Friday, March 30, 2018

Review - - What a Difference a Duke Makes

What A Difference a Duke Makes
By Lenora Bell
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

Mari  (“rhymes with starry”) Perkins arrives in London to take up a position as governess to the children of a tradesman that has been promised to her by Mrs. Trilby of Mrs. Trilby’s Agency for Superior Governesses, but when Mari’s soft heart and the theft of all her possessions make her fifteen minutes late for her appointment, Mrs. Trilby gives the job to someone else. Moreover, she proves that she is cut from the same fabric as her friend, the late, self-righteous, hard-hearted headmistress of the charity school where Mari grew up, when she refuses to consider Mari for another position and suggests that Mari look for a position as a scullery maid instead. Even though only one pound ten shillings preserves Mari from utter destitution, she rejects that suggestion. She worked too hard acquiring the knowledge that fits her for a governess post, a position in which she can support herself and still have time to look for information about her parents, to give up now. When she overhears a governess who has just departed from the household of the Duke of Banksford without notice encouraging Mrs.Trilby not to send another governess to the duke’s demon-seed children who have run through four Trilby-trained governesses in two months, Mari decides to try for that position.

Edgar Rochester (Shades of Edward Rochester!), Duke of Banksford, is a most atypical duke. He has two goals in life: to be as different as possible from his late father, a drunken, profligate, dissolute aristocrat who was a threat to every female servant in his employ, and to produce in his foundry (through which he has restored the family fortune that his father dissipated) a “steam-powered fire engine lightweight enough to be drawn by a single horse.” The duke’s integrity, intelligence, and wealth have not proved very helpful in dealing with the two recent additions to his household. He knew nothing about the nine-year-old twins, Michel and Adele, the products of his youthful affair with a “poetess” a decade older than he, until their Moroccan nurse sent them to him after their mother’s suicide. The children, sent from their home in France to a strange father and a strange country, are chronic runaways who defy attempts to discipline them. The duke can’t imagine anyone less likely to deal with his troublesome offspring that the too young, too small, too optimistic Mari, who is also too pretty for his comfort. Regardless of his doubts, when she proves resourceful in a crisis, he agrees to allow Mari a week’s trial.

Mari’s rapport with the children is immediate and effective. She cares for them, she respects them, and she understands them, and they quickly see in her a friend and a source of security. As Mari works to bring Edgar into a closer relationship with the twins, the chemistry between her and their father, potent from the beginning, becomes more powerful. Edgar begins to learn the lessons Mari has to teach him, and he discovers in her and in his children a joy that has been missing from his life. Despite the class barriers, he allows himself to dream of a life with her, but when Mari finally connects with her past, he questions if they have a future. Will his insecurity prevail?

What A Difference a Duke Makes is the first book in Lenora Bell’s School for Dukes series. In this charming tale, Bell combines elements of Jane Eyre and the spirit of Mary Poppins with a Regency setting that encompasses more than the typical aristocratic world. Discerning readers will catch the Jane Eyre references in more than the hero’s name. The charity school where Mari is abandoned is Underwood; Jane’s school is Lowood. Edgar’s illegitimate daughter shares a name with a similar character from Jane Eyre. These are only the most obvious connections. Mari’s name and the magic she works with the children evoke the iconic Poppins. But Bell makes the story her own as she weaves together the governess plot with the threads of Mari’s past, Edgar’s conflict with his parents, and his engineering dreams and the role of his foundry.

Mari and Edgar are both likable characters, and the children are winsomely and credibly drawn. Edgar’s sister India, an unconventional, free-spirited archaeologist, is another wonderful character, one who comes close to stealing every scene she is in. The key to enjoying this delightful story is a willingness to suspend disbelief. The Mary Poppins quality allowed me to do this regarding Edgar’s most undukish behavior and the touch of whimsy and coincidence associated with Mari’s learning about her past, but Edgar’s simplistic reunion with his estranged mother was a stretch too far for me. It was this flaw that dropped my ranking of it to four stars.

Nevertheless, this is a sweet, lighthearted novel and a successful introduction to a series that promises to be a rewarding, entertaining addition to the reading lists of historical romance fans. Bell’s voice is appealing, and she has a sure touch with dialogue that is one of the novel’s strengths. If you are a fan of Julia Quinn, Tessa Dare, and others who blend humor and emotional punch with skill and grace, I think you will enjoy What a Difference a Duke Makes. This fall (September 18) will see the publication of Lady India’s story, For the Duke’s Eyes Only, a friends-to-enemies-to-lovers tale that sounds as if it will be as much fun to read as this one was. It’s on my list.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Cover Reveal - - Roxanne St. Claire's The Dogfather Series

Are you enjoying this heartwarming new contemporary romance series as much as I am? Four books have been published so far in Roxanne St. Claire's The Dogfather series: Sit...Stay...Beg, New Leash on Life (2018 RITA® Finalist), Leader of the Pack, Santa Paws is Coming to Town (short story) and Bad to the Bone. I've loved them all! St. Claire has three more books in the series scheduled for release this year all of which follow the tradition established with book one of covers featuring rescue dogs and regular guys (not models). She and her assistant recently traveled to Alaqua Animal Refuge in North Florida for a photo shoot for books six, seven, and eight in the series. If you aren't familiar with this refuge and its relationship with the Dogfather books, St. Claire has pledged a portion of the proceeds from sales of each book in this series to this no-kill shelter in her home state. To date, book-buying readers have helped her donate $5,000 to the refuge. Great books and a good cause. It's a win-win. 

Here are the next three book covers that resulted from that recent photo shoot.

Ruff Around the Edges
Book Six
Release Date: April 12, 2018

U.S Army Night Stalker Major Aidan Kilcannon leaves Afghanistan after his best friend, Charlie, is killed in the line of duty. Aidan's only consolation is the knowledge that he's now solely responsible for Charlie's dog, Ruff, a charming but rambunctious boxer they'd found in a bombed-out hospital in Kabul. With the help of  Aidan's father, the Dogfather himself, they transport Ruff back to the States. He arrives shortly after Aidan, and both dog and man are suffering from loss, trauma, and sudden change. Aidan is certain his only hope is the comfort and love he gets from Ruff, and that this dog will help him adjust to the staggeringly difficult transition from battlefield to Bitter Bark.

But the day Ruff arrives, Daniel Kilcannon informs his son that Rebecca Spencer, Charlie's younger sister, has a hard and fast claim on Ruff and she intends to honor her brother's wishes. Aidan has to relinquish the dog to her, no matter how impossible that is.

Beck Spencer is in Bitter Bark temporarily to help the only living relatives she has left. After losing her parents as a child, and her brother six months earlier, she, too, hopes that Ruff will offer the solace and companionship she needs. But when Ruff finally shows up at her door, the man holding the leash is obviously determined to talk her out of keeping the dog. In fact, Aidan will use every persuasive power he has to convince Beck to give up the dog...and he's as charming and wild as  the dog they both want.

Everything gets complicated by Ruff, who has his own plan, making it impossible for Beck to win him over. But she'll do anything to succeed, even work closely with maddeningly sexy and relentlessly determined Aidan Kilcannon, who has some skills she desperately needs to save her uncle's local pizza business.

With an uneasy truce, a restless dog, and an attraction that bubbles like one of Slice of Heaven's award-winning pizzas, Aidan and Beck soon realize they can help each other heal. But as they fall deeply in love and discover the true meaning of family and home, they’ll have to face the pains of their past if they have any chance of a future.  

Double Dog Dare
Book Seven
Summer 2018

Daniel Kilcannon has one more child who needs true love, but Darcy Kilcannon has no interest in her matchmaking father's shenanigans. What she wants is her own dog spa business where she can come and go as she pleases, surrendering to her wanderlust whenever the travel bug bites. But in order to achieve that dream, she’ll have to prove to her father that she’s mature enough to handle responsibility and rooted enough to live on her own. A condo in town? Sounds great to Darcy, as long as she can bring Kookie, her beloved Shih Tzu.
Joshua Ranier is out of town when his realtor leases one of the town houses he owns and has recently refurbished, but he’s assured that his new tenant is from a fine local family, is starting her own business, and has most certainly not broken his cardinal “no pets” rule. One glance at the gorgeous blonde sneaking a fuzzy white dog tucked in a designer bag in and out of his brownstone and he knows that someone hasn’t told him the truth. Darcy Kilcannon will have to go. And her little dog, too.
Except, Darcy defies every convention and expectation Josh has. And the big, sexy, tool-toting landlord makes Darcy suddenly want to…stay put. From the moment they meet, Darcy and Josh clash and spark and think about things neither one of them should be thinking about. And it isn’t when the rent’s due.
But when someone from his past shows up to wreck his present and saddle him with the last thing in the world he wants – his own dog – Josh needs something only Darcy can offer. It’ll take one wild and crazy dare, two incredibly cute puppers, and, of course, a little help from the Dogfather, for this one to have a happy ending.

Old Dog New Tricks
Book Eight
Fall 2018

This is the story I've been waiting for since book one. After the death of his beloved wife, Daniel Kilcannon turns his focus to nudging his adult children into love. Will the matchmaking Dogfather finally get his own second chance at love? Look for Daniel's story this fall. I have a feeling I should probably stock up on Kleenex for this one. 
St. Claire recently announced that at least four more books in the series are planned for 2019. Mahoney cousins. Hot firefighters. I'm in! :) 
Learn more about Roxanne St. Claire and The Dogfather series at her website and connect with her online at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

On the Road with Anna Campbell

On the Road With Anna Campbell Episode 2

Bonjour PJ! Bonjour Romance Dishies!

We last left our gallant heroine languishing in the UK fighting a malevolent weather system called the Beast from the East (sounds like something out of a parnormal!) and the remains of a very nasty bug that struck her low while she was in London.

This month we pick up the story in beautiful Paris! With no coughing but plenty of croissants (actually that’s not a joke – it’s true!). Only two locations this month. I had a week in a very stylish, very FRENCH apartment near the Opera, then I moved to Fontainebleau about an hour south-west of Paris for a couple of weeks of intensive writing.

It’s many years since I’ve been to Paris, so it was lovely to revisit and have such a positive reaction – first time round, circumstances were not good, including smelly unisex bathrooms and no doors on the showers in the grotty hostel we stayed in. This time round, things couldn’t have been nicer. I stayed in a beautiful place, I wasn’t too ambitious about what I wanted to achieve, and I went to the ballet twice. What else could a girl want from a week in the City of Light?

I’ll let the pictures do the talking. I had a 6-day museum pass so I decided to squeeze the life out of it. I saw a bit of outdoor Paris, but most of it on the way to some treasure house of Western culture. Of course, in February, it’s freezing (actually it rained most of the time) so being inside in a nice warm museum with a nice warm museum café to retreat to had its pluses.

Here are some pictures of highlights of a wander through the Louvre, mainly concentrating on the Near Eastern antiquities and the apartments of Louis Napoleon from the mid-19th century (he had very simple tastes, as you can see!). The beautiful stained glass is from the 13th century Sainte Chapelle that was built to house the relics of the Crucifixion which St. Louis brought back from the Crusades. It was quite surreal to stand in – it was like drowning in that vivid blue. In a good way! Not to be missed if you visit Paris! Speaking of drowning in beautiful blue, I also called in at the Orangerie where Monet’s sublime waterlilies have pride of place.

My main target was the Musée d’Orsay which wasn’t around when I stayed in that stinky hovel in 1985. This took a couple of days to get through – there are all the famous Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings of course, but I found myself fascinated by the collections of 19th century and Art Nouveau jewelry and decorative arts. Look at the colors on those bowls! And isn’t that painting of the girl in the pink dress by Aristide Maillol exquisite?

I also had two visits to the ballet which were wonderful. One was a modern program at the very modern Opera Bastille (and even something built so recently doesn’t have enough ladies toilets!), and the other was a very classical one called Onegin at the glam Palais Garnier which is where the Phantom used to hang out. I can see why. Look at that spectacular Chagall painting on the ceiling!

The week ended in high style when I caught up with a bunch of enthusiastic local readers called the Romantiques! We went to an Irish pub (it was all getting very international by then!) and had a wonderful time talking romance books. It was a big thrill when some of the girls had my French editions there to sign!

So after an action-packed week in Paris (hey, things can get very MacGyverish in the Louvre!), I moved to lovely, quiet Fontainebleau, a classic French town on the Seine with a beautiful royal chateau as the jewel in its crown. 

I stayed in a delightful cottage in someone’s garden which was perfect for what I wanted – here’s a picture of my work station with the lovely daffodils my hostess gave me as a welcome gift.
After the break, I was looking forward to wrestling with the Scottish lairds who feature in the next four books. Hmm, I should be so lucky! But in between, I toured the chateau and had some lovely walks in the gardens which are free for the public to use.

The chateau is brimming with history. Every queen of France since Marie de Medici (crowned 1610) has slept in the second bedroom in the picture above. Francis I, Henry IV, all the later Louis guys, and Louis Napoleon have all contributed to its structure.

For a Regency nut, it’s a must-see, because Napoleon and Josephine both loved this palace and a lot of the rooms are still decorated as they were during the empire. One room in particular gave me goosebumps – it’s quite small as you’ll see in the photo and the small round table in the center is very plain. That’s where Napoleon signed his abdication in 1814 before he went into exile on Elba. Imagine the emotions investing that moment!

Anyway, I hope you’ve stuck with me this far – I could have gone on for pages! Swing by next month when I’ll have lots of photos of north-west Scotland to share with you. That’s a lovely prospect, but I think I’ll miss the croissants!

Thanks so much for sharing your French adventure and beautiful photos with us, Anna! I feel as if I was right there with you. 

For more photos from Anna's European adventure, follow along on her Facebook page

Readers, if you stayed in a cottage in someone's garden what flowers would you want gracing your table?

Have you been to Paris? What was your favorite part?
If you haven't been there, what would you most want to do if you were able to visit?

One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM (Eastern), March 31, will receive a Kindle copy of Lord Garson's Bride from Anna and a second person will receive a Kindle copy of Lord Garson's Bride from PJ. (open internationally)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Today's Special - - Lenora Bell and Eva Leigh

I'm delighted to host two of my favorite historical romance authors: Lenora Bell and Eva Leigh, Avon authors who both have a new book publishing today! It's always fun to ask authors about their characters but wouldn't it be even more fun to ask questions of those characters? Lenora and Eva have brought along the heroes and heroines of their new books, What a Difference a Duke Makes and Counting on a Countess to do just that. Having recently read - and loved - both of these books, I can't wait to hear what they have to say! Please welcome Lenora, Eva, Kit, Edgar, Mari, and Tamsyn!

Counting on a Countess 
Book Two in The London Underground series
By Eva Leigh
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: March 27, 2018

Eva Leigh is the pen name of a RITA® Award-nominated romance author who writes novels chock-full of smart women and sexy men. She enjoys baking, Tweeting about boots, and listening to music from the ’80s. Eva and her husband live in Central California.

What a Difference a Duke Makes
Book One in the School for Dukes series
By Lenora Bell
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: March 27, 2018

Lenora Bell is a USA Today bestselling, RITA® Award-nominated author of historical romances. A teacher with an MFA in Creative Writing who has lived on five continents, Lenora currently shares an old farmhouse in the Pacific Northwest with her carpenter husband and two tiger-striped rescue kitties. She loves to hear from readers!


Eva Leigh -- Christopher “Kit” Ellingsworth, Earl of Blakemere

Lenora Bell -- Edgar Rochester, Duke of Banksford


Eva Leigh – Miss Tamsyn Pearce

Lenora Bell – Miss Mari Perkins

Edgar to Kit

When did you first meet Tamsyn? What was the first thing you noticed about her?

Society balls are never more irritating than when looking for a prospective bride. There’s an abundance of women, but none of them set my campfire to blazing. Which was why I noticed Tamsyn right away—after we collided by the dance floor. That bright red hair of hers was like a fire in the depths of night, and it’s not every day I meet a lady with the Cornish accent of a pirate, though, thank heavens, she’d never engage in anything illegal like piracy.

Since I've been living like a monk, I'm curious about what's it like to be known as a shameless libertine.

Oh, it’s terrible. Just awful. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Except everything I just said to you is a lie.

What were the first thoughts that went through your head when you heard your sizable inheritance came with the stipulation that you must marry within a month?

Somebody get me a drink.

Whiskey, brandy, or wine?


Chopin or Beethoven?

Whatever they play at the theater where the dancers come out and show their legs.

What do you plan to do with all that money?

This is strictly entre nous, but when I was fighting on the Peninsula, surrounded by chaos, death, and boredom, I kept myself sane by fantasizing about building my very own pleasure garden that would rival Vauxhall. I told myself that if I made it back to England alive, I’d make that dream a reality. Gambled deep to make it happen, but to no avail. Now that dream doesn’t have to be a fantasy long as Tamsyn doesn’t empty out my coffers.

Mari to Tamsyn

What did you think about Kit when you met him for the first time?

He’s a shameless libertine who will make a truly terrible husband. I have to marry him.

I've never left England. Are you really a smuggler? Have you had any thrilling high seas adventures?

Shh! Don’t tell anyone! But yes, I do smuggle contraband French brandy and lace. For a good reason! We had a few close calls with the customs officers, and there have been a few nights where I found myself hiding behind rocks as the customs men ride past in pursuit. But I’ve always been shore-bound, and until I went looking for a husband in London, I’d never left Cornwall before.

When you found out that you had control over Kit's fortune what did all that power feel like? 

It’s not a little unlike being handed a giant cake and being told you have to eat it all, and you can’t give any to the starving man in front of you.

What is the best thing about London for you? The worst thing?

I’m only here to find a husband and use his wealth to buy my ancestral home from my uncle. Oh, and I need to locate a new buyer for my smuggled goods so that my village back in Cornwall doesn’t starve. But I suppose going to the theatre is nice...

What's a childhood memory that has stayed with you throughout your life?

My father used to buy me boiled sweets and we’d sit at the end of the pier, watching the sea. I miss him so much.

What do you do for entertainment/relaxation?

When do I have time to relax? Yet after a smuggling run, nothing is better than going to the pub with my fellow smugglers and having a little drop of brandy. I suppose that’s not a very ladylike thing to say. Playing pianoforte and doing embroidery are just heavenly! (Is that better?)

Questions for Edgar from Kit

So, wait, you used to work? What on Earth possessed you to
voluntarily do that?

There was an...incident. I couldn’t stay in London. I ran away, renounced my heritage, went deep underground as a foundry worker in Birmingham. It was backbreaking work but it was honest.

Fisticuffs or fencing?

I’m not one for special outfits and rules and regulations. I’ll take fists over foils any day.

What kind of person were you expecting when you hired a governess for the twins?

I asked for an experienced governess with nerves of steel. A stomach of iron. Eyes like a hawk. Shoulders as brawny as a boxer’s.   

What was the first thing you noticed about Mari when she arrived from the agency?

Her shoulders were insufficiently brawny.

If you could teach your children one lesson, what would it be?

Don’t make the same mistake I made. Don’t get too set in your ways...always leave room for discovery and change.

Would you rather waltz or wrestle?

I’d rather wrestle a dozen alligators than waltz at a society ball.

You’ve been celibate? For God’s sake, why?

You sound like my friend the Duke of Westbury. The other day he tried to drag me to the opera and I told him I was far too busy designing steam engines to dally with songbirds. Of course then he said something rude about a certain part of me withering away and falling off, but I can assure you that all my parts are in exemplary working order...far too exemplary when it comes to thoughts of redheaded governesses.

Questions for Mari from Tamsyn

What would your ideal home look like?

I was raised in a charity school orphanage so an ideal home would be one filled with family, laughter, and love--all of the things I never had.

What’s your favorite thing to eat?

My new favorite thing to eat is grapes. I had some the other day with the duke and let me tell you that I could become accustomed to being fed grapes from silver platters like the ancient Romans. Of course if we were ancient Romans we would have been lounging about on the carpet half naked. Oh dear. There I go again having forbidden thoughts...

Have you ever done anything that wasn’t precisely legal?

Well, I did bluster my way into the position as the duke’s governess. I was promised a position by Mrs. Trilby’s Agency for Superior Governesses. Just not this one.

When you first met Edgar, what did you notice about him right away?

That he didn’t look pliable in the least.

If you could trade places with anybody, who would it be?

Edgar’s sister, Lady India Rochester, certainly leads an interesting life. She’s an adventurer who travels the globe on archaeological expeditions. I think it would be thrilling to see what she sees, if only for a day.

Is there such a thing as “happily ever after?”

Oh, Tamsyn, have you been reading the same romantic novels I have? The ones where the star-crossed lovers surmount nearly impossible obstacles and everything works out beautifully in the end? I do want to believe it’s possible. With all my heart.


Thank you ladies, and gentlemen, for that fascinating glimpse into your lives. I enjoyed it so much I want to go back and reread your journeys to love all over again! *grin*

Readers, if you could trade places with anyone (real or fictional) for a day, who would you choose?

What was the first thing you noticed about your husband/partner?

What's a childhood memory that's stayed with you?

Do you have any questions for Eva or Lenora? Questions for Kit, Edgar, Mari, or Tamsyn?


One randomly chosen person leaving a comment before 11:00 PM, March 28 will receive a signed copy of What a Difference a Duke Makes and a $15 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble. (U.S. shipping only)

One randomly chosen person leaving a comment before 11:00 PM, March 28 will receive a signed copy of Counting on a Countess and a $15 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble (U.S. shipping only)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Review - - Falling Star

Falling Star
By Terri Osburn
Shooting Stars - Book 2
Publisher: Montlake
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

Chance Colburn is learning just how difficult it is to say sober and make a comeback, but he knows that his deal with Clay Benedict’s Shooting Stars label may be his last chance. His star status in the country music world was not just dimmed; it was almost obliterated by his self-destructive behavior that included DUI charges, an arrest for public drunkenness and indecency after a nudie stroll down a Nashville street in broad daylight, and other offenses that lost him two record contracts in less than six months and made him country music’s biggest scandal since George Jones claimed headlines. But Chance has a year of sobriety behind him along with a ninety-day stint in rehab and four months in a sober living facility. He is set to cut his first record on the Shooting Stars label in a month. But first he has to find a way to end his songwriting drought and to get along with his label’s PR director, who has a very good reason to loathe him.

Naomi Mallard may have no choice about working with Chance Colburn, but no apology from him can wipe out the heartbreak he dealt her seven years earlier. Deeply in love with Chance and thinking about a forever with him, she caught him in bed with her boss, her twenty-year older, infamous boss. Naomi may tell herself that she is over the pain and anger, but one meeting with Chance brings it all back—the emotions he awakened in her and the devastation of his betrayal. She will be professional in her dealings with him, doing all she can to see that his reboot is successful because it is in the best interests of the label, but their relationship will remain strictly business

When an unexpected meeting at a local club exposes Naomi’s current boyfriend for the scum he is, Chance becomes her protector. As they begin to spend time together, it is clear to both of them that they still have feelings for one another. When a vulnerable Chance allows Naomi past his defensive walls, it looks as if they can make their relationship work this time. But Chance’s demons are deeply rooted, and when a crisis confronts them, his distrust drives Naomi away. An HEA seems an impossibility for this couple.

Falling Star, the second novel in Terri Osburn’s Nashville-based Shooting Stars series, is a darker, more intensely emotional tale than Rising Star, the story that introduced the series. Naomi is a sympathetic character from the beginning, and I found her more appealing as the story developed, showing her strong enough to forgive and strong enough to survive another, different kind of betrayal. Chance is more complicated and less sympathetic at times. His inner darkness has multiple layers, and Osburn does not simplify his battle with alcoholism. She shows that any victory in that arena is one that must be won again and again.

Reunited lovers and redemption tales are tropes that generally prove irresistible for me. Finding them combined in a single story with protagonists who are flawed, interesting, and believable pretty much ensured that I would love this novel. I’m a country music fan, making the setting another plus, and Osburn’s affection for Nashville came through clearly and added to the appeal. So does a strong cast of secondary characters. Fans of the first book will be pleased that Dylan and Charley make an appearance, and Shooting Stars owner Clay Benedict and Chance’s manager and step-sister Shelly Needham will leave readers eager for their stories. Two other things made Falling Star an extraordinary read for me. (1)The grovel scene is a winner because it exacts a cost and because it is not an instant fairy-tale fade to an HEA. (2) The villain gets what he deserves, no more and no less.

If you like contemporary romance with a country beat, a generous amount of angst, and characters who will linger in your memory, I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Review - - Lord Garson's Bride

Lord Garson's Bride
By Anna Campbell
Release Date: February 28, 2018
Reviewed by Santa

***May contain spoilers***

Lord Garson's Bride by Anna Campbell is a solid 4 stars for me! It is the last book in her Dashing Widows series.

I've looked forward to Garson's story ever since he was summarily rejected by his fiancé, Morwenna Nash, following the unbidden return of her dead husband. She got her happily ever after but I couldn't help but wonder what happened to the poor guy who had to witness their reunion at the announcement of his engagement.

Turns out he was still holding the torch for her even after three years but he's a pragmatic man and as a baron is in need of an heir. Nothing more, nothing less. So he travels north to ask for the hand of Lady Jane Norris. Their fathers were best friends and they knew each other as children. He'd seen her again at her father's funeral.

Hugh Rutherford, Lord Garson, sees that Lady Jane Norris is by all accounts as plain and pragmatic as her name. She has been in charge of her father's estate ever since he fell ill just before her coming out. To that end, Jane has spent the last ten years of her life caring for her ailing father and his estate. Now that he is gone, she is at loose ends. The estate will go to a cousin, leaving Jane to either go to her sister's in London or, with little funds, to settle in a cottage with a former governess. Neither prospect truly appeals to Jane for in London she'd be nursemaid to her waspy sister's brood and a cottage by the sea will simply serve to remind her that life once again is passing her by.

It's quite a shock when Hugh proposes marriage to her. She is no fool and knows this cannot be a proposal given from any love he may have for her. Even as tucked away in the country as she's 
been, she knows of his rejection and can see how that hurt shadows his face. But Hugh is clear that marriage to him would be mutually beneficial to both of them. Jane would get security without having to have to manage everything all by herself. He already knows she can run a household and offers her a chance to see London, meet new people, and have anything she desires.

He offers her mutual respect, companionship, and children. Anything but his love. He thinks one can only have one true love in one's lifetime. Jane, who has always had to make due with whatever life throws at her is practical. She thinks they will rub well enough together. To have a home of her own and children was something she never thought she'd ever have. Having someone to love and be loved in return was not something that she thought was ever going to be a part of her life and so she says yes.

From those beginnings comes a story that made me laugh, sigh, and cry. Jane blossoms as she
comes into her own away from the isolation she felt and all her duties. She is a beauty and is
welcomed by the ton and Hugh's friends. She meets all the Dashing Widows and their spouses.
I have to say, it was great fun to see them all again!

As they come to know one another, a fondness grows and from there Jane learns that she wants

everything a marriage has to offer. She wants love and it's still the one thing that Hugh does not
feel he has to give her. In some books, this could prove to be a stumbling block of monumental
proportions. As a reader, I wanted to see how it all worked out because Anna Campbell had made
both of them very likeable. Hugh never strayed at all from Jane in thought or action. But their
arrangement to gain an heir, void of the closeness they gained, makes Hugh suffer just enough to
learn for himself that his love was not a three year memory after all but his own Lady Jane who is
everything he could ever need in his life, a beauty both inside and out.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Review - - As You Wish

As You Wish
By Jude Deveraux
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

Thanks to the machinations of psychologist Dr. Jeanne Hightower, Olivia Montgomery, Elise Arrington, and Kathy Hanran find themselves sharing a cottage on the Camden Hall estate in Summer Hill, Virginia. The women meet as strangers, but as they share their stories of what has led them to this point in their lives, a deep bond of friendship and affection develops.

Sixtyish Olivia is a newlywed. Widowed after a long, unhappy marriage, she reunited with the love of her life and married him. But she is filled with regret and anger over the more than four decades that she and Kit Montgomery lost. Twenty-five-year-old Elise, only child of wealthy, upper-crust parents, married to please her parents, but she is miserable in her marriage. Her husband is in love with the Hispanic gardener’s daughter with whom he shares a daughter. When Elise ends up in the hospital from an accidental drug overdose, her husband claims it was an attempted suicide. He and her parents place her in a mental institution from which Dr. Hightower helps her escape. Elise regrets that she failed to run away from her wedding. Kathy, now in her forties and childless, settled for a passionless marriage with a husband who married the boss’s daughter. He loves his wife, but he is in love with someone else and fears the divorce he is planning will devastate his wife. He doesn’t know her as well as he thinks he does. Kathy regrets that she settled for Ray and that she never demanded a place in her father’s advertising firm commiserate with her talents.

A mysterious letter from Dr. Hightower directs the women to a house where an awkward hostess offers them a special tea that will allow them to go back in time to a moment of their choosing and relive a moment where they made the choice that led to their regrets. After three weeks in the past, they will return to the present where they must live with the consequences of their changed lives. The story wraps up as the women reunite after their time travel with each having made a choice that gave her a very different life from the one she has in the first part of the story.

As You Wish is the third novel in Deveraux’s Summerhouse series, after The Summerhouse (2001) and Return to Summerhouse (2008). The books are linked by Madame Zoya and her unique offering rather than by characters, so each can be read as a standalone. The reader’s enjoyment of the book will be strongly connected to her willingness to suspend disbelief. Most of us have wondered at some time how our lives might have played out differently had we made a different choice at some turning point. In that respect, the story fulfills a common fantasy, but it works only if the reader’s imagination proves stronger than her logic.

The three protagonists are likable enough, although I suspect some readers will find it easier to relate to some than to others. I found Olivia’s story the most interesting; the Montgomery connection was a plus. The privileged Elise was the one with whom I had the most difficulty. Other readers will likely respond differently. Although there is a romance thread for each of the women and each gets her HEA, the novel is more women’s fiction than romance. The women’s journey to self-realization and their friendship provide the foci of the story.

If you like a bit of the supernatural and a bit of romance mixed with conventional women’s fiction elements, you might like this book. If you are a fan of older Jude Deveraux novels, you may decide you prefer rereads.