Review: Blue Like Elvis


Title: Blue Like Elvis
Author: Diane Moody
Publisher: Green Darner Press
Release Date: March 2012
Length: 370 pages
Series?: Moody Blue #2
Genre: Historical, Christian, Romance

Do you remember where you were the day Elvis died?
I do. I know exactly where I was.
I was there.

In the spring of 1977, Shelby Colter moved back to Memphis, Tennessee hoping to make a fresh start after breaking off her engagement. Working as a patient representative hostess at Baptist Memorial Hospital–the world’s largest private hospital–she’s thrilled with her new job, assisting patients with their non-medical needs. She has to laugh at her colorful co-workers who constantly chat about Elvis-sightings. After all, Baptist Memorial was “Elvis’s hospital.”

Shelby hits the ground running, taking care of her patients, getting to know her new friends, and bumping into . . . Dr. Tucker Thompson? Who knew that annoying kid who used to hang out with her big brother was now a resident at Baptist Memorial Hospital? Little Chubby Tucker–a compassionate, handsome doctor?

As the summer rolls along, three people she loves face life-threatening situations, drawing Shelby back to her faith. And then one night, in a hospital prayer room, she pours out her heart to a most unexpected visitor . . .

Blue Like Elvis is loosely based on the author’s real-life experiences while working at Baptist Memorial Hospital in the summer of 1977. While most of the novel is fiction, the setting of Shelby’s adventures are based on the author’s memories of those days in Memphis leading up to that unforgettable day . . . the day Elvis died

Find the book: Goodreads Amazon

my review

The Skinny

After graduating college, Shelby moves back to Memphis to start over after breaking off her engagement. It’s the summer of 1977 and her college roommate helps her land a job at Baptist Memorial Hospital as a “hostess.” The hostess team operates similarly to stewardesses. They attend to non-medical needs of the patients by visiting them, running errands, and anything else the patients may need. Shelby is particularly good at what she does and has a few constant patients whose stories impact her greatly.

The thing about BMH is that is the world’s largest private hospital. It is also Elvis’s hospital, Shelby soon learns. Whenever needed, Elvis takes over the 16th floor for one of his two-week “stays.” Shelby has had a few sightings of Elvis, but it isn’t until she grasps that he is in her hospital that she takes a particular interest in him, even sneaking her patient friend Donnie to see him, ending in a hilarous and heart-beating episode.

Her coworkers on the hostess team are young, Christian girls who like to chatter and flounder when the boss isn’t around. They are an interesting mix and fun-loving and playful. The contrast to their setting didn’t go unnoticed, and when Dr. Tucker Thompson takes an interest in striking a frienship with Shelby, there is nothing but talk. And confusion. This is Chubby Tucker – her brother’s best friend and boy from her childhood that picked on her. He was annoying and obnoxious. Now he’s handsome and kind. As all the girls try to push Shelby into a match, she must work things out on her own, take things slow, and focus on her faith.


The Players

Shelby Colter – a young girl fresh out of college; hired by Baptist Memorial Hospital as a “hostess”

Tucker Thompson – the chubby kid who was friend to Shelby’s brother; he is now a doctor at BMH


Sandra Garcia – the feisty Puerto Rican in the hostess program with Shelby; they become friends and roommates

The Quote

 “That shy little girl I had to coax to sit on my knee? That was you?” His smile grew bigger.

The Highs and Lows

  • The Plot. The story is told as a flashback of memories. It opens with a young man seeking out the elderly Shelby to research the hostess program that was at Baptist Memorial Hospital, the largest private hospital in the world at its time. The hostess program worked very similar to attending stewardesses at the time. The young man wants to implement a similar program at his own hospital and gets swept up in Shelby’s stories that he wants to hear them all. Her past and Elvis’s final day unfold.
  • Elvis. You don’t have to be an Elvis fan to enjoy this story. I happen to be one thanks to the love my grandmother had for him. Growing up, when a certain aunt and uncle would come to visit, they would bring her an Elvis record. Elvis brought a change to the music industry and was an insane success. While the book never directly speaks to drug use, it only hints to that being rumors and what people said, and disregarded it as factual, but several times pointed out that Baptist Memorial was “Elvis’s hospital” for his “stays” to get back right with the world, like it is a retreat and not a hospital.  Elvis appeared a few times throughout the book, and I loved the way he would talk to the other characters. He wasn’t a big star, he was another person. It only increased my wish that I could have met Elvis, but that was another lifetime. Shelby really didn’t get the big Elvis draw, despite meeting him as a child and her father being “Cadillac Jack,” Elvis’s Caddy dealer. After working at the hospital for a time, she becomes interested in Elvis. His costumes to hide in plain sight were slightly comical, especially the final one toward the end.
  • Christian Overtones. I have made it a point before that I don’t read pushy religious material. While this is a very conscientious Christian book, it didn’t feel pushy. It just felt right for Shelby and her friends. Seeing the shaken foundation and the strength of their faith was rewarding and reassuring. The Singles Club is a group of young professionals at the church that host get-togethers and fellowship. There are some comedic moments with Pedro the Yellow Headed Amazon, the Killer Bs who are socially awkward, hit on all the girls, and have a spectacular fireworks display.
  • Quick and Fun. This is such a quick read. The writing immersed me in the stories Shelby told and I felt like I was there. The retelling of her memories was sweet, sentimental, funny, but they didn’t leave out the bad, either. It wasn’t a rose-colored glasses retelling, and I appreciated that.
  • Heavy. I won’t say it’s light. When Shelby comes up against some trials, they test her trust. This is how she first meets the Reverand. Later this is how she first meets a man wearing a turquoise bracelet in a hospital prayer room. It is none other than Elvis, and they are both there to pray for the same man. They share an incredible few moments wrapped in love and faith, and Elvis leaves a memento for Shelby. Shelby’s brother also finally comes home from Vietnam. He is not the same despite what he shows to his family. His behavior breaks her trust in Tucker, who only tries to help.
  • The Ending. This was such a twist! Even when retelling, the young man doesn’t believe Shelby’s story of her 10-year anniversary trip to Hawaii. It isn’t until she shows him a stack of Christmas cards that he believes the unimaginable. The ending gave me hope that perhaps something like that did happen and no one is the wiser.


Born in Texas and raised in Oklahoma, Diane Hale Moody is a graduate of Oklahoma State University. She lives with her husband Ken in the rolling hills just outside of Nashville. They are the proud parents of two grown and extraordinary children, Hannah and Ben.

Just after moving to Tennessee in 1999, Diane felt the tug of a long-neglected passion to write again. Since then, she’s written a column for her local newspaper, feature articles for various magazines and curriculum, and several novels with a dozen more stories eagerly vying for her attention.

When she’s not reading or writing, Diane enjoys an eclectic taste in music and movies, great coffee, the company of good friends, and the adoration of a peculiar little pooch named Darby.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads


Review: The Unwanted Heiress


Title: The Unwanted Heiress
Author: Amy Corwin
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: July 2013
Length: 328 pages
Series?: The Archer Family #1
Genre: Historical Romance

An American heiress nobody wants; a Duke every woman is after, and a murder no one expects. 

When Nathaniel, Duke of Peckham, meets Charlotte, he’s suspicious of her indifference. Too many women have sought—and failed—to catch him. However, Charlotte is more interested in dead pharaohs than English dukes.

Unfortunately, a debutante seeking to entrap Nathaniel gets murdered, and his reputation as a misogynist makes him a suspect. On impulse, Charlotte comes to his aid, not realizing that her actions may place her in danger, too.

Both are unaware that a highwayman interested in rich heiresses is following Charlotte, and that another debutante lies dead in Nathaniel’s carriage.

Some nights just don’t go as planned.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Charlotte Haywood is an unfortunate American in England. She has bounced from relative to relative who have cast her off, waiting until she is of age to take control of her inheritance and properties. She is extremely intelligent, a bluestocking, and she is outlandishly out of place in England as a tall, red-headed woman who stands out and above the crowd. She is passed over time and time again. It is a lonely, dejected life of misery for Charlotte, knowing her relatives don’t want her – despite her wealth. Her guardian, Westover, uses her heiress and wealth factor to use as ante in a card game, and when John Archer wins the pot with all aces (despite his nephew holding an ace in his hand). When Charlotte arrives, she is sure she will be sent away.

John Archer and his wife are an adorable couple, but he seems to have a little meddling on his hands when it comes to his nephew, Nathaniel, who recently came into a dukedom. They hatch some incredible schemes together. The Duke has so many women throwing themselves at him, hiding in his bedchamber or coach, that he is at risk for being roped into an unwanted marriage. He is dodging and hiding out from women. Then debutantes start dropping like flies around the Duke – and a murderer is on the loose.


The Players

Miss Charlotte Haywood – an American colonial heiress who requires a guardian until she is of-age

Lord Nathaniel Archer – the Duke of Peckham, recently inherited; Archer’s nephew

John Archer – Nathaniel’s uncle; aka Archer

Lady Victoria Archer – John’s husband


The Quote

“Then let me clarify my position, Your Grace. I would rather get down on my hands and knees and scrub the floors for eternity in Hades than marry you.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Charlotte. Poor girl. Her physical characteristics make her off-putting and overlooked in London society. She is a tall woman with red hair. Not what a man is seeking in a darling debutante. She is a bluestocking and wants to pursue an Egyptian excavation – not just fund it, either. She wants to be on site! Charlotte is a woman out of depth in her time, but she is extremely wealthy. Unfortunately for her in London society, she’s an American colonial heiress. It’s a blackmark against her already, in addition to her features and intelligence. The stark contrast only furthers the notion of how alone Charlotte is in the world as an orphan. She has been booted from family member to family member as her guardians until the time comes when she is eligible to take hold of her inheritance.
  • The Archers. The couple is adorable! They obviously love one another, and wife is looking out for her husband. I could see why with some of his hair-brained schemes! Archer has a gambling problem and apparently cheats at cards, so it brings into question the state of the Archer finances if he has to resort to cheating.
  • The Winnings. Charlotte’s current guardian has had enough of her, so he includes her in his ante. He will be rid of her and her disreputable antics and someone else will be left to manage her property and finances. While her wealth seems like a coup, her manners will have Londoners seeing red. The Archers gain Charlotte by “winning” a game of cards. Unexpected, but they are determined she not find out how she came under their guardianship. It would be humiliating and devastating. Not to mention they’re not even related.
  • The Murders. London ladies start popping up expired in the most unusual circumstances – and the Duke of Peckham is always around. He is a self-proclaimed misogynist and hates women. He has not interested in marrying, despite the dozens of women throwing themselves at him, hiding in his bedchamber to compromise her, forcing a marriage. When the first woman is found dead in the gardens, there are a few who staunchly point fingers at the Duke and continue to do so when the second lady is found murdered in his own coach. While the murders themselves are gruesome and sad, there was something odd about them. As I said, it seemed only a finger pointing game. One individual kept dogging Scotland Yard and the scandal sheets, who didn’t seem to have any real evidence besides witness testimonies and hearsay. There didn’t seem to be much of a true investigation, but I suppose they were different in the days of nobility. The Duke repeatedly commented that SY would not dare arrest a duke. Once was enough, but the repetition only brought out the disconnect he had with the gravity of the murders and highlighted how his sudden dukedom had gone to his head. It didn’t seem anyone was really taking the murdered women seriously aside from their families. The murders do motivate the Duke to become engaged, though. If he’s engaged, he can’t be a misogynist and therefore not the murderer.
  • Lady Beatrice. When Charlotte was sent to boarding school, she met Lady Beatrice, who was the ugliest person ever. She makes a wonderful villain. She is evil to her core, stamping a footman’s hand into broken glass, and as a child throwing ice water out the window onto Charlotte in the freezing cold. She has her sights set on the Duke and has an unnatural hatred for Charlotte.
  • Downfall. After doing his job as guardian, Archer discovers some major discrepancies with Charlotte’s inheritance and colonial property. What was once a lucrative inheritance and holdings, over the years gross oversight and impropriety and sticky fingers have left Charlotte with only a third or so of what her inheritance and holdings were. It is a devastating blow that cripples her dreams of an Egyptian archaeological dig. She is also kidnapped and held for ransom. After it is all over, it seemed very staged – as the investigator thought as well. Where she was held was very interesting. That idea backfired and had the opposite result of what was desired.

I found this to be an odd mix of character and plot lines. It seemed like things were off to a good start and then the tracks were secretly switched. Things started spiraling in too many directions at times. I thought Charlotte’s character was unique and fresh. Her feeling of displacement is a little heartbreaking. I’d want to go on an Egyptian dig, too! Nathaniel, on the other hand, was a narcissistic snob. An eligible duke is always going to garner more attention than the lower gentry, but I found it highly out of place that young women of the ton would be hiding in his bedroom. Perhaps once it could happen with a brazen and bold lady, but not every night. There were some inconsistencies that caused a bit of confusion as I read, and I would have liked to have seen the kidnapping more fleshed out. Archer intrigued me, though. He could have his own book! I can’t imagine what else he could get up to without supervision.



Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and recently joined Mystery Writers of America. She has been writing for the last ten years and managing a career as an enterprise systems administrator in the computer industry. She writes Regencies/historicals, mysteries, and contemporary paranormals. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Never Trust a Pirate


Title: Never Trust a Pirate
Author: Valerie Bowman
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: May 2017
Length: 309 pages
Series?: Playful Brides #7
Genre: Historical Romance

The rules of engagement were never so scandalous. . .

A rumored pirate and the scurrilous black sheep of his well-to- do family, Cade Cavendish relishes his world of rebellion, deception, and seduction. Nothing and no one can hold him to be the duty-bound, honorable man he is expected to be. But when an unexpected run-in at his twin brother’s estate with a ravishing, raven-haired maid leads her to believe he’s actually a viscount, Cade’s renegade life is thrown wildly off-kilter. And even though a case of mistaken identity can be quickly set to rights, matters of the heart are quite different…

Miss Danielle LaCrosse is startled to learn that the handsome gentleman who radiates sin and has the devil in his eyes is not her employer the Viscount, but rather his infamous brother. A former heiress, orphaned and left penniless, Danielle has more than a few secrets of her own. Cade may be skilled at coaxing even the most hidden desires out of Danielle but can he earn her trust–and win her heart–as they embark on an adventure to confront a dangerous enemy from both of their pasts . . . and uncover the identity of the so-called Black Fox along the way?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon


my review

The Skinny

Frenchwoman Danielle feels out of her element entirely as she undergoes her last undercover mission. After this, she’ll be able to purchase a cottage by the sea and care for her mother until her final days. But first she must successfully infiltrate the Cavendish home as Lady Daphne’s new lady’s maid. Danielle’s a spy, she doesn’t know how to coif women’s hair! Let alone the latest fashions. After a crash course, she is sent on her way.

What Danielle didn’t expect in her new position was incredible kindness and friendship from Daphne Cavendish and her husband, a former spy himself. The stakes are high, and it tears Daphne to deceive them. When a drunken Rafe makes improper advances upon Daphne, she’s in a terrible position…until she learns it is not Rafe at all. It is his twin brother Cade, long thought dead even by Rafe.

Cade’s return to London is no coincidence. And neither is the Black Fox’s. While living under Rafe’s roof, it is crucial that Cade keep the true facts of his mission to himself. He can’t have Rafe suspecting anything is awry, but after reappearing in London using an alias, there are a lot of questions.


The Players

Danielle LaCrosse – a Frenchwoman working as a spy for General Grimaldi; she is determined to provide for her continuing ailing mother

Rafe Cavendish – a former spy for the War Office, now know as the Viscount Spy

Lady Daphne – Rafe’s wife; she is a kind and friendly woman

Cade Cavendish – a rakish rogue thought long-dead; he returns to London on personal mission

General Mark Grimaldi – the tall, broad, dark giant of a man with secrets; an English General; Danielle’s boss

The Quote

If it was the last thing Cade did, he would avenge his brother’s treatment at the hands of the French. But he’d die before admitting that purpose to Rafe. Cade’s role as the black sheep of the family was important to him. Mustn’t disrupt the natural order of things.

The Highs and Lows

  • Espionage. Rafe Cavendish was a spy for the War Office. He was the white sheep of their family, and was awarded a viscount title, dubbed the “Viscount Spy.” While he was doing everything to charm the ton, his twin brother Cade was doing everything to earn a disgraceful reputation. While Rafe has retired after a bungled mission that nearly took his life – and did take Daphne’s brother’s – Cade wonders if he really is done. While Cade suspects Rafe, he also fears Rafe suspects he is the notorious Black Fox. Whenever Cade comes into town, it appears so does the Black Fox. This time he has struck a French vessel in the harbor and stolen incriminating documents for Napoleon’s rescue from St. Helena. Cade has come back to England for a reason, and it raises suspicions with General Grimaldi.
  • Danielle. She is a Frenchwoman in English territory. Even though it has been a few years, there is still a vein of deep-seated hatred in some. When her French father was murdered, her English mother was condemned and imprisoned in England. Now she is old, ailing, and very ill and Danielle is a woman wanting revenge. Whereas she should have been making a debut to society, Danielle could not afford that luxury. She is desperately in need for consistent income to provide for her ailing mother. At age 13, Danielle was on her own. She was an enterprising smuggler and now a spy. Her home is on a ship, but her new mission lands her as a new lady’s maid to Lady Daphne Cavendish. This should be the last mission she needs to take before being able to purchase the cottage by the sea for her mother. Despite having no experience in the lady’s maid field, she is trained by the best of lady’s maids and impresses Lady Daphne. Danielle strives to do the best of jobs above and beyond Lady Daphne’s satisfaction. She is very confident in her personal capabilities, but it is soon realized she does not have her own network of supports. It has been her forever. When Daphne and Rafe and their household show her kindness, she is surprised by the offers of help. Friendship is new territory for her.
  • Cade. He has set his cover up well to be known as a disreputable rogue. He is the black sheep, letting his brother lead the way doing everything right. Like his brother, Cade is a man of his own. Unlike his brother, he still has secrets. Depending on what part of town he is in depends on which alias he uses. Cade does not want to raise Rafe surmising suspicions about what he has been up to over the years when he shocked Rafe by showing up the previous year at a townhouse party and introducing himself as Daffin Oakleaf. Rafe – like everyone – had thought him dead! Cade is back for one reason and he is not cluing his brother in. In fact, he wants his brother to never know even the barest hint of anything. He – like Grim and Danielle – is lying in wait for Lafayette Baptiste.
  • Secrets Revealed. Danielle and Cade are thrown together under the same roof, and while Danielle is trying to keep everything above board for her job’s sake, Cade has a different agenda. Slowly each of them reveals their own vulnerabilities and secrets to one another. It is a spicy and sweet build up. The dance in the moonlight was such a tender and sweet moment. Cade has long suffered under the guise of being the black sheep, stemming from his inability to protect his mother growing up. Danielle has dedicated everything to her mother and her care. Their quips and small talks help develop their
  • The Trail. With all three trailing Baptiste, Danielle is assigned a new mission. To be a cook’s assistant on board a ship keeping tabs on Baptiste. Little does she know whose ship it is. Well underway, she is brought to the captain’s quarters – and comes face to face with none other than Cade Cavendish. Their mission takes on a new element and keeps them ensconced in the captain’s quarters for several days. There is a steamy tub scene!

The pirate and espionage factors heightened my interest and the suspense threaded throughout that kept me wondering how and when the two subplots of Danielle and Cade would cross. They both shoulder burdens from their pasts, and despite how they appear, they both want the adoring love and support that Rafe and Daphne have for one another. Ultimately, these spies want someone constant and stable in their lives they can trust. Who better than another spy? The irony of Rafe and Cade being identical twins yet having drastically different reputations was a stark contrast, but after delving deeper Cade’s aliases were as make-believe as his black sheep persona. They are both honorable, upstanding men. I found Cade’s ability to truly see Danielle beyond a lady’s maid to be a testament to his true character. The fact that both Danielle and Cade are notorious spies in their own rights only made things that much more interesting with the plot line. I was waiting until one found the other out! The quick pace of the storyline kept me turning pages.



Valerie Bowman is an award-winning author who writes Regency-set historical romance novels aka Racy Regency Romps!

Valerie’s debut novel was published in 2012. Since then, her books have received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus. She’s been an RT Reviewers’ Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance and Best Historical Romance Love and Laughter. Two of her books have been nominated for the Kirkus Prize for fiction.

Valerie grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English Language and Literature with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her rascally dogs. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Duke with Benefits


Title: Duke with Benefits
Author: Manda Collins
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: June 2017
Length: 320 pages
Series?: Studies in Scandal #2
Genre: Historical Romance


Lady Daphne Forsyth is a brilliant mathematician with a burning passion for puzzles. When she learns that the library belonging to her benefactress houses the legendary Cameron Cipher―an encrypted message that, once solved, holds the key to great riches―Daphne is on the case. Unfortunately, her race to unlock the cipher’s code is continually thwarted by a deliciously handsome distraction she hadn’t counted on. . .and cannot resist.

Dalton Beauchamp, the Duke of Maitland, is curious as to why Daphne is spending so much time snooping around his aunt’s bookshelves. He’s even more intrigued by her bold yet calculating manner: She is unapologetic about her secret quest. . .and the fiery attraction that develops between them both. But how can they concentrate on solving a perplexing enigma once the prospect of true love enters the equation?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Lady Daphne Forsyth is a mathematical genius of her time. She is incredibly intelligent but suffers severely in social situations. She and three other young women were named heirs of Lady Celeste, a woman known in her own right for own scholarly accomplishments. She wanted to leave her extensive library and Beauchamp House to female scholars who would put them to good use. Each lady is intelligent and independent and has their own subject of study. Combined, they are an incredible powerhouse of knowledge. Lady Celest left instructions for the women to reside at Beauchamp House for a year. She also left a letter for each woman.

Daphne’s letter contained a riddle she must work out. Puzzles and codes are one of the things Daphne is the best at. Lady Celest left Daphne to find the notorious Cameron Cipher, which Daphne believes is housed somewhere in the Beauchamp House library. Not only does she need to find the cipher, Daphne needs to solve it. The Cameron Cipher leads to gold the Cameron clan hid after the uprising.

Lady Celeste also encouraged Daphne to use the assistance of her nephew, Dalton Beauchamp, the Duke of Maitland, who is enamored of Daphne upon meeting her. Since Daphne has secrets of her own, she keeps her letter and challenge to herself. When Nigel Sommersby, her childhood tutor’s son, pops up nearby and makes mention of the Cameron Cipher, she must reveal the secret in Lady Celeste’s letter. Everyone at Beauchamp House is willing to help her, but Daphne wants to go it alone…until Sommersby is found dead in the library and someone takes a shot at Daphne there in the dark. Under the suspicion of murder, the Beauchamp House residents are all on the hunt for the murderer and the Cipher.


The Players

Lady Daphne Forsyth

Miss Sophia Hastings – one of the heiresses

Miss Gemma Hastings – one of the heiresses

Miss Ivy Wareham – one of the heiresses; affianced to Lord Kerr

Lady Serena – the chaperone for the ladies; she is Dalton’s sister

Dalton Beauchamp – the Duke of Maitland and Lady Celeste’s nephew

Lord Kerr –  the Marquess of Kerr and Ivy’s fiance

The Quote

 “As it was the first time I’d seen a dead body, sir,” she said with her usual forthrightness, “it was indeed most disturbing. I do not recommend it.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Beauchamp House. Lady Celest, a strong-willed female scholar, is determined to have her heirs follow her wishes. She has selected four young female scholars and left a letter for each of them. For Lady Daphne, hers included the challenge to find and solve the Cameron Cipher. All of the ladies are residing at Beauchamp House, which is rumored to house the cipher. The Cameron Cipher is not only known to Daphne. While she is on the hunt for it, so are others. That is when things begin to go drastically wrong and people from her past start popping up.
  • Daphne’s Background. Daphne is a highly intelligent woman, specifically with numbers and codes. Growing up her father used her abilities for his own gain to cheat at cards in the clubs and at other social events attended by the ton. Her father could not survive without her, so as a young teen, she uses that to her advantage to blackmail him for a tutor. She wanted to learn, she wanted to use her talents to their fullest extent. Given the time period, this was highly unusual for a female. In order to preserve his lifestyle and livelihood by exploiting his daughter, her lowlife father agrees to hire a tutor who can truly teach her and help her further her studies. The tutor brought his son with him.
  • Daphne’s Struggle. Always Daphne has been extremely smart but highly ineffective and awkward in social settings. The niceties and conventions of society are beyond comprehension to Daphne. She doesn’t know why you’d waste time talking about the weather just to be polite. She is never comfortable in social settings and will try to hedge or avoid them if possible. She is very forthright and forthcoming in conversation. Based on what Daphne shares with the other ladies and with Dalton, it is fairly obvious she suffers greatly from anxiety and seems like a classic case of the most high-functioning end of the Asperger’s spectrum. That’s why she propositions Dalton.
  • Dalton. He is an honorable man who has a strong ethical compass. He believes in what is right. Witnessing his father’s treatment of women throughout his life, Dalton chooses to live his life differently. He suddenly becomes protective of Daphne and wants to see her through the events unfolding. He understood and accepted Daphne just as she was, gaining Daphne’s trust. He respected Daphne as a woman, as an intelligent being, and with the anxiety and ineptitude she harbored for social settings.
  • Daphne’s Secret. When Sommersby’s body is found, leading to an investigation, Daphne reveals the secrets contained in her letter from Lady Celeste, but there are more secrets that she has been keeping for years. Ever since Sommersby and his father resided in her home. While the other ladies of the household don’t wish to push Daphne to fully reveal the extent of her shame. She does later reveal it to Dalton. Before the rest of the story comes out, it is just more kindling for the fire of Daphne being investigated for the murder. When Daphne’s wretched father makes a sudden appearance, demanding she return home with him, Dalton steps in and announces their engagement. Even though she is shocked by Dalton’s claim, it has the power to protect her. Never would her father make these ridiculous demands if she were to marry a duke.

The ladies of Beachump House have growing relationships and are darling. They are true friends and supporters, just as Lord Kerr and Dalton are. Together they all help Daphne realize her full potential as an individual and help her grow and learn more about herself. They care for her, trust her, and keep her safe. Daphne has a rich and unique history and as a result, she is a very flawed character. Her anxiety (and Asperger’s IMO) helps explain the consequence of her father’s treatment of her and her fear of people in general. I was fascinated with the treasure hunt for the Cameron Cipher (and the actual treasure, of course), but the death of Sommersby is what ratcheted the plot to a different level with more intensity.



Manda Collins spent her teen years wishing she’d been born a couple of centuries earlier, preferably in the English countryside. Time travel being what it is, she resigned herself to life with electricity and indoor plumbing, and read lots of books. An affinity for books led to a graduate degree in English, followed by another in Librarianship. By day, she works as an academic librarian at a small liberal arts college, where she teaches college students how to navigate the tangled world of academic research. A native of coastal Alabama, Manda lives in the house her mother grew up in with two cats, sometimes a dog, sometimes her sister, and always lots of books.

Find the author: Twitter | Goodreads

Review: My One True Highlander


Title: My One True Highlander
Author: Suzanne Enoch
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: April 2017
Length: 320 pages
Series?: No Ordinary Hero #2
Genre: Historical Romance

Rugged highlander Graeme has one thing on his mind—take a stand against the horrible Englishman Lattimer and he will be rewarded with enough money to be set for life. But when his reckless younger brothers take it one step too far and kidnaps a young woman on her way to see Lattimer, Graeme has to intervene. He cannot send the lady back without his kin getting in trouble. And when a damsel this beautiful is dropped into your lap, it’s hard to let her go…

Marjorie should be terrified she’s been captured by Highland scoundrels, but it’s hard to live in terror when your captor is a devilishly handsome and sinfully tempting as Graeme is. She cannot stay by his side forever—no matter how her heart may pound at the thought—but Graeme seems to have other plans. This wicked Highlander is out to seduce her and doesn’t plan to stop until she’s in his arms…forever…

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my review

The Skinny

No one is more surprised than Marjorie Forrester when her older brother Gabriel, a soldier in the Royal military, is bequeathed a dukedom. Suddenly their whole lives change. Marjorie moves from the life of a servicewoman to the life of a lady in the London ton. Despite her new stature, she is not readily accepted – and if truth be told, not to be accepted at all. It takes it toll on Marjorie, who is also now suffering under the strict and nagging direction of her new lady’s companion, Mrs. Giswell. Hortensia has to set things right and clear her name; her previous charge suffered serious scandal that was irrecoverable. Stained by her failure, she is now determined that nothing shall go slightly astray with Lady Marjorie. When Marjorie receives word that her brother plans to marry soon, Marjorie resolutely decides to leave immediately for Scotland to surprise her brother for his nuptials.

What Marjorie didn’t know when Gabriel became a Duke and she set out on her journey is that she is traipsing around the Highlands right in the midst of a clan war – and her brother is embroiled in it to the hilt. When Lattimer came into the MacKitrrick property (a Maxwell chieftan), all of the tenants sided with the English Lattimer – and against the Maxwell, Duke of Dunncraigh. Thus they lost their presence in the Maxwell clan and claimed Lattimer as Laird MacKittrick, pledging allegiance to him.

When The Maxwell visits Graeme Maxwell, a viscount, it is not a pleasant visit. It is an ultimatum. Fix the Lattimer situation, or be fixed. Graeme is already working toward acquiring funds to build up his own clan, keep things running and keep himself out of Maxwell’s war with Lattimer. Graeme’s younger brothers overhear the threatening conversation and aim to save Garaidh nan Leomhann and their brother. When they discover Lady Marjorie Forrester, the Duke of Lattimer’s sister, traveling nearby, they kidnap her and bring her home to the Lion’s Den. Now Graeme has hell of a mess on his hands, and he only sees one solution to solve all of the potentially life-threatening problems surrounding Lady Marjorie’s presence in his home. Appearances are not as they would appear though. The rugged and rough Highlander has a lot more tenderness and compassion than meets the eye. Not long after being held captive, Marjorie finds

Not long after being held captive, Marjorie finds way to escape…right into the arms of Sir Hamish Paulk, the Maxwell’s lapdog. Explaining her way out of this unpredictable meeting earns Graeme’s trust and respect, but their acquaintance doesn’t end there. Soon Marjorie is also seeing things in a new light under the tenderness of her Highland captor. She must ultimately decide if she wants to spend her life returning to her miserable life in London, or remaining with the loving family in the Highlands.

Soon Marjorie is also seeing things in a new light under the tenderness of her Highland captor. She must ultimately decide if she wants to spend her life returning to her miserable life in London, or remaining with the loving family in the Highlands.


The Players

Lady Marjorie  Forrester – a ladies companion whose brother recently became a duke, skyrocketing her from servicewoman to nobility; now the Duke of Lattimer’s sister; she craves to be accepted by the harsh London society

Gabriel Forrester – Duke of Lattimer; Marjorie’s older brother; he is English (or Sassenach) and a former soldier

Mrs. Hortensia Giswell – Marjorie’s lady’s companion; she’s already had ruin with a previous charge; determined to redeem herself by keeping Marjorie in line

Graeme Maxton- Viscount Maxton; landowner of Garaidh nan Leomhann, also known as the Lion’s Den

Brendan – Graeme’s 16 year old brother; he is very hotheaded and intent on doing things his way

Dughlas – Graeme’s 14 year old brother; he is much more level-headed

Connell – Graeme’s 8 year old brother; often called duckling; sweet and kind

Raibeart Maxton – Graeme’s uncle

Artur Maxwell – aka the Maxwell; Duke of Dunncraigh and clan chief; he is displeased with losing tithes and tenants to the English Duke of Lattimer

Sir Hamish Paulk – The Maxwell’s henchman; a hateful and vengeful man

The Quotes

Marjorie didn’t feel at all triumphant or vindicated, though. She made a show of gathering the sheets around her and standing, anything to avoid his gaze. It didn’t matter a whit if she’d hurt his feelings; she wasn’t the villain of this piece. But it felt like it mattered, liked she’d…cheated or something.

He simply wanted her, and that had nothing to do with what an alliance with her could do for his corner of clan Maxwell. He wanted to know that a lovely duke’s sister desired a near destitute Scottish clan chieftan who mended fences and sheared sheep and delivered calves with his own two damned hands.

The Highs and Lows

  • Pacing. It took a long while for me to become invested in the storyline due to the pacing and some confusion about who was who and relationships in the very beginning with all the clan business. I had to go back and restart this book. For the first quarter or so of the book, it was slow going and I wanted to set it aside, but quickly picked up once Marjorie is kidnapped.
  • Marjorie’s Struggles. Marjorie has been elevated from the capacity of a servicewoman all of a sudden into not only the nobility but the cream of the crop of nobility. Now she’s the sister of a duke. However, her sudden change and elevation in stature do not open doors to the gentry or the London ton. No matter how hard Marjorie tries to be kind and make friends, it is made very clear to hear that she is not wanted. Short of buying friends, Marjorie won’t be accepted in London society. She is miserable, downtrodden, and depressed. Which is why when she learns of her brother’s sudden impending marriage, she immediately makes arrangements to travel to the Highlands.
  • High Stakes Hierarchy. The contention among the Maxton clan is increasing. Tempers are high and time is short. As chieftan, Graeme has more responsibilities on his plate than just his brothers. Graeme is trying to do the upright and honorable thing in two aspects: not killing Lattimer, but also supporting and providing safety for the families residing on his land. By not killing Lattimer, Graeme risks his people starving – and the angry, terroristic wrath of the Maxwell and have a lot more issues to handle and overcome. Or he could be generously rewarded if Lattimer meets an untimely death. The root of The Maxwell’s anger is over the English Gabriel Forrester becoming the Duke of Lattimer and now possessing the clan’s ancestral land. The Maxwell had high hopes of retaining Lattimer’s tenants and also receiving tithes from them for providing protection. It is a significant loss of loyalty and money when Gabriel inherits the duchy.
  • Graeme. He is loyal to a fault and works hard to support his family. He has been the sole caretaker for his brothers since Connell was two days old. For a young man who should have just been going out to start his life, it was unfortunate timing. And unfortunate circumstances followed. Soon he became the Viscount and was responsible for more than just caring, educating and raising three young boys; he now had near a hundred cotters to provide for and protect, as well as the Garaidh nan Leomhann land known as the Lion’s Den.
  • The Plan. Graeme’s brothers overhear the Maxwell and Sir Hamish’s threats, the boys take matters into their own hands. After going into town, they discover the Duke of Lattimer’s sister is traveling. They hatch a plan using Connell to lure her to kidnap her. If Brendan cannot kill the Duke of Lattimer as Graeme specifically outlined, they can hand her off to the Maxwell to use in bringing the Sassenach Lattimer to his knees. They’ll save the day and save the clan! There are just a few problems with their plan, which Graeme points out after they’ve brought Marjorie to their home: she knows their names and the Maxwell could make Graeme ransom Marjorie to her brother, causing either a prison or death sentence for Graeme. Not to mention the fact that Marjorie – an innocent in all of this – would be ruined. Who would marry a woman who had been kidnapped and held hostage in a male-dominated Highlander home? She would be forever ruined and never accepted in Society again. No matter what, Marjorie’s trail would lead back to them and the ramifications could be costly.
  • Graeme’s Idea. As Marjorie points out to Graeme, he has to do something with her. When she dares ask his grand plan, Graeme has been debating with himself over his idea. His plan is simple and it resolves all of the possible ramifications of her kidnapping. He is terrified Marjorie will come to a fatal end in the care of the Maxwell, and he is worried he will meet the same fate at the hands of Lattimer in the vendetta. Graeme is the only person to have interactions with Marjorie, who he locks in a bedroom with boarded windows. After an attempt to call attention to her captivity, Graeme shackles her to the bed. It is during all of their brief and biting meetings that Marjorie discovers a sense of consideration and tenderness from Graeme. It is through their interactions that each begins to feel a measure of compassion – and guilt. Their relationship starts to bloom. When an unfortunate meeting with Raibeart and Sir Hamish occur following Marjorie’s escape, she pretends to be Marjorie Giswell, there to tutor Connell. While a quick cover – someone is not believing it.
  • Connell. At only eight years old, he is indeed a little duckling. I found the endearment cute and fitting. Connell is a curious little kid with a big heart. He is characterized by taking in stray animals, especially orphaned animals because he is also an orphan. The more the merrier. He even tries to hide some from Graeme in his room, and Graeme pretends like he doesn’t know the little zoo exists. His character brought charm and innocence to the story and helped soften some of big brother’s hard edges. He also becomes allies, friends rather, with Marjorie in secret.
  • Marjorie’s Growth. Throughout her stay in Graeme’s household, Marjorie slowly undergoes a transformation. Everything she found harsh and unrefined about her Highland captors she begins to see in a new light. Her journey of self-discovery and realization of her true wants in life were made possible with Graeme’s help. She maintained she wanted to return to London where no one wanted her – and where no one knew even knew she had disappeared. Graeme tries to make his case for his solution by showing that she’s cared for in the Highlands. While it may not be everything she’d dreamed of and what she envisioned for her life, there was happiness in the Highlands.


What set this Highland story apart was the depth and complexity of the plot. The concept of captive falling for captor is nothing new, but the way in which the Graeme and the boys are characterized and treat Marjorie during her stay in the Lion’s Den made this “prisoner of war” story so sweet and lent authenticity to the Highland home and setting. I found Graeme to be an interesting mix of a man, so rough and rugged on the exterior but very logical, loyal, compassionate and kind. Not all qualities one would associate with a Scottish Highlander, so it made his roaring and gentle character that much more delightful. Connell’s sweetness and innocence and Brendan’s flaring temper only add to the element of fear and danger over the current situation between Lattimer and the Maxwell. I enjoyed this well-crafted story and look forward to future books from Enoch.


Suzanne was born in Southern California sometime in the latter half of the 20th century. In the way that some people are born knowing they want to be astronauts or cellists, Suzanne always knew she wanted to be a writer. Early dreams of becoming a zoologist and writing true stories about her adventures in Africa were crushed, however, after she viewed a television special about the world’s most poisonous snakes; she did NOT want to write about how she’d been bitten and lost a limb to a cobra. Thankfully at the same time the movie “Star Wars” premiered, and she realized that she could make up adventures and write about them, and not be eaten by deadly predators while doing research.

She dabbled in romantic fantasy writing for a year or two after graduating with a degree in English from the University of California, Irvine, until her affection for traditional Regency romances led her to write one for fun. After several encouraging rejections from publishers, she snared the interest of the world’s best and most patient literary agent, who advised her to revise the manuscript. This ultimately led to the publication of her first book, The Black Duke’s Prize, from Avon Books in the Spring of 1995.

Suzanne is known for her humorous characters, sexy bad boys, and whip-sharp, witty dialogue. She currently resides in Placentia, California with several hundred guppies and various other tropical fish, and handful of very loud, spinach-loving finches. And her collection of action figures and statues from “Star Wars”, “Lord of the Rings”, “X-Men”, and “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Everybody needs some inspiration, after all.

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Review: The Bad Luck Bride


Title: The Bad Luck Bride
Author: Janna MacGregor
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: May 2017
Length: 337 pages
Series?: The Cavensham Heiresses #1
Genre: Historical Romance

A man of honor, Alexander Hallworth, Marquess of Pembrooke, will not rest until he exacts revenge on the man who destroyed his family. Just one more piece must fall into place for him to succeed he needs to convince his enemy s fiancee, the tragically beautiful Lady Claire Cavensham, to marry him instead.

Lady Claire s curse has always left her one misstep away from social ruin her past three engagements have gone awry, and now her fourth is headed in the same direction. . .until Alex, a man she barely even knows, shocks the ton and Claire by announcing their engagement. What begins as a sham turns into something deeper, and more passionate, than either Claire or Alex could have imagined. But when their secrets are revealed, will the truth behind their union scandalize them both or is their love strong enough to break the curse and lead them toward their happily ever after?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon


my review

The Skinny

Following the death of his beloved sister, Alexander Hallworth vows revenge against her transgressor and the father of her unborn child – Lord Paul Barstowe. When his attempt at killing him in a duel is thwarted by the Earl of Somerton, Alex must find another route to exact his revenge. Lord Paul has never been able to pay his gambling debts himself, so the Marquess of Pembrooke sets him up to take a fall – a hard one – and reap his fiance in the process. Lady Claire endures the brunt of the ton and rumors of her curse. When her fourth – and surely final – fiance breaks his engagement, she is in a vulnerable state. Alex agrees to all of Claire’s wishes for the marriage, allowing her to keep complete control and autonomy over her wealth, properties, and her mother’s charity. Their days following at Pemhill are wonderful. They begin to grow together and learn more about one other, share their vulnerabilities and glimmers of their pasts. Until one night Claire overhears a converastion between Alex and Somerton that ruins the rosy world she’s been cocooned in. She returns the next morning to her family in London, and Alex is left to fight to get her back. It won’t be easy, either, with more of his deceptions coming to light and Lord Paul making his appearance at every turn.


The Players

Lady Claire Cavensham – the only child of the late Duke and Duchess of Langham, very wealthy

Alex Hallworth – Marquess of Pembrooke, exacting revenge for his sister’s death

Lord Paul Barstowe – Claire’s fourth fiance with debt beyond his years

Nicholas St. Mauer – Earl of Somerton, Alex’s closest friend

Sebastian Cavensham – Duke of Langham, Claire’s uncle

Ginny Cavensham – Sebastian’s wife

Michael Cavensham – Marques of McCalpin, son of the Duke of Langham, Claire’s cousin

Lord William Cavensham – Michael’s younger brother

Lady Emma Cavensham – Michael and William’s younger sister

The Quote

 “Nonetheless, it seems to me you should have some reason to marry her other than revenge.”

The Highs and Lows

  • The Curse. Remembering that this is a historical setting and not contemporary times, ended relationships raise eyebrows and wag salacious tongues during this time that cause damaged reputations that are beyond repair. Lady Claire Cavensham is a wealthy only child of the late Duke and Duchess of Langham and resides with relatives who’ve treated her like their own daughter. Her beauty alone makes her a highly sought-after debutante. Add in her wealth and she has her pick of any man. And she has – she’s been engaged four times. That’s quite damning for the time, and thus the curse was born. All of her fiances have met untimely incidents – quite untimely for her. One died, one lost a leg, another lost a duel. Now she has hopes that she is done with the curse forever, and fears that she is not. While Claire doesn’t love Lord Paul, she wants to be rid of the curse and she wants to move forward with her life. Her fear is soon grounded when her fourth fiance, Lord Paul Barstowe, does not show at the ball in honor of their impending engagement announcement. Throughout the entire novel he continues to appear and manipulate Alex with taunts and Claire with professions of love, doing his level best to win her – and her money – back.
  • Alex. He is dark, suave, and handsome. An eligible bachelor. He’s also a very angry man, still grieving over the suicide of his younger sister – inexplicably pregnant and spurned by Lord Paul. Alex wants revenge for his sister’s death and has no regard for the consequences or effects of his actions. After the intervention of a friend in the opening scene in an attempt to duel Lord Paul, Alex diverts to a different plan to extract his revenge in a much more public and humiliating way of ruin. He will lie and manipulate anything to suit his purposes, uses every means to its end, regardless of who could be hurt in the crossfire.
  • Alice’s Death. There is more to Alice’s suicide – and her pregnancy – than are first revealed. Slowly the truth of the matter is unraveled throughout the book, and the anguish over Alice’s predicament brought tears to my eyes. Despite what Alice left in her letter to not blame Lord Paul, things are not quite as they seem.
  • The Plan. Lord Paul is already destitute, scheming his way into a marriage with Lady Claire to cover his assets. Deeply in debt from his gaming addiction, Lord Paul will take any out when presented to him. Preying on the downfall of Lord Paul, the Marquess of Pembrooke arranges for an endless line of credit extended to him from the gaming hells. When Lord Paul racks up impossible amounts, Alex makes his own bet. Then the deal is struck: in exchange for a debt pay-off, Lord Paul will not marry Lady Claire. Instead, he will break his short-lived engagement. This leaves Claire hiding out in the gardens the night of their ball, knowing no matter how long she waits he will not turn up. It is here that Alex follows her in the midst of a flashback, disoriented and afraid. In a mad act of calming Lady Claire’s panic, they are caught in a compromising situation. Despite being unsuccessful in Claire’s agreement to his scheme, once caught Alex assures everyone that the hurting, embarrassed, and humiliated Claire need not suffer through any more horrible a scandal – he will marry her!
  • Earl of Somerton. He proves a life-long friend to Alex, and saves him from some of the worst decisions he chose to make. From the start and all the way through, while he doesn’t support Alex’s plans, he doesn’t try to stop them, either. He does, however, highly caution him and try to talk him out of exacting his revenge by using Claire. On the day of their wedding, Alex requests his help in his dealings. Somerton agrees – on the condition Alex tell Claire everything once they reach Pemhill. His warnings go unheeded.
  • Suspicions. While Alex tries steering Claire clear of every conversation that could potentially mar his character – and intentions – he begins to suspect that Claire is not quite who she professed to be. Especially with a rumor swirling that she has a lover…and then finding Lord Paul all but squealing the terms of his rescue to Claire just days before the marriage. He wants no fingers pointing to him or his devious deceptions, but is quick to believe the worst of Claire based on assumptions and a mind gone wild. So he hires a private investigator and uncovers a nice sum of money sent to a solicitor and her regularly purchasing men’s clothing. Then a mysterious be appears at White’s under the initials LP that Claire will not be married to him on their wedding day – implication of the curse striking again. A guarantee she’ll marry him. Claire is terrified Alex will discover her unusual reaction to storms, a long-held fear from her childhood. In truth, it is a trigger of PTSD, and rightly so. Her efforts to cover her crippling fear do nothing but incite Alex to continue believing he’s been cuckolded.
  • Claire’s Tragedy. Claire is terrified of storms. She lost her parents in a raging storm. There are more details than just being caught in a bad storm that aren’t fully revealed until the very end, and it is heartbreaking what little Claire endured. All ties to that night are continually spurned on in Alex’s suspicions and it takes a series of people and then finally Claire herself for him to understand the full ramifications of her fears – what she considers her greatest shame.
  • Guilt. All along, from the very beginning, Alex assures himself he will protect Claire and keep her safe. There are different moments when he expresses genuine concern for her and riddles over the gossip and pain that has followed Claire all her life. Just days after arriving at Pemhill, after rescuing Claire from the neighboring home she hasn’t seen in 14 years, Alex contemplates his guilt. He knows he should turn back now and admit what he’s done before it’s too late. Intentions, intentions. It seems, however, he does have a redeeming quality after all.
  • The Witching Ball. When Alex first come to Langham Hall to discuss the terms of the marriage, he and Claire share a secret with each other. Claire’s secret involved sneaking out to go see a gypsy, where she purchased a witching ball. She tells him she keeps it in her room. It is to trap curses and keep them from harming loved ones, appropriate for her rumored curse. Alex tells her to bring it with her when they marry and later hangs it in her window. Despite being away in the country, the rumor of the curse follows her. There is whispering among the staff. Alex tries to quash it and even assigns a loyal groomsman to accompany Claire. Following a jealous evening, Claire discovers the truth. She makes her own arrangements and leaves. It broke my heart the day that she left a letter for Alex and the box that contained her witching ball – smashed to pieces. “The pieces symbolized her trust that he had stupidly taken for granted.”


I thoroughly enjoyed this read! I loved Claire’s character and I understood the great impact her childhood tragedy held over her. In that time, as she said herself, if anyone truly knew how badly she reacted in storms, she could have been sent off to an asylum. Her PTSD is triggered by storms, and the final one in the book warmed my heart and showed some redemption for her marriage. The plotline was complex – and at times a little convoluted – and kept me intrigued. At the same time, I (rightfully so) hated Alex’s character and everything he done to exact his revenge, but he oh-so-slowly realized his idiocy. The dissenting characters warmed my heart, helping guide Alex in the right direction to save his marriage and hold up the mirror to show him what an, ahem, backside he was being. I’m looking forward to seeing Somerton get his own book!




Janna MacGregor was born and raised in the bootheel of Missouri. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and two smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pugs. She loves to hear from readers.

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Review: I Dared the Duke


Title: I Dared the Duke
Author: Anna Bennett
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: April 2017
Length: 320 pages
Series?: The Wayward Wallflowers #2
Genre: Historical Romance


Alexander Savage, the Duke of Blackshire, is known throughout the ton for three things: the burn scars on his neck, his ornery disposition, and the trail of broken hearts behind him. None of which would concern Miss Elizabeth Lacey in the least—if she weren’t living under his roof. As his grandmother’s companion, Beth is all too concerned with the moody and compelling duke. Incensed by his plans to banish the sweet dowager duchess to the country, Beth refuses to do his bidding. If Alex wants her help, he’s going to have to take her dare…and grant her three wishes.

Alex adores his grandmother, which is precisely why she must leave. A string of unfortunate incidents has him worried for the safety of everyone around him—including the dowager’s loyal and lovely companion, Beth. But the notorious wallflower isn’t as meek as she appears, and as their battle of wills heats up, so does Alex’s desire. He’s dangerously close to falling in love with her…and revealing secrets he’d rather keep hidden. How can he convince her that his darkest days are behind him—and that, for the first time in forever, his heart is true?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Labeled the Wilting Wallflowers by the Duke of Blackshire three years prior, it caught on and has followed her sisters around since. After the eldest Wallflower marries well and their struggles are over, Elizabeth finds herself with a lot of extra time on her hands. When the dowager Duchess of Blackshire seeks a companion, Beth gladly accepts and enjoys her work. When the dowager’s grandson shows up, Beth and Alexander Savage don’t see eye to eye on anything but his grandmother’s happiness. And the first thing that’s got to go is Beth!

Alex regrets dubbing Beth and her sisters the Wilting Wallflowers, and he hopes it never comes out. But he wants Beth gone nonetheless, and he wants his grandmother safely ensconced in the country. Both of which will upset his grandmother, and Beth goes to bat for her and digs in her heels. Alex doesn’t make a good first impression at all – wanting to send his elderly grandmother off to the country and out of his hair! He relents and lets Beth stay on, who bribes Alex into doing sweet gestures for his grandmother, like granting wishes. Three wishes, to be exact. For the great love Alex has for his grandmother, he begrudgingly agrees.

But he also has to keep her – and now Beth, a greater risk – safe. His reasons for wanting his grandmother in the countryside were not vain or selfish. Alex has had an uncharacteristic number of “accidents” lately that no longer seem like accidents at all. Someone is out to murder him. But who? And why? Until he knows, no one he loves is safe. Taking up Beth on her deal will prove much more cumbersome than he originally thought.


The Players

Elizabeth Lacey – orphaned as a child, only her uncle would take her and her sisters in, and they have lived among the ton as the Wilting Wallflowers

Alexander Savage – the Duke of Blackshire, orphaned and raised by his grandmother, convinced someone is out to  murder him

Marquess of Darberville – aka Darby, Alex’s longtime friend

Alistair Wiltmore – Lord Wiltmore, Beth’s elderly uncle, raised Beth and her sisters, rumored to be in dire financial straits, also rumored to be eccentric and even mad

The Dowager – she is an elderly lady who adores her grandson, but won’t do with his atrocious behavior at times


The Quote

 “Perhaps you assign evil intent to my actions because that is what is in your heart – but I can assure you, it’s not in mine.”

The Highs and Lows

  • The Banter. Right from the start, Beth and Alex hit it off – sparkingly! Their quick witty replies and short barks at one another had me laughing. The audacity and snobbery of Alex, the unperturbedness of Beth and her rebuffs bordering on catty. He had no idea about Beth’s placement with his grandmother. When he first arrives home, he believes Beth is robbing the place! After being apprised of the situation, he quickly grasps that she is indeed one of Lord Wiltmore’s Wallflower nieces and makes a dastardly assumption about Beth and money. A great way to open the book, give some background about Beth, and set the tone. It is through these quiet and heated moments that each learns a little more about the other, where things can be revealed in private without exposure to the ton. But there are still some things that Alex doesn’t share.
  • The Dowager. The dowager duchess means the world to Alex. After the unfortunate fire that took both his parents and nearly killed Alex himself, the dowager painstakingly cared and nursed him back to health. The scars, however, remained. As did the fear of acrid smoke. Alex carries a dark secret about that night – one that he believes his grandmother knows, as well.
  • The Plot. The driving force behind Alex’s actions and his gruff, demanding demeanor are the accidents that seem to follow him around like a black cloud. The first time could have been an accident, but they keep happening. First, poisoned at the club. Then, the coach mysteriously breaks an axle and came out of the ditch an accordion. Alex enlists his friend Darby to help him riddle out who the murderer could be. It’s not an easy task given that Alex obviously lacks social graces, a death wish to the London ton. And then there’s the matter of his rakish behavior. While he does want his grandmother safe in the countryside, he also wants nothing but her happiness. He agrees to Beth’s three wishes plan for his grandmother and keeps them both in London.
  • The Wishes. Beth’s bargain about the wishes relied solely on the dowager. Whatever she wished she could do, Beth imparted to Alex. These weren’t suggestions, either. The first wish to attend a concert at the rotunda and gardens does not go very well from the start. Several incident compile that reaffirm Alex’s belief that someone is trying to kill him – and his loved ones, too. To make matters worse, Alex witnesses firsthand the hurtful and damaging gossip of the Wilting Wallflowers upon Beth. That moment showed development and growth on his part, as well as compassion and sincerity.
  • Beth. Despite how she appears prim and cool, never losing her temper, Beth craves comfort. It is part of the reason why she jumped to be the dowager’s companion – she needs to be needed. But there’s that little voice that continues to remind her that everyone she’s relied on has proved untrustworthy. That is her first impression of Alex, too, until she gets to know him and sees him in vulnerable and honest moments. In their secret trysts, Beth gives Alex multiple opportunities to turn her away, and the hard years enduring her unwanted status of a wallflower makes her crave attention and love. She is easily wounded and has a fair amount of pride and a stubborn streak. It is both helpful and hurtful, and after another accident nearly causing the death of both of them, Alex again tries to send Beth and the dowager away. She’s always known their time would be short, and savored what they had together.
  • A Smashing Plan. When Alex couldn’t stand keeping it from her any longer, Alex relays the truth behind the countryside. Beth concocts a smashing idea – host a masquerade ball. Not only would this hide the identity of the unsuccessful killer, it would also perhaps tip their hand to do something bolder. Alex knows the gentlemen he suspects, but he won’t divulge their identities to Beth. When the night arrives, Beth, Alex, and Darby are all three running around the ball following suspects. The would-be killer turns out to be someone none of them ever expected, and the masquerade balls ends in a smashing, roaring light in the night.


I enjoyed this interesting plot and story. Alex’s history and childhood tragedy add depth to his character, as did Beth’s own.  Marred reputations and salacious gossip play a large role in the plot for both Alex and Beth and shows how damaging and harmful words can be. The stolen moments that reveal more of each character are what developed their relationship and helped it bloom. The heightened air of suspicions and concern for safety added and moved the plot along at a quick pace.



Anna Bennett started swiping romances from her mom’s bookshelf as a teenager and decided historicals (with their balls, dukes, and gowns) were the best. So, when she had the chance to spend a semester in London she packed her bags—and promptly fell in love with the city, its history, and its pubs. She dreamed of writing romance, but somehow ended up a software analyst instead.

Fortunately, a few years and a few careers later, Anna found her way back to writing the stories she loves and won the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® for Regency Historical Romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three children, who try valiantly not to roll their eyes whenever she quotes Jane Austen. Her weaknesses include reality TV, cute shoes, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

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