Listening to the Classics: Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen – Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

Sense and SensibilityFor my last Classics Corner post, I chose to listen to and review a very new recording by one of my favourite narrators.  I confess that when it comes to Jane Austen’s novels, I have an A team and a B team. The A team consists of Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, and the B team of Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey. Mansfield Park kind of hovers between the two – it’s a wonderful book but the heroine is difficult to like and understand for much of it, which can make it a bit problematic.

While I own at least one version of my Austen A team books in audio, I don’t have any of the B team ones, so when I saw that Rosalyn Landor had recently recorded Sense and Sensibility (and also Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion), it was the perfect opportunity for me to try an audiobook of S&S.

You can read the rest of this article at AudioGals.

A Pressing Engagement (Lady Darby #4.5) by Anna Lee Huber

02_A Pressing Engagement
This title may be purchased from Amazon.

With her wedding to fellow investigator Sebastian Gage only a day away, Kiera is counting down the hours. But just when matrimonial jitters threaten to consume her, Kiera receives a welcome distraction in the form of a mysterious gold necklace.

The Celtic torc, thought missing for decades, was directly involved in a recent investigation. Now, Kiera feels compelled to uncover the truth behind its sudden reappearance.

But with an overwhelming flock of wedding guests, a muddled cat, an unpaid favor, and a ferocious storm throwing things into disarray, it’s anyone’s guess whether Kiera and Gage will actually make it to the altar…

Rating:B

Fans of Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby mysteries have followed the adventures of the unusual and talented Keira Darby and her fellow investigator, the gorgeous Sebastian Gage through four books, now, in which the couple has gone from an initial mistrust and animosity to grudging respect, liking, the stirrings of attraction and, finally, love. At the end of the third book, A Grave Matter Gage proposed and in the fourth, A Study in Death, they were an engaged couple, working alongside each other to solve a mystery involving a case of poisoning and the misplacement of some valuable artefacts.

In the next book, As Death Draws Near, we will finally see them as a married couple continuing their already established strong and complementary working relationship as they adjust to marriage, but before that release in July, comes A Pressing Engagement an eighty-three page novella which takes place on the day before (and day of) the wedding, as a nice little teaser to whet our appetites for the release of the next book in July.

From the previous book, we already know that Keira was being driven round the bend by her sister Alana’s enthusiasm about the wedding preparations and her wishing to ensure it is a spectacular occasion. Deep down, Keira doesn’t want all the fuss – she’d happily marry Gage over the anvil – but at that time, Alana, heavily pregnant, needed something to stop her brooding about the impending birth, so Keira allowed her to fuss and fret while she and Gage pursued their latest enquiry.

Even though she gave birth just weeks ago, Alana is up and running around making sure things are organised and double-organised, and Keira finds it hard to summon up an interest in how many flounces are on her dress or how many flower arrangements there should be… so when her cousin Jock arrives bearing a gift which she and Gage suspect may be linked to their previous investigation, there is only one thing to be done. They must find out the truth, but have only the day in which to do it.

I should say first off that anyone who hasn’t read at least a couple of the books in the series, especially the last one, is likely to be completely adrift reading this story, as it doesn’t work as a standalone. Apart from the central couple, there are several recurring characters making an appearance, and the continuance of the various familial relationships that have already been established.

Truth to tell, the mystery aspect of the plot is a little flimsy and isn’t really what interested me; I was in it for the wedding and to watch Keira and Gage working together again. The relationship between Keira and her sister is very well-done, and there is a nicely poignant conversation between them towards the end, in which Keira is brought to admit that perhaps she has been a little selfish in her disinterest in the wedding preparations. I loved how she confronted Gage’s father and put her foot down, and most of all, how well she and Gage work together and complement each other.

A Pressing Engagement is a welcome bit of filler for those of us eagerly awaiting the next book, but anyone who likes the sound of it but hasn’t read the other books should go back to the beginning and start with The Anatomist’s Wife. If you’ve enjoyed Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia mysteries or Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily books, you won’t be disappointed.

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The Trouble with Being Wicked (Naughty Girls #1) by Emma Locke (audiobook) – Narrated by Marian Hussey

the trouble with being wicked audio
This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon.

HE PUT HER ON A PEDESTAL
When Celeste Gray arrives in the sleepy village of Brixcombe-on-the-Bay, she thinks she’s one step closer to leaving her notorious past behind. She even suspects the deliciously handsome–if somewhat stuffy–viscount next door is developing a tendre for her. That is, until the day Ashlin Lancester learns she’s not the unassuming spinster she’s pretending to be.

NOW SHE HAS FARTHER TO FALL
After a decade of proving he is nothing like his profligate father, Ash is horrified to have given his heart to a Cyprian. He launches a campaign to prove his attraction is nothing more than a sordid reaction he can’t control. But he soon learns that unlike his father, he can’t find comfort in the arms of just any woman. He needs Celeste. When he takes her as his mistress, he’s still not satisfied, and the many late nights in her arms only make him want more…

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – D

I decided to review The Trouble with Being Wicked solely on the strength of narrator Marian Hussey whose work has impressed me in the past. I was also quite intrigued by the book synopsis, which tells of a romance between an ex-courtesan and an uptight, very proper young viscount who is so desperate to put his tragic family history behind him that he has become a complete killjoy and is gradually suffocating his sisters with his over-protectiveness.

Celeste Gray is the most sought after courtesan in London but, at thirty-three, is tired of that life and wants to leave it behind. Having amassed herself a considerable fortune over the past eighteen years, she purchases a cottage in a small village called Brixcombe-on-the-Bay in Devon and travels there with her very pregnant friend, Elizabeth, with a view to making her home there. The cottage’s former owner, Ashlin Lancester, Viscount Trestin, comes over to see how the ladies are settling in and immediately senses that not all is as it seems. I have no idea how, but he determines that Elizabeth is not a respectable married lady and is extremely disgruntled because of the lustful thoughts Celeste inspires. Because of course it’s her fault for being so shaggable, and nothing to do with Ash at all.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match by Juliana Gray

the duke of olympia meets his matc
This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Aboard the luxuriously appointed SS Majestic, the duke is on a mission to retrieve a most important portfolio of papers and thwart a known anarchist. As the ship steams across the Atlantic, the duke’s search for the notorious master of disguise forces him into close quarters with an American heiress and her widowed governess, Mrs. Penelope Schuyler.

While Olympia has known his fair share of intriguing women, Mrs. Schuyler seems to have a way of challenging his expectations at every turn. But as their clandestine meetings lead them down an unexpected path, the duke must determine if Penelope is a woman to be trusted…

Rating:B+

Juliana Gray neatly bridges the gap between her recent Princesses in Hiding series and her forthcoming one in this novella featuring the Machiavellian Duke of Olympia. In the earlier books, readers were introduced to this distinguished, powerful, older man as he pulled strings behind the scenes in order to save the lives of his three nieces, princesses of a minor principality whose lives were in danger because of the revolution that killed the rest of their family.

Olympia has the ear of the Queen, is a major player in political circles – both national and international – and is a spymaster of considerable note. In short, he’s one of the most influential men in England, and has been serving his country in countless ways for the best part of five decades. Now in his early seventies, he is starting to think that perhaps he deserves a different life, one not filled with dangerous secrets which requires him to be forever looking over his shoulder. Yet he is once again pressed into service for his country when he undertakes a voyage from New York to England, as there is a dangerous French agent on the loose and Olympia is the only person suitably placed to be able to apprehend her and uncover whatever nefarious schemes she is concocting.

This is a terrific novella in many ways, not least of which is the fact that Ms Gray has taken a seventy-four year-old man and made him convincingly into both a dashing hero and a romantic lead. Come on – we all wanted to see the seventy-seven year-old Harrison Ford as Han Solo again, didn’t we? So there’s no problem whatsoever envisioning Olympia as an attractive, vital man. It helps that readers familiar with the author’s previous books will already know him as an imposing figure – well over six-feet tall, good-looking, well-built, silver-haired and fiercely intelligent – and from the events of those books, we know him to be a master of the game of espionage, a man who carefully considers the board before making his moves and who leaves little to chance.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

Fortune Favors the Wicked (Royal Rewards #1) by Theresa Romain (audiobook) – Narrated by Beverley A. Crick

fortune favors the wicked audio

As a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Benedict Frost had the respect of every man onboard and the adoration of the women in every port. When injury ends his naval career, the silver-tongued libertine can hardly stomach the boredom. Not after everything – and everyone – he’s experienced. Good thing a new adventure has just fallen into his lap…

When courtesan Charlotte Perry learns that the Royal Mint is offering a reward for finding a cache of stolen gold coins, she seizes the chance to build a new life for herself. As the treasure hunt begins, she realizes that her tenacity is matched only by Benedict’s and that sometimes adversaries can make the best allies. But when the search for treasure becomes a discovery of pleasure, they’ll be forced to decide if they can sacrifice the lives they’ve always dreamed of for a love they’ve never known.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

I’m a big fan of Theresa Romain’s historical romances and am a bit disappointed that so few of them are available in audio format. So naturally, when I saw that her latest book – Fortune Favors the Wicked – was going to be available as an audiobook, I jumped at the chance to listen to and review it. The story is just a little bit quirky, but at its heart is a well-written, tender and funny character-driven romance between a pair of slightly unusual but very likeable protagonists who team up to hunt for six trunks of gold sovereigns that have been recently stolen from the Royal Mint.

Charlotte Perry is the daughter of a country vicar who has, for the last ten years, made her living as a high-flying courtesan in London. Ruined at just seventeen and not wanting her family to suffer because of her, she opted to leave in order to make life easier for everyone. But now, she has returned to her small Derbyshire village, partly to escape the attentions of her most recent but abusive protector, and partly because she wants to secure the reward that has been posted for information leading to the recovery of the stolen gold. She plans to use the money to help her family, provide for her young daughter and, she hopes, to make a new life for herself away from London.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Listening to the Classics – Emma by Jane Austen, narrated by Alison Larkin

emma audio

2015 marked the 200th anniversary of the publication of Emma, which is actually my favourite of Jane Austen’s books. The opening lines are simply brilliant, telling the listener all they need to know about the heroine

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

while clearly indicating that what is to come is likely to prove both distressing AND vexing!

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Lords of Misrule (Roundheads and Cavaliers #4) by Stella Riley

Lords of Misrule March 2016

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Still tied to his desk in the Intelligence Office, Colonel Eden Maxwell has become increasingly disenchanted with both Oliver Cromwell and his own daily existence; and with the advent of new Royalist conspiracies, he despairs of ever getting away.

Then a brick hurled through the window of a small workshop sets in motion a new and unexpected chain of events. After all, who would want to hurt Lydia Neville – a young widow, giving work and self-respect to maimed war veterans considered unemployable elsewhere? But when the assaults in Duck Lane escalate, threatening the life and remaining limbs of some of Eden’s former troopers, finding the culprit becomes a personal crusade.

At their first meeting, Lydia finds Colonel Maxwell annoying; by their second, having discovered that he had arrested and questioned her brother in connection with the Ship Tavern Plot, she mistrusts his motives. On the other hand, it swiftly becomes plain that she needs his help … and has difficulty resisting his smile.
Solving the increasingly hazardous mystery surrounding Lydia is not Eden’s only task. Between plots to assassinate the Lord Protector and a rising in Scotland, he must also mend the fences within his own family and get to know his son. Life suddenly goes from mind-numbing boredom to frenetic complexity.

With reckless Cavaliers lurking around every corner and a government still struggling to find its way, Lords of Misrule is set against a time of national discontent and general failure. But readers of the previous books in the series can look forward to catching up with old friends as well as meeting new ones … while, against all the odds, Eden and Lydia find danger and reward in equal measure.

Rating:A

Stella Riley’s Roundheads and Cavaliers series of books set during the English Civil Wars is an absolute treat for those who enjoy well-researched historical fiction AND historical romance. Each book in the series is grounded strongly in historical fact and the stories Ms Riley layers atop her chosen background are cleverly constructed and closely interlinked with the events of the day, often so skilfully that it’s difficult to see the join. As well as immersing the reader into the world of seventeenth century England, she puts a strongly written and sensual romance at the centre of her books, creating attractive, believable protagonists who really seem to act and think like men and women of their times.

Each book can be read as a standalone, although there are a number of recurring characters throughout and given that the historical events are followed chronologically, I’d advise reading them in order. The first book, The Black Madonna opens in 1639, which is when we first meet Eden Maxwell as a hopeful, optimistic young man of twenty or twenty-one. He is desperately in love with the daughter of a neighbouring family, Celia Langley, and determined to marry her in spite of the warnings of friends and family who say she is wrong for him. Sadly for Eden, they are right. Celia is beautiful, vain and selfish and only agreed to marry him because he was so thoroughly besotted with her that she believed he’d be easy to manage and because she liked being so adored.

Eden’s troubles did not end there, however, for when civil war broke out, the Maxwells and the Langleys were on different sides of the conflict and even though Celia was now his wife, her sympathies were with the Royalists. She bore Eden a son, Jude, and some years later, a daughter Eden knows is not his. Celia eventually ran off with a Royalist officer, leaving her children at Eden’s family home of Thorne Ash, while disillusioned and embittered, Eden concentrated on his army career and rarely returns home.

Lords of Misrule opens in late 1653, around four years after the execution of King Charles I and more than a decade after the start of a series of bloody civil wars that divided England and its people. But regicide has not solved any of the problems that beset the country, and in fact things seem to be getting worse. While there were many factors that led to Charles’ trip to the executioner’s block – unpopular taxes, expensive wars and Charles’ insistence on his divine right to rule – England is still in political and social turmoil, so much so that many of Cromwell’s supporters have begun to ask themselves just what exactly they had been fighting for.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

You can read a guest post by the author HERE.

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