“A Duke for All Seasons” by Mia Marlowe

STORY: Sebastian Blake, His Grace the Duke of  Winterhaven, has an inviolate rule when it comes to mistresses. He never keeps one longer than a turn of the season. But then he’s never met a woman as tempting as Arabella St. George…

A fiery operatic diva, Arabella is blackmailed into helping the French. When she gives the envelope intended for a French assassin to the Duke of Winterhaven by mistake, she’ll do anything to retrieve it. Even if she has to seduce it away from him…

REVIEW: Since I am always on the lookout for new authors (to me at least) and interesting and entertaining stories, I stumbled on a website of an author by the name of Emily Bryan and she offered free chapters of her novella A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS which was very intriguing, very sophisticated and had an element of surprise that I just loved.

Alas, I never read anything after Chapter 8 and I was left to wonder what happened to the Duke and his Opera mistress and how it all ended.

Fast forward to this year, and I’m surfing the net and I see the title of this book and next to it the name that’s not familiar to me of Mia Marlowe. By reading synopses of the story, I can see that it’s my Duke and his Mistress, but the name was confusing me and a little research was a relief to find out that Mia and Emily are one and the same.

Sebastian, Duke of Winterhaven, is a man who has to have order in his life, even in regards to his mistress’s. In order not to get too attached to them, or rather for them not to get too attached to him, he maintains a ‘schedule’ of them. Every Season he engages a new one. It all works out for the best, for all parties concerned.

Arabella St. George is an Opera performer with a passion for two things, her art and her daughter, who she’s given to her sister to raise as her own. The reason behind it is a man who will stop at nothing to hurt her or her daughter.

After setting his eyes on her and watching her perform, Sebastian is considering her for his next mistress. He is all set to hand her his proposition one evening and surprises her backstage. She on the other hand doesn’t seem to be surprised by his visit mistaking him for a contact she expected to hand over a letter.

A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS is a novella that will grab you from the start and its fast pace will keep you anticipating the next curve. Its romance with a dollop of sensuality will keep you wishing for a fan, and the dialogue will have you chuckle, while the suspense will keep you turning pages and guessing.

Please don’t let the word ‘short’ put you off. For me, no matter the length of the story, as long as I can get all the elements of a good read, such as decent pace, interesting plot and emotional connection to the characters, I am a happy camper.

This novella fills that bill to a perfection. It has romance and passion; adventure and danger; a strong and courage’s heroine paired with an equally strong and sexy hero. For a sweet romance that’s sprinkled with intrigue and sensuality that now I have come to associate with Ms. Marlowe (Emily Bryan) I highly recommend it. 

Before I read this novella, I had a privilege to read SINS OF THE HIGHLANDER, which is a book collaboration of Connie Mason and Mia Marlowe and it floored me at how seamlessly they merged their prose in this story of revenge and passion. Mark your Calendar! This is one book you do NOT want to miss!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Are you ready to give your thanks for this year? I thought about that in regards to myself and that made me look back at the year that’s almost at the end.  I’m not sure how you feel about this past year, but for me it went waaay to fast!

I’m thankful for a bunch of things, but I have to say that having a ‘cool dude’ for a husband tops my list. He’s too handsome for his own good, spoils me rotten and lets me get away with too much crap! Maybe I should petition for his Sainthood…NOT! That would mean he couldn’t be ‘wicked’ when I want him to.

Let’s not forget my health. I was diagnosed with Lupus a few years back, but it has been dormant, and aside from a cold (that my new DIL gave me as a parting gift before they left for Arizona), I’ve been doing great [knocking on wood]. I also lost a ‘ton’ (not literally, mind you) of weight and in the process met a bunch of great women who gave me support and helped when I was down or up, whichever the case may be. Romance Biggest Winner has been one awesome ride that I hope continues past January 5, 2012 and I owe a lot to its founder, Ashley March.

I’m also thankful for having a job, and in this economy that’s something! I’ve been with this company from its start for four and a half years, and it’s a journey that I honestly hope goes on until I’m ready to retire. And then there are my ‘coconspirators’ that bring a smile to my face every day. I’m lucky [read Blessed] to work with such a fun bunch, which keeps my stress level at a ZERO!

I also am grateful to have a house which my DH and I made into a cozy and happy home! At the time when such things like ‘foreclosure’ is happening to so many, I feel Blessed that I’m married to someone who takes pride in knowing how to handle our finances.  Our two ‘beautiful babies’ Zakk and Phoebe, round-up that happy home, so I’m thankful for them as well.

As a mother to a daughter and a son, my thanks are easily given for having brought them up to be able to take care of themselves and create their own happy homes. I will miss my new DIL and my boy this Holiday Season, but to know that they’re happy where they are, gives me too much pleasure to dwell on anything else.

As for my ‘little girl’…I just wish she would work less so I could see her more. Life is too short, and unless we learn to prioritize, it will pass us by so quickly, we just might get a whip-lash! And then, it’s over…too late for regrets or making up for lost time.

My adoptive country…I’m thankful to be here, living free in this land of opportunity. It was the time of Disco Era when first I saw the skyline of Chicago, and my heart was full! For a teenager, in the 70s, this town was something out of the Movies. Surreal. To both my parents I will forever be thankful for taking a risk and making such a monumental leap of faith in leaving everything behind to start fresh in a country which language they didn’t speak a word of! Now, how cool and courage’s was that?!

The soldiers and their families…We should all be thankful to them for an enormous sacrifice they’re willing to give so we can be free, and that is waaay too cool!

My family and friends who are strewn all over the globe-from Serbia to Australia, Germany and England to here. We don’t see them often enough, but thanks to this age of technology, we’re closer than we would have otherwise be!

YOU! I’m thankful to you for subscribing, for reading, following and supporting me in this endeavor. If you weren’t coming back, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. But you ARE here, reading my interviews, reviews and my occasional rant or a rave, so THANK YOU! I wish and pray that you have a very safe and happy Thanksgiving. Remember to eat plenty, drink in moderation and hug a tree! HA! Gotcha!!! But seriously, don’t be stingy on the hugs! Give them freely and often! I do…

While my DH is putting the Christmas lights outside I’m busy cooking with Christmas music blasting and tonight we’ll have a lot of fun having hot chocolate while decorating the house and putting our Christmas Trees…

Oh, and I’ll be posting some reviews soon, giving some books away and there’s much fun to be had in December, but before then, we still have one more week of ‘hook-a-book’ to go through as well as a VERY special guest on the 30th [keeping my fingers crossed] and we have a KINDLE to give away on that day too! So enjoy your family and friends, and if you have a minute, drop me a line and tell me what you’re thankful for and are you missing someone this Thanksgiving.

“Marian’s Christmas Wish” by Carla Kelly

STORY: Miss Marian Wynswich is a rather unconventional young lady. She plays chess, reads Greek, and is as educated as any young man. And she’s certain falling in love is a ridiculous endeavor and vows never to do such a thing. But everything changes when she receives a Christmas visit from someone unexpected— a young and handsome English lord.

REVIEW: First and foremost, this is only my second time reading Ms. Kelly. After I was introduced to her through a review of BEAU CRUSOE, I fell in love with Ms. Kelly’s prose.

Upon finishing MARIAN’S CHRISTMAS WISH, I truly felt blessed in ‘discovering’ this author  and she has firmly established herself on my ‘keeper’ shelf and ‘auto buy’ list.

The above blurb does not do this story justice. This story is so, so much more than a Christmas story of a sixteen year old. This is an ensemble of memorable characters and Marian Wynswich is a part of that ensemble.

The story opens with two sisters, Ariadne and Marian, discussing eminent holidays and the visit of their eldest brother Percy as well as the youngest Alistair. The former will be bringing a fellow friend who just might be Ariadne’s potential husband, while the latter is expected shortly on holiday from school.

Slowly, through their conversation, and Marian’s thoughts, we find out that this just might be Wynswich’s last Christmas in their beloved home. Last year’s Christmas was spent in mourning their father’s death. This year’s Christmas finds the family on a brink of ruin, and Lady Wynswich has a plan to find a suitable and rich husband for her eldest daughter.  She pays no mind that Ariadne has affection for the local vicar Sam Beddoe who is not only quiet but poor and therefore unsuitable.

Enter Alistair, who’s been expelled and sent home early from Eton, creating yet another dilemma for our young heroine, who already frets over her sisters ‘unrequited love’ for the Vicar, and now has to protect her youngest brother from the wrath of the eldest. We just can’t help but feel the love this young woman has for her siblings.

Soon after, we get to meet Percy who arrives home later than expected, bringing with him not one but two of his friends.  Sir William, the ‘suitable suitor’ gets assigned a bedchamber in which Marian’s ‘hiding’ Alastair and one very pregnant cat, and soon the household becomes aware of that fact.

Gilbert Collinwood, Earl of Ingraham, Percy’s fellow diplomat, has reasons to avoid a home visit, and is ever so slowly taken in by this eccentric family in general and ‘singular’ Marian in particular. Gil is a man fully grown, with a past that will touch this family profoundly, and his secrets will put Marian in danger, but he will also come to care deeply for this young woman who with her intelligence and forward nature will show him what love truly means.

I found him to be charming and tender; tolerant and understanding; sharp and witty. The age difference (his eight and twenty to her ten and almost seven) did not bother me at all. We are in Regency World, and it was a ‘norm’ for those times. I actually give the author a lot of credit in the way she portrayed the gap in their ages. Gil understood her innocence, but his heart could not help but be given to this girl who was mature and innocent at the same time.

As for the Wynswich family, Ms. Kelly has done an outstanding job in having them all come to life with such vivid and true to life characterization. Every page she wrote, every word I read permeated with warmth and by the end of it, I wanted to be a part of that family. Their love for each other is unmistakable and to be admired.

There are many scenes that I’m fond of but the ‘Christmas’ pudding scene in which Marian’s character shines when she unselfishly wishes for Gil to have the best Christmas ever, is one that will stay with me forever.

If you are in a mood for a very old-fashioned, traditional Christmas story that will have you laugh and cry, and then laugh some more, you just cannot miss this one!

I should point out that “MARIAN’S CHRISTMAS WISH” was first published in 1989, and is reissued this year in print and as an eBook by Cedar Fort, Inc.

*To buy this book, click on the cover*

*To learn more about the author, click on her name*

* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

“A Midsummer Night’s Sin” by Kasey Michaels

STORY: Meet the Blackthorn Brothers—three unrepentant scoundrels infamous for being mad, bad and perilous to love.

Handsome as the devil and twice as tempting, Robin “Puck” Blackthorn lives for the pleasures of the moment. His only rule—never dally with an innocent woman. But when an encounter at a masquerade ball leaves him coveting the one woman who refuses to succumb to his charms, Puck realizes that some rules were made to be broken…

Scandalized to discover that the masked man with whom she’d shared a dance—and a forbidden embrace—is in fact the ton’s most celebrated rake, Regina Hackett vows to keep her distance. Yet when her dear friend vanishes, it is to Puck that Regina must turn. And as they embark on a dangerous journey through London’s darkest alleys, Regina will discover that beneath Puck’s roguish façade lies a man who will stop at nothing to protect her—or to convince her to take a chance on an unrepentant sinner.

REVIEW: Ever since I read the first book in this series and met ‘Puck’, the youngest and so far the cutest of the Blackthorn Bastards, I was itching to find out who would take his heart? He’s blonde, with hair just a bit longer than fashionable, sophisticated and proficient in violin, pianoforte and flute.  He was the brother who was full of ‘Je ne sais quoi? La joie de vivre’!  He finds joy in every thing, every place and every one. Puck is in love with life. The woman who would steal the heart of this young rascal had to be very, very special. Will I like her?

You have to understand, once Kasey Michaels introduces us to a family, we, her faithful readers, become vested and over-protective of the characters she gift’s us with.

As I mentioned, Robin Blackthorn, ‘Puck’ to his friends and family, is the youngest of the three infamous Blackthorn Bastards. The reason behind their ‘bastardy’ is in itself unique and the author is pure genius in creating the plot and characters that are interesting, entertaining and just a delight.

At the end of the first book, we were given a glimpse of the idea that Puck would try to use anything at his disposal to enter London society. To that end he blackmails two of his brother’s cohorts into helping him out.

Regina Hackett is young, beautiful, obedient and easily talked into mischief by her cousin. It only takes one night, one mistake and the night that should have been fun, turns into a nightmare for the two girls.

Regina’s nightmare becomes more bearable by her trust, which she cautiously yet willingly gives, to a stranger who intrigues and attracts her. She finds that her life and society she took for granted, is not what she thought it to be. Her naïve and easily accepting nature is shaken by the truth about a man she feared all her life.

Puck’s first night into society was not what he imagined it would be, and when a ‘chit’ he mistakes for a ‘professional courtesan’ at a masquerade turns out to be a naïve and very rich daughter of a man who might be of some use to him in getting that proverbial ‘foot in the door’ of the society, he takes the chance and offers his help to her.

What follows is pure magic! The story is full of danger, intrigue, mystery and humor. Their romance is one of mutual seduction, and their passion for each other will have you sighing! Kasey Michaels creates characters that are three-dimensional and moving, with a dialogue that is exciting as well as full of wit. As for the plot?! It will keep you guessing and turning the pages. Now, I’m primed and ready for the oldest bastard’s story. Bring it on, Ms. Michaels!

*To buy this book, click on the cover*

*To learn more about the author, click on her name*

* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*