Today’s Steals and Deals at AAR…..

Virginia Heath has written many Harlequin Historicals and has lots of high marks from AAR. We gave That Despicable Rogue at B+. (You can read our review here.) Our reviewer wrote:

The set-up is a fairly familiar one, but Ms. Heath puts a fresh spin on this well-used trope by her pleasantly different portrayal of Ross as a charming, funny, level-headed, all-round decent bloke rather than the sort of darkly brooding, ruthless bastard that is a much more frequent character-type found in this sort of story.  Not to say he isn’t ruthless in his business dealings – he’d have to be to have made a fortune considering where he started out – but he’s clearly a very different man to the one Hannah had expected, given everything she’d read about him in the scandal sheets.  In addition to the romance, there’s a nicely developed secondary plotline in which Ross suspects that Hannah might be a spy working for the East India Company, one of his main business rivals; and a look at the effects and intrusiveness of gossip – something not limited to the 21st century – as we discover why Ross is so steadfast in his determination never to respond to the accusations that are regularly thrown at him in the press.

The central characters are both very well-rounded, with Ross definitely being the star of the show.  He’s pulled himself out of the gutter through sheer determination and hard work, but hasn’t become overly hard or cynical; and although Hannah is a little harder to like because she insists on hanging on to her poor opinions of Ross for longer than she probably should, it does make sense in the context of the story and her character.

There are plenty of sparks between Ross and Hannah, and I really liked the way his gently teasing manner – he nicknames her “Prim” – and his willingness to listen to her and take her ideas seriously are shown to be instrumental in the progress of the friendship that develops between them. The romance grows out of that friendship as they begin to understand more about each other and there’s a real sense of warmth and affection to all aspects of their relationship.

You can purchase it at Amazon for 1.99 here.

The Wedding Challenge by Candace Camp garnered a B from us. (You can read our review here.) We wrote:

Lady Calandra – Callie to her friends – younger sister of the Duke of Rochford, is 23 but still unmarried – largely because her beloved older brother sets all fortune and status hunters packing and leaves everybody else too afraid to actively court her. She doesn’t mind, though, until her unmarried state becomes a topic of conversation at a masquerade.

That night, she meets the reclusive Earl of Bromwell, a handsome, charming man with whom she shares an instant attraction. However, her brother also has an instant reaction to him: Hatred. One of his last proclamations before he leaves town for the rest of winter is that she must never see him again. Bromwell soon comes to call on her at the home of her good friend, Francesca, with whom she is staying, and begins courting her persistently. However, he has his own, less than honorable, reasons for calling on her. When his intentions break off suddenly, Callie wants to know why, discovering only then the history between her brother and Bromwell.

I really enjoyed this story. Callie and Bromwell have great chemistry, both physical and emotional. Despite his original nefarious intentions, it is clear that he is a good man with strong loyalties. Heroes who pursue their heroines for dishonorable reasons aren’t particularly original, but it is rare that I don’t question their character in the end as I didn’t here. I also liked Callie, although some of her notions were a bit anachronistic.

You can purchase this book here for 0.99.

Grace Burrowes has been self-publishing for a while now and readers love her books. This on, Miss Dauntless, has a 4.5 star rating from Amazon readers. Here’s its blurb:

Matilda Merridew, former hoyden of the first water, finds herself widowed, weary, and in want of coin. Along comes Marcus, Lord Tremont, with an interesting–and decent–proposition. Tremont will provide Matilda a handsome salary and keep a commodious roof over her head if she will relieve him of the burden of managing a houseful of unruly former soldiers.

Matilda accepts the post, and soon learns that the proper, soft-spoken earl has a far more dashing side. Marcus, whose lodestars in life have been order and duty, is drawn to Matilda’s determination and pragmatic good cheer. When Matilda’s past rises from the grave to destroy any hope of a happily ever after, Matilda and Marcus must decide if love truly can conquer all!

It’s on sale right now, at Amazon, for 2.82 here.

Looking for an old school alpha male lead? Iain MacKinnon, the hero in Pamela Clare’s Surrender is just that. (You can read our review here.)

Lady Anne Burness Campbell finds herself an indentured servant in the Colonies thanks to the machinations of her e-e-e-vil Uncle Bain. And if that weren’t bad enough, she also finds herself caught in the middle of an Abanaki Indian massacre. Just as her death appears imminent, she is rescued by Iain MacKinnon, a Ranger fighting with the British Army. Iain rescues Anne and takes her back to his camp, where she will be safe.

Anne is a Campbell and, like most Argyll Campbells, she comes from a family of Protestants and royal sympathizers. Iain, on the other hand, is an exiled Highland Catholic – and the sworn enemy of the Campbells. Fearing this, Anne does not reveal her true name and heritage to Iain. As their initial mistrust turns to respect and even to affection within the British camp, Anne’s misrepresentations lie heavily on her conscience. The love story between Anne and Iain is a passionate one, and Clare’s handling of the conflict inherent in their backgrounds is also well-handled for the most part.

Iain will likely be quite popular with those who like alpha heroes since he is probably the most alpha hero I’ve read in quite some time. He knows who he is and what he wants in life and does not flinch from doing what he thinks is right to accomplish his goals. His strength is largely admirable, but there are times when his decisiveness crosses the line into jerkiness and that did take a bit away from the romance for me. ….

Clare’s novel is very well-researched, and the French and Indian War setting is an unusual, vivid one that many readers will enjoy. The author evokes her setting wonderfully, and her secondary characters are interesting for the most part.

You can buy this, today, at Amazon for 2.99 here.

We enjoyed Her Husband’s Harlot and gave it B. (You can read my review here.) I wrote:

Her Husband’s Harlot, a 2011 debut by Grace Callaway, is a story you’ve read before: innocent young lady weds a sexually voracious, morally iffy rake. That’s OK–this telling is a good time.

It opens with a disastrous wedding night.

Helena lay there, trying to think of England, but when it hurt, she yelped in pain. Nicholas pulled out and ran as though chased by the hounds of hell. Since then, he’s pretended she doesn’t exist. Helena, however, wants a real marriage and another go between the marital sheets, so, wearing a wig and the trappings of a lady of the night, she tracks her husband down at his favorite house of carnal delights.

She finds him watching an adventurous threesome. Nicholas has been in sexual hell since his marriage. All he can think about is pounding into his genteel wife but is convinced that’s a bad and inappropriate idea given her delicate sensibilities. He believes she wants nothing to do with him. He’s coped by masturbating endlessly while fantasizing his virtuous wife but it’s not enough. He’d come to the Nunnery thinking he’d find relief bedding a whore, but found, much to his despair, he only wants his Helena.

However, when a gorgeous woman runs into him–he’s watching the sexual gymnastics behind a drapery–he’s instantly and overwhelmingly aroused. The minute the trio leaves, Nicholas tosses Helena on the nearest table and the two have the hottest sex of his (and her) life. Helena, afraid he’d be appalled at her bawdy behavior, uses a French accent as she moans.  Once finished, Nicholas drops a fifty-pound note on the table and walks away.

Needless to say, Nicholas feels like a horrible human being, having fucked a whore not his wife while fantasizing that she was. Helena, however, wants a great deal more of that kind of passion and is determined to win her husband’s affections.

It’s not easy.

No matter what she does, Nicholas is a jerk. The nicer she is to him, the nastier he is to her. This pisses her off and she isn’t shy telling him he’s behaving even more abysmally than usual. Normally this dynamic would irritate me, but here it works. Nicholas has good reasons for believing he’s not good enough for his wife. The horrors of his childhood and youth have left him deeply shameful and he simply doesn’t know how to overcome his self-loathing.

I liked both Nicholas and Helena. Over time, the two learn to trust and rely on each other in ways that feel real. They do begin to make love and the sex scenes are delightfully graphic and add to their growing intimacy. The romance in this book is a good one and if you like dirty talk and adventurous marital sex in your love stories, I suspect you’ll enjoy this one.

You can get it at Amazon for free (!!) here.


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