SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: His Pirate Seductress by Tamara Hughes

His Pirate Seductress

With her son’s life in the balance, Catherine Fry is forced to locate and steal the priceless Ruby Cross of the Knights Templar. She knows who has it—it’s just a matter of coercing Thomas Glanville, the handsome and incredibly stubborn captain of the ship she’s captured, into telling her the exact location. Fortunately, Catherine knows that there are many ways to get a man to talk…

Captain Thomas Glanville has the cross and he’ll be damned if he’s going to hand it over now that he finally has the means to buy a ship of his own. He’s at the mercy of a fiery woman who will stop at nothing to achieve her goal. But Catherine has no idea who she’s dealing with—and Thomas has his own means of charming a woman into his mercy and his bed…

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“You’re a pirate?” Obviously. Still, hard to believe. He pressed forward, forcing on her a series of blows meant to test her strength and will.

She parried and blocked his every move with an aptitude that amazed. “Aye. A pirate, and captain of the Sea Sprite,” she boasted, a wry smile upon her full lips.

Indeed, she appeared very much a pirate in her men’s garb—a threadbare, brown suit with overly long sleeves she’d had to roll up. Her ebony hair had been pulled back in a queue and was half hidden beneath a rumpled tricorn. Also, like her men, was her look of desperation and the grim cast to her countenance that bespoke of a hard existence.

“We offered you quarter,” she said as she evaded his thrust with ease. “Why didn’t you surrender? You had to know we outnumbered you.”

He didn’t answer. In all honesty, he’d thought they could defeat the pirates, if not with cannon fire, then with skill. After hearing of all the pirate attacks of late, they’d hired on additional hands, men who could fight. If it hadn’t been for the damn illness…

“It’s not too late. You can save what’s left of your crew. Surrender now, Captain Glanville, and we’ll see that your men are ransomed back.” A wicked gleam brightened her eyes as if victory would soon be hers.

He should do as she asked. It would be the sensible thing, but pride kept him from saying the words. Not yet. He still had another opponent to defeat, and so far she hadn’t been an easy one to overcome. Despite his steady attack, she kept her muscles relaxed, her balance sure. Her attention followed his movements no matter how small, adjusting her stance, looking for weaknesses. “How do you know I’m Captain Glanville?” When work was at hand, he didn’t dress any differently than his men.

“I know much about you.” Stepping clear of two men battling to their left, she blocked his sword with her own and lunged with her dagger. He jumped from the blade, avoiding injury by the barest inch. This one relied on speed and accuracy rather than power. Smart woman.

“What do you want from us?” he asked, launching an attack of his own, this time with so much force and speed, she had no choice but to retreat until her back came up against the railing. “We only just left London four days ago. Our cargo is mainly iron and ale.”

Her gaze sharpened even as her expression became strained. His assault was wearing her down. “I want the Ruby Cross.”

How the hell did she know he had the cross? And did she believe he’d simply hand it over? Hand over a priceless antiquity of the Knights Templar? Absurd. He swung his sword all the harder. The clang of steel rang through the air. Her reactions slowed, and her arms trembled. He made a final cut, putting all his strength behind the blow, and knocked her sword from her hand. Triumph surged through his veins. She attempted to slash out with her dagger. He grabbed her arm before her blade could reach him and hauled her close, their faces nose to nose. “You’ll never take the cross from me,” he vowed as he towered over her, his grip strong.

The point of a sword touched his back. Thomas tensed, he swore beneath his breath, self-disgust heavy in his chest. The distraction of this one woman had sealed his fate.

Bloody hell.



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professional-outdoor-headshotA small town girl with a big imagination, Tamara Hughes had no idea what to do with her life. After graduating from college, she moved to a big city, started a family and a job, and still struggled to find that creative outlet she craved. An avid reader of romance, she gave writing a try and became hooked on the power of exploring characters, envisioning adventures, and creating worlds. She enjoys stories with interesting twists and heroines who have the grit to surmount any obstacle, all without losing the ability to laugh.

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The Lost Soul of Lord Badewyn (Order of the M.U.S.E #3) by Mia Marlowe

the lost soul of lord baedwin

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He vowed to never fall in love…tead, she grew up amongst grifters who used her unique “finding” ability for their own selfish purposes. Re

Meg Anthony was never raised a lady. Inscently, she’s been taken under the wing of the Duke of Camden and the Order of M.U.S.E., learning not only the fine art of becoming a lady, but how to use her extraordinary talent to help others,

But Meg’s gift is a beacon to unsavory characters who would possess her.

Charged with her protection, Lord Badewyn knows—too well—that his wild, Welsh castle is no safe haven for this lovely, all-too-desirable creature. Part human, part fallen angel, he is one of the Nephilim. He is a recluse sworn never to love. As the dangers to Meg grow more threatening, he cannot help but find himself tempted beyond all reason…and tested to see if he has both a heart and a soul.


Publisher and Release Date: Entangled Select Historical, November 2015

RHR Classifications:

Time and Setting: England, 1814
Genre: Paranormal historical romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

This is the third book in Mia Marlowe’s paranormal historical series, The Order of the M.U.S.E. It has some themes similar to those found in the wildly popular young adult novel, Twilight, in which both hero and heroine do not feel they belong or even deserve love.

Lord Badewyn, Samuel Templeton, is the son of a human and a Fallen Angel. He truly believes he has no soul, much like vampire Edward Cullen; while Meg Anthony is a woman from the much lower classes who just wants to be accepted. With her special gift of “finding,” and her wholehearted acceptance into the Duke of Camden’s household, she feels as if she has finally found her home.

She needed her gift. It was all that made her special.

Meg is a minor character in the first two books in the series. In this one, she is on the run from her unsavory and unscrupulous relatives, uncle Rowney and cousin Oswald, whom her uncle wants her to marry. Before she escaped from them, Meg made her living on the rough streets of London’s poorest neighborhoods, using her gift as a “Finder” to locate lost objects and people. Her nimble fingers as a pickpocket also helped her survive, but Rowney and Oswald haven’t had much luck since she disappeared. And they are still looking for her.

Because of a recent break-in and Meg’s discovery that Rowney and Oswald are looking for her, the Duke of Camden has sent Meg to Faencaern Castle in Wales, the home of Lord Badewyn, for protection. Samuel is a “Watcher” who can spot approaching danger, but Samuel fears for Meg while she is in his safekeeping. He is attracted to her and therein lies major trouble.

The Order of the M.U.S.E. – Metaphysical Union of Sensory Extraordinaires – is a collection of people with unique gifts, collected by the illustrious Duke of Camden, whose special talents are ferreting out paranormal and treasonous plots against the Crown. Previous stories in the series feature an uncontrollable fire mage new to her gift and a viscount who hears voices and was once banished to Bedlam by cruel relatives. On her Goodreads page, Ms. Marlowe describes the series as “A psychic ‘Leverage’ type team meets Jane Austen in King George III’s Court…”

Also in the preceding books, there are some tantalizing glimpses into the Duke of Camden’s troubled personal history and it is resolved and revealed here.

Grigori, Samuel’s handsome but confused father, is a Fallen Angel, doomed to repeat a tragic “Grand Cycle,” but I cannot disclose more because it would spoil the story. Grigori has his own demons that he must overcome, despite fearing he never can. I really like how Ms. Marlowe reveals the inner compassion of this complex character.

“Wicked things are so much more interesting, don’t you think?”

This is a rather sweet romance. Both Meg and Samuel are virgins and the love scenes are remarkably tame compared to Ms. Marlowe’s usual repertoire, especially those in her sexy and playful Touch of Seduction series.

“I may be a virgin, but I’m a well-read virgin.”

Though this is a paranormal historical and Ms. Marlowe clearly takes some liberties, there is still close attention to the customs and etiquette as well as fashion of the Regency era. For example, she describes the complex process of cleaning an elaborate gown and how difficult and long it might take to clean thoroughly.

Ms. Marlowe’s pacing is energetic and fast, and this novel has plenty of plot twists, witty dialogue, colorful characters, and a romance between two lonely souls. If you enjoy Brooklyn Ann’s Regency vampire series, Scandals with Bite, this is a satisfying instalment in an engaging and original series.

Highland Heat by Jennifer Haymore

highland heat
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With blood still drying on the front lines at Waterloo, Lady Grace Carrington helps an injured soldier to a British medical tent. Though she believes she’s pulled him to safety, in fact she has put them both in grave danger: Because when his brilliant blue eyes meet hers, the passionate Scottish sergeant kisses her in a way that leaves her breathless and trembling. As the obedient daughter of an earl, Grace shouldn’t be tempted by someone so far below her station. But as a red-blooded woman, she longs for so much more.

As far as Duncan Mackenzie is concerned, getting stabbed in the arm was the best thing that ever happened to him. When he wakes on the battlefield, the sight of Grace’s lovely face sets his soul aflame. As an enlisted man and a farmer’s son, however, pursuing his guardian angel means facing the wrath of London society, not to mention his own superiors in the British Army. Aye, but he’d risk all that and more just to keep her in his arms.


Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, November 24, 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and setting: London, 1822
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Vikki

I have been a huge fan of Jennifer Haymore ever since I read A Hint of Wicked several years ago. I love her writing style, and her unique story lines. Highland Heat is a fantastic read!

When Lady Grace Carrington stumbles over Duncan Mackenzie on the battlefield after the Battle of Waterloo ends, she is immediately drawn to the handsome, injured highlander, but there is a huge problem. She is the daughter of an earl, while he is a lowly sergeant, the son of a mere farmer. The ton – and most importantly, her father – would never sanction a union between Grace and such a man.

Will Grace follow the dictates of society and ignore her instant attraction for the gorgeous Scot, or will she throw caution to the wind and gain a forever kind of love?

When I discovered the vast class distinction between Grace and Duncan, I could not imagine how their love story could ever work out, but Ms. Haymore brings the completely unlikely couple together and gives them a most satisfying HEA.

I fell in love with the characters of Grace and Duncan from the opening scene. The sexual tension between them sizzles from their first meeting and only grows hotter as the story unfolds. Both characters are brave, honorable and loyal; Grace to her family, and Duncan to his comrades.

Not only is there a compelling love story between the two principals, there is also a great deal of romantic suspense. I sat on the edge of my seat with my heart pounding during the climax of the book, which kept me up long past my bedtime becasuse I had to see how it ended. For a moment I feared all was lost, but Ms. Haymore found a magnificent way to give her readers a beautiful ending.

If you are looking for a Regency romance that will pull at your heart strings and bring tears to your eyes, then you need look no further than Highland Heat.

AUDIO REVIEW: Dair Devil (Roxton Family Saga #4) by Lucinda Brant, narrated by Alex Wyndham

Dair Devil

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Opposites attract. Appearances can deceive. A dashing and rugged façade hides the vulnerable man within. He will gamble with his life, but never his heart. Always the observer, never the observed, her fragility hides conviction. She will risk everything for love. One fateful night they collide. The attraction is immediate, the consequences profound….

London and Hampshire, 1777: The story of Alisdair “Dair” Fitzstuart, nobleman, ex-soldier, and rogue, and Aurora “Rory” Talbot, spinster, pineapple fancier, and granddaughter of England’s Spymaster General, and how they fall in love.


Publisher and Release Date: Sprigleaf PTY Ltd., October 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1777
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Caz

This fourth book in Lucinda Brant’s Roxton Family Saga, is a lovely, beautifully romantic story about a man who hides his true self behind a wild, brash exterior, whose life is transformed by a young woman who had thought only to observe life from the sidelines.

Big, strong and handsome, Major Lord Alisdair (Dair) Fitzstuart more than lives up to his nickname. He is a military hero, having displayed enormous courage in battle and emerged unscathed; but has the reputation of being a complete rapscallion, renowned for his wild, often outrageous behaviour, and for the fact he never turns down a bet, no matter how ridiculous or dangerous the challenge. His antics keep society well entertained, but what most people fail to realise is that he’s bored. Returned six months previously from the war in the Colonies, where, unbeknownst to many, he worked as a spy as well as an army officer, he is at a loose end. Heir to the Earl of Strathsay, he has been left in limbo by his father, who left England twenty years ago without leaving his son any authority over his English estates. Until he marries, Dair has no independent means and can have no hand in the management of the estates that will one day be his.

The book opens with Dair and two of his best friends about to invade the studio of artist, George Romney in order to play an audacious prank. With Dair and Lord Grasby stripped down to loincloths and daubed with ashes and paint in order to look like American Indians, the plan is to cause mayhem by frightening the bevy of lovely opera dancers currently serving as models for Romney’s next painting. Cedric Pleasant is infatuated with the beautiful Consulata Baccelli, so Dair’s plan is that his friend will intervene at an opportune moment, scare off the two savages, save the day and thus win the lady’s admiration and, hopefully, gratitude (*wink*). Unfortunately, however, their “invasion” coincides with the unplanned visit to the studio of Lady Grasby and her party, which also includes Grasby’s sister, Lady Aurora (Rory) Talbot. In the ensuing fracas, Dair and Rory end up – literally – tangled together; and even though they have met before at social events (he is cousin to Antonia, dowager Duchess of Roxton who is Rory’s godmother) he hasn’t really taken much notice of her and doesn’t realise who she is to start with. All he knows is that he is in possession of a very pretty, funny, quick witted, perceptive and warm armful of woman and he wants her.

It’s not until the next day that Dair discovers the identity of that warm armful, but before he can speak to Rory about the events of the previous evening, her grandfather, the Earl of Shrewsbury, has made him swear to act as though he remembers nothing about it so as to spare Rory’s delicate sensibilities.

Shrewsbury is England’s spymaster and a very powerful man, but he dotes on Rory, who because of a birth defect (a club foot), walks with a cane. At twenty-two, she doesn’t expect ever to marry, much as she would like to, because of her disability and also because her grandfather is so over-protective that he doesn’t afford her many chances to meet eligible gentlemen.

The bulk of the story deals with the progression of Dair and Rory’s relationship, which is deliciously romantic and extremely well-developed. We are also treated to further – and unexpected – developments in the lives of Antonia and her new husband, and the continuation of the sub-plot that began in Autumn Duchess, concerning the involvement of Dair’s brother with the American revolutionaries. All these elements are woven together skilfully and seamlessly; and while at one point early on, it seemed as though there was the potential for the introduction of an angsty Big Misunderstanding, I was relieved that Ms Brant opted not to go there. Thankfully, she’s a good enough writer that she doesn’t need to employ such devices to create conflict or tension, which instead arise naturally from the characters or from the way she has designed her story.

Both principals are likeable and strongly drawn. Dair is a rogue, but he’s an honourable one, a man with a huge capacity for love and understanding, as is shown in his interactions with his ten-year-old son, the product of his first, youthful liaison with a serving maid. I know that some listeners might be put off by the fact of the hero’s having a child, but the fact that he acknowledges the boy and continues to be a part of his life says a lot about him, and I liked him all the more for it. Rory is witty and intelligent, determined to live her life to the full in spite of her disability, and it’s easy to understand why Dair is so immediately smitten with her. He doesn’t care about her club foot or that she walks with a cane – he sees a lovely, loveable young woman and is determined to make her his.

I have listened to a number of Alex Wyndham’s narrations now and he is, quite simply, one of the best narrators around. Every time I come to write a review of one of his performances, I find myself opening up the thesaurus to find more superlatives, because he is so incredibly good that I have run out of them! Every single character is clearly delineated so that there is never any question as to who is speaking in any given scene, and his female voices are the best I have ever heard from any male narrator in the genre. I continue to adore his interpretation of Antonia, (now the Duchess of Kinross), and his portrayal of Dair is utterly perfect; determined, playful, authoritative and sexy by turns, Mr Wyndham gives so much more than a mere “performance”. It probably helps that he has a gorgeous voice to lend to the delectable heroes Ms Brant has created for us, but add to that his perfect pacing, his incredible range of timbre and accent and his ability to get to the emotional heart of both story and characters and you have the perfect performance.

I can’t recommend the audiobook of Dair Devil highly enough. The love story is compelling, the historical setting is used to great effect and the narration is flawless. It really doesn’t get any better than this.

Breakdown of grade: Narration – 5 stars; Content – 4.5 stars

The Sport of Baronets (Romance of the Turf #0.5) by Theresa Romain

The Sport of Baronets
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The lives of Sir Bartlett Crosby and Hannah Chandler have been marked by fierce competition between their elite families…the perfect breeding ground for a mutual attraction neither can deny.

Bart hopes to conquer “the turf” through victory in a much-touted match. Should his heavily-favored colt win, the Crosby reputation and fortunes would be revived. Bart’s plan seems poised for success until the lovely Hannah Chandler, daughter of a noted rival trainer, turns up claiming ownership of the colt. When Hannah insists on claiming her purchase, the prize colt disappears from Bart’s stable. Theft or treachery? As Hannah and Bart rush to solve the mystery before race time, they uncover a scandalous truth about their families’ pasts-a truth that has the potential to either destroy both their futures, or to guide them to a love they never imagined.


Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, November 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Newmarket, 1817
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Sara

If I had to pick a single word to describe The Sport of Baronets it would be “adorable”. The story is sweet, there are no major hang-ups to the central relationship and I genuinely enjoyed the main characters. Theresa Romain couldn’t have picked a better way to introduce her new series to a potential reader.

Horseracing is the industry for the community of Newmarket and has been the lifeblood to the Crosby and Chandler families for generations. With a longstanding competition between stables, the ultimate test for their breeding program is the annual Two Thousand Guineas Stakes. This year Sir Bartlett Crosby has put all of his hopes of renewing the family fortunes on his prized colt, Golden Barb. When Hannah Chandler, youngest daughter of his stiffest competition, claims that she’s bought the horse right from under him, Bart is naturally shocked and angry at the presumption. His feelings quickly move to shock and confusion when the horse is stolen right from his own stables by a trusted groom.

Willing to put their suspicions of the other aside for the sake of the welfare of the colt, Hannah and Bart team up to investigate the theft by using their knowledge of the racing community. Their partnership digs deeper into the histories of their families when it’s discovered that the horse’s true ownership is tied to more than a bill of sale. Spending so much time together in close contact gives Hannah a chance to question Bart about life outside of their village and realize that he’s not quite the calculating devil her father paints him. For Bart, learning more about Hannah’s interests in both racing and her future allows him to confide some of his own dreams and fears. As the race draws closer and the mystery of the horse’s disappearance gets shadier, they both find that what is most important to them has changed significantly.

The feud between the Crosby and Chandler families isn’t quite the next Montagues vs. Capulets but it was a great starting point to put Bart and Hannah at odds without needing too much backstory. Once they begin working with each other it’s quickly understood that they’ve been told more about the other family’s treachery without having experienced it themselves. It was wonderful to be inside both of their minds as they take a closer look at that longstanding rivalry and figure out if it’s even meaningful to them in their current circumstances. As Bart and Hannah become more informal with each other the stigmas of their surnames are set aside to allow them to just be comfortable with one another. From there, attraction and infatuation play their roles to get Bart and Hannah talking about more than a missing horse.

There is something so charming about Bart and Hannah’s relationship. From the moment they meet each other in his stables their teasing and witty dialog just zings through the chemistry they have together. Hannah’s desire to become independent plays well against Bart’s need to prove himself within their community. They have both put all of their dreams on the line in the form of one racehorse and that almost shared dream allows them to confide in one another and open up, where their families would have had them working to destroy that dream. I loved that the move from rivals to friends to more grows organically, with their physical relations more in line with what would have been comfortable for a woman of Hannah’s upbringing. It’s just enough for them to realize they are compatible with each other on many levels.

Ms. Romain packs quite a bit of set-up for her Romancing the Turf series into the story but I never felt I was being hit over the head with the details. Events open up on the eve of a major racing event and through Bart and Hannah’s investigation into the missing colt we get to meet the players within the racing community. Through Hannah we learn about her siblings, one of which is the hero of the first full length book, and their own ties to the Jockey Club or Newmarket stables. We even get a taste of just how important horse racing had become to the upper classes and just how devious some could be to profit from it. It’s a tall order to ask any novella to launch the next three to four stories, but after finishing The Sport of Baronets I’m already eager to jump back into this world for more.

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1) by Deanna Raybourn

A curious beginning
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London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime. But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.


Publisher and Release Date: September 2015 by NAL/Penguin

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London, 1887
Genre: Mystery/Adventure with a hint of romance to come
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

Readers who enjoyed Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia series of Victorian mystery/romance stories will definitely want to try A Curious Beginning, the first volume of a new series featuring an independent-minded Victorian woman who goes sleuthing with a sexy, mysterious man of many secrets. On the surface, the characters sound similar to Lady Julia and Brisbane, but they are sufficiently different from that couple to make this series stand on its own.

Veronica Speedwell (and yes, that is an intentionally redundant name, as “Speedwell” is the common name for the flowering genus Veronica) is an orphan raised by two spinsters who call themselves her aunts but who really are not related to her. She never knew her parents and apparently never was curious to know about them. She took up lepidoptery in her youth as a way of getting out of the house by herself, and she has turned it into a quasi-career and traveled to remote parts of the world. As she is a thoroughly modern young woman, she has occasionally indulged her carnal desires with men she met on her travels. The story opens as the last aunt has died after Veronica returned from a butterfly-hunting trip to Costa Rica.

Veronica is rational, independent, stubborn, and outspoken. She has none of the usual accomplishments expected of a Victorian female and has no desire to marry and have children. It is not surprising, therefore, that when she returns from her aunt’s funeral to find an intruder in their cottage, she fights and then pursues him. When the intruder attempts to drag her into a waiting carriage, she is rescued by a courtly German gentleman who introduces himself as Baron Maximilian von Stauffenbach. He tells her that her life is in jeopardy and that she must put herself under his protection. Trusting her instincts – which Veronica does quite often – she agrees and they set off for London.

It turns out that the baron knew her mother, but he is reluctant to tell her much immediately. “If it were in my power to tell you everything . . . ” he tells Veronica as he leaves her in London, promising to return. The baron commits Veronica to a man he trusts completely, Stoker, a naturalist and taxidermist who works in a dilapidated Thames-side warehouse crammed full of scientific specimens, dead animals, and all sorts of related paraphernalia. Stoker does not make a good first impression, but he owes the baron some type of debt of honor, so he begrudgingly agrees to let Veronica stay and promises to protect her. Emphasis on begrudgingly.

Lots of authors create romantic heroes who are rude, moody, and misogynistic, but with Stoker, Deanna Raybourn has outdone them all. In the early parts of the book, it is very difficult to imagine Stoker as a hero; he is truly a jerk. Soon, however, when the baron is found murdered and Stoker takes Veronica on the road to elude the assassin, the pair begin to develop a reluctant respect for one another. Veronica is not one to be cowed by any man, and there is delightful banter between the two. It becomes easier to admire Stoker, although he never will be a hail-fellow-well-met type of guy. He is devoted to protecting his charge, and there were a few times I became impatient with Veronica’s reluctance to trust him.

There are far too many twists and turns in the plot for me to do it justice in this review. Suffice it to say that you will not in your wildest dreams imagine what is coming next. And yet, thanks to Ms. Raybourn’s skill, it all works beautifully in the end. The mystery of Veronica’s birth is revealed, but there is lots of room for further developments in that area. And some of Stoker’s past comes to light, although he still remains a man of deep mystery. The author has pulled off a neat trick in making the heroine a plain-speaking, practical, and unsentimental woman, while the hero is more of an emotional, reticent, and easily wounded romanticist (although he would deny it).

In the end, Veronica devises a clever plan for them to continue working together, as she realizes that she does not want to simply say good-bye to Stoker forever.

Something about his quickness of mind, his determination to live by his own lights, had called to me. I recognized his nature as my own. It was as if we were two castaways from a far-off land, adrift among strangers whose ways we could not entirely understand. But something within us spoke the same language, for all our clashes of words. He did not trust me entirely; that much was certain. And I frequently frustrated him to the point of madness. But I knew that whatever bedeviled him, he had need of me—and it seemed a betrayal to turn my back upon one of my own kind. I had seldom met another such as we, and I had learned that to be a child of the wilderness was a lonely thing.

So, is this book truly a romance? Some readers would say “no,” given that the couple don’t even exchange a kiss. The underlying, unspoken sexual tension between them, however, is off the charts. In this respect, it is similar to the initial relationship between Lady Julia and Brisbane, and I am relieved to say that by the end I found Stoker attractive enough to make a potential romance appealing. I don’t know that he will replace Brisbane as one of my favorite book-boyfriends, but I am eager to see him try.

Deanna Raybourn is a talented writer, and her adroit mixture of history, romance, and mystery have made her one of my favorites. In A Curious Beginning, she has put together a first-rate combination of plot, characters, and atmosphere that has me eagerly looking forward to spending a lot more time with Veronica and Stoker.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: A Widow’s Salvation by Becky Lower

A Widows Salvation CoverPurchase Now from Amazon

In 1862 America, the Civil War has raged for twelve months. Pepper Fitzpatrick Brown’s heart was broken when her husband died with the first volley at Manassas. Now she’s a widow raising three young boys and plans to honor his sacrifice by volunteering at the army hospital.

When Colonel Elijah Williams can grab a few minutes to nap between his duties as head surgeon at MacDougall Army Hospital in the Bronx, his sleep is invaded with nightmares of the atrocities he’s seen. His life has narrowed to nothing but the bloody war … until he meets Pepper Brown. But her father is concerned Elijah doesn’t have the best intentions, and Pepper is fearful of loving and losing again.

It’s hard to find happiness in a war-torn United States, but these two stand a fighting chance—if they can save what’s left of their hearts.



New York City, July 1862

Pepper Brown yanked open her bedroom armoire and stared at the sea of black. Her widow’s weeds, as people called them. They were showing up in increasing numbers on the streets of New York, on women of all ages. The Civil War, which both sides had thought would be over in a matter of weeks, marked its one-year anniversary today.

Which meant today was also Pepper’s one-year anniversary as a widow. She drummed her foot on the floor while she perused the black dresses. Was she ready to move on?

Michael had thought she would be. In fact, he extracted a promise from her before he left for the war. One year and not one day more, he had said. Her mother thought so, too, or she wouldn’t have planned their outing for today. All Pepper now needed was the courage to convince herself they were right. The churning in her stomach told her she had a ways to go yet.

She straightened and turned her back on the black.

“Molly, please come help me dress,” Pepper called down the hall to her lady’s maid.
“I’m going out today.”

“Aye, ma’am.” Molly, a young Irish girl with light brown hair and matching freckles across her pert nose, came quickly into the room. “Which gown would you be liking?”
She began fondling the various dresses in the armoire.

“None of these. I’m done with these dresses. Besides, most of them are maternity gowns. I want to wear something fresh, something different.”

Molly nodded vigorously, and the little white cap on her head bounced askew. She righted it before she spoke. “Perfectly understood, ma’am, and you should be stepping down to half mourning. Perhaps I can find a nice gray or deep purple gown among your other things.”

Pepper shook her head. “No, no half mourning for me. What kind of silly term is that, anyway? I’m going out with Mother, and I want our day to be special. I want to wear something bright. I think the periwinkle dress Jasmine created for me right before Michael’s death will do. Yes, the periwinkle.”

Pepper smiled at Molly’s horrified intake of breath. She obviously disapproved, which meant it was the right decision.

“Periwinkle? Forgive me saying so, ma’am, but isn’t it a wee bit too much of a difference?”

“Why yes, it is, Molly.” Pepper’s smile grew. “It’s time to be different, don’t you think? Michael would have approved. Go on, now, and find me the dress. It may need a bit of altering, since I’ve still to lose some of the baby weight I’ve put on. It’ll need to be fixed before Mother gets here.”

“Aye, ma’am, right away.”

Molly took off at a trot down the hall to the large storage room for clothing, and Pepper closed the doors on the widow’s weeds. She had never expected to be a widow at only thirty-one years of age. She had never expected to have three boys under the age of eight to raise by herself. She had never expected Michael’s last gift to her would be another son, one who was his exact image. The babe had been born hale and healthy, even though she had thought the child would suffer because of her melancholy.

And, even though she had never expected the life now facing her, she would throw off her widow’s weeds and pick up the rest of her journey on this earth, despite her fears that she’d never be able to pull it off. Today she would dress up in gay-colored clothing, maybe even splash on some toilet water, go to the Army hospital in the Bronx with her mother, and provide a bit of comfort to the many who were wounded. She had no medical experience to draw from, but she could hold a hand, fetch a glass of water, write a letter home. Little things, she reasoned. But a lot of little things could make a difference. She hoped someone had been there on the battlefield to hold Michael’s hand as he took his last breath.

She brought a fist to her mouth as the tightness in her chest threatened to reduce her again to the sniveling mess she’d been in those first days. Days when she’d gathered information from the papers on how her beloved died alone on some field in Virginia in front of the shameful folks who had driven out from Washington, D.C., with their picnic baskets to witness the battle, only to turn and run when the battle dragged on and became so bloody. They had expected a fun-filled afternoon as the men strutted about in their fancy uniforms but instead were witness to the first carnage of the ghastly war.


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BeckyLowerBecky Lower lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. Visit her website at or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Again, My Lord (Twist Series #2) by Katherine Ashe

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The one that got away . . .

Six years ago, Tacitus Everard, the Marquess of Dare, made the worst mistake of his life: courting vibrant, sparklingly beautiful Lady Calista Chance—until she broke his heart.

Is the only one she wants.

Six years ago, Calista Holland made the biggest misstep of her life: begging handsome, wealthy Lord Dare to help her run away from home—then marrying someone else.

Now, trapped by disaster in a country inn, Calista has one day to convince the marquess she’s worth a second chance, and Dare has one goal, to steer clear of déjà vu. But when the day takes an unimaginable twist, what will it take to end up in each other’s arms?


Publisher and Release Date: Billet-Doux Publishing, October 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency London
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Wendy

An original and entertaining read, Again My Lord is the second in Katharine Ashe’s, Twist series. An historical romance with a more modern feel than some readers may approve of, it’s nonetheless a breath of fresh air; after all, how many novels kick off with a line such as: “Lady Calista Chance had excellent teeth”? I was hooked straight away! The author makes no bones about the fact that she based this novel – loosely – on a popular film, which I won’t name as it will give the game away. But despite this modern take, I liked her witty, clever dialogue and was immediately caught up in Aphrodite’s humorous interference in the lives of the protagonists.

Tacitus Everard, the Marquess of Dare, has been on the lookout for a bride, his main criteria being:

a) his would-be-wife had to have perfect teeth and
b) he preferred not to become emotionally involved

He was successful with a)…but failed miserably with b)…falling hopelessly, hook line and sinker, for the beautiful, vivacious and bubbly Lady Calista Chance. He, at the time, was a rather shy, stuffy and gauche young man, decent and honourable but not good at making his intentions obvious. Lady Calista was also very attracted to Tacitus but didn’t make her feelings clear either, covering them up by teasing and unwittingly leading him to believe that she wasn’t interested in him as a suitor. Calista was desperate to leave her family home; her scapegrace, dishonourable Father was threatening to sell her off to the highest bidder, and after a month of courting, Tacitus still hadn’t come to the point, so in desperation she asked him to help her to run away. He misunderstood, believing that she wanted his help to run to another man and refused her request. Calista is forced into marriage with a hateful, abusive man after Tacitus, broken-hearted, turned tail and ran back to London.

Six years later, the star-crossed lovers are trapped by floods at a country inn, and it seems that fate has given them another chance at love. Calista has a statuette of Aphrodite in her possession (this naughty lady first made an appearance in My Lady My Lord) and strange things begin to happen. Only Calista, becomes aware of this strange phenomenon, and astutely, starts to use it to her advantage. I don’t want to give away too much, but suffice to say that Ms. Ashe has a very powerful imagination and entertains us with some very insightful, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant situations, along with a good dollop of delicious romance. After a time, Calista begins to relax and returns to the happy and playful young woman she was prior to being coerced into her abusive marriage – the young woman that Dare fell hopelessly in love with. He has lightened up too, taking himself less seriously and is also more able to take her teasing. They start to re-discover each other and the romance, as it rekindles, is tender and subtly developed.

There are a few annoying niggles which I am really surprised about, given Katharine Ashe’s background as an historian and experience as a writer of historical romance. Calista’s father is the Earl of Chance, so her last name would not have been Chance, and there are various, irritating Americanisms dotted throughout. She describes the quintessential English village the progagonists are trapped in so perfectly that she has obviously undertaken extensive and thorough research; so these slips are all the more annoying by contrast.

Those issues apart, however, I loved this charming, witty novel with its dark undertones and as a result, have already gone back to read the first in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed Aphrodite’s meddling in the lives of the Chance family, and now very much look forward to the next ‘Twist’ in the series.

Night of the Highland Dragon (Highland Dragons #3) by Isabel Cooper

night of the highland dragon
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They say,” said the girl, “that people disappear up there. And I heard that the lady doesna’ ever grow any older.””The lady?” William asked.”Lady MacAlasdair. She lives in the castle, and she’s been there years, but she stays young and beautiful forever.”

In the Scottish Highlands, legend is as powerful as the sword-and nowhere is that more true than in the remote village of Loch Aranoch. Its mysterious ruler, Judith MacAlasdair, is fiercely protective of her land-and her secrets. If anyone were to find out what she really was, she and her entire clan would be hunted down as monsters.
William Arundell is on the trail of a killer. Special agent for an arcane branch of the English government, his latest assignment has led him to a remote Highland castle and the undeniably magnetic lady who rules there. Yet as lies begin to unravel and a dark threat gathers, William finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of the Highlands…and the woman he can neither trust nor deny.

He prays she isn’t the murderer; he never dreamed she was a dragon.


Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, June 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Scottish Highlands, 1898
Genre: Historical Romance/Fantasy
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Natalie

Like her brothers, Lady Judith MacAlasdair is a nearly immortal shape-shifter who has managed to keep her identity safety hidden from the local villagers and society alike. All the MacAlasdair siblings have managed this over the centuries by periodically leaving their ancestral home at different intervals and returning decades later as a younger relative. During this last turn living at home, Judith has come to relish her small, insular village life. She understands that some suspect that there are secrets on the estate but that they are willing to keep those secrets because the MacAlasdair family has always done its best to protect and help their neighbors.

Meanwhile, Special Agent William Arundel, who has secrets and special abilities of his own, has arrived in Loch Aranoch. William works for a secret branch of the government that hunts down demons, and his most recent investigation has lead him to the door of Lady Judith, a woman who never seems to age. The two immediately distrust each other and when local farm animals turn up mutilated they each suspect the other of committing the crimes. But to find out what is happening in Loch Aranoch, Judith and William must call a truce. As they work together to protect the town their respect grows to understanding and attraction.

As I was reading Night of the Highland Dragon I realized that I had actually read the first book in the series, Legend of the Highland Dragon, when it came out in 2013. I loved the story, which was an interesting mix of period romance and fantasy. Ms Cooper definitely delivers with Night of the Highland Dragon,which is just as entertaining as its predecessors. The relationship between Judith and William is interesting, since they both have abilities and need to dance around each other, trying to figure out how much the other knows. The mystery aspect of the book is an extra bonus, giving the romance a place to grow without using some of the regular ‘misunderstanding’ tactics that can start to feel formulaic.

After finishing the novel, I was excited to go back to the first and second in the in the Highland Dragons series and read all of the books. While Night of the Highland Dragon works as a stand-alone novel, it is always a great feeling to be able to jump right back into the lives of awesome, well-written characters. Pick up one – or all three – in the series and settle in for a romance filled winter!

VIRTUAL TOUR: No Groom at the Inn (Dukes Behaving Badly #2.5) by Megan Frampton


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What does a lady do when a man she’s never seen before offers his hand in marriage? Lady Sophronia Bettesford doesn’t scream and run away. Instead, she accepts the shocking proposition. After all, what’s her other choice? To live with her cousin, caring for six children and a barnyard full of chickens?

James Archer has roamed the world, determined never to settle down. He’s faced danger and disaster…he fears nothing and no one—except his mother and her matchmaking ways. So when ordered to attend a Christmastime house party filled with holiday cheer and simpering young misses, he produces—a fiancée!

Sophronia and James vow to pretend to be in love for one month. But when they promise to give each other a Christmas kiss, it becomes clear that this pact made out of necessity might just be turning into love.



“Excuse me, miss,” a gentleman said in her ear. She jumped, so lost in her own foolish (fowlish?) thoughts that she hadn’t even noticed him approaching her.

She turned and looked at him, blinking at his splendor. He was tall, taller than her, even, which was a rarity among gentlemen. He was handsome in a dashing rosy-visioned way that made her question just what her imagination was thinking if it had never inserted him—or someone who looked like him–into her dreams.

He had unruly dark brown hair, longer than most gentlemen wore. The ends curled up as though even his hair was irrepressible. His eyes were blue, and even in the dark gloom, she could see they practically twinkled.

As though he and she shared a secret, a lovely, wonderful, delightful secret.

Never mind that all those words were very similar to one another. Her word-specific father would reprimand her—if that gentle soul could reprimand someone, that is—if he heard how cavalierly she was tossing out adjectives that all meant nearly the same thing.

But he wasn’t here, was he, which was why she was here, and now she was about to find out why this other he was here.

Far too many pronouns. Her attention returned to the tall, charming stranger.

Who was talking to her. Waiting for her response, actually, since she had spent a minute or so contemplating his general magnificence. And words, and her father, and whatever other non-chickened thoughts had blessedly crossed her mind.

“Can I help you, sir?” Sophronia asked. He was probably lost on his way to the Handsome Hotel where they only allowed Exceedingly Handsome guests.

That he might think she’d know where the Handsome Hotel was gave her pause. Because she was not handsome, not at all.

But what he said was next was even more unexpected than being asked to provide directions to some establishment where one’s appearance was the only requirement for entry.

“Would you marry me?” he said in a normal tone of voice as though he hadn’t just upended Sophronia’s entire world.


Publisher and Release Date: Avon Impulse (November 2015)

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting:
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Sara

NO GROOM_CoverIt’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas(!) in Romancelandia. Megan Frampton’s No Groom at the Inn uses its Christmastime setting to good effect, borrowing some of the season’s spirit to bring a wandering soul together with one looking for a place to belong.

The holidays are a time where families want to get together, but for Sophronia Bettesford the journey to see hers is less than joyful. Her father passed on leaving her nothing to live on so she is forced to fall on a cousin’s charity. The brief stop at a coaching inn is also her final glimpse eof freedom before becoming an unpaid servant in her cousin’s household. Her daydreams of independence and a small house of her own are interrupted by the most handsome man she’s encountered, with the strangest proposal she’s ever heard.

Getting together for the holidays with family is something James Archer wants no part of. Manipulated into attending a house party with his mother is the last thing a man like James needs when there is business to handle and beautiful women to seduce. Knowing that any conversation with his mother will lead to questions about his future James feels he’ll be safe if he creates an illusion that he’s ready to settle down, including a fake fiancée. Meeting Sophronia at the inn is fortuitous to his plan and he quickly bargains with her to join him in the charade.

As the festive spirit takes a hold of James and Sophronia it slowly changes their arrangement, blurring the lines between what is part of their fake relationship and what is building into something real.

James’s character is written in such a way that I’m not quite sure if I found him likeable or not. He comes across as self-assured, competitive and a bit cocky but those aren’t necessarily bad qualities for a hero to have. He never uses these traits to hurt Sophronia and in fact most of them become highly attractive to her as they come to know one another. He is a strong personality who is used to getting what he wants, and the shorter story length I didn’t get to see much of a vulnerable side to him which is important to even out a character.

Sophronia is a good balance to James, and this helps to make their fast-developing romance believable. Where he is gregarious, she is more introspective and quiet. Her fears about her future allow her to appreciate every moment at the party and enjoy being with James for the time that they have together. As Sophronia looks to create a permanent place for herself it also lets James believe that he can settle down himself rather than run from one distraction to the next. I enjoyed how they played off of one another to find the fun in their relationship even if it started under dubious circumstances.

Ms. Frampton’s writing style is very informal, so her characters speak with a contemporary voice rather than one befitting their times. I was pulled out of the story abruptly when during an emotional scene for James and Sophronia one of them used the word “smush.” In the context of the scene I understand the use of the word but it is too much of an anachronism to overlook. From that point and reading forward I started paying closer attention to the word use in the story rather than the characters and the plot itself, so my enjoyment of the building relationship and the final payoff was diminished. Since I was reading an early copy of the story I hope that an editor will perhaps change the word into something more time-appropriate.

No Groom at the Inn tells a very cute story, keeping a light tone while still having a good emotional core. Readers will enjoy this quick read that ushers in some warmer feelings in the wintery months.


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

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