but characters like Rosalyn and Lydia’s maid Sarah are equally compelling.

The love story unfolded slowly, but not at a glacial pace and was believable and sweet.  I think one of my favorite parts of this book was towards the end when Lydia and Penthurst are sitting down and Lydia reveals she knows his secret (the one referenced above when Penthurst was fifteen).  Not only was this scene funny, but it showed just how much they transformed from the acerbic relationship of the book’s beginning to the relaxed, but feisty couple in love we see at the end.

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Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran

July 5, 2014 Historical Romance, Reviews 0 ★★½

Fool Me Twice by Meredith DuranFool Me Twice by Meredith Duran
Series: Rules for the Reckless #2
Published by Pocket Books on March 25, 2014
Genres: Historical Romance
Format: Audiobook
Goodreads
two-half-stars
Running for her life, exhausted and out of options, Olivia Holladay wants nothing more than the chance to make a home for herself. So when she realizes that the infamous Duke of Marwick might hold the key to her freedom, she boldly disguises herself as the newest and bravest in a long line of the duke’s notoriously temperamental housekeepers. Little does she know that the wickedly handsome Alastair de Grey has very different plans for her. . . .

As his new employee, Olivia is a fearless upstart. As a woman, the daring redhead is just what Alastair needs to rouse him from darkness to the siren call of revenge. He has suffered a betrayal so deep that he will use whatever means necessary to destroy his enemies—even his brazen and beautiful domestic. But his vengeful plan fails to account for his single weakness: an irresistible and growing passion for the enigmatic Olivia.

This book was…different.  I enjoyed the premise – a young woman enters an estranged nobleman’s house posing as a housekeeper in order to steal certain papers of importance.  It’s been done before, but Olivia’s stubborn refusal to back down in the face of Alastair’s angry outbursts coupled with her quick wrangling of the house’s unruly servants made for a somewhat entertaining dynamic.

Olivia is a very matter-of-fact, tell-it-like-it-is kind of woman.  Smart, intelligent, and resilient, she has faced her share of painful obstacles and it has only served to make her a stronger person.  Alastair is lost in the bitter memories of a failed and duplicitous marriage.  He is perceptive, but battling a deep depression after the humiliation he suffered from his former, dead wife.  Alastair has withdrawn from society, but Olivia desperately needs some of the papers hidden deep within the recesses of Alastair’s bedchamber.  In order to get those papers, she must first convince Alastair to leave his rooms.

All of the elements to a good story are present – a hero and heroine with conflicting goals, a dash of mystery and suspense, sassy banter between the couple – but I just felt like something was missing.  While I grew to like Olivia’s character, I did not like Alastair.  I found him to be too brooding and that he was too possessive to Olivia as a person.  He spoke of “mastering” her at one point, which really turned me further away from his character.  Now, I enjoy good BDSM erotica novels, but this was being passed off as a straight romance book which meant that those characteristics of Alastair’s character came off as chauvinistic and unhealthy.  I also didn’t believe Olivia and Alastair were actually falling in love.  For me, it seemed to come from nowhere and just be an accepted part of the story.  Where was the romantic and sensual buildup?  Not in this book, that’s for sure.  And as for the main mystery part of the novel, I felt the solution was too obvious; I correctly guessed the solution by the halfway point of the book, so by the time the characters figured it out I was frustrated that it took them so long to understand what was happening.  Finally, the redemption of the villain felt flat and forced, as if only to serve as a means to wrap up the book.

Overall, a different sort of love story, but one I won’t be picking up again.  I did, however, love Ms. Duran’s use of imagery and language, so I will try another of her books from a different series.

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