If the Viscount Falls (Duke’s Men #4) by Sabrina Jeffries

First of all, thank you to all my readers for your support in 2014! I’m looking forward to all the new books already on my “to read” list for 2015!

What makes this final entry in the Duke’s Men series rock? The heroine, Jane. Thank you, Sabrina Jeffries, for writing an intelligent, non-dishrag of a heroine for modern readers to enjoy.

If the Viscount Falls Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

If the Viscount Falls Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

SPOILER WARNING: This review will contain spoilers for the other “Duke’s Men” novels, previously reviewed at the following links: What the Duke Desires, When the Rogue Returns, and How the Scoundrel Seduces.

THE PLOT: When Dominick Manton was disinherited by his evil brother, George, for siding with his illegitimate siblings,  he lost everything except his young fiance. Dom didn’t want Jane to marry him anyway and live in poverty and uncertainly, but Jane, firmly in love with Dom, refused to break the engagement. That’s when Dom decided to do what was best for Jane (in his high-and-mighty male opinion) and set up Jane to find him mauling her own cousin, Nancy, at a party. The trick worked, except he DIDN’T plan for George to marry Nancy.

Now, George is dead, and Dom is finally restored as the viscount, but Jane is engaged to someone else. However, she asks for Dom’s help as a private detective in finding the widowed Nancy, who has disappeared. The reader knows that these shenanigans are a setup to a reunion, but the mystery of what’s happening with Nancy is deeper than one would think.

MY TWO CENTS: There are a few things I loved about this book. As previously, mentioned, topping that list is Jane’s character. She’s known for years that Dom set up the trick with Nancy to get Jane to end their engagement. This isn’t a case of, “If she knew the truth, everything would be fixed.” It’s more that she’s angry at him for being high-handed enough to choose her future for her…but she doesn’t let on at first. She lets him twist in the wind to see how long it will take him to admit the truth to her. She even refers to him as “Dom the Almighty,” but Dom is so clueless that he doesn’t get it at first. He’s a guy who’s smart about everything except women.

The storyline seems obvious, but it really isn’t. It doesn’t take the reader long to figure out Nancy is pregnant, which could effectively disinherit Dom and put him back to square one. But there are other factors here. What is really going on? If Nancy IS pregnant, is the baby George’s? Who would even want to disinherit Dom,and how far would that person go?

BOTTOM LINE: Feminists who enjoy a good romance with sizzling love scenes and a twisty mystery will eat this book up. Also, I’m always glad that Sabrina Jeffries connects all her series. Even the the “Duke’s Men” series is ended, it will transition to the new series, the “Sinful Suitors” series, using characters we’ve already met…namely, Jeremy Keane from How the Scoundrel Seduces and Yvette Barlow, who we meet in this book.

TEACUP RATING: Between four-and-a-half and five out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: The book will be on sale in paperback and eformats on January 27, 2015.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe by Kathy Lynn Emerson

Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe is the beginning of a new series from Kathy Lynn Emerson, but also a bridge from a previous series. I had never read any of her Lady Appleton/”Face Down” mysteries, but I had read her “Secrets of the Tudor Court” series, written as Kate Emerson. (Book 6 in that series, Royal Inheritance, was reviewed here.)

Murder in the Queen's Wardrobe Front Cover (Severn House Publishers)

Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe Front Cover (Severn House Publishers)

THE PLOT: Elizabeth I has been on the throne for 25 years when Rosamond Jaffrey is tapped to become a spy for Walsingham. She’s especially motivated when she finds out that her estranged husband, Rob, is in trouble in Russia, where he went as part of the Muscovy Company. As her cover, Rosamond is accepted as a waiting woman into the household of Lady Mary Hastings, who expects to become the bride of Ivan the Terrible.

The household is invited to the Queen’s Wardrobe of Robes in Whitehall so Lady Mary can have one of the Queen’s castoff gowns. Rosamond is planning to meet the contact assigned to her, but finds that the man has been poisoned. No one seems to believe that the man was murdered and didn’t just choke to death, but Rosamund has some knowledge of herbs and poisons. From that point, she realizes that Lady Mary may be in great danger—and Rosamond herself may be as well. But who is trying to sabotage the Russian marriage, and why?

MY TWO CENTS: I really liked the Russian connection in this story. That’s something I really don’t read about a lot in novels of the Tudor era, and I found it interesting and unusual. The point of view switches occasionally from Rosmand in England to Rob in Russia. The mystery was okay; I started to figure out who was behind it all from the clues, although the motivation wasn’t necessarily clear.

I do believe I would have enjoyed the book much more if I had read the preceding stories that include these characters. I know this is starting off a new series with this character as the lead, but I did feel that readers are somewhat dropped into something they should already be familiar with. I also felt that the end was clearly a setup for the next book in the series. Although there is a resolution to the mystery, I feel like Rosamond’s personal life is far less certain.

BOTTOM LINE: Works okay as a standalone novel, but the reading experience would probably be much enriched by reading the Lady Appleton novels first. Otherwise, an engaging enough mystery set in Elizabethan England. I’m interested enough to check out those earlier books as well as any sequel.

TEACUP RATING: Between three-and-a-half and four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: The book will be on sale in hardcover on March 1, 2015. (At this time, I cannot find any information about eformats, but most books do have them nowadays. There is an ISBN listed for an e-book in my ARC.)

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Doctor Who: Silhouette by Justin Richards

I was so excited to read one of the new Twelfth Doctor books! I chose one by Justin Richards because I had read a few of his Eighth Doctor books, such as The Burning, and really enjoyed it. Plus, this one features the Paternoster Gang, and Strax is always great fun.

Doctor Who: Silhouette Front Cover (Random House Publishing)

Doctor Who: Silhouette Front Cover (Broadway Books/Random House)

THE PLOT: A creepy carnival in Victorian England is the setting. A man is strangely murdered after beginning a letter to Vastra. A friend of Strax is also murdered, drained to a husk. At first, the two don’t seem connected, but of course they are. The Doctor and Clara show up to help unravel the mystery. The Doctor is enthralled by a strange shadow puppet show performed by a lady called Silhouette. A weird man hanging around the carnival also seems somewhat anachronistic, knowing things he shouldn’t for this time period. As they investigate, Clara, Jenny, and Vastra each meet people who seem especially sympathetic to them personally, but are these people really friends or foes?

MY TWO CENTS: This was the first Twelfth Doctor book I read, and I felt that the author captured him very well. Newer fans could pick up this book and clearly know they weren’t reading about Nine, Ten, or Eleven. This book also seems to distribute well among Clara, Jenny, and Strax, so it’s not all “The Clara Show” as I felt the show sometimes became at the end of Twelve’s inaugural season. I did feel that Vastra didn’t have as much of a presence, but she was strong in the finale.

I loved the idea of the paper origami birds that come to life. This is the kind of effect that works well in the a book, as the effect on film probably wouldn’t be as cool as what the imagination can conjure. The villain was the perfect kind of foe for the Doctor; totally selfish and destructive, and using innocent people to do the dirty work.

Note that this is a pretty short book, clocking in at 258 pages. I read an ebook ARC and it definitely moved along swiftly.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re missing Twelve and companions, and the Christmas special and next season seem too far away, check out this book. You’ll be entertained, although only for a short while. (But probably still for longer than the run time of an episode!)

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: The book is available now in trade paperback and eformats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Blogging for Books and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Duke of Dark Desires (Wild Quartet #4) by Miranda Neville

This is the first Miranda Neville novel I’ve ever read. What drew me to this particular book? I admit it…it was the cover. All that gothic black and lace and fashion styles gave me a very “Phantom of the Opera” vibe. What dark depravity did this duke get up to? Does he make women wearing opulent dressing gowns sing in watery underground tunnels in the middle of the night?

All joking aside, I enjoyed this story, and I guess I’m going to have to check out more of Neville’s books—especially those in the “Wild Quartet series.” (I’m very intrigued by this “Caro” person.)

DDD

The Duke of Dark Desires Front Cover (Avon/HarperCollins)

THE PLOT: Jeanne de Falleron was the daughter of a French noble. She survived the Revolution by taking on the disguise of Jane Grey, governess. Her family wasn’t so lucky. They were all guillotined after being betrayed by a Mr. Fortescue, who accepted the family’s collection of masterpiece paintings in exchange for the family’s safe passage to England. Revenge is the force that drives Jane. Her only goal is to track down Mr. Fortescue and kill him. But she doesn’t know what “Mr. Fortescue” looked like, only that he was young. She figures she’ll start her search with the main branch of the family.

Julian Fortescue never thought his obscure claim to a title would result in his becoming the Duke of Denford, but that is the position he finds himself in. Then his mother drops her brood of Julian’s half-sisters into his lap while she and her new husband take off for America. Julian would much rather concentrate on moving his collection of priceless paintings from Belgium than raise three young girls, so his first step is finding them a governess…especially an attractive one who might double as his mistress.

Jane accepts the position of the girls’ governess as a cover while hunting through the Fortescue family tree to find her family’s betrayer. She doesn’t want to fall in love with Julian, because she fully expects to be on the run or hanged after killing her target. She never seriously considers that the person she’s after could be the duke himself.

MY TWO CENTS: I’m such a sucker for stories that deal with the aftermath of the French Revolution. I don’t know why; maybe it gives me comfort to know that some people actually did survive, even in horrible circumstances like Jane’s. (Even if I’m reading about fictional people.) We all know that romances usually (always?) have a happy ending, but I felt a great deal of tension throughout this plot. When would Julian find out that Jane was actually a survivor of the family he feels so guilty about? When would Jane find out that Julian was the one who was supposed to get her family out of France to safety? Even if Julian isn’t the real betrayer, won’t Jane’s past as mistress to two French revolutionaries prevent her from becoming a duchess? What about the paintings?

BOTTOM LINE: I really enjoyed the various twists and turns of the plot. I have to admit, I felt that Jane had much darker desires than the duke. He wanted uncomplicated sex; she wanted uncomplicated sex AND murderous revenge!

TEACUP RATING: Between four and four-and-a-half out of five teacups. Like I said, I’ll definitely be checking out more Miranda Neville.

ON SALE DATE: December 30, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

 

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