Four Dukes and a Devil
The Irish Duke by Cathy Maxwell
After her parents died Susan Rodgers was forced to make a living for herself preparing girls for marriage. A huge tool in her recruitment box has been her knowledge of the Order of Precedence which states that the Irish Dukes come last. She shares this knowledge, secure that no Irish Duke will ever challenge her and is shocked when Roan, the Duke of Killeigh, comes to confront her. Both are swept up by the challenge the other presents and it is not long before Roan is trying to convince the beautiful spinster to marry him. Susan is terrified that Roan should be looking for a woman of his own station, but he manages to convince her that she is the only woman he wants. An incredibly short mini-novella, not much happens in the way of relationship development in the story. It is certainly a fun and entertaining read, but too much was crammed into too few pages. There is a brief steamy scene at the end that, while good, the space may have been better used showing the reader why/ how exactly these two came to fall in love with each other as a few stolen moments at very crowded balls doesn't really explain it very well.
The Duke Who Came to Dinner by Elaine Fox
Gray Gilliam's sudden decision to take a walk on the wild side ends badly when a dog runs off with her clothes while she's skinny dipping. Luckily the only person who notices her nude midnight bike ride through town is Sam Gregory, the owner of said dog. Gray is trying to loosen up while on vacation in Massachusetts and on a trip into the town's local dive has her leaving with Sam. Unfortunately back at her place the residential "ghost" decides to take matters into his hands and the night ends with some haunted visitors. The story was certainly better developed than "The Irish Duke" and the relationship really had time to really grow. The two spent quite a bit of time together and made a really good couple. I liked how it ended on a hopeful note, rather than on the completely finished note as it made it obvious that Gray and Sam were going to spend more time getting to know each other. The ghost story seemed a little blah and extra little nonsense, but the steamy scene, while not super exciting, made it obvious that when given more room to breathe, Fox is a great, sexy, writer.
Devil to Pay by Jeaniene Frost
Blake has been possessed by the an evil demon and is determined to kill himself even though the demon is doing everything he can to ensure that Blake does not do so. When Elise finds him reeking of death and blood she is drawn to him and brings him back to her lair. She is a vampire and has no fear of the demon but she wants to help Blake get rid of this evil force that has taken over him so she takes him to her sire, Mencheres. The only way he can think to get rid of the demon for good is to bring Blake out to the deserted salt flats and kill him with no living thing around to ensure that the demon does not possess another being. Elise is terrified of losing this person she is drawn to like she has not been drawn to before, but she is faced with the harsh truth that it may be the only way to get rid of this demon. I am not really much for demons and other-worldly creatures in my romance, but it was certainly exciting. Elise and Blake spent so much time together it was easy to see that they had enough time to "fall in love." There was quite a bit of action, some angst, and some nice steam. Despite this book being fairly good I would not have liked to read a full-length novel about this.
Catch of the Century by Sophia Nash
Victoria Givan is escorted her three orphaned charges to their apprenticeship when she is nearly run over by the a carriage. John Varick, the Duke of Beaufort, feels a sense of responsibility for the four travelers who seem intent on walking 60 miles and he offers them a ride. A night at a coaching inn makes it clear that the two can not be trusted to keep their hands off each other. When he discovers that their planned accommodations are ruins he then corrals them into staying at his house where Victoria and John do their best to avoid each other and temptation. That is easier said than done and after being bitten by a snake Victoria fears dying a virgin- a problem John is more than happy to rectify. The incident forces John to realizes that he wants the maddening and beautiful Victoria in his life for good, but Victoria fears joining John's hoi-paloi world and runs away. It is up to John to find her and convince her that she matters more than any society matron's opinion. Very fun and definitely the perfect length with nothing left out. I feel too much more of their argumentative banter would have gotten on my nerves and the reunion of past-novel characters would have been too frustrating. More a turn towards what I really like to read.
Charmed by her Smile by Tracy Anne Warren
India Byron is desperate to get rid of an unwanted suitor named Peter Harte and enlists the help of the first man she stumbles upon to kiss her. She was unaware that her savior is none other than the Quentin, the Duke of Weybridge, who has quite the reputation as a the ton's most notorious rake. Quentin has been suffering from a bout of ennui and spending time with this spunky, talkative, and very clever young lady may be just what he's looking for. Despite hitting it off so well Quentin is reluctant to make their relationship real even as they continue the ruse at a house party in order to ward of Peter's advances. Quentin is determined to keep things between them away from talk of marriage, even as he is coming to realize that India may mean so much more to him than he was expecting. I think it really says something when I felt like an 80 page short story was too long and I kept waiting for it to end. So many of the parts I wish had been expanded, such as them really getting to know each other and talking were washed over while other things (so unimportant I don't remember) were dragged out. There was steam, but this was the only story that didn't feature a "completion" and it certainly had plenty of angst.