Review: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

Serena Barton has been ruined. Pregnant, her dreams in tatters, she’s going to make the Duke of Clermont acknowledge his illegitimate child or expose him to the gossip-mongers. Hugo Marshall is the Wolf of Clermont, ruthless and ambitious, and he can’t allow the duke to be ruined. For if the duchess discovers the duke’s infidelity, she’ll take her fortune far away from the duke, and with it, Hugo’s only chance to make something of himself. The Wolf will use any means to get what he wants, but it will mean trampling over Serena Barton, the woman he’s coming to love.

Okay, get ready for a rave. I LOVED this book. By the end of the first chapter everything was set up so perfectly. Who will back down, Hugo or Serena? Who will sacrifice what they so desperately desire? Surely, neither can.

Hugo Marshall is described as thoroughly average in build and looks, if perhaps a little broader in the shoulders than most men, an advantage from his boxing days. But on the inside he’s anything but ordinary. A man with huge ambitions and ruthless techniques. The idea that he’d ride roughshod over a young woman whose dreams are already shattered is horrifying, but that’s exactly what he intends to do. What makes it more horrifying is the trauma Serena has experienced. You get the feeling that if Hugo does what he intends he will become a damned man, a Russian tragedy of a figure, lost forever.

It was refreshing to read a story in which traumatic events happened to both main characters, without them wallowing in angst, tears, fury, or all of the above. Some reviews accuse Milan of treating Serena’s trauma too lightly, or using it as a device to strengthen her character. I would disagree. Serena was already a strong and determined person before her downfall. Now that her options for the future have narrowed so far they are all but obliterated, she takes the only course open to her. It’s Hugo’s dogged ambition which draws them together: not because their aims converge (quite the opposite) but because in many ways they are similar creatures.

This is a complex novella with every character drawn in detail. And for those of you who’ve read it: the hairpin scene. *Dies* You know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t read it, you’ll see what I mean. Do read it. Just. Do.

Review: The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-good Mr Wright by Tessa Dare

You know what made me buy this book? Well, apart from reading the sample on Amazon and finding it titillating. The Rake Name Generator on Tessa Dare’s website. Hilarious! I am now also to be known as the Villianous, Racy, No-count Miss Peart. *curtsies*

Miss Eliza Cade has bosoms, and she is still not yet out. With three unmarried sisters ahead of her she’s unlikely to be out soon, either. Especially thanks to a youthful indiscretion that has made her father deem it necessary that all her sisters be safely married before Eliza can be set lose upon the world.

Mr Harry Wright is a gentleman with a bad reputation who likes to consort with ladies in the morning rooms at balls. No one’s in the morning rooms at night, you see? Except Eliza Cade, as she complains to her sister about the unfairness of it all. Why should she have to go to bed when she has bosoms that need to be admired? And who worse than a scandalous, dissolute, no-good rake to overhear such a conversation?

A highly enjoyable novella. Dare has a wonderful turn of phrase, and while her style may be frivolous to some, I found it refreshing. We can’t take things seriously all the time, can we? And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of frivolity when the characters are so well drawn and their motivations are clear.

I would have loved to read this as a full-length novel, with side plots and vivid descriptions. The pacing was too rapid in places. But I guess I’ll have to read a full length Tessa Dare novel for that. I’m sure it won’t be any sort of chore!

Highly recommended. Consume with tea and iced cupcakes the same shade of Eliza Cade’s dress on the cover on a lazy afternoon.

Review: The Wild One (The de Montforte Brothers #1) by Danelle Harmon

The new cover of The Wild One

Charles de Montforte has died in the colonies, leaving his American fiance, Juliet, heartbroken and in dire straights. She’s pregnant with his child. He’s always told her to return to his home in England, Blackheath Castle, if anything ever happened to him, and his family would take care of her. Branded a Royalist sympathiser she has no choice, and makes the crossing with baby Charlotte in tow. Nearing the castle, her stagecoach is held up at gunpoint. Enter Gareth de Montforte, or The Wild One. He’s no hero. In fact he’s fond of whiskey, whores and gambling. But he’s in the right place at the right time, and also in possession of a pistol. In the process of saving the passengers, he’s shot in the side. Juliet administers first aid, and on the journey to the castle, realises he’s the brother of her dear Charles, and confesses to him who she is. Gareth is delighted. But at Blackheath, not all are delighted as Gareth is by Juliet’s arrival. The eldest, Lucien, gives Juliet a cold reception. The other siblings, Andrew and Nerissa, are delighted and saddened to meet their tiny niece and her mother. While outwardly disagreeable, Lucien is a master manipulator, and has plans for Juliet. Plans that concern his brother Gareth.

The original 1997 cover from Avon.

LOVED this book. Beautifully written and with excellent characterisation and a gripping plot. It’s so rare to find all three. I go through about ten samples a day looking for writing that doesn’t make me want to stab my eye out with a fork. But there’s nothing disappointing about the writing, or anything else, in The Wild One. Harmon has created a complex and unpredictable story. I particularly loved the ending. Gripping!

Lord Gareth is described as being a tearaway, 23 going on 15, and he certainly behaves that way. I was shaking my head at him for the first part of the book, incredulous. Such a child! So irresponsible! Which is, of course, the point. It’s so rare for the heroine (and other characters) to find fault with the hero and for the faults to actually be true. Usually he’s misunderstood. But no. Gareth, to begin with, is kind of a twat.

My one tiny, tiny gripe is to do with Lucien. He’s described as a master manipulator. As “one of the most dangerous men in England”. I was gunning for him to be truly evil. Almost irredeemable. Because these books are a series and all the brothers get their romance. Who could fall in love with such a man, not merely a rake, but damnable. But his character was a little exaggerated in the beginning. He’s certainly got irregular ways, but … well, I won’t go on as it’s getting into spoiler territory. I’m still super keen to read his book, The Wicked One. Mmm … *delicious shivers*

The de Montforte brothers books have been rereleased by Harmon with new almost-as-chesty covers. I’m so glad they have been too. And best of all, The Wild One is FREE on Kindle! Get into them today. Highly recommended.

Review: Motorcycle Man, Kristen Ashley

Tyra has been dreaming of ‘the one’ since she was a little girl, and she won’t settle for anyone less than perfect. At thirty-five, she walks into a party at her new place of work, and sees him: Kane “Tack” Allen, a motorcycle man, and also her new boss. Several tequilas later, she’s in his bed, and it’s wild. Unceremoniously, the next morning, she’s kicked out of it again. And she must face his fury when she walks back into Ride Custom Cars and Bikes as the office manager. Tack does not work with any woman he’s slept with. But Tyra needs the job. More than that, she’s pissed at him for kicking her out of his bed, and for thinking he can order her around. So she’s staying. Whether he likes it or not.

I’ve seen Tack referred to as an “alphahole”, and lets be honest: he is. But he makes it work. I absolutely adored, in a spoiling-my-dinner-with-cake way, the first half of this book. It was trashtastic, and I haven’t allowed myself to read anything trashtastic in a long time. The freedom: heady.

When I was a teenager I fell hard, hard, hard for Gabriel from Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klaus. Biker werewolf, mmm-mm. Pack mentality, bulging muscles, danger. Tack reminded me so much of him. The damaged soul, everything. But without the pelt.

The setting was fantastic. I have never read a book set in a mechanics or a motorcycle club, so the world was great to be in. Tyra was also great to travel along with. I like her taste in clothes, her habit of running off to lick her wounds instead of facing her issues head on (I so, so do that) and her short, defensive fuse.

The first half of the book I can’t really fault. The second half, it started to pall a bit. Romantic tension in itself isn’t enough to pull me through a story. It’s a personal taste thing. I disliked how the kidnapping wrapped up so quickly, and then the middle section was Tyra and Tack breaking up, getting back together, breaking up … D&Ms are all well and good but external conflict needs to be maintained to maintain my interest. There were a few hints that the Russian mob were up to No Good and would be back to raise hell, but I could have done with a concrete threat to keep the tension up.

Enjoyable book, for sure. I can see why everyone’s raving about it. Loved the first half. Could leave the second. But it’s short enough so it’s worth sticking with it to see what happens. I don’t think I’ll become an Ashley fan, but I might pick up one or two of the other Mystery Man books down the track. Hawk. Hmm. He’s captured my interest … I read this as a standalone and don’t see why anyone else couldn’t do the same thing.

Review: Faerie by Delle Jacobs

England, the 11th century. Lady Leonie has a secret that’s she’s hidden her whole life. She’s half fae, the daughter of a faerie and a human. Growing up in her uncle’s household she’s had to hide her talents, for fear of persecution of witchcraft.

Phillipe le Peregrine is a landless knight sworn never to marry again after the sorcerer Clodamir cursed him and killed his wife. Any woman he loves is sure to die by his hand.

When King Rufus is told by the hag that advised his father that the Peregrine must go to Castle Bosewood, where Leonie resides, the pair comes face-to-face once more: as a teenager, Phillipe humiliated her when he spurned her request for a kiss after she beat him in an archery tournament. But her embarrassment is nothing to the danger she faces from the thing buried in the forest.

Faerie is an unusual historical romance, supernatural and fantasy mash-up. For the first half of the book the story has a strong romantic focus. Leonie and Phillipe have superb tension, each keeping secrets from the other, wary, and yet thrown together due to circumstances. I’m a big fan of fantasy and historical story lines as well as romance, and I adored the way the story developed over the first half. Man candy note: Philippe is hot. He’s also smart and sensitive, and stubborn, but Leonie is more than a match for him. The dream sequences: super hot. I’m not a fan of dream sequences normally, but these were delicious.

Faerie develops in ambitious directions, from a seemingly simple court-based romance story line, to a fantasy with far-reaching consequences for the characters, and indeed all of England. I was surprised by the direction that Jacobs took the novel in the latter parts. For most of the novel, she took pains with her scenes and characters. The climax, while interesting, was a little unwieldy and rushed. Still, her creativity can’t be faulted, and all the lose ends are tied up neatly and properly.

Faerie is an excellent romance with strong characters. It doesn’t quite succeed in its fantasy aspects, but is an entertaining read just the same, and I recommend it to anyone who likes their romance in a historical setting.

Side note: I’d love to read the story of Sigur, the young boy who is Leonie’s favourite who desperately wants to be a knight despite his grandfather’s treachery and downfall. I think his story would be fraught and complex, and highly entertaining.

A word on the format: I listened to this as an audiobook and cannot fault Simon Vance’s reading. He has excellent technique and does the voices seamlessly. I’m a big fan of his audiobooks. Bought on iTunes for AU$17.99. (This also explains why some of my spelling above might not be accurate. My apologies.)

Introducing: Chelle Prince, the heroine of THE QUEEN MUST DIE

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Chelle Prince, AKA Michelle Ponting, AKA Queen Michelle Elvensker, is the human heroine of THE QUEEN MUST DIE. She’s tough, resourceful, and in hiding from her former fae husband, King Padrin Elvensker.

I’ve been getting into her mindscape by, among other things, working on her wardrobe. I’ve picked out a few pieces on Bluefly I think she’d love.

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ImageImageImageImageImageLeather mini and chunky jewellery. Totally hot. Do you think about your characters’ wardrobes?

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