An Enchanting Regency Christmas (anthology) by Edith Layton

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The long-awaited second anthology of Edith Layton’s Regency romance Christmas stories includes four heart-warming tales. Originally published in separate anthologies, and out-of-print for many years, these holiday novellas by legendary Regency romance author Edith Layton are in one volume for the first time ever! This collection includes the following stories:

The Earl’s Nightingale
The Hounds of Heaven
The Rake’s Christmas
The Dark Man

Rating: B-

Back in the day, historical romance fans new Christmas was around the corner when Signet published its annual anthology of Christmas stories by some of its most popular and most beloved authors.  Those original books are long since out of print – although second-hand copies can still be found – but some of the authors (or their estates) are now making their stories available in digital formats. Edith Layton’s daughter has been republishing her mother’s novels and short stories over the past few years, and follows up last year’s six-story anthology It’s a Wonderful Regency Christmas with An Enchanting Regency Christmas, which brings together another four previously published Christmas stories.

The Earl’s Nightingale

(originally published in A Regency Christmas Carol, 1997)

Grade: B-

A charming story with just a little bit of Christmas magic, The Earl’s Nightingale is about finding happlness where you least expect it.  Eliza Dumont, a gently-born young woman who supports herself and her mother by giving music lessons, needs to raise some money urgently and has no alternative but to pawn the gift left her by her late grandmother, a bejewelled, mechanical bird in a golden cage.  It breaks her heart to do so; it’s the last thing her grandmother gave her, and with it, the old lady left a letter telling her that the bird will bring her happiness.

Frauncis, the Earl of Elliott, is looking for a gift to give a respectable young lady for Christmas.  He knows the lady in question is expecting a betrothal ring, but he is not about to meet those expectations; still, he needs to send something appropriate.  When he sees the mechanical bird in the corner of the shop, he realises he’s found the perfect gift, and sends it to the  young lady – who is so angry at not receiving the gift she’d hoped for that she throws the cage across the room and gives it to her servant. Who sells it on…

When Eliza returns to retrieve the bird, she’s devastated to discover it’s been sold.  She pays a visit to the Earl to offer to buy it back, and he, of course is unable to oblige.  But he’s instantly smitten with Eliza and promises to retrieve it for her – except, as he discovers, it’s not that simple.  Over the next few days, he and Eliza track down the bird, and as they do, they draw closer and eventually, Eliza discovers that the bird has bought her happiness after all.


The Hounds of Heaven

(originally published in A Regency Christmas, 1998)

Grade: B-

This story isn’t so much a romance as it is the story of a man taking stock of himself and his life and opening himself up to what it means to be worthy – and capable – of love.

Wealthy, charming, titled and handsome, Lord Thadeus Rose, London’s most eligible bachelor., has decided it’s time to marry and has chosen himself a suitable bride.  Miss Helena Thatcher is beautiful, intelligent, sensible and well-bred, young enough to bear children but not an empty-headed schoolroom chit who will bore him silly.  So when he proposes to her, he’s stunned by her rejection, and doesn’t understand the reasons behind it

Stumbling home after drowning his sorrows, Thadeus is set upon by footpads – but is saved by a puppy (a large puppy, admittedly) who subsequently ‘adopts’ him and refuses to leave his side.  As Thadeus learns how to care for something other than himself, and as the dog’s unconditional love begins to show him how wonderful it feels to be loved, he comes to appreciate and understand the importance of the most human of emotions, and to know what he needs to do in order to win the heart of his lady.


The Rake’s Christmas

(originally published in A Regency Christmas, 1995)

Grade: B

I love a good poor-relation-gets-the-guy tale, and this is definitely a good one.  It’s my favourite story in this collection, and in it we meet, Ian, Viscount Hunt, a young man lately returned from the Peninsula war who has thrown himself into a life of hedonistic pleasures as a way of distracting him from sad memories.  He is approached by Lord Shelton, an older man and a confirmed rake and invited to attend a house-party over the Christmas season at Moon Manor, the home of a distant relative of his. Ian is a little wary – he doesn’t know Shelton other than by reputation – but allows himself to be persuaded.  On the way, Shelton is called away owing to an emergency, leaving Ian to attend the party without him.

Eve Thomkins is the poor relation, taken in for Christmas by her aunt and uncle but already looking forward to getting away from their forced and somewhat humiliating generosity, and to her upcoming twenty-fifth birthday, after which she need never spend Christmas with them again.  When Viscount Hunt arrives, the sense of kinship feels as their eyes meet for the first time startles her, making her wish, just once, that she could be even vaguely eligible, as the other young ladies are.

Hunt’s broodingly handsome looks naturally gain him the attention of all the young ladies at the party, although his somewhat intimidating manner cows most of them – apart from Eve with whom he occasionally lets his guard down.  Over the days that follow, he finds himself seeking Eve out – telling himself that what he really wants to do is warn her of Lord Shelton’s designs on her – but instead just enjoying her company and conversation.  And Eve, who is preparing to take up the mantle of ‘eternal spinster’ is determined to enjoy this last hurrah of time spent with an attractive man.

Eve and Ian are likeable and fully-fleshed out in a way that doesn’t always happen in novellas, and this story is the most ‘Christmassy’ in overall feel, incorporating many of the traditions of the festival, with its mistletoe and holly-gathering parties, yule log hunt, wassail and carolling.  The author packs a lot of emotional punch into this one, and the ending, while not exactly a surprise, nonetheless left me smiling.


The Dark Man

(originally published in A Regency Christmas III, 1991)

Grade: C-

This is the story I liked least out of the set; it’s about an engaged couple who fall out and get back together again, but it isn’t particularly romantic.  Like The Hounds of Heaven, it focuses more on the hero’s journey to self-awareness, but it isn’t anywhere near as charming as that story.

When Eve Swanson discovers that her fiancé, the Earl of Poole, has a mistress (as well as a bevy of former mistresses amongst the ton) she knows all too well that it’s ‘the done thing’ among men of their class, but finds it difficult to handle the normality of it –  especially the idea of coming face-to-face with his former lovers and being expected to behave as though it’s nothing.  When she breaks their engagement, she’s sent off in disgrace to stay with her grandmother in the north of England, while Poole kicks his heels in London and comes to the realisation that what Eve had said about his always following the rules and expectations was true and that he needs to be true to himself if he’s to attain his heart’s desire and win her back.

This tale focuses a little more on New Year and its traditions than on Christmas, and that’s all nicely done, but the story feels rushed and the end of it is a bit nonsensical.


As I usually find to be the case with anthologies, An Enchanting Regency Christmas is a bit of a mixed bag.  But overall, it’s an enjoyable collection that is sure to provide plenty of warm fuzzies and feelings of good cheer over the festive season.

Working Stiffs: An M/M vampire romance charity anthology

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Not all vampires are idly rich. Some of them have day jobs. Er, night jobs.

In a world struggling to come to grips with the existence of vampires, where reactions range from excitement to fear to determined disbelief, these vampires are just trying to make ends meet. Some of them do mundane work—like waiting tables or driving a cab. Others have more prestigious careers in medicine and crime prevention. But what all their jobs have in common is people. Unpredictable, interesting, frustrating, hostile, helpless, tasty people.

Whether they’re pouring drinks, answering phones, hacking into a computer system, or serving up the perfect food/wine pairing, these working stiffs are too busy to fall in love. Or are they?

This International Workers Day, celebrate by sinking your teeth into thirteen awesome stories about vampires at work. Because even the undead have to earn a living. Proceeds benefit the WHO’s Covid-19 Response Fund.

Rating: B

Working Stiffs : An m/m vampire charity romance anthology is a collection of thirteen short stories and novellas, and proceeds from sales will go to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.  I generally find anthologies to be a mixed bag and that’s true of Working Stiffs; given there are thirteen stories, I’m going to limit myself to talking in detail about the ones I liked best (or we’d be here all day!)

All the stories are based around a similar premise.  As the synopsis says:

In a world struggling to come to grips with the existence of vampires, where reactions range from excitement to fear to determined disbelief, these vampires are just trying to make ends meet. Some of them do mundane work—like waiting tables or driving a cab… Because even the undead have to earn a living.

The world-building – in terms of what these vampires can and can’t do and how they live (or not!) – is fairly consistent across the board, and the vampire characters range from being centuries old to the recently turned, and work in jobs from chef to cabbie, telemarketer to trauma specialist.

My favourite story is Lyra Evans’ Bad Blood, which features two ER doctors who have been at each other’s throats (figuratively!) since they met.  Dr. Alek Matsouka is dedicated, driven and highly skilled, but when he started his training, he never intended to end up in Emergency medicine. That all changed when he was turned just two months before he qualified, and being an ER doc is now the only way he can practice, seeing as any other branch of medicine would need him to work in the daytime.  He and the other resident, James Crawford, can’t stand each other; Crawford resents Alek for always interfering with his cases and telling him he’s wrong; Alek resents Crawford for having the choices no longer available to him and takes out his frustration by being snippy and condescending.  The ER setting is very well done (a warning here – there’s a scene involving a miscarriage that is quite detailed), and there’s another in which Alek is confronted by some serious bigotry that is, quite rightly, uncomfortable to read.  The two leads are fleshed out fairly well for a short story and their simmering chemistry is evident right from the first, which of course leads to an ending of their feud and a definite HFN.

Fangs for the Memories by Sadie Jay is a second chance romance between a vamp and the ex who staked him fifteen years earlier!  You’d think a stake through the heart might be a tough one to forgive, but the couple in this story manage to get past it.  Back when he was young, stupid and easily influenced, Rollie Brown was brainwashed into believing that vampires were an abomination, and that he should kill his lover.  So seeing him alive – or rather, undead – and well, and working as a bartender comes as something as a shock.  Not surprisingly, Aja isn’t all that pleased to see Rollie, but when he explains that he’s looking for an ex he thinks might have got mixed up in something nasty at a vampire bar, Aja agrees to help.  The author creates a believable connection between Rollie and Aja, the storyline is suspenseful and there’s plenty of humour, too.  My one niggle is that the set-up – Rollie’s reasons for the whole stake-through-the-heart thing  – were pretty unconvincing.

I also enjoyed Overexposed by K. Evan Coles and Mel Gough’s Fire and Ice Cold Skin, although both felt as though they were introductions to longer stories.  In Overexposed, a crime scene photographer with the NYPD becomes involved with the only witness to a murder, a human he’s felt drawn to since the moment he first saw him, and in Fire and Ice and Cold Skin a firefighter is moved to look after the young man whose home has just burned to the ground and who has nowhere else to go.  Even though the leads are together by the end of this one, it doesn’t feel quite like an HFN and there’s definitely more to be said. Both authors indicate that there may be more to come, and I’d certainly be up for reading that ‘more’ if they end up writing it!

H.L. Day’s Bad Decision is set in London and features a vampire cab driver who gets a lot more than he bargained for when he picks up a fare who wants to go to a vampire bar to act out his sexual fantasy of being bitten during sex.  The relationship evolves quickly, but the author creates a real atmosphere of peril in this story, showing the vampires as much more menacing than those in most of the other stories.

The biggest issue I have with romances in novella and short story form in general is that they almost ways feel rushed; and given that today, even the shortest of romances is expected to contain a sex scene, the plot, character and relationship development suffer as they’re squeezed into fewer pages to leave room for the shagging.  The stories I enjoyed most in Working Stiffs are probably the longest ones, and they have a bit more depth to the plot and characterisation than the others. While the sex scenes in every story happen fast, there is at least a build-up and a sense of connection between the characters.

My least favourite tales? Roberta Blablanski’s Dial-a-Vamp , about a vampire phone sex operator whose latest caller wants to act out his vampire sex fantasies, is basically all sex and little plot. That’s fine – the threesome is pretty hot – but I’d have liked a bit more substance to it.  And Call My Numberby Megs Pritchard has a great premise; two guys who talk on the phone everyday agree to meet up, but things aren’t quite what they seem.  I really liked the idea there, but it was let down by the execution and uninspired writing.  Edie Montreux’s Quality Assured – about a vampire who works at a call-centre and seems basically to be some sort of superhero – is simply weird(!), and again is tripped up by poor execution.

Working Stiffs is available in Kindle Unlimited or costs $3.99 to buy (I would imagine more money will go to the charity if the book is purchased outright), and given there are half-a-dozen decent stories in there, I’d say it’s worth the price if you’re looking for some quick, sexy reads and a collection you can dip in and out of.  My favourites were by authors I haven’t read before, so I’m definitely going to check out more of their work.

The individual stories are:

Bad Blood by Lyra Evans

Bad Decision by H.L Day

Call My Number by Megs Pritchard

Dial a Vamp by Roberta Blablanski

Fangs for the Memories by Sadie Jay

Fire and Ice Cold Skin by Mel Gough

How To Keep an Author (Alive) by AJ Sherwood

Graveyard Cops by Crystel Greene

Life Hacks by Eliott Griffen

Long Haul by Tanya Chris

Off the Menu by R.J. Sorrento

Overexposed by K. Evan Coles

Quality Assured by Edie Montreux

Snowdrift and Other Stories by Georgette Heyer

This title may be purchased from Amazon

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

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

Rating: B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the Christmas Wedding (anthology) by Caroline Linden, Maya Rodale and Katharine Ashe


This title may be purchased from Amazon

Snowed in at a castle full of handsome lords, three young ladies are about to have the holiday of their lives…

Map of a Lady’s Heart by Caroline Linden

The road to happily-ever-after… With Kingstag Castle full of guests and the snow falling, Viola Cavendish has her hands full making sure the Christmas house party runs smoothly. The unexpected arrival of the Earl of Winterton and his nephew Lord Newton upends everything. Not only is Lord Newton flirting with the young ladies Viola is supposed to chaperone, Lord Winterton himself makes her pulse race.
Always takes some twists and turns Wesley Morane, Earl of Winterton, has come to Kingstag Castle in search of a valuable atlas, and he refuses to be deterred by the snow, the house party, his nephew, or even the most ridiculous play ever staged. But before long the only map he wants is one that shows him the way to Viola’s heart…

Hot Rogue on a Cold Night by Maya Rodale

Jilted by a duke: Lady Serena Cavendish was born and bred to be a duchess. Too bad, then, that the Duke of Frye mysteriously and suddenly ended their betrothal.
Seduced by a Rogue: Greyson Jones, an agent of the crown, is the only one who thinks being jilted has made Serena more alluring. When he lucks into an invitation to a Christmas house party at Kingstag Castle to cheer her up—and perhaps find her a husband—he seizes the opportunity to win her heart before they might be parted forever.
On the way to the altar: Their journey to happily ever after involves a ridiculous play, a lovesick swan, a mysterious gift and, of course, a kiss.

Snowy Night with a Duke by Katharine Ashe

The last time Lady Charlotte Ascot bumped into the Duke of Frye, she climbed a tree to avoid him. Sometimes it’s simply easier to run away than to face her feelings for him — overwhelmingly passionate feelings that no modest lady should have! Now, on her way to Kingstag Castle to celebrate the holidays with friends, Charlotte is trapped by a snowstorm at a tiny country inn with the duke of her steamiest dreams.
But Frye has a secret of his own, and Christmas is the ideal time to finally tell the woman he’s always wanted the whole unvarnished truth. Better yet, he’ll show her…

Rating: B+ overall. Individual stories: B+ : B- : B+

At the Christmas Wedding is a collection of festive novellas by three of the biggest names in historical romance – Caroline Linden, Maya Rodale and Katharine Ashe. As with their previous anthology, At the Duke’s Wedding, the individual stories take place concurrently, this time at and around Kingstag Castle in Dorset, the site of a festive house party being hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Wessex. The three stories are perfect seasonal fare – warm, light-hearted and perfectly romantic, laced with humour, filled with likeable principals and served up with a soupçon of Yuletide cheer and festive frolic.


Map of a Lady’s Heart by Caroline Linden

Grade: B+                Sensuality: Warm

When the Duke and Duchess of Wessex are called away urgently just as their Christmas house party is about to start, it seems the bulk of the organisation and hostess duties will fall upon the shoulders of Viola Cavendish, the duchess’ personal secretary and a distant relation of the duke’s.  Viola would not normally be expected to undertake such a duty, but the dowager duchess is indisposed, the duke’s eldest sister, Lady Serena, has recently suffered a broken engagement and neither lady is up to the task of supervising the arrangements.  Viola is somewhat daunted by the enormity of the task, but doesn’t want the duchess to worry and assures her that she has everything in hand.

Wesley Morane, Earl of Winterton has inveigled himself an invitation to the Wessex’s house party in order to negotiate with the duke over the purchase of a valuable atlas that had belonged to Wes’ father and been sold in error following his death.  He arrives at Kingstag accompanied by his young nephew, Viscount Newton, just ahead of a snowstorm that is likely to see them stuck there for a few days.

Viola is not a little displeased at the unexpected arrival of two gentlemen whose names aren’t on her guest list.  But with the weather closing in, she has little alternative but to offer them hospitality until it is once again safe to travel.  The blizzard also presents another problem for Viola, that of a house full of young ladies and gentlemen who will no doubt grow bored and restive at being trapped inside for days on end.  Viola knows she is the only person at Kingstag with any hope of preventing mischief and scandal, and resigns herself to being an ever-present chaperone.  But while young Newton is turning the heads of some of the ladies, Viola finds it increasingly difficult to ignore the attractions of his handsome uncle…

Ms. Linden develops the romance between Wes and Viola beautifully so that it doesn’t feel unnaturally hurried.  They talk, exchange opinions and discover common interests and the air between them crackles with longing and attraction. I particularly liked the scene where they talk about the night sky; and Wes’ Christmas gift to Viola is one of those perfect ‘aww’ moments that a romance delivers every so often. Map of a Lady’s Heart is a wonderfully warm and sensual story and Ms. Linden does a terrific job of setting the scene for the other stories.


Hot Rogue on a Cold Night by Maya Rodale

Grade: B-                 Sensuality: Warm

Maya Rodale’s contribution to the anthology is full of her trademark humour, witty dialogue and slightly bonkers characters.  When Lady Serena Cavendish was jilted by the Duke of Frye for no discernible reason, her mother, the dowager duchess, decided to throw a house party to which she has invited a number of young people in the hope of lifting Serena’s spirits.  Being a canny woman, the dowager also invited Frye, in the hope that perhaps he and Serena will reconcile – but the trouble is she has also invited Frye’s insufferable best friend, Mr. Grayson Jones, who was overheard to have said that his friend ‘dodged a bullet’ when he decided not to marry Lady Serena, because she’s far too perfect to be interesting.

Unbeknownst to Serena, Greyson Jones – Grey – has been in love with her for years, but her long-standing engagement meant he never had any hopes of winning her.  Now, however, he is determined to take his chance; he is shortly to accept a diplomatic posting to India, and has just a week in which to persuade Serena of the truth of his feelings and to get her to fall in love with him.

In the previous story, we were given a few glimpses of the ridiculous play being written for the guests to perform by Lady Bridget (who is no relation to the Bridget Cavendish of Ms. Rodale’s current series, Keeping Up with the Cavendishes).  Here, rehearsals are in full swing, and the casting of Grey as the hero, Lord Pirate Captain, and Serena as his heroine, the Lonely Spinster, gives Grey the perfect opportunity to spend time with his lady love and start to woo her.

Hot Rogue on a Cold Night is funny and entertaining, and the chemistry between the central couple sizzles nicely. Grey is a delicious hero and I loved Aunt Sophronia, one of those wonderful grande dames of historical romance who get to say whatever they like and pat handsome gentlemen on the bottom without giving a fig for what anyone thinks of them!  The whole thing did pass in a bit of a blur though – it felt rushed and the sex scene seemed to be there because it was expected rather than needed, but it’s a fun read overall.


Snowy Night with a Duke by Katharine Ashe

Grade: B+               Sensuality: Warm

Katharine Ashe is on fine form in the final story, in which we properly meet His Grace of Frye and discover the reason behind his broken engagement.  He and his friend and colleague, Lord Fortier, do ‘odd jobs’ for the crown now and again, and as this story begins, are just arriving at the Fiddler’s Roost Inn near Kingstag, where they hope to apprehend a confidence trickster.  The duke is travelling as plain Mr. Horace Church, but as he and Fortier set up their cover story by faking a brawl in the yard, he is unnerved to notice Miss Charlotte Ascot standing in the doorway.  Not only has he been in love with her for ages, he thought she was in America, where she’s lived for the past two-and-a-half years.

In an anguish of unrequited love, Charlotte fled to America in an attempt to cure herself of her long-standing infatuation with the Duke of Frye.  She has returned, not in hopes that he will at last return her feelings, but in order to comfort her friend Serena, and because she realises now that she carried her feelings with her when she ran and that instead, she must face them and learn to live with them.

The realisation that his friend, Greyson Jones, was in love with Serena Cavendish was as much at the root of Frye’s decision not to marry her as was the knowledge that he was himself in love with another woman.  Charlotte Ascot has haunted his dreams for years, but Frye knows he can never marry her; can never marry anyone due to a mysterious condition which sometimes incapacitates him and which he fears will send him to an early grave like his father.

Ms. Ashe packs a lot of story into a short page count but it all works, culminating in a beautifully romantic declaration of love.  Charlotte and Frye are superbly drawn characters and I enjoyed watching them bicker their way towards understanding the truth of their long-held feelings for one another.  Snowy Night With a Duke is a charming, tender and passionate romance and a terrific way to round off this set of seasonal love stories.

Four Weddings and a Sixpence (anthology) by Julia Quinn, Laura Lee Guhrke, Elizabeth Boyle and Stefanie Sloane (audiobook) – Narrated by Mary Jane Wells

four-weddings-audio

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Beloved authors Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, and Stefanie Sloane deliver the stories of four friends from Madame Rochambeaux’s Gentle School for Girls who find an old sixpence in their bedchamber and decide that it will be the lucky coin for each of their weddings…

“Something Old”
Julia Quinn’s prologue introduces her heroine Beatrice Heywood and the premise for Four Weddings and a Sixpence.

“Something New”
In Stefanie Sloane’s unforgettable story, an ever-vigilant guardian decrees that Anne Brabourne must marry by her twenty-first birthday. But love finds her in the most unexpected of ways.

“Something Borrowed”
Elizabeth Boyle tells the tale of Cordelia Padley, who has invented a betrothed to keep her family from pestering her to wed. Now she’ll need to borrow one to convince them she’s found her true love.

“Something Blue”
In Laura Lee Guhrke’s story, unlucky Lady Elinor Daventry has her sixpence stolen from her and must convince the rake who pilfered the coin to return it in time for her own wedding.

“… and a Sixpence in Her Shoe”
Julia Quinn finishes with the story of Beatrice Heywood, who never believed that the sixpence was anything but a tarnished old coin-until it led all of her friends to true love. But her faith in the coin is tested when it keeps sending her to the wrong man!

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

I’m not a big fan of anthologies or novellas in general, because I find there are few authors who really understand how to use the shorter form to greatest effect, and I most often come away from them feeling a bit disappointed. And anthologies tend to be uneven; there will usually be one really good story and the others will be of lesser, variable quality. So why did I listen to this one? A look at the narrator’s name will answer that question. Mary Jane Wells can make even average material enjoyable to listen to, and while two of the stories here do fall into the average category, the other two – from Julia Quinn and Laura Lee Guhrke – definitely transcend that qualification. Each story in Four Weddings and a Sixpence features one of a group of four friends who, while at school, find an old sixpence in a mattress and, based on the words of the old rhyme:

Something old, something new

Something borrowed, something blue… and a silver sixpence for your shoe

– decide to keep the sixpence on the chance that it may lead them to true love.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Christmas in Duke Street (anthology) by Miranda Neville, Carolyn Jewel, Shana Galen and Grace Burrowes

Christmas in Duke Street

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Christmas in London is a busy time at the little bookshop in Duke Street, for love, literature, and shopping. Four couples come and go and discover that happy ever after makes the perfect Christmas gift. A new anthology from the bestselling authors of Christmas in the Duke’s Arms and Dancing in the Duke’s Arms.

Rating: B

Christmas in Duke Street is the third anthology from four of the most popular authors of historical romance and, as with last year’s Christmas in the Duke’s Arms is a set of seasonal novellas that are loosely linked together, this time through the part played in each story by the unassuming Duke Street Bookshop. Otherwise known as On The Shelf, a name coined by some wag who noticed the place’s popularity with the spinsters of London, the nickname also serves to distinguish it from the other – more famous – Duke Street, in a more fashionable area of the West End.

The Rake Who Loved Christmas

– by Miranda Neville
Grade : B      Sensuality : Warm


Miranda Neville’s The Rake Who Loved Christmas is first up, and introduces us to Sir Devlyn Stratton, a wealthy man-about-town who, in the face of current fashion, loves Christmas and the process of selecting gifts for the family he adores. This year’s festivities, however, are tinged with sadness, as it will be the first Christmas the family has spent without Dev’s father, and he is finding it difficult to adjust.

The widowed Oriel Sinclair lives with her cantankerous, invalid father above their print shop next-door to the book shop in Duke Street. Business is poor and she is struggling to make ends meet; but a brief meeting with a handsome stranger in the book shop next door allows her to forget her problems, if only for a few moments. She knows it’s ridiculous to dream of such a man, but she can’t stop thinking about him, even though she has no idea who he is.

When his younger brother tells him that he doesn’t want to marry the young lady he is expected to wed because he is in love with someone else, Dev thinks Merrick has fallen prey to a fortune-hunter. Discovering that the object of his brother’s affections is none other than intriguingly lovely woman he had met earlier that day in a bookshop is a double-strength blow to Dev. Not only is he going to have to hurt his brother’s feelings by detaching him from her, but the woman for whom he experienced such a strong attraction is nothing but a heartless mercenary.

Dev’s ideas about Oriel’s nefarious scheme are, of course, the product of his own jealousy, and he finds himself unable to maintain them the more he gets to know her. The pair dances around each other delightfully, and there is a real poignancy and sense of longing to many of their interactions. Watching Dev struggle with missing his father and then with his feelings for Oriel is very affecting, and even though he is an idiot to begin with, he is easy to sympathise with and I was very quickly rooting for him and Oriel to find their way to each other.

 

A Seduction in Winter

– by Carolyn Jewel
Grade : B      Sensuality : Warm


Carolyn Jewel’s contribution, A Seduction in Winter is the story of a badly scarred young woman and her reunion with the childhood friend who had been her champion when others were cruel to her because of her marred looks. Over the years, Honora Baynard has followed the military career of Lord Leoline Marrable, sure that he has never given her a second thought. She lives a secluded life with her father, a renowned artist, and they visit London once a year, but even then Honora doesn’t go into society. Her father thinks he is protecting her from hurt by insisting that she stays at home or wears a thick veil every time she goes out, so that Honora has begun to think of herself as ugly and to believe that she should not inflict the sight of her scarred visage upon others. When Leo returns to London, she has no hopes of meeting him – until he walks into the Duke Street Bookshop one day just before Christmas.

There is a charming, wistful feel to the writing in the early stages of this story as the reader comes to know Honora as a young woman who has been brought to feel unloveable through the well-meaning but misguided intentions of her father. Leo always felt a strong connection to her, even as a child, and is pleased when he discovers that connection has not faded during the years of their separation. Where Honora and her father see only her scar, he sees a beautiful young woman who has been cheated out of living her life, and he is determined that she should come to see herself as he sees her, and not as something hideous to be hidden away. The relationship between the two is well-drawn, although I thought that perhaps Honora was a little too quick to set aside the years of conditioning which made her dislike showing her face to others. Overall, though, this love story is full of genuine affection and tenderness, and there is plenty of chemistry between the leads.

 

A Prince in Her Stocking

– by Shana Galen
Grade : B      Sensuality : Warm


Shana Galen’s A Prince in Her Stocking is a companion piece to the story which appeared in this summer’s anthology, Dancing in the Duke’s Arms – in which Princess Vivienne of the fictional kingdom of Glynaven is on the run from the revolutionaries who have killed her family. In this story, we meet her brother, Lucien who is also in hiding and believes himself to be the sole survivor of the revolution. Practically destitute, Lucien is living on the streets of London and haunting the Duke Street Bookshop by day, searching for the papers which can prove his identity which he believes to have been included in a shipment of books sent to England by his mother.

Lady Cassandra Ashborne (Cass) has always been rather shy and unassertive, and even though she is now a widow (her late husband was old enough to be her grandfather) lives under the thumb of her domineering sister-in-law.

On one of her frequent visits to On the Shelf, she hears rumours that the handsome young man she sees there every day is actually a prince, and while on the one hand she tells herself that’s ridiculous, on the other, she can’t help being curious about him. Plucking up the courage to speak to him, Cass is surprised by the strong attraction she feels towards him, and, knowing that she is unlikely ever to have the opportunity to feel such emotions again, is determined to pursue a further acquaintance with him. This is a lovely story about a young woman emerging from her shell and finding the courage to take charge of her own life. There’s a bit of action, too, and we once again meet Vivi and her duke as Lucien strives to keep Cass safe at all costs, even if it means sacrificing his own happiness.

 

The Appeal of Christmas

– by Grace Burrowes
Grade : B+      Sensuality : Warm


The final story, The Appeal of Christmas by Grace Burrowes, is probably my favourite of the set, because I’m a sucker for a good friends-to-lovers story. Sensible, dependable Hazel Hooper has been in love with Gervaise Stoneleigh for years, but the highly respected lawyer has been far too busy to see it. He doesn’t enjoy Christmas and seeks refuge in On the Shelf, the sights and smells offered by all those wonderful books a welcome distraction from thoughts of the seasonal visits he will be expected to make to his family.

While browsing, he finds a love letter tucked among the pages of a book of poetry and is so taken with the words that he tucks it away to read properly later, intrigued by the sentiments expressed and wondering about the identity of the author. His re-readings, however, prompt him to wonder more about the nature of the man who could have inspired such feelings in a woman, and then to feel that he would like to be such a man. At the same time, he gradually comes to realise how much he has taken Hazel for granted over the years; how she has always put his needs above hers and how she shows him through so many small considerations how much she cares for him.

Ms Burrowes creates a lovely, festive atmosphere with her descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells associated with going Christmas shopping in the London streets. The protagonists are likeable characters whose verbal interactions are witty and often very funny, as are Hazel’s one-sided conversations with her cat. There’s real depth to their friendship, and a delicious sensuality simmering between them after what should have been a simple buss on the cheek turns into a lingering kiss that is going to change their friendship for ever.


All four stories in this anthology are well-written, entertaining and can be read in any order, in one sitting or in several, which is, I suppose, the beauty of anthologies. Christmas on Duke Street is another set of enjoyable, feel-good stories from this group of talented authors and one I’d certainly recommend to anyone seeking their seasonal historical romance fix in short bursts when there isn’t time to sit down with a full-length novel.

Dancing in the Duke’s Arms – A Regency Romance Anthology by Grace Burrowes, Shana Galen, Miranda Neville and Carolyn Jewel

dancing in the dukes arms

Why Do Dukes Fall in Love?

Every summer the cream of society gathers at the Dukeries, named for the ducal estates concentrated in one small corner of Nottinghamshire. While the entertainments include parties, balls, and a famous boat race, the ducal hosts and their guests find heartbreak, love and happy endings.

Four heartwarming stories from four bestselling historical romance authors.

Rating: B

As is common with anthologies, some stories in Dancing in the Duke’s Arms work better than others. My favourite of this set is Miranda Neville’s, The Duchess of Scandal in which an estranged couple find themselves back under the same roof due to a scheduling error. The very proper Duke of Linton proposed marriage to a young lady twelve years his junior, secure in the knowledge that no woman in her situation could possibly turn down such an offer. For the three weeks of their honeymoon, they were blissfully happy, but following their return to London, the rot sets in. Linton takes his responsibilities to his estates and in parliament very seriously, and his days are so full that he unintentionally neglects his eighteen year-old bride, and Althea’s only real company is her twin brother Nicholas. She ends up spending more time with her brother and his rather fast set and getting herself a name as a bit of a flirt. Annoyed at the gossip, and the fact that his wife always seems to be surrounded by crowds of young men, Linton seethes with annoyance and frustration, his admonitions and criticisms of her behaviour becoming more frequent. Things go from bad to worse and after six months, the Lintons agree to live separate lives.

I always like a good second-chance romance, and this, although only novella length, is a good one. The gentle reminders of what their life could have been like are poignant and well-written, as is the gradual reawakening of the couple’s feelings for each other. The greatest danger with the shorter format is that the romance will feel rushed, but it didn’t feel that way here and I thought it was a really lovely read. B+

Grace Burrowes’ contribution, May I Have This Duke? does feel somewhat rushed, but I loved it because it was so damn funny and had me laughing on several occasions. The Duke of Hardcastle is put out when the governess to his six-year old nephew suddenly announces her intention of leaving his employ. Miss Ellen MacHugh needs to return to her family in the north of England, and is adamant that nothing will change her mind. He has no idea, of course, that she’s in love with him and doesn’t want to be around when he takes a wife, which is something he can’t put off for much longer.

Hardcastle is engaged to attend the Duke of Sedgemere’s house-party in the Dukeries (and yes, it’s a real place! The county of Nottinghamshire actually contains a large number of ducal estates, and was given the nickname in the nineteenth century), and as his nephew will be accompanying him, so will Ellen, and at the end of the party she will depart for her home.

Even though Hardcastle needs a wife, he doesn’t relish the prospect of being tricked into a compromising situation by a Machiavellian debutante and forced into marriage; and he also doesn’t like the idea of Ellen being pursued by the young bucks at the party. He suggests they provide cover for each other; by acting smitten with one another, she will preserve him from the scheming young ladies and he can protect her from the unwanted attentions of the men.

I admit that things do progress quite quickly and the ending is a bit too perfect, but I didn’t mind that, because the verbal exchanges between Ellen and Hardcastle are so often hilarious. Grace Burrowes has a very distinctive writing style which can seem quite formal – the characters often address each other by their full names, for example, or express themselves in a roundabout way – but here, that formality just adds to the humour and tenderness of Ellen and Hardcastle’s delightfully flirtatious banter. B

Carolyn Jewel’s An Unsuitable Duchess is the story of the very reserved and stern Duke of Stoke Teversault and the young woman whose sunny, outgoing nature and delight in the world around her shows her to be his complete opposite. The duke has been in love with Georgina for years, but missed his chance with her when she accepted a proposal from another man. Married quickly, she was happy with her husband, but he died a year after their marriage, and she has only just come out of mourning. Stoke is as attracted to her as he ever was, and she can’t forget his kindness to her after her husband died, yet she feels he disapproves of her and doesn’t really like her. It’s obvious that his dislike is nothing of the sort, and that he’s worried about both feeling and showing too much around her, yet he’s drawn to her vivacity and her amazing zest for life.

Georgina – or George, as her friends have nicknamed her – has no inkling of the true nature of Stoke’s feelings for her, but has no problem in identifying hers for him – she is astonished to discover that she desires him, this seemingly calculating, forbidding man who is not at all handsome by conventional standards and who disapproves of her for no reason she can discern.

Georgina is a lot of fun who knows she will never be a model of ladylike behaviour. She loved her husband and obviously had an enjoyable sex-life – she knows what’s what and can own up to what she wants. Stoke is the strong, silent type who doesn’t really know how to act towards the woman he loves and desires to distraction. They’re a mismatched pair, but the attraction between them is impossible to ignore, even though George realises that Stoke will probably break her heart. C+

The least successful story of the four is Shana Galen’s Waiting for a Duke Like You, in which the gorgeous piece of male perfection that is Nathan, the Duke of Wyndover literally stumbles across a damsel in distress and has to save her from those who wish to do her harm. Shana Galen has written a number of action-packed romances but translating that to novella format hasn’t worked here, because both elements – the romance and the princess-in-peril plot – are too rushed and require too great a suspension of disbelief.

Princess Vivienne of Glynaven saw her family massacred and barely escaped her home with her life. She has travelled to England to seek the assistance of the king, but a group of assassins are on her tail and it won’t be long before they find her. Knowing that the Prince Regent is due to attend the ball at the Duke of Sedgemere’s house-party, she makes her way to his estate, only to collapse due to cold and hunger. She is found by Nathan, who met her briefly in Glenaven eight years previously and fell in love with her. He has never stopped loving her, but Vivienne never took much notice of him, having a dislike for men who are prettier than she is.

Um… yeah. That was such a daft reason for not liking someone that I just couldn’t buy it. On top of that, the romance never really gets off the ground and the entire thing is just too rushed for my taste. C

I enjoyed reading Dancing in the Duke’s Arms, even though the quality of the stories varies. But the great thing about an anthology like this is that if you don’t like one story, you can always jump to the next.

Ultimately, it’s worth buying for the Miranda Neville story alone, and the Grace Burrowes one is a nice bonus. The other two didn’t work quite so well for me, but this is still a fun collection and one that’s worth considering as a holiday read as each story can be read in an hour or so while you’re soaking up some sun!

At the Duke’s Wedding (anthology) by Caroline Linden, Katharine Ashe, Miranda Neville and Maya Rodale

adw

As society gathers at Kingstag Castle for the wedding of the year, matrimony is in the air. But who will be the bride? With swoonworthy lords, witty ladies, eccentric relatives, a gaggle of free-spirited girls, not to mention the world’s best high perch phaeton, it’s a recipe for mayhem — and romance. Award winning, best-selling authors Katharine Ashe, Caroline Linden, Miranda Neville and Maya Rodale serve up delectable Regency fun and a sexy contemporary twist in this anthology of original novellas.
Four authors, four couples, four deliciously romantic surprises. When it comes to love, anything can happen…

Rating: B+ overall, with the individual stories rated thus: B; A-; B+ and B-

At the Duke’s Wedding is a set of linked novellas, each one written by a well-known author in the world of historical romance.

Each of the stories takes place in and around the two weeks leading up to the wedding of the eponymous Duke, and one of the things I particularly liked was the way in which each of the stories gives us glimpses here and there of the protagonists and events featured in the others, and how their actions are seen by the other characters.

I confess to having a favourite among the four, but I’ll talk about them in the order in which they appear.

In That Rogue Jack by Maya Rodale, our hero is Lord Jack Willoughby, a man so handsome and raffishly charming that he has inspired a brand of smelling salts! (Named after him because of the propensity toward swooning of the women on the receiving end of his gorgeous smile!). The trouble with Jack is that while he is far from stupid, he is easily distracted and well-known to have a very limited attention span – is he the first Regency hero to suffer from ADHD? – and as such, the Duke’s decision to entrust Jack with the transportation of the family wedding ring from London to Dorset is not thought to be a particularly wise one.

Miss Henrietta Black has known Jack since their younger days, and now resides at Kingstag Castle as companion to the elderly and eccentric Lady Sophronia. The soon-to-be dowager Duchess asks Henrietta to retrieve the ring and deliver it to her as soon as may be; a prospect which makes Henrietta’s heart sink. Knowing Jack as she does, she is sure something will have happened to the ring and she is going to have to be the one to bear the bad tidings.

Despite his good-looks, Jack is not vain. He knows he’s devastating, but deep-down wants to be good at something other than being gorgeous. It’s also clear that, in spite of his reputation for air-headedness, when Jack puts his mind to something, he can determinedly and single-mindedly pursue his goal. It’s also obvious from the outset that Hen (as Jack calls her) is more than fond of him, even though she is well aware of his shortcomings; and that although Jack thinks highly of her, he’s never really thought of her as “wooing material”. But he suddenly finds himself desirous of her good opinion – and more; and given that he has, in fact, misplaced the ring, the two are thrown together in search of it … and from there things progress as one might expect. The sexual tension between them is skilfully built and I loved their bickering and teasing as they became partners-in-crime through their search for the ring. Most importantly, Jack’s affection for Hen is shown to be genuine and deep-rooted as is the fact that her level-headedness makes her the perfect foil for him.

That Rogue Jack is the shortest of the four stories, and set the tone nicely for the anthology as a whole. I particularly enjoyed the establishment of the impromptu “gentlemen’s club” in the stables, as the men at the party used the excuse of viewing Jack’s famous phaeton – named Hippolyta – as a way of escaping the ladies! It starts out with a couple of them sneaking out a bottle of brandy, and before long, there are comfy chairs, card tables and a well-stocked bar out there!

My favourite of the four is the second story, by Miranda Neville – P.S – I love You, which is loosely based on the story of Cyrano de Bergerac. I’m rather a fan of epistolary romances, so the premise of this one, where the hero and heroine begin their relationship by getting to know each other through letters was one that attracted me immediately.

Frank Newnham and his cousin Christian, Lord Bruton, are both members of the Household Cavalry. Frank is handsome, carefree and popular with both sexes. Women find him attractive, men find him good company, a good sportsman and a thoroughly decent chap, and he is universally liked. By contrast, Christian is rather intimidating and aloof, his features marred by an ugly scar running the length of one cheek about which he is particularly sensitive.

Despite his popularity with the ladies, Frank has never been a real ladies’ man and when he tells Christian that he has fallen in love and received permission to write to the lady of his choice, he finds himself unable to think of a single thing to say to her. Knowing of Christian’s love of poetry and his greater skill with the written word, Frank persuades his cousin to help him; and Christian, treating it as somewhat of a joke, duly dictates the first letter.

Letters are exchanged regularly and their tone grows increasingly intimate until such time as Christian realises that what he is doing is no longer a joke and that he is in danger of falling in love with the lady himself.

He and Frank are distantly related to the Duke of Wessex and have been invited to the latter’s wedding; as has Miss Rosanne Lacy, who resides in Dorsetshire with her family. Rosanne and Frank are excited at the thought of seeing each other once again, and Frank hopes to secure her hand before the end of the house party.

Miss Lacy is intelligent, well-read and witty – and when they meet, Frank is tongue-tied once more. He begs Christian to help him again – but now he has had the opportunity to meet and converse with Rosanne, Christian realises the damage has been done: he is in love with his cousin’s intended. He is filled with guilt at his part in the deception, realising not only that he has behaved badly, but that Roseanne will be miserable should she marry Frank – and worse, he can’t do a thing about it.

Fortunately for all of them, however, Roseanne is a very intelligent young woman and soon realises that all is not as it seems. She is alarmed at the fact she is finding herself drawn much more to the dark and brooding Lord Bruton than to his cousin, and is naturally furious when she realises she has been deceived. But she does not allow her anger to prevent her from acknowledging that while the means may have been somewhat questionable, the deception has actually saved her from making a huge mistake – and once she has calmed down, she decides to go after the man she truly wants, knowing his sense of honour will not allow him to come to her.

I loved the way this romance was developed, how the letters between Roseanne and Christian became gradually more personal and deeply affectionate. Their regard for each other shone through their words and I felt that here was a couple that was truly meant to be.

If I were ranking all the stories, then the next one, When I Met My Duchess would be my second-favourite. Up until this point, we haven’t seen much of Gareth, Duke of Wessex or his intended bride, the lovely Miss Helen Grey. Gareth has chosen his future duchess very carefully and to his mind, Helen Grey embodies all the qualities required. She is beautiful, well-mannered, well-bred, has good taste and carries herself well. She is eminently suitable, and having decided he wanted to marry her, he wasted no time in sending his secretary to propose to her.

How could a girl resist such a romantic overture?

Or in Helen’s case, how could she possibly resist the blandishments of her cash-strapped, yet spendthrift parents, to marry a wealthy duke whose money will end all their financial worries?

It’s immediately obvious to the reader that that is Helen’s principal motivation for agreeing to the marriage, because from the moment we meet her, Helen is reserved in public and miserable in private. As well as her parents, she has been accompanied by her widowed sister, Mrs Cleopatra Burrows, whose presence is merely tolerated by their father because she is there at Helen’s request. Cleo eloped at seventeen with a young man who was in “trade”, and her parents had as little to do with her from that point – despite the fact that the money she was making from a successful business was keeping them out of debt.

Gareth has never been troubled by strong emotions, and is happy to keep it that way. But the minute he sets eyes on Cleo, he experiences a real coup de foudre and finds himself unable to stop himself from thinking about her or seeking her out.

I thought the relationships in this story were well written, particularly that between Helen and Cleo and between Cleo and her parents. That’s not to say the latter is at all pleasant – it isn’t – but the degree to which the Greys disdain their independent and somewhat free-spirited daughter, despite all she does for them is gut-wrenching to read.

Gareth makes for a very attractive hero as he struggles to reconcile own desires with what he owes to the dukedom and with his sense of honour. He and Cleo are obviously as perfect for each other as he and Helen are not, but he can see no way out of marrying her and making them both miserable – until Helen finally acts in line with her own desires and sets him and Cleo free to do as they both wish. The eagle-eyed reader will have spotted a tiny clue as to the way the wind is blowing very early on in the first chapter, so can be assured that Helen is going to get her HEA, too.

The final story seems rather an odd choice as something to include in an anthology of Regency romances. How Angela Got Her Rogue Back is a time-travel romance in which a 21st century American historian travels back to the 19th century in order to solve a mystery and, in the process, help a gorgeous earl to prevent the ruin of his family.

I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who and I love a bit of sci-fi. But I prefer to keep my time-travel stories separate from my romances, so this was the first time I’ve actually read a time-travel romance… and I’m not sure I’ll be rushing to read another one. I know reading historical romances often requires a degree of suspension of disbelief, but I’m not sure I can suspend it enough for the implausibilities inherent in the romance and the time travel. Add in that this particular story involves the heroine changing history, or even, as she says herself making it – and my head started spinning with all the paradoxical ideas that immediately sprang to mind. (That’s another thing about being a Doctor Who fan – most of us have spent a fair bit of time pondering paradoxes!)

The idea that Angela could pass herself off easily as a guest at the house party, and convince Trent so easily that she wasn’t mad but was from the twenty-first century were some of those credulity-stretching elements I couldn’t reconcile myself to. Having said that though, I did like the fact that Angela was able to express some of those things that we must all think at times about all those impossibly handsome, incredibly muscled, superbly well-endowed historical heroes we all love to read about 😉

For me, this was the least successful of the stories in the anthology. It was well written, and the conclusion was definitely emotionally satisfying, but it seemed like the cuckoo in the nest when set against the other stories in the collection.

I think that the shorter format worked very well for each of the stories in the anthology, as I felt it led the characters to act in a far more realistic manner than they may have done in a full-length novel. For example, had Roseanne and Bruton’s story been novel length, I suspect that there could have been a much more drawn out period of “How could he have deceived me like that – I hate him!”, and other misunderstandings before the couple got their HEA; whereas I think that as it is, Roseanne’s anger, followed by her rational consideration and realisation that whatever the means, she has actually found the love of her life – felt much more convincing and true to her character. I suspect there was also the potential for a lot more angst in the third story, with Gareth and Cleo agonising over the impropriety of their relationship, but again, I think that the story works very well as it is and doesn’t need to be any longer.

To sum up; At the Duke’s Wedding is a very enjoyable collection of well-written romances that can be read individually or at one go, as the mood strikes, and I have no hesitation in heartily recommending it.