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1. Meet Bess Crawford

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Meet Bess Crawford as of 7/5/2015 10:56:00 AM
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2. Spotlight and Giveaway: How to Marry a Royal Highlander by Vanessa Kelly

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

How to Marry a Royal Highlander
The Renegade Royals # 4

By: Vanessa Kelly

Releasing June 30, 2015

Zebra

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Info

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

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

 

 

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gilbride, however, was made of sterner stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rafflecopter Giveaway (grand prize of a $25 Amazon eGift card and 4 runner-up prizes – each of those winners will receive a copy of How to Plan a Wedding for a Royal Spy and Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom )

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

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

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

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

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

Grade:  B- / C+

Review purchased from Amazon

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

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4. Classic Readalong: To Kill a Mockingbird

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

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

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

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

Put up Your Duke
Dukes Behaving Badly #2

By: Megan Frampton

Releasing June 30, 2015

Avon

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Info

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

 

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Three Signed Copies of PUT UP YOUR DUKE)

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6. Review: Running Wolf by Jenna Kernan

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I haven’t read a historical romance featuring Native American protagonists in a long time, so I snapped this up from the library.  When I was younger, I used to eat these up.  Ride the Wind, Nakoa’s Woman, Only Earth and Sky Last Forever – if it featured Native Americans, it ended up on my wish list.  There were so many of them published in the 80s and 90s, and then – nothing!  Regencies took over, I read more fantasy and comic books, and that was the end of that reading phase of my life.

I enjoyed Running Wolf, but I did have some problems with it, mainly due to the power disparity between Running Wolf and Snow Raven.  After she is captured in a raid, she is taken to Running Wolf’s village.  As his captive and a hated Crow, his Sioux clan does not treat her well.  She is beaten and stripped naked, and after Running Wolf gives her to his mother, Ebbing Water, she is ill-treated and only given food and a blanket because of Running Wolf’s intervention.  His mother hates Snow Raven because she is a Crow, and a Crow warrior killed her husband.  She is instantly suspicious of her son’s motives.  Why has he brought this captive to their village?  While he claims that he captured Snow Raven so she would have a servant to make her life easier after he moves into his own tepee, even Running Wolf knows that he’s not being honest with himself.

Snow Raven is fierce and independent, and when she’s taken captive, she thinks about taking her own life.  She doesn’t want to die, however, and she thinks that her father, Chief Six Elks, will eventually rescue her.  Then she realizes what an impossible task that will be for her people.  All of their horses were stolen by the Sioux, winter will soon settle over the Plains, and preparations need to be taken for the winter.  How will they even hunt without their horses?  This does pose an almost insurmountable challenge for her village, because they depend so heavily on the horse to help with hunting, protection, and moving the village as the weather changes.

Once she’s given to Ebbing Water,  she understands the position she’s in.  Snow Raven has to work for everything, and still she’s given only meager servings of food and nothing to clothe herself with.  She didn’t expect to be treated well, and her own people probably would have killed a captive Sioux, but she’s not willing to just give up.  After her mother died, Snow Raven began to pursue tasks typically undertaken by boys.  Though her father didn’t encourage her, she was taught to hunt, ride, and shoot a bow like a man.  These skills are put to good use, as she is able to trap small game, and because of Running Wolf, she is allowed to keep the hides. 

I liked Snow Raven, because she is tough and determined to survive.  She’s also capable and brave.  Running Wolf, on the other hand, I had a harder time with.  He is a war chief, and he believes that his duty to his people trumps everything else.  These feelings for this Crow captive?  They are fleeting and a test of his ability to be a future leader.  As a war chief, he’s not supposed to be selfish and keep things for himself.  Whenever he thinks of Snow Raven, he becomes jealous and possessive.  He only gives her to his mother because it would be unseemly for him to keep her for himself.  So, instead of just keeping her, and keeping her safe, he puts Snow Raven in so many needlessly dangerous situations.  His mother hates her because she is Crow, and she would be more than happy to cut her throat.  Many of his tribesmen are accusing Snow Raven of being a witch and casting a spell over him, and his erratic behavior towards her doesn’t help matters.  I thought he was the exact opposite of what he wanted to be: by pretending that Snow Raven didn’t mean anything to him, he came across as selfish and unfeeling to me.  While I’m sure he pacified some of his people, he alienated me, the reader, and I just wanted Snow Raven to steal a horse and run far, far away.

My opinion of him improved later in the book, but if I hadn’t liked Snow Raven so much, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed Running Wolf.  It’s grimmer and a little grittier than I was expecting, and I didn’t find it particularly romantic.  I did find it engrossing and hard to put down, but if you are looking for sunshine and rainbows, I don’t think you are going to find it here. 

Grade:  B

Review copy obtained from my local library

 

Rival tribes…

Running Wolf is a valiant Sioux warrior. During his first raid as war chief, he captures a surprising Crow enemy—a woman! This spirited fighter is unlike any he’s ever met. Her beauty and audacity are entrancing, but threaten his iron resolve…

…rival passions

Snow Raven must focus on freeing herself, not on the man who keeps her captive. But as she falls deeper under Running Wolf’s spell, she realizes he is her warrior—and she’ll risk everything for him!

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7. Spotlight and Giveaway: A Good Rogue is Hard to Find by Kelly Bowen

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for A Good Rogue is Hard to Find.  Enjoy!

A Good Rogue is Hard to Find
The Lords of Worth # 2

By: Kelly Bowen

Released April 28th, 2015

Forever

Blurb

HE THOUGHT HE’D SEEN IT ALL . . .

The rogue’s life has been good to William Somerhall: He has his fortune, his racehorses, and his freedom. Then he moves in with his mother. It seems the eccentric Dowager Duchess of Worth has been barely skirting social disaster-assisted by one Miss Jenna Hughes, who is far too bright and beautiful to be wasting her youth as a paid companion. Now home to keep his mother from ruin, William intends to learn what’s afoot by keeping his friends close – and the tempting Miss Hughes closer still. . . .

UNTIL HE MEETS HER

He’s tall, dark, and damnably intelligent – unfortunately for Jenna. She and the duchess are in the “redistribution business,” taking from the rich and giving to the poor, and it’s going great – until he shows up. But even as William plots to make an honest woman out of her, Jenna will use all her wiles to reveal just how bad a rogue he can be . . .

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/03/a-good-rogue-is-hard-to-find-lords-of.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22875467-a-good-rogue-is-hard-to-find?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/126031-the-lords-of-worth

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

Author Info

Kelly Bowen grew up in Manitoba, Canada. She worked her way through her teenage years as a back country trail guide and ranch hand. 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.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Excerpt:

“Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Jenna jumped, nearly tripping backwards.

The Duke of Worth strode into the room from the doorway. “I asked you what you’re doing in my mother’s rooms. Rifling through her things.” His voice was hard, and his expression even harder. He looked furious and dangerous, and Jenna could feel her pulse pound.

“You startled me.” She was relieved her voice came out evenly. She curled her fingers around the diamond and pushed her hand into the folds of her skirts.

His eyes narrowed. “I would imagine most thieves say the same thing when they are caught.”

Jenna would have laughed if it weren’t for the fact she was struggling to formulate a good excuse for what the duke had thought he’d seen. “I am not a thief.” At least at the moment, she added silently.

“Yes, I believe all thieves say that as well.”

Jenna rolled her eyes. “There is no need for fuss, Your Grace,” she said. “Your mother asked me to fetch her spencer for her. She is going out.”

The duke didn’t look convinced. “And she keeps her spencer in the bottom of her wardrobe?”

“No. It would seem she does not. Now, if you would be so kind as to move out of the way, I can continue my search.”

Worth took a menacing step towards Jenna. “And why did she send you to find it? Surely she has a maid who looks after these things?”

“Of course she does,” Jenna agreed. “But I was closer. All of your mother’s staff have multiple duties. Speaking of which, how are the accounts coming?” She edged away from the duke.

“Don’t think you can divert me,” Worth growled. “I take a break from ledgers that seem to have been creatively tallied by a drunken jester, only to find you skulking about in my mother’s rooms. I want to know what you were doing.” His gaze flickered to her hands still clenched at her sides. “Show me your hands.”

Jenna forced herself not to react. The diamond suddenly felt like it was the size of an apple against her palm. “Are you accusing me of something, Your Grace?”

Worth let out a bark of what sounded like bitter, disappointed laughter. “I’m fairly certain I already did.”

“Of course. You believe me to be a thief, based on the fact you discovered your mother’s hired companion looking for an article of clothing in her rooms.” She was stalling, and they both knew it.

The duke closed the distance between them again. “I don’t believe, I know. Show. Me. Your. Hands.”

Jenna swore inwardly. If she handed the diamond over to the duke, that would open a whole barrel of questions she had no interest in answering. Like why a supposedly dead marchioness had left a supposedly lost fortune in diamonds with a supposedly eccentric duchess to sell. And what that money was used for. And why Jenna was sneaking one out of the house. Goddammit, but the Duke of Worth was beginning to make life difficult.

“Very well.” In a swift motion, Jenna brought her hands up in front of her chest, dropping the diamond down the front of her bodice even as she opened her fingers to him.

For a moment, Worth looked stunned. “What the hell did you drop down the front of your dress?” he snarled.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Jenna replied placidly. She had gotten herself out of stickier situations than this. Distract and deflect. She dropped her hands again.

“I demand to know what you took.”

“Nothing, Your Grace.”

“You have something in the front of your dress,” he snapped.

“I have since I was twelve years old.”

Worth started in shock before he swiped his hands through his hair angrily. “You think this is funny?”

“A little.” She was forcing a sangfroid she didn’t feel.

The duke let out a string of expletives better suited to the London docks. “You have five seconds to produce whatever you have in the front of your dress, or I swear by all that is holy, I will rip your bodice in half and retrieve it for you.”

“Ah. Is this your area of expertise?”

That stopped him short. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Jenna smirked at him and cocked a brow. “I thought bodice ripping might be part of your overwhelming charm.”

Worth’s eyes darkened even further. “Very well, Miss Hughes, have it your way.”

God’s teeth, he was calling her bluff, and in truth, he had every right to do so. Though she’d be damned if she conceded. “Do your worst then,” she dared.

Rafflecopter Giveaway ($20.00 Amazon eGift Card) a Rafflecopter giveaway

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8. Spotlight and Giveaway: Never Resist a Rake by Mia Marlowe

This morning I have a spotlight and giveaway to celebrate the release of Mia Marlowe’s Never Resist a Rake.

Title: Never Resist a Rake

Author: Mia Marlowe

Series: Somerfield Park #2

Pubdate: June 2nd, 2015

ISBN: 9781492602712

Can he fool his new family?

John Fitzhugh Barrett, surprised to learn he is heir to a marquessate, is determined his new status won’t mean giving up his freedom. But as families from all over England descend upon Somerfield Park for the shooting season, their unmarried daughters are lining up to bag the newest trophy buck—him.

Or is he only fooling himself?

John’s instinct for self-preservation inspires him to divide his attentions between a scandalous young widow, and the safely ineligible Rebecca Kearsey, daughter of a destitute baron.

The charade gives John the illusion of controlling the game but when he loses his heart to the beautiful Rebecca, all bets are off.

Mia Marlowe is a rising star whose Touch of a Rogue was named one of Publishers Weekly‘s Top Ten Best Romances for Spring 2012. Mia learned about storytelling while singing professional opera. She knows what it’s like to sing a high “C” in a corset, so she empathizes with the trials of her historical heroines. Mia resides in Boston, Massachusetts. For more visit www.miamarlowe.com.

***

The road to love is never easy and often times it takes some well-placed advice from an older and wiser friend or relation to make Happily Ever After happen. For the denizens of Mia Marlowe’s Somerfield Park, the Dowager Marchioness of Somerset, Lady Phillipa, is the lady to call upon for such advice. And so, to celebrate the June release of Never Resist a Rake, we are pleased to share a piece of advice from Lady Phillipa:

“While I’m all in favor of planning—no one can live a well-ordered existence without it—sometimes, it is the things we don’t plan that that make life worth living.”

An Excerpt:

John Fitzhugh Barrett was not going to make a fool of Baron Kearsey’s daughter. No, sir. From all accounts, the new Lord Hartley had been running with a fast crowd and had no doubt kissed dozens of women.

Fancy women. Loose women. Women whose kisses would turn a man’s knees to water.

Rebecca would show him. A virtuous girl was just as good as a bad girl. Better. She’d kiss him all right. She’d kiss the man into next week.

She prided herself on reasoned thought and knew she was being illogical, but before she could untangle all the invalid syllogisms running through her head, she pressed her mouth against his with such force, their eye teeth knocked together. No matter. He wasn’t going to think her a missish little thing who kissed like an awkward first cousin. She was going to put some passion into it.

As much as she knew about passion, at any rate.

He covered her hands with his and she realized he was trying to encourage her to soften her grip on his ears. So she uncurled her fingers and slid her hands down to palm his cheeks.

He groaned into her mouth.

I’m getting good at this.

Then when he groaned again, she decided it was probably not a good thing. There was a definite edge of pain in the sound. Her fingertips were pressing too hard on the skin around his swollen eye.

Botheration! There were so many things to think about all at once. She eased up. Her lips softened and she slanted her mouth over his.

This time the groan was different—pleased and needy all at once. A little feral.

The thrill of danger danced on her spine. Imagining kissing a man was safe. Holy, almost. She could envision a perfectly acceptable setting for the kiss—a garden in full bloom, an elegant parlor after a well-spoken proposal, before an altar and a church full of witnesses. Heaven knew, she’d dreamed of a kiss often enough.

Kissing a man for real as he reclined in his bed was wicked beyond imagining.

Her imagined kisses were always chaste too. This one was decidedly not. Something inside her went all warm and liquid.

John cupped the back of her head with gentleness as he teased her lips to part by tracing the seam of them with the tip of his tongue. She gave up, and he invaded her. His breath swirled into her, filling her, drawing her back into him.

His tongue, oh Lud, his tongue…

Rebecca had never suspected a kiss could be so…so…involving. It wasn’t just their mouths meeting. Every fiber in her body strained toward him.

She had to stop right now or she’d never be able to. She pulled back and, to her surprise, he let her go. She almost expected him to drag her down onto the feather tick with him.

A wicked part of her was disappointed when he didn’t.

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9. Guest Post and Giveaway: The Beautiful One by Emily Greenwood

Please welcome Emily Greenwood to the virtual offices this morning!

Thank you so much for having me here today! To celebrate the release of THE BEAUTIFUL ONE, the first title in my Scandalous Sisters series, I asked Anna Black, my spirited heroine, to answer a few questions so you can get to know a little about her and her love interest, Will Halifax, Viscount Grandville.

What is your greatest strength?

Though I’m small, I think I’m stronger than the average Regency lady. Or at least, I’d like to think all those years spent running around outside “like a native,” as the local ladies said, made me stronger. Oh, you mean inner strength… I’m brave.

What is your biggest fear?

I’m in hiding, in danger of being exposed as the Beautiful One. So my biggest fear is that my identity will become known, and I’ll then be the kind of disgraced woman no one dares to acknowledge.

What do you love most about where you live?

Living at Stillwell, Will’s estate, where I’m employed as a governess, is amazing. It’s not that my head is turned by his vast wealth, but I’m the daughter of a doctor, and I grew up in a cottage, so what I love about being at Stillwell is how different it is. Also, he has a folly that looks like a medieval tower, and it’s pretty irresistible.

The Beautiful One

By Emily Greenwood

The Scandalous Sisters, Book 1

Historical Regency Romance

June 2, 2015

ISBN: 9781492613657

$7.99 paperback

Buy THE BEAUTIFUL ONE here: Amazon | B&N | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound

“A SIZZLING ROMANCE THAT TOUCHES THE HEART.” —Sally MacKenzie, USA Today bestselling author

A PICTURE SAYS A THOUSAND WORDS…

The ton is buzzing about The Beautiful One, a striking figure in a scandalous book of nude sketches. Only two men know the true identity of The Beautiful One, and they are scouring the countryside, determined to find her.

BUT NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES

The unlikely center of the scandal, Anna Black is forced to flee home as disaster looms. Her tomboy’s heart and impertinent tongue serve her well when she meets the most brooding viscount ever to darken a drawing room. Will Halifax, Viscount Grandville, has his reasons for pushing people away, and when his tempestuous teenaged ward arrives on his doorstep, he presses Anna to take on her care. As Anna begins to melt the Viscount’s frozen heart, she knows the more she loves, the more she has to lose. For although Will cares nothing for what makes Society titter, he has yet to see The Beautiful One.

About the Author

Emily Greenwood worked for a number of years as a writer, crafting newsletters and fundraising brochures, but she far prefers writing playful love stories set in Regency England, and she thinks romance novels are the chocolate of literature. A Golden Heart finalist, she lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters.

Connect with Emily Greenwood:

Website – http://emilygreenwood.net/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/emigreenwood

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Emily-Greenwood/365744720128570

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6506600.Emily_Greenwood

Excerpt from THE BEAUTIFUL ONE by Emily Greenwood:

Rounding the edge of the wood at the back of Stillwell, he was startled to see his ward standing about. She was looking up at a tree in which, from the movement of its leaves and branches, some large creature seemed to be thrashing. A crow?

As he drew nearer to the oblivious Lizzie, he was almost certain he heard a woman’s voice coming from among the leaves. Lizzie stepped closer to the tree and lifted her hands upward, and he saw that on a thick branch perhaps six feet off the ground were perched two feet in past-their-prime dark ankle boots, and above them he was treated to a view of trim calves he could not regret. The surrounding leaves and branches mostly obscured the rest of his recently hired governess. In the instant before Lizzie became aware of Will, he saw that she held in her cupped hands a fluffy white ball.

Lizzie turned and saw him, her mouth forming into an “O” as a voice called from above, “Lizzie? I’m ready for the owlet.”

“Er,” said Lizzie, looking at him. In the clear afternoon light he noticed that her eyes were a different color blue than Ginger’s had been. But the shape was Ginger’s, as were the eyebrows. Not her fault, but he couldn’t go the route of compassion. It would only muddy what had to be. He looked past her and lifted a hand to rub his eyes.

“Miss Black,” he said, knowing he could not avoid asking, “what on earth are you doing?”

There was a pause as she absorbed his arrival and a shifting of the feet on the branch near his forehead as they drew together, perhaps in an attempt at modesty.

“Ah, my lord,” she said from above him. “Good afternoon. Lizzie and I are engaged in returning a fallen owlet to its nest. It was her idea. She is very caring toward animals.”

He could feel Lizzie’s big blue eyes on him though his own were still covered by his hand. He had no doubt as to whose idea it had been to climb the tree. He hadn’t truly expected Anna Black to be a typical sort of governess, had he?

“Come down at once.”

“If you will wait just a moment, my lord,” she said breezily, “I shall be down directly. Lizzie, the owlet.”

Lizzie cleared her throat. “Here.”

He tapped her on the shoulder before she could lift her arms farther. “Give me that creature, please.”

She looked uncertain, but she clearly didn’t want to displease him, and she handed over the motionless owl. He took it carefully from her and did not return her tentative smile. He could feel her eagerness for him to acknowledge her, but he let it flow past him.

The leaves and branches above them shook as Anna Black crouched down and extended her hand for the animal. Her bonnet, the same horrible blue one, had fallen on its strings around her neck again, and her hair, apparently loosened by her climb, curled crazily about her face as if she were some unkempt urchin, accentuating her pert nose and reminding him of her jack-in-the-box appearance from the coach.

Her pink lips pressed outward at the sight of him; doubtless she was annoyed by his arrival, but her expression didn’t draw an answering wave of annoyance from him. Instead, her lips were making him wonder, unaccountably, what it might feel like to be kissed all over by pink butterflies.

“The owlet, please,” she fairly ordered him.

“Don’t be ridiculous. Get down this instant before you fall. I will return the owlet.”

“I am already positioned to do so. If you will just give it to me, I can put it back and then receive your displeasure properly on the ground.”

He grunted. Why did he keep finding himself in out-of-his-control conversations with this maddening woman?

In his palm the owlet’s heart beat with a rapid, stressed flutter. He reached up his hand, and she gently took the animal and disappeared into the foliage.

From above came a few rustling noises, then the angry screech of what had to be an adult owl and a yelp. Fearing Miss Black would fall, he stepped forward to catch her, but at that same moment she jumped neatly down, so that she landed right in front of him.

He grabbed her arms, a reflex to steady her. She didn’t need his help, but their eyes locked, and for a moment he read vulnerability there before it was replaced with the hard glint of independence. She smelled like sunshine and crushed leaves, and he felt the slim softness of her arms and his body’s yearning to hug her close.

She stepped away from him. It had all happened in the space of a few moments.

But as he watched her brush some leaves from her skirts with her head down, that vulnerability he’d glimpsed tugged at him. Who was this woman? Where had she come from? She was clearly educated and intelligent, and though she was too forthright and she dressed terribly, she was not rough, merely unusual.

That life-on-the-edge-of-propriety quality he’d observed in her the night before had suggested that she’d known some hardship, or that she had some burden she might trade for money. And yet today, in the company of his ward, she looked at ease, even if her eyes seemed to be hiding something.

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10. Spotlight and Giveaway: Mad About the Major by Elizabeth Boyle

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for Elizabeth Boyle’s Mad About the Major.

Mad About the Major
Bachelor Chronicles #8.5

By: Elizabeth Boyle

Releasing June 2, 2015

Avon Impulse

Blurb

The pampered daughter of a duke . . .

Lady Arabella Tremont has spent her entire life protected and overshadowed by her restrictive father. But she is a Tremont, after all, and the morning after she is nearly ruined at a ball by a handsome stranger, Arabella’s father demands she make an arranged match with an heir to a dukedom. In desperation, Arabella takes matters into her own hands.

Takes a London holiday with the most unsuitable of chaperones . . .

Major Kingsley is in London to avoid to his parents’ dreadful house party. To his surprise he runs into the enticing – and unforgettable — minx he met at a ball the previous night. Arabella, or Birdie, as he knows her, insists he owes her three favors-for he’s put her in a terrible pinch; Kingsley agrees, if only to delay his trip home and because the notion of spending the day with this enchanting bit of muslin is too tempting to resist. But all too quickly he discovers Arabella’s requests are hardly what he expected…

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/05/mad-about-major-by-elizabeth-boyle.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22496210-mad-about-the-major?from_search=true&search_version=service
Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/41561-bachelor-chronicles

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

Author Info

Elizabeth Boyle was an antipiracy paralegal for Microsoft before settling down to write full-time. Her first novel, Brazen Angel, which won Dell’s Diamond Debut Award in 1996, also won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award for Best First Book, and was a finalist for Best Long Historical Romance. She lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington. She is also the author of Brazen Heiress.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Excerpt

Well, there was one thing to be said for this rogue—he was very good at it. Because as her glove slid from her hand, she had the outlandish irritation that he was taking much too long to remove it.

“I have heard your praises sung daily since I returned to London,” he was saying.

“You have?” she replied, looking around for her father. This was exactly the sort of thing he was always railing on about—and she couldn’t make up her mind if she wanted his intervention or for the duke to be well out of the way.

“Certainly,” he told her, a slow grin lighting up his smooth, hard lips, while behind his mask, his eyes twinkled with mischief. “And none of the tributes were exaggerated. For even from across the room, your lips drew me closer. And now there is nothing I would love more, my dear milkmaid, than for you to wrap them around my cock tonight, and when you are finished, I promise I shall return the favor and devour the rest of your delicious and notable delights until you can’t even remember your name.”

Arabella’s mouth fell open.

Had he just said what she thought he’d said?

He wanted her to do what?

Worse, he took her gaping as some sort of acquiescence on her part, or perhaps just an early offer, for he steered her out the open garden doors before she could manage a protest.

She stole a glance up at him and there behind his mask was a smoky light of sensuality—after four Seasons she wasn’t so innocent that she didn’t know what that meant.

Worse yet, it sent a tremor of desire, a rare curiosity down her limbs. His cock aside, whatever had he meant, that he’d devour her in return?

Just considering the notion sent a delicious shiver down her spine. Especially when she looked at his full, strong lips. Which, she guessed, would be only the beginning of what was strong and firm about him.

Oh, good heavens, she shouldn’t even be thinking such things. Considering such notions. Then again, no man, no one, had ever spoken to her thusly.

And Arabella, for the first time in her life, was at a loss as to what to say in return.

While she knew what she should do—protest loudly and send him off with a sharp, stinging retort—at that moment, he pulled her close, and the desire in his eyes, a mesmerizing light, left her once again wavering as her world took an unfamiliar tilt.

Not even the realization that she was far deeper in the gardens than she ought to be, or that she was up against him, his arm wound intimately around her waist, gave her the wherewithal to panic properly. For there was one undeniable truth that held her in place.

He was indeed strong. And very firm.

Yet this time when he spoke, it had the opposite effect, his words breaking the passionate spell he’d cast. “My lovely Mrs. Spenser—”

Mrs. Who?

Then the name came to her. Mrs. Spenser. “You cannot think—”

“Oh, dear Vestal, I can think a lot of things. Like how I’ve discovered you first. Which I understand has earned me a perfect night.”

“A perfect wha-a-at?”

“A perfect night in your bed, isn’t that so?” He grinned again, this time wickedly, and much to Arabella’s horror, it only made him that much more distracting.

Then, to make matters worse, he began nibbling on her earlobe, whispering a litany of ways he was going to make her night memorable.

“I … I … I hardly think—” she stammered to protest. But all too quickly it became clear she wasn’t going to be able to think for much longer. Suddenly she was drowning in wave after wave of the most distracting suggestions … and sensations.

Oh, heaven help her! Whatever was he doing with his tongue?

Truly, he should cease such improprieties immediately.

Or very soon.

“No, no, you needn’t protest,” he whispered, his breath hot and warm in delicious contrast to the cool breeze in the garden. “Perhaps you need references. A hint of what is to come?” His hand slid up from her waist and cupped her breast, his fingers quickly finding her nipple and teasing it into a hard point

“I don’t think … Oh, my!” she gasped. His touch left her spiraling, falling even as she rose up on her tiptoes. She couldn’t help herself. His touch, his lips were heaven, guiding her, pulling her toward something she’d only imagined.

“I promise, I will surprise you,” he whispered in a deep, husky voice.

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11. Meet Professor Moriarty

The Infernal Device. Michael Kurland. 1978. 255 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm caught up on watching Sherlock, but, far from caught up on reading Sherlock--original Sherlock especially. Still when I saw that Moriarty had his own series, well, I had to check it out from the library. In The Infernal Device readers meet Professor Moriarty and his journalist employee, Barnett. (Moriarty having recently "rescued" Barnett from an Eastern prison and certain death--he was framed for murder--he's in Moriarty's debt--or employ--for two years.) How does Barnett like Professor James Moriarty? He admires him, respects him, enjoys his company. Does Barnett see the "real" Moriarty? Or is Moriarty keeping his darker side from his new friend and employee? Certainly Moriarty is aware that there are a handful of people--namely Sherlock Holmes--who thinks Moriarty is pure evil. But convinced, Barnett is not! Holmes does make a handful of appearances in this one. In fact, to solve the mystery, they may have to join together temporarily to save the monarchy.

Readers spend time with both men as the mystery unfolds. The Infernal Device is a mystery with plenty of politics and action.  Did I love it? Well, if I didn't love, love, love it, I certainly LIKED it well enough. 

Death by Gaslight. Michael Kurland. 1982. 279 pages. [Source: Library]

I also enjoyed reading the second in the series, Death by Gaslight. While I didn't rush through it like I did Infernal Device, I found it mostly compelling. It is set two years after The Infernal Device. Barnett has finished--just finished--his "required" time working for him, but, he has no thoughts of leaving Moriarty's service. He's enjoying himself much too much. Life is rarely boring, and, he's even had time to fall in love...

Can Moriarty catch a serial killer? Someone is killing aristocratic gentleman--in their homes, in locked rooms. With only a few clues, can he solve the mystery, find the killer, and see that justice is done? Can he do a better job than the police? a better job than Sherlock Holmes? Perhaps. Especially since Holmes spends nearly the entire book absolutely convinced that Moriarty is behind each and every murder.

I enjoyed this one too. I look forward to reading more books in this series at some point.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Spotlight and Giveaway: Outlaw Hearts by Rosanne Bittner

 

This June Rosanne Bittner’s beloved title, Outlaw Hearts, will be back in print for the first time in over twenty years! To celebrate, we’re pleased to welcome the hero and heroine of the book Jake Harkner and Miranda Hayes, who will be sitting down with us today for a quick Q&A.

Complete this sentence: I knew I had found the love of my life when…

Jake: When she shot me!

Miranda: When he searched for me after he first rode out of my life. He found me dying from a snake bite, and he nursed me back to life and was gentle and respectful and made me feel so safe.

Title: Outlaw Hearts

Author: Rosanne Bittner

Series: Outlaw Hearts, #1

Pubdate: June 2nd, 2015

ISBN: 9781492612810

United by chance, bound by fate, consumed by passion.

Miranda Hayes has lost everything—her family, her husband, her home. Orphaned and then widowed, desperate to find a safe haven, she sets out to cross a savage land alone…until chance brings her face-to-face with notorious gunslinger Jake Harkner.

Hunted by the law and haunted by a brutal past, Jake has spent a lifetime fighting for everything he has. He’s never known a moment’s kindness…until fate brings him to the one woman willing to reach past his harsh exterior to the man inside. He would die for her. He would kill for her. He will do whatever it takes to keep her his.

Spanning the dazzling West with its blazing deserts and booming gold towns, Jake and Miranda must struggle to endure every hardship that threatens to tear them apart. But the love of an outlaw comes with a price…and even their passion may not burn bright enough to conquer the coming darkness.

USA Today bestseller and award-winning novelist Rosanne Bittner is known as the “Queen of Western Historical Romance” for her thrilling love stories and historical authenticity. Her epic romances span the West—and are often based on Rosanne’s personal visits to each setting. She lives in Coloma, Michigan, with her husband and two sons.

 

An Excerpt:

Miranda watched Jake saddle up while she held the two gunnysacks full of supplies she had prepared for him. He gave Outlaw’s stomach a light punch. “Suck it in, boy,” he barked. “You don’t fool me, filling yourself up with air like that.” The horse’s belly contracted, and Jake tightened the cinch. “All I need is to be on a hard ride to get away from some marshal only to have my saddle slip on me.”

Miranda saw him wince, knew he was still in pain. “Jake, can’t you wait one more day?”

Jake kept his eyes on the cinch, thinking about the restless night he had had, lying awake and wondering what Mrs. Miranda Hayes would have done if he had gone out to her cot and planted his mouth on her sweet lips. “No, ma’am. Too dangerous for you having me here, what with that sheriff sweet on you and all. Hard telling when he might show up again.” He let down a stirrup and turned to meet her eyes. Was that a trace of tears he saw there? No. He would not believe that. “If you had any common sense at all, you would stay here and marry the sheriff and let him take care of you.”

Miranda stiffened with indignation, glad he had said something that made her momentarily forget about wanting to cry. “Why do all men think a woman needs ‘taking care of’? I’ll be just fine on my own. And if I did have common sense, you would be sitting in prison or hanging from a tree by now, and I would be five thousand dollars richer.”

Jake grinned. “You’ve got me there.”

Miranda thought how he looked even more handsome now in the morning light. It was the best he had looked since the first day she saw him in the supply store, bearded and mean-looking, then so sick after that. He had a fine, square jaw and dark, wide-set eyes that were perfectly outlined with dark eyelashes. Even his nose seemed perfectly matched to the rest of his face, and when he smiled, his teeth were straight and clean. She surmised that in spite of his cruelty, Jake’s father must have been as handsome as his mother was beautiful, for they had produced a son that was the best of both. How sad that they had never given that son a decent home.

A faint scar on Jake’s left jaw and another tiny one on his upper lip only seemed to make him even more handsome, lending a ruggedness to his looks that was accented by his tall frame and broad shoulders. She found herself wondering how his full, firm lips would feel on her mouth, how a man like Jake Harkner kissed a woman…”

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

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

A Kiss for Lady Mary
The Marriage Game # 6

By: Ella Quinn

Releasing May 26th, 2015

Kensington Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did you hear something?”

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

“Nah, sir, just a deer or something.”

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

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

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

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14. Spotlight and Giveaway: Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt

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

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

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

 

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


Buy Links:

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About the author:

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


Social Media Links:

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EXCERPT:

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

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

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

There was a silence.

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

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

“I smile every time I smell cherry pie.”

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

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

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

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

“I—”

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

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

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

“Why not?”

“You know very well why not.”

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

“I . . . what?”

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

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

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

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15. The Carnival at Bray: Review

The Carnival at Bray is the coming of age story of Maggie, a 16 year old American who, in 1994, finds herself suddenly moved to a remote Irish town. Is 1994 historical? I would say more yes than no. The time is sufficiently removed from ours with the biggest difference being that Maggie doesn’t have the luxury of Skype, Facebook, and all the modern conveniences of connection. Her isolation from her old life is near complete. An ocean removed from her family, it’s a void that she spends the book looking to fill. Being a teenager is often tough at the best of times. When you’ve been completely removed from everything you know this only becomes that much harder. Bray is the sort of misty, coastal Irish town that could drown you in its dreary isolation and Maggie feels it keenly. She makes a few attempts at friendships with classmates,... Read more »

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

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

The Lady Hellion
Wicked Deceptions # 3

By: Joanna Shupe

Releasing May 26, 2015

Zebra

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Info

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

   

EXCERPT

“You have a visitor, my lord.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting.

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

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

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

“Why are you here, Sophie?”

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

“Your flattery overwhelms, madam.”

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

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

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

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17. A Touch of Stardust (2015)

A Touch of Stardust. Kate Alcott. 2015. Doubleday. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Kate Alcott's A Touch of Stardust. Julie Crawford is the heroine who provides readers with a behind the scenes glimpse into the filming of Gone With The Wind. The setting, of course, is Hollywood in 1939. Julie, soon after we meet her, becomes a personal assistant and friend of actress Carole Lombard, the girlfriend of Clark Gable. So readers get a behind the scenes glimpse of this couple as well--their public and private lives. Julie is dating Andy, David Selznick's assistant. The book is about all the changes and transitions in her life: her move to California, her new job, her dreams of being a screen writer, her love life, the connections she's making, the relationships she's building, etc. A little bit about everything. She oh-so-conveniently is on the set during major scenes of the movie. Not that I minded, but, Julie is always in the right place to get the best story it seems!

One thing I did like about the novel was the context--or perhaps contrast is the better word. The world is at war, horrible things are happening in Europe, and the disinterestedness of America is highlighted. Andy, who is Jewish, is very concerned about what's going on, and what it means, and he's worried about his family--his grandparents especially--still in Germany. Serious things are happening, and, that is contrasted by the superficiality and gossipy nature of Hollywood.

I liked this one. I'm not sure I loved it. But it tempted me. Should I consider rereading Gone With the Wind this year?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on A Touch of Stardust (2015) as of 5/27/2015 12:08:00 PM
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18. Spotlight and Giveaway: At the Spy’s Pleasure by Tina Gabrielle

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

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

By: Tina Gabrielle

Releasing May 26th, 2015

Entangled: Scandalous

Blurb

Every gentleman has his secrets…

London 1821

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

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

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

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

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

Author Info

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter| Goodreads

  

Excerpt

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

Gareth Ramsey entered the theatre box instead.

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

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

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

“No one can see or hear us.”

“My escort will return,” she protested.

“Not for a while.”

“How on earth could you know that?”

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

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

“You never answered my question in the park.”

Her mind faltered. “What question?”

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

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

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

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

“Never. Just pointing out a fact.”

“She’s my cousin.”

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

“You are jealous.”

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

“Not without a price.”

“A price?”

“A kiss.”

She gasped. “You arrogant oaf!”

He pulled her into his arms.

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

“No, we won’t.”

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

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

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

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

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

No. An affair with Gareth Ramsey would be perilous.

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

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

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

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

“A challenge, Jane? I accept.”

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

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

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

By: Vivienne Lorret

Releasing April 21, 2015

Avon Impulse

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter |Goodreads

 

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

By: Lorraine Heath

Releasing April 29, 2015

Avon

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

EXCERPT:

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

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

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

“And you judge me to be seasoned?”

“You intrigue me, Rosalind.”

“You’re taking liberties with your informality.”

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

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

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

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

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

“But it could be enjoyable.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“One must possess a key.”

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

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21. Meet Phryne Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will probably not continue on with the series.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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

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

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

By: Sophie Barnes

Releasing April 28, 2015

Avon

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Author Info

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

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Excerpt

In another carriage on the way to Thorncliff Manor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Perfectly, my lord.”

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

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

 

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

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

Love in the Time of Scandal
Scandalous # 3

By: Caroline Linden

Releasing May 26, 2015

Avon

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Info

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

EXCERPT:

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

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

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

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

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

“Olivia!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Allegra Jordan] A generative, generous listener.

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

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

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

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

A card from my husband.

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

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

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

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

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

 

End of Innocence

By Allegra Jordan

Sourcebooks Landmark

Historical Fiction

May 1, 2015

ISBN: 9781492609933

$14.99 Trade Paperback

About the Book

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

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

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

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

Purchase Here:

END OF INNOCENCE

Amazon | B&N | BAM | IndieBound

About the Author

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

Connect with Allegra Jordan

Website – http://allegrajordan.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/allegrajordan1

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

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

Praise for End of Innocence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from END OF INNOCENCE

Harvard Yard

Wednesday, August 26, 1914

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Brandl!” Copeland was standing over him.

“Sir?”

“Don’t be a toad. Pay attention.”

“Yes, sir.”

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

Thomas snickered. “German rat.”

Wils cast a cold stare back.

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Faust?”

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

“Mine?” asked Wils.

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

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

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

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

“Steiger was found dead in his room.”

“Fever?”

“Noose.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Debts? “No.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I hope Arnold goes to jail.”

“Arnold may not have been involved.”

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

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

“America’s not at war.”

The professor didn’t respond.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you speaking of Boston City Hall?”

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

“He may not be guilty.”

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

“That’s most uncharitable!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“For the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain-”

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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25. Spotlight and Giveaway: Passionately Yours by Cara Elliott

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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About the author:

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


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Excerpt:

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

“We’re speaking now,” he pointed out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?”

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

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

Alec’s scowl became more pronounced.

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

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

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

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

“And scrupulously polite,” she added.

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

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

He now looked utterly nonplussed.

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

The growls ceased.

Caro waited for him to speak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There, I have no doubt shocked you.”

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

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

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

Was that finally a hint of smile?

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

But Alec suddenly shifted again, blocking her way.

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

She opened her mouth. To protest?

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

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