Review: Lady Be Wilde

Genres: Historical
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Delightful short novella about two people finding love after loss and disappointment in prior marriages. I loved the extension of the Wilde family universe, giving a happy ending to these secondary characters.

THE STORY: Lady Madeline Penshallow takes her son’s illegitimate child as her own and immediately is a widow. Lord Gilbert Godfrey Manfield is the cousin of the Duke of Lindow. The two meet at a Wilde family event, and there is an attraction, but Madeline is recovering from a horrible marriage, and Gil is recovering from losing two wives. Both are determined never to marry again, but when Madeline is threatened, Gil is determined to protect her.

OPINION: This is a very enjoyable short story/novella where two people who have been disappointed by life find something special together. The story is very sweet, and I love the relationship that develops between Gil, Madeline, and her daughter. The story has the same humor and passion that is evident in all the books in the series. It just made me smile.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short novella that Eloisa James is expanding to a longer novella. My review may be revised after that book is published.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LADY BE WILDE  is book 0.55 of the Wildes of Lindow series. This novella directly from MY LAST DUCHESS and is indeed a sequel that resolves Madeline’s story in MY LAST DUCHESS. While it is not necessary to read MY LAST DUCHESS to enjoy this story, reading it will give a fuller picture of Madeline’s story.

STAR RATING: I give this book four stars.

four-stars

Review: My Last Duchess

Review: My Last DuchessMy Last Duchess (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #6) by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #0.5
on October 27, 2020
Genres: Historical
Pages: 260
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: I loved this novella. The story of the Duke and Duchess of Lindow and how they met and fell in love was precisely the book I needed. Sweet and sexy and fit exactly within the Wildes of Lindow series.

THE STORY: Hugo Wilde, the Duke of Lindow, has been somewhat unlucky in love. His beloved first wife died, and then his second wife ran off with a golden-haired count and abandoned Hugo and their children. Having obtained a divorce, Hugo needs to find another wife for his children’s sake. He sees Ophelia, Lady Astley, a widow with a daughter, and immediately knows that she is the one for him. But Phee doesn’t want to remarry or take care of other children, so she rejects Hugo. But perhaps Phee isn’t ready to give up Hugo when he continues his search for a wife.

OPINION: This book works well, especially with the characters being established in the series. Hugo is enormously caring as a father, and this novella makes clear that his only concern in finding a wife is to have a woman who can help his children. On his own, he would be happy not to marry again. He isn’t even caring so much about having a woman who can be a mother, but rather his youngest daughters need someone who can help pave their way through society. Hugo’s practical reasons for marriage are quickly undone when he meets Ophelia. Like all the Wildes, Hugo is profoundly emotional and loving. The passion and devotion I loved with his children are clearly presented here.

Ophelia is strong and unwilling to fall for Hugo when they meet. She is satisfied with her life. She is independent and happy with her daughter. She had a good marriage and doesn’t feel the need to take on a brood of children or another man.

One thing I loved about his book is how the expectations for marriage by both Hugo and Ophelia are undone as the attraction, both physical and emotional, grows between them. Their relationship is sweet, funny, and so wonderful that I loved their story.

WORTH MENTIONING: I also loved that we get to see the Wildes heroes and heroines as children, and they are as amusing and naughty as they are as adults.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MY LAST DUCHESS is a prequel to the Wildes of Lindow Castle series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: How to Be a Wallflower

Review: How to Be a WallflowerHow to Be a Wallflower (Would-Be Wallflowers, #1) by Eloisa James
Series: Would-Be Wallflowers #1
Published by Avon on March 29, 2022
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: This book gave me such a warm feeling. The hero is so amazingly supportive. He knows that he loves Cleo from almost the beginning and the book is how he shows her that he will always be supportive of her. There isn’t much drama in this book (except for the ending) but the relationship between Cleo and Jake was all that I needed.

THE STORY: Cleopatra Lewis had a unique upbringing. While she will agree with her grandfather’s desire that she have a season, she intends on dressing like a wallflower as she intends to never marry. Instead, she will continue with her business interests. One day she meets Jake Astor Addison, an American, and the two quickly are engaged in a battle of minds when Cleo sweeps in and takes a business from right under Jake’s nose. Determined to change Cleo’s mind, Jake proposes a swap — he will design Cleo’s wardrobe for the Season and she will do the same for him.

OPINION: I admit that I’m a sucker for books that are lighter on plot and more focused on the personal development of the characters’ relationships with one another. That’s what I loved about his book. The real conflict here is Cleo dealing with her own past and being able to trust the relationship between Jake and herself.

I thought from the blurb of this book that there would be a lot of conflict between Jake and Cleo, but I found this book to be much more about these characters growing towards one another than I expected.

Cleo has independence and strength and yet her life has left her with scars that she has to confront in this story. She runs her deceased father’s business and is determined to continue to do so, and as such, she doesn’t plan on marriage. At the same time, her mother’s endless affairs have soured her on the idea of romantic love. I was drawn to Cleo because she demonstrated how much she cared for those around her even as she sometimes espoused a cynical view of the world.

Jake is the type of hero who makes it his mission to support the heroine and is a genuinely good guy. The book sets up the story to be an enemies-to-lovers story with a lot of conflict between the main characters. I was pleasantly surprised by how that expectation was subverted. I loved Jake as a character and quickly was rooting for him to show Cleo that he is exactly the man she needs. Jake turns the world over for Cleo. The great thing is that his being an American seemed to fit exactly the path he takes. In a world that seems to be bound by so many rules and expectations, Jake is willing to accommodate where he must and shove aside what he can to be with Cleo.

This book just made me feel comforted and warm inside. This is not a book about high drama and angst. While I like those stories, I have plenty of love for a romance with a highly competent woman who finds a man who is strong and supportive of her. And who will do anything for her without having to first battle against her.

WORTH MENTIONING: The Earl of Lilford and Yasmin are the main characters in the next book in the series THE RELUCTANT COUNTESS. Good thing because I loved them in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HOW TO BE A WALLFLOWER is the first book in the Would-Be Wallflowers series. The hero, however, is the childhood friend of the heroine of MY AMERICAN DUCHESS and she makes an appearance in this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Say Yes to the Duke

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Review: Say Yes to the DukeSay Yes to the Duke (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #5) by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #5
Published by Avon on May 26, 2020
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

 

She had powdered her hair, of course, but just around her face he could see little wisps of golden-brown curls. “You have freckles,” he said.

“A few,” she said, shrugging. “I know you’re supposed to hate them, but I don’t.”

Devin discovered that he didn’t hate them either.

FINAL DECISION: Beautiful, lyrical, emotional and just so wonderful. I loved how Viola and Devin fell in love with one another without excessive drama. This book was a slow sinking into a loving relationship with humor and plenty of romance.

THE STORY: Miss Viola Astley feels like a fraud amongst the wild Wildes. Painfully shy and prone to vomit when forced to socialize, Viola’s life changes when she meets a young, handsome vicar. Unfortunately, the vicar is betrothed to a stern, controlling, humorless woman, but Viola is determined to rescue him for herself. Devin Elstan, Duke of Wynter has decided that it is time to marry and one of the Wilde daughters who are having their debut will do. Unseen, he’s decided on the “real” Wilde not the one whose mother married into the family. Upon meeting the “unsuitable” Viola, however, Devin knows that she is the woman for him and is determined to woo her for himself.

OPINION: This has become my favorite series by Eloisa James. There is a boldness and complete willingness to be open to love by the men in the series. Completely undone by Viola, Devin wants her for himself and yet he knows and respects her at every turn. These two truly make one another better and the focus of the book is the relationship they build together rather than outside drama or manufactured misunderstandings.

Viola is the beloved step-daughter of the Duke of Wilde. Despite her loving family, she has always felt inadequate compared to the beautiful, tall and passionate Wildes. When she meets the vicar, she begins to find reasons to believe in herself. When she meets the Duke of Wynter, she is so offended by him that she forgets to be her “mousy” self and instead completely captivates Devin. I loved seeing Viola overcome her shyness and find a place for herself and a purpose.

Devin is controlled and distant after a childhood with a hotheaded and irresponsible father. When he meets Viola, she inspires him to learn to reach out to others and express his feelings. His complete devotion to her was so romantic and incredibly sweet.

I am a big fan of books where the characters actually talk to one another, discuss their issues and feelings and generally act like responsible adults. Discussion and respect can be incredibly sexy as this book demonstrates. These characters always act with respect towards one another and I fell in love with them.

The Wildes as a whole play less of a role here than in prior books, but that lent a great intimacy between Devon and Viola as most of their courtship is comprised of discussions and conversations between the two. That was something that I very much enjoyed.

One of the best parts of this series is that each romance is completely different from the others in the series. Each character, their arc, the issues and tone of the books are different. Plus, I really enjoy the historical tidbits that James includes and which gives a real sense of the real Georgian period where these books are set.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book has a cute secondary romance as well.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SAY YES TO THE DUKE is the fifth book in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series. This book can be read as a standalone. It is not necessary to have read the other books in the series to enjoy this book.

RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

five-stars

Review: Say No to the Duke

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Review: Say No to the DukeSay No to the Duke (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #4) by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #4
Published by Avon on June 25, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book was just amazing. I loved Betsy’s strength and gumption. I adored the deep emotional center of Jeremy. These two were incredible together, and I especially enjoyed that their story was much deeper than the blurb would suggest.

THE STORY: Lady Betsy Wilde lived under the feared approbation of her mother’s infidelity and scandalous behavior. In exchange, she has become the “perfect” lady and has rejected a number of eligible gentlemen’s proposals. Feeling constrained by her “perfect” facade, Betsy wants some adventure and she makes a bet with a family friend to get her chance. Lord Jeremy Roden returned from war in the colonies a changed man and no longer the gentleman he was before. His interactions with Betsy are also changing him, but does he want her for himself or should he convince her to accept a duke who would her perfect match.

OPINION: I’ve really been enjoying the Wildes of Lindow Castle series. The characters are passionate but reasonable and intensely sweet. There is something loving and heartwarming about these characters. The books give me a warm heart and always leaves me with a smile. These Wildes love in a big and full way and I love them back.

Betsy is the oldest daughter in the family and she suffers from the actions of her mother. She knows that others are looking at her to find traces of her mother’s scandalous behavior and Betsy is determined to give others nothing to latch onto. But playing a part has been wearing on Betsy who hasn’t been able to indulge in her “wild” side. What I really loved about Betsy is that in a time of restrictions upon women, Betsy has found a way to be a powerful woman. She has made a place for herself where she won’t accept limitations but finds ways to subvert them.

Jeremy is her brother North’s friend. Returning after war in the colonies, Jeremy suffers from the effects of war. While he thinks himself not a gentleman any longer because of his experiences, his interactions with Betsy are truly the essence of being a gentleman — if a naughty one. I loved his journey in this book. Betsy grounds Jeremy in the world that he felt disconnected to after his war experiences.

Betsy and Jeremy are just perfect together from the beginning. Their banter and bickering was funny and sexy. These two are such a good match that only their fears can keep them apart.

I loved this book. I cared about the characters and they felt like real people with fears and foibles and mistakes. I really like that these are good people and the book allows them to work out their personal issues and find a way to one another.

WORTH MENTIONING: I love this family. I’m hoping for books for more of the siblings.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SAY NO TO THE DUKE is the fourth book in the Wildes of Lindow Castle. The romance here is self-contained and thus it can be read as a standalone, but I think this book is much better if a reader is familiar with the passionate Wilde family and the circumstances which confront Betsy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to assist in preparation of this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

five-stars

Review: Born to be Wilde

Review: Born to be WildeBorn to Be Wilde (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #3) by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #3
Published by Avon on July 31, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Slow burn story of two people who have known each other and yet don’t know one another at all. I loved the intense emotional aspects of the story and how these two discover one another.

THE STORY: Lavinia Gray is desperate after discovering that her mother is an addict, spent all their money and stolen from family and friends. She needs to marry immediately before the scandal is discovered so she approaches Parth Sterling to propose marry. But he turns her down. The fashion obsessed and shallow Lavinia is not the type of woman Parth intends to marry and, in fact, he has a much more suitable candidate in mind. Parth, however, promises Lavinia to help her find a groom. Parth’s efforts only seem to make Lavinia more attractive to him as he discovers the real woman that he dismissed so easily.

OPINION: I ended up loving this book. It took a while to grow on me because Lavinia and Parth seemed so mismatched in the beginning. But as the two really began to know one another and as the book concentrated on the emotional lives of these characters, I began to fall with them as they fell for one another.

For a book that feels light and funny, this book has a a deep undertone — like Lavinia herself. I enjoyed that the book begins with Lavinia at her most desperate and then becomes how Lavinia finds a way to save herself. As she does, she shows Parth who she really is and Parth begins to fall for her.

The romance between Parth and Lavinia takes the time it needs to develop. It allows for the emotional depth of the characters and the relationship to be emphasized. I loved that the book really rests on these two characters and their relationship rather than all the external story.

One of the characteristics of the series has been that the hero really has to take the leap into the fire for the heroine emotionally. The Wilde men are emotional and passionate when they recognize the woman for them. I love that about them and Parth shows that he is a true Wilde even if he wasn’t born with the name.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved, loved, loved being able to see more of North and Diana and there are some beautiful moments with them. This is a must read book for fans of these two.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BORN TO BE WILDE is the third book in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series. The romance in this book is self-contained and can be read as a standalone. I think, however, that the characters in this book are better understood when the series is read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Too Wilde to Wed

Review: Too Wilde to WedToo Wilde to Wed (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #2) by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #2
Published by Avon on May 29, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Simply amazing. I loved that a book that could of been filled with drama and angst instead tempered all that with humor and lightness. North and Diana were complex and interesting characters and the humor felt sophisticated and lovely. Another great book by Eloisa James.

THE STORY: North Wilde, the future duke, was jilted by his fiancee two years ago. He went to America to fight for the British in the American Revolutionary War. He has returned to find that his reputation has been savaged. His former fiancee, Diana Belgrave, is living in his family’s home acting as governess to North’s youngest sister. Diana has a child that everyone assumes is North’s illegitimate son. Gossip is that North ravaged and deserted her, leaving Diana no choice but to be a servant in North’s home. Despite his best efforts, North finds that he still loves Diana and intends on convincing her to be his. And that is something that Diana will never allow to happen.

OPINION: I so desperately wanted to read this book from the moment I met North and Diana in WILDE IN LOVE. Their story seriously kicked off with the ending of that book. Anticipation can work against me when I want to read a book because I am disappointed often. Happily, I loved this book.

The Wilde men are something else. Passionate and willing to sacrifice everything for love. North seemed so different in the first book, but that is part of the story in this book — how two people get to know the “real” person under the social mask. But gosh, I fell for North. He is so willing to forgive Diana even as he hurts from her betrayal. He is protective and a good man all around. Yet, this book shows him with a bit of naivety about the machinations of women. The combination of intense practicality and romanticism makes North one of my favorite of James’ heroes.

Now Diana is a bit of a mess. But that makes her incredibly brave. She is willing to toss herself into things that she fails at. As someone who is careful and deliberate, Diana’s joyful living of life is something that I found greatly enjoyable. She feels shame and pain for what she did to North, but she knows herself. A woman who has no desire to be a duchess.

I found the story between North and Diana pulled me into a bunch of emotional directions. I laughed, I cried, the story made my heart heavy and lifted my spirits. This story could have been dark and angst filled. I’ve read similar situations with books like that and I loved them — but that is not this book.

This book is light and funny in parts but it is firmly grounded in emotion and relationship. While there are certainly farcical elements including overturned chamber pots, an elderly peacock, and more of the hysterical prints about the Wildes, this book never allows itself to stray from the emotional connection between North and Diana. And their story seems impossible at every turn to have a happy ending — until it does.

This book moved immediately into one of my favorite Eloisa James’s book and I really want to read more about this family and their friends.

WORTH MENTIONING: Who knew that peacocks were so territorial?

CONNECTED BOOKS: TOO WILDE TO WED is the second book in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series. The story can be read as a standalone although I think it works much better after being introduced to the family of characters in book one.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ebook ARC of this book from Edelweiss in order to prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

five-stars

Review: Midsummer Delights

Review: Midsummer DelightsMidsummer Delights: A Short Story Collection by Eloisa James
Published by Avon Impulse on February 6th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 96
Goodreads
three-half-stars

This is a collection of three previously published short stories.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DISGRACE is connected with the Essex Sisters series and the story was previously published in the Official Essex Sisters Companion book.  A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DISGRACE tells the story of one of the women who was also branded with a notorious nickname like Josie in PLEASURE FOR PLEASURE.  In A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DISGRACE, Cecilia who was tarred by her brother’s nickname “Silly Billy” because men where afraid that her brother’s mental disability might be hereditary.  In this story, Cecilia gets her happy ending.  She decides to court ruination in order to be able to avoid continuing in society.  When she approaches the musician who caught her attention, she gets more than she expected. While the story is short, it is sweet and I enjoyed the interaction between the hero and heroine.  While only tangentially connected with the series, Josie and Mayne make an appearance. Rating: 3.5 stars.

AT MIDNIGHT: Elias Hempleworth-Gray, Earl of Leyton is in love with his childhood friend, Miss Penelope White. Elias, however, is poor because his father gambled away almost everything. Elias knows that he has to leave England because Penny will be marrying Elias’s friend after he proposes. Elias cannot propose to her himself because he cannot bear the idea that Penny would marry him for any reason other than love. A masquerade gives Elias one last chance to be with Penny before the leaves. A take on Cinderella (with the roles reversed) this is a short story, but cute. The story focuses on the meeting between the two and the revelation of their feelings. It was a nice story. Rating 3 stars.

EVER AFTER: Miss Violet Leighton doesn’t believe in fairy tales and has refused seven proposals on her way to her desire never to marry. Now the man who broke her heart years ago has returned, Rothwell Talcott, Duke of Cambridge. This was a favorite in the book. Even though the story is short, there is drama over the parting of Violet and Rothwell and Violet’s anger to deal with. With only a small glimpse of these characters I wished to read more about them. Rating: 4 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Wilde in Love

Review: Wilde in LoveWilde in Love (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #1) by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle
Published by Avon on October 31st 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Frankly, she might as well have waved a red cloth in front of a bull. The uncivilized male inside him, the one who hated wearing a wig, had got wind of a hunt.”

FINAL DECISION: This was a lovely story that was incredibly funny and romantic. The characters were amazing. I generally prefer my books with more personal angst, but readers looking for a fun romantic historical romp will love this one.

THE STORY: In Georgian England, Lord Alaric Wilde, the “spare”, has returned to London after traveling the world to discover that he has become a sensation in his absence. He has become a true celebrity to his distress as he is chased by women all over the country who want a glimpse or a souvenir from the rakish explorer. Escaping to his father, the duke’s, castle, Alaric finds himself enamored of Miss Willa Ffynche who doesn’t want anything to do with the notorious Lord Alaric. Willa is a private person who keeps herself well disguised among society and has made herself a social success and wants nothing more than a quiet man to spend her life with. Definitely not Alaric — but his pursuit of her tempts her in ways she never expected.

OPINION: I had to think a lot about this book after I read it. I was not certain where to rate it and how to explain my feelings about it. I wavered between giving it 4 stars or 4 and a half stars because while the book wasn’t as dramatic as I tend to like them and the romance builds very slowly, I came away from the book still thinking about it. As I reviewed parts of it to write this review, I loved the characters and the humor so much that I think this book will grow on me as the series develops further.

And that is where I want to start this review — with the series. As the first book in the series, this book serves as an introduction to the Wilde Family. And I loved them. The characters are so big and bright and romantic that I immediately wanted to know all their stories. These are likable people and have such a family spirit together that endeared them to me.

Alaric is such a sweet, sexy and romantic character.  He falls for Willa so quickly and spends much of the book trying to win her. (I have to admit that I enjoy the books where the hero falls for the heroine early). His willingness to open himself up wide to Willa is so sweet. And he truly wants to know Willa which is so sexy. He is interested in her — her thoughts, those parts of herself that she hides from others, and he wants her to be herself with him.

Willa is a heroine who is discovering how to be herself. Her background has led her to present a social face and to keep her true self hidden. So much so, that she doesn’t really expect to be herself in life. Alaric desperately wants the imperfect Willa. The real person hiding behind all the Georgian finery and social polish.

This book is not only romantic but also laugh out loud funny. A bawdy farce of a play about Alaric’s life (including cannibals!), a pet skunk and mangy cat, naughty etchings of Alaric’s life, a hero that won’t be deterred from the woman he wants and a heroine determined to avoid him at all costs.  But this book not only has humor but has a deep heart to it.

The story is a slow build and you have to commit to it. The story isn’t slow, but the drama is smaller than in many books (Willa’s determination not to fall for the big public notorious Alaric) and therefore the book is more personal to these characters. While I prefer more dramatic stories generally, I really loved the humor and big romantic gestures of this book.

My final word on this book is that the cliffhanger as a prelude for the next book was so shocking that I don’t know how I’m going to last until the next book comes out.

WORTH MENTIONING: While the main romance is complete at the end of this book, there is a cliffhanger which sets up the story for the next book about a different couple.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WILDE IN LOVE is the first book in the Wildes of Lindlow Castle series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Seven Minutes in Heaven

Review: Seven Minutes in HeavenSeven Minutes in Heaven (Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers, #3; Desperate Duchesses, #9) by Eloisa James
Series: Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #3
Published by Avon on January 31st 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“‘This conversation has gone from improper to obscene,’ she observed. He shook his head. ‘Haven’t you noticed, Eugenia, that almost all of our conversations start at improper?'”

FINAL DECISION: Incredibly lovely story of two people quietly falling in love despite their best intentions.  The story gently pulled these two characters together and I loved every moment of them falling in love with one another. As a fan of James’s work, this book was immensely satisfying as it pulled so many other books together.

THE STORY: Eugenia Snowe is a widow who owns a elite agency for governesses. She has shocked the aristocracy by taking on a profession but has managed to keep some standing with the ton. Edward “Ward” Reeve is the son of an earl and needs a new governess for his wards (his half-siblings) and comes to Eugenia’s offices in order to get a replacement. Ward desperately needs a governess to help shape up his siblings in order to fight for guardianship of them. Although Ward is the son of an earl, he is illegitimate.  He also doesn’t realize that Eugenia is actually a “lady”. Eugenia and Ward immediately are in a contentious relationship and yet the two are attracted to one another. When Ward ends up kidnapping Eugenia to help in his cause, the two begin an affair that neither intends to lead to anything more.

OPINION: Some books are fun one time reads where the entirety of the book occurs on the surface of emotions, and some books urge you to sink deeply into the emotions of the characters, their lives and their romance.  This book is the latter.

Nothing in this book turns on quick resolutions, excessive drama or quick action. I loved how I got to know the strengths and weaknesses of these characters.

Ward is a self-made man who has accomplished so much and yet has his own insecurities. A true gentleman, Ward is smart and talented, but entirely willing to give up his life for his half-siblings.  Ward’s life has changed dramatically after his engagement to Mia in FOUR NIGHTS WITH THE DUKE. The events in that book left Ward more cynical, with phobias and PTSD from his imprisonment. He is also remarkably clueless about social conventions and doesn’t realize that Eugenia is the daughter of a marquess. He is, however, determined to save his half-siblings from the tender mercies of his material grandmother. For that, Ward needs to turn two unschooled “small devils” into model children so that he can keep guardianship. I loved the balancing of Ward’s human foibles in this book. He is imperfect and thus fascinating because of it. When he makes the “almost” unforgivable mistake with Eugenia, he takes well to the groveling required in those circumstances.

Eugenia is a woman who controls her own destiny. She is strong and an entrepreneur long before women were accepted in such roles. A widow, she thankfully deeply loved her husband (which is a nice change from women who seem to only have terrible first marriages). True, she might look back on her marriage with too much nostalgia, but the death of her husband and the years, changed Eugenia and made her more independent and stubborn. After years of being alone, she is shocked out of her widowhood by Ward. Attracted to him physically, she considers the possibility of an affair. I liked that Eugenia is not afraid of her sexuality even as she initially wants to linger in her memories of her husband.

For me, this book was a treat because it brought back two precocious children from James’s Desperate Duchesses series. Bringing back children is often tricky because, of course, those with happy stories usually are not good subjects for books of their own. James has managed to provide the right amount of angst but focusing not only on their very early days of unhappiness, but also pivotal moments each experienced as adults which brought them moments of darkness. This makes the characters more interesting (because hey, who wants a story about well adjusted, perfectly happy and normal people without any flaws or painful pasts?).

This book made me fall madly in love with it as each page turned. Ward and Eugenia are smart and banter with one another as adults. They are completely willing to enjoy a sexual affair, but can’t help but become emotionally entangled with one another. I only took a small amount off my rating because I couldn’t help but feel that Ward should have been smarter to realize he was being a jerk with regards to Eugenia and, if nothing else, should have realized her origins long before he did. But that is just quibbling.  This book is a joy to read and what it made me want to do is start reading the prior series over again because there is so much good stuff in this one.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of James’s Desperate Duchesses series may remember both Ward and Eugenia as children who appeared in her Desperate Duchesses series (DESPERATE DUCHESS and DUCHESS BY NIGHT).

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN is the third book in the Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers series.  (This series is a spin off of the Desperate Duchesses series).  This book can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters that make the book better having read the other books in the series (actually both series).

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars