Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: In the Heart of the Highlander by Maggie Robinson

Click here to buy the book on Amazon
Click here to buy the paperback at The Book Depository

Fellow romance reader and blogger, Maria (Austen Student on Tumblr), mentioned on Goodreads that, when she wants to laugh, she reads Maggie Robinson and I agree with her: there's a really light-hearted/fun (but not funny) quality to Robinson's books. What makes Maggie Robinson stand out, however, is that she infuses her stories with a unique and surprising element that elevates her stories.

Alec Raeburn is wealthy, titled and incredibly handsome -- but he's also larger than the average gentleman and is also suspected of killing his wife. The theory of Alec is he should be one of those sought-after bachelors, where matchmaking mamas and their daughters should be scrambling to get his attention -- but, the reality of Alec is that he is a bull in a china shop -- awkward and unwelcome in society. He's the man mothers warn their daughters about.

Mary Evensong was such a strong and dynamic character in In the Arms of the Heiress and I was very curious how Robinson would develop her story. The revelation in In the Heart of the Highlander is that Mary is weary of pretending to be her aunt. She is chafing under the wig of grey hair and against the heavy clothes she wears as Mary Evensong, proprietress of the Evensong Academy. Mary yearns for a life of her own, and Alec's plan seems to be the opportunity that Mary is looking for.

Mary Evensong was tired. Tired of wearing smoke-gray spectacles that covered her hazel eyes. Tired of wearing an itchy gray wig that covered her russet hair. Tired of the problems that came in by the sack loads every time the mailman rang her doorbell.
- Opening paragraph, Chapter 1

To the world, Alec is responsible for his wife, Edith's, death -- either he pushed her out the window of Raeburn Abbey or drove her to suicide. But Alec believes it is Dr Josef Bauer of the Forsyth Palace Hotel (spa) in Scotland that is responsible for Edith's death and is out to prove it in an entrapment scheme, involving Mary Evensong.

Alec doesn't factor in the possibility of being attracted to his "hired actress", but, from the very first moment he meets her, he knows there is something there for them to discover. Mary, on the other hand, has always been drawn to Alec and this seems to be a good-enough moment to indulge.

There is a clear split in how this story is told, and two plots in place. The first involves Mary pretending to be a sickly and unpopular spinster who is seeking treatments at the ..., hoping to catch Dr. Bauer's eye and then exposing his fraudulent/lascivious behaviour. I loved this part of the story: the question of whether they would pull off this plan successfully kept me turning the pages.

It's what happens after that, I think, ruined this story for me.

Mary changes as the story progresses, and not for the better. My first impression of Mary is that she is a practical, no-nonsense, capable woman who has successfully run a business in her aunt's stead. As Mary Evensong, she had effortlessly solved a number of problems for lords, ladies and wealthy people. She struck me as unflinching in the face of adversity and admired her greatly for it. At the start of her own story, I see these same qualities come into play as Mary, herself, agrees to become the bait in the trap Alec has set for Dr. Bauer.

But, then, as Mary Arden, she becomes foolish and loses her head over Alec -- even propositioning him "to relieve her of her unwanted virginity" -- when they decamp to Raeburn Abbey, Mary loses even more of herself as we find her comparing herself to Alec's late wife and conducting herself in a very unprofessional way (reading Edith's diary).

Mary stuck her tongue out at the painted Edith and felt no better.
- Chapter 25

The entire "Raeburn Abbey" storyline was problematic for me. From the beginning, we are all convinced that Alec is the aggrieved party in his previous marriage and suffers the tragic consequences of his late wife's death. But, when the Raeburn Abbey story unfolds, Robinson casts doubts on the whole premise. Was Dr. Bauer really responsible for Edith's death? From the passages in Edith's journal, and from Alec's own recollection, it becomes uncertain. There's the whole factor of Edith's controlling parents to consider. And Alec, himself, gets tarnished by his own admission.

Mummy says I should give the place a try, and since it is so close, I just might. I am so tired of her lecturing me about my duty.
- Edith's diary, Chapter 26

* * *

I left her while I amused myself in London, and then even after I returned, we lived separate lives. She breakfasted by herself. Dined by herself. I'd stopped trying. We barely spoke, and when we did talk, to was to argue.

"We could have managed in a white marriage. People do. People whose desires are kept under control. But I didn't have any self-control. I thought with my cock, I'd fuck anyone available. Maybe I'm still doing that."


"She tried to tell me, but I didn't pay proper attention. We quarrelled as usual over something stupid -- can you believe I can't even remember what? I've tried and tried, and it's a blur, just accusations and recriminations running together like a jerky movie reel. She ran away from me, came up here, and jumped."
- Chapter 31

Was the whole entrapment scheme just a grieving man's backlash against his perceived enemy? I could not shake the feeling that the whole world that the author had established so carefully at the start of the story had all been turned upside-down.

It seemed pretty clear that Edith had not accidentally stepped out her window into the void. Somehow Mary couldn't see a disgruntled servant pushing her, no matter how demanding she'd been. Alec would have moved heaven and earth to discover the culprit who was responsible.

And he had settled on Bauer.
- Chapter 25

I know that the point of the sojourn at the Abbey is to give Alec and Mary's relationship to blossom a bit more, but the "I love you" admission after four days is a bit unbelievable coming from Mary, who I had credited with a bit more sense than that.

What saves this story is the humour, and the introduction of the Raeburn brothers (Evan and Nicholas), the latter being the hero of The Reluctant Governess, the next instalment in the Ladies Unlaced series. These two excerpts, in particular, are really wonderful:

Now Mary understood what all those silly romance books Harriet loaned her meant when they used their ellipses. Mary dot-dot-dotted, her hands on Alec's shoulders, her eyes fluttering shut. She didn't need to watch him anymore, only feel his mastery over her as he overcame his scruples and kissed her like she was the only woman in the world.
- Chapter 11

* * *

"Mary's up there. Miss Arden. Miss Evensong," Alec amended.

"You have three women in your chamber? A regular harem! By God, Alec, I'm proud of you! I thought you'd lost your touch when Edith died. We were all so worried about you."
- Alec talking to Evan, Chapter 29

In the Heart of the Highlander is Book 2 in Maggie Robinson's Ladies Unlaced series. To find out more about Maggie and her books, click below:
Monday, July 28, 2014

Blog Tour: Tempted by His Touch: A Limited Edition Boxed Set of Dukes, Rogues, & Alpha Heroes Historical Romance Novels (Interview + iPad Mini Giveaway)

I'm so, so pleased to be part of the Tempted by His Touch blog tour.

This is such a great collection of historical romance novels from really amazing authors and, it will only be available for a limited time (July 27 to September 21) for $0.99 -- and then it's gone forever.

For this tour, the authors are giving away an iPad Mini (16GB) with surprise bonus print books (US/Can only). To follow the rest of this tour, click here.

* * *

Q&A with Darcy Burke

What’s your favorite historical romance? Sooo many to choose from. Classic: Seaflame by Valerie Vayle (I was convinced I could write it into a screenplay when I was in high school), “Modern:” Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas and The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

What is the first romance novel you ever read? Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Ashes in the Wind

Would you want to live in the time you write about? What would you love? Hate? No, I don’t think I’d like to live there. I used to, but then I had children. I’m not interested in nineteenth century childbirth, thank you! But I do think I’d love to spend some time during those simpler days, when receiving a letter and writing a response was a highlight of your day.

If given the choice between a duke, a rogue, or an alpha hero, which would you choose? An alpha, roguish duke of course!

What tempts you? (Chocolate, caviar, long walks on the beach ...) My family (not terribly sexy, but true!), salted dark chocolate caramels, a really good margarita

Rapid fire round:
Designer purses or Target special? I’ve tried to buy designer purses and never end up liking them!
Heels or flip flops? Flip flops
Rich or famous? Rich, please
American hottie or sexy Brit? Sexy Brit!
Where’s your happy place? Anywhere with my family (especially Denmark with my cousins), Disneyland, and Labor Day Weekend at the Gorge with my hubby and the Dave Matthews Band

* * *

A boxed set with ten sizzling historical romances from ten bestselling historical romance authors. Fall in love with fabulous tales of intrigue, suspense, wit, and passion featuring dukes, rogues, alpha heroes ... and the women who can’t resist them.

JUST 99 CENTS from July 27 - Sept. 21 -- then it disappears FOREVER!

Scoundrel Ever After by Darcy Burke - Once upon a time there was a very bad boy who met a very nice girl ...

Lady of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle - Educating a man in the art of love takes time. Lots of it.

Sonata for a Scoundrel by Anthea Lawson - Passion and secrets simmer against the glittering backdrop of 19th century musical celebrity.

To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield by Bronwen Evans - What's a lady to do when a notorious rake wins her estate in a game of cards?

Undone by Lila DiPasqua – One steamy, emotionally charged retelling of Rapunzel ... Rescuing this beauty from the ‘tower’ is only the beginning ...

The Problem with Seduction by Emma Locke - Elizabeth Spencer needs a man. She doesn't need to like him -- because while she needs a man, she doesn't particularly want one.

A Dangerous Invitation by Erica Monroe - Daniel O'Reilly returns to win back Kate Morgan’s heart and prove he's innocent of murder.

Once Upon a Duke by Eva Devon - A widow looking to get seduced. A duke more than willing to oblige.

Great & Unfortunate Desires by Gina Danna - A marquis with a guilty past takes a bride in a world where love is fatal.

Dark Surrender By Erica Ridley - Trapped in darkness ... Their passion burns bright!

In repose, Mr. Locke looked younger. His ink-dark hair was thick and in need of a trim. His beard was longer still, and Audrey was surprised to find she still found it attractive. Despite the growth of hair, his chin was squared and strong. He might look youthful in sleep, but he also exuded a power and magnetism that was undeniable. At least to her.

Mr. Locke’s eyes shot open and he was suddenly on top of her. He’d rolled like quicksilver, pinning her to the mattress.

She gasped -- both with surprise and with the shock of his masculine body pressed atop hers. He was hard and muscular, and for the first time in her life she felt dainty and impossibly feminine.
His gray eyes focused on her, but she couldn’t immediately discern what he was thinking. Then his brow arched and he drawled, “Good morning” without sounding the least bit apologetic.

Buy Links:

iTunes: coming soon

* * *

About Darcy Burke:

A native Oregonian, Darcy lives on the edge of wine country with her devoted husband, their two great kids, and two Bengal cats. In her “spare” time Darcy is a serial volunteer enrolled in a 12-step program where one learns to say “no,” but she keeps having to start over. She’s also a fair-weather runner, and her happy places are Disneyland and Labor Day weekend at the Gorge.

Website: http://www.darcyburke.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DarcyBurkeFans
Twitter: https://twitter.com/darcyburke
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5823441.Darcy_Burke
Newsletter: http://www.darcyburke.com/newsletter/

About Bronwen Evans:

USA Today Bestselling Author Bronwen Evans grew up loving books. She writes both historical and contemporary sexy romances for the modern woman who likes intelligent, spirited heroines, and compassionate alpha heroes.

Her debut Regency romance, Invitation to Ruin won the RomCon Readers’ Crown Best Historical 2012, and was an RT Reviewers’ Choice Nominee Best First Historical 2011. Her first self-published novella, To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield, was a FINALIST in the Kindle Book Review Indie Romance Book of the Year 2012 and a finalist in the RomCon Readers’ Crown Best Historical 2013. Her first contemporary released December 2012, The Reluctant Wife, won the RomCon Readers’ Crown Best Category 2013.

Website: http://www.bronwenevans.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bronwenevansauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bronwenevans_NZ
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4331713.Bronwen_Evans
Newsletter: sign up at the top of Bronwen’s website

About Lila DiPasqua:

Lila DiPasqua is a multi-published, national bestselling author of historical romance with heat. Her novels are published by Penguin/Berkley, as well as having self-published works.

She is best known for her critically acclaimed Fiery Tales series. Her books have been featured on Doubleday and Rhapsody Book Clubs.

She lives with her husband and three children in Canada and is a firm believer in the happily-ever-after.

Website: http://liladipasqua.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LilaDiPasquaAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/liladipasqua
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3234450.Lila_DiPasqua
Newsletter: sign up on the sidebar of Lila’s website

About Delilah Marvelle:

Delilah Marvelle is the winner of the Reviewer's Choice for Best Sensual Historical Romance of the Year and had Booklist name her historical romance 'Forever and a Day' one of the TOP 10 Romances of the year. When she isn't writing, she's digging through inappropriate research books that include anything in history having to do with courtesans, brothels, sexual contraptions that were never properly used and other fascinating forms of dirty history that didn't make it into college textbooks. She includes all of her research in her books to ensure countless hours of entertainment and continues to take pride in knowing more about dirty history than most people feel comfortable with.

Website: http://www.delilahmarvelle.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Delilah-Marvelle/73234401876
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DelilahMarvelle
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1423331.Delilah_Marvelle
Newsletter: http://delilahmarvelle.wordpress.com/

About Erica Ridley:

Erica Ridley learned to read when she was three, which was about the same time she decided to be a writer when she grew up.

She is the author of three Gothic romances, Too Wicked to Kiss, Too Sinful to Deny and Dark Surrender, the vampire romance "Never Been Bitten" in the paranormal romance anthology Born To Bite, contemporary paranormal romances Charmed and Midwinter Magic, and the holiday fantasy romance Let It Snow.

When not reading or writing romances, Erica can be found riding camels in Africa, zip-lining through rainforests in Costa Rica, or getting hopelessly lost in the middle of Budapest.

Website: http://www.ericaridley.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ericaridley
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EricaRidley
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3087787.Erica_Ridley
Newsletter: http://bit.ly/EricaRidleyVIPs

About Emma Locke:

Emma Locke is a writer and engineer living in the Pacific Northwest, where she loves hiking with her dog, hot yoga and riding out the annual 330 days of rain. Hiking and yoga give her time to plot, the lack of sun makes for perfect writing weather, and as for her day job, the dichotomy seems to work: her analytic side ensures her passionate, satisfying love stories don't mulch under her bed, and her author side forces her to keep writing more.

Website: http://www.emmalocke.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorEmmaLocke
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EmmaLockeAuthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6749632.Emma_Locke
Newsletter: sign up at the bottom of Emma’s website

About Gina Danna:

Gina has spent the better part of her life reading. History has been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, dreaming of writing one of her own. Years later, after receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, writing academic research papers and writing for museum programs and events, she finally found the time to write her own stories of historical romantic fiction.

Now, under the supervision of her three dogs and three cats, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break away is to spend time with her other life long dream -- her Arabian horse -- with him, her muse can play.

Website: http://ginadanna.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GinaDannaAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GinaDanna1
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7141882.Gina_Danna

About Erica Monroe:

Erica Monroe is a bestselling author of emotional, suspenseful romance. Though she has a Bachelor's degree in writing, she's been a secretary, a barista, and a retail assistant. Now Erica spends her days crafting lovable rogues and feisty heroines for her historical and new adult series. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina, and the Beau Monde Regency Romance chapter. When not writing, she is a chronic TV watcher, sci-fi junkie, lover of pit bulls, and shoe fashionista. She lives in the suburbs of North Carolina with her husband, two dogs, and a cat.

Website: http://ericamonroe.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EricaMonroeWrites
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ericajmonroe
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7280359.Erica_Monroe
Newsletter: sign up on Erica’s website sidebar

About Eva Devon:

Author of sexy and laugh out loud funny Regencies, I'm also Maire Claremont, creator of dark and angsty Victorians!

Website: http://www.maireclaremont.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eva-Devon/1464806663776356
Twitter: https://twitter.com/evadevonauthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8333263.Eva_Devon
Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/YoZbD

About Anthea Lawson:

Anthea Lawson, called "a new star of Historical Romance" by Booklist, has won readers with her combination of spicy love scenes and elegant prose. Her first novel, PASSIONATE, was a Best First Book finalist in the prestigious Romance Writers of America RITA awards.

Anthea also writes award-winning YA Urban Fantasy under the pen name Anthea Sharp.

Website: http://anthealawson.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AntheaLawson
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AntheaLawson
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2436762.Anthea_Lawson
Newsletter: https://tinyletter.com/AntheaLawson

* * *

Wednesday, July 30th

Chat with the authors and win prizes!

Also, be sure to like each author’s Facebook page so you’ll see the WEEKLY GIVEAWAYS they have going on while Tempted by His Touch is on sale. You don’t want to miss an exciting moment of this extravaganza!

* * *


Grand prize: iPad Mini (16GB) with surprise bonus print books [Open to US/CA]

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Sunday, July 27, 2014

Free and Discounted Historical Romance Novels

Happy Weekend, all!

It's an exciting weekend as many of our beloved authors are in San Antonio for the Annual Conference of the Romance Writers of America.

ARe (All Romance eBooks) is offering a 25% rebate on Harlequin titles and 25% rebate on Carina Press titles (until the end of July).

Kobo also has a selection of titles that you can get a 75% off discount with code: dis75last. Click here to see the selection. (Robin Schone and Sylvia Day are part of the list!)

For Kobo readers, there's also an unlimited use 30% off code right now: TGIFSAVE30

Now for this week's featured freebies and discounted books:

The first two books in Maya Rodale's Wallflower Trilogy is on sale for $1.99 each:

The first two books in Cathy Maxwell's The Brides of Wishmore series are also on sale for $1.99 each:

This is Book 1 in Glynnis Campbell's The Warrior Maids of Rivenloch series. (Also, have you noticed that someone is selling a "NEW" version of the paperback for $138.02?)

This is the Book 1 in the Muses of Mayfair series and Sara Ramsey's debut novel.

This is Book 1 in The Stolen Brides series by Eliza Knight. (209 reviews on Amazon with 121 5-star and 61 4-star reviews.)

Book 1 of Elizabeth Johns's Loring-Abbott series and her debut novel.

Eva Devon is the alter-ego of Maire Claremont, whose Mad Passions series I read and loved. This is her first book writing as Eva Devon and, from what I understand, it's a comedy. I'm very curious. This is on my reading list. ^_^

Happy Reading~
Saturday, July 26, 2014

Review: In the Arms of the Heiress by Maggie Robinson

Click here to buy the book on Amazon
Click here to buy the paperback at The Book Depository

It may strike you as strange but, the first thing that came to mind when I was trying to sum up my thoughts on this novel was creme brûlée. There's a surface, and there's the rest of the good stuff underneath. Everyone thinks they've figured out Louisa Stratton: she's flighty and flaky and too rich for her own good -- and everyone in her life has tried to reform her. When Captain Charles Cooper first meets her, he also sees Louisa is a silly little rich girl with a really crazy plan: for thirty days (over the Christmas holidays), Charles pretends to be Maximillian Norwich, a man Louisa had invented and said she had married.

But there's more to Louisa than her daydreams and her eccentric plans, crack through the surface and you discover that Louisa is a person yearning to break free from her Aunt's rigid rule. Her actions make Louisa seem frivolous but, considering the isolation of her childhood, I think she is entitled to make these decisions for herself. There seems to be a dialectic conversation happening inside Louisa, as she tries to figure out her own identity apart from the one her Aunt had created for her. It is a process of trial-and-error, and, unfortunately for Louisa, it's her errors that people pay attention to. I cannot imagine living my life in a fishbowl and Louisa suffered this for a very long time without breaking or losing her spark.

Not to say that our heroine is entirely loveable and perfect in her imperfection -- because I didn't like her lack of courage. Why couldn't she take control of Rosemont? Why couldn't she speak out against her aunt? Why didn't she stand up for herself?

Charles and Louisa's stay at Rosemont was agonising to read and Louisa's Aunt Grace is really quite a dragon. When strange things happen to the couple, their story takes on a sinister element. Who is responsible for this? And for what reason? I actually had my suspicions and kept looking for clues to support it, but Maggie Robinson is very clever and never really reveals her hand until the very end. (Did the culprit surprise me? Yes. Was the author able to justify her choice? Yes.) ^_^

I have to say, I applaud Robinson's decision NOT to turn this into an investigation. Yes, strange things were happening, but our hero and heroine don't really do much sleuthing in the story. Instead, they focus on their relationship and try to work their way around the situation they are in:

1. They aren't really married, but they are painfully attracted to each other.
2. Charles is, technically, in Louisa's employ. There are a lot of instances in the story where the topic of money comes in the way of their romance building up.

"Well, that's all right then. But I don't think I'd mind at all if you -- if we -- if -- you know."

"No, I bloody well don't!"

"Acted as man and wife. Just for tonight. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? We may be murdered in our sleep." Louisa gave him a dazzling smile, as if the prospect of future death was quite delightful.

"You should be locked up."

"I was. For years. It didn't really work. I am as hopeless as ever. If you agree to perform this extra duty, I will of course make it worthy your while financially."

Charles's mouth dropped open. "You will pay me to fuck you?"
- Chapter 13

3. Louisa may know a lot about Maximillian Norwich but, what does she know of Charles Cooper?

What happens is a gradual unfolding of lives as Louisa and Charles reveal more of themselves to each other. There's a lot of humour in the story, especially from Louisa and her crazy plans -- but there's also a lot of sadness and a lot of it is hinted upon: I wasn't sure what was happening to my heart when I read about Louisa and her corsets and how she isn't really able to eat much (because of her Aunt, read: Chapter 20). There really is irony in Louisa's life: it should've been a life of privilege and comfort, but it was not.

Louisa had wished for flags and flowers ad a little crowd at the train station. She'd read of such welcomes when heiresses arrived from their honeymoons, but Aunt Grace would not condone such frivolity. Just as well, really. If she ever came back from a real honeymoon, that greeting would be special.
- Chapter 6

* * *

Louisa had spent her whole life making up stories and changing them around to suit her. In them, her parents never died, her aunt was warm and loving, Hugh didn't pull her hair or put spiders in her bed.
- Chapter 35

Charles's story is also unsettled when Mary Evensong hires him. He was on the brink of despair and was actually thisclose to ending it all. He hadn't just lost his eye in Africa: he had lost himself. He's back, but there really isn't a life or a family for him to return to: Maggie Robinson hints that he doesn't really have a good relationship with his brothers. He's a hero who doesn't feel very heroic. Surprisingly, he and Louisa make a great team: Louisa has never lost the light inside of her, despite all that has happened to her -- and Charles desperately needs to find his way out of the darkness. It is Louisa who guides him out.

"I've told you what happened in Africa. I could not get it out of my mind. Couldn't sleep. Couldn't eat. Couldn't care about anything. But when I'm with you, I care. I think of nothing but you. You've invaded me."
- Chapter 30

I have one complaint: it's about Aunt Grace and Hugh -- they're built up as heartless and cruel and have said really terrible things to Louisa and Charles ... their trajectory is clear from the beginning. But, then, Maggie Robinson pulls back in the end, and this particular bit of the resolution left me dissatisfied. (And I still don't accept Aunt Grace's reason for treating Louisa so poorly.)

Finally, I have to say, I loved the Evensong Agency (Performing the Impossible Before Breakfast Since 1888)! Mary Evensong is such an interesting character, so I went ahead and read Book 2, In the Heart of the Highlander (which is Mary's story) after this one. ^_^

In the Arms of the Heiress is Book 1 in Maggie Robinson's Ladies Unlaced series. To find out more about Maggie and her books, click below:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...