If you haven’t read the Hawthorne House series, I highly recommend you do so. It has been a long time since I laughed out loud and cheered the protagonists on while reading a book. With this series, I did just that.
The order of the books can be a bit confusing, so I will break it down for you. The author, Kristi Ann Hunter, wrote five actual books in the series. The following is the series in order:
A Lady of Esteem #0.5
A Noble Masquerade #1
An Elegant Façade #2
An Uncommon Courtship #3
An Inconvenient Beauty #4
The first one, A Lady of Esteem, is an e-book only. The other four are available in paperback. The following description is taken from Goodreads:
A Lady of Esteem
Miss Amelia Stalwood may live in London at her absent guardian’s townhouse, but she’s never actually met any nobility, and instead of aristocrats, her closest friends are servants. Quite by happenstance, she’s introduced to the Hawthorne family and their close family friend, Anthony, the reformed marquis of Raeburn. They welcome her into their world, but just as she’s beginning to gain some confidence and even suspect she may have caught Anthony’s eye, she’s blindsided by an unexpected twist in her situation accompanied by nasty rumors. Will she lose her reputation when the world that has only just accepted her turns its back on her, or will she rest in the support of the friends who’ve become like family and the man who’s shared his faith and captured her heart?
A Lady of Esteem is an e-only novella that gives an exciting introduction to Kristi Ann Hunter’s new Regency romance series about the aristocratic Hawthorne family! Includes an extended excerpt of Kristi’s debut full-length novel, A Noble Masquerade.
A Noble Masquerade
Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother’s old school friend, a duke–with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she’s heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marlow, her brother’s new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned.
When Marlow accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men–one she’s never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marlow is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda’s heart is far from all that’s at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love.
An Elegant Façade
Lady Georgina Hawthorne has worked tirelessly to seal her place as the Incomparable for her debut season. At her first London ball, she hopes to snag the attention of an earl.
With money and business connections, but without impeccable bloodlines, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere but accepted nowhere. When he first encounters the fashionable Lady Georgina, he’s irritated by his attraction to a woman who concerns herself only with status and appearance.
What Colin doesn’t know is that Georgina’s desperate social aspirations are driven by the shameful secret she harbors. Association with Colin McCrae is not part of Georgina’s plan, but as their paths continue to cross, they both must decide if the realization of their dreams is worth the sacrifices they must make.
An Uncommon Courtship
When her mother’s ill-conceived marriage trap goes awry, Lady Adelaide Bell unwittingly finds herself bound to a stranger who ignores her. Lord Trent Hawthorne, who had grand plans to marry for love, is even less pleased with the match. Can they set aside their first impressions before any chance of love is lost?
An Inconvenient Beauty
The Duke of Riverton has chosen his future wife with the same logic he uses to make every decision. However, his perfect bride eludes his suit, while the beautiful Isabella Berkeley seems to be everywhere. When the time comes, will Griffith and Isabella be able to set aside their pride and initial notions to embrace their very own happily-ever-after?
*NOTE- I highly recommend reading these books in order.
A Lady of Esteem
I only have one complaint about this book; it was too short. I absolutely loved this book.
The main character, Amelia, is shy, and very kind to those around her, including the servants.
At the beginning of the story, she is cleaning for a friend who is a servant to Lord Raebourne. She is in the library when Lord Raebourne himself walks in and sees Amelia for the first time. They quite literally fall for each other. She loses her balance while falling of a ladder, and he catches her. After they briefly introduce themselves, a maid and friend of Amelia’s comes in warns her that housekeeper will not want her to clean the library. Lord Raebourne assures Amelia that the maid won’t be fired and Amelia is not in trouble for helping her friend.
Afterwards, Amelia heads home to go shopping with her tutor and friend, Miss Ryan. Amelia lives in her guardian’s house in London. Although, her guardian does not live with her, so she is taken care of by the servants who become like family to her. While on their outing, they meet Lady Miranda Hawthorne. Lady Miranda is from a very prestigious and aristocratic family; their father was the Duke of Riverton when he lived. Lady Miranda has an older brother, Griffith, the current Duke of Riverton, a younger brother, Lord Trent, and a younger sister, Lady Georgina. They are very kind people. Amelia and Miss Ryan walk in just as Lady Miranda and her maid are leaving. Unknowingly, Lady Miranda leaves her purse behind, and Amelia is the one who takes it back to her. Grateful, Amelia and Lady Miranda strike up a friendship.
Later on, Miranda learns that her friend, Lord Raebourne, whose first name is Antony, has meet a mysterious woman who intrigues him. She deduces that the woman is her new friend, Amelia. Miranda concocts a plan to get them together. She has Amelia over for tea and asks her to come to dinner that night. Little does Amelia know, however, Antony will be there also.
Amelia has struggled to fit in with the aristocratic since she arrived in London. However, with the Hawthornes, she feels like she fits in. Dinner was made awkward for Amelia by Antony’s presence, however. Since she is attracted to him, she feels insignificant and not worthy of Antony’s attention.
Antony finds Amelia very intriguing. He tries to help her with the dinner conversation because he can tell she is uncomfortable. Afterwards, he offers to see her home, and she accepts. On the way home, he explains to her that he is a changed man. Before coming to know God, he had many bad habits that included women, drinking, and gambling. Since coming to accept Jesus as his Savior, he has changed his ways. Amelia is shocked by all of this.
A little while later, Miranda asks Amelia to join her at ballet that is in Town. She informs Amelia that Antony will also be joining them, along with her brother, Lord Trent. They all have a good time and ballet, and Amelia and Antony grow closer the more time they spend with one another.
Amelia just starts to grow comfortable living in the aristocratic world when it all comes shattering down on her. She receives a letter informing her that her guardian has died. As a result, the viscountancy would be entailed away, and as his charge, she would be sent to live with the person who inherited the estate. Amelia packs her bags and prepares to move to live with her new guardian. However, she has no idea who that is. She also is afraid to leave because she feels that Antony was just beginning to show his true feelings for her. She thought he may have even loved her.
The next day, Amelia prepares to leave behind the place and people she has loved most in the world. A footman packs her bags and they are off. They arrive at the house of her new guardian a few hours later. She is shown into the drawing room to wait to meet her new guardian. While waiting, she hears voices. She immediately recognizes the voices. Peering out into the hall, she can see Lady Miranda and her family standing there talking. Miranda’s older brother, Griffith, appears. Griffith states that he has inherited a viscountancy and is waiting to meet his new charge. Amelia realizes that she has at Hawthorne House the Duke of Riverton is her ward; she is thrilled. However, the Hawthornes were expecting an 11 year old child. Apparently, the paperwork containing Amelia’s information hadn’t been updated in a while. Both the Hawthornes and Amelia are thrilled that Griffith will be looking after Amelia. Miranda feels that she has a sister she truly connect with. She and Georgina do not have the best relationship.
Both Amelia and Antony are overjoyed that Amelia will be staying in Town with her new family. However, over time Antony realizes that while he loves Amelia, he cannot marry her. He doesn’t feel good enough for her; he still feels trapped by his past.
As the ward of the Duke of Riverton, she is invited to a very prominent ball. She dances with eligible young men; however, the one she really wants to dance with is Antony. They meet out on the terrace and Antony tells her how he feels. His words break Amelia’s heart.
After he leaves, Amelia wants to leave as well, but Miranda informs her that she has to make an appearance, otherwise people will talk. While walking back in, Amelia is confronted by Lady Harriett Belle. Lady Harriett accuses Amelia of leeching off of Miranda and her family. In reality, Amelia has done nothing wrong. Lady Harriett is jealous that Antony loves Amelia, and she reacts out of spite and bitterness. Amelia, who until then had been quite shy, boldly and bravely stands up for herself. Miranda and her family stand by Amelia and help her home after the confrontation.
Overtime, Antony comes to realize that while he made mistakes in the past, God forgave him long ago. Once he realizes this, he goes to tell Amelia that he loves her and wants to marry her. He breaks tradition by asking her permission and not Griffith’s, and she happily accepts.
Wrap it all up with a big bow, and this story is a happily ever after. One of the best stories I have read in a long time.
A Nobel Masquerade
I adored this book. There were times when I actually Laughed Out Loud (LOL’D) and it has been a long time since a book has made me laugh.
Lady Miranda Hawthorne is prim, proper, and refined. In short, everything the daughter of a duke should be. However, she is also stubborn and resilient. This combination of personality traits makes her a very likable and interesting character.
She is preparing for her fourth Season in London while at her family’s country estate. Society beliefs she is approaching spinsterhood; however, Miranda does not care. When she marries, she wants it to be for love, not money or status.
Her brother, Griffith, hires a new valet whose name is Marlow. From the beginning, both Miranda and Marlow find each other very interesting, but for completely opposite reasons. Miranda finds Marlow attractive, but falling in love with a servant would be a complete scandal. Marlow isn’t really Marlow at all. In fact, he is the mysterious Duke of Marshington in disguise. His real name is Ryland and he works for the Crown as a secret agent trying to find information that could prove useful in defeating Napoleon and the French. He believes that someone from Griffith’s family or staff are sending information to the French. His mission is to stop them.
Miranda has always felt she can best think things out by writing them down. However, she does not write in a diary. Instead, she puts all of her thoughts down in letters. She writes to an old friend of her brother’s, a man she has never met but has heard much about from Griffith. The man’s name, or title, is the Duke of Marshington. That’s right! Miranda has no idea that the man she pours her heart out to lives in the same house as she does.
One night, she decides to write to the Duke in the middle of the night because she couldn’t sleep. She heads down to library, and finds that is already occupied by Marlow. He had been searching through the library to find any news he could, though he tells Miranda he was reading a book. After talking to each other for a bit, he offers to get Miranda some tea. He leaves after they finish their tea, and she starts to write a letter to the Duke on distinctive blue paper. Once she finishes it, she lays it underneath some paper so no one can find it. Marlow, seeing who the letter is addressed to, opens it and reads it. He is shocked by the intimate letter she wrote him. He decides to keep the letter.
The next morning, he informs Miranda that he mailed her correspondence. At first, she doesn’t think anything of it, but when she returns for the letter, she realizes that Marlow must have mailed it along with the other correspondence. She is mortified to say the least. Nevertheless, she is dumbfounded when she receives a response. Over time, there develops a lively correspondence between them, which makes her growing feelings for Marlow all the more complicated.
Throughout the story, Marlow has become someone Miranda feels she can rely on when she needs someone to talk to. Probably because he and the Duke are the same person. Little do they know that Marlow’s secret and dangerous mission are about to catch up with the both of them.
Marlow has lain a trap for the culprit sending information to the French, but it goes awry. He ends being captured and Miranda has to save him. Because of this, a special bond develops between them.
Over time, Marlow believes he knows who is behind the treachery and feels he can retire from life as spy and go back to being the Duke.
The family has spent much time in the Hawthorne’s country estate, but the time has come for them to return to London for Miranda’s Season. Marlow is encouraged to return as well, though not as Griffith’s valet, but has the Duke of Marshington. So, he does.
One of his first events to attend as the Duke is a ball. While there, he dances with Miranda and longs to tell her who he really is. Miranda is completely surprised that they long-lost Duke would want to dance with her.
A little while later, circumstance force Marlow to reveal who is to Miranda, though not in the way he hoped. Needless to say, she does not take it well. She even punches him when she learns that Marlow has been the Duke all along and that she corresponded with him. His response his to ask to teach her how to properly punch someone. Not a smart move on his part, though it was entertaining to read.
Over time, Miranda learns to forgive Marlow or Ryland as he now wishes to be called. Just when it seems like a happy ending, Hunter makes a major plot twist. Mysterious and threatening notes start to appear to both Ryland and Miranda. Miranda is the one who figures out who has been sending the notes as well as helping Napoleon. However, she gets captured in the process. Thankfully, Ryland shows up just in time to save her life.
This story was intriguing, romantic, and heartfelt all at the same time, and I adored it. I would definitely read it again.
An Elegant Facade
I love a good story about redemption. Georgina starts out to be arrogant and bit self-centered. The only thing she cares about is finding a husband with a good title and a lot of money.
She has worked tirelessly everyday since she was little girl to make her debut the best ever. She has rehearsed her smile and manners in front of the mirror, has made sure that she is only seen with the highest level of society, and has always worn a white dress while every other girl chose to wear colors.
However, she hides a secret that, if found out, would put her at risk for ruining everything she and her maid have worked so hard to accomplish.
Colin MaCrae is an interesting character. He is invited to many wealthy aristocratic parties, but is not accepted into society as aristocrat. Colin has knack for spotting good investments and making people a lot of money. That is why he is “invited everywhere but accepted nowhere.”
Needless to say, when Georgina and Colin’s paths cross, it proves to be a very funny and somewhat entertaining relationship. At the beginning, neither one really cares for the other at all. He thinks she is spoiled, rude, and arrogant; she thinks he is not worth talking to and beneath her.
They do their best to avoid each other, but as they are usually invited to the same parties, that proves to be a difficult task. A few times, they dance with one another so as to not appear rude, but neither one enjoys it all that much.
A little while later, Colin appears at Hawthorne House looking for Griffith. Out of nowhere, a maid comes running out a room in hysterics. Curious as to what could have happened, Colin decides to go an investigate. There, he sees Georgina in her room attempting to read a letter. After a few moments of observing her, Colin realizes that Georgina cannot read. Shocked, he walks into her room and picks up the crumpled piece of paper she threw across the floor. He offers to read it to her. Apparently, Georgina’s friend, Jane, has decided to elope with a man. Knowing Jane all too well, she insists on her brother Trent’s help along with Colin. Together they all go on an adventure where Georgina and Colin discover they may have feelings for each other. Georgina also tells Colin he cannot tell anyone she is unable to read; she hasn’t even told her own family.
Over time, they seem to be thrown into each other’s company whether it’s at a ball or a party.
Near the end of the story, they are invited to stay with Miranda and her husband Ryland. While staying with them, Georgina opens up to Colin and he truly wants to help her with her situation. However, she pulls back and declines.
A little while later, Georgina finds a Bible in Ryland’s library and decides to try and read it. She is able to understand enough to get the gust of what is being said, and she has a shocking revelation. Colin comes in at that moment and they share a sweet kiss. However, that just makes them more confused.
Once they return to Town, Georgina resumes her social life and tries to forget about Colin. She plans to marry the Earl of Ashcome because she believes that, once married, it won’t matter if she knows how to read or write. She is hoping he loves her enough to overlook all of that. The Early, however, is not a good man. He soon figures out her secret and almost destroys everything she has worked so hard to achieve.
Colin decides to leave Town and go back home to Scotland to his family. He hasn’t had the best relationship with them and hopes to repair that. Georgina realizes how much she misses Colin and finally realizes that she loves him. So, she informs him (Miranda is really writing the letter for her) that she is sorry and that she loves him. She also surprises him by showing up at his home in Glasgow. They decide to get married and spend their time between Scotland and England.
I love this story for many reasons. First, it teaches people not to judge others by their social standing. Second, it teaches people about redemption and forgiveness.
An Uncommon Courtship
Let me say, I wanted to like this book. I really did. However, it was awkward and uncomfortable for me to read.
Unforeseen circumstances force Trent to marry Lady Adelaide Bell. She was out exploring on her family’s property when she became trapped. Trent, being a gentleman, tried to help her out, but got trapped himself. After spending some hours trying to call for help, nighttime fell upon them. They thought they might have heard someone drive by, and they called for help, but no one came.
During this time, if a woman was alone with a man without a chaperone, no one could be truly sure that nothing improper happened. Though, in this case, nothing happened, Trent felt honor bound to marry her. Instead of being forced into marriage, he decided to propose to Lady Adelaide. He wanted to feel like he had some amount of control over the situation. They talked a little bit that night, but they don’t really know each other that well.
So, the story starts out with the two leaving their wedding. He informed her that they would be moving into his house in Town. He received the house from Griffith. The servants at his house are interesting people. They treat him like a friend more so than a master. For Adelaide, that takes some getting used to. The servants also aren’t afraid to speak their mind when they feel that Trent is in the wrong.
The newlyweds arrive at their house and Trent introduces them all to Adelaide. All this time, she is worried about her wedding night. She is worried that her new husband expects to have normal wedding night. However, she is clearly not ready. Trent, being a true gentleman, does not expect anything from his new wife. He is just as unsure about all of this as she is.
For the first few weeks of their marriage, they try to get along and be civil to one another. They try to make the situation as less awkward as possible. Trent makes calling cards for Adelaide that read Lady Trent Hawthorne. She takes this as great insult and leaves the room in tears.
After that, Trent makes a decision to move back into Griffith’s house. He wants to properly court Adelaide. He’s also hoping to fall in love with his wife during that time. He wants to have a real relationship with her.
The plan seems to be working for a while, until Adelaide’s overbearing mother shows up at her house. When she discovers that her daughter and husband aren’t living together, she is livid. She has always loved Adelaide’s sister more and feels that Adelaide is a burden. She even tries to persuade Adelaide to get Trent to help her brother-in-law get into a prestigious gentleman’s club. Adelaide isn’t able to stand up to her mother.
A little while later, things seems to be getting better for Trent and his wife. There is even a passionate kiss between them. This part didn’t bother me so much as the more physical aspect of their relationship. They decide, that same night, to have a normal wedding night. It does not go as planned. It wasn’t explained in graphic detail; however, the insinuations that were made were enough.
After that night, Trent goes to his brother for help. He says he does not know how to love his wife. Griffith makes a decision to call in some friends. He calls Colin, Ryland, and Antony. They have a Bible study and discuss about what it means to love their wife. Griffith cannot participate much because he is not married.
Later, Trent and his wife attend a ball where he gets into a fight with a man. He is afraid that she will decide to go with the man he fought with instead of him. However, she comes home to her husband. After some time they are able to work through their awkwardness of the physical aspect of their marriage. Slowly, over time, they learned to love one another.
In the epilogue, it is revealed that they are going have a child.
Overall, I did not enjoy this story. I like the Bible study and their attempt to make things work. However, the physical aspect of the story made it awkward and uncomfortable to read. I’m really hoping the last book will be better as I am looking forward to reading Griffith’s story.
An Inconvenient Beauty
I will do a review of this book as soon as it is published in September.