Tag Archive | Kerrigan Byrne

VIRTUAL TOUR: The Scot Beds His Wife (Victorian Rebels #5) by Kerrigan Byrne

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Gavin St. James, Earl of Thorne, is a notorious Highlander and an unrelenting Lothario who uses his slightly menacing charm to get what he wants—including too many women married to other men. But now, Gavin wants to put his shady past behind him…more or less. When a fiery lass who is the heiress to the land he wishes to possess drops into his lap, he sees a perfectly delicious opportunity…

A marriage most convenient

Samantha Masters has come back to Scotland, in a pair of trousers, and with a whole world of dangerous secrets from her time spent in the Wild West trailing behind her. Her only hope of protection is to marry—and to do so quickly. Gavin is only too willing to provide that service for someone he finds so disturbingly irresistible. But even as danger approaches, what begins as a scandalous proposition slowly turns into an all-consuming passion. And Gavin discovers that he will do whatever is necessary to keep the woman he has claimed as his own…

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s Press, October 2017
Time and Setting: Scottish Highlands, 1880
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Sara

The Scot Beds His Wife is fifth in Kerrigan Byrnes’ Victorian Rebels series and a sequel to the third book The Highlander. Gavin St. James is half-brother to previous hero Laird Liam MacKenzie but the two are hardly fraternal. It’s Gavin’s plans to dissolve ties to his brother’s clan that starts everything in motion and it takes a brash American to put the stubborn Scot on a different path.

Gavin St. James grew up desperate to extricate himself from the legacy of his cruel father, the late Marquess Ravencroft. The abuse Gavin lived through left physical and emotional scars that never healed enough for him to find peace within his family. He once thought that his older brother Liam was his ally against their father, but their relationship soured as the Marquess’ manipulations drove them apart. Gavin later escaped when he inherited the earldom of Thorne through his mother’s family; however he found it was an empty role as he was still dependent on the Mackenzie finances. Earning his own wealth could only come by expanding his landholding and the perfect parcel was right next door – the deserted Ross estate of Erradale. After receiving a quick influx of ready cash, Gavin makes an offer to the last surviving member of the Ross family, who has been living in America for ten years. The response he receives is a firm “No” but Gavin is undeterred. Using the law to press the issue, Gavin has his solicitor inform the expatriate Miss Alison Ross that if she does not take residence on her property the lands will be deemed abandoned and resold.

An ocean away, Samantha Masters thought marriage to Bennett Masters would be first step in a new life full of opportunities, yet she soon learned that her new in-laws were criminals. Their latest scheme has the Masters brothers holding up a train carrying government funds to San Francisco. When something goes wrong, Samantha makes a horrific choice that saves an innocent life but puts a price on her head. The young woman she saves is very forgiving and offers Samantha a chance to leave America if she’s willing to live a lie in a foreign land indefinitely. Grabbing the chance, Samantha leaves her old name behind and travels to Scotland to become Miss Alison Ross, taking possession of Erradale and halting the schemes of the enemy Earl of Thorne. Samantha is met at the Wester Ross train station by a handsome Scotsman who provides assistance when her handbag is stolen. She’s quick to learn her hero is in fact Gavin St. James, the very man the real Alison had warned her about. Sensing his helpfulness was all a trick to get “Alison” to surrender her lands in thanks for saving her, Samantha explains that she will never hand over Erradale and will turn the derelict lands into a thriving cattle ranch to rival those in the American West.

The adversarial relationship between Samantha and Gavin fuels them to push relentlessly for their own goals. Gavin is shocked that “Alison” doesn’t fall for his seduction but he is soon back on track to subvert her efforts to improve Erradale. Samantha tries to keep away from Gavin but each time they meet. their war of words hides an undercurrent of attraction. Everything changes when investigators from America show up at Erradale and Gavin saves Samantha from being killed in a fire. For the first time in their acquaintance, Gavin sees the frightened young woman hiding behind bravado and salty language. It awakens something inside him he was reluctant to admit; that this bonny lass had become someone that he cares for. Knowing he can’t ignore those feelings forever and seeing a way for both of them to get what they want, Gavin offers “Alison” the protection of his name. In turn, he’ll assume control of Erradale through their marriage of convenience. Samantha knows their marriage won’t be legal since she’s not the real Alison Ross but the unwelcome discovery that she’s pregnant pushes her to accept Gavin’s proposal to give her unborn child a better name than that of an outlaw family. She soon finds that lying to Gavin is the most difficult thing she’s ever faced as his flirtatious manner hides a man who deserves honesty and love to save him from the pain in his past.

The books in the Victorian Rebels series never fail to use the tortured past of the hero to create a rich, emotional story. Each man has their own ways to deal with their demons and Gavin hides behind his smile and uses women for temporary pleasure to escape his pain. When Samantha doesn’t fall for his charms Gavin has to dig deep inside of himself to find ways around her stubbornness. What he finds inside is a man who desires love but has never felt comfortable exposing himself to anyone. The prologue of The Scot Beds His Wife isn’t as disturbing as in some of the earlier books; however once the reader comes to understand how desperately Gavin has suppressed the romantic side of himself, those moments where his innocence was destroyed become all the more unsettling.

Samantha is also very different from previous heroines as she’s action oriented, direct, profane and has just as many walls around her heart as Gavin does. Samantha has been fighting for stability and a true sense of belonging ever since her childhood on a ranch in Nevada Territory with her adoptive family. Her marriage was an ill-conceived desire to create a family with someone she thought was devoted to her, and escaping to Scotland is a chance for Samantha to try one more time to restart her life. I loved her no-nonsense attitude and her need to build up Erradale for herself just as much as to protect it for the real Alison’s benefit.

The Scot Beds His Wife isn’t the strongest release within the Victorian Rebels series but the developments for the Mackenzie family and a few hints at what’s to come make this a must read for fans and a good entry point for new readers.


EXCERPT

Chapter Two

Union Pacific Railway, Wyoming Territory, Fall, 1880

Samantha Masters squeezed the trigger, planting a bullet between her husband’s beautiful brown eyes.

She whispered his name. Bennett. Then screamed it.

But it was the woman in his grasp she reached for as he fell to the ground.

Though they’d known each other all of twenty minutes, she clung to Alison Ross as though the younger woman were the most precious soul in the entire world, and they sank to their knees as their strength gave out.
Alison’s hold was just as tight around her, and their sobs burst against each other’s in a symphony of terror, shock, and abject relief.

What in the hell just happened?

Not twenty minutes ago, Samantha and Alison had been no more to each other than amiable fellow passengers on an eastbound train, chugging across the wintry landscape of the Wyoming Territory.

What were they now? Enemies? Survivors?

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Samantha repeated the words with every short, sobbing exhale. Though she couldn’t have said who the apology was to, exactly. To Alison? To Bennett? To whoever had been shot on the other railcars?
To God?

This morning she’d been the irate, disillusioned wife of a charming and dangerous man. An insignificant and unwilling member of the outlaw Masters Gang.

This afternoon, she’d been the new acquaintance and confidant to Alison Ross, commiserating over childhoods spent on secluded cattle ranches.

This evening, because of what she’d just done, of what they’d all just done . . . chances were good that she’d be hanged.

This train job was supposed to be like any other. Each of the Masters boarded on the last platform for miles and miles. To avoid detection or suspicion, Bennett, Boyd, and Bradley Masters would each take a seat in separate passenger cars.

Samantha would be placed in the least populated car, usually first class, as it was also the least dangerous. Once civilization completely fell away, the signal was given, and the men would strike, rounding up all passengers into one car.

This was done for the safety of the passengers as much as the Masters, themselves, as the gang didn’t generally rob people. Cash, jewelry, and personal items were never as valuable as actual cargo. The Union Pacific Railway didn’t only deliver citizens across the vast American continent. It delivered goods, sundries, and often . . . federal funds.

Even in these modern times, when it seemed all the gold had been mined from the rich hills of California, American currency was still minted in the east. Which meant everything from company payrolls, to government bonds, to cash and precious metals were transported by transcontinental railways.

And the Masters brothers, aspiring entrepreneurs, had decided that if the government wouldn’t allow them land, nor the banks grant them loans . . .

Then they’d take what they needed.

This was supposed to have been their fifth and final train job. It was supposed to have gone like the others.
No one harmed or robbed. Merely a bit inconvenienced and perhaps a little shaken. The Masters would escape with a few bags of money that the government could simply print again, a “frightened” female hostage as played by Samantha herself, and the papers would have an exciting story to publish in the morning.

The signal, both to each other and to the passengers, was one shot, fired at the ceiling, and then a command to disarm, get moving, and a gentle promise that all this would be over before they knew it. Samantha’s job was to act like any other passenger, and incite them to obey. Then, if necessary, act as the hostage to force compliance.

“People are sheep,” Boyd had always said. “They’ll follow a sweet thing like you to their doom.”

On this job, Samantha had been more comfortable than any other. At this time in October, with winter settling in but Christmas still a ways off, travel wasn’t foremost on the mind of the average American.

Her railcar had only two occupants other than herself. Alison Ross, a lively, bright-eyed San Franciscan socialite, and a well-dressed businessman more interested in his paper than conversation.

At first, Alison’s friendly overtures had vexed Samantha, as she found it hard to concentrate on responses when her blood sang with equal parts anticipation and anxiety. But, she realized, to not engage would be suspicious, and before long she’d found herself enjoying Alison’s company.

She’d not known many women her age, least of all friendly ones.

Samantha imagined that in another life, she and Alison could have, indeed, been friends.

Had she not been about to rob the train.

Had there not been more gunshots than were agreed upon . . .


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Whether she’s writing about Celtic Druids, Victorian bad boys, or brash Irish FBI Agents, Kerrigan Byrne uses her borderline-obsessive passion for history, her extensive Celtic ancestry, and her love of Shakespeare in every book. She lives at the base of the Rocky Mountains with her handsome husband and three lovely teenage girls, but dreams of settling on the Pacific Coast. Her Victorian Rebels novels include The Highwayman and The Highlander.

You can connect with Kerrigan at:

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The Duke (Victorian Rebels #4) by Kerrigan Byrne

the duke

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

He is noble, notorious, and takes no prisoners…

They say that now His Grace, Collin Talmage, Duke of Trenwyth has only one hand, he might finally be a mere mortal, but no one seems willing to test the theory. Rich as Midas, big as a Viking, beautiful as Adonis, and lethal as a feral wolf, he is the English Empire’s golden son. But now he’s lost everything. Most of his family died in a terrible accident, his protégé and closest friend betrayed him on the battlefield, and his left hand was cut off while he was a prisoner of war. The only thing that’s kept him going until now is the memory of a night spent in the arms of a mysterious raven-haired woman almost a year ago…

Imogen Pritchard is a nurse by day, but a fallen woman—and a spy—by night. Seduced on the job years ago by a Duke who mourned for the loss of his family, Imogen has never shaken the memory of the man’s despair—or the fathomless depths of pleasure he brought to her. But as the threat of betrayals, blackmail, and secrets abound, Imogen and Collin are thrown back together in a dizzying swirl of dangerous games and earthshattering desire. But can their love overcome the everything that threatens to tear them apart?

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Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s Press, February 2017

Time and Setting: London, 1879
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Sara

Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series brings to life dangerous men who are always one heartbeat away from succumbing to their darkest impulses. The love they find in the arms of their perfect women saves their souls. In The Duke, the formula is changed just slightly to introduce a man whose heart is so hardened he almost misses his chance at salvation.

Collin Talmage was never supposed to be the Duke of Trewyth. Knowing he was the spare to his father’s legacy gave Cole the freedom to join the military where he has used his strength and intelligence to good effect. His career as a soldier and spy comes to a tragic halt when his family is killed in an accident, immediately elevating him to one of the highest peerages in the realm. On the eve of his final assignment, Cole hopes to escape from the reality of his life for just a few moments in the company of his fellow soldiers. Their group arrives at the Bare Kitten Dance Hall where Cole quickly notices the beautiful barmaid serving the men. Pulling her away from the attentions of his closest companion, Cole arranges for Ginny to remain at his side for the rest of the evening and later to join him in his bed.

Imogen Pritchard, hiding her true identity under a black wig and a false name, wasn’t a whore and should never have been in a place as seedy as the Bare Kitten. Inheriting her father’s debt to the club’s proprietor forced her to work off the amount owed but she was promised she would never have to pay by working on her back. Unfortunately Cole’s money is more important to the owner than any agreement made with Imogen. With no option but to comply, Imogen is surprised by Cole’s care and lover-like treatment. His caresses and kisses ignite passions Imogen wasn’t aware she could feel, and in a single night her heart is lost to the man with eyes filled with a sorrow that Imogen wishes she could take from him.

A year passes before Imogen and Cole’s paths cross again. Cole disappears soon after leaving England and it’s feared he was killed or captured in the line of duty. Imogen can only hope he’s alive as she works at the Bare Kitten each night while maintaining her day job as a nurse at St. Margaret’s hospital. Starting a shift, she finds the hospital abuzz with the news of the arrival of an important patient – none other than the Duke of Trewyth – whom the doctors fear is dying from typhus. Imogen’s experience with the disease makes her question the diagnosis and she risks her position to have another doctor treat Cole. Her decision saves his life but the attending physician fires Imogen for insubordination. Things only get worse when a patron at the Bare Kitten tries to rape her, and she kills him in self defence. Imogen’s desperation leads her back to the hospital where the elderly Earl of Anstruther catches her stealing. The kind earl’s act of altruism saves Imogen and changes her life forever.

Once the real cause of his distress is discovered Cole’s body heals but his mind and spirit take another two years to recover. The torture he endured was only bearable by clinging to the memory of Ginny and the perfect night they shared before his life became a living hell. It’s the hope of finding his angel that becomes an obsession for Cole; so much so that he has little patience for any other women who cross his path. His main frustration comes in the form of his new neighbor Imogen, Lady Anstruther. Her ideas about social reform as well as her informality and common background all pick at Cole’s high principles. His attraction to the beautiful woman is something to be endured rather than embraced. However, when the young widow finds herself in mortal danger Cole is, surprisingly, the first one to offer his protection.

I am a die-hard fan of Ms. Byrne’s writing but I had some problems as I read The Duke. Imogen is a wonderfully fhree-dimensional character, full of compassion and grace while having to hold her family together against dire circumstances. Cole on the other hand remains aloof, bitter and angry from almost the first moments of his introduction right up the final pages of the story. Everything seems to happen around him while he remains rooted in place, stuck there by outdated ideals and a stubborn refusal to open his eyes to the gift he’s been given in Imogen. She has always been a balm to his wounded heart and yet when that healing happens without him realizing she is the same woman he’s been searching for, Cole pushes her away in the most crushing manner.

While not as compelling a story as the other books in the Victorian Rebels series, I would still recommend The Duke to readers who appreciate their heroes a bit on the dangerous side but dedicated to the happiness of their heroine.

The Highlander (Victorian Rebels #3) by Kerrigan Byrne

the highlander

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They call him the Demon Highlander. The fearsome Lieutenant Colonel Liam MacKenzie is known for his superhuman strength, towering presence, and fiery passion in the heat of battle. As Laird to the MacKenzie clan, the undefeated Marquess has vanquished his foes with all rage and wrath of his barbaric Highland ancestors. But when an English governess arrives to care for his children, the master of war finds himself up against his greatest opponent. . . in the game of love.

Defying all expectations, Miss Philomena is no plain-faced spinster but a ravishing beauty with voluptuous curves and haughty full lips that rattle the Laird to his core. Unintimidated by her master’s raw masculinity and savage ways, the headstrong lass manages to tame not only his wild children but the beast in his soul. With each passing day, Liam grows fonder of Miss Mena—and more suspicious. What secret is she hiding behind those emerald eyes? What darkness brought her to his keep? And how can he conquer this magnificent woman’s heart . . . without surrendering his own?

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Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s Press, August 2016

Time and Setting: London and Scotland, 1878
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Wendy

Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series has been a breath of fresh air in this genre. It has everything that I love in an historical romance; darkness, angst, sparkling dialogue and most importantly, a bone deep, spine-tingling romance with characters I adore and care about. All three novels in the series are beautifully and eloquently written but my favourite by a whisker has been The Highlander; from the first page to the last, I was completely enthralled.

Laird Liam Mackenzie, Marquess of Ravencroft has a fearsome reputation which is well earned. He is a warrior in the true sense of the word and has recklessly risked his life on the battlefield for many years. Now he has returned home to tend to his lands, his people and more importantly, his motherless children who have been left to their own devices for too long.

As a girl, Lady Philomena St.Vincent, Viscountess Benchley had an idyllic lifestyle, with a father who doted on her indulged and educated her, but for the five years of her marriage she has suffered horribly at the hands of her sadistic, dissolute husband. Now – apparently barren, and her money spent – she has been consigned to Belle Glen asylum a sadly convenient way for men to get rid of unwanted women at this time. Mena (to her friends) has been dropped in the midst of a terrifying, living nightmare, one that even her dreadful marriage hasn’t prepared her for. Having been subjected to the most degrading atrocities, she is at her wits end – subjugated, violated and beaten. I take my hat off to Kerrigan Byrne; she has a unique ability to draw the reader into the world she describes, in this case, one of unbearable suffering and hopelessness. I read on in horrified fascination, unwilling to put my kindle down but willing Mena to beat her persecutors. It was with some relief then, when at her lowest ebb, Christopher Argent (The Hunter) and Dorian Blackwell (The Highwayman) arrive in the company of the Chief Inspector of police to spectacularly rescue her.

Blackwell and Argent are tied by their violent pasts. Each has found love and it is because of the friendship their ladies share with Mena and also because of a service she rendered to them at the expense of her own safety, that they facilitate her rescue. Now she must be hidden from her violent husband while these powerful men start proceedings to clear her name.

Liam Mackenzie is in need of a governess-come-social-instructor for his children, who have pretty much run wild in the absence of their father. Dorian’s wife, Farah, Countess Northwalk, decides that the depths of Scotland is the perfect hiding place for a runaway wife, so Mena becomes Miss Philomena Lockhart, spinster governess, and travels to Scotland to work for the man commonly known as The Demon Highlander – Lt. Col. William Grant Ruaridh Mackenzie, Marquess Ravencroft. I loved their first meeting – there is much hilarity amongst the Highlanders when Mena regally instructs them in the repairing of a broken wheel. I can see in my mind’s eye, this bevy of rough, tough men with their hair in muddy rats tails, staring slack jawed at the beautiful, curvaceous English lady telling them what to do!

The attraction between the large, gorgeous barbarian who believes himself to be unworthy of love, and the luscious but insecure red-head who is completely unaware of her own innate elegance and sensuality simply leaps off the page and never wanes; these two people are beautifully developed characters and I loved them both. There are some fantastic secondary characters too, not least Andrew and Rhianna, Liam’s children, and Jani, the Laird’s colourful, Hindu valet.

As the story reaches its climax, Kerrigan Byrne ratchets up the sexual tension but also the drama as Liam’s and finally, Mena’s secrets, are revealed in a shocking culmination of revenge and justice involving a host of characters. This has been a fantastic series, very different from others I’ve read recently, in its dark, eloquently written melodrama and I highly recommend it. Even the few Americanisms didn’t annoy me, so drawn into the story was I. The Highlander is a real winner, Ms. Byrne.

The Hunter (Victorian Rebels #2) by Kerrigan Byrne

the hunter
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They’re rebels, scoundrels, and blackguards–dark, dashing men on the wrong side of the law. But for the women who love them, a hint of danger only makes the heart beat faster…

A scandalous proposal…

Christopher Argent lives in the shadows as the empire’s most elite assassin. Emotion is something he tossed away years ago, making him one of the most clear-eyed, cold-hearted, wealthiest, and therefore untouchable men in London. But when his latest target turns out to be London’s own darling, Millicent LeCour, Christopher’s whole world is turned upside down. Overwhelmed by her stunning combination of seduction and innocence, Christopher cannot complete the mission. She has made him feel again. Now, he will do anything to save her life, even if it means risking his own…

A perilous passion…

When Millie learns what Christopher was hired to do, she is torn between the fear in her heart and the fire in her soul. Putting herself in this notorious hunter’s arms may be her only path to safety–even if doing so could be the deadliest mistake she’s ever made. But how can she resist him? As the heat between her and Christopher burns out of control, danger lurks in the shadows. Is their desire worth the risk? Only the enemy knows what fate has in store…

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Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s Press, February 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London, 1877
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 Stars

Review by Sara

Author Kerrigan Byrne unwittingly created a very big challenge for herself with The Hunter. Not only did the book have to follow The Highwayman, one of the most highly regarded releases of 2015 (on my “best of” list and those of many other reviewers) but the hero she introduced was a cold-blooded killer with little remorse for the job he does. How do you make an assassin into a man worthy of love?

Christopher Argent was briefly seen in The Highwayman as something of a lieutenant for crime boss Dorian Blackwell. When the men escaped Newgate prison and took control of the London underworld, Christopher used his skills as a master assassin to kill targets who threatened the group’s rise to power. With control of the city firmly in the hands of Blackwell, Argent takes contracts for anyone who can afford his services with no care about the target, save small children. His latest job, to kill actress Millicent LeCour, is nothing out of the ordinary and Christopher begins his work by observing his target to find the best way to kill without drawing attention. Watching her on stage and then seeing how she engages a room full of strangers triggers something within Christopher, making him risk interacting with his victim before taking her life.

For Millie LeCour, the best way to connect with her audience is to find one face in the crowd and perform her role as if only for them. Catching the focused gaze of a man with pale blue eyes, Millie finds herself drawn by his attention. Seeing him again at a theater party, giving her the same direct attention as before, is exhilarating enough for her to take a chance to know her silent admirer better. Millie finds herself giving into a passionate kiss in the shadows that leaves her breathless and wanting more, yet he leaves her before their encounter can go much further. Millie’s euphoria at a successful début and a romantic encounter is short-lived when her mysterious stranger appears in her apartments later that evening prepared to finish what he had started; not her seduction but her murder.

Needing to complete his job despite the strange awareness he has around Millie, it is her selfless concern for her son that stays Christopher’s hand at her throat. Unable to reconcile the image of a loving mother with the kind of woman who would warrant a contracted hit, and with his lust for her adding to his confusion, Christopher decides that there must be something more to Millicent LeCour. Believing that slaking his lust for the woman will clear his mind and refocus him, Christopher offers Millie a devil’s bargain to protect her from whoever wants her dead in exchange for one night in his bed. Without knowing who could want her murdered Millie has no choice to accept Christopher’s terms for protection. Unfortunately he cannot know how high a price he’s asked her to pay.

It is a difficult feat to make an assassin the hero of any kind of media and it is here that Ms. Byrne flexes her writing muscles. Many of Christopher’s behaviors would indicate that he’s a sociopath, detached wholly from his actions to the point where he describes himself as being outside of his body observing himself going through the motions of living; however there are small hints that Christopher does feel things in his own disconnected way. It begins when he sees Millie “die” on stage and it pricks at emotions long buried. The longer he keeps himself in Millie’s company the more he begins sensing her reactions or emotions, which causes his own untried feelings to manifest. Christopher transitions over the course of the story from wanting to possess Millie as an object of lust to needing her for their emotional connection and the life she brings back to him.

Just as The Highwayman used darkness and light to distinguish the traits of the main characters, in The Hunter it’s Life and Death that color Millie and Christopher. Using her talents on the stage, Millie breathes life into the characters she portrays, drawing in her audience to believe that those fictional struggles are important. As a mother she nurtures and protects her son Jakub, giving him every advantage in his life that she can provide. Millie’s soul is such that past tragedies or a real and present threat to her life are not enough to extinguish her love of the life she has built for herself. It is that spark and joy of being alive that calls to Christopher like a siren’s song, beating back all of the death and horrors he has lived and inured himself to.

I loved so much of The Hunter and it served as a wonderful follow-up in both tone and storytelling to the previous book. In the end however, there is a small part of me that couldn’t quite believe that one woman could turn a man like Christopher around so fully in only a matter of weeks. There are clues sprinkled within the text to show that he was changing even before knowing Millie; forming a brotherhood of sorts with Blackwell and having a code about the kinds of jobs he would take, but one can see there is still much more work to do in saving his soul. I can hope that as the series progresses we will revisit Christopher and Millie to see some of those developments in their life together.

A 2015 Retrospective – Our Favourite Books of the Year

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It’s that time of year when we start looking forward to another year of great reads, but also look back on the books we’ve read and enjoyed throughout the previous year. Members of RHR’s team of reviewers have chosen some of their favourite books and audiobooks from 2015; maybe they’re books you read and enjoyed, too, or they’re books you meant to read that got forgotten (so now’s the chance to catch up!).

If we’ve missed YOUR favourite books of last year, be sure to let us know yours in the comments!

Caz’s Favourites:

Stella Riley continues her Georgian-set Rockliffe Series with The Player , in which the hero, Adrian Devereux is forced to return from exile in France in order to assume the title and responsibilities of the Earl of Sarre. He left England under a cloud when he was wrongly suspected of the murder of his fiancée, and simply vanished, making his living as an actor – and an incredibly talented one, at that. But his return is fraught with difficulties, not least of which is that his decade of playing a part has left him unsure of who he is any more. Ms Riley has given us yet another swoonworthy hero in Adrian and her writing is a strong and intelligent as ever. The Player is a truly delightful read with a strong storyline, a well-written, tender romance and a cast of well-developed supporting characters.

It Started with a Scandal is the tenth in Julie Anne Long’s popular Pennyroyal Green series, and is a wonderfully romantic story with a bit of a “Jane Eyre-ish” vibe to it, about two people who don’t quite fit in finding that they fit perfectly with each other. Philippe and Elise are from different spheres of life – he French nobility, she a housekeeper – yet they are both fiercely protective towards those they love and desperate to do the right thing by them. Their romance is a delicious slow-burn, full of sexual tension and wonderfully witty banter, and the book is full of warmth and charm.

Lucinda Brant’s Deadly Peril is a popular choice, and deservedly so. It’s the third in her series of Georgian Historical Mysteries featuring the urbane and fiercely intelligent former diplomat, Alec Halsey, and it’s her best yet – which is saying something considering that the previous books are terrific reads. Here, Alec is made to confront some of the less pleasant aspects of his past as he travels to the German principality of Midanich, a place he had hoped never to see again. The plotting is superb – Ms Brant really does have a devious mind 😉 – and the fictional state of Midanich is so brilliantly evoked that I almost had to look it up on a map to see if it was real!  This book – actually, the whole series – is a must for fans of historical mysteries with a strong element of romance.

Alyssa Everett is one of my favourite authors, and her most recent book, The Marriage Act is a terrific, though not always easy, read.  It’s the story of an estranged couple who agree to reunite solely to assure the heroine’s father that they are happy together, and tells how they gradually begin to see that they have both been guilty of mistaken assumptions and of projecting their own hurts and insecurities onto the other. The characterisation and writing are both excellent, and even though there are times that both act in ways that are far from admirable, Ms Everett has written them in such a way as to ensure that even when the reader is thinking “ouch!”, their motivations are understandable.  The chemistry between John and Caroline is terrific and this is a story in which the messiness of the central relationship feels all the more realistic for not being  perfect.

While I’m a big fan of historical fiction, I was unsure about branching out into “alternate” historical fiction a couple of years back when I read Laura Andersen’s Boleyn Trilogy, which is set in a timeline in which Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII a son who lived to inherit the throne. But I was utterly enthralled by the author’s ability to tell a great story while also incorporating a number of real historical events and figures. In The Virgin’s Daughter, Ms Andersen sets up yet another great “what if?” premise by having Elizabeth I married to Philip of Spain and having had a daughter by him. It’s a terrific read, the plot is enjoyably complex (although not confusing), the story is rich in background detail and intrigue and there’s an enjoyable romance running throughout the main story. I’m looking forward to reading more in this entertaining series.

Claudia’s Favourites


M is for Marquess by Grace Callaway

I discovered a new auto-buy author with this book … I’ve now read each of Grace Callaway’s books and loved them – which is exceptional. Gabriel and Thea from this book were two of the best characters I read this year. Both had their difficulties and it was charming to see how they overcame them together, even though it wasn’t always easy for them. This is my favourite book of 2015.

Falling Into Bed with a Duke by Lorraine Heath

This is the first book in a new series by this author, and I loved it. The way these two characters found their way to each other was delightful to read and I can’t wait for the next book.

Love in the Time of Scandal  by Caroline Linden

This is a great book and I really enjoyed how the two central characters worked out their troubles and found a way to each other. Benedict was a delightful hero, he was sweet, warm, charming but could also be wicked (in the nicest way!) and Penelope was the perfect heroine for him. I loved her more for the way she tried to make the best of things.

Lady Wesley’s Favourites:

This was the year that I became an audiobook addict, so for your listening enjoyment I’ve picked some audio titles published in 2015. By the way, I actually have read all of these books and can wholeheartedly recommend the print versions as well.

This year Loretta Chase continued treating her fans to audio versions of some of her classics. The Last Hellion, first published in 1998, pairs Lord Dain’s (Lord of Scoundrels) best friend, Vere Mallory, with crusading female journalist Lydia Grenville. Mallory, who never expected or wanted to be a duke, is probably a bigger reprobate than Dain, and carouses to forget his grief for the loved ones whose untimely deaths elevated him to the Ainsworth dukedom. Grenville, a fearless bluestocking, has no interest in men, and views Ainsworth with utter disdain. The plot is classic battle-of-the-sexes, with dangerous escapades and lots of Chase’s trademark banter. Lord and Lady Dain make cameo appearances, as does Lady Dain’s goofy brother, Bertie Trent, who gets his own HEA. Kate Reading, one of the best in the business, delivers another first-class performance.

Mary Balogh, another leading light in the historical romance genre, continued her Survivors’ Club series with Only a Promise) , narrated by the incomparable Rosalyn Landor. Waterloo survivor Ralph Stockwood, whose wounds are psychic and thus largely invisible to the world, is reluctant to take a wife even though he knows that he needs to. Enter Chloe Muirhead, who wants to marry and have a family but whose hopes have been dashed by scandal in her family. She proposes to Ralph, offering him a marriage of convenience free of pesky feelings of love and desire. Ah, but this is Romance, so it is inevitable that the two will indeed fall in love. Chloe and Ralph are mature adults, however, and thus it is the deliberate, realistic, and poignant manner in which this HEA comes about that distinguishes this story.

Last year, I recommended Grace Burrowes’ entire Captive Hearts trilogy, as I could not pick a favorite from among them, and this year I find myself in a similar quandary. Lucinda Brant, whose books are set in Georgian England, has published three series, but I think the very best is the Alec Halsey Mystery series. The first two volumes – Deadly Engagement and Deadly Affair – came out in audio format in 2015. The third, Deadly Peril, was published in print last month, and the audio version will be issued very soon. Alec Halsey is a career diplomat who was rather chagrined to find himself elevated to a marquessate for services to the crown. He is handsome, intelligent, somewhat enigmatic, intensely honorable, and decidedly his own man, and he gets involved with intrigues and mysteries, while trying to revive his relationship with his first love, a lady who is now a widow. With impressive research and first-class writing, Lucinda Brant vividly recreates 18th century England and deftly combines mystery and romance into one big delightful package that will please fans of both genres. She has found the perfect narrator in British actor Alex Wyndham, whose beautiful baritone perfectly captures the swoon-worthy Halsey, and who is equally adept at voicing females of all ages. Wyndham does not just narrate Brant’s stories, he virtually inhabits Brant’s characters. Listening to him is a joy beyond joy.

Natalie’s Favourites:

The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

This book was the much awaited ending to Willig’s Pink Carnation series. In the final installment the Pink Carnation herself is finally paired with an intriguing turncoat spy and sparks fly. I adored the entire series, and was very happy with this final instalment that brought closure to several characters in Willig’s trademark style.

Death Comes To Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd

This is the third instalment in the Kurland St. Mary Mysteries and follows the curmudgeonly Major Robert Kurland and Spinster Lucy Harrington as they investigate yet another murder. I fell in love with the first two books in the series because our two main characters are both such anti-heroes but slowly they started coming around and in Death Comes to Kurland Hall they finally declare their feelings toward one another. This book falls more on the side of historical mystery but if you don’t mind a very chaste love story, pick up the first two books and then finish with this one.

Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper

This third book in Isabel Cooper’s Highland Dragons series follows Judith MacAlasdair, the third shape-shifting MacAliasdair, and only female. Judith has been living in the ancestral home for 2 decades and is quickly coming on the moment when she will have to leave to hide her immortality from the townsfolk. But when a stranger turns up at the same time as several brutal murders are discovered, Judith realizes she must stay and protect her neighbors. I had read the first two books in this series a while back and when I started this one I was thrilled to have a female shape-shifter as the heroine of the final book in the series.

Sara’s Favourites:

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne
This book had a bit of everything; a deeply tortured hero combined with a strong, supportive and caring heroine. A dark secret and the redeeming power of love. The story was gripping and immersive, giving a reader so much more than just the basic plot of two characters falling in love. It’s an incredible story that I was reluctant to finish, have already re-read, and has made me eager for more.

Diary of an Accidental Wallflower by Jennifer McQuinston
A romance that crosses classes and puts a working man into the spotlight as a hero. What makes the book special is that both main characters have dimension, developing and changing from their experiences throughout the story. The secondary characters are just as appealing and do their job of supporting the story and pushing the main characters in the right directions. This was an early release in the year but still remains a favorite.

I Loved a Rogue by Katharine Ashe
The conclusion to The Prince Catchers series, this story rewards a reader who has followed the breadcrumbs left by the author about her characters and their future. All the threads left hanging from the previous stories are tied up nicely, but the highlight is the romance between two souls kept apart by personal fears and social prejudices. A perfect mix of adventure and emotion in one amazing story.

Wendy’s Favourites:

Deadly Peril by Lucinda Brant: this Georgian mystery, the third in the Alec Halsey series, was just fascinating; it has so many twists and turns that the reader is kept guessing until the last paragraph. A fair indicator of an excellent read as far as I am concerned, is whether I can put it down easily – I couldn’t.

The King’s Man by Alison Stuart: this historical romance set during the English Civil war was my first by this author and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I particularly liked her characters, especially the hero, a bad boy (well only through circumstances) reformed by the love of a good woman. I look forward to more of this author’s work.

The Soldier’s Dark Secret by Marguerite Kaye is an historical romance by one of my favourites. Set in the aftermath of Waterloo, it features a compelling hero damaged by his experiences; as I’m fond of dark and angsty, this hit the spot.

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne: again another first for me, I found this very unusual novel, set in Victorian England strangely compelling. Written in a very unusual style it nevertheless appealed to me with its darker side. Not to everyone’s taste, but definitely to mine.

Tall, Dark, and Wicked by Madeleine Hunter: yet another first for me and I loved it. I thought a barrister as a hero a very original and interesting concept; Ms. Hunter is most definitely on my radar now.

 

So these are some of our favourite books of 2015.  I’m sure we could all have picked more that we’ve enjoyed, but these have been the titles that have stuck in our memories and those books we’ve put onto our “keeper” shelves.

We’d love to hear from you about the books you enjoyed last year, so please do join in the discussion in the comments!

happy new year

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caz

The Highwayman (Victorian Rebels #1) by Kerrigan Byrne

the highwayman
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STEALING BEAUTY
Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More, is a ruthless villain. Scarred and hard-hearted, Dorian is one of Victorian London’s wealthiest, most influential men who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance on those who’ve wronged him…and will fight to the death to seize what he wants. The lovely, still innocent widow Farah Leigh Mackenzie is no exception-and soon Dorian whisks the beautiful lass away to his sanctuary in the wild Highlands…

COURTING DESIRE
But Farah is no one’s puppet. She possesses a powerful secret-one that threatens her very life. When being held captive by Dorian proves to be the only way to keep Farah safe from those who would see her dead, Dorian makes Farah a scandalous proposition: marry him for protection in exchange for using her secret to help him exact revenge on his enemies. But what the Blackheart of Ben More never could have imagined is that Farah has terms of her own, igniting a tempestuous desire that consumes them both. Could it be that the woman he captured is the only one who can touch the black heart he’d long thought dead?

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

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London and Scotland, 1872
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Sara

Recently orphaned and left at a children’s home in Scotland, young Farah is drawn to a boy she discovers hiding out in the parish cemetery. Having witnessed Dougan being punished by the nuns just for wanting more food, Farah vows to share what she has with him and opens her heart to a new friend. Over three years, her relationship with Dougan grows until the love they have for one another is more than either of them quite understands at their young age. Through horrible circumstances they are ripped away from one another and Farah grows up knowing that her first love is lost to her and she must survive in the world on her own.

Seventeen years later, Farah has made a life for herself in London by working as a clerk in the offices of Scotland Yard. With a job that exposes her to criminal elements Farah has encountered many men and women who lead their lives on the wrong side of the law, but nothing prepares her for her first meeting with the man whom all other criminals fear, Dorian Blackwell.

Dorian, the Blackheart of Ben More, has created an empire for himself and the men who were with him at Newgate prison. He has survived against other criminals and beat the law with his intelligence and cutthroat tactics until his name was synonymous with power and control. Held to a promise to protect Farah with his life, he has searched for her ever since his release and uses all the resources at his disposal to take her to his stronghold in Scotland. There, he reveals to Farah threats against her life she never knew existed. Knowing more about her background than Farah realizes, Dorian tells her that the only way to protect her completely is to align her with him in the most binding way possible, through marriage!

To give away any more of the plots that unfold around Farah and Dorian would spoil what I felt was an amazing reading experience. The Highwayman draws in the reader with a touching story of love ripped apart but it keeps them riveted with tight characterizations and secrets that aren’t completely revealed until the very end.

I loved how much darkness and light were used not only for the tone of the story but to show just who Farah and Dorian are. The author takes advantage of her late Victorian setting by giving all of the events in London a very dark and gritty feel. Dorian and his men thrive in this darkness and there is good use of shadow whenever he is in a scene. This sense that Farah can never see him clearly is in turn the same sense we the reader have of him. Farah is light and goodness, so even in her earliest scenes we understand that she is a beacon that those around her use to bring themselves out into the open. In those same moments where Dorian hides in the darkness we can feel him drawn to Farah’s light. Only towards the end, when his ultimate secret is revealed are we finally illuminated to the real Dorian. From there, the darkness of all the characters slowly retreats until the last moment of the story when we know it’s been banished for good.

Farah is such an incredible heroine because she is allowed to be “good” but never crosses over into Mary Sue territory. Like many well-remembered heroines, she has a backbone of pure steel that keeps her upright when the hero himself or her situation tries to bend her. As an adult, Farah has grown from the tragedies of her childhood to appreciate all aspects of humanity. She is independent, holding down a difficult job in a male dominated world, but she also knows how important it is to be close to others. After the prologue we are reintroduced to Farah during a vulnerable moment of her life where she is ready to open her heart again after knowing heartbreak, but she doesn’t fear love. Throughout the story she remains true to her ideals but does allow for the moral grayness that comes with Dorian’s way of life.

Old school romance readers will appreciate many of the tricks the author uses to keep Dorian as mysterious a figure as long as possible. We see so many moments between them from Farah’s point of view that we fear him along with her but also come to understand him through her own awakening. Her love for Dorian comes from empathizing with his experiences in prison and recognizing everything he has done to become powerful in the underworld. Dorian is so much the traditional Alpha hero that I could transplant him straight from this book into one of the old bodice rippers. I really liked that he wasn’t the typical “Rake” or “Rogue” that we’ve all come to expect from historical romances these days. He was a Scoundrel who managed to find that small part of himself that hadn’t been completely tarnished and gave that part of himself to Farah.

The Highwayman includes not only perfect romantic elements but also the intrigues and devices that could grab a reader from any genre. There are lies, corruptions, murders, dramas and just amazing storytelling from beginning to end. I applaud Kerrigan Byrne for daring to write a dark romantic story when so many recent authors have come to bookstores with lighter fare with little substance. This book will stay with me long after I’ve finished it, which is the truest mark of a 5-star read.

Unwanted (Highland Historical #3) by Kerrigan Byrne

Unwanted by Kerrigan Byrne

Published: June 13, 2012

Publisher’s Blurb:

His heart was made of ice…
Born a nameless bastard into the Berserker horde, Finn is the measure of strength, ferocity, and brutality at the Temple of Freya. Sent to the Highlands bent on revenge and murder, he stumbles on an infant deserted in the snow. What he chooses next may seal his fate.

Her life was cold and empty…
Rhona McEwan has lost everything. Her husband, her child, and soon she fears she must relinquish her dignity in order to survive the bitter Highland winter. When the most fearsome, mysterious, and breathtaking man seeks the help she can give to the child in his arms, she’s unable to turn them away. Even though she’s not certain he’s entirely human.

Three of the world’s Unwanted…
On a snowy Solstice night during the magical Yuletide season, their need for each other may alter their destines forever.

In the third installment of the best-selling Highland Historical Series, Kerrigan Byrne weaves a tale of blood and vengeance, of love, redemption, and the bonds that make a family.

Tags: Romance, Historical, Highlander, Paranormal, Short-Story

Time Frame: Scottish Highlands, Winter, 1411

Heat Level: 3

REVIEW RATING : 5 stars

REVIEW BY LEE ANNE:

Kerrigan Byrne writes the most amazing Scottish highlander/berserker stories ever. She weaves the myth of the Scottish Berserker into a wonderful erotic love story that transcends time.

She never ceases to amaze me as she creates these wonderful characters that pull at your heartstrings and make you want to read more. This is the third in the Highland Historical Series and I’m hoping it’s not the last. I would love to get yet another of these wonderful stories.

Finn is an unwanted Berserker. He’s not welcome at the temple to Freya and those in power at the temple send Finn to his death. They send him on a mission to kill the impure Berserkers in the highlands. Little does Finn know he has a connection to these Berserkers.

Along the way, he rescues a wee bairn and finds a mate. It’s a wonderful love story that is filled with tension, battles and acceptance.

 Unwilling is currently available at Amazon for $2.99.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER:

I am a happily married mother of three very busy children.  Most of my time is spent chauffeuring my kids to their various activities. I cram reading into any spare moment I have. Some days I can have an hour or two and others I’m sneaking in quick reads while waiting on the kids to finish their soccer or gymnastics practice. I like to read a wide variety of genres but I definitely prefer romance. I can’t really pinpoint a favorite author as it changes on a regular basis. I absolutely love finding new authors and giving their stories a chance to be heard. We all have a voice in our heads writing stories and those voices should be given a chance to be heard.

Unwilling (Highland Historical #2) by Kerrigan Byrne

Published: June 13, 2012

Publisher’s Blurb:

He should never have kissed her…

Laird Connor MacLauchlan doesn’t want a wife, but he finds his Berserker mate in the heat of battle. Though he fears for her safety from the darkness that lurks inside him, fate dictates he must take her and make her his…

She was meant to be his enemy’s bride…

Noble beauty Lindsay Ross has been sold to the highest bidder. On her way to meet her vile betrothed, a savage and mythic warrior slaughters her entire vanguard. Now she’s his captive and he seems determined to claim her body for his own. Connor promises to keep her safe from the evil warlord she was to marry, but who will protect her from him?

Tags: Romance, Historical, Highlander, Paranormal, Short-Story

Time Frame: Scottish Highlands, August, 1411

Heat Level: 2.5

REVIEW RATING : 4 stars

REVIEW BY LEE ANNE:

Connor was supposed to kill the tyrannical laird MacKay in order to free those people from tyranny and fear. Instead he ended up finding his mate in Lindsay Ross. Connor never wanted a mate, but his berserker claimed Lindsay the instant he saw her.  Now he just has to convince her to accept him.

Lindsay is a formidable heroine. She refuses to simply accept her fate and decides to orchestrate her own outcome. She’s strong and independent in a time when women were nothing more than chattel to be bartered to advancement of men. She does this without being a shrew. Connor is an alpha male who is the laird of  his clan. He’s accepted his berserker and has no plans for a mate. He’s stubborn and in typical male fashion, doesn’t understand women!

From their very first encounter, their passion burned hot. Lindsay and Connor would never be the same. Connor’s berserker claimed Lindsay but how will Connor get Lindsay to claim him and his berserker.

Kerrigan Byrne weaves a fantastic story filled with romance, magic, and passion. This is the second book in the Highland Historical Romance and it’s every bit as good as the first one! I’m hoping she will continue with this series or possibly write other highlander stories.

 Unwilling is currently available at Amazon for $2.99.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER:

I am a happily married mother of three very busy children.  Most of my time is spent chauffeuring my kids to their various activities. I cram reading into any spare moment I have. Some days I can have an hour or two and others I’m sneaking in quick reads while waiting on the kids to finish their soccer or gymnastics practice. I like to read a wide variety of genres but I definitely prefer romance. I can’t really pinpoint a favorite author as it changes on a regular basis. I absolutely love finding new authors and giving their stories a chance to be heard. We all have a voice in our heads writing stories and those voices should be given a chance to be heard.

Unspoken (Highland Historical #1) by Kerrigan Byrne

Published: Marcy 24, 2012

Publisher’s Blurb:

He’s cursed with eternal silence…

Roderick MacLauchlan is death for hire. Blessed by an ancient Deity with Berserker rage, he has the strength of ten men. Cursed by a malicious enemy, he’s incapable of speech. A desperate clan war rages around him and a malevolent adversary lurks in the darkness, calling for blood.

Evelyn Woodhouse is an English refugee with a dangerous secret. She has the ability to see the outcome of tomorrow’s battle and knows they’re on the wrong side of it. When a doomed and silent mercenary rescues her from a fate worse than death, it seems he has his own plans for her. This is his last night alive and she’s never been able to defy destiny. 

Tags: Romance, Historical, Highlander, Paranormal, Short-Story

Time Frame: Aberdeen, Scotland 1411

Heat Level: 3

REVIEW RATING : 3.5 stars

REVIEW BY LEE ANNE:

Unspoken is the first book in the Historical Highland series by Kerrigan Byrne and what a start it is! I was hooked into this story from the very beginning.

Evelyn ran from England and ended up a bar maid in Scotland. A war is being waged around her town and the warriors are in her tavern the night before a big battle. One of the warriors accosts Evelyn causing Roderick to come to her defense. Later that night he rescues her once again by asking her into his bed. And what a night they spend!

Evelyn has what is called “the sight”. She can see the future of other people. She decides to warn Roderick that he is in grave danger. Instead she ends up in danger herself, again.

I really enjoyed this short story and was disappointed it ended so early. I would love to read more about Evelyn and Roderick. I found their passion to be hot and intoxicating.  I would have liked to know more about the battles and what the fighting was for. There was also potential to expand on the treachery that Roderick faced.

Overall this is a very good short story and I’m looking forward to reading more in the series. Unwilling is the next story in the series and seems to deal with another Berserker in the family.

Unspoken is available on the Kindle at Amazon for $2.99.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER:

I am a happily married mother of three very busy children.  Most of my time is spent chauffeuring my kids to their various activities. I cram reading into any spare moment I have. Some days I can have an hour or two and others I’m sneaking in quick reads while waiting on the kids to finish their soccer or gymnastics practice. I like to read a wide variety of genres but I definitely prefer romance. I can’t really pinpoint a favorite author as it changes on a regular basis. I absolutely love finding new authors and giving their stories a chance to be heard. We all have a voice in our heads writing stories and those voices should be given a chance to be heard.