Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Unwrapping a Review of ONCE UPON A TRUE LOVE'S KISS, an Anthology

An Anthology
by Julie Johnstone, Katherine Bone,
Collette Cameron, Jillian Chantal,
Samantha Grace, Alanna Lucas,
Lauren Smith, and Victoria Vane

Releasing January 4, 2016

A delightful limited edition anthology containing eight tantalizing kiss-and-tell stories…
Meet dashing, wildly charming rogues, spies, pirates, rakes and their extraordinary, intrepid heroines as they whisk you along on sweet to sizzling romantic romps in these wickedly entertaining historical romances.

AFTER FOREVER by Julie Johnstone

Widowed Lady Julianna Barrows never wants to fall in love again. But when the notorious former boxer Nash Overton hires her to transform him into a gentleman, Julianna quickly becomes the student, learning more about passion than she’s ever known, and more importantly, learning how to love again.

***This is a delightful story that definitely sets the tone for the anthology. Julianna grieves so greatly for her late husband that she becomes adamant about never falling in love again or entertaining the idea of remarriage but things change when she meets Nash who exudes a great capacity for love. His love for his daughter demonstrates his big heart. Julianna soon learns that love is possible even when the pain of a loss is as great as what she feels for her husband. Nash takes it slow, and eventually wins her heart.
Good characters, a well-developed story line, especially for a novella, and it felt complete. I really liked this one. I’ve found myself a new author I enjoy reading, and look forward to more of Julie Johnstone’s work.

THE PIRATE’S DUCHESS by Katherine Bone

Duty forces him to take on the pirate code, but honor brings him back.

Prudence, Duchess of Blackmoor, has one desire—to be happy again. After struggling to overcome the horrifying death of her husband, she accepts an earl’s offer of marriage, confident she’s taking a step in the right direction. But demons, refuse to die, and Prudence finds herself caught in an intricate web of deceit that threatens the very foundations of all she holds dear.

Tobias, the Duke of Blackmoor, crosses the line when an assassination attempt on him fails. To restore the reputations of friends under attack by the same villain, and ensure his wife’s safety, he stages his own death, becoming The Black Regent, a notorious pirate bent on brandishing justice, never thinking he’d survive. But to his amazement, he has, and now the darkest-kept secrets are not worth losing the duchess his wife has become.

***Katherine Bone is great at giving you the best in pirate stories. With her usual flair, Katherine gives us excitement, intrigue, and romance. Prudence is about to marry when Tobias, her late husband, suddenly returns interrupting the wedding. Having pretended to be dead for 2 years to keep his wife safe from the man who wanted him dead, he’s been sailing the high seas as a pirate. Whereas the premise of this novella was good, I think it would have played out better had it been given more time and length to make it reconcile better. It just seemed to be missing too much to make it work well.

HER SCANDALOUS WISH by Collette Cameron

A marriage offer obligated by duty . . . an acceptance compelled by desperation.

Philomena Pomfrett is resigned to spinsterhood, but to ease her dying brother’s fretting, she reluctantly agrees to attend a London Season with one purpose—to acquire a husband. Stumbling upon her hiding in a secluded garden arbor during a ball, Bradford, Viscount Kingsley doesn’t recognize his first love, yet something about the mysterious woman enthralls him, and he steals a passionate, moonlit kiss.

Caught in the act by Philomena’s brother, Bradford is issued an ultimatum—a duel or marry Philomena. He offers marriage, but even impoverished and with no other decent prospects, she rejects his half-hearted proposal until her brother collapses. Now, Philomena’s faced with marrying a man who deserted her once already.

***A second chance at love romance…believing his first love, Philomena died in a fire, Bradford prefers to stay away from England but must soon return after inheriting the Viscount title. Meanwhile, Philomena who didn’t die in the fire, which claimed her parents, believes Bradford left her because of her burn injuries. Not comfortable in social gatherings, she hides in the garden rather than partake in the ball she's attending. Not recognizing her, Bradford encounters her and the rest is the HEA when her brother discovers them kissing, although it doesn't go too smoothly.
I like the idea of this story but felt it was rushed. This is a case where a truly sweet romance novella needs to be extended into a full-length novel.

MILADY AND HER SPY by Jillian Chantel

A lady, a spy, a traitor… a battle of wills.

Raised in the country after her mother’s death with only the company of three unruly brothers, Lady Augusta Covington is more proficient at fencing, riding and playing cards than being prim and proper. Myles Cuthbert, a spy in His Majesty’s service on a mission to find and expose a traitor, crosses paths with Lady Augusta when she rides to the aid of her brother, believing him to be injured. With the assignment at risk, Cuthbert agrees to accept the assistance of the troublesome lady eager for intrigue.

As they move forward, his sense of obligation to her and the danger involved stir his soul.

***This is a good regency spy story. Augusta is rather a tomboy having grown up with three brothers. When she hears her brother may be in trouble, she rushes to the rescue and stumbles into a mission to catch a spy. Myles, her brother’s commander, isn’t too happy about Augusta’s involvement but has no choice but to allow her assistance. Yet another story with such great potential, which I would love to see fulfilling its complexities and allowing growth in the characters in a full-length novel.


His Mother Insists He Needs a Wife.

Fergus McTaggart, Aldmist Fell’s land steward, has no time for wife hunting. Any day his employer's sisters will be arriving at the Scottish castle for a long overdue reunion. Fergus is determined to make their stay memorable, but all anyone is likely to recall are the loud rows between him and his employer’s cheeky paid companion.

She Insists He Needs a Good Knock to the Head.

Edith Gallagher has been charged with watching over her employer’s youngest sister while the family winters in Scotland, but the stubborn land steward interferes at every turn. Eventually, she and the Scot call a truce for the sisters’ sakes only to discover their passionate battles are masking hidden desires.

***Fergus and Edith battle at every turn. As land steward, Fergus has no time for romance but when he meets Edith, sparks fly. Oh at first, it’s a battle of wills, arguments at every turn, and unruly confrontations but when they call a truce for the sake of the sisters, they come to think of each other in a way that neither expects. This one might be my favorite in the anthology. I enjoyed watching Fergus and Edith get to know each other, and fall in love. I’d very much love to read more from this series.


Desperate times call for drastic measures as Miss Aveline Redgrave enters her third season. Fearful of fortune hunters, she attempts to stay clear of Lord Leybourne, a rogue who is not to be trusted. But his seductive smile and enticing kisses awaken a passion that threatens her common sense. No stranger to scandal, Leybourne is determined to save his family from ruin whatever the cost, even marrying an heiress he doesn’t love. But an unexpected desire and need to protect threatens his plans. Will past heartaches and a devastating wager destroy their future or will true love’s kiss triumph?

***Still unmarried as she faces her third season, Aveline fears the attentions of fortune hunters but knows she must marry or face her uncle choosing for her. She does her best to stay away from those least desirable as husbands, especially Lord Leybourne who needs desperately to marry an heiress if he is to save his family from ruin. When both make lists of suitable candidates, they soon discover they are probably best suited for each other. They set about trying to make things work despite interfering friends and gossiping ton. I liked this story, the characters were strong and the plot very plausible. I’d like to read more from Alanna. She’s a new author for me and I’m looking forward to reading more from her.

TEMPTED BY A ROGUE by Lauren Smith

Gemma never planned on falling in love with her childhood sweetheart’s best friend, Jasper, when he returns home, but she can’t resist the naval officer’s brooding charm.

Gemma plans to marry James, her childhood sweetheart. With every letter written between them while he's been off at sea, their love has grown. Now they will be reunited with his return to England. But the man whose words she'd fallen in love with isn’t James...

Jasper, a gentleman rogue of the first order, is trapped. Talked into a scheme by his friend, he pretended to be James for eleven years while writing to Gemma. He’s promised James he’d break it off. But when he returns home, his secret will come out – and he’ll lose the one woman he can’t live without.

***Sometimes, when I start reading a story I can sense right away that the plot is trying to be far more complicated than it needs to be. This is one of those. When it becomes obvious too fast that a simple conversation could sort out the trouble, it’s difficult for me to keep reading but I do, always in the hope that things will get more exciting.
James has been away at sea for eleven years, during which time he, and Gemma write to each other diligently every month, only…it isn’t James writing to Gemma but instead, Jasper, James’s best friend. Gemma plans to marry James as soon as he returns for she’s fallen even further in love with him through his letters. Jasper has come to love Gemma but now feels trapped because he can’t tell Gemma the truth. I can’t help but think when I read a story like this…the truth is the simplest solution and it will set you free. It was okay but it could’ve been much better with its Cyrano de Bergerac start.


She gave him a chance to bury his past… but the price would be his heart…

Burdened by the past…Orphaned at a young age and left to run wild, at eighteen Julian Price joins the fight against Napoleon in the hope of attaining honor. Devastated when his best friend, Thomas, is killed in battle, Julian returns home burdened with guilt, only to find his wastrel uncle has squandered his inheritance.

Desperate to live her own life… Facing a future of drudgery caring for her aging mother and raising her brother’s children, Henrietta Houghton believes her chance at a real life died with Thomas, the only man who ever wanted her. But Henrietta is still full of dreams. When her wealthy aunt, offers her a gift of ten thousand pounds, Henrietta finally has the chance to choose her own destiny.

Everything has a price...With a fortune at her command, Henrietta offers Julian a marriage of convenience, unaware that she really offers Julian a means of salvation—not just his fortune, but his very soul.

***A longtime fan of Victoria Vane’s historical romances, this one was a good friends to lovers story but not necessarily her best. I’m so used to her rich characters that I felt Julian and Henrietta fell kind of flat. Perhaps if the story had been longer, their development could have been greater. It had its moments though, and Henrietta’s naughty aunt made it all worth reading.
Julian returns from war to discover his uncle has lost his fortune and he is destitute. He plans to sell everything in hopes of clearing his debt, and then return to Portugal to work as a mercenary since his only skill seems to be in killing. Henrietta feels lost. She’s unmarried whereas all her siblings are, but she has no desire to spend her life as an unpaid nanny to her nieces and nephews. When her scandalously naughty great aunt endows her with a large dowry, she decides she has the means to help her childhood friend, Julian and give herself the gift of relative freedom. She proposes to him and they plan a marriage of convenience…of course, we all know how that will go. This story truly had great potential and although I would love to have seen it expanded further, I enjoyed reading it.

This one is well worth the spending 99¢ on...I highly recommend it. 
Happy Reading Everyone!

ONCE UPON A TRUE LOVE’S KISS, an anthology, releasing January 4, 2016, available in ebook formats at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobobooks.
***click on links above or cover below for purchasing information, please remember even pennies per sale using my links help keep this blog alive. Thank You.


Katherine Bone said...

Thanks for you for such a thoroughly delightful review, Lady Amy!!! We appreciate you! ;)

Amy Valentini said...

You're so very welcome, Cap'n Katherine. I enjoyed myself reading all of them. Thanks! xo

Jillian said...

Thanks for the nice review of our set. Good news since you wanted more character development in mine- there are more adventures in store for Lady Augusta and Myles!

Alanna Lucas said...

Thank you for the lovely review! Happy Holidays!

Collette Cameron said...

Thanks so much for reading and reviewing!

Amy Valentini said...

You're all very welcome, ladies. Thank you for the opportunity. It was a lovely grouping of novellas. I'll be posting my review at the vendors as soon as it releases.
Happy New Year! xo

Amy Valentini said...

I'm so happy to hear there is more coming for Lady Augusta and Myles. Yay!
Thank you.
Happy New Year!

Dalila G. said...

What a nice collection of stories Amy, wonderful review!
I was gifted with a gift card for my Kindle, guess what I ordered.....😊
Lucky me!
Looking forward to my favorite reading chair & hot cup of tea soon.😍
Have a nice day!

Amy Valentini said...

Hi Dalila,
This anthology is worth so much more than 99¢. I hope you enjoy the stories, and your cup of tea! xox