Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Happy Release Day! Gambled Away: A Historical Romance Anthology (ARC Review)

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

About the book:

Get revenge. Pay a debt. Save a soul. Lose your heart.

Spanning centuries and continents, five brand-new novellas from beloved historical romance authors tell the stories of men and women who find themselves wagered in a game of chance and are forced to play for the highest stakes of all: love.

“Gideon and the Den of Thieves” by Joanna Bourne

London, 1793 – Soldier of fortune Gideon Gage has come home from halfway around the world, fully prepared to face down a ruthless gang to save his sister. But there’s one member of the gang he could never have been prepared for: fascinating Aimée, driven from her own home by the French Revolution and desperately in need of his help.

“Raising The Stakes” by Isabel Cooper

California, 1938 — When the flute she won in last night’s poker game unexpectedly summons an elven warrior bound to her service, two-bit con artist Sam takes quick advantage. With Talathan’s fairy powers at her command, her shakedown of a crooked preacher is a sure thing ... but would she rather take a gamble on love?

“All or Nothing” by Rose Lerner

England, 1819 – Architect Simon Radcliffe-Gould needs someone to pose as his mistress so he can actually get some work done at a scandalous house party. Irrepressible gambling den hostess Maggie da Silva would rather be his mistress, but she’ll take what she can get ...

“The Liar’s Dice” by Jeannie Lin

Tang Dynasty China, 849 A.D. — Lady Bai’s first taste of freedom brings her face to face with murder. A dangerous and enigmatic stranger becomes her closest ally as she investigates the crime, but can she trust her heart or her instincts when everyone is playing a game of liar’s dice?

“Redeemed” by Molly O’Keefe

Denver, 1868 — After agonizing years in the Civil War’s surgical tents, Union doctor James Madison has nothing left to lose. But when beautiful, tortured Helen Winters is the prize in a high-stakes game of poker, he goes all in to save her -- and maybe his own soul.

* * *

My Review:

When one of your favorite authors contact you about an anthology she is in, and mentions the names of more of your favorite authors, you drop everything and read it. Gambled Away features 5 brand-new short stories that all explore the theme of gambling.

In the first story, All or Nothing, Rose Lerner's Simon Radcliffe-Gould is drawn to Maggie da Silva, part owner of the gambling den he frequents. Simon believes he can take better care of Maggie -- every time he visits, he longs to talk to Maggie and ask her questions about herself and her life -- but, mainly, he wants to ask Maggie why she continues to stay and work in the gambling den and allow her business partner/friend/lover to use and objectify her.

When the opportunity finally arises, Simon is surprised by Maggie's frankness -- and discovers that he had been mistaken in his assumptions of her. Maggie doesn't need saving or taking care of. She's fine as she is, but, what she needs, at this moment, is a diversion.

Simon receives a commission from a former classmate, and he knows he must accept the job, even if it means revisiting awkward relationships from his past. Simon comes up with an arrangement with Maggie: pretend to be his mistress, and accompany him on this trip. Of course Maggie agrees to go -- curious to find out more about Simon. It's a business trip that becomes an occasion for self-discovery -- and Maggie and Simon explore the extent of their desire and sexuality.

I think Rose Lerner gambled on two levels when she wrote this story: for one, this is a story unlike any of her other stories. Her characters are uninhibited and very honest and open about their relationships. I love that both her hero and heroine are morally ... neutral. It allows her characters to move and speak outside the boundaries of politeness. It's a short story, yes, but it does not skimp on, what I consider, signature Rose Lerner: a thoughtful discussion and reflection. This time, she examines religion, gender roles, and sexual habits.

The Liar's Dice by Jeannie Lin takes you across the globe, and into the midst of a young woman about to break out of the confines of her sheltered life, and embark on an adventure. All Wei Wei wanted to do was visit a tea house -- something that she has read about in her studies. The experience proves to be as she had imagined ... and more: on her way home, she meets Gao, an enigmatic man (who is obviously not a scholar, but who knows her brother), and they both witness a murder.

I thought the author did a really great job crafting the mystery: Wu Kaifeng (from Lin's The Jade Temptress) is investigating the murder and asks for Wei Wei's assistance. Wei Wei wants to help, but, as the mystery unfolds, she discovers a connection between the victim and her brother. It becomes a difficult situation for Wei Wei -- if she continues to help Wu Kaifeng, she might be endangering her brother, his reputation and his career. The situation is made more uncomfortable by her growing attraction to Gao, who isn't of her world or rank.

What made this story enjoyable was the experience of the culture and observances of China -- at once different, but also the same. Wei Wei is bound by the rules of society, much like the ladies of our historical romances set in the West, and she faces the same dilemma: if she follows her heart, she turns her back on her family, but, if she chooses her family over Gao, she would be betraying her heart. I was also engrossed with the crime, the uncovering of the motive, and the subsequent resolution.

Of the five stories, Isabel Cooper's Raising the Stakes, took on the greatest challenge: to build a world where elves and humans exist, and weave a romance (between an elf and a human) within this very short format. Sam is female, but this hasn't stopped her from trying to make money to help her family. I liked Sam: I liked how she really did everything she could to survive, and I liked that, despite the difficulties she faced, she never turned her back on her family.

She wins an antique flute in a card game, and it summons Talathan, an elven warrior, bound to the flute and to whoever owns the flute. Talathan is described as charismatic, very handsome (in an other-worldly way), and a fierce warrior. But I would've wanted to know more about Talathan, and about his world -- unfortunately, the author decided not to delve too deeply into it. Instead, she proceeds to lay out the details of Sam's scheme: with Talathan's help, Sam plans to con a conman -- a preacher who hasn't exactly been doing good works. I enjoyed reading about how Sam and Talathan carried out their plan, though, I have to admit to being confused at certain points in the story. (When the plan comes to fruition, I didn't feel the excitement or the characters' satisfaction over their success. It felt a bit "meh" -- and then the hero and heroine just moved on.)

Amidst the world-building and the confidence game, what suffered most in the story is the romance: from time to time, the author did well to hint at the attraction between Sam and Talathan, but I didn't really see any meaningful chemistry.

Where Isabel Cooper infuses fantasy into her story, Molly O'Keefe brings the dark, bleak, and dangerous world of drug addiction and PTSD. James Madison served as a doctor during the Civil War, and, while he was busy saving lives, he was also becoming addicted to chloroform. The addiction costed him his career, and his life -- and he now lives in a brothel, where he still battles the demons and nightmares from the war.

Helen is known as the Northern Spy, a brave woman who infiltrated the South during the war, gathered information and helped free slaves. Now, she is slave to Mr. Park, a cruel and vindictive Southerner, who intends to make Helen pay for her role in the South's defeat. Helen has been regularly given morphine and laudanum to control her spirit, and she's been put in a gilded cage to imprison her body. And, every so often, she is put up as the prize in a high-stakes poker game: win the game and win a night with the Northern Spy. But the game isn't really a game, because, no matter who wins, they eventually discover that they've lost. Helen in a cage, with no will or say of her own, is a difficult and painful thing to witness, but no one dares go against Mr. Park and his assistant, Guy.

There's a part of James that wants to help, but he knows that his days of being a hero are long passed. But you can see him struggling between self-preservation, and saving Helen. Throughout his life, James hadn't been very good with using his gifts -- despite his education, he had damned himself with his addiction. And, his gift with cards (and gambling) had damned him in the eyes of his family. We're told that no man is an island -- but James certainly lived like one. Cast far, far away from anyone or anything that would have reminded him of better times. But Helen comes along, and it stirs a determination inside James.

As I read Redeemed, I really thought Helen and James had no chance of escaping -- they were trapped in a brothel, and trapped by their own circumstances. Even if they managed to escape the brothel, they would have to contend with Helen's withdrawal from drugs -- while on the run. And who would they turn to for help? Because of James' addiction, he had been disowned by his family, and he has chosen to distance himself from the few friends he had left.

Despite the shortness of O'Keefe's story, it succeeds in twisting your insides in that uncomfortable, and excruciating way. You will really empathize for Helen and James, who are so, so broken, but who both so, so deserve to have a chance at life. The author's villain is truly one for the books -- it was skillful how the author presents the many sides and effects of war: James, Helen, Mr. Park and the other characters in the story came home from the war changed for good -- but, where James struggles to save himself (and to protect others from his addiction), Mr. Park has chosen to use his brokenness as an excuse to break others and make them as miserable as himself.

Joanna Bourne's Gideon and the Den of Thieves rounds out this collection of stories of strong, independent women. Aimee is French, and escaped during the French Revolution. She works as the appraiser in Lazarus's den of thieves. It is not a situation she was born into, but it's the situation she is in right now -- and she makes the best of it, rising through the ranks to become one of Lazarus's most trusted cohorts.

Gideon Gage is a wealthy man who willingly walks into the den with one goal in mind: to rescue his sister at all cost. He is armed and ready to fight for his sister's freedom, but he is unprepared for the complex and dangerous rules that Lazarus and his thieves live by. Our hero quickly discovers that Lazarus has kidnapped his sister for a reason, and Daphne would not be set free unless she paid the price.

Joanna Bourne is an amazing, amazing storyteller -- and this short story packs as much punch as her longer novels. I loved seeing the young Adrian Hawkhurst, who provided moments of levity -- but also reflected just how deceptively dangerous the world is. He is very cavalier, but he is also always on guard. Aimee is beautiful, calm and elegant -- she stands with, but also stands apart from the rest of the thieves in Lazarus's employ. She serves as Gideon's guide through Lazarus' Lair -- much like Dante's Beatrice, and the den is Gideon's own inferno. The den of thieves is an intriguing character of its own. It is, literally, an underworld: existing in the dark corners and warrens of London. The idea of Honor Among Thieves is exemplified in how Lazarus governs over Aimee, Hawk, and everyone else. But, like anything created by humans, it is not absolute -- and there are some in the den who seek to usurp Lazarus's power.

Bourne piques your curiosity by hinting at undercurrents of tension and uneasiness -- why doesn't Daphne want to leave? Why is Aimee so worried? Even Lazarus is behaving strangely. Aimee heroically tries her best to protect everyone: Gideon, Lazarus, Hawk, Daphne, and herself. It takes a while for Gideon to figure things out, but, when he does, I admired how he was able to exercise restrain -- trusting Aimee to take the lead, but also being ready to step in if the situation needed it.

Lazarus is a character that previously appeared in Joanna Bourne's other books, but I loved him in this story. He's a figure that inspires fear, but also respect. He is, at once, seemingly invulnerable, and painfully human -- and at the heart of Lazarus is, surprisingly, a heart -- one that recognizes justice and fairness.

Overall, I thought this was a well-balanced anthology, and a great showcase of the five authors' unique styles and voices. I will say that the romances here aren't what one usually finds in longer novels, but, as with the theme, I'd like readers to take a chance and read this.

Disclosure: I received this ARC from Rose Lerner. Thank you to Rose, Joanna Bourne, Isabel Cooper, Jeannie Lin, and Molly O'Keefe for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.

To find out more about this book, visit the website.

* * *

About the authors:

Joanna Bourne

Joanna Bourne lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge with her family, a medium-sized mutt and a faux Himalayan cat.

She writes Historical Romances set in England and France during the Napoleonic Wars. She’s fascinated by that time and place—such passionate conviction and burning idealism ... and really sexy clothes.

Website: http://joannabourne.com/

Isabel Cooper

Isabel Cooper spent a large part of her childhood in Southern California, but was more or less law-abiding at the time, and only learned how to gamble later. (Her sister always beat her at card games, too. Accusations of cheating were rampant. And loud.) After moving around a lot, she now lives in Boston, where she plays geeky games of all sorts, occasionally goes dancing, and sometimes attempts to cook. She may be the only person in the world who likes circus peanuts.

Website: https://isabelcooper.wordpress.com/

Rose Lerner

Rose Lerner discovered Georgette Heyer when she was thirteen, and wrote her first historical romance a few years later. Her writing has improved since then, but her fascination with all things Regency hasn’t changed. When not reading, writing, or researching, she enjoys cooking and watching TV. She lives in Seattle with her best friend.

Website: http://roselerner.com/

Jeannie Lin

Jeannie Lin started writing in 2005 while she was teaching high school. After a long journey through rejections and contests and revisions, her manuscript, Butterfly Swords, won the 2009 Golden Heart® award for historical romance. Her first two books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and her second novel, The Dragon and the Pearl, was listed as one of Library Journal’s Best Romances of 2011.

Her stories are inspired by her love of adventure, history, and fantasy in both western and Asian traditions. From an early age she was fascinated by legends of King Arthur and the fantasy of Lord of the Rings as well as the Chinese wuxia (martial arts) fiction. As a result, she writes heroic characters in epic situations while interweaving a strong romance to make larger than life characters human.

Website: http://www.jeannielin.com/

Molly O’Keefe

Molly O’Keefe has always known she wanted to be a writer (except when she wanted to be a florist or a chef and the brief period of time when she considered being a cowgirl). And once she got her hands on some romances, she knew exactly what she wanted to write.

She published her first Harlequin romance at age 25 and hasn’t looked back. She loves exploring every character’s road towards happily ever after.

Originally from a small town outside of Chicago, she went to university in St. Louis where she met and fell in love with the editor of her school newspaper. They followed each other around the world for several years and finally got married and settled down in Toronto, Ontario. They welcomed their son into their family in 2006, and their daughter in 2008. When she’s not at the park or cleaning up the toy room, Molly is working hard on her next novel, trying to exercise, stalking Tina Fey on the internet and dreaming of the day she can finish a cup of coffee without interruption.

Dishing It Out, her last Harlequin Flipside, won the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for best Flipside in 2005. Her Superromance Baby Makes Three won the RT Reviewer’s Choice for best Superromance in 2006. Her novella, “The Christmas Eve Promise” in The Night Before Christmas won the RITA in 2009. And her full length contemporary romance Crazy Thing Called Love won the RITA in 2013.

Website: http://www.molly-okeefe.com/
Monday, May 30, 2016

Book Review: The Fires of Paradise by Brenda Joyce (Guest post: Review written by Lyn)

I've convinced my book buddy, Lyn, to let me post her wonderful review of The Fires of Paradise by Brenda Joyce. We share a love for Lisa Kleypas, Joanna Bourne and Julie Anne Long, and it was Lyn who introduced me to the wonderful books of Elizabeth Hoyt. She now lives in a different continent and timezone from me, but we still maintain an e-mail correspondence and we exchange notes on the books we are reading.

* * *

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

Lucy Bragg is a goddess and she knows it. How can she not? She’s beautiful, smart, well-connected, and so disgustingly rich that she can buy anything she can talk her Daddy Rathe into -- when Mommy Grace is not looking. Born and raised in 5th Avenue, and worshipped by her hordes of instantly, violently infatuated suitors from her perfect little world, she is New York at its finest and what she wants, she wants immediately. When her parents’ engagements delay their departure for Paradise for her Grandpa Derek’s surprise 80th birthday celebration, impatience strikes and she, dragging her sidekick, Joanna, along, decides to go ahead of her family, evades her chaperon, buys a car she doesn’t know how to drive, and promptly winds up in the middle of the Texas desert with a broken axle and a nasty-looking man carrying a saddle.

Shoz Savage is annoyed and makes certain she knows it. He’s smart, tough, hard-working, and a box-office superstar in many, many women’s deepest, darkest fantasies, and what does he have to show for it? A lifetime of racist cruelty against him by the small-minded, a seven-year jail time for a crime he has yet to commit, more jail time for breaking out of prison, gunrunning, and just that morning, it almost broke his manly heart to shoot his poor little horse after it broke his leg. Now, this spoiled brat expects him to be so overwhelmed by her many upper-crust charms that he’ll just drop down and fix her car, minutes after she drives straight into a pothole, trying to ignore his signal to ride with them. Leaving them to their well-deserved comeuppance is tempting, but he’s not walking further in the sweltering desert heat when he can manipulate his way into a free ride and snuggling with her. It is hate at first sight, but here in God’s hot Texas nowhere, they’re just man and woman getting wild -- after a little persuasion.

Ruined and furious by his indifference after their almost-glorious night, Lucy determinedly buries her one great indiscretion and embraces her life as it should be with a vengeance. When her partner-in-crime shows up in Paradise and house-works his way into her grandparents’ good graces -- and systematically wrecks her life on the side, pride demands that Lucy pulverize him into oblivion with her millions, but her increasing desperation is fueled by more than fear of exposure. Shoz is her own private torture, threatening her self-control as he flits in the outskirts of her life, taunting her with her impropriety -- and tempting her to revel again how good their passion can be.

When a horse theft and a jealous ex-lover’s anonymous tip unveil his checkered past and leave him wounded and in jail for stealing Derek’s prized horse, Shoz grasps his unexpected chance at freedom by taking Lucy hostage and dragging her to his one refuge, the Sierras. In the vast isolation of the looming mountains, the wary pair finds unlikely allies in themselves as they face her powerful family’s relentless pursuit, comfort in their shared solitude, and an unexpected friendship and deepening affection slowly stripping them of their desperate defenses against the world.

The Fires of Paradise is a wonderful story of self-discovery and of a love transcending the bounds of race, wealth and rank -- a gentle reminder that love lurks in unexpected places and, although the road might be rough and treacherous, happiness is never that far away for those brave and determined enough to reach for it.

This review was written by my book buddy, Lyn. ^_^

The Fires of Paradise is Book 5 of Brenda Joyce's Bragg Family Saga. To find out more about Brenda Joyce and her books, click below:

Sunday, May 29, 2016

99-cent Historical Romances

Jilting the Duke by Rachael Miles (The Muses Salon Series Book 1)
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

384 pages, 63 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.2 stars)

Broken Promise, Broken Heart

Aidan Somerville, Duke of Forster, is a rake, a spy, and a soldier, richer than sin and twice as handsome. Now he is also guardian to his deceased best friend’s young son. The choice makes perfect sense --except that the child’s mother is the lovely Sophia Gardiner, to whom Aidan was engaged before he went off to war. When the news reached him that she had married another, his ship had not yet even left the dock.

Sophia does not expect Aidan to understand or forgive her. But she cannot allow him to stay her enemy. She’s prepared for coldness, even vengeance -- but not for the return of the heedless lust she and Aidan tumbled into ten years ago. She knows the risks of succumbing to this dangerous desire. Still, with Aidan so near, it’s impossible not to dream about a second chance ...

The Shadow Princess by Mary Hart Perry
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

302 pages, 27 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.4 stars)

To catch one of history’s most notorious killers, a princess risks losing her family, her life -- and her heart.

London, 1888: A year after Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee terror mounts in the city's slums. A killer has butchered two prostitutes, the crimes brutal even by London’s hardened standards. Rumors of the murders reach Princess Vicky, daughter of Queen Victoria and grieving widow of the German Emperor Frederick III. When her niece Princess Maud visits, she brings with her even worse news -- the Metropolitan Police have a suspect. It’s Vicky’s nephew, Crown Prince Eddy. Desperate to clear her family's name, Vicky rushes back to England.

Detective Inspector Thomas Edmondson believes there is a royal cover-up behind the killings. He will stop at nothing to expose the truth and bring a murderer to justice before he can kill again. But when Vicky joins him in searching for the man who will become known as Jack the Ripper, neither of them foresee the overpowering attraction that will draw together the royal and the commoner -- or the danger their love puts them in.

What You Desire by Adele Clee (Anything for Love Book 1)
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

280 pages, 6 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.8 stars)

Sebastian Ashcroft, fourth Marquess of Danesfield, had no intention of accompanying Sophie Beaufort on a ludicrous quest to find her missing brother. Nor did he want to be part of the investigation into her brother's dealings with the mysterious Comte de Dampierre.

But desire can do strange things to a man.

Threatened with an indecent proposal from a dissolute French comte, Sophie Beaufort is forced to travel to London to discover the reason behind her brother's mysterious disappearance. Capable of handling her own affairs, the last thing she wants is to be encumbered by the dishonourable Marquess of Danesfield -- a man she so desperately wants to hate.

But does love once blossomed ever truly fade?

Betrayed by Your Kiss by Laura Landon
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

270 pages, 97 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.2 stars)

It should have been the happiest night of her life ...

Lady Olivia Sheridan knows one thing: she has loved Lord Damien forever. But when her beloved is accused of fathering another woman’s child, Olivia’s world is shattered in ways she never thought possible. Especially when Damien’s accuser sets a huge price on his head, and Olivia discovers Damien’s death will be the only outcome ... unless she does the one thing he will never forgive her for doing.

When Olivia’s plan to save him goes disastrously, dangerously awry, Damien doesn’t think he’ll ever see the light of day again and, with bitterness, he realizes that the woman he loves is capable of the ultimate betrayal.

Now, four years later, Damien has returned. His eye is on one thing: seeking revenge for what Olivia did to him. Only his heart may get in the way ...

Because hell hath no fury ... like a man betrayed.

In for a Penny by Rose Lerner
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

322 pages, 40 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.1 stars)

Grand Passion ... or epic disaster?

Lord Nevinstoke revels in acting the young wastrel, until his father is killed in a drunken duel. Never one to do anything halfway, Nev throws off his wild ways to shoulder a mountain of responsibility -- and debt -- vowing to marry a rich girl and act the respectable lord of the manor.

Manufacturing heiress Penelope Brown seems the perfect choice for a wife. She’s pretty, proper, and looking for a husband.

Determined to rise above her common birth, Penelope prides herself on her impeccable behavior and good sense. Grand Passion? Vulgar and melodramatic. Yes, agreeing to marry Nev was a rare moment of impulse, yet she’s sure they can build a good marriage based on companionship and mutual esteem.

But when they arrive at the manor, they’re overwhelmed with half-starved tenants, a menacing neighbor, and the family propensity for scandal. As the situation deteriorates, the newlyweds have nowhere to turn but to each other. To Penelope’s surprise, she begins to fervently hope that her first taste of Grand Passion in her husband’s arms won’t be her last.

First published by Dorchester in March 2010.

Warning: Contains kisses in the breakfast room, account books in the bedroom ... and murder in the garden. Featuring a heroine who’s used to settling, a hero who’s used to getting what he wants without trying, and a love for which they’ll both have to fight tooth and nail.

Timeless Desire by Gwyn Cready
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

384 pages, 57 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.3 stars)

For lovers of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, a sexy Scottish time travel romance from award-winning author Gwyn Cready

Thrown back to the sizzling tensions of the Scottish borderlands
Librarian Panna Kennedy battles budget cuts, eccentric patrons, and the loneliness of early widowhood until she ventures through a long-locked door under the library's stairs and finds herself in the opulent eighteenth-century castle library of the dashing and dangerously handsome Captain Jamie Bridgewater.

Can she trust a handsome hero?
Jamie is embroiled in a risky game of high-stakes subterfuge on the Scottish/English border, where loyalty to the wrong cause can cost you your life, and Panna is instantly swept into the intrigue. Their adventure takes them across the border into perilous and passion-filled territory. But when Jamie is caught and Panna realizes she holds the key to his destiny, will she return to safety as he demands, or follow her timeless desire?

Lords of Scandal: Four Full-length Georgian Romances
$0.99 on Amazon
About the collection:

FOUR full-length Georgian novels from the stars of historical romance! You’ll be swept from the aristocracy of England to The Colonies on the eve of war and fall in love with four lords of scandal you won’t soon forget.

THE RAIDER’S BRIDE by Kimberly Cates
A masked patriot ... By day, Ian Blackheath is the most sensual rogue in the colony of Virginia. At night, he secretly rides as Pendragon, ruthless leader of the patriot cause. The last thing he needs is a ward. What is a masked raider supposed to do when a pint-sized mistress of disaster is dumped on the doorstep of his mansion? Especially since little Lucy displays a penchant for unearthing secrets?

MY LADY OF DECEPTION by Christi Caldwell
For Georgina Wilcox, only child of the notorious traitor known as “The Fox”, there are too many secrets to count. However, after her interference results in great tragedy, she resolves to never help another ... until she meets Adam Markham. Lord Adam Markham is captured by The Fox. Imprisoned, Adam loses everything he holds dear. As his days in captivity grow, he finds himself fascinated by the young maid, Georgina, who cares for him.

KISSED by Tanya Anne Crosby
England and Charleston, South Carolina, 1763 -- Jessamine Stone vows to wed no man but her onetime fiancé, Christian Haukinge. She sets out to win back Christian’s affections, unaware that her brother has already offered him a bribe to break her heart. Christian agrees to the devil’s bargain, but soon finds Jessie’s innocent passion, trust, and faith undermine his resolve for vengeance.

MASTER OF MY DREAMS by Danelle Harmon
When nobly-born Captain Christian Lord is given command of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Bold Marauder, the never dreams that a crew on the brink of mutiny will be the least of his troubles as he heads to Boston to subdue pirates and rebels. Haunted by nightmares and a tragic past, Christian is loyal to King and Country ... never imagining that his gravest danger could come in the form of a beautiful stowaway who secretly plots his destruction.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cover Reveal: My Lady, My Spy by Sheridan Jeane (Giveaway)

Sheridan Jeane reveals the cover of her latest book, My Lady, My Spy, the fourth book in her Secrets and Seduction series. It will be released on June 21, 2016.

He’s a spy -- Certain truths aren’t his to share ...

London, 1854 ~ Frederick Woolsy is Queen Victoria’s finest spy. His mission at the Russian Embassy’s annual ball is one of the most critical ones of his life, but his careful plans end in disaster. The book he was assigned to secure has been stolen and now England and Russia are on the brink of war. Even worse, the love of his life has caught him in another lie (he’s a spy, certain lies are expected). However, in this case, it might mean he’ll lose her forever.

She’s a lady who demands honesty -- above all else

The nights Lady Josephine Harrington spent with Frederick in her bed were glorious ... enough to tempt her to consider abandoning her independence as a wealthy widow to spend her life with him. Tonight, he canceled their plans to attend the Russian Embassy’s ball, saying he would be otherwise engaged. Now he’s shown up at the event with his brother. She’s not sure what he’s up to, but she’s going to find out ... if she doesn’t eviscerate him first.

Secrets and lies ...

He lives in a world of shadows. She values truth and integrity. If they want to find a future together, something has to change. Fast.

Josephine finally escaped the crowded ballroom and entered the foyer. She looked around, but found no sign of Frederick or his brother. They’d both disappeared.

Movement above her on the balcony caught her attention. Was that Frederick? When he spotted her, he ducked out of sight, but she’d seen him. Of that she was certain.

Why had he gone up there? Was he merely curious about the building’s renovations? She dismissed the idea. There was more than mere curiosity driving his actions.

She moved toward the staircase, intending to follow him, but a large footman stepped in front of her, blocking the way.

“Upstairs area is restricted,” the man said in a thick Russian accent. “No guests allowed.”

Josephine glanced at the balcony again, but couldn’t spot Frederick. She knew better than to mention his flouting of the rules to the footman. Frederick must have evaded him by taking an alternate route upstairs.

She acquiesced and stepped away, glancing around the grand foyer. She spotted a door on the far side of the room leading toward the embassy offices. It wasn’t guarded. Perhaps she’d find another staircase back there.

A children’s choir began singing. The other guests around her moved. As a group passed between her and the man guarding the staircase, Josephine slipped through a side door and found herself in a corridor lined with embassy offices. There should be another, less opulent staircase nearby.

The office doors were all closed, but about halfway down the hallway she noticed one standing slightly ajar. She hurried closer to open it and when she discovered a servants’ staircase, she grinned. Frederick must have taken this route.

Josephine lifted the hem of her skirt and crept up the stairs. Her night around would end in disaster if she ran into one of the embassy’s servants. Those Russian footmen looked intimidating.

She paused when she reached the landing. The door leading to the corridor was closed, but she heard someone just outside. She paused as she tried to identify the odd shuffling sound that seemed to be moving away from her.

Cautiously, she edged open the door and peeked into the hallway. A man was sliding a cloth along the floor with his shoe, wiping up what appeared to be water.
Not just any man. Frederick.

She pushed open the door and stepped through.

At the sound, he spun to face her. His jaw dropped as his piercing blue eyes widened in surprise.“Josephine? What in blazes are you doing up here?”

“You canceled our plans for tonight. Imagine my surprise when you strolled through the ballroom.” She gave him a cold smile. “I thought I’d give you an opportunity to explain yourself before I set the dogs on you, so to speak.”


Also in the Secrets and Seduction series:

It Takes a Spy
by Sheridan Jeane
Secrets and Seduction, #1
Publication Date: November 1, 2014
Genres: Historical, Romance

Synopsis: In 1851, Cecilia Paring has serious reservations about marrying her fiancé, Devin Montlake. Gone is the boy who could capture her heart with a word or a glance and in his place is a man who has made it clear that to be a proper barrister's wife, the exciting and impulsive Cecilia must change as well.

Although Devin Montlake loves his orderly life as a barrister, he's determined to follow his roadmap to achieve his goal of becoming a judge. His biggest obstacle seems to be convincing his headstrong fiancée to fulfill her social obligations with a modicum of propriety. But when the jewelry collection belonging to Cecilia's family is stolen the night before it is to be auctioned off and Devin is framed for the crime, he discovers that following his much-loved rules won't solve this particular problem. He'll need the inventiveness of his irrepressible fiancée to catch the thief.


Lady Catherine's Secret
by Sheridan Jeane
Secrets and Seduction #2
Publication Date: December 1, 2014
Genres: Historical, Romance

Synopsis: London, 1853

Despite Lady Catherine's love of fencing, she needs to stop pretending to be a boy and fraternizing with men ... but not until after the fencing tournament! Her mother plans to marry her off by the end of the season, so this will be her last chance to enjoy her freedom. When she impulsively puts her reputation at risk to save the life of a dashing competitor, all seems lost when he sees through her disguise, but he vows never to reveal her secret. Thank goodness for gentlemanly honor!

Daniel, Marquess of Huntley, wants to overcome the rumors of his father's madness so that he can be embraced by London society. His plan is to marry the most proper woman who will have him, and then raise stable, respectable children. He certainly isn't interested in some hoyden with a penchant for masquerading as a boy and flaunting society's rules. In fact, he'd prefer to keep his distance.

When an obsessed suitor discovers Catherine's secret and threatens blackmail, the only path out of social ruin is marriage. But what kind of protection does matrimony provide when a vengeful suitor is plotting the ultimate revenge?


Once Upon a Spy
by Sheridan Jeane
Secrets and Seduction #3
Publication Date: November 17, 2015
Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance, Suspense

Synopsis: London, 1854 ~ Robert, Earl of Wentworth, isn’t a spy, and he never wants to be one, but when his brother is injured and needs his help stealing an important book from the Russian embassy, he can’t refuse.

Antonia has lost everything. If she wants her life back, she needs that book. The problem is, Lord Wentworth just stole it from the Russian Ambassador.

The reluctant spy and the daring thief find themselves at cross-purposes. Who will win in this dangerous game of nations -- especially when their hearts are at stake as well?

Note: Although this is the third book in the series, it can be read as a standalone novel. For those who have read the first two books, you'll rediscover characters from both of them.


About the author:

Sheridan Jeane writes exciting and emotion-packed historical romances set in the Victorian Era that confront issues of trust and conformity.

With the advent of the industrial age, life was changing. Many people tried to hold on to the old ways of life while others embraced the new opportunities open to them.

Join Sheridan as she explores the clash between the old and the new.

Sheridan has always loved books, history, and stories about amazing people who blaze new trails.

Despite naming their daughter Sheridan because they thought it might someday look great on the cover of a book, Sheridan's parents urged her in a more practical direction for college. Sheridan earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science with a minor in English.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Book Review: The Improper Bride by Lily Maxton

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

After reading about the Marquess of Riverton in the previous book, I thought it would be difficult for Henry Eldridge to make a convincing transformation from a reviled antagonist, to a hero worthy of a happily-ever-after. It takes a fire, and terrible injury in order to shake the Marquess down from his lofty perch. During his recuperation, his housekeeper, Cassandra Davis is tasked to keep him occupied.

The author doesn't really elaborate on her characters' personalities -- and much of what we know of Cassandra and Henry come from our encounters with them in the previous books: Henry Eldridge is cold and arrogant. He had a mistress, but no other anecdotes of failed relationships -- so everything that we know of him is based on his dealing with Julia Forsythe. Cassandra is the same: she's a widow. She is very practical, caring, but not overly so -- she keeps herself at a distance -- as seen in her conversations with Julia and her arrangement with Adam. We get a sense that her husband's death really affected her, and that's why she keeps her feeling to herself.

Cassandra doesn't know whether she should be excited or be afraid of having to keep Riverton company -- by reputation, he isn't the friendliest or most approachable of employers, and she has had very limited contact with him, because he spent most of his time in London. There was also the unpleasant confrontation between Riverton and Julia Forsythe, his ex-mistress. But, on the other hand, Cassandra isn't immune to his appeal.

I am thinking about how the arrangement came to be: Cassandra makes an impulsive decision to ask the Marquess to teach her German, and, after the initial refusal and succeeding outburst, Riverton agrees. Perhaps if the author had taken the time to delve a little bit into Cassandra's backstory, it would be easier to understand why a housekeeper wanted to learn German. Yes, the author hints that Cassandra wasn't born into service, but had chosen to become a housekeeper after her husband died. Henry is intrigued by his housekeeper's boldness, and, maybe it was boredom or something else, but proceeds to teach her German, a most unromantic language -- but, through their daily encounters, esteem and affection and romance slowly blossom. (I also have to give the author props for making Goethe sound very sensual.)

How? Maybe it's the proximity? Maybe it's familiarity? Cassandra is the first female that Henry has had a real conversation with in a very long time. Cassandra is also the first person to see Henry as Henry, and not as a Marquess and future Duke. There is respect for the person, and not adulation for the title. They struggle to keep the relationship platonic -- they need to keep their relationship platonic, for the sake of the household, but the sexual tension is powerful and undeniable as well.

There are obstacles in Henry and Cassandra's path to happiness: he's a marquess, she's his housekeeper. Cassandra is supposed to be the voice of prudence and an example of modesty for all the other servants, and it would ruin her reputation and respectability if she was caught dallying with the master of the house. Henry is supposed to be focusing his energies finding a wife, and securing the succession.

I am on the fence about Henry's sister's participation in the "courtship" -- on one hand, she provided an insight into Henry's upbringing (and supplied a much-needed backstory for why Henry behaves the way he does). I like that she was very progressive about her ideas, and how she really valued Henry's happiness above all. On the other hand, I think she smoothed the road a bit too easily for Henry and Cassandra -- and I would have liked to see our hero and heroine struggle and find a way by themselves --

I have to say, I enjoyed this story more than I did the previous book -- Lily Maxton was able to expand on the tension between master and servant and contrast it with the relationship between man and woman. I also enjoyed the emotional aspect of this novel more.

The Improper Bride is Book 5 in Lily Maxton's Sisters of Scandal series. To find out more about Lily Maxton and her books, click below:

99-cent Historical Romances

Hi, all!

For a limited time, Sourcebooks Casablanca has an amazing offer these 5 historical romance novels by some of my favorite authors:

Heir to the Duke by Jane Ashford
I Kissed a Rogue by Shana Galen
How to Wed a Warrior by Christy English
The Infamous Heir by Elizabeth Michels
A Gentleman's Game by Theresa Romain

And here are more 99-cent historical romances found on Amazon:

The Wicked Wager by Anya Wylde (A Regency Murder Mystery and Romance)
$0.99 on Amazon
About the book:

244 pages, 211 reviews (Average customer rating: 3.8 stars)

The infamous rake, Lord Richard Hamilton, has finally chosen his bride -- the very appropriate Miss Emma Grey.

The ton approves, Lord Grey is pleased, Lady Grey delighted, and Emma is over the moon, but her uncle, (the blasted) Duke of Arden opposes the match, and Emma is ordered to move to the duke’s estate to think things over.

Richard Hamilton refuses to take things lying down and concocts a plan. A plan that should have brought the lovers together and had them married within a month. It was a simple matter of masquerading as the duke’s gardener, compromising the lady, and then having the duke rush them off to Gretna Green.

Alas, he underestimates the duke’s intelligence and the tangled situation on the estate -- never had he imagined that compromising a lady could be so difficult.

His endeavours lead to a comedy of errors, charades, and knotty love affairs. Yet he forges ahead in spite of pesky house guests, a flea bitten mattress, his lovesick best friend, and a blackmailer.

Just when things seem to be going well, someone is murdered (very inconvenient), and he happens to be one of the suspects (extremely inconvenient).

His simple plan for winning the wager suddenly becomes ... a tad complicated.

One Eyed Dukes are Wild by Megan Frampton (Dukes Behaving Badly Book 3)
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

389 pages, 44 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.2 stars)

When does proper behavior deserve a deliciously improper reward?

The scandalously unmarried Lady Margaret Sawford is looking for adventure -- and is always up for a challenge. Her curiosity is aroused by a dangerous-looking stranger with an eye patch, an ideal companion for the life she longs for, no matter what Society might say. So when the piratical gentleman turns out to be a duke -- and just as boringly proper as any other nobleman -- she can't help but incite him to walk on the wild side.

Well-heeled, well-mannered, and well beyond any interest in society's expectations, the Duke of Lasham is tired of being perfect. Margaret's lush beauty and gently laughing eyes are an irresistible temptation to embrace the imperfect -- and her. But if a little misbehavior is appealing, unleashing his wild side is completely seductive -- as long as the lovely Margaret is the object of his passion ...

The Improper Bride by Lily Maxton (Sisters of Scandal Book 5)
$0.99 on Amazon

About the book:

292 pages, 42 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.4 stars)

Cold, arrogant, and demanding Henry Eldridge, Marquess of Riverton, would never dally with a mere servant. But when Henry is injured in a horrible fire, his pretty housekeeper Cassandra nurses him back to health, throwing them together day and night. As he slowly heals from his burns, their friendship blossoms, and the class walls between them start to crumble. Cassandra is surprised by glimpses of a kind and thoughtful man beneath her employer’s hard façade -- and even more surprised when she develops tender feelings for him. But anything between lord and servant is impossible ... and besides, as a widow, she knows love only leads to heartbreak.

Henry is changing, as well. His close brush with death has opened his eyes to his self-imposed emotional isolation ... and has urgently reminded him of his duty to marry a well-bred lady and produce an heir. Determined to do right by his family name, he immediately begins searching for a suitable bride. But Cassandra is the only woman who is never far from his mind or his heart. Contrary to everything he’s been taught to believe, he realizes his lovely housekeeper might just be his perfect match. Now, if only he could convince everyone else of that. Especially Cassandra ...

Bayou Bride by Bobbi Smith
$0.99 on Amazon
About the book:

454 pages, 30 reviews (Average customer rating: 4.3 stars)

To keep the Louisiana plantation he loved, Dominic Kane had six months to honor his father's will and marry. When he saw the beautiful bondservant fresh from the high seas, his decision was made. He offered to temporarily make her his wife in name only. But after impulsively kissing her lush lips, a raw passion surfaced, and Nick realized his roguish life had not been complete before the entrance of this green-eyed enchantress.

Jordan St. James was desperate to escape London and the evil investor who expected her to repay her family's debt with her body. She set off on a journey to work as an indentured servant in the New World, and upon seeing the wealthy planter who'd purchased her papers, Jordan's heart beat faster. The intensity of his eyes burned into her soul, and his seemingly innocent touch left her shivering with desire. She vowed to do whatever it took to become, in every way, his ... BAYOU BRIDE.

Only a Duke or Laird Will Do (Scintillating Tales of Noble Passion) by Allie MacKay, Sue-Ellen Welfonder and Brenda Jernigan
$0.99 on Amazon

About the collection:

In this exciting collection of romances featuring noblemen and their ladies, USA Today Bestselling and Award Winning authors Allie Mackay and Brenda Jernigan have again come together to bring you four full-length romance novels that will whisk you into a world of chivalry and honor, burning desires and forbidden passion. You'll escape to castles and country manor homes, but also rugged hills, windswept moors, and even vast, icy seas.Whether in a medieval great hall, a Regency ballroom, or the danger-fraught wilds of the New World, the heroes and heroines you'll meet in these pages will bring to life all the romance and adventure of times long past.

The four books in this collection are among the authors' personal favorites. And they are delighted to escort readers who yearn for a true romantic escape into the passionate stories they'll find in the pages of Only a Duke or Laird Will Do.

The Duke's Lady

If you yearn for classic romance with noblemen, ladies, and intrigue, complete with a magnificent Cornish setting, this is your tale ...

An American spy with a British birth, Adam Trent, The Duke of St. Ives, is consumed with gathering information to use against England's navy. Despite the intrigues of war, the mystery of the lovely young woman washed ashore near his Cornwall estate is one he cannot resist. With the ragged remains of a treasure map concealed in her chemise and no memory of who she is and how she got there, the dark beauty is a puzzle.

Some Like It Kilted

If you love Scotland and big, brawny men in kilts, this one's for you ...

Mindy Menlove is tasked with a returning a medieval castle stone by stone to Scotland where she's confronted by the stronghold's original builder, Bran of Barra. As a legendary Highland chieftain, he's maddeningly irresistible and seven hundred years young. They aren't prepared for the passion that flares between them, or the ancient secrets and threats that would tear them apart. But hard-won love is often the most powerful.

Western Seduction

The Cowboy and the Scot offer readers a spellbinding tale of surprises, hope,and the romantic adventure of a lifetime ...

Luke Griffin wanted old and ugly ... he got anything but. When a feisty Scot steps out of the stage in Cottonwood, Texas, Luke can do nothing but stare. Shannon McKinley is not what he advertised for. But for now, he will take her to the ranch and ignore the heat that runs through his veins every time she is near him. In this wild and rugged land, will Shannon's dark secret endanger the family she has come to love?

Highlander in Her Bed

If you enjoy tales filled with Highland magic and the beauty of Scotland, this one's for you ...

Mara McDougall can hardly believe her luck when she unexpectedly inherits a Scottish castle -- but her good fortune turns questionable when she discovers that her windfall is inextricably tied to Sir Alexander Douglas, a medieval knight forever damned by an ancient curse. When desire consumes them, they risk everything to prove that time, and even death, can't stand against the power of true love.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...