This is by far one of the best historical anthologies I've read. It includes sweet to the more steamy romance but they are all very well crafted and especially unique in their own way. Each author voices their own piece through and at the end of it all romance is the after taste that you are left with. The reader may feel some stories are better than others however the set as a whole deserves the 5 stars I'm giving it because it truly granted me that feeling of being taken to another place and time and because at the end of each story I just had to start the next one. I had only read works from two of the authors but I'll definitely be reading more from the others.
His Lordship's Vow by Cheryl Bolen - Lord Slade must honor a vow but in doing so may have to put aside his growing feeling for the somewhat pretty but plain and extremely lean figured Ms. Featherstone. I swear, every time she was called plain I felt a punch to my own ego. This is one of the few stories I recall show an extremely intelligent but slighted heroine, not so much because she was plain but because she didn't have much to her name. I liked that about her. She knew her circumstances and yet she was making the best of them, as I'm sure many woman of the time had to. I mean no offense to any Austen fans but I can imagine Ms. Jane imagining a story like this one ;)
To Wager the Marquis of Wolverstone by Bronwen Evans - This is one that made me want to slap the hero I don't know how many times throughout the book. He was so crass and rude to the poor heroine! However he had very good reasons. He thought she had run away with another rich man when they were younger so when she approached him with a proposal, that is, the famous wager, he intended to take advantage of the situation and of her as much as he could. That would be his revenge on her. Little did he know things were not what they appeared (of course, as that's the twist) and many new secrets are discovered. The beginning was not much to my liking but as I continued reading and their story developed, I could feel the chemistry between them settling, and finally started feeling for them and what they had to go through in the past. There were a few things that made me raise an eyebrow regarding the plot and the heroine's actions but not enough to take away from the enjoyment of the heart of the story.
The Christmas Knot by Barbara Monajem - Another second chance story but this one with a different twist. I'm even going to call it a Gothic story with a comic relief, that of being the ghost. I don't know if the ghost is supposed to be funny but there are a couple of instances that she actually makes me laugh. Widowed Mrs. White seeks work as a governess in a house that is in shambles, haunted by a ghost, under a curse, and what's worst, her new employer is the only man she's ever loved but didn't marry because of a misunderstanding. The story takes us through a maze of suspense and clues in order to lift the curse and save someone's life. Not only that, but Edwina finds out that she never stopped loving Sir Richard, her employer, and will do anything to make him happy, even if that means leaving. Sir Richard seems so brooding and cold but it's also so understandable given what he's going through. I liked both of them, their interaction and how their relationship grew.
Bride of Falcon by Collette Cameron - Falcon is the kind of hero you feel and fall for right away. He's too flawed both emotionally and physically because of what he thinks were his failings during his time as a soldier and now he thinks he's not worthy of Ivonne's love. Ivonne is in a dire situation where he must choose a man to marry or The Prince Regent will choose one for her and the candidate is a man she detests. Her heart belongs to Falcon, as it always has but she now has to convince him that regardless of his looks and financial situation she will still have him. Ivonne's naïveté and innocence had me laughing most of the time, especially when she was with Falcon. She tries to be a "woman" and seeks for help but it seems no one around her wants or is there to help her! And then that same innocence makes Falcon believe she was just trying to satisfy her curiosity. For shame! Men of all eras can be so stupid. LOL Flawed or not, one of my favorite heroes ;)
The Duelist's Seduction by Lauren Smith - Ms. Helen Banks dresses herself as her twin brother in order to save his life. The morning of the duel she somehow locks him up because she was afraid if he was the one attending the duel and was killed, she'd end up in a workhouse or on the streets. However, once the cold-hearted and offended Mr. Fairfax realizes the ruse, he proposes something unexpected. This one had me confused at the beginning. Helen doesn't want her brother dead because she doesn't want to end in a brothel or on the streets selling her body but instead agrees to be Mr. Fairfax's mistress so he can forgive the debt? Supposedly, no one would know about the agreement but she'd know about it, and once her brother found out he'd probably ask for another duel, which would probably had the same outcome as her original fear which in turn would make the whole world know about it. It is explained however that Helen has always been attracted to Fairfax and has a curiosity about his rumored libidinous behavior with the ladies. She accepts hesitantly but exceedingly willingly (?) She wants to know more about pleasure and life before secluding herself to the hardships of life. The plot in itself is really good; it's just that her actions sounded a little contradictory. As the story progresses, we see another side of Fairfax, a warmer and loving side and we come to find out the reasons of his behavior. I fell in love with the H and h once I got past the beginning, and the romance didn't feel rushed or forced, it even felt tender at times, as if they had been friends for a long time. One of the steamiest of them all but very well done and I wish I could say more but I'm scared I'd be stepping on spoiler territory and I don't want to do that!
Christmas Wishes by Wendy Vella - Lovely Christmas story about Hero (that name itself makes me giggle) and Lord Max Caruthers. Hero is in dire need for money to make reparations for her house and to provide for orphans she's taken under her wing. She's a maiden with no fortune to her own and her own family has left her destitute. Well, it was that or life as a mistress to her cousin. So she decides to enlist the help of rich and rogue Max who wants nothing more in life than live in debauchery and decadence. He has the money, she needs the money, why not ask him for what he has in loads? Max falls for Hero because even though she is a lady in her manners and way of speaking, she says things as they see them and holds nothing back, and intrigues him even more because thinks the worst of him however called for his help. The children are a great addition to the story, especially dear Owen and Charlotte. I don't like when couples fall so quickly in love with each other but given that this is a short story I'm going to forgive that and focus that they found their HEA. The story started with a lot of levity but as it developed, more drama enfolded and the story turned a bit too dark. Not saying I didn't like it, just that I'd have loved to see the same feeling continue throughout the story.
Miss Watson's First Scandal by Heather Boyd - For some reason I found this one the quickest read of them and the funniest as well. Perhaps it was because our hero, David Hawke, was supposed to be all reserved and goody two shoes and the last thing he expected was to be seduced by one of his best friend's now fully grown sister. All he wanted when he got to the town of Brighton was to get some bad business out of the way and then enjoy some well deserved free time. However our heroine Abigail Watson had plans of her own, albeit I don't think her initial plan was to fall in love with David. To get out of debt, Abigail attempts to make her brother Robert marry a horrible but rich heiress and asks less than ladylike questions to David. David, while trying to secure her reputation, realizes how charming and innocently beautiful Abigail is. However, the big problem remains, how to get tell one of his best friends they are pretty much destitute and at the same time tell him she loves his sister? There were some good twists I didn't see coming and on the other hand would have like the story a bit longer to explain and give more details as to why things turned out the way they did but as usual as with the rest of the set, that did not demerit the enjoyment of the whole.
+++ I received a copy of this set in exchange of an honest review +++