VIRTUAL TOUR: Baron (Knickerbocker Club #2) by Joanna Shupe


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Born into one of New York’s most respected families, William Sloane is a railroad baron who has all the right friends in all the right places. But no matter how much success he achieves, he always wants more. Having secured his place atop the city’s highest echelons of society, he’s now setting his sights on a political run. Nothing can distract him from his next pursuit—except, perhaps, the enchanting con artist he never saw coming . . .

Ava Jones has eked out a living the only way she knows how. As “Madame Zolikoff,” she hoodwinks gullible audiences into believing she can communicate with the spirit world. But her carefully crafted persona is nearly destroyed when Will Sloane walks into her life—and lays bare her latest scheme. The charlatan is certain she can seduce the handsome millionaire into keeping her secret and using her skills for his campaign—unless he’s the one who’s already put a spell on her . . .



Two more steps brought Will alongside her. “Are you always so difficult?”

She threw her head back and laughed—a genuine, sultry sound that hit him square in the gut. He pushed down the reaction, put it in a place with all the other things he ignored.

“Only with men who try to boss me around.”

“A lot of those in your life?”

“Just one, apparently. Any ideas on how to get rid of him?”

Will’s lips twitched from suppressing a smile. “No, unless you’re ready to give in. I won’t disappear until you leave John alone.”

She stopped in her tracks and put her hands on her hips. Her brown gaze lit up with fire and brimstone, her generous bosom heaving in a distractingly enticing manner. “Why do you care so much? Your money could buy whatever election you wanted, cover up any hint of scandal that might occur. Therefore, you don’t really care about what I’m doing to John. Tell me, why are you following me? ’Cause I need to tell you, I’m not buying it.”

What the hell was she implying? That he was after her? His muscles clenched as he stepped closer, hoping to intimidate her with their difference in height. Surprisingly, she held her ground, merely lifted a brow as if to say, Get on with it. He tried not to be impressed.

“First, I would never use my money to buy an election. I want to win, and I mean to do that fairly. Second, I can cover up just about any scandal I want, but all it takes is one whiff, one hint of impropriety, and my political career will be over before it begins. I’ll be a laughingstock. And there’s no way I’ll allow that to happen.”

“No, John will be a laughingstock. John’s political career will be over. And”—she made a disbelieving sound—“you act as if New York politics are clean and fair. We both know politicians are dirtier than chimney sweeps, and that’s saying something.”

“I wouldn’t throw stones at the legitimacy of other vocations, were I you.”

“Oh!” She threw up her hands and stomped away. “Leave me alone, William Sloane.”

He trailed after her, catching up in a few steps. “You’re wrong. In my world, you’re judged not only on your own actions, but the actions of those around you. The company you keep. If John goes down, I go down as well.”

“Then I can only imagine what your world would think of you keeping company with me in the Tenderloin.”

“They’d think I’d lost my ever-loving mind,” he muttered.

“Then scurry back home to Fifth Avenue. I’m sure your butler has brandy and cigars waiting. No one here is stopping you.”

“Washington Square.”

Her head swung toward him. “Pardon?”

“I live on Washington Square.” It had been a long time since he’d had to tell anyone that. The Sloanes had been in that location since the city covered up the graves and converted the space to a public park.

“Oh, excuse me,” she said with mock sincerity. “Scurry back home to Washington Square.”

“After you promise to stop your shenanigans with John.”


The voice came from behind them, so he spun to see who was there. A few people were out, but no one close enough.

No one came forward or even met his eye. Who had called his name?


Facing forward, he instantly noticed something else. He was now alone.

“Ava?” Feet planted, his gaze swept the sidewalk and the street, searching. He peered across to the other side, thinking maybe she had crossed the street. Nothing.

There was no sign of her. She had disappeared into thin air.


Publisher and Release Date: Zebra, October 2016
RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: New York, 1888
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Caz

baron_coverThe heroes in Joanna Shupe’s Knickerbocker Club series are all rich, influential businessmen, some of them self-made, like Emmett Cavanaugh (hero of the first book, Magnate) and some, like Will Sloane in Baron, born into a wealthy family of New York blue-bloods whose standing in society is not all that different to that of the members of the English nobility on the other side of the Pond.

Will has spent most of his life spitting in the eye – metaphorically, of course – of his late father, a man who constantly belittled his son and believed he would never amount to much. Becoming the man of the family in his late teens, those taunts have driven Will, who has not only ably managed Northeast Railroad, the company built by his father, but greatly expanded it, adding considerably to his own and the family’s wealth and standing in doing so.

Now in his early thirties, Will continues to push himself incredibly hard, working all the hours God sends and then some; even though he knows he needs to slack off a bit. But he has started to feel that perhaps it’s time for him to make a change, and that change looks set to come quite soon, as he has been invited to join the ticket for the upcoming gubernatorial elections in New York, as lieutenant governor for former senator John Bennett.

There’s no question that Will’s desire for political office is partly influenced by the fact that his father had always wanted to wield political influence, but had never accomplished it. Will’s success will be yet another nose-thumbing to his sire, but before he can achieve it, a potential scandal in the form of a Russian spiritualist by the name Madame Zolikoff, needs to be dealt with, and quickly, before her association with Bennett – who sees her regularly for readings and advice – becomes known and makes the candidate into a laughing stock.

Attending one of her performances at a run-down theatre in one of New York’s less than salubrious districts, Will is surprised to find he rather likes what he sees. Zolikoff is a seductively attractive woman, and in spite of the fact that she’s a complete fake and he is determined to expose her as one, Will is strongly attracted to her. He confronts her backstage, equally surprised to discover that his physical size, obvious disapproval and, later, outright threats, don’t intimidate her in the least. She is forthright and defiant, telling him in no uncertain terms that she will not be scared away from her best client.

Ava Jones is not a woman to be intimidated easily – or at all – and certainly not by a pompous, snobbish, high-society railroad baron who has never known a day’s hardship in his life. The fact that’s he’s obscenely handsome is an unwanted distraction perhaps, but Ava has to keep her focus. She has to take care of her younger brothers and sister, aged twelve to fifteen, and her performances and private readings as Madame Zolikoff should mean that she will soon have enough money to be able to get them all out of their cramped lodgings in the city and away into the fresh air of the countryside.

The sparks fly between these two from the get go, and in spite of their obvious differences, there are a lot of similarities between them, too. Both have brought up younger siblings (Will’s younger sister, Lizzie, was the heroine of Magnate), and have suffered painful pasts; they work incredibly hard and are determined to succeed at what they do. Theirs is certainly never going to be one of those peacefully settled relationships because they are too much alike in many ways, but their mutual stubbornness is one of the factors that puts them on more of an equal footing than their respective situations might suggest. Will may be incredibly wealthy, but Ava isn’t interested in his money or what it can do for her; she sees a man in need and deserving of love and affection who needs someone to stand up to him occasionally, and for Will, Ava is the perfect combination of intelligence and determination, a woman who will challenge him and love him in equal measure.

Both Will and Ava are attractive, engaging characters and their romance is well-written, with plenty of sexual tension and nicely steamy love scenes. The strength of the attraction between them is intense, and the author balances that with the other plot elements extremely well, so that the whole story fairly races by, but in a good way; the way that has the reader so eager to find out what happens next that they continue reading until well into the early hours!

With all that said, a couple of bumpy patches towards the end of the book caused me to lower my final grade a little. Firstly Ava, who has been painted as a strong, self-reliant woman who is able to manage her family and her problems herself, is suddenly thrust into situations from which she needs rescuing, not just once, but twice. And while part of the appeal of the story has been in watching Will gradually unbend and shed some of his hauteur to become a man rather than a block of ice, the Big Romantic Gesture he makes feels completely out of character for the man we have come to know over the course of the book.

Otherwise, though, Baron is an engrossing, well-written tale. Ms. Shupe evokes the world and atmosphere of New York’s Gilded Age extremely well, there’s a great cast of secondary characters and I especially liked the passages which gave a glimpse into Ava’s tricks of the trade. The writing is confident and laced with humour and snappy dialogue. All in all, I’m definitely recommending Baron to fans of historical romance, especially those who are looking for something a little bit different.


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joanna_shupeAward-winning author JOANNA SHUPE has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. While in college, Joanna read every romance she could get her hands on and soon started crafting her own racy historical novels. She now lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters and dashing husband.

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SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Du Lac Chronicles Book 1 by Mary Anne Yarde


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AD 495, Wessex, Briton.

If all you had left was your heart, would you give it to your enemy?

A generation after Arthur Pendragon ruled, Briton lies fragmented into warring kingdoms and principalities.

The powerful Saxon King, Cerdic of Wessex, has spent the last twenty years hunting down Arthur’s noble knights. He is determined to secure his kingdom against any reprisals for killing their legendary leader. The knights who have survived the genocide are destined to spend the rest of their lives in hiding, never revealing who they really are.

The only knight who refused to be intimidated by this Saxon invader was Lancelot du Lac. Lancelot and Cerdic formed a fragile truce, but Lancelot has been dead these past eight years and it has fallen to his sons to protect Briton from the ambitions of the Saxon King.

Alden du Lac, the once king of Cerniw and son of Lancelot, has nothing. Betrayed by Cerdic, Alden’s kingdom lies in rubble, his fort razed to the ground and his brother Merton missing, presumably dead. Cerdic has had Alden tied to a post and ordered his skin to be lashed from his back. In the morning, if Alden is still alive, he is to be executed.

Annis, daughter of King Cerdic of Wessex, has been secretly in love with Alden for what seems like forever. She will not stand by and see him die. She defies father, king, and country to save the man she loves from her father’s dungeons. Alden and Annis flee Wessex together.

To the horror of Alden’s few remaining allies, he has given his heart to the daughter of his enemy. Alden’s allies see Annis, at best, as a bargaining chip to avoid war with her powerful father. At worst, they see a Saxon witch with her claws in a broken, wounded king.

Alden has one hope: When you war with one du Lac, you war with them all. His brother Budic, King of Brittany, could offer the deposed young king sanctuary—but whether he will offer the same courtesy to Annis is far less certain.



Inside the Writer’s Mind ~ Mary Anne Yarde

Writing can be a daunting prospect, what made you decide to share your story with the world?

I grew up just outside of Glastonbury ~ The Ancient Isle of Avalon ~ England. The stories of King Arthur and his Knights were very much a part of my childhood ~ he was everywhere. I knew the stories of Arthur from a very young age and as a teen, I became fascinated with his life.

For me, Arthur embodies an almost utopia age. Everything he stands for, everything he did, had such an impact, that we are still talking about him today. He was a hero, and we all need heroes.

The problem with researching Arthur is that there is a very blurry line between what is real and what is fictitious. But the one thing, which I found the most frustrating, wasn’t the lack of evidence, but the actual story itself, particularly with regards to the ending. King Arthur is betrayed by Lancelot, and then he is betrayed by Mordred. Arthur is fatally wounded at the Battle of Camlann. He is taken to Avalon, and we never hear of Arthur again. As for his knights…if they were lucky enough to survive the battle, they simply disappeared or became hermits.


That was the best the great poets could come up with? I’m sorry, but that ending sucks! The Knights stopped being knights? I don’t buy it and I never will.

I came up with an idea for a book that told the story of what happened after King Arthur’s death. My favourite knight has always been Lancelot, and I wanted to create a world for his children ~ a world for the next generation of Du Lacs and Pendragons. I didn’t realise then, that it would take me another 12 years to actually have a manuscript that I thought was worth sharing with the world. Publishing wasn’t so much of a daunting experience as a necessary one. I had sat on this story for too long.

Who has influenced you as an author?

I am an avid reader. I love the books by Nicholas Evans and Nicholas Sparks. They both write such beautifully emotive prose that I cannot help but admire them.

What is your writing method? Do you outline first or do you purge your brain on paper until your story is told?

I made a plan once. It took me ages, several months in fact. Once I was happy with the plan I sat down at my computer, looked at my notes and thought ~ oh screw this! I threw the notes away and just started writing. I do have a rough plan in my head and I will jot down the odd sentence that I think would work well later on in the book, but apart from that. I just sit down at the computer and bleed!

How long does it take you to write your story, from getting it down on paper to publishing?

The Du Lac Chronicles, from start to finish, took me 12 years. The second book in the trilogy, which is due out later this year, took me about six months. Hey, I think I’m getting quicker at this writing game!

Can you tell me a little bit about your book(s) without giving away too much? Why should I read it?

I would be honoured to tell you about my books…

A generation after the fall of Arthur Pendragon, Briton lies fragmented into warring kingdoms and principalities.

Eighteen-year-old, Alden du Lac, Lancelot’s son, ruled the tiny Kingdom of Cerniw. Now he half-hangs from a wooden pole, his back lashed into a mass of bloody welts exposed to the cold of a cruel winter night.

When Alden notices a shadowy figure approaching, he assumes death has come to end his pain. Instead, the daughter of his enemy, Cerdic of Wessex, frees and hides him, her motives unclear.

Annis has loved Alden since his ill-fated marriage to her Saxon cousin ~ a marriage that ended in blood and guilt ~ and she would do anything to protect him. Annis’s rescue of Alden traps them between a brutal Saxon king and Alden’s remaining allies. Meanwhile, unknown forces are carefully manipulating the ruins of Arthur’s legacy.

If you love romance, adventure, intrigue and King Arthur’s knights, then check out The Du Lac Chronicles to find out what happened after King Arthur died. I promise you there are not any hermits. Well there is one, but he doesn’t come into the story until much later on in the trilogy!


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du-lac-chronicles-authorBorn in Bath, England, Mary Anne Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury—the fabled Isle of Avalon—was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.

At nineteen, Yarde married her childhood sweetheart and began a bachelor of arts in history at Cardiff University, only to have her studies interrupted by the arrival of her first child. She would later return to higher education, studying equine science at Warwickshire College. Horses and history remain two of her major passions.

Yarde keeps busy raising four children and helping run a successful family business. She has many skills but has never mastered cooking—so if you ever drop by, she (and her family) would appreciate some tasty treats or a meal out!


Twitter @maryanneyarde



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Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night (Winner Takes All #2.5) by Kate Noble


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Cecilia Goodhue is a schoolteacher with a past, living with her sister and her husband in a tiny English village. Resigned to a quiet life, Cecilia is surprised when she finds out that her young cousin has run off with a man of no means.

Cecilia had once been a teenaged girl who also fell for a young man’s charms—only to be devastated by his betrayal. Determined to not let her cousin meet the same fate, she heads off to London to but is shocked when her investigation leads her right to the front door of the very man who broke her heart: Theo Hudson.

Together, they reluctantly embark on finding her cousin and returning her to her family. During their searching in London, it soon becomes clear that they both remember their short-lived romance differently and perhaps now, years later, they have a fresh chance at love.


Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Star, September 2016
Time and Setting: Regency London
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 3 stars

Review by Sara

Short stories can be difficult to review. An author only has so much page space to have her main characters believably fall in love, so most of the time the plot will move quickly and rely heavily on reuniting former friends, lovers or other close characters. Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night falls into this category and from the description I was hoping the leads would be older and a bit more mature about rediscovering love together. It doesn’t quite work out that way.

Cecilia Goodhue used to be a romantic young woman. When she was sixteen, she followed her heart and ran off with the ward of a neighboring baronet, but unfortunately her father and his caught up with them and their elopement ended before they could say their vows. Her fiancé abandoned her at the inn where they had stopped and left her ruined in the eyes of her family and their small community. Ten years later and Cecilia is still paying the price for her youthful mistake. She has found a home with her sister and vicar brother-in-law but Cecilia is constantly under suspicion that she could act out again and shame their household. Her life now revolves around the community school where she works and living as quietly as possible to avoid any scandals.

When a letter arrives informing Cecilia and her sister that their young cousin has eloped with an officer it seems to them that history is repeating itself. Hoping for a better outcome than her own sad story Cecilia decides to chase after her cousin and either bring her home or make sure that she’s happily married to the young man. Cecilia has her friend Leticia Turner provide her with a contact in London where she can stay and get help in tracking down her wayward cousin. Cecilia knows that time is of the essence to catch up with the pair so she rides overnight on the mail coach to arrive on the doorstep of the Earl of Ashby. Knocking on the front door she is unprepared to come face to face with her past in the form of Mr. Theo Hudson, the man who broke her heart all those years ago.

Theo is just as shocked to see Cecilia standing on the doorstep of his employer’s townhouse. He had only just arrived himself at Lord Ashby’s home having received a summons that the peer had an important task for Theo’s law firm. As it turns out, that task is assisting Cecilia in finding her lost relation but Theo is convinced that his former betrothed is on a wild goose chase. He is annoyed at being stuck with the woman who a decade before destroyed his belief in love when she broke their engagement to find a man of better means. Theo found success practicing law in the intervening years but never let himself get close to another woman for fear they’d hurt him as deeply as Cecilia did.

With only a few clues to go on Cecilia and Theo try to retrace her cousin’s steps or find someone in town who recognizes the vague description they have of the suitor. Their partnership begins awkwardly as neither one has ever really made peace with the past; however the more they work together or discuss the chances of the young runaways having found true love it puts all of the events from that infamous night under the microscope. The spark of attraction Cecilia and Theo shared before is quickly rekindled but it might not be enough to forgive a decade’s worth of regrets.

Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night stems from one of my least favorite romantic tropes of a big misunderstanding pulling two lovers away from each other. Cecilia and Theo were lied to by their respective fathers and believed that they were betrayed by the person they had trusted with their affection. What bothered me about the story is that after these events neither character manages to get over that hurt and it changes how they see themselves or how they live for ten years. Theo throws himself into working and pushes personal relationships aside to protect himself. Cecilia becomes a shell of the exuberant woman she used to be for fear of being shunned by her community or having no place to live. In fact, both characters are very much arrested in their development and it shows in how petty Theo treats Cecilia initially or in how she cannot stand up to the local village women who take advantage of her. It’s only towards the end that Cecilia realizes that she is unhappy with her life but then cannot see a way out of the rut she’s created.

The timeframe of a single day also stretches the believability of the story considering all the baggage each character has to unload. To have them restart a relationship without thinking of the consequences this time shows just how immature these supposedly mature people are.

I know that I’m splitting hairs over what is intended to be a light and enjoyable story of lovers reunited but I couldn’t get behind Cecilia and Theo’s relationship. All the steps in between where they really talk with each other and truly forgive the past are missing or are abbreviated due to the small page count. Miss Goodhue Lives for a Night is a quick read which fits nicely into the Winner Takes All series or as a standalone short story but it shouldn’t be an indication of what to regularly expect from this author.

VIRTUAL TOUR: A Raven’s Heart (Secrets and Spies #2) by K.C. Bateman

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In the war against France, Heloise Hampden is a high-value asset to the Crown. She’s cracked the enemy’s most recent communication, and for that, someone is trying to kill her. However, it’s the agent assigned to protect Heloise who poses the greatest threat to her heart: William de l’Isle, Viscount Ravenwood. Heloise has quarreled with the man they call Raven since childhood, yet always maintained a chaste distance. She’s sure nothing will change, thanks to the disfiguring scar on her face. So why is she so enchanted by the sight of Raven’s jet-black hair, rakish smile, and wicked green eyes?

Nothing has changed. Raven still wonders how Hell-cat Hampden’s lithe body would feel pressed against his, but for the mission he must remind himself that the woman takes more pleasure in ancient languages than she does in seduction. His imprisonment six years ago broke him in a way that makes the prospect of love impossible. Still, his heart beats like mad whenever he’s within ten paces of Heloise, and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe—even if that means taking her to Spain as an unwilling hostage. Protecting her from danger will be a challenge; protecting her from desire will be pure agony.



England, June 1816

“I’m a spy, not a bloody nursemaid!”

William de l’Isle, Viscount Ravenwood, glared across the desk at his mentor, Lord Castlereagh.

The older man shook his head, supremely unmoved by his outburst. “Miss Hampden needs immediate protection. Someone’s targeting my code breakers and whoever killed Edward could also have discovered her identity. I can’t afford to lose her, too.”

Raven narrowed his eyes. “Use another agent.”

Castlereagh gave him one of those level, penetrating looks he so excelled at. “Who? Neither of her brothers are here; Nic’s in Paris, and Richard’s following a lead on that French forger he’s been after for months. Who else is left?” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “We’ve lost too many good men. First Tony got himself killed in France, then Kit disappeared. There’s been no news of him for months.”

Raven frowned. He refused to consider the distasteful probability that his friend was dead. Kit was like him, a master of survival. He could be deep undercover. But with every week that went by with no word it became harder and harder to stay positive.

“And now another good man, Edward Lamb, had been murdered,” Castlereagh sighed. “I don’t want Miss Hampden to be next.”

The older man was a master of applying just the right amount of pressure and guilt. He hadn’t made it to head of the Foreign Office without knowing how to manipulate people.

“You think I should entrust her to a less competent operative?” Castlereagh mused softly. “You’re not burdened by false modesty, Ravenwood. You know you’re the best I have. I was hoping you’d use your exceptional talent for survival to keep Miss Hampden alive, too.”

Raven sighed, well aware he was being backed into a corner. If it had been anyone else he wouldn’t have hesitated.

But Heloise Hampden was the fly in his ointment. The spoke in his wheel.

A total bloody menace.

Hellcat Hampden had been the subject of his guilty daydreams for years. What had started out as adolescent musings had matured into fevered erotic fantasies that showed absolutely no sign of abating. He’d told himself the attraction was because she was forbidden, tried to lose himself in other, far more available women. Nothing had worked. And while he’d rarely paid much attention to the monotonous sermons preached by the clergy, he was fairly sure there was something in the bible that said “thou shalt not covet thy best friend’s little sister.” Or words to that effect.

He was the last person she should be entrusted to. He’d sworn to stay away from her. Had avoided her quite successfully—give or take a few blessedly brief skirmishes—for the past six years. Hell, he’d traveled to the far corners of war torn Europe to try to forget her.

And now here he was, drawn back to her by some malevolent twist of fate.

As if his life wasn’t cursed enough already.

Over the past few years they’d settled into an uneasy, albeit barbed, truce; it was a sad reflection on his twisted nature that he preferred sparring with her to holding a reasonable conversation with anyone else.

His blood thrummed at the prospect of seeing her again and he smiled in self-directed mockery. Few things increased his heartbeat anymore. In combat he was a master of his emotions, sleek and deadly and efficient. Fighting barely elevated his pulse. He could kill a man without breaking a sweat. But put him ten paces away from that slip of a girl and a furious drummer took up residence in his chest, battering away against his ribs.

He shook his head. Being near her was a torture he both craved and abhorred, but he had a duty to keep her safe. A duty to her family, to Castlereagh, to the whole damn country. Much as he’d like someone else to deal with her, he didn’t trust anyone else. She was his to torment.

Castlereagh, the old devil, smiled, as if he already sensed Raven’s grudging acceptance. “That’s settled, then. She’s safe at home right now. You can go over and get her in the morning.”

He rose and strode to the door of the study, then flashed an amused glance at Raven’s immaculate evening attire and the mask resting on the desk. “I apologize for interrupting your evening, Ravenwood. I’ll leave you to your entertainments.”


Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, October 2016

Time and Setting: England and Spain, 1816
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Wendy

A Raven’s Heart is both the second in K.C. Bateman’s Secrets and Spies series and her second published book – and what an exciting new addition to the genre she is. I was originally urged to read her début novel To Steal a Heart when it was first published by a respected friend/reviewer who was extremely impressed by it, but for various reasons, kept putting it off; now I’m wondering why on earth I didn’t jump to it immediately, because my friend knew me better than I knew myself and I was quite blown away by A Raven’s Heart.

William de l’lsle, Viscount Ravenwood, is an embittered and changed man since he was kidnapped six years earlier in an attempt to blackmail his grandfather, the Duke of Avondale. The duke, however, refused to pay the ransom demanded by the blackmailers, and misguidedly attempted to thwart the plot by employing his own investigators. Eventually, Ravenswood effected his own rescue and revenged himself upon his grandfather by refusing to have anything to do with him. Raven (as he is commonly known) then became an agent for the crown, a role for which he is well suited having gained confidence, fearlessness and ruthlessness whilst in captivity where he faced death on a daily basis. He fully accepts the new darker side to his character, but he can do little about the simmering attraction he feels for Heloise, a girl who can’t simply be seduced and left.

Heloise Hampden is highly intelligent with an unusual gift for intricate code breaking. Her talent has been discovered and utilised in the continuing war against the French who are anxious to liberate Bonaparte from exile and return him to power. As a result of her success at breaking the complex coded messages intercepted by English agents, her life is in danger, and Raven is assigned by Lord Castlereagh, head of the Foreign Office, as her protector.

Raven grew up as a friend to Heloise’s brothers, and the strong bond of friendship continues given that they are all in the same dangerous business. There has always been a spark of attraction between Raven and Heloise which they don’t acknowledge but which they keep under wraps by sniping at each other with petty insults. Heloise deciphers a message from the French which relates to a friend of Raven’s – fellow spy, Kit Carlisle – who is being held prisoner by the French. The message speaks of the possibility of an exchange of prisoners – Kit, for one of their valuable operatives; the exchange to take place in a village in Spain near the French border. And Raven, ruthless though he is, is also a man of integrity and loyal to a fault, so there is no question that he will do all in his power to rescue his friend; and as he must protect Heloise – she will travel with him.

The sexual tension between the two main protagonists fairly sizzles from beginning to end; Ms. Bateman has a rare talent for character development, they are superbly drawn – realistic and plausible. I just loved the tortured and damaged, but utterly gorgeous, Raven – what’s not to love about this charismatic hunk, flaws and all? Heloise – or Hell-cat as Raven refers to her – is a feisty, beautiful, headstrong and perceptive young woman. She is in love with Raven and always has been, but recognises the need to keep this revelation to herself. Instead she chips away at his defences and forces him to face up to his own shortcomings and feelings. These are two of the most likeable characters I have encountered recently in HR; although Heloise is an enlightened and strong young woman, she still retains her vulnerability and femininity; and although Raven is a cynical, fearless, arrogant, alpha male, he still has that little-boy-lost feel to his personality that we all love to love.

I thoroughly appreciated Ms. Bateman’s eloquent writing style and her scholarship is evident in many subjects, but in particular, I loved her references to characters and languages from classical civilisation, which added another layer to an already fascinating and intriguing story. I found myself constantly referring to the kindle dictionary and actually learned a lot. I was impressed by the well researched, historically correct background to the story and the non fictional historical characters interwoven with the fictional. The story is romantic, witty, tense, funny and interesting and kept me enthralled to the end. Ms. Bateman certainly hit the ground running with this, her first series, Secrets and Spies and I look forward with anticipation to more from this talented author. Highly recommended.


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About the Author

kate-bateman-author-picKate Bateman (writing as K. C. Bateman) wrote her first historical romance in response to a $1 bet with her husband who rashly claimed she’d ‘never finish the thing.’ She gleefully proved him wrong with a historical set in the Italian Renaissance. Now writing for Random House Loveswept, her ‘Secrets & Spies’ Regency-era trilogy features her trademark feisty, intelligent heroines, wickedly inappropriate banter, and heroes you want to alternately strangle and kiss—all mixed up in the intrigue and turmoil of the Napoleonic wars.

When not traveling to exotic locations ‘for research’, Kate leads a double life as a fine art appraiser and on-screen antiques expert for several TV shows in the UK. She splits her time between Illinois and her native England and writes despite three inexhaustible children and a husband who has flatly refused to read any of her books ‘unless she hits the NY Times Bestseller list.’ It is—naturally—her fervent desire to force the semi-illiterate, number-loving cynic to do so. He still owes her that dollar.

Kate loves to hear from readers. Contact her on Twitter @katebateman, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, Goodreads or via her website at

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: A Perfect Plan (Wiltshire Chronicles #1) by Alyssa Drake

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Samantha Hastings lived a quiet, peaceful life on her family’s country estate. With no man to order her around and no stifling society rules to follow, she considered herself blessed. However, when her brother’s ship sinks during a short trip to France, Samantha receives a request from her sister-in-law to return to town and manage the late Earl’s finances. Suddenly thrust into society, Samantha faces an unfamiliar world and a pair of very familiar green eyes.

Lord Benjamin Westwood never intended on following through with his rash promise to his best friend. Now, with Edward’s death, Benjamin becomes the unwilling guardian to Edward’s bratty little sister, who has grown up considerably since the last time they met. His intention to marry her off to the first available suitor is thwarted when he finds himself falling for Samantha’s unique demeanor. He lights upon the perfect plan; a marriage of convenience, giving him the opportunity to romance Samantha without distraction.

However, when they discover Edward’s disappearance was due to foul play, Benjamin’s prefect plan begins to quickly unravel. Now, Samantha is in more danger than either of them realized and Benjamin is running out of time



She glanced back at Benjamin, who was staring at her intensely, his green eyes burning. She shivered again, even though the fire continued to warm her skin. “He does not really trust you, does he?”

Benjamin’s eyes continued their passionate glare. “He has his reasons.”

Sam decided her best defense would be to try and distract Benjamin until she found the opportunity to replace the brick. While her intentions had been innocent, she was unsure if he would appreciate her snooping through his private memories.

“Are they well founded?” she inquired, in what she hoped was a convincing tone.

Benjamin smirked, his mouth pulling up at one corner. “Miss Hastings, I am not as easily sidetracked as your brother.”

Sam raised her eyebrows innocently. “My Lord?”

“I am curious to learn what did make that sound.” His stare deepened as he leaned closer. “I see nothing broken.”

So much for distractions, she gulped. Sam stared down at the floor, unwilling to meet his prying gaze, her toe dug into the carpet. “I dropped something.”

“Indeed,” whispered Benjamin, moving again until he was inches from her face. His hot breath tickled her lips. “What did you drop?”

Sam raised her eyes to his face as color rouged her cheeks. “A brick.”

“A brick,” repeated Benjamin skeptically. He stepped back and studied her for a moment. Then understanding flitted across his face. “Ahh, I see.”

“I am very sorry,” Sam began, her voice wavering. “I was just curious and it slipped out of my hand as I was removing it. I should not have invaded your privacy.”

“Stop,” Benjamin placed his finger against Sam’s babbling lips. An electric spark traveled through her body like lightning.

Sam looked up at him with wide eyes. She nudged the brick forward from its hiding place under the hem of her nightgown. “I did not get a chance to see anything hidden in the cubby,” she whispered.

Benjamin leaned over and reached for the brick. His fingers lingered a moment on her foot, tracing light lines across the surface. Another spark shot through Sam’s body. “There is nothing else in the space,” he replied tersely. “Do you understand?”

“Yes,” answered Sam in a meek voice as she watched him shove the brick back into the side of the fireplace.

Once it was flush against the hearth, Benjamin turned toward Sam. “Have you been awake long?”

“I never went to sleep,” replied Sam.

“A shame to waste such a nice bed,” answered Benjamin, struggling to appear playful.

“I was worried.”



Benjamin considered her answer. “There is no need to worry about me.”

Sam laughed. The hollow sound barely reached her ears. “Benjamin, someone tried to massacre our family tonight.”

Fire burned once again in his liquid emerald pools. “It appears as though I have underestimated your inquisitiveness. Perhaps we can put it to better use.”

Sam opened her mouth to speak, but Benjamin held up his hand. Sam bit her tongue and waited with uncertainty. She watched quietly as Benjamin strolled languidly over to the open chamber door and closed it with a light click.

“Edward would not approve,” clucked Sam. Apparently Benjamin determined the best way to avoid Sam’s questions was to divert her attention.

“I have no doubt there are a myriad of things I have done which Edward would not approve,” grinned Benjamin wickedly.

He crossed the room in two long strides. The heat radiating off of his skin made the fire behind her feel like a cool breeze. He lifted his hand, running it lightly over the tendrils escaping from her braid. A tremble danced over her skin. He was clearly intent on distracting her from her current line of thought.

Benjamin captured her mouth in a soft feathery kiss. Her mind went blissfully blank. Slowly his lips traveled down her neck, nibbling lightly until a moan escaped from Sam’s mouth. His sinful grin flashed in the moonlight. “What a delightful sound. I wonder how many times I can make you moan before the sun rises.”

Sam’s mouth fell open with a pop. “Benjamin,” she spluttered, but the rest of the sentence was muffled as Benjamin resumed his sensual assault on her mouth.

The fire, which originally coursed through her body from Benjamin’s earlier caress, burned over every inch of her skin. She felt as though she would shatter into a million pieces. Wrapping her arms securely around his neck, she moaned again against his lips.

Benjamin deepened the kiss, his tongue pushing into her mouth. He pressed against her body, allowing her to feel the muscles beneath his clothing. She pulled him closer, wanting to ignite the same passionate moan from his mouth. Biting on his lower lip, Sam slid one hand into Benjamin’s hair. She nestled against him, until her body molded into his body. Her hands wandered under his shirt, skimming across his smooth skin and brushing down his stomach.

A sharp intake of breath caught her attention. Pulling away with a sigh, Benjamin shook his head. “Slow down Samantha.”

He took several steps away, standing in the beam of moonlight still shining through the open drapes.

“Why?” she pouted, feeling rejected by the distance he now placed between them.

Benjamin pursed his lips, as if searching for the right explanation.

“For a self-proclaimed rake, you are behaving exactly like a gentleman,” accused Sam, still annoyed by his sudden detachment.
Benjamin snorted. “I believe that particular moniker was given to me by someone else.”

Sam glared at him, still stinging. “Apparently I was wrong in my earlier assessment.”

“Samantha, I have been trying my damnedest to be a gentleman, but you seem intent on making that particular endeavor extremely difficult.”


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alyssa-drakeAuthor Alyssa Drake has been creating stories since she could read, preferring to construct her own bedtime tales instead of reading the titles in her bookshelves. Enraptured with all types of writing, Alyssa has tried her hand at short stories, collaborations and poetry. However, her first love has always been books. She thoroughly enjoys strong heroines and often laughs aloud when visualizing conversations between her characters.

She believes everyone is motivated by love of someone or something. One of her favorite diversions is fabricating stories about strangers surrounding her on public transportation. Alyssa can often be found madly scribbling notes on a train or daydreaming out the window as the scenery whips past.

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Mission Improper (London Steampunk: The Blue Blood Conspiracy #1) by Bec McMaster


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Three years ago, London society changed forever, with a revolution placing the widowed Queen firmly on the throne her blue blood husband tried to take from her. Humans, verwulfen and mechs are no longer considered the lesser classes, but not everybody is happy with the new order…

Entire families have gone missing in the East End. When Caleb Byrnes receives an invitation to join the Company of Rogues as an undercover agent pledged to protect the crown, he jumps at the chance to find out who, or what, is behind the disappearances. Hunting criminals is what the darkly driven blue blood does best, and though he prefers to work alone, the opportunity is too good to resist.

The problem? He’s partnered with Ingrid Miller, the fiery and passionate verwulfen woman who won a private bet against him a year ago. Byrnes has a score to settle, but one stolen kiss and suddenly the killer is not the only thing Byrnes is interested in hunting.

Soon they’re chasing whispered rumours of a secret project gone wrong, and a monster that just might be more dangerous than either of them combined. The only way to find out more is to go undercover among the blue blood elite… But when their hunt uncovers a mysterious conspiracy, Byrnes and Ingrid must set aside their age-old rivalry if they have any chance at surviving a treacherous plot.


Publisher and Release Date: Lochlaber Press, August 2016

Time and Setting: Alternate Victorian England
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance/Steampunk
Heat Level: 1.5 Stars
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Jenny Q

As a huge fan of Bec McMaster’s London Steampunk series, I was sorry to see it come to an end, especially since I felt a certain pair of characters had not yet had their story told (I’m looking at you, Charlie and Lark), and the story world was so rich with opportunities for more novels. My prayers were answered when Mission: Improper was announced, the first book in a spin-off series set in the same world with new leading characters and featuring appearances from some of our favorite characters from the previous series!

Mission: Improper begins with Nighthawk Caleb Byrnes – a member of the supernatural police force – receiving a summons to a mysterious meeting. He arrives to find that himself, three other blue bloods (including Charlie Todd, yay!), a mech, and the only woman to truly ever get under his skin, Ingrid Miller, a verwulfen, have been carefully selected by the Duke of Malloryn to investigate a series of murders and disappearances that seem to be designed to incite a riot. It’s been three years since the revolution that took down the blue blood elite and placed all supernaturals on equal footing, but a shadowy group has emerged that is bent on bringing down the new order and returning to the old ways. If that wasn’t already enough, there are vampires on the loose, controlled by a new and deadly creature the likes of which none of them have encountered before. Begrudgingly partnered together, Caleb and Ingrid will have to use all of their skills to unearth the players in this new game, uncovering a conspiracy far more ambitious and deep-rooted than first suspected, while fighting an intense attraction to each other as they race the clock to stop a group of madmen from destroying the world as they know it.

I so loved being back in this story world! And I love the characters. As usual, McMaster has created a deep and multi-dimensional hero and heroine; both are brave, smart, and tough, yet at times vulnerable, and both have overcome heartbreaking childhood trauma, building up protective walls while still allowing their hearts to be generous and hopeful. Watching them work together on this case was a joy. My only real complaint here is that the romance takes a little bit of a backseat in this story, and that’s mainly because a lot of things have to be set up to form the foundation of the entire series. which, like its predecessor, will feature an overarching plot throughout all of the books. And while I found it refreshing that Caleb and Ingrid actually talked to each other about what they were thinking and feeling rather than keeping it to themselves, I got to a point where I just wanted them to shut up and do it already! And after they finally did, I wanted more of them together before the story raced along to its conclusion.

The epilogue, which takes place in the future and was satisfying in and of itself, made me wish I’d gotten to see what happened between the end of the story and that point. But since these two should feature in future books, I’m hoping I will get a chance to do that.

I’m sure Mission: Improper is intended to serve as a stand-alone for those who haven’t read the previous series, and some backstory is included, but you just won’t be able to grasp the full meaning of who the different species are, how they relate to each other, and what’s at stake if you haven’t read the other books. (And they’re so good that you really should go and read them first!) Mission: Improper is an action-packed start to a new series in a beloved story world, introducing some new characters on both sides of the conspiracy that I am looking forward to getting to know better in future books. I am anxiously awaiting book two, The Mech Who Loved Me.

VIRTUAL TOUR: My Brown Eyed Earl (Wayward Wallflowers #1) by Anna Bennett


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Miss Margaret Lacey is brainy and beautiful, but she’s also penniless, and at the ripe old age of twenty-three society has declared her a spinster. For her part, Meg is less concerned with her empty dance card than with her empty bank account. She resolves to make her own way as a governess but discovers her new employer is the Earl of Castleton—the vexingly handsome man she rejected one fateful day, eight years ago.

William Ryder has never forgotten Meg, the elusive girl next door who claimed she’d rather shave her head than marry him. Now she’s the governess, but Will plans to teach her a few lessons of his own. As stolen kisses lead to passionate nights, Will and Meg just might find true love where they least expect it…



Will leaned forward on his elbows and pinched the bridge of his nose. Somehow, in the space of a week, his highly ordered, luxurious life had fallen apart.

First, Marina, the beautiful widow he’d been seeing, hinted that she wanted more than the mutually pleasurable arrangement they’d agreed to, forcing Will to break things off with her.

Next, his recently deceased cousin’s mistress showed up on Will’s doorstep with the twin girls, threatening to leave them at an orphanage unless he took them in.

And then last night, he attended a dinner party in honor of his mother’s birthday. In front of a dozen guests, she announced her sole wish: that her son marry before she turned fifty—in exactly one year. After choking on his wine, Will promised to give the matter some thought.

Then he had gone directly to his club and drunk him- self into oblivion.

Jesus. He stood, ran his hands through his hair, and checked his reflection in a mirror between a pair of book- cases. Gibson was right—he looked like hell.

Bad enough to scare off a potential governess.

He swiped the cravat off his chair, slung it around his neck, hastily tied it in some semblance of a knot, and but- toned his jacket. There was nothing to be done about the stubble on his chin or the faint imprint the desk blotter had left on his cheek, so he threw back the rest of his coffee and congratulated himself. Within the hour he’d have a governess to manage the twins, and at least one aspect of his life would be set to rights.

Gibson was already shuffling down the corridor. “My lord,” he intoned from the doorway, “may I present Miss Lacey.”

Will blinked. Lacey . . . it was a common name. Surely the potential governess couldn’t be—

She glided into the study and cast a wary look his way.

“Good afternoon, Lord Castleton. It’s a pleasure to see you again.”

Dear God. It was her. The vicar’s daughter who thought she was too damned good for him. Standing in his study, cloaked in a drab dress that might have been lilac once but now more closely resembled gray. No ribbons adorned her brown hair. No ringlets framed her face. In fact, the only decoration she wore was the light smattering of freckles across her nose.

The butler raised his bushy brows. “I was not aware that you were already acquainted.”

“Thank you, Gibson. That will be all.”

The butler left reluctantly, closing the door behind him. Miss Lacey pressed her lips together as though she longed to say something and silence herself at the same time. From what he recalled of her tongue, it was best kept under lock and key.

“What on earth are you doing here?” Will demanded.

“Applying for the governess position. I assumed you knew.”

“No,” he said curtly.

“I see.” She glanced over her shoulder at the door. “Per- haps it would be better if I—”

“Be seated, Miss Lacey.” He inclined his head toward the armchair in front of his desk.

She hesitated, and for a moment he thought she’d refuse. But then she walked toward the chair, looked at the seat, and froze. Just as stubborn as he remembered, unbiddable as ever.

He bristled. “Perhaps you’d prefer to remain standing for the entire interview?”

“No. It’s only . . .”

“You object to meeting in my study?”

She narrowed eyes that were not quite green, but not quite brown either. “No, but I hoped to avoid sitting on this.” In one, fluid motion she leaned over the chair, picked up a pink, lace-edged scrap of satin between her thumb and index finger, and dangled it in front of his face.


Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, October 2016

Time and Setting: London 1817
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by: Heather C.

Following the loss of her parents, Margaret (called Meg by friends) and her sisters go to live with a slightly eccentric but well-meaning, uncle who exists on the fringes of the ton. She should be moving within society, but instead she finds herself applying for the job of governess and the position just happens to be for a man whose proposal she spurned several years ago. How will she fare, educating two little girls and interacting with the man she almost married?

The story told here, of a governess and the lord of the house falling for each other, isn’t anything new; it’s a frequent trope in historical fiction and romance, but it felt rather fresh in the hands of Anna Bennett. Meg and Will are not newly acquainted with each other, in fact they have known each other since childhood, but that is an element that they have to try and navigate in their new relationship of employer and employee. However, Bennett makes this story about more than just the budding romance; there is also the chaos that two six-year-old girls bring the equation too, and they are quite the whirlwind that both brings Meg and Will together and pushes them apart.

I found Will to be a more engaging character than Meg. While he might be a playboy (at least at the beginning) he is genuinely likeable, earnest, and evolves the most during the course of the novel. Meg, on the other hand, is rather static throughout; she fears falling for Will and becoming even more maligned by the ton. She is the sister who is willing to take one for the team and is resigned to her destiny to remain a spinster. She pushes against any chance that she could be happy and carries a lot of guilt that she lets get in the way of her happiness. It became slightly frustrating to deal with this same character trait over and over and I wanted to scream at her to just get over herself!

Bennett (who has already published a number of historical romances under the name Anne Barton) does a great job of fleshing out her characters, even the secondary ones, which I appreciated as sometimes this doesn’t happen in romance novels. The children are a handful, but each of the twins has her own distinct identity. We get to know Meg’s sisters, Julie and Beth, who I’m thinking will star in their own novels as the Wayward Wallflowers series continues.

There is a little thread of mystery here and the identity of the “mystery man” was not something I saw coming. That it wasn’t obvious was great, but I do like it when there are some clues if you read it right, which wasn’t the case here. It made sense, but I would have appreciated the opportunity to attempt to get there myself.

The romance is sweet and spicy and there are many complex emotions that occur to bring the pair together and also push them apart. As is often the case in romance novels, the experienced man is teaching the novice woman the ways of the romantic world, which was sweet and their sexual relations escalate from there.

I look forward to reading more of this series and spending more time with the Lacey sisters.


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annabennett_credanneardizzoneAnna Bennett started swiping romances from her mom’s bookshelf as a teenager and decided that books with balls, dukes, and gowns were the best. So, when she had the chance to spend a semester in London she packed her bags—and promptly fell in love with the city, its history, and its pubs. She dreamed of writing romance, but somehow ended up a software analyst instead.

Fortunately, a few years and a few careers later, Anna found her way back to writing the stories she loves and won the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart®. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three children, who try valiantly not to roll their eyes whenever she quotes Jane Austen. Other weaknesses include reality TV, cute shoes, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

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SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Courting the Countess by Donna Hatch


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When charming rake Tristan Barrett sweeps Lady Elizabeth off her feet, stealing both her heart and a kiss in a secluded garden, her brother challenges Tristan to a duel. The only way to save her brother and Tristan from harm—not to mention preserve her reputation—is to get married. But her father, the Duke of Pemberton, refuses to allow his daughter to marry anyone but a titled lord. The duke demands that Elizabeth marry Tristan’s older brother, Richard, the Earl of Averston. Now Elizabeth must give up Tristan to marry a man who despises her, a man who loves another, a man she’ll never love.

Richard fears Elizabeth is as untrustworthy as his mother, who ran off with another man. However, to protect his brother from a duel and their family name from further scandal, he agrees to the wedding, certain his new bride will betray him. Yet when Elizabeth turns his house upside down and worms her way into his reluctant heart, Richard suspects he can’t live without his new countess. Will she stay with him or is it too little, too late?



Tristan quoted, his voice rich and resonant:

“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes…”

He gazed at her. “You do walk in beauty, Elizabeth. You are beauty. I am fortunate to have found you.”

She moistened her lips, her pulse racing at his nearness. “I, too, feel fortunate.”

He drew her close. She went willingly into his arms and rested a hand on his chest. His heart beat strong under her palm. With gentle fingers, he traced circles on her cheek, then bent his head toward hers. Tingles of nervous exhilaration raced down her back. He kissed her with warm, soft lips. Her heart thudded in her ears. At that moment, she fully understood what had driven Romeo and Juliet to such drastic measures and why Lady Enid and her Prince Eric fought so hard for one another.

Tristan’s first kiss this afternoon had been a promise of more. Tonight, he grew passionate. She’d never been kissed by anyone before Tristan, but he clearly knew how.

Tristan’s kiss enfolded her in a cushion of joy. Then his hands began a slow exploration of her body. Startled, she froze. All daring drained out of her.

She let out a strangled breath, and pulled away. “Tristan, I’m not a strumpet.”

“No, beloved.” He touched her cheek. “You are a lovely and desirable lady.”

He enfolded her in his embrace and kissed her again, but disappointment that he would take such liberties cooled her ardor. She stiffened, pulled away, and captured his hands with hers. He was supposed to be the perfect storybook hero. They weren’t even married yet. Was he so sure her father would give permission that he considered them already betrothed?

“Get your hands off my sister!” a voice snarled.

Tristan snapped his head back and stepped away. Alone, Elizabeth wobbled on her feet. Her half-brother, Martindale, stalked into view, bristling like an angry dog.

With his hands held out, Tristan faced Martindale. “My lord, we were merely—”

“None of your lies, Barrett.”

Other voices made exclamations of delighted horror. Elizabeth faced a nightmare; most of the houseguests stared at her, including some of London’s worst gossips. Naturally, they would assume the worst. Heat crawled up Elizabeth’s neck and burned her cheeks. She’d never live down the humiliation. Closing her eyes, she clamped her mouth shut to avoid screaming at the injustice of it all. She’d only desired a few moments alone with the man she loved. Instead, she’d been caught in an intimate embrace in a dark garden. Gossipers would spread an exaggeratedly sordid tale all over England. She’d be utterly ruined.

Immersed in his role of haughty marquis, Martindale snarled, “Consider your second, Barrett. Tomorrow you shall receive my challenge.”

Elizabeth’s heart stalled. “No! You can’t do this.” Elizabeth’s protest died on her lips as her brother rounded on her.

“Silence! You’ve behaved like a common whore.”

Elizabeth recoiled as if he’d slapped her.

Tristan stiffened. “Hear now, that’s no way to speak to the lady. I give you my word, it was merely a kiss.”

Martindale let out a scoff. “I should trust the word of a known rake?” He turned to Elizabeth, his eyes boring into hers.

“You’ve brought disgrace upon the family.”

Tears burned Elizabeth’s eyes. Her brother was right. Only Tristan could save her from shame. She turned to him, silently pleading for rescue.

Tristan glanced at her, his expression unreadable, before returning his attention to Martindale. He lowered his voice. “Let us go inside and discuss this in private.”

“You’ve compromised my sister,” her brother practically shouted. “There’s nothing to discuss. Choose your weapon.”

Elizabeth hugged herself while her knees threatened to fold. Her voice collapsed to a whisper. “You cannot mean to duel.”

“My formal challenge will be delivered at dawn.” Martindale marched away.

“Elizabeth! What have you done?” Duchess’s strident voice broke through the buzzing in Elizabeth’s head as her mother arrived upon the scene.

Oh, heaven help her. She’d probably be bedridden for a month. Elizabeth choked back the bile in her throat and grappled with the idea of running away, simply disappearing.

Tristan started to reach for her but dropped his arm. “I’m sorry. I never meant for this to happen.” He strode away.

Stunned, she stared after his retreating back. He hadn’t declared his intentions—no words of love, no vow to marry her and rescue her from her ruined state.

She’d been abandoned.


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donna-hatch-picAuthor of Historical Romance and Fantasy, award-winning author Donna Hatch is a sought-after speaker and workshop presenter. Her writing awards include the Golden Rose and the prestigious Golden Quill. Her passion for writing began at age 8 she wrote her first short story, and she wrote her first full-length novel during her sophomore year in high school, a fantasy which was later published. In between caring for six children, (7 counting her husband), her day job, her work as a freelance editor and copywriter, and her many volunteer positions, she still makes time to write.

After all, writing IS an obsession.

All of her heroes are patterned after her husband of over 20 years, who continues to prove that there really is a happily ever after.

Visit with Donna on her blog at

Hero in the Highlands (No Ordinary Hero #1) by Suzanne Enoch



Scotland, 1812: He’s ferocious and rugged to the bone, an English soldier more at home on the battlefield than in any Society drawing room. And when Major Gabriel Forrester learns that he’s inherited the massive Scottish Highlands title and estate of a distant relation, the last thing he wants to do is give up the intensity of the battlefield for the too-soft indulgences of noble life. But Gabriel Forrester does not shirk his responsibilities, and when he meets striking, raven-eyed lass Fiona Blackstock, his new circumstances abruptly become more intriguing.

Like any good Highlander, Fiona despises the English—and the new Duke of Lattimer is no exception. Firstly, he is far too attractive for Fiona’s peace of mind. Secondly, his right to “her” castle is a travesty, since it’s been clan Maxwell property for ages. As the two enter a heated battle of wills, an unexpected passion blazes into a love as fierce as the Highlands themselves. Is Fiona strong enough to resist her enemy’s advances—or is Gabriel actually her hero in disguise?


Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, October 4, 2016

Time and Setting: Scotland, 1812
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Suzanne Enoch, an established, prolific, and accomplished historical romance author, revisits Scottish heroes in her newest series, No Ordinary Hero. Indeed, Major Gabriel Forrester does not fit the usual mold of historical romance heroes; though he has just become a duke and inherited great wealth and land, he is first and foremost a soldier. He has no airs or sense of self-entitlement and, when he meets Fiona Blackstock, he’s attracted to a woman who is every bit as bold and brave as he is. She has spirit and fire and she dares to challenge him. For his part, his wealth and his heart can help Fiona (a woman who has shouldered many burdens but is tired) while also finding a home for himself. As a soldier, he has traveled the world and it has never occurred to him to set down roots.

As in several historical romances I’ve read recently, there’s a strong mystery element running through the story as malevolent events threaten to destroy the livelihood of the castle and its many indigent and dependent villagers. Over the years, someone has been stealing sheep at an alarming rate and the troubles escalate when Gabriel appears. Being a superstitious people, the clan calls it a curse but Gabriel, an Englishman, is determined to uncover the truth.

The denouement in the novel is a little anticlimactic – I expected an all out blowout after all the strange incidents – but I really like how Ms. Enoch depicts both Fiona and Gabriel challenging the villain, instead of the classic hero saving the heroine schtick. It’s a refreshing and unexpected twist.

For Fiona and Gabriel, it’s lust at first sight. They bait and challenge each other at every turn but they also share an instant and intense sexual attraction. She’s wary of a “Sassenach” duke coming in to save the day, but she also can’t deny or resist his good looks and charm – and, eventually, his kind heart. Gabriel grows on her like grass, as she observes him caring for the laborers and cotters and his determination to make the estate prosper. He earns her trust as well as her heart.

The romantic love between them grows slowly as each discovers attractive emotional qualities but, while they’re discovering them, they’re having sex every chance they can get. Fiona is no virgin and, oddly enough, for a man of the time, Gabriel doesn’t seem to mind. Indeed, she challenges him on that very fact by pointing out that he’s no virgin either. They understand each other but it’s definitely a mostly physical relationship.

Fiona has been running the estate since her brother ran off – there’s an unsolved mystery there -but also taking liberties by taking into account the livelihood of the villagers. She over-employs people at the castle and pretty much single-handedly runs things. Her only mistake is that Gabriel outsmarts her by actually coming to Scotland to take matters into his own hands after she ignored his lawyers’ many letters. In this way, their romantic love grows out of a shared desire for partnership in the success of the Scottish estate and the well-being of its residents.

Every day Scottish village life is colorfully depicted with runaway cows, a village picnic, and the beautiful descriptions of the landscape of the Scottish Highlands. The reader experiences it much as newcomer and war hero Gabriel does.

Obviously, as it’s set in Scotland, this book has a lot of Scottish dialect which can sometimes be a burden to read. But I know many readers enjoy stories set in Scotland so this may not be an issue. Ms. Enoch writes very well, her pacing is steady, and her characters engaging and human.

If you love Scottish historical romance and independent and strong-willed heroines, you will enjoy this book.

The Autumn Throne (Eleanor of Aquitaine #3) by Elizabeth Chadwick


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England, 1176

Imprisoned by her husband, King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England, refuses to let her powerful husband bully her into submission, even as he forces her away from her children and her birthright. Freed only by Henry’s death, Eleanor becomes dowager Queen of England. But the competition for land and power that Henry stirred up among his sons has intensified to a dangerous rivalry. Eleanor will need every ounce of courage and fortitude as she crosses the Alps in winter to bring Richard his bride, and travels medieval Europe to ransom her beloved son. But even her indomitable spirit will be tested to its limits as she attempts to keep the peace between her warring sons, and find a place in the centres of power for her daughters. Eleanor of Aquitaine’s powerful story is brought to a triumphant and beautiful close by much-loved author Elizabeth Chadwick


Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, October 2016

Time and Setting: England, 1176
Genre: Historical Fiction
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Wendy

The Autumn Throne is the third and final book in Elizabeth Chadwick’s Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy and brings to a close the riveting and fascinating story of this tremendously interesting woman. A duchess in her own right, but also a queen twice over, she was quite the stateswoman within the confines and attitudes of the times. She was a tigress where her children were concerned, especially her sons, but also – as revealed by this author’s scholarship and thorough research – a loving mother who suffered much in her ambitions for her children.

Eleanor – or more correctly – Alienor, was banished and held captive by her second husband Henry II after she supported her two eldest sons in a revolt against Henry. The Autumn Throne begins with Alienor having already served two years of what was to be fifteen years of imprisonment. She had already suffered the indignation of being publicly usurped by her husband’s mistress, and now, adding insult to injury, she has been incarcerated, with few luxuries and little or no company. Over the course of her fifteen years confinement she is occasionally summoned by her husband for various reasons – but always because he requires something from her. Occasionally she is given a few luxuries, but always her freedom is curtailed; however, never does she compromise her integrity in order to please Henry or to earn herself more comforts and often she is sent back into cold penury because of his anger at her obstinacy. In the end, her cruel imprisonment is brought to an end by the sudden death of Henry, and Richard honours his mother publicly as Queen of England.

Elizabeth Chadwick portrays Henry II as a cold and distant man; a man who never shows weakness and who seems undisturbed at the deaths of his own children – and that portrayal, as I see it – is spot on. The way I read and understand it, is that the author’s interpretation is based on his treatment of a wife who brought him many riches and lands, who faithfully stood by him, bore a large family in quick succession and – in the very early years of their marriage – played an active role in the governing of their vast joint holdings in England and France. Henry was a wheeler and dealer and as Ms. Chadwick succinctly showed in The Winter Crown he often got his fingers burned – one has only to think of the catastrophic failure of his attempt to deal with Thomas Becket. He seems to have been a man who was afraid to delegate power in case it diluted his own; this is borne out by the fact that he was shown to be a reasonably loving and caring father whilst his children were young but treated his sons as rivals once they grew to young adulthood.

Elizabeth Chadwick’s characters are beautifully drawn and developed and she brings the various members of the family and other peripheral characters to brilliant and vibrant life. My particular favourites are Richard and John. Richard, Alienor’s favourite son and the heir to her personal dominions of Gascony, Aquitaine and Poitou, is a stunning character, tall and golden, a god amongst men – truly worthy of his nickname of ‘Lion Heart’. In contrast, John is shown from an early age as being a sly troublemaker who wheedles his way into his father’s affections for his own gain – but as he is his father’s son, he has no real depth of feeling and cares for few. In the end he leaves his father alone to die a degrading and undignified death.

Alienor outlived all but one of her sons. In this book, the events leading up to Richard’s death – her frantic race to be by his side – and her dreadful sorrow are palpable and empathetically portrayed by this author who has expertly mixed her vast historical knowledge and research with her immense talent for transporting us into the moment.

I love Elizabeth Chadwick’s clever little observations/historic touches and how she reaches her conclusions as to how they may have come into being. Such as how we see Alienor overseeing the carving of the effigy of Henry’s tomb in Fontevrault Abbey, Chinon and her reasoning as to why he is depicted as a young man. And too, there is Alienor’s own effigy, and the possibility that she may have had a hand in the planning and design of it; the explanation of her own attire (her headdress) and the fact that she is holding an open book.

The Autumn Throne is a wonderful ending to a fantastic series. Alienor of Aquitaine has been adroitly and sympathetically portrayed by this great author of historical fiction and as has been the case with William Marshal, I suspect that she has increased the level of interest in this fascinating, medieval queen. A highly recommended must-read for fans of historical fiction.