SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: To Win a Viscount by Frances Fowlkes

To Win a Viscount

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England, 1820. To gain a certain marquess’s notice, Lady Albina Beauchamp aims to win the derby. What she hadn’t planned for is the price handsome Mr. Edmund White asks in payment to train her to race: each lesson for a kiss.

A first place finish isn’t the only thing worth racing for.

Lady Albina Beauchamp is in love with the Marquess of Satterfield. Unfortunately, his only interest is in horses, and doesn’t know she exists. But when the marquess confesses he will bestow his undying admiration on the jockey racing the winning horse at Emberton Derby, Albina sets out to win his affections by training to race.

Mr. Edmund White is a master groomsmen for the Earl of Amhurst in line for a viscountcy, should he abandon his passion for horses and become a respectable sheep owner. But horses are his love–until he meets Lady Albina and her silly notions of racing. When she affirms she will enter the derby with or without his assistance, Edmund not only instructs his student in racing, but seduction as well.

For Albina, a first place finish isn’t the only thing at stake. She must decide whether to take her place in society…or follow her heart and love a groom.

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EXCERPT

Albina huffed and stood on her toes. The man was intolerable. He was the one who wanted the blasted kiss. She had a horse to return, a dress to don, and a mother to deceive. She didn’t have time for his teasing. Her fingers wrapped around his arms for a measure of stability and, steadying herself, she pressed her mouth against his.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Frances Fowlkes lives in South Carolina with her high school sweetheart, three red-headed sons, and a spoiled standard poodle. When not writing about ardent heroes or strong-willed heroines, she enjoys spending time with her family, fangirling, and planning her next vacation.

As Death Draws Near (Lady Darby Mysteries #5) by Anna Lee Huber

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July 1831. In the midst of their idyllic honeymoon in England’s Lake District, Kiera and Gage’s seclusion is soon interrupted by a missive from her new father-in-law. A deadly incident involving a distant relative of the Duke of Wellington has taken place at an abbey south of Dublin, Ireland, and he insists that Kiera and Gage look into the matter.

Intent on discovering what kind of monster could murder a woman of the cloth, the couple travel to Rathfarnham Abbey school. Soon a second nun is slain in broad daylight near a classroom full of young girls. With the sinful killer growing bolder, the mother superior would like to send the students home, but the growing civil unrest in Ireland would make the journey treacherous.

Before long, Kiera starts to suspect that some of the girls may be hiding a sinister secret. With the killer poised to strike yet again, Kiera and Gage must make haste and unmask the fiend, before their matrimonial bliss comes to an untimely end.

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Publisher and Release Date: Berkley, July 2016

Time and Setting: Scotland and Ireland, 1831
Genre: Historical Mystery with romantic elements
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

Since her debut in 2012, Anna Lee Huber has given us four novels and one novella – each of them first-rate – featuring Keira Darby and Sebastian Gage. Now comes the fifth novel in the series, and I believe it is the best yet.

The opening of this book finds Keira and Gage on their honeymoon in Keswick when they receive a message (an order, really) from Gage’s father requesting their help with an inquiry. Lord Gage, who moves in the highest circles (and does not approve of Keira), tells them that Wellington’s cousin, Harriet Lennox, has been murdered at a convent in Ireland. She had recently converted to Catholicism and was serving as a postulant while preparing to become a nun.

The couple sets off for Ireland, where they are confronted with many surprises. First, at the port town of Whitehaven, they encounter the Marquess of Marsdale, a dissolute rake who treats life as one big joke. He spins a tale about compromising an earl’s daughter and having to flee the country to avoid a forced marriage (or worse). After a stormy crossing and a rough carriage ride from Dublin, they reach the village of Rathfarnham, where they find that the nuns are kind but reticent and the villagers unkind and reticent. They are met with a baffling mystery that takes many twists and turns. The couple’s devoted and clever servants, Bree and Anderley, are there to help, and even Marsdale turns out to be of assistance when he confesses that Harriet Lennox is in fact his cousin.

It become apparent that Miss Lennox’s death likely had something to do with the political troubles that are roiling Ireland. Protestants and Catholics are at daggers drawn with one another and the occupying English are oppressive, high-handed, and contemptuous toward the Irish people. The local constabulary is no help, so Keira and Gage are largely on their own. When a second nun is murdered, everything is becomes muddier rather than clearer.

Although the mystery drives the plot, this book is also a strongly character-driven love story. It is absolutely lovely to watch Keira and Gage navigate through the early days of their marriage. Keira has grown since we met her in The Anatomist’s Wife, but she still harbors insecurities relating to her unhappy first marriage, the notoriety resulting from her work, and her rejection by society. And now, should she and Gage have children, how could she continue working with him on investigations? Keira cannot bring herself to discuss this with Gage, but she pours out her heart to the mother superior, and what follows is a beautifully written conversation about the role of women in marriage and in society, how to ascertain God’s will, and how to make the best our of bad experiences. The mother superior is so loving and wise that I found myself wishing that I could share a cup of tea with her.

As for Sebastian Gage, he remains handsome, stalwart, and devoted to Keira. His character is not as inclined to introspection as hers, but we do see him trying to navigate, not always successfully, between being Kiera’s husband and being her partner in investigation. When he goes off on a risky errand and orders Keira not to leave the house – is he being a husband who expects to be obeyed or a fellow investigator who needs his partner not to go into danger on her own? Ah, yes, these two will have many challenges as they begin their next investigation, the disappearance of Gage’s cousin Alfred in the wilds of Dartmoor.

I cannot recommend the Lady Darby series strongly enough, and while this one works as a stand-alone, for maximum effect, they really should be read in order. Anna Lee Huber is a supremely talented author, and these books are complex, impeccably plotted, and clearly well-researched. In addition to creating the wonderful characters, she brings the culture and the landscape into full view, and there is a strong sense of place. I can’t wait until we get to Dartmoor!

VIRTUAL TOUR: Only an Earl Will Do (To Marry a Rogue #1) by Tamara Gill

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The reigning queen of London society, Lady Elizabeth Worthingham, has her future set out for her. Marry well, and marry without love. An easy promise to make and one she owed her family after her near ruinous past that threatened them all. And the rakish scoundrel Henry Andrews, Earl of Muir whose inability to act a gentleman when she needed one most would one day pay for his treachery.

Returning to England after three years abroad, Henry is determined to make the only woman who captured his heart his wife. But the icy reception he receives from Elizabeth is colder than his home in the Scottish highlands. As past hurts surface and deception runs as thick as blood, so too does a love that will overcome all obstacles, unless a nameless foe, determined with his own path, gets his way and their love never sees the light of day…

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EXCERPT

Elizabeth hid a repulsed shudder over Lord Riddledale, who stood pompous and proud across the floor, the ever-present scowl on his face no surprise. No doubt her stepping out with another gentleman other than himself had put him out of countenance. She turned back to her sister. “I cannot summon any remorse for annoying Riddledale. As for Lord Dean, I’ll be sorry to hurt him, but no, I will not marry him no matter how much his heart breaks over my decision.”

“Could your feelings change in time, do you believe?” Victoria asked.

“No.”

“No?”

Elizabeth shook her head. “No.”

“Why?”

She swallowed the familiar lump which formed in her throat every time she thought of him, the man she refused to name, even in her own thoughts. “I’m not the loving kind. I don’t believe it’s healthy to rely on such feeble unstable emotions when someone is entering the marriage state. Men and their need to be adored, looked up to in awe, can go hang. Lord Newland’s name protects me now. I have no need to marry again.”

Victoria threw her a dubious look. “I believe there is nothing purer and good than love, especially if you are fortunate enough to have it in a marriage.” Her sister sighed, the sound tinged with sadness. “You promised Papa you would try.”

“I am well aware of what I promised Papa, but he did not stipulate marriage is what I should try. I’m friendly and affable. That is enough.”

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Entangled Publishing LLC, July 25, 2016

Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by: Heather C.

OnlyAnEarlWillDoCoverElizabeth Worthingham and Henry Andrews were wildly in love and she promised to wait for him to return from his quest in America to bring back a fortune to secure his family home. However, things did not go quite as they planned while Henry was gone and when he returns two years later he finds her a widow and he a not-so-welcome visitor. But Henry has no idea what he did to cause Elizabeth to break her promise, or what happened while he waw away, and Elizabeth isn’t telling. Henry is intent on finding out and winning her back, so what will it take and how will he react when he finds out what Elizabeth is hiding? Will their love survive?

There are a lot of elements to this story that make it more complex than many romance stories I typically read. There is the rekindling of the relationship between Henry and Elizabeth, there is the Elizabeth trying to keep Henry from finding out her secret, and then there is a blackmail plot. Each of these layers on top of the others and together builds depth to this story. I enjoyed the relationship between Henry and Elizabeth through all of its twists and turns, deceptions, and whirlwind romantic moments. While readers can surmise from the beginning how the end will turn out, there are certainly moments throughout that make you question that notion. The blackmail storyline is good, if a little contrived, and the way it is eventually foiled seems a touch too easy and a little bit of a letdown; I wanted a little more drama here and this was one of the factors that brought my review down by 1 star.

I liked Henry better of the two main characters. He is loyal and his confusion over his lack of welcome from Elizabeth is entirely understandable. He loves her and does everything he can to win her back. Elizabeth is her own worst enemy and her lies (never mind that she’s a terrible liar) have her constantly running in circles. I understand why she made the choices she did, but once the couple is able to determine what has led them to their situation, she just kept making it worse instead of coming clean much earlier in the novel. I wanted to yell at her so many times. Elizabeth has several family members that have a certain amount of influence in the story, but only her brother is sufficiently stongly characterised as to enable to him to stand out. One of her sisters makes a big move during the height of the drama and I think we are supposed to see her as a sort of “modern woman” given that she has taken to wearing men’s pants and all, but I would have liked her character to have been more well-defined. The two main characters and the blackmailer were well drawn, but the peripheral characters could have used a bit of a boost.

I am not sure if the subsequent books will follow the same characters, if they will become peripheral characters in another couple’s storyline, or if it will be entirely unrelated. Overall, I enjoyed Only an Earl Will Do and I will be interested in reading additional entries in this series.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

tamara gillTamara Gill is an Australian author who grew up in an old mining town in country South Australia, where her love of history was founded. So much so, she made her darling husband travel to the UK for their honeymoon, where she dragged him from one historical monument and castle to another. A mother of three, her two little gentleman’s in the making, a future lady (she hopes) and a part-time job keep her busy in the real world, but whenever she gets a moment’s peace she loves to write romance novels in an array of genres, including regency, medieval and time travel. Tamara loves hearing from readers and writers alike. You can contact her through her website, and sign up to follow her blog or newsletter.

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SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen

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Love takes the stage . . .

Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements-that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity-and her true feelings for him-the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.

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EXCERPT

“You’re not going to die on me, are you?” The voice came from lower, almost directly in front of her this time, and Elise opened her eyes, staring up at a collection of clouds scudding across the blue sky.

“Not yet, I think.” She struggled to sit, her tired muscles still refusing to obey.

A warm hand caught hers and pulled her forward, and Elise was suddenly presented with the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen.

They were smoky green, the color of pine wreathed in mist, the color of still waters that hid great depths. They were ringed with blond lashes, set in a strong, rugged face that spoke of hours spent outdoors. Pale blond hair fell around his ears in careless waves, the ends damp where they brushed his bare shoulders. Incredible shoulders, wide and powerful, droplets of water sliding over the ridges of muscle to disappear down the front of his chest.
Her mouth went dry, and whatever breath she thought she had caught deserted her once again.

He was crouched before her, a look of concern tempered with a half-smile stamped across his striking features.

“Hmmm. Well, if you die, can I have your horse?” he asked. “As fine an animal as I’ve seen in a long time.”

“My horse?” she repeated. Good Lord. Her wits had completely scattered under that smoky gaze.

He glanced over her head up in the direction of the road. “One of the boys brought it off the bridge for you.”

Elise struggled to draw a normal breath and formulate a thought. The man was trying to put her at ease. It wasn’t his fault that he looked as he did. It wasn’t his fault her body was threatening to make an utter fool of her because of it.

But clearly, it had been too long since she had invited a man to share her bed because she was shamelessly staring at the way his body moved as he shifted. Subtle shadows carved their way across his torso, created by lean muscle rippling under golden skin. A scattering of dark blond hair covered his chest and trailed down past his navel. Her eyes dropped further south, and she let her gaze wander over the sharp ridges of muscle that formed a V over his hips before disappearing into the front of his breeches. His free hand rested on a powerful thigh, long, capable-looking fingers spread out over the top of his knee. She imagined what those fingers would feel like against her bare skin. Because she already knew what his arms had felt like beneath her, the hard strength of his body against hers.

When he was pulling you from the water like a drowned river rat, you fool, not drawing you into a lover’s embrace.

A terrible realization struck her with the completion of that thought. Without needing to check, she knew her cap was gone. Her braid had come unpinned, and she could feel the heavy weight of her sodden hair on her back. A glance at her water-logged clothes plastered to her body confirmed her worst suspicions. When she’d bound her breasts tightly beneath her loose, baggy shirt, they were unnoticeable, but there was nothing unnoticeable about them now. The bindings had come loose and slid down to bunch at her waist. Worse, the threadbare fabric of her worn shirt was almost transparent, and stuck to her skin as it was, she may as well have been wearing nothing. The curves of her breasts were clearly visible, as were the dark areolas of her peaked nipples.

The man’s eyes were still on her face and not on her chest, which Elise was choosing to interpret as a testament to his chivalry, but no one in their right mind would mistake her for anything other than what she truly was. A woman dressed as a boy.

“No, you can’t have my horse,” she muttered, attempting to peel her shirt away from her breasts with her free hand.

“I need it to flee a lot of awkward questions.”

The man was watching her again. “They are going to want to know who you are,” he said quietly, jerking his chin in the direction of the voices beyond them. The understanding she saw in those incredible eyes made her blink.
She managed a weak smile. “Do you suppose anyone will notice if I just swim back to where I came from?” She was trying to make her mind work, but like her muscles, it seemed lethargic, her usual ingenuity depleted. “You can tell them that I was a mermaid.”

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Forever (July 26, 2016)

Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 4 stars

Review by Sara

A Duke To RememberA Duke to Remember is the second book of Kelly Bowen’s Season for Scandal series which follows the exploits of the employees of Chegarre & Associates. To say that the women and men of this firm have a unique set of skills would be an understatement. Readers briefly met Elise deVries in the previous book Duke of My Heart as a celebrated actress and chameleon who could impersonate anyone. When she is contracted to find the missing Duke of Ashland, Elise has to slip into the role she is possibly most uncomfortable with; being herself.

Most of London society believes that Noah Ellery, heir to the Ashland dukedom, has been dead for fifteen years and his parents have never denied the rumors. When the old duke dies, his nephew Francis is ready to take on the title and all the wealth that comes with it, but the duke’s daughter Lady Abigail insists that her brother is alive. Desperate to protect the title from her cousin and save her mother – who has been committed to Bedlam against her will – Lady Abigail hires Chegarre & Associates to find her lost brother and return him to London before the House of Lords can decide who will become the next Duke of Ashland.

Elise has only a general idea of where to start her search for the missing heir and even less of a plan on how to convince him to return with her. The only lead she has puts her on the road to Nottingham in search of a blacksmith who may have met Noah Ellery sometime in the past. Elise has no time for distractions as Francis has hired men to track down and kill his cousin, but her trip is interrupted when she witnesses a small boy fall off a bridge into a fast moving river and she is the only one around to save him. Jumping in and grabbing the boy, Elise is then pulled out of the water herself by a strong pair of arms attached to one of the most handsome men she’s ever encountered. Her noble savior seems kind and chivalrous, unlike many of the men she’s known before, and it isn’t long before she finds herself agreeing to his offer of a warm place to dry off and stay for the night.

As they travel together Elise begins to notice small things about her knight errant that seem too similar to what she knows of the lost heir. The man who introduced himself as Noah Lawson has physical features that match the boy who “died” years ago and his manner of speaking reveals a careful consideration of his words. When he mentions that he had a sister named Abby, Elise puts the whole thing together and is shocked that she has accidentally stumbled upon her quarry. Unfortunately once Elise explains to him her reason for seeking him out Noah is adamant that he will never return to London or take his place as the Duke of Ashland. With very little time left to save the Duchess and prevent Francis from taking the title Elise must convince a reluctant lord that the tragedies of his past cannot affect the possibilities of his future.

A Duke to Remember folds a lot of emotion into a lighthearted historical romance. Noah’s backstory is heartbreaking and it impacts every scene he’s in. The abuse he suffered at the hands of his father or the struggles he’s had to survive on his own made him stronger; however being sheltered and never revealing himself kept him from knowing that power was inside. I love how confident Noah is about his growing affection for Elise and how he could separate the woman he cared for from the job she was sent to do. He and Elise are perfect companions for each other in that they always try to be clear about what is on their minds or how they are feeling. Their conversations can be flirty, serious or even angry but they always have an understanding of what the other person is really saying in that moment.

There are just as many fun and funny moments in the story to offset the heavier character driven scenes. Noah and Elise are not dreary people for all the pain in their pasts but are in fact rather amusing with their shared dry wit and the small ways they compete with each other. The time spent together in Nottingham is all the more important when everything shifts to London and Noah and Elise find themselves having to play new roles in order to restore his name around town. Their romance, while perhaps a bit too insta-love to warrant a 5-star rating, grows through their talks or by the little gestures they make to show just how much they care.

Kelly Bowen is an auto-buy author for me and has a knack for creating very strong and capable heroines who challenge convention in amazing ways. A Duke to Remember is another winner from this great storyteller and I’m eager to see the next case for Chegarre & Associates.

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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.

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SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Accidentally Compromising the Duke by Stacey Reid

Accidentally Compromising the Duke_500X750

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England, 1817

Miss Adeline Hays is out of options. Determined to escape marriage to a repugnant earl, Adel plans to deliberately allow herself to be caught in a compromising position at a house party with the much kinder man she’d hoped to marry. Instead, Adeline accidentally enters the wrong chamber and tumbles into the bed of the mad duke.

Edmond Rochester, the Duke of Wolverton, is seeking a wife to care for his two daughters. A young lady of sensibilities, accomplishment, and most importantly, one who he is not attracted to—a complete opposite of the bewitching beauty who traps him into marriage. But despite the lust he feels for his new duchess, Edmond is resolved to never allow them intimacy, refusing to ever again suffer the tormenting loss of a loved one.

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EXCERPT

A deep curiosity to know all of him welled inside of her. “Don’t you ever play?”

Surprised chased his features. “Play?”

“Yes…you know, the art of romping, laughing, and having untold fun?”

“Of course not,” he said stiffly.

“How sad,” she murmured.

He arched a brow. “I am a duke…we do not cavort in the dirt and grass.”

She stood and walked deeper into the shadows and smiled when he followed.

“That is a pity. I think I would enjoy very much you tumbling me into the grass.”

Intense dark eyes assessed her and Adel stepped closer to his heat. “Come play with me,” she said softly.

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Stacy Reid Profile PictureI am an unapologetic romance lover. I read it. I write it. Enough said. Well..I also have a warrior way “Never give up on my dreams.” I spend a copious amount of time drooling over Rick Grimes from Walking Dead, watching Japanese anime and playing video games with my love, Dusean.

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Beauty: An Everland Ever After Tale by Caroline Lee

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A faded matron and a blinded musician… but which is the Beauty and which is the Beast?

Twice-widowed Arabella Mayor has made a place for herself and her son in Everland, selling and lending her beloved books to other bibliophiles in the sweet town. But she’s running out of money, and ten-year-old Eddie is giving her fits, and their future is uncertain. Re-marriage might have once been an option, but Arabella knows she’s past her prime, and isn’t the Beauty she used to be. And as her beauty faded, so did her worth. What does she have left?

World-renown violinist Vincenzo Bellini is at ease with his carefully cultivated reputation of a beastly recluse. After all, the fewer people looking at his hideous scars, the better. Ready to retire, he’s trying to hide in Everland, but doesn’t count on the townsfolk being so curious… especially a particular bookseller who reminds him of the life he abandoned long ago. Can he teach her that worth isn’t tied to their appearances, or will he have to abandon his plans for a future here in Everland?

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Publisher and Release Date: Caroline Lee, May 2016

Time and Setting: Wyoming Territory, 1876
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Review Rating: 3 stars

Review by Sara

There is something special about the boom town of Everland. Author Caroline Lee has populated the community with characters straight out of the fairy tale books but given them a distinctly American spin. You won’t find cursed princes or magical talking housewares in this story, but if you look closely you may see a little magic at work in Beauty: An Everland Ever After Tale.

The gossips of Everland are all clamoring to discover more about the mysterious stranger who has settled there. The large home on the outskirts of town shows that their new neighbor is a man of means but he’s been quite reticent to welcome anyone who has tried to meet him. The only thing they know about Signore Bellini is of his fame as a concert violinist and rumors of his beastly appearance.

Unfortunately Arabella Mayor has no time to discuss the curiosities of the newest townsperson. She is barely making ends meet after her second husband’s death left her alone to raise her son and work the bookshop in town. As Arabella’s resources have dwindled she’s had to make many sacrifices and is now at the point of renting out her own apartments above the store to bring in more money. Of course none of her friends are aware of her circumstances as it would break the rules of decorum her late husband all but drilled into her head. The appearance of success and a beautiful family was all that he desired from her, and to survive her marriage for her son’s benefit Arabella adopted those desires as her own.

Arabella is quite shocked when Bellini’s manservant appears in her store requesting her services to bring books and read them out loud to him. Upon arriving at the man’s home it becomes clear to Arabella why Signore Bellini has hidden himself. The musician is terribly scarred across his face and head, with the worst wounds having destroyed his eyes. Arabella is horrified by Bellini’s appearance and can only think about what her former husband would say about the worth of a man who cannot function in regular society. Her attitude towards Bellini begins to change when she catches him in a private moment playing his violin and the man’s true talent moves her to tears.

Vincenzo Bellini has survived for years by allowing people to know him only for his appearance or by the music he loves to play. His plan upon moving to Everland was to quietly retire from the public eye and settle in a community that might let him keep to himself. He didn’t count on inviting the local bookstore owner into his home and finding her company so entertaining. Talking with Mrs. Mayor about books or sharing his music with her and her son awakens emotions that Vincenzo had thought lost forever, just like his sight. Mrs. Mayor becomes special to Vincenzo within a very short period of time and his heart slowly opens to a hope that their relationship could change from friendship to something more; however a shocking revelation about her past puts that hope to the ultimate test.

Beauty: An Everland Tale spins the standard Beauty and the Beast story by asking the reader what a true beast is made of. Is it a visual thing or can it be something soul deep? Arabella may be a beautiful woman on the outside but her husband’s “rules” about appearance and behavior have turned her ugly on the inside. Vincenzo may have been forced to live with an unfortunate disfigurement but he creates beautiful music and opens his heart to the widow and her son when they need him. Arabella that has closed herself off from feeling true emotions or letting someone know the real person underneath all the ugliness. In being with Vincenzo, trusting him with her secrets and letting him know her son, she begins to understand what is truly important in life. Beauty can fade, but true love can endure.

I enjoy the clever ways Ms. Lee makes old fairy tales unique in the unusual town of Everland. There are fairy godmothers but they act in more mundane ways than transforming people or things. The people have characteristics of their literary namesakes, yet they feel like real small town neighbors all coming together to form a community on the frontier. Curses don’t change people but the aftermath of the Civil War does hang heavy on those it affected. There is a lot of charm in the Everland Ever After series and each book has been quite fun to read.

More Than a Lover (Rakes in Disgrace #4) by Ann Lethbridge

more than a lover

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Will he unlace all of her secrets?

Former captain Bladen Read knows respectable Caroline Falkner would never look twice at an illegitimate ruffian like him. But when he’s suddenly thrown into the role of her protector he discovers the undercurrent of tension runs both ways…

At first Caro tries to resist the pull of attraction, for Blade is a link to the scandalous past she buried long ago to protect her son. Although when the opportunity to explore this rake’s expertise in the bedroom presents itself, temptation proves too much to resist!

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Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin/Mills & Boon Historical, April 2016

Time and Setting: England, 1820
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Wendy

This is the fourth in Ann Lethbridge’s Rakes in Disgrace series, and as far as I can tell, the books are not associated, and can therefore be read individually. Captain Bladen Read, a hardened soldier and war hero is sickened by the actions of the military during the Peterloo Massacre. Ordered to act on behalf of the crown, Blade (as he is known to his friends), rebels after the killing and maiming of innocents, resigns his commission and is now at a loose end. He is a man who can see both points of view; born on the wrong side of the blanket, the son of a powerful earl and a prostitute, he is neither fish nor fowl, scorned by the ton but not accepted by the ordinary man in the street either. A lonely man, and, it seems, a man with a large chip on his shoulder.

The story opens with Blade thinking over his options when he spies a blast from the past, Caroline Falkener, whom he had worshiped from afar nine years previously when he was a gangly young ensign. Now a widow with a young son, she is still as beautiful as he remembers and just as enticing – moreso in fact. He still feels the inadequacies of his illegitimate birth and just as before, believes that Caroline, or Caro, as she is known, will not look his way. Caro is not what she seems and has a secret of her own – one which she will guard with her life if necessary.

The two are thrown together by mutual friends. Charlie, the Marquess of Tonbridge, heir to a dukedom, was Blade’s commanding officer and has remained a true and loyal friend. Caro and Charlie’s wife, Merry have founded a charitable home for fallen women and mothers with children in need, the idea being to rehabilitate these unfortunate ladies and give them some choices in life. Caro is passionate about their venture and does everything in her power for her charges, which is very commendable, but I couldn’t quite work out how Caro, who was cut off by her family and has therefore struggled to support herself and her son, could come up with the sum of fifty pounds from her own pocket to buy a girl from a brothel (nearly £4,000 in today’s equivalent). I’m sure by now, if you’re reading this review, Caro’s ‘secret’ is fairly obvious. Blade is offered temporary employment as Charlie’s house-steward and eventually becomes Caro’s lover.

This was not a book in which I felt invested and it was just too easy to put down. The development of the relationship between Blade and Caro has no real depth and certainly did not make me sigh – in fact I pretty much skimmed over their interactions. Blade lost a hand during his military service, something which would normally have my stomach in knots, as I love a wounded hero – but not so this time. I also found it hard to believe that at the age of ten, Blade was dumped into the middle of his father’s family, even though his father had been previously unaware of his existence – and was accepted by him without question or proof. Blade also suffers with abandonment issues – which I do understand, but the point is laboured quite extensively throughout.

The plot stretches credulity and I found it hard to believe that the parties involved would have behaved in such a way. I did get a little more involved and interested in the second half of the book and kept reading to the bitter end, but ultimately, there are too many inconsistencies in the story and the telling for me to be able to rate More Than a Lover more highly.

VIRTUAL TOUR: To Win a Scoundrels Heart (Lords of Whitehall #2) by Kristen McLean

VT-WinAScoundrelsHeart-KMcLean_FINAL

When her husband’s death is ruled a suicide, Lady Dumonte suspects foul play. However, finding the truth seems impossible after every investigator in Paris turns up empty-handed. Now she is forced to seek help from Lord Pembridge, a feckless libertine.

Although the pain of loss is a constant reminder of why she must hide her heart, this carefree scoundrel threatens to break past her defenses. He could uncover the truth regarding her husband’s death, but is learning the truth worth risking her heart?

Lord Pembridge has wealth, angelic good looks, and a sunny disposition. None would guess the dark secret blackening his past or the grudge controlling his future. It was the reason he could never have a family of his own, a fate he had accepted until he was forced to play detective for the one woman who could tempt him.

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EXCERPT

To Win A Scoundrel's Heart Cover Published“You, m’dear girl,” he murmured, “are old enough to know better than to tempt a scoundrel.”

“I know what I am doing,” she spouted back indignantly. “I am not a child.”

“No,” he agreed easily. “You are certainly not a child.”

“Then I would expect you not to treat me like one.” Her eyes flashed, giving him a teasing glimpse of passion.
Lady Dumonte possessed passion?

Another surprise.

“Of course not.” He frowned in mock seriousness. “How should I treat you? As a lady or a mistress?”

“As a woman,” she ground out. “I am a woman!” Her lips pursed together as she glared up at him.

He smiled broadly; he couldn’t help himself.

“Ah, yes,” he agreed, looking her over as though he had only just noticed. “I believe you are.”

She took in a deep breath, pushing her breasts against the tight fabric of her bodice.

His cock jumped to attention.

“I was wrong about not liking you. I hate you!”

“And yet,” he mused with a knit brow, “you throw yourself at me like all the others. You are either in denial of your overwhelming attraction to me or a glutton for punishment. For my own complacency, I choose the former.”

Céleste shook her head slowly, her eyes narrowed and seething with anger.

“Regardless,” he continued frankly at his own peril, “you had better run along, or you may find your offer accepted, and we both know you never expected that. Your bluff has been called, Lady Dumonte. Go on home like a good girl.”

“I never bluff.”

“Never say never, m’dear,” he murmured with a purposefully wicked smile.

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KristenKristen has always had a love of novels, with a special place in her heart for historical romance. After reading enough of them to fill a rather impressive library, she decided to write her own. Now she has the pleasure of writing at home, tucked away in a forest with her husband, two children and her cat. Her husband is loving and impressively patient, her two beautiful children strive to embarrass and exhaust her, and her cat hates everyone, but tolerates — well, she tolerates whoever will feed her.

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SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Earl’s Wager by Rebecca Thomas

Earl's Wager

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When straight laced earl, Will Sutton, is challenged to turn the obstinate American ward of his friend into a biddable lady suitable for the Marriage Mart, he gladly takes the wager. Then has to decide whether the prize–a prime racing stud horse–is worth changing the impudent beauty’s temperament he’s come to enjoy. Greatly.

One headstrong miss. One stuffy lord. One friendly wager. What could go wrong?

Will Sutton, the Earl of Grandleigh, believes he can save the family’s impoverished estate by investing in a racehorse, but the price is too steep. His brother-in-law offers him a deal: tutor his American ward in proper English customs, so she’ll be marriage material, and Will can have one of his horses. Maybe Miss Georgia Duvall prefers being a jockey, is obstinate and high spirited, but once she’s cleaned up and presentable, he’ll have no trouble finding her a quality suitor. She might even be quite pretty beneath the racetrack dust.

The last thing Georgia Duvall wants is to be married off to an English peer. But she won’t defy her father’s wishes, and sets her cap for the oldest lord she can find—a man who’ll die quickly and leave her alone to manage her inheritance. The Earl of Grandleigh might think he’ll teach her manners and marry her off to someone younger than eighty, but there hasn’t been an obstacle yet Georgia can’t overcome. Including a stuffy, overbearing English lord.

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EXCERPT

Georgia’s gaze lingered on him innocently, and yet Will was certain there was more to what she was saying. And perhaps she wasn’t quite as innocent as Marsdale would have him believe. “Perhaps you can tutor me in the ways I might capture his attention?”

She circled him, never removing her gaze from him. What exactly was she asking? “I’m not quite sure what you mean, Miss Duvall, but rest assured I’m here to help. I found the perfect match for my sister, and I’ll do the same for you.”

“Yes, I understand, my lord. So I’m wondering how to pique his interest. Can you answer that question, or should I ask Oliver?”

He swallowed and narrowed his gaze. “No, no need to ask Oliver. You could talk to the gentleman about the weather, or ask after his health, or maybe you can ask if he…” Will wasn’t sure what to say. Maybe he wasn’t up to the task of procuring a match for someone other than his sister, after all, because the way she looked at him seemed to spell trouble. “If he has hounds, perhaps?”

She blinked several times, eyeing him oddly.

Everything about her said she was an innocent maid, but she was American. Maybe women were different there, and he just wasn’t used to their behavior. Most women—no not most, no women—who were young and unmarried ever held his gaze so long with such keen challenge punctuating a seemingly guileless question.

Stopping directly in front of him, she peered up at him, standing inappropriately close. “I’m to ask him if he has hounds?”

“Yes, you could,” he blurted, then cleared his throat. He took a step back, but he didn’t want her to know she confused him, so he rounded the corner of the table instead.

“I was thinking more along the lines of flirting.” Her delicate brow arched. “How do I flirt with him—that is how I want to capture his attention.”

He gulped. “That wasn’t what I had in mind. I don’t think it’s what Oliver had in mind either. Maybe we should sit down?” He gestured toward the damask-covered sofa and matching wingback chair. Even if she didn’t need to sit down, he did.

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Earl's Wager-RebeccaThomasRebecca Thomas enjoys a love-hate relationship with Alaska. She lives there with her husband and sons. When she isn’t reading, writing, or playing board games, she can be found taking long walks in the woods dreaming up her next story.

A reluctant reader as a child, she didn’t become interested in books until her teen years when she discovered historical romance. Now she loves all sub-genres of romance and can’t decide which one is her favorite.

Rebecca was employed in the airline industry for several years before working in her current position as a program manager in higher education.

Author Website: http://www.authorrebeccathomas.com/
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Her Safe Harbor (Crawford Family #3) by Holly Bush

her safe harbor

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1893. Jennifer Crawford, the peacekeeper in a well-to-do Boston family rife with anger, deceit, and even treachery, was born to solve mathematical mysteries at a time when women are only beginning to venture from home and into the world of commerce and politics. Beautiful and shy, she struggles to find the courage to face a scheming mother and guide a father denying their familial dysfunction, hesitant to traverse the volatile economics banks are facing at the turn of the twentieth century. But danger threatens when she discovers the crimes of an abusive man determined to make Jennifer his own.

Zebidiah Moran, chief of staff for a new senator in Washington, is determined to uncover the lovely Jennifer’s secrets and guard her from danger. But will his sacrifices be enough to keep her safe? Will he be Her Safe Harbor?

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Publisher and Release Date: Holly Bush Books, March 2016
Time and setting: Boston, 1893
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Vikki

I have been a fan of Holly Bush and her novels ever since I read The Train Station Bride. Her Safe Harbor is the final book in her Crawford Family series, which I have enjoyed immensely. While this is not my favorite of the series, I did enjoy it a great deal.

Jennifer Crawford is in a difficult position. She began a friendship with an attractive man, and now he is a vice-president at her father’s bank, but she learns too late that he is abusive and controlling. While she desperately wants to break it off, Jeffrey refuses to listen and her mother is so enamored of the man, she also refuses to listen to Jennifer’s protests.

After Jeffrey attacks her a second time, leaving her with bruised ribs, Jennifer leaves town in order to visit her sister, Jolene in Washington D.C. While there, she again meets Zebidiah Moran, a man she nursed through influenza when she visited her sister in Texas in Contract to Wed. She feels safe when she is near him and is relieved when Jolene’s husband sends Zeb to protect his wife while she visits her mother in Boston.

When Zeb discovers the truth about Jennifer’s injuries, he knows he must proceed with caution because of the relationship between her Jennifer’s mother and Jeffrey, and the fact that he works at her father’s bank; but Zeb will protect Jennifer no matter what. Will his protection keep her safe from this vile man, or will he lose her before he ever has a chance to tell her he loves her?

Her Safe Harbor is a fast-paced novel with elements of suspense, along with an emotionally-charged romance. This book has a few dark moments since the plot deals with physical abuse. While there are a couple of violent scenes, they are not gratuitous and are in no way offensive, but I do recognize that they could make some readers a bit uncomfortable.

Ms. Bush does an excellent job with the emotions experienced by an abused woman. Jennifer is an intriguing character with two sides to her personality. On the one hand, she is intelligent, independent, and a confident businesswoman, but in spite of her strength, she allows her abuser to make her question her abilities. While she is determined to stand up to him, in reality, her fear of what he will do to her and her loved ones keeps her from following through.

Zeb Moran is a great hero. He is an honorable man, determined to protect Jennifer from the egomaniac who is hurting her. He shows a great deal of patience with Jennifer, even when she is determined to keep him away. I fell in love with his character from the start.

Some of the writing is a little awkward, and I felt that the book could have used some decent editing to smooth it out. I found myself being pulled from the story at those moments.

If you enjoy an absorbing story with a bit of mystery woven in, then you will like Her Safe Harbor. It is a nice conclusion to this series.