Spotlight on Darcy Burke and ‘The Duke of Defiance’

 

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The Duke of Defiance CoverBOOK BLURB: Difficult and defiant as a child, Bran Crowther, Earl of Knighton left England as a young man to pursue independence and adventure. He never expected to inherit the title and when duty calls him home, he still finds Society’s codes constricting and others’ expectations oppressive. Nevertheless, he needs a wife to be a mother to his young daughter, preferably a woman of intelligence and warmth who is, above all, immune to his idiosyncrasies—and to falling in love.

Widow Joanna Shaw isn’t interested in a second marriage, not after the loveless, passionless union she endured. She’d much rather dote on her young niece and nephew since they will likely be the only children in her life…until she meets a precocious girl, in desperate need of a mother. But her father, the so-called Duke of Defiance, is as peculiar as he is handsome, and Jo won’t take another risk with her heart. Their rules, however, are made to be broken, even when the consequences could destroy them both.

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EXCERPT:

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She sank into a curtsey. “Good morning, my lord. My sister wishes to convey her deepest apologies, but her son is ill, so she asked me to come in her stead.”

Bran registered the tidy upsweep of her dark brown hair and the green-brown of her earnest eyes as well as the simplicity of her modest slate-gray gown. She was rather monochromatic, except for that hint of green in her eyes, and the tiny gold flecks that danced near the pupil. He recalled that she was widowed, which perhaps explained her somewhat dour appearance. Or maybe it was just that he was used to warmth and vibrancy and colors that defied possibility in England. Barbados seemed like an imaginary world now.

“I see. Do you have children of your own?” he asked.

Pale swaths of pink highlighted her cheeks. It was the barest bit of color, but he caught it. How could he not against the dull palette she provided?

Dull?

No, that wasn’t an apt description. Her attire was dull, her hair a bit too severe, but she possessed an attractive, feminine form. Indeed, her breasts were perhaps spectacular. And she was pretty, with long, dark lashes framing her eyes and rose-colored lips that were just a bit too full. Not too full, he amended.

“I do not,” she said, drawing his attention back to his question about whether she had children.

“Then how can you be qualified to help me with this endeavor?”

“My sister sent a list of characteristics and requirements you should seek.” She straightened her shoulders and looked him in the eye. “She also sent me with her express confidence.”

He liked her fortitude. “Well then, I suppose you will suffice. Come along.”

Her nostrils flared slightly, and her eyes widened just the tiniest bit, the gold flecks seeming to brighten. As he turned to lead her to his office, he considered that he might have just offended her again. He had called her abilities into question, but why wouldn’t he?

He strode toward the back corner of the house, where his office was located. It was a large chamber with a wall of bookshelves and windows that looked out to the garden. He moved behind the desk and indicated for her to take a chair on the opposite side.

She slowly sat, her gaze wary and her mouth tight.

He frowned. “My apologies if I insulted you.”

“If you’d rather I didn’t stay, you have only to say so.” There was a steely set to her shoulders and a clipped edge to her tone as she spoke. “Nora wanted to help you, but I’ll understand if you decide I won’t suffice.”

He dropped into his chair. She had cheek to go with her fortitude. He liked that too. He’d been prepared to deal with milksops and featherbrains when he’d returned to England—people like his mother and brothers. Not that they really were milksops or featherbrains, but they liked to put on as if they were, thinking it was somehow attractive. He supposed it wasn’t fair to assume an entire population shared the same characteristics as his family.

“I’m afraid I must also apologize for the other day. I meant no offense. Sometimes… I speak without realizing how my words might sound.”

One of her dark, slender brows arched. “Forgive me for saying so, but I’ve found that’s a trait shared by most men.”

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Darcy BurkeAUTHOR BIO: Darcy Burke is the USA Today Bestselling Author of hot, action-packed historical and sexy, emotional contemporary romance.

A native Oregonian, Darcy lives on the edge of wine country with her guitar-strumming husband, their two hilarious kids who seem to have inherited the writing gene, and three Bengal cats.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Site / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads /

‘Romeo and Juliet: A Novel’ by David Hewson

rajan dh raSTORY: It’s a story you think you know: the age-old tale of “star-cross’d lovers”; two families at war; a romance, so pure and absolute, fated for a tragic end. It’s a story so thoroughly embedded in our culture, and so frequently retold. Yet, nothing captures the spark, the possibility, and the surprise of Shakespeare’s work quite like this….

In Romeo and Juliet: A Novel, author David Hewson reworks and expands on the classic story so that it becomes something richer, something new and entirely its own. Much more than a simple love story, it is a brilliant examination of young versus old, hope against despair, and, for Juliet, the search for individual identity at a time when women were regarded as little more than chattel.

An original production commissioned by Audible, Romeo and Juliet: A Novel marks the second pairing of David Hewson and actor Richard Armitage, whose previous partnership resulted in Audible’s 2014 Audiobook of the Year, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel. Hewson’s talent for writing for audio is undeniable, and he finds his perfect vocal foil in Armitage, an actor of immense range and absorbing intensity. Together, they bring you a familiar story told in a surprising way – with an ending you might not expect.

Exclusively written for Audible, only available in audio

Bonus: Audiobook includes an afterword written and narrated by David Hewson.

REVIEW: First, I must say that I’ve never really read the “original”, but I’ve seen many, many performances and reimagining’s of it, and liked most of them.

Since this was exclusively offered to us through Audible only, and narrated by one of my all time favorite actors [I still say RA stole every scene in Robin Hood the series and overshadowed the main character] Richard Armitage, I just had to have it.

That’s why I am loathe to say how disappointed I was with the narration. I was conflicted between the retelling and narration. One I liked and the other not so much. And here’s why.

I liked the way all the characters were written. They all had a personality and were fun to get to know. The feel of the novel was fresh, yet old and familiar. And the ending came as a surprise and pleasant at that.

That said, Richard Armitage’s narration wasn’t bad, but for some reason most of the characters sounded the same, old and decrepit. That bothered me to no end! His voice is deep and memorable while conveying the story, but as soon as he goes into the dialogue, I just cringed.

Do I recommend it? You bet! It had enough humor that I’ll forgive RA for his less than stellar performance 😉

Melanie for b2b

‘A Fallen Lady’ by Elizabeth Kingston

aflSTORY: Six years ago, to the outrage of her family and the delight of London gossips, Lady Helen Dehaven refused to marry the man to whom she was betrothed. Even more shockingly, her refusal came on the heels of her scandalous behavior: she and her betrothed were caught in a most compromising position. Leaving her reputation in tatters and her motivations a mystery, Helen withdrew to a simple life in a little village among friends, where her secrets remained hers alone.

For reasons of his own, Stephen Hampton, Lord Summerdale, is determined to learn the truth behind the tangled tale of Helen’s ruin. There is nothing he abhors so much as scandal – nothing he prizes so well as discretion – and so he is shocked to find, when he tracks Helen down, that he cannot but admire her. Against all expectations, he finds himself forgiving her scandalous history in favor of only being near her.

But the bitter past will not relinquish Helen’s heart so easily. How can she trust a man so steeped in the culture of high society, who conceals so much? And how can he, so devoted to the appearance of propriety, ever love a fallen lady?

REVIEW: I’ve only recently discovered this author and the two medieval books she wrote, I just loved. This one is set in Regency period and while the plot was slow moving, I thought the story revolved mostly around the developing characters and their growing relationship. I believe the complexity of the characters (and trust me, both characters had a lot of issues that only with time would be resolved) and their growing romance are as much of a plot as the real reason behind their meeting and the heroine’s past.

Our hero Stephen is sharp, intuitive and funny while the heroine Helen, is  strong, witty and vulnerable. No wonder Stephen was taken with her, despite her reputation.

The story not just starts slow, but it moves at a sedate pace throughout and to some this might be an obstacle. To me, I rather thought it was a conscious decision on the part of the author. I believe that if this story was given a fast pace, we would have lost the point of what it really takes for two vastly different, extremely complex individuals to not just fall in love with one another, but to accept each others flaws and circumstances that brought them together.

Some stories are written to entertain and titillate, some to make us laugh and some to make us cry. This story actually has all of those elements but it also makes us think. We are forced to see the society and its people of Regency Era as they truly were. A society that treated women as property and put very little value on them.

Elizabeth Kingston and Nicholas Boulton are a force to be reckoned 🙂 I love them both.

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review

Spotlight on Amy Jarecki and ‘The Highland Commander’!

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BOOK BLURB: She cannot resist the man behind the mask…

As the illegitimate daughter of a Scottish earl, Lady Magdalen Keith is not one to partake in lavish balls or other frivolities. Yet at her father’s urging, she agrees to dance with the battle-weary officers at this year’s holiday masquerade. It’s practically her civic duty! But when one such officer—whose dashing good looks cannot be disguised by a mere mask—sweeps her off her feet and into his arms, the innocent lass can’t help herself. Her lips are his for the taking.

But will he betray his country for a kiss?

Navy lieutenant Aiden Murray has spent too many months at sea to be immune to the charms of this lovely beauty. Even after he returns to his ship, she lives in his dreams. But when he discovers Maddie’s true identity—and learns that her father is accused of treason—will the brawny Scot risk his life to follow his heart?

BUY LINKS: Amazon / Audible / Barnes & Noble / Books-A-Million / Google Play / iBooks / IndieBound / Kobo

Lords of the Highland

 

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EXCERPT:

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As in the Highland custom, Aiden wore the plaid belted at his waist, the length pulled from the lower right opening of his doublet, around his back and pinned at his left shoulder with a silver brooch bearing the Atholl arms. The valet had put forth a good effort ensuring there was neither wrinkle nor hair out of place.

He regarded himself in the looking glass above the mantle in the drawing room, sliding one foot forward as he would do for a portrait. Not liking the image, he puffed out his chest and moved a hand to his lapel.

God’s bones, take me to sea where I can cast aside these frills.

Tuning his back to the looking glass, Aiden resorted to pacing and pulling out his pocket watch. The coach would arrive in five minutes, and Maddie hadn’t yet made an appearance.

At least a light glowed from beneath her door indicating she was within. It cast a hazy glow in the otherwise dark passageway. After pacing around the chamber half-dozen times, he again eyed his timepiece. Another minute had passed. Perhaps he should knock on the door—perhaps Maddie’s mantle clock had stopped and she was unaware of the time. Just as he started off, her door opened. A burst of light flooded the passageway, and with the tap of dainty footsteps, an angel emerged.

Aiden knew she’d purchased a new gown, but he hadn’t expected this. His mouth went dry and he suddenly needed to take in two stuttered breaths to steady the thumping of his heart.

Christ, men aren’t supposed to experience such heart hammering. Especially men bred for the sea. Damnation.

She smiled, and his goddamned knees wobbled. He should have taken a healthy tot whilst he was pacing in the drawing room.

Her golden gown rustled as she walked forward, with a matching fan in her hand. She moved the fan to her waist…just below her breasts. Creamy skin Aiden knew to be softer than spun silk swelled above a dangerously plunging neckline. His mouth went completely dry. If Maddie’s serving maid had been anywhere but behind her lady, Aiden would have taken the lassie into his arms, pushed through his bedchamber door and damned the recital.

“I hope I haven’t made us late.” Maddie batted her eyelashes as if she had no idea of the effect she had on his aching cods. “Miss Agnes spent ever so long curling my hair.”

Aiden’s tongue slipped over his bottom lip. “Your curls are exquisite. You are exquisite, m’lady.”

Agnes cleared her throat, coming up behind with a cloak over her arm. “You’d best say so, m’lord. It took the greater part of the afternoon to make those ringlets.”

Nay, there’d be no slipping into the bedchamber for a hasty sampling of those pearl-tipped bosoms.

Aiden glanced to his pocket watch—they still had a few minutes—and now that he knew Maddie was ready, there’d be no harm in making the coach wait for a minute or two. “Fine job, Miss Agnes,” he said with more sobriety than he felt. “I think you deserve a healthy tot of fine spirit for taking such fine care of her ladyship.”

“Have we time?” asked Maddie.

Aiden led them into the drawing room and gestured to the settee. “A stolen moment will not set us behind overmuch.”

Agnes gave a firm shake of her head. “You needn’t make a fuss for the likes of me.”

“It is no fuss. You take good care of your lady, and for that I want to thank you.” Aiden poured three tots of sherry and offered each of the ladies a glass. “Shall we drink to Miss Agnes?”

Blinking, the woman drew a hand over her mouth, dipping her head and smiling broadly. “Heavens.”

“Aye, we should.” Maddie patted her chambermaid’s knee and raised her glass. “To the woman who has seen me through one and twenty years of happiness. I have no idea what would have become of me if you hadn’t been by my side. Sometimes I’ve felt as if you’re the only person in all of Christendom who cares.”

Aiden’s gut twisted. He cared a great deal, but it was inconceivable that Maddie had been made to feel like an outcast from such a young age. He drank thoughtfully, watching the two women as they sipped. Even their mannerisms had become similar. “Miss Agnes, how long have you been serving Lady Magdalen?”

The woman’s eyes glistened with pride. “Since the day she was born. The moment I held her in my arms I knew my purpose.”

Aiden glanced to Maddie and knitted his brows. “Did your mother pass in childbirth?”

Shaking her head, the lass bit her bottom lip. “Nay. My mother knew I would have a better life if she gave me to my father. Only…” Maddie looked away, and took another sip.

“What?”

“The one caveat was that she could never set eyes on me again.”

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REVIEW: This is the second story in Lords of the Highlands series, but it can be read as a stand alone. In this story we have a telling of Maddie and Aiden’s happily ever after.

This story has, as the previous one, also has a few complex characters, especially the leads. Both characters were well written and despite the great background of history, managed to carry this story with its sheer tenacity.

I also enjoyed the pace of the story as well as action and numerous twists and turns.

Amy Jarecki continues to suck me into the settings of Scotland and its history, but it’s the characters she creates that keep me coming back to her writing.

If you’re hankering for some men in kilts and wish to take a journey through history, this is a perfect story for you.

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review

Amy Jarecki CREDIT Bruce Heinsius PhotographyAUTHOR BIO: Amy Jarecki is a descendant of an ancient Lowland clan and adores Scotland. Though she now resides in southwest Utah, she received her MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Winning multiple writing awards, she found her niche in the genre of Scottish historical romance. Amy writes steamy edge-of-your-seat action adventures with rugged men and fascinating women who weave their paths through the brutal eras of centuries past.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

Spotlight on Ruth Kaufman and ‘My Life as an Extra’

mlaae rkBOOK BLURB: Chicagoan Marla Goldberg must rebuild her life at forty-one after an unexpected divorce. While adjusting to singlehood, trying to improve conditions at the radio station where she’s an account executive and fit in with her successful family, she dips her toes into the daunting dating pool.

Marla yearns to fulfill her dream of being a working actor, yet can’t quite believe, “Leap and the net will appear.” Working as an extra teaches her meaningful lessons, but she must learn what for her is the hardest lesson of all: how to feel special when you’re not the star.

BUY LINKS: Amazon /

EXCERPT:

My heart starts to race. A famous, award-winning director has noticed me. Will he pluck me from obscurity? Will I be upgraded to a slightly better role and higher pay, or will he even give me a line, a boon bestowed on rare occasion?

“I don’t like the way her scarf is blowing.” The director walks down the row of extras and borrows a dark green, fringed wool one from some guy. For a second the guy’s face perks up. I know he thinks he’s going to be moved to a better place in the shot, my place, but Adam, if I may be so bold, just wants his scarf. I put it on and a wardrobe person safety pins it to my coat.

“Rolling….” a voice calls.

“Rolling!” several people echo.

“Picture’s up.”

“Background action!”

Leaning over the wind machines as the train rolls by, I and the others brave icy blasts. My hair and the borrowed scarf blow straight up. The cold has pierced my coat and layers, so I’m shivering harder. I know my nose is bright red. The woman beside me jumps up and down.

We endure a few more takes.

Adam comes toward me again. My heart starts pounding again. Why an intelligent person such as myself gets nervous because a famous movie director approaches is beyond me, but I can’t seem to help it. I hope I’ll get to do something good and fear I did something wrong at the same time.

“Will you step out of the shot, please?” he asks.

My stomach drops. I do fear I’ve done something wrong. That even as a train-platform-standing-in-the-freezing-cold extra, I’m not good enough. I move to the side and watch forlornly as they do more takes, all these people crammed into such a narrow space doing their best for Superhero IX. Except me.

A few minutes later, Adam comes over. I can’t help it, I perk up just like scarf guy. The director of a major motion picture actually left his chair to find me.

“You can come back now,” he says. “It wasn’t the same without you.”

A wave of joyous warmth washes over me. How nice is that. My day is made.

Later, we’re working on a different shot on the other side of the platform. Adam comes over yet another time. I suck in a breath. My icy hands get icier.

“Great reaction.”

My face is probably so red from the cold he can’t tell I’m blushing. It’s the wind making my eyes tear up.

The Adam Markham probably won’t remember me or those shots, for him just two of many in one movie of many, but I’ll never forget how nice he was. The way he knew how to make an extra feel like an actor. Feel talented and special.

On the drafty train platform, inspiration hits me hard as a wind machine gust. If Adam Markham thinks I do a good job on camera, maybe others will, too.

The once-familiar urge to perform, to entertain and move an audience, unfurls in my chest in a fiery burst like a phoenix spreading its wings. My first lines in a Kindergarten play made the crowd laugh and inspired me to be an actress…someday. But everyone knows acting is a risky, unreliable career. Would I be good enough? Find the elusive mix of right place, right time, right roles?

Today made me realize how much I’ve missed acting. I’d repressed the bug, but it still bit. I’d lost two dreams: a successful, loving marriage and gorgeous house. I would find a way to make this dream come true.

Someday is now.

rkAUTHOR BIO: Ruth Kaufman is a Chicago author, on-camera and voiceover talent and freelance editor and speaker with a J.D. and a Master’s in Radio/TV.

The second book in her Wars of the Roses Brides series, FOLLOW YOUR HEART,  releases April 14. Writing accolades include Romance Writers of America® 2011 Golden Heart® winner and runner up in RT Book Reviews’ national American Title II contest. Her true, short story, “The Scrinch” is in the St. Martin’s Press anthology The Spirit of Christmas, foreword by Debbie Macomber.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Website / Blog Gainfully Unemployed / Facebook  or Ruth Kaufman Author & Actress / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon Author Page

‘Three Weeks with a Princess’ by Vanessa Kelly

twwap vkSTORY: Lia Kincaid, illegitimate daughter of the Duke of York, comes from a long line of notorious women. Raised by her grandmother, formerly mistress to the late Marquess of Lendale, she has little hope of a respectable marriage. But the new marquess, her childhood friend, Jack Easton, would make a very desirable protector . . . if he weren t too honorable to take her to bed.

It s bad enough being saddled with a title he never desired. Now Jack must resist the beautiful woman he desires far too much. Duty calls, and he is duty-bound to choose a wealthy bride.

But then Lia makes another outrageous suggestion: asking Jack to devise some tests to find her the perfect paramour. Tests that involve flirting, kissing, and other pleasurable pursuits. Tests that, in a matter of weeks, could transform friendship into the ton s greatest scandal, igniting a passion even duty can t deny. . .

REVIEW:  This is the second story in the Improper Princesses series and I’ve loved it as much as the first. Once more Vanessa Kelly’s characterization and plot manage to make me laugh and care for the protagonists.

Lia and Jack’s back and forth totally made this read engaging and enjoyable for me. Their “friends to lovers” story was sweet and heartwarming and I liked every minute of their growing romance.

If you’re looking for a story well written with an intriguing plot, peppered with witty dialogue and steamy romance, look no further. This is it.

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review

‘The Wallflower’s Wicked Wager’ by Collette Cameron

twww ccSTORY: He loved her beyond anything and everything—precisely why he couldn’t ever marry her.

A wounded hero.
Love—sentimental drivel for insipid, weak, feckless fools.
Since an explosion ravaged Captain Morgan Le Draco’s face and cost him his commission in the Royal Dragoons, he’s fortified himself behind an impenetrable rampart of cynicism and distrust. Now destitute and shunned by the very society that once lauded his heroics, he’s put aside all thoughts of marrying and having a family. Until he risks his life to save a drowning woman. At once, Morgan knows Shona’s the balm for his tortured soul, but as a wealthy, titled noblewoman, she’s too far above his humble station and can never be his.

An intrepid wallflower.
Love—a treasured gift reserved for those beautiful of form and face.
Scorned and ridiculed most of her adult life, Shona, Lady Atterberry believes she’s utterly undesirable and is reconciled to spinsterhood. She hides her spirited temperament beneath a veneer of gauche shyness, until a strapping, scarred stranger saves her life, and she can’t deny her immediate, powerful, and sensual attraction to him. Despite how ill-suited they are and innuendos that Captain Le Draco is a fortune-hunter, she cannot escape her growing fascination.

Two damaged souls searching for love.
Others are determined to keep them apart, and Shona is goaded into placing a wicked wager. One that sets her upon a ruinous path and alienates the only man who might have ever loved her. Is true love enough to put their pasts behind them, to learn to trust, and heal their wounded hearts?

REVIEW: This is the fifth installment in Waltz with a Rogue novella series, but it can be read alone. Above blurb summarizes the story well, so I’ll just tell you the reasons why I loved it.

First, I really loved the characterization of the two leads. We not only have a broken hero, but our heroine was almost, if not more, broken than the hero. The backstory of these two was heartbreaking. I thought the “love at first sight” trope well represented with Shona and Morgan. The attraction and tension between the two was so well written it jumps off the pages.

Second, I thoroughly enjoyed the plot which had enough drama and conflict to populate two full length books, let alone this novella. The road to their happily ever after was fraught with a lot of complications, but I thought their perseverance prevailed and they both got stronger by the experience.

Third and last, but not the least, this story had a lot of heart as well as humor, which combined with a fast pace, makes for a wonderful and entertaining read.

As usual Ms. Cameron’s  richness and depth of the characters is what keeps bringing me back to her writing and I hope you’ll give her a try. I promise you’ll not be disappointed!

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review