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Victoria Vane

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The Horse Whisperer
Nicholas Evans
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Morgan Kelly
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It Stings So Sweet - Stephanie Draven Full review to come
Treacherous Temptations - Victoria Vane Now available from ENTANGLED Publishing
AUTHOR'S NOTE
TREACHEROUS TEMPTATIONS was very much inspired by the dark and romantic novels of the 18th century in which virtue vs. vice and plots to despoil virgins were very popular themes, books like Clarissa Harlowe by Samuel Richardson or Les Liaisons Dangereuses by LaClos. Similar to these classic tales, my story features an innocent country girl who, unlike the former heroines, is neither insipid nor naive, but still inadvertently becomes a pawn in a deadly game of revenge and intrigue.
EXCERPT
Blanchard House, Hanover Square- 1728
As the solo harpsichord began a Corelli air, Mary watched mesmerized. In flawless synchrony with the music, and bodies posed in perfect symmetry, the couple performed the intricate figures of the dance with fluid grace—ebbing and flowing in an elegant wave, moving in absolute harmony with one another. Rising and falling in gentle rhythm, arms gracefully rounded, reaching, touching, and turning, they seemingly floated across the floor.
It was lovely beyond description.
Monsieur Gaspar had rightly described the stately minuet as the perfection of dancing and Mary was entranced. But lost in her admiration of the dancers, she forgot she was supposed to be studying their intricate steps and patterns, until the couple executed the final two hand turn and then faced her with the final elegant dips to honor their audience of one.
The dancing master raised Lady Blanchard's hand to his lips. "Vous êtes toujours incomparable, Madame la Comtesse."
Lady Blanchard answered the compliment as if it were her due, with an elegant inclination of her head and only the merest hint of a smile.
"It is true, my lady," Mary gushed. "I've never beheld anything so lovely."
Lady Blanchard turned to Mary and smiled archly. "Dancing is the premier mark of gentility in any woman, my dear Mary, and the minuet is foremost amongst the dances. Thus, you must master it—along with the sarabande, gigue, bourée, and gavotte, before you may attend any of the balls."
Mary's stomach dropped. "All of them? But I have no experience of this kind of dancing."
Lady Blanchard regarded her with raised brows. "Do you mean to say you've never danced?"
"Only country dancing, my lady. Never like this. I fear it is well beyond my ability."
The countess waved her hand. "Nonsense, child. You have the benefit of a master's tutelage and must simply apply yourself." She glanced to the clock with a frown. "I am expecting someone. I leave you now in Monsieur Gaspar's capable hands."
In dismay, Mary watched the countess depart.
"Mademoiselle?" The dancing master flourished a bow and then offered his arm and an indulgent smile on painted lips. Yet an hour later found him tearing at his periwig and Mary near to tears.
"Non! Non! Et non!" cried the Frenchman. "You must rise on the toe and sweep the foot. Thusly." He demonstrated with exaggerated patience. "And the arms, they are too stiff!"
"Like this?" Mary rounded her arms and began the steps again.
"Par blue! Elle se deplacer comme une vache! You move like the cow and the figure, it is all wrong! It is zed."
"Zed?" Mary repeated blankly.
"Oui, zed!" he insisted.
"I don't comprehend you, monsieur," Mary cried in growing frustration. "I've told you already I have no French."
Throwing up his hands in Gallic fashion he shouted, "Zed! Zed!" as if bellowing would bring enlightenment. "Etres vous simple? It is the last letter of the English alphabet! Comprenez? Zed! S'il vous plait dancez la figure maintenant."
"I'm sorry, Monsieur Gaspar. Would you please show me once more?" Mary asked, flustered beyond despair and on the verge of tears.
"Perhaps, monsieur," a deep-timbered, cultured, and slightly accented voice arrested the dancing master's impending tantrum, "the difficulty lies not so much in the student's lack of aptitude, but in the instructor's method of tuition."
Mary turned to face her would-be rescuer, a vision that stole her breath. Tall and elegant, he was dressed in hues of richly embroidered satin, bedecked with yards of frothy lace, and jewels that would be the envy of any woman, yet paradoxically, there was nothing effeminate about him. He advanced into the room with a languid gait to halt before them, flicking over the Frenchman with inscrutably dark eyes and an expression of frigid hauteur.
It was his eyes that first entranced her, deep-set and piercing indigo-blue beneath straight, dark, brows, that seemed starkly incongruous compared to the fashionable white powdered wig. To Mary, his face was a fascinating study of contrasts, at once strong, proud, and distinctly aristocratic. Yet, the imposing vision he presented was somehow softened by a generous mouth and the most fascinating dimple in his chin. Mary was next riveted to that dimple, and then lastly to the softening curve of his mouth when the stranger inclined his head to her alone, as if the dancing master were completely beneath his notice.
It was an intentional snub that made the Frenchman tremble with indignation. "I will have you know, monsieur, that I am le maitre-de-dance to the very Princesses Royales!"
"I should never make such a confession, were I you," the stranger drawled.
The frenetic little Frenchman puffed his chest. "You think it an idle boast?"
The gentleman chuckled, a low, warm, rumbling sound. "No indeed, monsieur, for I have seen how execrably they dance!"
The Wild Heart - Gina Rossi Excellent romantic historical read.
Review to come!
About Last Night - Ruthie Knox I read very few contemporary romances- maybe 3 a year as they normally don't provide the kind of escape I crave. I'm glad I made an exception for this title. A fabulous (and scorching hot) story of redemptive love.

A Lady's Pleasure

A Lady's Pleasure - Robin Schone REVIEWED FOR ROMANTIC HISTORICAL LOVERS

RHL Classifications

Late Victorian Era

Historical Romance

Heat level 3 (Erotic)

Review rating 5 stars/top pick

While I am not a big fan of "erotica" per se, I do enjoy erotic romance, especially in a historical setting. I do, however, hold these stories to the same standard I set for anything else I read - the story must be well written, well researched, and emotionally compelling. Robin Schone strikes this perfect balance where many other erotic romances fail. I found this story emotionally riveting from the very start. The opening scene:

Rage.

It filled the storm, pounding and striking the night sky. it filled the stranger, fueling and stoking a burning lust.

For a woman.

A woman who knew more of life than surviving one day at a time.

A woman with kindness and passion.

A woman who would share with him her soul as well as her body.

A woman who, perhaps, could give him back his own soul.


Similar to The Lady's Tutor, the first Schone title I ever read, the author addresses the sexual repression of women in the Victorian era, and heroines who secretly balk the society that imprisons them in order to know intimacy and sexual passion.

In A Lady's Pleasure, the heroine, Lady Abigail Wynfred, is a virgin spinster who secretly reads erotica to compensate for her lackluster life. She is also fast approaching her thirtieth birthday and has given up on any hope of finding the passionate love she still craves. Resigned to accept a loveless society marriage rather than none at all, she takes a vacation to an isolated seaside cottage to mourn her dreams before burying them altogether.

Colonel Robert Coally has spent twenty two of his thirty five years killing. Although long battle hardened, he now fears for his own mortality after being wounded. While convalescing at a remote seaside cottage, he realizes he has never truly known a woman's passion, something he desperately wishes to experience before he dies. Fate, in the form of a violent storm, sends him seeking refuge at Abigail's cottage, where in one night, these two unhappy souls find the balm they most need in one another. The sexual encounters are explicit and erotic but also romantic and essential to the characters' respective journeys.

Highly recommended for those seeking a beautifully written, emotionally satisfying, and super steamy read.

This title is currently available in e-book for $2.99
A Lady's Lesson in Seduction - Barbara Monajem 4.5 stars. Loved this holiday novella!
Review to come.
Secrets of a Proper Countess - Lecia Cornwall 3.5 STARS
Findley's Lass - Suzan Tisdale 4.5 stars Review to come...

The Courtship (Windham #0.5)

The Courtship (Windham #0.5) - Grace Burrowes LOVED LOVED LOVED IT!!!
Review to come soon...
Jewel of the East (The Devil DeVere #5) - Victoria Vane EXCERPT
DeVere House, Bloomsbury- 1784
He finally arrived after what seemed like hours. She rushed to him, kneeling and kissing his hand. "Efendi! You have come at last!"
"But of course," he replied, raising her to her feet. "You must know I would never deny you my aid, Salime."
"But I feared with your marriage… that Khanum …" noting his look of discomfort at the mention of his wife, she sank her teeth into her lower lip.
"As I do not have a complete understanding of it myself, I have yet to explain your situation to Diana," he said, "But I am certain she would not have me turn my back on you."
He took her gently by the elbow. "Come Salime. We will retire to share the hookah. Then you will tell me what is troubling you… and how I might assist."
For a close to an hour in chambers much resembling her own in décor, Salime sat contentedly cross-legged at his feet, tending the pipe while he reclined on a divan, smoking and slowly drawing the story from her— the tale of her second great humiliation at the hand of a bitter rival.
"In the end, you will see it is for the best, my dear," he said, blowing purple-cast smoke rings into the air. "You deserve much better than to be a mere plaything rich and idle men."
"But it is what I was trained for, Efendi, to serve a man's pleasure. It is all I know, and I am not ashamed in this. Where I come from, such skills are not only a woman's sole means to achieve a measure of comfort, but to please the sultan and to be raised to the place of favorite mistress or haseki is the greatest of honors—only exceeded by becoming a kadin."
"Kadin? You mean a wife?"
"One of four wives," she corrected. "In my country, to serve the sultan, whether as mistress or wife, is to ensure a lifetime of ease and security, but the English ways are different. Here a mistress has no security and is as readily cast aside as a worn slipper."
"I wish I could argue the truth of it, but even a shoe can be re-soled before it's cast aside."
"Such is true if one has a protector to pay the debt to the cobbler. I did not."
"What will you do now?" he asked.
"I do not yet know, Efendi." She gazed up at him longingly, almost afraid to voice the question that burned in her heart. "I had hoped…"
He shook his head and she felt a crushing weight in her chest. He stroked her cheek as if endeavoring to lessen the blow. "I'm sorry, my dear. The English ways are different in regard to mistresses and wives."
She arched a brow. "Not so very different, Efendi. Why else would such as King's Place. Exist?"
"Point taken," he said with a tight smile. "What I meant is that not all wives accept a man's philandering ways. There are some who expect, nay, demand, exclusivity…fidelity."
"Khanum, the fiery one, she is such a wife?"
"Aye, Salime. And I have sworn my lasting fidelity. I would not break my vow to her even if I wanted to—which I do not. My desire is only for Diana." He took another long draw on the hookah.
"She is the most fortunate of women, Efendi, to merit such devotion."
"My so-called devotion is perhaps a two-edged sword," he chuckled, but then grew sober at her frown. "Given a choice, Salime, would you not also prefer only one man?"
"You know that choice was taken from me, Efendi," she said sadly. "No man would willingly look daily upon this face." She traced the scar she kept hidden from the world. "Even you who I thought…"
He scowled. "Your scar has nothing to do with my decision to forego a mistress, Salime. I think you already know that. Surely there is a man who can see the true jewel that you are—"
"There is none!" she cried. "Only a woman has eyes to see the beauty beneath the skin."
His lips twisted. He handed her the stem. "You think all men are so shallow?"
She returned a sad smile and then drew again from the pipe.
For a long moment he stared up in silence, seemingly transfixed on the colorful silk draped canopy above them. Then his lips curved at the corners. "What if there was such a man, Salime? One capable of perceiving the greater beauty within?"
She snorted. "What if camels could fly?"
His gaze narrowed. "Salime, I would ask a boon of you."
"You know I would do anything for you, Efendi," she replied.
His smile said he was pleased. The knowledge warmed her.
"Thank you, my dear. But perhaps you would hear me out first?"
"As you wish."
"I have a friend, a very dear friend, with a grave dilemma. It is an affliction which requires a unique kind of healing."
"He is in need of a physician?"
"No. The quacks can do nothing for him. Although he physically suffers, it is not truly a physical ailment."
"You mean he is touched in the head?"
"No." he paused as if struggling to explain what he himself did not fully comprehend. "He may believe himself so, for he experienced a great deal of torment that lasted a number of years, but, I don't think it's as bad as all that. "
"I am no healer. I do not understand what you would ask of me."
"I only wish for you to be his companion, Salime. He is in great want of one who understands a man's deepest needs. I am of the belief that you alone could relieve his distress."
"Me? You have such confidence, Efendi?"
"I have every confidence in you, my dear. Simon means a great deal to me. Should you accept this proposition, I would be exceedingly pleased. Moreover, I would provide you most generous compensation."
"It is not for the money that I accept," Salime said. "It is for you, Efendi. You have asked this of me, so how can I refuse?"
He returned a soft smile. "I pray, Salime, that one day you meet a man who will prove himself worthy of such devotion."
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie -  Jennifer Ashley The author is an engaging storyteller who seamlessly weaves in meticulous details without bogging down or distracting the reader from the flow of the story. I LOVED this fabulously original romance with its truly unconventional hero and heroine!

I'm well and truly hooked on the Mackenzies.
Love and War - Maggi Andersen As a fellow writer of historical romance novellas, I always have a mixed reaction when people say they wish one of my stories had been longer, but that's precisely how I felt with this one.

Selena is secretly in love with a man whose offer of marriage she has refused several times because her feelings are unrequited. Lord Devereaux has left Wellington's army for fear his line will die out if he falls in battle but now is in dire need of money to repair his ruined estates. Unromantically, he confesses his reasons upfront and that he will likely make a poor husband. Selena weighs this with the fact that she is tired of living with her sister's family and at least will have a home of her own and a title to boot if she accepts him. She also harbors a secret hope that in time he may return her feelings. The wedding proceeds as planned with all the traditional ritual. The bride and groom depart for a London honeymoon, stopping overnight at and Inn. Selena's nerves are shaken about the wedding night to come... but then her groom disappears without a word.

Although I wished for more history of Selena and Devereaux to show how she actually fell in love with him (or perhaps it was only infatuation all along?) but from the moment he disappeared I was trly hooked on the story. From this point Selena and Devereaux's lives intersect between prolonged intervals, with their marriage remaining unconsummated while the sexual tension continues to coil.
I hate plot spoilers of which I am already guilty, so I won't say more about precisely what kept them apart.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story with it's mixture or romance and intrigue... I just wish it had been longer only to know more about the characters and their history which could only be alluded to given the abbreviated format. I also love espionage stories and would love to have seen thsi developed further. Nevertheless, this was a highly engaging story and a recommended read.

The Devil's Match (The Devil DeVere #4)

The Devil's Match - Victoria Vane MINI-EXCERPT:

DeVere's gaze narrowed. "Why so concerned for my brother? One might think you have feelings for Hew."
"What if I did?" she retorted. "It's no business of yours! Besides, your abominable machinations have already destroyed any potential of that."
DeVere rose and came to her, perching himself on the arm of the settle. "My honorable and straitlaced brother could never satisfy a woman like you, Diana. He could never plumb the depths of your passion...unlock your secret desires."
His voice was low and seductive, and the flickering blue fire in his eyes heated her insides. Diana fiercely tamped down the smoldering sensation that threatened to reignite feelings she'd struggled to suppress. "And what would you know of my wants and desires after four years?"
"A great deal." He gave her a slow, confident smile. "Given that I was the one to unleash them."
Diana averted her face with a bitter laugh. "Thus you presume to have an exclusive claim to me?"
"Has any other exerted one?" he asked softly. He reached out a hand and traced a long, manicured finger along her jaw. "You are still unwed, Diana. Have you taken another lover in my absence?"
"It is none of your business whether I have or not, and you are grossly impertinent to ask."
He laughed long and low. "I think I have my answer."
She glared at him, and thus they remained, silently challenging one another for an interminable beat. Then suddenly his mouth was on hers, taking, possessing, as if it was indeed, his singular privilege.
Diana leaned into him, teasing his lower lip with her tongue and sucking it eagerly into her mouth before sinking her teeth into it. Hard. Savoring the coppery taste of his blood.
"What the hell!" DeVere jerked back with a cry. He touched his lip and examined the crimson stain on his fingertip, his expression a mix of outrage and bemusement.
"You took without invitation," Diana said. "It was a warning not to do so again."

A Wild Night's Bride (The Devil DeVere #1)

A Wild Night's Bride (The Devil DeVere #1) - Victoria Vane Book trailer at http://youtu.be/LrOuTtsByf8

ONE OF MY FAVORITE SCENES:
DeVere, on the other hand, evinced no such qualms. He had already loosened his cravat and was stripping off his coat.
"As I said earlier, there is no need," Phoebe insisted. "A couple of buttons and a raised petticoat are all the business requires."
"How delightfully unromantic you are, my dear!" He chuckled. "But while most men would be charmed to comply with your simple wishes, I have quite another game in mind. One that most definitely requires you to disrobe."
"But what if I don't want to?"
"Oh but you will," he said with a smug smile.
She glared. "You are very sure of yourself!"
He studied his buffed fingernails. "I am sure of Ned. Thus, we must put on a convincing show."
Her brows came together in a deep scowl. "What do you mean? What has Ned to do with this?"
"Everything. And at any moment, I expect him to burst through that door like a raging bull."

VICTORIA'S TITILLATING TIDBITS:
While I would never presume to call A WILD NIGHT'S BRIDE anything more than a diverting work of romantic fiction, there were a number of intriguing historical facts that came together to form this story:

• In 1783, the Drury Lane theatre did, indeed, close for renovations

• Mrs. Hannah Cowley's The Belle's Stratagem was a wildly popular play and a favorite of the Royal Family who commanded it nearly every season.

• Charlotte Hayes presented a subscription only Otahetian Feast of Venus at her King's Place brothel- details of the illicit gathering can be found in Nocturnal revels: or, The history of King's-place, and other modern nunneries, M. Goadby, Pater-noster-row, 1779

• George IV, as an eighteen year old Prince of Wales did, indeed, have an illicit affair with actress Mary Robinson that began with a love letter addressed to Perdita and signed Florizel.
description

He also had a custom of taking locks of hair from his lovers. Upon his death as King George IV, over one thousand of these were discovered. For more details, see my Georgian Junkie blog George IV: An Indolent Enigma at: http://georgianjunkie.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/the-four-georges-part-v/



Hot Under the Collar - Jackie Barbosa 3.5 stars

"The good Lord had a devilish sense of humor. That was the only possible explanation for the series of events that had led inexorably toward Walter Langston's current predicament. To be fair, there was nothing amusing in the accident that had brought an abrupt end to his nascent-albeit not very promising militray career. If he had been shot in the arse or even the foot, the story would at least have made good fodder for post-prandial gatherings, but when the errant bullet struck one's collarbone and left one with less than the full use of and adjoining arm, there wasn't a great deal to laugh about."

The author then explains that his accident left him with only one remotely acceptable option:
"The one to which he as third son of an aristocrat had purported been born, but which he had misspent the majority of his youth proving himself unfit for: Walter Langston, who had never in his life been a model of either piety or propriety, was now a vicar."

This could easily have been a four star (or higher)book for me if only for the huge risk the author took with the male protagonist!

I never could have imagined a clergyman as a hero of an non-inspirational romance, but Walter Langston, even as a vicar is no model of propriety. This, however, is very typical of the age in which the church was largely an institution based on politics and patronage, with relatively few entering the clergy as their "calling." The church was for many, as with Walter, simply one of few acceptable vocations for a gentlemen.

The interesting thing is although Walter is neither devout nor pious, he actually proves himself both a capable and compassionate leader of his small parish, which happens to include a beautiful former courtesan named Artemisia Finch— a woman for whom he quickly develops a most ungodly passion.

Artemisia, a gentlewoman by birth, was ruined ten years earlier when she was seduced by an earl's son who then accuses her of being the village strumpet. Shunned afterward by the villagers, she leaves for London to spend several years as a high level mistress, returning years later only to care for her ailing father.

Walter recognizes her as a woman he once coveted in his youth and can't help desiring her once more, especially since she is no longer beyond his reach.

A clergyman and a courtesan. This combination should have been wrong in innumerable ways, but somehow the author made it work. Walter is portrayed very sympathetically as a man with flaws, as one who is conflicted between doing what is right and his own carnal nature.

He cannot help asking questions about Artemisia. When he learns how shabbily she was treated, it only increases his interest in her. Given that he was a self-professed skirt-chaser in his former life, and being brand new to his profession, he does not shrug off his old nature like an overcoat.

He ultimately gives in to his fierce attraction to her and the attraction turns out to be more than mutual. They almost immediately engage in an illicit affair.

The affair itself really isn't all that sexually explicit, nor is it very romantic. It actually left me wanting in both respects. This is not only because I had qualms about the immoral nature of their relationship. Although I did struggled with this, given Walter's chosen profession, it was not as much as I would have thought.

While I wished he had acted with more circumspection and actually courted her,that's not how the story goes.

Yet, I still found that I forgave Walter for his misconduct because their relationship was a mutual decision, not a seduction, and he does fall in love with her in the end and acts honorably at that point.

What I found heartwarming in this story, however, is Walter's evolution, his discovering a sense of purpose to his life that was previously lacking, and how well he actually performs his role as a shepherd to his flock. He legitimately cares for the people, but being more pragmatic than pious, he seeks to help everyone with their problems in the most practical ways - and does a wonderful job of it.

Ms. Barbosa's writing is excellent in every way and had there been more romantic development before the sex,and more emotion in the act itself,this book could easily have been five stars for me.

Note: While I would describe the first book in this series The Lesson Plan as an erotic romance, I think this one was much tamer. I will definitely be reading the third book in this series.
A Matter of Indiscretion(Coming in November)
A Duke's Desire - Liz Cole This short novella (I think it's about 15K words) had so much potential to be more but there just wasn't enough page time to do the character's and story justice, so it became rather a sex fest.
The intimacy was far too rushed and far too advanced for my preference and the language the hero used was very coarse and vulgar which seemed so out of character from where he began but many readers of erotica seem to enjoy this.