2013 RITA finalists are here!

Congrats[1]

March 26th was a big day for romance authors. On that day some of them got a phone call that rivaled the one big movie stars get right before their big Oscar nomination.  RITA Awards are HUGE in the romance publishing industry and we as readers are always happy when our favorite authors and their books get nominated but especially when they win this prestigious award.

gb dI can’t tell you how thrilled, honored and humbled I was to get a message from one of my favorite authors giving me the news about her book being nominated AND telling me that she thinks I “… deserve to be among the first to post this…” news. ME?! ME?!

And to think I refused to buy her first book because it was all over the blogs with too many five stars to ‘be any good’. I did relent almost a year after ‘The Heir’ came out and thought, if this thing is still getting rave reviews after a year, it possibly is THAT good.

Guess what?! From that point on, Grace Burrowes gained a new fan for ever and ever. I’m thrilled for her, for ‘Darius’ and for the Historical Romance genre [that's mostly what I read], and this year that list is H.U.G.E. and reads as who’s who of Romance Landia!

Check it out!

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie

The Chieftain’s Curse by Frances Housden

The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan

Darius by Grace Burrowes

Dark Angel: A Gothic Fairy Tale by T J Bennett

Duke of Midnight by Elizabeth Hoyt

The Lady and the Laird by Nicola Cornick

Love and Other Scandals by Caroline Linden

The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas

Never Desire a Duke by Lily Dalton

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean

Plaid Tidings by Mia Marlowe

A Rake’s Midnight Kiss by Anna Campbell

The Rogue’s Proposal by Jennifer Haymore

Sins of a Ruthless Rogue by Anna Randol

Sonata for a Scoundrel by Anthea Lawson

The highlighted books and authors are one of my favorites and keepers all the way [oh and I read all of those too]. It looks like I need to read only four books from this list and I better get on it!

I’d like to take this opportunity on behalf of b2b and congratulate all the finalists and wish them luck at this years RWA’s national conference in San Antonio in July as the winners will be announced then. For all the nominees in all the categories, please go here, you may spot one of your favorites :)

I really, really am glad not to have to choose only ONE of these because every one is deserving of the honor to win this award [or at least the ones I've read already!], so judges, good luck! I so do not envy you this task!

Have you read any of these nominated authors and their titles? Which one and what did you think? Are you rooting for specific one? Which one?

b2b would like to celebrate this wonderful group of amazing authors by giving away a signed copy of ‘DARIUS’ by GRACE BURROWES!

Also, here’s a sneak-peak of TRENTON: Lord of Loss. [out on April 1, 2014 just in time for my Birthday!]

gb t

BOOK BLURB: After a short, troubled marriage Trenton Lindsey, heir to the Wilton earldom, finds himself a widower with three small children. His year of mourning leaves him adrift, until his brother Darius forces him to take a repairing lease in Surrey.

Social conventions require Trent to call on his recently widowed neighbor, Elegy Hampton, Lady Rammel, and as friendship develops, consolation of an intimate sort tempts them both.

Just as Trent acknowledges the joy and pleasure to be shared with Ellie, an unseen enemy threatens him and Ellie, too. Can he reach for the love Ellie offers, when someone else is trying to take his life?

EXCERPT: here.

2011-RWA-GraceBurrowes[1]Grace in her own words: I am the sixth out of seven children and was raised in the rural surrounds of central Pennsylvania. Early in life I spent a lot of time reading romance novels and riding a chubby buckskin gelding named—unimaginatively if eponymously—Buck. I also spent a lot of time practicing the piano. My first career was as a technical writer and editor, a busy profession that nonetheless left enough time to read many, many romance novels.

It also left time to grab a law degree through an evening program, produce Beloved Offspring (only one, but she is a lion), and eventually move to the lovely Maryland countryside.

While reading yet still more romance novels (there is a trend here) I opened my own law practice, acquired a master’s degree in Conflict Management (I had a teenage daughter by then) and started thinking about writing…. romance novels. This aim was realized when Beloved Offspring struck out into the Big World a few years ago. (“Mom, why doesn’t anybody tell you being a grown-up is hard?”)

I eventually got up the courage to start pitching manuscripts to agents and editors. The query letter that resulted in “the call” started out: “I am the buffoon in the bar at the RWA retreat who could not keep her heroines straight, could not look you in the eye, and could not stop blushing—and if that doesn’t narrow down the possibilities, your job is even harder than I thought.” (The dear lady bought the book anyway.)

Please feel free to contact me. I love reader mail!

‘The Bridegroom Wore Plaid’ by Grace Burrowes [Audiobook]

TBWP GBBOOK BLURB: In an effort to preserve the family estate, Ian MacGregor, the Earl of Balfour, must marry for money. When a promising match emerges in the form of Genie Daniels, a rich English heiress, Ian begins devising a strategy to woo her.

When he meets Genie’s poor cousin Augusta, he discovers a new avenue to Genie’s heart. But after spending time with Augusta and falling for her charms, Ian begins to question whether or not he’s willing to forfeit his heart to save the family name…

REVIEW: Reading, or in this instance listening to Grace Burrowes story,Emun Elliott and Elaine Cassidy as Ian and Augusta is a pleasure I never want to give up. It really doesn’t matter whose story she tells, because she tells it so well that I’ve become a part of every story and every family she introduces me to.

She creates a world that I as a reader do not want to leave. And now that I can ‘hear’ the words acted out, it’s become even harder to leave that world behind once the story is finished.

I think all her books should be turned into a TV series, and every book she’s written so far, I’ve tried to imagine as a TV movie.

This particular story would have been a pleasure to cast because of so many wonderful characters, especially the MacGregor brothers. Can you imagine all those men in kilts?!

I envision  Emun Elliott and Elaine Cassidy from 2012 TV series ‘Paradise’ as Ian and Augusta. If you haven’t caught this wonderful series yet, please try to catch up with it on You Tube. It really is fascinating.

And here’s my Audible review of ‘The Bridegroom Wore Plaid’.

Enter a headline for your review:

Romantic; Intriguing; Entertaining

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Without a doubt! My main reason for recommending it would be the solid writing of this interesting love story, and the second would be narration. I truly enjoyed Roger Hampton’s narration and talent in covering multitude of characters.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Bridegroom Wore Plaid?

There really are many, but the first one to come to mind is the scene from Chapter One in which Ian is showing Augusta the taps in the water closet. His thoughts about her were very entertaining and revealing, but the narration of that scene was priceless!

“The next few moments happened in a series of impressions.

First came the sensation of the door thwacking into Ian from behind. A stout blow more unexpected than painful, but enough to make him stumble forward.

Then, Fiona’s voice, muttering the Gaelic equivalent of “Beg pardon!” followed by a patter of retreating footsteps.

And then, in Ian’s male brain, the woman with the pretty, anxious eyes became the woman who was soft, lush, and still beneath Ian’s much greater weight.

She didn’t push him away. She didn’t even touch him. The sole indication that his weight was any imposition as he flattened her to the wall, that the impropriety of the moment was any imposition, was her closed eyes.

The final impression threatened to part Ian from his reason: her breasts, heaving against his chest. In preparation for her bath, she’d left off her stays, and the feminine abundance pressed against Ian ambushed his wits.

Shrewd, noticing, and astoundingly well endowed.

When he wanted to press closer, Ian pushed himself away with one hand on the wall and made sure both feeder taps were open. “I do beg your pardon, Miss Merrick.”

 “A mishap only. I stumbled upon leaving the coach.”

She would recall that, while Ian had thought nothing of it. His damned male parts were thinking at a great rate now, and all because…”

What does Roger Hampton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Mr. Hampton did an excellent job with Scottish accent and that’s something I could never manage! I also loved the way he portrayed the villain of the story, Willard Daniels, Baron of Altsax and Gribbony.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, but alas it was not to be. I did listen to it within two days.

Any additional comments?

This book’s well written story and Mr. Hampton’s brilliant interpretation of multiple characters had contributed to some hours of priceless entertainment for me.

TBWP GBUNABRIDGED

by Grace Burrowes

Narrated by Roger Hampton

Series: MacGregor Trilogy, Book 1

Whispersync for Voice: Enabled

‘The Bridegroom Wore Plaid’ by Grace Burrowes

TBWP GBSTORY: In an effort to preserve the family estate, Ian MacGregor, the Earl of Balfour, must marry for money. When a promising match emerges in the form of Genie Daniels, a rich English heiress, Ian begins devising a strategy to woo her.

When he meets Genie’s poor cousin Augusta, he discovers a new avenue to Genie’s heart. But after spending time with Augusta and falling for her charms, Ian begins to question whether or not he’s willing to forfeit his heart to save the family name…

REVIEW: The first line in this novel states the plot perfectly:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single, reasonably good-looking earl not in possession of a fortune must be in want of a wealthy wife.”

Ian MacGregor is a Scottish Earl now head of his family searching for a wealthy heiress to add “coin” to the family coffers.  Therefore, Willard Daniels, Baron of Altsax and Gribbony, brings his wife, daughters, Eugenia and Hester Daniels, his sister-in-law, the widowed Mrs. Julia Redmond and niece, Augusta Merrick to stay as guests at the MacGregor home with an eye toward marrying Eugenia to Ian.  Sharing the MacGregor home are Ian’s brothers, Gilgallon, Connor and his sister, Mary Frances.

As the reader is drawn into the story, we find that sometimes love cannot be arranged because the heart finds its own path.  As the characters get to know one another, attractions build and love finds its way.  But, there is evil in the mix which takes the story on another turn.

I admit that it took me awhile into the book to figure out which character was which.  One of my pet peeves with a novel is trying to “digest” a lot of characters thrown at me right at the beginning of a book.  It’s aggravating and frustrating to keep them separate.  However, Grace Burrowes’s talent at creating real characters and expressing their personalities and feelings once again comes through beautifully in this novel.

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by the author.

‘Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait’ by Grace Burrowes

LJCP GBSTORY: What Lady Jenny wants for Christmas…

For Christmas, soft-spoken Lady Jenny Windham craves the freedom to pursue her artistic ambitions, though it will mean scandalizing her ducal parents and abandoning all hope of a family of her own. She confides her plans to successful artist Elijah Harrison when he’s commissioned to paint a portrait of her small nephews, because assisting Elijah will bring Jenny that much closer to her heart’s desire—won’t it?

…Will break both their hearts.

Elijah Harrison finds in his unlikely assistant not only an inspiring muse and unappreciated talent, but also a lovely and passionate woman. If Elijah supports Jenny’s career, his own professional interests will suffer, but more significantly, he will lose Jenny forever. Both Jenny and Elijah must choose between true love and a lifelong dream

REVIEW: Well, it looks like we’ve come to the end of Grace Burrowes’ Windham series, and I for one am already feeling the loss of this unique, entertaining and fun family.

In ‘Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait’ we get to know better Lady Jenny and we welcome back all the Windham brood as they try in their own way to help their youngest sister to decide which one of her dreams she should embrace.

As usual, Ms. Burrowes continues to successfully mix her flowery prose with unique characters and entertaining and interesting plots.

I loved everything about this story but what impressed the most is how accurately the author portrayed the life of the youngest sibling who albeit loved by everyone in her family, was misunderstood and lonely most of the time. Her talent was obvious, yet it was overlooked because she was a female. This is where our hero comes in handy, and with his help, she is finally ready to accept and embrace her dreams.

Reading Grace Burrowes tales can only be described as being enveloped in your favorite quilt and the feeling of security and warmth, familiarity and love is palpable and ever-present.

To be honest, I’m not ready to say goodbye to any of the Windhams…

I want to bide with them some more, so if this truly is the last of the tales, I’m comforted by knowing that they’re only as far from me as my book shelf.

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

‘Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight’ by Grace Burrowes

STORY: ‘Tis the Season for Scandal…

Years ago Lady Louisa Windham acted rashly on a dare from her brother, and that indiscretion is about to come to light. She knows her reputation will never survive exposure. Just as she’s nearly overwhelmed by her dilemma, Sir Joseph Carrington offers himself to her as a solution…

But Sir Joseph has secrets as well, and as he and Louisa become entangled with each other, their deceptions begin to close in on them both…

REVIEW: It’s no secret to any of you how much I love reading Grace Burrows’ novels. She infuses her love stories with so much heart that once I’m done with the story, I’m already missing the characters. It’s no different with this story. Last Christmas we saw Lady Sophie get her Christmas wish, and this Christmas Lady Louisa gets her Knight.

Sir Joseph Carrington is a retired soldier, a farmer and quotes poetry. He is one of the best Beta heroes around! I loved his mild manner and thoughtfulness. As much as he liked and was attractive to Louisa, he would have never presumed that she would like him back, and especially because of the difference in their stations.

As a favor to her brothers, he takes their place as her protector and that’s where all the trouble starts.

I don’t know about you, but I love when the story ‘breathes’…Like the bottle of a very old wine…you open it, let it breathe…inhale it, and just the aroma gets you intoxicated.

That’s exactly how I felt reading this romance. This is a tender, mature love story of two smart, witty and very normal people and that in itself was so refreshing. The secondary characters were interesting as well, but having their Graces and their children around was such a treat.

There’s a bit of comedy and plenty of romance as our hero quotes his poetry, so get that cup of hot chocolate and spend a day with Lady Louisa and her Knight!

‘Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight’ by Grace Burrowes

BOOK BLURB: ‘Tis the Season for Scandal…

Years ago Lady Louisa Windham acted rashly on a dare from her brother, and that indiscretion is about to come to light. She knows her reputation will never survive exposure. Just as she’s nearly overwhelmed by her dilemma, Sir Joseph Carrington offers himself to her as a solution…

But Sir Joseph has secrets as well, and as he and Louisa become entangled with each other, their deceptions begin to close in on them both…

EXCERPT:

Lady Louisa Windham has come upon a neighbor from Kent, Sir Joseph Carrington, while out for a morning ride in Hyde Park. Sir Joseph is taciturn, honest, and much better company than the bachelors panting to get their hands on her marriage settlements…

###

“Louisa and Joseph reached the point on the bridle path where His Grace had separated from his daughters, and there was no sign of the duke. “Papa has gone off somewhere. If we can’t find him, I’ll simply make my own way home.”

“Not without an escort, Louisa Windham.”

Now Joseph used her given name, now when his tone was as stern and uncompromising as the duke’s when discussing the Regent’s financial excesses. “I did not mean to imply I’d go anywhere in Town without a proper escort. What do you know of Lord Lionel Honiton?”

She lobbed the question at him in retaliation for his peremptory tone, also because he’d give her an honest answer.

“I know he’s vain as a peacock, but other than that, probably no more given to vice than most of his confreres.” This was said with such studied detachment, Louisa’s curiosity was piqued.

“Many young men are vain. Lionel is an attractive man.”

“Perhaps, but you are equally attractive, Louisa Windham, more attractive because you neither drape yourself in jewels nor flaunt your attributes with cosmetics, and I don’t see you lording it over the ladies less endowed than you are.”

He was presuming to scold her, and yet Louisa couldn’t help feeling a backhanded sort of pleasure at the implied compliment. “Beauty fades,” Louisa said. “All beauty. If Lord Lionel is vain, time will see him disabused of his beauty soon enough.” Unbidden, the memory of Sir Joseph reciting Shakespeare came to Louisa’s mind: “That time of year thou mayst in me behold, when yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang on boughs which shake against the cold…”

“So it will.” Sir Joseph held back a branch for Louisa to pass. “While yours will never desert you.”

“Are you attempting flattery before breakfast, Sir Joseph?”

His lips quirked up at her question, a fleeting, blink-and-she’d-miss-it suggestion of humor. “I am constitutionally incapable of flattery. You are honest, Louisa Windham, loyal to your family, and possessed of sufficient courage to endure many more social Seasons than I’ve weathered. To a man who understands what matters most, those attributes grow not less attractive over time, but more. Will I see you out riding again some morning?”

Now he was changing the subject, after calling her brave, loyal, and honest. He’d told the truth, as well—he had no talent for flattery. None whatsoever.

“I take it you prefer to ride early in the day?”

“Of course. The fashionable hour provides no real opportunity for exercise, and the Sunday church parade is even worse. Then too, there’s something to be said for showing old Londontowne at her best, for seeing it when ‘all that mighty heart is lying still.’”

She cocked her head. “Is that Coleridge?”

“Wordsworth. ‘Composed on Westminster Bridge.’ It makes a pastoral study of even a dank and teeming metropolis, so great is the poet’s ability in that regard.”

A line of poetry for Louisa was like a shiny lure to a raven, even a line casually tossed off by Sir Joseph Carrington. Maybe especially a line from him. “I don’t think I know this poem, and I’m more than passingly familiar with Wordsworth.”

While Sir Joseph sat on his black horse, the leaves shifting quietly against the frozen earth, and sunlight glittering on the Serpentine, he recited for Louisa a sonnet. The poem he gave her described a fresh, sparkling morning in London as something beautiful and precious, even to a man in love with nature and the unspoiled countryside.

When Sir Joseph fell silent, Louisa felt as if the hush of a great city at dawn enveloped them, and in the ensuing beats of quiet, she realized three things.

First, Joseph Carrington’s voice was made for poetry. Like a violoncello switching from lowly scales and droning exercises to solo repertoire, when he put his voice to poetry, Sir Joseph spoke lyrically, even beautifully.

The second thing she noticed was an inconvenient and utterly stupid urge to cry. Not because the beauty of the spoken word moved her to tears—though occasionally it could—and not because the poem itself was so very lovely. It was a short, pretty sonnet about a single impression of the city gained on a clear autumn morning.

Louisa’s ill-timed lachrymose impulse was the result of the third realization: no man had ever recited an entire sonnet to her before, and likely no man ever would again.”

###

Throughout this book, Ms. Burrowes had some of her characters at one point or another quote poetry that would enhance the particular scene and here’s just one example of it.

At the end of the novel, in her Author’s Notes, Ms. Burrowes writes:

“Joseph recites the following poem by William Wordsworth to Louisa while they’re riding by the Serpentine in Hyde Park early one winter morning:

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1802

Earth has not anything to show more fair: Dull would he be of soul who could pass by A sight so touching in its majesty:

This City now doth like a garment, wear The beauty of the morning; silent, bare, Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie Open unto the fields, and to the sky; All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep in his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill: Ne’er saw I, never felt, such a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will: Dear God! The very houses seem asleep; And all that mighty heart is lying still!”

WOW! After you read the book, you’ll come upon that scene and you’ll see how appropriate this poem was for that moment.

How do you feel about poetry in your romance novels, and poetry in general? Have some for us? Please feel free to share!

FEATURED AUTHOR: Grace Burrowes

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‘Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal’ by Grace Burrowes

STORY: Maggie Windham is the Duke of Moreland’s eldest, but illegitimate, daughter. She leads a retiring, dignified life… until stolen letters bring Maggie to investigator Benjamin Hazlit’s door. When it becomes clear Maggie is being blackmailed, Benjamin becomes determined to find not just the letters, but the way to Maggie’s heart.

REVIEW: What an interesting character Maggie was! You couldn’t help but admire the strong character of this woman who was basically sold to the Duke, who wasn’t even sure that she is his child, yet accepted her as such and loved her as much as all his other children. Only a loving father would be so perceptive about his eldest daughter to say this.

She’s in want of… dreams, I think. My other girls have dreams. Sophie dreamed of her own family, Jenny loves to paint, Louisa has her literary scribbling, and Evie must racket about the property as her brothers used to, but Maggie has never been a dreamer.

It was heart-wrenching to watch the strained relationship between Maggie and the Duchess, who was always aware of Maggie’s feelings towards her and the family, but never knew how to break that last ‘brick’ on the wall that Maggie has meticulously built around her to protect them all from being hurt with the secret she had kept for much too long.

Esther did not hold out her arms to this woman she’d raised. From the posture of Maggie’s spine, a maternal embrace would be politely tolerated, as it had been on the rare occasions Esther had attempted it since the girl had joined the household all those years ago.

I so admired the Duchess while she does her best to hide her frustration with Maggie and tries hard to understand this woman, her adopted daughter.

Esther spoke as gently as she could, considering she was using logic to bludgeon someone she dearly loved.

‘Do you want your child to bear the same burden you have?’ Maggie shook her head, but the tears were coursing down her cheeks unchecked. Esther passed her a serviette, when what she wanted to do was hurl her teacup against the wall.

‘You have another option, Maggie.’ Maggie turned her head an inch to meet the Duchess’ eyes. ‘If I have conceived, I will not do anything to harm our child.’ Our child?

‘Put such notions from your head. For God’s sake, Maggie… to think we’d let you risk yourself, much less… For God’s sake.’

Boys were difficult to raise into young gentleman, but girls… girls were the biggest challenge. Especially girls who, despite every effort to the contrary, seemed to have a thorough knowledge of things too sordid and awful to be contemplated.

Even though Maggie has been brought up with St. Just (the other bastard in the family), she deep down inside had always been uncomfortable and felt that she never quiet belonged to them, although she would never admit it nor would she show it to the other members of the family.

As for the hero of this tale, Benjamin Hazlitt, we’ve met him before and what a complex man he was! A man who is too competent in unearthing all the ton’s secrets, gets himself hired by the woman he finds too attractive and an enigma that he needed to solve.

As Ben and Maggie try to adjust to their new-found acquaintance through the scheme of pretending to be courting, the search is on for her lost reticule, and we are in for a treat. To watch these two slowly coming to realization that their ‘casual acquaintance’ is turning into something neither is looking for or really want, yet at the same time hoping for, is amazing.

There’s no way I could tell you how much I loved the character of Ben, who it turns out has a couple of skeletons in his closet as well. As is Ms. Burrowes’ want, she populates her books with an abundance of secondary characters so interesting and compelling, that I feel she had a very hard time holding some of them back. As is the case with Ben’s sidekick, Archer Holloway; otherwise he just might have stolen the story.

Grace Burrowes can do no wrong. PERIOD! She writes stories that touch my heart and soul, and this tale is no exception. This is her fifth book and if you haven’t yet discovered her, I think it time you did. I highly recommend this entire series, THE HEIR, THE SOLDIER, THE VIRTUOSO, LADY SOPHIE’S CHRISTMAS WISH and this one too. The author does an outstanding job in writing this connected series so well that you don’t need to read them to understand the dynamic of this wonderful and engaging family, yet I highly, HIGHLY recommend you read them all in order because if you’re like me, you will appreciate the Epic feel to the series, and for all of us who love saga’s, this is just up our alley. Come October, Ms. Burrowes has Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight and in December The Bridegroom Wore Plaid will be out. Oh happy dance!

*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*