‘Miss Darcy’s New Companion: A Pride and Prejudice Variation’ by Cheryl Bolen

mdnc cbSTORY: As the Darcys are about to embark on their wedding trip to Italy, they lose the capable service of Miss Darcy’s long-time companion. What will they do? They cannot leave dear Georgiana without a proper lady for a companion. Elizabeth Darcy’s aunt comes to their rescue, recommending the lovely spinster Lucy Wetherspoon, whose family she has long known.

Darcy also asks his neighbor, Lord Fane, to watch out for Georgiana in their absence. At two and thirty, Lord Fane has decided he needs to wed an heiress to restore his ancestral pile. Miss Darcy’s fortune is just what he needs.

Then he meets the shabbily dressed Miss Wetherspoon, and his world is utterly shaken by the profound feelings the beautiful woman elicits in him. After meddling from misguided-but-well-meaning Mr. Collins, Lord Fane’s honor demands he offer for Georgiana Darcy though his heart will ever belong to her shabbily dressed companion.

REVIEW: The newlywed Darcys are preparing to take a wedding trip. Elizabeth has been talking with Miss Lucy Wetherspoon, age 25, who is being considered as a companion to Miss Georgiana Darcy, age 16.

Lucy’s father was a scholar at Oxford, but he did not have a head for money and ended up involved in some bad investments. As it happens, Lucy had been jilted which is why she is still single. Lucy has been very well educated by her father and even speaks six different languages.

The Darcys need to ensure that Georgiana is well cared for while they are gone, in addition to help prepare Georgiana for her come out. In addition, the young girl will have a fortune of 30,000 pounds so she must make a good match. Elizabeth is impressed with Lucy and decides to hire her.

Lucy encourages Georgiana to be more outspoken when talking to young men so she does appear to be empty headed. Georgiana confides to Lucy that her brother would like to see her wed Alexander Farrington, the Earl of Fane, age 32. Unfortunately, Fane lacks the funds to properly repair his home, Bodworth House. Both his house and Georgiana’s home, Pemberley, are located quite close together.

When Fane and his brother, Hugh, call upon Georgiana, he is quite taken with the beauty of Lucy. Sadly, the meeting does not go well as Georgiana’s youth makes for stilted conversation. However, Georgiana invites Fane and Hugh to dine with her and Lucy and everyone has a nice evening even though it’s difficult to get more than one word answers out of Georgiana.

Soon, Fane cannot deny his attraction to Lucy but is worried about his home and lack of funds as well. Can there be a future for them?

This is a great story well-written in the Pride and Prejudice “style.” I loved the characters and the angst suffered by both Fane and Lucy is well-expressed. In addition, it is very “clean” which is a huge plus to me.

Complimentary copy provided by the author

Connie for b2b

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‘The Bourbon Thief’ by Tiffany Reisz

tbt trSTORY: When Cooper McQueen wakes up from a night with a beautiful stranger, it’s to discover he’s been robbed. The only item stolen—a million-dollar bottle of bourbon. The thief, a mysterious woman named Paris, claims the bottle is rightfully hers. After all, the label itself says it’s property of the Maddox family who owned and operated Red Thread Bourbon distillery since the last days of the Civil War until the company went out of business for reasons no one knows… No one except Paris.

In the small hours of a Louisville morning, Paris unspools the lurid tale of Tamara Maddox, heiress to the distillery that became an empire. But the family tree is rooted in tainted soil and has borne rotten fruit. Theirs is a legacy of wealth and power, but also of lies, secrets and sins of omission. The Maddoxes have bourbon in their blood—and blood in their bourbon. Why Paris wants the bottle of Red Thread remains a secret until the truth of her identity is at last revealed, and the century-old vengeance Tamara vowed against her family can finally be completed.

REVIEW: Cooper McQueen is a very wealthy man who loves a good bourbon. While sitting in his bar, he sees a lovely dark-skinned woman walk in. When she asks for a shot of Red Thread bourbon, she is told that it has not been made in many years. Cooper introduces himself to the woman, who calls herself Paris, and after some conversation, she agrees to meet him at his vast estate, Lockwood. She tells him she is a rich widow from Kentucky. When he teasingly asks her if she is after his money, she responds that he is after his bourbon – most specifically his prized possession of a one-million-dollar bottle of Red Thread Bourbon. It is the first bottle ever made. She claims to be part of the Maddox family who were the makers of Red Thread bourbon. She has inherited the business and begins to tells Cooper the story about the beginning of the Maddox family as follows:

Tamara Maddox, has just turned 16. Tamara and her mother, Virginia, have lived with her grandfather ever since her father passed away. Her mother and grandfather are always arguing. Tamara is spoiled and bothers Levi Shelby all the time demanding to ride her horse. Levi is much older than Tamara and works in the stables of her vast estate. When Tamara asks Levi for a birthday kiss, her mother catches them and is furious. She is given a choice of sending Levi away or she will shoot her beloved horse. Her mother explains to her that when her grandfather passes away, she will be the only Maddox left and it will be up to her to keep Red Thread going. But her grandfather has a even better plan to ensure the Maddox blood survives. When the truth comes out about the different family members, the shock is enormous.

After a night of violence at her home, Tamara runs away with Levi and thus begins her life of healing from the many disturbed members of the Maddox family.

This book is one that is quite mesmerizing. Starting from slave days to the present, we see the extent that men and women will go to to get what they want in life. The story is brutal at times, but expresses love as well. This historical novel is very good. I had some qualms about the character of Paris because I felt her actions conjured up racism where I don’t think it belonged in the story.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

Spotlight on Lecia Cornwall and ‘Beauty and the Highland Beast’!

Beauty and the Highland Beast Blog Tour Banner

bath lcBOOK BLURB: Powerful and dangerous highlander Dair Sinclair was once the favored son of his clan, The Sinclairs of Carraig Brigh. With Dair at the helm, Sinclair ships circled the globe bringing home incredible fortune. Until one deadly mission when Dair is captured, tortured and is unable to save his young cousin. He returns home breaking under the weight of his guilt and becomes known as the Madman of Carraig Brigh.

When a pagan healer predicts that only a virgin bride can heal his son’s body and mind, Dair’s father sets off to find the perfect wife for his son. At the castle of the fearsome McLeods, he meets lovely and kind Fia MacLeod.
Although Dair does his best to frighten Fia, she sees the man underneath the damage and uses her charm and special gifts to heal his mind and heart. Will Dair let Fia love him or is he cursed with madness forever?

BUY LINKS: Amazon / B&N / iTunes /

REVIEW: I love books that Lecia Cornwall writes. She creates interesting plots and her characters tend to be complex. Yet in this story, despite the complexity of the main characters, I had a difficult time connecting and caring for either of them. It did get better as the story developed and as we watched them develop and turn into the people they truly were and not just what other perceived them to be.

I also wished that the pace was a bit faster.

All in all, not a bad retelling of an old fable and if you like them, than you’ll probably like this one too.

EXCERPT:

How had the Sinclairs heard of Moire? She was a humble soul. She kept to herself, tended the ancient spring of the goddess, and helped only those who came to her. Fear numbed the icy blast of the wind as she stared up at Carraig Brigh’s bony tower, a crooked black finger rising from a solid fist of rock.

“Ye’ve made a mistake,” she whined as they rode under the iron teeth of the gate. “I’m naught but a simple midwife.” No one listened, and the wind carried her pleas over the edge of the cliff and drowned them in the bay below.

In the bailey, men stood in the light of gale-thrashed torches. There wasn’t a friendly face among them, or a word of welcome.

Someone hauled her off the garron, kept hold of her arm as he propelled her across the bailey. The portcullis fell with a metallic squall that ended on a human note, a wail of pure agony that floated down from the tower and made Moire’s innards curl against her backbone. The clansmen shifted uneasily, crossed themselves, and turned their eyes up to the narrow window high above them. Moire’s escort grabbed a torch from the nearest man as he opened an iron-studded door and pushed her up the steps inside.

“Do you truly have magic, old woman?” he asked. “You’d best hope you can conjure a cure.”

She stumbled. A witch. They thought they’d summoned a witch.

“A midwife, just a midwife,” she protested again, panting. The curving stone steps were steep, but he gave her no time to catch her breath. Her old legs were no match for his long, muscular ones. She scrabbled at his sleeve. “Please, there’s been a mistake.”

“There’s no mistake, Moire o’ the Spring. ’Tis you and no other we were sent to fetch. The chief would summon the devil himself if he thought it could save his son.”

“What’s wrong with him?” she found the courage to ask.

He grunted. “Have ye heard of Jean Sinclair?”

“Aye, of course. The lass they called the Holy Maid of Carraig Brigh,” Moire replied.

“That’s her. She was Alasdair Og’s cousin, the chief’s niece. Padraig wasn’t pleased when she decided to take holy orders and shut herself away in a French convent.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “’Tis a sad tale. They set sail from Sinclair Bay and put in at Berwick for the night, only to be ambushed by English soldiers. Alasdair Og thought there’d been a mistake, that they’d been taken for pirates, perhaps, or kidnapped for ransom. He imagined it would be a matter of a few days’ delay, an exchange of coin, and they’d be on their way again. But they didn’t bother themselves about ransom. They took the gold Alasdair Og was carrying right enough, and the goods, and the ship, and they murdered his crew. Then they beat Alasdair Og half to death, and threw him and Jean into the dungeon of Coldburn Keep.”

Moire put a hand to her throat, a shiver racing up her spine.

“Worst of all was what they did to poor wee Jean. They raped her, tortured her, then murdered her in front of Alasdair Og. He was chained to the wall, could do nothing to help her. She pleaded with God for help. She was just a slip of a girl. They said if she was Catholic and a Highlander, then she was no better than an idolatrous witch. ’Twas hatred—not just for the Scots, but for Alasdair Og in particular. They called him a pirate, blamed him for things that had nothing at all to do with the Sinclairs. It wasn’t wee Jeannie’s fight—Alasdair told them that, but they wouldn’t listen. He lay in his own filth for a fortnight, chained, wounded, and listened while they beat her, broke her bones, tormented her. They kept him alive to hear her screams.”

“And then?” Moire asked.

The man grimaced. “They hanged her as a heretic in the courtyard, forced Alasdair to his feet, made him stand at the window and watch.” He stared down at her from the step above. “He can’t forget any of it. That’s why they call him mad—he has nightmares, feels constant pain, and starts at shadows. Can you help him?”

She blinked. Did the holy maid haunt Alasdair Og Sinclair? Perhaps it was the devil’s work after all. Moire knew little of the Christian God, either Catholic or Covenanter. She followed the ancient goddess, tended her sacred spring . . .

Another guttural scream came from the top of the tower. Moire shrank against the cold stones of the wall and made a sign against evil.

Her companion took hold of her arm again. “Come on.” He opened a door at the top of the steps, dragged her through it. The room was nearly dark, lit by a single candle—expensive beeswax—and the dull glow of a brazier in the corner. The sweet scent of the candle mixed with the dark stink of old blood, corruption, and sweat. It was a smell Moire knew. It meant illness far beyond her ability to heal, and death.

 

lecia cornwalAUTHOR BIO: Lecia Cornwall is a PRO member of the Romance Writers of America’s Seattle and Calgary Chapters. Her background includes all facets of writing, including running a successful freelance writing business specializing in direct marketing and advertising. Both history and writing have been lifelong passions. Lecia currently lives and writes in Calgary, Alberta, the heart of the Canadian West.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Website | Facebook | Twitter |

Spotlight on Mary Jo Putney and ‘Once a Soldier’!

mjp oas

oas mjpBOOK BLURB: As heir to a title and great wealth, Will Masterson should have stayed home and tended his responsibilities. Instead he went to war. Now, after perilous years fighting the French, he intends his current mission to be his last. But all his plans are forgotten when he arrives in the small mountain stronghold of San Gabriel and meets her.

Knowing herself to be too tall, strong, and unconventional to appeal to a man, Athena Markham has always gloried in her independence. But for the first time in her life, she finds a man who might be her match.

Two of a kind, too brave for their own good, Athena and Will vow to do whatever it takes to vanquish San Gabriel’s enemies. For neither will back down from death, and only together can they find happiness and a love deeper than any they’d dared imagine…

BUY LINKS: Amazon | B & N | Google | iTunes | Kobo

EXCERPT:

In a burst of fury at the brutality of war, he hurled the empty bottle across the cellar. He meant to strike a section of plain stone wall, but instead the heavy bottle crunched into a rickety upright supporting one of the wall racks. The rack collapsed with a dusty crash as shelves of old crockery and unidentifiable objects pitched to the floor.

“Jesus, Masterson!” Chantry said indignantly as he dodged back, his head clipping the lantern so that it swung wildly. “Are you trying to kill us prematurely?”

The dust sent Will into a coughing fit before he managed to choke out, “Sorry. My aim was off.”

As he looked at the dust rising from the collapsed rack, the erratic light of the swinging lantern briefly illuminated straight lines gouged in one of the stones that had been concealed by the shelving. The lines were very faint, but the pattern looked familiar. Frowning, he levered himself up and lurched across the cellar. “Does anyone know who owns this house?”

Duval shrugged. “I heard that it belongs to British wine shippers who’ve operated in Gaia for a couple of generations, but I don’t know the name. Does it matter? The current owner and his household fled when the French confiscated the house.”

“It appears that a Freemason built the house.” Will reached the wall and traced the angular lines with his fingertip, confirming his guess. “Freemasonry evolved from medieval stonemasons’ guilds, so their symbols are based on the tools of a mason. This is a compass overlaying a square, a Masonic symbol.”

“So?” That was Hawkins’s gruff voice.

“Freemasons aren’t always popular. Some have been known to build escape routes from their homes in case rioters came after them. Maybe that’s what this one did.”

The dusty mortar around the block looked like all the other mortar in the foundation, but the side seams were a little wider. If Will’s guess was right . . . On a hunch, he looked at the collapsed rack. It made sense for the builders to have the necessary tools convenient if the escape route was needed.

Yes! One of the uprights had separated into two pieces, and both looked like hardened metal. He lifted a length that tapered to the shape of a narrow chisel. Perfect for gouging. He dug into the mortar on the right side of the stone, and it crumbled away like sugar icing.

“The devil you say!” someone exclaimed as the other men scrambled to their feet and gathered behind him. The tension was palpable.

Silently Hawkins picked up the other piece of the broken upright and started gouging on the left side of the block. Gordon bent over and began clearing away the wreckage of the collapsed rack so the area under the work space was open.

Duval asked, “Are you a Freemason to know so much about them?”

“I’m a part-time engineer,” Will explained. “The Royal Engineers corps never had enough men, so line officers like me are sometimes seconded to work with them if we have engineering experience. Very educational.”

“If there is an escape tunnel . . .” Hawkins’s voice broke for a moment. “Do you have any idea where it might lead? This house is full of French soldiers and there are guards all around.”

“My guess is the tunnel comes out among outbuildings where it won’t be obvious,” Will replied. “There’s no point in going to this much trouble just to be captured outside.”

With most of the mortar chipped away, Will said to Hawkins, “Step back.” Then he carefully shoved the wider end of his tool into the gap he’d made between the stones. The temptation was to use full force, but he didn’t want to damage his lever.

The stone shifted. Releasing the breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding, Will worked at the block until it was far enough out from its neighbors to get a grip on. He tugged and the stone moved toward him. Hawkins grasped the other end and they both pulled. Abruptly the stone jerked free and crashed heavily to the dirt floor of the cellar, narrowly missing Will’s left foot.

And behind it was a tunnel large enough for a man to crawl into. “Well, hallelujah!” Chantry breathed.

>>>>>>>>>> RAFFLECOPTER <<<<<<<<<<

REVIEW: First, I love this author. I think I’ve read almost all her books. She is such a great story teller. That said, even those authors we adore, can at times give us stories that are not wooing us as their other books did.

With this story MJP begins her new series about a group of English soldiers who escape imprisonment and certain death during the Napoleonic Wars. All are aware that they’ve escaped death and as they go their separate ways, they pledg to each other to look at their past decisions and try to do their best to correct the mistakes they made in the past.

This is Will Masterson’s story and despite being well written, I’m not sure why I didn’t love it. Will is everything a hero should be and maybe that’s what was wrong. He was just too good to be believable.

The heroine was too stubborn for my liking and I just couldn’t buy into the role she played in the plot. The only thing I loved was the relationship between Will’s friends, the soldiers he met in the war.

In the end, I do recommend it because of the action and wonderful setting of a fictional country.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

mjputneyAUTHOR BIO: Mary Jo Putney is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has written over 60 novels and novellas. A ten-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America RITA, she has won the honor twice and is on the RWA Honor Roll for bestselling authors. In 2013 she was awarded the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Though most of her books have been historical romance, she has also published contemporary romances, historical fantasy, and young adult paranormal historicals. She lives in Maryland with her nearest and dearest, both two and four footed.

SOCIAL MEDIA:  Website | Facebook | GoodReads

‘Her Highland Rogue’ by Violetta Rand

hhr vrSTORY: Errol MacRae’s days of gallivanting across the Highlands are nearing an end. His father’s health has taken a turn for the worse, and rumors are swirling that the crown intends to transfer ancient lands into the hands of the MacKenzies, the clan the MacRaes are sworn to defend. Errol expects to lead his men into battle soon. So he isn’t pleased when his father instead sends him to retrieve a beautiful flame-haired lass who has fled into the mountains.

Orphaned as a young girl, Aileana vividly remembers how the MacRaes rescued her and welcomed her into their clan. For ten years, she has served them loyally—until the night she’s nearly despoiled by one of the laird’s captains. Aileana risks her life and her reputation to seek refuge in the snowcapped peaks of the Five Sisters, the one place that has always felt like home. But after the strong-armed, strong-willed Errol tracks her down in a blizzard, she finds herself tempted to risk something even more dangerous: her heart.

REVIEW: There are some books that work, and then there are some that don’t and there are many, many reasons for either. For me, the story has to have at least one strong character to whom I’ll be attached to and root for. In this case, there were two and I just couldn’t suspend my imagination enough to care for either of them.

The hero was a typical Alpha and had no redeeming qualities, at least for me, and the heroine wasn’t strong enough to carry this story on her own. I think that the characters needed more development as well as the story. Everything just felt two dimensional.

As for the writing, it was just okay. Nothing in this story spoke to me, nothing attracted me to it and in all honesty I can’t recommend it.

Melanie for b2b

‘I Want My Epidural Back: Adventures in Mediocre Parenting ‘ by Karen Alpert

iwmeb kaSTORY: Now that I’m a mom, I know the most painful part isn’t getting something giant through your hooha. It’s having a real live child.

If you are the kind of mom who shapes your kiddo’s organic quinoa into reproductions of the Mona Lisa, do not read this book. If you stayed up past midnight to create posters for your PTO presidential campaign, do not read this book. If you look down your nose at parents who have Domino’s pizza on speed dial, do not read this book.

But if you are the kind of parent who accidentally goes ballistic on your rugrats every morning because they won’t put their shoes on and then you feel super guilty about it all day so you take them to McDonald’s for a special treat but really it’s because you opened up your freezer and panicked because you forgot to buy more frozen pizzas, then absolutely read this book.

I Want My Epidural Back is a celebration of mediocre parents and how awesome they are and how their kids love them just as much as children with perfect parents. Karen Alpert’s honest but hilarious observations, stories, quips and pictures will have you nodding your head and peeing in your pants. Or on the toilet if you’re smart and read it there.

REVIEW: Karen describes herself as a mediocre parent, but I found her to be very human, normal, and a good parent. She describes all of those times when children try our very souls. The different age groups and the problems with each are situations that Moms, young and old, can understand. I’m a grandmother and I found myself laughing hysterically.

Remember how kids won’t eat their vegetables no matter how you try to disguise them?

Remember how they won’t eat something on their plate if it touches something else on their place?

Remember leaving them at school on the first day and they screamed bloody murder and you felt like a worm?

Remember taking the kids to a public bathroom? You’re trying to keep them from all those nasty things and they end up filthy anyway. Oh yuk!

Karen runs the whole gamut from feeding her kids fast food and pizzas to cleaning up barf when the kids puke on you. And – oh – there is so much more.

I don’t know when I have had such a good laugh when reading a book. It’s a fairly quick read and one you will certainly enjoy. Don’t try to read it if the kiddies are napping because you will surely wake them up with your laughter.

Connie for b2b

‘The Royal Nanny’ by Karen Harper

trn khSTORY: April, 1897: A young nanny arrives at Sandringham, ancestral estate of the Duke and Duchess of York. She is excited, exhausted—and about to meet royalty. . . .

So begins the unforgettable story of Charlotte Bill, who would care for a generation of royals as their parents never could. Neither Charlotte—LaLa, as her charges dub her—nor anyone else can predict that eldest sons David and Bertie will each one day be king. LaLa knows only that these children, and the four who swiftly follow, need her steadfast loyalty and unconditional affection.

But the greatest impact on Charlotte’s life is made by a mere bud on the family tree: a misunderstood soul who will one day be known as the Lost Prince. Young Prince John needs all of Lala’s love—the kind of love his parents won’t…or can’t…show him.

From Britain’s old wealth to the glittering excesses of Tsarist Russia; from country cottages to royal yachts, and from nursery to ballroom, Charlotte Bill witnesses history. The Royal Nanny is a seamless blend of fact and fiction—an intensely intimate, yet epic tale spanning decades, continents, and divides that only love can cross.

REVIEW: London – 1897

Miss Charlotte Bill, age 22, has just been hired to be under nurse to the royal family at York Cottage on the Sandringham Estate. She is to care for David and Bertie, the two sons of the Duke and Duchess of York. The head nurse is Mrs. Mary Peters. The boys are taken by their nurse to visit with their parents each day at 4:00 PM, when their parents are in residence. David cries a lot when he sees his parents which ends up with them sending him away with his nurse. Bertie is very thin and always hungry. When Charlotte catches Mrs. Peters spanking David, she is shocked. The nurse wants David’s love only for her which is why she pinches him before he is to visit with his parents making him cry. The woman is deemed deranged and sent away. Charlotte then becomes head nurse and the children nickname her LaLa.

Soon, Baby Mary is born, followed a few years later by Baby Harry. The children all love Lala and she adores them dedicating her life to them.

Charlotte becomes friends with Chad who works on the estate. He proposes to her, but she refuses him because she feels her charges need her.

Soon, the Duke and Duchess decide that David and Bertie have a man named Finch to come in and take over some of their care and studies. Bertie’s father always berated him which made the child stutter. This is a problem that followed him all of his life.

Later, Baby George is born followed by the last child, Baby Johnnie. Johnnie’s birth was a very difficult one and for quite awhile he had breathing problems. Charlotte is very drawn to this child and considers him hers. When he starts having seizures, the family feels he needs to be hidden away. So, Charlotte and Johnnie live quietly in a cottage on the estate.

This is a wonderful novel that follows the royal family for 60 years. It’s a depiction of the family life of the royals as seen from the inside. I have always been fascinated with the history of the English royal family but have not read much about this particular time period in the family. I learned a lot and will remember this terrific story for a long time to come.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b