AustenStudent

I read and study Jane Austen obsessively,
love British and American history,
and adore historical romance novels.

“'Some women are complicated. Angelique is one of them.'
‘Maybe I like complicated,’ James said.”

– Christy English, Much Ado About Jack (2014)

Read: A NIGHT WITH THE BRIDE by Kate McKinley

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Note: page references are from an ePUB version of the book.

While at a lavish house party, Gabriella Weatherfield confidently bets her friends that she can convince the “unseducible” Duke of Somerset to kiss her. But Gabriella’s innocent wager turns wicked when faced with the duke’s intense blue eyes and talented hands.

Nicholas Montgomery usually strives to stay away from society, yet there’s no denying Gabriella’s wild beauty or the way she makes him want to lose control for once. Will the fire between them burn out when Gabriella uncovers the inner demons haunting Nicholas?

The third and final book in Kate McKinley's historical erotic novella series, By Invitation Only. This fun series takes place at a Regency house party set in 1813, where liaisons and intrigues are rampant. One of the things I’ve enjoyed in this series is how little snippets of drama and action from the other novellas make appearances in all the stories.

This novella features a heroine who takes a dare: to kiss the ‘unseducible’ Duke of Somerset. He’s handsome and dashing but also quite reclusive and reserved. Gabriella, a tradesman’s daughter, is intrigued by him as well as determined to show her friends that she’s good enough for a duke.

What starts out as merely a game, however, progresses quickly into something more serious. He warns her to stay away from him but she refuses to listen. As a result, she’s more drawn to him and discovering more about him. When she finds out a painful secret he holds, her desire to win a dare turns into something much more.

I wasn’t sure if I’d like this book as I skimmed some lukewarm reviews before I read it, something I don’t usually do. While this installment isn’t my favorite in the series—I think the first one, A Duchess in the Dark has that honor—this story is still exceptionally well-written and its time and place firmly established. I enjoyed the intrigues and gossip, the house party activities of picnics and archery—and a very sensually-charged description of archery it is!—and the sweet and sexy romance between Nicholas and Gabriella.

James, the house party’s host, once again makes an appearance as he drops words of wisdom in lovers’ ears to advance their matches, adding some sardonic humor to the story.

A few typos mar the manuscript but not enough to detract from the story’s flow. The covers in this series are gorgeous and apt.

Memorable moments:

Indeed, any mildly scandalous behavior was liable to brand a woman a harlot for life. Which was precisely what made it so exhilarating. In Gabriella’s well-ordered, strictly structured life, the threat of danger was thrilling.” (p17)

This was the trouble with sheer desperation. It made even the most horrible ideas seem brilliant.” (p23)

His tongue rolled over the words shaft and center seductively, wickedly, leaving her with no doubt of his meaning.” (p39)

'I accept you exactly as you are.'” (p48)

Another wonderful reading experience by an author to watch. McKinley’s next book, How to Lose a Duke in Ten Dayswill be released April 21.

Read: GABRIEL: LORD OF REGRETS by Grace Burrowes

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Note: page references are from an ePUB version of the book.

A man with a dangerous future

After two years in hiding to protect his family, Gabriel Wendover, Marquess of Hesketh, leaves behind the woman he loves and returns home to untangle the plots against him. When the lady turns up on his doorstep to paint portraits of Gabriel’s brother and sister-in-law, he’s not sure whether it’s by accident or design. And now she could be in harm’s way too…

A lady with a dangerous past

Polonaise Hunt is an accomplished artist who is determined to paint the prestigious Wendover family portraits, but coming upon Gabriel in his new situation changes everything. Despite their mutual passion, trusting Gabriel could cost Polly everything she holds dear…

Book #4 in Grace Burrowes’ sexy and emotional Lonely Lords series, featuring many of the secondary men (friends and acquaintances) from her Windham series.

This book is really a continuation of Beckman, the third book in the series and should be read after that. While I enjoyed that book, I found I liked this one more. We also learn a surprising secret about Gabriel that I hope will be further explored in a later Lonely Lords story.

Gabriel Wendover, the Marquess of Hesketh, has been in hiding for the last two years and, during that time, he changed, from a frivolous rake to a hardworking and grateful man now determined to take the reins of responsibility seriously. Convinced that someone is trying to kill him, he rusticated in the country posing as a land steward. But now he’s fallen in love and has decided it’s time to face his killer so that he can live the rest of his life in peace and happiness.

Since Polly and Gabriel have known each other for two years, their relationship feels like that of an old married couple rather than the first blush of new love; they tease, they console and comfort, they do everything but. And yet, when they do finally make love, it’s explosive and exciting, like the very first time that it is.

She’d been a lifeline for him, pragmatic but kind, forcing food and rest and dry clothing on him when he’d been more inclined to work and work, and go back out in the rain, wind, cold, and mud, and work some more. She’d made him appreciate the small comforts—a cup of tea, a touch, a fresh, hot muffin slathered with butter, a smile—and made him realize that somewhere along the path to becoming the marquess, he’d missed the need to become Gabriel.” (p48)

Polly’s social class is beneath Gabriel’s so she feels she cannot marry him; this is merely a dalliance but each secretly feels it’s much more than that. Gabriel is his own man, even if he is a marquess with duties and responsibilities, but Burrowes’ heroes always follow their hearts.

Polly is an artist, commissioned to paint the portrait of Gabriel’s brother, Aaron and Aaron’s wife, Marjorie. She always saw Gabriel as just a man, not a marquess, until she learns he is a marquess. Then she’s not good enough; she also carries a scandalous secret that causes her great sorrow.

There is a lot of sex in this story—more than in any Burrowes book that I’ve read—and as always, Burrowes writes with great sensuality, eroticism, and emotion. Polly is very orgasmic; we should all be so lucky!

There is a great moment when Gabriel, speaking to Polly’s daughter, Allemande, asks her “’What would running away solve?’” (p212). He comes to realize his doing the same thing didn’t accomplish anything.

The secondary love story here, between Aaron and Marjorie, is sweet and heartwarming. Aaron reluctantly took over the title when Gabriel disappeared, and was coerced (by Marjorie’s harridan of a mother) into marrying Gabriel’s fiancée to fulfill the marriage contracts. Once again, in historical romance, you see the plight and manipulation of women at the hands of men. 

I almost felt this story could have been a novella and, even though the print version says it’s 386 pages, it didn’t feel that long at all. That’s because Burrowes is a consummate and beautiful writer who weaves lovely words into magical stories.

I love the little nuances and details in her stories: the meaning of flowers, toast crumbs in the butter, back pains soothed with homemade salves. Her stories feel real. And somehow comforting.

The book covers for the Lonely Lords series have been spot on and sexy; each depicts the hero just as I picture him. This one reveals Gabriel’s striking green eyes and dark hair. Swoon!

Polly’s brother-in-law, Tremaine St. Michel, makes another appearance here, as do Sara and Beckman (from Beckman). He’s an interesting character I wouldn’t mind reading more about.

Though the ending is unexpected (and a bit anticlimactic), the storytelling and the writing are so rich and a joy to read that it doesn’t really matter. Burrowes is a master of her craft. She entertains me, makes me feel for her characters, and that is more than enough.

Memorable moments:

'You work, and then you work some more, and then you work yet still more, with eating and sleeping tucked in somewhere between sheep, goats, cows, horses, crops, and cottages.'” (p34)

”’I tell you the truth,’ Gabriel said. ‘It’s a difficult pill, but often has curative powers.’” (p233)

A passionate and comforting love story.

austenchanted:

Persuasion (2007)

She understood him. He could not forgive her - but he could not be unfeeling. Though condemning her for the past, and considering it with high and unjust resentment, though perfectly careless of her, and though becoming attached to another, still he could not see her suffer, without the desire of giving her relief. It was a remainder of former sentiment; it was an impulse of pure, though unacknowledged friendship; it was a proof of his own warm and amiable heart, which she could not contemplate without emotions so compounded of pleasure and pain, that she knew not which prevailed.

Swoon! Best Captain Frederick Wentworth ever.

Read: OBSESSION by Monica Burns

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Note: page references are from an ePUB version.

Helen Rivenall is willing to do anything to escape the brutality of her uncle’s home. But a promise of honest employment is a ruse. Drugged and auctioned off in a notorious London brothel, she finds herself won by a man who wants nothing from her except her participation in a harmless charade. Left with no choice, she reluctantly agrees, but as their web of lies grows, so does temptation and the realization that pleasure and sin are often one and the same.
Sebastian Rockwood, Earl of Melton is haunted by a dark secret in his past. One that taught him control is a personal trait to be valued above all others. He also learned never to give his heart to anyone. The risk is too great. Yet where Helen is concerned, his prized control is slowly giving way to temptation, and all too quickly he discovers nothing can protect him from the ultimate obsession - love.

Time and place: Victorian London

Love scenes: sexy, explicit

I completely fell in love with Sebastian from the beginning of this story. An earl, he is a kind and very responsible eldest brother taking care of his family, running his estate, and trying to match his siblings while trying to keep his beloved Aunt Matilda from matchmaking him. He’s very self-disciplined and used to being in complete control of his life and Helen upends it completely; the way he constantly looks at his timepiece is hilarious. He’s also a consummate pianist and he plays to relax when he can.

He stumbles upon Helen in a brothel, when he helps his brother, Caleb, rescue a young woman who has been kidnapped; she is being auctioned to the highest bidder. He feels for her and is disgusted by the process so, to protect her and keep her from his loathsome nemesis, Viscount Templeton, he bids for her and wins. He takes her to his family’s London home and, in exchange for helping her, he (ashamedly) asks Helen to pose as his fiancée for his fastidious aunt. Because she feels indebted to him, she agrees, especially after he also rescues her precocious younger brother, Edward.

Helen and Edward are on the run from an abusive uncle. They hope to find their estranged maternal grandfather in the hopes that he will take them in, but they have no idea how to accomplish this without Sebastian’s help.

Slowly, Helen comes to appreciate Sebastian’s actions on her behalf and his great kindness, hidden behind his careful façade of distance and aloofness. The mantle of earl was thrust upon him at the very young age of seventeen and, ever since, he has felt the great weight of familial responsibility. He saved the family estate from financial ruin but he is also very lonely.

I loved Louisa, Sebastian’s spirited sister. Her charm and ease with Sebastian and her warm and affectionate welcome of Helen and her brother endeared me to her. Aunt Matilda is also a sharp observer and tries some matchmaking of her own.

The slowly growing love between Helen and Sebastian is both sweet and sensual. Each learns the other’s secrets and comes to care deeply about the other. Both are devoted to their siblings and there is this strong theme of family throughout the story.

Historical events in the background create an atmosphere fraught with tension and danger, most notably the Jack the Ripper murders in Whitechapel. And there is also mention of Salisbury who was Prime Minister three times between 1885 and 1902.

Memorable moments:

Marriage to her, or any woman, would destroy the well-ordered existence he’d created for himself.” (p367)

'Sebastian is rough around the edges, but all he needs is a little bit of coaxing to make him a prince among men.'” (p436)

A beautiful and sexy love story with strong themes of family and honor.

“I am not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance at happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.”

– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1811)

Read: A COUNTESS BY CHANCE by Kate McKinley

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Note: page references are from an ePUB version.

Things aren’t as proper as they seem in Regency London…

The next passionate novella in Kate McKinley’s erotic trilogy.

A gambler’s daughter, Olivia Dewhurst knows her way around a deck of cards. So when her family estate becomes threatened, she has no choice but to use her skills at the gaming tables to save herself from ruin. A lavish house party affords her the perfect opportunity-until the newly minted Earl of Huntington arrives. Adam Rycroft has never forgotten the day Olivia rejected his proposal. Now to even the score, he challenges her to a shocking wager-his two thousand pounds against the one valuable commodity she has left: her virtue.

Another couple finds love at the same house party featured in A Duchess in the Darkthe first novella in the erotic historical series, By Invitation Only, by Kate McKinley. Events from the first book happen here, although peripherally, with different protagonists.

Adam and Olivia were once sweethearts before she jilted him. Unbeknownst to him, her family has been in need of funds due to her mother’s poor health. At the time, Adam was the younger son of an earl with few prospects but now he’s the Earl of Huntington when they meet again two years later, at Olivia’s cousin’s country house party. He still loves her as she loves him, but pride stands in the way of a happy future.

The erotic elements come in the form of some spanking, but nothing too dramatic and it is tastefully portrayed. “She smiled to herself, remembering the sting of his crop against her naked flesh.” (p22)

The humor is very enjoyable, especially at the beginning when Olivia’s gentle horse, Chocolate, refuses to do her bidding, to her great mortification, in front of Adam.

And there are poignant moments, too, when Adam regrets his lurid wager to Olivia when he realizes he has hurt her and also when he publicly shames her. “That confused, slightly wounded look on her face had done something to him—affected him on a level he couldn’t quite identify. His desire for revenge, his resentment, had melted away the moment she’d turn those wide green eyes in his direction.” (p18)

Though only a novella, there is a nice development of secondary characters. James, the host of the house party, and Adam’s close friend—who also appeared in the first book—and scheming beauty, Annabelle Wood, and her harmless brother.

Memorable moments:

“‘I’m married, Huntington. I know the look of a tormented man. The scowl, the rigid posture, the distinct air of defeat.’ He nodded. ‘A woman’s work, most certainly.’” (p18)

He was captivating—his carriage perfection, his countenance unequaled, his character sparkling—everything that recommended a man. But beneath that impeccable visage was a soul drenched in vice and depravity.” (p22)

He would taste her then. Every smooth, creamy inch of her, every peak and valley, every dip and curve. With his tongue, he’d torment her, bring her to the brink of oblivion, and then back again, until she was writhing, begging for more.” (p27)

He expected her to lash back at him, call him out for his cruelty. She didn’t. She was as silent as the tomb—which was far worse.” (p35)

The covers for this series are lovely to look at. They are both beautiful as well as provocative, perfect for an erotic historical.

Some readers may be surprised that I enjoy erotic historical romance, being a Jane Austen student, however, sexual intrigue is very often apparent in several of Austen’s works, albeit offstage. Recall the seduction of Eliza by Willoughby in Sense and Sensibiilty, the sexual wiles of Susan Vernon in Lady Susan, the adulterous affair between Maria Bertram and Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park, and the affair between the engaged Isabella Thorpe and Captain Tilney in Northanger Abbey

The erotic historical Regency works by Kate McKinley are both beautifully written and a joy to read. 

“He began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention.”

– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

Read: THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK by Alyssa Alexander

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After he is betrayed by one of his own, British spy Julian Travers, Earl of Langford, refuses to retire without a fight, vowing to find the traitor. But when the trail leads to his childhood home, Julian is forced to return to a place he swore he’d never see again, and meet a woman who may be his quarry—in more ways than one.

Though she may appear a poor young woman dependant on charity, Grace Hannah’s private life is far more interesting. By night, she finds friendship and freedom as a member of a smuggling ring. But when the handsome Julian arrives, she finds her façade slipping, and she is soon compromised, as well as intrigued.

As she and Julian continue the hunt, Grace finds herself falling in love with the man behind the spy. Yet Julian’s past holds a dark secret. And when he must make a choice between love and espionage, that secret may tear them apart.

Time and place: 1813 London and Devon

Love scenes: several brief, tender, and very sensual

Julian Travers could care less about his title or his duty as the Earl of Langford. He’s a spy on a supposedly last mission that takes him reluctantly home to Devon to flush out a traitor. He has been gone twenty-three years after a painful event made him flee and never want to return. Known as “the Wandering Earl," he vows to be nothing like the unfaithful men in his family, especially his philandering father, even though he feels he must resort to seducing information out of his quarry, Grace Hannah, in the name of the Crown.

Julian is a wonderful hero, one of the best I’ve ever read. He does not hesitate to do the honorable thing when he finds himself in a compromising liaison with Grace. He grows to admire and love her, even though she is sharp-tongued, smart, and knowledgeable, an unusual combination for a woman in her day. His beautiful and heartfelt wedding gift to her only makes him even more attractive and his defense of her honor throughout the book is memorable.

Grace Hannah is sensible, efficient, and self-sufficient. A ward of her abusive uncle, she’s also the village apothecary and physician. She was jilted by her fiancé, Michael, who decided to marry someone else. Because of this, she is considered ruined in the eyes of village society.  She feels most comfortable keeping to herself and doing her own thing, herbalism and smuggling. There are some lovely descriptions of landscape, plants, and herbs throughout the book, especially in Grace’s domain, the stillroom.

This independence and resourcefulness both fascinates and frustrates Julian and captures his interest beyond his carefully laid plans. She reminds me of Anne Elliot, the heroine from Jane Austen’s Persuasion, with her practicality and her consistent and unwavering kindness to others. Then again, she doesn’t exactly act like a lady because she doesn’t consider herself one. She rides astride a gorgeous black stallion named Demon, wears breeches, and is in close contact with smugglers in the village when she comes across suspicious papers in a delivery.

The compromise scene is one of the best scenes in the book and really drives home the terrible and precarious situation of women. In our twenty-first century era, we have NO idea what it was like. A vulnerable young woman was open to any unscrupulous man to take advantage, merely by being alone with her. “Would she have to leave Devon? Would she be required to live in London? On the Continent? In the end, she would be at the mercy of a man she knew nothing about." (p100)

From the very beginning, there is an exciting and sizzling attraction between Grace and Julian. He is handsome, kind, and honorable and she can’t help but be drawn to him. After they’re forced to marry, his love and affection are unwavering, something that amazes her since she feels free to finally be herself instead of what others expect her to be, and Julian likes her this way. And yet she doesn’t fully trust him—she doesn’t completely trust anybody—as his mysterious reputation precedes him and she, too, has secrets to hide.

Julian’s protectiveness of Grace is a joy to read; he feels her loneliness and it angers him when he discovers how cruelly her uncle treats her and how society shuns her for her broken engagement. This disturbs him as he’s supposed to be investigating her, not falling in love with her.

Secondary characters are strongly portrayed, especially Jack Blackbourn, a former smuggler accused of treason based on an actual person; Mrs. Wargell, Michael’s spiteful wife—she reminded me of Augusta Elton from Jane Austen’s Emma; Grace’s bully of an uncle, the kind of relative who takes in a poor relation and then never lets her forget it; and Grace’s sad and disillusioned friend, Marie, Lady Elliott.

This solid debut is filled with several memorable and poignant scenes: Grace’s palpable fears upon arrival at the church; the compromise scene in which Julian is ever the gentleman; the intrigues of the wedding breakfast; and Julian’s banishment and exorcism of his past in his father’s bed chamber.

 Memorable moments:

'I'm going to be a dreadful countess,' she said. 'You'll be marrying a smuggler.' 'And you'll be marrying a spy. I'd say we're a perfect match.'” (p132)

It wasn’t lies driving a wedge between them. It was half-truths and omissions and secrets.” (p190)

“‘The circumstances of a person’s birth are an accident. Only character can be chosen.’” (p202)

A wonderful and exciting story filled with tender emotion, suspense, action, and a vivid sense of time and place in history. I very much look forward to reading more from this author.

Note: this post was first published, in a modified version, on the Romantic Historical Reviews blog.

Read: THE LAST WICKED SCOUNDREL by Lorraine Heath

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The last book (#4.5, a novella) in Lorraine Heath’s poignant and dark Victorian era Scoundrels of St. James series.

William Graves is the last of Feagan’s scoundrels. A onetime grave robber turned royal physician, he has devoted his life to saving others—because he knows there is no way to save himself. Especially not around a lady like Winnie. Though undeserving of her touch, he cannot resist. His passion cannot be tamed…even in the face of certain danger.

Winnie, the Duchess of Avendale, never knew peace until her brutal husband died. With William she’s discovered burning desire—and the healing power of love. But now, confronted by the past she thought she’d left behind, Winnie must face her fears…or risk losing the one man who can fulfill all her dreams.

This final story ties up the series about five child thieves, raised in the London rookeries, four men and a woman, who lift themselves up from poverty and crime to respect and distinction. 

Lorraine Heath’s stories are romantic and a little melancholy. When I think of the Victorian era, I think dark colors and repression whereas the Regency feels light and madcap by comparison. I first read her breathtaking Waking Up with the Dukewith the swoon-worthy Duke of Ainsley—a few years ago and loved it. Since then, I’m slowly reading her backlist. Heath’s mother was British and she herself is from Texas, so she also writes historical romance set in her home state, some even combining the two backgrounds.

I had almost forgotten about Catherine’s quiet and fearful friend, Winifred (Winnie), the Duchess of Avendale, from In Bed with the Devil. In that story, Winnie was a timid, abused wife, bullied by a monster of a husband who belittled and beat her and made her feel worthless. 

And I had also forgotten William Graves, personal physician to the hypochondriac Queen Victoria; he had been a peripheral figure in the last four books. Here we discover he’s a loving, considerate, and kindhearted man who rescued Winnie three years before when her husband almost beat her to death. 

Since then, Winnie has decided to build William a hospital in his honor, to thank him for caring for her. She has secretly come to love him and he her, although he feels that their relationship (he is a commoner) can never be. For her part, Winnie wants to embrace her freedom to love whom she wishes instead of honoring society’s expectations. Her horrible marriage  quickly disillusioned her; she’s determined to embrace her life now.

But William and his friends hold a secret to protect Winnie and her young son, Whit, the new Duke of Avendale. It is also this secret that keeps William from fully loving Winnie. But she trusts him and it is that trust which also tests their relationship.

Before William, Winnie’s life had been darkness and oppression, and I like how Heath describes her rooms in her London townhouse. “The fabric covering the chairs and sofa were pale yellow and green, as though she’d been striving to bring sunshine into her life.” (p32)

Heath also gives bits of information from the first four books, but not too much; it is just enough and someone reading this for the first time will not be confused. In fact, the story works well as a standalone.

There is mention of William rowing every day for exercise and stress relief which caught my attention because I recently read Juliana Gray’s How to Master Your Marquis. In that story, the hero, James, also rows for the very same reasons.

Memorable moment:

She’d never been held for the pleasure of being held. There was comfort in it, an easing of loneliness without words.” (p76)

A fitting end to an entertaining and romantic series.

Read: DANGEROUS by Monica Burns

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Note: Page references are from a Kindle version, courtesy of the author.

Behind the mask lies love-a dangerous and deadly emotion. Constance Athelson, Viscountess Westbury has a gift she can’t reveal. She sees things others can’t, including the dead. The only thing she can’t see is into the heart of Lucien Blakemore, Earl of Lyndham. After one blissful night in his arms, she knows if she’s ever to win his heart, she must free him from his tortured past. Lucien Blakemore met the Egyptian goddess Isis at a masked ball, but she vanished into the night before he could learn her real name. It’s just as well, since the Blakemore Curse makes love a dangerous and deadly emotion for him. But the erotic night he spent with his mysterious lover makes him want to throw caution aside-if only for one more night with his masked goddess. Warning, this title contains the following: explicit sex with a hero whose torment equals that of Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester.

Time and place: Victorian England, London and Berkshire

Love scenes: very sensually explicit and graphic

Monica Burns writes lush historical romance. Her stories perfectly capture the emotions of all-consuming lust and passionate love combined with a page-turning story that engrosses until the very end. She’s an underrated and underappreciated author who writes beautiful historical romantic stories.

This story has elements of both history and the supernatural. Like Katharine Ashe’s Captive Bride and These Haunted Hearts by Anna Campbell, they are stories of both mystery and romance.

Though loosely connected to Obsession in that Constance is the sister of Sebastian, the hero in that story, it can be read as a standalone.

Constance is an independent single mother, a widow who assisted her late husband in his expeditions to Egypt. She is an accomplished librarian and cataloger of antiquities, trained by scholars at the British Museum, and is hired by Lucien, the Earl of Lyndham, via correspondence based on her expert qualifications. Her work is impeccable and she’s very knowledgeable and meticulous in her execution.

Before journeying to Lyndham’s estate with her young son, Jamie, she attends an illicit Black Widows Ball in London where she has a one-night stand with a masked stranger, completely out of character for herself. She is shocked at her attraction to him as well as her unconventional behavior but, after a vision into his past, she soon flees town after accepting the earl’s job offer. Little does she suspect he’s the stranger himself. 

After their encounter, Lucien desperately tries to find his mysterious masked lady but to no avail. When he arrives at his estate, he is shocked to find her there and even more shocked when he discovers she is his cataloger. He’s an honorable, passionate, and sensitive man but he’s also very smart. “He was a man of action, a scholar, and her gift was as far removed from science and the academic world as it could be.” 

What follows is a gripping mystery combined with a sensuous and erotic love story. I really enjoyed the bits of Egyptian history—Lucien’s horse is named Anubis—and antiquities interwoven with the tragic history and curse of the Blakemore family. 

In short, Lucien must learn to accept both Constance’s gift as well as her love for her him.

Secondary characters here are well portrayed: Lucien’s late brother, Nigel, presents some nice humorous moments as well as poignancy; Aurora, Lucien’s formidable and lovely grandmother; Duncan, Lucien’s old friend; and the charming children, Jamie, her son, and Imogene, Lucien’s beloved niece.

Memorable moments:

'Isn't there some other way you could announce your presence? Like rattling chains or moaning?' she snapped.”

It was time she stopped feeling ashamed of her gift. And that’s what it was—it was a gift. She had the ability to help others.” 

Monica Burns is one of my favorite historical romance authors who writes  stories set in the Victorian era. Her next book, His Mistress, is due out this year.