Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Blog Tour: The Earl in My Bed by Sophie Jordan (Review)

Today, I am very honored to welcome Sophie Jordan to Love Saves the World. She's currently on tour for her novella, The Earl in My Bed, which is part of her Forgotten Princesses series.

To visit the other stops on her book tour, click here.

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About the book:

Intended for one man ... All her life, everyone assumed Paget Ellsworth, the vicar’s daughter, would marry the Earl of Winningham’s youngest son. And when he left for war with his older brother, Jamie, words and promises were not necessary. She would wait. But destined for another ... Four years pass, and the death of his father forces Jamie home to take up the reins as the new earl, leaving his brother fighting on the front lines a world away.

Maddening, infuriating, sexy Jamie makes Paget question her feelings. One glimpse, one word from him awakens desire in her heart. When a simple kiss spirals out of control at the annual Valentine’s Day ball, she realizes the man she never wanted is the man she needs ... but will Paget cast aside all she’s ever thought to be true to win the man of her dreams?

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0062222473/?tag=avonromancetidal-20
Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/product.aspx?isbn=9780062222473
IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062222473
iBookstore: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/isbn9780062222466

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My Review:

Paget has known Jamie all her life but they were more childhood enemies than friends. Jamie was too haughty, too snobbish, too standoffish, too ... everything for Paget, who preferred the company of Jamie's brothers, Brand and Owen. But Brand is dead and Owen's still serving his country -- and it is Jamie who is home, to assume his role as Earl of Winningham.

Paget wishes it was a different brother living at ... Jamie also wishes it was a different brother in his place right now. He has never felt like he belonged: everyone loved Brand, who was his father's heir. And everyone loved Owen, his stepbrother who inherited a title from his mother. And Jamie wishes that someone, anyone could say they loved him best.

"As well as can be expected when I'm to fill the shoes of a much grieved brother. All while I've left the other one to risk his neck on a battlefield a world away. I feel [sic?] a villain in a very bad drama."
- loc 201

This story was short but incredibly sweet and Sophie Jordan uses the enemies-to-lovers trope so well. The enmity between Paget and Jamie runs very deep -- back to their childhood. And the same intense feelings now surface as they cross swords as adults. But, love and hate are not opposite emotions -- but twin emotions -- and our hero and heroine come to realize this gradually. When the switch is flipped and hate turns into love, it expresses itself with the same intensity and depth.

But Paget was always meant for Owen. Everyone knew that. Paget knew this and so did Jamie. At this point, I was worried that the author was going to take the easy way out (and kill off Owen) but I'm glad that Sophie Jordan took on the challenge of coming up with a solution -- a painful one, especially for Jamie.

It is interesting to note that, while we cannot choose who we love, to love itself is a decision. Jamie tried to resist it -- but his heart knew what it wanted. And I'm glad that both Paget and Jamie listened to their hearts.

An indication of how good a story is is that you can never get enough of it and you wish it were longer. This is one of those stories. For a novella, this one is bursting with emotion and passion and fans of Sophie Jordan's Forgotten Princesses series should definitely check this one out.

The Earl in my Bed is book 2.5 in the Forgotten Princesses series and is the precursor to, How to Lose a Bride in One Night, Owen and Annalise's story, which will be released on July 30, 2013.

To read my review of Book 1: Wicked in Your Arms, click here.
To read my review of Book 2: Lessons from a Scandalous Bride, click here.

Disclosure: I received this book from the tour organizer as part of the book tour. Thank you to Tasty Book Tours and to Sophie Jordan for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.

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About the author:

Sophie Jordan, a former high school English teacher, resides in Houston with her family. When she’s not writing, she divides her time between inventing what she likes to call culinary masterpieces -- her husband won’t always agree -- and visiting her family’s pecan ranch in the scenic Texas Hill Country.

Author Links
Website: www.sophiejordan.net/
Twitter: @soverysophie
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/people/Sophie-Jordan/100000148345013
Monday, April 29, 2013

Blog Barrage: The Count's Last Mistress by Bess Greenfield (Excerpt + Giveaway)

Today, Love Saves the World is part of a blog barrage for Bess Greenfield's The Count's Last Mistress.

The author is giving away an eBook copy of The Count's Last Mistress. Contest is tour-wide and ends May 5. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

To visit other participating blogs, click here.

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About the book:

The Count's Last Mistress (The Valencourts #1)
by Bess Greenfield
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Self/Indie
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Heat Level: Steamy
Word Count: 91,000

Buy Links:
Amazon (Print): http://www.amazon.com/Counts-Last-Mistress-Valencourts/dp/0615775330/
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/Counts-Last-Mistress-Valencourts-ebook/dp/B00BSV4CCC/

She set out to expose his true nature, but the secrets revealed were her own…

In the aftermath of war and revolution, cavalry officer Olivier Valencourt, the comte de Chaumenay, only wants peace. But his discovery of his deceased brother’s child in a Montmartre hovel leads to a battle of wills with the lovely but evasive American struggling to provide for him. Determined to gain custody of his nephew, Olivier sets out to win the audacious bohemian’s trust with patronage and patience, but her courage, wisdom, and innocent sensuality divert his agenda.

Painter Jeanne Delancy has good reason to despise the portrait-worthy count before she ever meets him. She believes he’s the man who seduced and deserted her friend long ago. Unfortunately, the talented and persuasive Olivier is hard to dislike or resist in person.

Conflicted by loyalty to her missing friend and her duty to the abandoned six-year-old she’s vowed to protect, Jeanne feels obligated to give the war hero the opportunity to prove he’s worthy of knowing his son. But the independent woman who thinks herself immune to temptation underestimates Olivier in many ways and reveals far more than she ever anticipates. While the strong-willed opposites struggle to reconcile their deepest longings, dangerous alliances and scandalous secrets threaten a tragic repetition of history.

Warning: This title is intended for readers over the age of 18 as it contains adult sexual situations and/or adult language, and may be considered offensive to some readers.

The door opened, and the impersonal explanation he’d memorized vanished from his mind. He’d expected to see the lithesome, titian-haired beauty he’d known long ago in Burgundy. Instead, he encountered a petite brunette in a paint-smeared smock. There was also paint in one of the corkscrews of hair which had fallen free of her chignon. Something about the woman arrested him though he deemed her unconventionally pretty at best with her wide forehead, long nose, and dainty mouth. Perhaps it was her reaction to him. He could sense the frantic beating of her heart, and her golden brown eyes telegraphed wariness.

He regretted causing her distress and hastened to explain himself. “Good afternoon. I am Olivier Valencourt.” He bowed instinctively. “I’m looking for Claudine Ardaut, and I was informed she lived here. Is she at home?”

The young woman swallowed and hesitated, clearly debating her reply. “I am not familiar with anyone by that name.”

Her French was grammatically correct, but her accent revealed her as American. It surprised him to find a foreigner in Paris now. It was unlikely that she’d come here recently. The ruins of landmarks and homes and the mass burials of the executed made Paris a tourist destination only for those with a morbid taste for tragedy. She must have come before the war. There had been little warning when France declared war against Prussia. Many foreigners found themselves trapped inside the barricades along with working-class Parisians without the resources to leave.

“I was given this address by a reliable source,” he persisted. Instinct told him she was lying.

“Are you implying that I’m lying to you?” she asked in her slow, unnatural-sounding manner of speech.

“Certainly not. I was merely hoping you might know some little detail which would enable me to find her.”

Absently, she touched her face, leaving umber fingerprints upon her cheek. He felt an irrational urge to wipe the paint from her smooth, fair skin. She was pretty by any standard, he decided.

“Why are you looking for this woman? Has she done something wrong?”

“No. I’ve come on a personal matter.”

If anything, she looked even more defensive. Her enormous eyes filled with censure as if she knew what he’d done and the ramifications. The guilt he’d been trying to suppress for weeks finally assailed him. If only he’d kept his opinions to himself, so many lives might have turned out differently.

Her evasiveness maddened him. He only wished to complete his mission and be done with the whole matter, and she was keeping him from accomplishing that. He’d overcome far more challenging obstacles than a reticent female. He’d been good at persuading women at one time though he could scarcely recall those years now. Searching for some way to draw her out, his glance fell upon her voluminous smock. Sometimes the best strategy was the most obvious one. “You are a painter, I see. I recently came into possession of some property and could use some new art for decoration. Do you have anything for sale?”

She frowned, instantly suspicious. “Nothing is finished.”

“I know how you artists are. Nothing is ever completed to your satisfaction.” He took a step toward the threshold. “Why don’t you allow me to be the judge?”

She held her ground. “I’m certain my style would be too modern to suit your taste.”

She folded her arms about her waist, and his eyes were instantly drawn to her small form. She possessed a better figure than he’d thought, full round breasts and a tiny waist. A strange sort of agitation arose inside him. With astonishment, he recognized the sensation as lust. He hadn’t felt desire for so many months he’d feared he might never regain that part of his nature. Though he felt reassured that all was in working order, the inappropriateness of his irrational attraction irritated him. “And you know my taste.”

She surveyed his uniform from his polished boots to his fitted jacket with its neat rows of small gold buttons and black braiding. “You are an officer of some sort. A military man. I would guess you are conservative and view art primarily in terms of investment.”

He’d never given a second thought to art, but he didn’t appreciate her making assumptions about him. “There you are wrong. As it happens, I prefer more modern pieces. Besides, your refusal to let me judge your work only makes me more curious about it.”

Buy Links:
Amazon (Print): http://www.amazon.com/Counts-Last-Mistress-Valencourts/dp/0615775330/
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/Counts-Last-Mistress-Valencourts-ebook/dp/B00BSV4CCC/

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About the author:

Bess Greenfield grew up in Pittsburgh and graduated from Cornell University and University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Before coming to the conclusion that she should pursue her passion and become a novelist, she worked as a journalist for several newspapers, as a lawyer, and as a waitress (disastrously). She is a lifelong aficionado of romantic literature and currently lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, three children, and overly affectionate chocolate Labrador. When she is not dreaming up and researching new stories or driving her children somewhere, she enjoys traveling, walking in the forest, and adding to her growing collection of native Virginia plants.

For more information about Bess Greenfield and her books, please visit www.bessgreenfield.com.

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Bess Greenfield is giving away an eBook copy of The Count's Last Mistress. Contest is tour-wide and ends May 5. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

To visit other participating blogs, click here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review: When You Give a Duke a Diamond by Shana Galen

He's the most sought-after peer in the realm. She's the most sought-after courtesan of the demi-monde. Their paths were never supposed to cross, until a gossip column decides to pair them up to boost sales -- never realizing that fiction has a way of turning into reality.

When Juliette witnesses the murder of the Duke of Pelham's fiancee, William isn't certain he can trust the word of a courtesan but he has no choice but to keep her safe and close to him. As Juliette and William search for the diamonds that Lucifer wants, both their resolves are tested and temptation proves irresistible. But he's a duke and she's a courtesan, could something really exist between the two of them? And are they brave enough to pursue it?

Duke. Courtesan. These are the labels that define and shape the lives of William, the Duke of Pelham and Juliette, the Duchess of Dalliance. As duke, William has embraced the rigorous order and responsibilities that comes with the title. He's very precise and systematic and very predictable. And he likes it that way.

Juliette's life isn't exactly in disarray -- but it isn't well-ordered either. As the Duchess of Dalliance, Juliette is pressured to keep up appearances and spend for clothes and hats that she really can't afford. Out in society, she must toughen her skin against the contempt of the ladies and the leers of the gentlemen.

When their names were linked in a gossip column, Juliette decides to play up the role and seeks an introduction with the duke at the ball. And their first meeting is disastrous, and devastating for Juliette to be dismissed so easily. It meant nothing to William, but it meant the world to Juliette, whose place in society is tenuous -- always one misstep away from social ruin.

"I've been called far worse."
- Juliette, p. 52

Juliette is an amazing, amazing character. She has accepted the reality of her place in society with admirable, albeit heartbreaking grace and dignity. She's a lovely character and one that I sympathized with. I admired her spirit and her ability to survive. She's got a tough skin and a soft heart -- and a dreamer.

William and Juliette undertake a journey of discovery -- who are they beyond the roles and responsibilities? As with all of the great love stories, "The course of true love never did run smooth." -- and our hero and heroine contend with trust issues -- they had opened themselves up to people before and ended up getting hurt. It is a tentative and gradual unfolding for them: they shed off their armors and become more and more vulnerable -- and it is breathtakingly electrifying. As I was reading the book, I was tingly and goosebump-y -- in a good way.

..."I'm not going to take advantage of you."

"No." She withdrew her hand. "You wouldn't."

"I called you a slut." He knew he was stating the obvious. Moreover, he knew he was bringing up a matter that, were he sober, he would never mention.

She laughed without humor. "I know. I heard."

"It upset you."

She pressed her lips together, the haughty reserve coming down again. "It didn't please me, but it's not the first time, and I suppose it won't be the last."

"You're not made of ice."

She gave him a puzzled look. "What strange things you say when you are foxed." She looked away, appearing to study the books behind his desk. "No, I'm not made of ice," she said quietly. "Neither are you, but we both have hard outer shells." She gazed at him, those blue eyes penetrating like icicles, only far, far warmer. "You know where my shell came from. What about yours?"
- p. 159

I felt the Lucifer/Eliza plot was handled a bit too lightly but it served its purpose in galvanizing the hero and heroine. Galen's main focus was the love story between the duke and a courtesan -- and she succeeded in telling a remarkably poignant and unforgettable story. I super-love this book and can't wait to read this next installment. (Yes, I said "super-love" -- ^_^)

When You Give a Duke a Diamond is the first book in Shana Galen's Jewels of the Ton series. To find out more about Shana Galen and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook and on Goodreads.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Bargains!

Here are this week's fun Kindle finds.

A Little Bit Wicked by Robyn deHart

This is the first book in Robyn deHart's Forbidden Love series. This and the second book, A Little Bit Sinful are currently a dollar cheaper on Amazon.

In the Garden of Temptation by Cynthia Wicklund, Book 1 of The Garden Series)
FREE on Kindle

The World of Stephanie Laurens
FREE on Kindle

This isn't a novel but a supplement to the world and characters that Stephanie Laurens has created in her novels. A fun addition to any fan's library.

Stolen Love by Carolyn Jewel
$0.99 for US/$2.99 for International

I love, love, love Carolyn Jewel and I'm glad her backlist is now available in ebook format.

Behind the Plaid by Eliza Knight
$2.99 on Kindle

I've never read Eliza Knight but I really love the cover of this book. It's a time travel romance set in Scotland. The author does warn that this one is for mature audiences only.

As always, a Caveat: Always check the prices before clicking on the "Buy" button. All these prices are accurate as of the time of posting.^_^

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blog Tour: Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush (Review + Giveaway)

Today, Love Saves the World is pleased to welcome back Holly Bush. She is currently on tour for her book, Reconstructing Jackson.

Holly will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. To visit her other blog stops, click here.

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About the book:


1867 . . . Southern lawyer and Civil War veteran, Reed Jackson, returns to his family’s plantation in a wheelchair. His father deems him unfit, and deeds the Jackson holdings, including his intended bride, to a younger brother. Angry and bitter, Reed moves west to Fenton, Missouri, home to a cousin with a successful business, intending to start over.

Belle Richards, a dirt poor farm girl aching to learn how to read, cleans, cooks and holds together her family’s meager property. A violent brother and a drunken father plot to marry her off, and gain a new horse in the bargain. But Belle’s got other plans, and risks her life to reach them.

Reed is captivated by Belle from their first meeting, but wheelchair bound, is unable to protect her from violence. Bleak times will challenge Reed and Belle's courage and dreams as they forge a new beginning from the ashes of war and ignorance

“Coming, Pa,” Belle Richards called out from the garden. She had weeded the bean plants and let her toes squish in the mud left by last night’s rain as she looked up and shaded her eyes from the glare of the sun. Her tabby wound his way through the garden to her outstretched hand and she straightened her aching back. Belle unhooked the back hem of her skirt where she had pulled it up between her legs and hooked over her apron, letting the heavy fabric fall. She dunked her feet into yesterday’s wash water still sitting by the back steps.

“Belle,” her father bellowed.

“No need to holler, Pa,” Belle said as she stepped into the house.

“What’s for eats?” her oldest brother, Jed asked.

“Turnip stew.”

Jed grimaced. “That shit again. I don’t want no more of it.”

Belle turned to him. “Then get yourself into the woods and shoot some rabbit.”

Jed jumped from his chair. He grabbed her arm. “No need to git smart, girlie.”

Belle sobered and met his stare unblinking, wondering if her father would intervene.

“Let her go, Jed. Your sister’s right. Git that half-wit brother of yours and git us some meat for the pot,” Tom Richards said from his chair.

Belle went to the sink and poured water from a bucket over the beans she had picked.

“Git me a bottle, Belle,” her father said.

Belle turned and looked at him, pleadingly. “In a minute, Pa. Let me get these beans washed.”

“My back’s a killin’ me girl. Get it now,” he shouted.

Belle gave in, as she had done since her earliest memory. She reached down to a low shelf and pulled out a bottle of whiskey.

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My Review:

I've had the pleasure of reading Holly Bush's Romancing Olive and was very excited to have the chance to read this book, Reconstructing Jackson.

At the center of the story is Reed Jackson, a Southern gentleman, a former Confederate soldier and a lawyer. After losing the use of his legs in the war, and the losing his fiancée and his inheritance to his younger, more able, brother, Reed has come to Fenton, Missouri to start anew. With the help of his cousin, he settles into the new town and his new life. Fenton is inhabited by individuals like Henry Ames and Dr. Jim Lowell who represent the new American spirit of equal rights but there are still many in Fenton whose lives are deeply rooted in the past, like the Richards.

I loved reading about Reed's struggle to be good and to do good -- and his greatest challenge comes in the form of Jed Richards (Read Chapter 12). So many forces come into play as Reed makes a painful and unpopular decision -- but we can see that he is sincere in wanting to do what is right. Reed finds the courage to do what he believes is right because of his faith and conviction. It was also wonderful to see Belle be so supportive of her husband, despite her own reservations.

The characters in Holly Bush's Reconstructing Jackson aren't caricatures but have dimension and depth. I especially love Reed's mother, Lily -- who, I think showcases what it means to be a lady. (Read p. 138) She also "wrote" one of my favorite parts in the novel:

I pray every night that my urging for you to make this drastic change was the right one. More than anything I want you to be happy. Open your heart, Reed. I beg of you to forget the past and find new joys and friends. I fear our shabby porch became your cloister. Do not be afraid, Reed. I know in my soul that God has much for you to do and be. Let Him lead you. With all my love, Mother.
- p. 40

This novel deals with issues of slavery and discrimination. Holly Bush presents an unflinching view of post-Civil War America and the country's struggle to shake off old traditions and embrace new ones and the author delves into the subject with honesty and balance.

Disclosure: Review copy was provided by Goddess Fish Promotions. Many thanks to the author and to Goddess Fish for the opportunity. And, yes, this is an honest review.

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About the Author:

Holly Bush was born in western Pennsylvania to two avid readers. There was not a room in her home that did not hold a full bookcase. She worked in the hospitality industry, owning a restaurant for twenty years and recently worked as the sales and marketing director in the hospitality/tourism industry and is credited with building traffic to capacity for a local farm tour, bringing guests from twenty-two states, booked two years out. Holly has been a marketing consultant to start-up businesses and has done public speaking on the subject.

Holly has been writing all of her life and is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, particularly political and historical works. She has written four romance novels, all set in the U.S. West in the mid 1800’s. She frequently attends writing conferences, and has always been a member of a writer’s group.

Holly is a gardener, a news junkie, has been an active member of her local library board and loves to spend time near the ocean. She is the proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few years her junior.

Website: www.hollybushbooks.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Holly-Bush/247399131941435
Twitter: @hollybushbooks

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Holly will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. To visit her other blog stops, click here.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Blog Barrage: The Cuvier Widows Series by Sylvia McDaniel (Excerpt + Giveaway)

Today, I'm very excited to host The Cuvier Widows Series and its author, Sylvia McDaniel.

Sylvia will be giving away 10 eBook copies (1 each to 10 winners) of “Wronged (The Cuvier Widows #1). Contest is tour-wide and ends Apr 30. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. To visit all the blogs participating in the barrage, click here.

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About the series:

Wronged (The Cuvier Widows #1)
by Sylvia McDaniel
Historical Romance
Categories: Mystery/Thriller, Bigamy
Publisher: Virtual Bookseller
Release Date: December 30, 2012
Heat Level: Sensual
Word Count: 100,000

Buy Links

Marian Cuvier didn't know how to react when she learned that the man she called husband and father to her children, Jean Cuvier, had been murdered. Yet, the biggest surprise was when the detective informed her that she's not the only woman Jean married. There are three Cuvier Widows and one is suspected of murder.

When Marian learned of her husband's death, humiliation, shock and anger were the only emotions she felt for Jean. For the last several years, their marriage has been in name only. Now she's determined to safeguard her children's future and save their only source of income, Cuvier Shipping. Jean's handsome business partner, Louis Fournet thinks Marian's should not be leading her husband's business. The man has a way with women that Marian finds alluring and arouses feelings she's never experienced. Louis Fournet is a temptation she finds hard to resist.

New Orleans, 1895

Marian Cuvier for years thought her husband kept a mistress and that her marriage to Jean Cuvier wasn’t worth the paper their marriage license was printed on. Still, the sight of the man she had spent the last twelve years of her life with—borne two children and made a home for—lying dead on the floor of a bedroom in the Chateau Hotel ripped a sob of anguish from her throat

"What happened?" she cried, her mind reeling with thoughts of her fatherless children wrenching her heart.
Policemen stood around the body in small groups, ceased their low whispers and glanced her direction, their gazes stern, but curious.

A man half-bent over Jean’s body turned and gazed at her, his dark eyes intense. "Who are you, Madame?"

"I’m his wife, Marian Cuvier," she said, starting to tremble from the shock of her husband’s death. His body lay twisted grotesquely on the floor, his skin an odd pinkish hue.

Oh God, no matter how much I hated him, I would never have wished him dead!

The man crouching over the body slowly rose to his full height, his brows drawn together in a frown. "His wife is sitting in the next room Madame."

"What?" she asked, not sure she heard him correctly. "I’m Marian Cuvier. I’m his wife. Who are you?"

"I’m detective Dunegan." He gave her a stem look and took her by the arm, leading her from the bedroom.

Unable to resist, she glanced back perhaps for the last time at the still form that long ago had been her lover, and of late an absent husband. She closed her eyes, the image of the handsome man she’d married twelve years ago foremost in her mind. When she opened her eyes she looked toward the detective, not at the corpse who’d never been a good husband.
"Madame, I will ask you again. Who are you? His wife is sitting in the next room."

Confusion rippled through her and she pulled away from the man as they entered the parlor. "That must be his mistress. I am Mrs. Jean Cuvier, we’ve been mar ried for twelve years."

The hotel clerk, who earlier had summoned her from her house and brought her to the Chateau Hotel, cleared his throat to draw the detective’s attention. He leaned over and whispered something to the younger man who glanced again at Marian.

As if she were at a play, she watched from a distance as the scene unfolded before her, a sense of uneasiness holding her in its grip. The body lying on the floor of the bedroom looked like her husband, Jean, who was expected home today. She supposed the corpse littering the floor must be her cold-hearted husband, the man who had visited her bed fewer times than he had the church, which was almost never.

Detective Dunegan gazed at her, his expression one of bewilderment. "My apologies, Mrs. Cuvier. There seems to be some confusion. The hotel clerk confirmed you were indeed married to Mr. Cuvier. If you’re his wife, then, who is the woman who was with Mr. Cuvier?"

The detective watched her closely as if he feared she would be overcome by the news her husband had died in a hotel room with another woman. Clearly, the detective had no clue that her marriage existed only on paper. How could she explain that her husband no longer found her attractive? That Louis often sought the com pany of other women.

Impossible. So she said nothing about the state of her marriage. Let the police figure it out, maybe they could find the reasons why her husband no longer made love to her.

Marian lifted her chin and consciously pulled her shoulders back. Made of stronger fabric than most women, she would weather this storm, just like all the others Jean put her through. She ignored the way her insides began to quiver.
"Perhaps she is his mistress," she acknowledged, her suspicions about Jean realized.

Damn him, did he never think of their children?

The door to the room burst open and a blonde woman dressed in an exquisite, embroidered crepe lisse flouncing with white India silk, hurried into the room. Her heart-shaped face and soft blue eyes looked dis tressed and her complexion pale. "Where is he? Is he all right? They told me he was ill."

The detective put himself between the young woman and the door to the room where Jean’s body lay sprawled.

"Who are you?" Officer Dunegan asked, halting the stylish woman who looked almost like a young girl.

"I’m Mrs. Cuvier," she replied, her face anxious. "I went by Jean’s office and they sent me over here. Is the doctor with him?"

"Good Lord, another one?" the detective muttered, gazing at both of them.

"Who did you say you were?" Marian questioned as she stared at this woman in disbelief.

The woman gave Marian a quick disdainful glance. "I’m Mrs. Nicole Cuvier, Jean’s wife. Now, where is my husband?"

Marian wondered if she’d heard her correctly. Did she say she was Jean’s wife?

The detective glanced at Marian and then at the other woman. "Jean Cuvier is dead."

Marion watched the woman as her trembling hand clutched her delicate throat. Her eyes reflected horror, while her face tightened with shock and her body swayed. For a moment Marian thought the newcomer would faint and she wondered if this whole scene was a bad dream.

"No! No!" the blonde woman cried, tears rushing to her eyes. "Dear God, no. He can’t be! Let me see him. Please tell me this is a mistake. Where is he?"

The detective glanced at Marian who stood staring at the scene in front of her, shock freezing her at the woman’s outburst. Jean had likely never been faithful, but how many women could one man be involved with? And did he really marry them?

"I’ll take you to him," the man said taking Nicole by the arm. "I’m Detective Dunegan, with the New Orleans police."

He led the latest Mrs. Cuvier into the bedroom where the body lay sprawled on the floor. Marian stood in the center of the parlor, not knowing what to do, feeling like the ground had been ripped from beneath her feet.

Two other women claimed to be Jean’s wife! The latest wife was young, attractive, and certainly more appealing for Jean to bed than herself. Could the women be lying about their marital status? Yet the new est Mrs. Cuvier certainly appeared the grieving widow, more so than even Marian. If she were lying, she cer tainly played her part well.

Or could this be some ploy to cover his murder? Extort money? None of this felt real, but it didn’t feel like a lie either. Speculation, but possible.

When the detective and the young woman returned, Marian still stood in the same place, the policemen walking a wide path around her as she stood transfixed, staring, stunned by the day’s events.

The room filled with the sounds of the newest Mrs. Cuvier’s soft sobs, and Marian felt the most incredible urge to comfort her. To shield her from the hurt that Jean could so easily inflict. She shook herself. When Nicole learned of Marian’s identity, she would not accept Marian’s offer of solace.

"I think we need to remain calm, sit down, and find out what happened," the officer said, his voice firm and reassuring.

Calm? Remaining composed seemed impossible when you suspect your husband had found you so inappetent that he kept not one but two women to stimulate his sexual desires, leaving you to wait for him to return to the home you shared.

"What—what ... happened," Nicole sobbed, her face streaked with tears. "How did he die?"

Marian gazed with interest at the detective. What did it say about her relationship with Jean that she hadn’t even thought to ask that but rather just accepted the fact that Jean was dead.

"Poisoning. We suspect that his wi... the woman we found him with poisoned him."

Nicole spun around and glared at Marian through her tears.

Marian gazed back at the angry and beautiful young woman, until she realized Nicole thought she had killed Jean. "Not me. There’s another woman."

"What do you mean another woman?" Nicole asked.

"You’re not the only Mrs. Cuvier in this hotel suite."

"I don’t believe you," Nicole said almost hysterical.

Marian wanted to laugh, but thought it would be cruel and there was already more than enough pain in this hotel room. So instead she remained quiet, let the detec tive explain the situation.

The detective took Nicole by the arm and motioned for Marian to follow him. They walked into an adjoining room where a girl who looked like she should still be in school sat staring out the window at the horizon, her dark eyes glazed and distant.

"Layla," the detective said, releasing Nicole. "Tell these women how the man you’re suspected of killing was related to you."

She turned her oval-shaped face toward the door. Hair as black as night was swept up off her neck in a coiffure that left wisps of curls swirling around her pale face. She glanced at the detective and raised her brows in a disdainful look that was both elegant and disapprov ing. "I told you I did not kill my husband."

Nicole moaned, the knowledge seeming like a blow to her. "What are you saying? You lie. You can’t be married to Jean?"
The girl stared at Nicole, not responding.

"Did you marry Jean Cuvier?" Marian asked gently feeling more certain that Jean had married each one of them. If Jean had done what she suspected, she had a sudden premonition they were all going to need con soling in the next few minutes.

"Yes," the young girl said, her voice starting to trem ble. Her bright red lips pouted.

Marian squeezed her eyes shut, letting the waves of pain almost over whelm her at Jean’s deception. How could he do this to her? To the others? To their children?

"That can’t be. He married me. He’s my husband," Nicole said, her voice rising, the pain and hurt audible in her voice.

"And mine," Marian said quietly, as she sank down onto a nearby chair. "I’m Marian Cuvier. I married him twelve years ago at St. Ann’s Cathedral."

Nicole turned abruptly and looked at Marian in disbe lief. "No. That’s impossible." She paused, her face con torted in disbelief. "No. We were married four years ago. I don’t understand. He would never do something so horrible."

"And I married him a year ago," Layla whispered, her face turning ashen.

"Impossible. Jean loved me. That’s ... that’s big amy!" Nicole said, shaking her head from side to side.

"Yes it is bigamy. We’re all married to the same man," Marian replied, her voice distant and hollow. Her insides were numb. Her mind slowed to a crawl, as she comprehended the situation. "And now we’re all Jean’s widows. The Cuvier Widows."

Betrayed (The Cuvier Widows #2)
by Sylvia McDaniel
Historical Romance
Categories: Bigamy
Publisher: Virtual Bookseller
Release Date: December 30, 2012
Heat Level: Sensual
Word Count: 100,000

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Nicole Cuvier went to New Orleans to share the most wonderful news with her husband only to discover him in a hotel room murdered, with two other women claiming to be his wife. It seems there are three Cuvier Widows and one is suspected of murder.

For years, Nicole Cuvier had tried to erase the shame of her illegitimate birth and start the family she longed for with her husband, Jean. As the mistress of Rosewood, she owns one of the largest plantations on the River Road in Louisiana. Now, she's pregnant, unmarried-a widow with a plantation dependent upon the sugar cane crop to survive. She needs a temporary husband. Handsome Maxim Viel, a drifter, comes to her rescue and marries her, but unbeknownst to Nicole, Maxim wants more than a temporary arrangement. He has the power to heal her shattered heart, but could his past be intertwined with Rosewood?

They Met Over His Dead Body

New Orleans, 1895

For the first time in their marriage, Nicole Rosseau Cuvier disobeyed her husband Jean. Though he told her never to come to his office in New Orleans without him, the news she had simply could not wait. And his office was just several hours by boat down the Mississippi River.

Yet her joy dimmed when she arrived at her husband's shipping company, and the clerk mysteriously informed her that Jean was ill and gave her his room number at the Chateau Hotel.

In the entire four years they'd been married, Jean Cuvier had never been ill.

Nicole burst into the hotel room, uncertain what she would find. Her gaze swept across the open room to a man dressed in a shabby suit in conversation with a refined lady with dark hair and smoky-gray eyes. "Where is he? Is he all right? They told me he was ill."

The man stepped between Nicole and an open door where she could see uniformed men standing around an unidentifiable body stretched out on the floor. Who could that be lying on the floor?

"Who are you?" the man asked, blocking her path.

"I'm Mrs. Cuvier," Nicole said anxiously. "I went by my husband's office and they sent me over here. Is the doctor with him?" she asked, trying to peer around the man to see into the other room.

"Good Lord, another one?" the man muttered, gazing back at the lady he'd been speaking with.

"Who did you say you were?" the woman inquired as she stared at Nicole, her gray eyes large and questioning.

Nicole didn't have time to chitchat with this woman, whoever she was. If Jean were ill, he needed her. "I'm Mrs. Nicole Cuvier, Jean's wife. Now where is my husband?"

The man in the shabby suit coat glanced at the other woman and then turned his gaze on Nicole. "Jean Cuvier is dead."

Nicole felt as if someone punched her in the stomach. With a trembling hand she clutched her throat, trying to hold back the scream that seemed to swell and lodge itself in her throat. The room swayed precariously as a dizzy spell overcame her, the words reverberating through her mind. Her beloved husband was dead.

"No. No," Nicole cried, tears rushing to her eyes, hysteria bubbling up, threatening to overwhelm her. "Dear God, no. He can't be! Let me see him. Please tell me this is a mistake. Where is he?"

"I'll take you to him," the man said, taking Nicole's arm and gently guiding her. "I'm Detective Dunegan, with the New Orleans police."

Nicole heard the words, but her mind didn't comprehend what he was saying. Police detective? What was a detective doing here with her husband? He led her into the bedroom where the same body she'd seen earlier lay sprawled on the floor, surrounded by people.

Please, God, that couldn't be Jean.

She caught a glimpse of dark hair tinted with silver, the color of Jean's hair. The man wore pajamas the same dark brown that Jean loved, a silk robe wrapped around his still form.

At the detective's motion, they moved aside and let her in close to see the man she loved, who lay twisted on the floor, his skin an odd pinkish hue that looked unnatural. She knelt beside him, her hand reaching out as her fingers touched his cold flesh. Quickly, she drew her hand back, the sensation confirming that her husband's lifeblood no longer flowed, his warm, loving touch now just a memory. A sob tore from her throat as she gazed at Jean, feeling as if this couldn't be real.

Gently the detective helped her up from the floor and led her back into the main room of the hotel suite. Nicole sobbed for her husband, who'd taught her so much about life. Their short time together had been filled with love and laughter, and even today she'd come bringing him such joyous news.

"I think we need to remain calm, sit down, and find out what happened," the officer said, his voice firm and reassuring.

Calm? How could she remain calm when she'd just found out her husband was dead? That no longer would he hold her in his arms or his smiles brighten her day.

"What—what. . . happened?" Nicole sobbed, tears streaking down her face. "How did he die?"

"Poisoning. We suspect that his wi—the woman we found him with poisoned him."

Nicole spun around and glared at the finely dressed woman through tear-streaked eyes. Could she be Jean's killer?

Her large gray eyes returned her gaze unflinchingly. "Not me. There's another woman."

"What do you mean, another woman?" Nicole asked, confused.

"You're not the only Mrs. Cuvier in this hotel suite," the woman advised her.

Another Mrs. Cuvier? What was she talking about? Nicole didn't understand. The only other Mrs. Cuvier was a distant relative of Jean's who lived hundreds of miles away. Why were they lying to her?

"I don't believe you," Nicole said, fear making her almost hysterical.

The detective took Nicole by the arm and mo tioned for the other woman to follow him. They walked into an adjoining room where a young woman sat staring off at the horizon, her dark eyes glazed and distant.

"Layla," the detective said, releasing Nicole. "Tell these women how the man you're suspected of killing was related to you."

She turned her oval-shaped face toward the door. Hair black as night was swept up off her neck in a coiffure that left wisps of curls swirling around her pale face. She turned dark, censorious eyes on the detective and raised her brows in a disdainful look that was both elegant and disapproving. "I told you I did not kill my husband."

Nicole moaned, the woman's words confirming her worst fears, yet she couldn't believe this was happening. There had to be a mistake. "What are you saying? No! You lie. You can't be married to Jean."

The girl glanced briefly at Nicole, not responding.

"Did you marry Jean Cuvier?" the distinguished woman asked her.

"Yes," the young girl said, her voice starting to tremble. Her bright red lips pouted.

"That can't be. He married me. He's my husband," Nicole said, her voice rising, the pain and hurt audible in her voice, unable to control the fear that raged through her.

"And mine," the woman said quietly as she sank down onto a nearby chair. "I'm Marian Cuvier. I married him twelve years ago at Saint Ann's Cathedral."

Nicole turned abruptly and stared at her in disbelief. "No. That's impossible." She paused, comprehension as fleeting as the wind. "No. We were married four years ago. I don't understand. He would never do something so horrible."

"And I married him a year ago," Layla whispered, her face turning ashen.

"Impossible. Jean loved me. That's . . . that's bigamy!" Nicole said, shaking her head from side to side. Jean would never hurt her this way. He loved her. He told her over and over how he loved her more than any other woman.

"Yes, it is bigamy. We're all married to the same man," Marian replied, her voice sounding uncaring and cold. "And now we're all Jean's widows. The Cuvier Widows."

Nicole sobbed. Dear God, she'd come to town to tell Jean that after four years she finally was expecting their baby. And instead she'd learned that the father of her child, the man she loved with all her heart, was a bigamist—and he'd been murdered.

Beguiled (The Cuvier Widows #3)
by Sylvia McDaniel
Historical Romance
Categories: Mystery/Thriller, Bigamy
Publisher: Virtual Bookseller
Release Date: December 30, 2012
Heat Level: Sensual
Word Count: 100,000

Buy Links

Jean Cuvier forced Layla's father to sell his shipping company and marry his daughter, or so she believed. Until the morning the servants wake her with the news that Jean is dead and she quickly learns she's not the only Mrs. Cuvier. Jean has three widows, but Layla is the only one accused of Jean's murder.

The District Attorney has enough motive and evidence, to send Layla to the gallows. Forced to turn to the man she blames for the sale of her father's shipping company, she must trust Drew Soulier, to save her life. Though Drew's the best attorney in New Orleans, he doubts her innocence. As tensions mount, Drew and Layla face a passion they can't deny. Can Drew save her from hanging?

New Orleans, 1895

Sunlight glittered through the windows of the St. Louis Hotel, casting bizarre shadows over the dead body of Jean Cuvier. A sparrow trilled a happy song in the courtyard outside the posh hotel suite, the sound eerie and disturbing. Layla Cuvier stared at the corpse of her husband lying on the floor and knew that from this day forward, her life would forever be changed.

No longer will I have to endure his touch.

Her eyes confirmed what Colette, her servant, had told her. Jean lay sprawled on the floor, his brown robe wrapped around him, his face a peculiar shade of pink. Needing the confirmation of what seemed so obvious, she reached down and touched his hand. The feel of cool flesh beneath her fingers sent a shudder through her and she recoiled in revulsion.
"Mrs. Cuvier, a doctor is on his way and the hotel manager has sent for the police," said Colette, wringing her hands in an anxious manner.

Layla felt numb as she stared at the man she had shared a house with for the last year. As his wife, she should feel sorrow at his death, but relief and a sense of peace filled her. She had barely tolerated Jean’s presence.

She rose and nodded to her servant and friend. "Please help me dress before the doctor arrives."

"Of course," the maid said, but glanced at her hesitantly.

"Did Mr. Cuvier say anything about feeling ill?" Layla asked, gazing at her husband’s still form.

"No. But I went to bed before you retired," the maid said. "Did you hear him call out?"

"After I shut my bedroom door, I heard nothing last night," Layla said, knowing the sleeping draught had ended her insomnia. The draught created a dream world filled with people and color, and a world so different from reality. Yet she would have heeded Jean’s call if she had heard his cry for help. "So many nights he slept in the chair."

And Layla loved the nights he left her alone.

"It’s so sudden. How do you think he died?" Colette asked.

"I don’t know. He hasn’t been ill." Layla gave Jean one last glance, stunned at his death. Their last conversation was an ugly reminder of his evil ways and she couldn’t help but wonder if his heart could have failed him. Though their marriage had been a farce, she had never expected him to die. "Let’s hurry. I’d rather greet the authorities fully dressed."

"Are you all right?" Colette asked gazing at her worriedly as they entered Layla’s bedroom. "You seem so composed."

Layla gave the woman a quick glance as she shed her nightgown. "I’m a little shaken, yet I feel strangely calm."

Calm and relieved, she hoped that now his ugly secrets would die with him and she could escape this farce of a marriage and return to her home.

Hurriedly Layla chose a black dress appropriate for a widow. She had barely gotten her ebony hair swept up off her neck in a coiffure that left wisps of curls swirling around her face when Colette opened the door to the police. They swarmed into the suite, covering the rooms like a bevy of ants.

Layla stepped out of her bedroom, and into the doorway of Jean’s bedroom to watch with interest as a uniformed policeman leaned over Jean’s prostrate body lying on the floor.

The voices of the officers seemed distant and removed and the scene before her surreal, like a colorful nightmare.

A short ugly little man dressed in a shabby brown suit separated from the others and walked toward Layla.

"Mrs. Cuvier?" he asked, his intimidating eyes focused on her.

"Yes?" She felt as if he stared deeply into her soul, but she had nothing to hide and met his gaze, undaunted by his beady gaze.

"Detective Dunegan of the New Orleans Police."

They walked the short distance to the lavishly decorated parlor of the suite.

"Please sit." She pointed to a chair in the small sitting area as she sat across from him.

"How did your husband die?" he asked. He took out a notepad and a pencil from his tattered coat pocket.

"I don’t know. My maid awakened me this morning with the news that she’d found Mr. Cuvier lying on the floor of his bedroom. I hurried into his room, where I found him lying there, his body already cold," she said, clenching her hands in her lap. "I have no idea how long he's been dead."

Layla glanced toward the bedroom, half expecting Jean to walk through the door, laughing that he had fooled them all.
"When did you last see him alive?" the detective asked.

She thought back to the night before. They had fought fiercely and she had been determined to return home to Baton Rouge this morning. She had intended to meet with an attorney to see what kind of legal recourse was available to her, but miraculously nature had taken care of things.

Now she prayed the ugly truth would die with Jean and she could return to her previous life. She licked her lips nervously.

"The last time I saw Mr. Cuvier was around midnight," she said, remembering how she had left him in the parlor asleep in the very chair the detective occupied.

A man stood in the doorway to Jean’s room with a stethoscope hanging around his neck. "Detective Dunegan, can I speak with you a moment?"

Through the open window, she could hear laughter in the courtyard of the hotel, the sound incongruous with the atmosphere in the suite.

The two men disappeared into the bedroom. Their muffled voices held an excited undertone, though she could not understand what they said. As the minutes passed, she sat feeling more nervous, wondering whom she should contact regarding Jean’s death.

"Now where were we?" he asked. "Oh, that’s right. You said the last time you saw the deceased was around midnight." He paused and frowned at her. "Did you and Mr. Cuvier sleep in separate rooms?"

"Yes. My husband kept odd hours, and I have trouble sleeping and don’t like to be disturbed."

"So, you heard nothing in the night? He didn’t call out to you for help or assistance?"

"No, I took a dose of a sleeping draught not long after he came home." She gave the detective a puzzled glance. "Do you always ask these kinds of questions when a man dies?"

"I’m just doing my job, Mrs. Cuvier," he said matter-of-factly.

Layla glanced around and noticed that more and more policemen seemed to be filling the hotel suite. They stood around in little clusters talking, occasionally glancing in her direction. A few of the officers seemed to be combing the room as if they were looking for something.

"What are they doing?" she asked alarmed. She had never heard of the police doing this when someone died.

The atmosphere seemed charged with some ominous foreboding that she didn’t understand.

He ignored her question. "How would you describe your marriage to Mr. Cuvier?"

"Why are you asking me these questions? How could my relationship to my husband be any of your business?" she asked, distressed. "He’s dead! Shouldn’t you be calling the coroner?"

"Ma’am, the coroner is with your husband. Now please, Mrs. Cuvier, just answer the question."

She gazed at the detective, feeling suddenly uneasy.

"Our marriage was fine. My husband traveled frequently and we seldom saw one another," she said, a cold chill going down her spine. She glanced back to see a policeman coming out of her room holding her vial of laudanum in his hand. "Where is he taking my medicine?"

"Don’t worry, Mrs. Cuvier, it will be returned to you in good time," the detective said, not looking at her, but nodding to the policeman.

Uneasiness filled her every breath and she didn’t understand why the police seemed so engrossed with Jean’s death. "How did my husband die?"

"I’m asking the questions, Mrs. Cuvier," the detective said, ignoring her query. "Did you and your husband have an argument last night?"

She paused looking at the man, uncertain how to answer the question. "We had a slight disagreement"

You selfish bastard! The words she had yelled at Jean reverberated through her mind and she knew she could never tell them the whole truth about their quarrel. Otherwise they would think she had been involved in his death.

"What was the fight about?"

"It was such a minor disagreement, I scarcely recall," she lied. "I think I’ve told you enough. You need to tell me why you’re asking all these questions."

The detective gazed at her, his eyes cold. The room became silent and she felt like hundreds of eyes were focused on her. A creeping sensation started along the base of her spine and suddenly she felt afraid. Everyone stared at her as if she had done something horrible.

Even the bird that chirped noisily through the window had ceased its singing and all sound was suspended in uncanny silence.

"How did my husband die?" she insisted, her voice rising. The detective watched her, his beady eyes intent. "Tell me!"
"According to Doctor Benson, your husband was poisoned."

The room seemed to fade as Layla felt her body go numb. Poisoned? "Oh—Oh my. No. It couldn’t be, that’s impossible."

As soon as she uttered the words, she knew a whole host of people who would like to see her husband dead. And before the day was over, there would probably be even more who cheered at the news.

"Oh, God!" she said, realizing the depth of trouble that would soon surround her.

"Can you tell me what your husband ate or drank last night?"

Uneasy, Layla swallowed. "I don’t know what he had for supper, since he wasn’t here. I gave him his usual cup of tea before he went to bed."

She knew she had put laudanum in his drink, as she often did, but she had not intentionally killed him, and she had definitely not poisoned him.

Could she have given him too much?

A shiver ran through her. Did she, accidentally kill Jean with her antidote for passion? The detective stared at her, waiting.

He leaned in close, his voice demanding. "Did you poison your husband, Mrs. Cuvier?"

Her heart pounded in her chest. They would think that she killed Jean if they found out what she had learned last night, the reason for their fight, the fact that her marriage was a complete farce.

"Of course not! I would never kill anyone," she said emphatically.

"You’re extremely calm and cool, considering your husband just died. You haven’t shed a tear."

Layla couldn’t help but realize what he said was true. She didn’t feel any grief or remorse that Jean was dead, only a sense of relief at being free, but that didn’t mean she had killed him.

"My father arranged my marriage to Jean. Ours was more a marriage of convenience. But I would never poison him. That would be a sin."

Silence echoed in the room filled with people eager to hear her every word. She closed her eyes, hoping that when she opened them, she would awake and realize this was just a nightmare, not reality.

"You said you gave your husband a cup of tea. Did you put anything in his tea last night Mrs. Cuvier?" She glanced away, wanting to lie, knowing whatever she said would incriminate her even though she was innocent.

"I didn’t kill Jean!" she said gazing at him.

"Answer the question, Mrs. Cuvier," he said, his voice harsh and forceful. "Did you put anything in Mr. Cuvier’s tea?"

She swallowed nervous, knowing no one would believe her innocent. "I—I put a touch of laudanum in his tea."

A gasp sounded in the room.

She responded quickly. "To help him sleep. He didn’t sleep well. I did it all the time and he’s never had a reaction before." She clenched her fists. "I didn’t kill Jean."

The detective tensed, but said nothing. His pencil scratched noisily against his notepad as he hurriedly wrote her comments.

When he looked up, his face was expressionless, his eyes intense, like a hunter closing in on its prey.

"Mrs. Cuvier, I need to interview your servants. Could I ask you to wait in your bedroom? When I’m ready to continue our interview, I’ll let you know."

"You want me to just sit in my room and wait for you?"

He raised his bushy brows. "Yes, ma’am."

Layla stared at him in shock. How could he think she killed Jean? Sure, she hated him, but she could never harm him or anyone else, for that matter. This was crazy. Everything seemed to be spinning out of control. Since yesterday her life had disintegrated into shambles.

"I didn’t kill my husband," she said one more time as she rose from her chair. She walked toward her bedroom, her head held high, wanting to pack her suitcase, knowing instinctively that it would be the wrong thing to do. She sat down in a chair by the window and stared out at the courtyard below. How could this be happening?

She hated Jean, but to the world they had presented the image of a happily married couple, keeping their problems behind the closed doors of her bedroom. But to physically harm him would damn her forever, and even Jean wasn’t worth spending eternity in hell. She had prayed her life would change, but never this drastically. And never like this.

For what seemed like forever, though probably less than an hour, Layla sat looking out the window, watching the birds flitter about the courtyard as they flew from one tree to another. Caged and restless, she wished she could fly away so easily. Finally, the door opened and the detective walked in followed by two women. Layla refused to acknowledge them, fear gripping her insides with a tightening hook.

"Ma’am," the detective said, releasing a young blonde woman who had come in with him. "Tell these women how the man you’re suspected of killing was related to you."

What? They hadn’t officially charged her with anything. Was this some kind of trick? She turned toward the door and gazed at the detective, trying not to react to his words and contain a cool composure. "I told you I did not kill my husband."

The blonde woman with eyes red-rimmed from crying moaned. "What are you saying? No! You lie. You can’t be married to Jean."

Layla knew in that instant who the two women were and she didn’t know how to respond. She felt so ashamed, yet she had done nothing wrong. Jean had duped her just like the others.

"Did you marry Jean Cuvier?" the older distinguished-looking woman asked, her expression calm, though her green eyes shimmered with tears.

"Yes," Layla responded, a slight quiver to her voice.

"That can’t be. He married me. He’s my husband," the blonde woman said, her voice rising, her pain and hurt audible in the bedroom.

Layla resisted the urge to tell her she could have Jean. She had never wanted him.

"And mine," the other woman said quietly, as she sank down onto a nearby chair. "I’m Marian Cuvier. I married Jean twelve years ago at Saint Anne’s Cathedral."

The blonde turned abruptly and stared at her in disbelief. "No. That’s impossible." She paused, her face twisted into a mask of horror. "No. We were married four years ago. I don’t understand. He would never do something so horrible."

"And I married him a year ago," Layla whispered, painfully aware of how they had been deceived and how the world would soon know of Jean’s deceit.

"Impossible. Jean loved me. That’s . . . that’s bigamy!" the blonde woman said, shaking her head from side to side.

"Yes, it is bigamy. We were all married to the same man," Marian replied. Her voice sounded hollow and she appeared to be in shock. "And now we’re all Jean’s widows. The Cuvier Widows."

Layla stared at Jean’s wives and knew that though she had only found out about her husband’s perfidy twenty-four hours earlier, she would never reveal she knew beforehand of Jean’s terrible deeds. For if the detective found out, he would surely believe that she had killed Jean in response to learning of his deceit. And though she hated him for his lies, she could never have killed him.

* * *

About the Author:

Sylvia McDaniel and the love of her life, Don, live in Texas with son Shane, Putz the klutzy dachshund and Ashley our shy dachshund. During the day, she works for a small insurance agency, helping clients with their commercial insurance coverage.

The weekends are spent working out in the garden until the temperature climbs above ninety degrees. Recently, with the help of her husband, she learned to make homemade blueberry and blackberry jam. Cooking is not her favorite past-time and she prefers Don’s cooking any day of the week.

Currently, she’s written fourteen novels. Her novel, A Hero's Heart, was a 1996 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist. Sylvia is President Elect of Dallas Area Romance Authors.

Connect with Sylvia McDaniel

* * *

Sylvia will be giving away 10 eBook copies (1 each to 10 winners) of “Wronged (The Cuvier Widows #1). Contest is tour-wide and ends Apr 30. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Enter through Rafflecopter.

To visit all the blogs participating in the barrage, click here.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: Colorado Dawn by Kaki Warner

They married in haste and enjoyed a searing passion -- and then Angus Wallace returned to his regiment and to his duty as a soldier, leaving behind his new English wife, Maddie, in the care of his very indifferent Scottish family. In three years of marriage, he wrote to her twice and visited once -- and Maddie wonders if this is what the rest of her will look like.

When her parents die suddenly, Maddie is given a brief respite and returns home to England to settle their affairs. And out of the grief, she rediscovers her passion for photography, which leads to a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to the frontier lands of America.

With the war over, Angus has come to America in search of his runaway bride and I search of answers to so many questions -- foremost of which is, why did she leave him?

Maddie cannot believe the audacity of her husband, why come after her after so many years of estrangement? When she discovers that Angus has inherited his brother's title, it makes her wonder if she is just another duty for Angus to fulfill.

I featured Kaki Warner's Colorado Dawn for my Sample Reading posts a while back and finally got the chance to read the book in its entirety -- and this is a book that does not disappoint.

Is it love or lust? I often ask this question when a couple in a romance novel have a whirlwind affair. I'm often suspicious of how quickly our heroes and heroines profess their undying love and devotion -- and, most times, that's how romance novels end. And the love is never tested. But that is not the case of Angus and Maddie in Kaki Warner's Colorado Dawn.

They met and got married quickly. All throughout the story, we get hints that they are very compatible in bed but, out of it? -- not so much. Never have I seen two people so out-of-sync with each other as these two -- and that leads to a lot of misunderstanding between them. The movement of our hero and heroine reminded me of Jimmy Liao's A Chance of Sunshine (adapted into a movie titled Turn Right, Turn Left): two people moving towards each other on parallel planes: always seeing each other, but their paths never seem to meet. It's always a case of wrong place, wrong time for Angus and Maddie -- and it is frustrating for them.

"What took you so long?" she accused. "You said it would only be a day and a night. Why didn't you come back?" With each word, her voice had risen and the shaking had grown worse.


"Why aren't you ever here when I need you?" She hit him again, apparently oblivious to the pain it must have brought to her injured hands. Tears were running down her face now, and her words were so garbled it was difficult for him to make them out. But the rage was unmistakable.
- p. 113

What is undeniable, though, is the intense connection that exists between the two. That, despite an almost-six-year separation, when they see each other again, chemistry does what it does and sparks fly. But there is a lot of work that Angus and Maddie need to do to repair their marriage and Kaki Warner sets their story against the raw and dangerous beauty of the landscapes of Colorado.

So it's not just lust. It takes our hero and heroine a journey of thousands of miles, in a place that isn't home to either of them to discover what love is -- and the sacrifices it entails. Heartbreak Creek is the perfect backdrop to all of these unfolding love stories. With such an evocative name and by knowing the residents of the town, even without knowing the history of the place or of its name, we can instantly envision that this was a place where hearts and souls came to escape.

I thought it was necessary for Angus and Maddie to make this trip. For Maddie, it was a journey of self discovery. At the beginning of the book, she seemed a bit lost and didn't know what she wanted. Five years in America has shaped her to become a woman capable of making her own decisions and of speaking her own mind. From a shy, reluctant English country lass, she became a famed photography and a true, equal partner to Angus.

Angus's life has always been defined by duty: either he obeys it or rebels against it. Why did he marry Maddie? Initially, it was because his parents forbade it -- and part of what draws you into this story is seeing how Angus's emotions develop and deepen as he gets to know his wife more. (Read the first paragraph of p. 185!)

Colorado Dawn also features the wonderful side story of Prudence and Thomas -- which contrasts quite well with Angus and Maddie's love story. Thomas and Pru admit that they love each other but, with such painful pasts, what they needed to figure out was how they could express that love without hurting each other.

She saw the laughter in his black eyes. And the love. She knew what he wanted from her. But whenever she thought about what that entailed, the coil of fear lodged in her chest tightened a little bit more.


His expression softened. "I see your fear, eho'nehevehohtse. It hides behind your eyes when you look at me, and in your hands when you allow yourself to touch me. But I am not your enemy, heme'oono. You will think on that while I am gone." Reaching out, he gently brushed his fingertips across her jaw. "Nemehotatse, Prudence Lincoln."

"What does that mean? I don't understand what you're saying."

"Yes, eho'nehevehohtse. You know."
- pp. 210-211

One of my favorite scenes in the story was when Angus/Lord Ashby visited Ed and Declan Brodie's house and Angus was introduced to the kids:
"...Children, this is Lord Ashby."

Clasping his hands once more behind his back, Ash gave a curt, military nod.

"Lord?" The girl's eyes widened. "You're named after God?"
- p. 162

This was a wonderful book with lots of laughter, heart and passion. Now I'm off to find copies of the other books in the series.

Colorado Dawn is the second book in Kaki Warner's Runaway Brides series. To find out more about Kaki Warner and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook and on Goodreads.


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