Review: A Reckless Promise by Kasey Michaels + Giveaway

Review: A Reckless Promise by Kasey Michaels + GiveawayA Reckless Promise (The Little Season #3) by Kasey Michaels
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Little Season #3
Pages: 400
Published by HQN Books on July 26th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

London's Little Season has never been so scandalous 
It's the kind of vow often made on the battlefield. Darby Travers, Viscount Nailbourne, never imagines he'll have to honor it. Yet here she is on his doorstep—his late comrade's young daughter, and Darby's new ward. Worse, she comes with the most overprotective, mistrustful, bothersome chaperone—the child's aunt, Sadie Grace Boxer. Darby is quite sure that behind her lovely facade, the woman is guarding a secret. 
Sadie Grace faced many trials working in her brother's surgery, but none prepared her for the world she's thrust into with his passing. Navigating the ton, with its endless ball gowns and parade of parties, is difficult enough, but hiding the truth about her niece while the sophisticated viscount watches her every move proves nearly impossible—particularly when his searing gaze tempts her to bare all. But when her family's past catches up with her, she'll have to trust in Darby…no matter the cost to her heart.

My Review:

The lark of The Little Season continues, even though the birds are mostly confined to cameos this time around.

The entire series has a very high froth quotient. If you are in the mood for a bit of light-hearted entertainment filled with intelligent banter, this series is marvelous. And although each book stands alone, there are characters that continue through the series that readers, or at least this reader, will be glad to see get their happily ever after.

The story in A Reckless Promise is similar in many ways to the other books in the series, but the characters make it every bit as delightful to read as the earlier books. Now that I’ve finished, I can see the patterns, but while the story is rollicking along, it’s just pure fun.

It all goes back to the Napoleonic Wars. The four English officers, Darby, Rigby, Sinclair and Cooper who are the heroes of this series were prisoners of war. They just barely made it out with their lives. Darby, the hero of A Reckless Promise, owes his life to the Army Surgeon who was imprisoned with them, John Hamilton.

And that’s where this story begins. When the four men escaped, they begged the doctor to come with them, but to no avail. Hamilton refused to leave his other patients. But he did extract a promise from Darby that if the doctor did not survive, then Darby, the Viscount Nailbourne, would stand as guardian to his little daughter Marley.

It takes nearly two years for Marley to show up at Darby’s door, with her redoubtable aunt in tow. Darby is more than willing to take care of the child. Not just because a promise is a promise, but because he genuinely likes the seven-year-old spitfire, especially after she kicks him in the shin.

But her aunt, Mrs. Sadie Maxwell Boxer, gives him a great deal of pause. He’s more than willing to take her in as well, but the immediate question in his mind is “take her in as what?” The widowed Mrs. Maxwell is relatively young and surprisingly beautiful. Even though she is a widow, Sadie is much too young to remain as the sole female in his bachelor establishment, no matter how much Marley loves her.

The situation becomes even more dire when Darby figures out that the Mr. Maxwell Boxer he has been desperately trying to find was the doctor’s dog. Mrs. Boxer is really Miss Hamilton, and Darby decides he has to marry her. Or at least that’s the excuse he gives himself for doing what he really wants.

What they both really want.

scandalous proposal by kasey michaelsEscape Rating A-: Just like A Scandalous Proposal, this story is carried by its utterly marvelous piffle. If you are looking for something serious, find another book. This one, and the series, are to be read just for the pure light-hearted fun of it.

At the same time, one of the great but slightly serious things that the author has done with this series is to create unconventional heroines that are easy for the 21st century reader to identify with but who do not seem to be anachronistic. It’s not just that Sadie is a doctor’s sister, but that she was forced to take over much of his practice while he was in the Army. And then to continue that practice after he came home debilitated by the lingering wound which eventually killed him.

Sadie has been forced to act as a professional, to have her advice taken seriously, to run a household, and to think entirely for herself. That’s unusual in society-based Regencies, and makes this series stand out. All four of the heroines, including Clarice Goodfellow who unfortunately does not seem to have a book of her own, are unconventional in ways that seem plausible, and that give them a lot of agency. Even if it’s the kind of agency that their society does not expect from a woman.

In addition to the marvelous banter and developing romance, there is also a serious subplot to this book. Sadie and Marley fled to Nailbourne in secret, out of what turns out to be justifiable fears for Marley’s safety. John Hamilton whisked an heiress away from the life her mother planned for her when he married his Susan. Now that both he and Susan are dead, the family that rejected Susan wants Marley back. John’s last wish was that Sadie make sure they don’t win.

But it isn’t Marley’s grandfather who is trying to claim his only grandchild. Instead, there is a much more nefarious plot afoot that Darby and Sadie must thwart in order to secure Marley’s happiness. But their focus on Marley’s happiness almost gets in the way of their own.

As someone who has read the series, the conclusion to Duke Basil’s birthday woes was appropriately a hoot.


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Review: A Scandalous Proposal by Kasey Michaels + Giveaway

Review: A Scandalous Proposal by Kasey Michaels + GiveawayA Scandalous Proposal (The Little Season, #2) by Kasey Michaels
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Little Season #2
Pages: 384
Published by HQN Books on March 29th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

Includes bonus story How to Woo a Spinster
The drama of London's Little Season continues in USA Today bestselling author Kasey Michaels's vibrant new series featuring three courageous war heroes surrendering at last to love…
Who would have thought a man could tire of being fawned over and flirted with? Ever since Cooper Townsend returned from France as a hero with a new title, he has been relentlessly pursued by every marriageable miss in London. Perhaps that's why the unconventional Miss Daniella Foster is so appealing. She doesn't simper or flatter. She only wants him to help unmask her sister's blackmailer, and Coop has never been so intrigued…
Let every other woman in London fight over His Lordship's romantic attentions. Marriage is the last thing on Dany's mind…at least until she samples his illicit kisses. Now, as a mutual enemy races to ruin Coop's reputation and Dany's family name, an engagement of convenience will spark an unlikely passion that might save them both.

My Review:

Read this one for the piffle. By that, I mean that this is a banter book, where the hero and heroine fall for each other through very clever conversation that never flags for a minute. Or a page.

While the initial meeting between Cooper Townsend and Danielle Foster may seem just a bit contrived, everything that happens to them and between them after Dany initially bumps into Coop (literally) really puts the spark into the phrase “court and spark”. Even when they are not getting along, Dany and Coop entertain each other endlessly. And it is their burgeoning but unconventional friendship resulting in an unintentional courtship that lets them fall in love with each other.

A Scandalous Proposal is one of those lovely stories where the heroine holds her own every single minute, in spite of the historical setting. Dany may be sexually innocent at the beginning of the story, but intellectually she is a match for Coop and his friends, and never gives in to what society expects of her. She is never going to be a simpering little miss. Dany is an “original”.

And it’s lucky for both of them that Coop has oodles of experience dealing with “originals”, because that allows him to see Dany for who and what she is, and not merely accept her, but love her for those differences. He gives her just the little bit of grounding that she needs, and in turn, she keeps him from becoming a staid stick-in-the-mud. This is a relationship made in heaven.

But the circumstances that bring them together are far from heavenly. Coop is being blackmailed, as is Dany’s sister Mari. Admittedly, Mari made a complete “cake” of herself, and basically handed herself over to the blackmailer. The happily married Mari was miffed at her husband for going off to a shooting party on her birthday. In petty revenge, she began a clandestine correspondence with a “secret admirer”. They never met, nothing ever happened, but silly Mari actually signed her own name to the incendiary letters, and is now being blackmailed for her thoughtless peccadillo.

Coop, on the other hand, is being blackmailed for being a secret hero. He was at the Battle of Quatre-Bras, and he did rescue of group of orphans who were in harm’s way between the Napoleonic and British armies. But the circumstances of that rescue, which led to a very generous reward from the Prince Regent, are not merely secret but clearly involve the highest levels of the Crown and government. Even though Coop did nothing remotely wrong, his blackmailer is threatening to reveal the secret he is protecting, an event which will probably get Coop either exiled or more likely killed.

Dany entreats Coop, as a bona fide hero, to recover her sister’s silly letters. But as the two of them dig deeper into the plot, they discover that the two blackmailers are, in fact, one and the same. A revelation that will eventually result in the villain’s unmasking and downfall.

But not before Coop and Dany talk themselves into turning their investigative association into something much, much more.

Escape Rating A-: A Scandalous Proposal contains a great deal of delightful froth, and is pure fun from beginning to end. Dany is an “original”, and makes a terrific heroine. She doesn’t merely know her own mind, but she says what she is thinking, and to hell with what society thinks of that. While her family hopes that she will marry, no one, including Dany, has any expectations that she will find anyone who can put up with her straight talking. She is not what society expects her to be and has no plans to change, which makes her marvelous fun and tremendously easy for 21st century readers to identify with.

It does turn out that the plot against Coop and her sister Mari is quite serious. And it is lovely to see the villain get his just desserts without it resulting in a traditional beat down, or beating up. Nor does Dany ever find herself seriously in danger. This is thankfully not one of those stories where the hero has to ride in with the historical equivalent of guns blazing to save the heroine from a fate worse than death.

This is a story where brains and charm outwit the villain, and it is a romp every step of the way. If you are looking for a story to put a smile on your face, A Scandalous Proposal is it. Dany manages to skewer every convention of historical romance, and the reader applauds her for doing it. Especially when she reminds Coop that she has her own views on everything, and that he ignores those views and actions very much at his own peril.

reckless promise by kasey michaelsA Scandalous Proposal is the second book in Michaels’ Little Season series, but it can certainly be read as a chuckle-a-minute stand alone. While some of the characters introduced in An Improper Arrangement, particularly the marvelously down-to-earth Clarice have roles to play in A Scandalous Proposal, they get more than enough introduction in this second book to weave them into the plot.

Read this one for the absolutely marvelous piffle. Then wait with bated laughter, for the third book in the Little Season, A Reckless Promise.


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Review: An Improper Arrangement by Kasey Michaels

Review: An Improper Arrangement by Kasey MichaelsAn Improper Arrangement (The Little Season, #1) by Kasey Michaels
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Little Season #1
Pages: 380
Published by Harlequin HQN on December 29th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

Experience the drama of the Little Season in the first of a new series by USA Today bestselling author Kasey Michaels, in which three dashing war heroes have finally met their matches…
Gabriel Sinclair has returned from battle as reluctant heir to a dukedom. As if his new responsibilities weren't enough, Gabriel's aunt enlists him to sponsor a young heiress through London's Little Season. Yet Miss Thea Neville is hardly the tedious obligation he expected. She's exotic and enchanting—and utterly unaware of the secret poised to destroy her family's reputation.
After ten years in America, Thea is ready to do her duty and marry well. Deportment lessons, modistes, balls—the ton is a minefield she could scarcely navigate without Gabriel's help. By rights, she should accept the first bachelor who offers for her. Instead, she's succumbing to a dangerous attraction to her wickedly handsome chaperone—one that could unhinge her plans in the most delicious way.

My Review:

This story is for the birds. Not in the slightly pejorative sense that the phrase is usually used, but literally. This historical romance pretty much gets its story stolen by a flock of birds. That the ton gets its collective pocketbook emptied by those same birds, and the nobleman who is, ahem, hawking them, just adds to the fun.

An Improper Arrangement also rides, or flies, on the strength of the witty banter between its two protagonists, Lord Gabriel Sinclair and Miss Dorothea Neville. For a historical romance in the Regency period, the relationship between Gabe and Thea is surprisingly equal. They seem to have both thrown off the expectations of their class and positions and become openly and honestly friends, which inevitably leads them to romance as it leaves them unsuited to the kind of spouse that they would normally find.

Thea may be English, but she was raised in America. She is also, as she often says, “two and twenty”. She is not a simpering miss fresh from the schoolroom, and she is used to saying what she means and doing a good bit of what she likes. She’s also a skilled fisherman (fisherwoman) and excellent with a bow. She competes with Gabe, and she often wins.

In the battle of wits that ensues, they are equally matched.

But what seems to be the central plot here is an actual plot. Gabe and his friends want their bit of revenge against Henry Neville. Why? Because his very wet-behind-the-ears son left them in Napoleon’s clutches instead of carrying a warning to the British and Russian armies. And after the war, while Gabe and his friends languished in a French military prison, the aforementioned Henry Neville arranged for his cowardly little boy to get a medal, for bravery of all things.

Thea wants her own bit of revenge against Henry Neville. He’s her father. The father that she thought was dead, while he deposited herself and her mother in America and returned to England to remarry (without benefit of divorce) and father the aforementioned “wet behind the ears” son. In other words, Henry Neville is a bigamist and his be-medalled son Myles is a bastard and not heir to Henry’s earldom.

A lot of the story is about Gabe and Thea each planning their separate revenge while they draw closer and closer together with a huge secret wedged in between them. Except that the secret isn’t really that secret. The secret is that they know each other’s secret. Yes, there is sometimes an element of farce to this story, but the banter usually carries it off.

Can they each give up their desire for revenge in favor of a future together?

Escape Rating B: While the story of Gabe and Thea’s secrets and counter-secrets is fun, it is also a bit predictable. What makes this story is the game that Gabe pulls on the entire ton. That’s where the birds come in.

When Gabe’s great-uncle Basil was merely the fifth son of the previous duke, Basil and his wife travelled the world on his generous allowance and brought back exotic birds from every place they visited. There are now over 100 exotic birds in Basil’s makeshift aviary at one of his estates. Basil seems to be roosting there too, right along with the birds.

Basil became Duke by accident. Actually, by four accidents, and he doesn’t want the title or the job. He’s confined himself to his rooms, waiting for death to overtake him just before his 60th birthday. Thea convinces him to get out again by having Gabe threaten the birds.

So all the while that Gabe and Thea are driving each other crazy, the birds are a constant source of tension and humor. Gabe takes all the birds to London and runs a giant con on the ton, making the birds the most fashionable thing ever, so that he can get rid of them and make a profit. And then skip town as the bird dropping pile up.

All the while, he keeps his best friend, a cockatoo named Caspar who imitates the sounds that Gabe made as a boy, crying all alone. Gabe’s scenes with Caspar, and Thea’s reaction to them, are quite touching.

But while the birds often steal the show in this slight tale, the story as a whole is just a lark.