Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Blog Tour: Two Dukes and a Scandal (Excerpt + Giveaway)

Welcome to this mega blog tour by three very wonderful authors, who all have a book released on April 29, 2014.

It Takes a Scandal by Caroline Linden
How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Laura Lee Guhrke
Redemption of the Duke by Gayle Callen

Avon is hosting a TOUR WIDE Rafflecopter Commenter Giveaway of Three Prize Packs including a piece of Custom Jewelry and Print Copies of Romances from each author. Click here to follow the rest of the tour.

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About the books:


The second book in a deliciously sexy new series from USA Today bestselling and RITA award winning author Caroline Linden, in which an utterly shocking book -- Fifty Shades of Grey for the Regency era -- has all of London talking and gives more than one young miss a mind for scandal.

Sometimes it takes a scandal ...

Abigail Weston has everything: beauty, wit, and one of the largest dowries in England. Her parents hope she’ll wed an earl. Abigail hopes for a man who wants her desperately and passionately. But the money seems to blind every man she meets -- except one.

Sebastian Vane has nothing. He came home from war with a shattered leg to find his father mad and his inheritance gone. He’s not a fit suitor for anyone, let alone an heiress. But Abigail lights up his world like a comet, bright and beautiful and able to see him instead of his ruined reputation. And it might end happily ever after ...

To reveal your heart’s desire

Until Benedict Lennox begins courting Abigail. Ben is everything Sebastian isn’t -- wealthy, charming, heir to an earl. Sebastian won’t give up the only girl he’s ever loved without a fight, but Abigail must choose between the penniless gentleman who moves her heart, and the suitor who is everything her parents want.

A recluse. Why? He might have fallen on hard times, but his house was gracious and beautiful, a handsome brick mansion. One could easily see it, for it sat on the ridge of the hill that rose beyond Hart House. And he was handsome enough -- even without counting his reserve—that most girls would overlook a limp, if they noticed it at all. When he used the cane it was almost imperceptible. Even more, Abigail didn’t sense he wanted to be a recluse. He could have held back when she was chasing Milo and avoided her entirely; she hadn’t noticed him at all until he spoke to her. He hadn’t needed to walk her back to the house. He hadn’t needed to give her that long, appraising look at the end, as though he was drinking in every facet of her appearance ...

Well. If balls were good for anything, they were good for gossip. Surely a man as mysterious as Sebastian Vane would have inspired some whispers. She pinned one last sprig of loose jasmine into her hair and went down the stairs, determined to find out.

Buy Links:


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From USA Today bestselling author Laura Lee Guhrke comes the story of a bargain, a marriage of convenience ... and the chance for love to last a lifetime

They had a deal ...

From the moment she met the devil-may-care Duke of Margrave, Edie knew he could change her life. And when he agreed to her outrageous proposal of a marriage of convenience, she was transformed from ruined American heiress to English duchess. Five years later, she’s delighted with their arrangement, especially since her husband is living on another continent.

But deals are made to be broken ...

By marrying an heiress, Stuart was able to pay his family’s enormous debts, and Edie’s terms that he leave England forever seemed a small price to pay. But when a brush with death impels him home, he decides it’s time for a real marriage with his luscious American bride, and he proposes a bold new bargain: ten days to win her willing kiss. But is ten days enough to win her heart?

As he spoke, Edie realized that it wasn’t just about missing Joanna or her need to watch over her sister that lay at the heart of her reluctance to send her away. It was also the idea of being alone here at Highclyffe that had always made it so hard. Joanna’s absence would have brought home to her the loneliness of her life. The loneliness of being an independent woman who ran charities and built gardens to keep herself busy, who knew that unless she constantly entertained guests, she would have to eat her meals in the ducal dining room alone and picnic at the Wash by herself. Everything was different now, of course. Regardless of what happened in the next five days, she would never live alone at Highclyffe. She might be living alone elsewhere, but not here. “I don’t know if I want her to go to Willowbank. I don’t ... I don’t know where I’ll be living, and I want to be near her. Until things are settled with us, I don’t think I should commit her to a particular school.” He was silent for a moment, then he nodded and gave a little cough. “Yes, of course. Still, Willowbank’s in Kent, so ... it’s easy to reach from ... from London. Europe, too, if you ... chose to live there.” He spoke slowly, his frequent pauses making it seem as if he had difficulty with getting the words out. He looked away. “If you were to go back to New York,” he said, his voice a tight whisper, “that might be different. It’s so far away.”

Buy Links:


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USA Today bestselling author Gayle Callen concludes her new series with a tale of generosity, passion, and the true kindness of the heart.

A duke who needs to be tamed ... a lady who refuses to be rescued.

Adam Chamberlin was the third son of a duke, known for gambling binges and drunken nights. No one expected anything of him ... until tragedy strikes. Now Adam is the new Duke of Rothford, determined to right the wrongs he’s done. Except a secret in his past means helping the one woman who doesn’t want his help at all ...

It’s not every day that a duke introduces himself to a woman sitting by herself in Hyde Park. Faith Cooper is even more surprised when Adam offers her a position as a lady’s companion to his elderly aunt. Faith refuses to be beholden to a man again -- certainly not this man, who both infuriates and attracts her. But with the simmering passion between them, will Faith surrender to forbidden desire?

Faith Cooper meets Adam Chamberlin (Duke of Rothford):

Faith had once known all about real dilemmas: dwindling money without dowry or the handsome features that might make up for it. All of this she’d overcome on her own, by means both scandalous and necessary. And though it was hard work helping a self-centered young woman during her first London Season, Faith relished the challenge of guiding the girl to maturity and happiness. Sometimes she felt like she was guiding the baron and his wife, too. They had been social leaders in their quiet village, and were now at sixes and sevens in Town.

All of these thoughts were on her mind when a boldly handsome man stepped into her path and forced her to come up short in surprise. Though he was tall, it was not his height that was overwhelming; it was his very presence, as if he knew he commanded attention and used that to his advantage. He wore snug trousers, polished boots, and an expensively tailored greatcoat that she suspected did not need padding in the shoulders. To her surprise, he doffed his top hat and gave her a brief bow, which so shocked her that she almost turned around to see if someone stood just behind. He had light brown hair that could almost be called sandy, tousled artfully by the wind. His chiseled face had harsh lines where a woman’s would have soft curves, a nose that commanded attention, and lines about his eyes as if he smiled much of the time. Those eyes were blue and alive with interest and amusement as they took all of her in.

Buy Links:


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About the authors:

Caroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a math degree from Harvard University and wrote computer software before turning to writing fiction. Ten years, twelve books, two Red Sox championships, and one dog later, she has never been happier with her decision. Her books have won the NEC Reader’s Choice Beanpot Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, and RWA’s RITA Award. Since she never won any prizes in math, she takes this as a sign that her decision was also a smart one. Visit her online at

Laura Lee Guhrke spent seven years in advertising, had a successful catering business, and managed a construction company before she decided writing novels was more fun. A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Laura has penned over twenty historical romances. Her books have received many award nominations, and she is the recipient of romance fiction’s highest honor: the Romance Writers of America RITA Award. She lives in the Northwest with her husband (or, as she calls him, her very own romance hero), along with two diva cats and a Golden Retriever happy to be their slave. Laura loves hearing from readers, and you can contact her via her website:

After a detour through fitness instructing and computer programming, Gayle Callen found the life she’d always dreamed of as a romance writer. This USA Today bestselling author has written more than eighteen historical romances for Avon Books, and her novels have won the Holt Medallion and the Laurel Wreath Award.

Gayle lives in Central New York with her three children, her dog, Apollo, and her husband, Jim the Romance Hero. Visit her website at

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Avon is hosting a TOUR WIDE Rafflecopter Commenter Giveaway of Three Prize Packs including a piece of Custom Jewelry and Print Copies of Romances from each author. Click here to follow the rest of the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review: Moonlight on my Mind by Jennifer McQuiston

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

I've sat down to write this review three times now and my mind is, at once, lost for words and full of praise. How do I find the words to say just how much I loved this book? And how do I find the words to explain why I loved it so much? How do I talk about how much I love this author, who continues to wow me with every book she has published? How do I write about my excitement over her future projects, knowing that she continues to raise the bar with each story she tells?

For Moonlight on my Mind, Jennifer McQuiston tries her hand at writing a murder-mystery: Patrick Channing is accused of shooting his brother after a heated argument -- to make matters worse, one of the guests claims to have witnessed it: Julianne Baxter. Never proven guilty, Patrick retreats to a small town in Scotland where he quietly practices veterinary medicine. Now his father has died and Patrick the new Earl of Haversham.

Julianne Baxter has braved the wilds of Scotland to seek Patrick out, and bring him home. Eleven months ago, she declared with certainty that she had seen Patrick point the gun at his brother and shot him. Now, however, after eleven months had passed, Julianne is not all that certain about her version of the events. And she needs Patrick to help her sort through her muddled memories of that time.

Seeing Julianne again rips open the wounds that Patrick is slowly trying to recover from and brings to the surface all the sad memories of his brother's death -- now, he learns that his father has died and he is the new Earl. It is a moment that fills Patrick with sadness, dread and apprehension: his father, the one man who defended him and believed in him is dead, and he must return to his home to assume his responsibilities as new Earl, but this also means he must face the accusations and judgement of his peers, friends, family and neighbours. It would also mean dealing with Julianne Baxter, the most maddening, infuriating and most beautiful woman he has ever met.

Not that he blamed them. It had been his rifle, after all. His bullet that had struck his brother in the chest. His guilt to live with, even as his father had battled to save the remnants of what was now -- but should never have been -- his birthright.
- Chapter 4

Allies or enemies? Julianne serves as both protagonist and antagonist in this story -- and I wasn't certain I would like her because she's so wilful and flighty, but Julianne redeems herself in this story. She's a germaphobe and a pampered city girl, but she readily steps out of her comfort zone in order to look for Patrick. She thought she knew what she saw all those months ago, but time and circumstance has made her reconsider her previous testimony. She has come to find Patrick because she feels responsible for the dire situation Patrick's family is in. His family's future is being threatened by calls to resume the inquest into Patrick's involvement in his brother's death -- if found guilty, the title and the estates would all revert to the Crown, which would leave Patrick's mother and sisters ruined. Julianne knows she must do something, but she isn't sure of her part in Patrick's life -- as the lone witness to his brothers death, one word from Julianne could mean Patrick's salvation or damnation.

She'd hoped, she supposed, she would have arrived in Moraig to find Patrick Channing as unlikable and unredeemable as the London gossips claimed him to be. Then it would have been easier to forgive herself for her role in all of this. Instead, she'd found a man who devoted his life to saving those whom fate had frowned upon. She'd ruined his life, and he'd gone on to make a new one. A good one.
- Chapter 6

A marriage of convenience. Patrick and his friends all agree that marrying Julianne would be his best legal move (and defense) because a wife could not be compelled to testify against her husband. Julianne believes it would be easier for them to travel together if they were married (and it would also save her reputation after being caught by the village vicar). They claim a different reason for entering the marriage, but, deep down, they recognise the spark of attraction that began all those months ago at the house party that precipitated the tragic series of events.

I loved the conflict their marriage presented. Julianne could not be compelled to testify -- but it didn't mean that she could not testify willingly. I wondered if McQuiston was going to take her story down that road. I think I would have loved reading some courtroom drama. ^_^ The plot thickens when, early in the story, we discover that Julianne isn't an entirely credible witness because of her poor eyesight -- I wondered about the legal (and social) ramifications her testimony would create if she reveals her problem. The marriage protects her from having to reveal this -- but the truth still remained elusive to our hero and heroine: they know Patrick did not do it, so who did? And for what reason?

McQuiston does an excellent job of unravelling the mystery: systematically and methodically. As Patrick and Julianne were comparing notes and memories of that morning, as more and more pieces of the puzzle were revealed and were falling into place, the love story between the two was also growing and deepening. And it's a lovely, lovely story about a man who couldn't care about baths and personal hygiene (despite being a doctor) -- but who was willing to endure being groomed because of love. And about a woman who was fastidious and neat -- but was willing to get blood splattered on her dress (and doesn't clean up first) in order to chase after a lead that would save the man she loves.

Like the ripples caused by a single drop of water, every moment that Patrick and Julianne spend with each other affects them from the outside in. Patrick changes from a man without much purpose to one with goals and direction. He stops being a man content to escape, to a man determined to confront the problems he faces. The love that happens between the two of them doesn't make sense: they're supposed to be enemies. They're supposed to be polar-opposites. They're supposed to hate each other. I really did not expect to enjoy them as a couple -- this very odd/unlikely couple -- but, you know what? Jennifer McQuiston writes this particular aspect of the story so, so well.

Her eyes met his in an ominous flash of green heat. "I've seen stables with cleaner floors than yours. For heaven's sake, you're likely to give Gemmy fleas. You need a housekeeper."

"Ive a wife." He shrugged out of his shirt and tossed it away, perversely enjoying the way her eyes widened to follow the article's deliberate, ceremonious path to the floor. "I've been told they are nearly one in the same [sic]."

At her strangled gasp, Gemmy hopped town from the bed and slunk for the shadows. Smart dog.
- Chapter 7

Love proves to overcome all those differences -- and Patrick and Julianne fall in love not blindly, but with eyes wide open: aware of each other's imperfection; aware of the uncertainty the future holds. They might not have deserved each other to begin with, but they have proved their worth by the end.

He dwelled a moment on her scent. Even her fragrance was a poor match for him. She smelled clean, like soap and spice, heated to the point of combustion. He smelled of his daily activities: sheep, sweat, and probably something worse.

And yet ... as always, there was this odd, nettling attraction he felt in her presence, a surprising flare of interest that defied a scientific explanation. His thoughts were usually more ordered than this. More focused. Certainly more logical. For some reason, being around Julianne made him less like himself.

Or was it that she made him feel more?
- Chapter 7

Moonlight on my Mind is also a riveting story about second (and third and fourth) chances: Julianne, because of her brashness and impulsiveness, has made a lot of mistakes but she is never fazed or discouraged from trying again (and again and again) until she got it right.

This is the third book in Jennifer McQuiston's Second Sons series (and it's awesome). To find out more about Jennifer McQuiston and her books, click below:

Friday, April 25, 2014

ARC Review: Meet the Earl at Midnight by Gina Conkle

Meet the Earl at Midnight by Gina Conkle
Click here to pre-order the book on Amazon, release date: May 6, 2014
Click here to pre-order the paperback at The Book Depository

Edward and Lydia are an unconventional set of main characters. He loves science more than anything else and she loves art more than anything else.

And Gina Conkle's novel has a very unconventional way of storytelling: I imagine it like a house full of closed doors where many questions are posed at every opportunity. The doors open eventually, but they lead to more closed doors.

The story begins at midnight, when Lydia is woken up and brought by her stepfather to a meeting in an unsavory part of town. There, Lydia comes 'face to face' with Lord Edward Sanford, known in the papers as The Phantom of London, Enigma Earl, The Greenwich Recluse, etc. It is when her stepfather and stepbrother's perfidy and her role in rectifying the situation by marrying the mysterious Lord Sanford are revealed.

Why would Lord Sanford make such a bargain? Why her? Why the rush? These are some of the questions raised at the start. Add to that: Is Lord Sanford truly a hideous beast? What happened to him? Lydia also has some secrets to tell -- and she is biding her time to reveal them. When Lydia arrives at Lord Sanford's estate, more questions are asked: Who is Claire Mayhew, Sanford's very beautiful housekeeper? What is her relationship to Sanford?

Note, though, that this is not an exercise in futility because Gina Conkle reveals the answers at the perfect moment. The whole set-up makes this a compelling read as the questions propel you from one page to the next.

As Lydia familiarises herself with her new home, it also gives her the chance to know her soon-to-be husband better -- and she likes the man she uncovers: Edward is deeply devoted to his work studying plants, but he has sacrificed science for his family when his father and older brother both died, leaving him to take care of his mother and sisters. He is a man torn between his passion and his duty -- but he now believes he has come up with a win-win situation, which involves marrying Lydia.

"My father and brother finessed their way through life ... politics, shipping ... both were skilled with people, where I lack all patience," he said quietly, speaking only to her. "My passion, my purpose is science. I've buried this too long."
- loc 2085

It was all going according to his schedule -- until Lydia walks into his life and throws everything off-kilter. She invades his personal spaces and takes up his precious time -- and, while Edward is supposed to feel invaded and imposed upon, Edward actually (albeit grudgingly) enjoys Lydia's companionship. What began as an impersonal/business arrangement becomes deeply personal as our hero and heroine slowly fall in love with each other.

Everything that I've said so far is just the tip of the iceberg: there's even more to love, read and think about in Gina Conkle's Meet the Earl at Midnight. When Edward's mother arrives, our hero finally reveals why marriage and begetting an heir have suddenly become an urgent matter for him. In that moment, Lydia realises all that she stands to lose if she doesn't make her move soon.

I am impressed with the layers of detail and story that Meet the Earl at Midnight contains: it's a Beauty-and-the-Beast love story, but it's also a story about what we sacrifice for the sake of love. Conkle raises a lot of thought-provoking questions in the story -- ones that challenge not only the hero and heroine, but also the reader. When Lady Sanford, Edward's mother, approaches Lydia with her offer, what would I do in Lydia's place?

The primary reason to leave was her art; the singular reason to stay was a man.
- loc 2809

This is not a story with external/physical barriers and obstacles, but one where the conflict lies within the hearts of Edward and Lydia -- and they struggle with it because the experience of this kind of love is new to them.

"I find I want to kiss you, my lord, but I'm baffled by that, since I'm also angry with you at the same time."
- loc 2094

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How could he forget her instructions days ago to deposit all her art supplies in the ballroom? Probably because that brain-muddling embrace outside the gallery scrambled clear thinking. He recalled the distraction of burying his face in the softness of her hair. Her presence seeped into him the same way her simple lemongrass scent invaded his senses. Right now, breathing heavily from exertion, he'd swear her scent surrounded him.
- loc 2347

Meet the Earl at Midnight is an insightful story with endearing characters. A truly wonderful book from Gina Conkle. ^_^ It will be released on May 6, 2014.

To find out more about Gina Conkle and her books, click below:

Disclosure: I requested this ARC from Netgalley. Thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca and Gina Conkle for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Historical Romance Edition #32

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.

A Pirate's Love by Johanna Lindsey, published 1978


A Pirate's Love

Sailing westward toward the Caribbean sun, young Bettina Verlaine obediently sets out to fulfill the promise made by her father -- but not by her heart -- a prearranged marriage destined not to be ... once the notorious Captain Tristan's pirate ship appears on the horizon.

Abducted by the bold and handsome brigand, the pale-haired beauty surrenders her innocence in the warm caress of the tropical winds -- detesting her virile captor for enslaving her ... yet loving him for the passionate spell he casts over fragile, yearning heart.

I was inspired by Mary @ Buried Under Romance's Throwback Thursday pick last week, so I decided to do a search for historical romances published during my year of birth: 1978 at FictionDB.

The results amazed me: 631 romance titles were published that year in the different sub-genres (Contemporary, Historical, etc). I was prepared to feature a Barbara Cartland book, when I clicked on the next few pages of the search results and found ... Johanna Lindsey and Linda Lael Miller. I am in awe of the enduring nature of these two authors, who continue to create such wonderful romance stories up to now.

I haven't read A Pirate's Love, but a lot of the reviews on Amazon warn about the rape that happens in the story.

To find out more about Johanna Lindsey 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.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: Rescued by a Viscount by Wendy Vella

Rescued By A Viscount by Wendy Vella
Click here to buy the book on Amazon

Claire is not an easy heroine to love: she's an odd mix of earnest, passionate, loyal ... and ignorant. She's very driven, as well -- and it's the volatile mix of personality and circumstances that have led her into trouble as she chases after her dead brother's final legacy.

When her brother, her closest friend, died from his war injuries, I think it turned Claire's perfect world upside down -- and she lost the lodestone that centered her. Now, she suffers from insomnia and has very strained relations with her mother and older brother -- I felt bad for Claire's family. I don't think they've had the chance to sit down and share their grief with each other, and that silence has become an impenetrable wall that neither side can see through.

Perhaps this is the best thing to take away from Vella's Rescued by a Viscount: how death affects the living. Claire's a society miss and she's meant to be happy and carefree. She still presents that facade to society, but Simon, Viscount Kelkirk can see that something isn't right with Claire ... and hasn't been in a while.

Which makes Claire a heroine I could sympathise with. She does a good job pretending that everything is fine -- and she keeps her private grief separate from her public life, but, as the days pass, it is inevitable that the two sides of her would meld together. That she wasn't sleeping well, that she was struggling to stay in control of her life and situation ... Claire has lost her way and struggling to find it again.

Viscount Kelkirk is there for Claire and he tries to help, but their relationship has always been adversarial -- how can he change that? How can he change the way they relate to each other? Claire has always been wary of Kelkirk, so she is a bit suspicious of his change of heart.

Clare has always kept her distance from Simon Kelkirk because there was something about him that unsettled her. He wasn't like other men; he didn't observe the correct distance when conversing or dancing with a woman, nor did he guard his tongue. In fact, he was the opposite of everything she strove to be, and she had never known how to handle him.
- loc 62

Kelkirk offers his assistance several times -- and this is the part of the story I didn't enjoy very much as this plot point repeats in the story: Claire makes a rash decision and gets into trouble and Kelkirk is there to save her. Claire always has an explanation for her foolhardiness, but she never seems to learn the lesson -- and keeps repeating the same mistake.

... she was an intelligent woman. If her wits did not help, then she had the money she had saved, plus the full purse she'd stolen from her brother to bribe people. Dear lord, she hoped Mathew didn't blame the staff for the missing money. Claire dismissed this thought; she would deal with that upon her return if it needed to be dealt with.

She would be a young lady traveling alone, as she dared not take her maid because she was a terrible gossip; she had told her she would be using Eva's for the duration of her visit at Stratton. The journey to Liverpool would take three days, possibly four, and this would create curiosity. But she would have to worry about that, too, as the journey progressed.
- loc 1338

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...Claire suddenly realised that, should something go wrong, there would be no one to turn to. Her brother would not come to her aid, nor her friends, because they had no idea where she was. Suddenly, her flight from Simon did not seem such a wise idea, and the folly of her impulsive actions now weighed heavily on her shoulders.
- loc 2277

This is clearly a novel that celebrates the hero. From the first moment it he story, up to the last, Viscount Kelkirk was steady, calm and dependable as our heroine, Claire, rushed headlong into trouble. Simon is a very interesting hero -- and I could see that great care and thought was taken when his character was created. He's a powerful and popular peer -- but he also hides a secret sadness, and a very interesting hobby. Throughout the story, he never judges Claire or gives up on her -- despite his disappointment and frustration, he continues to do what his mind (and heart) compel him to do: protect Claire and keep her safe.

In Claire's defense, she really does have very good intentions, but she just doesn't have the experience or the time to think things through. I think the end of the story, which reveals her brother's secret, vindicates Claire's actions and decisions.

Rescued by a Viscount is Book 2 in Wendy Vella's Regency Rakes series. To find out more about Wendy and her books, click below:
Embracing Romance

Disclosure: I received this review copy from the author. Thank you, Wendy Vella, for the opportunity! Yes, this is an honest review.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Series Review: The Improper Series by Juliana Ross

Click here to purchase Improper Relations on Amazon
Click here to purchase Improper Arrangements on Amazon
Click here to purchase Improper Proposals on Amazon

When I first read a sample of Improper Relations, the first book in Juliana Ross's series, I expressed some hesitations about buying a copy. Still, Juliana Ross was an author on my radar, and, when the book was offered for free late last year, I took the opportunity and got it.

I read it recently and hadn't planned on writing a review of it because I already had a backlog of reviews to write, but, the most curious thing happened: after I finished reading the first book, I was immediately curious about the second book and purchased that one. And then, when I finished the second book, I went online again and bought the third book.

After reading all three books, I felt the need to write this -- and it's a first for me to review an entire series as a whole -- and I'm excited to do so.

It's a solid series and one worth reading for the following reasons:
1. It's a thoughtful analysis on what society considers "improper" --
Hannah's relationship with Leo was considered improper because she was a poor relation who worked as his mother's companion and he was the younger son of a lord, who was expected to make a good match. After Hannah witnesses an illicit tryst between Leo and one of the maids, it awakens a curiosity in her -- one that Leo was happy to assuage.

It's a novella filled with sex, but it seems to be Ross's point. Hannah slowly awakens and comes into her own with each encounter with Leo. At the beginning of the story, she's a frightened, quiet mouse -- a widow who was afraid to go out into the world, so she ended up being dependent on her late husband's relatives to help her. But, by the end of the story, Hannah becomes a woman who dares.

...From this moment on, I resolved, I would tell no one the truth, allow no one to comprehend the loss I had sustained.

I would face the barren days to come with steady resolve, as I'd always tried to do when life disappointed me. I would build a new life for myself, though my life was already over.

And I would never look back.
- Hannah, Improper Relations, loc 1087

Alice is the heroine of the second novella, Improper Arrangements. After being "jilted" by Leo, she decides that she is done with the whole marriage business and wants to indulge in some adventure. She hires E.P. Keating to guide her through the mountains as she draws the flora of the Swiss Alps. Alice's arrangements with Eli is considered "improper" because she is a woman on her own, with no companion. Add to that, she and Eli mutually consent to start a relationship on their trek. They've laid out the ground rules and are happy to indulge in their mutual attraction to each other. Alice is very different from Hannah. She is fortunate to have her own money and means and she has a family who is very supportive of her interests --

Yes or no?

He wanted to share my bed, no more. He wasn't asking for my heart. He didn't covet my fortune. All he wanted was my body, and only as long as our journey together lasted.

"Yes," I said, and I was amazed at how calm and steady my voice sounded.
- Alice, Improper Arrangements, Chapter 8

The second novella shows a lot of growth in Ross as an author. Yes, the sex is there and, yes, it is scintillating -- but there's also a wonderful story between Eli and Alice, who are both so self-reliant, and so gifted in their particular passions: climbing and painting.

But, I think it is in the third instalment, Improper Proposals, that Juliana Ross really comes into her own.

Caroline is the widow of a vicar and she has approached Thomas Cathcart-Ross (Alice's brother) for help in publishing her very proper manual on how to manage a household and how to be a good wife. What Thomas does instead is to challenge Caroline to write a different kind of "how-to" guide: one on sex and marriage. It is a shockingly improper proposal made to any lady -- but it is even more shocking, considering that Caroline was a vicar's wife. But Thomas's reason isn't to scandalise society, but to inform it.

The conversation between Caroline and Thomas is very candid ... and very true: many women (then and now) enter into sexual relations with very little information. The finished manuscript that Alice and Thomas have carefully put together is considered "obscene" and I can't help but wonder why. Again, it is a jarring reminder of how limited women's roles were in that time and how very little power they had. (Also, how controlled expression and opinion was during that time.)

Of my work for Mr. Cathcart-Ross I said nothing. I had several close friends in the village, close enough that I had told them about my book of household management. Since my return from London, they had asked me, any number of times, if I'd had any news. If I'd found a publisher. Part of me longed to confide in them, not least because I wasn't at all certain my knowledge of marital relations was sufficiently comprehensive for the task at hand. With the different perspective of other women I might ensure accuracy, and thereby better serve my readers.

But it would be folly to breathe so much as a word, even the merest syllable, of what I was doing. ...
- Caroline, Improper Proposals, Chapter 4

2. It's a celebration of relationships --
All three relationships were started by consenting adults. They knew it was for pleasure and they understood that nothing would come of it (and they were fine with their arrangement). At the end, they would part ways and that would be that, but the relationships were never meaningless or mindless. In Alice and Caroline's stories, the sex ran parallel to something greater ... something more.

Too often, relationships in stories are one-sided and it is mostly the hero who calls the shots, but, here, Ross's characters have equal power, control and say in what happened as their relationships developed and deepened. I loved reading the scenes were Caroline and Thomas would discuss and edit her book, and Alice and Eli were such a great climbing team.

"Let's keep on until we reach the Col de Louvie, then stop to eat there. Will give you a chance to admire the view."

"Is it nicer than at the Col Termin?"

"Incomparably so."

We reached the pass a half hour later. Though the surrounding summits loomed far overhead, their peaks lost in the advancing clouds, we had climbed higher than I'd ever imagined possible, so far that the valleys we'd left behind had become indistinct swaths of green and brown. From where we stood I could see no road, no structure, no evidence at all of civilisation. If not for the sound of an approaching party of climbers, I might have imagined Elijah and I were alone in the world.

"What do you think?" he asked softly.

"Incomparable, just as you said. ..."
- Improper Arrangements, Chapter 11

* * *

"You never said what you thought of my chapter. We haven't talked about it at all."

"We will, over dinner. Though I find it difficult to wrap my head around the subject."

"I'm certain it happens to many couples, the feeling that they are drifting apart. Any number of things can affect a marriage -- children, family pressures, financial concerns. I think it's very important that women be given some guidance on how to restore intimacy if ever it's lost."

"You're quite right. It's only that I cannot imagine how it could ever happen."

"That a couple should be pulled apart?"

"No. That I should ever lose interest in you."

It was a lovely thing for him to say, truly it was, yet I resented it. We both knew our affair would end before long, before we could hurt one another past forgiveness, so why freight the moments we had left with such sentiments? Our time together was ending, so why not embrace the sweetness, while it lasted, and save regret for another day?
- Improper Proposals, Chapter 14

This series also fetes women. It isn't completely obvious in Hannah, but Alice and Caroline are very progressive and very independent (I've used this word a lot in this review ... sorry!) -- there's nothing tentative or uncertain about them -- and I love this quality in Ross's heroines.

...I'd sworn to myself I would never be tempted again -- not by a man's pretty words and certainly not by an attractive face or form. What real need had I of a man, after all? ... I was perfectly capable of satisfying my own carnal needs without having to seek out the attention of some sweating, fumbling incompetent.
- Alice, Improper Arrangements, Chapter 1

* * *

After I had finished the Chapter and sent it off to London, I wrote to Marshall & Snelgrove's on Oxford Street and ordered a set of new undergarments. A year remained before I might begin to dress in any hue other than deepest black, but what I wore under my gown was my business alone.
- Caroline, Improper Proposals, Chapter 8

3. The writer's evolution --
I've talked about my fascination with debut novels and I've followed many authors from their debut novels up to their current works -- and it is always an enjoyable exercise to trace the author's journey in terms of theme, subject, language, focus and voice.

If I were to rate all three books*, I thought the third novella was the best in this series, and I think other readers feel the same way, judging by the ratings of the books on Goodreads. Juliana Ross has hit her stride, and she knows what she is writing about and it shines through. The third novella combines all the best elements from the first and second stories and Ross infuses it with even more.

Novellas are a tricky form to master because it is limited by its length -- but Ross's third novella did an excellent job of covering sufficient depth and breadth. By the end of the book, I was a bit surprised to see how short it was because Improper Proposals was able to convey the full romantic experience.

When I visited Ross's website, I was pleased to know that she is currently working on a full-length novel. Yay! I'm looking forward to reading that one. ^_^

To find out more about Juliana Ross and her books, click below:

*So here's how I rate each book:
Improper Relations = 3 stars
Improper Arrangements = 4 stars
Improper Proposals = 5 stars

Throwback Thursday: Historical Romance #31

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.

A Rose In Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss, published 1982


The fairest flower in Mawbry is Erienne Fleming, the enchanting, raven-haired daughter of the village mayor. Charming, spirited and exquisitely lovely, she is beset on all sides by suitors, any one of whom would pay a king's fortune for a place in her heart. But Erienne has eyes for only one: the dashing and witty young Yankee, Christopher Seton.

But marriage for love is not to be, for her irresponsible and unscrupulous father, crippled by gambling debts, is intent on auctioning off his beautiful daughter to the highest bidder. And in the end, Erienne is devastated to find it is the strange and secretive Lord Saxton who has purchased her -- a mysterious, tragic figure who wears a mask and a cloak at all times to hide disfiguring scars gained in a terrible fire some years back.

But in the passing days, Saxton's true nature is revealed to her. A gentle and adoring soul, he treats his new bride with warmth and abiding tenderness, yet appears to her only by daylight. She, in turn, vows to be a good and loyal wife to him. And then Christopher Seton reenters Erienne's world Conflicted by emotions she cannot suppress, Erienne valiantly attempts to remain honorable to her elusive, enigmatic husband but feels herself irresistibly drawn to Seton's passion, his fire, and his secrets. Entangled in intrigues she doesn't yet understand, Erienne Fleming will soon have to make a devastating choice: between love and honour ... between her duty and her heart.

Sorry this is a day late. In my teens, with a limited allowance, I looked for quantity and quality -- and Kathleen Woodiwiss had both. Her books are massive! And A Rose in Winter is 500+ pages of "Beauty and the Beast" goodness. It was novel for me to read about a love triangle (Erienne, Christopher Seton and Lord Saxton) and I loved that this was heroine-centric.

To find out more about Kathleen Woodiwiss and her books, click below:
Harper Collins Author's Page for Kathleen Woodiwiss

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.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

ARC Review: How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Kate McKinley

Click here to find out purchase information for this book (Release date: April 21, 2014)

This is the second story that derived its title from the rom-com movie "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days" and, while the first book didn't really have anything in common with the movie, Kate McKinley's reworking is more faithful to the original. Lucas and Pippa are both bold and audacious and outrageous in how they try to one-up each other (and Pippa really does try to get rid of her unwanted suitor, Lucas).

Lucas, the Duke of Arlington, saw Pippa six months earlier and had been so captivated by her beauty that he couldn't speak or act in her presence. Unfortunately, the Duke's inaction was mistaken by everyone present as a cut-direct and has tarnished Pippa's reputation in society. Pippa has vowed never to marry into such a cold and ruthless society. It comes as a surprise to her when, six months later, the Duke arrives at her house, announcing his intention to make Pippa his wife.

Pippa refuses and the Duke leaves, but not before he gives Pippa an invitation to her own engagement party to him in ten days. Pippa is determined to break the engagement, and Lucas is determined to convince her otherwise. It's a battle of wills and both sides are evenly matched -- and it was exciting to see sparks fly between the two.

"I'm a woman, not property. I will not be taken, as you so eloquently put it,:
- p.11

* * *

"I happen to adore animals," she said. "And I do believe it was you who said 'whatever you wish, it's yours' just three days past." She pulled her glove back on, then smiled up at him. "I'm afraid I don't have much use for rubies or diamonds. But dogs, on the other hand, add life and vivacity to a household. You wouldn't deny me that, would you?"

She was challenging him again -- always challenging. He wasn't surprised to have his words flung back at him. He should have known better than to make such a broad and undefined statement. If he gave in, he risked appearing weak. If he denied her, then there was little doubt she'd use it against him at some later date.
- p. 90

McKinley's How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days has all the classic elements to make this a fun, light-hearted read (The bit with the decorator and the lace was funny. pp. 36-37 ^_^) -- and I appreciated the author's decision to infuse a bit of dimension to the characters by delving into their backstory. Lucas hints at an unhappy and neglected childhood, and these are the things that have shaped him into the person that he is. There is more to Lucas than his domineering/bossy ways and there's more to Pippa than her defiant/impulsive self. McKinley exposes the difficulty young women like Pippa encounter when they enter society: tolerated, but not completely accepted -- talked about and speculated about behind their backs. In Pippa's case, the attacks weren't even done behind her back but were done directly to her -- and you have to admire her grace, patience and forbearance for handling such terrible situations with dignity.

However, I felt that there was so much material and there was opportunity to do more. It might have been too much for a novella, which is why, while the components are all present, they weren't maximised.

I was also confused by Lucas's motivation for pursuing Pippa. The very first time Lucas addresses this, he mentions how taken he was taken by Pippa's beauty and freshness. But, then, the issue of the coal mines, which Lucas wants and Pippa's family owns come up -- and Lucas thinks about it four times (p. 15, p. 16, p. 38, and p. 57) . Up to the middle of the book, Lucas seems to think the latter, so, when he is confronted about his reasons for courting/wanting Pippa, it came as a surprise to me when he said it was love. How? When did it happen? When our hero and heroine weren't matching wits, they were indulging in their physical attraction to each other. There were some conversations that revealed a bit about them, and, again, this was a point I wish was explored more in the story.

I've read McKinley's debut, A Duchess in the Dark, and the tone of the love scenes were clear and consistent with the rest of the story. In How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days, I was a bit shocked by Lucas's darker inclinations/intentions (p. 61) -- and I didn't see it meshing well with the light/fun premise of the story. (He never acts on it, btw.)

Despite my reservations, I thought McKinley was really able to cover a lot of ground and present us with a complete picture of the courtship and love between Lucas and Pippa, considering the limitations of the length of the form. There are scenes in How to Lose a Duke which presents the characters and story for the second instalment in this series (Lord Crawford and Lucas's sister, Lady Evelyn). It looks to be a very interesting read. ^_^

How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days is the first book in Kate McKinley's What Happens in Scotland series and will be released on April 21, 2014. To find out more about Kate McKinley, click below:

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

Free and Discounted Romance Novels

Happy Monday, everyone! How was your weekend?

Here's the latest set of historical romances for your consideration:

Angelica Douglas has no idea that she’s the Countess of Melrose. What she does know is that she needs to support her family as a card shark, while finding a way to seek revenge on the men who ruined her father and sent her family spiralling down into poverty.

Robert Campbell, Marquess of Argyll, heir to the Duke of Inverary, has no idea who Angelica truly is. He just wants to watch over her and make her his mistress.

Angelica thinks Robert is simply a dashing rogue who is far too dangerous for her peace of mind. Robert thinks Angelica is an angel except when she’s being a pain in the behind.

When Robert finds out that his own father may have been one of the men who ruined Angelica’s family, he vows to keep a careful eye on her. When Angelica finds out that Robert’s father may have been one of the men responsible, she vows to stay as far away from Robert as possible. But when danger threatens, both Robert and Angelica must face the truth and let fate take the upper hand.

* * *

In 1789, on the eve of the first Presidential inauguration, charismatic Lion Hampshire aspires to a seat in the first Congress. In an effort to improve his rakish reputation, he agrees to an arranged marriage with Virginia-bred Priscilla Wade. However, his fiancée's headstrong lady's maid, Meagan, is not who she seems to be and Lion's carefully crafted future may be undone by his passion for the wrong woman ...

Filled with Cynthia Wright's hallmarks of warm intimacy, sensual romance, humor, adventure, and colorfully-drawn historical characters like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, TOUCH THE SUN is a shining achievement by a beloved author!

* * *

Affairs of the state will soon give way to affairs of the heart.

Althea Markham shoulders many burdens of being an unattached countess -- wading through the collection of gold-diggers and rogues to find a suitable husband, providing her family with a male heir, and most of all, protecting her mother, who tends to acts more debutante than dowager. As she sneaks away for illicit meetings with a mysterious stranger, Althea is determined to unveil his identity -- and his intentions.

Desperate to escape from beneath the shadow of his older brother, John Ridley takes part in a daring game of espionage against the French. Posing as a smuggler, he engages with the charming Celeste Markham. But despite her winsome allure, it is her daughter, Althea, who seizes John's attention.

As affairs of the state give way to affairs of heart, John must convince Althea that she can trust him with her future, and her love.

* * *

London, 1814

Remington Hawthorne, Earl of Latham, has spent his life protecting the Crown. When he's assigned to play the part of lover to Emma Masterson, one of the few female spies in England and the one woman he can't forget, he'll have to risk his heart as well as his life.

It isn't easy being an independent woman, much less a spy. Perpetually tasked with proving she is as valuable as any man in her profession, the last thing Emma needs is to be reunited with the one man who makes her want to forget her duties and get lost in passion.

Pretending to be his mistress isn't difficult -- remembering that it is all a charade is a challenge. With every glance, every touch, every kiss, she is drawn deeper under his spell and pulled further from her goals. She refused him once, but it will take every ounce of strength to not give in to the passion that still burns strong ...

* * *


In this novella of the Holy Grail from New York Times bestselling author Jo Beverley, one woman must step forward to restore peace to medieval England ...

As the seventh child in her family, Sister Gledys was given to the Church at birth. She has spent all of her eighteen years in the Rosewell Nunnery, living a quiet, regimented life behind its walls. But lately, her mind has been wandering. She has visions of a gallant knight battling a massive foe. She longs to see his face and speak to him but she cannot ...

As a young boy, Michael de Lourey was locked away in a monastery by his mother. Not being the oldest in his family, he would not inherit land. His only options are to be a monk or a knight. Michael left the monastery at twelve and has grown into a skilled fighter, but the chaste life of a knight may be taking its toll on him. Whenever he fights, he keeps seeing a beautiful and silent woman in a green dress and white veil. He doesn’t dare mention her to anyone for fear of sounding crazy.

But there’s nothing crazy about their visions. It’s as though some great power is drawing them together ...

The Raven and the Rose previously appeared in Chalice of Roses.

* * *

New York City, 1883

A Prince Charming meets his match ...
Self-made shipping magnate Christopher Black first spies Rebecca Bailey at a masquerade ball and is captivated by her refreshing naivete and sparkling beauty. She's a stark contrast to the hollow behavior of the ton and the guile of his former fiancee, but the closer he gets to her secrets, the further she pushes him away.

A Cinderella with a secret ...
Rebecca is drawn to the charismatic Christopher from the first, but she cannot risk him discovering that she is really a housemaid impersonating an heiress. Her father's life depends on it.

A Happily Ever After that could never be ...
When Christopher's investigation of the murder of his best friend leads him straight to Rebecca, he fears his ingenue may be a femme fatale in disguise. Now he must decide if he can trust the woman he's come to love, or if her secrets will be his downfall.

* * *

A drunken laugh, a roll of the dice ... and Aurora Sprague finds herself a child bride, married in haste to a young man she's never met to settle her father's gaming debt. Moments after the ceremony, the new groom gallops off to the army and Aurora is banished to a remote estate, married in name only.

Years later, Alex Fenimore, now a top intelligence officer, is on a secret mission when a fiery young lady helps him escape attack.

He has no idea that the woman is his wife or that the sparks of desire between them are about to ignite a dangerous passion.

* * *

WARNING: This is an EROTIC romance. This series contains material that is not suitable for anyone under the age of 18 ...

Behind the Plaid -- Book One

He dominated her mind. She possessed his soul.

Emma Gordon escapes from a troubling marriage in which she's completely lost sight of who she is. Desperate for independence, she leaves her husband while on a trip in the Scottish Highlands. Only thing is, she ends up hurled back in time to the 16th Century Castle Gealach and headlong into the arms of the handsome, intimidating Laird Logan Grant. Thrust into a world filled with treachery, danger and intensity she must summon the courage to find her way.

Bared to the Laird -- Book Two

Secret obsession makes for the sweetest of sins.

Overwhelmed by her new life in another era with the Laird of Gealach, and the feelings that threaten to consume her, Emma determines she must return to her own time and a semblance of sanity. Having heard of a magical circle of stones atop the ridge overlooking Loch Ness, she manages to escape from the castle and the desire and intensity of Logan that's held her captive. When Logan realizes Emma is missing, he is enraged and terrified. He seeks to find her and when he does, he will punish her exquisitely for leaving him, and for inexplicably exposing his scorching fascination and adoration.

Dark Side of the Laird-- Book three

Bound by passion. Freed by love.

When the damaged and tormented Emma first meets the equally broken Logan, they embark on a torrid, emotionally provocative affair that irrevocably changed their lives. Emma has sacrificed her entire being and just when she thinks Logan is willing to do the same, he holds back. Reluctant for their love to be a thing of shadows, Emma issues an ultimatum: commit or say goodbye. But Logan's appeal to the king to grant his wish to marry is denied and instead, Logan is seized and sent to the dungeon with no hope for escape. While in Hell, Logan's dark past haunts him, threatening to consume him. He must fight to remain the man he's become with Emma by his side and relinquish the control he's held onto for a lifetime.

* * *


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