Category Archives: historical romance review

Thief of Hearts, a Christmas novella

December. It’s time to feel the warmth and love of the Christmas Spirit. If she (or he) has not yet visited your home, I suggest you download Thief of Hearts, read it and be inspired to decorate, wrap and spread good cheer.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00016]Elizabeth Ellen Carter is one of my favourite Australian historical novelists. I am constantly amazed at her ability to switch time periods and write with the same level of authenticity, accuracy and passion regardless of whether she is writing about Ancient Rome, medieval England or, as in this case, Victorian England. Her last novella was the delightful Nocturne, a Valentine’s Day release, set in Regency England. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I thoroughly enjoyed Thief of Hearts, a historical suspense caper involving a Duke as a magician and a young lady as a sleuth. Elizabeth does always like to turn convention on it’s head!

I asked Elizabeth why this particular story. She said, ‘Australians suffer a little bit of cognitive dissonance when it comes to celebrating Christmas. First of all, being in the southern hemisphere, we celebrating in the middle of our summer but happily sing about ‘dashing through the snow’, Frosty the Snowman and that the ‘snow lay all about, deep and crisp and even’.

‘Another thing we missed in our local customs was being outside of the TV ratings periods. Conventional wisdom had it that in the depths of bitter winters, people would gather around the electronic hearth and watch television. And since Christmas fell right in the middle of the northern hemisphere’s TV ratings period, all the best TV shows had a Christmas episode.

‘They were fun and whimsical, often suspending current storylines for something a little bit light-hearted and fun.

‘So, in that Christmas spirit, I wrote The Thief of Hearts, a veritable Christmas punch of few Hercule Poirots, Girl’s Own Adventures stories, a dash of While You Were Sleeping and other Christmas-themed rom-coms.’

Book DescriptionAWWC16

December 1890
London, England

Some seriously clever sleight of hand is needed if aspiring lawyer Caro Addison is ever going to enjoy this Christmas.

To avoid an unwanted marriage proposal, she needs a distraction as neat as the tricks used by The Phantom, the audacious diamond thief who has left Scotland Yard clueless.

While her detective inspector uncle methodically hunts the villain, Caro decides to investigate a suspect of her own – the handsome Tobias Black, a magician extraordinaire, known as The Dark Duke.

He’s the only one with the means, motive and opportunity but the art of illusion means not everything is as it seems, in both crime and affairs of the heart.

As Christmas Day draws near, Caro must decide whether it is worth risking reputations and friendships in order to follow her desires.

Extract

He turned the card over and with a thumbnail flicked a tab made of the same backing as the playing card. Even up close the addition was difficult to see. Tobias placed the card on his lap and pulled out a deck of cards. He flicked the edge of the deck of cards towards them. Each time the Queen of Hearts stood out.

“I want you to think I can read your mind, but in reality…”

Tobias split the deck and showed them the Queen of Hearts and then the other half of the deck. The card that had been just before the Queen of Hearts was fully a third shorter than the rest of the cards. He put the pack together and flicked through the deck once more.

“I make you see what you want to see. I suspect The Phantom does the same.”

“You mean his crime scenes are illusions?” Margaret asked. Tobias gave her a smile and Caro wished oddly that its brightness shone on her too.

“I think so. From what I read in the newspapers… no sign of entry or departure?” he asked. Caro confirmed it with a nod. “That tells me he’s creating an illusion of invulnerability. But it is an illusion. A trick. He wants to force the attention of the police away from something else – in the same way a magician will use a gesture or an action to distract you.

“Find out what that is then you will find his sleight of hand and that will be his vulnerability.”

Tobias stood.

“Now, if I’ve sated your curiosity, I’ll take my leave of you. My crew and I have our last show this evening.”

Caro rose and Margaret did also. Tobias took Margaret’s hand and bowed over it then released it. Then he took Caro’s and held it. Then his eyes held hers for a moment and he dropped a kiss on the back of her hand.

“I’m so glad it was you who paid me a visit… instead of a representative of Scotland Yard.”

“Not at all, Mr Black,” she replied, her voice a little huskier than usual, “you have been more than gracious with your time.

“Call me Tobias.”

He was flirting with her! Caro kept the smile to herself as he escorted them both to the entrance of the theatre.

“Just one more question, Mr Black,” Caro asked. “You wouldn’t happen to know how someone might dispose of a suite of diamonds would you?”

Want to read more? Go to

Author Bio

eecarter400h-203x300Elizabeth Ellen Carter is an award-winning historical romance writer who pens richly detailed historical romantic adventures. A former newspaper journalist, Carter ran an award-winning PR agency for 12 years. The author lives in Australia with her husband and two cats. Elizabeth loves to interact with her readers and you can find her at:

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Five fabulous Australian romance novels with five winning cover designs as awarded by Romance Writers of Australia.

  • Contemporary romance: Operation White Christmas by Nicki Edwards
  • Erotic/ Sexy romance: The Veiled Heart by Elsa Holland
  • Historical romance: The King’s Man by Alison Stuart
  • Young Adult/ New Adult romance: The Finn Factor by Rachel Bailey
  • Paranormal romance (including sic-fi and fantasy): The Shattered Court by MJ Scott
  • Romantic Elements: Pretty Famous by Carla Caruso
  • Romantic Suspense: Storm Clouds by Bronwyn Parry
  • Rural Romance: Summer and the Groomsman by Cathryn Hein

Romance Writers of Australia

As writers, we pour our hearts into choosing just the right words to tell our stories – but to put a finished book into the reader’s hands, we need to rely on others’ skills.  Chief among these others is the cover designer.  A good cover can entice a reader and add to the pleasure of the story – and the best ones thrill authors!  Each year, to celebrate the blessings of the cover fairies, our published members submit their favourite recent covers for fellow members to choose the ones they like most.

The contest is over for another year, so without further ado, here are our favourite covers for this year, as judged by our members in the following categories:

Contemporary Romance:

  • Title: Operation White Christmas
  • Author: Nicki Edwards
  • Cover Design: Unknown Artist

Operation White Christmas-Nicki Edwards

Erotic/Sexy Romance

  • Title: The Veiled Heart
  • Author: Elsa Holland
  • Cover Design: Hang Le

The Veiled Heart-Elsa Holland

Historical Romance

  • Title: The…

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New Book Review: Nocturne by Elizabeth Ellen Carter

I’m very pleased to feature the novella Nocturne by Elizabeth Ellen Carter as one of my 12 Nocturne AWWCreview for the Australian Women Writers 2016 challenge. Elizabeth enjoys setting her novels during historical periods fraught with war and complexity, for example during the Norman conquest of Anglo-Saxon England and the French Revolution. She writes compelling heroes and heroines who fight the restraints and evils of their times with equal determination. She also writes really scary villains and I trembled in my boots whilst reading Warrior’s Surrender. So it was a delicious surprise to read Nocturne and discover that it was a domestic drama set during the Regency period, but underscored with all Elizabeth’s usual themes and appreciation for the subtleties of human virtues and vices.

Ella Montgomery is forced to take a position as a governess on the death of her father. She is a sweet woman, shy and used to being described as plain. Blackheath Manor, the home of her employer the Earl of Renthorpe, overflows with the terror of hidden secrets. The secret of all this subterfuge is Thomas, the Earl’s brother, who was dreadfully wounded and blinded in the war against Napoleon and is kept hidden as a secret by the family, which has declared him dead and even erected a memorial to him.

Thomas feels his life is all but over and is resigned to being secreted away. His only pleasure comes from the piano he plays in the evening after the family has gone to bed. He meets Ella when she follows the sound of the music downstairs, and they begin a clandestine romance in the dark. But Ella will lose her position if she is caught and the stakes are even higher for Thomas. His harsh and angry brother has a great deal more than face to lose if the world discovers Thomas is still alive. Can Ella overcome her shyness and use her wits to forge a path to freedom for them?

Music sings from the pages of this story. Elizabeth Ellen explores the nature of creativity, what it means to be alive and the complexities of family loyalty in this lovely sweet novella. Despite all the darkness Nocturne carries, both physical and emotional, hope – and love – ensure a rich read and a happy ending. Highly recommended

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Nocturne by Elizabeth Ellen Carter (indie-published) is available as an ebook.

EE Carter

Elizabeth Ellen Carter believes that love is a great adventure. Find out more about her and her books at http://eecarter.com. You can also join her on Facebook at Elizabeth’s Library Book Club where she dispenses free reads, new release information and exclusive content.

Festive reading: The Last Chance Christmas Ball

I’ve always loved the December holidays. Having lived in the southern hemisphere all my life, I love the rain that heralds the end of winter and the beginning of new life. Bursts of greenery and flashes of colour abound as nature blossoms from spring into summer. December is a beautiful month, and it reflects the feelings and emotions we hold dear as Christmas approaches: hope, cheer, love and generosity; the wish for peace and the desire to give to friends and family; reflections on a year past and plans for the future; joy and happiness. And, of course, from our northern neighbours come ancient stories snow, fairy tales and gifts, mulled wine and mistletoe with its promise of romance.

Reality, however, has a nasty way of dealing sideways blows to the best laid plans, ably abetted by office politics and family dramas. So, when the Grinch is threatening to lay low the Spirit of Christmas, I take refuge in a good book (as you do).

Some of the very best new books are released in time for Christmas, and The Last Chance Christmas Ball honours this publishing tradition. It’s a delightful collection of novellas by the Word Wenches, Anne Gracie, Mary Jo Putney, Joanna Bourne, Nicola Cornick, Jo Beverley, Susan King, Patricia Rice and Cara Elliot. The stories in most book collections are bound by theme, genre or period. Very few are put together around a single central event – and for good reason. It’s a challenge to the skills of the writers to co-ordinate well enough as a group to overlay stories without spoilers or boring repetition.

The Wenches have risen to the challenge in this collection of sweet Regency romances set in 1815 at Lady Holly’s Last Chance Christmas Ball, which she has hosted for the last fifty year to illuminate the charms of those ladies who might have been overlooked for whatever reason. The lives of the Stretton family, who host the ball on behalf of the Dowager, their grandmother, are weaved through every story. Naturally, most of the guests are friends and well-known to them and all have their reasons for looking for – or avoiding – love, from past scandals to broken hearts, unsupportive families and financial troubles. While the men scoff at its powers, the ladies hold out hope. After all if there is one season designed to empower love, it has to be Christmas. Every year, the glitter of Lady Holly’s ball weaves its magic for someone; this time, ten romances are born,rekindled or saved, ensuring that 1816 was a busy year for local vicars!

The ball is held on the 28th of December each year. The stories range from just beforehand as guests plan their travels and the family plan the festivities through Christmas Day to the ball itself and the beginning of the next school year.

Each story is delightful, charming, heartwarming and so utterly romantic that they renewed my faith in love, hope and romance all over again. The heroes are dashing, brave men with good hearts outwardly cloaked in a range of guises from permanent bachelor to embittered soldier, steadfast citizen and light-hearted rake. The heroines are pretty, spirited, generous and smart. After I had finally finished reading the book, I went back and read each story again, just to enjoy the moment when love conquered all with a kiss. If you are looking for just one book to lift your spirits in this last frantic week before Christmas 2015, I recommend you grab a copy of The Last Chance Christmas Ball.

 

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The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Mary Jo Putney, Anne Gracie, Joanna Bourne, Nicola Cornick, Jo Beverley, Susan King, Patricia Rice and Cara Elliot (Kensington) is available in paperback and ebook. I purchased my own copy, inspired by my love for the individual works of the authors. If you are unfamiliar with the Word Wenches blog, and you love historical romance, you can sign up for updates here.

Tessa Dare delights readers again

Author Tessa DareWhen a Scot Ties the Knot is the third in Tessa Dare‘s delightful Castles Ever After series. Each romance features characters so real that they feel like childhood friends by the time I finish the book. I wish I could invite them over for dinner – or, even better, step into the pages of her books and join them for dinner!

Each of Tessa Dare’s characters have their own individual quirks and passions, fears and challenges that they have to overcome. In When a Scot Ties the Knot, the heroine Maddie (Miss Madeline Gracechurch) is a talented artist with a love of nature who is shy to the point of social phobia. To escape her terror of a season in London, she invents a fiance, a war hero who conveniently dies in battle, allowing her to retire to the country and mourn his ‘death’ in peace.

The hero Captain Logan MacKenzie is a mentally bruised and battered survivor of the wars in France who is determined to create a safe place for what remains of his army unit to rebuild their lives. Unfortunately, for Maddie, his name is the same as the one she chose for her fictional fiance – and the ever-efficient British Postal Service made sure each and everyone of her letters reached him. Being killed off triggers one of his emotional hot buttons, and when the war ends, a furious Logan he sets off to Maddie’s rural haven in Scotland, determined to make this careless society Miss pay for her perceived disregard for his name and person – and honour the engagement she created.

As always, Ms Dare has written a romance this is rich, witty, sexy and unforgettable. This story is truly a delight. Read and enjoy.

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When a Scot Ties the Knot is a sexy Regency romance.

 

The Seduction of Lord Stone: A delightful romantic interlude

SPOILER ALERT: FANGIRL POST AHEAD

An Anna Campbell novellaI discovered my first Anna Campbell novel just a couple of years ago as I was browsing the shelves of a small bookshop. What a serendipitous moment that proved to be, leading me through multiple titles in rapid succession until I arrived here, at the publication of The Seduction of Lord Stone, the first book in her Dashing Widows series.

I’m always on the lookout for a good novella. There are lots of points in its favour. I can read a whole book if I have a couple of hours spare one evening, or over the weekend, getting a satisfying full-story fix uninterrupted by work or dinner or housework. I’m also fond of brevity. Cut the waffle, I say. The intensity level is also higher, especially in the hands of an expert like Anna.

Of course, not all authors excel at this short form. Some truncate the story, resulting in a simplistic plot or under-developed characters. However, every one of Anna’s novels that I have read is a full, rich and rounded story regardless of whether it is  a full-length romance or a short and sexy novella. Yes, I’m a fan, and I make no apologies for that. Let me take the stand and declare: I LOVE Anna Campbell’s books! They are emotionally intense, dark and funny and sexy – smoking’ hot actually. I adore her heroines and love her heroes. What more could I ask for as a reader?

The Seduction of Lord Stone is the story of Caroline, Lady Beaumont and Silas Nash, Viscount Stone. Caroline has had a dreary year in mourning that she survived only because of her new friendships with Helena, the Countess of Crewe and Fenella, Lady Deerham. The three decide to become dashing widows once their year of mourning is complete since not one of them, for different reasons, wishes to remarry. Caroline in particular is determined to have some fun and sets about targeting the right man to make her lover. For this task she enlists the help of Helena’s brother, Lord Stone.

Poor Silas! What a lowering position for a reformed rake to find himself in. He has devoted the year of Caroline’s mourning to winning her trust only to discover that he has been designated the status of ‘a dear friend’. Worse, Caroline has her eye fixed on his best friend, a man he now regards as not fit for London society let alone Caroline’s. Can he change her mind? Persuade her that it is possible to be lovers and friends? You’ll have to read it to find out. To whet your appetite and find out what indignities the man suffers, read an extract from The Seduction of Lord Stone here.

Books two and three in the Dashing Widows series of novellas will be available in early 2016. Look out for Tempting Mr Townsend and Winning Lord West.

Also recommended: The Sons of Sin series

  • Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed
  • A Rake’s Midnight Kiss
  • What a Duke Dares
  • A Scoundrel by Moonlight
  • Three proposals and a Scandal (novella)

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The Seduction of Lord Stone is a sexy Regency romance.

The Ministry of Marriage

How could one not read a series called The Ministry of Marriage? For me it conjures up an image of a Hogwarts-style benevolent rule that immediately demands a certain rebellion. So it proves. The guardians and parents who make up the Ministry of Marriage aim to ensure the dynastic future of Regency England’s best families whilst also securing marriages based on respect for their children. Naturally the children rebel and insist on falling in love.

Ministry of Marriage

Like all the best series, Christina Brooke‘s Ministry of Marriage can be read in order – or flagrantly out of order, as I have done. I started with The Wickedest Lord Alive about Xavier, the Marquis of Steyn and Lizzy Albright. Then, having developed a taste for Christina’s fine command of the best and worst of human nature, especially as contained within family units, I read his sister Rosamund and Griffin, the Earl of Tregarth’s story in Mad About the Earl. Love is at the heart of both of these sexy Regency Romances, threatened by family intrigue, warring factions and internal doubts.

The heroes of both the above books are deeply scarred by their childhoods, Xavier emotionally and Griffin both physically and emotionally. Fortunately for them, neither Lizzie nor Rosamund is as sweet and gentle as she looks. Both are prepared to fight for what they want and neither will be deterred by either fearsome scowls or insane and dangerous relatives.

I was also delighted to find out that three of the books – The Wickedest Lord Alive, London’s Last True Scoundral, and The Greatest Lover Ever (they are nothing if not confident, the Westruther men) are now available as audiobooks in the US. Hopefully worldwide distribution will follow soon.

I am not the only one who adores Christine’s books. As regards Mad About the Earl, Suzanne Enoch said ‘Clever, lush and lovely’ whilst Romance Junkies called it ‘a true historical gem‘. Romance Junkies. RT Book Reviews described The Wickedest Lord Alive as ‘Smart, funny and a joy to read’. I think I will tackle Heiress in Love next. Anna Campbell said of the Constantine Black, ‘One of the most compelling heroes I’ve read in years’. Given how much I like Anna Campbell’s heroes (watch this space), that lure is irresistible.

There are many more members of the Westruther, Black and de Veres families to be married off, so I hope that Christina will not stop at book 6 but continue to write and delight fans like me. In particular, I wait with bated breath for the Grand Daddy of the Westruthers, family protector and arch manipulator the Duke of Montford, to fall in love. He deserves it – and so do his charges!

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The Ministry of Marriage books are sexy Regency romances.