‘His Scandalous Kiss’ by Sophie Barnes

hsk sbSTORY: Thorncliff Manor is the perfect setting for a masquerade ball… where the heart’s secret desires are about to be uncovered in this scintillating Regency romance from Sophie Barnes…

Richard Heartly has exiled himself from society since the war, plotting his revenge for a terrible betrayal. A masked ball at Thorncliff Manor is intended to be a brief diversion. Instead, he encounters a fascinating young woman as entranced by the music as he is. He can’t reveal his identity to Lady Mary. But her siren song keeps drawing him back, and their clandestine meetings could be hazardous to his plan—and to her virtue.

Avoiding an unwanted marriage was easy when Lady Mary was ignored by the ton. Thanks to her dazzling appearance at the masquerade, she’s a wallflower no longer. Eligible suitors abound, yet the only man she wants is the brooding, seductive companion who keeps his face hidden. A man who tempts her to disclose her own shocking secret, one that could divide them forever.

REVIEW: Thorncliff Manor – 1820

Richard Heartly is staying at Thorncliff Manor, as a guest of Lady Duncaster. She was also a friend of his late grandmother. Tonight, there is a masked ball and Richard is using the name Signor Antonio because he does not want his family to know he is attending the ball. Richard has lived a solitary life for the last 5 years and is taking it slow with returning. However, Lady Duncaster is helping to ease his reentry to society which will be an event that will draw much attention. When Richard was fighting in the war, he was burned on his face, leaving him scarred. Thus, he is not quite ready to show himself.

At the ball, a beautiful masked lady gets Richard’s attention and he tries to find the courage to ask her to dance. Later, he finds her listening to music in the garden. As they talk, the lady admits that she prefers her own company, peace, and quiet. These are the same things that Richard has been doing these past years. In addition, they both share a love of reading. In response to his request for her name, she calls herself Lady Eleanor, as she is dressed as Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Richard gives his name as Signor Antonio.

Lady Eleanor is actually Mary Bourneville and is attending the party at Thorncliff with her aunt who is pressuring her to find a husband. Mary is being pursued by Lord Rotridge, an older man and an Earl whose property’s neighbors her grandfather’s. An independent woman, Mary is irritated that the Earl thinks she should be eager to marry him, which is not the case. His constant pushiness is an irritant to her.

When Richard discovers Mary late one night out on the grounds, he is surprised and amazed at her secret which could cause a huge scandal if found out. They continue to meet at night and their friendship turns to love. When they discover a long-lost secret of Thorncliff Manor, life becomes even more exciting for them.

I really loved this story. Richard and Mary are both strong characters with pure, true love, and respect for one another. The author has created several storylines that all combine to make this a real historical romance novel. You don’t want to miss it. I learned so much as I read this book. What a treat!

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘The Fairest of Them All’ by Cathy Maxwell

tfota cmSTORY: The penniless orphan of a disreputable earl, Lady Charlene Blanchard thrives on the adventure of picking the pockets of unsavory gentlemen to survive. But due to her extraordinary beauty and prized bloodlines, she is hand-chosen as a potential bride for the Duke of Baynton, who is on the hunt for a suitable wife to provide heirs.

All Char has to do is act the part she was born to play and charm a duke she’s never laid eyes on into proposing. Except the duke turns out to be the tall, dark and sexy stranger who just caught her red-handed as a thief!

Or is he? Jack Whitridge is the duke’s twin who had “gone missing” over ten years ago. Now back in England, he knows that the supposed Lady who has his brother’s love is hardly duchess material—except he needs her to save his adopted country from war. He is willing to bargain with her heart, until he finds himself falling for Char . . .

REVIEW: London – 1813

Lady Charlene (Char) Blanchard, age 19, is dressed as a lad waiting to pick pockets. Char lives with her Aunt Sarah Pettijohn, and her friend, Lady Baldwin. Lady Baldwin had once been an actress like Sarah. Lady Baldwin had also committed some small crimes in the past and had taught Char how to pick pockets. Char’s parents passed away leaving Char penniless due to her father’s gambling.

Today, Char’s prey is a man who has come out of a bank with a fat purse of money. He’s walking with a couple of friends heading for some good times. When Char grabs the purse of money out of the man’s pocket, one of his friends see her and chases her. When he catches up with her, he is surprised to find that instead of a lad, this is a beautiful young lady. She still manages to elude him and gets home with the money.

Upon arrival at home, Lady Baldwin tells Char that Gavin Whitridge, the 5th Duke of Baynton, is looking for a wife. To that end, he has sent out invitations to young ladies to attend a ball that he is hosting and Char has received one of those invitations. Immediately, Sarah and Lady Baldwin begin plotting to get the Duke to marry Char. He is said to be age 32, handsome, and has a twin brother, named Jack, who disappeared back when he was attending school at Eton.

The man who chased Char is none other than Jack Whitridge, who has returned to London. He has been in America all of this time and is fully entrenched in the American way of life. He has returned to Britain as he is now head of the American delegation wishing to meet with the British as he sees war in their future and hopes to deter it.

At the ball, Char is introduced to the Duke who is immediately smitten with her beauty and wants only her. At the same time, Char meets the Duke’s brother and they recognize one another for he was the man who chased her when she stole the money purse. Oh no! What a mess.

The story continues to show us the background of the Duke and his brother, as well as Char’s past. Can all of these people find a way to deal with their hurts, anger, and disappointment?

I liked the general plot of this story, but felt like it just plodded along at times as if to fill pages. I rarely see this, but was quite surprised to find a fairly poor job had been done in editing the book. Too many errors simply slipped past the editors.

Connie for b2b

‘A Most Inconvenient Wish’ by Eileen Richards

amiw erSTORY: Sophia Townsend has watched both of her sisters find love and settle into idyllic married lives. But raised to believe that her greatest purpose is to advance the family’s fortunes, Sophia has grander ambitions when it comes to choosing a husband. She’s never lacked for suitors, but now she finds herself running out of time. Her last and best hope is Lord Bateman—and she has only a few days to secure his proposal.

Ian McDonald has long been a friend of the Townsend family and has watched Sophia with amusement over the years. A Scot and sheep farmer, Ian has done well for himself, but holds little social standing. Yet just as he’s realized his love for Sophia, she has set her sights on another man. Nevertheless, Ian is determined to win her. He has a bold plan in mind, but when he and Sophia encounter one another at the legendary Fairy Steps, a most inconvenient wish is accidently made—and neither could possibly guess the happy outcome…

REVIEW: Sophia Townsend, age 26, is climbing the Fairy Steps to make a wish in hopes of finding a husband. It is said that if a young, unmarried lady is able to climb the stairs to the top, the fairies will grant them a wish. After 4 seasons in London where she was quite popular, she still has had no proposals. In addition, society has labeled her cold and aloof.

Ian McDonald appears on the scene to assist Sophia on the rickety stairs of the Fairy Steps, chastising her for being so foolish to climb them. But a sudden storm chases them into a shed for cover. This dark shed brings out a sense of panic in Sophie which is a fear left over from a bad experience in her past.

Sophia is attracted to Ian but her logic tells her that he is just a steward, although very wealthy, and she wants the advantages of society by being married to a man with a title.

Sophia lives with her sister and brother-in-law in the country. She is planning a summer party and has invited Lord Geoffrey Bateman, the Earl Bateman and his sister, Catherine. Ian McDonald is invited as well as he has long been a friend of the Townsend family. When the Earl and Catherine arrive, they bring two more people with them.

Geoffrey had been attentive to Sophia in London, but never proposed. His lack of doing so left her ridiculed. Now, she is hoping for a proposal from him.

As the party begins, we find the Bateman family showing their true colors. Both Geoffrey and Catherine will stop at nothing to get what they want. It also appears that Ian is interested in Sophia and Geoffrey is not. Oh, what a mess. Where will it all end up?

This is a good story and one where I wanted to shake more than one character! When a story brings out real emotions in a reader, then I think the author has done a good job.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘An Unexpected Wish’ by Eileen Richards

auw erSTORY: Sometimes a last resort is pure magic…

Anne Townsend doesn’t ask for much. Plain and poor, she’d settle for the funds to put food on the table. Making a wish on the fabled Fairy Steps is hardly a solid solution, but to see her two sisters taken care of, Anne’s willing to try anything. Yet when she finds herself suddenly surrounded with suitors, romance is now a possibility for the spinster everyone always ignored except with the one man who will never want her…

Nathaniel Matthews has no time for courting. As the eldest, he has his family’s lost fortune to rebuild, and his reckless brother to manage before he gambles his future away. Odd that Nathaniel can think of little but kissing bright-eyed Anne, who seems to be fighting off admirers from all sides. Is it the country air, or is Nathaniel ready to discover that love has a magic all its own?

REVIEW: Despite its predictability, this was a nice and lighthearted story. The author is clearly an admirer of Jane Austen and the story reflects it. Still, I enjoyed the characters and situations they find themselves in.

For some reason this story reminded me of a “Ugly Duckling” tale. That’s not a bad thing. It’s refreshing when I read about heroines that are not “English Roses”. I admired a heroine that despite being told she wasn’t beautiful, decide then to make herself indispensable to her family. That’s gutsy!

As for the hero, a very handsome Nathaniel, was honorable and protective and someone that you’d never think would fall for the plain and smart Anne.

This is a light and clean, charming and entertaining romance I think you should enjoy a lot.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Spotlight on Kelly Bowen and ‘A Duke to Remember’!

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A Duke To RememberBOOK BLURB: Love takes the stage…

Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.

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EXCERPT:

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“You’re not going to die on me, are you?” The voice came from lower, almost directly in front of her this time, and Elise opened her eyes, staring up at a collection of clouds scudding across the blue sky.

“Not yet, I think.” She struggled to sit, her tired muscles still refusing to obey.

A warm hand caught hers and pulled her forward, and Elise was suddenly presented with the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen.

They were smoky green, the color of pine wreathed in mist, the color of still waters that hid great depths. They were ringed with blond lashes, set in a strong, rugged face that spoke of hours spent outdoors.  Pale blond hair fell around his ears in careless waves, the ends damp where they brushed his bare shoulders.  Incredible shoulders, wide and powerful, droplets of water sliding over the ridges of muscle to disappear down the front of his chest.

Her mouth went dry, and whatever breath she thought she had caught deserted her once again.

He was crouched before her, a look of concern tempered with a half-smile stamped across his striking features. “Hmmm. Well, if you die, can I have your horse?” he asked.  “As fine an animal as I’ve seen in a long time.”

“My horse?” she repeated. Good Lord.  Her wits had completely scattered under that smoky gaze.

He glanced over her head up in the direction of the road. “One of the boys brought it off the bridge for you.”

Elise struggled to draw a normal breath and formulate a thought. The man was trying to put her at ease.  It wasn’t his fault that he looked as he did.  It wasn’t his fault her body was threatening to make an utter fool of her because of it.

But clearly, it had been too long since she had invited a man to share her bed because she was shamelessly staring at the way his body moved as he shifted. Subtle shadows carved their way across his torso, created by lean muscle rippling under golden skin. A scattering of dark blond hair covered his chest and trailed down past his navel.  Her eyes dropped further south, and she let her gaze wander over the sharp ridges of muscle that formed a V over his hips before disappearing into the front of his breeches.  His free hand rested on a powerful thigh, long, capable-looking fingers spread out over the top of his knee.  She imagined what those fingers would feel like against her bare skin.  Because she already knew what his arms had felt like beneath her, the hard strength of his body against hers.

When he was pulling you from the water like a drowned river rat, you fool, not drawing you into a lover’s embrace.

A terrible realization struck her with the completion of that thought. Without needing to check, she knew her cap was gone.  Her braid had come unpinned, and she could feel the heavy weight of her sodden hair on her back.  A glance at her water-logged clothes plastered to her body confirmed her worst suspicions.  When she’d bound her breasts tightly beneath her loose, baggy shirt, they were unnoticeable, but there was nothing unnoticeable about them now.  The bindings had come loose and slid down to bunch at her waist.  Worse, the threadbare fabric of her worn shirt was almost transparent, and stuck to her skin as it was, she may as well have been wearing nothing.  The curves of her breasts were clearly visible, as were the dark areolas of her peaked nipples.

The man’s eyes were still on her face and not on her chest, which Elise was choosing to interpret as a testament to his chivalry, but no one in their right mind would mistake her for anything other than what she truly was. A woman dressed as a boy.

“No, you can’t have my horse,” she muttered, attempting to peel her shirt away from her breasts with her free hand. “I need it to flee a lot of awkward questions.”

The man was watching her again. “They are going to want to know who you are,” he said quietly, jerking his chin in the direction of the voices beyond them.  The understanding she saw in those incredible eyes made her blink.

She managed a weak smile. “Do you suppose anyone will notice if I just swim back to where I came from?” She was trying to make her mind work, but like her muscles, it seemed lethargic, her usual ingenuity depleted.  “You can tell them that I was a mermaid.”

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

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REVIEW: This is book #2 in Seasons for Scandal series and the premise for it is that its protagonists belong to a firm, Chegarre & Associates, that is doing the damage control for the messes that aristocracy creates for themselves or finds themselves in. Sort of like detective agency. This is Elise deVries story. She is an actress on occasion but full time associate to Ivory [the heroine in the previous book], and Alexander Lavoie, Elise’s brother.  

Elise takes on a case to help Lady Abigail Ellery find her brother Noah who’s been missing for twenty years. Their father has passed on and with Noah presumed dead, their mean cousin is poised to inherit the duchy. To complicate things even further, their mother had been committed to Bedlam because she kept saying her son is alive.

Ms. Bowen has created not just an intriguing heroine, but she’s created a hero that so reminded me of Laura Kinsale’s Duke of Jervaulx from ‘Flowers from the Storm’. Noah was handsome and heartwarming, yet complex. What he lived through as a child, and the horrors he survived, I was glad to see him still keep his sanity and humor. 

This is a complex, warm and enthralling tale that will stay with you for a long time.

Ms. Bowen better have King’s story planned because this character had made a lasting impression on this reader!

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

REVIEW: London – 1819

Miriam Ellery, the Dowager Duchess of Ashland, is a patient at Bedlam and chained to her bed. She has been put there by her nephew, Francis Ellery. She has recently lost her husband, the eleventh Duke of Ashland, and is prostrate with grief. With her current physical and mental situation, Francis has used this opportunity to have her admitted to Bedlam and subjected to cold water “treatments.”

Elise DeVries is posing as a male doctor and realizes that Francis is in line to inherit the Dukedom and simply wants to rid himself of the Dowager. But Elise is not taken in by Francis’s false air of caring as his greed keeps peeping through his demeanor. He has insisted on being present for the examination.

The Duchess still has a daughter who has been estranged from her parents for years. Her name is Lady Abigail and she has just learned about the death of her father and the situation with her mother. Since Francis would not allow Abigail to see her mother, she has turned to Elise for help. There is also a son named Noah who is thought to have died many years ago but there is no proof of this death. He simply vanished. It was said that he was mad and now his mother is heading in the same direction.

Elise DeVries works for Chegarre and Associates which is a firm that “fixes” the public and private lives of wealthy people and charges enormous fees for it. Elise is very disturbed to see the Dowager Duchess in such a horrible place as Bedlam. Elise’s brother and partner in the firm is Alexander Lavoie. He has been investigating Francis and has found him to have some large gambling debts. Thus, it appears that he will stop at nothing to ensure that he becomes the next Duke. When another person who knows the workings of the underground that Chegarre and Associates work with appears and professes to know that Noah is still alive, things start happening.

Thus, Elise strikes out to the area where Noah is supposed to be. When she stops to help rescue a young boy from drowning, Noah comes along. He calls himself Noah but uses a different last name. He offers her a place to stay for the night and the town insists that she stay for a party so they can all thank her. As Elise as Noah get to know one another, Elise’s talents as a woman who has fought in many areas become known. The background on Noah slowly comes out and an attraction sparks.

I loved this book. The way that Noah and Elise talk to one another and open up about themselves shows two people who are perfect for one another. This is truly a romantic book and I know readers will love it.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

kelly bowenAUTHR BIO: Kelly Bowen grew up in Manitoba, Canada. She attended the University of Manitoba and earned a Master of Science degree in veterinary physiology and endocrinology. 

But it was Kelly’s infatuation with history and a weakness for a good love story that led her down the path of historical romance. When she is not writing, she seizes every opportunity to explore ruins and battlefields.
Currently, Kelly lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two boys, all of whom are wonderfully patient with the writing process. Except, that is, when they need a goalie for street hockey.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Website / Facebook / Twitter

‘Only an Earl Will Do’ by Tamara Gill

oaewd tgSTORY: The reigning queen of London society, Lady Elizabeth Worthingham, has her future set out for her. Marry well, and marry without love. An easy promise to make and one she owed her family after her near ruinous past that threatened them all. And the rakish scoundrel Henry Andrews, Earl of Muir who’s inability to act a gentleman when she needed one most would one day pay for his treachery.

Returning to England after three years abroad, Henry is determined to make the only woman who captured his heart his wife. But the icy reception he receives from Elizabeth is colder than his home in the Scottish highlands. As past hurts surface and deception runs as thick as blood, so too does a love that will overcome all obstacles, unless a nameless foe, determined with his own path, gets his way and their love never sees the light of day…

REVIEW: England – 1805

Lady Elizabeth Worthingham is the eldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Penworth and is pregnant with the child of Henry Andrews, the Earl of Muir. Henry had once been the ward of the Duke of Penworth. An old rivalry between the Duke and Henry’s uncle has resulted in Henry being sent to America and not being allowed to marry Elizabeth. Her parents worry that when this situation is discovered, Elizabeth and her sisters will be ruined. Henry had sworn that he will return for Elizabeth when he has earned enough money to save his estate. Monies were squandered by his grandfather from gambling. Even though Elizabeth wrote Henry about her condition, she has never heard from him. Therefore, she thinks that everything he had said to her were just lies. Elizabeth’s parents are anxious for her to marry Viscount Marcus Newland. He had been left somewhat brain damaged after a fall from his horse and no other woman will have him. So, Elizabeth agrees.

London – 1807

Elizabeth is now a widow and many men are anxious to make her their wife. But she is not interested in marrying again. She is not interested in marrying again and has her son, Samuel to care for. One man in particular, Lord Riddledale, is pushing her to marry him but she is disgusted by him.

One evening at a ball, Elizabeth encounters Henry, now age 26. He has worked hard in America and amassed a great fortune. He is visiting with his cousins from America. One of his cousins, Amelia, is a lovely young woman who obviously has her eye on Henry. The encounter between Elizabeth and Henry is cold. He cannot understand why she married shortly after he left when she had promised to wait for him and she cannot understand why she never heard from him. Evidently, something happened to their correspondence to one another. In addition, Lord Riddledale’s pursuit of Elizabeth has become overbearing and he begins to blackmail her. Even though he continues to press his suit, Elizabeth rebuffs him. That is when Henry takes matters into his own hands.

What happened to the correspondence between Elizabeth and Henry? What will Henry do when he finds that he has a son?

This was a good story and the plot was well thought out. However, there were several areas in which certain facts did not match up. One thing in one area of the book and it was changed in another part. That was confusing. I liked Henry and I couldn’t understand why Elizabeth withheld knowledge of little Samuel from his rightful father.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘It Happened One Midnight’ by Julie Anne Long

ihom jalSTORY: More than one beautiful woman’s hopes have been dashed on the rocky shoals of Jonathan Redmond’s heart. With his riveting good looks and Redmond wealth and power, the world is his oyster—until an ultimatum from his father and a chilling gypsy prophesy send him hurtling headlong toward a fate he’ll do anything to avoid: matrimony.

Intoxicating, elusive Thomasina de Ballesteros has the bloods of London at her feet. But none of them knows the real Tommy—the one with a shocking pedigree, a few too many secrets, and a healthy scorn for rakes like Jonathan.

She is everything Jonathan never wanted. But on one fateful midnight, he’s drawn into Tommy’s world of risk, danger…and a desire he’d never dreamed possible. And suddenly he’s re-thinking everything…including the possibility that succumbing to prophesy might just mean surrendering to love.

REVIEW: I’m way, way, waaaaaaaaaaaay behind on this series.

This is the one I was almost as looking forward as to Lyon’s story. I liked Jonathan Redmond almost as much as I detested his father.

As the youngest son of Isaiah Redmond [a Donald Trump of his own era], he is having a devil of a time convincing his father that he’s not a wastrel and that for the past couple of years he’d been successful in making some smart investments. He was hoping that his father would support his wish to join his consortium, but Isaiah has no faith in his business acumen and threatens to cut him off financially unless he marries within the year.

The heroine, Thomasina de Ballesteros or Tommy to her friends, is the daughter of a Spanish courtesan and is a co-hostess with Countess Mirabeau of the most entertaining salons in the ton. I really enjoyed her witty charm, as well as her determination to help the less fortunate.

The best part of the story are those two together. They are sharp, witty and will do anything to achieve their goals. I also loved the pace that the author gave their romance. It was one of those slow, simmering and ever building attractions that once it happened, you had a lot of satisfaction in it.

All in all, this is a wonderful addition to the series and I highly recommend this tale as well as the whole series.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher