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A to Z Challenge: To Tempt A Scotsman by Victoria Dahl

As you know, I’m putting myself to the A to Z Challenge for blogging for the month of April.

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]

For these posts, I’ll be giving an I Love Romance Blog score, not an official review, for books currently on my shelf at home (I know readers must wonder what books inspires us as authors) or ones that are on my TBR list (what I want to read so bad I can’t stand it!). For each book, I will give the blurb, a few lines from the text, then why I liked the book or why I’d want to read it. And for fun, I’ll give a heart rating!❤

This is my scoring system:

I hope these A to Z Challenge suggestions will help you find a new favorite author, or further cement your love for one, if that’s the case.

Let’s jump into our next book, shall we?

To Tempt A Scotsman by Victoria Dahl

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Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb:

She Has Nothing Left To Lose–

After finding herself at the center of a very public scandal that left one man dead and another on the run, Lady Alexandra Huntington has exiled herself to her brother’s estate and is content to manage his affairs. But the arrival of darkly handsome Collin Blackburn awakens her curiosity and her desire–and the advantage of being a fallen woman is that she can be ruined only once. . .

Except Her Heart. . .

After a promise sworn to his father, Collin Blackburn is compelled to seek the aid of the woman who brought about his brother’s death in a senseless duel. Yet Lady Alexandra is not the shameless femme fatale he expected. In fact, Collin suspects she is guilty of nothing more than a hunger to experience passion, and the brawny Scot is certainly equipped to oblige. But the quick-witted, keenly sensual Alexandra has a few lessons of her own to impart–on life, love, and the delicious joys of succumbing to temptation. . .

A few choice lines from the book:

Yorkshire, June 1844

. . . The man stood only a few feet inside the door, tall and dark and glowering at Prescott. That alone was interesting. No one glowered at her brother’s butler. Prescott controlled access to a young and powerful duke.

Alexandra felt her prickling interest grow stronger. She edged a little farther into the room.

“If you’d care to leave a card, sir–”

“I do not have a card.” The man’s eyes flicked toward her, pinned her for a bare moment. He could not suspect who she was in her current attire, with her black hair pulled into a tight knot and the jacket hiding her curves. Still, Alexandra straightened at the brush of that silver gaze, even as it moved back to Prescott. The butler stood silent, not the least affected by the man’s coolness. Ten seconds passed. Then twenty.

With a stiff shrug, the stranger finally gave in to the impossibility of intimidating Prescott. “Please tell her I need to speak with her. I’m at the Red Rose.”

She watched as he turned, felt the soft tug of her impetuous nature. Who in the world was he? He should have been cowed by the butler’s utter indifference, but he looked self-assured to the very fiber of his being even as he was turned away.

His brown hair needed trimming and he appeared to have forgotten his cravat as well as his calling card, but the perfect cut of his brown coat spoke of wealth. And a Scot’s burr softened his deep voice—and sped her pulse.

Surely her brother would never speak of her to someone he didn’t trust. “Prescott.”

Ever unflappable, Prescott simply stepped aside. “My lady. A Mr. Collin Blackburn to see you.”

“Thank you, Prescott.”

Collin Blackburn froze at the sound of her voice. She watched him turn and step back inside, watched his eyes slide past her to search the corners of the huge entry for a more likely figure, but when he realized who she was, only the barest lift of russet brows betrayed his shock. “Lady Alexandra.”

She let him stare a moment, let him take in the oddness of her attire. No gentleman had ever seen her in riding breeches before, none other than her brother. She was dressed inappropriately, indecently even, but it mattered not in the least. She was a fallen woman. She’d earned the freedom to do as she pleased, so she let him look his fill and took the chance to study him as well.

He stood as tall as her brother but wider. Wide shoulders, broad chest. Definitely no padding in that coat. His body wasn’t bulky though. He was, in a word, solid.

His face looked purely masculine. Not handsome exactly, but stark and compelling. The slightly crooked nose spoke of an old fight, but his high cheekbones and wide mouth turned the mind to more pleasurable pursuits. She glanced back to the clear gray eyes that studied her so intently and saw his pupils tighten when he met her gaze.

“Thank you for seeing me.”

“Prescott, would you have tea brought to the office, please? Mr. Blackburn?” Gesturing back toward the hall, she spun on her heel to lead the way. Her long red coat opened as she turned, and she felt the hem brush against the buff riding breeches that hugged the curve of her thigh and hip. There was no mistaking the widening of his eyes, even at the corner of her vision. He’d had quite the view.

Gritting her teeth against the thrill that chased through her, Alexandra buttoned the coat and hurried toward the door of her cramped office. The morning room would be more appropriate, she supposed, but not dressed like this. Her men’s clothes would be a startling sight against a backdrop of flowered upholstery.

Alexandra stepped into the office and waved Blackburn toward a pair of chairs by the window. He waited until she took the chair opposite his, then sat and crossed a booted ankle over his knee.

“What did you wish to discuss with me, Mr. Blackburn?”

He let a heartbeat pass, then another. He watched her and frowned. A lock of hair fell over his brow when he finally inclined his head. “I’m here to ask a few questions.”

“Questions?”

“About Damien St. Claire.”

The name tightened the muscles of her jaw in a painful bunch. Blood rushed to her ears, roared like crashing waves. She couldn’t move for a long moment, couldn’t make her throat work. A deep breath forced it open. “I think that you should leave,” she said very carefully, very evenly.

Blackburn shook his head, began to protest, but she stood and stabbed a finger at the door. “No. It’s obvious my brother did not send you here. Leave. You can find your way out.” She pushed past him to the desk and dropped into the seat behind it, hands frantically shuffling papers. A rush of hurt surged in her chest. Why would she think he’d be different than any other man?

Standing with slow purpose, he stepped toward her and leaned to rest his fists on the desktop. His jaw looked as hard as hers felt. “Lady Alexandra, I need to know what happened between you and St. Claire–and John Tibbenham.”

“Truly? How does it involve you?” Making an obvious show of widening her eyes, she looked up at him with mock dismay. “Oh, I’m sorry. You must have been one of my lovers. I find it so hard to recall them all.”

His eyes narrowed as if her words had been a slap, then a sneer twisted his mouth as he leaned close. “Believe me, my lady. If I’d been one of your lovers, you’d remember it.”

“Really?” Alexandra let her gaze drift down to rest on the front of his trousers.

His fists tightened to rock on her desk. “Dinna think–” he began, but she cut him off again.

“You are not the first man to come here on the scent of easy prey. A ruined woman who just happens to be an heiress? Is that what you were thinking? Not very original, Mr. Blackburn. Please get out of my home.”

“John Tibbenham was my brother.”

Alexandra stared at him for a moment, rage trapped like ice in her chest, cracking against her ribs. When his words sunk past the roar of blood in her ears, she flinched and looked down, back to her rumpled papers, away from the hate in his eyes. The heat that had rushed to her cheeks drained away.

My Score:

The 1800s is one of my favorite time periods; I don’t care if it’s early, mid or late. I just love all of it. And who can resist a steamy Victorian tale with a handsome Scottish hero? Not me! 😉

When Collin Blackburn approaches Lady Alexandra to exact revenge for her part in his brother’s death, he is shocked to learn the truth, that the lady isn’t who he thought she was. She’s innocent, a pawn in an evil man’s game.

But, Alexandra is the Errant Heiress, the center of such scandal, and she knows it’s not smart to want Collin. Still, when do we ever listen to reason? Especially with a fine gentleman kissing her senseless. When he puts her in her place and respectfully declines the offer of her body, Alexandra realizes she’s never wanted a man as much as she does with Collin. What does a girl do when she can’t have what she wants? She gets creative!

In her attempt to catch herself a Scotsman, all kinds of trouble ensues. I think you’ll enjoy the ride just as much as I did. I give this one four hearts! 😀

four hearts

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4 Comments

Filed under Authors, Blogging, Books, Event, Fiction, Historical, Historical Romance, Readers, Reviews, Romance

A to Z Challenge: Raising Landry by Andee Michelle

As you know, I’m putting myself to the A to Z Challenge for blogging for the month of April.

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]

For these posts, I’ll be giving an I Love Romance Blog score, not an official review, for books currently on my shelf at home (I know readers must wonder what books inspires us as authors) or ones that are on my TBR list (what I want to read so bad I can’t stand it!). For each book, I will give the blurb, a few lines from the text, then why I liked the book or why I’d want to read it. And for fun, I’ll give a heart rating!❤

This is my scoring system:

I hope these A to Z Challenge suggestions will help you find a new favorite author, or further cement your love for one, if that’s the case.

Let’s jump into our next book, shall we?

Raising Landry by Andee Michelle

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Genre: Romantic Suspense

Blurb:

After having her heart broken on her wedding day, Carson Breaux flees her New Orleans home for the bright lights of Seattle. Determined to start over and finally pursue her own dreams for once, Carson spends years working towards her goals.

When a car accident takes her best friend LuAnne, Carson finds herself the guardian of LuAnne’s five-year old little girl, Landry. Between mourning the loss of her dearest friend, raising Landry, and trying to get justice for Lu, her life becomes a whirlwind of drama.

Kyler Richards grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, although he worked hard to accomplish his own goals. He meets Carson during a brief encounter but can’t shake the pull he feels to her. The friendship between the two quickly becomes the potential for more but when Carson’s life is turned upside down by the accident, both their worlds are torn apart.

Can their relationship survive everything that’s thrown at them?

**Author’s Note** Due to strong language and sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.

What people are saying about the book on Amazon:

What an amazing debut by Andee Michelle. Strong writing. Strong characters. Lots of feels! Take the journey with Carson. You won’t be disappointed.

5 stars – Great read and a page turner

Great read and a page turner!! Read it in one sitting. Loved it and can’t wait to read her next books 🙂

Pretty amazing book for someone’s first! I have never read a book that made me have so many emotions. Loved, loved, loved, this book!!!

5 stars – Great job!!

I totally enjoyed reading this book! For a first book, I think she did a great job! Looking forward to reading more of her books!

Fantastic read. I’m not a book person, I don’t like reading at all. I couldn’t put this book down. The emotional roller coaster kept me in suspense the whole time. Read more

5 stars – Carson is on an emotional ride in this book. …

Carson is on an emotional ride in this book. Book kept me on my toes. Read it completely in one sitting. Can’t wait for next book♡

5 stars – Holy debut novel! Loved!

Awesome, awesome debut novel! I loved this so much! My heart hurt, was happy, swooned and soared. Definitely something you need to read!

It was good but not great. It didn’t get my pulse racing wondering if things were going to end up like I wanted. However it was good. Read more

 

An incredibly easy book to lose yourself in. Full of emotion that left we wiped out. (In a good way)❤

My Score:

Andee Michelle’s debut novel looks promising! How can I resist? This book appears sweet, emotional and with enough action to keep things exciting. I had to add it to my Wishlist. I definitely can’t wait to read it! 😉

I give this one four hearts.

four hearts

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Authors, Blogging, Books, Contemporary, Event, Fiction, Readers, Reviews, Romance, Romantic Suspense

A to Z Challenge: Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot

As you know, I’m putting myself to the A to Z Challenge for blogging for the month of April.

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]

For these posts, I’ll be giving an I Love Romance Blog score, not an official review, for books currently on my shelf at home (I know readers must wonder what books inspires us as authors) or ones that are on my TBR list (what I want to read so bad I can’t stand it!). For each book, I will give the blurb, a few lines from the text, then why I liked the book or why I’d want to read it. And for fun, I’ll give a heart rating!❤

This is my scoring system:

I hope these A to Z Challenge suggestions will help you find a new favorite author, or further cement your love for one, if that’s the case.

Let’s jump into our next book, shall we?

Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot

41qlcWWuFNL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Blurb:

Lizzie Nichols has a problem: she can’t keep anything to herself. And when she opens her big mouth on a trip to London, her good intentions get her long-distance beau, Andrew, in major hot water. Now she’s stuck in England with no boyfriend and no place to stay until the departure date on her nonrefundable airline ticket. Fortunately, Lizzie’s best friend and college roommate, Shari, is spending her summer catering weddings in a sixteenth-century château in southern France. Who cares if Lizzie’s never traveled alone in her life and only speaks rudimentary French? She’s off to Souillac to lend a helping hand!

One glimpse of gorgeous Château Mirac—and of gorgeous Luke, the son of the château’s owner—and Lizzie’s smitten. But thanks to her chronic inability to keep a secret, before the first cork has been popped Luke hates her, the bride is in tears, and Château Mirac is on the road to becoming a lipo-recovery spa. Add to that the arrival of ex-beau Andrew, who’s looking for “closure” (or at least a loan), and everything—including Lizzie’s shot at true love—is in la toilette . . . unless she can figure out some way to use her big mouth to save the day.

A few choice lines from the book:

He has to be here somewhere, he
swore he’d be here to pick me up–
Oh
my God, that can’t be him, can it? No, of course it’s not. Why
would he be wearing a jacket like that? Why would ANYONE be wearing
a jacket like that? Unless they’re being ironic. Or Michael
Jackson, of course. He is the only man I could think of who would
wear red leather with epaulets. Who isn’t a professional
breakdancer.
That
CAN’T be him. Oh, please God, don’t let that be him….
Oh,
no, he’s looking this way…he’s looking this way! Look down, look
down, don’t make eye contact with the guy in the red leather jacket
with the epaulets. I’m sure he’s a very nice man, it’s a shame
about his having to shop for coats from the 1980s at the Salvation
Army.
But
I don’t want him to know I was looking at him, he might think I
like him, or something.
And
it’s not that I’m prejudiced against homeless people, I’m not, I
know all about how many of us are really only a few paychecks away
from being homeless ourselves. Some of us, in fact, are less than a
paycheck away from being homeless. Some of us, in fact, are so
broke that we still live with our parents.
But
I’m not going to think about all that right now.
The
thing is, I just don’t want Andrew to get here and find me talking
to some homeless guy in a red leather breakdancing jacket. I mean,
that is so not the first impression I want to give. Not that, you
know, it will be his FIRST impression of me, since we’ve been
dating for three months, and all. But it will be the first
impression he’ll have of the New Me, the me he hasn’t met
yet….
Okay. Okay, it’s safe, he’s
not looking anymore.
Oh,
God, this is awful, I can’t believe this is how they welcome people
to their country. Herding us down this walkway with all these
people LOOKING at us….I feel like I’m personally disappointing
each and every one of them by not being the person they’re waiting
for. This is a very unkind thing to do to people who just sat on a
plane for six hours, eight in my case if you count the flight from
Ann Arbor to New York. Ten if you count the two-hour layover at
JFK–
Wait. Was Red Breakdancing
Jacket just checking me out?
Oh
my God, he WAS! Red leather jacket with the epaulets totally
checked me out!
Oh,
God, this is so embarrassing. It’s my underwear, I KNOW it. How
could he tell? That I’m not wearing any, I mean? It’s true I don’t
have any visible panty lines, but for all he knows, I could be
wearing a thong. I SHOULD have worn a thong. Shari was
right.
But
it’s so uncomfortable when they go up your–
I
KNEW I shouldn’t have picked a dress this tight to get off the
plane in — even if I did personally modify it by hemming the
skirt to above the knee, so I’m not hobbled by it.
But,
for one thing, I’m freezing — how can it be this cold in
AUGUST?
And
for another, this silk is particularly clingy, so there’s the whole
panty line thing.
Still, everyone back at the
shop said I look great in it…though I wouldn’t have thought a
Mandarin dress–even a vintage one–would actually work on me,
seeing as how I’m Caucasian, and all.
But
I want to look good, since he hasn’t seen me in so long, and
I did lose those thirty pounds, and you wouldn’t be able to tell
I’d lost all that weight if I got off the plane in sweats. Isn’t
that always what celebrities are wearing when they show up on Us
Weekly
‘s “What Were They Thinking?” page? You know, when they
get off a plane in sweats and last year’s Uggs, with their hair all
crazy? If you are going to be a celebrity, you need to LOOK like a
celebrity, even when you’re getting off a plane.
Not
that I’m a celebrity, but I still want to look good. I went to all
this trouble, I haven’t had so much as a crumb of bread for three
months, and —
Wait. What if he doesn’t
recognize me? Seriously. I mean, I did lose thirty pounds, and with
my new haircut, and all —
Oh,
God, could he be here and not recognize me? Did I already walk
right by him? Should I turn around and go back down that walkway
thingie and look for him? But I’ll seem like such an idiot. What do
I do? Oh, my God, this is so not fair, I just wanted to look good
for him, not be stranded in a foreign country because I look so
different my own boyfriend doesn’t recognize me! What if he thinks
I haven’t shown up and just goes home? I don’t have any money —
well, twelve hundred bucks, but that has to last me until my flight
home at the end of the month —
RED
LEATHER JACKET IS STILL LOOKING THIS WAY!!! Oh, God, what can he
want from me?
What
if he’s part of some kind of airport white slavery ring? What if he
hangs out here all the time looking for naïve young tourists
from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to kidnap and send to Saudi Arabia to be
some sheik’s seventeenth bride? I read a book where that happened
once…although I have to say the girl seemed to really enjoy it.
But only because at the end the sheik divorced all his other wives
and just kept her, because she was so pure, and yet so good in the
sack.
Or
what if he just holds girls for ransom, instead of selling them?
Except that I am so not rich! I know this dress looks expensive,
but I got it at Vintage to Vavoom for twelve dollars (with my
employee discount)!
And
my dad doesn’t have any money. He works at a cyclotron, for crying
out loud!
Wait,
what is this booth? Meet Your Party. Oh, great! Customer
service! That’s what I’ll do! I’ll have Andrew paged. And that way,
if he’s here, he can come find me. And I’ll be safe from the Red
Leather Breakdancing Jacket, he won’t dare kidnap me and send me to
Saudi Arabia in front of the pager guy —
“Hullo, love, you look
lost. What can I do for you, then?”
Oh,
the booth guy is so nice! And such a cute accent! Although that tie
was an unfortunate choice.
“Hi,
I’m Lizzie Nichols,” I say. “I’m supposed to be being picked up by
my boyfriend, Andrew Marshall. Only he doesn’t seem to be here,
and–“
“Want me to page him for
you, then?”
“Oh!
Yes, please, would you? Because there’s a guy following me, see him
over there? I think he might be homeless, or a kidnapper, or the
operator of a white slavery ring–“
“Which one?”I
don’t want to point, but I do feel I have a duty, you know, to
report Red Leather Breakdancing Jacket to the authorities, or at
least to the Meet Your Party booth attendant, because he DOES look
very odd in that jacket, and he IS still staring at me, really
rudely, or at least suggestively, like he still wants to kidnap
me.
“Over there,” I say,
nodding my head towards Red Leather Breakdancing Jacket. “That one
in the hideous jacket with the epaulets. See him? The one staring
at us.”
“Oh,
right.” The Meet Your Party booth attendant nods. “Right. Very
menacing. Hold on, then, I’ll have your boyfriend over here, giving
that git the thrashing he so richly deserves, in a second. ANDREW
MARSHALL. ANDREW MARSHALL, MISS NICHOLS IS WAITING FOR YOU AT THE
MEET YOUR PARTY BOOTH. ANDREW MARSHALL, PLEASE FIND MISS NICHOLS AT
THE MEET YOUR PARTY BOOTH. There? How was that?”
“Oh,
that was great,” I say, encouragingly, because I feel a little
sorry for him. I mean, it must be hard to sit in a booth all day,
yelling over a loudspeaker. “That was really–“
“Liz?”Andrew! At last!Only
when I turn around, it’s Red Leather Breakdancing
Jacket.
Except.Except that it WAS Andrew,
all along.
And
I just didn’t recognize him, because I was distracted by the
jacket–the most hideous jacket I’ve ever seen. Plus he seems to
have had his hair cut. Not very flatteringly.
Sort
of menacingly, in fact.
“Oh,” I say. It is
extremely difficult to hide my confusion. And dismay. “Andrew.
Hi.”
Behind the glass of the
Meet Your Party booth, the attendant bursts into very, very loud
laughter.
And
I realize, with a pang, that I’ve done it.

Again.

My Score:

OMG! How embarrassing. Still, you can’t help feeling sorry for the girl. And seriously, who can’t be attracted to this book? Not that you can physically be attracted to a book, though I’ve heard some people like the smell of new books. Oh, geez…I have to blame Lizzie’s character for making me babble. 😉

Well, anyway, this one sounds hilarious and irresistibly cute! I love when a good comedy is paired with a romantic tale! And, ooh…Lizzie gets to go to France? This girl is jealous.

Sign me up, though. I’ve always wanted to travel all over the place.

I just added this title to my Amazon Wishlist, and it looks like a real winner! 😀

I give it four hearts, for originality and I can’t say ‘no’ to a FMC (female main character) who sounds as clumsy and as weird as me! LOL.

four hearts

Oh, and it looks like there are two more books in the series! 😉

babble sequels

 

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Filed under Authors, Blogging, Books, Contemporary, Event, Fiction, Readers, Reviews, Romance, romantic comedy

A to Z Challenge: One Illicit Night by Sophia James

As you know, I’m putting myself to the A to Z Challenge for blogging for the month of April.

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]

For these posts, I’ll be giving an I Love Romance Blog score, not an official review, for books currently on my shelf at home (I know readers must wonder what books inspires us as authors) or ones that are on my TBR list (what I want to read so bad I can’t stand it!). For each book, I will give the blurb, a few lines from the text, then why I liked the book or why I’d want to read it. And for fun, I’ll give a heart rating!❤

This is my scoring system:

I hope these A to Z Challenge suggestions will help you find a new favorite author, or further cement your love for one, if that’s the case.

Let’s jump into our next book, shall we?

One Illicit Night by Sophia James

51mYyEYicaL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_

Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb:

After one uncharacteristically wicked night, the once-reckless Eleanor Bracewell-Lowen now leads a safe and prudent life.

On his return to London’s high society, Lord Cristo Wellingham looks different from the man she knew so briefly in Paris, but he is still as magnetic….

In his cold amber eyes Eleanor detects something she has seen mirrored in her own—longing. His touch invites passion, but this is a man who could destroy her good name with just one glance….

A few choice lines from the book:

Lady Eleanor Jane Bracewell-Lowen could not quite focus on the form of the man who carried her, could not through the dizzy grey fog of lethargy see the expressions on his face or hear the cadence of his words. With a growing dread she tried to shift her weight so that he might let her down, let her escape, but even that was impossible. Nothing on her body worked and the tight mesh of the heavy wig she wore brought a strange dislocation.

She was naked! She knew that, for she had felt his hands on the curve of her breasts and in the warmth beneath her legs. Rough. Lewd. She could not even turn away in protection. Nay, sheer apathy held her caught against breath that smelt of hard liquor and bad teeth.

‘You’re too beautiful for une pute. When you finish here we’ll treat you well below.’

Une pute? A whore? Two words that did make sense. Eleanor closed her eyes against the horror of truth, this small movement all she could muster as shock made the hairs on her arms stand out straight against the chill of the night.

‘I…am…not a… whore.’ The sounds came out as only nonsense, no meaning in them as she failed to form the letters on her lips, just gibberish, fear making her feel sick.

A door opened and warmth beckoned. Beyond the darkness in a circle of light, a solitary figure sat at his desk writing.

‘Monsieur Beraud sends you a gift, Comte de Caviglione.’

She stiffened. The man she had come to see! Perhaps he would help her. If only she could speak clearly.

Silence was the only response.

‘He said that she was new to the game.’

At this the man in the shadows stood. Tall and blond, the expression on his face matched exactly the wariness of his words. His eyes were the deepest of brown.

‘Did you search her for weapons?’

‘I did much more than that, oui.’

In one movement the blanket was gone and Eleanor was set down on to a bed.

‘Merde!’ The tall man’s curse was rough. ‘You stripped her?’

‘In readiness, you understand. It’s rumored to have been a while since you last had a woman and it’s my master’s view that the bile of celibacy can make any man cantankerous.’

Dark eyes wandered across her own and Eleanor failed to summon the energy to protest.

‘A whore who even now readies herself for your use, mon Comte, though if you do not want the gift, I could take her below.’

‘No, leave her.’ The blond man raised his hand, a flash of heavy gold rings caught in the light, the expression on his face guarded.

She tried to blink, tried to warn him, tried in the singular and only way that she could to alert him to the wrongness in all of this, but the second was gone as he looked away, his hair falling across his face as he turned.

Beautiful. At least he was that. Closing her eyes, she was lost into the ether of nothingness.

Cristo Wellingham waited until the minion of Beraud had gone before crossing the room to slide the heavy slats of oak into place.

He had never trusted locks, for a soul well versed in the art of picking them could take but a moment to force his way through any door. Neither did he trust the fact that Etienne Beraud had sent this whore to him as a gift. The man was a scoundrel and a cheat working for the French police in a way that was blatantly illicit and this ‘offering’ was undoubtedly another of his attempts to gain favour and benefit from the world surrounding the Chateau Giraudon.

Looking down at the girl, Cristo doubted that she was as inexperienced as Beraud claimed her to be, with her plumped-up lips and overdone face powders. She smelt of cheap drink and old perfume, the sort that was sold in the markets on a Monday where the Boulevard de Clichy crossed into the Place de Blanche.

Still to give Beraud some due, she was indeed striking, though he doubted the overlong blonde curls to be her own, wound as they were around her hips and catching the firelight in a way that seemed patently false.

Tweaking a single lock, he let it fall across her ample breasts with their pale pink nipples and a smattering of freckles.

Freckles. God. Swiping his hair, Cristo moved back, afraid suddenly of the immensity of desire that ran through him. Beraud had his reasons in trying to sweeten a deal between them, he supposed, for the wide and varied circle of acquaintances flowing through the chateau represented a great cross section of Paris society, making any gathering of information infinitely easier.

The girl moved, her hair falling from the line of her breast, and his body tightened unbidden. He loosened the folds of fabric around himself. Already the small whistles of slumber came from her breathing, the sleep he had seen in her blue eyes taken with all the speed of one who was not quite.cognisant.

Drugs? Or wine? With the telltale odour of alcohol on her breath he determined it to be the latter. Brandy, probably, and a dosage that was far too high for a woman so slight. If she died here.?

His fingers closed around one shapely calf and he shook her awake, pleased when her eyes opened again.

‘What’s your name?’ He didn’t particularly want to know it, but if he kept her talking she might give him some clue as to Beraud’s intentions, and with the way Fouche’s forays into politics were shaping up that could be more than useful.

The candlelight reflected in her pale eyes and she remained silent.

Sensual. Worldly. A voluptuous and erotic token from a man used to blackmailing and bribing his way into power. Why here and now? His mind ticked over the timing as he tried to determine what Beraud might gain tonight in his desire to have her in this room with him. The codes he had been working on were close to being finished. Had the French police some word of that? Even a glance from a practised eye might unearth secrets that would be better hidden and Cristo was well experienced in the fact that spies were most efficient when their form was unexpected.

The clock on the mantel chimed the hour of eleven and downstairs in the salons another bout of debauchery was in full flight. There were sounds of women laughing, a bottle being de-corked and the louder chants of men made loose with sex and spirits.

Once he would have been amongst them, taking his chances with courtesans who welcomed his attentions. But he hadn’t for an age now, the ease of orgasm no longer an opiate for what his life had become.

The girl before him moved suddenly, her scent potent, and his fingers dropped away. She was young to be so very badly used and Beraud’s taste in the intimate arts had never been simple. Two marks on her left thigh caught his attention, the burn of raised blisters sitting strangely against alabaster skin. When he leant forwards to touch the wounds she did not flinch, but watched him under languidly hooded lids.

“Combien as tu bu, mon amour?”

‘How much did you drink, my love?’

A murmur he could not fathom was her only answer as she turned to him, a come-hither look in the way her limbs fell loose accompanied by the heavy smell of her perfume. The powder she wore smeared beige across the white of his clean linen sheets. He hated the way his hand would not obey his mind and pull away, the heat of her quiet seduction a narcotic without rival, the contrived ‘little girl’ look a decided bonus in her line of work.

Lord. If he could have imagined a woman to ignite his fancy she would indeed have been the one lying naked and available on the bed before him.

He should leave her, should walk away and order her removed, but he found that he could not. It was the feel of her skin that pulled him closer and the shape of her hips tapering down to long and damned fine legs.

Tight bound in a growing need, one finger nudged all that was hidden and he smiled as her head arched back against the pillow. A courtesan of some skill, he determined, as her muscles coiled, tighter than a whore should ever be and her breath no longer steady. With a care that surprised him he began to stroke, wanting her pleasure to match his and their coupling to resemble something far from the quick and lurid encounter that Beraud probably had in mind. As he closed his eyes against the cosmetic accoutrements of her trade and the falseness of the wig, it was easy to imagine other things—things that were true and right and good, the world that had been his once, before his sins had changed it.

My Score:

I love Regency novels, and this one does not disappoint! Take a lady certainly out of her element and thrust her into some terrible circumstances with a mysterious gentleman…add some espionage, the pressures of society, a passion that can’t be denied…and you have the recipe for not only disaster, but a compelling literary ride.

Eleanor finds herself in Paris, attempting to deliver a letter to a Count, as her grandfather’s final wish. But the place is shady and she’s unfortunately mistaken for a prostitute. She is delivered drunk and naked to the gentleman, who despite his best intentions, helplessly sees her only as she seems. By the time it’s too late to have prevented the deed, she is out of his life, leaving only more questions behind. Years pass and Eleanor has since moved on from that shameful yet passionate moment of her life. But then, he enters society, and they are both forced to look at their shared past and the future in new ways.

Is their connection enough to risk everything Eleanor has now? You’ll have to read it to find out the rest, but I guarantee you won’t regret it. I give this one four hearts.

four hearts

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Filed under Authors, Blogging, Books, Event, Fiction, Historical, Historical Romance, Readers, Reviews, Romance

A to Z Challenge: No Longer A Stranger by Joan Johnston

As you know, I’m putting myself to the A to Z Challenge for blogging for the month of April.

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]

For these posts, I’ll be giving an I Love Romance Blog score, not an official review, for books currently on my shelf at home (I know readers must wonder what books inspires us as authors) or ones that are on my TBR list (what I want to read so bad I can’t stand it!). For each book, I will give the blurb, a few lines from the text, then why I liked the book or why I’d want to read it. And for fun, I’ll give a heart rating!❤

This is my scoring system:

I hope these A to Z Challenge suggestions will help you find a new favorite author, or further cement your love for one, if that’s the case.

Let’s jump into our next book, shall we?

 No Longer A Stranger by Joan Johnston

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Genre: Western Historical Romance

Blurb:

Joan Johnston sweeps readers back to the untamed American West in a tale of powerful emotions and breathtaking action.
1865: The Civil War was over, but new dangers lay in wait across the open frontier. Disguised as a boy in buckskins, pretty Rebecca Hunter wasn’t afraid of any enemy who might cross her path in the Rocky Mountains. She vowed never to belong to any man…until she met city-bred Christopher Kincaid, the stranger she rescued from a fierce band of Sioux. All too quickly she learned how powerful an attraction can be between a man and a woman.
No Indian ambush could scar Kincaid as deeply as the tragic loss and broken heart he suffered in the war. Now, being nursed back to health by Reb in an isolated mountain cabin, he found himself coming alive with a powerful desire for her. But how could he know that his mission for the government would jeopardize his chances of winning Reb’s heart, bring down the wrath of a renegade Sioux chief, and test the lengths he’d be willing to go to convince this passionate woman to stay beside him for all time?

A few choice lines from the book:

Kincaid woke to the throbbing pain in his massive shoulders and arms, which were stretched out taut away from either side of his body. The effort to flex his benumbed hands resulted in agony as tightening thongs bit into raw wrists. His head hung forward, so that when he blinked open his eyes to the early-morning light he saw only the muddy ground, strewn with pine needles, below him.

A slight turn of his pounding head in either direction revealed his black-booted feet, spread far apart and secured by rawhide at the ankles. His eyes followed the rawhide on one side to where it wrapped around a thick spruce.

Kincaid closed his eyes and struggled mentally to orient himself.

A pulsing ache in the muscles of his right thigh took him back to a scene from the past. The scream of the shrapnel that had left him with a slight but permanent limp resounded in his ears. He jerked unconsciously at the memory of that first awful impact of metal on muscle. It was a nightmare he relived time and again, but always with the same painful ending. He remembered anxiously watching the slender woman, her long blond hair windblown around a terrified, heart-shaped face, racing toward where he had been pitched from the saddle by the blast. He’d warned her to get down, but was unheard amidst the chaos of defeated soldiers fleeing on horseback and on foot.

Suddenly, a blossom of red unfolded on the front of her high-necked gray wool dress. A tentative hand reached up to admire the deadly corsage, and she sought Kincaid’s steel gray eyes with her own silvery blue ones, a poignant sadness replacing the fear for him on her face. Stumbling unsteadily, she took one more step. Then he watched helplessly as his wife crumpled, like a flower trodden to the ground.

He dragged himself to her side, forced to pause occasionally by the bursting shells around him. Finally, he cradled her head in his arms as he lay full-length beside her on the red clay. He searched her face for signs of life, but when he saw none, gathered her close to him, their long bodies molding perfectly, and pressed gentle kisses on each closed eyelid, and finally on the still-warm mouth. The taste of his loss was bitter on his lips. Tenderly, he laid her head down and rested his own cheek beside hers on the cool clay.

His throat constricted so that he couldn’t breathe without turning his gaze away from the precious young face to the sky above, dotted with ugly clouds of black smoke. If only she hadn’t insisted on being where she didn’t belong in the first place. If only he’d demanded she obey him and leave. But, oh, how he’d secretly admired her for staying.

“Damn you, Laurie!” he raged. He hugged the lifeless body to his own in frustration, while tears of anguish squeezed from eyelids drifting closed in unconsciousness.

But the war of brother against brother was over now and had been for more than a month. Kincaid realized he’d remembered too far back in the past, and wished he hadn’t. He’d awakened an ache in his heart as persistent as the one in his wounded thigh. He forced his mind to focus on solving the puzzle of how he had come to be tied, spread-eagled, between two trees in the middle of a forbidding pine forest.

Two other minds worried over the same problem from another perspective.

“I count nine Sioux, including the lookout,” Adam whispered to his lanky, buckskin-clad younger sister. “Too many for us to kill before one of them kills him.”

“Why do you suppose they kept him alive?” Reb asked, as they observed the unknown man from their hiding place behind a mammoth boulder.

“Don’t expect we’ll ever know. Could be his size. That is one big man. Maybe they just want to see if the extra inches give him extra courage.”

Millions of pine needles and spruce branchlets rustling in the wind muffled their voices, and the strong breeze carried the softened sound away from the Indian camp.

Reb appraised the body that was stripped to the waist and suspended between two trees. She found no fault in the impressive shoulders and chest, the defined muscles across the abdomen, or the strong, sinewy thighs molded into a pair of Union Army pants. She was curious to see the face that went with such a body, but the head hung forward, hidden in the shade of the forest.

They were several hours’ ride south of Blue’s cabin, on their way home with the beaver skins they’d picked up from the loner in exchange for the coffee, flour, and beans they’d delivered to him. Located where the Laramie River crossed the plateaulike summit of the mountains, the cabin was more than fifty miles, as the crow flies, from Fort Laramie on the plains directly to the east, and equally distant from their home at the base of the mountains to the southwest.

Reb wondered whether the presence of this captive meant another massacre of soldiers on patrol like the many throughout the winter. “Aside from the blood on his forehead, he doesn’t appear to be hurt,” she said.

“Not yet,” Adam replied. “Those eagle feathers identify that lookout as one of Standing Buffalo’s renegades, the ones Dad warned us about. I’ve seen samples of their handiwork. The kindest thing we can do for that stranger is shoot him.”

Reb’s senses rebelled against the mutilation planned for the magnificent specimen of mankind she saw before her. Surely the fates that had caused them to stumble onto this warrior camp could not have intended they pass without changing the now dismal outlook of this stranger’s life.

“There must be a way we can save him. Think, Adam.”

“Whatever we do should be done soon, before those sleeping Indians wake up,” he said, “Or we could take a chance that they’re planning to postpone their entertainment until they get to wherever they’re headed. We might be able to steal their prisoner away during the journey.”

Adam figured the band was headed for the Powder River far to the north near the Black Hills, where Red Cloud’s Oglala and other Sioux less inclined to peace than Spotted Tail were congregating. If so, he didn’t like the idea of trekking across mountains and plains after the Indians. They were too likely to be discovered and share the stranger’s fate. He said as much to Reb.

“You’re right,” she agreed. “What about a trade?”

“We don’t have a snowball’s chance in the sun of bargaining with Standing Buffalo for that man’s life, even if I were willing to give up Blue’s beaver skins, which I’m not. Those Brulés won’t trust us as far as they can throw us. They’ll kill him sure if we charge in there. No, I’m afraid he’s a goner, Reb. There’s nothing we can do.”

As he finished speaking, a far-fetched idea came to Adam of how to save the doomed man. He rose, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Yep. The kindest thing we can do is shoot him.”

Adam clamped a hand over Reb’s open mouth as she jumped up to protest.

“Listen,” he whispered excitedly. “I’ve got a crazy idea, but it just might work. What’s the first thing those Sioux will do if we start shooting?”

Reb mumbled against Adam’s hand, but he ignored her in his exuberance.

“Kill that stranger, that’s what! So we’re going to ‘kill’ him first. That is, we’re going to make them think we’ve killed him, so they’re more concerned about escaping our ambush than hanging around here to carve up a dead body.”

The large, liquid brown eyes rimmed with long black lashes, together with the light dusting of freckles visible across Reb’s nose above his callused hand, reminded Adam of a startled fawn. When she mumbled again in frustration, he took his hand away from her full, still-parted lips.

“How?” she hissed.

“You’re going to shoot him. I think if you hit him just above the heart, that ought to convince them he’s dead.”

Reb sucked in a breath of air between clenched teeth, but said nothing.

“I’ll sneak around to the far side of the clearing. When I’m set, I’ll shoot the lookout. That’ll leave eight Indians. We’ve got two seven-shot Spencer rifles, four Colt repeaters, our knives, and the element of surprise on our side. We can’t lose,” he said with a lopsided grin.

“When the lookout falls, you shoot the stranger,” he continued. “I’ll unhobble the Indian ponies so that they stampede when the noise starts. Don’t stop firing till they’re all dead or gone. I’ll be doing my part from the other side. Any questions?”

“What if I miss?”

“You miss those Indians, and we’ll be dead ducks.”

“You know that’s not what I mean,” Reb said. “What if I accidentally kill that stranger?” She gnawed her lower lip with her straight white teeth, her forehead wrinkled in concern. She was a crack shot, but had never aimed her gun at a man before, only at animals and standing targets.

“Like I said, the kindest thing we can do is shoot him. Besides, you’re too good a shot to miss. If it bothers you so much, we can just leave the way we came. He’s no worse off if we leave him dead than if we leave him alive.”

Adam might be a pragmatist, but Reb was an eternal optimist. Besides, she very much wanted to see the stranger’s face, and she was more likely to get her wish if they tried to save him.

My Score:

This one is interesting. Take a woman out of her time, taught to survive in the wilderness by any means, and throw in a Yankee, a man who is accustomed to dealing with women who “know their place”. To top it off, Rebecca, or Reb, manages to convince the wounded man, Kincaid, that she is a boy instead of a young woman. Cue the fights, the odd tension, and passion that is undeniable.

These are two strong characters who often don’t agree on everything, and yet you’re compelled to keep reading to find out what happens next. I give this book four hearts, for an interesting take on the Western romance, lots of sexy moments and enough adventure to keep you guessing!

four hearts

 

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Filed under Authors, Blogging, Books, Event, Fiction, Historical, Historical Romance, Readers, Reviews, western

A to Z Challenge: Identity by Cleo Scornavacca

As you know, I’m putting myself to the A to Z Challenge for blogging for the month of April.

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]

For these posts, I’ll be giving an I Love Romance Blog score, not an official review, for books currently on my shelf at home (I know readers must wonder what books inspires us as authors) or ones that are on my TBR list (what I want to read so bad I can’t stand it!). For each book, I will give the blurb, a few lines from the text, then why I liked the book or why I’d want to read it. And for fun, I’ll give a heart rating! ♥

This is my scoring system:

I hope these A to Z Challenge suggestions will help you find a new favorite author, or further cement your love for one, if that’s the case.

Let’s jump into our next book, shall we?

Identity by Cleo Scornavacca

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Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance

Blurb:

…………..People aren’t always who you believe them to be.

Dominick Kane and Rain Medici started their relationship with one another in the most unconventional way.

He kidnapped her.

With the kidnapping now behind them, life returns to normal, right?

Not a chance.

The push, the pull and their fights for control that we’ve come to love about Dominick and Rain still exist. And so does their passion.

People aren’t who you think they are. Familiar faces are not so familiar. The past and the present collide, opening up all of those old wounds and struggles once again.

Now, everything you thought you knew, gets blown out of the water.

Can Dominick and Rain finally heal what’s broken? Or will new discoveries push them even further apart?

Will love win out and bring them back together? Or will ghosts of the past ultimately destroy their love once and for all……………..

A few choice lines:

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My Score:

I stumbled across this title in 2014, when I attended the release party on Facebook and won signed bookmarks! I became obsessed with the series then, and I had to add both books to my Amazon Wishlist.

I haven’t read the first book yet, but I plan to.

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The case of mistaken identity has always intrigued me because it’s the perfect fodder for a writer’s imagination:

“How will the characters resolve this?”

In any case, I can’t wait to read this novel, and the whole series, as soon as I can! I’ve also heard there are plans for a third book in the series. How exciting! 😉

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I’ll give Identity four hearts, because it sounds like a must read! 🙂

four hearts

2 Comments

Filed under Authors, Blogging, Books, Contemporary, Erotica, Event, Fiction, Readers, Romance, Writing

A to Z Challenge: Heart of Gold by J.R. Ward

As you know, I’m putting myself to the A to Z Challenge for blogging for the month of April.

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]

For these posts, I’ll be giving an I Love Romance Blog score, not an official review, for books currently on my shelf at home (I know readers must wonder what books inspires us as authors) or ones that are on my TBR list (what I want to read so bad I can’t stand it!). For each book, I will give the blurb, a few lines from the text, then why I liked the book or why I’d want to read it. And for fun, I’ll give a heart rating! ♥

This is my scoring system:

I hope these A to Z Challenge suggestions will help you find a new favorite author, or further cement your love for one, if that’s the case.

Let’s jump into our next book, shall we?

Heart of Gold by J.R. Ward

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Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

She has a passion for unlocking the secrets of the past…

Archaeologist Carter Wessex is drawn to Farrell Mountain to solve a centuries old mystery- and find a fortune in hidden gold. One thing stands in her way: Nick Farrell, a notorious corporate raider with no patience for trespassers on his land, and way too much sex appeal. After an explosive introduction, Carter abandons the project…but with Nick in hot pursuit.

What she finds is something more valuable than gold…

Though wary of Nick’s change of heart, Carter is soon swept up into the mystery- and the arms of a man she swore she’d never fall for. As buried secrets surface and passion grows, the shocking details of the missing gold are revealed. So are Nick’s true motives, leaving Carter to wonder…has everything between them been just another cunning ruse? And how many more secrets has he yet to share? It will take a heart of gold to find the truth—and have faith in a timeless love…

A few choice lines from the book:

Through the trees, Nick watched her with complete absorption. The only thing that kept him from going over to her was his iron will.

Which was feeling less ironlike with each passing minute.

He’d come up the mountain to talk about their kiss and had waited until Cort had returned home so they’d be alone. He’d intended to have a straight-out conversation about what had happened the night before and was determined to put the event in its proper context. In the intervening hours since he’d felt her against him, he’d managed to convince himself that it had been nothing more than an impulsive mistake and he wanted to make sure she knew how he felt.

It was a damn good plan. Until he got knocked off his soapbox.

When he’d arrived at camp, he’d found it empty. After he didn’t find her at the dig site either, he decided to check and see if she’d gone swimming.

That was when he took a turn off the high road.

When Nick got to the river, he saw Carter bending down to put her hand in the water. Her expression was grave, the moment private, so he thought he’d go back and wait for her at camp. That was when she began to unbutton her shirt, and Nick’s feet had started ignoring his commands to get moving.

Leaning against a tree for support, he watched as, inch by inch, she opened her shirt and then peeled it from her shoulders. As the shirt floated to the ground, she turned to kick off her shoes and that was when he saw her breasts. Draped in sunlight, they were taut and perfectly proportioned, her nipples pink and small. Below the curves, her stomach was flat and toned.

Nick’s heart started pounding like a jackhammer and he felt himself harden.

He told himself he should turn around and go. He was no Peeping Tom, after all. And he’d seen women naked before. It wasn’t as if he didn’t know the inventory of female attributes well enough, but somehow the familiarity didn’t register. As he looked at her, it was as if he was seeing a woman for the first time.

And he liked what he saw. So much so, he could feel the images burning into his memory.

Her hands went to the fly of her jeans and she released the buttons. Gripping the waistband, she slid them free from her long legs. Her hips were a gentle swell, her thighs strong and shapely. When her simple white panties followed, Nick gripped a tree limb so hard he cracked it in half.

Carter froze and then looked in the direction of the noise.

Nick ducked for cover.

He waited a moment and peered around the tree again.

Carter had turned back toward the river and was stretched her arms over her head, arching her back.

“Oh, sweet heaven,” he whispered, clenching his jaw.

In the course of his life, he’d lusted after companies, real estate, works of art. Even a few women. Nothing, however, came close to the throbbing urgency he felt while looking at her. As she stepped into the water and splashed herself, her neck arched as she looked to the sky, he was close to desperation as he’d ever been.

Nick wrenched himself away from the scene, afraid if he stayed longer he’d give in to his driving impulses. That he’d step free from his hiding place and reveal his desire. That he’d take her down onto the bank of the river and enter her body in one deep thrust.

Lost on his own mountain, he struggled to find the trail back down.

My Score:

This book is also on my shelf. There are two books in the series, and Heart of Gold is the second novel. I just love J.R. Ward’s paranormals, and when I found out about these previously written works of hers, contemporary romance instead, I had to see if they were any good. Of course they were! 🙂

Carter and Nick are two strong characters who, despite steadfast approaches in their respective professions, appear to fight everything they feel for each other throughout the book. This makes for a lot of interesting tension, sexy embraces and deep conflict. I also like the additional angle of Nick being a reluctant guardian to a troubled teen. Nick and Carter keep you guessing as you turn the pages.

I’d give this one four hearts.

four hearts

I’d also recommend the first book in the series, though it’s apparent they can be read in any order.

JR Ward -contemporary

 

 

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Filed under Authors, Blogging, Books, Contemporary, Event, Fiction, Readers, Romance, Writing

A to Z Challenge: Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare

As you know, I’m putting myself to the A to Z Challenge for blogging for the month of April.

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]

For these posts, I’ll be giving an I Love Romance Blog score, not an official review, for books currently on my shelf at home (I know readers must wonder what books inspires us as authors) or ones that are on my TBR list (what I want to read so bad I can’t stand it!). For each book, I will give the blurb, a few lines from the text, then why I liked the book or why I’d want to read it. And for fun, I’ll give a heart rating! ♥

This is my scoring system:

I hope these A to Z Challenge suggestions will help you find a new favorite author, or further cement your love for one, if that’s the case.

Let’s jump into our next book, shall we?

Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare

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Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb:

In this lush and seductive novel, exciting new author Tessa Dare takes desire to brazen heights.

Ever the bold adventuress, Lucy Waltham has decided to go hunting for a husband. But first she needs some target practice. So she turns to her brother’s best friend, Jeremy Trescott, the Earl of Kendall, to hone her seductive wiles on him before setting her sights on another man. But her practice kisses spark a smoldering passion–one that could send all her plans up in smoke.

Jeremy has an influential title, a vast fortune, and a painful past full of long-buried secrets. He keeps a safe distance from his own emotions, but to distract Lucy from her reckless scheming, he must give his passions free rein. Their sensual battle of wills is as maddening as it is delicious, but the longer he succeeds in managing the headstrong temptress, the closer Jeremy comes to losing control. When scandal breaks, can he bring himself to abandon Lucy to her ruin? Or will he risk his heart and claim her for his own?

A few choice lines from the book:

His heart thudded wildly in his chest. He paused, clutching the door handle, cursing his body for recalling so quickly what he’d worked long years to forget.

Logic caught up to his racing pulse, reining it in. The dim glow of banked coals cast ominous shadows, but Jeremy forced the room into focus. This was not that night. He was in his usual bedchamber at Waltham Manor, not wandering Corbinsdale Woods. More than twenty years had passed, and he was no longer a boy. Whatever surprise awaited him on the other side of the door, he was fully equipped to face it.

When he slid back the rusted bolt and wrenched open the door, Jeremy was prepared for the worst.

“Hold still,” came the whispered command.

He had an instant to register a feminine silhouette, a tangle of dark curls, and two hands grasping his shoulders. Then Lucy Waltham, the younger sister of his oldest friend, popped up on her toes and pressed her lips to his with such force, he stumbled against the doorjamb.

Good Lord. The girl was kissing him.

Well, he thought ironically, he’d been prepared for the worst. And of the many kisses Jeremy Trescott had experienced in his nine-and-twenty years, this was, undoubtedly, the worst.

Lucy kissed with her lips perfectly puckered and her eyes open wide. And if she lacked in finesse, she compensated with bold enthusiasm. Her hands were everywhere at once—tangling in his hair, skimming his shoulders, exploring the broad expanse of his chest.

This wasn’t a kiss. It was a siege.

Furthermore, it was incomprehensible, wholly illogical, and a dozen different shades of wrong.

Somehow Jeremy’s hands found their way to her elbows, and he wrested himself from her eager embrace. “Lucy! What the devil do you think you’re doing?”

“Shhhh.” Her eyes darted to either side, scanning the darkened corridor. Then her gaze tilted back up to his, narrowing with a disturbing intensity, and Jeremy fancied briefly—absurdly—that someone had painted a target on his face.

“I’m practicing,” she whispered, her fingers tightening over his arms. “Let me try one more time.”

She swooped up for another kiss, and he instinctively ducked, pulling her into the room and shutting the door behind them. In a more rational moment, it might have occurred to him that the impropriety of kissing his host’s sister in the corridor would only be compounded by yanking her into his bedchamber. But Jeremy’s faculties of reason had temporarily vacated Waltham Manor.

Lucy had, quite literally, kissed him witless.

“Did it work, then?”

He stared at her, mute with confusion. Did what work? At the moment, it seemed that nothing worked, least of all his brain. Shock had frozen his limbs. He certainly couldn’t force an answer from his lips.

Stepping back, she crossed her arms over her crimson velvet dressing gown and surveyed his form boldly. As her gaze traveled downward, Jeremy grew uncomfortably aware of his own dishabille, from nightshirt to worn breeches to bare feet.

A satisfied smile spread across her face. “It must have worked. You did pull me into your bedchamber.” She reached for the door handle. “Very well, Jemmy. I suppose that’s enough practice. I’ll see you at breakfast.”

She cracked open the door. Jeremy put out a hand and slammed it shut.

Shooting him a glare, she grasped the handle with both hands and tugged. “I beg your pardon. I’ll be on my way, then.”

“No, you won’t.” He leaned his weight on the door, effectively bolting it closed. Lucy might be used to flouting her brother’s half-hearted attempts at guardianship, but Jeremy had four inches and two stone on Henry Waltham, not to mention an iron will. Lucy did not walk all over him.

He mustered his most autocratic, Earl-of-Kendall tone. “You are not going anywhere. You’re going to sit down and explain yourself.” She opened her mouth to object. He grabbed her by the elbow and steered her toward the chair. “But first,” he said, “I am going to have a drink.”

She stopped struggling under his grip and dropped gracelessly into the chair. “A drink,” she repeated. “Why didn’t I think of that? A drink would be just the thing, thank you.”

Shaking his head, Jeremy strode to the bar and poured a single glass of whiskey. He downed half the liquor in one greedy swallow, closing his eyes to savor the burn spreading down his throat. When he opened them again, he looked around to assure himself this was, indeed, the same Waltham Manor he’d been visiting each autumn since Cambridge. Roughhewn beams scored the sloping ceiling. Muted tapestries covered the walls, and an unfussy, timeworn carpet obliged his bare feet. The room had not altered in the past eight years, anymore than it likely had in the past one hundred.

In décor, in landscape, in the quartet of old friends enjoying their annual sporting holiday—Waltham Manor had remained a welcome constant in Jeremy’s life. Until this year, when everything had changed.

“Why couldn’t everything just go on as it was?” Lucy stirred the fire with a poker, sending swirls of agitated sparks into the air. “Why did Felix have to go and get married? He’s ruined everything.”

Jeremy drowned his reply with a sip of his drink. He would not have admitted it, but he rather agreed.

“It was all right when Henry got married,” she continued. “Marianne’s so busy with the children, at least she stays out of the way. But that shrew Felix married is going to expect to be entertained. And to make it all worse, she’s brought along her sister, that Sophia.”

Mrs. Crowley-Cumberbatch and Miss Hathaway are, by all accounts, charming young ladies. One would think you’d be glad of their company.”

She threw him an incredulous look.

“Or not.” Truth be told, Jeremy wasn’t glad of their presence, either. There was nothing precisely offensive about Felix’s wife, Kitty, or her sister, Sophia. To the contrary, Sophia Hathaway was the epitome of an inoffensive, well-bred society beauty. A bit of meringue—insubstantial, but pleasing enough, if one’s tastes ran to sweet. As Toby’s apparently did.

Jeremy tossed back another swallow of whiskey and tasted the irony. Henry and Felix married, Toby on the verge … their bachelor’s retreat had become a family house party. Well, if all his friends were determined to shackle themselves in marriage, at least he would be in no imminent danger of joining them. All three ladies at Waltham Manor were safely accounted for.

The sound of fingers drumming wood interrupted his thoughts. “Do you intend to drink the whole bottle yourself?”

Unless, of course, one counted Lucy.

And he did not count Lucy. She was neither eligible, nor a lady. She was Henry’s much younger sister and ward, and she was Jeremy’s personal version of a biblical plague. She’d spent years devising ways to get under his skin. Now she was charging into his bedchamber and … and practicing.

Much as he wished to erase that kiss from his memory, he couldn’t ignore it. Neither could he ignore the obvious implications of that word, “practicing.”

He could, however, ignore her request for a drink. Jeremy refilled his own glass and carried it toward the hearth, dropping into the chair opposite hers. Raking a hand through his hair, he exhaled slowly. “I don’t like to ask this. I dread your response. But for what, exactly, are you practicing?”

“Not ‘what,’” she answered. “Who.”

Oh, it only got worse. “For whom are you practicing, then? Some local youth? The vicar’s boy?”

“For Toby, of course.”

He gave a wry laugh. “For Toby? Why would you be kissing Toby? He’s all but engaged to Miss Hathaway.”

She hugged her knees to her chest, curling into a ball of red velvet and chestnut curls. The chair’s masculine proportions dwarfed her, and her green eyes brimmed with raw, undisguised hurt. “Then it’s true.”

Bloody hell. Suddenly this bizarre nighttime visit made sense. Jeremy punched the arm of his chair. Of all the irretrievably stupid things to say.

“My maid said she heard it from Toby’s valet. I didn’t want to believe her. I couldn’t believe her. But it’s true.”

Jeremy had to look away. It was a matter of self-preservation. Lucy’s countenance was a collection of pixie features set within a heart-shaped face—a face designed to display, unfiltered, every emotion of the heart within. One couldn’t look at her without knowing exactly how she was feeling—and Jeremy didn’t wish to know how Lucy was feeling. He preferred to keep a respectful distance from even his own emotions.

“How could he?” she squeaked.

Jeremy winced. Lucy sniffed loudly, and he took another slow sip of whiskey. She could not cry, he wanted to remind her. That was the rule—Henry’s single exercise in authority. He’d allowed the chit to run roughshod over them every autumn, tagging along on their hunting and fishing excursions, parroting their curses, even taking nips off their flasks—under one condition. Lucy was not to cry. In eight years, Jeremy had never seen her shed a single tear. He prayed she wasn’t about to start now. If there was one thing he couldn’t abide, it was a crying woman.

He stole a glance at her. Damn it, her chin was quivering. “You’re not going to start weeping, are you?”

“No.” Her voice quivered, too.

Jeremy busied himself adding wood to the fire, stalling for time.

Curse Toby. This was all his fault. He’d always made such a pet of the girl. Every autumn, Lucy clung to Toby like a tick on a hound. He baited her hooks and taught her bawdy Latin conjugations. He brought her flowers and wove her crowns of ivy that went straight to her head. His Diana, Toby called her. Goddess of the hunt.

Goddess he may have dubbed her, but the worship was all on Lucy’s side. A young girl’s harmless infatuation—that was all it had seemed. Obviously, to Lucy it had seemed much more. And now the task of disabusing her of all those romantic notions had somehow fallen to Jeremy. Just his luck. But also fitting, he supposed. If he’d ever harbored a romantic notion, which was doubtful, he’d been disabused of it long ago.

He clapped the dust from his hands and reclined in his chair. In his most magnanimous tone, he began, “Now, Lucy, you must understand…”

She shot him a murderous glare. At least it wasn’t that mournful expression she’d worn just moments ago. “Don’t, Jemmy. Don’t you dare speak to me as if I were a child. I ought to have come out two seasons ago. If only Marianne weren’t perpetually confined. Perhaps I am not a genteel lady like Sophia Hathaway. But I’m not a girl any longer, either.”

She stretched a bare foot toward the fire and absently flexed her ankle. The sinuous grace of the motion caught Jeremy’s gaze. Caught it, and trapped it. He couldn’t look away. She circled her foot idly, her skin glowing golden in the firelight. His eyes swept upwards, tracing the sweet curve of her calf to where it disappeared under her dressing gown.

Then Lucy shifted, crossing her legs. Red velvet fell like a theater curtain, abruptly ending the show. A swift blow of disappointment caught Jeremy in the chest. The sensation drifted downwards, mellowing to the familiar ache of thwarted desire. God, this night was simply rife with surprises.

“I suppose you’re not,” he muttered, tearing his gaze away and giving himself a mental shake.

My Score:

I love a good Regency novel, and with this one I have to recommend reading the whole series because it’s so damn good. But, as this is the first book, it’s an excellent start. I have a few other Tessa Dare books as well, and she never disappoints.

In Goddess of the Hunt, this unlikely pair, Jeremy and Lucy, are thrown together through unusual circumstances. But you can’t deny the tension or the heat between them. Jeremy goes to some underhanded lengths to keep her from making a foolish mistake, and ends up succumbing to the girl’s charms. There is a constant push-pull between this couple, which makes you wonder if they’ll ever figure it out. It’s passionate and emotionally compelling.

I recommend the sequels as well, because once you have a taste of the first book you’ll be dying to read the next.

 

Tessa Dare series

I give this one four hearts.

four hearts

 

 

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A to Z Challenge: Courting the Countess by Barbara Pierce

As aforementioned in my last A to Z post, I’m putting myself to the A to Z Challenge for blogging.

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For these posts, I’ll be giving an I Love Romance Blog score, not an official review, for books currently on my shelf at home (I know readers must wonder what books inspires us as authors) or ones that are on my TBR list (what I want to read so bad I can’t stand it!). For each book, I will give the blurb, a few lines from the text, then why I liked the book or why I’d want to read it. And for fun, I’ll give  a heart rating! ♥

This is my scoring system:

I hope these A to Z Challenge suggestions will help you find a new favorite author, or further cement your love for one, if that’s the case.

Let’s jump into our next book, shall we?

Courting the Countess by Barbara Pierce

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Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb:

A scoundrel whose fame as an artist, libertine, and notorious seducer of beautiful women is ongoing fodder for the ton, Mallory Claeg has a secret obsession-Brook Meylan, Lady A’Court, a beautiful widow who abandoned London two years earlier, deliberately severing all ties to her past. Under the pretense of his interest in the primitive landscape of the Cornish coast, Mallory watches her, fascinated and utterly mesmerized by her beauty…

Brook tried to escape the gilded cage of the ton’s merciless gossip, the memory of a cruel husband, and the pity of well meaning friends. But meddling relatives and unwanted suitors shatter her peace. At first, Mallory Claeg was another intrusion. Yet his sinfully handsome face and irresistible charm bring both temptation and torment. Now Brook must choose between opening her heart-or sealing it off forever…

A few choice lines from the book:

Mallory had been drawn to the intriguing vision of the lone woman in black challenging the sea he had glimpsed while searching for a location to sit and sketch. He had been too far away to hear her words, but her gestures were violent and poignant. He would have left her undisturbed if the silly creature had not been determined to kill herself. As he dropped his sketching book and small box of supplies, his quick stride erupted into a full run when he realized she was fighting the wind for her balance.

He caught her arm and spun her toward the safety of firmer land. The momentum sent both of them falling. It was too late to be noble. The woman landed on her back with him on top of her. He grunted, taking the brunt of the fall on his forearms. Gazing down at her ashen face, he adjusted his initial impression that she was an older woman. The lady underneath him was quite lovely and familiar. He blamed the unflattering black she was bundled in for his error. She was short in stature. Grief had whittled her slender frame, enhancing her fragility. Even tragedy could not steal her beauty.

She pushed him away and he willingly rolled off her. “Are you mad, sir, or simply drunk?” she demanded in a trembling voice. Still shaken by the encounter, she remained seated on the ground.

“Neither. I was sparing your family the grief of searching for your broken body this afternoon amidst the rocks below,” he said, irritated that his heroism was perceived as lunacy.

Her anger changed to stunned outrage. “I was not—I could not.” She gazed weakly at the edge before struggling to her feet.

Mallory measured the doubt he noticed in her eyes in silence. He only allowed her a moment to deduce her legs were still too wobbly for the grace he had always attributed to her. “Here. Take my hand, my lady.”

He pulled her roughly onto her feet. To make certain she was paying attention, he tightened his grip on her arm until she winced. “No trouble is worth casting yourself into the sea.” He released her and put a respectable distance between them.

“I was not throwing myself off the cliff. The notion sounds painful, not to mention messy. I will have you know that I walk here daily and am quite familiar with the dangers—” She broke off, realizing she was explaining herself to someone she considered an underling. She shivered as the wind buffeted them. The spring air had put a healthy bloom on her cheeks. “Besides, what would you know about me or my troubles?”

He gave her a slow, roguish grin. “Well, Countess, the answer to that particular question might take some time. Why don’t you let me escort you home and I will make my confession over a pot of tea?”

Mallory was quite used to women who acquiesced to his dictates without question. It was a rather novel experience to observe that his limitless charm had altered her expression from mistrust to blatant hostility.

“Who are you, sir?”

He mockingly patted the imaginary wound over his heart. “Why, Lady A’Court, your forgetfulness smites a lethal clout on my self-love. During your absence from London, have you forgotten your old friends?”

She glanced away at the mention of London. “I have few friends in town these days, sir, and you are not one of them.”

“Perhaps not,” he acquiesced. “We, however, are connected by friendship. A lady in your position should be basking in the affection of her companions.” He let his gaze roam the bleak landscape. “Not praying for an early death in the remoteness of Cornwall.”

“Who sent you?” she demanded with unexpected bluntness.

Surprised by her intensity and the impact of her blue gaze focused on him, Mallory shifted his stance and concealed his visceral reaction to her proximity with a grin. “Such ferocity! Dear madam, you make me want to confess everything, but alas, only my selfish pleasures have brought me to you.”

She blinked at the double entendre, uncertain if it was deliberate. “You claim you know me.”

“Indeed. I believe you once honored me with a dance at your come-out ball. There were so many admirers that evening, I could hardly fault you for not recalling.” He offered his arm, wanting to get her away from the cliff and out of the cold before her teeth began to chatter. “You mentioned tea.”

You mentioned tea,” she countered. “As well as plunging from cliffs, forgotten acquaintances, selfish pleasures, and a ball I barely remember. I warrant you have spoken more words than I have in the past week. Do you ever hush?”

Mallory sat down on a nearby flat stone and laughed, enjoying the way her brow wrinkled in exasperation. Whatever her intentions before he had gained her attention, he was satisfied that the dark moment has passed. “Occasionally, my lady. I treasure the awakening colors of dawn, the sound of the wind rattling the windows, spring and the new life it yields. When I awaken each morning, I lie abed listening to the soft breathing of my lover and savor the warmth of our embrace. I expect I appreciate my moments of silence like any other man.”

She made a choking sound that she quickly muffled with her gloved hand. It was terribly mischievous to speak so boldly, yet the widow sparked something in him. Her reactions were too charming to resist.

Clearing her throat, she said, “My mother always said that rudeness begets rudeness, and she is correct. Regardless of your playful objections, you are a stranger to me, sir, and my speech was most forward. Please accept my apologies.”

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “No, I do not believe I will.” He crossed his arms, awaiting her response.

“Y-You must!” she stuttered, flustered by his refusal. She started pacing in her agitation. “No gentleman ever leaves a lady obligated.”

Briefly an image of Carissa flickered in his mind. “I have never been one for polite rules, Countess.”

Noticing his enjoyment, she stopped and sighed. “You are teasing me.”

“Beautiful ladies are always so much fun to tease.” He stood and clasped her elbows lightly when her expression blanked. “You are supposed to smile when a gentleman gives you a compliment.”

“I have tarried too long. My family is expecting me,” she said in a breathy rush, finally noticing their close proximity.

“And what of your expectations?”

“I have none. Good day, sir.” She stepped out of his embrace and turned to leave.

“My name!” he shouted to her departing figure.

She hesitated at his words.

“Claeg. Mr. Mallory Claeg. I believe you claim my younger sister, Amara, as one of the few friends you have left in London.”

He had truly managed to shake her with his announcement. Something akin to shame moistened her gaze. “You do your sister no favor by connecting our names. In remembrance of old friendships, I beg of you to forget that we ever met.”

Watching her hasty retreat, Mallory crouched down to retrieve his abandoned sketching book and supplies he had dropped earlier. Well, well, who would believe he and the pretty widow would be sharing secrets? Forget? He rose, brushing off some grit that clung to his left knee. “Not bloody likely!”

My Score:

This book is also on my shelf. I love Regency novels and Courting the Countess did not disappoint. It’s the perfect tale of a scoundrel  with a dark past meets a lady who has been away from society for awhile. With passion, endless complications and emotional roller coasters, this novel will keep you guessing until the end. Are these two ever going to figure things out, or will pride and misplaced beliefs keep them apart?

You’ll have to read it yourself to find out, but I do recommend it. I give this novel four hearts for an entertaining read!

four hearts

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