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ANYTHING BUT A DUKE, by Christy Carlyle, is the second book in The Duke’s Den series.

Raised as an orphan, Aiden Iverson has managed to rise up from poverty to extreme wealth. He left a sister in the orphanage when he ran away. His search for her and their birth parents is a mystery throughout the story.

Aiden often backs entrepreneurs. He finds that money can’t buy respect from the ton. He belongs to the Duke’s Den men’s club, and through his friends from the club he decides to resort to pursuing an aristocrat for marriage. Thus gaining respect and acceptance into society.

Lady Diana Ashby is an inventor. She has a brilliant mind. Because of the time period she is not taken seriously and has no one to back her inventions. She enters a contest and her demonstration fails. One of the judges, Aiden, offers her the opportunity to fix her invention and bring it to his office.

When they meet up, he strikes a deal with Diana. He will back her invention and help find a buyer for it. In return, she will help him find the perfect Lady to marry. She agrees as long as it isn’t her. She wants nothing to do with marriage as it will distract from her work as an inventor.

Diana and Aidan start the hunt to find him an aristocratic match. And Aidan finds a buyer for her invention, an early model prototype vacuum cleaner.

Along the way they fall in love, with some extremely heated scenes. There are many chuckles in this story. Some of the gadgets Diana invents are useful and some are not. This makes the story more interesting. The dialogue is witty and refreshing.

I enjoyed this friendship to romance story. It starts off with a dramatic rescue, then a bargain, ending with acceptance and love.

I would recommend this book for a refreshing take on a Regency novel.

I received this book from Romance Junkies Reviews for my honest review.

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Romance Junkies by Marie Harte.. by Diana Mccollum - 3d ago

NEVER A BRIDE by Megan Frampton is book four in A Duke’s Daughters Series.

Griffith Davies has spent the majority of his life serving in Her Majesty’s Navy. He loves his life on the open sea. When his cousin, the current Duke of Northam, falls fatality ill, Griffith gives up the sea to help him. Out of respect and honor to his cousin and friend, he agrees to learn the responsibilities that will go with the Dukedom when his cousin dies and Griffin inherits. His cousin informs Griffith that he needs to attend the balls and shop around for a wife.

Griffith does not want to marry an inexperienced, shy, young miss. He makes a bargain with Lady Della Howlett, who comes to him for help in finding her friend’s husband. (The friend’s husband had sailed on a ship captained by Griffith.)

If Lady Della will pretend to be his betrothed, he will help her. Lady Della has a tarnished reputation, having run off with her dance instructor only to come back to London pregnant and single. Disowned by her father, she sells her jewels and opens a school with her friend.

Lady Della is by no means a “young thing.” Her daughter is about 8 years old. The sparks between Lady Della and Griffith heat up the pages. Neither claims to want to marry; they are each helping the other out.

The only problem I had with this book is that Lady Della lusts after Griffith from the very beginning of the book but doesn’t want to consider marriage. She has a daughter out of wedlock and admits her life is somewhat ruined by that. Yet she throws caution to the wind in pursuing Griffith for his body, and just for a good romp In bed. In the end they do fall in love and Griffith loves her daughter too. So, the book does have a happily ever after. A good read.

I received this book from Romance Junkies Reviews for my honest review.

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THE TIME COLLECTOR is a unique time travel in that the characters only travel in their minds after touching an object from the past. Roan West, the hero, is a psychometrist who has highly developed skills along with a small number of other psychometrists around the world.

Melicent Tilpin, the heroine, recently discovered her powers as a psychometrist, and when Roan sees a YouTube of her talking about her ability, he goes to see her, touches the snow globe she made, and learns about her struggles to raise her teenage brother after her mother dies of cancer. He’s taken with her and falling in love from their first meet.

Someone is killing psychometrists, and they set Melicent’s house on fire in Los Angeles. She and her brother narrowly escape with their lives. Roan takes them to stay with him in New Orleans while he searches for the person after the psychometrists and solve the mystery of the ooparts—out-of-place artifacts.

THE TIME COLLECTOR kept me reading, but there were places where I felt like there was unnecessary detail that could have been cut and made it much more of a page turner. Even so, it was a different and clever approach to time travel with a dash of romance.

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THE WEDDING PARTY is the third book in THE WEDDING DATE series, and it was a nice continuation. We originally meet the wedding couple in the first book of the series, THE WEDDING DATE. THE WEDDING PARTY is about the couple reconnecting and getting married, but the story revolves around the couple’s best friends, Theo and Maddie. They can’t stand to be even in the same room together and only do so out of their friendship for the bride…or is their dislike covering up their attraction? What a fun read!

Theo and Maddie are thrown together at his birthday party, and Maddie offers him a ride home. Theo accepts, and things heat up from there. Their friendship has rocky patches, and when things heat up, Maddie sets up a lot of ground rules. One of them is that the bride must never know about them, since whatever they are doing will end at the wedding.

There are a lot of hot steamy moments, but either Theo or Maddie always retreat from growing closer. They talk about things with each other that they don’t share with anyone else and grow closer. When Theo is injured at a work event, Maddie is by his side and cares for him at his home. Until things go very wrong.  

As the wedding day approaches and they’re still not speaking to each other, there are quite a few surprises in store for them. I liked Maddie’s relationship with her mom, and Theo’s with his younger brother. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, ROYAL HOLIDAY, which is due out later this year and will once again reunite us with characters we’ve met before.

Ms. Guillory’s books are always enjoyable and good for some chuckles along with some angst. I look forward to reading more of her books. She’s always entertaining.

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THE REFUGE by Ann H. Gabhart is the perfect title to describe the Shakers’ generosity in this novel.

Darcie Goodwin sought refuge from cholera with her husband, Walter. When Walter is killed in a riverboat accident, Darcie is even more grateful for the shelter provided by the Shaker community. But what will they do when they find out she’s pregnant?

You see, the Shaker way of life doesn’t condone matrimony, shunning it as a sin. There are no pregnant women or babies even though there are children, many without mothers or fathers. They live peacefully in a community where the women and men stay apart. The “sisters” and “brothers,” as they call themselves, live harmoniously apart, coming together for meals and services, but in their designated sections, not to intermingle in conversation or seating arrangements. The Shakers work hard, both physically and mentally, with their faith as their guide.

I didn’t know anything about the Shakers historically, except the style of furniture I’ve admired, prior to reading this book. Their beliefs surprised me, but sound very much like our religious cults of today. Although they believe in Jesus, their founder, Mother Ann, taught that they were preparing for the second coming of Christ. They had no need to procreate but instead concentrated on preparing the perfect place, mind, body, and spirit for the second coming. They gave up all worldliness to become one body of worship and servitude.

Darcie and her husband weren’t true believers and had planned to leave once the cholera threat was past. It was thought that cholera passed through unclean air, something that hadn’t occurred within the Shaker community due to their partiality to cleanliness.

We meet Widower Flynn Keller next, along with his daughter and father-in-law, who live outside the Shaker community. Flynn offers his expertise on horses in regards to a problem horse, which is how he meets Darcie and many of the Shaker sisters and brothers. This book is their story and how their lives intertwine.

The novel takes place in 1850, when living on a farm with your family was a struggle. There weren’t enough hands to do all the chores, even more noticeable if one or more family members got sick. A community where everyone shares the work and the fruit of their labor appeals to those in need.

The Shakers didn’t force people to stay with them. They could leave whenever they wanted, with whatever they brought with them. Even though they gave up their worldly possessions when they joined, they could get them back if they decided to leave. Coming back wasn’t a problem either, they would be forgiven and accepted into the fold.

It was fear of the unknown and living life all alone without means to support themselves that held Darcy and many like her within the Shakers’ care.

The book focuses mostly on the sisters’ lives and we meet very few of the brothers. There are some colorful characters who don’t abide by all the rules so easily. I found the novel’s progress to be a slow pace, even though I cared about the outcome of the individuals I got to know. I felt they were taking forever to make a decision to get out, or stay, biding their time without motivation. I also felt I needed more details at the end for a couple of the characters. Yes, their story had a conclusion, but they were such a big part of the book that I wanted to know more in the end.

I expected more romance since this is listed on Amazon as Historical Christian Romance in the top selling category. But this square peg doesn’t fit in a round hole. It has many nuances, including romance elements, but it’s not typical of most historical romances. That’s not a bad thing for this story. It works the way it is, but some romance readers may expect the romance to be center stage, and it’s not. Darcy does spend a lot of time in her head wondering about her situation, but she doesn’t do anything about it until she’s forced to make a decision. The women’s friendships are in the forefront, and they’re what pulled out emotion in me as I read their stories.

THE REFUGE is about families and how much they’ll sacrifice to survive. There are some sad stories as well as some about those who triumph over adversity. But mostly, the book is about women supporting women, no matter their choices. It’s about forgiveness and acceptance.

THE REFUGE is best described as believable and inspirational Christian Historical Women’s Fiction with some romance elements. It’s filled with religious believers, including the characters who are not Shaker. It’s about faith differences and how friends cope with the unfamiliar. The Shakers give up a lot for their faith, work hard, and pray often. You may not agree with their choices, but you can’t deny their obedience or sincerity.

I never did figure out which territory this book takes place in, but it seems true to the year historically. This is the eighth book in the author’s Shaker series, but I’m not sure if they’re connected. The only thing I felt was missing is where is this community of Shakers? Either I missed it, or it’s assumed you’ve read the previous books. I didn’t know this book was part of a series while I read it, so I didn’t notice I was missing anything until I wanted to include the place in my review.

New-to-me author Ann H. Gabhart convinced me I need to take a look at her backlist. I’m still on the fence about the Shakers. They seem like loving people, but their faith took a twisty-turn outside of the bible. You can’t fault their faith or intentions, but if they continue this path of celibacy, they’ll inevitably become extinct. I don’t think they thought of the future, that the second coming may take more than a lifetime. It’s why I’m not sure I’ll want to read more Shaker stories. I can’t imagine a romance happening inside the community, so it would seem to me that all the stories would all be about leaving it. If nothing else, these Shakers really made me think about faith in general.

Gabhart has a special talent for writing a faith-filled novel that isn’t preachy or condescending. It’s the kind of faith-based novel I enjoy reading. There are lessons that evoke questions. The characters aren’t perfect, even some who believe fully in the Shaker religion bend the rules and seek forgiveness.

What I liked best about THE REFUGE was that the characters took me on a faith-filled journey full of obstacles, while looking for their happy-for-now conclusion. Isn’t that what we all want? Happy-for-now with no worries about the future, knowing that “we’ve got this” together as loving friends and family?

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Lord Montgomery “Monty” Townsend is the youngest son of an earl. He acts as the Prince Regent’s scapegoat, willingly assuming the royal’s scandals as his own. Monty intends to never marry. While hiding out from trouble, he meets a beautiful yet unorthodox woman. Montgomery cannot understand Vanessa Blackburn’s insistence on marrying the Rathban heir. Against his better judgement, he tutors her on how to attract the reluctant fellow’s attention. Can Monty convince Vanessa not to marry another man? Is he willing to take the matrimonial plunge?

Lady Vanessa “Nessi” Blackburn is the eldest daughter of an exiled earl. She has spent the last six years living in Scotland with her father. Vanessa returns to England to make her debut in society. On her homebound journey, she runs into a mysterious, happy-go-lucky gentleman. Vanessa learns, in order to end her father’s exile, she must marry her nemesis’s son. She enlists Montgomery’s aid to seduce her indifferent bridegroom to the altar. Can Vanessa bring her father back home? Or will Monty thwart Vanessa’s carefully laid-out plans?

Montgomery is such a fun and likable hero. I could not help but fall in love with the rascal’s charismatic charm. I love how Monty differs from the usual aristocrats found in the romance genre. He is more carefree and easy going, preferring to move with the flow than control whatever situation he lands in. What I adore the most about Montgomery is how he encourages Vanessa not to adhere to society’s mandates. He likes when she is her outspoken and opinionated self.

Vanessa is everything I like in a heroine. She is an independent and strong-willed young woman. I love how Vanessa is not afraid to stand out. She would rather be herself than conform to society’s expectations on how a debutante should behave. What I admire the most about Vanessa is the sacrifice she is willing to make to end her father’s exile. It shows just how much family truly means to her.

TEMPTATION’S DARLING is a standalone historical romance from Johanna Lindsey. I have been reading this author since my teenage years, and I still anticipate anything new from her. This story, especially its voice, reminds me of the author’s earlier books.

TEMPTATION’S DARLING is an entertaining tale of two people overcoming impossible odds to be together. I hope the author considers writing Daniel Rathban’s story. He definitely deserves a happily-ever-after.

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In HER DEADLY SECRETS by Laura Griffin, Kira Vance works as a private investigator. She loves digging for information, and those around her know she will give them the truth with no sugar coating. She is working on a case for her sometimes boss, looking for information to help out the attorney in charge, who is defending a man for murder.

Kira has found some information she knows her boss will want to hear and decides to meet up with him at the attorney’s estate. She is puzzled that her boss is not as excited about her information as she is but rather appears to have different information he’s pursuing. And then she sees him get shot.

This is the beginning of HER DEADLY SECRETS, and I could not put it down. Laura Griffin has the ability to capture her readers’ attention immediately, and I could not put this book down until I knew what was going on, who was responsible, and why.

Kira Vance is a wonderful character with a unique ability to ferret out the truth. Because she saw the shooter, she’s in danger, so the law firm hires her a bodyguard, Jeremy Owen, whose professionalism is in conflict with his attraction to this woman he has come to admire deeply.  

Kira and Jeremy are on the hunt to catch a killer. For Kira, this is personal. She loved her boss and wants justice for him. Jeremy wants Kira to be safe but finds it hard to protect her when she’s so determined to catch the killer.

This was a roller coaster ride that has twists and turns until finally, the killer is unmasked. I really enjoyed this book.

Recommended Read

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TANGLE is the second book in the DOGWOOD LANE series, and it was fun-filled from the front cover to the last page of the epilogue. What happens when a fun loving guy, who doesn’t believe in love, crosses paths with a small-town girl who falls in love quickly and always with the wrong guy? Anything can happen, and it does! Trevor and Hailey’s attraction is immediate, and everyone who sees them knows something’s going on. 

It’s nice to be back in Dogwood Lane, Tennessee and reunite with characters we’ve met before while also being introduced to new ones. The characters have a depth to them and work well together. I was kept on my toes throughout the playful telling of the story, and there are sad moments along with enlightening ones. The small town flair shines through, and it’s a place I wouldn’t mind visiting.

My emotions were engaged throughout my read of TANGLE–whether laughing, cringing, or being sad. There are twists and turns along with beautiful descriptions of the setting. The friendships are strong, and we see different sides to the characters. The epilogue also gives hints of what more is to come. I can’t wait to return to Dogwood Lane, over and over again.

Ms. Locke is a new-to-me author. I’ve only read this book and TUMBLE, the first book in the series. I have a lot of catching up to do since I enjoyed her style of writing and want to read more of her books, not just those in this series.

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AS YOU WISH by Jude Deveraux is the first book I’ve read by this author. The prologue drew me in from the very first page. The story is about three women who each were in loveless marriages, and they all end up at an isolated estate for a weekend to sort out their lives.

Olivia is in her 60s, Kathy in her 30s and Elise in her 20s. They’ve each dedicated their lives to the men they married. Olivia’s first husband died, and she’s married her first love, but things aren’t perfect. Kathy and Elsie want out of their marriages.

As the book progresses, we learn about each woman and her life. I expected a traditional solution, but the author tossed in an unexpected twist—time travel. It was a little jarring as I wasn’t prepared for it, but it was a unique turn and I liked it.

Each woman is given the choice to go back to a specific point in time for three weeks to change the course of her life. They each go to a time before their marriage, and the choices they make are surprising.

My only complaint was Olivia’s anger at times felt forced.I kept thinking, why don’t you just say you’re angry and explain why? All in all, AS YOU WISH is three love stories in one, and each has satisfying ending.

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LOTTIE MAE is the second book in the SILVER DOLLAR SALOON series that takes place in the Dakota Territory, but I hope it won’t be the last. With more girls working at the saloon as well as the men who own it, there are definitely more stories to tell. This is Lottie Mae and Manfred’s story, and what a story it is!

Lottie Mae works in the saloon, and Manfred’s the German blacksmith who wants to learn English better. She was a teacher in her prior life but was shunned due to an incident that happened. 

Their attraction sizzles on the page even though Lottie isn’t dating due to a crime committed against her five years before. She’s definitely better but still not whole. Manfred is a gentle giant who wants to love again after losing his wife and son during  childbirth.

There are a lot of characters in the story, many of whom we’ve met before. They each bring something to the story and add to its depth. The story flows nicely, but I often had my heart in my throat due to the violence. There is definitely evil chasing Lottie Mae, but can it be stopped before more damage is done?

The descriptions of the setting and the historical time period made me feel like I was there. I hope that there will be more books in the series.

Ms. Jager has fast become one of my favorite authors of western romances. I can’t wait to read what she pens next!

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