Friday, November 28, 2014

Blog Tour: Twice Tempted by Eileen Dreyer (Review + Giveaway)

Twice Tempted is one my most-anticipated books for the second half of 2014, and I'm so excited to be part of the blog tour for the release of Eileen Dreyer's latest from her amazing Drake's Rakes series.

To celebrate the release of Twice Tempted, there is a giveaway for the complete set of the Drake's Rakes series, including Twice Tempted! (5 lucky winners will be chosen. Enter via rafflecopter below.)

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About Twice Tempted:

Fiona Ferguson's troubles began with a kiss ...

It feels like a lifetime ago that Alex Knight saved Fiona from certain doom .. and stole a soul-shattering kiss for good measure. Wanting nothing more than to keep her safe, he left her in the care of her grandfather, the Marquess of Dourne. But Fiona was hardly safe. As soon as he could, the marquess cast her and her sister out on the streets with only her wits to keep them alive. Alex has never forgotten that long-ago kiss. Now the dashing spy is desperate to make up for failing his duty once before. This time he will protect Fiona once and for all, from a deadly foe bent on taking revenge on the Ferguson line -- and anyone who stands in the way ...

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Excerpt from Twice Tempted:
He arched an eyebrow. “Lord Whitmore again? Please, Fiona. Don't do that to me. When I hear Lord Whitmore, I think of my uncle, who had six fingers and thought bathing was a trick of the devil.”

She giggled. “I can understand your wanting to maintain the distinction.”

“Every time you call me Lord Whitmore, I will call you Eloise.”

She glared at him, the curtains clutched to her chest like bedclothes, as if she were a maiden in threat of seduction. “You wouldn't.”

He shrugged. “It is your name. Lady Eloise Fiona Ferguson Hawes.”

“No one knows,” she hissed.

He leaned in very close. “I do.”

She reared back and almost tipping the ladder again. “That is patently unfair.”

He shrugged and reached up for the curtains. “All is fair in love and safety.”

She refused to budge. “I do not believe that is precisely the quote.”

Grinning, he put his foot on the second rung, just beneath her. “Close enough.”

And then he made the mistake of looking into her eyes. Her blue, blue eyes that were suddenly black with arousal. He heard the sharp intake of her breath and saw the erratic pulse beating at the base of her long white throat.

His own body reacted just as it had every time he'd gotten close to her. He focused in on her, his grip on her tightening. Still she didn't move, caught in the circle of his free arm, her hip pressed against his chest, her mouth just above his. All he had to do was climb another rung, and he could satisfy a four-year-old craving.

His heart was galloping suddenly, and he could feel a bead of sweat roll down his back. He could see a glow on her forehead, her upper lip. Her eyes widened, as if she could read his thoughts, and he could scent something new. Arousal. Need. Hunger. His own body was shaking with it. He swore his cock had taken on a life of its own, and his brain simply shut down.

He leaned a bit closer, his foot still on the step beneath her and paused, giving her a chance to escape, to clout him in the head if necessary. She didn't. She watched him the way prey might a raptor, unsure and wary. He didn't blame her. He wasn't certain how much control he had over himself. It had been so long since he'd had a woman. So much longer since he'd really liked the one he had.

Slowly, so he didn't startle her into tipping the ladder, he rose up and set his other foot on the rung. She was frozen in place, one hand fisted around the blood-deep velvet, the other clenched against the ladder, as if she was still uncertain whether to use it.

She didn't. She inhaled, her mouth opening just a bit, as if there wasn't enough air. As if she were struggling to stay afloat.

Sink, Alex wanted to say as he lifted himself face-to-face with her, mouth-to-mouth. Sink into me.

“I knew it!” a voice screeched behind him, shattering the moment. “What did I tell you about lettin' them jackanapes in here?”

Fiona reared back, as if he'd attacked her, again throwing the ladder off balance. Alex instinctively pulled back to stabilize them. He pulled back too far and the ladder tipped.

There was a lot of yelling and a couple of muffled thuds as Alex landed on his back, cushioning Fiona's fall. He wasn’t so lucky.

“Are you all right?” Fiona asked immediately, leaning over him.

“Serves him right,” the housekeeper snapped from the doorway.

He had hit his head so hard he was seeing stars. But he was smelling cinnamon and Fiona, so he really couldn't complain

“That is enough, Mrs. Quick,” he heard. “Alex? Your eyes are open. Can you hear me?”

Rather than admit that he was too distracted by the plump pressure of her breast against his chest to answer, he simply closed his eyes and groaned. The act would have been unworthy of him if his head weren't pounding and his arse aching from hard contact with the floor

“Mrs. Quick,” she was saying, her hand on his cheek. “See if Mr. Clemson is outside. Send him for the doctor.”

He knew his injuries didn't merit such concern. “No doctor.” He blinked a couple of times until the multiple Fionas resolved into one. “I'll live. My head is a bit bruised is all.”

In retaliation, she took away both her hand and breast, which almost set Alex to groaning again. She actually smacked him on the arm. “Then don't frighten me like that ... again.”

“Don't know why you let him in here at all,” came the grumble from the doorway.

Untangling them both from the curtains, Fiona sat up. “Thank you, Mrs. Quick. I think we're all right now.”

“Ya think that, do ya?”
 Fiona gave her the kind of glare that betrayed her aristocratic heritage. The housekeeper, still grumbling, clasped her hands in a parody of good servile behavior and stalked off down the hall.

Fiona looked back down to where Alex lay, and he could see the cost of the last tumble on her face. He should have been outraged. He was lying in a nest of curtains with a fresh headache and the humiliation of his fall, and she was ... laughing.

She tried so hard not to. She held her hand to her mouth. She shook her head. He could see her shoulders heave. He would have chastised her, except the minute he opened his mouth, he burst out laughing, too.

“You are not very beneficial to my amour propre,” he wheezed up at her.

She couldn't stop laughing, full-throated, full-bellied, as if too much suppressed laughter had simply spilled over. “I ... I ... didn't ...”

“Mean it,” he managed, making it up as far as sitting beside her. “Yes, I know.”

She frantically shook her head. “Think anything could be so ... funny!” She was gasping, bent over her hands at her waist. “The look on your face!”

He had meant to get up, to reassert his mastery of the situation. He refused to sacrifice this perfect moment with her on the floor. Wrapping an arm around her shoulder, he wiped at the tears that coursed down her cheeks.

“It's not that funny,” he groused.

She started laughing again. “Oh, yes it is. You can have no idea of how long it's been since I had the chance to laugh. Since I last saw your sister, I think.”

He had to grin. “Well, yes. Pip would set anybody to laughing. She's a ridiculous little thing.”

For that he got a resounding smack on his chest. “Do not dare speak ill of my best friend.” She hiccuped, her eyes widening a bit. “My only friend, actually. Except for Sarah and Lizzie. And now that Sarah is married to my brother, I have no idea at all how we will meet again.”

There was the faintest plaintive note in her voice that made Alex want to curl her completely into his arms and shield her from hurt. Dear God, how lonely she must have been. “I promise,” he said instead. “I fully respect my sister's loyalty. It's her good sense I frequently question.”

Her breathing was evening out. She nodded. “Pip does have a knack for acting before thinking.”

“She's like a whirlwind.”

“She needs to finally capture her Beau,” Fiona said with a definite nod. “That would settle her down.”

Alex snorted. “Poor Beau. He'd never have another moment's peace.”

And for a long moment, they just sat there in a pool of sunlight and velvet, his arm around her and her head on his shoulder. It felt so good. So whole.

It couldn't last. If he didn't move, he'd damn well take her here on the floor. He opened his mouth to tell her, and then made the mistake of meeting her gaze again.

Her lips were still parted, but she wasn't laughing anymore. He could see the pulse jumping at her throat, and her hands were clenched again, as if she were trying hard to keep them to herself.

He didn't know why. Lifting his own hand, he cupped her cheek. Again he gave her the chance to pull away. Again she didn't. His own heart started to skip around. He was rock hard. There was no longer a question. He had to kiss her.

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My Review:

It did begin with a kiss, as Eileen Dreyer's novella (which introduced the students of the Last Chance Academy) suggests. Fiona and Alex are kindred souls -- something they recognized in each other when they met at the academy all those years ago. Back then, Alex was not free to love Fiona because he was married, but the connection and chemistry was undeniable, and fans of the Rakes (me, included) were left to wistfully imagine what it would have been like if Fiona and Alex had a chance to explore the possibilities between them. But now, even though his wife has died, Alex still does not believe he is free to love Fiona, doesn't believe he is worthy of Fiona's love and doesn't believe he can dare to dream to be with her. Instead he focuses on protecting her and rescuing her from the terrible, and deadly, situation Fiona and Mairead unwittingly find themselves in.

In Twice Tempted, Eileen Dreyer has ramped up the intrigue. Dreyer's background is romantic suspense and she showcases a masterful (and very wicked) mind in crafting the delicate balancing act of protecting one's self, protecting one's family and name, and protecting one's country. It is terrifying to realise the power and reach of The Lions and I did wonder if Alex would succumb to the pressure they were exerting on him.

The Rakes all see Alex as a White Knight: a virtuous and noble defender and champion, but Alex doesn't believe he deserves the name. Even now as he walks the fine line between patriotism and treason, Alex doubts his own heart and ability. While he has devoted his life to protecting the people he loved, his success rate is 0%. He failed to save his late wife, and he is about to, potentially, fail at saving his stepfather, Fiona, and England.

He thought of the promise he had only recently made to Drake, that he would not fail to contact him the minute the Lions approached. Nothing was more important than his duty to his country, he'd vowed. Not honor. Not life. But what about his father? Just what would a charge of treason do to that magnificent heart? Alex stood for a long time. Before he moved on, he gave one nod of his head. He never went back to Drake's.
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There's blackmail that involves Alex's late wife's letters (which incriminate her), and now it is revealed that Alex's stepfather was also involved. Then there is Fiona and Mairead, who are being pursued by The Lions. What do they want from two orphans with no social connection or pull? What is so important about these sisters?

So many questions in the story. So many mystery boxes to unlock. The task is daunting, but Eileen Dreyer has created characters that are more than capable of handling the situation. I was delighted and impressed by how intelligent and clever Fiona and Mairead are. They have defied expectations and broken molds as heroines. They are a wonderful combination of book-smart and street-smart -- when we discover what happened to the sisters all those years ago in Edinburgh, we assume the worst: the brothel, the streets, etc. -- but we discover how greatly we have underestimated these two amazingly brave women.

Had Fiona had a top hat to hide beneath? How had she disguised that flame-bright hair and unforgettable face? How had she protected Mired? Suddenly it was important to know.
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I speak about Fiona and Mairead together because that is how they have always been: as twins, their lives intersect in the most primal way. And, with Mairead's quirks, Fiona has had to manage her sister for their entire lives. Like the other characters in the story, I wondered about Mairead, who was always talked about in the previous books, but never seen. Even then, Fiona had protected her and kept her from everyone's view. In Twice Tempted, we finally meet the mysterious Mairead, and she is lovable in her own special way.

The sisters share one great passion for the stars, and Fiona has long relied on Orion's constancy -- it's a heartbreaking representation of the one thing Fiona wants and desperately lacks in her life: someone to rely on. The interesting reflection about stars is that they are fixed points in space and we have, through history, relied on them to guide us -- but, the stars disappear during the day when the sun outshines them, but, in our darkest hour, in our gravest need, those same stars will shine the brightest.

... Fiona had been created for the skies, for the bright light of the sun, for rapier-sharp debate and sly humour. It was the way he'd always seen her in his mind, as a primal force. But Fiona was not only that bright spirit waving from the carriage, or the tight, controlled lady who survived her grandfather. She was the muck of the gutters. The thin, honed steel of survival. She was so much more than he had fallen in love with, and he didn't know how to absorb it all.
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Elegant and exciting are the two words that best describe Eileen Dreyer's Twice Tempted, breathtaking and entertaining are the other two words. Twice Tempted is Book 2 in the Last Chance Academy sub-series and Book 5 in the Drake's Rakes series (and it is awesome).

Disclosure: I received this review copy through Netgalley for this blog tour. Thank you to Eileen Dreyer and to Grand Central for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.

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About Eileen Dreyer:

New York Times best-selling author Eileen Dreyer has won five RITA Awards from the Romance Writers of America, which secures her fourth place in the Romance Writers of America prestigious Hall of Fame. Eileen is an addicted traveler, having sung in some of the best Irish pubs in the world. Eileen also writes as Kathleen Korbel and has over three million books in print worldwide. Born and raised in Missouri, she lives in St. Louis County with her husband Rick and her two children.

Eileen’s social media:

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To celebrate the release of Twice Tempted, there is a giveaway for the complete set of the Drake's Rakes series, including Twice Tempted! (5 lucky winners will be chosen. Enter via rafflecopter below.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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