Thursday, May 27, 2010

Seducing the Heiress

She vowed to resist him...

Her wealth and beauty have made Miss Portia Crompton the catch of the season. Secretly determined to wed the maharajah’s son she left behind in India, Portia ignores the money-hungry bucks who ply her with bouquets and bonbons. But one suitor will not be deterred: Colin Byrd, Viscount Ratcliffe. He is persistent and presumptuous—and wickedly tempting.

He vowed to have her..

Colin has no delusions about romance. He’s a rogue, a womanizer, and a murderer, and seduction comes as easily to him as breathing. Portia’s fortune is an irresistible lure until Colin’s mercenary scheme hits a snag. Winning her dowry is no longer enough—he wants her heart and her passion. The more adamant she is in her refusal, the more determined he is to seduce her…

Barbara Dawson Smith debuts a lovely tale as Olivia Drake...

The authoress has presented regency romance fans with a splendid tale of the rake chasing the heiress, with all parties well aware the rake is only after one thing:  her money.  But what happens when this rake starts to feel more than just lust for a society chit who is secretly planning to flee to India and marry her childhood sweetheart? 

Portia's family came to London to join society, using their money in trade to cast Portia into the glass fishbowl of the ton hoping she will hook a titled husband.  Viscount Ratcliffe is so much a profligate rake, he isn't welcomed in fashionable society, yet he very cleverly comes to Portia's rescue and meets the lovely loaded heiress, bound and determined that he will wed her after some well-planned wooing.  But Portia is only interested in surviving the season unscathed and unmarried so she can escape to India to wed a maharajah's son.  Now enters Albright - a marriageable, older duke who steps in and switfly becomes a parent-approved suitor after Ratcliffe's interest in Portia becomes quite obvious.  But Ratcliffe is on to Albright's game, and quite a game it turns out to be!  Can Portia work out all the tangled knots in this web of intrigue? 

This was a very pleasant read with an interesting, multi-faceted plot and some great characters.  Portia's parents were very strong, polished, and reflective of their status, while sisters Lindsey and Blythe were charming and compassionate creatures of comfort for Portia.  Ratcliffe truly isn't what he seems (but then, isn't that usually the case?) and we see Portia mature as she learns about life's hardships outside her little bubble of pampered life.  Her respect for Ratcliffe grows over the course of the book and is really illustrated beautifully.  But that being said, I was really frustrated that almost every romantic moment between Ratcliffe and Portia became a war of hot and cold.  One moment the heat is on and they're smoldering.  The next moment, Portia hates his guts and pushes him away, never wanting to see him again.  I can understand one scene like that, maybe two to build tension, but really it was like every romantic moment was spoiled by Portia doing a complete 180. 

Albright was an annoying sort, and rightfully so given his role.  But really, does a duke have nothing better to do than hover over a society maiden - rich in dowry he doesn't need - just to tick someone else off?  Apparently!  But I wasn't quite satisfied with the reasoning behind it all.  I don't know what exactly was missing, but something was.  And the happily ever after wrapped so quickly and neatly, it was as if the author presented it to the reader on a doily centered on a perfectly polished silver platter. An epilogue may have eased the rush to the finish line, but since there wasn't one, the story ended a bit too abruptly for me, leaving a few unanswered questions in its wake.  Sorry... am I sounding too gripey?

All that said, it really was a pleasant read that I would rate as medium on the 'light-heartedness to dark romance' scale.  I liked Ratcliffe's choice in servants and how their subplots contibuted to the story and I found the tidbits weaved in about India to be just enough without being overpowering. Sometimes the use of foreign places just becomes a billboard for showing off the author's research skills, but with this story, it was simply a dose of enhancement.  Bravo! 

I recommend Seducing the Heiress as a pleasant and enjoyable read, and since I adored Portia's sisters, I look forward to reading their stories which are forthcoming and will complete this three book Heiress in London series.  Look for Lindsey's story in Never Trust a Rogue, due out August 31, and keep an eye out for Blythe's story which will probably be released Spring of next year.

As a sidenote, I had never heard of Barbara Dawson Smith until I found out Olivia Drake is her nom de plume.  It looks like she has previously written in the same genre and may be making a fresh, new start with this series. 

My rating:  6 – It was a pleasant read

The series, so far, in order...


Monday, May 17, 2010

Lessons from a Scarlet Lady

No real lady should take lessons from a scarlet woman - or should she?

The Duke of Rolthven's new wife, Brianna, is well-bred, demure, polite -everything a young bride should be.  So what would society say if they saw her with a copy of Lady Rothburg's Advice - a courtesan's lessons for the boudoir? Her very proper husband certainly wouldn't approve, but he is far too busy with his ducal duties to pay her much attention.  Though if Brianna has her way, that's about the change...

When his beautiful, innocent young wife suddenly becomes a vixen in the bedroom, Colton Northfield is taken by suprise.  He wants her now - at the opera, in his carriage, and even during tea at their country estate - but he can't help being alarmed by her seductive powers.  Where the devil did she learn such tricks?

Soon, Brianna's scandalous campaign is taking off in ways she could never have imagined... Following a courtesan's advice is bound to lead to trouble, but will it lead to her ultimate desire: winning her husband's love?

Life is full of suprises and love is the most perplexing mystery of them all... - Lady Rothburg's Advice

Emma Wildes has done it again, engaging the reader in another splendid regency romance full of wicked seductions and tender romance. While this book is the author's second offering in the historical romance genre, the story is not connected to her previous book, An Indecent Proposition, so do not feel you have to read these two books in published order.

So, we start off by meeting Brianna Northfield, the sweet, young bride of the Duke of Rolthven, Colton Northfield. Colton is as straight-laced as they come and the typical aristocrat who is all about duty and honor to his station. But after three months of marriage, and very little free time together, Brianna fears that if she can't keep Colton happy, he may seek his happiness elsewhere - it is, of course, the aristocratic way. But Brianna loves her husband, and if Colton can't comprehend that, perhaps a little penned advice from a courtesan may help Brianna's cause. Armed with suggestions from the scarlet lady, Brianna seduces her husband, causing him to trip over himself in surprise as he falls for her hook, line and sinker. But when things get really heated in and outside the bedroom, Colton begins to wonder where his young, seemingly-innocent bride is learning all these wicked tricks of seduction. Confiding in his rakish brother, Robert sees nothing wrong with having a beautiful wife wanting to entice and seduce her own husband and encourages Colton to enjoy it and consider himself the luckiest of men. What man wouldn't want that from his own wife?

Like An Indecent Proposition, Ms. Wildes weaves an enjoyable secondary story into this book with the focus shifting to Colton's brother Robert. When one of Brianna's closest friends needs to escape the attentions of an unwanted suitor, Robert steps in to help Rebecca, but both step out of their impromptu embrace feeling bereft. Rebecca's tell-tale blushes appear, even at the mention of Robert's name, but how can she approach the notorious rake when her parents are pushing her into the arms of the third, more respectable and marriageable Northfield brother, Damien? Damien recognizes the chemistry between Robert and Rebecca and offers to help her catch the rake's heart. But when Brianna loans Rebecca Lady Rothburg's wicked book, it might just give her the confidence she needs to go through with a seduction of her own. Can she eventually bring this rake to his knees?

Lessons from a Scarlet Lady starts first and foremost by introducing us to a short preface published in 1802 from a fictional book titled Lady Rothburg's Advice. As the story continues, each chapter starts off with an excerpt from this wicked tome, tying in nicely to the events of the story as they happen. I really like the use of this tool, which is nothing new, really, if you read a lot of historical romance like I do. The book also flip-flops between the two story lines, which at times does become a little annoying, especially when the plots thicken. Its like jumping between spoonfuls of chocolate ice cream and mashed potatoes... you kinda want to enjoy one before moving on to the next rather than alternating bites. Catch my drift? An Indecent Proposition appeared to have less noticeable seams in that regard.

But all that aside, Brianna and Colton's story was a breath of fresh air because their story takes place after they are already married, and this balances nicely with Robert and Rebecca's romantic chase. The stories really compliment and intertwine nicely which makes for a very enjoyable read. I did prefer Brianna and Colton's story more, which makes sense since they were the primary characters of the book. But Robert and Rebecca's story frustrated me somewhat because I saw so much potential for highlighting their shared love of music or even communicating their feelings through music, but that whole part just seemed to fade away. I also wanted to know more about Rebecca's compositions and how she came to compose her works - like how her moods or unrequited love may have been illustrated in her music. I think it could have added a lot more depth and romance to the story. At times, Robert's character seemed a little forced to feel what the author felt he should be feeling but perhaps focusing on the music could have softened his heart even more. A lost opportunity, in my opinion. And while Rebecca is clearly the aggressor in this story, she becomes a bit too aggressive especially given the time-period and that really irked me.

Now, I must talk about brother number three... I loved Damien and really wished there had been more to his story. He was bright, fun to read and seemed like a really neat guy all-around. He saw the clues and formed a plan, then plotted against his own brother and enjoyed every moment of watching him fall victim to the seduction by his future mate. At the same time, he was sensitive and caring and really became the hero of Robert and Rebecca's story, in my opinion. While I appreciate that he wasn't ensconced in a love triangle, he just added a dash of je ne sais quoi to the whole tale. With that, I was a tad disappointed with the epilogue because it really didn't tell the reader anything new. It would have been nice to see a year or two down the road, and maybe include an update on Damien, or perhaps a teasing request from him to borrow the book. An update on Brianna and Colton's story would have been equally welcomed considering how their tale ended. BUT, we did get a treat with Lady Rothburg's epilogue to her book, which was perfection and really a reminder for us all.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, even if I did enjoy An Indecent Proposition a bit more. I highly recommend both of Ms. Wildes' historical works and look forward to her next Signet release My Lord Scandal due out in September which starts a series titled The Jaded Gentlemen. Ms. Wildes also has a backlist of books in the erotica section should you wish to explore her other works. I'll stick with the historicals. :)

My rating: 7 – I really enjoyed it

Saturday, May 8, 2010

An Indecent Proposition

It’s the talk of the town. In a less than sober moment, London’s two most notorious rakes—the Earl of Manderville and the Duke of Rothay—placed a very public wager on which of them is the superior lover. Now it’s too late to retract the foolish bet, but what woman of beauty, intelligence, and discernment, would consent to bed both men—and declare which is more skilled in satisfying her deepest desires?

Lady Carolyn Wynn is the last woman anyone would expect to step forward. She’s a respectable young widow with an icy reputation, which has kept her firmly off the marriage market. She may not desire another husband, but her brief marriage has left her with some scandalous questions about the act of love.

If the men will keep her identity a secret, she’ll decide who has the most finesse between the sheets. But to everyone’s surprise, what begins as an indelicate proposition turns into a most astonishing lesson in everlasting love…

I could not put this book down!

Sweet and steamy - this one is a keeper! I sort of hesitated when I bought this book because I don't make a point of seeking out the extra-sensual reads and the back cover blurb (above) doesn't exactly beat around the bush. However, I was very pleasantly surprised that the story line had wonderful substance, which truly made it a fabulous read.

Yes, there are two rakes who made a bet over drunken arrogance. And yes, there is a chilly widow who offers herself to be the judge between them, but there is so much more to this story! Caroline is a highly respected and beautiful young widow who has no desire to ever remarry given the fact that her first husband treated her terribly, in and outside the marriage bed. As a result, she is known for her chilly reputation when it comes to men but underneath the layers of ice Caroline yearns for the passion that was denied her in marriage and, really, who would ever suspect she would offer to help these two rakes settle this absurd, but very public bet anyway? With both men promising discretion, Nicholas Manning, the Duke of Rothay is genuinely intrigued by this woman and arranges his rendezvous first.

Meanwhile, Derek Drake, the Earl of Manderville dives into a subplot of his own and we quickly learn that a mistake he made a year ago was the reason that this whole wager came to be in the first place. As a result, he is now forced to watch the woman he loves prepare to marry another man. But when Caroline and Nick return from their week in the country, could it be that these two rakes discover much more than what they had bargained for?

I really enjoyed this book and loved how the author intertwined these two stories. Nick and Caroline’s relationship develops quickly given the circumstances, but both are bright, intelligent people who share more than just chemistry and a wariness when it comes to love. Derek and Annabel’s story may have started a year ago, but Annabel has tried hard to put the past behind her while Derek has been brooding and regretful ever since. Can these four people find their happiness?

Derek’s subplot is sweet and romantic while Nick’s story is more tender and passionate. And, really, it’s a beautiful balance. This was a fabulous debut into historical romance for Emma Wildes, and I can’t wait to start reading her second book in this genre, Lessons From a Scarlet Lady, which was released earlier this year. Ms. Wildes also has a backlist of books that can be found in the erotica section if you hanker for more, but myself, I will stick with her historical romance works and hope she continues to write in this genre!

My rating: 9 – LOVED it!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mastering the Marquess

Since the loss of her parents, Meredith Burnley has contented herself with a solitary life looking after her half-sister, Annabel. But Meredith's peace is shattered when her uncle schemes to marry her off to his son in order to gain her inheritance. Desperate, Meredith has only one choice: to flee with Annable to their estranged grandparents' home. But their arrival soon reignites a family scandal - and kindles unexpected romance...

Happily reunited with the girls, Annabel's grandmother resolves to convince her nephew, Stephen Mallory, the Marquess of Silverton, to abandon his rakish lifestyle and wed Annabel. Stephen is clearly captivated - but with the wrong sister! Determined to make Meredith his own, Stephen embarks on a seduction that will leave her with no choice but to surrender to his touch...

What a delightful debut!

My review coming up!