‘Murder at Marble House’ by Alyssa Maxwell

mamh amSTORY: With the dawn of the twentieth century on the horizon, the fortunes of the venerable Vanderbilt family still shine brightly in the glittering high society of Newport, Rhode Island. But when a potential scandal strikes, the Vanderbilts turn to cousin and society page reporter Emma Cross to solve a murder and a disappearance. . .Responding to a frantic call on her newfangled telephone from her eighteen-year-old cousin, Consuelo Vanderbilt, Emma Cross arrives at the Marble House mansion and learns the cause of her distress–Consuelo’s mother, Alva, is forcing her into marriage with the Duke of Marlborough. Her mother has even called in a fortune teller to assure Consuelo of a happy future.

But the future is short-lived for the fortune teller, who is found dead by her crystal ball, strangled with a silk scarf. Standing above her is one of the Vanderbilts’ maids, who is promptly taken into police custody. After the frenzy has died down, Consuelo is nowhere to be found. At Alva’s request, Emma must employ her sleuthing skills to determine if the vanishing Vanderbilt has eloped with the beau of her choice–or if her disappearance may be directly connected to the murder. . .

REVIEW: A Gilded Newport Mystery

August 1895

Consuelo Vanderbilt lives with her mother, Alva Vanderbilt, at the Marble House mansion in Newport Rhode Island.  At the young age of 18, Consuelo has been informed by her mother that she is to marry the Duke of Marlborough who is now en route from England to meet her.  The marriage will provide a much-needed infusion of money for the Duke and Consuelo will in turn, become a Duchess.  But, Consuelo does not want to marry the Duke.  She calls upon her cousin, Emma Cross, who is the “poor relation” of the Vanderbilt family.  

Emma works as a society-page reporter for the local newspaper and lives in her small home with her Nanny.  Emma tries to calm her even as her mother, Alva’s plans continue for the wedding.  In trying to prove to Consuelo that the marriage will be a good one and she will be happy, Alva arranges for a fortune teller to come and tell her future and reassure her.  But when the fortune teller is found dead and one of the maids is taken into custody charged with her murder, the house is in an uproar.  At the same time, Consuelo vanishes leaving the family unsure if she has been kidnapped or has run away in trying to get out of her marriage to the Duke.  Once again, Emma dons her well-known sleuth’s cap and goes on a mission to find Consuelo and to discover who the real murderer is.

In her search, she uncovers a smuggling operation and other shocking events which put her own life at risk.  When another death occurs, she realizes that she needs to call upon some old friends for help.

If you have read the author’s first novel, “Murder at the Breakers,” you are familiar with the determination of Emma and her keen detective mind.  My review of this first book is here.

I found this novel to be well written but I admit that it did not hold my interest as much as her first novel did.  But, the descriptions of this eye-popping time called “The Gilded Age” prove how it got that name. The author has a third novel in the series “Murder at Beechwood” which is being published in June 2015 from Kensington Publishing.

Connie for b2b

‘Christmas in the Duke’s Arms’ by Grace Burrowes, Carolyn Jewel, Miranda Neville , Shana Galen,

citda gb cj mn sgSTORY: An anthology of Regency novellas by Grace Burrowes, Shana Galen, Carolyn Jewel and Miranda Neville.

The Duke’s Arms is an undistinguished little inn in the tiny village of Hopewell-on-Lyft. But one Christmas season sees both inn and village seething with adventure, intrigue, rabbits, and, above all, love as four couples find Yuletide happiness. 

Grace Burrowes – A Knight Before Christmas

With her year of mourning at an end, Penelope Carrington must remarry in haste, or her portion of her late husband’s estate won’t be enough to dower her younger sisters. Shy, handsome man of business Sir Leviticus Sparrow longs to give Penelope a marriage proposal for Christmas – and his heart – but Sir Levi must first foil the other bachelors scheming to meet Penelope under the mistletoe in his place.

Carolyn Jewel – In The Duke’s Arms

What’s a Duke to do when he’s made an awful impression on the love of his life?

The Duke of Oxthorpe lost his intensely guarded heart to Miss Edith Clay when Edith’s rich cousin sought to attach the duke’s marital interest. So smitten is Oxthorpe with the former poor relation that he’s gone through intermediaries to sell Edith a property adjoining the ducal seat.

Edith doesn’t much care for the haughty duke, but as Christmas approaches, Oxthorpe reveals himself to be reserved rather than arrogant, considerate, and – blame the mistletoe! – an accomplished kisser. Will Edith hold Oxthorpe’s earlier behavior against him, or will she learn that the best holiday gifts can be the most unexpected?

Miranda Neville – Licensed To Wed

If Lord Carbury could learn to take no for an answer, his marriage proposal might earn him a yes!

Wyatt, Viscount Carbury is much too busy to court a bride, but when his childhood neighbor, Robina Weston, is left orphaned and penniless, Wyatt dutifully adds marrying Robina to his list of responsibilities.Wyatt is dismayed to learn that for Robina, poverty and pride are preferable to sharing life with an arrogant, infuriating man who always thinks he knows best.

When Wyatt and Robina must endure Christmas in the country together, antipathy turns to interest, and then to unexpected attraction. Will they fight their feelings, or yield to the surprising gifts the holidays offer?

Shana Galen – The Spy Beneath The Mistletoe

Fledgling spy Pierce Moneypence seeks a highwayman and the key to Eliza’s heart…

When weapons designer Eliza Qwillen (Q) and clerk to the mysterious M, Pierce Moneypence, arrive in the English countryside, they’re unprepared for the dangers that await. The operatives are intent upon capturing the highwayman styling himself as the New Sheriff of Nottingham. Secret rendezvous, mistaken identities, and cat-and-mouse games challenge these fledgling agents, but rediscovering their passion for each other is the most rewarding mission of all.

REVIEW: ‘A Knight Before Christmas’ by Grace Burrowes

Sir Leviticus (Levi) Sparrow is a widowed friend and financial advisor to Mrs. Penelope Carrington who was widowed nearly a year ago when her much older husband, Sixtus, passed away right before Christmas. He left her quite wealthy. One stipulation of his will is that if she agrees to marry again within a year of being widowed, she will gain even more of his holdings.

At first, Penelope had decided that she was content as she was and did not feel the need to marry right away. That is until some of her family members approached her with the fact that they were now in debt and needed quite a large sum of money from her to settle their debts. Therefore, she is now feeling the pressure to find a husband and very soon as Christmas is quickly approaching.

When Penelope confides her dilemma to Levi, he wants to tell her how he has always adored her and would love to marry her. However, he does not want to pressure her. Penelope has always enjoyed his friendship but always thought he was engaged to be married. Amanda Houston has told many people that she is engaged to Levi but he has never confirmed it. It turns out that she had found some poems Levi had written to his dead wife and she claims that he wrote them to her! Despicable woman!

Penelope has her own business of raising rabbits and selling them for the meat and fur. While most are kept in pens, some are allowed to roam the house. This is something she truly enjoys and it has been quite profitable for her.

Will Penelope and Levi be able to confess their affection to one another? What about Amanda? Will Levi be able to convince society that Amanda is lying?
This is a clever story and I loved picturing the rabbits hopping through a huge mansion.

‘In the Duke’s Arms’ by Carolyn Jewel

1817, The Duke’s Arms, Nottinghamshire England

Miss Edith Clay, 27, has come into some money which has allowed her to buy a home and furnish it. If she is careful with her funds, she should be able to support herself for sometime. On the Cook’s night off, she and her maid like to walk to The Duke’s Arms Inn to pick up their dinner. The weather has been very cold and now it is beginning to snow. As she has no other mode of transportation, she has decided to walk.

The Duke of Oxthorpe lives nearby in Killhope Castle. A very wealthy man, he has no living family and chooses to live alone with his servants. He rarely socializes. His father died before he was born and ignored by his mother, he was raised by tutors. His mother also died when he had just reached his majority.

The Duke of Oxthorpe happens to be at The Duke’s Arms and when he saw Edith walking home, he leaves and insists on giving her and her maid a ride in his coach. The Duke is aware of the windfall that she has received and offers to help her buy a curricle and a horse as she had had no experience with that.

As Christmas is approaching, Edith joins a committee that organizes quarterly assemblies. She agrees to make mistletoe balls for the next assembly scheduled for December 22nd. Edith is hoping that the Duke will attend. Their encounters increase when he helps her cut mistletoe for the ball and he finds a curricle she would like. Each encounter finds them getting to know one another better as they become friends. Will their friendship turn into love?  I found this to be a delightful story that I enjoyed immensely.

‘Licensed to Wed’ by Miranda Neville

August 1817

Wyatt Herbert, Viscount Carbury, age 33, is the pillar of his family and very organized. Each month, he makes a list of tasks to accomplish and checks them off when completed. However, there is one task that he never gets to and it just floats over to the following month. What is that you ask? Well, it is for him to propose to Robina Weston.

Miss Robina Weston, age 25, is a single young woman living at the largesse of her godmother since the death of her parents. She knows that she cannot stay with her godmother much longer and is soon to accept a position as companion to a curmudgeonly old lady. Robina and Carbury have been friends since childhood. Their families were friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, both of their fathers were not good money managers.

Each month, Carbury visits Robina and chats with her for an hour or so but can never bring himself to propose until one day he finally gets his nerve up. It is approaching Christmas time and he feels they could be married and have a quick sojourn at his home outside London, Bourton Hall. Afterward, they can return to London and his usual schedule will not be interrupted. Ah – perfect planning for his structured life.

Unfortunately, when his proposal is put forth in a non-romantic and matter-of-fact manner, Robina is angered that he assumes she will automatically accept him. Instead, to his utter shock, she declines. Carbury heads home to Bourton Hall anyway to spend Christmas with his grandfather. Added to his already busy schedule, Carbury has recently taken over the guardianship of his late cousin’s four children. His plan is to stop by there on his way home to consult with the widow regarding the children. As her year of mourning is nearly at an end, she is ready to find another husband and has her eyes set firmly on Carbury.

Enroute to her new position, Robina is stranded at The Duke’s Arms Inn after the coach she was riding in was robbed by the new Sheriff on Nottinghamshire who has wreaked havoc in the area. As Carbury is staying nearby at the widow’s home, he learns of Robina’s situation and arranges for her to stay with the widow. What will come of this threesome together in the same house? Jealousy? Will Robina and Carbury be able to mend fences?

This was a delightful novella and one I enjoyed very much. Robina is a strong heroine and Carbury is a man who needs a woman like her to make his life complete.

‘The Spy Beneath the Mistletoe’ by Shana Galen

Christmas has just passed and Miss Elina Qwillen, age 35, is staying at The Duke’s Arms Inn. Her job as a covert spy and weapons engineer is very exciting and she is extremely satisfied with her life. She loves her work and is always looking forward to more missions.

Pierce Moneypence happens to be staying at the same Inn. He is also a spy and they are well acquainted with one another. As a matter of fact, at one time he had asked her to marry him but she refused because she felt he just wanted a wife like her to further his career.

As it turns out, they both have been assigned to find the highwayman known as The New Sheriff of Nottinghamshire that has terrorized the area. He has held up coaches and robbing the passengers of their money and treasures.
Together, they begin watching the people coming and going, plus those staying at the Inn to try and find anyone if a local person could be the highwayman. Their days at the Inn put them in close contact with one another which causes their old flame to spark again. Will they be able to find love in their lives? Will The New Sheriff of Nottinghamshire finally be apprehended?

This is a cute romantic story. The descriptions of the cold and snow were perfectly written to the point I nearly needed to grab a sweater!

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the authors

Fan2Author Interview with Erica Monroe!

 

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Melanie: Welcome to the blog, Erica! Today we’re doing something a little different: we are answering questions that Erica’s readers sent in through her Facebook page. But first, tell me a little about your new book, Secrets in Scarlet.

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Erica Monroe: Secrets in Scarlet is the second book in my Rookery Rogues series, which is about thieves, scoundrels, and fallen women in the rookeries (poorer neighborhoods) in 1830’s London. Each book serves as a standalone romance, but the secondary characters and the locations connect them.

It’s the story of Poppy “Corrigan” O’Reilly and Thaddeus Knight, who meet when Thaddeus is investigating the murder of another girl at the factory where Poppy works. Being a very cerebral man himself, Thaddeus is attracted to Poppy’s quiet passion, her logical mind, and of course her love of books! But Poppy has a secret she’ll do anything to protect: she’s pretending to be a war widow in order to pass off her young daughter as legitimate. Back then in England, it was considered a huge, huge deal for a woman to have sex outside of marriage, and so Poppy is basically driven from her hometown to London—and she’s determined her daughter won’t pay the price for her mistake. Thaddeus is the one man who could put together her lies, yet she can’t stay away from him.

MF: One thing I’ve noticed about your books is that there’s a lot of detail that goes into the historical settings. How do you research your books?

EM: A lot of different ways. Mostly, I google A LOT of things, LOL! My Internet search Tom-all-alonehistory is probably going to make me end up on a watch list somewhere. Because I write romantic suspense, I’m always like “how can I fracture this bone in this way to cause this effect…” (I actually have a book called Body Trauma that answers a lot of these questions, and I want to give a shout-out to two of my friends, Jennelle Holland and Kristine Wyllys, who help me with my fight scenes). I’m very, very, very fortunate to know lovely people, who are veritable encyclopedias of historical knowledge,  so when I come up against something I’m banging my head against the wall for, I turn to them. But a lot of my research is done through various books. My favorite for rookery research is Henry Mayhew’s London Labor and the London Poor (which is 1850’s, but a lot of it applies to the 1830’s as well). My husband purchased an amazing book for me called England’s First Detectives about the Bow Street Runners, and I used the section on founding the Metropolitan Police for SIS.

But a lot of the resources I use are free too. Google Books is amazing for searching old texts—I got a book written in 1850 or so which actually details most of the rookeries, and I used Google books when figuring out what the factory might look like. I also highly recommend the Old Bailey website, because it has transcripts of various criminal trials, etc. It is invaluable and my favorite thing in the whole wide research world.

MF: Are there any places in your series that are true to history?

Victorian_slumsEM: I draw a lot of my story from the various rookery settings. I’ll find a certain location, and then I’ll want to build a story around it. I set the first book in the Rookery Rogues, in Ratcliffe because it was close to the London Docks and there was also an infamous bar that the resurrection men (graverobbers who sold corpses to surgeons for anatomization) used to frequent nearby, called the Fortune of War. I love incorporating those details.

For Secrets in Scarlet, I wanted to use Spitalfields because it’s a very old community of Huguenot weavers that came over during the eighteenth century. I found a map from the late end of the nineteenth century that marked out the Ripper murders, but it was interesting to me because it had clearly labelled all the various streets in Spitalfields and Whitechapel. On this map was an indication that a factory was on “White Lion Street,” so I chose to set the Larker factory in my book on this street as well. Poppy and Thaddeus are married in Christ Church, also indicated on this map. I used this map for a lot of the layout in my version of Spitalfields, crosschecking the street names with various online historical records to make sure they would be here in 1832. While I can never guarantee 100% accuracy—as the story must take precedence—I try and really use these details to add atmosphere to the story.

MF: And now we’ve got an excerpt from Secrets in Scarlet!

EM: Since we discussed the factory, I thought I’d share a bit of an excerpt from when Thaddeus visits the Larker factory and sees Poppy.

Workers labored at looms that spanned the full length of the room, stationed not more than a few paces apart. The looms formed three rows, with approximately ten in each row from front to back. The building had unusually high ceilings to accommodate for the sheer height of the looms, which reached far above his head. Children picked through the scraps of silk to sell in the market on Crispin Street.

He scanned the room for Mrs. Corrigan, eventually locating her toward the front. Mrs. Corrigan’s loom was positioned two to the left of the blond girl he remembered her exiting with the other day.

If he’d thought Mrs. Corrigan beautiful the day before in the light of the sun streaming through the library windows, here she was in her element. Perched on a tall stool, she leaned over the loom, her hands in constant motion. She’d bound her red hair in a tight top knot, and she wore no apron.

His mouth went dry as his eyes roamed down her frame. Her green dress was fitted so that she ran no risk of getting caught in the machinery, but it had the added appeal of displaying her luscious hips to full advantage. She moved with finesse and speed, each slide of the shuttle and weft an intricate dance. This was her world, the constant advancement of the punch cards, the click and clack of many looms employed in tandem.

As he walked past her station, their eyes locked. His breath caught in his throat. First, there was a flash of curiosity in her eyes, then fear. She missed a beat in the weaving.

Thaddeus couldn’t tarry to watch her. The guards had already progressed three looms past him. He hurried to catch up, following the guards into the office holed in the center of the right back wall.

 

sis emSTORY: When a girl is murdered at a factory in one of London’s rookeries, Sergeant Thaddeus Knight of the Metropolitan Police comes in to investigate. But it’s not just the factory owners that Thaddeus wants information on–the devilishly intriguing Poppy O’Reilly is a puzzle he’d like nothing more than to solve.

Protecting her young daughter is the most important thing to Poppy, and Thaddeus threatens the false identity she’s carefully constructed. The last thing she should do is allow Thaddeus close to her family, yet she can’t stay away from him. With danger around the corner, will the secrets of a scarlet woman lead to their undoing?

Buy Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Google Play | ARE

Connie’s review here.

Erica MonroeAuthor Bio: Erica Monroe is a USA Today Bestselling Author of emotional, suspenseful romance. Her debut novel, A Dangerous Invitation, was nominated in the published historical category for the prestigious 2014 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Romantic Suspense. When not writing, she is a chronic TV watcher, sci-fi junkie, lover of pit bulls, and shoe fashionista. She lives in the suburbs of North Carolina with her husband, two dogs, and a cat.

Social Media: Facebook / Twitter / Website /

‘For the Love of the Duke’ by Christi Caldwell

ftload ccSTORY: After the tragic death of his wife, Jasper, the 8th Duke of Bainbridge buried himself away in the dark cold walls of his home, Castle Blackwood. When he’s coaxed out of his self-imposed exile to attend the amusements of the Frost Fair, his life is irrevocably changed by his fateful meeting with Lady Katherine Adamson.

With her tight brown ringlets and silly white-ruffled gowns, Lady Katherine Adamson has found her dance card empty for two Seasons. After her father’s passing, Katherine learned the unreliability of men, and is determined to depend on no one, except herself. Until she meets Jasper…

In a desperate bid to avoid a match arranged by her family, Katherine makes the Duke of Bainbridge a shocking proposition—one that he accepts.

Only, as Katherine begins to love Jasper, she finds the arrangement agreed upon is not enough. And Jasper is left to decide if protecting his heart is more important than fighting for Katherine’s love.

REVIEW: Winter 1814, London

Lady Katherine Adamson, age 19, has reluctantly agreed to accompany her twin sister, Anne, on another of her madcap schemes.  Anne wants to visit the Frost Fair which is held on the frozen Thames River for people wanting to make purchases from different vendors for Christmas.  Katherine has been petrified of water ever since she fell into the river when she was a child and nearly drowned.  But Anne insists that they go to the Fair in search of a heart-shaped pendant with the promise that the wearer will then find the love of a Duke.  This was the case for their older sister, Aldora who met and married Lord Michael Knightly brother to the very wealthy Marquess of St. James.  Both girls are hoping to make a good marriage.  Sadly, their father had squandered the family’s money before he died leaving the family with very little.

Jasper Waincourt, Eighth Duke of Bainbridge, age 27, is a miserable man.  Three years ago, he lost the love of his life, his wife and their son, in childbirth.  Since then, he has blamed himself and feels as though he murdered his wife.  He hates the Christmas season and his reclusive living has helped to earn him the reputation of the Mad Duke. He usually stays at his home, Castle Blackwood, a medieval Norman Castle.  As an only child growing up, he didn’t know affection as his parents never truly loved each other.

So, it is a special thing that Jasper’s friend, the Marquess of Guilford, has managed to get him to leave his Castle and venture to London.  It was very fortuitous they were attending the Frost Fair at the same time Katherine and Anne were, because the ice cracked and the icy water dragged Katherine in.  With great bravery, Jasper was able to pull her from the water and save her life.  Wrapping her in his coat, he took her home.  Katherine was very grateful but when trying to thank Jasper, she is totally taken aback by his cold attitude and non-solicitous manner.  Both are aggravated at the other as he feels that she should have been chaperoned and she feels that he has no right to speak to her that way.  Ah, but they do continue to run into one another around London and their encounters end up with them trading barbs.  Actually, they are attracted to one another but don’t want to admit it to themselves.

Knowing that she needs to marry, Katherine takes it upon herself to propose to Jasper.  Will he accept?  If they are to marry, will their different personalities allow them to be happy?

There is so much more to this story of the heartbreaking sadness that Jasper has borne.  Can it be overcome by the love of a good woman?  This is one of those stories that you want to pick up and reread immediately.  It’s that good.  I found it sad, romantic and happy and sexy.  When I read a really good book like this, I wish I could award it six stars.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘Secrets in Scarlet’ by Erica Monroe

sis emSTORY: When a girl is murdered at a factory in one of London’s rookeries, Sergeant Thaddeus Knight of the Metropolitan Police comes in to investigate. But it’s not just the factory owners that Thaddeus wants information on–the devilishly intriguing Poppy O’Reilly is a puzzle he’d like nothing more than to solve.

Protecting her young daughter is the most important thing to Poppy, and Thaddeus threatens the false identity she’s carefully constructed. The last thing she should do is allow Thaddeus close to her family, yet she can’t stay away from him. With danger around the corner, will the secrets of a scarlet woman lead to their undoing?

REVIEW: April 1832, Spitalfields London

When Sergeant Thaddeus Knight with the Metropolitan Police finds a young girl who had been beaten severely and stabbed, he rushes to get her to the hospital.  She refuses to say who did that to her but sketches the letter “L” just before she dies in his arms.  This is reminiscent of another young woman seven years earlier who died in the same way.  This second death only heightens Thaddeus’s determination to find the murderer.  However, his boss, Inspector Whiting, is not supportive of his work and says that it is not worth their time.  Whiting thinks that crimes such as one Thaddeus solved when he found some jewels stolen from a countess are more important that the murders of young girls from Spitalfields.  Furious at Whiting, Thaddeus is still determined to find the murderer.

Thaddeus loves his job much to the chagrin of his family.  As the second son of a second son of a Duke and a very well-educated man, he could have a much better and safer job but will not leave his job with the Police.

Poppaea (Poppy) O’Reilly works on a loom at the Larker Textile Factory.  Her hours are very long – from early morning to late at night.  However, she is determined to do whatever it takes to give her baby daughter a good life and, hopefully, send her to a finishing school one day.  When she found herself pregnant and unmarried, Poppy changed her last name and moved to London.    The father would have nothing to do with her and she was ostracized by her townspeople.  She is very ashamed about what happened to her.

While Thaddeus is investigating the murder of the women who had worked at the Larker Textile Factory, he meets Poppy and is intrigued by her beauty, her spirit and her positive attitude toward life.  They find that they have a love of books so when she sees the wonderful library he has in his home, she is enthralled.

When Poppy and her friend, Abigail, discover some questionable activities at the Textile Factory that the Larkers are doing, life becomes very perilous for her.  Knowing what Poppy has uncovered and their growing attraction to one another finds Thaddeus doing all he can to solve this mystery.

It was very enlightening to read about the difficult life that people in this rough area of London had lived and their determination to make the best of their lives was inspiring.  I think readers will enjoy both the romance and the mystery combined in this novel.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘Once Upon a Christmas Kiss’ by Manda Collins

mc ouackSTORY: When Sir Lucien Blakemore arrives at his cousin’s estate for a week long Christmas party, he’s shocked to see Miss Winifred Nightingale among the other guests. Employed by his neighbor back in Yorkshire, the governess with the lovely eyes has always seemed off limits, but she’s visiting here as a guest—and there’s nothing like a little mistletoe to make the spirits bright…

Miss Winifred Nightingale never dreamed a holiday visit with her sister would lead to both ladies spending Christmas as the local lord’s guests. But the big surprise is when she finds the handsome Sir Lucien Blakemore staying there too. Their attraction between is undeniable, but will an old nemesis and a party guest bent on mischief make their first kiss under the mistletoe their last?

REVIEW: Sir Lucien Blakewell has been invited to his cousin’s country estate in Yorkshire for Christmas.  Jeremy, Lord Hurst and his wife, Helen, have invited a number of friends and neighbors to join them with a total of 14 guests.

Two sisters have been included in the party.  One is Miss Winifred (Winnie) Nightingale who is the governess to Lucien’s neighbor, the Duke of Ormand.  Having met her before, Lucien and Winnie have developed a friendship of sorts.  Winnie’s sister is Miss Cordelia Nightingale, the local schoolmistress.

Some of the guests have made Winnie and Cordelia feel unwelcome due to their social rank.  One guest, Lord Leaming, is making Winnie feel uncomfortable due to his having accosted her when she was the governess for six months to the Earl of Tuthill’s two daughters.

The days pass and the guests engage in various Christmas activities such as ice skating, sledding, and gathering of greenery to decorate the house.  As they continue their friendship, Lucien and Winnie’s attraction grows.  In addition, Cordelia finds herself in love with another guest.

When strange incidents begin with the intention to physically injure Winnie, Lucien becomes very protective in the search to find out who this person is.

Without giving away anything more, I can only say that this is such a romantic story.  Winnie is a very strong woman and Lucien is quite smitten with her.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘You Knew Me When’ by Emily Liebert

el ykmwSTORY: Best friends forever… until life got in the way. Katherine Hill left her small New England hometown in pursuit of a dream. Now, twelve years later, she’s a high-powered cosmetics executive in Manhattan and a much glossier version of her former self, unrecognizable to her family and old friends. Not that she would know—she hasn’t been home in over a decade.

Laney Marten always swore she’d never get “stuck” in Manchester, Vermont. No, she was destined to live out her glamorous big-city dreams. Instead, she wound up a young wife and mother. That was when her best friend ran out.

When Katherine receives word of an inheritance from former neighbor Luella Hancock, she reluctantly returns home to the people and places she left behind. Hoping for a second chance, she’s met by an unforgiving Laney, her former best friend. And there’s someone else who’s moved on without her—someone she once loved.

Tethered to their shared inheritance of Luella’s sprawling Victorian mansion, Katherine and Laney are forced to address their long-standing grudges. Through this, they come to understand that while life has taken them in different directions, ultimately the bonds of friendship and sisterhood still bind them together. But are some wounds too old and deep to mend?

REVIEW: Kitty and Laney became best friends when they were children.  After Kitty’s mother was killed in a freak accident, she and her Dad moved to Manchester, Vermont.  Laney lived there with her parents and her brother, Grant.  Between their two houses was a large estate belonging to Luella, a fairly wealthy and childless widow.  She had a swimming pool in her back yard and invited Kitty and Laney to enjoy themselves during the summer.  Kitty and Luella were very close and Kitty became the daughter Luella never had.  Before long, the friendship between Kitty and Laney became the closest ever.  They spent all their time together and even made plans for being together at college and then sharing an apartment in New York City.

When they were finally to attend college, Kitty, Laney and Grant had agreed that they would go to a nearby college.  By that time, Kitty and Grant were in love and being together was so important to them. However, when through the help of a friend of Luella’s, Kitty received a notice that she had been accepted to a university in New York City, she decided to accept.  Laney and Grant were both very unhappy that Kitty would not be with them, however, she did manage to get back home on vacations.

After college graduation, Laney’s and Kitty’s plan to move to New York unexpectedly met a roadblock when Laney found herself pregnant with her boyfriend, Rick’s baby.  Laney figured that their plans would go on the back burner until after her baby was born.  At the same time, Kitty received an outstanding job offer in New York City that she could not resist.  But, she had to be there the next day. Laney was furious at Kitty for leaving and she never got to say a proper goodbye to Grant.  That was when their friendship completely fizzled.

Fast forward 12 years and both Kitty and Laney are notified that Luella has passed away and that they are both named in her will.  Meeting back up after all these years is a very difficult thing.  Kitty, now known as Katherine, is a dynamic executive, beautiful and wealthy.  Laney is married to Rick and the mother of Gemma.  Grant has dated a young woman but has never married.  When the attorney handling the will tells them that they must both work together to clean out Luella’s house, sell the furnishings and the house itself, then split the proceeds, they are frustrated at being thrown together like this.  Laney still hates Kitty for leaving years ago and Kitty feels bad for having done so.

Why had Luella put this stipulation in her will?  Why force the two women to be together?  Why put Kitty and Grant together as well?

This book was interesting in how it flipped back and forth between the past and present.  It gives readers an huge insight into the solid friendship that Kitty and Laney had when they were young and the promises they had made to each other to always be together.  Laney feels betrayed by Kitty.  But, is Kitty really guilty?

I liked the characters; however, Laney made me want to smack her now and then.

I think readers will enjoy this story of true friendship and how it all resolves itself.

Connie for b2b