Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Historical Romance, Victorian Romance

Playing the Duke’s Fiancée Amanda McCabe 4*#Review @AmandaMcCabe01 @MillsandBoon @HarlequinBooks #harlequinhistorical #MillsandBoonHistorical #BookReview #BlogBlitz @rararesources #PlayingtheDukesFiancée

A pretend proposal

For the unconventional heiress

When American heiress Violet Wilkins crosses paths with William, Duke of Charteris, she has extremely low expectations of the “Duke of Bore.” But when this seemingly stuffy aristocrat offers her escape from a dreadful arranged marriage, she leaps at the chance! To her surprise, the arresting Charles whisks Vi into an exhilarating make-believe romance. And as she gets to know the man behind the title, she can’t help wanting more…

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Violet’s story is the second in the Dollar Duchess series but readable as a standalone.
With a vibrant setting and vivid characters, this gentle Victorian romance is an engaging read. Violet is an unlikely Duchess as her sister Lily and isn’t even sure she wants to marry. However, her plans for independence are ruined by her parents’ plan to make her part of a business agreement. She turns to the man who is fast becoming a friend for help and then has to reconsider if being a Duchess wouldn’t be so bad after all.

The’Duke of Bore’ is determined to shed his stuffy image. Unconventional Violet is the woman to help him, just for fun, of course. When a fake engagement answers both their needs, he is forced to reconsider.

The main protagonists are both likeable, and the romance that develops between them is gentle and endearing. The historical setting is glamorous and gives the reader a good sense of time and place.

Amanda McCabe

Amanda wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen–a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject…)

 She’s never since used algebra, but her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion.  She lives in Santa Fe with a Poodle, a cat, a wonderful husband, and a very and far too many books and royal memorabilia collections. 

 When not writing or reading, she loves taking dance classes, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network–even though she doesn’t cook. 

Amanda also writes as Laurel McKee for Grand Central Publishing, the Elizabethan Mystery Series as Amanda Carmack, and the Manor Cat Mystery Series as Eliza Casey.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery, New Books, Victorian Romance

Search for the House of Dreams Alison Burke 3*#Review #AlisonBurke @rararesources #BlogTour #BookReview #HistoricalRomance #HistFic #VictorianRomance #FamilyDrama #SearchfortheHouseofDreams

It is the year 1847 in the elegant city of Bath where 18-year-old Genevre Stratton is treated more as a servant than a daughter in the elegant house where bills are not paid, and the rent is in arrears.                                                                                                                           

Appalled by the dishonesty and overriding social ambition beneath her parents’ veneer of respectability, only her love for her younger brother and sisters keeps her there.                      

Left to cope alone when their false world falls apart, she fights to keep her siblings together, until poverty forces her to yield them to the care of their half-brother, George Coleman.  Handsome, wealthy and charismatic, he is the enemy who becomes her lover.               

To surrender all to her passionate desire for him, or to keep the independence of a new-found musical career on the London stage? This is her choice to make until an unexpected call of duty takes her to Paris.                                                                                     

Must the old, dark secrets she discovers there alter the course of her life forever?

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Set in Victorian times, this story is full of family drama, hard times and unlikely relationships.

Genevre is the daughter of a Victorian household that outwardly appears respectable and wealthy. Betrayal, deceit and a complete lack of parenting skills are what Genevre has to deal with. She desperately tries to keep her siblings together, protecting them from the depravity and deprivation of Victorian society. Her half brother is both her nemesis and salvation. Their relationship is complex and uncomfortable, especially when their feelings develop. It is indicative of this type of society and adds authenticity.

This is a dramatic story and aptly demonstrates the dire circumstance many women found themselves in. The characters are vividly written although many are unpleasant, they all add to the story.

An atmospheric story with strong characters. It gives the reader a good sense of the darker side of Victorian life.

Alison Burke

I was born in Lancashire and started my career by training as a State Registered general nurse. Later, I joined the army and became an officer in Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. On a posting to Malaya, now Malaysia, I found my true love. This was an ideal setting for marriage with young children, and now my memories are a wonderfully rich source of material for my writing.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Saga, Victorian Romance

Trouble for the Leading Lady Rachel Brimble 5*#Review @RachelBrimble @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #Saga #BlogTour @rararesources #BookReview #Victorian #Bath #19thCentury #TroublefortheLeadingLady

Bath, 1852.

As a girl, Nancy Bloom would go to Bath’s Theatre Royal, sit on the hard wooden benches and stare in awe at the actresses playing men as much as the women dressed in finery. She longed to be a part of it all and when a man promised her parents he could find a role for Nancy in the theatre, they believed him.

His lie and betrayal led to her ruin.

Francis Carlyle is a theatre manager, an ambitious man always looking for the next big thing to take the country by storm. A self-made man, Francis has finally shed the skin of his painful past and is now rich, successful and in need of a new female star. Never in a million years did he think he’d find her standing on a table in one of Bath’s bawdiest pubs.

Nancy vowed never to trust a man again. Francis will do anything to make her his star. As they engage in a battle of wits and wills, can either survive with their hearts intact?

The second in Rachel Brimble’s thrilling new Victorian saga series, Trouble for the Leading Lady will whisk you away to the riotous, thriving underbelly of Victorian Bath.

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I received a copy of this book from the author and Aria in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Nancy’s story is the second book in this challenging and compelling Victorian saga. Nancy dreams of being on the stage end in ruin until Louisa ( A Widow’s Vow) saves her. Nancy’s life is not what she wants, but her close friendship with Louisa and Octavia keeps her positive. Limited by her gender and social class, Nancy’s life choices are few. This poignant theme is explored well in this insightful story.

Francis’life in the workhouse still haunts him. He hopes to let go of the horrors through the play he is writing. There is strong attraction when Francis and Nancy meet, but can they fulfil each other’s dreams?

The conflicted romance is passionate, but both driven characters are wary of being hurt. They are easy to empathise with, and you want them to find lasting happiness. The dynamic between Louisa, Nancy and Octavia is relatable and provides humour and realism, adding authenticity.

The setting and historical detail are well researched and give the story its ethos and immersive quality.

This is an engaging Victorian romantic saga with a strong theme of social injustice that resonates.

Rachel Brimble

Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 20 published novels including the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin).

In 2019 she signed a new three book contract with Aria Fiction for a Victorian trilogy set in a Bath brothel. The first book, A Widow’s Vow was released in September 2020 followed by book 2 Trouble For The Leading Lady in March 2021 – it is expected that the final instalment will be released in the Autumn 2021. Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.

To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed giveaway every month!), click on link Newsletter Sign Up

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Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Historical Romance, Victorian Romance

His Unlikely Duchess Amanda McCabe 4*#Review @AmandaMcCabe01 @MillsandBoon @HarlequinBooks #harlequinhistorical #MillsandBoonHistorical #BookReview #MondayBlogs #BlogBlitz @rararesources

Money can buy her marriage

But will it lead to love?

Miss Lily Wilkins hopes her American money will compensate for her lack of etiquette, as she needs a prestigious marriage to save her sisters’ prospects. Raised to believe wealth was her greatest attribute, she’s stunned when her unconventional ways catch the eye of the notorious Duke of Lennox. He’s far from the safe, sensible match she’d planned on—but Lily might just discover he’s the one she needs!

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This story is full of intrinsic historical interest. I enjoyed getting to know Lily and her sisters even before they set foot in England. Lily is a facilitator she mediates between her parents and her sisters, wanting them all to be happy. Making a good marriage will secure the future for her younger sisters, but Lily is understandably nervous when her mother accepts an invitation to go to England and Victorian society.

Lily and Aidan’s first encounter is lovely and makes them see the real person behind the public persona. They process their feelings away from society’s glare, and attraction grows. The potential financial settlement and Aidan’s past make their romance conflicted.

The ending is romantic, and there’s an informative epilogue. I look forward to Violet’s romance the next in the series.

Amanda wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen–a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject…)

 She’s never since used algebra, but her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion.  She lives in Santa Fe with a Poodle, a cat, a wonderful husband, and a very and far too many books and royal memorabilia collections. 

 When not writing or reading, she loves taking dance classes, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network–even though she doesn’t cook. 

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Festive Read, Historical Romance, Mystery, Victorian Romance

A Princess By Christmas Julia London 5*#Review @JuliaFLondon @MillsandBoon #BlogTour #BookReview #ARoyalWedding #MillsandBoonInsiders #APrincessByChristmas #MillsandBoonHistorical #Festive

A Secret. A Lie. A Revolution.

Hollis Honeycutt has written her London gazette since the death of her husband – featuring fashion plates, marriage advice, and the latest gossip in and around Mayfair. But now she feels her gazette should have more meaning, cover topics of more consequence than the latest curl cream.

The opportunity presents itself when Hollis overhears rumours of a potential coup in the Kingdom of Wesloria, a coup linked to the highest level of government in London. During her investigation Hollis spies a man with no business lurking around peace talks, and determines to expose him for the traitor he most certainly must be.

When Weslorian Marek Brendan was fifteen he was shocked to discover his heritage was not what he believed – he was whisked away from the Weslorian palace when he was born because there was fear that corrupt forces would try and kidnap him. Now he is determined to stop these corrupt forces staging a coup in his home country. Except for the beautiful woman whose questions are putting his own investigation at risk. Yet soon Marek realises that pretty Hollis can help him. But when he confides his suspicions, Hollis’s loyalties are tested and she must choose between her loyalties to her family, or her heart…

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I received a copy of this book from Mills and Boon in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The third book in the ‘A Royal Wedding’ series features Hollis, a widow who is feeling left behind in the romance stakes when her sister Eliza,(The Princess Plan) and her best friend Caroline (Royal Kiss and Tell) find true love.

Hollis is an engaging character conflicted with moving on and keeping her husband’s memory alive. She’s independent, opinionated and a little outrageous for the staid Victorian society and a fabulous character because of these things. Marek’s secret will rock the foundations of Wesloria. He fights his attraction to Hollis fearing she will betray him. Their slow-burn romance is conflicted from the start.

This story is complete and reads like a standalone. However, if you want to know more about Eliza and Caroline and understand the royal world of Alucia and Wesloria read the other books in the series too.

This story has political intrigue at its heart, and its the investigation of a suspected coup in Wesloria that divides and then unites the unlikely couple. The dialogue between Hollis and Marek is witty and informative. Hollis’ introspective thoughts are well written and give important insights into her motivations and personality. The romance is gentle but insistent. There’s a festive twist to this story which gives a perfect picture of Victorian Christmas.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Saga, Victorian Romance

A Widow’s Vow Rachel Brimble 5*#Review @RachelBrimble @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #Saga #BlogTour @rararesources #BookReview #Victorian #Bath #19thCentury #AWidowsVow

From grieving widow...

1851. After her merchant husband saved her from a life of prostitution, Louisa Hill was briefly happy as a housewife in Bristol. But then a constable arrives at her door. Her husband has been found hanged in a Bath hotel room, a note and a key to a property in Bath the only things she has left of him. And now the debt collectors will come calling.

To a new life as a madam.

Forced to leave everything she knows behind, Louisa finds more painful betrayals waiting for her in the house in Bath. Left with no means of income, Louisa knows she has nothing to turn to but her old way of life. But this time, she’ll do it on her own terms – by turning her home into a brothel for upper class gentleman. And she’s determined to spare the girls she saves from the street the horrors she endured in the past.

Enlisting the help of Jacob Jackson, a quiet but feared boxer, to watch over the house, Louisa is about to embark on a life she never envisaged. Can she find the courage to forge this new path? 

A Widow’s Vow is the first in a gripping and gritty new Victorian saga series from Rachel Brimble. You won’t be able to put it down.

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I received a copy of this book from the author and Aria in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Set in Victorian Bath, this is a story about women who survive the danger, deceit and depravity of the time. Louisa recently widowed, reluctantly returns to her old life but this time on her terms. She experiences angst and conflict as she forges a new living for herself and the young women she saves from the streets. Jacob regrets not saving his mother, from his father. Despite his reputation as a tough fighter, he respects and protects women. It is these qualities that draw Louisa to him.

There is a good insight into what life was like for women in Victorian England with stark contrasts between the genders and social classes. It is an emotional read with gentle romance.

This book is recommended for fans of Victorian history and romance, believable characters and an absorbing plot.

Rachel lives with her husband and their two daughters in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 20 published novels including the Pennington’s department store series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin).

Her next project is a Victorian trilogy set in a Bath brothel which she recently signed with Aria Fiction. The series will feature three heroines determined to change their lives and those of other women. The first book. A Widow’s Vow is due for release in September and available for Amazon preorder now.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.

To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed giveaway every month!), click on link Newsletter Sign Up

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Posted in Book Review, Historical Romance, Victorian Romance

A Royal Kiss and Tell Julia London 4*# Review @JuliaFLondon @MillsandBoon #ARoyalWedding #HistoricalRomance #MillsandBoonHistorical #MillsandBoonInsiders #ARoyalKissandTell #BookReview #FridayReads

Every prince has his secrets. And she’s determined to unravel his…

Every dashing young man in London’s ton is vying for Lady Caroline Hawke’s hand – except one.The handsome, delectable, rogue, Prince Leopold of Alucia can’t quite remember who Caroline is and the insult is not to be tolerated. So Caroline does what any clever, resourceful lady of means would do to make sure a prince remembers her: sees that amusingly risqué morsels about Leo’s reputation are printed in a ladies’ gossip gazette…all the while secretly setting her cap for the rakish royal.

Someone has been painting Leo as a blackguard, but who? Socially, it could ruin him. More important, it jeopardises his investigation into a contemptible scheme that reaches the highest levels of government in London. Now Leo needs Lady Caroline’s help to regain access to society. But this charming prince is about to discover that enlisting the deceptively sweet and sexy Lady Caroline might just cost him his heart, his soul and both their reputations…

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I received a copy of this book from Mills and Boon in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This book gives an astute insight into Victorian royalty and society, but there is also a fairytale quality about it. Caroline is not a typical romantic protagonist, but she has redeeming qualities that emerge as the story progresses. Prince Leopold’s outrageous behaviour hides his innate sense of justice. However, it draws Caroline to him, which is both a blessing and a curse.

The banter between the couple is witty and keeps the story’s momentum. The story is a balance of historical issues and fairytale romance. The love scenes are passionate and the ending in keeping with the story’s ethos.

Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Historical Romance, Victorian Romance

Lilian and the Irresistible Duke Virginia Heath 5*#Review @VirginiaHeath @MillsandBoon #SecretsofaVictorianHousehold @rararesources #BlogBlitz #BookReview #MillsandBoonHistorical #HarlequinHistorical #FridayReads #PublicationDay

A reunion in Rome…Sparks an affair to remember!

Responsible widow Lilian Fairclough is persuaded to travel to Rome for a hard-earned break and to let down her hair! She’s surprised to be reunited with passionate, cynical Italian duke, Pietro Venturi. He reawakens her sensual side and intrigues her with glimpses of pain beneath his rakish surface. Enticed into a secret and temporary affair – what will happen once she returns home?

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I love older couples romances, and whilst these are becoming more popular in contemporary romance, they are rarer in historical romance, so one is particularly enjoyable to read.

Set in romantic Rome, Lilian, who still mourns her husband, reacquaints with an Italian Duke Pietro, who has only bad memories, of his late marriage, and will never enter that institution again.

A mutual love of art draws them into friendship, but proximity builds the sensual attraction, to sizzling level. The characters are authentic and easy to empathise. The decisions they make, are in keeping with their maturity and the resultant romance is passionate, poignant and permanent, after much angst and conflict.

The final book in the Secrets of a Victorian Household, series it reads as a standalone, but for those who have read the previous books, or like continuity, the epilogue ties everything together.

An engaging read with delightful characters, a vivid setting and a realistic but romantic love story.

#VirginiaHeath

When Virginia Heath was a little girl it took her ages to fall asleep, so she made up stories in her head to help pass the time while she was staring at the ceiling. As she got older, the stories became more complicated, sometimes taking weeks to get to the happy ending. Then one day, she decided to embrace insomnia and start writing them down. Despite that, it still takes her forever to fall asleep.

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Giveaway link above. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Murder Mystery, Victorian Romance

The Princess Plan Julia London 5*#Review @JuliaFLondon @MillsandBoon #BlogTour #ARoyalWedding #Victorian #Romance #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #BookReview #Extract #TuesdayBookBlog #MurderMystery #Intrigue

#ThePrincessPLan

London’s high society loves nothing more than a scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefited from an anonymous tip-off about the crime, forcing Sebastian to ask for her help in his quest to find his friend’s killer.

With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more dangerous than a prince socialising with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And soon, as temptation becomes harder to ignore, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart. 

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#ThePrincessPlan #BlogTour

I received a copy of this book from Mills and Boon in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Such an absorbing, intriguing romantic read. Eliza is a delight, independent, intelligent and indelibly imprinted on your mind, as her unusual romance with a sexy, troubled Prince plays out. The ethos of Victorian society is captured well. Eliza, her sister and friend are a redoubtable trio who enliven every page of this Victorian romance.

Danger and intrigue fuse effortlessly with passion and romance. Whilst, there are elements of ‘Cinderella’ in this story, the reality of what is expected of royal princes and women in society, tempers the fun and glamour. Full of witty dialogue, a murder mystery, political intrigue and romantic passion, this tale has something for everyone. The first in the series, I look forward to the next book.

Extract From The Princess Plan – Julia London

CHAPTER ONE

London 1845

All of London has been on tenterhooks, desperate for a glimpse of Crown Prince Sebastian of Alucia during his highly anticipated visit. Windsor Castle was the scene of Her Majesty’s banquet to welcome him. Sixty-and-one-hundred guests were on hand, feted in St. George’s Hall beneath the various crests of the Order of the Garter. Two thousand pieces of silver cutlery were used, one thousand crystal glasses and goblets. The first course and main dish of lamb and potatoes were served on silver-gilded plates, followed by delicate fruits on French porcelain.

Prince Sebastian presented a large urn fashioned of green Alucian malachite to our Queen Victoria as a gift from his father the King of Alucia. The urn was festooned with delicate ropes of gold around the mouth and the neck.

The Alucian women were attired in dresses of heavy silk worn close to the body, the trains quite long and brought up and fastened with buttons to facilitate walking. Their hair was fashioned into elaborate knots worn at the nape. The Alucian gentlemen wore formal frock coats of black superfine wool that came to midcalf, as well as heavily embroidered waistcoats worn to the hip. It was reported that Crown Prince Sebastian is “rather tall and broad, with a square face and neatly trimmed beard, a full head of hair the colour of tea, and eyes the colour of moss,” which the discerning reader might think of as a softer shade of green. It is said he possesses a regal air owing chiefly to the many medallions and ribbons he wore befitting his rank.

Honeycutt’s Gazette of Fashion and Domesticity for Ladies

The Right Honorable Justice William Tricklebank, a widower and justice of the Queen’s Bench in Her Majesty’s service, was very nearly blind, his eyesight having steadily eroded into varying and fuzzy shades of grey with age. He could no longer see so much as his hand, which was why his eldest daughter, Miss Eliza Tricklebank, read his papers to him.

Eliza had enlisted the help of Poppy, their housemaid, who was more family than servant, having come to them as an orphaned girl more than twenty years ago. Together, the two of them had anchored strings and ribbons halfway up the walls of his London townhome, and all the judge had to do was follow them with his hand to move from room to room. Among the hazards he faced was a pair of dogs that were far too enthusiastic in their wish to be of some use to him, and a cat who apparently wished him dead, judging by the number of times he put himself in the judge’s path or leapt into his lap as he sat, or walked across the knitting the judge liked to do while his daughter read to him, or unravelled his ball of yarn without the judge’s notice.

The only other potential impediments to his health were his daughters—Eliza, a spinster, and her younger sister, Hollis, otherwise known as the Widow Honeycutt. They were often together in his home, and when they were, it seemed to him there was quite a lot of laughing at this and shrieking at that. His daughters disputed that they shrieked, and accused him of being old and easily startled. But the judge’s hearing, unlike his eyesight, was quite acute, and those two shrieked with laughter. Often.

At eight-and-twenty, Eliza was unmarried, a fact that had long baffled the judge. There had been an unfortunate and rather infamous misunderstanding with one Mr Asher Daughton-Cress, who the judge believed was despicable, but that had been ten years ago. Eliza had once been demure and a politely deferential young lady, but she’d shed any pretence of deference when her heart was broken. In the last few years, she had emerged vibrant and carefree. He would think such demeanour would recommend her to gentlemen far and wide, but apparently, it did not. She’d had only one suitor since her very public scandal, a gentleman some fifteen years older than Eliza. Mr Norris had faithfully called every day until one day he did not. When the judge had inquired, Eliza had said, “It was not love that compelled him, Pappa. I prefer my life here with you—the work is more agreeable, and I suspect not as many hours as marriage to him would require.”

His youngest, Hollis, had been tragically widowed after only two years of a marriage without issue. While she maintained her own home, she and her delightful wit were a faithful caller to his house at least once a day without fail, and sometimes as much as two or three times per day. He should like to see her remarried, but Hollis insisted she was in no rush to do so. The judge thought she rather preferred her sister’s company to that of a man.

His daughters were thick as thieves, as the saying went, and were co-conspirators in something that the judge did not altogether approve of. But he was blind, and they were determined to do what they pleased no matter what he said, so he’d given up trying to talk any practical sense into them.

That questionable activity was the publication of a ladies’ gazette. Tricklebank didn’t think ladies needed a gazette, much less one having to do with frivolous subjects such as fashion, gossip and beauty. But say what he might, his daughters turned a deaf ear to him. They were unfettered in their enthusiasm for this endeavour, and if the two of them could be believed, so was all of London.

The gazette had been established by Hollis’s husband, Sir Percival Honeycutt. Except that Sir Percival had published an entirely different sort of gazette, obviously— one devoted to the latest political and financial news. Now that was a useful publication to the judge’s way of thinking.

Sir Percival’s death was the most tragic of accidents, the result of his carriage sliding off the road into a swollen river during rain, which also saw the loss of a fine pair of greys. It was a great shock to them all, and the judge had worried about Hollis and her ability to cope with such a loss. But Hollis proved herself an indomitable spirit, and she had turned her grief into efforts to preserve her husband’s name. But as she was a young woman without a man’s education, and could not possibly comprehend the intricacies of politics or financial matters, she had turned the gazette on its head and dedicated it solely to topics that interested women, which naturally would be limited to the latest fashions and the most tantalizing on dits swirling about London’s high society. It was the judge’s impression that women had very little interest in the important matters of the world.

And yet, interestingly, the judge could not deny that Hollis’s version of the gazette was more actively sought than her husband’s had ever been. So much so that Eliza had been pressed into the service of helping her sister prepare her gazette each week. It was curious to Tricklebank that so many members of the Quality were rather desperate to be mentioned among the gazette’s pages.

Today, his daughters were in an unusually high state of excitement, for they had secured the highly sought-after invitations to the Duke of Marlborough’s masquerade ball in honour of the crown prince of Alucia. One would think the world had stopped spinning on its axis and that the heavens had parted and the seas had re-ceded and this veritable God of All Royal Princes had shined his countenance upon London and blessed them all with his presence.

Hogwash.

Everyone knew the prince was here to strike an important trade deal with the English government in the name of King Karl. Alucia was a small European nation with impressive wealth for her size. It was perhaps best known for an ongoing dispute with the neighbouring country of Wesloria—the two had a history of war and distrust as fraught as that between England and France. The judge had read that it was the crown prince who was pushing for modernization in Alucia, and who was the impetus behind the proposed trade agreement. Prince Sebastian envisioned increasing the prosperity of Alucia by trading cotton and iron ore for manufactured goods. But according to the judge’s daughters, that was not the most important part of the trade negotiations. The important part was that the prince was also in search of a marriage bargain.

“It’s what everyone says,” Hollis had insisted to her father over supper recently.

“And how is it, my dear, that everyone knows what the prince intends?” the judge asked as he stroked the cat, Pris, on his lap. The cat had been named Princess when the family believed it a female. When the house-man Ben discovered that Princess was, in fact, a male, Eliza said it was too late to change the name. So they’d shortened it to Pris. “Did the prince send a letter? Announce it in the Times?”

Caro says,” Hollis countered as if that were quite obvious to anyone with half a brain where she got her information. “She knows everything about everyone, Pappa.”

“Aha. If Caro says it, then, by all means, it must be true.”

“You must yourself admit she is rarely wrong,” Hollis had said with an indignant sniff.

Caro, or Lady Caroline Hawke, had been a lifelong friend to his daughters and had been so often underfoot in the Tricklebank house that for many years, it seemed to the judge that he had three daughters.

Caroline was the only sibling of Lord Beckett Hawke and was also his ward. Long ago, a cholera outbreak had swept through London, and both Caro’s mother and his children’s mother had succumbed. Amelia, his wife, and Lady Hawke had been dear friends. They’d sent their children to the Hawke summer estate when Amelia had taken ill. Lady Hawke had insisted on caring for her friend and, well, in the end, they were both lost.

Lord Hawke was an up-and-coming young lord and politician, known for his progressive ideas in the House of Lords. He was rather handsome, Hollis said, a popular figure, and socially in high demand. Which meant that, by association, so was his sister. She, too, was quite comely, which made her presence all the easier to her brother’s many friends, the judge suspected.

But Caroline did seem to know everyone in London and was constantly calling on the Tricklebank house-hold to spout the gossip she’d gleaned in homes across Mayfair. Here was an industrious young lady—she called on three salons a day if she called on one. The judge supposed her brother scarcely need worry about putting food in their cupboards, for the two of them were dining with this four-and-twenty or that ten-and-six almost every night. It was a wonder Caroline wasn’t a plump little peach.

Perhaps she was. In truth, she was merely another shadow to the judge these days.

“And she was at Windsor and dined with the queen,” Hollis added with superiority.

“You mean Caro was in the same room but one hundred persons away from the queen,” the judge suggested. He knew how these fancy suppers went.

“Well, she was there, Pappa, and she met the Alucians, and she knows a great deal about them now. I am quite determined to discover who the prince intends to offer for and announce it in the gazette before anyone else. Can you imagine? I shall be the talk of London!” This was precisely what Mr. Tricklebank didn’t like about the gazette. He did not want his daughters to be the talk of London.

But it was not the day for him to make this point, for his daughters were restless, moving about the house with an urgency he was not accustomed to. Today was the day of the Royal Masquerade Ball, and the sound of crisp petticoats and silk rustled around him, and the scent of perfume wafted into his nose when they passed. His daughters were waiting impatiently for Lord Hawke’s brougham to come round and fetch them. Their masks, he was given to understand, had already arrived at the Hawke House, commissioned, Eliza had breathlessly reported, from “Mrs Cubison herself.”

He did not know who Mrs Cubison was.

And frankly, he didn’t know how Caro had managed to finagle the invitations to a ball at Kensington Palace for his two daughters—for the good Lord knew the Tricklebanks did not have the necessary connections to achieve such a feat.

He could feel their eagerness, their anxiety in the nervous pitch of their giggling when they spoke to each other. Even Poppy seemed nervous. He supposed this was to be the ball by which all other balls in the history of mankind would forever be judged, but he was quite thankful he was too blind to attend.

When the knock at the door came, he was startled by such squealing and furious activity rushing by him that he could only surmise that the brougham had arrived and the time had come to go to the ball.


Posted in Book Review, Christmas Read, Family Drama, Festive Read, Historical Romance, Romance, Saga, Victorian Romance

The Christmas Wedding Dilly Court 4*#Review @DillyCourt @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #Christmas #Wedding #HistoricalFiction #saga #TheVillageSecrets #BookReview #VictorianRomance

Holding the letter in trembling hands, Daisy’s future crumbled before her – the words engraved on her heart forever.

The village of Little Creek, the long winter of 1867

The first flakes of snow are falling when Daisy Marshall, secretly engaged to her master’s son, finds herself jilted at the altar.

Heartbroken, Daisy flees to the small village of Little Creek, nestled on the coast of Essex. There she is warmly welcomed – but the village is poverty-stricken, suffering under a cruel Lord of the manor. And when cholera hits, the villagers are truly in dire straits.

Determined to help, Daisy makes new friends in earnest doctor Nicholas and dashing smuggler Jay – but also dangerous new enemies, who threaten to destroy everything she’s built. Can Daisy save the village and find happiness in time for Christmas?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A well researched historical saga, of family drama, mystery, poverty and romance. The social divide apparent in Victorian England is explored here.

Daisy, a governess lives in no man’s land, somewhere between upstairs and downstairs. In love with the heir to the household, she hopes her position will be confirmed, but he lets her down, and she returns home, heartbroken and unemployed. Moving to a small Essex village with her family, she feels at home, but the cruelty of the ruling classes blights the villagers’ lives who live in fear, poverty and squalor.

Daisy finds friendship and a warm community, but evil lurks and threatens the life she builds. This is a detailed, passionate tale of Victorian life, which draws you in, as the descriptive writing and authentic characters bring this era of change to life.

A festive start, to what promises to be a riveting series for romantic saga devotees.