ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED by Kerrigan Byrne – double review!

They are a dangerous duke, a fierce lord, and an infamous earl—dark, bold, brave men who know exactly what they want. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…

He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who’s made his own way in the world through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London’s most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he’s ever met.

IN THIS GAME OF LOVE, THE RULES DO NOT APPLY

Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother’s scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips…Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment. Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women…and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?


Title : All Scot and Bothered
Author : Kerrigan Byrne
Series : Devil You Know (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date : September 29, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5/★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was pretty close to rounding up on this one but couldn’t quite tip it over the edge. But this was still a fun read.

He said he and I were similar souls. It was though he could see parts of himself in me.
I can guess which parts.”

I found I got off to a bit of a rough start with this because we’re thrown into a weird situation out of nowhere, alongside one of our MCs, but while she got some answers along the way, I still felt it took too long to settle into the goings on. Likewise, I felt it dragged just as things started to really settle. But then near the end? I was crying. I was moved. And then wham bam we had lots of action and reveals, ma’am. Things wrap up pretty quick, in fairly predictable ways — though we had a delightful tease and set-up for book three — but I was still feeling those earlier lovelier feels.

I am a woman, Ramsay, I am used to pain.”

Jean-Yves is the star of this show, yes he is. I want a devoted French butler, please.

Are you all willing to resort to violence?
No.”
Yes.”
Only if strictly necessary.

This series is definitely a highlight when it comes to strong female characters but also fantastic female friendships. The depths the author gives these Red Rogues is just delightful. I was really happy with the dimension Byrne had given to book one’s hero but found this one a bit less memorable and a little more typical and/or standard for HR. That said, I think we’re going to get a change-up when it comes to the next man in this round up (or at least I hope so!). And with that said..

Looking forward to book three.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 3.5 star review

I definitely like the vibe that Kerrigan Byrne brings to these stories and her character creations. ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED was a good second instalment in the Devil You Know series but I liked it a little less than book one.

Cecelia and the Red Rogues found themselves a little more separate in this story but Cecelia and Ramsey took up that space nicely. Cecelia’s character felt a little ellusive to me throughout this read but I did like her, I just wanted to feel a little more immersed in how she thought rather than just how she acted. She was a feminist, a carer for others, but also naive. Ramsey, the stubborn, hard-headed and arrogant hero was also strangely likeable despite his thick skull.

But he knew that if he relented, her flames could prove to be hellfire, consuming everything good about the life he’d built from nothing.

The story wandered from London to the lowlands of Scotland but I didn’t get the feels for Scotland in this one and I longed for that a bit. Nevertheless, Scotland did bring an impasse of understanding between these two, a place to be on the same page. Jean-Yves and Phoebe were sweet side characters who enriched the narrative.

What would a lifetime of her smiles do?

I really liked the story in the background for the first three quarters but that lost a little traction for me in the last quarter. All that said, it was a very satisfying story and I’ll definitely be here for the next book in the series. It was easy to read over a weekend and brought some welcome escapism.

Thank you to St Martins Press for the early review copy.

A ROGUE OF ONE’S OWN by Evie Dunmore

A lady must have money and an army of her own if she is to win a revolution—but first, she must pit her wits against the wiles of an irresistible rogue bent on wrecking her plans…and her heart.

Lady Lucie is fuming. She and her band of Oxford suffragists have finally scraped together enough capital to control one of London’s major publishing houses, with one purpose: to use it in a coup against Parliament. But who could have predicted that the one person standing between her and success is her old nemesis, Lord Ballentine? Or that he would be willing to hand over the reins for an outrageous price—a night in her bed.

Lucie tempts Tristan like no other woman, burning him up with her fierceness and determination every time they clash. But as their battle of wills and words fans the flames of long-smouldering devotion, the silver-tongued seducer runs the risk of becoming caught in his own snare.

As Lucie tries to out-manoeuvre Tristan in the boardroom and the bedchamber, she soon discovers there’s truth in what the poets say: all is fair in love and war…


Title : A Rogue of One’s Own
Author : Evie Dunmore
Series : A League of Extraordinary Women #2
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 416
Genre : Historical Romance
Publisher : Piatkus/Little Brown UK
Release Date : September 1, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I have been highly anticipating this suffragette era historical romance and the devouring of it didn’t disappoint. The highlights include:

– a cat POV (small but memorable)
– slow burn
– poetry to swoon you into the present century
– Oscar Wilde cameo
– all the feminism a woman could need

Boudicca turned and was on her way down to the kitchen, because frankly, she was a cat, not a foot warmer. A lady might keep a pug for such services.

The two characters for this instalment were Lady Lucie, long since cast out from her family and status and her old, childhood acquaintance Lord Tristan. Recently returned from the wars, Tristan had been rogue-ing his way through London supposedly and Lucie couldn’t have been less impressed. These two found work foisting them into one another’s presence and I could see Tristan’s sweet centre; Lucie could not.

This was a slow-burning story, a connection forming over time with some beautiful building and foundations. I enjoyed reading Lucie’s spinsterdom with Boudicca but I loved it more when her plans crumbled and Tristan wormed his way into her heart.

“Your stubborn courage humbles me. Your rage inspires me.”

Tristan’s poet-nature was simply beautiful and his use of Tennyson swooned me like so.

I thoroughly enjoyed A ROGUE OF ONE’S OWN and nothing about the book disappointed. Evie Dunmore is able to follow up with a great sequel and so I trust her to deliver repeatedly now. I can’t wait for more of her feminist-themed historical romance, she commands this era with such skill.

Thank you to little brown uk for the #gifted copy.

(side note: I am aware of some contraversies regarding a plot point and I would nudge you to check out those reviews).

DARING AND THE DUKE by Sarah MacLean

Grace Condry has spent a lifetime running from her past. Betrayed as a child by her only love and raised on the streets, she now hides in plain sight as queen of London’s darkest corners. Grace has a sharp mind and a powerful right hook and has never met an enemy she could not best…until the man she once loved returns. 

Single-minded and ruthless, Ewan, Duke of Marwick, has spent a decade searching for the woman he never stopped loving. A long-ago gamble may have lost her forever, but Ewan will go to any lengths to win Grace back…and make her his duchess. 

Reconciliation is the last thing Grace desires. Unable to forgive the past, she vows to take her revenge. But revenge requires keeping Ewan close, and soon her enemy seems to be something else altogether—something she can’t resist, even as he threatens the world she’s built, the life she’s claimed…and the heart she swore he’d never steal again.


Title : Daring and the Duke
Author : Sarah MacLean
Series : Bareknuckle Bastards
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : June 30, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

My trepidation for starting this book was two-fold. One, because I was slumping hard, and two, I worried about how this story, featuring this particular male protagonist, could win me over after all the chaos and damage he had done over the course of this series.

So I’m pretty pleased that a, this book pulled me out of the world for a short time, and b, that the turnaround for this character felt.. valid. Very different from the last third-book-in-a-series-asshole-redemption installment I experienced from MacLean, so. Yay.

DARING AND THE DUKE was definitely not my favourite of the series, probably at least a bit becuse I went in uncertain, and, again, I’m probably influenced by everything happening around me just a tad, but. It was swoony, it was angsty, it had agency, and it had a happy ending. And there’s a lot to be said for a lot of that.

It’s hard to say much without spoiling any details or reveals from previous books but the main plot point of this series, of a terrible man willing to uphold his legacy in any way he can, and the children who are at the mercy of his machinations, was so unique. And the dynamics of all four, and how things play out, provides much angst, a bit of darkness, and a whole lot of opportunity for the author to balance that with (particularly for the first two books) feisty, fabulous, women, and, in the final book, a good grovel.

If any of that sounds like a good time, I would definitely recommend!

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

TWO ROGUES MAKE A RIGHT by Cat Sebastian

Will Sedgwick can’t believe that after months of searching for his oldest friend, Martin Easterbrook is found hiding in an attic like a gothic nightmare. Intent on nursing Martin back to health, Will kindly kidnaps him and takes him to the countryside to recover, well away from the world.

Martin doesn’t much care where he is or even how he got there. He’s much more concerned that the man he’s loved his entire life is currently waiting on him hand and foot, feeding him soup and making him tea. Martin knows he’s a lost cause, one he doesn’t want Will to waste his life on.

As a lifetime of love transforms into a tender passion both men always desired but neither expected, can they envision a life free from the restrictions of the past, a life with each other?


Title : Two Rogues Make a Right
Author : Cat Sebastian
Series : Seducing the Sedgwicks
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : LGBTQIA+ historical romance
Publisher : Avon Impulse
Release Date : June 23, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’m waffling a bit about whether I’ll round up on this because while it definitely wasn’t my favourite of the series (not that anything could live up to book one, I mean, really), I think I liked it more than book two. Which I also rated 3.5. Whatever, what even is a rating.

It is exhausting to be a decent person. I could be a villain with no effort whatsoever. It would be like rolling downhill.”
Why don’t you, then?
Because there’s enough bad in the world. I’m trying to put my weight on the other side of the scale.”

What you do need to know about this book, though, is that it is pretty damn pure. Not quite fluffy but.. tender. Though a slow build or even a slow burn would be fairly apt descriptors, more than that, it’s all just.. gentleness. Not sure how else to describe it. There are no real fireworks, no huge momentous realizations, no energic romps or lengthy debauchery scenes, not even any real big blow up.. it’s just two best friends, both a little damaged, both a little bruised, becoming more, and navigating what that looks like.

This was going to be the death of him. He had survived this latest illness only to be murdered by casual affection.

As is Sebastian’s way, there are endless exchanges of hilarity amongst the sweetness, and while I liked these characters, particularly in their early moments sharing space, I don’t quite think they will be as memorable as I would want them to be. Which goes for the story, too, really; not that there was much plot to begin with. But that’s also the case for book two’s couple, who we visit with in this book, too. Somehow it’s still book one, which I read three years ago, that stands out in this regard.. and every regard, really.

That said, I still enjoyed my time reading this, it was a deligthful bit of sweetness and sass, exactly what I wanted when I picked it up, so it definitely delivered. Even if it won’t go down as a favourite.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

WICKED BY DESIGN by Katy Moran

1819. Jack ‘Crow’ Crowlas, the charismatic and troubled hero of K.J. Whittaker’s first novel, FALSE LIGHTS, has married his feisty love, Hester and with their baby daughter, settled down to enjoy their new life as Lord and Lady Lamorna of Nansmornow in Cornwall.

But for Crow, trouble is never far away and as Cornwall seethes with rebellion, he is arrested for treason. Spared execution on condition that he undertakes a highly dubious mission to St Petersburg, he finds himself tangled in a snare of treachery and illicit passion, violence and sexual deceit, where not only his love for Hester, but also his relationship with his only brother, serving with the British army in Russia, will be tested to the limit and beyond.


Title : Wicked By Design
Author : Katy Moran
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 464
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Head of Zeus
Release Date : September 5, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I feel all the things on finishing this book, so many emotions. I didn’t expect such an angsty ride but it worked so well and I’m feeling a bit wrung out from the journey.

This was an epic historical novel, epic in that it spanned continents and the storytelling was vast and deep. There is a previous book about these characters (FALSE LIGHTS) but this book isn’t marketed as a series and it stands alone perfectly. WICKED BY DESIGN was a book with two main characters but it was so much about a family and the side characters were crucial to the story. The book was written in the era of the Napoleonic wars, where France was at war with England and the Cornish people were a separate country as such. I did some quick history brushing-up through my read of this book but I kept up with things well.

Lord John ‘Crow’ Lamora was a respected figure in the recent wars and was married to Hester, a black woman, daughter of a sea captain. Their marriage seemed to have begrudging acceptance in society but Hester was not truly accepted, only tolerated for the sake of her husband and his rank. The power dynamic between Hester and Crow was everything funny, heartbreaking and empowering. What these character went through in this book can only be described as hellish but I was glued to the page.

I went from really liking Crow to absolutely detesting his behaviour whilst understanding some of it. It was so hard to watch what happened to this man, to witness it and to feel it; and feel it I did. Not only for Crow but for Hester too, talk about putting my heart through the grater! Crow’s brother Kitto was a key character who I really liked. He was a bit young and impetuous but I found myself having a soft spot for him. The dynamic between Crow and Kitto however, was a difficult one. There needs be a little mention of Nadia’s character, she was superb in her gender role. Eventually, the story took these characters from Cornwall to St Petersburg. The description was rich but not heavy and it transported me to the sights, sounds and smells.

Katy Moran took me from page one and battered emotions out of me all along the way, right up until that last line. I felt dangled on a string, I wanted to lash out at the characters sometimes but all I can say is that her writing, her story made me feel. This is a historical fiction with some romance but more historical fiction than anything, I highly recommend it.

Thank you to Head of Zeus for this finished copy to review (the hardback is beautiful).

ANNIE’S SONG by Catherine Anderson

Annie Trimble lives in a solitary world that no one enters or understands. As delicate and beautiful as the tender blossoms of the Oregon spring, she is shunned by a town that misinterprets her affliction. But cruelty cannot destroy the love Annie holds in her heart.

Alex Montgomery is horrified to learn his wild younger brother forced himself on a helpless “idiot girl.” Tormented by guilt, Alex agrees to marry her and raise the babe she carries as his own. But he never dreams he will grow to cherish his lovely, mute, misjudged Annie and her childlike innocence, her womanly charms and the wondrous way she views her world. And he becomes determined to break through the wall of silence surrounding her; to heal…and to be healed by Annie’s sweet song of love.


Title : Annie’s Song
Author : Catherine Anderson
Format : Mass Market Paperback
Page Count : 410
Genre : Historical Romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : August 27, 2013

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star read

ANNIE’S SONG was an enjoyable read and a breath of fresh in terms of uniqueness of story, I’ve not read the like before, particularly not in the historical romance genre.

Firstly, this book starts out with an incredibly difficult first chapter, there are triggers here front and centre for some people. The issue wasn’t exactly a trigger for me but it still took me aback and felt an abrupt and brutal start.

Annie had a disability and much of the early story is about misconceptions and misunderstandings about her disability. I struggled a little with where the story went in terms of consent issues to decisions made. I really hated observing some of what happened there. Added onto this, Annie had horrendous parents and what she had suffered in her childhood home was difficult to see recounted.

Alex was a man of integrity and I admired his actions on the one hand but I also wanted to knock some sense into him as he navigated decisions, their life and future direction. However, where would Annie have been without him? In a much worse situation is the answer. Alex did learn and grow as a man and partner, he was also a quite a forward thinker for the era.

Their romantic connection was a slow burn but even the were both adults, Annie’s innocence made me feel like my skin was crawling as Alex tried to coax Annie into intimacy. So while I was enjoying much of the story, this element just took the rating down a little for me.

I’m grateful for the rec on this unusual story and I would definitely read Catherine Anderson again.

THE DUKE’S STOLEN BRIDE by Sophie Jordan

An urgent dilemma…

To save her impoverished family, Marian Langley will become a mistress. But she will not be just any mistress. Marian intends to become so skilled, so coveted, that she can set her own terms, retaining control over her body and her fate. Only one problem remains: finding a tutor…

A scandalous solution…

Other men deprive themselves of pleasure for propriety’s sake. Nathaniel, Duke of Warrington, would much rather be depraved. He slakes his desires with professionals who ask nothing of him but his coin. Marian’s proposal—that he train her without taking her virtue—is an intriguing diversion, until their lessons in seduction spin out of control.

And a most unlikely duchess…

When Marian is blackmailed into engagement by a man she despises, Nate impulsively steals her away. Though he never intended to take a wife, he can’t tolerate the idea of Marian forfeiting her freedom to another. But can he bear to give her what she demands—a real marriage?


Title : The Duke’s Stolen Bride
Author : Sophie Jordan
Series : The Rogue Files #5
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : Historical Romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : October 22, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

I’ve been lazily enjoying this series by Sophie Jordan for the last few years. They’re the kind of light, historical romance that is easy to read and fits my kind of mood when I need low-level concentration and a generally satisfying read. THE DUKE’S STOLEN BRIDE is all those things but on this occasion, I did want more depth to the story.

This is a tale of dire circumstances and entitlement, two polar opposite characters and the way their differences complement one another. Marian and her sisters had been left in reduced circumstances and the narrative around this aspect really made you feel the toughness of her situation. It felt like five u-turns however, to jump to the solving of the problem that Marian decided on. That aspect was a little struggle for me but I could not deny that I really liked the ensuing storyline that developed there. Marian was a rich character and I liked her tenacity and assertiveness.

Nate (the Duke) was a likeable character but I wanted a bit more depth painted in the narrative. He had some potential that I don’t think was realised BUT these two together were just fun and lovely. There was plenty of convenience to their storyline together including what is described in the synopsis but I was here for this.

Once the story got to 80%, it felt a bit rushed, I wanted more depth, more pages and more character development. The story direction itself was spot on so that smoothed over my enjoyment.

If there are any more Rogue Files planned, I will continue to be there for them, enjoying their ease of enjoyment and satisfaction.

Thank you to Avon and Edelweiss for this early review copy.

BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE by Evie Dunmore – double review!

A stunning debut for author Evie Dunmore and her Oxford Rebels, in which a fiercely independent vicar’s daughter takes on a powerful duke in a love story that threatens to upend the British social order.

England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring…or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke..


Title : Bringing Down the Duke
Author : Evie Dunmore
Series : League of Extraordinary Women
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : Berkley / Little Brown UK
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5 / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

And another debut author smashes it out of the park in 2019!

It is becoming clear to be me why a fair girl like you has been left on the shelf. You are not only bookish but a radical political activist. All highly impractical in a wife.”

BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE was just.. pure fun? Deliciously swoony? Just the right amount of angst?

There came a time in a duke’s life when he rarely encountered an honest opinion, where he could be on his way to hell in a handcart and everyone would politely step aside and wish him godspeed.

You might find yourself looking at this plot summary and thinking, sure sure, read that HR a thousand times. Bluestocking attracts a Duke? Nothing new. And yeah okay maybe. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t worth your time.

Have you by any chance missed that class at finishing school where they teach you to feign delightful ignorance in the presence of a man?
I’m afraid so.”

These characters all but leap off the page. The attraction, the chemistry, the sizzle is.. damn. Their backstory has elements of drama but are never overblown, or overwrought, and come out in the open naturally without being held onto until the last minute. Every up and down, back and forth, push and pull, was so.. organic? And also, strangely, refreshing. Additionally the side characters, the bluestocking suffragettes, were just fabulous. All of them. Hattie might have been my favourite.

Did you really give a man a nosebleed?
Yes.”
Why?
I suppose because the village lads I ran with as a girl didn’t teach me how to slap like a lady.

The specifics of the setting, that this takes place during the opening of the first women’s college, and focuses mostly on women’s rights, feminism, and the injustice of the sexes, I mean.. there’s never a wrong time to tackle those issues but right now it feels so so timely. And how sad is that; this book is set in 1879 and here we are.. still fighting.

She had never really known her place. Where others were appropriately intimidated, she seemed oddly intrigued by the challenge.

This debut is so strong and so clever. The cover might make it seem that this is all lighthearted joy and hijinks but don’t be fooled. This is a love story between people who have their eyes wide open. Who are sensible, and logical, and intelligent. Who know the implausibilities of a union between them and fight it because they know better. Which makes that tension even more delicious. And yes, sure, there is still fun to be had.

Would you have me change my place in history to prove how much I want you?

BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE is compulsively readable and a delight to devour; I finished this in a shockingly small handful of hours which, considering my slumpy month, is a miracle. And I’m ecstatic to see that not only are we guaranteed more from this debut author, but we’re getting more from this series and set of characters. I’m going to be clamouring for more A League of Extraordinary Women books and likely seriously regretting my decision to read this early because now the wait will feel even longer than just a year.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 5 star review

Hold me, because after reading this, I feel a book hangover coming on. This was a sweep-you-off-your-feet kind of historical romance read but with extra bonuses. What are these extra bonuses I speak of? This was one of the most feminist reads I’ve had in an age and injecting this level of feminism into HR is no easy feat. Second bonus, the battle for equality was on both sides.

Annabelle was low-born, intelligent but encumbered by the will of her cousin for what happened in her destiny. After much struggling she had secured a stipend to be one of the first cohort of women at Oxford. What I hadn’t realised was that life at Oxford for these women was just a smidge of an experience compared to the men. Annabelle joined a suffragette movement and ended up petitioning the Duke of Montgomery, Sebastian.

Sebastian was a stick up his…kind of Duke, a lot cold, obsessed with his duty and roles for the queen and parliament. However, this story is a journey of Sebastian’s unravelling. His character development was vast as he opened up his mind to women’s position in life through Annabelle and also as he opened himself up to being able to feel.

These two had chemistry off the historical charts, with a slow build of kisses and touches. Being together was an undeniable eventuality and it was compulsive reading, beautiful and delicious. I appreciated Annabelle’s prior experience and how this was handled in the book.

She had tried to climb Montgomery like a cat.

The story took me on a journey of giggles, entertainment, longing and some heartbreak. I have come away from this book so delighted by the content that I immediately pressed pre-order on a physical copy because I will be rereading this.

BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE is a debut of exciting proportions, with a slightly slow start but a pace that will delight very quickly. The story, characters and research underpinning this read make it something rather special. Evie Dunmore is an author to watch and I will be waiting with bated breath for her next book. Rounded up to 5 stars.

Thank you to Little Brown for the early review copy.

HOW TO LOVE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS by Kerrigan Byrne – double review!

These men are dark, bold, and brave. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…

Famed and brilliant, Lady Alexandra Lane has always known how to look out for to herself. But nobody would ever expect that she has darkness in her past—one that she pays a blackmailer to keep buried. Now, with her family nearing bankruptcy, Alexandra strikes upon a solution: Get married to one of the empire’s most wealthy eligible bachelors. Even if he does have the reputation of a devil.

LOVE TAKES NO PRISONERS

Piers Gedrick Atherton, the Duke of Redmayne, is seeking revenge and the first step is securing a bride. Winning a lady’s hand is not so easy, however, for a man known as the Terror of Torcliff. Then, Alexandra enters his life like a bolt of lightning. When she proposes marriage, Piers knows that, like him, trouble haunts her footsteps. But her gentleness, sharp wit, independent nature, and incredible beauty awakens every fierce desire within him. He will do whatever it takes to keep her safe in his arms.


Title : How to Love a Duke in Ten Days
Author : Kerrigan Byrne
Series : The Devil You Know (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 447
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : St Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date : August 27, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★/★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I was so worried about HOW TO LOVE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS. The opening chapters, in some ways, read a lot like THE HIGHWAYMAN, the first book by this author I loved (and unrelated to this series..). I was side-eyeing the story, some familiar elements, until.. those similarities dissipated and this story, different and with its own strengths, emerged.

Loneliness was safer than love.

This book is dedicated to survivors, to the #metoo movement, and that probably says a lot about some of the content in this book. Infact the very first chapter opens up with a sexual assault on our heroine and she spends the rest of the story dealing with the aftermath. She learns to disguise her form and navigate life to avoid touch, avoid danger, and basically any men who could be a threat. She becomes a traveler, an academic, preferring the company of dead men and their bones to real flesh and blood ones. Even though it’s a dead man who haunts her.. as well as a very real person who is blackmailing her over it.

Just who were these ladies? Where were the tears and histrionics? Couldn’t they have at least afforded him a modicum of feminine display for his — he wasn’t too modest to say — rather heroic behaviour?

She and her two best friends from school reunite when one of them announce their engagement to a duke. And it’s when Alexandra inadvertently runs into said duke, prior to an introduction, that her carefully curated life goes off script.

I know we’re both in a great deal of trouble at the moment, but that is no reason to marry a man. When has the addition of anyone of the opposite sex ever improved one of our situations?

It’s no secret that Byrne’s specialty is dark, damaged, anti-heroes. But this time, with Piers, she gives her typical (atypical?) hero a bit of a twist; he’s dark, he’s damaged, but he’s also charming. Funny. Tender. Kind. He’s not an anti-hero, more just resigned to his fate, for all that he’s blessed with riches and a dukedom. He’d rather tend the horses, travel, and be far from the ton and their two-faced-ness, as well as any and all wearying social niceties.

You’re like no duke I’ve ever met.”
And you’re unlike any lady of my acquaintance.”
I–I didn’t at all mean that as a slight.”
And I was paying you the highest compliment.”

Both have secrets. Both have their own scars. And both somehow discover this incredible connection over the course of (you guessed it) ten days. While I would almost never buy this in a contemporary, and I’m sure I’ve doubted it in a HR, too, somehow.. Byrne makes me believe it. The intensity of the events, with (multiple!) near death close-calls, the emotional rollercoasters they have to navigate as they get to know each other, plus the heightened connection by way of their attraction and everything they have to navigate in order to be together.. it just works. In the same way that the secret, hovering over their heads, worked. It wasn’t something that could just be blurted out and I didn’t begrudge it for its existence. Every reason for keeping it a secret was valid. Somehow everything about this story just.. fit. Everything that was introduced was handled beautifully, respectfully, and overall this was just so well done. Even the outlandish or harder to believe bits.

All I’m asking is for you to have mercy on me, [..]. If there is a battle to fight, a villain to face, I beg you to allow me the honour. Because the cruelest thing you could do, is sentence me to a world without you in it.

This was all the swoon, all of the fun, all of the mystery (though I did actually guess right!), that I’ve come to love from Byrne and I’m so relieved considering the last additions to the Victorian Rebels series had me worried. They seemed to be missing some of the early spark I had come to love and rely on from this author; but the same cannot be said here. It might feel a little familiar for those who know, and love, the aforementioned series.. but it’s in the best kind of way. And it definitely stands apart. I’m very keen to read on in this series, which, additionally, had the next couple cunningly teased (not that we couldn’t guess..) in the epilogue. Just to hook you. So, consider me hooked!

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4 star review

I was so ready for a new series from Kerrigan Byrne and HOW TO LOVE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS, took me on a delightful, fun journey. It had intrigue, suspense, a marriage of convenience and a real connection. I was worried about the title in terms of insta-love and while it was fast moving in that way, it didn’t feel instantaneous.

This story opens with a rather difficult scene, there may be triggers for some in this book. It was a opener that drew you in by the heart strings and it made me immediately invested in the protagonist, Alexandra. She took her vulnerability and forged herself into a strong woman, an academic, no less.

I love a beastly rogue of a character and Piers (the Duke) was rough corners and couldn’t care less about convention or appearances. His meeting with Alexandra on the platform was all growls and harsh man but he had a more refined side to him. That said, the man on the platform felt to be truth of him.

How did she prefer him? The hunter, predatory and insolent? Or the duke, charismatic, sleek and cunning?

Secrets are the name of the game between Piers and Alexandra, sometimes secrets between characters infuriate me but with this story, it worked. There was a mutual respect between them, equality was a given and I loved watching their friendship evolve around the other elements of their relationship. I loved that Alexandra constantly surprised Piers.

Could she be real? Did he hold in his arms the rarest of creatures? A woman of substance. Of integrity?…One who thrived on intellect and honor and genuine interaction rather than the empty endorsements of her peers?

After launching with enthusiasm into this book, I did find it took a while to really get into it, but by 30% in, I was truly invested. I’m looking forward to more from this series and possibly from Alexandra’s two friends.

Thank you to St Martins Press for the early copy of this book.

THE WALLFLOWER WAGER by Tessa Dare

They call him the Duke of Ruin.
To an undaunted wallflower, he’s just the beast next door.
 

Wealthy and ruthless, Gabriel Duke clawed his way from the lowliest slums to the pinnacle of high society—and now he wants to get even.

Loyal and passionate, Lady Penelope Campion never met a lost or wounded creature she wouldn’t take into her home and her heart.

When her imposing—and attractive—new neighbor demands she clear out the rescued animals, Penny sets him a challenge. She will part with her precious charges, if he can find them loving homes.

Done, Gabriel says. How hard can it be to find homes for a few kittens?

And a two-legged dog.

And a foul-mouthed parrot.

And a goat, an otter, a hedgehog . . .

Easier said than done, for a cold-blooded bastard who wouldn’t know a loving home from a workhouse. Soon he’s covered in cat hair, knee-deep in adorable, and bewitched by a shyly pretty spinster who defies his every attempt to resist. Now she’s set her mind and heart on saving him.

Not if he ruins her first. 


Title : The Wallflower Wager
Author : Tessa Dare
Series : Girl Meets Duke #3
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : Historical Romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : August 13, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


I think I have found a Dare book that has pipped ‘When the Scot Ties the Knot’ to the top spot because THE WALLFLOWER WAGER delighted my reading heart in the best way possible. Gush alert!

This is a novel of wit, with a rich and heart-warming story and characters that I want to read again and again. I was laughing along by a few pages in and the humour really didn’t ebb at all. The story of Penny and Gabe was one literally surrounded by animals – goats, an otter, a parrot, kittens and a disabled dog. It was enchanting and I now feel attached to them all.

This was also a story of insecurities and hearts looking for a home. Penny was a spinster-hermit, she had retreated to her life with animals, content in her small circle of company. The way Gabe and Penny met had me highlighting so many moments in the book and from there, these two were hilarious and full of chemistry. Gabe was a self-made man with a reputation for unscrupulous business dealings. I loved the developing friendship between these two. They had a real platonic connection and as this developed into more, the friendship remained. I adored them and I loved their shared ideals and values.

Now I’ve come to look at all the quotes I’ve highlighted and they’re all either super-racy or spoilery, so I won’t be sharing those but just know that the banter, dialogue and narrative is fun and delicious.

Thank you Ms Dare for bringing this delightful story into my life. I will re-read this without a doubt.

Thank you to Avon Publishing and Edelweiss for the early copy.