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    Sheer bliss!

    Rhapsody for Two by Theresa Romain Rowena Fairweather, the violin maker, has been tending to her late father's shop alone for a year. She has been a luthier all her life, but the lease is about to expire, and she is short of funds. To distract herself, she has been reading the new scandalous book, HOW TO RUIN A DUKE. What a coincidence that a down-on-his-luck musician, Simon Thorn, would bring his horn in which a note has been stuffed. Almost like in HOW TO RUIN A DUKE! When I heard that Theresa Romain was writing a novella about a luthier, I was ecstatic. I knew it would be memorable, and it most certainly is. What is so extraordinary about Rhapsody for Two is that this novella easily reads as a full-length novel. There is so much to love, I hardly know where to start. Rowena and Simon both have complete backstories, they are wonderfully complex characters, and it soon becomes apparent that they need each other. The way they meet is enchanting, but no more so than how they eventually fall in love. It is beyond lovely! I've always been grateful that Ms. Romain doesn't write the typical historical heroes and heroines. Both Simon and Rowena are working people, they're relatable, human, and so endearing. The mind boggles at the amount of research done by the author on stringed instruments, their care and repairs and on Vauxhall, which we experience from a musician's point of view. In carefully chosen words, Theresa Romain puts us right on the premises. How can one describe such a wonderfully perfect story? Rhapsody for Two took me a long time to read, because I kept highlighting those many gorgeous sentences, filled with meaning and charm, and wishing to remember every memorable paragraph, re-reading passages simply because they are just so beautiful. I was emotionally invested all the way, and I think I cried for at least a whole chapter. This novella is clever, witty, and so well constructed that we get brief glimpses of what to expect in Grace Burrowes's story. Every character is a delight, the story is superb, and filled with all kinds of historical details that have now become Ms. Romain's trademark. You don't notice them as such, but they make the everything feel genuine and so alive. I also loved that, in a way, this story features role reversals and a real independent woman. If I hadn't been a fan of Theresa Romain's before, I would be now. She is the undisputed queen of the historical novella. When His Grace Falls by Grace Burrowes Ever since she left her position as companion to the Duchess of Emory, money has been scarce for Lady Edith Charbonneau. She wants to write a book on domestic advice, but it's not easy for a woman to be taken seriously. Some people think she might be the anonymous author of HOW TO RUIN A DUKE, among them the thinly veiled subject of the book: Thaddeus, the Duke of Emory. He searches high and low, confronts her, but cannot help wondering what she does with all the money she earns from the book sales when she nearly faints from hunger. When His Grace Falls is everything we have come to expect from Grace Burrowes: vibrant characters, interesting family dynamics, vivid descriptions, biting wit, and sumptuous, lush prose. Edith and Thaddeus's relationship progresses realistically, and the sole intimate scene is at the same time very subtle and highly erotic. A misunderstanding occurs and I felt Ms. Burrowes handled it brilliantly. The romance is lovely, but it's the suspense that really thrilled me. The author of the scandalous book came as a complete shock, and you can't beat that! I hope that the future will include dukes to be rescued and ravished...
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    I highly recommend

    This Novella Duet includes "Rhapsody for Two" by Theresa Romain and "When His Grace Falls" by Grace Burrowes. "Rhapsody for Two" is the charming story of luthier (repairer of stringed instruments) Rowena Fairweather, who is desperate to hold on to the family business when she finds herself in dire financial straits. Simon Thorn enters her shop with his malfunctioning horn, which Rowena politely informs him “is not a stringed instrument.” When she assists him anyway he is drawn inexplicably to her, as she is to him. When Simon loses both his jobs at the same time, he offers to assist Rowena in promoting her business. What follows is a slow, beautiful blossoming of a romance that neither expects. The obstacles come in the form of Rowena's ruthless landlord and Simon’s guilt over a horrific childhood accident. The “How to Ruin a Duke” book within the book is a humorous thread running through the story, with everyone trying to discover who wrote the naughty book all the while quoting from it, and is the impetus for the initial “meet cute” between Rowena and Simon. The journey to the eventual HEA of Rowena and Simon is filled with witty dialogue and well-rounded characters. Ms. Romain is a new-to-me author whose work I will definitely be seeking again. "When His Grace Falls" This novella is focused on the book within a book, “How to Ruin a Duke” when the subject of that publication, Thaddeus, Duke of Emory, attempts to ferret out who anonymously authored the unflattering tome. Lady Edith Charbonneau falls under suspicion as the elusive author when she abruptly and without explanation resigns her position as companion to Thaddeus’s mother. When Thaddeus accuses Edith, he is vexed by the contradiction she presents: if she penned a best selling book, why is she living in poverty, without even proper sustenance? When he finds that he enjoys sparring verbally with her entirely too much, he decides to enlist her help in unmasking the author. More complications threaten to destroy their newfound camaraderie but love triumphs for a satisfying and sweet HEA. Ms. Burrowes is one of my very favorite authors (and I read A LOT!) and as usual, she does not disappoint. Her characters are fleshed out, her prose is beautifully descriptive, and her dialogue is clever and, at times, hysterical in its period-appropriate formality (e.g., “We’re to undress?” “One often does, in the circumstances.”). All in all, both these novellas are a delight and I highly recommend them. I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the publisher and am voluntarily reviewing it.
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