‘Miss Lavigne’s Little White Lie’ by Samantha Grace

mllwl sgSTORY: A Scoundrel Drives a Hard Bargain…

Spirited and determined to protect her young brother at any cost, Lisette Lavigne is desperate to flee New Orleans. There’s only one ship sailing to England, though, and the rakish Captain Daniel Hillary will only allow Lisette’s family aboard for a very steep price…

But a Lady Always Gets the Upper Hand…

Daniel prides himself on running a tight ship, and he knows a lady will be nothing but trouble on a long voyage. Yet he can’t help but break his own ironclad rules when Lisette persuades him that being gentlemanly just this once is his wisest course of action.

REVIEW: First time I paid any attentions to our hero was in the scene in which Jake, his brother, walks in on him while he `had his butter churned’! Well, how can I not be interested in a man like that and in a woman that would bring him to heel?

As the story opens, we follow our heroine Lisette Lavigne as she escapes her fiancé in the
middle of the night, with her family in tow and in a search of Captain Daniel Hillary, who she hopes will take them to England and to safety.

Captain Daniel Hillary is drop dead gorges and a scoundrel who loves two simple pleasures in life, a woman’s supple curves and his Indiaman ship, not necessarily in that order. He’s just given his mistress her marching orders and is looking forward to leaving New Orleans when Lisette, all dressed in black and impersonating a widow, confronts him.

We’ve met Daniel in the previous books and I wondered about the woman Ms. Grace would give him. He certainly needed a strong counterpart but I also wanted someone that has charm and wit. Lis, as he keeps calling her, was a perfect match for him. This young woman proved to be made of stern stuff, yet when it came to her brother’s needs, displaying her vulnerable side made our hero want to protect her from anyone that meant them harm. It also revealed to us a secret or two he not only kept it from us, but from his family as well. We finally get to know what’s behind his `devil may care’ guilt ridden attitude and why he never allows any women passengers on his ship [unless they’re his family, that is].

Something about Lis touches his protective heart and he agrees to take her in but also making sure that this `widow’ is aware of his attraction to her. Slowly we get to be privy to their long held secrets and as they begin to trust each other and let their feelings show, we can’t help but root for them, wanting their happily ever after as much as they do. We don’t really want the bad guys to catch up to them, knowing that they will, and still hoping against hope, that something will befall the bad guys.

This was without a doubt fun filled romantic adventure. We also get to touch base with Jake and Amelia and are introduced to Serafina and Isaac; Lisette’s little brother Rafe was so sweet and unique; the bad dude’s were real sick sons-of-a-gun and I couldn’t wait for them to get their well deserved comeuppance; all secondary characters added a lot to this story and had just the right amount of angst to it.

In the end I had no doubt in my mind that Samantha Grace’s third book of her Beau Monde Bachelor series would be a hit with me. I recommend you read all three, and although they can be read separately, I wish you’d read them in the order they were written. It would truly enhance the reading experience and give you the total dynamic of this very entertaining family. Oh, and let’s not forget all those hot, sensual and steamy scenes that just might make you wish for a captain of your very own!

Five quills for sure! Glad to give them all for this awesome read!

Melanie for Romantic Crush Junkies Reviews eZine

Spotlight on Mia Marlowe and ‘The Curse of Lord Stanstead’!

tcols mmBOOK BLURB: London, 1819

When only seduction will do…

Wherever Cassandra Darkin goes, fire is sure to follow. It’s not until she’s swept into the arms of a handsome, infuriating stranger that she learnsshe’s responsible for the fires. As it turns out, Cassandra is a fire mage…and with her gift comes a blazing desire for sins of the flesh.

With his pretenatural ability to influence the thoughts of others, Garrett Sterling is sent to gather Cassandra for the Order of the M.U.SE. He’s entirely unprepared for his immediate attraction to the comely little firestarter. But it’s an attraction that he must quell, even as his body craves her touch and her fiery, sensual hunger.

For Garrett’s gift has a dark side…and the moment he begins to care too much for Cassandra, he knows he will doom her to an inescapable fate.

BUY LINKS: Amazon / B&N / Kobo

EXCERPT:

Chapter One

If once to Almack’s you belong,

Like monarchs you can do no wrong;

But banished thence on Wednesday night,

By Jove, you can do nothing right.

—Cornelius Luttrell, illegitimate son of an earl

who nevertheless possessed an Almack’s voucher

by virtue of his wit

“I am not responsible for that fire.” Cassandra Darkin was certain of it.

“Of course you’re not responsible, dearest.”

Cassandra startled guiltily when her older sister Daphne patted her forearm. She hadn’t meant to speak her fear aloud.

“What a silly notion,” Daphne continued. “You weren’t even particularly close when the candle flame leaped from the wall sconce to the ostrich plume on Lady Waldgren’s turban.”

“Make that the ridiculous ostrich plume on the odious Lady Waldgren’s turban,” Cassie amended. Her sister cast a warning glance, but didn’t disagree. No one who’d felt the sting of Lady Waldgren’s waspish tongue would argue the point.

However, they’d probably take care to express it less publicly.

Daphne was right about the rest, though. Cassandra hadn’t been near when the feather had burst into flames, but she had passed by the wretched gossip prior to the incident and had heard her name in whispered conversation. The hissed tone had been enough to tell Cassie that Lady Waldgren’s comments had not been meant kindly.

Still, no one wished to see the gossip’s head aflame.

Fortunately, Lord Waldgren’s quick action and obvious glee at being able to rip off his wife’s outlandish headgear and stomp it into oblivion had averted a tragedy. After that, the evening at Almack’s had progressed with hardly a hiccup.

If Lady Waldgren’s small conflagration had been the only one in recent memory, Cassandra wouldn’t have given the matter a second thought. But only that week, there had been three unexplained fires at the Darkin’s fashionably situated town house. One flame had ignited in the breakfast room when Cassandra’s father had announced he’d heard talk at Brooks that the son of Lord Bellefonte, their country neighbor, was courting the daughter of an earl.

The other fires had erupted in Cassandra’s bedchamber on two separate occasions after that—once when she was trying to decide which gown to wear to a soiree that Roderick Bellefonte was expected to attend, and then again when Cassandra had returned home that evening. An unexplained blaze had flared up when she’d told her abigail to burn the peach silk moiré because she’d never wear it again.

If Cassandra hadn’t been speaking of burning when the candle on her dressing table toppled over of its own accord, she might never have wondered if the frequent fires were somehow her fault. She’d been present each time, but that did not mean she was responsible.

Surely not.

REVIEW: I’m not a huge fan of the paranormal stories, but I am a historical romance fan, and since I am Mia Marlowe fan, I thought to give it a try, especially because this was a 230 page read, so not a novella but not 350 page full length book either.

This is a first story in a new series Order of the M.U.S.E. [Metaphysical Union of Sensory Extraordinaires] which is a group of people tasked to protecting a royal family by using their extraordinary paranormal skills.

In the opening story we meet Cassandra Darkin who just came into her full power as a fire mage. Not understanding much about it she is confronted by Gareth Sterling who’s been sent to bring her to the MUSE and help her deal with her newfound ability. Since Gareth’s ability is to influence the thoughts of others, he is hoping to use those in order to recruit her to the MUSE and add her to their numbers.

I liked the setting of this story and the pace as much as I liked the characters in it, from the main leads to their supporting cast.

I also think that for a short book, this packed a lot of intrigue, action and romance. For all of us X-Men fans it’s a must read and for a price of $1.99, this is a no brainer! You’ll have to get it because this is just a fun read through and through!

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

MIA MARLOWEAUTHOR BIO: Mia Marlowe is a rising star whose Touch of a Rogue was named one of Publishers Weekly‘s Top Ten Best Romances for Spring 2012. Mia learned about storytelling while singing professional opera.

She knows what it’s like to sing a high “C” in a corset, so she empathizes with the trials of her historical heroines. Mia resides in Boston, Massachusetts. For more on Mia, visit with her via her social media links.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Blog / Goodreads

‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ by Beth Harbison

iictbt bhSTORY: Told with Beth Harbison’s wit and warmth, If I Could Turn Back Time is the fantasy of every woman who has ever thought, “If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I’d do things so differently…”

Thirty-seven year old Ramie Phillips has led a very successful life. She made her fortune and now she hob nobs with the very rich and occasionally the semi-famous, and she enjoys luxuries she only dreamed of as a middle-class kid growing up in Potomac, Maryland. But despite it all, she can’t ignore the fact that she isn’t necessarily happy. In fact, lately Ramie has begun to feel more than a little empty.

On a boat with friends off the Florida coast, she tries to fight her feelings of discontent with steel will and hard liquor. No one even notices as she gets up and goes to the diving board and dives off…

Suddenly Ramie is waking up, straining to understand a voice calling in the distance…It’s her mother: “Wake up! You’re going to be late for school again. I’m not writing a note this time…”

Ramie finds herself back on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, with a second chance to see the people she’s lost and change the choices she regrets. How did she get back here? Has she gone off the deep end? Is she really back in time? Above all, she’ll have to answer the question that no one else can: What it is that she really wants from the past, and for her future?

REVIEW: Ramie Phillips is about to turn 38.  She is from Potomac Maryland and a middle class family.  Ramie has always been good at math.  Her father was a banker so at a young age, she learned all about the stock market.  Today, she a very nice nest egg she has earned from her savvy investing.  She works for Whitestone, a top private equity investment company.  Sadly, she lost her father when she was just 20. He had been a heavy smoker all of her life and died from the effects of that smoking.  Ramie is quite satisfied with her life at it is.  She loves her job and is happy to be single and to have no kids.

Ramie’s best friend is Sammy, a gay guy.  So, on the day before her 38th birthday, she, Sammy and some other friends were partying and sipping champagne on a boat when Ramie fell and hit her head.  When she woke up, she found herself in her bed in her childhood home and was once again a teenager.

Next, we follow Ramie through her high school graduation; her last few good times with her father knowing he will die soon; and chances to just be young again.  Through this, the reader learns about her life and her friends.

Has Ramie time traveled?  Will she be able to return?  Is it a dream and will she wake up soon?

I admit that I am not a fan of time travel scenarios.  Perhaps that is way the book dragged for me.  It started off like it was going to be a good story but it simply went downhill from there.  Even the ending was predictable.  I know that other readers have thoroughly enjoyed this book.  So, if you like time travel books, do give it a try.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Irish Meadows’ by Susan Anne Mason

im samSTORY: Irish immigrant James O’Leary has spent his life building Irish Meadows into a thriving horse farm and is not about to let hard economic times threaten its success. He intends for his daughters to marry prosperous men–ones who will secure the family’s rightful place in society, and at the same time, guarantee the future of Irish Meadows. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.

Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their father expects them to marry well. Yet despite his wishes, Brianna, the quieter sister, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry–as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards. When stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from college and distant family member Rylan Montgomery stops in on his way to the seminary in Boston, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

REVIEW: Long Island, New York – 1911

Gilbert (Gil) Whelan’s mother had been the housekeeper at the O’Leary family mansion, Irish Meadows. The O’Leary family loved Gil so much and thought of him as a son so when his mother passed away, he continued to live with them until he went away to college.  After graduation, he returned to the mansion to continue working with the racehorses that he loved and trained.

Brianna O’Leary has just graduated from high school and has matured into a beautiful young woman. She loves the horses but yearns to continue her education and go to college.  She and Gil have always been close and the spark is still there when he returns to Irish Meadows.

Older sister, Colleen, is a beautiful young woman with no real ambition.  She is jealous of the attraction between her sister and Gil as she wants him for herself.  She tends to be a mean spirited young woman constantly causing friction.

Rylan Montgomery is a distant cousin to Mrs. O’Leary and has just arrived from Ireland to study to be a priest at St. Rita’s church.  One of the things he busies himself with is helping out at the local orphanage.

When Colleen angered her father yet again, she was ordered to help at the orphanage with Rylan.  She soon found that she loved the work and the children too.  Her togetherness with Rylan helps her to find her true self and they both find something else as well.

Brianna and Gil love each other but he wants to establish himself before asking her to marry him.  He wants to prove to Mr. O’Leary that he worthy of his daughter and wants to save enough money to buy land and start his own horse farm.  Yet, Brianna still wants to attend college.  How can they resolve their differences and still stay together?

We see how the stress of achieving certain goals for each of the characters upsets their feelings for the ones they love.

This is a really good story that shows the growth and maturity of the characters as they find out what is truly important in life.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and know that others will as well.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Groom by Design’ by Christine Johnson

gbd cjSTORY: The Dressmaker’s Daughters: Pursuing their dreams a stitch at a time

Her Heart and Her Business Are on the Line

Dressmaker Ruth Fox gave up her dream of a husband and children long ago. Her family’s floundering dress shop, her ailing father and her two younger sisters require Ruth’s full attention. Though the handsome new stranger in town is intriguing, Ruth is certain he wouldn’t look twice at a plain spinster of twenty-six.

Sam Rothenburg’s connection with the shy young woman next door is immediate, but he knows Ruth will be crushed when she discovers his real purpose in town. Sam is secretly working to open one of his father’s large department stores in Pearlman, Michigan, which will surely put Ruth out of business. How much is Sam willing to sacrifice to claim Ruth’s heart?

REVIEW: Pearlman, Michigan – 1923

Ruth Fox, age 26, is a very skilled dressmaker at the family’s Fox Dress Shop.  Her older sister, Beatrice, married Blake Kensington whose family was very wealthy in town.  There are two younger sisters, Jen and Minnie.  Mr. Fox has been ill with a weak heart for some time and is a patient at a sanitarium.  Mrs. Fox is staying there with her husband.  Ruth has worked very hard to run the shop and make money for the family’s dwindling finances.  Beatrice wants so much to help her family but her husband refuses to provide any funds to do so.

Sam Rothenburg is in town to build Hutton’s Department Store just next door to the Fox Dress Shop. Sam’s father is a wealthy man who has made his money in many ruthless ways.  Sam works for his father building department stores.  The fact that a department store will be built in town has been kept a secret.  Most people think it will be another type of store.  Sam’s father’s goal is to buy the Fox Dress Shop and then close it down.

When Sam and Ruth accidentally run into one another, Sam introduces himself as simply Sam Roth not wanting her to know who he really is.  He is smitten with her and would love to see her use her talents as a dressmaker in his new store.  Ruth is attracted to Sam but doesn’t feel as though she can think of anything but trying to pay the late mortgage bills and keep the shop open.  She feels she cannot think of herself and her own future until her father is well and the shop financially stable once again.

When Sam’s father comes to town to criticize him on his handling of the soon-to-be open store, Sam realizes that he has simply become his father’s puppet and refuses to bow to the man’s demands.  Sam cares about Ruth and her family and does not want to see them lose their livelihood.

Will Sam and Ruth be able to work through the problems they both have with their families and find a way to have a future for themselves?  This is a sweet story with a lot angst experienced by the characters.

Connie for b2b

‘Lady Beresford’s Lover’ by Ella Quinn

lbl eqSTORY: Ella Quinn’s bachelors are quite sure of what they want in life—and love—until the right woman opens their eyes…

After a painful heartbreak, Rupert, the handsome young Earl of Stanstead, has decided that when it comes to love, avoidance is best. Until he meets a woman who makes him forget his plan—and remember his longing for a wife and family. Yet he senses that she too has been hurt, though she attempts to hide her feelings—and more—in the most baffling and alluring way. Intrigued, Rupert is willing to play along, if winning her is the prize…

Crushed by her late husband’s scorn, Vivian, Countess of Beresford, believes she is monstrously undesirable. Sadly childless, she has moved to London resigned to a solitary life. Still, when she encounters Rupert at a masquerade ball, her disguise as Cleopatra emboldens her. Convinced he doesn’t recognize her, she begins an after-hours affair with him, always in costume—while allowing him to innocently court the real her by day. But when Rupert makes a shocking choice, will Vivian be able to handle the truth?…

REVIEW: Beresford Abbey, England   1817

Vivian, the widowed Countess of Beresford, is nearly out of mourning and eager to leave the Abbey.  Her deceased husband had a mistress whom he loved and never cared for Vivian.  Their marriage had been arranged by their fathers.

Silvia Corbet is Vivian’s companion and the daughter of the vicar.  Silvia has known the Beresford family for many years and grew up with the new Lord Beresford.  Actually, the man proposed marriage to Vivian thinking it would be as easy match for them both.  Shocked, she declined.  At one time, Silvia had a crush on the man but not has only disdain for him.  Silvia’s cousin, Clara, the Dowager Marchioness of Telford, suggests that Silvia and Vivian head to town for the Little Season.  Clara wanted to provide Silvia with a season.

Rupert, the Earl of Stanstead, is looking for a wife.  Although he is younger than most men seeking marriage, he has seen the happiness of his married cousin, Robert and his wife, Serena, and wants the same for himself.

Rupert meets Vivian at a ball and is quite smitten by her and she by him.  They become good friends sharing in political discussion groups and working toward helping the less fortunate.

Vivian is shy about getting married again.  She had been verbally abused about her body by her late husband.  She is a true innocent about love in the bedroom.  So, as their relationship heats up and they are ready to consummate their love, Rupert soon becomes not only her lover but her teacher as well.

This was a good story.  For me, I found the “masquerade part” to be a bit far-fetched.  In addition, the excessive number of characters often made the flow of the story to be somewhat confusing.  However, I have enjoyed the author’s books in the past and look forward to more from her.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Love Unexpected’ by Jody Hedlund

lu jhSTORY: A Perfect Blend of History and Romance, with a Whisper of Mystery

All she’s ever wanted was a home. But stranded at Presque Isle port after their steamboat sank, Emma Chambers and her brother, Ryan, couldn’t be farther away from security. While Ryan at least can find work, Emma can’t even find a place to stay. An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper, who recently lost his wife and is struggling to raise his young son, arrives in town. A traveling preacher believes they might be the answer to each others’ problems, and after a hasty marriage, Emma is headed back to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger.

But nothing in her wandering life has prepared her for suddenly being asked to raise a child and keep a house. Struggling at every turn, Emma also suspects Patrick may be keeping something hidden from her. In town she hears whispers about strange circumstances surrounding his previous wife’s death, and it seems as though Emma’s answered prayer for a home and family may actually be something much more dangerous.

REVIEW: 1859 – Michigan

Emma Chambers and her brother Ryan Chambers are from Ireland and heading into Michigan when their ship is taken over by pirates and burned.  They are able to grab and barrel and swim to shore at Presque Isle.  Emma made it only with the help of the lighthouse keeper, Patrick Garraty.  Having no money, Ryan was able to find work chopping wood.

Patrick Garraty had just buried his wife leaving him to care for 2-year-old Josiah.  As Emma needs work to care for herself, it was suggested by the traveling minister that Emma marry Patrick and live with him at the lighthouse so she could care for Josiah. That would enable Patrick to do his job at night and get some sleep during the day. With no other recourse, Emma and Patrick agree.

Emma has a difficult time learning to cook and is very busy trying to clean the dirty house and care for Josiah and his 2-year-old temper tantrums.  She and Patrick learn to become friends but there is nothing physical in their marriage.  Patrick and his first wife had no love between them as she was a mean woman who found Patrick offensive. Thus, he was in no hurry to consummate his second marriage.

Patrick has a past that he is working to hide.  Although he has sinned a lot, he has found God and has become a very religious man.  As Emma gets to know Patrick better and she talks to his first wife’s cousin, she learns that he does have a past but not exactly what it involves.  However, she sees that he is a good man is not going to turn her back on him.

The plot is a good one but for me, the story seemed to drag a bit which became wearying.  However, I’m sure others may find it perfect for them.

Connie for b2b