The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

Normally, I do the “Read More” thing after the book description, but since the description contains a MAJOR spoiler for The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, I am warning readers not to proceed if they have any intention of starting the series. Yes, this book came out six months ago, but if I can be six months behind with review writing, then certainly there can be readers who are six months behind with their TBR.

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Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade by Nancy Springer

Book Description

Enola Holmes, the much younger sister of Sherlock, is now living independently in London and working as a scientific perditorian (a finder of persons and things). But that is not the normal lot of young women in Victorian England. They are under the near absolute control of their nearest male relative until adulthood. Such is the case of Enola’s friend, Lady Cecily Alastair. Twice before Enola has rescued Lady Cecily from unpleasant designs of her caddish father, Sir Eustace Alastair, Baronet. And when Enola is brusquely turned away at the door of the Alastair home it soon becomes apparent that Lady Cecily once again needs her help.

Affecting a bold escape, Enola takes Lady Cecily to her secret office only to be quickly found by the person hired by Lady Cecily’s mother to find the missing girl – Sherlock Holmes himself. But the girl has already disappeared again, now loose on her own in the unforgiving city of London.

Even worse, Lady Cecily has a secret that few know. She has dual personalities – one, which is left-handed, is independent and competent; the other, which is right-handed, is meek and mild. Now Enola must find Lady Cecily again – before one of her personalities gets her into more trouble than she can handle and before Sherlock can find her and return her to her father. Once again, for Enola, the game is afoot.

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Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble by Alexis Hall

Book Description

From the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material comes a sweet and scrumptious romantic comedy about facing your insecurities, finding love, and baking it off, no matter what people say. 

Paris Daillencourt is a recipe for disaster. Despite his passion for baking, his cat, and his classics degree, constant self-doubt and second-guessing have left him a curdled, directionless mess. So when his roommate enters him in Bake Expectations, the nation’s favourite baking show, Paris is sure he’ll be the first one sent home.
 
But not only does he win week one’s challenge—he meets fellow contestant Tariq Hassan. Sure, he’s the competition, but he’s also cute and kind, with more confidence than Paris could ever hope to have. Still, neither his growing romance with Tariq nor his own impressive bakes can keep Paris’s fear of failure from spoiling his happiness. And when the show’s vicious fanbase confirms his worst anxieties, Paris’s confidence is torn apart quicker than tear-and-share bread.
 
But if Paris can find the strength to face his past, his future, and the chorus of hecklers that live in his brain, he’ll realize it’s the sweet things in life that he really deserves.
 

Content guidance: Main character with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder (that does get diagnosed), on page panic attack, hospital stay due to panic attack, treatment plan for anxiety disorder discussed, emotionally-unavailable parents, very graphic swearing, cyberbullying, religious and racial microaggressions, Islamophobia (challenged).

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Husband Material by Alexis Hall

Book Description

In BOYFRIEND MATERIAL, Luc and Oliver met, pretended to fall in love, fell in love for real, dealt with heartbreak and disappointment and family and friends…and somehow figured out a way to make it work. Now it seems like everyone around them is getting married, and Luc’s feeling the social pressure to propose. But it’ll take more than four weddings, a funeral, and a hotly contested rainbow balloon arch to get these two from “I don’t know what I’m doing” to “I do”.

Good thing Oliver is such perfect HUSBAND MATERIAL.

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Always Be My Duchess by Amalie Howard

Book Description

Pretty Woman meets the Bridgertons in this witty, vivacious historical take on 90s romcoms by USA Today bestselling author Amalie Howard: 

Lord Lysander Blackstone, the stern Duke of Montcroix, has only one interest: increasing his considerable fortune. After a series of betrayals, he keeps his emotions buried deep. Money, after all, can’t break a man’s heart—or make promises it can’t keep. But when his reputation for being heartless jeopardizes a new business deal, he finds himself seeking a most unusual—and alluring—solution . . . 

Once an up-and-coming ballerina, Miss Geneviève Valery is now hopelessly out of work. After refusing to become a wealthy patron’s mistress, Nève was promptly shown the door to the streets. When she accidentally saves the life of a handsome duke, she doubts the encounter will go any better than her last brush with nobility. But instead of propositioning her, Montcroix makes Nève an offer she would be a fool to refuse: act as his fake fiancée in exchange for fortune enough to start over.

Only neither is prepared when very real feelings begin to grow between them. They both stand to win . . . but only if they’re willing to risk their hearts.

My Review

This charming Victorian era historical romance is the story two people from different worlds forging a connection. A chance encounter between Lysander and Nève leads to an offer—not an indecent proposal, but rather a fake engagement scheme.

Despite being at the top of the social hierarchy, Lysander has developed a reputation for being cold and unapproachable. His one great love jilted him; I won’t say for whom she left him, but yikes. Yet Lord Super Grump’s heart grows three sizes over the course of the book as he does nice things for Nève just because. Likewise, Nève learns that after a lifetime of keeping her guard up and fending for herself, putting her trust in someone will not lead to her losing everything she has worked so hard to maintain.

The two protagonists are supported by a well-rounded cast of secondary characters, some of whom will almost definitely be promoted to a leading role in subsequent books in the series. Lysander’s aged aunt stole the show at every possible opportunity, and the villains of the piece chewed the scenery just the right amount whenever they appeared in a scene.

I would recommend Always Be My Duchess. The protagonists are likeable, and they have good chemistry together. The banter is light and fun, and this is clearly a great beginning to a new series. I’m looking forward to reading more from Howard in the future.

I received a digital ARC of this book from Forever/NetGalley

A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall

Book Description

When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.

Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.

As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.

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Reputation by Lex Croucher

Book Description

Bridgerton meets Gossip Girl with a dash of Jane Austen, in Reputation, a Regency-era historical romantic comedy with a deliciously feminist twist, from a hilarious new British voice, Lex Croucher.

Abandoned by her parents, bookish and sheltered Georgiana Ellers is spending the summer with her stodgy aunt and uncle at their home in the English countryside. At a particularly dull party, she meets the enigmatic Frances Campbell, a wealthy member of the in-crowd who delights Georgiana with her disregard for so-called “polite society.”

Lonely and vulnerable, Georgiana quickly falls in with Frances and her wealthy, wild, and deeply improper friends, who introduce her to the upper echelons of Regency aristocracy, and a world of drunken debauchery, frivolous spending, and mysterious young men. One, in particular, stands out from the rest: Thomas Hawksley, who has a tendency to cross paths with Georgiana in her most embarrassing moments. Sparks fly, but Thomas seems unimpressed with the company she is keeping. And soon, Georgiana begins to wonder whether she’ll ever feel like she fits in––or if the price of entry into Frances’s gilded world will ultimately be higher than she is willing to pay.

Set against a backdrop of lavish parties, handsome men on horseback––and in a time when one’s reputation was everything––this edgy, hilarious romantic comedy explores sex, consent, belonging, and status through the eyes of an unforgettable heroine that Austen herself would have cheered for.

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The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

Book Description

Why would the world’s most famous mystery writer disappear for eleven days? What makes a woman desperate enough to destroy another woman’s marriage? How deeply can a person crave revenge?

In 1925, Miss Nan O’Dea infiltrated the wealthy, rarefied world of author Agatha Christie and her husband, Archie. In every way, she became a part of their life––first, both Christies. Then, just Archie. Soon, Nan became Archie’s mistress, luring him away from his devoted wife, desperate to marry him. Nan’s plot didn’t begin the day she met Archie and Agatha.

It began decades before, in Ireland, when Nan was a young girl. She and the man she loved were a star-crossed couple who were destined to be together––until the Great War, a pandemic, and shameful secrets tore them apart. Then acts of unspeakable cruelty kept them separated.

What drives someone to murder? What will someone do in the name of love? What kind of crime can someone never forgive? Nina de Gramont’s brilliant, unforgettable novel explores these questions and more.

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The Missing Page by Cat Sebastian

Book Description

England, 1948: Semi-retired spy Leo Page and country doctor James Sommers team up to solve a decades-old mystery.

When James learns that an uncle he hasn’t heard from in ages has left him something in his will, he figures that the least he can do is head down to Cornwall for a weekend to honor the old man’s parting wishes. He finds the family home filled with half-remembered guests and unwanted memories, but more troubling is that his uncle has tasked his heirs with uncovering the truth behind a woman’s disappearance twenty years earlier.

Leo doesn’t like any of it. He’s just returned from one of his less pleasant missions and maybe he’s slightly paranoid about James’s safety, but he’s of the opinion that rich people aren’t to be trusted where wills are concerned. So he does what any sensible spy would do and infiltrates the house party.

Together they unravel a mystery that exposes long-standing family secrets and threatens to involve James more than either of them would like.

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Proper Scoundrels by Allie Therin

Book Description

Their scandalous pasts have left them wounded and unworthy—and hopelessly perfect together.

London, 1925

Sebastian de Leon is adjusting to life after three years spent enthralled by blood magic. The atrocities he committed under its control still weigh heavily on his conscience, but when he’s asked to investigate a series of mysterious murders, it feels like an opportunity to make amends. Until he realizes the killer’s next likely target is a man who witnessed Sebastian at his worst—the Viscount Fine.

Lord Fine—known as Wesley to his friends, if he had any—is haunted by ghosts of his own after serving as a British army captain during the Great War. Jaded and untrusting, he’s tempted to turn Sebastian in, but there’s something undeniably captivating about the reformed paranormal, and after Sebastian risks his own life to save Wesley’s, they find common ground.

Seeking sanctuary together at Wesley’s country estate in Yorkshire, the unlikely pair begins to unravel a mystery steeped in legend and folklore, the close quarters emboldening them to see past the other’s trauma to the person worth loving beneath. But with growing targets on their backs, they’ll have to move quickly if they want to catch a killer—and discover whether two wounded souls can help each other heal.

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