VIRTUAL TOUR: The De Valery Code by Darcy Burke


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

VIRTUAL TOUR: Secrets of a Heart by Samantha Garman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I feel out of sorts today.”

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

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

“Is it working?”

“Too soon to tell,” she replied wickedly.


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

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The Lawyer’s Luck (novella) by Piper Huguley

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

Publisher and Release Date: Liliaceae Publishers, June 2014

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

Review by Kate

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

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

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

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

Scenting Scandal by Suzi Love

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

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

Publisher and Release Date: Suzi Love, February 2014

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

Review by Maria Almaguer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But in this instance I am most sincere.”

“I am not in the habit of forgiving.”

“Perhaps you might make an exception this time.”

“I don’t know why I should.”

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

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

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

“Why should we pretend that?”

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

“All right. But don’t do it again.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Publisher and Release Date: Avon, August 2014

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

Review by Caz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews by Maria Almaguer

The Undoing of Daisy Edwards

London, 1923

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

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

The Awakening of Poppy Edwards

Los Angeles, 1924

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: Invitation to Passion by Bronwen Evans


Consummate rake, the Honorable Richard Craven, has his heartbroken when the woman he loves is forced into an arranged marriage to a violent brute. To make matters worse, circumstances force him to marry Lady Madeline Knight—a woman he views more like a sister-only for fate to play the cruelest of tricks. Shortly after his wedding his former lover is widowed, and Richard learns she could be pregnant with his child.

Madeline Knight thought she was doing the right thing when she saved Richard Craven from his lover’s irate husband. Now her silly schoolgirl crush has left her married to a man who’s in love with another woman. Consumed with guilt over trapping Richard, she tries her best to be the perfect wife and win his heart. Failure is not an option. For if she fails she loses everything, she loves him too much not to set him free…

While Richard and Madeline confront the reality of their marriage, Madeline’s life comes under threat. A family enemy is set on revenge. Will Richard learn the truth of his heart, and what is truly precious to him, before the unknown enemy destroys their world?

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We’re delighted to welcome author Bronwen Evans to Romantic Historical Reviews today, to tell us about her latest Regency Historical…

Dear Readers

I’d love to introduce you to my latest Regency historical romance, INVITATION TO PASSION, book #3 in my Invitation To series…. I’ve included the blurb and a snippet from the story. Read the snippet carefully as I’m offering a prize of copies (eBook or Book) of the first two books in the series, Invitation To Ruin (RT Reviewers’ Choice Best First Historical Nominee and RomCon Readers Crown Best Historical 2012), and Invitation To Scandal, to one lucky commenter (see the question below).

How do you know when you’re in love? How will you recognize if it’s true, everlasting love? Can we even know that?

That’s the quandary my hero, Richard Craven, faces in my latest Regency romance, INVITATION TO PASSION. He’s one of those men who genuinely loves women, so much so, he seems to fall in and out of love constantly.
When he compromises his best friend, Lady Madeline, he is forced to marry her, and though she is special, he’s scared of his feelings. What if he states he loves her, and then he falls out of love with her, as he has with every woman before her? The last thing he wants to do is hurt her. So, he tries to keep his feelings locked away until he’s sure he can love her truly, madly, deeply.

Here’s a snippet from the book.


Richard moved back to his seat. “That’s my girl. Are you feeling up to discussing our situation?”

“I’m quite composed now, thank you.”

He nodded. “Good.” Sitting forward in his chair, he leaned his elbows on his knees and cupped his chin in his hands. Earnestly he spoke. “I will try to make the next few days as painless as possible for you. The wedding will take place here at Hascombe, in two days’ time.”

“So soon?”

“Rufus thinks that is best.”

“My brother is probably happy to see me wed and off his hands. Now he can have Rheda all to himself.”

Richard sighed. “That’s a bit mean, Mads. Rufus loves you and is only thinking of your reputation.”

“You must think me very ungrateful.”

“Not at all. You forget I know you very well. I’ve watched you grow into a beautiful young woman.” He heard her breath catch.


He chuckled. “I remember telling you many years ago that one day I’d have to protect you from the males of the species. I just didn’t think it would be me.”

A gorgeous flush raced up her décolleté, but a frown clouded her lovely features.

“Hmmm, that leads me onto a question.” He watched her fidget. This couldn’t be good.

“Go on. You know you can always ask me anything. Nothing will change our friendship. I won’t let it,” he added sternly.

“That’s part of the problem. Friendship. I am rather curious about how our relationship will be after we marry.”

“I suspect it will be much the same as it is now.”

Her pinkish flush turned into a full on blush. “Umm, I’m not sure you fully understand my concern. We will be husband and wife… Will you expect us to behave as such?”

Richard let a wolfish smile envelop his lips. “Are you referring to the fact that you will have to share my bed? I’m sure I’ll cope, Mads. I have had a bit of experience in this area.”

She raised an eyebrow. “A bit?”

He had to laugh at her affronted response. That’s what he loved about his relationship with Maddy. They had always been able to talk about anything. His laughter died away. He hoped their marriage would not change that. “I know you. You’re not one to hide your thoughts from me. What is it you’re really concerned about?”

Her eyes became pleading. “I want children. I want a lot of children.”

Richard shrugged. “I still do not grasp the problem.”

“You won’t expect the marriage to be in name only then.”

“Bloody hell. Where on earth did you get that idea? I suspect we will live as most husbands and wives do.”

She sat up straighter and looked him in the eye. “I don’t want to be bedded out of obligation or duty-”

“You think I’d bed you because you’re an obligation? A beautiful woman like you? Come now, Maddy. You know me better than that.” She remained silent. Where in God’s name would she have got this absurd notion from? “You’re very desirable. Bedding you will be no obligation. It will be my pleasure. Our mutual pleasure.”

“Mother and Rheda have already told me I’ll have nothing to worry about on my wedding night. That I should leave everything to you and that no doubt I’ll enjoy your attentions.” She wrung her hands. “But you mentioned that our marriage will be like most other marriages. What if I don’t please you?”

“Please me? As in the bedroom?”

She nodded seriously.

“I taught you how to shoot and ride astride. You’re better than most men I know. You’re a fast learner. How can you not please me when you’ll have the best teacher?” he hoped his teasing tone would allay her fears.

“I know your heart belongs to another. What if… what if you grow tired of bedding me?” She raised a hand at his sound of outrage. “Promise me one thing.”

“Mads, you are being silly.”

“I know your reputation, Richard. You have enjoyed a lot of women. I don’t see how I’ll hold a man of your—appetites—interested when I don’t own your heart. Promise me that when you no longer enjoy my bed that you’ll tell me. I couldn’t bear to hear from anyone else that you’ve taken a mistress. The one thing I’ve treasured most in our friendship is the fact you’ve never lied to me, or hidden the truth from me—even if the subject was unpleasant. Rufus would most likely want to skin you alive if he knew some of the things I’ve asked, and you’ve answered, with no hesitation. Being stuck in the country, growing up alone, I can’t tell you what your honesty meant to me. It gave me the world even if I couldn’t see it, or be a part of it.”

“I’ll show you the world if you’ll let me.”

She drew in a quick breath. “Swear to me that we will always be honest with each other, no matter how difficult our lives become.”

Richard was about to vehemently deny that he would ever take a lover but he couldn’t. He thought about the women he’d had relationships with and how those intense feelings had never lasted. He wanted to promise that he’d never take a mistress or another lover, but he’d never once lied to Maddy and he refused to start their marriage on lies. He didn’t know if he’d be strong enough to honor his word.


What did Richard teach Madeline when she was younger?

About the Author

Bron_300x421-2USA Today bestselling author, Bronwen Evans grew up loving books. She writes both historical and contemporary sexy romances for the modern woman who likes intelligent, spirited heroines, and compassionate alpha heroes. Evans is a two-time winner of the RomCon Readers’ Crown and has been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. She lives in Wellington, New Zealand.

Bronwen loves hearing from avid romance readers at
You can keep up with Bronwen’s news by visiting her website * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter

Lady Adel’s Captain by Loretta C. Rogers


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Disinherited by her stepbrother because she refuses to marry as he wishes, Lady Adel Fitzhugh needs a miracle. When a storm drives a coach of travelers to their door, her miracle arrives in the form of Captain Liam O’Shea. Captain O’Shea is taking his motherless young daughter to live with the nuns during his five-year deployment to India. Adel seizes the opportunity to begin a new life, offering her services as governess.

Liam accepts Adel’s offer on the condition she raise the child at his family estate in Ireland. Fearing that if he dies in battle his daughter will be at the mercy of profiteers, he also proposes a marriage of convenience. If he returns, Adel will be free to file for an annulment and return to England. She agrees but has no idea the task will require all her strength and determination once she reaches his ruined castle and becomes “the O’Shea” to his people. And what if she wants to stay?

Publisher and Release Date: Wild Rose Press, February 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and setting: 19th century Victorian England & Ireland
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewed by Vikki

Lady Adel Fitzhugh needs a miracle after she finds out that her dowry is gone and that if she doesn’t marry Baron Wishingham, a grossly corpulent much older widower known for his ravishment of young girls, she will be homeless. She tells her stepbrother she would rather go to a nunnery than marry such a repugnant old man.

When a violent storm forces a close childhood friend, Lieutenant Robert Beck and his traveling companion to her doorstep, Lady Adel meets Captain Liam O’Shea and his very young daughter. Upon finding out that the captain is on his way to India for a five year deployment after he has left his daughter to the care of a convent, Adel immediately offers to become Mary Kathryn’s governess. This is her way out and she’s determined to take it.

Captain O’Shea accepts her offer on the condition that she raise his daughter on his estate in Ireland and that she marry him in name only. If he isn’t killed in battle, she can get an annulment when he returns. Little does she know that she will have to pull on all her reserves when she arrives in Ireland and is faced with the daunting task of restoring his burned out estate and becoming ‘the O’Shea’ to his people.

As the years go by, Adel and Liam fall in love through their letters to each other. When she receives word that Liam is missing, she believes all is lost. Then she finds out that Liam is alive, but has lost his leg and is tormented by the devastating images of war. Can their budding love survive, or will Liam send her away rather than place his trust and his life into her keeping?

I thoroughly enjoyed this incredibly moving story of a courageous woman who returns a crumbling down estate to its former glory while raising her young stepdaughter on her own. She is feisty and determined, yet loving and generous, just the kind of heroine I enjoy the most. I fell in love with many of the secondary characters with their witty dialogue and enchanting mannerisms. Ms. Rogers brings to life the glories of the coast of Ireland, and the rolling verdant hills covered with sheep and horses. While much of this story has the hero and heroine separated, that does not slow the pacing down at all. I loved seeing Adel’s character arch grow as she faces her difficulties.

Liam is exactly the kind of hero I most admire, an honorable and caring man. When he returns from the war so battered and tormented, it brought tears to my eyes as he struggles to cope with the devastating loss of his leg and his broken spirit. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a story that shows triumph over adversity and a couple who learn to love each other through it all. It’s one of the best of such stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading in quite some time.

RETRO REVIEW: Sound of the Heart by Genevieve Graham

sound of heart

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Dougal MacDonnell, a fierce warrior from the Highlands of Scotland, is able to hear the thoughts of other men and dream how the future will unfold. Devastated by the loss of his family during the Battle of Culloden in 1746, he fosters a deep hatred for the English. But when Glenna, the love of his life and a Scottish outlaw, is captured and shipped overseas, Dougal is forced to join an English army made of vanquished Scots. Now fighting on the side of his sworn enemies, he embarks on a journey that will take him across the seas to the colonies. There he will risk everything for the chance to find his true love.

Publisher and Release Date: Berkley, May 2012

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Scotland /American colonies, 18th Century
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction
Heat Rating: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Jill

Dougal MacDonnell, barely a man, has fought at the Battle of Culloden, losing his father and not knowing the fate of his younger brothers, Andrew and Ciaran. Captured by the victorious British soldiers he, along with other surviving Highlanders, is taken from the moors of Culloden to the prison at Inverness. From there he is moved to the floating prison on the Thane of Fife, to Tilbury Port and the filthy streets of London, and finally to the colonies.

This is not an historical romance, so much as a work of romantic historical fiction. There is a romance and it’s very strong, but the historical parts are numerous and detailed. The dialogue is believable and very well done, with enough Scottish ‘accent’ to feel immersed in the Highlands, without it being overdone.

This is the second book in Ms Graham’s MacDonnells series, but can be read as a standalone. I did enjoy this one a little more than the first book, Under the Same Sky. There is a paranormal element – as in the first book – but it’s not obtrusive. Dougal does possess a gift as does his brother, Andrew. If you read other reviews, be careful. There is a rather delicious twist, and it’s best you find it out for yourself.

If I have any complaints, I feel the ending was rushed, and the step from friends to lovers happened just a bit too quickly. I also had some problems working out the timeline of events, but that could be just me.

With plenty of historical details and descriptions of the era and setting, an action-packed adventure, and a sweet romance, this will suit fans of romantic historical fiction, historical romance, Highlanders, the Battle of Culloden, and the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Confederado do Norte by Linda Pennell

Confederado-Soulmate 505_505x825Purchase Now from Amazon

Set during the aftermath of the American Civil War, Confederado do Norte tells the story of Mary Catherine MacDonald Dias Oliveira Atwell, a child torn from her war devastated home in Georgia and thrust into the primitive Brazilian interior where the young woman she becomes must learn to recreate herself in order to survive.

October, 1866.

Mary Catherine is devastated when her family emigrates from Georgia to Brazil because her father and maternal uncle refuse to accept the terms of Reconstruction following the Confederacy’s defeat. Shortly after arrival in their new country, she is orphaned, leaving her in Uncle Nathan’s care. He hates Mary Catherine, blaming her for his sister’s death. She despises him because she believes Nathan murdered her father. When Mary Catherine discovers Nathan’s plan to be rid of her as well, she flees into the mountain wilderness filled with jaguars and equally dangerous men. Finding refuge among kind peasants, she grows into a beauty, ultimately marrying the scion of a wealthy Portuguese family. Happiness and security seem assured until civil unrest brings armed marauders who have an inexplicable connection to Mary Catherine. Recreating herself has protected Mary Catherine in the past, but this new crisis will demand all of the courage, intelligence, and creativity she possesses simply to survive.


I dreamt the dream again last night. In the small hours, I awoke in a tumble of bedclothes and bathed in perspiration despite the howling snowstorm blanketing the city. I rearranged quilts and plumped pillows, but sleep remained elusive. My mind refused to be quiet.

As often happens after such a night, I felt unable to rise at my usual hour and remained abed long after the maids cleared breakfast from the morning room. My daughter-in-law, bless her heart, meant well. I told her it was ridiculous to bring the doctor out on such a frigid day, but apparently the very old, like the very young, are not to be trusted in matters of judgment. After the doctor listened to my chest, a studied sympathy filled his eyes and he gently suggested that perhaps I should get my affairs in order. No doubt he wondered at my smile for he couldn’t have known I have no affairs other than my memories and the emotions they engender.

Unlike most elderly persons, I don’t revel in slogging through the past. It isn’t wrapped in pretty ribbons or surrounded by a golden aura. Instead, its voices haunt my dreams, demanding and accusatory. Until recently, I’ve resisted their intrusion into my waking life, but I now believe the past can no longer remain buried in nocturnal visions. It must be brought out into the light of day. From its earliest moments onward, the past’s substance must be gouged out, pulled apart, and examined bit by bit until its truth is exposed. While total objectivity may not be possible, I have concluded that committing the past to paper is my best hope for sorting facts from imaginings. Perhaps then I will achieve the peace that has so long hidden its face from me.

You see, when I was quite young—only a girl really—I killed four people. Two were dearly beloved, one was a hated enemy, and the last was a dangerous criminal.

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

My story begins at the end of a terrible war, one that destroyed many lives and much property. But for that war and a handful of newspaper editorials and advertisements, my life would have turned out quite differently. Sometimes it seems no time at all has passed since I was a nine-year-old child standing on the deck of a ship watching home disappear over the horizon.

Warm Gulf breezes tugged at the brim of my bonnet, setting its ribbons dancing. Leaning over the Alyssa Jane’s railing, I stared back in the direction of Mobile Bay and pretended I could see the dock where my beloved Bess stood, probably still waving. Mama, her pretty features marred by a furrowed brow and down turned mouth, paced beside me.

“Mary Catherine MacDonald! Get down before you fall overboard. All we need right now is another crisis. And stop wiping your nose on your sleeve.”

Mama didn’t seem to understand anything anymore. Before we left home, she was calm and kind. Afterward, she snapped at the least little thing. I threw her a hateful glance, but she had already turned away, so I stubbornly leaned a little farther out over the railing. The wake trailing behind the Alyssa Jane looked like a blue-green path lined on either side by mounds of ginned cotton, a path pushing me away from the only life I had ever known. Only my sniveling broke the silence of that October morning.

A swish of crinolines brought Mama beside me. She grabbed my arm and whispered through clenched teeth, “Mary C., I told you to get off that railing. Go below and stay there until you can do as you’re told!”

I stomped across the deck, pausing once beside the mainmast to scowl over my shoulder. It was all so unfair. I hadn’t asked to be dragged along on this blasted trip. I wanted Bess. I wanted to go home, no matter how damaged it was, no matter who ran the stupid government. I wanted to be anywhere but here. But Mama turned away from me. She wasn’t even going to watch to see that I did what she said. Her indifference was like a slap in the face.
As I jumped through the open hatch leading below deck, the pungent odor of pine tar mixed with burning kerosene assailed my senses. I hated the smell. Besides making me slightly queasy, it reminded me of how final my losses were. Nothing at home smelled like the interior of that old tub. I hit the steps at a near run with plans to fling myself into my hammock and stay there forever. It would serve them right if I just upped and died. I bowled along toward the sleeping area blinded by tears and the sudden gloom of the narrow passageway.

Without warning, I crashed headlong into a pair of wool-encased legs. The trousers’ owner and I struggled momentarily in an awkward dance. With a standoff in the making, he harrumphed once, picked me up by my arms, deposited me on the other side of him, and stepped toward the hatch.

Tears forgotten, I tugged on his retreating coattails, ready to let him see my displeasure. Hooded eyes with ink black irises stared down in return. He didn’t look particularly angry, but authority hung about him like a mantle.
I swallowed, choked back what I intended to say, and instead muttered, “I’m sorry for running into you.”

He gazed at me for a moment and then simply nodded before turning away. The Reverend Jonas Williams might be a man of God, but his unsmiling countenance raised the hair at the nape of my neck as though someone stepped on my grave. Mama often fussed that Bess planted too many of her superstitions in my fertile imagination. I was now old enough to understand that some of what Mama said was true. But the Reverend Brother Williams still affected me like a haint. A slight shudder slithered down my spine, as though my body was trying to rid itself of his effect. I turned and fled down the hallway toward our sleeping quarters. Many months later, I would come to see this encounter as an omen, a foreshadowing of all that came afterward.


I have always found the past fascinating, so naturally I am drawn to historical fiction as a reader and writer. What is it that draws you to historical fiction as a reader, writer, or both?

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About the Author

lpenell headshotI have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother’s porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.

As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, “Let’s pretend.”

I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.

Favorite quote regarding my professional passion: “History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.” Voltaire

You can connect with Linda at: Facebook * ~ * ~ * Website * ~ * ~ * and on Twitter – @LindaPennell