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Julia Justiss

REVIEW: The Smuggler and the Society Bride by Julia Justiss

REVIEW: The Smuggler and the Society Bride by Julia Justiss

Dear Ms. Justiss,

Thank you for sending me a copy of your latest book, “The Smuggler and the Society Bride.” Despite it being the third full length book in the “Silk and Scandal” series, I found that I could jump right in without feeling I was missing vital information or at sea about who the characters from the two previous books are. But while I liked the two leads and enjoyed watching them fall in love, I found the villain to be both too melodramatic and too silly.

The Smuggler and the Society Bride   Julia JustissLady Honoria Carlow has discovered just how quickly a young woman of the ton can go from being a Diamond to an outcast. High spirited all her life, she’d tried the patience of her family yet never gone too far. Until the night when her downfall was cleverly and maliciously arranged. Now she’s An Example to other young ladies against meeting a man in the gardens during any ball. Fleeing London ahead of her dictatorial brother’s orders to return to their house in the country, she’s sought refuge with her aunt on the coast of Cornwall.

It’s here that she meets a handsome young Irishman who’s in league with the smugglers of the area. Gabriel Hawksworth is doing a favor for an old military buddy in captaining the man’s ship for 6 months. He’s had fun doing it but not as much fun as when he sees a young woman strip down and dive into the ocean to attempt to rescue a drowning man. Attracted to her from the start, Gabe has no idea what has brought this beautiful and intelligent young lady to the area but knows there must be some scandal in her past since she ought to be in London for the Season. Is there a future for this couple of misfits and can Gabe discover the reason and identity of the unknown person who methodically set out to ruin the woman he’s falling in love with?

I like that Gabe is a gentleman and knows not to go too far with any woman much less a well brought up one. And that Honoria has had enough experience with men in London to know when a man is interested in her and also to know not to trust one too far. She’s been burned by men so her choice to teach the young girls of the village in order to give them a leg up in a world which is stacked against the female gender makes sense. The change in her character from slightly spoiled society miss to one who will be happy living with a ship’s captain as they sail the world is slow yet believable. Ditto the dawning of love for Gabe who’s always enjoyed females yet never, until now, wanted to settle down with just one.

One thing I really like about this book is that Honoria isn’t some ignorant ninny who’s never wondered about sex or the opposite sex. She’s frankly interested, takes the time to check Gabe out when they’re both dripping wet from saving the revenue agent, and doesn’t turn down her aunt’s offer to read “Aristotle’s Masterpiece.” And Aunt Foxe! Whoa, here’s a female relation whom all young Regency misses would want for that “night before the wedding” talk.

Honoria and Gabe seemed to suffer from changes of heart due to plot needs. Honoria starts out, and for the most part remains, angry at what happened to her and mad at her family for not standing by her or believing her innocence. Yet, for a brief time, when she’s telling Gabe the story, she suddenly changes and is all “I can see it from their [her family's] POV.” Then she flips back. While Gabe begins by almost persuading Honoria of the necessity, the almost rightness, of smuggling yet just as suddenly at the end of the book, when it’s needed, he admits that the illegality of it bothers him and he now wants out.

The villain also didn’t work well for me. It’s almost too easy for Gabe to discover who is behind Honoria’s ruin and the confrontation scene, where the villain Tells All and laughs while he does it is cartoonish. With six more books in the series, I know that it will be a long time before the villain is brought to justice and the whole thing is wrapped up and honestly, I can’t summon enough interest to keep going to see it happen.

So, for the hero and heroine’s love story and Honoria’s avid interest in sex, I’d recommend the book. However the flip-flop in Honoria and Gabe’s attitudes and the villain subplot detract from what would have been a more enjoyable book for me. Overall, for me these balance to a C grade.


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REVIEW: From Waif to Gentleman’s Wife by Julia Justiss

REVIEW: From Waif to Gentleman’s Wife by Julia Justiss

Dear Ms. Justiss,

0373295642.01.LZZZZZZZYou’ve been writing Regency set stories for years now so by now, I’m sure you’re more than familiar with all the conventions, the standard plots, the trope characters, all the things we’re used to seeing in this historical category. Well, I am too so when I come across something different, I’m liable to sit up, smile and say, “Yes!”

I’m sure that Sir Edward Greaves was, even if only briefly, a minor character in your book, “An Unconventional Match.” Alas, I don’t recall him. Shame on me as he’s a nice guy. As he, himself, thinks, he doesn’t have the lofty title of his friend Nicky Stanhope, the Marquess of Englemere, or the money his financial wizard friend Hal Waterman does but he’s not a bad catch on the marriage mart. So far, his attempts to find a wife he can admire as well as love, and who he thinks would enjoy living with him in the country, have not panned out but hope springs eternal.

In the meantime, he’s intrigued by a little property owned by Nicky. It’s far from Nicky’s other holdings and has currently been run almost into the ground by land agent mismanagement. In these postwar years when crop prices have plummeted and out of work Peninsular War veterans roam the countryside searching for work, it’s hard for even well maintained properties to cover their expenses. When an estate has been as badly administered as Blenhem, it’s almost a lost cause. But for Ned, this “perfect storm” is like a red flag and he offers to buy the property.

Widowed Joanna Merrill is truly destitute when she arrives at Blenhem, late on a stormy night, on foot and half starved. Unjustly thrown out of her last post by his wife after the Viscount got frisky and cornered her in her room, Joanna’s only hope is to find her brother who was managing a small property for their very distant relation the Marquess of Englemere. Only when she arrives, Greville is gone and another man has taken his place.

For various reasons, Ned has decided to take the role of an untitled land agent to allow him to discover just what went on under Greville’s management. He’s immediately attracted to the lovely Joanna but as a relation to his friend, she’s “hands off.” Trying to help her find employment, Ned hits on starting a school for the estate children with Joanna as the teacher. As their interest in each other grows, they attempt to discover what went on at the estate. But will Ned wait too long to tell Joanna who he really is?

For the most part, this is a quiet, country Regency. There is little about ton life in London, no Seasons, no Almacks, no dowagers quizzing young misses. I like that Joanna is a gentleman’s daughter while Ned is a Baronet instead of the usual Duke. And though he is sort of undercover in a way, he’s not a spy for Wellington. The use of the Luddites as a background conflict as well as Joanna and Greville’s experiences at the hands of the aristos is inspired. It’s been years since I saw this aspect of the times used in a Regency.

Ned doesn’t wallow away his romantically broken heart with wine, women and song. No, this boy throws himself into dethatching grass, soil additives, farming techniques and other agricultural improvements. Be still my beating heart. He’s also actually got a good reason for going undercover, as it were, at his new property. He thinks things out and truly wants to do the best for his tenants. What a guy!

I like that Ned listens to Joanna and doesn’t dismiss her concerns and statements about the aristocracy and their abuse of their privileges. He offers considered responses and tries to show Joanna the other side of the coin.

Joanna does get to see the real Ned even though she thinks he’s lower in social station than he is. Ned doesn’t hid who he really is, a man interested in farming and improving the lot of his tenants. While he, in turn, finds out more about her closely held feelings than he would have been able to in more polite, conventional realms. When they do start their physical relationship, I felt that they knew each other and didn’t just jump into lust. I will admit, however, to being slightly tired of the prevalent mental lusting up til then.

When the truth is revealed, at least Joanna doesn’t completely dismiss Ned’s entreaties to listen to his side of things, then to go to London to seek out her many-times-removed cousin the Marquess to see if he can assist her in finding her brother. Then she does listen to Nicky’s wife Sarah – who, thankfully, doesn’t meddle too much – and considers what Sarah, who knows Ned, has to say.

I did notice that Joanna mentions how diligently Nicky appears to work for his tenants at his various properties but then that brings up the question of why Blenhem was allowed to sink so far into disrepair while Nicky still owned it.

Another thing I noticed is when Joanna first arrives in London, she thinks something about how Nicky never offered to assist her. But then, I thought she had dismissed all thoughts of even going to him to seek aid. So is this really his fault he didn’t offer to help a relation who never called on him?

I was glad to see Jesse and Mary have a happy, and believable, ending. Yes, they will be sailing to America but honestly, I doubt that they could have lived in this small village given what Mary was forced into.

I hope readers looking for a slightly different Regency will check this one out. The innovative use of the actual concerns and conflicts of the age – progression of technology and factories, destruction of traditional handicrafts of rural England and fate of wounded soldiers after the Napoleonic wars were finally over, make it stand out. The mental lusting dragged and I had some slight questions about various parts of the plot but overall, I enjoyed it. B-


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