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Review: Devil In My Arms – Samantha Kane

Devil In My Arms

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Expected Release Date: November 26, 2013
Publisher: Random House
Imprint: Loveswept
Author’s Website: http://samanthakane.us
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 3, The Saint’s Devils Series
Series Best Read In Order: Worked well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves:
Favorite Tropes: Abused Heroine, On The Run, Affair Turns To Love, Courtroom Drama

Official Blurb:

One by one, the Saint’s Devils – Samantha Kane’s wicked, wonderful Regency heroes – continue to enchant the women who capture their rakish hearts. 

Even though she is starving and destitute, Eleanor Enderby’s quiet beauty strikes Sir Hilary St. John speechless. He expects the woman he’s searching for to be skittish and plain. Instead he finds the picture of bravery – and willfulness – in his quarry. She gives away little, but Hil can see something is terribly amiss. And though he cannot say exactly why, he is determined not to let her come to more harm than whatever it is she has already survived.

Six months later, Eleanor believes she has finally found safety from the tyrant she risked her life to escape. Thought to be dead by society, Eleanor is ready to be reborn as someone new – someone whose life will never again be tied to the fate of one man. But her smoldering savior seems unwilling to leave her unprotected for an instant. Despite the threats he thinks he sees coming, the real dangers Eleanor faces in Hil’s arms are unmistakable: temptation, seduction, and maybe even love.

What Worked For Me:

  • I’m always a sucker for an abused heroine, even when the abuse is emotional rather than physical.  The abuse that Eleanor experienced at the hands of her husband were no less traumatic in the lack of physical bruises, and it instantly made her a very sympathetic character for me.
  • On a similar note, one of my quirks is that I love it when characters are phsycially starving. I think this appeals to me because it shows the character has truly fallen on hard times, rather than simply having to wear shabbier clothing or not move in the same social circles that they’re used to. In this case, it really helped to illustrated Eleanor’s desperation to escape the clutches of her abusive husband.
  • I also enjoyed Sir Hilary’s character.  A historical Private Eye, complete with all of the cleverness and hubris one would expect from such a man.
  • The murder mystery was quite a bit of fun, even though I wasn’t thrilled with the identity of the culprit.  Ms. Kane did an excellent job of utilizing a ticking-clock so to speak, and the tension was lovely.
  • How often do we get to see a “courtroom drama” in a historical romance? Almost never, right?  That’s why I adored watching the proceedings of Eleanor’s trial, even if I’m not 100% certain the unfolding drama was historically accurate.  I especially loved that she almost wasn’t allowed to even present a defense — the concept is strange to those of us used to modern American trial law, but seemed to really fit in with the times.
  • I also really enjoyed the fact that Eleanor and Sir Hilary set out to have a rather uncomplicated affair rather than either actually seeking any courtship from the other.  Eleanor wasn’t the “typical” romance heroine, and it fit that her goals in life would be different from a woman in different circumstances.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • As mentioned above, I wasn’t thrilled with the choice of the culprit for the murder mystery.  On one hand, I could see that it was the right choice to have the villain be one who was more interested in taking down our hero than our heroine, but on the other hand, it almost felt as if it came completely out of left field. Then again, I haven’t read the other books in the series, and that was probably to my detriment as far as this issue is concerned. Perhaps it would have felt more organic to me if I had the other two books to use a background. As it was, it felt as if it were reaching a bit to give the villain this particular identity.

I admit, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I haven’t read the other books in the series, so I wasn’t certain of what to expect, but what I found was a dramatic tale of a heroine desperate to escape her emotionally abusive husband, the private investigator hired by her family to find her, and a captivating murder mystery, all wrapped up with a tense courtroom drama.  That doesn’t even include the heat and chemistry between our hero and heroine, with both of them finding that keeping their hearts unengaged was more of a struggle than they’d anticipated.

I loved that even though she’d wound up poor and starving, Eleanor never once lost her determination or spirit, and it was that strength that really appealed to me from the start.  Her plan to escape was actually rather brilliant, and when things took a surprising turn, I found myself glued to the pages wondering how she would escape again.

Hilary, too, was a favorite of mine, with both his cleverness and his own determination to see Eleanor free.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching him tease out the clues of the murder mystery, and his own desperation to keep Eleanor safe was delicious.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one.

Recommended to fans of historical courtroom dramas,  a strong heroine brought down by circumstance, and a hero that will do absolutely anything to save the woman he loves.

4.5/5 Stars

Review: My Lady Quicksilver – Bec McMaster

My Lady Quicksilver

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Expected Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Imprint: Casablanca
Author’s Website: http://www.becmcmaster.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 3, London Steampunk Series
Series Best Read In Order: Probably, but would stand well on its own.
Steam Level: Hot
Pet Peeves: Adultery/Infidelity (Sort Of, Minor)
Favorite Tropes: Enemies To Lovers, Secret Identity

Official Blurb:

Determined to destroy the Echelon she despises, Rosalind Fairchild is on seemingly easy mission. Get in. Uncover the secrets of her brother’s disappearance. And get out.

In order to infiltrate the Nighthawks and find their leader, Sir Jasper Lynch, Rosalind will pose as their secretary. But she doesn’t count on Lynch being such a dangerously charismatic man, challenging her at every turn, forcing her to re-evaluate everything she knows about the enemy.

He could be her most dangerous nemesis—or the ally she never dreamed existed.

What Worked For Me:

  • This never counts for or against a book’s rating, but really, look at that gorgeous cover! That is art I wouldn’t mind having as a print in my office.
  • I would be remiss not to mention my deep and abiding love for the world that Ms. McMaster has created.  With “blue bloods” — nobles that are infected with a craving virus that makes stronger and more powerful but having the tiny downfall of needing to drink human blood — replacing the titled gentlemen of the ton in a traditional Victorian romance, and debutantes who vie for the right to be taken into a “thrall contract” in place of a titled marriage, this new twist on vampires captured my interest from the very first book.  I love also that those who were “accidentally” infected with the craving virus are considered rogues, skirting the fringes of high society so like those born on the wrong side of the blanket in books that we are used to.  Throw in the growing rebellion of the lower classes and this becomes one of the most intriguing series I’ve read in a long time. 
  • Though the love scenes in no way overwhelmed the story, they were hot. Mmmmph. The chemistry between Rosalind and Lynch has always been present, but it grows exponentially throughout the story, and I love the whole possessive/animalistic hero. Guh.
  • Lynch was everything I’d hoped for and more.  The entire concept of the Nighthawks has fascinated me from the beginning, and seeing him in his element was lovely. More than that, though, was his tight control over his impulses, which of course somewhat lead to his delightful downfall.
  • I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Rosalind’s character, especially when she was posing as Rosa, Lynch’s new secretary.  Seeing her grow as a character from a hardened woman full of anger and hatred, into a woman who began to see that not everything was black and white was a joy.
  • I also really liked the mystery behind the attacks in the blue blood families. It wasn’t just the mystery, though, but the actual investigation that really drew me in and refused to let go.  I loved watching Rosalind (masquerading as Rosa, Lynch’s new secretary) assist in the investigation, and I of course am deeply in love with the scene that involved an up-close-and-personal discovery of the source of the madness (as well as the scrumptious scenes that followed).
  • Oh the ending was fantastic. Just when you honestly think there can be no happy ending, Ms. McMaster throws in the perfect little twist to make things work out exactly as they should.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • Cheating is a big no-no for me, even when the person you’re cheating with is actually the secret alter-ego of the person you’re cheating on. The key factor being that the person doing the cheating didn’t realize that these two people were actually one and the same, so while it may not be “technically” cheating, it was still cheating in spirit and it didn’t sit well with me, no matter how incredibly hot the scene was.
  • There is a certain scene towards the end that was glossed over completely as though it were of no importance, much to my disappointment. No spoilers — I am fairly certain that when you read it, you will know which scene I speak of.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book ever since the final pages of the previous book, Heart of Iron. I love the Enemies To Lovers trope in romance, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint.  With Lynch on the hunt for the elusive rebel leader, Mercury, and Mercury herself hiding right under his nose, there was plenty of excitement and subterfuge, and I loved getting an inside look into the Nighthawks.

The world-building is fantastic, as it has been throughout the series, and I simply cannot get enough of this world where the glittering sphere of the Echelon clashes so perfectly with the dark, gritty world of the mechs and the working class.

The battle between the blue bloods and the humanists really heats up in this story, and the hunt for Mercury as well as the humanists’ plans for war really come to life.

Getting inside of Rosalind’s head was wonderful, and I loved the insight into not only her past but also her heart.  I’ve known ever since he first graced the pages that Lynch was a man of great depth, and seeing him, especially at his most vulnerable, made me all for him even harder.

Bottom line  — I adored this book.  Had it not been for the kind-of-sort-of-but-maybe-not-really cheating, it very likely would have been a full five stars for me.  As it is, though, it was still a wonderful, exciting, sexy read, and it is firmly on my keeper shelf.

4half4.5/5 Stars

Review: How To Lose A Bride In One Night – Sophie Jordan

How To Lose A Bride In One Night

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Expected Release Date: July 30, 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Avon
Author’s Website: http://www.sophiejordan.net/
My Source for This Book: Edelweiss
Part of a Series: Yes, Forgotten Princesses, Book 3
Series Best Read In Order: Works well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: {Cannot List Without Being A Spoiler}
Favorite Tropes: Plain Heroine, Disability, PTSD

Official Blurb:

He saved her life…

When Annalise Hadley is tossed over the side of her honeymoon barge, the newly-minted duchess knows she’s been left for dead — for her husband’s only interest is in her vast dowry, not her muddied lineage. However, she didn’t count on a savior. Especially not an honorable, sinfully intriguing earl who will tempt her to risk everything—again.

Now he will seduce her heart and soul

A man with his own demons, Owen Crawford, the reclusive Earl of McDowell, is enchanted by the mysterious, courageous woman he rescued. He will help her heal, teach her to protect herself, and then send her away—so that she’ll never see he’s far from the hero she believes him to be.

But days and nights alone prove that some secrets are meant to be discovered…some desires are too powerful to resist…and some wounds can only be healed by love.

What Worked For Me:

  • I’ve been interested in Owen’s character ever since he was first mentioned in the previous novella, The Earl In My Bed. It was wonderful to see his point of view on the marriage of his brother and his ex-fiance, as well as find out some of what had happened to while he was fighting in battle.
  • I do love a “damaged” heroine, and the somewhat plain, awkward Annalise, with her background and painful betrayal by her newlywed husband was wonderful.
  • I enjoyed the time spent in the gypsy camp — it was an unexpected turn of events, but I really enjoyed the characters there as well as the slowly developing relationship between Owen and Anna.
  • I did enjoy the sexual tension between Owen and Anna, especially with her dilemma about already being married (though the marriage was, of course, unconsummated).

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • Although I know it goes along with a “true” Happily Ever After, I was really disappointed about the results of Annalise’s injury. I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but it should be obvious which part I am referring to for those who have read it.
  • While I absolutely understood her very logic reasoning, I began to find myself annoyed with Annalise for not telling Owen the truth, or at a bare minimum trying to reach out to her sisters.  The deception was dragged out to the point that it felt almost unnecessary.  I think, perhaps, some of my dissatisfaction stems from the fact that the previous characters in the series did not make more of an appearance, though I can understand the desire to focus more on the main couple as well as make it more of a stand alone title.
  • Though this is a minor point because the heroine did it on purpose, I still didn’t particularly care for the scene where Anna allowed Owen to see her in the bath. It’s just.. not my thing.

Ever since I read the excerpt of the first chapter for this book at the end of The Earl In My Bed, I have greatly anticipated this read.  While it definitely delivered on some fronts — the sexual tension between Owen and Anna, the horrifying betrayal by her “husband”, and the angst of being crippled and somewhat plain in a society that places beauty and perfection in the highest regard — in other areas, it fell a bit short.

I was disappointed in not only how long Anna kept her identity a secret, but also the aftermath of her broken leg.  Add to that the minor issue of Owen seeing Anna in the bath, as well as the almost over-the-top villainous husband, and I ended up feeling a tiny bit let down.

Still, I did enjoy getting to know Owen’s character, and I admit I did enjoy seeing plain, shy, unassuming Annalise come into her own.

Overall, still as solidly enjoyable read.

04stars

4/5 Stars

 

Review: Texas Wide Open – K.C. Klein

Texas Wide Open

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Expected Release Date:  November 15, 2012
Publisher: Kensington
Imprint: Kensington Trade/eKensington
Author’s Website: http://kckleinbooks.com/
My Source for This Book: Gift from the author
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy
Pet Peeves: Adultery or Infideliy, Too Much Emphasis On Secondary Romance
Favorite Tropes: Unrequited Love, Good Use Of Flashbacks

Official Blurb:

Katie Harris loved growing up on a ranch. She had her horse, the beautiful Texas prairie, and Cole Logan, the cowboy next door. But there are a lot of secrets hidden under a Texas sky…

Katie always knew she’d marry Cole one day—until he broke her dreams and her heart. But now that Katie’s father is sick, she’s back home, older, wiser and nowhere near the love-sick fool she once was.

Cole knows Katie doesn’t want anything to do with him. But after so many years, he can’t pretend she’s no more than a neighbor. Not when thinking about her cherry lip gloss and hell-for-leather passion is keeping him up all night. Holding his ground was hard enough when she was seventeen. Now that she’s her own woman, Cole’s heart doesn’t stand a chance…

What Worked For Me:

  • The angst. Oh, the angst!  I loved every painful moment of the unrequited love, and the push and pull between Katie and Cole. 
  • I’m not usually a big fan of flashbacks in fiction, but the author did a wonderful job of using them to create tension and tell the past story, without abusing them or making things confusing.
  • There’s also a strong presence of a good secondary romance. I admit, I was annoyed at first (and in the end — see section below) by the story getting sidetracked as it did, but in the end, even with the way things ended up, I enjoyed that subplot quite a bit.
  • The chemistry and the angst of this story were so intertwined that I can’t actually separate the two, but there was scrumptious tension between Katie and Cole.
  • loved that things weren’t always as they seemed, and this rather goes back to the flashbacks a bit, but I really enjoyed seeing things from both a youthful and an older perspective of all of the characters.
  • I loved how the ranch life was woven into the story. A self-proclaimed City Girl, I’ve never had any experience with horses outside of some rather ill-fated riding lessons when I was younger, and yet the world of the ranch simply… was. It never felt forced, or as though it were merely set dressing, but instead was simply the world that Katie and Cole were a part of.  Very well done.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I don’t like infidelity in my romances, even when that infidelity is a matter of the the hero or heroine being “in a relationship” with someone else when the relationship between the hero and heroine is being rekindled. 
  • I enjoyed the secondary romance in the story, but was disappointed that it was left open ended after so much time had been spent on building it up. I’m not certain if this was the setup for the next story in a possible series, or if this was simply the author’s choice to give a more bittersweet feel to an angsty story rather than big fluffy bunny happy endings, but either way, it was a let down.

As most followers of my reviews already know, I tend to shy away from contemporary novels in general, but as a fan of Ms. Klein’s sci-fi tales, I couldn’t turn this one down.

The use of flashbacks was brilliant, and expertly crafted to build tension without becoming tiresome, and the copious amounts of angst and heartache in the story were sublime.

The two biggest, and really only, drawbacks for me were the presence of infidelity on the part of one of the protagonists, as one of them was involved in a relationship with another person when Katie was unexpected thrust back into Cole’s path, and the secondary romance between Jett and Nikki.  The former is simply a pet peeve of mine, and the latter threw me off quite a bit.  Cole and Katie’s tale is interrupted somewhere around halfway through by a full albeit integrated secondary tale of Cole’s sister Nikki and Cole’s best friend, Jett.  As the story progressed, I began to really enjoy the secondary storyline, but was incredibly disappointed by the ending — so much time had been spent building up things between them, but the ending is at worst unsatisfying and at best bittersweet, and not at all what I was expecting as the book was obviously drawing to a close.

Even so, the emotional roller coaster that was Cole and Katie’s relationship made it more than worth the while to read.  This is not a light, fluffy romance by any means, but I think that those looking for a harder road to a happy ending will be quite pleased.

4half
4.5/5 Stars, and I’m really hoping that Nikki and Jett get a sequel.

 

Review: A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses – Molly Harper

Witch's Handbook of Kisses and Curses

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Expected Release Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Imprint: Pocket Books
Author’s Website: http://mollyharper.com/
My Source for This Book: Edelweiss
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 3, Half Moon Hollow Series
Series Best Read In Order: Works well as a standalone.
Steam Level: Warm
Pet Peeves: Infidelity (Heroine)
Favorite Tropes: Major Betrayal

Official Blurb:

Nola Leary would have been content to stay in Kilcairy, Ireland, healing villagers at her family’s clinic with a mix of magic and modern medicine. But a series of ill-timed omens and a deathbed promise to her grandmother have sent her on a quest to Half-Moon Hollow, Kentucky, to secure her family’s magical potency for the next generation. Her supernatural task? To unearth four artifacts hidden by her grandfather before a rival magical family beats her to it.

Complication One: Her grandfather was Mr. Wainwright and the artifacts are lost somewhere in what is now Jane Jameson’s book shop.

Complication Two: her new neighbor, Jed Trudeau, who keeps turning up half naked at the strangest times, a distraction Nola doesn’t need. And teaming up with a real-life Adonis is as dangerous as it sounds, especially when he’s got the face of an angel and the abs of a washboard—can Nola complete her mission before falling completely under his spell?

What Worked For Me:

  • I loved Jed’s “secret”, especially since there was a lovely red herring to make readers think they know what’s going on when they don’t.
  • Even though I found much of the “search” distracting, I did enjoy the secondary characters quite a bit.
  • Jed was probably my favorite part of the entire story, and his betrayal certainly kept things interesting.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • There was a lot of focus on Nola’s friendships and relationships with people in town, with no real sense of urgency in locating these objects which were imperative to pretty much saving the world.  This made the search quite boring at times, which was a big disappointment.
  • I was a little disappointed at the low amount of steam and chemistry as well.  I think this has a lot to do with the fact that Nola was cheating on her boyfriend, which is a big pet-peeve of mine, and I was hoping for some really intense chemistry between her and Jed in order to sort of make up for that fact for me.

The premise of this story was quite intriguing, and I knew as soon as Jed stepped onto the pages that his relationship with Nola was going to be quite enjoyable. However, despite how much I enjoyed his character, in the end, there wasn’t really much about this story that stood out to me.

There was so much focus on the townspeople of Half-Moon Hollow (which makes sense seeing as how this is the third installment in a series) that I found myself actually getting bored with Nola’s search for the artifacts that had drawn her to the town in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the secondary characters, especially Jane, but there was almost a “chick-lit” vibe to this book, when I had gone into it expected a somewhat steamy paranormal romance.

Overall, I would recommend this one to fans of the series, as they will be more likely to fully appreciate all of the emphasis placed on the residents of the town, but while I enjoyed it, I doubt that I will be reading more of this series in the future.

03stars3/5 Stars

Review: An Infamous Marriage – Carina Press – Susanna Fraser

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Expected Release Date: November 5, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Carina Press
Author’s Website: http://www.susannafraser.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Warm
Pet Peeves: Adultery
Favorite Tropes: Forced Marriage

Official Blurb:

Northumberland, 1815

At long last, Britain is at peace, and General Jack Armstrong is coming home to the wife he barely knows. Wed for mutual convenience, their union unconsummated, the couple has exchanged only cold, dutiful letters. With no more wars to fight, Jack is ready to attempt a peace treaty of his own.

Elizabeth Armstrong is on the warpath. She never expected fidelity from the husband she knew for only a week, but his scandalous exploits have made her the object of pity for years. Now that he’s back, she has no intention of sharing her bed with him—or providing him with an heir—unless he can earn her forgiveness. No matter what feelings he ignites within her…

Jack is not expecting a spirited, confident woman in place of the meek girl he left behind. As his desire intensifies, he wants much more than a marriage in name only. But winning his wife’s love may be the greatest battle he’s faced yet.

What Worked For Me:

  • loved Elizabeth.  Average in looks, and forced into a marriage with a stranger only days after her beloved husband died, I think she handled herself far better than I would have in her situation.
  • The fact that Elizabeth didn’t sit back and let Jack get away with the embarrassment he’d caused her with his blatant affairs made me cheer for her for the entire book. Call me vindictive, but I loved that she made him work for her forgiveness.
  • There’s a part towards the end, where Elizabeth has a bit of an epiphany about her own attitudes that I loved. It’s uncomfortable for anyone, fictional or otherwise, to admit fault as she did, but I loved that she took responsibility for her own actions and attitudes without taking more blame than was deserved.
  • I also enjoyed the historical notes. I’ve read another title by this author, and I remember that a large part of her writing focuses not just on the romance but on the actual historical setting. This is no “wallpaper historical”, and I really enjoyed the change of pace.
  • The steam was just right for this book. Elizabeth wasn’t a spinster virgin, and Jack obviously hadn’t suffered from inexperience, and it made sense that they’d both be frank and realistic about their desires.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • Even though it was a surprisingly minor problem for me, I still don’t like infidelity in my romance. To be fair, if there HAD to be infidelity, this is how I would choose to have it, but even so, it still bothers me a bit.
  • I was a little disappointed that the main conflict (aside from the obvious infidelity) was so obviously foreshadowed. I was a bit disappointed when events played out as they did, simply because I’d spent the whole book waiting for it to happen.

As anyone who follows my reviews knows, I despise infidelity and adultery in my romance novels.  It is, hands down, my number one pet-peeve of all time.

And yet, I really enjoyed this book.

Yes, it was painful to hear of Jack’s affairs while he was married to Elizabeth, and the hurt and humiliation that it had inflicted made me want Jack to suffer, but I wasn’t alone in that. Elizabeth didn’t let him get away with his bad behavior, and I loved watching her make him earn her forgiveness.

More than that, however, was the beautifully done historical backdrop of a military man a time of tentative peace.  The historical details added a richness to the story, and helped to lend a lot of credence to the characters and their behaviors and attitudes.

With just the right amount of steam and plenty of emotion, I would definitely recommend this one to any fan of historical romance with arranged marriages, and I urge readers to take a chance on this one even if infidelity is a trope they tend to avoid.


A very solid 4/5 stars

Review: Silk Is For Seduction – Avon – Loretta Chase

Expected Release Date: June 28, 2011 (Available Now)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Avon
Author’s Website: http://lorettachase.com/
My Source for This Book: Library
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 1, The Dressmakers
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

The allure of the perfect gown should be twofold: 
Ladies would die to wear it… and gentlemen would kill to remove it!

Brilliant and ambitious dressmaker Marcelline Noirot is London’s rising star. And who better to benefit from her talent than the worst-dressed lady in London; the Duke of Clevedon’s intended bride? Winning the future duchess’s patronage means prestige and fortune for Marcelline and her family. To get to the lady, though, Marcelline must win over Clevedon, whose standards are as high as his morals are…not.

The prize seems well worth the risk. This time, though, Marcelline’s met her match.  Clevedon can design a seduction as irresistible as her dresses; and what begins as a flicker of desire between two of the most passionately stubborn charmers in London soon ignites into a delicious inferno . . .and a blazing scandal.

And now both their futures hang by a thread of silk…

Marcelline Noirot is the world’s greatest modiste. Now, she just needs the upper crust of the ton to realize it.  Needing to draw in a prestigious new client who can showcase the Noirot designs, Marcelline settles her eye on the Duke of Clevedon’s intended bride, Clara.  A beautiful woman, Clara has been dressed by Marcelline’s biggest competitor up until now, much to her detriment.

Knowing that wooing a client’s husband — the man who pays the bills — is just as important as attracting the client herself, Marcelline sets out to charm Clevedon, walking a very fine line between temptation and respectability.

Never one to mince words, Marcelline informs Clevedon from the start that she’s only after his money and his future wife’s patronage, but mercenary as she may be, this time Marcelline has met her match.  When Clevedon’s fascination with her begins to fan the flames of attraction between them, it could lead to a scandal that could cost Marcelline and her family everything…

What Worked For Me:

  • I have no idea how she does it, but Ms. Chase has such a talent for creating heroines that the reader should hate for being so beautiful and perfect, and yet we can’t help but fall in love with them.  Marcelline is what makes this book, and despite the fact that she’s pretty much “perfect” — gorgeous, smart, cunning, adaptable, an incredible artist/designer, etc. — I loved her. It was no surprised that poor Clevedon found himself so utterly enthralled with her.
  • I loved that Marcelline was quite adamant about not wanting to have an affair with Clevedon. Yes, she wanted to seduce him, but she wanted to seduce him into spending money at her shop, and not into sleeping with her.
  •  I loved how Marcelline would point out the struggles of the working class and her distaste in how the nobles would just ignore it.  What was even better was watching Clevedon finally realize that she wasn’t joking when she said that money and reputation were important because it was what put food on her table and clothes on her daughter’s back and a roof over her entire family’s head.  For someone who’d never had to consider the cost of something before in his life, this was huge.
  • One thing I really enjoyed was that while Marcelline’s late husband, Charlie, was a typical “Noirot” man (that is, a bit of a scoundrel), she wasn’t all angsty about having had a horrible first marriage. This was so refreshing, as most widowed romance heroines tend to have had terrible first marriages that pretty much scarred them for life.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • Even though it worked out quite well for everyone in the end, I couldn’t help but despise Clevedon for pursuing Marcelline while for all intents and purposes engaged to Clara.  Even though their engagement had never been made “formal”, it still reeked of infidelity, and while that was absolutely “the norm” for titled men in those days, it still turned my stomach enough to make it difficult for me to fully embrace Marcelline and Clevedon as a couple.

You can always count on Loretta Chase to provide utterly enchanting heroines and delightfully besotted (and befuddled) heroes, and this book was no exception.   Marcelline’s perfection and even her arrogance would have been supremely annoying had she been written by any other author, but Ms. Chase was able to make Marcelline so captivating that she, and indeed all three of the Noirot sisters, easily stole my heart.

Clevedon was so wonderfully captivated by Marcelline that he was completely oblivious to so much around him, and I loved watching him slowly come to realize that even though he was rich and powerful in society, he was actually a bit, well, sheltered at times in regards to how the world really works.

I also enjoyed Princess Erroll of Albania, which is definitely a feat when you consider I tend to dislike children in romance novels.

In the end, the slight distaste I had for Clevedon’s pursuit of Marcelline while expecting to marry Clara did take away from my enjoyment, but even so, I absolutely adored it.

A very solid 4.5/5 Stars, and I’m looking forward to seeing the other Noirot sisters get their HEA’s as well.