Spotlight on Anna Cowen and…

UNTAMED!

U ACBOOK BLURB: Outspoken and opinionated, Katherine Sutherland is ill at ease amongst the fine ladies of Regency London. She is more familiar with farmers and her blunt opinions and rough manners offend polite society. Yet when she hears the scandalous rumours involving her sister and the seductive Duke of Darlington, the fiercely loyal Katherine vows to save her sister’s marriage – whatever the cost.

Intrigued by Katherine’s interference in his affairs, the manipulative Duke is soon fascinated. He engages in a daring deception and follows her back to her country home. Here, their intense connection shocks them both. But the Duke’s games have dangerous consequences, and the potential to throw both their lives into chaos…

EXCERPT: 

The Duke of Darlington was sitting in the bow window at Whites, when the Earl of BenRuin entered. The man was huge – almost ugly with it.

‘We’ll need another pot of coffee, after last night,’ Darlington said to Jewellyn, who sat beside him comparing three silk handkerchiefs.

‘Mother says the daffodil yellow makes me look consumptive, but the pale is just so joyless.’

‘Your mother knows best, darling.’ He took another sip of coffee, and didn’t look around. But he felt BenRuin’s eyes on him. He heard a hush follow the Earl through the room as he made his way over.

‘Darlington.’ BenRuin spat his name with a thick Scottish R.

He looked up and smiled sunnily. ‘What ho, old boy!’

BenRuin looked as though he wanted to crush Darlington’s throat and stop him from ever speaking again. Something woke, and shivered through Darlington, and he despaired because it was not fear.

He brushed a speck of lint from his cuff. ‘Coffee?’

BenRuin stared at him. ‘I am going to kill you,’ he said slowly, every word clear. Men looked up from their papers, frowning. BenRuin gripped the back of an empty chair, his hand a powerful, blunt instrument.

Darlington lowered his cup and wondered that his hands didn’t shake at all. He had been waiting so long for this. A month ago he had been given an old iron key that unlocked his father’s private papers with his father’s things. The key might as well have unlocked this sick, loose delight in him. It had brought him to this moment.

He screwed up his brow, and turned to Crispin, who sat at his feet on an ottoman. ‘Was I supposed to meet this man in a duel today?’

The boy looked back at Darlington with perfect trust, undiminished by the slight confusion on his face.

‘I don’t think so. No one’s come to see me about being your second. Unless—’ Crispin flushed and turned to Hopwell, across the table. ‘Hopwell, you rotter, you’ve not been approached, have you?’

Hopwell drew himself up. ‘And if I had? Are you the only one who could possibly represent him?’

‘But you know that I—’

BenRuin’s face clearly spoke his frustration – his disbelief that these boys, these butterflies would ignore him. His huge frame bunched and he threw the chair at the wall so hard it broke. Muted conversations broke off, and a footman’s half-sobbed apologies limped alone into the silence. Men rose from their seats, but left a wary space around BenRuin. Darlington couldn’t look away from BenRuin’s pale eyes.

He smiled as if his patience was wearing out. ‘Why do you suppose you want to kill me, old boy?’

‘You.’ BenRuin forced a couple of heavy breaths through his nose, like speaking the words was a feat of strength. ‘And my wife.’

‘Ah.’ Darlington let understanding dawn in his voice and spread his manicured hands out before him. At last. At last they had come to it. All this violence was his for the taking. ‘Look, she told me it was one of those marriages, you know. That you both found pleasure where you could.’

For a moment BenRuin couldn’t speak, like Darlington had cut his tongue out of his mouth. Then, ‘Stop talking,’ he said.

‘But I’m sure she…wait, so you’re back from your trip to South America, then? Did you collect any interesting new specimens?’

‘Stop talking,’ BenRuin said. ‘Stop.’

Crispin leapt up, relief clear in his smile, his voice. ‘You’re thinking of Lady Drysdale, Your Grace!’

‘Of course!’ The Duke placed slim fingers against his brow and made an apologetic face at BenRuin. At last. ‘All a misunderstanding, old boy!’

‘Call me old boy one more time,’ BenRuin said, his brogue making him almost unintelligible, ‘and I won’t wait to hear your explanation.’

‘Explanation?’ He had begun to shake with a kind of excitement. ‘Lady Drysdale and I had an understanding, and I don’t see that it’s any of your concern!’

‘And your carriage – in my driveway?’

He had forced a proud man to say this in front of other men. It was despicable. He would do it again in a heartbeat for what he wanted – needed.

‘Which driveway would that be, old – er.’ Darlington leaned down to Crispin and said, ‘Do you know who he is? I’m not sure what name to address him by.’

And then it came. So fast that for a moment his whole body felt the shock of not being ready. Of needing a moment to think.

BenRuin came at him, all muscle and murderous intent, his eyes fixed on Darlington’s face.

And Darlington was greedy, his whole being a gruesome invitation. Everything he normally hid flared to life within him.

BenRuin saw it. He faltered.

The men who had leapt into action had their arms about BenRuin, their hands gripping him wherever they found purchase. BenRuin’s knife never reached Darlington’s throat.

Darlington felt so bereft that for a moment he couldn’t breathe.

A man was hurrying through the room. Perhaps someone had sent a boy to find him, because he spoke in BenRuin’s ear and BenRuin listened. Tension leeched out of BenRuin’s huge body, and he began to shake, like a horse after a hard race.

He pointed a finger at Darlington. ‘I’ll not hang for the sake of seeing your pretty blood,’ he ground out. ‘This time. But the next time you trespass against me, you will know what I mean to do.’

BenRuin left, and Darlington fluttered his hands about his throat, and went into mild hysterics and allowed Crispin to fuss over him.

REVIEW: You’re either going to love it or hate it. I don’t think there’s a middle of the road for this novel. I more than loved it! I adored the hero, heroine, plot…oh and the prose is so good that it borders on poetic. It brings to mind Julie Anne Long’s and Grace Burrowes’ writing.

As soon as I was done with it, I had to Tweet the author. My Tweet was “I am in awe of it. It’s intriguing, clever & exciting; romantic & sensual; breathtakingly delightful!”

This was one of those stories that made you unknowingly hold your breath, and then slowly exhale as you go from page to page. At the end of it, it brought to mind two movies I am such a fan of: “Pretty Woman” and “An Interview with a Vampire”.

“Pretty Woman” because of its ending as the heroine ‘rescues’ the ‘hero’, and “An Interview with a Vampire” because for some reason the Duke reminded me of Lestat [no he wasn’t a Vampire, just the characterization].

Let me also say that if you’re a stickler for historical detail, you might have to suspend your disbelief and ignore a couple of things in it [notably reform of the Corn Laws and Parliament’s involvement in the divorce] to enjoy the rest of the story. I had no problem with it.

Story’s prose and especially characterization of the hero and heroine, was what engaged me emotionally.

It really was a breath of fresh air. For a change we have an author that gave us a cross-dressing hero instead of a heroine, and the result was entertaining, intriguing and engaging.

It was a risk, but I think it paid off big time!

I recommend it whole heartedly!

ARC courtesy of NetGalley.

You can buy Untamed at Amazon | Kobo | iTunes | Google | txtr | JB HiFi | Sainsbury’s | Destiny Romance (ePub)

Anna CowenAUTHOR IN HER OWN WORDS: I started writing when I was eight and my heroine thought the likeliest place to buy a horse was the pet shop.

I stopped writing when I was fifteen and my teen angst was too much, even for me. Also, boys.

Now I’m An Adult, and I’ve never wanted to work so hard at anything.

I live in a beautiful flat in the middle of Melbourne with special k – husband / coffee mogul / love of my life. We’ve started having weekly managers meetings where he says things like, “This is work, so there are no feelings, okay?” and I quake in my writerly boots. I couldn’t have done any of this without him.

This blog is where I think out loud about writing. I break down the things I watch and read – I try to figure out how they work, or don’t work. It tends to centre around love, romance, gender, feminism and writing.

I hope you enjoy the conversation!

You can catch Anna on: Tweeter / Website

‘A Notorious Countess Confesses’ by Julie Anne Long

STORY: She rose to spectacular heights . . .

From Covent Garden to courtesan to countess, beautiful, fearless, shamelessly ambitious Evie Duggan has riveted London in every role she plays. But the ton never could forgive her scandalous—if shockingly short—marriage, and when her star plummets amid gleefully vicious gossip, the countess escapes to the only legacy left to her: a manor house in Pennyroyal Green.

He never expected to fall so hard . . .

He has the face of a fallen angel and a smolder the devil would envy, but Vicar Adam Sylvaine walks a precarious line: resisting temptation . . . and the wild Eversea blood in his veins. Adam’s strength is tested when scandal, aka the countess, moves to Sussex. But when a woman who fiercely guards her heart and a man entrusted with the souls of an entire town surrender to a forbidden desire, will the sweetest sin lead them to heaven . . . or make outcasts of them forever?

REVIEW: Here comes book seven in Julie Ann Long’s Pennyroyal Greene series and while in this one we’re not following any of the Eversea’s or Redmond’s, even though our hero the Vicar is a cousin to Ian and Colin Eversea, it is still entertaining and character driven as the previous seven.

The story opens with Evie Duggan, or lately better known to the ton as  The Black Widow, as they all ran her out of London believing her capable of ‘doing her husband’ in.

As she escapes to the only place left to her, she meets a town full of women that are righteous, pious and many in awe and very protective of their young Vicar. Laying her eyes on him, she’s not surprised at their actions toward him and to have their friendship, she knows only one man can help her in that attempt, Adam Sylvaine.

Adam Sylvaine is young in age, but when it comes to his soul, the man has seen as much pain as happiness. He’s honest, loving and very protective of his parishioners. His love for them goes beyond his acceptance of their prejudices. It goes to the root of who he is.

Revisiting all the residents of Pennyroyal Greene was like coming to your home town! I loved finding myself among them once again, and as usual, Ms. Long has given me yet another clue to Lyon and Olivia’s story that I wonder if there ever will be a happily ever after for those two together.

Once I found out that this love story would involve a vicar and a courtesan, there was no way in Hell I was going to miss it! She created a Beta hero we can all fall in love with: honorable, caring and kind, and then paired him with a heroine that was flirtatious, smart and loyal; both were loving, courageous and very strong in their own right.

If anyone could pull this off, it was going to be JAL. I can tell you without a doubt, she has done an outstanding job with her writing, pace, plot and dialogue. She’s one of those rare authors that give their secondary characters time and space to grow on us to a point where we become protective of them as much as we do of our hero and heroine.

‘A Notorious Countess Confesses’ is one of those stories that will grab you from the moment our heroine falls asleep in the middle of our Vicar’s Sunday sermon, to the very end when all is revealed.

Julie Anne Long is not just a good story-teller; she’s a poet with her prose. With it, she leaves me light-headed and I promise it’ll do the same to you!

ARC provided by Edelweiss.

Time to ‘catch up’ with my RRAH Reviews…

Hello my Bookworms! Now about those AWESOME cup cakes?! Just click on the link and you’ll find yourself in a cup cake Heaven!

It has been a hell of a short winter and almost no snow here in the Windy City, but we can deal with that. How was your winter? Have you had much snow and low temps? And your health? Have you set yourself behind with things that needed done, either at work or home?

I’ve had some set becks, mostly in keeping my RRAH reviews up-to date, but the set-back I hated the most is my bout with back pain, which took me of my healthy eating habit and the result of too much medication.had me gain all the weight I’ve lost….and that bums me out BIG TIME!

I can tell you that as of now, I’ve started the weight loss again, and hoping this time it sticks… I’m on my second cortisone shot and in two weeks I’ll be on my third one, and then REHAB! I so hope this will work, but my Doc tells me it might take me six months to a year to fully recover and move the disk back into its original position, and that’s a bummer as well, but must be done, so I push on…

You know what the best thing is about all this?! I got to read and review some good books, even though it would take me forever to sit, stand and KNEEL by the comp, I did them, however I haven’t brought them to you and since I’m feeling all bright and happy on such a great sunny day here in my Chicago Town, I’m happy to tell you about some of the books I reviewed for Romance Reader At Heart. You already might have read some, but it would be fun to hear your thoughts on them just the same.

EMILY AND THE DARK ANGEL by Jo Beverley was “…another of Ms. Beverley’s well-written and well-plotted stories, with sharp dialogue and full of witty and fun characters.

I found out that this book is part of a series which began with LORD WRAYBOURNE’S BETROTHAL, continued with THE STANFORTH SECRET and THE STOLEN BRIDE. Besides EMILY AND THE DARK ANGEL, LORD WRAYBOURNE’S BETROTHAL is the only other one I’ve read. I’ll make it a point to get the other two, as I’d like nothing better than to find out the love story of those characters as well.”

WHAT A DUKE WANTS by Lavinia Kent was ” …a fast paced, fun, and very entertaining read with a predictable plot, yet it will make you feel warm and fuzzy all over.”

My thoughts on WICKED SEDUCTION by Jade Lee  are “…There’s not a thing that I didn’t like about WICKED SEDUCTION, and there’s a lot to recommend it. All the characters, secondary included, were very vivid, extremely well-developed, and the romance full of tender moments. I liked the interaction between Kit and Maddy, and I would be remiss not to mention the love scenes!

WICKED SEDUCTION is one book that you won’t be able to put down ‘till you’re done.”

BECAUSE YOUR MINE by Lisa Kleypas is as good as all of her books that came before and after this one so “…If you’ve never read any of Lisa Kleypas’ books before, you may as well start with this one. You’ll enjoy its pace, dialogue, laugh-out-loud moments and the love scenes that are tender, yet sensual.

The prequel to this story is SOMEWHERE I’LL FIND YOU, and it is as good as this story, so you may as well get both! Both are Keeper worthy.”

A LADY AWAKENED by Cecilia Grant is in one word UNIQUE “…This is not your typical cookie cutter romance, despite its trope. By choosing this plot, the author took a gamble in giving us the slower pace and fully developing her players first, main and secondary, thus making them very real and the plot easy to accept. I’d say the gamble paid off, as I enjoyed this Victorian tale very much, and I’m looking forward to Ms. Grant’s future tales. Welcome to my Keeper shelf, Ms. Grant!”

THE UNEXPECTED MISS BENNET by Patrice Sarath made me feel so fuzzy and warm all over  “…Oh, and to see and get a chance to catch up with everyone was pure bliss!

What I liked the best was this author’s prose, which was as close as one can get to Austen’s; and with it, she kept me grounded, so I hardly felt the transition from the original.

I highly recommend THE UNEXPECTED MISS BENNET to all Austen fans. As a matter a fact, this is a must for them, and it’s a definite keeper for me. I’ll still be tied up in knots, but possibly less so after this wonderful book.”

In BRAZEN by Margo Maguire  “…It was interesting to watch a high society Lady fall for this hard-living Captain, especially because neither took their feelings seriously, at first. They both thought each other unsuitable for anything but an affair. However, as much as I loved the hero, try as I might, the heroine just left me cold. Only a handful of scenes have I thought her at least a bit warm (and most of those are the sensual ones).

In the end, BRAZEN was not a bad read. I enjoyed its pace and the hero, as well as the mystery, so I’ll recommend it, but will probably give it away”

RECKLESS ANGEL by Jane Feather  just blew me away, and I think you should all get it. My favorite “…paragraph is at the end of this tale, as Daniel is watching her sleep, thinking… ”Daniel gazed upon his sleeping wife and wondered how such a wondrous, magical creature has been shaped, how such a loving and giving spirit could have emerged from the arid soil of her childhood. And he had wondered what he had done to deserve the gift of her love, the measurable joy of her self to inform his life.”

RECKLESS ANGEL is a romance with sensual overtones that should make Ms. Feather proud. She has achieved a perfect balance of romance and history by introducing us to England as it was at the time of civil strife, and gifting us with characters that were three-dimensional. Combined with a very plausible plot and a quick pace, this makes for a wonderful, extremely entertaining and fun read. I would go so far as to even recommend it to sixteen-year-olds! There are no overly explicit scenes in this book that would make it inappropriate for this generation, or for that matter, any generation. I highly recommend it, and strongly urge you to ignore the negative reviews of this delightful romance story.”

And I’m finishing off with one of the best books I’ve ever read and that’s HOW THE MARQUESS WAS WON by Julie Anne Long. What follows is a romance that will melt your heart. Everything was so well written that I was left panting, sighing, and praying that this author NEVER stops writing!

The characters, plot, setting, secondary characters, pace and prose were out of this world! I swear, you’ll be devouring the pages with such speed that you just might have to reread it at a slower speed as soon as you finish it.

Julie Ann Long is fast becoming an author to be pre-ordered! I am looking forward to her very, VERY long writing career. As with all her other books—not just this series—this one’s keeper shelf worthy and a reread MUST!”

Well, there you have it! I would love to know if you’ve read any of these yet, or if they’re still on your TBR. If you haven’t had the chance to buy it yet, let me know which one of these you’re missing and you never know, we might just GIVE you that one!

This can only happen to me…

Hello my Bookworms! I thought to stop by and apologize to all of you and thank Krissie, Evelyn as well as Ms. Stone and Ms. Ashe, for being a poor host for this past month.  Here’s the reason…

A few weeks ago I was on cloud nine. One of my favorite authors was coming to a local book store, and I was not going to miss that opportunity to meet her. I had all my ‘ducks’ in a row: Recon Mission with my DH a week before her visit=CHECK; Book signing number=CHECK; A ride (DH was taking a day off just for me) to the Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville (the event was at 7 pm and I have a restriction on my DL-can’t drive at night)=CHECK; a bag filled with books that needed signing=CHECK; camera rechurdged=CHECK. I was oh so ready!

My first hint that something would happen that night would have been with my DH telling me that he had to work that night  (after his friend at work asked him to reconsider, because he needed to be with his little girl for her school play). I was cool with that, but now I needed a Plan B. In walks Katerina and just like that, we were on!

On the way to the store we blah=blahed books and totally missed our turn, but hey it’s only 5 pm, still plenty of time to hit a restaurant for dinner and get to the book shop.

Have you ever been to Downtown Naperville?! I dare you to find a parking spot close to the shop you’d like to go to! But we did! And the wait in a restaurant?! NONE! We were seated right away! All these were great signs that the evening could not be any better…After two glasses of an excellent Riesling and a dinner with a dessert to die for, we were ready to head out to the book shop…and while exiting…OUCH! I miss a small, itsy-bitsy tiny step, and down I go! My ankle got a bit twisted, but I was just fine. We laughed it off and blamed the two glasses of wine for my OOPS and the rest of the evening went off without a hitch!

Julie Anne Long and Laura Lee Guhrke were a class act and I had a ball. My books were signed and I read each and every one of them once I got home and had my ice pack on my ankle.

What followed was not so preaty…First a pain in my lower back, then the pain on my right side all the way down my leg (felt like a permanent Charlie Horse), doctor’s visits, MRI and prednisone, Norco and muscle relaxer, one trip to the Emergency room, and my grand finale will be tomorrow for the cortisone injection.

I belive that this can only happen to me and I’m blaming April Fool’s Day (my date of birth)!

‘How the Marquess Was Won’ by Julie Anne Long

I am such a fan of this author that truly I would read a paper bag from her!

Julie Anne Long can ‘prose’ so well, that every breath, every sigh and every move any of her characters make, you’re there. You feel it in your heart, in your bones. I never fail to fall in love and deeply care for Ms. Long’s heroes and heroines.

Ms. Long in her sixth book of the Pennyroyal Green series thought to introduce us to Julian Spenser, Marquess Dryden known to all the Ton as ‘Lord Ice’ for his cool demeanor, shrewd and impeccable manners as well as current trend-setter of London society. He is handsome, sought after by men, who will imitate and emulate, as well as women who will do and say anything to be noticed and bedded.

Jules is a man that always knows exactly what he wants and where he’s going. Nothing is left to chance. He plans everything he aims to do and naturally that extends to his way of picking a wife. She has to be beautiful, prim and proper and love is not required. What does matter is that this woman must fulfill his need of acquiring a piece of land that was long lost to his family by his gambler father. There’s only one woman that enters that equation and she is Lisbeth Redmond, the daughter of Isaiah Redmond, and he heads out with that purpose in mind to a house party at their home with firm intent of making this young woman his wife. Serendipity and chance however have something else in mind for this man and they cannot be ‘boxed’ in.

Phoebe Vale is a schoolteacher at Miss Marietta Endicott’s Academy in Pennyroyal Green and she’s very proud of that achievement, especially knowing that she came from the slums of Seven Dials. I loved her attitude toward life in general and toward herself in particular. This was a woman that embraced her life and always had an optimistic view of people around her, never shirking her duties or running from them. She accepted people for what they were and easily found humor in their silly behavior. And speaking of, there was so much humor in this story that made me laugh out loud that made my eyes water.

I loved the way she brought these two people that are so unsuitable-working class girl and a nobleman-together by pure serendipity and using her prose that is second to none, by building a sexual tension that was burning the pages.

The dialogue is superb and I was left holding my breath witnessing the exchange between these two smart, witty and flirtatious beings. Their repartee was so natural it left me breathless and at times made me feel like a voyeur. Every scene with the two in it was perfectly pitched and thoughtfully constructed that it made you wish they kept going, and going and going…never to end.

And just to give you a taste of what I’m talking about, here is my favorite excerpt and I dare you to breathe when you read!

“She looked down at the bundle in her hand, indecisively. And then:

‘Here.’ She extended it to him. ‘A gift for you.’

He stared it. All at once too many thoughts and impressions jostled for the exits, and none could escape in the form of words. So he did as she ordered: slowly, wordlessly, he reached for them.

And as she began to surrender them, her fingers brushed his.

He stopped breathing.

He’d once seen a man struck by lightning. He’d watched as the bolt held him helpless, motionless, arcing his body.

Having its way with him.

It wasn’t unlike that.

Breathlessly, dumbly, they both stared at the place where their fingers met. Stunned to at last, at last, be touching. Skin to skin.

He dropped the herbs and seized her wrist. ‘Enough.’

The word was low and dark. And it thrummed command and something like a plea.

Slowly, slowly, she levered up her head, as if spooling courage on the way up. Her jaw was taut; her eyes were wide when they met his, but comprehension flickered in them.

The air suddenly seemed full of snapping sparks. One would have thought he’d captured a unicorn, for God’s sake, for how enervated he felt.

As he watched, a flush painted her from her collarbone upwards. Beneath his thumb, placed over a pale blue vein in that silky hand, her pulse raced.

He turned her palm up. He wished he could be certain she was the one who was trembling, for one of them was. Her hand was achingly soft, too vulnerable. It was cold, which struck him as poignant. He wanted to warm her. He needed to warm her.

And so he brought her palm to his mouth.

He softly opened his mouth against her skin, touched his tongue there, burned her with a kiss that was at once chaste and perhaps the most carnal he’d ever given.

Her head tipped back hard; her eyelids shuddered closed. She made a soft sound, a gasp of shock and pure sensual pleasure.

Mother of God.

He lifted his head with some effort. He curled her fingers closed over the place he kissed her, as if handing her a keepsake.

He knew he ought to. And yet he found he couldn’t relinquish her hand.

Look at me, Miss Vale.’ His voice a low demand.

A moment’s hesitation. She opened her eyes. He was absurdly thrilled to see them again. They were dazed and starry and wary. The sun haloed her, and the light both set her aglow and obscured her. As he stared, he withstood bolt after swift bolt of impression, each distinct and pure and primal:

Who kissed you first? I will kiss the memory of it away. I will run him through with a sword. I can’t recall kissing anyone before you. I am ruined. I am happy. I’m afraid. I need to leave. You need to leave.

He was holding her hand as though it was as delicate as an egg. Which rather contrasted his expression, which, little did he know, was edging toward the thunderous.

“I didn’t know I was going to do that,’ he said finally.”

For a story with interesting, entertaining and witty characters who lack in any warn out clichés with secondary characters that are as equally developed as the primary, accompanied with a prose, plot and humor to die for, I give you leave to RUN not walk, and buy this novel, and I bestow upon it my five quills whole heartedly!

*This review posted on Romantic Crush Junkies Reviews eZine*