Thursday, October 22, 2015

First Season/Bride to Be by Jane Ashford


Publisher & Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, October 6, 2015

Time and setting: Early 19th century, London

Genre: Historical Romance

Length: 512

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description:

Two classic Regency romances by beloved bestselling author Jane Ashford celebrate the adventures of a London Season
Widowed Lady Anabel Wyndham was married right out of the schoolroom and has never before experienced the delights of a London Season. She's dazzled by the attention of the fascinating Sir Charles Norbury, a man whose touch seems to melt her very soul, but a notorious rake. She's drawn to handsome friend-of-the-family Christopher Hanford and the comfort and serenity he offers. But how does one choose between two such charming suitors? Anabel is finding that love is so much more dangerous the second time around.
Emily Crane is the toast of the ton-and she couldn't find it more tedious. Until she encounters the darkly sensual stranger whose life she once saved and the London Season becomes infinitely more exciting. Recently returned from the wilds of South America, Lord Richard Sheldon has only contempt for tiresome London chits, but he finds himself stunningly intrigued by the dauntless Emily Crane. When the two become embroiled in a budding scandal and are forced into an engagement, they discover a passion more dangerous than any killer...
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First Season Excerpt

“There you are,” said someone from the hall below. “They said you had gone upstairs.”

Anabel looked down to find Sir Charles Norbury gazing up at her. A tingling shock ran through her body, and the candle trembled a little, dripping wax.

“You have missed the first waltz,” he added, meeting her at the bottom of the staircase and taking the candlestick from her hand. He snuffed the flame between forefinger and thumb and set it aside. “And I came early especially to engage you for it.”

“I wanted to look in on the children.” As always, his presence overwhelmed her. He seemed to tower over her, yet his pale green eyes felt close and compelling. She found it hard to breathe.

“It is a country dance now, unfortunately. Mayn’t we wait outside here for the next and hope?” He smiled and reached for her hand to lead her across to a small empty anteroom.

Anabel knew she should say no, but her voice seemed to have died, and she went with him silently and allowed him to escort her to a sofa and sit beside her, his arm thrown along its back.

“You look exquisite tonight,” he said softly. “The loveliest woman at the ball.”

This outrageous compliment revived her. “What a plumper. There are dozens of prettier ones.”


“Flatterer.” She smiled, but when she met his eyes, they were very serious.

“No,” he said again. “To me you are the most beautiful.” He held her gaze for a moment, then slowly bent forward and took possession of her lips, his arm tightening around her shoulders.

Anabel’s slight trembling increased, and her mind dissolved in confusion. She should pull away, part of it cried; this was terribly fast, and someone might come in at any moment. But another part urged her on, fascinated by Sir Charles’ attractions and filled with curiosity.

His kiss was very expert, and nothing at all like her deceased husband’s, Anabel’s only standard of comparison. His lips seemed to draw all strength out of her, leaving her limp and pliant, yet she felt disconnected from the expected sensual pleasure. He knew how to draw response from her body, clearly, but her heart and mind remained in turmoil.

Norbury, on the contrary, was in the grip of feelings stronger than any he had ever experienced, and for him the kiss confirmed a decision. This was the woman he wanted. Never had his passions been suffused with such emotion. Beyond thinking, he moved his free hand to Anabel’s knee and slid it upward caressingly, savoring the curve of her waist under the thin satin dress and cupping his fingers around her breast. She drew her breath in sharply.

A scuff of footsteps in the hall, followed by a scrap of conversation and a laugh, jerked Anabel upright. She pulled away from him only just in time to avoid being caught by two couples coming into the room. But it was obvious in the way that the newcomers stopped, smiled, and apologized that their appearance gave them away. Anabel rose and hurried from the room, Norbury behind her. Her cheeks were flaming, and she felt that she could not possibly face the crowd in the ballroom.

Vikki’s Musings

Jane Ashford is not a new author for me. Since I had another book for her and enjoyed it a great well, when Sourcebooks offered me a chance to read and review this one in exchange for an honest review, I eagerly accepted. Both books were previously published many years ago and written as traditional regency romances. While I didn’t enjoy First Season as much as I did Bride to Be, both books pulled me in to the regency era, which I loved.

First Season

This book is written in the omniscient point of view, which is different than most books I read. While I enjoyed reading the introspection from many of the characters, it did interfere with the closeness I need with my hero and heroine. This also interfered with the pacing a bit because I felt the omniscient POV gave me glimpses that did not move the story along.

Lady Anabel Wyndham is a difficult character to like. She doesn’t take charge of her life, allowing her family and friends to do it for her. While she is a typical heroine for a traditional regency, I would have liked to see more decisiveness in her character.

I did like Christopher Hanford’s character quite a lot. He is honorable and a true friend to Anabel, even though she takes him for granted for the majority of the story. What’s not the like about a hero who is kind to everyone, especially Anabel’s children?

I did enjoy Georgina, a secondary character, a great deal and would love to see her get her happy ending.  I also enjoyed the scenes with the children, but I do feel that Anabel seemed to be a distant mother much of the time. If you enjoy traditional regencies with traditional characters, then you may like First Season. I would rate First Season if it were a standalone, 3.5 Gold Crowns

Bride to Be

I thoroughly enjoyed Bride to Be. The story flowed smoothly and kept me engaged from the beginning to the end. It is always helpful when the author introduces the hero and heroine in the first scene. The chemistry is evident from that first encounter and only grows stronger as the story 

Emily Crane’s character is a delight and very endearing, her quirky eccentricities drew me. She also has the patience of a saint to remain so calm when even more eccentric parents take a notion to do some outlandish behavior, especially her father. She is the perfect woman for Richard.

The Richard Crane of this story is greatly different from the man who left on the voyage that left him stranded in the South American continent. He obviously experienced a complete reversal of all that he held dear. Now, he is an honorable man, determined to do right by his title and turn his fortunes and lands around.

As this story progresses the sexual tension builds to a satisfying happy ending. I really wanted Richard and Emily to find their “happily ever after.” Bride to Be is a marvelous example of why I love regencies. I highly recommend this story for all who enjoy a more traditional historical romance, yet one with plenty of plot twists that move the story along at a fast clip. If Bride to Be were on its own, I would give it 5 Gold Crowns. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. That delight led her to study English literature and travel widely in Britain and Europe. Her historical and contemporary romances have been published in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, Slovenia, and Spain, as well as the U.S. Twenty-six of her new and backlist Regency romances are being published by Sourcebooks. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. She is currently rather nomadic.

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