Never Had a Dream Come True by Jennifer Wenn

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Lady Penelope de Vere has been in love with Rake for as long as she can remember, daydreaming over him constantly. But as her debut in the ton comes closer, she decides to finally let go of her silly childhood dream and accept someone else’s wish to court her, someone who appreciates a quiet, book-filled life as she does. She wants marriage and, despite all the hints she throws his way, Rake only wants a mistress…she thinks.

Lord Richard Darling has known Penny since she was a child and not once thought of her as anything but his niece’s best friend and a very convenient scone-fetcher. That is, not until he happens upon her swimming in the lake at Chester Park dressed only in her thin chemise. A most eligible bachelor with a libertine reputation, he suddenly finds the girl he’s always appreciated has turned into a woman he could love forever. So why won’t she accept his proposal?

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

RHR Classifications:
Time and setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Vikki

I have mixed feelings regarding this book. It captured my attention in the first chapter,and I immediately fell in love with Lord Richard Darling. He’s the typical bad-boy-out-to-live-life-to-its-fullest, fun-loving and a great character. I always enjoy stories about seemingly irredeemable rakes. Lady Penelope DeVere on the other hand, is difficult to warm to and has extremely low self-esteem. Perhaps it may have helped me to understand her more if I had read the first book in the series.

Penny has loved Richard her entire life, but now that she is getting ready to have her first Season, she decides that her dream of a ‘Happily Ever After’ with him will never come true. A suitor approaches, asking to court her, and she agrees. Mr. Thomas Bedford is perfect for her. He shares her great love of books and makes her feel content. Of course, everyone around her calls him boring “Saint Thomas”. The Duchess of Berkeley gets Thomas to agree to let Penny experience her first Season before offering marriage, so off to London she goes.

There’s a darker side to this story. Penny’s father treats her badly, and it’s no wonder her self-esteem is so damaged, as he is constantly comparing her to her beautiful sister, Charmaine. When Lord Nester gets in trouble with gambling debts, he gives Penny to Lord Bolton, instead of Charmaine. Penny wakes up in a strange, yet opulent bedchamber and is desperate to escape from the evil Lord. This is a very well-written scene and kept me on the edge of my seat. Fortunately, Penny does escape and runs to the Darling family, since she knows her father would only return her to Lord Bolton.

The story jumps ahead five months with Penny suffering from a bout of deep melancholy, refusing to see Thomas, and living with the Darling family. The duchess discovers some disturbing information involving Richard’s behavior toward Penny, so convinces Penny to see Thomas and move on with her life. At this point, it appears that Penny will never have her dream come true. Will she marry Thomas, or will Richard step in and convince Penny he loves her and meant to marry her all along?

As I mentioned earlier, I never warmed up to Penny. Nevertheless, this book took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. At times, I wanted to throw it against the wall because of Penny’s dim-wittedness when it came to her misunderstanding of Richard’s intentions toward her. She constantly let her low feelings of self-worth interfere, keeping her from opening herself up to him.

As a result, I had a difficult time rating this book, but ultimately, I ended up giving it 3.5 stars, because it did take me on an emotional journey.

SUPER BOOK BLAST: More Than Passion by JoMarie DeGioia

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Geoffrey Kane, Earl of Kanewood refuses to feel anything more than passion. Four years ago, his fiancée betrayed him and he has no desire to experience that again so when he meets the beautiful Rebecca Kingsley, it’s passion at first sight. And only passion.

Rebecca has led a very quiet life working for her father at a small country inn. When she meets Geoffrey she falls in love with him right away. But she’s only the daughter of a baronet and men like Geoffrey never marry country girls like her. Do they?

When Rebecca’s father tries to marry her off to a wealthy old man, Geoffrey intervenes and marries her himself. He wants her very much but he couldn’t possibly love her. Love is for fools. At least that’s what he tells himself. But a sinister enemy soon threatens to destroy all that Geoffrey holds dear, forcing him to face the truth. His marriage depends on it . . . And maybe even Rebecca’s very life.

EXCERPT

After leaving the stables, Geoffrey located the innkeeper in an office off the foyer. Thomas Kingsley was a big man, well-dressed but thick through the middle. Gray hair curled over his wide forehead, nearly obscuring his brown eyes.

He smiled at Geoffrey as he greeted him, motioning him to sit. “Thomas Kingsley, proprietor of the Raven’s Inn.”

“Geoffrey Kane,” Geoffrey returned, omitting his title. He didn’t much feel like a peer at the moment.

“What can I do for you, Kane?”

“Well, sir, I need a room for a few days, and stables for my two horses. I’ve left them with your groom down at the stables. I hope I’m not being presumptuous.”

Thomas shook his head. “Not at all. I trust you found them satisfactory?”

“Yes, quite. As fine as any stables I’ve seen.”

Thomas’s chest swelled at the praise. “I hope you won’t find me immodest, but my two-legged patrons are treated to at least the same quality of lodgings.”

Geoffrey nodded. “I’ll take a room then, and my driver should have accomodations, as well.”

When that business was concluded, Geoffrey took his satchel up the narrow staircase and located his room. Cover_More Than PassionThe upstairs hallway was narrow, with rooms located on either side. At the top of the stairs, Geoffrey turned left and strode down the hall. He found his room elegantly furnished, with a large bed taking up one side. The other was fashioned into a sitting area of sorts, with a plumply upholstered armchair and padded footrest. A mirrored washstand stood across from the bed and a privacy screen stood folded nearby. A small wardrobe completed the furnishings, standing open to receive his clothes.

He hung up his few jackets and shirts, and placed his spare boots on the bottom. “Meager wardrobe, Kane. Good thing your valet is at Kanewood.”

His stomach growled, reminding him he’d missed the nooning meal. He glanced at the clock on the bedstand, surprised to see it was nearly six o’clock. Thomas had told him that dinner service began at six, so he washed his face and carelessly ran a comb through his hair. He glanced in the mirror and saw that a light stubble darkened his cheeks and his blue eyes looked tired. “You just shaved this morning, fop,” he told his reflection. “I’m hungry.”

He changed his shirt for a clean one and shrugged back into his jacket. It was still a bit crumpled but would have to suffice. Who knew how long he’d be stranded here? Somewhat satisfied with his appearance, he took himself downstairs to the dining room.

Geoffrey entered, finding it furnished in the same simple elegance as was his room. The polished floor shone. The round tables were covered with fine white cloth. The place was nearly filled and two or three patrons sat at each occupied table. According to Thomas Kingsley, only half of the diners would be staying in the rooms abovestairs. It seemed the cook was famous in the nearby town and many an unattached man took his evening meal at the inn. Geoffrey located an empty table and sat.

The meal was simple, but it smelled glorious. Apparently, tonight he could look forward to a hearty meal of roast beef with potatoes. He could almost taste the thick gravy covering each helping.

A buxom serving girl bearing a loaded platter sashayed over to his table, her red ringlets bouncing with each step. She stopped in front of him, favoring him with a smile that showed a dimple in her cheek. “I’m Emmy.”

Geoffrey let his gaze fall to her bosom, which was very nearly in his face. “Emmy.”

She set the platter down and placed a hand on her hip, regarding him closely. “Will ya be wantin’ anythin’ else?”

SBB_MoreThanPassion_CoverBannerHe brought his gaze back up to her face, blinking at the invitation in her brown eyes. He smiled at her and shook his head. She turned away and he watched her bottom as she bent over a nearby table. Perhaps he’d try out the fine bed upstairs with the wench. He soon saw that she favored all of the male customers with the same familiarity. Laughing to himself, he picked up his fork to start on the appetizing meal before him. He nearly dropped it when he spotted the dark-haired girl coming from the kitchen.

She moved with an easy grace through the dining room, her glossy black hair catching the light given off by the candles. Curls framed the perfect oval of her face and teased the back of her neck. Her simple gown hugged her lush figure, the skirt swaying over her hips as she walked. She carried a pitcher of ale, and Geoffrey couldn’t take his eyes off her as she moved from table to table.

A man’s voice broke through his reverie. “Fetchin’, ain’t she?”

“What …?” He hadn’t even noticed the gray-haired man who joined him at his table. “Yes.”

“Peter Jenkins is the name,” the slight man offered. “How do you do?”

Geoffrey shook the man’s hand. “Kane. Geoffrey Kane,” he answered. “Very well, thank you.”

The older man gave a flick of his head in the girl’s direction. “She’s Kingsley’s daughter.”

Geoffrey raised an eyebrow at that. This beautiful creature was related to the florid-faced innkeeper? Impossible.

Just then, the girl approached the two men. Her mouth curved into a smile for the older man before she turned her attention to Geoffrey. Her rose-colored lips parted as she stared into his eyes for a long moment. “Blue.”

Geoffrey blinked. “What?”

She shook her head. “N-nothing.”

Geoffrey could only stare at the girl, dumbstruck. Her eyes were the color of emeralds, and sparkled as prettily. His gaze fell on her lips as she flicked her tongue over them. Desire shot through him, want like he’d never felt before. Once again, Peter’s voice broke in.

“Rebecca, this is Geoffrey Kane. Kane, meet Rebecca Kingsley.”

The girl, Rebecca, curtsied in greeting after a brief hesitation. She seemed as off-kilter as he felt, to his amazement. After a moment, Geoffrey stood and bowed slightly. “Miss Kingsley.”

“I’m pleased to meet you,” Rebecca said.

Her voice suited her. It was soft and a bit husky. And damn sensual.

“Likewise.”

“Will you be staying with us long?”

If I can help it. “A few days, actually,” he said, smiling.

She gasped softly, the sound no more than a whisper. “Well, do enjoy your stay,” she said, shyly returning his smile.

She stared up at him for a moment longer. Finally, she filled his tankard. With a nod of her dark head, she continued on through the dining room. Geoffrey sank back down into his seat, his gaze glued to her form.

“Rebecca,” he breathed. “Becca.”

Peter chuckled at Geoffrey’s obvious befuddlement. Geoffrey ignored him and turned his attention back to his meal. But because he stopped every so often to stare after the enchanting girl, Becca, his meal was cold by the time he finished.

JoMarie will be awarding winner’s choice of an eBook from Lachesis Publishing to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. ENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER.

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About the Author

JoMarie DeGioiaI write Historical Romances with a touch of mystery and Contemporary Romances with a touch of home. I’m also working on a Young Adult Dystopian Fantasy/Adventure series and a hot Contemporary New Adult Romance.

I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, Space Coast Authors of Romance and From the Heart Romance Writers.

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Riveting his Attention (novella) by May Williams

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Jim Ferguson hides from his past and focuses on his future until Lady Ella Harwich rivets his attention.

Lady Ella Harwich is capricious. At least that’s what her older brother thinks. However, when it comes to Jim Ferguson, Lady Ella is quite serious. One long, lingering kiss put Jim at the center of her romantic desires and at the top of her list of suitors. And she plans to keep him there. Unfortunately, Jim wants off her list because of a secret past, a career as a shipbuilder instead of a gentleman, and his own inability to resist her. Proving her love—and his worthiness for her love—is Ella’s only way to rivet his attention.

Publisher and Release Date: Turquoise Morning Press: Vintage Category Romance, March 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1858, Victorian England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

The first heroine to surprise and charm me with her extremely determined pursuit of the gentleman of her dreams (and, thus, her own fate and happiness) was Teresa Finch Freeworth in Katharine Ashe’s novella, How to Marry a Highlander. Initially, the heroine’s brazen forthrightness made me cringe, but her innocence and guileless confidence that the hero was the only man for her had me cheering long and loud for her by the end of the story. May Williams has created another confident and headstrong heroine in Lady Ella Harwich in Riveting His Attention, the second book in her Impressions series.

A charming and quirky little romance, this story features an heiress’ pursuit and courtship of an ordinary working class man in the Victorian era. Though the second book in a series (the first book features Ella’s sister, Annabelle and her husband, Edmund, who are prominent secondary characters here) it can be read on its own. Lady Ella is only nineteen but knows exactly who she wants for her future husband: Jim Ferguson, Edmund’s brilliant and up-and-coming designer in his shipbuilding firm. Ella has absolutely no interest in other men (well, except to help make Jim jealous) and she walks a fine line between propriety as demanded by her station and her unabashed quest for Jim.

Ella doesn’t care in the least that she and Jim are from different classes or that Polite Society will not approve a match between them. Or that he is ten years her senior. She boldly plans situations to get Jim alone and declares her love for him and she writes him letters, too. At first, this sounds almost like stalking behavior, but the humorous situations and the charming writing make it often adorable and hilarious. For his part, Jim is very attracted to Ella but feels she is too far above him socially. He also holds a painful secret that he feels makes him unworthy of her love.

But it is a new era in England, when working for a living still holds the stigma of trade and the upper classes did not mingle with merchants. But Edmund, Ella’s progressive brotherinlaw, is a peer who also owns a shipbuilding company. Edmund enjoys the work and isn’t afraid to “dirty his hands” making a living. Ella is a peer’s daughter and used to the finer things in life but she wants to be happy in her marriage above all else.

Edmund and Annabelle approve Ella’s choice but Jim, a self-made man with a mysterious past, isn’t so sure. At times, his reluctance is vexing to read in my free-spirited, twenty-first century context, but he possesses great strength of character that is honorable in relation to its time period. In these delightful moments of the story, when Jim shows Ella the strong and brave man he is by capturing her in his arms for a passionate kiss or defending her against danger, for example, his charisma and appeal shine through and take Ella (and the reader) by surprise.
When a series of dangerous incidents threatens to sabotage the shipbuilding enterprise’s newest and revolutionary venture, and Jim’s unknown past becomes linked to it, Ella assuredly plunges ahead. She fearlessly and, perhaps, carelessly, pursues the mystery and figures it out, along with Jim’s past, adding some nice tension and drama to the romance.

There are some hilarious diary entries written in the first person by Ella sprinkled throughout the story that made me laugh out loud and I had to admire her singleminded and often outrageous determination.

If you love an unconventional heroine who takes her destiny into her own hands, you will enjoy this light and breezy romance.

In for a Penny by Rose Lerner

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“Grand Passion or epic disaster?”

Lord Nevinstoke revels in acting the young wastrel, until his father is killed in a drunken duel. Never one to do anything halfway, Nev throws off his wild ways to shoulder a mountain of responsibility and debt vowing to marry a rich girl and act the respectable lord of the manor.

Manufacturing heiress Penelope Brown seems the perfect choice for a wife. She’s pretty, proper, and looking for a husband.

Determined to rise above her common birth, Penelope prides herself on her impeccable behavior and good sense. Grand Passion? Vulgar and melodramatic. Yes, agreeing to marry Nev was a rare moment of impulse, yet she’s sure they can build a good marriage based on companionship and mutual esteem.

But when they arrive at the manor, they re overwhelmed with half-starved tenants, a menacing neighbor, and the family propensity for scandal. As the situation deteriorates, the newlyweds have nowhere to turn but to each other. To Penelope s surprise, she begins to fervently hope that her first taste of Grand Passion in her husband’s arms won’t be her last.

Publisher and Release Date: Samhain, June 2014 (originally published 2010)

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Rating: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Caz

Rose Lerner’s début novel In for a Penny was originally published in 2011, but has been out of print for a while due to the demise of Dorchester Publishing. The author’s most recent book, Sweet Disorder (to which I gave a five star review) was recently published by Samhain, who has now reissued Ms Lerner’s earlier novels, In for a Penny and A Lily Among Thorns. Ms Lerner is a very talented writer who, while setting her stories in the Regency period, has managed, in each of her books so far, to give readers a view of something other than the glittering ballrooms of the ton, combining an eye for historical detail and social observation with a well-developed romance.

Lord Nevinstoke – Nev to his friends – is a character rather in the mould of one of Georgette Heyer’s “wastrel” heroes like Sherry in Friday’s Child; he’s not really a rake, just a young man enjoying all the pleasures of a life “on the town”. Nev’s bachelor existence comes to an abrupt end when his father is killed and is discovered to have left a mountain of debts, leaving Nev in desperate need of funds. So he does what any young nobleman in a similar situation would do, and finds himself an heiress to marry.

Penelope Brown is the daughter of an extremely rich brewer, and although she and Nev have spent only a few minutes in each other’s company, she can’t help being a little bit smitten by such a charming young man. Nev is completely honest about the reasons for his sudden proposal, and Penelope appreciates his honesty, thinking that perhaps she can help him (she has a head for finance and he doesn’t) – so she accepts and they are married without delay. Immediately, I liked both characters for the way they entered into the marriage with their eyes open and the feeling that while they weren’t madly in love, they liked each other and could probably make a go of it.

The newly-weds travel to Nev’s estates, and set about trying to put things to rights. But all is not well, and they encounter distrust and animosity at almost every turn. Ms Lerner turns the focus of her story away from the whirl of the social season, and sets it in a less-than-idyllic countryside in which the farmers and tenants are finding it hard to make ends meet and have suffered years of neglect by the landowner – Nev’s father – who was supposed to be responsible for their welfare.

At the same time as he is learning to run the estate, Nev and Penelope are navigating their way through their new relationship, and finding that’s not all plain sailing either. The couple gets along very well, although Pen’s business acumen sometimes makes Nev feel inadequate, and Pen’s lowly background makes her feel as though she’s not good enough for him. But those sorts of class distinctions don’t matter to Nev. He may be Penelope’s social superior, but he never treats her as anything less than an equal.

But with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity lurking beneath the surface, there is scope for misunderstanding and miscommunication, which stems from both characters’ reluctance to open themselves up to the possibility of their love being one-sided.

While In for a Penny is a superb book, the second half of it becomes a little over-populated with plot-points. We already have a fledgling marriage navigating its way through rocky patches and the unrest bubbling along through the yeomanry who are feeling the pinch because of mechanisation and enclosure. To this are added the oily local magistrate who has his lecherous eyes on Nev’s sister and the even oilier vicar who is taking back-handers, a poaching gang, and, on top of it all, a subplot involving Nev’s ex- mistress, which, personally, I could have happily have dispensed with. Nev and Penny had enough to contend with without all those extraneous issues.

Still, the writing and the characterisation are both excellent, with Nev being the real stand-out character. He is only twenty-three, and at the beginning, is living the high life with nobody to worry about other than himself. His father’s unexpected death hits him hard, but there is never any question in his mind that he must do his duty and take his responsibilities very seriously. There’s a nice sub-plot concerning Nev and his two bosom buddies, and how he comes to see that he’s outgrown them. He’s a terrific hero – honest and hard-working – and his treatment of Penny is simply wonderful, time and again showing how much he cares through small gestures and consideration.

Penny is Nev’s opposite. She’s a commoner and her family has made its money in trade; she has been well educated and brought up as a lady, but there’s no escaping the fact that society looks down on her because of her origins. She’s intelligent, practical and has a sound business mind that is the perfect complement to Nev’s “people skills”.

In for a Penny is a terrific portrait of a marriage of convenience turning slowly into love amid real-life problems like being short of money and having to cope with new and difficult situations. The romance is beautifully developed and has real depth to it, and Ms Lerner’s grasp of the history of the period is sound and used to very good effect. In spite of my comments about the density of the plot in the latter part of the story, I’m nonetheless recommending this delightful book very highly indeed.

At time of publication, this title is available for $4.24 from Amazon

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Maid of Milan by Beverley Eikli

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After three years of marriage, Adelaide has fallen in love with the handsome, honourable husband who nurtured her through her darkest hours. Now Adelaide’s former lover, the passionate poet from whose arms she was torn by her family during their illicit liaison in Milan four years previously has returned, a celebrity due to the success of his book The Maid of Milan. High society is as desperate to discover the identity of his ‘muse’ as Adelaide is to protect her newfound love and her husband’s political career.

Author Beverley Eikli talks a little about her inspiration and the concept behind Maid of Milan

Thank you so much for letting me talk a little about my book, The Maid of Milan. I was very interested in exploring the concept of forgiveness. My heroine was once the archetypal ‘Regency party-girl’ but after making a terrible error of judgement she’s a very different person when she’s pressured by her mother into a respectable marriage. The decent, honourable man who marries her has no idea of the secret his young wife has been forced to keep; he’d no doubt have forgiven her if she’d been allowed to confess, as she’d wished, but the intense manipulation she endures means she compounds her first lie with even more lies.

And so begins a web of deceit with very unexpected consequences. In terms of striving for an atmosphere of distrust and subtle manipulation I was influenced by the 1950′s black and white movie, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman, as well as personal experience. But at the heart of this book is the question: ‘How far does forgiveness stretch? And do we have different cut-off points?’

You can read our review HERE

EXCERPT

It was not the name by which she knew him. Since inheriting the title, he’d won celebrity as a poet and become the darling of the gossip columnists. Adelaide’s mother couldn’t keep those snippets of the real world from her, though she tried.

James. Fifth Viscount Dewhurst. Adelaide closed her eyes against the afternoon sun and tried to block her last memory of him: desperate, pleading. Not the James she knew – the irrepressible charmer who knew no woman could resist him, least of all Adelaide.

Tristan must have misinterpreted her shocked silence for memory failure, for he squeezed her hand and repeated, ‘Lord Dewhurst. I’m talking about my old friend, James.’ Very gently he added, ‘He and his wife were very good to you, if you remember.’

If you remember… Her husband’s reference to her previous life was almost more painful than the reference to James, though panic quickly succeeded shock at his next remark. ‘James is coming to visit us? Here?’ She gripped Tristan’s arm tighter and concentrated on the path. One foot in front
of the other, head down so she didn’t stumble on the stones that bordered the hydrangeas from the neat gravel walkway.

Tristan continued to talk in the measured, comforting tone he used when her equilibrium was unsettled. In the past he’d sought her reassurances that she was comfortable with his plans; that there was nothing he’d neglected to facilitate her comfort. Always Tristan put Adelaide’s feelings first. Not today. Tristan was too excited at the prospect of seeing his boyhood friend to recognise her horror, assuming Adelaide would be delighted to play hostess since she’d foolishly voiced the desire just last week to entertain more often.

She remained silent as she walked at his side, contemplating her own strategy if this visit was a fait accompli. She just needed to know when, so she could prepare.

‘At the end of the week!’ She repeated Tristan’s calmly delivered answer to her question in the tone Black Jack, the South American parrot she’d owned in Vienna, used to mimic the death throes of a man at the end of the gallows.

A good thing her husband considered Adelaide an invalid, that he’d misconstrue the flare in her eyes, the gasp as she pressed against the pain in her side – her heart?

‘Adelaide, you are discomposed. Perhaps I should not have invited James without consulting you, but I thought since…’ Concern clouded his kind blue eyes as he trailed off.

‘He was very good to me.’ She whispered the old litany. It’s what Tristan liked to believe.

‘He was. Shall we go back to the house?’ He stooped to cup her face in his hands, as tender with her as if she were another of his rare hothouse blooms. As if she might wilt at the suggestion of anything beyond the ordinary, the mindnumbingly mundane.

And yet today she more than wilted as she stumbled on the smooth, carefully raked gravel path. Her heart was in danger of tearing in half. James. Here, at Deer Park …?

She pushed away the fear, straightening of her own accord. Adelaide could be a good deal stronger than Tristan believed her. Than her mother painted her.

‘So silly of me,’ she murmured, smiling as she tucked her hand once more into the crook of her husband’s arm, firming her step, indicating with a nod that they continue their usual morning walk. Minutely managed and predictable. Around the path that bordered the maze, over the little bridge and across the lawn, skirting the deer park beyond the iron gated border to the dower house where her mother would be waiting. Keeping up the pretence of recovery in response to his troubled gaze, she added, ‘Really, I’m perfectly fine.’
How many times had she made similar reassurances? Of course, she hadn’t been fine when Tristan had made her mistress of Deer Park three years before; a marriage offer she’d only accepted because she believed she’d be dead of grief within the twelvemonth. And if not dead, then at least free of her mother. Neither had happened.

‘So James has left Milan.’ She forced herself to say his name. It came out as a faint thread of sound.

James. He needed to stay far across sea and land if she were to have any peace in this life.

‘James’s father died three months ago so of course he must return from the Continent and take up his responsibilities at Dingley Hall.’ Tristan stopped and put his hands on her shoulders to study her more closely. ‘Darling, you’re very pale. Perhaps we should call Dr Stanhope—’

‘No!’ She truncated the hysteria in her response, adding with commendable calm, ‘Please, let us carry on.’

Tristan was clearly not convinced by her assurances, but he returned to his commentary as they walked sedately through Deer Park’s beautiful gardens. ‘James’s standing has changed with his father’s death, and now that his book has become a sensation so have his fortunes. He’ll be able to put to rights all that his father almost destroyed through his love of gaming.’ He gave a half laugh. ‘I’m told my old friend is nearly as famous as those fellows up in the Lakes. I daresay I should read The Maid of Milan before he arrives. Perhaps you’d enjoy it, Addy.’

The Maid of Milan. Dear God! An image of herself and James, naked limbs entwined upon a vast expanse of white linen tablecloth in the Villa Cosi after the guests had gone, seared her brain.

No, she was getting beyond herself. James had continued living in Milan with Hortense, the wife he despised. Of course there’d have been other women after Adelaide had been dragged, screaming, from James’s arms. Adelaide could not be James’s Maid of Milan. Not after the terrible finale to their affair. In three years Adelaide had heard nothing from him. Nothing, except that one terrible, terrible letter …

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In the book, what is the first name of the Poet who wrote ‘The Maid of Milan’?

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About the Author

beverly eikliBeverley Eikli is the award-winning author of eight historical romances, laced with mystery and intrigue. She has worked as a journalist, magazine editor, a safari lodge manager in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and an airborne geophysical survey operator on contracts around the world. Beverley loves exploring complex issues such as the consequences faced by characters who make errors of judgement in a punitive society. Her own experiences have provided rich fodder for her books, the highlight of her tumultuous past being the handsome Norwegian bush pilot she met around a camp fire in Botswana and married after a whirlwind romance, twenty years ago. Beverley teaches in the Department of Professional Writing & Editing at Victoria University. She lives with her husband, two daughters and their Rhodesian Ridgeback, in a pretty country town near Melbourne, Australia.

You can visit her website at: www.beverleyeikli.com and her blog at: http//:www.beverleyeikli.blogspot.com.au or follow her on Twitter: @BeverleyOakley

Scandalous Summer Nights – a novella collection

summer nights

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Publisher and Release Date: Jennifer Haymore, June 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 3
Reviewer rating: 5 Stars

Reviewed by Vikki

Seven sexy series-opening novellas from seven bestselling historical romance authors Grace Callaway, Sabrina Darby, Jennifer Haymore, Sue London, Kate McKinley, Sandy Raven and Vivienne Westlake.

The Widow Vanishes by Grace Callaway

Annabel Foster is forced to honor her late husband’s debts by either giving up her life or losing her virtue. On her first night in the brothel, she is fortunate to have William McLeod as her first patron. The last thing she expects is the fiery passion that ignites between them. Can this night of startling passion lead to a forever kind of love?

What a great story and so well-written. For a short novella, there is excellent character development and an intriguing plot. This is another great offering from Grace Callaway and it will not be the last of her books that I’ll read. I can’t wait to read the Heart of Enquiry series!

Scandal Before Sunrise by Sabrina Darby

Abby returns to London for the season after being away for three years, determined to secure a husband before the ton finds out about her parents’ scandalous behavior. While she gains the attention of an honorable man, she is drawn to Elliot Jones, a rake and a gossip. Should she choose her steady admirer, or give in to her desires and choose passion over sensibility?

This book showcases friendship between a group of young people bent on living life to its fullest, but at a cost. I had sympathy for Abby’s frenzied need to find a husband before all was revealed, especially when some of her poor choices from three years previously come back to haunt her. After all, she lives in a time where marriage is the done thing. However, I did not care for Elliot as much. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading the story and will look forward to reading more from this author.

A Highlander’s Heartby Jennifer Haymore

Lady Claire races to Belgium so she can tell her husband she is sorry for her hateful words ten months ago when he left her side at the worst moment of her life. She arrives too late and searches the battlefield for her estranged husband the day after Waterloo. When she finds him, all she wants to do is rush into his arms, but is she too late? Can they mend their broken marriage, or are they destined to repeat the past heartache?

What a great start to what I anticipate will be another incredible series by Ms. Haymore. She masterfully introduces the men of the Highland Knights as she weaves a poignant story of loss and love for a couple trying to find their way back to each other. When I found out what happens, my heart ached for their terrible loss. I couldn’t stop reading this riveting story, which captured me and held me in its thrall to the very end while the tension built on each page. I look forward to this new series with great anticipation.

Lord Lucifer’s Disciple by Sue London

Elisa Jarvis meets a mysterious and intriguing stranger at a masked ball. As an heiress, she is constantly plagued by dozens of men who are only interested in her massive dowry. This interesting masked man doesn’t know who she is and can’t be interested in her money. Swept up in the moment, she allows him to kiss her and agrees to meet him the following night. Little does she know, but the strange is none other than the quiet, reserved John Howards, her best friend’s cousin. Will this couple live up to each other’s expectations?

What a delightful read! Ms. London has written a sparkling, funny, yet sweetly innocent love story. When I say sweet, I don’t mean it’s not sensual because the sexual tension is so strong it leaves the reader breathless with its intensity. John Howards is one of the strongest beta heroes I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting (in a book). This witty love story enchanted me, and I look forward to reading more of the Haberdashers series.

How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Kate McKinley

Lucas Alexander, the Duke of Arlington is on a mission. After meeting Pippa Welby at the Tizdale ball, he vows to make her his own. When the duke shows up with an invitation to her engagement ball—to him—Pippa, the daughter of a wealthy tradesman, is determined to never marry a member of the ton. Who will win this tug of war? Can Pippa lose the duke in ten days, or will he manage to win her heart?

This is another great story filled with passion and desire with a well-thought out and unique plot. I look forward to reading more by this talented author.

Miss Amelia Lands a Duke by Sandy Raven

Amelia Manners-Sutton, a spinster who accepts a position as companion to her aunt, is appalled when they show up at a house party without an invitation. As she wanders through the garden, she meets a distinguished gentleman and is immediately attracted to him. After a brief interlude in the library, she finds out the gentleman is none other than the Duke of Caversham, the man her aunt plans to seduce into marriage. When the duke finds out who her family is, he demands that she marry him in a month. Will Amelia take a chance on love with an older man?

This is such a well-written story with deep emotion and passion galore. When I saw this story by Sandy Raven, I couldn’t wait to get to it, since I’ve already read The Caversham Chronicles and loved them. I loved this amazing prequel and now I need to re-read her series again!

Lady Northam’s Wicked Surrender by Vivienne Westlake

Rowena, the Countess of Northam finds out her former suitor has returned from India. When dreams of Simon seem too real, she discovers they are very real indeed. He seems bent on seduction. Now a lonely widow, Rowena wonders if it’s too late for a second chance at true love. Dare she open her heart to Simon again after his past abandonment?

This is another great story with sizzling passion and intense desire. Ms. Westlake writes of love lost, yet not forgotten in a way that warms the heart and touches the soul. I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful love story and look forward to reading more of her Wicked Liaisons series.

Scandalous Summer Nights may very well be the best Regency Anthology I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. It’s quite unusual to find seven stories that capture the mind and titillate the senses. I’m so pleased I had the opportunity to read this excellent book.

BOOK BLAST: The Lost Love of a Soldier by Jane Lark

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Young, naïve and innocent, Lady Ellen Pembroke falls for a young army officer. Paul has such an easy enchanting smile and his blue eyes glow, vibrancy and warmth emanating from him. She is in love. Captain Paul Harding, finds his attention captured by the beautiful young daughter of the Duke of Pembroke at a house party in the summer. Finding Ellen is like finding treasure on a battle torn field. His sanity clings to her; something beautiful to remind him that all in the world is not ugly. She’s someone to fight for and someone to survive for when he is called to arms in the battle of Waterloo…

EXCERPT

“Ellen?”

Paul whispered her name into the night as he heard the rustle of frost bound leaves on the ground. His breath rose in a mist into the cold winter air. He was on the Duke of Pembroke’s land. He’d not dared encourage her to take a horse, so he’d come close enough that she might walk from the house and find him.

He waited at the end of an avenue of yews, out of sight of the house, in a place she could easily see him. His horse whickered, sensing something, or someone. “Ellen?” he whispered again.

Still no answer.

He stayed quiet. Listening. Wondering if she’d been caught as she left the house. He hoped not. If she’d been caught her father would give her no freedom. Short of leading a military assault on Pembroke’s home, he would not be able to get her out then.

The horse shook its head, rattling its bit, and snorted steamy breath into the cold air. The chill of the winter night seeped through his clothes. There would be a hard frost. He hoped she’d dressed in something warm.

He’d have to buy more clothes for her before they sailed. She would need garments to keep her warm in the sea breezes she’d face on their journey to America.

There was another sound.

“Ellen?”

“Paul?”

How did this woman manage to make his heart beat so erratically whenever he saw her? He could run into battle and not be so affected.

She looked even more beautiful in the dark. Ethereal.

A band of silver light reached through the scudding clouds and caught her face.

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He let go of the horse’s bridle and instinctively moved forward. He’d never held her. In the summer there had been no moments alone, she’d been strictly chaperoned and even when she’d come to meet him she’d brought the groom and her sister. When they’d met a fortnight ago, she’d still brought a groom. For the first time they were alone. “Ellen.” He stepped forward and embraced her. In answer her arm came about his waist. It was the most precious feeling of his life. He would always remember this day. She was slender and delicate in his arms.

She slipped free, but he caught her nape and pulled her mouth to his, gently pressing his lips against hers. It was her first kiss, he knew; he could tell by the way her body stiffened when he‘d pulled her close. He let her go, a tenderness he’d never known before catching in his chest.

“Come.” He took the leather bag she carried. “Will you ride before me, or would you rather sit behind my saddle and grip my waist?”

“Would it be easier if I ride behind you?” Her voice ran with uncertainty. She was giving up everything to come with him.

“Do what feels comfortable for you, Ellen.”

She nodded, not looking into his eyes. “I would prefer to ride pillion.”

“Then you shall.” He warmed his voice, hoping to ease her discomfort.

Turning to the horse he slipped one foot in the stirrup, then pulled himself up. “Did you have any difficulty leaving the house?”

“No, the servants’ hall was quiet, and the grooms had all retired.”

He rested her bag across his thighs, then held a hand out to her. “Set your foot on mine and take my hand. I’ll pull you up.” He watched her lift the skirt of her dark habit and then the weight of her small foot pressed on his, as her gloved fingers gripped his. She was light, but the grip of her hand and the pressure of her foot made that something clasp tight in his chest, and the emotion stayed clenched as her fingers embraced his waist over his greatcoat.

He shifted in the saddle, his groin tightening too. A few more days. Just days. He had been waiting months. As he turned the horse, Ellen’s cheek pressed against his shoulder.

“Did you tell anyone you were leaving? Your sister? Or your maid?”

“No, I did not want them to have to face Papa knowing the truth. He would be able to see they’d lied, and then who knows what he might do.” Paul urged the mare into a trot as Ellen continued. “He made me spend the day on my knees reading the Commandments because I refused to marry the Duke of Argyle.”

“Today?” He wished to look back at her but he could not.

Her father had been diabolical to Paul, sneering as though he was nothing when he’d done the decent thing and offered for her. He could not imagine the way Pembroke treated the girls.

He had to get Ellen to Gretna before her father caught them, so she never had to come back and face his retribution.

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 photo For13_Jane_Lark_Full_Res_zps518c75cf.jpg Jane is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance, and a Kindle top 25 bestselling author. She began her first historical novel at sixteen, but a life full of adversity derailed her as she lives with the restrictions of Ankylosing Spondylitis. When she finally completed a novel it was because she was determined not to reach forty still saying, I want to write. Now Jane is writing a Regency series and contemporary, new adult, stories and she is thrilled to be giving her characters life in others’ imaginations at last. You might think that Jane was inspired to write by Jane Austen, especially as she lives near Bath in the United Kingdom, but you would be wrong. Jane’s favourite author is Anya Seton, and the book which drew her into the bliss of falling into historical imagination was ‘Katherine’ a story crafted from reality. Jane has drawn on this inspiration to discover other real-life love stories, reading memoirs and letters to capture elements of the past, and she uses them to create more realistic plots. ‘Basically I love history and I am sucker for a love story. I love the feeling of falling in love; it’s wonderful being able to do it time and time again in fiction.’ Jane is also a Chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel and Development in the United Kingdom, and uses this specialist understanding of people to bring her characters to life.

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Giveaway

This giveaway, includes an antique English necklace worth £150, plus signed copies of The Illicit Love of a Courtesan, The Passionate Love of a Rake and The Scandalous Love of a Duke.

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In Want of a Wife by Jo Goodman

inwantwife

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She has nowhere left to turn…

Jane Middlebourne needs a way out. In 1891, life in New York is unforgiving for a young woman with no prospects, especially when her family wants nothing to do with her. So when Jane discovers an ad for a mail-order bride needed in Bitter Springs, Wyoming, she responds with a hopeful heart.

He has everything to lose…

Rancher Morgan Longstreet is in want of a wife who will be his partner at Morning Star, someone who will work beside him and stand by him. His first impression of the fair and fragile Jane is that she is not that woman. But when she sets out to prove him wrong, the secrets he cannot share put into jeopardy every happiness they hope to find…

Publisher and Release Date: Berkley, May 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Wyoming, 1891
Genre: Western/Historical Romance
Heat Rating: 2
Reviewer Rating 4.5 stars

Review by Jill

For fans of historical western romances, or readers who enjoy Ellen O’Connell’s westerns, this book is a treat.

Jane Middlebourne is in need of a new life. Orphaned and brought up with her rich cousins in Manhattan, Jane has never been considered as part of their family. With better prospects elsewhere, she answers an advertisement for a mail-order bride.

Morgan Longstreet is in want of a wife. After corresponding with Jane, he sends her money for the train trip to Wyoming. Unfortunately, when Morgan lays eyes on the refined and delicately-built Jane, his plans for marriage take a dive. She’s not the sturdy woman he was led to believe she was, one who would be suitable for the harsh life of a rancher’s wife.

This is the third novel set in Bitter Springs, but can be read as a standalone. I know a number of readers were disappointed in the previous novel, True to the Law but In Want of a Wife returns to the high standards and great story-telling of the first book in the series, The Last Renegade.

Like most of Ms Goodman’s novels, this is a very character-driven romance. The first half is almost entirely focused on the characters and the budding romance between Morgan and Jane. The second half – while building on the romance and relationship – delivers some great action, and focuses on the unveiling of Morgan’s past, with that past now catching up with him.

Some previous characters make appearances, particularly the sheriff, Cobb Bridger and those two adorably annoying young boys, Finn and Rabbit, who have some great lines and scenes.

There are two relatively small problems, that didn’t really detract from the story, but think are still worth mentioning. Contractions. Or lack of them, in both the narrative and dialogue, give a sometimes stilted flow to both story and speech. This is more an editing issue that should have been picked up. The second issue is with some details of Morgan’s past with his stepmother (you’ll know when you read it) and I’m not sure why it was necessary or what it actually added to the story. It was certainly interesting and added dimension to his character, but not sure it really impacted his present life, or the plot.

But these minor issues aside, In Want of a Wife is an excellent western romance, and is highly recommended.

The Seduction of Sarah Marks by Kathleen Bittner Roth

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England 1857

After a blow to her head, Sarah Marks awakens in a strange bed with a strange man and no memory of how she got there. Her handsome bedmate, Lord Eastleigh, tells her she’s suffering from amnesia and the best course of action is to travel home with him until she recovers her memory.

Lord Eastleigh has his own reasons for helping Sarah and keeping her close. Reasons he cannot tell her. As they struggle to restore her memory, their undeniable, inadvisable attraction grows – until Sarah finally remembers the one thing that could keep them apart forever.

Publisher and Release Date: Entangled: Scandalous, June 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1857
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Amnesia is a tricky device in fiction. At its best, it’s a clever way for a character to learn about herself and her life as the reader does. At its worst, it’s completely unbelievable and unrealistic. I was doubtful about it at first when I read Sherry Thomas’ wonderful Tempting the Bride a few years ago (which uses this trope) but, in a good writer’s hands, it can be done well. And Kathleen Bittner Roth does it well, too.

Sarah Marks – not her real name – wakes up at an inn, in bed with a handsome stranger and has no recollection whatsoever of how she got there. This auspicious opening reminded me of Jennifer McQuiston’s What Happens in Scotland but in that book, alcohol was the cause. In this novel, Sarah has been hit on the head and, when she comes to, the stranger introduces himself as Lord Eastleigh, a fellow traveller in the carriage they shared when they were set upon by thieves. Or so he claims.

Of course, she’s afraid, disoriented, and very wary of him, but she reluctantly agrees to his plan of accompanying him to his family’s country estate where she can rest and recuperate while they try to learn more about her origins. As their journey progresses, they discover a mutual attraction as Sarah’s memory slowly resurfaces in bits and pieces.

I found Eastleigh a little difficult to get to know, though the story is told from both protagonists’ points of view. The author does a very good job of witholding information in Eastleigh’s point of view by being vague but I have to say I was a little confused at the beginning. At times, I think I felt almost as disoriented as Sarah! Needless to say, his motives are as murky as Sarah’s sketchy memory, but he is likeable in his infinite patience and kindness; to me, this is the best kind of hero. He is a former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, with excruciating megrims (headaches) that debilitate him for days and even cause him to doubt what is important in his life.

Sarah is a victim. As it is with most women in history, they are legally bound to men in some way or another. As she regains her memory, her life is revealed as one of manipulation. I cannot disclose more without giving too much of the plot away. When she learns the ultimate and shocking truth, she takes her destiny into her own hands. I like her and find her to be a strong and admirable heroine.

There are lots of humorous moments in this story, most of them provided by Eastleigh’s unorthodox and quirky family. Mum, his beloved grandmother, is a forward thinking woman, many years ahead of her time in terms of love and sexuality, and she happily imparts her experiences to a novice Sarah. In fact, the author based her character on Lady Hester Stanhope, an educated and adventurous British socialite. And Eastleigh’s colorful group of siblings are a fun and loving bunch, with the exception of the suspicious and vindictive Will, Eastleigh’s tomboyish sister. There is also the good Mr. Hemphill, the unconventional doctor overseeing both Eastleigh and Sarah’s care.

The romance between Sarah and Eastleigh is sweet and passionate. As they get to know each other, he falls in love with her kindness and beauty and she must learn to trust that it is possible that a man can be caring and protective. However, somehow, to me, he seems a lot older than Sarah. But then again, given her amnesiac condition, she is almost child-like in her lack of memory and innocence.

Overall, however, the story flows well at a nice pace, from their travel adventures to the loving family life that awaits them at Eastleigh’s home and that Sarah comes to love. There is also a hint of another story to come, with Eastleigh’s cousin, Rob, a rather complex but magnetic character whose shady past has cast a pall over his friendship with Eastleigh.

Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt by Stephanie Thornton

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Egypt, 1400s BC. The pharaoh’s pampered second daughter, lively, intelligent Hatshepsut, delights in racing her chariot through the marketplace and testing her archery skills in the Nile’s marshlands. But the death of her elder sister, Neferubity, in a gruesome accident arising from Hatshepsut’s games forces her to confront her guilt…and sets her on a profoundly changed course.

Hatshepsut enters a loveless marriage with her half brother, Thut, to secure his claim to the Isis Throne and produce a male heir. But it is another of Thut’s wives, the commoner Aset, who bears him a son, while Hatshepsut develops a searing attraction for his brilliant adviser Senenmut. And when Thut suddenly dies, Hatshepsut becomes de facto ruler, as regent to her two-year-old nephew.

Once, Hatshepsut anticipated being free to live and love as she chose. Now she must put Egypt first. Ever daring, she will lead a vast army and build great temples, but always she will be torn between the demands of leadership and the desires of her heart. And even as she makes her boldest move of all, her enemies will plot her downfall…

Publisher and Release Date: NAL, May 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Ancient Egypt
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Jenny Q

Last year I read and loved Stephanie Thornton’s début novel, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her second novel, Daughter of the Gods, a novel about Egypt’s first female pharaoh, Hatshepsut. One of only three surviving legitimate children of Pharaoh Tutmose, Hatshepsut is raised in a world of privilege and luxury, but it is also a dangerous world, where the whims of the capricious Egyptian gods decide the fate of the people and the success or failure of their rulers. After the tragic death of her beloved older sister, Hatshepsut is thrust into a role she never expected, that of the Great Royal Wife of the next pharaoh, her brother, Thutmosis. With their father on his deathbed, the marriage must take place immediately to stave off any unrest or attempts at undermining the royal family’s claim to the throne. Forced to give up her wild ways, her hunting expeditions, her chariot races, and her handsome young lover, Hatshepsut accepts the mantle of responsibility the gods have handed her and attempts to transform herself into the perfect wife and matriarch of the Egyptian dynasty.

But much as she loves her brother, being married to him is more difficult than she’d hoped. Thut is an ineffectual ruler, and Hatshepsut longs to wield the power of which her brother is so careless. With subtle manipulation, and the help of Thut’s most trusted adviser, the handsome commoner Senenmut, Hatshepsut slowly takes command over many of her husband’s responsibilities, taking control of her own life and the future she hopes to have. But the arrival of a rival for her brother’s affections and the threat she brings to the royal succession begin to unravel Hatshepsut’s carefully laid plans. Frustrated and lonely, she seeks out a moment of comfort and affection with Senenmut, but that one moment of self-indulgence will cost her everything she holds dear, harden her heart, and set her on a path of determination to seize the throne of Egypt for herself.

And that’s all I’m telling you! Hatshepsut’s life is full of drama, twists and turns, triumphs and betrayals, and heartbreaking tragedies, and I’ll not spoil any of it! Since following generations sought to remove evidence of a female on the throne of Egypt, presumably to prevent it from happening again, much of Hatshepsut’s life story is lost. While not much is known about her personal life, most historians agree that she presided over a long period of peace, wealth, and prosperity in Egypt, successfully keeping rebellious kingdoms in check and taking Egypt’s monumental architecture to new heights. I think Ms. Thornton has done a great job of piecing together known facts with plausible fictional scenarios to paint a portrait of what a young Hatshepsut might have been like. It was very easy to care about Hatshepsut and root for her dreams to come true as a younger woman, but as she aged and took over the reins of Egypt, I found her a little harder to relate t0 – or at least I had a harder time agreeing with some of the decisions she made. But I certainly respected her utmost devotion to Egypt, often at the expense of her own happiness. And I was a little disappointed at the abruptness of Hatshepsut’s exit from the story since she still had at least a dozen more years left in her reign, but I did really like the poignant final scene, and I thought it a fitting ending to this pioneering woman’s moment in time.

As she did with Ancient Rome in The Secret History, Ms. Thornton has once again brought a long-lost world to life and created a treat for the senses! In Daughter of the Gods, Ancient Egypt comes to life in all its hot, dusty, vibrantly-colored glory. The depictions of royal and everyday life, the palaces, temples, and monuments, the wildlife, the mighty Nile, the barges, the chariots, the war campaigns, the celebratory feasts, and even the quieter moments of reflection in exotic gardens – it all serves as a lush and inviting setting for a story of a powerful woman, beckoning the reader to get lost in its depths. Yet there is a warning for those who revel in it that a current of danger is ever present, nothing is guaranteed, everything exists at the pleasure – or displeasure – of the gods, and all can be lost in the blink of an eye. Stephanie Thornton’s novels are perfect for fans of authors like Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray, and Michelle Moran, and this fan can’t wait for her third novel to be released this fall, The Tiger Queens: A Novel of Genghis Khan’s Women.