Review – For the Duke’s Eyes Only by Lenora Bell

About the Book:

If adventure has a name…it must be Lady India Rochester. The intrepid archaeologist possesses a sharp blade and an even sharper knack for uncovering history’s forgotten women. Unfortunately, she has one annoying weakness: the dangerously handsome Duke of Ravenwood. Former best friend. Current enemy. And the man who dared to break her heart.

Daniel Bonds, the Duke of Ravenwood, is a thrill-seeking antiquities hunter who only plays by one rule: Never fall in love. He’s in it for the fortune and glory. At least that’s what he wants the world to think. He’s sworn to hide his tangled web of secrets, especially from the one woman he cares about and will protect at any cost.

But when a priceless relic is stolen from the British Museum, the rivals must align forces. Racing to recover the stolen antiquity and avert an international disaster? All in a day’s work. Avoiding their buried feelings? More and more impossible. For love is about to become the greatest treasure of all.

The grand adventure begins…now!

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                   For the Duke’s Eyes Only: School for Dukes

My Review:              

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

I could tell right from the beginning that I was going to love FOR THE DUKE’S EYES ONLY, and that it was going to break my heart.  India and Daniel are both children of dukes, lived on neighboring estates, and were betrothed to each other almost from birth.  Even as children, they were the best of friends and loved each other.  They spent their days together, hunting for treasure, and envisioning how their future would be when they were married and travelling the world, becoming archaeologists. Their idyllic days come to an end when Daniel’s father dies, and is under a cloud of suspicion of being a traitor.  While still just a boy, Daniel becomes the Duke of Ravenwood, and moves away to the home of a family friend, who raises him.  Eventually, Daniel’s letters to India become less frequent, then they stop completely.  India still holds out hope, and when it’s finally time to make her debut, she can’t wait to share a dance with her friend and betrothed.  Daniel, however, stages a scene that is guaranteed to kill India’s feelings for him and to drive her away permanently.  He is successful, and the once beautiful friendship and camaraderie is a thing of the past.

The years pass, and India, now twenty-six, has become a successful archaeologist.  She has seen Daniel, now known as Raven, become a rake, a heavy drinker, and a treasure hunter with dubious methods.  Their paths have crossed on occasion, and their current interactions are biting and sarcastic.  What India doesn’t know is that Daniel was recruited to become an agent for the crown very soon after his father’s death.  His mentor strongly suggested that Daniel have no ties, so that no one could retaliate against him by harming his loved ones.  Daniel took that advice to heart, actually splitting from his family and deliberately ruining his relationship with India, whom he never stopped loving.  His rakishness is greatly exaggerated, as is his drunkenness, which he uses as a cover for his investigations.

India manages to sneak into a “male only” meeting where she is able to view a precious artifact, and realizes it’s counterfeit.  Daniel is nearby, as is his mentor, who is very impressed with her sharp eye.  Daniel’s next assignment is to travel to France to retrieve the original stolen item, and surprisingly, India is going along, though not by Daniel’s choice.  As you can imagine, Daniel is doing his best to stay in character, but the time spent constantly in India’s company causes some cracks in his facade. India catches glimpses of her childhood friend and the man she always imagined Daniel would become, and begins to wonder about what caused the drastic changes in him.  India, herself, finds her sharp edges and wariness softening a bit, and soon their explosive chemistry bursts forth.

Daniel and India coming together after all these years is just so right and so perfect.  I hated the choices Daniel made, though he made them believing he was doing the right thing, and working for the greater good.  He also never gave up on trying to prove his father innocent of treason.  Though he had to hide it, his love and admiration for India never faltered.   India became a bit hardened to protect her own heart, but I still love her fierceness, her intelligence, and her dedication.  FOR THE DUKE’S EYES ONLY is an absolutely brilliant, well written story that works on all levels from the poignancy of the opening chapter, to the adventure, to the rekindled romance, to the fiery passion.  If a couple ever belonged together, it’s Daniel and India.  The sad years of separation made the reconciliation so much sweeter, and this story truly touched my heart.  I highly recommend FOR THE DUKE’S EYES ONLY, and it becomes part of my keeper collection and goes on my favorites list.   ~Rose

Posted in Rose, Historical Romance, Review, Lenora Bell, Top Pick | 3 Comments

Review – Christmas Revels V by Anna Allen, Kate Parker, Hannah Meredith, and Louisa Cornell

About the Book:

Christmas with the Regency Lords and Ladies is Always Unexpected—So Let the Revels Begin

Mr. Hunt’s Christmas Caller – After his anticipated betrothal falls apart, Matthias Hunt wants nothing to do with Christmas festivities. Yet, when quiet, demure Constance Blackwell unexpectedly gives him a piece of her mind, he wonders why he never considered her. Delivering gifts for her aunt, Constance dreads facing Mr. Hunt in the wake of her hasty words. After years of secretly loving her neighbor, she can hardly expect a Christmas miracle… until the weather changes.

The Christmas Gamble – In exchange for her guardian’s gambling debts, Lizzie Hancock is pledged to marry the Earl of Stonebrook, a man she’s never met. When she arrives for the Christmas wedding, the bridegroom is missing, the servants are secretive, and a prodigal brother has returned. Could Lizzie gain everything she desires—if she’s willing to gamble on love?

The Gnome and the Christmas Star – The Earl of Marle has an uncanny ability to judge political candidates, but he’s a failure in matters of the heart. After years spent caring for her late husband, the Dowager Viscountess Lyndon fiercely clings to her new independence. An unlikely meeting offers them both a second chance at happiness, but a Christmas miracle is needed to claim it.

A Perfectly Ridiculous Christmas – Valerian, Viscount Keynsham will do anything to ensure his best friend’s marriage to a wealthy heiress, including claim the man’s three young Creole daughters as his own. Lady Catherine Chastleton needs a manageable husband to claim her inheritance. As the children try to keep their stories straight, Christmas will be anything but manageable.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                               Christmas Revels V: Four Regency Novellas

My Review:                      

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Mr. Hunt’s Christmas Caller by Anna Allen

Matthias Hunt has just faced being rejected by the second woman he’s courted, and he hates being the subject of pity and gossip.  Constance Blackwell has been reduced to living on her aunt’s charity, and has secretly loved Matthias for several years.  As she makes her customary Christmas Eve delivery of preserves to her neighbors, Matthias invites her in, out of the nasty weather.  As they sit and chat, time passes very quickly and they are greatly enjoying each other’s company.  Soon it’s clear that the ice and snow will not allow Constance to return home, much to the delight of both of them.  Their warm and cozy interlude is broken by not one, but two, unwelcome stranded travelers – including the gossiping biddy Mrs. Lancaster, and Nerissa Merryweather, the woman who turned down Matthias’ proposal.  Only now it appears that she’s changed her mind.  MR. HUNT’S CHRISTMAS CALLER is a warm and emotional story with a mature hero and heroine who seem on their way to finding happiness, as long as a scheming and mercenary young lady doesn’t get her way.  I love this touching story!

The Christmas Gamble by Kate Parker

Lizzie Hancock is on her way to meet and marry her fiancé, Lord Stonebrook.  The engagement was arranged by her guardian in order to offset his debts.  They arrive to find Lord Stonebrook mysteriously missing, and his servants reluctant to provide much information.  Soon, another guest arrives – a man claiming to be Gabriel, Lord Stonebrook’s younger brother, who has been away for fifteen years.  It becomes apparent that there are strange goings-on and cover-ups.  What has happened to Stonebrook?  Is the new arrival really Gabriel?  And why does Lizzie wish that he was her fiancé, instead of the mysterious lord she has yet to meet?  There are some surprising twists and some smiles in THE CHRISTMAS GAMBLE, a yuletide romance with a bit of suspense.

The Gnome and the Christmas Star by Hannah Meredith

Sophia is a widow, and she has one more stepson to see settled before she feels she can move on with her own life.  Henry was badly injured while serving as a soldier, and has become withdrawn and solitary.  Sophia feels that if Henry could rekindle his interest in politics, he might rebound, so she arranges a visit to the Earl of Marle.  The earl, Duncan, is a powerful figure in politics, and he invites potential candidates to his home to determine if he’ll offer his support.  Duncan is a widower, though his wife left him before she passed away.  Unfortunately, a derogatory comment by her caused him to be dubbed as, “The Gnome,” though he’s a very handsome man, if short in stature.  Over the Christmas holiday, Sophia and Duncan, both who had marriages that were less than love matches, become very attracted to each other, and begin to consider planning a future together.  I absolutely love that Duncan and Sophia are mature and intelligent people.  THE GNOME AND THE CHRISTMAS STAR is a warm and satisfying story which has an epilogue that is pure delight!

A Perfectly Ridiculous Christmas by Louisa Cornell

Viscount Keynsham feels somewhat responsible for the death of his dear friend, Thynne’s, wife three years ago, though she was the one who made the choice to follow them when they were soldiers.  Since then, Thynne was cast off by his father, and has become a habitual drinker.  Keynsham has taken Thynne and his three daughters to live in his own home, and has searched for an heiress for his friend to wed.  Thynne loves his daughters, and he’s willing to make a match with someone he doesn’t love.  Keynsham has arranged for Thynne’s potential wife, Lady Catherine, to visit for Christmas.  He plans to assess her character and see if she’s the type of woman who would make a loving stepmother to the three girls she knows nothing about.  The girls also have a mixed heritage, which is bound to affect their position is society in years to come, so it’s crucial that Catherine be willing to support them.  Initially, Keynsham concocts a wild scheme to say that the girls are his daughters, while he observes Catherine’s interaction with them.  Catherine and Keynsham develop a strong passion for each other, but how can he possibly take away the fiancée of his friend who’s already lost so much.  A PERFECTLY RIDICULOUS CHRISTMAS is a bit of a madcap adventure, but also a warm and very satisfying holiday romance.

Posted in Anna Allen, Christmas, Hannah Meredith, Historical Romance, Kate Parker, Louisa Cornell, Review, Rose | Leave a comment

Review – Mrs. Brodie’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies by Shana Galen and Theresa Romain

About the Book:

Mrs. Brodie’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies appears exclusive and respectable, a place for daughters of the gentry to glean the accomplishments that will win them suitable husbands.

But the academy is not what it seems. It’s more.

Alongside every lesson in French or dancing or mathematics, the students learn the skills they’ll need to survive in a man’s world. They forge; they fight; they change their accents to blend into a world apart. And the staff at the academy find a haven from their pasts…and lose their hearts.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                  Mrs. Brodie’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies

My Thoughts:                

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

At Mrs. Brodie’s school, the students are trained not only in the expected tasks a young lady should know, but also, surprisingly different things – like self defense and “creative” calligraphy.  These two novellas tell the stories of two employees at the school, and both are about receiving a second chance at love, one of my favorite tropes.

The Way to a Gentleman’s Heart by Theresa Romain

Jack Grahame and Marianne Redfern were childhood friends, then lovers who planned to marry.  Jack’s family was poor, and when Jack’s father arranged a marriage for him to a wealthy merchant’s daughter, Jack’s sense of responsibility made him accept.  The situation would have been bad enough for Marianne, but the way she found out was truly devastating.  Her humiliation caused her to leave the comfort of her family and travel to town, determined to make a living on her own.  She was lucky enough to be employed at Mrs. Brodie’s Academy, first as a maid, then an assistant cook, and now as the head cook.

Eight years have passed, and Jack has been widowed for two years.  The marriage was not happy, and the details were quite unusual.  He finally comes to visit Marianne, in his own words, to ask her forgiveness.  Marianne is shocked to see Jack, and surprisingly, decides to put him to work assisting her until she employs a new helper.  It’s not long before their old familiar passion flares up, but that is only the surface reaction, as, underneath there are still misunderstandings and mistrust between them.  When Jack is called home, they part on rocky terms, and possibly forever.

THE WAY TO A GENTLEMAN’S HEART is a sweet, yet painful read, dealing with making tough choices when everything is not simply black or white, letting go of pride, and opening your heart to forgiveness and acceptance.

Counterfeit Scandal by Shana Galen

Bridget Lavery and Caleb Harris fell in love and planned to marry eight years ago.  At that time, Caleb was an agent for the foreign office, and when he disappeared, Bridget was informed that he was killed.  Bridget was expecting their child, and accepted a proposal from a man who was smitten with her and agreed to accept the baby.  Unfortunately, her husband’s ineptness landed them both in debtor’s prison, and Bridget temporarily placed her son, James, in an orphanage until she was able to reclaim him.  When Bridget is finally released, her husband has died, and she is forced to seek employment.  She luckily is accepted as a teacher at Mrs. Brodie’s Academy, and saves every bit of money until she has enough to afford her own lodgings, and have her son back with her.

Bridget’s bad luck continues when she discovers that the orphanage where she left James has burned down.  No one is able to tell her where all the children were moved.  Then, to her amazement, she runs into her “dead” fiancé, Caleb, who is staying at the very same lodging house.  It turns out that Caleb did not leave Bridget by choice.  His assignment was extremely dangerous and confidential, and now he is a wanted man, with a substantial bounty on his head.  When Bridget tells Caleb about their son, James, he agrees to help her find him on the condition she not reveal his relationship to James.  Caleb feels he has no future, and has no desire to embroil his former love and his son in his tattered life.  When Caleb is recognized by a prominent underworld figure, it appears all hope is lost.

COUNTERFEIT SCANDAL is a sad tale of true lovers parted by circumstances beyond their control.  It’s heartbreaking to see how Bridget was forced to part with her beloved son after losing the man she loved.  Her life was not an easy one, but neither was Caleb’s, as his life was constantly in peril while he performed his duties for his government.  It seems that Bridget and Caleb deserve a much needed miracle if they are to have any chance of reuniting with their lost son and with each other, but sometimes the sweetest rewards are ones that were the hardest to come by.

Posted in Historical Romance, Review, Rose, Shana Galen, Theresa Romain | Leave a comment

Review – The Paris Wedding by Charlotte Nash

About the Book:

Ten years ago, Rachael West chose not to move to Sydney with high-school sweetheart Matthew. Instead she stayed on the family wheat farm, caring for her seriously ill mother and letting go of her dreams. Now, Matthew is marrying someone else. And Rachael is invited to the wedding, a lavish affair in Paris, courtesy of the flamboyant family of Matthew’s fiancée – a once-in-a-lifetime celebration at someone else’s expense in Europe’s most romantic city.

She is utterly unprepared for what the week brings. Friendships will be upended, secrets will be revealed – and on the eve of the wedding, Rachael is faced with an impossible dilemma: should she give up on the promise of love, or destroy another woman’s life for a chance at happiness?

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                 The Paris Wedding: A Novel

My Review:                      

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

For two years, teenage sweethearts and lovers Rachael West and Matthew Grant spent all their time together, planning their future, and enjoying the intense feelings that come with first love.  Then Rachael’s mother was diagnosed with a debilitating illness, and Rachael became her caregiver while Matthew went off to school.  Though they kept in touch at first, it wasn’t long before Matthew let Rachael know that his plans had changed, and they seemed not to include her.  Over the next decade, Rachael managed the family farm while caring for her mother, whose health declined steadily.  Now at age twenty eight, Rachael’s mother has died, and along with her intense grief, Rachael has to decide what path to take for her future which had been put on hold for so long.  Before she makes any decisions, an invitation arrives in the mail – a wedding invitation – for Matthew and his fiancée, Bonnie.

Bonnie is a prominent socialite from a very wealthy family, and the wedding is going to be an extravagant affair held in Paris.  The invitation includes all costs covered to the wedding.  Rachael never got over her love for Matthew, and the last thing she wants is to watch him marry another.  Yet, as she talks the situation through with her best friend, Sammy, and ponders it, perhaps this is the way to finally put an end to all her foolish dreams of a reconciliation and move on with her life.  She accepts the invitation, with her friend, Sammy, as her guest, and begins to make her plans.  Rachael sadly neglected herself over the last decade, so now she tries to make up for lost time, getting a new haircut, a manicure, and some lovely new dresses, which she, herself, designed.

The first face to face meeting with Matthew after all this time seems to leave them both thunderstruck.  The full schedule of activities leaves them no time for any real conversations, but both are very aware of each other, and can’t seem to keep their eyes off each other.  Ironically, Rachael finds herself liking Bonnie, who is very kind to her, and works tirelessly for charity.  She appears genuine, lovely, and not the clichéd spoiled rich girl.  Rachael also meets Antonio Ferranti, a renowned photojournalist, who is actually the official wedding photographer as a favor to his friend, Bonnie.  Antonio is a handsome and compelling man, and he appears to have an interest in Rachael.  They spend some time together, and Rachael finds him attractive, but she forgets all about him when Matthew finally gets some alone time with her.

Rachael’s intention was to be able to move on, but how can she when all the love she felt for all these years won’t die?  When Matthew tells her of his regrets, and his own feelings for her, what path will she take?  THE PARIS WEDDING is an emotional roller coaster ride which captivated me from beginning to end.  Each time I thought I knew which way things were heading, they took a twist.  All of the main characters are sympathetic, but flawed, as we all are.  This is so much more than a love story – there is family, pain, loss, bad decisions, regrets, second chances, letting go, and new beginnings.  I had to read this amazing book in one sitting to find out how all was resolved.  THE PARIS WEDDING is fascinating, full of complex characters, and is so memorable, that it’s still resonating with me a week after I finished reading it.   ~Rose


Posted in Charlotte Nash, Contemporary Romance, Review, Rose | Leave a comment

Review – The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews

About the Book:

She Wanted Sanctuary… 

Helena Reynolds will do anything to escape her life in London, even if that means traveling to a remote cliffside estate on the North Devon coast and marrying a complete stranger. But Greyfriar’s Abbey isn’t the sort of refuge she imagined. And ex-army captain Justin Thornhill–though he may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome–is anything but a romantic hero.

He Needed Redemption… 

Justin has spent the last two decades making his fortune, settling scores, and suffering a prolonged period of torture in an Indian prison. Now, he needs someone to smooth the way for him with the villagers. Someone to manage his household–and warm his bed on occasion. What he needs, in short, is a wife and a matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to acquire one.

Their marriage was meant to be a business arrangement and nothing more. A dispassionate union free from the entanglements of love and affection. But when Helena’s past threatens, will Justin’s burgeoning feelings for his new bride compel him to come to her rescue? Or will dark secrets of his own force him to let her go?

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                   The Matrimonial Advertisement (Parish Orphans of Devon Book 1)

My Review:                    

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Helena Reynolds is desperate.  The loving uncle she remembers from her childhood seems to have changed into a monster since he inherited the earldom from her deceased father and brother.  Though he has the title and all the entailed properties, the wealth was all left to Helena.  And he wants it.  Desperation has driven him to go so far as to physically abuse Helena, and to arrange to have her committed and declared insane – all so he can control her wealth.  Not seeing any other solution, Helena answers an advertisement for a mail order bride in Devon, and steals away to meet her future husband.

Justin Thornhill is a former soldier who now bears the physical and emotional scars due to his imprisonment and torture while serving in India.  He has succeeded in purchasing the home that was a long time goal of his, but it’s lonely and not as satisfying as he expected it to be.  His man of business suggests a mail order bride, and Justin agrees to a mature, sensible woman who won’t mind the isolation or his scars.  What he gets is a beautiful young woman who is obviously hiding secrets and running away from something.  Though Helena is not the type of woman he requested, he is taken by her poise and beauty and decides to go ahead with the marriage.

Helena instinctively knows that Justin will be able to keep her safe, and she’s anxious to marry immediately to put herself beyond her uncle’s reach.  Within days, they wed, only to have her uncle’s henchman beating on their door, demanding that Helena return with him.  Though Justin proclaims their marriage makes Helena his responsibility, the paid thug threatens that the earl will have the marriage declared void due to Helena’s instability.  Justin is just as determined to keep and protect his new wife, and with his friend and lawyer’s advice, they decide to return to town.  The plan is to be very visible as a couple, showing that Helena is perfectly sane, and thwarting her uncle’s plans.

Our couple still hasn’t consummated their marriage, but are slowly falling more in love with each other every day.  While Justin now knows Helena’s secrets, she doesn’t know his.  Justin has as many scars on the inside as he does outwardly.  There are things that happened while he was in India that haunt him, and his birth makes him feel unworthy of Helena, who is a true lady.  Once they appear to have resolved the threat of Helena’s uncle, Justin decides that Helena deserves a much better man for a husband, even though he loves and desires her.  Will Helena decide to fight for their marriage?  And even if she does, will the determined Justin ever give in?

THE MATRIMONIAL ADVERTISEMENT is emotional, romantic, and beautifully written, although the despicable acts done to Helena while she was institutionalized made my skin crawl.  It’s truly mind shattering to realize just how easy it was for a dishonorable person to have a relative declared insane and “put away.”  Justin is not a perfect hero, but he’s an honorable and strong man, and I loved him.  I admire Helena for all she endured without breaking, and how she fought her uncle, and then for her marriage.  Mimi Matthews always writes fully developed characters and heart touching stories which are so satisfying to read and to savor.   ~Rose

Posted in Historical Romance, Mimi Matthews, Review, Rose | 3 Comments

Review – More or Less a Countess by Anna Bradley

About the Book:

Finding a worthy husband should be simple for three beautiful debutantes in Regency London. But the Somerset sisters have a way of making it delightfully complicated…

Violet Somerset has always preferred a library to a ballroom, but to please her grandmother she agreed to one London season. With nothing to show for it but heartbreak, she’s reconciled to spinsterhood. Until a notorious rogue known as the Devil of Dare requests an introduction to her timid, gentle youngest sister, Hyacinth. Violet will do anything to stop the match—even if it means posing as Hyacinth herself.

Nicholas Balfour, the Earl of Dare, is enjoying the life of a rake far too much to take a wife. But he must keep his promise to his grandmother. He’ll simply choose the meekest bride he can find, install her at his estate, then carry on as before. Hyacinth sounds perfect—until he discovers that her sweet demeanor hides the tongue of a viper and the mind of a bluestocking.

As Violet’s ruse threatens to unravel, however, she may find the tables turned. Soon she may have no choice but to tolerate her handsome fiancé—or fall in love with him.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                           More or Less a Countess (The Somerset Sisters)

My Review:                  

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Nicholas Balfour is the second son, the spare, and always felt he was in the shadow of his beloved older brother, Graham.  Nick and Graham were the best of friends, but their father, the Earl of Dare, while never actually cruel to Nick, showered his favor and attention on his heir.  When Graham died, Nick tried to step up into a role he never wanted, but it seemed there was no pleasing his father.  Finally, desperate to escape his own grief and feelings of inadequacy, Nick flees to the continent and begins living a rakish lifestyle, seeking whatever pleasures take his fancy.  Then Nick’s father dies, and he’s forced to return to cold England, leaving warm Italy, and his even warmer mistress behind.  While Nick intends for his stay in England to be brief, his aunt, Lady Westcott, holds the purse strings, and she has different plans.

Violet Somerset is a bluestocking, and her debut into society wasn’t successful, to say the least.  Her playing, singing, and dancing all leave something to be desired, and she often found herself the object of cruel remarks.  The only gentleman to show her kindness and friendship, Lord Derrick, fell in love and married her friend, Honora.  With the object of her affections now wed to another, Violet focuses on writing and illustrating a book about London – its history and its people.  One evening, while escaping a ball for a few quiet moments in the library, she is interrupted by the scandalous Earl of Dare and a female companion, who also decided to escape the ball, but for a totally different reason.  Unaware that someone else is in the room, Dare and his companion proceed to have a quickie while an astonished (and amused) Violet observes.

While at dinner, Nick is seated close to Violet’s sister, Hyacinth, and he later hears her playing beautifully.  Knowing that his aunt will not let him leave England until he weds, Nick decides to pursue Hyacinth – at least his wife will be beautiful and talented.  He plans on an introduction, but instead approaches Violet, who looks very much like Hyacinth.  Violet, still inwardly laughing at the earlier encounter she witnessed, advises Nick not to call on her.  Nick, ever confident of his charms proceeds to call on Violet anyway, still assuming that she is Hyacinth, and that she will shortly succumb to him.  Violet is anxious to send Nick away, but it becomes clear that he could be useful to her, escorting her around town to locations where she can research and do sketches for her book.

Thus begins the relationship built on deception from both sides – Nick plying his charm to quickly win an unwanted bride, and Violet, letting Nick think she is Hyacinth, while using him to escort and protect her.  But, as they say, love is strange.  Nick finds himself enjoying his time with the avowed bluestocking.  Her genuine thirst for knowledge and her natural curiosity and enthusiasm begins to charm him.  Violet also begins to appreciate Nick’s innate courtesy, protectiveness, and his willingness to answer her questions.  He never mocks her, he shows her exquisite care, and acts the true gentleman around her.  It’s not long before they are caught embracing, and a quick marriage is in their future.

After the initial anger and confusion over Violet pretending to be Hyacinth, they marry.  Violet sincerely apologizes, and Nick forgives her.  His thoughts on their wedding day:

He was going to make love to her tonight, and when they were both sated and she was lying in his arms, he was going to dream about her smile, and that flirtatious little laugh.  Tomorrow he would make her laugh again, and for every tomorrow afterwards, whenever that laugh was on the edge of her mouth, he would catch it on his lips.

Only Nick’s heart is broken before he ever holds her in his arms.  He makes a shattering discovery, and all his dreams of love and happy ever after are dead.  The wonderful man Violet fell in love with has retreated behind the cold eyed rake, whose only intention now is to see his wife pregnant and to return to his mistress.

Author Anna Bradley certainly knows how to write some heart wrenching scenes.  I had tears falling several times as this wonderfully flawed, deeply in love couple broke each other’s heart and trust.  Both Violet and Nick were strong in many ways, yet very vulnerable.  In particular, Nick’s insecurities over his stellar older brother kept him from accepting the truth.  Their eventual happiness is so well deserved, and the culmination of their passion is hot and beautiful.  I found MORE OR LESS A COUNTESS to be a highly emotional, romantic, and breathtaking read that is Anna Bradley’s best writing to date.   ~Rose


Posted in Anna Bradley, Historical Romance, Review, Rose | Leave a comment

Spotlight and Worldwide Giveaway-The Devil to Pay by K C Bateman

About the Book:

Italy, 1492.
A ruthless mercenary skilled in the art of conquest.
An heiress who refuses to be tamed.
The Devil’s own bargain . . .

Cara di Montessori has a price upon her head. Her traitorous uncle has murdered her father and seized her home. Her only hope of survival, and of regaining her birthright, is an alliance with her childhood nemesis, the infamous mercenary Il Diavolo. The most irritating—and seductive—man Cara’s ever met.

Battle hardened and world-weary, Alessandro del Sarto has earned the sobriquet Il Diavolo. He needs a politically expedient marriage to secure the lasting peace he craves,
but the simpering ladies of court hold little interest. More than anything, he longs for a challenge.

Headstrong beauty Cara has always been Il Diavolo’s only weakness, the one woman he’s never been able to forget. When she appears at his door begging for help, the two strike a devil’s bargain. In return for his assistance, for two weeks Cara must entertain his guests, relieve his boredom—and warm his bed.

Cara has no intention of succumbing to del Sarto’s studied seduction, but the passion that simmers between them is more potent than her paper twists of gunpowder. Surrounded by danger and intrigue, she must choose between what she’s always thought of as her destiny, and what could be the greatest prize of all—her heart’s desire.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                 The Devil To Pay

About the Author:  

Kate Bateman, writing as K. C. Bateman, is the #1 bestselling author of Regency and Renaissance historical romancesincluding the Secrets & Spies series:To Steal a Heart, A Raven’s Heart and A Counterfeit Heart. Her books feature feisty, intelligent heroines, (badasses in bodices!) wickedly inappropriate banter, and heroes you want to both strangle and kiss. When not writing, Kate leads a double life as a fine art appraiser and on-screen antiques expert for several TV shows in the UK. She currently lives in Illinois with a number-loving husband and three inexhaustible children, and regularly returns to her native England ‘for research.’                                                                                                           

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Twitter: @katebateman


Read an Excerpt:

Central Italy, June 1492.

Cara di Montessori was sick of people trying to kill her.    

As a child she’d trailed her father through some of the most godforsaken places in Christendom, so it had been a rare week that hadn’t included a scimitar-wielding Saracen or bloodthirsty Moor trying to send her to the afterlife. But familiarity with the experience did not make it any more enjoyable. And besides, those instances had been impersonal, only to be expected of campaigning, whereas this attempt was personal in the extreme. ‘Uncle’ Lorenzo did not want her alive to dispute his seizure of Castelleon.

His men were proving annoyingly persistent. He must have offered a ransom to keep them on her tail, and though Cara doubted her life was worth a great deal, everyone had their price. In truth, she was staking her life on that very premise, about to make a pact with the Devil himself.

If she could reach him.

Alessandro del Sarto, ‘Il Diavolo,’ was the last person in Italy she would have chosen to ask for help, but engaging his dubious talents was her only hope of staying alive and regaining her home. He was condottiero. A killer for hire.

Cara wrinkled her nose in distaste. Mercenary described both del Sarto’s profession and his nature. Il Diavolo sold himself to the highest bidder. He didn’t care which side won or lost, or whether the cause was worth fighting for, only whether the victor could pay his exorbitant fees. Every monarch in Europe wanted him. And now she needed him, too.

‘Better to dance with the devil you know,’ Father used to say. Well, she hadn’t seen this particular devil in six long years, not since she was sixteen. He’d knocked her on her backside, then kissed her until she’d seen stars. She’d threatened to kill him in return. He’d haunted her dreams ever since.

Cara shivered. She hated being cold. At least if she ended up in hell for bartering her soul she’d be warm. She nudged her exhausted horse forward and wished—for perhaps the hundredth time—that she’d stolen a mount with a better saddle. The urge to slump over the animal’s scrawny neck was so strong. She hadn’t eaten for two days, hadn’t dared stop for more than an hour at most. Every jolt of the animal’s hooves reopened the wound at her ribs and brought a fresh wave of dizziness and pain. Perchance the quick slash of an assassin’s blade would be preferable to dying slowly of blood loss?

No. She would reach Il Diavolo. She had hundreds of things she wanted to do before leaving this world, and she’d hardly managed to achieve any of them. Quite apart from avenging her father’s death and regaining her home, she planned on dying a wrinkled old crone in a nice warm bed, surrounded by a huge and loving family. A young, heroic death was all very well in principle, but it looked extremely unappealing now it was a distinct possibility.

Whirling lights crowded her vision like fireflies and Cara shook her head. The stumbling horse crested a rise, and she let out a breathless prayer of thanks. There it was, outlined against the deepening twilight; Torre di San Rocco, the fortified city strongold of Italy’s most infamous son.

Cara kicked the horse into an exhausted trot. She would reach Il Diavolo, or die trying.

Worldwide Giveaway (print or ebook):

Kate Bateman has generously offered a signed copy of The Devil to Pay to one commentor, or, for those who prefer, an ebook of any K C Bateman book.  Simply comment below, answering this question:  What is Il Diavolo’s given name?

Posted in Historical Romance, K C Bateman, Promotions | 10 Comments

Review – An Earl Like You by Caroline Linden

About the Book:

When you gamble at love…

When Hugh Deveraux discovers his newly inherited earldom is bankrupt, he sets about rebuilding the family fortune—in the gaming hells of London. But the most daring wager he takes isn’t at cards. A wealthy tradesman makes a tantalizing offer: marry the man’s spinster daughter, and Hugh’s debts will be paid and his fortune made. The only catch is that she must never know about their agreement.

You risk losing your heart…

Heiress Eliza Cross has given up hope of marriage until she meets the impossibly handsome Earl of Hastings, her father’s new business partner. The earl is everything a gentleman should be, and is boldly attentive to her. It doesn’t take long for Eliza to lose her heart and marry him.

But when Eliza discovers that there is more to the man she loves—and to her marriage—her trust is shattered. And it will take all of Hugh’s power to prove that now his words of love are real.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                An Earl Like You: The Wagers of Sin

My Review:                

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

You know when you’re barely into a book and you just know you’re going to love it?  That’s what happened as I began reading AN EARL LIKE YOU.  I knew right away that I loved both lead characters, and their ensuing story was all I hoped for.

Hugh Deveraux has recently inherited the title of Earl of Hastings after the death of his father.  Unfortunately, his inheritance also includes a multitude of debts and properties that are mortgaged to the hilt and have been mismanaged.  Though Hugh’s father was loving and generous, he was also careless and foolish with finances, undoing all the previous earls’ careful building up of the earldom.  In order to protect his grieving mother and sisters from the truth, Hugh hides their desperate situation, and sets about with a slow and methodical plan to build their fortunes back up, though it will take forever.

Eliza Cross is an heiress, and daughter of a very successful businessman who greatly desires to see her become a lady.  Eliza’s only foray into society was unsuccessful, and she didn’t care for any of the fortune hunters who pursued her.  To his credit, Eliza’s father will never force her to marry someone she doesn’t choose, but he still wants to see her married and settled.  Eliza is considered plain, and becomes quiet and shy around strangers, which doesn’t help further her acquaintance with eligible gentlemen she may meet.

Mr. Cross is aware of Hugh’s financial circumstances, and has been observing him, and how he lives and acts.  He’s impressed that Hugh appears to be an honorable gentleman who appears to be doing the best he can in unfortunate circumstances.  He also believes that Hugh is the perfect candidate to be Eliza’s husband, and begins buying up Hugh’s debt with the intention of making Hugh an offer he can’t refuse.

It had occurred to Hugh that he eventually may have no choice but to marry an heiress, but he considered that option to be somewhere in the future.  He initially has every intention of refusing Mr. Cross’s proposal until his sister’s urgent need for a dowry makes him reconsider.  He finally agrees to court Eliza, but will not go so far as marriage until he’s sure she’s someone he can at least like and envision spending the rest of his life with.

Much to Hugh’s surprise, he finds that he greatly enjoys spending time with Eliza.  His natural charm brings her out of her shell, and he glimpses her warm personality beneath the shy exterior.   He definitely likes her, and before long, he’s finding her quite lovely and very desirable.  Eliza falls hard and fast, and when Hugh proposes, she doesn’t hesitate to accept.  Their marriage begins, full of laughter and passion, and with Hugh’s debts being paid in full.

All is not perfect, as Eliza has to battle for acceptance, not only in society, but from Hugh’s own family.  And while Hugh finds himself genuinely falling in love with his new bride, he can’t help but feel guilt for how her father “bought” him and made him swear to never tell Eliza the truth.  What could possibly go wrong?

AN EARL LIKE YOU is full of heart and emotion.  I love Eliza, and empathized with her feelings of inadequacy – not being beautiful enough, not being sparkling enough.  Her blossoming under Hugh’s care and love is amazing.  Her care and interest in others slowly wins over her detractors.  Hugh was in between the proverbial rock and hard place, and nothing he did was for selfish reasons, yet there are bound to be serious repercussions when the truth comes out.  The marriage of convenience / marriage for money is a familiar trope in historical romance, but I found AN EARL LIKE YOU to be one of the absolute best I’ve read.  I also feel that it’s Caroline Linden’s best writing.  I adore this beautiful, warm, and passionate story which captivated me from the beginning, and it’s going to my keeper shelf, and on my favorites list for this year.   ~Rose

Posted in Caroline Linden, Historical Romance, Review, Rose | Leave a comment

The Duke With the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Byrne – Blog Tour, Review, Excerpt, & Win a Copy!


About the Book:

The bravest of heroes. The brashest of rebels. The boldest of lovers. These are the men who risk their hearts and their souls—for the passionate women who dare to love them…

He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival—and salvation—lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul…


Lorelei will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms?

Buy Links:   Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Books-a-Million  IndieBound  Powells

Kerrigan Byrne
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.

  Social Links:                Author Website:                Twitter: @Kerrigan_Byrne  Facebook: @KerriganByrneAuthor                                    Instagram: @KerriganByrne

Read an Excerpt:


If Lorelai Weatherstoke hadn’t been appreciating the storm out the carriage window, she’d have missed the naked corpse beneath the ancient ash tree.

“Father, look!” She seized Lord Southbourne’s thin wrist, but a barrage of visual stimuli overwhelmed her, paralyzing her tongue.

In all her fourteen years, she’d never seen a naked man, let alone a deceased one.

He lay facedown, strong arms reached over his head as though he’d been trying to swim through the shallow grass lining the road. Ghastly dark bruises covered what little flesh was visible beneath the blood. He was all mounds and cords, his long body different from hers in every way a person could be.

Her heart squeezed, and she fought to find her voice as the carriage trundled past. The poor man must be cold, she worried, then castigated herself for such an absurd thought.

The dead became one with the cold. She’d learned that by kissing her mother’s forehead before they closed her casket forever.

“What is it, duck?” Her father may have been an earl, but the Weatherstokes were gentry of reduced circumstances, and didn’t spend enough time in London to escape the Essex accent.

Lorelai had not missed the dialect while at school in Mayfair, and it had been the first thing she’d rid herself of in favor of a more proper London inflection. In this case, however, it was Lord Southbourne’s words, more than his accent, that caused her to flinch.

As cruel as the girls could be at Braithwaite’s Boarding School, none of their taunts had made her feel quite so hollow as the one her own family bestowed upon her.


“I-it’s a man,” she stammered. “A corp—” Oh no, had he just moved, or had she imagined it? Squinting through the downpour, she pressed her face to the window in time to see battered knuckles clenching the grass, and straining arms pulling the heavy body forward.

“Stop,” she wheezed, overtaken by tremors. “Stop the carriage!”

“What’s bunched your garters, then?” Sneering across from her, Mortimer, her elder brother, brushed aside the drapes at his window. “Blimey! There’s a bleedin’ corpse by the road.” Three powerful strikes on the roof of the coach prompted the driver to stop.

“He’s alive!” Lorelai exclaimed, pawing at the door handle. “I swear he moved. We have to help him.”

“I thought that fancy, expensive school was supposed to make you less of an idiot, Duck.” Mortimer’s heavy brows barely separated on a good day and met to create one thick line when he adopted the expression of disdainful scorn he reserved solely for her. “What’s a cripple like you going to do in the mud?”

“We should probably drive through to Brentwood,” Lord Southbourne suggested diplomatically. “We can send back an ambulance to fetch him.”

“He’ll need an undertaker by then,” Lorelai pleaded. “We must save him, mustn’t we?”

“I’ve never seen so much blood.” It was morbid fascination rather than pity darkening her brother’s eyes. “I’m going out there.”

“I’m coming with you.”

A cruel hand smacked Lorelai out of the way, and shoved her back against the faded brocade velvet of her seat. “You’ll stay with Father. I’ll take the driver.”

As usual, Lord Robert Weatherstoke said and did nothing to contradict his only son as Mortimer leaped from the coach and slammed the door behind him.

Lorelai barely blamed her passive father anymore. Mortimer was so much larger than him these days, and ever so much crueler.

She had to adjust her throbbing leg to see the men making their way through the gray of the early-evening deluge. Just enough remained of daylight to delineate color variations.

The unfortunate man was a large smudge of gore against the verdant spring ground cover. Upon Mortimer and the driver’s approach, he curled in upon himself not unlike a salted snail. Only he had no shell to protect his beaten body.

Lorelai swallowed profusely in a vain attempt to keep her heart from escaping through her throat as the man was hoisted aloft, each arm yoked like an ox’s burden behind a proffered neck. Even though Mortimer was the tallest man she knew, the stranger’s feet dragged in the mud. His head lolled below his shoulders, so she couldn’t get a good look at his face to ascertain his level of consciousness.

Other parts of him, though, she couldn’t seem to drag her eyes away from.

She did her best not to look between his legs, and mostly succeeded. At a time like this, modesty hardly mattered, but she figured the poor soul deserved whatever dignity she could allow him.

That is to say, she only peeked twice before wrenching her eyes upward.

The muscles winging from his back beneath where his arms spread were ugly shades of darkness painted by trauma. The ripples of his ribs were purple on his left side, and red on the other. Blunt bruises interrupted the symmetrical ridges of his stomach, as though he’d been kicked or struck repeatedly. As they dragged him closer, what she’d feared had been blood became something infinitely worse.

It was as though his flesh had been chewed away, but by something with no teeth. The plentiful meat of his shoulder and chest, his torso, hips, and down his thigh were grotesquely visible.

Burns, maybe?

“Good God, how is he still alive?” The awe in her father’s voice reminded her of his presence as they scurried to open the carriage door and help drag the man inside. It took the four of them to manage it.

“He won’t be unless we hurry.” The driver tucked the man’s long, long legs inside, resting his knees against the seat. “I fear he won’t last the few miles to Brentwood.”

Ripping her cloak off, Lorelai spread it over the shuddering body on the floor. “We must do what we can,” she insisted. “Is there a doctor in Brentwood?”

“Aye, and a good one.”

“Please take us there without delay.”

“O’course, miss.” He secured the door and leaped into his seat, whipping the team of fresh horses into a gallop.

As they lurched forward, the most pitiful sound she’d ever heard burst from the injured man’s lips, which flaked with white. His big arm flailed from beneath the cloak to protect his face, in a gesture that tore Lorelai’s heart out of her chest.

The burn scored the sinew of his neck and up his jaw to his cheekbone.

Pangs of sympathy slashed at her own skin, and drew her muscles taut with strain. Lorelai blinked a sheen of tears away, and cleared emotion out of her tight throat with a husky sound she’d made to soothe many a wounded animal on the Black Water Estuary.

His breaths became shallower, his skin paler beneath the bruises.

He was dying.

Without thinking, she slid a hand out of her glove, and gently pressed her palm to his, allowing her fingers to wrap around his hand one by one.

“Don’t go,” she urged. “Stay here. With me.”

His rough, filthy hand gripped her with such strength, the pain of it stole her breath. His face turned toward her, though his eyes remained closed.

Still, it heartened her, this evidence of awareness. Perhaps, on some level, she could comfort him.

“You’re going to be all right,” she crooned.

“Don’t lie to the poor bastard.” Mortimer’s lip curled in disgust. “He’s no goose with a defective wing, or a three-legged cat, like the strays you’re always harboring. Like as not he’s too broken to be put back together with a bandage, a meal, and one of your warbling songs. He’s going to die, Lorelai.”

“You don’t know that,” she said more sharply than she’d intended, and received a sharp slap for her lapse in wariness.

“And you don’t know what I’ll do to you if you speak to me in that tone again.”

Most girls would look to their fathers for protection, but Lorelai had learned long ago that protection was something upon which she could never rely.

Her cheek stinging, Lorelai lowered her eyes. Mortimer would take it as a sign of submission, but she only did it to hide her anger. She’d learned by now to take care around him in times of high stress, or excitement. It had been her folly to forget … because she knew exactly what he was capable of. The pinch of her patient’s strong grip was nothing next to what she’d experienced at the hands of her brother on any given month.

Ignoring the aching throb in her foot, Lorelai dismissed Mortimer, leaning down instead to stroke a dripping lock of midnight hair away from an eye so swollen, he’d not have been able to open it were he awake.

Across from her, Mortimer leaned in, as well, ostensibly studying the man on the floor with equal parts intrigue and disgust. “Wonder what happened to the sod. I haven’t seen a beating like this in all my years.”

Lorelai schooled a level expression from her face at the reference to his many perceived years. He was all of twenty, and the only violence he witnessed outside of sport, he perpetrated himself.

“Brigands, you suspect?” Sir Robert fretted from beside her, checking the gathering darkness for villains.

“Entirely possible,” Mortimer said flippantly. “Or maybe he is one. We are disturbingly close to Gallows Corner.”

“Mortimer,” their father wheezed. “Tell me you haven’t pulled a criminal into my coach. What would people say?”

The Weatherstoke crest bore the motto Fortunam maris, “fortune from the sea,” but if anyone had asked Lorelai what it was, she’d have replied, Quid dicam homines? “What would people say?”

It had been her father’s favorite invocation—and his greatest fear—for as long as she could remember.

Lorelai opened her mouth to protest, but her brother beat her to it, a speculative glint turning his eyes the color of royal sapphires. “If I’d hazard a guess, it would be that this assault was personal. A fellow doesn’t go to the trouble to inflict this sort of damage lest his aim is retribution or death. Perhaps he’s a gentleman with gambling debts run afoul of a syndicate. Or, maybe a few locals caught him deflowering their sister … though they left those parts intact, didn’t they, Duck?” His sly expression told Lorelai that he’d caught her looking where she ought not to.

Blushing painfully, she could no longer bring herself to meet Mortimer’s cruel eyes. They were the only trait Lorelai shared with her brother. Her father called them the Weatherstoke jewels. She actively hated looking in the mirror and seeing Mortimer’s eyes staring back at her.

Instead, she inspected the filthy nails of the hand engulfing her own. The poor man’s entire palm was one big callus against hers. The skin on his knuckles, tough as an old shoe, had broken open with devastating impact.

Whatever had happened to him, he’d fought back.

“He’s no gentleman,” she observed. “Too many calluses. A local farmhand, perhaps, or a stable master?” It didn’t strain the imagination to envision these hands gripping the rope of an erstwhile stallion. Large, magnificent beasts pitting their strength one against the other.

“More like stable boy,” Mortimer snorted. “I’d wager my inheritance he’s younger than me.”

“How can you tell?” With his features beyond recognition, Lorelai was at a loss as to the man’s age. No gray streaked his midnight hair, nor did lines bracket his swollen lips, so she knew he couldn’t be old, but beyond that …

“He’s not possessed of enough body hair for a man long grown.”

“But he’s so big,” she reasoned. “And his chest appears to have been badly burned, the hair might have singed right off.”

“I’m not referring to his chest, you dull-wit, but to his coc—”

“Mortimer, please.”

Lorelai winced. It was as close to a reprimand as her father ever ventured. Mortimer must have been very wicked, indeed. It was just her luck that he did so on perhaps the first occasion Lorelai had actually wanted her brother to finish a sentence.

A rut in the road jostled them with such force at their frantic pace, Lorelai nearly landed on the injured man. His chest heaved a scream into his throat, but it only escaped as a piteous, gurgling groan.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she whimpered. Dropping to her knees, she hovered above him, the fingers of her free hand fluttering over his quaking form, looking for a place to land that wouldn’t cause him pain.

She could find none. He was one massive wound.

A tear splashed from her eye and disappeared into the crease between his fingers.

“Duck, perhaps it’s best you take your seat.” Her father’s jowly voice reminded her of steam wheezing from a teakettle before it’s gathered enough strength to whistle. “It isn’t seemly for a girl of your standing to be thus prostrated on the floor.”

With a sigh, she did her best to get her good foot beneath her, reaching for the plush golden velvet of the seat to push herself back into it.

An insistent tug on her arm tested the limits of her shoulder socket, forcing her to catch herself once more.

“Lorelai, I said sit,” Lord Southbourne blustered.

“I can’t,” she gasped incredulously. “He won’t let me go.”

“What’s this, then?” Mortimer wiped some of the mud away from the straining cords of the man’s forearm, uncovering an even darker smudge beneath. As he cleared it, a picture began to take shape, the artful angles and curves both intriguing and sinister until mottled, injured skin ruptured the rendering. “Was it a bird of some kind? A serpent?”

“No.” Lorelai shook her head, studying the confusion of shapes intently. “It’s a dragon.”

Copyright © 2018 by Kerrigan Byrne

My Review:                     

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Lorelai Weatherstoke is looking out her coach window when she spies a young man’s body on the side of the road.  At first she assumes the badly beaten and burned youth to be dead, but she detects some sign of life, and has him taken up into the carriage.  The doctor has little hope that anyone in his condition will survive, but Lorelai’s sweet voice and soft touch entice the boy to fight for his life.  When the boy regains consciousness, he has no memory of his past.  He looks to be about eighteen years old to Lorelai’s fourteen, and she decides to call him Ash.  Over the months of his recovery, Ash falls in love with Lorelai, and she with him.  His scars don’t matter to her, and her limp doesn’t matter to him.  Finally, the time comes for Ash to leave, to start an apprenticeship, and as he departs, he kisses Lorelai and tells her:   “Lorelai, there are only two indisputable facts in this world:  The sun will set in the west, and I’ll come  for you.  Always.”

But Ash doesn’t come.  The years go by, and Lorelai continues to live under her cruel brother’s rule.  It’s Mortimer’s fault that Lorelai was injured as a child and has a permanent limp.  When their father dies, Mortimer seems to lose all restraint, and gambles away their home, and arranges to marry Lorelai off to a man old enough to be her grandfather.  As a downtrodden Lorelai makes her way to the church to face her unwanted marriage, she and her sister-in-law are kidnapped by the notorious pirate, Rook.  Only, Rook appears to be her long lost love, Ash, the one who’s been gone for twenty years.

Rook insists that the boy he was, Ash, is dead.  But he still wants Lorelai, and is determined to have her at all costs.  But where has he been?  Why did he stay away so long?  How can he possibly expect Lorelai to blindly agree to tie herself to this man who’s now a dangerous stranger?

Lorelai has always been kind and tender hearted, as evidenced by her care of the younger Ash and the animals she was forever rescuing.  She was also meek in accepting her brother’s ill treatment and abuse.  But now, she finds the courage to stand up to Rook and demand answers.  Though he’s not quick to give answers, she eventually learns his heartbreaking story, and she’s determined to find some heart and humanity left in the cold stranger who used to be her beloved Ash.

There is no way Rook could be called a good man.  Though he was grievously wronged, he now chooses to be a pirate, a thief, and a murderer.  He appears to be coldly in control at all times, never showing emotion, but Lorelai still gets to him.  Yet, my heart broke for him, and I couldn’t help but love him.  I found myself urging Lorelai to show him the tenderness and love that she did when they were young.

THE DUKE WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is truly a breathtaking read.  The tragedy of the young lovers being parted for so long, and so wrongly, is heartbreaking.  They have to go through so much more before they find themselves and their love again.  The way author Kerrigan Byrne brought this story full circle is brilliant – if you’ve read the previous books, you’ll genuinely appreciate the pieces of the puzzle all falling into place.  (If you haven’t read the previous books, you’ll still be able to read this as a stand alone.)  THE DUKE WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO worked for me on all levels – it’s fast paced, exciting, heartbreaking, dangerous, steamy, and, oh, so very touching and romantic.    ~Rose

Enter to win a paperback copy of The Duke With the Dragon Tattoo – U.S. only.  Just leave a comment telling me your favorite kind of hero. Contest ends Sep 2.

Posted in Historical Romance, Kerrigan Byrne, Promotions, Review, Rose | 9 Comments

Review – Sleepless in Scotland by May McGoldrick

About the Book:

Captain Ian Bell is a tortured man fighting through grief and guilt over the loss of his sister. When she went missing, he searched for months until he found her remains. Now, three years later as the Deputy Lieutenant of Fife, Ian still hunts for her murderer in the dangerous criminal underworld of Edinburgh. He is the ‘Night Watch’ bent on revenge even as he saves others from the same violent fate that claimed his sister. Then one night, a young woman narrowly escapes death and lands at his feet…his late sister’s best friend, Phoebe Pennington.

Lady Phoebe Pennington—dreamer and storyteller to her family—is a committed reformer writing articles anonymously for an Edinburgh newspaper. One night, in an effort to acquire documents embarrassing to the city’s political leaders, Phoebe descends into the corrupt and seething netherworld known as the Vaults. When she tries to save a street urchin from an assailant,she becomes the target of a violent attack, only to be saved by the one man she has desired for years.

Ian’s attraction to Phoebe is as undeniable as it is unexpected,and she awakens in him passions he thought long dead. Fearful that she doesn’t understand the dangers of this criminal world, he is determined to save her from the risks she takes. Phoebe’s blood burns for Ian, but when she learns that he may be implicated in the scandal she is set on exposing, she finds herself torn between love and truth. But even as they strive to find the meaning of trust,fate is taking a hand. For Phoebe is the only one who has seen the face of the killer, and the sinister shadows of evil are closer than they imagine.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                            Sleepless in Scotland (The Pennington Family)

My Review:              

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

In the three years since his sister, Sarah, was murdered in a seedy area of Edinburgh known as the Vaults, sleep has eluded Ian Bell.  He’ll never have peace until he has answers and finds the mad killer who took Sarah’s life, as well as a multitude of others.  Ian haunts the Vaults, rescuing those he can while he searches for the elusive killer.  When he rescues a young man about to be attacked by a knife wielding villain, he’s shocked to find the young man is a lady – and not just any lady – it’s Phoebe Pennington, Sarah’s best friend.

Phoebe is an earl’s daughter, and has a secret career as a writer for the Edinburgh Review.  Phoebe chooses to write about the plight of poor people, and other social injustices.  She was led to this dangerous location by a questionable source who supposedly had some information for her.  When she intervened in a young boy being attacked, the attacker turned on her, and only Ian’s arrival saved her life.  As Ian escorts her home, she now has to worry as to whether he’ll inform her family about her dangerous actions and her near miss.  He’s furious that Phoebe would put herself in such danger.

Years ago, when Sarah was still alive, Phoebe had a huge crush on Ian, who was distantly polite to his little sister’s friend.  Though she hasn’t seen much of Ian in recent years, he still holds the same attraction for her.  No other man has ever captured her interest, and she has devoted herself to being a crusader for those without a voice.  Her zeal leads her to believe that an organization Ian sponsors is bowing to political pressure and casting aside those people it is supposed to aid.  She decides to confront Ian directly.

Ian, instead of becoming angry, simply shows Phoebe that she was misinformed.  I love his patience, his honor, and even his unfortunate willingness to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders.  In no way was he responsible for Sarah’s death, yet he bears the guilt, and anguishes over the pain their mother endures.  He put his whole life on hold while searching for the killer, but Phoebe has sparked an interest in him.  He invites her to his home, to visit with his mother.  While there, attempts are made on Phoebe’s life, and it seems that the killer is very close to Ian’s home, and feels that she is a danger to him, and must be eliminated.

I loved watching Ian start to come back to life in Phoebe’s company, and their developing romance was sweet, then steamy.  Both of them are characters to admire and root for.  The mysterious killer was not difficult to figure out, but the suspense was still well written.  SLEEPLESS IN SCOTLAND flowed along at a great pace and held my interest so much, that I read it in one sitting.  This well written romance is an emotional, enjoyable, and satisfactory read that I think will satisfy both HR readers, and those who enjoy a touch of mystery.   ~Rose

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