Tag Archives: historical romance

Exclusive Interview with author Xina Marie Uhl, plus a look at western romantic comedy, LADY LAW AND THE TEXAS DERANGERS!

Hi, readers! I am pleased to announce a very special post today on ILRB. We’re doing something a little different. This is our twenty-first official author interview on this romance blog! I know in the past, we did character interviews then switched over to the author’s take on it, but this approach is a bit unusual.

We have a real treat for you, readers. Today we get to speak one-on-one with a talented author. Please join me in welcoming Xina Marie Uhl to ILRB! 😀

Marie Lavender:  Hello, Xina. Please have a seat.

Author Xina Marie Uhl:  Hi!

Marie:  Hey, such a pleasure to have you here!

I’m going to throw in some standard questions first.

Obviously, we know your occupation as an author, but some writers have other jobs as well. Do you have another occupation? Do you believe you’re any good at it? Do you like what you do?

I know I’m overloading you with questions, but we’re really interested in finding out more about you…

Xina:  I’m a freelance writer with a specialty in history. I’ve written a number of nonfiction books for young people (history, biographies, technology, even some sports) as well as assessment questions and other educational projects.

Yes, I’m quite good, or so I’ve been told. I really enjoy history (I have a master’s degree in it), so whenever I can work on a history project I am all over it. I like seeing books with my name on them as well, though I do admit that some projects are better than others.

That’s fantastic! 😀

So, tell us…what is your family like?

Xina:  Weird, small, and made up of more animals than humans. At one point I had 23 cockatiels, 2 turtles, 3 cats, and 3 dogs. I’m down to just one cat and 3 dogs now. My husband is very patient with my various obsessions, including animals.

Marie:  Wow, so many!

Let’s try something else, okay?

If it doesn’t bother you at all, can you let us know what your childhood home looked like?

Xina:  It was a ranch style home in Phoenix, Arizona, with diamond-paned windows, a humongous wooden roof beam in the living room, a good-sized back yard, and about 15 full-grown agave plants around the edges of the front yard. I remember it quite well, even though it was torn down about 25 years ago in order to build a freeway.

Marie:  Aww…that’s unfortunate! 😥 But it sounds like it was such a great place to live. 😉

Do you have any hobbies, Xina? What do you enjoy doing?

Xina:  I love to hike with my dogs, travel around the US and Europe, and read (but this is a given, right?).

Marie:  (Laughs.) True! 😀

So, what is your greatest dream?

Xina:  To have my fiction in thousands of libraries all around the world. To live and die well. To hold my great grandkids. To travel through the Arctic. It’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing.

Marie:  Sounds like a plan. ♥

Let’s try another question.

What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?

Xina:  I wish I had more stamina and endurance. I have bipolar too, with mild highs, but with plenty of lows. It saps my energy and I have to be careful with the amount of things I take on because there are times when I’m just out for the count. It sucks, but it’s my lot in life.

Marie:  Oh, I understand. I have a chronic illness too. 😕

So…who was your first love?

Xina:  My husband, Dave. I was fifteen when we met, and he was eighteen. We’ve been married for more than 30 years now. I’m blessed because he’s very supportive, smart, and funny.

Marie:  How wonderful! ♥♥♥

(Sighs.) I love romance.

Okay, with the next question, I hope I’m not prying too much, but we are curious…

What’s the most terrible thing that ever happened to you?

Xina:  I would have to say my illness, mentioned above. I’ve lost whole years of my life to it.

Marie:  Sorry! 😥

Let’s move on to another topic, shall we?

[Xina nods.]

What was your dream growing up? Did you achieve that dream? If so, in what ways was it not what you expected? If you never achieved the dream, why not?

Xina:  When I was quite small, I wanted to be a cheerleader. No, I never even tried. Too much bouncing around. I also recall wanting to be an actress, another idea I never followed up on. The truth is that I don’t like being in the limelight, which is why writing is the perfect career for me.

Marie:  Oh, I can’t blame you there. I was always more of an introvert, but in some ways, being an author has forced me to step out of my comfort zone quite a bit.

Who is your role model, Xina?

Xina:  Jesus of Nazareth. Can’t get any better than him.

Marie:  Well, let’s try something else.

Is there someone you pretend to like but really dislike?

Xina:  Yes, there’s a certain pushy someone in a group I’m a part of. I just find her obnoxious and self-centered. I don’t pretend to like her; I just try to be pleasant.

Marie:  I guess that’s a way to cope with the issue! It seems like a lot of people are very confrontational now, and it causes more trouble than it’s worth.

Next, we’ll shift a little here…

What is your deepest desire?

Xina:  To reach my potential as a human being.

Marie:  Nice! ♥

Let’s go for a different approach now.

Just curious, but what is your greatest fear?

Xina:  To lose my daughter or grandkids.

Marie:  (Nods.) That’s an understandable fear. It is odd sometimes to realize how very short life is.

Let’s switch gears for a second.

If you were trapped on a deserted island, what five essentials would you need with you? They don’t have to be practical.

Xina:  A computer with WiFi, a dog, a comfortable bed, a good knife, and a refrigerator filled with pizza.

Marie:  (Chuckles.) There you go! 😀

Okay, readers, let’s get the author’s perspective on one of her characters.

We’ve heard rumors about the hero of your story, Alec Malone. Quite an interesting character. Can you tell us a little about him?

Xina:  He’s a handsome, charming, rogue of a fellow who likes dapper clothes, women, and gambling. As a teenager, he realized that he was never going to fit the mold his father had cast for him—that of a studious, upright lawyer. When he grew up, he set out on his own and never looked back.

Marie:  Cool!

And what are Alec’s greatest strengths?

Xina:  He’s able to improvise in dangerous or uncomfortable situations. He’s charming to both men and women, and he’s confident.

Marie:  Nice!

Any weaknesses of which we should be aware?

Xina:  He’s a scoundrel who causes trouble wherever he goes, and he doesn’t mind breaking the law when it comes to petty thievery.

Marie:  Okay.

Let’s try something fun, shall we?

What are Alec’s favorite foods?

Xina:  Whiskey, wine, barbequed chicken, and flapjacks.

Marie:  Just not all together! 😉

How about another question?

What’s a positive quality that your character is unaware that he or she has?

Xina:  He’s loyal to those he loves, though he doesn’t necessarily love easily, and this can be painful for him.

Marie:  (Nods.) It is tough to open your heart again once it’s been bruised.

Will readers like or dislike this character, and why?

Xina:  They will like him if they have a tolerance for a person who operates outside of the bounds of normal behavior. He’s amusing because he gets himself into some hilarious, unexpected situations. He’s also a smart ass and since the woman he falls for has a sharp tongue, the two of them bicker and banter frequently.

Marie:  Awesome! 😀

Now that we have a real taste of Alec, we have a few questions for you as well as the author, about the writing process of your book.

What first gave you the idea for Lady Law and the Texas DeRangers?

Xina:  Two of the characters in the sci-fi show of yesteryear, Dark Angel. I love their bickering and the fact that they are opposites with a lot of chemistry.

Marie:  Oh, I remember it! Jessica Alba in her early days…

It’s fascinating how the muse works, huh? 😀

Let’s try something else.

What is your writing style like, Xina? Are you a pantster or a plotter?

Xina:  I’m a plotster. I used to be a pantster, but that just wasn’t efficient because it took me forever to finish anything since I would have to go back and fix errant plot lines and fret over them. Now I plot story points out and it is SO much better. I like a little wiggle room for creativity, though.

Marie:  Cool! 😉

And I have to agree. I am a little of both, but it does take me a long time to finish certain projects.

So, I’m throwing this one in for our aspiring writers. Did you come across any specific challenges in writing Lady Law and the Texas DeRangers or publishing it? What would you do differently the next time?

Xina:  It went pretty smoothly since I ran it through my writing group as I wrote it, which allowed me to fix any problems right away. It took me about a year to finish it and by the end, I was thoroughly sick of it, but apparently that’s just my process because I write slooooowly. What I’ve done differently on my current project is to fill in my outline more instead of winging it.

Marie:  Sounds like a plan! 

Well, it was a total pleasure having you here on the I Love Romance Blog! And how apropos is that, considering what a great story Lady Law and the Texas DeRangers appears to be… ♥

Let’s learn more about this book.

Title: Lady Law and the Texas DeRangers

Genre: Historical Romance, Western, Romantic Comedy

Publication date: October 1, 2019

Here is the blurb:

A Rollicking Ride through the Old West…

Cowboys, Indians, and outlaws.

It may be 1892 but the Old West is still alive and kicking in the dusty west Texas town of Abalone. When a bad batch of coleslaw kills Texie Cortez’s father she takes over his old job:

Sheriff.

She’s proud of how she keeps the gunslingers away and the cowpokes in order. Then HE comes to town.

Gambler Alec Malone aims to attract attention with his handsome face and slick smile. One look at the sassy sheriff and his womanizing ways get the best of him. Too bad his mysterious mission keeps getting in the way.

The appearance of an outlaw gang proves that Alec is just the kind of distraction Texie doesn’t need. She’s determined that his smart mouth and soft lips won’t keep her from tracking down the weirdest bandits in Texas!

Romancing the Stone meets Blazing Saddles in this hilarious adventure!

Xina is giving us a peek at this story as well…

 

Texie was striding back to the sheriff’s office when a commotion over at the Desert Rose caught her attention. Lord Almighty, it sounded like someone was skinning a passel of cats. Yowls and high-pitched shrieks and crashing about. Which was to say, a louder sort of chaos than usual on a Tuesday afternoon.

She rushed through the batwing doors just in time to see a naked man tumble down the stairway. His pale white ass flashed on each revolution. He landed Indian fashion at the bottom of the stairs, eyes crossed and blood leaking from the corner of his lips.

She took in the looks of him. A whole lot of lean muscles, the occasional mole, a nicely defined waist, the outline of which pointed down in a vee to . . . well, no need to examine that since the fellow might soon be dead if the violence of that fall was any indication.

He shook his head and his eyes righted themselves.

All right, then. He would likely live another day.

Carlene Gibson and that new maid, Mary Ann, appeared at the top of the stairs. They clawed at one another and lurched around, screeching like owls in flight. Only louder. Carlene had lost a shoe, and the sleeve of her fine ruffled dress had been ripped clean off. Mary Ann’s red hair stuck straight out like a flag. Her uniform gaped open at the chest and her udders swung around with each lurch and blow. The women’s flailing tore the beaded curtain, and glass beads scattered everywhere.

Carlene shoved the maid aside with an indelicate grunt and dashed down the stairs to pounce on the naked man like an enraged polecat. Long red wheals appeared on his biceps and chest and marred his all-too-pretty face before he captured both of her wrists with one hand. Then she set to kicking him. Her face looked like that of a devil from the fiery pit—red and puffy, teeth bared, with eyes that shone with downright evil glee.

The stranger managed to haul himself upright, but his considerable height advantage over her did him little good. She aimed the pointed tips of her laced-up boots at his shins. He twisted around to avoid that fierce foot of hers, but she struck his shins with uncanny accuracy.

Texie slapped Ole Hank on the brass railing so hard that it rang like the Liberty Bell. “What in the Sam Hill is going on here?” She used her deepest, most commanding voice.

No one paid a lick of attention to her. In fact, it seemed to spur the women on!

Carlene kneed the man in the love hatchet. He let out a high-pitched shout that ended in a pitiful mewl as he bent over at the waist and attempted to protect himself with his free hand. From the scrunched up look on his face and the sweat popping out on his forehead, he wasn’t having much luck.

Carlene ripped her hands free from the poor unfortunate’s grasp and went for his ears. She seemed intent on ripping them clean off.

“Get your hands offa my man!”

Mary Ann leapt again at Carlene. The lot of them fell to the floor in a mass of writhing bodies.

Texie didn’t much like using Ole Hank to brain women, so she jabbed it in between the bodies and levered it with a hard yank. The women flew one way and the stranger flew another. Before they could scramble up again, she brought Ole Hank up to her shoulders in a horizontal position and rammed into them with all her strength.

Somebody yipped. Someone else took the name of Baby Jesus in vain. A third person whimpered like a half-smashed goat.

“Get over here and help out!” Texie commanded the dumbstruck saloon patrons.

Several lanky cowhands rushed into action, and within a breath or two, all three of the combatants had been restrained.

With undiminished enthusiasm, the women continued to hurl invectives at one another. Two whippersnappers held up the naked gentleman, who sagged between them. He looked a sight. Haggard and streaked with scratches, a goose egg rising on his temple from that tumble down the stairs, and half of the patch of chest hair on his sternum ripped clean off. A quick glance at his nether regions told her that they’d survived mostly intact. Some future female would likely find that most pleasing. That and his smooth jaw, which had a nice manly cut to it.

A moment later, and he’d recovered enough to draw himself upright. He didn’t seem intent on violence himself, so she nodded at the cowboys to let him loose. He adjusted that fine jaw of his and shook himself like a horse who’d just finished rolling around in the dirt. She saw the moment he noticed her. His eyes widened and he slicked back his light brown hair. He straightened up to his full, impressive height. A smooth grin unfolded across his face.

“Who do we have here?”

She snorted. Men!

The chaos started again when Carlene tore free of her imprisoners and grabbed Mary Ann about the throat. Lusty throttling ensued. The noise of the gathered crowd rose in pitch, and Texie flung herself at the she-cats again.

One of the women pulled her hair and stomped on her instep with a pointed high heel. A bony elbow made jarring contact with her ear, but Texie managed to separate them without further injury.

It took four men to pin Carlene down that time.

“Somebody tell me what’s going on!” Texie demanded.

Female voices chorused.

“She’s a whore!”

“He’s a bastard!”

“She tried to stab me with an eyebrow plucker!”

“It was a nail file, you dimwit!”

Texie glanced at the newcomer. He shrugged, a ’what, little old innocent me?’ look on his face. His brilliant blue eye—the one that wasn’t swelling up—twinkled.

“He attacked my girls!” Carlene shrilled. “Hang him high, Sheriff!”

“I did no such thing!” His eyebrows wrinkled up and his lips flattened. “You’re the sheriff?”

“You got something you want to say about that?” Texie snapped.

He gave a little shrug. “No, ma’am. A woman can surely lock up miscreants as good as a man, I suppose.”

“Not about that, you jackass. About assaulting Mrs. Gibson’s girls.”

He drew himself up indignantly. “I have never assaulted a lady of the evening in my life. Look at me. Why would I need to get after a woman? They get after me quick enough themselves.”

Texie restrained herself from rolling her eyes. Instead, she tried to look impressed and stepped up to him, adding a swish to her hips.

“You got a point there, Mr. . . . ?”

He extended his hand. “I’m Alec Ma—”

She flipped out her handcuffs—fastest draw in the West—and snapped them on one of his wrists.

“Hey! What’s this all about?”

Texie jerked his handcuffed arm behind his back and locked the other wrist, too. “You’re under suspicion for assault. Don’t make it resisting arrest, too.”

She took his firm, muscled upper arm and hauled him out the door.

Looks like quite an adventure! 😉

Purchase Links:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/m0r0yV

Publisher link:  http://xcpublishing.net/lady-law-and-the-texas-derangers/

Add it to Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47517248-lady-law-and-the-texas-derangers

What are people saying about Lady Law and the Texas DeRangers?

 

 

“Perfect choice when you want light and funny. I was lucky enough to be an advanced reader for this novel. It’s a riot! Laugh out loud funny with characters you root for, even when they’re up to no good. Will be re-reading me when my spirits need a lift.” – Sue Campbell, Amazon

“Avant garde western. A fun read. Definitely not your usual Wild Bill Western. Just the right blend of earthy humor. The righteous among us will be titillated but not scandalized. The blase among us will be amused but not bored.” – Thomas A. Smith, Amazon

“A hilariously funny western! I loved this book! It was well written and immediately drew me in. Not only was it easy to get into, it kept my attention and I didn’t want to put it down! The book was easy to read and was very light and funny! If you’re looking for an easy read, this is it…this is the first book I’ve read by this author, but it definitely isn’t the last! I highly recommend this book!” – Annmarie Reddick, Amazon

I liked Texie, one strong-willed lady if I ever saw one. Alec, now there is one charming rogue. Can these two really get together? The cast of characters were a group of magnificent goofballs and a hoot to read about. This western was so different and unique, I loved it. I did receive a free copy of this book and voluntarily chose to review it.” – Crystal Crossings, Amazon

“A bucking, wild ride! What a fun book this was! This is a quirky book I’m so glad I got to read. Feeling down about the state of the world? This is better than binge-watching Netflix as it is cleverly crafted and rich with both detail and humor.” – Rachelle, Amazon

Charming Old West Comedy Romance. I don’t normally read comedy romance novels, but this was one was charming. I really enjoyed seeing a lady ‘lawman’ and reading about the town of Abalone. The names of the characters were fantastic and the love story was very sweet. This book offers a great escape into a light version of the old west, which I highly recommend.” – Cara C., Amazon

Wow, great commentary, and I love the book cover!

We’ll be sure to get a copy of this western romantic comedy! ♥♥♥

About Xina Marie Uhl

A resident of Thousand Oaks, California, Xina Marie Uhl has a BA and an MA in history. As a freelance writer of non-fiction kids books, she’s written more than thirty titles including history, biographies, technology, and career readiness. She’s published a number of novels and short stories in various genres, including fantasy, historical romance, humor, and western through XCPublishing.net.

Join her mailing list for a free short story in the Lady Law universe, and news about promos, sales, and more: http://bit.ly/30qhIAS

Books:

20+ published non-fiction credits as Xina M. Uhl on Amazon

 

And, if you want to know how to connect with the fascinating Xina Marie Uhl, here are some author links…

 

Once again, I want to thank Xina, the brilliant author of this western romantic comedy, for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here! Readers, check out her work! ♥

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Filed under Authors, Blogging, Book News, Books, characters, Event, feature, Fiction, Historical, Historical Romance, humor, Interview, new release, Readers, Romance, romantic comedy, sweet romance, western, Writers, Writing

Cover Reveal Features: Miracle Express Series by authors Rebecca Lovell and Dawn Brower

I am pleased to announce two cover reveals by authors Rebecca Lovell and Dawn Brower! The Miracle Express Series is a group of holiday themed romances by multiple authors that you just can’t miss. Today, we’re getting an advanced glimpse of The Witch’s Christmas Wish and How to Kiss A Debutante! Yay! 🙂

New releases are very exciting for both authors and readers because we get to meet lots of new people! So, check these out if you can!

Let’s have a look at Rebecca and Dawn’s upcoming books today…

 

Nice cover!

This is the blurb for The Witch’s Christmas Wish

Terra Rendon’s first vision of the future was of her twin brother Tommy in a train accident, and as a result she became a mechanical engineer so she could keep him safe.

When she is summoned to Virginia to help investigate a fatal train wreck, she meets Gardner Lewis, the newest detective in the Roanoke Police Department. Handed a case no one else wants, he relies on her instincts but finds himself wondering how she comes by her knowledge. Terra has never told anyone about her power but the more she gets to know Gard the more she wants to confide in him.

When her childhood vision threatens to become a reality, only a miracle will be able to save Terra’s brother and make her Christmas wish come true.

Book Info:

Title:  The Witch’s Christmas Wish

Author:  Rebecca Lovell

Genre:  Holiday Romance, Historical Romance, Paranormal

Release Date:  December 5, 2019

Purchase Links:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/4DE9xQ

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48219506-the-witch-s-christmas-wish

Ooh! Looks intriguing! 😉

Now, to learn about the author…

A funny thing about my writing career is that I started out writing fan fiction when I was in middle school, and all of it had original characters and romantic entanglements. Over the years I’ve gotten much better at writing and moved on to my own work but the romance has always stayed the same.

I was born and raised in Texas, and have loved learning about history since my first visit to the Fort Worth Stockyards. I enjoy researching and studying new eras, and have also started to enjoy writing contemporary romance. I once was afraid of running out of ideas, but it seems like I’m always coming up with new ones and I occasionally manage to settle down and write.

When I’m not writing, I love running and watching horror movies, and I have a number of vocal and pushy cats that always demand my attention. Take a look at my blog and I’ll tell you about all of it. I also love to talk about my life!

Rebecca can be found at these places:

Twitter:  @becca_el

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaLovellBooks/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/rebeccalovellbooks

Website:  http://www.rebeccalovell.com

Let’s look at the next cover reveal.

Great cover!

This is the blurb for How to Kiss A Debutante

Aletha Dewitt has led a charmed life. At least that is how it appears from the outside looking in. Yes, she has had everything a person could possibly desire—except real respect. Because she was born female, her grandfather doesn’t believe she is capable enough to be a part of the family business. What he doesn’t realize is she has more ideas and ambition than her brother will ever have. She sets out to prove to him she’s more than up to the task. Nothing will stand in her way, not even love.

Rafael, Conte Leone is only in America to attend the wedding of one of his closest friends. He never imagined he’d meet the woman of his dreams on a train, but he fully intends to do everything possible to win her heart. Even help her take the mantle of one of the largest candy suppliers in the country. The problem is convincing the lady that they belong together…

With Christmas around the corner miracles are a very real possibility. Both Rafael and Aletha start to believe they could have it all with the magic of love…

Book Info:

Title:  How to Kiss a Debutante

Author:  Dawn Brower

Genre:  Holiday Romance, Historical Romance

Release Date:  December 5, 2019

Purchase Links:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/bpE9aJ

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48063806-how-to-kiss-a-debutante

Sounds succulent! 😉

Let’s learn about the author…

USA TODAY Bestselling author, DAWN BROWER writes both historical and contemporary romance.There are always stories inside her head; she just never thought she could make them come to life. That creativity has finally found an outlet.

Growing up she was the only girl out of six children. She is a single mother of two teenage boys; there is never a dull moment in her life. Reading books is her favorite hobby and she loves all genres.

Dawn can be found at these places:

Twitter:  @1DawnBrower

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/AuthorDawnBrower

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/1DawnBrower/

Website:  http://www.authordawnbrower.com

Thanks for giving us a sneak peek at these titles, ladies! They both look fabulous! 😀

Readers, you can pre-order all ten books in this Christmas series here

Many thanks again to Rebecca Lovell and Dawn Brower! We hope to see you back on ILRB sometime. 

Happy reading, everyone!   😉  And have a lovely weekend!

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Filed under Authors, Book News, Book Release, Books, Christmas, coming soon, cover reveal, Event, feature, Fiction, Historical, Historical Romance, Holiday, new release, Readers, Romance

Book Feature: The Reluctant Husband by author Eliot Grayson

I am pleased to announce a great book by Eliot Grayson, an author I met during my journey! This talented writer is stopping by to tell us about MM historical romance, The Reluctant Husband, which released back in June!

Woo hoo! It’s always fun to discover romance authors and books. 😀

Eliot is allowing us a look at a MM alternate history romance set in the Regency era, The Reluctant Husband, today.

Great cover!

This is the blurb for The Reluctant Husband, book two of Goddess-Blessed Series:

Disowned, disgraced, and with nowhere to turn, Tom Drake is willing to barter anything — even himself — for a reprieve from starvation and despair. Years spent lying to protect his secrets have left him longing for someone to value him, even if it’s only for his body and the blessing of his patron goddess.

Mal Leighton’s cousin and heir is dying. Only a miracle can save him — and if a miracle doesn’t appear, Mal’s damn well going to create one. Marrying Tom for his blessing is his last desperate hope to preserve his family. And if Tom happens to be as irresistibly seductive as he is untrustworthy? Well, Mal can focus on more than one goal at a time.

Tom doesn’t fall in love, and Mal knows better than to believe he’s the exception. But when Tom’s blessing doesn’t provide the quick cure they’d hoped, it’s clear that the goddess expects them to have a marriage in more than name. To save Mal’s family and find their own happiness, they will both need to sacrifice their pride and risk their hearts.

Release Date: June 7, 2019

Genre: M/M historical romance, LGBT, Regency, alternate history

And here is an excerpt to tease you with...

Footsteps on the cobblestones of the square roused him from his fugue, and he pressed himself back into the alcove in panic. A lamp across the square did little to illuminate his corner; he was safe enough from anyone passing by.

Except that it wasn’t just anyone, and he wasn’t just passing by.

Malcolm Leighton stopped in the opening to the square, seeming to sense Tom’s presence; his silhouette, sinister in the mist, sent a shiver down Tom’s spine. But it was unmistakably Leighton, at least to one who’d spent years studying him surreptitiously from across school assemblies. He had a certain way of holding himself, both arrogant and graceful, that had always caught and held Tom’s attention — had made it so bloody difficult for Tom to hide the feelings he had to keep out of sight at all costs. What his father might have done had he discovered Tom’s leanings toward other men hadn’t borne thinking of.

When Leighton turned, his face was in shadow, but Tom could easily imagine his expression: one corner of his mouth raised in cynical amusement, the slight lift of his thick, straight black brows, and the shrewd gleam of his dark eyes.

As he stepped closer Tom’s body tightened, every muscle and tendon quivering with the urge to run, to fight, to take some action. He was cornered and brought to bay, quite literally and in every other way. If Leighton had followed him with violence in mind, he would find that Tom was not quite the easy pickings he had been as a schoolboy. Leighton still had an inch or two of height and the same in the breadth of his shoulders on Tom, but Tom could hold his own.

But when Leighton reached out, he held something in his hands, and his movements were slow and easy. “Your coat, Drake. They said you didn’t have a hat.”

The tension bled out of him as quickly as it had built, leaving him almost shaking from relief, from an odd disappointment, from despair and drink.

“You followed me to return my coat?” Tom’s voice came out all wrong, hoarse and dry. He reached out, took the coat, felt its weight in his hands as something unfamiliar and strange, now that it had been in Leighton’s possession even for a few minutes. “And — how did you know I’d left without it?”

“Half of the city saw you fly out the door as if all of Ingard’s hounds were on your heels,” Leighton drawled. “The gossips will be whispering of Tom Drake’s sudden fit of madness, this time tomorrow.”

“As though it matters,” Tom muttered. He wished it didn’t — wished he could be truly indifferent. He unfolded his coat, hands numb and clumsy, and nearly dropped it.

“Allow me.” Leighton swept the coat away so smoothly that Tom hardly realized it was gone. “Well?” Leighton prompted him impatiently.

Tom left off gaping at him and turned obediently to allow Leighton to help him on with it, a task he accomplished as well as any valet Tom had ever had.

None of Tom’s valets had ever lingered so long on the task of smoothing the fabric down his arms, though, nor stroked their hands over his hips afterward. Tom jerked away and spun to face Leighton.

“What the hell are you playing at?” he snarled. “If you think I’m the kind of man to fumble in an alley —”

“I know you’re that kind of man.” Leighton pushed forward, his chest brushing Tom’s and his face close enough that Tom could feel his breath. It was warm, and sweet with fine brandy, and nearly as intoxicating as the spirits Leighton had clearly imbibed. “But I’m not one to fumble, myself. There’s a place nearby. Rooms to let, short notice and short term. I had thought to take you there.”

“You’re not taking me anywhere.” Leighton’s other meaning belatedly sank in. “And I don’t fumble, in alleys or elsewhere, you arrogant, condescending, conceited arse!”

Leighton’s broad shoulders moved slightly, an arrogant, condescending shrug if ever there was one. “Your rather checkered history says otherwise, Drake.” Amused, Leighton was amused by Tom’s misery, and it was suddenly the outside of enough.

Tom seized Leighton by the shoulders and shoved, knocking the bastard against the rough bricks of the alcove wall, and he followed the shove with his full weight, knocking Leighton back and pinning him. Leighton hit hard and let out an oof of surprise, his hat flying off and landing somewhere on the damp cobblestones of the walkway.

“Don’t.” Tom shook him once, slamming him into the wall. “Don’t you dare speak of my wife as . . . checkered history. I should thrash you for that!”

“I’d like to see you try,” Leighton retorted, as calmly as if they stood in a drawing room discussing the weather.

Tom had been thrashed more often than the reverse, most recently by his own brother, but he’d learned a thing or two on those occasions, most notably that one took what advantage one could and be damned to the rules. He drew back and drove his fist into Leighton’s solar plexus — or would have, if Leighton hadn’t caught his arm, ducked to the side like a damned snake, and used Tom’s own momentum to fling him face-first into the wall.

He landed just hard enough to bruise, his cheek stinging where it scraped against the bricks. Leighton’s full weight landed against his back and knocked the wind out of him. He only registered that Leighton had one arm twisted behind his back when he tried, and failed, to throw him off.

“That’s enough of that,” Leighton said, suddenly not sounding so amused. “A friendly quarrel is one thing. I draw the line at fisticuffs.”

“We’re not friends,” Tom spat. He bucked, cursed, and landed against the wall again, winded and defeated.

Leighton leaned in, slowly pressing the whole length of his tall body against Tom’s. “Certainly not,” he breathed in Tom’s ear, the warmth of it sending a contradictory shiver down his spine. “But the way you’re wriggling your arse feels very friendly indeed.”

Tom stilled abruptly; he had been moving, but surely that was just a continued attempt to loosen Leighton’s hold.

“I didn’t intend for you to stop,” Leighton said, his low, smooth voice curling around the edges of Tom’s confusion, soothing and lulling him, making everything hazy. “You have a delightful arse. It may be the only thing you have to recommend you.”

Tom’s eyes snapped open. The dull ochre of the wall filled his vision; his own rasping breaths filled his ears; all his other senses could feel nothing but Leighton, on and around him, his rich, brandied scent and the heat of his hard form.

A harsh, horrible laugh rose up in his throat, and he forced it down before it could become a sob. His arse, of all things. His one remaining possession, besides a few items of clothing he couldn’t appear before the world without and that he hadn’t thought to sell — and that was all the value Leighton could see in him.

Goddess knew, perhaps that was all the value he had.

He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to fight the spinning of his head and the tingling in his extremities. He had to survive, didn’t he? Everything he’d done had been what he’d had to do — he’d had no choice but to make the decisions he had. They’d all come out badly. His decisions always did, and this one would surely be no different.

But tomorrow he’d be hungry; within a week, he’d be evicted from his rooms. He needed to live. And the hat he’d pawned that morning had been one of Monsieur Favreau’s masterpieces; gentlemen of higher station than Tom waited months for one made by the fellow’s own hands. Really, he probably should have sold his arse first.

A strange calm descended as he made up his mind. “Let me go.” And then, because Leighton seemed the sort to want to be quite sure he’d won, he added, “Please.”

Leighton’s hand around his wrist tightened, just a trifle, and then he released it and stepped away.

Tom took his time; he pushed back from the wall slowly enough to hide the stiffness in his limbs, and he carefully flicked the dust of the bricks from the front of his clothing. His fingers brushed over a snag in the silk of his last remaining waistcoat, and he shoved down the flash of panic at that. Leighton could afford to buy him another. He took a final moment before he turned around, giving himself one deep breath before he put his mask in place.

Bankrupt, disowned, and disheveled he might be, but Tom Drake could seduce anyone.

 

Purchase Links:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/bQa97e

Woo! ♥♥♥ Love the tension. This sounds like a sizzling read!

So, what are readers saying about this novel?

The Reluctant Husband was a lovely novel, I quickly finished it and it was too soon, I found the MCs interesting and well mixed together, the double POV helped me understand better their stubborn minds and hearts. I devoured every word.” – M Marshall, Amazon

This was so so good!!!! I absolutely love this series, and hope it continues. Everything about it is lovely. Even though it’s a fictional world, you can totally see this taking place in the English countryside. The characters are fully actualized, as is the world around them. You see, smell, and feel it all as it unfolds. 💞Truly romantic in every way! 💞

This is a series I will revisit, and I hope more books come from this world. Thanks Eliot, for another enjoyable escape!💋
5 old-english-romance-infused-stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟” – Sharonica, Amazon

I’ve never seen two people fight the inevitable as much as Tom and Mal. They walked that razor thin line between love and hate and absolutely cut each other to pieces with it. This was such an intriguing storyline, the characters were engaging, and I thoroughly enjoyed following them on the rocky road to their happy ending.” – Joscelyn Smith, Amazon

Thank you for telling us about your book, Eliot! I know I can’t wait to read this MM Regency romance!

Also, check out book one in the series, The Replacement Husband

Readers, don’t forget to pick up a copy of this awesome book! 🙂 Or you can add it to Goodreads!

Author Bio

Eliot is an editor by day and a romance writer by night, at least on a good day — more of a procrastinator by day and despairing eater of chocolate by night when inspiration doesn’t flow and the day-job clients are being particularly insane. Go ahead and guess which of these is more common.

A steady childhood diet of pulp science fiction, classic tales of adventure, and romance novels surreptitiously borrowed from Eliot’s grandmother eventually led to a writing career; Eliot picked up an M/M romance a few years ago and has been enjoying the genre as a reader and an author ever since.

Author Links:
Website:  http://eliotgrayson.com/  
Contact:  http://eliotgrayson.com/contact.html
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/eliot.grayson.9
Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Eliot-Grayson/e/B07NL54KNF

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17300496.Eliot_Grayson
BookBub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/eliot-grayson

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/eliotgrayson/

 

Thanks again, Eliot! We hope to see you back on ILRB sometime. 

Happy reading, everyone!🙂

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Book Review: Unglorious War by Maxine Flam

Our latest I Love Romance Blog review selection is Unglorious War by Maxine Flam. What a read! 😀

The novel was a gift copy provided well before I became an official reviewer on ILRB. Going into this review, I should state that even though I love reading historical romance, this is not one of my favorite time periods to read about (and I only have two or three that I try to avoid). I don’t claim ignorance about the Vietnam War. My own father served, and has his own stories – at least what he is allowed to reveal. Much of what he did remains classified. However, to be fair as both reader and reviewer, I reserved judgment until the book was finished.

Unglorious War is an appropriate title, for reading the story proved to be a rather enlightening experience. The characters were compelling. Marla, especially, was someone I grew to further respect as the tale progressed. The secondary characters were just as fascinating.

I must congratulate the author for her historical accuracy. She clearly did her research, and this book has the seal of approval from three war Veterans.

One issue I saw – both from the standpoint of a writer and a reader – was the head-hopping interspersed throughout the story. The approach was unusual overall, hinting at more of an omniscient narrator. Still, this fact wasn’t enough to pull me out of the fictional world, in most cases.

The varied emotions on the page were real, and the love story was deeply moving. The connection between Marla and Thomas was believable and heartfelt, even with the threat of war all around them.

As for an HEA or HFN – the one aspect a romance reader yearns for – I’d probably label the novel historical fiction with elements of romance. Possibly with a hint of inspirational romance, and definitely a military romance. We have to be realistic too with any tale about war. With the intent of being remotely authentic, it can’t be all hearts, flowers, and butterflies. I am not a person who likes to give away spoilers. I will do my best to avoid doing so here.

ONE WARNING: When something bad happens, don’t give up on this read. There is so much more to discover, to be resolved. And the ending is…well, open to interpretation.

In any case, my rating for this read is three hearts ❤️❤️❤️ – for a well told story and a realistic romance. Nice job, Maxine! 🙂

Book Info:

Major Thomas Harrison Smith is critically wounded while escaping from a POW camp deep inside Laos during the Vietnam War. Stabilized by medical personnel in Vietnam and Japan, he is flown to Oahu, Hawaii for surgery and rehabilitation. Emaciated, dehydrated, and half-dead from torture and constant beatings, he meets Lt. Marla Bristol, a nurse-therapist assigned to his case. During Major Smith s recovery, he and Lt. Bristol fall in love and marry, but the military wants Major Smith to do another tour of duty and if Major Smith does return to Vietnam, will he see his beloved Marla again?

Who is Lt. Anthony Lambello and what part does he play in whether Major Smith returns from NAM? Thomas and Marla are scared but each pray to God that they should be reunited soon. They find their faith tested and God answers their prayers, but is it the way that they hope for?

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/bP0AAr

Here is an excerpt.

AUTHOR: Maxine Flam

TITLE: Unglorious War

GENRE: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Inspirational, Military Romance

RELEASE DATE: February 19, 2009-2012

PUBLISHER: Flamingo Publications

ISBN/ASIN: 098211740X/9780982117415

OUR RATING: ♥♥♥

REVIEWED BY: Marie Lavender

You can find an ebook copy for free on Smashwords! 😉

Up next time: Kurt Seyt & Shura by Nermin Bezmen

Thanks for reading our latest book review on ILRB!

 

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Heiresses in Love Trilogy by Marie Lavender💕 Spotlight & EXCLUSIVE eBook Bundle Giveaway 💕 (Historical Romance)

PLEASE check out this beautiful post for a chance to win a copy of my historical romance boxed set! ♥

Source: Heiresses in Love Trilogy by Marie Lavender💕 Spotlight & EXCLUSIVE eBook Bundle Giveaway 💕 (Historical Romance)

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Book Review: The Impaler’s Wife by Autumn Bardot

If you haven’t checked the updates to our review policy, please do. I am taking over in the meantime. Our latest I Love Romance Blog review selection is The Impaler’s Wife by Autumn Bardot. What a great read! 😀

The test of a good book is one that successfully tells a tale from which you can’t turn away. The test of a good writer is one who constructs characters anyone can care about, even if their beliefs may not align with the reader. Suspension of disbelief, and being drawn into the fictional world is key. Bardot’s The Impaler’s Wife is one such title. This gothic romance is thrilling, with unerring historical accuracy, and a hint of the legend of Dracula which most have heard of.

I love tales about Dracula, and this one is just as fascinating. Housed in historical fiction, complete with gory descriptions of war and a tale of unrivaled passion, The Impaler’s Wife gives us a unique take on not only the legend of Dracula, but also a story of the man himself. Who is Vlad the Impaler? And, who is Ilona, the strong, amazing woman that falls for him?

As a reader, I was yanked into the tale from page one, equal parts mystified throughout, and by turns horrified yet unusually resigned to the circumstances. This book may test your faith in…well, everything you think you know. Bardot has an uncanny ability to make one of the most vilified historical figures utterly human. Or is he far more than that?

Ilona really comes into her own from the first time we encounter her – and that pivotal moment when Vlad approaches her – to the well-rounded, confident, strong female she becomes by the end of the book. I enjoyed learning about both characters.

So…is Dracula just a story? It is tempting to think otherwise. Bardot may make you a believer too. Take a chance on this read. You won’t be disappointed!

I give this a rating of four hearts for an outstanding, unforgettable reading experience. Fantastic job, Autumn! ♥

Book Info:

A young woman is swept into a life of intrigue, revenge, passion, and betrayal when she falls for the world’s most notorious prince.

The year is 1464 and young King Matthias controls Hungary, his family, and the fate of the world’s most notorious political prisoner, Prince Vlad Dracula.

Ilona Szilágy, the king’s cousin, is young and ambitious. Dracula is determined to marry into the Hunyadi family. It is love at first sight, but the king has other plans. The Impaler Prince, however, never takes no for an answer.

This begins Ilona’s journey into the treacherous world of court intrigues, family betrayals, and her husband’s dark desires. Eager to become Vlad’s trusted confidante, Ilona soon discovers that marriage to a man tortured by his past comes with a price.

Woven throughout is a peek into the life and times of one of the world’s most enigmatic and maligned rulers…the man before the legend.

With Bardot’s decadent period detail and a cast of gritty, evocative characters, The Impaler’s Wife offers a fierce yet sensuous glimpse into the violent 15th century.

Universal Reader link: https://books2read.com/u/3ygVlv

Here are some teasers!

And the book trailer…

Plus, an intriguing excerpt!

Prince Vlad rests his hand on the small of my back. “Come, Lady Ilona, look at the faces of anarchy and villainy, and see how much they resemble your friends and family.”

“I will not.” I back away from the entrance where moans rise from the bowels of the labyrinth like a demon’s song.

“The choice is yours, of course.” His tone is low and gentle, but in the lamplight his stare is wolf-like.

I shift from foot to foot, look away, only to glance back. Does he hear my heart knocking against my breast? Can he smell my fear as it beads wet on my neck? Do I want to rise to this challenge? Or am I a fool for allowing him to bait me?

My fingers tighten around the lamp’s clay handle. “I will humor you, my lord, but only because Father taught me courage and graciousness.”

“Mihály taught you well.” He holds out his hand. “My lady.”

The lamp divides the darkness like a saber, each foot forward lighting our descent into hell. Ghostly groans from below seep through the rock. I sink into Vlad’s fur-lined coat as though their suffering will soak into my soul.

Vlad pauses before descending the narrow rock steps leading into the labyrinth’s deepest level. “Are you certain?” His eyes glint with challenge. “A weak constitution is nothing to be ashamed of.”

I lift my chin and glare with pretended insult. “I am the daughter of Michael Szilágyi and Margit Báthory. Iron courage flows in my blood.” I push back my cuff and show him the blue-forked veins in my wrist. “I am as brave as Hadak Ura, our ancient pagan warlord.”

“I believe you, my lady. I will not doubt again.”

The clanking chains and eerie moans get louder with each step down, the noises merging into a demonic choir like that of Ördög’s requiem to the Underworld. My legs shake, my neck wet with icy prickles, and my skin tightens around my chest.

I lift the lamp into hell.

The circle of light shines upon a pockmarked man stretching his arm between the bars, his fingers curled like claws. “Bless me, good sister.”

In the cell next to him, a naked wretch spits onto the ground. “Menj a fenébe!”

“I am innocent!” A third prisoner grabs the bars and presses his wild-bearded face against the iron. “Tell His Highness there is a Turkish spy in his court. He is in danger! You must warn him!”

My head swivels toward Prince Vlad.

“There are always spies,” Vlad whispers.

I walk with measured pace and let the lantern reveal each doomed prisoner. Most stare, empty-eyed; the whips, chains, skin shredders, bone crushers, and strappado take away all hope and spirit. Others shout obscenities. One man kneels, hands in prayer, and mutters the Hail Mary.

The weight of their misery crashes down, squeezes my heart, and crushes my breath. This place must be worse than hell’s torments because these wretches yet live, have all their faculties! No one deserves this! It is inhumane! Sadistic and depraved!

My breath comes in shreds and clumps. I cover my nose with Prince Vlad’s cape, the stench of rotting flesh enfolding me in its putrid embrace. My pace quickens. It is time to end this test of my courage.

“You!” A milky-eyed wretch points to Prince Vlad and begins chanting in a foreign tongue.

Prince Vlad guides me away from the cells. “You have thrice over proven your courage tonight.”

“What language was that man speaking?”

“He recites from the Corpus Hermeticum.” Dracula takes the lantern and illuminates the stairwell. “It’s a pagan book of alchemy, astronomy, and metaphysics.”

“It sounded like he cursed us.”

“Pay no attention to a madman’s rants. That particular book is nothing but Egyptian and Greek nonsense.”

I tread upwards, evil’s chill clinging to my limbs. At the top, I try to purge the dungeon’s misery, malice, and madness with a long exhalation. Yet the horror sticks like nettles in my soul.

“This way.” I move past the dark tunnel and enter the lighted one, relieved to put space and distance between the prisoners and me.

The tunnel ends at a large grotto where Prince Vlad pauses to light the ring of torches affixed to the walls. I wait on a stone bench near the baptismal fount, sighing with relief as the golden glow of the church-like arches infuse peace into my troubled soul.

Prince Vlad sits beside me. “We go from hell to heaven.”

I tuck a stray lock behind my ear. “This was Father’s favorite grotto. God’s Buried Cathedral, he called it. His second favorite has a Titan-sized head emerging from the ground—like a god got stuck in molten rock. I was only in that grotto once. It reminded me of an insect trapped in tree sap that ages to amber—the insect forever entombed—never aging, almost alive in its resin grave.”

“Do you find that horrific or beautiful?” His eyes search mine.

“Both, I suppose.” My shoulders move into my sigh. “Caves are dreary places.”

“I rather enjoy them. Tunnels have saved my life several times.” Dracula stands. “I think we are both ready for fresh air.” He offers his hand, its warmth a familiar comfort.

Together we walk through the tunnel lit by small lanterns that flicker like fireflies all the way to the exit.

Prince Vlad gives the stubborn iron-crossed door a hard yank and it groans open. Outside, a sapphire dawn drapes over Buda.

“On no.” My hands fly to my face. “It’s so late it’s early.” Were we in the tunnels that long? If my aunts discover I never returned to my room…I spin about, my voice edged with panic. “I have to go back. Now.”

Vlad’s brows crease with concern. He tugs a handkerchief from his robe and touches it to my lips as though dabbing at a smudge. “There’s something I must do first.” He lays the linen over my lips and sets his mouth on mine.

Even through the thin fabric, his lips sear my own. I part my lips, feel the linen moisten with the breath of our lust. I collapse into him, my body sizzling with desire. I am about to rip away the fabric and taste his lips when he breaks the kiss.

Vlad Dracula steps back, the handkerchief between thumb and forefinger. “If you marry Luigi della Scala, you will still be chaste.” He drags the handkerchief across his mouth. “I will always have this.”

Chaste? Prince Vlad just violated my heart and corrupted my flesh!

Back in my chambers, I touch my lips that still burn with the memory of our kiss—my first kiss—and groan. Vlad Dracula used my virtue, conceit, and fears to study the labyrinth’s secrets. He took advantage of my desire for romantic adventure to learn the escape route.

AUTHOR: Autumn Bardot

TITLE: The Impaler’s Wife

GENRE: Historical Fiction, Gothic Romance

RELEASE DATE: March 27, 2019

PUBLISHER: Flores Publishing

ISBN/ASIN: B07NKJX7R8

OUR RATING: ♥♥♥♥

REVIEWED BY: Marie Lavender

Get your copy of this new release today!

Up next time: Unglorious War by Maxine Flam

Thanks for reading our latest book review on ILRB!

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Two great reviews!

Two cool new book reviews for my romance novels! ♥

Marie Lavender- Multigenre Author

Awesome news! I just stumbled across two new reviews for my books…

HEIRESSES IN LOVE TRILOGY (boxed set)

https://books2read.com/u/4EMMPe

BP34

Hours of Reading Pleasure

April 13, 2019

Format: Kindle Edition

Three box set that includes Upon Your Return, Upon Your Honor, and Upon Your Love. Three heiresses and their love life. Hours of reading pleasure for your enjoyment. A little maritime adventure and a whole lot of love. I read an advance reader copy and voluntarily chose to review. Well written with likeable characters and engaging stories.

BLOOD INSTINCTS – book two of the Blood at First Sight Series

http://books2read.com/u/bppKAk

Keti

Fantastic! An incredible fantasy story!

April 22, 2019

Format: Kindle Edition

A fantastic story that you will love.
Wonderful and magic characters… that will surprise you with their ability and capability…
A story full of twists… a journey toward the research for who one…

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Blog Tour Feature: Wicked Wager by Beverley Oakley

.•*´¨❥¸.•*´¨ NEW RELEASE¸.•*´¨❥¸.•*´¨

What if one kiss is not enough?

I am pleased to announce a cool book blog tour going on right now, presented by Beverley Oakley, an author I met during my journey! Congratulations on your new historical romance! :)

When a new book comes out, it is always an exciting time for authors!

Plus, here at the I Love Romance Blog, we love discovering romance novels!

Let’s hear a little about this great book…

Nice!

This is the blurb for Wicked Wager, Georgian Romance Series, Book 1:

Can innocence survive the machinations of a malevolent society beauty and a charismatic rake?

Two weeks before her nuptials to her cold, harsh cousin, virtuous Celeste Rosington finds herself in the arms of notorious libertine, Lord Peregrine.

The unexpected encounter is, at first, shocking, but as Peregrine’s charm weaves its magic, becomes a welcome distraction from Celeste’s troubles. Isn’t she already the subject of whispers due to her involvement in the mysterious disappearance of a wealthy plantation magnate? It was a role orchestrated by her demanding husband-to-be in which Celeste had failed spectacularly.

Nevertheless, Celeste has no intention of sacrificing all of her scruples for a man she knows is only toying with her. One kiss from handsome, charismatic Viscount Peregrine will surely be enough to give her the strength to fulfil her marital obligations?

But what if one kiss is not enough?

With her reputation in the balance, Celeste must navigate the treacherous waters of envy, intrigue and deadly secrets, unaware she’s the unwitting pawn in a wicked wager between a ruthless society beauty and delicious, dissolute Lord Peregrine.

Could Peregrine really be a party to such perfidious plans? Will his reckless charm be the final undoing of a young woman once respected for her virtue and piety?

Or will Peregrine discover that true love is more powerful than greed and ambition in time to save Celeste from the terrible fate that otherwise awaits her?

Beverley is giving us a peek at her historical romance, Wicked Wager, today.

Great cover!

 

Book Info:

Author: Beverley Oakley

Series: Georgian Romance #1

Genre: Romance, Historical, Georgian

Heat Level: Sensual

Release Date: April 7, 2019

Here is an excerpt.

The last of the applause drifted away and for a few seconds the shrill cries of the orange sellers held sway. Rising from his ironic bow for the benefit of his companion, Lord Peregrine held back the red velvet curtain that had afforded them privacy so that Xenia could pass through and join the throng of theatergoers descending the sweeping staircase.

He saw that she had fallen into conversation with a club-footed general whose more than interested eye swept appraisingly over Xenia’s abundant assets, and once again Perry felt again the familiar heating of his loins that only Xenia could inspire with a mere incendiary glance.

The contours of her sack-back gown, adorned with a row of bows the length of her stomacher, recalled the more lascivious of those thoughts he’d entertained for the past decade: what it would be like to undress her, layer by layer by layer. He could only imagine how many layers there might be, but the prize would be worth the exquisite torture of restraint. He’d not revealed quite how much her proposition tonight had taken him by surprise, and the fact he’d agreed fueled him with an odd combination of conflicting sensations: raging lust tempered by the knowledge that he’d just sunk to depths of moral depravity that might make even his uncle squirm in his grave: seduce an innocent on the eve of her nuptials.

Except that Xenia maintained the young woman’s ingenuousness was a ploy. Still, Miss Rosington retained her standing in society as a paragon of virtue. What right had he to assume otherwise, just because it was convenient?

He was diverted by a squeal to his left. Xenia was moving ahead, caught up by the crowd, her head bent to absorb the admiration of her club-footed general. Peregrine meanwhile found himself unable to continue, due to the fact the young woman in front of him had snagged her skirts on what appeared to be a nail or splinter protruding from one of the supporting beams. No one could move until she’d freed herself, and as Peregrine was directly behind her it was incumbent upon him to act the gentlemen and so enable the rest of the pulsing crowd to forge ahead.

“Please be careful, sir, it’ll tear and it’s the first time I’ve worn it,” the young woman warned as he took a handful of stiff silk in one hand. “It’s my finest.” She twisted her head round to address him.

As her lips parted, revealing a set of near perfect small white teeth, and her worried blue eyes bored into his, Peregrine felt a jolt of something unidentifiable plummet like a stone to the pit of his stomach. No, further than that, for without a doubt his groin was reacting with something akin to roiling hunger. And, surprisingly, with an intensity that exceeded the dull throb of ten years of wanting Xenia like a frustrated schoolboy.

Close to, Miss Rosington was exquisite, her pale white and rose-blushed skin far more lustrous than when seen from a distance through opera glasses. Her powdered coiffure, dressed to fashionable heights, accentuated high, rounded cheekbones; and with growing excitement he followed the sweep of her graceful neck to a bosom that was rising and falling with surely greater rapidity than fear of what peril her gown might face. He liked to think that was so, as her candid look met his and the connection between them seemed like the sharp tug of some inner cord, forcing him forward, his hand brushing hers, nestled beneath a froth of silken furbelows, as they both reached for the undamaged silk petticoat, now released.

“No harm done,” he murmured as she drew herself up, her companion, the black-eyed viscount to whom she was affianced, returning to claim her, drawing her away with the barest of thanks.

All over in a matter of seconds, and at what cost? For while silk skirts and dignity had escaped with minimal damage, Peregrine was the first to concede, as he watched her graceful back with pounding heart and aching groin, that a great deal of harm had indeed been done.

 ~♥~♥~♥~♥~♥~

Purchase Link:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/49WoqW

PRAISE FOR WICKED WAGER

This is intriguing, suspenseful, unpredictable and entertaining. After Perry accepts a wager from his lady friend to expose the woman who destroyed his sister’s life, he’s not so certain she is guilty of anything. A game of cat and mouse begins, but no one who is the cat and who is the mouse, because there are too many players in the game. It’s a storyline that captures your attention immediately, and keeps it until the very end. duelalias (Amazon)

 Wow!!! This took a woman scorned to the highest degree. This tangled web of deceit kept me glued to the pages in anticipation and shock as this couple is manipulated on every side. I like both characters and think they make a great couple. The mystery behind the wager is much bigger though and was another wow/emotional moment for me. Perry has met his match with this stubborn and feisty Celeste. – ANN (Amazon)

The attraction between Celeste and Perry is instantaneous and mutual. Celeste sees it as her only chance to ever experience love before the long years she faces in a loveless💔 marriage. There is much, much more story to this fascinating book! Space Cowgirl (Amazon)

Great story! I very much enjoyed reading this book. I loved the characters and the lovely, twisty plot really kept my attention all the way through the book. I can definitely recommend it. – MERRIE (Amazon)

OMG! Love all the tension. ♥♥♥

Sounds like quite a tale!😉

Beverley is giving away a signed print copy of The Duchess and the Highwayman during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember, there is a chance to enter everyday so be sure to follow the Blog Tour. You may find the tour schedule and locations here.

Thank you for telling us about your new historical romance, Beverley! I know I can’t wait to read this intriguing novel! 🙂

Readers, don’t forget to grab a copy of this awesome book, or add it to your Goodreads list!

Wicked Wager looks great! ♥ We’ll be sure to check it out! Don’t miss the giveaway!

Author Bio

Beverley Oakley is an Australian author who grew up in the African mountain kingdom of Lesotho, married a Norwegian bush pilot she met in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and started writing historical romances to amuse herself in the 12 countries she’s lived as a ‘trailing spouse’ (in between working as an airborne geophysical survey operator, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and writing for her former newspaper).

Her Scandalous Miss Brightwell Series was nominated Best Historical Romance by the Australian Romance Readers Association. She is also the author of the popular Daughters of Sin Series, a Regency-era ‘Dynasty-style’ family saga laced with intrigue and espionage.

Under her real name Beverley Eikli, she writes Africa-set romantic suspense, and psychological historical romances. The Reluctant Bride won Choc-Lit’s Search for an Australian Star competition, and her Regency tale of redemption, The Maid of Milan, was shortlisted in the Top Ten Reads of 2014 at the UK Festival of Romance.

Beverley lives north of Melbourne (overlooking a fabulous Gothic lunatic asylum) with the same gorgeous Norwegian husband, two daughters and a rambunctious Rhodesian Ridgeback.

You can read more at beverleyoakley.com

Author Links

Website:  https://beverleyoakley.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBeverleyOakley/

https://www.facebook.com/beverley.eikli/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/BeverleyOakley

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Beverley-Oakley/e/B01HOFCS8K/

https://www.amazon.com/Beverley-Eikli/e/B0034Q44E0

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5989577.Beverley_Oakley

BookBub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/beverley-oakley

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com.au/beverleyeikli/

 

Thank you for telling us about your great book tour! I know readers can’t wait to get ahold of this Georgian romance!

Thanks again to Beverley and her blog tour sponsor!

We hope to see you back on ILRB sometime. 

Happy reading, everyone!  ♥♥♥ Have a great weekend! 😀

2 Comments

Filed under Authors, Blogging, Book News, Book Release, Books, contest, Event, Fiction, free books, Gifts, giveaway, Historical, Historical Romance, new release, Readers, Romance, Tour, Writing

Big Myths That Should Be Dispelled About Romance Novels: a romance blogger post by multi-genre author Marie Lavender

Big Myths That Should Be Dispelled About Romance Novels

 

If you’re a fan of romance, then you’ve probably heard an insult or two regarding your favorite genre. And for those who don’t often gravitate towards romance for various reasons, now is the time to listen up and take this into consideration. You might be wrong about your assumptions! 😉 So, read on and learn more here…

I’ll list some myths that I’ve heard and read before.

  1. “It’s all smut.”

    freestocks.org, Unsplash

    Uggh…this word can annoy an avid romance reader. Some might think this myth is outdated, but there are people who still believe romance novels are smut, or trashy reads.

Bodice rippers went out of style by the mid-80s. The genre, as well as authors and readers, have evolved considerably. Erotica is a different subject matter entirely. Plus, bodice rippers promote rape culture, and most romance novels nowadays don’t even touch on that topic in a romantic relationship. With good reason, of course. Both sexual partners should be willing.

‘Mommy porn’ is also a derogative term which is used by certain parties in reference to romance books. Come on, not every romance author writes Fifty Shades-esque material, and readers are certainly not just mothers. Some are single, professional women. Romance readers are intelligent, capable people just as they are, and they’re not reading ‘smut’ or even ‘fluff’. It takes a lot of effort and smarts to digest a full romance novel (historical romance is heavy on time period description) – or in the case of fantasy and sci-fi romance, lots of world-building – in one sitting, and keep coming back for more.

Yuri Efremov, Unsplash

And no, we don’t just skip to the good parts! 🙄

  1. “Gross! I’m a guy. Men don’t read or write romance.”

Geez…get with the times! Men like to read romance too. ♥ For God’s sake, my reviewer for this blog is a guy. He adores reading romance books! And yes, he’s also a romance writer. I’ve also met a handful of other male authors who sometimes write in the romance genre.

There’s nothing wrong at all with dudes getting into romance reads, as writers or readers. More power to them! 😀

  1. “These books are so simple. 1+1 = 2, right? It’s not that difficult to understand.”

Actually, romance stories are complicated. It takes a hell of a lot more than just throwing two unique people next to each other, and then expecting fireworks. Life is full of ups and downs, a roller coaster journey, so to speak. Why wouldn’t a romance read have the same drama and tension?

Created by bearfotos- freepik.com

Authenticity is everything. Readers won’t care about characters or a story which isn’t relatable, or read something that couldn’t feasibly occur in reality. Even if the tale has fantastical elements, we have to believe in what’s happening, and see the reason why these characters are compatible.

Carly Rae Hobbins, Unsplash

  1. “Romance books are standard, or boring! Not for me…I need something that holds my attention.”

Really? With the constant evolution of multiple themes and sub-genres of romance, we’re not likely to run out of new ideas, nor are readers liable to call it quits any time soon. It’s one of the most popular book categories for a reason! 🙂

If you like shapeshifters, there’s always paranormal romance. Who doesn’t like vampires, werewolves or witches?

Favor a good spy tale or mystery/thriller? Try romantic suspense or a romantic thriller for some heart-pounding action.

Do you crave stories that are…a tad darker? There’s a type called dark romance, and even unique themes such as mafia romance or MC (biker) romances are available.

Prefer adventure tales? Maybe fantasy romance or romantic adventure is more your style.

You could be a science fiction fan, but might be willing to try something with a romantic storyline. As you know, many of the most popular sci-fi films usually have a romance angle to appeal to audiences. Why not go for science fiction romance, dystopian romance or even a good time travel tale?

 

Maybe you like stories about war veterans. Well, we have military romance

In other words, this genre has sooooo many options! ♥

  1. “I don’t believe in love at first sight. I can’t get into romance novels.”

Even as someone who has read tons of romance novels in some capacity since the age of thirteen, I can’t say I go for love at first sight either. However, I do believe that two people can connect right away. Lust also happens pretty fast too, but that’s beside the point. With these two facts, I know it still takes time to build a good relationship. I’ve read plenty of novels that don’t fall into the trap of the love at first sight ideal. I think it’s why the ‘Happy for Now’ ending works so well; most novelists get that this is more realistic on some level. I think that a lot of writers these days are doing their best to show that it’s not really love at first sight – rather it’s more about chemistry and an instant connection evolving quickly into something substantial. And this isn’t unheard of in real life.

But we don’t have 1,000 pages to explain the whole courtship/dating period; therefore it falls on the writer to try to make it a believable story in a short amount of time.

As a writer of romance as well, with twenty-four published books and 125+ works-in-progress, I usually do my best to avoid the idea of immediate love. Chemistry is easy, though.

Created by yanalya – freepik.com

It’s everything else that complicates the story. Even in my shorter romantic fiction, I try to explain that enough time – even though I don’t always go into the normal life details – has passed for these two people to actually develop feelings.

With The Missing Piece, a story that was part of a holiday romance anthology and was then made into a single ebook (new adult romance), I was careful to simply show the stirrings of romantic interest in such a short time.

For me, I see insta-love as a notion that often works well for supernatural creatures in fiction, simply because their primal, possessive instincts are winning out over logic. This can merge into affection rather quickly because all of their senses are more heightened than usual. Everything is so vivid that it must be love.

  1. “Romance novels are too sexy. I can’t handle all that heat.”

So steam isn’t for you. We totally respect your preferences! If you find that most romance reads are rife with heated or even graphic content, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Try inspirational romance. Have you seen Amish romance in bookstores? Yeah, that’s one type, among so many others.

But let’s say you’re open to looking outside spiritual reads. Also available on the market are clean romance and sweet romance. Plus, cozy mysteries typically lack sexual content, and amid all the other events in the books, there’s sometimes a romance angle.

In any case, the authors of these clean reads subscribe to the notion of a sweet romance, or at least closed door romance. We’re all adults here, right? But at least if sexual content bothers you in any fashion, you can rest assured that with these types of books, it usually won’t go beyond kissing. And even if it does, what happens is implied and never vividly described. Cut to the next scene!

Anyway, if you believe you can’t read romance because it’s just too hot for your taste, that no longer has to be the case.

  1. “Please…romance novels aren’t even real fiction!”

Hmm…ouch. 😥 Still, this myth is just wrong.

Let’s look at the basic formula for fiction.

The character is introduced. There is some action happening, a type of conflict. Something prevents him from getting what he really wants (usually the antagonist, which can be a person, place, thing, or even a concept). By the end of the story, this character must change in some capacity, internally or externally. The tale reaches its conclusion, however satisfying – or unsatisfying – it may be for readers.

These are the principles of fiction, of course. And you have interactions with secondary characters, dialogue and tension that help shape the story and your idea of who this person is. There’s also the climax of the tale, that pivotal movement when things get really tense for the character – the reader too – and he or she is close to losing everything. But I digress.

Every romance meets the requirements of fiction as well. It’s a lot more than two people being brought together like magnets. Chemistry is just a small part of it. The question becomes…how do we realistically connect these individuals? They have to fit somehow.

Created by yanalya – freepik.com

Numerous elements go into making that happen. There’s a specific plot, as well as subplots. The character must want something, have a goal in mind. The story isn’t always just about romance, but also the way characters come to believe new truths about themselves. They’re not only capable of love. Maybe the main character wants a promotion. But to do that, she’ll have to step outside her comfort zone to impress her boss. In any case, an HEA (Happily Ever After) or HFN (Happy for Now) is only possible if the character reaches the proper mindset to have a real romantic relationship. Without that, it’s just attraction – then it becomes erotica alone, which is something else altogether.

For example, being with an emotionally unavailable person is like hitting your head against the wall. In the end, it’s just pointless. For this type of relationship to qualify as a real romance, the characters must change – events might happen in their lives to help adjust their worldview – and they can reach a certain level of happiness. But it’s going to be a hard journey to get there. Romance stories aren’t all hearts, flowers, and butterflies.

Frank McKenna, Unsplash

True fiction is housed in every romance tale. The character still goes through a range of emotions to achieve what he/she wants. As aforementioned, often there is an antagonist preventing the couple from being together, whether it’s a person, a misconceived notion, or another external force that keeps them apart.

Sometimes it’s more than one antagonist. It’s never easy right away. Eventually, the characters must find a way around the barrier. Every relationship in real life takes effort, and these stories are no different.

Oh, wait!

Pixabay, pexels.com

The character wanted something, had a goal in mind. To reach that aspiration, he took action, and then the events that occurred reshaped his way of thinking. But at least he found what he was looking for. And he changed on some level, right? Yep…sounds like fiction to me! 😉

  1. “These books are useless drivel, and they create unrealistic expectations for people.”

To me, that sounds like it’s coming from someone who is afraid of the power of genuine emotion. But, let’s explore the aforesaid theory.

Relationships are hard work, and those in romance novels take just as much effort. If a writer is doing his or her job correctly, this will come out on the page.

Unrealistic? Hmm…if anything, I think the romance reader will see reality for what it is. No, finding happiness is never easy, but it’s worth the journey.

To illustrate this point, I’ll reference the trope often seen in historical romances…Marrying for Convenience versus Marrying for Love.

The truth is that even modern readers understand the benefits of a marriage of convenience. With financial and social stability, it’s a match that makes sense. But more often than not, we’ll root for the opposite outcome.

Why? Are we silly dreamers?

Not at all. It’s just that deep down, we all want to be happy. This is in our nature as human beings. We’re conditioned to know that events should play out a certain way – getting married and having kids is usually expected – but our instincts tell us there’s more to the story. Of course, those eventualities don’t work for every person. Still, why wouldn’t we want happiness for the characters we’ve come to care about?

Inna Lesyk, pexels.com

So, is it unrealistic to crave love? I don’t think so. At least in my opinion, romance novels have the power to teach us what we want in life. And who couldn’t use a little more self-awareness? I know I’d rather be in a relationship that works well, which helps me evolve as a person, rather than one that might look okay on paper, yet will only serve to hurt me in the long run.

Plenty of people are unhappy because they made the wrong choices. Maybe they feel trapped, but in the end, they have to figure a way out on their own. Some will settle, others won’t. That’s the thing about life, though. If you make a mistake, the best you can do is try to repair it. And if that’s not possible, you get creative and find a new route to achieve your goal.

Being logical is one way of thinking. Listening to your heart, really opening yourself up to what will make you happy? That takes courage.

I believe romance novels can teach us a lot about ourselves, and help us to understand the motivations of other people too.

Is this realistic? Probably not. But it can prevent someone from making a rash decision, to use their heart and instincts to discover what they want, and determine the best solution for them. How admirable, right? Outsiders can judge all they want, and it won’t matter as long as that person is satisfied with what they’ve chosen.

At any rate, romance novels are lot more complex than they may seem at first glance. Reading these books can offer many benefits – numerous insights and a source of entertainment, just to name a couple! If you’re interested in learning more, you can view a full list of sub-genres and romance tropes below.

https://marielavender.blogspot.com/2016/03/understanding-romance-genre-by-marie-lavender-plus-giveaway.html

https://www.mindyklasky.com/index.php/for-writers/romance-tropes/

I hope I’ve reaffirmed some aspects for loyal fans, and offered advice worth considering for people who are new to the romance genre. If you know of anyone who still believes these myths are valid, please refer them to this article. 😉

Have a lovely rest of your week, readers! 🙂

Host Blogger Bio

Multi-genre author of Victorian romance, UPON YOUR RETURN, and 23 other books. Reached the Top 10 Authors list on AuthorsDB.com for the last 4 years. Featured interview in the January 2018 issue of Womelle Magazine. The Heiresses in Love Trilogy made the TOP 10 on the Anthology category on the 2018 P&E Readers’ Poll, and BLOOD INSTINCTS reached TOP 10 status in the Romance category. The Heiresses in Love Trilogy and DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART both reached the semi-finalist round in the 2018 AuthorsDB Book Cover Contest. Voted TOP BLOGGER for 2018 on the Romance Lives Forever Blog. TOP 20 Authors of 2018 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART was nominated and made it past the first round in the 2018 Author Academy Awards. UPON YOUR LOVE and THE MISSING PIECE placed in the TOP 10 on the 2017 P&E Readers’ Poll. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART was nominated for the 2017 Reader’s Choice Awards. The I Love Romance Blog became a finalist in StartDating DK’s Romance Blog Awards of 2017. ILRB landed on Feedspot’s 2017 TOP 100 Novel Blogs and TOP 100 Romance Blogs. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART placed in the TOP 10 Books of 2017 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. TOP 20 Authors of 2017 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. Mystery Blogger Award for 2017. A to Z Blog Challenge Survivor in 2016. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title – winner of the “Broken Heart” themed contest and the “I Love You” themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers’ Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers’ Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013, 2014 and 2016. 2013 and 2014 Amazon Bestseller Ranking for UPON YOUR RETURN. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and two cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 24 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, dramatic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She writes adult fiction, as well as occasional stories for children, and has recently started some young adult fiction. She has also contributed to several anthologies. Her current published series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Eternal Hearts Series, The Magick Series, The Code of Endhivar Series and The Blood at First Sight Series.

Links:

Official Website: http://marielavender.com/

Blogs: https://iloveromanceblog.wordpress.com/
http://marielavender.blogspot.com/

http://marielavenderbooks.blogspot.com/
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/marie.lavender.58
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Amazon author page: https://amzn.to/2SMRcRD
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6938764.Marie_Lavender
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http://marielavender1.allauthor.com/

http://www.pw.org/content/marie_lavender
http://manicreaders.com/marielavender/

Publisher: http://www.solsticeempire.com/products.aspx?categoryid=262

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJu8HjRVYCFOqcIoX6ZxdqQ/videos

Sign up for Marie’s Newsletter: http://bit.ly/1g3wO13

Follow her on BookBub for new release updates: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/marie-lavender

 

Happy reading, everyone! 🙂

Pixabay, Pexels.com

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New Release Feature: The Impaler’s Wife by author Autumn Bardot

•..•The Impaler’s Wife by Autumn Bardot•..•

Marriage to a man tortured by his past comes with a price…

I am pleased to announce a great book release by Autumn, a talented author I met during my journey! Her new historical fiction novel with a romance angle, The Impaler’s Wife, officially released last week!

Yay! That’s awesome! :) Congrats on your new release!

When a new book comes out, it’s always an exciting time for an author!

Autumn is giving us a look at her gothic romance, The Impaler’s Wife, today.

What an intriguing cover!

This is the blurb for The Impaler’s Wife:

A young woman is swept into a life of intrigue, revenge, passion, and betrayal when she falls for the world’s most notorious prince.

The year is 1464 and young King Matthias controls Hungary, his family, and the fate of the world’s most notorious political prisoner, Prince Vlad Dracula.

Ilona Szilágy, the king’s cousin, is young and ambitious. Dracula is determined to marry into the Hunyadi family. It is love at first sight, but the king has other plans. The Impaler Prince, however, never takes no for an answer.

This begins Ilona’s journey into the treacherous world of court intrigues, family betrayals, and her husband’s dark desires. Eager to become Vlad’s trusted confidante, Ilona soon discovers that marriage to a man tortured by his past comes with a price.

Woven throughout is a peek into the life and times of one of the world’s most enigmatic and maligned rulers…the man before the legend.

With Bardot’s decadent period detail and a cast of gritty, evocative characters, The Impaler’s Wife offers a fierce yet sensuous glimpse into the violent 15th century.

Here is an excerpt to entice you with!

Prince Vlad rests his hand on the small of my back. “Come, Lady Ilona, look at the faces of anarchy and villainy, and see how much they resemble your friends and family.”

“I will not.” I back away from the entrance where moans rise from the bowels of the labyrinth like a demon’s song.

“The choice is yours, of course.” His tone is low and gentle, but in the lamplight his stare is wolf-like.

I shift from foot to foot, look away, only to glance back. Does he hear my heart knocking against my breast? Can he smell my fear as it beads wet on my neck? Do I want to rise to this challenge? Or am I a fool for allowing him to bait me?

My fingers tighten around the lamp’s clay handle. “I will humor you, my lord, but only because Father taught me courage and graciousness.”

“Mihály taught you well.” He holds out his hand. “My lady.”

The lamp divides the darkness like a saber, each foot forward lighting our descent into hell. Ghostly groans from below seep through the rock. I sink into Vlad’s fur-lined coat as though their suffering will soak into my soul.

Vlad pauses before descending the narrow rock steps leading into the labyrinth’s deepest level. “Are you certain?” His eyes glint with challenge. “A weak constitution is nothing to be ashamed of.”

I lift my chin and glare with pretended insult. “I am the daughter of Michael Szilágyi and Margit Báthory. Iron courage flows in my blood.” I push back my cuff and show him the blue-forked veins in my wrist. “I am as brave as Hadak Ura, our ancient pagan warlord.”

“I believe you, my lady. I will not doubt again.”

The clanking chains and eerie moans get louder with each step down, the noises merging into a demonic choir like that of Ördög’s requiem to the Underworld. My legs shake, my neck wet with icy prickles, and my skin tightens around my chest.

I lift the lamp into hell.

The circle of light shines upon a pockmarked man stretching his arm between the bars, his fingers curled like claws. “Bless me, good sister.”

In the cell next to him, a naked wretch spits onto the ground. “Menj a fenébe!”

“I am innocent!” A third prisoner grabs the bars and presses his wild-bearded face against the iron. “Tell His Highness there is a Turkish spy in his court. He is in danger! You must warn him!”

My head swivels toward Prince Vlad.

“There are always spies,” Vlad whispers.

I walk with measured pace and let the lantern reveal each doomed prisoner. Most stare, empty-eyed; the whips, chains, skin shredders, bone crushers, and strappado take away all hope and spirit. Others shout obscenities. One man kneels, hands in prayer, and mutters the Hail Mary.

The weight of their misery crashes down, squeezes my heart, and crushes my breath. This place must be worse than hell’s torments because these wretches yet live, have all their faculties! No one deserves this! It is inhumane! Sadistic and depraved!

My breath comes in shreds and clumps. I cover my nose with Prince Vlad’s cape, the stench of rotting flesh enfolding me in its putrid embrace. My pace quickens. It is time to end this test of my courage.

“You!” A milky-eyed wretch points to Prince Vlad and begins chanting in a foreign tongue.

Prince Vlad guides me away from the cells. “You have thrice over proven your courage tonight.”

“What language was that man speaking?”

“He recites from the Corpus Hermeticum.” Dracula takes the lantern and illuminates the stairwell. “It’s a pagan book of alchemy, astronomy, and metaphysics.”

“It sounded like he cursed us.”

“Pay no attention to a madman’s rants. That particular book is nothing but Egyptian and Greek nonsense.”

I tread upwards, evil’s chill clinging to my limbs. At the top, I try to purge the dungeon’s misery, malice, and madness with a long exhalation. Yet the horror sticks like nettles in my soul.

“This way.” I move past the dark tunnel and enter the lighted one, relieved to put space and distance between the prisoners and me.

The tunnel ends at a large grotto where Prince Vlad pauses to light the ring of torches affixed to the walls. I wait on a stone bench near the baptismal fount, sighing with relief as the golden glow of the church-like arches infuse peace into my troubled soul.

Prince Vlad sits beside me. “We go from hell to heaven.”

I tuck a stray lock behind my ear. “This was Father’s favorite grotto. God’s Buried Cathedral, he called it. His second favorite has a Titan-sized head emerging from the ground—like a god got stuck in molten rock. I was only in that grotto once. It reminded me of an insect trapped in tree sap that ages to amber—the insect forever entombed—never aging, almost alive in its resin grave.”

“Do you find that horrific or beautiful?” His eyes search mine.

“Both, I suppose.” My shoulders move into my sigh. “Caves are dreary places.”

“I rather enjoy them. Tunnels have saved my life several times.” Dracula stands. “I think we are both ready for fresh air.” He offers his hand, its warmth a familiar comfort.

Together we walk through the tunnel lit by small lanterns that flicker like fireflies all the way to the exit.

Prince Vlad gives the stubborn iron-crossed door a hard yank and it groans open. Outside, a sapphire dawn drapes over Buda.

“On no.” My hands fly to my face. “It’s so late it’s early.” Were we in the tunnels that long? If my aunts discover I never returned to my room…I spin about, my voice edged with panic. “I have to go back. Now.”

Vlad’s brows crease with concern. He tugs a handkerchief from his robe and touches it to my lips as though dabbing at a smudge. “There’s something I must do first.” He lays the linen over my lips and sets his mouth on mine.

Even through the thin fabric, his lips sear my own. I part my lips, feel the linen moisten with the breath of our lust. I collapse into him, my body sizzling with desire. I am about to rip away the fabric and taste his lips when he breaks the kiss.

Vlad Dracula steps back, the handkerchief between thumb and forefinger. “If you marry Luigi della Scala, you will still be chaste.” He drags the handkerchief across his mouth. “I will always have this.”

Chaste? Prince Vlad just violated my heart and corrupted my flesh!

Back in my chambers, I touch my lips that still burn with the memory of our kiss—my first kiss—and groan. Vlad Dracula used my virtue, conceit, and fears to study the labyrinth’s secrets. He took advantage of my desire for romantic adventure to learn the escape route.

Purchase Links:

Universal Reader link:  https://books2read.com/u/3ygVlv

Publisher: Flores Publishing

Nice! Great tension. Gotta love this sneak peek. ♥♥♥

Let’s check out an intriguing book trailer!

Awesome!

Thank you for telling us about your new book! It sounds fabulous! 🙂

Readers, don’t forget to pick up a copy of this riveting read! Or add it to your Goodreads bookshelf!

Author Bio

Autumn Bardot writes erotica and historical fiction about sassy women and daring passions.

Her erotica includes Legends of Lust (Cleis Press), and Confessions of a Sheba Queen (Cleis, Jan 2020).  Autumn has a BA in English literature and a MaEd in curriculum and instruction. She’s been teaching writing and literary analysis for fourteen years. Autumn lives in Southern California with her hubby, rescue pooch, and ever-increasing family.  Her favorite things include salty French fries, coffee, swimming, and a great book.

Author Links

Website:  http://www.autumnbardot.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AutumnBardotAuthor

Club Autumn

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/AutumnBardot

Amazon author page:  https://www.amazon.com/Autumn-Bardot/e/B07DMC7ZB6/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17725628.Autumn_Bardot

Newsletter Sign-up here (right side of page)

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/autumnbardot/

 

Thanks again, Autumn! We hope to see you back on ILRB sometime. 

Happy reading, everyone!🙂

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