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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 15 November 2011
These are two older stories which have just been re-published.
The first of the two is "The Famous Heroine". This features Lord Francis Kneller probably the most flamboyant member of the ton. He is asked by his friend the Duke of Bridgewater to dance with his Mother's protégée Cora Downes. Cora had saved the Dukes nephew Henry from drowning, so the Dukes mother in gratitude had brought Cora to London for the season to get her a husband. Not a man of rank as Cora was the daughter of a merchant, albeit a very rich one, nevertheless without breeding she could not look to marry a man with a title. Unfortunately Lord Francis compromises Cora and feels honour bound to offer marriage.
I had so looked forward to Lord Francis's story I had really liked his character from the previous book, he was outrageous in his dress wearing all the colours of the rainbow, even his pants were made of leather. In this story he is brokenhearted as Samantha Newman has married the Marquis of Carew, Francis had proposed many times himself to Samantha but she always treated it as a joke,so he spends a good part of the story moping for his lost love. Cora Downes was a difficult character to like IMO, she is described in the blurb as beautiful rich but without breeding, but once you begin reading this story that is not at all the case, the author describes her as too tall, or as tall as a man, in fact she is taller than most men, her face is not beautiful, but it has character she is large, with big feet and hands, a fact which we are repeatedly reminded of throughout the story. She did not come across as very feminine at all, plus her erratic behaviour which at first seemed amusing,soon became tiresome. They seemd a very mismatched couple to me, and I never quite believed in their relationship.

The second story is "The plumed Bonnet". This features the Duke of Bridgewater who is travelling to London, when he spots a woman walking along dressed most outrageously in a pink hat and cape. He offers her a ride to the next village. He suspects that she is either an actress or a woman of easy virtue. The young woman is Stephanie Gray who had just learnt that her Grandfather whom she had never met had left her his estate and fortune, and rather than wait for the carriage they were sending she had set out on foot. But her belongings had been stolen and she was forced to wear the garish hat and cloak, which she had borrowed out of necessity. The Duke of course thinks her whole story is a pack of lies, but wishing to see how far she would go with her story, and finding it amusing,he insists on taking her all the way to her newly inherited estate, believing that once there she would have to admit the truth. Then he would take her to London where he would keep her until he tired of her. But when they arrived at Sindon Park everything she had told him was the truth. Now having been alone with her for three days and nights he insists that they marry.
This was slightly better than the first story inasmuch as there was a lot more emotion, the Duke is a very controlled character years of training to be the Duke had made him a somewhat pompous person, although he did loosen up quite a bit as the story progressed. Stephanie was a likeable character Innocent and sweet.
In both of these stories the loves scenes were totally underwhelming. The male characters in both stories are more interesting and have more depth than the female characters. Overall I was quite disappointed. The first two stories in this series are Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride.
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I've been reading some older Balogh books this week and cannot put them down. I love getting these two for one books.

In this book we have a young woman, Cora Downes whose background is not of the gentry. But, since she "saved" the nephew of the Duke of Bridgewater, his mother, the duchess wants to sponsor Cora with a Season in order to help her find a husband. Cora's father is a rich man from the merchant class and is rather unusual in that she's nearly six foot, not truly beautiful, but does have a lush body that causes some men to think she belongs in the "green room" of a theatre. When she enters into society, Bridgewater requests his friend, Frances Kneller to give Cora some attention and help her along in society. Since Frances is struggling with depression since the woman he loved married another man (Samantha from Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride), he figures why not do something to help keep him out of the doldrums.

To be perfectly truthful, although I enjoyed Cora's spirit, she got on my nerves a bit. I was really pleased to finally find Frances' story because his character was so intriguing in "Lord Carew's Bride," but in truth, he and Cora never really had much of a romance in this book. Rather, they do wind up together but don't recognize the depth of their feelings until pretty much the end of the book. I thought Frances deserved a better story. We do get to catch up with Gabriel and Jennifer from Dark Angel which was a huge bonus. Three stars for this book.

Alistair Munro, the Duke of Bridgwater has been an interesting character. We first met him in Lord Carew's Bride where he was introduced as a very good friend of Lord Carew and in fact was one of his seconds when Lord Carew whipped Rushford's behind at Gentleman Jackson's. That part of the story rocked. We became better acquainted with Alistair in "The Famous Heroine" where he comes across as an arrogant duke with a corncob stuck up his behind if you get my drift. In this book, the corncob is still there. Four years have passed since Frances' and Cora's story took place and Alistair is just as lonely and stiff as always as he heads toward London in his traveling carriage.

Along the way, he comes across a young woman, Stephanie Gray, who is dressed like a lightskirt might dress with a purple plume in her bonnet. Alistair is so bored he decides to give Stephanie a ride. He asks her pertinent questions about who she is, about her background, where she is going, etc. She is very open - apparently she had her valise, bonnet and cloak stolen - her valise contained her funds that she needed to get to her deceased grandfather's home where she is set to inherit property and money. She met some traveling actors who were kind enough to give her clothing that must have been from among their wardrobe chest - a fuchsia colored cloak and a pink bonnet with fuchsia and purple plumes. Alistair doesn't believe a word of her story but, hey - he's bored out of his mind and decides to play along. He not only gives her a ride to an inn, he decides he will take her all the way to her destination which is a three day trip.

When they come to the gates of her grandfather's estate, she tries to persuade him to drop her off realizing that her relatives which she's never met and the solicitor who is waiting on her will think she's very disreputable to have traveled alone with a gentleman. Alistair will have none of it. In for a penny, in for a pound - he's put up with her tall tales, allowing her to believe he's been hornswaggled and he's now ready for his reward - her comeuppance.

Uh oh - when he realizes she's been 100% truthful and is in fact an heiress with a lovely property, the fat is in the fire. Being the gentleman he is, he immediately tells the solicitor he will marry Miss Gray. In fact her grandfather's will stipulates she must marry within four months. Stephanie is mortified when she realizes Alistair is the Duke of Bridgewater. She does her best to refuse him but he will have none of it.

The rest of the story is taken up with Stephanie having to travel to London where Alistair's mother will bring her up to snuff so that she will be able to perform as Alistair's duchess. "Perform" being the operative word. Stephanie begins to lose herself, Alistair begins to fall in love, but never in the history of the world has any man been so far removed from real life to the point he is simply no good at actually communicating his feelings to Stephanie. Misunderstanding abounds which is really too bad because at heart, Alistair is a fine man and Stephanie was a very lovely person until she felt she had to step into a role based on what someone believed was the only way for her to go on.

It took our H/h way too long to come to some understanding of who they were together which really weakened the story for me. I'm going to give this story three stars because the first 1/3 was very good. After they learned one another's true identities, the story went downhill until the last couple of chapters.
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on 29 May 2015
Firstly, for those that don't know, these stories are books 3 and 4 in a series of related stories. I was able to read through the first story in this book thanks to the appeal of the lead characters and the occasional touching moment, but I felt it was not of the same quality as Lord Carew's Bride, book 2 in the series.
Although, I actually think Ms Balogh does a good job of portraying the progressive romance between Francis and Cora and I do not feel Francis is forever thinking of his lost love as some reviews comment. In fact, his actions prove Cora has clearly helped him move on from his infatuation, without him at first realising it.
Also, I note a few readers have complained that the book contradicts itself with regard to at first describing Cora as attractive and then as big footed , unattractive and unfeminine. I understand why they say this, but read in context these negative views about her appearance are her own misconceptions about how she looks.The main criticism Francis levels at her looks is that her facial features are too striking and bold for her to be considered pretty, but from their first meeting he is attracted to her. In other words she is a handsome woman.
I enjoyed the story overall, the bedroom scenes were brief and easily skipped and there were only occasional Americanisms.
The second story in this book is a much greater disappointment. I found the Duke of Bridgwater increasingly annoying through the course of the previous stories, his cruel suggestion in 'The Famous Heroine', that Francis offers Cora carte blanche is a betrayal of his mother's trust and of Cora's family placing her under his protection. I could have happily slapped his snobbish, arrogant unchivalrous face.
He is the hero of the next tale and doesn't really improve on acquaintance. I still want to slap him and the heroine in his story is totally unbelievable, no one could be as dim as she is and manage to work as a governess for several years. Her moral compass swings from minute to minute and she is silly simply when it suits the author's agenda. In other words, she is not a real character, but a plot device. I hope I never come across a h&H as irritating again. The Duke is a selfish cad and the heroine a witless morally feeble hypocrit.
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VINE VOICEon 24 January 2012
The two stories are slightly connected - part of a 'series' of four books concerning a group of friends with some characters in common. Each book stands on its own perfectly well.

The Plumed Bonnet - 5 stars
The Duke of Bridgewater is bored and cynical. An apparently cold, reserved, very upright and dignified gentleman, he always behaves correctly. When he comes across Stephanie Gray wearing a very gaudy bonnet in some distress by the roadside he offers to take her up in his carriage. In fact she is a well brought up vicar's daughter who has been robbed of her money and is in dire need of rescue. After a very profound misunderstanding the Duke is eventually obliged to offer her marriage and Stephanie in mistaken admiration and gratitude tries to turn herself into the perfect future Duchess. Whilst he desperately craves her warm spontaneity and passion for himself, she tries to suppress her own personality thinking he disapproves of her behaviour. The story tells how this misapprehension is gradually unravelled as they learn to know each other better during the first difficult weeks of their marriage.

Its a lovely story, lots of character development, plenty of sensual content, very well done and in context - so their first night of marriage is perfectly and realistically described as an awkward encounter, no simultaneous fireworks here but it gets better! By the end both of them have lost their inhibitions with each other and can be themselves. Its a lovely and moving ending. A very satifying read and highly recommended.

The Famous Heroine (4 stars) is a much lighter tale - more of a comedy romance. Cora and Francis Kneller marry for all of the wrong reasons. He's been badly disappointed in love (part of this story is told in Lord Carew's Bride)and he's so flamboyant she thinks his interests lie elsewhere. He's kind to her when she flounders somewhat in high society so they become friends, are caught in a compromising situation and marry. She's described as quite a loud, tall, clumsy woman so on the surface a total mismatch for Francis who is immaculately dressed, perfectly mannered, elegant and charming but they laugh together and over the weeks of their marriage each comes to realise the others worth. Also a charming story if a little less deep and intense than the Plumed Bonnet.

Quite a few characters from the two connected books appear - the Marquess and Marchioness of Carew (Lord Carew's Bride)and Lord and Lady Thornhill (Dark Angel).
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on 13 March 2012
I love MB in general, however that was not as captivating as her other books. Predictable and I never read the second story. Just got bored with the first one.
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on 17 September 2015
Wonderful could not put it down.
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on 26 May 2016
Two charming romps
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on 14 February 2015
A Good Read! Like all of this authors books they are light and allow you to indulge in a good old romance. I am old fashioned enough to enjoy a romance where there is not to much sex or violence
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on 7 January 2015
Loved both of these. Had been waiting for the Plumed Bonnet to appear for some time. I saw shades of Wulfric in the hero and this is no bad thing.

Will out for more re-releases.
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on 24 June 2013
Always a wonderful writer of romantic novels-love her writing so very much-always chose her books books whenever I see them advertised
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