on May 9th 2017
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Four dukes. Two balls. One prizefight.
Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens will never be the same.
After England’s victory in the Battle of Waterloo, the Prince Regent arranges a series of lavish celebrations at London’s notorious Vauxhall Gardens. The royal festivities bring together the rich and the desperate, the criminal and the lordly…and allow four very different dukes to find the love of a lifetime.
A proper viscount is kidnapped by a duke of the criminal underworld, only to encounter a mysterious woman from his past. A retired prizefighter, once known as the Duke of the Ring, stakes his reputation on a scrappy young boxer for the sake of a long-lost love. A traveler who inherited a dukedom needs a tightrope dancer’s help with a fake engagement that just might turn real. And the buccaneer son of a royal duke goes hunting for a respectable, highborn wife to salvage his scandalous reputation.
Let the pleasures begin...
~~Reviewed by Monique~~
This is a rather lengthy review, if you don’t care to read it, simply get this marvellous anthology; it’s worth every penny and every second of your time!
Four extremely gifted historical romance authors have combined their efforts in this fabulous anthology, definitely one of the best ever. The four stories take place at celebrations commissioned by the Prince Regent to celebrate his birthday as well as the Victory at Waterloo. And I was particularly impressed at how the stories all fit so well together; the authors worked really hard at establishing the continuity, especially when it comes to Ms. Galen and Ms. Kelly.
TAKEN BY THE DUKE by Shana Galen
Henry Selkirk is the new Viscount Bexley, something he never wanted, but circumstances made it so that Henry would not become a barrister, so here he is. The Prince Regent tasked him with the preparation of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens for Prinny’s birthday and in celebration of the victory at Waterloo. But worse, Henry must do this economically, and given the Prince’s propensity to extravagance, it won’t be an easy task indeed. While touring Vauxhall, Henry is grabbed by a gang of thugs, whose leader is “the Duke of Vauxhall”. But Henry certainly didn’t expect to meet his childhood friend Kate Dunn. Kate has a huge secret, and while Kate rescues Henry, her life is now in danger.
Shana Galen does not waste one paragraph, we’re thrown in the thick of things right from the start. Ms. Galen is in spectacular form, her writing has never been better, and her dialogues are a marvel, and more eloquent than ever; she had me enthralled and guessing from the start at why all this was happening. TAKEN BY THE DUKE certainly does not qualify as fluff! Kate has had a rough life, and while Henry and she came from the streets of London, Henry has moved up in the world. They were once in love, but things have changed too much to rekindle their romance; or have they? I knew Shana Galen would not fail me, but I had no idea how Henry and Kate would ever get their happily ever after together, too many things seem to draw them apart, and yet it all worked out, but at quite a bit of cost to both Kate and Henry.
TAKEN BY THE DUKE might be a novella, but there is a lot of substance in there, as well as much character development, a lot of action, and much heartache caused by class differences. At one point, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like where the story was going, what choices the characters would make, and I feared someone was going to opt to do something I wouldn’t like, and I would have considered a huge mistake, and well Ms. Galen handled that prickly situation with extraordinary finesse and intelligence! TAKEN BY THE DUKE is a marvellous story, and I would not have expected any less from one of my favourite authors!
THE PRODIGAL DUKE by Theresa Romain
Leo Billingsley comes from trade, the black sheep of the family, is now the Duke of Westfair, courtesy of his elder brother who had the bad taste to die. Leo sees his long-time friend and his first love, Poppy Hayworth, at Vauxhall Gardens; she is now a tightrope walker. Even after not having spoken to Poppy for six years – Leo was abroad – he still trusts her, and he asks her to agree to a pretend engagement. He needs to convince his uncle to listen to him, but the cantankerous Uncle Bernard, Ubie, likes Poppy better. Poppy had planned one season at Vauxhall to earn enough money to start anew in France, and when Leo offers her money for his crazy idea, she accepts. It can’t be so bad, as long as her secret remains so.
Theresa Romain certainly did her homework on rope walking, something I knew nothing about, and the author made it quite exciting, even if I felt a bit like Leo! Leo is a charming rogue, he is so nice that Poppy doesn’t even bear a grudge for what he did six years before, and it was for a good cause. Poppy’s backstory is heartbreaking, but she has a backbone of steel, and they do make a most wonderful couple. The ever delightful Theresa Romain spins a tale so touching, and characters so endearing that I was hurting for them, and I embraced Leo and Poppy with open arms. Apart from the marvellous romance, Ms. Romain peppers her tale with some very witty dialogue, and some of the exchanges had me laughing out loud; Leo has quite a sense of humour.
Ms. Romain paints such a vivid picture of the masquerade and the Vauxhall Gardens that it made me wonder if the author was a time-traveller! All kidding aside, THE PRODIGAL DUKE is a concentrated novel, it never felt like a novella: the characters display unusual depth; there’s the precarious relationship between Leo and Ubie as well as lovely moments, scary moments, a revolting villain, and Oh my, the romance! What a perfectly wonderful romance it is!
FIGHTING FOR HIS LADY by Christi Caldwell
Patience Storm, the daughter of a seamstress and a prize fighter, had her heart broken ten years ago by the son of a duke, Godrick Gunnery. Godrick shunned all the trappings of his position to become a fighter, who was trained by Patience’s father. Patience’s younger brother Samuel is also a fighter, and he needs help if he is to win his next fight; the Storms desperately need the money. The three siblings have been fending for themselves for a few years, and times are more than lean. Patience knows she must do the unthinkable: ask Godrick’s help in training Samuel, their survival depends on Samuel winning.
I loved Ms. Caldwell’s spin on the duke becoming a fighter against his family’s wishes, but how Godrick, the former god of the pugilists, is adept at putting his foot in his mouth, or rather staying mute at the wrong moment! At first, I thought he was mainly cold and mean, but he’s just powerless in front of his mistakes. And poor, brave, noble Patience, how my heart ached for her! The author shows with much care the immensely complicated dynamics between the Storms and Godrick. It’s not easy for Patience and Godrick to be reunited at first, and even worse when the ugly ghosts from the past resurface to threaten a romance just about to be rekindled. Christi Caldwell’s knowledge of Regency pugilism is extremely impressive, and she made me feel I was watching the fight along with the crowd.
Elegantly written and filled with raw emotion, FIGHTING FOR HIS LADY is a quiet and heart wrenching romance that ends in a gloriously beautiful epilogue that will leave you sighing with pleasure.
THE BUCCANEER DUKE by Vanessa Kelly
Captain Roman Cantrell, son of a duke and former privateer, is back in London now that the war is over. Of course, he is now expected to marry a lady of impeccable breeding, but no one has caught his eye until he attends the festivities at Vauxhall to celebrate the Prince Regent’s birthday and the successful end of the war. At first, from afar, Roman doesn’t find Antonia Barnett very attractive. Antonia comes from trade, and although she is very wealthy, suitors don’t come out of the woodwork to ask for her hand in marriage. There is also the trifle of her shady birth. Antonia is a very spirited girl, and she has every intention of attending as many festivities as she can, especially the prize fight. She had noticed the man from afar, a dangerous and alluring man, who looks like a pirate, who is also staring at her, it seems. Then she learns that Roman is a sworn business enemy of her father’s, which doesn’t bode well, and when Roman speaks with Antonia, he is hopelessly smitten, because up close, she is like a sun to him…
Dear Vanessa Kelly, every time I pick up one of her books, I am reminded how much I love her writing style, her wit, her glorious prose and irresistible dialogues. THE BUCCANEER DUKE is a delectable tale with sharply defined characters; it’s all very elegant and still feels entirely natural. Ms. Kelly always makes her fictional world become reality as she enchants with her easy storytelling. THE BUCCANEER DUKE is charming, lovely, and so very pleasant, and yet there are completely unexpected plot twists, delightful surprises; there is so much to love! Roman is a rather enigmatic character and the fabulous Antonia a right little hoyden, and entirely believable one at that! It’s uncanny how Ms. Kelly perfectly meshes some of her own characters from her fabulous Renegade Royals with Shana Galen’s, and the stories from these two authors really flow together seamlessly. THE BUCCANEER DUKE is another novella from this anthology that has so much material, and so flawlessly paced, that it feels like a full novel, again. Vanessa Kelly has once again written a splendid story!
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book.