‘The Earl’s Return’ by Callie Hutton

ter chSTORY: London, 1819. Four years ago, Darius, the Earl of Redgrave fled London two weeks before his wedding to Lady Mary’s sister and married another woman. Now a widower, he has returned to seek a new wife.

One woman catches his eye . . .

At first, Lady Mary doesn’t recognize the handsome lord as the cad who ran out on her sister. After giving him the cut direct in a London ballroom, she finds herself running into him everywhere she goes, and fighting a forbidden attraction. Not only has Mary sworn off men, Redgrave is so very wrong for her. But she cannot stop thinking of his kisses. Redgrave means to stay away from Mary but it is impossible. Passion between two people who can never be together is a dangerous game.

REVIEW: London – 1819

Darius, Earl of Redgrave, has just completed a year of mourning for his wife, Lady Priscilla, who passed away after 3 years of marriage. Knowing he must get an heir, Darius has ventured out again into Society and is attending a ball. He remains guilt-ridden for abandoning his fiancee, Lady Abigail, sister of the Duke of Manchester shortly before their planned wedding to marry Priscilla. A short time later, Lady Abigail married a rector. She is now happily married and the mother of twin sons.

Back in town, Darius dreads running into the Duke of Manchester or one of his sisters. He soon learns that Lady Mary is the only sister who is yet unmarried. As Darius peruses the young ladies at a ball, there is only one who appeals to him and it turns out to be Lady Mary who is now age 23. When she finds out who he is, she reacts coldly. But when he rescues her from an overbearing man in the garden, she lets Darius know how angry she is with him for his treatment of her sister.

It happens that both Darius and Mary are on the committee for the London Orphan Asylum which puts them together frequently. These encounters soon become civil and they begin to get to know one another.

As the story continues, the reader discovers why Darius jilted Lady Abigail and married Lady Priscilla. The story is very good and to give any more away would be so wrong! Spoilers. Suffice to say that I really enjoyed this book. Darius and Mary are terrific characters. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘Arrowood’ by Laura McHugh

a lmchSTORY: A haunting novel from the author of The Weight of Blood about a young woman’s return to her childhood home—and her encounter with the memories and family secrets it holds

Arrowood is the most ornate and grand of the historical houses that line the Mississippi River in southern Iowa. But the house has a mystery it has never revealed: It’s where Arden Arrowood’s younger twin sisters vanished on her watch twenty years ago—never to be seen again. After the twins’ disappearance, Arden’s parents divorced and the Arrowoods left the big house that had been in their family for generations. And Arden’s own life has fallen apart: She can’t finish her master’s thesis, and a misguided love affair has ended badly. She has held on to the hope that her sisters are still alive, and it seems she can’t move forward until she finds them. When her father dies and she inherits Arrowood, Arden returns to her childhood home determined to discover what really happened to her sisters that traumatic summer.

Arden’s return to the town of Keokuk—and the now infamous house that bears her name—is greeted with curiosity. But she is welcomed back by her old neighbor and first love, Ben Ferris, whose family, she slowly learns, knows more about the Arrowoods’ secrets and their small, closed community than she ever realized. With the help of a young amateur investigator, Arden tracks down the man who was the prime suspect in the kidnapping. But the house and the surrounding town hold their secrets close—and the truth, when Arden finds it, is more devastating than she ever could have imagined.

Arrowood is a powerful and resonant novel that examines the ways in which our lives are shaped by memory. As with her award-winning debut novel, The Weight of Blood, Laura McHugh has written a thrilling novel in which nothing is as it seems, and in which our longing for the past can take hold of the present in insidious and haunting ways.

REVIEW: At age 8, Arden Arrowood was there the day her twin sisters, Violet and Tabitha, just under 2 years of age, vanished. Arden said they were kidnapped by a man in a gold car. At the time, her family was living at Arrowood. Now at age 25, after the death of her father, Arden finds that she has inherited Arrowood, the huge family home built many years ago and located on a bluff on the Mississippi River in the town of Keokuk. Once a very prosperous town with large mansions, it has lost many businesses and become rather rundown. No one has lived in Arrowood since the family moved away not long after the disappearance of the twins. After an exhaustive search, the authorities were never able to find the girls.

Moving back to the home reopens many memories of Arden’s childhood there and makes her even more determined to find out what happened to her sisters. She meets Josh whose goal in life is to solve cold cases. The information he shares reopens old wounds but also makes her question more things. Her childhood friend and next door neighbor, Ben, still lives in town as does his mother. As the Arrowood family has been a part of the town for well over 100 years, they are well known and there is a lot of history here.

We meet people from the past and wonder if they know anything about the disappearance of the girls. The house itself is rather spooky but Arden is not afraid to live there. As more clues come to light, we think we know who was responsible.

I suspected the truth at one time but other clues seemed to knock that out. Do come and read this enthralling story and see if you can solve the mystery. It will truly keep you guessing right up to the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and hope other readers will as well.

Connie for b2b

 

‘Lady Carpathian and the Bennets’ by Perpetua Langley

lcatb plSTORY: The mysterious Lady Carpathian, Mr. Bennet’s long-time friend and correspondent, has descended on Longbourn. She has been thinking of the Bennet girls for quite some time and now she will whisk Elizabeth and Jane to London for a season.

Upon arrival, they are introduced to Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, Caroline Bingley and the Hursts, as well as the delightful Sir Gregory, the intriguing Lord Hampton and the indomitable Mrs. Nathan.

All goes well until rumors fly about secret engagements. Who is engaged to who and where did such rumors begin?

This is a Pride & Prejudice variation.

REVIEW: Mr. Bennett is explaining to his wife and daughter, Elizabeth, that he has read a letter from Lady Carpathian saying that she will be passing through Hertfordshire and wishes to stop for a visit. The Lady is a distant relative and long time friend of Mr. Bennett but Mrs. Bennett has never met her. Thus, Mrs. Bennett and their 5 daughters Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia are a bit nervous as the household prepares for the visit. Their neighbors, the Lucas family, have been invited to dine with them as well.

Lady Carpathian arrives with a maid and many trunks for just one overnight. She immediately approves of Elizabeth and Jane but feels Mary may be a bit immature. As young Kitty and Lydia are quite boisterous, Lady Carpathian feels that they should remain in the schoolroom. While the Lady appears to be superior to the Bennetts, she aligns herself equally with the Lucas family.

At dinner that evening, Lady Carpathian reveals that she wants to take Elizabeth and Jane to London to give them a Season and she also invites their friend, Charlotte Lucas, to join them. She assures Mary that while she may be a bit young, she will give her a Season in a year or two. The young ladies are thrilled. As they travel to London, Lady Carpathian tells them about all of the eligible young men, especially Mr. Bingley, Lord Hampton, and Mr. Darcy.

The girls are soon outfitted with lovely new clothes and introduced at social events. As they meet some young men, they have different opinions of them. But when Lady Carpathian suddenly becomes ill, Mr. Darcy sends his personal physician to treat her using a much different method that what is usually used. As she improves, the doctor suggests that she may need several months to regain her strength so they all travel back to the Bennetts where Lady Carpathian will recuperate.

What about the young men they have met? Will they see them again?

I have given away way too much but there is some much more to this story for the reader to discover and enjoy. The author has written this in true Jane Austen “fashion” so you must come see these characters through her eyes. I loved Lady Carpathian. What a perfect character she is. The entire book is one the reader won’t want to put down for a minute. I have become a huge fan of Perpetua Langley and her novels. I hope other readers will discover her books as well.

Complimentary copy provided by the author

Connie for b2b

Spotlight on Diana Cosby and ‘Forbidden Legacy’!

fl dcBOOK BLURB: A betrothal neither wants . . . a passion neither can resist.
 
When the English murder Lady Katherine Calbraith’s family, she refuses their demands to wed an English noble to retain her home. Avalon Castle is her birthright, one she’s determined to keep.  After Katherine’s daring escape, she’s stunned when Scotland’s king agrees to allow her to return to Avalon, but under the protection of Sir Stephan MacQuistan . . . as the knight’s wife.  To reclaim her heritage, Katherine agrees. She accepts her married fate, certain that regardless of the caliber of the man, Stephan may earn her trust, but he’ll never win her love.
 
One of the Knights Templar, Stephan desires no bride, only vengeance for a family lost and a legacy stolen. A profound twist of fate tears apart the Brotherhood he loves, but offers him an opportunity to reclaim his legacy—Avalon Castle. Except to procure his childhood home along with a place to store Templar treasures, he must wed the unsuspecting daughter of the man who killed his family. To settle old scores, Stephan agrees, aware Katherine is merely a means to an end.
 
The passion that arises between them is as dangerous as it is unexpected. When mortal enemies find themselves locked in love’s embrace, Stephan and Katherine must reconsider their mission and everything they once thought to be true . . .

BUY LINKS: AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

TEASER:

“You will remain here!”

Her heart dropped. ’Twas a risk to push him, but she was desperate. Who wouldna be after the gruesome events she’d witnessed? “I know I speak out of turn. It wasna my intention to usurp your authority.” At his hesitation, she pushed on, her words spilling out. “I am loyal to you, I swear it, but Avalon Castle is my home; ’tis all I know,” she rasped, her words trembling with grief. “If necessary, for my home and my country, I shall sacrifice my life.”

He glared at her. “You are but a wee lass.”

“Mayhap.” She drew herself up to her full height. “But one who fights with the fury of a thousand warriors!”

For a long moment he studied her. Then his mouth twisted into a wry smile. “If I agree to let you return, you will comply with my wishes?”

“Aye, Your Grace, anything.”

REVIEW: I’ve read this author before and she’s been a hit or miss for me most of the time. This one, a first in The Forbidden series, was on the cusp of miss, and the only reason for it is the heroine who I found a bit grating on my nerves and whose pride kept her from accepting the hero for who he was. As I delved more into her past, I started liking her a bit better.

The hero was a surprise because of his background and my heart went out to him. There were some of his characteristics that I wasn’t such a fan of, but in the end I did understand him much better than I did the heroine.

In the end, the author won me over only because she does an excellent job of painting me a picture of medieval Scotland with such vivid colors that I may as well been there myself.

I liked the premise of this and the upcoming stories, of the Knight Templar’s history. It’s fascinating to dig deeper into who they were and what made them tick. Ms. Cosby does an excellent job in weaving historical facts with fiction and that’s what kept me reading this book until the end.

All in all, not bad for a start of the new series. Since I’ve met a few of our heroes friends, I’m looking forward to finding out about who’ll tame them.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

dcAUTHOR BIO: A retired Navy Chief, Diana Cosby is an international bestselling author of Scottish medieval romantic suspense. Books in her award-winning MacGruder Brothers series are translated in five languages. Diana has spoken at the Library of Congress, Lady Jane’s Salon in NYC, and appeared in Woman’s Day, on USA Today’s romance blog, “Happy Ever After,” MSN.com, Atlantic County Women Magazine, and Texoma Living Magazine.

After her career in the Navy, Diana dove into her passion – writing romance novels. With 34 moves behind her, she was anxious to create characters who reflected the amazing cultures and people she’s met throughout the world. With the release of her 1st book in her new Scottish medieval The Oath Trilogy, An Oath Taken, which hit bestseller lists in Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as the release of the e Box Set of the MacGruder Brothers series, she’s now preparing for the last two books in The Oath trilogy, An Oath Broken – 22 June, and, An Oath Sworn – 23 December, 2015!

Diana looks forward to the years of writing ahead and meeting the amazing people who will share this journey.

SOCIAL LINKS: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

‘Weeping in the Wings’ by Terry Lynn Thomas

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00067]STORY: San Francisco, March 1943
Sarah Bennett harbors two secrets: She sees ghosts, and she’s in love with a spy.

When Sarah takes a job with occult expert Dr. Matthew Geisler, he promises to help her understand the sorrowful spirit that seems to have attached itself to her—a spirit whose incessant weeping only she can hear.

Meanwhile, as Sarah struggles to cope with the relentless weeping, she comes face to face with Zeke, the man who left her six months earlier and is ostensibly convalescing from injuries suffered in an alleged accident. But Zeke has secrets of his own, and Sarah’s love and trust are soon put to the test.

Things take an even darker turn when an attempt is made on Geisler’s life, and Sarah finds herself caught in a struggle between the living and the dead. Unsure who she can trust, she must unlock the mystery of the weeping ghost in order to save Dr. Geisler—and herself—from an unknown enemy.

REVIEW: 1943 – San Francisco

Sarah Bennett sees ghosts and one that has attached itself to her weeps constantly. It began when she heard the verdict of not guilty as pertains to her adoptive father who had committed murder. Sarah started having hallucinations after being pushed off the second story staircase landing at Bennett Hall. Her stepmother had also been pushed and died from the fall. Even though Sarah testified against her father at the trial, he was found not guilty. Sarah’s psychiatrist, Dr. Upton, has prescribed medication for her, but it hasn’t helped. She still hears weeping.

Needing a job, she applies at the Geisler Institute for a secretarial position that also provides room and board. When she finds that a man named Zeke is a patient at the Institute recovering from some severe wounds, she is shocked. She had fallen in love with him some time back but he just left her.

While Sarah thinks she might be going insane with the weeping sounds and the fact that she believes that she can communicate with the dead, Dr. Geisler tells her he believes that she is sane. As she gets to know people staying at the Institute, one woman resident thinks that someone she thought to be dead is now after her. So, Sarah steps in to help find the truth using her special powers.

I enjoyed this second book by the author, but I think readers really need to have read the first book, “The Spirit of Grace” to understand Grace’s past and some of the characters. My review of the first book is here:

https://bookworm2bookworm.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/the-spirit-of-grace-by-terry-lynn-thomas/

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘How the Duke Was Won’ by Lenora Bell

htdww lbSTORY: The pleasure of your company is requested at Warbury Park. Four lovely ladies will arrive… but only one can become a duchess.

James, the scandalously uncivilized Duke of Harland, requires a bride with a spotless reputation for a strictly business arrangement. Lust is prohibited and love is out of the question.

Four ladies. Three days. What could go wrong?

She is not like the others…

Charlene Beckett, the unacknowledged daughter of an earl and a courtesan, has just been offered a life-altering fortune to pose as her half-sister, Lady Dorothea, and win the duke’s proposal. All she must do is:

* Be the perfect English rose [Ha!]

* Breathe, smile, and curtsy in impossibly tight gowns [blast Lady Dorothea’s sylph-like figure]

* Charm and seduce a wild duke [without appearing to try]

* Keep said duke far, far from her heart [no matter how tempting]

When secrets are revealed and passion overwhelms, James must decide if the last lady he should want is really everything he needs. And Charlene must decide if the promise of a new life is worth risking everything . . . including her heart.

REVIEW: If I had only one word to describe this story it would be “fun”. And that’s very good for a debut. I thought the above blurb was a perfect peek into the story. It’s what attracted me to this new author.

I usually gravitate towards brooding and dark heroes/heroines, so once in a while I’d look for a bit of lighthearted fun in my romance and this is just such a story.

This is a first book in a Disgraceful Dukes series and in it we meet James, Duke of Harland, who is in a dire need of a bride. But not just “any” bride. He has a list of her atributes, and there are four ladies that he’s about to meet and see which one fits his “bill”.

My heart went out to Charlene, our heroine. She is one of those strong and determined women that take on themselves too much. She is stuck between a rock and a hard place. In order to help her family, she accepts an offer to pass herself off as her half-sister Dorothea and trap a Duke in a marriage for that sibling. This wasn’t a light decision she made, and I sympathized with her inner battle as she realizes that the price she’s to pay for this just might be too high.

I also loved the secondary characters. They all were interesting, entertaining and pure fun. From James’s friends to the four women vying for Duke’s attention.

I highly recommend this debut and I’m looking forward to the next story If I Only Had a Duke in which the “real” Dorothea gets her happily ever after, and then there’s Blame It on the Duke!

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘Forever a Lord’ by Delilah Marvelle

fal dmSTORY: He’s a fighter, not a lover.
But that’s about to change…

Lady Imogene Norwood lives a sheltered life of quiet respectability and routine…until she debuts at her first Season. There among London’s elite she meets the wild and broken Lord Atwood. And the very shy English rose suddenly realizes that a little chaos might just be what her heart desires.

Lord Nathaniel James Atwood doesn’t believe true love exists. Since scandal tore him away from his family at an early age, he has spent his life fighting for what he wants. That attitude has made him a rising star in bare-knuckle boxing, and now leads him back to London to reclaim the life that was stolen from him. But upon meeting the innocent Imogene, his beliefs are trounced…as guarding his heart against her proves to be the fight of his life.

REVIEW: And here we are…the end of the Rumor series and finally we have all the secrets out and honestly, I didn’t see this one coming. And for all of you that haven’t read the previous books in this series which starts off with Forever Mine novella, continuing with Forever and a Day and Forever a Lady, don’t fret as  Delilah Marvelle makes sure this last one can stand alone, although, personally I advise you read them all.

Lord Nathaniel James Atwood had been kidnapped thirty years ago when he was only ten years old and after all these years is ready to face his father and the reasons behind his abduction. At last and with great anticipation, the readers who’ve followed this series are welcoming Nathaniel’s story.

We are finally faced with horrors of one boy’s captivity and life after it, and the picture Ms. Marvelle so painstakingly paints for us is heartbreaking for the reader as well as for the hero. After many years spent locked up in virtual darkness, entering the small cellar as a boy, emerges a young man with new name and new purpose in life: survive at any cost and never, ever go back to the life he was born to.

Years spent in the worst slums of New York teach our hero many skills, but bare knuckle boxing is what earns him respect from his new found gang and allows him to help those that are helpless and more lost than he. And then, out of the blue, the past catches up to him, and he is forced to face it, warts and all. At first, his decision to return to London is fueled with confronting his father and killing him in cold blood, but his sister’s family steps in to reason with him and make him see the error of that path, so Nathaniel changes course and decides to claim his name, yet humiliate his father by becoming the most feared boxer.

Lady Imogene Norwood is a sweet nineteen year old girl living with her dear brother and his unbearable wife, who they both know is cheating on him.  Living with her brother who adores her, and watching him suffer in his marriage, she approaches him with a scheme they both think just might give them their freedom from the existence neither is willing to perpetuate any longer.

In order for the scheme to work, she’s willing to risk her inheritance, and for his part, her brother is now on the hunt for one man that can free them all by winning the English Boxing Championship. Enter `The Missing Heir’ as Nathaniel is being billed in the boxing circles. But before they hire the man, Imogene needs to make sure that she spells some of the rules to him, and he is invited to their home for the contract negotiations.

There are many reasons for Ms. Marvelle quickly becoming one of my favorite and treasured authors, but the first and foremost reason is the intensity of her writing. Every sentence, every action, from page to page, a reader is literally immersed into the world she carefully creates with her `pen’. If you’re lucky to enter that `world’, you’ll feel, smell and touch it, that’s how real it becomes!

Every character she creates, every emotion she conveys, touches one straight through the heart. This is the conclusion to a very dark yet still tender story that without a doubt deserves all of my five quills and I highly recommend you read all three books accompanied with the prequel, FOREVER MINE.

This part of the book will forever stay in my mind.

EXCERPT:

“Atwood tucked her head against his chest but said nothing. She still clung to him, unable to move. Pulling away from her, his large hands curved down the length of her arms with digging fingers until they dropped away completely.

He eyed her. `I didn’t force myself on you, did I?’

Her cheeks bloomed with heat. She brought a trembling hand to her hair, sweeping long sections of it away from the sides of her face. `No.’ Sweeping a hand over his mouth, he fisted that same hand and dug it against his teeth.

After a long moment of silence, he grated out past that fist, `You are inevitable, you know that?’

Why was he biting his hand?

`You don’t appear to be in the least bit pleased by my inevitability.’

He dropped his hand back to his side and gave her a sidelong glance of disbelief. `No. I’m not. And I’ll tell you why. Because I feel like I was put into a situation I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get out of. For Christ’s sake, the last thing I wanted was to be married again. And to you, no less. To you.’

She stiffened, her womanly pride prickling. To her, no less? What did that mean? What was so wrong with her that he felt a need to emphasize it aloud with so much vile annoyance? And after he had indulged himself to the brim? She knew she was odd and couldn’t speak well when it was needed most but did he really have to-

It stung. More than she wanted it to.

`Leave,’ she choked out. `My brother will- ‘ She wanted to add much, much more to the sentiment, but was too upset and her throat too tight with emotion. Her tongue was already feeling heavy and set to stutter.

He quirked a dark brow. `Your brother will what?’

She whipped a forefinger to the parlor entrance, knowing that if she spoke, it would only be in broken fragments that would make her look half-witted. And she was not going to be upstaged after that hip-grinding, breast-tweaking display her brother had to witness.

Nathaniel stared. `Why the devil are you so miffed?’

Oh, she would show him miffed, making her feel like a piece of fat he’d cut off the mutton when she was giving them all an opportunity of a lifetime. Just because she was naïve to the ways of men didn’t make her naive to the ways of being demeaned. Shaking her finger rigidly at the direction of the parlor entrance, she hoped to God he would just go and spare her the humiliation of having to use words.

Lines of concentration etched his brow. He angled toward her. `Is this about your stutter?’

Her eyes widened. Oh, God. He knew. Her own brother had tattled about her stuttering as if she were some medical aberration in need of pity.

His countenance notably softened. `Imogene. I’ve been through far too much to judge. Believe me. I don’t care what it sounds like. Say whatever you need to.’

He felt sorry for her. Henry had no doubt even asked the man to play governess to her until the championship. It was…humiliating. Like she was being passed from one set of panicked hands to another.

Nathaniel eyed her. `One of the boys in New York had a stutter.’

This just kept getting worse. She was now being compared to some American boy. Hardly a compliment.

Taking on a pensive look, he added, `I have an idea. Seeing we have four months of this ahead of us, why not deal with it now?’ He lifted his shaven chin and undid his cravat, tossing it aside. She scrambled back, her throat tightening all the more. What was he doing?

He casually undid the buttons on his waistcoat. `You and I are going to play Devil’s Dare. It’s a game men and women play in the Five Points. The idea is that I have to get you to take the Devil’s Dare through verbal bribes before all of my clothes are removed and I’m forced to walk into the street naked. The Devil’s Dare is this- you have to say something. So for each bribe I issue and each bribe you reject, a piece of my clothing is removed until I’m forced to walk into the streets in nothing but my goodwill. Now I know you like me well enough not to let me walk into the street naked. Or at least, I hope you do. Are you ready?’

She gaped. Was he being serious?

`Imogene, I will buy you a necklace made of rubies after I get my seven thousand.’

She swallowed, trying to steady her breathing. What was he doing?

`Clearly, you reject.’ He shrugged off his coat from each muscled arm and let it fall to the floor.

`Imogene, I’m not one for fawning, but I’ll take you into a garden and pick flowers for you. Would you like that?’

Mother of heaven. Why was he-

`Clearly, you reject.’ Holding her gaze, he shrugged off his waistcoat. It rustled to his booted feet.

`Imogene, I’ll dance with you on the rooftop of whatever house we move into during our four-month marriage.’

He didn’t expect her to play along, did he?

`Clearly, you reject.’ He yanked out his linen shirt from his trousers, letting it fall past his hips.

`Imogene, I will do something I have never done for a woman. I will take you shopping and hold all of your parcels.’

She clamped a trembling hand over her mouth.

`Clearly, you reject. I’m also running out of clothing, so you better take up the next offer.’ He yanked off the linen shirt with a ripple of solid movements that exposed the menacingly well-sculpted muscles of a broad chest and arms that visibly shifted and tightened against scars that bespoke years of fighting. He tossed the shirt.

She gasped, her heart pounding in disbelief, and glanced toward the opened doorway and back again at that bare chest, dreading Henry might come in and shoot them both.

`Imogene, I will always listen to whatever you have to say. No matter how you say it or why you say it.’ Holding her gaze, he dragged his hands down toward the front flap of his trousers, planning on doing away with them next.

Oh, dear God. She had to save him and herself.

`I accept!’ she choked out.”

Book won from the author.

Melanie for Romantic Crush Junkies reviews eZine.