Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Blog Barrage: Scandal at Vauxhall by Layna Pimentel (18+)


I'm very excited to be part of the blog barrage for Layna Pimentel's regency erotic romance, Scandal at Vauxhall, the first book in her Pleasure Garden Follies series.

To see the list of blogs participating in this barrage, click here.

* * *

About the book:


Scandal at Vauxhall (Pleasure Garden Follies #1)
by Layna Pimentel
Erotic Historical Romance
Publisher: Secret Cravings Publishing
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Heat Level: Steamy
Word Count: 29,852

Blurb:
The love and happiness Isabel Salisbury expected in life when she accepted the proposal of the Marquess of Stoughton takes an unexpected turn when he leaves on a mission for the war office and her parents marry her off to the Duke of Brimley.

Nathaniel Thompson, the Marquess of Stoughton, is devastated to learn upon his return that Isabel has married the duke. When news of her husband’s death surfaces, Nathaniel sets out to make amends and will stop at nothing until she’s his marchioness.

But when London learns of a promiscuous tryst between them in the Daily, their credibility is at stake. They soon discover that nothing in life is simple, nor private, and all is fair in love and war.

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.

Excerpt:

“What haven’t I heard?” she asked. Her breath hitched and her pulse raced. What could I have missed?

“Come away with me to the terrace. I wish to speak to you in private. We can’t have half of London listening in.”

She followed Lady Coxley outdoors, leaving behind the sounds of merriment to be embraced by the shrouded darkness of night and silence.

“They say the marquess will not marry until he’s found her.”

“Until he’s found who?”

“The one who broke his heart. But in all honesty, everyone knows it’s you. With any luck, perchance some horrible fate will happen upon Henry.”

If I were only so lucky. “You shouldn’t talk like that! And for the record, the marquess and I were done long ago. Remember, he’s the one who left me.”

“Isabel, you cannot expect me to believe that you haven’t thought about that man -- at least once or ever -- during the course of this sham of a marriage of yours. The haute ton in its entirety knows where he is right now. And you’d be a fool to think Henry gives two ninnies about your welfare.”

The sound of someone clearing their throat interrupted them.

“Excuse me, ladies, but I was wondering if perchance I could steal Her Grace for a dance.”

Good grief. Did he hear any of our discussion? I cannot believe he’s actually here. Heat coursed through Isabel at the thought of holding him once again. She nodded and held out her gloved palm for him to take. “I’d be honored, My Lord.”

“The pleasure is all mine, Your Grace.”

Leaving behind Lady Coxley, she followed his lead inside for a waltz.

“It’s been too long, Isabel. I’ve missed you terribly,” he whispered as they took a turn about the dance floor. Nathaniel bowed and took her hand. His touch warmed her, and the gentle squeeze that followed reassured her that the flame they once had was still there.

She and Henry hadn’t danced since their wedding and even then, he quickly discarded her to dance with the Duchess of Downsbury. If she’d only known her dismissal that evening would be the first of many others. For the most part, her husband had two left feet, but Nathaniel whisked her away gracefully to the tune. She wished to kiss him again and remind herself of their time together. Good heavens, Isabel. You’re married. Enough of this foolishness!

Isabel felt him pulling her closer as his arm at the small of her back pushed her in. His head dipped down, and, naturally, she looked up at him, ignoring every stare and whisper as they moved together. She finally cringed and mustered the courage to ask him the one thing weighing heavily on her mind. “Why did you take so long? Why didn’t you come sooner? Nathaniel, there hasn’t been a day I haven’t thought of you.”

As the music wound down and the dancers departed, Isabel locked her eyes on his and felt a tear escape. “You’ve been missed greatly, My Lord.”

His thumb swiped away the drop. “My dear, there hasn’t been a day, hour, or dream you haven’t occupied.”

Her chest tightened with his admission. Could he have really wanted me all this time?

“Nathan—”

Scandal at Vauxhall is Available at:
Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Scandal-Vauxhall-Pleasure-Follies-ebook/dp/B00DQBEM9K/
ARe - https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-scandalatvauxhall-1225891-340.html
B&N - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/scandal-at-vauxhall-layna-pimentel/1115888553
BookStrand - http://www.bookstrand.com/scandal-at-vauxhall
Secret Cravings Publishing - http://store.secretcravingspublishing.com/index.php?main_page=book_info&products_id=641
Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/333461

* * *

About the author:

Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Layna discovered her love of reading at an early age. When she isn’t devouring salacious romance novels or writing, she enjoys losing herself in researching ancient history and mythology, weaponry, and hiking. She lives in Northern Ontario, with her husband and two daughters. Layna is a member of the Romance Writers of America, and is a monthly contributor at 69 Shades of Smut.

Connect with Layna Pimentel
Website - http://www.laynapimentel.com/
Blog - http://laynap.wordpress.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLaynaPimentel
Twitter - https://twitter.com/LaynaPimentel
Monday, July 29, 2013

ARC Review: Lady Anne's Lover by Maggie Robinson


Click here to buy the book on Amazon

The only other person to sell more copies of The London List than Baron Benton Craig is Lady Imaculata Anne Egremont. But while the baron had never wanted to be the subject of such publicity, Lady Imaculata had planned out all of her wild schemes and crazy antics on purpose -- to escape her father. As the stunts get more reckless and as Lady Imaculata's reputation gets more shredded, she resorts to desperate measures and answers an ad she had found in The London List.

Now Mrs. Anne Mont is in Wales to work as housekeeper to Major Gareth Ripton-Jones, a man she expects to be ancient, senile and manageable. Gareth isn't what Anne expected him to be. Instead of a kindly old man in need of companionship, she meets a gin-soaked, one-armed veteran in a house that is riddled with dead vermin -- but this little hiccup isn't going to stop Anne. She needs to hide in Wales and expects to make her home here for the next two years before she reaches her majority and gains control of her inheritance and independence, so, armed with a battered copy of The Compleat Housewife, Anne is determined to restore the house and reform the owner.

So much wrong had been done to Anne by her father but, instead of cowering or surrendering, she's been fighting back with all the resources at her disposal. I love that she never seems daunted by the challenges she faces. She has an amazing attitude that it is impossible not to love her.

"...We'll have three weeks to get to know each other better. Maybe by then you'll feel more comfortable with me and tell me what is troubling you so."

"I'm not troubled, not at all."

He gave her a wry grin. "You may not drown your troubles in spirits like I do, Annie, but I recognize a fellow traveler."
- loc 608

Anne contains a duality in her nature: she is outrageous, which has ruined her reputation but it has also helped her come up with ingenious solutions to her problems and survived. She is desirable, which is the core of Anne's struggle with Gareth, who makes her feel so wanted, so loved, so desired, but the same emotions bring back the shame and the betrayal she felt with her father. All her life, people have wanted to bend her, to break her, to get her to say "yes" to their demands -- it was only fitting that, when it finally came time for her to consider a marriage, she was the one who did the proposing. And the "yes" she finally says to Gareth isn't one of surrender or submission -- but one of agreement and consent. (Read Chapters 18 and 19)

Gareth, on the other hand, has had his heart and hope ripped out from him and trampled. When Anne first meets him, he is a man who has been drinking himself into oblivion -- it was heartening to see the change in Gareth when Anne comes into his life. From a man with a bleak future to a man making plans.

He was too honest. She needed to be, too. "Perhaps I won't leave," she said softly. "I might not want to after all. Not after -- this. What we've just done. But I cannot be sure yet. I don't want to give you false hope."

He gave her a crooked grin. "I'll take any sort of hope I can get, Annie. I'm not particular at this point."
- loc 1545

There is humor, yes -- but there is also a sadness in how these two people with no reason to hope or dream have fought against convention and conformity to find love and happiness for themselves. As I was reading Gareth and Anne's stories, the word that came to mind was "survivors" --

For readers who have been following this series, this is the book that ties everything together -- and proves what Evie boldly claimed in Lord Gray's List. The London List is an essential part of the everyman's life and has touched people as far away as Wales. It was built on the scandalous lives of the wealthy but it moves and breathes on the hopes and dreams of people who read it.

Lady Anne's Lover will be released on July 30, 2013. It is Book 3 in Maggie Robinson's The London List series. For more information about Maggie Robinson and her wonderful books, click below:

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Disclosure: I received the ARC through Netgalley. (Thank you to Maggie Robinson and to Kensington for accepting my request.) Yes, this is an honest review.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review: Crystal Gardens by Amanda Quick


Click here to buy the book on Amazon

Crystal Gardens is the first book in Amanda Quick's The Ladies of Lantern Street series and is a sub-series of her Arcane Society series, which I have been religiously following since 2006. Quick's commitment to the Victorian/Steampunk/Paranormal Romance world that she has created shows in each installment, as she continues to build this evocative, fascinating England full of "talented" individuals: she truly understands the abilities of her characters and has explored the limits of the genre that, I believe, she is at the forefront of.

Crystal Gardens is no exception. It begins with an attempt on Evangeline Ames' life, which she believes is intentional. It is fortunate that Evangeline Ames is renting a small cottage in Crystal Gardens, an estate owned by the Sebastian family -- and the current owner, Lucas Sebastian is in residence, investigating the mysterious death of his uncle, Chester, the former owner of the estate.

As a mystery, I love how Amanda Quick lays out the puzzle pieces in a clear and organized manner. Who is responsible for the attempt on Evangeline's life? Who killed Uncle Chester? What secrets are hidden in the Crystal Gardens? I love the procedural aspect of the novel -- how Lucas, Evangeline, and Lucas's step-siblings, Beth and Tony try to figure out all the questions that swirl around them. Amanda Quick ups the ante by introducing us to paranormal talents and a garden that emanates power ... and danger. The magical mixed in with the mysterious makes for classic Amanda Quick and fans will definitely not be disappointed.

My favorite part was the secondary story between Mr. Stone and Molly -- I loved seeing how two people with no psychical abilities cope with the adventures of their employers -- and, instead of feeling inferior, they manage to provide assistance using their own set of skills.

"Must be a bit strange to have some psychical talent."

"Mr. Sebastian says most people have a little," Stone said. "They just don't recognize it. He says they call it intuition."

"My ma says I have good intuition. Sometimes I just know things."

"So do I," Stone said. "I knew the first time I met Mr. Sebastian that I wanted to work for him."

"That's how I felt when I took the post with Miss Ames. I told myself it might lead to something much better."
- p. 289

I also love seeing how Amanda Quick develops the romances between her characters -- there is no grand declaration of love and no drama -- she works out the relationship in a very sensible way. At the end, what you will have are lovers who are also companions/partners. (Read Lucas and Evangeline's conversation in pages 371 - 372)

I did wish that Quick focused more on the Flint and Marsh agency and Evangeline's work with them. She teases her readers with glimpses of the agency does and the special people they hire. Let's see with the next book. ;-)

To find out more about Amanda Quick and her books, click below:
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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Maureen Driscoll Giveaway + Hot Summer Romance Giveaway Hop Winners!



Congratulations to:
Anne
Pine
Connie
Suzie
Tabodoy

For winning an ebook of Maureen Driscoll's Never a Mistress, No Longer a Maid.  Thank you to Maureen Driscoll for the very generous giveaway.

All winners have been contacted and confirmed.


Congratulations to:
Camelia 
(who has chosen Opal by Jennifer L. Armentrout via TBD)

Many, many thanks to everyone who joined my giveaways!

And welcome to all my new followers on Goodreads, Facebook, GFC and Twitter.

The next giveaway hop that I'll be joining is on August 14, the Lovestruck Giveaway Hop is being hosted by Under the Covers.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan


Click here to buy the book on Amazon

This is actually the third draft of this review and I still can't figure out a way to write this and give the book the praise it deserves. It is a wonderfully written story -- and Courtney Milan's most experimental endeavor to date:

Here's why you should read this book:
1. If you have been following this series, The Heiress Effect presents an interesting reflection on history repeating itself.
Jane Fairfield grew up in the country with no guidance. At 19, she discovered that she was an heiress and was thrust into the social spotlight with no preparation, no training in social graces. It was not a surprise that she ended up a complete disaster. Now that she is of age, and in complete control of her inheritance and continues to repel potential suitors with her garish outfits and her outrageous manners. But this is all part of Jane's plan: she must remain unmarried for another year and a half if she wants to protect her younger sister from their very managing, very controlling, very restrictive uncle.

Oliver Marshall has mapped out a grand future for himself, including, someday, becoming prime minister. But, first, he must win the vote on the Reform Bill. If he wins the vote, it will cement his reputation as a politician and is a step one in achieving his dream. One man holds the key to a block of 9 votes, which would mean either Oliver's victory or defeat and the Marquess of Brandenton wants something in exchange: Jane's humiliation.

For half of his life, Oliver was happy being Serena and Hugo Marshall's son. Then the Duke of Clermont walks into his life, acknowledges him and changes the course of Oliver's life forever. He enjoyed all the benefits of being a duke's son and a duke's brother, gaining access to Eton and then Cambridge and he also experienced all the disadvantages of being the bastard son and bastard brother of a duke.

It took Oliver a while, but he finally figured out his place in society: to be quiet, to be observant, to agree -- to be "part of the proper order" (loc 635) -- for the longest time, Oliver was fine with his role and his place -- he used his position to get things done without seeming too overreaching or ambitious -- but Jane Fairfield's arrival changes everything for him. Who is this woman who can't seem to stay put in the box she was placed in? Who is this woman who keeps overstepping the boundaries set by society? She is the most infuriating, most scandalous woman Oliver has ever met -- and she also happens to be the bravest, boldest, most attractive woman Oliver has ever met.

Oliver is caught between his ambition and the fate of one woman. It is a very similar situation his father, Hugo, found himself in in The Governess Affair. Hugo chose the woman and lost all chances at the dream he had worked on all his life. Oliver saw the outcome of his father's choice. He knows the right thing to do but will he do it?

2. I also really, really loved Milan's take on story as both fiction and reality.
There are a lot of stories in The Heiress Effect: there's the story about his father and his mother and the Duke of Clermont. That one is true. There's the story of Jane Fairfield and her one hundred thousand pounds. That one is also true.

But there are also the stories that our characters have woven: Oliver brokering the vote for the Reform Bill, which will put him in the spotlight and is a step forward in his plans to be prime minister. In his mind, Oliver already knows how his story will begin and end: with the perfect wife/political ally and the admiration of everyone who dared ridicule and belittle him as a Duke's bastard son.

There is also Jane's story, about how she is pretending to be a magnified, more offensive version of herself, to ward off people for a year and half, just long enough until her younger sister comes of age and they could finally leave her uncle and live happily together.

It's interesting that we use the word "story" to refer to something factual and also to something fictional. There is a push/pull between the two definitions as Jane and Oliver, and Emily and Anjan, sort out the stories of their lives. Which ones are real? Which stories will they participate in? How will they come about their happy endings?

"...I'm just telling you a story, that's all."

A story. A story. She swallowed, trying to envision the story that would follow. It wouldn't be an easy life, that much she knew. He rarely talked about how he was treated, but she hadn't received the impression that many people were kind. Quite the reverse. And that would be what she entered into? That would be what her children would experience? She felt too young for children, let alone for a decision of this magnitude. She wrapped her arms around her waist.

"Here's another story," she said quietly. "I'm not of age. My uncle hasn't even let me come out because of my fits. He would never let me marry." ...

"Would you?" he asked. "Would you consider the wait, if we were in a story?"

But as much as she'd pretended this was an escape, this wasn't a story.
- (Anjan and Emily) loc 2762

* * *

She sighed. "The stories never mention that saddles built for one rather than two make your backside go numb. Also" -- she turned in the saddle, just enough that he had to hold her more tightly from slipping -- "did you know that your thighs are extremely hard? And I thought the squabs of the carriage were uncomfortable."

"You'd like it even less if I had pillowy thighs," Oliver replied.

She leaned back against him. "Mmm. Pillowy thighs. Those would be lovely right now. Thighs that I could shut my eyes and sink into. Your thighs are like oak logs. Very unrestful."

"Yes, but here's the problem. If I had pillowy thighs, I would have reached down to swing you atop my fiery gelding, and when I tried to heft you in the air, I would have dropped you. 'Damn it!' I'd proclaim. 'I just threw my back!'"

She laughed softly.

"All the stories are wrong," he told her.

He meant it just how he said it -- they were filled with falsehoods and euphemisms. But he also meant it how he didn't say it: that they were wrong to be here.
- (Oliver and Jane) loc 3970

The idea of story as fact and fiction takes on a very poignant, very tearful turn when Courtney Milan introduces the two Freddys. Frederica the elder is Oliver and Free's aunt who is agoraphobic. Frederica the younger is known as Free and is everything Oliver was at her age: confident, daring, secure in her abilities and her place in this world. (Read Chapters 17 and 28-29)

3. It's "experimental" --
Jane and Oliver's love story happens in two parts: the first in Cambridge and the second one a few months later. Courtney Milan could have ended their story after Cambridge and given them their happily ever after then -- but, perhaps, it wasn't the right time for Oliver and Jane to have their happy ending: Oliver still had his career and Jane still had her sister to worry about.

Their journeys from "I" to "we" isn't complete yet and, while reading how their romance unfolded, I kept thinking about all the essays on the phenomenology of love that I read for Philosophy classes at university. I think Courtney Milan has found the missing link that makes this love story believable: from the first sight, to the first kiss, to the first "I love you" until the end. In many romance novels, the romance sometimes feels too sudden, too shallow --

In Jane and Oliver, we see the transformation, we see what precipitates the transformation, we see the time that it took for the transformation to occur -- and Courtney Milan makes every step excruciatingly painful but also exquisitely cathartic.

This is also a work that doesn't quite follow a typical dramatic structure: introduction, rising action, climax, resolution, etc -- the action rises several times and there are quite a number of climactic moments for each of the characters.

4. It's by Courtney Milan.
This is a story that will make your heart soar in a way that you won't quite understand -- but, just enjoy the process. ^_^

The Heiress Effect is the second book in Courtney Milan's The Brothers Sinister series. To find out more about Courtney Milan and her books, click below:
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Disclosure: I won a copy from The Season for Romance

To read my reviews of the rest of the series, click below:
Book 0.5: The Governess Affair (e-novella)
Book 1: The Duchess War
Book 1.5: A Kiss For Midwinter (e-novella)


Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Tour: In the Arms of the Heiress + Lady Anne's Lover by Maggie Robinson (Guest Blog + Exclusive Excerpts)


I am beyond thrilled to welcome Maggie Robinson to my blog today. She is currently promoting two books: In the Arms of the Heiress, the first book in her new Ladies Unlaced series and Lady Anne's Lover, the final installment in her The London List series.

For her stop at Love Saves the World, I asked Maggie to talk about What Inspires her to Write Romance and here's what she shared:

I’m afraid I don’t have a very typical answer. It was ten years ago that I was on vacation -- I had the whole summer off. I had been working in a school as an Educational Technician III, a fancy way of saying teacher’s aide. (My teaching certificate had lapsed but I still wanted to work with kids.)

The year had been long, and I was irritable. My husband John was even more irritable -- as a high school principal, he didn’t have the summer off, and his year had been way longer than mine. We got into some silly argument, and I was so mad I went upstairs to the guest bedroom, grumbling about the stubborn, impossible man I had married so many decades ago.

And I couldn’t sleep. Why couldn’t he understand what I meant? There was such a ridiculous Mars-Venus thing going on, I just wanted to strangle him. But you kind of get in trouble for that, so I stewed and rolled around in the bed until I finally got up and sat down at our brand-new computer.

Ten years ago, I was not especially computer-savvy, and as the mother of four kids, I hardly ever got a chance to be near one while they were still home typing term papers and playing games. It was a wonder I knew where the on button was. But I found it, and the writing program. By golly, I was going to make a man behave, even if I had to make one up to do so. And so began my first “book,” which turned out to be only 20,000 words and featured an amnesiac bluestocking who is rescued from a brothel by my impossibly perfect hero. Needless to say, this story will never, ever see the light of day.

So I guess I was inspired by my annoying husband. Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. I totally had no idea what I was doing, but John encouraged me (we were talking again, LOL) and I fiddled around for a few years during school vacations with various things that made me laugh and cry and tear out my hair. Eventually, I started to get serious, found great critique partners and writing friends and won a few contests. Then in August 2008 I got my fabulous agent Laura Bradford, who helped me sell my first book in April 2009.

Now I live to match two imperfect fictional people together and see how love transforms and heals. Love really does save the world, I think. When you pick up a romance novel, you know no matter how much the author has tortured the characters, there will be a happy ending. Happy endings are sometimes elusive in real life, and how comforting to know you can find one within the pages of a book.

Perfect people don’t exist, either, and I’m so glad John drove me crazy enough to write. :-)

* * *

Thank you, Maggie! (I'm curious about the amnesiac bluestocking story!)

* * *

About the books:

In the Arms of the Heiress
Series: A Ladies Unlaced Romance, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Release Date: July 2, 2013

Blurb:
It’s all fun and games until someone falls in love ...

Independent heiress Louisa Stratton is going home to Rosemont for the holidays, and at the family’s request, she’s bringing her new husband—Maximillian Norwich, art connoisseur and artful lover, the man she’s written of so glowingly. There’s one hitch—he doesn’t exist. Louisa needs a fake husband, and fast, to make the proper impression.

Charles Cooper, captain of the Boer War and far from silver spoons or gilded cages, is so hard up that even this crazy scheme appeals to him. It’s only thirty days, not till death do them part. What’s so difficult about impersonating a husband, even if he doesn’t know a Rembrandt from a Rousseau?

The true difficulty is keeping his hands off Louisa once there’s nobody around to see their ruse. And then there’s the small problem of someone at Rosemont trying to kill him. Keeping his wits about him and protecting Louisa brings out the honor he thought he’d left on the battlefield. But when Louisa tries to protect him, Charles knows he’s found a way to face his future—in the arms of his heiress.

Excerpt:

Louisa’s Indecent Proposal

Louisa settled into the crook of his arm, her body close and hot against his. He imagined she was imprinting him with the pattern from her figured silk robe, branding him with vines and leaves. Charles refused to let himself look down at the creamy skin of her d├ęcolletage or the innocent hand that was placed across his chest. She had capable hands, he recalled, hands that moved expressively as she chattered on, hands that could light stoves and shoot guns and drive cars.

And drive a man wild with their light touch upon his skin.

He had only himself to blame for this torture. It might be better to go back to his room and wait to be clubbed to death.

“Charles?”

“Um.”

“This is very comfortable, don’t you agree?”

Not at all.

He gave a grunt that could be interpreted any which way. He should feign sleep, begin to snore so she would stop trying to talk to him. No such luck.

“I’ve never slept with a man before. In a bed,” she amended, in case he had doubts about her virginity. “Isn’t that ridiculous? I’m twenty-six years old and ruined anyway, at least according to Aunt Grace. It’s not as though I can get my purity back, is it?”

Charles had no answer for her. His throat was a desert and his tongue glued to the roof of his mouth.

“It’s rather silly, isn’t it -- my avoidance of intimacy, I mean. I’m a modern, free woman. Why should I obey society’s stringent rules? What’s good for the goose and all that. Although it really should be ‘what’s good for the gander is good for the goose’ in this case, shouldn’t it? Why should men have all the fun? Of course, in my experience men have been disappointing. Starting with vile Sir Richard. But I haven’t yet been able to convince myself of the efficacy of sapphism.”

Charles choked. She was babbling. Well, she’d had a shock, although it should be he who was incoherent after getting whacked on the onion.

“I don’t suppose you’re in the mood to kiss me again, are you? I really don’t think I’m sleepy at all.”

“K-kiss you?”

“As you did at dinner. I’m not asking you to act as a petticoat-pensioner—you needn’t go beyond a kiss. If you don’t want to. Although, if someone is trying to kill us, I suppose carpe diem should figure into our thinking.”

Was she saying what he thought she was saying? The blow to his head must have scrambled his brain. Charles had had enough. He released her and tumbled backward. “I might not be able to stop myself, brute that I am. I’m as vile as Sir Richard. More so.”

“I thought you said I was safe from you.” The damn girl gave him a look that said she didn’t want to be safe.

“I lied.” By God, he had lied. He was as hard as a rock.

“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.”


Lady Anne's Lover
Series: The London List, Book 3
Publisher: Kensington Brava
Release Date: July 30, 2013

Blurb:
Lady Imaculata Anne Egremont has appeared in the scandalous pages of the London List often enough. The reading public is so bored with her nonsense, she couldn’t make news now unless she took a vow of chastity. But behind her naughty hijinks is a terrible fear. It’s time the List helped her. With a quick scan through its job postings and a few whacks at her ridiculous name, she’s off to keep house for a bachelor veteran as plain Anne Mont.

Major Gareth Ripton-Jones is dangerously young and handsome on the face of it, but after losing his love and his arm in short order, he is also too deep in his cups to notice that his suspiciously young housekeeper is suspiciously terrible at keeping house. Until, that is, her sharp tongue and her burnt coffee penetrate even his misery—and the charm underneath surprises them both. Trust the worst cook in Wales to propose a most unexpected solution to his troubles ...

Excerpt:

Lady Anne’s Decent Proposal

“Major Ripton-Jones, for a man with limited income, you need to allocate your resources more appropriately. For seed, machinery, etcetera.”

“Why should I bother planting when I’ll never see the results?”

She looked him straight in the eye. “Because, if you give up drink, I will marry you and you can stay.”

“What?”

“I am, as it happens, an heiress. Once we marry, I will come into enough funds to allow you to keep this place. But I will expect something in return.”

Gareth’s head spun, and not from his unfinished breakfast ale. Of course she wasn’t a housekeeper—her skin was fine as porcelain, her skill in the kitchen execrable. True, she could clean, but anyone could grab a rag and make a difference to his hovel.

“I am as notorious in London as you are in Wales. More so, I should think, although no one has accused me of murder. Yet.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t.” She folded her arms, obscuring her breasts. Did she notice his hungry look? He could smell lilac and clean skin. How he longed to pull the cork from the bottle in his hand and drain the whole damn thing. “I will help you with your reputation, and in return once we set this place to rights, you will let me leave to make a new life with at least half my money.”

She was speaking gibberish. Was this some sort of delayed alcoholic delusion? He shook his head to clear it.

“You are absolutely mad.”

“I suppose I am,” she agreed. “It would have been so much easier for you to advertise for a wife. That was my original plan, but I see things are more complicated than I thought.”

“Who are you?”

“That’s immaterial at the moment. Suffice to say that we can be useful to each other. I can help you with your investigation as well. But --” she gave him a stern look, “you must promise to cease spending your days wallowing in self-pity.”

“I --” He was about to deny the undeniable. What she said was true. He’d just passed the worst year of his life. With no honor and very little wit.

“Are you on speaking terms with the local minister?”

“Not really.” The Reverend Ian Morgan thought Gareth was Satan incarnate. A heathen. An inebriate. An adulterer. A murderer.

“Well, you shall have to go see him anyway. It will take three weeks to advertise our intention to marry. You can’t afford a special license. Do you want me to go with you?”

This was becoming more and more absurd. He hadn’t even known Mrs. Mont a full week.

He didn’t even know her first name.

“You said I’d have to do something for you.”

“Of course. But we can discuss my leaving later.”

“We’ll discuss it now, I think.” He patted the bed.


* * *

For more information about Maggie Robinson and her wonderful books, click below:

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Blog Tour: A Bandit's Broken Heart by Michelle McLean (Spotlight + Giveaway)


Love Saves the World welcomes Michelle McLean and her book, A Bandit's Broken Heart.

For this tour, Michelle is giving away a $20 gift card and a Blood Blade Sister necklace (US Only), which has the sisters' signature red poppy and a dagger pendant. To visit Michelle's other stops, click here.

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About the book:

A Bandit’s Broken Heart by Michelle McLean
A Blood Blade Sisters Novel: Book Two

Publisher: Entangled: Scandalous Imprint
Genre: Historical Romance
Number of pages: 167

ISBN: 978-1-62266-228-9
ASIN: B00DFFGNI0



Blurb:

A woman with a past

Widowed mother, Brynne Richardson, gave up her bandit activities when she left California to make a fresh start with her young daughter in Boston. Working for a handsome doctor fulfills her need to be useful and independent, but he creates another yearning she cant deny.

A man with a purpose

Dr. Richard Oliver assumes Brynne is just another debutante hunting for a rich husband, until she intrigues him with her steady hand for stitchesand guns. He cant put her out of his mind, but the young widow has mysteries hes determined to unravel.

A love in danger

When smugglers raid the much-needed supplies from the clinic, Brynne must resurrect her bandit persona for the good of the sick and the poor. Her secret life threatens to destroy everything shes worked so hard to protecther life, her family and her heart.

Amazon Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Bandits-Sisters-Entangled-Scandalous-ebook/dp/B00DFFGNI0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373045747&sr=8-1&keywords=A+bandits+broken+heart

* * *

About the author:

Romance and non-fiction author Michelle McLean spent 98% of her formative years with her nose in a book indulging in her love of reading and research. Expanding that love into writing was inevitable. Michelle has a B.S. in History, a M.A. in English, and tends to be a bit of an organized mess with an insatiable love of books and more weird quirks than you can shake a stick at.

She is the author of the historical romances To Trust a Thief and the Blood Blade Sisters trilogy, the non-fiction Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers, and several upcoming historical, paranormal, and contemporary romances. She is also a contributor on The Naked Hero, and the Operation Awesome, Scene 13, and Scandalous book blogs as well as maintaining her personal blog. If she's not editing, reading or chasing her kids around, she can usually be found in a quiet corner working on her next book. Michelle resides in PA with her husband and two young children, an insanely hyper dog, and two very spoiled cats.

If you would like Michelle's signature, you can request one for her ebooks through authorgraph.com or request a signed bookplate through her website.

Website: http://www.authormichellemclean.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michelle.m.mclean
Twitter: https://twitter.com/michellemclean

* * *


For this tour, Michelle is giving away a $20 gift card and a Blood Blade Sister necklace (US Only), which has the sisters' signature red poppy and a dagger pendant.


To visit Michelle's other stops, click here.

Enter through Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hot Summer Romance Giveaway Hop (INT) - with updated information!


Welcome to my stop on the Hot Summer Romance Giveaway Hop, sponsored by Insatiable Reads.

This giveaway hop is running from July 18 to 21 and Insatiable Reads has an amazing pool of prizes for the whole hop:

There are Two Grand Prizes:
#1 is a Kindle Fire
#2 is a $50 Amazon.com gift certificate

**The winners are being selected from the comments on the blogs participating in the hop. Comment with your email address.** 

For the entire month of July, Insatiable reads is also giving away a Loaded Kindle Fire 4G HD 8.9" 32gb -- you can Enter this giveaway through Rafflecopter. Click here.

* * *

What can you win from my stop? I'm offering a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a book from The Book Depository for up to $10.

But first --

Summer in the Philippines actually starts in April and ends in June, so while the Western Hemisphere is now enjoying their summer breaks, my kids and I are actually back in school already. ^_^

I had a really fun summer of traveling with my family and I had more free time, which means more reading done. So here's my summer summary:


I discovered new authors: Shana Galen has always been on my reading radar. Since it was vacation, I had a bit more time to read and was able to pick up a copy of When You Give a Duke a Diamond, the first book in her Jewels of the Ton series. Long story short? Loved the book and now I love the author. I'm following the series now and have bought the second book (If You Give a Rake a Ruby). Just clearing my reading sked and will get into it soon. ^_^

I also had the pleasure of reading Emma Locke's debut novel, The Trouble with Being Wicked. I loved that Emma's heroine wasn't a young, fresh-faced, innocent miss but a seasoned courtesan -- and her approach to bringing about a romance between her hero and heroine was very refreshing.

Finally, I stumbled upon Susanna Fraser during her blog tour for An Infamous Marriage. I followed the tour faithfully and became more and more intrigued by the premise and by the excerpts and features she posted. I tried and tried and tried to win a copy of the book -- when the tour ended, and I didn't win, I just went ahead and bought the book. (And it was worth it.) When I finished reading it, I went ahead and got her two previous books (The Sergeant's Lady and A Marriage of Inconvenience) -- yes, I have a massive TBR pile and, yes, I dream of one day reading through the whole thing.


I read the latest installments to series that I follow: I have loved Sophia Nash since the first book in her Widow's Club series and I have enjoyed every book in her Royal Entourage series. The latest book, The Duke Diaries had a wonderful mix of humor and heart.

Elizabeth Hoyt released Lord of Darkness, book 5 in her amazing, amazing Maiden Lane series. After I read one of Elizabeth Hoyt's books, it usually takes me a few days to digest what I've just read and another few days to figure out a review for it. Her writing is masterful and her vision/concept for the Maiden Lane series is so original and trailblazing and so, so exciting!

Lastly, I read Beverley Kendall's e-novella, Those Nights in Montreal (now retitled: All Over You and is freeon Amazon and all major etailers). I love Beverley Kendall's historical romances and when she announced that she was writing a New Adult series, I had to break my rule (I only read historical romances) and read it. And I enjoyed them a lot. So now, I follow one NA series -- and it's this one by Beverley Kendall. ^_^

How goes your summer? I hope you've found some interesting reads. ^_^


* * * * Now for the good stuff * * * *
(thank you for patiently reading through this)

*This giveaway is via Rafflecopter and is open to International Readers.
*This giveaway will run until July 21.
*One entry per household per IP.
*Rafflecopter will select 1 winner:

Who will receive either a $10 Amazon Gift Card
or
1 book of their choice from Book Depository (max value $10)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Hop on to the other blogs! Enjoy!








Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ARC Review: How to Lose a Bride in One Night by Sophie Jordan


Click here to buy the book on Amazon

Annalise Hadley is the latest of Jack Hadley's daughters to be found and then married off. As the Duchess of Bloodsworth, Annalise can't help but feel that she is living a fairy-tale dream: rescued from her position as seamstress and told that she is an heiress, then now married to her own prince. But the dream quickly turns into a nightmare when, on her honeymoon, her new husband, the Duke of Bloodsworth, reveals his evil intentions and almost succeeds in killing her.

Tossed off the ship, Annalise is helpless as the waves and the cold and the rocks batter her body -- but, just when she was about to give in, she is rescued.

Owen Crawford returned from India to find his childhood love, Paget, married to his older brother, Jamie. While happy for them, Owen needs some solitude to work out the demons that he has brought along with him from the war. On his way to London, he spots Annalise washed on the shores and rescues her.

After weeks of being unconscious, Annalise wakes up to find this strange man tending to her in a gypsy camp -- he tells her he isn't a hero and cannot be trusted, but Annalise's instincts know that Owen isn't like her husband. But, can she trust him with her secrets? Not yet, and so Annalise becomes Anna -- a woman with no memory and no past -- Anna who is refuses to be a victim and a passive observer to life -- and the first thing she boldly claims is Owen.

When I read the preview for this in Sophie Jordan's e-novella, The Earl in My Bed, the premise instantly intrigued me: a broken soldier home from war, a woman almost-murdered on her wedding night -- I knew I needed to read this book when it came out.

The story starts out really nicely, setting up the difficult predicament that Annalise finds herself in: she's an heiress and, now, a duchess -- but her husband believes he killed her and she's rescued by a most reluctant hero. It's a very exciting start and kept me reading one chapter and then the next one, wanting to find out how the story will end.

The first eight chapters focus on Annalise's recovery from her most harrowing honeymoon ordeal. I thought it was symbolic that the limp that had afflicted Annalise since childhood had been fixed by Mirela, signaling that this is no longer the old Annalise but an Annalise reborn and restored.

No more pity. She wouldn't pity herself ever again. Even if she couldn't walk. She was finished letting things happen to her. she would make her own fate from now on.
- loc 661 to 665

What drew me to this story was the complicated situation Annalise finds herself in: she is married but her husband attempted to kill her and now she finds herself falling in love with her rescuer, Owen, who has even more baggage than she does. There didn't seem to be a clear path to a happy ending for Annalise and Owen and I wondered how Sophie Jordan would resolve it.

No such happy ending would occur unless some conditions were met: Annalise must stop being a victim and Annalise must start telling the truth. The first half of the story focuses on Annalise finding her power and her voice -- there were times when her actions felt inconsistent but I realize that it was part of her development: that tentative-ness. Part of Annalise's empowerment also came from discovering her sensuality -- it was implied in the story that she never felt attractive, loved or desired.

It is the second condition that really frustrated me. With every lie/half-truth, I saw Annalise digging a deeper and deeper hole, one that I couldn't see her getting out of. Owen knows she is lying and allows her to live within the safety of her lies -- but when their relationship becomes complicated by the physical aspect, it becomes imperative for Owen to find out the truth about Annalise. And yet Annalise refused.

Why couldn't she tell him? She lists several reasons:
- initially, it was because she didn't know if she could trust Owen
- then, when she found out that Owen was an Earl, she worried that, as a fellow peer of the realm, Owen would turn her over to her husband
- she couldn't tell Owen to keep him safe from her husband

The reasons are valid, I accept -- but it was still frustrating to have them develop a relationship based on Annalise's lies. (And I didn't like her at this point, especially when her omission about her marital status led Owen, an honorable man, to commit the most dishonorable act of adultery -- without his knowledge.) It was clear that their relationship would cause them both a world of grief once Annalise's real life catches up to them.

How does Owen react to the truth when it is finally revealed? How does Annalise handle her villainous husband? Is there a happily-ever-after ending for Owen and Annalise? Read the novel to find out.

A bit of a warning: the story starts and moves a bit slowly. In the first half of the book, the author focuses on Annalise's growth (and in a more subtle way, shows us how Owen finds his reason for living/being by helping her).

Her trust in him was utter and complete and baffling. She looked at him as though he were truly something good and heroic. Someone who could teach her to protect herself against everything evil in this world. Even as he tried to warn her that he might very well be the thing she most needed protection from.
- loc 1426 to 1437

The story starts picking up speed at Chapter 15 and the momentum continues to build from that point up to the end. This was not as focused and as captivating as Wicked in your Arms (my favorite in the series) or as poignant and tightly-written as The Earl in my Bed and I wished Sophie Jordan took a different approach in resolving the story -- but what I did appreciate about How to Lose a Bride in One Night is how it highlights the idea of rebirth/reinvention: Owen and Annalise are two souls whose old lives have broken and betrayed them -- together, they discover a new space, a new life, a new version of themselves with each other.

"Do not comfort me."

"What shall I do then?" she whispered. "Pretend I don't care?"

"I don't want you to care. You shouldn't care."

Her gaze scanned his face. "Too late," she whispered, and firmly pressed her lips to his.
- loc 3078

How to Lose a Bride in One Night will be released on July 30, 2013. It is Book 3 in Sophie Jordan's Forgotten Princesses series. To find out more about Sophie Jordan and her books, click below:

Website
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Disclosure: I received the ARC through Edelweiss. (Thank you to Sophie Jordan and to Avon for accepting my request.) Yes, this is an honest review.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Blog Tour: The Art of Temptation by Genella deGrey (Excerpt + Giveaway)


Love Saves the World welcomes Genella deGrey and her book, The Art of Temptation!

Genella will be awarding a large goodie grab bag comprised of 'author swag' gathered from the Romance Novel Convention in August 2013 to three randomly drawn commenters during the tour. To visit Genella's other stops, click here.

* * *

About the book:

Blurb:

After seven failed seasons, Valerie Hempstead decides to take her fate into her own hands, and a tour of the continent is just the thing. Accompanied by a female cousin, and the girl’s childhood companions -- all of whom live fast and for the moment, Valerie is about to discover more about life than she anticipated.

Travis Elijah Colin Wade, the son of no one in particular, has just been handed a vast amount of money and a large country estate and, of all things, a bloody title. However, he's not at all pleased about leaving his care-free bachelor days behind. Determined to spend some of his money and relax before assuming his duties for Queen and country, Travis goes abroad. Little does he know that he is about to be utterly swept away by the seduction of innocent surrender.

Excerpt:
Twenty minutes later when she'd finished dallying with her glass, she looked up at him and frowned.

Unable to help himself, he smiled at her. “I’d get you more, but I think you’ll have to wait until they fetch another bottle. Everyone in the room has indulged tonight.”

Her smile was charmingly lopsided. “I do hope they hurry. I haven’t felt this way since drinking French champagne with my cousin and her friends.”

Travis’s head tipped back to rest upon the back of the couch. “I think, Miss Hempstead, you will find this drink altogether different than mere champagne.”

Valerie adjusted her seat so that she was facing him and rested the side of her head next to his on the cushioned couch back. “You think?”

He turned his head to face her; they were practically nose to nose. “M-hm. The absinthe is already warming up to me, and I’m sure I drink far more than you do on a regular basis.”

“Oh, come now, Mr. Wade. You don’t think I’ve had my share of drunken frolics?”

“No, not you, little Valerina,” Travis chuckled. “I’ll wager you haven’t.”

“Little me? I’ll have you know I was taller than almost every marriageable man last season.” She frowned. “And the year before that, too,” she murmured mostly to herself. “So you can’t call me little.”

“You are shorter than I am,” he pointed out without moving a muscle.

She thought for a moment. “Not by very much.”

“Sure you are. Let’s measure.” Feeling less than secure about standing, Travis removed himself from the couch and, although slightly dizzy, offered his hand to help Valerie up.

When she stood he closed the distance between them with a half stride and lifted his hand to the top of her head. “See, you’re—oops, steady girl.” He caught her upper arms when she fell against him. Her hands seized his waist for support. Travis felt pure electricity run through his body coming from every place she touched him.

“I’m so sorry. I -- ” She fumbled for words but stayed where she’d fallen as if trying to remember how to right herself.

She looked up into his eyes and time froze for Travis. Her sweet breath swept past his chin and his gaze fell to her lips. Their impromptu embrace, no matter how clumsy it was, felt so right, so perfect, so -- familiar. His head needed only to dip down to press his lips to hers. When she didn’t remove herself from his arms, and he’d given her ample time to do so, he took a breath, lowered his face and kissed her.


* * *

About the author:

Born and reared in Southern California, Genella deGrey longed to be your typical blonde, tanned, surfer girl but failed miserably. Unable to sit idle without falling asleep, she embarked upon several artistic endeavors. Makeup and set dressing for the entertainment industry, Resort Enhancement for The Walt Disney Company and writing sexy historical romance top the list of her favorite activities.

Genella has a keen interest in the spirit world. She loves wandering around in graveyards, traveling to battle fields and other haunted destinations, the older the better. New Orleans is one of her favorite places to encounter the supernatural, as is Tombstone, AZ.


Links:
Twitter: @GenelladeGrey
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Genella-deGrey-Books
Website: www.genelladegrey.com
Amazon Buy page for all books: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00ATTE19S

* * *


Genella will be awarding a large goodie grab bag comprised of 'author swag' gathered from the Romance Novel Convention in August 2013 to three randomly drawn commenters during the tour.

To visit Genella's other stops, click here.
Sunday, July 14, 2013

Review: Her Perfect Match by Jess Michaels


Click here to buy the book on Amazon

After a glorious 10-year career as London's premier mistress and mistress matchmaker, Vivien Manning has finally met her match. In truth, Vivien met him three years before -- in an arrangement that evolved into something that Vivien was unprepared for and so she let him go. Having seen two of her closest friends successfully matched and settled with their husbands, Vivien is beginning to consider settling her own affairs and finally retiring, but, first, she must attend to some "Loose Ends" -- one of which is Benedict Greystone, the man who came close to stealing her heart three years ago.

As a gentleman and the brother of an Earl, Benedict knows it his duty to marry well and elevate his family's position and fortune. He has accepted that, this Season, he will open himself up to introductions and matches made by his mother, brother and sister-in-law, but Benedict knows that any marriage that will result from said matchmaking will never be a love match, because he had surrendered his heart three years ago to Vivien, a woman entirely unsuitable for Benedict according to society's standards but is his perfect match as his heart dictates.

It surprises Benedict that, after three years of separation, Vivien approaches him at a party with an invitation: be with her and not just for one night. Vivien had steeled herself for this second onslaught and meant to distance her heart from the matter -- seeing Benedict as nothing but a loose end -- but, at the first touch, the first kiss, Vivien realizes (too late) that Benedict has always been always been and will always be something more to her.

When your primary occupation is matching mistresses and protectors, the most obvious question would be: is there a match for the mistress matchmaker?

The answer stunned Vivien Manning when she found herself in love with Benedict Greystone when he was her protector three years ago and Benedict felt the same way. But Vivien wasn't ready to have a happily-ever-after at that point: she had too many unresolved personal issues. They parted ways, hoping that time and distance would help them forget each other and the foolishness of their feelings -- but their separation only confirmed that there would never be anyone else for them but each other.

Jess Michaels delves into the tribulations that Benedict and Vivien encounter as they try to discover if a love between them is possible. The story focuses more on Vivien's transformation since Benedict has always known what he felt and I loved that he always defended Vivien to his brother and mother.

"But you do not see that her character is not the same as her reputation," he explained, wishing he could make someone in his life see what a vibrant and wonderful being Vivien was. "She has walked a path very different from your own, yes, and I must tell you that it has not always been by choice. But she has a heart. She has dreams. She has everything inside her that any woman hopes for."
- loc 1616 to 1627

Vivien needed to sort through her past and her current occupation to figure out a future for herself (and whether there is a place for Benedict in that future). It is an emotional journey for her -- and I loved that Benedict was a "fixed point" (term I got from watching Pacific Rim ^_^) as she went through her list of loose ends --

I love how their story moves on two levels: the mental/intellectual and the emotional/physical. Benedict and Vivien have lots of conversations in the novel, where masks are removed, layers are peeled back and souls are bared to each other:

"...You don't exist in these chambers, in the bedroom where you take your lovers."

"Of course I do," she protested, throwing up her hands and walking away. It was a dramatic gesture, but one meant to keep him from seeing her face.

"No, you do not," he insisted, maneuvering so that she had to look at him again. "I know you like books, that you like the kind of art you see in the British Museum. None of those pursuits are found here. These chambers only contain images and hints that are part of the mask you wear."
- loc 1233

But they create a deeper connection and intimacy through their physical encounters. This is the point where I will say that I think Jess Michaels writes excellent love scenes. Her love scenes flow gracefully and have a refined elegance to them (yes, even the first scene of this book, which is a menage).

This is the final installment in Jess Michaels' Mistress Matchmaker series and the series has come full circle: it began with Lysandra's introduction to pleasure (by Vivien) and now ends with Vivien's discovery of her own pleasure. Reading through the series has been a truly enjoyable experience.

The Mistress Matchmaker Series:
Book 1: An Introduction to Pleasure
Book 2: For Desire Alone
Book 3: Her Perfect Match

To find out more about Jess Michaels and her books, click below:
Website
Facebook
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Goodreads

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Desire Wears Diamonds by Renee Bernard


Click here to buy the book on Amazon

The Jaded are all men of knowledge or of wealth, except for Michael Rutherford, who, as the son of a gameskeeper, has the humblest background of the group.

As a young man, Michael had grand aspirations of working his way up the ranks but his superiors have placed Michael firmly in a box. He served as hitman/assassin/thug for the East India Company in Bengal -- and it didn't take long before Michael started believing that that was all he was good for. Rutherford's a villain. (loc 209)

Grace grew up with a restrictive father and an equally controlling brother. She grew up believing she wasn't going to be worthy of being anybody's wife because she was a plain nobody. Grace accepted her lot in life -- and made the best of it -- quietly managing her brother's house and fading into the background when necessary. But, under the pseudonym A.R. Crimson, Grace created worlds of adventure, danger and of intrepid explorers -- saving the money she earned so that, one day, she might have enough to escape her brother's tyranny and make her own way in the world.

Grace is literally and figuratively what Michael needed. Grace, God's divine mercy, is the only thing that can counteract the blood of those he has killed and the guilt that weighs heavily on Michael. He longs to see proof, any sort of sign or reassurance that the work he has done has been for the greater good. And Grace, so aptly named, is a woman unlike any Michael has ever known. She is unfazed by his height and size and seems to delight in the strangest things. Her very presence brings comfort to Michael.

Every nerve ending was stretched taut and he had the fleeting idea that this was what Lazarus might have felt. Kissing her was like being reborn, but also brought about the discovery that he'd been dead for a long time, shut away from the world.
- loc 2491

Michael is the willing ear and kind heart that Grace has always needed. Michael is the first person in Grace's life to ever defend her and stand up for her -- and his supportiveness of Grace encourages her to step out of the shadows, out of the corner where her father and her brother have put her.

But Grace stands between Michael and the Jackal -- and Michael's first vow and first responsibility is to protect the Jaded. Caught between love and duty, Michael must make the difficult choice that will either mean his salvation or his damnation.

Admittedly, the romance between Grace and Michael isn't as angst-ridden as Darius and Isabel's or as fraught with fireworks as Rowan and Gayle's -- their story is a bit more simple (and a bit convenient) and very quiet, much like Michael's character. The main point of their love story is how their relationship can withstand the onslaught and pressure of an outside force (the Jackal and the Jaded). (Read: the confrontation between Michael and the Jaded about Grace in Chapter 22)

As much as I love series beginnings, I love the series endings more -- here's why: last books in a series are the best indication of an author's vision and goal for a set of characters. Considering that it takes years to complete a series, the challenge for the author is to maintain consistency and to ensure that her characters develop and grow with each book.

The author also has to make sure that each book stands on equal ground with the other books in the series, but the last book bears a special responsibility: it must, within its chapters, resolve everything that was left unresolved in the previous books and, yet, tell its own story.

Renee Bernard succeeds in doing so with Desire Wears Diamonds. If one graphs the 6 books in the series, I'd imagine the resulting shape to be a bell curve -- the high point (for me) is Ecstasy Wears Emeralds (my favorite in the series). In the first 5 books, the Jackal lurked around the edges of each story, coming out to take a swipe at the jewels that the Jaded have brought home from Bengal -- but his identity is never known. In Michael's story, the Jackal finally surfaces and all the questions that have dogged the Jaded since their escape from India are finally put to rest:

Who is the Jackal?
What does he want with the jewels?
How does he know the Jaded?

The Jackal is a silent menace that shadowed the Jaded throughout the series and it is finally the moment of confrontation -- Michael and the Jackal match skill and strategy to try to outmaneuver each other. Power shifts with every encounter and, when Grace gets involved, the inevitable questions is: whose side is she on?

Our hero is in a horrible bind: Grace and the Jaded need his protection -- but he can only give it to one of them. At one point, I wasn't certain I trusted Michael to do the right thing -- and this is, perhaps, part of Renee Bernard's intention: to keep us guessing, to keep us at the edge of our seats, to keep us as frustrated as the rest of the Jaded -- building up the tension until the climactic resolution.

The Jaded Gentleman series:
Book 1: Revenge Wears Rubies
Book 2: Seduction Wears Sapphires
Book 3: Ecstasy Wears Emeralds
Book 4: Passion Wears Pearls
Book 5: Obsession Wears Opals
Book 6: Desire Wears Diamonds

Note: Renee Bernard includes Poseidon's Curse or The Fatal Storm, a penny dreadful "written" by A.R. Crimson (Grace).

To find out more about Renee Bernard and her books, click below:
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Twitter

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