A Warriner to Rescue Her (Wild Warriners #2) by Virginia Heath

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Tempted by the damsel in distress!

Captain James Warriner is startled to find a curvaceous beauty caught up a tree in his orchard! Despite his shattered leg, he rescues Miss Cassandra Reeves, then is determined to have nothing more to do with the enticing vicar’s daughter.

Except when Cassie seeks Jamie out to apologize, they find themselves persuaded to work together on her storybook. Secret liaisons with the dashing soldier make Cassie wish Jamie would rescue her once more… by making her his wife!

Rating: A-

When I read the first book in Virginia Heath’s Wild Warriners series, A Warriner to Protect Her, I was instantly smitten with Captain James Warriner – Jamie – the second eldest brother and former officer who is no longer able to serve due to a debilitating injury to his leg. In that book, Jamie emerged as a taciturn man who will do anything for those he loves, whose outwardly gruff manner hides the heart of a romantic and the soul of an artist. A Warriner to Rescue Her reveals more about Jamie’s past and the demons that continue to haunt him as he struggles to come to terms with his injuries and find a new purpose in life – and sees him falling head-over-heels in love with a most unusual young lady. The romance between this unlikely couple is beautifully written and overflowing with tenderness, but Jamie isn’t the only one whose past has left him with more than a few dragons to slay – and watching these two different but damaged people find their way to each other is an absolute delight.

The Earl of Markham and his brothers have always been shunned by their neighbours and the local villagers owing to the fact that the previous earls were unpleasant, untrustworthy drunkards with vicious tempers who never paid what they owed. The current earl – Jack Warriner – inherited nothing but a ramshackle home and a mountain of debt, and even if he could have afforded servants, nobody would have wanted to work for him, so he and his three brothers had to work the land themselves in order to make enough money to keep body and soul together. Unable to take more of an active role in working the estate, Jamie took on the role of housekeeper at Markham Manor, but since Jack married an heiress who brought servants from her London home to work there, Jamie has more time on his hands than he knows what to do with.

He is riding home one day when he hears a cry for help coming from the apple orchard within the manor grounds. Seeing a horse standing beneath one particular tree, he looks up to see a rather nice backside and a pair of shapely legs dangling from some way up, and realises the female in possession of those lovely attributes is stuck. Awkwardly, Jamie climbs up and helps to free her from the branch that seems to have captured her skirts and is helping her to descend when the lady makes a wrong move and they both plummet to the ground. Jamie ends up winded and flat on his back with a face full of wild hair and a warm, curvy armful sprawled across his chest.

Cassandra Reeves hastily apologises for her clumsiness and introduces herself as the daughter of the new vicar, cringing inwardly at the fact that she has likely just crushed the handsomest man she has ever seen.  But even that can’t keep her words from tripping over one another as she babbles on enthusiastically about wanting to get some apples for her horse and not realising that the apple trees were on private land.

When Cassandra – Cassie – pays a call the next day to thank Jamie for his assistance and to check that he is unhurt (she saw him limping and thinks he must have been hurt by their fall) – she is received warmly by Jack’s wife, Letty, but not by Jamie, who remains quiet and aloof throughout her visit.  When she mentions to her hostess that she makes up stories as a hobby and has begun one about yesterday’s misadventure, Letty immediately and eagerly seizes the chance to do a bit of matchmaking, and tells Cassie about Jamie’s talent as an artist, going so far as to suggest that perhaps he could provide illustrations for her story and they could have it published.

Jamie is not best pleased at his sister-in-law’s meddling. He’s already somewhat smitten with the pretty, voluble vicar’s daughter but knows he has nothing to offer any woman; he’s broken, both mentally and physically and has no way of making a living, not to mention he’s afraid of the dark and has certain other quirks  it would be impossible to keep from a wife. He brushes off Cassie’s questions and appreciation of the painting he is working on, and is surprised at the disappointment he feels at the likelihood that he will never see her again.

He is even more surprised, however, when Cassie visits again – this time in the company of her father, a fire-and-brimstone, bible-thumping bigot, whose overbearing, domineering manner turns Cassie into an unrecognisable shadow of the vibrant young woman Jamie knows her to be.  Jack tries to be polite in the face of the man’s insults, but Jamie is furious at his treatment of his daughter and all but throws the man out.  The Reverend Reeves is not one to take such treatment quietly, however, and having learned of the terrible reputation accorded to the Warriner family makes plans to denounce them in his next sermon.

Needing to assure himself that Cassie is safe and unharmed, Jamie braves the dark in order to speak to her properly, and during their conversation, finds himself opening up to her about his own father and telling her something of how he acquired his injuries.  He obliquely invites her to meet him the next afternoon, and they spend a couple of hours very companionably while Jamie paints and Cassie tells him about the progress of her story. Such meetings become the norm, and they each start to wonder if perhaps their growing feelings are reciprocated and if there is any possibility of their making a future together.

Jamie and Cassie are attractive, fully-rounded characters, and Ms. Heath does a terrific job of portraying the longing they feel for each other and building the romantic tension while also establishing a strong emotional connection between them.  But much as I liked Cassie, it’s Jamie who is the real star of the show.  Perceptive, kind and sensitive, he’s a romantic at heart who pours his love of nature and beauty into his paintings, saying with them some of the things for which he can’t always find the words.  Ms. Heath says in her author’s note that she had originally had different plans for Jamie in this story but that he clearly wanted to go in a different direction. I’m glad he did, because it makes him a most unusual and delectable hero and I fell hard for him.

A Warriner to Rescue her is a beautiful love story that’s imbued with warmth, sensuality and humour, and I raced through it in one sitting.  It’s book two in a series, but can be read as a standalone, and I’m really looking forward to reading about Joe and Jacob Warriner in the near future.



Beguiled (Enlightenment #2) by Joanna Chambers

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Two years after his last encounter with cynical nobleman Lord Murdo Balfour, David Lauriston accidentally meets him again in the heart of Edinburgh.

King George IV is about to make his first visit to Edinburgh and Murdo has been sent North by his politician father to represent his aristocratic family at the celebrations.

David and Murdo’s last parting was painful — and on Murdo’s part, bitter — but Murdo’s feelings seem to have mellowed in the intervening years. So much so, that he suggests to David that they enjoy each other’s company during Murdo’s stay in the capital.

Despite his initial reservations, David cannot put Murdo’s proposal from his mind, and soon find himself at Murdo’s door—and in his arms.

But other figures from David’s past are converging on the city, and as the pomp and ceremony of the King’s visit unfolds around them, David is drawn into a chain of events that will threaten everything: his career, his wellbeing, and the fragile bond that, despite David’s best intentions, is growing between him and Murdo.

Rating: B+

Beguiled is the middle book in Joanna Chambers’ Enlightenment trilogy of novels set in early nineteenth century Edinburgh, and I’ll say right off the bat that this is a series in which the books really do need to be read in order.  The romance between the studious advocate, David Lauriston, and the hedonistic Lord Murdo Balfour develops across all three books, plus there is an overarching secondary plotline running through them  – so there will be spoilers for book one, Provoked, in this review.

Provoked ended with Murdo and David parting and not really expecting to see each other again.  They move in very different circles, and while there’s no question that their brief ‘fling’ had affected them both deeply – in David’s case perhaps more deeply than he was willing to admit – both of them believed that a longer term relationship between them was impossible.  In the two years since they last met, David has continued to build his advocacy practice and has gained himself a reputation for diligence and efficacy that means that he is kept busy by a steady stream of work.

David is more confident and more self-assured than he was when we first met him.  He hasn’t forgotten Murdo, and realises now that he has learned something from their brief time together, which I suppose can be best expressed as “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone”.  Still, he is mostly content, although very concerned over the failing health of his mentor, Mr. Chalmers, whose daughter, Elizabeth, has recently married and moved away.  In Provoked, it was clear that both father and daughter had hopes of David, but while he was very fond of Elizabeth and was also struggling to really and thoroughly accept his sexuality, David felt that taking a wife would be hypocritical and wasn’t prepared to do as other men in his situation did (and as Murdo had declared was his intention) and marry a woman while continuing to take male lovers.

Beguiled opens with Edinburgh in uproar preparing for the visit of King George IV to the city.  While not a popular monarch (on either side of the border!) the genius of Sir Walter Scott has somehow managed to, at least temporarily, build bridges and heal breaches, meaning that the visit is generally looked upon with enthusiasm.  David is instructed to attend the King’s visit to the university and must therefore purchase a set of new clothes for the occasion –and is stunned when he arrives at the tailor’s shop to discover Lord Murdo Balfour attending a fitting also.

Over a drink later on, the men talk and express their regrets over the way things ended between them before, and as they prepare to part for the evening, Murdo makes it clear that he would like to see David again during the month or so that he will be in Edinburgh.  David can’t give him an answer – on the one hand, he is as irresistibly drawn to Murdo as he ever was, but on the other, he is reluctant to get involved again knowing that he will eventually have to say goodbye once more.

Because the story is told entirely from David’s PoV, we never get into Murdo’s head, but the author does a terrific job of showing us both what David sees and, more importantly, what he doesn’t see.  He sees that Murdo is slightly mellower than the last time they met; that he is less guarded and less prone to cynicism when he is with David than he was before.  What David doesn’t see – and what is abundantly clear to the reader – is how deep Murdo’s feelings for David really go.  Beneath the layers of aristocratic hauteur beats the heart of a romantic, and one who is more than half-way in love.  Murdo notices changes in David, too; he is “more amenable”, Murdo tells him, more open to allowing himself to feel pleasure without guilt, and David can’t argue:

“… I don’t think I’m precisely wrong either.  Not any more.  Not since… you.”

While Murdo and David continue to spend time together when they can, and become both emotionally and physically closer, David is also troubled by the situation of Elizabeth Chalmers, who is miserable in her marriage to a husband who is physically abusive.  Her father (who knows he is dying) has asked David to do whatever he can to look after her, and now that David has seen her with her husband, and seen how all the life and joy has been sucked out of her together with the bruises that are evidence of her husband’s mistreatment of her, David is more concerned than ever.

Ms. Chambers weaves her different plotlines together with great skill and also imbues the stories in this series with a very strong sense of place and time by means of subtle injections of social comment on the inequalities suffered by women and the poor.  The political situation in England and Scotland at this time was very volatile; George IV was not popular and two years earlier (as described in Provoked) an uprising by radical, disaffected Scottish weavers had been brutally put down and lead to several executions and transportations.  The author also highlights the situation endured by so many women who were, like Elizabeth, the helpless spouse of a controlling, brutal husband; under law, a wife was her husband’s property and nobody had the right to interfere in anything that went on between them.

Beguiled is a strong second instalment in this three-part story, but it does end on a cliffhanger, so you might want to make sure you have time to read the next book, Enlightened, straight afterwards.  All three titles have recently been re-published by the author following the demise of the original publisher (Samhain) and are certainly worth snapping up if you like character-driven romances with a strong emphasis on the history as well a sensual and well-developed central relationship.

Murder on Black Swan Lane (Wrexford & Sloane #1) by Andrea Penrose

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

In Regency London, an unconventional scientist and a fearless female artist form an unlikely alliance to expose unspeakable evil . . .

The Earl of Wrexford possesses a brilliant scientific mind, but boredom and pride lead him to reckless behavior. He does not suffer fools gladly. So when pompous, pious Reverend Josiah Holworthy publicly condemns him for debauchery, Wrexford unsheathes his rapier-sharp wit and strikes back. As their war of words escalates, London’s most popular satirical cartoonist, A.J. Quill, skewers them both. But then the clergyman is found slain in a church—his face burned by chemicals, his throat slashed ear to ear—and Wrexford finds himself the chief suspect.

Rating: B+

Murder on Black Swan Lane is the first book in a new series of Regency-era historical mysteries by Andrea Penrose (who also writes as Andrea Pickens and Cara Elliot), which sees a satirical cartoonist teaming up with a scientifically-minded earl to investigate a couple of gruesome murders. The mystery is well-put together and includes some fascinating detail about the chemical sciences as they were understood at the beginning of the 19th century – the author has clearly done her homework – and we’re introduced to an engaging set of characters who will, I hope, continue to appear throughout the series.

The Earl of Wrexford (who doesn’t appear to have an actual name, just a title) has recently been publicly denounced as the worst kind of dissolute rake by the pompous, puffed-up Reverend Josiah Holworthy. Never one to suffer fools gladly, and the sort of man whom boredom inspires to ever more reckless behaviour, Wrexford responds to his accuser by unleashing his razor-sharp wit in a clever rebuttal, which is printed in the Morning Gazette. An increasingly vitriolic and very public argument ensues between the two men which is eagerly documented every step of the way by the popular satirist A.J Quill, whose cartoons persistently skewer those at the highest levels of society, shining a light on the darkest misdeeds on the rich and powerful.

When the Reverend Holworthy is found dead in a church on Black Swan Lane, almost decapitated, his face disfigured by some sort of chemical, suspicion immediately alights upon Wrexford, whose rather eccentric interest in chemistry is widely known. With Quill’s uncannily accurate drawings and pithy captions stirring up public opinion against him, Wrexford decides it’s time to find out where the cartoonist is getting his information.

A talented artist, Charlotte Sloane picked up her late husband’s pen after his death some eight months earlier and has continued to produce satirical cartoons using his pseudonym, A.J Quill. She guards her identity judiciously, knowing that if it’s discovered that the scourge of the ton is a woman she will be completely ruined and unable to earn a living. So the last thing she wants or expects is to discover the Earl of Wrexford on her doorstep demanding to see A.J Quill. Charlotte’s attempts at deflection become increasingly desperate, at which point the earl realises the truth and offers her a deal. If she will agree to share such information as comes her way regarding the investigation, he will keep her secret and pay for the information. Charlotte is furious at being backed into a corner, but she has no alternative. She is living from hand to mouth as it is, and can ill afford to turn down the money the earl offers or risk being exposed as A.J Quill, so she takes the deal.

Thus begins a very fragile relationship in which both protagonists circle each other warily as they gradually develop a strong mutual respect for the other’s intellect and skills.  Wrexford and Charlotte are similar in some ways – they are both keeping secrets and hiding their true selves behind a public persona  – but are completely different in others;  Wrexford is all about facts and is bothered when he doesn’t have an answer or reason for something whereas Charlotte is far more accepting of the fact that not everything is logical and that sometimes there are no answers.

The murder mystery is intriguing and well-executed; complex enough to grab the reader’s interest but not so complicated that it’s difficult to follow, and peppered with lots of interesting scientific discussions and detail, in particular relating to the study of alchemy and its bearing on the scientific knowledge of the time.  There’s larceny, espionage and the discovery of some painful truths, as Charlotte and Wrexford uncover links between her husband’s untimely death and the mysterious Ancients Club, things she had suspected but been unable to prove until now.

There is a small but colourful cast of secondary characters who I hope we’ll see more of in future books; Henning, the dour, Scots surgeon, Tyler, Wrexford’s valet and fellow chemist, Raven and Hawk, the two street urchins Charlotte has taken under her wing and Kit Sheffield, Wrexford’s closest friend who is, at first glance, somewhat of an empty-headed fribble, but who is far from being as stupid as he seems.   The two principals are flawed, yet likeable and hopefully, the author plans to reveal more about them in future stories as it’s clear from the hints she drops here that there is much more to both of them than we’ve seen so far.

My one criticism of the book is with the way in which the story is set up. Holsworthy holds Wrexford up as an example of the worst kind of wickedness and denounces him as a rakehell, yet there isn’t much evidence of this debauched lifestyle on the page; in fact Wrexford  himself says at one point that the reality of his life doesn’t live up to his scandalous reputation.  The man I read about is irascible and highly intelligent with an unusual (for a member of the aristocracy) interest in science, a man who puts logic ahead of emotion and disdains sentimentality.  There are a few references to his unsavoury reputation throughout the book, but unless his reputation is for being a man with a hot temper who prefers to go his own way, the idea of a cleric using him as an example of immorality doesn’t really make sense.

I’ll also add a word of caution for anyone looking for a Lady Julia or Lady Darby type of romantic frisson – you won’t find it here.  Wrexford and Charlotte develop a strong working relationship which gradually turns into friendship and have developed an almost grudging admiration and respect for each other’s abilities by the end of the book.  That’s not to say there is no potential for development in a more romantic direction in future, but for now, this is a solid historical mystery in which the emphasis is firmly on tracking down the killer and proving Wrexford’s innocence.

I enjoyed the story and the characters and am eager to read more of Charlotte and Wrexford’s adventures together.  Murder on Black Swan Lane is recommended for anyone in the mood for a well-written historical mystery featuring a moody aristocratic hero and a heroine who knows how to cut him down to size.


A Fallen Lady by Elizabeth Kingston (audiobook) – Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Six years ago, to the outrage of her family and the delight of London gossips, Lady Helen Dehaven refused to marry the man to whom she was betrothed. Even more shockingly, her refusal came on the heels of her scandalous behavior: she and her betrothed were caught in a most compromising position. Leaving her reputation in tatters and her motivations a mystery, Helen withdrew to a simple life in a little village among friends, where her secrets remained hers alone.

For reasons of his own, Stephen Hampton, Lord Summerdale, is determined to learn the truth behind the tangled tale of Helen’s ruin. There is nothing he abhors so much as scandal – nothing he prizes so well as discretion – and so he is shocked to find, when he tracks Helen down, that he cannot but admire her. Against all expectations, he finds himself forgiving her scandalous history in favor of only being near her.

But the bitter past will not relinquish Helen’s heart so easily. How can she trust a man so steeped in the culture of high society, who conceals so much? And how can he, so devoted to the appearance of propriety, ever love a fallen lady?

Rating: Narration – A+ Content – A-

In A Fallen Lady, Elizabeth Kingston and Nicholas Boulton leave the political intrigue and the rolling hills and valleys of medieval Wales behind them and head East (and a few centuries into the future) to end up in Regency era Herefordshire for this story of a young woman who refused to endure the censure of society and her family and left both of them behind her in order to carve out a new life for herself.

Six years earlier and aged just seventeen, Lady Helen Dehaven jilted her fiancé without explanation, even though they had previously been found in a compromising position. In refusing to marry him, Helen risks irretrievable damage to her reputation and being shunned by society, but when she attempts to explain the situation to her brother, he dismisses her as hysterical and her explanation as wild and incomprehensible. Young as she is, Helen is stunned by his lack of faith in her, and leaves home, settling in the small village of Bartle-on-the Glen in Herefordshire where she owns a small dower house. She makes a life for herself there, becoming popular with the villagers who are all very protective of her. It’s not easy – Helen was born into luxury and has had to learn to keep house for herself, and she lives practically from hand to mouth – but she is independent and mostly content, especially in her friendship with Marie Anne de Vauteuil, the former mistress of a nobleman and another “fallen” woman who lives in the village.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals

The Day of the Duchess (Scandal & Scoundrels #3) by Sarah MacLean

This title may be purchased from Amazon

The one woman he will never forget…
Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, has lived the last three years in self-imposed solitude, paying the price for a mistake he can never reverse and a love he lost forever. The dukedom does not wait, however, and Haven requires an heir, which means he must find himself a wife by summer’s end. There is only one problem—he already has one.

The one man she will never forgive…
After years in exile, Seraphina, Duchess of Haven, returns to London with a single goal—to reclaim the life she left and find happiness, unencumbered by the man who broke her heart. Haven offers her a deal; Sera can have her freedom, just as soon as she finds her replacement…which requires her to spend the summer in close quarters with the husband she does not want, but somehow cannot resist.

A love that neither can deny…
The duke has a single summer to woo his wife and convince her that, despite their broken past, he can give her forever, making every day The Day of the Duchess.

Rating: B+

Sarah MacLean concludes her Scandal and Scoundrels series with The Day of the Duchess, the book many of us have been eagerly anticipating since Sophie, youngest of the scandalous Talbot sisters, pushed Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, into an ornamental fish pond in book one, The Rogue Not Taken. Sophie’s actions were prompted when she caught her eldest sister’s husband in flagrante delicto with another woman in front of half the ton – including the pregnant duchess herself, and I suspect we were all cheering Sophie on for her defence of her sister and calling Haven all kinds of bastard for cheating on his wife.

But in spite of that, I was eager to read the story behind a marriage that had obviously disintegrated and descended into bitterness and betrayal and fervently hoped that the author would write it for us. Bringing an estranged couple together when they have so much baggage between them is a difficult task to accomplish without glossing over the events that tore them apart, or spending so much time wallowing that the HEA doesn’t ring true, but Ms. MacLean has done it with considerable aplomb. It’s an angsty book, the emotions are raw and messy; and although I do have a few reservations, this is, for the most part, the story I wanted it to be.

The first few chapters alternate between the present and the past, as we’re shown the events that culminate in the long-absent Seraphina, Duchess of Haven, striding into the male bastion that is the House of Lords and demanding a divorce. Her husband is as shocked to see her as everyone else; he hasn’t seen or heard from her in the two years and seven months since she left him, and it’s very clear when we see in him in the opening scene that he has felt her absence every hour of every day of every one of those years and months.

Haven and Sera met three years earlier and were both immediately smitten. I’m not calling it insta-love; it’s more like a coup de foudre, a lightning strike that affects both of them deeply and draws them together, and is based on far more than simple, physical attraction. Over the ensuing weeks, Sera and Haven see each other quite often; so often, in fact, as to draw the attention of the gossips. With none of their meetings taking place in public and Haven not even having made the attempt to meet her family, Sera is swayed by the seeds of doubt that her mother plants in her mind. When Lady Talbot suggests that Sera engineers a situation that will make sure of Haven once and for all, Sera, who is confident in her heart that Haven does want to marry her, and is just as sure that he is everything she wants, agrees to a secret tryst with him. When they are found in an extremely compromising position by her mother – and his – Sera can’t deny her part in the scheme, but instead of it leading to something both of them want, it’s the beginning of the end. Haven is deeply in love with Sera and had every intention of proposing to her, but now he’s in the middle of his worst nightmare; being forced to wed a woman who doesn’t want him for himself but for his title.

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

Confessions of a Dangerous Lord (Rescued from Ruin #7) by Elisa Braden

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Never judge a man by his cover…
Society knows the affable Earl of Dunston for his flashy waistcoats and rapier wit. Lady Maureen Huxley knows him as Henry Thorpe, her best friend—an irresistibly kissable, strictly platonic friend. Which means her dreams of marriage, motherhood, part-time cookery, and full-time domestic bliss must be fulfilled elsewhere. But after three seasons and a parade of fickle suitors, Maureen’s hopes are fading. Worse, she suspects Henry is to blame.

Never trust a man with too many secrets…
Years spent hunting his father’s murderer through London’s dark underworld have honed Henry Thorpe into a deadly blade with one purpose—catching a killer of fathomless evil. Nothing mattered more until Maureen Huxley came along. To keep her safe, he must keep her at arm’s length. Yet he can’t resist drawing her close, making her laugh, dreaming of doing wicked things to her lush body. Very well, perhaps he also dissuaded some of her suitors. But what’s a little deception between friends?

Never provoke a man as dangerous as this one…
With his enemy growing bolder and Maureen contemplating marriage to another man, Henry is caught in the crossfire between his mission and his heart. Any move could exact a devastating cost. But losing the woman he loves is one price he refuses to pay.

Rating: B+

Confessions of a Dangerous Lord is the seventh book in Elisa Braden’s Rescued from Ruin series, and although it features a storyline that has obviously been present in some of the earlier novels, this is the first of Ms. Braden’s books I’ve read and I was able to follow along quite easily.  I won’t deny that there were a few times I wished I’d had a stronger grasp of how that plotline had evolved, but that’s down to me, and not any lack of skill on the part of the author – and anyway, it in no way detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book. The writing is strong and the opening scenario drew me in straight away, quickly supplying some necessary back-story without being an info dump.  The two principals are well-drawn, attractive characters, with the hero being one of those Pimpernel-esque types I’m particularly fond of; the garrulous society favourite who is widely believed to be interested only in horses and fashion but who is, beneath it all, fiercely intelligent, highly competent and utterly deadly.

Maureen Huxley has been in love with Henry Thorpe, Earl of Dunston, for pretty much the whole of the two years she has known him.  He’s wealthy, deliciously handsome, charming, kind, clever and makes her laugh – in short he’s perfect for her, apart from one small thing.  He doesn’t want her.  Or rather, he isn’t interested in her romantically, much preferring to remain on terms of friendship with her.  Reckoning that half a loaf is better than no bread at all, Maureen hides her disappointment at his rejection and they continue as friends, but lately, she has begun to wonder if her friendship with Henry may be scuppering her chances of making a suitable marriage.  She has been out for three seasons and hasn’t received so much as a single offer; she longs for a husband and family of her own and realises that the only way she is ever going to stand a chance of getting those things is to cut ties with Henry and try to make room in her heart for someone else.

When Maureen announces this decision, Henry is stunned and furious at the thought of her marrying another man.  He is as deeply in love with her as she is with him, but he can’t afford to let her know it, or to show any signs of preference for her while he is still working to unmask the Investor, the criminal mastermind he believes murdered his father and whom he has been tracking for the last ten years at the behest of the Home Office.  He fears for Maureen’s safety if he marries her, but when she appears on the verge of accepting another suitor, Henry realises he loves her too much to lose her and decides it’s time for him to hand over his investigation to someone else.  Unfortunately, however, things don’t go according to plan and on their wedding night, Maureen witnesses Henry fighting with and killing an intruder, and is shocked to look at her new husband and see a cold, calculating stranger.  With no explanation, Henry orders Maureen to pack and whisks her out of London and to the Devonshire home of his friends, Colin and Sarah Lacey (whose story is told in book three, Desperately Seeking a Scoundrel) while he formulates a plan to put an end to the Investor, once and for all.

I admit that there are a couple of plot-devices at play here that I’m not particularly fond of; the “I can’t let anyone close to me because they will be endangered” and then the “I can’t explain and sully my innocent beloved’s ears with the darkness that surrounds me”.  In the case of the former, however, Ms. Braden makes it work by making the Investor a truly nasty piece of work, detailing the methods by which he manipulates and uses people to gain his ends.  In the face of these, Henry’s desire to keep Maureen out of the firing line makes perfect sense.  And when it comes to the “no explanations” device, when I saw it coming, I admit my heart sank, but once again, Ms. Braden pulls  things back by putting a slightly different spin on it and not allowing the misunderstandings to go on for too long.  Maureen is justifiably angry with her husband, but is sensible enough to understand his reasons and they work through their differences in a refreshingly mature way.

Confessions of a Dangerous Lord is part romance, part mystery, and Ms. Braden gets the balance between the two elements just about right. She writes the longing that Maureen and Henry feel for one another so well that it’s almost palpable, and the air fairly crackles with sexual tension whenever they are in a scene together. Henry’s delightfully dry sense of humour and powerful charisma make him a hero who fairly leaps off the page, and he and Maureen are clearly well-matched in every way.  As I said at the beginning, I was able to follow the mystery plot well enough, although I would probably have benefitted from reading at few of the earlier books in the series – a situation I intend to rectify at some point.  The dénouement – in which the motives of the Investor are finally revealed – is a little weak, but overall, this is a very readable yarn that moves at a cracking pace and I enjoyed it enough to give it a strong recommendation, especially to those who enjoy a side order of adventure with their romance.

Where the Dead Lie (Sebastian St. Cyr #12) by C.S. Harris (audiobook) – Narrated by Davina Porter

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

London, 1813. Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is no stranger to the dark side of the city, but he’s never seen anything like this: the brutalized body of a 15-year-old boy dumped into a makeshift grave on the grounds of an abandoned factory. One of London’s many homeless children, Benji Thatcher was abducted and tortured before his murder – and his younger sister is still missing. Few in authority care about a street urchin’s fate, but Sebastian refuses to let this killer go unpunished.

Uncovering a disturbing pattern of missing children, Sebastian is drawn into a shadowy, sadistic world. As he follows a grim trail that leads from the writings of the debauched Marquis de Sade to the city’s most notorious brothels, he comes to a horrifying realization: Someone from society’s upper echelon is preying upon the city’s most vulnerable. And though dark, powerful forces are moving against him, Sebastian will risk his reputation and his life to keep more innocents from harm….

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – A

It’s the rare author who can reach the twelfth book in a long-running series and still keep coming up with fresh ideas and interesting developments, but C.S. Harris manages to do both those things and more in her latest Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Where the Dead Lie. In this new instalment, our aristocratic sleuth becomes involved in the search for the perpetrators of the most horrible crimes upon the weakest, most vulnerable members of society – London’s street children. It’s a disturbing listen at times – as it should be, given the subject matter – and Ms. Harris doesn’t pull her punches when describing the plight of these often very young children who have been left parentless and homeless through no fault of their own, and how they are repeatedly betrayed by those privileged few who should be helping rather than taking advantage of them.

This is one of those series where the books really need to be listened to in order, and I would imagine it’s difficult to just pop in and out, reading some books and not others. Each of the mysteries is self-contained and reaches a satisfying ending, but just as compelling as those individual tales is the overarching story of Sebastian’s search for the truth about his birth and what happened to his errant mother, his difficult relationship with his father, the Earl of Hendon, and the intense animosity lying between Sebastian and his father-in-law, Lord Jarvis, cousin to the Regent and the power behind the throne.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.