‘My Enchanting Hoyden’ by Julie Johnstone

meh jjSTORY: A bargain born of desperation ignites into passion as one lord’s quest to save his family leads to the discovery that he can never settle for less than love.

Forsaken, abandoned, and duped, Miss Jemma Adair has no other recourse but to request her grandfather’s help to avoid living on the streets. His asking price? She must marry a neighboring lord’s odious son. Thankfully, there is a way out of her dilemma—ensuring the rake never asks for her hand. But what is Jemma to do when her ally is an all-too handsome silver-tongued lord with a penchant for poetry that makes her question giving her heart to another man?

Philip De Vere, Lord Harthorne, wishes to marry for love, but inherited debt and family obligations force him to seek a wealthy wife. Yet experience has taught him that ladies of the ton prefer rogues to gentlemen with a poet’s soul. But when an unrepentant hoyden claims to know a thing or two about how to make a man a rake, Philip finds he cannot resist Jemma’s offer or her.

REVIEW: Miss Jemma Adair and her twin sister, Anne, are 18-years-old and help their mother run the family bakery in New York.  The girls’ father left their mother years ago.  When their mother learns she has 60 days to fully pay for the loan on the bakery or they would have to vacate, the shock kills the already ill woman.

The Duke of Rowan arrives from England and introduces himself to the girls as their mother’s father.  He announces that he is taking them back to his estate in England where they will be tutored for six months and learn to be proper young ladies.  Then, they will be introduced to the ton where husbands will be found for them.  Jemma and Anne have always heard that their grandfather is a cold man who turned his back on his daughter when she ran off and married a man only wanting her dowry.  It turns out that her grandfather never gave her the dowry after she defied him.

In England, the girls comply as directed by their grandfather, yet Jemma is a stubborn young woman who professes that she does not want to marry, but instead to run her own bakery.  Anne, on the other hand, is more amenable to marry.  Although she is a very beautiful young woman, she is self-conscious due to a somewhat crippled leg she was born with.

Philip DeVere, Earl of Harthorne, is facing financial difficulties from failed crops and the like and needs to marry a woman with a large dowry.  He has the care of his mother as well and doesn’t want to worry her about their finances.  Philip is a good man and detests the thought of having to marry for money.  He would rather get a job but knows that it would upset his mother and he would also be looked down upon socially.

When Jemma and Philip meet at a soiree, he is immediately smitten with her red hair and equally fiery personality.  Philip is a man who loves to write poetry and feels that if he were more of a rake, he would attract some rich women.  So, Jemma agrees to help him become a rake.  The gentleman in him finds him rescuing her from the advances of rakes so the tables turn somewhat.

We watch the relationship of Jemma and Philip grow from friendship into love but not without a lots of bumps in the road along the way.

Once again, Ms. Johnstone has penned a delightful story of a hoyden and her loving gentleman that is certain to make readers sigh.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘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

‘In the Spinster’s Bed’ by Sally MacKenzie

itsb smkSTORY: At Spinster House, a woman can enjoy the spoils of single life—or find the love of a lifetime…

It has been twenty years since Lord William Wattles laid eyes on Annabelle Frost. Still, he remembers everything—her ethereal beauty, her bookish intelligence, her surprisingly modern attitudes about love…and lust. But Belle’s allegedly wanton behavior led her father to send her away to save the family’s reputation. Now she resides at Spinster House in the village of Loves Bridge, where an unmarried lady can live—and in Belle’s case, support herself as a librarian—in peace…

Beautiful, passionate Belle—sworn off marriage? William can’t believe the woman he once knew could end up like this. But when the hands of fate bring him to Loves Bridge, his long-lost love might just end up back in his arms. Is their unwavering desire worth the sweeping scandal that is sure to follow them both? Absolutely.

REVIEW: Miss Belle Frost, age 37, lives in Loves Bridge and work as the town’s librarian.  She goes by the name of Miss Annabelle Franklin.  The daughter of a vicar, she was thrown out of the house when it became known that she was pregnant.  She and William Wattles had become lovers and when she realized she was pregnant, she did not want to tell William because she was only a vicar’s daughter.  So, she kept her secret from him.  Thus, she traveled to Loves Bridge to live the quiet life of a spinster under an assumed name.  It has been 20 years and she is known as the Spinster House spinster.  As it happens, the town has a home where a spinster can stay for life for until she marries.  So, she has had a peaceful life alone and has adopted a cat.

Lord William Wattles, age 38, is the third son of a peer of the realm.  His two older brothers, Albert and Oliver are married but their wives have produced only daughters.  When William was younger, his father realized that he did not seem to be cut out for big things so he bought William his colors and he entered the Army.  Now years later, William has married Hortense, a daughter of an Earl. Unfortunately, it turns out that Hortense is a woman hooked on partying, spirits and cocaine.  Her wantonness is such an embarrassment to William that he has decided to leave town for awhile hoping gossip about his wife will soon die down.  He chooses the town of Loves Bridge.

When William meets Belle, he immediately recognizes her but she tries to convince him that he is mistaken.  But William knows who she is and remembers their past.  When he comes to her house, their old attraction takes over.  But, William is called away when his wife overdoses and dies.  William returns to Loves Bridge but is called away again when his father dies.

Belle does not want to tell William about the past and her pregnancy but she fears she as become pregnant again.  She feels she cannot tell him because she is still just a vicar’s daughter and he needs to marry a younger woman of higher breeding and produce an heir.

What will happen to their love and passion?  Is it strong enough to keep them together?

This was a nice novella about love that remains true for a long time.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Dancing in The Duke’s Arms’ Anthology by Grace Burrowes, Shana Galen, Miranda Neville, Carolyn Jewel

ditda gb sg mn cjSTORIES: Why Do Dukes Fall in Love?
Every summer the cream of society gathers at the Dukeries, named for the ducal estates concentrated in one small corner of Nottinghamshire. While the entertainments include parties, balls, and a famous boat race, the ducal hosts and their guests find heartbreak, love and happy endings.
Four heartwarming stories from four bestselling historical romance authors.

MAY I HAVE THIS DUKE? by Grace Burrowes
The trouble with Houseparties. . .
Gerard Hammersley, Duke of Hardcastle, is dragooned by an old friend into attending a house party, though Hardcastle refuses to fall prey to the matchmakers who relish such gatherings. He recruits his nephew’s prim, prickly governess, Miss Ellen MacHugh, to preserve him from being compromised by the conniving debutantes, and offers in exchange to deflect the drunken viscounts who plague Ellen.

. . . Is that they must end.
Ellen agrees to Hardcastle’s scheme for two reasons. First, she’s been attracted to His Grace since the day she laid eyes on him, and knows that behind Hardcastle’s lack of charm lies a ferociously loyal and faithful heart. Second, she’s departing from Hardcastle’s household at the conclusion of the house party, and two weeks safeguarding His Grace’s bachelorhood is as much pleasure—and as much torment—as she can endure before she leaves him.

DUCHESS OF SCANDAL by Miranda Neville
Too Many Scandals
After months of marriage, the Duke of Linton agreed to live apart from his wife. Thrown together due to a scheduling error, Linton finds Althea still has the power to make his heart race. Linton seems different from the critical, indifferent man Althea married. But though she burns for him as a lover, can she trust him to be the husband she needs?

WAITING FOR A DUKE LIKE YOU by Shana Galen
There’s no such thing as the perfect hero…
Nathan Cauley, tenth Duke of Wyndover, is so handsome ladies swoon—literally swoon. His blond hair and blue eyes certainly draw attention at the Duke of Sedgemere’s house party, but Nathan doesn’t want a fawning young miss for his duchess. He stumbles upon a bedraggled woman sleeping under Sedgemere’s bridge, and his protective instincts stir. When he recognizes her as the princess he fell in love with eight years before, he’s determined to win not only her affections but her heart.

Or is there?
After revolutionaries massacre Princess Vivienne’s family, she and the head of her guard flee to England. Before they can reach London to beg asylum, assassins kill the last of her defenders. Vivienne is alone and on the run when the Duke of Wyndover comes to her rescue. She barely remembers meeting him years before, and isn’t comfortable with gentlemen who are more attractive than she is. Nathan is more than a pretty face, though, and when the assassins return, he might just prove to be the duke Vivienne has been waiting for.

AN UNSUITABLE DUCHESS by Carolyn Jewel
The Duke of Stoke Teversault has well earned his reputation for bloodless calculation. Indeed, recently widowed Georgina Lark has no idea he’s loved her since before her late husband swept her off her feet. Stoke Teversault means to keep it that way. The cold and forbidding duke and the blithe and open Georgina could not be less suited in any capacity. And yet, when Georgina and her sister arrive at his home, his ice-bound heart may melt away.

Georgina Lark has never thought of thought of the Duke of Stoke Teversault as a man capable of inducing passion in anyone. He’s long disapproved of her, but she will be forever grateful to him for his assistance after her husband died.

REVIEW: ‘May I Have This Duke?’ by Grace Burrowes

After being pressured by his grandmother, Gerard Juvenal Rene Beaumarchand Hammersley, Eighth Duke of Hardcastle, is looking for someone to be his Duchess. Gerard lives at Hardwood Hall with his nephew, Christopher, who lost his parents and is being raised by his uncle.  Miss Ellen MacHugh, has been Christopher’s governess for the last 3 of his 6 years.

Although Gerard loves his nephew, he has always been aloof with Ellen.  Ellen has never cared for him because he appears to be cold-blooded and curt.  One day, Gerard summons her to his office to inform her that she and Christopher will be accompanying him to a two-week house party at Sedgemere House in Nottinghamshire.  She agrees but tells him that she will be leaving immediately after the house party as she is putting in her two-week notice.  Shocked at her notice, Gerard tells her that she simply cannot leave him while he is searching for someone to be his Duchess.

At the house party, the hostess approaches Ellen to say that the numbers of men and women are off and she needs Ellen to step in and be a guest.  In addition, she offers the use of her own gowns for Ellen to wear.  As Ellen is the granddaughter of an Earl, her background allows her to blend right in.

When Gerard sees how lovely she is, he realizes that he has had a beautiful and intelligent woman right under his nose for the last 3 years and begins to woo her.  Ellen is flattered but is adamant that she will be leaving in 2 weeks.

Will Gerard be able to change her mind?  Can he convince her to marry him and be his Duchess?

I loved this totally delightful novella.  The storyline is good and there are some humorous bits as well.

‘Waiting for a Duke Like You’ by Shana Galen

Nathan Cauley, tenth Duke of Wyndover, needs an heir.  Currently, he is a guest at the Sedgemere House Party.  Although he does not care for games at these events, he agrees to go on a scavenger hunt. One item he needs is a smooth stone and thus he heads down to the bridge.  

Her Royal Highness Princess Vivienne Aubine Calathe de Glynaven is the only surviving member of the royal family of the Kingdom of Glynaven.  They had all been slaughtered during yet another revolution that has tried to oust the royal family.  Vivienne has been running trying to escape the assassins. Filthy, exhausted, hungry and thirsty, she stops at the bridge for a drink of water and passes out.

When Nathan comes upon Vivienne at the bridge, he immediately carries her to safety.  It is feared that if she hides in the Sedgemere home, the assassins would certainly look for her there and possibly massacre the people in the home.  Therefore, Nathan secrets her to his nearby home, Wyndover Park. Now that she is clean and fed, she still has problems sleeping with dreams of the massacre and seeing the bodies of her family members.  She is hoping to appeal to Prinny to provide her with asylum, however, Nathan helps her realize that to do so would result in political problems for the regent.

The harmony that Nathan and Vivienne experience during their close time together ends up in an attraction that neither of them can deny.  But for how long can she escape the assassins?  How can she ever live freely again?  What about the growing love that she and Nathan feel for one another?  Can they ever hope to live a normal life together?

Once again, Shana Galen has written a terrific novel full of intrigue, action and romance.  I enjoyed the story immensely and know others will as well.

‘Duchess of Scandal’ by Miranda Neville

The Duke of Linton is a very wealthy man owning a total of 12 mansions.  He has been estranged from his younger wife for several years now.  The Duchess Althea is 12 years younger than him.  As she was so immature and unused to society, she fell right in fun but without using the proper restraints.  Althea has a twin brother, Nicholas, a wastrel, who seems to always be spending his time being idle with Althea.  In addition, Althea knew that Linton has a mistress which only angered her more.  Her lack of self-control and silliness with her brother resulted in her embarrassing and angering Linton which led to many arguments and finally to their estrangement.  

Linton has just arrived at The Chimneys, one of his properties which is near Sedgemere where there is soon to be the Dukeries Cup, an annual rowing race.  Upon arrival, he finds Althea is there as well.  He realizes that he has made a mistake in the dates she would be at The Chimneys but decides to stay for a time anyway.

Nick is also there and brought along Nigel Speck, an odious man who is always trying to make improper and unwelcome passes at Althea.  Both Nick and Nigel have plans to stay for the summer.  It turns out that Nick owes Nigel a large debt and, thus Nick decides to enter the rowing race in hopes of winning the purse so he can repay the debt.  So, with the help of Linton, Nick practices his rowing every day in preparation for the race.

Now that Althea and Linton are together every day and the fact that she has matured quite a lot, opens them both up to a better understanding of their individual personalities.  Will this time together help them to heal and resolve their differences?

A well written story with some engaging characters.

‘An Unsuitable Duchess’ by Carolyn Jewel

Miss Georgia Lark, 23, has been recently widowed after just one year of marriage.  A striking woman with orange hair and freckles, George, as she is called by her friends, has decided to attend the Sedgemere house party.  She is accompanied by her sister, Miss Kitty Hunter, a lovely young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes.

The Duke of Stoke is a tall and feared man.  He has always cared for Georgia but does not approve of people calling her George.  He thinks it is simply too familiar.

As part of the entertainment, George has put together a treasure hunt.  She has drawn maps for people to follow and at the end, there will be treasure for them to find.  But when the treasure goes missing before the hunt has even started, George is quite perturbed and intent on discovering who took it.

As George and Stoke find themselves together more and more, secrets come to light and their attraction grows.

I admit that I had a difficult time following this particular anthology because the number of characters and their past was somewhat confusing.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Miss Prestwick’s Crusade’ by Anne Barbour

mpc abSTORY: Miss Helen Prestwick’s mission to prove her nephew is the legitimate heir to the Earldom of Camberwell hits a snag when she finds herself attracted to Edward Beresford…the current Earl of Camberwell!

REVIEW: Edward Beresford, the twelfth Earl of Camberwell, is unmarried and lives at Whitehouse Abbey with his aunt, the Dowager Countess of Camberwell, her daughter, Artemis, 18, and the Countess’s brother, Stamford Welladay.  Edward became the Earl when his nephew, Christopher, was killed in military action.

Miss Helen Prestwick and her duenna, Miss Barnstaple, have journeyed from Portugal with Helen’s 6-month-old nephew, William.  Helen’s sister, Beatrice, married Christopher and gave birth to William and died soon after.  Helen is heading to Whitehouse Abbey to meet Christopher’s family and introduce them to William Christopher Beresford, the real twelfth Earl of Camberwell.

When Edward and his family encounter Helen and William, they are shocked at her claim.  However, they all immediately fall in love with William and agree to let them stay at the Abbey until it can be proven whether William is indeed the true and legitimate heir.  The problem is that Beatrice must have hidden the marriage certificate that would prove that she had married Christopher.  However, they were married by an English minister who has since returned to England.  The next step is to find this man to attest to the fact that he did indeed marry Christopher and Beatrice.

Helen has an extensive background in identifying and repairing artwork.  As the Abbey is rich in exquisite pieces of art, Helen agrees to fill her time cataloging the art and making any repairs as needed.  It may take some time to find the minister and she prefers to stay busy.

Edward and Helen spend time together and as they get to know one another better, they find themselves attracted to each other.  Yet Helen is hiding a dark secret.  When some objects d’art go missing, some assume that Helen may have stolen them.  But did she or is there someone else with a greedy heart?

This started out as a good story but it tended to slow down and the “hot one minute, cold the next” interactions between Helen and Edward became somewhat wearing.  However, I would certainly not be against reading more novels by this author.

Connie for b2b

‘Suddenly Mrs. Darcy’ by Jenetta James

smd jjSTORY: Elizabeth Bennet never imagined her own parents would force her to marry a virtual stranger.

But when Mrs. Bennet accuses Fitzwilliam Darcy of compromising her daughter, that is exactly the outcome.

Trapped in a seemingly loveless marriage and far from home, she grows suspicious of her new husband’s heart and further, suspects he is hiding a great secret. Is there even a chance at love given the happenstance of their hasty marriage?

REVIEW: While Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy are conversing at a ball, Mrs. Bennet makes a scene falsely accusing Mr. Darcy of kissing Elizabeth when he is only talking to her.  Rather than argue the point, Mr. Darcy agrees to marry Elizabeth and a quick wedding is planned.  Immediately after, they travel to his home, Pemberley, which is quite beautiful and large.

As Elizabeth and Darcy have essentially had no courting time which would allow them to get to know one another better, their marriage takes time for both of them to adjust. Elizabeth soon takes over the running of her new home and befriends Darcy’s younger sister, Georgiana, in addition to meeting families in the neighborhood.  When Elizabeth and her maid end up assisting a woman deliver her baby, Darcy tells her that she needs to never venture from home without a footman.

It turns out that Darcy is the type of man who likes to sleep with his wife and does so each night.  Their private life quickly turns into affection and love for them resulting in a pregnancy for Elizabeth.  But when Elizabeth overhears a conversation between Darcy and a confidant of his, she assumes Darcy has a mistress and becomes very distressed accusing him of being unfaithful to her which results in a terrible accident.

Does Darcy have a mistress?  Will Elizabeth and Darcy come to understand and trust one another better?

This book falls into the category of a Pride and Prejudice variation which is a new term to me.

Come read this variation presented in first person by Elizabeth.  I found the book to be spectacular and enjoyed it immensely.  How could anyone ever tire of this wonderful story?

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

Spotlight on Cara Elliott and ‘Passionately Yours’!

Passionately-Yours-Release-Week-Blitz

Today one of my favorite authors, Cara Elliott, is stopping by once more with her third book in her Hellions of High Street series, which is about three unconventional sisters that are poorer than a church mouse, but they all have one thing in common, their equally unconventional secret nom de plume identities.

Elliott_Scandalously Yours_MMElliott_Sinfully Yours_MMElliott_Passionately Yours_MM

I really enjoyed this series and highly recommend them all. This time around we wanted to know the author a bit better, so here are our questions for her. Hope you enjoy the short interview and try her new series.

You can only save 3 books out of a burning building. What are they?

The Complete Works of Jane Austen (okay, so I’m cheating a little) because the stories capture all our human foibles and strengths so well; Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters because it always makes me laugh; Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak because it always reminds me of how imagination is at the heart of every great book.

What’s the one movie that you can watch over and over again?

The Princess Bride. It has everything—adventure, humor, friendship, disappointment, hardship—all of which culminates in the wonderfully uplifting message that Love conquers all. Okay . . . so it’s a fairytale. But at heart don’t we all want to believe just a little that fairytales can come true?

What are 3 things you have to have in your fridge or pantry?

Chocolate. Chocolate. And chocolate!

What are 3 chores you hate with a passion?

Cleaning the bathtub, vacuuming, and washing floors—but I promise, my house is habitable! As any author knows, writing teaches you great discipline, so I am diligent about doing onerous tasks. 

Elliott_Passionately Yours_MMBOOK BLURB: Proper young ladies of the ton-especially ones who have very small dowries-are not encouraged to have an interest in intellectual pursuits. Indeed, the only things they are encouraged to pursue are eligible bachelors. So, the headstrong Sloane sisters must keep their passions a secret. Ah, but secret passions are wont to lead a lady into trouble . . .

With her older sisters both happily married, Caro Sloane yearns for a romantic adventure of her own. Unfortunately the muddy, sulfur-scented waters of Bath seem the least likely setting for love or excitement. But the aspiring young poet soon finds inspiration when she runs into a familiar-and achingly handsome-Scottish laird.

Visiting Bath with his sickly sister, Alec McClellan is shocked to be reunited with Caro Sloane. He hasn’t been able to forget the English beauty since their brief but exhilarating first meeting. But Bath is not nearly as serene as it appears, and soon Alec must protect Caro from a danger that threatens to extinguish the sparks flying between them. Little does he know that a bit of danger is exactly what Caro is looking for . . .

BUY LINKS: Amazon / B&N / iBooks / GooglePlay / Kobo / BAM

MY REVIEW: here.

EXCERPT:

“One would almost think you were going out of your way to avoid speaking to me.”

“We’re speaking now,” he pointed out.

“I would call it verbal sparring.” Caro edged around impatiently, forcing him to look her in the face. “But now that I have you alone, I’d rather not keep trading thrusts and parries. I would rather discuss far more important matters—such as whether you have learned anything new about the attack on your sister?”

Pursing his lips, Alec shifted his stance just enough to allow him to return to his perusal of the lettering on the column. “Not really.”

“Ye gods.” She restrained the urge to take hold of his arm and give him a hard shake. “What sort of answer is that?”

“The only one I intend to give,” he replied calmly.

“Fine.” Caro watched the breeze ruffle his long hair, causing a tangle of red-gold strands to curl around his ear and dance down the freshly shaven line of his jaw. The faint scent of bay rum tickled at her nostrils.

“Fine,” she repeated, after forcing herself to exhale. “Then I’ll just have to do a little poking around on my own.”

That got his attention. He looked around abruptly, his gaze narrowing to a slitted stare. The movement was quick, but not quick enough to hide the sudden darkening of his eyes.

“That wouldn’t be wise,” he growled. “The only thing I will add for now is that you should stay well away from Edward Thayer.”

“Why?”

“Because…” He let out an exasperated grunt. “Must you always plague me with questions?”

“I wouldn’t have to if you would stop treating me like a feather-headed wigeon.”

Alec’s scowl became more pronounced.

“Haven’t I proved myself trustworthy and capable?”

A small muscle on his jaw twitched. “I am not at liberty to give you any more details right now. All I can say is that…” As he drew in a breath, he seemed to change his mind about what to say. “Thayer is a charming fellow. No doubt his smooth words are more to your liking.”

Deciding Alec deserved a bit of teasing, Caro pretended not to notice the roughness edging his voice. “Yes, he’s exceedingly charming.”

If his storm-blue stare squeezed any tighter, it would be sharper than a razor’s edge.

“And scrupulously polite,” she added.

Alec was becoming more flustered. Small sounds were beginning to rumble in his throat, like the growling of a bear. “I do not have Thayer’s gift of making myself agreeable. He has a honeyed tongue, which seems to appeal to all the ladies.”

“Honey is, after all, a great deal more palatable than vinegar,” Caro pointed out.

He now looked utterly nonplussed.

Caro let him stew for a moment longer before huffing an exasperated sigh. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, give me some credit for having a brain, Lord Strathcona! Of course I don’t find Thayer appealing. When honey drips that freely, it ought to catch naught but flies.”

The growls ceased.

Caro waited for him to speak.

Ever so slowly, Alec shifted his feet, stirring tiny puffs of pale dust beneath his boots.

The flicker of dark leather caused a momentary spasm of doubt as she recalled her chilling encounter in the churchyard.

Alec as evil? She couldn’t explain how, but she knew with a certainty that resonated right down to her very heartbeat that it couldn’t be true.

“Are you saying you would trust my word over his?”

“Yes, you big lummox! I don’t know why I should, but I prefer your snaps and growls.”

A dappling of sunlight seemed to catch on the curl of his lashes, gilding them to a gleaming gold.

“You are forthright, you are honorable in your own maddening way,” she went on. Oh, no man ought to have such beautiful eyes.

She found herself staring, and at that moment, all rational thought seemed to dance away in the breeze. His face was utterly intriguing—a mix of chiseled planes and well-defined features that hinted at hidden secrets.

“And… well, you are quite the most interesting man I have ever met.” Her legs suddenly seemed a little unsteady, so Caro reached out and caught hold of his lapels.

Looking up, she found his mouth was only inches from hers.

“Oh, bosh—I shall probably regret this…” Standing on tiptoes, Caro kissed him. Not a mere feathering of flesh against flesh, but a hard, hungry embrace that she let go on for far, far longer than any proper young lady should dare.

“There, I have no doubt shocked you.”

The tip of his tongue traced along the swell of his lower lip.

“I imagine you think me a wanton hellion, and I suppose I am. It must be my eccentric upbringing. I don’t care very much for rules.”

Caro knew she was babbling but she couldn’t seem to stop. “You may consign me to the Devil. But at least I shall dance a merry jig on my way to perdition.”

Was that finally a hint of smile?

She finally dared pause to take a breath. A long, shuddering breath. Now was the time to flee, before she made an even bigger fool of herself.

But Alec suddenly shifted again, blocking her way.

“I, too, shall probably regret this,” he said as he slowly circled his arms around her and pulled her close.

She opened her mouth. To protest?

Before she could make any sense of what she had set in motion, their lips met again, setting off a fierce jolt of fire.

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Cara Elliott

AUTHOR BIO: Cara Elliott started creating books at the age of five, or so her mother tells her. And Mom has the proof preserved in a family scrapbook—a neatly penciled story, the pages lavishly illustrated with full color crayon drawings of horses. Cara has since moved on from Westerns to writing about Regency England, a time and place that has captured her imagination ever since she opened the covers of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

A graduate of Yale University, Cara has garnered numerous accolades for her writing, including two Daphne Du Maurier Awards for Historical Mystery /Suspense and two RITAs nominations for Regency Romance. (She also writes a historical mystery series under the nom de plume Andrea Penrose.)

Cara loves to travel to interesting destinations around the world—however, her favorite spot is London, where the funky antique markets, used book stores and specialty museums offer a wealth of inspiration for her stories.

Cara also writes under the pen names Andrea Pickens (Traditional Regencies and swashbuckling Spy Regencies) and Andrea Penrose (A Regency-set mystery series)

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