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March 19, 2013

An exciting, fast-paced and very, very sexy steampunk romance series.

I am now hooked on a new series, the Clockwork Agents by Kate Cross, and I’m cheating a bit and doing a two-in-one review, largely because what I liked in both books was the same. (I blame Mirna of Rendezvous books for another excellent recommendation.)

This steampunk series is set in Victorian England and is filled with interesting inventions, gadgets and robotics—Cross does a good job of integrating corsets, guns and gadgets. I especially liked the world building and the combination of steampunk and spy vs spy plot. I wouldn’t say it’s entirely historically accurate—they say fuck and shite!—but as this is a steampunk novel, I expected the authors to take some liberties.

Heart of Brass by Kate Cross (Clockwork Agents, Book 1)Heart of Brass features Lady Arden Grey, whose husband Luke disappears on a mission for the Wardens of the Realm, a covert organisation created to protect the British Empire. Seven years later, an assassin is sent to kill her in retribution for her killing of a Company agent (their rival spy organisation) and she recognizes him as her husband, who has no memory of who she is or any of his past. Arden is a strong, very resourceful heroine, who never lost faith in her husband, Luke, who starts off being a bit of a prick before he gets his memory back.

There’s also a side plot with Arden helping out Scotland Yard in investigations using her special gadgets—she’s an inventor—and solving a mystery as to who is murdering young girls. I don’t think this side plot was necessary, though, and in some ways it detracted from the main story of Arden and Luke figuring out who brainwashed him and trying to help him get back his memories. That story was meaty enough to not need a distraction. There are also a few things I found a bit convenient—like how they have a master surgeon who has a magic elixir that can fix everything, but we don’t know what it is. I hope that’s explained when she gets her own novel.

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March 12, 2013

What Happens In Scotland by Jennifer McQuistonBecause who wouldn’t want to wake up next to a hot-hunka-chunka-burning-love Highlander with a kilt (but not in one)?

Georgette Thorold, otherwise a lady and a widow besides, wakes up one morning to find herself:

a) in Scotland

b) with a ring on her finger

c) naked next to a really hot guy

So she does what any girl in her position would do—she runs away!

Throughout the course of the day she discovers that she may have imbibed a wee bit much the night before, can’t remember a thing, and may have encountered all manner of whatevers and done all manner of things in this tiny Scottish town. Also, is she really married?

I will admit to asking for this ARC largely based on the pretty cover. It did not disappoint. Jennifer Mc Quiston’s debut novel is fresh and funny and kept me largely guessing. The first half of the book is devoted to Georgette and her Scotsman trying to figure out WTF happened the night before, like a romance version of The Hangover sans tigers. (Watch the movie!)

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February 6, 2013

The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie (Chance Sisters, Book 1) - Australian editionEscapist fun, yes, but it’s also firmly on the side of women and the ties that bind them. A delight to read.

This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for a list of books I’ve read so far.

I’ve enjoyed Australian romance author Anne Gracie’s work in the past, but she’s one of those authors whose backlist is so intimidating, I’ve never got around to catching up. I think that’s about to change after reading this book.

Abigail Chantry, orphaned young and whose parents were disowned by their families, has been living on the edge of respectability. When she’s accosted on the way home and told that her sister, Jane, is being kept against her will at a brothel, she has no choice but to rescue her sister and the two women who came to her aid—Daisy, who grew up in the brothel but wants to be a dressmaker, and Damaris, a missionary’s daughter sold to the brothel owner on her way home to England.

Unable to keep her post as a governess and desperate for money, Abby breaks into a nearby mansion. She finds it devoid of valuables, but discovers an invalid, Lady Beatrice Devenham, being mistreated by her servants. With the consent of Lady Beatrice, Abby and the girls connive to take over the household and nurse the old lady back to health.

Meanwhile, Lady Beatrice’s nephew, Max, receives word that her aunt is being neglected, and returns to England to find the household taken over by impostors—the Chance sisters, whom Lady Beatrice claims as nieces. Needless to say, he’s not impressed. Likewise, Abby is outraged at being accused of trying to fleece Lady Beatrice when it was Max who had failed to monitor his aunt’s welfare.

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January 30, 2013

A Gentleman Never Tells  by Juliana Gray (Affairs By Moonlight, Book 2)You know this is a good book when I’m compelled to read the entire series.

When they find themselves accidentally renting the same castle in Tuscany, three lords and three ladies make a bet to devote themselves to scholarly pursuits for an entire year without intimate interaction with the opposite sex.

In this book, the second of the Affairs By Moonlight series, Elizabeth Harewood, now the Countess of Somerton and mother of a precocious five-year-old son, encounters Roland Penhallow, the ex-love of her life. She’s escaped to this castle to hide from her husband, who is abusive and somewhat depraved. She cannot afford to give away here whereabouts, as she is afraid he will take her son away. Roland has been in love with Elizabeth for years and sees this opportunity as a chance to get her back. Will this work itself out?

Of course, it will.

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December 27, 2012

The Lady Most Willing...: A Novel in Three Parts by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Connie BrockwayFor fans of Julia Quinn, Eloisa James or Connie Brockway. If you’re a first-time reader of their work, however, consider one of their full-length novels instead.

One whiskey-fueled Christmas night, Taran Ferguson of Finovair decides to take matters into his own hands and kidnaps a bunch of women so that his heirs can have heirs and his line doesn’t die out. So Taran and his clansmen hustle over to the Earl of Maycott’s, grab a bunch of heiresses —and, accidentally, a Duke—and take them home, where they will be trapped for a few days since snow has since covered the pass. Taran is hoping that love will blossom between the girls and his two heirs (via his sisters): Byron Wotton, Earl of Oakley and Robin Parles, a French count with no real title. Everyone is both horrified and amused by his crazy antics, and of course, they all fall in love.

There are three interlocked stories in the novel, featuring Byron, Robin and Duke. I would love to give you a summary of each story but part of the fun is finding out whom they end up with, so I will not kill three fairies! Instead, I’ll describe the girls for you and maybe you can guess.

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November 2, 2012

Seduced By A Pirate by Eloisa James (Fairy Tales, Novella)A novella that has a certain sweetness that I’ve come to expect from the Eloisa James’ fairy tale series. One for readers looking for a quick read. Oh, and pirates—arr!

Sir Griffin Barry is an ex-pirate turned privateer pardoned by the crown. He’s back home after 14 years—he ran away after getting married at 17, got drunk and found himself press ganged into a ship, became a pirate and later named his ship ‘The Flying Poppy’ after the wife he left, and began an ‘illustrious’ career. After a near-death experience with his BFF, James (the Duke in The Ugly Duchess), he’s back in England, pardoned, retired from piracy and determined to win his wife back.

So off to the country he goes, to win back his Poppy. Except she doesn’t want him back. Oh, and he got her name wrong. It’s really not Poppy.

This novella is sweet and charming. I liked Griffin—his past and the reason he left his wife were, to me, perfectly understandable. I mean, if your father ‘dooms’ you to marriage at 17, and you run away after the wedding to get shit-faced drunk, well, I get that. That you get press ganged and then become a pirate and then don’t come home for 14 years—well, I’m glad you finally grew balls and came home in the end.

Griffin is charming and funny and I liked his efforts in trying to regain his life. He’s not in denial and knows that, in coming home, he has to evolve into a different person. Despite this being a short story, Eloisa James is able to demonstrate Griffin’s development as a character.

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October 10, 2012

My Scandalous Viscout by Gaelen Foley (Inferno Club, Book 5) - US edition

A fun romp and a good spy romance. But it’s not The Duke.

Carissa Portland, a ‘lady of information’ (AKA a gossip), comes upon what appears to be an irate husband who’s out to get Sebastian, Viscount Beauchamp. Unbeknownst to her, he’s actually Beau’s fellow agent and a member of the infamous Inferno Club. Being the lady of information that she is, it doesn’t take her long to find out everything and they end up having to get married. Beau has better things to worry about. His BFF and former co-spy has become a mercenary, their secret organisation is being investigated, and there’s trouble on every front.

Carissa could have been an annoying busybody, but I rather liked her. She’s intrepid, and her attempts at investigation to assist her husband are, in my opinion, quite practical and not stupid. She has a good head on her shoulders and she doesn’t come across as ineffectual. She gives it a go and is a pretty decent spy without entirely meaning to be. She also has an additional storyline, which author Gaelen Foley resolves well—it doesn’t turn into a big drama-fest or become a clusterfuck of miscommunication.

That said, I started out being rather bored with this book.

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October 3, 2012

The Way to a Duke's Heart by Caroline Linden (The Truth About The Duke, Book 3)This book is like a sweet old-fashioned dessert—nice but not extraordinary. And sometimes that’s just what you need.

Tessa Neville is a widow who serves as a sort of steward to her brother, a viscount. Since she has a head for numbers and is good with investments—insert type A personality and bluestocking alert here—she often investigates potential investments for him. This time around she’s looking into a canal that’s being built and sussing out the possibilities.

Tessa is frank and outspoken by the period’s standards, although to me, she still sounds polite when she’s making a point. As she is a widow, she is given certain leeways to travelling without a male escort (she comes with Eugenie, her lovely maiden aunt) and we get the impression that people are more open to doing business with her because of that.

Charles de Lacey, Lord Gresham, has always been the kind of guy who doesn’t really do responsibility. He’s the heir to a dukedom, but he’s left the estate in the hands of his brother, and he’s been sort of gallivanting through life forever. On his father’s death he discovers he may not be able to claim his dukedom, on account of possible bigamy on his father’s part, leading to him being declared illegitimate. The proof of his legitimacy lies in discovering the source of threatening blackmail letters to his father. He has traced the source back to the same town that Tessa is in—and it seems that he is the very same builder of the canal she’s looking into.

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August 3, 2012

Blame It On Bath by Caroline Linden (The Truth About The Duke, Book 2)A weak plot, dull characters and lack of chemistry make for a dud romance.

I’ve enjoyed Caroline Linden’s work in the past, so I picked this book up as an impulse buy at Dymocks. Blame It On Bath is the second book in a series involving three brothers who found out that their father could have committed bigamy, which would result in the eldest losing his title and all of them losing their inheritance.

Blame It On Bath focuses on youngest sibling Gerard de Lacey, who is in pursuit of the blackmailer. But before he sets off on his mission, he’s accosted by Katherine Howe, a recently widowed heiress who proposes marriage—to save her from a marriage to Lucien, her puritanical brother-in-law, and to save Gerard from financial ruin should his parents’ marriage prove invalid.

I love Regency heroes who find themselves on the wrong end of a marriage proposal. It’s just so amusing and delicious, and Linden certainly got my attention. Katherine is trying to escape an untenable family situation—she endured her first marriage and a fleeting encounter with Gerard a long time ago has convinced her that he would be more suitable than Lucien as a husband. Gerard knows he must marry an heiress, and with scandal nipping at his heels, Katherine would provide him the security he needs, should he and his brothers lose their estates.

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May 23, 2012
The Duke's Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley (Highland Pleasures, Book 4)

The Duke's Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley (Highland Pleasures, Book 4)

A moving second-chance romance with well-developed characters. I can’t say enough about this series.

Hart Mackenzie, head of the notorious Mackenzie family, plans to run for prime minister. He took over as head of the family at a young age, protecting his younger siblings from his psychotic father. He was once engaged to Eleanor Ramsay, the love of his life, daughter of an eccentric but impoverished earl. Unfortunate circumstances led to the breaking of their engagement and it’s quite obvious from the start that they never really got over each other.

Now, Eleanor is back in his life, having received a nude photograph of Hart taken a long time ago. Who sent the photos? And can he really handle having Eleanor back in his life?

This story reads like it could have come out of a modern tabloid. Aspiring political candidate let his ex-mistress take photos of him naked when he was young, she died under scandalous circumstances (see book 1) and suddenly his ex-fiancee is receiving the photos in the mail, one by one. If this gets out in the press, Hart’s political career and his party are ruined and with it his dream of an independent Ireland (then Scotland!) someday. So in comes Eleanor, the ex-fiancee, to find the origin of said photos, under the pretense of being his secretary.

I love well-written second chance romances and author Jennifer Ashley does them very well. To me this is what the story is about, and the photos come second. Ashley does a good job of fleshing out Hart and Elizabeth’s relationship and slowly showing us what led to the last big break up before bringing them back together.

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