Having read a previous book by Ms Bennett, I pretty much knew what to expect in the Heat Level Stakes, and this is a hot read, so if you’re looking for a sweet Regency line incorporating unruly children, and a meek minded governess, this book is not for you.

The heroine, Abigail, is no shrinking violet, though does pertain to reserved countenance to suit the moment. More than aware of the consequences of crossing the divide between servant and master, she is of the upper floor staff, therefore regular contact with her employer is commonplace. But, envy below and above stairs can often arise if a governess is seen to advance her station, and when Abigail does just that she risks more than her reputation when the devastatingly good-looking Lord Nicholas stirs simmering sexual needs within. Much to his surprise she takes the devilish rake by his horns. Thus a whirlwind of secret liaisons sweep them away into a vortex of sexual pleasures of the flesh, until that is, the outside world comes knocking at his door. With his duties as host paramount, Abigail is forced back into her Governess box as though merely one of his Lordship’s discarded toys, but unlike most women scorned who seek revenge, Abigail unexpectedly takes flight. Nonetheless, the HEA culminates with a racy ending to a book that one might do well to read in private, or read aloud to a lover! With well-written prose, bawdy dialogue, and explicit love scenes, this book doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is - an erotic romance novel.


“Royal Pains Series” begins in 1678 and thence onward from 1680, thus set within post-Restoration England and the reign of Charles II (1660-1685). Taking into account the life and times of the Duke of Dunwoody’s existence, life in general is tough, and he’s not given to the sweeter things to begotten from love and romance. With a passion for the darker side of eroticism, his fellow debauched monarch is but an angel alongside. And whilst Dunwoody bemoans his Catholic hide when south of the border in England, he has more to worry about when travelling within the strict precincts of the Scottish Presbyterian Ministry, that is, until the death of Charles II and James II’s ascendancy to the throne. Like many other Catholics, Dunwoody sees a bright future ahead with a Catholic monarch at the helm. Even a Protestant Rebellion is quashed with brutal force, and whilst Catholics aspire to high office within the royal court, few foresee the dreadful aftermath that is set to bring about the downfall of the Catholic King (1688- The Glorious Revolution). With large splashes of historical input and a goodly amount of Dunwoody perversions, Ms Mason has painted an erotic 17th century tapestry for lovers of rakish dukes


Regency (Steamy/Sensual)

Reviewed by Katie

The Duke of Malchester, Devon Howard, was thirty-two, twice a widower, shrouded in gossip and suspicion regarding the deaths of his previous wives, his treatment of servants and his libertine ways.  At seventeen, Liliana was literally auctioned off and married to the highest bidder. It was no wonder she was afraid to entrust her body, mind or heart to a man she met a month prior to the wedding.  The nuptial night, while exciting, wasn’t enough to convince her to lower her guard and so, Liliana clung to her dignity, residing at Calder Hall, a duchess in name only.  For three years, Devon roamed who knows where with an entourage that included his mistress.  His absences were long, his visits short and pleasant enough, so long as she kept her distance.

When her beloved grandfather dies, things come to the point between them.  Devon presses for her admission that they could be more than married in name only.  She agrees but only if he removes his mistress from their home and his life, permanently.  Surprisingly (not), his mistress objects to this and sets in motion a plan to ruin Devon and Liliana’s newborn happiness.  Secrets are thrust into the light of day; tragedy is dressed in silks and lies, while sorrow hides behind parties and titles, altogether creating a compelling tale that makes you shudder and gasp right along with the characters.

This was not a comfortable story but it was a most excellent read!  With the feel of a traditional gothic, written in a style well aware of the modern reader, the author never forgets the values and mores of the times. Neither can you.  Her atmospheric tone is perfect; lush and a bit bawdy, which suits the Duke very well indeed.  The dismal facts of family life that saw children living entirely separate from their parents until they could be of use, and the reality of arranged marriages seldom being more than tolerable, are facts historical readers and writers know yet are seldom willing to accept beyond the plot device or back story. 

Ms. Howarth doesn’t back up to these realities, she wields them with empathetic skill.  I swear I could hear her sighs in the dark corridors and possibly felt her restraining hand when I wanted to smack her hero for being a - well, an ass.  She doesn’t apologize for a hero that genuinely believes a woman wasn’t really his mistress so long as he didn’t penetrate her vagina.  Neither is she ashamed of a heroine that allows the past to be put aside because she wants a future that means something more than disdainful distance and loneliness.  That Devon and Liliana go from physical passion to emotional friendship while proclaiming love rang with realistic emphasis on the way things were, and sometimes still are.  As they spent time together without the entourage and distrust between them, you could see the happily ever after to be, and yes, the squabbles as well.

Foibles and imperfections are brutally exposed and though we cringe the characters do not even flinch. They’re bold and gritty, hopeful and yes, aware they’re not always at their best when all is said and done; however no one gives up or bemoans cruel fate (yippee!).  They resolve to make amends where possible and carry on, regardless.  The use of jealousy to arouse interest is seldom a maneuver I can tolerate.  _But_ … in this case, it suited both the characters and the situation.  When they began talking, sharing their thoughts without the affectations of pride, confessing loneliness and hurts, I let go of my long standing prejudice against the machination.  Whether another author could’ve managed that I am not sure, certainly none before has done so.

The secondary characters, both the living and dead, were as intriguing and reflective of the times, as coarse in their own way as the awakening couple.  The historical details were devastatingly accurate.  There is no glossy coating here, this is a mature man, thrice married, that lives as men of wealth and position did. Liliana is no fool, only young, and without familiar support or anyone to lean on but her maid, she does what women did; find a way to make things work.  Not only did the writing hold my interest but also my admiration for a convincing honesty weaving a wonderful historically gothic tale.  I am already squeezing my budget for more of Ms. Howarth’s books! 

Reviewed by Fran.

Stepping into the realm of fantasy fairy tales one never knows what is lying in wait, more especially when beloved fairy tales are re-vamped, literally with a vampire theme, or the fairy tale steps to the dark side of circumstance, disaster, and desire for something that eludes the dreamer: let alone the reality of isolation and loneliness of a reclusive lifestyle. The latter is where Rachel Demeter has picked up and run with the tale, Beauty & The Beast. Thus Prince Adam Delacroix, presents a more human side to his role as the beast, and one can almost hear the haunting threads of the theme song Phantom of the Opera echoing through the part ruined castle. Embittered, and no mirrors to reflect his appearance Delacroix exists in the dark shadows of his scarred memories and the world outside is a place where he will not tread, for to all intents and purposes he’s a dead man. Any visitors to the once palatial castle are afforded sharp shrift, nothing more, until one persistent visitor desperate and in need of shelter for herself and her father fuels Delacroix’s beastly side, which is his shield to protect him from his own and others’ emotions. Where the original tale portrayed the moral of kindness to others and brings with it warmth and understanding, this version edges much darker initially and I’ll say no more, else it will spoil the story.

Modern day readers will undoubtedly equate Delacroix’s problems in terms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and rightly so, but in the past historical wise and within the fantasy realm of his existence he is looked upon as a freak show and mad eccentric, even by his most trusted friend-cum-servant. And therein doth lay another element to this story, for even the most loyal of servants can be tempted to the dark side! This is a beautifully descriptive work in which the reader is drawn into Delacroix’s dark world, and despite his harsh side one cannot but sympathise with his inner despair. Isobel, likewise traumatised by events that have led her to seek sanctuary at Delacroix’s castle, is running from a fate she regards as worse than death. And beware, for there are explicit sexual encounters that may be distressing to people who are averse to notions of cruel intent, but the anti hero is a cruel sexual predator and he is the chilling aspect of this book prior to the dawn of romance, and one man’s longing for sense of normality. This is a heart-rending story that will leave a lasting impression upon its readers.