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SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Blackburn Castle by (Tortured Souls #2) R.C. Matthews

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Victor Blackburn is living on borrowed time. An ancient curse violently claims the life of each Blackburn male on his twenty-seventh birthday. As his approaches, his only hope of survival is a witch who vanished long ago without a trace.

Mercy Seymour eagerly counts down the days until the curse will claim Victor’s life. She watched him murder her mother, and only his death will free her of the hatred and anger she harbors.

When fate throws them together in Devil’s Cove, desire simmers between the handsome pirate and the spirited barkeeper’s niece until they learn the truth about each other. Desperate for her cooperation, Victor spirits her away to Blackburn Castle in the Scottish Highlands, where forces of magic and mists from beyond the grave weaken her resolve, opening her eyes to the truth of the past.

As Victor and Mercy unearth the fabled stones needed to break the curse, they discover that the only weapon powerful enough to destroy hate is love. But will they have to sacrifice their relationship to save what means the most to them?

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EXCERPT

1864
Blackpool, England

Victor cowered deeper into the corner of the study, his legs threatening to crumple.

The Butcher growled in his brother’s ear, holding the man captive by the sharp edge of a blade pressed against his neck. “Tell me where you’ve hidden your daughter and the stones, Thomas, or I’ll slit your throat.”

Victor wished to help Thomas, but at ten years old, he was no match for the Butcher, a ruthless pirate. Only a month had passed since the pirate had abducted Victor, but it was long enough to know that he never issued empty threats. The red, angry welts crisscrossing Victor’s back were proof enough that the Butcher always fulfilled his wicked promises.

Thomas clamped his lips shut, and his eyes pleaded for his wife to remain silent. She bit her white-knuckled fist, her eyes fluttering between her husband and the pirate. The Butcher flicked his wrist, nicking Thomas’s throat, and a strangled cry erupted from the woman as a trickle of blood rolled down her husband’s neck.

The pirate tilted his head in the direction of the weeping woman across from him. “Cat caught your tongue, Maude?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know what you mean.”

The pirate snorted, his eyes glazing over with greed. “Imagine my delight when I heard the tale of your ancestry on my last voyage. You’re a descendant of Freya, Norse goddess of love, and one of her bastard twin daughters, Elizabeth. My brother regaled me with tales of the amber stones of Freya, passed down through the generations. All the way down to your daughter, my darling niece.”

“No, you misunderstood,” Maude said. “It’s naught but a fairy tale we tell Mercy at bedtime.”

“I think not, dear sister-in-law. Otherwise there would be no need to hide her from me. I’m willing to do anything to get my hands on the stones.”

“In one swift movement, the Butcher slit Thomas’s throat, flooding the air with the pungent stench of blood. Red liquid gurgled out of the man’s neck, soaking his pristine white shirt.

Bile lurched in Victor’s stomach, and he squeezed his eyes shut. But Maude’s screams forced him to face the gruesome scene again. Was the Butcher murdering her, too? Her body shook with unbridled fear as the corpse of her husband slumped to the ground in an ignoble heap.

“Come now,” the pirate said, wiping the blade of his knife on a white handkerchief. The Butcher’s dispassionate eyes roved over his brother’s prone form before resting on Maude’s crumpled shoulders. He clucked his tongue. “You needn’t cry, woman. Tell me where your daughter and the amber stones are hidden, and I won’t slit your throat.”

Maude wiped away her tears and screamed, “Monster! How could you murder your brother? He trusted you!”

The corner of the Butcher’s mouth twitched. “Pity for Thomas. He always was a stupid, trusting fool. Now, tell me what I want to hear, and I promise I won’t slit your throat.”

“Liar!” she spat. “You’ll kill me and my daughter after you get your filthy hands on the stones. I’ll never tell you!”
The Butcher sighed. “I don’t need to kill your precious child to get the answers I seek.” He crooked his finger at Victor in a silent command.

Victor’s knees wobbled as he ambled forward, his eyes downcast. He swallowed past the lump forming in his throat. Lord, help him. Disobeying the pirate wasn’t an option. And he was going to die.

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A WORD ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Thief’s Countess (Border Series Book One) by Cecelia Mecca

thief's countess

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The Reiver

Sir Geoffrey has dedicated his life to exacting revenge on the men who killed his parents and stole his birthright. The son of a baron, he has been reduced to stealing the resources he needs to reclaim his family legacy. Just when he’s on the verge of success, his uncle asks him to put his plans on hold to help protect a wealthy countess. It’s a distraction Geoffrey resents, even more so when he meets Lady Sara. The gorgeous, complicated and alluring lady is everything he’d want in a woman—and everything he can’t have.

The Countess

With her betrothed coming to claim her hand in marriage and a distant cousin intent on usurping her earldom, Lady Sara Caiser feels beset by controlling, unwanted men. As if that weren’t enough, her father’s deathbed request was for two lawless border reivers to serve as her protectors. Despite her misgivings, an undeniable attraction pulls her into Sir Geoffrey’s arms. The man she thought nothing more than a thief is more dangerous than she believed, for he’s noble, caring and sinfully attractive. As the threats against her continue to mount, Sara must decide what’s more important—her duty or her heart.

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EXCERPT

Leaning slightly on the balustrade overlooking the hall, she gestured to the activity below. “These people, Sir Geoffrey, many of whom who have been in our family’s service for years, counted on my father for their well-being.”

Sara warmed to her topic. “The hundreds of knights sworn to service and those beyond these walls who’ve lived here for generations now rely on me.”

“Which is exactly why I need to be moved closer to your personal quarters,” Sir Geoffrey said. “My uncle is in your father’s debt. As an extension of that debt, I’ll give my life, if necessary, to protect you.”

Just as she was starting to think him noble, he added, “But make no mistake, I’m not happy about it.”

“Be that as it may, Sir Geoffrey, perhaps it’s best you move on and allow Kenshire to defend itself.”

For the second time that day, Sir Geoffrey grabbed her hand and forced her to face him. She should have pulled her hand back immediately—propriety dictated it—but she did not.

“We are here to stay,” he insisted. “Unfortunately my uncle has asked I guard your person as he assists with the gatehouse fortification.”

He had a battle-hardened face, the evidence in a faint mark extending from his cheek to his lower jawbone, a scar she hadn’t noticed before. His hand, calloused and strong but also warm and protective, held hers tightly.

“In that case—” Sara finally pulled her hand free. “We’ll make the best of a situation neither of us desires.”

“Aye.” His voice was low, reverberating.

“I’ll ask for your things to be moved to a chamber closer to my own.”

“The empty one across the hall.”

Startled, it was Sara’s turn to narrow her eyes at him.

“I’d ask how you know the chamber is empty, but I have a feeling you’re privy to more information than I would like.”

Why did he look guilty?

“You’ve already made arrangements to sleep there.” It was stated as a fact rather than a question—she didn’t expect a response, nor did she receive one. Disliking the turn of their conversation, she nodded her head and quickly walked away. She’d speak to Peter, the traitor, in the morning. The high-handedness of men never ceased to amaze her.

But Peter’s misguided loyalties would have to wait. For now, other thoughts occupied her mind.

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A WORD ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

cecelia meccaCecelia Mecca is the author of medieval romance and has loved all things medieval England and the romance genre for as long as she can remember. Though her actual home is in Northeast Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband and two children, her online home is at CeceliaMecca.com.

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

A Kiss in the Morning Mist

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

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

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

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EXCERPT

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

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

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

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

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

“A plea—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A WORD ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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

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.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: American Duchess by Teresa Howard

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Elise Danvers loved Gray Worthingham from childhood but he broke her heart when she spied him with another woman. Now, after the death of the man she married instead, Elise discovers the Earl of Somerset has been designated her son’s legal guardian to control the estate until her son turns twenty-one.

Gray Worthingham , Earl of Somerset, promised his uncle that when the time came, the infant Lord Aiden would assume his rightful position as the Lord of Man. The young eighth Duke of Argylle will hold the exalted position passed down in his family…no matter what Gray has to do to achieve this, even marriage.

No sooner are the marriage vows declared than disaster strikes. Young Lord Aiden falls ill, and Gray is accused of murdering the boy’s father. Amidst the turmoil, Gray and Elise discover the gift of “happily ever after” that she was certain would elude her forever.

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EXCERPT

“Why didn’t you tell her how you feel?” Jeff asked once they were alone.

Elise’s despair turned to anger. Tears welled in her eyes. She dropped her gaze to hide her feelings and stared at the hands clenched in her lap.

“What would you have me say, Jeff? Would you have me beg and plead? Wail like an infant because I am being sacrificed to a man old enough to be my father? Sacrificed so that I might erase the scandal created by my father, a man whose only sins were wanting to be loved by a flesh and blood woman other than his daughters, the father who promised that I could marry for love, even if he did not? Especially since he did not.”

“Well, I wouldn’t put it quite that way. She is our mother, after all. But you might have mentioned that you are opposed to this marriage.”

Elise felt her brother looking down upon her. She couldn’t bear to meet his gaze. He would see her pain. And no one must see her pain. “I mentioned it often enough to have postponed the event for five years. Not an easy task considering Argylle’s desire for an heir. An heir I will strive to give him.”

Placing his gloved hand beneath her chin, he lifted her face. “You’re following the same path as Father; an arranged marriage, devoid of love. It can only lead to disaster.”

She covered his hand with her own. “No. I will not make Papa’s mistakes. I am stronger. I must be. Mother needs this alliance with Argylle. Papa’s”—her voice broke—“death and betrayal destroyed her safe, secure world. She can’t leave this house for the scandal he created.”

Her grip tightened. “Gracious, Jeff, he died in another woman’s home—one that he provided for her. As a Christian, I don’t judge him. After all, I don’t know what was in his heart at the moment of his death. And as a daughter, I make allowances for him. I loved and respected him. I always will.”

Though her words were powerful, her voice was flat, as if she were bloodless, dispassionate. So unlike the girl she had once been. She could see worry reflected in Jeff’s eyes. But this was her way of coping with the pain…the loss…the future.

“As a woman, I understand Mother’s position. She has to get away from here, but it can’t look like she’s running away.”

“Surely things are not bad enough to send the two of you fleeing across the sea.”

“You have to know what Mother’s been through to understand. Her dearest friends pity her. You know Mama’s pride. She can’t bear the shame. She’s hurt and she’s scared and she’s desperate.”

Unconsciously, she straightened, trying to appear more substantial than she felt. “She wasn’t reared to withstand a scandal like this, and she certainly wasn’t reared to live in a world where Yankees might burn the house down over our heads at any moment.”

Pain darkened her gaze. “And tomorrow, after Bradley joins you in this insane war, strangers will run Crimson Hills; strangers, Jeff. Mama can’t bear to see that. If I marry His Grace and Mama accompanies me to England, she can come home one day, after the war, when it’s safe…after the scandal dies down. When you boys are home to take care of her and Crimson Hills, she can return in triumph, as the mother of a duchess.”

Jeff pulled her to her feet. He held her by the shoulders, looked deep into her eyes, trying to see into her very soul. “What about you, kitten? Marriage is forever. Are you willing to sacrifice yourself?”

“I will do as I must.” When he made to argue again, she pressed her fingertips against his lips. “Please Jeff, I’ve accepted my fate.” Her voice broke slightly. “Don’t make this any harder for me than it already is.”

Nodding, he kissed the tips of her fingers then brought her hand to his heart. “You are a remarkable woman, Elise Stayton.”

“I pray to our God Almighty that you are right.”

“I’m always right.”

She smiled as he intended. “I love you, Jeff.”

“And I love you, Lisi Kat.” His gaze suddenly turned mischievous. “You haven’t asked when your prospective bridegroom will arrive.”

“When?”

“He won’t.”

“I don’t understand.”

“He sent someone to stand proxy in the ceremony.” He paused for emphasis. “An old friend of yours.”

“Gil?”

“No.”

Elise felt a sense of foreboding.

“Argylle was occupied with affairs of state and unable to leave the Isle. So he asked Gray…”

Elise no longer heard her brother for the roar in her ears. It was the far side of too much. The same afternoon Gray had stolen her heart, her sixteenth birthday, he had made her promise to marry for love. Now he would make that impossible. A fist of betrayal squeezed her heart. Her last girlhood dream slipped through her fingers.

But she twitched not so much as an eyelash.

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A WORD ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Teresa Howard, the author of many historical romances written as both Teresa Howard and Teresa George, lived in North Georgia with her beloved husband, George.

Teresa passed away in 2015 after a brief illness. She is missed and loved by her many fans around the world.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: To Save a Viscount (The Spy Series Book 4) by Jessie Clever

to save a viscount

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When an assassin threatens England’s spy network, Lady Margaret Folton must find the killer before it’s too late. Hardened from being forced to witness the murder of her British spy parents by French revolutionists, Margaret approaches this mission like any other, with steely determination and a resolute focus on the necessary outcome at the cost of all else.

Commodore John Lynwood, newly returned from the Mediterranean, finds himself granted the title of viscount in honor of his service during the war. Plagued with a string of good luck throughout his life, the title serves as another reminder that Jack has done nothing to earn the glory and prestige that comes with his position, and he’ll be damned if he’ll enjoy such an honor.

But when Jack is accidentally granted a title meant to be used as bait to lure the assassin into the War Office’s trap, Margaret must face the tragedy of her past and decide which is more important: the assignment or love?

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EXCERPT

London
August 1815

He had grown so accustomed to the sound of gunfire that he did not hear the shot that was meant to kill him.

This would have worried Richard Black, the Duke of Lofton, if he had had time to think on it. But as the situation inherently required immediate action, prolonged and abstract thinking on the subject was neither prudent nor wise. So he refrained. Instead, he wondered who it was that smashed into him at incredible speed, sending him tumbling backwards off the walk along the Thames and into the bitter, black water below.

He had been meeting his contact there along the water at an unholy hour, and darkness had lain all about him. The exchange had gone as planned, and he now held the knowledge that he knew would prove key to his current assignment with the War Office. But as the inky water of the Thames closed over his head, he wondered if he would ever get that information to the necessary people.

And then as the last of the light disappeared, he thought of Jane, his wife. His Jane. He did not think of her in specific instances or certain memories that lay in his mind. He thought of her in pieces. Her smell. Her laugh. The sound her hair made as she brushed it at night. The way she always laid her hand on top of his whenever they should find themselves sitting next to one another. Her amazing talents with chestnut roasters.

He would have laughed if such an action would not speed up the inevitable drowning that suddenly became all too real, flushing thoughts of Jane from his mind. His arms began to push against the water as his feet began to pulse, driving him toward the surface. Only he did not move. Whoever it was that had slammed into him still held him about the waist, dragging him deeper into the water. He began to struggle, the need for air and life and Jane surging through his veins in a way he had never felt before.

And then a hand brushed against his cheek, and slender fingers came to rest across his mouth. He wanted to open his eyes, but he knew it would do no good in the black water. But he let the feeling of his attacker’s hand brush against his skin, the shape of it press into his face, the narrowness of limb and the delicate arch of bone.

It was a woman who held him beneath the water.

And he stopped struggling.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

jessie cleverJessie decided to be a writer because the job of Indiana Jones was already filled.

Taking her history degree dangerously, Jessie tells the stories of courageous heroines, the men who dared to love them, and the world that tried to defeat them.

Jessie makes her home in the great state of New Hampshire, where she lives with her husband and two very opinionated Basset Hounds. For more, visit her website at jessieclever.com.

Connect with Jessie:

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SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: Proud Mary (Roxton Saga #5) by Lucinda Brant

RHR-Proud-Mary-Lucinda-Brant

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The Roxtons are back! Romance. Drama. Intrigue. Family secrets. There’s never a dull moment for the 18th Century’s first family…

Widowed and destitute, Lady Mary Cavendish is left with only her pride. Daughter of an earl and great-granddaughter to a Stuart King, family expectation and obligation demands she remarry. But not just any man will do; her husband must rank among the nobility. Falling in love with her handsome and enigmatic neighbor is out of the question. As always, Mary will do her duty and ignore her heart.

Country squire Christopher Bryce has secretly loved his neighbor Mary for many years. Yet, he is resigned to the cruel reality they are not social equals and thus can never share a future together. Never mind that his scandalous past and a heartbreaking secret make him thoroughly unworthy of such a proud beauty.

Then into their lives steps a ghost from Mary’s past, whose outrageous behavior has Mary questioning her worldview, and Christopher acting upon his feelings, and for all to see. The mismatched couple begin to wonder if in fact love can prevail—that a happily ever after might just be possible if only they dare to follow their hearts.

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OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: 2017 by Sprigleaf Pty Ltd.

Time and Setting: Gloucestershire, 1777
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

I love historical romance series featuring large families and covering a sizable period of time, and Lucinda Brant’s Roxton books fit that bill. The series begins in Paris in 1745, moves to Georgian England, and covers nearly thirty years, during which the expected births, deaths, love affairs, and marriages occur.

Proud Mary, the fifth book, opens in 1777 and features Lady Mary Cavendish, widow of Sir Gerald Cavendish, who has been dead for two years. Sir Gerald and Lady Mary were minor characters in the earlier books, where we learned that Gerald was a conceited bag of hot air who was shunned by Polite Society, disliked by his neighbors, and cruel to his wife and daughter. Lady Mary was completely under his thumb, which is not surprising since she grew up with a domineering snob of a mother, the Countess of Strathsay.

Sir Gerald was both impressed and envious that Mary was the daughter of an earl, a great-granddaughter of King Charles II, and a cousin to the Duchess of Roxton. Indeed, beginning when she was twelve, Mary had spent the happiest years of her life living at Roxton’s estate as a member of the family. When she returned to her mother, Lady Strathsay drilled into Mary’s head that women of her station had a higher calling than their inferiors, that she must precisely follow the rigid rules of society, and that she owed a duty to her noble lineage to marry well and produce sons. Mary was so browbeaten and miserable that she accepted an arranged marriage to Sir Gerald.

Now Sir Gerald is dead, leaving Mary with a nice estate (for her lifetime), Abbeywood, and a mountain of debts. In a final act of maliciousness, Gerald named the local squire, Christopher Bryce, as co-guardian, with the Duke of Roxton, of Mary’s daughter Theodora. “Teddy,” as she is known to all is a ten-year-old tomboy who likes nothing better than riding and hiking the wilds of Gloucestershire. She adores her “Uncle Christopher,” and he clearly returns the feeling. Seeing the sweet interplay between them is the first hint that Christopher has a heart beneath his overly sober exterior.

Christopher is charged with running Abbeywood and helping retire the debts that Gerald left behind. He is a strict administrator, and Mary chafes under his budgetary restraints. Mary politely loathes him, and while he is punctiliously correct toward Mary, he has quietly been in love with her since he returned to Gloucestershire eight years ago. Christopher’s years away from home are a mystery to Mary and the rest of their neighbors, and Christopher knows that his shameful secrets from that time would horrify a gentle lady such as she. For reasons unknown, he left suddenly for the Continent at the age of eighteen and cut himself off entirely from his parents. More than a decade later, he returned home to nurse his dying mother and brought his blind Aunt Kate to live with him. Unbeknownst to everyone, he also has done a bit of spying for England’s Spymaster General, Lord Shrewsbury, and to that end he had befriended Sir Gerald, whom Shrewsbury suspected of selling secrets to the French.

Squire Bryce was portrayed as dour and tyrannical in the previous Roxton book Dair Devil, which led me to have some skepticism about his suitability as a hero in this book. Ms. Brant, however, cleverly allows the reader to discover the real Christopher at the same time that Mary does. They begin to have forthright conversations, and along with Mary we learn that Christopher is an honorable man with strong principles but also strong emotions, which he keeps deeply hidden. Christopher grows more deeply in love with Mary, but knowing that she is an aristocrat and he is the son of nobody, he accepts that there can never be anything between them. He also comes to realize that Gerald had lied and exaggerated about virtually everything – even claiming that Roxton was Teddy’s true father. Gerald was no spy, Christopher decides, and so the hunt must continue.

Mary feels an attraction to Christopher, but she does not consider him as a possible mate even though she is desperately lonely. She is thirty years old and has never been in love or been loved. She has never shared a passionate kiss with any man, nor did the selfish Sir Gerald ever show her pleasure in the marriage bed. She loves her daughter with all her heart, but hopes she still has the capacity to love a man. Since her mother is insisting that it’s Mary’s duty to her family to marry again, she hopes that perhaps she will find love with a new husband.

When Mary pays a rare visit to Christopher’s office one day, he is not a little surprised when she announces that there is a ghost in the house. The couple join forces to discover tangible evidence of an intruder and set out to detect his true identity. His unmasking turns their little world upside down and threatens to bring an end to their budding romance, for the ghost is actually the man whom Mary once hoped to marry. I won’t disclose more, as I think the clever twists and turns of this story should not be spoiled.

Mary and Christopher make a lovely couple, and all of my misgivings about him melted away. In fact, by the time Mary realizes that she has fallen in love with him, I was a little bit in love too. It was wonderful to watch Mary fall for him, always fighting her mother’s little voice in her head pointing out his unsuitability for an earl’s daughter. Equally wonderful was watching Mary gain confidence in herself and fighting to overcome the years of being denigrated and bullied by her mother and her husband. Christopher, for his part, gradually and with great reluctance reveals his past to a shocked Mary, expecting at every turn that she will turn away from him in disgust. Of course, she does not.

I always feel a bit like a time traveler when reading one of Ms. Brant’s books. Using her impeccable research, she creates such an authentic 18th century world, and employing her wonderful imagination, she writes multi-layered stories with intricate plots. These talents are put to particularly good use in Proud Mary. I think that we 21st century readers often have a difficult time appreciating the class-based strictures of the past, and many authors who write cross-class romances downplay the difficulties that would have faced the duke who married his housekeeper, for example. Ms. Brant does not fall into the trap of making things easy for Mary and Christopher, however, and I felt a better understanding of how oppressive, yet widely accepted, the class structure was. It helps here that Mary’s Roxton relations are accepting of their relationship, but then we have seen in earlier books that they are somewhat non-conformist and powerful enough to do as they please.

As Christopher and Mary work toward their happily ever after, we get to see all of her extended family – all of whom, along with young Teddy, play a role in bringing Christopher and Mary together.

Ms. Brant has said that her next book will be Henri-Antoine’s story, but dare we hope that someday there is one pairing Teddy and Jack? I suppose that I am looking for ways for the Roxton Family Saga to continue for a long time. I will add that while Proud Marycan be read as a standalone, there is much more pleasure to be had by reading the series in order and learning to know and love this family as much as I and many other readers have.

Each book has been a joy to read, and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

EXCERPT

“A-a—ghost? You saw a ghost?”

Christopher resisted the urge to roll his eyes and huff his disbelief. A ghost!? God grant him patience. He had interrupted his busy morning schedule for this. Correction. He had interrupted it for her. But she was talking fanciful nonsense.

Yet, in the years he had known her, fanciful was not a word he associated with the daughter of the Earl of Strathsay. Prim, and practical, yes. And proud—oh yes, the Lady Mary was very proud. But fanciful? Never. So there had to be some basis in fact for her belief in a ghost, the fear in her eyes told him so. She truly believed it.

And he believed her. It was just that he did not believe the house was haunted.

So he took a moment to compose himself, lest he appear supercilious, and awaited further explanation.

Lady Mary took his silence for condescending disbelief.

“I did not see it, Mr. Bryce. I heard it.”

~~~

Mary knew the moment she uttered the word ghost that Mr. Bryce did not believe her.

It was not so much his tone as the way in which his square jaw clamped shut, and his nostrils flared as he pressed his lips together, as if forcing himself not to smile. She was surprised he hadn’t punctuated his incredulity with a roll of his fine eyes. It must have taken all his self-control not to laugh out loud, too.

But she was not deterred by his skepticism. She had expected it; would have been surprised had he reacted in any other way. She had been incredulous herself. But it was the only explanation that made sense. After all, no one had used Sir Gerald’s rooms since his death two years ago. And if anyone did enter them, it was the servants during the autumn cleaning in preparation for winter, to dust what was not under holland covers, and to check that the fireplaces, one in the bedchamber and one in the dressing room, were not inhabited by rodents or birds. And then the servant door by which they had entered was locked again, and the key given to the housekeeper. The main door to the bedchamber, which led onto the corridor, had been locked and this key given to Lady Mary on the day of her husband’s funeral. She had not unlocked it since.

The autumn clean had been over a month ago now. And there was no reason for any of the servants to enter those rooms again, nor had they. She had checked with the housekeeper. And certainly no one would enter them at night, which was when she had heard the noises. And so she told Mr. Bryce, doing her best to appear as if she were discussing the everyday, and not something incorporeal. And because she was delaying for as long as possible confiding in him what she feared most.

“And where did you hear this specter, my lady?”

“I was in my bedchamber. The noises came from Sir Gerald’s dressing room.”

“Thank-you for the clarification. What time was this?”

“At night. It was late.”

“You were not—dreaming—perhaps?”
“No. I thought so at first. I thought I was having a nightmare. But when I was fully awake I knew I was not dreaming, which was far more disturbing than any nightmare.”

“Did you hear these—noises—just the once?”

“No. I was woken again later that night by similar noises. Which is why I-I decided to come to you.”

“Do you think that perhaps what you heard was a cat on the roof, or a bird nesting in the tree outside your window?

Or indeed, it may have been a branch of that tree scraping against the window pane?”

Mary considered this for a moment, then shook her head.

“No, Mr. Bryce. The noises could not have been made by those things. The sounds were different entirely. And it was a still night—has been still all this week. So there was no wind to stir the branches, or whistle through the sills.”

“What precisely did you hear, my lady?”

“My first thought, when I was still half-asleep, was that it was Sir Gerald come through from his bedchamber to visit me. To do so he must walk through his dressing room, which is the room that divides his bedchamber from mine…”

“And so you heard footfall?” Christopher gently prompted when Mary’s voice trailed off and she looked down at her hands.

Mary shook her head again, then slowly lifted her gaze to his brown eyes.

“No. Not footfall…”

GIVEAWAY

 

Lucinda is offering FIVE lucky people the chance to win an eCopy of Proud Mary, book five in her acclaimed Roxton Saga!

Enter at Rafflecopter, below. The Giveaway is open for the next seven days and winners will be notified shortly after the closing date. No purchase is necessary

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucinda-Brant-AuthorLucinda Brant is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of award-winning Georgian historical romances and mysteries. Her novels are described as “smart, witty, historical adventures full of heart wrenching drama with a happily ever after”. Lucinda is a university trained historian and a retired history and geography teacher who now writes full time. She has been researching and reading about the 18th Century for forty years, and still finds the Georgian era just as fascinating now as then. Lucinda drinks too much coffee and is addicted to Pinterest. Come join her there in her 18th Century world: http://www.pinterest.com/lucindabrant/, and also at:
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SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Upon Your Love (Heiresses in Love #3) by Marie Lavender

upon your love

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The Hill family saga concludes as loyalties are questioned, faiths will be tested and undying love may come at a terrible cost…

Fara Hill, mother and faithful wife, is torn between her family at home and her urge to be at sea. Soon, she learns some disturbing truths. Was the past a fairy tale instead of reality?

Chloe Hill, loving wife and young mother, questions her faith when her husband sets an ultimatum she cannot meet. Will she be able to keep her marriage from falling apart?

Adrienne Bellamont Hill, born of a valiant captain and a fiery redhead, is untamed to her core and will bow to no man. Then Christian du Plessis enters her life with an offer she can’t refuse. Discovering the man behind the polished gentleman, she is drawn to him in many ways. Holding out for love is a family tradition, but can she resist the temptation of passion?

Christian finds this young woman to be a fascinating challenge, and is torn between keeping his distance from her and succumbing to her charms. A fierce battle of wills ensues as he sees she is much more than he ever imagined.

But danger lurks, threatening to destroy everything…

Can these two strong-willed individuals unite in the cause before time runs out?

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EXCERPT

Christian scanned the wall and came to rest on a woman whose face was obscured by the way she stood. She was turned slightly away, in conversation with another girl. She had long, dark wavy hair and a nice form. When she turned back towards him, he caught his breath at the stunning figure she posed. Her eyes were a violet color; he could tell because the gas lights in the room caught them like fine gemstones. She was also fairly tall for a woman. Her skin was a fine, light golden shade, which didn’t detract from her beauty at all. Most of her contemporaries avoided direct sunlight. It was clear that her skin tone was natural, perhaps with a hint of being blessed by the sun’s rays. He wondered what sort of woman would place herself in the elements while the other women in her circle managed to elude such avenues.

His gaze continued to travel over her strange perfection. Her décolletage dipped to the tops of her full breasts, hinting at pleasure, and she was dressed in a long gown of pale blue. The shape of the gown gave off the suggestion of ample curves beneath. What kind, he could only guess. He imagined the costume was an heirloom because most women’s fashions these days weren’t so revealing. “Who is that?” he pointed.

“Mademoiselle Bellamont Hill.”

“I haven’t seen her before.”

“It is past her season. She hasn’t been to a function in a couple of years, I believe. Something about a mourning period.”

“But, isn’t she from around here?”

“Yes, in a way. Her family travels often. Her father is a captain, and so is her brother. When she is here, she lives with her mother and aunt.”

“Why hasn’t she married?”

Pierce shrugged. “It could be any number of reasons. Why? Do you want me to ask her to dance?”

“No, not her. Perhaps her companion would be interested.” He referred to the blonde woman at Mademoiselle Hill’s side. Christian didn’t allow himself to wonder why he thought the other girl would not suit his friend.

Pierce agreed, and they both started in that direction. When they approached the ladies, Christian took the first woman’s hand, brushing his lips over it. He observed that her skin was incredibly soft and had a tantalizing sweet scent. He curbed the urge to explore it further.

She gasped, a flush staining her cheeks. “Monsieur?”

“Forgive me for the abrupt entrance. I am Christian du Plessis. It is a pleasure to meet you, Mademoiselle.”
She smiled. “Thank you. I am Adrienne Nicolette Bellamont Hill.” She looked over at her companion. If she noticed the impropriety of not being introduced by a common acquaintance, she did not say. “This is my good friend, Elena Wyndham. She’s visiting from England.”

Though he’d blinked as she gave her full name, he managed, “Oh? It is so good to have your acquaintance. Ladies, this is my ami, Pierce Laroque.”

“Hello, Pierce,” both girls chimed and shook his hand alternately.

Pierce looked flustered as he murmured a greeting.

“I hope you’ll take good care of my friend here. He is rather shy with women. Perhaps you might make him feel welcome,” he whispered, leaning in close to Elena with a smile.

She gave him a conspiratorial smile, and then turned to Pierce. “Might you dance with me, Monsieur? I can’t stand here and simply watch this gaiety.”

Pierce readily agreed and escorted Elena to the dance floor just as the music for another waltz began.

The woman named Adrienne frowned, looking up at Christian. “What was that? What are you up to?”

“Just a little matchmaking,” he shrugged.

“Perhaps your friend wouldn’t be pleased with your interference.”

Christian took her hand and tucked it in the crook of his arm. “Shall we walk?” At her nod, he led her in a stroll around the edges of the room. As they ambled along, the heavenly scent of blended flowers and honey drifted into his nose. He struggled with the desire to lean closer so that he could breathe more of her in. “I’m sure he would welcome it. Pierce is rather reserved, and not at all used to conversing with women.”

She nodded. “He asked for your help then.”

His mouth twisted. Pierce would never have asked; he was far too honorable a man for that, which was why he’d volunteered. “In a manner of speaking, yes.”

“I suppose I cannot reprimand you for assisting a friend,” she sighed. “For a moment, I simply thought you had ulterior motives.”

“To pair myself off with you?”

She lifted a brow. “You can’t blame me for the assumption.”

“No, I cannot. Don’t take this the wrong way, Mademoiselle Hill. You are very tempting, and I am more drawn to you than I should be. But, my purpose in coming here tonight wasn’t self-serving. It was to help Pierce find a wife.”

She stumbled a little, and he clasped her arm in time. “A wife? Surely you cannot be serious.”

“Deadly.”

“But, Elena wouldn’t… she would never—”

“No? And why not? Pierce is a good man.”

“So? What woman would agree to marry a man after one night?”

“Stranger things have happened, I’m sure.”

Her beautiful, dark brows drew together and even her apparent perplexity appealed to him.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 23 other books. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title – winner of the “Broken Heart” themed contest and the “I Love You” themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers’ Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers’ Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10 Authors on AuthorsDB.com. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 24 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several multi-author anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series, The Blood at First Sight Series and The Code of Endhivar Series.

Links:

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SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Thief’s Daughter by Victoria Cornwall

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Hide from the thief-taker, for if he finds you, he will take you away…

Eighteenth-century Cornwall is crippled by debt and poverty, while the gibbet casts a shadow of fear over the land. Yet, when night falls, free traders swarm onto the beaches and smuggling prospers.

Terrified by a thief-taker’s warning as a child, Jenna has resolved to be good. When her brother, Silas, asks for her help to pay his creditors, Jenna feels unable to refuse and finds herself entering the dangerous world of the smuggling trade.

Jack Penhale hunts down the smuggling gangs in revenge for his father’s death. Drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre, they discover their lives are entangled. But as Jenna struggles to decide where her allegiances lie, the worlds of justice and crime collide, leading to danger and heartache for all concerned…

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EXCERPT

A variety of faces were turned to watch the sale. Men, women and children craned their necks for a better view, eager to see what was happening. Only one man, who stood on the edge of the crowd and casually leaned against a cart, had no interest in the farce. From his stance and jet-black hair, Jenna instantly recognised him as the man who had helped her escape. There was no mistaking him, as there were few men with such well-balanced features that held strength and kindness in equal measures. He was looking at her intently through narrowed eyes and she wondered if he recognised her, too. Heat rushed to her face, making her feel exposed and a little panicked. Furtively, she moved her mop in front of her face hoping to block his view. The last thing she needed while she was trying to be hired was him asking questions.

Keeping her eyes lowered, she heard the wife sale progress as the men agreed a price of two shillings and a quart of beer, and the lover emerged victorious. The crowd erupted about Jenna, but she dared not look up in case the stranger was still looking at her. Instead she remained rooted to the spot hoping that he would soon be on his way.

The wife sale completed, the woman and her lover walked through the crowd, their noses tilted upwards, their arm interlinked and both with a slight swagger to their step. The crowd was delighted at the unplanned entertainment and even broke into a spontaneous applause when the pair granted them a joint bow before finally exiting the square. The fayre slowly returned to normal and Jenna took the opportunity to furtively glance up. She saw him moving through the thinning crowd, and then she lost sight of him. He is gone, she thought, relieved, but she should have known better. His earlier attention had indicated an interest in her, and when she heard a man’s boots climb onto the left side of the stage, she did not need to look to know it was him.

The woman with the florid complexion ordered Jenna to show her hands. Obediently Jenna held one out, whilst trying to keep the mop head in the right position to obstruct the stranger’s view of her face. When the man’s well-shaped hand suddenly closed around the handle of her mop and brushed against hers, a wave of unfamiliar sensations swept over her. They caught the breath in her throat and slowed her mind to that of a drunkard, leaving her little choice, but to allow him to take it. With her mop in his hand, the dark-haired stranger watched in silence as the woman examined her.

The larger woman looked at her now free hand. Satisfied, she ordered Jenna to open her mouth and show her teeth, before checking for lice in her clothes and hair. Jenna closed her eyes in shame at being examined like livestock. The man continued to say nothing, even when he handed the mop back to her when the examination was complete. His brows furrowed deep in thought, and for the briefest of moments she wondered if he was considering hiring her. However, when the woman offered a price he remained silent and when the ribbon was pinned onto Jenna’s dress to confirm that she was hired, he turned and walked away.

Jenna frowned as she watched him leave. His presence had unnerved her, but strangely, now that he was leaving, she felt disappointed that he had not bothered to barter for her. Had he come onto the stage to hire her, but on closer inspection thought better of it? The truth was, the handsome stranger had rejected her, and rejection is never a pleasant feeling to have.

*****

From a short distance away, Jack watched the woman lead Jenna Kestle away. He had been shocked to see her again and found himself marvelling at life’s habit of tossing coincidences in one’s path. Moments before he caught sight of her he had been thinking about her, and then she was there, standing on a makeshift stage waiting to be hired.

At first he put it down to mistaken identity, or worse his imagination playing tricks on him, but the longer he watched her, the more he was convinced it was her.

The woman’s hair, previously hidden below a battered tricorn, was in fact long. Today, it was neatly plaited and lay over one shoulder. The last time he saw her, her feminine shape was hidden under boy’s clothing. Now it captivated his attention and drew him towards the stage, while a devil on his shoulder whispered in his ear and encouraged him to hire her. Jack almost succumbed, but thankfully saw sense and walked away. He knew that having an extra pair of ears beneath his roof was far too dangerous. It was best he kept his distance until he had completed what he had come here to do.

He watched her body sway to the movement of the cart as her new employer took her away from him. For a brief moment he felt a strange sense of loss for a woman he knew so little about. True, she had never been far from his thoughts. The last time he had seen her she was being chased by a crowd. It was only natural that he would feel concern for her welfare, he thought. He need not have worried as he remembered their hands briefly touching. Although her hand felt tense, during her examination she had a tilt to her chin, which showed determination – a trait he recognised in himself. He knew in that moment that he need not be concerned for her, for he saw that she was of strong character which would bode well for her future.

This newly acquired knowledge freed him from feeling concern for her and he found himself laughing a little too loudly at his earlier foolishness

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

victoria cornwallVictoria Cornwall grew up on a farm in Cornwall. She can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century and it is this background and heritage which is the inspiration for her Cornish based novels.

Victoria is married, has two grown up children and a black Labrador, called Alfie. She likes to read and write historical fiction with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.

Following a fulfilling twenty-five year career as a nurse, a change in profession finally allowed her the time to write.

Twitter @vickiecornwall
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SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: In Search of Love by Kate Loveday

InSearchofLove

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They shared one night of love.

When Kitty Barron and Rufe Cavanagh meet sixteen years later, Kitty wonders if they might have a second chance at happiness. Rufe is determined they will.

Kitty’s teenage daughter, Joy, and Rufe’s daughter, Lily, are school friends. While Joy embraces the idea of uniting their families, Lily burns with jealousy at the thought of sharing her father’s affection, and schemes to keep them apart.

When Joy and Lily go to London for a Season, they find that beneath the gaiety and excitement not everything or everybody is as it seems. Their romances bring problems that have far-reaching effects for Kitty and Rufe, and their happiness.

Can Kitty and Rufe withstand Lily’s manipulative efforts to keep them apart? Is their love strong enough?

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EXCERPT

Rufe recovered his composure. “We’ve been enjoying a walk, so I suppose I must say that you can do the same, as it’s such a lovely night. But don’t go beyond sight of the house.”

He stood aside to let them pass. “Off you go then. But don’t be too long. Mrs. Barron and I are going to have a nightcap. Come in to the drawing room and say goodnight when you come back.”

Lily scowled at Kitty, who put out her hand, and touched Joy briefly on the arm as she passed. “Don’t take Lily far, it’s getting late. I’ll see you when you come back.”

“Yes, Mother.”

The girls swept down the steps and raced off along the path. Rufe held the door open for Kitty and followed her into the drawing room.

“Oh dear,” Kitty said, turning to him. “I’m afraid we’ve upset Lily.”

“Nonsense. She saw nothing to upset her. I simply escorted you up the steps.”

“Do you think she believed that?”

Rufe crossed the room and splashed brandy into two glasses. “If it comes up, which I doubt, I’ll make sure she understands it.” He handed her one of the drinks with a smile. “Now sit down, and we’ll have our nightcap very circumspectly, until our children are safely in bed.”

As Kitty sipped her drink, she worried that Lily had seen Rufe’s arm around her, and that it had upset her. Whatever would Lily think if she found out about their previous relationship? Or if they were to resume it? From the look on Lily’s face, Kitty didn’t believe she would be happy about it. For that matter, how would Joy feel? Oh dear, it’s all so difficult. Twisting the glass in her fingers, she watched the light reflecting from the crystal goblet.

“Kitty. What’s the matter?”

“I’m concerned at what the girls must be thinking.”

“We don’t have to worry about what they’re thinking. We’re their parents, and we don’t need their approval for our actions.”
“That’s all very well, but I don’t want either of them to be upset.”

“There’s nothing for them to be upset about.”

“But if they hadn’t come out just then…”

Rufe interrupted her. “If they hadn’t come out just then, you and I would now be discussing our feelings for each other, instead of our children’s feelings, and I would be much happier.”

“But…”

He reached across and touched her hand. “No buts. When they’ve gone to bed, we can talk. For now, we just drink our nightcap.”

“Very well.”

They had only minutes to wait before they heard the front door open and close, and the girls entered the room.

“Did you enjoy your moonlight walk?” Rufe asked them.

“Yes,” Joy replied. “We went down to the river. It looks beautiful at night. All silvery.”

“You looked as if you enjoyed your walk,” Lily added. “Did you go as far as the river?”

“Not quite,” Rufe answered. “And now it’s time you were in bed, young lady.”

“Would you like a glass of milk first?” Kitty asked.

“Yes, please,” Joy replied. “And some cake, too. How about you, Lily?”

Lily hesitated then nodded. “Yes, please.”

“No, don’t you bother, Mother,” Joy added, as Kitty started to rise. “We’ll go down to the kitchen, and I’ll get it. Then we’ll go to bed. Come on, Lily.”

When they had gone, Kitty and Rufe sipped at their drinks, and waited until they heard them go into Joy’s bedroom.

After listening for a few minutes, Rufe stood and came to stand in front of Kitty. Smiling down at her, he reached out his hands.

“Come with me.”

Kitty shook her head. “No, Rufe, I can’t.”

His smile faded. “You don’t want to?”

“It’s not that—it’s the girls. Lily looked daggers at me when she saw you had your arm around me.”

“She’s safely in bed by now, and Joy, too.”

“But what if they come out for something? What if they were to discover us together?”

“Kitty, darling, we can’t have our lives dictated by our children.”

“It would be too sudden for them—they’re still so young—they wouldn’t understand.”

Rufe dropped her hands and took a step back. His lips twisted wryly. “I see the magic hasn’t come back for you.”

“It’s not that. When we were outside, I felt all the old feelings, but now I’m too concerned about how the girls would feel. They’d both be shocked. We need to take more time.”

“And what about how I feel?” He frowned down at her. “Doesn’t that count?”

“Of course it counts, but we need to let them get used to the idea first, to accept that we both care for each other. Surely you can see that.”

“I can see that you put their feelings before mine.” His voice hardened. “If we were together, is that how it would always be?”

Kitty shook her head, a ball of misery forming inside her. “No, of course not. But we have to let them become accustomed to the idea first. We need to let them see gradually, that we care for each other.”

Rufe narrowed his eyes as he looked down at her. “So, you want me to woo you, do you? To court you like some lovesick young swain. Don’t you think we’re a bit old to be playing such games?”

“Is that what love is to you? A game?”

“You’re twisting my words, Kitty. That’s not what I meant.” He turned toward the door. “All right. I’ll play it your way. I’ll woo you. But don’t try my patience too far.”

With that, he turned and strode to the door. And slammed it behind him as he left.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Loveday

Kate Loveday

Kate Loveday grew up in a seaside suburb of Adelaide, South Australia, in a family with six brothers. Her two passions as a child were to spend as much time as possible at the beach, mostly with a couple of younger brothers in tow, and to curl up with a book.

Her love of books never left her, and she always wanted to write. But it was not until an extended caravan holiday around Australia with husband Peter that she began writing in earnest. She started with travel articles about places visited, and when these were accepted for publication by travel magazines, she began to think about writing a novel.

She now writes Australian contemporary and historical fiction, and has published six books. She says as long as her readers continue telling her, in reviews and emails, that they enjoy what she writes, she will continue doing so.

She loves chocolate, fine wines, dogs, music, and seeing new places.

In her past life she was a bookkeeper and a beauty therapist. Now she enjoys spending time with her husband, family, and friends… Oh yes…and reading and writing!

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