TBR Challenge: Lady Cat by Joan Overfield

This title may be purchased from Amazon

For years Lord Stephen Rockholme had been a rake of the first order, devoted to the pursuit of sensual pleasure, if not to the women who so willingly provided it. The decision to rejoin his old regiment and depart for the peninsula meant only that he faced one last evening of intimate delight, He found himself bewitched by the emerald eyes of the woman who called herself Cat…

Five years later, Stephen returns to England a changed man with only one desire – to find the elusive Cat, whose memory haunted and sustained him through the horrors of war. But the reunion he craved is soon overshadowed by the suspicion that Cat harbors and unimaginable secret. Now Stephen must discover if Lady Cat is the answer to his prayers – and the woman of his dreams…

Rating: B+

I always look forward to the ‘Kickin’ it Old School’ prompt in the TBR Challenge, because there is such wealth of material for me to choose from.  That can be a curse as well as a blessing when it comes to selecting just one book from my TBR, but this time around, it wasn’t too difficult as my eye was drawn to this particular book a few months back when AAR featured it as a DIKlassic review.  I’m always interested to see how older titles bear up over time and this one has a premise I rather like, so it was an easy choice.

That premise is one that is also featured in one of my favourite historical romances, Lorraine Heath’s Waking up with the Duke; that of a man who needs an heir but is incapable of doing the deed necessary to create one and asks his wife to sleep with someone else in order to become pregnant.  In that book, the storyline follows the central couple as they progress from the extreme awkwardness of having agreed to have sex with someone they wouldn’t normally have chosen (and in the case of the woman, she’s got to deal with the guilt of committing adultery, too) to their eventual falling in love during the period they spend together in order to pursue the babymaking activities. Lady Cat, however, takes things in a different direction by focusing more on dealing with the fallout a few years down the road.

Lady Catheryn Brockton married her older husband three years earlier after having been governess to his two daughters, Elizabeth and Lydia.  She is strongly attached to Edward and adores the girls to the extent that she would do anything to keep them safe, which is why, when her husband asks her to sleep with another man in order to provide him with an heir, she agrees to the plan in spite of her misgivings.  If Edward dies without a male heir, his estate will pass to his slimy toad of a cousin, Jeremey Sedgewood, who is not only in debt up to his eyeballs, but is also a “brutal, drunken swine” who has already tried to force his attentions on Cat and has his eye on Edward’s eldest daughter.  In order to keep her family safe, Cat agrees to do as Edward asks, and seek out his second cousin, Stephen, Lord Rockholme at an upcoming house party.  Stephen is widely known to be an unrepentant rake and Cat should have no trouble seducing him; and as they have never met, he won’t know her true identity as she will attend the gathering under an assumed name.

Things go to plan; Stephen has recently rejoined his regiment and will be leaving for France in the morning, so is very much open to the prospect of a last-minute dalliance with a lovely widow.  The couple shares a night of intense passion and then they go their separate ways.

Fortunately for Edward and Cat, their scheme is successful and Cat gives birth to a healthy son, named for his (legal) father.  Five years pass. Edward dies not long after his son is born, and his will names Cat as executrix to the estate and co-guardian of the children, along with Stephen and the odious Jeremey, who proceeds to be a complete pain in the arse whenever he can, dropping by unannounced and behaving offensively towards Cat and the girls.  Returned to England after Waterloo, Stephen, whose experiences over the past five years have changed and matured him, intends to track down the woman who had gifted him with such pleasure, whose memory he had held close and whose image had sustained him through some of the worst times of his life.  He attempts to find her by writing to Edward’s widow, but is rebuffed, so instead he travels to Larks Hall to ask for information in person – and is dumbfounded to discover that the woman who has inhabited his dreams for the past five years is none other than Lady Brockton.  Stephen is furious at the deception, especially as he inadvertently cuckolded a man he liked and respected, and further incensed when he realises he’d been used as a stud and that Cat has intentionally kept his son from him.

Cat’s reasons are sound of course; any hint that Eddie is not the son of her late husband will mean the odious Jeremey will have cause to challenge the terms of Lord Brockton’s will and possibly overturn it.  In the heat of his anger, Stephen is determined to hurt Cat as she has hurt him, and insists that she provide him with the heir she has denied him.  He can never acknowledge Eddie as his son, so he and Cat will marry so that she can bear Stephen an heir who can inherit his lands and title.  Cat fully recognises that Stephen is entitled to be angry, but even so, is not prepared for his insistence that they marry and then part once she has given him a son.  She has little alternative but to agree, but has a condition of her own, which is that they pretend, for the sake of Lydia and Elizabeth, that they are marrying for love.

Lady Cat is an emotionally charged, angsty story in which the author skilfully guides her characters through the messy, complicated emotions that follow Stephen’s discovery of the truth.  Tensions between him and Cat run high and that includes tension of the sexual variety; their marriage might begin under less than auspicious circumstances, but there’s no denying the passion that sparks between them in the bedroom.  They are complex, likeable characters, and I was pleased with the way the author developed the story without veering into Big Mis territory, so that instead of a couple at loggerheads for an entire book, we get two sensible, mature characters who talk things through and arrive at decisions together.  Cat is a beautiful, spirited and intelligent woman who cares deeply for her son and step-daughters, sometimes to the extent that she puts them before all other considerations and ignores her own needs and wants, which does cause a little conflict between her and her husband.  And Stephen is terrific hero; it’s true that he lashes out when he’s hurt, but he quickly recognises that he is being unjust and is able to see those feelings aside in order to try to build something real with Cat, and be a good father to his son and step-daughters.

Lady Cat was originally published in 1998, and has definitely stood the test of time.  I’d encourage fans of character-driven historicals to give it a try.

The Spinster and the Rake by Anne Stuart

This title may be purchased from Amazon

The Spinster: As a maiden aunt, Gillian Redfern lives as an unpaid servant to her demanding family. Little wonder she finds the attentions of a rake distracting, and even less wonder that her usual good sense begins to unravel when Lord Marlow takes her in his arms.

The Rake: Ronan Patrick Blakely, Lord Marlow, is a man of great charm and little moral character, a gambler, a womanizer, and handsome as sin to boot. He has no qualms about placing a wager on the virtue of one small, shy spinster.

But Lord Marlow is about to discover that Miss Redfern is more siren than spinster. She amuses him, arouses him, and, much to his dismay, makes him a better man. Gillian will discover, in turn, that Lord Marlow possesses the power to turn her into a very wicked woman. The rake and the spinster are poised to find a love that neither could have imagined.

If only someone weren’t out to destroy them both . . .

Rating: B

First published in 1982, The Spinster and the Rake is one of Anne Stuart’s earliest Regencies, and has, sadly, been out of print for a number of years.  I’ve been keen to read it ever since I became aware of its existence – I mean who doesn’t love a good rake-meets-spinster story? – and had despaired of ever finding it, but luckily it surfaced last year in a newly revised digital edition.  (I can’t say what the revisions are as I haven’t read the original, but I am guessing Ms. Stuart has added a pinch or two of extra spice 😉 )

This is one of those books that is exactly what it says on the tin, and very nicely done it is, too.  Our rake, Ronan Patrick Blakely, Lord Marlowe (who is the Marquess of Herrington so I’m not sure where the Marlowe comes from) is nearing forty, has been away from England since he was packed off by his family following a scandal twenty years earlier and, having unexpectedly inherited a title, has returned to England with the intention of remaining there.  His bearing, looks and manner of speech reminded me very much of Georgette Heyer’s Lord Damerel (who is my favourite hero of hers, and one of my all-time favourite romance heroes) and I defy anyone not to swoon at the author’s description of him:

“From the top of Marlowe’s curly head, black locks liberally streaked with grey, past the cynical dark eyes surrounded by tiny lines of dissipation, and just possibly laughter, the sallow complexion of one who has spent a great many years in sunnier climes, the strong nose and cynical, alarmingly attractive mouth, he was truly, wickedly appealing.”

Be still my beating heart 😉

The spinster of the title is Miss Gillian Redfern, youngest of four siblings and the only one to remain unmarried.  At nearly thirty, Gillian –

… had long since decided, with a great deal of persuasion from the aforementioned siblings, to immolate herself on the altar of duty, having a great deal of family reeling and a dislike of being useless.

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

Marrying His Cinderella Countess by Louise Allen

This title may be purchased from Amazon

A proposal from the enigmatic earl

Plain, lame Ellie Lytton isn’t destined for marriage. She’s perfectly content being her step-brother’s housekeeper… Until the high-handed Earl of Hainford arrives with shocking news—her step-brother has been killed!

Ellie believes the Earl responsible for her plight and that he is duty-bound to escort her on the journey to her new home. But soon Blake’s fighting an unwanted attraction to his argumentative companion… And when she needs protection, he determines he’ll keep her safe—by making Ellie his Countess!

Rating: B

Louise Allen is an author I can rely on to deliver a well-developed, strongly characterised romance within the restraints imposed by the Category format, and true to form, she’s done just that. In Marrying his Cinderella Countess, she uses the well-worn trope of an impoverished young woman marrying an attractive, wealthy and titled man, but puts a slightly different spin on it by creating a refreshingly different heroine who possesses the sort of honesty and forthright manner that aren’t often found in the genre. Ellie isn’t a termagant and she isn’t a feisty curl-tosser; instead she’s someone who faces problems head on and works through them, no matter how difficult.

Since the deaths of her mother and step-father, Eleanor Lytton has lived with and kept house for her step-brother, Sir Francis. Aged twenty-five, she is on the shelf, and in any case, has been told so often that she is plain, gawky and ‘difficult’, that she never expected to marry, and instead lives quietly, making a little money from her work as an author of childrens’ books. She longs to write a sensational novel of the sort published by the Minerva Press and has already begun to write it, often finding her attention wandering to her desert lord hero, dark, handsome and grey-eyed, astride his trusty steed, when she should be writing her educational tale for young people.

She is trying to re-focus after her last mental excursion into the desert when the arrival of an unexpected visitor interrupts her train of thought, much more seriously this time. On her doorstep is her desert lord made flesh – William Blakeford Pencarrow, Earl Hainford – asking to speak to her urgently. Ellie is surprised to see him, and is even moreso when she realises he is injured, and insists on tending him before he can tell her his purpose in coming to see her. But soon enough, he explains that Francis is dead, killed in an accident at his club the previous evening. Hainford explains that he had been engaged in a heated altercation with another card player when Francis tried to interrupt and unfortunately got in the way of a bullet, which wounded Hainford before killing her brother.

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

Matthew (Jaded Gentlemen #2) by Grace Burrowes (audiobook) – Narrated by James Langton

Theresa Jennings strayed from the path of propriety as a younger woman, though now she’ll do anything to secure her child’s eventual acceptance on the fringes of polite society. Theresa will even make peace with the titled brother who turned his back on her when she needed him most. Matthew Belmont is a widower who’s been lonely too long. He sees Theresa as a woman paying far too high a price for mistakes long past, and as a lady given too little credit for turning her life around. Theresa is enthralled by Matthew’s combination of honorable intentions and honest passion, but then trouble comes calling, and it’s clear somebody wants to ruin any chance Theresa and Matthew have for a happily ever.

Rating: Narration – B+ Content – B

I am a fan of Grace Burrowes’ historical romances and always enjoy a visit to “Burrowesworld” the corner of the South of England that she has peopled with her various, numerous and inter-related characters and series. I admit though, that she’s published so many books now, that I sometimes have to stop and take stock of which book and which series I’m listening to or reading and work out where it falls in the canon, as publication order is not always the same as chronological… so for instance in Matthew, one of her more recent publications, and the second book in her Jaded Gentlemen series, we meet Nicholas and Beckman Haddonfield before they appear in the Lonely Lords books and before Nick inherits his earldom; Alice Portmaine is still a governess/companion, and some of the other Lonely Lords – Gareth, Andrew, Douglas and David – are all happily settled with their wives and families. This wealth of previously introduced characters may be a bit daunting for someone new to the author’s work, but actually, it’s perfectly possible to listen to Matthew as a standalone, as characters like Nick, Beckmann and Alice are secondary and their roles here don’t really have anything to do with the parts they play in the books in which they are principal characters.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Cinderella and the Duke (Beauchamp Betrothals #1) by Janice Preston

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Falling for a duke in disguise!

Never welcomed into society circles, Rosalind Allen gave up her marriage prospects long ago—life has taught her she’ll only get hurt. So she’s shocked when an encounter with a mysterious stranger makes her long to reconsider…

Little does Rosalind know that her mystery man is Leo Beauchamp, Duke of Cheriton, travelling in disguise to evade the ladies of the ton! Impoverished Rosalind is the first woman to captivate Leo—but can he persuade this wary Cinderella to trust him with her heart?

Rating: B-

While I’m certainly not averse to the use of the Cinderella trope, I was actually quite pleased to discover that the title of Cinderella and the Duke is not all that representative of the story contained within the pages of this novel. The characters are slightly older than are normally found in historical romance (he’s just hit forty, she’s thirty), which I appreciated, and our nominal Cinders isn’t so much downtrodden by her horrible family as she has taken upon herself the burden of looking after them all to such an extent that she has resigned herself to not having a life of her own.

Due to a complicated family situation – and to prevent her lovely, eighteen year-old step-sister being sold off in order to pay her guardian’s debts – Rosalind Allen moves herself and her two siblings (brother and aforementioned step-sister) to a small house on a neighbouring estate before sending her sister to London in the charge of her aunt, Lady Glenlochrie, to make her London début. Lady Helena Caldicot (Nell) is a diamond of the first water and the daughter of an earl, so Rosalind dearly hopes that she will make a suitable match which will forever remove her from her guardian’s power.

Out walking one day, Rosalind is accosted by a fine gentleman who has obviously been riding with the hunt – and who makes it clear that he is now interested in hunting down a very different quarry. He corners Rosalind and makes her very nervous, but fortunately is soon joined by three other gentlemen, one of whom diffuses the situation and leaves Rosalind to continue on her way.

Rosalind’s rescuer is Leo Beauchamp, Duke of Cheriton, who prefers, when away from London to travel as Mr. Leo Boyton so as not to find himself knee-deep in ambitious, marriage-minded young ladies thrown at him by their equally ambitious mamas. He has been a widower for a number of years and has three grown-up children – two sons and a daughter, who is about to make her come-out and has come to stay with his cousin, the bastard son of the previous Duke of Cheriton, in the hope that perhaps the man’s long sojourn abroad might have improved their relationship. It hasn’t. He is as unpleasant and competitive as ever and Leo is beginning to regret his visit.

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

The Duke of Defiance (The Untouchables #5) by Darcy Burke

Purchase Now from Amazon

Difficult and defiant as a child, Bran Crowther, Earl of Knighton left England as a young man to pursue independence and adventure. He never expected to inherit the title and when duty calls him home, he still finds Society’s codes constricting and others’ expectations oppressive. Nevertheless, he needs a wife to be a mother to his young daughter, preferably a woman of intelligence and warmth who is, above all, immune to his idiosyncrasies—and to falling in love.

Widow Joanna Shaw isn’t interested in a second marriage, not after the loveless, passionless union she endured. She’d much rather dote on her young niece and nephew since they will likely be the only children in her life…until she meets a precocious girl, in desperate need of a mother. But her father, the so-called Duke of Defiance, is as peculiar as he is handsome, and Jo won’t take another risk with her heart. Their rules, however, are made to be broken, even when the consequences could destroy them both.

Rating: C

I haven’t read all the books in Darcy Burke’s The Untouchables series, but I’ve enjoyed those I have read and can confidently say that each book works as a standalone.  The Duke of Defiance features a new central couple and briefly re-introduces readers to the “Untouchables”, gentlemen so named by their heroines because their lofty positions in society meant they were well beyond their touch.  Although as things have turned out, they obviously weren’t 😉

Mrs. Joanna Shaw is the widowed sister of Nora, the Duchess of Kendal, who was the heroine of book one, The Forbidden Duke.  Joanna – Jo – was unhappily married to a country clergyman for around eight years, and is now living with Nora while she decides what she wants to do with the rest of her life.  At thirty-one, she is still lovely and her position as the sister of a duchess gives her a certain cachet in society – but she is not sure if she wants to remarry.  Her late husband’s emotional cruelty has naturally soured her view of the institution, and her inability to conceive a child during eight years of marriage makes her a less attractive prospect as a wife.

Bran Crowther, the Earl of Knighton was a third son who never expected to inherit his father’s title.  But the recent deaths of his two elder brothers necessitates his return to England from the successful life he had built for himself in Barbados, and he and his five-year-old daughter, Evie, are finding it difficult to adjust.  Fortunately, however, Evie has found a good friend in Becky, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kendal, and when Bran arrives to collect Evie from a play date, he meets Mrs. Shaw and is immediately struck by her wit and good sense, as well as by her beauty.

Bran and Jo are attracted to each other, and their interactions are nicely judged and generally very honest.  They are initially brought together when Nora offers to help Bran to find a new nurse for Evie and then has to send Jo in her stead.  Bran is pleased to discover that Jo’s views fit with his own, and also finds her comments about the dos and don’ts of London society very helpful as he tries to settle into his new life.  When he – and Evie – practically beg Jo to become Evie’s governess, she finds she cannot refuse, even as she knows that being in close proximity to Bran day after day is not a good idea.  But she has come to love Evie as she is coming to love the girl’s father, and agrees to a trial period, trying not to think about what will happen when Bran eventually takes a wife who will be able to give him more children and, most importantly, an heir.

Jo’s concern about her lack of fertility is the main source of conflict in the romance, and it’s one I’m not particularly fond of.  The women in such stories always blame themselves without any reason to do so other than that they’re women and therefore the fault must lie with them!  Bran at least has the sense to suggest that it might not be Jo’s fault, but she is naturally very sensitive about it, and isn’t prepared to let him take the risk that she won’t be able to give him any more children.  Her belief is not helped by the insecurities about her womanliness fostered in her by her late husband, but it’s nonetheless a plot point that always makes me roll my eyes.

Bran is a no-nonsense sort of person, and his years of living away from the strictures of London society have made him careless of convention and proper behaviour.  He thinks nothing of allowing Evie to go without shoes when they are at home – to the intense disapproval of some of his starchier servants – or of divesting himself of cravat and coat in front of Jo, when it is certainly not the done thing to ‘disrobe’ in front of a lady.  (Not that Jo minds, of course😉)  When he describes how clothes make him “itchy” and then explains how, as a child, his mother regarded him as defiant because he refused to wear clothing or eat what he was given; how he could never sit still or remain in bed all night, I thought Ms. Burke may have been setting him up as someone with a condition such as ADHD or on the Autistic Spectrum, but this is never made clear.  Jo comes to recognise and accept Bran’s quirks, but other than having been brought up by an extremely harsh, unforgiving mother and a father who didn’t bother with his third son, we’re not really given much of an explanation for them, and for the most part they are just glossed over.  There’s an implication that Evie, too, has anxiety issues, but these are handled in more or less the same way.

And on the subject of Evie, much of the time she comes across as much older than the five years of age she is supposed to be.  At one point, she tells her father: “I was certain you might be falling in love” – which sounds more like a teenager, for instance, and she reads as more of a plot-moppet than a real child.  Children are hard to write well (Grace Burrowes is one of the very few romance authors who is able to get it right) and I’m afraid Ms. Burke has missed the mark. She’s also way off the mark when it comes to the master/servant relationship that should exist between Bran and Jo. He pretty much treats her as the mistress of the house as soon as she sets foot in it, assigning her a bedchamber in the family wing, a maid of her own, and insisting upon her eating meals with him, to name just a few things no over governess would have been granted. I get that Bran is supposed to be unfamiliar with society customs but Jo should know better and allows Bran to wave aside her very weak protests.

As I said at the beginning of this review, the book does work as a standalone, but information about previous characters and situations is given in obvious info-dumps, rather than evolving naturally; and while the good-natured teasing between the four heroes of the previous books is one of the best things about the this one, it felt like overkill for all four of them to just happen to be around in order to meet Bran.

While the writing is strong and the love scenes are sensual, The Duke of Defiance is, sadly one of the weaker entries in this series. I do plan to read more by Darcy Burke, but I’m going to chalk this one up as a misfire.

A Warriner to Rescue Her (Wild Warriners #2) by Virginia Heath

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Tempted by the damsel in distress!

Captain James Warriner is startled to find a curvaceous beauty caught up a tree in his orchard! Despite his shattered leg, he rescues Miss Cassandra Reeves, then is determined to have nothing more to do with the enticing vicar’s daughter.

Except when Cassie seeks Jamie out to apologize, they find themselves persuaded to work together on her storybook. Secret liaisons with the dashing soldier make Cassie wish Jamie would rescue her once more… by making her his wife!

Rating: A-

When I read the first book in Virginia Heath’s Wild Warriners series, A Warriner to Protect Her, I was instantly smitten with Captain James Warriner – Jamie – the second eldest brother and former officer who is no longer able to serve due to a debilitating injury to his leg. In that book, Jamie emerged as a taciturn man who will do anything for those he loves, whose outwardly gruff manner hides the heart of a romantic and the soul of an artist. A Warriner to Rescue Her reveals more about Jamie’s past and the demons that continue to haunt him as he struggles to come to terms with his injuries and find a new purpose in life – and sees him falling head-over-heels in love with a most unusual young lady. The romance between this unlikely couple is beautifully written and overflowing with tenderness, but Jamie isn’t the only one whose past has left him with more than a few dragons to slay – and watching these two different but damaged people find their way to each other is an absolute delight.

The Earl of Markham and his brothers have always been shunned by their neighbours and the local villagers owing to the fact that the previous earls were unpleasant, untrustworthy drunkards with vicious tempers who never paid what they owed. The current earl – Jack Warriner – inherited nothing but a ramshackle home and a mountain of debt, and even if he could have afforded servants, nobody would have wanted to work for him, so he and his three brothers had to work the land themselves in order to make enough money to keep body and soul together. Unable to take more of an active role in working the estate, Jamie took on the role of housekeeper at Markham Manor, but since Jack married an heiress who brought servants from her London home to work there, Jamie has more time on his hands than he knows what to do with.

He is riding home one day when he hears a cry for help coming from the apple orchard within the manor grounds. Seeing a horse standing beneath one particular tree, he looks up to see a rather nice backside and a pair of shapely legs dangling from some way up, and realises the female in possession of those lovely attributes is stuck. Awkwardly, Jamie climbs up and helps to free her from the branch that seems to have captured her skirts and is helping her to descend when the lady makes a wrong move and they both plummet to the ground. Jamie ends up winded and flat on his back with a face full of wild hair and a warm, curvy armful sprawled across his chest.

Cassandra Reeves hastily apologises for her clumsiness and introduces herself as the daughter of the new vicar, cringing inwardly at the fact that she has likely just crushed the handsomest man she has ever seen.  But even that can’t keep her words from tripping over one another as she babbles on enthusiastically about wanting to get some apples for her horse and not realising that the apple trees were on private land.

When Cassandra – Cassie – pays a call the next day to thank Jamie for his assistance and to check that he is unhurt (she saw him limping and thinks he must have been hurt by their fall) – she is received warmly by Jack’s wife, Letty, but not by Jamie, who remains quiet and aloof throughout her visit.  When she mentions to her hostess that she makes up stories as a hobby and has begun one about yesterday’s misadventure, Letty immediately and eagerly seizes the chance to do a bit of matchmaking, and tells Cassie about Jamie’s talent as an artist, going so far as to suggest that perhaps he could provide illustrations for her story and they could have it published.

Jamie is not best pleased at his sister-in-law’s meddling. He’s already somewhat smitten with the pretty, voluble vicar’s daughter but knows he has nothing to offer any woman; he’s broken, both mentally and physically and has no way of making a living, not to mention he’s afraid of the dark and has certain other quirks  it would be impossible to keep from a wife. He brushes off Cassie’s questions and appreciation of the painting he is working on, and is surprised at the disappointment he feels at the likelihood that he will never see her again.

He is even more surprised, however, when Cassie visits again – this time in the company of her father, a fire-and-brimstone, bible-thumping bigot, whose overbearing, domineering manner turns Cassie into an unrecognisable shadow of the vibrant young woman Jamie knows her to be.  Jack tries to be polite in the face of the man’s insults, but Jamie is furious at his treatment of his daughter and all but throws the man out.  The Reverend Reeves is not one to take such treatment quietly, however, and having learned of the terrible reputation accorded to the Warriner family makes plans to denounce them in his next sermon.

Needing to assure himself that Cassie is safe and unharmed, Jamie braves the dark in order to speak to her properly, and during their conversation, finds himself opening up to her about his own father and telling her something of how he acquired his injuries.  He obliquely invites her to meet him the next afternoon, and they spend a couple of hours very companionably while Jamie paints and Cassie tells him about the progress of her story. Such meetings become the norm, and they each start to wonder if perhaps their growing feelings are reciprocated and if there is any possibility of their making a future together.

Jamie and Cassie are attractive, fully-rounded characters, and Ms. Heath does a terrific job of portraying the longing they feel for each other and building the romantic tension while also establishing a strong emotional connection between them.  But much as I liked Cassie, it’s Jamie who is the real star of the show.  Perceptive, kind and sensitive, he’s a romantic at heart who pours his love of nature and beauty into his paintings, saying with them some of the things for which he can’t always find the words.  Ms. Heath says in her author’s note that she had originally had different plans for Jamie in this story but that he clearly wanted to go in a different direction. I’m glad he did, because it makes him a most unusual and delectable hero and I fell hard for him.

A Warriner to Rescue her is a beautiful love story that’s imbued with warmth, sensuality and humour, and I raced through it in one sitting.  It’s book two in a series, but can be read as a standalone, and I’m really looking forward to reading about Joe and Jacob Warriner in the near future.