‘An American Duchess’ by Sharon Page

sp aadSTORY: Set on a crumbling English manor estate during the height of the Roaring Twenties, an American duchess must decide how much she’s willing to risk for the life she truly desires…

It’s 1922, and New York heiress Zoe Gifford longs for the freedoms promised by the Jazz Age. Headstrong and brazen, but bound by her father’s will to marry before she can access his fortune, Zoe arranges for a brief marriage to Sebastian Hazelton, whose aristocratic British family sorely needs a benefactor.

Once in England, her foolproof plan to wed, inherit and divorce proves more complicated than Zoe had anticipated. Nigel Hazelton, Duke of Langford and Sebastian’s older brother, is as austere and imposing as the family’s ancestral estate. Still reeling from the Great War, Nigel is now staging a one-man battle against a rapidly changing world—and the outspoken Zoe represents everything he’s fighting against.

When circumstances compel Zoe to marry Nigel rather than Sebastian, their heated quarrelling begets passion of another sort. But with Nigel unwilling to change with the times, will Zoe be forced to choose between her husband and her dreams?

REVIEW: It is 1920 and wealthy Zoe Gifford has arrived in England with her mother in search of a husband.  In order to collect her inheritance, she has been directed to marry.  As she is young, vibrant, intelligent and having fun as a single woman, she is not anxious to get married.  Zoe had met Sebastian Hazelton, the younger brother of Nigel Hazelton, Duke and cash-strapped heir to the estate of Brideswell Abbey in Hertfordshire.  Together, Sebastian and Zoe concoct a plan to marry so Zoe can gain her money, then divorce, with Sebastian receiving a fee, and then both can go on with their lives.

The straight-laced members of the Hazelton family are shocked at Zoe.  She wears short skirts, sports a bobbed haircut, drives a motorcar, flies an aeroplane and even smokes! Scandalous!
When Zoe meets Nigel, she finds a cold man who is scarred and remains haunted by his experiences in the war.  His feelings of guilt keep him in a somber mood.  Zoe’s exuberant personality and Nigel’s depressed personality make for some clashes that only intrigue Zoe more to find out about his past.
After spending some time at Brideswell planning her wedding to Sebastian, Zoe learns something quite unsavory about Sebastian that causes her to break off their planned wedding.  However, not all is lost because Zoe and Nigel have begun to spend time together which sparks a fiery passion.
Where will this lead?  Is there hope for happiness and contentment in Nigel’s life and will Zoe settle into the English way of life?
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and have waited for quite awhile to do so.  It was everything I hoped it would be.  This is a novel that is beautiful, touching, informative and fun.  I know I shall remember this plot for sometime to come.
“An American Duchess” is due for publication on September 30, 2014.
I have tried to give some teasers about this wonderful story without releasing any spoilers.
Connie for b2b
Complementary copy provided by the publisher

‘One Plus One’ by JoJo Moyes

jm opoSTORY: One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

REVIEW: Jess is a young, married woman with two children under her care.  Her husband did a disappearing act when his depression got the better of him and he decided to go live with his mother for a little while until he got back on his feet.  Two years later, he’s still gone and has not even been back to see Jess or his children.  Nicky is her husband’s son and is into the Goth World.  This means that his black clothes, mascara and crazy haircut earn him lots of bullying from other kids.  Prime enemies are the Fisher family down the block.  No parental control results in out of control kids.  Then we have Tanzie, short for Constanza.  She is a math whiz who can figure out anything.

Jess is a cleaner.  One of her clients is Ed Nicholls, a wealthy computer tech guy who owns his own company.  But Ed is in big trouble.  He inadvertently gave a stock tip to a girlfriend to get rid of her and ended up being charged with insider trading.  He may be looking at prison time.
When Tanzie gets a chance to participate in a Math Olympiad and Jess cannot afford for her to travel all the way to Scotland, Ed steps up and offers to drive them.  When I say “them,” I mean Ed, Jess, Tanzie, Nicky and last, but not least, Norman, the big, drooling, farting dog.  If you think that the movie, National Lampoon’s “Vacation” was funny, come along for the road trip from hell!
This was such a good book!  Not only did it keep me laughing, it also tugged at my heart-strings.  You cannot help but fall in love with all the characters and their unique personalities.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers but you must grab a copy of this book and sit back for a read you won’t forget.
Connie for b2b

‘The Fortune Hunter’ by Daisy Goodwin

dg tfhSTORY: In 1875, Sisi, the Empress of Austria is the woman that every man desires and every woman envies.

Beautiful, athletic and intelligent, Sisi has everything – except happiness. Bored with the stultifying etiquette of the Hapsburg Court and her dutiful but unexciting husband, Franz Joseph, Sisi comes to England to hunt. She comes looking for excitement and she finds it in the dashing form of Captain Bay Middleton, the only man in Europe who can outride her. Ten years younger than her and engaged to the rich and devoted Charlotte, Bay has everything to lose by falling for a woman who can never be his. But Bay and the Empress are as reckless as each other, and their mutual attraction is a force that cannot be denied.

Full of passion and drama, THE FORTUNE HUNTER tells the true story of a nineteenth century Queen of Hearts and a cavalry captain, and the struggle between love and duty.

REVIEW: Charlotte Baird is a young heiress with an interest in photography.  She is currently living with her older brother, Fred, who does not have her future income but is comfortable.  Fred is engaged to Augusta, a woman who has seen several seasons and never “took” until Fred came along.  Jealous of the wealth that Charlotte will soon enjoy, Augusta never misses a chance to make a snide remark to Charlotte.  Charlotte is an intelligent person with a calm personality, but also has a tendency to speak her mind. Charlotte lost her mother some years ago from a horse riding accident and, thus, Charlotte does not ride.

With her wealth, Charlotte could almost have her pick of husbands but she is attracted to Captain Bay Middleton.  He is very handsome and an excellent horseman.  He has worked with his horse, Tipsy, with the dream of participating in the Grand National race. Bay is also attracted to Charlotte and they enjoy one another’s company.

Empress Elizabeth of Austria, known as Sisi, is an extremely beautiful but vain woman. She is known for her magnificent hair that reaches to her ankles.  As she loves to ride and hunt, she has traveled to England to stay at the home of the very wealthy Earl Spencer and spend some months hunting.  As Bay is so well known for his horsemanship, he is summoned to be Sisi’s pilot and ride with her.  Although Bay did not want to be away from Charlotte, he knew that it would not be good to turn down this opportunity to show his abilities.

Sisi is constantly dieting and doing everything possible to slow down her aging.  While she is  grandmother at the age of 37, she is still a beautiful woman with a trim figure. Soon, she is physically attracted to Bay and they become lovers.  

But what about Charlotte?  While she misses Bay, she remains involved in taking her photographs and displaying them publicly.  One photograph is mistakenly put into a show where Queen Victoria is a viewer and it becomes a scandal.  When Charlotte realizes the attraction between Sisi and Bay, she plans a drastic move.

I absolutely loved this book!  After reading Daisy’s first book, “The American Heiress,” I literally counted the days until “The Fortune Hunter” was published.  It has been worth the wait.  The perfectly developed characters blended with real historical figures is completely delightful!  I couldn’t have asked for more.  Oh wait!  Yes I can.  I will now ask Daisy how long it will be before her next novel!!  

Connie for b2b

‘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

‘The Heiress Effect’ by Courtney Milan

cm theSTORY: Miss Jane Fairfield can’t do anything right. When she’s in company, she always says the wrong thing—and rather too much of it. No matter how costly they are, her gowns fall on the unfortunate side of fashion. Even her immense dowry can’t save her from being an object of derision.

And that’s precisely what she wants. She’ll do anything, even risk humiliation, if it means she can stay unmarried and keep her sister safe.

Mr. Oliver Marshall has to do everything right. He’s the bastard son of a duke, raised in humble circumstances—and he intends to give voice and power to the common people. If he makes one false step, he’ll never get the chance to accomplish anything. He doesn’t need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn’t need to fall in love with her. But there’s something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can’t resist…even though it could mean the ruin of them both.

REVIEW: I’m a big CM fan, and I’d read a paper bag if she wrote on it!

However, she chose to write another book, thank goodness, and surprise-surprise, I loved it.

I adored this heroine who was such a unique character. I guess that’s why I love CM’s books so much. She literally molds characters right in front of my eyes. I felt like watching Jane emerge from a cocoon and showing me all these colors, then sprouting wings, just like a real butterfly, and taking off into many directions all at once.

Oliver was a perfect match for her and he as well grew in character as we followed along while he got to know the object of his curiosity and love.

The romance between the two had a perfect pace as their friendship was testing their future. On paper, these two completely opposite characters would never fit together, but the author makes them real and so they complete each other perfectly.

If you’re a fan of Courtney Milan, this is a must buy, and if you’ve never read her work, this is a good book to start with, regardless of being a part of the series. Have no fear, it’s a stand alone.

Highly recommended.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Spotlight on Heather Graham and her …

Civil War Trilogy

One Wore Blue (Cameron Family Saga, #4) 

hg owbSTORY: Her Rebel Spirit Defied His Yankee Soul

She was velvet and silk, emerald eyes and sunstruck hair, Kiernan Miller had married one man to protect her from another. She hated Jesse Cameron with a fierce passion. But she was a widow now, and he was the enemy at her door, come with weapons of fire to melt her icy heart …

His Traitor’s Touch Ignited Raging Passions

He wore a Yankee uniform with inimitable Southern style, as true to the Union cause as he was treasonous to his rebel roots. Even as war engulfed them all, he would find his greatest adversary in the beauty who’d branded him a traitor, the woman he was born to possess.

hg aowgAnd One Wore Gray (Cameron Family Saga #5)

STORY: In the sequel to One Wore Blue, the other Cameron brother, Daniel, is bewitched by Callie Michaelson, a wild beauty who hates the South but who could make him forget the horrors of the war.

And One Rode West (Cameron Family Saga #6) hg aorw

STORY: In the aftermath of the Civil War, when raids on rebel plantations threaten her family property, Christa Cameron coaxes a young Union officer into marriage, secretly vowing to keep her purity intact.

REVIEW: When I took upon myself to read this Civil War Trilogy, I didn’t know that it was a part of a six book Cameron Family Saga series, which starts off with The North American Women trilogy [Sweet Savage Eden (Cameron Family Saga #1), A Pirate's Pleasure (Cameron Family Saga #2), Love Not a Rebel (Cameron Family Saga #3)]. You may be an old fan of this author, but she’s new to me and I thought this would be a perfect way to see if I may like her stories, and now knowing that I liked the latter part of this series, I’m determined to hunt down the first three books and read the Cameron Saga from its begining.

Let’s start this review with a genre. If you’re not a fan of western genre, you’ll not bother with these books. However if you’re a historical romance lover, I think you’ll enjoy these stories as much as I have. Especially the history part of it. Ms. Graham must have done a ton of research for these books, and it shows in her telling of these tales.

The trilogy tells a tale of three siblings, two brothers and their sister, that are faced with life altering decisions of which side to be on when civil war brakes.

The sister stays on their plantation while brothers chose opposite sides and one fights for the north and one for the south.

This first story is happily ever after of one of the brothers, Jesse Cameron and his love for Kiernan McKay. The two grew up together in the south, and the war cruley separates them as Jesse decides to wear a blue uniform of the north, and leaves Keirnan heartbroken.

As the war rages, our couple goes through hardship and pain, before their love is given another chance. And that road is what gave this story its heart and purpose. I also understand the ‘saga’ part of this series’ title. It is a wonderful narrative that chronicles the lives of the members of Cameron family.

If you know your history, than the theme will be familiar; country along with many families is divided; brothers take arms against each other as they fight on opposite sides, but what Ms. Graham gives this story is richness of each character she introduces. You’ll love them all. Oh, and it never hurts to have a sensual, sweet and satisfying [read scorching] romance.

‘One Wore Blue’ is the beginning of an awesome journey and I’m so glad to have read it. It had everything I love about western romance and then some.

In ‘And One Wore Gray’ we follow Daniel Cameron who ends up hurt and Callie, a Yankee widow living in Maryland on Mason-Dixon line, is the one who saves his life, and in the process she’s forced to betray him.

If you love stories with betrayal, heartbreak and plenty of sensuality, this one’s going to be one book you’ll be happy to read and reread. The characters were well defined, the plot and conflict well written, and the pace just perfect for a ‘saga’. I also think you’ll be very impressed with this authors research as she brings the Civil War to life.

‘And One Rode West’ is a third [sixth of the Cameron Saga] and last book of the Civil War trilogy, finally comes time for Jesse’s and Daniel’s baby sister Christa Cameron to find her own piece and happiness.

By now we’re familiar with her as we met her in both of the previous books, ‘One Wore Blue’ and ‘And One Wore Gray’. Ms. Graham picks up this story where the last one left off and we watch this feisty little Southern belle as she is faced with a decision to make about the plantation. While her big brothers were away, she was the one to hold things together at home. She is constantly forced to make hard choices, especially defending the plantation from the Yankees. And that’s how she gets herself in trouble, choosing to wed Jeremy McCautley, her sister in law Callie’s Union Colonel brother, and thus saving her home from destruction. Her plan to get an annulment doesn’t sit well with her groom, who has a plan of his own.

And then the war ends and her brothers with their families have safely arrived home to Cameron Hall and she is forced by her own choice to wed, to leave one familiar place she loved above all else, and follow her husband out West.

I liked this one the best. The love/hate relationship between Jeremy and Christa was well written and as they looked for compromises in their growing relationship, the reader is left to find and accept them as well.

As usual, Ms. Graham’s story is well-researched, and well written. I can’t praise this book, and the other two, enough.

All the main characters as well as supporting ones were wonderfully defined and written. The setting in Ms. Graham’s hands was brought to life in all its glory and heartache. I realized that it took someone with deep understanding of this conflict to write such poignant and heartwarming stories. You should read them all. I’m off to my local book store to track down the first three while all these stories are fresh in my mind.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Ruined by Rumor’ by Alyssa Everett

ae rbrSTORY: After waiting five years for her fiancé to return from the war and marry her, Roxana Langley has been jilted! She may have longed for excitement, but this was not what she had in mind…

Who could possibly throw over a woman as beautiful and vivacious as Roxana? Certainly not Alex Winslow, the Earl of Ayersley, who has spent years trying in vain to forget his unrequited love. When he learns she’s been abandoned by her cad of a fiancé, he finds himself offering a shoulder for her to cry on. Comfort soon turns into a passionate kiss—-and scandal when they are caught in an embrace.

Only one thing will save Roxana from certain ruination: marriage to the earl. The match may save her reputation, but responsible, tongue-tied Ayersley is a far cry from her dashing former fiancé. She’s convinced Ayersley is merely doing his duty…while he’s sure Roxana is still in love with another man. Are they trading one disaster for another?

REVIEW: This was another awesome read and I’m happy to recommend it to you. The romance, as in all of Ms. Everett’s, is slow-building but oh so sweet.

This trope, marriage of convenience, has been done to death, but in this author’s hands, with a beta hero, it is perfection.

There are misunderstandings, some feelings of guilt and underneath it all, a love blossoms. It was easy to fall for this hero. He’s just a perfect man, yet a bit shy about his feelings and a deep abiding love he’s carried for this woman who was misguided by another and confused about her growing affection for him.

I tried to figure out why Ms. Everett’s stories are so appealing to me, and the only thing I came up with was that her work is a mix of Mary Balogh and Carla Kelly, yet she is still unique in her prose as well as plotting.

If you’ve never read her work, please seek her out. You won’t be sorry.

Melanie for b2b