The Indebted Earl
by Erica Vestch
I may or may not have ended up in the doghouse with my husband when reading this story. I made the mistake of starting it at 9 pm and then stayed awake in bed with my booklight on until 4 am…on a weeknight. In my defense, it was spring break and my hubby didn’t have to work the next day.
Ever since I read The Lost Lieutenant and The Gentleman Spy, I have been eager to read the third and final installment of Serendipity & Secrets. My eagerness was not disappointed. The story followed the typical marriage of convenience storyline with plenty of twists, turns, wit, and danger. The slow-grow of Sophie’s love for Captain Charles Wyvern was a joy to watch, and the Captain’s quick fall for Sophie was so sweet. The characterization of each person in this story was delightful and entertaining–especially the trio of orphans they must raise together. I look forward to one day reading their individual romances.
One of my favorite things is the story leaves you with the desire to read an already in-print final story of the Haverly family–Cilla’s. You can find that story in The Joy to the World: Regency Christmas Collection. (All of the above links are to my reviews of those stories.)
Genre: Historical Romance, 1814, England (Regency)
Can Captain Wyvern keep his new marriage of convenience all business–or will it turn into something more?
Captain Charles Wyvern owes a great debt to the man who saved his life–especially since Major Richardson lost his own life in the process. The best way to honor that hero’s dying wish is for Wyvern to escort the man’s grieving fiancée and mother safely to a new cottage home by the sea. But along the way, he learns of another obligation that has fallen on his shoulders: his uncle has died and the captain is now the Earl of Rothwell.
When he and the ladies arrive at his new manor house in Devon, they discover an estate in need of a leader and a gaggle of girls, all wards of the former earl. War the new earl knows; young ladies and properties he does not. Still wishing to provide for the bereaved Lady Sophia Haverly, Charles proposes a marriage of convenience.
Sophie is surprised to find she isn’t opposed to the idea. It will help her care for her betrothed’s elderly mother, and she’s already fallen in love with the wayward girls on the Rothwell estate. This alliance is a chance to repay the captain who has done so much for her care, as well as divert her attention from her grief. When Wyvern returns to his sea commission, she’ll stay behind to oversee his property and wards.
It sounds so simple. Until the stalwart captain is arrested on suspicion of smuggling, and Sophie realizes how much he’s come to mean to her. Now she’ll have to learn to fight, not only for his freedom but also for his love.
What I loved: The character development of Captain Wyvern. That man has such a soft, responsible heart, but he also knows what he wants out of life. When things don’t go the way he expects, he steps up and does whatever is necessary to make things right.
Favorite Character and Why: I loved Captain Wyvern and Sophie, but my heart really latched on to Thea. Bless her soul, she is a lot like my son, and a lot like me. And Besty! Oh my, that girl was a dear! He puppy-dog following of Captain Wyvern was adorable.
Who would like this? Readers who love regency, marriage of convenience stories, stories with a touch of mystery and excitement, and readers who love a series so well connected and planned.
Rating and Why: Five stars. The story was engaging, believable, exciting, and totally had my heart wrapped around the whole plot and characters. It is a book I will enjoy revisiting several times over. And we get to see Marcus from The Gentleman Spy again. He’s still one of my favorites.
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QUESTION FOR YOU:
Have you read this series? What do you love or dislike about marriage of convenience stories?
Far as the Curse is Found
by Amanda Barrat
This month I am reviewing each novella from the Joy to the World: A Regency Christmas Collection. First up was Carolyn Miller’s “Heaven and Nature Sing.”
Today’s novella, “Far as the Curse if Found” by Amanda Barratt does not disappoint. While the tone and material is darker and less light-hearted than the other two, the characters in this story are probably my favorite. This story tends to feel more gothic in the reading because of the brokenness of the main characters, but the hope and love found within these chapters stick with you for a long time. Both the hero and hero carry scars–some visible, some not. It is a story that pulled at my heart-strings. In some ways, it reminded me of a Beauty and the Beast story–the disfigured recluse is changed by a woman who comes to live in his house and under his protection. The way the characters affect each other and come to life under each other’s influence makes me smile even now, more than a week after reading it. This story probably isn’t for everyone–it isn’t your typical light-hearted, sweet Christmas romance–but I definitely loved it. The characters are real. They struggle and need redemption. These characters are the type of people my heart breaks for and long to show the love of Christ to. Read it, you won’t regret it.
Genre: Historical Romance, England, 1816
One winter night, a woman struggling to provide for her illegitimate child encounters a scarred veteran of the Napoleonic Wars on the streets of London. Can love conquer the darkness of two broken pasts?
What I loved: I loved the characters and their struggles. Maybe it’s because I’m working through my own story with broken characters in need of redemption, but the characters really touched my soul and evoked strong emotions.
Favorite Character and Why: Dwight, hands down. My heart was wrapped up in this man who hurt and struggled to move beyond the past. He had such an amazing heart, and I hurt for him. He struggled, grew, and changed the most throughout the story, and I love him for it.
Rating and Why: Five Stars. It was exactly the type of story I love to read. It contained a depth of emotion and truth that I haven’t often found in Christmas novellas. May authors err on the side of happy and upbeat, but Amanda Barratt tackled a tough story that shows the true beauty of Christmas.
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Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey
by Abigail Wilson
As many of you know, first-person perspectives are NOT my favorite. An author really has to engage me and make me forget I am in the first-person in order for me to really get through the story. That being said, I needed an audiobook to listen to on a road trip that would have a bit of mystery, danger, and romance. The blurb for this story intrigued me enough to make me willing to try and listen to a first-person point of view novel. (And I totally blame Erica Vetsch’s The Lost Lieutenant and The Gentleman Spy for sending me on a Regency binge.)
I was pleasantly surprised, enough so, that I am considering going back and listening to and/or reading the first two books in the series. Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey is a standalone book, although it is connected to other stories. I am sure there are little antidotes I missed by reading out of order, but I still found the story engaging and believable. While not always able to suspend the thought of being in first-person, I loved the unusual marriage of convenience story. Elizabeth and Lord Torrington proved to be unique characters who drew me in. Lord Torrington especially was an unexpected kind of man. I struggled to make him out just as Elizabeth did, but found him a hero whose company I enjoyed.
If you like the first-person point of view, marriage-of-convenience stories, mysterious heroes, danger, and mystery, I highly recommend this Regency story.
Genre: Historical Romance, England, 1815
In this new Regency romance, a young unwed mother must protect her heart from the charms of her convenient new husband, Lord Torrington. She is not, however, prepared to protect her life.
When the widowed Lord Torrington agreed to spy for the crown, he never planned to impersonate a highwayman, let alone rob the wrong carriage. Stranded on the road with an unconscious young woman, he is forced to propose marriage to protect his identity and her reputation, as well as his dangerous mission.
Trapped not only by her duty to her country but also by her limited options as an unwed mother, Miss Elizabeth Cantrell and her infant son are whisked away to Middlecrest Abbey by none other than the elder brother of her son’s absent father. There she is met by Torrington’s beautiful grown daughters, a vicious murder, and an urgent hunt for the missing intelligence that could turn the war with France. Meanwhile, she must convince everyone that her marriage is a genuine love match if her new husband has any hope of uncovering the enemy.
Determined to keep her son’s true identity a secret, Elizabeth will need to remain one step ahead of her fragile heart, her uncertain future, and the relentless fiend bent on her new family’s ruin.
What I loved: The plot itself was incredibly fascinating. The dance of romance, family drama, and danger intrigued me and kept me on my toes. It was a delightful distraction from a long boring drive.
Favorite Character and Why: Lord Torrington was a puzzle. I truly enjoyed getting to know him. He was far from a perfect hero, but he was a man whom I could respect and grow to admire. The man’s soft heart was shown in some rather unexpected ways.
Rating and Why: Five Stars. I was pleasantly pleased that despite it being first-person, the story was fully engaging. I waited in my car for twenty minutes after I got home, just so I could finish the story.
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Letters for Phoebe
by Sally Britton
This story was recommended to me by a critique partner because it has elements similar to a story idea we were discussing. Since I was traveling across the country and there are long periods on a plane where you can’t have your laptop open but you can have your phone open, I read this quick story during those times.
I have to say, I really enjoyed the interactions of Phoebe and Griffin. It was well-done and one of the most believable stories centered around secret letter writing that I have ever read. This story is part of a series written by several authors about friends who make a vow only to marry for love just before they leave finishing school. However, life never works out as it seems. Watching Phoebe maneuver the social scene to find a suitable match while getting hints and help from a secret, an unidentified friend was fun. Griffin’s anonymous help turns out to be more than he bargained for. I really can’t say more without giving more of the plot away.
If you are looking for a quick, sweet read. This is your choice. I love the inclusion of the letters and the believable romance the develops along with its complications.
Genre: Historical Romance, England, 1808
When Phoebe starts receiving anonymous letters, she never once thinks the most irresponsible man in London is her correspondent. Or that she will fall in love with him.
Phoebe Kimball grew up believing in love, but after failing to find a gentleman capable of capturing her heart, she has turned more practical than romantic. She is determined to find a husband in London this Season. If only the annoying Mr. Fenwick would stop appearing every time she sets her cap at someone! When an anonymous letter arrives warning her that her current target is unsuitable marital material, Phoebe begins a relationship with the letter writer that promises something more than a practical alliance.
Griffin Fenwick does not usually care for women on the hunt for a husband, but Miss Kimball’s quick wit and refusal to admit she enjoys his company intrigues him. When he realizes the gentlemen on her list of eligible bachelors is full with scoundrels, he warns her the only way he can – through a letter. As he comes to know Phoebe better, he soon realizes he wishes to put his own name on her list. If only she liked Griffin as much as she liked her anonymous correspondent.
When Phoebe realizes its been Griffin writing her all along, will she put aside practicality for love, or spurn Griffin for even trying to woo her?
What I loved: The complications of this letter writing are believable, and it makes for the perfect enjoyable romance. It is definitely one I will reread. I might even pick up the rest of the series.
Favorite Character and Why: Griffin. The poor guy is a goofball with a serious and protective side. I really enjoyed getting to know him.
Rating and Why: Five Stars. I will likely reread this novella several times because I found it so enjoyable. The quickness didn’t make the storyline any less believable, and there was just a quiet satisfaction that sang in my soul for a few days after.
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The Gentleman Spy by Erica Vetsch
The Gentleman Spy is the second book in the Serendipity and Secrets series from Erica Vetsch, and this book was just as enjoyable as the first. I can’t wait to preorder and read the third book. This story definitely had more of a flair of danger, espionage, and suspense. Y’all, Marcus was one of those swoony heroes for me, and maybe it’s just that I have a thing for lawmen type characters, but I really think it is just because he is such versatile and confident character. The poor guy is a bit delusional, too, with flaws that make him real but still admirable. I love watching him grow beyond the great spy he already was into a more rounded man and husband. Charlotte was strong and someone I could look up to. I spent a good portion of the book cheering when she did something that showed her heart or showed her growing confidence. I won’t reveal any spoilers, but the complexity of the story was something I just drool over. Can I say I want to write like her when I grow up? LOL It was definitely a book I will read over and over again.
I highly recommend this book to readers of the Regency era, marriages of convenience, and complex plots mixed with danger and intrigue.
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency, 1814
He only wanted a duchess for a day–but she’s determined to make it a marriage for life
When his father and older brother suddenly pass away, the new Duke of Haverly is saddled with a title he never expected to bear. To thwart the plans of his scheming family, the duke impulsively marries a wallflower. After all, she’s meek and mild; it should be easy to sequester her in the country and get on with his life–as a secret agent for the Crown.
But his bride has other ideas. She’s determined to take her place not only as his duchess but as his wife. As a duchess, she can use her position to help the lowest of society–the women forced into prostitution because they have no skills or hope. Her endeavors are not met favorably in society, nor by her husband who wishes she’d remain in the background as he ordered.
Can the duke succeed in relegating her to the sidelines of his life? When his secrets are threatened with exposure, will his new wife be an asset or a liability?
What I loved: The spy theme just really satisfied my need for action and intrigue. And I love how the poor Duke’s expectation that everything could stay in its box was brought to reality.
Favorite Character and Why: I loved both Marcus and Charlotte, for different reasons than Evan and Diana, but Aunt Dolly really tickled me. I loved her heart and the way she inserted herself into both Marcus’s and Charlotte’s lives.
Rating and Why: Five Stars. This is a series I will reread over and over. First The Lost Lieutenant and now The Gentleman Spy. Both books scratched my itch for romance AND danger.
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