VIRTUAL TOUR: My Lady Faye by Sarah Hegger

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The Lady
The fair Lady Faye has always played the role allotted her. Yet the marriage her family wanted only brought her years of abuse and heartache. Now, finally free of her tyrannical husband, she is able to live her own life for the first time. But someone from the past has returned. Someone she has never been able to forget.

The Warrior
After years of servitude as a warrior for King and Country, Gregory is now free to pursue his own path: to serve God by becoming a monk. The only thing stopping him is Faye. Gregory has loved Faye since the moment he saw her. But their love was not meant to be. How can he serve God when his heart longs for her? He can neither forsake God nor the woman he loves.

The Promise
When Faye’s son is kidnapped, Gregory answers her family’s call for help, only to find that even in the most dangerous of circumstances, neither can fight their forbidden attraction. An attraction that now burns brighter than ever before. And it is only a matter of time until it consumes them both.

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EXCERPT

Her mother and father were settled at table and Faye took the seat to her father’s left. As the first girl, born after Roger and William, she’d been accorded a special place in her father’s affection.

His craggy face split into a grin. “Beautiful Faye.” He kissed her cheek. “Tell me how you have been spending this day.”

She dreaded the question. He asked it every night and every night she burrowed deep for some interesting morsel that wouldn’t make her day seem as stale as old bread. “I am working on a new set of bed linens for Beatrice’s baby. As we do not know the sex of the child, I thought green was a good choice.”

“Marvelous.” Her father rubbed his hands together.

She loved him for the attempt, but honestly, the mighty Sir Arthur of Anglesea had as much interest in bedding as, well, she did.

Twined up in each other like a pair of clinging vines, Garrett and Beatrice entered the hall. Beatrice waddled under the weight of the child she carried. Garrett strutted and preened like the first man to ever conceive a child, hovering about Beatrice constantly. So in love, it made her wish for things she couldn’t have.

Nurse leant forward from beside Lady Mary. “She carries a boy, you mark my words.”
Faye itched to adjust her wimple. Nurse wore it so low and tight, it pressed her face inward and gave her the look of a spotted pudding.

“It is in the shape of the belly.” Nurse made a circle with her hands. “If it is round like that, it’s a boy. You were the same and your mother before you.”

Oh, spare her Nurse and her predictions. Both times Nurse had sworn up and down Faye bore a girl. She merely smiled at their resident oracle and accepted a goblet from a serving woman. At least the wine at Anglesea was always good.

Speaking of her confinements, Simon and Arthur should be back by now.

“Nurse, have you seen the boys?” She leant far forward to see past her father and mother. She had told Sir Arthur they should commission a curved table at Anglesea. It was one good thing she had taken from Calder Castle.

Nurse’s bodice dropped in her trencher as she replied. See there, a curved table would be a mercy to silk everywhere. “Nay.” Nurse frowned. “I thought they were with young Oliver.”

Oliver, the squire charged with watching the boys. There were so many around Anglesea, their names blurred into a crowd of eager young faces.

“Oliver missed weapons practice this evening.” William took the seat beside her.

Why he did it baffled her because Roger would only insist he move one down. Men. Oliver should not have missed practice. Everyone knew Sir Arthur ran a disciplined keep, and squires did not miss practice. Not unless there was a problem. A tendril of alarm curled in her belly.

“I saw them heading for the beech thicket.” Roger rumbled from behind. He clapped William on the shoulder, his knuckles whitening as he increased his grip.

“The beech thicket? Did you not stop them? They told me they would go to the stream at the bottom of the hill. They were to remain in sight of the keep guards.”

“I thought they had your permission.” Roger won the battle with William and wedged huge shoulders in beside her.

Roger was so thick sometimes, sitting there sipping his mead as if naught was amiss. She had told her boys right before him the thicket was not allowed, even accompanied. Her brother would be well served if she poured his mead over his thoughtless head. Roger should have stopped them. The beech thicket spread all the way to the village and the boys could be anywhere. Best she start looking. Already planning the stern word she would have with her oldest son when she found him, she got to her feet. Simon forever led the way into mischief with little Arthur at his heels. She should never have let them go this morning.

Sir Arthur rose. “Faye?”

“Forgive me.” She managed a tight smile for the table. “If you will excuse me, I will go and find my sons.”
Garrett stood. “I shall come with you.”

“I am sure there is no reason for concern.” She kept it light. Boys were boys and she did try not to coddle them, but for their bellies not to lead them to dinner was unusual.

“I will come.” Garrett motioned for Beatrice to stay. “Where would you like to begin?”

Beatrice had a treasure in her husband. Faye gave him a grateful smile as she led the way out of the hall.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Lyrical Press, September 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1217
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Caz

My Lady Faye is the second book in Sarah Hegger’s Sir Arthur’s Legacy series, and it picks up the story of Faye, Countess of Calder and sister to the heroine of the first book, Sweet Bea. In that book, Faye finally finds the courage to flee her abusive husband with her two young sons, accompanied by her faithful protector, Sir Gregory. Throughout the seven years of her horrible marriage, the knight was Faye’s only true friend, the one man who knew the truth of what Faye had to endure at her husband’s hands, who offered her what comfort and solace he could and the man who was more of a father figure to her boys than their biological father ever was. It was clear, in Sweet Bea that there was something deeper than mere friendship lying between Faye and her handsome escort, but his long avowed intention to join a religious order stood between them; and having seen Faye and her boys safely returned to her father, he has left Anglesea to pursue his lifelong dream of taking holy orders.

Months later, Faye continues to feel Gregory’s absence keenly and is still angry with him for the ease with which he was able to walk away from her seemingly without regret.

Faye’s worst nightmare comes true one day when her eldest son goes missing, snatched by Calder’s men and returned to his father. She is distraught, knowing Calder to be a cruel, vengeful who will not hesitate to use the boy in order to exact his revenge upon her. Because a married woman and her children are legally her husband’s property – and because he is still looked upon warily following his participation in the barons’ rebellion against the now deceased King John – Sir Arthur’s hands are tied. He has no legal rights in the matter and cannot afford to attract the notice of the new king, and Faye is driven almost out of her mind with frustration and worry, until the arrival of the one man upon whom she has always been able to depend.

Brought from the abbey by Faye’s brother-in-law, Sir Gregory knows that his conflicting loyalties will be sorely tested by proximity to the woman he has loved for so long, but he cannot refuse to help her to get back her son. When she insists on accompanying Gregory to Calder, her father and brothers are adamant that she stay at Anglesea, but she will not be dissuaded. She and Gregory set off with Faye disguised as a boy, to make the journey back to the place she hates most in the world in order to effect the rescue.

One of the things Ms Hegger does very well in this story is to explore the nature of the conflict between Faye and Gregory, which one could almost describe as a Love Triangle. Gregory has wanted to enter the church since he was a boy, an ideal he clung to even when he was fostered out to Calder’s household in the way that boys of the nobility were at that time. He had not, however, bargained on falling in love, and given that Faye was married and there was no hope for them, he kept to his resolve to devote his life to God. Yet he is still torn between his love for his calling and his love for Faye which is, he knows, the reason he has not yet been allowed to take his final vows. He wants to help Faye in any way he can, but when thrown back into an even closer proximity to her than before, he is unable to deny the pull of the attraction between them.

Faye spends quite a lot of the story being angry because Gregory chose the church over her, which sometimes makes her seem rather selfish – but on the other hand, it’s easy to understand her feelings. The man she married turned into a monster and the only person she could rely on was the strong, taciturn knight set to guard her. When her only source of tenderness and comfort left, it’s natural that she should feel abandoned and aggrieved, but she has a habit of constantly needling Gregory that isn’t always easy to read. Fortunately, Faye is redeemed somewhat by the fact that she knows she’s being selfish and petulant, even though she can’t always help herself.

She also grows throughout the story, turning from the timid, helpless woman she had been during her marriage into one who is prepared to put up a fight for what she wants and not to be cowed by her brutal husband, even if it proves bad for her.
On the downside, the writing is a little choppy in places and there is a very modern feel to much of the dialogue, which often took me out of the story. I can’t believe, in this day and age of the internet, that non-British authors are not aware that the English slang word for posterior is “arse” and NOT “ass”. Honestly, every time I see an English heroine grabbing her lover’s ass during a love scene I wonder if there’s a donkey in bed with them! And similarly, a sentence like this:

Verily, the Abbey had not improved his conversational skills any.

– sticks out like a sore thumb and provoked simultaneous cringeing and laughter, because if you’re going to include faux-Medieval dialogue (most authors who set books in this period do, and I’m fine with it), don’t then juxtapose it with a modern-day Americanism. (In Britain, we don’t use the word “any” in that way.) We also don’t travel anywhere “a ways” and describing someone as “going spare” (i.e, freaking out) is certainly idiomatic English, but it’s a very modern expression and once again, feels very out of place. One can argue that the author should have written the book in Medieval French for authenticity, but that’s not my point and is, besides, an argument that is out of place here.

In spite of my criticisms, I did enjoy the story and am certainly not averse to reading future books in the series. Ms Hegger has a good grasp of the historical background and politics and she has penned a sweetly sensual romance between the Lady and her knight which takes serious note of the issues that lie between them. I’d certainly give the book a qualified recommendation to fans of Medieval romances, and to anyone looking for a new author to try.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah_HeggerBorn British and raised in South Africa, Sarah Hegger suffers from an incurable case of wanderlust. Her match? A hot Canadian engineer, whose marriage proposal she accepted six short weeks after they first met. Together they’ve made homes in seven different cities across three different continents (and back again once or twice). If only it made her multilingual, but the best she can manage is idiosyncratic English, fluent Afrikaans, conversant Russian, pigeon Portuguese, even worse Zulu and enough French to get herself into trouble.

Mimicking her globe-trotting adventures, Sarah’s career path began as a gainfully employed actress, drifted into public relations, settled a moment in advertising, and eventually took root in the fertile soil of her first love, writing. She also moonlights as a wife and mother. She currently lives in Draper, Utah, with her teenage daughters, two Golden Retrievers and aforementioned husband. Part footloose buccaneer, part quixotic observer of life, Sarah’s restless heart is most content when reading or writing books.

She loves to hear from readers and you can find her at any of the places below.

www,sarahegger.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Duke’s Daughter by Sasha Cottman

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When handsome army officer Avery Fox unexpectedly inherits a fortune, he instantly becomes one of the season’s most eligible bachelors. More accustomed to the battlefield, he has no patience with the naive debutantes who fill the ballrooms of London.

Honest and impetuous Lady Lucy Radley is a breath of fresh air, guiding him through the season and helping him to avoid any traps. So when Avery is left with little option but to marry Lucy, he can’t help but feel he’s been manipulated. Nor can he shake the feeling that a duke’s daughter should be out of his reach.

From the wildly beautiful Scottish Highlands to the elegant soirees of Paris, Avery and Lucy go on a journey that is full of surprises for them both. But will their feelings for each other be strong enough to overcome the circumstances of their marriage and survive the ghosts of Avery’s past?

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TRAILER

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EXCERPT

By every measure of her own behaviour, Lady Lucy Radley knew this was the worst.

‘You reckless fool,’ she muttered under her breath as she headed back inside and into the grand ballroom.

The room was a crush of London’s social elite. Every few steps she had to stop and make small talk with friends or acquaintances. A comment here and there about someone’s gown or promising a social call made for slow going.

Finally she spied her cousin, Eve. She fixed a smile to her face as Eve approached.

‘Where have you been, Lucy? I’ve been searching everywhere for you.’

‘I was just outside admiring the flowers on the terrace.’

Eve frowned, but the lie held.

Another night, another ball in one of London’s high-society homes. In one respect Lucy would be happy when the London social season ended in a few weeks; then she would be free to travel to her family home in Scotland and go tramping across the valleys and mountain paths, the chill wind ruffling her hair.

She puffed out her cheeks. With the impending close of the season came an overwhelming sense of failure. Her two older brothers, David and Alex, had taken wives. Perfect, love-filled unions with delightful girls, each of whom

Lucy was happy to now call sister.

Her newest sister-in-law, Earl Langham’s daughter Clarice, was already in a delicate condition, and Lucy suspected it was only a matter of time before her brother Alex and his wife Millie shared some good news.

For herself, this season had been an unmitigated disaster on the husband-hunting front. The pickings were slim at best. Having refused both an earl and a viscount the previous season, she suspected other suitable gentlemen now viewed her as too fussy. No gentleman worth his boots wanted a difficult wife. Only the usual group of fortune-hunters, intent on getting their hands on her substantial dowry, were lining up at this stage of the season to ask her to dance. Maintaining her pride as the daughter of a duke, she refused them all.

Somewhere in the collective gentry of England there must be a man worthy of her love. She just had to find him.

What a mess.

‘You are keeping something from me,’ Eve said, poking a finger gently into Lucy’s arm.

Lucy shook her head. ‘It’s nothing. I suspect I am suffering from a touch of ennui. These balls all begin to look the same after a while. All the same people, sharing the same gossip.’

‘Oh dear, and I thought I was having a bad day,’ Eve replied.

‘Sorry, I was being selfish. You are the one who needs a friend to cheer her up,’ Lucy replied. She kissed her cousin gently on the cheek.

Eve’s brother William had left London earlier that day to return to his home in Paris, and she knew her cousin was taking his departure hard.

‘Yes, well, I knew I could sit at home and cry, or I could put on a happy face and try to find something to smile about,’ Eve replied.

Eve’s father had tried without success to convince his son to return permanently to England. With the war now over and Napoleon toppled from power, everyone expected William Saunders to come home immediately, but it had taken two years for him to make the journey back to London.

‘Perhaps once he gets back to France and starts to miss us all again, he shall have a change of heart,’ Lucy said.

‘One can only hope. Now, let’s go and find a nice quiet spot and you can tell me what you were really doing out in the garden. Charles Ashton came in the door not a minute before you, and he had a face like thunder. As I happened to see the two of you head out into the garden at the same time a little while ago, I doubt Charles’ foul temper was because he found the flowers not to his liking,’ Eve replied.

It was late when Lucy and her parents finally returned home to Strathmore House. The Duke and Duchess of Strathmore’s family home was one of the largest houses in the elegant West End of London. It was close to the peaceful greenery of Hyde Park, and Lucy couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

As they came through the grand entrance to Strathmore House she was greeted by the sight of her eldest brother David seated on a low couch outside their father’s study. He was clad in a heavy black greatcoat and his hat was in his hand.

‘Hello, David; bit late for a visit this evening. I hope nothing is wrong,’ said Lord Strathmore.

‘Clarice?’ asked Lady Caroline.

‘She’s fine, sleeping soundly at home,’ he replied.

Lucy sensed the pride and love for his wife in her brother’s voice. He had found his true soulmate in Lord Langham’s daughter.

David stood and came over. When he reached them, he greeted his mother and sister with a kiss. His dark hair was a stark contrast to both Lady Caroline’s and Lucy’s fair complexions.

He turned to his father. ‘Lord Langham’s missing heir has been found, and the news is grave. My father-in-law asked that I come and inform you before it becomes public knowledge. A rather horrid business, by all accounts.’

‘I see. Ladies, would you please excuse us? This demands my immediate attention,’ Lord Strathmore said.

As Lucy and Lady Caroline headed up the grand staircase, he and David retired to his study. As soon as the door was closed behind them, David shared the news.

‘The remains of Thaxter Fox were retrieved from the River Fleet a few hours ago. His brother Avery, whom you met at my wedding ball a few weeks ago, has formally identified the body. Lord Langham is currently making funeral arrangements,’ David said.

His father shook his head. It was not an unexpected outcome of the search for the missing Thaxter Fox.

He wandered over to a small table and poured two glasses of whisky. He handed one to David.

‘Well, that makes for a new and interesting development. I don’t expect Avery Fox had ever entertained the notion before today that he would one day be Earl Langham,’ Lord Strathmore replied, before downing his drink.

‘Perhaps, but he had to know the likelihood of finding his brother in one piece was slim at best. From our enquiries, it was obvious Thaxter had a great many enemies,’ David replied.

‘Including you,’ said the duke.

David looked down at his gold wedding ring. It still bore the newlywed gleam, which made him smile.

‘He and I had come to a certain understanding. If he stayed away from Langham House and Clarice, I would not flay the skin off his back. No, someone else decided to make Thaxter pay for his evil ways.’

The Langham and Radley families held little affection for the recently deceased heir to the Langham title. After Thaxter had made an attempt to seize Clarice’s dowry through a forced marriage, both families had severed all ties.

Thaxter had disappeared not long after.

David would do everything in his power to protect Clarice. With a baby on the way, he was fully prepared to stare down the rest of the town if it meant keeping his wife safe. As the illegitimate, but acknowledged, son of the duke,

David had overcome many of society’s prejudices in order to successfully woo and wed Lord Langham’s only daughter.

‘Unkind as it sounds, I doubt many at Langham House will be mourning the demise of the eldest Mr Fox,’ his father replied.

‘No.’

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

sasha cottman author picBorn in England, but raised in Australia, Sasha has a love for both countries. Having her heart in two places has created a love for travel, which at last count was to over 55 countries. A travel guide is always on her pile of new books to read.

Her first published novel, Letter from a Rake was a finalist for the 2014 Romantic Book of the Year.
Sasha lives with her husband, teenage daughter and a cat who demands a starring role in the next book. She has found new hiding spots for her secret chocolate stash. On the weekends Sasha loves walking on the beach while trying to deal with her bad knee and current Fitbit obsession.

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Lucky Bet. by Anna Reader

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Lady Elizabeth Randolph had always been a rebellious young woman, but when her scheming guardian threatens to marry her off to a grotesque stranger, she finds her gumption truly tested. Escaping to London disguised as a young man, Elizabeth discovers a new world of gambling, duels, cruelty and love. Railing against the limitations of her gender and with her best friend, William, by her side, Elizabeth sets out to win her freedom.

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Publisher and Release Date: Anna Reader, April 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1790s London
Heat Level: 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Lizzie English

Lady Elizabeth “Bet” Randolph leads a sheltered life following the tuberculous that claimed the lives of her parents when she was just a child. Her guardian, Lord Worthing, does not allow her out of his sight, and her only companion is William, a young boy she meets in the woods surrounding their estates. Bet is as carefree as her life can allow; a woman ahead of her time, she loves to shoot, wants to learn and is curious about everything. Her world is turned upside down when she finds out that Worthing wants to marry her off to a grotesque man – who also happens to be his cousin. This is the last straw for Bet, and she dashes off a letter to William, explaining her plan to live the life as a man so that she escape her fate and seek out her mysterious uncle.

With the help of William and her uncle, Elizabeth appears as Charles Bellamy. Nobody suspects anything, although society at large can’t help but think what a handsome man he is. As Charles, Bet goes to balls, clubs and even manages to get a job within the first few days of her change of identity!

Lucky Bet. is a fairly short novel, in which the entire story takes place over a period of a few weeks. While dressed as a man, Elizabeth never forgets that she is a woman and is still cautious in her ways, but thoroughly enjoys her freedom as a man, jumping at every opportunity that comes her way, opportunities that would never have been open to her as a woman. It’s an enjoyable read, as the reader can’t help but laugh and can’t figure out what Bet is going to try next.

The romance in this story doesn’t kick in until the last hundred pages or so, which makes sense, as Elizabeth spends all her days and nights living as a man. But when William comes back to London and Bet sees him dancing with women at a ball, she yearns to get closer to him, and realizes that maybe she has been in love with him for a while.

There are numerous plotlines in the book, and almost all of them are resolved. The thing that doesn’t – which is rather irritating – was the issue surrounding Bet’s guardian. It would be nice to see a sequel to this novel as I’d like to see how Bet’s life proceeds after all her adventures.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Naked – A Novel of Lady Godiva by Eliza Redgold

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We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don’t know her true story.

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva’s ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for ‘peeping Tom’) and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax. Naked is an original version of Godiva’s tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion, Naked brings an epic story new voice.

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We’re delighted to welcome Eliza Redgold to RHR today, to talk about her new novel, Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva

If the rider heard he made no sign. Clad in a silver helmet and armored in brown leather, he galloped under the arches, my warning ignored. His great black horse circled the courtyard, raising dust as he halted in front of the steps.

For a moment he didn’t move. Nor did I, except to tighten my fingers on the handle of my blade.

He lifted off his helmet.

A pair of piercing eyes met mine.

This is not Thurkill.

The knowledge flashed into my brain. The man in front of me was tall and strong. Many years younger than my father, perhaps thirty years of age, his face a tanned brown. His hair, tawny as an owl wing, fell to the studded collar of his armor, its leather stretched across his shoulders.

He spoke. “You are Godiva.”

Hawk high I lifted my head. “I am. Who are you? Why have you come to my lands?”

Dirt swirled in the air as his horse hoofed the ground. River deep turned his gaze as he took me in, lingering on the thick braid that fell over my shoulder to brush to my thigh.

“Well?” A flame flickered though me, hotter than fear. A flame I’d never known. “Who are you?”

# # # # # # # #

Falling in Love with Leofric

History has been hard on Lord Leofric of Mercia. In the famous story about Lady Godiva he is definitely the villain of the piece, ready to impose heavy taxes on the poor and ignobly allow his wife to carry out her daring ride.

There’s more to Leofric’s story. While writing Naked I discovered that after his marriage to Godiva, the Earl of Mercia was a changed man. Ancient records suggest Leofric and Godiva’s marriage was a strong one. Together they supported monasteries, built abbeys and churches and aided the poor. The original cathedral in Coventry was founded by Godiva and Leofric.

Far from being a villain, Leofric was a Saxon hero who fought hard against the Danish (Viking) invasion. Godiva and Leofric’s enemy in Naked, Thurkill the Tall, was a real person who took control of Mercia in a Danish attempt to quash the mighty Saxons. Yet Leofric won back his lands and became one of the first Saxon Earls of England.

Older stories about Godiva and Leofric also exist. In one version of the tale, Godiva’s ride is not a penance, but a love-chase. In the story, Leofric sets his wife a riddle to test her. She must come to him neither being clothed or unclothed, without a foot touching the ground. Cleverly, Godiva rides rather than walks and covers her naked body with her hair.

As I wrote Godiva’s story the more I became intrigued by her enigmatic husband. I certainly fell in love with Leofric. The question is: did Godiva?

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s Press, 14 July 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1023 Coventry, England
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Jill

Then his reply came, soft as an assassin’s footfall.

“Ride, Godiva.”

Coventry, England 1023AD and nineteen year-old Godiva has just lost both her parents, who were ambushed on the road and killed by Danes. She inherits the estates of her Saxon father. And the responsibilities. On the heels of this tragedy, comes news that Thurkill and his band of Danes are heading to Coventry.

02_Naked A Novel of Lady Godiva_CoverBut before Thurkill reaches the unprepared and untrained villagers, Leofric of Mercia, renowned for his campaign against Thurkill, rides into Coventry. Joining forces with Leofric and his warriors, Godiva acknowledges that the only way to permanently defend her people and lands is to form a geo-political alliance in marriage with Leofric, to protect both Coventry and Mercia.

What an absolutely wonderful take on the legendary ride of Lady Godiva!

Though the naked ride of Lady Godiva through the streets of Coventry may be legend, Godiva and her husband, Leofric were real historical figures. What I especially enjoyed here is the author’s skill in recreating a plausible reason for her ride.

In previous years, the people of Coventry have struggled to bring in their crops, and are now facing difficult times as well as the prospect of famine. When Leofric insists that their taxes be raised, so that Coventry pays the same taxes as Mercia, Godiva stands as an advocate for her people, and tries to persuade her husband to relent.

“Is there nothing you wouldn’t do for your people?” […]

“I’ll do anything.”

In a fit of pique, Leofric then demands she take the penitent’s ride, naked through the streets of Coventry.

Written in first person from Godiva’s point-of-view, Eliza Redgold has penned a very enjoyable and well-researched historical novel of England at a time when the Danish king, Canute reigned over the Saxons. Without drowning the reader in the political details of the day, she nevertheless brings the 11th century to life, with enough descriptions of the era and setting to balance the entertaining story and delightful romance.

Some of the narrative is written in short sharp sentences, sometimes of only one or two words. Some readers may find the style offputting, but I think it was used to great effect. For me it came across in similar rhythm to a poem. And indeed this may have been deliberate, reflecting the lines of Lord Tennyson’s 1840 poem, Godiva that begin each chapter.

There is an added subplot to the tale, and Godiva’s ride, that’s revealed towards the end, that neither Godiva nor readers are privy to, since the narrative is told through Godiva’s eyes. It does come somewhat out-of-the-blue. However there are clues throughout that may be picked up by other (smarter) readers.

I enjoyed this a lot and hope to see more from Eliza Redgold. Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva is definitely recommended for readers of romantic historical fiction, and even historical romance.

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To enter to win a copy of Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva or a $50 Amazon Gift Card, please enter via the GLEAM form below. Three winners will be chosen.

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Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva Blog Tour

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

03_Eliza Redgold_AuthorELIZA REDGOLD is based upon the old, Gaelic meaning of her name, Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd. English folklore has it that if you help a fairy, you will be rewarded with red gold. She has presented academic papers on women and romance and is a contributor to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Romance Fiction. As a non-fiction author she is co-author of Body Talk: a Power Guide for Girls and Stay-at-Home Mothers: Dialogues and Debates. She was born in Irvine, Scotland on Marymass Day and currently lives in Australia.

For more information visit Eliza Redgold’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Undercover With the Earl by Robyn DeHart

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The handsome Earl of Somersby may just be the most eligible bachelor in London, but has no interest in a wife. As a member of the Brotherhood, Bennett Haile is far more vested in his undercover duties for the crown and protecting the Queen from would-be assassins. For now he has the perfect tool with which to lure out the villains—a young woman with an uncanny likeness to the queen.

The spirited Evelyn Marington is about to live out every country girl’s dream—becoming royalty overnight. Under the tutelage of the arrogant Earl of Somersby, she’ll have to fool the entire court that she is, in fact, the queen. But as danger threatens from every side, Bennett realizes that his lovely little protegé isn’t just placing her life in his hands… She’s stealing his heart.

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EXCERPT

“Stand and walk to the other side of the room,” he said.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I must evaluate how you walk.”

She gaped at him. “How I walk?”

“Do try and keep up, Miss Marrington. People will be watching.”

“Is there something wrong with how I walk?”

“Your walk is …” No. In truth, she walked with an unconscious grace and agility he found charming. There was nothing studied about her movements, nothing calculated. She managed to be both completely natural and totally bewitching, which was entirely beside the point. “Your walk is unstudied.”

“Are you staying I’m clumsy?” Her gaze sparked with indignation, but perhaps a flash of pain as well. “I am well aware that I lack the grace and cultivation of my older sisters, but I assure you I am not some clumsy oaf who can’t be trusted to walk into a room.”

He drew in a deep breath, praying for patience. This was why he wasn’t yet married. This was why he was absolutely the wrong man for this job.

“Your mannerisms must match hers,” he said tightly.

She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths before standing, then walked across the room. It was not a clumsy
or awkward gait, but not regal either.

“No.” He shook his head. “Try it again but slower, yet with more purpose.”

She crossed her arms over her ample bosom. “This is ridiculous.”

He allowed his gaze to linger on her tempting curves before stepping over to her. “Miss Marrington, do you want to do this assignment or not?”

Her mouth opened, then she paused and her brows slanted down in anger. “My Lord, I realize that you are an Earl and of relation to our Queen and our Society deems you more important than I. Perhaps they are even correct; however, it would seem to me that you,” she jabbed a finger into his chest, “need me more than I need you for this assignment.

Thus far you have insulted my family, the way I walk and my hair. You are arrogant and rude and sorely lacking in manners.” Her hands fisted on her hips accenting their roundedness.

How was it that this little slip of a woman shoed no fear of him? He’d frightened women merely by walking into their drawing room. And here, he was being a bully—and for good reason—to Evelyn Marrington, but she was quite obviously not afraid of him. He couldn’t help but find that both infuriating and alluring.

“You have obviously decided that I do not possess the intelligence nor grace to succeed in this charade. I will not stand for this sort of treatment. I should like a carriage to bring me home on the morrow. Good day, Lord Somersby.”

She turned and marched from the room.

He watched her go in complete disbelief. No one had ever spoken to him in such a way. Arrogant and rude! She was the only lacking in manners. This entire assignment echoed with idiocy. Ellis had claimed his cousin amiable and clever, neither of which Bennett had seen. All he had witnessed was her sharp tongue.

Damned if he didn’t find her sass alluring as hell. All the more reason to send her back home and tell Potterfield she refused to participate. Bennett couldn’t be blamed for this failure if she was the one who walked away. This would work out perfectly. He’d get to continue with the Brotherhood and not be distracted by the ridiculously attractive and fiery-tongued Miss Marrington. It would almost be worth completing the assignment just to see if she was as passionate in other areas. Almost.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Entangled Scandalous, August 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1838
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Evelyn Marrington is the independently-minded and intelligent middle child in a family of six beautiful daughters. While her mother desperately hopes for a match for this country girl, Evelyn dreams of a different life as a writer, living on her own in a small cottage and writing to her heart’s content, much like Jane Austen.

But Evelyn’s cousin, Ellis, has other ideas and plans for her. Ellis is involved in a specialized government agency – known as the Brotherhood – with Bennett Haile, the large, handsome, and very dashing Earl of Somersby. They need someone to stand in for a very young Queen Victoria while she recuperates from a sprained ankle. Victoria’s life is threatened and they need a stand-in for her so that Victoria can continue to make a good impression on a nation who isn’t yet sure of its young monarch.

UWTE_coverEllis decides that Evelyn is the perfect foil as she closely resembles Victoria but Bennett, already perilously close to being on the outs with his supervisor for questioning his decisions on previous assignments, is adamantly against this choice. He thinks it’s an insane plan that won’t ever work and one that’s also beneath him and his skills. Victoria is Bennett’s cousin but he also doesn’t believe that Evelyn is a good choice for her stand in.

But the real reason behind Bennett’s dismay is that he is attracted to Evelyn and this distracts him from his work with this critical mission; but his hand is forced. Evelyn is also drawn to Bennett’s good looks and, as they get to know each other during their close contact, she comes to trust this imposing, quiet, and unassuming gentleman. At first, however, they must learn to respect each other and some of their early tense encounters make for some humorous moments in this lighthearted story.

Evelyn accepts the assignment, both for the money she will earn in service to the Crown as well as for the adventure she hopes will provide inspiration and ideas for her adventure stories. She also wants the opportunity to escape her gossipy, stifling family life in the country and her mother’s constant nagging to make a proper match. She will get to see London and be able to stretch her wings and, with the money, she hopes to eventually purchase a cottage so she can live alone and write novels for the rest of her life.

Bennett was jilted by his former fiancée and has sworn off women forever, believing them to be manipulative and gold digging creatures. Until, that is, Evelyn surprises him with her guile, her intelligence, her bravery in standing up to him verbally, and her beauty. It’s cute how this bookish country miss thinks she’s awkward and unattractive but Bennett finds her breathtaking and stunning.

The tone of this romance is sweet but the sexual attraction burns steadily throughout. Bennett is charged with tutoring Evelyn in queenly deportment and methods of self defense, but he also becomes her champion supporter, her rock of protection and, eventually, her bold choice of a lover. I really like how Evelyn seizes the day and her happiness and snatches her moments with Bennett without thought for the future. Sometimes you just have to live in the moment.

This book brought a smile to my face as I read it. Both Bennett and Evelyn are likable protagonists, both dedicated to their careers and thinking marriage is not an option. When these two independent souls find common ground, it’s beautiful to read.

Ms DeHart writes a nice historical portrait of the very early days of Victoria’s reign, before Albert, and when England wasn’t yet sure of this very young queen who would eventually become a beloved and memorable royal.

All in all, Undercover With the Earl is a fun, feel-good romance.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robyn_DeHartNational Bestselling author, Robyn DeHart’s novels have appeared in the top bestselling romance and historical romance lists. Her books have been translated into nearly a dozen languages. Her historical romantic adventure series, The Legend Hunters, were not only bestsellers, but also award-winners, snagging a Reader’s Crown and a Reviewer’s Choice award. She had three releases in 2013 and 2014 will see four more, all set in the popular historical romance Regency and Victorian eras. Known for her “strong dialogue and characters that leap off the page” (RT Bookclub) and her “sizzling romance” (Publishers Weekly), her books have been featured in USA Today and the Chicago Tribune. A popular writing instructor, she has given speeches at writing conferences in Los Angeles, DC, New York, Dallas, Nashville and Toronto, among many others.

When not writing, you can find Robyn hanging out with her family, husband (The Professor) a university professor of Political Science and their two ridiculously beautiful and smart daughters, Busybee and Babybee as well as two spoiled-rotten cats. They live in the hill country of Texas where it’s hot eight months of the year, but those big blue skies make it worth it.

You can connect with Robyn at: www.robyndehart.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads.

RELEASE BLITZ: You’re the Earl That I Want (Lords of Worth #3) by Kelly Bowen

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THE EARL DOTH PROTEST . . .
For businessman Heath Hextall, inheriting an earldom has been a damnable nuisance. The answer: find a well-bred, biddable woman to keep his life in order and observe the required social niceties. But it’s always been clear that Lady Josephine Somerhall is not that woman. Once a shy slip of a girl, Joss is now brilliant, beautiful chaos in a ball gown.

. . . BUT THE LADY KNOWS BEST
In her heart, Joss has always loved Heath, the one person she’s always been able to count on. That doesn’t mean she wants to marry him though. Without a husband, Joss can do as she pleases-and now, it pleases her to solve the mystery of an encoded file given to Heath by a dying man. It’s put Heath in peril once, and Joss won’t let that happen again. She’ll do what she must to ensure the earl’s safety. And to remind him that what she lacks in convention, she makes up for in passion.

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EXCERPT

Joss watched him, wanting to smooth the troubled lines from his forehead. “I once knew a boy who told me, when he was grown up, he would become a pirate king and sail his own ship to the four corners of the world in search of treasure,” she said quietly.

His mouth twisted but his eyes remained hard. “That boy grew up. And discovered that there were no such things as pirate kings, and no time to search for treasure.”

“Yet that boy now owns his own ships.”

“He does.”

“And what stops him from sailing them where he pleases? What stops him from doing and taking what he truly wants?”

Bowen_You're the Earl That I Want_MMHis eyes caught hers and held them trapped within their brilliant blue heat. The remoteness was gone, replaced by a sudden predatory hunger that made Joss swallow convulsively. Her breath stuttered, anticipation and desire roaring to life and sending frissons of longing pulsing through her. The question she’d flung at Heath was swirling around in her brain now, demanding an honest answer from her own conscience.

What was stopping her from taking what she truly wanted? Because what she wanted was standing before her in perfectly tailored evening clothes, his hands clenched around a pile of newspapers, looking at her with such raw covetousness that it was making her nearly drunk with a reckless want.

“Perhaps one day I’ll take you there,” she said into the sudden silence.

Heath stilled. “To Bombay?”

“To start.” She’d meant it to sound like a jest, but it came out as an invitation. “I could take you a lot of places.” Holy hell, but what was she doing?

Heath seemed to have stopped breathing, though he took a step closer, his scent enveloping her. Instantly her mouth went dry, and a steady throb built in her belly. She squirmed, but she was backed against the desk and had nowhere to go. Sanity was rapidly disintegrating around her, crumbling beneath an overwhelming ache to touch this man. To have him touch her.

“Of course I don’t have my own ships, so I’d have to hitch a ride on one of yours.” She barely recognized herself.

There were reasons why she shouldn’t do this, she knew. She just couldn’t think of one right now.

Heath’s expression shifted suddenly, as if something within him had given way. He took another half step closer, close enough that he was pressed against her skirts now, the hard steel of his legs nudging hers apart so that he dominated her space and trapped her against him. He dropped the newspaper carelessly and braced his hands on the edge of the desk on either side of her waist, bringing his lips a breath away from hers.

“Would you take me?” she whispered, and neither of them could pretend she was still talking about ships.

“Yes,” Heath rasped.

And then he kissed her.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

kelly bowenKelly Bowen grew up in Manitoba, Canada. She attended the University of Manitoba and earned a Master of Science degree in veterinary physiology and endocrinology. But it was Kelly’s infatuation with history and a weakness for a good love story that led her down the path of historical romance. When she is not writing, she seizes every opportunity to explore ruins and battlefields. Currently, Kelly lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two boys, all of whom are wonderfully patient with the writing process. Except, that is, when they need a goalie for street hockey.

You can connect with Kelly at: www.kellybowen.net * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter

AUDIO REVIEW: A Code of the Heart by Jacki Delecki, narrated by Pearl Hewitt

code of the heart audio

Available from Audible via Amazon.

Miss Amelia Bonnington has been in love with her childhood hero since she was 11 years old. Or so she thought until a not-so-proper impassioned and unyielding kiss from the not-so-honorable and equally disreputable Lord Derrick Brinsley gave her reason to question the feelings of the heart.

Lord Brinsley, shunned from society for running off with his brother’s fiancée, hasn’t cared about or questioned his lack of acceptance until meeting the beguiling Amelia Bonnington. One passionate moment with the fiery Miss Bonnington has him more than willing to play by society’s rules to possess the breathtaking red-haired woman.

Amelia unwittingly becomes embroiled in espionage when she stumbles upon a smuggling ring in the modiste shop of her good friend. To prove her French friend’s innocence, she dangerously jumps into the fray, jeopardizing more than her life.

On undercover assignment to prevent the French from stealing the Royal Navy’s deadly weapon, Derrick must fight to protect British secrets from falling into the hands of foreign agents and the chance at love with the only woman capable of redeeming him.

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Publisher and Release Date: Doe Bay Publishing, February 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London 1803
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Wendy

This, the third in the Code Breakers series by Jacki Delecki, is a sweetly romantic espionage story. Miss Amelia Bonnington is saved from possible ravishment at a house party by acknowledged rake Lord Derrick Brinsley. He has a dark secret, one which has earned him his reputation and from which he adamantly refuses to defend himself, preferring society to believe the worst of him. The two are discovered sharing a passionate kiss and of course Amelia is compromised, although she laughingly refuses to be compelled to marry him – a fact about which Derrick is secretly disappointed. Amelia is fiery and brave, well deserving of her nickname’Red’ – which aptly describes her flaming red hair and intelligent and courageous nature; and for the first time, Derrick feels himself genuinely attracted to a woman for honourable reasons.

The two are palpably attracted to each other, although when he discovers that Amelia has been in love with a childhood friend since she was eleven, Derrick backs off, believing himself to be unworthy and unlikely to be able to win her love. Amelia feels the pull to Brinsley and as a result is soon able to put her childish infatuation into perspective and embarks on a plan to win his regard.

Lord Derrick Brinsley is quite scrumptious. As well as possessing extremely swoon-worthy good looks, he is an agent for the Crown involved in a covert mission to save British secrets from falling into the hands of foreign agents – who wouldn’t be attracted by such attributes? Protective, loyal Amelia stumbles into the plot through the involvement of a friend, and is determined to prove that friend’s innocence.

The story is narrated by Pearl Hewitt and although Ms. Hewitt has a pleasant voice I didn’t feel that she did justice to the fiery, independently free-spirited Amelia. She adopts a ‘little’ voice which just does not fit the image painted by the author of this intrepid young lady. Derrick’s speech is lengthened with drawn-out vowels; it is pitched well enough as to sound reasonably masculine but the slightly effeminate drawling rather spoilt it for me. When, at the time of their initial stolen kiss, Derrick says… “say my name, I want to hear Derrick on your lips”… I couldn’t take it seriously – little voice meets drawl just didn’t work for me, at least. Ms Hewitt also consistently mispronounces the word “ton” as “tone” which is quite disconcerting. Her talents definitely lie in the more character driven roles, such as Aunt Euphemia, who she portrays superbly.

In summary, A Code of the Heart is fairly light and fluffy considering its fairly serious subject-matter. I also think I might have enjoyed it more had I read the previous two books in the series, as reference is made to previous plots, and they are relevant as are the characters mentioned who crop up regularly in this novel. The author also talks of the protagonists waltzing – to the best of my knowledge, at the time this story is set, the waltz had not been introduced into England. There are annoying modern terms and Americanisms dotted throughout, too, which is incredibly annoying. Nevertheless, this is, on the whole, a well written story, if lacking a little grittiness and substance for my taste and I am sure that it will appeal to listeners in search of an “espionage-lite” spy story.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Once Upon a Duke by Sandra Masters

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Serena, an artist and widow, has no desire for another husband. When she meets Geoffrey Austen, attraction sizzles to a scorch. Stolen days and nights ignite forbidden passion. Geoffrey asks Serena to be his mistress, but she wants commitment, love and marriage, not an affair with a notorious rake.

Geoffrey realizes Serena might be the one woman who can care for his tortured soul, and maybe release his demons. The magic they shared is shattered when he learns she has been forced into an engagement with another. He vows to save her even at the cost of his own life.

Will Geoffrey’s gallantry prove he truly loves Serena? If he survives, will Serena surrender all to him?

Purchase Links: Amazon * ~ * ~ * B&N * ~ * ~ * The Wild Rose Press

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EXCERPT

If Lady Serena could be granted one wish, she would ride off into the morning mist and vanish. That, of course wasn’t possible, but here in her favorite lakeside retreat, she could relax in safety.

With her mare nearby, she bent her head over her sketchbook and inhaled the scent of sweet honeysuckle. She paused her charcoal, leaned back against the oak tree, and envisioned how her sketch would be completed.

The sound of hoof beats disturbed her contemplation. In the distance, a man and steed moved as one toward her.

The vision spoke as he drew the horse to a halt. “Good day, my lady.” He dismounted, and tethered the stallion to a tree away from the mare. “It’s a beautiful day, and to have my path cross with a lovely woman makes it more so.”

“Yes, it is a welcomed morning, sir, but your flattery does not turn my head.”

Alarmed, Lady Serena thought to reach for her riding crop, but checked the impulse. Serena raised her hand to shield the sun and eyed the well-dressed, handsome stranger. Since he was on Henry’s property she assumed him to be of noble birth. Her snobbish brother would never allow an outsider to encroach.

Something about the man demanded her rapt attention. Curiosity compelled. What harm could come of it?

“Allow me to introduce myself, Lord Geoffrey Austen, at your service.” He swept off his hat and bowed. “I am Henry Worthington’s hunting guest for the week.”

“I am Lady Serena Worthington—sister of your host. I would rise and curtsy to you, but I am far too comfortable. You may, however, consider I have proffered the appropriate respect, if you would indulge me.” She meant her smile to charm, and to distract him from her breach in etiquette.

“I would be happy to humor you in any manner you prefer,” his voice murmured low and husky. He removed his gloves and walked to sit next to her on a log fashioned into a bench. Serena noticed the large ring on his finger as it caught the sunlight’s glint.

“I have seen you twice before from a distance when I have come to visit Sir Henry, but never approached. Some things are best appreciated from afar, but today I was compelled to ride over and speak with you.”

Serena smoothed her skirt with damp palms.

“Your brother is well aware of my notorious reputation. He would prefer I did not seduce his sister and has made his wishes known to me. However, I feel the Fates demanded we meet.”

“Seduce or merely tempt?”

He grinned. “Dear Lady Serena, a beautiful woman is always a challenge. A wonderful circumstance caused me to come upon you this glorious morning, but I see I have interrupted your sketching. Shall I depart? Or will you show me your wares?”

“They aren’t my wares, Lord Austen. They are representations of my artistic imagination. There is a difference.”

“I offer my apology. Allow me to rephrase the question. May I see your work?” His eyes sparked with blatant flirtation.

“You may.” She handed him the sketchpad.

He flipped through a few pages. “God’s blood, you are talented. You could sell these.”

“I considered the notion, but Henry would think it crass.”

“I disagree entirely with his perception.” Lord Geoffrey turned to face her. “I wonder, my lady, why your brother has hidden you? Rumor has it you are unattached.”

“I have chosen solitude. It is my personal preference, I assure you. Why do men think every woman in England wants to leg-shackle a man?” She cocked her head in appraisal and met his inquisitive gaze. “I cannot abide the need to display myself on the marriage auction block. I would rather remain a liberated widow or enter a convent before I’d suffer nuptials to some old goat, or a young wastrel who looks for a generous inheritance.” She rose to pace, both hands akimbo on her hips. “If I shock you, it is intentional.”

His lips lifted, the cleft in his chin apparent. “I have a fondness for women who provoke.”

Her heartbeat skyrocketed. He had a maddening hint of arrogance that beguiled her. She lowered her lashes, and then focused her gaze. “Lord Austen, I know my brother’s horses, and your animal is not familiar.” She hoped to steer the conversation in another direction. Her stomach quivered, uneasy.

“Solomon is mine. He is an Arabian and strong-willed like his master. It takes a firm hand to control him, but he flies like the wind.”

“Your pride is evident.” Serena gestured toward her horse. “My mare is Sheba. She is also high-spirited. We are a good match as well. Perhaps we should consider mating?”

Had she actually said that? Nerve endings tingled, warmth flooded her.

Lord Austen arched a brow. “Were you referring to our mounts, or do I dare hope you meant their owners?” His suggestion was wicked.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sandra MastersFrom a humble beginning in Newark, New Jersey, a short stay at a convent in Morristown, NJ, to the board rooms of NYC, and a fantastic career for a play broadcasting company in Carlsbad, California to the rural foothills of the Sierras of Yosemite National Park, Sandra Masters has always traveled with pen and notebook writing her experiences. It has been the journey of ten thousand miles with a few steps left to go.

Romance is at best a gift. She hopes you’ll like her voice and passion for writing. While she also writes contemporaries, her own passion is for Regency England in the early 1800’s. Admittedly, she’d prefer to be the sister of a duke or an earl…perhaps even a princess? Not being able to time travel, she writes about what she loves and hopes you will support her author efforts.

Sandra lives in Coarsegold, California with her husband, Ron, who is her plotster, and their two dogs, Silky Houdini and Sophie Chiquita. When she’s not writing, she’s busy cooking way too much Italian food for friends and family. She loves bears of all kinds and prefers to collect them in paintings and wood carvings.

Connect with Sandra at www.sandramastersauthor.com or on Facebook.

Home by Morning by Kaki Warner

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Thomas Redstone — a former Cheyenne warrior seeking new purpose by following the ways of his white grandfather — is returning to Heartbreak Creek, Colorado, when he decides to give the woman he loves one last chance to accept him into her life.

Prudence Lincoln’s beauty and education have brought her little joy. Envied by blacks for the advantages she’s had, and reviled by whites for her mixed blood, she’s proving herself by helping ex-slaves prepare for newfound freedom. Thomas has no place in her future, no matter how much she loves him.

He’s suffered only hardship. She was raised in privilege. Their only common ground is the spark between them that won’t die. Yet even as evil forces tear them apart again, they discover that courage can be a weapon, happiness is a choice, and love can triumph over anything.

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Publisher and Release Date: Berkley 7 July, 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1871/2 Indiana/Colorado Territory
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Western Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Jill

Thomas Redstone, half-white, half-Native American and former Cheyenne Dog Soldier, has been in love with Prudence Lincoln for a long time. On his return to America from overseas, Thomas visits Pru in Indiana to try to convince her just one more time, to make a go of their relationship. At the school where Pru works, he doesn’t find Pru, but Lillie, a young, blind, black orphan who latches onto Thomas and adopts him as her father.

Readers first met Pru in Heartbreak Creek, the first book in the Runaway Brides series, with her half-sister, Edwina. Pru is half-white, half-black; educated and raised with her white sister, she has never been a slave. Thomas and Pru’s romance has been ongoing through several books, but circumstances have always kept them apart.

Set in 1871/2, the story is divided into three parts, with the first part involving Thomas and Pru in Indiana, and the remaining time in Heartbreak Creek in Colorado Territory, where their friends and family live, and the story involves Lillie just as much as it does Thomas and Pru.

With Pru’s work in the education initiative for blacks and her involvement in the Underground Railroad, once again, their relationship is put onto the back burner. Though Pru’s work is both noble and understandable, I did feel the dramas keeping them apart just went on and on, and felt contrived rather than organic.

Naturally, they do eventually get their well-deserved happily-ever-after. And since this is the last book in the series, all loose ends are tied up. The Epilogue provides further closure, but I also found it heart-wrenching.

Western historical romance is one of my favourite sub-genres, and Kaki Warner is one of the talents currently writing in it. Her descriptions of the 1870s settings are authentic. She writes realistic dialogue, with touches of clever, subtle humour. Her characterisations are wonderful, particularly Thomas and Lillie, the po’ little blind girl.

Though this possibly could be read as a standalone – and enough background is given of the previous characters and stories – the series is best read in order. This trilogy series – Heroes of Heartbreak Creek – continues on from the previous Runaway Brides series and contains many of the same characters. (I’m not sure what was actually gained by dividing the six books into two series.)

Ms Warner has provided a wonderful romance for Thomas and Pru, and a worthy conclusion to both trilogies. As usual, I’ll be looking forward to the next western from this talented author.

Romancing the Earl (Regency Treasure Hunters #2) by Darcy Burke

romancing the earl

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Major Elijah Hollister never wanted to be an earl, particularly not when it meant losing his brother. When a bold adventuress shows up at his door seeking a treasure map, Elijah suspects his brother’s death may not have been accidental and that the lady knows more than she’s willing to share. Whether she’s a friend or foe, Elijah plans to keep her close—and hope the temptation of her kisses doesn’t ruin them both.

Miss Catriona Bowen can almost taste the fruits of her years-long quest to find one of Britain’s greatest treasures. The discovery will deliver the recognition and respect she deserves as an antiquary, despite the fact that she’s a woman. However, to find the map that will lead her to success, she must ally herself with a stoic, yet provocative gentleman with a different goal. And when a villain threatens their lives, she realizes too late that love is the greatest treasure of all.

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Publisher and Release Date: Intrepid Reads, April 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England and Wales, 1818
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Caz

Romancing the Earl is the second book in Ms Burke’s Regency Treasure Hunters series, which began with The De Valery Code. That story is set some twenty-two years earlier and tells the story of Rhys and Margery Bowen, whose daughter, Cate, is the heroine of this book. While there are a couple of references to some of the elements of the storyline in book one which are carried over, Romancing the Earl works well as a standalone, with a nicely built romance and an intriguing adventure plot.

Major Elijah Hollister has recently returned to England from Australia, where he was stationed for a number of years. His return was occasioned by the recent and unexpected death of his brother Matthew, the Earl of Norris, which has left Elijah both bereft and in possession of an earldom he doesn’t want.

Completely out of the blue, he receives a visit from a lovely young woman who introduces herself as Catriona Bowen. She loses no time in informing him that she wishes to purchase a medieval tapestry she believes is part of the collection of antiquities Elijah has inherited from the distant cousin who was the holder of the title before Matthew. When she goes on to explain that the tapestry may well contain a clue as to the location of a priceless Arthurian artefact known as the Sword of Dyrnwyn, Elijah is suspicious of her true intent – and when, during the course of their conversation, Catriona explains that she is not the only person interested in the tapestry and the information it may contain, Elijah comes to the realisation that perhaps his brother’s death was no accident.

While he has no real interest in the tapestry other than as it relates to his brother’s death, Elijah is determined to investigate and find out the truth. He and Catriona form an uneasy alliance; if Matthew was murdered by whoever was after the tapestry, then helping to recover it may provide clues as to the identity of his brother’s killers.

What follows is a road-trip story during which the Earl and Catriona – accompanied by their respective servants, Wade and Grey – travel from his Wiltshire home to Harlech in Wales, finding clues and confronting the dangerous gang who are also in pursuit of the treasure.

While the story is perhaps a little slow to start, spending time as it does introducing the reader to the various players in the story and explaining the legends behind the Arthurian treasures of which the Sword of Dyrnwyn is one – once the journey really gets underway, the pacing picks up, and I found myself much more drawn in.

The two principals are attractive, engaging characters whose past experiences (him) and unconventional lifestyle (her) have decided both of them against long-term entanglements, but who are nonetheless unable to ignore the growing attraction between them. The romantic and sexual tension between them is built up very well, and even though Cate’s attitude towards sex is rather too modern for the time, I nonetheless enjoyed how her forwardness was contrasted with Elijah’s insistence on propriety and the way she could throw him completely off balance with a veiled suggestion or look.

In fact, Cate is a very forward-thinking young woman who wants nothing more than to be taken seriously as an academic in a time when women weren’t supposed to have brains or to be able to think for themselves. I did find it a little hard to believe that her parents would have allowed her to gallivant about the country with only her companion in tow; regardless of their confidence in Cate’s common sense and her resourcefulness, the middle of nowhere in the English countryside could be a very dangerous place to be.

Elijah is slightly less well defined, although Ms Burke adds some lovely little touches to his backstory which help to flesh him out. He’s charming, dependable and possesses the kind of quiet competence that is very attractive, as well as being the sort of hero who may be a bit uptight on the surface but is a bit of a devil between the sheets 😉 I was, however, rather surprised by his actions towards the end of the story, when the conclusions he reaches about his brother’s death cause him to act in a way that’s completely out of character.

There are a few inconsistencies in the story (like the fact that Bradford is nowhere near Bath; the author obviously means Bradford-upon-Avon, but this British reader had to think about it, because to us, Bradford is “up north”) and the reasons behind Elijah’s poor relationship with his mother are never fully explored or given closure. Cate’s stated determination never to disgrace her family name is somewhat at odds with the way she travels around independently all the time. And personally, I have a problem with the concept that King Arthur actually existed. The treasures which are being sought during this series are all reputed to be artefacts that were owned by Arthur and his knights, thus proving the legendary king’s existence. I know this is fiction, but that requires me to stretch my credulity just a bit too far.

Apart from those things, though Romancing the Earl is a well-written, enjoyable romp, featuring a couple of likeable protagonists, a sensual romance and a nicely-crafted adventure plot. Ms Burke has set things up well for the next couple of books in the series, and I’m sure I’ll be checking them out.