Tag Archive | Victorian Period

VIRTUAL TOUR: Rules for a Rogue (Romancing the Rules #1) by Christy Carlyle

vt-rulesforarogue-ccarlyle_final

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Kit Ruthven’s Rules (for Rogues)
#1 Love freely but guard your heart, no matter how tempting the invader.
#2 Embrace temptation, indulge your sensual impulses, and never apologize.
#3 Scorn rules and do as you please. You are a rogue, after all.

Following the rules never brought anything but misery for Christopher “Kit” Ruthven. After rebelling against his controlling father and leaving the family’s Ruthven Rules etiquette book empire behind, Kit has been breaking every one imaginable for the past six years. He’s enjoyed London’s sensual pleasures and secured his reputation as a Rogue, but he’s failed to achieve success. When he inherits his father’s publishing business, Kit is forced back into the life he never wanted. Worse, he must face Ophelia Marsden, the woman he jilted but never forgot.

After losing her father and refusing a loveless marriage proposal, Ophelia has learned to rely on herself. To maintain the family home and support her younger brother, she tutors young girls in deportment and decorum. But her pupils would be scandalized if they knew their imminently proper teacher was also the author of a guidebook encouraging ladies to embrace their independence and overthrow outdated notions of etiquette like the Ruthven Rules.

As Kit rediscovers the life, and the woman, he left behind, Ophelia must choose between the practicalities she never truly believed in, or the love she’s never been able to extinguish.

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EXCERPT

Before Ophelia could gather her sister and head back to the kitchen, a knock sounded at the front door. Juliet clutched her notebook to her chest and bolted back into the library.

Slipping Guidelines behind her back with one hand, Ophelia grasped the doorknob with the other. She schooled her features into a pleasant expression in case it was Mrs. Raybourn or, heaven forbid, Mr. Raybourn, in need of more reassurance their girls weren’t on the high road to ruin because of the book no one knew she’d written.

When she pulled the door open, all the breath whooshed from her body.

Their visitor wasn’t any member of the Raybourn family.

“Kit Ruthven.”

“You remember me, then?” He grinned as he loomed on the threshold, his shoulders nearly as wide as the frame. Eyes bright and intense, he took her in from head to toe, and then let his gaze settle on her mouth. When he finally looked into her eyes, the cocksure tilt of his grin had softened. She read a wariness in his gaze that matched her own.

She’d spent years trying to forget those dark, deep-set eyes.

“I remember you.” Her book slipped, skidding across her backside and clattering to the floor as her throat tightened on sentiments she’d been waiting years to express. None of them would come. Not a single word. Instead, in outright rebellion, her whole body did its best to melt into a boneless puddle. Gritting her teeth, Phee fought the urge to swoon or, worse, rush into his long, muscled arms.

“I’m relieved to hear it.” He had the audacity to kick his grin into a smile, a rakish slash that cut deep divots into his clean-shaven cheeks. Then he took a step through her door. “I worried that—”

“No.” She lifted a hand to stop him. Looking at the man was difficult enough. Hearing his voice—deeper now but achingly familiar—was too much. If he came closer, she might give in to some rogue impulse. And that wouldn’t do.

That wouldn’t do at all.

Ophelia swallowed hard. She needed a moment to gather her wits. To rebuild her walls.

“You dropped something.” He moved toward her, so close his sleeve brushed hers.

She lowered her hand to avoid touching him and jerked back when he bent to retrieve her book, watching as he turned the volume to read its title.

Miss Gilroy’s Guidelines for Young Ladies. How intriguing. Looks as though Ruthven Publishing has some competition.”

Seeing him again was worse than she’d imagined. And she had imagined this moment aplenty. Far too many times. Not just on her infrequent jaunts to London but most days since they’d parted. The man had lingered in her thoughts, despite every effort to expel him.

Taking a shaky breath, she braced herself and faced him.

He’d always been tall. When they were children, she’d looked up to him. Literally. But he’d never used his size to bully others. More often he’d born teasing about his physique. Ungainly, his father had called him, and Kit repeated the word when referring to himself.

Now he offered no apologetic hunch in his stance. He didn’t cross his arms to narrow his body. More than embracing his size, he wielded his generous dimensions with a virile grace that made Phee’s mouth water. He stood with his long legs planted wide, shoulders thrown back. His chest was so broad that she itched to touch it.

Stop being a ninny, she chided herself. The most essential observation was that he did not look like a man who’d pined for her. Not a hint of guilt shadowed his gaze.

He thrust his hands behind his back, and the buttons above his waistcoat strained against the fabric on either side, as if the muscles beneath were too sizable to contain. Phee’s gaze riveted to the spot, waiting to see which would win—the pearly buttons or the dove gray fabric. When sense finally wound its way into her boggled mind, she glanced up into gilded brown eyes. He was the winner, judging by the satisfied smirk cresting his mouth.

Kit stood too near, close enough for her to smell his scent. A familiar green, like fresh-cut grass, but mingled now with an aromatic spice. Each breath held his spice scent heightened by the warmth of his body. The heat of him radiated against her chest.

His eyes were too intense, too hungry. He perused her brazenly, studying the hem of her outdated gown before his gaze roved up her legs, paused at her waist, lingered on her bosom, and caught for a moment on her lips. Finally, he met her eyes, and his mouth flicked up in a shameless grin.

She looked anywhere but at his eyes. On his neck, she noted the scar from a childhood adventure in the blackberry briar. Then she got stuck admiring his hair. Apparently his scandalous London lifestyle—if the rumors she’d heard were true—called for allowing his jet black hair to grow long and ripple in careless waves. Strands licked at his neck, curled up near his shoulders.

Time had been truly unfair. The years hadn’t weathered Kit at all. If anything, his features were sharper and more appealing. His Roman nose contrasted with the sensual fullness of his lips and those high Ruthven cheekbones. And his eyes. Gold and amber and chocolate hues chased each other around a pinwheel, all shadowed by enviably thick ebony lashes. One theater reviewer had written of the “power of his penetrating gaze.”

Ophelia only knew he’d once been able to see straight to her heart.

Retreating from his magnetic pull, she dipped her head and stared at his polished black boots, the neatly tailored cuffs of his trousers. Black as pitch, his clothing reminded her why he was here. He’d come to the village to bury his father. He was no doubt as eager to return to London as she was to close her eyes and make the too tempting sight of him disappear. But why had he come to her home?

“My condolences to you and your sisters,” she offered, and almost added Mr. Ruthven. That’s what everyone in the village would call him now, and they would expect him to live up to the name. Just as his father had.

“You didn’t attend the funeral.”

“Would your father have wished me to?” They both knew Kit’s father had never welcomed her presence in his life. She didn’t bother mentioning that Ruthven’s rule book explicitly instructed ladies to avoid funerals.

He shrugged. “I only know what I wished.”

There it was. The heart of all that had passed between them spelled out in six words. Kit had never doubted what he wanted—freedom, fame as a playwright, financial success on his own terms. Unfortunately, she’d never made it high enough on his list.

“Forgive me for missing your father’s funeral. I promise to call on your sisters soon.” Ophelia slid the door toward him, forcing him to retreat as she eased it closed. “Thank you for your visit.”

Pushing his sizable booted foot forward, he wedged it between the door and its frame. “I don’t think we can count this as a visit until you invite me in.”

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: AVON Impulse, November 2016

Time and Setting: England, 1894
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by: Heather C.

Kit and Phee were close friends and very nearly lovers before he left the country life for the siren call of London and the thrilling life of a playwright. During the next four years apart, Kit and Phee both tried to convince themselves that they were not hurt by the decision and could move on, but when the death of Kit’s father brings him back home to settle the estate, the past doesn’t seem so much in the past between these two. Can they get their feelings sorted out and make a go of it again or are they destined to remain apart?

I very much enjoyed Rules for a Rogue and I credit most of that to the fact that the situations that unfolded within the story do not feel contrived, but are instead natural and believable. I wasn’t required to suspend reality for one moment. Kit leaves for the city because he doesn’t fit with his father’s strict regime at home and he wants the thrill of the stage in London, yet he leaves behind his heart. His father’s death is due to a long-standing illness, not some sudden onset, and Kit returns home with the plan to just put his family back together then return to the place he has made his home… that is, until he runs into Phee again. Meanwhile, Phee has a secret; she has penned a guidebook for young ladies that pushes the envelope toward modernity and she doesn’t want her close-minded community to find out that she is the author. Her secret and Kit’s family’s business dealings come together in a way that could bring them closer or set them farther apart and I liked how both Kit and Phee vacillated between the possible outcomes. The author strikes the right balance between the light, comedic moments and the more serious elements that contribute to the believability of the story.

I really enjoyed the characters in this novel. Ms. Carlyle makes each one into a full figure – even the peripheral characters like Kit’s sisters, Phee’s sister and aunt, and their friends. Very quickly each is given a distinct personality that is anything but cookie-cutter. While they might seem to represent tropes (the hard-headed heroine, the rogue, the spinster friend, etc.) there are so many layers here that are peeled back as the story goes on to discover more complexities than previously thought. Even the villainous character isn’t a representation of evil; in Christy Carlyle’s hands he is more of a persistent prig that causes our couple hardship by getting in the way rather than intentionally wreaking havoc. Additionally, I believed in the character’s motives. Both Phee and Kit have been hurt and are trying to protect their hearts, but also make the hard decisions to do what is right by their families, and each other. We also have just enough back-story to fill in the details of their relationship before Kit goes to London to make the reader understand just what they gave up by making that decision.

The romantic element here is spot on. The author did not need to spend lots of time on the build up as these two had been nearly lovers in the past, but did need to give readers something to connect with first. It’s sweet, but necessary and doesn’t feel all that scandalous despite how it would have been perceived by society.

I don’t often pay much attention to quotes that authors sometimes use at the start of each chapter, because they are too oblique for me to pick up on the reference while reading, but that isn’t the case here. The majority of the chapters begin with either an excerpt from one of Ruthven’s Rules or alternatively, Miss Gilroy’s Guidebook for Young Ladies. These two books do play a significant role in the greater story arc and each rule or guideline directly connects to an action taken by either Kit or Phee in that chapter. There is a clear purpose here and I appreciated it.

Overall, I was very satisfied with this story as I just ate up the pages and was left wanting more.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

christyFueled by Pacific Northwest coffee and inspired by multiple viewings of every British costume drama she can get her hands on, Christy Carlyle writes sensual historical romance set in the Victorian era. She loves heroes who struggle against all odds and heroines who are ahead of their time. A former teacher with a degree in history, she finds there’s nothing better than being able to combine her love of the past with a die-hard belief in happy endings.

You can connect with Christy at: website * ~ * Facebook * ~ * Twitter * ~ * Goodreads.

VIRTUAL TOUR: Discovery of Desire (London Explorers #2) by Susanne Lord

Discover of Desire

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The one man who’s not looking for a wife

Seth Mayhew is the ideal explorer: fearless, profitable, and unmarried. There is nothing and no one he can’t find—until his sister disappears en route to India. His search for her takes him to Bombay, where Seth meets the most unlikely of allies—a vulnerable woman who’s about to marry the wrong man.

Discovers a woman who changes his dreams forever

Teeming with the bounty of marriageable men employed by the East India Company, Bombay holds hope for security for Wilhelmina Adams. But when the man she’s traveled halfway around the world to marry doesn’t suit, Mina finds instead that she’s falling in love with a man who offers passion, adventure, intimacy—anything but security…

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EXCERPT

Author’s Note: Seth has disembarked from the steamship, onto the crowded, bustling port of Bombay. The other passengers, including the four dozen lady passengers who had sailed to wed East India Company men, are rushed by the bachelors and huddled together in the chaos…

“Ladies?”

A woman’s voice. Sweet and low and nearly swallowed in the fray.

Maybe it was because his explorer’s senses were honed to seek the rare, the anomalies in nature, but Seth trailed that voice to a venture girl twenty feet away. She wore a trim white jacket and green skirt with starry, white flowers all over it. Her sun helmet concealed all but a bit of brown hair.

“Ladies, as no one has told us yet what to do, if you are to be met by someone, would you move to this end?” She gestured and the ladies shuffled to do her bidding, obedient as soldiers.

Seth jerked to follow, then paused. He was to meet someone. Should he wait with them?

A small wave of her hand and the ladies leaned forward in attention. He did, too.

“And the others can wait here for Captain Travers,” she said. “He will accompany you to the customs house.” The women sorted themselves, fear in every pair of eyes clinging to their officer.

Seth dragged in a lungful of air that didn’t ease the tightness in his chest. Wasn’t any of his business. And wasn’t a thing he could do to help.

He turned to plunge into the crowd, but then the little officer spoke again.

“We are here, ladies,” she said gently. “And we are fine.”

The words were plain, but it was like she’d hushed the whole world. He didn’t want to, but he looked again. The venture girls stood in two close circles, their small valises and parasols clutched to their chests, and watched the chaos around them with wide eyes.

But they kept their chins up now.

For the first time in months, a real smile curved his lips. People needed someone to depend on. Like those ladies depended on that little officer.

And she was little, at least to him. She wouldn’t stand any taller than his chin and his hands could span her waist.

But little or not, she wore that dainty, braided jacket like a captain of the Eleventh Hussars. There wasn’t a wrinkle on her skirts or wayward crease in its folds. And that straight spine was all the sight he had of her—she didn’t fidget and she didn’t turn.

Composed, capable, orderly-like. He’d drive a woman like that to Bedlam.

But he fell a little bit in love with her anyway.

He was bumped from behind. The mustache-man angling for a closer look. “Give the ladies their breathing room, mate,” Seth said. “They might like a bit of time to repair themselves.”

The man swung about. “You traveled with them, didn’t you?”

“I suppose.”

“Did you learn any names? Which are the prime articles?”

“The prime—? Hell, I don’t know.”

The man turned around to survey the girls. “Not that I expect them all to be handsome. They couldn’t find a husband back home, could they? But taking an ugly wife…” He grimaced, then squared his shoulders. “I mean to have one, just the same.”

Seth stared down at the man and muttered, “There you go, mate. Words to set a lady’s heart aflutter.”

Irritated, Seth waded against the stream of bachelors closing in on the ladies. Wasn’t any of his business.

The men holding signs had formed a line and were shuffling toward the ladies to be claimed. They obeyed the little officer, too. His translator might be among them, so he read his way through the crush. MISS EUNICE SIMMS…

MISS LOUISE ALPERT—

Ah, here! CLAIMING WILLIAM REPTON AND—and?—MISS W. ADAMS.

The man holding the card eyed him suspiciously. So this was his translator. Brown hair, spectacles, younger than he’d expected. But he looked clever. He’d do.

“Tom Grant?” Seth asked.

“I am. You’re Will Repton?”

Seth grinned. “For your purposes, I am.” He shook his hand. “I’m Seth Mayhew. You’ll be working for me instead.”

“I—”

“This explains it.” Seth handed him Will’s letter. “Will couldn’t leave England on account of his being leg-shackled and expecting a little baby. But Georgie’s my sister after all, and the orphan in Tibet is who she was after, so I’m here and Will’s not. It’s all a bit Hamlet-without-the-prince, but there it is.”

Tom Grant blinked behind his spectacles. “Who are you?”

Maybe he just looked clever.

“Seth May—” He never was skilled at explaining. “Read the letter, mate.”

Tom Grant passed the sign to him, cracked open the letter, and began to frown. That frown wasn’t how Seth wanted to start their partnership, but the man had agreed to the job, and would be earning a hell of a salary for the effort.

But Tom’s expression wasn’t growing any happier as he started page two.

Tom flipped the letter over and started reading from the beginning. Again.

With a sigh, Seth dropped his bag at his feet to wait—and remembered the sign: CLAIMING MISS W. ADAMS. Tom Grant was collecting one of the venture girls then.

W? The man couldn’t write her name in full?

Wasn’t any of his business.

Meaning to be helpful, Seth held the sign high and waited.

***

“Mina!” Emma clutched her arm. “I see him. I see your Thomas Grant.”

Mina’s stomach rolled. Thomas was here. Of course he was—of course he would be. If only the ground would steady.

Her sister’s sudden grab had nearly toppled her. Ninety-nine days on a boat and she couldn’t seem to lock her knees.

Mina reached into her skirt pocket and squeezed the stone in her hand. Through her lace glove, the quartz was as cool as if it still held the weather of England within it…

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, September 2016
Time and Setting: India and England, 1850
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review by Jenny Q

Seth Mayhew is on a mission to find his missing sister. With a reputation of being able to hunt down the rarest botanical specimens, he has high hopes of being able to pick up Georgie’s trail to bring her and her young ward home. On a steamer bound for India with dozens of “venture girls,” young women with limited prospects at home who are coming to India to find husbands, he manages to steer clear of them until they disembark in Bombay. But as he meets with Tom, an associate who has promised to help him track down Georgie, he comes face-to-face with venture girl Wilhelmina Adams, and Cupid’s arrow strikes hard. But there’s one big problem: Mina is promised to Tom. And besides, Seth doesn’t have time for courtship; he’s got to work with Tom to find the people in the East India Company who can help him find his sister.

From a large family with no dowries for their many daughters, and with one sister already fallen into disrepute, Mina Adams and her sister Emma have come to India in search of a better future. Both sisters have been in correspondence with gentlemen and have arrived at an understanding, but only one meets them when their ship arrives. Emma’s intended is a no-show, and while Tom is there for Mina, he is nothing like the man she has come to know via his letters. And she can’t leave Emma. While the rest of their fellow venture girls choose their husbands and set off for their new homes, the Adams sisters are desperately hoping Emma’s fiancé will arrive. But each day that passes diminishes the hope that he will come, and each day gives Mina more time to fall in love with a man who is not her intended. Drawn to Seth’s strapping masculinity, self-deprecating wit, and flirtatious charm, she vows to do all she can to help him find his sister. But as new information comes to light and time runs out, Mina and Seth will have to decide whether they want to make the riskiest venture yet: taking a chance on true love.

This is the second book in the London Explorers series, but it stands alone just fine. However, I felt a bit misled by the book description. With Seth on a mission to find his sister, and the blurb describing an adventure and multiple ports of call, I was all set for an exciting and romantic journey where Seth and Mina would work together to find his sister. I don’t want to spoil the story too much, so I’ll just leave it by saying that’s not quite what happens. The story takes longer than I would have liked to really kick into gear, and when it does, it is the characters and their interactions that carry the bulk of the story rather than plot.

While I was disappointed that exploring didn’t actually figure into the story, I still found this a charming and witty read. Seth was quite unlike any hero I’ve come across in romance. He’s a working-class man with no ambitions for anything else except a home of his own for a family someday. He calls himself stupid, and while I would agree he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, I would say his problem is not that he’s stupid, but that he’s too trusting and has a hard time discerning deception and falsity in others. (Which might make a reader wonder how he managed to become such a lauded explorer, but I chose to ignore that niggling question for the sake of the story.) And his reputation as the world’s worst flirt is richly deserved. I found him totally endearing. There was much to admire in Mina as well, from her bravery in crossing an ocean, to her determination to take care of herself and her sisters, and her desire to help Seth and stand up for him.

Overall, Discovery of Desire was a light, sweet read, worth checking out for its exotic setting and unconventional hero. And I am incredibly intrigued by the mystery surrounding Emma’s wayward fiancé, and if the next book in the series is about them, I will definitely be reading it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SusanneLord2_webSusanne Lord is a writer of Victorian-era romance and author of the London Explorer series published by Sourcebooks. Originally from Okinawa, off-base and on, she now makes her home in Chicago where she is an active member of Chicago North RWA. When not writing, attending theater or reading, she enjoys hiking the English countryside and visiting historic homes and gardens.

You can connect with Susanne at: Facebook * ~ * her website and on Twitter – @SusanneLord

The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match by Juliana Gray

the duke of olympia meets his matc

From Juliana Gray comes an all-new historical romance novella featuring the famous—and often infamous—Duke of Olympia.

Aboard the luxuriously appointed SS Majestic, the duke is on a mission to retrieve a most important portfolio of papers and thwart a known anarchist. As the ship steams across the Atlantic, the duke’s search for the notorious master of disguise forces him into close quarters with an American heiress and her widowed governess, Mrs. Penelope Schuyler.

While Olympia has known his fair share of intriguing women, Mrs. Schuyler seems to have a way of challenging his expectations at every turn. But as their clandestine meetings lead them down an unexpected path, the duke must determine if Penelope is a woman to be trusted…

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Publisher and Release Date: Intermix, May 2016

Time and Setting: 1893, crossing from New York to England
Genre: Historical fiction novella with a mystery
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Juliana Gray burst on to the historical romance scene a few years ago with her enchanting Victorian-era Affairs by Moonlight series and then continued her success with the passionate Princess in Hiding series. Throughout both of those series, however, there was one enigmatic figure who was a constant; an older gentleman behind the scenes, organizing – well, manipulating really – but also protecting and matchmaking the heroes and heroines of those novels: the Duke of Olympia.

In the previous stories, Olympia is the grandfather and uncle to the protagonists but, in this historical romance novella with a mystery, he is the romantic hero.

Admittedly, he’s not your usual hero: for one, he is seventy four years-old, but in this day of age awareness and consideration, why should that matter? He is tall, strong, and dashing and debonair. He turns many a head and, naturally, one American mama has her eye on him for her American heiress daughter. Her twenty year-old daughter wants nothing to do with Olympia romantically but is content to put on a flirtatious show for her mother even as she secretly meets with her true love.

The entire novella takes place on an ocean voyage on the S.S. Majestic in March, 1893, and each day represents a chapter in the story. Olympia, who has long been in government espionage for the Crown, is in hot pursuit of a mysterious woman carrying important papers. Ms. Gray creates a nice setting of a bygone era of travel on board ship.

Olympia meets Mrs. Penelope Schuyler, an attractive and vivacious fifty-something widow who serves as a companion to Miss Ruby Morrison, the American heiress. Mrs. Schuyler was left destitute and at the beck and call of the Morrison family for a roof over her head and food to eat but she also possesses a strong sense of dignity and self-respect. She is also carrying the significant papers that Olympia seeks.

This elegant novella has the breezy, self-assured style that Ms. Gray displayed so well in her first six novels. It’s more of a short story mystery with a romance than an historical romance, and it’s charming and fun to read.

The mystery element is handled in a satisfactory way and I really enjoyed the twists and turns as well as the unexpected results at the story’s end. The implications of Olympia falling for Mrs. Schuyler instead of Miss Morrison are well depicted and the reader really gets a sense of the precarious financial and domestic situation in which Penelope finds herself.

It looks like, with this prequel, Ms. Gray is creating a Victorian-era mystery with a romance series, a very different sort of story than her other novels. It seems like it will be more history and mystery than romance and, with Ms. Gray’s beautiful writing and colorful characters, I’m sure it will also be original and fresh.

If you like shipboard romances, intrigue, and an intelligent and amusing story, you will enjoy The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match.

VIRTUAL TOUR: An American in Scotland (MacIain #3) by Karen Ranney

VT-AmericanInScotland-KRanney

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Rose MacIain is a beautiful woman with a secret. Desperate and at her wits’ end, she crafts a fake identity for herself, one that Duncan MacIain will be unable to resist. But she doesn’t realize that posing as the widow of the handsome Scotsman’s cousin is more dangerous than she knew. And when a simmering attraction rises up between them, she begins to regret the whole charade.

Duncan is determined to resist the tempting Rose, no matter how much he admires her arresting beauty and headstrong spirit. When he agrees to accompany her on her quest, their desire for each other only burns hotter. The journey tests his resolve as their close quarters fuel the fire that crackles between them.

When the truth comes to light, these two stubborn people must put away their pride and along the way discover that their dreams of love are all they need.

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EXCERPT

“Yes?”

The woman who opened the door was a matronly sort, dressed in a somber blue that nevertheless was a pleasant color for her complexion. Her smile was an easy one, as if she had long practice at being pleasant.

“May I help you?” she asked. “If you’re a friend of the missus, she’s dining with her family now. Like as not it’ll go on for a few hours. Do you need to see her?”

The smell of food wafted out of the house. Rose was so hungry she could define each separate scent: fish stew, freshly baked rolls, roast beef, and something that smelled like fruit cake.

Her stomach growled, as if she needed reminding she hadn’t eaten a real meal in two days.

“Mr. MacIain,” she said, pushing aside both her hunger and her fatigue. “Is he here? I need to see him.”

“You’ve business with Mr. Duncan? Well, he mostly transacts his business at the mill, miss. Wouldn’t it be better to call on him there?”

She didn’t know where the MacIain Mill was. She’d taken his home address from the letters he’d written Bruce.

“I’ve come from America,” she began, and had no more said those words than she was dragged into the house by her sleeve.

“Well, why didn’t you say so from the very first? From America? All that way? And here I let you stand on the doorstep. Is that your valise? And your carriage? We’ll take care of both right away.”

The woman, matronly only a moment ago, had turned into a whirlwind.

Rose found herself being led through the house, following the scent of food until she thought her stomach would cramp. In moments she found herself standing in the doorway of a small dining room.

Dozens of people, it seemed from her first glance, were seated at the table, all of them attractive and well dressed. Some of them were smiling as they looked up.

“Duncan? This lady came all the way from America to see you.”

She couldn’t think for the hunger. She couldn’t even speak.

A man stood, and she thought that hunger must surely have made her hallucinate. Tall, brown-haired, with the most beautiful blue eyes she’d ever seen. He smiled so sweetly at her, so perfectly handsome and kind, that she wondered if he was real.

He was broad-shouldered, with a face that no doubt captured the attention of women on the street. They’d stop to marvel at that strong jaw, that mouth that looked as if it could be curved into a smile or just as easily thinned in derision.

She hadn’t expected him to be so arresting a figure. No doubt that’s why she wavered a little on her feet.

“Yes?” he said, coming around the table toward her.

“Mr. MacIain? Duncan MacIain?”

He regarded her with a direct stare so forceful she felt as if her will were being drawn out of her with that glance.
She reached out one gloved hand toward him. Suddenly everything changed. The air around her grayed. The floor rushed up to greet her instead of him. Yet he somehow caught her when she fell. As he did so, she had the strangest thought, one that troubled her even as darkness enveloped her.

This was why she’d come all this way.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Avon, March 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Glasgow and South Carolina, 1863
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Wendy

an american in scotlandThis was my first experience of a Karen Ranney novel and to begin with I was pleasantly surprised, especially with the high standard of the writing. An American in Scotland is the third in Ms. Ranney’s MacIainseries and although I have not read either of the first two (In Your Wildest Scottish Dreams and Scotsman of My Dreams), I had no trouble sorting out the characters, the various familial connections or keeping track of the story line.

Rose Sullivan arrives in Glasgow at the home of Duncan MacIain. Dressed in mourning black, exhausted, broke and faint with hunger, she is admitted to the house and promptly collapses. On searching her reticule for evidence of her identity and finding documentation, the MacIains jump to the conclusion – fairly reasonably, given her black clothing and American accent – that she is the widow of their American cousin Bruce MacIain and is then made unconditionally welcome by the warm and friendly family. Although Rose doesn’t actually utter the words, she is guilty of lying by omission and knows it. Her long and dangerous trek across the Atlantic was a desperate, last ditch attempt to save her sister and family from starvation in South Carolina. Arrogant, cruel, Bruce MacIain is away from home fighting in the American Civil War and there is a shedload of his cotton going begging. Rose has taken it upon herself to brave the blockade in US waters in order to travel to Glasgow to persuade Duncan, to buy the cotton for use in his mill, and this is one of the reasons she cannot reveal her ‘lie’ – it’s not actually hers to sell. The whole story centres around this cotton and Rose’s determination to sell it to feed her family.

The author has a pleasing style and writes succinctly and knowledgeably. However, for the first third or so of the book, I was hard pressed to believe I was actually reading an historical romance as claimed. I’m talking more about a lack of connection or sensuality rather than any bedroom action, because Ms. Ranney doesn’t really deliver when it comes to an actual romance in this book. The connection between Rose and Duncan lacks warmth and sensuality – we are told that they are attracted to each other but I didn’t feel it. Although Duncan is a decent, honourable, salt-of-the-earth kind of man, he isn’t someone with a strong enough presence to remain with me; I couldn’t actually ‘see’ him. And then there’s proud, defiant, capable Rose – who has been so badly treated that it was difficult to understand why, when faced with the opposition and sheer ingratitude of her family, she would risk her life so often to help them! And her treatment at the hands of Bruce is mentioned so many times that it became irritating. The pair of them are almost too good to be true.

On the positive side, Karen Ranney paints a very evocative and moving picture of life under the tyrannical rule of the despotic Bruce MacIain and the appalling atrocities suffered by the slaves in those times. She obviously has extensive knowledge and I found her impeccably researched historical content and its delivery very well done which made for compelling reading. But this is billed as an historical romance, and while things do improve towards the end but I still didn’t ‘feel the love’ and although Rose and Duncan do get their HEA, it all feels rushed and just a bit too neatly tied off.

While I enjoyed the skill with which An American in Scotland is written and found the historical detail interesting, the romance is disappointing, and this led to my feeling somewhat cheated after I finished the book. If you’ve read the other books in the series you might want to read this for completeness, although if you’re looking for an emotionally satisfying romance, you won’t find it here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

KarenKaren Ranney began writing when she was five. Her first published work was The Maple Leaf, read over the school intercom when she was in the first grade. In addition to wanting to be a violinist (her parents had a special violin crafted for her when she was seven), she wanted to be a lawyer, a teacher, and, most of all, a writer. Though the violin was discarded early, she still admits to a fascination with the law, and she volunteers as a teacher whenever needed. Writing, however, has remained the overwhelming love of her life.

You can find Karen at: : Website * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads

The Highlander’s Woman by Monica Burns

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Julian MacTavish’s honor made him guard a friend’s secret. But his lies to keep that vow make it difficult to prove his faithfulness as a husband. When a terrible inferno scars Patience’s body and mind, she becomes a recluse. She hides not only from her friends in the Marlborough Set, but her husband as well, thus further widening the divide between them. But it’s her lack of trust, not her disfigurement, which sends Julian home alone to the highlands of Scotland convinced he’s lost her forever.

Forgiveness in the face of death comes easily to Patience MacTavish, but the thought of being a burden to her husband does not. When a twist of fate takes Julian’s sight from him, Patience returns home hoping to make amends for not having faith in him. Pity is the last thing Julian wants from anyone, especially his wife, and it’s his turn to question her sincerity. Now, Patience must convince her husband that she’s come home to the highlands for no other reason than love, even if it means arranging her highlander’s seduction.

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Publisher and Release Date: Maroli SP Imprints, September 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London and Scotland 1897/98
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Wendy

The Highlander’s Woman is the third in The Reckless Rockwoods series but can be read as a standalone. I was looking forward to reading this novel having previously read and reviewed Ms Burns’ Mirage, which I loved. While it was no hardship to read The Highlander’s Woman and I enjoyed it, Mirage proved a hard act to follow. I admit to being a little disappointed, but I suspect that is more because my expectations were so high. This book does have some darkness and angst (which I really look for in a novel) but lacks the meatiness and intensity which initially attracted me to Monica Burns’ writing .

The story begins with the two protagonists already married and deeply in love, which is fairly unusual. But external factors start to sow the seeds of discord, and although they do not fall out of love, they begin to doubt each other as a result of the events that follow.

Patience Rockwood and Julian MacTavish meet, fall in love at first sight and after a whirlwind courtship, they marry. They enjoy a very sensual and sexually satisfying relationship but despite this, Patience fails to conceive in the first year of marriage and it becomes a matter of great concern to her although Julian isn’t half so hung up about it as she is. Among other things, her failure to conceive causes problems with Julian’s father. The Laird of Crianlarich is an autocratic and dictatorial man who took a dislike to Patience before he had even met her because he had already picked out a wife for his son, the young and beautiful daughter of a friend and neighbour. Although Patience is half Scottish and of good birth, she would never have been good enough for the Laird. After a visit to Julian’s home where the Crianlarich makes his dislike obvious and where she is introduced to the beautiful (and manipulative) young woman who was Julian’s father’s choice, Patience is demoralised and returns to London. Julian is then obliged to return to Scotland alone to carry out his duties as heir, and so their marital problems begin.

There follows a series of events which drives the lovers further and further apart. Patience is possessed of ‘the gift’ or in Gaelic ‘an dara sealladh’, the second sight, which all of the Rockwoods possess to varying degrees and which sets them slightly apart in society. It is one of the reasons that Patience is considered eccentric and why she believed she would never attract a suitor until Julian swept her off of her feet. ‘The gift’ rarely fails her, yet she has snatches of worrying images over a period of time which she cannot interpret, and for which, when the terrifyingly horrific details become reality, she blames herself. This sets in motion a chain of events that will alter all of their lives for ever.

I won’t go into further detail, but suffice to say that Patience and Julian have to learn to live with the fall-out of these events and also to learn to love and trust each other again. In fact, the book is really all about that journey of finding and getting to know each again other in a way they did not at the beginning of their love story. There is a point at which they are almost there, although Patience has yet to reveal her ‘dark secret’ I and admit to feeling ever so slightly let down by its revelation.

I liked both characters very much; each is well developed and likeable although Patience is slightly annoying in her initial lack of self confidence, because she had no real reason to be. I mean she had the love of this gorgeous hunk who quite obviously admired and adored her.

Monica Burns uses lots of beautiful Gaelic words and phrases which I loved, although her attempt at a Scottish dialect did not work for me. The smattering of Americanisms, …sass – American term for cheekiness … bobolink – North American songbird – is also jarring, and I can’t understand why, when the author has gone to so much trouble to carefully research the liltingly beautiful Gaelic, she hasn’t paid as much attention to other aspects of the language. How difficult can it be to research birds native to Scotland? On the whole though, The Highlander’s Woman is a well-written story, albeit with a few too many misunderstandings for my taste. The protagonists do, however, get there in the end, and I will read more of Monica Burns’ work, as on the whole I like her writing style.

Night of the Highland Dragon (Highland Dragons #3) by Isabel Cooper

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They say,” said the girl, “that people disappear up there. And I heard that the lady doesna’ ever grow any older.””The lady?” William asked.”Lady MacAlasdair. She lives in the castle, and she’s been there years, but she stays young and beautiful forever.”

In the Scottish Highlands, legend is as powerful as the sword-and nowhere is that more true than in the remote village of Loch Aranoch. Its mysterious ruler, Judith MacAlasdair, is fiercely protective of her land-and her secrets. If anyone were to find out what she really was, she and her entire clan would be hunted down as monsters.
William Arundell is on the trail of a killer. Special agent for an arcane branch of the English government, his latest assignment has led him to a remote Highland castle and the undeniably magnetic lady who rules there. Yet as lies begin to unravel and a dark threat gathers, William finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of the Highlands…and the woman he can neither trust nor deny.

He prays she isn’t the murderer; he never dreamed she was a dragon.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, June 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Scottish Highlands, 1898
Genre: Historical Romance/Fantasy
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Natalie

Like her brothers, Lady Judith MacAlasdair is a nearly immortal shape-shifter who has managed to keep her identity safety hidden from the local villagers and society alike. All the MacAlasdair siblings have managed this over the centuries by periodically leaving their ancestral home at different intervals and returning decades later as a younger relative. During this last turn living at home, Judith has come to relish her small, insular village life. She understands that some suspect that there are secrets on the estate but that they are willing to keep those secrets because the MacAlasdair family has always done its best to protect and help their neighbors.

Meanwhile, Special Agent William Arundel, who has secrets and special abilities of his own, has arrived in Loch Aranoch. William works for a secret branch of the government that hunts down demons, and his most recent investigation has lead him to the door of Lady Judith, a woman who never seems to age. The two immediately distrust each other and when local farm animals turn up mutilated they each suspect the other of committing the crimes. But to find out what is happening in Loch Aranoch, Judith and William must call a truce. As they work together to protect the town their respect grows to understanding and attraction.

As I was reading Night of the Highland Dragon I realized that I had actually read the first book in the series, Legend of the Highland Dragon, when it came out in 2013. I loved the story, which was an interesting mix of period romance and fantasy. Ms Cooper definitely delivers with Night of the Highland Dragon,which is just as entertaining as its predecessors. The relationship between Judith and William is interesting, since they both have abilities and need to dance around each other, trying to figure out how much the other knows. The mystery aspect of the book is an extra bonus, giving the romance a place to grow without using some of the regular ‘misunderstanding’ tactics that can start to feel formulaic.

After finishing the novel, I was excited to go back to the first and second in the in the Highland Dragons series and read all of the books. While Night of the Highland Dragon works as a stand-alone novel, it is always a great feeling to be able to jump right back into the lives of awesome, well-written characters. Pick up one – or all three – in the series and settle in for a romance filled winter!

Mirage by Monica Burns

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A sheikh without a country. A woman without fear. A love hotter than the Sahara.

In his heart, Viscount Blakeney will always be Sheikh Altair Mazir, but a deathbed oath to his English grandfather forces him to divide his time between Britain and his beautiful Sahara. A victim of prejudice from both cultures, he has learned a bitter lesson. Trust no one.

Yet when he witnesses firsthand the British Museum’s rejection of Alexandra Talbot’s request for assistance in finding the lost city of Ramesses II, he finds himself not only compelled to help, but donning his desert robes to hide his identity.

Alexandra is all too familiar with men who equate her sex with a lack of intelligence. But the mysterious Altair isn’t like other men. He never questions her ability to find the lost city, only her resistance to the sinful pleasure of his touch.

Bound by a Pharaoh’s prophecy, desire flares between them under the desert stars. But murder and betrayal turn their quest into a deadly game, pushing their fragile trust to the breaking point. A trust that must be reforged if they are to survive.

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Publisher and Release Date: Samhain, July 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London and Egypt 1880
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Wendy

I can’t explain why this novel struck such a chord with me but it did. I’m not normally a lover of romantic stories involving sheikhs and the desert, but this story went straight to my heart and I absolutely loved it!

Altair Sheikh Mazir/Lord Blakeney is the most gorgeous tortured hero with the added little-boy-lost quality that will make most women want to mother him in lieu of being able to do anything else! He has been reared in two completely different worlds and cultures, being both the grandson of an English Viscount (on his father’s side) and a Prince of the desert (as descended from his maternal grandfather). Not fully at home in either role, but more comfortable with his Bedouin tribe, there he transforms from the suavely handsome Lord Blakeney to the gorgeous and dangerous Sheikh Altair Mazir who, complete with tribal robes, henna face markings and his hair loose to his shoulders sounds good enough to eat.

Alexandra, too, is a likeable and attractive character. Innocent but liberated, strong-minded, confident and brave, she survives a number of threats to her life without falling apart. She has been treated as an equal by her father, a renowned American Egyptologist who has taught her everything he knows. Sadly Alex’s father dies before he can realise his dream of finding the tomb of Nourbese, beloved wife of Ramesses II.

Alex first encounters Altair at the British Museum. Even though he is dressed as a proper English Lord, Alex knows something is different about this stunning man and is very attracted to him. Altair knows all about Alex’s father, having had years of correspondence with him, although his failing to reveal this fact proves to be a big mistake in their burgeoning love affair.

The pair travels to Egypt, with Altair acting as Alex’s escort and protector. She continues to be unaware that Altair is half Bedouin and an honorary Sheikh to boot. The attraction that began in London continues to grow, making the lie-by-omission harder to reveal. The sizzling sensuality between the two of them fairly jumps off the page and simmers throughout.

Monica Burns’ descriptions are so thoroughly evocative of life in Egypt, I felt as though I could smell, feel and see the warm, soft sand of Cairo, and hear the cacophony of sounds, noise and bustle of life there. Having visited the area myself, I consider her depiction of the Pyramids of Giza to be stunning, eloquent, vivid and just as I remember. In fact it took me right back – I want to visit again. This is undoubtedly the sign of an excellent writer, one that paints such beautiful pictures that we, the reader can see what she sees.

This story really does have everything: murder, mystery, intrigue, history and the most sensual, steamy romance. The characters are incredibly well crafted; I loved Altair, admired Alex and adored the little mongoose – Zada – presented to Alex by Altair as an added protection against snakes. Even in this Ms. Burns does not pull back on the imagination – this sweet, chattering little creature is funny, loveable and endearing. The caravan of the Bedouin tribe escorting Alex is brought brilliantly to life, silk cushions, camels, and dancing with that background danger ever lurking, sinister and menacing. If I have one criticism – and it’s minute when put against the myriad of pluses – it is that Altair has a brother by the same Bedouin Mother, which makes them half-brothers and not step-brothers as is constantly asserted.

Even so, Mirage is an historical romance of the highest calibre. A definite keeper.

The Folly at Falconbridge Hall by Maggi Andersen

UK Release Date – December 2012/ US release MAy 2013
Publisher – Knox Robinson Publishing Ltd.

BLURB:

Vanessa Ashley felt herself qualified for a position as governess, until offered the position at Falconbridge Hall. Left penniless after the deaths of her artist father and suffragette mother, Vanessa Ashley draws on her knowledge of art, politics, and history to gain employment as a governess. She discovers that Julian, Lord Falconbridge, requires a governess for his ten-year-old daughter Blyth at Falconbridge Hall, in the countryside outside London. Lord Falconbridge is a scientist and dedicated lepidopterist who is about to embark on an extended expedition to the Amazon. An enigmatic man, he takes a keen interest in his daughter’s education. As she prepares her young charge, Vanessa finds the girl detached and aloof. As Vanessa learns more about Falconbridge Hall, more questions arise. Why doesn’t Blythe feel safe in her own home? Why is the death of her mother, once famed society beauty Clara, never spoken of? And why did the former governess leave so suddenly without giving notice?

RFHL CLassifications:

Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Victorian Period
Heat Rating – 2
3.5 Stars

REVIEW BY SABRINA

Vanessa Ashley has lost her parents, her home and is at the mercy of her estranged Uncle. Feeling unwanted in his home she seeks a governess job and luckily finds a position quickly. Her charge is a 10 year old little girl name Blythe. It is here the story opens and we are welcomed to Falconbridge Hall, Clapham, England.

Vanessa is very optimistic regarding the success of her position and determines to be a good role model to Blythe. The bond between the two is immediate. The trust and friendship is unmistakable and adds a sweet balance to the rest of the story.

As Vanessa comes to love Blythe, she is also taking notice of Lord Falconbridge – Blythe’s father. While very busy studying and arranging for his departure, Vanessa learns he is also a doting father, who takes much interest in his daughter’s teachings. Vanessa feels drawn to him and as she tries to come to terms with the feelings he provokes in her she asks herself – am I attracted to him?

Throughout this story there is an underlying uneasiness surrounding the estate. A comment here an action there; all created to maintain an illusion to mystery. Is there something going on at Falconbridge Hall or is Vanessa at fault for letting her thoughts get the better of her? I enjoyed the slow buildup of suspense that was hinted at throughout the book. At various points, I thought I knew what was to happen only to be surprised at the turn in direction.

The Folly at Falconbridge Hall is a charming, quick read that entertains readers with a love story and a mystery.