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SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: River Road (Tortured Souls #3) by R.C. Matthews

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When a pirate and voodoo priestess must lift a deadly curse on those they love, do they dare let a relationship blossom amid danger? River Road is the gothically satisfying end to this fan-favorite series!

Charles Moore relishes his dangerous life as the pirate Hatchet, since manning a clipper ship keeps his mind off the role he played in the brutal Civil War. But now an ancient curse has killed two of his loves, and he can’t ignore the whispers that New Orleans’s Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau herself, has hexed his family.

Creole widow Hope Leblonc bristles under the city’s Black Codes that have stripped her of so many freedoms and forced her practice of voodoo underground. When Hatchet treats her like the respectable woman she is, she offers him a deal: she’ll lift the curse if he’ll steal back a family relic she needs to become a mambo in her religion.

But they’re both holding secrets that endanger their lives. When ghosts from the past exact revenge for the skeletons in the Moore family closet, they reveal a connection between Hope and Hatchet that makes the curse more powerful than ever. Will they discover that love is worth the risk in time to survive the coming darkness?

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EXCERPT

“What nonsense do you speak of?” his father asked with a lift of his brow. “Charles is cursed? By whom?”

“Something about a voodoo queen,” Maribeth replied with a shrug. “I should like to meet her. Do you know her?”

“Certainly not,” his father said with a sniff. “Marie Laveau hasn’t been seen in more than a decade. She might be dead for all I know. Do not speak of her or this voodoo nonsense again unless you’re keen on spending the night in a dank jail cell.” His gaze met Hatchet’s. “That’s what happens these days to those who practice the dark arts.”

“Well, what’re we going to do with this baggage?” Victor asked, scowling. “Can’t very well send her back to England unattended.”

Father set her back on her feet. “She’s more than welcome to join us. Charles, your mother will return to the plantation after a short stay in the city. You and Maribeth should accompany her. Harmon Grove offers many amusements for a curious young lady.”

Hatchet could not commit to anything until he found a quiet moment to mull over the situation. Dammit! Maribeth’s presence was problematic, robbing him of hours that would be better served in pursuit of information on the curse.

“Let me think on it after we settle in. The girl is young and fragile, making her vulnerable to disease,” he said with a pointed look in her direction. “I don’t want her too close to Mother.”

His little charge growled. “I’m not fragile.”

Father waved his hand. “No worries on that front. Lucetta is already back on her feet and a woman about town. Been at least a week since she recovered. Only last evening, she prayed for your early arrival so we might celebrate your birthday. She’ll be delighted when I share the news.”

“Is that so?” Hatchet asked with a long drawl. “Your letter left no doubt as to her condition. ‘Mother lies on her deathbed and begs for your return.’ Those were your exact words.”

Brushing away an imaginary speck on his jacket, his father avoided his gaze. “Yes, a remarkable recovery. Well, I must be off. I’ll send the carriages around before noon. Please, do not dally. Your mother will be intolerable company until you arrive. Perhaps I shall keep your early arrival a secret.”

“Speaking of secrets,” Hatchet said, walking with his father to the gangplank, away from prying little ears. “What business do you have on The Angelica? The captain and crew are untrustworthy, the lot of them. Best not to be seen dealing with them.”

Father folded his arms and puffed out his chest. “You’re advising me? I’m rather more than seven, my dear boy. Did you fail to notice the early-morning hour of my visit or my black attire? The Moore-Lloyd Shipping Co. is the most successful shipping venture this side of the Gulf. Believe me when I say I know precisely what I’m doing. But I thank you for your concern.”

A few moments later, Father entered his carriage, and Hatchet let out a sigh as the horses clomped away.

“Yes, Father, I noticed both the early hour and your fine clothing, along with the company crest on your carriage.”

Little had changed in his absence. Mother still manipulated the people who loved her by any means available, and Father knew what was best for them all. Well, with his mother in good health, at least he would have plenty of time to investigate the rumors of the blasted curse. His Nicolette and Emma were dead, as well as the spouses of his siblings. With four deaths among them, Hatchet could no longer blame coincidence. He must rid his family of the hex. And then he would get the bloody hell out of New Orleans, again.

As he turned to attend his duties, another carriage rolled to a stop in front of The Angelica. The driver hopped to the ground and assisted a woman out. Unlike Isaac, this woman did nothing to disguise her appearance as she boldly boarded the pirate ship.

Even from a distance, Hatchet discerned her beauty: a rich, bronze skin tone and lustrous black hair. New Orleans had many attractive women, but the best among them were the Creoles, forbidden as wives but coveted as lovers. His loins stirred as his gaze roved over her full bosom, to her cinched waist and the gentle swell of her behind.

“I’ve sent Maribeth to break her fast with Mercy,” Victor said, leaning his hip against the rail. “We’ve a lot to accomplish before noon.”

His gaze followed Hatchet’s to the forecastle deck of The Angelica, and he whistled. “Captain Corbin doesn’t waste time. You should seek out female company while in town. Tomorrow is your birthday, after all. We buried Emma nearly six months ago. You must move on at some point, and a brothel poses no risk. You will not fall in love with a lady of the night.”

Lie with another woman? No, he could not. But as he watched an argument unfold between Captain Corbin and the exotic minx, he couldn’t deny her allure.

“Maybe,” Hatchet amended as the black-haired beauty slapped the captain then stomped down the gangplank. “I’ve never sought one night of pleasure in the arms of a comely wench. Perhaps I must accept that as my fate, because falling in love three times in one lifetime seems against all odds.”

At least he had that going for him.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

R.C. Matthews lives in Michigan where she enjoys the four seasons and indulging her imagination while writing romances. Find R.C. Matthews at http://www.rcmatthews.com/, on Facebook, and on Twitter @RCMatthews123.

A Daring Arrangement (The Four Hundred #1) by Joanna Shupe


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Lady Honora Parker must get engaged as soon as possible, and only a particular type of man will do. Nora seeks a mate so abhorrent, so completely unacceptable, that her father will reject the match–leaving her free to marry the artist she loves. Who then is the most appalling man in Manhattan? The wealthy, devilishly handsome financier, Julius Hatcher, of course….

Julius is intrigued by Nora’s ruse and decides to play along. But to Nora’s horror, Julius transforms himself into the perfect fiancé, charming the very people she hoped he would offend. It seems Julius has a secret plan all his own–one that will solve a dark mystery from his past, and perhaps turn him into the kind of man Nora could truly love.


Publisher and Release Date: Avon, October 2017

Time and Setting: New York, 1890
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Sara

Readers are always clamoring for something different when it comes to historical romance. Joanna Shupe has answered the call with her new book A Daring Arrangement; set during New York’s Gilded Age and using the extravagance and elegance of the time to create a sense that anything is possible, including a jaded heart finding true love.

For most young women the chance to mix and mingle with New York City’s upper class would be an incredible adventure, but for Lady Honora Parker it’s penance. When her father, the Earl of Stratton, caught Nora in the arms of artist Robert Landon he immediately shipped her off to America to spend time with her aunt and uncle. Having an ocean between them does nothing to cool Nora’s love for Robert and no soirée can distract her from her determination to find a way to return to England and his arms. Knowing that her father will not summon her back home without good reason, Nora concocts a plan to attach herself to the most scandalous man in New York, causing enough gossip that her father will have to take notice. To Nora’s mind the idea is foolproof. All she needs is the right kind of man, one who’ll get her name in the papers but won’t press for anything more than a business arrangement with her.

While out to dinner with her aunt and uncle, Nora is distracted by a loud ruckus in the ballroom above the dining rooms. A quick inquiry reveals that the party upstairs is being held for Mr. Julius Hatcher, an infamous financier on the stock market and an upstart in the eyes of the elite. The dining room begins to swirl with gossip about the man and for Nora it makes him the perfect candidate for her scheme. Excusing herself from the table Nora finds the ballroom and is shocked to see it filled with men attempting to hold a cocktail party while on horseback! Nora’s introduction to Mr. Hatcher goes poorly when he mistakes her as a woman hired as the entertainment; however his drunkenness makes him quite agreeable to her plans. With a shocking kiss to seal the deal, Nora secures the hand of a fake fiancé who’ll create a stir big enough to be felt across the Atlantic.

Waking up with a dreadful hangover, Julius’s headache only gets worse with the arrival of a proper English lady on his doorstep. The nonsense coming out of her mouth about fake betrothals makes Julius question his recollections of his birthday party the night before and a fuzzy memory of kissing a beautiful woman. Lady Honora’s plan to use the gossip surrounding his name for her benefit just reeks of foolishness, but her offer to use her connections within the Knickerbocker set to bring Julius into their fold is something he can’t ignore. He’s spent years trying to gain entrance into their exclusive clubs and gatherings in the hopes of finding the men responsible for his father’s ruin years before. Despite his wealth, Julius hasn’t managed to get his foot past the door, but an engagement to a society lady  like Nora will open those doors wide enough to see all the secrets hidden behind them.

A Daring Arrangement is the kind of romance where the main characters start off so at odds that you’re drawn in just to know how they’ll end up together. Nora is a romantic, seeing her love for her suitor Robert as pure and uncompromising, born from his ability to see her as an individual. Julius is practical, seeing things through a businessman’s eyes and having little care for attachments or sentiment. Their feelings stem from how they were raised; Nora being starved for love by a remote father and Julius poisoned by his parent’s damaged relationship. Neither one begins the arrangement with hopes that a connection will blossom; however in spending time with each other they each begin to see the flaws in their previous viewpoints.

Julius is a swoon-worthy hero who embodies some of the best (and worst) qualities of the American success story. He’s built himself from the ground up and his pride at his achievements borders on arrogance when he flaunts his scandals with no apologies. Meeting Nora and being her fake fiancé in public makes Julius reevaluate the importance of a man’s reputation when it spills over to those closest to him. He cleans up his act, at first to keep the society men eager to know him but then to prove to Nora that he’s more than just a walking target for gossip.

Nora’s journey from naïve, slightly impulsive girl to a courageous and responsible young woman is the heart of the story. Despite her feelings that only Robert understands her there are many signs that Nora doesn’t quite know herself yet. She manipulates situations to get what she wants, not understanding that a scandal large enough to get her father’s attention will also ruin her future. Julius confronts her about her behavior as well as Robert’s lackluster efforts in their relationship, explaining that words mean nothing if they’re not followed up by actions. Nora’s eyes are opened to what a real relationship feels like and what true love means as she sees her own value through Julius’ respect and attention towards her.

A Daring Arrangement is the first book I’ve read from Ms. Shupe and I’m already eager for more. Her world of Knickerbocracy and the glamor of 1890’s New York is easily my new favorite setting for historical romance and I’ll be checking out her backlist while I wait for what’s next in The Four Hundred series.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Brambles and Thorns by Jocelyn Kirk

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Elena Bellwood’s life is thrown into chaos when her mother dies and leaves her penniless. She is forced to move from her beloved home in New York City to live with an aunt in Connecticut—an aunt she never knew existed. During her journey north, she meets Benjamin Garrick, a blunt-spoken gentleman with a strange hobby. Against her will, Elena finds herself attracted to his manly demeanor, and she is both pleased and flustered to learn he is a close friend of her aunt and lives in the same village.

In her new life with Aunt Rosalie, Elena begins to question her past. Why had she never been told of her aunt? What is the significance of the odd items she found in her mother’s bedroom? Who is the stranger in town that seems always to be staring at her? To answer these questions, Elena must explore past secrets that tear apart her world.

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EXCERPT

The duke took her hand and kissed it.

“Thank you for coming, Your Grace.” She seated herself and the duke did likewise. Willa entered, and Elena ordered tea.

“I owe you an apology,” the duke began, “for not attending your mother’s funeral. I was out of the city for a few days on business, and the weather forced me to stay in Queens for an extra day.”

“Pray do not distress yourself. No one can stop snow when it decides to fall. You are here now, and I am deeply grateful for it.”

Willa came in with tea, and Elena served it. The duke sipped the hot liquid and devoured two of the sweet buns Willa placed on the table. He said nothing while he ate, rather surprising Elena with his silence.

Perhaps, she reasoned, he is gathering his courage for the presentation of his proposals. She attempted to wait patiently.

Finally, he spoke. “Miss Bellwood, what are your future plans?”

A thrill ran through her. “I…am not certain.”

“Have you no family to go to? You are not contemplating remaining in New York alone, I trust.”

“No. I have an aunt in Connecticut. I suppose I must go to her, unless…”

The duke started to speak but halted his words. He sighed and took her hand.

“I am fond of you, Elena, and because I care for you, I cannot be satisfied with being less than honest. To you I will speak the truth.”
“My dear duke, what do you mean?”

“I believe—correct me if I am mistaken—my attentions to you may perhaps have given rise to expectations…”

Elena instantly decided to be as frank as he. She took a deep breath and attempted to speak calmly. “Yes, perhaps they did, on my mother’s part, if not quite certainly my own.”

“If you recall, I was going to wait upon you on the day of your mother’s death.”

“Yes.”

“My purpose in calling was to request a private interview with you…”

“A private interview?”

“Yes. I feared that there had been some talk about us, and I wanted you to know, to forewarn you before the news broke.”

“Forewarn me? Your Grace, what do you mean?”

He smoothed his trousers. “Elena, a few days before your mother died, I engaged myself to Miss Julia Howarth—”

“Engaged yourself! Do you mean…?”

“Engaged to be married, yes.”

“Dear God! You were dancing with me—flirting with me—while engaged to another woman! That is despicable!”

He shrugged. “When you are in my arms, Elena, I find it impossible to think of anyone but you. I am not quite in love with you, but very near.”

She stared at him in horror and disbelief. “You are half in love with me, but then you—but why not…?”

He answered her unarticulated question. “My dear, you have no dowry, whereas Miss Howarth will bring the equivalent of thirty thousand English pounds. I am thirty-six years old, not a foolish young blade who would marry out of unalloyed devotion to the object of his desires. My inquiries as to your inheritance were met with the shocking information of your mother’s indebtedness. And now…rumor has it that you are destitute.”

“Good God!” Elena cried, unable to control her tongue. “You, with your wealth, would spurn me because my mother left no money?”

“Calm yourself, my dear, I pray you. The reason I am wealthy—and my family is wealthy—is because we never take any material step without a consideration of the financial aspects of it. I find you extremely charming and attractive, and I was willing to make you my choice even if your mother’s estate had been moderate. But no man in my condition of life would be so foolish as to take a bride who brings nothing to the marriage—not wealth nor noble blood nor future property. I would be a laughingstock.”

Elena leaned back in her chair, barely able to breathe from the shock of his revelations. She felt giddy and faint. She opened her mouth to speak but was unable to find breath to form words. The duke poured sherry and attempted to hold the glass to her lips, but she pushed his hand away with such force that the sweet wine spilled on the settee and splashed her silk gown.

“Elena, I beseech you, calm yourself. I am here to offer you a different type of proposal, and you may very well find this one equally to your liking.”

She raised her eyes to his face and stared at him. A cold chill ran down her back, and she shivered.

“Surely you are aware that most men in my position in life marry for wealth or family considerations, often to women for whom they have little desire. In such cases, it is customary for a gentleman to…to…”

“To keep a mistress?” Elena gasped, able to speak at last.

He shrugged. “To put it plainly, yes.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jocelyn’s fascination with life in the 1800s began when she was a teenager and started reading historical novels. She was influenced by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Winston Graham’s Poldark series. Jocelyn resides in the historic town of Mystic, Connecticut.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: For the Brave (The Gentrys of Paradise #1) by Holly Bush

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1869 – Matthew Gentry joined the Confederate Army at eighteen years of age after an argument with his father, leaving Paradise, his Virginia home and famed horse breeding stables, for the fields of Gettysburg. Having survived the War Between the States, Gentry is haunted by the violence and inhumanity of the war. He continues to roam the country long after the conflict is over, finding solace in the arms of soiled doves and at the bottom of whiskey bottles. Finally traveling home after learning of a family tragedy, he nearly loses his life in a spring-flooded riverbed.

Annie Campbell, lone survivor of her family, lives at a remote farm near the North River, raising pigs and trying to grow enough to feed herself, and to stay out of the crosshairs of the Thurmans, violent men who run the town of Bridgewater. Annie’s secrets threaten her safety, even as she rescues and nurses Matthew Gentry.

Matthew knows he must return to Paradise, to grieve with his family. Will his heart lead him back to Bridgewater and Annie Campbell?

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EXCERPT

The train slowed down to a crawl as it approached the Winchester station. Matt looked out the window as town came into view and found it looked achingly familiar, as if there was a painted sign hanging from the sky saying “this is your home.” But as they got closer, he could see that details had changed. His great-aunt Brigid’s seamstress shop was now called Bessie’s Sewing, but hadn’t she been talking about selling even before he’d left home? He knew she was old then, probably seventy years old by now, and he wondered if she’d died while he was gone. He could have asked Ben. He hadn’t asked him much of anything about home, just the barest bit of information. Oh, he was a coward.

Ben had woken and was pointing out the window with a shaking finger at every landmark and store they passed before the train finally stopped with a steamed belch. They waited until all the other passengers departed, letting Ben take his time walking down the narrow aisle to where a porter stood to help him down the steps. Matt followed close behind carrying his saddlebags and the oilcloth sack. He handed the porter a coin and held on to Ben’s arm. The old man was exhausted even though he protested and said he’d be fine. Matt looked up when he heard his name.

It was Adam, his elder brother, calling to him. Matt wasn’t sure until that moment how it would feel to see them, his family that was, and whether youthful bonds would trump adult errors. But Adam was walking to him now with the familiar loose gait of a tall, active man, smiling, a rare thing to be seen, and Matt was certain that wherever his travels had taken him, and whatever sights he’d seen, nothing could compare with the gladness he felt right at that moment.

“Adam?”

His brother grabbed him around the shoulders, slapping his back and laughing. He hugged him back hard, smelling the scent of horses and home that his brother carried. Adam stepped away and looked at him.

“My God, Matt. I’ve missed you. I am so glad you’re here.”

Matt turned when he heard Ben sniffling beside him.

Adam turned his head. “Ben? Is that you?”

“It’s me, Adam,” he said, crying and shaking and leaning on Matt. “I thought I’d never see you again, boy.”

Adam put his arm around the old man and looked over his head at Matt, questions in his eyes.

“We’re going to need a wagon, Adam, and my horse Chester is being unloaded right now, I can see. Will Wilkins’s have something we can use?”

“Sure, sure, Matt. Let me get over there and get something from Jasper. My horse can pull it and we’ll tie Chester to the rear.”

“Chester will be very glad to be on the tail end of a wagon, wouldn’t you say, Ben?” Matt asked.

Ben wiped his nose on his sleeve. “He sure will, son, he sure will,” he replied in a shaking voice.

“Let’s get you over to the stable while they’re unloading Chester,” Matt said and bent down to lift him.

“I don’t need carried,” Ben said but didn’t move to get out of his arms.

“Shut up, old man, or I’ll dunk you in another river,” he said.

Ben chuckled, and he went down the steps, his brother’s eyes on the pair of them the whole time. They got Ben settled in the back of a low wagon where Matt stowed his saddlebags and sack. He brought Chester down the steep incline near the steps, leading him by the bridle, and talking soft and low. He tied Chester to the back, promised a double ration of whatever the Morgans were getting and a clean stall that he could rest in for as long as he wanted.

He climbed up onto the seat beside his brother. “Did you just happen to be in town?”

Adam shook his head. “Mother’s been sending me every time the train is due to arrive from the south. I stand on the platform and wait until the last passenger is off. I didn’t one time and made the mistake of telling her so, and she nearly sent me back to town,” he said and looked at him. “She was worried I’d left you at the station. I almost left today, thinking everyone was off the train, and then I thought I recognized Ben and you behind him. Mother would’ve had my hide if I’d left early today.”

“I’ve worried her,” Matt said, eyes on the trail before him.

“You have. You’ve worried us all. But you’re here now, and I get the feeling that there’s some stories to tell.”

The wagon passed the outcrop of rocks marking the Paradise property line, revealing a valley below with a plateau of flat land above it. The valley was fenced, with horses grazing and trotting about, and he could see a few foals probably born this past spring trailing their mothers. He looked at the house above and felt a tight constriction in his chest. Flat whitewashed fences surrounded its rambling two stories that had been one room when his parents moved there shortly after their marriage. It was now a sprawling twenty-room house of stone with large windows and wood shutters and a gabled roof. Flowers were still blooming, and trees overhung the house in the back. A large barn sat near it with several other neat outbuildings beyond. It was Paradise. It was his home.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Holly Bush’s books are set during the turbulent and transformative years of the late 1800s. The first two books in her newest series, The Gentrys of Paradise, will release in the spring of 2017, beginning with Into the Evermore, where readers will meet Virginia horse breeders, Eleanor and Beauregard Gentry. The following books will feature their children, Adam, Matthew, and Olivia. For the Brave is Matthew’s story and is the first full length book of the series.

The Crawford Family Series following the fortunes of the three Boston born Crawford sisters and includes Train Station Bride, Contract to Wed, Her Safe Harbor, and companion novella, The Maid’s Quarters. Cross the Ocean and Charming the Duke are both British set Victorian romances. Fan favorites stand-alone historical romance novels include Romancing Olive and Reconstructing Jackson. Her books are described as “emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance.”

Holly makes her home with her husband, one happy Labrador Retriever, and two difficult cats in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Connect with Holly at www.hollybushbooks.com, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: A Kiss in the Morning Mist by Marie Patrick

A Kiss in the Morning Mist

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Former U.S. Marshal Eamon MacDermott failed to prevent the death of his brother, sister-in-law, and young nephew at the hands of the Logan gang. Wracked by guilt, he’s hung up his guns and turned his back on life altogether. That is, until he meets Theodosia “Theo” Danforth.

Widowed and running Morning Mist horse farm with the help of her extended family and friends, Theo harbors an unshakable belief that everyone needs kindness—even the town’s founder who is determined to claim her lands. But how can she convince Eamon he is worthy of happiness?

When the outlaw gang resurfaces and join forces to destroy Morning Mist, Eamon must choose between picking up his guns again to extract vengeance or letting the past remain in the past and forging a new future with Theo.

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EXCERPT

Eamon removed his hat from his head and approached the old woman. “Excuse me, ma’am.”

She didn’t jump or stop pulling weeds from between rows of sprouting greenery. In fact, she didn’t seem to be alarmed by his sudden appearance at all. Instead, she peered at him from beneath the wide brim of her hat. Her sharp brown eyes boldly assessed him as her scrutiny went from the top of his hatless head to the boots on his feet and back. She smiled, the wrinkles on her face deepening, as she nodded. “Well, now, you certainly took your time gettin’ here, son, but you’ll do.”

Somewhat taken aback by the comment, Eamon peered at the woman and frowned. She spoke as if she’d expected him, but how could she have known? He hadn’t known until a short time ago he’d be here.

She continued her frank appraisal, then stuck out her hand. “Lavinia Stark, but you can call me Granny. Everyone does.”

Despite her misshapen hands, her grip was strong and solid.

“A plea—”

He never had a chance to finish his sentence or introduce himself. He heard the back door open, then the distinct double click of a shotgun being cocked.

Eamon released the woman’s hand and dropped his hat to the ground. Without another thought, he reached for the pistols slung low around his hips but found . . . nothing. No holster, no guns. He’d forgotten he no longer wore them—they weren’t part of him anymore and hadn’t been for a long time. He took a deep breath, turned slowly to face the direction of the noise, and blinked several times. A woman stood before him, the shotgun steady in her hands. Dressed in a white blouse, a split skirt made of fine, soft suede, and tooled leather boots, she stunned him with her perfection. A hank of whiskey-colored hair slipped from the ponytail at the back of her head and fell forward. She swung it out of her face with a practiced jerk of her head.

She spoke, her voice low and gravelly, but exuding confidence. “Mister, I don’t know who you are, but if I were you, I’d get off my land. I’ve never killed anyone, but there’s always a first time.” She didn’t raise the shotgun and point it at him, but she didn’t have to. The threat couldn’t have been more clear. She would if he forced her hand.

She stood not ten feet away and looked . . . angry and unapologetic. Determined to make him leave. Green eyes, as green as spring grass, sparkled with indignation, and the firm set of her mouth left no doubt . . . she wanted nothing more than to have him gone, and he didn’t think she would hesitate to pull the trigger.

“And you can tell Mr. Pearce I haven’t changed my mind.” Her voice dropped an octave, becoming more hoarse, sounding like she gargled three times a day with rocks, but still strong and commanding and oddly, very pleasant. “I’m not selling. I’ll never sell. I don’t care how many men he sends to bully me. He’s messing with the wrong woman.”

“I don’t mean no harm, ma’am.” Eamon took a step back . . . a slow careful step, and just as carefully, picked up his hat. “I don’t know any Mr. Pearce. I’m just lookin’ for work. Or maybe a hot meal.”

She didn’t seem convinced as she stepped closer, her eyes narrowing as she studied his face.

“Theo Danforth! Put down that shotgun!” The woman beside him finally spoke and moved with a swiftness that belied her age, advancing on the woman named Theo.

A heated, whispered conversation, which Eamon couldn’t hear, ensued while he watched both women warily, his hat still in his hands, his feet planted firmly to the ground. Their conversation became more animated, though he still couldn’t hear their words. The fact Theo still held the weapon tightly in her hands was enough to let him know he wasn’t welcome.

“Look, lady, I’ll just leave. No harm done.” He shifted his weight from one leg to the other, his discomfort growing by the second. No one liked being on the wrong side of a gun, no matter which side of the law one stood on, even if the bore of the shotgun was pointed at the ground. Accidents could happen. “I ain’t that hungry.”

Despite his words, his empty stomach chose that moment to gurgle loudly. Much to his embarrassment, the noise carried to where to the two women argued. The younger one snapped her mouth shut in midsentence, while the older one, Granny, grinned with smug satisfaction.

Theo relaxed her grip on the gun, but she still didn’t smile. “The least I can do is feed you,” she said, though her expression made it clear she wasn’t happy about it. She turned and marched through the back porch into the house, slamming the door behind her.

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A WORD ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Marie Patrick has always had a love affair with words and books, but it wasn’t until a trip to Arizona, where she now makes her home with her husband and furry, four-legged “girl,” that she became inspired to write about the sometimes desolate, yet beautiful landscape. Her inspiration doesn’t just come from the Wild West, though. It comes from history itself. She is fascinated with pirates and men in uniform and lawmen with shiny badges. When not writing or researching her favorite topics, she can usually be found curled up with a good book. Marie loves to hear from her readers. Drop her a note at Akamariep@aol.com, or visit her website at www.mariepatrick.com.

http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/A-Kiss-in-the-Morning-Mist/Marie-Patrick/9781507204443

http://www.crimsonromance.com/historical-romance-novels/kiss-morning-mist/

Honor Before Heart (Emerald Belles #1) by Heather McCorkle

honor before heart

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Risking it all for love and valor . . .

When Corporal Sean MacBranian awakens after being injured in battle, he is sure the luck o’ the Irish has run out on him. Or that he’s died and gone to Heaven. There can be no other explanation for the blond-haired, blue-eyed angel standing before him. But his “angel” is a truehearted lass named Ashlinn, and she wears a nurse’s uniform. Her tender ministrations have brought him back from the brink of death—and have given him a new reason for living.

Ashlinn knows their parting is inevitable; her handsome hero must return to the 69th infantry of the Union army, and there are no guarantees of his safe return. With most of her family already destroyed by the war ravaging America, she is sure she cannot survive another loss. Yet she feels powerless against the draw of Sean’s strong and steady heart. Neither time nor distance nor the danger of battle seems to lessen their bond. But when their secret letters are intercepted, the devoted nurse’s love will face the ultimate test . . .

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Publisher and Release Date: Lyrical Press, March 2017

Time and Setting: Virginia, 1862
Genre: American Historical Romance (Civil War period)
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Sara

Honor Before Heart is a sweetly romantic story set against the horrors of the American Civil War. McCorkle has definitely done her homework to show the brutality and personal cost faced by those who fought or lost someone in the war, although I wish that a bit more had been done to develop the characters past their basic outlines and turn them into a man and woman I could fully connect with.

Ashlinn O’Brian’s life has been changed forever by the war. Her three brothers heard the call to arms and enlisted in the Northern army. After two of them died from poorly treated wounds Ashlinn has been desperately searching the battlefields to find her youngest brother to hopefully save him from dying too. Ashlinn learned everything she could from her parents, a progressive doctor and a midwife, and her skills at keeping patients alive has made her more than a few enemies in the army camp hospital she works in. The latest battle on the shores of the James River has littered the ground with the bodies of dead Union and Confederate soldiers but Ashlinn’s prayers are answered that none of the men she finds are her brother. Before returning to the safety of the army camp Ashlinn’s attention is drawn to her faithful dog Cliste dragging something by the river bank. Getting closer to the water Ashlinn sees that the dog is trying to help a Union soldier who is unconscious but bleeding heavily from a gut wound. Knowing she’s the man’s only hope for survival, Ashlinn gets him into a makeshift shelter and treats his injuries using the supplies she always carries with her.

Corporal Sean MacBranian had escaped injury during the battle only to be caught by a Rebel soldier he found abusing a dog. He managed to kill the Southerner but not before the man got a few good hits on Sean’s person. The pain of his injuries knocks him out and for a moment Sean is certain he’s died when he wakes up to the beautiful face of a guardian angel leaning over him. Fortunately for Sean, his angel is a nurse who knows better ways to heal severe injuries than slicing and dicing up a patient. Ashlinn’s skills at suturing his wounds and keeping them clear of infection allow him to regain some of his strength so they can move out of enemy territory. As they travel Sean finds that Ashlinn is a well-spoken young woman but every so often he can hear a bit of a brogue seeping into her words. As an immigrant from Ireland, Sean is drawn to that little hint of Ashlinn’s own background as it’s something special they share.

Upon arriving safely at the army’s encampment Sean and Ashlinn try to keep their relationship on a cordial level since the war could separate them at any moment. Ashlinn has already learned the difficult lesson that caring for someone makes it agonizing to watch them march into an uncertain future on the battlefield. Sean, too, has seen many good men die and fears that his growing feelings for Ashlinn might become a distraction when his focus should be on the soldiers who serve under him. What neither of them counted on was how strong their bond had already become after Ashlinn saved his life and Sean protected her from the unwanted advances of the camp’s brutal doctor. They become inseparable after Sean is deployed into another battle and Ashlinn knows she would be lost if he were killed in action. Their new relationship is tested when Ashlinn discovers proof that her brother is alive but the circumstances of his disappearance may make her choose between her family and a future with Sean.

Honor Before Heart is tonally perfect for the period –  I could almost see everything happening to Ashlinn and Sean through a sepia-colored lens. One would think that the importance of social status would be something easily ignored while living in an army camp; however Ashlinn’s background as a wealthy Northerner is something that matters to Sean. He is aware that his own status as an Irish immigrant puts him much lower in class than her family even thought they, too, had immigrated generations earlier. There is also a black mark on his family’s name that Sean is hesitant to reveal since it was part of the reason he came to America to start a new life. Once he decides to pursue Ashlinn he adjusts their situation within the camp to always provide a chaperone or keep their meetings within the bounds of propriety. It makes their romance very sweet for most of their courting.

Unfortunately those sepia-colored lenses cannot hide the fact that Sean and Ashlinn never seem to grow or change much throughout the course of the story. Sean is a noble man who fights for the Union to bring freedom to the Southern slaves. Ashlinn is an intelligent and enlightened woman far ahead of her times when it comes to the care of the sick and injured in the field. Those two ideas are discussed between characters many times and serve as the major points of conflict when Ashlinn’s methods are challenged by the male doctors or Sean is captured by a Southern plantation owner. Long passages of the story paint vivid pictures of the brutal conditions Ashlinn is fighting against in the field hospitals, yet that’s all she seems to be fighting for. We don’t really know why her family joined the fight or what her thoughts are about the political side of things.

With that said, I enjoyed enough of Honor Before Heart to recommend it. The calm pace of the story creates the perfect conditions for a romance to thrive but the darkness of war is always present. It’s nice to believe that something as beautiful as love will survive past all of the hate.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Heart You Need by Diane R. Jewkes

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When society reporter Adeline Ellsworth’s cousin, a police inspector, is murdered in 1896 San Francisco, she immediately sets out to uncover the truth. This could be her chance to leave frivolous fashion gossip behind for a career reporting on important issues. But her investigation leads to danger—and she wakes up tied to Alec McCairn, Lord Peyton.

In California to set up a new office, the Scottish peer definitely wasn’t looking for a romantic entanglement, especially with an independent, opinionated reporter. But he suspects the beguiling Adeline is in over her head and too proud to ask for help. He vows to protect her, no matter how hard she balks.

A widow, Adeline guards her heart carefully and doesn’t want Alec ruining her chance to expose this corruption, no matter how attractive or charming he is. But then the main suspect kidnaps her younger brother and demands Adeline’s research as ransom. To save him and crack the case, they must work together. But the biggest mystery they end up solving might just be how to capture each other’s heart.

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EXCERPT

San Francisco, 1896

Opening his eyes, Alec MacCairn groaned. Pain radiated from the lump on the back of his head. A lantern hanging from a hook gave off a dull yellow glow that did little to light the room. Rough wooden walls, some crates, and bits of broken wood didn’t offer many clues, though the quiet slapping of waves against a wooden hull and a small porthole on one wall gave him an idea of where he might be. Flexing his arms, he knew they were tied behind him and someone was at his back. What the hell happened? he thought, anger roaring through him.

“This is all your fault,” a familiar female voice said. “You do know that, don’t you?”

Dropping his chin to his chest, he realized he was not alone—and just whom he was bound to.

“How in that twisted brain of yours can you possibly think that?” he asked. “In no way did my attempt to stop your meddling get us here. I can assure you, Miss Ellsworth, this sits squarely on your shoulders.” He had approached her at the mayor’s party earlier in the evening. He’d recognized her as the reporter who’d interviewed him for the society column of her newspaper. He still didn’t know why she had been acting so secretive, hiding behind columns and scribbling notes on a small pad. He had pulled her aside to ask what she was doing, when they’d been attacked.

Pain ripped through his shoulders. He knew Adeline Ellsworth was twisting her body around as much as the ropes would allow, trying to look at him. “Of all the … If you hadn’t alerted those miscreants to our presence, we wouldn’t be in this conundrum now!”

“I was trying to protect you from yourself.”

“And see how well that worked.”

Alec could feel her against his back, wriggling like a worm on a hook, trying to loosen the ropes that bound them together.

“Stop squirming so I can think,” he snapped. “When we are out of this, you have a great deal of explaining to do.”

“You have ruined months of investigation. I’ll never find out what really happened.” The anger in her voice was palpable.

“It was your blasted eavesdropping that got us in this mess,” Alec grumbled. “If you hadn’t tried to listen to conversations not meant for you, we wouldn’t be here now.”

“That’s what I do, Lord MacCairn.” He could hear the disdain in her voice as she used proper address. Even though he had told her when they first met it was unnecessary, she persisted. At first she’d called him Viscount Peyton until he made it clear he would not accept the address from an American. “I am a reporter. I try to tell the world of the injustices being done.”

“I’m sorry, aren’t you a society photographer and reporter? I didn’t know I was in the presence of Nellie Bly.”

“I am working toward being taken seriously as a journalist. This investigation is part of that.”

“Well that won’t help get us out of these ties, now will it?” Alec flexed his wrists, trying to stretch the ropes. He could feel Miss Ellsworth trying to follow suit.

He noted that while their hands were tied to each other, their legs were tied separately. Hers were tied together, while his were stretched to the sides and tied to the chair legs. If one of them could reach down and get the sgian-dubh from his boot, he could cut them loose. Twisting against the ropes, he tried to see her over his shoulder.

“Miss Ellsworth, do you think you can lean to your left and reach my ankle?”

“Why?”

“There is a small knife tucked into the top of my boot.” He felt himself being pulled to the side as she stretched to reach his calf. As her fingers crawled down his leg, the random thought crossed his mind of how pleasant that would be in another time and place.

“I’ve got it!” she cried triumphantly as she straightened back up, instantly easing the ripping pain in his shoulder. “Can you feel it?”

He stretched and twisted his fingers until he felt the smooth steel of the knife blade. Wrapping his fingers around it carefully, he took the knife from her, rotated it until he grasped the handle, and positioned the blade alongside her wrist.

“Try not to move, so I don’t hurt you.” Alec closed his eyes, concentrating on the feel of the blade, keeping it from twisting and cutting into her skin. After what seemed an eternity, the rope parted and their arms separated. He pulled his arms up, removing the remnants of rope dangling from his wrists. Leaning over, he cut the ropes binding his ankles, stood, and turned to free Miss Ellsworth. When he saw the raw red skin where the rope had chafed her, his temper flared.

“Hold still while I cut the ropes on your ankles.” He leaned down, gently grasping her leg. “Are you injured?” The knife easily sliced her free.

“Other than a little stiffness and raw skin, I am fine. Thank you.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DianeJ2Diane grew up in the deserts of New Mexico, riding her horse for hours and creating characters and stories along the way. After graduating with a degree in journalism and a minor in history, she married and had two wonderful children. Now a grandmother of three and living in Colorado, she has brought those characters to life in her books.

She is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Hearts Through History Romance Writers (HHRW), and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW).

Find Diane R. Jewkes at www.dianerjewkes.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @DianeRJewkes.

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 . . .

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EXCERPT

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.”

“Sloane!”

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?

Strange.

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.

OUR REVIEW

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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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.

You can connect with Joanna at: Website * ~ *  Facebook * ~ * Twitter * ~ * Goodreads

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SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Castles in the Air by Sheila Myers

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In Castles in the Air, author Sheila Myers crafts a tale of greed, ambition, and drive for freedom as she continues the fictional account of the Durant family begun in Imaginary Brightness.

When their father dies, William and Ella are finally free of his domineering control to pursue their ambitions. William is now head of the family. Without his father’s ruthlessness and business savvy, he resorts to creative but dubious financial scheming to save what remains of the family fortune and fulfill his visions of grandeur for the Adirondack wilderness as a playground for the rich.

Ella takes off for London to chase her own dream—to return to high society life, become a successful author, and mingle with literary giants. But she struggles to cope as William tightens the purse strings and restricts her freedom, while her feelings for a gallant and enigmatic French aristocrat turn into obsession.

William and Ella head toward an increasingly inevitable collision as they wrangle over their father’s legacy.

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EXCERPT

“Please excuse us, Anny, but I have urgent family news for Ella, and if you don’t mind I need to whisk her away briefly into the guest room.”

“Don’t tarry; dinner will be served shortly,” she said. Her eyes followed them until Poultney shut the drawing room door behind them.

“The impertinence!” Ella snapped as she finally was able to pull her arm away from Poultney’s.

Poultney ignored her and walked over to the small bar to pour a tumbler of whiskey for himself. He downed it in two swigs and poured another. Then he turned to face Ella.

“Do you even know what you’re doing?”

“What are you talking about?” Ella sputtered.

“That man,” Poultney nodded his head in the direction of the ballroom, “the count. Or so he says.”

“Poultney, I am in no mood for your jealous antics.”

“Hah. Ella, my dear, this is not about me being jealous. It’s about you making a fool of yourself with that scoundrel.”

“He’s a gentleman.”

“And how would you know that?”

Ella puffed herself up and went over to the looking glass that was hanging on the wall to adjust her hair and aigrette.

“He’s only here because that idiot Lord Thompson invited him.” Poultney gestured with the drink in his hand toward the door. “They met yesterday at the racetrack. Thompson was besotted with the Count’s ability to beat the odds and in the process lost a small fortune, which the count graciously covered,” he added sarcastically.

“Well, there you have it then. Only a gentleman would cover the debts of an acquaintance,” Ella said as she fussed with her hairpiece.

“Hah,” Poultney laughed at her as if she were an imbecile. “Only a scoundrel looks for easy prey to lure in, and Thompson, poor drunk, is an easy mark. Now he owes the count not only money, but a favor. How else do you think he ended up here at Mrs. Ritchie’s dinner party where he could scope out ladies dripping in jewels looking for a respite from their tiresome marriages?”

Ella reflexively reached for the pearls at her throat. She rounded on Poultney.

“Speaking of marriages. How is yours to what’s-her-name?”

“Edith, you mean? Convenient. For both of us.” He peered into his glass.

Ella turned back to the mirror and straightened her collar. “She’s not here in London with you then?” She tried to sound as if she didn’t care.

“She’s in confinement again. I left her at our home at Malden-on-Hudson,” he said casually.

“Another child for the happily married couple? And your wife in the States while you travel abroad,” she said, her lips curling. “Hmm, I’d say that is convenient. For you, anyway. But having children does not make one an expert on the state of other people’s marriages, does it?”

“Take a look around you, Ella. Your esteemed friend Mrs. Ritchie is trying to hold on to the reins herself. Her ‘boy-husband’ as he’s called behind his back, has another lover.”

Ella stayed quiet for a moment. Poor Anny, she thought. It was a mistake for her to marry someone seventeen years her junior, especially one so sulky as Richmond. She deserved better.

“Who?” She was ashamed to even ask but couldn’t help herself, realizing the tea parlor chatter she had been exposed to over the past couple of months was not as delicious as this.

“Tennyson’s daughter-in-law, Eleanor.”

“Idle gossip, I’m sure,” Ella scoffed. “Anny told me that Richmond is helping Eleanor sort out her affairs.” Eleanor was recently widowed. From what Anny told her, Lionel Tennyson had been unfaithful while he was alive. It appeared to be an epidemic in London society.

Poultney smirked which annoyed Ella.

“Now, you must excuse me. This ruse of bringing me here under the pretense of a pressing family matter has gone on long enough. Since you have nothing to tell me of William, I shall take my leave and return to the party.” She picked up her skirts to leave.

“Did you know that William is finalizing the sale of the Adirondack Railroad Company any day now and will be quite rich from it?”

Ella stopped in her tracks. “How do you know this? Has William been in contact with you?”

“My dear, you forget I’m a reporter. I don’t need to hear it from your brother. Not that he would tell me anyway.”

He left his spot near the bar and walked over to stand in front of her. She turned around again to face the mirror, pretending to ignore him. As he stepped closer, she smelled the familiar scent of his cologne, mixed with whiskey. She stared at his reflection as he stood behind her, breathing on her neck.

Ella bit her lower lip to stop it from trembling. How humiliating to be confronted by the man who had thrown her off, telling her they were just ‘friends’ and then to have him inform her that her brother was withholding information. It took all of her effort to maintain her composure in front of Poultney. She said, “I’m sure William will be sending word to me soon about these developments.”

“I doubt that,” Poultney said bluntly.

Ella swirled around and glared at him. “How dare you! First you tell me that I’m making a fool of myself in front of friends, and then you tell me I’m a fool for trusting my dear brother.”

Poultney let out a hearty laugh. “Why, Ella. You’re angry. There was a time, if you remember, when I could soothe that passion of yours.” He put his palm on her chest, above her left breast. She could feel her heart beating under its warmth.

“Take your hand off me,” she said. Her voice was thick.

“You’re blushing. I always found that attractive. He leaned closer and whispered in her ear, “I also remember a time when you moaned under my touch.” He started to move his hand lower on her chest toward her breast, but she raised her left arm to slap him. He grabbed her wrist before she could strike. She then raised her right arm and he gripped that wrist as well. He pinned her arms against the mirror behind her head.

“You’ll break the glass, you fool!” she cried.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

sheila-myersSheila Myers is an Associate Professor at Cayuga Community College. Her first novel. Ephemeral Summer (2014). is a contemporary coming-of-age story set in the Finger Lakes and intertwines many ecological themes throughout the story.

Myers began writing a trilogy on the family of the robber baron, Dr. Thomas C. Durant, after spending time at Camp Huntington, one of the Great Camps built by his son William, on Raquette Lake NY and now owned by SUNY Cortland.

Her essays about her work on the trilogy have been published in Adirondack Life Magazine, History News Network, and ADK Local Magazine. She has been a contributor to numerous online blogs including the Adirondack Almanack, Books by Women, and the New York History Blog.

Her research has taken her to numerous museums and libraries along the East Coast of the U.S. and the Isle of Wight in England. She has been documenting her research on her website: http://www.wwdurantstory.com/blog. You can also find her on Twitter.