The Duke of Andelot is out!

Bookworm:

I’m about to squee like a little girl! Here comes THE Duke of all the dukes ;) This is the latest from one of my favorite authors. Please check it out! My review is coming shortly ;)

Melanie

Originally posted on Delilah Marvelle Loves Her Readers:

My dearest Reader,

Ever wonder about the life of Madame de Maitenon? Wonder no more! The last book in the School of Gallantry series is out!

AVAILABLE NOW IN ALL DIGITAL STORES: KINDLE, NOOK, IBOOKS, KOBO

As with all my new releases, as a special thank you to my readers who gallantly run out to get the book the moment it hits, THE DUKE OF ANDELOT will be .99¢ only until midnight April 15th, so don’t wait! After April 15th, the book will go up to its full price of $3.99.  The print version of this book will be released April 28th.

The Story behind the story:

The amount of research that went into this book was staggering. I started researching it two years ago and loved every breathing moment of it. Thérèse and Gérard first appeared to me when I was in France researching the French Revolution and…

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‘Wagers Gone Awry’ by Collette Cameron

wga ccSTORY: Brooke Culpepper resigned herself to spinsterhood when she turned down the only marriage proposal she’d likely ever receive to care for her family. After her father dies, a distant cousin inherits the estate and becomes their guardian but permits Brooke to act in his stead.

Heath, Earl of Ravensdale is none-too-pleased to discover five young women call the dairy farm he won and intends to sell, their home. Desperate, pauper poor, and with nowhere to go, Brooke proposes a wager. His stakes? The farm. Hers? Her virtue. The land holds no interest for Heath, but Brooke does and he accepts her challenge.

Brooke loses, and her devastation is compounded when the cousin arrives, intending to haul the Culpepper misses off to London. Heath astounds himself and proposes in order to apply for guardianship of the other girls.

Does Brooke dare marry the handsome stranger who’d been bent on compromising her? Will Heath regret his impulsive gesture, or will unexpected love flourish?

REVIEW: Esherton Green, Cheshire England

April 1822
Brooke Culpepper, age 23, has a heavy load on her slim shoulders.  Since her parents passed away five years ago, she has been tasked with caring for her sister, Brette, and her three cousins, Blythe, and twins, Blaike and Blaire.  In addition, she has the responsibility of running their Esherton Dairy Farm.  Money is very sparse and she has to do all she can to try and make money to buy a new bull for their cows, otherwise there will be no more new calves.  The five ladies are all beautiful, blue-eyed blondes and each of them works hard to raise money via selling herbs, fruit and vegetables, sewing, and giving piano and voice lessons.  Their own food supplies are minimal and their clothes are nearly thread-bare, but they are happy being together.
When Brooke’s father died with no male issue, the estate passed to a distant cousin, Sheridan Gainsborough.  In those five years, the girls have never seen him even though he is also their guardian.  He is simply a greedy man who has “allowed” them to remain at the farm for half of the profit from it.  To prove Sheridan’s stupidity, he loses the property in a gambling wager to Heath, the Earl of Ravensdale.  Heath hates country life, preferring city life and his constant stream of kept women, whom he insists that they be clean and disease-free.
Heath travels to Esherton Green to investigate his new property finding five beautiful women inside.  Arriving in the midst of a violent storm, he is soaked.  The Dairy Farm is but a few miles from his good friend’s home where he had stayed.  Tristan, the Marquis of Leventhorpe, is another confirmed bachelor.  Heath comes across as a jerk only interested in making a deal with Brooke that she become his new mistress and in exchange, he will let her family continue to live at the farm.  But when Heath goes missing after leaving Esherton Green, Leventhorpe arrives to investigate and finds Heath has been knocked out and drugged.  How could this have happened?  It is necessary that Heath stay at the farm to recuperate and Leventhorpe refuses to leave him.
Brooke is forced to pay out what little money she has for a physician to attend him, in addition to feeding him what little food they have.  How will this all turn out for the ladies?
I loved this story and don’t want to give away anymore spoilers.  Suffice to say that readers are going to fall in love this series.  The characters are written perfectly.  I cannot wait for the next books in the series to see what is in store for each of the ladies.
Connie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the author

Outlander – #1.09, Let’s discuss!

Just love this ‘card’! My thanks to Marvel & Whimsy for this gif.

People, I have survived #Droughtlader by re watching the first eight episodes ad nauseam; re listening the second part of Outlander book and hanging around every possible Facebook Outlander group and following Sam, Cait, Tobias and anyone related to the show all over Twitter .. I would say that I’ve “jumped the shark” when it comes to this show. Am I even a bit ashamed of myself?! NO! At my age, shame isn’t an issue anymore ;)

This second half of the first season is much-anticipated by all the fans of the books and the show. Going forward, I’ve decided not to recap the show. The reason for it is this. It’s very hard to do and very much time-consuming, so by the time I want to express my thoughts, the post is just too long. Another reason for it is that there are so many bloggers that are doing it and frankly they’re much better at it than I am. I just love Hope Russell Nunki’s blogThat’s Normal chicks and Kiltlander Dude! Please check them out and you’ll see what I mean. All are amazing writers and all are different and that’s why I love them. There are many MANY more but those are my top three go-to bloggers.

jpg courtesy TV Addiction 101

jpg courtesy TV Addiction 101

What I’d like to do this time around, is to just talk about the episode and what it did for me personally and open up the discussion here and not on the Facebook page, and “talk Outlander” with all of you, regardless of if you liked it or not. Feel free to express your thoughts. They don’t have to coincide with mine. That’s what I like about the word “discussion”! We sit and “talk amongst ourselves” …

Let me start with saying that I loved everything about this episode, especially Jamie’s point of view. Pure genius to tell this part of the story from his POV! This was a very powerful hour of entertainment and what I took out of it is that Jamie’s character grew by leaps and bounds. He was faced with multiple choices and challenges, and by the end of this hour, the boy is no more!

jpg courtesy TV Addiction 101

jpg courtesy TV Addiction 101

I was one of those that was bellyaching about how the first eight episodes were letting the character of Jamie down, and I still think I’m right about that, but boy this hour was all about Jamie and how his mind works. As he told us in his voice-over, looking back it’s the choices that he made in his life that made him into a man that he became. And right from the start of the episode, he had to make a choice, go rescue a woman that he married, or leave her in the hands of a man he intimately knew was cruel. He could have easily left her. He wasn’t sure she wasn’t an English spy. He not only risks his own life by choosing to rescue her, but he risks the life of his men and ultimately, he risks Claire’s life as well. I mean, that whole ‘threesome’ between BJR, Claire and Jamie could have gone awry in a nano second!

Speaking of the confrontation between the three, I’ll take a minute to explain my thoughts as to why Jamie chose not to end BJR’s life, right then and there. First, he was told by Ned not to shoot anyone [please note that in the rescue, all the Highlanders did was make a lot of noise, but they haven’t killed any red coats] and that’s because by committing murder, the wrath of English and the retribution on Clan MacKenzie would be bloody and immediate. No one wanted that on their conscience and especially for the reasons they were there. To rescue a Sassenach woman none of them were sure wasn’t a spy for the English! That was the second choice he had to make during the course of this hour and again showed us what kind of a man he really is. He could lead his men and he could accept and follow orders just as easily, for the sake of his mother’s clan.

Oh, and now we come to my favorite scene of the night. The argument, or a shouting match, at the river. I must digress just a bit here to tell you that I watched this with my Dude and during that scene he kept giving me “the look”, you know, the one that says “We’ve been there!”. And honestly, we have. I can’t imagine a couple that hasn’t been there. Passionate people do everything with passion. Be it sewing, cooking or having an argument. That in no way diminishes the love these people have for each other. As witnessed by Jamie and Claire. As soon as they both realized that the argument went too far, both of them stopped and both asked for forgiveness. Yet another choice he made which showed us that he’s kind and has no qualms to admitting he was wrong as well. Seriously people, have you ever seen two actors deliver a scene such as this? I haven’t! The way they went at each other was EPIC! It was so freaking REAL! I know. Been there, done that. That’s how I know it was REAL!

jpg courtesy TV Addiction 101

jpg courtesy TV Addiction 101

As for the “spanking” scene, I never had a problem with it in the book, nor do I have a problem with it here in the show. I was never so enamored with Jamie’s character that I was blinded to his faults. As a matter a fact, I love Diana Gabaldon’s writing because she writes her characters very close to what real people are like, complex and flawed. Claire isn’t perfect. Jamie isn’t perfect. They are fictional characters in a fictional story, but the author had drawn them as close and as three-dimensional as we all are and that’s why his actions throughout the eight books have never bothered me. I will say that the scene was done well and I was mightily impressed with it, from the writing of it, to acting and sound. In the end, his choice to punish Claire would bring him closer to her and would open his eyes to few more choices that he’ll be making as a result of it.

Arriving back at a castle married, he is confronted with an irate Laird and a seventeen year old girl who mistook his kindness for something more than a stolen kiss. His choices made here again prove to us that even though he’s vulnerable, his conscience is his guide and as much as he’s tempted by Leery, he chooses his vows. He also shows how smart and astute he is by giving his Laird good, solid advice. This is why Column prefers him to Dougal as his next heir [in the show/not the book]. Even talking to Murtaugh and telling him that he isn’t about to just leave and drag his wife all over the land, but will stay put for the time being and see how things are progressing, is another choice he makes for the good of the woman he loves. It shows us that he’s taking this “husband thing” seriously and that now, it’s the two of them.

I just loved the way his character is building with all these subtle nuances!

And right before the “make-up-sex” scene we again witness his choice of recommiting to his wife and pledging to her that he’ll never raise a hand to her, no matter what. He will rather die than raise his hand to her. With that pledge, he is no longer a boy. He is a man in love with his wife. He accepts the responsibility of caring, loving and growing with her. For her, he rejects what he was thought a marriage is, and is willing to change. No wonder she shows him how much that means to her.

All I can say about that lovemaking scene [watched by KFC customers] is well done!

Now, lets hear it from you. What did you think of this episode?  Did the nudity bother you? What about the Leery/Jamie scene at the brook? Are you watching the show on its own or are you comparing it to the books [futile attempt if you ask me].

Amazing fan poster made @Black_Anny08

Amazing fan poster made @Black_Anny08

Spotlight on Grace Burrowes and ‘The Duke’s Disaster’!

The Duke's DisasterBOOK BLURB: Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm, exercises the pragmatism for which he’s infamous when his preferred choice of bride cries off, and her companion, Lady Thea Collins, becomes his next choice for his duchess. Lady Thea’s mature, sensible and even rather attractive-what could possibly go wrong?

As a lady fallen on hard times, Thea doesn’t expect tender sentiments from His Grace, but she does wish Noah had courted her trust, lest her past turn their hastily arranged marriage into a life of shared regrets. Is His Grace courting a convenient wife, or a beautiful disaster?

BUY LINKS: Amazon / B&N / iTunes

EXCERPT:

The Duke and Duchess are having a rocky start to their marriage, also to their day…

“Your tea, Duchess.”

Noah had woken up beside his wife—again, despite all plans to the contrary—creating another first for him. Thea had risen several times during the night to tend to herself. He hadn’t realized that monthly courses caused a woman’s rest to be interrupted.

Crashingly bad planning, for a lady’s sleep to be disturbed when she most needed rest.

“You’re not about to steal my tea?” Thea held out the cup, her gaze shy as she sat propped against the headboard.

“Where’s the fun in stealing what’s freely offered?” Noah settled in beside her and filched a bite of her cinnamon toast. “Would you rather have chocolate this morning?”

“Because?”

“You’re”— Noah waved a hand in the direction of her middle—“indisposed.”

“I am not indisposed.” Thea set her teacup down with a little clink. “The discomfort has passed, as it always does. You needn’t be concerned.”

“I am not concerned, Thea.” Not greatly concerned, now that she’d stopped ordering him to go away and was ready for a proper spat. “I am attempting in my bumbling way to dote. You will allow it.”

Drat. He’d given another order.

“You couldn’t bumble if one gave you written instructions, Anselm,” Thea said, looking a little less peaked for having run up her flags. “That was my toast you appropriated.”

“Appropriation is what happens when one’s wife can’t appreciate a little doting. You’re being stingy with the tea, just as you were stingy with the covers. How long does this indisposition last?”

Her chin came up. “I am the Duchess of Anselm. I am not stingy with anything, but you are a very presuming husband.”

“Doting.” Noah took Thea’s free hand to kiss her knuckles— lest she mistake his point. “Also in need of my duchess’s guidance on this one marital matter.”

TheDukesDisasterGraphic

Click on the pic to read chapter One!

“This is so personal.” Thea’s gaze was on their joined hands— for Noah would not have her haring off in a fit of mortification. “I didn’t think you’d be a personal sort of husband. You were supposed to appear in my dressing-room doorway a few nights a month, silently take a few marital liberties, and then leave me in peace. We’d trade sections of the Times over breakfast the next morning.”

“Prosaic.” Boring and exactly what Noah himself had envisioned. “Hard to see any doting going on, though.”

“Husband?” Thea’s tone was hesitant. “Thank you, for keeping me company last night. I would not have known how to ask.”

“I suppose that’s the definition of doting.” Noah lingered at the cart to assemble a plate. “It’s the little things you can’t bring yourself to ask for, that an attentive spouse will enjoy providing to you. Bacon or ham?”

“A little of both, please.”

“Feeling carnivorous?”

“I’m a trifle indisposed. I need the sustenance.”

Noah piled both ham and bacon on Thea’s plate, and stole better than half of it, because he needed the sustenance too.

GraceBurrowesAUTHOR BIO: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes’ bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish and Lady Eve’s Indiscretion.

The Heir was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010, The Soldier was a PW Best Spring Romance of 2011, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish won Best Historical Romance of the Year in 2011 from RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight was a Library Journal Best Book of 2012, and The Bridegroom Wore Plaid was a PW Best Book of 2012.

Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

‘The Duke’s Disaster’ by Grace Burrowes

The Duke's DisasterSTORY: Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm, exercises the pragmatism for which he’s infamous when his preferred choice of bride cries off, and her companion, Lady Thea Collins, becomes his next choice for his duchess. Lady Thea’s mature, sensible and even rather attractive-what could possibly go wrong?

As a lady fallen on hard times, Thea doesn’t expect tender sentiments from His Grace, but she does wish Noah had courted her trust, lest her past turn their hastily arranged marriage into a life of shared regrets. Is His Grace courting a convenient wife, or a beautiful disaster?

REVIEW: Grace Burrowes does it again!
Every time I pick up one of her books, i just know that she’ll give me hours of enjoyment with her warm, complex, sensitive and utterly mesmerizing array of characters.

She never fails to draw me in and have me immersed within these stories she weaves!
In ‘ The Duke’s Disaster’ she gives me a hero among heroes. Noah, Duke of Anselm is a man who knows who he is and what he wants, but also, he was a practical man. A man who loved his family and took his responsibility for them seriously.

Thea Collins is smart, likeable, loyal and self admitted spinster. She also knows and accepts who she is. She has no grand ambitions and is happy to offer her companion services to the ton’s elite. She also is loves her family and would sacrifice a lot for them.

When Noah’s plans to marry her charge go awry, he approaches Thea with a marriage proposal and that’s actually where this wonderful story opens up. I just loved the way he tries to sell himself to her!

If you love marriage of convenience stories, you’ll love this one. I enjoyed the way these two interacted with each other and how they slowly fall in love with each other.
Another keeper shelf worthy book from Grace Burrowes!

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Spotlight on Sally Orr and ‘When a Rake Falls’!

When-A-Rake-Falls-Blog-Tour

Please help me welcome an author that is quickly becoming my favorite. Her début book had me grinning and laughing from page one. If you’re like me and need from time to time to switch from heavy, heart wrenching tropes, to light-hearted, highly entertaining and fast paced romance, this is an author you should check out.

Sally Orr is here today with a special excerpt for us. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

EXCERPT:

Traits of a gentleman: Intelligence

The traits of a true gentleman include: courage, intelligence, sportsmanship, service to the king or service to a lady. Some even believe the traits of a gentleman also include wit and compassion for the young, elderly, and animals.

My name is Lord Boyce Parker, and I was present when the Earl of Stainthorpe challenged London’s finest bachelors to a race to Paris.

On a beautiful morning, the earl addressed the crowd of eligible gentlemen.

“The fourth cup will be given to the man whose journey provides the best example of our English intelligence. We are the land of Newton and Davy, so the greatest brains of civilization are English. Except for that da Vinci fellow and one or two Greeks, but we can afford to be generous and let the rest of the world have a little luck now and then.”

Spurred on by the opportunity to prove myself one of England’s greatest gentlemen, I plan to hire a balloon to journey to Paris. But not any old balloon flying about only for ascensions. No, I hired a spot as a guest on a balloon already planned for flight. The balloon is piloted by the famous man of science, Mr. Thomas Mountfloy. This aeronaut has assured me that I will be able to assist him with his scientific investigations during our flight. I’m sure that as we fly to Paris, we will discover some great new scientific fact. So it’s obvious that I am the favorite to win two of the earl’s challenges, both the courage and intelligence challenges. If you’re a betting type, place your bets on me.

*** *** ***

London, 1825

Lord Boyce Parker felt a sudden urge to sing. The brisk morning air, the glorious sunshine, and the presence of a hundred or so excited gentlemen milling around him could only mean a remarkable day ahead. Boyce knew he’d be mocked if he broke out in song, but sometimes happiness just bubbled up from somewhere down in your toes and overwhelmed a fellow. “My candle burns bright—-”

“Goes without saying you learned to sing by reading a book,” said George Drexel, one of Boyce’s oldest friends. “Right now I could be in bed with the lovely Widow Donhurst. Instead, I’m standing here amongst the rabble of London, far too early for any sane man, following another one of your bacon–brained schemes.”

Boyce ignored him and kept his gaze fixed on the balcony of Stainthorpe House. Yesterday, the Earl of Stainthorpe had placed an advertisement in all of the newspapers inviting London’s finest bachelors to gather in Royston Square. Although the details in the advertisement were few, it hinted fame and five thousand pounds might be gained by winning one of several “challenges.” As the son of a wealthy marquess, Boyce had no need for the money, but he longed for a chance to impress his father. “It’s not my bacon–brained scheme; it’s the earl’s. Cheer up. You will be the friend of the victorious Lord Boyce Parker.”

Drexel turned to glare at the pressing horde of eager young gentlemen behind them. “You don’t even know what the old man’s challenges are. They could all be a hum, like a scavenger hunt to find his great–uncle’s tricorne hat or his aunt’s lost poodle.” Drexel dressed in somber colors without fancy cravats or fobs, so his words had the gravity of a humorless man no one would willfully cross. This morning, his rumpled clothes, dark whiskers, and obvious lack of sleep—-no doubt due to a long night of amorous adventure—-made him appear grumpier than normal. “I hardly think the earl’s tomfool challenges will make you famous.”

“You don’t sound cheerful.” Boyce grinned at his old school friend. “I’m confident the earl’s challenges will be significant and my assured victory will pave the way to restoring my father’s esteem.”

Drexel spat on the ground. “Chasing your brother’s fame? Richard is a glorious war hero. I’m sure winning some silly challenge won’t compete with his elevated consequence.”

“You’re wrong. When my name is printed in the newspapers, my father will have to speak of me with the same admiration he gives Richard.”

“I don’t think winning a challenge will change the marquess’s opinion of you—-”

“Look.” Boyce pointed upward.

The Earl of Stainthorpe stepped to the edge of his balcony overlooking Royston Square. “My friends, I understand there are no great men left in England.” Silver wisps of hair escaped the earl’s old–fashioned queue and blew over his forehead, but he ignored them as he squarely confronted the men below.

The audience surged forward and yelled retorts to the earl’s audacious remark.

Boyce had arrived an hour early so he would be close enough to hear his lordship’s every word. But if this hubbub continued, he might not catch what the earl had to say. He turned to the man yelling behind him. “I’ll give you a pound, my good fellow, if you can shout louder.”

The man smiled and shouted.

“Definitely not louder, unfortunate loss indeed,” Boyce said. “Now I suggest you hush and let his lordship speak.”

Standing two steps behind his master, the earl’s butler vigorously rang a handbell to gain the attention of the boisterous crowd.

“The earldom of Stainthorpe owns numerous and diverse holdings,” the earl bellowed. “Therefore, upon my death, my daughter will be the richest woman in England.”

The crowd cheered.

The earl waited for them to settle down. “What I’m trying to say is, Lady Sarah Stainthorpe needs a husband. But so far, none of the Eligibles paraded before her will do. She refuses to marry and claims all the gentlemen in London are rogues, dandies, or worse. The point is, she’s a bluestocking and might fall in love with some bloody…a poet. I tell you, my friends, that Byron fellow has a lot to answer for.”

As the youngest son of a marquess, Boyce was considered an Eligible. Only, Lady Sarah had rejected him, and all the other Eligibles, seconds after they had presented themselves at Royston House—-an unfortunate circumstance, since he believed Lady Sarah would make an excellent wife and a very pretty one too. After a moment of reflection, he realized every lady of his acquaintance would make a pretty wife. One or two may have a feature some might call “unfortunate.” Nevertheless, he always found something pretty in every female countenance.

“Are all the gentlemen I see before me rogues or dandies?” the earl shouted. “Of course not. One or two maybe, and several of you are shockingly loose in the haft.” His lordship pointed to a young man wearing a violet greatcoat, hanging by one arm on a streetlight. “Especially you, sir.”

With his free hand, the man doffed his top hat.

“Yes, I mean you,” the earl said. “My condolences to your poor father.”

All of the Parker men possessed a fine figure, so he knew even a poorly tailored coat hung well upon his shoulders. The many compliments he received had gained him a reputation as an expert in masculine fashion. Therefore, Boyce felt his lordship should show more sympathy to a man wearing a lamentable violet greatcoat, since the earl wore an old square coat and baggy breeches.

“Where was I?” The earl paused to scan the crowd. “Besides an obvious bone–breaker or two, you gentlemen are the embodiment of the character traits that make Englishmen the greatest people on earth. So I am challenging you—-the finest Englishmen alive—-to a race. A race to Paris!”

The crowd cheered.

“This is not a race where the winner arrives first,” the earl said. “No, it is a test to discover the gentlemen who possess England’s greatest traits.”

“Gin drinking, gov?” someone shouted.

The crowd laughed and called out a few additional “traits.”

The earl ignored their comments. “And I mean English character traits—-not British. That country was some tomfoolery created by meddlesome politicians. This is a race for Englishmen only. Now, my race will have five challenges and five winners. Each winner will win a prize of a gold cup and five thousand pounds.”

The mob erupted in huzzahs; top hats flew into the air.

Under his sky–blue waistcoat, Boyce’s heartbeat escalated. This race presented him with his best opportunity to distinguish himself. He would win at least two of the earl’s challenges and earn a reputation as a prime example of English manhood. “Huzzah!” He too threw his beaver hat in the air.

The butler rang the handbell for a full minute before the crowd settled down.

The earl held up his hands. “Here are the details of the five—-count them—-five challenges. You have one month to reach Stainthorpe House in Paris. Each gentleman will write about his journey and provide the name of a witness. The man whose travels provide the best example of an English trait wins a challenge. Once the winners promise to spend the remainder of the summer in our company, they will be rewarded with a gold cup and five thousand pounds. With such excellent examples of true English manhood escorting Lady Sarah around Paris, she must certainly fall in love with one of you unlicked cubs.”

The assembled men danced in circles. Each one of them was probably dreaming about how he would spend his winnings.

Eager to hear the details, Boyce frowned at the clamorous riffraff behind him. The earl was right; they all appeared to be a lot of rag–mannered coves, so he gained complete confidence that he could best any of their English traits—-whatever those traits may be. Once he reached Paris, Lady Sarah would discover he was the finest of fellows and they would fall in love. Women seemed naturally to favor him over other gentlemen—-wonderful creatures, women.

The earl’s voice boomed across the square. “What are the character traits that make Englishmen so great, you ask?”

The young men below the balcony tendered several improper suggestions.

“No.” The earl waved his hand. “Not physical features. Traits like courage and intelligence. So the challenges are thus: The first gold cup will be given to the gentleman who represents English courage. We are the country of Nelson, so bravery and courage course through every one of our veins.”

Someone shouted the nature of what was coursing through his veins.

The earl continued without hesitation. “The second gold cup will be given to the gentleman whose journey represents classic English sportsmanship. Any Englishman alive can out hunt, out fish, and out ride all other races of men. So to win the second cup, some outstanding feat of sportsmanship will rule the day. Extra consideration will be given to the best example of a journey completed under difficult circumstances.”

Boyce huffed. “Well, his lordship is wrong. The true nature of English sportsmanship is not victory over adversity, but our support for the dark horse and sense of fair play. We are, by nature, a generous people.”

Drexel slapped him on the back. “For once I agree with you. But considering your history in the field, I suggest you don’t try for the sportsmanship cup.”

“Sportsmanship can be demonstrated by means other than fishing or shooting every magnificent creature—-for example, by boxing or gaming. I practice my pugilistic skills at Jackson’s twice a week now. You cannot tell me his place is not full of sportsmen. Or how about when a fellow loses a fortune gaming at White’s and faces his loss with the grace and good humor of a gentleman? That’s sportsmanship under pressure, if you ask me.”

“Yes, but the earl believes boxing is for professionals and only women play cards.”

Boyce widened his eyes. “In my opinion, his lordship’s definition of sportsmanship is rather limited.”

The handbell sounded again before the earl continued his speech. “The third gold cup will be given to the gentleman whose journey best exhibits loyalty to the king or service to a lady.”

One man yelled, “I’d be delighted to service all the ladies on my way to Paris.”

Others in the crowd shouted similar generous offers.

“If you do so, sir,” the earl replied, “you will be shown the door. Loyalty means old–fashioned manners, being polite, and keeping your distance from your betters. Of all the challenges, I believe service to the Crown is the greatest honor any man could desire. And considering the manners I’ve witnessed here today, I’d say the challenge of this cup will remain unmet.”

Jeers filled the air.

Boyce wondered how a fellow could show loyalty to the king in a race. He supposed a gentleman might salute the king’s profile on a sovereign with every step of his journey, but dismissed it as an absurd notion. No, he’d be better off trying to provide a service to some lady.

His lordship nodded, and the handbell rang again. “Now quiet down. The fourth cup will be given to the man whose journey provides the best example of our English intelligence. We are the land of Newton and Davy, so the greatest brains of civilization are English. Except for that da Vinci fellow and one or two Greeks, but we can afford to be generous and let the rest of the world have a little luck now and then.”

Boyce elbowed his friend. “Yes, yes, that’s the cup for me. Bet I’ll win too. What do you say, fifty?”

“Agreed,” Drexel said. “I will also wager by the end of this whole flummery, Lady Sarah will reject all the winners out of spite. I would, if I were her.”

Boyce refused to believe Lady Sarah would object to any of the winners, once she knew them well. The lady wanted to be married, didn’t she? “No, no, young women are full of tender affection. I have never met one who did not want to fall in love and make her family happy.”

Drexel rolled his eyes. “I suspect that is because there are so many unmarried ladies dangling after you, you cannot imagine one refusing. And from the stories I heard yesterday, I’ll wager that if I throw a pebble into the crowd at the next assembly, it will hit a widow who has, or wants to be, in your bed. And believe me, those ladies are not expecting marriage.”

“You’re being vulgar in public,” Boyce said. “All of the widows I have ever…met were delightful. Deep in their hearts, they want to be married again, I’m sure.”

“So why haven’t you married one of these delightful ladies?”

“Never understood how fellows choose one to fall in love with.”

“If I know the marquess, the best way to impress him is to give him grandchildren. My father becomes unhinged with even the thought of grandchildren.”

“Grandchildren? Grandchildren are far in the future. A great public achievement is my best and only chance to regain my father’s respect. You’ll see. When I am crowned the victor of more than one challenge, my achievements will be the toast of London. Then all of England will think of me differently. I will no longer be just one of the seven anonymous brothers of the war hero Richard. Worse yet, if people do recognize me, they remember I’m the Parker son who published a scandalous book and then received the cut direct from his father—-his own father. After my victory in the challenges, everyone will have to refer to me as the intelligent, courageous Lord Boyce. Don’t you understand?”

Drexel winked at his friend. “Tell me, which of the great English traits do you represent best? Sounds like only Service to a Lady, and believe me, your service is the wrong type as far as the earl is concerned.”

“Ah, that’s my secret. But you will be a witness to my victory, won’t you?”

After pulling off his hat, Drexel took a full minute to smooth the beaver nap on the brim. “I’ll consider it.” A wide smirk broke across his dark, handsome face. “You’ve persuaded me to join the race too.”

“No!”

The handbell clanged, and everyone faced the balcony again. “Gentlemen, there is one last challenge, the fifth cup. Since this was my daughter’s idea, perhaps in jest, you never know with females, let us call it the Lady’s Favorite.”

Shouts and laughter rose from the rabble.

The earl leaned forward over the mob. “Perhaps there are no gentlemen in England, and my daughter is right?” His lordship waited until the crowd quieted. “Lady Sarah has a funny notion that the greatest achievements of the English race are their sense of humor, wit, and eccentricities. I mean, now really, she is fond of Sheridan’s plays.” The earl held up his right hand to quiet the laughing crowd. “For this cup, Lady Sarah will be the final judge.”

The mob tendered several humorous jests of questionable wit.

The earl coughed several times but remained unmoving. “So there you have it. The five greatest English traits are courage, sportsmanship, intelligence, wit, and service to a lady. Now to business. I expect all who plan to take up the challenges to gather in our vestibule below. There, we will compile a list of the participants. You do not have to choose which cup you aspire to, and you may switch to another challenge at the end of your journey. Finally, you may win more than one challenge. Oh, and you must provide an acceptable witness. Anyone who observes your achievement and can testify on your behalf may be an official witness. The only exclusions are people who cannot be trusted, like paid companions or dear old mums.”

Several groans were heard, and one person clapped.

The earl nodded in the direction of the man who clapped. “Good man. The race will officially start after I stop speaking and will end a month from now on the second of July. On that day, you will present your written story describing your journey to Stainthorpe House at Rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin. There, I will choose the five best stories for each challenge, and those finalists will be asked to recite their adventures aloud. Indeed, everyone here today will be invited to attend this party and hear my pick of the winners. Lastly, the five thousand pounds and gold cups will be presented at the end of the evening. It goes without saying that the victors will be appropriately recognized in all of the newspapers.”

Boyce elbowed Drexel. “Yes, yes, my father reads every paper.”

The crowd’s cheers erupted again after the mention of the winnings.

The earl held his arms out. “I tell you, my friends, I’m excited about this race. To help defray the cost of your journey, any man who takes up our challenges will receive a hundred pounds after reaching Paris.”

Shouts and applause echoed around the square.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen, Lady Sarah and I look forward to hearing the adventures of England’s finest men. I am positive that once my daughter is acquainted with you fine fellows, she will fall in love. With such excellent examples of the greatness inherent in the English, how could she not? We also anticipate the pleasure of your company during our summer in Paris. The only other thing I can say is…” The earl lifted his quizzing glass to his eye and scanned the crowd. “Ready, steady, go!”

warf soBOOK BLURB: He’s racing to win back his reputation

Having hired a balloon to get him to Paris in a daring race, Lord Boyce Parker is simultaneously exhilarated and unnerved by the wonders and dangers of flight, and most of all by the beautiful, stubborn, intelligent lady operating the balloon.

She’s curious about the science of love

Eve Mountfloy is in the process of conducting weather experiments when she finds herself spirited away to France by a notorious rake. She’s only slightly dismayed—the rake seems to respect her work—but she is frequently distracted by his windblown physical magnificence and buoyant spirits.

What happens when they descend from the clouds?

As risky as aeronautics may be, once their feet touch the ground, Eve and Boyce learn the real danger of a very different type of falling…

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AUTHOR BIO: Sally Orr worked for thirty years in medical research, specializing in the discovery of gene function. After joining an English history message board, she posted many, many examples of absolute tomfoolery.

As a result, a cyber-friend challenged her to write a novel. Since she is a hopeless Anglophile, it’s not surprising that her first book is a Regency romance. Sally lives with her husband in San Diego, surrounded by too many nerdy books and not enough old English cars.

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‘When a Rake Falls’ by Sally Orr

warf soSTORY: To win a race to Paris, dashing Lord Boyce Parker hires a balloon. He expects to be crowned the victor and become famous for his courage and intelligence. Only then can he regain his father’s respect from the scandal of publishing the naughty book The Rake’s Handbook: Including Field Guide.

Bluestocking Miss Eve Mountfloy makes a bargain with the handsome Pink of the Ton. She’ll fly the balloon during the dangerous crossing to France, if he lets her finish her scientific experiments to predict violent storms and thereby save lives.

Eve proceeds with her studies, but the results are not what she expected. Chafing to keep warm creates unusual sensations everywhere. Then when Lord Parker asks if she is curious about the heat generated by a kiss, well, she is curious. It seems Lord Parker is performing experiments of his own that will forever change Eve’s perception of the word “results.”

REVIEW: This is the second book in the Rake’s Handbook series and I have to say that it leaves me conflicted. I’m not really sure why that is. The story was great and it was fast-moving. The only thing that had me a bit on the sidelines were the main characters.

Lord Boyce Parker’s motives and reasons behind his quest to be famous by proving himself intelligent and courageous, therefore earning the respect of his father, was a noble thing to do, yet I wondered if there might have been other ways he could have accomplished this and not by entering this contest.

As for our heroine, Miss Eve Mountfloy, was exactly what I imagined a bluestocking would be. She is clever, stubborn and obsessed with her experiments.

Together they made for a cute couple, but I just never felt they were passionate either for each other or for their goals, and maybe that’s why I only liked this story.
Bottom line, the plot is well written so it made for an entertaining and lighthearted story.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher