Release Day Spotlight – Left: A Love Story by Mary Hogan

ABOUT LEFT

In this beautifully crafted novel from the author of the critically-acclaimed Two Sisters, comes the story of a woman who retreats into a fantasy world on New York City’s Upper West Side as she slowly loses her once whip-smart husband to dementia—perfect for fans of Still Alice.

 When life falls apart, a little fantasy goes a long way…

It started as a dream vacation in Spain, with Fay and Paul Agarra enjoying all the delights of a European holiday. A respected New York City judge, Paul has always been the man Fay can rely on, no matter what. When he inexplicably disappears from a Barcelona street corner, Fay knows something is terribly wrong. Once reunited, Paul shrugs off the episode as a simple misunderstanding—but Fay suspects her almost perfect life has taken a dark and sudden turn.

Soon there are more signs that Paul is beginning to change. Bouts of forgetfulness lead to mistakes in the courtroom. Simple tasks cause unexplainable outbursts of anger. Fay’s worst suspicions are realized when she learns her husband—her rock, her love, her everything—is succumbing to the ravages of dementia.

As her husband transforms before her very eyes, Fay copes with her fears by retreating into a fantasy life filled with promise instead of pain. In Fay’s invented world, she imagines herself living a glamorous life free from heartache, with a handsome neighbor she barely knows rescuing her from a future she can’t accept.

Poignant and beautifully crafted, Left is an unforgettable tale about life’s aching uncertainties—and a woman who discovers that somewhere between hope and reality, an unexpected future will find its way forward.

READ AN EXCERPT:

I’d pushed for sightseeing. Of course. Málaga—the birthplace of Picasso—is an artist’s dream. Color everywhere. The Persian blue Mediterranean Sea, butter yellow high-rises, marmalade rooftops, basil green mountains, air the color of honey. Paul would have been happy relaxing at the cottage, puzzling over words like “spork” in the New York Times crossword. Not me. I needed to see color the way other women needed to eat chocolate.

“Orange.” It’s what John—Paul’s teenage son—had answered when I’d asked him what color he wanted to paint his bedroom.

“Carrot, pumpkin, or cantaloupe?” My face was as inscrutable as Mona Lisa’s. Back then, John was in a Trainspotting phase. Peroxided hair, black turtlenecks, Lou Reed, heroin

chic. He liked to test us. In those early days, I was a young stepmother learning on the fly.

Stupidly, Paul and I bought a run-down duplex apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side when we were newlyweds. Marriage, I learned quickly, was hard enough without Sheetrock dust all over your clothes. Still, the moment I set foot in that space, I knew it was my home. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a bricked garden on the ground floor. And, its own special gift: a sunny nook for my easel. It was everything I ever wanted. Worth our sweat and tears.

Every other weekend, Paul’s son lived with us. When it came time to paint his room, he smirked when he replied,

“Carrot.”

Paul weighed in from behind a newspaper. “N.O.”

“It’s my room!” All teenage grimace and pimply flush, John stamped his foot like a child.

“In my apartment,” said Paul.

Our apartment,” I gently reminded him. “And it’s John’s    room. Why not let him pick the color? It’s only paint.”

Paul shot me a dark look; I helped him lighten up.

In the paint store, John chose a sickening nacho color. Paul opened his mouth to protest, but I silenced him with a tented brow. What did it matter? John was a good kid. A teenager, yes—moody, slouchy, occasionally reeking of hormonal funk—but tolerable. He chuckled when I said, “We should get two dogs named George and Ringo. You know, round out the band?” I loved him for not groaning. When John was with his dad, Paul, I’m sure he heard comments like that all the time.

Seriously, I could have done worse. Paul could have had a daughter.

“It’s not like he’s doing heroin,” I quietly told my brand-new husband.

In the screech of a Primal Scream CD, the three of us painted the walls—and ceiling!—of John’s bedroom. Afterward, sitting on the floor eating pizza, Paul’s son looked around and said, “This is the ugliest room I’ve ever seen.”

We all got a good laugh out of that.

John is a coder now. He lives in Boston with a beautiful wife and amazing daughter. Like I said, it was only paint.

“Fay is wise beyond my years.” It’s Paul’s favorite quip. Or was. Whenever he said it, he threw his head back and howled at his own cleverness. My husband’s laugh was an invitation to join his party. What I wouldn’t give to hear that sound one more time.

***

“Grilled sardines on the beach in El Palo?” I suggested on our cottage patio, in Spain’s afternoon light.

“Too many Speedos.”

“A trek up Gibralfaro?”

“So darn uphill.”

“How about a stroll along Calle Larios in central Málaga?”

“Watch every Latin lover ogle my wife?”

“Paul.”

“Spoon and fork!” he yelped, filling in the crossword. Then he set the puzzle aside and joined me in touring Málaga. Because he loved me.

I loved that city. It felt like warm bread to me. Irresistible. The sort of city a person could devour when she felt cold or empty.

Each day, Paul and I strolled the avenidas. Leisurely, like Spaniards. We left our New York pace at home. In the nave of La Manquita, we blessed ourselves with holy water and sat in dark pews to soak up the angelic rays slanting down from the heavenly stained glass windows. My husband lassoed me into the crook of his arm, pressed a kiss on my temple, and whispered, “Seeing you in this light is worth the trip.”

I grinned, blissful. Wrapping my arm around Paul’s soft waist, I quietly leaned in to kiss the baby skin under his chin, the spot I owned. My body fit so snugly into his I almost heard a click as we interlocked. In Paul Agarra’s devouring hug, the world and its perils were safely caged away.

Our life is a postcard, I thought, clueless. With a contented smile, I rested my cheek against my husband’s strong shoulder.

Love as it should be.

Not once, not ever, did I regret my choice. Not after our first anniversary or our last one: our twenty-second. In the early days of our marriage, I raised my right hand in the air and vowed, “I, Fay Agarra, do solemnly swear to allow my husband to be exactly who he is.” Paul promised, too. Our word to each other. We’d never expect the other to be older or younger. Paul wasn’t my dad; I wasn’t his midlife crisis. In the shower, Paul sang obscure blues songs about somebody doing somebody wrong. I danced the Macarena in our living

room. I added blond streaks to the front of my brown hair; Paul let his temples go peppery gray. I tolerated his Tom Selleck mustache (for a while); he patiently waited for me to blow-dry my “Rachel.”

After two miscarriages, my husband consoled an inconsolable me. He softly said, “Okay, love,” when I refused to try again. After my mother, my brother, my dad, I couldn’t bear to lose anyone else.

Men my age seemed like boys, heads bent over their cell phones as if the present moment was never riveting enough. Eyes roaming the other tables in a restaurant; brows cocked when a woman asked a waiter, “Do fries come with that?”

Paul is different. He’s a grown man. Words of commitment never get trapped behind overly bleached teeth.

I love you. You’re mine. We’re us.

Yeah, it shouldn’t have worked. Yet it did. Until it didn’t.

BUY LINKS for LEFT:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ylDkET                        IndieBound: https://bit.ly/2HXKgaR Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2tjmd0O               Books-A-Million: https://bit.ly/2lfviDY  iBooks: https://apple.co/2MBFq6w                       GooglePlay: https://tinyurl.com/y7ctxnby

CONNECT with MARY:

Website: https://www.maryhogan.com

Facebook: https://bit.ly/2K6SylE

Twitter: @authormaryhogan

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2JQlm2A

 

 

Posted in Mary Hogan, New Releases, Promotions, Women's Fiction | 1 Comment

Fresh Fiction Box-Not-to-Miss for June, 2018

It’s time to check out the goodies that appeared in the June box from Fresh Fiction.  Did you know that the entertainment and book review site, FRESH FICTION also has a monthly book subscription service?  Every month, subscribers will receive one of the unmistakable bright pink boxes, full of books, ebook downloads, and a specialty tea bag.  And, by the way, that sturdy pink box is great for storage or shipping, and protects the books beautifully.  The books you receive will be from different genres, and no two boxes will be the same.  You’ll always receive three-to-five hard copy books, which may be hardcover, trade size, or paperback.  You’ll also receive download cards for at least three ebooks. Fresh Fiction will ship internationally – you can find out all the details and costs for your location here:  FRESH FICTION BOX.

This month’s box included the following ebooks:  No Less Days by Amanda Stevens, Wingbound by Heather Trim, and A Sheriff’s Passion by Michelle Beattie.  Paperbacks included The Warrior of Clan Kincaid by Lily Blackwood, and a compilation A Wedding on Bluebird Way by Lori Wilde, Janet Dailey, Allyson Charles, and Stacey Keith.  Trade size paperbacks included The Optimists’s Guide to Letting Go by Amy Reichert, The Ones We Choose by Julie Clark, and The Secret Ingredient for a Happy Marriage by Shirley Jump.  This selection ranges from my favorite historical romance, to western, to contemporary romance, to women’s fiction, to fantasy.  This service is well worth checking into for avid readers, and also be sure to check out the excellent book reviews at the main Fresh Fiction site.

Happy Reading!

Posted in Fresh Fiction Promotion | Leave a comment

Review – Breathless by Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan

                             

About the Book:

She was “the Swan.” London’s premiere courtesan. Men want to be with her. Women loathe her success and yet admire her beauty, her riches, her independence. But when the jealous wife of her lover moves to have the Swan banished from her home on the high seas, she winds up crashed against Spain’s rocky coast with no shoes, no clothes-and no name. Taken in by a tortured, sensuous man known as The Artist, the Swan comes to know the woman she wants to be—her artist’s siren.

When Art Professor Brenna Anderson is in danger of losing her post at Harvard, the rule-following, prim professor is at a loss of how to salvage the shreds of her life. But when a new painting in the mysterious Siren collection is discovered in a dusty old house in France, Brenna does the unthinkable—hops on a plane to uncover the identity of the beautiful, enigmatic woman who is the subject of the paintings.

There’s just one hitch—the frustrating, irritating, bold and beautiful art hunter, Fitch Wilder, is also looking for the Siren. He’s been a thorn in Brenna’s professional side for years, but when their individual quests lead them to team up despite being enemies, a whole new sumptuous world of art and culture opens up for the two of them. And with it, they enter a realm of passion and love…

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                  Breathless

My Review:            

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Brenna Anderson’s career as Sociology professor at Harvard has hit a rough patch, and she decides to take a sabbatical.  New information has surfaced about a mysterious series of paintings featuring “The Siren,” and Brenna intends to investigate.  These paintings were the subject of Brenna’s thesis, and she has always been fascinated by them.  She also hopes to be the one to make a significant discovery about them, one that will wow her detractors at Harvard.  If only the thorn in her side, Fitch Wilder, weren’t also on the trail of the paintings!  Fitch is a modern day treasure hunter, of sorts, and hopes to find more paintings of the Siren for the millionaire collector who covets them.  When both Brenna and Fitch show up in Spain with the same goal, and each having information that the other doesn’t have, they agree to form a partnership.

The sparks immediately fly between Brenna and Fitch, though she is determined to ignore them.  Brenna is very closed off and controlled, choosing relationships with men who will never want anything permanent.  Fitch is outgoing, a charmer, and ready to embrace all that life throws his way.  He’s determined to loosen Brenna up, and she’s just as determined to keep him at arms’ length.  As their investigation proceeds, their journey takes on an eerie similarity to the story that is unfolding about the Siren and the artist who painted her.

BREATHLESS seamlessly shifts from the present to the past, telling the fascinating and heartbreaking story of the Siren, who was once known as The Swan, a notorious courtesan.  When Swan crosses the wrong person, her whole glamorous life changes.  Her fall from grace eventually has her washed up on a beach, badly injured, with no memory of her previous life.  The man who rescues her is a disgraced soldier, living in exile from England.  The soldier is also a talented painter, and as Siren recovers, he begins to paint her.  Each successive portrait shows their deepening love – it’s visible in the way Siren looks at the Artist, and it’s obvious in the way he paints her.  Their romance is so beautiful that it’s almost breathtaking.  These two damaged souls, both exiled from their homeland, find a home with each other, and a love that should have lasted for decades to come.

Brenna finds herself falling in love for the first time, and lets down her guard enough to let Fitch get close.  She’s finally going to take a chance on a real relationship.  As for Fitch, he fell hard early on, and was only hoping for Brenna to give him a chance.   BREATHLESS is such an amazing tale of two love stories, two centuries apart.  The writing and pacing is excellent – there is never any choppiness between the present and the past.  Each story is romantic and passionate, and Siren and the Artist, have a particularly poignant tale which brought me to tears.  I love this book and wholeheartedly recommend it for fans of contemporary and historical romance.  Kudos to Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan for such a captivating, beautifully written story.   ~Rose

Posted in Celeste Bradley, Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, Review, Rose, Susan Donovan, Top Pick | 3 Comments

Review – The Gunslinger’s Vow by Amy Sandas

About the Book:

Three runaway brides
Determined to escape their fates
Flee West to find freedom that can only be had
in a cowboy’s arms…

Alexandra Brighton has spent the last five years in Boston, with all evidence of the wild frontier girl she used to be erased. Before she settles down, she’s determined to visit her childhood home. When she finds herself far from her destination, she has no choice but to have the rugged Malcolm Kincaid escort her to Montana.

Now that Malcolm finally has the name and location of the man who killed his brother, he has no interest in protecting a pampered Eastern lady. But something about her tells him he just can’t leave her behind. And by the time they reach Montana, Malcolm must decide if seeing justice done for past wrongs is worth losing a future with a woman he never expected to need.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                   The Gunslinger’s Vow (Runaway Brides)

My Review:                     

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Alexandra Brighton was raised in Montana, where she learned to hunt, shoot, and live off the land.  Then at age fifteen, she was attacked, and her retaliation caused repercussions that forced her father to send her away to Boston to live with her aunt.  For the last five years, she has learned to be a proper lady, and now she has received a proposal that should have her overjoyed…..only, it doesn’t.  Though she requested many times that her father let her return home, he has never agreed.  Now Alex knows that she can never settle into a marriage until she returns to Montana  to determine which place is truly her home.  She sneaks away and boards a train west, anxious to see her father again, and to sort out her feelings.

Bounty hunter Malcolm Kincaid has had only one goal in life for the past eight years – find the man who killed his younger brother, or die trying.  Every time he gets close to Walter Dunstan, it seems that he is warned and manages to elude Kincaid.  Now Kincaid finally has a solid lead, and plans to start his quest the next day, when he is approached by a beautiful, well dressed lady, who requests that he escort her the rest of the way to Montana.  Kincaid is a loner, and has no desire to play nursemaid to Alexandra.  Though he initially firmly refuses her, he encounters her later, finding her abandoned by the party she had subsequently agreed to travel with.  He reluctantly agrees to take her as far as the next town, only to find the formerly bustling city has now dwindled down to a tenth of its former size.

It seems that fate is determined to foist Alex on Kincaid.  Despite his gruff manner, he can’t abandon her, so he agrees to escort her to her father’s home.  Initially, Kincaid is annoyed by Alex’s chatting and her questions.  He’s the epitome of the grumpy, surly, anti-social gunslinger.  (Think of the old Clint Eastwood westerns.)  But he’s also handsome, protective, a good hunter,  and a man so wracked with guilt that he’s given up all hope of a life and happiness of his own.  Though he finds Alex desirable, he’s honorable enough to keep his distance, as he’s a man with no future.  Each day, Alex slips more into her “Montana” skin and shows that she’s no helpless lady from back east.  She does her share of the work, and proves to Kincaid that she knows how to hunt, shoot better than he does, and takes care of him when he is injured.

When Kincaid’s injury forces them to seek shelter in a secluded cabin, they give in to the simmering attraction that both have been feeling.  Kincaid is quick to affirm that he has no future to promise, and Alex is content to accept their passion as something they’ll share only for now.  Up until then, the unspoken lust between them was like a bubbling cauldron that kept building and building, only to have Kincaid turn away.  The sexual tension was truly palpable, and showcased Kincaid’s unbelievable willpower and determination to not take advantage of Alex, though she gave every indication of being willing.

I don’t read many westerns, but Amy Sandas is an author whose historical regencies I’ve enjoyed, and I found myself loving THE GUNSLINGER’S VOW.  Both Kincaid and Alex are strong, determined, and focused on their goals.  I liked and admired them, and couldn’t wait for them to finally succumb to their overwhelming desire for each other.  I loved how well this book flowed, and how it turned out they had another connection in their pasts to link them.  The conclusion to this well written and passionate story was exciting and very satisfying.  I’m looking forward to the upcoming stories in the RUNAWAY BRIDES series.

Posted in Amy Sandas, Historical Romance, Review, Rose | Leave a comment

Review – Captain Amberton’s Inherited Bride by Jenni Fletcher

About the Book:

“Marry me…
and you’ll have your freedom.” 

Her father’s will dictates Violet Harper must wed or be disinherited—yet she’d rather face the wilderness of the wintry Yorkshire moors than be bound to cynical, damaged soldier Captain Lance Amberton. Lance promises a marriage of convenience that will grant Violet her independence. In exchange, she must put her faith in Lance and see beyond his gruff exterior to the man beneath…

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                              Captain Amberton’s Inherited Bride (Harlequin Historical)

My Review:                    

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Captain Lance Amberton is returning home to accept the conditional title of Viscount, now that the heir, his beloved twin brother, Arthur, has been lost at sea and presumed dead.   Lance is bearing the guilt of not responding to Arthur’s pleas for him to come home to help him, as well as his own less than honorable actions while serving as a soldier.  In addition to the title, it seems that Lance has also inherited Arthur’s betrothed, as the contract only states the heir to the title, not listing a specific name.  Still, Lance is now ready to accept his duty, and prepares to wed.

Violet Harper is an heiress, the daughter of a shipbuilder who kept her isolated, and belittled her for all of her twenty three years.  Now that her father is dead, Violet learns that she must marry the Amberton heir within one month or be disinherited.  Although she has intentions of fleeing, she ends up in Lance’s company, and he offers her a compromise.  If she agrees to the marriage, they will split the inheritance, and Lance will offer her the freedom to travel and live the life she chooses.  At first Violet is opposed, remembering the perceived insult she received from Lance at their brief meeting five years ago.  Eventually, she capitulates, and they embark on a convenient marriage, agreeing not share a bed until some distant time in the future, and then, just to provide an heir.

I appreciate that Lance and Violet cleared up the misunderstanding of five years ago right away, rather than have it turn into a permanent wound in their new marriage.  Violet accepts that Lance was not being insulting to her, it was her own lack of confidence that made her so unaware of her own attractions.  After the marriage, Lance works at improving the family estate, while dealing with the injury he received and his constant drinking.  Violet begins to feel more sure of herself and blossoms.    Soon sparks begin between this couple, and they finally share a bed and look to be on their way to a happy future.  An unexpected twist causes Lance to reject the new happiness he’s found.  Will he be able to see the light and save his marriage before his action cause a permanent break?

CAPTAIN AMBERTON’S INHERITED BRIDE contains one of my favorite tropes, the marriage of convenience that turns to love, as well as significant character development.  Lance had not been an honorable man, but he redeemed himself.  Violet was unsure, a bit naive, and had no realization of her own beauty, and she came into her own.  The romance between this couple was sweet and believable, and made for a satisfying and delightful read.     ~Rose

Posted in Historical Romance, Jenni Fletcher, Review, Rose | 1 Comment

Review – An Earl to Save Her Reputation by Laura Martin

About the Book:

A convenient betrothal

“It will save us both from scandal.”

Widowed three times over, Lady Anna Fortescue is used to ignoring the wagging tongues of the ton. After finding herself in a compromising position with handsome bachelor Lord Harry Edgerton, to avoid scandal she ends up engaged again. The arrangement may be one of convenience, but as Anna finds herself unable to resist Harry’s charms, she realizes the betrothal may have its benefits…

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                An Earl to Save Her Reputation (Harlequin Historical)

My Review:                    

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Lady Anna Fortescue is only twenty five years old, yet she has been widowed three times.  Only one of those marriages was by her own choice, and sadly, none of them were happy.  In fact, her third husband was cruel and abusive, leaving Anna determined to never marry again.  She owns and manages a small shipping company, which keeps her occupied and independent.  Her peace is shattered when she begins to receive a series of threatening notes and disturbing packages.

Harry Pershore, Earl of Edgerton, is not averse to marriage, as long as it’s a convenient one, as he has no use for love.  He also is a stickler for avoiding scandal, as his sister, Lydia, was caught in a shocking situation last year, causing her to retreat and hide from society.  When Harry and Anna are caught in a compromising situation, Harry, ever the gentleman,  is quick to announce their engagement.  While Anna would have stoically born being the subject of more gossip, the “Black Widow” reluctantly agrees to a temporary betrothal.  When Harry learns of the threatening letters and packages Anna has been receiving, his protective instincts kick in, and he’s determined to help her find out who her enemy is.

Harry and Anna soon find they have a genuine attraction, though neither of them wanted it.  Anna is a very strong woman now, having survived the abuse and lack of any input for her own future.  Being able to make her own decisions and controlling her fate are heady experiences that she’s not readily willing to give up.  Harry is a good and decent man, who wants Anna to feel free, while he still wants to shield her from harm.

AN EARL TO SAVE HER REPUTATION is a sweet and passionate romance with a worthy couple well deserving of  their happiness, if only they can work through their baggage.  There’s also a bit of mystery, along with a creepy villain.  I enjoy author Laura Martin’s writing style, and found AN EARL TO SAVE HER REPUTATION to be a solid and engaging read.

Posted in Historical Romance, Laura Martin, Review, Rose | 1 Comment

Review – Tiger Striped by Jennifer Ashley

About the Book:

A novella of the Shifters Unbound series

Tiger wakes in the night knowing someone distant is in trouble, and he feels a terrible pull to help. His mate, Carly, is not about to let him run off alone, and so Tiger takes her on a wild adventure for what proves to be the most important rescue mission of his life.

 

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                               Tiger Striped: Shifters Unbound

 

My Review:                        

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

We first learned Tiger’s story in TIGER MAGIC, and since then, he and his mate, Carly, have created a loving life together, and have an infant son, Seth.  Tiger is awakened one night to a strong feeling of something being majorly wrong, and he receives a telepathic distress call for help.  This call is powerful and unlike anything Tiger has experienced before.  He doesn’t know who it’s from, or where he has to go, he just knows he must go now.  Carly awakens, and is determined to go along.  They hit the road, unaware at first that they have a stowaway young lion-shifter in back.

Carly is concerned, never having seen Tiger like this, but she follows his directions.  They keep driving until they come to a secluded house.  Along the way, they have been followed by mysterious men, as well as police.  Now in this house, Tiger finds who has been sending him the urgent message.  The unexpected captive is someone very important from Tiger’s past, someone who will impact and change his and Carly’s life  – that is, if they are able to overcome the police, guards, mystery men, and the prison itself.

Though this story is short, it’s filled with plenty of action as well as emotion.  Jennifer Ashley’s shifter world has its inhabitants treated as less than second class citizens, forced to wear collars, and live in specified areas.  Yet, these creatures exhibit more loyalty and love than most humans.  TIGER STRIPED includes an exciting and surprising twist, while showcasing Tiger’s and Carly’s strong love and devotion to each other.  I love the character of Tiger, and this fast paced story only made me adore him even more.  He’s a mysterious figure, exceptionally strong, yet gentle and kind to his family.  Carly is his perfect mate, and I can’t wait to see what the surprise that was revealed in this book portends for their future.

 

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Review – It’s All About the Duke by Amelia Grey

About the Book:

Nearing thirty, the Duke of Rathburne is finally ready to make amends for the wager that caused him and his best friends such scandal―but taking on a ward who needs a husband is a feat he’s not sure he can manage. The last he saw of Miss Marlena Fast, she was a spirited little ruffian, not the sort of bride most bachelors on the marriage mart sought. But one glance at the lovely lady she has become is enough to convince him otherwise…

Orphaned young and shuffled from family to family, Marlena counts on her fierce independence and quick wits to keep herself content. Being the responsibility of a notoriously wicked duke who upended so many lives is an unexpected challenge when she realizes he arouses her decidedly feminine desires. Marlena must be careful. She has her own scandalous secret to protect. If he finds out, will it shatter her chances of a happily-ever-after with the notorious rake?

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                   It’s All About the Duke: The Rakes of St. James

My Review:                

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

“Rath,” the Duke of Rathburne, is one of a trio of dukes who took part in what was supposed to be a secret wager years ago.  Unfortunately, the secret leaked out, embarrassing the twelve young debutantes who were the subject of the wager.  Though the three dukes regretted their actions, they were relieved that there appeared to be no lasting harm or consequences to any of the young ladies.  Then, years later, the wager was brought up again in a scandal sheet, written by a mysterious “Miss Honora Truth,” who refuses to let the old scandal die.

The author of the posts written as Honora Truth is Marlena Fast, an orphan, who is under the guardianship of a close friend of Rath’s deceased father.  While living with her chaperone and cousin, Justine, Marlena became friends with her neighbors, one of whom was one of the debutantes targeted by the dukes’ infamous wager.  At the time, Veronica was so shaken by the scandal, that she hastily accepted a proposal and married a man who has not made her very happy.  Now Veronica’s life is poor, childless, and she battles depression.  Marlena began writing her column as a way to achieve a measure of revenge for Veronica, as well as giving her any funds that the column earns.

A strange coincidence causes Rath and Marlena to meet, although he did meet her briefly when she was a tomboyish youngster.  Marlena’s guardian becomes very ill, and he calls on Rath, using his friendship with Rath’s father as leverage, to implore him to take over the guardianship of Marlena, who is now almost twenty.  In a weak, and admittedly, inebriated moment, Rath agrees.  When he comes to call on Marlena, she is initially terrified that her alter ego has been found out and he has come to punish her.

While under Rath’s guardianship, Marlena quickly discovers that he is kind, courteous, generous, and ever so patient with her horrible chaperone, Justine.  Although known as a rake, Rath doesn’t dally with innocent ladies, so he may flirt with Marlena, but he does not take any liberties.  However, if Marlena were to kiss him first, that would be a whole different story….

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DUKE tells the charming story of Rath and Marlena falling slowly in love and acting on their passionate feelings.  There is not a lot of conflict or problems until their affair becomes serious, and Marlena realizes she has to confess her secret.  Both of these characters are likeable — Marlena is mature for a young lady who’s never been in society, and she’s quick to see how she may have misjudged Rath.  He, in turn, hardly seems rakish, but rather an honorable, generous, sexy man.  Some comic relief is provided by Justine, who is truly awful, while living in the past, but determined to squeeze every penny out of the present.  I’d recommend IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DUKE for historical romance fans looking for a more low key story without a lot of high drama.  I found it easy reading, enjoyable, and delightful.   ~Rose

Posted in Amelia Grey, Historical Romance, Review, Rose | 1 Comment

Review – Lady Cecily and the Mysterious Mr. Gray by Janice Preston

About the Book:

Love or family…How can she choose between them?Lady Cecily Beauchamp has always put her family first. Until she falls under the spell of the mysterious Zachary Gray–a man of Romany descent. Knowing her family will forbid their match, Cecily steels herself to do her duty and marry someone else. Only she finds herself irresistibly drawn to Zach as the spark between them ignites a passion neither can deny!

 

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                      Lady Cecily and the Mysterious Mr. Gray (The Beauchamp Betrothals)

My Review:              

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Lady Cecily Beauchamp has spent her life raising her widowed brother’s children and managing his household.  Now that Leo has remarried, Cecily has no desire to become the poor relation, and is pondering her future.  Although she is thirty years old, she’s still young enough to marry, and possibly have children of her own.  Cecily thinks about Lord Kilburn, the suitor whose proposal she refused a year ago, and wonders if she should renew their acquaintance.  She doesn’t love him, but perhaps he’s her best chance at marriage.  But Cecily’s attention is caught by a tall, dark, and handsome man — a man with whom a romance is forbidden.

Zachary Gray is attending the wedding of his friend’s sister into the powerful Beauchamp family, when he notices a beautiful woman deep in contemplation.  They strike up a conversation, and feel an instant rapport, which only increases over their next several meetings.  Being half Romany, Zach is aware that he’s not considered suitable for Cecily, truly not even as an acquaintance.  Still their attraction grows.  They are determined to stay away from each other, but can’t seem to do so.

As Cecily’s brothers begin to notice that she is often in Zach’s company, their opposition to the connection becomes stronger and more vocal.  Cecily is torn between taking the safe path and pursuing her suitor of a year ago, or risking losing her position in society as well as her family to follow her heart and a future with Zach.

I admit that I was very disappointed at first with Cecily’s failure to stand up to her brothers and her reluctance to immediately fully accept Zach.  However, upon seeing how society truly treated him, calling him a gypsy and worse, and treating him as less than human, I began to understand how drastically her life would change.  As Cecily’s brothers, Leo and Vernon, were heroes of the last two books in this series, it did pain me to see them so hard headed and reluctant to even consider Zach, and to watch them use their influence to separate the couple.

LADY CECILY AND THE MYSTERIOUS MR. GRAY is more than a lighthearted romance, as it delves into people’s prejudices and fear of what and who is different from them.  Zach is a beautiful person, despite the abuse he suffered and the things he lost.  He’s a gentle soul who has his own demons to face and choices to make if he is to have any chance of a future with Cecily.  I love that Cecily had the full support of her brother’s wives right from the get go.  Though he was slow getting there, Leo eventually showed his true nature and what he was made of when the chips were down, and I felt he nicely redeemed himself.  I think Cecily and Zach’s happily-ever-after was sweeter because it was so hard won, and their passionate love story concludes with a romantic scene that had me smiling, if a bit teary eyed.    ~Rose

Posted in Historical Romance, Janice Preston, Review, Rose | Leave a comment

Review – Let Sleeping Dukes Lie by Emily Windsor

About the Book:

“Strait-laced. Ruthless. Arrogant.”
Alexander Westhide, the Duke of Rakecombe has no quarrel with such faint praise as he has forever shunned marriage, women and anything remotely resembling love. Indeed, the damning words merely serve to enhance his haughty façade. But beneath the controlled demeanour lies a duke beset by tragedy, a man turbulent and restless.

“Forthright. Impudent… Capricious saucebox.”
Miss Aideen Quinlan can’t quite express why she feels the need to taunt, tease and generally annoy the Duke of Rakecombe. Maybe it was for the heart-racing spar of words that always ensued, or maybe it was to see the duke’s broad fist clench on his ebony cane, green eyes glittering.
Or maybe it was because she was unable to erase the memory of his vehement kiss…

An unlikely couple.
Torn between his world of espionage and this unquenchable passion, the duke still refuses to lower his fierce defences.
If Aideen is to capture her resistant duke’s troubled heart, it is she who must follow the Rules of the Rogue.
Resistance is futile…

A sensual Regency Romance with warmth and wit, this story also includes unpalatable chefs, a darling of the Season with a secondary love story, deadly walking canes and sheep…

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:
Let Sleeping Dukes Lie (Rules of the Rogue Book 2)

My Review:          

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Alexander Westhide, Duke of Rakecombe, was recruited by the government right out of school to serve his country as a spy.  Very early in his career of espionage, someone dear to him suffered tragic consequences indirectly due to his job.  From that day forward, Alex has adopted the persona of the arrogant, stuffy, toplofty duke, never letting anyone close, and certainly never courting love.  It’s so inconvenient that he is on fire for Aideen Quinlan, a woman he rescued almost a year ago, and can’t seem to get out of his mind.

Aideen is a hot tempered Irish woman, who has a tendency to spew insulting Irish curses on any given occasion.  She is not in awe of Alexander in the least, and is quick to stand up to him, which Alex secretly adores.  Though she shared a kiss with Alex when he rescued her, he quickly disappeared from sight.  When he returned, it was back to bickering and insults.  Until one night when they are caught in a compromising position, and agree to marry.

Aideen is aware that Alex is a spy, as her cousin is married to one of his associates.  She’s a strong and feisty lady who can take care of herself, in fact, she’s a better shot than Alex is.  Still, Alex is torn, feeling that he has now placed Aideen in danger.  The guilt he carries from that long ago incident still haunts him, causing him to run hot and cold in his new marriage.  Their passion burns hot, and then he totally ignores her.

Alex is a complicated character – his coldness is a result of his trying to protect anyone from being hurt again because of him.  Aideen is no shrinking violet, and won’t accept Alex’s inattention and rudeness.  She’s tasted the passion he feels for her, and is determined that they can build a strong future together.  That is, until Alex rejects her one time too many.  Now that Alex sees what he’s lost, he’s determined to win back the woman he realizes he loves – but is he too late?

LET SLEEPING DUKES LIE is fast paced, entertaining, romantic, sometimes amusing, and a great read all the way through.  Aideen has a soft side which she keeps hidden behind her bravado and litany of curses and insults, and I grew to like her very much.  I’m a fan of the strong, silent hero, and Alex filled the bill, though he did need to be taken down a peg or two, and Aideen is just the woman for the job.  Their passion was steamy, and I can imagine a lifetime of their happily bickering and loving in equal parts.  As in previous books in this series, the relationship between the spies is pure delight.  There is a secondary romance, which is especially sweet, and the cast of characters, including Alex’s mother are entertaining and smile inducing.  LET SLEEPING DUKES LIE is one fabulous read that I highly recommend.    ~Rose

Posted in Emily Windsor, Historical Romance, Review, Rose | 2 Comments