More than Passion by JoMarie DeGioia

Cover_More Than Passion

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Geoffrey Kane, Earl of Kanewood refuses to feel anything more than passion. Four years ago, his fiancée betrayed him and he has no desire to experience that again so when he meets the beautiful Rebecca Kingsley, it’s passion at first sight. And only passion.

Rebecca has led a very quiet life working for her father at a small country inn. When she meets Geoffrey she falls in love with him right away. But she’s only the daughter of a baronet and men like Geoffrey never marry country girls like her. Do they?

When Rebecca’s father tries to marry her off to a wealthy old man, Geoffrey intervenes and marries her himself. He wants her very much but he couldn’t possibly love her. Love is for fools. At least that’s what he tells himself. But a sinister enemy soon threatens to destroy all that Geoffrey holds dear, forcing him to face the truth. His marriage depends on it… And maybe even Rebecca’s very life.

Publisher and Release Date: Lachesis Publishing May 1, 2012

RHR Classifications:
Time and setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer rating: 3.5 Stars

Review by Vikki

Geoffrey Kane, the Earl of Kanewood, meets with an accident when he loses a wheel on his traveling carriage. The wheelwright in the closest town has injured his hand and tells Geoffrey it will be several days before he can repair the wheel. The earl takes lodging at Raven’s Inn, a surprisingly elegant establishment in Oakham. He’s not particularly bothered by the delay because it will give him time to think about some disturbing issues that have come up regarding his estate. It looks like someone is stealing from him and he needs to find out who.

Geoffrey is immediately taken with the innkeeper’s daughter, Rebecca Kingsley. The next morning, when he meets Rebecca coming out of a shop with a picnic basket, he suggests they find a place to enjoy the food. While picnicking on the common, Geoffrey kisses her, unable to resist her allure. That night, Rebecca shows up in tears – her father is planning to marry her off to the local doctor, a much older man.

By this point, Geoffrey is so smitten with her that he will do whatever it takes to prevent this, and he and Rebecca end up spending the night together. She knows it’s wrong, but thinks that if her father does carry out his plan, she will at least have chosen the man to whom she gave her virtue.

Betrayal at the hands of his former intended makes Geoffrey reluctant to become emotionally involved, but he is a gentleman, and the next morning, asks for Rebecca’s hand. Even though he is relieved at her refusal, Geoffrey can’t get her out of his mind, but when, after again succumbing to the undeniable attraction between them, they are discovered together, he asks again, Rebecca has no alternative but to accept him.

Can this passion that burns so bright grow into more, or will it burn out when they learn more about each other?

This story has moments of brilliance, yet at other times, it fails to deliver. As far as the characters, I liked Rebecca (can’t call her Becca, which is Geoffrey’s name for her, way too modern for a Regency) and thoroughly enjoyed Geoffrey. I totally bought why he had trust issues, based on what happened with his former betrothed. The plot twists are intriguing and the pacing kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next. The sexual scenes are hot and the first half of the book is littered with them.

The story deepens about half way through the book, taking it from a light-hearted romp to a story of deceit and betrayal. From that point on, there is a lot more story and a lot less sex, capturing my attention on a deeper level. I was greatly surprised by who turned out to be the villain in this read – I never saw it coming.
I particularly enjoyed the scenes with the little girl, Ann, his brother’s daughter. I also thoroughly enjoyed Rebecca’s relationship with Geoffrey’s mother. I do struggle with how forgiving Rebecca is of Geoffrey’s lack of trust and of her parent’s abandonment. While the passion is fierce between the H/h, there is so much more between them, hence the title is a perfect fit.

Now for the reasons I gave this book 3.5 stars. Other than the aristocratic titles and brief descriptions of clothing, the tone of this book is way too modern, much more suited for a contemporary piece. Everyone in the story immediately uses each other’s given names, even if they haven’t been given permission to do so.
The author uses the word “hello” a lot and that word wasn’t around until the invention of the telephone. She refers to balls as “bashes” and also used the words “smashing” and “okay”. None of these words were in existence in Regency England.

I have a problem with the fact that Geoffrey and Rebecca fell into bed after only knowing each other a couple of days. I don’t have a problem with her being the daughter of an innkeeper because her father is a younger son of a Baronet, so Rebecca is gentry. Besides, I enjoy a good Cinderella story and this is definitely an interesting read.

Overall, I was entertained and isn’t that what a book is supposed to do? I’m glad I took a chance on this story and will probably read future books in the series.

VIRTUAL TOUR – Nightingale (novella) by Cathy Maxwell

Nightingale-Cathy-Maxwell

Fate has brought them together -again.

At one time, Jemma had meant the world to Dane Pendleton, but then she betrayed their young love by marrying another for his title and fortune.

Now Time has turned the tables. Dane is wealthy, respected, knighted and the widowed Jemma has nothing but her pride.

His honor for hers . . .

Dane’s name is on the lips of every beauty in London. They whisper he learned “tricks” while he was in the Orient. But has he forgotten Jemma, now Lady Mosby, and what they had once meant to each other? And will he accept her devil’s bargain?

In every woman’s life, there is that one love who slipped away. The man who makes her wonder “what if?”

But is this a momentary madness or a chance to rekindle a love that could last a lifetime?

Originally appeared in the print anthology THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

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Published & Release Date: Avon Impulse, August 26, 2014
RHR Classifications:
Time and setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewed by Vikki

I always enjoy a second chance love story, especially one that is well written. Ms. Maxwell has written an interesting one with a twist—a naïve and immature young girl turns her back on the hero, choosing money and prestige over love, instead of the other way around. But was it as simple as that? You’ll want to read this delightful and moving story to find out.

On the eve before Sir Dane Pendleton is to fight a duel, he pens his last will and testament as a precaution – not that he expects to die. However, one can never be too confident and it’s better to be prepared, than not. His past has come back to haunt him. He will duel with none other than the brother of the woman who betrayed him ten years before, Jemma Carson. The only woman he has ever loved.

Jemma, now the widowed Lady Mosby, is desperate to stop the duel no matter what. She goes to visit Dane, hoping to convince him to withdraw his challenge, only to find out her brother is the one who issued it. The attraction between them is alive and well, and it’s apparent when their eyes meet as she pleads her case.

Dane tells her he is honor bound and must meet her brother, though he promises that he will not kill him. Jemma does the only thing left to her, she offers herself. Can she rekindle the love he once had for her, or will they share a night of unbridled passion, then go their separate ways?

I thoroughly enjoyed this intensely passionate love story. It’s a quick and easy read, yet very satisfying with a lovely HEA. While the youthful Jemma is immature and a bit shallow, she is loyal to her family to the point she turns her back on the man she loves. That is her saving grace and why I loved her character. She grows into a mature woman with strong characteristics. Dane has become a self-made man and even though he has a huge chip on his shoulder, he is a very romantic hero, easy to fall in love with. I always love a brooding, yet honorable male character.

Ms. Maxwell does a brilliant job of weaving the back story for the couple, allowing it to unfold in small snippets as the story progresses. She writes with deep emotion that stirred me and kept me turning the pages. The character development is really quite remarkable for a short novella. I’m so pleased I had the chance to read this delightful story. I’ve enjoyed reading Cathy Maxwell’s books for years and look forward to reading her new series.

TWO DIGITAL COPIES OF NIGHTINGALE ARE UP FOR GRABS IN THE GIVEAWAY RUNNING THROUGHOUT THE TOUR

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cathy-Maxwell-author-headshot-twoCATHY MAXWELL spends hours in front of her computer pondering the question, “Why do people fall in love?” It remains for her the great mystery of life and the secret to happiness. She lives in beautiful Virginia with children, horses, dogs, and cats.

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SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Monsoon Mists by Christina Courtenay

MM_packshot 300dpiCMYK

Sometimes the most precious things cannot be bought…

It’s 1759 and Jamie Kinross has travelled far to escape his troubled existence – from the pine forests of Sweden to the bustling streets of India.

Jamie starts a new life as a gem trader, but when his mentor’s family are kidnapped as part of a criminal plot, he vows to save them and embarks on a dangerous mission to the city of Surat, carrying the stolen talisman of an Indian Rajah.

There he encounters Zarmina Miller. She is rich and beautiful, but her infamous haughtiness has earned her a nickname: “The Ice Widow”. Jamie is instantly tempted by the challenge she presents.
When it becomes clear that Zarmina’s step-son is involved in the plot Jamie begins to see another side to her – a dark past to rival his own and a heart just waiting to be thawed. But is it too late?

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EXCERPT

On the roof terrace, in the balmy night air, other people strolled too, but Jamie deliberately headed for an empty corner. He wasn’t going to try and seduce Mrs Miller, but he wanted to see what her reaction would be to spending time alone with him, if she was as averse to men as his friend Andrew had implied.

‘Would you like to …’ he began, holding out a hand to indicate the bench, but she interrupted him.

‘No, I prefer to stand,’ she muttered, turning to stare out across the river which glimmered in the moonlight.

‘Very well.’ Jamie moved to join her in gazing at the view and she immediately stepped to the side to create a gap between them, even though her skirts kept him well away already. He stayed where he was. For now.

‘My friend tells me you are a widow, Mrs Miller,’ he said in order to start the conversation.

‘Yes, my husband died last year,’ she replied, sounding less than enthusiastic at this line of questioning.
He gathered she didn’t like to talk about this and thought that perhaps it made her sad. He bowed slightly and commented, ‘I’m sorry for your loss. You must feel it keenly, being on your own.’

‘Thank you, but I prefer it.’

‘You like solitude?’ Jamie didn’t bother to hide his surprise. It wasn’t a sentiment most women shared as far as he’d gathered.

‘Yes.’

No explanation seemed to be forthcoming, so he just commented, ‘That is … unusual.’ He gestured again towards the bench. ‘Are you sure you wouldn’t like to sit for a while? You can still admire the view, you know.’

She shot him a look which he couldn’t interpret, then shrugged. ‘We won’t be staying up here for very long, but by all means …’ She sank down, spreading her skirts so wide Jamie raised his eyebrows.

‘Pardon me, but unless you wish me to sit on your gown, would you mind moving the material slightly? Or are you trying to indicate that you’d prefer me to stand?’

He saw her cheeks take on a tinge of colour, but she moved her skirts enough for him to be able to sit.

‘So tell me, why won’t we be staying for very long? Have you tired of my company so soon?’ he joked.

‘No. That is … we only came up for a quick breath of fresh air.’

‘Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not in any hurry to return to the stuffiness below. Tell me, do you not find it difficult being on your own here in Surat?’

‘No, as I said, I prefer it.’

‘You wouldn’t rather live in England?’

‘Absolutely not.’ When he again raised his brows at her, she added, ‘I grew up here. England is a foreign country to me.’

‘Ah, I see. Then I suppose you’ll be looking to marry someone who is planning to stay in India.’

‘No, I’m not.’

Jamie was taken aback by this forthright answer, but she pre-empted any reply he would have made by standing up and turning to fix him with a glare.

‘Look, I may as well tell you now – I know where this is leading and the answer is no, Mr Kinross,’ she said, her voice tight and her expression one of quiet determination.

‘And … and now I wish to go downstairs again.’

He stood up as well. ‘I beg your pardon? I wasn’t aware I’d asked a question.’ ‘No but I can see that you’re the kind of man who usually has all the ladies in a flutter, and no doubt you thought I’d be another easy conquest,’ she said, rushing the words out as if she’d recited them many times before. Perhaps she had, Jamie thought. ‘But I’m not looking for a husband so you’d be wasting your breath,’ she finished, drawing in a deep gulp of air at last. ‘You’ll have to make your fortune some other way, as will the gentleman who asked me earlier.’

Anger rushed to the surface, making Jamie forget everything except wanting to punish this woman for her presumption that all men wanted to marry an heiress. Just like Elisabet. He deliberately stared at her bosom as it heaved enticingly. This made her blush, so he allowed his gaze to travel up to her face and back down along her body. ‘As I said, I wasn’t asking,’ he drawled. ‘And believe me, marriage wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when I saw you.’

He had the satisfaction of seeing her eyes widen and her nostrils flare with outrage, but thought to himself that she’d deserved it. Why should he concern himself with her sensibilities when she was so set against every male she encountered without bothering to make their acquaintance properly? The nerve of the woman, to assume he’d want to marry her when they had only just met.

‘Well, really! I’m—’

‘—not used to men who aren’t interested in you? No, I can see that. But rest assured, Mrs Miller, you’d be the last woman on earth I’d want to marry. If you’re ever looking for a mere dalliance, however, just let me know. I’d be more than happy to oblige.’ He let the words hang in the air for a moment, then gave her a mocking bow. ‘And now, since we’ve established that neither of us is interested in wedded bliss, I’ll bid you goodnight. There seems no point in prolonging the conversation or becoming acquainted further. Enjoy your solitary life.’

He turned on his heel and stalked off, more shaken by the encounter than he’d care to admit. Mrs Miller had reminded him of everything he’d been trying to forget and all the reasons why he’d come to India in the first place. Her assumptions about him were as rude as they were unfounded. What was it about spoiled beautiful women that they thought every man within ten miles would want to marry them? They could at least wait to be asked.

To hell with all women.

TO WIN A SIGNED COPY OF MONSOON MISTS ANSWER THIS QUESTION IN COMMENTS AND ENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER:

If you were running away, where would you go?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


CCourtenaysmallChristina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and YA contemporary romance, all published by independent publisher Choc Lit. She is half Swedish and was brought up in Sweden. In her teens, she moved to Japan where she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the Far East. Christina is the current chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA). Her novels Highland Storms and The Gilded Fan have both won the Romantic Novel Award (RoNA) for Best Historical Romantic Novel of the year (in 2012 and 2014 respectively). Her latest novels are The Secret Kiss of Darkness (time slip) and Monsoon Mists (historical romance).

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VIRTUAL TOUR: A Traitorous Heart by Tammy Jo Burns

BANNER

She thought she had lost everyone during an early attack by Napoleon’s forces. Then upon returning to England she loses even more…

He lost his new wife in a brutal attack six months ago during one of the first battle surges by Le Grande Armée. Left with an injury to remind him of that time he reluctantly takes up his mantle as a Peer of the Realm and uses his skills withnumbers and letters to help the War Office as a code specialist.

Nothing could surprise him more than walking into a government safe house to question a suspected traitor and find his supposedly dead wife lying injured with no memory of their time together. Is she a traitor? Where has she been all this time? And is their love strong enough to survive or will the truth tear them apart forever?

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EXCERPT

Cover A Traitorous Heart by Tammy Jo Burns

She heard the commanding voice and moaned as the pain filtered into her unconsciousness. She heard the command again. I’m trying, she thought. She fought her way out of the darkness to hear the voice she thought was forever lost to her. The pounding in her head was so great it almost caused her to give up. She tried to move
her hands to her head, hoping to ease the pain. One was stuck and she cried out at the pain that radiated from her right shoulder. Oh please, just let me die, she thought as the throbbing intensified. No, she would not give into death, not when so many others had been taken from her.

The voice called to her again. Perhaps he was her angel, come to take her to heaven. She had always thought it would be her mum to do that, but as long as she was with him again, she didn’t care. Her eyes fluttered open, but the light from the fire and small candle on the bedside table were too much for her to bear, so she quickly closed them again. She was almost certain she was going to be sick.

“No, open your eyes now,” the voice demanded again. Sometimes he could be so high-handed. Nevertheless, she obeyed this one final time and opened her eyes. She knew either he would not really be there or she was dead. She had dreamed of him so many times and woken up certain he would be with her, but there had been no one. So, she decided, she must be dead, but she hurt too badly.

Derek watched intently as her emerald eyes shown brightly from behind fluttering lids. They had a fevered look to them. Her face was so dear to him. He brought her manacled hand up to his lips and brushed a kiss over the knuckles covered in dry blood.

“Contessa,” he whispered softly.

“I must be in Heaven,” she said hoarsely, “but it feels like Hell.” And with those words uttered, the ragamuffin prisoner smiled at her jailer and then let the darkness carry her away once more.

Derek stared dumbfounded at the limp hand that he held in his. In his earlier inspection he had missed the signet ring that encircled her ring finger. He gently caressed it. She looked malnourished. What had happened to her in these last six months? How could Gabe think that she was a traitor? What possible causes did he have to even consider it?

He stood painfully and leaned over her letting his lips lightly caress hers. Derek stood watching her and raked his hands through his golden brown hair giving it a decidedly rakish appearance. He paced the room like a caged animal forgetting about his throbbing leg. The Earl of Blackburn alternated between thanking God that He had seen fit to bring her back to him, and cursing the circumstances all in the same breath. He limped to the door and jerked it open. The guard jumped to attention.

“Have you heard from the physician yet?”

“Yes, my lord. He sent the lad back with word ten minutes ago. He will be at least another half hour.”

“Damn,” he paused and rested his head against the hand tightly gripping the door. “Send the lad for Lord Hawkescliffe. Tell him it is an emergency,” Derek barked the order. “Give me the keys to the manacles,” he held out his hand and his tone brooked no argument. The guard handed over the keys reluctantly and Derek slammed the door in his face. He knew the man was only doing his job, but he had to take his frustration out on someone.

He limped back over to the bed and released the prisoner from her restraints. The chains dropped to the floor with a loud metallic clank. He sat and stared at her, his thoughts chasing each other. How could it be? Everyone was
supposed to have perished, except the handful that had been severely wounded. Nearly an entire village had been wiped out. There was a disturbance outside the door before it flew open.

“All right Blackburn, what was so damned important that it could not wait until morning?” Hawkescliffe demanded as he strode into the room. Derek was at a loss as to how much time had passed while he watched her and thought. The doctor had not arrived yet, so surely not much time had passed. Derek shushed Hawkescliffe when the woman winced.

“Did you just ‘shush’ me?” he asked incredulously.

“As my friend, shut the hell up,” Derek whispered. “Follow me,” he led Gabe to the fireplace.

“Well, what is it? What is so important that I had to leave my conference with the Prime Minister?”

“This woman is not a traitor,” Derek spoke with conviction.

“What makes you so certain? Tell me you have not let an attractive woman turn your head. You are a better man than that. This woman was found with incriminating evidence on her person. Of course she is a traitor.”

“I swear to you she’s not.”

“Have you questioned her? Did she give you reason to believe that she isn’t?”

“No, I have not had the opportunity to question her.”

“Then give me one good reason why she is not, and,” he cut him off before he spoke, “I assure you it had better be one bloody good reason.”

“Because she’s my wife, dammit!”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author Tammy Jo BurnsFrom a young age I could always be found carrying around books to read while watching my grandmother’s soap operas with her. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on and even made up skits and stories for my friends and me to act out. Once I outgrew the children’s and YA books, my mom introduced me to an entirely new world – contemporary romance. Upon discovering I had a love for history I began devouring historical romances. One day, sitting in a college British History class, something the professor said made me think, I wonder. I quickly called mom (also a writer) and ran the idea by her. After being told, “Of course you can do it, you’re my daughter,” the rest, as they say, is history. I currently share my love of reading with the next generation as a high school librarian, and share my personal life with my demanding dog trapped in a cat’s body, Ajax.

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VIRTUAL TOUR: The De Valery Code by Darcy Burke

ThedeValeryCode-BT

Miss Margery Derrington and her dear aunts are in dire straits. Their discovery of a rare medieval manuscript will hopefully stave off their creditors—if it’s worth what they hope. Margery reluctantly allies with a reclusive scholar to use the book to pursue a treasure that could exceed her expectations. Amidst danger, secrets, and an insatiable attraction, is Margery gambling just her financial future . . . or her heart?

Academic Rhys Bowen can’t believe he has his hands on the elusive de Valery text. Solving its hidden code and unearthing its legendary treasure would establish him as one of Britain’s leading antiquarians, finally casting him out of his brilliant late father’s shadow. But when a centuries-old organization convinces Rhys of the perils of disturbing the past, he must choose between his conscience…and the captivating woman he’s sworn to help.

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EXCERPT

ThedeValeryCode_finalRhys turned his attention to Miss Derrington. She appeared fresh and lovely today, garbed in a blue traveling costume edged with black velvet. A wide-brimmed bonnet shielded her blond hair, but a few curls brushed her temples.

He oughtn’t look at her so closely. They were business associates at best. At worst, adversaries vying for the same treasure, which she didn’t even know existed. Yet. He’d thought about whether he should have told her, but until he was certain there was even a code to decipher, why bother?

“We should discuss our visit,” he said. “You must never go anywhere alone, and you mustn’t do anything to encourage Stratton’s interest.” Though she’d likely do that by simply breathing.

Miss Derrington eyed him inquisitively. “I’m well aware of your cousin’s reputation. I shall be on my guard.”
“You must be. Stratton is a dissolute fiend. Make sure Mrs. Edwards is with you at all times. In fact, I will insist that you sleep in the same chamber.”

“There you go with ‘must’ and ‘insist.’ Have you always been so dictatorial?” she asked.

Mrs. Edwards shrugged. “It’s no trouble; we shared a room at the White Lady.”

Rhys gave Miss Derrington a look that communicated something to the effect of, not everyone thinks I’m dictatorial.

Miss Derrington exhaled softly. “I suppose adjoining chambers will suffice. Thank you so much for consulting with us,” she said with false sweetness.

He ignored her sarcasm. Protecting her was his responsibility while they were traveling together, and Stratton was a legitimate threat to a young lady like herself. “I worry that I should have come alone,” he muttered.

“With my book?” She shook her head. “There was never any chance of that.”

Right. “Then you must adhere to my guidelines. You’ll leave the door between your adjoining chambers open so that Mrs. Edwards can hear you if you need assistance.” Rhys would request a nearby chamber as well, though that would undoubtedly pique Stratton’s curiosity.

In fact, perhaps Rhys ought to infer that Miss Derrington was already taken. It wouldn’t be foolproof—things such as marriage and engagements hadn’t always prevented Stratton from attempting scandalous behavior—but it might work. There had to be some honor among families, even for Stratton, didn’t there?

Was there honor in keeping a man’s son from him? For the boy’s well-being, yes.

Miss Derrington set her hand atop the bag that held the book nestled beside her. “I shall be cautious.”
They fell into silence for a good quarter hour or longer. Soft snores emanated from Mrs. Edwards’s corner.
Miss Derrington turned her head from the window to look at Rhys. “Are you and Stratton close? While you possess a somewhat irritating predilection for condescension, your behavior is at complete odds with his scandalous reputation.”

Rhys fought the urge to smile at her description of him. He ought to find her irritation annoying, but was instead charmed. He decided he might enjoy tormenting her—at least a bit. “Our familial connection is distant. I’ve only visited him a handful times: a few occasions as a child, his weddings, and once with my father to see his de Valery manuscript. I did attend one of his house parties, left early, and swore never to repeat the mistake.”

“I see. I understand Lady Stratton simply disregards his mischief?” Her tone held a strong note of disbelief.
Rhys had met her twice—the wedding and the house party—and found her to be lovely, if withdrawn. He felt sad for her lot and wondered what she would say if she knew the first Lady Stratton was still alive—at least for now. “She has little choice in the matter, unfortunately.”

“Indeed,” Miss Derrington murmured. “It doesn’t recommend the institution of marriage, does it? Is that why you are unmarried, Mr. Bowen?”

Her gaze found his, and he was struck by the frank curiosity in its depths. There was something more. Her eyes reminded him of a hothouse—a mix of earthy brown and vivid green. Exotic. Sultry. Perhaps he’d been reading too much romantic poetry of late.

“I haven’t felt the need to take a wife.”

She cocked her head to the side. “Too wrapped up in your books?”

“Perhaps.” Definitely. “And why do you remain unwed? I can’t believe you haven’t had offers.” She was far too lovely, too intelligent, too bewitching.

Bewitching?

“Believe it or not, I haven’t,” her answer came quick and carried a touch of irritation. “Furthermore, I haven’t felt the need to marry either.”

He’d been jesting with his answer. It wasn’t so much that he hadn’t felt the need, just that he hadn’t considered it at all. But with her, he imagined she had to have considered it—women in her position really had no other choice. Sooner or later, she’d likely marry. And he suddenly envied that faceless man.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

darcyburkeauthorpicUSA Today bestselling author Darcy Burke wrote her first book at age 11, a happily ever after about a swan addicted to magic and the female swan who loved him, with exceedingly poor illustrations. Darcy writes hot, action-packed historical and sexy, emotional contemporary romance.

A native Oregonian, Darcy lives on the edge of wine country with her devoted husband, their two great kids, and two Bengal cats. In her “spare” time Darcy is a serial volunteer enrolled in a 12-step program where one learns to say “no,” but she keeps having to start over. She’s also a fair-weather runner, and her happy places are Disneyland and Labor Day weekend at the Gorge. Visit Darcy online at her website * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads * ~ * ~ * Newsletter Sign-Up

VIRTUAL TOUR: Secrets of a Heart by Samantha Garman

VBT Secrets of a Heart Tour Banner copy

London, 1815. At the age of nineteen, Blaine Whitmore loses everything dear to him in a brutal assault on his family line. Left with nothing, he finds himself aboard a merchant ship sailing far from home. Years pass as a boy becomes a man, and yet no amount of time or distance will help Blaine forget all that he has lost. After ten years sailing the high seas, he is finally ready to restore the Whitmore name.

Felicity Canton is as lovely as she is penniless, and has been left to care for her three sisters while attempting to maintain a crumbling estate. With no hope for escape from her predicament, she is resigned to a peasant’s fate. She never anticipates attracting the attention of her wealthy and mysterious new neighbor, nor does she expect him to be her savior.

As Blaine searches for truth and doles out vengeance, he becomes increasingly captivated and distracted by Felicity’s beauty and inner strength. Does he dare confide in her the secrets of his heart? Will his future be as bleak as his past, or will he finally have a chance at happiness?

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MEDIA KIT Book coverEXCERPT

The sound of a snapping twig turned her attention, and the object of her thoughts stood a few feet from her, leaning against a huge tree with gnarled roots as if he had all the time in the world.

“I thought I managed to escape without anyone seeing me,” she said in lieu of formal greeting.

“I saw you leave just as my carriage was pulling into your driveway,” he explained. “Why are you here alone?”

“Mr. Fletcher is giving a grand tour of our home to strangers, in hopes that they buy it.” Her tone was acerbic.

His gaze softened, but she thrust out her chin, daring him to offer her sympathy. She changed the subject, unable to dwell on the idea that her childhood home, one that had been in the family for generations, would be sold. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”

“So proper?” Gray asked, moving away from the tree and coming toward her.

“I feel out of sorts today.”

Gray reached out to touch her cheek. “I came to hand deliver an invitation to the masquerade.”

“Oh.” Her brown eyes dropped to his lips. Moving closer, he wrapped his arms around her. “Is this your way of trying to distract me from my woes?” she asked with a smile.

“Is it working?”

“Too soon to tell,” she replied wickedly.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Garman
Samantha Garman currently lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY. She loves Scotch, a great conversation with anyone willing to speak their mind and flannel pajamas. While yearning for a backyard and a dog, she’s decided to stay busy working on her next book, Dandelion Dreams.

You can connect with Samantha on Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads

The Lawyer’s Luck (novella) by Piper Huguley

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Aurelia “Realie” Baxter made her way from enslavement in Georgia to the free land Lake Huron in Ohio. Far from happy as a slave doing the bidding of a woman cooped up in a house all day, Realie is a bona fide tomboy with a special gift with horses. Now, she is so close to freedom in Canada, she can smell it, but her plans are interrupted when Lawrence shoots her…by mistake….

Publisher and Release Date: Liliaceae Publishers, June 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Oberlin, Ohio – 1844
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: Inspirational, 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Kate

When I first opened the pages of this novella, I was more than intrigued. After all, you can’t say that in 1844 the life of a runaway slave, a horse burglary, or a defensive pistol shooting are boring – and certainly not when they appear together in a single scene!

From the very beginning of the story, when Aurelia “Realie”, a runaway slave on her way from Georgia to Canada is shot by the educated Lawrence “Lawyer” Stewart, a working, mixed-blood circuit judge and soon-to-be-lawyer, you can’t help but want to know what happens next. Especially since with the mindset that there is something more in life than slavery, Realie is determined to face each crisis that comes her way on her own.

That said, the author does an amazing job throughout making the characters relatable, creating a simple dialect that feels true to the time, penning their adventures well, and ultimately melting Realie’s heart – as well as this reader’s heart – within the pages of this story .

Its not soon to be forgotten and has earned a solid 5 stars.

Scenting Scandal by Suzi Love

scentscand
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Lady Laura Jamison uses her extraordinary olfactory senses to sniff out her perfect match, a husband who fits all her scientific criteria. But after she evades an assassin’s bullets, twice, while attending her sister’s wedding, she is forced to accept the protection of their family friend, and her nemesis, the Earl of Winchester. Richard evades marriage with someone as beautiful and intelligent as Laura, fearing she’ll uncover his shameful childhood secret.

The mismatched pair risks their wealth and reputations racing around London’s seedier areas in a desperate attempt to stop a madwoman before she recruits more criminals and rebuilds her illegal share trading syndicate. When they accept each other’s strengths and weakness, will Laura and Richard also discover a passion neither counted on?

Publisher and Release Date: Suzi Love, February 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Victorian London, 1843
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

There’s something so loveable about the bluestocking/rake trope, even though I’ve read it countless times. As long as writers can find new and interesting ways to make each story unique and original, I’m happy to read them. And a bluestocking scientist is even more fun. Pippa in Sarah MacLean’s wonderful One Good Earl Deserves a Lover and Minerva from A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare come to mind. Here, in Suzi Love’s very amusing Scenting Scandal, we encounter another smart young woman (along with her educated and scientifically-minded siblings) who is determined to find her perfect mate by his scent. Yes, you read that right – by his olfactory qualities. Lady Laura Jamison is an aromatherapist who uses herbs and carefully documented scientific experiments to conduct her tests but the one man to whom she is inexorably drawn doesn’t match her olfactory trials, darn it! If this sounds a bit silly at first, you won’t be laughing long when you read this thoroughly charming love story.

Richard, Earl of Winchester, is an old friend of the Jamison family, a typical gentleman aristocrat who has taken mistresses over the years but is now charged with acting as protector to the two youngest Jamison daughters, while his cousin and the ladies’ sister are on their honeymoon. He doesn’t relish the idea, but he doesn’t mind in the least being close to “Luscious Laura.” He is terribly attracted to the raven-haired beauty and their good-natured and provocative sparring is the best part of this sweet romance.

But Richard has a shameful secret that he’s terrified Laura will discover, so he pushes away all his feelings for her, desperately trying to not become too involved with her. But he cannot help himself as her fire, her intelligence, and her wit utterly fascinate and beguile him. And eventually undo him.

Laura is a strong and willful heroine, as astute as she is attractive. She has a lovely no-nonsense quality about her that allows her to pursue her scientific interests yet leaves her time to tend to her close-knit family, and her bravery surprises Richard at every turn, especially when they encounter danger. She is no man’s fool and can tell a simpering dandy from a mile away.

What is odd, however, but perhaps also in keeping with Richard’s determination not to deflower a virgin – not to mention her brothers would kill him – is that their love is never fully consummated! They do pretty much everything but the deed itself and this surprised me, considering how highly-charged their encounters were. I can’t help but feel a wee bit let down, but the story is so fun to read, and well-paced, and the hero, heroine, as well as all the minor characters, are all interesting and enjoyable to read, that I can’t mind too much.

Richard is a smooth, funny, and magnetic gentleman, the perfect strong and protective foil to Laura’s inquisitive nature, one that drives him to distraction. The very qualities that vex him – her keen curiosity, her meticulousness, and her desire to explore more of the world – delight and captivate him. He knows a life with her as his wife will never be dull, which makes his ridiculous determination to seek a dull and boring wife all the more silly. And her unwillingness to consider him as a suitor because he doesn’t match her scientific experiments makes for some hilarious moments.

The humor in this book is lighthearted and infectious. The Jamisons are a loving and close-knit bunch, despite the fact that the patriarch of the family prefers to be away on archaeological digs and their loyal and quirky servants are all former criminals!

The mystery element in this story is secondary but it becomes the impetus for our hero and heroine to fall in love. They are thrown together in their search and determination to stop a greedy woman from forming an illegal share trading syndicate and the dangerous moments make for an entertaining and exciting read. It also allows both Laura and Richard to see each other in a new and attractive light.

Though this is the second book in a series featuring a family of scientist siblings, I didn’t feel I was missing anything and it can be read as a standalone.

If you enjoy witty and sizzling conversation, a meeting of the minds of two people destined for each other, and a mystery to boot, you will find much to like in this engaging romance.

VIRTUAL TOUR: I Adored a Lord (Prince Catchers #2) by Katharine Ashe

I-Adored-a-Lord-Katharine-Ashe

She’s intended for his brother. He’s destined for adventure. Then a dangerous mystery throws them together, and all they want is each other.

All that clever, passionate Ravenna Caulfield wants is to stay far away from high society’s mean girls.
All that handsome, heroic Lord Vitor Courtenay wants is to dash from dangerous adventure to adventure.
Now, snowbound in a castle with a bevy of the ton’s scheming maidens all competing for a prince’s hand in marriage, Ravenna’s worst nightmare has come true. Now, playing babysitter to a spoiled prince and his potential brides, Vitor is champing at the bit to be gone.

When a stolen kiss in a stable leads to a corpse in a suit of armor, a canine kidnapping, and any number of scandalous liaisons, Ravenna and Vitor find themselves wrapped in a mystery they’re perfectly paired to solve. But as for the mysteries of love and sex, Vitor’s not about to let Ravenna escape until he’s gotten what he desires…

Check out I Adored a Lord on Goodreads

Buy Links: Amazon * ~ * ~ * Barnes & Noble * ~ * ~ * iBooks

EXCERPT

adoredlord
“Good night, Miss Caulfield. Pleasant dreams plotting your revenge.” Lord Vitor bowed. His gait as he walked away was not entirely even. He favored his left leg, the leg she’d hit with the pitchfork.

Guilt and some confusion tangled in her belly. “I absolutely will not dream of you, even to plan revenge,” she said to his back.

Over his shoulder he turned a smile upon her that sent her breath into her toes. For a moment, almost, his smile seemed regretful. “I was referring to your revenge upon Ladies Penelope and Grace, of course,” he said.
An alien sensation swept into her face. She touched her cheek. It was hot. Hot?

At a slow pace he returned to her. His smile had vanished. He halted before her and bowed again, this time soberly.
“Miss Caulfield, I beg your forgiveness.” His voice was low and his gaze seemed to seek hers quite closely. “I intended you no harm, in truth. Still, I was unpardonably dishonorable to assail you and then tease you and then rescue you and then tease you yet again. Can you forgive me, or will those eyes like stars stare with accusation at me throughout the remaining weeks of this fete?”

Eyes like stars? It was a very good thing she didn’t regularly consort with lords. Their rote flatteries were positively inane. “You are still teasing. And you ask my forgiveness in the same words you asked Lady Grace’s.”

“But in this instance I am most sincere.”

“I am not in the habit of forgiving.”

“Perhaps you might make an exception this time.”

“I don’t know why I should.”

“Consider my injuries.” The dent deepened anew. “Perhaps I am already sufficiently punished.”

She tried not to smile. “I won’t apologize for that.”

“I never expected you to. Now may we put this unfortunate episode behind us and instead pretend to be two people who happened to become acquainted over spilled champagne?”

“Why should we pretend that?”

“It’s either that or the pitchfork.” His dark eyes glimmered.

“All right. But don’t do it again.”

“Kiss you in a stable or defend you from tabbies?”

The heat was back in her face. “Either.”

“I believe I can promise that.” He bowed again. “Good night, madam.” He walked away.

Ravenna stared at his back but her cheeks still burned. She dragged her attention to the floor. Nothing there could make her feel peculiarly hot or unsteady as his shoulders and dark hair and the muscular lengths of his legs did.

Where her gaze alit, a blot of dark liquid pooled about the pointed toe of a suit of armor. She crouched and studied the leak. It was not black but dark crimson and congealed. Blood. Undeniably, blood. Far too much blood for a mouse that might have gotten trapped in the armored foot, or even a cat. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled.

She stood and peered at the suit’s visor. The steel looked impenetrable, with a tiny slit over the eyes that was lost in shadow now, one of those old helmets from which she could not imagine how a knight would be able to see. She reached up and pried open the visor.

She jolted back. The visor clanked shut. But she’d seen enough to make her hot skin turn clammy.

“A student of medieval arms, are you, Miss Caulfield?” Lord Vitor’s voice echoed from the opposite end of the gallery. “And here I’d thought you preferred farm tools.”

“There is a dead man inside this suit.” …

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Avon, August 2014

Time and Setting: Early 19th Century, French Alps
Genre: Historical Romantic Mystery
Heat Rating: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Caz

The second book in Ms Ashe’s Prince Catchers trilogy focuses on Ravenna, the youngest of the three foundling sisters who have lived for a number of years under the guardianship of Mr Martin Caulfield, the vicar of a small country parish. In the previous book, I Married the Duke, a fortune teller prophesied that when one of them married a prince, they would finally discover the truth about their parentage. Arabella, the middle sister, is determined to fulfil the prophecy, but ends up falling in love with and marrying the Duke of Lycombe – a happenstance which has an unexpected effect on Ravenna’s life.

She is a free-spirited young woman whose love of nature and animals has led to her becoming skilled in the care of animals, and also in the knowledge of human anatomy and medicine. For the last six years, she has resided with Sir Beverley Clark and his close friend (and long-term companion) Mr. Pettigrew, where she looks after their menagerie of dogs, birds and horses. She likes her life, and is stunned when Sir Beverley informs her that due to her sister’s change in circumstances, it is no longer possible or appropriate for Ravenna, as the sister-in-law of a duke to be employed in service.

Still intent on fulfilling the gypsy’s prophecy, Arabella inveigles an invitation for Ravenna to attend a house party in the Franche-Comté which will be attended by Prince Sebastao of a minor branch of the Portugese royal family. Ravenna accompanies her employer and his friend, ever mindful of the fact that she is not of the same class as everyone else and, in fact, determined to remain on the fringes, wearing her practical, drab dresses and pursing her usual daily routines with the animals.

The house party has been convened so that the prince – a rather dissipated young man – can choose himself a bride from the suitable young ladies his parents have chosen to be paraded before him.

Among the other guests is Lord Vitor Courtenay, half-brother of the Earl of Chase. Ravenna can see that every female head in the place has been turned by the extremely handsome and charming Lord Courtenay, yet he displays no interest in anyone – except her. The pair has great chemistry, and the way Ms Ashe creates and develops the romantic tension between the two is one of the most enjoyable things about the book. She is one of those authors who is able to write sharp, witty banter that never feels forced, or as though she has to try to be amusing – and it’s a joy to read.

Obviously, at a gathering involving a number of young ladies with marital ambitions towards the prince, and their equally ambitious mamas, there are bound to be metaphorical daggers drawn. The problems start, however, when the dagger turns out to be not so metaphorical and Ravenna stumbles across the body of a young man, dead from a stab-wound and encased in a suit of armour.

The snow sets in around the castle, meaning that the guests are pretty much stranded until it lets up, so Ravenna and Vitor work together to investigate the murder, exposing them to danger at the same time as it brings them closer together.

Ms Ashe has penned a thoroughly entertaining “country house whodunnit”, acknowledging in her author’s note, her debt to Agatha Christie and the indomitable Hercule Poirot. She has assembled a fairly large and, it has to be said, sometimes clichéd cast – a pair of bitchy twins, a gruff horse-breeder and his mousy daughter, a vivacious Scottish heiress and her no-nonsense mother, a retiring scientist, and the handsome earl and his even handsomer half-brother. But the fact that the secondary characters are all easily recognisable “types” shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. They are well fleshed-out and familiarity with the tropes allows the reader to just sit back and enjoy the way the story unfolds.

Vitor and Ravenna make a very engaging couple. Vitor is a hero to die for; brave and honourable, he is not without his inner demons, but is also not a man to shy away from them. He has spent the last few years leading a monastic existence, trying to find a way to come to terms with a terrible betrayal and to find a more equable approach to life. He’s smitten with Ravenna from their first meeting, and he comes quickly to respect her intelligence and her abilities; he never wants her to be anything other than the woman she is. Ravenna is a terrific heroine – independent (without being stupidly “feisty”), clever and not afraid to speak her mind, especially in defence of those who find it difficult to defend themselves.

Ms Ashe is an excellent storyteller and I thoroughly enjoyed reading I Adored a Lord, but I do have a couple of criticisms. Firstly, Ravenna’s insistence in clinging to the belief that her station in life is too far beneath Vitor’s to allow them to be together is allowed to go on for a little too long; and secondly, while the identity of the murderer is brilliantly tongue-in-cheek, it comes rather out of left field, and doesn’t really make much sense in terms of the story as a whole. That said, though, it still make me laugh and neither of these reservations is enough to have spoiled my enjoyment of the book, to which I’m giving a most hearty recommendation.

TO WIN ONE OF THREE DIGITAL COPIES OF BOOK ONE IN “THE PRINCE CATCHERS” TRILOGY, I MARRIED THE DUKE, ENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER:

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About the Author

Katharine AsheAward-winning, best-selling author KATHARINE ASHE writes intensely lush historical romance, including How To Be a Proper Lady, among Amazon’s 10 Best Books of 2012 in Romance, and eight other acclaimed novels set in the era of the British Empire. With the publication of her debut novel in 2010, she earned a spot among the American Library Association’s “New Stars of Historical Romance.” She was a nominee for the 2013 Library of Virginia Literary Award in Fiction, and in 2011 she won the coveted Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Historical Romantic Adventure. Katharine is also a finalist for the 2014 RITA® Award, the highest honor in the romance fiction industry, for How To Marry A Highlander.

She lives in the wonderfully warm Southeast with her beloved husband, son, dog, and a garden she likes to call romantic rather than unkempt. A professor of European History at Duke University, Katharine writes fiction because she thinks modern readers deserve high adventure and breathtaking sensuality too. For more about her books, please visit her at KatharineAshe.com

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The Undoing of Daisy Edwards / The Awakening of Poppy Edwards – two novellas by Marguerite Kaye

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Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical Undone, July 1, 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London, 1923 / Los Angeles, 1924
Genre: Historical Romance novellas
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars / 4 stars

Reviews by Maria Almaguer

The Undoing of Daisy Edwards

London, 1923

Stage actress Daisy Edwards goes looking for escape at a wild party. Instead she finds reckless passion with a total stranger. Like Daisy, Dominic Harrington is reeling from the Great War, desperate to feel again. But the erotic force of their encounter leaves Daisy unsure whether to run or succumb….

Even if he hadn’t met her in a police cell, Dominic would have no doubt that Daisy is trouble. For the first time in years, he feels intrigued, aroused and vibrantly alive. Both insist there will be no promises, only the rapture of the moment. Pleasure is its own reward—but when it’s this addictive, how can they ever walk away?

The Awakening of Poppy Edwards

Los Angeles, 1924

Broadway producer Lewis Cartsdyke has come to Hollywood with a business proposition for starlet Poppy Edwards. But as he’s watching her sing in a downtown club, dressed in a man’s suit that skims her lush curves, a much more wicked proposal comes to mind.

Poppy has fame, wealth and an aversion to love. Lewis offers the kind of passion she craves—delicious, sensual heat without complications. Night after night she abandons herself to sensation, promising she won’t lose her heart the way her sister did. But for Lewis, uncomplicated is no longer enough—and soon he won’t be satisfied until he’s claimed all of Poppy in blissful surrender.

The bewilderment, sadness, and devastation of the Lost Generation is beautifully evoked in Marguerite Kaye’s dual novellas in her A Time for Scandal series: The Undoing of Daisy Edwards and The Awakening of Poppy Edwards. Like Let’s Misbehave by Rae Summers (which I reviewed last year), both of these stories have a dark and melancholy tone yet, since they are romances, there are hopeful and happy endings.

In The Undoing of Daisy Edwards, Daisy and Dominic are merely going through the motions of life, both simply trying to cope day by day with the aftermath of loss and grief from the Great War. Daisy is a widow and a stage actress who loses herself in drinking and partying while Dominic, an aviator, is the second son and heir to a neglected and unwanted title. When they meet, they are two terribly lonely hearts whose passion ignites into an explosive affair. And both are content for just that; it helps them forget their mutual pain in mindless pleasure.

Of course, it develops into much more and it’s interesting that it’s Dominic who initiates the emotional part of their relationship while Daisy fights it all the way. Their conversations are lovely to read and are written from both characters’ points of view, in the uncommon first person voice, a unique and effective device here. I feel it makes the story all the more compelling, especially since it is essentially a short story (only seven chapters long).

Marguerite Kaye’s style is direct, concise, and very powerful. The tone is quiet and reflective throughout and I really felt Daisy’s and Dominic’s pain at the same time as there is a joy and hope in their newfound relationship.

The Awakening of Poppy Edwards is Daisy’s sister’s story. Poppy escaped London and the pain of the war’s devastation for a career in the exciting and new motion picture industry in sunny Los Angeles. She couldn’t bear to witness Daisy’s pain and so she escapes into moviemaking, creating a financially successful (but emotionally empty) life for herself.

Lewis Cartsdyke is a confident and handsome producer who has his eye on Poppy’s stardom and is hoping to make her a star in the upcoming talkies. When he first meets her in her guise as Vera, a singer in a nightclub, dressed à la Marlene Dietrich in a man’s suit, he knows who she is and is captivated by her. He breaks his own rule about mixing business with pleasure and a one night stand turns into something more. When she learns the truth behind his career motives for her, Poppy is reluctant to engage in an affair, but she can’t stay away from Lewis.

Lewis holds his own pain deep inside; he was an ambulance driver in the Great War who, like Ernest Hemingway, saw great horror and death. But he is determined to survive and move on with his life. Poppy just wants a business arrangement with sex on the side, until Lewis pushes her for more, much like Dominic in the first story. I like that it is the men in both of these stories who want more from the women in their lives.

I really enjoyed the descriptions of Poppy’s beautiful house, especially her kitchen, plants, and pool – it creates a very nice domestic feel and brings normalcy to an otherwise somber story, an apt reflection of her calm and orderly home life devoid of emotional feeling.

The complicated and loving relationship between the two sisters is told from their respective points of view in each story, but its spare detail (and the satisfying ending in the second novella) is a beautiful footnote toward healing.

These are two graceful stories (that should be read together) by an author I’d love to read more of.