Surrender to the Marquess (Herriard Family #3) by Louise Allen

surrender to the marquess

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A battle of wills!

When Lady Sara Herriard’s husband dies in a duel, she turns her back on the vagaries of the ton. From now on, she will live as she pleases. She won’t change for anyone – certainly not for the infuriating Lucian Avery, Marquess of Cannock! Lucian must help his sister recover from a disastrous elopement and reluctantly enlists Lady Sara’s help. She couldn’t be further from the conventional, obedient wife he’s expected to marry, but soon, all he craves is for her to surrender – and join him in his bed!



Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical, March 2017

Time and Setting:  England 1818
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Wendy

Surrender to the Marquess ticks all the boxes of a well-written regency romance; the author’s attention to detail is excellent, the setting perfect and so well communicated that one feels the waves on the Dorset beach, hears the seagulls and smells the saltiness of an English seaside. Even the cover is perfect, with the balcony and the sea in the background… add in well developed, three dimensional characters and all is in place for a satisfying read.

Lady Sara Harcourt has escaped to the quiet seaside town of Sandbay in Dorset after her scholastic husband’s tragic death in a duel. By day she is Mrs Harcourt, owner of a shop that sells art and craft supplies, and by night she reverts to being Lady Sara. The locals know who she is,and her connection to the aristocracy has never been a secret, and I admit that while I understood her need to escape after her shocking bereavement, I wasn’t quite sure why she needed to maintain two different identities.

Then we have ‘Mr L.J.  Dunton Esquire’ otherwise known as Lucian John Dunton Avery, Marquess of Cannock. He has taken his unwell young sister to the seaside town not only to attempt to heal her in body and mind but also to try to salvage what’s left of her reputation after a disastrous elopement with his private secretary left her alone and bereft on the continent. She miscarried a child and her erstwhile swain mysteriously disappeared, leaving her sick and without the benefit of a wedding ring. It’s imperative that brother and sister keep a low profile in order to protect Marguerite, but it isn’t long before his identity is uncovered by Sara who, recognising a fellow aristocrat by his manner and demeanour, confirms who he is after looking him up in Burke’s Peerage. Before that, however, Lucian asks Sara if she might have anything in her shop that might interest his sister, and Sara, a forthright, managing kind of female, suggests she come to their hotel to visit the young woman.

Lucian and Sara feel an immediate frisson of attraction from their first meeting and I must say that the author develops their relationship well although it isn’t long before the difficulties they face start to look quite insurmountable. Both are extremely attractive, independent people – Sara’s freedom has been hard won and she does not wish to be bound by convention. Lucian would like nothing more than to have a passionate affair with the intriguingly beautiful widow and eventually they do succumb to the overwhelming attraction between them but it is difficult to carry it on when she has become his sister’s champion. Society would not approve of his lover being his sister’s friend or chaperone.

There is a battle going on throughout the book which is the real gist of the story. Lucian is the epitome of an honourable aristocrat, brought up to protect his womenfolk whatever the consequences. Sara started out her life with a fair amount of freedom; her mother is half-Indian of superior birth, and her father was a major in the British army until he inherited a marquessate – and she spent the earlier part of her life with her happily married parents and brother in India living a fairly relaxed and normal life. On her father’s accession to his title, the family was obviously obliged to return to England. Sara was allowed to choose her own husband – a scholar – and lived a quiet but happy existence with him until he too was smitten by the honour bug and fought a duel to protect a perceived slight to her honour, and died in the process. As a result she is well and truly against anything that compromises her freedom and will not tolerate any man’s protection.  Duels are anathema to her and she won’t countenance them for any reason.

Lucian and Sara, it seems, will always be at odds over his uncompromising over-protectiveness and her independent streak and I wondered how they would ever be able to reconcile their differences. And that’s my dilemma and the reason I haven’t awarded the book a higher grade  – they do get their HEA but I still felt that the issues between them were not, nor ever would be, totally resolved. They simply had to agree to disagree.

The book is very well written, and although I had issues with certain aspects of this story, I plan to read more by this author, starting with Forbidden Jewel of India, which tells the love story of Sara’s parents.


When a Laird Finds a Lass (Highland Fairy Tales #2) by Lecia Cornwall


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She is his greatest enemy and his only salvation.

Malcolm MacDonald, a lawyer in Edinburgh, unexpectedly inherits his father’s title of Laird of Dunbronach, forcing him to return to a place he hasn’t seen since he was a small child. To gain the trust of a wary clan, Malcolm must act upon their insistence that he cast aside his English betrothed and marry a Highlander.

However, they have one condition—no lasses of the barbaric clan MacLeod.

When he finds an unconscious woman in the sea, he brings her back to his clan but not before doing the one thing that could save her life—hiding her all too telling MacLeod plaid. When she wakes with no memory of who she is, Malcolm vows to keep the little he knows about her identity a secret. As new dangers threaten his clan, the mysterious lass teaches Malcolm some very important lessons about how to be a Highlander and a laird.

But secrets never stay secret for long, and when she finds her plaid, her memory returns and she flees. Malcolm is forced to make a difficult choice to win her back, facing his darkest fears and his worst enemy for a chance at true love.


Publisher and Release Date: Swerve/St. Martin’s Press, November 2016
Time and Setting: Scotland, 1707
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Sara

Lecia Cornwall has set her stories in the Scottish Highlands but the characters and their struggles to find love ever after are very familiar. In When a Laird Finds a Lass there are some parallels to the story of The Little Mermaid; however the spin here is that the young heroine finds her true voice rather than sacrificing it to find her hero.

Marcail MacLeod’s heart is broken when she discovers the man she hoped would marry her having sex with another woman. With her pride just as bruised as her heart, she makes the mistake of accepting another man’s offer of marriage just to escape humiliation and take back control of her future. On the way to his lands Marcail learns that her new betrothed has no intention of being faithful to her either. She risks everything by jumping into the sea to escape an unhappy marriage.

On the shores of Dunbronach the new laird, Malcom MacDonald, discovers an unconscious young woman wrapped in the plaid of his clan’s enemy, the MacLeods. Malcom was raised as a lowlander in Edinburgh and has only recently assumed the leadership of the impoverished clan after the death of his estranged father, who insisted that Malcom become laird. The elders of the clan want Malcom to continue the old ways and feel that the next step is for him to marry but they warn him away from any woman from the MacLeod clan. Fearing that his people will reject helping the unconscious woman strictly because of her clan association, Malcom hides her plaid before taking her to the healer.

Awakening in a strange place, the woman has trouble remembering her name or the circumstances that brought her to Dunbronach. Some of the people believe she could be a selkie and give her the name Ronat which means “seal.” Others believe she could be a spy and are wary of trusting her. Only Malcom knows the truth of her affiliation and protects her as much as he can by keeping her close. He is attracted to her and enjoys their conversations as she recovers physically but he is aware that her lost memories could hide more than just her name. She could be married or may not wish to associate with a MacDonald because of the enmity between their clans.

As Ronat finds her place within the MacDonald clan she sees the struggles Malcom faces almost daily to lead his people. He wants to do what is right for the community and the land but is untried as a leader and is seen as an outsider from the Highland way of life. Ronat’s memories may have gaps but in her heart she knows how to approach the situation from a highlander’s perspective. She shows Malcom that he can make important changes by listening to his people and showing them that his ideas will gain them exactly what they need. Together they become a team but there is still that uncertainty of who Ronat truly is. Malcom wants her in his life but still fears his people could refuse to have a MacLeod as the laird’s wife.

When a Laird Finds a Lass takes its time developing the relationship between Malcom and Marcail (Ronat) to allow a reader to get a true sense of their growing partnership. The challenges Malcom faces with his clan keep him on shaky footing until Ronat is there to keep him secure his position. As he finds his strength as a leader she is right there, finding her voice as a woman. The community accepts her, Malcom listens to her and she is allowed to flourish because she has no memory of her previous life as daughter of the MacLeod leader. Marcail comes to love Malcom while watching him embrace his inner highlander and trust in the traditions of his clan while still folding in his knowledge of the modern way of doing things. He tries to fight his feelings for Marcail because there of the question mark about her identity, yet Malcom is at his best when he lets her get past those defenses.

I appreciate that the obstacles in front of Malcom and Marcail being together aren’t artificially put in their way. Clan politics and loyalties mean something to both characters and cannot be ignored just because of their attraction. I also liked that the fairy tale undercurrent of the story is brought forth through the Dunbronach peoples’ belief that the laird will be granted a wish for his people by a princess of the sea. When a Laird Finds a Lass shares a setting with the previous book in the Highland Fairy Tale series but stands alone with its storyline and resolution. I enjoyed the subtle sense of magic that brings Malcom and Marcail together and hope there will be more to come in the next book.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: No Conventional Miss by Eleanor Webster

No Conventional Miss
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She’s always been different…

Amaryllis Gibson is an unlikely debutante. She favors fact over fashion, cares not for “proper” conversation and is haunted by ghostly visions which could land her in the madhouse! Marriage is definitely the last thing on Rilla’s mind…

But when she’s caught in a compromising position with Viscount Wyburn, suddenly she finds herself betrothed! And worse, his powerful presence only increases her visions. By shedding light on the viscount’s past, can Rilla gain his trust and win him round to her more…unconventional traits?


Lyngate Estate—1817

‘This sounds like yet another of your ill-advised schemes,’ said Paul Lindsey, Viscount Wyburn, with as much patience as he could muster.

‘Piffle,’ his stepmother retorted, shaking her grey ringlets. ‘It would be a crime to allow such delightful girls to languish in the country.’

‘But hardly incumbent upon you to rectify the situation.’ Paul stood by the mantel. His gaze drifted from the china figurines to the requisite pink, dimpled Cupids depicted across the drawing-room ceiling.

‘Who else will take them in hand? Their dear mother is dead, and Sir George has a predilection for horses and cards. Very sad.’ Lady Wyburn bent with apparent diligence over her needlework.

Turning, Paul sat across from his relative and studied her more closely. He drummed his fingers on the low rosewood table. Lady Wyburn was the only person on God’s earth he gave tuppence for, and he’d not allow some sticky-fingered squire to rob her blind.

‘Stepmother.’ He leaned forward on the ludicrously low sofa. ‘People tend to take advantage of you. If you recall, your young nephew—’

‘Not the same thing.’ She fluttered her hand in front of her face as though shooing a non-existent pest. ‘Rilla and her younger sister, Imogene, are charming. Imogene’s looks are exceptional and Rilla is refreshing. Not beautiful exactly, but exotic and interesting.’

‘Admirable attributes in a book or a flower.’

‘Don’t be flippant, dear.’ She waved her needlepoint, a colourful object of pinks and purples with no discernible pattern. ‘Anyway, Sir George hasn’t a clue how to find them suitable husbands and lacks the funds—’

‘And sees you as a lucrative prospect, I suppose.’ Paul shifted his legs, moving them away from the fire’s warmth, again drumming his fingers. He stopped. The noise irritated and revealed an emotional response he would not allow.

‘Nonsense. Sir George is an academic of repute. The only prospects that interest him involve ancient Greeks or Romans.’

‘Except for the occasional English racehorse. What about their dowries? Will you contribute to that charity?’ he questioned.

‘Dear Sir George would not agree. Besides, Rilla would create a rumpus. She is proud and not at all keen on marriage.’

‘That will be a change. Rilla? An unusual name.’ ‘Short for Amaryllis.’

‘How unfortunate. Her mother was in a botanical mood, I presume.’ But the name was unforgettable. He’d heard it before.

Good God!

‘Not that girl who rode the pig through Lady Lockhart’s garden at that party we attended before I went to the Continent?’ he asked with dawning comprehension.

‘A goat, actually. And she was younger then.’

‘You plan to present this…urn, young lady?’ A smile tugged at his mouth.

‘Rilla is much improved. And we all fall into scrapes in our youth.’

‘I do not remember riding stray barnyard animals.’

‘You were always a responsible youth. Besides, as I recall, you said it was the best part of the day.’

‘That was a long time ago.’ Paul stood and walked to the window, stifling a yawn.

‘You’re tired.’ Lady Wyburn spoke sharply. ‘You did not sleep well.’

Of course he had not slept well. He’d been at Wyburn, hadn’t he? He never slept well at his estate. Or within a ten-mile radius of that cursed lake.

He rolled his shoulders. ‘It is more likely the heat in this room and not my sleeping habits which make me yawn. Might we return to the subject of your neighbours?’

‘Delightful girls.’

‘Generally people you find delightful prove unscrupulous.’ He turned from the window with sudden decision. ‘I will pay my respects to the Gibsons this afternoon. I trust you will take note if I am dissatisfied with their character.’

‘I always listen to your insights. Ride over now, dear.’ Lady Wyburn waved a hand in the direction of the French window as if expecting him to leap through it on his mission.

Paul preferred a more conventional exit. ‘Goodbye, Stepmother,’ he said, kissing her cheek. ‘Enjoy yourself.’

‘As I would a visit to the tooth extractor,’ he muttered, striding from the room.

Miss Amaryllis Gibson sat on the wooden swing that hung from the lowest limb of the chestnut tree. She scuffed her feet. This was her favourite spot on the estate. She liked the view of their solid red-brick house. She enjoyed the ramshackle shapes of the dairy, wash house and stable. She even appreciated the smell, a sweet mix of soap, grass and horses.

But today, none of this helped. She poked the toe of her shabby black-buttoned boot into the earth.

She’d woken with one of her feelings.

Rilla hated her feelings. No, hatred would be a far preferable emotion. She feared them. They made goosebumps prickle her arms and her shoulders tense. She wanted to run or gallop, as though with enough speed she could escape from her own mind.

Pushing the swing higher, she breathed deeply. Her petticoats billowed as she stretched too-long legs, gaining height and speed. Loose strands of hair tickled her face and the fields blurred.

Briefly, her stomach lurched as she hung at the highest point, only to fly down in tumultuous descent. Momentum, it was called. Momentum fascinated her.

Many improper things fascinated Rilla: Roman aqueducts, force, gravity, Sir Isaac Newton’s theories and her mechanised butter churn. Unfortunately, no one appreciated such items, and her water-powered churn had only succeeded in flooding the dairy.

Rilla frowned. Of course, in London she’d have little time for her inventions. Proper ladies did not develop churns.

Or flood dairies.

Or have feelings.

Sliding to a stop, Rilla jumped from the swing. Even thinking about London bothered her. She had no desire for the city with its meaningless social niceties and the constant pressure to find a husband, which was, of course, the one thing she must not do.

How she’d always loved this tree. She liked its thick, sheltering canopy of green and the feeling of her own strength and invulnerability as she pulled herself, branch by branch, through its foliage. It was even the site of her first pulley. She could see it now, the wooden wheel and rope partially entangled within the twigs and leaves.

Could she? Just once more? After all, the rope should be removed for safety’s sake. With a thrill of forbidden pleasure, she looked about the still garden and drive.

Nothing and no one.

Stepping forward, she touched the trunk. The bark was rough under her fingertips. She inhaled. The air smelled wonderful, of wood, and earth, and mushrooms.

Scooping up the loose cloth of her skirt, she tucked it into the sash around her waist and grabbed the lowest branch. With strong, quick movements, she reached the pulley and, leaning forward, untangled the rope and tossed it to the ground below.

Done. She exhaled, allowing herself a moment to relax in this world of green light and dappled sun. A late-spring breeze touched her cheeks and the leaves rustled.

She would have stayed longer if she hadn’t heard the rhythmic clip-clop of a horse’s hooves. She stiffened. They seldom had guests, unless they were of the card-playing variety, but Father had given that up two months since.

Bending, she squinted through the leaves.

A gentleman approached along their rutted drive. He stopped his horse under her tree and dismounted with elegant, long-limbed grace. He was tall and lean with hair so dark it looked black.

Then it came.

The sensation was of loss and pain so intense her world spun. Branches and leaves joggled in a blur of green. Rilla gulped for air.

The world turned dark, as though night had descended.

Dimly she saw a lake, ink black and spattered with raindrops. So cold her fingers numbed and her grip loosened. She reached out, snatching a twig.She missed and, with a cry, fell through the sharp, splintering branches to the ground below.

She landed with a jarring jolt and gasped in shock and pain.

‘What –? Miss, are you all right?’ The voice came as if from a distance.

She opened her eyes. Daylight reappeared.

A man bent over he, a man different than any she had met before. The straight dark brows, unyielding jaw and mouth gave her the confused impression of harsh strength. Briefly, his stark silhouette seemed mythical – Hades searching for Persephone.



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Eleanor WebsterEleanor Webster loves high-heels and sun, which is ironic as she lives in northern Canada, the land of snowhills and unflattering footwear. Various crafting experiences, including a nasty glue-gun episode, have proven that her creative soul is best expressed through the written word. Eleanor is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in psychology and holds an undergraduate degree in history and creative writing. She loves to use her writing to explore her fascination with the past.

You can connect with Eleanor at her website * ~ * ~ * Goodreads.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Avelynn by Marissa Campbell

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One extraordinary Saxon noblewoman and one fearless Viking warrior find passion and danger in this dazzling and sensuous debut.

Marissa Campbell’s debut novel is a winning combination of romance, history, and adventure sure to appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon.

It is 869. For eighteen years, Avelynn, the beautiful and secretly pagan daughter of the Eadlorman of Somerset has lived in an environment of love and acceptance. She hasn’t yet found a man to make her heart race, but her father has not pressured her to get married. Until now. With whispers of war threatening their land, her father forces Avelynn into a betrothal with Demas, a man who only covets her wealth and status. The dreaded marriage looming, she turns to her faith, searching for answers in an ancient ritual along the coast, only to find Alrik the Blood-Axe and sixty Viking berserkers have landed.

Alrik is unlike any man she has ever known, strong and intriguing. Likewise, he instantly falls for her beauty and courage. The two stumble into a passionate love affair, but it’s more than just a greedy suitor who will try to keep them apart.

As the Saxons and Vikings go to war, Avelynn and Alrik find themselves caught in the throes of fate. Can they be true to their people as well as to each other?.


A coarse, bloodcurdling shout reverberated through the mist. The drum silenced. I froze. My heart took up a thunderous beat as if a thousand starlings’ wings beat in my chest. Something was terribly wrong. I turned my gaze to the sea, frantically scanning the swirling, ebbing mass of gray, willing the mist to lift.

Shades and shadows melted away. The outline of a Viking ship materialized before my eyes. A blood-red sail pierced the gloom, a black bird emblazed upon the fabric. A beast of a man ran toward me, a painted shield in one hand, an axe in the other. He stepped over the circle and grabbed my arms. I could smell the fetid reek of his breath, the unwashed sweat and sea spray on his filthy clothes. I screamed. He snarled, covered my mouth, and thrust me to the ground. I kicked and thrashed as he fumbled one-handed with the drawstring on his trousers.

Then he stopped, a look of surprise etched in his wide eyes. Blood sputtered out of his mouth, and he fell sideways.

I scrambled back as his body twitched, my breath ragged. An axe was stuck fast in his spine.

I screamed again as another Viking appeared before me. Taller than Glastonbury Tor, he wore a silver helmet with nose and cheek guards and full mail. The same black bird as on the ship’s sail stretched its wings across the battered wooden surface of his shield. A sword and a knife, cradled in their scabbards, hung from a leather belt on his waist. He grabbed one of the dead Viking’s feet and hauled him out of the circle. He jerked the axe free of the body and tucked the weapon into a sling that hung on his back.

I found my feet, spinning to discover the extent of my trouble. Were there more invaders? Did the Viking know I was alone with no chance of aid? Were his men scoping the surrounding area even now? Did they find our campsite with only two horses and two bedrolls? Where was Bertram?

The Viking looked down at the circle drawn in the sand and bowed. With his body still bent, he raised his head, blue eyes regarding me. “I apologize for the disruption to your ritual, Seiðkana,” he said, speaking in the Norse tongue.

I narrowed my eyes at him. Seiðkana? I wasn’t sure of the translation of the word, but I thought it meant witch.

“Who are you?” I asked in Norse, earning a look of shock.

“I am Alrik the Bloodaxe, your servant.”


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

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 869, England
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Jill

There was no future for us. He was a Viking, I was a Saxon.

At seventeen, Avelynn is almost past her time for marriage. She has been waiting for a love match, similar to that of her mother and father. But with the threat of an imminent invasion by Viking hordes, her father wants to see her safe, and arranges a betrothal to the wealthy Demas of Wareham.

02_Avelynn_CoverIn a land that has been Christianised for generations, Avelynn is a pagan, a secret worshipper of the Goddess, like her mother before her. Unimpressed and suspicious of Demas, Avelynn travels to a mystical place on the west coast of Somerset to celebrate the equinox, and to ask the Goddess’s blessing and guidance. There on the shores of the sea she comes face-to-face with Alrik, the Bloodaxe.

Set in England 869AD, this is Marissa Campbell’s debut and overall it’s a pretty fine read. The strength here might be the descriptions of the era, setting and culture of the 9th century. Well-paced, with a flowing narrative, she captures the spirit and life of the times when England had been invaded by the Great Heathen Army. The historical details combine deftly with the romance.

Narrated in first person from Avelynn’s point-of-view, we don’t get to see a lot of pillaging by these Vikings, unfortunately. With the story viewed through Avelynn’s eyes, we do get to see her view of life in Britain at the time, and the mysticism and supernatural world of the pagan. Avelynn has been given a fair amount of freedom by her father, the Earl of Somerset. But with the spread of Christianity, with women made subservient to men and women’s rights diminished, she bristles at not being allowed to choose her own husband, own her own land, and to be respected.

Despite being a Viking, Alrik is not quite the bloodthirsty Norseman that one normally reads about, at least with Avelynn. He is a considered warrior-lite compared to his brothers, Ivan, Ubbe and Halfdan. Under Ivan’s leadership the Vikings had marched into East Anglia more than four years before. With a cruel and mostly absent father, Alrik was raised by his mother and a Christian priest who educated him in languages, mathematics and morality, but he was also taught to fight by his father.

My only real complaint here, is that the romance between Alrik and Avelynn leans towards the insta-love kind. Although it took Avelynn a little longer, it didn’t take too long for Alrik to fall for her.

In all, Avelynn is a very strong début. And one that would suit fans of both romantic historical fiction and Viking romances, rather than readers of straight historical fiction.



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03_Marissa Campbell_AuthorMarissa Campbell is a published freelance author, and co-author of the award-winning, spiritual self-help book Life: Living in Fulfillment Every Day.

Look for her debut historical fiction Avelynn coming September 8th, 2015, from St. Martin’s Press. Currently, hard at work on the second book in the Avelynn series, she is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America, Writer’s Community of Durham Region, and local critique group B7.

When she is not writing, she is busy looking after her wonderful children, spending time with her fantastic husband, hanging out with her awesome friends, teaching yoga, dancing, laughing, and having fun!

For more information visit You can also follow Marissa Campbell on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Duke’s Daughter by Sasha Cottman

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When handsome army officer Avery Fox unexpectedly inherits a fortune, he instantly becomes one of the season’s most eligible bachelors. More accustomed to the battlefield, he has no patience with the naive debutantes who fill the ballrooms of London.

Honest and impetuous Lady Lucy Radley is a breath of fresh air, guiding him through the season and helping him to avoid any traps. So when Avery is left with little option but to marry Lucy, he can’t help but feel he’s been manipulated. Nor can he shake the feeling that a duke’s daughter should be out of his reach.

From the wildly beautiful Scottish Highlands to the elegant soirees of Paris, Avery and Lucy go on a journey that is full of surprises for them both. But will their feelings for each other be strong enough to overcome the circumstances of their marriage and survive the ghosts of Avery’s past?

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By every measure of her own behaviour, Lady Lucy Radley knew this was the worst.

‘You reckless fool,’ she muttered under her breath as she headed back inside and into the grand ballroom.

The room was a crush of London’s social elite. Every few steps she had to stop and make small talk with friends or acquaintances. A comment here and there about someone’s gown or promising a social call made for slow going.

Finally she spied her cousin, Eve. She fixed a smile to her face as Eve approached.

‘Where have you been, Lucy? I’ve been searching everywhere for you.’

‘I was just outside admiring the flowers on the terrace.’

Eve frowned, but the lie held.

Another night, another ball in one of London’s high-society homes. In one respect Lucy would be happy when the London social season ended in a few weeks; then she would be free to travel to her family home in Scotland and go tramping across the valleys and mountain paths, the chill wind ruffling her hair.

She puffed out her cheeks. With the impending close of the season came an overwhelming sense of failure. Her two older brothers, David and Alex, had taken wives. Perfect, love-filled unions with delightful girls, each of whom

Lucy was happy to now call sister.

Her newest sister-in-law, Earl Langham’s daughter Clarice, was already in a delicate condition, and Lucy suspected it was only a matter of time before her brother Alex and his wife Millie shared some good news.

For herself, this season had been an unmitigated disaster on the husband-hunting front. The pickings were slim at best. Having refused both an earl and a viscount the previous season, she suspected other suitable gentlemen now viewed her as too fussy. No gentleman worth his boots wanted a difficult wife. Only the usual group of fortune-hunters, intent on getting their hands on her substantial dowry, were lining up at this stage of the season to ask her to dance. Maintaining her pride as the daughter of a duke, she refused them all.

Somewhere in the collective gentry of England there must be a man worthy of her love. She just had to find him.

What a mess.

‘You are keeping something from me,’ Eve said, poking a finger gently into Lucy’s arm.

Lucy shook her head. ‘It’s nothing. I suspect I am suffering from a touch of ennui. These balls all begin to look the same after a while. All the same people, sharing the same gossip.’

‘Oh dear, and I thought I was having a bad day,’ Eve replied.

‘Sorry, I was being selfish. You are the one who needs a friend to cheer her up,’ Lucy replied. She kissed her cousin gently on the cheek.

Eve’s brother William had left London earlier that day to return to his home in Paris, and she knew her cousin was taking his departure hard.

‘Yes, well, I knew I could sit at home and cry, or I could put on a happy face and try to find something to smile about,’ Eve replied.

Eve’s father had tried without success to convince his son to return permanently to England. With the war now over and Napoleon toppled from power, everyone expected William Saunders to come home immediately, but it had taken two years for him to make the journey back to London.

‘Perhaps once he gets back to France and starts to miss us all again, he shall have a change of heart,’ Lucy said.

‘One can only hope. Now, let’s go and find a nice quiet spot and you can tell me what you were really doing out in the garden. Charles Ashton came in the door not a minute before you, and he had a face like thunder. As I happened to see the two of you head out into the garden at the same time a little while ago, I doubt Charles’ foul temper was because he found the flowers not to his liking,’ Eve replied.

It was late when Lucy and her parents finally returned home to Strathmore House. The Duke and Duchess of Strathmore’s family home was one of the largest houses in the elegant West End of London. It was close to the peaceful greenery of Hyde Park, and Lucy couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

As they came through the grand entrance to Strathmore House she was greeted by the sight of her eldest brother David seated on a low couch outside their father’s study. He was clad in a heavy black greatcoat and his hat was in his hand.

‘Hello, David; bit late for a visit this evening. I hope nothing is wrong,’ said Lord Strathmore.

‘Clarice?’ asked Lady Caroline.

‘She’s fine, sleeping soundly at home,’ he replied.

Lucy sensed the pride and love for his wife in her brother’s voice. He had found his true soulmate in Lord Langham’s daughter.

David stood and came over. When he reached them, he greeted his mother and sister with a kiss. His dark hair was a stark contrast to both Lady Caroline’s and Lucy’s fair complexions.

He turned to his father. ‘Lord Langham’s missing heir has been found, and the news is grave. My father-in-law asked that I come and inform you before it becomes public knowledge. A rather horrid business, by all accounts.’

‘I see. Ladies, would you please excuse us? This demands my immediate attention,’ Lord Strathmore said.

As Lucy and Lady Caroline headed up the grand staircase, he and David retired to his study. As soon as the door was closed behind them, David shared the news.

‘The remains of Thaxter Fox were retrieved from the River Fleet a few hours ago. His brother Avery, whom you met at my wedding ball a few weeks ago, has formally identified the body. Lord Langham is currently making funeral arrangements,’ David said.

His father shook his head. It was not an unexpected outcome of the search for the missing Thaxter Fox.

He wandered over to a small table and poured two glasses of whisky. He handed one to David.

‘Well, that makes for a new and interesting development. I don’t expect Avery Fox had ever entertained the notion before today that he would one day be Earl Langham,’ Lord Strathmore replied, before downing his drink.

‘Perhaps, but he had to know the likelihood of finding his brother in one piece was slim at best. From our enquiries, it was obvious Thaxter had a great many enemies,’ David replied.

‘Including you,’ said the duke.

David looked down at his gold wedding ring. It still bore the newlywed gleam, which made him smile.

‘He and I had come to a certain understanding. If he stayed away from Langham House and Clarice, I would not flay the skin off his back. No, someone else decided to make Thaxter pay for his evil ways.’

The Langham and Radley families held little affection for the recently deceased heir to the Langham title. After Thaxter had made an attempt to seize Clarice’s dowry through a forced marriage, both families had severed all ties.

Thaxter had disappeared not long after.

David would do everything in his power to protect Clarice. With a baby on the way, he was fully prepared to stare down the rest of the town if it meant keeping his wife safe. As the illegitimate, but acknowledged, son of the duke,

David had overcome many of society’s prejudices in order to successfully woo and wed Lord Langham’s only daughter.

‘Unkind as it sounds, I doubt many at Langham House will be mourning the demise of the eldest Mr Fox,’ his father replied.




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sasha cottman author picBorn in England, but raised in Australia, Sasha has a love for both countries. Having her heart in two places has created a love for travel, which at last count was to over 55 countries. A travel guide is always on her pile of new books to read.

Her first published novel, Letter from a Rake was a finalist for the 2014 Romantic Book of the Year.
Sasha lives with her husband, teenage daughter and a cat who demands a starring role in the next book. She has found new hiding spots for her secret chocolate stash. On the weekends Sasha loves walking on the beach while trying to deal with her bad knee and current Fitbit obsession.

You can connect with Sasha at: * ~ * ~ * Blog * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Goodreads * ~ * ~ * Pinterest.

SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: An Immortal Descent by Kari Edgren

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Purchase Links: Amazon * ~ * ~ * Barnes & Noble * ~ * ~ * iTunes

As a goddess-born healer, Selah Kilbrid wants nothing to do with the goddess of death and disease, nor any of her human progeny. But when the two people she loves most disappear—her dearest friend Nora Goodwin and her betrothed Lord Henry Fitzalan—Selah has no choice but to leave London in pursuit of Death’s most powerful daughter.

Accompanied by a ragtag group of travelers, Selah follows a treacherous path across the Irish Sea to the long-forgotten prison of a witch who once nearly destroyed Ireland. Selah would face any danger to protect those she loves, but what if it means unleashing a greater evil on the human world? Could she risk the lives of many to save a few, or are some sacrifices too great?



In an instant, the ground fell away, and my stomach flew up as we dropped into thin air. My startled scream turned to a grunt a second later when my feet hit the ground. The lantern fell from my grasp to the sound of breaking glass, and I stumbled sideways, only to be caught by Henry’s firm grip.

He pulled me to him. “I’ve got you,” he whispered.

A rush of cool air hissed over me, the musty scent making my nerves cringe. It lasted only a moment before fading to deadly stillness. I blinked several times, trying to get my bearings, but there was nothing to see. Blackness surrounded us. Muffled voices seemed to echo from every direction, male and female.

Henry strengthened his hold on my hand. “We need to move.”

Brigid’s fire ran to my fingertips. Nothing changed with the first step or even the second. On the third, a faint light penetrated the darkness, and I realized we were in a stone tunnel of sorts, as though someone had burrowed straight into the hillside. The voices grew more distinct, and shapes appeared, two lone figures ahead of us.

Henry must have seen them as well, for he quickened his pace and another half dozen steps brought us behind Cate and Tom. Somehow Cate had managed to keep hold of her lantern, which she now held aloft. Tom stood at her side, his broadsword at a slightly higher angle. We edged closer, and the sides of the tunnel curved outward at what looked to be the beginning of a cavern.

“Where are we?” I whispered.

Cate tilted her head up, though only darkness could be seen beyond the small circle of lantern light. “Between our two worlds.” Her hushed voice skimmed the stone that surrounded us on all sides.

Henry placed a protective hand on my shoulder. “It would appear that no one is home.”

Creases formed around Cate’s narrowed eyes. “I’m not so sure about that.” She continued to study the darkness but said no more.

Silent as a ghost, Ailish drew alongside me. She didn’t speak a word, just inhaled a slow, deep breath through her nose. Releasing it, she repeated the action, this time holding it for several seconds.

“What is it, Miss O’Bearra,” Cate asked.

Ailish exhaled, and her cold breath brushed my cheek. “I smell death, milady.”


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An Immortal Descent


03_Kari EdgrenKari Edgren is the author of the Goddess Born series. In 2010 and 2011 she was a semifinalist for the Amazon Break Through Novel Award. In 2013, she was a RWA Golden Heart finalist. Ms. Edgren enjoys writing both historical and contemporary fiction, so long as there’s a paranormal twist. She resides on a mountain top in the Pacific Northwest where she spends a great deal of time dreaming about the sun and torturing her husband and children with strange food and random historical facts.

For more information please visit Kari Edgren’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Dangerous Secrets by Caroline Warfield


When a little brown wren of an Englishwoman bursts into Jamie Heyworth’s private hell and asks for help he mistakes her for the black crow of death. Why not? He fled to Rome and sits in despair with nothing left to sell and no reason to get up in the morning. Behind him lie disgrace, shame, and secrets he is desperate to keep even from powerful friends in London.

Nora Haley comes to Rome at the bidding of her dying brother who has an unexpected legacy. Never in her sunniest dreams did Nora expect Robert to leave her a treasure, a tiny blue-eyed niece with curly hair and warm hugs. Nora will do anything to keep her, even hire a shabby, drunken major as an interpreter.

Jamie can’t let Nora know the secrets he has hidden from everyone, even his closest friends. Nora can’t trust any man who drinks. She had enough of that in her marriage. Either one, however, will dare anything for the little imp that keeps them together, even enter a sham marriage to protect her. Will love — and the truth — bind them both together?

Purchase Links: Amazon US * ~ * ~ * Amazon UK * ~ * ~ * Amazon Canada


Jamie’s senses began to clear, and he realized some woman pounded on his door. The vexatious chit from last night, he thought. The woman had invaded the tavern he frequented like the black crow of death and would not leave.

The little blackbird had good credit, he remembered. He eyed the three empty wine bottles on his table. He distinctly remembered only having money for one. He had spent his last coin on that bottle. She must have funded the other two. There had been food, too, he remembered, and a very fine cheese. Jamie Heyworth never forgot a good meal.

“Major, please! It is past nine in the morning, and we will be late,” the woman’s voice called.

Late for what? He struggled to recall.

After he plied her with tea and calmed her down, she had fed him some tale about dying brothers, evil nuns, a menacing count, and nieces held prisoner in a tower. Maybe not a tower, he thought. He felt sure he remembered the rest correctly.

“Major Bently!”

Ah! Bently. Using his mother’s maiden name amused him when he gave it to her. Major Lord James Phineas Heyworth, Fourth Baron—and so on—sounded ludicrous attached to his pathetic self even if he didn’t have good reason to avoid being found. He preferred not to use it. Bently sounded safer. He hoped it was.

Did I promise anything?

“You promised you would meet me by the fountain in the piazza at 8:30 this morning,” said the voice behind the door.

Her answer stunned him. He could think of no reason why he would promise some chance-met blackbird anything, much less an early morning rendezvous.

“Are you well?” the voice persisted.

No, damn it, I feel like the very devil.

“Yes. I am well. We were to meet at 8:30 in the evening, were we not?” he responded.

No sane person runs about at 8:30 in the morning. He began to wonder if the woman really was mad, one of those hysterical females who reads too many novels.

“Don’t be ridiculous. The nuns wouldn’t let us in the hospital in the evening,” she said.

Nuns again! And more infernal banging. He doubted the door, though thick as a post, could stand against his ravening crow.

“Major, you promised! You said—”

Jamie threw the door open. The woman stumbled against him. Soft curves pressed against his entire length and jarred his sluggish body awake.

I’m not dead yet! The thought improved his mood considerably. He produced his cheekiest grin and made no effort to remove her soft body from his person.

“What did I promise, exactly?” he asked, staring down into a delicately sculpted face, inches from his. He liked the feel of her. She’s hiding her best parts under all that English wool. Doesn’t the foolish woman know she is in Rome?

The chit pushed herself away, slipped under his guard, entered the room, and frowned in distaste. No schoolroom miss, this one.

In daylight, she looked more like a wren than a raven. Dressed in sensible brown, she radiated bright, searching eyes and flowing energy. Too damned much energy for so early in the morning. Her eyes darted over the bottles, scattered clothing, and the dirty dishes on his broken chair.

“You said that you . . .”

She stopped abruptly and gaped.

He glanced down.

“Luckily, I fell asleep in my shirt,” he said, lips twitching. “I’m sure I can locate my trousers and smallclothes, if you’ll give me a moment.”

For an instant, blue sparks flared in her eyes, which were rimmed by thick honey-gold lashes. Just as fast, she turned her back.

“Quickly, please.” She spoke toward the window. He wondered what color she would turn if she knew how well she showed off her derrière when she pulled her frock tightly to one side with white-knuckled fury.

“What exactly did I promise that has brought you running, fleet of foot, to my quarters this morning?” he asked.

He moved with deliberate slowness around the room, picking up clothing discarded the night before and searching his brain for promises discarded just as easily.

“You agreed to speak with the nuns, to interpret for me,” the woman said.

That was it. The wren needs an interpreter, needs one so badly that she let some excitable waiter drag her into a seedy tavern she had no business entering to meet an English “gentleman.” More fool she.

“I should not be surprised you don’t remember. You were much the worse for drink last night,” she complained.

She has me there.

“You’re acquainted with the effects of drink?” he asked. Intriguing.

“More than I wish. My husband—oh, do hurry up!” She stomped her foot and, much to his regret, let go of her skirts.

Husband? Pity, he thought. Inevitable though.

“Are you ready?” she demanded.

“You might wait until I’m finished with my trousers. Your husband will—”

“Do nothing!” She sounded furious.

“I beg your pardon?” He buttoned the fall of his trousers.

“My husband will do nothing. He died three years ago.”

“Ah, then there is no one to be concerned about your presence in a man’s room in a foreign city in which you speak not a word of the native language. What’s the hurry?”

“The hurry, Major,” she almost spat out his rank, “is that I am only permitted to visit Isabella during very strictly set hours.”


“My niece!”

Of course. The niece.

“Do pay attention. Sister Amelia Maria will be at the hospital, but I am told the others will allow me a visit, only the briefest visit, in their common room,” she went on.

Ah. No tower. The niece is imprisoned in a—Good Lord!

“You are taking me to a convent?” he gasped.

“Of course.”

“I must have been ‘much the worse for drink’ indeed, if I agreed to that.”



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Carol Roddy - AuthorCaroline Warfield has at various times been an army brat, a librarian, a poet, a raiser of children, a nun, a bird watcher, a network services manager, a conference speaker, a tech writer, a genealogist, and, of course, a romantic. She is always a traveler, a would-be adventurer, and a writer of historical romance, enamored of owls, books, history, and beautiful gardens (but not the act of gardening).

This book began with the thought, what could I do with English regency-era characters if I put them in Rome?

You can connect with Caroline at:  her website * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * LibraryThing * ~ * ~ * Amazon * ~ * ~ * Goodreads * ~ * ~ * Bluestocking Belles