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1. 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.

Rafflecopter Giveaway (a Digital bundle including: Winning Miss Wakefield, Daring Miss Danvers, and Finding Miss MacFarland)

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2. The Game of Love and Death: Review

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

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

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3. Review: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

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

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

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

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

Grade:  B+ / A-

Review copy borrowed from my local library

From Amazon:

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

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

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

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

My thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Four Nights with the Duke
Desperate Duchesses # 8

By: Eloisa James

Releasing March 31st, 2015

Avon

Blurb

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

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

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

Which Mia will never do.

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

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

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

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


Buy Links
Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info

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

Author Links Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

 

Excerpt

Prologue

Spring, 1787

~ A Music Recital ~

The Duke of Villiers’s townhouse

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

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

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

The remaining circles of hell? All six?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What a Lady Requires
The Eton Boys Trilogy # 3

By: Ashlyn Macnamara

Releasing March 31st, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 Rafflecopter Giveaway ($25.00 eGift Card to Choice Book Seller, Loveswept Mug and Nail Polish)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About A HOPE REMEMBERED:

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

As the war ends, love begins . . .

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


About Stacy Henrie:

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

Stacy’s SM:

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

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

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

www.stacyhenrie.com

@StacyHenrie

Buy Links:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1GQCqtm

BAM – http://bit.ly/1Cn3vVc

B&N – http://bit.ly/1xvDW4z

IndieBound – http://bit.ly/1Hy9JBC

GooglePlay – http://bit.ly/1CVLvnc

iTunes – http://apple.co/1y1C8Lf

Kobo – http://bit.ly/1BhSsc6

Excerpt:

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

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

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

Nora pinned him with a piercing look.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not since before Tom left.

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

Forgive me, Tom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. a good outline

2. detailed character sketches

3. exhaustively researched historical backgrounds

4. detailed setting notes

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

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

About DEVIL’S MOON:

A WARRIOR’S PROMISE

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

A LADY’S SECRET

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


About Amanda Scott:

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


Amanda’s SM:

http://www.amandascottauthor.com

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

Buy Links:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/19MSGkI

BAM – http://bit.ly/1ENtCnX

B&N – http://bit.ly/1zGCZXm

IndieBound – http://bit.ly/1wJa8Kq

GooglePlay – http://bit.ly/1Df9nh1

iTunes – http://apple.co/19MSNNr

Kobo – http://bit.ly/1bqndWe

Excerpt:

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

“What is it, Robby? Art sad again?”

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

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

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

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

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

Rab, however, remained as silent as his grave.

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

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

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

He shook his head and bit his lower lip.

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

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

“Just what were you thinking?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 distractions while working on a deadline by Paula Quinn

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

1. Shopping

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

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

4. Journaling—I love to write!

5. Reading

About THE SCANDALOUS SECRET OF ABIGAIL MACGREGOR:

A LADY’S MISSION . . . 

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

A WARRIOR’S TEMPTATION

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


About Paula Quinn:

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


Paula’s SM:

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

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

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

http://www.paulaquinn.com/

@Paula_Quinn

Buy Links:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1IrFQEb

BAM – http://bit.ly/1FTJxCB

B&N – http://bit.ly/1u6Wkgl

IndieBound – http://bit.ly/1sFMkb3

GooglePlay – http://bit.ly/1CnmAXk

iTunes – http://apple.co/1AHmJGd

Kobo – http://bit.ly/1FBNoWy

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

Hell. Anne didn’t devise schemes.

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

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

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

Close to his heart.

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

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

“No, lady.”

“Are ye betrothed?”

“I am not.”

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

“No.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Top Five Female Spies by Sharon Cullen

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

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

Here are five of the more interesting ones:

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

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

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

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

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

Sebastian’s Lady Spy
Secrets & Seduction # 5

By: Sharon Cullen

Releasing March 31st, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

 

Author Info

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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10. The Case of the Missing Moonstone: Review Haiku

Super-charming
revisionist history
featuring kickass girls.

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

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11. Guest Post and Giveaway: Maeve Greyson, Author of My Highland Lover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Highland Lover
Highland Hearts # 1

By: Maeve Greyson

Releasing March 24th, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

 

Author Info

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

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

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The post Guest Post and Giveaway: Maeve Greyson, Author of My Highland Lover appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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12. Under a Painted Sky: Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John: Precisely.

Title: Married to a Perfect Stranger

Author: Jane Ashford

Publication Date: March 3rd, 2015

ISBN: 9781492601906

Time and distance have changed them both…

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

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

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

Excerpt

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

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

“Yes, si…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Links:

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14. Spirit Circle Manga Review

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

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

A Touch of Passion
The Disgraced Lords # 3

By: Bronwen Evans

Releasing March 24th, 2015

Loveswept

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info

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

Author Links Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

EXCERPT

Cyprians’ Ball, London, 1813

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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16. The Accidental Empress (2015)

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

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

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

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

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

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17. Nest and Nightbird: Audiobook Reviews

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

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18. The Midwife of Hope River (2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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19. Review: Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I don’t read many inspirational romances, but I stumbled upon Karen Witemeyer a while back, and I really enjoyed her writing.  When I saw Head in the Clouds at the library, I thought it sounded cute, so I checked it out.  I could relate to Adelaide, a young woman looking for her very own hero.  Charmed by Jane Eyre and other novels, she longs for a man to protect her and take care of her.  What she finds is even better; she discovers the love of her life, but she also finds the strength to protect and care for herself and her loved ones.

Adelaide has fallen in love with the idea of being in love, so she quits her teaching job and follows her destiny to Fort Worth.  Only once she arrives, she discovers that the man she’s been pining for is married and has a family.  Humiliated and angry with herself for allowing her impulsive nature to leave her without a job or a place to live, she answers an advertisement in the newspaper to be the governess to a sheep rancher’s daughter. Before she can blink, she’s headed to central Texas with two other applicants, to meet both Gideon, the sheep rancher, and his daughter, Isabella.  Talk about a stressful job interview!  It took two days of hard travel to reach her destination, and then she had to vie against two women with more experience and better teaching credentials than she possessed!

After charming Isabella and the rest of the rest of the household, she scores the job.  Now she learns that Isabella hasn’t spoken a word in months, and she’s mourning the death of her mother.  Adelaide is determined to help Isabella out of the shell she’s surrounded herself in, and help her find joy and laugher once again.  Adelaide’s teaching methods, which utilized role-playing and creative play, were fun to read about.  I loved the teacher – student interactions.  Isabella has had an unhappy time, and she’s having a hard time being a kid.  Adelaide slowly and patiently draws her out of her shell, much to Gideon’s delight.

The romance is very sweet, and the biggest hurdle they must overcome is class difference.  Gideon is British, the son of a baron, and he thinks he has to marry someone refined and elegant, two things that Adelaide is not.  Adelaide was raised on a cattle ranch, and she can ride and shoot as well as any man.  Gideon thinks his parents won’t approve of her, so he firmly resists his attraction to her.  Until danger threatens both Isabella and Adelaide, and then he realizes that life is too short to worry about what other people expect of him.

There’s a lot of action in Head in the Clouds, and Adelaide proves her worth in difficult situations.  I liked that she didn’t wait for someone to save her or Isabella, but instead made her own opportunities to save herself.  She’s brave, fiercely protective, and intelligent – how can you not like a heroine with traits like those?

There is a lot of religion in the book, but it didn’t seem intrusive or out of  place because of the setting.  If this had been a contemporary, it probably wouldn’t have worked for me, but I expect that with the harsh surroundings and difficulties involved in ranching in the 1800s, that faith would have a large place in both Gideon and Adelaide’s lives.  I am not a particularly religious person, but the prayers and requests for guidance didn’t bother me, but I will mention it in case that’s not your cup of tea. 

I haven’t read many inspirationals, but I liked Head in the Clouds so much that I want to rush out and try other authors in the genre.  If you read them, do you have any recommendations for me?

Grade:  B

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

Adelaide Proctor is a young woman with her head in the clouds, longing for a real-life storybook hero to claim as her own. But when a husband-hunting debacle leaves her humiliated, she interviews for a staid governess position on a central Texas sheep ranch and vows to leave her romantic yearnings behind.

When Gideon Westcott left his privileged life in England to make a name for himself in America’s wool industry, he never expected to become a father overnight. And five-year-old Isabella hasn’t uttered a word since she lost her mother. The unconventionality of the new governess concerns Gideon–and intrigues him at the same time. But he can’t afford distractions. He has a ranch to run, a shearing to oversee, and a suspicious fence-cutting to investigate.

When Isabella’s uncle comes to claim the child–and her inheritance–Gideon and Adelaide must work together to protect Isabella from the man’s evil schemes. And soon neither can deny their growing attraction. But after so many heartbreaks, will Adelaide be willing to get her head out of the clouds and put her heart on the line?

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20. The Harlem Hellfighters: Review Haiku

A story of wartime
bravery, tainted by
shameful racism.

The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks. Broadway Books, 2014, 272 pages.

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21. Guest Post and Giveaway: Vicky Dreiling, Author of What A Devilish Duke Desires

This morning Vicky Dreiling stopped by with a Top 5 list.  There’s also an excerpt from What A Devilish Duke Desires for you to enjoy, and a giveaway for you to enter. 

Top 5 complaints from Harry’s household staff about their employer by Vicky Dreiling

1.     The dog fur on the furniture

2.     The lumpy sofa

3.     The erotic literature in his bedsheets

4.     The stench of cheroots when his friends visit

5.     The piles of papers scattered all over his desk.

 

WHAT A DEVILISH DUKE DESIRES by Vicky Dreiling (February 24, 2015; Forever Mass Market; $8.00)

WILL A FEW FLIRTATIOUS STEPS
Harry Norcliffe never wanted to inherit his beloved uncle’s title. The rigidity of the ton, the incessant reminders from his marriage-minded mama that he must settle down with a highborn lady and produce an heir and a spare: it’s all such a dreadful bore. So when his mother asks him to take part in a dancing competition, he patently refuses. The last thing he needs is another chore . . . until a beautiful, brilliant, delightfully tempting maid makes him rethink his position.

LEAD TO A SCANDALOUS SEDUCTION?
Most women would be over the moon to be pursued by a wickedly handsome-not to mention wealthy-duke like Norcliffe. But Lucy will not be any man’s trophy. She could use a friend, though, and what begins innocently soon ignites into desire. As Lucy tries to resist Harry’s scorching kisses, he makes an utterly irresistible offer. Enter the dance contest with him, and win a prize that could change her life forever . . . if falling in love doesn’t change it first.

Buy Links:

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About the author:

Vicky Dreiling is a confirmed historical romance junkie and Anglophile. Frequent business trips to the United Kingdom allowed her to indulge her passion for all things Regency England. Bath, Stonehenge, and Spencer House are among her favorite places. She is, however, truly sorry for accidentally setting off a security alarm in Windsor Castle. That unfortunate incident led her British colleagues to nickname her Trouble. When she’s not writing, Vicky enjoys reading, films, concerts, and, most of all, long lunches with friends. A native Texan, she holds degrees in English literature and marketing. 

Social Media Links:

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Excerpt:

Lucy stood behind the table dressed in an apron. A cap covered all but one wisp of her red hair. She handed a glass of lemonade to a matron. When the lady walked away, Lucy lifted up on her toes. Evidently, she was watching the dancers.

He strolled over to her table. “Lucy?”

Her green eyes widened. “What are you doing here?” she said under her breath. A blush stole over her cheeks. “Sorry, that was foolish.”

“No, it wasn’t. I escorted my mother and cousins . . . I didn’t expect to see you here.”

She wouldn’t be here if she didn’t need the coin, but she couldn’t be earning more than a pittance.

“You are working?” he said. Brilliant, you just sounded like a complete idiot.

“Yes, isn’t it obvious?”

He smiled. “Well, yes. You are well?”

“I am,” she said. “And you?”

“A few minutes ago, I would have said tolerably well, but then I saw you and brightened considerably.”

“Flirting again, Your Grace?”

“Who me?” he said, putting his hand to his heart.

She looked over her shoulder and returned her gaze to him. “You had better go.”

He looked behind her.

“What are you about?” she said.

He grinned. “One of your curls escaped the cap.” She attempted to tuck it in.

“Don’t,” he said. “It’s rather fetching.”

“Please go. I cannot afford trouble.”

“No one is paying attention to us. May I have a glass of lemonade?”

“Of course.” She poured and handed the glass to him. He took a sip and puckered his mouth. “It’s terrible, but I should have expected it. Almack’s is well known for its lackluster refreshments.”

“One would think the ton would serve decent food and drink.”

“Believe me, no one comes here for the refreshments,” he said.

“Except you?” she said in a teasing tone.

He laughed. “I saw you watching the dancers. I wish you could dance with me.”

“I’m working.” She glanced over her shoulder again. “You had better leave before someone notices you’re talking to me.”

He glanced out at the crowd. “No one is paying the least bit of attention. Everyone is focused on the dancers.”

“Why aren’t you dancing?” she said.

“I would if you were free.”

“If you wish to flirt, I advise you to choose a lady of leisure. I must work.”

“I wish I could dance the rest of the night with you. I can’t, so I won’t dance at all.”

She shook her head. “I’m not the reason you’re avoiding dancing,” she said. “I know the patronesses changed the rules.”

“Yes, and I narrowly escaped dancing all night with a young lady out in her first season. I felt sorry for her. She couldn’t be a day over seventeen, making her much too young for the likes of me.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Aren’t you expected to dance?”

“I don’t care about expectations.”

She met his gaze straight on. “I wager your family does. I know courtships take place primarily on the dance floor.”

“When I decide to court a lady, I will choose the time and place. I make my own decisions, and I answer to no one,” he said.

She arched her brows. “Perhaps a higher power?”

He smiled. “Or a lower one.”

Her mouth twitched in a slight smile. “Does that make you a devilish duke?”

His shoulders shook with mirth. “Clever.”

A rotund maid walked out. “Lucy, give the gentleman a glass of lemonade and be done with it.”

Lucy winced and poured a glass. “Yes, Mrs. Thompson. I’m sorry.”

“It’s not me you owe an apology.” Mrs. Thompson regarded him. “She’s new, but that’s no excuse.”

He’d made trouble for Lucy, and he’d better undo the damage. “Mrs. Thompson, I beg your pardon.” Harry gave her his best flirtatious smile. “The lady did try to discourage me. I take all the blame. Do forgive me.”

Mrs. Thompson’s eyes grew as round as carriage wheels and her face turned pink. “Imagine me forgivin’ you. Carry on, Miss Longmore,” she said, and walked off.

Afterward, Lucy leaned toward him. “Please go now. I can’t risk losing my job.”

The devil. He shouldn’t have teased Lucy. Her words worried him, because she couldn’t be earning much. That only made him wonder how she was managing.

He wandered past the other tables, stopping occasionally to watch her. She and her grandmother lived in a rough neighborhood. That fact only increased his curiosity and his concern. Most likely, she held more than one job, because she couldn’t possibly survive on whatever pittance she earned serving lemonade.

When she caught him eyeing her, she averted her gaze. A lady approached, and Lucy served her a glass of lemonade. Afterward, Lucy looked out at the crowd as if determined to avoid him.

Once again, he was struck by the contradiction of her. He told himself to walk away and forget her, but he couldn’t. She was a riddle, one that he itched to solve, but that was not all. In truth, that one kiss had only made him want more. He wanted to pull her up to her toes and kiss her senseless. He wanted to hold her in his arms. He wanted her to surrender everything to him, but he mustn’t rush her. That one kiss had assured him she was an innocent.

The orchestra ended the tune with a flourish. The master of ceremonies called for silence. The guests moved closer en mass toward the dais where the patronesses sat.

Three ladies inside the refreshment room hurried out to join the throng. Harry consulted his watch. It was half past eleven. He turned around. Lucy was alone.

When he strode toward her, she eyed him warily. He set the half-finished glass of lemonade on the table and leaned closer to her.

“I want to see you again. Meet me at Green Park tomorrow.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to know more about you.”

She shook her head. “I do not think it is a good idea.”

“Who will know but us?” he said.

She narrowed her eyes. “What if one of your friends saw me with you? I can well imagine what they would think of me.”

“They’ll be at Rotten Row during the fashionable hour. No need to worry.”

A roar went up within the ballroom, followed by thunderous clapping. Harry turned around and saw his eldest cousin Mina and Lord Everleigh standing on the dais. “I had better go.”

“Yes, go, and please do not jeopardize my job again.”

He grinned. “I will see you tomorrow.”

“You’re awfully confident, but you are bound for disappointment.”

He looked at her over his shoulder, winked, and walked into the ballroom.

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22. Spotlight and Giveaway: Diary of an Accidental Wallflower by Jennifer McQuiston

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for Diary of an Accidental Wallflower by Jennifer McQuiston.  Check it out!

Diary of an Accidental Wallflower
Seduction Diaries # 1

By: Jennifer McQuiston

Releasing February 24th, 2015

Avon

Blurb
Pretty and popular, Miss Clare Westmore knows exactly what (or rather, who) she wants: the next Duke of Harrington. But when she twists her ankle on the eve of the Season’s most touted event, Clare is left standing in the wallflower line watching her best friend dance away with her duke.


Dr. Daniel Merial is tempted to deliver more than a diagnosis to London’s most unlikely wallflower, but he doesn’t have time for distractions, even one so delectable. Besides, she’s clearly got her sights on more promising prey. So why can’t he stop thinking about her?
All Clare wants to do is return to the dance floor. But as her former friends try to knock her permanently out of place, she realizes with horror she is falling for her doctor instead her duke. When her ankle finally heals and she faces her old life again, will she throw herself back into the game?
Or will her time in the wallflower line have given her a glimpse of who she was really meant to be?

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2015/01/diary-of-accidental-wallflower.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22401001-diary-of-an-accidental-wallflower?from_search=true

Goodreads Series Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/129823-seduction-diaries

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

 

Author Info

A veterinarian and infectious disease researcher by training, Jennifer McQuiston has always preferred reading romance to scientific textbooks. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, their two girls, and an odd assortment of pets, including the pony she promised her children if mommy ever got a book deal. Jennifer can be reached via her website at www.jenmcquiston.com or followed on Twitter @jenmcqwrites

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Excerpt

DIARY ENTRY #3:

May 16th, 1848

Dear Diary,

I cannot believe I ever thought Daniel Dr. Merial a gentleman.

Geoffrey and Lucy were sorely put out to have missed him, although I confess, I could not find the courage to tell them why he left so quickly, or that he would not be returning. But what else was I to have done? I have entrusted my brother’s moral character to the care of a scoundrel, and heaven only knows how much damage has been done. The gall of the man is endless, lecturing me on what makes a proper marriage and then kissing me in so barbaric a fashion. It was an unconscionable breach of trust.

And worse, it is a scene I cannot stop replaying in my mind.

Try as I might, I cannot imagine suffering such a disturbing kiss from Mr. Alban.

Which, of course, only proves why he is the right choice.

–Clare

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23. Gaijin: Review Haiku

A different story
of internment, with
complicated characters.

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner. Disney, 2014, 144 pages.

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24. Bo at Iditarod Creek: Review Haiku

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Title: Wicked, My Love

Author: Susanna Ives

Series: Wicked Little Secrets

Publication Date: March 3rd, 2015

ISBN: 9781402283604

A smooth-talking rogue and a dowdy financial genius

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

Make a perfectly wicked combination

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

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

Buy Links:

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Indiebound

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An Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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