Tag: lancaster

Review: Beloved by Mary Lancaster (2023)

Posted October 24, 2023 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

One of very few books whose release date I marked in the calendar! Couldn’t wait to read Victor’s story (the most interesting character of the series), plus the explanation for how the duke died in the duel. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely! I loved Victor, as I suspected I would, and although the revelation of what happened at the duel wasn’t particularly surprising, there was enough real tension to drive the plot along very nicely. One word of warning: because of the nature of the plot, which culminates in all the principal characters in Brussels at the time of the Battle of Waterloo, it makes far more sense to have read the preceding books first.

Here’s the premise: Victor, the new Duke of Cuttyngham, has been left behind at Cuttyngs, alone but for the servants. He sent away everyone but his stepmother and sister, but even they have jumped ship and gone off to Brussels. But into his quiet, studious life comes Olivia, the natural daughter of Victor’s cousin and heir, to warn him that his life may be in danger. Which is lovely and all, but she’s the daughter of Victor’s cousin and heir presumptive, Anthony Severne, who is no friend to Victor, so how can he possibly trust her? And she, of course, has her own concerns about putting herself forward. But she knows something about the duel and so she feels she has to speak out.

I’m not going to say much about the duel, except that the secrets behind it come nicely to the boil in Brussels. Let’s talk about the romance, instead. As with the entire series, everything happens fairly quickly – far too quickly for credibility, perhaps. But it’s all very nicely done, and it was lovely seeing the curmudgeonly and reclusive Victor, thoroughly abused by his father because of a malformed leg, but with a very good brain and far more heart than his father, stepping forward and becoming a true hero. And he likes being the duke at last, and making things happen, instead of being nothing but an irritant to his father. I liked how decisive he was when he set out for Brussels, making careful plans and protecting Olivia and the servants, as well as himself.

Olivia was not quite such a striking character for me, not because there was anything lacking but purely because she was overshadowed by the towering personality of Victor. If you’re the sort of reader who loves to meet up with characters from earlier books, then you’ll adore the second half of this one, where everyone from the entire series is gathered in Brussels. I got muddled over who was whom, but that’s just me. The villain was suitably villainous, and if the identity was obvious from the start, that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the ending one iota.

The author does a terrific job of showing the atmosphere in the build-up to the Battle of Waterloo — the British insouciance and determination to carry on as normal and not be frightened by the French, and yet the growing tension. We see some of the aftereffects of the battle, and the scale of the carnage is not hidden, but it’s not graphic (I’m allergic to war stories, so I’d have bailed if there had been anything gruesome).

This was a wonderful conclusion to the series. No, it’s not particularly plausible, but it’s a hugely entertaining romp from dramatic start to equally dramatic finish. I loved it. There is some mildly graphic sexual content, for those who like to know about such things, but for me this was a wonderful five stars.



Review: Deserted by Mary Lancaster (2023)

Posted August 11, 2023 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This is the third book in a series dealing with the repercussions of a duel wherein the much disliked Duke of Cuttyngham meets an untimely demise. The first book focused on the other duellist, Major Giles Butler, and the widowed duchess. The second book dealt with the duke’s daughter, Lady Hera, and the attending doctor at the duel, Justin Rivers. This book is all about one of the seconds, the Earl of Frostbrook, and the former betrothed of Major Butler.

Here’s the premise: Sophia Wallace, living a miserable life as the put-upon poor relation to cousins, was scooped up in book 1, for fairly contrived reasons, and deposited at the ducal residence, Cuttyngs, ostensibly as companion to the now widowed duchess. When the duchess departs, Sophia is to act as chaperone for the late duke’s daughter, Lady Hera. But even she has taken herself off, so what is Sophia to do now? The new duke, Victor (by far the most interesting character in this whole saga, by the way) doesn’t much mind if she stays on, but it’s not quite proper and anyway the widowed duchess had a mind to live in the dower house before she left, so Sophia sets herself to restore it to habitability and live there until such time as the duchess returns.

Into this rather pleasant, if lonely, existence, she meets a man with whom she had a brief but unforgettable encounter some time previously. In her role as unpaid slave to her cousins, she had been required to walk some distance at night to bring a forgotten item to the young lady of the family who’s at a party. Exhausted and not at all happy, she leaves the house to set out on the return walk, only to be accosted by a somewhat drunk Earl of Frostbrook. Mistaking her for a servant girl, he amuses himself by dallying with her and eventually kissing her. Sophia is shocked and gives him a piece of her mind, but secretly she rather enjoyed the experience. Now Lord Frostbrook has turned up again, and remembers her, and so is set the scene for the gentle development of the romance. By the time Lord Frostbrook sets out to stymie his mother’s matchmaking attempts by introducing Sophia as his betrothed, there’s not much doubt how things are going to end.

Of course, a smooth path to the happy ever after is anathema to any well-devised Regency, and here it’s the unpleasant cousins who throw a huge spanner in the works. I never quite understand why such people have to be so relentlessly nasty, when they could have achieved their aim in much gentler ways but there we go, and the reason for them to decamp to Brussels and there join up with the main characters from the previous books is too implausible for words. But you know what? It doesn’t matter a bit. This is a rollicking good read, with plenty of action, a spirited heroine, a heroic hero and villains who get their comeuppance. There’s a little sex in it, but nothing terribly graphic, and it certainly helps to have read the previous books, but it’s a great read. Four stars, and I’m very much hoping that Victor gets his story in the next book.


Review: Captured by Mary Lancaster (2023)

Posted August 11, 2023 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

I enjoyed the first of this series, built around the death in a duel of a duke, no less. The first book told the story of the duke’s young widow and the man who challenged him to the duel. This one features the duke’s sister and the doctor who attended the duel, and although it could be read as a standalone, it makes a lot more sense if read after the first book.

Here’s the premise: Lady Hera Severne is released from the oppression of her father, the Duke of Cuttyngham, when he dies in a duel. Uncertain what to do with her life now, she decides to become a paid companion, and finds a position surprisingly easily. Now this is a huge plot contrivance (why on earth would a duke’s daughter become a companion? It makes no sense, but I’m prepared to allow a book one contrivance at the start, so I’ll go with the flow here). Hera finds that her duties are light, and concerned less with her mistress, Lady Astley, than with her husband’s adult ward, who seems benign enough, if a little eccentric, yet is kept under constant watch living separately from the family. George is locked in with his nurse at night (shades of Jane Eyre and the madwoman in the attic), and even doped with laudanum when the family have guests to stop him disturbing the guests. An accidental overdose of laudanum causes Hera to send for the local doctor, who by a huge coincidence is the very same Doctor Rivers who attended the duel (that’s the second big contrivance). Doctor Rivers saves George, but he agrees with Hera that they have to ‘rescue’ him from his captivity.

It’s an odd thing, but this is the second Regency book I’ve read recently to feature an autistic person, but this one I found far less convincing. George was supposedly so disturbing as a boy that he was locked away, and the world told he was dead, yet when Hera and Justin set him loose in the world, suddenly he’s able to cope pretty well, with no more than mild eccentricity. I’m sorry, but even a non-autistic person who’d been locked away in a very restricted world for twenty-odd years would have serious trouble adjusting to the real world, so this element of the story didn’t work at all for me.

However, I was happy to whizz past all that with no more than a raised eyebrow, since the romance was charming and far more convincing, despite an outbreak of I’m-not-worthy-itis from the good doctor. But the couple (and George) end up in Brussels with the characters from book 1, where, with only a mild episode of melodrama matters are resolved in a satisfactory way. As is usual with Mary Lancaster’s books, there is some sex in the story, but it’s not terribly graphic. Despite the surfeit of contrivances, this is so well-written and enjoyably entertaining that I gave it four stars.


Review: Entangled by Mary Lancaster (2023)

Posted August 11, 2023 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

I’m a big fan of Mary Lancaster, and enjoyed quite a few of her long Blackhaven series, although I never made it to the end. This one is a curious one. I enjoyed it totally, but I have to say it’s wildly implausible, and there was rather too much deus ex machina involved for my taste.

Here’s the premise: Major Giles Butler is en route to join Wellington’s army when he and his fellow officers encounter the obnoxious Duke of Cuttyngham at an inn. The duke insults a former commander of Giles’, who promptly calls him out. It’s purely for honour, with no thought of killing on either side, and Giles duly aims wide. Despite that, the duke ends up dead. Giles is determined to do his bit for his country with Wellington before dealing with the consequences of his actions, so he heads off for the coast, but not before going to the duke’s home to tell them what happened. He thinks better of that (wisely) but as he waits outside the gates, by chance he encounters a young woman running away. She tells him she’s a relation of the duke’s, so Giles agrees to help her.

And thus becomes entangled with the young (and newly widowed by his hand) Duchess of Cuttyngham. But since he doesn’t know who she is, and she doesn’t know that her husband is dead, they get along quite merrily and pass the time by falling inconveniently in love with each other. And so the plot unwinds, with Giles being chased by the law, Rosamund being chased by the duke’s people, then haring back home when she realises she’s a widow, and eventually chasing after Giles again. So there’s a whole heap of backwards and forwards, and (here’s the deus ex machina) important people jumping into the fray to help them. And along the way (shades of Georgette Heyer here) there’s a very young couple eloping to be helped and advised and generally sorted out. And somehow, in the midst of all this frenetic action, there’s time for a masked ball (because what self-respecting Regency romance doesn’t have a ball in it?).

It’s all tremendous fun, there’s a little steaminess, but nothing to frighten the horses, and it’s every bit as well written as Mary Lancaster’s works usually are. I might even have given it a resounding five stars except for the sheer number of times our heroes are improbably rescued by Very Important People who might have been expected to have more urgent things on their mind on the eve of battle than sorting out the romantic entanglements of insignificant nobodies. But it makes for a cracking good plot, so I’m not going to complain too much. Four stars. I’ll probably continue the series, partly in the hope that the intriguing new duke, Victor, gets his story told, and partly to find out just what did happen at the duel, how the duke came to die instantly and who the mysterious female is who was seen nearby.


Review: The Wicked Governess by Mary Lancaster

Posted November 13, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

Mary Lancaster’s books are always entertaining, so I knew I’d enjoy this right from the start. There was less in the way of piracy and other shenanigans in this book, which is very much a plus for me, and the romance, while a little insta-lust, is still very well developed.

Here’s the premise: Caroline Grey, the governess at Braithwaite Castle in the previous book, is summarily dismissed for an alleged misdemeanour, finding work at the sinister Haven Hall instead. Her pupil is mute, but not physically, so it’s presumed there’s been some traumatic incident. Also at Haven Hall is the slightly bonkers aunt and the child’s darkly mysterious father, Javan Benedict. When Caroline arrives, the family is very reclusive, so needless to say, she attempts to draw them out into society. They are surprisingly willing (well, the book would be quite dull if they weren’t), and so they are, inch by reluctant inch, rehabilitated.

Caroline is a likable character, and although she’s the wicked governess of the title, there isn’t really anything wicked about her, except in the fevered imaginations of some Blackhaven residents. She does have some family issues, but they aren’t terribly dramatic.

Hero Javan, on the other hand, has a whole shedload of issues. We’re into Beauty and the Beast territory here, since he’s the wounded and scarred beast to Caroline’s beauty. I’m not a huge fan of the instant hots for each other scenario, but it’s something of a feature in Lancaster’s work, so I’m used to it by now. There’s also some fairly physical lusting and one graphic sex scene, so traditionalists beware.

There isn’t anything wildly original about the plot, and readers can work out almost from the start how it’s going to go, but it’s nicely done, as always, it feels believably Regency, and there’s enough action to sweep the plot along without overwhelming the romance. I liked Caroline a lot, and although I had less patience with Javan, I understood his reluctance to commit himself. Honourable mentions for Rosa, the mute daughter, who was a wonderful character in her own right, and the mischievous cousin, Richard. I hope we see more of him (and I’m likely to get my wish, because the author loves to bring in characters from previous books).

Great fun, and a nicely written book that fulfils all expectations of the series without becoming boring. Four stars.


Review: The Wicked Marquis by Mary Lancaster

Posted November 13, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

Every Mary Lancaster book is a cracking read, and this is no exception. A spirited heroine, an unusual but very hot hero, a one-look-across-a-crowded-room insta-love (although it was an orchard in this case), loads of passionate kisses and a whole heap of shenanigans of the smuggling/spies/thieves variety. It’s all very entertaining, and for those who enjoyed the first four books in the series, this is more of the same. For myself, I’d have liked a little bit of variety on the basic plot, and there were several loose threads left dangling, but it was still a great read.

Here’s the premise: Lady Serena Conway, sister to the Earl of Braithwaite, has been sent home from London to Blackhaven after the disgrace of jilting a dull but respectable baronet. Stuck at Braithwaite Castle with only her younger sisters and their governess for company, and strictly forbidden from venturing into society, she’s soon bored witless by her captivity. But then she spies an odd looking man from the window, entering the castle’s orchard. And naturally, she rushes out to find out who he is.
He turns out to be the impoverished Marquis of Tamar, although it’s some time before Serena learns who he is, and so we have the amusement of her thinking the scruffy painter who treats her with casual friendship will be shocked when he realises who she is, when in fact she’s shocked to discover he outranks her. But he’s wildly ineligible, being completely broke, and somewhat disreputable.

Needless to say, as is pretty usual with Mary Lancaster’s books, the two are magically drawn to each other from the start, and are soon sharing passionate kisses, described in some detail. But of course there’s always an obstacle, and Tamar’s past soon comes back to haunt them.

There are no fewer than three dramatic subplots – some mysterious goings on in the castle cellar, the theft of some of Tamar’s paintings and a bailiff who’s hanging around him, even though peers of the realm can’t be thrown into a debtor’s prison. The first comes to the boil quite early in the book, the second is very easily solved and the third seemed to fizzle out after the bailiff was given a bit of a talking to. Or maybe I missed a vital point, I don’t know. There were a couple of other dangling threads that puzzled me. One was the cheerful actress who helps Tamar out and seems to be there merely to throw Serena into a bout of jealousy, but he never seemed to explain it properly to her. Again, maybe I missed it. The other weird part was the collection of jewellery dumped on Tamar at an awkward moment. What was that all about? I clearly missed the point of that entirely. But then these books always have so much going on that it’s very easy to get swept up in the excitement and read so fast that details just whizz by.

The romance… I don’t know why, but it didn’t grab me. I’m not a big fan of insta-love, or of well-brought-up young ladies who immediately fall panting into the arms of the most unlikely characters, and somehow, despite the nicely drawn descriptions of Serena’s feelings (the author does this so well), somehow I wasn’t convinced. Perhaps it was because, compared to some of the previous Blackhaven heroines, Serena felt rather ordinary. Or perhaps there was so much else going on that the romance felt a bit rushed. Tamar, on the other hand, is rather a charmer, completely open about his admiration, and so swept up in his obsession that he has to paint her instantly, now, this very minute.

Of the other characters, there are quite a few popping up from the earlier books. It’s not necessary to have read them, but it would have been handy to have a little guide to remind me. The Dowager Countess was the usual type, fairly stiff and a bit domineering. Serena’s brother Braithwaite was an interesting character, although his switch from dead against the marriage to let’s-call-the-banns was breathtakingly swift. I loved the reason for it though (which I won’t spoil the surprise by mentioning). And I loved the children, and long-suffering Miss Grey, their governess.

Another rattling good yarn in this series. Four stars, and since the next book is about the governess, I’m going to have to go straight on to that.


Review: The Wicked Husband by Mary Lancaster

Posted June 20, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 5 Comments

Yet another cracking read from Mary Lancaster. There are a lot of familiar themes here – a rake reformed, an elopement, the downtrodden poor relation who’s been in love with the hero for years, a former mistress and a whole heap of duels. In other hands these could be tired old cliches, but the author makes everything fresh and fun.

Here’s the premise: Willa Blake is the aforementioned downtrodden poor relation, treated as an unpaid servant and subject to routine humiliation from her cousin Ralph. And this is how she bumps into the hero, for Lord Daxton (Dax) is in the middle of a monumental gaming session with Ralph, who’s losing badly. He sends for Willa to bring him a purse of money, and then insists she stay and watch, while all around there are wild, drunken men and borderline anarchy. It’s not a place any gently brought up young lady should be. Our hero Dax recognises Willa and despite being roaring drunk, chivalrously wants to protect her. When he’s won even the extra money from Ralph, he takes Willa away from the scene and somehow decides he’ll marry her. They end up heading straight for the border, being married over the anvil at Gretna and heading for home. Whereupon Dax, having been up gambling for three nights straight, falls into a sound sleep. When he wakes up, he’s a bit hazy about what happened…

I really liked Dax. Rakes are always charmers but they can also be selfish beasts, too, and Dax epitomises the type. Once he’s been reminded that he’s married, he decides he quite likes it and squires Willa about town, buying her new clothes and enjoying showing her off to everyone. But of course there are wobbly moments too, and he’s somewhat tested when both his former mistress and his mother turn up, determined to have the marriage annulled. Fortunately Willa is a delightfully pragmatic bride, not at all phased by his hungover rages. Of course, knowing that he only married her on a whim, she can’t possibly tell him that she’s been in love with him for years, so she suffers in silence through all the shenanigans going on on the background, including was it three duels? Good grief.

I have to say that I wasn’t entirely convinced that Dax would manage to stay contented and faithful for the rest of his life, but that’s the universal problem with rakes – do they ever truly reform? I could very easily believe, though, that he himself believes it at that moment. He intends to be faithful, so perhaps he’ll manage it.

My only grumble on historical accuracy grounds is that, despite all the talk of an annulment, it was incredibly difficult to get one in the Regency, and since one of the characters actually explains the point, I was a bit confused as to why it was even an issue. Beyond that, the writing is pretty accurate to the period. There is some lusting and a small amount of graphic sex, for those who are concerned about that.

As so often in this series, Mary Lancaster has created a likable but slightly bad-boy hero, a demure and downtrodden heroine and a fun, if implausible, adventure in the background. It’s an entertaining romp, very funny and highly recommended. Five stars.


Review: The Wicked Rebel by Mary Lancaster

Posted April 16, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

Mary Lancaster has rapidly become one of my favourite authors, with her witty and jolly romps in the emerging spa town of Blackhaven. This is the third in the series, and continues the trend of likable heroines, sexy and slightly bad-boy heroes, and a nicely crafted plot.

Here’s the premise: Lady Arabella Niven is the last remaining unmarried daughter of a duke, a gentle soul who would love to retreat to an isolated cottage somewhere and write books, but is being pushed into marriage to a portly old gentleman very much against her will. Her health is uncertain so she’s been sent to Blackhaven to take the waters, along with two aunts who fuss and fret her half to death. In a bid to find just an hour or two’s freedom from harassment, she takes a small rowing boat out into the bay where she spots a man apparently drowning. Rowing fearlessly to the rescue, the man emerges, totally naked, from the water and climbs into her boat. And so begins a most unlikely romance between a duke’s daughter and a smuggler. Or free trader, as Alban likes to call himself.

The author is not one to leave a romance to build slowly, so there’s an instant attraction between the two, and a dilemma for both of them. Can she walk away from the pressure of her family’s expectations? Can he, as an outlaw, risk an entanglement with such a high-ranking lady? And there’s a certain amount of family history lurking in the background. It’s problematic. And as they gradually try to determine what they want from the future, the past catches up with them and puts various people in jeopardy.

This is another fun read, with no real surprises along the way, and a certain amount of stupidity on the part of both hero and heroine (him in leaving two defenceless children in the care of people who have already proved they can’t be trusted, and her in allowing herself to be manipulated, even when she knows very clearly what she wants). But (surprise!) it all works out happily in the end, the bad guys get their comeuppance, our romantic pair get together and everybody else gets put in their place.

Terrific fun, lots of humour, a great romance. Lady Arabella in particular is beautifully drawn, a woman who is too timid to stand up to her domineering family openly, but smart enough to thwart their will in a thousand quietly subversive ways. She knows very well what she doesn’t want (an enforced marriage to an uncongenial man) but it isn’t until she meets Alban that she discovers what she actually wants, and the backbone to reach out and take it. I liked her very much. She totally deserves a hot bloke like Alban. There’s a fair amount of lusting and passionate kissing, and one sex scene. Five stars.


Review: The Wicked Lady by Mary Lancaster

Posted April 16, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 1 Comment

This was such a lot of fun. There’s nothing more entertaining than watching the most unlikely couple imaginable fight against their inevitable destiny, and these two are incredibly unlikely. She’s a widow with a scandalous reputation and he’s a curate – how can it possibly work? Yet as is the way of these things, naturally they’re instantly drawn to each other.

Here’s the premise: Kate Crowmore has just escaped from a horrible marriage, which sounds like good news, right? But the scandal surrounding the circumstances of her husband’s death has destroyed her reputation. Head high, she’s decamped from gossipy London to quieter Blackhaven, where she hopes she won’t be quite so ostracised. A small town in the north is also a good place to evade whoever’s trying to kill her. The last thing she needs is a romantic interest, but Tristram Grant is charming and irresistible. There’s only one problem – he’s a clergyman, and a curate at that – the lowest of the low.

So the stage is set for the Odd Couple, and their early interchanges are delicious, the spark between them obvious, and the banter scintillating. But this is not just a romance, because of the aforementioned person trying to kill Kate, and while Tristram’s more than willing to do what he can to help out, things are complicated by the arrival of assorted relations, some friendly, some not so much. So, as in the previous book in the series, there’s a lot of running, hiding, fighting off villains and trying to work out who’s on who’s side. And all the time, Kate and Tristram are lusting after each other, and Kate’s refusing to consider the possibility of a second marriage.

The way the romance unfolds isn’t in the least original, but it’s beautifully done, a mixture of funny and dramatic and sad, with two well-drawn characters that the reader is rooting for right from the start. The author has a very solid grip on Regency mores, so even my over-sensitive pedant-o-meter was only triggered once, by a rather cavalier treatment of a special licence (I’m quite sure that’s not legal!), but it didn’t matter a bit. It would be helpful to have read the first book, since a number of characters pop up here, but it’s not essential. For those looking for a sex-free read, this is one to avoid, since there’s lots of lusting and some graphic details towards the end. But for anyone who doesn’t mind that, this is great fun and highly recommended. Five stars.


Review: The Wicked Baron by Mary Lancaster

Posted September 20, 2019 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 1 Comment

This was a whole lot of fun – well written, plausible, with some great characters and (hooray!) set away from the usual Regency hotspots of London and Bath. And funny. I do like a book that makes me laugh.

Here’s the premise: Gillie Muir is struggling to make ends meet after her father’s death. Genteel card parties and some cooperation with the local smugglers mean she’s just holding on, but it’s difficult and she’s gradually being ostracised by good society. But newly-fashionable spa town Blackhaven in Cumberland attracts some odd characters, and when Lord Wickenden (known as the Wicked Baron) arrives, Gillie’s world is torn apart. In an echo of Heyer’s ‘Faro’s Daughter’, the baron has arrived to detach Gillie from a suitor whose mother thinks him unsuitable. He needn’t have bothered, for Gillie has no interest in the suitor. The wicked baron is another matter, however…

There’s a lot going on in the background here, what with the smuggling and some other undercover business (trying to avoid spoilers here) and various romantic entanglements. The heart of the book, however, is Gillie and Lord Wickenden. He starts by trying to bed her directly, then tries to woo her more subtly and ends up entirely entangled in her affairs and revealing a much more generous nature. Gillie, on the other hand, falls instantly in love and that can only end badly… can’t it? I confess to astonishment at the number of inventive ways and places and situations the baron exploited to steal a kiss from Gillie, but it felt completely in character for him, and I totally understand why Gillie fell for him.

The ending is suitably dramatic and my only complaint is that, even when our hero and heroine have reached what appears to be an unshakable accommodation, the author throws up yet more bumps on their road to a HEA. I felt Gillie was being pretty silly at the end there, and in fact her judgement was a bit suspect in other ways, too. However, she’s a fine independent lady and a good match for the wicked baron, so I forgive her.

The historical accuracy is almost impeccable, apart from a few trivial errors. For those who like their Regencies totally sex-free, there is one tasteful but graphic sex scene and a certain amount of impassioned kissing and general lusting.

I loved this book, and since I had the smarts to pick up the first four books of the series as a box set, I’ve got plenty more of Mary Lancaster’s work to enjoy. Highly recommended. Five stars.