Book Review: A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin

A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting
Publisher: HarperCollinsPublishers
Published: 12 July 2022
Genre: Historical (Regency) Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. Left with her father’s massive debts, she has only twelve weeks to save her family from ruin.

Kitty has never been one to back down from a challenge, so she leaves home and heads toward the most dangerous battleground in all of England: the London season.

Kitty may be neither accomplished nor especially genteel—but she is utterly single-minded; imbued with cunning and ingenuity, she knows that risk is just part of the game.

The only thing she doesn’t anticipate is Lord Radcliffe. The worldly Radcliffe sees Kitty for the mercenary fortune-hunter that she really is and is determined to scotch her plans at all costs, until their parrying takes a completely different turn…

This is a frothy pleasure, full of brilliant repartee and enticing wit—one that readers will find an irresistible delight.

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ARC Review: Impossible by Darcy Burke

Special thanks to Zealous Quill Press for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Impossible (The Phoenix Club #6)
Publisher: Zealous Quill Press
Published: 19 April 2022
Genre: Historical Romance

Panda Rating:

(3 pandas)

Ada Treadway has been in love before, and it brought nothing but heartache. Still, she retains her cheerful optimism and is fiercely protective of the independence and respect she’s earned as bookkeeper of the Phoenix Club. When the owner enlists her help to organize his friend’s estate ledgers, she’s eager to prove her expertise and her worth. But his friend turns out to be a disagreeable, unpleasant beast, and Ada works to find the warm-hearted gentleman she’s sure lurks beneath.

Maximillian Hunt, the Viscount Warfield doesn’t care if he lives to see tomorrow, and he certainly doesn’t want to recall yesterday. The arrival of the meddlesome and effusively positive woman who will put his accounts in order not only reminds him of the past he’s desperate to forget, she sparks something within him he thought dead. Tempted by a future he never imagined, he must do the impossible: convince her that he’s worth risking her heart a second time.

TL;DR: Overall, while this started off strong, the romance felt a little too half-baked for me to fully enjoy it. That’s not to say that I didn’t like these characters or enjoy their story because I did, and I was actually quite convinced that this was going to be a favourite in this series, so it was quite disappointing that their romance ended up being a bit unsatisfying for me. I am looking forward to the next book in the series though as we finally get McDougal’s story!

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ARC Review: The Rigid Duke by Darcy Burke

Special thanks to Zealous Quill Press for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: The Rigid Duke (Matchmaking Chronicles #1)
Publisher: Zealous Quill Press
Published: 08 March 2021
Genre: Historical Romance

Panda Rating:

(3 pandas)

As a refinement tutor, Mrs. Juno Langton helps young ladies develop the skills and confidence to secure an advantageous marriage. Her cheerful disposition never wavers no matter how challenging her assignment. When a house party provides an opportunity to match her difficult charge with a duke, Juno will go to any lengths to satisfy her employer and ensure the young lady’s future. Too bad the duke is an unsmiling, rigid grouch, albeit an irritatingly handsome one.

The Duke of Warrington dislikes social gatherings and despises the Marriage Mart which makes it nigh impossible to find a wife. He plans to secure his future duchess at a house party, but she’s being managed by a thoroughly meddlesome—and provocative—Mrs. Langton, who is determined to find his better nature. He’ll do anything to avoid her sunny charm and room-brightening smiles, but she’s breaking through his shell and the only way he can think to keep her quiet is to kiss her. He must marry the young lady, not desire the companion.

But now he’s rethinking his wife choices.

TL;DR: I’ve come to really enjoy Darcy Burke’s books ever since discovering her historical romances last year and The Rigid Duke was no different. It was an enjoyable grumpy/sunshine romance that’s slightly more sex than plot but was a quick and entertaining read that delivers a sweet HEA!

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ARC Review: Intolerable by Darcy Burke

Special thanks to Zealous Quill Press for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Intolerable (The Phoenix Club #3)
Publisher: Zealous Quill Press
Published: 19 October 2021
Genre: Historical/Regency Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

Every three years, like clockwork, Ruark Hannigan, Earl of Wexford loses his heart. Alas, he promised his father he wouldn’t marry until the age of thirty so that he’d be certain in his choice. When his best friend’s sister needs him to pose as a potential suitor to garner attention on the Marriage Mart, he’s the perfect candidate—if only he hadn’t kissed her in secret.

Lady Cassandra Westbrook can’t forget the incident between her and Wexford, and she’s having a devil of a time focusing on finding a husband. The fact that her father intimidates every gentleman has made her quest intolerable, and her two brothers who could help are proving completely worthless. But if she doesn’t settle on someone, her father will arrange an “acceptable” marriage by the end of the Season.

Finally, Cassandra has a chance at courtship, but, frustratingly, it’s not with the impulsive and irresistible Irishman her father detests and she desires. However, when Ruark sees the woman he passionately wants—despite his better judgment—swept into the arms of another man, the prospect of losing her becomes intolerable.

TL;DR: Intolerable was another very enjoyable addition to the Phoenix Club series! I was excited for Cass and Ruark’s story after we see a brief interaction between them in the previous book and I wasn’t disappointed by this forbidden older brother’s best friend romance! 😍 This was a sweet (although sometimes frustrating) love story between two tender-hearted characters. There was cheeky banter, sizzling chemistry and side characters you will also come to love!

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Book Review: The Rake of Hearts by Emily Windsor

Goodreads: The Rake of Hearts (A Lady to Suit #2)
Publisher: Senara Press Ltd
Published: 02 April 2020
Genre: Regency Romance, Historical Fiction

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

When the heart is afire…
By his own admission, Lord Ernest Brook is a rake. With sapphire gaze, sinfully handsome looks and a duke for a brother, the pleasures of London have come with ease…apart from one.
Ever since the gauntlet of her first wintry dismissal was thrown, the widowed Hebe Lock has stirred his deepest desires, but just what would it take to woo such a woman?

Sparks will fly.
Hebe Locke has vowed to never again fall for a scoundrel after her brief marriage to one left her broken and haunted.
Now she finds comfort with paintbrush and canvas, but as a female artist in a male world, commissions are as rare as a ballroom without rakes.

A castle of enchantment.
As the heat of late summer warms the land, an ancient, moated castle plays host to a widow and a rake, both concealing passions contrary to their reputations.
But as Lord Ernest awakens Hebe’s desire and thaws her frozen emotions, can she hold true to her vow?
Or can this rake win the one heart he yearns for?

Sensual Regency romance with warmth and wit, this tale also includes a disreputable aunt with a secondary love story, Cotswold country fairs, sinful masquerades and…a goat.

TL;DR: After meeting Ernest in his brother’s story, The Duke of Diamonds, and getting a glimpse of the potential romance between him and Mrs. Locke, I had a feeling that I’d love their story and I wasn’t wrong! Who knew that a rake could be so devastatingly sweet? Honestly, if Ernest had pointedly looked at me over the top of his glasses across the table, I’d probably have swooned into my pudding too! 😂 I found the writaing just as full of wit and warmth in this book and there were some great laugh-out-loud moments as well, especially as Hebe and Ernest playfully antagonise each other at the beginning!

Although their romance isn’t necessarily different to a lot of regency romances, I loved their characters as they were easy to root for and their banter made it so entertaining to read! Hebe and Ernest both put up a front when they are in London in front of the ton but neither of those fronts is entirely true to their hidden characters, and I loved watching both of them shed those facades the longer they spend in the country and get to know each other! My heart broke for Hebe, who was in an abusive marriage until her husband’s death, but the scars run deep and have changed her into a young woman who feels like she doesn’t know herself anymore. Art is what brings her joy and what she finds comfort in so she turns her attention to that as she resolves to never open her heart to a man again, especially not to a rake.

Then enters Ernest, a dashedly handsome and deviously charming man, known by all from London to the country for his rakish ways that are regularly splashed on the gossip pages. Yet little does anyone know how Ernest longs for the wildness of the country and the connection he has to the land, animals and people there. He’s so much more down-to-earth than I expected and I loved his character more for it!

It was so satisfying to watch them come out of their shells and I loved how art played a part in that. It is their love of horses (and animals in general really) that bring them together and as Ernest watched Hebe paint them so full of life, they are able to connect through their understanding and compassion for the animal, and it is also what makes them realise that there’s more than meets the eye to either of them. There were some delightfully swoon-worthy moments as they become more vulnerable with each other, and paired with their banter and sizzling chemistry, it resulted in some great steamy scenes! 🥵

In addition to their story, there was a bonus romance between Hebe’s aunt Beatrice and Ernest’s stable master, Redmond. This sweet second-chance-romance didn’t detract from the main romance between our H/H, and though it was a little bit angsty, their connection after all these years apart was undeniable! I loved aunt Beatrice, who was such a cheerful and supportive presence in the story, so it was great to see her also get a HEA with the love of her life. Other than aunt Bea, there were other great supporting characters in this story who I found endearingly charming, quirky and witty, too. Grampy Tom was a particular favourite and I loved his ‘mysterious’ teachings relating to life and the weather and anecdotes about life.

Overall, I’m really enjoying this regency romance series and I’m looking forward to reading the next story in the series, although I have no idea when that will be (sad panda)!

Have you read The Rake of Hearts or is it on your TBR?

Book Review: The Duke of Diamonds by Emily Windsor

Goodreads: The Duke of Diamonds (A Lady to Suit #1)
Publisher: Senara Press Ltd
Published: 02 April 2020
Genre: Regency Romance, Historical Fiction

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

In the coldest flint, there is fire…
Casper Brook, the eighth Duke of Rothwell, has forever spurned frivolous pleasures, his restless emotions remaining buried beneath duty and command.
Yet when a titian-haired minx perches upon his ducal desk and claims to know the whereabouts of his one burning obsession, a game of wits and passion erupts…

Fire ignites from a spark…
Miss Evelyn Pearce possesses naught but a frail young sister and an ebony-black cat. Left destitute by her baronet father’s spendthrift ways, fate and talent hand her the opportunity to seek escape from the dangerous alleys of London town.
The cold Duke of Diamonds holds the key, and all Evelyn must do is resist his not-so-cold kiss…

A dance of flaming desire…
A passion forged on secrets can never be satisfied, but as guises fall and plots unravel, will the duke’s controlled façade shatter to reveal his searching heart within?
Regency romance with warmth and wit. This book contains sensual scenes.

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Mini Reviews: Swoony Steamy Romance Novellas!

I’ve been in a pretty big romance mood over the last few months and that has led me to discovering quite a few books, authors and series that I’m eager to explore further. I’ve also read a surprising number of novellas that have worked for me and that I ended up really enjoying so I thought I’d share mini-reviews for three of them!

I Think I Might Love You (Love Sisters #1)
Publication Date: 25 April 2019
Genre:
Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

Jaclyn Love is a magnet for trouble – it seems to follow her wherever she goes.

Unfortunately for Kadan Davenport, she also seems to be a magnet for him – even after a disastrous first impression that leaves him – literally – black and blue.

Jaclyn is busy trying to find some sort of balance, and Kadan is just trying not to get swept up in the chaos.

In a small city like Blakewood, it’s hard to avoid each other… especially when each additional encounter makes them wonder if they really want to.

“I Think I Might Love You” is a first-in-series novella.

This had me laughing out loud pretty much from the first scene! Jac and Kadan’s meet-cute was hilarious (although painful for him) and it was so bizarre but it set the tone perfectly for our characters and how the rest of the book would go.

Jac is a notorious rule-breaker in this small-town and she has a fairly long history of getting on the wrong side of the law, but she’s doing her best to set up a calmer life for herself. She’s bold, sassy and had such great energy on the page! Kadan was pretty much Jac’s direct opposite, and well, it’s no wonder that there’s a little animosity between them considering how they first meet! 😂 He’s a vet and overall a pretty stand-up guy who’s trying to build a solid and quiet life for himself, which isn’t working out well for him since he finds himself very attracted to Jac’s “bold personality and attitude problem”. I wouldn’t say theirs is an “enemies-to-lovers” romance, it’s more “hate to love” thanks to their disastrous meet-cute but their banter was so good! It’s the kind that comes across as dislike when, in reality, nobody is fooled and they know it’s attraction.

There are cats in bowls of chicken, dairy-free ice cream mix-ups, (disturbingly funny) farting disasters, a bit of fake dating and a whole lot of sizzling chemistry! I’ve never read a novella series before but this was the perfect palette cleanser between reads and I’m keen to read on about the other sisters!


My Dirty Duke: A Victorian Novella
Publication Date:
07 June 2021
Genre: Historial Romance, Erotica

Panda Rating:

(3 pandas)

Violet knows that her father’s best friend, the Duke of Ravensthorpe, is the most powerful man in all of London with a reputation for sin.

But nothing can stop Violet from wanting to shed her wallflower ways and fulfill her darkest, most forbidden desires…even if it means seducing a man twice her age.

“Shupe is a true queen of filth, expert at spinning heartfelt love stories alongside tantalizingly wicked scenarios.”
—Entertainment Weekly


Note: My Dirty Duke was originally published in the Duke I’d Like to F… anthology.

I’d never heard of this author before but Twitter romance led me to this book and I can’t say that I’m mad about it! I’m gonna be honest, I read this for the smut and it definitely delivered! 😂 This is an age-gap taboo romance, which is not something that I normally ever read (for no particular reason just don’t feel that it really interests me) so I wasn’t bothered by it in this story.

As this is a novella there’s not much in the way of character development or a strong plot, and their relationship to each other is already an established thing. I liked the Duke and Victoria. I thought they were both interesting characters and that the author handled the emotional and moral struggle (especially on his part) pretty well. I liked that Victoria was the one who pursued him—this girl knew exactly what she wanted and she managed to be bold despite being a little shy. I enjoyed reading about her passion for photography and of course, I liked how photographs had a role in their play, but I also liked how the Duke supported and encouraged the pursuit of her passion. Obviously, I liked the steamy bits and it did get quite steamy pretty quickly. The Duke ticked that dirty-talking hero box and so if that’s your thing, I would definitely recommend checking this out (especially if you have Kindle Unlimited)!

Were there some questionable moments in the characters’ actions and the progression of the plot? Sure, but I also didn’t really expect much to be developed or expanded upon in a novella, so I didn’t think too much about it. Overall, I enjoyed this and would be curious to check out more by this author in the future! If you’ve read her books, what’d you recommend checking out next?


Surrender: An Erotic Short
Publication Date: 16 August 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Erotica

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

“In twelve years unless we’re with other people I’ll fly you somewhere and you’ll give me two nights…”

The pact was so ridiculous, Yara forgot about it soon after it was made.
What were the odds she and Lennox would still be single in twelve years?
What were the odds they’d still have the hots for each other?
Practically zero, right?
Until they weren’t.
Yara is tempted to decline when Lennox emails her plane tickets and a reminder she promised him two nights for the full exploration of her body, but her curiosity gets the best of her.
What follows is more than either of them could ever bargain for and Yara learns that sometimes the key to indescribable pleasure is to surrender.

I picked this up immediately after seeing this terrifying yet hilariously thirsty image on Nick’s review. Her reviews have yet to steer me wrong and I’m glad I picked this up! It was fun, fast and super steamy and the perfect transition read to my next (presumably less erotic) romance.

This is basically about two people who come together to fulfil a sex pact they made after uni. Yara and Lennox promised each other that if they were single after 12 years they’d get together for two nights and wow hey, here they are and it was F-I-R-E! Despite only being 52 pages long, I was still able to get a good feel for both characters’ personalities and I loved them. Plus, the chemistry was intense and the sexual tension was almost palpable! Yes, there’s a lot of sex in this book but they (surprisingly) don’t just bang the day away and we see them reconnect as friends but also explore the potential of this connection they have being more serious than a sex pact. But, the steamy is definitely worth the build up! 😉

I hadn’t read anything by Rilzy Adams before this but I’ll be looking their books up now and I’m keen to check out more.

Have you read any of these novellas or are they on your TBR? Do you have romance novella faves to recommend? I’m definitely keen on trying more novellas soon!

ARC Review: Impassioned by Darcy Burke

Special thanks to NetGalley and Zealous Quill Press for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads: Impassioned (The Phoenix Club #2)
Publisher: Zealous Quill Press
Publish Date: 24 August 2021
Genre: Historical Regency Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

In nearly two years of marriage, Sabrina Westbrook has barely spoken to her husband and shared a bed even less. Both activities would require they actually live together. As it is, the Earl of Aldington attends to his seat in the House of Commons, while she and her crippling social anxiety tend to his country house and gardens.

Their arrangement is quite civilized, and their letters are painfully polite. Their twice-yearly visits are…awkward. But, if Sabrina can muster the necessary courage, all of that is about to change. Starting tonight.

Heir to a dukedom, Constantine Westbrook knows his duty: to country, to family, and to the shy, retiring wife whose beauty stole his breath the moment they met. Whose arousing, enticing body he’s never seen in the light of day. Or any light at all.

However, there’s something different about the woman who shows up in London unannounced. For the first time in their marriage, Sabrina has a request. No, a demand. But wanting and having are two different things. And to give Sabrina her heart’s desire, they’ll both need a few lessons in love…

BUY A COPY:

Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.

TL;DR: Despite this book relying on tropes I’m not overly fond of in romance (miscommunication and deception), I found myself liking the characters enough that I wanted to get to their HEA. I enjoyed seeing Sabrina and Constantine deal with their insecurities and issues that stemmed from their upbringing and troubled family relationships. I loved seeing them come out of their shells, stand up to their bullies and find confidence to pursue their wants outside of society’s expectations. The sexual tension between these two was also surprisingly steamy and it was built up in a nice slow burn fashion, complete with swoon-worthy courting, too!


It’s been a while since I read a Darcy Burke romance but it was nice to come back to her regency romance world. I enjoy her writing and the era comes alive through her descriptions and the words/phrases from this period. It feels authentic, although I can’t really comment so much on the accuracy of it, just that it feels realistic to me.

This one had a bit of a rough start and our H/H took a while to understand the real problem between them and their arranged marriage (hint: it wasn’t sex). This does lean heavily on the miscommunication trope, plus there’s also a fair bit of deception that lasts until the conflict at the end, so if these are two things you don’t like in romance, this book might not be for you. While I normally also don’t like these tropes, and they did frustrate me when I was reading, I liked both characters enough to want to continue and see them get their HEA.

Sabrina and Constantine each have their own issues to overcome that stem from their upbringing and troubled family relationships. Sabrina suffers from extreme social anxiety and that isn’t helped by her horrible parents who belittle and demean her and treat her anxiety as a joke, which causes her to retreat into herself and become a ‘wallflower‘. Constantine has been raised to be the perfectly rational, unfeeling and coldhearted Duke by his father who is more of a domineering dictator rather than a parent, and who expects his favourite son to be just like him. These personal issues have led to misunderstandings and constant miscommunication between our H/H, but both want desperately to change that and as they break down the walls in their marriage, they also learn to stand up for what they want. I enjoyed seeing them break out of their shells, find their voices and finally stand up to their bullies, though I wish we did get more details specifically about how Sabrina overcame her anxiety. It felt overly simplistic as if she decided to get over it and that was that; however, it wasn’t a “magic cure” whereby the end she didn’t feel anxiety at all because she continued to suffer from her nerves, she just got better at managing it.

There’s also a delicious tension that builds up between these two. What starts out as Sabrina boldly demanding her marital rights to get with a child, turns into a tentative and swoon-worthy courting between husband and wife, and it’s not only very sweet but also delightfully steamy—the sexual tension developed so nicely and it’s well worth the slow(ish) burn when they finally give in to their desires and get together! That said, I wish it didn’t take them so long to realise that lies and miscommunication were what made their relationship so awful in the first place and that the deception they participated in to get to their marriage on more stable ground didn’t aid in that. But you can say the journey to get there was definitely sexy and fun! 😉

Overall, despite the use of tropes I’m not very fond of, I liked our H/H and I’m glad I read this book! I’m definitely excited for the next book in the Phoenix Club series, but I’ll also go back and read the first one, too.

Have you read Impassioned or is it on your TBR?

Book Review: Subtle Blood by K.J. Charles

Goodreads: Subtle Blood (The Will Darling Adventures #3)
Publisher: KJC Books
Published: 23 June 2021
Genre: Historical Romance, Mystery/Thriller

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

Will Darling is all right. His business is doing well, and so is his illicit relationship with Kim Secretan–disgraced aristocrat, ex-spy, amateur book-dealer. It’s starting to feel like he’s got his life under control.

And then a brutal murder in a gentleman’s club plunges them back into the shadow world of crime, deception, and the power of privilege. Worse, it brings them up against Kim’s noble, hostile family, and his upper-class life where Will can never belong.

With old and new enemies against them, and secrets on every side, Will and Kim have to fight for each other harder than ever—or be torn apart for good.

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Book Review: The Sugared Game by K.J. Charles

Goodreads: The Sugared Game (The Will Darling Adventures #2)
Publisher: KJC Books
Published: 26 August 2020
Genre: Historical Romance, Mystery

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

It’s been two months since Will Darling saw Kim Secretan, and he doesn’t expect to see him again. What do a rough and ready soldier-turned-bookseller and a disgraced shady aristocrat have to do with each other anyway?

But when Will encounters a face from the past in a disreputable nightclub, Kim turns up, as shifty, unreliable, and irresistible as ever. And before Will knows it, he’s been dragged back into Kim’s shadowy world of secrets, criminal conspiracies, and underhand dealings.

This time, though, things are underhanded even by Kim standards. This time, the danger is too close to home. And if Will and Kim can’t find common ground against unseen enemies, they risk losing everything.

A 1920s m/m romance trilogy in the spirit of Golden Age pulp fiction.

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