Thursday, April 9, 2009

Midsummer Eve at Rookery End, by Elizabeth Hanbury

show_image_in_imgtag I have found the best book of short stories ever!

Elizabeth Hanbury is back and better than ever. Her new book available on contains three cleverly written Regency short stories, all from the same evening at the Midsummer ball at Rookery End.

The evening begins with Siren's Daughter, the story of true love gone astray. Miss Deborah King wrote off Sir Benedict Catesby years ago when he left her without a word. Heart broken, she continued on with her life with her overbearing aunt, believing her true love had betrayed her. Sir Benedict, left at the altar heartbroken, leaves the area when his letter to Deborah goes unanswered, and he determines she no longer wishes to marry him. A fateful meeting at Rookery End brings out the hurt of both parties, each accusing the other of betrayal. When the truth is revealed, the pair realize their love had indeed endured the years of separation, and they vow never to let scheming aunts and loyal maids come between them again.

Our next tale, Blue Figured Silk, tells the story of the rakish Marquess of Shaftesbury and the inconspicuous Eve Leighton. By a stroke of luck and a near-assignation with a widow, the Marquess comes to the rescue of Miss Leighton as she is fighting off a suitor determined to have her as he wishes. For the Marquess, it is love at first sight, and he realizes Eve is all he has waited for. Eve, however, is overshadowed by her beautiful younger sister and her title-hungry mother. The Marquess does not give up, and as the Leighton's are leaving the Rookery, the Marquess rushes after them, or for that matter, after Eve. He knows she is the only woman that he could imagine spending the rest of his life with. After all, what is more perfect than Eve finding her Adam?

The final story, A Scandal at Midnight, is perhaps the sweetest of all. Verity, a well-born governess to Miss Amelia Gardiner, is overcome with hopelessness when she receives a letter from her charge indicating she has eloped with her true love George, against her father's wishes. Miss Gardiner is promised to Sir Tristan Millforte, who according to her, is an old man that would make her a dreadful husband. Verity enlists the help of Sir Tristan, and is surprised to find that he is neither old nor dreadful, but quite handsome and willing to help her catch her errant charge. When Sir Tristan informs Verity he is aware of no arrangement between Miss Gardiner and himself, they realize that matchmaking has been going on behind their backs, and there was no need for Miss Gardiner to flee to Scotland to marry her love. During the search for the two lovers, Sir Tristan is taken with Verity and realizes he has found someone that he could easily spend the rest of his life with. Verity also finds herself under his spell and before the evening is through, more than one couple is engaged.

If you are a lover of short stories as I am, then I definitely suggest you pick up, or download this book. The stories are well written and entertaining, encompassing all the wit that I've come to love from Elizabeth Hanbury's writing. She is a refreshing change in the romance novel world, so don't miss out on this collection!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

One Reckess Summer, by Toni Blake


I've always been a fan of summer and its seemingly endless potential for romantic possibilities. When I was younger, those possibilities were my own. Things change, evolving as they should, and now I find my promise of a summer fling within the pages of sizzling contemporary romance novels.

And yes,  just in time, I've found the perfect 2009 romantic beach read.

Apparently the first in a series of novels set in the same locale, Toni Blake's One Reckless Summer takes us to Destiny, Ohio. There we meet Jenny Tolliver, a middle school science teacher with a love of astronomy. At thirty-one, she's back in her hometown to recover from a serious blow to her self confidence - her "rat bastard" of a husband left her for a twenty-one year old - and coming home to Destiny seems like the perfect way to heal. Her mother, who died eighteen years before, was a pillar of the small community and her father is still chief of police. Safely ensconced in the small house by the lake where she grew up, Jenny hopes to spend the summer figuring out a few things, in particular what to do with the rest of her life.

Mick Brody, on the other hand, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks - or in this case, the wrong side of Blue Valley Lake. With abusive parents and a law-breaking brother, Mick was always considered a bad seed by the town's upstanding citizenry. But several years filled with exceedingly stupid life choices - and a lengthy prison sentence for his brother - leads Mick to reconsider his own dismal future. He decides to take a different path by settling down to a relatively normal life as a bricklayer in Cincinnati.

Not long after arriving back in Destiny, Jenny, already looking for a distraction, decides to check out the night stars from the other side of the lake. After all, the Brody land has been abandoned for years, what with one brother in jail and Mick, the hunky younger brother, living who knows where.  But when Jenny runs into Mick on a secluded path in the woods behind  his family's cabin, one thing leads to another, and, in one of my favorite seduction scenes ever (yes, ever!), these two get reacquainted in a hurry.

But Mick has a secret, and despite what passes between them, he's not going  to spill it and demands that she leave and never come back.  "Good girl" Jenny, who should be horrified by what she let happen - isn't. Curious about him and eager for more of how he makes her feel, she returns to his side of the lake and discovers the reason for all of the cloak and dagger. While it may be illegal, it's not what she expects and we see a side of Mick that endears him further to Jenny - and to us as well.

Toni Blake's latest  is well-written, fast paced and puts the reader smack in the middle of a long, hot Destiny summer. And speaking of heat, there's plenty of it, making me think that the best place to read this 350+ page lustful wonder is right in front of the air conditioner.

One Reckless Summer is a bookshelf must. I was lucky to get my hands on an advance copy; the official publication date is set for May 26, 2009.  Mark your calendars. In any season, this is one you definitely don't want to miss.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sins of a Wicked Duke, by Sophie Jordan

h_soawd Sophie Jordan's latest novel plots servant versus scandalous Duke.  Who will win?

Fallon's life was turned upside down when her father died and she was cast off from the estate in which he worked.  She is sent to the Penwich School for Virtuous Women, where she is educated and ridiculed at the same time.  Making her way as a governess and servant, she encounters many a master that would like to take advantage of her beauty, only to find a strong-willed woman underneath, not willing to become someones playmate.  Her virtuousness gets her in trouble, and she is dismissed from her employer for not bending to his will.  A chance rescue in her time of need brings her to the attention of Dominic, the Duke of Damon.  The Duke is taken with her beauty, but she declines his offer vehemently and vows to never bend to any man's will, no matter how stirred she is by him.

Dominic has a reputation as a notorious rake, and he does everything he can to keep this particular opinion of himself.  Having no time for society, he is found with a different woman, or women- every night.  His staff, used to his ways, turns a blind eye, until Francis comes along.  Francis is a pretty footman with lovely eyes and short blond hair, curiously resembling  a certain woman that needed his help one evening.  In her cleverness, Fallon realizes the one way she can earn a living without having a man begging for her favors is to pose as a man.  Dangerous to be sure, but it works!  One evening footman "Francis" comes to the rescue of the Duke from a jealous husband, and is promoted to valet suddenly.  This is the worst thing that can happen, as the Duke is not only a rake, but a handsome one and Fallon is attracted to him despite her guise as a footman.  Her ruse is discovered and both the Duke and Fallon give in, starting them on a path that cannot possibly end happily.  Then when an unexpected offer from the estate where her father worked is presented to her, Fallon sees her chance to live independently.  If she cannot have the Duke, then she wants no one.

The two main characters in this book are beautifully written; flawed, intense and engaging.  Both are damaged and desperate to have a "normal life" and forget the horrors of the past.  Sophie Jordan is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors!  Her storytelling is very refreshing and lively, bringing a wide range of emotions to each story.  This is definitely one to pick up!