5 Stars: Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh

Mary Balogh's Only Enchanting

Wow! Mary Balogh does it again! I was super thrilled to learn that I won an uncorrected proof from the publisher. It came in the mail a few days later. I had hoped for the version with the actual cover, but it came, instead in a pale greenish-blue cover, rather than the lovely image shown on GoodReads. However, this in no way detracted from the story.

Only Enchanting is the fourth book in Mary Balogh’s Survivors’ Club series and it centers on Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby. Several years back, Flavian was severely wounded during the Napoleonic War, after having received a major injury to his head, which, for several years, rendered him unable to speak properly. He lost a good portion of memory. None of this is helped due to the loss of his beloved brother (which allows Flavian to assume the title of Viscount Ponsonby) as well as his fiancé jilting him in favor of his best friend. All of this renders him something of a lost cause. Thankfully he recuperated with 5 others at Penderris Hall, thus forming an immense bond with the other recovering survivors. Each year they all meet for 3 weeks to rekindle the friendship, bond, and, well, heal. As it is, Flavian speaks with a stutter and is still unable to truly control his anger.

It is during a harvest ball that Flavian meets Mrs. Agnes Keeping, a 26 year old widow who values safety and a quiet life with her older sister, Dora. Only Enchanting starts in her POV, and literally states, from the beginning, “At the age of twenty-six, Agnes Keeping had never been in love or ever expected to be–or even wished to be.”

What a great opening as we meet our heroine. I love it when our characters come full circle and how, at the beginning of a book, we (the reader) know we are on a fun, and enchanting, ride as Agnes not only realizes she’s unhappy, she doesn’t actually realize just how unhappy she is until Flavian comes into her life.

Agnes, as mentioned, is widowed. Her deceased husband, William Keeping, wasn’t particularly exciting or passionate, but she cared for him and still misses him. Perhaps one day she will remarry and have children. She enjoys painting wildflowers in her dear friend, Sophia’s, meadows. Sophia is, of course, Lady Darleigh, Viscount Darleigh’s wife (Vincent’s story is The Arrangement, book 2 in the Survivors’ Club series). You see, there is to be a ball, and as Sophia’s dear friend, Agnes is invited. Agnes isn’t a fashionista. Her dresses are at least 3-4 years old, and certainly not in the height of fashion. Oh well, they will do, she thinks. No one will notice her. No one at all.

Ahem… excuse me while the H and h meet. 😉

They dance.

Twice.

Flavian, with his bedroom eyes, blond hair, and gorgeous looks, calls Agnes “enchanting.” Only Enchanting.

Agnes, who, as you will remember from the first line of this book states she never wished to fall in love, promptly falls in love.

Fast-forward 5 months. All of the Survivors travel to Vincent’s property due to the fact that Sophia is expecting her first child, and Vincent refuses to leave her side (which I love), so Flavian returns to Middlebury Park (the Harvest Ball was held there) and becomes reacquainted with the lovely, if somewhat plain, Mrs. Agnes Keeping.

He remembers dancing with her. He remembers saying he was Only Enchanted with her, but blast it all, he cannot remember her name. Damn his head injury and damn the letter he received stating his former fiancé (who jilted him) was now no longer in mourning after the death of her husband last year, and, hint-hint-hint, available to now marry him. Flavian’s family, in not so many terms, wants him to marry Velma, Lady Hazeltine, and join their families. There is a bond between their families, but Flavian cannot and will not, do any such thing as marry Velma. He remembers Mrs. Agnes Keeping and seeks her out.

Agnes wonders why the handsome viscount seems to be interested in her. Oh, she’s still in love with him, but Agnes is a smart woman and is understandably wary around him. He proposes marriage and, after a week, she accepts. It’s here that the story is drawn out perhaps 50-60 pages longer than necessary, IMO, and things pick up around the ½ mark once Flavian and Agnes are in London and his family (and the newly free Velma) finds out about his marriage to Agnes.

I pause here so that you can imagine fireworks. Good, now continue.

Poor Agnes! Well, turns out she has a pretty strong backbone and I’m extremely proud of the way Agnes handled herself, the situation, and everything in between when she realizes that it is entirely possible Flavian married her in order to avoid marrying Velma. Oh hell no. Guess who’s Lady Ponsonby, biatch? Not Velma, Lady WhatsHerName. ThankYouVeryMuch.

The backbone of Agnes is made out of concrete, steel, and 24 caret gold. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed the scene in which Agnes confronts Velma. Actually confronts her. It is priceless and I’m thrilled to read about a Regency-era woman who doesn’t cower behind silly fans and innuendo.

There is much more to Flavian and Agnes’ story as they navigate her mother’s history (there is a scandal involved), as Flavian discovers hidden memories about his brother, and his true history with Velma, and as Agnes learns to trust Flavian again. I also found it refreshing that there wasn’t a true villain in Only Enchanting.

I finished the book, hoping the story would never end, but found myself utterly enchanted with Agnes and Flavian, and utterly delighted that I was lucky enough to read it before publication.

www.amazon.com

Review: Heiress Without A Cause, by Sara Ramsey (5 Stars)

Heiress Without A Cause, by Sara Ramsey

 

Heiress Without a Cause

5 STARS

HEAT RATING: 3 STARS

FORMAT READ: Kindle

so, what’s the book about? This is from Ms. Ramsey’s website:

Madeleine is a spinster with a secret passion for the stage. Ferguson is a duke with a dark past. They both look hot in breeches. But when Madeleine is forced to masquerade as his mistress, will their love survive the scandal?

(Ok, this is Kelly talking now) …. can I say how much I loved this book? Because I loved it bunches. I have no idea when I downloaded this e-book. I must have been when Pixel of Ink was running a freebie because it has been a while since I’ve bought a Regency Romance novel. I’m sad that it sat in my kindle for more than a year (probably) and my eyeballs didn’t get to read Ms. Ramsey’s words. I didn’t get to learn about Mad and Ferguson and their (amazing) families until now.

Madeleine, a “spinster” by Regency era society rules, is probably in her late 20’s (I don’t remember), and the perfect fit to “bring out” Ferguson’s twin sisters (or so Ferguson and his family think). “Bring Out” means they’ll make their Ton debut in order to find husbands. Ton = high (and accepted) society. Got it? Good. I’ve been reading Regency Romance novels most of my life, so these things are normal vocabulary to me. I mean, when I want to get all saucy, I start calling people, “M’Lord” and “M’Lady” in my best cockney accent because I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have come from a titled family. Lady Kelly Washington has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? btw: My accent is pretty good. I spoke this way for almost 4 years when I lived in Germany…. but don’t ask why. It is a totally and completely interesting story, but it has nothing to do with this book. Anyway, I digress.

Mad loves to act, but she’ll be shunned from society. She loves the stage, so she does exactly that under everyone’s uppity noses. She goes incognito as a French actress in a theater that’s a bit on the “shady” side and drives everyone crazy. The good crazy. Mad, I’m telling you. Mad with desire to see her. To hear here. To blackmail her. Oh, okay. That part wasn’t fun, but it doesn’t turn out all that bad because Mad gets to keep acting. And this is where the hunky hunk comes in.

Ferguson is a newly titled Duke. Dukes are like freaking high up there and just below Prince. But this means precisely nothing to Ferguson because he doesn’t want the title. A certain family trait runs in his family (madness, insanity, murder) and the rumors about his family keep him up in Scotland for quite some time. His sisters detest him (they have a good reason), so he tries to make up for all of this by asking Madeleine to chaperone and bring out his sisters into polite and proper society. She is above reproach. She is a spinster. She would never cause his sisters a scandal. Well… that is until he discovers that she is the French actress. He confronts her. He aims to protect her. They get all hot and bothered together.

In that good way.

In that really, really good way.

But, wait!!! She’s a spinster. He’s a duke. The two do not compute in Regency era England, I tell you. Okay, I’m telling you wrong. This is probably one of the reasons why I freaking love Regency books, and This Book in particular. Two very different personalities that would never, ever be drawn together, are drawn together in a cool, funny, slightly dangerous scheme. It’s fun. It’s romantic. It’s hot. Society wonders why the hunky duke is paying attention to the spinster gal. I mean, she’s not even all that beautiful, they whisper to each other. But hunky Fergster knows. Hot guys always know, don’t they? (I hope they do…hey, look at me, over here, in the corner!!!)

A couple of things happen to throw them even more together; and by together, I mean without clothes on, and an accusation of murder draws them deeper into this acting intrigue that sets the Ton in a titter.

Add in a masquerade party (I once went to one in Germany where a girl just wore ivy vines over the girly bits… I kid you not and she was freaking gorgeous… I was totally envious… fifteen years later I still remember her – that’s how powerful masquerade parties are, people!!!), a revelation, and a happily-ever-after, and you’ve won me over to buy the next book in the Muses of Mayfair series. And I totally bought the next one the millisecond I finished the first book. That, my romance-lovers friends is how you earn 5 Stars.

Keep up the great work, Ms. Ramsey. You’ve just earned yourself a new fan.