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

Read: THE HIDDEN BLADE by Sherry Thomas


Note: page references are from a Kindle version of the book.

In the waning days of the last dynasty, in a quiet, beautiful corner of imperial Peking, a young girl’s blissful ignorance is shattered when she learns that she is the illegitimate daughter of an English adventurer and a Chinese courtesan. What future is there for such a girl? But a mysterious figure steps forward and offers to instruct her in the highest forms of martial arts—a path to a life of strength and independence.

Half a world away in England, a young boy’s idyllic summer on the Sussex downs implodes with the firing of a single bullet. Torn from his family, he becomes the hostage of a urbanely sadistic uncle. He dreams of escaping to find his beloved friend—but the friend is in China, ten thousand miles away.

The girl trains to be deadly. The boy flees across continents. They do not know it yet, but their lives are already inextricably bound together, and will collide one fateful night when they least expect it.

Sherry Thomas is a beautiful writer and her stories are complex and emotional. Yet there is always a happy ending. This is not a romance but, rather, a prequel that sets the stage for My Beautiful Enemy,introducing the hero and heroine in childhood as they come of age, Ying-ying in China, Leighton in England.

I will warn you now. This is a very powerful and extremely sad story about evil, imprisonment, blackmail, and cruelty, but there is hope at the end. And, after such angst, I should certainly hope so!

The one character tying them together is Herb Gordon, a close friend of Leighton’s father and later, Ying-ying’s English tutor in China. He is a beautiful and kind soul, who loves wholly and who becomes a very special person to both Ying-ying and Leighton.

"There was no force in the world strong enough to tear apart the bonds of their friendship."

The trials and hardships that Ying-ying and Leighton each endure are heartbreaking and almost too much to bear. Both are prisoners, but they are both strong and I cannot wait to read their happy ending next. 

"…everyone around him was a prisoner of some sort…"

Leighton is a lonely young boy who learns the meaning of true love. He is thwarted and manipulated at every turn yet through the kindness of strangers, he manages to find a way forward. His beloved tutor, Mr. Colmes, the sisters Violet and Mrs. McHenry, and even his horrifying uncle’s new wife all save him in little increments. Yet his spirit endures.

It could happen, the upending of life as one knew it. It could happen anytime.” 

Evil is embodied in Sir Curtis and Sherry Thomas has written a truly frightening character, one of the worst I have ever read.

The cover of this book is gorgeous and aptly depicts Ying-ying’s strength and power. She is the daughter of a courtesan and an Englishman who lives with her beloved amah—at once a nanny, friend, guardian, and tutor—in the household of her mother’s protector.

What is most impressive and amazing about Sherry Thomas’ writing is that English is not her native language. And it’s fitting that she finally write a story featuring her native country. 

If you enjoy a good story with wonderful solid writing, you will not be disappointed with this quietly compelling novel.

Read: UNRAVELED by Courtney Milan



Note: page references are from a Kindle version.

Smite Turner is renowned for his single-minded devotion to his duty as a magistrate. But behind his relentless focus lies not only a determination to do what is right, but the haunting secrets of his past—secrets that he is determined to hide, even if it means keeping everyone else at arm’s length. Until the day an irresistible woman shows up as a witness in his courtroom… Miranda Darling isn’t in trouble…yet. But she’s close enough that when Turner threatens her with imprisonment if she puts one foot wrong, she knows she should run in the other direction. And yet no matter how forbidding the man seems on the outside, she can’t bring herself to leave. Instead, when he tries to push her away, she pushes right back—straight through his famous self-control, and into the heart of the passion that he has long hidden away…

The third and final book in the brilliant Turner series by Courtney Milan. This is the first and only series I’ve read by Milan and I’m extremely impressed with her voice, her pacing, and her very complex and troubled characters. This series is set in early Victorian England and is about three brothers raised by an unstable and overzealous mother. The impact on each brother is as varied as their personalities, yet they maintain a strong and implacable bond as adults. 

Smite Turner is a determined and scrupulous magistrate—known as Lord Justice—living minimally and in stark contrast for the brother of a duke in Bristol, England. As a child, he was abused by his mother and, as an adult, he doles out justice for those who go unheard, as he once did. His duty is his life. Until Miranda. Like the book’s title, his carefully crafted life becomes unraveled.

"When they needed someone, I was there. I listened. I acted. What happened to me won’t happen to them. Not while I can prevent it."

”’I fear being caged by luxury. I fear that one day I will no longer understand desperation, and with that, I will slowly stop listening to what others have to say.’”

“‘The truth is simply this: you can find a better man than I. God knows you wouldn’t have to look very hard. But I don’t believe you can find one who loves you more.’”

Miranda Darling is a survivor. Living in the slums with a young boy she saved, a child of fellow actors like herself, they live a hand to mouth existence. She is saved—sort of—by the protection of a dangerous entity known as the Patron, who keeps her safe, protects her virtue, but expects her to do illegal favors for them in exchange for this protection. She’s tied to them and walks a precarious line of fear and a desire to change her life for the better.

"So Miranda had kept him. In books, women reduced to straitened circumstances always surrounded themselves with kind, adoring loved ones through pluck and determination."

When she meets Smite, he is immediately enchanted by her. Like himself, she is a survivor, but he also feels a calm and peace with her that he has never felt before. He invites her to become his mistress and they embark on a one-month affair, growing closer together as the days tick by.

Miranda notices Smite’s kind heart behind the stoic facade, something that endears her to him.

”’No man is broken because bad things happen to him. He’s broken because he doesn’t keep going after those things happen. When you told me about your mother, and how it made you resolve to be the person you are…What I thought was, ‘Yes, please, I’ll take him.’ Because you didn’t break.”

The rich familial relationships Milan creates are wonderful. They remind me of the strong family dynamics that Grace Burrowes also writes about in her Windham series. Richard Dalrymple, a cousin and one-time best friend of Smite’s, begs forgiveness for a long-ago quarrel. It is a heartwarming reconciliation, however tentative. And Smite’s loving relationship with his brothers, Ash, and Mark. Words alone cannot aptly describe their camaraderie and understanding.

Miranda understands Smite like no other woman. Their love affair is passionate, sexy, and endearing. She gets him. And loves him for who he is.

”’What? That he’d fall in love and turn into an ordinary man?’ Miranda choked on the words. ‘Anyone who loved him would never want that. It would be like loving the ocean, but wishing it would change into a glass of water.’”

The covers perfectly capture Miranda’s orange red hair and are both beautiful.

A lovely and smart love story. I very much look forward to reading everything else this author has written.



Note: page references are from a Kindle version.

Ashley Brittany is living a nightmare. She’s been mistakenly married to the one man she despises. Months ago, Lord Nicholas took her virtue then scorned her. Now, Ashley will do anything to have her revenge…anything but expose her ugly secret.

Nick Martingale has a secret, too: he’s Captain Robin Hood, a pirate with a fearsome reputation. But when Nick learns his archenemy, the Barbary pirate Yussef, attacked innocents Nick has sworn to protect, he can think of nothing but vengeance.

Only one person stands in his way.

His wife.

The final and long-awaited installment in Shana Galen’s Misadventures in Matrimony series is disappointing, but not for the usual reasons (such as poor writing). While extremely well written, exciting, fast-paced, and featuring a memorable hero and heroine, there are a lot of facets and layers to this story that make me uncomfortable.

I don’t really like the love child trope, especially when the hero talks of the child’s mother so unfeelingly. Nick and Zorah were lovers—she was a former slave—but he “never loved her.”

I also don’t like when the hero expects the heroine to accept his child so easily especially when he keeps so many other secrets; I want Ashley to resist more but she seems so blinded by lust she can’t see straight.

Ashley is a very strong-willed heroine but I wanted her to be even stronger than she was. I felt like she was the one always to give and Nick didn’t have to give much back; this felt unbalanced. Nick accepts Ashley as his wife and does his duty by her to protect her and, eventually, (possibly) love her. But I wanted more sacrifice from him.

So my quibble with this novel is of plot. Was it riveting? Yes. Was it sexy? Yes. Was it shocking and disturbing? Yes. All good qualities in a good read. But, needless to say, this is not my favorite in the colorful Misadventures in Matrimony series.

What I did like:

  • Physical description of the hero; I’m a sucker for a man with black hair and blue eyes.
  • Ashley’s feistiness and fearlessness; I just wanted her to resist a little bit longer.

"Ashley Brittany was more than a challenge. She was a trial by fire, a test of his patience and his sanity." (p15)

  • The detailed descriptions of shipboard life. Galen brings the excitement and danger of the lives of pirates to vivid life.

What I didn’t like:

  • Nick’s selfishness with Ashley. I wanted Nick to give in and give up more to win Ashley. It felt too much like he was piling on one new revelation after another and she had to adjust. I didn’t see that Nick had to adjust to anything, except Ashley’s temper. And the ending scene with her family felt like too little, too late for me."She’d already given her love, but she was not certain he was willing to give her anything in return." (p36)
  • The opening scene is very shocking and upsetting, at least it was to me. The way Nick goes about scaring Ashley off a relationship with him is cruel and very selfish. I had a hard time forgiving him after that or even liking him. I’m still not sure I have. Sex with other women after the hero meets the heroine just turns me off. Elizabeth Hoyt's hero, Griffin, has sex at the beginning of Notorious Pleasures, but he hasn’t yet met the heroine. What Nick does is the worst betrayal.

"Didn’t Ashley understand that he couldn’t love her? He was already too vulnerable." (p229)

"…but how was Nick supposed to fight when he didn’t have the ammunition she wanted? Not to mention, he had a small child to see to first." (p230-231)

Shana Galen is one of my favorite authors who spins exciting and adventurous historical romance tales so, while this book’s plot was not quite to my liking, I very much look forward to reading more of her wonderful stories in future.

Read: THE UGLY DUCHESS by Eloisa James


How can she dare to imagine he loves her… when all London calls her The Ugly Duchess?

Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke’s passion.

Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months.

Theo would have given it a lifetime… until she discovers that James desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry. Society was shocked by their wedding; it’s scandalized by their separation.

Now James faces the battle of his lifetime, convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan.

And Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, All’s Fair in Love — or War.

Once again, Eloisa James captivates me with a lovely and poignant love story, the fourth romance in her enchanting Fairy Tales series. The young love between two best friends is sorely tested by deceit, mistrust, and a painful separation.

I love both James and Theo. Their humanity, failings and fragilities, and devotion to each other is one of the best parts about this book. I actually choked up at one point as I felt deeply for both in their own predicaments and deepest fears. I wanted them to find a way to happiness together. This is rather how I recall feeling with both Fitz and Millie in Ravishing the Heiress and Helena and David in Tempting the Bride, both by Sherry Thomas, another consummate storyteller.

Eloisa James has such a magical way with language—of course, she’s a Shakespeare professor—that her characters, plots, and emotions leap off the page. Her style is energetic, colorful, and such a delight to read; I am charmed every single time.

The friendship between Theo and James is funny and sweetly endearing. They have been raised together as siblings—James calls her “Daisy”—ever since his father took guardianship of Theo when her own father died. In their formative  years, James’ father depletes the family’s finances—he has even dipped into Theo’s—when he demands that James marry Theo to save their fortunes and reputation.

James and Theo are very young; she’s seventeen and he is only two years older when they marry. James is sick with guilt over deceiving his dearest friend. Theo has strong physical features that, despite being an heiress, have marked her as physically unattractive in society’s eyes. She persuades James to pretend to court her so that other men will take notice. It works too well. When they realize they love each other (even if they don’t really think they do), it’s a magical moment. They are so right for each other.

“She reached out and took his hand in hers—his familiar, utterly dear hand. ‘You’re right. You are the only one.’” (p54)

One of my favorite things about this book is how James always loved Daisy. Even when his father demanded he marry her and said dreadful things about her, he felt a deep and true love for her. No mean gossip ever deterred him from his true beliefs. To the very end, he defends and consoles her hurts.

However, it is no surprise, but I am disappointed that James does not remain faithful to Theo while he’s away. It just is wrong to me when a hero does this after he knows the heroine and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I realize it may seem completely unrealistic, especially since they are separated and he is a man, however, I like to think there are some honorable and true men out there. Witness even the debauched DeVere’s fidelity (granted, of intercourse only) to Diane in Victoria Vane’s naughty Devil DeVere series. I really like James but he let me down.

I also notice in their love story, that they are kind of alone in their friendship and marriage. James’ father is well-meaning but utterly callous while Theo’s mother wants to marry her off so she can live her own life without worrying about her daughter. So when the truth (or what Theo thinks is the entire truth) comes out, neither of them have anyone else to turn to. I could feel their loneliness and despair.

The lovely resolution conversation at the end is one of the best I’ve read and brings home the lasting friendship and love between hero and heroine.

Another Eloisa James romance that will warm your heart.

Read: THE DUKE IS MINE by Eloisa James


Tarquin, the powerful Duke of Sconce, knows perfectly well that the decorous and fashionably slender Georgiana Lytton will make him a proper duchess. So why can’t he stop thinking about her twin sister, the curvy, headstrong, and altogether unconventional Olivia? Not only is Olivia betrothed to another man, but their improper, albeit intoxicating, flirtation makes her unsuitability all the more clear.

Determined to make a perfect match, he methodically cuts Olivia from his thoughts, allowing logic and duty to triumph over passion…Until, in his darkest hour, Quin begins to question whether perfection has anything to do with love.

To win Olivia’s hand he would have to give up all the beliefs he holds most dear, and surrender heart, body and soul…

Unless it’s already too late.

Book #3 in Eloisa James' sparkling and enjoyable Fairy Tales series is one of her best. Its well-endowed and outspoken heroine and the plot reminded me of Cleo from Caroline Linden’s beautiful short story, “When I Met My Duchess.”

Olivia is a different sort of heroine. She’s voluptuous and plump; she calls herself fat but Tarquin (Quin) doesn’t see her that way at all. She has a zest for life. She says what she thinks, stands up for herself and those she loves, and she loves fully—her consideration of Quin’s mother, who despises her because she reminds her of Quin’s first wife, is admirable. But the last thing Olivia would ever do is cause a rift between mother and son.

The sibling relationship between twins Georgiana (Georgie) and Olivia is very nicely portrayed. At first, I worried Georgie’s heart might be broken even though Olivia vowed not to succumb to Quin’s attractions. But I was happy to see that James didn’t write it that way at all. In fact, in the pivotal scene, we learn the truth about Georgie’s deepest desires despite her ladylike appearance and very proper manners.

Quin’s mother, the formidable dowager duchess, wrote THE instruction book on being a duchess and how to comport oneself, The Mirror of Compliments, from which Olivia’s mother quotes often. Georgie and Olivia have been trained to become duchesses—they call it their “duchification”—but Georgie learns it all for the sheer love of learning while Olivia makes jokes about it but definitely takes it to heart.

Rupert is a marquess, and he’s only 18 to Olivia’s 23. They have been promised to each other since birth by their fathers, who were old school chums. Poor Rupert is simple (having suffered a brain injury at birth), but he has a good and kind heart.  Olivia doesn’t wish to marry him but feels obligated to honor her parents’ wishes. She feels sorry for him but also defends him honorably.

Their parents come up with the insane plan for Olivia to seduce Rupert to ensure he will marry her upon his return from the continent, where he is determined to earn his glory in war. Suffice it to say Rupert has some problems and they make a pact to keep what didn’t happen a secret. James makes this delicate scene both funny and touching. Brava.

“In his own way, Rupert was admirable…He had his father’s strength of will, with an extra layer of honor that his father was conspicuously lacking.” (p53)

Georgie is a candidate to marry the Duke of Sconce, Quin, and she travels with Olivia to their estate where Olivia and Quin form a love at first sight connection.

Quin is logical, a mathematician whose first marriage was filled with overwrought emotion and histrionics that resulted in tragedy, something he hopes never to repeat. But Olivia makes him emotional and lusty, and she rocks his stable world, much like his first wife, but in a completely different and good way.

The secondary characters are wonderful and memorable. Lady Cecily Bumtrinket; Quin’s adorable young cousin, Justin; Rupert, Olivia’s dim and adorable fiancé; and Rupert’s father, the formidable but devoted Duke of Candlewick. Even Lucy, Rupert’s loveable mongrel, is a dear.

It’s refreshing to read that Georgie is no weak, shrinking violet. She’s a secret bluestocking who wants nothing more than to educate herself and her dearest wish is to attend university but, alas, as a woman in early nineteenth century England, she cannot.

“Georgiana was an elegant piece of fine china, but in comparison Olivia beckoned like the promised land.” (p127)

Lovers of literature will love the wordplay, poetry, and literary allusions sprinkled throughout this lovely story. Justin, Quin, and Olivia enjoy a lively and provocative—let’s face it, hot—poetry conversation in one memorable scene.

The romance between Quin and Olivia is joyful, funny, romantic, touching, and exciting. In short, it has it all, from Prologue to Epilogue and I thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the best in Eloisa James’ Fairy Tales series so far, though all have been wonderful and enchanting.

No prince is real if he obeys his mother.” (p289)

Listened to: THE HANDBOOK FOR HANDLING HIS LORDSHIP by Suzanne Enoch, read by Anne Flosnik


Emily Portsman has a secret, and three years ago she decided the best way to keep it would be to work at the Tantalus Club, a notorious gaming establishment for gentlemen. It’s not the sort of work a beautiful, well-bred governess would ever consider—unless she’s hiding from her past and a man who wants to destroy her present …

Nate Stokes, Earl of Westfall, is a supremely accomplished former spy more at home on London’s seedy streets than in any glittery ballroom. His peers know him only as a bookish fellow who can find anything—or anyone. When the Marquis of Ebberling hires him to find a murderess, Nate’s search leads him to the Tantalus Club and Emily Portsman. In a game where no one is who they seem and when every conversation is a deadly dance of trust and desire, the only thing Nate knows for sure is that once he gets Emily in his arms, he will never let go.

The Scandalous Brides series by Suzanne Enoch has been an enjoyable audiobook experience. With the exception of Rules to Catch a Devilish Duke, the third book in the series (which I read), Anne Flosnik has narrated the rest in a unique and engaging voice that perfectly captures the lovely blend of scandal and emotion that characterizes these stories. Her voices are easily distinguishable between men and women and even characters from previous books in the series, a challenge indeed. She reads with great feeling and emotion and perfectly depicts both humor and fear as appropriate.

Nathaniel (Nate) Stokes is a former spy—and reluctant earl—for Wellington and has perfected the innocuous persona he adopts as the serious, absent-minded professor with a slight limp. He is approached and hired by the seedy but powerful Marquis of Ebberling to find Ebberling’s former governess, Rachel Newbury, whom he suspects of murdering his wife three years earlier. Ebberling wishes to remarry and now wants retribution. Nate soon learns things are not quite what they seem.

Emily Portsman has been in hiding for the last three years at the provocative and exclusive Tantalus Club. She has changed her hair color, her style of dress, and even her manner as she lives quietly among other scandalous women who work at the club, keeps the account books, and takes an occasional lover to forget her despair for a little while.

When Nate meets her, he is attracted to her but is also merely looking for information on Rachel Newbury. This alarms Emily enough to wish to keep him close so she invites him upstairs to her rooms where they begin a passionate affair that quickly turns into a friendship of trust and revelations.

Their romance is mature and sexy as neither are virgins. They get to know each other and reveal more and more of their true selves as they slowly let down their guard. But Emily is of low birth while Nate is an earl, an unlikely match for any future happiness.

As danger creeps ever closer to Emily, Nate desires nothing more than to protect her and keep her with him. Enoch captures Emily’s stark fear particularly well in the reveal scene.

Enoch writes with feeling and poignancy as each of the Tantalus girls in the series finds happiness against all the odds. They are strong women but at the mercy of powerful men and the context of the historical period that limited women’s choices. In this way, it reminds me of Madeline Hunter's Rarest Blooms series. Enoch captures this desperation and the close friendship the women create among themselves in the midst of this stark vulnerability.

I very much enjoyed the character of Laurence (Laurie), Nate’s younger brother. He’s likable yet immature, but he loves his brother devotedly. Their relationship is portrayed quite nicely and I would love to read his story sometime.

I also wonder if Enoch will write a little novella with a happy ending for Genevieve Martine, the loyal French spy who has been a great supporter for all the Tantalus girls/Scandalous Brides in this series. 

Characters from the first three books make an appearance here and I feel the series is best savored in order to truly appreciate the plot developments, but it could probably be read as a standalone. 

A lovely feel-good romance but I thought the final scene unnecessary.



Note: page references are from an ARC Kindle version, from Netgalley.

The time has come for the widow Louisa, Lady Brookingston, to move on, but she refuses to remarry at the cost of shaming her late husband’s memory. Their six years together were wedded bliss—even if a war injury prevented him from fulfilling his marital duties. Only one woman can help Louisa: Madame Rouge, the discreet proprietress of a club where London’s elite explore their wildest fantasies.

Geoffrey, the Marquess of Swanston, has no intention of agreeing to deflower an anonymous virgin. But when Madame Rouge tempts him with the absolute power he’ll have over a woman who knows nothing of carnal delights, he’s intrigued. Control is the one thing he cannot resist—and control is what he loses during his night with the blindfolded beauty. He longs to take her further, to leave his mark upon her perfect behind, but the mystery woman refuses to see him again. Instead Geoffrey reluctantly agrees to take a wife, the widow of his dear friend, Lord Brookingston—fating them both to a wicked surprise.

 The first book in the Bound and Determined series by Lavinia Kent.

Substance meets smut (splendidly) in this entertaining and intense erotic historical.

Geoffrey, the Marquess of Swanston, likes to be in control. After enduring the effects of a bohemian childhood of no restraints, the only way he feels calm and ordered is when he has complete control over a situation. He maintains his family’s finances and landholdings after his scatterbrained and reckless father nearly ruins the family. And this control extends to his unusual sexual proclivities for dominance.

"With nobody watching it meant she was free. She could do whatever she liked and nobody would ever know."

Louisa, the Countess of Brookingston, is a virgin widow. Yes, I know, you find this hard to believe but wait. Her late husband was wounded in war and had sexual problems which prevented their consummation. Instead, he visited Madame Rouge’s brothel to indulge his unorthodox and demanding sexual needs. After his death, Louisa seeks this same brothel to help relieve her of her virginity in order to spare her late husband’s humiliation for any future husband she might take. Ruby, Madame Rouge, assigns her Geoffrey, aka Charles. Louisa takes the nom de plume Grace as he initiates her in one night of uninhibited passion that is filled with both erotic sensuality and mind blowing dialogue. Geoffrey enjoys complete control over Louisa, who knows nothing about sexual intercourse but he’s also very considerate of her needs and pleasure, something she is surprised and delighted to discover. But she does ask lots and lots of frank questions that both startle and delight him. When he presses for further relations beyond their one night, she declines, preferring to maintain anonymity.

"It was definitely not supposed to be about wanting. Ladies did not want. They were ladies. But she did want."

A month later, they meet at a society soiree and this is the only part of the story that I find farfetched, as I also have in other similar stories I’ve read: they do not recognize each other despite their previous intimacy. They acknowledge there is something familiar about the other and they share a mutual attraction; in fact, Geoffrey learns that Louisa is the widow of his good friend, John. 

Somehow, in releasing her anger, her frustration, at him visiting Madame’s, she opened something inside herself. It felt like drawing the first good breath of fresh air after being lost in a fog.”

As expected in an erotic romance, there is a lot of sex in this book but it is strongly supported by intriguing dialogue, a complex plot, and wonderful emotional characterization. The author portrays both Louisa and Geoffrey in great depth, their troubled pasts that now influence their current actions, and their mutual growth in a romantic relationship. The sex is tastefully and provocatively written and each encounter pushes the story forward effectively to its satisfying conclusion.

Nothing in this romance is what I expected, from Geoffrey’s unusual past to Louisa’s strength and bravery in facing her new husband and her fears for their future together. They come to realize they must trust each other, both in their marriage and the bedroom.

This was all about trust. That was the only important thing here and now.”

The villain in the story, the sadomasochistic Countess of Ormande, reminded me of the Marquise de Merteuil from Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos de Laclos, in her mad need for revenge and power at any cost. And the characters of Blythe, Geoffrey’s wild younger sister, his good friend Duldon, and Ruby, Madame Rouge, are also fully and fascinatingly captured—I would love to read about them in future stories.

A new and exciting voice in historical romance and a promising and very impressive debut.