School for Love: The Hapgoods of Bramleigh (Book 3), by Christina Dudley – #BookReview, #RegencyRomance, #HistoricalRomance, #TraditionalRegency, @CNDudley

School for Love, by Christina Dudley 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell:

Besides their prominent place on many Regency fans’ bookshelves, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Georgette Heyer’s Frederica have another trait in common: Their plots revolve around a group of loud, lovable, and independent people who have the good fortune to call each other ‘family.’ While our lively Elizabeth Bennet might complain (if given the chance for an interview) about her claustrophobic world, the charm and humor of Pride and Prejudice would be lost without the rest of the Bennet clan. Despite the familial meddling in these two great works, the heroines and heroes find love and, perhaps equal in worth, readers enjoy hours of amusement at their antics. Since 2013’s release of The Naturalist, Christina Dudley has followed in the footsteps of Austen and Heyer in her series, “The Hapgoods of Bramleigh Hall.” School for Love, her latest installment, continues the story of the eccentric Hapgoods and their hilariously romantic escapades.

As an unmarried member of a small community, Rosemary DeWitt has long worn the label of spinster. It isn’t that she’s afraid of marriage; rather, she refuses to marry a man who desires her solely for her wealth. As Rosemary busies herself by championing the right of education for her village’s young women, she hides her growing sense of discontent, only showing her free-spirited side to her parents and brothers. That is until a solemn-faced, sparkling-eyed visitor arrives in town.

“She had already, to her embarrassment found him a compelling man, but seeing his habitually somber features thus transformed made her breath stop. Why–it was better that the man only smiled rarely. Because, when he did do so, she supposed all the world would come to a tumbling halt as she had, transfixed… ‘Ah,’ she said to herself. ‘So Lionel does not get his winning ways only from his mother.’ This thought was followed by ‘whatever you do, do not reach out and touch the man again!'” (Location 1704)

A widower fresh from thirteen years in a loveless marriage, Hugh Hapgood struggles to be a good father to his three young children. While visiting his son, Lionel, who is in turn visiting his Hapgood cousins in Bramleigh, Hugh is surprised to find that his son has formed an instant attachment to the striking Miss Rosemary DeWitt. Miss DeWitt’s intelligence, conversation, and friendship soon capture Hugh’s thoughts and respect in a way that no Society Beauty has accomplished yet. Unfortunately for his goals of singlehood, she has also captured the fascination of his very wily, very tenacious children. As Rosemary and Hugh navigate the wilds of childish mayhem and compromising situations, they discover that no one is too old to find love…or too young to matchmake. Continue reading

The Christmas Bride: A Chance Sisters Novella, by Anne Gracie — #BookReview, #RegencyRomance, #HistoricalRomance, #ChristmasReading, @AnneGracie

The Christmas Bride by Anne Gracie 2020From the desk of Pamela Mingle:

There’s nothing like a romantic Christmas novella. Every year I look forward to a new batch to brighten my holiday reading. The best ones warm the heart, and this year we especially need that. The many readers already familiar with Anne Gracie’s Chance Sisters novels will love The Christmas Bride.

The story begins with Blake Ashton, known as Ash, making his way back to England after ten years abroad. He’s been living in the Far East, where his daily life involves “…balmy breezes, azure skies, spicy foods, and warm, willing golden-skinned, sloe-eyed women.” After a meeting with his business partners over the holidays, he intends to return to his adopted home immediately, without seeing his family. We learn that as a young man, he made some disastrous moves that had placed his mother and sister on the brink of ruin, but it’s not until later in the book that the scope of his misdeeds is revealed.

On the last leg of his journey, Ash is held up by a footpad with a pistol. He draws his own, and when a boy runs out yelling, “No!” Ash discharges his weapon and injures the footpad, who turns out to be a young lady. Horrified, he carries her to the rundown cottage where she and her brother have been living, and he stays on to care for her since there’s nobody else to do so. The fact that she’s quite lovely isn’t lost on him, either.

Charlotte (Charley) Underwood and her little brother, Toby, have fallen on hard times. Ash finds out from Toby that their father shot himself due to gambling debts. Until Charley comes of age in about a year, their cousin Albert is their guardian. He wants Charley to marry his son, whom Toby describes as a “drooling simpleton.”

Ash’s friends and business partners soon show up. Worried that he hadn’t arrived on schedule, they set out to look for him and soon located the cottage. Max, Lord Davenham, insists on taking Charley and Toby to Davenham Hall for the Christmas holidays. Ash will be there, of course. Because Toby is so enthusiastic, Charley reluctantly agrees. Continue reading

Schemes of Felicity: A Pride and Prejudice Variation (Skirmish & Scandal Series Book 1), by Suzan Lauder — #BookReview, #Austenesque, #HistoricalRomance, #RegencyRomance, @SusanLauder, @MerytonPress

Schemes of Felicity by Suzan Lauder 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

Suzan Lauder, an author whose Austenesque books I have appreciated in the past, offers a new variation inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with an interesting twist. Schemes of Felicity begins like many variations of the novel after the stormy failed marriage proposal made by Fitzwilliam Darcy to Miss Elizabeth Bennet in the Hunsford rectory. What if this proposal is followed by not one, but two letters to Elizabeth and the second altering the original events completely?

Dejected and brooding, Fitzwilliam Darcy simply wants to be left in quiet to lick his wounds on the way back to London from Kent, but his friendly cousin is curious about their sudden departure and the vivacious guest at Hunsford. By the time the journey concludes, both cousins are ready to be done with one another and Colonel Fitzwilliam shares with his mother that Darcy was abominable on the journey and wouldn’t explain what had him in such a state. The countess does her own investigation and concludes that it is high time her nephew was married and calls a family council for an intervention that Darcy only agrees to if they will stop pestering him. Yes, he will agree to one month of attending balls and events of the London Season and put himself out there socially to promising young ladies.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Bennet is chagrined after reading his explanatory letter and has a change of heart about the man at whom she threw such undeserved vitriol when he proposed with words that were too honest about her situation and family even when stunning her with his professed love. She had him wrong and thinks better of him though he was still responsible for separating her sister Jane from Mr. Bingley. A letter from her father that sends her to join Jane in London and be chaperoned by their aunt and uncle for a season among eligible men while he takes his wife and her younger sisters to task over their impropriety lands her right in Fitzwilliam Darcy’s world. There she encounters a Darcy who defies her past prejudices and gives them a second chance. Continue reading

A Christmas Promise: Timeless Romance Anthology® (Book 16), by Joanna Barker, Annette Lyon, and Jennifer Moore— #BookReview, #HistoricalRomance, #HistoricalRegency, #ChristmasReading

A Christmas Promise 2020From the desk of Katie Jackson:

Christmastime often recalls the many forms that love takes. We all know what it is to love our family and friends, and even to find love when we least expect it, all year round. There’s something special about this time of year in particular that amplifies those warm feelings. The many forms of love are beautifully demonstrated in A Christmas Promise, the latest Timeless Romance Anthology® featuring bestselling and popular Regency romance authors Joanna Barker, Annette Lyon, and Jennifer Moore.

“The Two Bells of Christmas” by Joanna Barker brings readers to a country house party with identical twin sisters Cassandra and Vivian Bell, who have been invited by the mother of a most eligible bachelor, Roland Hastings—unbeknownst to him. After a promising introduction in London, Miss Vivian Bell has set her matrimonial sights on Mr. Hastings. During the Bell sisters’ travels, however, Vivian falls ill. It soon becomes apparent that she will be bedridden for most of their visit, so she begs unconventional Cassie to pretend to be prim-and-proper Vivian and keep Vivian’s quarry from being captured by another husband-seeker. “I am still determined to do what I can to claim his attention. I’ll not leave such a thing as love to chance.” (56) When Roland arrives home from London anticipating a quiet Christmas with his mother, he is dismayed to find his home filled with houseguests of the single young female variety. Reminded of the promise he made before his father’s death to marry and produce an heir, Roland reluctantly agrees to make an effort to get to know the ladies his matchmaking mother has chosen for him. He is most intrigued by the outspoken Miss Bell and her contradictory behavior. Can eccentric Cassie protect her heart and make her sister’s dreams come true during her risky masquerade?

“Promise Me Again” by Annette Lyon presents Miriam Brown, the daughter of a sheep farmer, and Jacob Davies, the younger son of a landowning merchant. The enamored young couple wishes more than anything to marry and start a happy life together. But Jacob’s controlling elder brother Norman has lofty goals for him, and low-born Miriam is a hindrance to those plans. In an attempt to marry without Norman’s knowledge, Jacob and Miriam secretly plan to wed on Christmas Eve morning by special license in the church of a distant town. Seeking power and influence, Norman will stop at nothing to bend his brother’s will. Miriam wholeheartedly believes that “their love could conquer anything, including a misanthropic, jealous elder brother.” (1680) But will they emerge unscathed? Continue reading

Joy to the World: A Regency Christmas Collection, by Carolyn Miller, Amanda Barratt, and Erica Vetsch—A Review

Joy to the World: A Regency Christmas Collection 2020Season’s greetings, gentle readers! It is once again time to immerse ourselves in the traditional comforts of the holiday season. And how better to do so than by getting cozy and settling in to read a lovely book about this special time of year. Joy to the World is an inspirational Christian anthology comprised of three very different Christmas stories with a golden thread of joy, hope, and faith woven through and binding them together.

“Heaven and Nature Sing” by Carolyn Miller invites readers to an elegant house party where young people have gathered to make merry during the snowy days leading up to Christmas. In attendance—as guests of their shared godmother—are Edith and George, former sweethearts torn apart by circumstances and misunderstandings. The traditions of the season remind them “of grace and forgiveness and the second chances God gives.” (1275) As they navigate the uncomfortable tension between them, will their faith in God and their love for each other be enough to help them overcome foolish pride?

“Far as the Curse is Found” by Amanda Barratt transports readers to dreary London in winter, following Dwight Inglewood, the Earl of Amberly, as he trudges through the remnants of his once-promising life. He bears the unsightly scars of severe wounds sustained at Waterloo and internally suffers from the loss of all those he’s ever loved. “The world was harsh, and in it he felt fragile. Life and the people he’d trusted had pierced him deeply. Isolation seemed the only remedy.” (3095) A twist of fate, or perhaps divine intervention, crosses his lonely path with that of a desperate unwed mother and her young child. Jenny Grey “knew the wounds the gazes of others could inflict.” (2234) Can two kindred souls with disparate backgrounds provide solace for each other in an often cruel world? Continue reading