VIRTUAL TOUR: Ross Poldark – A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787 by Winston Graham

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In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth — believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew.

Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Landmark, June 2015 – reissue of a title originally published in 1945.

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Cornwall, England, 1783-1787
Genre: Historical Fiction
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Caz

Ross Poldark was originally published in 1945 and is the first in what turned into a series of twelve books featuring the Poldark family and their friends, tenants and neighbours spanning a period of almost forty years, from 1783 To 1820. The final Poldark novel, Bella Poldark, was published in 2002, the year before the author’s death.

I’m old enough to remember the fabulous adaptation made by the BBC in the 1970s, which was based on the first four novels in the series (which were the only ones then written!), and was delighted at the prospect of a new adaptation of these wonderful books. Needless to say, the BBC has done a superb job once again, sticking closely to the storylines of the books so far adapted (Ross Poldark and Demelza). Naturally, such an event is bound to revitalise interest in the novels, which I read for the first time back in the 1970s and while I haven’t re-read the entire series since, I have re-read a few of them over the years, of which this first book is one.

Ross Poldark Novel of Cornwall Winston Graham Sourcebooks cover 2015Ross Poldark was a rather wild and reckless young man whose father sent him off to fight in America in an attempt to curb his excesses. Several years later and having risen to the rank of Captain, Ross , older, wiser, weary and battle-scarred, returns to his Cornish home of Nampara, only to find that his father is dead, and his home is in a state of complete disrepair.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Ross has more disappointments in store. Not only have his father’s business interests failed – this is a difficult time in the Cornish mining industry – but he discovers his family believed him to have died, and that the girl he loves, Elizabeth Chenoweth, has become engaged to his cousin, Francis.
Ross is bitterly disappointed, but is not the sort of man to be worn down by it. He throws himself into setting his home to rights and, most importantly, trying to find a way to support himself, as his father left him nothing other than a tumbledown home and ownership of and shares in some now defunct mines. While he continues to yearn for Elizabeth, Ross knows that she is lost to him, and finds a new purpose in the rebuilding of his home and the friendship and kindnesses offered him by his tenants. He risks almost everything he has in order to re-open one of the mines, not only to provide an income for himself but to provide work for his tenants and other locals, many of whom have been thrown out of work due to the dwindling loads at the other mines in the area. It is Ross’ concern for those of the lower classes that marks him out as different from others of his station; he is almost penniless, but he is still a Poldark, still landed gentry, and those of his own class do not care for his willingness to associate with the local miners, fishermen, farmers and poverty-stricken tenants.

Poldark-200x500 v2On a visit to Truro, Ross prevents a young boy from being severely beaten in the street – only to discover that the boy is in fact a thirteen-year-old girl, Demelza Carne, whose brutal father and older brothers are all miners. He buys her food and then offers to return her to her home – she accepts but is clearly not thrilled at the prospect. Recognising this, Ross instead offers her work at Nampara as a kitchen maid, a proposal she accepts with far more alacrity than she had accepted Ross’ other offer.

Over the four years of the story, readers watch Ross as he works hard to rebuild his life and his fortune against what are sometimes almost insurmountable odds; we watch Demelza grow from a ragged street-urchin into a lovely, albeit somewhat gauche young woman, and come to know various members of the Poldark family and their friends and neighbours. The writing is superb, especially when it comes to the descriptions of the Cornish towns and countryside, which are incredibly evocative and place the reader right there, in the middle of it all. The characterisation is strong all round; Jud and Prudie, the slatternly pair of old retainers are frequently hilarious, Ross’s cousin, Francis is a troubled young man, never quite believing that he can trust Elizabeth now Ross is back and Elizabeth, who married for position and security is haunted by what might have been while determined never to seem to regret her choices.

The thing that has always made these books stand out from the crowd is the way in which Winston Graham’s characters just overflow with humanity in all its forms. These feel like real people experiencing real life with all its ups and downs – and Ross has plenty of those both in this book and to come in future stories. He’s a truly compelling character, which isn’t to say he’s the perfect hero, because he isn’t! His good looks and rather brooding nature may cast him somewhat in the mould of a tortured, Byronic hero, but he’s also got one hell of a temper, can be incredibly reckless, arrogant and hurtful – and yet the reader still roots for him, in spite of all his imperfections.

If you watched the recent TV series, or if you didn’t, but are a fan of well-written, gripping historical fiction with strong storylines, well-drawn characters of all sorts, intrigue, politics and romance, then I’m recommending Ross Poldark – and the entire series – very highly.

GIVEAWAY

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes

In celebration of the re-release of Ross Poldark and Demelza, Sourcebooks Landmark is offering three chances to win copies of the books or a grand prize, an Anglophile-themed gift package.

Two lucky winners will each receive one trade paperback copy of Ross Poldark and Demelza, and one grand prize winner will receive a prize package containing the following items:

Ross Poldark Blog Tour Prize Package x 500(2) Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Mugs by Johnson Brothers
(1) Twelve-inch Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Plater by Johnson Brothersr
(1) London Telephone Box Tin of Ahmad English Breakfast Tea
(1) Jar of Mrs. Bridges Marmalade
(1) Package of Duchy Originals Organic Oaten Biscuits
(2) Packets of Blue Boy Cornflower Seeds by Renee’s Garden Heirloom
(1) Trade Paperback Copy of Ross Poldark & Demelza, by Winston Graham

To enter the giveaway contest simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on the Ross Poldark Blog Tour starting July 06, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, August 10, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the entrants and announced on the Buzz at Sourcebooks blog on August 13, 2015. Winners have until August 20, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to US residents and the prizes will be shipped to US addresses. Good luck to all!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Winston Graham (1908-2003) is the author of forty novels. His books have been widely translated and the Poldark series has been developed into two television series, shown in 22 countries. Six of Winston Graham’s books have been filmed for the big screen, the most notable being Marnie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Winston Graham is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 1983 was awarded the O.B.E.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff

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Summer 1941

Young Adelia Monteforte flees fascist Italy for America, where she is whisked away to the shore by her well-meaning aunt and uncle. Here, she meets and falls for Charlie Connally, the eldest of the four Irish-Catholic boys next door. But all hopes for a future together are soon throttled by the war and a tragedy that hits much closer to home.

Grief-stricken, Addie flees—first to Washington and then to war-torn London—and finds a position at a prestigious newspaper, as well as a chance to redeem lost time, lost family…and lost love. But the past always nips at her heels, demanding to be reckoned with. And in a final, fateful choice, Addie discovers that the way home may be a path she never suspected.

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EXCERPT

Washington, DC November 1943

(Adelia, now a typist for the Washington Post who was helping her boss cover a meeting at the State Department, was stunned to spot Charlie, the soldier from home she has long pined for but whom she thought was off at war.)

I stepped back toward the corridor, my ankle turning in¬ward and causing me to stumble. As I struggled not to fall, I dropped my notebook, which clattered against the marble. Heads turned in my direction, seeming more annoyed than concerned. As the others resumed their conversations, Char¬lie stepped from the group and moved toward me in the hall, his face breaking. “Addie?” His tone was disbelieving. I froze, unable to move or speak as he drew close. He reached out, as if to touch me, but his hand foundered midair before falling to his side again. He leaned in to kiss my cheek and his fa¬miliar scent made the room wobble. I struggled not to turn and meet his lips with my own. “Addie.” There it was in that single word, that voice which cut right through and con-nected with my insides as it had since the first time I heard it. “What are you doing here?” He didn’t know any of it—that I had left Philadelphia, or how I had come to be here. Because he had gone first.

“I’m working for the Post.” I watched his face for any sign of disbelief. But Charlie had never doubted me. “I never
expected you to be in Washington,” I added.

His face flinched slightly as though he had been slapped. “You aren’t pleased to see me.”

“Of course I am. It’s just that I thought you were training.” My words came out too quickly, piling on top of one another.

He fumbled with the hat, neatly folded in his hands. “I was, for almost a year. But now I’m here for some extra briefings.” There was a strange undercurrent to his voice. A year had slipped through our fingers. How was that possible? Once it had seemed unthinkable to keep breathing without Charlie, but somehow the clock had kept ticking.

I tried to imagine his days in between, all of the things he had done and seen since we’d last laid eyes on one another. But my mind was blank.

“Your hair,” he blurted. I raised my hand to my temple, wincing at how tousled I was from the rain. “It’s short.” It was the bob, so different than last time he had seen me. “I mean, I like it.” I couldn’t tell if he was just being kind.

“How’s your family?”

“Holding up as well as can be expected.” He shrugged, helpless but not indifferent. “My folks are in Florida. Mom has thrown herself into the women’s auxiliary.” It sounded so much like Mrs. Connally that I had to smile. “Dad’s Dad.” Guilt at having left them flickered across his face. “It tore them apart, you know.” Yes, I knew only too well. The Connallys lived in a place where their grief would always be as raw as the day it all happened, no matter how much time passed or how far away they moved. “They’re together, but in a sepa¬rate kind of a way. They know now,” he added, and I wanted to ask if he meant about the army, or what had been between us, or both.

The question stuck in my throat. “And the boys?” I asked instead.

“Jack, well, he works at a plant in Port Richmond. He’s taking night classes at Temple, though.” Jack had been the real brain of the boys—he might have gone to an Ivy League school and practiced medicine as he once dreamed, but for money and circumstance. “He hasn’t been called up yet, thank God. Mom couldn’t bear to lose another son.”

I swallowed. “And Liam?”

Charlie stared hard at the floor. “I’m not sure.” But surely his parents knew about Liam’s whereabouts, and whether or not he was okay. Or had they cut ties with him as well? My stomach tugged. I still hated Liam for what he had done, yet I could not help but worry.

Charlie and I watched one another, not speaking. We had talked about everyone, of course, except the one name we could not say. “How long will you be in town?” I asked, not sure what answer I was hoping to hear.

Before Charlie could reply, voices came from the confer¬ence room behind him. He looked over his shoulder. “There’s another meeting. I’m going to have to go.” A knife ripped through me at the idea that he might leave again just as quickly as he had appeared. “Addie, I want to talk to you. Meet me tonight?” he said suddenly. “The Old Ebbitt Grill at seven.” So he did not want our chance reunion to end either.

I peered at him, trying to read the meaning behind his words. Were we merely two old friends, trying to catch up?

No, it was still there, that hungry, yearning look in his eyes I had first seen the night on the dock. He wanted to pick up once more and return to that moment when we had stood on the edge of the world, gazing down at everything that lay be¬fore us. He wanted to make things whole again.

Something licked at my insides then, familiar like a forgot¬ten dream: hope. Even after everything that had happened, Charlie still reached a place in me that made me believe things could be good again.

But something held me back. “I don’t know.” I was sud¬denly angry. Did he really think we could put all of those broken pieces back together and not see the cracks? Doubt thundered beneath my feet like a freight train and the ground began to sway. I had managed to make my way back from the place that nearly killed me and stand despite it all. I could not afford to let him in and risk going there again.

“Please, Addie. I’ll wait for you.” There was a desperation about him I had only seen once before in my life. Before

I could answer, the men spilled forth from the conference room, enveloping Charlie, and we were separated by a sea of suits and uniforms giving off the odor of cologne and cigarette smoke. I had not had the chance to answer.
Our eyes met and locked, his making a silent plea before he slipped from sight.

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TO WIN A PRINT COPY OF THE LAST SUMMER AT CHELSEA BEACH AND A CHELSEA BEACH LIMITED EDITION BEACH BAG, ENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER. ENTRIES ARE OPEN FOR SEVEN DAYS, AND THE WINNER WILL BE NOTIFIED SHORTLY AFTER THE CLOSING DATE.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pam-Jenoff-credit-Dominic-Episcopo-200x300Pam Jenoff is the Quill-nominated internationally bestselling author of The Kommadant’s Girl. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a master’s degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania. Jenoff’s novels are based on her experiences working at the Pentagon and also as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.

You can connect with Pam at: www.pamjenoff.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter

VIRTUAL TOUR: The Maddening Lord Montwood by Vivienne Lorret

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Frances Thorne learned at an early age to rely on herself. Yet, losing her job and her home and watching her father carted off to debtor’s prison all in one day, is too much for her to bear alone. When a generous offer of assistance falls into her lap, she ignores her better instincts and decides to take a chance. The last thing she needs is for the infuriating Lord Lucan Montwood to stand in her way.

The end of the bachelors’ wager is near, and Lucan Montwood can taste victory. Yet, on the precipice of finally gaining freedom from his debts, he’s incensed to learn that the beautiful Frances Thorne has fallen into an insidious trap in the guise of a new position. Lucan can’t deny the way her lips call to him and knows he must risk his own future to ensure her safety.

Convincing her to trust him is the hard part and resisting her is next to impossible. But falling in love with her? That’s far too simple.

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EXCERPT

“You are putting your faith in the wrong man.” Something akin to irritation flashed in his gaze, like a warning shot. He took another step. “Perhaps those spectacles require new lenses. They certainly aren’t aiding your sight.”

The Maddening Lord Montwood“I wear these spectacles for reading, I’ll have you know. Otherwise, my vision is fine,” she countered, ignoring the heady static charge in the air between them. “I prefer to wear them instead of risking their misplacement.”

“You wear them like a shield of armor.”

The man irked her to no end. “Preposterous. I’ve no need for a shield of any sort. I cannot help it if you are intimidated by my spectacles and by my ability to see right through you.”

He stepped even closer. An unknown force, hot and barely leashed, crackled in the ever-shrinking space. She watched as he slid the blank parchment toward him before withdrawing the quill from the stand. Ignoring her, he dipped the end into the ink and wrote something on the page.

Undeterred, she continued her harangue. “Though you may doubt it, I can spot those snakes—as you like to refer to members of your own sex—quite easily. I can come to an understanding of a man’s character within moments of introduction. I am even able to anticipate”—Lucan handed the parchment to her. She accepted it and absently scanned the page—“his actions.”

Suddenly, she stopped and read it again. “As soon as you’ve finished reading this, I am going to kiss you.”

While she was still blinking at the words, Lucan claimed her mouth. The parchment crinkled. She heard an indrawn breath but wasn’t sure if it was hers or his. All she knew was that the first press of his lips sent a ripple through her—her body clenching on a sigh of rapture as if she’d been waiting a lifetime for this.

Her eyes closed.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VivUSA Today bestselling author VIVIENNE LORRET loves romance novels, her pink laptop, her husband, and her two sons (not necessarily in that order … but there are days). Transforming copious amounts of tea into words, she is proud to be an Avon Impulse author of works including: Tempting Mr. Weatherstone, The Wallflower Wedding series, and the Rakes of Fallow Hall series.

You can connect with Vivienne at: www.vivlorret.net * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Silk and Scars by Cassandra Dean

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For over a year, Miss Gwendolyn Parkes and the Duke of Sowrith have corresponded. At first an error, the letters quickly became something much more, a friendship forged on like minds and perhaps the hope of something more…

When Gwen is compelled by her employer to attend the duke at his Dartmoor estate, she is devastated to find her beloved friend cold and imperious, even if he is the most handsome man she’s ever seen – despite his scars.

Edward, Duke of Sowrith, has longed to meet Gwen. Arranging her passage to his estate, he is tongue-tied when confronted with her quiet beauty. All too aware of the twisted ruin of his face, he allows fear to hold him silent…until Gwen’s safety is threatened.

Finally together, they grow closer until it seems they can never again be apart – but can a commoner and a duke find a happily ever after?

EXCERPT

“Edward.” Her hand slid up his lapel. Turning, he found her gray gaze upon him, a faint crease between her brows. “What is different?”

He stared into her eyes. She met his monocular gaze, no part of her expression revolted by the eye patch, the scars. He glanced at her hand, stroking his chest almost absently, her attention fully and totally on him. “When I received your letter, the one meant for Etta, it was like a ray of light, a beacon through relentless gray. So I responded and you sent your next letter and they….You were so full of joy, it bubbled out from the page and made me think perhaps I could experience it, if only a little. You had Etta, and your parents, and your employment, and though all three annoyed you on occasion, you had such…illumination.” His finger began a mad rhythm against his leg. “I’ve never had any of that. I’ve been here alone since the accident. I didn’t go to Eton. I was too ill. By the time I was old enough to attend university, I was so far behind there was no point. I went to London for the Season, but…. That did not turn out well.” Memories of horrified stares assaulted him, the whispers and notoriety that had come with his foray into society. Forcing the memories away, he said, “So I came home, and stayed.
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“Then you sent me a letter. A bright, shining thing, and we corresponded and I…I wanted to meet you. So I arranged it that Beecham brought you to Sowrith, but I never thought he would not tell you, that I—” He grimaced. “You know what happened.

“Then you arrived, you were here, and I couldn’t…. There were no words. So I stood like a fool and watched you, and I wished I had the words that came so easily by pen. You were just like your letters—bright and gold and glittering, with your smile and your lightness, even when you frowned. And that was amazing to me. You are amazing to me. I wish I could…I wish I could tell you…” Finally, he looked at her.

Eyes wide, she regarded him, her chest rising and falling rapidly.

Shifting his weight, he averted his gaze. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said those things. I—”

A gentle finger against his lips stilled his words, and he remained silent as her hand slipped to cup his cheek. The ruined one. Emotion shuddered through him as he absorbed her touch.

“See? You say such things and I can’t…” Her thumb tracing his cheekbone, her other hand slid up his chest to crumple his lapel as she pulled. Following her direction, he leaned down.

Tentatively, her lips brushed his.

Hardly daring to breath, he stood stock still as she hesitantly explored the shape of his mouth, her lips molding to his with small stops and starts. Her tongue darted against his lips and he shuddered, the sensation exquisite and overwhelming.

Wrapping his good arm around her, he urged her close. She came, her arms slipping about his neck as her lips opened under his. The wind tore at his hair and howled in his ears, his heart thundering in his chest. Her mouth was warm and eager, tasting of honey and gold. Of Gwen.

GIVEAWAY

Cassandra Dean will be awarding an ebook copy of either Silk & Scandal or Silk & Scorn, a signed Silk & Scars postcard and Silk & Scars magnet (International giveaway) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cassandra Dean is a best-selling, multi-published author of historical and fantasy romance. Her recent novel, SLUMBER, is part of Decadent Publishing’s Beyond Fairytales and features Cassandra’s take on Sleeping Beauty. Her new novel, SILK & SCARS, is part of her popular Silk Series, featuring Victorian Era lawyers and their happily ever afters.

Cassandra is proud to call South Australia her home, where she regularly cheers on her AFL football team and creates her next tale.

You can connect with Cassandra at: www.cassandradean.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Pinterest * ~ * ~ * Amazon * ~ * ~ * Google + * ~ * ~ * Goodreads

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VIRTUAL TOUR: The Lady Meets Her Match by Gina Conkle

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Rough-around-the-edges Cyrus Ryland rose from humble origins to become England’s wealthiest citizen and most eligible bachelor. Called the King of Commerce, he thinks nothing of marriage until he hosts a masked ball and discovers an alluring woman hiding in his study. After one dance the lady vanishes, leaving behind a single shoe. The hunt is on, but finding her is only half the battle.

Claire Mayhew wants her hard won independence…a mid-town shop of her own. She resists the scorching attraction with Mr. Ryland — her new landlord, but Cyrus isn’t a man who gives up easily.

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EXCERPT

“Mr. Ryland, on your first visit to my shop, you questioned my accounts. Now do you plan to inspect how I manage the messengers?” She was being a little tetchy, but that assessment of his touched a sore spot. “As long as I pay my rent come Friday, whatever else happens is no concern of yours.”

He cracked a smile. “Not afraid to put me in my place, are you?” BookCover_TheLadyMeetsHerMatch

“As in reminding you that you’re my landlord and you’ve no business giving me such commentary? I’m happy to. I doubt you share your opinions with the male proprietors who rent from you.”

Frayed nerves and a morning fraught with mishaps put her on edge. To admit this to him would be akin to acknowledging a chink in her shopkeeper’s armor. She wasn’t choosing her words with care but let them flow nonetheless.

“Duly noted, Miss Mayhew. I admit I haven’t changed my mind on this venture of yours,” he asserted.

“At the table, even you acknowledged the dangers preying on women in London. At least my sister’s business proposition must prove some goodwill during this trial period.”

She heard him, but her vision caught on the curious red ribbon. Ryland glanced at the box under his arm, his stance relaxing.

“This is the other reason for my visit today,” he said quietly, holding out the wooden box. “It’s for you.”

Her gaze snapped up to his. “For me?”

Claire reached out, accepting the gift with cautious hands. She hefted the box gingerly up and down, checking the sides.

He chuckled. “I promise there’s no viper inside.”

“You bought me a ledger, didn’t you?” Her tone lacked all enthusiasm. A rectangular account book could fit inside the box. So would a shoe.

“If I did, you must agree a ledger would do you good.” His brows slammed together, a small vertical line forming above his nose. “But you won’t know until you open it.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

gina cGina writes Viking and Georgian romance with a softly sensual side. She loves history, books and romance…the perfect recipe for historical romance writer. Her passion for castles and old places —the older and moldier the better— means interesting family vacations. Good thing her husband and two sons share similar passions. When not visiting fascinating places she can be found delving into the latest adventures in cooking, gardening, and chauffeuring her sons.

You can connect with Gina at: www.ginaconkle.com * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Pinterest. You can sign up for Gina’s newsletter .

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Pride and Proposals by Victoria Kincaid

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What if Mr. Darcy’s proposal was too late?

Darcy has been bewitched by Elizabeth Bennet since he met her in Hertfordshire. He can no longer fight this overwhelming attraction and must admit he is hopelessly in love.

During Elizabeth’s visit to Kent she has been forced to endure the company of the difficult and disapproving Mr. Darcy, but she has enjoyed making the acquaintance of his affable cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Finally resolved, Darcy arrives at Hunsford Parsonage prepared to propose—only to discover that Elizabeth has just accepted a proposal from the Colonel, Darcy’s dearest friend in the world.

As he watches the couple prepare for a lifetime together, Darcy vows never to speak of what is in his heart. Elizabeth has reason to dislike Darcy, but finds that he haunts her thoughts and stirs her emotions in strange ways.

Can Darcy and Elizabeth find their happily ever after?

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EXCERPT

Miss Bennet, I must tell you that almost since our first …

No. Too formal.

You must be aware of my attentions …

Would that assume too much?

You must allow me to tell you how much I admire you …

This came closest to expressing his sentiments, but would she view it as excessive?

Darcy guided his stallion along the path to Hunsford Parsonage, anxiety increasing by the minute. Somehow the
perfect words for a proposal must come to mind. He was close by the parsonage.

Almost out of time.

He took a deep breath. The master of Pemberley was unaccustomed to such agitation of the mind. But Elizabeth Bennet had a habit of unsettling his nerves as no one else could. Not for the first time, he wondered why that should indicate she would be the ideal companion of his future life. However, he had wrestled with his sentiments all day and finally concluded that it must be so, despite his objections to her family.

He had not slept the night previous and only fitfully the night before that. Practically his every thought was occupied by Elizabeth Bennet. Every minute of the day, he would recall a pert response she had made to his aunt or a piece of music she had played on the pianoforte. Or the sparkle of life in her fine eyes.

Yes, at first she had seemed an unlikely candidate for the mistress of Pemberley, but his passion could not be denied.

He no longer made the attempt.

Strange. He had been angered with himself for months that he could not rid himself of this … obsession with Miss Bennet. But once he had determined to surrender to the sentiment and propose to her, he felt almost … happy.

Despite the fleeting sensations of guilt and doubt, he could not help but imagine how joyful it would be to have her as his wife.

He pictured the expression on Elizabeth’s face when he declared himself. Undoubtedly, she was aware of his admiration, and she had returned his flirtatious banter on more than one occasion, but she could have no serious hopes for an alliance. Her delight would make any of his misgivings worth it.

The woods on either side of the path thinned, and Darcy slowed his horse to a walk as he reached the clearing surrounding the parsonage. Initially, he had been bitterly disappointed when Elizabeth’s headache had prevented her from accompanying the Collinses to Rosings for tea, but then he recognized a perfect opportunity to speak with her alone.

Excusing himself from the gathering had not presented any difficulties. His cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, had received a letter that day with word of an unexpected inheritance of property following the death of his mother’s sister. Darcy was well pleased for his cousin, who had chafed at the limitations of a second son’s life. Richard had excused himself to plan for an immediate departure from Rosings the next day so he could soon visit his new estate. Darcy had seized on the excuse as well – since, naturally, he would be taking Richard in his coach and would necessarily need to prepare.

Darcy turned his thoughts to the task at hand.

You must allow me to tell you how violently I admire …

No.

You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you …

Perhaps …

Darcy swung his leg over the pommel and slid off his saddle, tying his horse up at a post outside the Collinses’ front door. Pausing for a moment, he breathed deeply, willing his body to calmness. Then he seized the door knocker and rapped.

The maid who answered the door appeared unnecessarily flustered. As he followed her down the short hallway to the Collinses’ modest drawing room, Darcy had a dawning sense of wrongness.

Voices already emanated from the drawing room. Darcy immediately recognized Elizabeth’s lovely soprano. But the other voice was male, too muffled for him to hear. Had Collins returned home unexpectedly?

Darcy quickened his stride, almost crowding against the maid as she opened the drawing room door. “Mr. Darcy, ma’am,” the maid announced before swiftly scurrying away.

Darcy blinked several times. His mind had difficulty understanding what his eyes saw. His cousin Fitzwilliam was in the drawing room. With Elizabeth. With Darcy’s Elizabeth. In actuality, Richard sat beside her on the settee, almost indecently close.

Why is Richard here? Darcy wondered with some irritation. Should he not be packing for his departure rather than preventing me from proposing?

Richard and Elizabeth had been smiling at each other, but now both regarded Darcy in surprise.

For a moment, all was silence. Darcy could hear the crackling of logs in the fireplace. He had the nagging sensation of having missed something of importance but could not identify it.

“I … uh … came to inquire after your health, Miss Bennet.” Given the circumstances, Darcy was proud that the words emerged at all coherently.

“I am feeling much recovered, thank you.” Her voice was somewhat breathless.

A look passed between Richard and Elizabeth, and she gave a tiny nod. Darcy’s sense of mystification increased.

Finally, Richard sprang to his feet with a huge grin on his face. “Darcy, you arrived at just the right moment. You can be the first to congratulate me.” At that moment, Darcy started to get a sinking, gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Elizabeth has consented to be my wife!”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Victoria has a Ph.D. in English literature and has taught composition to unwilling college students. Today she is a freelance writer/editor who teaches business writing to willing office professionals and tries to give voice to the demanding cast of characters in her head.

She lives in Virginia with an overly affectionate cat, two children who are learning how much fun Austen’s characters can be, and a husband who fortunately is not jealous of Mr. Darcy. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice.

You can connect with Victoria at: Her website * ~ * ~ * Facebook.

The Art of Sinning (Sinful Suitors #1) by Sabrina Jeffries

the art of sinning

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American artist Jeremy Keane refuses to return home and take over his father’s business. He’d much rather sample bevvies of beauties abroad, in search of a model for the provocative masterpiece he’s driven to paint. When he meets Lady Yvette Barlow at a London wedding, he realizes she’s perfect for his work—and determines to capture the young heiress’s defiant spirit and breathtaking sensuality on canvas.

No stranger to scandal, Yvette agrees to be Keane’s subject—in exchange for his help gaining entry to the city’s brothels he knows intimately, so she can track a missing woman and solve a family mystery. But when their practical partnership leads to lessons in the art of sinning, can they find a bold and lasting love?

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Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Books, July 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London 1829
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Wendy

The opening chapter of this novel captured me immediately – I liked the unusual premise and the story promised to be an interesting one. Having never read a Sabrina Jeffries novel before I was quite excited to have found another author I thought I could look forward to reading more of.

When Jeremy Keane, American artist of some repute, spots Lady Yvette Barlow at a family wedding, he is captivated by her unusual, statuesque beauty. She is the woman he has been searching for, the perfect model for a particularly controversial painting he wishes to paint. But first Jeremy must gain the approval of her brother and this is no mean feat as he is Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough and he takes his brotherly duties VERY seriously.

A deal is eventually struck, one openly with Edward’s approval, but another privately with Yvette herself. Jeremy has long since grown tired of painting the portraits of simpering misses, his tastes now running more to the outrageous, and he has won acclaim and notoriety through his unusual ‘true to life depictions’ . However, to allay Edward’s suspicions he must paint the type of portrait he abhors if he is to be able to stay and paint his ‘Juno’ – the very epitome of the majestic Roman goddess – in the manner he wishes. This last is to be done in the dead of night without Edwin’s knowledge.

Yvette herself is no pushover and has a very preposterous proposition of her own; if Jeremy wishes for her to pose secretly for his painting, she wants something in return. It is rumoured that Jeremy is a regular visitor to the City’s brothels, he must take her, without her brother’s knowledge, to search for a woman Yvette must speak with. Reluctantly he agrees as he MUST paint this woman he has been searching for, for so long. It goes against the grain, however, as at heart he is a gentleman, and does not like deceiving the Earl.

Jeremy and Yvette are immediately attracted to each other and this is well done. I had a vision, as described, of Yvette as a tall, beautiful, majestic woman. She has quite low self esteem, which seems at odds with her rather sharp tongue and strong opinions but still I liked her. Jeremy is absolutely gorgeous, very tall (something which immediately appeals to Yvette as she is tired of gentlemen’s eyes being on a level with her bosom when dancing!), also –

a golden haired Adonis with eyes as deep blue as the estate’s prize delphiniums.

He is quite a tortured soul with a heartbreaking secret in his past from which he is running, and this only adds to his appeal. Yvette too has ‘a past’, though not one which I thought too shocking but it does explain her lack of self-worth.

The slow build up of attraction and simmering sexual awareness is adequately achieved, though not in my opinion, spine-tinglingly so.

I liked the secondary character of Edwin, Earl of Blakeborough immensely; he is a little stuffy and correct but loving and honourable towards his sister, quietly and discreetly going about his duties as head of the family without expecting or wanting thanks. He quite put me in mind of Edward in Mary Balogh’s, The Secret Mistress. I hope he finds his true love later in the series – I may be tempted to read it.

On the downside, there is a very modern feel to the writing, the usual (unfortunate) smattering of Americanisms, and the incredibly repetitive use of two particular phrases. One reviewer on Goodreads counted eighteen instances of one and seventeen of the other; it’s really very noticable and I was taken out of the story each time one of them was uttered. I didn’t go to the trouble of adding them up myself, but obviously, I’m not the only reader frustrated by this. Apart from the foregoing it is an enjoyable story, the first in a new series and I’m really hoping that the put-upon-Edwin’s HEA is next. A solid 3.5 stars.

Rescued by a Rake by Bess Greenfield

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A Lady in Disguise

Desperate to leave her past behind, Claudine Valencourt is less than thrilled to encounter the one man she could never forget. Not surprisingly, gorgeous self-made millionaire Leonardo Barnett doesn’t recognize her when he walks into a sleazy Paris cabaret in the middle of her performance. He never took much notice of her in the first place, and seven years have passed since her unfortunate infatuation. No longer naïve about men, she’s well aware of his womanizing reputation, but when he promises her exactly what she needs—escape, a means of independence, a new beginning in New York—she can’t resist.

Despite her best judgment, she can’t resist Leo either. When the allegedly self-absorbed entertainment magnate surprises her with compassion, tenderness, and wit, her dormant longings flame back to life stronger than ever. But dare she trust him with her secrets and her heart? With adventure and exquisite passion come disturbing revelations and inconceivable dangers for a lady pretending to be someone she’s not.

A Millionaire’s Prize

After one woman’s treachery destroyed his future, it took years for Leo to rebuild his life and succeed on his own terms. It only takes a few days for a vulnerable young beauty with a heartbreaking voice to pierce through his cynicism and defenses. Her warmth and guileless sensuality reveal a protective instinct he never knew he had and a desire that was there all along. His self-restraint battles with his yearning to keep his precious discovery for himself, and he soon realizes the folly of promises he could never keep.

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Publisher and Release Date: Mouette, April 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Nineteenth Century Paris and New York
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Jenny Q

I loved Bess Greenfield’s historical romance debut, The Count’s Last Mistress, and so I couldn’t wait to read the follow-up. Rescued by the Rake takes place many years later and features Claudine, the daughter of the hero and heroine of the previous book, Jeanne and Olivier, and Leo, the son of Jeanne’s best friend, whom we also met in the The Count’s Last Mistress. It is not necessary to read that first, though I recommend it if you get the chance!

Our story begins with Claudine trying to escape a scandal and her parents’ disappointment by singing for a living in a seedy Paris cabaret. She never expects her childhood crush, whom no one has seen in years, to find her and offer her a new chance at life in America. Leo doesn’t recognize the little girl who used to follow him around like a puppy; he only sees a potential star for his new theater. Drawn by her combination of innocence and sexuality, he determines to conduct himself as a gentleman and take the inexperienced girl under his wing, protecting her from harm while helping her find her way to fame and fortune. But his determination doesn’t last long in the face of their mutual attraction and close quarters. As the lines between business and pleasure blur, love blossoms, but they are both keeping secrets. Leo still doesn’t know who Claudine really is or why she’s running away, nor does he know about her mission to find her stepbrother. And Claudine doesn’t know what forced Leo to run away himself, or if a man of his reputation can be trusted with her heart. But they’ll have to figure it out fast because those secrets are about to be exposed with deadly consequences.

Unfortunately, there were several issues that kept me from enjoying this story as much as I wanted to. Though she does have redeeming qualities, most notably her love for and determination to find her missing stepbrother, Claudine is a little more naïve than I like my heroines to be, and she makes some infuriating decisions. I also grew a little weary of her repeatedly placing herself in dangerous situations with lecherous men. Leo, on the other hand, is quite sharp and intriguing, and I found his backstory fascinating, though I did think his affection for Claudine came on too quickly to be believable given his history. And I also grew frustrated with the author’s habit of starting scenes by picking up after something happened and explaining it in hindsight rather than letting the reader experience it firsthand. This type of storytelling doesn’t make the best use of the dual point of view structure and didn’t allow me to experience the story as intimately as I’d have liked. And finally, I had really been looking forward to the setting of this story, New York City in the late nineteenth century, and I was surprised to discover that a large portion of the novel takes place on board ship during an Atlantic crossing. I really enjoyed the depiction of luxury traveling at sea, but we don’t get as much description of life in New York as I’d hoped, and after the rich, lushly depicted atmosphere of Paris in the first book, I missed that ambiance.

It’s entirely possible that my expectations for this novel were too high based on how much I enjoyed The Count’s Last Mistress, and if I hadn’t read that book first, I might not have felt as underwhelmed by this one. It’s still a good story with plenty of action and romance and a diverse cast of supporting characters, and the movement of the story from Paris to ocean liner to New York with time spent in entertainment halls should appeal to readers looking for a change of scenery. I still think Bess Greenfield is an historical romance author to watch, but I’ll be hoping for a little more “oomph” from her next novel.

VIRTUAL TOUR: A Time for Everything by Mysti Parker

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After losing her husband and only child to the ravages of the Civil War, twenty-five-year-old Portia McAllister is drowning in grief. When she sees an ad for a live-in tutor in another town, she leaves everything behind in hopes of making a fresh start. But as a Confederate widow in a Union household, she is met with resentment from her new charge and her employer, war veteran Beau Stanford.

Despite their differences, she and Beau find common ground and the stirrings of a second chance at love—until his late wife’s cousin, Lydia, arrives with her sights set on him. Burdened with a farm on the brink of bankruptcy, Beau is tempted by Lydia’s hefty dowry, though Portia has captured his heart.

In another time and another place, his choice would be easy. But love seems impossible amid the simmering chaos of Reconstruction that could boil over at any moment into an all-out battle for survival. Will Beau and Portia find their way into each other’s arms, or will they be swept away by raging forces beyond their control?

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EXCERPT

Brentwood, Tennessee — December 25, 1865

The angels are coming.

Portia lay on the frozen ground between her husband and daughter. Snow fluttered softly toward the earth in delicate flakes, each one melting on her face with a pleasant sting. She wouldn’t have to wait much longer.

MediaKit_BookCover_ATimeForEverythingThe sunrise, hidden by snow-laden clouds, gradually lit the gray sky. With numb fingers, she traced her husband’s name, carved into the stoic slate. Jake McAllister, but let her hand drop to the ground before she touched that wretched date. December 16, 1864 — the day her whole world began to fall apart.

It had been a day as cold as this one when Jake returned. Portia had stood on their porch, holding Abigail, both of them wrapped in shawls and a quilt. Yet the cold had managed to seep inside, wrapping icy fingers around her heart. Her husband lay lifeless in the back of a wagon. His once-rosy face had turned ashen. Blood caked his Confederate jacket. His hands, large and strong, yet once so gentle, were posed across his belly. His fingers were stiff and claw-like, wrapped around a phantom gun. He did not look like Jake. It had to have been a mannequin with a wig the same dusty red shade of his hair.

“That’s not him,” she’d repeated to the men who’d so methodically carried him into the house. Jake would pop out from somewhere, still the jokester he had always been, and she would slap him for playing such a cruel prank. Then she would laugh with him and hold him tight because he had finally returned to her and Abby.

But the longer her eyes absorbed the wretched sight, the more evidence she had discovered. Little freckles and scars she knew so well. The pea-sized patch on his jaw where his beard never grew. The missing end of his middle finger, taken by a vicious dog when they were children.

It wasn’t a joke. Jake was dead.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_ATimeForEverythingMysti Parker is a wife, mom, author, and shameless chocoholic. She is the author of the Tallenmere standalone fantasy romance series and The Roche Hotel romantic comedy series. Her short writings have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. Her award-winning historical romance, A Time for Everything, will be published this summer by EsKape Press.

Other writing pursuits include serving as a class mentor in Writers Village University’s seven week online course, F2K. She has published two children’s books (Quentin’s Problem & Fuzzy Buzzy’s Treasure) as Misty Baker.

When she’s not writing fiction, Mysti reviews books for SQ Magazine, an online specfic publication. She resides in Buckner, KY with her husband and three children.

You can connect with Mysti at: www.mystiparker.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter

His Wicked Highland Ways by Laura Strickland

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Widowed following a marriage of convenience, Jeannie MacWherter has fled lowland Dumfries, Scotland, for the highland cottage bequeathed to her late husband by his brother-in-arms, laird of the glen. Though she’s never met the laird, local rumor labels him both murderer and seducer—a wicked, dangerous man who Jeannie learns is determined to chase her from his land.

Finnan MacAllister has come home to Glen Mhor in order to right past wrongs. He doesn’t care that Rowan Cottage is the beautiful Widow MacWherter’s only refuge. He’s convinced she’s a wanton who deliberately broke the heart of his best friend, Geordie, and he’s vowed to get even with her: seduction is his weapon of choice. But will his own heart betray him?

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Publisher and Release Date: The Wild Rose Press, April 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Scottish Highlands, 1746
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

I’ve read several Scottish romances over the years that have made men in kilts and the beautiful landscape of Scotland quite appealing: Katharine Ashe’s How to Marry a Highlander, The Brides of Wishmore series by Cathy Maxwell, and the Victorian era MacGregor series by Grace Burrowes to name but a few. In His Wicked Highland Ways, Laura Strickland spins a rather heavy-hearted tale of darkness and ever present danger.

Finnan MacAllister and Geordie MacWherter were once best friends and comrades at the Battle of Culloden. After the war, Finnan gave Geordie Rowan Cottage, a house that Geordie’s young widow, Jeannie, has made her refuge. Together with her only servant, Aggie, they’ve endured much and now enjoy a simple and content life of peace and quiet in the Scottish Highlands.

But unbeknownst to Jeannie, Finnan holds an intense hatred for her, the woman he believes Geordie adored with a love that was not reciprocated. Now that Geordie is gone, Finnan is determined to run the young widow off his lands but, when he meets her – in a very sexy and breathtaking scene – decides that making her fall in love with him and then breaking her heart (as she broke Geordie’s), might be a better and more deserved revenge.

Finnan is also fighting an old and bloody feud with the Avrie family, who claim a hold on his lands at Glen Mhor, so he obviously has his hands more than full of hate and retaliation which eats away at him, creating a turbulent and miserable existence. Furthermore, there are always two sides to a story and Finnan has no idea of the kind of marriage and relationship that Jeannie and Geordie shared.

Jeannie refuses to leave Rowan Cottage when Finnan haughtily demands it, the only home she now has after her meager existence in lowland Dumfries. Finnan admires her bravado but will not be swayed, until his man is wounded in a skirmish with the Avries and he must seek shelter in her home. That’s when he decides to put his seduction plan into action.

Jeannie is in a vulnerable position. Almost against her will, she is attracted to Finnan, the man who, through his friend, gave her a home from which he now wants to oust her. But she comes to admire his fierce devotion to Danny, his handicapped groom/valet, and the love he holds for his lands. And she also loves his “wicked ways,” the way he kisses her, holds her and, eventually and cleverly, seduces her.

There are a few paranormal elements in this novel, including an appearance by Geordie’s ghost and the mythical wisdom of a trout. It is a little surprising but it does suit the magical tone of and dramatic events of the story.

Finnan’s past family life also contributes to his great anger and thirst for vengeance. His father was murdered, he was run off from his lands as a young man, and he also lost his younger sister. He has since learned to survive on his own, now lives with a reputation as a mercenary and is even rumored to be a traitor.

But Finnan is awed and humbled by Jeannie’s sincere goodness and love for him, even when he hurts her deeply and does not deserve it. The love scenes between them are sensual and brief and not overly graphic. When a shocking event toward the end of the story shows Finnan what true love really is, he must make a choice for love or hate.

Laura Strickland pens a complex and melancholy romance, with strong themes of revenge, family, forgiveness, and loyalty. Her pacing is unhurried but it never wavers and is filled with a slow burning tension throughout, both in the passionate love story as well as the danger of discovery by the Avrie clan. My only complaint is an overuse of Finnan’s physical description as “a god.” I understand he is gorgeous and beautiful to look at from the opening paragraphs – I don’t need to be constantly reminded.

If you love romances set in Scotland, clan skirmishes, and a fierce and gorgeous kilted hero, you will enjoy this book.