VIRTUAL TOUR: The Heart of the Phoenix by Barbara Bettis

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Some call him a ruthless mercenary; she calls him the knight of her heart.

Memories

Lady Evelynn’s childhood hero is home—bitter, hard, tempting as sin. And haunted by secrets. A now-grown Evie offers friendship, but Sir Stephen’s cruel rejection crushes her, and she resolves to forget him. Yet when an unexpected war throws them together, she finds love isn’t so easy to dismiss. If only the king hadn’t betrothed her to another.

Can be cruel

Sir Stephen lives a double life while he seeks the treacherous outlaws who murdered his friends. Driven by revenge, he thinks his heart is closed to love. His childhood shadow, Lady Evie, unexpectedly challenges that belief. He rebuffs her, but he can’t forget her, although he knows she’s to wed the king’s favorite.

And deadly

When his drive for vengeance leads to Evie’s kidnapping, Stephen must choose between retribution and the love he’s denied too long. Surely King John will see reason.

Convict the murderers; convince the king. Simple. Until a startling revelation threatens everything.

PURCHASE LINKS: Amazon * ~ * ~ The Wild Rose Press

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EXCERPT

Cover_The Heart of the Phoenix“You were able to find a ship?” she asked.

“Yes.” He gestured with the empty wooden spoon. “We won’t be alone. An emissary for King John bespoke it, but he agreed to share quarters with us.”

Her head tilted to one side. “How did you manage that? I can’t imagine a knight with such authority condescending to share anything with strangers.”

“I told him your brother had ordered you home and would be furious if you delayed. You and the maid will share a small cabin, while the lord occupies the captain’s quarters. I have no idea how large your chamber will be, but we’ll make the best of it.”

“We?” She didn’t look up as she took another bite.

Damn her, what did she find amusing in what he’d just said, for there was no mistaking the humor in her voice. She looked up as he stalked toward the bed. Yes, a mischievous light glimmered in her eyes. He loomed above her and slowly leaned in.

“You’d best try to appear the anxious maiden, in fear of her brother,” he warned. “Or questions might arise that none of us want to answer.”

The amusement faded. “What questions?” Her breath caressed his cheek.

He reared back. “Just behave yourself during the passage.”

“This is the second time you’ve warned me about my conduct. Do you fear I will ride off with one of the guards?”

He clenched his teeth to hold back a retort. Let her have her say. She’d be easier to deal with on the morrow if all her complaints were aired.

“We both know my behavior has been perfectly appropriate. And I’ve accepted each of your edicts calmly.” Her gaze flicked away, as if she knew that statement stretched the truth.

“But that’s not the problem, is it?” she added, her voice low, intent. “Why are you really on this journey, Stephen? We both know it’s not to protect me.”

OUR REVIEW

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Publisher and Release Date: The Wild Rose Press, September 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1199
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Claudia

Lady Evelynn is in Normandy to care for her cousin when she gets a letter from her brother telling her that she is to be married by order of the king, and without informing her of the identity of her betrothed. She is also told to stay where she is – but after month away from home she decides to go against her brother’s orders. On her way home she meets Sir Stephen, a good friend of her brother, who has been sent to escort her.

After too much time on the battlefield and losing much to treacherous outlaws, Sir Stephen is bent on revenge. He cannot and will not allow himself love again – especially when he is finally close to finding the murderer he is looking for.

When Evelynn and Stephen begin their journey together they start more as enemies than friends; but the long road and evil turns they experience together bring them closer and their feelings change – although it might be too late for both of them.

I loved this book. The plot is more than interesting and the story is fast-paced and filled with action. It contains a wonderful blend of intrigue, passion, danger and romance, laced with betrayal and vengeance which kept me turning the pages. The characters are well drawn and engaging – the main characters as well as the secondary ones. All the members of the Brotherhood are interesting and I was left guessing right up to the end as to who the traitor could be.

Evie is a head-strong Lady who had a sheltered up-bringing but who nevertheless knows how to deal with a crisis. Although her journey with Stephen is everything but smooth, she is never weak. She grows further during the trip and learns to trust her instincts.

Sir Stephen is very bitter at the beginning – and although we know why he is doing or saying some of the things he does, it nonetheless seems sometimes cruel to Evie. But he is a man full of honor and loyalty and he proves it time and time again.

Their relationship forms over a long time and gives the reader time to see this growth as both characters struggle to come to terms with what they are feeling as well as to realise that it might be hopeless. The chemistry between them is sizzling.

My only complaint, and the main reason for the 4.5 star rating is that I found it a little difficult to get into the story, and that at various times, I felt as though I had somehow missed out on important information that would have helped me to make sense of what was happening. I suspect the author was being deliberately vague, but it did cause some confusion in the first ten percent or so of the book. also felt that the ending of the book was a little too perfect. It’s well done, and the author has left some threads to be picked up in future stories, but even so this didn’t feel like the first in a series – it seemed to me like everything was wrapped up and that the story arc of the Brotherhood has finished. But that’s a minor issue.

All in all this was a wonderful love story with much emotion, a wonderful relationship and great characters. I fully recommend this book for everyone who loves reading Medieval romances.

GIVEAWAY

Barbara will be awarding a $25 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a Ecopy of The Heart of the Phoenix

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Award-winning author Barbara Bettis has always loved history and English. As a college freshman, she considered becoming an archeologist until she realized there likely would be bugs and snakes involved. And math.

A former health insurance claims adjuster, a former journalist, a former journalism teacher, Barbara Bettis plans never to be a “former” author. Currently, she supports her writing habit as an adjunct English instructor at a community college near her home in Missouri.

She now lives in Missouri, where by day she’s a mild-mannered English teacher, and by night she’s an intrepid plotter of tales featuring heroines to die for—and heroes to live for.

Visit her at: her website * ~ * ~ * blog * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter

Misadventures in Seduction (novella) by Robyn DeHart

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With five siblings to care for, Prudence Hixsby’s duty comes first, even if it means becoming a spinster. When the eldest – and most cherished – of her younger brothers decides to join the war, however, Prudence is determined to keep him safe. So she strikes a bargain with an old acquaintance: her body in exchange for her brother’s safety. In the dead of the night, she slips into the bed of a man whose touch is both fierce and passionate… little knowing she’s just seduced the wrong man. Harrison Carlisle, the Duke of Sutcliffe, never imagined that the lovely Prudence would honor his bed, or just how bewitching those lush curves could be. Yet he keeps a gentleman’s silence. After all, a spy for the Crown can ill afford to marry. But when Prudence’s brother is killed, they find themselves uniting to track down the traitorous murderer. And while death lurks within the shadowy world of espionage, there is also passion… and the unbidden thrill of a seduction!

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Publisher and Release Date: Entangled Publishing, September 2014

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

Review by Susan

What begins as an exciting adventure ignited by mistaken identities that manifest into a sensual romance, Misadventures in Seduction, a Masquerading Mistress novella by Robyn DeHart, falters at the endin,g rushing the couple into a matrimonial union that isn’t convincing. The early stages of Harrison Carlisle and Prudence Hixsby’s union are finely scripted. The Duke of Sutcliffe and the Hixsby family’s spinster are brought together under unusual circumstances, giving their desire for one another an opportunity to catch fire. Add an elite spy organization and a traitor to King George intent on funding Napoleon’s return to power while posing as a liaison between the king and the spy ring, and the gist of the story sounds entirely thrilling.

Prudence and Harrison’s reaction to one another has all the makings of the reader’s favorite daytime so-opera couple. In an effort to keep her impetuous brother safe after he joins the British army, Prudence agrees to have a one-night stand with an influential figure who can secure a position for her brother that will keep him away from the front lines.   Unfortunately, Pru slips into Harrison’s bed instead, and has an evening filled with sensual love-making. The body language and graphic descriptions are tasteful while stirring carnal thoughts, but by the time Pru realizes that it was Harrison whom she had bedded, the moment has passed the point of affecting readers.

Harrison is again involved in another case of mistaken identity when the influential figure whom Pru had intended to bed pretends to be him (Harrison) in an assassination attempt on the Prince Regent. This part of the tale draws the reader deeper into the plot but the author skims over important pieces of information which would make the connection for the reader. There is a pivotal scene when the king’s men have cornered Harrison and Pru and the two escape, but the tension is contrived and written expressly in order to give Pru a chance to use a blade and act as the protective figure. From this point on, the story has an artificial tone as the pair discovers the identity of the traitor/assassin and they confront him.

Cases of mistaken identity draw the protagonists together and later influence them to join forces, knowing they make a good team. If the ending of the story had been as well developed as the beginning, this would have made for a thoroughly engaging Regency Romance.

VIRTUAL TOUR & GIVEAWAY: Sins of a Few by Sarah Ballance

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Salem, 1692

The moment he steps off the boat and into his hometown of Salem, Nathanial Abbot knows the rumors about Salem are indeed true. For in the two years since he’s left Salem—disowned by his family and seeking a fortune of his own—the town has changed. It is dark with discord and suspicion… and accusations of witchcraft. Now all that remains for him is the woman he’s never forgotten.

But Faith Downing isn’t happy to see Nathanial. In his absence, his younger sisters have ignited the chain of hysteria that resulted in twenty deaths—including Faith’s aunt, to whom Nathanial owed his life. Yet through her acrimony, Faith can’t prevent herself from responding to the man Nathanial has become, handsome and kind. A man who kindles something in her that speaks of sin.

The Sins of a Few – purchase links: Amazon * ~ * ~ * Barnes & Noble * ~ * ~ * Kobo * ~ * ~ * iTunes * ~ * ~ * Google Books

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EXCERPT

Cover_The Sins of a Few“The accused would not be in need of defense if someone had bothered to put a stop to what your sisters were doing,” she said, her jaw tight. “And if you wish to walk out of here without a limp, take heed now of your opportunity to go.”

“And if I do not?”

She lifted her hand as if she meant to contact him, but he did not allow her the chance. With undue speed, he captured her wrist and pressed her arm, gently but firmly, against the plank wall at her back. “Careful there, little one.”

“Or what? Do you mean to threaten me?”

“Not at all. In truth, my intentions are exactly the opposite.”

Her hazel eyes narrowed. “What does that mean?”

His gaze dropped to her lips. Drank in the sight of her tongue darting to moisten them. Her chest heaved, sending his heart into uncharted territory. Sending him away from her.

He released her arm and took a step back. He had been a breath away from kissing her, and the only thing that promised to be more delicious than those ripe, moist lips was the fury she would no doubt cast his way. But now was not the time, nor was it the place. “Nothing,” he said. “It means nothing.”

Leaving her staring slack-jawed after him, he turned on his heel and left.

GIVEAWAY

Sarah will be awarding a $25 Amazon or BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Enter at Rafflecopter for a chance to win.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah BallanceSarah and her husband of what he calls “many long, long years” live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they’re asleep. She never dreamed of becoming an author, but as a homeschooling mom she often jokes she writes fiction because if she wants anyone to listen to her, she has to make them up. (As it turns out, her characters aren’t much better than the kids.) When not buried under piles of laundry, she may be found adrift in the Atlantic (preferably on a boat) or in search of that ever-elusive perfect writing spot where not even the kids can find her. To learn more about her work in contemporary, historical, and supernatural romance and romantic suspense, please stalk accordingly.

Website * ~ * ~ * Blog * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Pinterest * ~ * ~ * Goodreads

Goddess Born by Kari Edgren

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Pennsylvania, 1730

Selah Kilbrid keeps a dangerous secret: she has the power to heal.

A direct descendent of the Celtic goddess Brigid, it’s Selah’s sacred duty to help those in need. But as the last of the Goddess Born living in the New World, she learned from an early age to keep her supernatural abilities hidden. The Quaker community of Hopewell has always been welcoming, but there’s no doubt they would see her hanged if her gift was revealed.

When a prominent minister threatens to try her with witchcraft unless she becomes his wife, Selah has only one hope—that her betrothed, a distant cousin from Ireland, arrives as planned. Marrying Samuel would keep her secret safe, preserve her sacred bloodline, and protect her from being charged as a witch.

But when news of Samuel’s death reaches the Colonies, Selah is truly on her own. Terrified, she faces an impossible choice—forfeit her powers and marry the loathsome Nathan? Or find an imposter to pose as her husband and preserve her birthright?

Publisher and Release Date: Carina Press, May 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Colonial America (18th century)
Genre: New Adult Historical Romance (with paranormal elements)
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review by Jenny Q

A descendant of the Celtic goddess Brigid, eighteen-year-old Selah Kilbrid has the power of healing, though she must use it carefully and under the guise of the limited medical knowledge of the eighteenth century or else risk raising the fears of the superstitious community in which she lives. But with the death of her beloved father, Selah is a young woman alone in a world very much ruled by men. Hounded by Nathan, a Quaker elder obsessed with making her his bride, Selah has one chance to stay true to her heritage and fulfill the sacred duty entrusted to her by the goddess: she must get to Philadelphia to marry a man she has never met, her cousin Samuel, due to arrive from Ireland any day. As a fellow Kilbrid, Samuel knows about Selah’s gift and is sworn to protect her. But when Selah arrives in Philadelphia, she discovers that Samuel tragically died on the voyage over, and she is now truly alone. But she is unable to reconcile her fate of marrying a fanatical man and hiding her gift until it eventually withers away, so when she stumbles on an indentured servant auction and locks eyes with a handsome man who seems oddly out of place, she crafts a bold and daring plan. She purchases Henry Alan and convinces him to pose as her new husband.

Nathan is furious at having his plans thwarted, and soon rumors of witchcraft start to swirl. As if pretending to be married isn’t stressful enough – and they do get off to a rocky start – Selah and Henry find themselves the target of threats and eerie happenings, and as the situation grows more intense and Selah’s life is endangered, Henry vows to protect her at all costs. Torn between her growing feelings for Henry, her secret obligation to the goddess, and the rising suspicions of her fellow townsfolk, Selah resolves to carry on as best she can, but will she be able to defend herself against the ultimate charge of being a witch? And when the truth is finally revealed to Henry, will he stand by her side or turn against her? And what will Selah do when she discovers Henry is hiding a pretty big secret of his own?

I really wanted to love this book. And there were things about it that I did love, but there were also some things that I didn’t. For example, it seemed as though a few steps were missed between Selah and Henry growing tolerant of each other and then declaring their love for each other. I felt like I missed out on that dance of emotions in between, and so it made the declarations less satisfying. I also found the behavior of the villains of the story to be too over-dramatic to be believable. I like a heroine who can get herself out of a jam once in a while, and Selah had to be rescued too many times. And finally, I was not a fan of the ending. I felt like a whole other chapter of the journey was just beginning, but instead it ended, and without enough closure for me. But now I know that this was intentional as this is apparently the first book in a trilogy. It would have been nice if there had been a “to be continued in book two” notice so I was not left shaking my head! So I won’t count that against the book. But I’ve read through my friends’ reviews – all of whom are loving it – and none of them mentioned my hang-ups, so they may be just that, MY hang-ups. I read a lot of romances, so I tend to be tough on them. So that being said, don’t let me dissuade you from reading what is definitely one of the more original romances I’ve read in some time. Which leads me to what I did like about this book…

I adore novels set in Colonial America, and the small Pennsylvania village of Hopewell comes to life in this story, complete with depictions of day-to-day life, friends and neighbors, Native American visitors, the customs of the time, and the clash of co-existing religious beliefs. I also loved how Celtic mythology from the Old World was woven into the canvas via Selah’s heritage. And Selah is a worthy heroine to root for: she’s smart, compassionate, and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. I didn’t feel like I really got to know Henry quite as well, but I’m hoping that will be remedied in the other books, and what we do get to see of him in this story is quite swoon-worthy. The novel is well written, the plot is perfectly paced, and I burned through the pages, anxious to solve the mystery of who was really behind the witchcraft paranoia engulfing the village and to see if Selah and Henry would be able to overcome their differences and find a happily ever after. With a unique setting, a touch of magic, tons of historical context, and a couple to fall in love with, Goddess Born is a welcome addition to the historical romance genre, and I look forward to future books from Kari Edgren.

Darling Beast (Maiden Lane #7) by Elizabeth Hoyt

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A MAN CONDEMNED . . .

Falsely accused of murder and mute from a near-fatal beating, Apollo Greaves, Viscount Kilbourne has escaped from Bedlam. With the Crown’s soldiers at his heels, he finds refuge in the ruins of a pleasure garden, toiling as a simple gardener. But when a vivacious young woman moves in, he’s quickly driven to distraction . . .

A DESPERATE WOMAN . . .

London’s premier actress, Lily Stump, is down on her luck when she’s forced to move into a scorched theatre with her maid and small son. But she and her tiny family aren’t the only inhabitants—a silent, hulking beast of a man also calls the charred ruins home. Yet when she catches him reading her plays, Lily realizes there’s more to this man than meets the eye.

OUT OF ASH, DESIRE FLARES

Though scorching passion draws them together, Apollo knows that Lily is keeping secrets. When his past catches up with him, he’s forced to make a choice: his love for Lily . . . or the explosive truth that will set him free.

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Publisher and Release Date: Grand Central Publishing, October 2014
RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1741, London, England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars

Review by Lady Wesley

You might think that an author would begin to run out of ideas when she reaches the seventh volume in a series. In Elizabeth’s Hoyt’s case, however, you would be wrong. In Darling Beast she takes the Maiden Lane series into a new neighborhood with new characters while at the same time tying the story in with the earlier books.

In Duke of Midnight, Apollo Greaves escaped from his wrongful incarceration in Bedlam, with the help of his sister Artemis and his new brother-in-law, the Duke of Wakefield. Now he is living in a shed on the grounds of Harte’s Folly, a pleasure garden and theater that was nearly destroyed by fire. Mr. Harte is helping Apollo hide while Apollo is designing and building a new garden.

Lily Stump moves into the few habitable rooms left in the theater with her seven-year-old son, Indio, and nursemaid, Maude. Lily is a well-known actress but since she is under contract to Harte and since he has no theater in which she can perform, she is short on funds. When Indio, tells her that there is a monster living in the gardens, she laughs it off – until one day she sees the monster for herself as he emerges unclothed from a pool.

Lily is immediately suspicious of her son’s new friend. Apollo is unable to speak because of injuries he suffered in Bedlam. When Lily tries to question him, he can’t reply, and she thinks that he is simple-minded. Because he is hiding from the law and doesn’t know if he can trust Lily, he allows her to assume that he is just another one of the laborers hired to work for Harte.

Despite his mother’s warnings, however, Indio and his naughty dog, Daffodil, can’t stay away from the pond, and when Apollo rescues Daff after she fell into the water, Lily begins to realize that there is more to Apollo than she first thought.

Through much of the book, Apollo cannot speak, but he begins to communicate with Lily by writing. She has no idea that he is a fugitive nor that he is the heir to an earldom. Indio and Daff bring the couple together, in a way that is utterly charming. Cute children and animals are not something that every author can do well, but Hoyt excels here.

Another appealing element of this book is that nearly half of the story takes place in the garden, and even though it is ruined there is something rather enchanting about the place. Apollo is a true landscape gardener, and he sees what no one else can, as in this scene (after Apollo begins to regain his voice):

“Where are we?”

“The heart,” he said, his voice low and rasping. “The very . . . heart of my future garden . . . the center of the maze.”

She shivered at his words. This place didn’t look any different from anywhere else in the garden, but garden hearts, she supposed, like human hearts, could be disguised.

“I can’t see it,” she said.

He took a step toward her and turned her to face the same way as he, her back against his chest. “Here,” he said, wrapping his arms over her shoulders to hold her hands. “There’ll be a folly . . . of some sort right here . . . beneath our feet. A fountain or . . . waterfall or statue. Benches for lovers to sit and . . . kiss. The entrance will be over here” — he pointed to a space to the right — “and the maze . . . will wind all around us . . . like an embrace.”

Slowly he turned with her, tracing with his outstretched hand his imaginary maze.

“You have so much faith,” she whispered.

She felt him shrug behind her. “It’s there already . . . just waiting for the right person . . . to find it and bring it alive,” he said softly in her ear. “A maze . . . is eternal, you know, once discovered.”

It wouldn’t be Maiden Lane, though, if we didn’t have some danger and darkness. Apollo is desperate to find the person who actually committed the murders for which he was accused. The soldiers are on his trail. And Captain Trevillion, even though he has been invalided out of the army, is grimly determined to see Apollo back in Bedlam, while the real murderer has plans to pin one last crime on him. And Indio’s mysterious parentage actually may place him in danger.

In addition to Trevillion, other Maiden Lane characters are part of this story – Maximus and Artemis, of course, Hero and Phoebe, and even the absent Makepeace sibling, Asa. An intriguing and rather outrageous new character, the Duke of Montgomery, is introduced, and it isn’t clear whether he is friend or foe.

I think that Darling Beast is the most romantic book in this series, and I recommend it unreservedly. If you’ve read the previous Maiden Lane books, you definitely will not want to miss this one. And even if you haven’t read them, this touchingly tender story works just fine as a stand-alone.

SPOTLIGHT: Home Fires by Jana Richards

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Anne Wakefield travels halfway around the world for love. But when she arrives in Canada from England at the end of World War Two, she discovers the handsome Canadian pilot she’d fallen in love with has married someone else. Heartbroken, she prepares to return to London, though she has nothing left there to return to. Her former fiancé’s mother makes a suggestion: marriage to her other son.

Badly wounded and scarred during the war, Erik Gustafson thinks he’s a poor substitute for his brother. Although he loves Anne almost from the first time he sees her, he cannot believe she would ever be able to love him as he is – especially as he might be after another operation on his bad leg. Anne sees the beauty of his heart. The cold prairie winter may test her courage, but can she prove to Erik that her love for him is real?

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EXCERPT

Anne rose and began gathering dishes and putting away food.

“You don’t have to do that,” Erik said.

She put the bread back in the cupboard, refusing to meet his gaze. “I can do my share.”

“Why don’t you go upstairs and get some rest, make an early night of it?”

She whirled around to glare at him, her eyes blazing. “No! I’m not a child! I don’t have to be mollycoddled and babysat. I spent six years in a war zone, hiding in bomb shelters, never having enough to eat. I worked in a hospital treating blitz victims with wounds so horrendous grown men would gag to look at them. I faced those horrors every day. Sometimes things were so bad I thought I couldn’t go on. But I did. Because I had to. And I’ll face things here, too. So don’t tell me to give up, because I won’t!”

Erik pushed himself out of his chair to face her, awed by her spirit and courage. She lifted her chin as if defying him to contradict her, her hands clenched at her sides. Her dark hair curled in wild abandon as it dried, framing her pale oval face like a halo. Her beauty and ferocity were magnificent.

“I think you’re the strongest woman I know.”

Her eyes widened in surprise, her hands unclenching. He caught the quiver of her chin as she fought to hold back tears.

“I made such a mess of things,” she whispered. “I’m sorry for all the fuss I caused everyone.”

Erik took a step toward her. “It’s not your fault. I shouldn’t have let you go alone in the dark.”

“You didn’t know I would stupidly walk out onto thin ice.” She shook her head. “I wanted to help. I wanted to be useful. I can’t stand feeling so bloody useless.”

“You’re not useless. You’re an amazing woman. Anders is a fool for letting you go.”

She stared at him, her eyes filling with tears. “Thank you.”

He opened his arms and she stepped into them, wrapping her arms around his waist, clinging to him. He held her tightly, inhaling the sweet, clean scent of her, never wanting to let her go.

“Don’t cry. Everything’s all right now.”

“I know I’m being stupid. Tears don’t solve anything,” she said against his chest. “But I was so cold, and so scared. I thought I was going to die.”

He tightened his hold and kissed her hair. “Don’t think about it anymore. You’re safe now.”

He heard her sigh, felt her relax against him. “Yes. I’m safe.”

She lifted her head to look into his face, her dark eyes shiny with tears, her lips slightly parted, and Erik stared at her mouth, wanting desperately to kiss her, to capture her sweetness. He slowly lowered his mouth to hers. To his surprise, she didn’t run off or turn away in revulsion. He was so close her breath mingled with his, her breathing shallow and erratic. His heart slammed against his chest, his body thrumming with need. For the first time in over three years, he felt alive.

The outside door opened and slammed shut. Anne jumped back and took several steps away. She turned her head to hide her expression from him. A moment later Astrid and Ingrid entered the kitchen, each carrying two buckets of milk.

Anne poured hot water from the reservoir in the stove into the dishpan, avoiding any eye contact with him.

“Is everything all right?” Astrid asked, eyeing him closely.

“Everything’s fine,” Erik replied flatly. “Anne wants to do some washing up.”

“I can wash the separator once you’re done,” Anne said, referring to the machine used to separate the milk from the cream. It had many stainless steel parts that were tedious and difficult to clean but had to be kept spotless.

“Don’t worry about it, Anne,” Ingrid said as she poured a bucket of milk into the stainless steel bowl on the top of the separator. “You’ve had a difficult day. I can do it later.”

“No. I said I’ll do it.”

The determination in her voice had both women staring at her. Erik watched as Anne took a deep breath and briefly closed her eyes.

“Please, I need to do something. I need to keep busy. I don’t want to think anymore about…about what happened.”

Ingrid nodded, then began turning the handle on the separator. Astrid gave Anne’s shoulders a brief squeeze.

“I’ll empty the bathtub,” she said.

“I’ll help you, Ma.”

Erik followed his mother into the washroom, glad for the diversion. He affixed a hose to the bathtub drain and began emptying the water into a five-gallon pail. Astrid used a small dipper to scoop out water from the bathtub into another bucket.

“She’s a very beautiful woman, isn’t she?” she said quietly. “She’s a good person, too.”

“What’s your point, Ma?” He detached the hose.

“Just an observation. I like her, and I hate to see her go.”

“There’s no reason for her to stay. Anders is already married to someone else.” Erik hated the anger and jealousy he heard in his voice.

“Do you want her to stay?”

His heart thumped against his ribs. “It doesn’t matter what I want. She’s going back to England.”

“Perhaps if you gave her a reason to stay—“

“Ma, don’t.” She’d bolted from his arms as soon as the others walked through the door. The shock of her close call had lowered her defenses. That was the only reason she’d allowed him to hold her, and nearly kiss her.

He thought of Daphne, the beautiful English girl he’d fallen in love with. He’d seriously considered asking her to marry him. After he was wounded, Daphne had rushed to the hospital to see him. He’d never forget the revulsion on her face the first time she saw his scars. Why subject himself to that kind of rejection again?

Anne wanted his brother, not him.

And that would never change.

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About the Author

Jana Richards pictureWhen Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense Seeing Things was a 2008 EPPIE finalist.

In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada with their Pug/Terrier cross Lou and several unnamed goldfish. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.jananarichards.com, and you can sign up for her newsletter here

You can also connect with Jana via her blog *~ * ~ * >Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Amazon * ~ * ~ * >Goodreads * ~ * ~ * Google +.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Music for My Soul by Lauren Linwood

04_Music For My Soul_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

As the third wife of an abusive French vineyard owner, Madeleine Bouchard hasn’t produced the expected heir after three years of marriage. Fearing he plans to kill her, she flees during a trip to England. Unable to make her way home, she joins a troupe of traveling mummers and reinvents herself as the only woman troubadour in the land, captivating audiences with both song and story.

Nobleman Garrett Montayne’s fascination with Madeleine causes him to pay the troupe to bypass their next stop in order to journey to his estate. Though he suspects Madeleine of being a thief with dark secrets, love blossoms between them under the magical moon of summer solstice.

But Madeleine’s past is about to catch up with her, as her husband is set to arrive to conduct business with Garrett. Madeleine determines to free herself from her loveless marriage and make a new life with Garrett, no matter what the cost.

Find the book at: Amazon US * ~ * ~ * Amazon UK* ~ * ~ * Barnes & Noble * ~ * ~ * Book Depository * ~ * ~ * IndieBound

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Today, we’re delighted to welcome LAUREN LINWOOD to Romantic Historical Reviews, to tell us about her love of Historical Romance.

I am a voracious reader, recently picking up everything from Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken to David Baldacci’s The Target to Victoria Thompson’s newest Gaslight Mystery, featuring midwife Sarah Brandt and Detective Frank Malloy in turn of the century New York. I escape to many times and places—helping Gabriel Allon on a European spy mission, walking the US and getting into trouble with Jack Reacher, or finding political intrigue in the Tudor court with Philippa Gregory’s The King’s Curse.

But when I starting writing the stories in my head, I chose to write romances.

Even though I enjoy catching serial killers or trying court cases vicariously as I place myself in the protagonist’s shoes of the books I read, what I enjoy writing is that Happily Ever After ending. I like writing about relationships—the beginning attraction, the coming together, the difficulties and negotiation of obstacles blocking the way to true love, and then finally the end where two people have overcome everything in their way to unite as one. I enjoy leaving my hero and heroine at story’s end, knowing they will always be together, richer for having known one another and for committing to each other for all time.

So why historical romance?

I was the nerdy, scrawny kid with a passion for reading. My elementary school’s librarian took me under her wing and exposed me to many unique authors, but the biggest gift she gave me? Pointing me toward the biography section. She’d purchased a series of biographies that were only 80-100 pages each, and I raced through every single one of them. Some featured contemporary figures, be it politicians or sports stars, but the bulk told the stories of people from a bygone time.

As I read these factual accounts of once-living people from the past, I fell in love with so many eras in history. I read about Ancient Egypt with Cleopatra and war with the young Maid of Orleans. Benjamin Franklin took me through Colonial America, while I also visited the court of the French Sun King. I hid from the Nazis with Anne Frank and fought the English alongside William Wallace. I studied by candlelight with a young Abe Lincoln and danced with Henry VIII as Anne Boleyn.

History became my favorite class in school. As an adult I became a history teacher, wanting to share my passion for the people who lived long ago who shaped our world as we know it today. I wanted to bring their stories to my students, hoping to explore the fact that these famous people in many ways are similar to us. Sometimes the illustrious names we study are just ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances—and they rose to the occasion.

So what better mix than romance with history? I get to revisit eras I enjoy. I have a blast researching fun facts that I can weave into my narrative. I’m able to share customs and fashions and architecture and traditions—all while bringing two people together, forever.

It doesn’t get any better than that!

EXCERPT


02_Music For My Soul

Garrett peered into the angry face of the woman who haunted his dreams by night and left him absent-minded by day. Their encounter had been brief, but he doubted he had ever met a more remarkable woman. Not even his petite Lynnette had brought such a sweet longing to his loins as did the bewitching creature before him.

Her honeyed hair, loosened from its intricate braid, curled around her shoulders. Tiny beads of sweat had formed just above her upper lip. Without thinking, Garrett reached his thumb towards her and wiped it away. She flinched slightly, her dark, amethyst eyes glowering up at him.

Garrett smiled in spite of himself, offering her a hand to pull her to her feet. He had forgotten how very tall she was as she stared at him, her cheeks flushed with anger.

“Perhaps we could arrange a trade?” he suggested.

She eyed him suspiciously. “I’m not sure if I could trust you, my lord,” she countered.

“Trust me?” he sputtered. “This, from the woman who traipsed about the countryside claiming to be my wife?”

She shrugged nonchalantly, an almost Gallic air about her. She didn’t sound French, but there was an unmistakable manner to her movement. Garrett spent enough time in France to recognize the behavior. However, when she spoke, he quickly put it from his mind.

“I chose a bloody awful name to scare away anyone who accosted me on the road! How was I to know I’d run into you?” She snorted in an unladylike fashion. “I had heard tales of the wicked Lord Montayne, how he frightened old and young alike and gobbled up babes for his dinner. Why, the very mention of his name would cause grown men to plead for their lives and their loved ones. Oh, no, my lord, I was an honest liar. You were the one who resorted to trickery and hid your true identity from me.”

Her accusation so startled Garrett his jaw flew open. No sound came out for a moment. The woman lifted her chin high and turned on her heel. That brought Garrett into motion.

He grabbed her elbow and pulled her around to face him. “Not so fast, my lady.” He studied her a second. Her eyes narrowed at him, but she remained silent. Finally faced with her visage square in front of him, Garrett was at a loss of what to do. His emotions swirled out of control as he spoke.

“’Tis curiosity,” he sputtered.

She looked puzzled. “Curiosity?” she echoed.

He nodded, his words spilling forth rapidly. “I know not who you are, nor where you come from. I’ve dreamed of you since that night only to awaken to an emptiness.” His voice became low and tinged with sadness. “I don’t even know your name.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


03_Lauren Linwood
Lauren Linwood became a teacher who wrote on the side to maintain her sanity in a sea of teenage hormones. Her romances use history as a backdrop to place her characters in extraordinary circumstances, where their intense desire and yearning for one another grow into the deep, tender, treasured gift of love.

Lauren, a native Texan, lives in a Dallas suburb with her family. An avid reader, moviegoer, and sports fan, she manages stress by alternating yoga with five mile walks. She is thinking about starting a support group for Pinterest and House Hunters addicts.

For more information please visit Lauren’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

AUDIO REVIEW: Salt Bride by Lucinda Brant, narrated by Marian Hussey

salt bride

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England, 1763. The Earl of Salt Hendon and squire’s daughter Jane Despard share a secret past of mistrust and heartache. Forced into a marriage neither wants, the patient and ever optimistic Jane believes love conquers all; the Earl will take some convincing. Enter Diana St. John, who will go to extremes, even murder, to hold the Earl’s attention. Can the newlyweds overcome past prejudices and sinister opposition to fall in love all over again?

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Publisher and Release Date: Lucinda Brant, June 2014

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

Review by Caz

Salt Bride is a thoroughly enjoyable story set in the Georgian era, in which the author’s sense of style and her evocative descriptions of the clothing and various settings bring the period vividly to life.

At the beginning of the story, Miss Jane Despard is obliged to marry the handsome and wealthy Earl of Salt Hendon (or “Salt”, as he is known). One might think being married to a man blessed with both wealth and good-looks would be no hardship, but Salt and Jane have a history which neither of them can ignore. Four years previously, Salt proposed to – and was accepted by – the lovely Jane and, carried away on the tide of passion, the pair anticipated their vows. Fully intending to present himself to her father the following day, Salt is unexpectedly called away, and when he returns a few weeks later, it’s to discover that Jane has been thrown out of her father’s house and is living under the same roof as her uncle-by-marriage, the prosperous merchant, Jacob Allenby.

Hurt and angry at what he believes to be Jane’s heartless defection, Salt assumes Jane is under Allenby’s “protection” as well as under his roof, and takes himself back to London to embark on a spectacular round of bed-hopping. Jane, whose father disowned her when she discovered she was pregnant, believes Salt abandoned her after having his way with her, as he never made any attempt to see or contact her following the letter she sent advising him of her situation. But years later, fate has a cruel sense of irony, and in order to fulfil the terms of her guardian’s will and prevent the financial ruin of her beloved step-brother, Jane has no alternative but to marry Salt after all.

She’s never fallen out of love with him, but his reaction to her is cold and harsh. He is being forced into this marriage because his sense of honour will not allow him to renege on a promise made to Jane’s father on his death-bed. He does not scruple to make Jane fully aware that he is not marrying her by choice, and indeed treats her very poorly, insulting her and telling her that once married, she will be shut away in the country while he gets on with his life in town. And while Jane knows she has no alternative but to go through with the marriage, she is no pushover and gives back as good as she gets, making it clear that she is just as unhappy about the situation as Salt is.

Obviously, this is not the best basis for a marriage – and it’s also not an uncommon premise in an historical romance. The couple has to navigate their way through misunderstanding and misdirection, much of it orchestrated by the villain of the piece, Lady Diana St. John, who is Salt’s cousin, and obsessed with him to the point of madness. As the story progresses, Jane and Salt grow closer and rekindle their old feelings for each other, as well as coming to understand the reasons behind their misconceptions about each other and, more importantly, the lengths Diana has gone to – and is prepared, still, to go to – in order to get what she wants. Knowing that Salt will never marry her, she nonetheless aims to keep him for herself by acting as his hostess and remaining constantly at his side through the glittering political career for which she believes he is destined.

While the story of the forced-into-marriage may be somewhat formulaic, I was nonetheless compelled to keep listening by the quality of the writing, storytelling and narration, and by the deliciously despicable Diana, who is a brilliantly realised character. She’s over-the-top for sure, but she’s so devious and clever that there are times the listener can almost believe she’s going to get away with her nefarious plans – and they really are nefarious, involving not just a determination to dispose of Jane, but revealing a streak of such dark malevolence and cruelty that makes her both repulsive and strangely compelling.

Marian Hussey isn’t a narrator I’ve listened to before, but her performance here is excellent and I will certainly be seeking out more of her work as a result.

Her voice is very pleasantly modulated and her narrative is well-paced and expressive. She differentiates very effectively between characters so that there is never any question as to who is speaking in those scenes – and there are quite a few – in which there are more than two or three characters present. Her interpretation of the various female characters is very strong, with her portrayal of Diana being the stand-out performance. That lady’s languidly supercilious utterances are laced with venom and bitterness as she cuts a swathe through London’s society as its most sought-after hostess. Ms Hussey doesn’t have a particularly deep voice, but her portrayals of the men in the story are successfully done by use of a variety of tone, pitch and timbre. For Tom, Jane’s younger half-brother, Ms Hussey adds a slight edge to her voice and introduces an element of eagerness into his words which expertly convey his youth and inexperience. Salt’s speech is considered and deliberate, with an air of authority and arrogance that perfectly reflect his austerity of character.

Overall, Salt Bride is a very enjoyable listening experience. Jane and Salt make an engaging central couple, there is a well-drawn cast of supporting characters and the makings of a secondary romance which I believe continues into the sequel. Ms Brandt’s eye for detail and her ability to craft a fast-moving, suspenseful and highly entertaining story combined with a highly polished performance from Marian Hussey make this an audio I have no hesitation in recommending to fans of historical romance and romance audiobooks alike.

RETRO REVIEW: In Love and War: A Collection of Love Stories by Carla Kelly

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Beloved romance writer Carla Kelly shares a treasured collection of stories starring dashing war heroes and the sassy heroines who can’t help but fall for them. From daring sea captains to genteel lords, there’s a little something for every heart’s fancy. Readers everywhere will adore these four regency romances—now available together for the first time in one can’t-miss ebook!

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Publisher and Release Date: Cedar Fort, Inc., February 2012
RHR Classifications:
Location and Setting: Regency England
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars

Review by Lady Wesley

Carla Kelly writes some of the best, most thoroughly researched Regency-set historical romances on the market today. If you haven’t read her, this book is an excellent introduction to her work.

This ebook is a reissue of four utterly charming short stories about the men who fought for England in the early 19th century and the women who came to love them. These are not a lot of lords and ladies but rather real people living real lives. As might be expected from a short story, each couple falls in love rather rapidly, but in a quite believable manner.

* The Light Within – A Quaker widow from America is helped by the younger brother of a spendthrift marquess who has returned from Waterloo believing he has no future.

* A Hasty Marriage – While visiting a friend in Portsmouth, an upper class spinster finds herself attracted to an American sea captain from Boston, but war is breaking out and he must flee before his ship is confiscated.

* Something New – A Scots artillery major returns to England with a four-year-old French orphan, and “decent” people seem to think he should turn her over to an orphanage. The widow of a Navy captain, however, sees things differently

* The Background Man – Although he was only a clerk for the East India Company, a mild-mannered young man fought beside Wellington in India. Now he runs a high-class hotel and is content with the hum-drum nature of his life until an unusual guest arrives and shakes him up.

I would give this more than five stars if possible. It was my first Carla Kelly book, and I have gone on to read almost all of her Regencies. She also writes books set in the American West, so if that appeals to you, give one a try.

The Irresistible Miss Peppiwell by Stacy Reid

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With a longing for adventure, the last thing Phillipa Pippiwell wants is to marry. After a painful betrayal by a man she trusted, she is wary when she unwittingly catches the attention of roguishly handsome – and sinfully tempting – Lord Anthony Thornton. Forbidden desires she secretly yearns for threaten to crumble her icy facade and reveal a past scandal best kept buried.

Dissatisfied with his empty life, Lord Anthony seeks a deep and lasting connection… and finds himself intrigued by the Ice Maiden of the haute monde. Undaunted by Phillipa’s aloof nature and her distaste for the idea of matrimony, he sets out to thaw the bewitching beauty by enticing her with adventures of the most sensual type. But he, too, hides a scandalous secret… and if it’s discovered it could rip them apart

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Publisher and Release Date: Entangled Scandalous, August 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1880s England
Genre: Historical romance
Heat Level: 2.5
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Miss Philippa Peppiwell is fleeing a scandal. An American heiress from Boston living in Victorian England, her family’s money is “new money” and, thus, snubbed and belittled by London high society. But her family has high hopes for their daughters to make titled matches and thus advance their station.

But Philippa does not ever wish to marry and distrusts the intentions of all men after her one great disappointment. Her cold reserve and austere beauty – despite her red hair – have earned her the moniker of “ice maiden,” but she is merely protecting her vulnerability behind a wall. This works with most of her eligible suitors but does not, however, deter the determined Anthony Thornton, brother to the reluctant Duke of Calydon.

At first, Philippa is merely another woman he must have and they embark on a passionate affair, but Anthony soon changes his mind. She is “irresistible” and, when she refuses his hand in marriage, he single-mindedly pursues her, despite the scandalous secrets they both hold dear. The sex is graphic but tastefully done as it portrays their deep attraction, both physically and emotionally.

Though the burning sexual tension that Ms Reid creates really simmers throughout this short romance, the ending seems a little abrupt with its uneasy and unrealistic resolution. Most of the story proceeds at a lovely pace, but then it seems to rush through the ending, somewhat disrupting the easy flow of the book.

Nevertheless, this does not detract from the book and I very much enjoyed the writing, the storyline, and the depiction of Victorian London society and fashion in the 1880s. The romance is both erotic and sweet and Philippa and Anthony are likeable characters.

Anthony is a sensual man with very strong sexual passions that have turned off many women and mistresses in his past. This confused me because many men took mistresses at this time in order to indulge in the rougher bed play they felt uncomfortable engaging in with their wives, so why did it shock his mistresses, who are usually considered bolder women by society’s standards? There is no bondage and only some minor spanking in this book, but nothing overtly unorthodox in my opinion.

But Philippa is an adventurous woman who wants to explore life (and sex) and she finds such a match with Anthony. He protects her and cares for her when she is in danger, he is thoughtful and loving to his brother, his younger sister, mother and, eventually, his father. He is everything a gentleman should be, including honorable and protective. He just happens to enjoy adventurous sex (and so does she). Wink.

There is a nasty villain in Lord Orwell with a rather loose thread by the end of the book. The writing is strong and suspenseful – especially in a very frightening scene involving Lord Orwell and Philippa.

This is the second book in a series called The House of Calydon, but the events of book one take place after book two, so this reads as a standalone.

The Irresistible Miss Peppiwell is a wonderfully readable and sexy romance. Fans of Sabrina Darby and Monica Burns as well as those who like their romance on the spicier side may enjoy Stacy Reid.