Spotlight on Darcy Burke and ‘The Duke of Defiance’

 

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

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

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EXCERPT:

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

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

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

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

Dull?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spotlight on Amy Jarecki and ‘The Highland Commander’!

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

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

But will he betray his country for a kiss?

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

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Lords of the Highland

 

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EXCERPT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Have we time?” asked Maddie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review

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

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Spotlight on ‘Say Yes to the Scot’ Anthology

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The Highland wedding event of the year has landed! Sabrina York, Anna Harrington, Lecia Cornwall, and May McGoldrick teamed up for Say Yes to the Scot, an all new Scottish anthology, and we’re celebrating it’s release Highland style!
Join us today (7pm to 8pm EDT) on the SMP Romance Facebook page as we celebrate with all the authors with another Swerve Soiree: Highland Wedding Edition.
 
Tell us who you’re bringing, what you’re wearing, and what he’s wearing (or not wearing). Kilts are obviously strongly recommended.
There will be amazing giveaways throughout, and you can chat with all of the authors and ask any of your burning questions.

 

sytts sy mmg ah lcBOOK BLURB: You are formally invited to the Highland wedding event of the year. These four lasses are about to meet their matches in an original digital anthology featuring stories from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Sabrina York, Lecia Cornwall, Anna Harrington, and May McGoldrick.

How a Lass Wed a Highlander by Lecia Cornwall
In this retelling of The Princess and The Pea, Laird Alex Munro of Culmore has just five weeks to find a bride and marry her…or else the clan will be cursed with ill luck. Cait MacLeod finds herself caught in a clan feud, and when she tries to stop a deadly raid, she ends up as Alex Munro’s prisoner. With timing running out, is this couple meant to be?

A Match Made in Heather by Anna Harrington
She was the laird’s daughter. He was nothing more than a penniless, nameless Scot with nothing to offer but his heart. Fate tore them apart, but now he’s back in her life with status, money and a title. Can they let go of past hurts and find love?

A Midsummer Wedding by May McGoldrick
Their marriage was two decades in the making. The young, educated woman and her highland, pirate husband, betrothed when they were still children. But on the day of their wedding, Elizabeth Hay and Alexander Macpherson are in for a surprise.

The Scot Says I Do by Sabrina York
Catherine Ross’s world is turned upside down when her brother gambles away every penny they own. But to make matters worse? He’s lost everything to none other than Duncan Mackay, the rugged Scot who Catherine loved for years–but he never noticed her, and now she positively loathes him. But her brother’s in danger of going to Newgate, and the despicable Duncan has a plan– she can claim back the money and save her brother. If she marries him…

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TEASER for The Scot Says I Do by Sabrina York

“So you want to marry me because I am better disposed to tolerate your unrefined manners?” She was teasing him now, but frankly, he deserved it.

His face went ruddy and he began to sputter.

“Or because I can converse with you on lower subjects, such as offal and breeding?”

“Catherine!”

“Or is it—”

“Stop.”

TEASER for A Midsummer Wedding by May McGoldrick

“I feel no sense of duty toward the agreement binding us together. That deal was made decades ago, and both families have already profited by it. And in return for my freedom, I’ll provide a sizable sum of gold for you to do with as you please.”

“You don’t want to marry me?”

“Blast me if I do. You don’t want to marry me, and I don’t want to marry you either,” he responded, looking like he’d just won the prize pig at the fair. “You can choose anyone you please, so long as it’s not Alexander Macpherson.”

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REVIEW: You know the saying “You had me at HELLO.”, right? Well, this anthology had me at Lecia, Anna, May and Sabrina, not to mention SCOT!

All four stories are well written and each was unique in its own way. And the steam level in all four is way up there! For hot and sensual, this is the read not be missed.

From Lecia we were introduced to an interesting take on Princess and the Pea and if you love your romance to have a heart, sensuality and intrigue, you’ll fall in love with Cait and Alex.

Anna brings us a second chance in love trope with a pair of characters that will need a lot of patience with each other in order for that love to blossom to its full bloom.

May’s story was so much fun to read. I mean, LOL funny moments and situations. I adored these two and their “dance” to happily ever after was entertaining and intriguing to read.

Sabrina tells the tale of Duncan and Catherine, a couple that had known each other for ever and ever, but years apart puts them at a disadvantage. They needed outside elements to bring them closer together and a truly despicable villain. But have no fear, fast pace and witty dialogue moves this tale to its happy ending.

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review.

lcAUTHOR BIO: Lecia Cornwall lives and writes in Calgary, Canada, amid the beautiful foothills of the Canadian Rockies, with four cats, two teenagers, a crazy chocolate Lab, and one very patient husband. She is hard at work on her next book.

For more of her bio, please click here.

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ahAUTHOR BIO: An award-winning English professor and romance writer, Anna Harrington fell in love with historical romances and all things Regency—and especially all those dashing Regency heroes—while living and studying in England, where she spent most of her time studying the Romantic poets and Regency England, reading Jane Austen, and getting lost all across the English countryside.

In addition to earning her B.A. in English from Ashland University, M.A. from Michigan State University in literature, and Ph.D. from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Composition, she has studied theatre in London, Mexican history in Guadalajara, and Spanish in Ecuador. She has traveled the world, visiting schools and volunteering in Peru, Ecuador, France, Italy, Thailand, and Mexico, and has amassed thousands of photos she unleashes on unsuspecting friends who dare to ask about her travels… Read more here.

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mmcgAUTHOR BIO: May McGoldrick
(a.k.a. Nikoo & Jim McGoldrick)

Two peas in a pod, a pair of halfwits, the Laurel and Hardy of romance fiction…Nikoo & Jim McGoldrick were married in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin 68 years ago before a worldwide television audience. After a honeymoon tour of their oil fields in Iran, they embarked on a writing career that has produced dozens of New York Times bestsellers, two Academy Award Winning film adaptations, and a Nobel Prize for Literature. After all this, fortune FINALLY smiled on them and they won the New Jersey Lottery. Taking their two sons, Nikoo and Jim spent a year backpacking through Africa and then seven years in Tibet, teaching the Dalai Lama the subtle intricacies of Scrabble. Upon returning to the States, these two storytellers wrote thirty adult and young adult novels, two of which were RITA finalists and three which were NJRW Golden Leaf winners. They have also written two nonfiction works. Nikoo picked up an engineering degree somewhere along the way, and Jim has a PhD in 16th Century British literature.

These two write under the pseudonyms of May McGoldrick and Jan Coffey and now reside in northwest, Connecticut.

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syAUTHOR BIO: Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York, is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers. With over 25 titles her books range from sweet & snarky to scorching romance. Visit her webpage to check out her books, excerpts and contests. Represented by Lane Heymont with the Seymour Agency.

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‘Temptation & Twilight’ by Charlotte Featherstone

tat cfSTORY: Iain Sinclair, Marquis of Alynwick, is certain there is a special hell for him. An unrepentant rake, he holds nothing sacred – except for beautiful Elizabeth York. For years, Alynwick has tried to forget the woman he loved so well, and treated so badly. A woman who could hold nothing in her heart for him except hatred.

All of society believes Elizabeth, blind daughter of a duke, to be a proper young lady. But no one knows of her wanton affair with Alynwick. When Lizzy learns of her ancestor’s ancient diary – filled with exotic tales – she longs to uncover the identity of the unnamed lover within and hesitantly allows Alynwick, who claims to have knowledge of the “veiled lady,” to help her solve the mystery.

Eager to be Lizzy’s eyes, Alynwick brings the seductive text to life, and each night it takes greater effort for her to forget his betrayal. With each whispered word, her resolve gives way, without her knowing that a centuries-old secret will lead them to a present-day danger.

REVIEW: This is the third and last story in the Brethren Guardians series, but my first book read by this author. Reading it, I realized that I should have read them all in order because I would have gotten to know the leads and their backstory better. That said, I enjoyed regardless of reading it out of order.

Here is why I think you should read this story. The author did a fantastic job with characterization of the hero and heroine and while the story might have used a faster pace, I enjoyed the relationship growth between the two.

This story has a lot in it, besides the inevitable romance. It’s filled with angst and passion, while many twists and turns expose a truly despicable villain.

Highly recommended.

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review

‘The Reluctant Highlander’ by Amanda Scott

trh asSTORY: Ordinarily, Lady Fiona Ormiston wouldn’t think of forming an alliance with an ungroomed, barbaric Highlander, despite the protection he offers. But now, by request of the king, Sir Adham MacFinlagh, a brazen stranger and outsider unlike anyone she has met before, is to be her husband. Torn from solitude and the comfort of her family to make a home with the rugged knight, Fiona surrenders to Adham’s powerfully passionate—and shockingly tender—touch, only to discover her new husband’s family ties may lie with an enemy of the king.

A sense of duty may have brought Adham to the marriage bed, but it’s his powerful feelings for his beautiful, willful wife that will be his undoing. Ultimately, the bold knight will have to decide: Does his allegiance lie with his blood ties to the man who hopes to bring down the king or with the bride who has stolen his heart?

REVIEW: I said it before and I’ll say it again. Amanda Scott is welcome to pull me out of my regency world anytime she damn well pleases. With her meticulous research and wonderful prose, she brings Highland’s history and politics to life and immerses me into her tales of intrigue and romance with an ease.

There’s a lot to like about this story, aside of being well written and researched. I found the story sweet and heartwarming. The couple was engaging and their story compelling. Fiona was sweet as much as she was strong and adventurous. She was a perfect match for Adham, an Alpha male warrior with shades of Beta hero tendencies.

What I found fascinating was the political plot to this story. I loved the history and intrigue of the setting and if you’re into that sort of thing, I think you’ll gobble it up.

I really liked this story and highly recommend it for its history and suspense as much as for action and romance.

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review

‘Lord Dashwood Missed Out’ by Tessa Dare

ldmo td A snowstorm hath no fury like a spinster scorned!

Miss Elinora Browning grew up yearning for the handsome, intelligent lord-next-door…but he left England without a word of farewell. One night, inspired by a bit too much sherry, Nora poured out her heartbreak on paper. Lord Dashwood Missed Out was a love letter to every young lady who’d been overlooked by gentlemen—and an instant bestseller. Now she’s on her way to speak in Spindle Cove when snowy weather delays her coach. She’s forced to wait out the storm with the worst possible companion: Lord Dashwood himself.

And he finally seems to have noticed her.

George Travers, Lord Dashwood, has traveled the globe as a cartographer. He returned to England with the goal of marrying and creating an heir–only to find his reputation shredded by an audacious, vexingly attractive bluestocking and her poison pen. Lord Dashwood Missed Out, his arse. Since Nora Browning seems to believe he overlooked the passion of a lifetime, Dash challenges her to prove it.

She has one night.

REVIEW: This novella comes between books four and five in Spindle Cove series and if you haven’t read the stories in the previous books, you just might be a bit lost, so I do recommend you read them first before getting to this one.

The series is set in Spindle Cove which is home to many women who’ve made this place their refuge from society. They made it their home and are trying to discover ways and means of getting on and accepting themselves for who they are and each one will learn to stand for what she believes in. They are a ‘motley crue’ of women, with one thing in common: freedom from men.

This is Nora’s story and out of all the books in this series, this one is my least favorite. I just had a hard time with the plot as well as with the characters. They just didn’t click in my mind and when that happens, I just can’t enjoy the road to happily ever after.

However, I had a lot of fun reading and catching up with the characters from the previous books, so in the end I do recommend this story to all of you that have invested in this series.

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review

‘The Mistress Enchants Her Marquis’ by Christina McKnight

tmehm-cmkSTORY: Courtship was never so scandalous…

The grandson of an unconventional marquis and son of a notorious woman, Elijah Watson, Marquis of Ridgefeld, has spent most of his life outside of London. His atypical upbringing has left him longing for roots and a traditional family life, and he’s determined to live his life above reproach. When he meets Miss Samantha Pengarden, he believes he’s found the woman he wants to marry—except she has other far more sensual ideas for him.

Known throughout the ton as the illegitimate rebellious daughter of London’s disreputable Craven House Madame, Samantha has never had to face the world without her shy twin by her side—until now. Her sister’s marriage and the return of her blackguard father leaves her alone and adrift. When Elijah agrees to escort her to the town’s most infamous establishments, she thinks she’s finally found a man with a taste for scandal and a knowledge of matters of the flesh.

But she never counted on Elijah being so honorable. When Samantha is listed as the mistress of the Marquis of Ridgefeld in White’s betting book, her reputation is in ruins—and only Elijah can save her. Can two total opposites come together for a love certain to last a lifetime?

REVIEW: this is a second book in Craven House series, but it certainly can be read as a stand alone. As I’ve never read the first one The Thief Steals Her Earl, I still could follow this tale.

I liked the hero, Elijah Watson, Marquis of Ridgefeld, and thought the background that the author gave him very interesting and because of it, his character was complex and interesting, so understanding him and his wish for a more staid and stable future was easy to believe.

Miss Samantha Pengarden on the other hand, drove me to distraction! I liked her, but there was a lot of drama in her life that I had a hard time keeping up with her. Regardless of it, I enjoyed the build-up of their relationship and was happy to see their friendship flourish into happily ever after.

This was a well written, entertaining and easy to read story that is perfect for pool side or a rainy day.

Melanie for b2b

Gift copy provided by the publisher for an honest review