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1. Middle Grade Round Up: Mini Reviews

I don’t get around to reading as much middle grade as I’d wish to, but I’ve really lucked out so far this year. Every middle grade I’ve read has been so charming and heartwarming. A real highlight has been Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger, but today I’m bringing you two other 2015 MG’s I’ve really enjoyed.     Title: Echo Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan Rating: 3.5 A lovely story and beautifully told, this book tells the tales of 3 different children in different times and place in the world all connected by one magical harmonica. Friedrich in pre-WWII Germany is first hand witness to the slow motion horror of Hitler’s rise to power and gradual degradations to his family.  Mike in a Depression era orphanage fights to keep his little brother from being adopted without him. Ivy in WWII era California comes up against the harsh racism of segregated education and the horror of... Read more »

The post Middle Grade Round Up: Mini Reviews appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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2. Spotlight and Giveaway: Scotsman of My Dreams by Karen Ranney

 
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SCOTSMAN OF MY DREAMS
MacIain Series #3
Karen Ranney
Releasing Aug 25th, 2015
 

In USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Karen Ranney’s second novel in her breathtaking series, an unconventional woman and a former scoundrel embark on a daring mission of desire.

Once the ton’s most notorious rake, Dalton MacIain has returned from his expedition to America during the Civil War-wounded and a changed man. Instead of attending soirees, he now spends his time as a recluse. But Dalton’s peace is disturbed when Minerva Todd barges into his London townhouse, insisting he help search for her missing brother Neville. Though Dalton would love to spend more time with the bewitching beauty, he has no interest in finding Neville-for he blames him for his injury.
 
Minerva has never met a more infuriating man than the Earl of Rathsmere yet she is intrigued by the torrid rumors she has heard about him…and the fierce attraction pulling her toward him.
 
Dalton does not count on Minerva’s persistence-or the desire she awakens in him, compelling him to discover her brother’s fate. But when danger surrounds them, Dalton fears he will lose the tantalizing, thoroughly unpredictable woman he has come to love.
 
EXCERPT:

She didn’t know what part of the letter made her angrier, the fact that he had gone off to see if he was brave, or his thought that women should simply agree to anything a man suggested.

What poppycock.

Sitting at her desk, she calmly folded the letter and held it against her chest.

She would not cry. Tears did nothing but make her eyes and nose red and congest her breathing. They didn’t solve the situation. They didn’t make her feel less guilty.

He had never mentioned America to her. What did he know about their war? Did he simply want to go into battle to see if he could survive it?

Dear God, had he survived it?

That was the one question no one could answer.

She replaced the letter in the drawer of her desk and sat quietly, thinking of her next move. If she wrote the earl again, he would probably ignore her, as he’d already done five times. If she returned to his house tomorrow, encountered his secretary again and marshaled her arguments better, was there any guarantee Mr. Howington would listen?

She had only been jesting when she was talking to Mrs. Beauchamp, but perhaps she should engage in a little subterfuge. Every house needed servants, and the earl’s large home must require quite a number of them in order to run smoothly.

The plan being born in her imagination died a swift death. Mr. Howington had seen her. Perhaps she could attempt to engage the housekeeper’s help. Or bribe one of the servants to turn the other way when she gained entrance to the house.

She had to find a way in to see the Earl of Rathsmere. She had to find out what happened to Neville.

How could she live another day without knowing?


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Karen Ranney began writing when she was five. Her first published work was The Maple Leaf, read over the school intercom when she was in the first grade. In addition to wanting to be a violinist (her parents had a special violin crafted for her when she was seven), she wanted to be a lawyer, a teacher, and, most of all, a writer. Though the violin was discarded early, she still admits to a fascination with the law, and she volunteers as a teacher whenever needed. Writing, however, has remained the overwhelming love of her life.
 

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3. A Bitter Truth

A Bitter Truth. Charles Todd. 2011. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

I am continuing to love the Bess Crawford mystery series by Charles Todd. Bitter Truth is the third book in the Bess Crawford series. The book opens with Bess on leave--once again. Bess takes pity on a woman, a stranger, named Lydia. She's distraught and she's clearly been beaten. For better or worse, Bess becomes very involved in a family matter. Good will come out of it perhaps, but, not without sacrifice and risk. For Bess says yes to Lydia's pleas to come home with her, and agrees to pretend to be her long-time friend in front of Lydia's family including her husband, Roger. How will Lydia's in-laws react to her bringing someone home? Surely Roger will mind the interference, right?

The family Bess meets is a strange one in many ways--dysfunctional certainly. But is anyone in the family capable of murder? For that is what we all know it will come down to...a mystery is almost always a murder mystery.

I felt Bess's discomfort throughout the novel. She's witness to some very awkward family scenes. And strangers are confiding in her things that are very personal, almost intimate. Every time Bess tries to leave the family--something happens to prevent it. Though of course, eventually, she does HAVE to leave because she's a nurse stationed in France. Still the family haunts her a bit...

A Bitter Truth is a well-written historical mystery. It wasn't one that I "enjoyed" particularly because enjoy is the wrong word. There was nothing "fun" or "light-hearted" about it. But it was certainly compelling and intense.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Spotlight and Giveaway: A Radical Arrangement by Jane Ashford

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for A Radical Arrangement by Jane Ashford!

Title: A Radical Arrangement

Author: Jane Ashford

Pubdate: August 4th, 2015

ISBN: 9781492602293

A classic Regency romance from beloved author Jane Ashford!

Brash and Handsome

Sir Justin Keighley is all wrong for a proper young lady like Margaret Mayfield. Everyone knows he is shocking in his opinions, arrogant in his manner, and completely without respect for the common decencies of civilized society. Margaret absolutely will not marry him—no matter what her parents say.

Beautiful and Shy

Margaret was everything Sir Justin detested in a woman—timid, sheltered, and obedient to a fault. It’s not until she runs away from him that he finds he must give chase. Margaret is discovering she can be bold and rebellious—intrepid enough to do what she must, and more exciting than Justin ever imagined possible. She’s the last woman he would have expected to lead them both into uncharted territory…

Jane Ashford, a retired teacher and editor, is now a beloved author of historical and contemporary romances. She has been published in various parts of the world, including Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, Spain, and of course the U.S. Jane is also a two-time RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award nominee. Born in Ohio, Jane now divides her time between Boston and Los Angeles.

Excerpt:

Sir Justin Keighley stood in the doorway, looking them over with a slight, satirical curve of his lips. He wore, like the other gentlemen, conventional evening dress, but this superficial similarity was their only common ground. Ralph Mayfìeld, Philip Manningham, the squire, and John Twitchel were none of them unattractive men or negligible personalities. Each, in his own sphere, had a certain dignity and authority, and all had the confidence that respect engendered. Yet somehow, the moment he entered the room and before he spoke a word, Justin Keighley eclipsed them. It was not charm. Indeed, the newcomer did not look at all pleasant or ingratiating. And it was not mere social position. Keighley held an ancient baronetcy and a substantial fortune, but any of twenty men his hosts were accustomed to meeting ranked above him. Ralph Mayfield could not have said why he felt subdued as he came forward to greet his final guest.

The squire’s wife might have enlightened him. As she had told a friend at a Bath assembly two years ago, “Justin Keighley is a vastly attractive man, my dear. And not just to women. All the young men ape him, my son among them. I don’t know just how it is, but he has a great influence without appearing to seek it in the least. Indeed, sometimes I think he dislikes the idea. But it goes on. It’s something in his manner. No doubt you’ve noticed it yourself. He makes you look at him.” Mrs. Camden had been embarrassed by this speech, but it was quite true. And Keighley’s attraction was the more mysterious because he was not conventionally handsome. Though tall and well made, with broad shoulders and a good leg, his features were rough—a jutting nose and heavy black brows that nearly obscured expressive hazel eyes. And he took no care with his dress, a rarity in an elegant age. His coats were made so that he could shrug himself into them without help; his collars did not even approach his jaw; and he had once been observed in White’s with a distinct thumb mark on his Hessian boots, giving one of the dandy set what he described as “a shuddering palpitation.”

But these sartorial eccentricities were outweighed by Sir Justin’s political influence and sagacity. He was an intimate of the Prince Regent and Lord Holland, and important in the Whig Party. These facts did not explain his fascination for a great number of people, chiefly women, who hadn’t the slightest interest in politics, but they amply justified the Mayfìelds’ attention and suppressed antipathy.

“Good evening,” Keighley said to Mr. Mayfield in a deep, resonant voice. “I hope I haven’t kept you waiting.”

“Not at all, not at all. Come in. You know everyone, I think.”

Sir Justin bowed his head with a sardonic smile. He always met precisely the same people at his yearly dinner with the Mayfields, presumably those they were certain he could not “corrupt” with his aberrant opinions, and he always felt the same infuriated boredom. For the fiftieth time he wondered why he came. There was no hope of amusement or chance of advantage here. The Mayfields and their friends were just the sort of smug, resolutely conventional people he despised. They held to the views their fathers had bequeathed them and attacked all others. If one tried to make them change even a fraction, they shook their heads and muttered of treason.

He looked around the room. The only addition this year was the Mayfìelds’ daughter. He had forgotten her name, but he remembered that she had come out last season. She looked as one would have expected: a pallid, simpering creature. Keighley shrugged. Politics forced him to endure fools occasionally. The Prince would want to know the climate of opinion here in Devon. He supposed he could get through this evening as he had previous ones, through a combination of stoicism and bitter inner laughter.

Margaret watched him with awed apprehension as he settled beside Mrs. Camden and began to chat with her about London. She had never actually spoken to Sir Justin; her mother had seen to that. But she had heard him talked of so many times that she felt she knew what he would say in response to a wide variety of remarks. It would always be shocking. She gazed at him in an effort to understand how any man could be so utterly depraved in thought and action, almost expecting his rugged face to contort in a grimace of malevolence and his chiseled lips to emit some horrifying revelation.

Suddenly Sir Justin looked up and met her eyes from across the room. He seemed at first startled to find her staring, then his mocking smile appeared again, and he raised one black brow, holding her gaze. Embarrassed, Margaret tried to look away, but something in his hazel eyes prevented it. A spark glinted there, and she felt a kind of tremor along her nerves. It was utterly unfamiliar and unsettling, like a violent thrill of feeling. How could a stranger affect her so? This must be fear, she thought; I am afraid of him. She began to tremble, but still she could not turn her head away. He seemed to understand her reaction and, amused, to prolong the contact on purpose.

Finally Keighley laughed and bent to answer some question of Mrs. Camden’s. Margaret jerked back in her chair and clasped her shaking hands so tightly that the knuckles whitened. He was a dreadful man. She would not speak to him, and if she ever saw him again, she would run away.

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5. Wish You Well

Wish You Well. David Baldacci. 2000/2007. Grand Central Publishing. 432 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading David Baldacci's Wish You Well. That is, I "enjoyed" it as much as one can enjoy a book with so much heartache in it. Some of the heartache was completely predictable, I won't lie. But some of it wasn't.

Readers meet Lou (Louisa) and Oz (Oscar). These two undergo a lot in the course of a year. The family is in a car crash. Their father dies at the scene. Their mother is left in a coma, of sorts. She's able to eat and drink, but, not to talk or walk. She's essentially dead to the world, unable to give any sign to anyone that she is still in there. The two go to live with a great-grandmother in Virginia. This great-grandmother raised their father. Her name is Louisa. Life in the country is certainly different than life in New York City, but the two adjust quickly. They enjoy spending time with Diamond, an orphan boy around their age, and Eugene, a black man who lives and works with them on the farm. Their mother lives with them as well. They manage to nurse her and do all the farm work as well. One man, a young lawyer, takes it upon himself to visit the family often. Cotton reads to Alicia (the mother) as often as he can. The children quickly bond with him. So they've experienced loss certainly, but, they've made new friends as well.

Is life perfect? Not really. Oz and Lou would give anything to have their parents back. And Oz especially is still counting on his mom waking up again. Lou secretly wants this just as badly. But she's older, and "wiser," and doesn't want anyone to know that she believes in wishes and happy endings. She can't help herself for wanting and wishing, but, she's ashamed of it at the same time. She hates herself for it in a way.

The book chronicles their adventures and misadventures in the country. The setting is 1940, by the way. I won't spoil the book; yes, a few things are predictable. But not everything in my opinion.

Wish You Well is a coming-of-age story written for adults. Don't be confused by the child narrator, this one really is an adult book.

What I liked best was the characterization and the setting. I liked Lou and Oz and Diamond. I liked Louisa and Cotton. I liked spending time with them. And the historical setting was a nice touch. 


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Out of Darkness: Review

Out of Darkness brings to light often marginalized voices in young adult fiction. Centered on the New London School explosion of 1937, Out of Darkness features protagonists who are racially and culturally diverse and a heartbreaking story that confronts you with the realities of racialized and gendered violence in 1930s Texas (and … also contemporary American culture). If you are in the mood for some truly excellent historical fiction that will emotionally devastate you, well then, do I have the book for you. I read this book in less than a day and I couldn’t put it down the entire time. I haven’t seen much press around this book yet, which is a bummer, because Out of Darkness is so, so good and also as thoughtful and thought-provoking as hell. It’s one of my favorites of the year so far. (And hey! My list of favorites for 2015 is not going to be... Read more »

The post Out of Darkness: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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7. Spotlight and Giveaway: Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey by Lillian Marek

This morning I have an excerpt for Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey and a giveaway for Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures, the first book in Lillian Marek’s Victorian Adventures series. Enjoy!

Title: Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey

Author: Lillian Marek

Series: Victorian Adventures, #2

Pubdate: August 4th, 2015

ISBN: 9781492602293

From sensible, sheltered girl

Safe in the embrace of her loving family, Lady Emily Tremaine longs to feel more intensely alive. Surely the magic and mystery of Assyria and the fabled ruins of Nineveh will bring about the transformation she seeks.

To the woman his heart desires

Scarred by his past and estranged from his noble grandfather, French adventurer Lucien Chambertin desires neither a home nor the chains of emotional attachment. He seeks only to explore the far reaches of the world. But he did not know the world contained the likes of Lady Emily—whose curiosity and sense of wonder match his own.

Lillian Marek was born and raised in New York City. At one time or another she has had most of the interesting but underpaid jobs available to English majors. After a few too many years in journalism, she decided she prefers fiction, where the good guys win and the bad guys get what they deserve.

***

This August marks the release of the second in Lillian Marek’s Victorian Adventures series, Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey! To celebrate her new release, Lillian’s here to share a fact about the Victorian era she discovered during her research:

The 1844 Derby race produced a major scandal when it turned out that the winning horse, Running Rein, was an entirely different horse in disguise, and the whole thing had been orchestrated by gamblers.

An Excerpt:

Emily had left the tent, and Lucien began to turn to her to share his thoughts on the scene when he saw a puff of smoke and a glint of metal by one of the boulders on the cliff. At that moment a bullet ploughed into the deck beside him, and he heard the shot.

He flew across the feet separating them to knock Emily to the ground, covering her with his body. “Keep down,” he ordered when she tried to raise her head. More bullets fell about them, most splashing into the river. He had his pistol in his hand, but he could not see a target on the cliff. The Turkish troopers on the next raft were firing away but not to any useful purpose that he could see.

Meanwhile, the oarsmen on their raft, who had first dropped their oars in a panic, were now working madly to keep them from being dashed against the rocks as the current swept them around a curve. The skipper joined them, shouting encouragement, until a bend in the river had them out of sight of their attackers. As the wild rocking of their craft ceased and they resumed their placid drift, Lucien became aware of his more immediate surroundings.

To be precise, he became aware of Emily lying beneath him. A warm, soft Emily lying beneath him, a situation his own body found most agreeable. Her breasts were pressed against his chest, and he was positioned between her thighs. She was so soft, such a perfect match for him. She did not appear to be distressed by their position, for she was making no effort to extricate herself. Did she understand what their position was? Could she tell just how agreeable his body found this position? Because his body was reacting most strongly to this juxtaposition.

She was looking up at him with an expression of dazed surprise. He wondered if he was looking at her with the same expression. Her hands were sitting on his shoulders, not pushing him away but not drawing him down. Just touching him. Her lips were parted ever so slightly. In surprise? In invitation? He was close enough to feel the damp warmth of her breath. He was overcome with longing and began to lower his mouth to hers.

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8. Spotlight and Giveaway: The Great Estate by Sherri Browning

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for Sherri Browning’s The Great Estate.  I love the cover!

Title: The Great Estate

Author: Sherri Browning

Series: Thornbrook Park, #3

Pubdate: August 4th, 2015

ISBN: 9781402286858

Pulled apart by past mistakes. Driven by a passion neither could deny.

Sophia Thorne was young and inexperienced when she married the dashing Earl of Averford…and through dark and troubled times, their relationship nearly came to an end. Now she’s determined to transform herself into the fiery, ardent lover she always wanted to be, giving them a second chance at love… before they’re lost to each other forever.

It took nearly losing Sophia for Gabriel to realize he had allowed his love for his great estate to distract him from his beautiful wife. But that time is over. Despite all the obstacles standing in their way, Gabriel vows to teach Sophia what it is to truly love…and to be loved by a husband devoted heart and soul to her every desire.

Sherri Browning writes historical and contemporary romance fiction, sometimes with a paranormal twist. She is the author of critically acclaimed classic mash-ups Jane Slayre and Grave Expectations. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Sherri has lived in western Massachusetts and Greater Detroit Michigan, but is now settled with her family in Simsbury, Connecticut. Find her online at www.sherribrowningerwin.com.

An Excerpt:

Agatha closed the distance between them, switching on lights as she approached. Even before Sophia’s eyes could adjust to the light, she had a clear image of Agatha in her fire-orange and aubergine ensemble. Her aunt settled on the sofa beside Sophia.

“I’ve had a letter from your mother.”

It wasn’t unusual for the sisters to be in communication, but something in her aunt’s tone told Sophia that unexpected information was to follow. She straightened up a bit. “Yes? And how is everyone at Delaney Square?”

“They’re all well. Even your father.” Agatha didn’t hide her disappointment with that bit of news. She’d never gotten on with Sophia’s father. Sophia had done her best to keep them apart at Alice’s wedding to avoid any unpleasantness. “It seems that she wrote with news that concerns you. She always was such a gossip, you know.”

Sophia waved her hand dismissively. “I know. Her intricate web of tittering busybodies could rival the king’s own network of spies.”

Brow furrowed, Agatha placed a hand on Sophia’s knee. “Gabriel’s back.”

Sophia looked left and right. Agatha considered herself in communication with the spirit world and liked to read fortunes, but she probably didn’t mean her comment in the literal sense. Sophia assumed she meant that Gabriel’s essence was in the air, or some such nonsense. “Where?”

“In London, dear.”

“At Averford House?” Sophia tried to contain her surprise. She hated London. Their house in town stood empty most of the time, unless Gabriel went to London to tend to parliamentary affairs. “In London? Now?”

Agatha nodded. “Lady Levesque told your mother that he has been there this past month. A fortnight at least. I’m not certain exactly when he arrived.”

“But he’s there. And he didn’t see fit to inform me that he’d returned to England?” Her heart dropped like a lead ball to the pit of her stomach. She rose and began to pace, no longer bothering to hide her distress at the news. “Not a word to me. Not a word to Mr. Kenner? Or do you think he knows? Kenner knows. And who else? Have they been instructed not to tell me? Or do they pity me too much to say a word?”

Agatha stood and came to her side. “Don’t become agitated. I don’t think anyone knows. Of course, the people in London know. Or so it seems. He has been carrying on as usual.”

“As usual?” Sophia cocked a brow. Only now did it occur to her to ask what her husband did in London when she did not go with him. “Carrying on?”

Dread cold as ice snaked up her spine.

Agatha shrugged. “Attending dinners. Musicales. Perhaps the theater? He’s a respected man, an earl. There are always invitations and the responsibility for a man to attend such things.”

“Of course.” Sophia gripped the back of a Chippendale chair. “Responsibilities. He must have come back for a vote. Parliament. How long could he stay away, after all? A man in his position.”

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9. Guest Post: A Lady’s Guide to Skirting Scandal by Kelly Bowen

Kelly Bowen dropped by this morning with a top 5 in celebration of the release of A Lady’s Guide to Skirting Scandal. 

Lady Viola’s Top 5 list of things to NOT DO while at sea by Kelly Bowen

This would have been her list at the beginning of the voyage.  By the end, however, it will be quite different!  Actually, I suspect she wouldn’t have a list at all..

1)do not fall in love with a surgeon

2)do not find yourself in dreadfully dull conversation with your chaperones anymore than required

3)do not hate your brother for banishing you to a place called New York

4)do not dwell on the fact that the duke you tried to catch had to extract you from a hedge after you tipped over a terrace at a ball

5)do not abandon hope that one day you will be a duchess

   5a) to ensure #5, do not fall in love with a surgeon

About Kelly Bowen

Kelly Bowen grew up in Manitoba, Canada. She attended the University of Manitoba and earned a Master of Science degree in veterinary physiology and endocrinology.  But it was Kelly’s infatuation with history and a weakness for a good love story that led her down the path of historical romance.  When she is not writing, she seizes every opportunity to explore ruins and battlefields. Currently, Kelly lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two boys, all of whom are wonderfully patient with the writing process.  Except, that is, when they need a goalie for street hockey.

http://www.kellybowen.net/

https://twitter.com/kellybowen09

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kelly-Bowen/636626389706813


About A LADY’S GUIDE TO SKIRTING SCANDAL

Lady Viola Hextall is bored – of the sea, her chaperones, and the woeful lack of available dukes on the ocean voyage from London to New York. Scrambling for any diversion short of jumping overboard, Viola strikes up a conversation with the ship’s rough-hewn, blue-eyed surgeon – and discovers an immediate cure for what ails her…
To Nathaniel Shaw, Viola has the bearing of a lady and the spirit of an adventurer – an unlikely combination that he finds utterly irresistible. So he’s hoping to convince Viola to leave the stifling ballrooms of London high society behind because there is a big, wide world just waiting for them to explore – together.

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/a-lady-s-guide-to-skirting-scandal

http://www.amazon.com/Ladys-Guide-Skirting-Scandal-short-ebook/dp/B011J4H45Y

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-ladys-guide-to-skirting-scandal-kelly-bowen/1122292235?ean=9781455592630

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25873107-a-lady-s-guide-to-skirting-scandal

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/ladys-guide-to-skirting-scandal/id1018886759?mt=11

EXCERPT:

“To make a good duchess. No matter what you think, Mr. Shaw, I will be a duchess one day. I deserve to be a duchess one day.”

Nate made a disparaging noise. “And is this how you’ve decided to measure your value – your worth in life, Lady Viola? By whether or not you become a duchess?”

“What else is there?” She put her hands on her hips.

Nate felt his own rush of resentment, along with another pang of scathing disappointment. “This is exactly why I am leaving England,” he said.

“What? Why?” Viola looked puzzled.

“This antiquated viewpoint that some of us are better than others based not on merit or intelligence or courage, but based only on an accident of birth.”

“But—”

“Do you know how they select officers for the army, Lady Viola?”

“I’m not sure if—”

“They are selected based on their titles and their purchase of a commission.”

“Well, of course—”

“Do you know what happens when officers are given command of men not because they are qualified in the art of war, but because their names were preceded by a title?”

She was looking up at him now, startled, no doubt, by the bitterness that even he could hear in his words.

“Surgeons like me deal with the casualties resulting from inexperience and incompetence.” He leaned forward. “And it is such a shameful waste.”

“Why are you telling me this?” she demanded a little defensively.

“What happens if the duke you choose is a simpleton?” he asked her. “Or perhaps he is given to sloth, or drink, or another vice that might make him cruel. To you or to others around him. Will you disregard this to attain the title that marriage to such a man will give you?”

Viola blinked at him.

“I would have thought that a woman such as you would want a husband who would admire her. Respect her. Maybe even love her.”

“I do,” she said, a little uncertain now.

“But yet those things do not count if they don’t come with a title?”

“You can’t have everything, Mr. Shaw.”

“So that is what you would choose? Title over happiness? Title over love?” He was provoking her deliberately.

She was twisting the ribbons of her bonnet in her fingers now. “You must choose what is more important, don’t you agree, Mr. Shaw? And in my world, it isn’t a choice.”

“Then I suggest you consider leaving your world behind.”

“One cannot simply leave a titled position, Mr. Shaw.”

Perhaps it was the powerlessness Nate had felt on the battlefield, his inability to challenge or change such thinking. Perhaps it was the catch of hesitation he heard in her answer. Either way, an edgy recklessness gripped him, and he found himself closing the distance between them, catching her chin in his fingers and tipping her head up to meet his gaze.

“And what would happen, Lady Viola, if you found a man who did not have a title, but a man who would worship the ground upon which you walked?” he asked, his voice barely a whisper. “A man who would trade his life for yours without a second’s thought. A man who would give anything he owned just for the opportunity to kiss you? Would you turn away from such a man and live the rest of your life wondering how things might have been if you had chosen happiness and love?”

“I don’t know.” Her breath was coming in shallow gasps, and her color was high.

He had proven his point, he knew. He had made her uncomfortable and had dared her to think. He should step away from her now and leave her to consider his words, if she was wont to do so. But he couldn’t.

Aside from the recklessness that had clouded his judgment, there was a woman he had glimpsed within her, one who sat cross-legged and spoke of frogs and muck. A woman who he feared he might like very much, should she ever be allowed to be completely free of the woman who spoke of dukes and parties.

His hand slid from her chin to the back of her neck, his fingers caressing the silk of her hair. She was watching him now, her beautiful blue eyes wide. But not afraid. As if she was challenging him to do his worst.

So he kissed her.

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10. Guest Post and Giveaway: Tremaine’s True Love by Grace Burrowes

This morning I have am excerpt and giveaway for Tremaine’s True Love by Grace Burrowes, as well as guest post from Grace!

Message From the Author

What makes a man a gentleman?

For a romance writer, this question has to be answered in every book, because implicit in the term “hero” is something of the gentleman. Heroes need not be charming, handsome or wealthy, and they might not even be obviously heroic, at least at the start of the book, but they have to be worthy of our loyalty for the duration of an entire book. 

In the True Gentlemen series, I took three men who’d wandered across my pages in previous stories—Tremaine St. Michael, Daniel Banks, and Willow Dorning—and found them each a happily ever after. Tremaine is a flinty business man, Daniel is poor and pious, Willow finds polite society an enormous trial and would far rather be with his dogs. These fellows were not obvious choices as romance heroes, but they each had something that tempted me to write stories for them.

When we met Tremaine in an earlier book (Gabriel: Lord of Regrets), Tremaine was convinced that he’d found a good candidate for the position of wife. He offered marriage, listing all the practical advantages to both parties, and he congratulated himself on how much sense his proposed union would make.

The lady turned him down flat, and as a gentleman is bound to do, he graciously ceded the field. He didn’t like it, he didn’t entirely understand how or what he’d lost, but he wished the happy couple well.

Daniel’s role in David: Lord of Honor was to charge to London with sermons at the ready in an attempt to restore his sister’s honor. The very man Daniel accused of wronging that sister had already set her back on the path to respectability.

Oops. But again, being a gentleman, Daniel wishes the couple every happiness, even if doing so costs him the future he’d envisioned for himself and his loved ones. Like Tremaine, he’s a gracious and even dignified loser.

Willow’s appearance in Worth: Lord of Reckoning is brief, but he too is determined to see a sister rescued from a possibly compromising position, and again, rescue is simply not on the heroine’s agenda.

In all three cases, the true gentleman acts in the best interests of those he loves and is responsible for, regardless of the inconvenience or cost to himself. Because Tremaine, Daniel, and Willow were honorable, I liked them. I trusted them, I wanted them to have the happiness they clearly already deserved.

In the Nicholas Haddonfield’s sisters—Nita, Kirsten, and Susannah—I found ladies willing to oblige my ambitions for these men. In each case, our hero has lessons yet to learn, and in each case, his inherent honor wins the day. He might not be handsome, wealthy, or charming in the eyes of the world, but because he’s a true gentleman in the eyes of his lady, he wins her true love.

I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Excerpt – Tremaine’s True Love

Wealthy businessman Tremaine St. Michael has concluded that marriage to Lady Nita Haddonfield would be a prudent merger of complimentary interests for the mutual benefit and enjoyment of both parties… or some such blather.

Tremaine rapped on Lady Nita’s door, quietly, despite a light shining from beneath it. Somebody murmured something which he took for permission to enter.

“Mr. St. Michael?”

Tremaine stepped into her ladyship’s room, closed the door behind him and locked it, which brought the total of his impossibly forward behaviors to several thousand.

“Your ladyship expected a sister, or a maid with a pail of coal?”

“I wasn’t expecting you.” Lady Nita sat near the hearth in a blue velvet dressing gown. The wool stockings on her feet were thick enough to make a drover covetous. “Are you unwell, Mr. St. Michael?”

“You are not pleased to see me.” Did she think illness the only reason somebody would seek her out?

She set aside some pamphlet, a medical treatise, no doubt. No vapid novels for Lady Nita.

“I was not expecting you, sir.”

“You were not expecting me to discuss marriage with you earlier. I wasn’t expecting the topic to come up in a casual fashion either. May I sit?”

She waved an elegant hand at the other chair flanking the hearth. Tremaine settled in, trying to gather his thoughts while the firelight turned Lady Nita’s braid into a rope of burnished gold.

“You are pretty.” Brilliant place to start. The words had come out, heavily burred, something of an ongoing revelation.

“I am tall and blond,” she retorted, twitching the folds her of her robe. “I have the usual assortment of parts. What did you come here to discuss?”

Lady Nita was right, in a sense. Her beauty was not of the ballroom variety, but rather, an illumination of her features by characteristics unseen. She fretted over new babies, cut up potatoes like any crofter’s wife, and worried for her sisters. These attributes interested Tremaine. Her madonna-with-a-secret smile, keen intellect, and longing for laughter attracted him.

Even her medical pre-occupation, in its place, had some utility as well.

“Will you marry me, my lady?”

More brilliance. Where had his wits gone? George Haddonfield had graciously pointed out that Nita needed repose and laughter, and Tremaine was offering her the hand of the most restless and un-silly man in the realm.

The lady somehow contained her incredulity, staring at her hands. “You want to discuss marriage?”

“I believe I did just open that topic. Allow me to elaborate on my thesis: Lady Bernita Haddonfield, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife? I think we would suit, and I can promise you would know no want in my care.”

A proper swain would have been on his damn bended knee, the lady’s hand in his. Lady Nita would probably laugh herself to tears if Tremaine attempted that nonsense. Lady Nita picked up her pamphlet, which Tremaine could now see was written in German.

“Why, Mr. St. Michael?”

“I beg your pardon?” Tremaine was about to pitch the damned pamphlet in the fire, until he recalled that Nita Haddonfield excelled at obscuring her stronger emotions.

“Why should you marry me, Tremaine St. Michael? Why should I marry you? I’ve had other offers, you’ve made other offers. You haven’t known me long enough to form an opinion of my character beyond the superficial.”

This ability to take a situation apart, into causes, effects, symptoms, and prognosis was part of the reason she was successful as a healer. Tremaine applied the same tendencies to commercial situations, so he didn’t dismiss her questions as coyness or manipulation.

She wasn’t rejecting him either. She most assuredly was not rejecting him.

***

Book Information

Title: Tremaine’s True Love

Author: Grace Burrowes

Release Date: August 4, 2015

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Genre: Historical Romance

Summary

He’s had everything he could ever want…until now

Wealthy wool magnate Tremaine St. Michael is half French, half Scottish, and all business. He prowls the world in search of more profits, rarely settling in one place for long. When he meets practical, reserved Lady Nita Haddonfield, he sees an opportunity to mix business with pleasure by making the lady his own.

Nita Haddonfield has a meaningful life tending to others, though nobody is dedicated to caring for Nita. She insists the limitations of marriage aren’t for her, then Tremaine St. Michael arrives-protective, passionate, and very, very determined to win Nita’s heart.

Buy Links

Amazon: http://bit.ly/AmazonBurrowesTremaine

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/BNBurrowesTremaine

iBooks: http://bit.ly/AppleBurrowesTremaine

IndieBound: http://bit.ly/IndieBurrowesTremaine

Author Biography

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes’ bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish and Lady Eve’s Indiscretion. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.

Social Media Links

Website: http://graceburrowes.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Grace-Burrowes/115039058572197

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GraceBurrowes

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4152482.Grace_Burrowes

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11. Micro Reviews: Demons, Race Horses, Assassins and Majors

And here’s another catch up post of long overdue mini reviews.

The Shadow Ellysium by Django Wexler

B / B+

This short novella served its purpose as a teaser to generate interest in the Shadow Campaigns series. I loaded The Thousand Names on my Kindle – now I just need time to read it!

 

To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander

B / B+

This inspirational romance caught my eye because of the horse on the cover.  Maggie is dismayed when her father arranges her marriage to Cullen, an Irish immigrant.  She’s reluctant to marry a complete stranger, and an Irishman at that.  She’s also fearful that he’ll object to her training her mare to run in an upcoming race. 

I enjoyed the development of the romance, as well as the details of daily life on a farm in post Civil War Tennessee.  The author doesn’t shy away from describing the prejudices and terrible treatment of the Irish and African Americans.  At first I had a hard time with Maggie because her thoughts and views mirrored those of her neighbors, but as she got to know Cullen and the farm hands working for them, she began to finally see them as individuals deserving respect.  And the horsey bits were entertaining. 

 

 

Hit! by Deliah S Dawson

C-

This just did not work for me. I can’t help but think that a huge banking conglomerate would have a better solution for deadweight borrowers than having them assassinated, or forcing them to be assassins. Meh, I didn’t care for HIT.

Mad About the Major by Elizabeth Boyle

B

Fun read with a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off vibe. Lady Arabella escapes the suffocating confines of her father’s estate to grab a small taste of freedom before she’s forced to marry a stodgy old bachelor. Her father is furious with her because a handsome stranger made a spectacle of her at a ball, and now he’s adamant that she marry before she’s completely ruined. She runs into the rakish Kingsley, the stranger from the ball, after he almost runs her down with his carriage. Arabella convinces him to accompany her on her day of freedom, arguing that he owes her three favors for his behavior at the ball. What follows is an enjoyable romp through London, as Arabella and Kingsley fall for each other during their unusual adventures. I really enjoyed this.

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12. Spotlight and Giveaway: The Highlander Takes a Bride by Lynsay Sands

This morning I have a spotlight and giveaway for The Highlander Takes a Bride by Lynsay Sands.

The Highlander Takes a Bride
Scottish Highlander #3

By: Lynsay Sands

Releasing July 28, 2015

Avon

Blurb

A bold, seductive laird meets his passionate match in a scintillating Highland romance from New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands.

Sword fighting, swearing, and riding astride come naturally to Saidh Buchanan. Simpering and holding her tongue-definitely not. Raised alongside seven boisterous brothers, Saidh has little interest in saddling herself with a husband…until she glimpses the new Laird MacDonnell bathing naked in the loch. Though she’s far from a proper lady, the brawny Highlander makes Saidh feel every inch a woman.

She has an angel’s looks, a warrior’s temper, and seeks out his kisses with wanton eagerness. Little wonder that Greer is intrigued by his comely guest. When reckless desire overtakes them, he’s more than willing to make an honest woman of her. But Saidh is the target of a hidden enemy, and Greer faces the battle of his life…to safeguard the woman he wants above all others.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/06/the-highlander-takes-bride-highlander-3.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23432309-the-highlander-takes-a-bride?ac=1
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/119124-highlander

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

Author Info

LYNSAY SANDS is the nationally bestselling author of the Argeneau/Rogue Hunter vampire series, as well as numerous historicals and anthologies. She’s been writing stories since grade school and considers herself incredibly lucky to be able to make a career out of it. Her hope is that readers can get away from their everyday stress through her stories, and if there’s occasional uncontrollable fits of laughter, that’s just a big bonus. Please visit her on the web at www.lynsaysands.net.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Excerpt:

She’d only taken half a dozen steps, however, when she was suddenly caught about the waist and hauled up into the air. Saidh squawked in surprise, and glanced around with amazement at the MacDonnell. She hadn’t even been aware that he’d changed direction and come after her.

“Allow me to escort the winner to the castle door,” he said smoothly against her ear as he settled her in his lap.

Saidh wanted to roar at him to put her down, but didn’t want to draw attention in the busy bailey so almost swallowed her tongue in her determination to still it. She sat unmoving and silent, very aware that his arm clasped her just below her breasts, the top of it rubbing against the bottom of those sensitive globes with every shift of the horse’s hooves. She was also excruciatingly aware of the heat of his chest against her back, and that she seemed enveloped in the clean, male scent of him. She was slower to realize though, that the hardness against her bottom appeared to be growing larger and harder by the moment.

“Me laird?” she asked sweetly.

“Aye?” he growled by her ear, his lips brushing the tender skin and sending a shiver up her back that just annoyed her.

“I think ye might be enjoying this just a tad too much,” she informed him. “That, or I’m sitting on yer sword.”

He chuckled, his breath brushing her ear again. “Yer just sore that I made ye turn away and ye didn’t get to see me tarse as I came out o’ the water.”

Saidh flushed as she recalled the way she’d gawked at him earlier, but merely shook her head and snapped, “Ye’d like to think so.”

“Oh, I know so,” he assured her and then reined in and lifted her down off of his horse at the base of the stairs. He also let his hand slide along the underside of her breasts under cover of releasing her, and Saidh gasped at the sensations the action sent racing through her. It left her weak kneed and unsteady so that she stumbled as she started up the stairs. Managing to keep her feet beneath her, Saidh hurried up the steps and escaped into the great hall with relief.

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13. Lies We Tell Ourselves: Review

Hey hey, guess what I just read? Lies We Tell Ourselves! A really great book that came out last year that I should have read immediately upon its release! Why? Because it’s an interracial lesbian romance set in the South during the desegregation of Virginia’s public school system. (You had me at lesbian romance.) Anyway, while it is not without its problems, Robin Talley’s Lies We Tell Ourselves is a really strong debut novel. I read it in one sitting, and it is a testament to the book’s excellence that I really enjoyed it despite having to endure a massive airport delay. (I wasn’t even bothered! I just wanted to sit down again so I could keep. reading. the book.) I wanted to review it because (1) if you haven’t read it, you should read it and (2) man, I have all the feelings about this one, and I want to... Read more »

The post Lies We Tell Ourselves: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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14. The Truth According To Us (2015)

The Truth According to Us. Annie Barrows. 2015. Dial. 512 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm tempted to say that The Truth According To Us would have made a better book than a movie. Or perhaps just that I would have been more likely to appreciate the story as a movie than I did as a book. I found the book to be long, a little too long. And the characters? Well, while they all started out with the potential for me to actually care about them, ended up falling short. Of course, you may feel differently.

Here is what the story is about:

1) Willa Romeyn is a child who has decided to become observant of the adults in her world. She's determined to be a people-watcher and find out secrets big and small.

2) Jottie Romeyn is Willa's aunt and probably primary caretaker. She lives with her brother, Willa, and Bird (her other niece). She runs the town's boardinghouse. She has a tragic back-story that perhaps is supposed to be the big mystery of the entire novel? Regardless, there are so very many flashbacks from her point of view, specific recollections of conversations and events.

3) Layla Beck is the new boarder at Jottie's boardinghouse. She thinks she's all grown up and independent. And in a way, she is. But she has SO MUCH to learn. The book is perhaps weighed down--in my opinion--by all of Layla's correspondence. Letters from Layla to her family and friends, even her ex-boyfriend. Letters to Layla from the same. Her job, her first-ever job, is to write the town's history. (The town is Macedonia, West Virginia.) The history will be for the Federal Writers' Project. She spends most of her time falling in lust, I mean "love" with Willa's father. But also, of course, interviewing residents of the town.

4) There are other characters, of course, like Sol and Emmett that readers get to know. Sol was a childhood friend of Felix (Willa's Dad) and Jottie. (Also there is Vause.) These characters mainly connect with Jottie and Layla.

There were so many characters competing to be the narrator in this one. I didn't properly connect with Jottie, Layla, or Willa. If the story had been from one perspective, perhaps I could have made a good, strong connection. Willa's story could have been about the threat of her father remarrying and life changing and general coming-of-age angst. Or Jottie's story could have been about her troubles, her struggles, to raise her brother's children while living under his control and dominance. Her love/hate relationship with him. Or Layla's could have been about her new independence, her struggle to be as grown up as she wants to be perceived, her not knowing what she wants, her love life, etc. But because the book was just a taste of all of the above, I didn't really care.

I do think it would make a better movie however. I think seeing flashbacks is almost always better. I think SEEING Vause and Jottie in their youth would have made a big difference in my impression. Movies tend to be more concise as well. A great soundtrack would also help!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on The Truth According To Us (2015) as of 7/15/2015 11:54:00 AM
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15. Guest Post and Giveaway: Deception by A S Fenichel

 

Please welcome AS Fenichel to the virtual offices this morning!

Top 5 reasons Lilly hates Nobles by AS Fenichel

Thank you for having me here today. I’m so proud of the Deception characters for helping me tell this story in the best possible way. Nothing is ever easy with demon hunters and that is especially true for matters of the heart.

Lillian Dellacourt hates noblemen. Raised in a small village by a seamstress who sold her to the local lord, she’s still overcoming the circumstances of her birth. While The Company sees her as one of the greatest hunters to have ever lived, Lilly has some issues. One of her big problems, she hates Noblemen.

Here are Lilly’s five reasons for hating noblemen.

  1. The man who bought her from her mother was an earl. He kept her locked away and wouldn’t let her visit her mother.

  2. Titled men believe they can have anything they want without consequence. They take without thought and treat everyone below them as chattel.

  3. The Earl of Shafton’s lies and arrogance have driven her to her current mission. She can read his deception, but can’t figure out what secrets he keeps. Plus the infuriating man made some pretty terrible accusations against her and she wants her revenge.

  4. When news arrived that her mother had gone missing, the earl who owned her beat her severely. Close to losing consciousness, she grabbed the earl’s dagger and stabbed him. Unfortunately, the wound was not fatal.

  5. Dorian Lambert has the manners of Marques and the instincts of a demon hunter. It’s confusing. The way he looks at her starts her stomach trembling in a pleasant way. Lilly likes to know exactly what she’s facing. She can take down a demon with her sai blades ripping through flesh and bone like butter. Killing demons makes sense. Nothing about being near Dorian is explainable in words. Only actions will do. It’s maddening!

Thanks again for having me here today. This was fun. I hope you enjoy Deception as much as I loved writing it.

A.S.

Deception
Demon Hunters # 2

By: A.S. Fenichel

Releasing July 7, 2015

Lyrical

Blurb

When Demons threaten Regency London, only a Lady can stop them.

Lillian Dellacourt is beautiful, refined and absolutely lethal. She’s also the most feared and merciless demon hunter in The Company. She’s come a long way from the penniless seamstress’s daughter sold to the highest bidder, and it wasn’t by trusting a man, let alone an exiled Marquis with more on his mind than slaying the hellspawn . . .

For Dorian Lambert, Marquis de Montalembert, being sent to keep track of Lillian is no mean task. He’s wanted the fiery vixen since he first heard of her five years ago. But wooing the lady while fighting the demon uprising is no easy feat, especially when the lady’s tongue is as sharp as the Japanese sai blades she favors for eviscerating the spawn of hell.

These two will have to learn to trust each other fast, because the demon master is back, and he’s planning to turn Edinburgh into a living hell…

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/03/deception-demon-hunters-2-by-as-fenichel.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23432697-deception?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/135692-the-demon-hunters

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

Author Info

A.S. Fenichel gave up a successful career in New York City to follow her husband to Texas and pursue her lifelong dream of being a professional writer. She’s never looked back.

A.S. adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Books have always been her perfect escape and she still relishes diving into one and staying up all night to finish a good story.

Multi-published in erotic paranormal, contemporary and historical romance, A.S. is the author of the Mayan Destiny series, Christmas Bliss and many more. With several books currently contracted to multiple publishers, A.S. will be bringing you her brand of romance for many years to come.

Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in the East Texas with her real life hero, her wonderful husband. When not reading or writing she enjoys cooking, travel, history, and puttering in her garden.

Author Links: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads |TSU

 

Excerpt

Holding up her hand, she pulled the horse to a stop. Dorian slowed, watched, and waited.

Lillian touched her nose, alerting him to the scent of wood burning. The wind came out of the northeast. The almost full moon lit the night well enough. They dismounted, and tied the horses to a low bit of brush along the rocky pass.

Spending the bulk of his time with the hunters behind a desk, he willingly took a step back and allowed Lillian to take the lead. She was far more experienced in the field. The fact that she was a woman meant nothing in The Company.

He wished he was as unaffected by her feminine allure.

To his astonishment, she pulled a string at her waist, which lifted her skirts, and she tucked them into some kind of belt hidden at her hips. Above her high leather boots, he glimpsed her creamy thighs. His gaze dropped to her curvy flesh and an array of weapons cleverly stored insideher skirts instead of focusing on the danger ahead. He met her gaze.

“Try to stay alive, Dorian. Do not get distracted.”

He looked her up and down one more time. “You ask the impossible, Lilly.”

The wicked look she gave him was almost as enticing as the curve of her leg. She turned and climbed up the rock-strewn hill to the right. He followed, making an effort not to admire her bare legs or the throwing knives strapped around her right thigh. When they reached the precipice, flames blazed as high as ten feet in the center of a clearing. Two demons fed the fire, one a small trebox with scaly dark skin and the other a larger, dumber malleus covered in slime. To the far left of the fire, three children huddled together. The smallest girl wept loudly while the other two tried to comfort her.

Alive! A surge of elation followed by a wave of fear assaulted him. Could he and Lillian keep those children alive?

The malleus stood as tall as the flames and sang in a low grating tone. Firelight reflected off its slimy skin as it tore a year old tree from the ground, roots and all. As if it were a twig, the malleus tossed it on the fire. Flames roared higher and his voice grew louder. Dorian knew nothing of the demon language, but the eerie cadence churned his guts.

The trebox slunk around the fire. He used two hands on a sword, carving symbols in the hard ground. This trebox had shed his human clothes, exposing his hunched back and visible ribcage.

A recent report had crossed his desk depicting a similar scene in England. When they completed drawing the runes, the innocents would be sacrificed. “They mean to open a gate. We only have until the song ends.”

Lillian’s eyes widened. She reached into the folds of her underskirt and released a small crossbow from its holster, chocked an arrow, and took aim. “We will need to move fast.”

“Ready.”

She let the arrow fly.

It pierced the malleus demon’s left eye, silenced the song mid-word, and dropped the enormous monster to the ground before he even had time to roar.

The trebox screamed in the language only demons understood. He took up the song his comrade had been chanting and wrote faster in the dirt.

Dorian pulled one throwing knife from the belt strapped around Lillian’s smooth skin. He jumped over the hill and ran down, dagger raised in his left hand.

The trebox rushed at him with its eyes focused on the long knife.

When he was within range, he let the smaller blade fly.

It buried deep in the greenish creature’s throat. He crumpled with a whine.

Lillian ran behind him down the hill.

All three children screamed and cried.

She charged past them and kicked dirt on the fire.

“What are you doing?”

“I think he might have gotten the incantation finished. Look at the way the smoke curls in on itself. Evil will find a way in even without the sacrifice. Once opened, I don’t know how to close a gate.”

It was unnatural the way the smoke did not move with the breeze. The ground rumbled. Dorian kicked dirt on the fire and rubbed out the carved runes from the ground.

 

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16. Spotlight and Giveaway: The Maddening Lord Montwood by Vivienne Lorret

This morning I have a spotlight and giveaway for The Maddening Lord Montwood by Vivienne Lorret.

The Maddening Lord Montwood
The Rakes of Fallow Hall # 3

By: Vivienne Lorret

Releasing July 14, 2015
Avon Impulse

Blurb

Frances Thorne learned at an early age to rely on herself. Yet, losing her job and her home and watching her father carted off to debtor’s prison all in one day, is too much for her to bear alone. When a generous offer of assistance falls into her lap, she ignores her better instincts and decides to take a chance. The last thing she needs is for the infuriating Lord Lucan Montwood to stand in her way.

The end of the bachelors’ wager is near, and Lucan Montwood can taste victory. Yet, on the precipice of finally gaining freedom from his debts, he’s incensed to learn that the beautiful Frances Thorne has fallen into an insidious trap in the guise of a new position. Lucan can’t deny the way her lips call to him and knows he must risk his own future to ensure her safety.

Convincing her to trust him is the hard part and resisting her is next to impossible. But falling in love with her? That’s far too simple.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/06/the-maddening-lord-montwood-rakes-of.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22962525-the-maddening-lord-montwood?ac=1
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/131479-the-rakes-of-fallow-hall

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

Author Info

USA Today bestselling author VIVIENNE LORRET loves romance novels, her pink laptop, her husband, and her two sons (not necessarily in that order … but there are days). Transforming copious amounts of tea into words, she is proud to be an Avon Impulse author of works including: “Tempting Mr. Weatherstone”, The Wallflower Wedding Series, and the Rakes of Fallow Hall series.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

 

Excerpt

Lucan stood. The tails of his coat fell into place. Only then did she realize she’d been staring quite fixedly at the strong lines of his shoulders, the narrowness of his hips, and his backside. Again.

Keeping a hand draped over the dog’s scruff, he gently thrummed his fingers in time with ticking clock stand in the corner. “Miss Thorne, I do not mean to alarm you, but you are about to meet two of the most determined young women of my acquaintance.”

Curious, her gaze locked on the open doorway. “Determined for what, precisely?”

“To see me married by year’s end.” He said the words with such gravity that a streak of alarm did indeed shoot through her. “They will see you here and begin plotting instantly, especially if you continue to ogle my person when my back is turned.”

She started. There was no way he could have known—but then she noticed the reflective glass in the door of the clock stand and felt her cheeks betray her. “I was not ogling you. Not at all. You have a . . . a spot on your coat, and I was debating whether or not to tell you.”

“Is it a large spot or a small spot?” He grinned.

She narrowed her eyes, feeling the tips of her lashes brush against her lenses. “Hideously large, like your ego.”

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17. Ross Poldark

Ross Poldark. (Poldark #1) Winston Graham. 1945/2015. Sourcebooks. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

It was windy. The pale afternoon sky was shredded with clouds; the road, grown dustier and more uneven in the past hour, was scattered with blown and rustling leaves.

The novel opens* with the book's hero, Ross Poldark, returning to Cornwall in the fall of 1783. He's returning from war, learning that his father is dead--and that his father hasn't left him much money to work his estate (Nampara) with--also that the woman he thought was his one true love is engaged to another man--Ross' cousin, Francis. But Ross Poldark is resilient--stubborn--someone who knows what he wants and has the gumption to fight for what he wants. Mainly, he will not give up on his home and his mine to try to find a life elsewhere. He may be tempted to want to "fight for" Elizabeth. But mainly the battle is internal: more of a fighting to get her out of his mind and heart.

Is the novel a romance? Yes and no. Yes. Ross Poldark thinks he's madly in love with Elizabeth. And yes, the novel does chronicle his romance with Demelza towards the end. But in many ways, it is not a romance novel. Readers meet dozens of characters from all social classes, and, we follow their stories. For example, the dramatic relationship of Jinny and Jim Carter or Verity and Captain Blamey. Readers spend a lot of time with the lower classes, seeing the effects of poverty up close. And there is a sense of injustice at times at how they're treated and the very lack of opportunities that keep them trapped right where they are. At times--in certain situations--Ross is understanding and becomes something of their champion. (Not that this becomes his full-time job, righting the wrongs, fighting injustice, giving voice to those without. It doesn't. But he is a hard worker; he does dirty his own hands and work alongside others.) The more he "becomes one of them" the less his own class wants to do with him--or so it seems. There are always exceptions!

Ross can be impulsive in his wanting to do the right thing. For example, when he brings home a thirteen-year-old Demelza to be his servant. Does the girl desperately want to escape her own miserable home life where she's often beaten? Yes. Very much. Once Ross sees the scars on her back and learns her story, he wants to protect her. So he offers a job. But how will everyone else respond? Will her father let her go without a fight? without trouble? Not likely! And what will his own class think of this decision? They find it strange and unusual!

Readers get to spend a lot of time with Demelza, Jud, and Prudie. (And I was pleasantly surprised to find that Prudie and Jud actually like Demelza in the book and aren't trying to rid themselves of her every five minutes.)

(The novel closes in December of 1787). 

Do I have favorite characters? Yes. I really LOVE Verity. And, of course, Ross and Demelza come to mind as well. If I didn't care about them, then I couldn't like the book overall. And I definitely liked it. I loved, loved, loved some scenes of this one. I didn't love every single scene, every single chapter equally. But there were places I just adored this story.

*The first chapter opens with Ross Poldark returning. Technically, the book has a prologue which introduces readers to Joshua Poldark, Ross' father, who is dying.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Guest Post and Giveaway: The Best of Both Rogues by Samantha Grace

 

Samantha Grace dropped by the virtual offices to celebrate the release of The Best of Both Rogues!

Hi, everyone. I’m Samantha Grace, RITA-nominated author of the historical romance series, Rival Rogues. Today I’m very happy to be joined by Benjamin Hillary, the hero of my latest novel, THE BEST OF BOTH ROGUES, and his rival for Miss Eve Thorne’s affections, Sir Jonathan Hackberry. In a moment, we’ll have Miss Thorne join us for a quick round of The Regency Dating Game.

Sir Jonathan: Dating? As in determining the age of archaeological specimens?

Samantha: Uh, not exactly. Dating is similar to courting. Miss Thorne will ask each of you the same questions, and your answers will help her determine which gentleman she would like to take her for an ice at Gunter’s.

Ben stands, smiling broadly as Eve enters the room: Let the games begin.

Eve lowers to a chair and situates her skirts before shaking out a piece of foolscap. She looks back and forth between the gentlemen: Well, this is a bit awkward.

Ben: Not any more than it was the day you twisted your ankle, and I had to step in to teach Sir Jonathan to waltz.

A rosy blush dusts Eve’s cheeks: That was quite a sight. I should probably begin the questions. Ben, if there were a book written about your life, what would it be titled?

Ben: Coincidentally, there is a book about my life on the market right now. It’s called The Best Rogue.

Sir Jonathan: I believe the correct title is The Best of BOTH Rogues.

Ben: Last minute change. You know how those things go in the publishing world.

Sir Jonathan: But the book is about me, too.

Ben: About that, Samantha’s editor called and… (He draws his finger across his neck in a slicing motion.)

Sir Jonathan: She had my head lobbed off?!?

Ben: No! You’ve been cut from the story.

Sir Jonathan: Cut? Why? I add interest, intrigue, and comedic relief.

Ben crosses his arms: I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re not that funny. We think someone else is better for the part, so you should probably run along. You’re no longer needed.

Sir Jonathan narrows his eyes: Wait, are you trying to get rid of me?

Ben: Only from the moment I learned of your existence.

Eve bites her bottom lip and looks uncertainly at the men: Perhaps Ms. Grace and I should go for an ice while you two work out your differences.

Samantha: That sounds wonderful. I’ve never tried an ice from Gunter’s.

Eve and Samantha chatter about what flavors Samantha should try as they walk out on the gentlemen.

Ben glowers at Sir Jonathan: Fantastic. They’ve left. Why won’t you go away?

Sir Jonathan: I’m the comedic relief, remember?

Title: The Best of Both Rogues

Author: Samantha Grace

Series: Rival Rogues, Book 3

ISBN: 9781492608103

Pubdate: July 7th, 2015

Genre: Historical Regency Romance

Book Summary

The worst thing Mr. Benjamin Hillary ever did was abandon his bride-to-be on their wedding day.

The hardest thing he will ever have to do is watch her marry another man.

After two long years abroad, Ben finds Eve every bit as captivating as she was the first time he saw her, and he vows to set things right.

Lady Eve Thorne has a new man in her life, and Ben is nothing but trouble. She is no longer a starry-eyed young woman, and now that he’s back, he can go hang for all she cares. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself…

Amazon – amzn.to/1GubOgL

Barnes & Noble – bit.ly/1FDdm6h

iBooks – apple.co/1fGgaL5

IndieBound – bit.ly/1BEe8oG

Biography

Historical romance author Samantha Grace discovered the appeal of a great love story when she was just a young girl, thanks to Disney’s Robin Hood. She didn’t care that Robin Hood and Maid Marian were cartoon animals. It was her first happily-ever-after experience and she didn’t want the warm fuzzies to end. Now Samantha enjoys creating her own happy endings for characters that spring from her imagination. Publishers Weekly describes her stories as “fresh and romantic” with subtle humor and charm. Samantha describes romance writing as the best job ever.

Social Networking Links

Website: http://samanthagraceauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Samantha-Grace/264436686918343

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SamGraceAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4946067.Samantha_Grace

Excerpt from THE BEST OF BOTH ROGUES by Samantha Grace

Ben made a slow circle of the brightly lit ballroom, stopping occasionally to study the couples as they sashayed past, their cheeks pink from exertion. After several moments, he was satisfied Lord Wellham wasn’t among the dancers, not that Ben was surprised. If his memory served, the earl favored gambling over gamboling.

Reaching a secluded corner near a dark alcove, he paused to check once more for his quarry before he sought out the card room.

“What are you doing here?” a voice hissed. “You are not on the guest list.”

“Pardon?” Ben spun toward the speaker and came up short. His eyebrows veered toward each other. “How do you know?” he whispered back to the mass of green palm fronds.

“Because I helped make the list.” The plant’s fronds parted, and Eve Thorne’s stern glare greeted him. What the devil was she doing?

Her frown deepened when he simply stared, at a loss for words. “Do you have a death wish, Mr. Hillary?”

The corners of his mouth twitched. “Let me guess, you’ve been attacked by a man-eating plant. Are you in need of rescue, Kitten?”

She growled softly and the fronds snapped back into place. Ben checked the surrounding area to be certain they hadn’t earned any unwanted attention, then peered around the massive greenery. Eve was wedged against the wall, her yellow chiffon skirts crushed against the large pot. Her chest rose and fell in rapid movements, drawing his attention to the modest swell of her breasts peeking above her lacy neckline. A rosy glow infused her ivory skin, making the sprinkling of freckles across her cheeks almost unnoticeable.

God, he had missed her – her freckles, her pouty lips, her soulful brown eyes. He had been smitten from the moment he had spied her at the theater during the little Season, and two years on a faraway continent had done nothing to cool his ardor.

“What are you doing back there, Miss Thorne, and shouldn’t you have a chaperone?”

She crossed her arms as if erecting a wall between them. “God only knows why, but I am trying to save your skin, Benjamin James Arran Hillary.”

Damnation. He had almost forgotten he’d been burdened with so many names, and that she had a habit of invoking every one when she was perturbed. His smile expanded. Despite her pretense of indifference, she was worried for him. “Am I to conclude your skulking about means you still care?”

“I care about Lady Eldridge, and I do not want to see her ball ruined by you and Sebastian coming to fisticuffs. You really must leave before he sees you and demands another meeting on the field.”

Crossing paths with Sebastian Thorne didn’t concern Ben. Her brother’s need to defend her reputation after Ben jilted her had been satisfied three weeks earlier in a duel, and Thorne would not issue a second challenge for fear of losing. Ben suspected neither of them wanted to risk looking like fools again either. Instead of dueling with pistols or swords as any other normal men would do, they had allowed Eve to choose the weapons. She had chosen gloves.

He scowled. “Do you have any idea how ridiculous it looked for two men to engage in a slapping match?” The gents at Brooks’s hadn’t stopped talking about the duel for days, and Ben had endured the brunt of the teasing since he’d followed his youngest brother’s advice and allowed Thorne to win.

Eve’s smile radiated with self-satisfaction. “Since no one died, I would say I made an excellent choice.”

H grudgingly admitted her cleverness had managed to resolve the conflict without bloodshed – or much, anyway. Ben had walked away with a cut on his cheek and a nasty bruise, thanks to her brother filling his glove with pebbles. But bruised pride and a bruised mug were small prices to pay to see Eve’s position in Society restored.

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19. Spotlight and Giveaway: Put Up Your Duke by Megan Frampton

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for Put Up Your Duke by Megan Frampton!

Put up Your Duke
Dukes Behaving Badly #2

By: Megan Frampton

Releasing June 30, 2015

Avon

Blurb

He was once happily bedding and boxing, but in the newest DUKES BEHAVING BADLY novel, Nicholas Smithfield has inherited a title and a bride…

To keep his estate afloat, the new Duke of Gage must honor an agreement to marry Lady Isabella. Stunningly beautiful, utterly tempting, she’s also a bag of wedding night nerves, so Nicholas decides to wait to do his duty-even if it means heading to the boxing saloon every day to punch away his frustration.

Groomed her whole life to become the perfect duchess Isabella longs for independence, a dream that is gone forever. As her husband, Nicholas can do whatever he likes-but, to Isabella’s surprise the notorious rake instead begins a gentle seduction that is melting every inch of her reserve, night by night…

To his utter shock, Nicholas’s discovers that none of his previous exploits were half as pleasurable as wooing his own wife. But has the realm’s most disreputable Duke found the one woman who can bring him to his knees-and leave him there?

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/05/put-up-your-duke-dukes-behaving-badly-2.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23314826-put-up-your-duke?ac=1
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/127805-dukes-behaving-badly

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

Author Info

Megan Frampton writes historical romance under her own name and romantic women’s fiction as Megan Caldwell. She likes the color black, gin, dark-haired British men, and huge earrings, not in that order. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and son.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

 

Excerpt:

She laughed in all the places he’d wanted her to, even though she insisted on correcting the ending to the story—instead of the princess heading off to fairyland to enact revenge on the mean fairy, as he’d recounted, she said that the princess would not be so petty, and would just let the mean fairy come to her own bad ends.

Nicholas would have to tell her the story of how the mean fairy got her comeuppance another night. And how revealing was it that he was picturing the mean fairy as his new mother-in-law?

“And now you should tell me what is on your list, princess.” He felt her stiffen in his arms, but she didn’t run away. Not yet, at least.

Was this how it felt to try to tame a deer or some other fragile, woodland creature? This constant worrying and tentativeness?

Because if so he had a lot more sympathy with zookeepers.

“The list of things I wish to do?” she asked, her voice higher and softer than usual. He dipped his head down to whisper in her ear. Not that anybody was there, but he couldn’t help himself.

“Yes. That list,” he said, feeling the skin on her arms get goose bumps as he spoke.

“Oh,” she said, the word more like a sigh.

She didn’t speak for a few minutes after that, but Nicholas could tell she was thinking—mostly because she felt relaxed in his arms, and if she hadn’t been thinking hard about something, he knew she would be much more self-conscious about lying there, together, on her bed.

“I want to go somewhere where it doesn’t matter if I laugh loudly. I want to dance without worrying about how I look, or if I am executing a misstep.”

She paused, and he felt his insides coil in anticipation of what she would say next. “But most of all, right now, I would like to kiss you,” she said at last.

Which was both the best and the worst answer she could have given him.

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20. Classic Readalong: To Kill a Mockingbird

When the news of a long-hidden sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird was announced, we decided to reread it together as a refresher before Go Set a Watchman is released. Please join the discussion below!Our backgrounds with the book Wendy: I loved this book when I read it in high school, though I have to admit that in the years since, I associate it strongly with the film. It’s one of those cases where the movie captured the ideals and feel of the source material so well that I think of them almost interchangeably. And with this re-read, I listened to the audiobook performed by  Sissy Spacek, which was wonderful! So now I’ll forever remember all three things as perfectly complementary. Layla: I … don’t think I’d read this book before! Which is weird, because I felt like I had at some point, but then, as I was reading this, recognized... Read more »

The post Classic Readalong: To Kill a Mockingbird appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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21. Mini Manga Review: An Uncommon Abigail by Kyoko Sagara and Joanna Maitland

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

This is another .99 Harlequin manga that I nabbed from Amazon.  An Uncommon Abigail would have received a higher grade if it had been the complete story, but there are a lot of loose ends that need to be tied up.  I am assuming those will be tied up in The Prodigal Bride.  When I purchased this, I did not realize that it is not complete in one volume, and there is no mention of that fact in the manga itself. I had to use Google-fu and Amazon to track down the next volume.  (The Fortune Hunter is the first volume – it took me even longer to figure that out!  I only managed that because I finally located the original book the manga is adapted from.)

Amy, fearful that her younger brother has been kidnapped, disguises herself as a lady’s maid with the help of her friend Sara.  Together, they attend a house party, searching for clues as to Ned’s disappearance.  While snooping through Major Anthony’s rooms, Amy discovers a naked man!  Little does she know that she’s uncovered another mystery, but this one may cost her her reputation.

This is a cute, fast read with pretty art. The lavish details given to clothing and backgrounds made for a visually interesting read, and emotions are deftly revealed through facial expressions.  Amy is determined to save Marcus after he protects her from an unruly house guest, putting himself in danger of discovery.  Wanted for the merciless beating of a gentleman, Marcus is hiding until he can clear his name.  Now that Amy is on the case, he’s worried that she’ll be ruined or injured by his foe.  I was entertained right up until the point that it dawned on me that – NOPE! – I wasn’t going to find out what had happened to Anthony’s wife, (he’s been accused of murdering her), or to see William’s comeuppance. That was disappointing because I wasn’t expecting it, as the Harlequin manga are typically complete in one volume.

Grade:  B- / C+

Review purchased from Amazon

Amy, despite being of noble birth, is attending a grand party at the famous Lyndhurst Chase estate, not as a lady but as a maid. Her younger brother Ned was last spotted at Lyndhurst before his mysterious disappearance. And there are rumours that Major Anthony, the owner of the Lyndhurst estate, is responsible for the disappearance of his own wife not long ago. What kind of trouble has her brother gotten into? Under the disguise of a lady’s maid, she sets off to look for clues of Ned’s whereabouts. But during her search, she comes across a mysterious man in hiding. Who is he and could he have something to do with Ned’s disappearance? But the more Amy learns about this handsome stranger, the more perilous her world becomes. Especially after she falls in love with him.…

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22. Spotlight and Giveaway: How to Marry a Royal Highlander by Vanessa Kelly

This morning I have a spotlight and giveaway for How to Marry a Royal Highlander by Vanessa Kelly!

How to Marry a Royal Highlander
The Renegade Royals # 4

By: Vanessa Kelly

Releasing June 30, 2015

Zebra

Blurb

Illegitimate yet thoroughly irresistible, the Renegade Royals are leaving behind their careers as daring spies for the greatest adventure of all…

At sixteen, Alasdair Gilbride, heir to a Scottish earldom, fled the Highlands and an arranged betrothal. Ten years later, Alasdair must travel home to face his responsibilities. It’s a task that would be much easier without the distracting presence of the most enticing woman he’s ever met…

After one escapade too many, Eden Whitney has been snubbed by the ton. The solution: rusticating in the Scottish wilderness, miles from all temptation. Except, of course, for brawny, charming Alasdair. The man is so exasperating she’d likely kill him before they reach the border—if someone else weren’t trying to do just that. Now Eden and Alasdair are plunging into a scandalous affair with his life and her reputation at stake—and their hearts already irreparably lost…

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/03/how-to-marry-royal-highlander-renegade.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22891461-how-to-marry-a-royal-highlander?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/102630-the-renegade-royals

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

Author Info

Vanessa Kelly is an award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Her current series, The Renegade Royals is a national bestseller. Vanessa also writes USA Today bestselling contemporary romance with her husband, under the pen name of VK Sykes.

Author Links: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

 

Excerpt

As she came down the elegant cantilevered staircase, one of the doors off the entrance hall opened and Gilbride strode out. When he looked up and smiled, Edie almost missed a step. That charming smile did something peculiar to her insides, something fluttery and warm. It was an unfamiliar sensation and her mental jury had yet to rule on whether she approved of it or not.

“Good morning, Miss Whitney,” he said in a friendly voice. Much too friendly considering that the last time they’d exchanged more than two words she’d called him a great Scottish oaf. She still winced thinking about it.

His smoky gray gaze drifted over her figure, lingering with an appreciation that made her blink in surprise.

“You’re looking particularly lovely today,” he said as he handed her down the final step. “I count myself fortunate to have you join me this morning. It’s been an age since we spent any time together.”

And now he was back to teasing her, drat him. He knew very well she’d been avoiding him, and he clearly wanted her to realize that he knew. But she refused to play that game.

“Mamma hasn’t been well, the poor dear. She simply wouldn’t let me leave her side for a moment.” She punctuated that canard with a melancholy smile meant to communicate how trying the last few days had been. With any of her suitors, it would have brought them to their knees with abject apologies.

Gilbride, however, was made of sterner stuff.

He leaned in close, towering over her, and his eyes gleamed with a wicked intent that promised things she couldn’t even begin to name. Edie resisted the impulse to retreat because she never took a step back from any man. To do so would be a fatal show of weakness.

Besides, he was only pretending to flirt so as to annoy her.

“Ah, lassie, you can’t fool me,” he said, that seductive Scottish burr roughening his voice. It dragged across her nerves, making her shiver. “I’m not one of those man- milliners you lead around by the nose like docile geldings. I know very well you’ve been avoiding me.”

She placed a hand on his brawny chest and gave him a shove. He stepped back, not because she could move him on her own—the man was a proverbial mountain—but because she’d obviously surprised him.

“I do not lead anybody around by the nose, and please desist using that absurd brogue. It makes you sound like an actor in a second-rate touring company performance of Macbeth.

He looked stunned for a second then let out a deep laugh. If the brogue made her shiver, the laugh was even worse. She almost hoped she was coming down with her mother’s cold.

“Miss Whitney, if you think my brogue is heavy, I doubt you’ll be able to understand anyone at Blairgal.”

“That will be something to look forward to, won’t it? Although I must say that so far I haven’t had any trouble understanding the staff here at Breadie Manor.”

He took her elbow and led her across the entrance hall to the front door, where a footman in livery sprang to open it. Even though Edie had teased her mother about the kilts and the bearskins, she’d been a tad surprised to encounter such superbly trained servants, decked out in the finest livery. They wouldn’t be out of place at Carlton House.

Truthfully, she’d been rather hoping for kilts and tartans, or someone who spouted at least a few lines from Marmion or The Lady of the Lake.

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23. Meet Bess Crawford

A Duty To The Dead. (Bess Crawford #1) Charles Todd. 2009. HarperCollins. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

Bess Crawford is a war nurse during 'the Great War.' One of her dying patients, Arthur Graham, asked her to give a message to his brother, Jonathan. The message made little sense to her personally. Something about him being sorry for having lied, and, how it was to protect their mother. She doesn't know for sure if he'll understand it either, but, a promise is a promise. So several months after his death, and, just a little bit after her own close call--the ship she was on sank--she sets out with her message to visit the Graham family.

I loved, loved, LOVED A Duty to the Dead. I loved it for so many reasons. I think Bess Crawford is a great heroine--narrator. She's sympathetic, patient, and observant. She has a way of seeing right into people, and, not jumping to conclusions in the process. Always one to give the benefit of the doubt, I suppose. She has seen a lot, heard a lot that's for sure. But Bess isn't the only reason I loved the book. Far from it. For having a good "detective" only takes you so far. What I appreciated was the depth of the characterization of the other characters. Primarily of the Graham family, but, also of others in and around that community and her own. We briefly get an idea of what her own family is like. How much she loves her father, and, appreciates a close friend of the family, Simon.

So. The mystery itself I loved. It begins, of course, with her delivering the message to the Graham family. But that is just the start. She doesn't deliver the message and go, no, it turns into an at-times-very-awkward social visit. Soon Bess finds herself piecing together all the clues of a HUGE family secret. And she can't leave it alone because it's so outrageous...

The writing was excellent. I loved the setting and tone. I appreciated the characterization even if some of the characters were super-creepy. It is a great start to a series I'm eager to read all of!!!

Have you met Bess Crawford? I'd love to know what you thought!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Meet Bess Crawford as of 7/5/2015 10:56:00 AM
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24. Manga Review: Personal Relations by Mayu Takayama and Heather MacAllister

 

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I was more than annoyed when I learned that Scribd was drastically cutting back on their romance catalog.  I signed up for an annual subscription shortly after they acquired 15,000 backlist Harlequins.  Harlequins are my crack, so I’ve been dismayed that my favorite authors will no longer be available there, after they took my money and still haven’t emailed their customer base about their actions.  So, I decided to spend most of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday reading manga on the website.  I haven’t been a power user until this weekend.  I was more than content to know that that huge library of Harlequins was there, waiting for me when I had time for them.  Now, I am going to be a power reading, and get my money’s worth from the subscription.  I figure I have about 4 months of minimal reading to make up for. 

I had no real reason for picking Personal Relations to read.  The cover is kind of cute, and it was one of the first titles on the recommendation page, so what the heck.  I went for it.  This is a cute read!

When Brooke’s sister and Chase’s step-brother announce their engagement, the high school students don’t get the happy reaction they expected. Both Brooke and Chase are upset and want their wards to have a better future than getting married as teens. As they try to convince Courtney and Jeff that they have plenty of time to get married, and that college is more important, Brooke and Chase can’t fight their growing attraction.

This is a cute read, with very fast pacing. Both Brooke and Chase are desperate for their siblings to change their minds and wait, so that they don’t turn out to be unhappy like their parents. Chase’s parents weren’t compatible, and they both moved on after their divorce, leaving the brothers to fend for themselves. An unwise decision by Brooke costs Brooke’s parents their savings, and driven by her sense of guilt, she takes guardianship of Courtney when they leave for a job overseas. Hoping to be the voice of reason, the two adult implore the teens to stop and think before making the biggest mistake of their lives.

After a rough introduction, which starts with Chase trying to buy off her sister and ends with Brooke soundly slapping Chase on the cheek, the two adults agree to put aside their animosity for the sake of Courtney and Jeff.  They think that if they join forces, the kids won’t stand a chance against them.  They quickly realize that they underestimated how stubborn the teens can be, and are soon pulling out their hair in frustration.  Every argument and attempt to make them see the folly of their behavior is ignored or thrown back at them.

While the romance was just a little too much of a whirlwind, the story was humorous and fun. Brooke and Chase are sent on a merry chase after the teenagers, which leads to an unexpected visit to Vegas, as well as a surprise declaration from Chase. The art was clean and the style fit the story well.

Grade:  B

Review copy read at Scribd

Brook is shocked when one day her younger sister, Courtney, announces that she will be getting married to her boyfriend, Jeff. However, the two of them are still in high school. “As her older sister, I must put a stop to this reckless marriage!” When Brook consults with Jeff’s cool and handsome older stepbrother, Chase, he throws her a $10,000 check, saying bluntly that “I’d like to pretend none of this ever happened”! Shaking with anger that he has insulted her sister by saying she’s only after money, she ends up slapping him in a burst of outrage!

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25. The Prestige

The Prestige. Christopher Priest. 1995/1997. Tor. 360 pages. [Source: Library]

It began on a train, heading north through England, although I was soon to discover that the story had really begun more than a hundred years earlier. 

I saw the movie first. I think there are some benefits to having seen the movie first. It's impossible not to compare the two--the book and the movie--especially since I finished the movie and rushed to put the book on hold at the library. So this "review" will talk about both the book and the movie. I will try my best to keep it spoiler free, especially the opening paragraphs!

The book is different than the movie. The book has a contemporary framework. Andrew Westley, the narrator, has received a magic book from a stranger, the hint being that it was written by one of his ancestors, an Alfred Borden, a Victorian magician. Andrew was adopted, and he knows nothing at all about his Borden relatives. He's manipulated into meeting a woman, Kate Angier. She has much to tell him, for, she believes him to be Nicholas Borden. The two met when he was three, just before he was adopted. He, of course, remembers nothing. And the idea that there is a historic feud between the Borden and Angier families doesn't really intrigue him all that much. But he stays to hear her out.

The book consists of several stories: Andrew's story, Kate's story, Alfred Borden's autobiography, and Rupert Angier's diary. (Andrew's narration opens and closes the novel.) By the end of the book, a fantastic, strange story has been told.

At its simplest here is the plot: Alfred Borden and Rupert (Robert) Angier are rival magicians ever in competition with one another to be the best, to be recognized as being the best. Both the book and the movie convey this. It is HOW it is conveyed that allows for such big differences between the two.

The movie is more dramatic than the book. It makes the rivalry more intense, more personal, more life-and-death. From start to finish the movie is all about REVENGE and LOSS and doing WHATEVER it takes. The book is quite different. For example, in the movie, Angier blames Borden for the death of his wife who drowned during a performance in a water tank. In the book, however, Angier becomes angry with Borden when Borden disrupts his seance and reveals him to be a fake spiritist. Quite a difference! Especially since the "loss of family" angle is huge in the movie. But in the book, Angier has a family: a wife and three children, I believe. That is the only difference I'll mention in the review since I do want it to remain mostly spoiler free.

The Prestige has plenty of twists and turns in the plot. Especially the movie. But also in some ways the novel. Though if you've seen the movie, then, the book will be essentially spoiled. I think you could say the same if you'd read the book first: the movie would be spoiled.

Which did I prefer? I enjoyed both. I did. I really enjoyed the movie. I thought it was great. I watched it twice in one week. I read the novel in one day. There were sections that were quite compelling. My favorite probably being Alfred Borden's autobiography. And then perhaps Angier's diary. I wasn't as drawn to the contemporary story of Kate and Andrew. Though it does intensify the creepy factor greatly. The Prestige would be PERFECT to read for Carl's R.I.P. challenge in the fall.

Have you seen the movie or read the book? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it. If you've seen the movie and read the book, which would you recommend first to others?


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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