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If you enjoy historical fiction with a spunky female lead, some romance, and a murder mystery thrown in for good measure, you might want to pick up Jennifer Donnelly’s latest book, These Shallow Graves. I admit, I was lured in by the promise of a spunky female lead in this case – a girl who secretly dreams of being a writer and defying societal expectations! – ’cause that’s my jam all the time. In turn-of-the-century America, no less! (An aside: my love for American history has been totally revitalized by the release of the soundtrack for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical, by the way. And this is … a century later! Where’s my Revolutionary War YA when I need it?) Anyway. Ahem. Back to business! Despite the spunky female lead, while I liked many aspects of These Shallow Graves, I didn’t connect with it emotionally in the way that I wanted... Read more »
The second and third books in Laurie McBain’s Dominick Trilogy are finally available! Enter for your chance to win the entire series!
Chance the Winds of Fortune Excerpt
Rhea blinked in disbelief. “What an insufferable man you are. And whether you are, as you would have me believe, a marquis, or whether you are a tinker, I would still find you the rudest, most vulgar individual I have ever had the misfortune to encounter.”
“I am impressed by this splendid show of ladylike disdain, feigned though it be, but well done nonetheless. But the light of truth has revealed you in my cabin. Now, how do you explain yourself out of that?”
Dante glanced down at the map, which was lying at his feet. “Since the map is still here, I must deduce that was not your intended object in stealing on board the Sea Dragon. Rather, you wanted to make my acquaintance. Perhaps you imagined that a marquis makes love differently from other men you have known. I assure you, except for my own personal preferences, I am no different from any other man.”
Dante eyed the girl up and down, noting with distaste her limp hair and dirty clothes, and guessed she was eighteen or older. Probably older to have so arrogant a demeanor and the derring-do to beard the lion in his den. But one thing was for certain, she was old enough to be held accountable for her misdeeds. She needed to be taught a sobering lesson, one that she would not soon forget, Dante decided, for he was in no mood tonight to show leniency to anyone. Besides, odds were, if she’d had a pistol tucked away somewhere, he would be lying dead at her dainty, secondhand shoes right now.
“So, you wish to get to know me better,” Dante commented. “You have been rather inept at engaging anything more than my displeasure thus far. If your scheme is to succeed, then you will have to make a few concessions to me. You should have taken more care to learn my likes and dislikes. I am a very particular fellow about whom I let into my bed. And right now, you haven’t a ghost of a chance to fulfill that wish of yours.” Dante was pleased to see an expression of concern passing across her grimy face.
“However, that can be remedied quite easily,” he continued. “I’ve never been one to stand in the way of another’s ambition, as long as it does not interfere with mine.” He sounded almost friendly, but Rhea was not deceived, for his painful grip on her wrists had not lessened.
“Either you are hard of hearing or extremely obtuse,” Rhea declared furiously. “I despise the very sight of you and would find the burning fires of hell preferable to sharing a bed with you. I do not care if you have an arm’s length of titles to your wretched name, whatever that might be. All I desire is to get off this ship, and away from you.”
“Ah, come now, no more protestations against sharing my bed, for we both know how hollow they are,” Dante responded easily. His smile was forced, though, for this insolent chit had a way with words that cut deeply into a man’s self-esteem, and his had already been inflicted with a few jabs of late.
Dante’s gaze clashed with the violet eyes that were glowing with hatred of him, and he resented the fact that such beauty should belong to a dirty little street urchin, who would spit in his face if she thought she could get away with it unscathed. Her contempt for him was visible in every quivering ounce of her, and yet she was the one who had set out to entrap and deceive him. He was the one with the grievances, although to look at her one would think she had been the victim of foul play.
Dante allowed his eyes to linger on the contours of her face for a moment longer, a moment which seemed endless to Rhea. Then he smiled, and it was a strangely beautiful smile in spite of its coldness. Abruptly, he released her wrists, picked up the map, and walked away from her.
Titles: Dark Before the Rising Sun and Chance the Winds of Fortune
Author: Laurie McBain
Series: Dominick Trilogy books #2 and #3
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Imprint: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Chance the Winds of Fortune
Lady Rhea Claire, kidnapped and shipped to the Colonies as an indentured servant, manages with wits and courage to escape…straight into the arms of a ruthless English pirate.
For all his worldly ways, Dante Leighton, Marquis of Jacqobi and captain of the Sea Dragon, never expected to discover his redemption and his greatest treasure within the amethyst eyes of a beautiful English refugee.
Newly-wed, Lady Rhea Claire and Dante Leighton must return to England, where their reception is anything but warm.
Now armed with wealth and power, Dante is a target for the murderous smugglers who despoiled his family home, while Rhea’s father, the powerful Duke of Camareigh, vehemently rejects their marriage.
The two lovers thought themselves invincible together. But in the riveting conclusion of McBain’s epic trilogy, Dante’s determination to reclaim his family seat and Rhea’s desperation to win over her father threaten to cause an insurmountable rift that could break them apart forever.
Laurie McBain became a publishing phenomenon at age twenty-six with her first historical romance. She is a winner of the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Historical Romance Author. All of her romances were bestsellers, selling over 11 million copies. Laurie’s books have been out of print for over 5 years.
Jaime and I met on the same online workshop over eleven years ago and we’ve been reading each other’s work ever since. I’m a huge fan of Jaime’s series. History, ghosts, murder, mystery, seances, and a bit of swoony romance. I can’t recommend these books enough!
1. What is the biggest, most important thing you want readers to know about AGAINST A BRIGHTENING SKY?
That this is the story I wanted to write, a book about hope for the future, friendships that endure through every test and trial, and the memories of loved ones that live on in all of us. Books about the struggle to push back the shadows, and protecting those you love, are just as important to me as books that focus on shiny ideas.
Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of shiny ideas in AGAINST A BRIGHTENING SKY, but the story is about the people.
2. How much input did the cats have when it came to plotting the trilogy?
My cats, Morgan and Gillian, have been pushing for co-author credit of Delia’s books since day one. They claim that giving Delia a ghost hunting cat in the second book was all their idea. That’s not even remotely true, but I’m not going to fight with them over it.
You know how cats can get.
3. Over the course of the trilogy, what were the three most interesting things you had to research?
The most interesting weren’t always the most pleasant or the most fun. It’s also really difficult to narrow this down to just three.
a. The decomposition rate of a body in salt water, the damage fish and other sea creatures can do, and how quickly rigor mortis vanishes in cold temperatures. You know you’re a writer when you can read about this stuff and not lose your lunch. That bit of research was really gruesome and still really interesting.
b. Shell shock in The Great War. Today we’d call it Post Traumatic Stress, but this syndrome or condition had almost never been seen in solders before WWI. There might have been individual cases scattered over the years, but not the huge numbers of men affected during The Great War.
c. Trance lecturers and their spirit guides. This was really fascinating. Trance lectures became a popular form of entertainment as spiritualism spread, and was tied to many of the mid to late 1800s social reform movements. While in the trance, the person giving the lecture–many if not most of them women– were seen as being under the control of their spirit guide. If a spirit guide voiced opinions on women’s rights, slavery, or marriage that ran counter to societal norms and practices, no one could hold the woman at the podium responsible. The spirit was in control.
I thought that was a neat, if to our modern eyes somewhat sneaky, way to get your message out into the world, and to bypass the restrictions on what a woman could say in public.
4. Do you have any encouraging words or pieces of advice for new writers? What about writers with a book or two already out?
I have the same thing to say to both groups.
Keep writing. Believe in yourself and your work even if no one else does. Don’t give up. The universe will send you a passel of conflicting messages, but no matter how dark and dire the future looks KEEP WRITING.
5. If you could have a drink with any of your characters, which one would you choose, and what would you drink?
I’d love to have a drink with Dora. She could tell me stories of the places she’s been and all the things she’s seen, of the battles between the light and the dark most of us never see. Dora probably wouldn’t approve of me drinking beer, but the whiskey she drinks would likely kill me. Time with her would be well spent.
All my characters carry a part of me inside. Isadora Bobet holds the biggest piece of my heart.
6. Pub brawl! A huge fight has broken out. What’s your weapon of choice?
Tranquilizer darts, fired from behind an overturned table. Once everyone’s had a good nap and calmed down, hopefully they won’t feel the need to fight.
A ghost princess and a woman with nothing but a name to her fortune might change the course of history.
By 1919 the Great War has ended, peace talks are under way in Paris, and the world has been forever changed. Delia Martin, apprentice practitioner of magical arts, and her husband, Police Captain Gabriel Ryan, face the greatest challenge of their lives when fragments from the war descend on San Francisco.
As Delia prepares to meet friends at a St. Patrick’s Day parade, the strange ghost of a European princess appears in her mirror. Her pleasant outing becomes a nightmare as the ghost reappears moments after a riot starts, warning her as a rooftop gunman begins shooting into the crowd. Delia rushes to get her friends to safety, and Gabe struggles to stop the killing—and to save himself.
Delia and Gabe realize all the chaos and bloodshed had one purpose—to flush Alina from hiding, a young woman with no memory of anything but her name.
As Delia works to discover how the princess ghost’s secrets connect to this mysterious young woman, and Gabe tracks a ruthless killer around his city, they find all the answers hinge on two questions: Who is Alina…and why can’t she remember?
Against a Brightening Sky is the thrilling conclusion to Moyer’s glittering historical fantasy series.
JAIME LEE MOYER lives in a land of cactus, cowboys, and rhinestones, while dreaming of tall trees and the ocean. She writes novels about murder and betrayal, friendship, ghosts and magic, and she feels it’s only fair to warn you that all her books are kissing books. You can learn more about Jaime and read samples of her writing at www.jaimeleemoyer.com
This October the second in Gwyn Cready’s Sirens of the Scottish series, First Time with a Highlander, comes out! To celebrate, Gwyn’s here to tell us a little bit more about the inspiration behind her time-travel romances AND play a quick game of “Would You Rather.”
“People often ask me why I like to write time travel romance, and it’s a two-part answer, because there are really two questions in there—why do I like to write romance, and why do I like to write time travel.
I began to write with the intention of getting published in June, 1997 to honor my younger sister, who was a poet and photographer and who had died suddenly the month before. The sort of book I wanted to write was a book like the one a friend had given me a few months earlier—Outlander. At that time, I’d never read a romance before, and I COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN. Jamie is the best sort of hero—devoted, funny, brave, smart, and supportive of the heroine. I was so hopped up on the first three Outlander novels, it was pretty much all I could talk about in the spring of 1997—and it was one of the things I talked to my sister about since her college boyfriend had been named Jamie and like the heroine in Outlander, my sister’s name was Claire. It was the last conversations I ever had with her.
So there I am, in 1997, wanting to honor my sister with a book, and certain the book I want to write is a romance like Outlander. Time travel fit in nicely for me. Outlander is a time travel novel, of course, but I’d been a time travel fan before that. The Back to the Future movies are my holy grail of time travel. I loved Somewhere in Time, of course, as well as the Terminator movies, Time After Time, and Groundhog Day. Time travel lets you quickly throw your character into adversity and see if he/she sinks or swims. The question you want readers asking in romance novels is “How, with all these challenges, will the hero and heroine still end up together?” Time travel adds another layer to that tension, specifically, “How will they end up together when each is destined to be in his/her own time?” In my mind, one of the most heroic things a character can do is give up his own time in order to be with the person he/she loves, and that’s always a tender and gripping moment to write in my books.
Which brings us to First Time with a Highlander. Serafina and Gerard were such fun characters to chase through a novel. As with Just in Time for a Highlander, the first book in the Sirens of the Scottish Borderlands series, I wanted to shake things up a bit by having the hero be the person who travels to the past. Gerard is an ad man—and since I spent twenty years working in brand management at a big pharma company, I know what ad men are like. The women in this series hold positions of unusual power for women in the eighteenth century, and Serafina is no exception. She inherited a shipping concern from her father, but her blackguard of an ex-fiancé has run the business into the ground. He’s ruined her socially and financially, but Serafina is not one to take things lying down. She uses herbs she’s, ahem, “borrowed” from a famed spell-caster to summon a man to help her claim the cargo from the ship’s final voyage before her fiancé can get his hands on it. She only needs a man for one night and…well, you can imagine what that leads to in the hands of an inexperienced spell user. But Serafina is willing to pay the price—in fact, she’s quite willing once the smart, dashing Gerard appears.
Would You Rather Question: Would you rather be able to shape-shift or time travel?
I’ve always wanted to be a hawk. They’re so beautiful and hang on the breeze with barely a movement. The downside, of course, is eating mice—gah! Time travel, of course, would be great, too. And there’s always the chance to find Jamie Fraser before Claire does. I’m pretty divided on this one. I think life should be measured by the experiences we gather, and either of these scenarios would have to top.
Title: First Time with a Highlander
Author: Gwyn Cready
Series: Sirens of the Scottish, #2
Pubdate: October 6th, 2015
From the “master of time travel romance”, award-winning author Gwyn Cready continues her steamy Sirens of the Scottish Borderlands series.
She needs a man—but only for a night
What do you get when you imbibe centuries-old whiskey—besides a hangover the size of the Highlands? If you’re twenty-first century ad exec Gerard Innes, you get swept back to 18th-century Edinburgh and into the bed of a gorgeous, fiery redhead. Gerard has only a foggy idea what he and the lady have been up to…but what he does remember draws him into the most dangerous and exhilarating campaign of his life.
Be careful what you wish for…
Serafina Seonag Fallon’s scoundrel of a fiancé has left her with nothing, and she’s determined to turn the tables. If she can come up with a ringer, she can claim the cargo he stole from her. But the dashing man she summons from the future demands more than a night, and Serafina finds it easier to command the seas under her feet than the crashing waves he unleashes in her heart.
Gwyn Cready is a writer of contemporary, Scottish, and time travel romance. She’s been called “the master of time travel romance” and is the winner of the RITA Award, the most prestigious award given in romance writing. She has been profiled in Real Simple and USA Today, among others. Before becoming a novelist, she spent 25 years in brand management. She has two grown children and lives with her husband on a hill overlooking the magical kingdom of Pittsburgh.
I’m so glad my local library received this book so soon after release date! I actually had an eARC, but a Kindle version wasn’t available, and I could not get the ePUB file to load on my iPad. Talk about frustrating! Vengeance Road was probably my most anticipated summer read, and having that broken file on my tablet was driving me nuts. Turns out the library saved the day! This book is so good, I urge you to run to your own library and borrow it right away!
After Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the no good Rose Riders, she does what any brave frontier woman would do. She vows to chase them to purgatory, dresses like a boy, and sets off after them. She makes a short stop on the way, because she promised her father that if anything ever happened to him, she’d seek refuge with his friend Abe. Only she learns that Abe’s dead, kicked in the head by a horse. His sons give her a letter, written by her father, that they had been keeping in case she ever showed up. Discovering that her parents had discovered a gold cache in the Superstition Mountains before her mother’s death, Kate, pretending to be Nate, loads her guns and heads off in search of the gold. Where there’s gold, she figures, there will be a thieving, murderous band of outlaws.
Kate gets unexpected company when Abe’s sons, Jesse and Will, stubbornly join her. They argue that three riders are safer than one, and they can keep an eye out for each other, since they are traveling in the same direction. They’ll ride with her until they have to veer off for a cattle drive they’ve been hired for, and since she can’t get rid of them, Kate reluctantly agrees that some company won’t be too bad. Will it?
Kate is one angry young woman. Her rage consumes her. All she can think of is riding down the Rose Riders and killing them, slaughtering them as callously as they murdered her pa. She rebuffs Jesse and Will’s overtures of friendship, afraid that they’ll figure out she’s a girl, and that they’ll cause headaches for her that she doesn’t need. When the three are ambushed by the Rose Riders, Kate reluctantly fills them in on her missions, and the thought of all of that gold gets Jesse’s attention. He’s tired of scrabbling in the dry earth to feed his siblings, and some gold would help make improvements to their homestead. Despite Kate’s reservations, they head off for the mountains, looking for the gold cache and the outlaws Kate wants dead. What she doesn’t tell Jesse or Will is that she has no regard for her own life; as long as she achieves her revenge, she’ll die a content woman.
Kate is the type of heroine I love. She doesn’t sit back and wait for someone else to solve her problems; she fixes things herself. Even when she makes a muck of things, she still focuses on achieving her goals. Does she let her anger get the best of her? Heck, yes. Is her goal productive, or going to make her happy? Heck, no! But still she charges forward, convinced that her pa’s spirit can’t rest, that she can’t rest, until the Rose Riders are dead.
Vengeance Road is packed with lots of great action, features a vivid Western backdrop, and is full of challenges, challenges, challenges everywhere Kate goes. This immersive story is high octane reading at it’s best. Highly recommended.
Review copy borrowed from my local library
When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there’s room for love in a heart so full of hate.
In the spirit of True Grit, the cutthroat days of the Wild West come to life for a new generation.
This morning I have a spotlight and giveaway for The Highlander’s Bride by Amanda Forester!
Meet the Hero, Gavin Patrick
Full Name: Sir Gavin Patrick
Nickname (if applicable): Gavin
Hair Color: Dark brown
Eye Color: Brown
Originally from: born in 1337 near Balquidder, Scotland
Describe yourself in 200 words or less: Hullo. I am Sir Gavin, pleased to make yer acquaintance. I hail from the Highlands, under the clan MacLaren, where my uncle is laird. I came to France several years ago on a quest, which remains undone. It grieves me to leave it unfinished, but I was ‘requested’ (neatly tricked, if ye care for the truth) to escort the spoiled Lady Mary Colette to the Highlands to her new husband. When I saved the life o’ the duc de Bergerac and he promised me a rich reward, escorting his brat of a daughter, wasna exactly what I had in mind. But, I am a man o’ my word, so the lady will be deposited wi’ her affianced husband as soon as may be. And trust me, it canna be too soon.
What matters the most to you in your life? Beyond serving the Good Lord, as every knight is sworn to do, my family and my clan are the most important things in my life. That is why I sought this quest, to find the resting place o’ my father, who died in battle in France, and mark it wi’ the honor that is his due. I regret I have not been able to find this place. And yet, in my return, I ken my mither will be greatly pleased to see me, so I shall be content in that. Perhaps when I return to the Highlands I shall find a bonny lass o’ my own and start a family. As soon as I can rid myself o’ the Lady Colette, that is.
What is your favorite way to pass the time? I have’na had much time to pass in leisure, truth be told. Since I have been in France I’ve been busy lending my sword to help the French fight against the increasing presence o’ the English. They are clever bastards they are, and they know how to fight, I’ll give them that. Back home, I did enjoy a bit o’ fishing. It shall be good to get back to the quiet life—if I can manage to sit still long enough to enjoy it!
If money was no object and you had 3 weeks free of responsibility what would you do with your time? That is a question that is. I am looking forward to seeing my clan again. ‘Tis not easy being a Highlander in the French court, wi’ some little noble always looking down their nose at me, or actually looking up their nose at me for I am taller here than any other knight I’ve met. And yet, I’ve got a bit o’ the wanderers soul to me, and I would no’ mind travelling a bit to see the world. Though I prefer to travel alone and no’ saddled wi’ this French lady and all her ladies and all her belongings. Saints preserve me!
Lady Marie Colette had one chance. She needed to secure the Highlander’s agreement to decline marrying her, and she needed to do it quickly, before her father returned. She had never before defied her father, but if he thought he could protect her by arranging a marriage with a Highland warrior and send her far away to Scotland of all places, he was much confused.
In truth, Sir Gavin was a fine specimen of a man. She was fair enough to admit it. He was a young man and built on a large scale, towering over most men. He had broad shoulders and a muscular chest, well-defined beneath the formfitting surcoat. His dark brown hair hung down to his square jaw and had a bit of a thick wave to it. He was clean shaven, a surprise considering he was a barbaric Highlander.
“I have heard rumors o’ yer beauty, but ye’re bonnier than anything I heard described.” Sir Gavin spoke in a rich tone with a lyrical accent, pleasing to her ears. However, if he thought he could win her over with compliments, he was much mistaken. She had been told so often she was beautiful that the words no longer had meaning.
“Please understand. It is impossible for me to marry you. But if you make an arrangement with me now, you will not leave empty-handed. Name your weight in gold to walk away.” Her heard pounded to make such a blunt offer. In truth, she would never have made such a crass offer to a French knight, whose honor would have been greatly impinged, but Sir Gavin was a foreigner. A Highlander. Were they not only here in France to profit off of the long war?
Sir Gavin’s eyebrows rose for a moment before falling back down in resignation. “I will no’ take the fortune of a lady, nor will I force anyone to marry me.” He spoke in a careless manner, as if what she offered was nothing to him.
Colette released a breath she had not realized she was holding. Had he just agreed not to marry her? Would he simply walk away? “So you will tell my father you will not marry me?”
A wry smile played about his lips and she had the distinct impression he was not taking the situation as seriously as she thought it deserved. “I am yers to command. If ye wish me to leave, I will go.”
Relief washed over her. She would not be banished to the wilds of Scotland with some strange, albeit attractive, man. “Thank you, Sir Knight. My father, he wished to protect me by sending me far, but I cannot see myself in such a wild, foreign place. We would be most unequally yoked.”
Gavin leaned a shoulder against the stone wall and stared out the dark window into the night. “The Highlands are a rugged place and my home is no’ nearly as grand as this fine castle. ’Tis a wild place, but in the evening, when the sun’s rays touch the high peaks, setting them aglow with the fiery light, ’tis so beautiful it robs yer breath. No finely decorated hall could ever compare.”
Colette opened her mouth but no words came.
He turned back to her, appraising her finery with a critical eye. “Someday, God willing, I shall take my bride there, a bride who chooses me above all men. We will no’ be surrounded by courtiers or pageantry or fancy clothes or ridiculous pointed shoes.”
Colette swallowed, heat creeping up the back of her neck. Had he seen the points of her shoes?
He stepped close to her, moving with a fluid grace that made her heart beat faster. “In the Highlands we dinna have all yer comforts, but what we do have we fiercely defend.”
“What do you have?” she asked in a voice barely above a whisper.
“Freedom. In the Highlands, m’lady, ye would be free.”
Free? She stared up at him. He dangled before her the one thing all her riches could never buy. He offered her freedom.
He leaned nearer and her eyes fell to his lips, which inexplicably appeared soft. She could not help but respond to the irresistible pull of his inviting mouth. He moved slowly, bending down so that their lips drew dangerously close. She breathed in the scent of him, an intoxicating mix of wood smoke, fine wine, and pure man.
The door creaked and her father strode back in the room as both Colette and Gavin jumped away from each other. The duc de Bergerac spread a scroll out on a table. “This is the marriage accord I have made with the Baron of Kintail.”
“Wait…who?” Colette tried to gather together her swirling thoughts in order to form speech. She glanced at Sir Gavin. The careless smile was gone. They had both made the wrong assumption.
Gavin wasn’t meant for Colette at all.
Title: The Highlander’s Bride
Author: Amanda Forester
Series: Highland Trouble, #1
Pubdate: September 1st, 2015
Their attraction is forbidden
All Highland warrior Gavin Patrick wants is to get back to his native Scotland. But before he can leave the battlefield, he’s given a final mission—escort Lady Marie Colette to her fiancé. Under no circumstances is he to lay hands on the beautiful, clever-tongued heiress…no matter how desperate the temptation.
Their desire, undeniable
Forced to pose as a married couple to make their escape from France, Gavin and Marie Colette find themselves thrown into peril…and each other’s arms. As the danger mounts, so does their forbidden passion. But it isn’t until Marie Colette is taken from him that Gavin is forced to decide—is he willing to lose the woman who stole his heart, or will he jeopardize his honor, defy his promise, and steal her in return?
Amanda Forester holds a PhD in psychology and worked many years in academia before discovering that writing historical romance was way more fun. A Publishers Weekly Top Ten author, her books have been given starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews. Whether in the rugged Highlands of medieval Scotland or the decadent ballrooms of Regency England, her novels offer fast-paced adventures filled with wit, intrigue, and romance. You can visit her at www.amandaforester.com.
Passion. Seduction. Pleasure. These are the qualities of any courtesan worth her salt. As owner of The Starling Club, London’s most notorious house of ill-repute, Madame Philomena McGrattan has seen it all, heard it all, done it all. There is little that surprises her anymore, and even less that excites her. So when she is presented a chance at an irresistible seduction, she can’t help but rise to the challenge.
A Dangerous Game
Studiousness. Practicality. Discipline. Such are the attributes of a good scholar, and such are the principles Lord Spencer Hornsby has built his life around. Alone in the Welsh countryside, with only his wolfhounds for company, Spencer has thrown himself into his work. There is little time for the pleasures of society, not even to think of the joys of the fairer sex. But when an unexpected guest arrives at his isolated hunting lodge, Spencer cannot help but be baffled by the presence of this dangerously beautiful woman. And when he discovers the reason for her arrival, and the pleasures she promises, he cannot help but find himself irresistibly intrigued . . .
Finally, he asked, “And who are you, her replacement?”
Her? A housekeeper? Should she pretend to be a servant? Bugger that. “Hardly. I believe the old hag had plans to leave anyway as her bag was packed and at the ready. I’m here at the invitation of two of your acquaintances. Mr. Jacob Williamson and Mr. Clive Christopher.”
The professor frowned. At least she thought he did. It was hard to read his expression under the wiry thatch of hair surrounding his mouth. He rifled through a pile of unopened correspondence. “Oh? I do not recall any recent note from those gentlemen.”
“I believe I am to be a surprise present for your birthday tomorrow.”
His owl eyes blinked rapidly as if he could not process what she said. “I do not require a maid, though you tell me Mrs. Brickell has departed. It appears I could use a housekeeper…”
He had absolutely no idea why she came to him. His mind did not even consider the fact it could be for carnal reasons. What a sheltered life he must lead. “I’m no servant, though you need tidying up as much as your home does. You bear a striking resemblance to a painting of a French Canadian trapper I saw in a book once. All wild and shaggy—all that is missing is the plaid coat and the beaver pelts.” She gave him a sweet, smug smile.
With his lips pressed into a straight line, he sat back and regarded her. “Oh? You read a book once?” His elegant voice dripped with self-righteous sarcasm.
“Touché, Professor. Well aimed. A direct hit.” Phil pointed to the dogs who still stared at her. Their unblinking attention followed her every minute move. “Should I be afeared for my life? Your animals are intimidating.”
“Justinian. Theodora. Easy.” The hounds relaxed at his command, laying their heads on their paws. “They are Irish Wolfhounds. ‘Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.’”
Phil placed a hand on her hip. “Does that saying apply to you as well, Professor Hornsby?”
Did he smile slightly? Again, hard to tell under the facial hair. Phil pulled a chair toward the desk and placed it a few feet away. She raised one leg to the chair.
“Now, I don’t claim to be a blue-stocking, but I am able to read.” Phil grasped the hem of her green striped gown, and with a slow, deliberate movement, raised it past her ankle boots. She glanced at the beast behind the desk. His gaze remained steady as it slid down to where she continued to raise her petticoats to reveal one of her shapely legs. At least she’d been told they were shapely. No matter. Running her hand over the sheer white stocking, she lingered near her silk garter. “I do not think they are blue. You better come closer and inspect the shade of my stockings for yourself…Professor.”
He coughed and looked away. She made him uncomfortable, and she would wager to guess–a little aroused. No sound could be heard in the room except a whimper from one of the dogs and the huge clock in the corner ticking away the awkward minutes.
Hornsby faced her. “Who are you, madam, and why are you here?”
She continued to fondle and caress her leg, and having the unkempt man watch her caused a slow roll of heat to travel through her. Again, his voice. Like molten gold or a cello played by a master that vibrated with life, power, and resonance.
“My name is Philomena McGrattan. I am indeed a madam and hired to relieve you of your virginity.”
There was no further reaction from the professor whatsoever. This did not bode well.
Karyn lives in a small town in the western corner of Ontario, Canada. She whiles away her spare time writing and reading romance while drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea. Tortured heroes are a must. A multi-published author with a few bestsellers under her belt, Karyn loves to write in different genres and time periods, though historicals and contemporaries are her favorite.
As long as she can avoid being hit by a runaway moose in her wilderness paradise she assumes everything is golden. Karyn’s been happily married for a long time to her own hero. His encouragement keeps her moving forward.
Note from Erin: Today I’m happy to turn the blog over to NYT bestselling author Juliet Blackwell. Her latest novel, THE PARIS KEY, releases tomorrow, and Juliet’s been kind enough to share some of her thoughts on writing larger-than-life settings…
You’ve Chosen Your Setting – Now What?
Who cares where your story takes place? Just about everybody.
A well-chosen setting grounds your story in the reality of a particular place and time. It’s more than a flat backdrop against which themes and metaphors unfold. The setting is a character in its own right, and as such helps to propel the story forward, to reveal character, to heighten tension, and ultimately, to provide resolution.
CREATING THE SETTING
Who died and made you God? Setting is your opportunity for world-building. The importance of the right setting is most apparent in fantasy and science fiction writing, but is equally true for mysteries and mainstream fiction. A story’s setting forces the passage of time, unleashes weather, changes seasons and offers landscapes and skylines and history. It imposes restrictions upon your characters, as well as offering unique opportunities and challenges. The city of Paris, France, is real and familiar to many but in my novel, The Paris Key, I had to bring it to life for those who’ve never visited. Setting the story in Paris not only shaped what my characters could do and how, but allowed me to incorporate unique features, such as the city’s subterranean catacombs and the gargoyles high atop Notre Dame, as metaphors for my character’s journey as she unearthed family secrets and determined her own future.
Make it resonate: Evoking the texture of your setting is critical: make your fictional world as tactile and present to your reader as it is to the characters in the story. Address all five senses: sight, sound, feeling, taste—and don’t forget scent! Good or bad, our sense of smell is primal and evocative. An American in Paris may initially be struck by the beauty of its historic architecture, the grand museums, and well-tended parks, but will always remember the aromas of fresh baked bread from the boulangeries, sweets at the patisseries, coffee at the sidewalk cafes, the fresh rain on the pavement and the sometimes funky-smelling waters of the Seine.
Propel your story: Run out of ideas for your character halfway through your story? Look to your setting to ratchet up the emotional stakes for your character and move the story along. In The Paris Key, my protagonist can’t slip easily through her days because she is in a foreign country and has limited language skills. She struggles to understand—and to make herself understood—and even simple tasks are made challenging by a new language, different customs, and France’s legendary bureaucracy.
YOUR MOST IMPORTANT CHARACTER
If you make your setting the heart of your tale it will pump warmth or frigidity, comfort or strife, familiarity or strangeness through the entirety of your story.
Reveal character: Use your setting to reveal aspects of your protagonist’s character, whether through comfort with the surroundings, or conflict, or both. The Paris Key is essentially a tale of reinvention as my protagonist struggles to cope with being a newcomer, a fish out of water, a stranger in an unfamiliar (yet charming, this being Paris!) culture. The sights and sounds of Paris surround her and dictate her internal conflicts. Everyday activities pose new and unexpected difficulties and the struggle inspires constant questions: Is it worth it? Should I give up and go home? What have I done?
Different Time, Different Place: The unique history of the time period is, of course, a crucial part of your setting. Storylines from different eras might take place in the same physical setting, but the passage of time changes and affects the surroundings. The contrast between two different time periods can help tell your story: how have social customs and expectations, governments and communities changed? A secondary tale in The Paris Key has to do with a character damaged by the Basque struggles against the legacy of the Franco dictatorship; his presence in the City of Light, so far from Spain, brings the fight to the streets of Paris and echoes the brutality of World War II. On a personal level, his story becomes part of the family secrets the protagonist find buried in the catacombs.
Heighten conflict and find resolution: Setting can be the catalyst for plot development. Literally and metaphorically, our environment molds us. We may all be the same underneath, but think how different the life experiences of someone born and raised on a farm in California, compared to someone born and raised in Paris. The protagonist in The Paris Key has always held herself apart from others, but she finds this impossible in Paris, partly because of a culture of neighborliness she find herself in, and partly because the foreign setting makes her dependent on the kindness of strangers. As the novel progresses, the catacombs and the streets of Paris are the setting for the story’s resolution, as they reveal their secrets and the protagonist is forced to come to terms with her mother’s story, and the truth about her own past.
DON’T TACK IT ON
Whatever you do, make your setting integral to your book. Give it a purpose. Whether a story is set on a distant planet, in a spaceship, in a small American town, or a large French city, reveal the setting slowly over the course of your story, as you would any character. Allow your readers to “meet” your setting with fresh eyes at first, and uncover the complexity of the environment slowly, through the interactions of the story’s characters. Let the setting help you to frame and arrive at your resolution, as the environment makes its impact known. Remember, your setting can reflect, embody, or fight with your characters, but at the very least it will affect your novel’s emotional landscape, from first word to last.
JULIET BLACKWELL is the author of The Paris Key (Berkley/Penguin; 9/1/15), the New York Times bestselling Witchcraft Mysteries and the Haunted Home Renovation series. As Hailey Lind she wrote the Agatha-Award nominated Art Lover’s Mystery series. She is past president of Northern California Sisters in Crime and former board member of Mystery Writers of America. For more, visit: http://www.julietblackwell.net.
I don’t get around to reading as much middle grade as I’d wish to, but I’ve really lucked out so far this year. Every middle grade I’ve read has been so charming and heartwarming. A real highlight has been Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger, but today I’m bringing you two other 2015 MG’s I’ve really enjoyed. Title: Echo Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan Rating: 3.5 A lovely story and beautifully told, this book tells the tales of 3 different children in different times and place in the world all connected by one magical harmonica. Friedrich in pre-WWII Germany is first hand witness to the slow motion horror of Hitler’s rise to power and gradual degradations to his family. Mike in a Depression era orphanage fights to keep his little brother from being adopted without him. Ivy in WWII era California comes up against the harsh racism of segregated education and the horror of... Read more »
In USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Karen Ranney’s second novel in her breathtaking series, an unconventional woman and a former scoundrel embark on a daring mission of desire.
Once the ton’s most notorious rake, Dalton MacIain has returned from his expedition to America during the Civil War-wounded and a changed man. Instead of attending soirees, he now spends his time as a recluse. But Dalton’s peace is disturbed when Minerva Todd barges into his London townhouse, insisting he help search for her missing brother Neville. Though Dalton would love to spend more time with the bewitching beauty, he has no interest in finding Neville-for he blames him for his injury.
Minerva has never met a more infuriating man than the Earl of Rathsmere yet she is intrigued by the torrid rumors she has heard about him…and the fierce attraction pulling her toward him.
Dalton does not count on Minerva’s persistence-or the desire she awakens in him, compelling him to discover her brother’s fate. But when danger surrounds them, Dalton fears he will lose the tantalizing, thoroughly unpredictable woman he has come to love.
She didn’t know what part of the letter made her angrier, the fact that he had gone off to see if he was brave, or his thought that women should simply agree to anything a man suggested.
Sitting at her desk, she calmly folded the letter and held it against her chest.
She would not cry. Tears did nothing but make her eyes and nose red and congest her breathing. They didn’t solve the situation. They didn’t make her feel less guilty.
He had never mentioned America to her. What did he know about their war? Did he simply want to go into battle to see if he could survive it?
Dear God, had he survived it?
That was the one question no one could answer.
She replaced the letter in the drawer of her desk and sat quietly, thinking of her next move. If she wrote the earl again, he would probably ignore her, as he’d already done five times. If she returned to his house tomorrow, encountered his secretary again and marshaled her arguments better, was there any guarantee Mr. Howington would listen?
She had only been jesting when she was talking to Mrs. Beauchamp, but perhaps she should engage in a little subterfuge. Every house needed servants, and the earl’s large home must require quite a number of them in order to run smoothly.
The plan being born in her imagination died a swift death. Mr. Howington had seen her. Perhaps she could attempt to engage the housekeeper’s help. Or bribe one of the servants to turn the other way when she gained entrance to the house.
She had to find a way in to see the Earl of Rathsmere. She had to find out what happened to Neville.
Karen Ranney began writing when she was five. Her first published work was The Maple Leaf, read over the school intercom when she was in the first grade. In addition to wanting to be a violinist (her parents had a special violin crafted for her when she was seven), she wanted to be a lawyer, a teacher, and, most of all, a writer. Though the violin was discarded early, she still admits to a fascination with the law, and she volunteers as a teacher whenever needed. Writing, however, has remained the overwhelming love of her life.
A Bitter Truth. Charles Todd. 2011. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
I am continuing to love the Bess Crawford mystery series by Charles Todd. Bitter Truth is the third book in the Bess Crawford series. The book opens with Bess on leave--once again. Bess takes pity on a woman, a stranger, named Lydia. She's distraught and she's clearly been beaten. For better or worse, Bess becomes very involved in a family matter. Good will come out of it perhaps, but, not without sacrifice and risk. For Bess says yes to Lydia's pleas to come home with her, and agrees to pretend to be her long-time friend in front of Lydia's family including her husband, Roger. How will Lydia's in-laws react to her bringing someone home? Surely Roger will mind the interference, right?
The family Bess meets is a strange one in many ways--dysfunctional certainly. But is anyone in the family capable of murder? For that is what we all know it will come down to...a mystery is almost always a murder mystery.
I felt Bess's discomfort throughout the novel. She's witness to some very awkward family scenes. And strangers are confiding in her things that are very personal, almost intimate. Every time Bess tries to leave the family--something happens to prevent it. Though of course, eventually, she does HAVE to leave because she's a nurse stationed in France. Still the family haunts her a bit...
A Bitter Truth is a well-written historical mystery. It wasn't one that I "enjoyed" particularly because enjoy is the wrong word. There was nothing "fun" or "light-hearted" about it. But it was certainly compelling and intense.
This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for A Radical Arrangement by Jane Ashford!
Title: A Radical Arrangement
Author: Jane Ashford
Pubdate: August 4th, 2015
A classic Regency romance from beloved author Jane Ashford!
Brash and Handsome
Sir Justin Keighley is all wrong for a proper young lady like Margaret Mayfield. Everyone knows he is shocking in his opinions, arrogant in his manner, and completely without respect for the common decencies of civilized society. Margaret absolutely will not marry him—no matter what her parents say.
Beautiful and Shy
Margaret was everything Sir Justin detested in a woman—timid, sheltered, and obedient to a fault. It’s not until she runs away from him that he finds he must give chase. Margaret is discovering she can be bold and rebellious—intrepid enough to do what she must, and more exciting than Justin ever imagined possible. She’s the last woman he would have expected to lead them both into uncharted territory…
Jane Ashford, a retired teacher and editor, is now a beloved author of historical and contemporary romances. She has been published in various parts of the world, including Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, Spain, and of course the U.S. Jane is also a two-time RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award nominee. Born in Ohio, Jane now divides her time between Boston and Los Angeles.
Sir Justin Keighley stood in the doorway, looking them over with a slight, satirical curve of his lips. He wore, like the other gentlemen, conventional evening dress, but this superficial similarity was their only common ground. Ralph Mayfìeld, Philip Manningham, the squire, and John Twitchel were none of them unattractive men or negligible personalities. Each, in his own sphere, had a certain dignity and authority, and all had the confidence that respect engendered. Yet somehow, the moment he entered the room and before he spoke a word, Justin Keighley eclipsed them. It was not charm. Indeed, the newcomer did not look at all pleasant or ingratiating. And it was not mere social position. Keighley held an ancient baronetcy and a substantial fortune, but any of twenty men his hosts were accustomed to meeting ranked above him. Ralph Mayfield could not have said why he felt subdued as he came forward to greet his final guest.
The squire’s wife might have enlightened him. As she had told a friend at a Bath assembly two years ago, “Justin Keighley is a vastly attractive man, my dear. And not just to women. All the young men ape him, my son among them. I don’t know just how it is, but he has a great influence without appearing to seek it in the least. Indeed, sometimes I think he dislikes the idea. But it goes on. It’s something in his manner. No doubt you’ve noticed it yourself. He makes you look at him.” Mrs. Camden had been embarrassed by this speech, but it was quite true. And Keighley’s attraction was the more mysterious because he was not conventionally handsome. Though tall and well made, with broad shoulders and a good leg, his features were rough—a jutting nose and heavy black brows that nearly obscured expressive hazel eyes. And he took no care with his dress, a rarity in an elegant age. His coats were made so that he could shrug himself into them without help; his collars did not even approach his jaw; and he had once been observed in White’s with a distinct thumb mark on his Hessian boots, giving one of the dandy set what he described as “a shuddering palpitation.”
But these sartorial eccentricities were outweighed by Sir Justin’s political influence and sagacity. He was an intimate of the Prince Regent and Lord Holland, and important in the Whig Party. These facts did not explain his fascination for a great number of people, chiefly women, who hadn’t the slightest interest in politics, but they amply justified the Mayfìelds’ attention and suppressed antipathy.
“Good evening,” Keighley said to Mr. Mayfield in a deep, resonant voice. “I hope I haven’t kept you waiting.”
“Not at all, not at all. Come in. You know everyone, I think.”
Sir Justin bowed his head with a sardonic smile. He always met precisely the same people at his yearly dinner with the Mayfields, presumably those they were certain he could not “corrupt” with his aberrant opinions, and he always felt the same infuriated boredom. For the fiftieth time he wondered why he came. There was no hope of amusement or chance of advantage here. The Mayfields and their friends were just the sort of smug, resolutely conventional people he despised. They held to the views their fathers had bequeathed them and attacked all others. If one tried to make them change even a fraction, they shook their heads and muttered of treason.
He looked around the room. The only addition this year was the Mayfìelds’ daughter. He had forgotten her name, but he remembered that she had come out last season. She looked as one would have expected: a pallid, simpering creature. Keighley shrugged. Politics forced him to endure fools occasionally. The Prince would want to know the climate of opinion here in Devon. He supposed he could get through this evening as he had previous ones, through a combination of stoicism and bitter inner laughter.
Margaret watched him with awed apprehension as he settled beside Mrs. Camden and began to chat with her about London. She had never actually spoken to Sir Justin; her mother had seen to that. But she had heard him talked of so many times that she felt she knew what he would say in response to a wide variety of remarks. It would always be shocking. She gazed at him in an effort to understand how any man could be so utterly depraved in thought and action, almost expecting his rugged face to contort in a grimace of malevolence and his chiseled lips to emit some horrifying revelation.
Suddenly Sir Justin looked up and met her eyes from across the room. He seemed at first startled to find her staring, then his mocking smile appeared again, and he raised one black brow, holding her gaze. Embarrassed, Margaret tried to look away, but something in his hazel eyes prevented it. A spark glinted there, and she felt a kind of tremor along her nerves. It was utterly unfamiliar and unsettling, like a violent thrill of feeling. How could a stranger affect her so? This must be fear, she thought; I am afraid of him. She began to tremble, but still she could not turn her head away. He seemed to understand her reaction and, amused, to prolong the contact on purpose.
Finally Keighley laughed and bent to answer some question of Mrs. Camden’s. Margaret jerked back in her chair and clasped her shaking hands so tightly that the knuckles whitened. He was a dreadful man. She would not speak to him, and if she ever saw him again, she would run away.
Wish You Well. David Baldacci. 2000/2007. Grand Central Publishing. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
I enjoyed reading David Baldacci's Wish You Well. That is, I "enjoyed" it as much as one can enjoy a book with so much heartache in it. Some of the heartache was completely predictable, I won't lie. But some of it wasn't.
Readers meet Lou (Louisa) and Oz (Oscar). These two undergo a lot in the course of a year. The family is in a car crash. Their father dies at the scene. Their mother is left in a coma, of sorts. She's able to eat and drink, but, not to talk or walk. She's essentially dead to the world, unable to give any sign to anyone that she is still in there. The two go to live with a great-grandmother in Virginia. This great-grandmother raised their father. Her name is Louisa. Life in the country is certainly different than life in New York City, but the two adjust quickly. They enjoy spending time with Diamond, an orphan boy around their age, and Eugene, a black man who lives and works with them on the farm. Their mother lives with them as well. They manage to nurse her and do all the farm work as well. One man, a young lawyer, takes it upon himself to visit the family often. Cotton reads to Alicia (the mother) as often as he can. The children quickly bond with him. So they've experienced loss certainly, but, they've made new friends as well.
Is life perfect? Not really. Oz and Lou would give anything to have their parents back. And Oz especially is still counting on his mom waking up again. Lou secretly wants this just as badly. But she's older, and "wiser," and doesn't want anyone to know that she believes in wishes and happy endings. She can't help herself for wanting and wishing, but, she's ashamed of it at the same time. She hates herself for it in a way.
The book chronicles their adventures and misadventures in the country. The setting is 1940, by the way. I won't spoil the book; yes, a few things are predictable. But not everything in my opinion.
Wish You Well is a coming-of-age story written for adults. Don't be confused by the child narrator, this one really is an adult book.
What I liked best was the characterization and the setting. I liked Lou and Oz and Diamond. I liked Louisa and Cotton. I liked spending time with them. And the historical setting was a nice touch.
Out of Darkness brings to light often marginalized voices in young adult fiction. Centered on the New London School explosion of 1937, Out of Darkness features protagonists who are racially and culturally diverse and a heartbreaking story that confronts you with the realities of racialized and gendered violence in 1930s Texas (and … also contemporary American culture). If you are in the mood for some truly excellent historical fiction that will emotionally devastate you, well then, do I have the book for you. I read this book in less than a day and I couldn’t put it down the entire time. I haven’t seen much press around this book yet, which is a bummer, because Out of Darkness is so, so good and also as thoughtful and thought-provoking as hell. It’s one of my favorites of the year so far. (And hey! My list of favorites for 2015 is not going to be... Read more »
This morning I have an excerpt for Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey and a giveaway for Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures, the first book in Lillian Marek’s Victorian Adventures series. Enjoy!
Title: Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey
Author: Lillian Marek
Series: Victorian Adventures, #2
Pubdate: August 4th, 2015
From sensible, sheltered girl
Safe in the embrace of her loving family, Lady Emily Tremaine longs to feel more intensely alive. Surely the magic and mystery of Assyria and the fabled ruins of Nineveh will bring about the transformation she seeks.
To the woman his heart desires
Scarred by his past and estranged from his noble grandfather, French adventurer Lucien Chambertin desires neither a home nor the chains of emotional attachment. He seeks only to explore the far reaches of the world. But he did not know the world contained the likes of Lady Emily—whose curiosity and sense of wonder match his own.
Lillian Marek was born and raised in New York City. At one time or another she has had most of the interesting but underpaid jobs available to English majors. After a few too many years in journalism, she decided she prefers fiction, where the good guys win and the bad guys get what they deserve.
This August marks the release of the second in Lillian Marek’s Victorian Adventures series, Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey! To celebrate her new release, Lillian’s here to share a fact about the Victorian era she discovered during her research:
The 1844 Derby race produced a major scandal when it turned out that the winning horse, Running Rein, was an entirely different horse in disguise, and the whole thing had been orchestrated by gamblers.
Emily had left the tent, and Lucien began to turn to her to share his thoughts on the scene when he saw a puff of smoke and a glint of metal by one of the boulders on the cliff. At that moment a bullet ploughed into the deck beside him, and he heard the shot.
He flew across the feet separating them to knock Emily to the ground, covering her with his body. “Keep down,” he ordered when she tried to raise her head. More bullets fell about them, most splashing into the river. He had his pistol in his hand, but he could not see a target on the cliff. The Turkish troopers on the next raft were firing away but not to any useful purpose that he could see.
Meanwhile, the oarsmen on their raft, who had first dropped their oars in a panic, were now working madly to keep them from being dashed against the rocks as the current swept them around a curve. The skipper joined them, shouting encouragement, until a bend in the river had them out of sight of their attackers. As the wild rocking of their craft ceased and they resumed their placid drift, Lucien became aware of his more immediate surroundings.
To be precise, he became aware of Emily lying beneath him. A warm, soft Emily lying beneath him, a situation his own body found most agreeable. Her breasts were pressed against his chest, and he was positioned between her thighs. She was so soft, such a perfect match for him. She did not appear to be distressed by their position, for she was making no effort to extricate herself. Did she understand what their position was? Could she tell just how agreeable his body found this position? Because his body was reacting most strongly to this juxtaposition.
She was looking up at him with an expression of dazed surprise. He wondered if he was looking at her with the same expression. Her hands were sitting on his shoulders, not pushing him away but not drawing him down. Just touching him. Her lips were parted ever so slightly. In surprise? In invitation? He was close enough to feel the damp warmth of her breath. He was overcome with longing and began to lower his mouth to hers.
This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for Sherri Browning’s The Great Estate. I love the cover!
Title: The Great Estate
Author: Sherri Browning
Series: Thornbrook Park, #3
Pubdate: August 4th, 2015
Pulled apart by past mistakes. Driven by a passion neither could deny.
Sophia Thorne was young and inexperienced when she married the dashing Earl of Averford…and through dark and troubled times, their relationship nearly came to an end. Now she’s determined to transform herself into the fiery, ardent lover she always wanted to be, giving them a second chance at love… before they’re lost to each other forever.
It took nearly losing Sophia for Gabriel to realize he had allowed his love for his great estate to distract him from his beautiful wife. But that time is over. Despite all the obstacles standing in their way, Gabriel vows to teach Sophia what it is to truly love…and to be loved by a husband devoted heart and soul to her every desire.
Sherri Browning writes historical and contemporary romance fiction, sometimes with a paranormal twist. She is the author of critically acclaimed classic mash-ups Jane Slayre and Grave Expectations. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Sherri has lived in western Massachusetts and Greater Detroit Michigan, but is now settled with her family in Simsbury, Connecticut. Find her online at www.sherribrowningerwin.com.
Agatha closed the distance between them, switching on lights as she approached. Even before Sophia’s eyes could adjust to the light, she had a clear image of Agatha in her fire-orange and aubergine ensemble. Her aunt settled on the sofa beside Sophia.
“I’ve had a letter from your mother.”
It wasn’t unusual for the sisters to be in communication, but something in her aunt’s tone told Sophia that unexpected information was to follow. She straightened up a bit. “Yes? And how is everyone at Delaney Square?”
“They’re all well. Even your father.” Agatha didn’t hide her disappointment with that bit of news. She’d never gotten on with Sophia’s father. Sophia had done her best to keep them apart at Alice’s wedding to avoid any unpleasantness. “It seems that she wrote with news that concerns you. She always was such a gossip, you know.”
Sophia waved her hand dismissively. “I know. Her intricate web of tittering busybodies could rival the king’s own network of spies.”
Brow furrowed, Agatha placed a hand on Sophia’s knee. “Gabriel’s back.”
Sophia looked left and right. Agatha considered herself in communication with the spirit world and liked to read fortunes, but she probably didn’t mean her comment in the literal sense. Sophia assumed she meant that Gabriel’s essence was in the air, or some such nonsense. “Where?”
“In London, dear.”
“At Averford House?” Sophia tried to contain her surprise. She hated London. Their house in town stood empty most of the time, unless Gabriel went to London to tend to parliamentary affairs. “In London? Now?”
Agatha nodded. “Lady Levesque told your mother that he has been there this past month. A fortnight at least. I’m not certain exactly when he arrived.”
“But he’s there. And he didn’t see fit to inform me that he’d returned to England?” Her heart dropped like a lead ball to the pit of her stomach. She rose and began to pace, no longer bothering to hide her distress at the news. “Not a word to me. Not a word to Mr. Kenner? Or do you think he knows? Kenner knows. And who else? Have they been instructed not to tell me? Or do they pity me too much to say a word?”
Agatha stood and came to her side. “Don’t become agitated. I don’t think anyone knows. Of course, the people in London know. Or so it seems. He has been carrying on as usual.”
“As usual?” Sophia cocked a brow. Only now did it occur to her to ask what her husband did in London when she did not go with him. “Carrying on?”
Dread cold as ice snaked up her spine.
Agatha shrugged. “Attending dinners. Musicales. Perhaps the theater? He’s a respected man, an earl. There are always invitations and the responsibility for a man to attend such things.”
“Of course.” Sophia gripped the back of a Chippendale chair. “Responsibilities. He must have come back for a vote. Parliament. How long could he stay away, after all? A man in his position.”
Kelly Bowen dropped by this morning with a top 5 in celebration of the release of A Lady’s Guide to Skirting Scandal.
Lady Viola’s Top 5 list of things to NOT DO while at sea by Kelly Bowen
This would have been her list at the beginning of the voyage. By the end, however, it will be quite different! Actually, I suspect she wouldn’t have a list at all..
1)do not fall in love with a surgeon
2)do not find yourself in dreadfully dull conversation with your chaperones anymore than required
3)do not hate your brother for banishing you to a place called New York
4)do not dwell on the fact that the duke you tried to catch had to extract you from a hedge after you tipped over a terrace at a ball
5)do not abandon hope that one day you will be a duchess
5a) to ensure #5, do not fall in love with a surgeon
About Kelly Bowen
Kelly Bowen grew up in Manitoba, Canada. She attended the University of Manitoba and earned a Master of Science degree in veterinary physiology and endocrinology. But it was Kelly’s infatuation with history and a weakness for a good love story that led her down the path of historical romance. When she is not writing, she seizes every opportunity to explore ruins and battlefields. Currently, Kelly lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two boys, all of whom are wonderfully patient with the writing process. Except, that is, when they need a goalie for street hockey.
Lady Viola Hextall is bored – of the sea, her chaperones, and the woeful lack of available dukes on the ocean voyage from London to New York. Scrambling for any diversion short of jumping overboard, Viola strikes up a conversation with the ship’s rough-hewn, blue-eyed surgeon – and discovers an immediate cure for what ails her… To Nathaniel Shaw, Viola has the bearing of a lady and the spirit of an adventurer – an unlikely combination that he finds utterly irresistible. So he’s hoping to convince Viola to leave the stifling ballrooms of London high society behind because there is a big, wide world just waiting for them to explore – together.
“To make a good duchess. No matter what you think, Mr. Shaw, I will be a duchess one day. I deserve to be a duchess one day.”
Nate made a disparaging noise. “And is this how you’ve decided to measure your value – your worth in life, Lady Viola? By whether or not you become a duchess?”
“What else is there?” She put her hands on her hips.
Nate felt his own rush of resentment, along with another pang of scathing disappointment. “This is exactly why I am leaving England,” he said.
“What? Why?” Viola looked puzzled.
“This antiquated viewpoint that some of us are better than others based not on merit or intelligence or courage, but based only on an accident of birth.”
“Do you know how they select officers for the army, Lady Viola?”
“I’m not sure if—”
“They are selected based on their titles and their purchase of a commission.”
“Well, of course—”
“Do you know what happens when officers are given command of men not because they are qualified in the art of war, but because their names were preceded by a title?”
She was looking up at him now, startled, no doubt, by the bitterness that even he could hear in his words.
“Surgeons like me deal with the casualties resulting from inexperience and incompetence.” He leaned forward. “And it is such a shameful waste.”
“Why are you telling me this?” she demanded a little defensively.
“What happens if the duke you choose is a simpleton?” he asked her. “Or perhaps he is given to sloth, or drink, or another vice that might make him cruel. To you or to others around him. Will you disregard this to attain the title that marriage to such a man will give you?”
Viola blinked at him.
“I would have thought that a woman such as you would want a husband who would admire her. Respect her. Maybe even love her.”
“I do,” she said, a little uncertain now.
“But yet those things do not count if they don’t come with a title?”
“You can’t have everything, Mr. Shaw.”
“So that is what you would choose? Title over happiness? Title over love?” He was provoking her deliberately.
She was twisting the ribbons of her bonnet in her fingers now. “You must choose what is more important, don’t you agree, Mr. Shaw? And in my world, it isn’t a choice.”
“Then I suggest you consider leaving your world behind.”
“One cannot simply leave a titled position, Mr. Shaw.”
Perhaps it was the powerlessness Nate had felt on the battlefield, his inability to challenge or change such thinking. Perhaps it was the catch of hesitation he heard in her answer. Either way, an edgy recklessness gripped him, and he found himself closing the distance between them, catching her chin in his fingers and tipping her head up to meet his gaze.
“And what would happen, Lady Viola, if you found a man who did not have a title, but a man who would worship the ground upon which you walked?” he asked, his voice barely a whisper. “A man who would trade his life for yours without a second’s thought. A man who would give anything he owned just for the opportunity to kiss you? Would you turn away from such a man and live the rest of your life wondering how things might have been if you had chosen happiness and love?”
“I don’t know.” Her breath was coming in shallow gasps, and her color was high.
He had proven his point, he knew. He had made her uncomfortable and had dared her to think. He should step away from her now and leave her to consider his words, if she was wont to do so. But he couldn’t.
Aside from the recklessness that had clouded his judgment, there was a woman he had glimpsed within her, one who sat cross-legged and spoke of frogs and muck. A woman who he feared he might like very much, should she ever be allowed to be completely free of the woman who spoke of dukes and parties.
His hand slid from her chin to the back of her neck, his fingers caressing the silk of her hair. She was watching him now, her beautiful blue eyes wide. But not afraid. As if she was challenging him to do his worst.
This morning I have a spotlight and giveaway for The Maddening Lord Montwood by Vivienne Lorret.
The Maddening Lord Montwood The Rakes of Fallow Hall # 3
By: Vivienne Lorret
Releasing July 14, 2015 Avon Impulse
Frances Thorne learned at an early age to rely on herself. Yet, losing her job and her home and watching her father carted off to debtor’s prison all in one day, is too much for her to bear alone. When a generous offer of assistance falls into her lap, she ignores her better instincts and decides to take a chance. The last thing she needs is for the infuriating Lord Lucan Montwood to stand in her way.
The end of the bachelors’ wager is near, and Lucan Montwood can taste victory. Yet, on the precipice of finally gaining freedom from his debts, he’s incensed to learn that the beautiful Frances Thorne has fallen into an insidious trap in the guise of a new position. Lucan can’t deny the way her lips call to him and knows he must risk his own future to ensure her safety.
Convincing her to trust him is the hard part and resisting her is next to impossible. But falling in love with her? That’s far too simple.
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.
Lucan stood. The tails of his coat fell into place. Only then did she realize she’d been staring quite fixedly at the strong lines of his shoulders, the narrowness of his hips, and his backside. Again.
Keeping a hand draped over the dog’s scruff, he gently thrummed his fingers in time with ticking clock stand in the corner. “Miss Thorne, I do not mean to alarm you, but you are about to meet two of the most determined young women of my acquaintance.”
Curious, her gaze locked on the open doorway. “Determined for what, precisely?”
“To see me married by year’s end.” He said the words with such gravity that a streak of alarm did indeed shoot through her. “They will see you here and begin plotting instantly, especially if you continue to ogle my person when my back is turned.”
She started. There was no way he could have known—but then she noticed the reflective glass in the door of the clock stand and felt her cheeks betray her. “I was not ogling you. Not at all. You have a . . . a spot on your coat, and I was debating whether or not to tell you.”
“Is it a large spot or a small spot?” He grinned.
She narrowed her eyes, feeling the tips of her lashes brush against her lenses. “Hideously large, like your ego.”
Rafflecopter Giveaway (Digital download bundle of The Rakes of Fallow Hall, books 1 & 2)
Please welcome AS Fenichel to the virtual offices this morning!
Top 5 reasons Lilly hates Nobles by AS Fenichel
Thank you for having me here today. I’m so proud of the Deception characters for helping me tell this story in the best possible way. Nothing is ever easy with demon hunters and that is especially true for matters of the heart.
Lillian Dellacourt hates noblemen. Raised in a small village by a seamstress who sold her to the local lord, she’s still overcoming the circumstances of her birth. While The Company sees her as one of the greatest hunters to have ever lived, Lilly has some issues. One of her big problems, she hates Noblemen.
Here are Lilly’s five reasons for hating noblemen.
The man who bought her from her mother was an earl. He kept her locked away and wouldn’t let her visit her mother.
Titled men believe they can have anything they want without consequence. They take without thought and treat everyone below them as chattel.
The Earl of Shafton’s lies and arrogance have driven her to her current mission. She can read his deception, but can’t figure out what secrets he keeps. Plus the infuriating man made some pretty terrible accusations against her and she wants her revenge.
When news arrived that her mother had gone missing, the earl who owned her beat her severely. Close to losing consciousness, she grabbed the earl’s dagger and stabbed him. Unfortunately, the wound was not fatal.
Dorian Lambert has the manners of Marques and the instincts of a demon hunter. It’s confusing. The way he looks at her starts her stomach trembling in a pleasant way. Lilly likes to know exactly what she’s facing. She can take down a demon with her sai blades ripping through flesh and bone like butter. Killing demons makes sense. Nothing about being near Dorian is explainable in words. Only actions will do. It’s maddening!
Thanks again for having me here today. This was fun. I hope you enjoy Deception as much as I loved writing it.
Deception Demon Hunters # 2
By: A.S. Fenichel
Releasing July 7, 2015
When Demons threaten Regency London, only a Lady can stop them.
Lillian Dellacourt is beautiful, refined and absolutely lethal. She’s also the most feared and merciless demon hunter in The Company. She’s come a long way from the penniless seamstress’s daughter sold to the highest bidder, and it wasn’t by trusting a man, let alone an exiled Marquis with more on his mind than slaying the hellspawn . . .
For Dorian Lambert, Marquis de Montalembert, being sent to keep track of Lillian is no mean task. He’s wanted the fiery vixen since he first heard of her five years ago. But wooing the lady while fighting the demon uprising is no easy feat, especially when the lady’s tongue is as sharp as the Japanese sai blades she favors for eviscerating the spawn of hell.
These two will have to learn to trust each other fast, because the demon master is back, and he’s planning to turn Edinburgh into a living hell…
A.S. Fenichel gave up a successful career in New York City to follow her husband to Texas and pursue her lifelong dream of being a professional writer. She’s never looked back.
A.S. adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Books have always been her perfect escape and she still relishes diving into one and staying up all night to finish a good story.
Multi-published in erotic paranormal, contemporary and historical romance, A.S. is the author of the Mayan Destiny series, Christmas Bliss and many more. With several books currently contracted to multiple publishers, A.S. will be bringing you her brand of romance for many years to come.
Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in the East Texas with her real life hero, her wonderful husband. When not reading or writing she enjoys cooking, travel, history, and puttering in her garden.
Holding up her hand, she pulled the horse to a stop. Dorian slowed, watched, and waited.
Lillian touched her nose, alerting him to the scent of wood burning. The wind came out of the northeast. The almost full moon lit the night well enough. They dismounted, and tied the horses to a low bit of brush along the rocky pass.
Spending the bulk of his time with the hunters behind a desk, he willingly took a step back and allowed Lillian to take the lead. She was far more experienced in the field. The fact that she was a woman meant nothing in The Company.
He wished he was as unaffected by her feminine allure.
To his astonishment, she pulled a string at her waist, which lifted her skirts, and she tucked them into some kind of belt hidden at her hips. Above her high leather boots, he glimpsed her creamy thighs. His gaze dropped to her curvy flesh and an array of weapons cleverly stored insideher skirts instead of focusing on the danger ahead. He met her gaze.
“Try to stay alive, Dorian. Do not get distracted.”
He looked her up and down one more time. “You ask the impossible, Lilly.”
The wicked look she gave him was almost as enticing as the curve of her leg. She turned and climbed up the rock-strewn hill to the right. He followed, making an effort not to admire her bare legs or the throwing knives strapped around her right thigh. When they reached the precipice, flames blazed as high as ten feet in the center of a clearing. Two demons fed the fire, one a small trebox with scaly dark skin and the other a larger, dumber malleus covered in slime. To the far left of the fire, three children huddled together. The smallest girl wept loudly while the other two tried to comfort her.
Alive! A surge of elation followed by a wave of fear assaulted him. Could he and Lillian keep those children alive?
The malleus stood as tall as the flames and sang in a low grating tone. Firelight reflected off its slimy skin as it tore a year old tree from the ground, roots and all. As if it were a twig, the malleus tossed it on the fire. Flames roared higher and his voice grew louder. Dorian knew nothing of the demon language, but the eerie cadence churned his guts.
The trebox slunk around the fire. He used two hands on a sword, carving symbols in the hard ground. This trebox had shed his human clothes, exposing his hunched back and visible ribcage.
A recent report had crossed his desk depicting a similar scene in England. When they completed drawing the runes, the innocents would be sacrificed. “They mean to open a gate. We only have until the song ends.”
Lillian’s eyes widened. She reached into the folds of her underskirt and released a small crossbow from its holster, chocked an arrow, and took aim. “We will need to move fast.”
She let the arrow fly.
It pierced the malleus demon’s left eye, silenced the song mid-word, and dropped the enormous monster to the ground before he even had time to roar.
The trebox screamed in the language only demons understood. He took up the song his comrade had been chanting and wrote faster in the dirt.
Dorian pulled one throwing knife from the belt strapped around Lillian’s smooth skin. He jumped over the hill and ran down, dagger raised in his left hand.
The trebox rushed at him with its eyes focused on the long knife.
When he was within range, he let the smaller blade fly.
It buried deep in the greenish creature’s throat. He crumpled with a whine.
Lillian ran behind him down the hill.
All three children screamed and cried.
She charged past them and kicked dirt on the fire.
“What are you doing?”
“I think he might have gotten the incantation finished. Look at the way the smoke curls in on itself. Evil will find a way in even without the sacrifice. Once opened, I don’t know how to close a gate.”
It was unnatural the way the smoke did not move with the breeze. The ground rumbled. Dorian kicked dirt on the fire and rubbed out the carved runes from the ground.
Rafflecopter Giveaway (Two $10.00 eGift Cards to Book Retailer of the winner’s choosing)
The Truth According to Us. Annie Barrows. 2015. Dial. 512 pages. [Source: Library]
I'm tempted to say that The Truth According To Us would have made a better book than a movie. Or perhaps just that I would have been more likely to appreciate the story as a movie than I did as a book. I found the book to be long, a little too long. And the characters? Well, while they all started out with the potential for me to actually care about them, ended up falling short. Of course, you may feel differently.
Here is what the story is about:
1) Willa Romeyn is a child who has decided to become observant of the adults in her world. She's determined to be a people-watcher and find out secrets big and small.
2) Jottie Romeyn is Willa's aunt and probably primary caretaker. She lives with her brother, Willa, and Bird (her other niece). She runs the town's boardinghouse. She has a tragic back-story that perhaps is supposed to be the big mystery of the entire novel? Regardless, there are so very many flashbacks from her point of view, specific recollections of conversations and events.
3) Layla Beck is the new boarder at Jottie's boardinghouse. She thinks she's all grown up and independent. And in a way, she is. But she has SO MUCH to learn. The book is perhaps weighed down--in my opinion--by all of Layla's correspondence. Letters from Layla to her family and friends, even her ex-boyfriend. Letters to Layla from the same. Her job, her first-ever job, is to write the town's history. (The town is Macedonia, West Virginia.) The history will be for the Federal Writers' Project. She spends most of her time falling in lust, I mean "love" with Willa's father. But also, of course, interviewing residents of the town.
4) There are other characters, of course, like Sol and Emmett that readers get to know. Sol was a childhood friend of Felix (Willa's Dad) and Jottie. (Also there is Vause.) These characters mainly connect with Jottie and Layla.
There were so many characters competing to be the narrator in this one. I didn't properly connect with Jottie, Layla, or Willa. If the story had been from one perspective, perhaps I could have made a good, strong connection. Willa's story could have been about the threat of her father remarrying and life changing and general coming-of-age angst. Or Jottie's story could have been about her troubles, her struggles, to raise her brother's children while living under his control and dominance. Her love/hate relationship with him. Or Layla's could have been about her new independence, her struggle to be as grown up as she wants to be perceived, her not knowing what she wants, her love life, etc. But because the book was just a taste of all of the above, I didn't really care.
I do think it would make a better movie however. I think seeing flashbacks is almost always better. I think SEEING Vause and Jottie in their youth would have made a big difference in my impression. Movies tend to be more concise as well. A great soundtrack would also help!
Hey hey, guess what I just read? Lies We Tell Ourselves! A really great book that came out last year that I should have read immediately upon its release! Why? Because it’s an interracial lesbian romance set in the South during the desegregation of Virginia’s public school system. (You had me at lesbian romance.) Anyway, while it is not without its problems, Robin Talley’s Lies We Tell Ourselves is a really strong debut novel. I read it in one sitting, and it is a testament to the book’s excellence that I really enjoyed it despite having to endure a massive airport delay. (I wasn’t even bothered! I just wanted to sit down again so I could keep. reading. the book.) I wanted to review it because (1) if you haven’t read it, you should read it and (2) man, I have all the feelings about this one, and I want to... Read more »
This morning I have a spotlight and giveaway for The Highlander Takes a Bride by Lynsay Sands.
The Highlander Takes a Bride Scottish Highlander #3
By: Lynsay Sands
Releasing July 28, 2015
A bold, seductive laird meets his passionate match in a scintillating Highland romance from New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands.
Sword fighting, swearing, and riding astride come naturally to Saidh Buchanan. Simpering and holding her tongue-definitely not. Raised alongside seven boisterous brothers, Saidh has little interest in saddling herself with a husband…until she glimpses the new Laird MacDonnell bathing naked in the loch. Though she’s far from a proper lady, the brawny Highlander makes Saidh feel every inch a woman.
She has an angel’s looks, a warrior’s temper, and seeks out his kisses with wanton eagerness. Little wonder that Greer is intrigued by his comely guest. When reckless desire overtakes them, he’s more than willing to make an honest woman of her. But Saidh is the target of a hidden enemy, and Greer faces the battle of his life…to safeguard the woman he wants above all others.
LYNSAY SANDS is the nationally bestselling author of the Argeneau/Rogue Hunter vampire series, as well as numerous historicals and anthologies. She’s been writing stories since grade school and considers herself incredibly lucky to be able to make a career out of it. Her hope is that readers can get away from their everyday stress through her stories, and if there’s occasional uncontrollable fits of laughter, that’s just a big bonus. Please visit her on the web at www.lynsaysands.net.
She’d only taken half a dozen steps, however, when she was suddenly caught about the waist and hauled up into the air. Saidh squawked in surprise, and glanced around with amazement at the MacDonnell. She hadn’t even been aware that he’d changed direction and come after her.
“Allow me to escort the winner to the castle door,” he said smoothly against her ear as he settled her in his lap.
Saidh wanted to roar at him to put her down, but didn’t want to draw attention in the busy bailey so almost swallowed her tongue in her determination to still it. She sat unmoving and silent, very aware that his arm clasped her just below her breasts, the top of it rubbing against the bottom of those sensitive globes with every shift of the horse’s hooves. She was also excruciatingly aware of the heat of his chest against her back, and that she seemed enveloped in the clean, male scent of him. She was slower to realize though, that the hardness against her bottom appeared to be growing larger and harder by the moment.
“Me laird?” she asked sweetly.
“Aye?” he growled by her ear, his lips brushing the tender skin and sending a shiver up her back that just annoyed her.
“I think ye might be enjoying this just a tad too much,” she informed him. “That, or I’m sitting on yer sword.”
He chuckled, his breath brushing her ear again. “Yer just sore that I made ye turn away and ye didn’t get to see me tarse as I came out o’ the water.”
Saidh flushed as she recalled the way she’d gawked at him earlier, but merely shook her head and snapped, “Ye’d like to think so.”
“Oh, I know so,” he assured her and then reined in and lifted her down off of his horse at the base of the stairs. He also let his hand slide along the underside of her breasts under cover of releasing her, and Saidh gasped at the sensations the action sent racing through her. It left her weak kneed and unsteady so that she stumbled as she started up the stairs. Managing to keep her feet beneath her, Saidh hurried up the steps and escaped into the great hall with relief.
Rafflecopter Giveaway (Grand Prize is a Print Set of All Three Highlander Romances and Winners Choice Scottish Stole. Five (5) Runners Up will receive a Print Set of AN ENGLISH BRIDE IN SCOTLAND and TO MARRY A SCOTTISH LAIRD. (ALL US ONLY)
And here’s another catch up post of long overdue mini reviews.
The Shadow Ellysium by Django Wexler
B / B+
This short novella served its purpose as a teaser to generate interest in the Shadow Campaigns series. I loaded The Thousand Names on my Kindle – now I just need time to read it!
To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander
B / B+
This inspirational romance caught my eye because of the horse on the cover. Maggie is dismayed when her father arranges her marriage to Cullen, an Irish immigrant. She’s reluctant to marry a complete stranger, and an Irishman at that. She’s also fearful that he’ll object to her training her mare to run in an upcoming race.
I enjoyed the development of the romance, as well as the details of daily life on a farm in post Civil War Tennessee. The author doesn’t shy away from describing the prejudices and terrible treatment of the Irish and African Americans. At first I had a hard time with Maggie because her thoughts and views mirrored those of her neighbors, but as she got to know Cullen and the farm hands working for them, she began to finally see them as individuals deserving respect. And the horsey bits were entertaining.
Hit! by Deliah S Dawson
This just did not work for me. I can’t help but think that a huge banking conglomerate would have a better solution for deadweight borrowers than having them assassinated, or forcing them to be assassins. Meh, I didn’t care for HIT.
Mad About the Major by Elizabeth Boyle
Fun read with a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off vibe. Lady Arabella escapes the suffocating confines of her father’s estate to grab a small taste of freedom before she’s forced to marry a stodgy old bachelor. Her father is furious with her because a handsome stranger made a spectacle of her at a ball, and now he’s adamant that she marry before she’s completely ruined. She runs into the rakish Kingsley, the stranger from the ball, after he almost runs her down with his carriage. Arabella convinces him to accompany her on her day of freedom, arguing that he owes her three favors for his behavior at the ball. What follows is an enjoyable romp through London, as Arabella and Kingsley fall for each other during their unusual adventures. I really enjoyed this.
This morning I have am excerpt and giveaway for Tremaine’s True Love by Grace Burrowes, as well as guest post from Grace!
Message From the Author
What makes a man a gentleman?
For a romance writer, this question has to be answered in every book, because implicit in the term “hero” is something of the gentleman. Heroes need not be charming, handsome or wealthy, and they might not even be obviously heroic, at least at the start of the book, but they have to be worthy of our loyalty for the duration of an entire book.
In the True Gentlemen series, I took three men who’d wandered across my pages in previous stories—Tremaine St. Michael, Daniel Banks, and Willow Dorning—and found them each a happily ever after. Tremaine is a flinty business man, Daniel is poor and pious, Willow finds polite society an enormous trial and would far rather be with his dogs. These fellows were not obvious choices as romance heroes, but they each had something that tempted me to write stories for them.
When we met Tremaine in an earlier book (Gabriel: Lord of Regrets), Tremaine was convinced that he’d found a good candidate for the position of wife. He offered marriage, listing all the practical advantages to both parties, and he congratulated himself on how much sense his proposed union would make.
The lady turned him down flat, and as a gentleman is bound to do, he graciously ceded the field. He didn’t like it, he didn’t entirely understand how or what he’d lost, but he wished the happy couple well.
Daniel’s role in David: Lord of Honor was to charge to London with sermons at the ready in an attempt to restore his sister’s honor. The very man Daniel accused of wronging that sister had already set her back on the path to respectability.
Oops. But again, being a gentleman, Daniel wishes the couple every happiness, even if doing so costs him the future he’d envisioned for himself and his loved ones. Like Tremaine, he’s a gracious and even dignified loser.
Willow’s appearance in Worth: Lord of Reckoning is brief, but he too is determined to see a sister rescued from a possibly compromising position, and again, rescue is simply not on the heroine’s agenda.
In all three cases, the true gentleman acts in the best interests of those he loves and is responsible for, regardless of the inconvenience or cost to himself. Because Tremaine, Daniel, and Willow were honorable, I liked them. I trusted them, I wanted them to have the happiness they clearly already deserved.
In the Nicholas Haddonfield’s sisters—Nita, Kirsten, and Susannah—I found ladies willing to oblige my ambitions for these men. In each case, our hero has lessons yet to learn, and in each case, his inherent honor wins the day. He might not be handsome, wealthy, or charming in the eyes of the world, but because he’s a true gentleman in the eyes of his lady, he wins her true love.
I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them!
Excerpt – Tremaine’s True Love
Wealthy businessman Tremaine St. Michael has concluded that marriage to Lady Nita Haddonfield would be a prudent merger of complimentary interests for the mutual benefit and enjoyment of both parties… or some such blather.
Tremaine rapped on Lady Nita’s door, quietly, despite a light shining from beneath it. Somebody murmured something which he took for permission to enter.
“Mr. St. Michael?”
Tremaine stepped into her ladyship’s room, closed the door behind him and locked it, which brought the total of his impossibly forward behaviors to several thousand.
“Your ladyship expected a sister, or a maid with a pail of coal?”
“I wasn’t expecting you.” Lady Nita sat near the hearth in a blue velvet dressing gown. The wool stockings on her feet were thick enough to make a drover covetous. “Are you unwell, Mr. St. Michael?”
“You are not pleased to see me.” Did she think illness the only reason somebody would seek her out?
She set aside some pamphlet, a medical treatise, no doubt. No vapid novels for Lady Nita.
“I was not expecting you, sir.”
“You were not expecting me to discuss marriage with you earlier. I wasn’t expecting the topic to come up in a casual fashion either. May I sit?”
She waved an elegant hand at the other chair flanking the hearth. Tremaine settled in, trying to gather his thoughts while the firelight turned Lady Nita’s braid into a rope of burnished gold.
“You are pretty.” Brilliant place to start. The words had come out, heavily burred, something of an ongoing revelation.
“I am tall and blond,” she retorted, twitching the folds her of her robe. “I have the usual assortment of parts. What did you come here to discuss?”
Lady Nita was right, in a sense. Her beauty was not of the ballroom variety, but rather, an illumination of her features by characteristics unseen. She fretted over new babies, cut up potatoes like any crofter’s wife, and worried for her sisters. These attributes interested Tremaine. Her madonna-with-a-secret smile, keen intellect, and longing for laughter attracted him.
Even her medical pre-occupation, in its place, had some utility as well.
“Will you marry me, my lady?”
More brilliance. Where had his wits gone? George Haddonfield had graciously pointed out that Nita needed repose and laughter, and Tremaine was offering her the hand of the most restless and un-silly man in the realm.
The lady somehow contained her incredulity, staring at her hands. “You want to discuss marriage?”
“I believe I did just open that topic. Allow me to elaborate on my thesis: Lady Bernita Haddonfield, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife? I think we would suit, and I can promise you would know no want in my care.”
A proper swain would have been on his damn bended knee, the lady’s hand in his. Lady Nita would probably laugh herself to tears if Tremaine attempted that nonsense. Lady Nita picked up her pamphlet, which Tremaine could now see was written in German.
“Why, Mr. St. Michael?”
“I beg your pardon?” Tremaine was about to pitch the damned pamphlet in the fire, until he recalled that Nita Haddonfield excelled at obscuring her stronger emotions.
“Why should you marry me, Tremaine St. Michael? Why should I marry you? I’ve had other offers, you’ve made other offers. You haven’t known me long enough to form an opinion of my character beyond the superficial.”
This ability to take a situation apart, into causes, effects, symptoms, and prognosis was part of the reason she was successful as a healer. Tremaine applied the same tendencies to commercial situations, so he didn’t dismiss her questions as coyness or manipulation.
She wasn’t rejecting him either. She most assuredly was not rejecting him.
Title: Tremaine’s True Love
Author: Grace Burrowes
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Historical Romance
He’s had everything he could ever want…until now
Wealthy wool magnate Tremaine St. Michael is half French, half Scottish, and all business. He prowls the world in search of more profits, rarely settling in one place for long. When he meets practical, reserved Lady Nita Haddonfield, he sees an opportunity to mix business with pleasure by making the lady his own.
Nita Haddonfield has a meaningful life tending to others, though nobody is dedicated to caring for Nita. She insists the limitations of marriage aren’t for her, then Tremaine St. Michael arrives-protective, passionate, and very, very determined to win Nita’s heart.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes’ bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish and Lady Eve’s Indiscretion. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.