An Unseen Attraction (Sins of the Cities #1) by K.J Charles

an-unseen-attraction

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Lodging-house keeper Clem Talleyfer prefers a quiet life. He’s happy with his hobbies, his work—and especially with his lodger Rowley Green, who becomes a friend over their long fireside evenings together. If only neat, precise, irresistible Mr. Green were interested in more than friendship. . . .

Rowley just wants to be left alone—at least until he meets Clem, with his odd, charming ways and his glorious eyes. Two quiet men, lodging in the same house, coming to an understanding . . . it could be perfect. Then the brutally murdered corpse of another lodger is dumped on their doorstep and their peaceful life is shattered.

Now Clem and Rowley find themselves caught up in a mystery, threatened on all sides by violent men, with a deadly London fog closing in on them. If they’re to see their way through, the pair must learn to share their secrets—and their hearts.

Rating: B+

K.J. Charles announced a while back that her new Sins of the Cities series of historical romances would feature stories in the mould of Victorian Sensation Fiction:

“… channelling my love for Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Dickens in his wilder moods, and the other glorious writers of complicated plots with scandals, secrets and shenanigans up the wazoo.”

To say I was excited at the prospect of something like this coming from one of my favourite writers is a gross understatement; I read a steady diet of books by those authors – and others – throughout my twenties and thirties, so I eagerly snapped up An Unseen Attraction, eager to see how Ms. Charles would employ the conventions and stylistic features of that particular genre of fiction in her story.  And she does not disappoint.  It’s all here – swirling Pea-Soupers, sinister figures lurking in the dark, a long-buried family secret, manipulative relatives who are not what they seem…  and an endearingly innocent protagonist and the stalwart love of his life who support each other through life-threatening events and unpleasant revelations.  The main difference, of course, is that those characters are both male, and the author has done a fabulous job in translating the traditional role of the artless heroine who is – unknowingly – under threat from the machinations of an evil relative to a male character who is similarly circumstanced.

That character is Clem Talleyfer, who keeps a quiet, respectable lodging house in Clerkenwell which was, even in mid-Victorian times, an area where multiculturalism flourished.  Clem is English, but was born to a white father and Indian mother, and he feels comfortable there, where –

There were Jews, Italians, Indians, Germans, Arabs and Africans and Chinese and more, all going about their own business like everybody else.

He has kept the lodging house for about eight years, and is good at it because he’s a “people person”; he’s a good listener and a kind, compassionate man with a good heart.  He’s quiet, reserved and methodical; he doesn’t like crowds or noise and finds it difficult sometimes to organise his thoughts, but he takes pride in his work – although he wishes the drunken Reverend Lugtrout, who lives at the house at the behest of Clem’s brother, who owns the place, would take himself somewhere else.

He has never understood his brother’s stipulation about Lugtrout having to live there, but there isn’t much he can do about it as the man has never shown any inclination to leave.  But when he is murdered and left unceremoniously on Clem’s doorstep, things take an abruptly menacing turn, threatening not only Clem’s safety, but that of the man he has come to love, Rowley Green, the taxidermist who rents the shop next door.

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

Blindsided (Men of Steele #3) by Gwen Hernandez

blindsidedThis title may be purchased from Amazon.

SHE’S RUNNING FOR HER LIFE
Framed for espionage, reformed hacker Valerie Sanchez has no choice but to run. Worse, when the proof of her innocence is destroyed, things turn deadly. Can she trust the sexy terrorist hunter who mysteriously turns up to protect her, or is he the real threat?

HE’S HOT ON HER TRAIL
Former Marine sniper Scott Kramer’s job was supposed to be easy. Follow the hot computer geek who stole plans for classified weapons until she meets her buyer, then let law enforcement take over. But when Valerie becomes an assassin’s target, Scott’s gut says she’s innocent. Now, he must risk his life—and his heart—to keep her safe.

Rating: B

New-to-me author Gwen Hernandez has crafted a tightly plotted page-turner in Blindsided, the third book in her Men of Steele series.  The heroes are all ex-military men who now work for Kurt Steele’s  security firm, and even though this is the third in the series and some characters from the other books are referenced or make brief appearances, it works perfectly well as a standalone.

Valerie Sanchez is the daughter of an infamous ‘black hat’ hacker (i.e, someone who hacks into computer systems with criminal intent) but although she worked alongside her Papá when younger, she now works for Aggressor International – a government funded organisation that hunts down terrorists – as one of their team of ‘white hat’ hackers, people employed to identify and fix vulnerabilities and security holes in the computer systems of their clients.  She’s an unashamed geek who loves her job and her current assignment is to hack into the servers of Westgate Defence Systems to find and report on any weaknesses in their online security.  With her partner, Jay Suresh, she has finally managed to find a way in, but before she can file her report, she discovers something odd; all the companies she has been employed to hack over the past few months suffered security breaches following her investigations.  Believing that this must mean the clients have not undertaken the security measures outlined in her various reports, she makes her concerns known to her boss, Duncan Hollowell.

Former marine sniper Scott Kramer, a member of the Steele Security team, has gone undercover as a new employee at Aggressor in order to undertake surveillance on a staff member suspected of stealing information from the company.  The few times he’s spoken to Valerie Sanchez, she’s seemed flustered and tongue-tied; she might be a bit geeky but his gut is telling him that this woman isn’t guilty of anything.  So he’s astonished when Hollowell tells him she’s downloaded several files relating to classified weapons systems and tells him to keep her under surveillance until the FBI team arrives to arrest her.

Valerie soon realises she’s been set up, but before she can make a run for it, the FBI is banging on her door.  She’s being escorted to a car when shots ring out – one of the agents is hit and someone screams at Valerie to run.  Watching all this, Scott heads after her, but does nothing to stop her getting away.

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

The Dollmaker (Forgotten Files #2) by Mary Burton (audiobook) – Narrated by Christina Traister

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Dr. Tessa McGowan had never seen anything quite like it. But the mutilated bodies on her exam table tell a stunningly macabre tale: someone with a twisted mind is kidnapping women and altering their faces to resemble real, life-size dolls. As a forensic pathologist, it’s her job to aid the agent leading the case – even if that agent is her estranged husband.

Twelve years ago an unspeakable tragedy destroyed Dakota Sharp’s world. Haunted by the ghosts of his past, he’s devoted himself to capturing killers. His only regret is that it cost him Tessa. Now, as the Dollmaker case brings them together – and raises his suspicions that he’s crossed paths with this deranged psychopath before – they may just have their second chance. But it seems Dakota’s not the only one who wants to make Tessa his own…

She may be the Dollmaker’s next target, but Tessa has no intention of winding up as another toy on his shelf. Can she and Dakota stop this ghastly killer before his next deadly playdate?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B+

The Dollmaker is the second book in Mary Burton’s The Forgotten Files series, but it works perfectly well as a standalone. It’s my first time listening to a book by this author, and it definitely won’t be my last, as the mystery is tightly-plotted and suspenseful and the main characters, while perhaps somewhat stereotypical, are nonetheless well-drawn and likeable. The mystery element of the book is very much to the fore, although there is also a second-chance romance between Agent Dakota Sharp of the Virginia State Police and his estranged wife, pathologist Dr. Tessa McGowan, brewing in the background.

While attending the funeral of his step-father, Roger, to whom he wasn’t close, Dakota Sharp is approached by Douglas Knox, the former local police chief who investigated the death of Sharp’s half-sister, Kara, some twelve years ago. The cause of death was an overdose, but Roger was never convinced of that and spent the last decade or so trying to prove she was murdered. Knox now tells Sharp that there may have been more to Kara’s death and offers to send him his case files. Sharp is sceptical, but, to humour the old man, accepts the offer and asks a colleague to look over them, feeling he’s too close to events to do so himself.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Duke (Victorian Rebels #4) by Kerrigan Byrne

the-duke

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

He is noble, notorious, and takes no prisoners…

They say that now His Grace, Collin Talmage, Duke of Trenwyth has only one hand, he might finally be a mere mortal, but no one seems willing to test the theory. Rich as Midas, big as a Viking, beautiful as Adonis, and lethal as a feral wolf, he is the English Empire’s golden son. But now he’s lost everything. Most of his family died in a terrible accident, his protégé and closest friend betrayed him on the battlefield, and his left hand was cut off while he was a prisoner of war. The only thing that’s kept him going until now is the memory of a night spent in the arms of a mysterious raven-haired woman almost a year ago…

Imogen Pritchard is a nurse by day, but a fallen woman—and a spy—by night. Seduced on the job years ago by a Duke who mourned for the loss of his family, Imogen has never shaken the memory of the man’s despair—or the fathomless depths of pleasure he brought to her. But as the threat of betrayals, blackmail, and secrets abound, Imogen and Collin are thrown back together in a dizzying swirl of dangerous games and earthshattering desire. But can their love overcome the everything that threatens to tear them apart?

Rating: B-

The eponymous duke in this fourth book in Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series is Collin Talmage, Duke of Trenwyth.  We met him briefly in the previous book, The Highlander, where we learned that he is a formidable soldier, rumoured to have been both a spy and an assassin. Fans of Ms. Byrne’s will undoubtedly find everything they have come to expect from her books here; lyrical writing, strong characterisation, a larger-than-life hero tormented by the demons of his past, a self-reliant heroine who is prepared to go toe-to-toe with him, no matter how much his sheer masculinity and aura of barely leashed power attract and frighten her; and an element of mystery with a gruesome side, and a look at some of the darker, seedier aspects of Victorian London.

The Duke opens with Trenwyth – Cole to his friends – at a spectacularly low ebb.  He has just acceded to his dukedom, but has done so at the cost of losing the rest of his family in an accident.   Everyone insists on congratulating him while he just wants to grieve –  he is under orders to leave England for an undisclosed location and his next mission the following day

He just wants to forget it all for one night.  At the Bare Kitten Gin and Dance Hall, he pays a small fortune for a night with one of the girls – Ginny – who isn’t really Ginny at all. She’s Imogen Pritchard, a nurse at St. Margaret’s Hospital, who works as a serving maid at the Kitten at night in order to pay off debts incurred by her late father.   Unlike the other girls who work there, Imogen is no whore, but she has no choice but to do as she is told and bed the duke.  Imogen can’t deny that he’s an attractive man; he has the face of a Greek God and a body to match, but what attracts her even more is the aura of sadness that surrounds him.  Their encounter is unexpectedly tender, Trenwyth tending to her pleasure as much as his own, and taking comfort from her presence.

Around a year later, London is abuzz with the news that the Duke of Trenwyth – who had been thought dead – has returned to England.  He is delivered to St. Margaret’s Hospital at the request of his cousin, the Queen, but his condition is serious and he is not expected to live.  After a few days, Imogen suspects he has been misdiagnosed, but the doctor in charge won’t listen to her, so she approaches another doctor – who agrees with her assessment and saves the duke’s life.  Unfortunately, however, Imogen’s involvement leads to her instant dismissal.

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

Mogul (Knickerbocker Club #3) by Joanna Shupe

mogul

I don’t know what planet the designer was on when he/she came up with the cover for this book, but the female model looks NOTHING like Lily, who described as being blonde and curvy.

This title may be purchased from Amazon

As owner of a well-respected national newspaper, Calvin Cabot has the means to indulge his capricious taste for excess–and the power to bring the upper crust of society to its knees. So when a desperate heiress from his past begs for his help, Calvin agrees . . . as long as she promises to stay out of his way. Except, like the newsman, this willful beauty always gets what she wants . . .

Lillian Davies lives a life brimming with boundless parties, impressive yachts, and exotic getaways. But when her brother disappears, Lily knows that blood runs thicker than champagne and she’ll spare nothing to bring him back alive. Unfortunately, the only man who can help her is the one she never wanted to see again. Can Lily keep Calvin at arm’s length long enough to save her brother and protect her name . . . even when the tenacious powerbroker turns out to be absolutely irresistible?

Rating: B-

I’ve read and enjoyed all the books in Joanna Shupe’s Knickerbocker Club series, so I was eagerly looking forward to Mogul, the last book in the set. I like second-chance romances and the pairing of the self-made media mogul and the society beauty who were married but quickly separated intrigued me, so I settled in to read with reasonably high expectations.

Unfortunately however, they were not met. While there’s certainly an intriguing storyline that is linked with hero Calvin Cabot’s past and an inviolable promise he made some years earlier, and there’s no question that he and our heroine, Lillian Davies, are still deeply in lust with one another, plot holes, uneven pacing and unclear motivations lead to a less than cohesive whole.

Four years ago, and following a whirlwind romance, hard-working, dedicated reporter Calvin Cabot eloped with and married Lillian Davies, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. They’re confident they’ll be able to talk Warren Davies around, but he threatens to cut Lily off without a penny and also to expose Calvin as a bigamist, because he’s already married to a woman he met while he lived in China. Believing that staying married to Lily will do her a massive disservice – she’s been brought up in the lap of luxury and Calvin certainly won’t be able to keep her in expensive dresses and jewellery – and because of a promise given to his closest friend, Calvin gives into her father’s blackmail, leaves and the marriage is annulled.

Lily has picked up the pieces and got on with her life, now believing that Calvin was nothing but a fortune hunter. Her father has since died, and she has taken over as president of Davies Mining, something she hopes is an interim measure until her younger brother, Tom, can take over. But Tom is missing, and the only clue she has to his whereabouts is a note written in Chinese, which has both Tom’s and Calvin’s names written in it. Lily has no alternative but to approach Calvin, who by now, owns three newspapers and is one of the most influential men in the country. He spent several years living and working in China and knows the language; and while it galls her to have to ask him for help, Lily puts aside her personal feelings and concentrates on trying to help her brother.

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

Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal (Windham #5) by Grace Burrowes (audiobook) – Narrated by James Langton

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This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Lady Maggie Windham has secrets, and she’s been perfectly capable of keeping them…until now. When she’s threatened with exposure, she turns to investigator Benjamin Hazlit to keep catastrophe at bay. But Maggie herself intrigues Benjamin more than the riddle she’s set him to solve. As he uncovers more and more of her past, Maggie struggles to keep him at a distance, until they both begin to discover the truth in their hearts.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal is the fifth full-length novel in Grace Burrowes’ series about the eight Windham siblings; the three sons and five daughters of the Duke and Duchess of Moreland. Like Devlin St. Just (The Soldier), Magdalen – Maggie – Windham is illegitimate, fathered by the duke before his marriage, but welcomed into the family as a child, brought up alongside the ducal couple’s legitimate children and later legally adopted.

Now aged thirty, Maggie maintains her own small establishment and is a wealthy woman in her own right, having discovered a talent for investing and speculation when she was in her teens. She regularly advises her brother, the Earl of Westhaven (The Heir) on financial matters, but in general keeps very much to herself, not one for socialising or regular outings. She is unmarried and likely to remain so given her reclusive tendencies, and it’s no secret that the Duchess worries about Maggie and her happiness as much as she does her own daughters.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Trusting Miss Trentham (Baleful Godmother #3) by Emily Larkin

trusting-miss-trentham

This title may be purchased from Amazon

She’s more than just an heiress…

Letitia Trentham is noteworthy for three reasons. One, she’s extremely wealthy. Two, she can distinguish truth from lies. Three, she’s refused every man who’s ever proposed to her.

Until Letty receives a proposal she can’t turn down.

Icarus Reid barely survived the Battle of Vimeiro. He lives for one thing—to find the man who betrayed him to the French. He doesn’t want to marry Miss Trentham; he wants to use her talent for uncovering lies.

Suddenly, Letty finds herself breaking the rules, pretending to be someone she’s not, and doing things a lady would never do. But her hunt for the truth may uncover more than one secret—including the secret that haunts Icarus day and night. The secret he intends to take to his grave…

Rating: B+

Trusting Miss Trentham is the third book in Emily Larkin’s Baleful Godmother series of historical romances with a paranormal twist.  Owing to the good deed done by one of their ancestresses, each of the heroines is entitled to receive a gift from their Faerie Godmother – whom they call Baletongue – on their twenty-first or twenty-fifth birthday (depending on their line of descent).  These stories are primarily romances, however, so if you’re looking for a high-concept paranormal, you won’t find it here.  The love stories are at the centre of these books, and Ms. Larkin writes those with a great deal of insight and assurance, imbuing her tales with a strong sense of period and peopling them with interesting and engaging characters who behave and think in a manner that is appropriate for the time.

Miss Letitia Trentham is one of the wealthiest women in England and has, by the age of twenty-seven, turned down around two-hundred proposals of marriage.  Having chosen the gift of being able to detect lies, she has rebuffed just about every fortune hunter in the country  – who are the only men to have offered for her. She knows she is not pretty or possessed of the other sorts of qualities likely to attract men; she doesn’t simper or defer, plus she’s intelligent and not afraid to show it, which isn’t a much admired quality on the marriage mart.  She has just turned down yet another hopeful when she is approached by a tall, gaunt man with a military bearing and an undeniable air of exhaustion who has heard of her uncanny ability to be able to tell truth from lies – and who asks for her help.

Icarus Reid, formerly a major in His Majesty’s army, resigned his commission after the battle of Vimeiro and, although not completely recovered from a serious illness, has travelled back to England.  He explains to Letty that he is searching for a traitor; he, a Portuguese officer and three scouts were betrayed before the battle and captured, and Reid is the only one of them who survived.  He desperately wants to discover the identity of that traitor and then take steps to have him brought to justice, and he asks Letty if she will accompany him to meet with his two main suspects and use her talent for detecting lies to help him uncover the truth.

Letty senses that Reid is a potentially dangerous man and is naturally wary; but after hearing his story and extracting a promise that he will not kill whichever of the men turns out to have been responsible, she agrees to accompany him to meet with the suspects, even though one of them is a prisoner in the Marshalsea. Information gleaned gives Reid three more names to investigate, but none of those men are in London.  Exhilarated at the newfound feeling of freedom she has experienced as a result of the subterfuges needed to ensure she was able to meet Reid in secret, Letty offers to accompany him to Basingstoke to find the first of the men on the list.  Reid is reluctant to accept  because of the damage that could be done to her reputation; his behaviour in insisting she enter a prison and spend time in the company of unsavoury men was less than honourable and he is not feeling particularly proud of himself as a result.  But Letty has a plan – and even though he knows he should not allow her to become any more involved, Reid’s desire to root out the traitor is stronger than his gentlemanly instincts.

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