The Escape Artist Book Blog

Books are my escape...I need it. My life is super busy between working full time, being a mom of 2 super social kids, a traveling husband, and an annoying habit of not being able to say "No". 


Scandalous Read

Scandalous Summer Nights - Sandy Raven, Vivienne Westlake, Sabrina Darby, Jennifer Haymore, Grace Callaway, Kate McKinley, Sue London

Scandalous Summer Nights is an enjoyable collection of historical romances that is hard to put down.  I enjoyed each story and wanted to keep reading and reading.  I had only read one of the authors before so it was a nice way for me to experience these new to me writers.


“The Widow Vanishes” by Grace Callaway was a good start to the collection.  Annabel Foster is a widow left penniless from a gambling husband. Indebted to the evil gambling hell proprietor, she is forced to become a whore.  On her first night being open for business, she is chosen as the one to spend the night with former soldier William McLeod, who has received his choice of courtesans for the night as a reward from his boss, the same evil gambling hell proprietor.  They have a fabulous night and she runs off in the morning to escape her boss.  McLeod follows and vows to take care of her and settle her debt, but the gambling hell owner makes it, well, hell to clear.


I just finished another book by Grace Callaway that was ok and I liked this story better.  The only thing I don’t like about her writing style, and which I noticed in the other book I read, is her use of descriptors such as “tits” and “pussy” when describing the sex scenes.  I looked up in the online etymology dictionary that tits was not used until late 19th century and pussy in the early 20th century, not that the characters were using the terms themselves, but still in a period book I would think the author would keep to the current lingo.  I also have a personal bias toward the word pussy for some unknown reason buried in my subconscious.


The chemistry between Annabel and McLeod was very good.  It was interesting that she never called him by his first name, but McLeod, which was kind of funny during the love scenes. 


“Scandal Before Sunrise” by Sabrina Darby was one of my favorites.  Abigail Billings returns for a season after disappearing a few years ago with no word to her friends.  She ran with a fast crowd and people of the ton suspect there may have been a scandal but that doesn’t stop Abigail from being accepted back into the fold.  She desperately needs to find a husband before everyone finds out about her family’s finances. Elliot Jones has also just returned after doing his duty fighting for England.  The younger son of an earl, there are no real expectations of him to marry.  However, he becomes intrigued by Abigail Billings and must uncover the reason for her mysterious departure and return.


I hadn’t read Sabrina Darby before and she appears to be a fairly new writer with only a few Regency books and several novellas in both HR and contemporary.  I liked her writing and this story was captivating.  There is an instant attraction between Abigail and Elliot, but Abigail needs to marry and Elliot has no inclination.  He’d rather have a fling, which of course would not serve Abigail who is trying to avoid more scandal.  The reason for Abigail leaving kept me in suspense and I did not suspect what occurred. I thought the ending was a bit too swift though, but then again, this is a novella so I suppose these stories do have to be summed up.

“A Highlander’s Heart” by Jennifer Haymore almost doesn’t go with the themes of this collection seeing as it is a story about a Scottish warrior, but he fights for England in the war against Napoleon with his regiment, the Gordon Highlanders.  While Major Sir Robert Campbell has been fighting, his estranged wife, Lady Claire Campbell has been awaiting word and finally cannot wait any longer and travels to Waterloo.  There begins the story of their reunion and ultimate reconciliation.


The story of Lady Claire’s and Major Robert’s estrangement and reconciliation was a romantic one.  The reason for their estrangement is not revealed until much later in the story.  It’s a classic tale of miscommunication in getting reconciled and typical but the secondary characters assistance is original.  I found myself rooting for the couple throughout the story.


“Lord Lucifer’s Diciple” by Sue London competes for my number one favorite in this collection.  The incredibly, painfully, shy hero, John Edwards, is debilitated to the point of impersonating his friend in order to attend a ball put on by his cousin.  It is at this ball he meets the untouchable heiress, Elisa Jarvis, who is so tired of being pursued and adored she has become jaded and is intrigued by the mystery man behind the mask.  The hilarity ensues while John discovers himself underneath his mistaken identity and tries to distinguish himself among all the suitors vying for the chance to become Elisa’s betrothed. 


This is a sweet tale that I couldn’t put down and was wanting more when it ended.  What was cute was that everyone was rooting for John – his closest friends and family, yet he had to prove himself to Elisa which was a challenge.  John’s transformation during this story is compelling and how he demonstrates his love for Elisa is impressive.  I would have liked to read a bit more about them after the ending, but it will have to be in my imagination I guess.


“How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days” by Kate McKinley was the first story I’ve read of hers.  It begins with the re - introduction of Lucas Alexander, Duke of Arlington, to Pippa Welby, a daughter of a wealthy tradesman, and announcement by the Duke that he has set the date of their engagement ball in ten days.  Pippa puts up a fierce fight – trying to get Lucas to break off the engagement at every turn.  Nothing she does is so terrible as much as bothersome to Lucas and he is undeterred.  Pippa doesn’t want to be his duchess – why? – she has been mocked by members of the ton since her father became successful and rich and inserted himself and Pippa into society.  She must be super sensitive because she does not want to be associated with the ton as a duchess and doesn’t appreciate being strong-armed into doing anything. 


There is heat when she finally succumbs to the inevitable but even to the last second no one is sure what she will do.  I got frustrated with Pippa as Lucas is so alpha male and it was very difficult to see why she was going to let some petty girl drama get in the way of her becoming a duchess, but once she started to let herself be taken in by Lucas, all was good and I thought the scenes they had together were pretty steamy.


“Miss Amelia Lands a Duke” by Sandy Raven was the story I enjoyed the least.  Amelia is a spinster and even though she is the granddaughter to a duke, she is destitute and becomes the “paid” companion to her narcissistic aunt.  They arrive at a house party where her aunt is intent on acquiring her next husband, the Duke of Caversham.  Amelia has a falling out with her aunt upon arrival, and finds herself banished from the activities, but it is in her solitude that she meets the Duke and he becomes immediately enamored with her, albeit for his next mistress.  Subsequently, they are caught in a compromising position and he feels he must do the honorable thing and marry her, however, she doesn’t want to marry him.  The Duke is also in his early 50’s, a widower with grown kids, and Amelia is 30 years or so younger. 


It is the age difference that, to me, makes this story unique.  There are definitely not a lot of Regency romances that I’ve read where there is this substantial age difference.  There’s usually a reference to a marriage taken place where there was this age difference, and the woman who has become a widower, is back on the prowl.  So this was interesting in that here we have Cav, who is all about his “weekly” (only weekly!) visits to his mistresses and not considering marriage at all.  Yet, when things come to pass with Amelia, he decides marriage is the solution and chuckles about his newfound situation.  Amelia is fiercely independent and fights the match not seeming to realize what power she will have as a duchess.  The aunt of hers is a crazy wackjob so it is good she is able to get away from her. 


Not a bad story, just not one I got into as much as the others in this collection.


“Lady Northam’s Wicked Surrender” by Vivienne Westlake was a hot short tale.  Rowena, Countess of Northam, and Simon were once courting until Simon had to go to fight the war in Spain.  Rowena never heard from Simon and in fact thought he had abandoned her so she married his best friend.  Now six years later, Simon has returned and they find themselves in the same house, that of his sister who is in confinement.  Rowena is now a widow and has not forgotten Simon and seeing as his room is right next door to hers, they might just be able to pick up where they leave off.


There was immediate sexual tension when Simon returns.  And he returns to hear Rowena in her bed in the middle of a sex dream about…Simon.  So of course, he thinks all is well and they’ll just pick up where they left off, but she regains her senses and puts the brakes on that.  They must discover the root cause of the misunderstanding but not without some anger, frustration and reconciliation sex.


All in all, a fabulous collection of stories, all enjoyable, and I am really looking forward to reading more from these authors.


Thanks to NetGalley for providing a DRC for my review.