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You can’t dance when soldiers are approaching

The Last Waltz Book Cover The Last Waltz
by Dorothy Mack
Historical Fiction , Romance
Sapere Books
Pub Date 20 Nov 2019

Can Adrienne reverse her family’s misfortune? When her gambling father dies, young Adrienne Castle must find a way to support her family. In desperation, she visits a gaming house in disguise, intent on winning back some of her father’s lost fortune using her skill at cards. But when her brother falls ill and her luck runs out, Adrienne is forced to seek the aid of a wealthy distant cousin, Lord Dominic Creighton. With a beautiful fiancée and a promising military career, Dominic has everything he could wish for and to her surprise, Adrienne finds him generous and warm-hearted. Despite her poverty and lack of experience in respectable society, Dominic tries to make her feel comfortable in his world. And as their bond grows, it seems that Adrienne is in danger of staking her heart on a man who is already in love with another…

This historical story is set in Brussels just before the time of the Battle of Waterloo, June 1815 Allied forces, consisting of British, Dutch, Belgian and German soldiers, thwarted the attempts of European domination by the French general and emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. This battle marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), Waterloo was the definitive battle for Wellington and and Napoleon and the war  which took the lives of 5 million people.  See: https://booksgosocial.com/2019/10/29/the-regency-decade-1815-part-one-waterloo/

This site tells us a little about what was happening in Brussels from 1812 after until just before the Battle and the novel continues with this society as its backdrop. There was a social whirl that ex-pat Britons and their Continental compatriots enjoyed, including of course, the Officers from the Allied Forces – who were very dashing and usually of a high social rank as such rank was purchased for the young family scions.

So  against this background we have the story of a small family struggling with poverty but well-bred and distantly related to those with more money and titles.  It was common amongst the better off in English society to take in poorer relatives and help them either to launch themselves into Society, or to find suitable employment. Here we have a child with rheumatic fever, which of course is serious even today and then could easily kill or leave sufferers with heart conditions.  Whilst this disease is now rare, in the late eighteenth century it was more common and also becoming recognised as a result of streptococcal infections that include pharyngitis, impetigo, and scarlet fever but rarely recognised as the continuum of these illnesses. It becomes Rheumatic Fever when it begins to affect the organs. Scarlet fever seems to occur in waves and thus rheumatic fever follows.

Part of the storyline involved the game of Piquet and gambling. Piquet is a card game rarely played these days, it is a 2 player game with 32 cards. Similar to whist it has card combinations and tricks but where the object is to reach 100 points within 6 deals. If you fail to reach 100 then you are penalised. I guess you gamble on winning the 100 points. There is a set of complicated instructions about being called the Elder or the Younger that you can obtain if you really want to play by a gentleman called David Parlett. Interestingly the rules now played were not established until much later in the 19th century than this book is set even though the game started in the 16th century. You can also buy sets of Piquet cards.

I liked this story. It was complex and long enough to develop the characters and their situation and imbed it into a historical context. The style was easy to read and flowed well.

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Meet a Blacksmith from France

The Duke's Embrace Book Cover The Duke's Embrace
12 Dukes of Christmas
by Erica Ridley
Historical Fiction , Romance
WebMotion
Pub Date 3 Dec 2019

Unpaid and under-appreciated journalist Miss Eve Shelling never goes anywhere without a trusty notebook and her overprotective Duenna—who happens to be a bullmastiff. Eve learned the hard way that men are not to be trusted. She’s definitely not falling head-over-heels for the deceptively charming subject of her front-page column. Local blacksmith Monsieur Sébastien le Duc is the pillar of his community—when he’s not pillaging elsewhere. He’s a rakish dandy with a heart of stolen gold and two teeny tiny secrets. One happens to be a wee international smuggling operation. The other involves losing his heart to an ambitious journalist determined to expose the truth at any cost… The 12 Dukes of Christmas is a series of heartwarming Regency romps nestled in a picturesque snow-covered village. Twelve delightful romances… and plenty of delicious dukes!

Another story about Cressmouth in the series of the 12 Dukes. This time we meet Bastien another of the le Duc family.  He and his brother Luc run the Smithy for the town, the only smithy, which means that as they want to return to France and sell the smithy business, property and all apart from the cottage, the town will be without a blacksmith.

Alongside this we have an enterprising yung woman who runs the Cressmouth Chronicle. Her father claims to own it and run it, but a. He took her dowry to finance the purchase of the type and printer, and b. She does all the writing and printing work, he just OKs the content! So much for women’s property rights in this period.

So when she wants to write a juicier story than the usual ‘How wonderful Cressmouth is’ and ‘The town that celebrates Christmas’ etc etc they disagree. Especially when she wants to write about the Frenchmen running the Smithy…

And so a romance ensues.

The usual standard of writing we come to expect from Erica and nice content. Again we growl when we hear about the property rights of men versus women and how women are ‘ruled’ by the men in their family.. and find ourselves grateful that we no longer need a co-sponsor for our mortgages (I did when I was much younger) and that we can vote and run our own businesses.

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Black and White – birds?

Magpie Book Cover Magpie
Sophie Draper
General Fiction (Adult) , Women's Fiction
Avon
Pub Date 28 Nov 2019

She’s married to him. But does she know him at all? Claire lives with her family in a beautiful house overlooking the water. But she feels as if she’s married to a stranger – one who is leading a double life. As soon as she can get their son Joe away from him, she’s determined to leave Duncan. But finding out the truth about Duncan’s secret life leads to consequences Claire never planned for. Now Joe is missing, and she’s struggling to piece together the events of the night that tore them all apart. Alone in an isolated cottage, hiding from Duncan, Claire tries to unravel the lies they’ve told each other, and themselves. Something happened to her family … But can she face the truth? You’ll get lost in this dark domestic mystery – with a twist you won’t see coming…

A story about infidelity and its impact on his wife and son – a story that shows Duncan in a very bad light as he lived for himself without caring what happened to others as a result. And then they had all hidden heir actions…

Why were they married after all? They were young and it had seemed right but… Claire was the one who had struggled from his decisions, but was it all his fault? Could CLaire have done things differently rather than blaming him for everything?

And Joe. He was the ultimate sufferer. He and his stray dog and his inability to communicate with people.

A dark story with multiple story lines and despair oozing out of it. I couldn’t say I enjoyed it, it was too sad, but well written and had the impact on me, the reader, the author no doubt wanted.

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And now we Provoke

Provoke You Book Cover Provoke You
Cole Brothers #2
Diana A. Hicks Publication date:
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
December 16th 2019

Provoke You Diana A. Hicks (Cole Brothers #2) Publication date: December 16th 2019 Genres: AdultContemporaryRomance Goodreads Amazon

Hotel heiress Ela LeBlanc is ready to take control of her life. Waking up handcuffed to a former marine and the news of her step-dad’s plans to sell the hotel is just the wake-up call she needs. With only thirty days to prove he has no claim on the property, Ela has to enlist the help of her sexy as sin bodyguard.When things take a dangerous turn, and Matt becomes the only person she can trust, she can’t help but wonder… can she trust him with her heart? Former Marine Matt Cole came to New Orleans for a fresh start, a chance to make amends. After accepting a job as the chief of security for a wealthy hotelier, he quickly realizes that life in the Big Easy is anything but. Matt’s greatest challenge is keeping his distance from the tempting Ela LeBlanc, his boss’s gorgeous and very off limits step-daughter. 

Surviving Ela is just the beginning. As things unfold it becomes clear that it’s not just his heart on the line, but their lives. PROVOKE YOU is book two in the Cole Brothers series. A new family saga binge reading experience: 5 brothers, 5 full-length novels in 5 months. Continue reading on December 16th, January 13th, February 10th, and March 9th. Don’t miss out on this suspenseful and seductive series. Note: This is a steamy romance with explicit sensual scenes, happily ever after, no cheating, and no cliffhanger.

Review:

I found this a much better read than book 1.

For 2 reasons.

1. The author was not constantly trying to give us the background on the Cole Brothers and the previous series in which they had been involved; and

2. The writing style had improved.

The storyline and content was much better as there was now room in the story to tell us about the characters we were interested in – the hotelier’s daughter Ela, and Cole brother #2 Matt.

I am not at all sure however, that if Ela really had been an alcoholic it would that easy for her to quit the first time and then the second time to actually drink a glass or 2 and then give up. This seemed unreal as the nature of addiction doesn’t work that way. We all wish it did! That way we could eat 1 square of chocolate and not the whole bar…

However, I liked the fact that she had gone to a Cordon Bleu cookery school and had come out baking scones and not fancy French pastries. That said, scones are an under-rated delicacy and can be flavoured in many ways and made with many different ingredients, from savoury to sweet and with alcohol too. Wikipedia does a round-up of different scones around the world, from buttermilk, to drop to Australia to Japan…

So, yes, I did like this book better. I think Diana could do better still and make this a true 4 star rather than a 3.5 rounded up.

About the Author

Diana A. Hicks is an award-winning author of steamy contemporary romance with a touch of suspense. Book two in her Desert Monsoon series, LOVE OVER LOGIC, won the 2019 Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal Winner in the Romance – Suspense genre

When Diana is not writing, she enjoys kickboxing, traveling, and indulging in the simple joys of life like wine and chocolate. She lives in Atlanta and loves spending time with her two children and husband. Connect with Diana on social media to stay up to date on her latest releases.

Author links:

https://dianahicksbooks.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17596254.Diana_A_Hicks

https://www.facebook.com/DianaHicksAuthor/

https://twitter.com/diana_hicks

https://www.instagram.com/dianahicksauthor/

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/diana-a-hicks

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24 hours of short stories

The 24-Hour Café , Book Cover The 24-Hour Café ,
Libby Page
General Fiction (Adult), Women's Fiction
Orion Publishing Group
Pub Date 23 Jan 2020

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Lido comes a story of friendship, belonging and never giving up on your dreams Welcome to the café that never sleeps. Day and night, Stella's Café opens its doors to the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It's a place where everyone is always welcome, where life can wait at the door. Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They love working at Stella's - the different people they meet, the small kindnesses exchanged. But is it time to step outside and make their own way in life? Come inside and spend twenty-four hours at Stella's Café, where one day might just be enough to change your life . . .

This author is becoming a master story teller – especially of short – micro – stories.

The device used in this book is 24 hours in a cafe open for 24 hours. Within these 24 hours we read about the lives of the people who come to drink and eat there. Each person has story to tell whether it is about friendship, love, loss or even London and what it means to them. Woven through their stories is the major story about friendship and careers and London living for young women.

London is a place where you can wear anything you like, and be whoever you want without judgement.  The author says this but I have heard it myself from other young women who have some to London from more restrictive places, places perhaps where what you wear is noted and commented on, and who you are and what your sexuality is is restricted. No-one worries in London. People perhaps are too busy or too self-absorbed or too uncaring some would say. Others would say, London is free and permissive and allows people to expand and become who they were meant to be.

All this is noted in the micro stories told within these 24 hours.

A wonderful and masterful book.

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