New Release and Giveaway! LAST CHANCE COWBOYS: THE OUTLAW by Anna Schmidt (Where the Trail Ends #3)

Title: Last Chance Cowboys: The Outlaw
Author: Anna Schmidt
Series: Where the Trail Ends, #3
ISBN: 9781492613022
Pub Date: July 4, 2017
Genre: Historical Western Romance

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:

“‘Someone like me?’ Is that how you see me, Amanda? As someone people should fear?”

“I don’t know what to think,” she said. “One minute you seem so dangerous, and the next you’re sweet and caring and…”
He took a step closer, his eyes sweeping her face. “And which do you want me to be?” His voice was low; it sent shivers down her spine.

“Both,” she whispered, and lifted her face for a kiss.

 

Amanda Porterfield longs to experience real adventure. So when she’s offered a position in bustling Tucson, she leaps at the chance despite unknown dangers—dangers like the mysterious Seth Grover.

As an undercover detective working to stop a gang of outlaws, Seth can’t afford the distractions a woman like Amanda inspires. Yet when the fiercely intelligent beauty is thrust into the middle of a heist gone wrong, Seth will fight for a future that may never be theirs…even if it means risking everything he holds dear.

 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound

 

EXCERPT:

Amanda fought her attacker with all her might, ineffectually flailing away at him with both fists. Then, realizing her nails and teeth were better weapons, she raked his neck even as she bit down hard and got a mouth filled with the taste of her attacker’s leather glove for her trouble. She struggled to free herself from his solid, muscular body pinning hers to the ground by straddling her. She went completely still, hoping to surprise him, but he hauled her to her feet, leaving her hat in the dirt and her hair falling free of the pins she’d used to hide it under the crown of the Stetson.

She took some pride in the realization that she’d put up enough of a fight to leave the man breathless. On the other hand, he was practically “Amanda?” Seth Grover was breathing hard and staring down at her, one hand touching her breasts, which were heaving noticeably after the exertion of the fight.

“Explain yourself, Mr. Grover,” she demanded as she planted both hands flat on the solid wall of his chest and shoved him away. He let go, but the sound of fabric ripping told her he’d taken the top couple of buttons of the shirt with him. When she saw his eyes riveted on her exposed skin, she covered herself with crossed hands and felt heat race through her body. “Well?” she hissed, aware that they were standing outside and anyone might pass by or hear them.

“I thought…are you following me, Amanda?”

“Do not flatter yourself, Seth. Miss Jensen might keep tabs on you, but your comings and goings are of no interest to me whatsoever.” She dusted off the seat of her pants, then realized she’d once again exposed herself to him by letting go of her shirt front. “A gentleman would avert his eyes,” she said, “or at the very least offer a lady the cover of his coat.”

He chuckled. “Have to say I’m not much a gentleman, ma’am, but if you’re feeling a chill…” He shrugged out of his coat and draped it over her shoulders, allowing his hands to linger there until she stepped out of reach.

“Thank you.” She bent to retrieve her hat and slapped it against her thigh as she’d seen her father, brothers and the cowboys at the ranch do more times than she could count. The gesture made her feel tougher and taller at the same time. She shook her hair back from her face and planted on the hat, tugging at the brim until the fit was snug. “I’ll leave your coat outside your room. Good evening, Seth.”

“I’ll walk you back.” He fell into step beside her. “Shall we take the street or the alley?”

He was mocking her. She remained silent but picked up the pace.

“Oh, then we’re going to race back?” He matched her step for step, an easy feat given his long legs.

“Will you please…”

He took hold of her arm, forcing her to stop walking. “I am not leaving you alone, Amanda. You shouldn’t be out at this time of night.” His tone bordered on patronizing. He sounded like her brother Jess, and that irritated her.

“Why do you care?” she snapped and meant it to be a challenge, but found that she really wanted to him to tell her. “You hardly know me.”

He was still holding her upper arm. She could feel the heat of his fingers through the coat and realized that he’d removed the leather gloves. While she processed this thought, he led her to a small lane that passed between the pharmacy and the milliner’s shop. There he took hold of her other arm and pulled her closer.

She was sure he planned to kiss her. She was also sure that she had never wanted anything in her life quite as much as she wanted to find out what kissing Seth Grover might be like. Here at last was the true adventure she’d come to Tucson to find.

“Listen to me, Amanda. You’re looking for trouble, and I won’t always be around to make sure you don’t find it, so fair warning. You need to stop these midnight wanderings. You need to stop getting yourself dressed up to look like a boy. You need to…”

So, kissing her was clearly the last thing on his mind.

She wrenched herself free of his hold. Not that he fought to hold on. “I can take care of myself,” she muttered as she massaged her arms, wanting him to believe he had hurt her when in fact his touch had been firm but gentle.

“Really?”

“Really,” she snapped, and started to walk away.

He caught her hand, and then before she knew what was happening she was pressed up against the side of the building by the length of his body. He had his other hand over her mouth again—this time without his glove. His skin smelled like leather, though. She struggled and he tightened his hold on her. His face was so close she could feel his breath, hot against her cheeks.

“Wake up, Amanda. You are no longer residing on your family’s ranch where no doubt you had others looking out for you. You are alone here in Tucson, and you need to take care.”

Amanda had no idea what came over her. Maybe she just wanted him to stop telling her what she already knew. She cupped his face with her hands and kissed him.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award-winning author ANNA SCHMIDT delights in creating stories where her characters must wrestle with the challenges of their times. Critics have consistently praised Schmidt for her ability to seamlessly integrate actual events with her fictional characters to produce strong tales of hope and love in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. She resides in Wisconsin.

Find her online:

Website: http://www.booksbyanna.com/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/as_li_sh/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/690598.Anna_Schmidt

 

GIVEAWAY:

Enter for a chance to win a copy of the previous book in Anna Schmidt’s series, Last Chance Cowboys: The Lawman!

 

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Author Q&A and Giveaway! DENYING THE DUKE by Callie Hutton (Lords and Ladies in Love #3)

Forbidden fruit never tasted so sweet…
 

A Quick Q&A with Author Callie Hutton:

If you could sit and write in a different country, where would it be?

The South of France. As much as I would love to visit London (and plan to one day soon), the idea of sitting on the balcony of a house/apartment/flat with French coffee and a croissant at my side, while gazing out at the diamond-studded water, and the sun at my back, would be wonderful. I would be so inspired. Or—I would be so distracted, nothing would get written.  Maybe I need to re-consider this.

 

What has been your toughest scene or book to write?

The hero in my book The Baron’s Betrayal was blind. It was difficult to write scenes in his POV where he couldn’t see anything. I also spent time wandering around my house blindfolded, bumping into walls. It was a challenge. And painful.

 

Tell us a little about your book.

I’m excited about Denying the Duke, the third book in my Lords and Ladies in Love series. This is a lovers re-united story, one I haven’t written before. Here is the blurb:

Four years ago, Alex, a second son, had planned a life together with Lady Patience. However, when Patience was betrothed to his brother, the heir, Alex left his family’s estate and joined the military.

Alex returns to assume the title Duke of Bedford when his brother unexpectedly dies. He is unprepared for both his new responsibilities and the reunion with Patience. The horrors of war are a heavy burden, and when he learns that Patience never married his brother, he is stunned.

Patience withstood the bullying of her fiancé and her father for four long years. She refuses to marry Alex just because he’s the duke, especially if he no longer loves her. How would that be better than what she has already endured? Promises made in their youth are not enough to overcome the changes life has wrought for them but love can grow and transform, if only Patience could believe that.

I’m also excited about Denying the Duke because I introduce three new characters who will have their stories in 2018.

 

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I loved writing characters who had been apart for four years, and the resulting changes that makes it necessary for them to work to find their love again. If that is possible.

 

Á la Twitter style, please describe your book in 140 characters or less.

Bedford is no longer the man who made promises to Lady Patience 4 yrs ago. She loved him once but won’t marry him because she’s convenient.

 

What types of scenes are your most favorite to write?

Humorous scenes. If I’m laughing out loud when it’s finished, I know my readers will be. I try to include at least one funny scene in each book.

 

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Yes. Thank you so very much for reading my books. Seeing readers enjoy the stories I’ve created from my own mind is very rewarding.

Callie Hutton, the USA Today bestselling author of The Elusive Wife, writes both Regency 
and western historical romance, with “historic elements and sensory details” (The Romance Reviews). Callie lives in Oklahoma with several rescue dogs and her top cheerleader husband of many years. Her family also includes her daughter, son, and daughter-in-law, and twin grandsons “The Twinadoes.”  
Callie loves to hear from readers. Contact her directly at calliehutton11@gmail.com or find her online at her WebsiteSign up for her newsletter to receive information on new releases, appearances, contests and exclusive subscriber content. 
 

DENYING THE DUKE
Lords and Ladies in Love #3
Callie Hutton
Releasing July 10, 2017
Entangled Scandalous

Four years ago, Alex, a second son, had planned a life together with Lady Patience. However, when Patience was betrothed to his brother, the heir, Alex left his family’s estate and joined the military.Alex returns to assume the title Duke of Bedford when his brother unexpectedly dies. He is unprepared for both his new responsibilities and the reunion with Patience. The horrors of war are a heavy burden, and when he learns that Patience never married his brother, he is stunned.

Patience withstood the bullying of her fiancé and her father for four long years. She refuses to marry Alex just because he’s the duke, especially if he no longer loves her. How would that be better than what she has already endured? Promises made in their youth are not enough to overcome the changes life has wrought for them but love can grow and transform, if only Patience could believe that.


Dragging his thoughts back to the present, he walked from the church graveyard where all the Dukes of Bedford were buried in the family mausoleum, to the Abbey, his boots making a sucking sound in the mud.

He stopped on the stone pathway and studied the building. It looked exactly as it had all his life, and for generations before that. He, however, had changed significantly from the angry, brokenhearted young man who had left. War had carved him into a bitter, bedeviled-by-ghosts man. No softness remained from that addlepated young man in love.

Precisely how he liked it.

Patience, otherwise known as the Duchess of Bedford, would be holding court for the mourners who had come to comfort her on the death of her husband. Since he’d had no contact with his family in the four years he’d been gone, he had no idea if she and Cyrus had children. Of course, there wasn’t a son, or Alex would not have been summoned home to take up his duties as the new Duke of Bedford.

He snorted. One could only hope the pater was spinning in his grave as the prodigal son returned to assume the title he’d held so dear. He no more desired to be the duke than his father would have wanted him to be.

His thoughts returned to the Duchess of Bedford. It seemed nothing had changed since he left. Under the law, as his brother’s widow, Patience was just as off-limits to him as she had been as Cyrus’s betrothed. Of course, he had no reason to believe he still felt the same about her as he had four years ago. That Alex was dead, and he had the vile memories and dark dreams to prove it.

Before he could reach for the front door latch, the door opened. A new butler, unknown to him, stood there, stiff as a board. “Welcome home, Your Grace.”

Your Grace.

 

Grand Finale Blitz and Giveaway! THE RENEGADE’S REDEMPTION by Stacy Henrie


On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

Book Tour Grand Finalefor
The Renegade’s Redemption
By Stacy Henrie

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops
you can see snippets, as well as the link to each full post, below:

Launch – Note from the Author

Ever since sharing some of Tex’s story in my last Love Inspired Historical book about his twin brother Tate, I’ve eagerly anticipated the chance for readers to get to know Tex better—through his own story this time. A legendary, charismatic outlaw, Tex was a fun and complex character to write. So, too, was his reunion with the girl he left behind eight years ago Ravena Reid.

Hearts & Scribbles – Character Descriptions

An identical twin, Tex looks just like his brother Tate with their matching blue eyes and brown hair, but their similarities end there. Tex is charming, fun-loving, and never in one place for long. But when he realizes Ravena needs help with her farm, he offers to stay and help, if only to atone for leaving her behind years ago. In the process, he comes to face-to-face with his past, his mistakes, and his long buried faith. Before long he’ll have to make the toughest decision of his life—to stop running or not from everyone, including himself.

Christian Suspense Author Mary Alford – Review

“This story was such an amazing journey for me. Filled with rich characters, precious children, a wounded past, and best of all…forgiveness and a second chance at love.

THE RENEGADE’S REDEMPTION was impossible to put down. I read the entire book in one sitting, it’s that good. ”

Heidi Reads… – Review

“I loved the various personalities of the orphans that Ravena cares for and how it shows her compassionate nature. She struggles with her long-held feelings for Tex and forgiveness of others and self is a big theme in the story. There is some action as Tex’s outlaw background catches up with him but I appreciated that he came to terms with it of his own volition before he was forced to by circumstances. Lovely romance between a stalwart young woman and a charming rogue!”

I Am A Reader – Excerpt

“Ravena,” Tex called as she reached the door.

She blew out a sigh and turned to face him. “Yes?”

“Thank you for this. But you said one night and I won’t stay longer than that.”

Gripping the edges of the tray until they dug into her palms, she willed the words she wanted to say to reach her lips. Yes, Tex, you have to leave. I have enough concerns right now, without worrying about you and the fragileness of my heart.

Sylv.net – An Old Flame

Can past hurts be overcome and forgiven in order to have a second chance at love? In my newest Love Inspired Historical book, that’s what Tex Beckett and Ravena Reid must decide.

Tex and Ravena grew up together on neighboring farms in Idaho. They were inseparable friends, though Tex’s twin brother Tate often tagged along with them. As they grew older, Tex and Ravena realized their friendship had developed into something more. Though different in temperament—Ravena is far more serious, and Tex is fun-loving and eager for adventure—they complemented each other and shared a deep love.

Rockin’ Book Reviews – Review

“This Historical fiction is full of action, suspense, drama and romance. The reader will be unsure of the ending until the last pages. The characters are defined well and the reader feels very endeared to them. The background scenes are portrayed well. The story steadily flows smoothly until the very end. The reader’s interest is held throughout the tale.”

Reading Is My SuperPower – Review

“Vivid characters with lots of personality join forces with swoony romance, adorable children, and a heartfelt message of redemption and restoration. Stacy Henrie is skilled at knowing the right combination of each of those elements to achieve a ‘just right’ balance and a smooth story. If you’re a fan of stories set in the late 1800s West then you need to definitely make time to read Stacy Henrie’s books as well!'”

Singing Librarian Books – Review

“Stacy Henrie has done it again! Her novel Renegade’s Redemption is simply splendid!! This western romance is filled with plenty of adventure and romance that readers will not want to miss. In addition there are themes of inspiration, forgiveness, and redemption that will tug at the heartstrings of readers. . . . This sweet historical romance novel is a fantastic sequel to The Outlaw’s Secret that readers will adore.”

Katie’s Clean Book Collection – Review

“I enjoyed the gentle chemistry between these two and the way they each worked through trust issues. I love the descriptions of their every day lives and the way the past and present fit together. There are many things to be resolved and through journeys of self-discovery and responsibility, a satisfying conclusion resulted.”

Mel’s Shelves – Review

” I devoured it quickly and love the way it all came together! I love Stacy Henrie’s writing style and she is quickly becoming a favorite author! If you enjoy clean historical romance, you will want to read both of these books!”

Getting Your Read On – Review

“Tex and Ravena were great characters. The book flowed gently and easily, weaving in daily life events with the rekindling of friendship and love. The children in this book were a fantastic addition and really gave the story a feeling of family and love.”

Wishful Endings – Excerpt

For one moment, Tex knew the familiar thrill of a clean escape. Then the sheriff shot at him again. This time the bullet found purchase. It struck Tex in his right side, and his body jerked hard to the left in reflexive response. He clung to the horse with trembling arms to keep from falling as searing fire registered through his shock.

Paulette’s Papers – Five Fun Facts about The Renegade’s Redemption

1. The final scenes of this book take place on Independence Day. And while I knew the release date for the book was in July 2017, I didn’t pay much attention to which day. So it was serendipitous and lots of fun when I realized it was releasing on Independence Day.

The Power of Words – Review

“The road for this unlikely pair seemed impossible, and I loved how everything was resolved. . . . I enjoyed The Renegade’s Redemption very much and look forward to much more from Stacy Henrie.”

Tell Tale Book Reviews – Review

“The Renegade’s Redemption is a sweet historical romance with strong themes of forgiveness and trusting in God. The story begins and pretty much ends with a bang, and the pages in between are sure to keep readers anxiously turning them to find out what happens with Tex, Ravena, and the orphans.”

Cafinated Reads – Review

“This is a truly wonderful story of seeking one’s faith, relying on God, forgiveness and redemption. Ms. Hernie will steal you away with this book and leave you wanting more instantly! This 5 star book is the second in a series, and while I wasn’t confused and it could be easily read as a stand alone, I do plan to go back and read book 1 and see where it all began with Tex. Hats off to this talented author who is now on my favorites list!!”

Brooke Blogs – Review

“I really enjoyed this sweet story. I quickly found myself attached to the characters and immersed in the setting. I loved this story so much. The setting and time period was just perfect. The Renegade’s Redemption is well-written and a quick read. If you are looking for a sweet, clean romance, give this one a try. You won’t regret it.”

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

The Renegade’s Redemption
by Stacy Henrie
Inspirational Historical Romance
Paperback & ebook, 288 pages
July 1st 2017 by Love Inspired Historical

Refuge for the Outlaw

When Tex Beckett arrives at Ravena Reid’s farm, he’s eight years too late for the elopement they’d once planned—and it’s far too early to win her forgiveness. He’s seriously wounded, though, and she can’t turn him away, though she knows better than to trust him. Yes, it’s wonderful having help with the farm, and with the orphans she fosters, but if she opens her heart, she’ll get hurt again when he leaves. And Tex always leaves.

As a notorious bank robber, Tex is used to danger. Yet reuniting with the only woman he’s ever loved is the riskiest thing he’s ever done. All he wants is to stay with Ravena and the children. But can he build a new start before his past catches up with him?

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
HarlequinKoboiBooksGooglePlayBAMIndieBound

 

Other Books in the Series:

The Outlaw’s Secret
by Stacy Henrie
Christian Historical RomancePaperback & 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 Depository
HarlequinKoboiBooksGooglePlayBAMIndieBound

About the Author:

Stacy Henrie has always had a love for history, fiction, and chocolate. She earned her B.A. in public relations before turning her attentions to raising a family and writing inspirational historical romances. Wife of an entrepreneur husband and a mother to three, Stacy loves to live out history through her fictional characters. In addition to author, she is also a reader, a road trip enthusiast, and a novice interior decorator.

WebsiteGoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest

Tour Giveaway

– 1 winner will receive copies of The Express Rider’s Lady and The Outlaw’s Secret, and a $10 Amazon e-gift card (US only)
1 winner will receive a $25 Amazon e-gift card (open internationally)
– Ends July 22nd

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Tour Schedule:

July 6th: Hearts & Scribbles & Christian Suspense Author Mary Alford
July 7th: Heidi Reads… & I Am A Reader
July 9th: Sylv.net & deal sharing aunt
July 10th: Rockin’ Book Reviews & Reading Is My SuperPower
July 11th: Singing Librarian Books & Katie’s Clean Book Collection
July 12th: Mel’s Shelves & Cafinated Reads
July 13th: Getting Your Read On & Wishful Endings
July 14th: Paulette’s Papers & The Power of Words
July 16th: Tell Tale Book Reviews
July 17th: Dixie and Dottie & Brooke Blogs
July 18th: Grand Finale

Grab Our Button!

Theresa Romain, Author of SCANDALOUS EVER AFTER (Romance of the Turf #2) Talks About Her Favorite Summer Activities (with a giveaway!)

Two of Theresa’s favorite summer activities:

If I were creating the sort of profile I admire, I’d tell you that my favorite summer activities include splashing in the ocean, or camping in the backyard after having a barbecue. But the truth is that I’m hundreds of miles from the nearest beach, and my favorite thing to do there was always to make a giant dolphin out of sand. And I can’t bear to be outside in 100+ heat, especially when the mosquitos are biting.

However, there are so many lovely little things about summer that I do enjoy. Specifically…

  1. Checking on the vegetables that my daughter and I planted as seeds in the spring. Just as the weather starts to get really hot, the tomatoes and green beans are ripe and ready for picking. There’s something so satisfying about growing the veggies we eat with dinner that night.
  2. Using the snow cone machine (really just a glorified ice grinder) to make frozen treats in our own home. Sure, we could make them any time of year, but summer just seems right for shaved ice with syrup on it. Once, Little Miss R and I brought a big bowl of tangerine snow cone to Mr. R while he was working out in the backyard on a hot afternoon. “That looks like heaven,” he said. Yup. Snow cones are pretty magical.

In SCANDALOUS EVER AFTER, there are no frozen treats or backyard campfires—but there *is* a sea, and Lady Kate Whelan and Evan Rhys find themselves on a road trip of a lifetime. Between ferries and floods, treats and horses and races, sickness and health and more than one scandalous interlude, these two old friends will find a love they never expected—and unearth secrets they never dreamed of. I hope you’ll enjoy this romantic summer read!

 

 

Historical romance author THERESA ROMAIN pursued an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. She then worked for universities and libraries, where she got to read even more. Eventually she started writing, too. She lives with her family in Wichita, Kansas.

 

 

 

Title: Scandalous Ever After
Series: Romance of the Turf #2
Author: Theresa Romain
Pub Date: July 4, 2017
ISBN: 9781492649021

 

Does love really heal all wounds?

After being widowed by a steeplechase accident in Ireland, Lady Kate Whelan abandons the turf. But once her mourning is complete, her late husband’s debts drive her to seek help in Newmarket amidst the whirl of a race meet. There she encounters antiquities expert Evan Rhys, her late husband’s roguish friend—whom she hasn’t seen since the day of his lordship’s mysterious death.

Now that fate has reunited them, Evan seizes the chance to win over the woman he’s always loved. But once back within the old stone walls of Whelan House, long-held secrets come to light that shake up everything Kate thought she knew about her marriage. Now she wonders who she can trust with her heart—and Evan must decide between love and a truth that will separate him from all his heart desires.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Chapters | Indiebound

 

Excerpt:

“How have you been?” His eyes dark as chocolate, he watched her with the same careful scrutiny he’d given to his magic lantern slides as he packed them away.

She pulled another pin free, then another, feeling more bare with each one. “I’m fine too.” Pulling free her blossom-trimmed hat, she jabbed the hatpins through the plaited-straw brim.

She was fine—or as fine as she’d been for years and years of her marriage. Years of financial strain and dawning awareness of her husband’s infidelity. But over those same years, she had become skilled at appearing fine. And for Con, by God, there was nothing more important than making a good appearance.

“Your words aren’t rationed, you know.” Evan relaxed against the squabs of rust-colored velvet, sliding one boot forward. “You can use more than three when you reply to me. More than four, even, if you have something of particular significance to say.”

The familiarity of his banter made her chest tighten. She swallowed, hard, before replying crisply, “You are fortunate that I was judicious with my words rather than being perfectly frank with you.”

“I’m going to regret asking this, but I will all the same. What did you want to say, Madam Frank?”

She lifted her chin. “That you behaved like an utter ass.”

Though she had spoken the words lightly, they took on great weight in the close confines of the carriage. “I will grant that I deserve that.”

“At the very least. Two years of silence. Evan. Didn’t our friendship mean anything to you?”

He held out his wrists. “Slap the manacles on me. Whatever punishment you care to inflict, I will accept it.”

“I could poke you with a hatpin.”

He made a gesture that was not precisely polite. It had the effect of drawing a smile from her before she added, “It’s a fair question, Evan. And I’m sly enough to notice that you didn’t answer it. You could have come back any time after you chose to leave. After you and Con argued on the day he died.”

He snapped upright, drawing his feet in close beneath his seat. Withdrawing into a shell, it seemed. “I couldn’t come back after that.”

“And why not? Not only could you have, you should have. What was I to think when you left Ireland without a word of farewell?”

“What indeed? What did you think?”

“I didn’t know. I still don’t.”

The two chestnuts, Jerome and Hattie, pulled the carriage along with smooth strides. For the distance of one…two…a half dozen of their long steps…Kate was silent. Then she added, “Con wouldn’t tell me what had passed between you, only that you’d argued. He was upset. Terribly upset. So shaken that he should never have ridden out. And—”

“My God.” Evan rubbed a hand over his jaw, the chiseled line of his mouth. “You think it’s my fault that he died.”

Her head snapped back. “Not your fault. It was no one’s fault. His fall in the steeplechase was an accident. Everyone said so, from housemaid to magistrate. The cinch on his saddle split, and…and he fell. Badly.”

“Maybe fault is not the right word. What of blame? Do you blame me?” His dark eyes were steady and fathomless.

She held his gaze. “No. I don’t blame you for that. If I fault you for anything, it is that you called me friend, then and now, but you never showed it when that friendship was tested.”

He made a dry sound, like a laugh gone cold. “You cannot know how I was tested.”

“I cannot, because you never told me. Not a single word. All I know is that you and Con argued, and you left, and that was that. You threw our whole family away like rubbish.”

“There is no such thing as rubbish,” he said quietly. “Only pieces that antiquarians will one day discover and come to understand.”

God. He was so…so Evan. “That,” she replied, “is not adequate. I need more from my life than the hope that someone will try to piece it together hundreds of years from now.”

Through the carriage roof, Kate could hear the occasional cluck or halloo of the coachman. Sir William’s traveling carriage was built on spacious lines, like Chandler Hall and his stables. Every surface was brushed clean and gleaming.

The conveyances in the carriage room of Whelan House’s stables were neat but patched, oiled but aged. A few years ago, there had been many more. A few years ago, everything had been different.

Was it wrong that, despite her crushing debt, she was happier as a widow than as a wife?

Was it wrong that she didn’t mind if it was?

“What has it been like for you?” Evan’s question seamlessly followed the ones she posed herself. “These past two years?”

“Like running down a hill, hoping I can reach safety before a rolling boulder crushes me.”

“That is an alarming analogy.”

“I thought you’d like it,” she said. “Because of the stone. Pretend it’s an ancient rolling boulder.”

He shook his head. “Still alarming, though now the alarm bears historical significance. What has got you running, Kate?”

 

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New Release Review and Giveaway! THE RUIN OF A RAKE by Cat Sebastian

Together, they must decide what they’re willing to risk for love. 
 
 
THE RUIN OF A RAKE
Cat Sebastian
Releasing July 4, 2017
Avon Impulse

Rogue. Libertine. Rake. Lord Courtenay has been called many things and has never much cared. But after the publication of a salacious novel supposedly based on his exploits, he finds himself shunned from society. Unable to see his nephew, he is willing to do anything to improve his reputation, even if that means spending time with the most proper man in London.Julian Medlock has spent years becoming the epitome of correct behavior. As far as he cares, if Courtenay finds himself in hot water, it’s his own fault for behaving so badly—and being so blasted irresistible. But when Julian’s sister asks him to rehabilitate Courtenay’s image, Julian is forced to spend time with the man he loathes—and lusts after—most.

As Courtenay begins to yearn for a love he fears he doesn’t deserve, Julian starts to understand how desire can drive a man to abandon all sense of propriety. But he has secrets he’s determined to keep, because if the truth came out, it would ruin everyone he loves. Together, they must decide what they’re willing to risk for love.


London, 1817

Julian pursed his lips as he gazed at the symmetrical brick façade of his sister’s house. It was every bit as bad as he had feared. He could hear the racket from the street, for God’s sake. He pulled the brim of his hat lower on his forehead, as if concealing his face would go any distance toward mitigating the damage done by his sister having turned her house into a veritable brothel. Right in the middle of Mayfair, and at eleven in the morning, when the entire ton was on hand to bear witness to her degradation, no less. Say what one wanted about Eleanor—and at this moment Julian could only imagine what was being said—but she did not do things by halves.

As he climbed the steps to her door, the low rumble of masculine voices drifted from an open second story window. Somebody was playing a pianoforte—badly—and a lady was singing out of key.

No, not a lady. Julian suppressed a sigh. Whoever these women were in his sister’s house, they were not ladies. No lady in her right mind would consort with the sort of men Eleanor had been entertaining lately. Every young buck with a taste for vice had made his way to her house over these last weeks, along with their mistresses or courtesans or whatever one was meant to call them. And the worst of them, the blackguard who had started Eleanor on her path to becoming a byword for scandal, was Lord Courtenay.

A shiver trickled down Julian’s spine at the thought of encountering the man, and he could not decide whether it was from simple, honest loathing or something much, much worse.

The door swung open before Julian had raised his hand to the knocker.

“Mr. Medlock, thank goodness.” The look of abject relief on the face of Eleanor’s butler might have struck Julian as vaguely inappropriate under any other circumstance. But considering the tableau that presented itself in Eleanor’s vestibule, the butler’s informality hardly registered.

Propped against the elegantly papered wall, a man in full evening dress snored peacefully, a bottle of brandy cradled in his arms and a swath of bright crimson silk draped across his leg. A lady’s gown, Julian gathered. The original wearer of the garment was, mercifully, not present.

“I came as soon as I received your message.” Julian had not been best pleased to receive a letter from his sister’s butler, of all people, begging that he return to London ahead of schedule. Having secured a coveted invitation to a very promising house party, he was loath to leave early in order to evict a set of bohemians and reprobates from his sister’s house.

“The cook is threatening to quit, sir,” said the butler. Tilbury, a man of over fifty who had been with Eleanor since she and Julian had arrived in England, had gray circles under his eyes. No doubt the revels had interrupted his sleep. “And I’ve already sent all but the—ah—hardiest of the housemaids to the country. It wouldn’t do for them to be imposed upon. I’d never forgive myself.”

Julian nodded. “You were quite right to send for me. Where is my sister?” Several unmatched slippers were scattered along the stairs that led toward the drawing room and bedchambers. He gritted his teeth.

“Lady Standish is in her study, sir.”

Julian’s eyebrows shot up. “Her study,” he repeated. Eleanor was hosting an orgy—really, there was no use in pretending it was anything else—but ducked out to conduct an experiment. Truly, the experiments were bad enough, but Julian had always managed to conceal their existence. But to combine scientific pursuits with actual orgies struck Julian as excessive in all directions.

“You,” he said, nudging the sleeping man with the toe of his boot. He was not climbing over drunken bodies, not today, not any day. “Wake up.” The man opened his eyes with what seemed a great deal of effort. “Who are you? No, never mind, I can’t be bothered to care.” The man wasn’t any older than Julian himself, certainly not yet five and twenty, but Julian felt as old as time and as irritable as a school mistress compared to this specimen of self-indulgence. “Get up, restore that gown to its owner, and be gone before I decide to let your father know what you’ve been up to.” As so often happened when Julian ordered people about, this fellow complied.

Julian made his way to Eleanor’s study, and found her furiously scribbling at her writing table, a mass of wires and tubes arranged before her. She didn’t look up at the sound of the door opening, nor when he pointedly closed it behind him. Eleanor, once she was busy working, was utterly unreachable. She had been like this since they were children. He felt a rush of affection for her despite how much trouble she was causing him.

“Eleanor?” Nothing. He stooped to gather an empty wine bottle and a few abandoned goblets, letting them clink noisily together as he deposited them onto a table. Still no response. “Nora?” It almost physically hurt to say his childhood name for her when things felt so awkward and strained between them.

“It won’t work,” came a low drawl. “I’ve been sitting here these past two hours and I haven’t gotten a response.”

Banishing any evidence of surprise from his countenance, Julian turned to see Lord Courtenay himself sprawled in a low chair in a shadowy corner. There oughtn’t to have been any shadows in the middle of the day in a bright room, but trust Lord Courtenay to find one to lurk in.

Julian quickly schooled his face into some semblance of indifference. No, that was a reach; his face was simply not going to let him pretend indifference to Courtenay. He doubted whether anyone had ever shared space with Lord Courtenay without being very much aware of that fact. And it wasn’t only his preposterous good looks that made him so . . . noticeable. The man served as a sort of magnet for other people’s attention, and Julian hated himself for being one of those people. As far as he could tell, the man’s entire problem was that people paid a good deal too much attention to him. But one could hardly help it, not when he looked like that.

 

OMG, this series. (As an aside, it really needs to be classified as a series, Ms. Sebastian–it’ll be much easier to say, “You really need to read that ___ series by Cat Sebastian” instead of “You really need to read those interconnected m/m Regency romance books by Cat Sebastian…they’re called The Soldier’s Scoundrel , The Lawrence Browne Affair , and The Ruin of a Rake.” Because OMG I want to tell everyone to read them ASAP.)

(Just sayin’.)

I have no idea how she does it, but Ms. Sebastian once again gave us a group of characters here that I absolutely dare you not to fall hard and fast for. Admittedly, at first I wasn’t too sure about these two–the labels “prickly and difficult” doesn’t even begin to describe, well, both of them, to an extent and at various times–and I honestly don’t even know when it is that I went from thinking, Ugh, these two… to thinking, Oh! These two… 🙂 but at some point I just knew they had to find a way to be together or….I don’t know what. It wasn’t going to be pretty, though. Fortunately, both Ms. Sebastian and her heroes came through for us on that one, and she did it with style.

Favorite line:

“Missing you is profoundly inconvenient, I’ll have you know. I have things to do and places to be, and all the while I feel like I’ve mislaid a piece of my soul and I won’t get it back until I see you again. That can’t be normal.”

See? Sigh…

So now I’m left anxiously awaiting whatever Ms. Sebastian writes next, and seriously contemplating a binge-reading of all three books, just so I can enjoy the interconnected awesomeness of these characters and their stories.

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.


New Release and Giveaway! THE MISADVENTURES OF LADY OPHELIA by Christina McKnight (The Undaunted Debutantes #3)

Title: The Misadventures of Lady Ophelia
Series: The Undaunted Debutantes Series (Book Three)
Author: Christina McKnight
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency England
Release Date: July 11, 2017
Word Count: 70,000

 

Synopsis:

Quiet, reserved, Lady Ophelia Fletcher always has her nose stuck in a book; hence why she didn’t witness the death of her friend the fateful night of her passing. Now, she writes the Mayfair Confidential column to expose unsavory men as a way of making amends for not backing her other friend’s claims of murder. When a handsome stranger arrives to meet with her father, Ophelia is helpless to keep from investigating the dashing lord.

Colin Parnell, Lord Hawke, has a promise to uphold: find the book that proves his grandpapa worked as a spy for King George II and did not die as a no-good smuggler off the coast of Kent. Shrouded in mystery and scandal, the Parnell family has been at war with one another for decades, and Colin is determined to put a stop to it all by discovering proof of the family’s honorable past. Unfortunately, the book he seeks is in the hands of a fiery-haired beauty, and he’ll need to enlist Ophelia’s help to uncover the truth.

Ophelia is more than happy to use her skills to help Lord Hawke. But will their search for answers lead to misadventure, or will they get something greater than they bargained for: the truth and each other?

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

 

More from The Undaunted Debutantes!

The Disappearance of Lady Edith

Just 99 cents!

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The Misfortune of Lady Lucianna

Available from: 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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New Release Review and Giveaway! THE DUKE OF DEFIANCE by Darcy Burke (The Untouchables #5)

About the Book:

Difficult and defiant as a child, Bran Crowther, Earl of Knighton left England as a young man to pursue independence and adventure. He never expected to inherit the title and when duty calls him home, he still finds Society’s codes constricting and others’ expectations oppressive. Nevertheless, he needs a wife to be a mother to his young daughter, preferably a woman of intelligence and warmth who is, above all, immune to his idiosyncrasies—and to falling in love.
Widow Joanna Shaw isn’t interested in a second marriage, not after the loveless, passionless union she endured. She’d much rather dote on her young niece and nephew since they will likely be the only children in her life…until she meets a precocious girl, in desperate need of a mother. But her father, the so-called Duke of Defiance, is as peculiar as he is handsome, and Jo won’t take another risk with her heart. Their rules, however, are made to be broken, even when the consequences  could destroy them both.
Purchase: AmazonBarnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt:

Oh, he looked magnificent in evening wear, his dark charcoal-colored coat offset by his silver-threaded waistcoat and the snow-white of his cravat. Was he uncomfortable? She wondered how long he’d be able to endure the garments and pictured him stripping them off. The ballroom suddenly seemed overly warm.

He strode right to her and offered a bow, first to Nora as required by her rank, and another to Jo. “Good evening. You look lovely.” His gaze swept over her.

“Thank you.”

“I thought we could discuss the governess interviews,” he said. “My secretary has arranged them for Tuesday.”

Jo nodded. “Good.”

“Lord Knighton, why don’t you ask Jo to waltz? It’s just starting.”

Waltz? At Nora’s insistence, Jo had practiced the steps earlier today, but she’d never actually waltzed. “I’m not certain that’s necessary.”

Lord Knighton held out his arm. “Would you do me the honor?”

Now she was trapped. Although if she could refuse any man and predict that he wouldn’t take offense, it was Knighton. Once she explained her anxiety, she’d no doubt he would understand given his own foibles.

In the end, she simply put her hand on his arm and allowed him to escort her to the dance floor. It could be her only chance.

“I’ve never waltzed,” she said softly.

“Me neither.”

She turned her head sharply to look at him. “Oh dear.”

“How hard can it be?” he asked as they stepped onto the dance floor.

He rested his hand on her waist and clasped her hand. She placed her palm on his shoulder and, despite the layers of clothing, was certain she could feel his muscle.

“See, we’re experts,” he said.

Review:

Jo and Bram might be my favorite couple in this series 🙂

I loved Bram’s idiosyncrasies and his devotion to his daughter–they definitely helped to make him one of the more unique heroes out there. (Though I kept hoping we’d find out something more about why he was that way–even just an author’s note. I’m guessing with the anti-touch tendencies and the way he tensed up in social situations that he’s somewhere on the autism spectrum, maybe? Either way, his need to get out of restrictive clothing ASAP led to some–ahem–interesting moments for him…and Jo ;))

Jo just broke my heart with her awful first marriage and conviction that she couldn’t have children because she hadn’t yet, which was her main argument for why they couldn’t be together. Kudos to Bram for pointing out it wasn’t necessarily her “fault” that she hadn’t; it made for both a frustrating and heartbreaking reason for keeping them apart.

All while not keeping them apart, of course, because yeah. They were all kinds of together when they weren’t supposed to be. 😉

Evie was a fun character, even though towards the end she sometimes acted just a little bit too mature for her age, she was still all kinds of adorable.

It was fun seeing what is going on with the rest of the Untouchables and their wives, though this book could also stand on its own if needed.

Rating: 4 stars / A-

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

 Check out the other books in  The Untouchables series:

 

Meet the Author:

Darcy Burke is the USA Today Bestselling Author of hot, action-packed historical and sexy, emotional contemporary romance. A native Oregonian, Darcy lives on the edge of wine country with her guitar-strumming husband, their two hilarious kids who seem to have inherited the writing gene, and three Bengal cats. Visit Darcy online at www.darcyburke.com and sign up for her newsletter, follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/darcyburke, or like her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/DarcyBurkeFans.

Connect: Site | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

 

Giveaway:

  • $25 Amazon Gift Card, Signed copy of The Duke of Daring and Swag

*If the chosen winner resides outside of the US, an eBook will be sent instead of the print book.*

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New Release Review and Giveaway! LOVE WITH A SCOTTISH OUTLAW by Gayle Callen (Highland Weddings #3)

All she does know? She’s starting to fall in love with him. 

 

LOVE WITH A SCOTTISH OUTLAW
Highland Weddings #3
Gayle Callen
Releasing June 27, 2017
Avon Books

 

Catriona Duff can’t remember who she is. Discovered in the midst of a raging thunderstorm, she has no recollection of how she came to be there or how the guards around her ended up dead. She certainly doesn’t remember that the handsome Highlander who saves her is her family’s sworn enemy. All she does know? She’s starting to fall in love with him.

Duncan Carlyle couldn’t believe his luck when he found Catriona, the daughter of the man who made him an outlaw and forced him from his ancestral home, stranded on the road with nothing to her name–including her memory. Speaking out against Aberfoyle’s evil practices of stealing poor and orphaned children to sell to the highest bidder has cost him everything, but now he has the opportunity to make the man understand the true price of a missing child. But as Duncan begins to know Cat, guilt over his actions wars with his irrepressible desire for her.

When Cat discovers the truth of her identity, she decides she can teach the outlawed clan chief a lesson, but in love, there’s more than one way to win.

 


Duncan lifted the woman’s upper body into his left arm, cradling her head so that he blocked the rain. He probed near her wound gingerly with his right hand, and she frowned and weakly tried to turn away.

His wariness deepened. There was something about her, a familiarity that echoed inside his head but refused to take shape.

“Where am I?” she whispered, her accent English. “What happened?”

An English lady in the Highlands? He chose to answer the second question rather than the first. “Ye’ve a nasty wound to your head, mistress. Did ye fall?”

She blinked as if she might lose consciousness. “Where am I? What happened?”

Now it was his turn to blink, but he remembered that wounds of the head could cause confusion. He knew he had to stop the blood loss.

“Mistress, can ye stand?”

She opened those eyes again, large and golden, in a delicate face. Her dark hair streamed back from her forehead, her hairline coming to a peak.

He recognized her, a flash of memory from Stirling several years ago, when he’d glared his hatred at the Earl of Aberfoyle, a haughty old man on horseback, forcing aside a poor lass heavy with child to make way for him. The earl’s family was seldom in Scotland, so their arrival in the Highlands had caused a stir. Duncan had seen this woman riding just behind, wearing the fine gown and jaunty hat that marked her a noble lady. At least she’d looked distressed at her father’s actions.

Catriona Duff was the daughter of Aberfoyle, the chief of the Clan Duff and Duncan’s bitter enemy. Aberfoyle was one of the main reasons that Duncan was an outlaw who had to protect and feed his people while on the run.

He lifted his head and looked about, as if the earl and his entire retinue were somewhere nearby, waiting to attack him. “Where are your men?” he demanded.

“What happened?” she asked weakly.

“Ye’ve hit your head. Where are your men?”

“My—men?”

Her hand fluttered toward her forehead, but he didn’t allow her to touch the wound.

A spasm of pain narrowed her eyes. “I found them . . . dead,” she whispered. “What happened to me?”

“I don’t know.” Six weeks after almost being captured, he was still wary of anything unusual in his part of the Highlands. Dead men would prove her story true, but he couldn’t deal with them now.

“I—I can’t remember—I can’t remember anything!” Though her cry was feeble, it was full of helplessness and fear.

“Ye don’t remember the accident?”

“Not . . . the accident, not even . . . my name.”

He frowned down at her, wondering at what intrigue she was playing—or what her father had set in motion. He wouldn’t put it past the bastard.

She clutched his plaid. “What happened to me?” she cried in despair.

“I do not ken. I must clean that wound. Can ye stand? I can pull ye up on my horse.”

He rose, lifting her up with him until she could clutch the saddle for support. After mounting, he reached down for her. He would have preferred she ride astride behind him, but she seemed so weak that he ended up cradling her across his thighs. She leaned into him, her head lolling onto his chest, her blood staining his black, red, and yellow plaid.

It didn’t take long to reach the rocky overhang he’d used for shelter several other times. Once out of the rain, he searched his saddle pack but found nothing that would do for a clean bandage. He ended up cutting several strips from the end of his shirt with his dirk. The wound seemed clean enough after all the rain, so he wrapped the improvised bandages around her head and hoped they stopped the bleeding.

She looked at him helplessly the whole time, and he felt like she was memorizing his features. He studied her, too. Her high cheekbones emphasized the hollows beneath, and her full lips hinted at an expressive mouth. Her pale face was as remote and beautiful as a statue, making her appeal to him on a primitive level that he would never acknowledge.

Why was she in the remote Highlands? According to gossip he’d heard long ago, she rarely visited her father’s castles. Was she the advance of a larger party headed right for Duncan’s unsuspecting people? She was so close to his hidden encampment. If he let her go, she could bring men to hunt the area, risking his people—risking the good he was trying to do. He couldn’t release her until he knew all the facts.

I love this series! <3

Duncan and Cat’s story is just so good. I haven’t read a lot of amnesia stories–it always seems to me an awfully convenient plot device–but here it works, and OMG it creates one heck of a story. Even though Duncan starts out their relationship…well, lying to Cat and to his people…he does so for the same reason he’s been doing just about everything since taking over as head of his clan–in an attempt to keep the Carlyle clan safe. And yeah, he takes a big risk keeping up those lies, but I’m not sure he could have told her much earlier than she found out. Well, maybe he could have…but that might have robbed us of our grand gesture moment.

Because OMG. These two. So good together! And what a fabulous ending 🙂

Here’s hoping there’s going to be more Highland Weddings to come, because I will be so there! 🙂

Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

 


After a 
detour through fitness instructing and computer programming, Gayle Callen found the life she’d always dreamed of as a romance writer. This USA Today bestselling author has written more than twenty historical romances for Avon Books, and her novels have won the Holt Medallion, the Laurel Wreath Award, the Booksellers’ Best Award, and been translated into eleven different languages. The mother of three grown children, an avid crafter, singer, and outdoor enthusiast, Gayle lives in Central New York with her dog Uma and her husband, Jim the Romance Hero. She also writes contemporary romances as Emma Cane. Discover more at her website.
 

 

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New Release Review and Giveaway! THE DAY OF THE DUCHESS by Sarah MacLean (Scandal & Scoundrel #3)

A love that neither can deny…
 
THE DAY OF THE DUCHESS
Scandal & Scoundrel #3
Sarah MacLean
Releasing June 27, 2017
Avon Books

The one woman he will never forget…Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, has lived the last three years in self-imposed solitude, paying the price for a mistake he can never reverse and a love he lost forever. The dukedom does not wait, however, and Haven requires an heir, which means he must find himself a wife by summer’s end. There is only one problem—he already has one.

The one man she will never forgive…

After years in exile, Seraphina, Duchess of Haven, returns to London with a single goal—to reclaim the life she left and find happiness, unencumbered by the man who broke her heart. Haven offers her a deal; Sera can have her freedom, just as soon as she finds her replacement…which requires her to spend the summer in close quarters with the husband she does not want, but somehow cannot resist.

A love that neither can deny…

The duke has a single summer to woo his wife and convince her that, despite their broken past, he can give her forever, making every day…

 


Chapter 1

DESERTED DUKE DISAVOWED!

August 19, 1836

House of Lords, Parliament

 

She’d left him two years, seven months ago, exactly.

Malcolm Marcus Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven looked to the tiny wooden calendar wheels inlaid into the blotter on his desk in his private office above the House of Lords.

August the nineteenth, 1836. The last day of the parliamentary session, filled with pomp and idle. And lingering memory. He spun the wheel with the six embossed upon it. Five. Four. He took a deep breath.

Get out. He heard his own words, cold and angry with betrayal, echoing with quiet menace. Don’t ever return.

He touched the wheel again. August became July. May. March.

January the nineteenth, 1834. The day she left.

His fingers moved without thought, finding comfort in the familiar click of the wheels.

April the seventeenth, 1833.

The way I feel about you . . . Her words now—soft and full of temptation. I’ve never felt anything like this.

He hadn’t, either. As though light and breath and hope had flooded the room, filling all the dark spaces. Filling his lungs and heart. And all because of her.

Until he’d discovered the truth. The truth, which had mattered so much until it hadn’t mattered at all.

Where had she gone?

The clock in the corner of the room ticked and tocked, counting the seconds until Haven was due in his seat in the hallowed main chamber of the House of Lords, where men of higher purpose and passion had sat before him for generations. His fingers played the little calendar like a virtuoso, as though they’d done this dance a hundred times before. A thousand.

And they had.

March the first, 1833. The day they met.

So, they let simply anyone become a duke, do they? No deference. Teasing and charm and pure, unadulterated beauty.

If you think dukes are bad, imagine what they accept from duchesses?

That smile. As though she’d never met another man. As though she’d never wanted to. He’d been hers the moment he’d seen that smile. Before that. Imagine, indeed.

And then it had fallen apart. He’d lost everything, and then lost her. Or perhaps it had been the reverse. Or perhaps it was all the same.

Would there ever be a time when he stopped thinking of her? Ever a date that did not remind him of her? Of the time that had stretched like an eternity since she’d left?

Where had she gone?

The clock struck eleven, heavy chimes sounding in the room, echoed by a dozen others sounding down the long, oaken corridor beyond, summoning men of longstanding name to the duty that had been theirs before they drew breath.

Haven spun the calendar wheels with force, leaving them as they lay. November the thirty-seventh, 3842. A fine date—one on which he had absolutely no chance of thinking of her.

OH MY GOSH, THE ANGST.
Seriously, I don’t think I’ve read this much delicious romantic angst since The Scarlet Pimpernel…except, every scene between Sera and Mal is like the one where Percy kisses everywhere that Marguerite’s hand touched after she left him outside their home. So much love, buried under so many layers and years of hurting each other and being hurt…
GAH.
Though here we’ve got the lot of the Soiled Ss to keep things interesting, and a batch of suitesses (LOL, even when they’re thinking they need a new name for them, they’re still using the label) and a fluffy, bad-tempered, shedding like a fiend cat…plus, Sarah MacLean’s writing. So. Good. Even when I’m aggravated beyond reason with Sera for her stubborn insistence that they have no future together, I couldn’t get angry with the story, because did I mention, it’s so good?
Warning: once I’d started this book, I was good for absolutely nothing until I saw Sera and Mal to their long deserved HEA! (And can I just say–HA! I knew that what happens in the epilogue was going to happen!)
Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

New York Times, Washington Post & USA 
Today bestseller Sarah MacLean is the author of historical romance novels that have been translated into more than twenty languages, and winner of back-to-back RITA Awards for best historical romance from the Romance Writers of America.

Sarah is a leading advocate for the romance genre, speaking widely on its place at the nexus of gender and cultural studies. She is the author of a monthly column celebrating the best of the genre for the Washington Post. Her work in support of romance and the women who read it earned her a place on Jezebel.com’s Sheroes list of 2014 and led Entertainment Weekly to call her “gracefully furious.” A graduate of Smith College & Harvard University, Sarah now lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

 

New Release Review and Giveaway! A MOST UNLIKELY DUKE by Sophie Barnes (Diamonds in the Rough #1)

He never thought he’d become a duke,  or that the secrets of his past will cost him his greatest love…
 
A MOST UNLIKELY DUKE
Diamonds in the Rough #1
Sophie Barnes
Releasing June 27, 2017
Avon Books
Raphe Matthews hasn’t stepped foot in polite circles since a tragedy left his once-noble family impoverished and in debt. The bare-knuckle boxer has spent the last fifteen years eking out an existence for himself and his two sisters. But when a stunning reversal of fortunes lands Raphe the title of Duke of Huntley, he’s determined to make a go of becoming a proper lord, but he’ll need a little help and his captivating neighbor might be just the woman for the job…
After her sister’s scandalous match, Lady Gabriella knows the ton’s eyes are on her. Agreeing to tutor the brutish new duke can only lead to ruin. Although she tries to control her irresistible attraction to Raphe, every day she spends with him only deepens her realization that this may be the one man she cannot do without. And as scandal threatens to envelope them both, she must decide if she can risk everything for love with a most unlikely duke.
 

It was past eleven o’clock in the evening by the time Raphe returned home, his knuckles tender and his body still sore from the fight. Glad to get out of the cold, he closed the door on the rain that now poured from a thunderous sky, shrugged out of his coat and hung it on a hook behind the door just as his sister Amelia entered from an adjoining room that served as a small parlor.

“Good evenin’.” She yawned, leaning against the door frame. Squinting through the darkness, Raphe echoed her salutation. “I thought ye would be asleep by now.”

Stepping past her, he entered their tiny kitchen and snatched up the tinder box.

“I was,” Amelia said, following him into the chilly room. A threadbare shawl was draped across her shoulders, and as she pulled it tighter with pale and trembling fingers, Raphe felt his heart lurch. This wasn’t right. His sister did not deserve to live like this. None of them did. Pushing aside such fruitless ponderings, he found a candle, struck a flint and held it to the wick until a flame began to bloom, driving the darkness toward the walls where it struggled against the light.

“If it makes any difference, Juliette’s safely tucked into bed.” Amelia said, referring to their younger sister, whose weaker disposition was a constant cause for unease. When Raphe lifted the lid of a nearby pot and peered inside, Amelia added, “I made soup for dinner.”

“Smells delicious,” he dutifully told her.

“We both know ‘ow untrue that is, bu’ I appreciate yer optimism.”

Meeting her gaze, Raphe made a deliberate effort to smile. “Per’aps I can manage some meat for us tomorrow.” It would certainly be a welcome change from the potatoes and turnips they’d been eating for what seemed like forever. Christ, he was so tired of having a sore belly all the time, and his sisters . . . they never complained, but he knew they needed better nourishment than what they were getting.

“That’d be nice,” Amelia said. Her tone, however, suggested that she doubted his ability to manage such a feat. Bothered by her lack of faith in him, he grabbed a chunk of bread and tore off a large piece. “A chicken ought to be possible. If we make it last a few days.”

Amelia simply nodded. Grabbing a cup, she filled it with water and placed it before him. “I miss the smell of a bustlin’ kitchen.”

The comment threw him for a second. “Wha’?”

“Meat roastin’ on the fire, bread bakin’ in the oven.” She shook her head wistfully. “It’s funny. I

can’t picture Mama, but I remember Cook—plump cheeks an’ a kind smile. I remember bein’ ‘appy in the kitchen back ‘ome.”

The sentimental thought made Raphe weary. He didn’t bother to point out that she’d only been seven when they’d lost their parents and there’d been nothing left for Raphe to do but turn his back on the house in which they’d spent the early years of their childhoods and walk away, taking his siblings with him. He’d been no more than eight years old and with a mighty burden weighing on his shoulders. “I know this isn’t the sor’ of life that any of us ever imagined.”

Feeling his temper begin to rise at the memory of what their parents had done to them all, he added, “Hopefully, in time, things’ll get better.”

“I’m sure ye’re right.” Could she possibly sound any more unconvinced?

He ate a spoonful of soup, the bland flavor just a touch better than plain hot water. Amelia took a step forward. “The reason I didn’t retire with Juliette earlier is ’cause of this letter.” She waved a piece of paper in his direction. “It arrived for ye today while ye were out.”

Frowning, Raphe stared at her. “Do ye know who sent it?” He couldn’t even recall the last time he’d received a letter. Nobody ever wrote to him or his sisters.

“The sender’s name’s smudged. So’s the address. It’s a miracle it arrived here at all.” Handing the letter to Raphe, she watched as he turned it over and studied the penmanship. Sure enough, the only legible part of the address, which even appeared to have been altered once or twice, was his name: Mister Raphael Matthews.

I really liked this story!

Though parts of it didn’t feel totally accurate–smaller details, mostly; overall it was fairly plausible historical fiction–the story was entertaining and the characters extremely likable. And though I shuddered slightly when Gabriella was hanging out with spiders and beetles (spiders! and beetles!) it was really easy to adore her character anyway. And Raphe…ah, Raphe. You’ve got to love a guy who’s been taking care of his younger sisters since the age of eight and somehow managed to educate all three of them himself. (One of the aforementioned details–where on earth would they get books as penniless, parentless kids living in St. Giles? But still, it’s hard not to love characters who get excited by libraries and bookstores, so I’ll go with it :))

Also very interesting to note that though there’s chemistry galore here and all kinds of lusting after each other, actual sexytimes are sparse. I actually didn’t miss it–it was nice to focus on the relationship for a change…plus, chemistry and lust and hot and heavy dreams filled in the gap nicely 😉

Raphe’s younger sister Amelia is clearly being set up as the heroine of the next book, and I am so there, people! Can’t wait!

Rating: 4 stars / B+

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.


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

When she’s not busy dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading.