New Release and Giveaway! THE MISTRESS ENCHANTS HER MARQUIS by Christina McKnight (Craven House #2)

Title: The Mistress Enchants Her Marquis 
Series: Craven House (Book Two)
Author: Christina McKnight
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency
Release Date: February 21, 2017

 

COURTSHIP WAS NEVER SO SCANDALOUS

The grandson of an unconventional marquis and son of a notorious woman, Elijah Watson, Marquis of Ridgefeld, has spent most of his life outside of London. His atypical upbringing has left him longing for roots and a traditional family life, and he’s determined to live his life above reproach. When he meets Miss Samantha Pengarden, he believes he’s found the woman he wants to marry—except she has other far more sensual ideas for him.

Known throughout the ton as the illegitimate rebellious daughter of London’s disreputable Craven House Madame, Samantha has never had to face the world without her shy twin by her side—until now. Her sister’s marriage and the return of her blackguard father leaves her alone and adrift. When Elijah agrees to escort her to the town’s most infamous establishments, she thinks she’s finally found a man with a taste for scandal and a knowledge of matters of the flesh.

But she never counted on Elijah being so honorable. When Samantha is listed as the mistress of the Marquis of Ridgefeld in White’s betting book, her reputation is in ruins—and only Elijah can save her. Can two total opposites come together for a love certain to last a lifetime?

Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

 

Haven’t started the series yet?
The Thief Steals Her Earl (Craven House Book One) is on sale for just 99cents!

Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

 

Author Bio:  

Christina McKnight is a book lover turned writer. From a young age, her mother encouraged her to tell her own stories. She’s been writing ever since.

Christina enjoys a quiet life in Northern California with her family, her wine, and lots of coffee. Oh, and her books…don’t forget her books! Most days she can be found writing, reading, or traveling the great state of California.

 

You can visit her online at the following places: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

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Feb 20th
I Love Romance – Review
The Silver Dagger Scriptorium – Spotlight
Life, Books, & Loves – Spotlight
What Is That Book About – Spotlight
Caitlyn Lynch, Author – Review
Jen’s Reading Obsession – Spotlight
It’s All About the Romance – Spotlight
Sour Puss Reviews – Spotlight
Books, Dreams, Life – Spotlight

Feb 21st
Lisa’s Loves (Books of Course) – Spotlight
Bitten by Romance – Spotlight
Making It Happen – Spotlight
Rainne’s Ramblings – Spotlight

Feb 22nd
Barbara’s Book Blog – Spotlight
Home of A.L. Kessler – Spotlight
Yah Gotta Read This – Spotlight
Reese’s Reviews – Spotlight
OMG Reads – Spotlight

Feb 23rd
WTF Are You Reading? – Review
The Avid Reader – Spotlight
Warrior Woman Winmill – Review
Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm – Spotlight
Celticlady’s Reviews – Spotlight
Reading Between the Wines Book Club – Guest Post
Romance Reviews Today – Spotlight
Becky on Books – Spotlight

Feb 24th
The Sassy Book Lover – Interview
Twinsie Talk – Review
Sportochick’s Musings – Review
Kimmie Sue’s Book Review – Review
The Romantic Fanatic – Spotlight
Rising Indies United – Spotlight

 

New Release and Giveaway! DISTRACTING THE DUKE by Elizabeth Keyslan


Distracting the Duke
by Elizabeth Keysian
Publication Date: February 20, 2017
Genres: Adult, Entangled: Select, Historical Romance

SYNOPSIS:

Devonshire, England, 1820

Determined to avoid the strife-filled marriage of his parents, Marcus, the Duke of Ulvercombe, wants an amenable, biddable wife, and has set his cap for a certain pretty miss. Unfortunately, her vastly opinionated, frustrating, and lamentably beautiful guardian, Lady Clara Tinniswood, keeps distracting him, tempting him to consider a far more tempestuous—and passionate—union.

Recently widowed Lady Clara Tinniswood wants only to organize a quiet new life for herself, beyond the control of any man. But one shockingly unguarded moment while confronted by Marcus’s gloriously naked body catapults her headlong into a forbidden passion and threatens to undermine all her well-laid plans.

Even if Marcus abandons his sweet ideal and surrenders to his growing desire for Clara, there’s one unalterable issue which could destroy their hopes forever…

Excerpt:

Clara crept softly across the carpet of pine needles until she came to where a rivulet split the dunes on its way down to the sea, and halted. She caught sight of Ulvercombe standing at the water’s edge with his back to her, hands on his hips.

She stepped aside swiftly, her heart beating hard. She would have to hide behind one of the dunes to avoid being seen, if he should turn round. Fortunately, the tide was still some way out and he was thus a considerable distance away, giving her time to make her escape if he spotted her.

Plucking off the old shawl she was wearing, she spread it over the grass-matted dune, then lay down on her stomach so only her head—with the telescope pressed to her eye—might be seen. Hopefully, with the waving sea grasses fanning across in front of her, she was well-hidden from any casual observer.

Eventually, she managed to locate Ulvercombe with the glass, and when she did her mouth dropped open in shock. In the time she’d taken to settle herself, he’d stripped off boots, stockings, jacket, and breeches, and now stood in nothing but his shirt, looking out to sea.

Clearly, the man had every expectation of being alone, and had no idea he was being covertly observed. It was early in the morning, it was his beach, his pine forest, his sand. She should back away and return to the house as quickly as possible.

A small attempt to move was made, but then he pulled his shirt over his head and she was transfixed.

The muscles rippled across his shoulders and she recalled, far too quickly, the feel of that hot body pressed against hers.

“Drat it!” The glass lens against her face had misted.

Crossly, she rubbed it with a corner of her shawl, and scanned the beach again until she found the duke.

The completely naked duke.

Her breath hitched in her throat. “Sweet Lord in heaven…”

It was not the splendid symmetry of his body, nor the very pleasing curve of his buttocks, nor even the straightness and supple power of his legs that had elicited her exclamation of shock.

It was the scars.

She hadn’t seen the backs of his thighs when he’d disrobed that day in his bedchamber. Now she could see them very clearly, and she could also see a complex pattern of pale, crisscross lines etched across the skin. They were scars, surely?

Had he received them in battle or in some horrible accident? Had he been taken prisoner and tortured by the French? Maybe he’d been involved in a fire and something hot had branded him thus.

The chance to observe the marks more closely was abruptly removed as the duke, who had been walking straight out into the waves, suddenly dove in with a splash and began swimming out to sea with deft, powerful strokes.

She shuddered. The water must be absolutely freezing. How could he stand it?

“Good morning, Lady Tinniswood. A very fine one, is it not?”

 

ABOUT ELIZABETH KEYSIAN

Elizabeth Keysian felt destined to write historical romance due to her Cornish descent, and an ancestral connection to the Norse god Odin. Being an only child gave her plenty of time to read, create imaginary worlds, produce her own comics, and write sketches and a deplorably bad musical for an amateur dramatics group.

Three decades spent working in museums and archaeology fired Elizabeth’s urge to write, as did living on a Knights Templar estate, with a garage full of skeletons, a resident ghost and a moat teeming with newts.

Elizabeth lives near Bath in England with her partner and cats.

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Grand Finale Blitz and Giveaway! THE OUTLAW’S SECRET by Stacy Henrie


On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

Book Tour Grand Finale for
The Outlaw’s Secret
By Stacy Henrie

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops, go back and check them out…

Launch – Note from the Author

I’m so excited to introduce readers to the Becketts brothers—one a lawman, the other an outlaw—in my next two books releasing from Love Inspired Historical. In THE OUTLAW’S SECRET, you’ll meet Tate Beckett, a Pinkerton detective posing as his outlaw twin brother Tex. You’ll also meet Essie Vanderfair, a dime novelist in need of a great story. And she hopes to find it when she begs to go along with the gang of train robbers that Tate has infiltrated. These opposites-attract characters were so much fun to write as were the outlaws Essie meets and interviews.

Bookworm Lisa – Review

“There were several instances that brought a smile to my face and I wanted how to know they were going to get out of the mess they were in. This is a fun book that is set in the “Old West”. There are outlaws, lawmen, and a feisty heroine.”

Rockin’ Book Reviews – Review & Interview

“This was a fun book. The characters were likable and flawed just enough.”

Q: What other genre, one day, would you like to write? Why or why not?

A: Though I’ve tried my hand at writing contemporary, I enjoy writing historicals much more. I’ve also dabbled with the idea of writing historical women’s fiction, but I love a good love story so I don’t know that I could pull off writing something without having a romance at its heart.

Katie’s Clean Book Collection – Review

“I love a romance that makes me swoon and this one does just that. Not only are the romance and characters well done, the setting is fantastic too. I felt myself transported back to the late 1800s and loved being a part of that time–when I wasn’t shivering in my boots with fear. I also really enjoyed Essie’s writing moments, which are often thoughts–she’s an interesting character with a vivid imagination and has me engrossed in her ideas. I’m definitely looking forward to what this author writes next!”

Hearts & Scribbles – Meet Tate and Essie

Born and raised in Idaho, Tate Beckett is an identical twin. But his brown hair and blue eyes are about the only thing he shares with his brother Tex. Tate’s brother is the infamous outlaw known as the Texas Titan and Tate feels duty-bound to atone for his brother’s crimes by tracking down other outlaws in his job as a Pinkerton detective agent…

Reading Is My SuperPower – Review

“The Outlaw’s Secret has it all – action, adventure, romance, humor, faith and depth. It will make you smile and it will twist your heart too. It will make you hold your breath – for the kisses and again for the nail-biting action. Essie is such a fun heroine, and Tate is most definitely swoonworthy. Another fun and sweet novel by Stacy Henrie that I highly recommend!”

I Am A Reader – Undisguised: the Pinkerton National Detective Agency

While operatives were required to abide by a code of ethics—including things like not accepting reward money and working with local law enforcement—Allen Pinkerton was a staunch believer in the end justifying the means. That meant that sometimes in order for an operative to track down a criminal, the detective might have to “become” a criminal in a sense—just as Tate does by posing as his outlaw twin brother in order do to bring down the Fletcher gang.

The Power of Words – Review

“There’s nothing typical about Stacy Henrie’s newest release and she has become one of my favorite writers in the Love Inspired line. The Outlaw’s Secret has it all – character depth, humor, romance, suspense, and rich historical detail. It’s well written, entertaining, and refreshingly unusual in storyline.”

Seasons of Humility – Review

“On the romance side, it’s fun to watch Tate/Tex and Essie dance around each other, both mistrusting in turn and each fiercely determined to follow their own goals. Their journey includes moments of danger, threats to budding feelings, and a few twists.”

Kathleen Denly – Interview

Q: As an author, I often get asked how much of myself I put into my characters. So I’m curious, if you were on that train instead of Essie, how would you handle the situation?

A: I would’ve been terrified! And unlike Essie, I would have chosen to stay seated and silent and hopefully unseen.

Getting Your Read On – Review

“This was such a fun adventure. The story started off with a bang and took off from there. I settled right in and enjoyed the ride!”

Wishful Endings – Excerpt

Tate Beckett’s jaw was clenched so tight he thought it might snap. Of all the rotten misfortune. He had to run into a nosy, busybody like Miss Essie Vanderfair on his first job with Fletcher’s gang. If he wasn’t careful, this woman, with all her probing questions, would figure out he wasn’t the Texas Titan after all. Then his covert work, posing as his outlaw twin brother, would be finished.

Mel’s Shelves – Review

“Once I started reading this book, I settled in and didn’t want to put it down. It moves at a fast pace and there was never a dull moment. I enjoyed it from beginning to end and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good, clean western romance!”

Falling Leaves – Excerpt

Fletcher’s mouth curled up in a sneer. “Try me, Tex.” He lifted his hands in a mock gesture of innocence. “But now your life is tied with hers.” He walked away, adding over his shoulder, “I think you’re smart enough to figure out what that means.”

Singing Librarian Books – Review

“Stacie Henry has masterfully written a story that readers will be enthralled with from page one until the very end. This is a fairly quick and easy read that will inspire the romance in all of us! Henry has a distinct way of writing that will draw readers in as they leave the world of reality behind and enter the enjoyable and entertaining world of the Wild West.”

Colorimetry – Excerpt

Sure enough she spotted the impression of horse hooves in the dirt and a partially trampled sagebrush farther on. If she kept heading in that same direction, she would eventually stumble into the trio.

She bent forward over the horse and coaxed it to go faster. There were interviews to conduct. And no one, not even a handsome, sly, back-stabbing Texan, was going to stop her.

Zerina Blossom’s Books – Interview

Q: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans or readers?

A: Thanks for your support! I’m excited to share Tate and Essie’s story with you. If you read it and enjoy it, then look for Tex’s story in July, when you’ll find out where the Texas Titan was while Tate was impersonating him to take down Fletcher’s gang.

Tell Tale Book Reviews – Review

“The Outlaw’s Secret delivers humor, romance, faith, and some wonderfully exciting moments where death is only a step away from both hero and heroine. . . . Fans of Stacy Henrie and of western historicals will surely not be disappointed in the thrilling pages. . .”

Heidi Reads… – Review

“I was glued to the pages to find out when Essie would discover Tate’s secret, when they would give in to the chemistry building between them, and if the real Tex would make an appearance. Another great western from Stacy Henrie with suspense, action, and romance!”

The Silver Dagger Scriptorium – Excerpt

Her heart beat faster as she opened her mouth and said, “Call me Essie. It’s only fair.”

A low chuckle sounded in her ears. “Try to get some sleep, Essie. We’ve got another long ride tomorrow.”

Smiling in triumph, she closed her eyes, but it was still some time later before she could turn her thoughts from the silent figure guarding the camp. And from the memory of her name on those nice, masculine lips.

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below, if you haven’t already…

The Outlaw’s Secret
by Stacy Henrie
Christian Historical Romance
Paperback & ebook, 288 pages
February 7th 2017 by Love Inspired Historical

Lawman in Disguise

Getting taken hostage by a gang of train robbers wasn’t in dime novelist Essie Vanderfair’s plans, but interviewing these men could make her career soar. Especially since the gang includes legendary outlaw Tex Beckett, better known as the Texas Titan. Tex is famed for his protection of women and children, so she’ll be fine…right?

Keeping the gang in line was hard enough before a stubborn, beautiful writer interfered. Now Tex is scrambling to keep Essie safe, to gather evidence against the gang and most of all to hide his dangerous secrets. First, that he’s a detective working undercover. And second, that he’s not the Texas Titan at all, but Tex’s twin brother, Tate Beckett.

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleBook DepositoryHarlequin

Tour Schedule

February 2nd:
Bookworm Lisa, Rockin’ Book Reviews, Katie’s Clean Book Collection & Hearts & Scribbles
February 3rd:
Reading Is My SuperPower, I Am A Reader & The Power of Words
February 6th:
Seasons of Humility & Kathleen Denly
February 7th:
Getting Your Read On & Wishful Endings
February 8th:
Mel’s Shelves & Falling Leaves
February 9th:
Singing Librarian Books & Colorimetry
February 10th:
i blog 4 books & Zerina Blossom’s Books
February 12th:
Tell Tale Book Reviews
February 13th:
Heidi Reads… & The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
February 14th: Grand Finale

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Stacy Henrie is the author of western romances and the Of Love and War series, which includes Hope at Dawn, a 2015 RITA Award finalist for excellence in romance. She was born and raised in the West, where she currently resides with her family. She enjoys reading, road trips, interior decorating, chocolate, and most of all, laughing with her husband and kids. You can learn more about Stacy and her books by visiting her website at stacyhenrie.com.

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Tour Giveaway

– 1 winner will receive print copies of LADY OUTLAW and THE EXPRESS RIDER’S LADY + $10 Amazon Gift Card (US only)
– 1 winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card (open internationally)
– Ends February 18th

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New Release Review and Giveaway! THE DEVIL’S SUBMISSION by Nicola Davidson (The Fallen #2)


The Devil’s Submission
by Nicola Davidson
The Fallen #2
Publication Date: February 6, 2017
Genres: Adult, Entangled: Scorched, Erotic, Historical Romance, Standalone

 SYNOPSIS:

Disinherited by his parents and estranged from his wife, Fallen pleasure club co-owner Lord Grayson ‘Devil’ Deveraux long ago learned to place his trust in ledgers rather than people. But his ice-cold reserve hides the scandalous truth: he’s a man who craves pain with his pleasure, and a loving lady to instruct him.

Banished to the country when her whirlwind marriage collapsed, Lady Eliza Deveraux never knew why Grayson fell out of love with her: she’d tried so damned hard to quell her fiery self and be a proper, obedient wife. But when Eliza is forced to return to London and back into Grayson’s intoxicating world, banked passions reignite. Can a marriage built on secrets and pretense truly get a second chance?

Review:

Short, and….well, not all that sweet. Parts are sweet-ish, but other parts are far removed from that…which is very, very good in this instance. 😉

The Devil’s Submission is a second chance romance. Grayson (AKA Devil) and Eliza met and married fairly quickly, but almost as quickly things fell apart and when this novella begins they’re living separately. Miserably, and separately.

Insert Eliza’s self-absorbed witch of a mother (and, it turns out, about 90% of the reason why Eliza and Grayson aren’t currently together) and suddenly Eliza’s back in Grayson’s life. Could be good, right? Except for the fact that the two of them aren’t talking about why they’re apart or what they really want from each other and for themselves…

Normally the types of romantic conflict that can be resolved with a conversation or two drive me crazy. Here, though, it works pretty well. Grayson’s issues are ones that many guys today would have trouble talking about and admitting to, let alone two centuries ago, and it makes sense that Eliza wouldn’t even know such things exist without some outside education. What we end up with is a second chance romance story with just the right amounts of angst, longing, lust, and smexy times with two characters who manage to both figure out who they are and what they need and discover that their lives are infinitely better together. As Grayson puts it at the end,

That was all you needed really. The love of the right person, good friends, a place of your own, and acceptance of your true self.

Well, that and a very sturdy cane.

My first book in this series, but not my last! The Devil’s Submission worked fine as a standalone, but I absolutely want to see how Sin and Vice’s stories go as well.

Rating: 4 stars / A-

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

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ABOUT NICOLA DAVIDSON

NICOLA DAVIDSON worked for many years in communications and marketing as well as television and print journalism, but hasn’t looked back since she decided writing wicked historical romance was infinitely more fun. When not chained to a computer she can be found ambling along one of New Zealand’s beautiful beaches, cheering on the champion All Blacks rugby team, history geeking on the internet or daydreaming. If this includes chocolate – even better!

Keep up with Nicola’s news on Twitter (@NicolaMDavidson) Facebook (Nicola Davidson – Author) or her websitewww.nicola-davidson.com

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Profile

 

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A Note to Readers from Beverly Jenkins, Author of BREATHLESS (with a giveaway!)

Dear Readers,

This is the second book in the Rhine Trilogy and I do hope you enjoy it. With all the issues and heartache Portia carried inside, I knew it would be difficult for her to give her heart to someone, but Kent Randolph proved to be the man for the job, even if I didn’t know he would be her hero when the story began. Hope you’ll enjoy seeing Rhine and Eddy from Forbidden and, yes, they are still very much in love.

The Fontaine Hotel is loosely based on the Mountain View Hotel founded in Oracle, Arizona, in 1895 by Annie Box Neal and her husband William “Curly” Neal, who were both of African- American and Native-American descent. The Mountain View was a combination hotel and spa and catered not only to European royalty but to wealthy visitors from places like Russia, Australia, and China, too. Look them up.

The great Apache chief Geronimo surrendered on September 4, 1886, and was promptly declared a prisoner of war. He and his people eventually wound up in Florida along with the Apache scouts the army employed to hunt him down. He died at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1909. The Apache warrior Lozen, also captured in 1886, was sent to the barracks at Mount Vernon, Alabama, where she died of tuberculosis in 1887. Although her name has faded from America’s memory, her bravery and fearlessness remains legendary with her people.

I only touched briefly on African-American women and the fight for suffrage but hope to get back to it in depth sometime in the future. Until then, if you’d like to do some research on your own, here are two excellent sources:

African American Women and the Vote: 1837–1965 by Cynthia Neverdon-Morton, et al.

African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote: 1850–1920 by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn

Having the opportunity to create characters and stories that reflect my heritage as a woman of color is priceless. Representation matters.  Thanks again for the support and love. Thanks also for spreading the word about my books to everyone you know. It’s much appreciated.

Until next time, happy reading.

B.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

BEVERLY JENKINS has received numerous awards, including five Waldenbooks/Borders Group Best Sellers Awards, two Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times Magazine, and a Golden Pen Award from the Black Writer’s Guild. Ms Jenkins was named one of the Top Fifty Favorite African-American writers of the 20th Century by AABLC, the nation’s largest on-line African-American book club. She was recently nominated for the NAACP Image Award in Literature. To read more about Beverly, please visit her website at www.beverlyjenkins.net.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

As manager of one of the finest hotels in Arizona Territory, Portia Carmichael has respect and stability-qualities sorely missing from her harsh childhood. She refuses to jeopardize that by hitching herself to the wrong man. Suitors are plentiful, but none of them has ever looked quite as tempting as the family friend who just rode into town…and none have looked at her with such intensity and heat.

Duchess. That’s the nickname Kent Randolph gave Portia when she was a young girl. Now she’s a stunning, intelligent woman-and Kent has learned his share of hard lessons. After drifting through the West, he’s learned the value of a place to settle down, and in Portia’s arms he’s found that and more. But convincing her to trust him with her heart, not just her passion, will be the greatest challenge he’s known-and one he intends to win…

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New Release Review and Giveaway! THE LAWRENCE BROWNE AFFAIR by Cat Sebastian

 

Can they find forever in the wreckage of their lives? 
 
 
THE LAWRENCE BROWNE AFFAIR
Cat Sebastian
Releasing Feb 7th, 2017
Avon Impulse
An earl hiding from his future . . . 

Lawrence Browne, the Earl of Radnor, is mad. At least, that’s what he and most of the village believes. A brilliant scientist, he hides himself away in his family’s crumbling estate, unwilling to venture into the outside world. When an annoyingly handsome man arrives at Penkellis, claiming to be Lawrence’s new secretary, his carefully planned world is turned upside down.

A swindler haunted by his past . . . 

Georgie Turner has made his life pretending to be anyone but himself. A swindler and con man, he can slip into an identity faster than he can change clothes. But when his long-dead conscience resurrects and a dangerous associate is out for blood, Georgie escapes to the wilds of Cornwall. Pretending to be a secretary should be easy, but he doesn’t expect that the only madness he finds is the one he has for the gorgeous earl.

Can they find forever in the wreckage of their lives? 

Challenging each other at every turn, the two men soon give into the desire that threatens to overwhelm them. But with one man convinced he is at the very brink of madness and the other hiding his real identity, only true love can make this an affair to remember.

 

Cornwall, 1816

CHAPTER ONE

All this fuss about a couple of small explosions. As far as Lawrence cared, the explosions were entirely beside the point. He had finished experimenting with fuses weeks ago. More importantly, this was his house to burn to the ground if that’s what he wanted to do with it. Hell, if he blew the godforsaken place up, and himself right along with it, the only person who would even be surprised was the man sitting before him.

“Five servants quit,” Halliday said, tapping Lawrence’s desk in emphasis. Dust puffed up in tiny clouds around the vicar’s fingertips. “Five. And you were woefully understaffed even before then.”

Five fewer servants? So that was why the house had been so pleasantly quiet, why his work had been so blissfully undisturbed.

“There was no danger to the servants. You know I keep them away from my work.” That was something Lawrence insisted on even when he wasn’t exploding things. The very idea of chattering maids underfoot was enough to discompose his mind even further. “And I conducted most of the actual explosions out of doors.” Now was probably not the time to mention that he had blown the roof off the conservatory.

“All I’m suggesting is a sort of secretary.” Halliday was dangerously unaware of how close he was to witnessing an explosion of the metaphorical variety. “Somebody to keep records of what you’ve mixed together and whether it’s likely to”—he puffed his cheeks out and made a strange noise and an expansive gesture that Lawrence took to represent explosion—“ignite.”

The Reverend Arthur Halliday did not know what was good for him. If he did, he would have fled the room as soon as he saw Lawrence reach for the inkwell. Lawrence’s fingers closed around the object, preparing to hurl it at the wall behind the vicar’s head. Sod the man for even suggesting Lawrence didn’t know how to cause an explosion. He hadn’t invented Browne’s Improved Black Powder or even that bloody safety fuse through blind luck, for God’s sake.

“Besides,” Halliday went on, “you said you need an extra set of hands for this new device you’re working on.”

Oh, damn and blast. Lawrence knew he shouldn’t have told the vicar. But he had hoped Halliday might volunteer to help with the device himself, not badger Lawrence into hiring some stranger. The vicar was convenient enough, and when he wasn’t dead set on sticking his nose where it didn’t belong, he wasn’t entirely unpleasant company.

“I’ve had secretaries,” Lawrence said from between gritted teeth. “It ends badly.”

“Well, obviously, but that’s because you go out of your way to terrify them.” Halliday glanced pointedly at the inkwell Lawrence still held.

And there again was Halliday missing the point entirely. Lawrence didn’t need to go out of his way to frighten anyone. All he had to do was simply exist. Everyone with any sense kept a safe distance from the Mad Earl of Radnor, as surely as they stayed away from rabid dogs and coiled asps. And explosive devices, for that matter.

Except for the vicar, who came to Penkellis Castle three times a week. He likely also called on bedridden old ladies and visited the workhouse. Maybe his other charity cases were grateful, but the notion that he was the vicar’s good deed made Lawrence’s fingers curl grimly around the inkwell as he plotted its trajectory through the air.

“I’ll take care of the details,” Halliday was saying. “I’ll write the advertisement and handle the inquiries. A good secretary might even be able to manage the household a bit,” the vicar said with the air of a man warming to his topic, “get it into a fit condition for the child—”

“No.” Lawrence didn’t raise his voice, but he slammed his fist onto the desk, causing ink to splatter all over the blotter and the cuff of his already-inky shirt. A stack of papers slid from the desk onto the floor, leaving a single dustless patch of wood where they had been piled. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a spider scurry out from under the papers.

“True,” Halliday continued, undaunted. “A housekeeper would be more appropriate, but—”

“No.” Lawrence felt the already fraying edges of his composure unraveling fast. “Simon is not coming here.”

“You can’t keep him off forever, you know, now that he’s back in England. It’s his home, and he’ll own it one day.”

When Lawrence was safely dead and buried, Simon was welcome to come here and do what he pleased. “I don’t want him here.” Penkellis was no place for a child, madmen were not fit guardians, and nobody knew those facts better than Lawrence himself, who had been raised under precisely those conditions.

Halliday sighed. “Even so, Radnor, you have to do something about this.” He gestured around the room, which Lawrence thought looked much the same as ever. One hardly even noticed the scorch marks unless one knew where to look. “It can’t be safe to live in such a way.”

Safety was not a priority, but even Lawrence wasn’t mad enough to try to explain that to the vicar.

“Villagers won’t even walk past the garden wall anymore. And the stories they invent…” The vicar wrung his hands. “A secretary. Please. It would ease my mind to know you had someone up here with you.”

A keeper, then. Even worse.

But Lawrence did need another set of hands to work on the communication device. If Halliday wouldn’t help, then Lawrence had no other options. God knew Halliday had been right about the local people not wanting anything to do with him.

“Fine,” he conceded. “You write the advertisement and tell me when to expect the man.” He’d say what he needed to in order to end this tiresome conversation and send the vicar on his way.

It wasn’t as if this secretary would last more than a week or two anyway. Lawrence would see to that.

 I really enjoyed Ms. Sebastian’s first book set in this universe ( The Soldier’s Scoundrel ) and was so happy to see that Georgie (Jack’s brother) was going to get a book–I’m thrilled to say it did not disappoint! Somehow, it was an even better read than Jack and Oliver’s book–and that’s saying something 🙂

Once again Ms. Sebastian gives us two characters who are absolutely delicious together, who don’t at all intend to at the beginning but end up making life for the other one worlds better at the story’s end. Georgie, who grew up in deplorable conditions, has been a highly effective con man for his entire life, but it’s never really sat right with him and lately has been developing a conscience, which has him at odds with the crime boss he’s worked for since forever. Lawrence grew up with an unstable and cruel father and brother and was told from an early age that his sexual orientation was shameful and wrong. He’s isolated himself in his (literally) crumbling ancestral home, behaving like a brilliant but more than a little mad scientist. He lives in fear that he really will go mad, as his father and brother did before him, and it colors almost everything he does.

Together these two were just magic. Both their friendship and their relationship was slow moving but oh so satisfying, and I loved watching Georgie sllloooowly make Lawrence’s home, his very existence better and more comfortable. And then the last 20% when Lawrence returned the favor? OMG. I was completely unable to stop reading from that point to the very end, for any reason at all. So. Good. Throw in some wonderfully humorous writing and great secondary characters (Simon! Uncle Courtenay, hero of book 3!) and you have an all-around fantastic read.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.


Cat Sebastian lives in a swampy part of the South with her husband, three kids, and two dogs. Before her kids were born, she practiced law and taught high school and college writing. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s doing crossword puzzles, bird watching, and wondering where she put her coffee cup.


Release Day and Giveway! THE RAKEHELL’S SEDUCTION by Lauren Smith (Seduction #2)

Title: The Rakehell’s Seduction
Series: Seduction #2
Author: Lauren Smith
Genre: Historical/Regency Romance
Release Date: February 6, 2017
 Blurb:
HE’S MADE A DANGEROUS WAGER

Ambrose Worthing is no gentleman. He’s a proud cold-hearted rake who’s determined to stay a bachelor forever. He enjoys bedding a different woman every night without the risk of falling in love. When he hears about a wager over the seduction and ruination of the daughter of his father’s best friend, he knows he must intervene. Committing himself to the bet, he agrees to seduce Lady Alexandra Rockford—for her own good. He never expected the lady in question to be a beautiful, fiery creature who has passions of her own that call to his guarded heart.

SHE’S VOWED NEVER TO FALL IN LOVE AGAIN

Alexandra Rockford has sworn off men, her heart still broken from the false promises of a childhood sweetheart who left her to marry an heiress. When she stumbles into Ambrose outside of a country ball, she knows the rake his trouble. His smile, his touch, his forbidden kiss are all too tempting but being with him would ruin her. Determined to enjoy herself without falling in love, Alex can’t help but let her defenses down with the too charming rake. But when she discovers Ambrose is seducing her to win a bet, it will take everything Ambrose has to prove to her that he is worthy to love her.

 

Purchase Links:

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Excerpt:

Ambrose Worthing was attending a country dance.

The notion was laughable. He, a glorified rakehell with a distaste for country life, was currently entrapped in a bloody assembly room that could pass for a barn on better days. In fact, as he glanced around the room, he decided it most certainly resembled a farmyard at the moment, with the gaggle of society mamas squawking like geese, their turbans festooned with tall ostrich plumes.

He groaned when he saw them scrutinizing him, whispering behind their fans, their eyes dancing over his form as they assessed his marital suitability. From the clever smiles he glimpsed, he knew they were ready to throw their innocent daughters at his feet.

Like bloody hell. He was not about to find himself accidentally “compromising” any of the young ladies here tonight. He’d come here tonight to find one particular young woman to seduce her, to win a bet he’d made in London the previous week, and hopefully save her. He was not about to let the gathering of society mamas intimidate him into dancing with their daughters, even if they rivaled the great ancient Mongolian Golden Horde led by Genghis Khan. Many a rake had fallen under their wiles, surfacing months later to find themselves stuck with a shy chit of a girl as a wife and an obnoxious mother-in-law.

At twenty-nine years old, he’d managed to weather many attempts by his friends and relatives to see him settled. If those who loved him could not bring him to the altar, no silly chits from the country would have any success either. He was a permanent bachelor, and he liked it. Marriage was not made for men like him. To be tied down with one woman for the rest of his life and suffer the trappings of home and hearth when he could be exploring the world and living? Heavens no, he would not give up his freedom for anything.

A few daring matchmaking mamas separated from the crowd and walked in his direction. Damnation, even the need for a master of ceremonies to perform introductions wouldn’t stop these women.

Ambrose spun on his heel, desperate to avoid conversation. If he had to listen to one more story about how well their daughters played the pianofortes or how accomplished they were at needlepoint, he’d run from the assembly hall screaming.

He had met almost everyone present at the dance and had no desire to continue any of the acquaintances. He was only here because of the wager placed in a betting book at White’s. A damned fool named Gerald Langley had put down in the books that anyone who plucked the fruit of this girl’s vine would receive five thousand pounds from him. Langley was a brute with little in the way of good sense and far too much coin. Ambrose had no idea why Langley had it in for the Earl of Rockford’s daughter, but he did. After reading the bet, Ambrose had penned his name to the challenge and notified Langley he had accepted the wager.

For once in his life he was trying to do the right thing by a woman. It was a bit ironic, though, that saving the woman required compromising her. But the Earl of Rockford and his father had been friends, and Ambrose felt he owed it to Rockford to win the wager and keep the lady safe from true scoundrels. No other man would take the care with her that he would and see to it that her first time with a man was a pleasurable experience.

He had one month to seduce Rockford’s daughter and provide proof of this seduction in London. As the lady in question had never been to London, there was much speculation among the men at his club whether she was a diamond of the first water or a dowdy creature. The betting book listed her age as twenty-two, young enough not to be an ape leader, a nasty term for women nearing spinsterhood.

Apparently Rockford wasn’t one for traditions. Any father wishing to ensure his daughter’s future would have brought her to London at seventeen or eighteen, had her presented to the queen, and then made the round of balls to hunt for a husband.

Yet Rockford had not done any of that. He’d kept his daughter in the country, living a quiet life. An unplucked fruit to tempt the worst sort of men in White’s to bet upon the taking of her maidenhead for their own amusement.

Normally Ambrose had little desire to compete in wagers, especially ones which involved the corruption of innocents. It was not out of some moral principle, but rather a dislike of virgins. They tended to fall in love and cling to the man who took their innocence. But after witnessing the sort of men discussing whether to take the bet that night, Ambrose decided he would do this innocent lady a favor. He’d penned his name in the books, taking up the wager, and sent a letter to Rockford, renewing their acquaintance.

A letter from Rockford arrived only a few days later, inviting Ambrose to this ball and to spend a few weeks at Rockford’s home as a guest. It was the perfect opportunity for Ambrose to cozy up to the man’s daughter and see what sort of creature he would soon be bedding.

If only he knew what the lady looked like. In the chaotic din full of dancing and music, he could not find a single young lady among the crush that he was willing to bed. It wasn’t that the young ladies weren’t attractive. They were, but none were to his taste. Innocent young ladies had never appealed to him. If his friend Gareth Fairfax had been there, Gareth would have been laughing at him. Gareth was stuck in his own hell—the poor fool was happily married. Married! Ambrose couldn’t think of anything more terrifying than being stuck with one woman for the rest of his life. Helen was a darling creature and perfectly suited to Gareth, and Ambrose supposed it would be not too terrible to share a bed with a woman like her. But still, to be leg-shackled?

I would rather die in a thousand unspeakable ways than stand in a bloody church and tie myself to one woman for the rest of my days.

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Author Bio:

Lauren Smith is an Oklahoma attorney by day, author by night for Grand Central Publishing, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app.

She knew she was destined to be a romance writer when she attempted to re-write the entire Titanic movie just to save Jack from drowning. Connecting with readers by writing emotionally moving, realistic and sexy romances no matter what time period is her passion.

She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including: New England Reader’s Choice Awards, Greater Detroit BookSeller’s Best Awards, Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award. To connect with Lauren, visit her at http://www.laurensmithbooks.com/ or twitter at https://twitter.com/LSmithAuthor.

Author Links:
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New Release Review and Giveaway! LORD OF THE PRIVATEERS by Stephanie Laurens (The Adventurers Quartet #4)

Synopsis:

Revel in the action, drama, intrigue and passion as the Frobishers— with help from Wolverstone, the Cynsters and many familiar others— steer the adventure to a glorious end.

Unstoppable determination

Widely known as the lord of the privateers, Royd Frobisher expects to execute the final stage of the rescue mission his brothers have begun. What he does not expect is to be pressured into taking Isobel Carmichael—his childhood sweetheart, former handfasted bride and current business partner—with him. A force of nature, Isobel has a mission of her own: to find and bring a young cousin safely home. And along the way, she hopes to rid herself of the dreams of a life with Royd that still haunt her.

Unfinished business

Neither expects the shock that awaits them as they set sail, much less the new horizons that open before them as they embark on a full-scale rescue-assault on the compound deep in the jungle. Yet despite the support of his brothers and their ladies, Royd and Isobel discover that freeing the captives is only half the battle. To identify and convict the conspirators behind the illicit enterprise—and save England from political disaster—they must return to the ballrooms of the haut ton and hunt the villains on their home ground.

Unforgettable love

But having found each other again, having glimpsed the heaven that could yet be theirs, how much are Royd and Isobel willing to risk in the name of duty?

 

#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens delivers the thrilling conclusion to her acclaimed series THE ADVENTURERS QUARTET, a passionate Regency-era drama where intrigue and danger play out on the high seas and in exotic tropical jungles, ultimately reaching a dazzling climax in the glittering ballrooms of London.

Purchase Links:

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Review:

A fitting wrap up to the quartet!

Books 1-3 ( The Lady’s Command , A Buccaneer at Heart , and The Daredevil Snared ) have been building up to this point, where the enslaved men, women, and children at the diamond mine would be saved (or not), the slavers stopped (or not) and the mysterious backers revealed and punished (or not). Oh, yes, and when the final and eldest Frobisher brother, Royd, would find his HEA…or not.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I loved seeing all the brothers and their significant others work together for a common goal–the chemistry between them all is fantastic. I’d been anxiously awaiting the rescue of the captives at the diamond mine camp for months–though I loved getting to know Royd and Isobel (and a surprise someone else), I was practically bouncing on the edge of my seat, just waiting for them to get to Africa already.

Finally they do, and the rescue is of course very exciting and action-packed. But the book’s not over yet–the backers need to be identified and brought to heel, and Royd and Isobel need to resolve their relationship issues, once and for all, a relationship that’s literally been years in the making. So there’s a whole lot going on in this book: so many threads of the series to tie up, as well as those of all of the relationships–Royd and Isobel but also all of his brothers’ as well–making this a pretty hefty book. At just over 500 pages, it did feel like it possibly could have been tightened up a bit–all of the Black Cobra and Cynster characters did start to feel a bit like name-dropping after a while–but really, with everything going on here you know it’s not going to be able to get done in a short book, so be prepared to settle in for a good, long read when you pick this one up.

I definitely wouldn’t recommend starting with this one–everything here builds on the books that have gone before, and though they do bring Isobel up to speed (she gets involved because Kate in book 3 is her cousin) it’s still a lot to take in all at once. Ms. Laurens does do a good job of catching characters up without belaboring the point for the rest of us, though, which is much appreciated.

We leave all of the Frobisher brothers here in a good spot–happy weddings and babies galore on the horizon!–and there’s a teaser thrown in at the end for a future book for Catrina (Kit) Frobisher as well that will have me keeping an interested eye out.

Rating: 4 stars / A-

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

About the Author:

Stephanie Laurens was born in Sri Lanka, which was at the time the British colony of Ceylon. When she was 5, her family moved to Melbourne, Australia, where she was raised. After continuing through school and earning a Ph.D. in Biochemistry in Australia, Stephanie and her husband moved to Great Britain, taking one of the last true overland journeys from Katmandu to London.

Stephanie and her husband live on peaceful acreage on the outskirts of Melbourne. If she isn’t writing, she’s reading, and if she’s not reading, she’s tending her garden.

Connect with Stephanie:

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New Release Review and Giveaway! A KNIGHT OF HER OWN by Oberon Wonch (Rogues of Rouen #2)


A Knight of Her Own
by Oberon Wonch
Rogues of Rouen, #2
Publication Date: January 23, 2017
Genres: Adult, Entangled: Select, Historical Romance

SYNOPSIS:

Sir Drogo LaForce has spent a lifetime chasing the family honor and wealth denied him by his bastard birth. A clever scheme to uncloak a traitor against the Crown finally promises to win him everything he desires…Lady Isabel has been in hiding ever since an evil Norman lord killed her father and usurped her English lands. But her plot to avenge her father and free her people is threatened when a mysterious Norman knight abducts her with plans to use her for espionage.

Drogo’s fascinating captive is nothing like he anticipated. Outspoken but innocent, Isabel reluctantly submits to Drogo’s tutoring in the spymaster’s craft, as well as the art of making love. But their potent attraction nearly leads to disaster. In the end they must decide between their dueling appetites for riches and revenge…or love.

 

Review:

Every time I read a medieval romance that I really like, I wonder why I don’t read more historical romances set in the medieval period.

So right now I’m wondering–why don’t I read more historical romances set in the medieval period? 😉

I loved the main characters here; Lady Isobel and Sir Drogo were strong characters with a lot of fantastic qualities. They’re both trying to do everything they can to protect those they care about, which for both of them, despite their antagonistic start, soon includes each other. Ms. Wonch does a great job of pitting the two of them against each other, and of making it difficult to see how the two of them can be together in the end. Uncertainty at how they can get to their HEA causes both the characters and the reader more than a little bit of angst throughout, right up until the very last chapter of the book!

Though this is the second book in the Rogues of Rouen series, it worked just fine as a standalone. Drogo mentions the main characters and their basic plot from the first book (Come to Me ) once, but that was it–neither of them is in this one at all.

Of course, that once is enough to make me want to read that one too…and I’ll be first in line to read a book three, should it come along (subtle hunt).

Rating: 4 stars / A-

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

 

BUY:

DON’T MISS THE FIRST BOOK IN THE ROGUES OF ROUEN SERIES!

SYNOPSIS:

A maiden’s duty becomes a woman’s desire…

Comte Gregoire FitzHenri, the new Earl of Shyleburgh, is known for his prowess as one of the Norman conqueror’s most favored warriors…but not for his romantic sensibility or his command of the English language. Gregoire looks forward to his imminent marriage with his seneschal’s beautiful daughter, his longtime betrothed. But as a rough-hewn soldier, he wishes to enchant the elegant lady before taking their wedding vows-which means an interpreter…and much-needed lessons in courtly love.

The clever Bridget of Shyleburgh has been secretly in love with Gregoire since his visit as a dashing young warrior-when he was promised in marriage to her sister. But when he returns five years later as their new earl, Bridget is tasked with translating for him-including his love letters and somewhat awkward attempts to woo her sister. Mortified at first, Bridget soon finds herself completely charmed by his whispers of love and desire. She never expected such tenderness…or such wicked temptation… from a man like him. Gregoire’s heated missives tempt a fair maiden to stray down a path filled with forbidden pleasures.

But his words are meant for another… aren’t they?

ABOUT OBERON WONCH:

Oberon Wonch has engaged in a love affair with books for as long as she can remember. Penning her own stories from an early age, she later earned a degree in World Literature while studying several languages—all in order to learn what makes a tale endure the ages, but really just to read more books. Her very favorite stories—both to read and write—are those that celebrate the happily-ever-after.

An avid gardener and armchair archaeologist, she grew up in northeast Ohio but now lives in Indiana with her college sweetheart husband and two very joyful little dogs.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon Author Profile

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Christina McKnight, Author of THEODORA (Lady Archer’s Creed #1) Shares her Top Ten Romance Authors (and a giveaway!)

As an author, my stories are much like the books I enjoy reading. My inspiration comes from many authors that came before me. My love for scene setting comes from Stephanie Laurens. My tendency to write about families comes from Julia Quinn. And my love of mystery mixed into each plot is what I love about Amanda Quick’s writing.

 

My Top Ten Historical Romance Authors

by Christina McKnight

 

  1. Eloise James has stayed true to the Historical Romance genre throughout her career. Her novels never disappoint and always leave the reader wanting more.

 

  1. Catherine Coulter’s Sherbrooke Brides books started my love for Historical Romance series. Your favorite characters’ journeys continue long after their book is complete.

 

  1. Julia Garwood’s books are so enchanting that I will forsake my favorite place and time period (Regency England) to read her book, For The Roses—and I do it at least once a year!

 

  1. Lisa Kleypas has mastered the art of writing a heroine that every woman would give up modern conveniences to be! I could live without running water, computers, and modern medicine to be Winnifred Hathaway in Seduce Me at Sunrise.

 

  1. Pamela Britton knows how to write a rake of the first order! Her books Scandal, Seduced, and Tempted feature super hot bad boys!

 

  1. Christina Dodd—what more do I need to say? The woman is an icon and legend! I recommend all of her books.

 

  1. Lauren Royal brings a whole new to dimension to a love story. Her Jewel Series (Amethyst, Emerald, and Amber) is full of snappy dialogue and captivating characters.

 

  1. Julia Quinn wrote another of my favorite series, The Bridgertons. The series follows a group of siblings (named in alphabetical order, which is helpful since there are a ton of them!) and their unique love stories.

 

  1. Amanda Quick combines dynamic characters, romance, accurate historical details, and mystery to create enthralling books, including Deception, Desire, Mischief, Mistress, Scandal and Reckless (to name a few!)

 

  1. My all-time favorite historical romance series is written by Stephanie Laurens. The Cynster Novels follow a family full of interesting men and women who will have you on the edge of your seat the whole time!

 

Author Bio:

Christina McKnight is a book lover turned writer. From a young age, her mother encouraged her to tell her own stories. She’s been writing ever since.

Christina enjoys a quiet life in Northern California with her family, her wine, and lots of coffee. Oh, and her books…don’t forget her books! Most days she can be found writing, reading, or traveling the great state of California.

You can visit her online at the following places: Website Facebook | Twitter Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

Title: Theodora
Series: Lady Archer’s Creed (Book One)
Author: Christina McKnight
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency
Release Date: January 17, 2017

 

Friendship…

Lady Theodora Montgomery departed Miss Emmeline’s School of Education and Decorum for Ladies of Outstanding Quality to attend her first London Season—her three dearest friends by her side. With her sharp wit and skill on the archery field, Theo is far more interested in winning a large purse prize than securing a husband. But when she is unmasked on the tourney grounds, her face exposed to all, she fears her identity and days spent gallivanting around London will cause not only her undoing, but the downfall of her friends as well.

Loyalty…

Mr. Alistair Price, heir to the elderly Viscount Melton, arrived in London with his eight younger siblings in tow. He is charged with keeping his family name above reproach until the Season starts and his sister, Miss Adeline Price, is presented to society—though that proves far more difficult than Alistair ever expected when he discovers his rebellious sister climbing down the side of their townhouse and scurrying off to Whitechapel for an archery tournament. His focus remains on saving his family from the certain ruin and disgrace Adeline’s actions invites—until Alistair catches sight of another female archer, her arrow connecting with far more than the center of her target.

And honor above all…

With Theodora’s future—and that of her friends—in jeopardy, will she agree to a marriage devoid of affection, or risk everything for the man who won her heart?

 

Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

 

Chapter One

London, England
October 1825

Alistair Alexander Price entered his father’s townhouse—for all intents and purposes, his townhouse since his father had taken ill the year before and was unable to travel. Alistair was responsible for the care and well-being of his siblings—he was to tend the account ledgers, he was answerable to all his father’s tenants—and it seemed, Alistair was also solely accountable for the funds needed to fulfill all of those obligations.

“Your coat, Mr. Price?” Donavon, the family butler, held his arm out, prepared to take his over garment.

Alistair shrugged, allowing the coat to fall from his shoulders and into his butler’s waiting arms. “Thank you. I will be in my study, please make sure I am not disturbed.”

“Of course, Mr. Price.” The servant gave him a faint smile.

Alistair was fairly certain the staff was delighted to have the Melton horde in residence—and agreeable to Alistair filling his father’s vacant shoes, though he had not inherited the Melton Viscountship as yet.
With a nod, Alistair continued on to his father’s study. He shook his head. His study. It was highly unlikely his father would ever journey to London again.

Alistair needed a quiet place to think, and if it took drinking himself into a stupor to figure out his family’s problems, then so be it. With eight younger siblings in residence, a quiet room was hard to come by; however, he knew his three brothers were at their fencing lessons, and the female part of his household avoided his study as much as possible—unless summoned. Alistair had made a point of using the room when doling out lectures on inappropriate behavior, as well as when imparting bad news.

Anyone who invaded his private space was subject to one or the other—and on many occasions, both.

His footsteps sounded as he walked down the corridor, past his sisters’ receiving room—not that the five Melton females were used to receiving guests beyond family—and beyond to the study.

The day had not gone as planned, to say the least. His father’s longtime solicitor, Mr. Adams, had shared with Alistair the dire conditions of the many Melton estates. Since the viscount had begun his downward spiral and his illnesses finally took his ability to walk, not a single tenant issue had been addressed, no roofs had been mended beyond what the villagers could do themselves, and no upkeep to the estate gardens had been done. And their family coffers were continually drained from the expenses of supporting nine children and a full-time physician to care for the aging viscount.

Alistair’s father had once been a very hands-on viscount, not trusting estate business and tenant concerns to anyone. That left Alistair to fumble his way through things once his father was unable to leave his sickbed—and his mother unwilling to leave her husband’s side.

Alistair rounded his desk and fell heavily into his chair—the chair he’d seen his father occupy for all of Alistair’s twenty-five years. It had remained vacant for nearly two years before Alistair and his mother made the decision to remove the children to London to avoid them witnessing the viscount’s worsening condition. His mother was to join them before his sister, Adeline, was presented to society.

The news had arrived yesterday—two short weeks before Adeline’s first ball—that Viscountess Melton would not be joining her children in London. At least, not this season.

Certainly, Alistair could handle depositing Adeline at her dress fittings, consulting with her on which invitations to accept, and accompanying her on outings to Hyde Park, but he did not enjoy any of those things, and as a rule, strictly avoided any excursion that would result in meeting marriage-minded females. There was an overabundance of those to contend with in his own home without seeking them out about town.

And Alistair hadn’t the time or the patience for any of it.

Thankfully, he only need present one sibling to the ton this season, Adeline—next season would be Adelaide and Amelia, and after them, Arabella the following year. Lastly, Ainsley. It was all too much to wrap one’s mind around. The viscount’s coffers would be empty long before Alistair inherited the title. And what to do about his brothers: Abel, Alfred, and Adrian? They were remarkably unconcerned with their future paths. None of the three wanted their father to purchase them a commission to serve their country—though Alfred and Adrian were much too young to be burdened with such thoughts as yet. Not a one had an interest in any trade, but Abel did enjoy spending his spare time assisting at the British Museum, without pay, of course; however, at the age of twenty and one, he should be focusing on something more suitable to support a family.

Alistair would see his duty through: ensuring that all of his siblings were wed and taken care of. And then, if there were still time for him and he hadn’t been beaten down by the strain of it all, he would think about his own future.

There were many years ahead of him before he had the luxury of pondering what he wanted for his life. Little Ainsley was only ten, after all, and with eight years until her introduction, Alistair would have no rest until then.

What had his parents been thinking? Nine children with his father already close to fifty when the first was born.

It was irresponsible, to say the least. At this point, Alistair would be close to the same age when he had the time to focus on finding his own wife. Never would he burden anyone with supporting his offspring.

As he stared toward the open door, a flash of green flew past, catching his attention. He had glimpsed a trail of blonde curls before the girl was out of sight, her slippered feet making no sound.

He was out of his chair and following, a lecture on the inappropriateness of running indoors on the tip of his tongue. It was necessary for him to hurry to the entryway as his siblings were fast to disappear, especially if they suspected he was in pursuit.

Adeline stood, ready to enter the receiving room when he called her name, his displeasure clear in his voice.
Her hand paused on the door handle but did not turn it.

“Adeline,” he chastised. “What have I said about running in the house?”

“It is only necessary to run faster than the person chasing you?”

“Do not play feebleminded with me,” he sighed, knowing he had, indeed, said those exact words many times, but that was before he and his sister had reached adulthood—and he’d been forced to take his unofficial place as head of the Melton clan. “What did I say about running in the house yesterday?”

“That it is highly inappropriate for women who’ve left the schoolroom and expect to be accepted in ballrooms,” she mimicked. “Women who have turned their cotton pinafores in for silk gowns should refrain from such uncouth behavior.”

“And…” Alistair prodded. He shouldn’t have to lecture Adeline on her decorum. Hadn’t he spent enough coin on her tutelage? For a woman of eight and ten, she could use a healthy dose of maturity.

“If such young women do not agree, then they are free to pack their trunk and return to the country.”

He smiled with pride at her ability to recite his lecture from the day before. “Very good. Miss Emmeline’s School of Education and Decorum for Ladies of Outstanding Quality has at least taught you one valuable skill. Now if only you could follow the sound advice you memorized.”

Adeline stuck her tongue out at him as she turned toward the door once again.

“Adeline!” Again her hand froze on the knob—knowing her luck would only get her so far with her eldest brother. “You must put your childish ways behind you if you favor a successful season.”

“Of course, my dearest, most loving, and wise brother.” Her talent for charming others—all the while mocking them—was a gift all of his siblings shared, though her sweet words never fooled him. “Now, if you do not mind, it is discourteous to keep guests waiting.”

“Not many are informed we are in London. Who is calling on you?”

And why hadn’t he been informed there was a visitor in his home? It was not only his aging parents but also his servants who’d taken a liking to his younger siblings, often doing their bidding without realizing it.

“It is only Theo, Alistair.” She said the name as if it should be familiar to him. Only Theo?

He wanted to demand she tell him who the bloody hell Theo was and what the man was doing calling on his sister without properly introducing himself to Adeline’s eldest brother before requesting an audience with her. True, their parents were still responsible for the lot of them; however, as the eldest male in good health, it fell on Alistair to keep his siblings safe.

And he could not do that if unfamiliar men were coming and going right under his nose.

Instead of ripping the door off its hinges and confronting the man who dared enter his home without an invitation, Alistair took a deep breath. Far different from the deep breath he’d taken earlier in his study as he’d allowed the pressure of his responsibility to settle. No, this deep breath was giving him time to gather his words to use as his weapon instead of his fists.

Many—especially his female siblings—called him domineering and imperious when it came to his family. But his father had trusted him to lead well in the viscount’s stead, and no matter the difficulty of the task, Alistair would do exactly that.

Adeline looked at him as if he’d grown a second head with five eyes. “Are you experiencing a decrease in memory, dear brother?”

His temper rose at Adeline’s reference to their father’s diminished mental capacity, and his sister knew she’d gotten to him. She was most successful at finding every little thing that irritated him and drawing his annoyance out. And since her return from boarding school, he’d realized she hadn’t changed. Not even the smallest bit.

The viscountess, Lady Melton, had hoped that separating the two siblings would ease their lifelong discontent and competitiveness with one another, but while Alistair had been made to mature far quicker than most, his sister was still the hellion she’d been since birth.

“I assure you, I am in full capacity of my senses, Miss Adeline,” he spoke the words slowly, pronouncing each as if she were the one who was struggling to grasp his meaning. “Why do you not introduce me to your friend, Theo?”

Maybe he was the boon Alistair had been praying for—a man to take his wayward sibling off his hands before the season had even begun. Alistair’s only regret was that he’d paid the modiste’s note the day before. He need push this Theo to announce his courtship quickly and have the betrothal papers drafted as soon as the man hinted at the possibility—before he discovered that Adeline was not the demure miss he assumed her to be, but a sharp-tongued, quick-witted, infuriating debutante who knew exactly how alluring her blonde hair, fair skin, and pale blue eyes were.

Adeline made no move to join her guest, most likely suspecting her brother had some plan contrived—and she would be correct.

“Come, dear sister,” he hissed. “Let us not keep our visitor waiting.”

“But—“

“Do you not want me to greet our guest?” he asked. This Theo gentleman must be highly unsuitable if Adeline were working this hard to keep Alistair from entering the room. Again, he searched his memory for any mention of a Theo—or, more likely, Theodore—who’d made his acquaintance. There was that elderly earl, Lord Bays. His given name was Theodore if Alistair weren’t mistaken, but he was far too old for his sister’s liking and, he gulped, wedded going on three decades. Certainly, Adeline hadn’t lowered herself to consorting with men who were spoken for. “Allow me to open the door.”

Adeline scrutinized him before shrugging. “Very well, let us greet our guest. Do not embarrass me before my friend.”

“Embarrass you?” Alistair asked, stunned. “Why ever would you think I would do something so juvenile?”

“You have been known to make me look awful and think it is comical.” She released the knob and crossed her arms.

“Or need I remind you of how cruel you and Abel have been to me?”

“Must I remind you what a nuisance you were as a child?” he retorted. This was the way of things for them: bickering, bantering, and arguing—with no end in sight. “You would follow Abel and me around constantly. It was
improper for a young girl of quality.”

“You lost me in the woods!” she shrieked. “I was only ten, and the sun was setting.”

“But you never followed us outdoors again, did you?”

“Humpf.” She tapped her foot, waiting for him to agree that he would not mortify her. When he made no move to agree to her request, she continued, “And the pie?”

Alistair couldn’t help but chuckle at the reminder. “The pie dropping over the railing from the landing above the main hall was Abel, and you very well know that. We could not have known you’d be walking below at that precise moment.”

“My new frock was ruined from the berry juices.”

“Again, that was many years ago, Adeline,” he said. “I have grown—matured—as I hope you did as well during your time away at school. Now, please allow me to escort you to greet this Theo gentleman.”

A smirk landed on Adeline’s face, and her brow rose. “Of course, dear brother. Let us join our guest.”

He set his hand on her arm to halt her before she entered the room. “Do not think I take kindly to men calling on my sister without my express permission. This will not go unmentioned.”

“Oh, I certainly hope you do reprimand Theo.” Adeline giggled, a sound Alistair hadn’t heard in many years. Actually, he hadn’t heard it since she’d slipped a dozen pond frogs into his trunk before he’d left for Eton. The carriage had been made to stop only two hours’ journey from their country estate to free the trapped creatures; however, they’d already done the intended damage to his entire wardrobe, and Alistair had spent an entire week wearing the same set of clothes until new ones could be sent. “It is only what is deserved.”

Alistair had had enough of his sister’s irksome banter, so he stepped around her, pushing the door wide. “After you.” Alistair bowed mockingly as she flipped her hair over her shoulder and preceded him into the room.

Entering, he immediately scanned the room looking for the man who dared enter his home with no regard for proper
etiquette, putting his sister’s reputation in question before her first season was underway.

“I do not appreciate hearing that someone dares cross the threshold of my home without suitable cause to do so.” Alistair’s voice thundered through the small receiving room. He wanted the man to be aware his actions were not agreeable to Alistair—Adeline’s guardian while in London. “You are certainly fortunate I am in residence to rectify the situation.”

He paused, glancing around the room for his intended target, but no man stood by the open hearth, nor by the windows, their drapes held back with a simple tie to allow the warm sunlight in.

A small gasp brought his attention to the delicate sofa his mother favored when in London.

“Lady Theodora Montgomery,” Adeline said, rushing to stand before the sofa. “I have missed you ever so much. I am happy to see you have arrived safely in London.”

After bending down to give the woman a quick hug, Adeline cast a smirk in her brother’s direction—knowing she’d successfully redirected the embarrassment to him. “I do apologize for my brother’s abominable greeting.”

The woman’s eyes were rounded with fright at his callous tirade as she stood abruptly, ready to flee.

“As you can see, he is as dreadful as I’ve told you all these years,” Adeline confessed, squeezing Lady Theodora’s hands before turning to Alistair. “Have you terrified my dear friend enough for one day, brother?”

The poor woman was so startled she hadn’t managed a single word in greeting—Alistair regretted any alarm he’d caused her; however, she must understand Adeline had misled him. She was certainly a gently bred woman, unlike his hoyden lot of sisters.

“Lady Theodora,” Alistair started, attempting to mend the dismal situation. “I am Mr. Alistair Price, Adeline’s eldest brother—and I assure you, I am not the horrid man my sister claims.”

The woman looked wholly unconvinced by his proclamation, but offered her own greeting nonetheless. “It is nice to make your acquaintance, Mr. Price, but please refrain from dropping a pie on my head while I’m in your home. I fear my mother would be quite vexed if I ruined my new gown.”

Alistair took a step back at her brazen comment as his sister doubled over in laughter.

“My dear, Theo,” Adeline said, a giggle on the fringes of her words, “I have missed you so.”

Why did he feel as if he’d walked into a trap set up by his most cunning sister?

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