One Starlit Night by Carolyn Jewel
Viscount Northwood and Portia Temple were teenage lovers. Too swept away by passion and the blush of new love they never thought there would be consequences to face. Those consequences came in the form of a baby. But when Northwood told his father he was going to marry Portia, his father threatened to strip the livelihood from Portia’s brother. He didn’t make the threat to Northwood, only to Portia, so Northwood was never certain why Portia chose the path she did. Portia visited a local woman, ended her pregnancy and her relationship with Northwood all at the same time. Not understanding why, Northwood left Doyle’s Grange and married a perfectly lovely woman. Ten years later Northwood has returned to Doyle’s Grange as a widow and it is like no time has passed for him and Portia.
Portia’s brother has recently married a dreadful woman one who is the pure definition of passive-agressive. But not dreadful in a mean way, she is just disgustingly sweet and empty-headed. Portia cannot abide living with her anymore and has agreed to marry a man she does not love. She is ok with that though because she knows she will never have what she had with Northwood again. But now Northwood is back making her feel things she doesn’t want to and causing her to rethink her marriage.
I recently read Carolyn Jewel’s newest release Not Proper Enough and loved it. Unfortunately, this one didn’t work as well for me. The topic of abortion is a hard one to read and it scarred Portia. She wasn’t a happy character. It seemed she would forever pay for that decision. Northwood was just ok. I can understand why he left Portia but not necessarily understand why he married someone else so quickly. Once they met up again it was obvious they never should have left each other. I am not a fan of the big misunderstanding even if this was a doozy. Final grade- C
“This is what we’re like.” The words rasped from his throat while she was still coming down from her climax, her head bowed to his shoulder. “You and I. It’s not like this with anyone else. Just us.”
What Happened at Midnight by Courtney Milan
Mary Chartley was forced to take a position as a lady’s companion after her father stole from his business partners then killed himself. One of his business partners happened to be her betrothed and the man she dreamed of having a family and a home with. She swore to everyone she didn’t know where the money was and to avoid telling them about her father’s suicide she disappeared from the area.
18 months later John hears news of a Mary Chartley and knows it has to her. He heads off to Doyle’s Grange where he finds Mary living under the hand of a tyrant. She is a companion to a woman whose husband had them both under his thumb. He does not allow them to see people, go anywhere or do anything. John and Mary start to meet in secret learning each other and sharing information.
In an extremely clever twist Northwood and Portia from the previous book in this anthology are brought in. In One Starlit Night by Carolyn Jewel Portia mentions losing an earring which is found by Mary and the lady she works for. They use the earring to form a connection to Portia which allows both the women to escape the tyranny of their current situation.
This novella was pretty good. I think I liked it so much because of the fun connection to the previous book. Doyle’s Grange is a constant and even the trees that were talk about in One Starlit Night are talked about in this book. John and Mary’s relationship develops at a sweet pace. He is slow with her even considering her father stole all his money. I suspected some sort of revenge plot for the money but that never came to pass.
“Bloody temptation.” He pushed himself to his feet, and strode back to the bedchamber. “Stupid bloody cock,” he muttered, giving the offending organ a thump. It made no response. “No morals to speak of.” Still rock-hard. Still desperate. Reprimands, clearly, did no good.
A Dance in Moonlight by Sherry Thomas
Come late at night, she tells him, so I can make love to you pretending that you are the one I love.
Not exactly the quote you would expect to read when starting out a romance novel. I wondered where Ms. Thomas was going to go with this and how she would make me actually like the heroine that had this quote.
Isabelle has come to Doyle’s Grange to try to rekindle a lost love with Fitzhugh. As it turns out there is too much time and too many obstacles between Isabelle and Fitzhugh. Fitzhugh has married and has fallen in love with his bride leaving Isabelle with nothing. In a case of mistaken identity Isabelle kisses Fitzwilliam thinking he is Fitzhugh. The men look almost exactly alike except for different eye colors and slightlt different hair colors. When she finds out she is kissing the wrong man Isabelle is heartbroken and gives Fitzwilliam the above quote.
Fitzwilliam recognizes grief when he sees it and decides to come back to Isabelle. Instead of making love the two talk long into the night. They talk about both of their lost loves and old times. Fitzwilliam had been married for three months when his wife died so he is no stranger to grief. Isabelle has two children with her husband who as also recently died. Somehow the two form a connection based upon not having the one they love.
This book seemed like a case of “love the one your with” which wasn’t very satisfying for me. I didn’t feel like either of them wanted to be with the other but were holding out for someone else. They are apart for a time where they communicate through letters giving me the first sense they were actually learning each others wants and desires instead of just pining for what they couldn’t have. This wasn’t very satisfying for me either. Why did it take them not being together to feel like they were together, if that makes sense?
Towards the end of the book Fitzwilliam meets Fitzhugh and has a big freak out about how much he looks like the man. All along Isabelle’s family and even Isabelle had been telling him how similar he was so why the freak out? Did he think everyone was lying to him? He runs back to Isabelle to apologize but I didn’t see the need for him to act surprised to begin with. Final Grade- D
Overall Courtney Milan was the star of this anthology for me. Her novella had the best characters and a very engaging plot line. Each novella has a theme of lost loves and new beginnings. These books were also all tied together by Doyle’s Grange and it was very well done. I loved the progression of the tree planted in the first novella to it being full-grown in the last novella. You don’t normally see such a close tie in anthologies like that.