The Hunter (Victorian Rebels #2) by Kerrigan Byrne (audiobook) – Narrated by Derek Perkins

The Hunter audio

This title is available to download from Audible

Christopher Argent lives in the shadows as the empire’s most elite assassin. Emotion is something he tossed away years ago, making him one of the most clear-eyed, coldhearted, wealthiest, and therefore untouchable men in London.

But when his latest target turns out to be London’s own darling, Millicent LeCour, Christopher’s whole world is turned upside down. Overwhelmed by her stunning combination of seduction and innocence, Christopher cannot complete the mission. She has made him feel again. Now he will do anything to save her life, so he can claim her as his own…

When Millie learns what Christopher was hired to do, she is torn between the fear in her heart and the fire in her soul. Putting herself in this notorious hunter’s arms may be her only path to safety – even if doing so could be the deadliest mistake she’s ever made. But how can she resist him? As the heat between her and Christopher burns out of control, danger lurks in the shadows. Is their desire worth the risk? Only the enemy knows what fate has in store…

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B

In this second book in her Victorian Rebels series, Kerrigan Byrne delivers another dark, lushly romantic tale featuring a deeply flawed hero who is most ably brought to life by Derek Perkins in another accomplished and engaging performance. Christopher Argent (The Hunter of the title) is widely known to be one of the deadliest – if not THE deadliest – men in all of the British Empire. A cold, ruthless assassin, listeners encountered him briefly towards the end of the previous book in the series, The Highwayman, where he was revealed to be a long-time associate of Dorian Blackwell, and his right-hand man in the war they fought some years ago for the control of the criminal underworld.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

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Six Degrees of Scandal (Scandalous #4) by Caroline Linden

six degrees of scandal

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Olivia Townsend is in trouble and out of options. Pursued by a dangerous man in search of a lost treasure she doesn’t possess, she’s got only two things in her favor: her late husband’s diary, which she was never meant to see… and the man who was her first—and only—love. Losing him broke her heart, though she’s been careful to hide it for the last ten years. But when he comes to her aid and vows to stand by her, no matter what, she can’t help but hope things will be different for them this time.

James Weston has blamed himself for letting Olivia down when she needed him years ago, and now he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe—and to win her trust again. He’s confident he can outwit the villain chasing Olivia. But being so near her again threatens to expose every secret in his heart … even those that he swore would stay hidden forever.

Rating: B+

I’ve enjoyed every book in Caroline Linden’s Scandalous series and the latest, Six Degrees of Scandal is no exception. The books are all linked by the popular 50 Ways to Sin series of erotic stories penned by the mysterious Lady Constance, a woman whose sexual encounters with men who are often thinly disguised versions of gentlemen of the ton. Readers have followed Lady Constance’s uninhibited search for erotic pleasure, and society is rife with speculation as to the identity of the author. One of the draws of Six Degrees is her promised reveal – which I’m not going to spoil, other than to say that it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

For all that though, the discovery of the truth about Lady Constance is just one of many things to enjoy in this beautifully told story of love lost and regained.

A decade or so before the main story starts, we meet young Olivia Herbert and James (Jamie) Weston, and follow them briefly through adolescence and into young adulthood, charting the development of a deep and meaningful friendship that blossoms into love. When they are just seventeen and twenty-one respectively, they pledge themselves to each other and give themselves to each other in full expectation of becoming betrothed at the earliest opportunity. Olivia’s father is in desperate need of money and Jamie’s father is incredibly wealthy, so neither of them foresees any objection from either party. But Jamie, with the over-confidence and lack of foresight of youth, makes a disastrous decision which sees him leave home on his father’s business without first asking for Olivia’s hand.

Neither he nor Olivia knew how desperate the Herbert’s financial situation truly was, and even though James is absent for only a short time, he returns to find Olivia already married to Henry Townsend, whose wealthy father has paid her father’s debts in return for finding a steady wife for his somewhat rackety son.

Over the years, James has taken great pains to avoid coming into contact with Olivia, throwing himself into the various projects which have amassed him a tidy fortune. But work is no substitute for love and he has never been able to forget her or stop loving her, which is why, at the beginning of the story, he travels to Gravesend in Kent in pursuit of her at the behest of his sister Penelope, who is one of Olivia’s closest friends.

Readers of Love in the Time of Scandal will recall that the now-widowed Olivia was being threatened by the unsavoury Lord Clary, who believed her to be in possession of something of her late husband’s that he desperately wanted. Having no idea what this could be, or any knowledge of Henry’s activities, Olivia tells Clary of her ignorance, but he doesn’t believe her and begins harassing her and her friends in order to get what he wants. Scared for her life, Olivia runs, but not before she receives an unusual communication from one of Henry’s solicitors requesting the return of a record-book that should have been destroyed with all his other papers.

Suspecting that the book could shed some light on what Clary is after, Olivia refuses to hand it over, having begun to believe that Henry must have been involved in something underhand. When Jamie arrives in Gravesend, Olivia is surprised but relieved to see him, and this is one of the things I really liked about the book; Olivia isn’t too proud to accept the help he offers. Jamie knows he let her down badly all those years ago and is determined to do better this time; and I loved how his talent for logic and strategy so often help the pair of them to find another piece of the puzzle and take a step forward in their search for the truth.

While the mystery – two of them, if you count the one surrounding the identity of Lady Constance – is a key element of the storyline, it is never allowed to eclipse the rekindling of the romance between Olivia and Jamie. Their situation is a potentially perilous one and so there is no need for the author to insert silly roadblocks in order to prolong or create dramatic tension; events flow smoothly and naturally with the stakes getting gradually higher and higher as the book progresses. Of course, there is never any question that Jamie and Olivia will end up together, but that doesn’t matter because Ms Linden has written their path back to each other so beautifully, and with such maturity and understanding, that it’s a delight to read.

The characterisation of the two leads is particularly strong and their story is not so much one of a couple falling in love as it is of a couple who have always loved one another but need to grow back into love and to regain their trust in each other. Their relationship is very much one of equals. Olivia is a strong woman who is capable of doing things for herself and standing on her own two feet, but who also has the strength to admit that she doesn’t have to go it alone any more. And Jamie is just adorable. Sweet, capable and sexy, he’s a wonderful beta hero who never patronises Olivia or tries to wrap her in cotton wool – much as he would like to – because he recognizes her need to play her part in their plans and has confidence in her ability to do so.

Six Degrees of Scandal is an excellent way to end what has been one of the most consistently well-written and enjoyable historical romance series to appear in the last few years. I’m sorry to see it reach a conclusion, but am happy it’s ended on such a strong note and I know it’s a series of books I will revisit. Anyone who has been keeping up with the Westons (and the Burkes) won’t be disappointed with the way things wrap up, and for anyone who hasn’t yet read any of the series – you’re missing out, so go and get yourself a copy of Love and Other Scandals and get started!

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Because of Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys #1) by Julia Quinn

because of miss bridgerton

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Sometimes you find love in the most unexpected of places…

This is not one of those times.

Everyone expects Billie Bridgerton to marry one of the Rokesby brothers. The two families have been neighbors for centuries, and as a child the tomboyish Billie ran wild with Edward and Andrew. Either one would make a perfect husband… someday.

Sometimes you fall in love with exactly the person you think you should…

Or not.

There is only one Rokesby Billie absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is George. He may be the eldest and heir to the earldom, but he’s arrogant, annoying, and she’s absolutely certain he detests her. Which is perfectly convenient, as she can’t stand the sight of him, either.

But sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humor…

Because when Billie and George are quite literally thrown together, a whole new sort of sparks begins to fly. And when these lifelong adversaries finally kiss, they just might discover that the one person they can’t abide is the one person they can’t live without…

Rating: B

There can’t be many people in Romancelandia who haven’t at the very least heard of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series. Through eight books (not including the subsequently published set of Second Epilogues), we followed the eight Bridgerton siblings as they found love, romance and their happily ever afters, and they’ve become some of the most beloved and iconic creations in the historical romance genre.

The problem for any author who has achieved such a feat must be how on earth to follow such a resounding success? Ms Quinn has written a number of enjoyable historical romances since she finished with the Bridgertons, but it seems that none of those has quite managed to work its way into the hearts and minds of readers as that family has. It’s been almost ten years since the last full-length novel in the series, but finally, there’s a new Bridgerton book on the scene and of course what people want to know is – is it any good? And – is it as good as the earlier series?

Honestly? Yes and no. Yes, it’s a good read and I enjoyed it. But no, it’s not The Viscount Who Loved Me or When He Was Wicked. But there is a truly evil game of Pall Mall and the Mallet of Death makes an appearance, if that’s any consolation!

If you’re looking for a story with lots of action and derring-do, Because of Miss Bridgerton isn’t it. It’s one of those books where the romance IS the story, and I liked that about it because it’s a delicious slow build and I was content to just watch things unfold and enjoy the way the protagonists gradually began to see each other in a different light. Snarky-not-quite-friends-to-lovers is a plot device I usually enjoy, so the basic storyline appealed to me straight away; and while the book doesn’t pack the emotional punch found in some of the original Bridgerton tales, the two central characters are very well drawn and fleshed out and it’s easy to believe in their emotional connection.

When we first meet Billie – Sybilla – Bridgerton, she is stranded on a roof because she climbed up an adjacent tree in order to rescue a kitten that quite obviously didn’t want to be rescued. Stuck on a roof with a badly sprained ankle and not much daylight left, Billie is at first delighted to see a distant figure heading in her direction – and then dismayed as she realises it’s the one person she really doesn’t want to find her in such a situation, her neighbor, George Rokesby, Viscount Kennard. Son and heir of the Earl of Manston, George is around five years older than Billie, who used to run wild with his younger brothers, Andrew and Edward, while George was receiving the education befitting the heir to an earldom. For some reason they can’t quite fathom, George and Billie have never really seen eye to eye; she’s vibrant and impulsive whereas George has responsibilities to live up to and is the frequent target of his brothers’ and Billie’s teasing, all of them viewing him as a bit of a stuffed shirt.

He isn’t, of course. But he’s a man who takes his responsibilities as an earl’s heir seriously, even though he does chafe at the fact that his station in life precludes his doing anything other than waiting to inherit his father’s title. He can’t help the frustration he feels over the fact that Andrew and Edward are serving their country in the Navy and Army respectively, and the author does a good job in conveying that and the restlessness that dogs him beneath his usually stoic demeanour.

With the normally active Billie forced into a short period of inactivity, Andrew, home on leave because of a broken arm, is the one who would usually be the designated cheerer-upper. But even though he is his normal madcap self and he and Billie fall easily into their established pattern of a couple of fast-talking hellions, Billie is rather surprised to discover that it’s George she looks for each day, and even moreso at the disappointment she feels on the occasions Andrew visits her without his brother.

George is equally bewildered at the strength of the attraction he feels for Billie, having spent so long regarding her almost as an annoying younger sister. But she thinks he’s a boring stick-in-the-mud, doesn’t she? – so he has to hope that this ridiculous infatuation will pass before he betrays himself and ends up as the butt of even more of his brothers’ jokes.

I have to say that the book synopsis is a little misleading when it states that George and Billie can’t stand the sight of each other because that isn’t the case. It’s pretty clear from the start that dislike isn’t what keeps them at a distance from each other and the tension that crackles between them whenever they meet has another cause. Their story isn’t so much about hatred turning to love as it is about their coming to understand the reason they have never felt quite comfortable around one another and finally admitting the truth to themselves and each other.

Because of Miss Bridgerton takes place in 1779, and Billie is the elder sister of Edmund, who, as fans will know, is the father of Anthony, Benedict, Colin and the rest of the crew. Billie’s a tomboy who does far more around her father’s estate than anybody realises; she’s the de Facto manager to whom all go with their problems and she’s the one who makes all the decisions since her father has become increasingly less active in the running of their estate. Edmund is still at school and with nobody else to lean on, her father turned to forthright, quick-witted Billie, who prefers to be outdoors riding around the tenant farms or inspecting fencing and drainage than being cooped up inside and has no skill whatsoever in the usual feminine accomplishments like needlework or dancing. I’m not normally a big fan of this type of heroine, but Ms Quinn adds layers to her character by having her be so obviously insecure when it comes to having to venture beyond the estate and local community where everybody knows her and doesn’t question what society at large would undoubtedly term her eccentricities. But because she’s Billie, who manages basically everything, nobody gives much thought to her as a person, even her own family; and there’s something about that aspect of her character that really resonated with me, the idea that she has been fulfilling other peoples’ expectations of her for so long that they can’t see that isn’t who she really is.

The one person who really does see her is George.

And he kissed her tenderly, because this was Billie, and somehow he knew that no one ever thought to be tender with her.

As a couple, they complement each other; he lends her some much needed steadiness and she brings him out of his shell a little. Most importantly, she enables him to see that he is doing something just as valuable as his brothers by staying at home and maintaining their parcel of English soil as a place fit for fighting men to return to.

Although it’s fairly slow-moving, I enjoyed the developing love story and would certainly recommend the book on the strength of it. What doesn’t work so well however, is an odd sub-plot that concerns Edward, the second Rokesby brother, who is away fighting in America. Without giving too much away, events transpire that see George becoming unwittingly embroiled in a potentially dangerous situation, but it doesn’t make much sense and the ending is rushed and somewhat confused.

Ultimately though, readers will be invested in the love story between George and Billie, who are a likeable, well-matched couple with great chemistry and about whose mutual affection and understanding there is no doubt. Because of Miss Bridgerton is an entertaining story that has plenty of warmth and humour and I’m sure it will delight the author’s many fans.

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Duke of My Heart (A Season for Scandal #1) by Kelly Bowen (audiobook) – Narrated by Ashford MacNab

duke of my heart audio

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon

Scandal can be handled…

Captain Maximus Harcourt, the unconventional tenth Duke of Alderidge, can deal with tropical storms, raging seas, and the fiercest of pirates. But he’s returned home from his latest voyage to find a naked earl – quite inconveniently deceased – tied to his missing sister’s bed. And he has only one place to turn. Now he’s at the mercy of the captivating Miss Ivory Moore of Chegarre & Associates, known throughout London for smoothing over the most dire of scandals.

Miss Moore treats the crisis as though it were no more serious than a cup of spilt tea on an expensive rug. As though this sort of thing happened on the job every day. Max has never in all his life met a woman with such nerve. Her dark eyes are too wide, her mouth is too full, her cheekbones too sharp. Yet together, she’s somehow…flawless. It’s just like his love for her, imperfect, unexpected – yet absolutely true.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

I had pegged Kelly Bowen as an author to watch last year after I read and enjoyed her second book, A Good Rogue is Hard to Find, so I was pleased to see there was an audio version of Duke of My Heart, the first book in her new A Season for Scandal series. Ms Bowen is an excellent storyteller with a deftly humorous touch, and she has the knack for creating memorable and engaging characters, things she puts to good effect in her latest novel.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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The Widow and the Sheikh (Hot Arabian Nights #1) by Marguerite Kaye

the widow and the sheikh
This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Abandoned in the desert, Julia Trevelyan finds herself at the mercy of Azhar, an imposing yet impossibly handsome Arabian merchant. Determined not to be intimidated by her rescuer—or their sizzling attraction!—she asks for his help…

But Prince Azhar is in fact the rightful heir to the Qaryma throne, returned from exile to take back his inheritance! He knows a dalliance with the enticing English adventuress is out of the question, yet he can’t deny the temptation to claim both his throne… and Julia!

Rating: A-

Anyone who regularly peruses the romance sections of bookshops or the romance listings at Amazon will know that sheikhs are popular romantic heroes in many contemporary love stories. But there aren’t all that many to be found in historical romances, so I was intrigued when I saw that one of my favourite authors was writing a series set in the early nineteenth century in which the heroes were to be sheikhs. Marguerite Kaye has already written a couple of books which feature such characters (Innocent in the Sheikh’s Harem and The Governess and the Sheikh ) – but now comes her Hot Arabian Nights series, the first of which, The Widow and the Sheikh tells the story of a young Englishwoman and a desert prince, who find themselves trapped by circumstances and faced with difficult choices.

Julia Trevelyan awakens alone in her tent in the desert, drugged, robbed and abandoned by the guides she had hired for her journey. The widow of an eminent botanist, she is bound by her deathbed promise to her late husband to complete his final book and then see it published. But all her samples have been stolen along with her money and possessions and she is going to have to find a way to regroup so that she can begin her work again in order to complete the task. Fortunately, a fellow traveller who introduces himself as Azhar finds her and offers his help, explaining that he is a businessman and trader on his way to the kingdom of Qaryma. He offers to escort her to the capital where, he says, she will find everything she needs.

Julia gratefully accepts his proposal, but gets more than she had bargained for when, upon arrival at the Al Qaryma, Azhar reveals that he is in fact the Crown Prince, returning there for the first time in ten years. What he doesn’t immediately disclose is that his real purpose in returning is to assess the state of the kingdom and after a month, abdicate in favour of his brother, who has been ruling as regent since the death of their father.

Azhar is a deeply honourable man, but does not wish to be trapped by the demands of his position. He and his father never really saw eye-to-eye which, a decade earlier, led to Azhar’s leaving Qaryma determined never to return. He has made his own way in the world, growing a successful business empire that he enjoys running and is eager to get back to. To start with, all his focus is so strongly bent upon handing the kingdom over to his brother that he fails – or refuses – to acknowledge that all is not as it should be. But he cannot remain blind for long, and, realising that an outsider can offer a unique perspective, asks Julia to remain for one month, during which he will help her to catalogue the various and rare plants of his kingdom in return for her promising to tell him the truth about the things she sees around her in his kingdom and at the court. And, of course, this extended period of time together will also allow them to further explore their strong mutual attraction.

Both Julia and Azhar are well-drawn and engaging characters, but their determination to do the right thing means that making a life together looks to be an impossibility. Having experienced marriage to a man who, though not physically cruel, did not value her or see her as a person in her own right, Julia is now intent on retaining her independence. To this end, she decides to allow herself a month out of time; a month in which to explore her sexuality and desires with her attractive, fascinating rescuer – but after that, she will return to England and make a new life for herself there.

The romance between these two people from different worlds is beautifully written and extremely well developed. Their relationship is mutually beneficial on many levels, and I liked that Azhar trusted Julia enough to be able to share his concerns with her. She is able to provide valuable insight, while he shows her that her husband’s lack of response to her was far more of a reflection of the man’s own insecurities and fears than any fault of Julia’s. The attraction between the couple is so strong it leaps off the page, and they are not shy of acting upon it when the time is right. Ms Kaye is one of those authors who can write an intensely sensual love scene in just a few paragraphs, a talent she employs to great effect here; the scene in which the couple finally make love is one of the most deliciously romantic and sexy I’ve read in quite some time.

It’s evident that Ms Kaye knows her stuff and that her research is extensive. The idea of a western woman and a sheikh as a couple might seem outlandish, but truth really is stranger than fiction as the author reminds readers in her note at the end of the book, recalling the life of Lady Jane Digby – who was married to a sheikh. And this is one of the many things I always enjoy about her books; not only do I get to read a superbly developed romance with strong, well-drawn characters who pull me into the story, but she knows her history, too. Added to that, her descriptions of the desert landscapes, the exotic flora and opulence palace and grounds are so evocative as to put the reader right there among the shifting sands or the scented gardens.

If I have a complaint, it’s one that is engendered by the fact that the author has done such a great job in setting up her story. Azhar’s dilemma – being torn between his desire to live his own life and his innate sense of duty – is so vividly written and so incredibly well explored, that the resolution, when it comes, seems somewhat anti-climactic. That’s not to say that it’s implausible – because it most definitely isn’t – and of course, it’s wonderfully romantic. It just feels a little too easy given what has gone before. But it works and I liked that Ms Kaye has left readers with the sense that while love has triumphed, both characters are well aware that the path they have chosen will not be an easy one.

Even allowing for that minor reservation, The Widow and the Sheikh is such a strongly written, beautifully romantic story that I’m rating it highly. It’s one of the most moving books I’ve read recently, and one I have no hesitation in recommending.

The Study of Seduction (Sinful Suitors #2) by Sabrina Jeffries

the study of seduction
This title is available to purchase from Amazon

When Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to help his best friend’s impetuous ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, in her time of need, he knows he’s in for trouble. He’s been hunting for someone to wed, and she’ll just get in the way. Although captivated by the whip-smart, free-spirited beauty, he fears she’d be all wrong as a wife … if she would even take such a gruff cynic for her husband. Too bad he wants nothing more than to have her for his own.

Clarissa has no intention of marrying anyone—not Edwin, whom she’s sure would be an overbearing husband, and certainly not the powerful French diplomat stalking her. But when matters escalate with the diplomat, she chooses Edwin’s gallant offer of a marriage between friends in hopes that it will deter her stalker. She expects nothing more than an amiable union, but their increasingly tempestuous kisses prove more than she bargained for. When her stalker’s vow to expose the lovers’ deepest secrets threatens to destroy their blossoming attraction, will their tenuous bond withstand public ruin, or will Edwin lose all that’s important to him to protect his bride?

Rating: B+

This second book in Sabrina Jeffries’ current Sinful Suitors series picks up the story of Edwin Barlow, Lord Blakeborough, who appeared as a secondary character in her earlier Duke’s Men books. Although he came across as somewhat staid, Edwin is a kind, decent and honourable man, and, mindful of the fact that it’s time for him to do his duty to his family and his title, is looking about him for a wife. The future Lady Blakeborough will ideally be a quiet, sensible young woman who will peacefully and contentedly grace his home and table, warm his bed and bear his children.

His estate adjoins that of his closest friend, Warren, the Marquess of Knightford. Edwin, Warren and Warren’s cousin, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, more or less grew up together, and Edwin and Clarissa have always had a tendency to rub each other up the wrong way. Clarissa is very lovely but is otherwise everything Edwin tries to tell himself he doesn’t really appreciate in a woman; she’s flighty, lively and opinionated and takes delight in needling him, mocking his steadiness and his unsociability while she cuts a dash through society, a coterie of adoring swains in her thrall. An inveterate flirt, she keeps them dangling after her even though she has not the slightest interest in marrying any of them.

When Warren receives bad news about Clarissa’s brother Niall – who had to flee the country seven years ago following a duel in which he killed his opponent – he wants to leave immediately to see what can be done to help. But he is worried about Clarissa, who is being relentlessly pursued by a young French diplomat, and he doesn’t want to leave her without protection. To that end, he asks Edwin to stand in his stead and squire her around in his absence.

Neither Edwin nor Clarissa is particularly pleased at the arrangement, but they agree to it in order to put Warren’s mind at rest, and soon find themselves actually enjoying each other’s company while their mutual but unacknowledged attraction deepens. But the reappearance of Count Durand, whose desire for Clarissa borders on obsession, forces them into a faux-engagement in an attempt to get him to leave Clarissa alone – and when the Frenchman resorts to blackmail in order to force Edwin to abandon her to his blandishments, Edwin can see only one way to keep Clarissa safe. He must marry her himself, and quickly.

Such a plotline – long-standing-friends-who-are-secretly-crushing-on-each-other AND a forced marriage – is like catnip to yours truly, and both tropes work really well here. It was clear in the previous book (The Art of Sinning) that there was something bubbling just under the surface between Edwin and Clarissa, although Edwin was rather sweetly clueless about it; and Ms Jeffries builds skilfully on that, bringing both characters gradually to acknowledge the depth of the attraction between them but determined to keep it hidden for fear of rejection. And on Clarissa’s part, it’s quickly obvious that there is more to it than that. It’s fairly easy to guess what must have happened to her to have made her so wary of intimacy, and although there were times I really wanted to yell at her to just TALK to Edwin, I could understand her reluctance to do so. Ms Jeffries handles the subject of Clarissa’s experience sensitively, and in a way which feels fairly realistic; it’s always difficult to judge such things in books, as I’m not an expert and no one person will react in the same way, but I give the author credit for having done her homework so that Clarissa’s thoughts and fears (that what happened was all her fault) carry an appropriately strong resonance for the modern reader.

But it’s Edwin who is the star of the show. Handsome, honourable and endearingly geeky, he’s honest to the point of bluntness, finds it difficult to make small-talk, doesn’t suffer fools and isn’t particularly comfortable in social situations. Yet he’s a wonderfully sexy beta-hero and easily my favourite of all the heroes of Ms Jeffries’ I’ve encountered so far. The back-and-forth between him and Clarissa is well-written and often amusing, revealing Edwin to have a clever, dry sense of humour and to be much more sharply observant than many would believe. He’s intuitive and compassionate, but his parents’ disastrous marriage has led him to believe that romantic love is not something he really wants to experience. He cares very much for his family and friends, but his wariness of strong emotional attachments has led him to play up his gruff, serious manner as a way of keeping people at arm’s length. Yet Clarissa has been under his skin for longer than he has admitted to himself, and when he falls, he falls hard. I always love to see the grumpy hero falling head-over-heels, but what puts Edwin head-and-shoulders above so many other romantic heroes is the understanding and patience he shows Clarissa when he finds out what is causing her to hold herself back from him, and even more than that, the way in which he helps her to understand that it wasn’t her fault.

But fond as I am of Edwin, I can’t deny there are a couple of bumps in the story that brought my final grade down a little. I didn’t like the fact that he deliberately decided to keep some important information from Clarissa when he married her and effectively took away her ability to choose, even though his principal motive was to ensure her safety. And the villain of the piece only needs a cape to swirl, a moustache to twirl and an evil laugh to put him into the pages of “Evil for Dummies”.

In spite of those criticisms – which didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book at all – The Study of Seduction is a thoroughly engaging read. The air between Edwin and Clarissa crackles whenever they’re on the page together and the chemistry between them makes for some nicely sensual love scenes. It’s not absolutely necessary to have read the previous book or series in order to enjoy this, although reading If the Viscount Falls and The Art of Sinning might be necessary after you’ve fallen in love with Edwin and want to meet him again.

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My American Duchess by Eloisa James (audiobook) – Narrated by Kate Reading

My American Duchess audio

This title is available to purchase from Amazon.

The arrogant Duke of Trent intends to marry a well-bred Englishwoman. The last woman he would ever consider marrying is the adventuresome Merry Pelford – an American heiress who has infamously jilted two fiancés.

But after one provocative encounter with the captivating Merry, Trent desires her more than any woman he has ever met. He is determined to have her as his wife, no matter what it takes. And Trent is a man who always gets what he wants.

The problem is, Merry is already betrothed, and the former runaway bride has vowed to make it all the way to the altar. As honour clashes with irresistible passion, Trent realizes the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. In his battle to save Merry and win her heart, one thing becomes clear:

All is fair in love and war.

Rating: Narration – A+; Content – B

I don’t mind admitting that Eloisa James is one of those authors who is a bit hit and miss for me. I know she’s got a huge following who absolutely adore her books, so this is probably one of those times when “it’s not you, it’s me”, but of the books of hers I’ve read (which is by no means all), there have been more misses than hits. As a result, I wasn’t intending to pick up My American Duchess, thinking that I’d just move on to something else rather than risk another disappointment – until I saw that Kate Reading had been engaged to narrate it.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

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