The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian

the queer principles of kit webb

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Kit Webb has left his stand-and-deliver days behind him. But dreary days at his coffee shop have begun to make him pine for the heady rush of thievery. When a handsome yet arrogant aristocrat storms into his shop, Kit quickly realizes he may be unable to deny whatever this highborn man desires.

In order to save himself and a beloved friend, Percy, Lord Holland must go against every gentlemanly behavior he holds dear to gain what he needs most: a book that once belonged to his mother, a book his father never lets out of his sight and could be Percy’s savior. More comfortable in silk-filled ballrooms than coffee shops frequented by criminals, his attempts to hire the roughly hewn highwayman, formerly known as Gladhand Jack, proves equal parts frustrating and electrifying.

Kit refuses to participate in the robbery but agrees to teach Percy how to do the deed. Percy knows he has little choice but to submit and as the lessons in thievery begin, he discovers thievery isn’t the only crime he’s desperate to commit with Kit.

But when their careful plan goes dangerously wrong and shocking revelations threaten to tear them apart, can these stolen hearts overcome the impediments in their path?

Rating: B

Cat Sebastian takes readers back to Georgian England with her latest novel, The Queer Principles of Kit Webb.  It’s a lively tale laden with wit, sparkling dialogue and insightful social commentary; the two leads are superbly characterised and there’s a vibrant secondary cast, too.  In fact, when I was only a few chapters in, I thought I’d be awarding the book a DIK, but unfortunately, the plot gets rather convoluted in the second half in a way that didn’t seem all that well thought-out, and that knocked the final grade down a notch or two.  But it’s still an entertaining read.

After taking a bullet to the leg, highwayman Gladhand Jack ‘retired’ from the business of highway robbery and now runs a moderately successful coffee house in London.  It’s a comfortable – if unexciting – life, and a year after his retirement, Christopher – Kit – Webb is bored.  He doesn’t really want to go back to his old life of thievery and trying not to get killed, but he can’t deny that he misses the activity and excitement – or that he’s getting more restless and foul-tempered by the day.  Which is why, when something that looked like first-rate trouble – an exquisitely dressed young gentleman complete with powder, patches and an elaborately adorned wig – walks into the coffeehouse,  Kit is instantly intrigued.

Edward Percival Talbot – Percy to his friends – is the only son and heir to the Duke of Clare.  Or rather, he was, until information recently came to light revealing that his father’s marriage to his mother was bigamous.  After living for some years on the Continent, Percy returned to England after his mother’s death to discover that his obnoxious father had married his (Percy’s) childhood friend Marian (seemingly against her wishes), that he has a new baby sister – and that his father married his mother – and now Marian – while he had another wife still living. The first blackmail letter arrived a month earlier, setting out the facts and demanding money, and now Percy and Marian have two months to come up with a plan.  Neither of them wants to pay the blackmailer. Percy knows that paying up will mean spending a lifetime in fear of exposure and is inclined to make the truth known on their own terms; Marian thinks paying the blackmailer will let Clare off the hook for what he’s done and she wants revenge, to bring him as low as humanly possible.

Although Percy is facing social ruin, and his entire life has been based on a lie, he’s firstly concerned for Marian and little Eliza and wants to make sure they’re safe and well taken care of before he focuses too much on his own situation.  To this end, he plans to steal a book from his father – and then use it to force him to pay him and Marian enough money for them to be able to live comfortably. (At this stage, we don’t know what the book’s contents are).  It’s Marian who comes up with the idea of getting Gladhand Jack to do the job for them – but after his first visit to the coffeehouse, Percy isn’t so sure the former highwayman is the right man for the job.

And, as it turns out, neither is Kit, although he’s tempted.  Very tempted – and by more than just the idea of one last job.  But he knows his own limitations and that his bad leg won’t hold up sufficiently for him to be able to pull off the robbery himself.  So he offers to teach Percy how to do it instead.

The first section of the story details Percy’s attempts to persuade Kit to help him, using a mixture of financial incentive and flirtation that stops little short of outright seduction.  The chemistry between them is palpable, the dialogue is superb – witty and very sharply observed – and I enjoyed their spirited conversations and the steadily growing affection and tenderness between them.

Kit and Percy are likeable, complex characters, complete opposites who shouldn’t work as a couple – yet they do.  Kit is an adorable grouch who has no idea of the esteem in which he’s held by those around him, and Percy hides a deep vulnerability behind his ostentatious outfits and witty conversation.  He makes little attempt to hide his attraction to men, while Kit is less concerned with what’s between a partner’s legs and, as he puts it, seldom goes to bed with people because he seldom meets anyone he really wants to go to bed with.

Both men are carrying considerable emotional baggage – Kit has experienced great loss, and Percy hasn’t known much love or affection – and have come to believe that they don’t deserve to be happy or loved. But as they become closer and begin to fall in love with each other, that experience – and the mutual support they can now offer – gradually shows them the lie and they begin to understand that they’re more than the sum of their past experiences and that together, they can be better than they were before.  I was pleased with their honesty and that they behave and speak like adults, discussing their pasts in a realistic, sensible way, and that there are no overblown dramatics.

The big problem with the book though, is the plot, which gets progressively more complicated somewhere after the halfway mark.  We don’t find out what’s so important about the book Percy wants to steal until really late in the day, and the way plot point after plot point is suddenly stuffed in in the last quarter of the story not only had my head spinning but contributed to an overall feeling of ‘is that it?’ when the book ended.  I understand there’s going to be a sequel , but this novel wasn’t originally billed as part of a series (and still isn’t) and I came away from it feeling vaguely disappointed at the way so many things have been left hanging.

In the end, I liked, but didn’t love, The Queer Principles of Kit Webb.  The romance is sweet, tender and sexy, and the setting of Georgian London is well-established;  I especially loved the descriptions of Percy’s sumptuous outfits.  The secondary characters – special mention goes to Betty, Kit’s employee, and Collins, Percy’s valet – are interesting and well-rounded, and the discussions as to the evils and abuses of great privilege are perceptive and, dare I say, timely.  Despite my criticisms, fans of queer historical romance will find plenty to enjoy here.

The Wedding Night Affair (Ash & Juliana #1) by L.C. Sharp

the wedding night affair

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The year is 1748, and Lady Juliana Uppingham awakens in a pool of blood, with no memory of how her new husband ended up dead beside her. Her distaste for her betrothed was no secret, but even so, Juliana couldn’t possibly have killed him…could she?

Juliana’s only hope is Sir Edmund Ashendon, a dashing baronet with a knack for solving seemingly unsolvable crimes—and a reputation for trouble. A man as comfortable in the rookeries of St. Giles as he is in the royal court, Ash believes Juliana is innocent, though all signs point to her as the killer. He doesn’t expect to develop a soft spot for the spirited widow, one that only grows when escalating threats against Juliana force Ash to shelter her in his home.

When another body is found, it becomes clear that Juliana has been dragged into something much, much bigger than simply her husband’s murder. With a collection of deadly black-tipped feathers as their sole clue and a date at the end of a hangman’s noose looming, they’ll have to find the real killer—before it’s too late.

Rating: B

The Wedding Night Affair is the first book in a new series of historical mysteries set in Georgian England entitled Ash & Juliana for its two protagonists – Sir Edmund Ashendon, a well-to-do young lawyer and Lady Juliana, daughter and sole heir to the Earl of Hawksworth.  This opening instalment has a similar premise to the first books in at least three other historical mystery series I can think of – Lady Julia (Deanna Raybourn), John Pickett (Sheri Cobb South) and Lady Darby (Anna Lee Huber) – in that the heroine is accused of murdering her (thoroughly unpleasant) husband, but that’s really the only similarity, and The Wedding Night Affair very quickly establishes its own distinctive world and authorial voice.

The story opens in a memorably shocking way as new bride Lady Juliana awakens the morning after her wedding to Lord Godfrey Uppingham.  Every part of her body aches and she’s covered in bruises; her wedding night was one of pain and terror as her husband used her roughly and repeatedly in a way she had not been at all prepared for.  (The assaults are not detailed on the page but are referred to in sufficient detail as to leave no doubt about what took place the night before.)  When Juliana moves the covers so she can get out of bed, she at first thinks the smear of blood on her thighs is only to be expected – until she realises it’s more than a smear. She’s lying in a pool of blood, her husband lying flat on his back next to her with his own knife sticking out of his chest.  The same knife he’d used to slice through her clothes the night before.

Juliana’s screams naturally bring servants running, followed by her in-laws, who immediately berate her for alerting the servants by making so much noise and then accuse her of murdering their son.  Still in shock, the only thing Juliana can do is cling to the knowledge that she didn’t kill her husband while his parents send her back to her family home in disgrace.

Henry Fielding (yes THE Henry Fielding) is the magistrate in charge of Bow Street at this time, and having learned of the murder, asks lawyer Sir Edmund Ashendon to go to question the lady and bring her back to Bow Street where she can be safely housed until a date is set for her trial.  Already intrigued by the case, Ash agrees and makes his way to the Hawksworth town house, where he is able to speak with Lady Juliana and get her side of the story.  As he listens to her and realises how terribly she has been treated by everyone around her, he can’t help feeling sympathy – and listening to her account of her wedding night, suggests she may have been acting in self-defence.  But Juliana insists she didn’t commit the murder – and Ash is starting to believe her.

The Wedding Night Affair gets this series off to a good start; and I should say now that while the murder mystery is solved and we find out who killed Uppingham, the author has also set a larger, overarching plot into motion featuring the mysterious London crime-lord known only as Raven, which is to be continued in the next book.  In this one however, we watch as Ash and Juliana work together to find the evidence necessary to exonerate her, and in doing so, develop a strong friendship with the potential to turn romantic at some point in the future.  There’s a definite attraction between the pair, but the author very wisely keeps it fairly low-key and allows them to get to know each other, and for Juliana – in the company of Ash and his family – to be able to enjoy the sort of family life she’s never had.

Ash is an engaging hero; kind, intelligent and principled, he doesn’t open up often or easily, but he finds himself letting his guard down with Juliana (just a little bit) and maybe liking her a bit more than he feels he should.  He’s the head of his family and obviously cares deeply for his siblings, but there are some secrets in the family’s past he’s keen to keep hidden.

One of the best things about the book is its very strong sense of time and place – which isn’t surprising considering that L.C. Sharp is a pseudonym for Lynne Connolly, who has written a number of historical romances set in the period.  Her research is always impeccable and she makes really good use of it, inserting fascinating period detail (such as the very real ‘fad’ for kidnapping heiresses and forcing them into marriage or holding them for ransom) into the background or even into the main plotlines, and evoking the sights, sounds (and smells!) of the smoke-filled pubs and taverns, or the narrow, muddy streets or the grand, Palladian mansions of the newer West End.

She also hammers home just how precarious life could be for a young woman in Juliana’s position. Outwardly living a life of luxury, she seems to have it all, but behind closed doors her parents treat her despicably, marrying her off to a man of whose depravities they are well aware in order to further her father’s plan to have her son inherit his lands and title.  Sadly, it takes a horrific assault to set her on the path towards becoming her own person, but I was rooting for her to make the most of her second chance (and I may have been cheering inwardly when she at last talks back to her horrible parents!).  The one issue I had with that though, was that Juliana so often thinks “I’ll never go back to being that person” (or words to that effect) that it felt repetitive and got old very quickly.  I could see her gradually taking control of her life; I didn’t need to be reminded she was doing it so often.  There are a few other minor irritants along the way, such as Juliana’s very nearly TSTL moment (when she decides to go against Ash’s express wishes) and an early clue which was then forgotten about until near the end.

One last thing.  I know authors often have no input into the titles for their books, but whoever came up with this one has devised something misleading.  “The Wedding Night Affair” gives the impression this is much a more light-hearted read than it is, so if you’re thinking about picking it up, please take note of what I’ve said about the way in which the story begins.

Poorly chosen title aside, The Wedding Night Affair nonetheless earns a recommendation.  The characters are engaging, the plotline is intriguing and I’m invested enough to want to read book two, The Sign of the Raven, when it comes out later this year.

King’s Man (Outlawed #1) by Sally Malcolm


This title may be purchased from Amazon

What happens when the love of your life becomes your enemy?

Had there been no war, Sam Hutchinson and Nate Tanner would have lived their lives together as intimate friends, and secret lovers. But when the revolution convulsed America, it threw them down on opposite sides of the conflict…

Five years later, Sam is a Loyalist refugee in London, penniless, bitter, and scrambling to survive amid the city’s shadowy underworld. It’s a far cry from his respectable life as a Rhode Island lawyer, and the last person he wants to witness his ruin is Nate Tanner— the man he once loved, the man who betrayed him.

The man he can’t forgive.

Now an agent of the Continental Congress, Nate is in London on the trail of a traitor threatening America’s hard-won freedom. But the secret mission of his heart is quite different. Nate longs to find Sam Hutchinson—the man he still loves, the man he lost to the war.

The man he can’t forget.

When their lives unexpectedly collide, Sam and Nate are thrown together on a dangerous mission. And despite everything that still divides them, old passions begin to stir…

Can they seize this second chance at love, or is their tangled past too painful to forgive?

Rating: A

In King’s Man – the first full length book in her new Outlawed series – Sally Malcolm has pulled off a feat that, in these days of clichéd, been-there-read-that historical romance is little short of a minor miracle.  This book is that rare gem in an overcrowded genre and something that every fan of historicals has been waiting for, something refreshingly original in terms of story and setting that  combines a gorgeous, deeply emotional love story that will tug at the heartstrings with an exciting, high-stakes plot that will have you on the edge of your seat.

In 1774, lawyer Samuel Hutchinson met Nathaniel Tanner when the latter was sent from his home in Boston to clerk for James Reed, a respected lawyer in the small Rhode Island town of Rosemont.  Over the ensuing months, the two men became friends and eventually fell in love, forming a soul-deep connection they expected to last for their lifetimes.  (This story is told in the prequel novella, Rebel; it’s not essential to have read it before starting King’s Man, but I’d strongly recommend it – it’s a gorgeous romance and cements Nate and Sam’s backstory).  But four years later, and with the effects of the revolution continuing to reverberate throughout America, the two men find themselves more often than not disagreeing over ideology, with Nate supporting the war against the British and Sam opposing it, hating the way it’s dividing American from American and allowing the rule of law to flounder in the face of those who would deny him and those like him their liberty and freedom of thought.  Neither man can see a way to bridge the gap between them, and even though it feels like they’re ripping away a part of themselves, they agree it’s best they don’t see each other any more;  and when, two months later, Sam is dragged, bound, from his home by an angry mob of (so-called) patriots and taken away to God-knows-where, a devastated Nate knows his life has changed forever.

Five years later, Sam is one of thousands of American refugees eking out an existence in London.  Bitter and angry, heartsick and homesick, he lives in a fencing ken in the stews of St. Giles, where he makes his living valuing stolen goods and as “a larcenist for hire”, the best lockpicker in London.  It’s in this capacity that he’s instructed to present himself the following evening to someone who has a job for him – a job which will send Sam north to the home of Lord Marlborough in order to steal sensitive documents.  But he won’t be travelling alone.

Nate is now an agent in the Department of Foreign Affairs and has been in London for three months, having accompanied Colonel BenjaminTalmach there on his mission to root out Tory (those who opposed the war) traitors.  In the guise of a lowly lawyer, Nate works for an American merchant named Paul Farris and is gathering the evidence needed to prove the man is involved in a plot to destabilise the Continental Congress (the Congress of the Confederation, which governed America from 1781 to 1789). When Nate attends a meeting between Farris and Lord Marlborough (a nasty piece of work if ever there was one) at which Marlborough boasts of having a list of names of allies in America who could stir up an armed revolt that would help “bring the Continental Congress to its knees”- Nate realises this is it; this is the information he’s been seeking in order to bring Farris down.  But Talmach – whose hatred of Tories is legendary, wants more than just Farris; he wants Marlborough’s entire list of traitors and is sending Nate to Marlborough Castle to keep an eye on the man Talmach has employed to steal it.

Nate’s decision to accompany Talmach to London wasn’t just for his job; his main reason for going was that he hoped he might be able to find Sam – but even so, Sam is the last person Nate expects to see when he arrives at Talmach’s lodgings to discuss the theft of Marborough’s list.  The sight of his former lover – so bitter and resentful, and in such reduced circumstances – is a real punch to the gut, and Nate can feel hostility emanating from the other man in waves.  But he refuses to be put off by Sam’s coldness and is unable to stop hoping that having found him again they might at least be able to rebuild their friendship even if they can never be what they once were to each other.

Days spent in close proximity during their journey lead to some agonising soul-searching and bitter recriminations as Sam and Nate finally confront the truths of their past. Seeing Nate again stirs up so many conflicting emotions for Sam; the gut-wrenching pain of the way things ended between them, self-loathing at the joy he feels at still wanting Nate in spite of what happened, a melancholic yearning for the way things were – the author vividly evokes all that and more as Sam slowly allows himself to remember why he’d fallen in love with Nate in the first place and then to reach a place where forgiveness is possible.  Nate is utterly heartbroken when he learns the full extent of what Sam’s convictions cost him – his freedom, his home and his identity as an American – and now bitterly regrets not standing beside him when it counted. As their journey progresses, he comes to a greater understanding of Sam’s position, but knowing they can never recapture the idyll of their early days together and believing there’s no future for them makes this reunion and rapprochement bittersweet.  Neither man can deny that the intensity of the attachment between them has never waned, and while their soul-deep bond may have been fractured and its strength greatly tested, it’s still there, and growing stronger by the hour.  The slow rekindling of Sam and Nate’s feelings for one another is beautifully done, full of raw but heartfelt emotion and likely to bring a lump to the throat on more than one occasion.

Sally Malcolm creates longing and sexual tension so intense it leaps off the page, and the way she’s seamlessly woven together this emotionally powerful love story with a tense and exciting plot and a wonderfully (and obviously very well researched) rich historical background is nothing short of masterful.  Her writing is marvellous and she has imbued her story with a sense of time and place so strong that the reader feel s transported to the narrow, muddy streets of eighteenth century London, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city and able to hear the cries of the hawkers and breathe in the intrigue of the coffee houses.  In her author’s note, Ms. Malcolm explains her motivations for writing a story that explored the experience of American Loyalists, and I’m so pleased she did, because I had no prior knowledge of this particular part of history and found it absolutely fascinating.  I was also forcibly struck at how relevant so many of the issues confronting Sam and Nate still are; it’s impossible not to draw parallels between Sam’s warnings against demagogues and mob rule, the deep divisions created between compatriots, and recent events on both sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps some of the highest praise I can offer is to say that if you enjoy the way KJ Charles so skilfully weaves together romance, history and politics, then chances are you’ll enjoy this book, too.

Heart-breaking, uplifting and utterly captivating, King’s Man is a compelling read and easily one of the finest historical romances I’ve read over the past few years. I’m happy to recommend it without reserve or hesitation.

Rebel: An Outlawed Story (Outlawed #0.5) by Sally Malcolm

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Falling in love is just the beginning…

Samuel Hutchinson has lived his whole life in Rosemont, Rhode Island. And as far as he’s concerned, his future is fixed: complete his legal training, marry a respectable woman, and settle down to raise a family.

But Sam never counted on meeting Nathaniel Tanner.

Clever, urbane, and dazzling, Nate has been banished to Rosemont by a father determined to remove him from the rising political tension in Boston. The last thing Nate expects to find in the sleepy Rhode Island town is a man who’s not only interested in Nate’s radical ideas, but who interests Nate in return.

In every conceivable way.

Over books and conversation, their friendship deepens. But when Nate dares to confess his true feelings, Sam faces a stark choice—reject his friend and continue to live a lie, or rebel against everything he’s been taught and embrace his heart’s desire…

Rating: B+

Sally Malcolm’s Rebel is a novella/short story that acts as a prequel to the full-length novel King’s Man, out later this month.   It’s short and sweet, but packs quite an emotional punch as it charts the development of the relationship between two young men from very different backgrounds whose lives will be forever changed by their association.

Handsome, charming and well-to-do Harvard graduate Nathaniel Tanner is sent to the sleepy Rhode Island town of Rosemont by his father, who disapproved of the people Nate chose to spend time with.  Nate is to clerk for lawyer John Reed, and it’s at Reed’s modest offices that fellow clerk Samuel Hutchinson sets eyes on his new colleague for the first time. Sam is instantly smitten – against his will, against his judgment – and tries hard to quell the inappropriate thoughts and feelings that arise whenever Sam looks at Nate, or the shocks that rush across his skin with every accidental touch.  For the first few weeks, Nate keeps himself to himself; he doesn’t talk about himself and doesn’t socialise, so Sam is surprised when he suggests they share a pre-Christmas drink.  During the course of the evening, Nate starts to tell Sam a little of his circumstances, and soon they’re conversing on a variety of subjects – novels, poetry, philosophy, politics – and over the following weeks and months, a genuine friendship develops between them. Sam has been alone since the death of his parents from typhus a couple of years earlier and the meals and discussions he shares with Nate quickly become the high point of every week.

Nate hadn’t expected to find someone like Sam in provincial Rhode Island, a man willing to listen to and endlessly debate Nate’s free-thinking ideas.  And he can’t help finding it somewhat ironic that his father banished him in part because of his bedroom preferences, only for Nate to end up sharing a small office with “an Adonis who spent his days shooting Nate confused and confusing looks.“  He’s fairly sure he’s reading Sam’s interest correctly, and also that Sam likely is struggling with his attraction to Nate.

Rebel is a little gem of a story which, in just thirty-six pages presents readers with two well-characterised leads and a passionate love story developed through a series of vignettes.  Sally Malcolm is one of those writers who can create the most delicious, intense chemistry between characters with the merest look or touch, and the longing and soul-deep connection she forges between Sam and Nate simply leap off the page.

Rebel is completely absorbing and ends on a hopeful HFN.  My appetite for King’s Man is well and truly whetted!

Note: Rebel was previously made available free to subscribers to the author’s mailing list.

Gathering Storm (Storm Over Scotland #1) by Maggie Craig (audiobook) – Narrated by Steve Worsley

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

Edinburgh, Yuletide 1743, and Redcoat Captain Robert Catto would rather be anywhere else on earth than Scotland. Seconded back from the wars in Europe to command the city’s town guard, he fears his covert mission to assess the strength of the Jacobite threat will force him to confront the past he tries so hard to forget.

Christian Rankeillor, her surgeon-apothecary father, and his apprentice, Jamie Buchan of Balnamoon, are committed supporters of the Stuart Cause. They’re hiding a Jacobite agent with a price on his head in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary: a hanging offense.

Meeting as enemies, Robert and Kirsty are thrown together as allies by their desire to help Geordie and Alice Smart, young runaways from Cosmo Liddell, bored and brutal aristocrat and coal owner.

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – A

I first reviewed Maggie Craig’s Gathering Storm when it was released in audiobook format back in 2015, in the version narrated by James Bryce (which is no longer available). I enjoyed the story a great deal, but had a number of reservations about the narration; one that the pacing was very slow, but most importantly, that the narrator was not able to effectively portray the hero of the story, Robert Catto, who, rather than a virile young man just shy of twenty-five, sounded like a grizzled old campaigner in his forties.

When the author released the sequel – Dance to the Storm – last year, she opted to self-publish and selected a narrator much more suited to the material. Ms. Craig has now had Gathering Storm re-recorded by Steve Worsley and was kind enough to send me a copy. Given I’d so enjoyed the story, but felt let down by the narration, I decided to revise my original review to reflect the change. Gathering Storm is a terrific book, and it deserves to reach a wide audience; the historical backdrop is meticulously researched and skilfully incorporated, there’s a star-crossed romance, political intrigue, secrets, lies and betrayal, and an intensely charismatic leading man, things which combine to make this a must for fans of well-written romantic historical fiction.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Dance to the Storm (Storm Over Scotland #2) by Maggie Craig (audiobook) – Narrated by Steve Worsley

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Edinburgh, December 1743: Redcoat Captain Robert Catto is between the Devil and the deep blue sea. His investigations have turned up compelling evidence of a real threat posed to the House of Hanover by a plan to restore the House of Stuart to the British throne. His duty is to draw out as many Jacobites as he can find in Scotland’s capital and gather evidence against them, their names to be handed over to Duncan Forbes of Culloden, Lord President of the Court of Session, and Catto’s mentor. Two of those dedicated Jacobite plotters are Patrick Rankeillor, surgeon-apothecary, and his daughter Christian Rankeillor. Yet with every day that passes and despite their very different and deeply held views, Robert and Christian are falling ever more deeply in love. How is he to reconcile doing his duty with his feelings for Christian Rankeillor?

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B+

Dance to the Storm is the second book in the Storm Over Scotland trilogy by author and historian Maggie Craig, and if you enjoy meaty, well-researched historical fiction with a compelling, star-crossed romance at its heart, then I suggest these books might be right up your alley!  I’ll say straight off though that this is absolutely not a standalone and that you really do need to have read or listened to book one, Gathering Storm, before tackling this one.  I listened to it some years ago and even I needed a refresher course as to who was who and what happened because there’s been a gap of six years between books.  Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait so long for book three!

A quick recap.  It’s 1743 and Captain Robert Catto is recalled from fighting in Europe by the Lord President of Scotland to become captain of the town guard in Edinburgh.  But that’s just a cover for his real mission, which is to track down a Jacobite agent and member of the Pretender’s inner circle believed to have travelled to the city.  Robert has information leading him to suspect that respected surgeon and apothecary Patrick Rankeillor may be harbouring the traitor; Rankeillor, his daughter and all those in his immediate circle are known to be dedicated to the Jacobite cause, and Robert is sure that they planning on spiriting the agent safely away from Edinburgh.  During his encounters with Rankeillor’s spirited daughter Kirsty, Robert is often overbearing, sarcastic and downright rude, initially as a shock tactic but later as a way of trying to put a stop to his growing interest in her.  Kirsty is similarly smitten and desperately trying to ignore the attraction that insists on sparking between her and the handsome captain, but given that they’re on opposite sides, with Kirsty committed to a cause Robert has good reason to despise, they both know that nothing can come of it.

Events at the end of Gathering Storm mean that Robert is going to be faced with some very difficult choices.  The Jacobite agent has escaped the city along with Patrick Rankeillor, and Robert knows Kirsty was involved – more out of loyalty to her father than anything else, he suspects.  But his overwhelming instinct is to keep her part in the escape hidden, to keep her safe until he can at least work out what his next move should be.  He’s never been so torn; he’s an honourable man and a fine soldier, but for the first time, he has something – someone – in his life as important to him as his career and he’s going to have to work hard to walk the tightrope between love and duty.  It has to be said that Kirsty isn’t always a great help when it comes to that; her stubborn devotion to her father and a seeming lack of a sense of self-preservation threaten to undermine Robert’s attempts to keep her safe, and it’s easy to understand why he gets so angry with her on occasion.  He has a wider understanding of the dangers they’re facing;  the situation in Scotland is teetering on a knife edge, with supporters of the ‘King Over the Water’ committed to ousting the Hanoverian monarch and returning the Stuarts to the throne, and Robert knows only too well the likely outcome for the ordinary citizens should the divisions throughout Scotland erupt into bloody civil war.  He has other good reasons, more personal ones, for being strongly opposed to the Jacobite cause – reasons which, should they become known, could cause his loyalties to be questioned, ruin him professionally and possibly pose a threat to his life.

Rife with intrigue and with the historical background and Scottish locations brought vividly to life, Dance to the Storm is a compelling tale, full of tension and shifting priorities as we watch events unfold through Robert and Kirsty’s eyes.  The events of the story take place over little more than a week (as was the case in Gathering Storm) but as Robert and Kirsty fall deeper into love – and recognise what an untenable situation they’re in – the stakes for both of them are much higher than before.

The writing is excellent, and Ms. Craig is incredibly skilful at weaving the historical detail into her fictional tale without ever resorting to dry info-dumps.  The protagonists are complex, three-dimensional characters, and the secondary cast is also well-drawn, from those we love to hate (Charlotte) to those we want to snuggle and pamper (Geordie).  The standout – as one might expect – is Robert Catto. A career soldier of just twenty-five who has spent his entire adult life soldiering, he’s seen a lot in his young life and hasn’t known much in the way of closeness or affection.  He’s handsome, charismatic and quick-witted, but he’s also short-tempered and ruthless; he’s loyal and compassionate and sarcastic as hell, yet his flaws just make him that much more human and easy to relate to.  Brave and clever, Kirsty is a skilled apothecary and healer and she doesn’t suffer fools gladly, so in that respect she and Robert are made for each other!  I did, however, get just a teeny bit irritated with her unswerving devotion to her father, because it causes her to make some extremely unwise decisions that risk her safety.  But their romance is really well done; the longing and desire running between them is palpable and I’m eager to find out where they go from here.

Narrator Steve Worsley is new-to-me and I understand that Ms. Craig listened to a lot of performers  before settling on him to narrate her story. (A different narrator was used for the previous book and he didn’t really do it justice).  A native Scot, Mr Worsley has a smooth, well-modulated voice that is easy on the ear and on the whole, he differentiates effectively between a fairly large cast of principals and secondary characters.  There were a few times I felt that his female voices were a little too close in range to the male ones (Kirsty’s speech, in particular, is sometimes difficult to identify without the aid of dialogue tags) but mostly I was sufficiently engaged in the story for that not to have been too much of an issue.  Mr. Worsley’s portrayal of Robert Catto is excellent, however;  the previous narrator sounded as though Robert was in his forties, so it was a shock when the text indicated he was a few days shy of his twenty-fifth birthday!  There’s no problem at all believing he’s in his twenties here.  Robert speaks with a cultured English accent (the result of his having moved around so much) with the occasional Scottish inflection, and the narrator does a really good job of bringing out the softer side of his character – a side he really only shows to Kirsty and Geordie – and in his more humorous moments. The pacing is perhaps a little on the slow side, and – and this is a production issue – on numerous occasions there were no breaks between paragraphs, so not only did I not have time to absorb what just happened, I suddenly found myself ‘somewhere else’ with no warning.  The same is true of chapter breaks, where a chapter would finish and was then immediately followed by the chapter header for the next.

As I’m reviewing the audio production as a whole, I have to take these things into account when assigning a grade for the narration, which I’ve knocked down by half a grade point.

Dance to the Storm was an entertaining and sometimes gripping listen featuring engaging characters it’s easy to root for, a vividly described setting and a lovely romance full of yearning and UST.  Fair warning – the book ends with “To Be Continued…” although it’s not so much a cliffhanger as an indication that the story isn’t over yet, and I’m certainly going to be here for whatever comes  next.  Strongly recommended for fans of well-written, well-researched  romantic historical fiction.

First Comes Scandal (Rokesby/Bridgerton #4) by Julia Quinn (audiobook) – Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

This title may be purchased from Amazon

She was given two choices . . .

Georgiana Bridgerton isn’t against the idea of marriage. She’d just thought she’d have some say in the matter. But with her reputation hanging by a thread after she’s abducted for her dowry, Georgie is given two options: live out her life as a spinster or marry the rogue who has ruined her life.

Enter Option #3

As the fourth son of an earl, Nicholas Rokesby is prepared to chart his own course. He has a life in Edinburgh, where he’s close to completing his medical studies, and he has no time – or interest – to find a wife. But when he discovers that Georgie Bridgerton – his literal girl-next-door – is facing ruin, he knows what he must do.

A Marriage of Convenience

It might not have been the most romantic of proposals, but Nicholas never thought she’d say no. Georgie doesn’t want to be anyone’s sacrifice, and besides, they could never think of each other as anything more than childhood friends . . . could they?

But as they embark upon their unorthodox courtship they discover a new twist to the age-old rhyme. First comes scandal, then comes marriage. But after that comes love . . .

Rating: Narration – A; Content – B-

Julia Quinn’s Rokesby-Bridgerton / Bridgerton Prequels series (honestly, the series name seems to change with each book published!) continues with book four, First Comes Scandal, a funny, sweet friends-to-lovers story in which the youngest Rokesby son, Nicholas, finds his HEA with the elder Bridgerton sister, Georgiana. The series has been a bit of a mixed bag; I liked the first two books, but the third, The Other Miss Bridgerton, was a bit of a disappointment, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one. After the first couple of chapters, I thought I’d be able to report that it was something of an improvement – until it got bogged down around the end of the first half and never regained its initial momentum.

Nicholas Rokesby, who is studying medicine in Edinburgh, is rather alarmed to receive a summons from his father Lord Manston asking him to return home immediately. Fearing tragedy and disaster, Nicholas embarks on the five day journey to Kent – only to find out that he’s travelled all that way, in the middle of the term and right before his exams, because Georgiana Bridgerton – who is his father’s goddaughter as well as one of Nicholas’ oldest friends – is in a fix and he wants Nicholas to get her out of it.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Gentleman Wolf (Capital Wolves #1) by Joanna Chambers

This title may be purchased from Amazon

An elegant werewolf in Edinburgh…

1788. When Lindsay Somerville, the most elegant werewolf in Paris, learns that the man who held him in abject captivity for decades is on his way to France, intent on recapturing him, he knows he must leave the Continent for his own safety. Lindsay cannot take the risk of being recaptured—he may have been free for a century but he can still feel the ghost of his old chains under his fine clothes.

… on a mission…

While he’s in Edinburgh, Lindsay has been tasked with acquiring the “Naismith Papers”, the writings of a long-dead witchfinder. It should be a straightforward mission—all Lindsay has to do is charm an elderly book collector, Hector Cruikshank. But Cruikshank may not be all he seems, and there are others who want the papers.

… meets his match

As if that were not enough, while tracking down the Naismith Papers, Lindsay meets stubborn architect Drew Nicol. Although the attraction between them is intense, Nicol seems frustratingly determined to resist Lindsay’s advances. Somehow though, Lindsay can’t seem to accept Nicol’s rejection. Is he just moonstruck, or is Nicol bonded to him in ways he doesn’t yet understand?

Rating: B+

After a few recent forays into contemporary romance, Joanna Chambers returns to historicals and to the city of Edinburgh for her latest novel, Gentleman Wolf, the first in her Capital Wolves Duet.  As the title suggests, this is a story with a touch of the paranormal, although the paranormal elements are fairly low-key, so if you’re looking for a full-blown shifter story, it might not be the book for you.  I should also point out that there is no HEA – or even HFN – in this book, but the second part of the duet (Master Wolf) is due to be published in early 2020, so there’s not too long to wait for the conclusion to the story.

When readers first meet Lindsay Somerville, he’s an abject slave; imprisoned, debased and badly used by a master he has no power to disobey and unable to end his suffering by seeking his own death. A former soldier in the Covenanter army, Lindsay was captured and brought before Duncan MacCormaic who, in a cruel act of frustration and warped revenge, turned Lindsay into a two-natured creature, a man with a powerful beast inside him that the moon could draw out.  Chained and forced to wear a silver collar that prevents his inner wolf from ever finding its way out, Lindsay knows that nothing awaits him but further pain and degradation – until something he’d never dared hope for happens and he’s rescued by a couple he can immediately identify as wolves from their scent.  They take Lindsay to Europe, and although time and distance lessen the unwanted bond between him and his ‘maker’, MacCormaic continues to make attempts to recapture him.

Over a century later finds Lindsay living contentedly in Paris with his rescuers, Francis Neville and his dear friend Marguerite.  It’s been a decade since Duncan last tried to find him, but Marguerite has news that chills Lindsay to the bone; Duncan is on his way to Paris and is expected to arrive in a matter of weeks.  To make sure Lindsay is well away by then, she asks him to undertake some business for her in Edinburgh, namely to meet with collector Hector Cruickshank and negotiate the purchase of a series of documents known as the Naismith Papers, a set of notes and papers pertaining to a number of witch trials that had taken place throughout Scotland some two hundred years earlier.

So Lindsay returns to Edinburgh, surprised to find the place still feels and smells like home after an absence of more than a hundred years, but also keen to complete his task and return to Paris once it’s safe for him to do so.  He arrives at the appointed time for his meeting with Cruickshank only to find another gentleman also waiting – and is completely unprepared for the coup de foudre that strikes him at sight of that other man, who introduces himself as Drew Nicol, the architect who has designed a house for Cruickshank in the rapidly growing New Town area of Edinburgh.

Lindsay is utterly smitten with the handsome but somewhat dour Mr. Nicol and decides to amuse himself a little by attempting to draw the man out.  At this stage, even he doesn’t quite understand what amounts to a near compulsion to find ways to spend time in Drew’s company, and his initial attempts to do so come off as just a bit selfish, as Drew is clearly uncomfortable with Lindsay’s amorous overtures.  I admit I was reminded a little of the pairing of the hardworking, closeted lawyer David Lauriston with the worldly, pleasure-seeking aristocrat Murdo Balfour employed to such good effect in Ms. Chambers’ earlier Enlightenment trilogy, although here, the PoV character is the hedonistic Lindsay rather than the quieter and obviously unhappy Drew.

Just as Lindsay is strongly drawn to Drew, so the reverse is true, no matter how torn Drew is over his attraction to a man, let alone one so obviously not of his world and who has already made clear his intention to leave the city in a few short weeks.  The author develops their relationship beautifully as Drew hesitantly allows himself to acknowledge his wants and needs and to act on them, imbuing their interactions with a palpable longing and sensuality that considerably heightens the poignancy of the book’s ending.

The secondary cast isn’t large, but Francis, Marguerite and Wynne, Lindsay’s devoted manservant, are all well-defined and have important roles to play within the story; and as always, the author’s descriptions of the Edinburgh of the time bring the place so wonderfully to life in all its ugliness and splendour that it’s like another character in the book.

An air of foreboding permeates the entire novel and only increases when Lindsay finally meets the shifty Cruickshank, who is clearly up to no good. The pacing is fairly leisurely on the whole, but it never drags as we build towards a shocking climax that leaves Drew and Lindsay at odds despite the nature of the bond that’s already developed between them.

Gentleman Wolf is a highly entertaining and engrossing read and one I can recommend wholeheartedly.  The writing is beautifully atmospheric, the characterisation is excellent, the story is most intriguing and the ending is equal parts frustrating and heart-breaking. I’m really looking forward to learning how everything plays out in Master Wolf when it’s released in January.

Taken by the Rake (Scarlet Chronicles #3) by Shana Galen

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Sometimes beauty…

Honoria Blake knows she must have had a moment of madness when she accepted a summons by the Scarlet Pimpernel to travel to revolutionary Paris and help his League. She’s an expert forger and glad her services can be of use, but the violence of the Reign of Terror has her longing for her quiet, unobtrusive life in London. Then a bloody man staggers to the door of the house where she’s hiding, claiming he was sent by the Pimpernel. Recently escaped from La Force prison, the former Marquis de Montagne is sinfully handsome and charming. He’s also desperate enough to kidnap Honoria. So much for her return to the quiet life.

Can be a beast…

Laurent is a consummate rake, but even he is captivated by the beautiful Honoria. Laurent cares almost nothing for his own life, but he was always close to the royal family and the little princess was like a sister to him. He will risk everything to save her from a life of imprisonment and possible execution. His plan is risky and surely doomed, but if he can convince Honoria and the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel to help him, it just might succeed. The only question is how far he’s willing to go and whether he’s willing to risk the life of the only woman he’s ever loved to save a doomed princess.

Rating: B

Shana Galen continues her Scarlet Chronicles series of novels set in the early days of the French Revolution with Taken by the Rake, in which a young Englishwoman – who happens to be a talented forger – working with the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel in order to provide suitably ‘authentic’ documentation for the aristocrats being smuggled across to England, becomes caught up in one man’s personal crusade to rescue the children of the King and Queen of France.  Ms. Galen’s familiarity with the Parisian locations and the politics and history of the period shine through, and she really knows how to pull the reader in, crafting an exciting opening set-piece in which the League orchestrates the escape of the former Marquis de Montagne from prison as part of their plan to rescue the doomed French Queen.

Laurent Bourgogne has spent the last five months incarcerated in La Force, expecting every day that his name would be on the list of executions scheduled, wearily resigned every day when it was not.  Escape is an impossibility and he knows it’s just a matter of time  – until is literally dragged from the prison courtyard by a large man who thrusts a piece of paper into his hand which bears the symbol of a small, red flower and directs him to an address – 6 Rue du Jour.

Honoria Blake followed in her late father’s footsteps, becoming an expert on Roman antiquities and then taking up a position at the newly founded British Museum, spending most of her time there identifying and cataloguing pieces acquired for the museum’s various collections.  But she began to feel restless with the smallness of her world and wanted adventure, to do something to make a difference – which is how she comes to be residing in Paris, at a safe-house used by the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, forging papers and passports for the people they rescue from Madame la Guillotine.

Even in a city in as much uproar as Paris, the last thing Honoria expects is to find a man covered in blood standing on the doorstep.  Recognising he must be a nobleman on the run, she pulls him inside, and sets about tending his wounds and offering him a place to rest – even though he seems to be just as arrogant and undeserving as all the aristos who have not been so fortunate as to keep their heads.

When news comes that Marie Antoinette has been removed from the Temple Prison – where she was housed along with her sister and her children – Laurent is dismayed.  He knows that the reason he was freed from La Force was because of his specialist knowledge of the Temple; he grew up alongside the royal family and has a detailed knowledge of the Temple and its grounds and the League had planned to have him draw up some plans of the place that they could use to effect a rescue.  With the Queen’s removal, however, their plans have changed and instead, Laurent is to be shipped off to England straight away – but he adamantly refuses to go.  He’s known the ten-year-old Madame Royale (the queen’s daughter) since she was a baby, and he is most certainly not about to allow her to remain in prison and then to take her place in the tumbril.  It might be too late for her mother, but he is determined to rescue the little girl and her brother, the Dauphin, and transport them to safety.

When the League refuses to accede to his plan, Laurent, in desperation, grabs Honoria and with a knife to her throat, drags her to the secret passage he’d noted the night before and out into the city.  With nothing more than the clothes on their backs, and most importantly, without the red, white and blue cockade that would mark them as loyal republicans, they are alone in a hostile city where danger and betrayal lurk around every corner.  Needless to say, Honoria isn’t best pleased at his having used her as a hostage and at first, does everything she can think of to escape or persuade him to return to the safe house.  But over the couple of days they spend together in hiding while Laurent formulates a plan, Honoria comes to realise that perhaps he’s not the pompous, spoiled and vain man she’d originally supposed him to be, and that he genuinely loves the young Dauphin and his sister and would do anything – even sacrifice his own life –to ensure their safety.

There’s no question Shana Galen knows how to write an adventure yarn, and she paces her story well, juxtaposing moments of peril with moments of quiet and introspection – but I have to admit that I found some of the latter sections – that usually happen after Laurent and Honoria have been almost captured or have had to wend their way carefully from one location to another – to be a little repetitive.  I appreciated the time the author spent on developing the characters – mostly Laurent – and their relationship, but the pace still flagged somewhat in those portions and I found myself wishing for things to move on.  And speaking of Laurent, he’s more rounded-out than Honoria, and one of the things I liked most about the book was his coming to realise the degree of privilege he’d enjoyed and how little he’d done with it:

He hadn’t ever appreciated that luxury. He hadn’t appreciated anything at all… He hadn’t needed three-fourths of what he’d had, and yet it had never been enough.  If coats and art and jewelled shoe buckles could have made a man happy, he would have never ceased smiling.

But he hadn’t been happy, and he’d spent countless nights in La Force, lying awake, listening to the snores of the men around him and wishing he could have another chance.

By contrast, Honoria is a bit of an historical romance staple; a quick-witted, intelligent and practical heroine who is a good foil for the hero but who never really transcends that role.  Still, she and Laurent both want to be seen for more than they appear on the surface, and Ms. Galen handles this aspect of their relationship admirably, clearly showing their growing appreciation for each other’s strengths and abilities.

A well-written, sensual romantic adventure story featuring two engaging protagonists, Taken by the Rake is an enjoyable addition to the Scarlet Chronicles. It’s the third book in a series, but works perfectly well as a standalone, so if you like the sound of it, you can jump right in!

 

To Ruin a Gentleman (Scarlet Chronicles #1) by Shana Galen

This title may be purchased from Amazon

The true story of the Scarlet Pimpernel…
Angelette, the recently widowed Comtesse d’Avignon, only invited Viscount Daventry to her country house party as a favor to her sister. When the handsome British lord arrives—two days late—he’s full of unnerving tales of unrest and violence in Paris. Angelette assumes it’s all exaggeration…until her chateau is attacked and her life threatened. Daventry rescues her, and the two are forced to run for their lives. But when danger closes in, will the viscount stand at her side or save himself?

Is not the one you’ve been told. 
Hugh Daventry visits France frequently to import wine for the family business. On his way out of the country, he stops at the comtesse’s house party out of obligation. But after meeting the raven-haired beauty, he tries to persuade her to leave France with him. When the peasants attack, he realizes he’s already too late, and now he must protect Angelette, whose sharp tongue is far from angelic. Too soon the couple is caught up in the rising revolution, dodging bloodthirsty mobs, hiding from soldiers, and embroiled in the attack of the Bastille. Hugh wants nothing but to leave tumultuous France for the calm of England. He knows Angelette is intelligent and resourceful—a survivor. But can Hugh survive without her?

Rating: B

In 2017, Shana Galen published Traitor in Her Arms, part of the Scarlet Chronicles, a series of historical romantic adventures set during the turbulent years of the French Revolution.  Now she’s following up with another book in the series – a novella – which precedes Traitor, but which can be read independently and which is linked to the earlier novel by the setting and the cameo appearance of Sir Percival Blakeney, the Scarlet Pimpernel himself.  Or is he?  Because according to the synopsis, To Ruin a Gentleman tells the true story of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

The story opens as nineteen-year-old Thomas Daventry arrives at his family home burning with questions for his father.  Like many young men of his ilk, Thomas finds life in the country rather dull and spends most of his time in London living it up with his friends. He doesn’t really consider that his parents were young once, and thinks they’ve lived a fairly boring life – and still do – until a he meets Sir Andrew Ffoulkes at a dinner party and a comment made by that gentleman sends Thomas racing home in order to do as suggested and ask his father about the real Scarlet Pimpernel.  Ms. Galen then proceeds to tell the story of how Thomas’ father, Hugh, Viscount Daventry, met his wife when they were caught up in the events of that fateful July in 1789. (And no, I’m not saying any more about the ‘real’ Pimpernel!)

Angelette, the widowed Comtesse d’Avignon, has invited Hugh Daventry to attend a house party being held at her estate near Versailles at the behest of her sister, the Marquise de Beauvais, who hopes that Hugh will consider importing the de Beauvais family wines to England.  But the viscount has the bad manners not to arrive when he is supposed to, and Angelette is somewhat put out when he finally makes his appearance – two days late – when she is about to dine.  When he apologises for his tardiness, explaining that he had difficulty getting out of Paris due to the increasing unrest there, Angelette is rather dismissive, blithely suggesting that the King and his ministers will no doubt find a solution to the problem to the riots and get rid of the mobs in the streets.  Hugh is faintly appalled by her reaction, even angry when she refuses to accept that she and entire aristocracy is in danger.

Hugh suggests she should accompany him to Calais and thence to England and to her family there (Angelette is half English), but she refuses; she has spent much of her life in France and has lands and responsibilities there and views it as her home.  She decides that, for all his good looks and potent masculinity, Hugh Daventry is annoying and she’ll be glad when he departs.

Hugh’s feelings about Angelette run along fairly similar lines.  The lady is undoubtedly alluring, but her stubbornness is not only irritating, it could well get her killed – but if she won’t listen to reason, there’s little he can do to help her.

Sadly, however, Hugh’s warnings of the unrest in the city spreading are quickly shown not to have been unfounded when, in the middle of a ball, Angelette’s home is attacked and invaded by an angry mob intent on destruction and murder.  His quick thinking gets the two of them away in one piece, and while he wants to head for Calais, Angelette insists on making for Versailles to report the events to the king and ask for his help.  As a gentleman, Hugh isn’t about to abandon Angelette and allow her to journey on alone – but Angelette is captured by a group of peasants intent on taking her to Paris for trial and execution, and Hugh must think and act quickly if he’s to have any chance of saving her.

To Ruin a Gentleman is an interesting and engaging romantic adventure featuring a couple of attractive protagonists and Shana Galen has clearly done her homework when it comes to the events of the times.  Her descriptions of key events – the invasion of the ball, the fall of the Bastille, for example – are described succinctly and vividly in such a way as to put the reader right in the middle of the action.  She also skilfully incorporates the attitude prevalent among so much of the French aristocracy of the time into Angelette’s character, yet does it without making her unsympathetic; rather it’s her naïveté in believing that because she treats her dependants well they will remain loyal to her, and her belief that the King will be able to avert the impending disaster that blinds her to the realities of what is going on around her.  Hugh is an attractive, sexy hero, one who is adaptable, clever and protective without being suffocating.  Their romance is, perhaps, a little rushed – which is almost par for the course with novellas – but because of the heightened danger and uncertainty of their situation, it works, as both Hugh and Angelette are forced to admit the strength of their attraction and what it means to them, knowing that each day – each hour –might be their last.

My main quibble with the story is with the ending. It’s hard to say much about it without spoilers, so I’ll just say that it’s a little contrived – brilliant ideas run thick and fast, everyone agrees enthusiastically and is keen to get started and… well, it’s all too pat.  I understand the need to satisfactorily explain why the true story of the Pimpernel differs from Baroness Orczy’s well-known tale, and Ms. Galen’s is certainly a plausible way to go about it.  It was just a little too ‘let’s do the show right here!’ for my taste.

Aside from that, though, To Ruin a Gentleman, is a fast-paced, entertaining and sexy read that should do the trick if you’re in the market for a bit of adventure served up with your romance.