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1. Spotlight and Giveaway: A Kiss for Lady Mary by Ella Quinn

This morning I have a spotlight and giveaway for A Kiss for Lady Mary by Ella Quinn

A Kiss for Lady Mary
The Marriage Game # 6

By: Ella Quinn

Releasing May 26th, 2015

Kensington Books

Blurb
Ella Quinn’s bachelors do as they like and take what they want. But when the objects of their desire are bold, beautiful women, the rules of the game always seem to change…

Handsome, charming, and heir to a powerful Viscount, Christopher “Kit” Featherton is everything a woman could want—except interested in marriage. So when he hears that someone on his estate near the Scottish border is claiming to be his wife, Kit sets off to investigate.

Since her parents’ death, Lady Mary Tolliver has been hounded by her cousin, a fortune-hunting fool after her inheritance. Refusing to settle for anything less than love, Mary escapes to the isolated estate of rakish bachelor, Kit Featherton. Knowing he prefers Court to the country, she believes she will be safe. But when Kit unexpectedly returns, her pretend marriage begins to feel seductively real…

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/03/a-kiss-for-lady-mary-marriage-game-6-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24980059-a-kiss-for-lady-mary?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/106521-the-marriage-game

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo | Publisher

Author Info
Ella Quinn lived all over the United States, the Pacific, Canada, England and Europe before finally discovering the Caribbean. She lives in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands with her wonderful husband, three bossy cats and a loveable Great Dane.

 

Excerpt

Lady Mary Tolliver heaved a sigh of relief. She’d been at her brother, the Earl of Barham’s, dower house with her grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Bridgewater, and her widowed aunt, Lady Eunice Phipson, for two weeks now. Thankfully there was still no sign of her cousin, Gawain Tolliver. Perhaps he’d finally given up attempting to compromise her. She’d been taking her regular walks after breakfast for the past week. But this morning she had remembered advice given to her by a friend to vary her schedule as long as Gawain was after her and had decided to go earlier.

She was about a half mile from the house when a familiar male voice asked, “How much longer?”

Mary stopped and scanned the woods. Suddenly, the dark green she’d taken for leaves ruffling in the slight breeze moved revealing a jacket.

Blast it all! It was Gawain, and she’d almost stepped into his trap. She’d known her luck wouldn’t hold. She slipped behind a tree, and listened.

“About another half hour,” a man with a rougher voice answered.

“Have the coach ready,” Gawain ordered. “I want to get away as soon as we grab her.”

She backed up carefully, keeping the dense foliage between herself and her cousin, until she could no longer see Gawain clearly.

“Did you hear something?”

Mary stifled a groan. How far was it to the house, and could she outmaneuver them? She glanced around. It was eight, maybe nine, feet to the old oak tree where, as a child, she’d won many a game of hide and seek. Gathering her skirts, she dashed to it and hid in the hollow part of the trunk. Gawain would have to know exactly where to look to see her. Still, she could not remain in the tree all day. She would have to hope they gave up waiting for her and left, planning to return another day.

“Nah, sir, just a deer or something.”

Several minutes later, Mary shifted and dirt fell around her. This space had been far more commodious when she’d been younger. Something landed on her arm and began to crawl. Stifling a scream, she swatted at it, dislodging more debris. Her heart thudded, making it hard for her to breathe. It was certain her cousin wouldn’t leave until at least the time when she normally passed by. She would just have to run. As they began to converse again, she picked up her skirts and dashed out of the home wood. Once she reached the outer part of the curtilage she raced through the rose garden, staying off the flagstone and gravel paths to the nearest door and darted in.

“My lady,” Cook exclaimed. “You look like the devil hisself is after you.” The old woman narrowed her eyes. “What have you got into? Shake out your skirts before you come in any farther. Is that a dead spider on your arm?”

Mary leaned back against the door, sucking in great gulps of air as she caught her breath. “That might be an apt description.” She briefly considered asking Cook not to tell Grandmamma, but that would only insure her grandmother heard about it sooner. “I’ll be down for breakfast as soon as I wash my hands.”

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2. Spotlight and Giveaway: Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt. Enjoy!

DEAREST ROGUE by Elizabeth Hoyt (May 26, 2015; Grand Central Publishing Mass Market)

HE CAN GUARD HER
Lady Phoebe Batten is pretty, vivacious, and yearning for a social life befitting the sister of a powerful duke. But because she is almost completely blind, her overprotective brother insists that she have an armed bodyguard by her side at all times-the very irritating Captain Trevillion.
FROM EVERY DANGER
Captain James Trevillion is proud, brooding, and cursed with a leg injury from his service in the King’s dragoons. Yet he can still shoot and ride like the devil, so watching over the distracting Lady Phoebe should be no problem at all-until she’s targeted by kidnappers.

 

BUT PASSION ITSELF
Caught in a deadly web of deceit, James must risk life and limb to save his charge from the lowest of cads-one who would force Lady Phoebe into a loveless marriage. But while they’re confined to close quarters for her safekeeping, Phoebe begins to see the tender man beneath the soldier’s hard exterior . . . and the possibility of a life-and love-she never imagined possible.


Buy Links:

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About the author:

Elizabeth Hoyt is the New York Times bestselling author of over seventeen lush historical romances including the Maiden Lane series. Publishers Weeklyhas called her writing “mesmerizing.” She also pens deliciously fun contemporary romances under the name Julia Harper. Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with three untrained dogs, a garden in constant need of weeding, and the long-suffering Mr. Hoyt.
The winters in Minnesota have been known to be long and cold and Elizabeth is always thrilled to receive reader mail. You can write to her at: P.O. Box 19495, Minneapolis, MN  55419 or email her at:Elizabeth@ElizabethHoyt.com.


Social Media Links:

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EXCERPT:

He cleared his throat. “Malcolm MacLeish is young and handsome—”

“A fat lot of good that does me, since I can’t see him.”

“— a gentleman of high spirits and quick wit and seemingly smitten with you as well.”

There was a silence.

“Smitten,” Phoebe said at last. “Smit-ten. The word sounds like a skin disease if you think about it too much.”

“He smiles every time he sees you,” he murmured quietly. Was he jealous?

“I smile every time I smell cherry pie.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” Trevillion said disapprovingly. “I don’t see why you’ve rejected him out of hand.”

“You sound like a querulous old aunt, scolding children for running through the house.”

“I am older than you,” he replied stiffly, “as I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions.”

A terrible thought struck her. “Are you shoving me at Mr. MacLeish because I kissed you?”

“I—”

“It was my very first kiss, you ought to know,” she said very rapidly, because sometimes it was just better to say the embarrassing thing and get it over with. “I’m sure I’ll improve with practice. In fact, I’m sure of it. Almost everything improves with practice, don’t you think? And

really, if I had a just a bit of help from your end next time—”

“I am not kissing you,” he said with the awful finality of a judge pronouncing a death sentence.

“Why not?”

“You know very well why not.”

“Nooo,” she said slowly, thinking it over. “No, I can’t say that I do, really. I mean I know why you think we oughtn’t kiss again: you’re as old as the Thames, you’re below me in rank, I’m too young and frivolous, and you much too serious, et cetera, et cetera, and et cetera, but frankly I don’t have any reasons not to kiss you.” She stopped for breath and to think and amended her statement. “Unless, of course, you’re either (a) a murderer running from the law or (b) hiding a secret wife. Are you?”

“I . . . what?”

“Are you,” she repeated patiently, “either a murderer running from the law or hiding a secret wife?”

“You know I’m not,” he said with impatience. It was a good thing she was so stubborn, because that tone might have put off many another young girl. “Phoebe—”

“So then there’s no reason at all not to kiss me again.” She folded her hands in her lap and smiled.

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3. Spotlight and Giveaway: The Lady Hellion by Joanna Shupe

I have an excerpt and giveaway for The Lay Hellion by Joanna Shupe this morning. Enjoy!

The Lady Hellion
Wicked Deceptions # 3

By: Joanna Shupe

Releasing May 26, 2015

Zebra

Blurb

A Marquess’ daughter, Lady Sophia Barnes doesn’t take no for an answer. Especially when she’s roaming London’s seedy underground…dressed as a man.

A rabble rouser for justice, Sophie’s latest mission is to fight for the rights of the poor, the wretched—and the employees at Madame Hartley’s brothel. She’s not concerned about the criminals who will cross her path, for Sophie has mastered the art of deception—including the art of wearing trousers. Now her fate is in her own hands, along with a loaded gun. All she needs is instruction on how to shoot it. But only one person can help her: Lord Quint, the man who broke her heart years ago. The man she won’t let destroy her again…

The last thing Damien Beecham, Viscount Quint, needs is an intrusion on his privacy, especially from the beautiful, exasperating woman he’s never stopped wanting. A woman with a perilously absurd request, no less! For Damien is fighting a battle of his own, one he wishes to keep hidden—along with his feelings for Lady Sophia. Yet that fight is as hopeless as stopping her outlandish plan. Soon all Quint knows for certain is that he will die trying to protect her…

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/03/the-lady-hellion-wicked-deceptions-3-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22891428-the-lady-hellion?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/130734-wicked-deceptions

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo | Publisher

Author Info

Award-winning author JOANNA SHUPE has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. While in college, Joanna read every romance she could get her hands on and soon started crafting her own racy historical novels. She now lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters and dashing husband.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

   

EXCERPT

“You have a visitor, my lord.”

Damien Beecham, Viscount Quint, did not bother looking up at his new butler, his attention instead focused on the rows of letters in front of him. He had to get this idea down. Now—before it was too late. “Pass on the usual response, Turner.”

The butler cleared his throat. “I beg your lordship’s pardon, but the name is Taylor.”

Quint grimaced. He could hardly be faulted for forgetting the lad’s name, could he? Taylor had only been on the job for a few days. Or was this further proof of Quint’s worst fear becoming a reality?

Nearly three months since the shooting. Three months and he was no better. Oh, the wound had closed, the fever abated, yet everything else that followed had only worsened.

He exhaled and dipped his pen in the ink pot. The invocation he’d adopted these past weeks went through his head: Remain occupied. Engage your mind while you can. Prepare for the worst. He looked back down at his cipher. “Apologies, Taylor. No visitors. Ever. Until further notice, I am not receiving callers.”

“She said your lordship might say no, and if so, I was tell you her name—the Lady Sophia Barnes. I was also to mention she planned on coming in whether your lordship allowed it or not.”

Quint felt himself frown. Sophie, here? Why? Displeasure was quickly replaced by an uncomfortable weight on his chest. He could not face anyone, most especially her. “No. Definitely not. Tell her—”

Before he finished his sentence, Sophie charged into the room. Smothering a curse, Quint threw down his pen, came to his feet, and snatched his topcoat off the chair back. He pulled on the garment as he bowed. “Lady Sophia.”

He’d known her for years—five and three-quarters, to be precise—and each time he saw her, he experienced a jolt of heady awareness. There’d never been a more remarkably remarkable woman. She had short honey-brown hair that gleamed with hints of gold in the lamplight. Tall for a female, she had long, lean limbs that moved with purpose, with confidence. Her nose and upper cheeks were dusted with freckles that shifted when she laughed—which was often. People fell under the spell of that laugh, himself included.

“Lord Quint, thank you for seeing me.” Holding her bonnet, she bobbed a curtsy in an attempt to give the impression of a proper young lady. No one who knew this particular daughter of a marquess would ever believe it, however. She and Julia Seaton, the Duchess of Colton, were close friends, and the two of them had landed in one absurd scrape after another over the years. Last he’d heard, the two had required rescuing from a gaming hell after a brawl erupted.

“As if I’d had a choice,” he said dryly.

She laughed, not offended in the least, and Quint noticed Taylor, mouth agape, hovering near the threshold, eyes trained on Sophie. Good God. Not that Quint hadn’t experienced the same reaction in Sophie’s presence a time or two. “That’ll be all, Taylor. Leave the door ajar, will you?”

The butler nodded and retreated, cracking the heavy door for propriety. Ridiculous, really, when the entire visit was already deuced improper. “I hope you at least brought a maid, Sophie.”

“Of course I did. She’s in the entryway, likely planning to flirt with that baby you call a butler.” Her lips twisted into a familiar impish half-smile. Once, she had given him that smile, leaned into him, and parted her lips . . . right before he’d kissed her.

The memory nearly distracted him from the fact that he didn’t want anyone in the house. Bad enough he had to keep the staff. “I am not receiving callers,” he told her. “And this is not going to help your reputation.”

She waved her hand. “No one worries over a spinster nearing thirty years of age. Now, shall we sit?”

He happened to know she was only twenty-seven, but no use quibbling with her. He glanced about. Books, papers, and various mechanical parts littered every surface. Not to mention there were the three heavy medical volumes on his desk—all on mental deficiencies. With rapid flicks of his wrist, he closed each one and moved the stack to the floor behind his desk. He then came around and cleared a chair for Sophie.

“Thank you.” She lowered gracefully into the seat and arranged herself, bonnet in her lap. “I apologize for barging in. Your butler did try to turn me away, but I haven’t been able to locate you elsewhere. You’ve become something of a recluse.”

Better to be a recluse than take a trip to an asylum. He sat in his desk chair and said, “I have been occupied.”

A tawny eyebrow rose. “So occupied you missed the opening lecture at the Royal Society last Tuesday?”

“I had a conflict,” he offered, lamely.

“A conflict? With what? You’ve never missed one of the opening lectures before. Not in recent memory, at least.”

He tried not to react, though he wanted to grit his teeth. “I did not realize my schedule was your concern.”

She sighed. “Oh, dear. I’ve upset you already—and I haven’t even arrived at the purpose of my visit.”

“Meaning that learning the purpose will only upset me further?”

“Yes, I daresay you shall not approve, but I’ve nowhere else to turn.”

“Why do I feel a pressing need to close the door before you speak?”

She shot to her feet, so Quint started to rise as well. “No,” she said, “please, stay seated. I think more clearly when I am standing.”

Reluctantly, Quint lowered. He had no idea what she wanted, but with Sophie it could be nearly anything.

Whatever her troubles, Quint did not care. Could not care. A healthy distance between himself and others must be maintained, especially with anyone who’d known him before the accident. Therefore, he’d hear her out and then show her to the door.

He waited as she traveled the study floor, slapping her bonnet against her thigh. Nervous, clearly. Her dress was both expensive and flattering, yet her boots were worn. No jewels. A practical woman underneath the trappings of a lady.

Interesting.

And he hated that he still found her interesting, even after she’d so thoroughly rebuffed him more than three years ago.

“What in God’s name is that?” She pointed to an abandoned teacup on the desk.

He shot up and grabbed the forgotten porcelain container, which held a greenish-brown gelatinous mixture comprised of various herbs and spices. It looked every bit as terrible as it had tasted. He set the cup inside his desk drawer.

“Why are you here, Sophie?”

She folded her arms over her chest, a motion that called attention to her small, enticing breasts. He forced his eyes away as she spoke. “I would normally approach Colton or Lord Winchester with this request, but as you know, they are both unavailable. You are the only person I can ask.”

“Your flattery overwhelms, madam.”

She stopped and pinned him with a hard stare. “I did not mean to offend you, as you well know. Stop being obdurate.”

“Fine. I readily acknowledge I am to serve as the last resort. Pray, get it out, Sophie.”

She straightened her shoulders, lifted her chin. “I need you to serve as my second.”

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4. Spotlight and Giveaway: When Darkness Ends by Alexandra Ivy

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for When Darkness Ends by Alexandra Ivy

When Darkness Ends
Guardians of Eternity # 12

By: Alexandra Ivy

Releasing May 26, 2015

Zebra

Blurb

The Guardians of Eternity are facing a final battle to save their world—but battles of the heart may be the most difficult to fight…

Cyn, the vampire clan chief of Ireland, is an unabashed hedonist whose beauty is surpassed only by his insatiable appetite for pleasure. It’s no wonder he’s furious when he’s transported from the magical land of the pureblooded feys to his desolate private lair—only to have his very existence thrown into a chaos that even he cannot charm his way out of…

Most women may be all but powerless against Cyn, but Fallon, a sharp-witted fairy princess, is less than beguiled by the silver-tongued vampire. She’s a serious soul with no time for the sort of games he plays—especially when they learn that someone is trying to close the veil that separates the dimensions. But seduction may prove the most powerful force of all, as attraction ignites between the unlikely pair even as worlds are colliding around them…

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/03/when-darkness-ends-guardians-of.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22859817-when-darkness-ends?ac=1
Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/40933-guardians-of-eternity

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo | Publisher

Author Info

ALEXANDRA IVY graduated from Truman University with a degree in theatre before deciding she preferred to bring her characters to life on paper rather than stage. She currently lives in Missouri with her extraordinarily patient husband and teenage sons. To stay updated on Alexandra’s Guardian series or to chat with other readers, please visit her website at www.alexandraivy.com

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

 

 

Excerpt

Laigin (Ireland), 1014 AD

The man woke with a blinding headache, stripped of his clothing as well as his memories.

With a groan, he sat up, shoving his tangled hair out of his face. It was immediately obvious he was in a damp cave. A strange place to wake. But not nearly as strange as the abrupt realization that something was terrifyingly wrong with him.

Despite the darkness he was able to see the limestone walls that had been chiseled by the water dripping from the low ceiling as clear as if it were day. And it was not only his sight that was unbearably acute.

He could smell the distant salt of the sea. And hear the faint scramble of a bug crossing the stone floor. He could even detect the warmth of two creatures that were rapidly approaching the cave.

What madness was this?

No man should have the senses of a god. Not unless he was a monster.

The dark thoughts barely had time to form before they were interrupted by a hunger that thundered through him. He groaned. It was as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks. Months. But it wasn’t the thought of food that made his stomach cramp, he realized with a flare of horror.

It was . . . blood.

His mouth watered, the pain of his fangs ripping through his gums startling him as the image of the red, intoxicatingly rich substance filled his mind.

He had to feed.

Aye. That was what he needed.

Disgusted with the knowledge, he slowly rose to his feet, a virile strength running through his massive body even as his head remained thick with confusion.

His instincts urged him to leave the cave, to hunt down his prey and bury his fangs deep in their throats, but the tantalizing scent of fresh strawberries kept him frozen in place.

It appeared that his prey was willingly coming to him.

And they smelled . . . delectable.

Like an animal, he warily shuffled to the deepest shadows. From his vantage point, he silently watched the two slender creatures enter the cave. His eyes widened at the sheer beauty of the strangers. The male had hair the color of rust with bold green eyes set in a lean face, while the female possessed long tawny hair with eyes the shade of spring grass.

They looked like angels.

His fangs ached, his muscles tensing as he prepared to strike.

Angels or not, they were about to become dinner.

But before he could charge, the male held up a slender hand, the scent of strawberries becoming overpowering.

“Hold, berserker,” he commanded, a tingle of magic in the air.

He frowned. “I am a berserker?”

“You were.”

The confusion only deepened. “Were?”

“Two nights ago you were attacked by a clan of vampires.”

He shook his head, his hand instinctively lifting to touch his neck.

“I survived?”

The pretty female grimaced. “Not as a human. The local villagers left you in this cave to see if you would rise as a vampire. Even now they are on their way to either witness your corpse or slaughter you.” She held out a slender hand. “Come with us in peace and we will harbor you until you are able to care for yourself.”

Vampire . . .

He went to his knees in shock.

Holy shite.

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5. TURNING PAGES: GATEWAY by SHARON SHINN

So, May is Asian Pacific Heritage Month, right? And I'm loving (unintentionally) digging out all of these books which feature Asian characters in unpredictable and non-stereotyped scenarios. Here's another speculative fiction novel I just...... Read the rest of this post

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6. Spotlight and Giveaway: At the Spy’s Pleasure by Tina Gabrielle

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for At the Spy’s Pleasure by Tina Gabrielle!

At the Spy’s Pleasure
In the Crown’s Secret Service # 2

By: Tina Gabrielle

Releasing May 26th, 2015

Entangled: Scandalous

Blurb

Every gentleman has his secrets…

London 1821

After years of marriage to a selfish man who preferred gambling to his young bride, Jane, the widowed countess of Stanwell, now seeks what she was long denied-a satisfying lover. Naturally, a lady needs a list of eligible candidates, which doesn’t include the dangerously handsome (if far too arrogant) Gareth Ramsey…until he steals a sinful kiss from Jane’s all-too-willing lips.

Reputed as an arrogant barrister, Gareth’s real occupation is as a spy in the service of His Majesty, and his suspect is on Jane’s list of possible lovers. With her life in danger, there’s no safer place for Jane than with him-and in his bed. But Jane is as distracting as she is infuriating, and keeping her by his side while he pursues his mission might just endanger them both…

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/03/at-spys-pleasure-in-crowns-secret.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25438256-at-the-spy-s-pleasure?ac=1

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo | Publisher

Author Info

Tina Gabrielle, an award-winning author, is an attorney and former mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. She’s the author of adventurous Regency romances In The Barrister’s Bed, In The Barrister’s Chambers, Lady Of Scandal, and A Perfect Scandal from Kensington Books. “A Spy Unmasked” is the first book in her new Regency romance series, “In The Crown’s Secret Service,” and will be released from Entangled Publishing on November 10, 2014. “At The Spy’s Pleasure” will be available in April 2015. Tina’s books have been Barnes & Noble top picks, and her first book, Lady Of Scandal, was nominated as best first historical by Romantic Times Book Reviews.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter| Goodreads

  

Excerpt

Footsteps sounded behind Jane. She quickly pasted a smile on her face and turned to greet her escort.

Gareth Ramsey entered the theatre box instead.

Shock flew through her, and she jumped to her feet. “What the devil!”

“Shh.” He grasped her arm and pulled her deep into the theater box, behind the curtains, away from any prying eyes. He wore a dark blue coat that heightened his ruggedly handsome features. Her heart hammered foolishly as a shudder heated her body at his nearness.

She tugged on her arm. “You’re insane! This is entirely improper,” she hissed.

“No one can see or hear us.”

“My escort will return,” she protested.

“Not for a while.”

“How on earth could you know that?”

“I know,” he said, a cold edge of irony in his voice.

Gareth Ramsey was arrogant and infuriating. He was also a tall dark-haired devil who brought her senses to life. “You can’t keep pulling me into secluded corners at your whim.”

“You never answered my question in the park.”

Her mind faltered. “What question?”

“Why choose Simon Marbury to be your future lover?”

She was caught off guard by the sudden intensity of his gaze. He’d barged into a private box and hauled her behind a curtain just to ask her that?

“It’s none of your concern. Besides, why should you care? You’re escorting a lady tonight.” Her voice sounded shrewish to her own ears.

He arched a dark eyebrow. “Jealous, are you?”

“Never. Just pointing out a fact.”

“She’s my cousin.”

She looked at him in disbelief. “Your cousin? Don’t you dare treat me like a fool—”

“You are jealous.”

Narrowing her eyes, she pointed to the exit. “Get out.”

“Not without a price.”

“A price?”

“A kiss.”

She gasped. “You arrogant oaf!”

He pulled her into his arms.

As soon as he touched her, her skin sizzled and she felt an immediate and total attraction. Panic followed, welling in her throat. “We will be discovered.”

“No, we won’t.”

She looked up into his eyes. “Why do you insist upon a kiss?”

Reaching out he, trailed a finger down her cheek. “You intrigue me. I want to be your lover. Burn your list, Jane. Let me be the one.”

Her heart raced. She watched in fascinated horror as he lowered his head. His lips were soft and warm as they brushed hers. She should push him away. Instead a blast of heat skittered along her nerves and her lips parted. He took advantage and thrust his tongue inside to explore her mouth. Her hands settled on his shoulders and his muscles flexed beneath her fingers. He groaned and pressed her closer.

She gasped as her soft curves molded fully against the hard planes of his body. It felt forbidden and delicious and she wanted more. She forgot they were hidden behind a curtain and that her escort could return at any moment. She forgot everything but the pleasure of his kiss.

He would be skilled, no doubt. But she couldn’t trust him. She would never trust any man again. Every instinct in her body told her that Gareth was dangerous. Not in a physical sense. She didn’t fear his strength and size, but there were other kinds of wounds, emotional ones, and she’d sworn never to allow herself to lose control of her emotions again.

No. An affair with Gareth Ramsey would be perilous.

Breaking the kiss, she pushed against his hard chest. “No,” she said as firmly as she could.

He pulled back, his eyes dark with desire. “Then I insist on pursuing you and changing your mind.”

Her composure was a fragile shell around her. He made her feel weak and warm and she had to put an end to these feelings once and for all.

Her chin jutted forward, and she met his eyes. “Suit yourself, Mr. Ramsey. But your efforts will lead you nowhere.”

“A challenge, Jane? I accept.”

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7. Interview and Giveaway: Wedding Bells in Christmas by Debbie Mason

This morning I have an interview with Debbie Mason, author of Wedding Bells in Christmas.  Be sure to enter the giveaway, too!

What’s one thing you won’t leave home without? Cell phone.

Name three things on your desk right now. Lilacs, a cup of coffee, and at least a hundred scraps of paper with notes for my new proposal scribbled on them.

What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline? Chocolate.

If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be? My oldest daughter. She’s studying at King’s College in London, England.

You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week. Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it? Time travel. I’d travel back to 18th century Scotland in hopes of finding Jamie Frazer. Yes, I know he’s a fictional character, but a girl can dream.

WEDDING BELLS IN CHRISTMAS by Debbie Mason (May 26, 2015; Forever Mass Market)

To have and to hold from this day forward
Wedding bells are ringing in the charming town of Christmas, but not for Vivian Westfield. She’s just had her heart trampled under the cowboy boots of Chance McBride and lost her dream job at a big-city newspaper. But when she returns for a wedding, she stumbles on a story that could resurrect her career. First, though, she’ll have to deal with the handsome man standing in her way . . . and a still-burning flame that’s too hot to ignore.
Chance recognizes trouble when he sees it. He just didn’t expect to find it in the first-class cabin on the flight home for his father’s wedding. Yet there she is, as gorgeous as ever. Vivi dared Chance to want things he knew he could never have. It’s why he left her. But Christmas’s meddling matchmakers have them firmly in their sights. So if they want to survive the next week, they’ll have to play the part of an adoring couple-an irresistible charade that may give them a second chance at the real thing . . .

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About the author:

Debbie Mason is the bestselling author of the Christmas, Colorado series. Her books have been praised for their “likable characters, clever dialogue and juicy plots” (RT Book Reviews). She also writes historical paranormals as Debbie Mazzuca. Her MacLeod series has received several nominations for best paranormal as well as a Holt Medallion Award of Merit. When she isn’t writing or reading, Debbie enjoys spending time with her very own real-life hero, their four wonderful children, an adorable grandbaby, and a yappy Yorkie named Bella.

Social Media Links:

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EXCERPT:

“I thought we’d already settled this, Slick.” His hand wrapped around the neck of the bottle, he moved it between them. “You and me, we’re together now.”

“We are, but I wasn’t sure if that meant you wanted me to—”

She bowed her head when he gave his a frustrated shake, set his beer bottle on the dock, and got to his feet.

He held out his hand. “Come on.”

“No, I want to talk about this.”

“We will, once I have you naked and in my arms.”

She smiled and patted the blanket. “We can do that right here.”

He kept his eyes on her as he undid his shorts and stripped them off. “In the water. Now.” Without waiting for her response, which she was having trouble forming due to the delectable view he provided, he turned around, giving her a brief look at his muscled back, tight backside, and powerful legs before diving into the water.

He reappeared moments later, looking like he belonged on a movie set or in a magazine as he smoothed his hair back from his gorgeous face with his hands. “Come to me.”

There was something beneath the command in his deep voice that had her rising to her feet. Her eyes locked to his as she walked to the edge of the dock. The dancing moonlight shimmered across the water, illuminating his serious, almost pained expression. For some reason this was important to him. Maybe he needed to know she trusted him to take care of her, to protect her.

She looked into the dark depths. Oh God, she really didn’t want to get in the water. But from day one this man had pushed her out of her comfort zone. Why did she expect him to change now? Taking a deep breath, she loosened her towel, letting it drop to her feet.

“Jesus, God,” Chance said, his voice gruff, his eyes drinking her in.

He’d seen every inch of her body, kissed and caressed it, too, but the way he looked at her now felt strangely more intimate. She lifted her hands, about to cover herself, but dropped them to her sides when he said, “Don’t ever hide yourself from me. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, Vivi Westfield. I . . .” He had that pained look on his face again, then he smiled and held up

his hands. “I’ll catch you.”

Vivi didn’t let herself think; she just closed her eyes and jumped.

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8. Spotlight and Giveaway: Passionately Yours by Cara Elliott

This morning I have an excerpt from Cara Elliott’s latest release Passionately Yours. as well as a giveaway for you to enter. Enjoy!

PASSIONATELY YOURS by Cara Elliott (May 26, 2015; Forever Mass Market; The Hellions of High Street #3)

Proper young ladies of the ton-especially ones who have very small dowries-are not encouraged to have an interest in intellectual pursuits. Indeed, the only things they are encouraged to pursue are eligible bachelors. So, the headstrong Sloane sisters must keep their passions a secret. Ah, but secret passions are wont to lead a lady into trouble . . .

With her older sisters both happily married, Caro Sloane yearns for a romantic adventure of her own. Unfortunately the muddy, sulfur-scented waters of Bath seem the least likely setting for love or excitement. But the aspiring young poet soon finds inspiration when she runs into a familiar-and achingly handsome-Scottish laird.

Visiting Bath with his sickly sister, Alec McClellan is shocked to be reunited with Caro Sloane. He hasn’t been able to forget the English beauty since their brief but exhilarating first meeting. But Bath is not nearly as serene as it appears, and soon Alec must protect Caro from a danger that threatens to extinguish the sparks flying between them. Little does he know that a bit of danger is exactly what Caro is looking for . . .


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SINFULLY YOURS by Cara Elliott (The Hellions of High Street #2)

Proper young ladies of the ton-especially ones who have very small dowries-are not encouraged to have an interest in intellectual pursuits. Indeed, the only things they are encouraged to pursue are eligible bachelors. So, the headstrong Sloane sisters must keep their passions a secret. Ah, but secret passions are wont to lead a lady into trouble . . .

After an eventful Season, Anna Sloane longs for some peace and quiet to pursue her writing. Though her plots might be full of harrowing adventure and heated passion, she’d much prefer to leave such exploits on the page rather than experience them in real life. Or so she thinks until she encounters the darkly dissolute-and gorgeously charming-Marquess of Davenport.

Davenport has a reputation as a notorious rake whose only forte is wanton seduction. However the real reason he’s a guest at the same remote Scottish castle has nothing to do with Anna . . . until a series of mysterious threats leave him no choice but to turn to her for help in stopping a dangerous conspiracy. As desire erupts between them, Davenport soon learns he’s not the only one using a carefully crafted image to hide his true talents. And he’s more than ready to show Anna that sometimes reality can be even better than her wildest imaginings . . .


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SCANDALOUSLY YOURS by Cara Elliott (The Hellions of High Street #1)

Proper young ladies of the ton-especially ones who have very small dowries-are not encouraged to have an interest in intellectual pursuits. Indeed, the only things they are encouraged to pursue are eligible bachelors. So, the headstrong Sloane sisters must keep their passions a secret. Ah, but secret passions are wont to lead a lady into trouble . . .

The eldest of the three Sloane sisters, Olivia is unafraid to question the boundaries of Society-even if it does frequently land her in trouble. Disdaining the glittery world of balls and courtship, Olivia prefers to spend her time writing fiery political essays under a pseudonym for London’s leading newspaper. But when her columns attract the attention of the oh-so-proper Earl of Wrexham, Olivia suddenly finds herself dancing on the razor’s edge of scandal. With the help of her sisters, she tries to stay one step ahead of trouble . . .

However, after a series of madcap misadventures, Wrexham, a former military hero who is fighting for social reform in Parliament, discovers Olivia’s secret. To her surprise, he proposes a temporary alliance to help win passage of his bill. Passion flares between them, but when a political enemy kidnaps the earl’s young son, they must make some dangerous decisions . . . and trust that love will conquer all. 

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About the author:

Cara Elliott started writing Western novels at the age of five. However, she traded in her cowboy boots for Regency high-top Hessians after reading Pride and Prejudice in junior high school and hasn’t looked back. She graduated from Yale University, and she now lives and works in New York City.


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Excerpt:

“One would almost think you were going out of your way to avoid speaking to me.”

“We’re speaking now,” he pointed out.

“I would call it verbal sparring.” Caro edged around impatiently, forcing him to look her in the face. “But now that I have you alone, I’d rather not keep trading thrusts and parries. I would rather discuss far more important matters—such as whether you have learned anything new about the attack on your sister?”

Pursing his lips, Alec shifted his stance just enough to allow him to return to his perusal of the lettering on the column. “Not really.”

“Ye gods.” She restrained the urge to take hold of his arm and give him a hard shake. “What sort of answer is that?”

“The only one I intend to give,” he replied calmly.

“Fine.” Caro watched the breeze ruffle his long hair, causing a tangle of red-gold strands to curl around his ear and dance down the freshly shaven line of his jaw. The faint scent of bay rum tickled at her nostrils.

“Fine,” she repeated, after forcing herself to exhale. “Then I’ll just have to do a little poking around on my own.”

That got his attention. He looked around abruptly, his gaze narrowing to a slitted stare. The movement was quick, but not quick enough to hide the sudden darkening of his eyes.

“That wouldn’t be wise,” he growled. “The only thing I will add for now is that you should stay well away from Edward Thayer.”

“Why?”

“Because…” He let out an exasperated grunt. “Must you always plague me with questions?”

“I wouldn’t have to if you would stop treating me like a feather-headed wigeon.”

Alec’s scowl became more pronounced.

“Haven’t I proved myself trustworthy and capable?”

A small muscle on his jaw twitched. “I am not at liberty to give you any more details right now. All I can say is that…” As he drew in a breath, he seemed to change his mind about what to say. “Thayer is a charming fellow. No doubt his smooth words are more to your liking.”

Deciding Alec deserved a bit of teasing, Caro pretended not to notice the roughness edging his voice. “Yes, he’s exceedingly charming.”

If his storm-blue stare squeezed any tighter, it would be sharper than a razor’s edge.

“And scrupulously polite,” she added.

Alec was becoming more flustered. Small sounds were beginning to rumble in his throat, like the growling of a bear. “I do not have Thayer’s gift of making myself agreeable. He has a honeyed tongue, which seems to appeal to all the ladies.”

“Honey is, after all, a great deal more palatable than vinegar,” Caro pointed out.

He now looked utterly nonplussed.

Caro let him stew for a moment longer before huffing an exasperated sigh. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, give me some credit for having a brain, Lord Strathcona! Of course I don’t find Thayer appealing. When honey drips that freely, it ought to catch naught but flies.”

The growls ceased.

Caro waited for him to speak.

Ever so slowly, Alec shifted his feet, stirring tiny puffs of pale dust beneath his boots.

The flicker of dark leather caused a momentary spasm of doubt as she recalled her chilling encounter in the churchyard.

Alec as evil? She couldn’t explain how, but she knew with a certainty that resonated right down to her very heartbeat that it couldn’t be true.

“Are you saying you would trust my word over his?”

“Yes, you big lummox! I don’t know why I should, but I prefer your snaps and growls.”

A dappling of sunlight seemed to catch on the curl of his lashes, gilding them to a gleaming gold.

“You are forthright, you are honorable in your own maddening way,” she went on. Oh, no man ought to have such beautiful eyes.

She found herself staring, and at that moment, all rational thought seemed to dance away in the breeze. His face was utterly intriguing—a mix of chiseled planes and well-defined features that hinted at hidden secrets.

“And… well, you are quite the most interesting man I have ever met.” Her legs suddenly seemed a little unsteady, so Caro reached out and caught hold of his lapels.

Looking up, she found his mouth was only inches from hers.

“Oh, bosh—I shall probably regret this…” Standing on tiptoes, Caro kissed him. Not a mere feathering of flesh against flesh, but a hard, hungry embrace that she let go on for far, far longer than any proper young lady should dare.

“There, I have no doubt shocked you.”

The tip of his tongue traced along the swell of his lower lip.

“I imagine you think me a wanton hellion, and I suppose I am. It must be my eccentric upbringing. I don’t care very much for rules.”

Caro knew she was babbling but she couldn’t seem to stop. “You may consign me to the Devil. But at least I shall dance a merry jig on my way to perdition.”

Was that finally a hint of smile?

She finally dared pause to take a breath. A long, shuddering breath. Now was the time to flee, before she made an even bigger fool of herself.

But Alec suddenly shifted again, blocking her way.

“I, too, shall probably regret this,” he said as he slowly circled his arms around her and pulled her close.

She opened her mouth. To protest?

Before she could make any sense of what she had set in motion, their lips met again, setting off a fierce jolt of fire.

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9. Spotlight and Giveaway: Cherry Lane by Rochelle Alers

This morning I have a spotlight and giveaway for Rochelle Alers’ latest, Cherry Lane.

About CHERRY LANE

In New York City, attorney Devon Gilmore devoted all her time and energy to fast-track her career. She lost her boyfriend . . . but found herself with a surprise baby on the way. To begin a new life, Devon needs a place to settle down-a place like Cavanaugh Island, where the pace is slow, the weather is fine, and the men are even finer.


From the moment David Sullivan meets Devon, he knows he can’t fight the laws of attraction. Whether it’s helping fix up the old cottage she just bought on Cherry Lane or working together on a pro bono legal case, he can’t help feeling a little protective. But will the most eligible bachelor in town be ready for an instant family? Only if he can convince Devon to put her heart on the line one more time-for all time.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1zMtiHH
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About Rochelle Alers

Bestselling author, Rochelle Alers has nearly two million copies of her novels in print. She is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Gold Pen Award, the Emma Award, Vivian Stephens Award for Excellence in Romance Writing, the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award and the Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award. 

AUTH. WEBSITE:

http://www.rochellealers.org/

AUTH. TWITTER ID:

@RochelleAlers

AUTH. FACEBOOK:

http://facebook.com/pages/Rochelle-Alers/296022117172443

Excerpt:

Devon had been so lost in her thoughts that she hadn’t realized David had turned onto King Street, stopping in front of the hotel. The evening was warm enough for people to sit outside at bistro tables.

She unbuckled her belt at the time he got out the car and came around to assist her. Placing her hand on his outstretched palm, she smiled when his fingers closed over hers, he gently pulling her to stand. Standing on the sidewalk close to him suddenly made Devon aware of his height. She stood five-five in her bare feet and even with three-inch pumps David was almost a full head taller.

Tilting her chin, she gave him an open smile. “Thank you again for driving me back.”

“No problem. Do you need me to walk you to your room?”

She found David the quintessential gentleman, enjoyed talking with him, and for a reason she couldn’t fathom Devon didn’t want her time with him to end. Under another set of circumstances she would’ve invited him to relax with her in the Swamp Fox bar over cocktails, while listening to piano jazz music. But at this time in her life she couldn’t afford to become involved with a man – even one as close to perfect as the man standing so close to her she could feel his body’s warmth and inhale the lingering scent of his hauntingly sexy masculine cologne.

“No thank you. I believe I can find my way,” she said teasingly. A slight gasp escaped her parted lips when he leaned down and kissed her cheek.

“Good night, Devon.”

“Good night, David,” she whispered, struggling to breathe normally. He’d only kissed her cheek, the gesture lasting mere seconds, but somehow Devon couldn’t help thinking something momentous had just happened.

She was still standing in the same spot when he returned to his car and drove off. Turning on her heels, Devon smiled at the doorman when he opened the door to the hotel lobby. “I hope you’re enjoying your evening, miss.”

Devon’s smile said it all. “I am.” And she was. Everything about her evening was nothing short of perfection from Francine’s birthday celebration, the delicious cuisine, and the people who’d come together in the Tanner dining room. She hadn’t expected to meet David Sullivan or be seated next to him, and have him offer to drive her back to the hotel.

She liked him. A lot. However, she knew nothing about her liking him could go beyond friendship. Not as long as she carried another man’s baby under her heart.

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10. Guest Post and Giveaway: Captured by You by Amber Hart

 

Amber Hart dropped by with a guest post and a giveaway to celebrate the release of Captured by You.  Enjoy!

5 WAYS TO GET YOUR FICTION BOOK PUBLISHED

Stories need a lot of work to get to the publishing stage. Like, a whole lot. There’s an ocean of books out there and it’s hard to tell how, exactly, to become one of them. There’s not a “right” way, per say, but the general census boils down to these five things.

  1. WRITE YOUR BOOK IN ITS ENTIRETY

It’s super tempting to send your book off when it’s only partially done. I mean, you’ve achieved this monumental thing. You’ve written part of a book! That has to count for something, right? It does. Trust me. I’m with you. It’s lovely, but you still need to write the whole book before you send it off. Unless you are already published and/or are wildly popular in the business, agents and publishers like to know how the story started, progressed, and ended before they will sign you for the first time. It’s tough, but you’ll be glad you finished.

  1. EDIT

This step is so very important. Edit, edit, edit. Edit until you feel like it’s the most polished stone in the pond. Edit until you’re one million percent sure that the book is as good as it gets. Maybe, if you can afford it, even let a freelance editor rake through it. And then, celebrate! You’ve just finished a book, after all.

  1. LET TRUSTED PEOPLE BETA READ

There’s only so many times you can edit and read your own book before you become blind to the story and words. It’s important to have someone else, someone who is not in your own head, read it. They are looking at it with fresh eyes. They might be able to point out that you skipped too far ahead in one section, or that a part is dragging, or that a certain character needs more fleshing out. Beta readers can see bigger picture issues that you’ll want to correct before you send your baby novel off to an agent and/or publisher.

  1. WRITE A KILLER QUERY

How are you possibly going to hook an agent and/or publisher in one page? It’s the same question all authors have had, the one that keeps them up at night sweating bullets. It’s impossible, you say. Something-hundred pages can’t be contained in a simple paragraph, you say. It has to. And it all starts with a hook. Make the reader want to know more. Explore the books on your own shelves. Look at the back jackets. What drew you to them? What one-lines did they drop to snag your interest? Now, it’s your turn to create one of your own. Follow it up with a few sentences about your book. Don’t be afraid to infuse your voice in it. Actually, that can be the difference between getting signed or not.

  1. BE PREPARED FOR REJECTION

It’s a hard part of the business. Someone is bound to say no. All the greatest writers will tell you the same. But I think you should know that rejection can also be gold. Sometimes agents and publishers include reasons why the book wasn’t strong enough for them. Those reasons can be used to better your book. If you feel they might be dead on, fix the problem areas and then query more agents and/or publishers. The point is, rejection WILL happen. Don’t loose hope. Don’t give up. It only take one “yes.” Don’t quit before you get yours.

And, as always, be respectful. Thank that agent and/or publisher (by name) for taking time out of their day to read your words. Know that your time will come as long as you keep writing. There are many paths to cross to get to the finish. Find yours. Don’t forget that some books never get published. Write another one. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing. Never stop.

Captured By You
Until You Find Me # 2

By: Amber Hart

Releasing May 19, 2015

Loveswept: Flirt

Blurb

In the passionate, gut-wrenching sequel to Amber Hart’s Until You Find Me, Raven and Jospin must fight for each other in a world where love is never safe—and power is deadly.

Raven, a college girl from Michigan, came to the jungles of Cameroon searching for closure. Falling for Jospin, a handsome, charismatic hunter with dark secrets of his own, was never part of the plan.

But despite their differences, their attraction is addictive, as exhilarating and wild as the rain forest itself—and also as dangerous. For the sake of both their lives, their heated affair must remain a secret.

Raven wants justice for her conservationist father’s death; to help her, Jospin must turn his back on his own father and the only life he has ever known. Together they risk being hunted by a band of ruthless poachers, but they take the chance anyway, working to bring down their enemies between each stolen kiss. But when one slip puts Raven’s life at stake, Jospin knows he must act.

He has captured Raven’s heart—now can he set her free

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/02/captured-by-you-until-you-find-me-2-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22675554-captured-by-you?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/132345-until-you-find-me

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info

Amber Hart is the author of Before You and Until You Find Me. She grew up in Orlando, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia, and now resides on the Florida coastline with her family. When not reading, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or dipping her toes in the sand.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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11. Off the Page, by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer | Book Review

Fantasy meets reality in Off the Page, a romantic comedy written for the young adult audience by New York Times bestselling authors Jodi Picoult and her daughter and coauthor, Samantha van Leer.

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12. Moving Beyond Despair in The Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer

Over the past couple months I’ve looked at both of Satoshi Mizukami’s works that are available in English, Spirit Circle and Hoshi no Samidare: The Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, and my feelings on Biscuit Hammer were rather lukewarm. I felt like Spirit Circle improved on all of the problems I had with the story but that was expected, ... Read more

2 Comments on Moving Beyond Despair in The Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, last added: 5/24/2015
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13. Interview and Giveaway: The End of Innocence by Allegra Jordan

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Allegra!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Allegra Jordan] A generative, generous listener.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Allegra Jordan]  Nothing. One of my greatest joys is walking outside and being fully present in nature.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Allegra Jordan]  Whale figurine– to remind me to not be like Jonah and run from my calling.

A card from my husband.

“Wisdom cat” small statue – a cat that is sitting like a Buddha statue – reminds me to be centered.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

[Allegra Jordan]  Skinny girl popcorn with a dusting of shredded parmesan cheese. After I finish working on a big deadline, a St. Germain/Chopin Vodka martini with a twist of lemon – DELISH, but not more than one per week. It’s a treat, not a lifestyle.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Allegra Jordan]  Marguerite Barankitse, the Angel of Burundi. She started Maison Shalom as a house of peace after a brutal massacre in her village. She has helped raise 30,000 people, including 10,000 children. I would love to know how she thinks about unbearable realities – because she really has changed a lot of things we thought never could be changed or done!

 

End of Innocence

By Allegra Jordan

Sourcebooks Landmark

Historical Fiction

May 1, 2015

ISBN: 9781492609933

$14.99 Trade Paperback

About the Book

In this enthralling story of love, loss, and divided loyalties, two students fall in love on the eve of WWI and must face a world at war—from opposing sides.

Cambridge, MA, 1914: Helen Windship Brooks, the precocious daughter of the prestigious Boston family, is struggling to find herself at the renowned Harvard-Radcliffe university when carefree British playboy, Riley Spencer, and his brooding German poet-cousin, Wils Brandl, burst into her sheltered world. As Wils quietly helps the beautiful, spirited Helen navigate Harvard, they fall for each other against a backdrop of tyrannical professors, intellectual debates, and secluded boat rides on the Charles River.

But with foreign tensions mounting and the country teetering on the brink of World War I, German-born Wils finds his future at Harvard—and in America—increasingly in danger. When both cousins are called to fight on opposing sides of the same war, Helen must decide if she is ready to fight her own battle for what she loves most.

Based on the true story behind a mysterious and controversial World War I memorial at this world-famous university, The End of Innocence sweeps readers from the elaborate elegance of Boston’s high society to Harvard’s hallowed halls to Belgium’s war-ravaged battlefields, offering a powerful and poignant vision of love and hope in the midst of a violent, broken world.

Purchase Here:

END OF INNOCENCE

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About the Author

Allegra Jordan is a writer and global innovation consultant. A graduate with honors of Harvard Business School, she led marketing at USAToday.com for four years and has taught innovation in sixteen countries and five continents.

Connect with Allegra Jordan

Website – http://allegrajordan.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/allegrajordan1

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/allegrajordanauthorpage

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6590524.Allegra_Jordan

Praise for End of Innocence

“This engaging debut from Jordan tells the love story of two college students who pursue their romance as World War I begins.”

“Jordan does a terrific job of contrasting the superficial formalities of the initial chapters depicting New England social life with the grueling realities of life in the trenches. Also on display is her knack for taking what at first seem like throwaway or background details and making them central to the story’s last third…”

“A thoughtful look at a turning point in world history.”

Helen is a sympathetic and complicated main character. Her strengths and weaknesses keep the reader’s attention, making this a worthwhile read.” – Kirkus

“A thoughtful work that offers an interesting perspective on the period.” – Booklist

“Reminiscent of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maise Dobbs books without the mystery, this novel explores the complications involved when war becomes personal. Jordan builds empathetic characters and an intriguing story. Library Journal ” – Library Journal

“Allegra Jordan’s The End of Innocence is a moving ode to a lost generation. With lyrical prose and rich historical detail, Jordan weaves a tale in which love overcomes fear, hope overcomes despair, and the indelible human spirit rises up to embrace renewal and reconciliation in the face of loss and destruction.” – Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor’s Wife

“Love in a time of war….surely there is no more compelling or romantic theme in all of literature Yet this fine debut novel appeals to the brain as well as the heart. Allegra Jordan brings us historical fiction at its best.” – Lee Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Guests on Earth and The Last Girls

“A delicious, well-crafted historical novel.” – Daniel Klein, NYT best-selling co-author of PLATO and A PLATYPUS WALKS INTO A BAR

“Downton Abbey has found a brilliant successor in this spellbinding tale of love, death, and war. The finest war fiction to be published in many years.” – Jonathan W. Jordan, bestselling author of Brothers, Rivals, Victors

“An exquisitely beautiful novel.” – William Ferris, UNC-Chapel Hill professor and former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities

Excerpt from END OF INNOCENCE

Harvard Yard

Wednesday, August 26, 1914

It was said that heroic architects didn’t fare well in Harvard Yard. If you wanted haut monde, move past the Johnston Gate, preferably to New York. The Yard was Boston’s: energetic, spare, solid.

The Yard had evolved as a collection of buildings, each with its own oddities, interspersed among large elm trees and tracts of grass. The rich red brickwork of Sever Hall stood apart from the austere gray of University Hall. Appleton Chapel’s Romanesque curves differed from the gabled turrets of Weld and the sharp peaks of Matthews. Holworthy, Hollis, and Stoughton were as plain as the Pilgrims. Holden Chapel, decorated with white cherubs above its door and tucked in a corner of the Yard, looked like a young girl’s playhouse. The red walls of Harvard and Massachusetts halls, many agreed, could be called honest but not much more. The massive new library had been named for a young man who went down on the Titanic two years before. There were those who would’ve had the architect trade tickets with the young lad. At least the squat form, dour roofline, and grate of Corinthian columns did indeed look like a library.

The Yard had become not a single building demanding the attention of all around it but the sum of its parts: its many irregular halls filled with many irregular people. Taken together over the course of nearly three hundred years, this endeavor of the Puritans was judged a resounding success by most. In fact, none were inclined to think higher of it than those forced to leave Harvard, such as the bespectacled Wilhelm von Lützow Brandl, a senior and the only son of a Prussian countess, at that hour suddenly called to return to Germany.

A soft rain fell in the Yard that day, but Wils seemed not to notice. His hands were stuffed in his trouser pockets; his gait slowed as the drops dampened his crested jacket, spotted his glasses, and wilted his starched collar. The dying elms, bored to their cores by a plague of leopard moths, provided meager cover.

He looked out to the Yard. Men in shirtsleeves and bowler hats carried old furniture and stacks of secondhand books into their dormitories. This was where the poor students lived. But the place had a motion, an energy. These Americans found no man above them except that he prove it on merit, and no man beneath them except by his own faults. They believed that the son of a fishmonger could match the son of a count and proved it with such regularity that an aristocrat like Wils feared for the future of the wealthy class.

He sighed, looking over the many faces he would never know. Mein Gott. He ran his hands through his short blond hair. I’ll miss this.

His mother had just wired demanding his return home. He pulled out the order from his pocket and reread it. She insisted that for his own safety he return home as soon as possible. She argued that Boston had been a hotbed of intolerance for more than three hundred years, and now news had reached Berlin that the American patriots conspired to send the German conductor of the Boston Symphony to a detention camp in the state of Georgia. That city was no place for her son.

She was understandably distressed, although he was certain the reports in Germany made the situation sound worse than it was. The papers there would miss that Harvard was welcoming, for instance. If the front door at Harvard was closed to a student due to his race, class, or nationality, inevitably a side door opened and a friend or professor would haul him back inside by his collar. Once a member of the club, always a member.

But Boston was a different matter. Proud, parochial, and hostile, Boston was a suspicious place filled with suspicious people. It was planned even in pre-Revolutionary times to convey-down to the last missing signpost-“If you don’t know where you are in Boston, what business do you have being here?” And they meant it. Wils kept his distance from Boston.

Wils crumpled the note in his hand and stuffed it into his pocket, then walked slowly to his seminar room in Harvard Hall, opened the door, and took an empty seat at the table just as the campus bell tolled.

The room was populated with twenty young men, their books, and a smattering of their sports equipment piled on the floor behind their chairs. After three years together in various clubs, classes, or sports, they were familiar faces. Wils recognized the arrogant mien of Thomas Althorp and the easy confidence of John Eliot, the captain of the football team. Three others were in the Spee Club, a social dining group Wils belonged to. One was a Swede, the other two from England.

The tiny, bespectacled Professor Charles Townsend Copeland walked to the head of the table. He wore a tweed suit and a checked tie and carried a bowler hat in his hand along with his notes. He cast a weary look over them as he placed his notes on the oak lectern.

The lectern was new with an updated crest, something that seemed to give Copeland pause. Wils smiled as he watched his professor ponder it. The crest was carved into the wood and painted in bright gold, different from those now-dulled ones painted on the backs of the black chairs in which they sat. The old crest spoke of reason and revelation: two books turned up, one turned down. The latest version had all three books upturned. Apparently you could-and were expected to-know everything by the time you left Harvard.

It would take some time before the crest found its way into all the classrooms and halls. Yankees were not ones to throw anything out, Wils had learned. He had been told more than once that two presidents and three generals had used this room and the chairs in which they sat. Even without this lore, it still wasn’t easy to forget such lineage, as the former occupants had a way of becoming portraits on the walls above, staring down with questioning glares. They were worthy-were you?

Professor Copeland called the class to order with a rap at the podium. “You are in Advanced Composition. If you intend to compose at a beginning or intermediate level, I recommend you leave.”

He then ran through the drier details of the class. Wils took few notes, having heard this speech several times before.

“In conclusion,” Copeland said, looking up from his notes, “what wasn’t explained in the syllabus is a specific point of order with which Harvard has not dealt in some time. This seminar started with thirty-two students. As you see, enrollment is now down to twenty, and the registrar has moved us to a smaller room.

“This reduction is not due to the excellent quality of instruction, which I can assure you is more than you deserve. No. This new war calls our young men to it like moths to the flame. And as we know moths are not meant to live in such impassioned conditions, and we can only hope that the war’s fire is extinguished soon.

“If you do remain in this class, and on this continent, I expect you to write with honesty and clarity. Organize your thoughts, avoid the bombastic, and shun things you cannot possibly know.

“Mr. Eliot, I can ward off sleep for only so long when you describe the ocean’s tide. Mr. Brandl, you will move me beyond the comfort of tearful frustration if you write yet another essay about something obscure in Plato. Mr. Althorp, your poems last semester sounded like the scrapings of a novice violinist. And Mr. Goodwin, no more discourses on Milton’s metaphors. It provokes waves of acid in my stomach that my doctor says I can no longer tolerate.”

Wils had now heard the same tirade for three years and the barbs no longer stung. As Copeland rambled, Wils’s mind wandered back to the telegram in his pocket. Though a dutiful son, he wanted to argue against his mother’s demands, against duty, against, heaven forbid, the philosophy of Kant. His return to Germany would be useless. The situation was not as intolerable as his mother believed. These were his classmates. He had good work to accomplish. The anti-German activity would abate if the war were short-and everyone said it would be.

“Brandl!” Copeland was standing over him.

“Sir?”

“Don’t be a toad. Pay attention.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Come to Hollis 15 after class, Mr. Brandl.”

Thomas snickered. “German rat.”

Wils cast a cold stare back.

When the Yard’s bell tolled the hour, Professor Copeland closed his book and looked up at the class. “Before you go-I know some of you may leave this very day to fight in Europe or to work with the Red Cross. Give me one last word.”

His face, stern for the past hour of lecturing, softened. He cleared his throat. “As we have heard before and will hear again, there is loss in this world, and we shall feel it, if not today, then tomorrow, or the week after that. That is the way of things. But there is also something equal to loss that you must not forget. There is an irrepressible renewal of life that we can no more stop than blot out the sun. This is a good and encouraging thought.

“Write me if you go to war and tell me what you see. That’s all for today.” And with that the class was dismissed.

* * *

Wils opened the heavy green door of Hollis Hall and dutifully walked up four flights of steps to Professor Copeland’s suite. He knocked on a door that still bore the arms of King George III. Copeland, his necktie loosened at the collar, opened the door.

“Brandl. Glad I saw you in class. We need to talk.”

“Yes, Professor. And I need your advice on something as well.”

“Most students do.” The professor ushered Wils inside.

The smell of stale ash permeated the room. The clouds cast shadows into the sitting area around the fireplace. Rings on the ceiling above the glass oil lamps testified to Copeland’s refusal of electricity for his apartment. The furniture-a worn sofa and chairs-bore the marks of years of students’ visits. A pitcher of water and a scotch decanter stood on a low table, an empty glass beside them.

Across the room by the corner windows, Copeland had placed a large desk and two wooden chairs. Copeland walked behind the desk, piled high with news articles, books, and folders, and pointed Wils to a particularly weathered chair in front of him, in which rested a stack of yellowing papers, weighted by a human skull of all things. Copeland had walked by it as if it were a used coffee cup.

“One of ours?” asked Brandl, as he moved the skull and papers respectfully to the desk.

The severe exterior of Copeland’s face cracked into a smile. “No. I’m researching Puritans. They kept skulls around. Reminded them to get on with it. Not dawdle. Fleeting life and all.”

“Oh yes. ‘Why grin, you hollow skull-‘”

“Please keep your Faust to yourself, Wils. But I do need to speak to you on that subject.”

“Faust?”

“No, death,” said Copeland. His lips tightened as he seemed to be weighing his words carefully. His face lacked any color or warmth now. “Well, more about life before death.”

“Mine?” asked Wils.

“No. Maximilian von Steiger’s life before his death.”

“What the devil? Max…he, he just left for the war. He’s dead?”

Copeland leaned toward him across the desk. “Yes, Maximilian von Steiger is dead. And no, he didn’t leave. Not in the corporeal sense. All ocean liners bound for Germany have been temporarily held, pending the end of the conflict in Europe.”

Wils’s eyes met Copeland’s. “What do you mean?”

“Steiger was found dead in his room.”

“Fever?”

“Noose.”

Wils’s eyes stung. His lips parted, but no sound came out. “You are sure?”

As Copeland nodded, Wils suddenly felt nauseous, his collar too tight. He had known Max nearly all his life. They lived near each other back in Prussia; they attended the same church and went to the same schools. Their mothers were even good friends. Wils loosened his tie.

“May I have some water, please, Professor?” Wils finally asked in a raspy voice. As Copeland turned his back to him, Wils took a deep breath, pulled out a linen handkerchief, and cleaned the fog from his spectacles.

The professor walked over to a nearby table and poured a glass of water. “How well did you know Max?” he asked, handing the glass to Wils.

He took the tumbler and held it tight, trying to still his shaking hand. “We met at church in Prussia when we were in the nursery. I’ve known him forever.”

“Did you know anything about any gaming debts that he’d incurred?”

Debts? “No.”

“Do you think that gaming debts were the cause of his beating last week?” asked Copeland, sitting back in his desk chair.

Wils moved to the edge of his seat. The prügel? Last Wednesday’s fight flashed into his mind. There had been a heated argument between Max and a very drunk Arnold Archer after dinner at the Spee dining club. Max had called him a coward for supporting the British but not being willing to fight for them. It wasn’t the most sensible thing to do given Archer ran with brawny, patriotic friends. On Thursday at the boathouse Max had received the worst of a fight with Archer’s gang.

“It was a schoolboys’ fight. They were drunk. Max was beaten because Arnold Archer was mad about the Germans beating the British in Belgium. Archer couldn’t fight because America’s neutral, so he hit a German who wouldn’t renounce his country. These fights break out all the time over politics when too much brandy gets in the way. People get over their arguments.”

“Didn’t Max make some nationalistic speech at the Spee Club?”

Wils’s back stiffened in indignation. “If Max had been British it would have gone unnoticed. But because he was German, Archer beat him.” He paused. “Max was going to tell the truth as he knew it, and thugs like Archer weren’t going to stop him.”

Copeland tapped a pencil against his knee. “How well do you think his strategy worked?”

Wils’s eyes widened. “Being beaten wasn’t Max’s fault, Professor. It was the fault of the person who used his fists.”

“Wils, Arnold Archer’s father is coming to see me this evening to discuss the case. His son is under suspicion for Max’s death.”

“I hope Arnold goes to jail.”

“Arnold may not have been involved.”

Wils set the glass down on the wooden desk and stood up. “He’s a pig.”

“Wils, according to Arnold, Max tried to send sensitive information about the Charlestown Navy Yard to Germany.” A faint tinge of pink briefly colored the professor’s cheeks. “Arnold said he knew about this and was going to go to the police. Max may have thought that he would go to jail for endangering the lives of Americans and British citizens. And if what Arnold said was right, then Max may have faced some very serious consequences.”

“America’s not at war.”

The professor didn’t respond.

“Why would Max do such a thing then?” asked Wils curtly.

“Arnold says he was blackmailed because of his gaming debts.”

“What could Max possibly have found? He’s incapable of remembering to brush his hair on most days.”

Copeland threw up his hands, nearly tipping over a stack of books on the desk. “I have no idea. Maybe America’s building ships for England. Maybe we’ve captured a German ship. Apparently he found something. Sometime later, Max was found by his maid, hung with a noose fashioned from his own necktie. His room was a wreck.” Copeland looked at him intently. “And now the police don’t know if it was suicide or murder. Arnold might have wanted to take matters into his own hands-as he did the other night after the Spee Club incident.”

Wils ran his hands through his hair. “Arnold a murderer? It just doesn’t make sense. It was a schoolboys’ fight. And Arnold’s a fool, but much more of a village idiot than a schemer.”

“Don’t underestimate him, Wils. He’s not an idiot. He’s the son of a very powerful local politician who wants to run for higher office. His father holds City Hall in his pocket.”

“Are you speaking of Boston City Hall?”

“Yes.”

“I could care less about some martinet from Boston. I’m related to half the monarchs in Europe.” Wils sneered.

“City Hall has more power over you right now than some king in a faraway land,” said Copeland. “Arresting another German, maybe stopping a German spy ring-that would be exactly the thing that could get a man like Charles Archer elected to Congress. I’d recommend you cooperate with City Hall on any investigation into Max’s death. If you have information, you will need to share it.”

“If Arnold killed Max-” He stopped, barely able to breathe. Max dead by Arnold’s hand? Unthinkable. “Was there a note?”

“No, nothing. That’s why the Boston police may arrest Archer even if his father does run City Hall. Either it was a suicide and it won’t happen again, or perhaps we need to warn our German students about…a problem.” Copeland’s fingers brushed the edge of his desk. “That was the point of my summoning you here now. It could’ve been suicide. Therefore, the police want to talk with you before innocent people are accused, and I’d recommend you do it.”

But Wils had already taken the bait. “Innocent people? Arnold Archer? Is this a joke?” asked Wils.

“He may not be guilty.”

Wils paused. “I’m not sure how much money his father’s giving Harvard, but it had better be a lot.”

“That’s most uncharitable!”

“And so is the possible murder of a decent human! Where’s Professor Francke? I’d like to speak with him. He is a great German leader here on campus whom everyone respects. He’ll know how to advise me.”

“You are right. Professor Francke is a moderate, respected voice of reason. But he’s German and the police questioned him this morning. He is cooperating. His ties to the kaiser have naturally brought him under suspicion. City Hall thinks he could be a ringleader of a band of German spies. The dean of students asked me to speak with you and a few others prior to your discussions with the police. They should contact you shortly regarding this unpleasantness.”

“If that is all-” Wils bowed his head to leave, anger rising in his throat from the injustice of what he’d heard. First murder and now harassment were being committed against his countrymen, and somehow they were to blame for it? Not possible. Professor Francke was one of the most generous and beloved professors at Harvard. Max was a harmless soul.

“Wils, you had said you wished to ask me about something.”

Wils thought back to his mother’s telegram. Perhaps she’d been right to demand his return after all. He looked up at Copeland, sitting under an image of an old Spanish peasant. He seemed to have shrunk in his large desk chair.

“No, Professor. Nothing at all. Good day.”

Copeland didn’t rise as Wils turned to enter the dimly lit hallway. As his eyes adjusted, a famous poem Copeland had taught him in class-Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach”-came to him. Wils turned back to his teacher and said:

“For the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain-”

Copeland brightened. “‘Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night,'” they finished together. Wils nodded, unable to speak further.

“Matthew Arnold has his moments. Do take care, Wils. Stay alert. I am concerned about you and want you to be safe. The world is becoming darker just now. Your intellectual light is one worth preserving. Now please close the door from the outside.” Copeland looked down again, and the interview was over.

* * *

The rain had driven the students inside their dormitories and flooded the walkways in Harvard Yard. As Wils left Hollis Hall, he removed his tie and pushed it into his pocket. The damned Americans talk brotherhood, he thought, but if you’re from the wrong side of Europe you’re no brother to them.

Max dead. Arnold Archer under suspicion. And what was all of that ridiculous nonsense about the Charlestown Navy Yard, he wondered, deep in thought, nearly walking into a large blue mailbox. He crossed the busy street and walked toward his room in Beck Hall.

In his mind, he saw Max trading barbs at the dinner table and laughing at the jests of Wils’s roommate, Riley, an inveterate prankster. And how happy Max had been when Felicity, his girlfriend from Radcliffe College, had agreed to go with him to a dance. But he’d been utterly heartbroken when she deserted him last year for a senior. This past summer Wils and Max had walked along the banks of the Baltic, when they were back in Europe for summer vacation. He said he would never get over her and he never really had. So what had happened to him?

Anger at the injustice of Max’s death welled up inside Wils as he opened the arched door of Beck Hall and walked quickly past Mr. Burton’s desk. The housemaster didn’t look up from his reading. Wils shut the door to his room behind him. His breath was short. His hands hadn’t stopped trembling. He had to find Riley and discuss what to do about Arnold.

What was happening to his world? His beautiful, carefully built world was cracking. Germany and Britain at war? Max dead? Professor Francke hauled in and questioned?

Wils felt a strange fury welling up inside of him. He wanted something to hurt as badly as he did. He picked up a porcelain vase and hurled it against the brick fireplace. It crashed and shattered, the blue-and-white shards scattering over the crimson rug.

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14. Review: His Favorite Cowboy by Leigh Duncan

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I purchased His Favorite Cowgirl during an Harlequin sale, based solely on the cover.  There’s a cowboy.  And a cowgirl.  Sometimes that’s all the motivation I need to read a book!

Kelly Tompkins has to return home after her estranged grandfather has an accident.  His health isn’t good, and it’s been determined that he’ll need long term care in an effort to recover.  Kelly has a fast-paced job in Texas at a family owned boot maker, and she’s about to land the deal of a lifetime.  If she can close on it, she’ll guarantee her future with a promotion and a pay raise.  Unfortunately, her grandfather has neglected his ranch, allowing it to fall into disrepair.  The cattle are thin and scrawny, there are back taxes due, and if Kelly wants to provide the care her grandfather needs, she’ll have to get some repairs done and sell the land that’s been in her family for generations.

Hank Judd, her old high school flame, offers to help her fix up the place if she’ll give him the property listing.  Hank’s fallen on hard times with the recession, and he’s lost his real estate business.  After his father’s death, he moved back to the Circle P, where he grew up, to help his friend run his ranch.  His job as ranch foreman is temporary, and Hank plans to save up so he can move back to Tallahassee and start over again.  He’s got a lot to make up for; he was so busy chasing the good life that he neglected his young daughter, and now that he realizes life can be unexpectedly short, he wants to get to know her.  He’s been divorced since she was a baby, and now that she’s ten, she’s like a stranger to him.  Arranging for her to spend time with him on the ranch while his wife travels with her wealthy parents, he has no idea what he’s getting himself into.  His daughter is spoiled and overindulged, and he’s lacking the skills to deal with her without conflict.

Kelly takes pity on the girl, remembering how she felt when her mother dumped her with her grandfather.  Kelly is a woman who has been lacking expressions of love, and after a disastrous fight with Hank just before graduation, her grandfather threw her off the ranch.  Kelly’s family and the Circle P have been feuding for decades, and her grandfather saw her relationship with Hank a betrayal.  With no one to turn to, Kelly struck out on her own, working hard to make a career for herself.  She’s still hurt from being kicked out of her home, and for Hank letting her down when she needed love and help the most.  Seeing him again doesn’t bring back happy memories.  Instead, she remembers the bitterness of being let down by the man she loved with all her heart.

While I enjoyed His Favorite Cowgirl, some things did not work for me.  The major deal killer was how hypocritical I thought Kelly was.  She is infuriated when Hank never mentions that he no longer has his real estate business, while keeping details of her changed employment status to herself.  I completely understood how embarrassed Hank was over his changed circumstances, and how he wouldn’t want to share the details of his failed business with anyone.  Kelly is always quick to think the worst of him, and while some of her distrust was understandable, I thought she needed to cut him some slack.  Both of them needed to open up and communicate better, because both of them kept important details about their lives a secret, and that bothered me.

I did like how Hank and his daughter slowly came to love and respect each other, and how Kelly acted as an intermediary to allow that to happen.  I also enjoyed the daily ranching activities, and the barrel racing lessons.  I wonder if Pixie could learn to run a cloverleaf around barrels without giving herself a heart attack?  Those barrels terrify me whenever I see them in construction zones!

Grade:  C+ / B-

Review copy purchased from Harlequin.com

From Amazon:

You Can Go Home Again

A stint as ranch manager on the Circle P may be the perfect way for Hank Judd to reconnect with his ten-year-old daughter. And selling his former girlfriend’s family ranch will provide the cash he needs to restart his failed real-estate business. He just has to resist falling for the girl next door all over again.

Kelly Tompkins needs to sell her grandfather’s ranch quickly to pay for his medical expenses and get back to Texas before she loses her chance at a promotion. Hank is the last person she wants to see, but she can’t deny she needs his help. But spending time with the boy who let her down twelve years ago may unearth a heartache that has never truly healed….

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15. Spotlight and Giveaway: Love in the Time of Scandal by Caroline Linden

I have a spotlight and giveaway for Love in the Time of Scandal by Caroline Linden. Enjoy!

Love in the Time of Scandal
Scandalous # 3

By: Caroline Linden

Releasing May 26, 2015

Avon

Blurb

The third book in a deliciously sexy series from USA Today bestselling and RITA award winning author Caroline Linden, in which an utterly shocking book–Ffty Shades of Grey for the Regency era– has all of London talking and gives more than one young miss a mind for scandal.

Penelope Weston does not like Benedict Lennox, Lord Atherton. He may be the suave and charming heir to an earl, as well as the most handsome man on earth, but she can’t forget how he abandoned a friend in need-nor how he once courted her sister, Abigail. He’s the last man she would ever marry. If only she didn’t feel so attracted to the arrogant scoundrel…

Once upon a time, Benedict thought he and Penelope got along rather well. But, though he needs a wealthy bride to escape his cruel father’s control, spirited Penelope just doesn’t suit his plans for a model marriage — until a good deed goes awry, and scandalous rumors link his name to Penelope’s. She might not be the quiet, sensible wife he thought he wanted, but she is beautiful…beguiling…and far more passionate than he ever imagined. Can a marriage begun in scandal become a love match, too?

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/03/love-in-time-of-scandal-scandalous-3-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22590311-love-in-the-time-of-scandal?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/114934-scandalous

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info

Caroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a math degree from Harvard University and wrote computer software before turning to writing fiction. Ten years, twelve books, three Red Sox championships, and one dog later, she has never been happier with her decision. Her books have won the NEC Reader’s Choice Beanpot Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, and RWA’s RITA Award. Since she never won any prizes in math, she takes this as a sign that her decision was also a smart one. Visit her online at www.carolinelinden.com.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

EXCERPT:

For a tense moment they seemed frozen there, Penelope biting her tongue, Frances looking troubled, and Atherton staring at her with a strange intensity. He shook it off first. “Miss Lockwood, I hope you’ve saved me a dance.”

Frances’s smile returned, although a little less brilliantly than before. “Of course, my lord. I am free the next two.”

“Excellent.” He gazed warmly at her, and Frances seemed to sway on her feet.

Penelope had to work hard to keep from rolling her eyes. How could she escape this? Thankfully she caught sight of a familiar face across the room, causing her to smile widely in relief. “You must excuse me, I see a dear friend just arriving. Miss Lockwood, Lord Atherton.” She bobbed a quick farewell and all but ran across the room.

Olivia Townsend was one of Penelope’s favorite people in the world. She was only a few years older than Abigail, and had been like an older sister to the two Weston girls for as long as Penelope could remember. Olivia’s family had lived near the Westons and all four children had been fast friends. But while Penelope’s family had prospered—greatly—since then, Oliva’s had not. At a fairly young age, she’d made a hasty marriage of dubious happiness to a charming but feckless fellow, Henry Townsend, who managed to run through his modest fortune with shocking speed before his death a few years ago. Since then, Olivia had lived very modestly. It was a surprise to see her here tonight, in fact, as she didn’t often attend balls.

“Olivia!”

Her friend was scanning the room and didn’t seem to have noticed her approach; she jumped at Penelope’s exclamation. “Oh,” she said in a constricted voice. “You startled me.”

She blinked. “I can see that. Whom were you expecting, an ogre?”

For a moment Olivia’s face froze, as if she had in fact been on guard, but then she smiled ruefully. With a shake of her head, she turned her back to the room and squeezed Penelope’s hand. “Forgive me; I was woolgathering. Are you enjoying the ball?”

“Well enough.” Penelope peered closely at her. “What’s wrong? You looked worried.”

Olivia waved one hand. “It was nothing. How kind of you to leave your friends and join me.”

Penelope barely kept back her snort. “I don’t know how I could have stayed. You’ll never guess who Miss Lockwood’s new suitor is.”

“Who?”

“Lord Atherton,” whispered Penelope, after a cautious glance backward. She’d already let her temper get the better of her once tonight, and wouldn’t put it past him to overhear every slighting word she spoke about him.

Olivia looked surprised. “Atherton? The gentleman who courted—?”

“The same,” said Penelope grimly. “And my sister felt so cruel to turn him down! I shall have to write to her at once and assure her that, far from suffering a malaise, he’s found a younger, sillier girl to marry.”

“Now, Pen, you don’t know that. He may be deeply attached to her.”

She couldn’t stop the snort this time. “She is certainly attached to him. He’s the perfect man, in her telling. I don’t know how I could have held my composure if I’d known who she was talking about. He sits and listens to her practice the pianoforte—can you imagine?”

“Perhaps he enjoys it.” Penelope widened her eyes in patent disbelief. “Perhaps he’s so smitten with her, he would be content just to sit and gaze at her,” Olivia added. “It could happen.”

“Huh.” Penelope made a face. Just the thought of Lord Atherton sitting and staring at her was enough to make her skin prickle.

“Well, it’s Miss Lockwood’s cross to bear,” said Olivia practically.

“But if he marries her, I’ll have to see him from time to time.” Frances might be young and naïve, but she was endearing all the same, and Penelope did like her.

Olivia laughed and tucked Penelope’s arm through hers. “Perhaps she’ll become disenchanted and change her mind about him.”

She caught sight of Lord Atherton, leading Frances about the floor in a quadrille. Frances was fairly radiating adoration as she gazed up at him. It took Penelope some effort to quell the urge to run over and warn Frances not to fall for his very handsome smile, or athletic figure, or disgustingly perfect face. “For her sake as well as mine,” she grumbled, “I hope so.”

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Grand prize: A journal to keep track of all your own scandals, plus print copies of the first two books in Caroline Linden’s Scandalous series, LOVE AND OTHER SCANDALS, and IT TAKES A SCANDAL

Runner Up: print copies of the first two books in Caroline Linden’s Scandalous series, LOVE AND OTHER SCANDALS, and IT TAKES A SCANDAL

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16. YA Author Leigh Goff is not your average milk and cookies writer...

Leigh Goff is a talented Young Adult author who blends fantasy and romance into her remarkable stories. Her latest book Disenchanted releases through Mirror World Publishing in print and eBook on June 1. The kitchen is all yours, Leigh!

These cookies are just what a white witch like sixteen-year-old Sophie Greensmith from my debut YA fantasy, Disenchanted, would bake after a long day of concocting potions with exotic flowers from her aunt’s enchanted garden.

Disenchanted takes place in Wethersfield, Connecticut, the home of the first American witch trials (not Salem!). As descendants of the original witches, Sophie and her aunt practice white magic and work in a little shop called Scents and Scentsabilities. Their organic bath and body products like Tulips to Kiss Stick to lushify lips and Forever First Love Lip Balm to lock in that true love are crafted to benefit the ordinaries in town. However, not all of the ordinaries approve and when danger catches up to Sophie, she’s left with an impossible choice—turning to black magic, a forever choice, to save the life of her forbidden first love. Will her true love still want her when her heart is touched by darkness?

This yummy recipe from the Foothill House B&B in California includes ginger to soothe the stomach, cinnamon to reduce puffiness, and walnuts to help you deal with stress.

Foothill House Sweet Dreams Cookies


1 cup unsalted butter
1½ cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. salt
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Cream butter and mix in brown sugar, egg, and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt and blend into butter mixture.

Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts (Sometimes I leave these out or substitute pecans.).

Refrigerate until dough is firm.

Lightly grease baking sheets.

Break off small pieces of dough and roll into 1" rounds. Dredge in powdered sugar.

Arrange on prepared baking sheets at least 2" apart.

Bake 10 minutes.

Cool 5 minutes on the sheets before transferring to racks to cool completely.

Store in airtight container. Yields 6 dozen cookies

Here is a brief intro to my novel that appeals to people of all ages. I hope you like it, too.

Disenchanted

A forbidden love. A dark curse. An impossible choice...

Descended from a powerful Wethersfield witch, sixteen-year-old Sophie is struggling to hide her awkwardly emerging magic, but that’s the least of her worries. When a dangerous thief tries to steal her mysterious heirloom necklace, she is rescued by the one person she’s forbidden to fall for, a descendant of the man who condemned her ancestor to hang. He carries a dark secret that could destroy them both unless Sophie learns how to tap into the mysterious power of her diamond bloodcharm. She will have to uncover dark secrets from both of their families' wicked pasts and risk everything, including her soul to save them from a witch's true love curse, but it will take much more than that.

Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it's also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area's great history and culture.

Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers' Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and was released by Musa Publishing in December 2014. Leigh is currently working on her next novel, The Witch's Ring which is set in Annapolis.

Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

0 Comments on YA Author Leigh Goff is not your average milk and cookies writer... as of 5/21/2015 5:45:00 AM
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17. TURNING PAGES: UNDER A PAINTED SKY by STACEY LEE

I'd wanted to read this book for a long time because in my head I'd heard it was historical and was a story about a Chinese girl. Somehow, my mind equated "historical fiction" with an absolutely parallel true-to-life tale of someone back in time. I... Read the rest of this post

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18. Guest Post and Giveaway: Last of the Red-Hot Riders by Tina Leonard

Tina Leonard is celebrating the release of Last of the Red-Hot Riders.  Read her guest post and enter the giveaway below!

Tina’s Top Five Guilty Pleasures

1. Time on a Florida beach.  I was born in Pensacola, so my husband says I’m a salmon, I have to go “home” at least once a year.  :)  But there’s almost no place that makes me happier than the ocean!

2. Kindle reading. Argh! I used to have to wait for reading a great book, but not any more! And audible books, omg.  If I’d had these things when I was a kid, I wouldn’t have had to hide in the closet at night to read! :)

3. Expensive shoes, one pair a year. Thankfully, my husband understands this tiny, expensive, foible of mine.

4. Santa Fe.  Churches. Historical stuff. I can’t help it, there’s something about churches and history that calls to me. Santa Fe is a place where I felt it all coming together for me.  We went to El Santuaria de Chimayo and dug holy dirt out of a hole. There’s something about walking in Willa Cather’s footsteps, too, that called to my spirit. I can get so lost in books about history.

5. China. And jewelry.  Fragile things. Anything British, like Britcoms and P.G. Wodehouse.  I know this is eclectic for a guilty pleasure, but teacups, teapots, jewelry—these things are catnip for me. I had a friend send me a necklace handmade in Africa and I love it. My son brought back a ceremonial collar, worn around the neck, from Kenya, that the Masai warriors wear. I love these things that people make. I also have several teapots, one made in Ireland with an Irish pattern on it that I adore. I guess I’m an old-fashioned girl, but I love things with beauty and sentiment attached to them!

 

Last of the Red-Hot Riders
Hell’s Outlaws # 2

By: Tina Leonard

Releasing May 26, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb


The toughest rodeo rider in Hell, Texas, discovers his tender side with a feisty cowgirl in this sexy new novel from USA Today bestselling author Tina Leonard.

Cameron Dix knows that becoming an elite rider is the first step to realizing her dream: owning a special-needs equestrian academy. Only one thing stands in her way—and he’s big, tall, and sizzles like a Texas steak. Superhunk Saint Markham claims that he isn’t happy about all the women galloping into town, but the heat in his eyes tells Cameron a different story. What else can a fiery redhead do but let her hair down and give in to desire hot enough to melt her saddle?

Saint has seen what happens when women come marching into the Hell’s Outlaws Training Center: Strong men crumble. Problem is, he’s got rivals willing to train a talented lady rider like Cameron. But after one night of passion, he’s branded. And from the moment he kisses her ruby lips, Cameron is his—even if he’s too stubborn to admit it. Now Saint must stake his claim on a life of delicious sin with the woman he loves.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/02/last-of-red-hot-riders-hells-outlaws-2.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23166849-last-of-the-red-hot-riders?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/122625-hell-s-outlaws

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo | Publisher

Author Info

USA Today Bestselling and award-winning author Tina Leonard has sold over 3 million books, making the USA Today, Waldenbooks, Bookscan, and Ingrambook bestseller lists, and publishing over seventy titles. Her work has been contracted by Random House Loveswept, Samhain Publishing, Harlequin, London Bridge, and most recently Diversion Books. Leonard is known for her sparkling sense of humor, endearing communities, snappy dialogue, and memorable characters that include sexy hunks with attitude and heroines with plenty of sass. Join her at www.tinaleonard.com

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 Rafflecopter Giveaway (Loveswept Mug, Flirt Mug and Select Ebook Bundle)

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19. Saaba Tahir, Author of An Ember in the Ashes | Speed Interview

Which five words best describe An Ember in the Ashes (Razorbill, April 2015), by Saaba Tahir? Adventurous, Brutal, Honest, Fast-Paced, Romance

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20. Review: Finally a Hero by Pamela Tracy

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Finally a Hero did not really work for me.  It is a fascinating read, but the abrupt ending and tepid romance didn’t earn any brownie points from me.  If Jesse’s struggle to become a good man and to put his past behind him hadn’t been so compelling, I don’t think I would have finished the book. 

Jesse has a  history of making poor decisions, and the last blunder put him behind bars for five years.  On the day of his release, he receives an unpleasant surprise.  The mother he hasn’t seen in over five years is waiting to give him a ride, as well as drop a bomb shell on him.  Jesse is the father of a five year boy he didn’t even know existed.  His ex showed up at his mother’s place, sneaking out the bathroom window and leaving the kid behind.   After his mother ditches him in a diner with the unkempt boy, all of the carefully thought out plans for a future on the straight and narrow are immediately derailed.

Jesse has all of fifty bucks on him, ill-fitting clothes, and not much else.  No cell phone, no friends, no real prospects for a bright future.  What he does have is an interview for a job on a ranch, but once the owner learns about Timmy, he doesn’t have the time of day to spare on Jesse.  Desperate, Jesse offers to work for one week for free, and if he doesn’t do a good job, he and Timmy will hit the road.  Jacob is skeptical, but he agrees. 

When Jesse and Jacob arrive at the ranch, Jacob’s daughter Eva is not amused.  She witnessed the whole family drama of Jesse and Timmy being ditched by Jesse’s mother when she was in town, and she doesn’t think Jesse will be a good fit for the ranch.  After a wedding party canceled their reservations, she doesn’t think they can afford him, either, but her father, stubborn as a mule, disagrees.  Eva’s initial attitude towards Jesse is one of suspicion and distrust.  Her father has hired other ex-cons, but they never stick around for long.  Either they break probation or they cut out when the work gets to be too much.  She doesn’t think there is any place for either Jesse or Timmy with them, and she doesn’t need all of the drama, either.

Despite Jesse’s best efforts to be a good dad and provide for his son, he hits roadblock after roadblock.  Matilda, the boy’s mother, has disappeared, and since she left the father’s name blank on Timmy’s birth certificate, gaining custody of him is an expensive, uphill battle he can barely afford.  Timmy also won’t talk, shows signs of abuse, and spends more time hiding under tables than not.  Medical bills and professional fees are almost insurmountable expenses, but Jesse refuses to give up Timmy.  His own mother abandoned him time and again, and he refuses to do that to his own son.

Jesse’s struggles are  heartbreaking.  He is trying to do everything he can to get ahead, or at least to get on an even keel, but he keeps getting knocked down again and again.  Suspicions from the local police force keep tripping him up, and even though he hasn’t done anything illegal, proving it is an entirely different matter.  Eva, at first judgmental, sees how hard Jesse is struggling to provide a stable, safe home for Timmy, and she’s moved to help him as much as she can.  When even her father’s attitude changes and he begins to see fault in everything that Jesse does, she’s desperate to help him keep his job.

While I found Jesse’s attempts to better himself engrossing, I didn’t feel that the romance developed believably.  Eva and Jesse didn’t have much chemistry, and the sudden declarations at the end, as well as some plot points being left in the air, frustrated me.  I will probably read the next book in the series to see if Timmy and Jesse are given any page time, because this HEA felt incomplete to me.

Grade:  C+

Review copy borrowed from my local library

From Amazon:

Suddenly a Daddy  

Jesse Campbell’s determined to forget his past. He’s moving to a dude ranch in Arizona to start getting his act together. Parenthood isn’t part of the picture—until Jesse meets the son he didn’t know he had. Now Jesse has some new goals: learning to be a good father—and a good man. The kind of man Eva Hubrecht, his boss’s daughter, can trust. He knows Eva isn’t happy about Jesse and Timmy coming to the Lost Dutchman Ranch, but the little boy soon starts to win her heart. Jesse can only hope that with time and patience, this rancher’s daughter will find room in her life for him, too. 

The Rancher’s Daughters: Sisters find hope, love and redemption in the Arizona desert.

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21. Review: Once a Champion by Jeannie Watt

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Once a Champion pushed all the right buttons for me.  Both the heroine and hero are wounded in believable ways, and both are struggling to make sense of their new realities.  Matt is an aging rodeo star with a torn up knee, a will to compete that won’t die, and no other options in life.  He refuses to take good advice and retire for the sake of his body.  He knows that he has at least another good season in front of him, if only he can work past his injury.  Liv has been raised to always be agreeable, to always give in to other people’s happiness, despite how unhappy it makes her.  She has been drilled that she must always compromise for the sake of family and relationships, until that doesn’t work for her any more.  And what draws the line in the sand for her?  An injured horse that she refuses to give up on.

I loved how the plot threads tied Matt and Liv together.  Liv had a hopeless crush on Matt in high school.  She tutored him so he could bring his grades up, a requirement if he wanted to continue to compete in the rodeo.  Once he’s in the clear, though, instead of Liv’s dreams coming true and the two of them getting together, Matt starts dating Liv’s stepsister.  Ouch!  Quiet and trained to never cause waves, Liv suffered in silence, watching as her dream guy walked out of her life and never gave her another thought.

Flash forward to the now, and Matt is frantically searching for his missing horse.  He heard a rumor that it’s on Liv’s father’s farm, so off he goes to see if it’s true.  And it is true.  Liv bought Beckett from Matt’s wife, right before their divorce.  The horse’s back was an infected mess, and Liv wasn’t going to leave him in Matt’s care.  Matt was off on the circuit, and he had no idea that his wife sold his horse.  Now he wants him back, and he feels that his future depends on it.  Liv refuses to sell Beckett back to an animal abuser, and the two of them go toe to toe about the ethics of Liv keeping the horse from him.

What Matt doesn’t know is that Beckett was the catalyst to Liv’s self-discovery.  Her fiancé forbid her from buying the horse.  Something snapped inside Liv, and she realized what an unhappy road she was headed down if she stayed with Tim.  When he tells her to pick between him or the horse, I’d have picked the horse, too!  This is the moment that Liv takes a long hard look at herself and decides that she doesn’t like who she is.  She’s going to buy that horse, start her physical therapy practice in the small town where she grew up, and move in with her cranky dad while she figures out what she’s going to do with her life, and who she wants to be.  Little does she know that that horse is going to change her life, Matt’s life, and her father’s life.

I liked both Matt and Liv.  Matt is desperate to get back on the rodeo circuit so he can ignore his messed up family.  If he can’t compete, he doesn’t have many options for a career.  While his family owns a successful ranch, he’s been so angry at his father for the better part of the last 15 years that the thought of working with him makes him spitting mad.  Ignoring his doctor, his physical therapist, and even Liv, he continues to push himself and his knee.  His mid-life crisis is of epic portions.

Liv has two stubborn men to deal with now: Matt and her dad.  Once she lets her guard down about Matt, she decides she’s going to burn off some steam.  Her dad is making her crazy because she knows that he’s not feeling well, but he won’t admit it.  His communication skills are practically zero.  So Liv needs a distraction.  Making it very clear that they can never have a relationship, she and Matt start stumbling down the road of something that looks very much like one.  Liv refuses to compromise any more though, and she thinks that if she and Matt are a couple, she will lose the independence that she’s just so painfully gained.  So she draws another line in the sand, but this one taunts her at every turn.

I enjoyed Once a Champion so much.  It’s like the plot was written just for me.  There’s all of the horsey stuff, fun drill team practices, calf roping, and even Craig, Matt’s geeky teenage cousin.  All of the pieces fit so well together, and they revolved around things that I love reading about.  I could empathize with Liv, and Matt, too.  Who wants to always give in gracefully, without ever getting what they want?  Who wants to give up on a lifetime of competition, even though, physically, it’s the smart thing to do?  The supporting characters were engaging, and that final sentence, in that wonderful epilogue?  Perfect!

Grade:  B+

Review copy purchased at Harlequin.com

From Amazon:

It starts with the horse…

Liv Bailey never forgot her high school crush. Champion roper Matt Montoya always did have that irresistible daredevil swagger. But Liv isn’t Matt’s shy tutor anymore. She’s a grown woman and a physiotherapist with a painful past. Matt isn’t the only tough one now, and when their tempers clash over a horse they both claim ownership of, sparks fly in more ways than one.

Liv’s willing to let Matt bring some passion into her life, but when he opens his heart to her, she’s scared of being hurt again. Liv knows there’s more there than just desire—if she can only trust the cowboy who loves her.

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22. TURNING PAGES: A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS, by KATHLEEN BALDWIN

Reader, after you finished Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assasains series and powered through Julie Berry's The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place and frothed through the lighter Finishing School novels by Gail Carringer and plowed through... Read the rest of this post

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23. Spotlight and Giveaway: Lady Sarah’s Sinful Desires by Sophie Barnes

This morning, I have an excerpt and giveaway for Lady Sarah’s Sinful Desires. Enjoy!

Lady Sarah’s Sinful Desires
Secrets at Thorncliff Manor # 1

By: Sophie Barnes

Releasing April 28, 2015

Avon

Blurb

Welcome to Thorncliff Manor, where London’s elite mix, mingle, and may even find their heart’s desire…

There are thousands of things Christopher, Viscount Spencer, would rather do than hunt for a bride, especially since experience has taught him that women are not to be trusted. Then he finds the intriguing Lady Sarah scrambling around in Thorncliff’s conservatory and he is instantly charmed by her passionate nature. But why is she so intent on avoiding him?

Lady Sarah would make the perfect bride for a peer—if not for a tarnished past that she’s hiding from the ton. A stay at Thorncliff Manor was meant to help her plan for her future, not fall in love. Yet Christopher’s kisses are irresistible, his gallantry enticing. When her secret stands to be revealed, will the truth ruin their dreams of happiness?

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/02/lady-sarahs-sinful-desires-secrets-at.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23149157-lady-sarah-s-sinful-desires?ac=1
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/136344-secrets-at-thorncliff-manor

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/o5lPP153kEc

Buy Links: Amazon |B & N | iTunes | Kobo

 

Author Info

Born in Denmark, Sophie Barnes spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She’s lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish and Romanian. She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor’s degree from Parsons. But, most impressive of all, she’s been married to the same man three times—in three different countries and in three different dresses.

While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion: writing. When she’s not busy dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Excerpt

In another carriage on the way to Thorncliff Manor

Seated between her younger stepsisters, Alice and Juliet, Sarah made a stoic attempt to ignore the dis- approving look that sat upon her stepmother’s face. Her father was more tolerable, since he’d been reading his newspaper the entire journey and had paid little attention to the rest of the family.

“Is there something you wish to say, Mama?” Sarah eventually asked, unable to stop herself from uttering the question for one moment longer.

Lady Andover’s gaze narrowed, but just as Sarah had suspected, she merely responded with, “Not at the moment.”

Speaking of Sarah’s sins in front of her young, impressionable sisters was taboo. Later, however, once the girls were out of earshot, Sarah had no doubt that her stepmother’s tongue would give her a sound thrashing. After all, it was what Sarah had come to expect after proving herself a disappointment to the Argisle name.

“Would you look at that?” Alice suddenly gasped, supplying Sarah with a much-needed distraction. Leaning forward while Juliet tried to press past her in an attempt to look out the window as well, Sarah just man- aged to catch a glimpse of the largest building she’d ever seen when her stepmother said, “Do sit back, Sarah. Your sister can’t see when you’re in the way.”

Sarah did as she was told, fully aware that her stepmother had just used Alice and Juliet to her own advantage, for there was a smug smile upon her face as if to say, I know you do not wish to cause a scan- dal in their presence.

Biting back a scathing remark, Sarah remained silent and unmoving while her sisters’ excitement filled the carriage. Instead, she reached inside her reticule and stroked the little fur ball within, taking comfort in its heat while she wondered what her step- mother would say if she were to discover that Sarah had brought her pet hamster along with her. Lady Andover would probably find a way to punish Sarah for it, which was all the more reason for Sarah to keep her pet well hidden.

“We’re finally here,” Alice exclaimed as the carriage tumbled into a paved courtyard and came to a swaying halt. “Just look at that doorway! It must be twice as wide as the one we have at home.”

“And beautifully carved too,” Juliet said as she strained to look past her sister. “Oh, I can’t wait to get inside.”

Sarah couldn’t help but agree as she stared out at the looming façade, the weather-worn stones suggesting that this great building had borne witness to many things through the ages. It had history.

“Calm yourselves, dears,” Lady Andover said. “You may be on holiday, but you are still expected to conduct yourselves properly.” She looked directly at Sarah, a warning in her sharp eyes. “There will be no running about. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Mama,” Alice and Juliet spoke in unison, their voices filled with disappointment. A footman opened the carriage door and gracefully offered his hand to Lady Andover. She alit, followed by Alice and Juliet. Sarah made to follow them, but she was stopped by her father’s staying hand upon her arm. “You will not disrespect your stepmother,” he told her softly but sternly. “After all that you have done— the disgrace you have put us through—you have no right. No right at all. Do I make myself clear?”

“Perfectly, my lord.”

With a curt nod, he released her, allowing her to flee the stifling interior of the carriage even if she could never escape her shame. A tight knot twisted inside her chest as she watched her sisters climb the steps of Thorncliff. Please don’t make the same mistake I did, she prayed as she started after them, un- bearably aware of her father’s stubborn presence at her side. “There’s a purpose to this visit,” he muttered. “I trust you will remember that.”

Looking up into his stalwart gaze, Sarah nodded. How could she possibly forget?

 

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24. Novella Review: Into the Fire by Donna Alward

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I love Donna Alward’s writing, but I haven’t read much of her work outside of her Harlequins.  When I saw that Into the Fire had an animal shelter, I had to read it.  This is a quick read, with a hero who isn’t afraid to admit that he has made some mistakes, and a heroine with self-esteem issues.  I really enjoyed it.

Ally and Chris are brought back together after a fire destroys her animal shelter.  She is mourning the loss of the animals she couldn’t save, and isn’t ready to head home to her demanding parents yet.  Chris, her ex, offers to take her to his place, where she can take a shower and get herself back together.  Because Chris is being so kind, and because she’s in shock, she agrees to go with him.

Ally broke up with Chris three years before, and she never really got over him.  She felt pressured into marrying him, though, and she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life.  When she learns that he’s become a volunteer fireman, and that he’s purchased a house of his own, she feels even more upset with herself.  While Chris has moved forward with his life and achieved some of his goals, she feels as though she hasn’t accomplished anything. She still lives at home, her parents are disappointed with her, and she’s just lost the only thing that mattered to her.  While she wasn’t make any money running the shelter, it gave her a reason to get up every day.  She knows that working part time, for minimum wage, at the local drug store isn’t a career, but it allowed her to keep the shelter going.  Now that it’s gone, she’s at lose ends.

I liked both Ally and Chris.  Ally is consumed with self-doubt, thinking that she’s disappointed her parents and that she isn’t doing anything worthwhile with her life.  Chris understands that he did push her three years ago, and now he’s willing to give her the space and time she needs if it means that they can get back together again.  What he doesn’t count on is Ally’s opposition to his job as a fire fighter.  After losing her sister, Ally is terrified of losing someone else close to her, and Chris’s job puts him in harm’s way every time he responds to an emergency call.

The conflict was believable, as Ally grappled for an identity for herself, as well as a way to reconcile herself to the danger presented by Chris’s job.  It’s easier for her to run away again, however, than it is for her to deal with her problems.  She did frustrate me when she refused to compromise, and I thought that Chris did all of the giving at first, which made Ally seem selfish and unworthy of his love.  She turns it around by the end, earning this a solid B.

Grade:  B

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

The heat is on…

First Responders, Book 3

The last person firefighter Chris Jackson expects to rescue from a burning animal shelter is Ally Gallant—his ex-fiancée. Even though three years have passed since she gave him back his ring, one look at her frightened face in the haze of a smoky building is all it takes for him to realize he’ll still do anything to protect her.

Ally’s put her heart and soul into the shelter, and she’s devastated when it’s destroyed. What’s more, Chris is suddenly there for her in ways she doesn’t expect—ways she’s sure she doesn’t deserve—as she makes decisions about her future. Then there’s the not-so-small matter of the blazing passion between them that refuses to be extinguished.

But when Chris is injured while on a call, Ally’s reminded of all the reasons she walked away. Now she must look deep within herself to find the courage to put fear on the back burner and step into the fire—into love.

Warning: Adorable dogs, a hot firefighter and five-alarm passion. Fire extinguisher (or cold shower) highly recommended.

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25. Wild Hearts by Jessica Burkhart

Review by Sara Wild Hearts by Jessica Burkhart Series: If Only...Hardcover: 368 pagesPublisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (May 5, 2015)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon Enjoy Wild Hearts and the other standalone titles in Bloomsbury's contemporary If Only romance line centered around an impossible problem: you always want what you can't have!Brie Carter's father's land development business

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