Tag Archives: history

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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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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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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Filed under Authors, Book News, Book Release, Books, Fiction, Gothic, Historical, Historical Romance, Readers, Romance, Writing

A great period romance!

I don’t often write reviews for the I Love Romance Blog, only when I feel that I have something to say. I never promise reviews, not just because I don’t have a lot of free time, but I also don’t wish to have an author saying, “Hey! Why didn’t you give me five stars?” I’m not saying every author approaches a review with a lack of professionalism. Most don’t, but I still don’t want to take that chance (I’ve heard the horror stories). If I do a review, I am honest and I will only put it up on this blog if it’s a book I truly enjoyed.

Having said that, I had to bring this series to your attention as it relates to our theme – romance. After purchasing and reading the final book recently, I thought it was about time to make an overall statement regarding this fantastic historical romance series.

I accidentally stumbled across Kris Tualla’s The Discreet Gentleman Series when my publisher assigned me an editor for Upon Your Return. After seeing the unique relationship between Captain Grant Hill and his valet Eric, she recommended a series with a somewhat similar theme. It was, in many ways, entirely different, but so worth the read.

series

The Discreet Gentleman Series by Kris Tualla is a Viking series set in 1700s Norway. Brander Hansen is a discreet gentleman of discovery, a kind of pre-Sherlock Holmes. This series is full of suspense, intrigue and romance. Brander is a unique investigator in more than one way, however. Not only is he a master of disguise, he is deaf, and he and his cousin Niels have created an original way to communicate with one another, not altogether different from modern sign language. What he doesn’t expect is to be confronted with Lady Regin and all of the wonder and complications she will cause him during his question to gain back his honor and status as a gentleman.

This is a lovely, fantastic series that will keep you on your toes! You never know what kind of trouble these two will get into. I loved all of the characters in this series, and I can’t wait to read Kris Tualla’s other books! I give the entire series a fabulous five stars,and I fully recommend it to anyone who loves history, romance or mysteries!

Here are the books, blurbs and purchase links:

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Amazon Universal link:  http://bookgoodies.com/a/B007K1KPUC

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-discreet-gentleman-of-discovery-kris-tualla/1107712758

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Amazon Universal link:  http://bookgoodies.com/a/B008W192VC

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-discreet-gentleman-of-matrimony-kris-tualla/1111849364

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Amazon Universal link:  http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00AMI6I7Y

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-discreet-gentleman-of-consequence-kris-tualla/1120819189

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Amazon Universal link:  http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00G1YDOGQ

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-discreet-gentleman-of-intrigue-kris-tualla/1117375529

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Amazon Universal link:  http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00H9FUZSQ

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-discreet-gentleman-of-mystery-kris-tualla/1118060977

Thanks again, Kris Tualla, for making my romantic’s heart race. Now I have a reason to love Vikings! You’ve certainly made a loyal fan out of me.  😀

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Come Sail Away to the Past by Marie Lavender

An article about how I did my historical research for UPON YOUR HONOR…

Seasons of Love

From Christina: As another historical romance writer, I know the need for careful research. Today, Marie Lavender offers a glimpse at how she uncovers accurate information for her stories.

 

Come Sail Away to the Past

by Marie Lavender

 

CLIPPERPICAs Upon Your Honor is a period romance, I wanted to cover some of the tough research I did for the book. Though it is getting easier the more I write, I did struggle with some technical issues during the writing of the manuscript.

For example, as most of Chloe’s journey is aboard La Voyageur, captained by Grant Hill (the hero in the first book), it was necessary to research ships. Clipper ships, to be exact. Clipper ships were very popular in their time, from 1840 to 1869. They were very fast and could outrun many other ships. I chose the clipper because I knew the captain would want a…

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