Who Wants to Marry a Duke: (Duke Dynasty Book 3), by Sabrina Jeffries—A Review

Who Wants to Marry a Duke by Sabrina Jeffries 2020From the desk of Pamela Mingle:

Romance, mystery, and a most intriguing hero and heroine are what you’ll find in Who Wants to Marry a Duke. This is the third entry by Sabrina Jeffries in the Duke Dynasty series and can also be read as a standalone.

We first meet young Marlowe Drake, the Duke of Thornstock, at a ball, where his older half-brother Grey—Duke of Greycourt—warns him about the marriage-minded mamas lurking about. Ignoring this wise advice, Thorn quickly finds himself caught in a compromising position with a young lady.

The lady in question is Miss Olivia Norley. She offers to clean a wine stain from Thorn’s waistcoat and afterward, Thorn steals a kiss. They are seen by Olivia’s stepmother, who unbeknownst to Olivia, blackmails Thorn into offering Olivia marriage by threatening to reveal a secret about his father.

The following morning, Thorn proposes to Olivia with barely disguised contempt. He looked “…like a thief being dragged to the gallows,” so she declines. He doesn’t want to marry her, but her refusal stings, nonetheless. He believes Olivia was party to the blackmail and can’t understand why she would then reject him.

Fast forward nine years. Using a false identity, Thorn has become a playwright, and Olivia, a chemist. (No wonder she knew how to remove that stain!) At a ball hosted by his family, Thorn spots Olivia. He intends to have her thrown out, but relents when he learns that his half-brother Grey has asked her to investigate the suspicious death of his father by testing his remains for arsenic.

Thorn asks Olivia to dance and challenges her on her motives for performing the tests. All she really wants is to establish a reputation for herself. Olivia prefers chemicals to people because they act in predictable ways. The two adjourn to the garden to speak privately, and Olivia reveals she wants to publish the results of her tests. Thorn is horrified. Dukes don’t wish to have their scandals aired in public.

Olivia has fought hard over the years to put Thorn out of her mind and is irritated that she still feels an attraction to him. The inevitable happens, and this time Olivia thinks his kisses “…were as combustible as sweet oil of vitriol and nearly as dangerous.” Again, they’re almost caught, but Olivia dashes from their hiding place and pretends she was merely enjoying the heady scents of the garden. Continue reading

Say Yes to the Duke: The Wildes of Lindow Castle (Book 5), by Eloisa James—A Review

Say Yes to the Duke by Eloisa James 2020From the desk of Pamela Mingle:  

The Wildes of Lindow Castle is a Georgian romance series penned by the elegant writer, Eloisa James. Say Yes to the Duke, the fifth entry in the series features Viola Astley, whose mother is married to the Duke of Lindow. By her own reckoning, Viola is “…the opposite of a Wilde…timid, tongue-tied, and fairly useless.”

At her first ball, an apprehensive Viola retreats to a corridor used mainly by servants. She accidentally comes upon a couple having a liaison. When the man realizes he and his lover are no longer alone, he accuses the woman of arranging for a witness so he’ll be forced to marry her. He speaks cruelly, and long after the incident Viola continues to feel “…a wave of horror at the memory of the man’s scathing voice and his brutal strength.” From then on, she’s petrified of social situations and avoids them.

The brute in question turns out to be the Duke of Wynter, Devin Lucas Augustus Elstan, the hero of the story. Living mainly in the country, he shuns society and declines to attend parliamentary sessions. Raised in isolation by parents who despised each other, the duke was educated at home. His father was known for challenging nearly every man he came in contact with to a duel. At first, this seems merely quaint, but we later find out that he was abusive to Devin.

When Viola comes of age, her parents insist she have a debut season along with her beautiful and flamboyant stepsister Joan. She’s dreading the ball that will mark her first official appearance in Society. Across town, Devin tells his cousin Otis that he intends to find a bride during the Season. Devin knows of the Wildes, and Otis enlightens him further. Continue reading

Marry in Scarlet: Marriage of Convenience Series (Book 4), by Anne Gracie—A Review

Marry in Scarlet by Anne Gracie 2020From the desk of Pamela Mingle:

Every good Regency romance deserves a manipulative old dowager. In this book, it’s Great Aunt Agatha. She tells the Duke of Everingham, called Hart, that her niece would “…rather live with dogs and horses than marry.” Likewise, she tells her niece that the duke would never consider her for a wife, “…ill-trained, boyish, impertinent hoyden” that she is. Of course, this serves to pique the interest of both. Anne Gracie’s Marry in Scarlet, book four in the “Marriage of Convenience” series, is a delightful romp portraying the gradual coming together of a pompous duke and a reluctant lady.

The heroine, named Georgiana but called George, finds Aunt Agatha’s machinations annoying in the extreme. She’s acquainted with the duke and he has “…irritated her with his cold, hard gaze, so indifferent and superior and I-rule-the-world.”

George and Hart see each other frequently, mainly because he wants it that way. When he catches a glimpse of George riding her horse, he’s impressed. Hart makes an offer—for the horse, not George, who immediately refuses. Her horse is not for sale, to anyone. Hart thinks the selling/breeding of horses should not be a woman’s business.

The two meet at the opera, where she shushes him and his friends. He’s fascinated with how enraptured she is with the singing. Despite the fact that she insults him, calling him an arrogant boor, Hart is enchanted. And aroused.

At a London ball, George hides in the conservatory to get away from Lord Towsett, a man whose numerous proposals of marriage continue despite her staunch refusals. Unexpectedly, Hart sneaks into her hiding place because he too is escaping from marriage-minded pursuers. Later, Hart confronts Towsett and forces him to leave the ball, extracting a promise that he’ll never bother George again. Continue reading

First Comes Scandal: A Bridgerton Prequel, by Julia Quinn—A Review

First Comes Scandal by Julia Quinn 2020From the desk of Pamela Mingle:

Reading a Julia Quinn novel is like spending time with an old friend. The relationship is comfortable, contented, not too demanding. Her latest, First Comes Scandal: A Bridgerton Sequel, is the story of Georgiana Bridgerton (sister of the doomed Edmund) and Nicholas Rokesbury. Their families are neighbors and longtime friends.

The book opens with Nicholas, who has received an urgent message from his father to come home immediately. This is inconvenient, since he’s a medical student in Edinburgh, and his family lives in Kent. His father didn’t give an explanation, and Nicholas is missing lectures and examinations to make the journey. Once there, his parents ask him—although it’s more like an order—to offer for Georgiana Bridgerton. It seems she was kidnapped by a suitor, who attempted to take her to Gretna Green to elope. She kicked him in a most sensitive place, tied him up, and with the help of a young Lady Dansbury (a fixture in the Bridgerton novels), made her escape. But alas, the damage is done. In the eyes of Society, she’s ruined.

Though sorry for Georgie, Nicholas is angry that his parents expect him to make this sacrifice. How can he finish medical school with a wife? And “It would be like marrying my sister,” he argues. He excels at his studies and “is his own man in Edinburgh.” He doesn’t refuse outright, however, and after sitting next to Georgiana at a dinner party, he begins to appreciate her wit and cleverness, not to speak of her enticing womanly qualities. Nicholas makes up his mind to propose. After all, he can’t leave a dear friend in such dire straits. Continue reading

The Duke and I (Bridgertons Book 1), by Julia Quinn—A Review

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn Netflix coverFrom the desk of Pamela Mingle:

Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels were among the first Regency romance novels I ever read. Completely captivated by their charm, humor, and abundance of stomach quivering moments, I quickly devoured all eight. The Duke and I, published in 2000, is one of my favorites. It’s the story of the romance between Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Bassett, the Duke of Hastings.

For the uninitiated, the Bridgerton family consists of eight siblings, four brothers and an equal number of sisters. They’re named alphabetically: Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth. The books were not published in that order, however. Daphne’s story, The Duke and I, was first in the series.

As the book opens, Daphne is in her second season, attending a ball at Lady Danbury’s home (Lady D is a beloved recurring character in the Bridgerton books.). Daphne has had a few marriage proposals from men she’s not interested in. They’ve been either elderly or ridiculous. One of the latter is Nigel Berbrooke, who’s inebriated at the ball and follows her when she slips away from her mother, a relentless matchmaker. Simon happens by just as Daphne is discouraging Nigel’s advances. Simon decides he must intervene, only to see Daphne punch the man squarely in the jaw. A masterful scene, full of witty, flirtatious banter between Daphne and Simon, follows. But when Simon figures out she is Anthony Bridgerton’s sister, he’s on his guard. After all, one of the first rules of seduction is, “Thou shalt not lust after thy friend’s sister.”

Simon’s background is revealed in the Prologue. His mother dies in childbirth, and when Simon doesn’t speak until he’s four years old and then stutters, his cold father all but disowns him. With a loving nurse to help him, and his own perseverance and hard work, Simon overcomes his speech problems and eventually graduates from Cambridge with a first in mathematics. His father has since died without ever making things right with his son. To spite the man, Simon has vowed never to marry and produce and an heir. He wants the dukedom to go to another branch of the family or die out altogether. Hatred of his father has consumed Simon for most of his life. Continue reading

Duke Darcy’s Castle: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 3), by Syrie James—A Review

Duke Darcy Castle by Syrie James 2020From the desk of Pamela Mingle:

A castle in Cornwall overlooking the sea. A dashing, though reluctant, duke who’s just taken over the dukedom. And a heroine who desperately wants to have a career as an architect rather than a love affair. Taken together, a perfect catalyst for a romance that has more than its share of obstacles. Syrie James’s latest novel, Duke Darcy’s Castle, is the third entry in the “Dare to Defy” series set in the Victorian period.

From the moment they meet, an irresistible attraction ignites between the tenth Duke of Darcy, Lance Granville, and Kathryn Atherton, New York heiress. When she arrives at St. Gabriel’s Mount with a proposal to redesign the castle, Lance mistakes her for the village school teacher, and she puzzles over why a duke would answer his own door. They stare at one another, each mesmerized by the other. After a moment, Lance comes to his senses and invites her in.

Kathryn is desperate to show what she can achieve as an architect, a profession exclusively the domain of men during the Victorian period. When a skeptical Lance is about to turn her away, she tries one more time to persuade him to give her a chance. Having learned of his background as a captain in the Royal Navy, Kathryn awes Lance with a drawing of her vision for his study, replacing the “cluttered, gilded look” with a nautical theme. He’s amazed that after such a short time, she knows exactly what would please him. Lance agrees to Kathryn taking on the job, at least for a trial.

Lance insists that financing the castle renovation is no problem. But the truth is, he is deeply in debt, and the notes are due in a few months. He has no idea where he’ll find the money. His late brother’s fiscal management was a disaster for the duchy. For her part, Kathryn is also less than honest. She doesn’t tell him she’s an heiress. Both of her sisters are countesses, having married English earls a while back, but Kathryn doesn’t want to follow in their footsteps. She’s delighted to hear that Lance is well off. Continue reading

Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor — A Review

Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor (2000)From the desk of Pamela Mingle:

When I was a young girl, I found a copy of Forever Amber on my aunt’s bookcase. I’d heard about its scandalous reputation and asked if I could borrow it. Written by Kathleen Winsor and published in 1944, the book became famous for its racy and bawdy storyline. It was banned in Massachusetts and subsequently in several other states. Preachers railed against it from their pulpits. Despite all that, Forever Amber was the bestselling book of the 1940s, and by 1947 the movie, a very condensed version of the book, starring Linda Darnell and Cornel Wilde, was released.

As a teenager, the frenetic passion between the two main characters, Amber St. Clare and Bruce, Lord Carlton, was all I cared about. The heady feeling of experiencing a great romance through a literary character stuck with me through the years. Although explicit sex is kept behind closed doors, the underlying desire between Amber and Bruce is always there, simmering beneath the surface.

The setting for the book is the Restoration (1660-1688), which begins with the return of Charles II to the English throne after the collapse of the Commonwealth. Winsor, an American, read over 350 books about the period while writing Forever Amber, which was published when she was only twenty-four.

Amber is the illegitimate daughter of a gentlewoman and a nobleman. They never married because their families were divided by the English Civil War. After her mother dies in childbirth, Amber is given to a local woman to be raised. In her small village of Marygreen, Amber is a beautiful and voluptuous sixteen-year-old, who catches the eye of Bruce, Lord Carlton, a Cavalier traveling to London. Desperate for a more exciting life, Amber begs him to take her with him, which he does. Continue reading