Devil in Tartan (Highland Grooms #4) by Julia London (audiobook) – Narrated by Derek Perkins

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Lottie Livingstone bears the weight of an island on her shoulders. Under threat of losing their home, she and her clan take to the seas to sell a shipload of illegal whiskey. When an attack leaves them vulnerable, she transforms from a maiden daughter to a clever warrior. For survival, she orchestrates the siege of a rival’s ship and now holds the devilish Scottish captain Aulay Mackenzie under her command.

Tied, captive, and forced to watch a stunning siren commandeer the Mackenzie ship, Aulay burns with the desire to seize control – of the ship and Lottie. He has resigned himself to a life of solitude on the open seas, but her beauty tantalizes him like nothing has before. As authorities and enemies close in, he is torn between surrendering her to justice and defending her from assailants. He’ll lose her forever, unless he’s willing to sacrifice the unimaginable…

Rating: Narration – A : Content – C

The estimable Derek Perkins returns to Julia London’s Highland Grooms series to narrate book four, Devil in Tartan, which features Aulay, the middle son of the Mackenzie brood, and the one least often to be found at the family estate of Balhaire. With his elder brother Cailean living mostly in England with his wife and stepson, and his younger brother, Robbie, aiding their father in the management of the Balhaire estate and lands, Aulay has increasingly come to feel something of an outsider, and has more or less resigned himself to a life alone. He has made his life at sea, captaining the Mackenzie ship and contributing to the family coffers by his various profitable trading enterprises, but his latest voyage, designed to bring in some much needed funds, is destined to end in disaster.

A few days after they have set sail on their latest commission, Aulay and his crew sight a smaller vessel which is clearly in distress and go to its aid. Unfortunately, however, Aulay’s generous intentions prove to be his – and his crew’s – undoing, because despite his caution, the ethereally lovely young woman aboard proves so distracting that a momentary lapse of attention on Aulay’s part enables her crew to incapacitate him and the rest of his crew and to take over his ship.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.


Hazard (Rockliffe #5) by Stella Riley

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Hazard: a game of Chance and Luck, made riskier when Fate is rolling the dice.

For Aristide Delacroix, the first throw summons shades from his past. A man he had met, just once, over a card-table… and the lovely girl indirectly responsible for plunging his life into catastrophe.

For Lord Nicholas Wynstanton, tired of waiting for Madeleine Delacroix to make up her mind, it slyly suggests he begin a whole new game with loaded dice; while for Madeleine, it devises a terrifying lesson in missed opportunities and the uncertainty of second chances.

And for Genevieve Westin, hoping widowhood will be happier than marriage, it brings a rude awakening – leaving a single, wild gamble her only option.

A cardsharp turned businessman, a duke’s charming brother, a stubborn, razor-edged beauty and a desperate widow.

Four players in a game of Hazard… all playing for very high stakes.

Rating: A-

Hazard is the fifth book in Stella Riley’s Rockliffe series of Georgian romances, and in it the author does something a little bit different by writing a ‘double romance’ in which two separate couples eventually find their respective HEAs. There can be a danger in this type of story that one couple will feature more prominently than the other, but I’m pleased to report that isn’t the case here. Because one of the couples is one we’ve been watching dance around each other ever since they first appeared in book three (The Player), I never felt short-changed when the focus switched to the other romance, or that the familiar couple were being edged out in favour of the newer pairing. Ms. Riley gets the balance just about right between the continuing romance and the new one and achieves a satisfying ending all round – although not without a few lumps and bumps along the way.

The novel opens with a prologue set in Paris in 1770, in which we are introduced to a brother and sister in difficult circumstances, and a young woman, the step-daughter of an English diplomat, who is being forced into a marriage she doesn’t want. In desperation, she asks her step-father’s young under-secretary – who has also been tutoring her in French – to carry a note to the man she hopes will save her, but her brothers intercept the missive, and brutally beat her messenger, leaving his sister to keep a lone vigil at their dying mother’s bedside.

Seven years later, we arrive in London at Sinclair’s, the popular gaming club that is jointly owned by Adrian Deveraux, Earl of Sarre, and his friend and business partner, Aristide Delacroix. On this particular evening, a disgruntled patron, Lord Braxton – who has been losing heavily – points out Aristide to a friend, and very loudly accuses him of having cheated him out of a large sum of money three years earlier. Things get heated as Braxton refuses to back down, and the situation is only diffused when the Duke of Rockliffe and his brother, Lord Nicholas Wynstanton, calmly suggest Braxton stop making ridiculous and unsubstantiated accusations.

Braxton storms out after this, but Aristide is concerned. Sinclair’s has a reputation for fair-play, and such allegations from a peer of the realm – albeit one not especially well-known or liked – could do a lot of damage. It seems, however, that Braxton’s rants aren’t being taken seriously, and Aristide and Adrian don’t have anything to worry about – but unfortunately, Braxton is determined to get his money back and make Aristide pay for his humiliation. Furious, scorned and in need of cash, he decides to exact his revenge by nefarious means.

Nicholas Wynstanton and Aristide’s sister, Madeleine, have been dancing around their attraction to each other for some time now, and things came to a head in The Wicked Cousin when Nick, tired of ‘making a cake’ of himself over her, gave her an ultimatum: tell him she’s not interested or allow him to pay her his addresses.  Madeleine, who is clearly deeply smitten, feels her station in life is so unequal to his as to make any respectable relationship between them impossible – but she can’t tell him to walk away.  In spite of Nick’s protests that he doesn’t care about society’s opinions, Madeleine is difficult and prickly, and continues to use her sharp tongue and quick temper to push him away at every available opportunity, but Nick, now he knows that she’s far from indifferent to him, can be patient, and determines on a long game in order to win his lady.

While Nick and Madeline continue to take one step forward and two steps back, Aristide is surprised to encounter someone he’s never forgotten, but had never thought to meet again – Genevieve Harcourt, now the widowed Lady Westin.  Aristide still recalls the sobbing girl from the garden of the Hôtel Fleurignac, while she doesn’t recognise him at all when they encounter each other at a party held by the Earl and Countess of Sarre.  Aristide is quietly furious – how can she possibly not know how her brothers beat him so savagely that he was unable to leave his bed for weeks?  But even his fury can’t stop him from noticing her lovely face and lush figure – and that only infuriates him even more.  The woman nearly got him killed, so lusting after her is not an appropriate response… yet there’s no question her body calls to his as no woman’s has ever done.

It’s not until a couple of days later, when her brother, Viscount Kilburn pays Genevieve an unwanted visit that she remembers who Aristide is, although she can’t reconcile the elegant, coolly poised and handsome gentleman she met with the youth who had tried to help her.  Not long after that episode, Genevieve was married off to a man whose disgusting sexual preferences and debauched lifestyle were widely known, and whose reputation was so terrible that his wife was also shunned by society.  Now a widow, Genevieve had been looking forward to a degree of independence, but it seems that even widowhood cannot protect her from the men in her life. Kilburn tells her that the money set aside for her in the event of her husband’s death is gone because another of her brothers had used it to make unwise investments and announces that he is looking for another husband for her.  Unwilling to be sold into marriage, Genevieve conceives a daring plan…

Hazard is a well-paced, multi-faceted story in which Ms. Riley confidently, and with great skill, pulls together her plotlines to culminate in a climactic event that brings things to a head for one of our couples.  As someone for whom a marriage of convenience plotline is like catnip, I was particularly engaged by Aristide and Genevieve’s story; she has a lot of emotional baggage as a result of her first marriage, and Aristide’s motives for marrying her are not at all altruistic, but the way the author gradually develops their emotional connection and shows Aristide’s growing appreciation and admiration of his new wife is extremely well done and the level of honesty between them is entirely refreshing.

If I have a criticism, it’s one that boils down more to personal taste than anything, which is that, much as I’ve enjoyed the push-and-pull between Nick and Madeleine and have been rooting for them to get together, the ‘I am not worthy so I will not allow you to make the terrible mistake of marrying me’ is a plotline I tend to dislike; it always feels as though one party is telling the other they’re wrong and don’t know their own mind.  It’s a pet peeve – others may not mind it – and it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book; Nick and Madeleine’s HEA is hard won and well-deserved, and it’s entirely possible I may have emitted the odd happy sigh as I read.

One of the delights of this series is the way that the recurring characters feel like old friends rather than for-the-sake-of-it cameos.  Ms. Riley excels at writing close male friendships, which is one of the things I so enjoy about her novels; there’s no question these men, no matter how much they tease and joke at each other’s expense, would do anything for one another – and for their ladies.  The downside of this – if it can indeed be said to be a downside – is that there’s a danger that the new reader may be a bit bewildered by all these names popping in and out.  Each novel in the series is self-contained, but if you’re thinking about picking up this, or any of the other books in the series, I’d recommend starting at the beginning with The Parfit Knight and reading in order.  They’re all terrific reads, so it should present no hardship.

Hazard is a fabulous addition to this thoroughly enjoyable series of Georgian romances.  Ms. Riley’s writing is sharply focused and elegant, her characters are strongly drawn, the chemistry between the leads is undeniable and both romances are brought to immensely satisfying conclusions. It gets a very strong recommendation.

Sinless (The Shaws #1.5) by Lynne Connolly

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Lord Darius Shaw has never been in love before. But when he renews his acquaintance with lawyer Andrew Graham in a raid on a molly house, where men meet men for forbidden pleasure, they discover mutual feelings as deep as they are dangerous. For while society will turn a blind eye to an aristocrat’s transgressions, Andrew has far more at stake. The son of city merchants, Andrew has a disastrous marriage in his past, and a young daughter to support. He could lose his livelihood, his reputation and even his life—and drag Darius down with him.

Darius and Andrew’s only choice is to deny the true nature of their relationship. But when an enemy Italian spy threatens their secret—and their futures—the two set out to catch him. And in the process they are forced to face their desires—and make a life-changing decision.

Rating: C-

Sinless is book 1.5 in Lynne Connolly’s new series The Shaws, a continuation or spin-off of her seven book Emperors of London series about the powerful Vernon family.  The Shaws are closely related to the Vernons (cousins I think), and some of them appeared in the earlier series as secondary characters.  Book one of The ShawsFearless, featured Lord Valentinian Shaw (both families had a penchant for naming their offspring after Roman emperors) a rake and hellraiser who found himself in court on a murder charge. Thanks to the efforts of barrister Andrew Graham, Val was exonerated and in Sinless, we meet Andrew again as he works to unmask a traitor and tries not to give in to the strong attraction that sparks between him and Val’s twin brother, Lord Darius.

Andrew has been sent by General Court to join a raid on a molly house (a brothel catering to homosexual men) in order to meet a man who is in possession of a list containing details of a network of spies.  As the raid starts and Andrew begins the search for his contact, he is surprised to see Lord Darius Shaw, poised and coolly collected in the midst of the chaos.  Andrew and Darius engage in a brief, wary conversation when Andrew spots the man he is looking for, only to be prevented from confronting him by Darius, who grabs Andrew and kisses him, allowing the other man to make his escape.

Darius has reasons of his own for interfering.  The list contains the names of diplomats and military agents placed throughout Europe by his family and the government, so when he learned of its existence and that it was being offered for sale, he determined to get hold of it himself in order to prevent its being sold to England’s enemies and his family’s rivals.  He had managed to befriend the man in possession of the list with the intention of using their friendship and … shared interests… to obtain it, but the raid put paid to his plans so now he has to find another way – and his first step is to speak to Andrew Graham again in order to find out what he knows.

Days later, Andrew is still bewildered by the kiss and can’t forget the feel of Darius’ mouth on his or the way Darius had made him feel.  Even though he has been married and has a young daughter, Andrew is well aware that his sexual preference is for men, but decided – after the death of his wife – that it would be safest for him to live a celibate life.  Andrew is a successful lawyer, and cannot afford the merest whiff of scandal to be attached to his name; unlike Darius, he does not have the backing of an immensely powerful family to cover up any indiscretions, so while Andrew acknowledges to himself that he would very much like things between him and Darius to develop, he knows such a thing to be impossible.   When Darius reveals the truth about the list and exactly what is at stake should it fall into the wrong hands, Andrew’s sense of duty and honour compel him to offer his help… but more than that, he wants to help Darius because he cares for him.  This decision propels Andrew into unforeseen dangers – and forces him to confront the truth of his feelings for Darius, even though it seems there is still no way forward for them.

One of Ms. Connolly’s real strengths is her historical knowledge, which she uses to create a solid backdrop to her stories so that the reader is transported to the dirty cobblestones and extravagant mansions of Georgian London.  Her research is impeccable and her plotlines are intriguing, but I have, on several occasions, found the romances in her books to be somewhat underdeveloped and based on insta-lust – which is the case here.  Andrew and Darius have known each other for a while and, we’re told, have been suppressing a strong attraction to one another.  But they go from zero-to-sixty in the blink of an eye; they share a couple of heated kisses, and then, BAM!, they’re in love.  There is no progression from ‘I fancy you’ to ‘I love you’; in fact I checked to see if I’d somehow skipped a chapter or two, because the romantic development is pretty much non-existent and instead we get pages of Andrew and Darius thinking – and talking – about how much they want each other and how anything more between them is impossible.  Darius has, supposedly, decided love is not for him because he doesn’t think it’s fair to put someone he loves in harm’s way (given the fact that homosexuality was punishable by death at this point in time) and so refuses to let himself fall in love.  I understand his reasoning, yet he barrels through all that with Andrew in no time at all, telling him on several occasions that he desires him and wants to take him to bed – and the next minute telling him such a thing can’t happen.

I’m also a little doubtful about the degree of acceptance shown Darius by his family.  He’s not an oldest son, so doesn’t have to ‘do his duty’ and provide an heir, but even so, the way that his parents and other family members accept his homosexuality strikes me as perhaps a little more wishful-thinking than historically accurate.  I’m sure there were enlightened people around at the time who would have thought that what people did in their own bedrooms was up to them…  I just found it a little implausible that Darius’ preferences could be so widely known and nobody seemed to turn a hair.

Sinless boasts an intriguing storyline and a strong historical background, but it doesn’t really work as a romance.  I believe this is Ms. Connolly’s first m/m story (please correct me if I’m wrong), but authors like K.J. Charles and Cat Sebastian have set the bar incredibly high for m/m historical  romances, and this one just doesn’t cut the mustard in that department.

Once Upon a Christmas Eve (Maiden Lane #12.6) by Elizabeth Hoyt

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Adam Rutledge, Viscount d’Arque, really rather loathes Christmas. The banal cheerfulness. The asinine party games. And, worst of all, the obligatory trip to the countryside. His grandmother, however, loves the holiday—and Adam loves his grandmother, so he’ll brave the fiercest snowstorm to please her. But when their carriage wheel snaps, they’re forced to seek shelter at the home of the most maddening, infuriating, and utterly beguiling woman he’s ever met.

Sarah St. John really rather loathes rakes. The self-satisfied smirks. The sly predatory gazes. Oh, and the constant witty banter rife with double meaning. But in the spirit of the season, she’ll welcome this admittedly handsome viscount into her home. But as the snowstorm rages, the Yule log crackles, and the tension rises, Sarah and Adam find themselves locked in a fiery, passionate kiss. If love is the true meaning of Christmas, it’s the one gift this mismatched pair can’t wait to unwrap.

Rating: C

Much as I’m a fan of Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, I’m not a great fan of novellas and after having read and been somewhat ‘meh’ about Once Upon a Maiden Lane, I was going to give this a miss. But the fan in me said “you might as well – you’ve read all the others” (books in the series, that is), so I did read it… and I should have stuck to my guns, because Once Upon a Christmas Eve is rather a disappointment.

Very few authors, IMO, really know how to get it right when it comes to novellas (Courtney Milan is always the one that comes to mind who DOES get it right) and most of those I read tend to be rushed and lacking in depth; plus the current vogue for getting in at least one sex scene regardless of page count means there is even less time spent developing a relationship. And that’s the case here.

What makes it worse, however, is that the hero, Adam Rutledge, Viscount d’Arque, popped up as one of those secondary characters who took on a life of his own in an earlier book in the series, and many fans (including me) had hoped Ms. Hoyt was planning to make him a hero in one of the later books in the series. Sadly, that didn’t pan out – and instead we’ve got this woefully underdeveloped tale of a hardened rake who falls in love in the blink of an eye with a young woman who intrigues him because she hates rakes and doesn’t want anything to do with him.

Sarah St. John had a bad experience some years earlier when she was almost ravished by a handsome charmer who, when they were caught in a compromising position, blamed her and said she led him on. Mortified, Sarah has shunned society ever since, and absolutely detests rakes. When Viscount d’Arque shows up on the doorstep of the St. John’s country home asking for help because his carriage has been damaged, the family extends their hospitality to both d’Arque and his grandmother, with whom he had been travelling. Sarah is not at all pleased at the prospect of having a handsome, charming, flirtatious rake in the house, and determines to keep her distance. D’Arque is – of course – intrigued by pretty much the only woman he’s ever met who has resisted him and decides he might as well spend the next few days trading barbs with Sarah … except it’s he who ends up feeling discombobulated as he realises that the lovely spitfire has somehow got under his skin.

There’s no question that Ms. Hoyt knows how to write a sexy hero, and d’Arque certainly delivers on the sexy; he’s suave and smooth and completely contained – until he’s around Sarah and the cracks in his façade begin to show. He obviously cares for his grandmother a great deal, and his relationship with her is very well written and gives added depth and insight to his character. But Sarah’s ‘disgrace’ is too obviously just a convenient plot device and a reason for her to dislike d’Arque on sight. A well-bred young woman’s reputation was incredibly important, it’s true, but there’s not enough here about what Sarah went through to make her attitude believable.

I suppose my biggest beef is to do with wasted potential. Ms. Hoyt is, of course, entitled to write her books the way she wants to, and obviously, the Maiden Lane series took a direction which ended up precluding her from writing d’Arque a full-length novel. But my first thought after I finished reading was “what a waste of a great character”.

On a more positive note, I enjoyed the snippets from The Frog Prince that prefaced each chapter; those were a nice little tongue-in-cheek nod to the more complex ‘legends’ that feature in the earlier books.

Once Upon a Christmas Eve can be read as a standalone as it doesn’t require any knowledge of what has gone before. Prepare to enjoy the banter as d’Arque and Sarah cross swords and the sparks fly but overall this story suffers badly from what I call “novella-itis” (it’s rushed and underdeveloped) – and if you’re a fan of the series and have been waiting for a story about d’Arque, you might be just a tad disappointed.

(Note: The Kindle edition ends at around the 75% mark; the remaining space is taken up by previews of other Maiden Lane titles.)

Snowdrift and Other Stories by Georgette Heyer

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Previously titled Pistols for Two, this collection includes three of Heyer’s earliest short stories, published together in book form for the very first time. A treat for all fans of Georgette Heyer, and for those who love stories full of romance and intrigue.

Affairs of honour between bucks and blades, rakes and rascals; affairs of the heart between heirs and orphans, beauties and bachelors; romance, intrigue, escapades and duels at dawn. All the gallantry, villainy and elegance of the age that Georgette Heyer has so triumphantly made her own are exquisitely revived in these wonderfully romantic stories of the Regency period.

Rating: B

If you’re already a fan of the great Georgette Heyer – the author who pretty much invented the Regency Romance single-handedly – then it won’t take much persuasion from me to send you in the direction of this newly re-issued collection of the author’s short stories, most of them written for and published in prestigious women’s magazines of the 1930s. There are fourteen in this collection, of which eleven were previously published in the anthology Pistols for Two; Snowdrift features those plus three that have been newly discovered by the author’s biographer, Jennifer Kloester. Is it worth obtaining this new collection to read those new stories? On balance, I’d say that yes, it is, especially as one of the new stories (Pursuit) turned out to be one of my favourites of the set.

I don’t plan on reviewing each individual story here, as that would take more space than I have, so instead I’ll cherry pick as, like most anthologies, there are some excellent stories and some not quite so good ones. Each one features character types and plot elements that will be familiar to regular readers of historical romance; cross-dressing heroines, elopements, mistaken identity, dashing military men, second-chance romance, duels, high-stakes card games, regency-slang and, best of all, those handsome, authoritative heroes and their intelligent, witty heroines. Fans of the author’s will no doubt recognise the seeds of some of the plots and characters who later appear in some of her full-length novels here, too. I’ll also add a couple of words of caution. While very enjoyable, this is an anthology best dipped in and out of rather than read all at once; and these are short stories, so some of the romances are fairly perfunctory and in many cases, rely on insta-love. I’m not a fan, but in this case, it’s mostly forgivable due to the short length and the fact that the stories are beautifully written and enjoyable for so many other things besides the romances, so full are they of Heyer’s trademark laser-sharp social observation, sparkling dialogue and clever characterisations.

And so to the cherry picking. Pistols for Two is a rather unusual story in that it turns a frequently used trope on its head. Two lifelong friends discover that they are in love with the same young woman – another childhood friend who has grown into a beauty – and through misunderstanding and mischance, end up facing each other on the field of honour. Told through both their points of view, the young lady in question is a peripheral character and the author does a terrific job of describing the prickly, adolescent pride of the two young gents.

In A Clandestine Affair, we have an older hero and heroine who clearly share some sort of romantic history. Elinor Tresilian’s niece, Lucy, wants badly to marry the man she loves, Mr. Arthur Roseby, who happens to be the cousin of Lord Iver – who is vehemently opposed to the match. As it happens, Miss Tresilian is not overly in favour either, but headstrong Lucy is determined to have her way. When the couple elopes, Elinor and Lord Iver set off in pursuit, bickering and sniping along the Great North Road until… they aren’t.

A Husband for Fanny sees the young widow, Honoria Wingham, shepherding her lovely daughter, Fanny through the Season and hoping to secure the best and wealthiest husband for her. The Marquis of Harleston is certainly most attentive and would be an excellent match… so why does Honoria feel just the tiniest pang of jealousy when she sees how well the marquis and her daughter get along? You can see the twist in this one coming a mile off, but it’s an engaging story nonetheless.

To Have the Honour. Newly returned from war, young Lord Allerton discovers he has inherited a mountain of debt along with his title. His mother, however, is still spending money at the old rate, because Allerton has all but been betrothed to his cousin Hetty since the cradle; as she is a great heiress, once they are married their money woes will be over. But Allerton dislikes the idea of marrying for money and tells Hetty that he will not hold her to the arrangement between their families and she is free to choose for herself. Some timely scheming behind the scenes means that all ends well.

Hazard is one of my favourites; in it a young woman is staked in a game of chance by her weaselly half-brother, and is ‘won’ by the very drunk Marquis of Carlington. Foxed though he is, Carlington admires Helen’s spirit and insists they leave for Gretna Green right away. Helen is remarkably matter-of-fact about the whole thing, and I loved the way she issued a little payback to her not-swain the next day. Their dash to Scotland is fortuitously interrupted – by Carlington’s fiancée, no less…

Of the three new stories, Pursuit, Runaway Match and Incident on the Bath Road, the first is my favourite, being another elopement story in which an older couple once again takes centre stage. Mary Fairfax and the Earl of Shane are pursuing his ward (and her charge) Lucilla, who has eloped with the man she loves, Mr. Monksley, who will shortly be shipping out to the Peninsula with his regiment. In Runaway Match, the lovely Miss Paradise convinces her friend, Rupert, to elope with her so she can foil her father’s plans to marry her to the old, odious Sir Roland. She has never met her intended, but is horrified to realise he has followed them all the way to Stamford. Or has he? And in Incident on the Bath Road, the handsome, wealthy but ennui-laden Lord Reveley (always courted, never caught) is on his way to Bath when he encounters a chaise accident and takes up the young Mr. Brown who explains that he has urgent business in the city. This urgent business turns out to be going to the aid of the lovely Miss X, who is going to be forced into a distasteful marriage… and Reveley’s life turns out not to be quite so boring after all.

While Georgette Heyer’s full-length novel allow her strengths – tightly-written plots, characterisation and witty banter – to shine fully, there are enough glimpses of all those things in these short stories to make them well worth reading, whether you’re a long-time fan (as I am) or a newcomer to her work. Snowdrift and Other Stories is just the book to have on hand when you don’t have time to settle into a full-length novel and want a quick romance fix.

Duke of Desire (Maiden Lane #12) by Elizabeth Hoyt (audiobook) – Narrated by Ashford McNab

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

A lady of light

Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked – and nude! – lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him…only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.

A duke in deepest darkness

Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.

Caught in a web of danger…and desire

Much to Raphael’s irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involves herself in his life – and bed. Soon he’s drawn both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael’s past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael’s own demons?

Rating: Narration – B Content – B+

All good things must come to an end, and here we are, at the end (almost – I think there are a couple of novellas to follow) of Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series with the twelfth and final full-length novel, Duke of Desire. I’ve read some of the novels and listened to others (and in many cases, done both) and there’s no doubt that Ms. Hoyt has maintained an incredibly high standard of storytelling throughout the series, gifting us with some wonderful stories, plenty of action and adventure, a group of memorable characters – gorgeous, sexy heroes to sigh over and their equally gorgeous and sexy ladies to envy – and her own brand of steamy, earthy and heartfelt romance.

Duke of Desire brings us all of those things, although I’ll say now that anyone expecting a big reunion between all the protagonists from the other eleven books is going to be disappointed, because this isn’t that sort of story, and in fact, I’m glad of it. To have brought back all the earlier heroes and heroines would have been too much and actually, rather implausible, and I’m glad that this book concentrates on a new hero and heroine and gives them their chance to shine.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Wicked Cousin (Rockliffe #4) by Stella Riley (audiobook) – Narrated by Alex Wyndham

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon

Sebastian Audley has spent years setting every city in Europe by the ears and keeping the scandal-sheets in profit. Word that he is finally returning to London becomes the hottest topic of the Season and casts numerous young ladies – many of whom have never seen him – into a fever of anticipation.

Cassandra Delahaye is not one of them. In her opinion, love affairs and duels, coupled with a reputation for never refusing even the most death-defying wager, suggest that Mr. Audley is short of a brain cell or two. And while their first, very unorthodox meeting shows that perhaps he isn’t entirely stupid, it creates other reservations entirely.

Sebastian finds dodging admiring females and living down his reputation for reckless dare-devilry a full-time occupation. He had known that putting the past behind him in a society with an insatiable appetite for scandal and gossip would not be easy. But what he had not expected was to become the target of a former lover’s dangerous obsession…or to find himself falling victim to a pair of storm-cloud eyes.

Rating: Narration – A+ Content – A-

Those two names up there in the review title should be enough to tell you why you need to go and buy this audiobook at once. The combination of Ms. Riley’s wonderfully intelligent writing and Mr. Wyndham’s extraordinary skills as a narrator is always a delight to experience, and in The Wicked Cousin, book four in the author’s Rockliffe series of Georgian-set romances, both author and narrator are at the top of their game.

Following the death of his twin brother, Theo, at the age of eight, young Sebastian Audley, now the only son and heir of Viscount Wingham, spends the best part of the next thirteen years chafing at being wrapped up in several layers of cotton wool and over-protected to the point of suffocation. So naturally, as soon as he is able to do so, he sets about raising merry hell, which he does up and down the length and breadth of Europe with such great success that his exploits become the stuff of legend and his name regularly appears in the scandal sheets.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.