Posts tagged “regency

Review: THE WIDOW’S AUCTION by Sabrina Jeffries

Disclaimer: I received a digital arc of this novella in exchange for an honest review. 

28803825Sabrina Jeffries’ The Widow’s Auction was re-released today, but you may have previously read the story in the Fantasy anthology.

Though Isobel Lamberton, the widowed Lady Kingsley, is confounded by her dealings with the obstinate Justin Antony, Lord Warbrooke, his commanding presence sparks something deep within her. But such romantic thoughts are for naught. For Justin’s political aspirations always come first. And Isobel’s own secret past could damage both of them permanently.

So when Isobel’s friend talks her into participating in a scandalous auction of masked widows at a gentleman’s club, she reluctantly agrees…and soon begins to relish being an object of desire. But none desire her more than Justin, who recognizes the outspoken Isobel in disguise and sets out to teach her a lesson worth far more than money…

I remember reading this novella in the anthology but, even now, years later it has not lost it’s charm. Short and sweet, the novella features two complex, compatible characters – Isobel and Justin – whose interactions are riddled with humour and romance. Though the novella is told in first person, there is a greater focus on Isobel’s character and we see Justin mainly through her eyes. I would have liked to know more about his thoughts, but for the short length of the story, his character was developed quite well. As is the case with most well-written novella’s, the story does leave you wanting more. However, if you’re looking for s quick escape this summer, then The Widow’s Auction is a neat little trip back to the Regency era.

RATING - 3

 

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Throwback Thursday: SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS by Mary Balogh

This week I pulled out a book from my “to-be-read” pile to share with you all – Mary Balogh‘s Slightly Dangerous.

All of London is abuzz over the imminent arrival of Wulfric Bedwyn, the reclusive, cold-as-ice Duke of Bewcastle, at the most glittering social event of the season. Some whisper of a tragic love affair. Others say he is so aloof and passionless that not even the greatest beauty could capture his attention.

But on this dazzling afternoon, one woman did catch the duke’s eye—and she was the only female in the room who wasn’t even trying. Christine Derrick is intrigued by the handsome duke…all the more so when he invites her to become his mistress.

What red-blooded woman wouldn’t enjoy a tumble in the bedsheets with a consummate lover—with no strings and no questions asked. An infuriating lady with very definite views on men, morals, and marriage, Christine confounds Wulfric at every turn. Yet even as the lone wolf of the Bedwyn clan vows to seduce her any way he can, something strange and wonderful is happening. Now for a man who thought he’d never lose his heart, nothing less than love will do.

With her trademark wit, riveting storytelling, and sizzling sexual sparks, Mary Balogh once again brings together two polar opposites: an irresistible, high-and-mighty aristocrat and the impulsive, pleasure-loving woman who shows him what true passion is all about. A man and a woman so wrong for each other, it can result only in the perfect match.

I confess, I have never read a novel by Ms. Balogh, but she seems to be on most “must-read” piles so I placed this novel on my reading list a long while ago. (Only, I have yet to actually read the darn thing…argh! Other novels just keep getting in the way.)

Who are some TBR authors you never get to?

Rika Ashton

(aka #HavingBookwormProblems)


Find Out How the Scoundrel Seduces in Sabrina Jeffries Latest!

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher in return for an honest and spoiler-free review.

I was lucky enough to get a copy of Sabrina JeffriesHow the Scoundrel Seduces a few months ago and I didn’t waste any time diving in! Ms. Jeffries has proven herself to be a talented writer of intricately plotted mysteries that can link several novels together. As she did in the School for Heiresses series, where she kept the reader guessing until the very end about who Cousin Michael could be, Ms. Jeffries keeps us turning the page as we try to figure out the motives of this series’ villain and how he will ultimately fall…

The Blurb:

The third deliciously sexy novel in the New York Times bestselling Duke’s Men historical romance series, featuring an investigator who sets out to find gypsies— and unexpectedly finds love.

Investigator Tristan Bonnaud has one aim in life— to make sure that his half-brother George can’t ever ruin his life again. So when the pesky Lady Zoe Keane, the daughter of the Earl of Olivier, shows up demanding that the Duke’s Men find a mysterious gypsy woman, he seizes the opportunity to also hunt for a gypsy friend who knows secrets about George. Tristan doesn’t expect to uncover Lady Zoe’s family secrets, as well… or end up falling for the woman who will risk all to discover the truth

The Review:

Few authors can make a historical setting come to life as well as Sabrina Jeffries and, in How the Scoundrel Seduces, she seems to have mastered the technique. Characters, setting, and language are so well controlled and utilized on Ms. Jeffries latest novel that you really feel the historical context come to life.

And speaking of characters, Zoe is one of the smartest heroines I have read from Ms. Jeffries. The soon to be Countess was a scene-stealer on When the Rogue Returns, but had real moments to shine in this novel. We get to see more facets of her characters as she searches for her parents. Resourcefulness, spunk and humour were some of Zoe’s trademarks – making her the real selling point of the novel.

However, compared to Zoe, Tristan didn’t stand out as much for me in this novel. He was fun and generous, but not the standout character that Zoe was. On the other hand, Tristan had amazing chemistry in his scenes with Zoe. In a romantic sense, Zoe brings out the best in Tristan – now whether Ms. Jeffries intentionally or accidentally wrote Tristan that way is anyone’s guess?

But a character that surprised me was Jeremy Keane, Zoe’s cousin. I didn’t expect to like Jeremy so much, especially considering the fact that he was rarely in the novel, but I adored all his scenes.

With its well-written setting, fun characters, and suspenseful pacing, I recommend How the Scoundrel Seduces to all fans and new readers!

RATING - 4

Rika Ashton

(aka Zoe’s Fan Club President)


Books Lost in Time

I had some time to read while the laptop was getting upgraded – taking most of my digital ARCs with it – and I started to reread some of my favourite series. Among them was the “Seven Deadly Sins” historical romance novels by Kathryn Caskie and Kinley MacGregor‘s (aka Sherrilyn Kenyon’s) “Lords of Avalon,” a historical-paranormal romance series. Both the series had incredibly strong starts, but disappeared before conclusion due to unforeseeable circumstances.

Kathryn Caskie’s A Sin in White (book four of the series) was “waylaid at the gate.” The novel had a mock-up digital cover, and a tentative release date of Fall 2011, but progress was halted after Ms. Caskie had a medical emergency. All excerpts and teasers about the novel are still up on her site.

Kinley MacGregor’s Darkness Within (book three of the series) had an official cover, featuring Paul Marron no less, but was recalled before publication because Ms. Kenyon was not one hundred percent satisfied with her story. (And while I completely appreciate her effort, after reading the blurb, I still thought the story was AWESOME!)

After his sister is kidnapped by Morgan le Fey and her army, Hel Hound Kaziel must steal the Shield of Dagda. In New Orleans, Avery MacArthur is the guardian for the Shield. When Avery and Kaziel collide, more than their lives are at stake.

Neither novel has a release date as of yet, but Darkness Within has a countdown stating that it is 610 days away from release – but since I’ve been down this road before, back when the novel was supposed to be released in 2008, and then 2010, I’ll tell you now that it’s likely a countdown to doomsday. (But if you’re like me, my warning probably won’t stop you from hoping.)

Know of any other books lost in time? Do share!

Rika Ashton

(aka The Historian)


What the Duke Desires: A Book Review

Warning: As much as I try to avoid these, spoilers may be present in this book review.

And today, for a review of Sabrina Jeffries’ highly anticipated (at least by me) novel, What the Duke Desires!

Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons, accepted long ago that his kidnapped brother was dead. When a cryptic note from investigator Tristan Bonnaud claims otherwise, Max seeks out Tristan’s sister, Lisette—and is infuriated to learn that Tristan has also mysteriously vanished. Have the siblings perpetrated an elaborate hoax? Or is the fiercely protective beauty as innocent as she claims them to be?

Fearful that the powerful duke will destroy Tristan’s career in his zeal for the truth, the clever Lisette convinces Max to accompany her to Paris in a joint search for their loved ones. But their journey takes a seductive twist when they pose as an ordinary husband and wife—not an English duke with a tarnished family name and the illegitimate daughter of a viscount—and discover an exhilarating passion free from the damning secrets of the past. With the line between danger and desire enticingly blurred, they discover that some mysteries, like those of the heart, are answered tenfold in the bliss of a true and trusting love.

What the Duke Desires is as much a novel about the influence of parents on children as it is a romance. Both Lisette and Max had childhoods, which although not perfect, were not entirely horrible either.

Lisette’s mother, the French mistress of an English Viscount, was loving and supportive of her children and Lisette’s father was likewise as loving, if a little absentminded. However, despite the fact that Lisette’s mother and father loved one another, they were not married. According to Lisette, it seems as if her father kept putting of their marriage for one reason or another – and Lisette (as well as myself) assumed it was because he didn’t want to marry his mistress. But the real tragedy arrives, when Lisette’s father dies unexpectedly and his heir, George Manton (the story’s main villain and Lisette’s half brother) forces Lisette, her brother Tristan and her mother off his property. Dominick, George’s brother leaves with them, choosing to support his half-siblings out of a sense of loyalty and love.

The history between Lisette’s parents has turned her against marriage and men and towards  a way to be independent – and not fake independence either, the kind where the heroine talks about independence but doesn’t do anything. Lisette had worked for the French police and now works for Manton’s Investigations – it’s clear she has a career and doesn’t rely solely on her brother’s for support. Another characteristic I liked about Lisette was her ability not to take herself, or what anyone says about her too seriously. She’s able to fend off most of Max’s accusations – and he makes some wild ones – with logic and good humour.

Dominick’s wonderful and I have a sneaking suspicion that he will get a story, along with his ex-fiance, Jane – hopefully soon. He’s a supportive brother and the head of Manton’s Investigation, renamed The Duke’s Men later in the book. As far as brothers go, I think Dominick is definitely a more responsible one than Tristan – though Tristan has his moments.

Tristan’s another interesting character, with an interesting career as an agent for the Surete Nationale (the French Secret Police). While I’m sure Tristan will have his own novel soon (really how could he not with a career like his – so much potential), I think he has a little growing up to do before he’s ready for a happily ever after.

But, since I’m sure the character you really want to know about is the Duke of Lyons, Maximillian Cale – or Max, as Lisette dubs him – I’ll get to him now. Max meets Lisette when he storms into Manton’s Investigations demanding to know where Tristan is. Tristan, as one would have it has sent Max a cryptic letter claiming he’s found Max’s long-lost, thought to be dead, brother but then didn’t show up the the secret meeting. Max afraid this is some kind of hoax wants an explanation.

Readers might remember Max from the “Hellions of Halstead Hall” series – he’s the duke that the ton considers “mad” – as in insane, not constantly angry, though if everyone kept calling me crazy, I’d think I had a right to be angry.

Max suffers from the fear that he had inherited a family madness, since both his father and great-uncle went mad. Because this is a romance, I knew that Max couldn’t really be “mad,” although I did second guess myself a lot, but I was really hoping for a good explanation – and, boy, did I get a good one. No, Max doesn’t have a magical immunity which means that he won’t go mad, but a much more scientific and believable explanation was given – and yes, I was very impressed because I had no idea something like this coud happen. (But, you’ll have to read the novel to find out what it is, because no way am I spoiling something this good.)

When Max and Lisette meet, we finally get to see Lisette’s dramatic side. She convinces Max – a duke – to pose as a commoner. As you can imagine, it’s fun reading about a spoiled duke learning to live like a commoner. One of my favourite scenes in the novel occurs when Max learns that commoner’s share bath water, between couples and sometimes between families:

“I merely thought you should know that you may have to wait a while for [your bath]. Madame insists that you have fresh water, and it will take a while to heat it. If fresh water is what you prefer.”

Now Max was bewildered. “Of course I prefer fresh water. What else is there?”

The butler rolled his eyes, as if frustrated at dealing with someone so oblivious as Maximillian. “Wives and husbands often share bathwater in France, Mr. Kale. I forgot that you English can be…fastidious.”

Several things hit Max at once. One, he’d forgotten that he was supposed to be married. Two, he’d forgotten that the servants didn’t know he was a duke. And three, people actually shared bathwater?

Along with the funny moments is the steamy romance, which is signature of Sabrina Jeffries. Max and Lisette are attracted to one another, but both are resistant to act on these emotions. Lisette because she doesn’t want to repeat her mother’s mistake by falling in love with someone above her station, and Max because he knows that he’ll fall in love with Lisette but fears he’ll go mad and she’ll suffer watching his digress. (But, of course, if you try to surress fire for too long, there’s going to be an explosion!)

One thing I loved most about this novel was that Max and Lisette were not only good at admitting their feelings, but had good legitimate reasons for why they wanted to avoid marriage – not flimsy I-don’t-want-to-marry-you-because-I’m-afraid-of-commitment kind of reasons.

But if you’re still not convinced that Max and Lisette are a couple worth reading about, watch this video for some more funny teasers:

And, finally, as always I’m impressed with the amount of historical detail that goes into a Sabrina Jeffries novel. In What the Duke Desires, we get to meet Eugene Vidocq – a real criminal turned secret French investigator who lived in the time period.

So what’s the verdict?

Go out and grab a copy of What the Duke Desires. Trust me, finding out what Max desires will be worth it.

Edited to add: Sabrina Jeffries has confirmed (in a group FB post) that the next novel will be about Max’s relative (who I assume is Victor), followed by Tristan and then, Dominick’s – she’s saving him for last.

And if you’ve had a chance to read What the Duke Desires already, what are your thoughts? Are you loving the novel as much as I did or do you think I’ve lost my mind recommending this book? (Leave a comment with your thoughts and/or ravings.)

Rika Ashton

(aka Book Reviewer Extraordinaire)

Disclaimer: All book quotes used in this review are the property of Sabrina Jeffries © 2013.


Sabrina Jeffries’ Hellions of Halstead Hall are in the House

I’m a long time Sabrina Jeffries fan, having devoured each and every one of her books, so I can say with some certainty that she has the just the right amount of humour, romance, suspense and drama in her books. The drama and suspense are usually interlinked and keep the novels flowing and the pages turning. Up till now, the mystery in each novel was usually solved at the end and characters (not just the hero and heroine) had a definitive ending. However, in her newest series Ms. Jeffries proves that she is a true master of suspense and can stretch out a single mystery throughout a series.

The big question is “What really happened to the parents of the Sharpe children?” – as in who killed them, etc.

While I usually read romance for the romance, I do like the occasional mystery thrown in and for me, the “Hellions of Halstead Hall” series has just the right amount of both to keep the reader guessing.

book cover of   The Truth About Lord Stoneville    (Hellions of Halstead Hall, book 1)  by  Sabrina JeffriesThe first novel in the series is Oliver Sharpe, Marquess of Stoneville’s story, The Truth About Lord Stoneville:

The oldest of the scandalous Sharpes—five hell-raising siblings tainted still by the gossip surrounding the “accidental” deaths of their parents two decades ago-—Oliver Sharpe, the Marquess of Stoneville, like his brothers and sisters, has lived life on his own terms. In his case, as an unrepentant rakehell. Or so life had played out until Grandmother Hetty got a bee in her bonnet. Now the five Sharpe siblings face a daunting ultimatum: Marry by year’s end—or kiss their inheritance good-bye.

Oliver vows to fulfill the bargain in true Sharpe style—by bringing home a fake fiancé from a brothel! But his scheme backfires when he foils a robbery and rescues an American beauty instead. Maria Butterfield came to London to find her missing fiancé, but her prior engagement won’t stop Oliver from getting what he wants: Maria in his bed. His rebellious charade may just call Hetty’s bluff, but not before it become all too real—stirring up a love that tempts him to be a hellion no more.

What can I say about this book? Well, Grandmother Hetty is one crazy lady, and I love her for it. She issues an ultimatum to end all ultimatums and all I could think was “finally.” I’ve been waiting to see Oliver wedded and bedded since Ms. Jeffries novel Wed Him Before You Bed Him and the rest of the “School for Heiresses” series where he was a red herring thrown at the readers by Ms. Jeffries as a possible hero for Charlotte.

Though, in this novel, we see that there’s a lot more to Oliver that meets the eye. He’s not just a rogue, though he is that too, but someone who has gone through his own tragedy and lived with the guilt that he was the cause of it for most of his life. Every believes Oliver killed his father for his inheritance, but Oliver thinks it was his mother who killed him and he was the one who drove her to it. For a while I was convinced that Oliver had some validity to his guilt, mostly because he was so convinced but also confused about what really happened that night…

Cue for Maria. Maria enters Oliver’s life at a just the right time. Oliver, who’s lived his life drinking, gambling and wenching, is about to find a fake fiancee from a brothel. Maria, who happens to be in London looking for her own fiance, meets Oliver as he is about to leave a brothrel due to a mishap caused by her cousin, Freddy. (Freddy, another great character but more on him later.) Maria is good for Oliver. She’s smart and practical, which Oliver is not but that mostly because he’s letting his guilt blind him. Maria is also very sweet, but it’s her spitfire moments that I love the most. She can really put Oliver in his place which I admired.

That is not to say all is well in paradise. For one thing, the initial “arrangement” between these two is of a business nature. Oliver wants to use Maria bold American ways to convince his grandmother to rescind her ulimatum and Maria agrees as long as Oliver helps her find her MIA fiance since he knows London better than her. The business arrangement doesn’t last, of course, due to the lust phase but immediately after we have Oliver’s I-want-her-but-can’t-love her phase. He does have a better reason than most to shun love considering how it destryoed his mother’s life but still, since I already knew he was in love with her – and so did every other character in the novel – I just wished he would admit it.

I liked the interactions between the secondary characters, particularly their matchmaking ways. Oliver’s brother’s used every opportunity a their disposal to make Oliver jealous – which is always nice. 😉

book cover of   A Hellion in Her Bed    (Hellions of Halstead Hall, book 2)  by  Sabrina JeffriesSpeaking of Oliver’s brothers, one brother in particular gets his own story next. Jarret the second bro meets his match in A Hellion in Her Bed:

Mired in scandal after his parents’ mysterious deaths, notorious gambler Lord Jarret Sharpe agrees to tamely run the family’s brewery for a year if his Machiavellian grandmother rescinds her ultimatum that he marry. But the gambler in him can’t resist when beguiling Annabel Lake proposes a wager. If she wins their card game, he must help save her family’s foundering brewery. But if he wins, she must spend a night in his bed. The outcome sets off a chain of events that threatens to destroy all his plans…and unveils the secret Annabel has held for so long. When Jarret discovers the darker reason behind her wager, he forces her into another one—and this time he intends to win not just her body, but her heart.

As a character Jarret is even more complex than Oliver. He’s feels jealousy, betrayal, anger and love towards his grandmother. As a child, Jarret wanted to run the family brewery and for a while it seemed like he would get his wish, but then his grandmother suddenly sends him away to school. He still a kid and has no idea why that is, so he feels betrayed by his grandmother who promised to keep him close and lashes out at school, gets into fights, etc. Jarret the man still holds on to this hurt and tries to feel no ambitions towards anything in life but when he’s given the chance to run the brewery he jumps on it.

Enter Annabel. Annabel’s got her own secrets to deal with and these make her very, very vulnerable. Annabel has a bastard son by her fiance who died in the war. Annabel has kept George a secret from everyone but her brother and sister-in-law who raise him as their own. Even George doesn’t know that Annabel is his mother. My heart broke for Annabel every time I saw her interact with George who called her “auntie” and I could see how much she cared for him. Annabel was a mother to George in every way she could be. She protected George from the stigma of a bastard child by letting her brother adopt him, despite how much she loved him and wanted to keep him.  

Another thing I liked about this novel was that the heroine and hero were shown in the phases of falling in love, and actually got to spend a good amount of time with the other. Revealing secrets to each other in turn. I admired Jarret for the way he handled Annabel’s revelation and how he didn’t blame her for her past. I also liked how he made an effort to get to know George. Jarret and Annabel truly deserved their happily ever after, despite things not turning out as expected between Annabel and George.

book cover of   How to Woo a Reluctant Lady    (Hellions of Halstead Hall, book 3)  by  Sabrina JeffriesThe third, most recently released, novel in the series is How to Woo a Reluctant Lady which tells the story of Miverva Sharpe, the gothic writer in the family:

Lady Minerva Sharpe has the perfect plan to thwart her grandmother’s demand that she marry by year’s end:  become engaged to a rogue!  Surely Gran would rather release her inheritance than see her wed a scoundrel.

And who better to play the part of Minerva’s would-be husband than wild barrister Giles Masters, the very inspiration for the handsome spy in the popular gothic novels she writes?  The memory of his passionate kiss on her nineteenth birthday has lingered with Minerva, though she has no intention of falling for such a rakehell, much less marrying him! Little does she know, Giles really is a covert government operative.  When the two team up to investigate the mystery behind her parents’ deaths, their fake betrothal leads to red-hot desire. Then Minerva discovers Giles’s secret double life, and he must use all the cunning tricks of his trade to find his way back to her heart.

I love a hero with ulterior motives that involve trying to sweeping a heroine off her feet and marrying her without her knowledge…Yup, Giles thinks he’s one sly guy. And maybe he is, but not when it comes to the woman he loves – but doesn’t admit to loving. Seriously, what’s with heroes who try to deny that their falling in love, when everyone and their grandmother knows that they are? But, oh, how the mighty fall. Giles convinces Minerva to enter a “fake” betrothal with him, hoping to persuade her to make it a real one.

Minerva, on the other hand, enters in hopes of making her grandmother regret her decision to see her married by picking a man she thinks Hetty will despise. Her plans goes awry from nearly the start, since Giles and Hetty are working together to get her to marry Giles. (Good stuff, good stuff!) Minerva has some valid reasons for not wanting to marry Giles. One, she thinks she will have to give up her writing – which is what she lives for – because most consider it a scandalous occupation for a barrister’s wife. Two, she knows as a female she’ll be powerless in marriage and she saw that powerlessness destroy her mother.  

Giles and Minerva also have history, with Minerva having fallen in love with him at 9 and then Giles having broken her heart at 19 and then Minerva wanting revenge till she is 28. Giles doesn’t know he broke Minerva’s heart, onlying knowing that he was cruel to her because he panicked after he kissed her at a masquerade ball.

One, though not very romantic scene, that stood out to me was the court case. The way Giles went at the woman in the witness box was like watching the last court scene from Legally Blonde. EPIC!!!

Finally, there is Freddy. Maria’s sweet, dense, clumsy, romantic and ever-hungry cousin who appears in books one and three. One thing I could say about him was that despite being dense, at least he knows how to admit it when he’s in love and doesn’t enter “business marriages:”

“I always say that love is like the meat in a pie,” Freddy put in. “The crust is what people see—the practical things that hold a couple together. But love is the important part—without it you’ve got a meatless pie, and what’s the point of that?”

“Why, Freddy,” Minerva said, “that was almost profound.”

 Is it wrong of me to find him adorably romantic?

 All in all, I am loving this series and all the mysteries it entails. Like I said before, Ms. Jeffries is keeping the readers with all the red herrings she’s throwing our way. She far in each of the novels their have been dead-end leads, false leads and some more hopeful leads as to what really happened to the parents…and I, like the Sharpe children, will not rest till I’ve find out “who did it.” 

 Rika Ashton (aka The Curious)

P.S: And so the mystery continues in Gabe’s story (out December 2011) and Celia’s (hopefully) shortly after.

 P.P.S: For book trailers, interviews and background info on any of the book visit Sabrina Jeffries’ website.


Lydia Dare: The Dynamic Duo with a Terrific Trilogy, Plus One

If my title doesn’t intrigue you, then these novels will. Lydia Dare is an awesome writing team of two, that I happened to discover – purely by chance – at my public library. I was in one of my reading slumps, you know those episodes when you feel like you’ve read every good book that has been published and everything else you’ve picked up recently has been pure, uhm, garbage. This isn’t true of course, because of course I haven’t read every good book in existence, but it feels like it nonetheless.

So for me, finding a Lydia Dare novel – or I should say novels – was a breath of fresh air, plus chocolate cake!

Let me just say that these two ladies can write, I mean really write. Try as I might, I found no dry spells whatsoever in any of their books – since they have only four so far, and I’ve devoured all of them I can say this with some confidence. And they write their heroes as real ALPHAs, not those jerks who boss the heroine around half the book because they think its the manly thing to do, but real genuine ALPHAs. The cool kind that make you swoon and hope that one of them will catch you. 😀

book cover of   A Certain Wolfish Charm   by  Lydia DareLydia Dare’s debut trilogy about the Westfield brothers begins with the oldest bro, Simon. The first novel, A Certain Wolfish Charm (cute title, by the way) goes something like this:

The rules of Regency Society can be beastly – especially when you’re a werewolf. Simon Westfield, the Duke of Blackmoor has spent his entire life creating scandal and mayhem. It doesn’t help his wolfish temper that since he’s rich, powerful, and sinfully handsome, the town is willing to overlook his outrageous behavior. Lily Rutledge has a wild streak of her own. When she turns to Simon for help, he falls for her immediately. For Simon is drawn to the fearless Lily more powerfully than the moon…

This summary from Fantasic Fiction is missing some important details, like Lily’s and Simon’s ward, Oliver, being the catalyst for drawing them together and cause of much drama throughout the story. Again there is also some descrepency between whether the novel is a Regency or Victorian read. Amazon states Victorian, but I’m inclined to disagree with them because everything within the novel says Regency, albeit late in the Regency era.

A Certain Wofish Charm certainly has a lot going for it: an strong, intelligent and very likeable heroine with a manipulative (but in a very good way) best friend who has HOT brothers, an equally awesome hero with equally HOT brothers, and a totally cute and at times annoying preteen ward. I don’t know how many of you guys will agree, but as a female romance reader so much about whether of not I read the novel has to do with the character of the heroine. I have to like her nearly right off the bat in some way or I probably won’t enjoy the novel. Likewise, the hero has to be equally likable and NOT A JERK, or if he is somewhat a jerk then the heroine has to be strong enough to put him in his place as is the case in this book.

Simon has moments of jerkishness, but the good thing about Lily is that she doesn’t put up with him. Let me say I really, really hated Simon when he threatened to seperate Lily and Oliver. Even though both Simon and Lily are related to Oliver – Oliver’s father was Simon’s cousin and his mom was Lily’s sister – let me make it known that it has been Lily who has been taking care of her nephew Oliver ever since he was orphaned. Simon, who is the boy’s legal guardian, doesn’t really see him or contact him except to send them money for Oliver. Of course, Simon does have a very good reason for the threatened seperation, since he believes Oliver is dangerous to Lily now that he’s hit puberty and is becoming a full lycan (a werewolf, but the characters in the novel consider this a derogatory slang, I can’t imagine why after the Twilight fiasco *insert sarcasm*). However, Lily doesn’t know about Oliver’s – or Simon’s – lycan heritage and Simon doesn’t explain, despite agreeing that Lily is an intelligent woman who cares for Oliver. Yes, Simon, that is wonderful reasoning *insert more sarcasm*.

But Simon is a man in love, who doesn’t know he’s in love, and doesn’t always act rationally.  

So, of course, it’s up to the great cast of supporting characters to bring these two love birds together. Simon’s middle bro, William and Lily BFF, Prisca take it upon themselves to see these two wed, by any means necessary. William does everything to get Simon to realize his feelings for Lily, including staged jealousies, while Prisca goal in life is to get Simon to compromise her BFF and get them married. (Read to see who has the better plan…) Will and Prisca plans are spiced up by hints of their own shared history and hilarious bickering. This added to the mysterious disappearance of the youngest brother Benjamin and the appearance of Simon’s mother makes for an excellent read!

We learn all about Ben’s reason for disappearing in his book, the second in the trilogy, Tall, Dark and Wolfish:

The reckless, rakish younger brother of a powerful duke, Lord Benjamin Westfield transforms into a wolf under the light of the full moon – until one fateful evening when he doesn’t change and his life is shattered. Fearing he may never be able to change again, Benjamin sets out for Scotland in search of a witch who can heal his inner beast. The noble werewolf is drawn to the beautiful young woman, but what does he have to offer in this broken state?

Unlike Simon, who’s quick to anger in the best of circumstances, Ben seems more gentle. There’s a lot of confusion in the starting because Ben’s lost his ability to transform into a lycan during the full moon, but with some advice from a lycan senior he’s off to Scotland to find a witch to cure him. Of course, his vision of the witch is that she will be old, with wiry grey hair, a hooked nose and a crackling laugh. book cover of   Tall, Dark and Wolfish   by  Lydia Dare

Elspeth is anything but. For one, she younger than Ben’s imagines, doesn’t have a hooked nose or crackling laugh. She’s also a part of a coven of witches who foresaw Ben’s arrival long before he set foot in Scotland. Finally, Elspeth is also the bastard daughter of the witch that Ben was initially suppose to see. Of course, while Elspeth’s bastard status is held against her by some, she’s lucky to have her coven, some members who are also high-and-mighty in society.

Elspeth’s fellow convenors are not so happy to see Ben because they fear he will take Elspeth away from Scotland, thus breaking their coven. So their are some machinations on their part to keep Ben and Elspeth under constant survelliance and to prevent them from falling in love. These coven ladies are an awesome cast of characters with equally awesome powers. So finding himself nearly lit on fire is just another day of courtship in Ben’s life.

But, alas, love shall find a way…and it helps that the coven witches are not 100% against the idea as they may like to think.

Like the novel before it, Tall, Dark and Wolfish also has an intriguing subplot which reveals more about Elspeth and Ben’s individual pasts and keeps the main plot moving. I cried a little when I read and thought about Elspeth’s mom’s past. If was heartbreaking and completely unfair due to the actions of a singular person. But that is enough about that, as I shall leave that for you to discover.

Finally, the final book in the trilogy concludes with Will’s story in The Wolf Next Door:

Rogue, Rake.Werewolf. Years ago on a full moon, Lord William Westfield gave way to his inner beast and nearly ruined young Prisca Hawthorne. Knowing he can never trust himself in the arms of the woman he loves, he throws himself into a debauched lifestyle. When Westfield discovers he has a rival for Prisca’s love, he decides if she’s going to marry a Lycan it damn well better be him. But time is running out as Prisca’s other suitor takes an instant and potentially fatal dislike to Westfield.

book cover of   The Wolf Next Door   by  Lydia DareYou gotta love the way the minds of the Westfield brother’s work. Despite helping Simon discover love in the first book, Will is very dense when it comes to his own lovelife. Will and Prisca have been in love since forever, and being neighbours they’ve had a lot of opportunities to do something about it. Will, of course is too afraid of hurting Prisca as a lycan and isn’t sure how she feels about him, while Prisca doesn’t make a move because she’s not sure Will requits her love.

Their’s is a mutual love, but neither seems to comprehend this until Captain Dashiel enters the picture. The new lycan just drives Will crazy with jealousy by spending too much time, in Will’s opinion, with Prisca. Prisca, on the other hand now has time to examine her feelings for Will and realizes that since she cannot seem to feel anything for Dash, who is very, very, very handsome, she may never overcome her feelings for Will.

Like it’s predessecor’s, their is a lot of manipulation on the part of the secondary characters, namely Prisca’s brothers who know she loves Will and that Will loves her and thus, take it upon themselves to see her wed. Purely, unselfish of them of course, their motives have nothing to do with the fact that with Prisca gone, no one will boss them around anymore. Yes, purely unselfish. *eye roll*  

The third book focuses a lot more of the romance between the central characters than the first two. And although, the first two books are very romantic, the shared history between Will and Prisca make this book a lot more so.

This concludes the Lydia Dare trilogy.

But, wait! What’s this? There is one more book, you say, becuase you bothered to do the addition in my title and are now worried that if there are only three novels I need to retake elementary school math.

Fortunately, the addition in my title is correct. There are in fact four books to be reviewed today… 

The fourth lycan book, though not about a Westfield brother, is linked to the series nonetheless. Lydia Dare’s fourth novel, The Taming of the Wolf is Dashiel’s story, who you’ll know from the third book and Caitrin’s, who is one of Elspeth’s coven sisters:

Lord Dashiel Thorpe has fought his true nature his entire life, but whenever the moonlight proves too powerful, Dashiel is unable to control the werewolf within him. It is on one such moonlit night that Dashiel accidentally bites the beautiful Scottish witch, Caitrin McLeod. Though now bound to him irrevocably, Cait decides that she wants nothing to do with him. When she flees to her native Scotland, Dashiel has no choice but to follow her and convince her that it was nothing short of destiny that has bound them together body and soul.

Dash and Caitrin meet at the Westfield estate, when Dash accidentally bites Cait and bonds himself to her. Cait who knows only basic facts about lycans and not the significance of Dash’s bite and thinks it was both a rude and unwarranted attack, flees to Scotland and her home. Dash, of course, does know the significance of what’s he’s done – after a while – and flees after her. (Dash does have another reason for going to Scotland, but considers being able to follow Cait a nice bonus in his plans.)Cover of Taming Of the Wolf by Lydia Dare

And so the chase ensues. Dash does catch up with Cait along the journey, but she ditches him through sheer ingenuity and a sleeping potion. Added adventures and encounters during Cait and Dash’s journey to Scotland only intensify Dash’s need to begin courting Cait, especially when Cait old suitor’s shows up.

Cait, who is the coven seer, and thus, able to see the future of those around her (not her own though) is sure, 100%, that Alec her old suitor is not for her. On the other hand, she is not able to see anything about Dash – which for me set off wedding bells right from the start – and this confuses Cait to no end.

Unlike the three novels before it, their is less manipulation on the parts of the secondary characters in this novel. But we get the added bonus, and pain, of unrequited love for Alec. Poor Alec. 😦

I liked Alec, and so does Cait as surely as she knows he isn’t for her, but for someone else who he will soon come to realize he loves. So there is hope!

The interesting thing about these Lydia Dare novels is that they are most entirely without an actual villain. Most of the action/drama comes from the characters inner conflicts, which in the past I found to be singularly the most boring of conflicts. However, since I was not bored at all during the reading of these novels, I have to reevaluate that idea.

And so concludes the first part of the series. I say first part now, because where there are lycan, vampires will surely follow and so it is that the next two novels that star two more coven sisters also have vampire heroes. So stay tuned for It Happened One Bite and In the Heat of the Bite in March and July 2011, respectively!

Rika Ashton (aka Series Reviewer Extraordinaire)

P.S: For better summaries that those offered on Amazon and Fantastic Fiction, check out the authors’ official website. Unfortunately, I couldn’t copy and paste these here, as this fuction is not enabled from their website.

P.P.S: Looking for more reading materials? You can check out my writer buddy, Priscilla Shay’s blog, and her book review marathon for some great recommendations.