Julian St. David, Duke of Haverford, is barely keeping his head above water in a sea of inherited debts. Though he has a long-term plan to restore the family finances, his sister has a much faster solution: host a house party for London's single young ladies and find Julian a wealthy bride. Elizabeth Windham has no interest in marriage, but a recent scandal has forced her hand. As much as she'd rather be reading Shakespeare than husband hunting, she has to admit she's impressed by Julian's protective instincts, his broad shoulders, and, of course, his vast library.
What happens when a duke with crippling debts accrued by his bibilophile predecessors (and who thus isn't a book fan) meets the woman of his dreams - who adores books?
No Other Duke Will Do is fairly standard Grace Burrowes fare; two decent, honourable people meet and fall in love, but not without some lumps and bumps along the way. The lumps and bumps here are, it's true, not especially lumpy or bumpy, but it's an enjoyable, gently moving tale and the best of this series so far. Ms. Burrowes does a terrific job showing how Julian's financial situation impinges on pretty much every aspect of his life; he’s an honourable, compassionate man who wants very much to do what is best for those who depend on him and who is continually constrained by his lack of funds. He has worked tirelessly to bring his finances around, but knows he has a lot more hard work and sacrifice ahead of him; and we really feel for him as he realises he has finally found the woman for him but cannot afford to marry her.
There's an engaging cast of secondary characters (and several secondary romances!) and a hint of what's to come for the heroine's sister in the final book in the series.
James Langton is a narrator I enjoy listening to (even though his female voices can sometimes be a little off) - he really gets Ms. Burrowes' quirky writing style to the extent I can't imagine anyone else reading her books. Here, however, she's stymied him by setting the story in Wales and employing a number of Welsh characters, because while he's very good at Scottish and Irish accents, Welsh accents clearly aren't his forté. He's a very accomplished narrator and normally I'd be grading him at 4 stars, but I can't do that this time.
If you can get past the odd not-Welsh-accent, No Other Duke Will Do is worth a listen. It's a gentle love story featuring a pair of very attractive protagonists.
England, 1666; the year all the prophecies said the world would end. For Chloe Hervaux, marriage to wild, unpredictable Alex Deveril offers escape from a home she hates. For Alex, waking up with an epic hangover, the discovery that he has acquired a bride is an unwelcome shock. But while the marriage remains in name only, other forces are gathering. England is at war with the Dutch, and Prince Rupert suspects that sabotage is at work in the fleet. Instructed to find and stop the traitor, Alex enters a dark, secret labyrinth of intrigue.
Set in Restoration London, The Marigold Chain is a book I loved the first time I read it almost thirty years ago, and I've been eagerly awaiting its release in audio.
While quite spectacularly drunk, Alex Deveril wins the hand and dowry of Chloe Herveaux in a card game. Not prepared to stay under her wastrel half-brother’s roof any longer, Chloe is only too ready to depart with Alex, intending to go to stay with friends for the night, but she has reckoned without Alex’s stubbornness. He won a bride and a bride he will have – and he won’t take no for an answer. He and Chloe are married that night.
The next morning, amid a hangover of Biblical proportions, Alex comes to the realisation of what he’s done, apologises and suggests to Chloe that they seek an annulment. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick, but he thinks it may be possible, especially if the final decision ends up resting with the king.
What follows is a thoroughly enjoyable romance, set amid the intrigue of the court and against the backdrop of the war between the English and the Dutch, and later, the horror of the Great Fire of London. Alex is a delicious hero, gorgeous, charming, and highly intelligent, with a quick wit and sharp tongue that can wound at twenty paces, but who, beneath it all is a man of courage, honour and deep loyalty. Chloe is no simpering miss, but a strong young woman who metaphorically rolls up her sleeves and gets on with it, quickly adjusting to her changed circumstances and the mercurial husband who keeps her constantly on her toes. The historical background is comprehensively researched and in the scenes which take place amid the streets of London, the reader is completely immersed in the sights and the sounds of the city. The cast of supporting characters – including His Glorious Majesty, King Charles II – is very well fleshed out, and another of the things I enjoy very much about Ms Riley’s work, her skill in writing strong male friendships is very much in evidence.
Ms Riley has the knack of writing the most delicious romantic and sexual tension between her principals, and the gradual progression of the romance between Alex and Chloe is masterful, and something to be thoroughly savoured.
What to say about the incredibly talented Alex Wyndham that hasn't already been said? Not much, really - he's easily one of the best narrators in the business. He gives every single character - even if they only have a line or two - a distinct voice, and differentiates extremely well between all the different male characters in the story. Listeners of A Splendid Defiance will recognise Prince Rupert, and his portrayal of King Charles has just the right levels of humour and gravitas. Alex and Chloe are superbly realised; and his ability to pick up on and deliver every emotional cue is simply wonderful.
Some fondly-remembered books turn out to be disappointing upon a re-read years later, but fortunately, The Marigold Chain is not one of those - and in audio it's an extremely satisfying and enjoyable experience. Highly recommended.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sebastian Audley has spent years setting every city in Europe by the ears and keeping the scandal-sheets in profit. Word that he is finally returning to London becomes the hottest topic of the Season and casts numerous young ladies - many of whom have never seen him - into a fever of anticipation. Cassandra Delahaye is not one of them. In her opinion, love affairs and duels, coupled with a reputation for never refusing even the most death-defying wager, suggest that Mr. Audley is short of a brain cell or two.
If you've listened to audiobooks by this terrific author/narrator team before, you'll know you're in for another treat. If you haven't - you're really missing out!
In this fourth book in the Rockliffe series, we meet Sebastian Audley, who has spent most of the last six or seven years living it up royally on the Continent and earning himself one hell of a reputation. There's no wager too risky, no lady too unattainable and no bottle too undrinkable for Sebastian, and tales of his exploits as he cut a dash through Europe have spread far and wide. The women want him, and the men want to be him - in short he has the devil's own reputation.
The problem is - what happens when, in his late twenties, he decides it's time to grow up and settle down? A reputation such as his is going to take a hell of a lot of living down, but he has to try.
Miss Cassandra Delahaye is fed up with hearing her younger sister and her friends swooning over the exploits of "Wicked Cousin Sebastian" and thinks he must be an absolutely insufferable man. Their first, accidental, meeting, would seem to confirm this opinion of Cassie's but as the pair of them begin to see more of each other, she discovers instead that Sebastian is warm, witty and kind - and she is well and truly smitten.
What follows is a traditional courtship story, something which is perhaps a little unusual in historical romance these days, when there are so many spies and pirates dashing through the pages of the genre. With a reputation like his, Sebastian knows he has to do everything by the book if he is to persuade Cassie's father to entrust him with her hand and her heart.
There's much to enjoy here besides the sweetly sensual romance between Sebastian and Cassie. We are re-introduced to the Rockliffe set - including the man himself as a new father - and are reminded once again of this author's gift for writing male friendships and snappy dialogue. It's also terribly refreshing to encounter a family like Cassie's well-adjusted, and loving, and to see the seeds of reconciliation begin to take root between Sebastian and his father.
Alex Wyndham delivers another nigh-on perfect performance that's so good it's hard to find something to say about him that I haven't said before. Technically, he's spot on, and I'm amazed at the way he is able to give voice to so many different characters - both male and female - without there ever being any confusion as to who is speaking at any one time. His interpretation of Sebastian is wonderful, light and airy, but with a hint of steel beneath, and I loved his characterisation of Grandpa Maitland, who appears early on in this and whose meeting with his new grandson-in-law - Adrian, from The Player - is a hoot.
In short, The Wicked Cousin is a superb listen and not to be missed.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
For two years, England has been in the grip of Civil War. In Banbury, Oxfordshire, the Cavaliers hold the castle, the Roundheads want it back and the town is full of zealous Puritans. Consequently, the gulf between Captain Justin Ambrose and Abigail Radford, the sister of a fanatically religious shopkeeper, ought to be unbridgeable. The key to both the fate of the castle and that of Justin and Abigail lies in defiance...but will it be enough?
I have loved this book for over thirty years and am over the moon it's now available in audio format. Alex Wyndham is one of the finest narrators around, and he does an absolutely superb job!
The story is set during the English Civil War, at Banbury Castle, a Royalist stronghold, and tells the story of the small garrison of men there who held out against a Parliamentary force of more than ten times their size. Many of the characters in this book actually existed; the author's knowledge of the history of the era is considerable, and her research impeccable. She expertly brings to life the day-to-day routine of the people living within the castle walls, and their awkward relationship with the town of Banbury which was staunchly pro-Parliament.
The real heart of the book is found in the slow-burn love story between a cynical Royalist captain and the sister of a Puritan shopkeeper; it's beautifully written and developed (there's no insta-lust here!) and the two central characters are fully-rounded and three dimensional. Justin Ambrose is ambitious and resents kicking his heels in Banbury when he wants to be out there doing something; Abigail Radford lives under the control of her puritanical brother and has little to look forward to other than a life of drudgery and duty. Their initial meetings are inauspicious and, for Justin, unmemorable, but from there springs an unlikely friendship that gradually turns in to more in a way that feels realistic and unhurried.
If you are a fan of historical romance that puts an emphasis on the "historical", then this is a book for you. If you’re also looking for a richly detailed story, a beautifully developed romance and a compelling, devastatingly attractive and unforgettable hero, it’s all here.
Add to all that the superb narration by Alex Wyndham, and you've got a real winner. Mr Wyndham never disappoints; he's a highly skilled performer and vocal actor who is able to make a listener forget they're listening to only one person. All the characters - and there are quite a few - are easy to distinguish from one another and he is able to perform the females convincingly and without resorting to falsetto. I can't praise him - or this audiobook - highly enough.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
Simon Basset, the irresistible Duke of Hastings, has hatched a plan to keep himself free from the town's marriage-minded society mothers. He pretends to be engaged to the lovely Daphne Bridgerton. After all, it isn't as if the brooding rogue has any real plans to marry - though there is something about the alluring Miss Bridgerton that sets Simon's heart beating a bit faster. And as for Daphne, surely the clever debutante will attract some very worthy suitors now that it seems a duke has declared her desirable.
It's been some time since I read the book and I'd forgotten how damn good it is. The romance between Simon and Daphne is beautifully developed and I adored how the author shows that Simon - in particular - is head-over-heels in love without knowing it or suspecting it.
The angsty parts work very well; I know that Daphne's actions towards the end of the book are practically unforgiveable, but they are, to an extent, understandable, if not excusable.
Rosalyn Landor's narration is everything any listener could want and is absolutely on the button every time. There are a handful of other narrators I adore who could undoubtedly have made a good job of this, but I honestly don't think any one of them could have done it quite as well. RL is something special when it comes to historical romance, and proves it yet again here.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Anthony Bridgerton hasn't just decided to marry - he's even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended's older sister, Kate Sheffield - the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate's the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams.
This is the first of Julia Quinn's books I ever read and one of the first 'modern' historical romances I ever read about a decade or so ago, when I was just starting to read the genre. As a result, I have a bit of a soft spot for it, but that's not surprising, considering it's a terrific book.
It's a classic enemies-to-lovers/compromised-into-marriage story and remains one of my favourite HRs and one of my favourites of the Bridgerton series (it's up there with "When He Was Wicked"). I admit that I haven't read it for some time, and I have forgotten bits, so this new audio was a fantastic reminder.
The relationship between Anthony and Kate is brilliantly done - the sexual chemistry just sizzles between them right from the start, and the author does a superb job of showing both characters falling head-over-heels with each other while trying to maintain their outward animosity.
I loved that Anthony is so family-oriented; there are so many dysfunctional families in romance that it's refreshing to find one that isn't. He's also, quite simply, sex-on-legs.
Rosalyn Landor does an incredible job in the audio version. It's a given that she's technically superb - she's always spot on when it comes to things like differentiation and pacing - but where she scores over practically ever other narrator of historical romance is that she 'gets' it like no-one else. The way she brings the emotional content of the story to the fore so vividly always amazes me and I had a lump in my throat several times while listening to this one.
I'm sure I don't need to convince any reader of HR that this is a fabulous book, or anyone who listens to romance audios regularly that the narration is outstanding.
But I still had to shout about it, because it's just THAT good.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Julian Fellowes's Belgravia is the story of a secret. A secret that unravels behind the porticoed doors of London's grandest postcode. Set in the 1840s, when the upper echelons of society began to rub shoulders with the emerging industrial nouveau riche, Belgravia is peopled by a rich cast of characters. But the story begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. At the Duchess of Richmond's now legendary ball, one family's life will change forever.
This is a really enjoyable story with a very strong sense of place and time that takes a good look at the English class system in the Victorian era. It's beautifully written and developed and it’s full of acute social observation and comment delivered in a classically understated, English manner.
The story opens on the eve of Waterloo at the now infamous Duchess of Richmond's Ball. Sophia Trenchard, the daughter of the man known as "Wellington's Vittler", James Trenchard, is in love with Edmund, Viscount Bellasis, heir to the Earl of Brockenhurst. But there is no future for a viscount and a tradesman's daughter, and Sophia's mother, Anne, is very sensible of that and tries to caution her daughter.
Some months later, following Edmund's death in battle, Sophia realises she is pregnant and reveals to her mother that she had gone through a wedding ceremony with Edmund that she later discovered to be false. When Sophia dies in childbirth, Anne and James reluctantly decide to send him away to be brought up by a clergyman in order to protect Sophia's reputation.
The bulk of the story takes place some twenty-five years later as the two families from very different social classes, and who, but for that one twist of fate would almost certainly never have come into each others' orbits, discover that they are inextricably linked, in a way that sees petty jealousies explode into something far more dangerous.
The story is very well told and suits the episodic format employed. It's fairly slow paced, but that means there is ample time for character exploration and development, and the descriptions of the fashions and customs of the era are detailed and all contribute to that very strong sense of time and place I mentioned at the beginning.
Juliet Stevenson's performance is simply outstanding. Her vocal characterisations are many and varied and there is never any confusion as to who is speaking.
All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable listen and one I'd definitely recommend.
36 of 42 people found this review helpful
The Duke of Rockliffe is 36 years old, head of his house, and responsible for his young sister, Nell. He is, therefore, under some pressure to choose a suitable bride. Whilst accompanying Nell to what he speedily comes to regard as the house-party from hell, he meets Adeline Kendrick - acid-tongued, no more than passably good-looking yet somehow alluring. Worse still, her relatives are quite deplorable - from a spoiled, ill-natured cousin to a sadistic, manipulative uncle.
The Duke of Rockliffe is 36, handsome, wealthy and the epitome of gentlemanly elegance and good manners. He needs to find himself a wife, but unfortunately, he has yet to meet the lady who won't bore him witless. When an unscrupulous, spoiled débutante attempts to trap him into marriage, her plan goes awry when she is thwarted by her downtrodden cousin, Adeline - who becomes the recipient of Rockliffe's offer of marriage instead when the pair are discovered in a compromising position.
Adeline is no beauty, but there is something about her strength of character and defiantly waspish tongue that attracts the duke, and he is surprised to discover that he can make an offer of marriage to her with no misgivings. The wedding takes place quickly, but Adeline, taught by life to be cautious, is wary of revealing the depth of her feelings for him to her new husband, and asks for time to become accustomed to marriage before they consummate the union.
Not without difficulty, Rockliffe agrees, deciding to give Adeline the courtship she missed out on - but just as things seem to be going his way, Adeline's smarmy uncle tells her a secret about her past and threatens to reveal it to her husband if she doesn't pay him to keep quiet. This sets off a series of misunderstandings that threaten to spiral out of control, and it becomes difficult to see how things can ever be put right.
I'm not not wild about the Big Misunderstanding in romances, but I've been a fan of Stella Riley's for a long time, and I knew that she would make it work. The story gets very angsty, but she handles it extremely well, especially when it comes to Rockliffe, a man famous for his sang-found, but who finds himself getting closer and closer to the edge. All in all, the writing is intelligent and charming and the characterisation strong; there are a couple of sweet secondary romances along the way, as well as a mystery for Rockliffe to uncover in France. It's a terrific story, and is made even better by Alex Wyndham's superb performance. His interpretation of Rockliffe is spot on - he's unhurried, unruffled (until he isn't!) and does a brilliant job in conveying the tumult of emotion that is bubbling under the surface of his polished exterior.
The book has a fairly large cast of secondary characters, but Mr Wyndham rises to the challenge with aplomb, because every single one - whether male or female - is clearly delineated and easy to identify. I've listened to him a number of times now, and he is just getting better and better.
The Mésalliance is another must-listen for fans of this author and narrator combination and for fans of historical romance in general.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
When the Marquis of Amberley's coach is waylaid by highwaymen and his coachman shot, he is forced to take shelter at the first house he finds and is subsequently trapped there for a week by a severe snowstorm. Oakleigh Manor is the home of Rosalind Vernon who lives alone but for her devoted servants and an ill-natured parrot, cut off from the outside world by the tragic result of a childhood accident.
Rosalind Vernon is twenty-two years old and should be doing what other young ladies of her age are doing, going to balls and parties and finding a husband. But around a decade or so earlier, she was blinded in an accident, and her well-meaning brother believes it best that she is shut away from the world. But a gilded cage is a cage nonetheless, and the sudden appearance of a man in need of help in the midst of a snowstorm is about to upset Rosalind's ordered existence.
On the face of it, The Parfit Knight is a very simple tale. There are no grasping relatives, secret babies or evil doers; it’s just a beautifully told story about two people falling in love and the obstacles they have to overcome – one of which could have potentially devastating consequences.
Add in the superbly talented Alex Wyndham, and you have an audiobook guaranteed to delight romance listeners everywhere. Mr. Wyndham just gets better and better and is the perfect choice to narrate this book; every character is clearly delineated, his pacing is excellent and his portrayal of the central characters is absolutely spot on.
I can't wait to listen to him in the next book in the series. (The Mésalliance).
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Winter 1763. Alec, Lord Halsey, is sent on a diplomatic mission to Midanich, imperial outpost of the Holy Roman Empire, to bargain for the freedom of imprisoned friends. Midanich is a place of great danger and dark secrets - a country at civil war, ruled by a family with madness in its veins. For Alec it is a place of unspeakable memories from which he barely escaped and vowed never to return. But return he must, if he is to save the lives of Emily St. Neots and Sir Cosmo Mahon.
This, the third in Ms Brant's Alec Halsey mysteries, is quite possibly the best yet - which is saying something considering how good the previous two are!
Picking up where the last book, DEADLY AFFAIR, left off, Alec is leaving England to travel to the German principality of Midanich on a rescue mission. His best friend and the young lady he was escorting have been imprisoned by the new Margrave of Midanich and he will negotiate with no one but Alec for their release.
Some years earlier, one of Alec's earliest diplomatic postings was to Midanich, and it ended in disaster. As we have been informed in previous stories, something went badly wrong there which led to Alec's incarceration and subsequent escape, and he had vowed never to return. Now, however, he has no alternative but to go back - even though it may cost him his life.
Ms Brant has penned a gripping, well-paced story that is completely un-put-downable. The novel is admirably complex (without being impenetrable) with lots of twists, turns and shocks along the way; and I was kept guessing right up to the end.
Alex Wyndham delivers another outstanding performance, both technically and artistically. His ability to successfully differentiate between large numbers of characters of both sexes at the same time as sustaining a number of foreign (in this case, Germanic) accents is truly impressive, but more than that, his performance in the more emotional moments is absolutely spot on. Anyone who has already read the book will know that there is a scene around the middle of it which is crucial to the story and to listeners' growing knowledge of Alec Halsey as a character - and Mr Wyndham nails it completely.
Deadly Peril is another superb audiobook from this talented author/narrator team, and I am eagerly looking forward to their next collaboration.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful