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

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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.

The Duke (Victorian Rebels #4) by Kerrigan Byrne

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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

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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.

Schooling the Viscount (Cotswold Confidential #1) by Maggie Robinson

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This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Captain Lord Henry Challoner is a young viscount who’s left his ambition on the plains of South Africa. Wounded in the First Boer War, he’s come home and wishes he were anywhere else, until his desperate father sends him to Puddling-on-the-Wold to rusticate and recalibrate. How can Henry have any fun without any alcohol, or worse yet, any women? Kept under house arrest under the watchful eye of his draconian housekeeper and earnest local vicar, he’s bored enough to begin speaking to sheep until he literally stumbles across schoolteacher Rachel Everett.

Rachel knows she’s not on Henry’s improvement plan, but can’t seem to avoid or repel him no matter what she does to keep him at arm’s length. Could it be that she quite enjoys being in his arms, even if it’s against all the Puddling Rehabilitation Rules? Can Rachel circumvent the town fathers and Henry escape his personal jailors and demons?

Rating: B

Maggie Robinson’s new Cotswold Confidential series is set in the sleepy, picturesque village of Puddling-on-the-Wold which, for the past seventy-odd years, has provided a rather unusual service for the members of the nobility by taking in its wayward sons and daughters and, through a strict and personally tailored régime, rehabilitating them.

The hero of Schooling the Viscount is Captain Lord Henry Challoner, son and heir to the Marquess of Harland. Having an income of his own that gave him financial independence, Henry purchased a commission against the wishes of his father, but has, at twenty-five, recently left the army after six years’ service. Partially lame (he was shot in the foot while serving in South Africa) and partially deaf in one ear (thanks to a too-close cannon blast) he returned to England and plunged into an endless round of debauchery in an attempt to forget the brutality and indignities of war. His relationship with the marquess has never been easy; Henry knows he’s a disappointment to his autocratic father, who wants him to settle down and start learning his responsibilities, but Henry isn’t ready for that. After six years of war, it’s reasonable that he’d want to let off some steam, but when, after one particularly spectacular round of dissipation, he brings home not one, but two ladies of the night, it’s the last straw for the marquess and he packs Henry off to Puddling-on-the-Wold for a month of healthy food, exercise, no booze and absolutely, categorically NO women.

Henry has been in Puddling for a week – twiddling his thumbs, having tea each day with the vicar and basically going out of his mind with boredom – when he decides to deviate from his prescribed walking route and thus comes upon the local school. But even better than that, he encounters the teacher, the luscious, dark-haired, pink-cheeked Miss Rachel Everett – and can’t resist kissing her.

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

The Scottish Duke by Karen Ranney (audiobook) – Narrated by Tim Campbell

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This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Though raised as a gentleman’s daughter, Lorna Gordon is obliged to take a position as an upstairs maid at Blackhall Castle when her father dies. Alex Russell, the Duke of Kinross, is the most tempting man she’s ever seen—and completely unattainable—until, at a fancy dress ball, Lorna disguises herself as Marie Antoinette and pursues an illicit tryst…with scandalous consequences.

Months after his mysterious seductress disappears, Alex encounters her again. Far from the schemer the distrustful duke assumed her to be, Lorna is fiercely independent and resourceful. She’s the one woman capable of piercing his defenses. But when danger threatens Lorna, Alex must prove himself not just the lover of her fantasies, but the man who will fight to protect her.

Rating: Narration – B-; Content – B

The Scottish Duke is the first book in a new series from Karen Ranney, and is set in Victorian Scotland on the estate of the eponymous duke, Alexander Russell, Duke of Kinross. Alex is a scientifically minded gentleman – principally interested in the emerging science of fingerprinting – and on the day the book opens has suffered a big professional disappointment; his work was passed over by the Scottish Society for Scientific Achievement. His plan to hide away, sulk and get extremely drunk is going to be difficult to carry out given that he is hosting a grand, fancy-dress ball that evening, but he’s had enough of polite society and is well on the way to being half-cut when he notices the young woman dressed as Marie Antoinette and is immediately intrigued by her stillness. Unlike everyone else who is busy chatting, flirting and dancing, “Marie” is just taking stock of her surroundings, until their gazes meet and Alex decides it’s time to forego the drink and indulge in another of life’s pleasures.

The daughter of a renowned botanist, Lorna Gordon was forced to take work a maid at Blackhall Castle in order to support herself after her father’s death a couple of years earlier. She is infatuated with the Duke of Kinross, who is quite the handsomest man she has ever seen, and when she finds an old costume in the attics, decides to go to the ball in the hopes of seeing him. Her friend, Nan, tries to discourage her, but Lorna won’t be talked out of it; it’s her only chance of ever experiencing a society ball. And perhaps, getting to see the duke up close.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell #2) by Deanna Raybourn

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This title may be purchased from Amazon

Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an impossible task—saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution, who stands accused of the brutal murder of his mistress Artemisia. Together with her natural historian colleague Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer—a ruthless villain who not only took Artemisia’s life in cold blood but is happy to see Ramsforth hang for the crime.

Rating: B+

A Perilous Undertaking is the second book in Deanna Raybourn’s series of Victorian mysteries featuring the intrepid Veronica Speedwell, lepidopterist and lady adventurer and her friend and colleague Revelstoke Templeton-Vane, known as Stoker – the scion of a noble family from whom he ran away to join the Navy and who has since made himself a name as a natural historian.

Both characters were very well introduced in the previous book, A Curious Beginning, so while this one can be read as a standalone in terms of the mystery, readers will get a lot more out of the books if read in order, as the mystery, while entertaining, is, to my mind, secondary to the continuing development of the unconventional relationship between Veronica and Stoker. Added to this is the gradual drip-feeding of information about Stoker’s past – a past that has obviously been full of heartbreak and betrayal – which is both masterful and incredibly frustrating, as Ms. Raybourn teases us with hints without revealing all – although she does build on what we learned about him in the last book.

The same is true of Veronica. She does have her secrets, but seems generally much more straightforward. She’s intelligent, outspoken and adventurous; she has travelled widely on her lepidoptery expeditions, she’s – discreetly – taken lovers (albeit never in England and never Englishmen abroad), and at the end of the last book, was revealed to be the natural daughter of Edward, Prince of Wales. She is still coming to terms with that knowledge; she knows she will never be acknowledged, and nor does she want to be – and she is still furious at the fact that she was offered hush money (which she rejected) in exchange for never revealing the truth of her birth.

So when, at the beginning of this story she is summoned to meet with a mysterious woman who turns out to be her aunt Louise, Veronica is not best pleased. The woman is imperious, brusque and condescending, but she informs Veronica that without her help, an innocent man will shortly go to the gallows for murder. Miles Ramforth is a friend of the princess’ and he will hang for the murder of his pregnant mistress in a week’s time – but Louise knows for certain that he is not guilty and wants Veronica to prove it. Louise makes it clear that she will not reveal the reason that she is certain Miles did not commit the crime – and I admit that I rather wanted Veronica to tell Louise where to stick it, because she was obviously withholding crucial information.

Anyway. Miles and his lover were part of a well-known ‘commune’ of bohemians and artists who gather under the auspices of the famous painter, Sir Frederick Havelock at Havelock House in London (which the author based on the home of the renowned artist Sir Frederick Leighton), so it’s there that Veronica and Stoker begin their investigations. There’s absolutely no doubt that Ms. Raybourn knows how to write a rollicking mystery story which keeps twisting and turning right up until the last moment, but it’s the relationship between Veronica and Stoker – and Stoker himself, such an adorable mixture of brooding, sexy and sweet – that are the big draws for me.

The author has cleverly engaged in a bit of role reversal, with Veronica usually being the one to make a risqué comment or engage in a bit of flirtation while Stoker is the one to blush or change the subject. Veronica makes absolutely no bones about her interest in men and sex – and there is quite a lot of talk about carnal matters in the book – and it’s very clear that although she’s definitely interested in getting Stoker into bed, her “no Englishmen” rule keeps her from extending that particular invitation. Plus, there’s also the fact that neither of them has ever experienced the sort of relationship they are building between them, and neither of them wants to risk it. Ms. Raybourn does an excellent job in conveying the truth and depth of their friendship; there’s the real sense that these are two people who understand each other at an instinctual level:

“Whatever this thing is that makes us different, this thing that makes quicksilver of us when the rest of the world is mud, it binds us. To break that would be to fly in the face of nature.”

In spite of that, however, the sexual tension between them is intense and if and when they do get it together romantically, I can see them continuing just as they are in every other aspect of their lives. They are strong, fiercely intelligent characters who aren’t afraid to challenge each other and don’t give a fig for what anyone else thinks of them; they trust each other absolutely and depend on each other without being dependent on one another, if that makes any sense. They know the other is there for them; they don’t need each other precisely, but they both recognise that their life is richer and more complete now they’ve found each other.

Those are all the really good things about the book. But there are a few things that bugged me enough to make me lower my final grade a bit. In my review of A Curious Beginning, I said of Veronica:

there were times I felt she was bordering on caricature and her unconventionality began to seem like artifice. I got that she was an unusual young woman quite early on and didn’t need to be reminded of it quite so often

And I’d say the same thing here. Almost every character has something to say about Veronica which – even when it’s intended to be insulting – is meant to show how thoroughly Unconventional and Not Proper she is. And if it’s not someone else, then it’s Veronica herself extolling her eccentricity and achievements, which strays dangerously close to Mary Sue territory. The thing is, this is the second book in a series, and while I know that authors who write series also have to try to write each book so that a newbie can jump in, those of us who have read the first book are already well aware of Veronica’s idiosyncrasies and the way she enjoys flouting the conventions of society – so we don’t need to be hit over the head with it quite so frequently.

I also feel that while we get to know a little more about Stoker’s past – we meet all his brothers (there are three of them) in this book – Veronica is pretty much as she was in the first book and her character has developed little. Right at the end of A Perilous Undertaking, she reveals something to Stoker that she is not ready to discuss, so there is potential for growth in the next story (I hope); but ultimately, I’d have liked a little more character development and introspection instead the continual reminders as to how wonderful and unusual Veronica is.

But the things I liked definitely outweighed the things I didn’t, and this is still a book I’d recommend to fans of the author and historical mysteries in general. It’s very well written, the dialogue and snarky banter between Veronica and Stoker in particular is excellent and the mystery element is nicely plotted and executed. While it didn’t work quite as well for me as the previous book, it’s an enjoyable read and I’m already eagerly anticipating the next in the series.

The Viscount and the Vixen (Hellions of Havisham Hall #3) by Lorraine Heath

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This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Love begets madness. Viscount Locksley watched it happen to his father after his cherished wife’s death. But when his sire arranges to marry flame-haired fortune hunter Portia Gadstone, Locke is compelled to take drastic measures to stop the stunning beauty from taking advantage of the marquess. A marriage of mutual pleasure could be convenient, indeed… as long as inconvenient feelings don’t interfere.

Desperation forced Portia to agree to marry a madman. The arrangement will offer the protection she needs. Or so she believes until the marquess’s distractingly handsome son peruses the fine print… and takes his father’s place!

Now the sedate — and, more importantly, secure — union Portia planned has been tossed in favor of one simmering with wicked temptation and potential heartbreak. Because as she begins to fall for her devilishly seductive husband, her dark secrets surface and threaten to ruin them both—unless Locke is willing to risk all and open his heart to love.

Rating: B+

Lorraine Heath is one of those writers whose work really resonates with me. I don’t know what it is exactly, but the emotional content of her books draws me to her time and time again, and I will often finish one of her novels feeling completely wrung out and unable to pick up another book for at least twenty-four hours. Such was the case with The Viscount and the Vixen, the final full-length novel in her Hellions of Havisham Hall series.

The Marquess of Marsden is a recluse, labelled mad by most because he is believed to have gone insane following the death of his beloved wife in childbed. Havisham Hall has been allowed to fall into disrepair over the years, and even though his son, Viscount Locksley has lived there exclusively for the past couple of years, he has made no improvements because his father dislikes change and he – Locke – doesn’t want to agitate him.

So when he arrives at the breakfast table one morning to find his father freshly shaved, smartly dressed and reading the paper, it’s a bit of a shock. Marsden usually takes his meals in his room and doesn’t bother much about his appearance, but when he tells Locke that his (Marsden’s) bride will be arriving later, Locke thinks his father is delusional and must be referring to his mother. But Marsden is perfectly lucid and explains that as Locke has so far neglected to find a wife and set up his nursery, it behoves him to marry a woman young enough to provide the necessary “spare” in order to secure the succession. And in order to do that, Marsden placed an advertisement in a newspaper which was answered by a Mrs. Portia Gadstone, with whom he has been corresponding ever since. Locke is flabbergasted, but also concerned for his father and worried that he has been taken in by a fortune hunter. When Mrs. Gadstone appears, he is knocked sideways even further; she’s luscious and he’s suddenly drowning in lust the like of which he can’t remember ever experiencing before. But even so – he’s sure she’s a gold digger and is determined to protect his father at all costs. And it quickly appears there is only one way to do that, which is to marry Portia himself.

Portia has been driven to the drastic step of marrying a man widely reputed to be insane because she’s in a desperate situation. She can’t deny that the prospect of marrying a wealthy man is an attractive one, but just as important as the marquess’ wealth is the fact that his title offers her the protection she seeks, and she is determined to be a good wife to him.

But her first sight of Marsden’s gorgeous, green-eyed son throws her for a loop, even though he makes it perfectly clear that he distrusts her and wants to stop her marrying his father. When Locke proposes she marry him instead, Portia is almost turned from her purpose, realising that her life with him will in no way fulfil her desire for quiet, rather dull existence she had envisaged having with his father. But that doesn’t alter the fact that she has imperative reasons for marrying and living in a remote location – and the deal is made.

The sexual tension between Locke and Portia is off the charts right from the start, and theirs is – to begin with – a relationship based purely on mutual lust, which suits both of them. Locke saw what his mother’s death did to his father and as a result, has no wish to experience love; and Portia doesn’t want to fall in love with a man upon whom she is practicing a serious deception. But as the story progresses, the lines between lust and affection become blurred and Portia starts to worm her way under the skin of father and son, both of whom are taken with her intelligence, wit and kindness. And for Locke, the fact that his wife is a woman whose capacity for passion matches is own is an unlooked for bonus.

Lorraine Heath has penned a lovely, tender romance that progresses at the same time as Locke and Portia are setting fire to the sheets (often!), and I particularly enjoyed the way that Portia’s gradual progress in restoring Havisham Hall, opening up long-closed rooms and making them habitable and welcoming again, mirrors her gradual unlocking of her new husband’s heart and her discovery that he is a man capable – and deserving – of a great deal of love and affection. There is never any doubt that Locke and Portia are falling in love; their actions often speak louder than their words as these two people who didn’t want love come to realise that it’s found them, regardless.

Portia’s backstory and her reasons for answering Marsden’s advertisement are drip fed throughout the book, and it’s a testament to the author’s skill that even though Portia has deliberately set out to deceive, the reader feels sympathy for her. At a time when women had no rights to anything, even their own bodies, she has had to make difficult choices and ended up living a life very different from the one she had envisaged. She owns her own mistakes, but when faced with an impossible choice, made the only decision she could live with, one which now looks set to ruin her life and happiness with the man she never intended to love.

Locke seems to be rather a stereotypical romance hero at first glance – tall, dark, handsome, cynical and a demi-god in bed – but there’s more to him than that. Underneath the veneer of charm and wicked sensuality, he’s a compassionate man with a strong sense of duty who is quite obviously fooling himself into believing he doesn’t want love when he is so clearly ready to embrace it. His relationship with Marsden is easily one of the best things about the book; the affection in which father and son hold each other leaps off the page and possesses just the right degree of exasperated tenderness. And Marsden is far more subtly drawn here than he has been in the other books; he’s unbalanced, but clearly not insane and appears to be subject to fits of melancholy rather than mentally unhinged.

When Locke discovers his wife’s dishonesty, there are, of course, some unpleasant things said, and later, Portia does perhaps forgive Locke a tad too quickly. But on balance, Locke’s willingness to listen to Portia’s story – something many men of the time would probably not have done – says much for him and about the strength of their relationship. It works in context, although I can understand that some may feel he wasn’t sufficiently remorseful and should have grovelled more.

The Viscount and the Vixen contains just about everything I want from an historical romance – complex, intriguing characters, scorching sexual tension, and a strong storyline that is firmly rooted in the era in which the story is set. Ms. Heath once again delivers those things along with finely observed familial relationships and a sexy, well-developed love story. I’ve enjoyed each of the books in this series and am looking forward to whatever the author comes up with next.