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review 2017-04-02 02:56
Sinclair (Tales of Tooley Street Book 1) - Julia Herdman

As a debut novel, Sinclair boasts the musical language of a practiced craftsman.  The characters are vibrant, each man and woman is lovely, but terribly complex.  Although it is fiction, the struggles of the human heart are illustrated with great care.  James Sinclair is driven by his need for acclaim, only to discover that the love of a good woman suits him fine. Charlotte Leadam is a hard-headed widow, sure she will never love again, only to discover that she has the heart for new romance.  The sinking of the Sherwell, a ship from the East India Company's fleet, sets off a tale about the human capacity to make mistakes, to love the wrong people, and to ultimately find forgiveness in seemingly impossible circumstances.

 

I was enraptured by the multitude of plots that intercepted each other with grace. Much in the same style as the prolific Diana Gabaldon, Herdman made true on her statement to write stories of love while simultaneously introducing characters and story lines one after another.  Written in third person omniscient, the reader is privy to the internal turmoil of all the characters, eliciting, for me at least, a strong affinity with the honorable Frank Greenwood, James Sinclair's loyal companion.  Although the novel is entitled after the dutiful doctor from Tooley Street, Herdman divides her attention among his friends, his relatives, and the neighboring English milieu.  I was surprised that she had not elected to tell the tale in first person, but I was pleased with the final product nonetheless.

 

In conclusion, the story moved at an easy pace, made all the more enjoyable by Julia Herdman's humor and her careful execution of historical fact telling.  I can easily see how further stories may be written to expand on the lives of minor characters like Lucy and the rest of the family at Beverly, Connie and her new role as wife and mother, and William's crush on Alice.  All in all, it's safe to say I'm in need of book two!

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review 2016-12-28 16:22
The Devil's Prayer
The Devil's Prayer - Luke Gracias

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review.

 

In the 13th Century, in order to save his life, a monk did a deal with the Devil, and as a result the Codex Giga, the Devil's Bible, came into being. It was lost for centuries, then rediscovered, but by this time, twelve pages of the original manuscript were missing, the twelve vitally important pages known as the Devil's Prayer.

 

It is said that one day a woman will give birth to the child of the Devil. And if this person ever gets his hands on the pages of the Devil's Prayer, then all Hell will be let loose on the world.

 

When the story opens, we are in the convent of Sancta Therese, a few miles north of Zamora, Spain. There, during the Semana Santa (Easter Week), a secret ritual is enacted, as it has been every year since the 1200s, but this time, at its climax, a nun commits suicide by hanging herself from the bell-tower.

 

Meanwhile, in Australia, in a world as different as it can well get, a young woman called Siobhan Russo is informed by a priest that her mother, Denise, who has been missing from home for six years, has committed suicide in Spain. That she was a nun going by the name of Sister Benedictine. And that she, Siobhan, must travel at once to Spain, to collect in person a message her mother left for her.

 

It turns out that Denise, the mother, had done a deal with the Devil years earlier, in order to get revenge and healing after she had been raped and left paralysed. This rape and its consequences form a vivid short story which stands out as rather different from the rest of the book, and after reading it we identify with Denise quite as much as we do with her now grown-up daughter Siobhan. At that time, the Devil had healed Denise in exchange for the souls of her attackers. But her dealings with the Devil had not stopped there. The Devil later brought the child Siobhan back to life after she had drowned in their swimming-pool.

 

But I am telling you too much of the story. Read it for yourself. It is brilliantly researched and replete with fascinating details. And don't be put off by all this about "the Devil". This is a very real, very evil, Devil, a Devil it is almost impossible to say No to - and as the author says in the book, "God and the Devil - one does not exist without the other." It is a story I shall never forget, and full of characters I shall never forget.

 

I visited the website www.devilsprayer.com and found some marvellous photos of the scenes where the more bizarre sections of the story are set. Here is one of them:

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review 2016-12-28 01:26
#CBR8 Book 129: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Because of Miss Bridgerton - Julia Quinn

Sibylla "Billie" Bridgerton has always been a tomboy. As a girl, she ran wild with the neighbouring Rokesby children, and it's been long expected that she'll end up marrying either of the younger sons, Edward or Andrew. She's doesn't really mind the idea herself, but marriage is the furthest thing from her mind, even after her best friend, Mary Rokesby goes off to marry her eldest brother George's best friend. After all, if Billie gets married, whose going to oversee the running of the Bridgerton estate? Her brother Edmund is still away at Eton, far too young to take charge. The only Rokesby Billie doesn't really get along with is the heir, George Rokesby, Viscount Kennard. He's always so serious, clearly disapproving of her un-ladylike ways.

 

So when Billie falls out of a tree, twists her ankle badly and ends up stranded on a deserted cottage roof, having tried to rescue a stray cat, she really wishes that anyone else in the neighbourhood except the supercilious George is the one to come to her rescue. Things do not improve when circumstances cause the ladder he's used to get up on the roof to fall over, stranding them both. While no one in their right mind would think that George Rokesby had compromised Billie Bridgerton on a roof in the middle of the countryside, propriety would demand that the Viscount offer for her hand if they are stranded there for too long. Luckily, Andrew Rokesby, home on leave from the navy with a broken arm, comes along and rescues the two of them, but is very amused by the predicament they've found themselves in. George also insists on chivalrously carrying the wounded Billie back home, and after their little adventure, the two suddenly see each other differently.

 

As the son and heir, George has never been allowed to go off and see the world. His brother Andrew is in the navy, while Edward is over in the Colonies, scouting in the Revolutionary War. As the eldest, he has always observed his younger siblings and the vivacious eldest Bridgerton daughter run around and cause trouble. Even now, although Billie is universally loved in the neighbourhood, she has a tendency to get into unlikely scrapes, and it annoys George immensely. Almost as much as the thought that she may some day end up marrying one of his brothers. After their little interlude on the roof, George suddenly finds himself very bothered by the idea of Billie marrying anyone...except him. Could he be falling in love with the exasperating Miss Bridgerton?

 

While most of Julia Quinn's books are set in the Regency era, this new series is set a generation before her most famous Bridgerton books, in the Georgian era, but do in some ways still involve Bridgertons, as the title suggests. Billie Bridgerton is in fact the aunt of all the various Bridgerton siblings, whose father Edmund, Billie's younger brother, never actually appears in the series, except in the heroes and heroine's memories, as he died tragically before his youngest daughter was born. He's only mentioned in passing here, as he's away at school, but it seems likely he may make an appearance in later books. There is certainly another Bridgerton sister to marry off, as well as two Rokesby brothers, one of whom is missing in the Americas in the midst of the Revolutionary war for much of the plot of this book.

 

I've said in previous reviews that the best Julia Quinn novels don't have overly complicated plots or outside forces trying to get between the lovers. She's really not very good at writing villains. Happily, this is one of the books where the only thing keeping our couple apart is their preconcieved notions of one another and the fact that they've just not realised that they've got their perfect partner a few miles away, on the neighbouring estate. Billie and George just need to forget the impressions they made of each other growing up, and see each other as the adults they've become. Their families are clearly perfectly happy for them to end up together and it's quite sweet how they scheme to throw them together.

 

I wish I could say that this is Julia Quinn's triumphant return to truly great romance, after her previous years' efforts have mainly been rather forgettable, but I can't. I absolutely enjoyed this book, and appreciated that it didn't feature a lot of complicated drama, just two people learning to see the other in a new light and falling in love. Yet I doubt it's going to be one of the Quinn books that people remember in years to come, and it's certainly not a timeless classic like some of her Bridgerton novels. I don't regret buying it when it came out, but I suspect I will wait until her books are on sale before getting more of them. The next book in the series, involving lost brother Edward, set in Revolutionary era wartime America, will be an interesting departure from her previous books, though, so I imagine I'll be reading it, just to see her do something different.

 

Judging a book by its cover: There's a lot I like about this cover. The gorgeous green of the gown. The fact that it's only saucily slid off one shoulder rather than all undone in the back with anachronistic lack of undergarments. The cover model's little smirk in the mirror. The crossed fingers behind her back. There's also things I don't like. The cover model is way too old to be a 23-year-old Billie Bridgerton. This book is set in the Georgian era. That is not a period appropriate dress! Great for Regency, wrong for the previous generation.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/12/cbr8-book-129-because-of-miss.html
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review 2016-12-05 16:31
I Spy a Duke by Erica Monroe
I Spy a Duke (Covert Heiresses Book 1) - Erica Monroe

***copy provided by publisher through NetGalley***

One year after his sister's death at the hands of a sadistic French spy, James Spencer drinks alone in his study, not even bothering to hide from the memories or his guilt, when an unexpected and not unwelcome intrusion comes in the form of his younger brother's governess, Miss Vivian Loren. She's different from the women he knows, she doesn't get queasy at the sight of blood, she drinks brandy like a man, and knows how to perform a field dressing of a wound...But most importantly, she knows grief like James does.

Vivian Loren never meant for the lord of the house, the Duke of Abermont, to notice her. Her entire being depends on not being noticed, since she's in Abermont House under false pretenses, spying in order to learn the name of the man who killed her brother. Unfortunately for her, it soon comes to light her benefactor has no intention of fulfilling his noble promise of providing her with the name, quite the opposite in fact, and Vivian has no choice but to confess everything to James. Fortunately for her, James isn't one of those foppish, disinterested, arrogant dandies strolling through society, and he decides to help her by providing a safe haven for her with his name. She'll become his duchess in order for him to protect her, and she'll help him uncover the true identity of the puppet-master that brought her to his doorstep.



I love it when an author surprises me. In a good way. Ms Monroe was a new-to-me author, with this book available on NetGalley, and boy am I glad I went for it. I'm sorry, I didn't read it sooner.

Grippingly intense and intriguing from the start, this story was a breath of fresh air in the field of historicals available these days. For one, this was a suspense story first with a romance as a bonus and not the other way around as is often the case. The spy-talk, subterfuge and lies that come with the profession weren't sidelined only to be brought up at opportune moments to embellish the overall plot, they were the plot with all the risks the profession brought back in the day of no gadgets and the spies having to rely solely on their own wits, abilities, and intelligence. The action scenes (both the training ones, which were pretty informative, might I add, and that big final showdown) were nicely written, vividly intense, and well-paced.

As I wrote numerous times in the past, it's the characters that make or break the story for me, and the characters in this one were absolutely perfect. The main couple, with their similarities and differences, was a beautiful match of (almost) equals. I loved how, due to the fact of having four stubborn sisters, James knows what women are capable of, what they can endure, and doesn't make an ass out of himself by trying to underestimate Vivian, while also being determined to protect her at all costs, but knowing just what and how to say (showing your emotions is key, here, guys) it to make her see reason without caging or limiting her.
Vivian had her TSTL moments, but that was to be expected due to her grief over her brother, her limited knowledge of self-defense, and her newfound resilience not to let the stubborn man she loved die for her. So, despite those few TSTL moments, she wasn't annoying, and her character developped and evolved nicely throughout the story.
Also, a breath of fresh air in the communication department where the main couple is concerned. The usual trope in historicals is the dreaded miscommunication or inability/unwillingness to communicate between the characters that leads to a misunderstanding that drags on too long and isn't resolved almost until the very end. This one also had one of those (mostly due to the hero's inability to tell the heroine everything, due to his profession), but it was resolved in a matter of pages, because both the hero actually talked to the heroine, and she actually listened and used her brain to process the information instead of letting it fester and drag on and on. Kudos for that.
What was also a breath of fresh air, and dare I say, quite original, was the intimate interaction between James and Vivian. While in (most) other historicals, there's the requisite "seduction scene" somewhere before the hero and heroine actually manage to truly get to know each other, the romance between James and Vivian was utterly chaste until the wedding. Some would say that's because the wedding happens to soon in the book, but even afterward, they actually got to know each other, discover each other's secrets (at least on Vivien's part) before becoming truly intimate, before becoming truly husband and wife. If this story wasn't a good example of how a relationship must be built on trust, I don't know what is.

The supporting cast, although not very involved (except for the younger Spencer sibling), was also well-written and well-characterized, the villain was creepily intense, and I really can't wait to read about the rest of the Spencer sisters (I hope I'm not wrong about Elinor's hero).

I loved this story from beginning to end, the characters were wonderful and they perfectly complemented each other, the romance was "original" and refreshing, so was the foundation of the story and the plot, the villain provided just the right amount of danger and lurking-of-doom without even appearing in the scene, the pacing was spot-on, the action intense and gripping...Perfect.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-08-10 20:55
The Mésalliance or He's Come Undone. . .
The Mésalliance (Rockliffe) (Volume 2) - Stella Riley

Every time I've decided to sit down and write this review, I became distracted. I'd pull out my copy of The Mésalliance, notes, and highlights, and then a strange thing would happen. I'd begin to read a passage I loved and pretty soon the review, and all else to be honest, was forgotten. Three times now, this has happened. One minute I would have a million thoughts waiting to be translated to somewhat coherent sentences, and then poof! I was lured right into reading the entire book. Again. And again. So perhaps distracted is not exactly correct. Ensorcelled? Fascinated? Mesmerized? Bewitched? All of the above? Now, I have battened down my hatches, girded things that need girding, clicked my ruby red slippers three times, and I'm hoping some sort of review will really happen this time. No guarantees, however.

 

I love/adore Georgian historical romances. It's an era that's so rich, so flamboyant and lusty and liberated. And, oh, those exquisite fashions for both men and women - hoopskirts and panniers, corsets, petticoats, clocked stockings, snuff/patch boxes, red-heeled shoes with diamond buckles, and, of course, longer hair for men. *sigh* Where's my DeLorean? How could I not enjoy The Mésalliance? And I did. At last count, three times. Oh, yes, indeed. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

 

Like the first meeting between Tracy Giles Wynstanton, fourth Duke of Rockliffe, and Adeline Mary Kendrick. She's just a sixteen year old wild child, and he's a twenty-eight year old seasoned soldier. Tracy has not yet assumed the ducal title and is visiting his "most distant and least favourite estate" in Northumberland, Redesdale. He escaped the heat of London while on furlough from an injury, avoids his garrulous bailiff, Mr. Forne, as much as possible, and is hopeful of returning to his army regiment soon. He's intrigued by the barefoot Adeline as much as he's dismissive of the "untidy child of incredible simplicity" who's "all eyes and mouth and wildly disordered nut-brown hair." Adeline likewise is fascinated by Tracy. Fascinated by his gentleness and kindness and calm reassurance the few times they accidentally meet. Though not experienced with either "gentlemen" or kindness, Adeline recognizes both qualities in Tracy. It's an unusual meeting without any of the banality.

 

Eight years pass before Tracy and Adeline meet again at a house party, and their second meeting holds an element of disappointment and shock at the changes in both of them. After her grandfather's death, Adeline is shunted off to live with her aunt, Lady Franklin, and identical twin cousins, Diana and Anthea (or "Dianthea, the stomach disorder"), shades of Cinderella. Adeline is not treated as family but as a servant at the beck and call of her aunt, intimidated by her Uncle Richard, and subjected to Diana's whims and tantrums. Her aunt and her brother, Adeline's Uncle Richard, scolded, locked away, and then beat the wild, gypsy child in Adeline into submission, but though she conformed and shored up her defenses for self protection, she also discovered a more subtle way to rebel: by combining "apparent docility with an under-current of clever, hard to combat acidity." Tracy ("Rock") is disillusioned to see the "unspoilt, sensitive, and fragile" creature from eight years ago has been replaced with a sharp-tongued, bitter woman. But Tracy doesn't know why she's changed; he merely sees the effects of seven years of having to hide her true self.

 

Meeting long-lashed aquamarine eyes filled with detached irony and set beneath narrow, winged brows, his first thought was that she was changed beyond recognition ... and his second, that he would have known her anywhere. The eyes and the voice were the same; it was only the suggestion of frosted bitterness that was new. (26)

 

All that remained was a cold-eyed woman with a barbed tongue - a fact that left him feeling faintly cheated until he remembered that painful flush, swiftly followed by flight. (27)

 

Likewise, Adeline's memory of the kind, young gentleman is replaced by a man who lashes out at Adeline in his anger and disappointment, words which Tracy later regrets and are a source of embarrassment for him.

 

He smiled at her with what at least two persons present recognized as dangerous benevolence and said gently, 'Perhaps you did indeed have just cause for doubting my ability to place you. After all, I'm compelled to acknowledge that I find you considerably changed.' He paused and conducted a leisurely head to foot appraisal. 'You appear, for example, to have discovered the benefits of wearing shoes - an achievement on which I can only congratulate you.' (27)

 

Adeline recognizes this man, the Duke of Rockliffe, is not Tracy. He is a man of her aunt's social strata, a stranger to her, remote, untouchable. This man with his practiced manner, courtly bows, elaborate mode of dress, snuff box, powdered hair, and subtle sarcasm was foreign to her. Eight years ago, he had demonstrated no artifice. His dark hair, sometimes so black "it glinted blue in the sun", had been natural, without powder. All of the changes are encapsulated in his powdered hair.

 

She remembered wanting, more than anything to touch it - but, of course, she never had. And now he chose to wear it powdered ... and stupidly, illogically, she had felt disappointed. (38)

 

And yet, she knows he was ashamed of the way he humiliated her in front of her aunt and her aunt's guests. And he tries to understand "why" she's different. Through all the conflict in these first meetings, the mutual attraction, whether wanted or not, is never in question. They strike sparks off each other and seem to be perfectly matched, in temperament, in wit, and in intelligence. I didn't even wonder why poor Tracy wasn't sure whether he wanted to kiss Adeline or shake her or why Adeline felt she needed to avoid Tracy.

 

I loved their separate moments of recognition, two moments at different times but that complement the other, moments in which they each see in the other a flash of their familiar selves from eight years ago. The sense of loss is replaced with an affirmation and confirmation of who they were and are separately and what they may become together. It's a reassurance for both that whatever the obstacles between them, they are simply Tracy and Adeline.

 

This time it was no fleeting brush of the lips. This time, he took what he had been wanting to take for a week; and Adeline, stunned as much by the suddenness of it as by the feel of his body against hers, found herself powerless to resist.

 

Slowly releasing her, Rockliffe looked into eyes that were no longer coolly composed but startled, confused and a little shy. Eyes that belonged less to the woman she was now than to the girl she had been eight years ago. ‘Ah,’ he thought. ‘Yes. There you are.’ (87-88)

 

Rockliffe emerged from the breakfast-room. His coat was of plain black cloth and, beneath it, his shirt was open at the neck and worn without cravat or vest. But it wasn’t his clothes that stopped her mid-step and made her forget to breathe. His hair, apparently freshly washed, was unpowdered … and black as a raven’s wing. The air froze in her lungs, something lurched behind her blue dimity bodice and she thought foolishly, ‘Oh. There you are.(116)

 

The Mésalliance is, to me, more Tracy's book than Adeline's. By that I mean, it is his character who undergoes more of a transformation than Adeline. She has to learn to trust, a hard battle and a difficult journey on its own, and it is her sense of unworthiness and lack of trust that allows a blackmail scheme instigated by her Uncle Richard to become the barrier between her and Tracy. It is also at the center of a series of misunderstandings and the impetus for the "Dark Moment", or the "point of ritual death" (Regis, The Natural History of the Romance Novel) and emotional separation between Tracy and Adeline throughout the second half of The Mésalliance.

 

Tracy's metamorphosis, however, is so very dramatic. A major part of my enjoyment of The Mésalliance was watching Tracy with his vaunted self-control, self-possession, charm, confidence, elegance (with just a touch of ennui, don't you know), a man who defines the word "languid" in both deed and word, a man whose rapier wit and laconic manner of delivery comes completely undone.

 

He is a kind man, a patient man, meticulous in his manners, tasteful and a trendsetter in his mode of dress. He is a loyal and supportive friend and brother. He is a man who eschews violence but who can deliver a stinging rebuff in a soft dangerous tone of voice with a modicum of words. For example, Tracy admonishes Adeline to be civil when her aunt and her self-absorbed cousin, Diana, come to London for the season. But, he can't resist one of his double-edged barbs to put Lady Franklin and Diana in their place.

 

And then, as the girls moved away, "Poor Thea is so timid, I sometimes despair of her. I only wish she could acquire just a fraction of dear Diana's confidence."

 

'I am sure you must do,' agreed Rockliffe sympathetically. 'And vice versa.'

 

Lady Franklin continued to gaze up at the Duke with faintly baffled suspicion for a moment and then gave it up. (148)

 

And then there are his snuff-boxes. Ah, me. These little trinkets are not simply accessories to be coordinated with the proper jacket and waistcoat. Be they Sèvres or "silver gilt decorated in the Florentine style", a Wedgwood beauty, a pretty enameled bauble, or a fine old ivory trifle from Paris, these little boxes are his way of deflecting the too personal question, buying time, a relief from boredom, an object of meditation, the opening gambit in a search for information, and a million other uses. In other words, snuff-boxes are to Tracy what the little blue blanket is to Linus van Pelt in Peanuts.

 

Over the course of the second half of The Mésalliance, his closest friendships with two men are strained to the breaking point for no greater reason than he is a man at his wits end trying to court his wife, knowing something is wrong and realizing she won't or can't share the problem with him but turns instead to his friends. The man who cooly dismissed a tempestuous mistress without lifting an elegant eyebrow is . . .jealous. Of his friends, Jack and Harry.

 

'I don’t know what the two of you have quarrelled about and I don’t want to know –but the sooner you make it up, the better for all of us.’ He grinned suddenly. ‘You may not have realised it, but you’re not the only sufferer. It’s making him extremely touchy and putting a nasty edge on his tongue.’

 

‘Dear me,’ drawled a soft, mocking voice, ‘Who can you mean, I wonder?’

 

'I find I object...rather strongly...to both curiosity and interference. And - much though I may regret it - I am quite willing to press the point, if necessary.' He paused, meeting Jack's gaze with cold amusement. 'I'm sure you understand me.'

 

'Oh for God's sake, stop being so damned ridiculous,' came the irritable and largely unexpired retort. 'I've told you before - it'll be a cold day in hell before I let you provoke me into crossing swords with you. And particularly over something like this.'

 

'Still craven, Jack?'

 

'No. Still sensible.'

 

'Ah. And do you consider it sensible to closet yourself away with my wife for a full fifteen minutes?'asked his Grace sweetly. 'For, if so, I believe I must acquaint you with your mistake.' (252-253)
~~~~~~~~~~
Well!’ exclaimed Harry with dry humour. ‘Am I allowed to sit down –or had I best take myself off to the other room?'

 

‘That,’ replied his Grace, ‘rather depends on what you want to talk about.’

 

‘Oh –I’ll be dumb, never fear. Though it would be a damned sight easier if I knew exactly what’s eating you.’

 

‘What is all this?’ asked Lord Amberley, laughing. ‘Do you know, Jack?’

 

‘It looks,’ observed Mr Ingram, ‘rather like a quarrel.’

 

‘Lord, no! Nothing of the sort,’ said Harry, seating himself. ‘You have to talk to each other for that.’ (244)
~~~~~~~~~~~
At a saner level beneath his involuntary jealousy, Rockliffe was well aware where Harry’s heart lay and, although this did not help him in his dealings with Adeline, it did make it possible for him to tacitly heal the breach with his lordship.

 

‘But he made damned sure I wouldn’t dare ask any awkward questions,’ confided Harry later to Nell. ‘Gave me the sort of smile you usually see over a yard of steel and advised me –ever so gently, mind –not to meddle. Then he showed me his newest snuff-box.’ (246)

 

The climax, so to speak, is at a very public venue - the Queensbury House Ball - among a few hundred of the crème de la crème of London Society. Though Tracy gives the appearance of a man in control at the beginning of the evening, dressed in his finest, he's a man who loses every bit of his control in just a few hours.

 

". . . elegantly saturnine in silver-laced black with the Order of the Garter displayed upon his chest and diamonds winking on his fingers and in his cravat. As always, his hair was confined at the nape in long sable ribbons - to which, tonight, was added a narrow diamond clasp; and as had been his habit again in recent weeks, it was thickly powdered." (263)

 

By the end of the evening, he has raised his voice, raised a little hell, lured Diana the viper into revealing her true colors to all and sundry, delivered a look so intimidating to poor Adeline she flees the ballroom, separated the villainous Uncle Richard from a few of his teeth, promised a fate worse than death if Richard Horton and his "hell-born niece" ever come near Adeline ever again, and chased Adeline down to his country estate at Wynstanton Priors.

 

Remember the silver-laced black brocade coat, diamonds, etc.? When he finds Adeline, he's covered in dust from the road, his right sleeve is "partially adrift", the Garter is missing as well as the lace at his wrists. The diamonds are probably scattered like breadcrumbs from London to the Priors. In place of his elegant buckled shoes, he's now wearing top boots, and his hair, still bearing faint traces of powder, is "hopelessly windswept." Tracy, it is fair to say, isn't a happy camper at the moment. He has unraveled in a most spectacular and very public way.

 

"So far, I've lost my temper, my finesse and a particularly fine snuff-box. I've bruised my knuckles, winded my favorite mare and missed my breakfast. But what I have not done is ride forty miles in a guise I can only describe as lamentable, merely for the pleasure of your conversation. Let's go." (280)

 

This is my first book by Stella Riley, and I thoroughly enjoyed every word despite a little disappointment that Adeline was so completely cowed and intimidated by her Uncle Richard and his blackmail scheme in the last half of the book as well as her inability to be honest with Tracy and place her trust in him once and for all. Tracy gave her every reason to believe he would not judge her poorly for the skeletons in her closet, and he generously gave her so many opportunities to enlist his assistance. She justifies her actions as protecting the man she loved, ensuring his name was never tainted with her scandal. I understood that in one respect, and that it led to a more disordered, unraveled, slightly messy Tracy made it a little easier to swallow. I'm ecstatic that there are two more books in this series - The Parfit Knight (Rockliffe #1) and The Player (Rockliffe #3) as well as the possibility of a fourth in the series in the future. Life is very good indeed!

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