Cheryl Bolen: Ex-Spinster By Christmas

Ex-Spinster By Christmas is a holiday gift for fans of Cheryl Bolen’s House of Haverstock Regency romance series, bringing siblings, in-laws, grandmothers, and babies from the Upton and Ponsby families together for Christmas at the country estate of the Duke of Aldridge.

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ex-spinster-by-christmasBut all is not holiday cheer for everyone. Lady Caroline Ponsby, the Duke’s sister, has had her fill of being a spinster. It’s not that she hasn’t had suitors—eleven men have offered for her since she came out into society—but the only man she cares for is Christopher Perry. Unfortunately, for all his affection, he seems averse to marriage and has never proposed. Caro is convinced that he never will. She wants a home of her own, and a baby. In short, she needs a husband, and she sets her sights on Lord Brockton, a handsome rake with an impressive home and a bad reputation.

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Christopher Perry has been madly in love with Caro since the day he met her, but he doesn’t believe himself worthy of a duke’s daughter. He’s immensely wealthy, but his money came from trade, and, even worse, his great-grandfather was a Jewish jeweler. How can he ask a lady like Caroline to marry so far beneath herself?

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When Christopher learns that Brockton is courting Caroline, and that the notorious rake has been invited to the family’s country home for Christmas, he is devastated. When his mother and sisters abandon him to attend another sister’s delivery, Christopher decides to take up his own invitation to the country, determined to prevent Caroline from making a terrible mistake.

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When the country Christmas holiday turns out to be far more eventful than anyone expected, true colors are revealed. Will there be a happy ending for Caro and Christopher? Well, this is a Christmas romance, after all.

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Ex-Spinster By Christmas is a holiday treat for Regency readers, and especially for lovers of the House of Haverstock stories, who will be happy to reconnect with so many members of the extended family.

After Pride and Prejudice

I have a confession to make. I am not a Jane Austen Fan. (Some of my romance writer friends will consider this blasphemy.) I haven’t read a word of Austen since I was in high school, several decades ago. Back then I had a matched set of paperbacks, and I remember the covers (oval pictures surrounded by green vines on a white background) better than I do the contents, although I know I read all four. Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility (never made sense of the title), Emma, and . . . what was that other one? Oh, yes, Mansfield Park. No idea what that one was about. Heck, I haven’t even watched the numerous movie and TV versions. Think I might have seen some version of Emma. Maybe.

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I think I’m in the minority on this. Some of my friends love the books, some love the movies (especially Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy), some love both. Not many, like me, don’t much care. Somewhere in the house I have a copy of Pride and Prejudice, but I’ve never gotten past the first couple of pages. (I think I have a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies on my old Kindle, but I never opened it.)

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Many Austen lovers have tried their hand (or keyboard) at Austen sequels and variations (mostly, as far as I know, based on Pride and Prejudice), an enterprise made possible by the growth of independent publishing, but I haven’t been swept into that phenomenon, either.

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So when I read Cheryl Bolen’s three post-Pride and Prejudice novellas, I was diving in cold. I recognized the Darcys and the Bennets (I haven’t actually been living in a cave all these years), but the supporting characters—which were Austen’s? which were Bolen’s?—were a mystery. But I enjoyed the stories very much.

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Pride & Prejudice Sequels

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Miss Darcy’s New Companion is Lucy Wetherspoon, who takes the position as Elizabeth and Darcy leave for their continental honeymoon. Lucy is a spinster without a fortune; the Darcys’ neighbor, Lord Fane, is a bachelor in need of a fortune with which to restore his own family’s home. Perhaps Georgiana’s dowry will do the trick—until he meets Lucy.

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In Miss Darcy’s Secret Love, Georgiana is wooed by a highly eligible bachelor, the Earl of Hampton (that thirty-thousand pound dowry might just have something to do with his interest), and she believes such a marriage would please her brother. But she can’t forget her feelings for her childhood friend Robert Carrington, who has recently come home to ask his brother for permission to marry a woman he met in Spain.

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Domineering mother Lady Catherine de Bourgh unwittingly arranges The Liberation of Miss de Bourgh when she arranges a marriage for her sickly daughter Anne. Charles St. John, the cash-strapped Earl of Seaton, needs the wherewithal to launch his sisters into society, so he agrees to a marriage of convenience with Anne, who isn’t expected to live past Christmas, in exchange for becoming the heir to the de Bourgh fortune. But when he takes Anne away from her mother, everything changes.

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If you’re a Jane Austen devotee, you’ll find much to appreciate in these novellas. If not (like me), you’ll still find much to enjoy, sweet romance with social commentary and humor.

Cheryl Bolen: Oh, What a (Wedding) Night

Cheryl Bolen’s latest Regency romance, Oh What a (Wedding) Night, the third in her Brazen Brides series, features mistaken identity, smuggling, and blackmail. Perfect setting for romance, right?

Oh What a Wedding NightLady Sophia Beresford has realized, just a bit too late, that she never should have married Lord Finkel, not even to save her younger sister’s reputation. So she climbs out the boudoir window, her timid maid in tow, and escapes, leaving Finkel in a state of . . . anticipation.

Desperate for shelter at a crowded coaching inn, and pursued by Finkel’s armed servants, Sophia approaches the only well-dressed traveler in sight, and boldly announces that she’s been searching for him.

William Birmingham, the youngest of the wealthy Birmingham brothers we met in One Golden Ring, is not as startled by this claim as one might expect, since he is at the inn to meet a beautiful woman called Isadore, who wishes to sell him eighty thousand pounds of smuggled gold bullion.

Although she has no idea who (or what) Isadore might be, Sophia takes on the role, passing off her maid as her conveniently mute older sister, and traveling back to London with William. As she slowly puts the pieces together and finds ways to stall on the delivery of the gold, she finds herself regretting that ill-timed marriage more with every moment she spends with William. Surely this man was meant to be the love of her life, but it’s too late.

In order to hide from Finkel, Sophia must remain secluded in William’s house on Grosvenor Square, where the real Isadore, and the gold, may show up at any time. Her pretense becomes even more complicated as William learns more about Isadore, and Finkel learns more about Sophia.

To tell more would spoil the surprises Bolen lays out for her characters and for her readers.

Oh What a (Wedding) Night is another most enjoyable tale of the members of Bolen’s many interconnected families.

Cheryl Bolen’s One Golden Ring

In One Golden Ring, Cheryl Bolen visits one of her favorite situations, the marriage of convenience. When Lady Fiona Hollingsworth learns that her brother is being held for ransom by Spanish bandits, she decides that the only collateral she has with which to raise 25,000 pounds is herself, and her status as the daughter of an earl. Even though her late father left a near-worthless estate to her missing brother, she knows her own value as a member of the ton. So she approaches extremely wealthy businessman Nicholas Birmingham, offering marriage and social standing in exchange for her brother’s ransom.

One Golden RingAt first thought, Nick Birmingham rejects the idea of marriage, although he is willing to loan, or even give, the ransom to the lovely Lady Fiona. Known as the Fox of the Exchange, Nick spends his days making money and his nights with ladies who are not Ladies. But when his brother Adam tells him he’s a fool to reject the marriage, Nick begins to realize just how attracted he is to Fiona, and accepts her offer.

Fiona and Nick are each cautiously pleased to find how well they get along, in the bed chamber as well as in the drawing room. But convenience does not equal confidence, and both have their reservations. Fiona believes that Nick has married her only for her social status (that was the agreement, after all), and knows about his recent mistress. Is her husband still seeing the pretty actress? And why won’t Nick discuss his business activities with her?

Nick believes Fiona has married him only for his money (that agreement, again), and that she is still in love with the earl to whom she was once engaged, before he married another woman (in Bolen’s The Counterfeit Countess).

Tensions build over differences in social standing as well as more practical matters. Can Fiona accept Nick’s young illegitimate daughter? Will her snobbish brother forgive her for marrying the businessman who provided his ransom? Can Nick rescue his own brother from peril? And what will happen when Nick’s shy sister discovers the true identity of the man she’s met in the park?

Bolen pulls all the threads together in a delightful story of two people who are just a little too restrained to admit to their unexpected love for one another, so obvious to all those around them, in a most enjoyable Regency romance.

Cheryl Bolen’s Egyptian Affair

An Egyptian Affair is the fourth installment in Cheryl Bolen’s light-hearted Regent Mystery series, continuing the adventures of Captain Jack Dryden, former spy for the Duke of Wellington, and his wife and investigating partner, Lady Daphne.

An Egyptian AffairThe Prince Regent has turned over a substantial sum of money to a trusted Indian dealer in antiquities, Prince Edward Duleep Singh, for the purchase of a golden mask of the mummy of the pharaoh Amun-re. Now the dealer, the money, and the mask have all gone missing in Egypt, and the Regent wants Jack and Daphne to track them down.

Jack is more than ready for the job, but he thinks it may be too dangerous for Daphne (not to mention her propensity for sea-sickness). Daphne, however, is not about to be left at home, and the Regent agrees. Jack can hardly refuse when the Regent announces he will send ten of his own House Guards as security, and Stanton Maxwell, a young but renowned Orientologist, as guide and interpreter.

With Daphne’s youngest sister, Rosemary, along for the voyage, the party arrives in Egypt, where they are welcomed by Ralph Arbuthnot of the British Consulate in Cairo. Their trip down the Nile, complete with naked farm workers on shore, serves to convince the British travelers that they’re definitely not in London any more.

Cairo swarms with suspicious characters. Habeeb, the local dragoman hired for them by Arbuthnot, disappears from time to time. Gareth Williams, a deserter from Jack’s company at the Battle of Badajoz, pops up when least expected. What does the Turkish Pasha who rules the country know about the missing antiquities dealer? Is Ahmed Hassein, a rival antiquities dealer, not quite the “friendly competitor” he claims to be? And what about rival antiquities collector Sheik al Mustafa? Or Lord Beddington, the British explorer whose location is so hard to pin down?

Before long Jack and Daphne have discovered a murder, and things only become more complicated when Rosemary disappears from her tent during a visit to the pyramids.

Jack and Daphne take the reader on a tour of early nineteenth century Egypt while searching for answers to their many questions. An Egyptian Affair combines exotic locations, mysterious disappearances, and a bit of romance into a very entertaining story.

Catch up with the Regent Mystery series: With His Lady’s Assistance, A Most Discreet Inquiry, and The Theft Before Christmas, available separately or as a boxed set for your favorite e-reader.

Cheryl Bolen’s Countess by Coincidence

As its title would suggest, Cheryl Bolen’s latest Regency romance opens with wild coincidences and foolish behavior, all of which combine to throw the hero and heroine of Countess By Coincidence into that favorite entertaining (for the reader!) predicament, the Marriage of Convenience.

Countess By CoincidenceMargaret Ponsby, sister of the Duke of Aldridge (the hero of Bolen’s Duchess by Mistake) has harbored a girlish crush on John Beauclerc, the Earl of Finchley, for years, although she has never actually spoken to him. His grandmother is her neighbor, and she has watched him coming and going from her window. When she stops at a local church one morning and finds herself swept to the altar by the earl, she assumes she’s been recruited to act as bride in a proxy wedding.

Finch, as the earl is known to his friends, is a good-hearted rake who has concocted a ridiculous scheme to marry a stranger and pay her to go away, thus proving to his wealthy grandmother that he has matured enough to handle the money she has been too cautious to settle on him. (Finch’s grandmother, mind you, is far too intelligent to fall for this nonsense.)

Determined to make the best of her unexpected lot, Margaret persuades Finch to let her move in with him and take up her formal position as his countess (much to the bewilderment of her family) while he continues to lead a life of freedom with his trio of equally rakish friends. Margaret would love to have a proper marriage and family with Finch, but she tries to convince herself that she’ll settle for a home of her own and friendship with this oddly endearing (and very handsome) man.

Finch, meanwhile, has absolutely no use for a wife or marriage, or so he tells himself and his friends—over and over again. But Maggie would be such a perfect wife. If he wanted one. Which of course he doesn’t. Does he?

Countess By Coincidence is a sweet, heartwarming story of two people who are perfect for one another, if only they can see past the nature of their accidental relationship. The third installment in Bolen’s House of Haverstock series (which began with Lady By Chance) also continues the story of the home for war widows and orphans established by Margaret’s sister-in-law Elizabeth and provides happy endings for several supporting characters. If you love traditional Regency romance, you will certainly enjoy this series.

Recent Reading: More Mysteries

Here are three more mysteries I’ve enjoyed recently, two set in Texas and one in Florida, all quick and entertaining reads.

Katie Graykowski’s Rest in Pieces is the first in a new humorous mystery series, the PTO Murder Club, set in the Austin, Texas, area. Mustang Ridges, the first person narrator is funny and snarky and goes off on Rest in Pieceshilarious tangents, all while trying to hold together her life as a recently divorced mom. She doesn’t really need to be investigating the death of the local kindergarten teacher, unlikely as the verdict of death by heroin overdose may seem, but she and her fellow PTO board members, Haley and Monica, just can’t leave it alone. Add the suspicious attentions of TWO attractive men, a bit of breaking and entering, and a midnight manicure, and you have quite an adventure. Graykowski leaves enough loose ends to fuel the next installment; I hope it comes soon!

Murder at Veranda House is one of Cheryl Bolen’s Texas Heroines in Peril romantic suspense quartet, but it is a stand-alone novel. Annette Holcombe is a young widow, opening the historic Galveston Island homeMurder at Veranda House she inherited from her late (but not particularly lamented) husband as a Bed and Breakfast. Her first week as hostess at Veranda House brings a lot more than she counted on: murder, guests who may not be who they claim to be, a possible missing treasure, and a tropical storm that can’t seem to make up its mind. Annette can’t make up her mind, either, about the handsome guest who charms her young daughter and has designs of his own on her.

This tale of romance and mystery will be especially entertaining to readers who are familiar with Galveston Island, featuring as it does historic houses and island charm. All in all, Murder at Veranda House is a quick and suspenseful read.

Killer BlondeKiller Blonde is a novella entry in Elaine Viets’ Dead End Jobs series, a long-time favorite of mine. Fans will enjoy hearing the voice of Marjorie Flax, colorful (mainly purple) septuagenarian owner of the Coronado apartments, as she tells Helen Hawthorne the story of a perfect murder committed forty years before. The tale is especially entertaining if you remember the office politics (and fashions!) of the 1970s. A must for Helen and Marjorie’s many fans.

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