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

The Lady and the Highwayman (Proper Romance Victorian), by Sarah M. Eden—A Review

The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M Eden 2019From the desk of Katie Patchell:  

Pop Quiz: Which of the following is a penny dreadful — a) the title of a recent TV series, b) a term for a gory but thrilling story or c) a serialized novel from the 1800s?

If you answered any of the three, you would be correct! Besides being the name of a 2014 TV show, penny dreadfuls were serialized stories during the 19th century. They’re most famously known for their affordable price and plots filled with all kinds of thrills, such as hauntings and kidnappings. Sarah M. Eden, an author previously reviewed by Austenprose, visits this colorful world of penny dreadfuls in this, one of her latest novels, The Lady and the Highwayman. 

“Rumor had it, Fletcher Walker wasn’t born but had simply appeared one day, swaggering down the streets of London.” (Chapter 1) 

It is London, 1865, and Fletcher Walker is a man on top of the world. From pickpocket to the author of wildly popular penny dreadfuls – and leader of a philanthropic secret society –  he has created something unshakable. Or so he thinks. His confidence in himself and his mission to change the world is threatened when a new “king” of penny dreadfuls arrives on the scene. And this king, Mr. King, is none other than:

Elizabeth Black — headmistress of Thurloe Collegiate School, a respected member of society, and secret author. As the male writer King, Elizabeth enjoys growing fame, especially for her serial, The Lady and the Highwayman. Yet she soon discovers that she has at least one enemy intent on destroying King’s career. When Fletcher enlists her aid to help him track down King, little does he know that he’s gone to the very last person in the world to wish him success.

As Elizabeth becomes more involved with Fletcher, she struggles to prevent him from finding out her secret identity, while at the same time, trying to further her goal in discovering the truth about the shadowy Dread Penny Society and Fletcher’s involvement. Will she reveal her secret identity so he can reign as the penny dreadful king again, as he wants? Or can she find a different way to help the people of London as Mr. King, while staying true to her desires? Continue reading

A Preview & Blog Tour with A Dash of Romance (Romantic Encounters: An Anthology Book 1), by Paullett Golden

A Dash of Romance by Paullett Golden 2020Hey-ho Janeites! Please help me welcome historical romance author Paullett Golden to Austenprose today in celebration of the release of her new anthology, A Dash of Romance, the first book in her new Romantic Encounters series.

The anthology contains a novella set in 1795 Devonshire, England, the love story of Percival Randal and Abigail Walsley, two dreamers who enter into a marriage of inconvenience for both of them. Also included is a special bonus collection of flash and short fiction—all stand-alone stories. This is a series that the author intends to produce annually.

If you are in the mood for short and sweet romances for light summer reading, look no further. In addition to a book description, we are happy to share an exclusive excerpt selected by the author to whet your appetite.

This is the last stop on the official blog tour, so please visit the previous blogs for additional excerpts, interviews, and reviews. Enjoy!

With quills and fantasies, they write their future.

Percival Randall lives an uncomplicated life of luxury, as he likes it. Not even an ultimatum requiring marriage can tip the scales. A conniving young lady who compromises his name to force a betrothal, however, is an impediment to happiness Percival must confront.

Abigail Walsley dreams of publishing novels rather than marrying dashing heroes. An unexpected proposal and a subsequent Banbury tale tumble her into a betrothal with a man she has never met. Following her dreams proves a challenge with a marriage of inconvenience on the horizon.

This is the love story of Percival and Abigail, two dreamers who write their love story one scene at a time.

From second chance romances to mistaken identities, experience A Dash of Romance in this collection of one short novel and fourteen bonus flash fiction pieces.

Continue reading

Bringing Down the Duke (A League of Extraordinary Women, Book 1), by Evie Dunmore—A Review

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore 2019From the desk of Melissa Makarewicz:

An estate with rolling green hills, fountains, and flower gardens… a dashing duke rides up to sweep me off my feet onto his horse as we ride off into the sunset…and, or at this point, of what feels like day 5,879 of stay at home, I would settle for a trip to the bookstore. Happily, I didn’t need to make a trip out because I had Evie Dunmore’s debut novel, Bringing Down the Duke, on my shelf waiting for me to give it a reread.

When I saw this historical romance novel popping up everywhere on social media last year, I knew it was a book I had to read. I mean, who doesn’t love to daydream about a handsome duke with a swoon-worthy British accent. When I saw it was a story about a young woman attending Oxford in 1879, I could not hit the one-click purchase button fast enough.

Annabelle Archer is a bluestocking through and through. She knows too many languages and is too opinionated to be considered a marriageable young lady. Plus, at her age, she is all but put on the shelf and considered a spinster. She has resigned herself to a life of caring for her extended family and dedicating herself to her studies. When she learns that there is a possibility to attend school, she yearns to have an independent life away from her demanding relatives who have taken her in and put her to work as a free nanny to their children.

Sebastian has been steady his whole adult life. After being thrust into the role of Duke at the young age of nineteen, he has worked tirelessly to restore the family name and fortune. Queen Victoria views him as one of her most trusted inner circle and with good reason. Running the multiple estates that he inherited as the first son and restoring their profitability would break a lesser man. But not Sebastian Devereux, nineteenth Duke of Montgomery. He always accomplished what he sets his mind to, no matter the cost. Nothing will stop him from restoring Montgomery Castle, an estate that his father lost in a bet. 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

Frenchman’s Creek, by Daphne du Maurier—A Review

Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du MaurierFrom the desk of Tracy Hickman:

Revisiting a classic novel years after first reading it can yield surprises. Add a hazy recollection of major plot points and you are approaching a fresh canvas rather than a reproduction of a familiar portrait. I was intrigued to revisit Frenchman’s Creek because having last read it in high school, I retained only a faint memory of dissatisfaction with its ending, but found I was unable to recall the specifics of the story. Would rereading the novel confirm my youthful opinion or uncover a different experience of Daphne du Maurier’s adventure?

Originally published in 1941, Frenchman’s Creek features the coast of Cornwall as the setting for a romantic novel featuring an English aristocrat and a French pirate. The heroine, Lady Dona St. Columb, is the toast of Restoration London. She is beautiful, reckless, and enjoys flouting social conventions, but underneath the froth and frivolity, Dona admits to herself that she is bored with and ashamed of her hollow flirtations and outrageous pranks. At the opening of the novel, she leaves London for Navron, her husband’s estate in Cornwall.

So the first day passed, and the next, and the one after, Dona exulting in her new-found freedom. Now she could live without a plan, without a decision, taking the days as they came, rising at noon if she had the mind or at six in the morning, it did not matter, eating when hunger came upon her, sleeping when she wished, in the day or at midnight. Her mood was one of lovely laziness. (31)

But amid the peaceful ease of country life, there are also hints of mystery at Navron: Dona finds a jar of tobacco and a volume of French poetry in a drawer in her room. Soon after Lord Godolphin, a neighbor, warns Dona of French pirates that have been robbing locals, she sees a ship stealing in towards land at sunset from a vantage point on the headland. After midnight, Dona observes a clandestine meeting of her servant, William, with an unknown man at the edge of the woods that border the estate. Continue reading