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1. Interview and Giveaway: The End of Innocence by Allegra Jordan

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

[Allegra Jordan] A generative, generous listener.

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

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

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

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

A card from my husband.

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

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

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

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

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

 

End of Innocence

By Allegra Jordan

Sourcebooks Landmark

Historical Fiction

May 1, 2015

ISBN: 9781492609933

$14.99 Trade Paperback

About the Book

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

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

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

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

Purchase Here:

END OF INNOCENCE

Amazon | B&N | BAM | IndieBound

About the Author

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

Connect with Allegra Jordan

Website – http://allegrajordan.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/allegrajordan1

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

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

Praise for End of Innocence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from END OF INNOCENCE

Harvard Yard

Wednesday, August 26, 1914

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Brandl!” Copeland was standing over him.

“Sir?”

“Don’t be a toad. Pay attention.”

“Yes, sir.”

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

Thomas snickered. “German rat.”

Wils cast a cold stare back.

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Faust?”

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

“Mine?” asked Wils.

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

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

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

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

“Steiger was found dead in his room.”

“Fever?”

“Noose.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Debts? “No.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I hope Arnold goes to jail.”

“Arnold may not have been involved.”

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

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

“America’s not at war.”

The professor didn’t respond.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you speaking of Boston City Hall?”

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

“He may not be guilty.”

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

“That’s most uncharitable!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“For the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain-”

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love in the Time of Scandal
Scandalous # 3

By: Caroline Linden

Releasing May 26, 2015

Avon

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Info

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

EXCERPT:

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

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

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

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

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

“Olivia!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Sophie Barnes

Releasing April 28, 2015

Avon

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Author Info

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

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Excerpt

In another carriage on the way to Thorncliff Manor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Perfectly, my lord.”

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

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

 

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4. Meet Phryne Fisher

Cocaine Blues. (Phryne Fisher #1) Kerry Greenwood. 1989/2007. Poisoned Pen Press. 175 pages. [Source: Library]

I wanted to like Cocaine Blues. I did. There were a few things about this mystery that I did enjoy. I enjoyed the setting. Australia in the 1920s. I enjoyed the fact that there were several story lines going on at once: how Phryne Fisher had several cases, or potential cases, that she was looking into. On the surface, at least, these are all unconnected interests. The first is perhaps the least entertaining, the "case" that brought her to Australia to begin with: a concerned father wanting to check up on his daughter. He thinks she's being poisoned. One story, as you might have guessed, is about cocaine. One of Phryne's new acquaintances is searching for 'the king' of cocaine. There's a third story as well, though I hesitate to tell you too much about ANY of the stories. The fact that there were multiple stories to follow or cases to solve helped the book a good deal. I also appreciated getting to know Phyrne's new maid. There were a few minor characters that I just liked almost from the start.

But what I didn't like is the amount of smut. Cocaine Blues is far from "clean" let's just say. There will be plenty of readers who will enjoy ALL the aspects of the mystery, but, I was not one of them.

Flying Too High. Kerry Greenwood. 1990/2006. Poisoned Pen Press. 156 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy Flying Too High? Yes and no. Once I started, I felt I had to finish it. For better or worse. I'm disappointed with some of the content. I expect certain types of romance novels to have smut, but, I don't like the blending of smut into mysteries. I enjoy mysteries very much, smut not so much. (Some readers probably enjoy both, so this series will probably have fans.)

What I liked most about Flying Too High were the multiple mysteries involved. I liked following all three stories. I liked Phryne best when she was actively working on a case, and keeping her mind focused on the case. Sometimes she got TOO distracted. I thought she acted a bit unprofessional at times too.

I will probably not continue on with the series.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Spotlight and Giveaway: The Duke and the Lady in Red by Lorraine Heath

This morning I have an excerpt from Lorraine Heath’s latest The Duke and the Lady in Red, as well as a giveaway for you to enter!

The Duke and the Lady in Red
Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James #3

By: Lorraine Heath

Releasing April 29, 2015

Avon

Blurb

Sparks fly in the finale of the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James Place series, as the last wicked rogue meets his match.

When Rosalind Sharpe gains the attention of the deliciously wicked Duke of Avendale, she’s torn between her distracting attraction to the notorious rogue and the knowledge that he—rich as Croesus—is the perfect target for a deception that will put her swindling days behind her.

However, Avendale is no fool. After he discovers the tantalizing lady packing up to leave London with his coins in tow, he confronts her with a scandalous proposition: she can have all the money she requires…for a week in his bed.

Desperate for the funds, Rose agrees, but on one condition: he must never question her motives. Avendale quickly sees beneath her mask and discovers she is more than passion and pleasure—she is everything he has ever desired. But claiming her requires he unveil her secrets and lose her forever. Unless he can put his own dark past aside and risk everything for a chance at love.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/03/the-duke-and-lady-in-red-scandalous.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22864442-the-duke-and-the-lady-in-red?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/110654-scandalous-gentlemen-of-st-james

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

Author Info
LORRAINE HEATH always dreamed of being a writer. After graduating from the University of Texas, she wrote training manuals and computer code, but something was always missing. After reading a romance novel, she not only became hooked on the genre, but quickly realized what her writing lacked: rebels, scoundrels, and rogues. She’s been writing about them ever since. Her work has been recognized with numerous industry awards, including RWA’s RITA® and a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. Her novels have appeared on the USA Today and New York Times best-seller lists.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

EXCERPT:

She was out of her league with him. He would not be easily manipulated. But something inside her yearned to accept the challenge. Things had become too easy of late. She was bored. She hadn’t realized it until that moment. There was no life, no excitement in her anymore. She simply existed. But he brought a spark to her. He interested her. She thought he might have secrets as dark as her own. Drawing them from him would be a challenge, might prove to be to her advantage.

“You offend me with your insinuation,” she said.

“If that were true, you would have slapped me by now. You’re a widow, not an innocent miss. The other ladies here interest me not in the least, because they are naive. I prefer a woman who is seasoned.”

“And you judge me to be seasoned?”

“You intrigue me, Rosalind.”

“You’re taking liberties with your informality.”

“I believe your protests are false. You want me to take liberties. It’s the reason you haven’t left in a huff.” He narrowed his eyes. “No, you are not one to huff about. I think you would make me pay in other ways.”

Oh, yes, he had the right of it. She most certainly would make him pay in other ways. Might still do so. But for now they were merely taking measure of each other.

“I find you equally intriguing, Your Grace, but I fear I have been too long away from the social scene. My skills at being coy are sadly lacking.”

“You don’t have to play false with me. I prefer honesty.”

“Then know that I find myself attracted to you, although I’m not sure it’s wise on either of our parts.”

“But it could be enjoyable.”

She had no doubt of that. He was a man not lacking in confidence. He could show her a jolly good time, but she knew far too little about him. Her purpose here tonight was not to settle on one, but too amass many admirers. He was distracting her from her plans.

The waltz came to an end, but he didn’t release her immediately. He simply held her scandalously close, allowing the minutes to tick by as though there were no one to see, no one who possessed a tongue to wag. If she were a young girl of nineteen, with a father or brother to speak for her, she would find herself betrothed by midnight.

“What else is there to see here?” she asked.

“I believe you’ve seen it all. Perhaps we have run out of reasons to stay.”

How she was tempted to accept his invitation, to go with him wherever he wished to go. But she had planned too long to be reckless now.

“I spied a draped balcony in a far corner of the main room.” She suspected it was from there that he’d observed her earlier. “I should very much like to see it. How does one get to it?”

“One must possess a key.”

She angled her chin. “Do not take this as flattery, Your Grace, but rather the truth being spoken. You strike me as a man who would possess a key.”

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6. Spotlight and Giveaway: The Devilish Mr Danvers by Vivienne Lorret

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for The Devilish Mr. Danvers by Vivienne Lorret!  Enter below for your chance to win.

The Devilish Mr. Danvers
The Rakes of Fallow Hall # 2

By: Vivienne Lorret

Releasing April 21, 2015

Avon Impulse

Blurb

For the first time in her life, Hedley Sinclair holds the keys to her own future. She’s inherited the crumbling Greyson Park, but the disrepair does nothing to dissuade her. No one will ever lock her up again or attempt to take away what’s hers. No one except Rafe Danvers—the charming, fiendish man from Fallow Hall. He’s determined to claim Greyson Park, but if Hedley isn’t careful, he’ll claim her heart as well.

Rafe has every intention of ridding Greyson Park of the conniving Sinclairs, once and for all. The last thing he expects is to find the beguiling Hedley Sinclair—the younger sister of his former fiancée—standing in his way. With drastic measures called for, he plans to marry her off in order to regain control of the estate. The only trouble is, he can’t seem to stop seducing her. Even worse, he can’t help falling in love with her.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/02/the-devilish-mr-danvers-rakes-of-fallow.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22608165-the-devilish-mr-danvers?from_search=true

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/131479-the-rakes-of-fallow-hall

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

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:

A quarter hour had passed before he stepped into the parlor of Greyson Park once more. Hedley was not in the room, though he saw the tinderbox waiting near the hearth. Carrying his greatcoat bundle of wood to the box in the corner, he proceeded to fill it, over fill it, and then stacked the driest pieces on the iron grate. Boris ambled over and dropped the slender sticks he held between his teeth. They were slightly soggy, but his intentions were honorable. Both of them had ungentlemanly behavior to atone for, warranted or not. Rafe heard her footsteps on the stairs in the hall before he heard her gasp. “I thought I told you to leave.” Not bothering to turn around, he searched the tinderbox for flint but only found a small sliver. Instantly, he recalled the cut on her finger. A rush of guilt and something else churned in his gut. “Aye, you did.” He stood and moved toward the woodbox where he’d left his greatcoat. Fishing into one of the pockets, he withdrew a slender bundle wrapped in oilskin. “But what kind of man would I be to leave you to freeze to death?” “You’re more demon than man,” she said, carrying her own bundle. Leaves and twigs poked out from the side of that torn shawl of hers. She’d removed the wet shawl from her shoulders. The threadbare pink muslin pulled taut over her breasts. Even through the gauzy fichu, he could see the creamy swells spilling over the top. Clearly, the dress hadn’t been made for a woman with her form. He was a man who appreciated a lush figure on a woman. Or at least, on any woman who wasn’t a Sinclair.

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7. The Game of Love and Death: Review

The Game of Love and Death is perilous indeed. This is one where I shouldn’t reveal too much of how the book unfolds as it is best left to the reader to discover all of the mysteries and intricacies on their own. At its core this novel is a reflection on love, and loving, and life. On what it means to love, and what it means to love in the face of overwhelming obstacles. “Someday, everyone you love will die. Everything you love will crumble to ruin. This is the price of life. This is the price of love. It is the only ending for every true story.” This is the story of Flora Saudade and Henry Bishop. Two people who are kept apart by the standards of their time, but also by the very forces of Love and Death themselves. It is a heart achingly beautiful story and one... Read more »

The post The Game of Love and Death: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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8. Review: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Under a Painted Sky was such a fun read!  The time period is unusual – 1849 America.  The adventurous protagonists, Samantha, a young woman of Chinese descent, and Annamae, a runaway slave, disguise themselves as boys and head west from Missouri, hitting the Oregon Trail and pretending to be prospectors.  I love anything to do with the Oregon Trail, and this book is exciting, suspenseful, and completely engaging.  All I know is that I would never have had the courage to do the things both Samantha and Annamae are forced to do to save themselves after an accident forces them to run for their lives.

Samantha is having a terrible day.  First, she loses everything in a terrible fire that claims the life of her father, then she’s tricked and almost forced to work in a brothel.  Annamae saves her, and they both head west, looking for Sammy’s father’s friend, who headed to California on an unknown errand for Sammy’s father.  The girls run into a group of cowboys, and the boys agree to let them travel with them for a while.  The girls must hide their true identities, learn to survive in the wilderness, and protect themselves from unwanted attention.  Sammy knows that the law is looking for her, and she’s terrified to show her face to fellow travelers on the Oregon Trail.  Andy’s going to be in just as much trouble after running away, but she’s determined to find her older brother, who is somewhere out west.

I loved this book so much.  The details of life on the trail are fascinating and compelling.  Any little mistake can spell disaster or death, and Sammy is like a fish out of water.  At least she can ride, a huge help now that they are traveling with Cay, West, and Peety and their horses.  Andy is given the least well behaved mare, and she can’t ride a lick.  Talk about learning on the fly!  I’ve been riding for years, and I don’t think I could ride all day long, for months on end.  Wouldn’t it be fun to try, though? The  lack of running water or flush toilets gives me pause, though. I like my conveniences too much to reenact a journey on the Oregon Trail.

The fast pace of Samantha and Annamae’s adventures will keep readers on the edge of their seat.  Deep down, though, Under the Painted Sky is really the tale of friendship and grit; both girls face seemingly insurmountable challenges, but they refuse to give up their dreams or each other.  Highly Recommended 

Grade:  B+ / A-

Review copy borrowed from my local library

From Amazon:

A powerful story of friendship and sacrifice, for fans of Code Name Verity

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.

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9. Review and Giveaway: Four Nights with the Duke by Eloisa James

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed Four Nights with the Duke.  The setup is fantastic; 15 year-old Emilia is at a recital, and after retreating to the library, she’s forced to hide from a group of boys who noisily approach the room.  Among them is Evander Septimus Brody, the handsome lad she’s fallen in love with.  Vander’s mother and Mia’s father are in the midst of a scandalous, not  so secret affair, and one of their parents has given Vander The Love Song of E. Septimus Brody, the poem Mia wrote to immortalize her feelings for Vander.  Mia is embarrassed and infuriated over the boys’ callous jokes about her poem, and she angrily storms from her hiding place, gives them a set-down, and declares that she would never marry any of them, even if they were the last boys in England.

Oh, how times change.  Thirteen years later, Mia is desperate.  Both her father and her brother have been killed in an unfortunate accident, and if she doesn’t marry soon, her beloved nephew will become the ward of his villainous uncle.  Mia was jilted at the altar not a month before, and with no other options, she blackmails Vander into marrying her.  She has in her possession a treasonous letter written by his father.  If anyone else learns of it, he will lose his title, lands, and beloved stables.  So now it’s Mia’s turn to flaunt a letter in Vander’s face, and he has no choice but to comply with her schemes. 

However, he burns her letter outlining the conditions of their marriage before reading it, and comes up with conditions of his own.  Vander thinks that Mia is still in love with him, and so he scornfully declares that he’ll not  bed her unless she begs for it, and then, he’ll only pleasure her four nights a year.  Since Mia was planning on an annulment, she fiercely insists that she will never beg him to bed her.  So, yeah, both of them are so wrong it’s laughable.

I enjoyed Four Nights with a Duke so much because I liked all of the characters.  Mia has body image issues that challenge her self-worth, and at first, Vander takes advantage of this to wound her emotionally.  I was starting to think that he couldn’t redeem himself for this behavior, but Mia doesn’t always play fair, either.  For her nephew Charlie’s sake, she chained herself to a man who can’t forgive her for being her father’s daughter.  Vander struggles with the shame caused by his mother’s affair.  His father spent his adult life in and out of an asylum, and he blamed his mother and Mia’s father for all of the family’s troubles.  It isn’t until he learns the other side of the story that he can finally begin to heal from this childhood hurt.

This is a fast read with cleaver dialog, two wounded people trying to heal, and lots of smexy times.  I was entertained from the first page to the last, and found Mia and Vander’s courtship both amusing and touching.

 

 

Four Nights with the Duke
Desperate Duchesses # 8

By: Eloisa James

Releasing March 31st, 2015

Avon

Blurb

As a young girl, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington told the annoying future Duke of Pindar that she would marry any man in the world before him-so years later she is horrified to realize that she has nowhere else to turn.

Evander Septimus Brody has his own reasons for agreeing to Mia’s audacious proposal, but there’s one thing he won’t give his inconvenient wife: himself.

Instead, he offers Mia a devil’s bargain… he will spend four nights a year with her. Four nights, and nothing more. And those only when she begs for them.

Which Mia will never do.

Now Vander faces the most crucial challenge of his life: he must seduce his own wife in order to win her heart-and no matter what it takes, this is the one battle he can’t afford to lose.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/12/four-nights-with-duke-desperate.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21331590-four-nights-with-the-duke?from_search=true

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/43059-desperate-duchesses


Buy Links
Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info

A New York Times bestselling author, Eloisa James is a professor of English literature who lives with her family in New York, but who can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. (Her husband is an honest to goodness Italian knight!) Eloisa’s website offers short stories, extra chapters, and even a guide to shopping in Florence. Visit her at www.eloisajames.com.

Author Links Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

 

Excerpt

Prologue

Spring, 1787

~ A Music Recital ~

The Duke of Villiers’s townhouse

At fifteen, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington already had a pretty good idea of what hell was like. Mia’s governess had taught her all about Dante’s nine infernal circles.

Mia’s first circle had required her to make her debut at fifteen, under the aegis of a hired chaperone, because her mother was dead. Her second circle had added a far worse indignity: her charming, widowed father was conducting a flagrant affaire with a married duchess that everyone in the fashionable world knew about.

She had entered the third circle over the last year or so, when against all reason, she had fallen desperately in love with the same duchess’ son, Vander. He was the most sensitive, intelligent boy in the world (or so Mia thought). And he was beautiful too, with a face that resembled the stone angels that guarded baby’s graves.

The remaining circles of hell? All six?

They were revealing themselves in rapid succession. Mia had begged her father to attend the Villiers musicale on the chance that the object of her adoration, Evander Septimus Brody, future Duke of Pindar, would be present. It seemed probable since the Duke of Villiers’s eldest son, Tobias, was best mates with Vander.

As it turned out, the house was indeed overrun with boys on holiday from Eton and among the horde was Vander, who roundly ignored her. Mia didn’t mind that: she was happy worshipping him from afar. He was too godlike for someone like her.

Besides, it wasn’t as if he danced attendance on any other girl. He and the other Etonians spent their time swigging brandy although it was not yet noon, cursing loudly, and generally pretending to be far older than their fifteen years. Mia finally retreated to the library, a tranquil room with book-lined walls.

She was searching the shelves for anything resembling her favorite novel, Eliza Heywood’s Love in Excess, when she heard, to her horror, the sound of boys approaching. Even worse, she quickly recognized the voices as those of Vander and his friend Tobias, who seemed to be calling himself Thorn these days.

 

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Print Bundle of the entire backlist of the Desperate Duchesses series, books 1 – 7, Including, Book 1: Desperate Duchesses; Book 2: An Affair Before Christmas; Book 3: Duchess By Night; Book 4: When the Duke Returns; Book 5: This Duchess of Mine; Book 6: A Duke of Her Own; Book 7: Three Weeks With Lady X)

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10. Guest Post and Giveaway: What a Lady Requires by Ashlyn Macnamara

Please give a warm welcome to Ashlyn Macnamara!  She’s here to celebrate the release of What a Lady Requires.  Be sure to enter the giveaway below!

Top Five Ways a Couple Might Get Off on the Wrong Foot by Ashlyn Macnamara

 

  1. Show up at the first meeting a bit tipsy—Yes, you might have a good reason for drinking, and yes, you might not even be aware that the summons you’ve received is an introduction to your future spouse, but a little too much brandy may just result in you being overly obvious in your appreciation for your intended’s form.

  2. Carry on a secret correspondence with another man—Again, you have reasons. Don’t you always? But once your husband finds out, you may have a little explaining to do. Especially when it turns out he has issues with fidelity.

  3. Send flowers—Under normal circumstances, a lady would find this charming. But when you have a history of spending more than you earn, and your intended is there to help you get back on your financial feet, you might want to avoid extravagances.

  4. Exhibit problems understanding basic math—When your intended is a whiz at the books, when she can do them in her head, perhaps it’s not the best time to admit all those columns of numbers make no sense to you. But that’s possibly better than making it worse and playing the idiot on purpose, especially when you derive a certain pleasure out of winding your wife up.

  5. Have annoying relatives—Just when things are starting to go, shall we say, swimmingly, the relatives decide to pay a surprise call. Could they possibly have worse timing?

In my March 31 release, What a Lady Requires, Emma and Rowan manage all this and more. How do they overcome these obstacles? Being locked in a cold wine cellar might teach them a thing or two.

 

What a Lady Requires
The Eton Boys Trilogy # 3

By: Ashlyn Macnamara

Releasing March 31st, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb

Perfect for fans of Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Sabrina Jeffries, Ashlyn Macnamara’s blazing hot novel tells the story of mismatched newlyweds who discover a simmering connection.

Unlike every other proper young lady, Miss Emma Jennings views marrying well as little more than a means to an end. Such a merger would provide her industrious father with social credibility, and Emma with a chunk of her vast inheritance. Emma’s practical views are shattered, however, when her father ties her to the fabulously handsome ne’er-do-well Rowan Battencliffe, a man she loathes on sight—from the smile that promises all manner of wickedness to the way he ogles her with those striking blue eyes.

Deep in debt, especially to his wine merchant, Rowan figures the sooner he gets his finances in order, the sooner he can go back to doing what he does best: burning through ridiculous sums of cash. Which is why Rowan agrees to marry the merchant’s daughter, a prim and proper woman with delightful curves and an ample dowry. But Emma seems to think it’s her business to reform him! Their marriage is a tinderbox—and it’s just too tempting to resist playing with fire.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/02/what-lady-requires-eton-boys-trilogy-3.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23167197-what-a-lady-requires?from_search=true

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/128184-the-eton-boys-trilogy

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info

Ashlyn lives in the wilds of suburbia outside Montreal with her husband and two teenaged daughters. When not writing, she looks for other excuses to neglect the housework, among them knitting, reading and wasting time on the internet in the guise of doing research.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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11. Spotlight and Giveaway: A Hope Remembered by Stacy Henrie

This morning I have a guest post from Stacy Henrie, as well as a giveaway for A Hope Remembered.  Fill out the rafflecopter below for your chance to win!

Most interesting facts you learned while conducting research for A Hope Remembered by Stacy Henrie

1. Most WWI pilots didn’t survive longer than two weeks at the beginning of the war.

2. WWI planes didn’t have parachutes—there wasn’t room for them and they were thought to encourage a pilot to ditch the plane. 

3. The Lake District, or Cumbria, has its own language. For example, the mountains there are known as fells and streams are becks. 

4. While we most often think of the English upper class as living in or around London or in the surrounding countryside, there were plenty of wealthy families who made their home in the Lake District and had been there for several hundreds of years by 1920. Unlike other countries during the “Roaring Twenties,” Britain experienced tough post-WWI economic conditions. However, this actually ended up helping them later on to weather the effects of the Great Depression better than others.

 

About A HOPE REMEMBERED:

The final book in Stacy Henrie’s sweeping Of Love and War trilogy brings to life the drama of battle torn Europe with emotion, faith, and of course, romance. 

As the war ends, love begins . . .

Nora Lewis just wants an escape after losing her fiancé in the Great War. When she inherits property in England, she boldly packs up and leaves America for a fresh start. But if not for her dashing new neighbor, Colin Ashby, she’d be lost. Even as their friendship deepens, Nora knows a British aristocrat would never be free to love an American orphan, no matter how much the war has changed the world . . . After his brother’s death in the war and his own experiences as a pilot at the front, Colin returns home broken, only to discover his family’s estate is also in ruin. The pressure is now on him to save his home and the Ashbys’ place in society with a well-bred match to a wealthy heiress. Too bad he finds more of a kindred spirit in Nora, the beautiful American next door. She, too, has faced the rigors of war and survived. Now the ex-soldier will have one more battle to fight-this time for love.


About Stacy Henrie:

Stacy Henrie has always had an avid appetite for history, fiction and chocolate. She earned her B.A. in public relations and worked in communications before turning her attentions to raising a family and writing inspirational historical romances. Wife of an entrepreneur husband and a stay-at-home mom to three, Stacy loves the chance to live out history through her fictional characters, while enjoying the modern conveniences of life in the 21st century. In addition to author, she is a reader, a road trip enthusiast and a novice interior decorator. Her first novel, Lady Outlaw, released from Harlequin Love Inspired Historical in 2012. 

Stacy’s SM:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5778153.Stacy_Henrie

http://facebook.com/Stacy-Henrie-author

https://www.pinterest.com/stacyhenrie/

www.stacyhenrie.com

@StacyHenrie

Buy Links:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1GQCqtm

BAM – http://bit.ly/1Cn3vVc

B&N – http://bit.ly/1xvDW4z

IndieBound – http://bit.ly/1Hy9JBC

GooglePlay – http://bit.ly/1CVLvnc

iTunes – http://apple.co/1y1C8Lf

Kobo – http://bit.ly/1BhSsc6

Excerpt:

With a glare at both of them, Jack smashed his cap on his head and stalked from the room. He proceeded to slam the door behind him, but it hit the doorframe and bounced open instead.

Nora pushed out a sigh. “You didn’t have to be rude. Jack’s been very helpful to me this past week.” Maybe a bit too much. But she didn’t voice that thought. Colin needed no further ammunition against Jack.

“I’m sure he has,” Colin muttered, his expression as dark as his eyes.

Nora pinned him with a piercing look.

“You’re right.” He finished buttoning his cuffs and slipped on his vest. “That was ungentlemanly of me.”

She ignored his reference to her joke at their first meeting as she put away the corn starch and closed the cupboard. It was easier to keep her heart firmly locked if she held onto her disapproval of Colin’s behavior. Plus it would also stop her from wondering what he’d been about to say before Jack’s arrival.

“How may I redeem myself?” he asked as he pulled on his jacket. The amusement tugging at his mouth contradicted his contrite tone.

Nora folded her arms, contemplating a suitable penance. “I think your punishment needs to be two-fold.”

“Very well.” He nodded. “What is your sentence?”

“First, you must join me for choir rehearsal at the church tomorrow morning.”

The mirth drained from his face. “Nora.” His voice held a note of warning. “That is entirely—”

“Second, you and Perseus can give me a tour around the lake. I’ve already been here a week and haven’t even seen all of it.”

Colin scowled. “A walk around the lake would be acceptable. But the choir rehearsal . . .”

“Please, Colin.” She hazarded a step toward him, hoping he’d relent. “I sang with them last Sunday and they need more male voices.”

She had another reason for wanting him there. Everyone had been kind at rehearsal and at church the following day, but Nora still felt uncomfortable with the continued references to her likeness to Eleanor. Apparently their similarities also included their singing voices. With Colin at the rehearsals, she wouldn’t feel as awkward. She was beginning to think he was the only person in Larksbeck who hadn’t known Eleanor.

Colin’s brow knit in obvious annoyance, while Nora held her breath. Would he accept her proposal? Finally resignation settled over his countenance. “I’ll go, but only once.” He held up a single finger. “Once,” he repeated. “I make no promises after that.”

Grateful, she breached the remaining space between them and put her hand on his sleeve. “I agree to those terms.” She couldn’t hide her smile as she added, “Be careful, though, we might make a regular choir member out of you yet.”

Instead of the light laugh she expected, Colin solemnly watched her. Though he didn’t touch her, she felt as powerless to release his sleeve as if he’d detained her hand. She couldn’t step away—his nearness drew her in like the promising warmth of a fire after being out in a storm.

“You know,” he murmured, his voice low, “you are rather charming when you jest like that.”

Nora’s pulse stuttered to a stop, then sped up again like a train gaining speed. She tried to remember why she’d been angry with him, tried to remember why she couldn’t allow anything more than friendship to blossom between them. But she couldn’t concentrate on any one thought, except for the growing desire to touch the hint of dark bristles covering his jaw.

Colin studied her lips as Jack had done last week, but this moment couldn’t be more different. A part of her, one growing more insistent by the second, actually wanted Colin to kiss her. How long had it been since she’d last felt the press of masculine lips against hers?

Not since before Tom left.

The memory crashed over her with all the effect of an ocean wave. She felt suddenly ill and cold. Releasing Colin’s sleeve, she stepped back, crossing her arms over her chest for warmth.

Forgive me, Tom.

She’d done nothing wrong, but even entertaining the idea of Colin kissing her felt like a betrayal. Her heart could never belong to anyone else. And yet, in this moment, the past felt more like a burden than a boon.

“I’ll . . . uh . . . just get my sweater, then we can go on that walk.” Nora went to pull the garment off its usual peg. Her hands shook slightly as she slipped the sweater on over her blouse. “Ready?”

A flicker of emotion gleamed in Colin’s dark eyes. Was it disappointment? Frustration? Would he forgive her abruptness or understand the source of her pain? As quickly as it had come, though, the sentiment faded and Colin shot her a carefree grin. “After you, fair lady.”

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12. Spotlight and Giveaway: Devil’s Moon by Amanda Scott

This morning I have Top 5 from Amanda Scott, as well as a giveaway her latest release, Devil’s Moon! 

Top 5 Items in your deadline survival kit by Amanda Scott:

1. a good outline

2. detailed character sketches

3. exhaustively researched historical backgrounds

4. detailed setting notes

5. major scenes drafted, outlined, and finished long before the deadline approaches.  

[Thing is, I’ve written and had more than 60 books published, so I don’t think in terms of deadline survival. That is not to say that I’ve never missed a deadline, although I’ve never missed one by much. Careful preparation and disciplined writing take most of the angst out of meeting deadlines.]

About DEVIL’S MOON:

A WARRIOR’S PROMISE

The last place Sir David “Devil” Ormiston expected his moonlight chase of a horse thief to end was in a lady’s bedchamber. He is shocked to find that the raider he has pursued is no man, but a defiant beauty in disguise-and the woman he’s vowed to protect at all costs. Face to face with a girl Dev thought he knew, the ever confident, marriage-resistant knight may learn that he is defenseless against the desirable woman she has become.

A LADY’S SECRET

Lady Robina Gledstanes will do anything to keep her family’s land out of the hands of her greedy kinsmen-except willingly submit to the handsome, cocksure Devil Ormiston. Dev’s help may be just as dangerous as the threats lurking outside her castle. But when enemies scheme to steal the castle’s treasure, Robina must risk losing something even more precious-her heart.


About Amanda Scott:

Amanda Scott is the author of over 62 romance novels and the recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA Award.  She lives in Folsom, California, outside of Sacramento.  She is a fourth-generation Californian. 


Amanda’s SM:

http://www.amandascottauthor.com

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003632657908

Buy Links:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/19MSGkI

BAM – http://bit.ly/1ENtCnX

B&N – http://bit.ly/1zGCZXm

IndieBound – http://bit.ly/1wJa8Kq

GooglePlay – http://bit.ly/1Df9nh1

iTunes – http://apple.co/19MSNNr

Kobo – http://bit.ly/1bqndWe

Excerpt:

Watching Dev, Robina was grateful for his restraint. They reached the graveyard soon afterward and dismounted to look at the grave. She sensed Rab’s presence strongly as they stood there, but he kept silent, too.

“What is it, Robby? Art sad again?”

Startled, she said, “Not sad, just pensive.”

“I think you have been pensive since I arrived, or longer,” he said. “Keeping secrets, or thinking about Rab?”

Uncertain how to reply, since the truth was unacceptable, she realized that silence was just as bad. Dev would surely suspect that she was keeping something from him.

She would have liked to tell him about the jar of coins, but Rab’s warning was sensible. And, in truth, whether Dev was currently master of Coklaw or not, the money belonged to Benjy, not to Dev.

The thought was disheartening, and she wished Rab would recall that he had trusted Dev. Confiding in him should be not only safe but sensible.

Rab, however, remained as silent as his grave.

“We should head back down,” she said with a sigh.

“Keeping secrets then,” Dev said grimly. “Don’t you trust me?”

“Oh, Dev, no, don’t think that,” she said, putting a hand to his arm, shocked that he had so nearly guessed her thoughts. “I know I’ve been a bit difficult, but—” Breaking off when he grinned, she said bluntly, “Do you think that was funny?”

He shook his head and bit his lower lip.

“Damnation, David Ormiston, do you dare to laugh at me now?”

“Nay, nay, I’m striving mightily not to laugh or to say what I’m thinking.”

“Just what were you thinking?”

“That when you refuse to tell me what you are thinking and then say that I’m mistaken to suspect a lack of trust, you make me want to kiss you one minute and put you over my knee the next. But, by heaven, if you swear at me again, I’ll—”

“I won’t swear,” she said hastily. “But neither will I tell you all I think. Some things are still private, sir, one’s thoughts especially so. But if you want to kiss me again,” she added, feeling suddenly and strangely shy but determined, “you may.”

“May I?” He raised his eyebrows. “I will admit that I enjoyed your kiss when we were here before. But others would say that I’d taken advantage of you.”

“They would be wrong,” Robina said. “I kissed you first. I wanted to know how it would feel, and now I want to know if it feels the same way whenever one kisses a man. I do trust you with my virtue, Dev.”

“Do you, Robby? You should not be so trusting. Sithee, I’m not certain I can trust myself. You’re a mighty tempting wench. But there are rules.”

“Bother the rules,” she said. “Do you not want to kiss me?”

“Aye, sure, I do,” he responded, pulling her roughly into his arms.

Uncertain now, but curious, she looked up and tried to gauge his mood. But he allowed her no time for that before his lips claimed hers, hot and demanding.

As he held her close, she heard him moan quietly in his throat.

***

Dev heard his moan, too, and realized that she had bewitched him. He wanted her in every way—other than marriage, of course, he reminded himself brutally. He suspected, though, that her invitation had just been an attempt to avoid answering his question about the secrets she was keeping from him.

The pliskie lass needed a lesson, and he needed release for his own emotions or whatever it was that enflamed his body, if only to show her the dangers of tormenting men … one man, at least.

Thrusting his tongue into her mouth and finding it hot inside and yet softly yielding, he pressed his lower body tightly against hers, letting her feel his desire.

She was too short, but a flat-topped boulder sat nearby. Without warning or sign, he lifted her to stand on it and did so without releasing her mouth.

For once in her life, she did not fight him but wrapped her arms around him and held him as tightly as he held her.

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13. Spotlight and Giveaway: The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor by Paula Quinn

This morning I have a guest post and giveaway for Paula Quinn’s latest, The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor.

Top 5 distractions while working on a deadline by Paula Quinn

Everything is a distraction when I’m working on a deadline. The worst are:

1. Shopping

2. Arrow (The T.V. show. Have you seen it? Have you seen Stephen Amell?)

3. My dogs. The seem to know when I’m on a deadline and want all my attention.

4. Journaling—I love to write!

5. Reading

About THE SCANDALOUS SECRET OF ABIGAIL MACGREGOR:

A LADY’S MISSION . . . 

Known for her beauty and boldness, Abigail MacGregor must preserve her clan’s dangerous secret: that her mother is the true heir to the English Crown. If the wrong people find out, it will mean war for her beloved Scotland. To keep peace, she embarks for London, unprepared for the treachery that awaits-especially from her wickedly handsome escort. He is the enemy, but his slow, sensuous kisses entice her beyond reason . . . 

A WARRIOR’S TEMPTATION

General Daniel Marlow, loyal knight and the kingdom’s most desirable hero, would rather be on the battlefield than transporting a spoiled Highland lass. But Abby MacGregor is unlike any woman he’s ever met, in a ballroom or in his bedroom. Captivated by her daring spirit and seduced by her lovely innocence, Daniel must choose between betraying his queen or giving up the woman who would steal his country-and his traitorous heart.


About Paula Quinn:

New York Times bestselling author Paula Quinn lives in New York with her three beautiful children, three over-protective chihuahuas, and a loud umbrella cockatoo. She loves to read romance and science fiction and has been writing since she was eleven.  She loves all things medieval, but it is her love for Scotland that pulls at her heartstrings.


Paula’s SM:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/253272.Paula_Quinn?from_search=true

http://facebook.com/pages/Fans-of-Paula-Quinn/336691429368

https://www.pinterest.com/quinnsromance/

http://www.paulaquinn.com/

@Paula_Quinn

Buy Links:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1IrFQEb

BAM – http://bit.ly/1FTJxCB

B&N – http://bit.ly/1u6Wkgl

IndieBound – http://bit.ly/1sFMkb3

GooglePlay – http://bit.ly/1CnmAXk

iTunes – http://apple.co/1AHmJGd

Kobo – http://bit.ly/1FBNoWy

Excerpt:

“Aye, ye did say that,” she murmured. “Well, since we’re both awake, we might as well spend the night together again.”

The innocence in her voice struck him in the guts. She wanted nothing more from him than someone to be with outside in the night.

He, on the other hand, was not innocent at all. Her choice of words sent a little spark of heat to his groin. The way she turned on the pads of her feet and ended up pressed against his side and tucked neatly under his shoulder tilted him on his axis a little.

“I’m cold,” she whispered, her teeth chattering.

He put up no fight when she lifted his arm around her shoulder, then covered them both with her plaid. The desire to protect her overwhelmed him and sent tremors through his muscles. He knew little of her. Was she an innocent daughter of a Jacobite chief, or part of some secret scheme Anne was devising.

Hell. Anne didn’t devise schemes.

“I wasn’t certain if you were ever going to speak to me again,” he said, when what he should have said was, You should go sleep somewhere, lady, and not on me.

“I was verra’ angry with ye. But I’ve forgiven ye.” He heard the smile in her voice and made a mental note of how well it pleased him that she was no longer angry. He would decide what to do about his unwanted concerns for her tomorrow. Right now, he only wanted to sit with her just like this, with her beneath his arm and pressed snuggly into his side. Warmth swept over him like fine wine until he felt drunk on it.

How was it that she fit so neatly into him, now and earlier when she slept in his lap, like she belonged there, close to him?

Close to his heart.

Hell, it scared him, and after fighting for over a decade, not much scared him anymore.

“D’ye have a wife, General Marlow?” Came her sweet voice against his chest.

“No, lady.”

“Are ye betrothed?”

“I am not.”

“Is there a lass somewhere who has yer heart?”

“No.”

“Well,” she laughed softly, “are all the ladies in England fools?”

“They’re the opposite,” he told her. “They’re wise to set their interests in another direction.”

She shook her head then tilted her face up to his. In the filtered light of the moon, he could make her out enough to fall victim to the alluring curves of her mouth, her soft, sweet breath against his chin. “Nae, they are fools not to try to win yer affections.”

He knew every reason there was to stop what he was thinking, what he was feeling, and what he was about to do. But reason was a puny opponent compared to desire.

Slipping one hand behind her nape and the other to her throat, he tilted her chin another half-inch then covered her mouth with his. The instant after he did it, he regretted it, but then she coiled her arms around his neck and drew him closer, and he couldn’t stop. He never wanted to. She didn’t resist him, in fact, she melted in his arms. She groaned softly when he drew his tongue across the seam of her mouth. She bit his lip and ignited his blood to liquid fire. He swept his tongue in and out of her, holding her close to him while they kissed, wanting nothing more from her than what she gave him now. Making love to her could be dangerous if Charlotte found out. He’d have to make sure she didn’t find out, at least until he had proof of other crimes and could arrest her. If she hurt Abigail before that he’d hang her himself.

He wondered, as he held her in his arms and kissed her long into the night, how he could be so content with one he was supposed to hate.

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14. Guest Post and Giveaway: Sebastian’s Lady Spy by Sharon Cullen

 

  Please give a warm welcome to Sharon Cullen!  She’s here to chat about spies. 

Top Five Female Spies by Sharon Cullen

First of all I want to thank you for hosting me today. I’m so excited about the release of Sebastian’s Lady Spy. This was a fun book to write because these two characters were so suited for each other but too hard-headed to realize it until it was almost too late.

Usually when we hear about spies, we hear about male spies but there were plenty of female spies throughout the ages that had an impact on history.

Here are five of the more interesting ones:

  1. Belle Boyd was a female spy during the Civil War who ran a hotel and ferried information from union soldiers to confederate soldiers using her maid.

  2. Josephine Baker was a renowned beauty and musician who was cleared to play in France during WWII. She worked for the French resistance passing secret information in her sheet music.

  3. Nancy Wake (my personal favorite) worked for the French resistance during WWII. She cycled more than 500 miles to replace destroyed codes and she killed an SS sentry with her bare hands.

  4. Sarah Emma Edmonds was a master of disguise and actually served in the Union Army during the Civil Was as a man named Frank Thompson.

  5. Mata Hari is an interesting study and probably one of the best known of female spies. She was a courtesan and an exotic dancer from India as well as a spy in WWII. She was shot and killed by the French.

Sebastian’s Lady Spy
Secrets & Seduction # 5

By: Sharon Cullen

Releasing March 31st, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb

Seduction abounds in Sharon Cullen’s steamy historical romance! For the Crown’s top agents, love is a hazard best avoided—until an unforgettable affair exposes their undercover hearts.

Sebastian Addison has a powerful secret. To society he is the Earl of Claybrook, the patriarch who raised his siblings after the death of their parents. But to the king, Sebastian is Britain’s top spy—a position that has taken an emotional toll on him. Contessa Gabrielle Marciano has also been living a lie, her title a cover devised by the Office of Intelligence. The femme fatale was plucked from a life of crime and prostitution and trained to restrain her passionate nature. Until she meets the earl.

For three deeply sensual days and nights, Sebastian and Gabrielle drop their masks, indulging in pleasures that seem too good to be true. Then the lovers go their separate ways. Seven months later they reunite when inside sources report that an English aristocrat has been aiding France in a plot to topple the Crown. Their objective: to find the turncoat. Their greatest challenge: to keep their wild, wounded hearts from derailing a mission of life and death.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/01/sebastians-lady-spy-secrets-seduction-5.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23167091-sebastian-s-lady-spy?ac=1

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/137236-secrets-seduction

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

 

Author Info

Sharon Cullen is the author of the historical romances The Notorious Lady Anne, Loving the Earl, and Pleasing the Pirate, as well as many novels of romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. If you’d like to find out more about the author and her books, you can visit her blog or her website. She is addicted to social networking so you can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Friend her! Like her! Follow her! She’d love to hang out with you and talk about her passion: books.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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15. The Case of the Missing Moonstone: Review Haiku

Super-charming
revisionist history
featuring kickass girls.

The Case of the Missing Moonstone (Wollstonecraft Detective Agency #1) by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy. Knopf, 2015, 240 pages.

0 Comments on The Case of the Missing Moonstone: Review Haiku as of 1/1/1900
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16. Guest Post and Giveaway: Maeve Greyson, Author of My Highland Lover

Please give a warm welcome to Maeve Greyson!  She’s hijacking the virtual control panel to tell you about her latest release, My Highland Lover.

Hello there! I’m Maeve Greyson and I’m very pleased to be here. My new release, MY HIGHLAND LOVER, the first book in my Highland Hearts series, is Trulie Sinclair’s story. Trulie’s the eldest of four time-traveling sisters and her matchmaking Granny has grand plans for her future—in the past.

Trulie and Granny jump from Kentucky in the year 2014 to Scotland of 1247. Needless to say, the world of 1247 is drastically different—culturally, politically and any other adjective you’d like to slap with an “ly”. But really, you don’t have to look back that many years to realize just how much has changed in the world in a very short time.

Remember when mobile phones were the size of a brick and the only way they’d work was if you had them plugged into the cigarette lighter of your car? Now, not only are some cell phones the size of a playing card, cigarette lighters are no longer a standard feature on a car.

And look at the publishing industry. When I first started writing, to sell a story to a publisher, you had to type a letter, on paper, with a typewriter—and not white-out too many typo’s on the paper so the publisher wouldn’t think the finished letter was a childish, white-out art project instead of a professional correspondence.

Then, you’d mail it. You know—in an envelope, with a stamp? And then wait. And wait. Sitting by the mailbox like a vulture waiting for something to die.

When the glorious day came and that editor from that golden publisher sent you a letter expressing an interest, you printed your story out—neatly typed, double-spaced, one side only with one inch margins. Then you boxed up that ream of paper, lovingly tucked a thank-you-for-not-throwing-me-in-the-slush-pile letter on top and shipped the ten pound box of your story to the wonderful editor. And then you became the mailbox vulture again.

Now, you email when you’re shopping out a story. Or sometimes fill out website forms in hopes of connecting with a particular publisher. Of course, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the vulture part. But trust me; watching for emails is a heckuva lot more comfortable than sitting on a stump beside the mailbox.

My Highland Lover
Highland Hearts # 1

By: Maeve Greyson

Releasing March 24th, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb

Maeve Greyson unleashes a thrilling tale of magic and desire as a feisty Southern gal falls into the arms of a rough-hewn Highland chieftain.

As the proprietor of a homeopathic store in rural Kentucky, Trulie Sinclair knows that her neighbors think she’s strange—but they have no idea how strange she really is. Trulie was born in Scotland in the thirteenth century to a line of time-traveling Highlanders. When Trulie’s grandmother convinces her to return to their homeland, Trulie jumps back in time, right onto the powerful chest of Gray MacKenna. Just as his steely good looks send ripples through her body, their fierce attraction will send ripples through the ages.

After his parents murdered, Gray is consumed by thoughts of revenge. As the new chieftain of the MacKenna clan, he has reason to believe that there’s a traitor in his midst, and nothing—not even the bonny lass who suddenly drops from the sky—can distract him from his single-minded pursuit of the culprit. But when Gray learns that this sassy beauty possesses gifts beyond the sparkle in her eye, he allows his gaze, and his heart, to linger. While he hunts for the murderer, Gray finds in Trulie a precious companion—and a timeless love.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/01/my-highland-lover-highland-hearts-1-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23167115-my-highland-lover?from_search=true

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/137240-highland-hearts

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

 

Author Info

No one has the power to shatter your dreams unless you give it to them. That’s been Maeve Greyson’s mantra since she was a girl. When she’s not at the full time day job at the steel mill, Maeve’s writing romances about sexy Highlanders and the women who tame them. Tucked away in a five acre wood, Maeve listens to the wind singing through the trees and hears her characters telling their stories. Her work is proofed by her sharp-eyed dog, Jasper, and her greatest supporter is her long suffering husband of over thirty-five years who’s learned not to throw away any odd sticky notes filled with strange phrases.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Google+

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17. Under a Painted Sky: Review

Who here used to play the computer game “Oregon Trail” obsessively as a child? Let’s see a show of hands. Think back fondly on the days you used to carefully select your wagon train, hunt for buffalo, and decide whether you needed to ford the river or caulk your wagon. (Sometimes, when I am driving, I feel like I am rafting down the Columbia River and trying to avoid boulders and like driftwood and stuff. A fun fact about me, I know. If you would like to relive the magic, you can play the game here, btw. It’s not perfect but it sparked my interest in this period of American history as a kid.) Anyway. When I found out that Under the Painted Sky was about two young women – one Chinese-American, one African-American – who cross-dress as teenage boys in order to navigate the Oregon Trail – I was sold. If... Read more »

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18. Spotlight and Giveaway: Married to a Perfect Stranger by Jane Ashford

Today we are pleased to sit down with John and Mary Bexley, the protagonists from Jane Ashford’s Married to a Perfect Stranger (March 2015). From February 23rd through March 20th the Bexleys will be answering questions about their relationship at each stop in their tour!

Who is your spouse’s most intimidating family member, of those you’ve met?

Mary: You’d think it would be his eldest brother, because he’s very opinionated. But actually it’s his mother.

John: Really? I choose Mary’s nephew Daniel. He appears to believe he is a wild animal.

Mary: It was just the one bone. And he’s not even two years old.

John: Precisely.

Title: Married to a Perfect Stranger

Author: Jane Ashford

Publication Date: March 3rd, 2015

ISBN: 9781492601906

Time and distance have changed them both…

Quiet and obliging, Mary Fleming and John Bexley marry to please their families and John immediately leaves on a two-year diplomatic mission. Now John is back, and everything they thought they knew about each other was wrong…

It’s disconcerting, irritating—and somehow all very exciting…

Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. Her romances have been published all over the world. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Excerpt

John Bexley reined in his hired horse on a slight rise and gazed down at the red brick manor, somnolent under the August sun. Eager as he was to get to London, he’d felt he must detour west into Somerset to fetch Mary. Her family’s decision to put her under the care of a great-aunt while he was away just showed he was right to fear that such a shy, quiet girl couldn’t arrange a journey on her own. And now that he was here, the sight of this place soothed him; it looked the very essence of English country comfort and peace.

John’s knock was answered by an aged butler. He gave his name, stepped in, and inhaled the familiar scents of beeswax polish and potpourri. The place reminded him of his own home farther north. Golden light pooled on the wooden floor and gleamed on the stair rail. In the rooms on either side of the entry, the furnishings were classic and inviting. Mary had certainly had a beautiful and serene spot in which to wait for him. “Mary’s husband,” he added when it seemed as if the old man didn’t know what to do with him. “I believe I am expected.”

“Yes, si…”

A filthy, hysterical chicken shot through the rear door of the dining parlor on his left, skidded in a turn around the table, and raced past him, neck extended, screeching, flapping its mottled wings. A little boy slathered with mud came racing after it, careened off the doorjamb, and staggered across the entryway, leaving streaks and globs of dirt in his wake. The old butler stiffened in horror.

The bird hopped across a flowered sofa in the front parlor, stitching it with muddy tracks, circled the delicate carpet, and looped back toward John. The boy in pursuit slipped, fell, jumped up, and turned to follow. He flapped muddy hands at the fowl in an inept attempt to trap it.

What seemed like a herd of adults jostled into the dining parlor, then surged forward. “Arthur!” snapped a young woman, her voice crackling with authority.

“It isn’t my fault,” the boy shouted over the wild squawking. “I pulled her from the mire. Fox was after her. I never shot her or nothing.”

As the crazed chicken surged past him, John bent, reached, and snatched hold of its legs. When he straightened, he held the muddy bird upside down, at arm’s length, well away from his clothing. It flapped and protested; flakes of dirt dropped to the floor.

“Good!” said the managing female, striding from the dining room into the hall. “Take it from him, Alice, and put it outside at once.”

The middle-aged maid jumped to obey like a subaltern responding to a commanding general. The butler relaxed. The boy stood to attention. “It wasn’t me, I swear,” he repeated. “I rescued ’er. I killed three rats as well. Would have been four, but I…”

“Very well, Arthur,” the woman replied. “Go now and get cleaned up.”

The boy finally noticed the mud sliding from his clothes to the polished floor. His face shifted from defensive to horrified, and he slunk out. In the same moment, John realized that the woman with a voice like a sergeant major was his meek little sparrow of a wife.

Buy Links:

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19. Bo at Iditarod Creek: Review Haiku

It feels like Alaska
outside, so snuggle in
with Bo and the gang.

Bo at Iditarod Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Holt, 2015, 288 pages.

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20. Marry, Kiss or Kill! Blog Tour with Susanna Ives, Author of Wicked, My Love and Giveaway

Today we are pleased to have Susanna Ives join us for a round of Marry, Kiss or Kill! For this stop, we asked her to choose between Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Lando Calrissian:

“I can’t kill handsome, smooth-talking Lando Calrissian. In kindergarten when the teacher asked for things that begin with the letter “l”, my daughter stood up and cried, “Lando Calrissian!” I’m marrying Lando.

That leaves me to decide the fates of Princess Leia and Han Solo.

Hmmm. So it goes down like this: I’m kissing Han Solo in a dark, crazy corner of the Mos Eisley Cantina, when Princess Leia enters and gets up in my face about how Han is hers. I tell her how much I admire her and that we could share Han, because he’s an adventuresome kind of guy who would go for that. But no, she has to pull her blaster on me. What I do next is merely in self-defense. But she pulled first.”

 

Title: Wicked, My Love

Author: Susanna Ives

Series: Wicked Little Secrets

Publication Date: March 3rd, 2015

ISBN: 9781402283604

A smooth-talking rogue and a dowdy financial genius

Handsome, silver-tongued politician Lord Randall doesn’t get along with his bank partner, the financially brilliant but hopelessly frumpish Isabella St. Vincent. Ever since she was his childhood nemesis, he’s tried—and failed—to get the better of her.

Make a perfectly wicked combination

When both Randall’s political career and their mutual bank interests are threatened by scandal, he has to admit he needs Isabella’s help. They set off on a madcap scheme to set matters right. With her wits and his charm, what could possibly go wrong? Only a volatile mutual attraction that’s catching them completely off guard…

Susanna Ives started writing when she left her job as a multimedia training developer to stay home with her family. Now she keeps busy driving her children to various classes, writing books, and maintaining websites. She often follows her husband on business trips around Europe and blogs about the misadventures of touring with children. She lives in Atlanta.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Apple

BAM

B&N

Chapters

Indiebound

Kobo

 

 

An Excerpt:

She stationed herself by the window and scowled as if to say to the people looking in her window for vacant seats, Don’t get in this carriage. It’s occupied by a dangerous, sleep-deprived, hysterical woman who wants to be left alone. Stay away. Stay away. When the conductor’s whistle blew and the train started to rumble underneath her feet, she released her held breath and rested her head against the back of the seat.

Wham! The carriage door flew open and a brown leather bag went flying past her, hitting the opposite wall. Randall leaped in just as the train lurched forward.“Good morning, love.”

“W-what are you doing?” she cried, the great plan that she’d spent the night weaving suddenly torn to shreds. “You’re supposed to be getting your black heart shackled to some beautiful nincompoop.”

“You didn’t really think I was going to let you go alone?”

“No, of course not,” she stammered, feeling stupid. Why was she so terrible at understanding subtle meanings? She took everyone at their literal word. She should have known better from that slippery snake of a man. After all, he was a politician, and a good one, in a profession not renowned for its honesty and forthrightness.

He sat himself down beside her, his woodsy scent clogging her nose and setting her nerves alight. She switched to the opposite seat. “And don’t sit next to me. I don’t want people to think we’re lovers.”

“We’re lovers?” He shot her a sly glance. “Did you get me foxed out of my poor wits, take advantage of me in my defenseless state, and then not have the courtesy to tell me? Did I enjoy it?”

She refused to dignify that bit of lunacy with a direct answer. “Your mother, Judith, everyone thinks that I l-love you. Oh, my throat hurts for uttering such moronic nonsense.”

He extended his legs, cupped his hands behind his head, and let a charming smile laze on his lips. His blue coat molded to his lean, flat belly and the contour of his sex bulged in his brown trousers. “Naturally they think that,” he said. “What’s not to love?”

She averted her eyes, determined not to look at his male part. However, the generous, manly swell in the fabric was now emblazoned on her brain. “I really don’t have the time to discuss all the things that I don’t love about you. The list is quite long, and I’m a bit upset. I didn’t get any sleep, and now you are here to complicate everything. I just…just want to read.” She unfurled her journal and bowed her head, hoping he would take that as a cue to be quiet.

She gently rocked in her seat, as if it were a comforting cradle, trying to keep her curious eyes from roving back to his lap as she read and reread the first paragraph in an article about interest rates in the banks of Holland. She had almost made it to the second paragraph when she felt his shoulder rub against hers.

“Just relax,” he said, settling next to her. “We’re not lovers. I detest you as much as you detest me.”

“I don’t detest you,” she corrected. “I just don’t like you some—well, most of the time.”

“I certainly despise you, no question about that. Now that we have our mutual dislike for each other clarified, I think we should play a little game.”

She looked at him askew. “The our bank fails, we lose all our money, and our names and reputations are ruined game? I hear that it’s great fun until they cart us off to the poorhouse.”

“No, it’s the let’s-invent-false-identities-so-as-not-to-cast-suspicion game.”

“Oh.” It made sense. She hated when Randall made sense.

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21. The Midwife of Hope River (2012)

The Midwife of Hope River. Patricia Harman. 2012. HarperCollins. 382 pages. [Source: Library]

The Midwife of Hope River is probably best classified as an almost love. I did enjoy quite a few things about it. And I'm definitely glad I checked it out from the library and read it. I like trying new-to-me authors, and this one worked for me in many ways.

Patience Murphy is the heroine of The Midwife of Hope River. There are dozens of births recorded--in detail--throughout the novel. So you've been warned! The intimacy of the details is not a bad thing, mind you. It just may not be a perfect match for every single reader.

So. Patience Murphy is the heroine's new name. She has a past--a past that is revealed oh-so-slowly-and-dramatically throughout the novel. But for the most part she's Patience. She's 'inherited' her occupation, in a way, the woman who essentially took her in off the streets and 'saved' her from being a wet nurse (an out-of-work wet nurse) was a midwife. They started working in West Virginia (rural for the most part) together, but, now she's on her own. She varies between super-confident and anxious--how did I ever get started? and WHY do I do this? The book opens in the fall of 1929, and it follows her practice for probably a year or maybe two years.

Patience is poor. She never knows IF she'll be paid for a delivery or not. And if she is paid, it's rarely in cash. More likely it's food or chopped wood. Or promises. So most of the novel keeps it basic: will I have enough to eat today, this week, this month, etc. and will I have enough fuel to keep me warm this winter?

Patience is also emotional and definitely lonely. She doesn't necessarily *show* her emotions. That's not what I meant by emotional. She's got layers to her, and, she hates to be vulnerable. But she's got layers and layers of ISSUES both past and present.

Several big issues are addressed in the book, but, not necessarily in a heavy way. For example, race relations/tensions in the 1930s, abusive relationships, poverty, sexuality/freedom, etc.

I wouldn't say I loved this one. But I did find it at times absorbing and fascinating. Definitely a quick read for me.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Nest and Nightbird: Audiobook Reviews

I’ve been short on time and unable to concentrate on reading lately, so I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks. They’re so wonderful when you’re driving or cooking or doing something else with your hands! I’m weirdly picky when it comes to narrators–I literally reject about 90% of the ones I sample–but it’s always a joy when I come across a reader whose voice and style I like. Today I’m reviewing two audiobooks I listened to recently, both of which are middle grade books featuring main characters with unusual names. Nest by Esther Ehrlich For fans of Jennifer Holm (Penny from Heaven, Turtle in Paradise), a heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist... Read more »

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23. The Accidental Empress (2015)

The Accidental Empress. Allison Pataki. 2015. Howard Books. 512 pages. [Source: Review copy]

If you love historical fiction with a royal focus, this book may prove quite satisfying. I do love historical fiction. And this one does have a royal focus. The Accidental Empress is set in Austria (and Hungary) in the 1850s and 1860s. It tells the story of Empress Elizabeth of Austria and Emperor Franz Joseph I. She is the "accidental" empress because the arranged marriage was originally between Franz and her older sister. She accompanied her sister to court, and Franz fell in love with her and not the sister.

The book captures many events, many emotions, many tensions. DRAMA. The book has plenty of drama!!! For the most part, the book is told from HER point of view, and only her point of view. Readers can judge for themselves if her perceptions are fair or not. Plenty of arguments between husband and wife are related. In some cases, it's easy to see what it was all about. To see HER side and to see HIS side. Yes, the book is from HER point of view, but, readers can pick up on why he's acting and reacting the way he is. Not all the time, not every time, but enough to give the impression that she is far from perfect and not always right. For example, when she nags him every single time she sees him about how horrible his mother is, readers know he's not going to like her complaining and whining about how awful and horrible his mother is. Should he try to see it from her perspective, try to put himself in her shoes, to be more understanding and supportive of his wife's feelings. Probably. But you could see why it would be difficult to enjoy spending time with her. To be fair, he's not great at fidelity. And the idea that no royal could ever, ever, ever be expected to be faithful--that it was unnatural--doesn't sit easy. So I could only take my sympathy so far with him.

Actually, did I really "like" either character? I'm not sure I did. I found the book fascinating however!!!

Though I tend to think of this division of Simon & Schuster (Howard Books) being "Christian," there was nothing distinctively Christian about the book itself. It is historical fiction. It's based on real people, royal people. But it isn't your typical Christian book with a Christian message about life and love and family. I would have a difficult time classifying this as a clean read.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Spotlight and Giveaway: A Touch of Passion by Bronwen Evans

A Touch of Passion
The Disgraced Lords # 3

By: Bronwen Evans

Releasing March 24th, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb

In the latest Disgraced Lords novel from USA Today bestselling author Bronwen Evans, a vivacious thrill seeker clashes with her dutiful defender—causing irresistible sparks to fly.

Independent and high-spirited, Lady Portia Flagstaff has never been afraid to take a risk, especially if it involves excitement and danger. But this time, being kidnapped and sold into an Arab harem is the outcome of one risk too many. Now, in order to regain her freedom, she has to rely on the deliciously packaged Grayson Devlin, Viscount Blackwood, a man who despises her reckless ways—and stirs in her a thirst for passion.

After losing his mother and two siblings in a carriage accident years ago, Grayson Devlin promised Portia’s dying brother that he’d always watch over his wayward sister. But having to travel to Egypt to rescue the foolhardy girl has made his blood boil. Grayson already has his hands full trying to clear his best friend and fellow Libertine Scholar of a crime he didn’t commit. Worse still, his dashing rescue has unleashed an unforeseen and undesired consequence: marriage. Now it’s more than Portia he has to protect . . . it’s his battered heart.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/01/a-touch-of-passion-disgraced-lords-3-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22588939-a-touch-of-passion?from_search=true

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/112847-the-disgraced-lords

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info

USA Today bestselling author Bronwen Evans grew up loving books. She has always indulged her love of storytelling and is constantly gobbling up movies, books, and theater. Is it any wonder she’s a proud romance writer? Evans is a two-time winner of the RomCon Readers’ Crown and has been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. She lives in Wellington, New Zealand.

Author Links Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

EXCERPT

Cyprians’ Ball, London, 1813

“I’m surprised Lord Blackwood has graced us with his presence. It’s common knowledge he’s enamored with the French ballerina Juliette Panache. I doubt he’s in the market for another mistress.”

“With his appetites, he no doubt has a stable of mistresses.”

“True. I heard he once pleasured ten women in one night.”

Lady Portia Flagstaff moved closer to the group of courtesans salivating over Grayson Devlin, Viscount Blackwood, as if he were a succulent feast to be devoured. Many years of experience allowed her to damp down her jealousy. She could hardly blame any woman for lusting after Lord Blackwood. She counted herself, along with most of England’s females, among his panting throng.

Being madly in love with Grayson was her penance for having being so mean to him when they were younger. She’d tried everything she knew to exile him from her thoughts, but it was hard to forget him when he was the talk of the ton.

Lord Blackwood had entered her life just before her tenth birthday. He had always been her elder brother Robert’s best friend, but the day he’d moved permanently into their home, she’d cried in her room for hours. Why did it have to be Grayson, a boy, who had survived his family’s carriage accident? She already had five brothers. How could life be so unfair?

Grayson’s sister, Lucinda, had been her friend, and she couldn’t understand why she’d died when Grayson hadn’t. Portia was too young and frightened to understand, so she’d blamed him.

Lucinda’s death was her first introduction to how precarious life could be. Almost dying from lung fever at sixteen had been her second lesson. From that moment on she’d made a vow to live her life to the fullest. She wanted no regrets when death finally came calling.

“They say he can outlast any man, and his lovers speak of his prowess with awe. He cares more about a woman’s pleasure than his own—rare indeed. His kind of loving is priceless. I’d even do him for free.” This statement was followed by a gaggle of giggles.

“I’m more interested in learning if he is truly hung like a stallion. If so, I’d love to explore the evidence.” More giggles.

“ ’Tis true. Claudette said she could barely walk for a week, but it was well worth the two days spent in his bed.” This statement was followed by a collective sigh.

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25. Spirit Circle Manga Review

Title: Spirit Circle Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Publisher: Shonen Gahosha (JP), Viz Media (US) Story/Artist: Satoshi Mizukami Serialized in: Young King Comics (33 out of 33 chapters reviewed) Fuuta Okeya lives a normal life and has gotten to his second year of middle school without incident, although he can see some spirits including the one following his new classmate, ... Read more

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