‘Chasing Lord Mystery’ by Aileen Fish

af clmSTORY: Lord Northcotte is not in the holiday spirit when he joins his sister’s family shortly after the brutal death of a friend. Discovering a matchmaking scheme is afoot, he tells them he will never marry Lady Miriam or any other woman. Now if only his heart would listen.

Lady Miriam’s mother accused her of chasing Lord Mystery after a noble act by a handsome gentleman six years ago became the measure of all other men. Now he’s staying at the home where she’d hoped to escape a summons from her grandfather, the Duke of Danby. Terrified Northcotte will recognize her and reveal the contents of the scandalous letter she wrote him years ago, she can’t decide which is the bigger threat: the duke armed with a special license, or Lord Mystery, who carries a secret she’d never live down.

REVIEW: Robert Hurst, Earl of Northcotte, is soured on marriage after learning that a friend’s wife had killed her husband using a fire iron.  Even though the man had mistresses, his friends could not understand why that would cause the woman to kill him.  *insert laugh* The group of six friends had gathered together to remember their friend and to vow never to marry.

At Lady Mariam Thornhill’s first season four years earlier, she was feeling quite down due to the lack of men wanting to make her acquaintance.  After one such man actually insulted her, another man immediately asked her to dance.  They had not been introduced first so she never caught his name, but for years afterward she remembered how handsome he was.  She referred to him as Lord Mystery.  Since that time, she had not had any men interested in her and had thus resigned herself to be a spinster.  Her grandfather, the Duke of Danby, kept pushing her to marry and she was not at all receptive to an arranged marriage.

Christmas is approaching and Lady Mariam is staying with a good friend to be with her during the birth of her friend’s baby.  When more friends join them for the holiday, she realizes that one of the guests, Lord Northcotte, is her Lord Mystery.  While she is thrilled to see him again, she is afraid he will recognize her.  At one time she had sent him a letter that was rather embarrassing at the time and she would be mortified to come face-to-face with him now.  Will she be stuck with an marriage arranged by her grandfather or is there some way she can attract her handsome Lord Mystery to be her groom?

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Governess Affair’ by Courtney Milan

cm tgaSTORY: She will not give up…

Three months ago, governess Serena Barton was let go from her position. Unable to find new work, she’s demanding compensation from the man who got her sacked: a petty, selfish, swinish duke. But it’s not the duke she fears. It’s his merciless man of business—the man known as the Wolf of Clermont. The formidable former pugilist has a black reputation for handling all the duke’s dirty business, and when the duke turns her case over to him, she doesn’t stand a chance. But she can’t stop trying—not with her entire future at stake.

He cannot give in…

Hugo Marshall is a man of ruthless ambition—a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner’s son to the right hand man of a duke. When his employer orders him to get rid of the pestering governess by fair means or foul, it’s just another day at the office. Unfortunately, fair means don’t work on Serena, and as he comes to know her, he discovers that he can’t bear to use foul ones. But everything he has worked for depends upon seeing her gone. He’ll have to choose between the life that he needs, and the woman he is coming to love…

REVIEW: This little gem started the whole Brother Sinister series. It tells the story of Hugo Marshall and Serena Barton.

Hugo is to Duke of Claremont what Ray Donovan [my newest TV obsession; Showtime’s best show of 2013] is to the Hollywood scene, a ‘fixer’ of problems. He makes the duke’s mistakes disappear. In this case, Hugo is given the task to get rid of a stubborn woman that has been plaguing the duke and that just happens to be Miss Serena Barton, and Hugh is having a hell of a time doing it.

This was an extraordinary story about two ordinary people that are brought together by circumstances that were out of their hands. Both characters were strong, and both were determined to fight and succeed in their task and I was fascinated with both. I eagerly anticipated the outcome and was elated with it.

I love stories of survival of the fittest, and this certainly was that, except we had two people that I rooted for, but one could only be the winner!

If you’ve never read this author, I urge you to snatch this novella [it’s still FREE] and start to read this series. It really is a little gem I hope you don’t pass up.

Melanie for b2b

How to Support an Author’s New Book: 11 Ideas For You

Bookworm:

I really liked Chuck’s post! I need to do more of these! Are you doing any and which ones are they?
Mel

Originally posted on Writers In The Storm Blog:

By Chuck Sambuchino

large_5595133805My Writer’s Digest coworker, Brian A. Klems, recently geared up for the release of his first book — a humorous guide for fathers called OH BOY, YOU’RE HAVING A GIRL: A DAD’S SURVIVAL GUIDE TO RAISING DAUGHTERS (Adams Media). On top of that, my coworker Robert Brewer (editor of Writer’s Market) recently got a publishing deal for a book of his poetry.

So I find myself as a cheerleader for my writing buddies — trying to do what I can to help as their 2013 release dates approach. I help in two ways: 1) I use my own experience of writing & publishing books to share advice on what they can expect and plan for; and 2) I simply do whatever little things I can that help in any way.

This last part brings up an important point: Anyone can support an author’s…

View original 1,450 more words

‘Falling For The Pirate’ by Amber Lin

al fftpSTORY: London, 1820

After the deaths of his parents and a dark, troubled childhood, Captain Nate Bowen vowed he would have his revenge. But he never expected to have the tool of his revenge dropped so neatly into his lap. Juliana Hargate is not only the daughter of his enemy, but is destitute, very much alone – and exquisitely desirable. And now that Nate has saved her life, she’s at his complete mercy…

Captive. All Juliana wanted was to clear her father’s name. Instead, she’s been struck with amnesia – unable to recall even her name – and imprisoned by a tall, imposing, and entirely unscrupulous pirate. A pirate whose eyes seem to look past her skirts and many petticoats, and whose touch sends delicious ripples of desire through her. With every passing day, she finds herself tempted to give him the very thing he’s determined to take

REVIEW: This is the second book of the Men of Fortune series by Amber Lin, Letters At Christmas being the first and telling the story of Captain Hale Martin who is our hero’s business partner and you should get it ASAP as it’s FREE [Amazon / B&Nonly until July 21st, 2014.

Let me tell you. I hate revenge stories, and pirates are not my favorite trope. It takes me forever to forgive the person that’s seeking revenge, and a plot sometimes tends to be a bit tedious with all of it playing out on a ship. That’s why I dreaded reading this story, but I do like this authors voice, so on I went with both, my eyes and ears open and guess what? Amber Lin did an awesome job in presenting Nate’s hate and revenge so well that I actually came to love the guy. For a pirate, the man had integrity and a soft heart when it came to protecting his own.

I also liked Juliana and really felt for her and the predicament she finds herself in. Ms. Lin did an outstanding job in showing me the conflicted emotions in those two characters and the chemistry between the two was palpable. As for that ‘pirate trope’ worry of mine, it was all for naught!

If you’re like me and like reading romance novels that are filled with suspense, humor and sensuality, then you’ll like this one for sure. This was a very good story, with great characters, fast pace and an interesting plot.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Lake Como’ by Anita Hughes

ah lcSTORY: Hallie Elliot has a perfect life. She is an up-and-coming interior designer in one of San Francisco’s most sought after firms, and has just recently become engaged to Peter, a brilliant young journalist. But when she stumbles upon Peter and her boss in what seems to be a compromising position, her trust in her perfect life is shaken.

So Hallie escapes to Lake Como, Italy to spend time with her half-sister, Portia Tesoro, an Italian blueblood dealing with the scandal of a public estrangement from her cheating husband. While staying in the Tesoro villa, Hallie falls in love with the splendor and beauty of Lake Como, and finds work designing the lakeside estate of a reclusive American tech mogul. The caretaker of this beautiful estate is a handsome man named Angus, and Hallie finds herself drawn to his charm and kindness, despite hints of a dark secret in his past.

But just as Hallie is beginning to find her footing on Italian soil, she uncovers a family secret that upends all the truths she’s believed about herself, and calls into question the new life she’s built in Lake Como.

Sisterhood, family, career, and sumptuous descriptions of Italian life fill the pages of this newest offering by Anita Hughes. Lake Como is a heartbreaking and heartwarming story of love, self-discovery, and the quest for truth.

Love, sisterhood, and sumptuous descriptions of la dolce vita fill the pages of Anita Hughes’ Lake Como, a heartwarming story of romance, self-discovery, and the quest for truth.

REVIEW: Hallie is an interior designer working for a firm owned and run by the well-known designer, Kendra, in the city of San Francisco.  Her live-in boyfriend, Peter, is a well-known journalist.  Both are quite happy in their relationship until one day Hallie discovers Peter and Kendra embracing at a cocktail party.  While Peter tells her it was innocent and he was just helping Kendra as she had too much to drink, Hallie is not buying it. That’s when she decides to take some time off and visit her half-brother and sister who live in an exquisite villa on Lake Como in Italy.

Before Hallie was born, her mother had fled the villa leaving her husband and two children behind.  She was unable to live under the rule of her mother-in-law which was common at that time.  Hallie had been told that she was the result of a brief liaison with a man with whom her mother had an affair.  Her mother never returned to Italy, instead residing in San Francisco to be near her wealthy socialite mother, Constance.  However, her two children were allowed to visit with her in San Francisco every year for a short time.  While Hallie had her mother and grandmother in her life as she was growing up, she missed having a father.

In Lake Como, Hallie finds that her sister, Portia, is estranged from her husband for infidelity.  Portia has decided she wants a divorce.  Her brother, Marcus however, is happily married and his wife is expecting a baby.  Hallie enjoys her time at the villa, but feels as though she needs to get back to work. When she happens upon a gorgeous villa filled with beautiful antiques but in need of some design work, she asks the caretaker, Angus, to convince the elusive owner to allow her to work on several rooms. When her request is approved, Hallie is thrilled to be working at what she loves while continuing to live in this beautiful area.

Hallie and Angus begin to spend time together and when Angus kisses her, she finds she is so conflicted about her feelings for Peter and her growing feelings for Angus.  But when Hallie finds that Angus is not who she thought he was, her life goes into a tail-spin.

This is a story about a very wealthy Italian family with all of its trappings.  It reminded me of a Danielle Steel novel where everyone is wealthy and beautiful.  The descriptions of the area, homes, people and food are perfectly portrayed.

I enjoyed the novel and I’m sure it would make a great book to read especially while relaxing in a resort area if one is lucky enough to do so.

Connie for b2b

‘Undressed by the Earl’ by Michelle Willingham

mw ubteSTORY: A man shrouded in grief…

David Hartford, the Earl of Castledon, is tormented by the death of his wife. Though everyone expects him to remarry and beget an heir, he is a man living in shadows, unwilling to break out of his prison of sorrow.

A spirited young woman who embraces life…

Impulsive Amelia Andrews befriends Lord Castledon and decides that he would make the perfect match for her prim older sister. Though she tries to bring the pair of them together, Amelia cannot help but see the lonely man behind David’s grim exterior. Even worse, she finds herself caught beneath his piercing stare…and she wonders how to melt his icy heart.

An unlikely match…

No woman can ever replace his first wife…but when Amelia is caught in a web of ruin, David cannot stand aside and let her suffer. Can an unexpected marriage bring about a love even greater than the one he lost?(less)

Paperback, 356 pages

REVIEW: When David Hartford, the Earl of Castledon, lost his beloved wife some years ago, he was completely devastated.  He has remained in mourning ever since, wearing black, and retreating from society.  His main reason for living is his 10-year-old daughter, Christine, from his marriage.  Although he loves her very much, he spends too much time at his other estates overseeing them while leaving his daughter in the care of servants.  However, he realizes that he must force himself to return to society in search of a mother for Christine and to produce an heir.

Amelia Andrews is young and new to the social scene but when she meets David at a soiree, she is convinced that he would make a desirable husband for her older sister, Margaret, who has been through several seasons but has not married.  She was once engaged to a rogue who left her at the altar.  Margaret is a prim woman yet quite adept at running a home and being a model wife for any man.

Unfortunately, Amelia is caught in an innocent situation that could be the ruin of her and David steps up to rescue her and marry her to save her reputation.  David finds he cannot allow himself to open his heart to another woman and tries to keep his marriage to Amelia separate.  His goal is for Amelia to teach Christine to become a lady and ready to meet society when the time comes.  Amelia, however, finds herself falling in love with David and is unwilling to be shuffled aside.  When Christine becomes desperately ill, David is frantic to think he might also lose his beloved daughter.

However, Amelia steps up to impose her more modern medical thinking to help save Christine.  Will they be successful and will their marriage succeed?

This was a great story.  I am very impressed at Ms. Willingham’s writing abilities and consider myself a confirmed follower of hers.

Connie for b2b

‘What a Lady Most Desires’ by Lecia Cornwall

lc walmdSTORY: True desire always finds a way…

On the night before the final battle against Napoleon, Lady Delphine St. James finds herself dancing with the one man she has always wanted, Major Lord Stephen Ives. He makes it clear he has no time for a lady he sees as flirtatious and silly, but as the call to arms sounds, she bids him farewell with a kiss that stirs them both. When he returns gravely injured, she is intent on caring for him, even if his surly behavior tests her patience.

After the battle, Stephen is not only wounded and blind, but falsely accused of cowardice and theft. The only light in his dark world is Delphine, the one woman he never imagined he could desire. But she deserves more than he can give her.

As their feelings deepen and hidden enemies conspire to force them to part forever, can their love survive the cruelest test of all?

REVIEW: Let me start off my review with HOLY-SHIT-LOOK-AT-THAT-COVER!

Jon Paul is one of the best illustrators out there and he ‘created’ this god of a hero for all of us to drool over!

I was looking forward to this story ever since I got to know the hero in ‘The Secret Life of Lady Julia’ and I hoped that his story would not have me conflicted as much as that one did, and I’m happy to say I loved it. BUT! Yeah, there’s a BUT here. I really think you should read ‘The Secret Life of Lady Julia’ [my review of it here] first because you will get to know Stephen so much better. I was glad to have read that story first. It really paid off as I followed his story in this book.

Lady Delphine St. James had liked Major Lord Stephen Ives for a very long time, but alas, the man wouldn’t give her a minute of his time because in his eyes she was a flighty child, reckless and a flirt. He only had eyes for one woman. Julia.

It all changes as he heads into battle and she recklessly gives him a kiss that neither can forget. Delphine was one of those characters that literally just keeps growing right in front of your eyes, and I loved her spunk to no end! Her strength actually radiated off the pages. What she chose to present to society was a total opposite of who she is and what she’s capable of.

I enjoyed the way the author had our hero come to terms with his infatuation with Julia, and how he learned to discern between the two emotions. He was always honorable and what he went through was heartbreaking to read, let alone live through.

If you like your romance to delve into deep emotional turmoil of the souls of your hero and heroine, you’ll love this story. If you love your romance to give you some fast pace adventure, you’ll love this story. If you like your romance to take you through history, you’ll love this story. For that matter, if you’re a lover of anything romance, you need to read this story!

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Save the Date’ by Jen Doll

jd stdSTORY: Weddings. They’re fun, festive, and joyful, and at a time when people marry later in life—and sometimes not at all—they offer endless opportunities to reexamine love and what we want for ourselves, regardless of whether or not our aim is a walk down the aisle. In Save the Date, Jen Doll charts the course of her own perennial wedding guesthood, from the ceremony of distant family members when she was eight to the recent nuptials of a new boyfriend’s friends.

There’s the first trip home for a childhood pal’s big day, in which she learns that her first love has eloped to Hawaii. There’s the destination wedding attended with little baggage beyond a suitcase of strappy sandals and summery party dresses. Regrettably, there is a series of celebrations that mean the end to a valued friendship. There’s also the wedding that offers all the promise of new love.

Wedding experiences come in as varied an assortment as the gowns at any bridal shop, and Doll turns a keen eye to each, delivering a heartfelt exploration of contemporary relationships. Funny, honest, and affecting, Save the Date is a fresh and spirited look at the many ways in which we connect to one another.

REVIEW: Jen Doll is a single woman in her 30′s who has never been married.  As a child, she always dreamed of her own wedding and married life.  However, it has just never happened for her.  Oh but she has been to many weddings for her friends.  She talks about the endless bridal showers and wedding gifts she has bought over the years. In addition, the cost of attending “destination” weddings and the enormous number of party dresses and dressy shoes she has purchased for these events.

The book tells little snippets of weddings she has attended with some of the good and not so good events that happened at them.  Some of these little stories are a bit humorous but I failed to find anything “hilarious” about them.

I was drawn to this novel by the recommendations made by different authors printed on the book.  I thought it would be a fun read about some of the little disasters that can happen at weddings.  Instead, it became a first person commentary about the author’s life and some of the weddings she has attended throughout her life.

I admit to becoming quite disappointed in this book because it certainly did not live up to the hype about it.

Connie for b2b

‘Minding The Manor’ by Mollie Moran

mm mtmSTORY: Born in 1916 in Norfolk, Mollie Moran is one of the few people still alive today who can recall working “downstairs” in the golden years of the early 1930′s before the outbreak of WWII. She provides a rare and fascinating insight into a world that has long since vanished. Mollie left school at age fourteen and became a scullery maid for a wealthy gentleman with a mansion house in London’s Knighsbridge and a Tudor manor in Norfolk.

Even though Mollie’s days were long and grueling and included endless tasks, such as polishing doorknobs, scrubbing steps, and helping with all of the food prep in the kitchen, she enjoyed her freedom and had a rich life. Like any bright-eyed teenager, Mollie also spent her days daydreaming about boys, dresses, and dances. She became fast friends with the kitchen maid Flo, dated a sweet farmhand, and became secretly involved with a brooding, temperamental footman. Molly eventually rose to kitchen maid for Lord Islington and then cook for the Earl of Leicester’s niece at the magnificent Wallington Hall.

REVIEW: This is the biography of a young English woman who became a scullery maid in the 1930′s.  Mollie began work at the tender age of 14 and learned very quickly that her day was to be very long with lots of hard work.  Up at 6:30AM, she had a list of chores to do before 8:00AM when she could get some breakfast.  She had to scrub the front steps, blacklead the grate, polish the hearth, light the range fire, put the kettles on, scrub the kitchen floors and passageways, scrub the long kitchen table including the legs, set the kitchen table for staff breakfast and help the kitchen maid start cooking their breakfast.  Mollie soon learned that she did not want to incur the wrath of Mrs. Jones, the cook.  During the day, she is busy preparing vegetables and washing up all the dishes, including scrubbing and polishing the cook’s favorite copper pots.  When her day ended at 9:30PM, she was truly exhausted.

She was soon joined by the new kitchen maid, Flo, who became her very best friend for life.  Their friendship helped both of them get through the rough times of their jobs. They also enjoyed their time off together just barely staying out of trouble with Mrs. Jones. Flo taught Mollie a lot about cooking and both girls gleaned great cooking knowledge from Mrs Jones.

Mollie is the narrator of the book sharing her experiences, foolish mistakes she made in life plus the fun times that she managed to wring out of every free hour she had.

Now at the age of 94, Mollie is still going strong.  Her stories of life below stairs is probably the best account I’ve ever read.  It’s in-depth without being boring and I absorbed the knowledge like a sponge.  She also tells us of the hardships that many people faced during those times and the historical events that she saw.

This is a book that every person who is fascinated with Downton Abbey will love.  If you love this time period and are curious about life below stairs, do read “Minding the Manor.”  You won’t want to put it down.

Connie for b2b

‘The Dancing Master’ by Julie Klassen

jk tdmSTORY: Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch’s daughter. Though he’s initially wary of Julia Midwinter’s reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul–and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master–a man her mother would never approve of–but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec’s help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village. . .and to her mother’s tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a “good match” in Regency England.

REVIEW: Julia Midwinter has a nice life in a lovely home attended by servants and living a comfortable life.  However, she is bored.  Her mother, Amelia, is a widow with very strict views on life.  Julia is watched over very carefully and it is expected that she will make a good match as she is the heir to her family estate in Devonshire.

Alec Valcourt has just arrived in Devonshire bringing along his mother and sister to live with his uncle.  He has left a successful and family owned dancing studio.  They had to leave London due to a scandalous situation that affected the family.  Thinking that he can start over in Devonshire by opening a new studio where he will teach dancing and fencing, he is astonished to find that Amelia Midwinter decreed many years ago that dancing will not be allowed in their town.  As a result of this, Julia has never been taught to dance and Amelia has said that she does not need a season in London either. 

It is inevitable that Julia and Alec will meet and are attracted to one another.  However, when Amelia realizes that his is a dancing master, she forbids Julia to have anything to do with him.  

There are many family secrets that surround Julia’s life.  The man she thought of as her father has passed away and Julia finds she cannot grieve for him as he never showed her any affection.  Her mother visits her brother’s grave and places flowers while she never mentions her sister’s grave nor does she leave flowers.  For many years, Julia has tried to get Amelia to open up to her but she refuses.  So, when Julia finds a baby’s dress and a partially written letter in a trunk in the attic that she knows is forbidden to her, she decides she will not rest until she finds more answers.

Meanwhile, Alec is struggling to make money to help support his mother and sister. However, he encounters one roadblock after another.  It is his faith that keeps him determined and focused.

As the story builds, we meet the different characters of the town all of whom are well-formed by the author.  Little by little, the family secrets that have been hidden from Julia surface and both she and Amelia must face the past and reconcile themselves to it.

I enjoyed this novel and had been looking forward to reading it.  If I have any complaints, it would be that the book is much longer than it should be.  It should have ended 100 pages sooner than it did.

I’ve read two other novels by Julie Klassen, “The Girl in the Gatehouse” which I found to be a bit tedious and “The Tutor’s Daughter” which I absolutely loved.  I believe the author truly delves into the subject she is writing about and tries to look at all the emotions of her characters and she expresses them very well.

Connie for b2b