Cowboy Seeks Husband by Leta Blake & Indra Vaughn (audiobook) – Narrated by John Solo

cowboy seeks husband

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Walker Reed’s Louisiana cattle ranch is in debt after costly repairs from hurricane damage. To get the money, his family schemes to make Walker the star of a new bachelor reality series: Queer Seeks Spouse. How hard can it be to fake interest in a dozen handsome men for a few weeks in exchange for enough money to solve all of their problems?

Roan Carmichael never got his master’s degree after his mother was diagnosed with cancer. With medical bills piling up, and a costly experimental treatment available, Roan signs on to be a suitor on Queer Seeks Spouse. While he hates having to leave his sick mother long enough to win the cash for her treatment, he’s willing to do whatever it takes.

Can two men who are just in it for the money fake their way into real and lasting love?

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B-

Cowboy Seeks Husband is a standalone romance set on a Louisiana cattle ranch which is also being used as the location for filming of the first series of Queer Seeks Spouse, the a Bachelor-esque reality show which is the first of its kind to feature contestants from the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a simple, low angst story (and despite the attempts of the show’s producers to make it otherwise, it’s fairly low drama, too!) and while I had a few nitpicks about the narration, John Solo does a good job overall.

Walker Reed was “voluntold” into being a candidate for Queer Seeks Spouse by his stepmother and friend/ranch foreman, mostly because they really need an injection of cash to make repairs and improvements to the ranch, but also because they know how lonely Walker has been since his last relationship ended some years before. He signs the application, not for one moment expecting to be chosen for the show – and no-one is more surprised than he is when he gets the call telling him he’s going to be the star of their inaugural series. Once the film crew and contestants arrive however, he begins to regret his decision; everywhere he looks there’s a camera or microphone in his face, and he’s being told what he can and can’t do; he tries to resign himself to having practically his every waking moment recorded for the next six weeks with the thoughts of the money he’s earning… and the idea that maybe – and no matter how unlikely – he might meet someone special.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Somebody to Love (Tyler Jamison #1) by April Wilson (audiobook) – Narrated by J.F. Harding and Jack DuPont

somebody to love

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Chicago homicide detective Tyler Jamison has accepted the fact that he was born defective. Women just don’t do it for him, and he can’t contemplate any other option. So, loneliness it is.

Ian Alexander has met the man of his dreams, but the guy’s in complete denial of his sexuality. Ian’s not giving up on Tyler, though. Tyler’s a domineering, controlling force of nature…just what Ian has always craved in his bed.

When a serial killer sets his sights on Ian, Tyler will do anything to protect the much younger man. For the first time in his life, Tyler has experienced desire, and it’s for another man. How much will it take for him to become the man he was meant to be?

Rating: Narration: A-; Content: C

April Wilson’s Somebody to Love is very much a book of two halves. It starts out as a (sort of) mystery/suspense story a with Detective Tyler Jamison investigating the murder of three gay men, all killed in the same manner and therefore believed to have been killed by the same person. During the course of the investigation, Tyler meets Ian Alexander; Tyler is deeply, deeply closeted but is strongly attracted to Ian in a way he’s never been to anyone.

The first half of the story (more or less) is taken up with the hunt for the killer – although to be honest, it’s not much of a hunt – during which Ian does some very TSTL things (like asking around at the gay club the victims were known to frequent and skipping out on the police protection he’s been given in order to do so), which of course, bring out Tyler’s growly, protective side. The perpetrator is arrested by the half-way point, but this is no intricate, twisty mystery – it’s all very simplistic and obviously just a plot device to get Tyler and Ian together.

Once the serial killer plot is dispensed with, the second half of the book focuses on the romance. It’s okay but nothing special, although I did like the way Tyler’s coming out was handled; he’s forty-four (to ian’s twenty-eight) and has spent his life trying to bury the part of him that liked men, even dating (and sleeping with) women. He never found the sort of connection he was looking for, but refused to admit why, and had eventually resigned himself to being alone. I can imagine that for someone so strongly entrenched in their ways, coming to the realisation – or at last admitting the truth – would be incredibly difficult and the way things finally come to a head for Tyler is well done. Ian has some issues relating to his childhood, but they seem somewhat superficial, as if they’ve been added simply in an attempt to make him interesting. The romance as a whole is pretty run of the mill stuff.

The best thing about this audiobook is the narration. I’m not familiar with Jack DuPont, but he delivers a strong performance all round – pacing, characterisation and differentiation were all good, as were his female voices. I’m a big fan of J.F. Harding (his name on this was why I picked it up in the first place) – and of course he was excellent in every respect. Interestingly though, both men have very similar types of voices – deep and slightly husky – and actually sound alike, so I wondered why two narrators were used. Jack DuPont reads the chapters from Tyler’s PoV and J.F. Harding those from Ian’s; both men portray the other character very well (JFH’s portrayal of Tyler was perfect) and quite honestly, either of them could have carried the book on his own.

The author sets up the drama for the next book towards the end of this one – I’m not sure I’ll be picking it up as once again, the plot seems fairly contrived and based on someone doing something really stupid it’s hard to believe they would have done.

Somebody to Love isn’t the worst audiobook I’ve ever listened to, but it’s far from the best. The excellent narration kept me listening even though the worst of the eye-rolling parts, but the story is disjointed and clichéd, and the characters are bland and barely two-dimensional. It passed the time and the terrific performances meant it passed mostly pleasantly, but I don’t think I’ll be listening to this one again.

How to Catch a Duke (Rogues to Riches #6) by Grace Burrowes

how to catch a duke uk

This title may be purchased from Amazon

‘I have come to ask you to kill me, my lord.’

Miss Abigail Abbott desperately needs to disappear-permanently-and the only person she trusts to help her do that is Lord Stephen Wentworth, heir to the Duke of Walden. Stephen is brilliant, charming, and-when he needs to be-absolutely ruthless. So ruthless that he proposes marriage instead of “murder” to keep Abigail safe.

Stephen was smitten the instant his sister introduced him to Abigail, a woman with the dignity and determination of a duchess and the courage of a lioness. When she accepts his courtship of convenience, he also discovers she kisses like his most intimate wish come true. For Abigail, their arrangement is a sham to escape her dangerous enemies. For Stephen, it’s his one chance to share a lifetime with the lady of his dreams-if only he can convince her his love is real.

Rating: B-

How to Catch a Duke is the sixth and final book in Grace Burrowes’ Rogues to Riches series about the members of the Wentworth family.  The first book – My One and Only Duke – saw a ducal title conferred upon Quinton Wentworth, a wealthy banker from extremely humble origins who grew up doing whatever jobs he could find in order to provide for his younger siblings, and subsequent books have followed the various family members as they’ve each found their HEAs.  The hero of How to Catch a Duke is Stephen, Quinn’s younger brother and heir whom we first met as a brilliant, mercurial teen whose insight and often biting wit was shadowed by melancholy, and whose frustrations over his disability – his abusive father smashed Stephen’s knee when he was a child and he needs a cane (sometimes two) to walk – came through strongly.  Ten years later, Stephen is still brilliant and mercurial; he’s also charming, loyal, generous and quite ruthless when he wants to be and hasn’t let his physical limitations stop him from shagging his way across the continent or from ‘dallying’ extensively in England with a variety of willing partners.

When this book opens, Stephen receives a visit from Miss Abigail Abbott, the enquiry agent who recently did some work for his sister Constance (The Truth About Dukes).  In a dramatic opening, Abigail tells Stephen that she has “come to ask you to murder me, my lord.”  – which is, of course, not what she means at all; what she wants is to disappear while she attempts to find out why someone – a marquess no less – is out to do her harm.  Abigail is cagey, but Stephen – being Stephen – quickly works out who it is and promptly offers to kill him instead.

The next morning over breakfast, Abigail explains that Lord Stapleton believes her to be in possession of some letters he wants returned – which she is unable to do as she no longer has them.  She refuses to answer Stephen’s questions as to the identity of the writer and recipient of the letters, simply saying that the marquess is not entitled to them and is clearly prepared to go to any lengths to get them.  Stephen recognises that Abigail – whom he already admires for her spirit and no-nonsense attitude (and lusts after for her other attributes) – is genuinely scared, and suggests that instead of faking her death, they should pretend to be engaged and that she should go to stay under Quinn’s protection at Walden House while they work out how to retrieve the letters or get Stapleton to stop hounding her – and preferably both.

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

Aftermath (Vino and Veritas #5) by L.A. Witt

aftermath

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Brent Weyland was the life of the party until an injury ended his hockey career. Now he’s retreated alone to a lakefront house, trying to make sense of a life and body that don’t feel like his anymore.

Jon Norquist was happily married right up until he wasn’t. Now a single father in his forties, he’s trying to figure out what comes next. In the meantime, he pours his heartache and regret into the lyrics he sings for the wine bar crowd a couple of nights a week.

When a friend coaxes Brent out for a night of wine and music, he puts Brent and Jon on a collision course. Their chemistry is instantaneous. Jon gives Brent’s battered body a much-needed remedial lesson in pleasure. And Brent gives Jon a reason to smile again.

Multiple reasons, actually. Neither man wants anything serious, but love has a habit of showing up whether it’s welcome or not. No matter how hard they try, the two can’t help having feelings for each other, even as life continues to throw them curveballs.

But they’ve both got baggage to unpack and hurt to move past, and if they can’t leave their pasts in the past, they might just miss out on an amazing future.

Rating: B

L.A. Witt is someone who is prepared to tackle difficult issues in her novels but who always handles them with respect and sensitivity, and nowhere is that more evident than in Aftermath, her entry in the Vino and Veritas series.

Her two main characters are a twenty-nine-year-old former hockey player whose career was ended by a horrific car accident that almost cost him his life, and a forty-one-year-old divorcé with a ten-year-old son who. They meet by chance when Brent’s best friend encourages him to go for a drink at Vino and Veritas, where Jon is providing the life music that night. There’s an instant attraction there – for Brent, it’s the first time he’s felt anything remotely like it since the accident – but as he discovers, while the spirit is willing, the flesh is… not at all on board, and that night ends somewhat disastrously.

Fortunately, he finds the courage to text Jon the next day to apologise for running out on him and after that, they settle into what they both believe is a friends with benefits situation – even though it’s quickly clear to both of them that whatever is going on between them isn’t really a casual arrangement at all. They hang out together, sleep together – even though sex is rarely on the table – and eventually Jon brings Brent to meet his son… but what if they’re not really on the same page? Brent worries that eventually, his limitations will become too much for Jon to deal with; Jon worries that a hot, young former athlete will wake up one day and wonder what he’s doing with an over-the-hill single dad. While at first sight they would seem to have little in common, as the story progresses it becomes apparent they’re both going through stages of grief for the lives they thought they were going to have and a period of adjustment to their new ‘normal’.

The story includes a lot of things you won’t find in many romance novels; chronic pain, sexual dysfunction, depression, emotional abuse – but they’re presented in a very realistic way, especially when it comes to Brent and all the limitations his injuries have imposed on him and the toll his reduced mobility and the way his life has been completely upended have taken on him mentally. Kudos, too, for the way she presents the issue of Brent’s ED; in a genre in which male characters – regardless of sexual orientation – are often presented as well-hung studs who can go all night and then some – it’s… maybe not ‘nice’ exactly, but it’s good to see the issue represented in a very matter-of-fact but compassionate manner, and in this particular case how, with Jon’s unconditional support and encouragement, Brent is able to at least start to come to terms with the changes to his libido and sex life.

Jon is a really sweet guy, who is still reeling a bit from his divorce two years before (which completely blindsided him), and he, too is nursing insecurities he needs to put behind him. I liked him and Brent individually and together – they’re good for each other and for the most part they communicate well and the author does a good job of developing their relationship. On the downside, this is a fairly long book and was sometimes a bit wordy and repetitive – but I enjoyed it despite that. The love between Brent and Jon is so strong, their connection so well-developed that by the end, you know they’re absolutely solid and in it for the long haul, equipped to deal with whatever life throws at them, together.

Spooky Business (The Spectral Files #3) by S.E. Harmon (audiobook) – Narrated by Kirt Graves

spooky-business

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Being insatiably curious is a good way to end up dead.

Rain Christiansen, cold-case detective and reluctant medium, is very aware of that fact. But when infamous serial killer Thomas Kane wants to meet, there’s no way Rain can say no. He also can’t refuse Kane’s offer – find his missing wife, Delilah, and he’ll reveal the location of his victim’s bodies.

Rain has never turned down a good quid pro quo, and he doesn’t intend to start.

The hunt for Kane’s wife leads to yet another cold case, three copycat murders, and an investigation where nothing is as it seems. Soon, Rain is dealing with a ghost unlike any he’s ever dealt with before…a ghost capable of doing things he shouldn’t be able to do. How can Rain control something he doesn’t even understand? And what will he do when the unknown threatens the safety of the most important person in his life?

Rain is starting to realize that he can only battle the supernatural with the supernatural, and that is spooky business indeed.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

This third book in S.E. Harmon’s Spectral Files finds psychic and former FBI agent-turned-cold-case-detective Rain Christiansen confronting a serial killer in order to try to find out where the bodies are buried. Literally. The spookiness factor seems to increase with each book, and Spooky Business is a bit darker in tone than the previous entry in the series – and that’s fine – but I have to say there was one thing near the end that really stretched my credulity, and it seemed to me that Danny (Rain’s boyfriend) spent most of the time on the periphery of the story.

When Rain is asked by his former boss at the FBI to meet with convicted serial killer Thomas Kane, Rain, who is terminally afflicted by insatiable curiosity, agrees to make the four-hour drive to the correctional facility at which he’s being held. It’s immediately clear that Kane has no intention of telling him where he disposed of the remains of his victims; instead he tells Rain that he didn’t kill his wife Delilah Rose and asks him to find out what happened to her after she left him back in the 80s. He also insists he wasn’t responsible for all the murders attributed to him and that four of the twelve were carried out by a copycat – and tells Rain he’s being haunted and wants him to stop it. If Rain does both those things, then he’ll fess up about the bodies.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

What the Devil Knows (Sebastian St. Cyr #16) by C.S. Harris

what the devil knows

This title may be purchased from Amazon

It’s October 1814. The war with France is finally over, Europe’s diplomats are convening in Vienna for a conference that will put their world back together, and London finds itself in the grip of a series of terrifying murders eerily similar to the shocking Ratcliffe Highway murders of three years before.

In 1811, two entire families were brutally murdered in their homes. A suspect – a young Irish seaman named John Murphy – was arrested. But before he could be brought to trial, Murphy hanged himself in his cell. The murders ceased, and London slowly began to breathe easier. But when the lead investigator, Sir Edwin Pym, is killed in the same brutal way, suddenly everyone is talking about the heinous crimes again, and the city is paralysed with terror. Was the wrong man arrested for the murders? Has a vicious serial killer decided it’s time to kill again?

Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy turns to his friend Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for assistance. Pym’s colleagues are convinced his manner of death is a coincidence, but Sebastian has his doubts. The more he looks into the three-year-old murders, the more certain he becomes that the hapless John Murphy was not the real killer. Which begs the question – who was?

Rating: B+

This sixteenth book in C.S Harris’ series of historical mysteries featuring aristocratic sleuth Sebastian St. Cyr is an entertaining page-turner which sees Sebastian investigating a number of particularly gruesome murders in and around London’s East End. As always with these books, the historical background is fascinating and incredibly well researched (it’s always worth reading the Author’s Note at the end; not only will you learn new things, you’ll learn just how skilfully Ms. Harris incorporates actual historical events into her stories), and the mystery is well-paced, with plenty of twists, turns and red herrings.

At the beginning of What the Devil Knows, Sebastian is called in by his friend, Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy, to help investigate the murder of Shadwell magistrate, Sir Edwin Pym, whose body was found in a dank alleyway in Wapping with his head smashed in and his throat slit from ear to ear. Sebastian and Lovejoy are immediately reminded of the brutal slayings, three years earlier, of two families known as the Ratcliffe Highway Murders. A linen draper and a publican were the seemingly unconnected victims and although a man was arrested for the crime, he was found hanged in his prison cell the day before his trial and the investigation was closed. There were whispers at the time that the magistrates – of whom Pym was one – were too eager to blame a conveniently dead man, but the murders ceased and eventually, the gossip died down. But Pym and another man – a seaman named Hugo Reeves – who was murdered some ten days earlier, were killed in exactly the same way as the Ratcliffe Highway victims – and Sebastian and Lovejoy can’t help but wonder if they are the work of the copyist or an accomplice… or if they’re the work of the person responsible for the earlier murders, who managed to escape justice three years earlier.

After making a few inquiries and observations of his own, it doesn’t take long for Sebastian to become fairly sure that John Williams, the supposed culprit who hanged himself, was not only not guilty of the original murders, but that he was framed for them, and when another magistrate – Nathan Cockerwell from Middlesex – is found dead just days later, his head bashed in and his throat slit, Sebastian is more sure than ever that the two sets of murders are somehow connected. Discovering that both Pym and Cockerwell were part of an alliance between corrupt government officials and some of the city’s richest, most powerful brewers, who forced public houses to purchase their beer and spirits from them and would put them out of business if they refused, Sebastian slowly starts to piece together a bigger picture and to draw together the links between the three-year-old murders and the more recent deaths of Reeves, Pym and Cockerwell.
You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

The Same Breath (The Lamb and the Lion #1) by Gregory Ashe (audiobook) – Narrated by J.F. Harding

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Teancum Leon, who goes by Tean, is a wildlife veterinarian. His life has settled into a holding pattern: He loves his job, he hates first dates, and he only occasionally has to deal with his neighbor Mrs. Wish’s cat-related disasters.

All of that changes, though, when a man appears in his office, asking for help to find his brother. Jem is convinced that something bad has happened to Benny, and he thinks Tean might be able to help. Tean isn’t sure, but he’s willing to try. After all, Jem is charming and sweet and surprisingly vulnerable. Oh. And hot.

Then things get strange: Phone calls with no one on the other end of the line; surveillance footage that shows what might be an abduction; a truck that tries to run Tean and Jem off the road. As Tean and Jem investigate, they realize that Benny might have stumbled onto a conspiracy and that someone is willing to kill to keep the truth from coming out.

But not everything is as it seems, and Tean suspects that Jem has been keeping secrets of his own.

Rating: Narration – A; Content – A

Gregory Ashe’s latest series – The Lamb and the Lion – introduces listeners to another of his wonderfully imperfect but perfect odd-couple pairings in the form of an uptight, existentialist wildlife veterinarian and a damaged freewheeling con-man who, in book one of the series – The Same Breath – team up in order to solve a murder. All the hallmarks of Mr. Ashe’s work are here: complex, flawed principals you can’t help falling in love with (even when you want to bang their heads together!), clever, twisty plots with a heavy dose of gritty realism, sparkling, often laugh-out-loud dialogue, and an intensely powerful connection between the leads that permeates the story. I read the book back in September when it came out, (I chose it as one of my Best of 2020) and have been waiting on tenterhooks for it to come to audio. Having J.F. Harding narrating this series is the icing on the cake; he did an outstanding job with They Told Me I Was Everything and I can tell you right now, that he absolutely nails this one, too.

A vet with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Teancum – Tean – Leon lives a quiet life of work, walks with his dog Scipio and the occasional distress call from his elderly neighbour about her ever growing clowder (yes, really!) of cats. He’s in his mid-thirties, he’s smart and dedicated to his job – but he’s also deeply insecure and struggling to break free from – or learn to live with – the conditioning instilled by his Mormon upbringing, and he’s got a deeply fatalistic outlook that manifests in his tendency to spout random facts and figures (if you want to know the likelihood of bear attacks or the frequency of whale song, he’s your guy!) or ponder the finer points of nihilistic philosophy. He’s a glass-half-empty kinda guy most of the time, but he’s endearing with a dry sense of humour… and he’s dreadfully lonely.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Even Odds (FBI Joint Task Force #3) by Fiona Quinn (audiobook) – Narrated by Steve Marvel

even odds

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Double crossed. Double agents. Doubling down… She’s putting her heart and her life on the line.

Raine Meyers is alive today only because of the heroic efforts of the Delta Force Echo Team. It’s time to pay that debt.

As an undercover defense intelligence officer, Raine tracks a Russian threat to the Delta Force wives left vulnerable while their husbands are downrange protecting the US.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Damian Prescott, former Delta Force operator – also Raine’s former fiance – falls quite literally into the middle of her operation.

Since both the DIA and FBI have their teeth clamped onto the same crime, why not join forces? A plan is hatched to insert the two intelligence officers into the action – under the cover of a fake marriage – painting a target on Raine’s back, enticing the mole out into the open.

Damian wasn’t there when his Delta Force brothers saved Raine from the terrorists in Afghanistan…will he be there for her this time, when she’s in the sniper’s rifle sights?

Rating: Narration – D+; Content – C+/B-

Even Odds is book three in Fiona Quinn’s FBI Joint Task Force series set in her wider World of Iniquus series of interconnected romantic suspense novels. I enjoyed the previous two books – Open Secret and Cold Red, which were narrated by Teddy Hamilton and Troy Duran respectively – and was looking forward to another fast-paced, well-plotted story, but when I sat down to write this review after listening to all ten and a half hours of Even Odds, I realised I had a problem. Steve Marvel’s narration just isn’t up to the standard set by the other two performers, and it was so distracting that I just couldn’t get into the story. I got the bare bones of the plot, but I’ve probably missed some of the detail.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Promise (Lost in New York #2) by Felice Stevens (audiobook) – Narrated by Kale Williams

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

A promise made:

When Ezra Green sits next to Monroe Friedman in their high school English class, friendship blooms into first love, and even Ezra moving to California won’t keep them apart. Ezra promises Roe that once he finishes college, he’ll come home and the two will be together. In the meantime they’ll write and keep in touch. Nothing has to change.

A promise broken:

After months of unanswered letters, Roe makes one final attempt to contact Ezra with disastrous results. Ezra will never be his and he needs to move on.

Now, more than 20 years later, Ezra has come home. He doesn’t know why Roe stopped writing, but he’s determined to find out. But Roe won’t talk to him and Ezra doesn’t understand why. After all, Roe is the one who cut off contact. Isn’t he?

The promise of what is meant to be:

When Roe’s beloved grandmother suffers a stroke, the past becomes the present, and Ezra comes up with a plan. Pretending to be together to make an old lady happy should be no big deal, but after an unexpected explosive night together, decades-old secrets and lies are exposed, shattering Roe’s control and Ezra’s heart. Is first love only a dream and a promise merely words, or are Ezra and Roe meant to last a lifetime?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

Having very much enjoyed Fool for Love, book one in Felice Stevens’ Lost in New York series, I quickly jumped into book two, The Promise, a second-chance romance featuring Monroe Friedman, who runs the support group where Nate and Presley met in book one. We catch up with them briefly, and some of the other secondary characters have featured in other books by this author, but The Promise works perfectly well as a standalone.

Monroe – Roe – and Ezra Green were childhood sweethearts who were separated when Ezra’s parents moved their family from New York City to California when Ezra was seventeen. The guys were very much in love and knew they wanted to spend their lives together, so they promised each other that they would stay in touch, that Ezra would come back to New York after college, and then they’d begin their lives together. Things went okay at first and they exchanged letters regularly, but when, after a few months, Ezra stopped answering Roe’s letters, Roe scraped together the money to call him, only to be told that Ezra wasn’t interested in him anymore and that he’d started seeing other people. Needless to say, Roe was heartbroken at the discovery that the promises that meant so much to him meant nothing to Ezra.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

To Love and to Loathe (Regency Vows #2) by Martha Waters

to love and to loathe

This title may be purchased from Amazon

The only thing they can agree on is that the winner takes all

The widowed Diana, Lady Templeton, and Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham, are as infamous for their bickering as for their flirtation.

Shortly before a fortnight-long house party at Jeremy’s country estate, Diana is shocked when he appears at her home with an unexpected proposition.

After finding his latest mistress unimpressed with his bedroom skills, Jeremy suggests that they embark on a brief affair. He trusts Diana to critique him honestly, and she’ll use the gossip to signal to other gentlemen that she is interested in taking a lover.

Diana has bet Jeremy that he will marry within the year, and she intends to use his proposal to her advantage.

But in this battle, should the real wager be who will lose their heart to the other first?

Rating: B+

To Love and To Loathe is the follow-up to Martha Waters’ 2020 début historical romance, To Have and To Hoax.  AAR’s reviewer was less than impressed with it, citing problems with the premise and immaturity of the leads, and overall, reviews were mixed. With so many other books to review on my plate, I didn’t get around to reading it, so I can’t offer an opinion.  But I wanted to give the author a try, so I picked up this second book in The Regency Vows series, because I am a sucker for that whole Beatrice and Benedick sparring-couple-who-are-desperately-in-love-but-would-deny-it-to-the-death thing.  And I’m glad I did, because To Love and To Loathe is funny, clever and sexy, featuring complex, well-rounded characters and incorporating pertinent observations about the nature of privilege and the unfairness of the patriarchal norms and laws that deprived women of autonomy.

At the age of eighteen, the Honourable Diana Bourne is well aware that most men are fools, but a man doesn’t need to be clever to be possessed of a hefty fortune, which is exactly what she’s looking for.  Since the death of their parents, she and her brother have lived with relatives who have seen her as nothing but a burden and who resent the expense her presence incurs.  So Diana is determined to snare a wealthy husband so she will never have to worry about something as vulgar as money ever again.

The one tiny glitch in her plan is her brother’s best friend, Jeremy Overington, Marquess of Willingham, who while just as much of a fool as every other man, is nonetheless a massively enticing fool who has only to walk into a room to turn the head of every woman in it – and set Diana’s heart beating just a bit faster than she would like.  But no matter how handsome and charming Jeremy is (or how strongly she’s attracted to him), he’s irresponsible,  overly fond of drink and women, and – most importantly – almost broke, so he won’t suit Diana’s purposes at all.

A few years later, Diana is a wealthy widow and Jeremy is still cutting a swathe through the beds of the bored wives and widows of the ton.  Their inability to agree on anything is widely known throughout society, as is the fact they’re engaged in a game of one-upmanship involving a constant barrage of well-aimed barbs and cleverly chosen put-downs.  On one particular evening when Willingham again scoffs at the idea of matrimony, Diana impulsively wagers him that he’ll be married within the year – or she’ll pay him the sum of one hundred pounds.  Of course, Willingham accepts – and only afterwards does Diana realise it was perhaps not the wisest thing she’s ever done, because honestly, she can’t see him marrying in the next twelve months, either.

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