Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: Your Wicked Heart by Meredith Duran (e-novella)

Click here to get your copy on Amazon

I haven't read much of Duran's works, but when this novella was offered for free a while back, I got it. I read this while waiting for a flight home last Friday and finished it before the plane took off (note that our flight was delayed).

I liked the premise of the story: a stolen identity and a woman caught in the middle: a victim of one man's recklessness in assuming a Viscount's identity and said Viscount's ruthless need to exact revenge on the man who dared to take what wasn't his. It is a story that starts in Syra and then finds its way to Gibraltar before finally ending in London.

Duran explores several themes in the novella: trust, truth, social classes, and family. Amanda Taylor is far away from home -- brought to Syra by a new employer with the promise of adventure and excitement. Her hopes are dashed when her employer proves to be abusive and uncaring, which made Amanda all the more vulnerable to the advances of a "viscount" who flattered her and cared for her on a way no one did.

I was a bit annoyed with Amanda's type of innocence -- she was so wide-eyed and optimistic -- and I could imagine her voice in my head. That sort of breathless, naive, frantic, hapless and helpless voice. I could understand Spence's annoyance and wariness -- such innocence/ignorance could not possibly exist. Therefore, she must be a fraud and in cahoots with the man who is masquerading as him.

But their journey, chasing after the "viscount" proves to be an enlightening experience for Spence. It is by sheer necessity that Amanda clings to her optimism and hope. She has nothing and no one else -- and Spence comes to admire this woman who defies the lot that fate has given her. She dares to forge ahead with her dreams, despite her circumstances.

"All right," he said. "You wanted safety. Safety from whom?"

She frowned. "From nobody in particular. From the world. It's not so friendly a place. Sir."
- loc 438

And Amanda does something no one has ever done for Spence: she looks after him and cares for him. Being the head of a big extended family, Spence is used to taking care of everyone, of fixing everyone's mess (including this one) ... No one has ever bothered to check in on him or to help him. It touches Spence deeply to see Amanda care about his welfare.

"You came for me," she said. "So I came for you."
- loc 1396

The merit of this particular exercise for Duran, I think is that she alters the course of Amanda's story just a little bit. Usually, the innocent and the pure remain innocent and pure and overcome everything to emerge triumphant -- Duran chose to tarnish her heroine and disillusion her a bit by revealing to her the painful reason why Spence brought her along and what he thought of her initially. But, in doing so, the author allowed her heroine to make real and realistic decisions about her future. Amanda really could have remained with her head in the clouds and had her happy ever after, but the ending she got was much better, I think. With her feet firmly on the ground. With the rose-tinted glasses off.

"Recall your role. You're meant to be heartbroken."

"No, I never pretended that. And while I would very much like the leisure to be shattered by my fiancé's betrayal, what I would like even more would be to avoid starvation once I arrive in London."
- loc 549

Your Wicked Heart is the novella that introduces Meredith Duran's Rules for the Reckless series. To find out more about Meredith Duran and her books, click below:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Historical Romance Edition #22

Thank you to Shabby Blogs ( for the free frame!

Happy Thursday, everyone! And welcome to a new feature on Buried Under Romance and Love Saves the World.

What is Throwback Thursday?
Traditionally, Throwback Thursday celebrates nostalgia, asking participants to post a personal photo or an image from their past -- usually from 5 to 10 years ago. There are a lot of book blogs that also do a book-related Throwback Thursday.

The Historical Romance Edition:
Since Mary of Buried Under Romance and I are unapologetic lovers of historical romances, we've decided to focus on our beloved genre.

Here are our rules:
1. It must be posted on a Thursday.
2. It must be a historical romance novel published before October 3, 2008.

For All Eternity by Linda Lael Miller, published November 1994


Powerful vampire Maeve Tremayne loves her immortality. She time travels freely from century to century, taking nourishment only from the most evil members of the human world. But sometimes she steps in to soften the final moments of the dying by offering them one last moment of pleasurable release from pain. Haunting the battlefield of Gettysburg on one such journey, she dares to lose her soul to a dedicated mortal doctor, Calder Holbrook. Calder thinks she is merely a delusional dream of men in agony, but when he sees her for himself, he loses his heart to the beautiful immortal woman.

Maeve tries to put the mortal doctor out of her mind, and wants to erase his memories of her, but she can't resist her own attraction. Then their budding romance is threatened when Maeve is called upon to confront Lisette, the mad vampire queen who rocks the immortal world by causing a war that pits all undead creatures against each other. Before the angels can step in to destroy them, Maeve needs to forge an alliance with the hostile warlocks against their mutual enemy. But she must also protect Calder, whom she fears will be caught in the middle of the battle.

Growing up, my sister and I were fascinated with vampires and were big fans of Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles series. Even in historical romances, we tried to look for ones that had a vampire theme in it. Back then, there was no "paranormal" category in HR and vampires were just like any other characters. Linda Lael Miller's The Black Rose Chronicles features vampire heroes and heroines and I remember loving these books so much. When I started re-reading romances in 2006, it was one of my missions to re-compile our collection of this trilogy. Sadly, I couldn't find a full set anymore and the copies, by then, were very old and not in the best condition.

I'm very glad this series is being republished in digital format. ^_^

What's strange is that Miller doesn't mention this series on her website.

To find out more about Linda Lael Miller and her books, click below:

Head over to Mary @ Buried Under Romance and Ki Pha of Doing Some Reading for their picks for Throwback Thursday.^_^

Fellow historical romance readers are welcome to join us. Enter your link below so we can visit your TBT: HR Edition post for the week! (Then go here to copy the Link code to your blogs.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

ARC Review: Between the Devil and Ian Eversea by Julie Anne Long

Click here to preorder the book on Amazon (Release date: March 25, 2014)
Click here to preorder the paperback at The Book Depository

I had to rewrite this review because I wasn't quite satisfied with what I had written the first time. There was one question that stayed with me when I was reading Julie Anne Long's latest instalment in her Pennyroyal Green series: Who is Tansy Danforth?

It amazes me how well Julie Anne Long has maintained the "freshness" of her series by injecting it with very interesting and very unique characters. Still, with nine stories out and a host of established characters in play, it becomes more and more of a challenge to make sure that each heroine stands out as individuals. Tansy Danforth is the ninth heroine and she's a new addition to Pennyroyal Green.

Who is Tansy Danforth? It is a question that plagues even the minds of the Eversea sisters, Genevieve and Olivia. Tansy acts with perfect timidity and coquettishness and claims to be a wallflower, and the sisters know that it is exactly that: an act. So, why? Why does Tansy instinctively, yet needlessly, flatter and bat her eyelashes and gain the attention of the men around her? In the first few chapters, when her chaperone hands her over to the Duke of Falconridge, her parting words were, "Good Luck Yer Grace." and then we read about the Italian gentleman whom Tansy charmed during the ship voyage. I get the impression that flirting and gaining attention is a compulsion for her. But, why?

... But Tansy could not stop. She was a virtuous of flirtation who'd been denied an opportunity to practice her art for far too long, and the whole episode had acquired the momentum of a driverless carriage rolling downhill.

It was probably a good thing the ship had docked when it did.
- loc 267

I honestly could not peg down her character, so I decided that the only way I could approximate who Tansy was was to compare her to the other women of Pennyroyal Green. The inevitable comparison is between Tansy and Olivia, the last unmarried Eversea female -- and Julie Anne Long has pitted them against each other in this novel. When Tansy is introduced to local society in Sussex, she immediately receives bouquets of flowers -- more flowers, in fact, than Olivia (and both ladies are keeping quiet count of the number). Tansy even receives flowers from Olivia's beau, the very patient Lord Landsdowne -- and, for the first time in a very, very long time, we see a reaction from Olivia. Could she be a bit jealous of the attention Tansy is getting? While they are both beautiful, I much preferred Olivia who has more depth: she is known for her civic works and charity in Sussex. She's a bit of a crusader and it is something that she has devoted her time to -- and was partially the cause of her fight with Lyon Redmond. Tansy, on the other hand, has no occupation -- granted, she only just arrived in Sussex, but I get the impression that, even when she was in New York, she was a social butterfly.

I could go on comparing Tansy to Tommy, Evie, Cynthia, Rosalind, Madeleine, Phoebe, and Violet and the conclusion would be the same: Tansy isn't as accomplished or as rounded or as deep or as complicated as the other Pennyroyal Green heroines -- the only thing that makes Tansy interesting is that she is very, very beautiful -- and this is not a bad thing. It's actually interesting to have Tansy living in the same house as Genevieve, who was considered "the plain, sensible one" and no one thought she merited a second look either, but that was what made Genevieve's story so interesting: hers was a very quiet, very hidden beauty and it took the Duke of Falconridge to discover that and love that about her.

Tansy's situation is different: she is obviously beautiful. My instinct was to dismiss her as a flat character, because that's all I saw in her: her beauty. I knew her outward behaviour was just a facade, and I knew there was some deeper reason to justify her actions. I did like her small acts of kindness and revealed her gentle spirit -- I thought it was endearing how she would place flowers on the long-forgotten graves in the cemetery and how she planted flowers from her home to remind her of her parents. What's amazing about her is that she never calls attention to those aspects of herself. I realised, then, that she is also a woman of substance: Tansy shows us that a heroine doing small good deeds is just as worthy of a story and a happy ending.

In that, I am guilty of objectifying Tansy and I am sorry for it.

I realized I was looking at her from the same perspective as all the people who are welcoming her to Sussex: only seeing her beauty and never trying to see beyond it. It's also because Tansy doesn't bother to show it or to change anyone's perception of her. She knows who she is and what makes her happy: she's content with her small night-time rituals in the privacy of her room. I thought it was odd that Tansy and Ian's rooms were close to each other and they unwittingly witnessed each other's private practices: he stretches the tight muscles from his injury; she rolls and sniffs (and smokes) her late father's brand of cigars.

And it all happens when there are less prying eyes, when the world is stripped off of all fineries and artifices -- when we are not lord or lady, or heiress or captain and not concerned with keeping up appearances -- when we break wind, burp, scratch whatever's itchy and perform our ablutions. It's Tansy at her least attractive -- but, it was that Tansy that Ian became fascinated with and eventually fell in love with.

..."I can't go home looking like I've been ravished."

She slid him a tentatively minx like sidelong look.

He just shook his head slowly.

"Leave it be, Miss Danforth. I like it this way. It makes you as wild and disreputable as you truly are."

"At least you like something about me."
- loc 2935

So, why Tansy for Ian? Ian's been to war and back, has been in and out of ladies' bedrooms and lives and he's about to see the world as a newly-appointed captain of the East India Company. The only thing they have in common is that they are both so teeth-achingly attractive and it is easy for them to get anyone -- anyone -- they want simply because they can. When Tansy arrives, everyone is wary because Ian is also in the vicinity. They never mention his name and try their best to steer them away from each other. When their meeting becomes inevitable, the Duke of Falconridge intercepts Ian and warns him away from Tansy. Was it necessary? I didn't think so, because, when Ian first sees Tansy, he didn't like what he saw: another debutante who was all-too aware of her beauty and appeal to people. And Ian actually wasn't interested in her at all -- in fact, Ian is initially annoyed by Tansy and her act. But, being a man constantly defined as "trouble" by everyone around him, Ian inwardly knows that there needs to be more to Tansy than what she presents.

...Why in God's name would Miss Danforth give him a bloody book? And blush scarlet while doing it? In all likelihood for the same reasons Landsdowne had given her one. Perhaps she had a cat's talent for crawling into the lap of the one person who could scarcely tolerate it. Miss Danforth was likely the sort who couldn't rest until everyone worshipped her. It was wearisome and irritating, yet admittedly faintly amusing.

All in all, however, the very notion of her made him tired. The girl wasn't quite who she wanted everyone to think she was, and that troubled him.
- loc 2015 to 2026

Admittedly, Tansy was also taken with Ian's good looks but, when Ian started to rebuff and dismiss Tansy, she set her sights elsewhere -- but there was something else about Ian that called to Tansy and, when she found it, she knew there wouldn't be any other man for her except Ian.

Why "Between the Devil and Ian Eversea?" It is clear that Julie Anne Long is borrowing the idiom "between the devil and the deep blue sea" and implies that Ian is faced with a dilemma. Was the dilemma caused by the Duke of Falconridge's warning? Or is the dilemma between Ian's plans to see the world and Tansy?

I can understand Ian's reluctance to go against the Duke's warning. For one, the Duke is married to his sister, Genevieve. And, there is also the matter of Ian dallying with the Duke's former fiancee (What I Did for a Duke). He needs to maintain harmony for the sake of his sister's happiness -- and it becomes a bit sad when it becomes clear that his own happiness might possibly lead to a falling out with the Duke.

I also get the sense that Ian is tired of bouncing back and forth between London and Sussex, trying to avoid people who are trying to pin him down into matrimony and the position with the East India company would afford him with the chance to escape that. But Tansy offers him a glimpse at a different future -- a future with her. Can she really settle the restlessness in his soul? Can he be satisfied staying in one place ... with her?

He did want her.

But that was neither here nor there. And while he normally got what he wanted when it came to women, he was sensible enough to know that the danger here wasn't in the getting of the women but in the woman herself.
- loc 3180

This story is about finding the hidden beauty of the beautiful -- there is always more to every person, and it takes that special person to discover it. Beyond Ian and Tansy's story, I liked that the author also pointed the spotlight at Olivia (and Lyon in absentia) and Lord Landsdowne. It's great that Olivia's story intertwines a bit with Tansy's story and the contrast in their love stories really shed more light on Olivia's tragic history. (I've said it in previous reviews for the Pennyroyal Green series, but I am really, really excited to read Lyon and Olivia's love story.)

Between the Devil and Ian Eversea is book 9 in Julie Anne Long's Pennyroyal Green series. It will be released on March 25, 2014. To find out more about Julie Anne Long, click below:

Disclosure: I received this ARC through Edelweiss. Thank you to Julie Anne Long and to Avon for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Blog Tour: Captured by the Pirate Laird by Amy Jarecki (Spotlight + Giveaway)

Love Saves the World welcomes Amy Jarecki and her book, Captured by the Pirate Laird!

For this tour, Amy is giving away a ton of cool stuff:
10 eBook copies Captured by the Pirate Laird by Amy Jarecki
2 signed print copies of Captured by the Pirate Laird by Amy Jarecki open to US Shipping
4 SWAG packets each including a $5 Amazon gift card open to US Shipping

(Join via Rafflecopter below.)

* * *

About the book:

Captured by the Pirate Laird by Amy Jarecki
Highland Force: Book One
Genre: Scottish Historical Romance
Date of Publication: 2/17/14
Number of pages: 342
Word Count: 96,600
Cover Artist: Kim Killion


Wed by proxy to a baron old enough to be her grandfather, Lady Anne trudges up the gangway of a galleon that will deliver her into the arms of a tyrant. Crestfallen, she believes her disastrous life cannot get worse -- until she awakes to the blasts of cannon fire.

Facing certain death, Anne trembles in her stateroom while swords clash and the chilling screams of battle rage on the deck above. When a rugged Highlander kicks in her door, she prays for a swift end.

But Laird Calum MacLeod has a reason for plundering the ship -- and it’s not a stunning English lass. With no other choice, he takes Anne to his crumbling keep on the isle of Raasay and sends a letter of ransom to her husband. In time, Anne grows to understand MacLeod’s plight and finds it increasingly difficult to resist Calum’s unsettling charm -- until the baron sends a reply agreeing to terms.

Ripped from passion that will be forever seared into their souls, will Anne and Calum risk everything for love?


She turned and caught him staring. He bowed and his heart melted when she smiled—a smile with dimples that could light up the horizon. He half expected Anne to turn up her pert little nose and head the other way.

Before he could persuade himself otherwise, Calum pattered down the steps and stood beside her. She watched the sunset and her warmth pulled him close like a magnet.

“’Tis beautiful,” she said when the sky shone with orange and pink, highlighted against the strips of clouds that sailed toward the ship.

He inhaled. Her scent ever so feminine, Calum inclined his head to capture more of it. “Aye, milady.”

She placed her hand on the rail. Again his reflexes took over and he rested his palm atop it. Calum expected her to snatch it away, but she did not. Her fingers were cold and he held his much warmer hand there as a comfort. They stood in silence as the sun glowed orange-red on the horizon. He wanted to stand there forever—touching her. Barely breathing, he watched the sun disappear and held his hand still, unwilling to move it.

The sun was replaced by darkness. Lady Anne slipped her hand out from under his and the dark of the evening took up residence inside him. She was not his to lust after. “May I walk you to your stateroom?”

“Yes.” Her voice sounded husky. Had she felt the connection too? Of course not.

Calum offered his arm and that same small, cold hand grasped it. “We’ll arrive at Raasay in the morning.”

“Our destination?”


“Bran told me.”

Secrets were impossible to keep on a ship. “I will send a letter of ransom to yer husband upon our arrival.” He didn’t like how that sounded—ye are my prisoner until Lord Wharton pays for your release. But that’s how it had to be. If he sailed up the mouth of the River Aln, he would incite yet another war between Scotland and England—and this time his countrymen might side with the enemy.

When they stepped into the corridor, warm air relaxed the tension in his shoulders.

Anne stopped outside her cabin door, breasts straining against her bodice with every breath. “I’ve never met him.”

Calum forced himself to concentrate on her face. “Who?”

“Lord Wharton.”

“What? How?”

“We were wed by proxy. My uncle made the arrangements.”

Ah Jesus. Calum understood the way of highborn marriages, arranged for the trade of lands and riches. “Ye ken he’s old enough to be your father?”

“He’s three times my age plus one year to be exact. His children are older than I.”

A hundred questions flooded his mind. “Why?” he clipped with shocked disbelief.

Anne nodded as if fully understanding his monosyllabic inquiry. “I’m told the Baron fancied me from across Westminster Abbey during the Queen’s coronation.”

“No.” She doesn’t even know the bastard. That’s why she wears no ring.

“Yes. My uncle said he kissed my hand, yet so many lords greeted me on that trip to London, I’m at a loss to place him.”

The despair in her lovely eyes twisted around his heart. “Mayhap ye will remember if we playact it.” With a halfcocked grin, Calum reached for her hand. His mouth went dry when her silken skin met the rough pads of his fingertips. Though a grown woman, her fingers were fine and delicate.

When she didn’t pull away, he moistened his lips and bowed. Hovering above her hand, the soft scent of honeysuckle mixed with her—the unmistakable scent of woman now more captivating than it had been on the deck—ignited his insides as if she stood naked before him. Closing his eyes, he touched his lips to the back of her hand and kissed. Anne’s sharp inhale made his skin shiver with gooseflesh. She did not try to pull away but remained so still, her pulse beat a fierce rhythm beneath.

Calum held his lips there longer than necessary. He wanted this moment to linger. He wanted a memory he could cherish long after she was gone. His eyes locked with hers as he straightened. Her lips parted slightly, almost as if asking him to kiss her mouth, but he knew she wouldn’t want that.

He stood for a moment not saying a word. She did too.

“Any recollection?” His voice rasped.

“No.” Her voice low, she then blinked as if snapping back to the present. “You mustn’t ever do that again.”

“Apologies, milady.” Grinning, he opened her door and bowed, though he did not regret her lack of recall.

Anne stepped into her stateroom. Calum could not pull his gaze away until the door closed and blocked the bewilderment reflected in her sapphire eyes. Calum waited a moment and stared at the hardwood door—the same one he had kicked in five nights ago. What the hell was he doing?

He ground his teeth and headed back to the quarterdeck. He needed to get the lady out of his life. She was not his to care for. Worst of all, she had wed the enemy.

* * *

Buy the book at Amazon

* * *

About the author:

Amy has won multiple writing awards and lives in Utah with her husband, Bob. She writes contemporary romance and Scottish historical romance. For fun, she hikes, bikes and plays a mean game of golf. Born in California, Amy holds an MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Web site:
Twitter: @amyjarecki

* * *

Amy is giving away a ton of cool stuff:
10 eBook copies Captured by the Pirate Laird by Amy Jarecki
2 signed print copies of Captured by the Pirate Laird by Amy Jarecki open to US Shipping
4 SWAG packets each including a $5 Amazon gift card open to US Shipping

(Join via Rafflecopter below.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review: The Last Wicked Scoundrel by Lorraine Heath (e-novella)

Click here to get your copy on Amazon

The title says it all: this is the story of the last remaining Scoundrel of St. James. Dr. Michael Graves rose from the gutters to become one of the Queen's most trusted physicians. He has devoted his life to the practice of medicine and to seeing to the welfare of all his patients. His methods are revolutionary, but, in one such case, William crossed the line and, instead of protecting life, he was complicit in the taking of one.

The first time William met Winifred Buckland, the Duchess of Avendale, he believed she would die from the terrible beating from her husband. William cared for her and saved her life, but he knew Winnie might not be so fortunate during the next beating. so he and the rest of the Scoundrels plotted to get rid of the Duke of Avendale ... and succeeded. They have all carried the burden of their actions since then.

It is a small sacrifice for William to make, for the sake of Winnie -- and, for three years, he has watched her blossom and become a formidable woman -- and he has loved her all this while.

Winnie believes her husband died in a fire at the Earl of Claybourne's estate, but, even after three years, she hasn't fully recovered from her ordeal. So, when mysterious things start to happen: when rings buried with the dead suddenly find themselves reappearing; when the smell of caraway seeds seem to pervade her inner sanctum, Winnie believes she is losing her mind and turns to Dr. Graves once more.

I don't think there was any doubt that William would eventually find his own true love and the greater question was: who would be a good match for the doctor, whose background and story is full of pain, rejection, abuse and suffering. Winnie fits William's life because she has experienced hell and lived to tell her story. Three years, they became close friends -- but they secretly loved each other from afar. Honor demanded that William keep his distance: she was a duchess and he was her doctor. There were rules in their world about such social transgressions. Add to that, William's secret about his role in the Duke of Avendale's "death" --

Dancing with Winifred Buckland, Duchess of Avendale, served as his favourite moment of the year. Even though the activity was pure torment.
- Chapter 1

While we expect our heroes and heroines to suffer (just a little bit) for the sake of love, we also expect them to be rewarded for their courage and sacrifice -- it is a matter of finding the key to unlocking the prize. In William and Winnie'a case, the past proves to be the key to unlocking their future. What I loved about Heath's novella is that it shows Winnie taking control of her current life. While she was too young and too naive to defend herself before, she is a much stronger person now and believes she can face her own demons and vanquish them herself, without the help of William or anyone else.

I'm just a little, little bit disappointed because I've waited 3 years (I read the series almost 3 summers ago) and Michael was such an enigmatic, but constant figure in the previous stories. There's very little development in terms of character or relationship since William and Winnie were already in love with each other to begin with and all we see is how they would overcome the last hurdle (the ghosts of the past) and finally be together. In some sense, Dr. Graves's story serves as an epilogue for the Scoundrel of St. James series: a tying up of loose ends and such. And, in this novella, we say hello and goodbye to the characters that started it all: Catherine, Lucian, James, Jack and William -- which is why I will forgive the hastiness of the resolution (considering how long and thorough the set-up of the conflict is).

My favourite line of dialogue in this novella: "Come on, Winnie. It's dark out, Lovely things happen in the dark." - Chapter 4

The Last Wicked Scoundrel is book 4.5 of Lorraine Heath's The Scoundrels of St. James series. To find out more about Lorraine Heath and her books, click below:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Historical Romance Edition #21

Thank you to Shabby Blogs ( for the free frame!

Happy Thursday, everyone! And welcome to a new feature on Buried Under Romance and Love Saves the World.

What is Throwback Thursday?
Traditionally, Throwback Thursday celebrates nostalgia, asking participants to post a personal photo or an image from their past -- usually from 5 to 10 years ago. There are a lot of book blogs that also do a book-related Throwback Thursday.

The Historical Romance Edition:
Since Mary of Buried Under Romance and I are unapologetic lovers of historical romances, we've decided to focus on our beloved genre.

Here are our rules:
1. It must be posted on a Thursday.
2. It must be a historical romance novel published before October 3, 2008.

By Possession by Madeline Hunter, published 2000


A Common Lady
For years she had thought he was dead. Yet when Addis de Valence strode into Moira Falkner's cottage, there was no mistaking the sharp planes of his face, and the scar she herself had helped to heal. The young squire who had once been her hero was now her lord, a hardened man who returned to claim the son she had raised as her own. But Moira couldn't deny that Addis roused a passion she never thought to feel-- and a perilous hope for a future that could never be ...

An Uncommon Love
Addis returned from the Crusades to find his lands usurped by his stepbrother, and his country on the brink of rebellion. Determined to reclaim his birthright, Addis could not afford to be distracted by a woman -- even one as tempting as Moira. Yet the only living part of his contented past lay in Moira -- and his desire for her was more dangerous than his deadly battles with the king's men. By law, Moira belonged to him ... but possessing her heart might be far more difficult.

I loved, loved, loved Madeline Hunter's The Rarest Blooms series and have read a few of the books in her backlist. She's written about the medieval times and about Regency and on a great range of topics from four ladies and a flower business, to her current one about an auction house. She is currently completing her Fairbourne Quartet (I've read the first book and have the second book in my TBR pile.)

To find out more about Madeline Hunter and her books, click below:

Head over to Mary @ Buried Under Romance and Ki Pha of Doing Some Reading for their picks for Throwback Thursday.^_^

Fellow historical romance readers are welcome to join us. Enter your link below so we can visit your TBT: HR Edition post for the week! (Then go here to copy the Link code to your blogs.)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

ARC Review: The Fall of a Saint by Christine Merrill

Click here to pre-order the book on Amazon (Release: March 1, 2014)

There is a certain irony to Michael Poole's life: he has devoted himself to goodness and to being the exact opposite of his parents, but an illness and the poor choices he makes soon after finds him in the exact situation his parents were in. Trapped in a loveless marriage to a spouse who has devoted her life to making his life miserable. But Michael cannot blame Madeline for her hatred of him. He had taken advantage of her, and, to make matters worse, he was too drunk to remember it.

Because of Michael's mistake, Madeline lost her position as governess, as well as her professional reputation, and now finds herself pregnant with Michael's child. When she decided to seek him out, she was only expecting some monetary restitution, but Michael offers her marriage instead.

Mixed blessing. Joyful sadness. Cruel kindness. This is a novel of contradictory and complicated emotions and ideas. For Michael Poole, nothing is ever simple or free anymore. He has to live with the consequences of the terrible choices that he made after he had recovered from mumps. Even his recovery was not without any side effects: he was told that he might not ever father a child. To have Maddie at his doorstep, announcing that she is pregnant with his child is a source of great happiness for Michael -- but it is also the source of his greatest sadness. Because what he did to Maddie was a big mistake -- an unforgivable mistake -- and he is willing to sacrifice himself and his happiness, and devote his entire life to making her comfortable and giving their child everything in his power to give.

I first met Michael in Samuel and Evie's story, and I was in awe of this man who epitomised what it means to be a gentleman. When his near-perfect life takes an unexpected turn and he contracts mumps as an adult, and then gets jilted by his fiancee (Evie), I saw it as a test of Michael's character: would he rise above the setbacks he is experiencing? Sadly, Michael failed the test miserably, and he falls from saintly heights to become ... human.

His story begins from this, the lowest depths Michael has ever been and he is determined to make right of the situation. It does not help that Maddie is reluctant to accept Michael's help or to trust Michael's intentions. From the minute she accepted Michael's proposal, Maddie knew she would make things very difficult and very unpleasant for him. She was really determined to make him pay for what happened to her. But Michael was already sorry, and Maddie didn't see this.

He hid the flinch. With the evil smile she wore, he could imagine what she wished them to say. She wanted choruses of high-pitched voices accusing him of actions he could not defend. And doing it in front of what seemed to be half of London.
- loc 462

I wished Maddie had known Michael before his illness, and seen how wonderful he was. I wondered how differently their love story would have turned out if they had met under different circumstances -- I think they would have been really happy. But that is not Michael and Maddie's story, for they would never had met on that life: Michael is a duke and Maddie was a governess, with a less-than impeccable background.

This is their story. And the problem is, Maddie didn't know Michael before. She only knows of the drunken Michael who came to her room and took advantage of her in her sleep. She lost her independence, her job, her reputation -- her life as she knew it. And, more importantly, she lost confidence in herself. She began to doubt her own actions that night. Was she willing? Did she innately know it wasn't just a dream of her former lover? Her anger towards Michael is partly a reflection of her anger towards herself, and it's a terrible place to be in, which is why I understand why she can't help but lash out at Michael. But, instead of getting satisfaction or healing, her actions make the wounds fester and deepen even more, and she isn't any happier now with the choices that she is making.

Michael is resigned to his current life, which is very familiar to him: his parents led a similar one and were happy in each other's unhappiness. It is an apt superimposition of lives: that he and Maddie would decamp from London to Aldricshire, the seat of the Dukes of St. Aldric, and a place full of unhappy memories for Michael. The house is a story in itself -- with its labyrinthine rooms and separate wings for the duke and duchess. It was the story of his parents' lives and now it is the story of his life. Would he and Maddie turn out like his parents? Would his own child experience the same isolation and alienation that he felt as a child? Michael wishes he could change things, but he needs a willing partner if he is to succeed. He understands Maddie's enmity, because he knows he deserves it.

It had given him a sort of sick pleasure to see Madeline stunned to silence by the opulence of her surroundings. But in this house, what other kind of pleasure could there ever be but an unhealthy one> With her trunks full of satins, and her horrible screeching birds and sad wastes of horseflesh, she had thought it possible that he could be shamed, or shocked, or even annoyed. What a silly little girl she was.

It was a pity she had not met his mother. The woman had been a master at that game even before little Madeline was born.
- loc 1081

I flinched reading about Maddie's anger and cringed at Michael's dispassion and disinterest -- and I wondered how Merrill will solve this quandary her characters find themselves in. We've read so many stories about marriages of (in)convenience, but Merrill really pushes the ticket by showing us just how inconvenient and terrible it is to marry someone who isn't completely willing. Merrill also shows us the gradual process that characters go through to make things work. In the end, the question we ask is, is love possible in such a circumstance? Can we gain redemption if we seek it out?

This was an engaging and riveting read, full of all the things that makes us human: pride, fallibility, error, etc. We see the struggle of two people, caught in a difficult situation, and how they move forward. The theme of recovery is evident in this story and it is the goal the Michael and Maddie are both working towards -- but using very different approaches. They want to return to their normal selves, but I wonder if that is ever possible. Every experience changes us and there is no looking back, only forward. It's a lesson everyone must learn some time in their lives and so do Michael and Maddie.

Christine Merrill wraps up this story in a heart-wrenching way and, in the end, we find out whether a saint can rise after he has fallen.

The Fall of a Saint is the second part of Christine Merrill's The Sinner and the Saint series. It will be released on March 1, 2014. To find out more about Christine Merrill, click below:

Disclosure: I received this ARC via Netgalley. Thank you to Christine Merrill and Harlequin for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: The Rogue Returns by Leigh LaValle (+ Free novella offer!)

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

The last we saw Roane Grantham, he had willingly surrendered to the Earl of Radford (his own brother in-law) and was on his way to the penal colonies in Australia. Roane is back and ready to start over, but, first, he must locate the stash of gold that he and his friend, James Gladstone, buried many years before. He isn't the first person searching for the treasure: when he arrives at the location, he finds a young woman with a hundred holes dug up around her already.

When her brother was alive, Helen never gave a second thought to his story of buried treasure, but desperate times call for desperate measures and she is desperate enough not only to believe the story, but also desperate enough to go digging for it. With her brother's death, and her second brother's own dissipation, it falls unto Helen to come up with a solution to their financial problems.

When I found out this was another journey story, I was a bit worried. I'm not fond of the trope because of all the traveling and stopping at inns and such, but, Leigh LaValle's The Rogue Returns has opened my heart up a little bit. The story begins with the hero and heroine finding the X and the treasure chest -- but the treasure isn't there! Helen's brother (and Roane's friend) moved sixteen thousand pounds-worth of gold without them knowing it, and all he left behind was a cryptic poem telling where he buried it.

I loved the poem that LaValle wrote and thought it foreshadowed the relationship that would result from Helen and Roane searching for the treasure together. Did James intend for his sister and Roane to go off on an adventure and find the treasure together? I know it is not possible because of Roane's incarceration, but the romantic in me likes to think that the treasure is both literal (sixteen thousand pounds in gold) and figurative (love!).

For that, there's this, a game to end and begin
You, a new start, me, a laugh, and all of us a sin.
You will find the end of your rainbow, that I do swear
And mine as well, for my kin, but I will not say where.

- loc 379

Character growth is very clear in this story, especially in Helen's case. She started out as a bit of a spoiled London lady, cringing at the idea of sleeping in a cave or riding wearing inappropriate attire. But Helen is not a one-note character: from the very first chapter, we see that this is a lady who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. She single-handedly found the treasure site and had been digging, albeit unsuccessfully, for the treasure. It's so easy to hate her and her behaviour in the early part of the book gives us a reason to: when she starts complaining about her lack of dresses and her insistence on keeping her reticule -- but I feel sorry for her instead.

It's a heartbreaking side to Helen's character and story, because she's clearly used to more comfortable circumstances but she has fallen from her stellar position and is reduced to following her brother's tale about treasure and hoping, hoping that it would be true. It is not her job to save the family, but, if she doesn't, then who will?

"And who shall keep me safe in Cromford? The servants who abandoned me for fear they'd never be paid? Or shall I return to London, and the ruffians stalking my front door? Oh no," she held up her hand, "of course, my brother Harry shall keep me safe. Harry, who looks for every answer in a bottle. Indeed, it has been some time since I have been safe. I think I shall take my chances and protect my half of the gold."
- loc 214

Roane is an unusual hero. We've read about convicts being shipped off to Australia and we never hear about them again, but Roane has returned to England -- scarred and changed. His body contains the story of the past three years -- the hard labor and difficult circumstances that he was in while serving time. He's brooding and mysterious, but Roane is innately kind and it shows in how he deals with Helen. There's also a bit of reflection in having an ex-convict be the hero of the story. In Roane's case, he was not wrongfully-accused and innocent all along. He truly did the crime he was convicted of and actually voluntarily surrendered himself for his sister's sake. What I like about Roane is that his change was not a result of falling in love with Helen -- he had made the choice to live his life differently even before he met her, and this was the reason why he has returned to England and is seeking out the treasure. He needs the money to start his new life.

LaValle planned, wrote and paced this story so well. I actually lost track of time reading about Roane and Helen and enjoyed their interaction. I was worried when they were getting closer and closer to finding the treasure, because I didn't want their journey to end! They were learning so much of each other and of themselves and I wondered how they would be when they find the treasure and returned to their normal lives.

Their parting was inevitable. They were from different worlds, had different futures ahead of them. He wanted to build a life for himself in the hills, to breed and train horses and ride carefree across the sunlit meadows.
- loc 3050

When I finished reading this, I really wanted to read more of Leigh LaValle, so I downloaded The Misbehaving Marquess and will be reading it soon!

My one small, small complaint? Pallet is the small bed. Palate is what's inside your mouth. ^_^

To find out more about Leigh LaValle, click below:

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the author. Yes, this is an honest review.

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Free e-novella!

Leigh LaValle's The Misbehaving Marquess is book 1.5 in the Naughty in Nottinghamshire series and is FREE!

Click here to get this on Amazon

Throwback Thursday: Historical Romance Edition #20

Thank you to Shabby Blogs ( for the free frame!

Happy Thursday, everyone! And welcome to a new feature on Buried Under Romance and Love Saves the World.

What is Throwback Thursday?
Traditionally, Throwback Thursday celebrates nostalgia, asking participants to post a personal photo or an image from their past -- usually from 5 to 10 years ago. There are a lot of book blogs that also do a book-related Throwback Thursday.

The Historical Romance Edition:
Since Mary of Buried Under Romance and I are unapologetic lovers of historical romances, we've decided to focus on our beloved genre.

Here are our rules:
1. It must be posted on a Thursday.
2. It must be a historical romance novel published before October 3, 2008.

The Inconvenient Duchess by Christine Merrill, published October 2006


Dear Cici and Father,
I have come to Devon and married a duke. And I'm more tired and hungry than I have ever been in my life. Please let me come home.

Compromised and wedded on the same day, Lady Miranda was fast finding married life not to her taste. A decaying manor and a secretive husband were hardly the stuff of girlish dreams. Yet every time she looked at dark, brooding Marcus Radwell, Duke of Haughleigh, she felt inexplicably compelled -- and determined -- to make their marriage real!

I've written about how I came to discover Christine Merrill when I reviewed this book in September. Bottom line is that I really loved this book and came to fall in love with Merrill's writing. I plan to work my way through Merrill's backlist this year and I'm also following her The Saint and the Sinner series.

To find out more about Christine Merrill and her books, click below:

Head over to Mary @ Buried Under Romance and Ki Pha of Doing Some Reading for their picks for Throwback Thursday.^_^

Fellow historical romance readers are welcome to join us. Enter your link below so we can visit your TBT: HR Edition post for the week! (Then go here to copy the Link code to your blogs.)

Monday, February 10, 2014

An Exclusive Interview with Sherry Thomas + Giveaway #favoriteauthorfeature

I contacted Sherry Thomas last year when I was working on my Thanksgiving Author Feature series and was so, so, so incredibly happy when she replied. At that time, she was working towards a deadline and asked if she could send her answers in January. I've had this sitting in my inbox for a while and I've been waiting for a special time to finally put up the feature.

Valentine's Day is on Friday, so, here we go!

It is not a secret how much I love Sherry Thomas's works and that I am a big, big fan of hers. I've read all of her books and have loved all of them. She's an author that's firmly on my auto-buy list. I can't really enumerate the reasons why I love her works so much -- I just do, and I will probably spend the rest of my days reading her stories and still trying to figure out why she is so amazing (because she is).

I am thrilled beyond words to have this Q&A with Sherry Thomas on my blog today.

LStW:  I remember reading your debut novel, Private Arrangements, and being moved by your voice, story and characters. Do you still remember the moment when you decided to start writing? (And what inspired you to write Private Arrangements?)
Sherry Thomas: LOL, yes, I will always remember the moment when I decided to start writing. It had to do with a historical romance by an old favorite author that failed to deliver. Normally I would just set the book aside and move on. But I was at a rather extraordinary period in my life as a fairly new and largely inept stay-at-home mom. My organizational skills were nil, which meant my free time also hovered around nil, and I was irate that this book took an hour of my free time and gave me nothing in return.

That was when the arrogance of youth kicked in. That evening, when my husband came home, I told him that I was going to write romances and make some money doing it—I figured I couldn’t do worse than the wallbanger that had inspired this dramatic idea. Given that I’d never written so much as a short story in my life, taken any creative writing classes, or even displayed any inclination whatsoever toward creative endeavors, the spouse did an admirable job not telling me that I was talking out of my rear end.

You heard it right, folks: I started writing because I was an idiot who didn’t know any better.

The first draft of what would later become Private Arrangements was the first thing I started working on, if not the immediate next day, then pretty soon thereafter. And my idea was, I’d read lots of romances where the hero wrongly believed the heroine to have done something terrible. And I wanted to write a twist to that. I wanted the dude to be right when he came to the conclusion that the heroine had done something pretty darn underhanded and I wanted the conflict and mistrust that flowed from that original mistake to be the reason they couldn’t be together.

Nothing gets my creative juices gushing like when my characters become the authors of their own woes. ☺

LStW:  Your novels often have flashback scenes. It features very prominently in Ravishing the Heiress (which I loved). What is the attraction of using this literary device?
Sherry: I really haven’t found anything that does as beautiful a job in layering the characters as being able to see them at very different points in their lives. To see how harden men and women used to be so open and trusting, or how a relationship that has become brittle and embittered was once tender and full of hope. Or, in the case of Ravishing the Heiress, how an enduring friendship that eventually took wings came from the most heartbreaking and inauspicious of beginnings. The insight is truly invaluable.

LStW:  What was it like to write the very erotic The Bride of Larkspear? (Did you always intend to publish this when you started plotting/planning your Fitzhugh Family series?)
Sherry: Not at all. The erotic novella that Hastings wrote came as a totally surprise to me.

When I started working the Fitzhugh Trilogy, my agent advised me to have the books be tightly connected, which meant having the thread of the third story start in the first book itself. Since I wasn’t really concentrating on Helena and Hastings’ story at that point, whatever I wrote was complete garbage.

By the time I finally had a more clear idea who Helena and Hastings were, I had to go back and rip out everything I had already written about them, and put new stuff in. And I don’t like needless repetition. Since Hastings had already come up to Helena and antagonized her a couple of times, I wanted a new element to their interaction.

Essentially, he opened his mouth and to my astonishment and delight, told her that he had written a book of erotica and was looking for a publisher. And once I realized that I was going to use snippets of the erotic novella throughout the rest of the series, I decided to actually write the whole thing.

And I have to say, I enjoyed the heck out of it. At that point I’d written three historical romance plus a historical romance novella in a row and I thought my well was completely dry. But The Bride of Larkspear was just different enough to be both fun and replenishing.

LStW:  (This question is from my book buddy and fellow Sherry Thomas fan, Mary @ Buried Under Romance) How do you, as a writer, determine the personalities of your hero and heroine? (i.e. do you want them to complement each other, be opposing, etc?)
Sherry: I want them to be perfect for each other. Pretty ambitious statement, eh? And this from someone who doesn’t believe in soulmates.

But I do believe that two people can become perfect for each other, like Fitz and Millie did in Ravishing the Heiress.

When I don’t have a story with that much time for me to play with, then I basically make sure that the hero and heroine share something important, whether it’s a personality trait (in His at Night, both Vere and Elissande are always pretending to be someone else) or a similar interest (astronomy for Felix and Louisa from The Luckiest Lady in London, for example). And then I make sure they love each other as they are, flaws and warts included, rather than who they wish they other person could be.

LStW:  You've written Historical Romance, Erotic Historical Romance and YA Fantasy, are there any other genres you would like to try writing?
Sherry: I have been tinkering with this contemporary romance for years -- it’s my escape from contractual writing. I would also like to write wuxia-martial arts epics -- which thus far has been a genre of literature more or less specific to the Chinese market. It would be all kinds of impossible to sell, even as a self-publisher. But at heart I remain an idiot who doesn’t know any better, so I am going to have go at it. ☺

LStW:  What's next for Sherry Thomas in 2014?
Sherry: I have just finished copyedits for The Perilous Sea, sequel to The Burning Sky, my YA fantasy, and that is due to come out in September of 2014.

I also have a historical romance coming out in August called My Beautiful Enemy. And it has a heroine who is a martial arts expert. (This is not the ancient China wuxia projects I aim to tackle in the future, but a book that largely takes place in England, and maybe by the skin of its teeth fits inside the constraints of the historical romance genre.)

And most likely I will self-publish a prequel to that. Because while My Beautiful Enemy will work as a standalone romance, the backstory is humongous, so much so that I can’t even shoehorn it in via flashbacks. So a separate book it will be.

That’s my 2014. I will be on deadline all year. ☺

* * *

Felix Rivendale, the Marquess of Wrenworth, is The Ideal Gentleman, a man all men want to be and all women want to possess. Even Felix himself almost believes this golden image. But underneath is a damaged soul soothed only by public adulation.

Louisa Cantwell needs to marry well to support her sisters. She does not, however, want Lord Wrenworth—though he seems inexplicably interested in her. She mistrusts his outward perfection, and the praise he garners everywhere he goes. Still, when he is the only man to propose at the end of the London season, she reluctantly accepts.

Louisa does not understand her husband’s mysterious purposes, but she cannot deny the pleasure her body takes in his touch. Nor can she deny the pull this magnetic man exerts upon her. But does she dare to fall in love with a man so full of dark secrets, any one of which could devastate her, if she were to get any closer?

* * *

Sherry Thomas is one of the most acclaimed historical romance authors writing today, winning the RITA Award two years running, and appearing on innumerable "Best of the Year" lists, including those of Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Dear Author, and All About Romance. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and sons.

* * *

I'm hosting a giveaway for The Luckiest Lady in London (paperback or ebook), which is Sherry Thomas's newest release.

*This giveaway is via Rafflecopter and is open to International Readers.
*This giveaway will run until February 17.
*One entry per household per IP.
*One winner will win a copy of The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas (paperback via The Book Depository or ebook via Amazon Kindle).

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Sunday, February 9, 2014

Free and discounted historical romance novels: February 9

It's February and romance is in the air!

Here are some great deals that I've found:

First, Mills & Boon is offering a one-time treat for Valentine's via Kobo -- get a free book from this list with code CUPID2014.

And, here are some great buys from Amazon:

Lisa Bingham is another author who is bringing her paperback releases to digital format. Silken Dreams was originally published in 1991!

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I'm a big fan of Vane's The Devil DeVere series and it's the first time she has offered this book for free.

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I've read The Runaway Countess and The Rogue Returns (review coming this week!), and both books are very good. This is the e-novella that bridges the two books.

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I've read and enjoyed Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush. Her stories are very linear but I love Bush's voice and sensibility and I always walk away satisfied after reading her.

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I think this is a pretty good deal for a LoveSwept book. Read my review of Loving the Earl here.

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Another great deal from LoveSwept. I have a copy of this book and plan to read it soon!

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This is book 1 of Sandy Raven's The Caversham Chronicles series.



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