Sunday, February 19, 2023

Romance Round-Up (9)

Hello again! I meant to write this post back in December, but that didn't happen. If you've been reading the Featured Releases (formerly Quarantine Releases) posts, you'll see why I took a bit of a break from the website. Additionally, I have been holding some of my reviews during the Harper Collins Union strike. Not crossing the picket line includes not reviewing or promoting Harper titles (the Avon imprint). But Harper finally came to the table and the union has agreed to a new deal! Upside for you, I've read even more romance novels since then December, so I've got more reviews for you! Below you can find my thoughts on ten recent or upcoming historical romances!

Title: The Heiress at Sea
Author: Christi Caldwell
Publisher: Montlake
Release: March 14, 2023
Pages: 332
My Review: 4 Stars

The Heiress at Sea is a delightful romp by Christi Caldwell. The characters are fun, even when their lives are being upended. That said, if you're looking for an extremely capable heroine, Cassia isn't exactly that. She jumps into trouble at the beginning of the book and spends a while digging herself deeper into it. She doesn't exactly have the skills she needs for the adventuring she desires. This can be forgiven, as she expected to learn those skills with her brother (instead of getting on the wrong boat) but it makes for some frustrated reading at times. Nathaniel is more snappish with her than I would like, but again, first he thinks she's a boy and then he thinks she's an idiot. One thing I found odd about their relationship was the nickname Nathan. I wasn't a fan and didn't understand why she called him that. One other thing to note is the heat level, or lack thereof. All the sex scenes are closed door. The characters reference them, but we never see them, which I know can disappoint some readers. In all, the book was well written and had fun characters, but it would have been nice if the actual romance was upped.


A seafaring journey is the second chance for a lady and the last chance for a marquess in a thrilling novel about rebellious love, secrets, and danger by USA Today bestselling author Christi Caldwell.

Perpetually unattached Lady Cassia McQuoid has accepted her fate as a spinster. But how can she be expected to lead a life confined to drawing rooms and royal balls when there’s a vast, exciting world to explore? Cassia can find but one solution: she masquerades as a thrill-seeking lad and stows away on a ship bound for open waters. Adventure awaits. So does notorious privateer Nathaniel Ellsby.

Nathaniel doesn’t want to be the Duke of Roxburghe. Instead, the second-born son relishes his freedom to do as he pleases: pursuing enemy ships in service of the war effort. But when his older brother dies, Nathaniel embarks on one last mission before he fulfills his ducal duties with an arranged marriage. That’s the intention, at least—until he discovers that his woefully green deckhand is a fetching but vulnerable woman in disguise.

Nathaniel’s new mission is to protect Cassia from the perils of the sea, both above and below the water, by sharing the close confines of the captain’s quarters. As roiling emotions turn to love, Nathaniel and Cassia realize the greatest risks—to the Crown, to their futures, and to the heart—still lie ahead.

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Title: The Wolf and the Wildflower
Author: Stacy Reid
Publisher: Entangled Amara
Release: February 27, 2023
Pages: 286
My Review: 5 Stars

I had such a great time reading this book! It plays with some tropes I've seen before (character 'lost' to society, woman living as a man, etc) but that I haven't seen combined. James had a really hard past prior to the book. As a young man he got lost in the Canadien wilderness and had to survive alone for ten years. Jules was raised as a boy so that her mother could avoid having more children, keeping the secret even from her father and sister. One thing I would have loved to see explored more is her relationship with gender. Her character reads more like that of a woman who chose a male disguise as an adult than one who was raised and socialized as a boy. Basically, I don't think you come out of an experience like that without being at least a little genderqueer. Similarly, James is written as straight, but I doubt his sexuality is that straightforward given his attraction to Jules. Taken together, the book could have been a great story of queer love in the 1800s. That all said, not having it wasn't a detraction from the book, it would have just made it extra special.

It was really fun having a main character who studies psychology. I don't think I've seen that before, and I liked how that was the basis of Jules' relationship with James. These two characters made the book the delight it was! And as always, I can't wait to read more from Stacy Reid!


USA Today bestselling author Stacy Reid’s addictive tale of two lost people who are found…by each other.

London is buzzing with the news that James Winters, the Duke of Wulverton—thought lost at sea a decade ago—survived in the harsh wilderness of the Yukon. Now he’s been returned to his family, his responsibilities, and a nightmarish world of artifice and noise. He has three weeks to become a refined, elegant duke for the Queen…or doom the entire family to ruin and scandal.

Promising psychologist Jules Southby knows a lot about disguises. She’s secretly been living as a boy since birth, enjoying the freedoms of men and knowing little about how to behave like a woman. When she meets the alluring duke, she’s unprepared for his raw, masculine beauty and icy intelligence…or that he can see through her darkest secret.

Jules has very little time to transform the duke into a true semblance of an English gentleman. Yet his very presence seems to unravel her in every way. Their attraction is stark and achingly real—and forbidden. But loving the lost duke would mean losing every sacrifice she’s made to earn her freedom…

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Title: A Rogue's Rules for Seduction
Author: Eva Leigh
Publisher: Avon
Release: April 25, 2023
Series: Last Chance Scoundrels #3
Pages: 384
My Review: 5 Stars

A Rogue's Rules for Seduction is the third book in the Last Chance Scoundrels series, and everything has been leading up to this! We have been dancing around Dom and Willa's romance for two books, making the payoff extra sweet. The setting of a house party on a private island makes it extra fun, as these two can't get away from each other.

I had one minor issue with the book, but it's not a big enough deal to take down the star rating. Simply put, their past felt too simple. There's such a big deal made about Dom calling off their wedding and we aren't given the reason in previous books. There's so much buildup for the ultimate reason being that he panicked. There could have been so much more drama in their backstory, but alas.

Along with Dom and Willa's romance (which was great) we also catch up with some former couples. The main romances from the previous two books feature prominently, as the characters are related to Dom and Willa. We also get some cameos of character from books farther back. Overall, I recommend this book and series, and will be reading whatever Eva publishes next!


In USA Today bestselling author Eva Leigh’s final Last Chance Scoundrels novel, a young lady and her former betrothed get a second chance at love when they’re stranded at a remote country house…

After Dominic Kilburn left Lady Willa Ransom at the altar, she vowed never to reveal how badly she was hurt. Following a year abroad, Willa wants to move on with her life, so she accepts an invitation to a house party. She’s determined to leave her humiliation behind, as well as the scorching attraction she still feels for the man who jilted her.

When dark secrets from his past surfaced right before his wedding, Dom knew he didn’t deserve Willa. So, he bolted. But he still burns for the only woman who ever claimed his heart. To escape the memories of all he lost, Dom heads to a friend’s estate on an isolated Scottish isle. Yet one of the other guests is the very woman who haunts his every thought and makes him wish for the impossible.

Thrown together by well-meaning family and friends, Willa and Dom try to resist the fiery pull between them. Soon the line between love and loathing begins to blur, and their attraction explodes. But Dom’s past lurks on the edge of their rekindled passion and Willa fears she’ll be devastated all over again. Can these star-crossed lovers find their happily ever after, or will everything detonate a second time?

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Title: The Counterfeit Scoundrel
Author: Lorraine Heath
Publisher: Avon
Release: February 21, 2023
Series: The Chessmen - Masters of Seduction #1
Pages: 384
My Review: 5 Stars

The Counterfeit Scoundrel was an absolute delight! We begin in the book in a game of cat and mouse. Daisy is undercover as a maid in David "Bishop" Blackwood's home. Both characters have been seen before in the world of Lorraine Heath. Daisy was friends with a previous main character (I'm blanking on who, but I'm definitely familiar with her) and Bishop is best friends with the duke from The Duchess Hunt. Daisy has started a business as a private detective, and has been hired to investigate whether Bishop is having an affair with a specific woman. However, Daisy soon realizes that the situation is more complicated than it seems. Bishop isn't having just one affair, but many, and they're all fake. When things go sideways with one of the affairs, Bishop ends up hiring Daisy to clear his name. I won't say more as to avoid spoiling the plot of the book.

Daisy and Bishop have some instant chemistry. Even while she believes he's having multiple affairs, Daisy finds herself attracted to him. For his part, Bishop's attraction to Daisy distracts him from the women he means to help. One thing I loved was the women he helped. Several of them noticed his attraction to Daisy and encouraged it, which was so much fun.

I also enjoyed the side plot with Daisy's aunt. She has a complicated history that we learn about throughout the book, and I loved watching her get her own happy ending. After all, romance is for everyone, not just main characters!

The Counterfeit Scoundrel was really fun and I can't wait to read the next book!


New York Times bestselling author Lorraine Heath begins a compelling new spin-off series, The Chessmen: Masters of Seduction, centering around three heroes--Knight, Bishop, and Rook--who play to win at any cost.

Born into an aristocratic family, yearning for a life beyond Society's strictures, Marguerite "Daisy" Townsend is an enterprising sleuth. Hired to obtain proof of a wife's infidelity, she secures a position in the household of the woman's lover, never expecting to be lured into the seductive blackguard's arms herself.

Devilishly handsome, David Blackwood, known widely as Bishop, quickly realizes the enticing maid is interested in far more than dusting. She aims to uncover his sins. Although tempted by the dangerous beauty, he can't risk her learning the truth: his affairs are chaste. As a boy who witnessed his mother's abusive relationship, Bishop now helps desperate wives escape unhappy marriages.

Yet when he is accused of murdering the husband of a "paramour," he is forced to seek Daisy's assistance in proving his innocence. As their perilous search draws them into a web of deceits, they can no longer deny their simmering desire. Once secrets are revealed, will Daisy's counterfeit scoundrel give up the scandalous games he plays and surrender his heart into her keeping?

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Title: The Duke's Secret Cinderella
Author: Eva Devon
Publisher: Entangled Amara
Release: February 21, 2023
Series: Never a Wallflower #3
Pages: 384
My Review: 5 Stars

If you're looking for a fun, sweet Cinderella retelling, The Duke's Secret Cinderella is a great choice! Ever since her mother died, Charlotte has lived under the iron fist of her stepfather. While she loves her stepsister like family and is friends with many of the servants, her stepfather does his best to make her life suck. The book begins with an example of just that. He had one of the servants she was close with arrested just to make her suffer. Charlotte meets Rafe while rescuing the servant, and assumptions are made about her status as a lady. She furthers that when he calls upon her house to meet her sister. Charlotte and Rafe proceed to fall in love, but the secret of her identity looms over the relationship. I really liked them together, and aside from a moment of doubt, how Rafe fought for Charlotte and for them to be together. This book was great and I totally recommend it!


Charlotte Browne could just kick herself. What on earth possessed her to tell the Duke of Rockford that she is a lady? But something about the duke’s handsomeness and kind intelligence makes Charlotte blurt out the teeniest, tiniest falsehood. Now it’s too late to admit she’s just plain Charlotte of no particular importance—with cinder-stained hands, a wretched stepfather, and no prospects for marriage…

Rafe Dorchester, Duke of Rockford, has done what every self-respecting duke must do—avoid marriage at all costs. But the only thing stronger than the duke is his mother. When she lays down the highest ultimatum, he’ll need to find a duchess. Immediately. Only, when he calls on a potential bride, he instead finds the pert, fresh-faced Lady Charlotte. Rafe was warned to never mix the business of marriage with pleasure, but when it comes to her…oh, business would be a splendid pleasure.

One passionate, illicit kiss sends Charlotte fleeing, leaving only a delicate blue ribbon behind. For Rafe can never discover her secret, or it will ruin her beloved sister’s chance at marriage. But the duke knows that when you’ve found the one person that ignites you, body and soul, nothing can keep you away.

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Title: One Duke Down
Author: Anna Bennett
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Release: January 24, 2023
Series: Rogues to Lovers #2
Pages: 352
My Review: 5 Stars

I really enjoyed this! I loved how the characters fought to be together, even when things tried to get in their way! Once they realized they liked each other (this admittedly took a minute or two) Poppy and Keane fought for each other. There were moments when the miscommunication trope (my nemesis) could have been deployed and separated them, but they took the time to think things over and ask the other what was going on before jumping to conclusions. Not only are these two characters in love, they are *competent*. Poppy especially is good at what she does. The first thing she does in the book is save Keane's life. She's also managed to run a successful fishing business for years and keep her family afloat.

Along with the great romance, there was a fun plot about figuring out who tried to murder Keane. He and Poppy work well together here as well as in romance, which is part of what makes them a great couple. Poppy was an extra special heroine to me, as she shares a name with my dog, who I obviously adore!


Miss Poppy Summers is determined to keep her family’s fishing business afloat. Her poor widowed father has fallen ill, and her foolhardy brother has moved to London, leaving her precious little time to read or pursue her own dreams. But she’ll do anything for her family, so she cheerfully spends mornings in her rowboat, casting her nets. The very last thing Poppy expects or wants to find tangled in them is a dangerously attractive man. Especially one with a head wound—who’s convinced he’s a duke.

Andrew Keane is the Duke of Hawking, but he’s having the devil of a time convincing his fiery-haired rescuer of that fact. The truth is he came to the seaside resort of Bellehaven Bay to escape his life in London. Unfortunately, someone in Bellehaven wants to kill him—and he intends to find out who. He implores Poppy to tend to his injuries and hide him on her beach, reasoning it will be easier to find his attacker if that man assumes Keane is already dead. She wants no part of the scheme but can’t refuse the generous sum he offers in exchange for food and shelter while he recovers. It’s a mutually beneficial business arrangement…nothing more.

Under Poppy’s care, Keane regains his strength—and a sense of purpose. As they work together to solve the puzzle of his would-be murderer, he’s dazzled by her rapier wit and adventurous spirit; she’s intrigued by his mysterious air and protective streak. Though Poppy’s past gives her every reason to mistrust someone like Keane, the seawalls around her heart crumble in the storm of their passion. But when clues hint at the prime suspect in Keane’s attempted murder, Poppy must decide where her loyalties lie. Torn between the world she’s always known and the one she’s always dreamed of, she’ll need true love for a shot at her fairytale ending.

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Title: The Portrait of a Duchess
Author: Scarlett Peckham
Publisher: Avon
Release: March 7, 2023
Series: Society of Sirens
Pages: 384
My Review: 3 Stars

While I loved the first book in this series, and was eagerly anticipating this one, unfortunately I just didn't enjoy it. Part of my issue was the pace. I had a hard time getting into the book, and actually put it down for a while before finally finishing it. My other issue was the characters. I just had trouble routing for them. There were things I liked about Cornelia, but other parts that were hard to understand/relate to. Rate was sweet, but could have been more upfront with Cornelia about some things. I also am just not the biggest fan of big age gaps between characters, which was present here. I appreciate the author for pushing boundaries on what is shown in historical romance, and the cast of characters was great, but The Portrait of a Duchess just didn't do it for me. To end on a positive note, I did find the aspect of the story with Rafe's former lover fun. And the book didn't ruin the series for me. I do plan on trying out book three whenever it comes out.


The scandalous women of the Society of Sirens are back with an explosive secret...their ranks include a duchess in disguise

Once upon a time she married in secret... 

An activist painter of radicals and harlots, Cornelia Ludgate dismisses love and marriage as threats to freedom. But when an inheritance gives her the chance to fund the cause of women's rights--on the condition she must wed--she is forced to reveal a secret: she's already married. To a man she hasn't seen for twenty years.

Oh...and her husband is a duke. 

A horse breeder with a clandestine taste for revolution, Rafe Goodwood never expected to become a duke. But now that the title is his, he is plotting to shock the ruling class with ambitions of reform--and reveal the infamous Cornelia is his duchess. That just presents one problem: he must not fall in love with her--again.

Now they must resist the temptation to rekindle an affair... 

Although determined not to sacrifice her principles for passion, Cornelia is still drawn to the man whose very being threatens her independence. Hurt too many times, Rafe can't risk love again--especially with the woman who once shattered his heart. But a conspiracy to upend the inequalities of the aristocracy bring Cornelia and Rafe closer, forcing them to finally decide what--and who--they hold dear.

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Title: Some Dukes Have All the Luck
Author: Christina Britton
Publisher: Forever
Release: November 8, 2022
Series: Synneful Spinsters #1
Pages: 343
My Review: 5 Stars

Christina Britton books always guarantee a good time and Some Dukes Have All the Luck was no exception! I love that we're still in the world of the Isle of Synne (by the way, is it pronounced like "sign" or "sin"?). We got to catch up with some old favorites while getting to know our new characters.

Our romance begins with a marriage of convenience. Brownwyn is trying to avoid a marriage arranged by her parents and Ash needs help with his three young wards. Their marriage allows Bronwyn to continue her scientific research as Ash doesn't plan to be around long. She gets on well with the three young girls in Ash's care, giving Ash peace of mind that they have a maternal, guiding hand. While the two of them don't plan on becoming romantically involved, their attraction makes it inevitable. Their romance was enhanced by how much they cared for the girls in their care. Bronwyn wasn't just making decisions about her own heart, but theirs. And intelligent as she is, she saw that they needed Ash. And maybe Ash needed them too.

Some Dukes Have All the Luck is a great addition to the Christina Britton library and I can't wait to read book two!


Ash Hawkins, Duke of Buckley, no more wants to marry than he wants a stick in his eye. As the owner of a gaming hell, he is all too aware the odds of a happy marriage are against him. But raising his three rebellious wards alone is proving more than he can handle. He needs to find someone who stands to benefit from a marriage of convenience as much as he does. Someone logical, clinical, and rational. And in a stroke of luck, he quite literally stumbles over just such a woman.

After years of ridicule for being more interested in bugs than boys, Bronwyn has accepted that she’ll never marry for love. Her parents, however, are threatening to find her a husband. Bronwyn doesn’t need any scientific research to show her Ash has secrets. But his proposal would give her the freedom to continue her entomology research and perhaps finally get published. Just as long as she can keep her mind on her work and off his piercing eyes, broad shoulders, and wicked, wicked tongue.

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Title: Duke Most Wicked
Author: Lenora Bell
Publisher: Avon
Release: September 27, 2022
Series: Wallflowers vs. Rogues #3
Pages: 391
My Review: 5 Stars

I was super excited to read Duke Most Wicked! At the beginning of the book, our hero Brandan has a bit of growing to do. He's still a bit immature, and that comes across in some of his early decision making. In contrast, Viola is amazing. Her father is a famous composer but has been going deaf for some time. To make ends meet, she has been composing in his name. She also works for Brandan as a music teacher for his five younger sisters. However, her roll with them is often maternal in nature. Viola is like a cross between older sister and mother for the girls, and is often their only advocate to Brandan when he makes questionable decisions (such as declaring that all five girls need to get married).

While I don't fully understand what Viola saw in Brandan before he began to get his act together, prior to the start of the book, she has been in love with him for some time. For Brandan, once he begins to see Viola for how amazing she truly is, he's head over heals. I really liked how their romance developed and how they solved problems together. Overall I loved Duke Most Wicked and will be reading whatever Lenora Bell writes next!


USA Today bestselling author Lenora Bell returns to the Wallflowers vs. Rogues series with a brilliant new novel about a scandalous duke and a wallflower with a secret.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a wicked duke who has gambled away his fortune must be in want of an heiress.

Scarred by a dark secret, Brandan Delamar, Duke of Westbury, must concede his misdeeds have finally caught up with him. With five younger sisters to support, he must marry for money.

Sunny and steadfast, Viola Beaton is no heiress. As music instructor to the duke’s sisters, she’s developed a genuine affection for the bright young ladies. Unfortunately, she’s also developed a forbidden passion for her wildly attractive employer. 

It must be the way he inspires her to compose sonatas about moonlight and kisses. Or how his gaze smolders and lingers on her skin. Or because he makes her heart whisper impossible things.

When Westbury decrees that he’ll choose not only a bride, but grooms for his sisters, Viola can’t allow him to curtail their freedom. She strikes a bargain: if he allows his sisters to attend the Season, Viola will chaperone them and keep them safe from scandal.

Only…what if Viola and the duke are the ones most likely to cause a scandal?

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Title: Dukes Do It Better
Author: Bethany Bennett
Publisher: Forever
Release: May 24, 2022
Series: Misfits of Mayfair #3
Pages: 328
My Review: 5 Stars

*sighs happily* Dukes Do It Better was amazing! West End Earl still takes the cake as my favorite book in the series, but Dukes Do It Better is close behind! Emma is absolutely delightful, and I love how much she loves her son. She has put the past behind her (with the help of Ophelia) and is working to make an excellent future. Malachi was great as well, and I appreciated how much he cared for Emma's son. Romances where the main characters have a child run the risk of having the child not matter, but that was not the case here. Emma and Malachi are great together, both with each other and as a family.

Outside the romance, there is a larger plot tying back to events from previous books. I will say it doesn't make 100% sense if you haven't read book one (which I haven't) but the characters and events are explained in enough detail that the stakes are still present. I also appreciated how the characters from previous books were very much part of this story. Emma cares a lot about her brother (the hero of West End Earl) and it's obvious he cares for her as well. I loved seeing the characters create their happily ever after with all the people they love.


She can keep her secrets or risk her heart

Lady Emma Hardwick has been living a lie—one that allowed her to keep her son and give him the loving home she’d never had. But now her journal, the one place she’d indulged in the truth, has been stolen. Whoever has it holds the power to bring the life she’s carefully built crumbling to the ground. With her past threatening everything she holds dear, the only person she can trust is the dangerously handsome, tattooed navy captain with whom she dared to spend one carefree night.

Captain Malachi Harlow, Duke of Trenton, would rather throw himself overboard than return to society. But when the Admiralty calls him back home, there is no room for refusal. Crossing paths with the delectable Lady Emma is a welcome distraction that takes a more serious turn when they discover they have a common enemy. Working together could help them both—but will it also bring a temptation neither can resist?

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I hope you enjoyed these reviews! Several of these books are coming out in the next two weeks and I hope you consider checking them out! And a thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing ARCs for review purposes.

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