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Sinful Scottish Laird (Highland Grooms #2) by Julia London

sinful scottish laird

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Widowed and forced to remarry in three years’ time or forfeit her son’s inheritance, Daisy Bristol, Lady Chatwick, has plenty of suitors vying for her hand…and her fortune. But a letter from a long-lost love sends Daisy and her young son to her Scottish Highland estate to buy time for his return. Along the way she encounters the powerful Cailean Mackenzie, laird of Arrandale and a notorious smuggler, and she is utterly—though unwillingly—bewitched.

Cailean has no use for any Sassenach in his glen. But Daisy’s brazen, flirtatious nature and alluring beauty intrigue him. When her first love appears unexpectedly at her estate, Cailean knows that a passionate woman like Daisy cannot marry this man. And to prevent the union, Cailean must put his own life at risk to win her heart.

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Publisher and Release Date: HQN, February 2017
Time and setting: Scottish Highlands, 1742
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Rating: 3 stars

Review by Vikki

Sinful Scottish Laird is an entertaining read, although it is a little slow to start.

Daisy Bristol, Lady Chatwick packs up her household and young son and flees the unwanted advances of her many suitors while she awaits the return of her lost love. Although she must remarry or lose her son’s fortune, she wants love if possible. What she does not count on is the overwhelming attraction she feels for Cailean MacKenzie, the Laird of Arrandale, her closest neighbor.

Cailean is determined to remain a bachelor, and while the lassie on his neighboring estate is bonny, he has no use for her – after all, she’s English – but the attraction between them is too strong to ignore. Her suitor turns out to be a captain in the Royal Navy bent on bringing Cailean’s smuggling days to an end. He cannot stand the thought of the man touching Daisy, or any man for that matter, but he could never consider marrying a Sassenach.

Can Daisy convince him to change his mind, or will he remain a stubborn Scot to the end and deny them the chance of ever-lasting happiness?

I struggled with Daisy’s character for much of the book and never really connected with her, other than on those occasions when she was involved with her son, Ellis. Her love for him comes through loud and clear. She comes across as somewhat of a flake in her dealings with others, and she seems indecisive as well, vacillating between her feelings for Cailean and Robert, the man she thinks she wants to marry.

Cailean is a hero I could love. His tender care for Ellis won me over and his relationship with his family speaks well of his character. However, I did not feel the chemistry between him and Daisy, nor could I understand why he wanted her, which is probably my main problem with the book – the chemistry between Daisy and Cailean just wasn’t strong enough for my taste. One thing I love in a romance is the slow build of sexual tension between the hero and the heroine, and it was lacking here.

Nonetheless, I am glad I had the opportunity to read Sinful Scottish Laird. The pacing overall was a little slow, but it does have an excellent ending. I also quite enjoyed Ellis, who had surprisingly good character development, and there are several enjoyable secondary characters who help move the story along.

To Tame a Wild Lady (Duke-Defying Daughters #2) by Ashlyn Macnamara

to tame a wild lady

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Lady Caroline Wilde is expected to ride sidesaddle, but she’s not about to embrace convention. She’s also expected to keep a chaste distance from men like Adrian Crosby, the new estate agent, yet she cannot cease her ogling—which is especially irksome considering their ongoing feud. Adrian insists that the fields must be planted; Caro needs those same fields to train her horses. But whenever she tries to put him in his place, Caro looks into his steely gaze and her words simply … disappear.

A bastard son who grew up on the Wyvern estate, Adrian was lucky enough to receive an education at the behest of the late marchioness. Now that he has set out on his own, Adrian knows better than to fall for Lady Caroline, the Duke of Sherrington’s daughter. Caroline is at once a thorn in his side and an exquisite temptation, especially when she’s playing the feisty daredevil. Adrian would give anything for a chance to tame her—and with Caro in the saddle, he just might get his wish.

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Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, January 2017

Time and setting:  1822, Suffolk, England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 Stars

Review by Vikki

This second book in Ashlyn Macnamara’s Duke Defying Daughters series, To Tame a Wild Lady is well-written with engaging characters, a great storyline and a fast pace. While there are no explosive, action-packed scenes, I did not miss them. This novel is an excellent example of why I love to read historical romance so much.

Lady Caroline loves riding astride with the wind tossing her curls about her face. Unfortunately, a duke’s daughter is expected to exhibit exemplary decorum, always. Her hoydenish ways get in the way of that much of the time.  The new estate agent is the type of man her father would never want her to acknowledge let alone find attractive, but she disagrees. He’s exactly the kind of man she wants.

Adrian Cosby arrives at Sherrington Hall, ready to take up the management of the duke’s estate. The previous steward was embezzling funds,  and now it’s Adrian’s responsibility to make sure the property becomes solvent again. What he does not count on is the duke’s hoydenish middle daughter trying to circumvent him at every turn.

Can he remember his station and deny his attraction when the lady is determined to capture his attention?

Lady Caroline’s character is charming in a different way. She is not interested in society. She loves her horses and wants to participate in a hunt desperate, which is not done by gently bred ladies during this history time. I loved her fierce determination to accomplish her goal. Her love for her sisters is endearing. I enjoyed her inner-turmoil over her growing feelings for Adrian. Ms. MacNamara writes with just the right amount of emotion, making me fall in love with Lady Caroline, even though, she is not my favorite character arch. Well done!

Who does not love an underdog? Adrian Crosby’s character fits that description perfectly. He is the son of a tenant and has no knowledge of his father. The steward at the Wyvern estate took him under his wing with the blessing of the late marchioness. Now he has a chance to fulfill a dream by taking the position of estate agent to the Duke of Sherrington. He has a problem. He is vastly attracted to the duke’s middle daughter, Lady Caroline, a hoyden to the extreme. I loved the inner-workings of his mind as he tries to push away the desire he feels for the lady. He is my favorite kind of hero, an honorable man.

Ms. MacNamara’s writing flows smoothly, it is descriptive without going too far, and she writes with plenty of heart. I now plan to read the first book in this series – not sure how I missed it. I highly recommend To Tame a Wild Lady to anyone who loves historical romances. This is one for my keeper shelf!

Mistletoe, Mischief, and the Marquis by Amelia Grey

mistletoe-mischief-marquis

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The Marquis of Wythebury, is expecting an ordinary Christmastide at Hurst—until he is set upon by a beautiful miss who takes him to task for not allowing his young nephews to play outside. In his mind, a five and seven year old needn’t get chilled in the snow; better to plop them in front of the fire with a book. Few people have ever been brave enough to challenge him over anything, much less the rearing of his wards. The cheeky Miss Prim has no such compunction. No matter how fetching he finds her, he can’t give in to his attraction…for she is the sister of his best friend.

Growing up the middle child of five rambunctious girls, Lillian Prim doesn’t understand why two young boys visiting Hurst don’t know how to play until she meets their dashing guardian. The Marquis of Wythebury is commanding and intensely serious-minded. To her surprise, she’s captivated by him. It’s all she can do not to give into her feminine fantasies about her kissing him. Lillian has no intention of falling in love with the Marquis, but she will create Christmastide mischief and teach the boys and the handsome Marquis how to play.

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Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s/Swerve, November 2016
Time and setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Vikki

Seth Wythebury, Marquis of Wythebury is looking forward to a relaxing time away from his responsibilities. While attending a house party at his friend’s estate with his two young nephews, he encounters Miss Lillian Prim, the sister-in-law of his host when she takes his nephews outside and is engaging in a snowball fight after he had left them quietly reading.

Miss Prim is determined to get the two little boys’ guardian to realize they are only five and seven years old and need to have outside pursuits. What she does not count on is developing feelings for the man.

Who will win in this tug of war? The free-spirited miss, or the serious-minded marquis? Will they find out that opposites really do attract?

Mistletoe, Mischief and the Marquis is a delightful seasonal tale of a man trying to do the best for those in his charge, and perhaps being just a bit over-protective. Ms. Grey has spun an enchanting romance with engaging characters. The novella is fast-paced and engaged my interest from the start and held it until the end.

Lillian Prim is an endearing character. She speaks her mind – even to the austere Marquis of Wythbury – when others would hold their tongue. I loved how she was constantly putting him in his place. Throughout much of this lovely story, Lillian is trying to show the marquis that little boys need to have fun. I loved how she goes about it.

Seth is very serious-minded. He does not know how to have fun and has no desire to learn, yet the annoying Miss Prim is determined to teach his nephews. I loved watching him war with himself over the feelings he has for her. Once he makes up his mind to win her heart, he does it in a big way. I absolutely loved the ending of this book!

Ms. Grey is a talented author, and she has penned an enchanting Christmas story that will warm your heart and put a smile on your face. The two little boys will steal your heart. I always love heartwarming tales involving children, and especially around the holidays. If you enjoy regency romances with a good sense of the time-period with delightful characters, then you will love Mistletoe, Mischief, and the Marquis.

Highland Temptation (Highland Knights #3) by Jennifer Haymore

highland temptation

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When Lady Emilia Buchanan discovers that her despicable father has been scheming against the crown, she turns to the Highland Knights for protection—and retribution. Spirited away to a safe house on the outskirts of London, Emilia is surprised to find herself sharing close quarters with a soft-spoken, musclebound Highlander. Before long, curiosity gives way to an alarming attraction. Emilia has learned firsthand from her father that men are not to be trusted. She just never met one so honorable and loyal, so powerful and, yes, tempting.

Ever since Waterloo, Colin Stirling has struggled with memories that haunt him night and day. Driven near to madness, he no longer trusts himself with meaningful relationships of any kind. At least in this temporary sanctuary, Colin can withdraw from the world—that is, until his stunningly gorgeous charge learns the full depth of his pain. In Emilia, Colin sees a kindred spirit with battle scars of her own. He also senses a chance to heal . . . and to find love.

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Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, August 23, 2016

Time and setting: London, 1816
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Vikki

I have been a fan of Jennifer Haymore’s ever since I read A Hint of Wickedyears ago. She is one of my auto-buy authors; her stories are always well-developed, her characters are complex and steal the show and I have yet to read one of her books where I have not fallen in love with them.

After a brutal beating, Emilia Buchanan runs in terror from the one man who should protect her above all others – her father. Months ago, the Highland Knights had protected him, and she had met the handsome Sir Colin Stirling.

When Colin becomes her protector and takes her to safety, Emilia at last finds out that there is an honorable man willing to protect her with his life. When her father catches up to them and grabs Emilia, Colin is determined to get her back.

Can he find her in time, or will her father exact his revenge on his only daughter before Colin can make her his own forever?

Highland Temptation starts out fast and stays that way until the end. The plot is well thought out, with plenty of action, and the romance is satisfying. The chemistry between Emilia and Colin is fantastic – I truly wanted them to find their happy ending.

Emilia is an endearing character who has not had an easy time of it since her mother passed away. Her father is a physically abusive bastard, so under the circumstances, it’s no wonder she is wary of men. Her self-esteem is extremely low, but her inner core is too strong for him to permanently break her. She really comes into her own under Colin’s tender care.

Colin is my favorite kind of hero, a man who has suffered great hardship, but refuses to let it destroy him. He is a true warrior, determined to protect Emilia even if it may mean laying down his life to do so. He suffers greatly from what is known today as PTSD, but what he believes is madness. I loved how Emilia is able to convince him she loves him even when he is in the throes of one of his episodes.

Highland Temptation is a great adventure with plenty of perils along the way. While it’s not my favorite of the series, it is still a great read and if you enjoy an emotionally-charged romance with amazing characters, then you should give it a try. I thoroughly enjoyed getting glimpses into the lives of the other knights and their fair ladies. I can’t wait to read the stories of the other still unattached heroes in this great cast of characters.

Her Safe Harbor (Crawford Family #3) by Holly Bush

her safe harbor

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1893. Jennifer Crawford, the peacekeeper in a well-to-do Boston family rife with anger, deceit, and even treachery, was born to solve mathematical mysteries at a time when women are only beginning to venture from home and into the world of commerce and politics. Beautiful and shy, she struggles to find the courage to face a scheming mother and guide a father denying their familial dysfunction, hesitant to traverse the volatile economics banks are facing at the turn of the twentieth century. But danger threatens when she discovers the crimes of an abusive man determined to make Jennifer his own.

Zebidiah Moran, chief of staff for a new senator in Washington, is determined to uncover the lovely Jennifer’s secrets and guard her from danger. But will his sacrifices be enough to keep her safe? Will he be Her Safe Harbor?

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Publisher and Release Date: Holly Bush Books, March 2016
Time and setting: Boston, 1893
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Vikki

I have been a fan of Holly Bush and her novels ever since I read The Train Station Bride. Her Safe Harbor is the final book in her Crawford Family series, which I have enjoyed immensely. While this is not my favorite of the series, I did enjoy it a great deal.

Jennifer Crawford is in a difficult position. She began a friendship with an attractive man, and now he is a vice-president at her father’s bank, but she learns too late that he is abusive and controlling. While she desperately wants to break it off, Jeffrey refuses to listen and her mother is so enamored of the man, she also refuses to listen to Jennifer’s protests.

After Jeffrey attacks her a second time, leaving her with bruised ribs, Jennifer leaves town in order to visit her sister, Jolene in Washington D.C. While there, she again meets Zebidiah Moran, a man she nursed through influenza when she visited her sister in Texas in Contract to Wed. She feels safe when she is near him and is relieved when Jolene’s husband sends Zeb to protect his wife while she visits her mother in Boston.

When Zeb discovers the truth about Jennifer’s injuries, he knows he must proceed with caution because of the relationship between her Jennifer’s mother and Jeffrey, and the fact that he works at her father’s bank; but Zeb will protect Jennifer no matter what. Will his protection keep her safe from this vile man, or will he lose her before he ever has a chance to tell her he loves her?

Her Safe Harbor is a fast-paced novel with elements of suspense, along with an emotionally-charged romance. This book has a few dark moments since the plot deals with physical abuse. While there are a couple of violent scenes, they are not gratuitous and are in no way offensive, but I do recognize that they could make some readers a bit uncomfortable.

Ms. Bush does an excellent job with the emotions experienced by an abused woman. Jennifer is an intriguing character with two sides to her personality. On the one hand, she is intelligent, independent, and a confident businesswoman, but in spite of her strength, she allows her abuser to make her question her abilities. While she is determined to stand up to him, in reality, her fear of what he will do to her and her loved ones keeps her from following through.

Zeb Moran is a great hero. He is an honorable man, determined to protect Jennifer from the egomaniac who is hurting her. He shows a great deal of patience with Jennifer, even when she is determined to keep him away. I fell in love with his character from the start.

Some of the writing is a little awkward, and I felt that the book could have used some decent editing to smooth it out. I found myself being pulled from the story at those moments.

If you enjoy an absorbing story with a bit of mystery woven in, then you will like Her Safe Harbor. It is a nice conclusion to this series.

The Viscount Needs a Wife by Jo Beverley

the viscount wants a wife

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Since being widowed two years ago, Kitty Cateril has been trapped in her late husband’s home, where she is expected to mourn forever. Desperate to escape, Kitty will consider any option—even a hasty marriage to a stranger with no intention of abandoning his bachelor ways.

London life suits Beau Braydon, especially his work keeping Britain safe. So when he inherits the title of Viscount Dauntry, he has no intention of resettling on a rural estate. He can’t resist the opportunity to marry a sensible widow who can manage Beauchamp Abbey for him—until he realizes Kitty is more than he bargained for…

Before Kitty and Dauntry can adjust to each other, a threat to the royal family takes them to London. Soon someone is determined to prevent Dauntry from exposing the villain, and secrets in Kitty’s past threaten their growing love…

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Publisher and Release Date: Signet, April 2016

RHR CLASSIFICATIONS;
Time and setting: England, 1817
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Vikki

Kitty Cateril lost her hero husband two years ago. Since that time she has lived with her mother-in-law in the country, a woman who expects her to mourn for the rest of her life. When Kitty has a chance to marry a viscount who is in need of a wife, she accepts, understanding the groom will spend most of his time in town, while she will live in the country. It’s not what she would choose, but at least she will be out from under her mother-in-law’s watchful eye and close to her dear friend.

Beau Braydon, who works for the British government as an intelligence gatherer and spy loves his single life in London. When he unexpectedly inherits a viscountcy, the last thing he wants is to settle in country so he decides to marry a biddable woman who will be able to deal with his carping female relatives (the previous viscount’s mother and daughter) as well as taking care of his estate for him while he continues on his carefree existence.

But when he marries Kitty, what he gets is a bit of a hoyden who enjoys London life as much as he does. Will Kitty fulfill her agreement and return to the country when it is time, or can she gain Braydon’s affection if not his heart, even though her past comes back to haunt her?

The Viscount Needs a Wife is heavy on history and a bit light on romance. I enjoyed the historical aspect of the story a great deal, finding it fascinating, as usual. No one does a better job at describing the history and politics of the Regency world than Jo Beverley. From the vivid description of the clothing to the dictates of the times, I was swept into what it must have been like to live through the loss of the much loved Princess Charlotte. I thoroughly enjoyed those components of this novel.

There is quite a bit of chemistry between Kitty and Braydon, but their attraction is definitely physical, with neither character being very romantic. I like to see an actual romance developing between the hero and heroine and would have liked that element of the story to have been a bit stronger.

Kitty has a real zest for life. While she is not the type of woman Braydon expects, she is perfect for him – but she has to convince him of that fact.

Braydon is a likable hero. He is staunchly loyal to his country and willing to do what is needed to protect the monarchy, even if it runs opposite of his personal goals. He is a very physical man in nature and that comes across very well in the story.

If you enjoy a book that will transport you back to the past, a story that has a bit of intrigue and engaging characters, then you might enjoy The Viscount Needs a Wife. Although this is not my favorite romance by Ms. Beverley, I did enjoy it. If you are a fan you will, too.

VIRTUAL TOUR: The Groom Wore Plaid (Highland Weddings #2) by Gayle Callen

the groom wore plaid

Maggie McCallum’s dreams about her new fiancé aren’t the romantic sort. It’s not just that she was bartered to Owen Duff like a piece of property to end a clan feud. She’s also haunted by premonitions of his death on their upcoming wedding day. Yet the exasperating Highlander won’t let her call it off, even though his life and his clan are both in jeopardy.

Owen has wanted Maggie in his bed since he first glimpsed her years ago. If their union restores peace between their clans, so much the better. But while lusting after another chief’s sister had its risks, growing to trust Maggie is far more dangerous. Owen is falling deeply in love with the one woman he cannot hope to claim…and survive.

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EXCERPT

Maggie McCallum was only sixteen and Owen Duff eighteen the autumn their families spent in Edinburgh. Her mother had said she was too young for courtship, but Maggie secretly scoffed at that. Men looked at her now, and she was finally allowing herself to give a flirtatious look back.

And then at a dancing assembly, she saw Owen, Viscount Duncraggan, heir to the earldom of Aberfoyle. She’d met him only once before, at a dinner with their parents. She’d been twelve, he fourteen, and he’d ignored her. Now a friend giggled and pointed him out.

“He’s from the Duff clan,” the girl said. “Even I ken that the McCallums and the Duffs have always despised each other.”

Maggie nodded without really listening. She was staring at Owen with wide, curious eyes. He did not wear a belted plaid as so many of her family did, but an expensive tailored coat and waistcoat over knee breeches, and the polished sword at his hip sparkled in the candlelight when he strode across the dance floor to bow to a blushing girl. He had a thin face and bony shoulders that hinted at the broad strength of the man he would become. His sandy hair was gathered in a haphazard queue on his neck, loose strands brushing his cheeks as if he were too busy to be bothered fastening it more securely.

“Isn’t your brother to marry his sister? Ye’ll be practically family.”

Family or not, Maggie knew better than to be the McCallum who approached a Duff in public, right in front of her mother. She thought of her brother’s misery at marrying a woman he didn’t know or love, the way he’d done foolish, reckless things in anger when he’d first discovered his fate at thirteen. Maggie had pitied him, and felt guilty that she was secretly glad it wasn’t she forced to marry a Duff.

Her next meeting with Owen wasn’t auspicious—she merely passed him on the stairs outside her flat on High Street, as dusk settled in dark waves on Edinburgh. The tall building with a dozen floors housed all manner of people, from the chimney sweep in the cellar to the dancing master in the garret. The best floors were reserved for noblemen, and though her father didn’t have a title, he was the chief of the Clan McCallum. Her mother had leased the flat to be near the earl’s family, since her son was marrying into them, but she did not want her daughter involved beyond what civility expected.

Upon seeing Maggie, Owen came to a stop on the stairs and grinned that grin that lived in her dreams for many years to come. His warm brown eyes made her think of the chocolate English ladies favored for their morning drink, and as they took her in, skimming her form, she felt as suitably overheated as that cup she’d only once clutched in her hands on a cold winter morning in the Highlands.

She wanted to scold him for his bold gaze but then she saw the round tube he carried.

“Is that a telescope?” she demanded.

Those eyes now brightened with more than warmth. “Aye, I’m heading out to gaze upon the stars. Have ye looked through one before?”

She shook her head. She’d done nothing more intellectual than read passages from the Bible—she hadn’t been allowed more, had no access to other books. Knowing there was a whole world of knowledge out there made her ache with regret and frustration.

He held out a hand. “I’m Owen. Do ye want to come?”

She hesitated, realizing he didn’t recognize her. In that long moment she thought of her grandparents already preparing for bed, the fact that she’d just seen her mother into a sedan chair to meet with friends, and that her brother lived in his own flat near the university. She was alone.

Owen stood a couple stairs below her, and that put them at just about the same height. She stared into his eyes again, and the admiration and curiosity made her unfurl like a blossom in springtime.

But she had to be honest. Taking a deep breath, she said, “I’m Maggie McCallum. ’Tis my brother who’s to marry your sister.”

He looked at her for a long moment, and the first feelings of regret and resignation washed through her.

But Owen didn’t rush away, only extended his hand closer to her. “Nice to meet ye, Maggie. Do ye still want to come with a dreaded Duff?”

She bit her lip to keep from giggling like a foolish girl. She was sixteen, a woman now. He obviously didn’t remember her from four years before. Maybe that was for the best. Putting her hand in his, she let him lead her out into the twilight.

During the next few weeks, Owen was the excitement in days that were once dreary and repetitive. Sneaking away to ride down to the shore at the Firth of Forth, boating, exploring the grounds of Edinburgh Castle, or even meandering through shops seemed like wild adventures when she was at Owen’s side.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Avon, March 2016
Time and setting: Scotland, 1727
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Vikki

The Groom Wore Plaid is an emotionally-charged romance with engaging characters and an intriguing plot. The pacing is excellent and made it an easy and quick read. The prologue pulled me in, and it smoothly transitioned to the first chapter, which is set ten years after the couple first met.

Margaret McCallum is the sacrificial lamb. By marrying Owen Duff, the Earl of Aberfoyle, it will end the long feud between their clans, but there is a problem. Maggie has dreams that foretell the future. She has had a dream showing Owen dying in her arms on their wedding day. How can she place him in harm’s way by marrying him?

Owen Duff remembers Maggie and the desire he felt for her all those years ago. He knows he wronged her and that she has not forgiven him, even though she has agreed to the contract between the clans. His desire for her has not lessened – in fact, it is stronger than ever, so he has to overcome his future bride’s determination to find another way to fulfill the contract. Can Owen convince Maggie to marry him, or will her desire to protect him from his possible death prove too strong to circumvent?

I truly enjoyed Maggie’s character. She is sincere, loyal to her family and determined to protect the man she has always desired, even though their youthful romance did not end well. She has depth to her character, and I was able to figure out what made her so afraid to form friendships. I could feel her terror about putting Owen in a situation that could mean his death.

Owen Duff has every reason to avoid attachments. His father was an uncaring chief, milking the clan and ruling from a distance, more concerned about his ties to England spending most of his time there. As a result, the clan is mistrustful of Owen, and he has a lot to prove and I loved his determination to do just that. Even though he has trust issues, he truly wants Maggie to become his bride, and is just as determined to win her over as he is the members of his clan.

The Groom Wore Plaid is very well-written, and Ms. Callen does an excellent job with the suspenseful scenes. My only problem with this story is the lack of a strong sense of Scotland. Her dialogue did not give me what I love about a Scottish tale, and other than the use of ye and lass, it could have been set in England. However, I did enjoy the romance between the hero and heroine a great deal, and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a moving story with strong characters and an element of suspense.

GIVEAWAY

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After a detour through fitness instructing and computer programming, GAYLE CALLEN found the life she’d always dreamed of as a romance writer. This USA Today bestselling author has written more than twenty historical romances for Avon Books, and her novels have won the Holt Medallion, the Laurel Wreath Award, the Booksellers’ Best Award, and been translated into eleven different languages. The mother of three grown children, an avid crafter, singer, and outdoor enthusiast, Gayle lives in Central New York with her dog Uma and her husband, Jim the Romance Hero. She also writes contemporary romances as Emma Cane.

Visit her website at www.gaylecallen.com

You can connect with Gayle at Twitter * ~ * Facebook * ~ * Goodreads

An Affair in Autumn (A Year Without a Duke #4) by Jennifer Haymore

an affair in autumn
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Caroline Addison, Lady Whytestone, has important news to deliver to her old friend–he has inherited a dukedom! He could be in New York or perhaps in South America, but no matter. Caro is an independent woman, so who says she can’t indulge in a little adventure and travel across the Atlantic–and maybe across a continent–to find him?

On a mission to locate the new Duke of Beckworth, Lord Markus Hawkins has boarded a ship bound for America. But when Mark walks out of his cabin and runs into his nemesis, Caroline Addison, who happens to be in search of the very same man, his head threatens to explode out of sheer frustration. Caro is headstrong, frustrating, selfish, wickedly intelligent, and so damn beautiful, Mark can’t see anything but her when she’s near. How’s he going to survive the long voyage ahead?

Over the years, Caro and Mark have run the gamut from dear friends to bitter enemies. Now, in the close quarters of a sailing ship, sparks fly as old feelings return to the surface and new ones begin to simmer inside. Caro and Mark are headed for America, for the new duke, and for something that might be the love of a lifetime. But only if they don’t destroy each other first.

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Publisher & Release Date: Jennifer Haymore, February 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and setting: England and America, 1816
Genre: Historical Romance novella (100 pages)
Heat Level: 2
Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Vikki

With An Affair in Autumn, Jennifer Haymore has again captured my mind with another spellbinding story set in the Regency period. I discovered Ms. Haymore when I read her debut novel A Hint of Wicked, and I have been hooked ever since and she’s an auto-buy author for me.

Caroline Addison, Lady Whytestone, finds out her childhood friend is heir to a dukedom. Being an independent young widow, she does not bat an eye at setting out on a transatlantic trip to New York, her friend’s last known residence.

After ascertaining his friend’s possible location, Lord Markus Hawkins is determined to find him and boards a ship bound for America. When he realises that Caro is also on the ship, he is not happy. Other than the day when he inquired after his friend, they haven’t seen each other in more than ten years and had parted bitterly.

As the pair travel to their destination, the passion becomes too much for them to ignore. Can Caro and Mark find a way to mend their estrangement, or will hurt feelings and misconceptions drive them apart?

I enjoy friends-to-lovers romances, especially when the friendship goes back to the characters’ childhoods. The plot of this novella is very believable, and I fell in love with the main characters from the very beginning. Ms. Haymore is a master at building sexual tension and the chemistry between Caro and Mark jumps off the page.

While I’m normally, not fond of extremely independent women in historicals, I thoroughly enjoyed Caro’s character – she touched my heart. She had endured a loveless marriage for ten long years and is finally released from bondage. I loved the opening scene where she is spending some of her late husband’s vast fortune on charities he would detest. She couldn’t get back at him while he lived, but she could surely have him turning in his grave. I liked the way she approached life and her determination to find her friend.

We first met Mark in The Duchess Hunt, a book I adored. He is the brother to Simon, the Duke of Kent and has a very sad backstory. Five years have passed since the setting for the earlier book, and Mark has spent the years traveling, trying to run from a shameful secret. When he at last opens up to Caro and shares his deepest hurt, my heart ached and tears stung my eyes.

While this is a fairly short book, Ms. Haymore is able to fully flesh out her characters, making them come alive on the pages of her story. Her vivid description of the ship and crew members are particularly vivid; when the ship is hit by a terrible storm, I sat on the edge of my seat as the scene unfolded. I could almost feel the rain slashing down upon them all.

I am so glad I had the opportunity to read An Affair in Autumn. If you enjoy a well-written emotionally-charged historical romance, then you will love this book as much as I did. I am definitely looking forward to reading the last book in this series, A Duke By December by Sabrina Darby. It has Nathaniel Hughes as the hero, the long sought after heir to the dukedom. He is introduced at the end of An Affair in Autumn, and I think his story line will be vastly entertaining.

A Rebel without a Rogue (The Penningtons #1) by Bliss Bennet

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A woman striving for justice…

Fianna Cameron has devoted her life to avenging the death of her father, hanged as a traitor during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Now, on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, only one last miscreant remains: Major Christopher Pennington, the English army officer who not only oversaw her father’s execution, but falsely maligned his honor. Fianna risks everything to travel to London and confront the man who has haunted her every nightmare. Only after her pistol misfires does she realize her sickening mistake: the Pennington she wounded is far too young to be the man who killed her father.

A man who will protect his family at all costs…

Rumors of being shot by a spurned mistress might burnish the reputation of a rake, but for Kit Pennington, determined to add to his family’s honor by winning a seat in Parliament, such sala-cious gossip is nothing but a nightmare. To regain his good name, Kit will have to track down his mysterious attacker and force her to reveal the true motivation behind her unprovoked assault. Accepting the mistress of an acquaintance as an ally in his search is risky enough, but when Kit begins to develop feelings for the icy, ethereal Miss Cameron, more than his political career is in danger. For Kit is beginning to suspect that Fianna Cameron knows far more about the shooting—and the reasons behind it—than she’s willing to reveal.

As their search begins to unearth long-held secrets, Kit and Fianna find themselves caught be-tween duty to family and their beliefs in what’s right. How can you balance the competing de-mands of loyalty and justice—especially when you add love to the mix?

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Publisher and Release Date: Bliss Bennet, September 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and setting: London, 1822
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Vikki

A Rebel without a Rogue is Ms Bennet’s début novel, and on the strength of it, I predict a promising future writing historical fiction and romance.

Fianna Cameron is determined to bring down the man who sent her father to the gallows and shredded his character afterwards. When she manages to get into the venue she believes he is attending, she is shocked to learn she has shot the wrong man.

Kit Pennington has no idea why a woman would shoot him, but he’s determined to get to the bottom of it. He seeks out Viscount Ingestrie, who has just returned from Ireland. He hopes the man can translate the etchings on the pistol used to shoot him. When Ingestrie drags in Fianna to see if she can tell Kit what the etching says, she wonders: “Did the English hang attempted murderers as quickly as they executed rebels?”

I was fascinated by the detail of the Irish Rebellion described in the book. The history is what kept me reading in the beginning, because for me, it didn’t really take off until a bit before the half way point. After that, the pacing picked up, the story pulled me in and by the end, I had become invested in the characters.

I didn’t warm to Fianna to start with, because she was so stiff and cold in the first part of the book, but as the story unfolds, she grew on me – and by the end, I liked her. I did, however, wonder why she waited so many years before she decided to seek vengeance on the man she held responsible for her father’s death. By the end, none of that mattered because the growth in her character is amazing, winning my empathy as she softens toward Kit and begins to see there are many shades of gray, both good and bad, even in her enemy.

I liked Kit Pennington’s character from the beginning, although at first he seemed a bit dull. Yet eventually, his passion for his family, his loyalty to the ones he loves, his willingness to accept Fianna and try to discover who she really is under her cold, calculating exterior, won my heart completely.

There is no doubt Ms. Bennet did an amazing amount of research for this book, her detailed accounts of the rebellion woven expertly into her story. Being part Irish myself, I love reading of Ireland’s struggles against British tyranny, and I definitely recommend A Rebel without a Rogue to anyone who enjoys a strong and well-researched historical element in an historical romance.

Midnight Caller (novella) by Haley Whitehall

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Life without love is painful, but in the Reconstruction Era South forbidden fruit can be deadly. A fiery romance between a widow and an African-American man has more consequences than either of them imagined.

Slavery has ended, but racial prejudice remains in Kentucky. Emma Bennett guards a secret that could destroy her life. Until now she never considered the price of her security. Becoming a well-respected member in Louisville had seemed a dream come true, but at what cost?

Her husband’s death from a carriage accident releases Emma from her loveless, controlling marriage. Now she has a chance to find happiness and raise a family. But before she begins courting again she wants to experience her freedom. At the advice of the leading socialite in town, she takes a black lover to fulfill her sexual needs. His raw masculine power awakens feelings she didn’t know existed. After the first touch, she craves more.

Frederick works as a roustabout by day and moonlights as a prostitute. He knows better than to fall in love with his white client, but Emma enchants him the first time he calls on her. To keep them both safe, he works hard to put up barriers. Unfortunately, he can’t protect Emma from the slimy Mr. Hawthorne, who wants her as his bride. Frederick vows to keep her safe even if his forbidden love costs him his life.

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Publisher and Release Date: Expanding Horizons Press, August 2015

Time and setting: 1866, Louisville, Kentucky
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 3
Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Vikki

I grew up reading novels about the American Civil War and the reconstruction period of American history, so when that period of history meets romance, it’s always a winner for me. My mother loved it, and I used to sneak her Frank Yerby books into my room to read, which were way too racy for a teenager! So I was delighted to receive a review copy of Midnight Caller.

Widowed Emma Bennett is shocked, yet titillated, when an acquaintance and leader of society suggests she use the services of an African-American male prostitute. Emma can’t imagine a pillar of society doing such a thing, but intrigued and desperate to have someone to hold her and fulfill her sexual desires, she arranges to have a man visit her that night.

Frederick works as a roustabout by day and a male prostitute by night. When he arrives at Emma’s house, her youth and beauty has him questioning his hard and fast rule of never becoming emotionally involved with a client.

Should this pair of unlikely lovers throw caution to the wind for a chance at happiness, or will the mores of society separate them forever?

Midnight Caller has a unique story line that immediately pulled me in. I had never read anything before about African-American male prostitutes, so I really didn’t know what to expect. The story is fast-paced with a nice mix of dialogue and narrative.

Emma Bennett is an enchanting heroine. She is a young widow with a huge secret that would totally ruin her in the eyes of polite society in Louisville. Ms. Whitehall does an excellent job of only giving away as much as the story needs to keep me interested, yet not holding back to the point that I became irritated. Her character made choices that personally I would never have made, and I am not sure someone in this time period would have made them either.

Frederick’s character is very straight forward, and I liked him. He works hard to earn a living, hoping to someday own a small farm. That is why he is willing to be a socialite’s boy-yoy. He is determined to remain detached from his clients, not wanting to endanger his heart. He also has his younger brother to watch over, so he is motivated to achieve his goals.

For the most part, I enjoyed Midnight Caller although the ending is is not very believable. Everything works out too easily, and I do not believe it could have happened in 1866. That said, this IS fiction and one thing I love about it is the ability to explore “what ifs”.