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GUEST SPOT AND GIVEAWAY: Historical Hellions Box Set

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From bluestockings to scandalous heiresses, these strong-willed, unconventional historical romance heroines don’t let anything stand in their way when it comes to love and happily ever after. Featuring seven novellas and novels from award-winning and bestselling authors.

The Pursuit of Pleasure by Elizabeth Essex

Independent, politically-minded heiress Elizabeth Paxton has never wanted to marry, but longs for the freedom afforded to widows. The last thing she wants is dangerously attractive Captain Jameson Marlowe as a husband.

The Thief Steals Her Earl by Christina McKnight

The Earl of Cartwright is determined to find out who stole from his family. When he finds out the thief is the woman he’s fallen in love with, he must choose between duty and love.

Secrets in Scarlet by Erica Monroe

When a bluestocking with a scandalous past meets an idealistic sergeant, sparks fly as they work to solve a murder…but her secrets may lead to their undoing.

Sleeping Beau by Lila DiPasqua

Inspired by the tale of Sleeping Beauty–a scorching hot historical romance novella from the Fiery Tales series. One sleeping rake, one scorching kiss, one night of unforgettable passion…

The Art of Seduction by Eileen Richards

A spinster finds freedom as a theatre set painter until a chance meeting with the marquis who broke her heart has her questioning what she wants for her future.

The Madam’s Highlander by Madeline Martin

What’s the madam of a successful bawdy house in Edinburgh to do when she finds one of the English supported Black Watch soldiers needing to desert his post? She helps him, of course – but there’s a high price to pay.

Reckless Wager by Christy Carlyle

Victorian propriety and passions collide when a beautiful widow makes a wager with a wounded police detective bent on solving the Ripper mystery.


Heroines as Hellions: a Guest Post by Erica Monroe

“Though she be but little, she is fierce.” – William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

erica monroeI have always been drawn to strong heroines. I am a child of the ‘90’s, growing up surrounded by American Girl dolls, highlighting women’s contribution to history, and stacks of Nancy Drew novels, teaching me that women could solve any problem with a bit of ingenuity and kindness. As I came of age, a plethora of television shows highlighting fierce women (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, Charmed, the X-Files all come to mind immediately) constantly reminded me that my value is not determined by the opinions of others, but by how I perceive myself. In college, I studied authors who changed the course of literature with their refusal to blindly follow society’s dictates that women could not possibly write as well as men. Jane Austen’s Emma, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and George Eliot’s Middlemarch solidified not just my love for nineteenth century Britain, but for determined and smart, yet still flawed, heroines.

As I write this, Lady Gaga is blasting in my office, and I am surrounded by signs that say things like “like a boss” and “write your own life story” (as well as a gigantic poster from Rogue One with “Rebel” in big letters), all reminders to remain true to myself and my creative strengths. And indeed, I have forged a career for myself in writing dark, suspenseful historical romance, where the women are just as dangerous and capable as the men whose heart they capture. I write women who are survivors, who, despite many difficulties and obstacles, have fought tooth and nail to eke out a small place of happiness in a cruel world. When I write—and when I read for my own enjoyment—a book, I want the hero and heroine to be equal partners.

So it should come as no surprise that when my critique partner, Christina McKnight, and I sat down to outline a new historical romance boxed set, we chose “strong women” as our theme. Like me, Christina writes unconventional women, and heroes that embrace their uniqueness. Historical Hellions  contains seven novels and novellas (two of which have never been before published: The Madam’s Highlander and The Art of Seduction), all featuring revolutionary women blazing their own path. We’ve got a thief desperately trying to save her family from debt (The Thief Steals Her Earl), a woman who agrees to a marriage of convenience with her best friend in hopes she’ll become a widow (The Pursuit of Pleasure), a mysterious seductress (Sleeping Beau), and a widow who drives a hard bargain (Reckless Wager).

In my book, Secrets in Scarlet, my heroine Poppy has been shunned by her small English town because she had a child outside of marriage. Poppy moves to London, and begins working in a factory in the Spitalfields rookery under an assumed name—pretending to be a war widow, so that no one will know her daughter is illegitimate. But when another girl is murdered at the factory, the H-District Metropolitan Police’s investigation puts Poppy right in the crosshairs of Sergeant Thaddeus Knight… who would love nothing more than to solve the puzzle Poppy presents.

Secrets in Scarlet holds a special place in my heart because Poppy is somewhat of an unwilling rebel—her main concern is protecting her daughter. She thinks she’s cost herself her own happily ever after, because surely, no man would want a fallen woman. While Thaddeus’s love certainly strengthens Poppy’s sense of self-worth, she must learn for herself that her past does not weaken her. I think that’s one of the most important lessons I learned from growing up with so many excellent examples of strong women: strength manifests itself in many ways. Poppy is a quieter heroine, a bluestocking who’d rather spend her days at home surrounded by books. She struggles, and she has doubts and fears, but when it comes to seeking justice, she fights hard. In the end, she realizes that her past experiences have made her who she is today, able to empathize and love with great depth.

That’s what we hope to present to readers with the Historical Hellions set: women who are their own champions, who love passionately, who battle nearly impossible odds and still triumph. None of our heroines are perfect– just as none of us are—and it is their imperfections often that end up making them shine. We want readers to know that like these heroines, their uniqueness is wonderful, and they too can change the world.

Giveaway

Erica and her fellow authors are offering THREE (3) eCopies of the boxed set of Historical Hellions novels and novellas to three lucky winners. Enter at Rafflecopter below (no purchase is necessary). The giveaway is open for one week, and the winners will be notified shortly after the closing date.

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About the Authors

USA Today Bestselling Author Christina McKnight writes emotional and intricate Regency Romance with strong women and maverick heroes.
USA Today Bestselling Author Erica Monroe writes dark, suspenseful historical romance with an emphasis on women’s rights and social issues.
USA Today Bestselling Author Lila DiPasqua writes historical romances with heat, and her Fiery Tales features fairy tale reworkings.
USA Today Bestselling Author Madeline Martin heats up the Highlands with her historical romances.
USA Today Bestselling Author Christy Carlyle writes sensual historical romance set in the Victorian era.
RITA Award Nominee Elizabeth Essex writes award-winning historical romance full of adventurous heroines and their sea captain heroes.
Bestselling Author Eileen Richards writes lighthearted Regency romps.

Wanted, A Gentleman by K.J Charles

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By the good offices of Riptide Publishing
KJ Charles’s new Entertainment

WANTED, A GENTLEMAN
Or, Virtue Over-Rated

the grand romance of

Mr. Martin St. Vincent . . . a Merchant with a Mission, also a Problem
Mr. Theodore Swann . . . a humble Scribbler and Advertiser for Love

Act the First:

the offices of the Matrimonial Advertiser, London
where Lonely Hearts may seek one another for the cost of a shilling

Act the Second:

a Pursuit to Gretna Green (or thereabouts)

featuring

a speedy Carriage
sundry rustic Inns
a private Bed-chamber
***
In the course of which are presented

Romance, Revenge, and Redemption
Deceptions, Discoveries, and Desires

the particulars of which are too numerous to impart

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How Many Miles?! – A Guest Post by K.J. Charles

My new book Wanted, A Gentleman, is a Georgian road-trip story. If that gives you visions of galloping freely through the great open roads, like Thelma and Louise with cravats, forget it. We’re in 1805 Britain. You might as well walk.

I’m hardly joking. One of the great irritants in historical or fantasy fiction for the literal-minded pedant such as myself is how easily some journeys fly by. The duke whisks the heroine into his well-sprung carriage on Pall Mall and the next thing you know they’re alone in his gothic estate on the Yorkshire Moors, listening to the mysterious howling of a spectral hound. This is very easily done for modern authors used to getting into a car, sticking on the radio, letting our minds wander and then finding ourselves where we want to be. And, let’s be honest, we’d rather be in the gothic estate, getting our fix of brooding, sexual tension, and running around in a nightie.

Nevertheless, even if you’re going to elide a Regency road trip with a sentence, that sentence probably has to begin, “After several days of an uncomfortable and tiresome journey…” because it was.

In Wanted, a Gentleman, our heroes Martin (reluctant pursuer of an eloping heiress) and Theo (his even more reluctant temporary sidekick) find themselves obliged to embark on a breakneck dash up north to catch the heiress before she and her swain cross the border to Scotland and get married. Martin has access, as they start their journey, to a state-of-the-art travelling chaise (what you might call a “high-speed chaise”, ahahaha) drawn by four horses. They are taking the Great North Road from London, one of the major roads in the country. You know how fast Martin and Theo are going to go, with all the resources wealth can throw at the journey in 1805?

About fourteen miles an hour.

Fourteen.

And 14mph is good. 14mph is what you can do on a good road with four horses, only not for long, because horses are not the same as internal combustion engines. To quote the great Diana Wynne Jones on horses in fantasy:

Horses are … capable of galloping full-tilt all day without a rest. Sometimes they do not require food or water. They never cast shoes, go lame or put their hooves down holes, except when the Management deems it necessary, as when the forces of the Dark Lord are only half an hour behind.  … Horses can be used just like bicycles, and usually are.

Quite. Your actual horses had to be changed every 10-12 miles (that was a ‘stage’, and the stagecoach would stop at each staging post). This meant a stop, a wait for the ostler’s attention, hiring new horses which might well not be particularly good or energetic animals, getting them harnessed, and setting off again, only to repeat the whole procedure 10-12 miles later.

And this would not be comfortable. Coaches used springs and straps as a sort of suspension system but the roads were dreadful, full of ruts and potholes and rocks. Even 10mph would be dangerous, hard to achieve and hellaciously uncomfortable on many stretches of road.

It’s about 320 miles from London to Scotland. If you were on the road for twelve hours a day, in a good chaise and throwing money at the journey in order to go as fast as possible, that would still be a three-day journey of spine-jarring discomfort. Could be worse: in the stagecoach you’d be more likely to average 6mph in no more comfort at all.

On the plus side, this did mean that travellers had to spend an awful lot of time together, crammed onto a small seat, stuck in remote inns where they knew nobody, forced to share rooms in busy posthouses. Obviously that wasn’t much of a plus side for them, but it’s a boon for the historical romance writer. And who knows, Martin and Theo might even end up seeing the advantages…

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Riptide Publishing, January 2017

Time and Setting: England, 1805
Genre: Historical Romance novella
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Caz

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This new novella from the pen of K.J. Charles is a Regency Era road-trip undertaken in order to foil the elopement of an heiress and her unsuitable beau.

The couple has been corresponding secretly by placing messages in the pages of the Matrimonial Advertiser, a news-sheet dedicated to publishing what we would today call Lonely Hearts advertisements, and run by Mr. Theodore Swann, a jobbing writer who owns and runs the paper as well as scribbling romantic novels on the side.

Into his dingy City office one day, bursts Mr. Martin St. Vincent, a well-built, well-dressed and obviously well to-do black man, who is trying to discover the identity of the man who has been corresponding with the seventeen year-old daughter of his former owner.  He’s blunt and not in the mood for humour, small-talk or any of Theo’s sales patter – and quickly cuts to the chase by asking Theo to put a price on his assistance.

Before he can discover the man’s identity however, the young lady elopes with her swain, and the family turns to Martin for help.  A former slave, his relationship to the Conroys – who, by the standards of the day treated him well – is a difficult one, but he used to play with the young woman when she was a child and read her stories… and it’s for her sake that he agrees to try to find her and bring her home safely.

Realising he’ll need help – and having been reluctantly impressed with Theo’s quick wits and sharp tongue (among other things) – Martin asks Theo to go with him – and after they have agreed on a large fee, Theo agrees.

This is a novella of some 150 pages, but K.J Charles does such a superb job with the characterisation of her two principals and adds such depth to their personalities and stories that I came away from the novella feeing – almost – as though I’d read a full-length novel.  There’s a spark of attraction between the two men from the start, and this builds gradually as they travel and get to know each other better, but what is so wonderful is the way the relationship between them grows alongside it.  Martin is a former slave, and while he doesn’t feel he owes anything to his former master, he can’t help resenting the fact that he has been very lucky when compared to so many others:

“I was kept in the household, and freed on such generous terms that I have been able to prosper ever since, and how can I resent that?”

“That sounds to me the kind of generosity that could kill a man.”

“It is. It sticks in my throat like thistles, it chokes me.”

And Theo gets it.  He sees Martin as a person, he believes he’s entitled to be angry:

“I, uh, feel strongly about gratitude.  Forced gratitude, I mean, the kind piled on your debt as added interest.  To be ground underfoot and then told to be thankful the foot was not heavier – I hate it.”

Their conversations are insightful and often humorous, showcasing many of the things I enjoy so much about this author’s work. Her research is impeccable and I always like the way she doesn’t just gloss over the social issues of the day.  Slavery had been abolished in England at this time, but there were still many people making money out of it; there was serious social inequality and no safety net for those who couldn’t afford even the most basic of life’s necessities; yet all these issues are addressed in a way that is not preachy or dry history lesson.  Instead they arise naturally out of the direction taken by the story, the lives of the characters and the situations in which they live.

Both protagonists are attractive, likeable characters, although Theo is probably the more well-developed of the two, with a bit more light and shade to his persona.  He’s quick witted, devious and sarcastic; and I really liked that his lady novelist alter-ego, Dorothea Swann, gives Ms. Charles the opportunity to make a few tongue-in-cheek observations about romantic fiction but also allows Theo to save the day.

Wanted, A Gentleman is beautifully written, the dialogue sparkles and Theo and Martin simply charmed me.

My only complaint is that the book ended too quickly.

GIVEAWAY

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THE GIVEAWAY IS OPEN FOR SEVEN DAYS; WINNER WILL BE DRAWN SHORTLY AFTER THE CLOSING DATE.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

kj-magpieKJ Charles is a writer of mostly m/m historical romance, sometimes with fantasy. She has won several Rainbow Awards for her work and twice been voted Best LGBT+ Romance in the All About Romance annual poll. She is published by Loveswept and Samhain.

KJ is also a RITA-winning editor with twenty years’ publishing experience as a commissioning and line editor. She worked primarily in romance and children’s fiction, and is now freelance.

She lives in London with her husband, two kids, a wildly overgrown garden, and a cat with murder-management issues.

Connect with KJ at: www.kjcharleswriter.com * ~ * Facebook * ~ * Twitter * ~ * Tumblr.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Naked – A Novel of Lady Godiva by Eliza Redgold

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We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don’t know her true story.

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva’s ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for ‘peeping Tom’) and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax. Naked is an original version of Godiva’s tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion, Naked brings an epic story new voice.

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We’re delighted to welcome Eliza Redgold to RHR today, to talk about her new novel, Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva

If the rider heard he made no sign. Clad in a silver helmet and armored in brown leather, he galloped under the arches, my warning ignored. His great black horse circled the courtyard, raising dust as he halted in front of the steps.

For a moment he didn’t move. Nor did I, except to tighten my fingers on the handle of my blade.

He lifted off his helmet.

A pair of piercing eyes met mine.

This is not Thurkill.

The knowledge flashed into my brain. The man in front of me was tall and strong. Many years younger than my father, perhaps thirty years of age, his face a tanned brown. His hair, tawny as an owl wing, fell to the studded collar of his armor, its leather stretched across his shoulders.

He spoke. “You are Godiva.”

Hawk high I lifted my head. “I am. Who are you? Why have you come to my lands?”

Dirt swirled in the air as his horse hoofed the ground. River deep turned his gaze as he took me in, lingering on the thick braid that fell over my shoulder to brush to my thigh.

“Well?” A flame flickered though me, hotter than fear. A flame I’d never known. “Who are you?”

# # # # # # # #

Falling in Love with Leofric

History has been hard on Lord Leofric of Mercia. In the famous story about Lady Godiva he is definitely the villain of the piece, ready to impose heavy taxes on the poor and ignobly allow his wife to carry out her daring ride.

There’s more to Leofric’s story. While writing Naked I discovered that after his marriage to Godiva, the Earl of Mercia was a changed man. Ancient records suggest Leofric and Godiva’s marriage was a strong one. Together they supported monasteries, built abbeys and churches and aided the poor. The original cathedral in Coventry was founded by Godiva and Leofric.

Far from being a villain, Leofric was a Saxon hero who fought hard against the Danish (Viking) invasion. Godiva and Leofric’s enemy in Naked, Thurkill the Tall, was a real person who took control of Mercia in a Danish attempt to quash the mighty Saxons. Yet Leofric won back his lands and became one of the first Saxon Earls of England.

Older stories about Godiva and Leofric also exist. In one version of the tale, Godiva’s ride is not a penance, but a love-chase. In the story, Leofric sets his wife a riddle to test her. She must come to him neither being clothed or unclothed, without a foot touching the ground. Cleverly, Godiva rides rather than walks and covers her naked body with her hair.

As I wrote Godiva’s story the more I became intrigued by her enigmatic husband. I certainly fell in love with Leofric. The question is: did Godiva?

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s Press, 14 July 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1023 Coventry, England
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Jill

Then his reply came, soft as an assassin’s footfall.

“Ride, Godiva.”

Coventry, England 1023AD and nineteen year-old Godiva has just lost both her parents, who were ambushed on the road and killed by Danes. She inherits the estates of her Saxon father. And the responsibilities. On the heels of this tragedy, comes news that Thurkill and his band of Danes are heading to Coventry.

02_Naked A Novel of Lady Godiva_CoverBut before Thurkill reaches the unprepared and untrained villagers, Leofric of Mercia, renowned for his campaign against Thurkill, rides into Coventry. Joining forces with Leofric and his warriors, Godiva acknowledges that the only way to permanently defend her people and lands is to form a geo-political alliance in marriage with Leofric, to protect both Coventry and Mercia.

What an absolutely wonderful take on the legendary ride of Lady Godiva!

Though the naked ride of Lady Godiva through the streets of Coventry may be legend, Godiva and her husband, Leofric were real historical figures. What I especially enjoyed here is the author’s skill in recreating a plausible reason for her ride.

In previous years, the people of Coventry have struggled to bring in their crops, and are now facing difficult times as well as the prospect of famine. When Leofric insists that their taxes be raised, so that Coventry pays the same taxes as Mercia, Godiva stands as an advocate for her people, and tries to persuade her husband to relent.

“Is there nothing you wouldn’t do for your people?” […]

“I’ll do anything.”

In a fit of pique, Leofric then demands she take the penitent’s ride, naked through the streets of Coventry.

Written in first person from Godiva’s point-of-view, Eliza Redgold has penned a very enjoyable and well-researched historical novel of England at a time when the Danish king, Canute reigned over the Saxons. Without drowning the reader in the political details of the day, she nevertheless brings the 11th century to life, with enough descriptions of the era and setting to balance the entertaining story and delightful romance.

Some of the narrative is written in short sharp sentences, sometimes of only one or two words. Some readers may find the style offputting, but I think it was used to great effect. For me it came across in similar rhythm to a poem. And indeed this may have been deliberate, reflecting the lines of Lord Tennyson’s 1840 poem, Godiva that begin each chapter.

There is an added subplot to the tale, and Godiva’s ride, that’s revealed towards the end, that neither Godiva nor readers are privy to, since the narrative is told through Godiva’s eyes. It does come somewhat out-of-the-blue. However there are clues throughout that may be picked up by other (smarter) readers.

I enjoyed this a lot and hope to see more from Eliza Redgold. Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva is definitely recommended for readers of romantic historical fiction, and even historical romance.

GIVEAWAY

To enter to win a copy of Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva or a $50 Amazon Gift Card, please enter via the GLEAM form below. Three winners will be chosen.

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on August 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva Blog Tour

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

03_Eliza Redgold_AuthorELIZA REDGOLD is based upon the old, Gaelic meaning of her name, Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd. English folklore has it that if you help a fairy, you will be rewarded with red gold. She has presented academic papers on women and romance and is a contributor to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Romance Fiction. As a non-fiction author she is co-author of Body Talk: a Power Guide for Girls and Stay-at-Home Mothers: Dialogues and Debates. She was born in Irvine, Scotland on Marymass Day and currently lives in Australia.

For more information visit Eliza Redgold’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Tremaine’s True Love (True Gentlemen #1) by Grace Burrowes

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He’s had everything he could ever want…until now

Wealthy wool magnate Tremaine St. Michael is half French, half Scottish, and all business. He prowls the world in search of more profits, rarely settling in one place for long. When he meets practical, reserved Lady Nita Haddonfield, he sees an opportunity to mix business with pleasure by making the lady his own.

Nita Haddonfield has a meaningful life tending to others, though nobody is dedicated to caring for Nita. She insists the limitations of marriage aren’t for her, then Tremaine St. Michael arrives-protective, passionate, and very, very determined to win Nita’s heart.

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A MESSAGE FROM GRACE BURROWES

What makes a man a gentleman?

GraceBurrowesFor a romance writer, this question has to be answered in every book, because implicit in the term “hero” is something of the gentleman. Heroes need not be charming, handsome or wealthy, and they might not even be obviously heroic, at least at the start of the book, but they have to be worthy of our loyalty for the duration of an entire book.

In the True Gentlemen series, I took three men who’d wandered across my pages in previous stories — Tremaine St. Michael, Daniel Banks, and Willow Dorning — and found them each a happily ever after. Tremaine is a flinty business man, Daniel is poor and pious, Willow finds polite society an enormous trial and would far rather be with his dogs. These fellows were not obvious choices as romance heroes, but they each had something that tempted me to write stories for them.

When we met Tremaine in an earlier book (Gabriel: Lord of Regrets), Tremaine was convinced that he’d found a good candidate for the position of wife. He offered marriage, listing all the practical advantages to both parties, and he congratulated himself on how much sense his proposed union would make.

The lady turned him down flat, and as a gentleman is bound to do, he graciously ceded the field. He didn’t like it, he didn’t entirely understand how or what he’d lost, but he wished the happy couple well.

Daniel’s role in David: Lord of Honor was to charge to London with sermons at the ready in an attempt to restore his sister’s honor. The very man Daniel accused of wronging that sister had already set her back on the path to respectability.

Oops. But again, being a gentleman, Daniel wishes the couple every happiness, even if doing so costs him the future he’d envisioned for himself and his loved ones. Like Tremaine, he’s a gracious and even dignified loser.

Willow’s appearance in Worth: Lord of Reckoning is brief, but he too is determined to see a sister rescued from a possibly compromising position, and again, rescue is simply not on the heroine’s agenda.

In all three cases, the true gentleman acts in the best interests of those he loves and is responsible for, regardless of the inconvenience or cost to himself. Because Tremaine, Daniel, and Willow were honorable, I liked them. I trusted them, I wanted them to have the happiness they clearly already deserved.

In the Nicholas Haddonfield’s sisters — Nita, Kirsten, and Susannah — I found ladies willing to oblige my ambitions for these men. In each case, our hero has lessons yet to learn, and in each case, his inherent honor wins the day. He might not be handsome, wealthy, or charming in the eyes of the world, but because he’s a true gentleman in the eyes of his lady, he wins her true love.

I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them!

READ OUR REVIEW OF TREMAINE’S TRUE LOVE TOMORROW!

EXCERPT

Wealthy businessman Tremaine St. Michael has concluded that marriage to Lady Nita Haddonfield would be a prudent merger of complimentary interests for the mutual benefit and enjoyment of both parties… or some such blather.

Tremaine rapped on Lady Nita’s door, quietly, despite a light shining from beneath it. Somebody murmured something which he took for permission to enter.

“Mr. St. Michael?”

Tremaine stepped into her ladyship’s room, closed the door behind him and locked it, which brought the total of his impossibly forward behaviors to several thousand.

“Your ladyship expected a sister, or a maid with a pail of coal?”

Treamine's True Love“I wasn’t expecting you.” Lady Nita sat near the hearth in a blue velvet dressing gown. The wool stockings on her feet were thick enough to make a drover covetous. “Are you unwell, Mr. St. Michael?”

“You are not pleased to see me.” Did she think illness the only reason somebody would seek her out?

She set aside some pamphlet, a medical treatise, no doubt. No vapid novels for Lady Nita.

“I was not expecting you, sir.”

“You were not expecting me to discuss marriage with you earlier. I wasn’t expecting the topic to come up in a casual fashion either. May I sit?”

She waved an elegant hand at the other chair flanking the hearth. Tremaine settled in, trying to gather his thoughts while the firelight turned Lady Nita’s braid into a rope of burnished gold.

“You are pretty.” Brilliant place to start. The words had come out, heavily burred, something of an ongoing revelation.

“I am tall and blond,” she retorted, twitching the folds her of her robe. “I have the usual assortment of parts. What did you come here to discuss?”

Lady Nita was right, in a sense. Her beauty was not of the ballroom variety, but rather, an illumination of her features by characteristics unseen. She fretted over new babies, cut up potatoes like any crofter’s wife, and worried for her sisters. These attributes interested Tremaine. Her madonna-with-a-secret smile, keen intellect, and longing for laughter attracted him.

Even her medical pre-occupation, in its place, had some utility as well.

“Will you marry me, my lady?”

More brilliance. Where had his wits gone? George Haddonfield had graciously pointed out that Nita needed repose and laughter, and Tremaine was offering her the hand of the most restless and un-silly man in the realm.

The lady somehow contained her incredulity, staring at her hands. “You want to discuss marriage?”

“I believe I did just open that topic. Allow me to elaborate on my thesis: Lady Bernita Haddonfield, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife? I think we would suit, and I can promise you would know no want in my care.”

A proper swain would have been on his damn bended knee, the lady’s hand in his. Lady Nita would probably laugh herself to tears if Tremaine attempted that nonsense. Lady Nita picked up her pamphlet, which Tremaine could now see was written in German.

“Why, Mr. St. Michael?”

“I beg your pardon?” Tremaine was about to pitch the damned pamphlet in the fire, until he recalled that Nita Haddonfield excelled at obscuring her stronger emotions.

“Why should you marry me, Tremaine St. Michael? Why should I marry you? I’ve had other offers, you’ve made other offers. You haven’t known me long enough to form an opinion of my character beyond the superficial.”

This ability to take a situation apart, into causes, effects, symptoms, and prognosis was part of the reason she was successful as a healer. Tremaine applied the same tendencies to commercial situations, so he didn’t dismiss her questions as coyness or manipulation.

She wasn’t rejecting him either. She most assuredly was not rejecting him.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes’ bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish and Lady Eve’s Indiscretion. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.

Find Grace online at: www.graceburrowes.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Player (Rockliffe #3) by Stella Riley

The Player

Tragedy drove him into unwilling exile. Death demands his reluctant return.

In the decade between, he has answered to many names and amassed a variety of secrets.

Now the actor known to Paris as L’Inconnu must resume his real identity and become Francis Adrian Sinclair Devereux, Earl of Sarre … a man he no longer knows how to be and whose name, thanks to the malice of a friend turned enemy, remains tarnished by an old scandal.

Revenge, so long avoided, slithers temptingly from the shadows.
Grand-daughter of a wealthy wool-merchant, Caroline Maitland is not finding her Society debut either easy or enjoyable … but, to Marcus Sheringham, she is the perfect solution to his crushing mountain of debt.

Knowing she will be married for her money, Caroline never believed she would find love; but neither did she bargain for a certain charming French highwayman … and a surprising turn of events.

The stage is set, the cast assembled and the Duke of Rockliffe waits for the curtain to rise.

In the wings, Lord Sarre prepares to make his entrance.

He doesn’t expect to be greeted with applause.

Purchase Links: Amazon US * ~ * ~ * Amazon UK * ~ * ~ * Smashwords.

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Today, we’re delighted to welcome author Stella Riley back to Romantic Historical Reviews to tell us a little about her new historical romance set in Georgian England.

Years ago, when I first wrote The Mésalliance, the publisher insisted on severe cuts so that it would fit into their standard 192 pages – and, painful as this was, I did it. However, I always thought that the book deserved better and so, when I started to prepare the e-version, I spent a great deal of time restoring it to what it should have been; and because I recognised the possibility that I might want to add another book to the series, Rockliffe’s evening at the Comédie Française in Paris contains the loose thread that would help me to do so.

The result is The Player.

He had many incarnations. There were half a dozen he used on a regular basis, all of them ingrained and as easy to slip into as a well-worn boot. Then there were the roles he could create at will when the occasion demanded it and even, sometimes, when it didn’t. And finally there was the one he had been born with; the one that, due to a sudden tragic turn of events, he would shortly be forced to resume … if only he could remember who that had been.

So … I wanted to feature Rockcliffe again and I had a hero possessed of unusual talents and a damaged and damaging back-story. Only then a third character stepped out of a painting, refused to step back again – and demanded to be the book-cover.

‘Come tread a measure with Claude Duvall.’ His voice was a silky-soft invitation. ‘Dance with me.’

What girl could refuse just one moment of moonlit magic in a life otherwise composed of ‘Doing What Is Expected’ and ‘Making The Best Of Things’? Caroline couldn’t.

Making her debut at the advanced age of twenty-two meant that she no longer had any romantic illusions about being swept off her feet by a dashingly handsome fellow – noble or otherwise. She knew that the only reason any titled gentleman would marry a girl who came from a background of cotton mills and trade was the money she brought with her. In essence, Caroline didn’t mind this. Or not much, anyway.

Inevitably, The Player contains some old friends as well as introducing new ones. Lord Nicholas Wynstanton, Rock’s younger brother, makes his bow – as does Sarre’s friend, Bertrand and his business-partner, Aristide Delacroix. Meet Caroline’s annoying and frequently embarrassing Mama and her paid chaperone, Lily Brassington. And then there’s Marcus, Lord Sheringham … whose role in the ensuing drama is pivotal.

Lord Sarre feared that return would lead him to exhume what exile had allowed him to leave buried. He wasn’t going back because he wanted to. He was going because his presence had become an unavoidable duty.

He doubted if anyone would welcome him.

At some point during the writing, I expect to fall in love with my heroes and Sarre was no exception – though, because he finds playing a role easier than being himself, it took a little longer than usual and came about in a way I’d neither planned nor anticipated. But there’s nothing like a surprise present, is there?

EXCERPT

The dreams were back.

Dreams that remembered what his waking self only wanted to forget.

And all because of a letter.

It was the night before his twenty-second birthday and three days before the wedding. At first, he wasn’t sure what woke him. Then he realised that the door to his chamber stood open and, outlined against the darkness outside it, was a still figure in trailing white. For an instant, with sleep still fogging his brain, he thought it was a ghost but, even as shock propelled him upright, he recognised Evie’s husky, faintly unsteady laugh and saw her beckon him, then vanish like the apparition he’d briefly thought her.

The dream telescoped time as she led him through the semi-derelict north wing and out on to the roof. Then everything swung sharply back into focus.

She climbed on the low parapet, her body in its thin draperies haloed by the rising sun and the rippling rose-gold hair gleaming about her shoulders. Instinctively, he reached out to pull her back but she held him off saying, ‘No. If you wanted to catch me, you should have run faster.’

Her eyes were too bright and her voice too brittle. He’d seen her over-excited and highly-strung before – but never like this. She frightened him as much in the dream as she’d often done in reality.

He tried to speak but nothing came out.

And then, with a sudden dazzling smile, she said, ‘I’m not going to marry you.’

The words hit him like a punch in the stomach.

‘What?’

‘I’m not going to marry you. Don’t you want to know why?’

He didn’t. He wanted her to stop. He wanted her to laugh and say she was joking. He wanted the alarm bells ringing inside his head to fall silent.

He said, ‘I imagine you’ve brought me out here to tell me.’

‘Yes.’ The expression in the lovely eyes changed into something he didn’t recognise and she took her time about replying. Then she said baldly, ‘I’m pregnant.’

The sense of it was too far off to grasp.

‘You can’t be. We’ve never …’ He fought the hard knot that was forming in his chest. ‘Evie, if this is some game –‘

‘It’s no game.’ She took a graceful dance-step along the broad, flat ledge and pivoted to face him. ‘And it isn’t about you. I’m telling you that I have a lover and that I’m pregnant by him. I could have kept it to myself and married you anyway. Would you have preferred that?’

‘I don’t … I’d have preferred there was nothing to tell.’ His brain still couldn’t accept that this was really happening. ‘Who is it?’

‘Guess.’

‘I can’t. Who is he?’

‘Someone you know. Someone so very unlike you, he could be your opposite.’ Her voice grew rhythmically hypnotic, as if she either had no idea of the torment she was inflicting or simply didn’t care. ‘One so dark, the other so fair. One heir to a high-ranking title, the other already possessed of a lesser one.  Need I go on – or can you guess yet?’

He could but he didn’t want to. Bile rose sickeningly in his throat and he said chokingly, ‘Say his name.’

‘I don’t need to, do I? You know.’

‘I shall know when I hear you say it.’

And so, with a smile and a shrug, she tossed him the name that ought to have been inconceivable but somehow wasn’t.

Sometimes, when he was really lucky, this was where the dream let go of him and he woke drenched in sweat, his breath coming in retching gasps. Mostly, these days, it held him in its grip until the bitter end.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

stella rileyMuch as I love the seventeenth century, I felt the need for a short break from it after finishing The King’s Falcon – which, as many readers will know, was my first new title in a very long time. I’m returning to it now as I begin work on the fourth book in the series but, for the last few months, The Player has provided a very enjoyable holiday.

When not writing, I enjoy travel, the theatre, dancing and reading.

My husband and I are about to celebrate our first anniversary of living in the ancient Cinque Port of Sandwich in Kent.

Those readers who know that I lived in Banbury whilst writing A Splendid Defiance and Yorkshire during the creation of Garland of Straw won’t be particularly surprised to find that Lord Sarre, alias The Player, has a house on Sandwich Bay. He invites you to visit him there.

For all the latest information or merely to drop in for a chat, join me at https://stellariley.wordpress.com

VIRTUAL TOUR: Freedom to Love by Susanna Fraser

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Louisiana, 1815

Thérèse Bondurant trusted her parents to provide for her and her young half-sister, though they never wed due to laws against mixed-race marriage. But when both die of a fever, Thérèse learns her only inheritance is debt—and her father’s promise that somewhere on his plantation lies a buried treasure. To save her own life—as well as that of her sister—she’ll need to find it before her white cousins take possession of the land.

British officer Henry Farlow, dazed from a wound received in battle outside New Orleans, stumbles onto Thérèse’s property out of necessity. But he stays because he’s become captivated by her intelligence and beauty. It’s thanks to Thérèse’s tender care that he regains his strength just in time to fend off her cousin, inadvertently killing the would-be rapist in the process.

Though he risks being labeled a deserter, it’s much more than a sense of duty that compels Henry to see the sisters to safety—far away from the scene of the crime. And Thérèse realizes she has come to rely on Henry for so much more than protection. On their journey to freedom in England, they must navigate a territory that’s just as foreign to them both—love.

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We’re delighted to welcome Susanna Fraser to Romantic Historical Reviews today, to tell us a little more about her first foray (as a writer, anyway!) into the world of American Romance!

 

Thank you for having me as a guest today!

Freedom to Love is unique among the historical romances I’ve written to date in that the majority of the action takes place in America. All my previous titles are set either in England or with the British army in Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. This new book has similar roots–the hero is a British soldier wounded at the Battle of New Orleans–but the American heroine and setting give the story a different feel, I think, and definitely required a lot of new research on my part. 

02_Freedom to Love CoverWriting it made me think about American historical romances I’ve read down through the years. Frankly, there aren’t that many. I’m not strongly drawn to the outlaws and cowboys of Westerns, so I rarely read them if they aren’t highly recommended by someone I trust. And the American settings I’d love to read more of–e.g. the colonial and revolutionary eras or nineteenth-century cities, either on the East or West Coast–are much harder to find.

However, I did cut my romance-reading teeth on American-set historicals. Specifically, the Sunfire series of YA historical romance that came out in the 1980’s. Each was about a girl, usually 16 years old, finding adventure and romance during some key event in American history. I liked them so much better than the contemporary YA romance of my days because the heroines got to be involved in big events with big consequences. My favorites were Nicole, who found love on the Titanic, Marilee of Jamestown, and Amanda of the Oregon Trail.

I graduated from Sunfires to traditional Regency historical romances before I graduated high school, but I’ve always kept an eye out for American historicals that might satisfy me in the same way on a more adult level. Here are a few of my favorites:

 

  1. The Wives of Bowie Stone by Maggie Osborne. A Western, so not my usual thing, but the characters are so well-developed and the whole thing is just so poignant and tender.
  2. Wild at Heart by Patricia Gaffney. I love this book in every way, from its unusual setting (1890’s Chicago) to how Gaffney made me believe in its boy-raised-by-wolves-returning-to-civilization conceit (suffice it to say she clearly did her homework) to how sweet and romantic and sometimes hilarious the central love story is. I wish it was still in print and/or available as an ebook.
  3. Captive Bride by Bonnie Dee. Set in 1870’s San Francisco, the story of a young woman who emigrates from China to a promised arranged marriage only to discover she’s expected to become a prostitute. She escapes and finds refuge with an American store owner who believes in her even before they share any common language, and it’s just lovely.
  4. Medicine Woman by Kathleen Eagle. I love Eagle’s contemporary romances and wish she’d written more than a handful of historicals. No one writes Native American heroes and heroines better, in my opinion. This one is also out of print and unavailable in ebook, but if you ever happen across a copy, grab it!

Do you have any favorite American-set historical romances to recommend?

 

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Freedom to Love

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

03_Susanna FraserSusanna Fraser wrote her first novel in fourth grade. It starred a family of talking horses who ruled a magical land. In high school she started, but never finished, a succession of tales of girls who were just like her, only with long, naturally curly and often unusually colored hair, who, perhaps because of the hair, had much greater success with boys than she ever did.

Along the way she read her hometown library’s entire collection of Regency romance, fell in love with the works of Jane Austen, and discovered in Patrick O’Brian’s and Bernard Cornwell’s novels another side of the opening decades of the 19th century. When she started to write again as an adult, she knew exactly where she wanted to set her books. Her writing has come a long way from her youthful efforts, but she still gives her heroines great hair.

Susanna grew up in rural Alabama. After high school she left home for the University of Pennsylvania and has been a city girl ever since. She worked in England for a year after college, using her days off to explore history from ancient stone circles to Jane Austen’s Bath.

Susanna lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter. When not writing or reading, she goes to baseball games, sings alto in a local choir and watches cooking competition shows.

For more information please visit Susanna’s website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Subscribe to Susanna Fraser’s Newsletter.

SPOTLIGHT: Lynne Connolly talks about her new Emperors of London Series

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Today, Romantic Historical Reviews is delighted to welcome author Lynne Connolly to the blog to talk about her new series of novels set in Georgian London. The books centre around a family feud, with one family supporting the Crown and the other supporting the Jacobites. It’s set post-Culloden, when a deadly secret slowly comes to light that threatens the whole of society. It’s a “what if?” story, with a family of lively cousins at its heart. Falling in love was never so fraught with peril and adventure!

Our review of the first book, Rogue in Red Velvet will be posted next week, and the second book in the series, Temptation Has Green Eyes is due for publication in November.

And now – over to Lynne…

What happened to Bonnie Prince Charlie after Culloden?

The failure of the Culloden campaign in 1746 was a bitter disappointment to the Jacobites, especially to the Young Pretender himself. His father, who had sent a message to Charles to cancel the invasion, was more stoical. The campaign ended any hope of the Stuarts regaining the throne of Great Britain, or so history would have it.

That’s the story told by the victors. At the time it looked very different. The Stuarts had lost the favour of the King of France and moved to the Palazzo Muti in Italy. In fact, Charles was more Italian than British, having an Italian mother and being brought up there. But he was young, the son of a Stuart and to many, the rightful heir to the throne.

The rights and wrongs were complex, but the Stuarts didn’t give up. In 1750, Charles came to England and converted to Protestantism. It’s a difficult area of research, and some of the details only came to light recently, but he definitely hadn’t given up the fight. He soon forgot the conversion when it didn’t have its desired effect, to increase his support in Britain, but it’s highly likely that he visited Britain several times after that.

That’s the background I used for the Emperors of London. To make matters worse for the Hanoverians, the current incumbents of the British throne, in 1751 the Prince of Wales died, leaving a young boy as his heir. Although Frederick hadn’t been on good terms with his father, George II, he was very popular with the people. Intelligent, personable and sociable, Frederick did a great deal to increase the popularity of the Hanover dynasty.

It created an opportunity for the Stuarts. While the wily Old Pretender, James, worked at developing politics abroad, and became a significant figure in Italian and French politics, Charles still turned his attention to Britain.

By the 1750’s, Charles had become a drunk. Whether he was actually alcoholic or not is still a matter of discussion, but his disappointment had an effect on him. He was overweight, and he treated his mistresses badly. He was unmarried and had one daughter. His brother Henry had become a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic church, so even if they had regained the throne, the succession was questionable.

That was the era I set the Emperors of London in. All I had to do was to add an element that wasn’t there, but could have been. The “What if…?” authors start with.

What if there were more heirs? What if they were more presentable, more numerous? Illegitimate children had a shot, but what if…?

But that doesn’t come out until the next book in the series!

The Emperors are a powerful family, similar to the Howards or the Cavendishes. The current generation have been saddled with the names of emperors and empresses of the past. They have outlandish names like Nicephorus and Marcus Aurelius. When they become aware of the dangerous secret threatening the stability of the country they love, they go into action, and fall in love in the process. Of course love was never part of their plan, but the best laid plans often go astray – and that’s where the fun starts!

You can buy ROGUE IN RED VELVET now from: Amazon * ~ * ~ * Barnes & Noble * ~ * ~ * All Romance eBooks * ~ * ~ * iBooks
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

lynneconnollyLynne Connolly has loved history since her parents took her to stately homes when she was a child. She walked in the rooms and in her imagination, she saw people walking up and down, and talking to each other. Being incorrigibly inquisitive, she wanted to know what they were saying, and that meant going to the library and hunting down research books.

She found out, and stories came from the research, about people in peril, unhappy people looking for love and getting their happy ending, and people not looking for anything at all, who had adventure thrust upon them. Of course Lynne had to write these down!

She went to school, got two degrees, and started working as a marketing executive. But she never forgot those people and wrote them down at night. Eventually she got the courage to send one of the stories off to a publisher. The publisher hated it. She learned about writing then, the skills writers need to know in order to share their stories with other people. Then she tried again. The publisher hated it. One day Lynne learned about the US market, and with a “nothing ventured” attitude, tried there. They loved it.

Lynne has since written three major series (Richard and Rose, Secrets and The Triple Countess) and several single title Regency and Georgian set books. Currently two series are taking her attention. The first is the Even Gods Fall In Love series, the kind of thing agents and publishers like to call “high concept.” It’s about Greek and Roman gods battling to the death in eighteenth century Britain. The other is the Emperors of London series.

You can connect with Lynne at her website and you can sign up for her newsletter HERE

A Grinding of Axes – a guest blog by Stella Riley

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 A full-blooded saga of passion, intrigue and danger set against the disastrous descent into a second Civil War.

By June of 1647 England is still in a state of near-chaos. From endless conflicting factions, a tidal wave of radical new ideas threatens to drown the order of generations while the King plays both ends against the middle in a dangerous game of his own.

Venetia Clifford’s days are divided between her secret activities on behalf of the Royalist cause and the struggle to keep Ford Edge solvent despite poor harvests and inflated taxes. Ellis Brandon, her fiancé of the last five years, shows no sign of returning from exile – despite the recent death of his father.

Sir Robert’s last will and testament turns Venetia’s world inside out when he disinherits Ellis in favour of an illegitimate son she did not know existed and forces her to choose between losing her family’s home or marriage to a man who is both a stranger and an enemy. For Gabriel Brandon – tall, dark and openly sardonic – is a Colonel in the New Model Army.

Having seen Venetia at her worst during their first meeting, Gabriel can think of few things more unpleasant than being married to her – and neither does he wish to sacrifice his career in favour of becoming a glorified farmer. Unfortunately, the legal knots are tied too tightly to allow loop-holes … and the return of Ellis with his own mixture of mischief and malice, complicates matters still further.

The tempestuous relationship between Venetia and Gabriel is reflected in the stormy events buffeting the nation as Civil War flares up anew. Leaving riots in London and risings in the southern counties behind them, Gabriel’s regiment marches north to stem a Scots invasion. And, inevitably, once the danger is past, responsibility for this renewal of hostilities is laid at the King’s door.

While the Army and Parliament argue over the fate of the King, Gabriel realises that he has a very dangerous anonymous enemy and Venetia finally puts aside the ingrained misconceptions that have prevented her seeing the man rather than the Roundhead Colonel. As events gather pace, bringing the King to trial in Westminster Hall, the tangled web of danger and deceit threatening Gabriel and Venetia slowly tightens its grip.

Of the many axes – political and personal – that gave been ground, more than one is about to fall.

This author-revised and extended version of the original print edition, continues the tumultuous events of mid-seventeenth century England begun in The Black Madonna.

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If the period leading up to the first English Civil War was complicated, the period after it was convoluted almost beyond belief. To be honest, I look at it now and wonder how I found the courage to attempt to write about it.

Ostensibly, the war had been fought to reduce the power of the King and increase that of the Parliament; but by the summer of 1647, the real power of the kingdom lay in the hands of the New Model Army – as, crucially, did the person of the King. And, in the months that followed, faction upon faction sprang up … Presbyterians, Independents, Republicans, Agitators and Levellers to name but a few – all with their own axe to grind and all unable to agree with each other.

Generally speaking, ordinary people just wanted an end to the chaos. They were tired of flagging trade and uncertainty over who was actually governing the country; and, since they were still paying war taxes, they were really tired of the Army living at free quarter. Unfortunately, the bulk of the Army hadn’t been paid for a year or more and were feeling understandably aggrieved.

Add to this mix the Levellers demanding a free press and an extended franchise, the King playing Parliament off against the Army whilst encouraging the Scots to invade on his behalf, Agitators raising mutiny in the ranks and Republicans wanting to remove the King’s head … and the complexity of the two years prior to 1649 becomes fairly evident.

One of the main difficulties in writing Garland of Straw was the fact that both Parliament and the Army were constantly making decisions, then reversing them. The most obvious example of this was whether or not to stop negotiating with the King – a decision which seemed to change almost daily. This gives the impression that I’m repeating myself – for which I blame Cromwell, Denzil Holles and the rest of them!

Cromwell and his son-in-law, Commissary-General Ireton, made numerous efforts to make terms with the King – as, of course, did the Parliament. The reason they both failed was that Charles never stopped believing that, by pitting one faction against the other, he would eventually come out on top … an error of judgement which would cost him his head. With regard to the King’s trial, although it was necessary to edit it a little, I have chosen not to ‘modernise’ the language but to set it down in wholly authentic dialogue. As one of the most remarkable events in our history, I felt it deserved nothing less.

The Trial of Charles I by John Burnet

The Trial of Charles I by John Burnet

Although the fictional side of the book obviously belongs to Gabriel and Venetia, it was also important to continue Eden Maxwell’s story as he is the central character of the series. The sub-plot concerns the further adventures of Samuel Radford [A Splendid Defiance] … and I make no apologies for the re-appearance of Justin Ambrose; he’s a favourite with a lot of readers and is certainly a favourite of mine!

I’m not entirely sure when I decided that Gabriel Brandon was hero material – certainly it wasn’t at the time I first created him. He’s a little older than either Luciano del Santi [hero of The Black Madonna] or Justin, and his maturity shows in a number of ways; he is also devoid of hang-ups. He’s a capable, confident man in his mid-thirties with plenty of experience of both life and women. He knows what he wants, is good at his job and has a well-defined sense of proportion. On the other hand, he is absolutely no push-over and is frequently alarmingly direct.

On the so-called wedding night, for example, when Venetia queries his intentions, he says:

“Hard though it may be for you to accept, I’m not inclined towards rape and have an undoubtedly plebeian preference for more than just a body between the sheets. Even, I’m afraid, when the goods on offer are as decorative as you.”

Ouch!

Or when Venetia sneers at his plans to make Brandon Lacey pay:

‘Perhaps it’s just as well I’m only a nasty, common soldier. For if I were a gentleman, you’d be free to wipe your boots on me without fear of reprisal, wouldn’t you? And the tenants would be left to starve in genteel, time-honoured fashion.’

Despite everything, Venetia is trapped in the redundant belief that she must be loyal to her fiancé – and Gabriel’s half-brother – Ellis; and when she looks at Gabriel, she stubbornly refuses to see beyond his illegitimacy and New Model uniform. This only really starts to change when events conspire to show her how deceitful, unreliable, selfish and malicious Ellis really is … and that Gabriel, in addition to being rather sexy, is the complete opposite.

I’ve enjoyed working on Garland – attempting to tighten the history a little as well as adding a new dimension to Venetia’s back-story with Ellis which naturally impacts on her relationship with Gabriel. This, as everyone familiar with my work is aware, is the last book in my previously published list. The next one may be some time coming as it is only partly-written but, for those who like to know such things, the time-line is 1650 to 1653 and, for the first time, the story will take us into exile alongside a couple of dispirited, post-Worcester Cavaliers. Oh – and Eden will be lurking about somewhere.

TO WIN COPIES OF BOTH THE BLACK MADONNA AND GARLAND OF STRAW ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY AT RAFFLECOPTER BELOW!

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There’s a sneak preview of Book 3 in Stella Riley’s Civil War series on her website. Click HERE for chapters 1 & 2 of The King’s Falcon.

Virtual Tour – Daughter of Sherwood by Laura Strickland

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Raised as a scullery maid in Nottingham Castle, Wren has no idea she is the daughter of the legendary Robin Hood. When she is forced to defend herself against the unwanted advances of an influential man, she flees the castle and finds refuge in Sherwood Forest. It is then she learns a powerful secret: she has a destiny as a guardian of Sherwood, charged with the responsibility of defending its ancient magic.

Since Robin’s death many years before, his supporters have kept his legend alive. Now one of the three guardians holding the spell has died. With two young men, Sparrow and Martin, Wren must form a new bond strong enough to protect Sherwood and continue her father’s fight. Drawn equally to Martin’s warrior spirit and Sparrow’s gentle strength, she finds it nearly impossible to choose between duty and love.

Laura takes us on a journey into the world of Robin Hood’s daughter, where we experience her struggle to accept her identity and the demands of her father’s legacy. Along with Wren, we learn that what is loved in life can never be lost, and that great love is worth the price paid. For at last, when Martin is captured and held at Nottingham Castle, the path becomes clear for Wren and she finds the strength to become the woman she was born to be, the Daughter of Sherwood.

Daughter of Sherwood is book one of The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy.

Today we’re delighted to welcome author Laura Strickland to Romantic Historical Reviews, to talk about her exciting new historical romance – Daughter of Sherwood.

THE PERFECT HERO

Is there such a thing as a perfect hero? As a Romance writer, you might say I’m in an enviable position. Not only do I have the task of creating the man of every woman’s dreams, but I then have the added delight of describing him in a variety of situations … and positions. Like facing off against treacherous invaders with a sword in his hand. Fighting for the honor of the woman he loves. Stripping down at the end of the day, sprawling across a bed and running his fingers down his heroine’s naked shoulder …

But there’s a catch to penning a man meant to ramp up every woman’s hormones. Women are as diverse in their tastes as in their appearances, and what might fire one woman’s jets may well leave another cold. Some of us melt at the glimpse of a pair of warm, chocolate-brown eyes. Some of us are attracted to a mop of fair hair. Some of us become breathless at the glimpse of well-developed muscles and some prefer a man whose body is lean and supple with whip-cord strength. Some grow heated at the thought of burnished, brown skin and others harbor hidden desires for a Viking marauder. Some of us find our heartstrings tugged by a military man; some are enthralled by a powerful executive.

So what’s a Romance writer to do? How to capture the interest – and desire – of the variety of ladies who read my book? I’ve discovered there are male characteristics that cross all lines. Women like their men a little bit dangerous, especially in their fantasies. They want a man who knows he’s a man, and isn’t afraid to demonstrate his masculinity to his heroine. At the same time, women want a hero with just a hint of vulnerability under it all. Whether he wears a kilt or a suit, he has to be a good kisser because his heroine always feels his true emotions in his kiss. And he has to be willing to risk everything for the woman he loves. Wrap all these characteristics up into a single hero in any time or place, and he’ll be darn near irresistible.

My new Historical Romance, Daughter of Sherwood, has not one but two irresistible heroes. When our heroine, Wren, comes to Sherwood Forest she learns she is destined to be one of three guardians charged with preserving the magic of Sherwood. The other two guardians are the sons of her father, Robin Hood’s closest companions. Wren discovers she will need to bond with both of them, and choose one upon whom to bestow her heart.

Martin – son of Will Scarlet – with the daring blue eyes and mop of golden hair, is rough and always ready. He has a wicked tongue and wicked hands as well, and he’ll put them anywhere Wren allows. He’s neither a safe nor a tame choice, but he calls to something heedless and daring inside Wren.

Sparrow – son of Robin’s right-hand man, Little John – gives his heart to Wren the moment he sees her. Every time Wren looks into his wild, dark eyes she senses all the magic of Sherwood. When she kisses him he calls to her soul; when they’re apart he whispers in her mind. She could easily loose herself in Sparrow, but dares not. For, not only her happiness but the fate of Sherwood rests on her decision.

Wren’s ultimate choice is not an easy one, but she does follow her heart in the end. I’m not giving away any secrets here, but if you’d like to walk in Wren’s shoes for a while and have the fearful, enjoyable dilemma of deciding along with her, we’d love to see you in Sherwood. Does Wren make the choice you would? Could she have chosen differently? Oh, what’s a woman to do when there’s not one perfect hero, but two?

Our Review

Publisher and Release Date: Wild Rose Press, 23 July 2013

RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: 13h Century England
Genre: Historical Romance with fantasy elements
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Jenny Q

This book had me at “daughter of the legendary Robin Hood.” I couldn’t resist a story that revolves around the next generation of the outlaws of Sherwood, the children of Robin, Little John, and Will Scarlett, who must come together to keep the legend and the magic of Sherwood alive, and to continue the fight for the rights of the poor and oppressed.

As the Sheriff of Nottingham lays dying, Wren toils away in his kitchens, scrubbing pans, hauling water, and dodging the advances of the sheriff’s lieutenant. It’s the only life she’s ever known, so she’s more than surprised when a handsome stranger arrives bearing an urgent message for her, and she discovers she’s actually the daughter of none other than the Robin Hood of legend — a legend she hadn’t even believed in . . . until now. Hidden under the sheriff’s nose until ready to fulfil her destiny, she is suddenly pulled from her dark and dreary world into one of green and dappled sunlight, of whispering spirits and ancient magic, and of two men as different as night and day yet both powerfully and irrevocably bound to her. As the sheriff’s men hunt them down and seek to quell the re-emergence of the Sherwood legend by punishing the villagers who support them, Wren must find the courage to take her place in the new triad, to lead her band of followers, and to choose which man will be entrusted with the keeping of her heart.

Daughter of Sherwood is a very imaginative and well-told envisioning of Robin Hood’s legacy, engrossing from the first page and darn near unputdownable. Robin Hood purists may take issue, and Maid Marion gets a bit of the short-thrift in this one, but I thought it was a great spin on the old tales, and I really enjoyed the story. For those of you who don’t like love triangles, a good portion of the story is devoted to one. But it is a good triangle, full of angst and difficult decisions. I don’t think the characters experience a whole lot of growth, but they’re bold and interesting, and I was particularly drawn to Sparrow. His quiet strength was a good complement to Wren’s impetuous naivety and Martin’s hot-headed brawn. The story is full of action, but it is nicely tempered with moments of reflection and tenderness, and I loved the way Ms. Strickland combined the legend of Sherwood Forest with the magic of nature and the mythology of the Green Man. It’s a fairy tale, coming-of-age story, and sensuous romance all rolled into one, and very well written with some beautiful descriptive passages. A good read for those who like a little fantasy and swashbuckling in their historical romance. I’ll be on the lookout for more from Laura Strickland.

WE HAVE ONE KINDLE EDITION OF DAUGHTER OF SHERWOOD TO GIVE AWAY – ENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER BELOW

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About the Author

Born and raised in Western New York, Laura Strickland has pursued lifelong interests in lore, legend, magic and music, allLaura Strickland reflected in her writing. Though her imagination frequently takes her to far off places, she is usually happiest at home not far from Lake Ontario with her husband and her “fur” child, a rescue dog. Currently she is at work on the third book of the Guardians of Sherwood series.

You can catch up with Laura at Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/760146.Laura_Strickland or at her website: http://www.laurastricklandbooks.com/

A Guest Blog by Laura Andersen, author of “The Boleyn Deceit”

Laura Andersen.Credit Mandy BakerWe’re delighted to welcome author LAURA ANDERSEN to Romantic Historical Reviews, today, where she’s going to tell us a little about what inspired her decision to set her novels in an alternate version of history.

Laura’s first novel The Boleyn King was released earlier this year and received high praise for her skilful blending of history and fiction and the way she created an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable story around such an unusual premise.

The sequel The Boleyn Deceit has just been released, and, according to our review (which will be published tomorrow) is “even better than its predecessor … the stakes are higher and friendships are going to be tested further than ever.”

We’ve also got TWO copies of the book to give away!

Why I Write Alternate History

Historical fiction has always had an interesting relationship with fact. When writing about characters who lived, who did actual events on verifiable dates, whose relationships (at least outwardly) are matters of record, a writer must tread with particular care. History provides a rather strict framework within which interpretation and character development can run riot without being allowed outside the lines. And readers of historical fiction know their stuff—laziness in research and variation from fact (except where noted and well defended) is not tolerated.

Alternate history considerably widens that framework. By changing a key event in the past (the Nazis win WWII, say, or Franklin Roosevelt loses his bid for a third term or, in my case, Anne Boleyn delivers a healthy son rather than miscarrying), a writer of alternate history has greater freedom of movement to change further accepted facts. For instance, if Anne Boleyn had borne a living son and was never executed, then Jane Seymour never married Henry VIII. And if Jane Seymour didn’t become queen, then her brothers, Edward and Thomas, never held positions of power in their own nephew’s government and thus would not have been executed in their turn (at least not for the same reasonsbd

That all sounds very precise and scholarly, doesn’t it? I’ll tell you the less scholarly reason I love writing alternate history: Because it gives me an out from the demanding nature of confining myself to historical facts. Not that I don’t love history—I would hardly write in this genre if I didn’t! But I also love the freedom to play with facts. Jane Grey didn’t become the nine-days’ queen in my world? That doesn’t mean her life is entirely her own. Guildford Dudley didn’t die for marrying the forced-into-usurpation Jane Grey? That doesn’t make him any wiser or safer in my world. One strand of story in THE BOLEYN DECEIT is the Duke of Northumberland’s arrogance and ambition, and how such traits bring him into conflict with the monarch. Different monarch in my world, and thus different details, but Northumberland is the same man and I find it wonderfully intoxicating to play with historical personalities in altered circumstances.

But there may be another reason I was drawn to telling an alternate version of Tudor history, one I had never considered until pondering this blog post. Bear with me, as I tell you a brief story.

I’m adopted. Always knew it, always grateful to have found my way to my family. And, when events led to meeting my birth mother in 2002, glad to have another piece of my history as well.

Probably all children daydream how their lives might have been different. Certainly, an adopted child has a perfect starting point for such imaginings. But for me, it was meeting my birth mother that directed those imaginings into a vivid picture of just how specifically different my life might have been if not for one personal and not at all history-shattering decision on her part. bk

Starting to sound familiar? Perhaps it’s my own history that led me to ponder the effect of Anne Boleyn’s miscarriage in January 1536. Pregnancy, childbirth, how a single child’s life can be changed and, if that single child is the son of a king, can change history itself. I’ve never been drawn to writing alternate history based on the changing outcomes of battles or political struggles on the world stage. No. The story that resonated with me began, like my own story, with a woman’s pregnancy.

So perhaps it’s true that a writer’s life informs every aspect of the stories she chooses to tell, whether she even knows it or not. Or perhaps I’m simply a romantic at heart and want everyone to have a happy ending. Or maybe I like the endless possibilities of What If?

Or maybe I’m just lazy and don’t want to be at the mercy of facts.

But now that I’ve discovered the pure pleasure of playing with the past, I don’t think I’ll be giving it up anytime soon.

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Our thanks to Laura for stopping by. If you’d like to win a copy of The Boleyn Deceit, just leave a comment (and your email address) in answer to this question:

Who’s your favorite Tudor-era personality?

TWO lucky winners will be chosen at random on Friday 15th November.