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The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge by Elisabeth Hobbes

the saxon outlaw's revenge

At the mercy of her enemy!

Abducted by Saxon outlaws, Constance Arnaud comes face-to-face with Aelric, a Saxon boy she once loved. He’s now her enemy, but Constance must reach out to this rebel and persuade him to save her life as she once saved his

Aelric is determined to seek vengeance on the Normans who destroyed his family. Believing Constance deserted him, he can never trust her again. Yet, as they are thrown together and their longing for each other reignites, will Aelric discover that love is stronger than revenge?

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Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical, December 2016

Time and Setting: England, 1068
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Heather C.

The Normans have recently defeated the Saxons and the bad blood is still brewing between those in charge and those who are subjugated. Aelric, a Saxon, lost his whole family when they were hung as traitors by the local baron, who just happens to be the brother-in-law of Constance, the girl with whom he is in love. Aelric subsequently goes on the run and his relationship with Constance abruptly ends, but years later when they have a chance encounter they have to work through their feelings to determine what – if anything – still remains between them.

There is not nearly enough historical fiction, romantic or otherwise, set around the time of the Norman invasion of England, a time full of so much upheaval and change that it is ripe for storytelling. Hobbes takes advantage of this upheaval and uses it to create the conflict between the main couple in this story. They are from two very different worlds and the place they live in is still very volatile and they must tread carefully.

Aelric and Constance have not seen or heard of each other for eight years.  While they remember the youthful love they shared, so much has changed in the time they have been apart; they have grown up and lived through many life experiences.  Can they get past all of the hurt and the secrets that have built up over time? Constance and Aelric are well-crafted characters; they are multidimensional and one can feel their emotions, the hurt and anger most keenly, and it’s easy to understand how difficult it will be for them to put the past behind them. For what they went through it would be very difficult to put the past behind them. I can’t say that I could identify with either of them exactly, but I found them realistic and interesting. The author has chosen to give Constance a physical disability, but while that makes the character unique,  I would have liked it to maybe have had more of an importance given that it was pointed out extensively early on. The peripheral characters are not as well fleshed-out as the two princials, but there are enough details to give the reader a sense of who they are, which was enough to enable me to keep track of who’s who.

The romance is primarily an emotional one as the Constance and Aelric rebuild their relationship and determine what they mean to each other. Although there are a couple of sex scenes – which have vastly different tones from each other – sex definitely takes a backseat in this novel. Beyond the romance, this story is chock full of drama right from the first scene. There is an ambush, a hostage situation, a mass execution, some spying, and a foiled plot that unfolds in an awesome way. The best part is that none of this felt out of place; the characters still acted very much the way I would expect them to for the time in which they live.

If you are looking for a book that is more of the action packed variety and lighter on the romance, or if you are looking for something set in an oft overlooked setting, The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge this might be one to consider. It kept my attention all the way through and I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

VIRTUAL TOUR: My Highland Rebel (Highland Trouble #2) by Amanda Forester

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A conquering hero
Cormac Maclean would rather read than rampage, but his fearsome warlord father demands that he prove himself in war. Cormac chooses what he thinks is an easy target, only to encounter a fiery Highland lass leading a doomed rebellion and swearing revenge on him.

Meets an unconquerable heroine
Jyne Cambell is not about to give up her castle without a fight, even though her forces are far outnumbered. She’s proud, hot-blooded and hot-tempered, and Cormac falls for her hard.

It’s going to take all of Cormac’s ingenuity to get Jyne to surrender gracefully—both to his sword and to his heart…

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EXCERPT

They sat at an old oak table and broke bread together. Cormac found goblets of wine for both of them and some food for a meal. It had been long since he had filled his belly, so he ate hungrily of the bread and the hearty stew before him. Jyne must have been reassured by his confidence, for the little crease on her forehead disappeared, and she began to eat and drink with him.

He liked this, sharing a meal with her. He could almost block out the sound of his men carousing in the great room next to them. She was a beautiful lass. She must have been thinking of other things when she’d gotten herself dressed this morn, for her veil was not securely fastened, causing her long, straight blond hair to fall out before her. The color of those errant strands was like gold. He longed to reach out and touch it. She absently brushed a lock of hair behind her ear with a careless finger, causing him to pause in his eating. Her blue eyes sparkled at him, and he noticed those blue eyes had flecks of hazel green.

A disturbance erupted in the dining hall, and one of the elderly matrons ran back into the kitchen.

“What is the matter?” cried Jyne, rising to her feet. “Are they no’ getting tired?”

The woman placed a hand over her bosom, her eyes wide. “Nay, they’re getting randy!”

“Pardon?”

“I had two o’ the men say they thought I was a vision o’ loveliness. Three done laughed so hard, they fell from their benches, and four others started a brawl o’er the right way to eat stew. They’ve gone mad, they have!” The matron threw her hands up in the air.

Before Core could make any sense of this, another elderly clanswoman, with thinning gray hair and a large goiter, shrieked as she scrambled back into the kitchen.

“What happened to ye?” asked Jyne. She ran to the elderly woman and helped her to sit on the bench she had just vacated.

“I dinna ken they’re about. One man dropped to his knees and began to recite poetry, or at least some¬thing like it. A few others started dancing, wi’ no music—wi’ each other! Another one demanded my hand in marriage. To me! What sort o’ mean-spirited shenanigans are these hooligans up to?”

Jyne’s face was one of complete loss. “Is this some sort o’ game?” she asked Core.

“If it is, ’tis unknown to me.” Cormac had seen quite a bit of rough play from his father’s men, but he had never heard of anything like that.

Core and Jyne peeked inside the great hall and were astounded at what they saw. Several of the men were having a heated argument as to which of the elderly servers was more beautiful. Some were dancing to no music. Some were running around the room, batting at the air, as if trying to catch invisible fairies. Others were fighting while laughing hysterically. Jyne and Core stared at each other.

“Why are they acting this way?” Jyne met his eye. He realized they were standing very close as they peeked into the hall. Her beautiful blue eyes widened, and she flushed, her cheeks a rosy hue. Her lips were the color of pale pink rose petals and appeared so soft and inviting, he wished to lean in for just one taste. She was beautiful. Truly beautiful.

“I dinna ken.” He had to remind himself to answer her question. It was the truth. He had never seen the men act in such a manner.

“Oh!” Jyne suddenly gasped. “The potion. It must have made them mad.”

Core couldn’t help but laugh. “Ye made them all act like fools? Och, I wish my father was here to see it!”

“Who is yer father?” she asked, turning her innocent blue eyes to him.

He realized in a flash he had made a slip. “No one. Just he would think it amusing, is all,” he said hastily. “Will the potion make them tired or just mad as imps?”

Jyne slapped a hand to her forehead. “Och, I’m a dunderhead, I am. Too much ale wi’ it can make a man lose his senses.”

“Ye gave my men something to make them witless?”

“Well I… It wasn’t what I intended… Wait, yer men?” She raised an eyebrow at him, and he knew he was in trouble.

“My men? I…I have no men.” He attempted nonchalance. It was not a natural state.

The little furrow between her brows reappeared. “But I thought I heard ye say—”

He kissed her.

It was the only thing he could think to do. The only thing he wanted to do. He was drawn to her by a power he could not deny. He embraced her and allowed his lips to melt onto hers. Nothing he had ever experienced before compared, but he pulled her closer and deepened the kiss, waiting for the inevitable slap. Instead, she wrapped her arms around his neck, press¬ing herself against him and returning his ardor with a passion that lit an explosion within him. He did not care that his men were making fools of themselves next door. He did not care if the entire kitchen staff could see them. He had to kiss her.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, January 2017

Time and Setting: Highlands 1362
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Wendy

When I first began reading My Highland Rebel, I had my doubts. It appeared rather flippant and also, having just had a run of Highland adventures, I wasn’t really in the mood for another. However, I persevered and I’m glad I did, because I wasn’t far into it before I realised that the light, witty style isn’t really flippant at all but is the author’s quite unique style which is easy to read and an enjoyable departure from my normal reading choices.

When Cormac Maclean happens across a beautiful damsel in distress one damp, foggy morning, literally up to her waist in a smelly bog, he little realises that he has met his destiny. Lady Jyne Campbell had always wanted adventure; as the second youngest of the large Campbell clan she was always considered the runt of the litter being tiny and more fragile than her hale, hearty and statuesque siblings – and consequently had been over-protected and smothered. Therefore she is very excited when her eldest brother, David, the Laird of the powerful Campbell clan decides to allow her to visit her dower lands at Kinoch Abbey which he has purchased from the monks who had inhabited it. Wandering off from their camp to carry out her early morning ablutions she had become lost in the thick fog. Cormac arrives in the nick of time and saves her from almost certain death and as is the way when a beautiful young woman and an attractive, personable young man meet – especially in such circumstances – each is smitten.

Cormac has been raised by monks after being abandoned by his father. Red Rex is a notorious war lord and in the absence of another, more acceptable heir, has decided that he wants to own his connection to his son after all and sets out to mould him into a mirror image of himself. Cormac is more like his deceased mother in countenance and manner than his tyrannical father; he is an educated dreamer and scholar with a love of books which his father only sees as a weakness.

Cormac sets out to extricate himself from the tangle of lies he tells after stealing two scrolls from a nearby monastery. He only succeeds in tying himself up in knots as he tries to protect not only himself but also the monk who had doggedly followed him back to Red Rex’s lair, and there follows a farcical comedy of errors, after which, and much to Cormac’s consternation, they end up on their way to Lady Jyne’s Abbey in search of a mystical – and mythical – Templar Knight’s treasure.

And so Cormac and Jyne are destined to meet again, but in less than auspicious circumstances. Jyne has travelled to her Abbey and dower lands with a small contingent of men whilst her brother, David, has gone off in search of Red Rex whom he has heard is on the rampage somewhere on his lands. On Jyne’s arrival she finds she has a collection of rag-bag squatters, a party of elderly and young folk abandoned by their own people who have set up home in the keep. Being the tender hearted girl that she is, Jyne embraces them in return for them swearing fealty to the Campbell clan; and then relishes her chance to finally become chatelaine of her own keep. When Red Rex’s son arrives with his father’s men in tow, she is determined to protect her people and property with a fierceness that her clan will be proud of. Cormac – or The Fire Lord – as he has named himself, dons a large helm with demonic horns to make him appear tough and strong but also to hide his identity from the Lady Jyne. Jyne is eventually forced to tolerate Red Rex’s son and men in her keep, meanwhile hoping that the man she sent off secretly to her brother will return with help. Cormac manages to keep his identity a secret with the help of the horned helmet but keeps popping up as himself, allowing Jyne to believe that he is living in the shadows somewhere and has arrived to help her. His double identity has hilarious results as he keeps forgetting who he is and nearly trips himself up upon numerous occasions.

This is quite a busy book with a lot going on. Cormac uses his education in the sciences to cause several explosions (hence his name of The Fire Lord). Along with the search for the treasure, Jyne managing to drug Red Rex’s men, the burgeoning romance between Jyne and Cormac and his forever switching between characters etc etc – I felt there was just a little too much going on. There is also a rather modern feel to the story in language and tone; and certainly little or no historic content even though it’s set in 1362. In spite of that however, My Highland Rebel is a light, witty read, with many genuinely funny moments and extremely likeable characters. I liked this author’s style and shall certainly look for more of her work.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

amanda-foresterAmanda Forester holds a PhD in psychology and worked many years in academia before discovering that writing historical romance was way more fun. A Publishers Weekly Top Ten author, her books have been given starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews. Whether in the rugged Highlands of medieval Scotland or the decadent ballrooms of Regency England, her novels offer fast-paced adventures filled with wit, intrigue, and romance. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest outside Tacoma, Washington.

You can connect with Amanda at her website * ~ * Facebook * ~ * Twitter * ~ * Goodreads.

In Debt to the Enemy Lord by Nicole Locke

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“You have a debt to pay. You owe me your life.” 

Anwen, bastard of Brynmor, has fought hard to find her place in the world. But she’s forced to rethink everything when she’s saved from death by her enemy Teague, Lord of Gwalchdu. Instead of releasing her, he holds her captive…

Teague trusts no one. So, with ominous messages threatening his life, he must keep Anwen under his watch, no matter how much her presence drives him wild. And when passionate arguments turn to passionate encounters, Teague must believe that the strength of their bond will conquer all!

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Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical, December 2016

Time and Setting: Wales, 1290
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Wendy

I have always been a fan of medieval historical fiction written by authors such as Elizabeth Chadwick, and was therefore attracted to In Debt to the Enemy Lord, which I found to be well written with nicely developed and intriguing characters. In fact it was the description of the characters which drew me to the book in the first place.

Teague, Lord of Gwalchdu, is the kind of dark, brooding, solitary character, that often appeals to me if done well – and in this I was not disappointed. His subordinates respect him, but also fear him, even going so far as to cross themselves as he passes them by. With no close friends, his only real confidant is his brother, Rhain. Teague’s innate loneliness is apparent from the beginning; he is in the unenviable position of having a foot in two camps with an English father and Welsh mother. And when these two nations went to war, Teague fought for the English, in the process earning himself the moniker of traitor by the Welsh. The war is now over and they are all living an uneasy peace under the reign of the victor, King Edward I, who defeated the armies of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (the last ever King of Wales). Much has been lost, and he is fighting an uphill battle in order to win the trust of the defeated Welsh. This has only compounded Teague’s isolation and loneliness further; and even though there are mitigating factors – which are revealed later on in the story – he refuses to justify his actions in siding with the English. He has learned to fully trust only himself, and to a lesser degree, his younger brother.

On a ride around his holdings, a beautiful girl literally falls out of a tree, demanding as she does that he catch her. He does so and it doesn’t take Teague long to realise that his life will never be the same again. Alone and unloved he may have been up until now, but this girl, Anwen, from the neighbouring castle and who considers him her enemy, will shake his – until now – unshakable foundations. Anwen is the beautiful, illegitimate daughter of a Welsh prince and even though Teague manages to break her fall, she still hits her head, and from the description of her injuries and behaviour is suffering from severe concussion. She is nursed back to health by Teague’s servants and his aunt, a religious zealot. He is intrigued by the golden beauty and feels compelled to watch over her at night while she is still unconscious and helpless – holding her hand whilst she hovers between life and death.

Teague has been receiving mysterious threatening messages and is, quite understandably, unnerved by them. He mistrusts anyone and everyone, even the young woman who quite literally drops into his life; although the idea that she could fall into his arms at the exact moment he was underneath it in order to gain access to the inner sanctum of Gwalchdu is rather a stretch. For one thing, the letters appeared long before Anwen comes on the scene and for another, the fact that Teague would even consider such a scenario goes against the picture the author has drawn of him as a master strategist and nobody’s fool.

Once Anwen is reasonably recovered she is anxious to return to her own people, but she comes across as fickle and rather shrewish, quickly forgetting the kindnesses and care she has been shown and constantly throwing the word “Traitor” at Teague. Anwen, it seems, will never forgive what she perceives as the wrong he did to her people by fighting for the English. The spark between them that ignites after Anwen’s fall grows into a full blown attraction once she is conscious and aware of him, but I grew a little fed up with her constant carping and nagging. It is very obvious as the story progresses and we learn more about Teague that he is a good and honourable man. Nevertheless, Anwen continues to berate him to such an extent that when she finally accepts that he is rather a decent chap – I wanted to cheer.

The relationship between Teague and Anwen continues to grow and the author does this very well. In fact I loved her approach in the more intimate scenes between them, which, although reasonably explicit, are subtle and tasteful, with none of the sensuality being lost with the lack of vivid description. But each time I thought that they had finally reached an understanding, she doubts him again –  or when he is more forceful in his authority than she likes – we are back to square one. Misunderstandings per se are not a problem with me generally, but I do get irritated when there are too many or they go on for too long as is the case here.

On the whole, most of the characters are rather dark and complex and I found this novel to be no light, comfortable read; which is not necessarily a bad thing as I like some angst, but I found I was forever looking for hidden meanings and depths which I felt I could be missing. Although this is a medieval romance, the story is rather intense with little light relief which is fine in historical fiction where we are dealing with historical facts but is not what I look for in a romance. Plus on two occasions I was taken completely out of the story when the author used the word ‘centimetre’! The identity of the villain is obvious from the start, although there’s a twist at the end that I admit I hadn’t seen coming. On the whole, In Debt to the Enemy Lord is a nicely written story and I wouldn’t mind reading more by Nicole Locke, but perhaps not stories set in this era – my preference is definitely for medieval-era historical fiction. However, my prejudices are my own and I can recommend the book to readers who enjoy medieval romances.

The Rebel of Clan Kincaid (Highland Warrior #2) by Lily Blackwood

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LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD

Since childhood, Magnus has been led to believe he is the Laird Alwyn’s bastard, and raised to hate the Clan Kincaid. But when he learns he is without a doubt the son of the murdered Laird Kincaid, his life as he has always known it is shattered. Now, hiding his knowledge and his fury, he returns to Burnbryde Castle, awaiting the chance to strike against the man whose treachery robbed him of his legacy. His first act of rebellion: to steal a kiss from the redheaded beauty who’s betrothed to the Alwyn’s eldest son and heir.

Since her arrival at Burnbryde, Tara Iverach has been confined to a tower to guard her virtue before she marries. But after a surprise embrace with a lean, bare-chested Highlander who claims to be the Alwyn’s oldest son, she can’t contain her excitement over her good fate. Unfortunately, he is the wrong eldest son, and she is set to marry his cruel and lecherous half brother, Hugh. Can Magnus conquer his rivals and claim his Kincaid destiny before the woman who’s captured his heart becomes his sworn enemy’s bride?

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

Time and Setting: 14th Century Scotland
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review by Jenny Q

I do enjoy a Scottish Highlands tale, and the description of this one really intrigued me. Who doesn’t like a good tale of betrayal and vengeance? The Rebel of Clan Kincaid is second in a series, following right on the heels of The Beast of Clan Kincaid, and while I may have understood some of the politics and secondary characters better had I read it, this one stands alone just fine.

The story begins with Magnus, raised as the bastard son of the Laird Alwyn, discovering that he is really the son of the murdered Laird Kincaid and that he has been serving his parents’ murderer all his life. Initially thrown for a loop, Magnus soon develops a burning desire for vengeance and vows to bide his time until the day he can prove Alwyn guilty and avenge the death of his parents and the loss of their ancestral lands. As a fierce warrior and chief of the laird’s war band, he is in the ultimate position to enact his plan with the help of his newfound brother, Niall. But the arrival of his half brother Hugh’s betrothed threatens everything when Magnus falls in love with the vulnerable yet surprisingly brave beauty.

Tara Iverach, ward to the powerful Earl of Buchan, has spent the past five years in a priory. When the earl pays her a surprise visit, Tara hopes for a life outside the convent, and she is about to receive her wish, but at a terrible cost. Her beloved older sister, Arabel, has died, and Buchan needs Tara to take her place in a wedding designed to strengthen his alliance with Alwyn. But life at the Alwyn stronghold of Burnbryde turns out to be a nightmare rather than a dream. Locked in a tower, deprived of companionship except for a maid and the ailing Lady Alwyn, Tara quickly becomes suspicious of the circumstances surrounding her sister’s death. Her betrothed is a malicious, angry man who takes pleasure in terrifying her, and Buchan’s intentions and ambitions prove to be less than honorable. The only bright spot is her growing attraction to her betrothed’s half brother, the handsome and noble Magnus. But their illicit romance is fraught with danger, and though Magnus promises to help her escape marriage to Hugh, when his ulterior motives come to light, Tara realizes the only person she can rely on is herself. But will she be able to pull off a daring escape by herself? And if she does, will she be able to leave Magnus to his fate?

There were some things I loved about this book and some things I did not. What it has going for it: a good bit of history, following the warring of the clans after King David II’s death and featuring the real figures of the Earls of Buchan and Carrick; likeable and compelling characters in Magnus and Tara; and some last-minute twists I didn’t see coming that really bumped the story up in my estimation. What I’ve marked against it: the romance is more of a love-at-first-sight thing, which doesn’t allow for much relationship development; too much internal dialogue that grows repetitive over the course of the story; a couple of cliched plot devices that cheapen the story, including the big misunderstanding; and villains that were too over-the-top to be believable – although one of them eventually merited some compassion and understanding when one of those big twists was revealed at the end.

The unpredictable resolution of the plot threads and an incredibly romantic ending satisfied me and cemented The Rebel of Clan Kincaid as a book that I can recommend to my fellow romance lovers despite my complaints. If you’re a fan of Scottish romances, this one has a more unique setting and underlying historical thread than most. I was so intrigued by Niall and the mystery surrounding the third long-lost Kincaid brother that I do plan to read the other books in the series.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Rendezvous With Yesterday by Dianne Duvall

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Modern-day bounty hunter Bethany Bennett helps her brother track two fugitives to a forest outside of Houston, Texas. But what should have been a routine apprehension of two bail skippers spirals out of control and ends in violence. After Beth and her brother are both seriously injured, a mysterious figure suddenly looms over her. And, when the smoke clears, Beth finds herself not only in another place, but in another time.

As Lord Robert, Earl of Fosterly, attempts to identify and track down the nameless enemy who has been plaguing his lands and people with violence, the most peculiar woman stumbles into his path. Small, vulnerable, yet possessed of a bold, fiery spirit and wicked sense of humor, she persists in dubbing Robert and his men members of something called a medieval reenactment group . . . until she sees his castle and labels herself mad. It seems bounty hunter Bethany Bennett has come to him from the future, bringing with her laughter and chaos, swiftly winning the hearts of his people and inspiring within him a love he thought he would never experience again. But when Robert discovers a way for her to return to her time, will the love they share be enough to keep them together?

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EXCERPT

“I can’t bathe with you here,” she protested.

“I will not watch you, Beth,” he informed her patiently. Though the temptation would be great, he felt confident he could resist it.

“Then go wait for me at the campsite. I can find my way back.”

“I cannot leave you unprotected.”

“Have you forgotten this?” Reaching down to her ankle, she removed the smallest of her weapons from her boot. “I have my twenty-two. I’ll be perfectly safe.”

He eyed the silvery object doubtfully, unsure exactly what such a weapon did. “You are not familiar with these woods and know neither the dangers they possess nor how swiftly they can come upon you. I will not leave you alone.”

Her expression darkened with a mixture of frustration and dismay.

He loosed a heavy sigh. “I am here to protect you, Beth, not ravish you. Had the latter been my intention, I would have already done so. I vow I have never taken a woman by force in my life.”

A flush mounted her cheeks.

“I have already told you I will turn my back. If ’twill make you feel better, then leave your undergarments on, though I assure you such is not necessary.”

A moment passed. “Fine,” she grumbled, scooting off the rock and stepping onto the grassy bank. “I guess it’s nothing you haven’t seen before anyway. Just don’t take this as an invitation.”

“As you wish.”

Robert learned something new about her then. When Bethany decided to place her trust in someone, she gave her full trust.

After placing her twenty-two on the ground a few feet from the water’s edge, she proceeded to disrobe without even asking him to give her his back. She discarded her boots and odd, thick, ankle-high white hose first. Then she parted her long-sleeved tunic down the middle and shrugged out of it.

He stepped forward and extended one hand.

A question in her gaze, Bethany handed him the jacket, he thought she called it.

“I thought to wash it for you whilst you bathe.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Are you sure you’re real?”

“I do not understand.”

Shaking her head, she lowered her hands to the sides of her odd vest. “You’re too good to be true, Robert. First you say you would give your life to protect me.” Rrrrip. “Then you kneel in icy water and wash my hair.” Rrrrip. “And now you’re offering to wash my filthy clothes for me.” Rrrrip. Rrrrip. She lifted the vest over her head. “No man is that nice.” Tossing it aside, she reached for her belt. A few nimble pulls and it joined her vest at her feet.

Robert stood rooted to the spot, his mouth dry, breath quickening, as she tucked her fingers beneath the hem of her tiny sleeveless tunic, then dragged it up and over her head.

Heat seared him, racing through his veins and pooling in his groin.

Was that a bra? Those two tiny scraps of sleek black fabric that cupped her full breasts the way his hands itched to, barely covering the pale pink crests and held in place by the thin black straps whose purpose had eluded him earlier? More plump, pale flesh than he had anticipated rose above the edges, the shadowed valley between them drawing his hungry gaze.

Despite the fact that almost every inch of her skin was coated with dried blood, Robert found himself consumed with lust the likes of which he had not experienced in years.

“Mayhap I am not as honorable as you think I am,” he admitted hoarsely.

Unconcerned, she handed him the sleeveless tunic, then started unfastening the front of her breeches.

“Mayhap I only offered to wash your garments in hopes of distracting myself from”—his gaze returned to her breasts—“other things.”

Her eyes met his, then slid away. “Oh.” He thought her cheeks darkened a bit. “Well, just pretend we’re at the beach and this is a bathing suit,” she mumbled, tucking her thumbs in the waistband of her breeches.

“You make a habit of walking along the shore garbed so— By the saints!” he practically bellowed.

Bethany jumped. “What?” Eyes wide with alarm, she scanned their surroundings.

Try though he might, Robert could not look away. He knew he should, but he could not. Nor could he pick his jaw up from where it had landed on the ground. All he could do was stand and stare and go up in flames.

Bethany’s breeches now lay bunched around her ankles, leaving her long, slender legs and almost everything else bare. The only thing that shielded her… modesty… was a V-shaped piece of shiny black material that formed a triangle at the juncture of her thighs and narrowed to two thin strips that disappeared over her hips.

“Robert?”

For a moment, he thought he would not succeed in dragging his gaze away.

How those black scraps tempted him, beckoning him to abandon all honor and let his hands and mouth go exploring.

“Robert? You’re starting to make me a little nervous.”

He imagined so, slavering over her the way he was, like a wolf wishing to dine on a ewe.

“Not to mention self-conscious,” she added.

At last, he managed to close his mouth. Clearing his throat, he tried to remember what he had been saying. “You wander along the shores garbed so sparsely?”

She glanced down and stepped out of the breeches. “Actually, no. I sunburn too easily. But I’ve seen women at the beach who wore less.”

“Less than that?” he asked incredulously.

Her brow crinkled slightly. “Aye. Lots of times. Especially during spring break.”

He did not know what spring break was, but surely she jested.

“Are you all right?” she asked, eyeing him dubiously.

All right? Nay, he was not all right. He trembled with need. He was on fire. He was a breath away from losing both his control and his sanity. And she seemed completely oblivious to the effect her near nudity had on him.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

dianne_duvall_authorpicDianne Duvall is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Immortal Guardians series and The Gifted Ones series. Reviewers have called Dianne’s books “fast-paced and humorous” (Publishers Weekly), “utterly addictive” (RT Book Reviews), “extraordinary” (Long and Short Reviews), and”wonderfully imaginative” (The Romance Reviews). Her books have twice been nominated for RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and are routinely deemed Top Picks by RT Book Reviews, The Romance Reviews,and/or Night Owl Reviews.

Dianne loves all things creative. When she isn’t writing, Dianne is active in the independent film industry and has even appeared on-screen, crawling out of a moonlit grave and wielding a machete like some of the vampires she so loves to create in her books.

For the latest news on upcoming releases, contests, and more, please visit Dianne online . . .

Website — http://www.DianneDuvall.com
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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

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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.

Rebel of Ross by Mary Lancaster

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Scotland, 1156

Malcolm MacHeth, one time Earl of Ross, languishes a prisoner in Roxburgh Castle while his sons raise rebellion in his name. Optimistically, the King of Scots promises the earldom of Ross to landless Norman knight, Sir William de Lanson, if he can somehow defeat the infamous MacHeths.

It wasn’t quite how William’s disgraced wife Christian dreamed of coming home. Capture by the strange and ferocious Adam MacHeth was hardly part of her plan either, although she and William quickly become pawns in his.

Adam, warrior and seer, fights for his father’s freedom and for his family’s right to claim the kingdom of the Scots. Plagued by waking dreams which threaten his sanity and his life, he’s learned to use his prophecies to further his family’s goals. But when he abducts his enemy’s lady, his dreams and his desires are suddenly more personal.

Surrounded by intrigue, ambition and betrayal, Christian must choose between loyalty and love in order to keep a fragile peace for her people and for the man she loves beyond all reason.

Publisher and Release Date: Self-Published, August 2016
Time and Setting:Scotland, 1156
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level:1.5
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Jenny Q

Traveling to Tirebeck, the holding her husband has just been awarded by the King of Scots, Christian de Lanson is looking forward to returning to the home she hasn’t seen since she was three years old. She hopes her Scottish ancestry and ties to the land will aid her husband’s task in bringing rebellion under control while giving her a renewed sense of purpose in a loveless marriage. But those hopes are quickly tested when she is abducted by one of the very men her husband is tasked with killing, Adam MacHeth, looking every inch the berserker and madman he is rumored to be. Determined not to be cowed, she stands her ground with Adam, who is surprisingly considerate and kind, though it seems even a madman reacts with the same revulsion upon seeing the half mask she wears to hide the disfigurement beneath it. When she is traded back to her husband in exchange for MacHeth’s brother, she is relieved to have seen the last of him even if she can’t stop thinking about him. But of course, she hasn’t really seen the last of him . . .

Adam MacHeth has one goal: to free the imprisoned father he hasn’t seen since he was a child and help him retake his earldom and the Scottish throne. The Norman knight who has taken up residence in Ross is an inconvenience, but his wife is something much more. Her ancestry and rapport with the Scottish residents of Tirebeck could be the key to uniting Ross, but it’s her strength and beauty and her intrusion into his visions of the future that both excite and disconcert him. As alliances shift and Adam puts his plans for Ross in motion, circumstances bring him and Christian together time and time again. As his feelings for her grow, Adam’s desire for his own future threatens the destiny he’s worked so hard to bring about for his family and their legacy. When betrayal brings tensions in Scotland to the breaking point, Adam and Christian both will have to determine where their loyalties lie and what they are willing to risk and endure for love and a fleeting chance at happiness.

I was instantly intrigued by the description of Rebel of Ross. I’m always looking for something different in historical romance, and this time period definitely fits that bill. I loved the inclusion of the history of the period, and the description and attention paid to historical detail. This story takes place at a very contentious time in Scottish history as rival dynasties compete for the right to rule while in England, Henry II is trying to wrestle his kingdom into order after years of civil war. The MacHeths and many other characters in the story were real, and the author has done a good job of wading through some murky history and conflicting scholarly opinions to create a plausible cast of players and scenarios. The characters of Christian and Adam are well-developed, and the chemistry between them is intense. Adam’s family play strong supporting roles, and the intrigue and violence of this era in history makes for exciting, adventurous reading. I couldn’t put it down, burning through the pages to see who would be left standing and if a happily ever after would even be possible.

The only real problem I had with this book is the inclusion of so many points of view. The story is told through the eyes of eleven characters, if I counted correctly. I found myself getting frustrated that I had to view Adam through the eyes of others rather than via his own point of view for the first half of the story. I really wanted to be in his head and get to know him on a more personal level. We do eventually start getting scenes from Adam’s point of view, and they increase in frequency toward the end. I understand the author’s desire to paint a more complete picture of the politics of the time and what was going on in different locations, but I began to grow annoyed as new characters were continually introduced with their own point of view throughout the book when I just wanted to get back to what was happening with Christian and Adam. Admittedly, I am a stickler for tight, focused point of view structures, so this may not pose a problem for other readers. And the fact that I’m still giving this four stars despite my issues with PoV tells you how good the rest of it is!

Rebel of Ross is perfect for readers who enjoy scarred and complex characters, adventure and intrigue, and a hearty dose of history in their romance. I am very much looking forward to reading the sequel!

RETRO REVIEW: Katherine by Anya Seton

Katherine

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Katherine is an epic novel of a love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant fourteenth century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who rule despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king’s son, falls passionately in love with the already-married Katherine. Their affair persists through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption. Anya Seton’s vivid rendering of the lives of the Duke and Duchess of Lancaster makes Katherine an unmistakable classic.

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First published in 1954 by Hodder and Stoughton

RHR Classifications:
Place and time: England 1366 – 1403
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Wendy

Anya Seton’s Katherinehas pride of place on my bookshelf. Its hard-backed cover is tatty and falling apart; I ‘borrowed’ it from a communal bookshelf in my WRNS quarters when I was a seventeen year-old girl and herewith confess my crime – I never returned it. It’s THAT book, that ONE book that one never forgets, the one that started my fascination with the Plantagenet dynasty and John of Gaunt in particular, and it is a fascination that has never faded. It says a lot about a book when it has rarely been out of print in over sixty years and whose heroine has her own followings, FB groups and associations.

Katherine Swynford was a living, breathing person and her love affair with one of the most powerful men of his time is unforgettable. Obviously Anya Seton ‘padded-out’ the story of this insignificant girl and the glorious Duke of Lancaster but there can be little doubt that this golden god of a man, third son of Edward III, actually loved the woman whom he eventually married.

Anya Seton became intrigued by the story of this little known medieval woman after reading mention of her in a biography about the poet and writer Geoffrey Chaucer, to whom Katherine’s sister, Phillippa was married. She is the ancestor of not one but FOUR great Royal houses, and luckily for us, Ms. Seton travelled to England from America to carry out her research and to tell what I believe to be one of the most beautiful love stories of all time.

Katherine de Roet was the daughter of a Flemish herald and although beautiful (so we’re told by Chaucer and other contemporary sources) was as poor as a church mouse and as insignificant as one too, especially in comparison to the courtiers of Edward III’s entourage. At that time she would have been well below the notice of the great John of Gaunt who had married for dynastically advantageous reasons, as was most often the case with the nobility. Blanche of Lancaster was both beautiful and well dowered, in riches and lands. The sixteen-year-old Katherine was married off to Sir Hugh Swynford, a lowly knight in Lancaster’s retinue and was sent off to live at his run-down Manor House in Lincolnshire – the gatehouse of which still stands today. Blanche of Lancaster bore the Duke three children, including the future Henry IV, but she died at an early age of the plague, and it is believed that Katherine Swynford nursed her until her death. Or at least, this is how Anya Seton explains Katherine becoming known to the Duke. At some point after Blanche’s death and later Hugh Swynford’s too, Katherine and John of Gaunt became lovers and she bore him four illegitimate children over a period of approximately ten years, who became known as the Beauforts.

John still had his duty to perform and whilst carrying on his affair with Katherine, he married Constanza of Castille who bore him one child, a girl, Catherine, who was to become the ancestor of the Royal Line of Spain.

These were hard times in England, and Richard II, just a boy when he inherited the throne following the premature demise of his father, the Black Prince, was supported by his rich, powerful though unpopular uncle, The Duke of Lancaster. After this tumultuous period in British history, Katherine and John’s affair appears to have ended and there were no more recorded children. He devoted himself to his Spanish wife and child and although generally unpopular with the people of England, nevertheless continued to be the right hand-man of his nephew, King Richard II. After her high profile as the Duke’s mistress, Katherine disappeared from public view with her children by Hugh Swynford and her brood of illegitimate children. It is believed that Katherine retired to care for her children, her deceased husband’s estate and most importantly, to repent of her/their sins which had had a bad effect on the popularity of both herself and the duke.

To me though, the most compellingly romantic aspect of the story is how John reacted after his second wife died. At the age of fifty five, he was at last relatively duty-free and able to follow his heart; he returned to marry his Katherine, and the king legitimised their four Beaufort children, by then all fully grown. This was quite an unprecedented move, and the family went on to became very powerful and rich. Their descendants fought for power amongst themselves, a result of which was the Wars of the Roses. Eventually from these family traumas, the Royal lines of Tudor, Stuart, Hanover and Windsor were born. Quite a woman, our Katherine! From nobody to Royal Duchess and the ancestress of so many great and powerful people. My favourite trope in an historical romance is a rags-to-riches story and this one has to be the most spectacular of all, and not a figment of the imagination either as history shows…“Thou shalt get kings though thou be none.”

For anyone out there who has not read Katherine, is a lover of romance and dazzlingly vibrant, well-researched history, I urge you to read this fantastic novel about one of the greatest love stories of all time. And if anyone has the opportunity to see Katherine’s final resting place – it’s in beautiful Lincoln Cathedral, surrounded by Cathedral Close, where she often stayed and where the local people took her to their hearts as I took her to mine. She died in 1403 and is interred with her daughter, Joan Beaufort/Neville, Countess of Raby.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Steelheart by Kathryn Le Veque

steelheart

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1192 A.D. – David de Lohr, the younger brother of the great Christopher de Lohr (RISE OF THE DEFENDER), is a man who has lived his entire life in his prestigious older brother’s shadow. While his brother was nicknamed “The Lion’s Claw” as the right hand of Richard the Lionheart, David was nicknamed “The Lion Cub” because of his youth.

But David is a force to be reckoned with. Lightning-fast with a sword, he is a knight of the highest order and worthy of his own great legacy. And so, the story of David de Lohr, the knight with the heart of steel, begins.

Newly returned from the Holy Land where he fought with the Christian armies, David returns to find that England is perhaps more dangerous that the sands of The Levant. At a grand tournament given by Richard’s brother, John, David finds himself entrenched in the danger of the politics of England. Mercenaries hired by the prince are posing as legitimate knights, trying to kill those loyal to Richard.

News of Richard’s disappearance on his way home from the Holy Land only feeds John’s lust for the throne. As he brings a mercenary army to England’s shores, David and his brother must combat this tide of evil. Politics and mayhem follow David wherever he goes.

But what David didn’t count on was the introduction of a lovely young woman, the daughter of the Earl of Canterbury. Casually acquainted at first, David must save Emilie Hampton from the prince’s clutches not once but several times, throwing Emilie and David together again and again. Emilie makes her feelings for David known but David, the confirmed bachelor, is terrified of his feelings for her. As the fight for Richard’s throne gains in intensity, David finds himself increasingly distracted by the lovely lady who has stolen his heart.

It’s politics, mystery, passion, and chaos for David and Emilie as they try to find their way in a world that would see the two lovers torn apart.

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EXCERPT

Emilie had lived in castles her entire life, with military capabilities, but she’d never been this close to a knight who was dressing. It was very interesting to watch and very intimate. Somehow, she felt closer to David than even when she’d given him her favor. She was seeing the man on an entirely different level now, in his natural state, preparing for war. In this case, even though it was a competition, she knew that it would be a battle.

This day had shown her that there was a fine line between an enemy and an ally, and even men under the guise of pleasantries were not to be trusted. She’d learned that all too quickly. All was not as it seemed in the upper hierarchy of the royal court. As David and his squires worked, a soldier came into the tent to bring her hot wine, which she accepted gratefully.

“I am sorry I do not have much more to offer by way of comfort,” David said when he noticed the soldier hand her the hot wine. “I had to have my men hold that cup over the fire to warm the wine so it is likely to be quite hot.”

Emilie grinned as she held the pewter cup with the blanket. “I have quickly learned that,” she said. “I am very grateful for your hospitality, my lord.”

David gave her a half-smile, his gaze lingering on her blonde head as she sipped at the liquid. He hadn’t spoken to her much since he’d brought her back, mostly because he assumed she was too distraught to speak, but her state of mind seemed improved as she gingerly slurped the wine. He thought it might be a good time to find out what, exactly, had happened.

“It is my pleasure,” he said. He hesitated a moment before continuing. “Do you feel strong enough to tell me what happened with the sheriff? I should probably know since I am risking my life to protect you from him. Tell me of the wonderfully terrible thing you did to him that made him chase you into hiding.”

He was smiling as he said it and Emilie laughed softly; it wasn’t as if there was really much to laugh about but David’s attempt at humor made her feel better about it, as if it were not as serious and horrible as she thought it was. She knew the man would protect her until the death and that thought alone made her feel braver.

It also made her like him even that much more, a feeling that had, long ago, passed from something simple into something that was far more of a deep infatuation. Coming to her aid as he had and carrying her off to safety had somewhat marked the man for life as a hero in her eyes.

A hero she was coming to very much long for.

“It all happened rather fast,” she said, thinking back. “Nathalie and I went to the food vendors to find something to eat.”

“Nathalie?”

“My sister.”

“I see. Continue, please.”

She did. “As we were standing in front of a vendor who sold some kind of meat pie, a soldier addressed me,” she said. “When I turned around, there were several soldiers standing behind me and a man who introduced himself as the Sheriff of Nottingham. He told me that the prince wanted to meet with me privately and when I declined, he grabbed me and tried to force me to go with him. I panicked, hit him, and ran away. And that is really all there is to it.”

David’s features were grim by the time she was finished. He sighed heavily. “You are not the first young woman he has done that to,” he said. “But I would wager to say you are one of the very few that had the sense to fight back. I applaud you, my lady. You showed remarkable bravery.”

Emilie lifted her eyebrows. “I am not sure I see it that way,” she said. “All I know was that I was frightened and I remembered what you said about him. I could not let him take me, my lord. I could not make it that easy for him.”

David was looking at her until the big squire had him bend over so he could put the hauberk on his head and shoulders. David’s voice was muffled as the mail went over his face. “You did exactly what you were supposed to do,” he said. “Fitz Walter does not like to be denied. His only issue with you is a damaged ego and nothing more. But from this point on, you must remain with me or your father or another trusted man who can bear arms and protect you. I fear that the sheriff might see the capture of you as a game now, one he intends to win. The hunter does not usually let his prey go so easily.”

Emilie’s pale face tightened in alarm. “He views me as prey now?”

David stood up as the big squire straightened out his mail hood. “More than likely,” he said. “But have no fear; I will change his mind.”

She smiled at him, something of a besotted gesture. “Thank you, my lord,” she said. “Since you and I have met, you have gone out of your way to protect me. You will never know how grateful I am.”

Something warm was in the air, something that made David’s heart race. Emilie seemed to have that capability with him and he was both annoyed by it and thrilled by it. He didn’t like it that a woman should make him feel as giddy as Emilie had made him feel, but the more time he spent with her, the more he was coming to not particularly mind that special power she had over him. If he was honest with himself, he really didn’t mind it at all. All he knew was that something about the woman affected him and it was difficult to fight it. He wasn’t sure he should try.

He wasn’t sure he wanted to try.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

kathryn le veque 2KATHRYN LE VEQUE is a USA TODAY Bestselling author, an Amazon All-Star author, and a #1 bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author in Medieval Historical Romance and Historical Fiction. She has been featured in the NEW YORK TIMES and on USA TODAY’s HEA blog. In March 2015, Kathryn was the featured cover story for the March issue of InD’Tale Magazine, the premier Indie author magazine. She is also a quadruple nominee (a record!) for the prestigious RONE awards for 2015.

Kathryn’s Medieval Romance novels have been called ‘detailed’, ‘highly romantic’, and ‘character-rich’. She crafts great adventures of love, battles, passion, and romance in the High Middle Ages. More than that, she writes for both women AND men – an unusual crossover for a romance author – and Kathryn has many male readers who enjoy her stories because of the male perspective, the action, and the adventure.

On October 29, 2015, Amazon launched Kathryn’s Kindle Worlds Fan Fiction site WORLD OF DE WOLFE PACK. Please visit Kindle Worlds for Kathryn Le Veque’s World of de Wolfe Pack and find many action-packed adventures written by some of the top authors in their genre using Kathryn’s characters from the de Wolfe Pack series. As Kindle World’s FIRST Historical Romance fan fiction world, Kathryn Le Veque’s World of de Wolfe Pack will contain all of the great story-telling you have come to expect.

Kathryn loves to hear from her readers. Please find Kathryn on Facebook, or join her on Twitter @kathrynleveque, and don’t forget to visit her website at www.kathrynleveque.com.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: One Night with the Viking (Viking Warriors #2) by Harper St. George

one night with the viking
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“You don’t understand what you do to me.” His whole life, Gunnar has felt unworthy of love. Then one unforgettable night, his childhood sweetheart Kadlin offers herself to him. Knowing he will never truly deserve her, he leaves the next morning… The memories will have to last a lifetime. Kadlin was devastated when Gunnar left. Now, two years later, he returns, wounded from his battles across the sea. And Kadlin must decide whether to trust him again, and tell him about the true consequence of their one night together!

 

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EXCERPT

Kadlin awoke to the disturbing knowledge that she was not alone in her bedchamber. She lay perfectly still, listening for some sound that would betray the intruder, but she failed to hear anything past the pounding of her heart. The fire had reduced to only a smoulder, so she blinked, urging her eyes to adjust to the absence of light. There was a heaviness in the room, a presence that wasn’t her own. She was certain that it wasn’t a trick of her imagination. The presence prickled her skin and sucked out the air in the small chamber.

Where was her dog? The realisation that her faithful companion had abandoned her set off a cold flare of terror and her heart froze in her chest. If someone had been able to take Freyja, then—

‘It’s only me, Kadlin. Don’t be afraid.’

Gunnar! She would have known his voice anywhere. The deep cadence was followed by a spark of orange as the fire flamed back to life. Its warmth caressed his beloved features, making his amber, wolfish eyes appear to glow at her from across the small distance. The flickering flames highlighted the deep red of his hair and drew her attention to the angular planes of his face as they played hide-and-seek with the light. He was the fire god come to life.

But he was Gunnar, decidedly flesh-and-blood male. Her heart resumed its pounding, but for an entirely different reason. She’d not laid eyes on him in well over two years; he’d been gone, fighting across the sea. Even before that, her knowledge of him had become sparse and relegated to stolen glimpses and awkward meals when their fathers met. They had still been children the last time he had made the long trek, alone through the forest, from his home to her bed.

Now, he had the broad shoulders of a seasoned warrior, made even wider by the fur cloak draped across them. She could barely tear her gaze from their solid strength, but he prodded the fire and she noticed how large and strong his hands had become. Much different than the hands that had held her so many years ago. A trembling began somewhere deep within her.

‘I didn’t know if I would see you again.’ Her words came out a bit breathless so she forced herself to take a deep breath as she sat up in bed. She wanted to touch him, to reassure herself that he was really there and this wasn’t some dream, to know the feel of his shoulders beneath her hands so she could compare it to her dreams. She wanted to reach out and hold on to him before he left and she never saw him again. To shake him for taking himself away from her.

But it had been so long since they’d enjoyed the easy camaraderie of their youth and he seemed so fierce and remote from the boy she had known. ‘You returned with Eirik in the autumn.’ They could have had the whole winter to know each other again. She didn’t give voice to the words, but the accusation hung silently in the air between them. ‘Why have you stayed away?’ A shadow moved in the corner behind him and she realised that her dog had been given a large hank of dried meat to chew. Gunnar had come prepared, it seemed.

He took a deep breath and seemed to come to some decision, because when his gaze lit on hers, he looked at her so directly that she was left speechless. There was no jesting there, no artifice, or even a veneer of civility. There was just a restless energy that he seemed determined to harness so that it focused completely on her. When he finally spoke, his voice was textured with longing. ‘You were betrothed to my brother. If I saw you again, I knew that I would have challenged him for you.’

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

harper st georgeHarper St. George was raised in rural Alabama and along the tranquil coast of northwest Florida. It was a setting filled with stories of the old days that instilled in her a love of history, romance, and adventure. By high school, she had discovered the historical romance novel which combined all of those elements into one perfect package. She has been hooked ever since. She lives on Florida’s Emerald Coast with her husband and two young children. When not writing, she can be found devouring her husband’s amazing cooking and reading. She would love to hear from you. Please visit her website at harperstgeorge.com. Facebook: www.facebook.com/harperstgeorge Twitter: www.twitter.com/harperstgeorge