Reviewed by Francine.
This novel is far from the traditional Georgian or Regency romance and it is indeed set within both time periods. I truly admire the author’s daring to venture to the darker side of life in what is regarded as Jane Austen’s lifetime. Unlike the literary lady of that period, who chose to represent a rather rose-tinted escapist perspective of her own era, Ms Knight has presented her heroine in the true light of a kept woman. Through no fault of hers Becky has become the victim of circumstance and has duly fallen foul to men of a ruthless bent. Nonetheless, determined to secure an independent future free of men who bet, barter and pay debts with female assets (sexual favours), she masquerades under an assumed nom de plume until such time as sufficient funds can be accumulated by means of which are contracted in proper order to her specifications.
While men have come and gone, the reader enters Becky’s and her daughter's world with the introduction of a rakish hero who sports a modicum of honour. Though a child becoming aware of her surroundings, as has recognition of presents lavished upon her by Becky’s latest high ranking benefactor, soon begins to complicate life somewhat. Also, when circulating within the upper echelons of society, where secret mistresses are sought out and exposed as part and parcel of the gaming fraternity, danger lurks in every dark corner. And just when hope of eventual independence and freedom seem to have come within Becky’s grasp, one more cruel twist of fate seems set to blight her future path. Knowing full well her present benefactor cannot, or will not wed her, exchanging one contract for another hurts her pride and that of another. Unfortunately, needs must when the devil rides, but can Becky hide her past from those around her, mark a new place in society with a husband, and find the happiness and contentment of a rural life she had longed for? Well to find out, read this lonely, lovely lady’s story, in which characters act true to form: pimples ‘n’ all. Although the outcome of the book becomes evident mid story, it didn’t detract from enjoyment of the whole.
Reviewed by Fran:
The usage of Latin numerals for the renowned rather extensive and impoverished Berowne family is sheer author genius, and whilst all the respective siblings’ character traits shine through, Septimus [poet] outranks them all with his theatrical gestures and poetically inclined satirical wit. And how can the wealthy heroine, Lady Louisa bedevilled by a surname that immediately draws the poet’s ear, ever hope to escape his inclination to verse? What is worse, no matter which way Louisa turns Berowne males step across her threshold or path with intent to wrest her from widowhood and to the altar quick sharp.
Louisa is far from a walkover conquest and her abrasive tongue temporarily quells specific male desires, but she becomes so embroiled in the affairs of the females of the Berowne family, she cannot see the danger of one male Berowne’s ambitions to outflank his brothers and gain due reward from villainous means. If not for the affable if irritating poet who wins her regard, Louisa’s fate might have proved dire to that which inevitably befalls her. And love it seems, as of old, blossoms in the strangest of circumstances. Hence, Seventh Heaven wins the day and will no doubt rule the proverbial home roost, and pray to heaven the happy couple’s future existence bears no resemblance to a theatrical farce, for this novel had me roaring with laughter from start to finish. This is a classic romantic Georgian Romp!
Set in 1780, Ranulph Lord Charing, is the ideal hero. Tending arrogant, a man of means with a mistress to boot, of hawkish good looks and superb horseman, he suddenly finds himself attracted to the delightfully charming Celeste Armitage. Torn between duty to a long-standing mistress and desire for young Celeste, he commits the unthinkable in wild moment of rash indulgence. News of his interest in Celeste soon stretches beyond the confines of Hazeledene House: thus listened to with vindictive intent by his mistress.
Forced by circumstance of a dead man’s debt and his mistress’ cunning, Ranulph has no choice but to sacrifice his own happiness and that of Celeste’s. And, without spoiling the plot, I can tell you there are twists and turns aplenty as truths come to light and debts are settled, though not without heartache and much soul searching as Ranulph sets out to counter his mistress’ hold upon him.
Reviewed by Fran.
With the smell of horse sweat, damp sawdust, sense of stifling heat beneath a big-top circus tent and untended gardens, the author throws her young hero, Wolfson, into Foxhall Gardens to take command and recreate a pleasure paradise. When faced with a disgruntled ex manager of mean intent, an array of pavilions and star acts that have seen better days, Wolfson is well aware his newly appointed position is irksome to old hands of the entertainment business, not least the ringmaster’s daughter.
Young Hettie knows her stuff all things horses, and even though Wolfson stirs something deep within her, she has as much to prove as he does in making a success out of what is readily to hand. Hettie has but two choices: a successful career as the star attraction or, she, her ailing father and a troupe of horses will be out on the street. With a little give and take along the way, although painful in conceding ground to the enemy, sometimes a presumed enemy is a stronger ally than one might expect.
Subsequently, as Foxhall Gardens begins its transition from jaded hell to paradise gained, jealousy, trickery and spite threaten Foxhall’s future progress. And so, with a romantic thread winding itself around Foxhall, Hettie dares and Wolfson strives for perfection, but not without cost to his heart, his sanity and final triumph in the midst of tragedy.
Reviewed by Suzy
Venetian Encounter is a wow read. Ms Howarth has a knack for stirring all the senses with sounds and evocative scents and writes with a strong sense of panache. This novel is no exception.
The story begins in Naples the year 1800 and moves to Venice and finally to England in 1803. Admiral Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton feature, though both are so enraptured with each other they fail to notice instant attraction building between English naval officer Lt Herne and Therese Countess Roscoff. The countess has a secret, and to let her heart run away with her will be detrimental to her rather risk laden path in life. Herne intrigued by her knows his heart is at odds with sensible thinking and when a jewel theft occurs it leads him to suspect the countess knows more than she's willing to admit. He then becomes Therese's rock and shoulder to cry on when her manservant is brutally murdered. Two more murders happen and Therese flees Naples in haste. Safely back in Venice the heroine is innocently unsuspecting of Herne dropping anchor in the Bay of Venice. She has a problem with a young ward (Petra), her life is in tatters and with the Venice Carnival season at its peak this is when the title Venetian Encounter comes into play. Petra has either run away or has been abducted, and a second encounter with Herne proves fatal. He in turn proves himself to be every bit the courageous hero Admiral Lord Nelson proclaimed him to be, and with knowledge of a slave ship en route to Turkey he sets sail in pursuit. Things then go from bad to worse for Herne. Therese says she must return to Russia. Herne is dispatched to the Caribbean. They lose contact until one day in England and there she is standing outside his house. The end is not only fraught with tension and emotion it hits the heart as a good romance should. IMHO Francine Howarth has excelled with this novel in a most unusual way. Right from the start the reader knows something Herne does not and it's fun watching how he gradually unravels the mystery surrounding Countess Roscoff.
Well deserved *****
As I understand it the novel is exclusive to Amazon.
Reviewed by Emma
Ordinarily I wouldn't read a historical romance novel and then my friend Gemma said I didn't know what I was missing. She'd read The Highwayman's Mistress and had gone all starry eyed over the hero and kept on and on about how the story was so romantic and so beautifully written it was like watching a film. I thought she'd lost the plot until cringing in shame I finally bought the book to see for myself how good it was. It was cheap and what had I got to lose by giving it a go. To say I'm a convert is damned embarrassing. I've always been a fan of chick lit and always will be. Now I am weirdly tempted by historical romances because THM is every thing Gemma said it was. It blew me away with sharp dialogue along with action packed scenes and sexy ones too. The story actually did become perfect moving images as though a DVD was playing. I was completely enthralled throughout and read the book in one sitting. With chick lit novels I don't get jealous over heroines because they mostly call the shots. I was dead jealous when Francois kidnapped Diamonta and then what happened in the coach was so sexy I'm sure my neighbour heard my wails of agony and ecstasy. And then Francois fought a damn dual and all because of Diamonta. Heart in mouth I couldn't bear to read on but had to. The end was really different than I'd anticipated. I'm tempted to give this author another go and who knows I might become of fan of historical romances. Thank you Francine Howarth for a darn good read.
Amazon . co .uk
Guest Review by Fran
A Scandalous Countess – Jo Beverley: One of a Series - Stands Alone as Great Read.
With lyrical prose and sparkling witty dialogue, Jo Beverley paints a landscape of 18th century Georgian England in which intrigue, lust and romance culminates in a life lesson Georgia Lady Maybury will never forget. Once enchantress to the elite of the beau monde and eager to shed her widow’s weeds, she has first to clamber from the fall of scandal and dip her toes in the waters’ of the upper echelons of society: long before any hope of her former position as that of darling to the beau monde can be visualised or for that matter, regained. But another lesson, a lesson in love is to be learned along the way when a man, not of her intended station, steals her heart, her breath and poses the greatest dilemma of her life. A Scandalous Countess is a delightful fun read, and the hero Lord Dracy, although deadly sexual remains honourable throughout: if a tad wicked!