I’m delighted today to be helping launch the blog tour for The Duke’s Bluestocking by Josie Bonham, and to share my review: the fourth in the Reluctant Brides series, it was published on 28th June, and is now available for kindle (just 99p as an opening offer – and free via Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback via Amazon in the UK and US. Thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for both the invitation and support, and to the author for my advance reading e-copy.
If you’re a regular visitor to the blog, you’ll already know that I very rarely review Regency romance – I’ve always rather preferred a contemporary story, and often prefer my historical reads to be a little on the heavier side. So no-one could be more surprised than me to find how much I enjoyed Josie’s first book in this lovely series, A Good Match for the Major: it was a beautifully told story, thoroughly gripping, with characters I loved, and the historical setting superbly handled (you’ll find my review here). Deciding I’d really like to try her writing again, I then picked up the second, The Viscount’s Convenient Bride (you’ll find my review here) – and unexpectedly found myself adding Josie Bonham to my list of favourite authors. I sadly didn’t manage to get to her third, The Marquess’s Christmas Runaway – the timing just wasn’t right for me – but I was thrilled when I saw that number four was on its way, and immediately signed up to read and review another book I just knew I was going to enjoy…
Temptation like never before for the fashion-loving bluestocking when she meets an unconventional duke.
Headstrong Grace Bamford is determined to remain unwed and keep her independence. Which means interesting, marriageable men are best avoided. Her classical studies and philanthropy are more important to her than a husband and a lot safer.
Angus Medley’s life is turned upside down when he unexpectedly inherits a dukedom. He is wrenched from the career he loves as an Edinburgh advocate to take up responsibility for the Duchy of Evesham and the people relying on it for their livelihoods.
Grace rescues Angus from a knife-wielding attacker outside the London orphanage she helps to run. He dismisses the attack as a failed robbery but Grace suspects foul play. Is someone from Angus’s past trying to kill him? Grace offers to help him investigate, concerned for his safety, even though it means spending time with the most attractive man she has ever met.
Marriage is the last thing on Angus’s mind as he grapples with his new responsibilities and his hidden enemy, until he falls in love with Grace. Will Grace find the courage to follow her heart?
Georgette Heyer meets Mary Balogh in this romantic adventure.
Grace Bamford is more than happy to be thought of as a bluestocking – no more pressure to bow to a suitable marriage, able to spend her days helping needy children at the orphanage where she’s a patron find jobs with suitable households, retreating to the library to immerse herself in a historical tome, perhaps even to consider setting up her own household. She’s fiercely independent and likes it that way – perhaps the only down side of being a bluestocking would be not being able to wear the colourful and fashionable gowns she rather enjoys. But she hadn’t bargained on meeting Angus Medley, the new Duke of Evesham – he’s rather out of his depth, never having expected to inherit his title, trying to set up his household and come to terms with his new responsibilities and his place in London society. When he’s attacked in the street while visiting the orphanage, Grace intervenes – using the pistols she carries in her muff (and shouldn’t we all?!) – but it soon becomes clear that he has enemies who mean him harm, and there are a number of possible suspects.
The story becomes a fascinating mystery – one Grace is as keen to solve as he is – but also tracks the progress of their relationship, while he assembles the household he needs to support him in his new role. They agree to a subterfuge – that they will act as a courting couple, which allows them more freedom to be together and free him from the attentions of society mothers seeking a husband for their daughters. But they hadn’t expected to enjoy each others’ company as much as they do – he’s only too aware of Grace’s suitability as a life partner, their hearts begin to beat a little faster when they’re together, and Grace begins to question whether keeping her independence is as attractive a prospect as she once thought it was.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this lovely series, but I must say I thought this one was even better. The pacing of the story is excellent, as the finger of suspicion moves between a range of suspects intent on ending Angus’ life, with a few episodes of really well-handled drama that made the pages turn considerably faster. The romance is excellent, everything I wanted it to be – great chemistry between Angus and Grace, the attraction between them developing in a way I found really engaging and entirely believable, and it helped that they were both such very likeable characters.
In fact, all the characterisation in the book is excellent, whether major or minor characters – although Angus and Grace always draw the eye, I particularly enjoyed the development of some of the characters from the servant classes. If you have read any of the other books, you’ll notice that there are a few recurring characters – a nice treat for those of us who recognise them, but nothing that would make this book in any way unreadable as a standalone. And I thought the whole Regency setting – the manners and social conventions, the limitations for the female characters, the circles the Duke moved in – was exceptionally well done. The whole story is nicely balanced too – it’s a particularly well-wrought romance, but the whole mystery element has a very satisfying degree of complication and a wholly unexpected outcome.
The writing is excellent, the storytelling compelling – I know I’ve mentioned several times before that the author’s obvious enjoyment in telling her stories becomes quite infectious. When I read that she’d found this book more of a challenge to write than her others, I’ll admit I was just a little concerned – but it most certainly doesn’t show, and this is another book of which she should be justifiably proud. A really lovely read, and highly recommended by me.
About the author
Josie lives in the English midlands, surrounded by towns full of history such as Evesham, Stratford-Upon- Avon, Warwick and Worcester. Which is perhaps why her favourite reads are historical. Out of all the periods to choose from the Regency Era stirs her imagination the most. The true Regency lasted from 1811 until 1820 but dates as wide as 1789 to 1837 have been included in the extended Regency period. For Josie the true flavour of this period emerges after the iniquitous hair powder tax of 1795, unsurprisingly, scuppered the fashion for hair powder almost overnight.
Josie has always dabbled in stories but it took the combined efforts of her sister and eldest niece to set her on the path to writing novels. Her Regency romances, with a dash of adventure and intrigue, are the result.
There is more information on her website at www.josiebonhamauthor.com