Of One Heart (St. Briac #2) by Cynthia Wright (audiobook) – Narrated by Tim Cambell

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A BATTLE FOR POSSESSION

… in which the beautiful young French widow Michelene Tevoulere becomes the pawn in a royal scheme involving England’s King Henry VIII and the court of France’s Francois I.

A BATTLE FOR POWER

… in which handsome young Earl of Sandhurst is betrothed against his will to the bewitching Michelen but conceives an even grander plot to outwit the kings and test both Michelene’s honor and her sensuality.

A BATTLE FOR PASSION

… in which the splendid Michelene finds the very depths of her womanhood aroused and tormented by a man her body adores but her mind resists.

Rating: Narration – B+ Content – C-

Of One Heart (originally titled A Battle for Love) is the second in Cynthia Wright’s St. Briac series and was originally published in 1986. It’s set in Paris and London in 1532/3 and charts the romance between an English Marquess and the beautiful young French widow he is ordered to marry, sight unseen. I am a big fan of the arranged marriage trope, and given I’m a bit of a Francophile to boot, I thought I’d find much here to enjoy. Sadly, however, I found a dull story that is stretched out for far too long, a couple of cardboard cut-out protagonists, a romance that isn’t particularly romantic and an ending so ridiculous that I couldn’t wait for it to be over. It’s largely thanks to the engaging performance by Tim Campbell that I was able to make it to the end without falling asleep.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Secret of Love (Rakes and Rebels #2) by Cynthia Wright (audiobook) – Narrated by Tim Campbell

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This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon.

When Lady Isabella Trevarre first laid eyes on Gabriel St. Briac, she announced to her best friend: “That is the man I will marry!” Now a woman grown, Izzie has traded her girlish dreams for the independent life of an artist, but she never quite forgot the dazzling Frenchman who captivated her young heart. When he appears again in Cornwall, the seeds of desire grow between them.

As Napoleon’s army loots art treasures throughout Europe, Gabriel St. Briac’s priceless Leonardo da Vinci painting vanishes from its hiding place. Bent on recovering his family’s prized possession, Gabriel sets sail for the chaos of wartime France – only to find Izzie stowed away on his ship. Though fearful for her safety, he allows her to join in his quest. But Izzie harbors a dark secret…a secret that could shatter the tender blossom of their trust. When danger puts them both to the test, will these two guarded souls dare to risk all for love?

Rating: Narration – B-; Content – C+

This latest instalment in Cynthia Wright’s long-running Rakes and Rebels series is the sequel to Smuggler’s Moon, which I reviewed a couple of years back. Even though it’s part of a series, The Secret of Love can be listened to as a stand-alone novel, because while some characters from other books in the series appear in this one, they have secondary roles to play and the storyline is self-contained, so there is no real need to have read or listened to any of the other instalments.

At the end of Smuggler’s Moon, fourteen year-old Lady Isabella – Izzie – Trevarre told her best friend that she had met the man she was going to marry. That man was Gabriel St. Briac, a handsome young Frenchman and associate of her brother Sebastian’s from the brief time he made his living as a smuggler. Moving on six years, we find Isabella in London at the salon of the famous artist, <a href=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89lisabeth_Vig%C3%A9e_Le_Brun, who recognised Izzie’s considerable artistic talent and agreed to be her mentor. Izzie is determined not to end up trapped in a loveless marriage like her mother and has set her sights instead on making her way in the world as an artist.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Smuggler’s Moon by Cynthia Wright (audiobook) – Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

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A marriage begun in deception…

Feisty Julia Faircloth is used to managing the lives of her eccentric relatives, so when darkly dangerous Lord Sebastian Trevarre arrives in Bath and proposes to her shy sister Sarah, she switches places with the bride to save her from a shockingly carnal wedding night.

Against his better judgment, Sebastian consummates a marriage to the most provoking, appealing woman he’s ever known, and then is forced to live with her in his neglected yet enchanting estate on the coast of Cornwall. Life there is turbulent, not least because Sebastian keeps many secrets. Will his reckless pursuits succeed in restoring his fortune…or cost him the lady who holds his heart?

Step back in time to magical 1798 Cornwall, England, with Julia and Sebastian – and reunite with André and Devon Raveneau, as André discovers that his life and Sebastian’s are inextricably linked.

Rating: A for narration, B for content

Smuggler’s Moon is the first new book from Cynthia Wright in around twenty years, and is the first in a new series called The Raveneaus in Cornwall, set at the very end of the 18th century. Brother to a marquess, Lord Sebastian Trevarre has recently resigned his navy commission and returned to England with the intention of managing the horse-breeding business in Hampshire that he had helped his late mother to set up some years previously. But his brother has lost the bulk of the family fortune at the gaming tables, and Sebastian can think of only one way of amassing a suitably large amount of money quickly enough to enable him to achieve his goal. He repairs to Bath with the intention of gambling his way to solvency and meets with considerable success.

Not long after his arrival, he is unexpectedly confronted by Miss Julia Faircloth, who has discovered that her father owes Sebastian a great deal of money. Julia is one of life’s organisers and has spent most of her life managing the household because her parents were never able to deal with the practicalities of family life. There is a strong undercurrent of attraction between the pair from the moment they meet, but Sebastian recognises immediately that Julia is not the sort of woman who would make for an easy life. Which is why, following the sudden death of Mr Faircloth after he has lost his home and what little money he had left to Sebastian, the latter proposes marriage not to Julia, but to her timid sister, Sarah, believing she will make him a comfortable, docile wife who will allow him to do exactly as he pleases without challenge or interference.

Sarah is in love with someone else, and Julia, knowing her sister could never cope with a man like Sebastian, decides it’s down to her to find a way to keep a roof over her family’s head and to prevent Sarah’s marriage to a man who will make her miserable.

I admit, when I read in the synopsis that Julia tricks Sebastian into marrying her instead, I rolled my eyes at the idea. But Ms Wright actually manages to make it work fairly well, by setting up the scene in such a way as to make the possibility that Sebastian could mistake one sister for the other just vaguely plausible.

It’s only when the newlyweds arrive at Trevarre House in London that Sebastian learns the full extent of his brother’s recklessness. Not only has he gambled away the family fortune, he has sold off almost all his property and decamped to Italy.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals