Anybody See My Passport? by Eileen Dreyer

OAR ED

Oh, I could probably write all my books without traveling for research. In BARELY A LADY I wrote about the Battle of Waterloo without going to Belgium (although I plan on attending the 200th anniversary). It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. I just couldn’t manage it. And believe me, it drove me nuts. I am a global learner. I do best when I can see, hear, touch, smell and taste (museums across the world hate me). So when I find it time to research a book, I try my best to experience what I will describe. When I wrote about a medic on a SWAT team, I took the training. When I wrote about an arsonist, I trained with the world’s arson expert (I do have fun.) And when my characters live or travel somewhere I don’t live, I try my best to to there to see what they see, hear what they hear, smell what they smell…well, you get it.

FC UK

I’ve been really lucky with the Drake’s Rakes series. Not only have I spent a lot of time in England, doing things like walking through all of Mayfair and staying at Frampton Court, a lovely historic country house, I got to travel through India, where several of my characters lived at one time or another.

For ONCE A RAKE, I got to spend a few days in and near Lyme Regis on the south coast of England. Now, I admit that my first requirement for a setting for this book was somewhere a wounded man could swim from the English Channel. After all, Ian Ferguson, my hero, has to do exactly that. But it kinda left Edinburgh and Dublin out of the question.

Lyme Regis

I played with maps, I read travel books and Jane Austen’s Persuasion (the infamous Cobb is in Lyme), and I read REMARKABLE CREATURES by Tracy Chevalier about the amazing Mary Anning, who not only discovered the first intact dinosaur skeleton near Lyme, but makes a cameo in my book (I have info about the book on my webpage).

Why should that ignite my interest in Lyme I still don’t know. But it spoke to me. So I booked time in the town, and I walked. And walked. And drove. I spent time wandering the Undercliff, an area where the land has slipped towards the ocean and flora has taken over (lovely ferns, elephant ears, mossy stones, bluebells, oaks…well, you get it). I walked over the cliffs that still look as if they’re going to crumble straight onto the shingle beaches below and plotted out the estate (Fairbourne) my heroine is trying so hard to save. I walked the same streets of Lyme Regis Jane Austen did (and I have to tell you here, that if she did indeed walk all of Lyme, she had legs like a Tyrolean mountain goat. Those streets are steep). I stopped in the same shops frequented by Anne Elliott and her creator and visited the old Post Office (now a B&B) used by Jane herself, and critical to a pivotal scene in ONCE A RAKE. And from those steps came the story of Sarah and Ian, two outsiders who must overcome not only external enemies, but internal crises to find a love for a lifetime.

I’m very lucky. I admit it. Like most authors, I’m insatiably curious. Because I’m an author, I get to have my curiosity satisfied. And then I get to weave the answers into a story that makes me happy. And the best part (at least for me) is discovering a new place in the world to discover. The only question now, is where do I set my next book? (hint? One of them will be in Venice).

EXCERPT:

As she did every autumn, when the farmyard was perennially muddy and her skin chapped, Sarah wished she were somewhere else. It wasn’t as bad in spring or summer, because then she had growing things, new babies to raise, the comfort of wildflowers and warm skies. Every spring she imagined things could be better. Every autumn she admitted the truth. She was caught here at Fairbourne, and here she would stay. She had nowhere else to go.

She wouldn’t think of that, though. It served no purpose, except to eat away at her heart. Tucking the bit of blanket on the fence where Willoughby could smell it, she tied him up with a scratch of the ears and an admonition to behave. Then, rewrapping her muffler against the chill, she went about her work, ending with a visit to the hen house.

It was when she slipped her hand beneath Edna the hen, that she knew for certain  who had tied up Willoughby. Edna was her best layer, and yet, the box was nearly empty. Sarah checked Martha and Mary and came up with similar results. Someone had taken their eggs. And it hadn’t been a fox, or at least one of her birds would have been a pile of bloody feathers.

Well, Sarah thought, collecting what was left. Her visitor had earned his meal. She wished she had seen him, though. She could have at least rewarded him with a few scones for rescuing Willoughby from sure disaster.

On second thought, she considered with her first real smile of the day. Maybe not scones. They would be Peg’s scones, and Peg’s scones could be used for artillery practice. No one should be rewarded that way.

Sarah might have thought no more of the matter if the men hadn’t ridden up. She was just shoving the chicken coop door closed, when she heard horses approaching over the rise from the Pinhay Road. Looking that way, she sighed. Now what?

Giving up the idea that she would eat anytime soon, she gave the coop a final kick and strode off toward the approaching riders. She was just passing the old dairy when she caught movement out the corner of her eye. A shadow, nothing more, by the back wall. But a big shadow. One that seemed to be sitting on the ground, with long legs and shoulders the size of a yule log.

It didn’t even occur to her that it could be anyone but her benefactor. She was about to call to him, when the riders crested the hill and she recognized their leader.

“Oh, no,” she muttered, her heart sinking straight to her half-boots. This was not the time to betray the existence of the man who had saved her pig. She closed her mouth and walked straight past.

There were six riders in all, four of them dressed in the motley remnants of their old regiments. Foot soldiers, by the way they rode. Not very good ones, if the company they kept was any indication. Ragged, scruffy and slouching, rifles slung over their shoulders and knives in their boots.

Sarah might have dismissed them as unimportant if they had been led by anyone but her husband’s cousin, Martin Clarke. She knew better than to think Martin wished her well. Martin wished her to the devil, just as she wished him.

A thin, middling man with sparse sandy hair and bulging eyes, Martin had the harried, petulant air of an ineffectual law clerk. Sarah knew better. Martin was as ineffectual as the tides.

Just as Sarah knew he would, he trotted past the great front door and toward the outbuildings where he knew he could find her at this time of day. She stood where she was, egg pail in hand, striving for calm. Martin was appearing far too frequently lately.

Damn you, Boswell, she thought, long since worn past propriety. How could you have left me to face this alone?

“Martin,” she greeted Boswell’s cousin as he pulled his horse to a skidding halt within feet of her. She felt sorry for the horse, a short-boned bay that bore the scars of Martin’s spurs.

“Sarah,” Martin snapped in a curiously deep voice.

He did not bow or tip his hat. Martin knew exactly what she was due and wasn’t about to let her forget it. Sarah wished she had at least had the chance to tidy her hair before facing off with him. She hated feeling at a disadvantage.

“Lady Clarke,” the sixth man said in his booming, jovial voice.

Sarah’s smile was genuine for the Squire, who sat at Martin’s left on an ungainly-looking sorrel mare. “Squire,” she greeted him, walking up to rub the horse’s nose. “You’ve brought our Maizie to call, have you? How are you, my pretty?”

Pretty was not really a word one should use for Maizie. As sturdy as a stone house, she was all of seventeen hands, with a Roman head and a shambling gait. She was also the best hunter in the district, and of a size to carry Squire’s massive girth.

Maizie’s arrival was met by a thud and a long, mournful squeal from the pig pen.

The squire laughed with his whole body. “Still in love, is he?”

Sarah grinned back. “Caught him not an hour ago trying to sneak over for a tryst.”

The squire chuckled. “It’s good someone loves my girl,” he said with an affectionate smack to the horse’s neck. Maizie nuzzled Sarah’s apron and was rewarded with an old fall apple. Willoughby sounded as if he were dying from anguish.

“Thank you for the ale you sent over, Squire,” Sarah said. “It was much enjoyed. Even the dowager had a small tot after coming in from one of her painting afternoons.”

“Excellent,” he said with a big smile. “Excellent. Everyone is well here, I hope? Saw Lady Clarke and Mizz Fitchwater out along the Undercliff with their paints and hammers. They looked to be in rude health.”

Sarah smiled. “They are. I will tell them you asked after them.”

“This isn’t a social call,” Martin interrupted, shifting in his saddle.

Sarah kept her smile, even though just the sight of Martin sent her heart skidding around in dread. “To what do I owe the honor then, gentlemen?”

“Have you seen any strangers around?” the Squire asked, leaning forward. “There’s been some theft and vandalism in the area. Stolen chickens and the like.”

“Oh, that,” Sarah said with a wave of her hand. “Of course. He’s taken my eggs.”

Martin almost came off his horse. “Who?”

Shading her eyes with her hand, Sarah smiled up at him. “Who? Don’t you mean what? Unless you name your foxes.”

That obviously wasn’t the answer he’d been looking for. “Fox? Bah! I’m talking about a man. Probably one of those damned thievin’ soldiers preying on good people.”

Did he truly not notice how his own men scowled at him? Men who undoubtedly had wandered the roads themselves? Well, Sarah thought, if she had had any intention of acknowledging her surprise visitor, Martin’s words disabused her of the notion. She wouldn’t trust Napoleon himself to her cousin’s care.

“Not unless your soldier has four feet and had a long bushy tail,” she said, genially. “But I doubt he would fit the uniform.”

The squire, still patting his Maizie, let out a great guffaw. “We’ll get your fox for you, Lady Clarke,” he promised. “Not great hunt country here. But we do. We do.”

“Kind of you, Squire. I am certain the girls will be grateful. You know how fatched Mary and Martha can get when their routine is disturbed.”

“Martha….” Martin was getting redder by the minute. “Why haven’t I heard about this? You boarding people here? What would Boswell say?”

Sarah tilted her head. “I imagine he’d say that he was glad for the eggs every morning for breakfast, Martin.”

For a second she thought Martin might have a seizure, right there on his gelding. “You’re not going to get away with abusing your privilege much longer, missy,” he snapped. “This land is….”

“Boswell’s,” she said flatly. “Not yours until we know he won’t come back.”

“Bah!” Martin huffed. “It’s been almost fourth months, girl. If he was coming back, he’d be here.”

Sarah stood very still, grief and guilt swamping even the fear. Instinctively her gaze wandered over to what she called Boswell’s Arbor, a little sitting area by the cliff with a lovely view of the ocean. Boswell had loved sitting there, his gaze fixed on the horizon. He had planted all the roses and fitted the latticework overhead.

His roses, though, were dying. His entire estate was dying, and Sarah was no longer certain she could save it.

“He will be back, Martin,” she said, throwing as much conviction as she could into her voice. “You’ll see. Men are returning from Belgium all the time. The battle was so terrible it will be months yet before we learn the final toll from Waterloo.”

It was the Squire who brought their attention back with a sharp ‘harrumph’.

Sarah blushed. “My apologies, Squire,” she said. “You did not come here to be annoyed by our petty grievances. As for your question, I have seen no one here.”

“We’ve also been told to keep an eye out for a big man,” Squire said. “Red hair. Scottish. Don’t know that it’s the same man that’s raiding the henhouses, but you should keep an eye out anyway.”

Sarah was already shaking her head. After all, she hadn’t seen anything but a shadow. “Wasn’t it a Scot who tried to shoot Wellington? I saw the posters in Lyme Regis. I thought he was dead.”

The squire shrugged. “We’ve been asked to make sure.”

“I’m sure you won’t mind if we search the property,” Martin challenged.

He was already dismounting. Sarah’s heart skidded, and her palms went damp. “Of course not,” she said with a faint wave. “Start with the house. I believe the dowager will be just as delighted to see you as the last time you surprised her.”

Martin was already on the ground and heading toward the house. With Sarah’s words, he stopped cold. Sarah refused to smile, even though the memory of Lady Clarke’s last harangue still amused her.

“Just the outbuildings,” he amended, motioning to the men to follow him.

Sarah was a heartbeat shy of protesting when she heard it. Willoughby. The thudding turned into a great crash and the heartfelt squeals turned into a near-scream of triumph. She turned just in time to jump free as the pig came galloping across the yard, six hundred pounds of unrestrained passion headed straight for Squire’s horse.

Unfortunately, Martin was standing between Willoughby and his true love. And Sarah sincerely doubted that the pig could see the man in his headlong dash to bliss.

Sarah called out a warning. Martin stood frozen on the spot, as if staring down the spectre of death. Howling with laughter, the Squire swung Maizie about.

It was all over in a moment. Squire leapt from Maizie and gave her a good crack on the rump. With a flirtatious toss of the head and a whinny, the mare took off down the lane, Willoughby in hot pursuit. But not before the boar had run right over Martin, leaving him flat in the mud with hoofprints marching straight up his best robin’s egg superfine and white linen. Sarah tried so hard to keep a straight face. The other men weren’t so restrained, slapping legs and laughing at the man who’d brought them as they swung their horses around and charged down the lane after the pig.

Sarah knew that she was a Christian, because she bent to help Boswell’s unpleasant relation off the ground. “Are you all right, cousin?”

Bent over and clutching his ribs, Martin yanked his arm out of her grasp. “You did that on purpose, you bitch.”

The Squire frowned. “Language, sir. Ladies.”

Martin waved him off as well. “This is no lady, and you know it, Bovey.  Why my cousin demeaned himself enough to marry a by-blow…”

Sarah laughed. “Why, for her dowry, Martin. You know that. Heavens, all of Dorset knows that.”

The only thing people didn’t know was the identity of her real father, who set up the trust for her. But then, knowing had been no benefit to her.

“What Dorset knows,” Squire said, his face red, “is that you’ve done Boswell proud. Even kind to his mother, and I have to tell you, ma’am, that be no easy feat.”

Sarah spared him another smile. “Why, thank you, Squire. That is kind of you.”

The Squire grew redder. Martin harrumphed.

“Climb on your horse, Clarke,” Squire said. “It’s time we left Lady Clarke to her work. We certainly haven’t made her day any easier.”

Martin huffed, but he complied. He was still brushing off his once-pristine attire when the soldiers, bantering like children on a picnic, returned brandishing Willoughby’s lead, the pig following disconsolately behind.

With a smile for the ragged soldier who’d caught him, Sarah held her hand out for the rope. “Thank you, Mr…”

The man, lean and lined from sun and hardship, ducked his head. “Greggins, ma’am. Pleasure. Put up a good fight, ‘e did.”

She chuckled. “I know all too well, Mr. Greggins.” Turning, she smiled up at her neighbor. “Thank you, Squire. I am so sorry you had to send Maizie off.”

The squire grinned at her, showing his gap teeth and twinkling blue eyes. “Aw, she’ll be at the bottom of the lane, right enough. She knows to get out of yon pig’s way.”

Tipping his low-crowned hat to Sarah, he turned to help Martin to his horse. Sarah waved farewell and tugged a despondent Willoughby back to his pen. She was just pulling the knot tight when she caught sight of that shadow again, this time on her side of the coop. Casting a quick glance to where the Squire had just mounted behind the pig-catching soldier Greggins, she bent over Willoughby.

“I wouldn’t show myself yet if I were you,” she murmured, hoping the shadow heard her. “And if it was you who let Willoughby go a moment ago, I thank you.”

“A search would have been…problematic,” she heard, and a fresh chill chased down her spine. There was a burr to his voice. A Scot, here on the South Dorset coast. Now, how frequently could she say she’d seen that?

“You didn’t by any chance recently shoot at someone, did you?” she asked.

As if he would tell the truth, if he were indeed the assassin.

“No’ who you think.”

She should turn around this minute and call for help. Every instinct of decency said so. But Martin was the local magistrate, and Sarah knew how he treated prisoners. Even innocent ones. Squeezing her eyes shut, Sarah listened to the jangle of the troop turning to leave.

“Give you good day, Lady Clarke,” the Squire said, and waved the parade off down the drive.

Martin didn’t follow right away. “This isn’t over, missy,” he warned. “No thieving by-blow is going to keep me from what is mine. This land belongs to me now, and you know it. By the time you let go, it will be useless.”

Not unless the shingle strand sinks into the ocean, she thought dourly. The only thing Martin wanted from Fairbourne were hidden coves where boats could land brandy.

Sarah sighed, her mind made up. She simply could not accommodate Martin in this or anything. Straightening, she squarely faced the dyspeptic man where he stiffly sat his horse. “Fairbourne is Boswell’s,” she said baldly. “Until he returns, I am here to make sure it is handed back into his hands in good heart. Good day, Martin.”

Martin opened his mouth to argue, and then saw the Squire and other men waiting for him. He settled for a final, “Bah!” and dug his heels into his horse. They were off in a splatter of mud.

Sarah stood where she was until she could no longer hear them. Then, with a growing feeling of inevitability, she once more climbed past the broken pigpen and approached the shadow at the back of the coop.

And there he was, a very large red-headed man slumped against the stone wall. He was even more ragged than the men who had ridden with Martin, his clothing tattered and filthy, his hair a rat’s nest, his beard bristling and even darker red than his hair. His eyes were bright, though, and his cheeks flushed. He held his hand to his side, and he was listing badly.

Sarah crouched down next to him to get a better look, and saw that his shirt was stained brown with old blood. His hands, clutched over his left side, were stained with new blood, which meant that those bright eyes were from more than intelligence. Even so, Sarah couldn’t remember ever seeing a more compelling, powerful man in her life.

“Hello,” she greeted him, her own hands clenched on her thighs. “I assume I am speaking to the Scotsman for whom everyone is looking.”

His grin was crooked and under any other circumstance, would have been endearing. “Och, lassie, nothin’ gets past ye.”

“I thought you were dead.”

He frowned. “Wait a few minutes,” he managed. “I’ll see what I can do.”

And then, as gracefully as a sailing vessel slipping under the waves, he sank all the way to his side and lost consciousness.

Copyright © 2013 by Eileen Dreyer.

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EDAUTHOR INFO: 2012 sees Eileen enjoying critical acclaim for her first foray into historical romance, the Drake’s Rakes series, which follow the lives of a group of British aristocrats who are willing to sacrifice everything to keep their country safe. After publication of the first trilogy in the series, she has just signed for the next trilogy, following the graduates of the aptly named Last Chance Academy, who each finds herself crossing swords with Drake’s Rakes. Eileen spent time not only in England and Italy, but India to research the series (it’s a filthy job, but somebody has to do it).

A retired trauma nurse, Eileen lives in her native St. Louis with her husband, children, and large and noisy Irish family, of which she is the reluctant matriarch. She has animals but refuses to subject them to the limelight.

Dreyer won her first publishing award in 1987, being named the best new Contemporary Romance Author by RT Bookclub. Since that time she has also garnered not only five other writing awards from RT, but five RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, which secures her only the fourth place in the Romance Writers of America prestigious Hall of Fame. Since extending her reach to suspense, she has also garnered a coveted Anthony Award nomination.

A frequent speaker at conferences, she maintains membership in Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and, just in case things go wrong, Emergency Nurses Association and International Association of Forensic Nurses.

Eileen is an addicted traveler, having sung in some of the best Irish pubs in the world, and admits she sees research as a handy way to salve her insatiable curiosity. She counts film producers, police detectives and Olympic athletes as some of her sources and friends. She’s also trained in forensic nursing and death investigation, although she doesn’t see herself actively working in the field, unless this writing thing doesn’t pan out.

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‘Once a Rake’ by Eileen Dreyer

OAR EDSTORY: All he wants is her help . . .

Colonel Ian Ferguson may be a rake, but he’s no traitor. Accused of trying to kill the Duke of Wellington, the disgraced Scotsman is now a fugitive–from the law, the army, and the cunning assassin who hunts him. Wounded and miles from his allies, Ian finds himself at the mercy of an impoverished country wife. The spirited woman is achingly beautiful . . . and hiding some dangerous secrets of her own.

All she needs is his heart . . .

She was a child nobody wanted. Now for Lady Sarah Clarke, holding on to her vanished husband’s crumbling estate is her final chance to earn respectability. She knows that hiding the devastatingly handsome Ferguson will jeopardize her home. Common sense demands that she turn him in. But a single, delirious kiss shatters her resolve . . . and awakens a passion that neither of them can escape.

REVIEW: Lady Sarah Clarke, “born on the other side of the blanket,” is the wife of Lord Boswell Clarke, who has recently signed up to join up with the military and fight in the war.  As she has not heard from him in months, many assume that he has been killed.  Sarah’s day consists of working to care for her husband’s crumbling estate, Fairbourne, along with his self-centered mother and sister.  With very little money to be had, this is a constant trial that has fallen completely on Sarah’s shoulders.  Her husband’s cousin and neighbor, Martin Clarke, believes that Boswell is dead and wants Sarah out so he can claim the estate for his own.

Colonel Ian Ferguson is a Scottish man who has distinguished himself in the war but now stands accused of trying to assassinate the Duke of Wellington.  Wounded, he is on the run and finds himself at the Clarke estate.  When Sarah discovers him, she cannot help but hide him and treat his severe wound. 

As Sarah and Ian get to know one another, attraction follows and they realize they cannot be parted.

Eileen Dreyer has written a story of love and commitment that completely tests all the mettle that the characters possess.

I loved this book and the story of Sarah and Ian will leave you sighing. 

Connie for b2b

*ARC provided by the author.

MEL’S THOUGHTS: Here’s another book that deserves our two reviews,

I’m a huge fan of this author and this series. I’m probably the only one that liked Diccan, one of Drake’s Rakes in ‘Never a Gentleman’. The reason behind it was the great characterizations this author does. Her heroes are complex. They’re not one-dimensional and there to ‘look and act macho’ but each one is unique in looks, his specialty and his background. They are a diverse group of men that are loyal to their King, Country and family.

And as for the heroine of this book, Ms. Dreyer did an outstanding job in paring this strong, willful and independent woman with one of her best heroes, Ian Ferguson.

Once more Ms. Dreyer gave me a well written plot, sensual romance and fast pace. Loved it!

*ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

‘A Man to Die For’ by Eileen Dreyer

BOOK BLURB: St. Louis Trauma nurse Casey McDonough thinks her life is interesting enough. Her best friend still drops acid, her ex-husband is a cross-dressing psychiatrist, and her mother has turned the third floor of the family home into the Chapel of Eternal Vigilance.

Then, things begin to really go wrong when OB/Gyn Dr. Dale Hunsacker arrives. Handsome, wealthy and charismatic, the good doctor is enchanting the patients of the St. Louis hospital. But, Cassy believes he is a serial killer. And the only person who takes her seriously, is Hunsacker himself.

Caught in a spiral of suspicion and intimidation, Casey approaches ex-Marine, ex-Jesuit homicide sergeant Jack Scanlan for help. All she has are hunches for proof, but she’ll do anything to stop the monster walking the halls of her hospital.

EXCERPT:

“Control your impulses, her mother had always said. Stifle your urges, the church agreed. She should have listened. The next time she had an urge like this one, she was going to lock herself in a closet until it went away.

“Honey, why are we here?”

“I have to make a stop before I take you home, Mom.”

A stop. She had to report a crime. Several crimes. That wasn’t exactly a run to the local Safeway for deodorant.

Gripping her purse in one hand and her mother in the other, Casey McDonough approached the St. Louis City Police Headquarters like a penitent approaching the gates of purgatory. It seemed amazing, really. Casey had been born no more than fifteen miles away, but she’d never visited this place before. She’d never even known precisely where it was.

A stark block of granite that took up the corner of Clark and Tucker, the headquarters did nothing to inspire comfort. Brass grillwork protected massive front doors and encased  the traditional globe lamps that flanked it. Unmarked police cars and crime scene vans hugged the curb. Police in uniform or windbreakers and walkie-talkies hovered near the front door, chatting among themselves. Civilians edged by, sensing their own intrusion, much the way they would enter her hospital.

Casey didn’t want to be here. If she could have, she would have approached her friends on the county police force instead. She would have pulled one of them aside when they’d come into her emergency room and proposed her theory in a way that could be considered an inside joke instead of an accusation.

“Say, Bert, what would you think if I said there’s something just a little more sinister than fee-splitting going on around here? What if I told you that some of the bad luck around this place is actually connected? And not just because I know all the people involved, either.”

Bert would laugh and deflect her fears with common sense, and the issue would have gone no further.

Only none of the crimes Casey suspected had actually happened in the county. Bert wouldn’t know anything about them. He couldn’t do her any good. If she wanted any relief from the suspicions that had been building over the last few weeks like a bad case of indigestion, she was going to have to find it with the city cops. Cops she didn’t know. Cops who didn’t know her.

Casey pulled on the heavy glass-and-brass door and winced at its screech of protest. It sounded as if it resented her intrusion. The way everybody else ignored the noise, the door must have been objecting for years.

Inside, the foyer was a high square of marble, cool and hushed. Casey held the heavy door open for her mother to follow inside. Sketching a quick sign of the cross, the little woman instinctively reached for a holy water font.

“It’s not a church,” Casey reminded her.

It was hell.”

FEATURED AUTHOR: Eileen Dreyer

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When It’s Not Okay to Say ‘Okay’ by Eileen Dreyer

I was never that interested in history. Literature, sure. Theater, movies, baseball, geography. I adored geography, because I wanted to go to all those places on the map.  But I didn’t particularly care about who’d gone there before me, because, frankly, history was a bore. I mean, come on. 1066 The Battle of Hastings. 1215 The Magna Carta. Joan of Arc was somewhere after that, and later was the French Revolution, and a king and queen lost their heads. Interesting, I’m sure to them and the French, but I was in St. Louis (yeah, okay, named after a French king. But by the time I lived there, the only thing that was still French was Mardi Gras, and that was just an excuse to drink). As far as I was concerned, none of that made any difference in my life.

Two things radically changed my outlook. When I was a senior in high school, we took a class trip to New York, where I saw a musical that turned my disdain for history on its head. 1776. Suddenly the Revolution wasn’t just dates and catch phrases (Really? The most important thing about the first successful revolution against a king was “Give me liberty or give me death?” Yawn). But suddenly in the course of two hours, it was  like Wizard of Oz. I went from black-and-white Kansas to…well, Oz. Suddenly history wasn’t dry numbers and factoids, it was people. People who had lives, wishes, dreams, demons. They had a lot at stake, and staked it all for an ideal. They didn’t simply hand out the Declaration of Independence like a class test. The squabbled and fought and negotiated and compromised. They dreamed and they despaired. And sitting in that darkened theater as John Adams sang “Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?” I wanted to shout, “Yes!” Because he wasn’t just a marble head anymore. He was a loving, brilliant, irascible, irritating, pedant of a man who helped chivvy independence along like a child learning to ride a bike. He went from a mostly forgotten ex-president to one of my real heroes.

The second thing that happened was Roberta Gellis. She was the first historical romance writer I read. She introduced me to the thrilling, compelling, delicious, myriad world of history. She colored in all the places 1776 hadn’t. She and all her compatriots who wrote that first generation of historical romance, when history was integral to the plot rather than the wallpaper on the room, helped incite my obsession with the real drama and delight of the people who came before me. I would read one of her books and then three others to fill in the bits and pieces she’d cast out like a trail of bread crumbs. I now know enough about Eleanor of Aquitaine to write my own book, and it wouldn’t have happened without romance. I know the Tudors and the Indian account of the Raj, and the spirituality of Native Americans

The problem is that I became so enamored of great historical romance, that I became impatient with badly researched history. Yes, I admit it. I am a member of the Anachronism Club. Nothing sets me off faster than seeing a heroine in 1815 whose father made his fortune in steamboats on the Mississippi, or a hero who speaks as if he’d been a cast member of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

I feel that as an author, I owe my best effort to my readers. I’m asking them to enter into my world, and that entails trust. If I then break out of that world, by word, deed, or design, I have just broken faith. I just showed a level of disdain for my readers that is unforgivable.

One of the reasons I enjoy historical settings is the challenge of working around the very different mores of the day to help my heroine triumph. Just blithely ignoring the very real social strictures of a time period is cheating. It’s lazy. And it’s annoying.

Now, I know that mistakes will inevitably be made. I know that not all research can be verified as well as we’d like. Sources argue on pertinent facts and the author has to take her best shot (some day sit in on a discussion on the Beau Monde loop. You’ll have a whole new respect for detail). But I don’t know any expert who would think that a 17th century heroine would say, “Get over it,” or an English hero spend his 1813 honeymoon in Paris going to see Michelangelo’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre (I actually read that very line). That is just an insult to me as a reader.

Do I go overboard at times? Probably. But it isn’t that hard to double check the facts. Cameras weren’t available in 1801, nor were scullery maids able to pass for princesses. And one of the most egregiously ignored facts, a man cannot marry his sister-n-law. Ever. Ever. Until the 1940s, it was considered incest under canon law.

And the historical rule that is broken most often, aristocrats did not speak like middle class Americans. I read a book where a duke and duchess keep saying, “Okay,” and it’s like a case of poison ivy. Just place that wording Maggie Smith’s mouth in Downton Abbey and you’ll realize how ridiculous it is. Especially in a formal situation.

I’m forever double-checking my dialogue. If nothing else, Merriam-Webster on line has a general date of usage. If the word comes from the 15th century, it’s a cinch it’s usable. But if the first recorded use of a word is the twentieth century, and in America, then chances are no starched up matron would be caught dead with it on her tongue (one I admit I’ve had to rigorously police myself is psychiatric terms. I have to keep reminding myself that until Freud, nobody was neurotic).

Yes, it’s nit picky. But nobody is going to do that job for us anymore. Especially with the advent of independent publishing, we authors must police our research. And even if we’re only using it as lovely wallpaper in a costume drama, the point is that the reader has picked up your book because it is set during another historical period. It actually has to read as if it were.

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Come July 20, 2012, Eileen will be releasing for the first time in ebook form, five of her suspense books, and first up will be ‘A Man To Die For’.

To connect to Eileen, please click on any bottom links or on her photo; to buy her books, click on their covers.

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AUTHOR GIVEAWAY!

Tell us your thoughts on this topic!

Eileen will giveaway, to one commenter one of these:

A Gift Card to either Amazon or B&N!

WAIT! That’s not all!!! Get ready for….

Release Day Party!!

On July 3rd, Eileen’s publisher is throwing her a party on Twitter celebrating the ebook release of the latest book in the Drake’s Rakes series, IT BEGINS WITH A KISS!! From 11 am to 2 pm EST stop by Eileen’s twitter page to post a comment and ask questions. Be sure to use the hashtag #rakeskiss and be entered in drawings for tons of prizes. Make sure to follow Eileen on twitter @eileendreyer.

Then the Release Day Party will continue that night on the Drake’s Rakes Facebook page from 9 pm to 11 pm EST. Be sure to Like the Drake’s Rakes FB page before the party gets started. You don’t want to miss out on some of the great prizes and giveaways!!

‘It Begins with a Kiss’ by Eileen Dreyer

STORY: Fiona Ferguson wants nothing more than to flee Miss Lavinia Chase’s Finishing School. Rather than the safe haven the girls’ families presume it to be, the school is intent on making its charges conform to the rules-by any means necessary. For Fiona, the only thing worse than staying at the dreaded “Last Chance Academy” would be abandoning the friends she’s made there. But when she receives word from home that her sister is in trouble, Fiona plots her escape . . .

A devoted spy in service to the Crown, Alex Knight takes his duties very seriously. His latest assignment-to ensure that the incorrigible Fiona remain safely at school-turns out to be far more of a challenge than he expected. After matching wits with the fiery Scottish beauty, he learns that the greatest danger of all . . . begins with a kiss.

REVIEW: I’m not sure about you, but I love, LOVE Prologues, and this novelette fills this category to a tee in regards to the upcoming new series from Ms. Dreyer.

She cleverly introduces her next three heroines, and the hero of her upcoming full length novel here, and gives me a cliffhanger that made my mouth form an “OH” and “MY’ and “GOD”!

Let me back up a bit and tell you that the characters of all the girls introduced will peak your interest; the setup, of all of them having resided at the Last Chance Academy for some time, and the abuse they endured that bonded them for a life time, was a great teaser for me. No way will I pass up on finding out more about that bond; about that friendship which will be as much of a story as the HEA’s from each girl.

I loved where this story left off, and my imagination soared, which makes the anticipation of Alex’s and Fiona’s HEA that much sweeter.

Ms. Dreyer’s female characters are strong, witty and always too smart for their own good, so Fiona promises to be one of them; while Alex I expect will be Alpha, with shades of Beta and those are heroes to die for.

To tell you more would spoil this short, sweet and well written intro to this new series that I enjoyed a lot.

*To buy this book, click on the cover*

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

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

‘A Lady’s Revenge’ by Tracey Devlyn

Let me start off by saying that I might be one of those readers that appreciates a tortured hero story more often than not. Tracey Devlyn’s debut without a doubt qualifies as one of the darker stories I’ve read, and it leaves me conflicted as to why, in the end I didn’t connect to the heroine as much as I should have…

From the first page, I had the feeling that I was missing something of great importance…like the start of the story. Don’t misunderstand. The story’s beginning is great. The hero is in France with his friend looking to rescue a fellow spy, this infamous Raven and they’re in this dark place; the heart of the enemy’s torture chambers and you can smell the stench of the place as the author is very good at conveying it to us, and the suspense is in itself tortures to the readers. The author was well on her way of telling me a great story, yet I felt like I was dropped in the middle of it, and not taking the journey from the start.

Guy Trevelyan in rescuing Raven finds that the woman he loved ever since his childhood has become a spy and is now laying hurt and broken in this chamber of hrrors.

As the story develops, we find out the reason behind our heroines choice to become a spy and why she is reluctant to surrender to her feelings for Guy. We also get introduced to some nasty characters and one in particular, the nefarious French agent who is obsessed with Cora and as long as he’s alive, our heroine will never have peace.

Again, I’m not sure what kept me from enjoying this story, as much as I should. It had all the right ingredients. It was set in 1804 Regency and my favorite era; it had a hero to die for and a tortured heroine; passion and love were great so what went wrong?

Was it too much of reality even for me? The scenes in which the author portrays the brutality and pain were very real and Cora goes through much of physical abuse and that just might have been a bit too much even for me to read through. Or was it her stubbornness that was off putting to me? It has been a month now since I’ve read it and after all this time, I can remember the characters, the scenes and the places yet I still feel disconnect and I can’t really blame the author as she has written a good story. It moved at a slower pace than I would have liked, but the plot as predictable as it was, kept me interested and reading.

If you’re looking for a light read, this one is not for you. However, if you’re looking for something that’s dark and deep with lots of shades of gray, this just might be a read for you. In the end I’m giving this read my four quills for its writing alone.

*This review posted on Romantic Crush Junkies Reviews eZine*

Shana Galen’s Lady Smythe Visits b2b!

Ms. Friedman: I’m humbled by your visit today and would like to thank you for finding the time in your busy schedule to do so, Lady Smythe.

Lady Smythe: Thank you so much for inviting me, Ms. Friedman. I don’t usually have time for social calls. It’s so lovely to chat.

Ms. Friedman: Now, the questions I have are quite personal. Oh my, I just noticed you scratching the tip of your nose…Let me hasten and say, in no way are you obligated to answer them if you choose not to. However, you do like danger, so may I go ahead?

Lady Smythe: Oh, you know about the scratching my nose thing, do you? It’s my intuition. I suppose I like a good bit of danger now and then. You may go ahead.

Ms. Friedman: What childhood memory brings a smile to your face or makes you tear up?

Lady Smythe: Climbing trees with my dear older brother Henry. We were so close when we were children, and I was a bit of a tomboy. He’s dead now—killed by a double agent—so all of my memories of Henry are very dear. And double agents should watch out (twirls knife).

Ms. Friedman: Do you have a wish or a dream unfulfilled and what is it?

Lady Smythe: I would love to be a mother. I’ve not been able to carry a child to term, and I desperately want a baby of my own. I wouldn’t mind a hiatus from dodging rival agents and pistol shots if it meant I could spend time holding a sweet baby boy or girl. I do have hope for the future.

Ms. Friedman: Your greatest accomplishment and regret thus far is….

Lady Smythe: My greatest accomplishment is becoming an agent for the Barbican group. It’s an élite group of spies for the Crown, and I’m honored to be one of the few, if not the only, female agent. I do regret keeping my identity as Agent Saint a secret from my husband, Lord Smythe. Living a secret life does tend to cause marital problems.

Ms. Friedman: Your favorite scent and mode of transportation?

Lady Smythe: My favorite scent is citrus. I adore oranges. The smell is so refreshing. As far as transportation, I prefer a sporty gig or a flashy phaeton. I like to drive fast!

Ms. Friedman: And now a question that would make all young debutantes blush, but never the less all want to know: Silk or cotton? Outdoors or indoors? Top or bottom?

Lady Smythe: Oh, my! Those are very personal questions. But I like you, Ms. Friedman, so I am going to answer.

Silk, of course.

Outdoors. If you’ve read Lord and Lady Spy, you know Lord Smythe and I have a rather racy scene in his brother’s garden.

Why not top and then bottom? Or bottom and then top? I do tend to enjoy my lovemaking a little bit wild.

Ms. Friedman: Lady Smythe, it was an honor to have made your acquaintance through Mrs. Galen and I’m looking forward to many years of Mrs. Galen’s retelling of your adventures. Please be sure to convey my regards to your husband, Lord Smythe.

Lady Smythe: I will, of course. Thank you so much for having me. I will have Mrs. Galen stop by later today. I believe she is offering a signed copy of Lord and Lady Spy to one person who comments today.

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For all you bookworms out there, please enjoy the book trailer and I’d like to know:

Would you like it if Lord and Lady Smythe’s Adventure’s were serialized?

 

 

Shana Galen in her own words::

“I’m the author of numerous adventurous, romantic Regency historicals, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne’s Bride. My books have been sold in Brazil, Russia, and the Netherlands and featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. I taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston’s inner city.

Now I write full-time. I’m happily married to an incredibly supportive man I like to call Ultimate Sportsfan, and I have a beautiful daughter and a very spoiled cat.”

To contact the author, please email to: shana@shanagalen.com

September RRAH reviews & October preview…

The last couple of months have been exciting for me, more on a personal level then the professional and I’m hoping October will be tamer. Never the less, as always, a bookworm like me, finds the time to put its nose in a book. For September I have only three books reviewed for Romance Reader At Heart and all three were excellent reads and I highly recommend them.

I’ll start with an author that’s probably familiar to all, Suzanne Enoch and “A MATTER of SCANDAL” which I found just delightful in its entirety! This was such a fast and fun read that I finished it too quickly and then wanted to start over again, because I didn’t want to leave this fun world the author took me in. If you’ve never read Ms. Enoch, you might as well start with this one, and if you have then you know without a doubt what she’s capable of and how much fun you’ll have reading and for that matter re-reading her books!

My next book was as much fun as the first and when I heard that Shana Galen’s “LORD and LADY SPY” is available for review I jumped on it. I’m probably in a minority of people who loved the movie “MR. and MRS. SMITH” so my expectations were very high for this Regency take on it. Boy, oh boy! I was so happy when my expectations were not just met, but surpassed! Ms. Galen is one of those rare breeds of authors that can put forth stories of ‘angst’ and ‘humor’ separately as well as together. I wish the ‘Muse’ never leaves her side! This pair will have you laugh-out-loud and make you tear up to the point that you’ll ask for more! I honestly can say that I wouldn’t mind following their life, and that says a lot for the talent of this young author!

And now I get to tell you about a novel that completely took me by surprise and that is Janet Woods’ “LADY LIGHTFINGERS”. This story made me warm all over. This was a story of a true Heroine and the road to her hero was very romantic and heartwarming, and exciting, and it will make your heart melt. This story is a journey of discovery, determination, independence and perseverance of a girl who knew herself and accepted herself for what she was, yet knew that she could and would be more than what Society dictated. The romance within the novel is sweet rather than spicy hot, and brought to mind Carla Kelly’s novel I recently read that could be put into this category “BEAU CRUSOE”. By the way, for an awesome review of that book, please visit Kathryn and you’ll know what I mean.

And there you have it, my bookworms! Can you believe that October is knocking on our doors already?! This month is full of great authors that will stop by and play with me and I’m beside myself from excitement. We start with Eileen Dreyer on October 3rd, and she’s bringing all her Drake’s Rakes over!

Shana Galen’s Lady Spy was so gracious to agree and stop by on October 10th, and answer a few questions for us, so I hope you’ll stop by as well and meet this hot-tempered and hot-blooded female!

On October 13th Rose Lerner will be here and she’s bringing Solomon and his ‘Lily’, and I can tell you I’m so much looking forward to their visit!

And then Joanna Bourne will be stopping by on October 17th and talk about Adrian/Hawk and I can only bow and say as Wayne and Garth would I’M NOT WORTHY! I’M NOT WORTHY! (For that matter I may as well say that in regards to all my guests for this month!)

To finish off the month I’ve invited someone I never met in ‘real’ life but it seems I’ve known forever! Dare I call her FRIEND?! Is it possible to know someone well even though you never laid eyes on them?! If it is, and I’ll dare, Ashley March is a friend, confidante and an author to look out for and I invite you to come over October 26th and meet her (who knows maybe we could ask Mr. March to accompany her…I hear he’ll have a book soon, too) and maybe tell us about…their projects coming up and their romance!

Until then, happy reading and happy upcoming Holidays if I miss you in the next couple of months!

Debut Author Stefanie Sloane

This just isn’t fair! Chicago just had snow yesterday, and now we’re going through a downpour that will last us TWO days! I also can’t believe it’s Easter already. It certainly doesn’t feel like it. I left the house this morning and it was 35! I’m back to my winter coat and gloves! This sucks! The only good thing about this: I have the next three days off-with pay. What can I say? My boss ROCKS! The bad thing: spring cleaning. Has to be done, so I better get on it, but I’m betting I’ll find some time to read. I always do :)

Speaking of, in doing some more of my RRAH reviews I’ve come across a new author, Stefanie Sloane. She Debuts next month with her first book in Regency Rogues Series, with “The Devil in Disguise” which I reviewed for RRAH. By now you all know that when I stumble on to a good book/author, and ESPECIALY a good début author, nothing will stop me in spreading the word.

This author just blew me away with the books that I’ve read so far. Everything in them was exceptional and I just could not believe that she’s not written before. In the first book and Iron Will’s story she introduces us to the group of young men that belong to The Young Corinthian Gentlemen’s Club,  This was not your ordinary club and its members were titled (and not so titled) men of various skills which comes very handy when conducting their secret affairs. The man that’s in charge of this operation is Carmichael (hoping for his story, as his voice is strong through both books, so far), a very, very intriguing fellow. Every character has been developed with utmost care and so vivid that will feel like they’re right in front of you. What I’m most impressed is Ms. Sloane’s way with words, specifically the dialogue which is very witty and perfectly paced. She gives us enough tidbits hooking you into eagerly awaiting the next instalment, and that is a pure gift only a few authors posses. Both books were a treat from start to finish.  Ms. Sloane has created a wonderful world of intrigue, love, and adventure that I’ll be sure to follow. Welcome to my Keeper Shelf, Ms. Sloane!

Book Trailer

“The Devil in Disguise” opens the series with “Iron Will”.

Clairemont, is a wicked rake with little regard for society—a most unlikely suitor for the prim and proper Lady Lucinda Gray. But his latest assignment for the Young Corinthians, an elite spy organization, involves protecting her from a kidnapping plot and to do this, the notorious “Iron Will” must get close to Lucinda, and convince her that he’s a man worthy of her attention. It is a simple enough task to use his devilish charm to seduce her, but William never would have guessed that he’d become enthralled by the lovely Lady Grey—or that he’d lose his own heart in the bargain.

Beautiful and fiercely intelligent, Lucinda has managed to gracefully sidestep even the most persistent suitors. Until the Duke of Clairemont, that is. His rugged features, sinfully sensuous mouth, and piercing eyes are as alluring as the champion thoroughbred he tantalizingly offers in exchange for the honor of courting her, and she finds it hard to resist either temptation. The feelings he stirs in her both excite and arouse, urging her on despite the very real danger he represents. But when the truth is revealed, will Lucinda risk her heart and her life for a chance at everlasting love?

“The Angel in My Arms” is the second book in Regency Rogues Series and the review of it is here.

Injured in the line of duty, Young Corinthian agent Marcus Maxwell, the Earl of Weston, travels to his country estate to recover—or so he believes. His superior’s request that he investigate a smuggling ring run by Napoleon sympathizers seems ridiculous at first, but then becomes all-too threatening as pieces of a treacherous puzzle begin to fall into place. And the most troubling piece of all is Miss Sarah Tisdale, an unconventional beauty whose lust for life is rivaled only by her ability to drive Marcus to distraction. When her family comes under suspicion, Marcus must watch her very, very closely…even if her touch ignites the deep, fiery desire burning just beneath his cool façade.

When it comes to suitors, Sarah’s lush curves and perfectly kissable lips aren’t enough to compensate for her outspoken and willful nature. Sarah’s tasted disappointment before, and she long ago decided that she’s better off without an overbearing husband. Still, flirting with the sinfully handsome Marcus is a pastime worth savoring—even when it leads to wicked pleasures. But when Sarah’s life is in jeopardy, Marcus discovers that the fire between them can no longer be denied—and that he’ll do anything to keep her in his arms.

Third instalment, “The Sinner Who Seduced Me”  is as good as the other two.

A dedicated Young Corinthian agent, James Marlowe accepts the riskiest of missions—go undercover as a traitor and infiltrate a deadly French crime organization. As he heads to Paris, he is prepared for all matters of intrigue—everything but a surprise encounter with the only woman he ever has loved. Five years ago, the exquisitely stunning Clarissa Collins spurned his love, breaking his heart in the process. Now, the accomplished painter is in peril up to her lovely neck and only he can protect her.

Blackmailed by a mysterious man who threatens to destroy her world, Lady Clarissa cannot imagine a crueller fate. Until she is reunited with James Marlowe, the enthralling man who seduced Clarissa body and soul, then betrayed her. Despite the hurt and misunderstanding that still simmers between them, their enduring passion ignites anew, leaving the two breathless with desire and need. With their lives and England’s safety hanging in the balance, they have little choice but to put the past behind them and work together to save everything they hold dear. As they attempt to escape the clutches of the malicious forces holding them, can Clarissa and James find their way back to each other hearts…this time forever?

By browsing her website, I’ve found out that she’s working on three more books in the series, with stories of Lord Dashiell Matthews, the Viscount of Hardwicke, Langdon Young, the Duke of Bedford and his fiancee Lady Sophie Afton. I’m so looking forward to all of them. Here’s what’s coming up in book 4, 5 and 6 of Regency Rouges:

“The Saint Who Stole My Heart” is Dash’s story will be out May 2012.

Lord Dashiell Matthews, the Viscount of Hardwicke, remembers little of Lady Elena Barnes beyond her slight build, mousy character, and bookish ways. Her unavoidable presence at Hardwicke House would be inconvenient, true, but a woman could hardly prove enough of a distraction to interfere with what was the most important case of Dash’s life—ferreting out the monster who’d murdered a dear friend’s mother many year before.

Dash would, of course, live to regret such an assumption.

As for Elena, a trip to London to retrieve a priceless book is troublesome, though not nearly as much as the feelings the viscount inspires in her. His touch elicits feelings from Elena that she’d only ever read about. Her skin tingles. Lord Hardwicke is as handsome as she remembered—actually, more so as he’d grown into his frame in a rather attractive manner—and as dim as a ha’penny tallow. Or is he? The more time Elena spends with the man, the greater her suspicions grow regarding his intellect and just what he might be up to as they’re thrown together in the search for an individual known only as the Rook.

“The Scoundrel Takes a Bride” is Sophie’s story will be out September 2012.

Lady Sophie Afton wants one thing and one thing only: Revenge against the man who ruthlessly killed her mother fifteen years before. Painstakingly preparing herself for the task and awaiting just the right moment, she approaches Lord Carmichael armed with the skills required of a spy and the knowledge that the Corinthians have reached an impasse in her mother’s case despite all the progress made by her dear friend Viscount Hardwicke. The Rook was only the beginning. Another man cut her mother’s throat, but it will take a woman to bring his identity to light.

Carmichael cannot refuse her. And just at the moment Sophie believes she’s on the cusp of experiencing the defining moment of her life, Nicholas Young appears. The younger brother of her betrothed, Nicholas had disappeared years before into the wild of the East Indies, where, if rumors were to be believed, he’d made his fortune through questionable means. In truth, Sophie had given little thought to her childhood friend. Until now. There was no denying that she adored Langdon Young, Nicholas’s older brother and the man she was meant to marry. But the moment Nicholas stalks back into her life, Sophie knows she will never belong to another. His touch inspires desire, his kisses need, and his skin on hers brands Sophie for life.

Aided by her Corinthian counterparts, with Nicholas at her side, Sophie delves into the dangerous depths of the London crime world in search of what she’s longed for her entire life. Or is it? Can revenge mean more than love?

“The Hero Meets His Match” is the sixth and Langdon’s story will be out February 2013.

Langdon Young, the Duke of Bedford, sees little left in life to recommend itself. He’d loved Sophie Afton and she’d left him for his brother, effectively destroying all that was to be Langdon’s future. Such betrayal finds him weighing the worth of what he’s devoted his time to, namely the Young Corinthians—and coming up short. Until his brother and former fiancée ask the impossible of him: Track down the man who had ordered the killing of Sophie’s mother fifteen years before and finally secure the peace they’d all longed for nearly their entire lives.

Langdon cannot deny that he’s wished for nothing else his entire Corinthian career, and so he agrees to undertake the task armed with the little that is known about the man and one strategic ally: the infamous Lord Rupert Crowther, Earl of Blackwell’s widow, Lady Grace. Rumor has it that the lady’s father lost her in a card game to the earl and her fortune had only deteriorated from there. Blackwell was a brute made even more so when he’d lost the entirety of his wealth in various gambling hells across London. He’d turned to nefarious activities as a means of income and ultimately killed himself when the authorities had enough to send him away for good. A small stipend from a distant cousin is all that stands between Lady Grace and the poor house, and so she reluctantly agrees to supply Langdon with all that she knows of the crime organization—which is, as it so happens, a considerable amount due to Lord Blackwell’s dealings with the group.

Lady Grace could not be any more different from Sophie Afton if she tried. Exiled from polite society and wiser than Langdon feels he is himself, the widow is heartbreakingly vulnerable yet surprisingly resilient. Her strength and weakness call to him like a siren’s song, forcing him to realize that he’s never really known love—until now. Lady Grace attempts to resist temptation, having sworn off men forever. But the Duke speaks to her body and mind like no other, urging her to give herself completely to him.

Despite the stalwart support of the Corinthians, Langdon and Grace find themselves caught in a deadly web that threatens to consume them alive. Will they escape to realize the love that can save them both?

BTW: How about those Romance Trading Cards? I LOVE THEM :)

“The Tudor Secret” by C. W. Gortner

STORY: Summer, 1553: Brendan Prescott, an orphan reared in the household of the powerful Dudley family, is brought to court, where he finds himself sent on an illicit mission to King Edward VI’s brilliant, enigmatic sister, Princess Elizabeth.

But soon Brendan is compelled to work as a double agent by Elizabeth’s protector, William Cecil—who promises in exchange to help him unravel the secret of his own mysterious past.

A dark plot swirls around Elizabeth’s quest to unravel the truth about the ominous disappearance of her seriously ill brother, King Edward VI. With only a bold stable boy and audacious lady-in-waiting at his side, Brendan plunges into a ruthless gambit of half-truths, lies, and murder.

REVIEW: I love reading historical fiction, as well as watching it on film, especially the Tudor era. “The Tudor Secret” was my first exposure to C. W. Gortner and I could not be happier with the introduction to this Author.  

For the most part, this is a coming of age story. Brendan is a very young man, more a boy, thrust into the inner circle of King Edward VI’s court which was a place full of intrigue and danger. We find out very early on that Brendan is intelligent and resourceful, and he manages to hold his own. It was such a joy to read, see and feel a twist on a history through Brendan’s eyes. He finds himself a pawn in Dudley’s conspiracies and gets recruited by William Cecil as a spy. The Author pulls in characters like William Cecil and Frances Walsingham to give us a great view of how spying had started. I’ve asked myself if it’s believable that a boy such as Brendan would be able to approach the royals to the extent that he did, and the answer was yes. After all, he was not a stranger to some of the major players, notably Robert Dudley, his brothers  and his entire family. He grew up with those men, and their mother wanted him in court for a specific reason which was THE “mystery” of Brendan’s birth. When all the pieces fall into place, and Brendan confronts Cecil, my heart just brakes as I see him age before my eyes…

“I was beyond reason. An abyss opened beneath my feet, full of horrors I did not want to see……. How could she have left me in ignorance, all these years? How could she have not realized that, in the end, what I did not know might be the one thing used against me?”

 “I thrust out a hand,’No more. Please, I – I cannot bare it.’”

From the first chapter of this book, you can’t help but be drawn to his story. It is one bumpy ride for our Hero and I loved every minute of his journey. I was inside Brendan Prescott’s thoughts; feelings and footsteps as he walked, ran and rode to his destiny. His voice was loud and clear through the book and I got to like the boy and I’m eagerly anticipating watching him grow into his own in the second installment which will be published sometime in 2012.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the secondary characters which are just delightful, fun and witty. I do hope we see more of Peregrine and Fitzpatrick. With them by his side our Hero became more real to us. I’m also looking forward to learning more of “Robin” Dudley, Queen Elizabeth’s Favourite, and often thought to have been her lover. And lets not forget Master Shelton who our Hero needs to face in regards to the “Secret”.

C. W. did an awesome job of incorporating historical facts with fiction of the era. Historical figures of that time were so accurately painted with words that I found myself there in the midst of their intrigues.

If you’re looking for a hot romance, you might be a bit disappointed, but that should not detract you from enjoying this book. Please don’t misunderstand. There is a love story within, lust as well, but not as much as some might prefer.

At the end, the Author gave us a well written, captivating, complicated, enjoyable, richly told and very interesting story which I heartily recommend.