Leah’s 2013 choices for…

Five Star Reads are:

XMTS VRI know we all have our favorite genres and our favorite authors. As for me, I read all types of historical books. Even a few contemporaries.

I had many 4 – 4 1/2 star reviews this year but I thought I’d post about my 5 star reads and you will see by my list just where my heart lies when it comes to genres, which doesn’t mean that I won’t give high marks to contemporary novels.

I gave a very high 4 1/2 to ‘Spin’ by Bella Love.  I am hooked! You can check out my review here.

Now, back to my FIVE STAR reads and so, here we go….

Julianne Lee and her Tenebrae series

‘Knight Tenebrae’, ‘Knight’s Blood’ and ‘Knight’s Lady’.

“Trapped in a place not their own, two strangers find the only thing they can count on is one another”.

Follow Alex and Lindsay as they travel back through time to 14th century Scotland. All three books take you on their journey. I was simply full of emotion throughout all three books. Read Mel’s reviews for the series here.

Sue-Ellen Welfonder and her Highland Warriors series

 ‘Sins Of a Highland Devil’, ‘Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel’ and ‘Seduction of a Highland Warrior’, along with SOTC PBthe novella, ‘Once Upon a Highland Christmas’.

I can tell you that Sue-Ellen brings medieval Scotland to life for me every time I go into one of her stories. They are full of humor, mystery, highland magic, warfare, and love. All are filled with history bits that will keep all history buffs happy. You can read my reviews for the series here, here & here, with Melanie’s review for the novella here,

Monica McCarty and ‘The Hawk’

It is part of the Highland Guard series and I highly recommend it. They all received high marks from me but Eric “Hawk” MacSorely stood out above the rest. She is another auto-buy for me. You can read my review here.

Diane Darcy and ‘She Owns The Knight’

I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed this book! I am sitting here smiling from ear to ear as I write this. If you love 13th century England, laughing, and watching as two people learn what love is all about, this story is a must buy! You can read my review here.

Victoria Roberts and ‘X Marks The Scot’

TH MMcCThis is #2 in the Bad Boys of the Highlands series and I waited patiently for Declan and his story and was so excited when I finally got it in my hands.

I knew there was a wonderful man behind the rogue. Laidain is just the woman for him too, one who won’t let him hide behind his blether, and one who is strong enough to stand her ground with him and everyone else for that matter.

This story is packed with treason, danger it seems around every turn, secrets discovered that condemns some and saves another, and laughter…..tons of laughter!

Patricia Bracewell and ‘Shadow on the Crown

Loved this story! From the history to the direction Patricia took this story in, her writing had hooked me in!

I felt for Emma as she accepted her lot in life and smiled when she stood for herself when needed. King Aethelred was constantly suspicious of everyone and because of his guilt, found himself tortured by visits from his murdered brother’s ghostly shadow. He also blatantly carried on with Elgiva, his mistress. I enjoyed the way Ms. Bracewell took the story line with Athelstan, the King’s son and his relationship with Emma. Through her words she brought OUAHC SEWcharacters into my life to love and hate, and added with the history, this became one of my most favorite reads this year. I cannot wait for the next on this series to see what she brings us next!

Kris Kennedy and ‘The Conqueror’

This author’s words move me. Period. I feel a deep connection while reading her work and urge you to give her a try if you haven’t yet. You can read my review here.

Margaret Mallory and ‘The Chieftain’

This is book 4 in the Return of the Highlanders series.

From beginning to end she had me captured in their world. My heart-felt warmth as I read the epilogue. I enjoyed watching their love come to fruition and talk about HOT!! I loved the mystical parts of this story. Tearlag and Ilysa and their sight, the fairy glens and the chants… ghostly sightings and the legends surrounding them all call to my heart. Scotland is full of lore and Margaret Mallory does an TIW KKexcellent job of bringing it to life.

She left me aching to walk the fairy glens, graveyards, and hills with standing stones. You can read Melanie’s review here.

Tanya Anne Crosby and her Highland Brides series. 

‘The MacKinnon’s Bride’, ‘Lyon’s Gift’, ‘On Bended Knee’ and ‘Lion Heart’ were re-reads for me that kept calling for me to pull out. Screamed at me actually. ‘Highland Song’ is a new addition to the series and stole my heart just as swiftly as the others did.

I found Tanya when I started reading 20 years ago and she was instantly catapulted to the top of my favorites list.

To me, her writing pulls at my heart and wraps me solidly within its pages.

You can read my reviews for the series herehereherehere, and here. You can now get the first 4 in the series in a boxed set…Cheaper that way, only $9.99!

So, there you have it! The stories that hit 5 stars for me this year and in no particular order. I would love to hear what everyone else read this year that received a 5 star rating. Feel free to share with us and give us your recommendations.

Now, I’m looking forward to seeing what 2014 brings into my reading world.

*Leah for b2b

Julianne Lee stops by b2b …

‘The Scottish Play Murder’ by Anne Rutherford aka Julianne Lee

TSPM ARBOOK BLURB: The first production of The New Globe Players was marked by murder. Now Suzanne Thornton’s company dares to mount the most cursed of plays…

When charming Scotsman Diarmid Ramsay asks to play the titular role in Macbeth, he sets off a flurry of excitement among The New Globe Players. Despite protests from the company director that performing the “Scottish play” will lead only to disaster, Suzanne decides that the show must go on—with herself acting the part of Lady Macbeth, opposite the handsome stranger.

Rehearsals begin—but then rumors about Ramsay arise, implicating him in the death of a sailor found behind the Goat and Boar. Is the man a murderer, possibly involved in a plot against the newly restored king? Suzanne refuses to believe it, until another murder connected to Ramsay occurs.

It seems the curse of Macbeth may have been unleashed, leaving Suzanne no choice but to use her wits and her wiles to determine if Ramsay is a gifted actor—or a murderous villain.

BUY LINKS: Amazon / B&N / iBookstore

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EXCERPT: 

He said to the voice, “Tell your business.”

“Louis, let him in. I can’t hear him out there.”

With a show of reluctance, Louis hauled the door wide enough to allow the visitor to enter. In stepped a man in a skirt. Not just a skirt, but a checkered one that barely covered his knees. The woolen fabric of it overflowed his belt so lavishly that he threw the excess over his shoulder like a cape or shawl. Suzanne had seen a kilt once before, but that had been a dull brown with black threads running through it. This luxurious garment was a stunning red with green, black and yellow criss-crossing in large squares. The fabric was clean and appeared new, a rare thing in this neighborhood, and in her experience almost an oddity in a Scot. Beneath the kilt the visitor wore a clean white shirt that was equally stiff and fresh. His belt was dyed shiny black and bore a large, silver buckle wrought so finely as to bespeak a great deal of wealth. As did the sword that hung at his side from a black leather baldric. A utility dagger with a plain wooden handle was thrust into his belt without scabbard. For shoes he wore only soft leather without ornament or heel, and no leggings at all. It begged the question of what linens he might be wearing beneath the kilted wool, and though there had once been a time when Suzanne might have simply lifted the hem to find out, today she refrained for the sake of proving herself no longer a tart. At her age, that sort of behavior was less than amusing to most men and should be left to women far younger and comely than herself.

And besides, this man’s face caught her attention and held it. He had the black Irish coloring she’d always found appealing, with jet black hair, pale skin, and warm, ruddy cheeks. His mouth was red, and appeared to have the sort of habitual smile that made some people seem happy all the time. In addition, this man was actually smiling. His charm was palpable, and Suzanne felt if she stood in his presence long enough she would soon be covered in it, like spring pollen.

He looked straight into her eyes and said, “I’ve come for an audition.”

Suzanne blinked, surprised. This man appeared far too wealthy to need employment as an actor. Theatre was something one did when desperate and only when without skills other than lying. Certainly that was how she herself had ended up here. In the general scheme of things, acting was thought by most people as one step down from military service, one step up from thievery, and just around the corner from murder for hire. The wealth and beauty she saw standing before her was almost never found onstage.

Their visitor continued, in a rich, rolling brogue, “My name is Diarmid Ramsay, and I’ve been told you’ve a need for someone to play the title role in Macbeth.”

This was news to Suzanne. That play was one the troupe had not yet addressed, and she’d not heard mention of it from Horatio. She turned to call him from the ‘tiring house, and found he’d not left the stage. He was still there, staring at the brightly dressed Scot as if fascinated by the busy tartan wool. “Horatio!” she called. “Have you put out an audition notice regarding Macbeth?”

“I expect you mean the Scottish play.” An odd stress in his voice puzzled her, and he crossed himself as if she’d uttered a curse. When he kissed the wooden crucifix he wore around his neck, she knew she’d truly frightened him.

Oh, right. Nobody ever called that play by its proper name. Bad luck, or something. Horatio was a stickler for taking no chances with theatre superstition, going so far as to ban whistling in the ‘tiring house though he’d only just that year heard it was bad luck. “Very well, then, if you like. The Scottish play. Are we casting for it?”

“No, and we will not ever. ‘Tis terrible luck and I won’t have it.”

Suzanne turned to Ramsay. “I’m sorry, kind sir, you seem to have been ill informed. We’re not casting Mac…that play.” She took a glance back at Horatio.

“Are you certain?” asked the would-be Macbeth.

Horatio called out from where he stood, “We are most certain. No Scottish play for us. Every troupe that has performed that play has failed and dispersed soon after. ‘Tis bad luck.”

Suzanne frowned, thinking, and turned back toward Horatio. “Well, it seems to me the luck is not so much luck as simply timing. Everyone knows that a failing company performs popular plays to increase attendance. And you can’t deny it’s a popular play.”

“You’ll recall in the old days, the time Cromwell’s soldiers attacked us we’d just performed that play.”

“We were performing The Twelfth Night when they came.”

“But the day before it had been the Scottish play.”

“And you think we were cursed by Shakespeare?”

“’Twas the witches. The witches cursed us.”

“You mean the Double, double…”

“Stop!” Horatio pressed his palms to his ears and shut his eyes tightly. “Do not say it!” He crossed himself again, then quickly returned his right palm to his ear. He crouched, as if awaiting a blow.

Louis said mildly, “I’d like us to do Macbeth.” Horatio flinched, but Louis ignored him. “I’ve always enjoyed that play, all dark and mysterious like. I prefer the spooky ones. Witches and ghosts and all that there suchlike.”

“A young man such as yourself would know no better than to flirt with the powers of darkness. So exciting for yourself, but not so merry for those of us who know the ways of the world and how badly they can go awry. ‘Tis bad luck, I say. You can have your mystery, Louis, and keep it.”

Matthew said, “Not so mysterious, I think. Ambitious woman eggs on her husband to do murder, they both go mad with guilt, and everyone ends up dead.”

“Not everyone.”

“Everyone who deserves it, and then some. A crowd pleaser, that one.”

Suzanne allowed as she did rather like Macbeth, and thought it would be a good addition to the repertoire. Indeed, one might think it a necessary addition, being a crowd pleaser. “I think we should do it.”

***   ***   ***

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Julianne LeeAUTHOR INFO: At twelve I began to write for fun, which I think is the only real reason to write fiction. Daydreaming with a purpose, and gradually I realized I could gain approval for the very thing teachers used to criticize me for in class. When I was thirty I decided to write for money and bought a copy of Writer’s Digest.

Twelve years, twelve completed novel manuscripts, and eight proposals for uncompleted novels after buying that Writer’s Digest, I sold a novel. Son of the Sword was my thirteenth completed manuscript. Lucky thirteen. Since then Berkley has published two time travel series set in historical Scotland, and two straight historicals set in Tudor England. I also write historical mysteries set in Restoration London, under the pseudonym Anne Rutherford.

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Fan2Author Interview: Judith James

This summer I had an honor to interview Judith James for the blog and I was in awe of this woman. She’s my personal CALGON! She never fails to take me away with her wonderful writing. In anticipation of her new book ‘The King’s Courtesan’ which came out last month, she graciously agreed to come over and play :)

b2b: Hello Judith and welcome to b2b! I’m so happy and humbled by your visit. I have so many questions to ask you, and none are coming to mind right now. I feel tongue-tied and my brain’s frozen! Okay, here we go…Are you enjoying your summer so far? How exited are you with ‘The King’s Courtesan’ coming out?

JJ:  Actually I love these questions! And thank you so much for inviting me, it’s a pleasure to be here with you today.  I’m having a great summer so far, although as my deadline approaches I wouldn’t mind a little rain. It’s hard to work when you want to go out and play. Of course it would also be hard to work if a hurricane hits and the power goes out. I was at a lovely seaside wedding last week and I’ve made it a couple of times to the beach so I’m happy. I’m very excited about The King’s Courtesan coming out, and as I am with all my books, a little anxious too. It feels a bit like your child’s first day at school.

b2b: It’s no news to my readers how much I enjoy ‘Judith’s world of Restoration’, but what I like as much are your AFTERWORD notes. I truly enjoy reading the ‘behind the story’ notes of any book, so tell me more about your research and ‘behind the story’ of ‘TKC’…

JJ: Well as always, while I was researching I found some amazing facts and interesting characters that gave me ideas for future stories. I stumbled across some very interesting highwaymen, and learnt that in the mid 17th century the courts were kinder in many ways then they were in later years. I had assumed people were hung for the most minor of offenses but in fact, while robbery with violence was a capital offense, robbery itself was not until nearly the end of the century. Research is always challenging my preconceptions.

In regards to THE KING’S COURTESAN, some things that surprised me were that icehouses were fairly common in people’s cellars, and many nursery rhymes and fairy tales popular today were popular then as well. Dick Wittington and his cat had already been to London, Nell Gwyn was referred to as Cinder Whore, a Cinderella reference, and Mother Goose tales were well-known and popular. Charles II, my favorite monarch for his wonderful curiosity and sense of humor, actually pardoned a man who tried to steal the crown jewels because he found him amusing, his actions daring, and his story entertaining. Charles had a very sardonic sense of humor and was inclined to forgive a lot if he was entertained.  He wasn’t very forgiving of the Farnley wood plot though, which figures in the story, and many thought he used it as an excuse to rid himself of certain people who were a thorn in his side. That wouldn’t be the first time it happened or the last.

His relationship with commoner and bawdy house born actress Nell Gwynn was a fascinating one, his tolerance for Lady Castlemaine’s outrageous temper and string of lovers legendary, and his ardent pursuit of Francis Stuart, who rejected him for another was the talk of London at the time.  An aristocratic woman like Francis Stuart would never have married a man like Robert, who was a mere baronet before Charles raised him up. A woman like the violet eyed Castlemaine would never genuinely love anyone, and a woman like Nell was content to take would she could and share what she must. Hope Mathews shared something in common with all of them, (and no I don’t mean Charles but that too) but she wanted something more.

b2b: See, that’s what I mean! You never fail to enlighten me! Just if someone out there hasn’t read any of your books, would you tell us a bit about them and what’s coming up for you in 2012?

JJ: Oh I expect there are still a few of those! BROKEN WING was my first book. You might call it a healing and redemption story with a wounded hero, a strong-willed and unconventional heroine, and more than a dash of high seas adventure. It had a small print run and didn’t stay in stores long but it has maintained a fairly steady presence through Amazon and kindle. It won an IPPY, made a few best of lists and got a great PW review which was not bad for a book with exotic locales and a male ex prostitute as hero.

HIGHLAND REBEL was my first foray into the 17th century, a place I’ve grown to love and have yet to leave. Cat Drummond was a pretty kick ass heroine shouldering major responsibilities while battling the limitations imposed on her because of her sex, while Jamie was a pragmatic, easygoing and very cynical almost anti-hero, with a great sense of humor. They were both trying to keep the people they loved out of the brewing Jacobite wars and though they were a bit of an odd couple they were perfect for each other.

LIBERTINE’S KISS, as you know, was a story of childhood friends who reconnect years later. It was inspired by the poet John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester who I named William and gave a happy ending while freely borrowing his amazing poetry. His biographers all mention an extremely doting and solicitous tutor in his early years, (who slept in his bed to protect him) without making what to me was an obvious connection to some of his later behaviors, something that I did in that book. It was great fun watching Elizabeth grow from a somewhat timid Puritan miss to the confident woman who had both Charles and Will wrapped around her finger.

THE KING’S COURTESAN, tells the story of Captain Robert Nichols, first introduced to readers in LIBERTINE’s KISS as a friend and suitor of Lizzy’s, and Hope Mathews, who, when Robert meets her, is a courtesan to Charles II.  Although it is a stand alone, those who read Libertine’s Kiss may enjoy visiting briefly with Will and Elizabeth again.  Robert, like many who’ve experienced trauma and been too long at war, suffers some symptoms of post traumatic stress. He’s a rigidly contained man with a lot of violence simmering within, while Hope is outwardly sunny, but a wary and determined survivor inside.  It doesn’t help that they come from different  backgrounds and different ends of the social spectrum, and are thrust together in a marriage neither of them wants. In essence it’s a story of loss and redemption, betrayal and love, with a bit of fairy tale, local legend, and current history mixed in.

My next book, HERS AT MIDNIGHT, scheduled for release next year, picks up a few years after The King’s Courtesan leaves off. Make sure to read the epilogue at the end of The King’s Courtesan for a hint as to what is coming next. As soon as I get a cover I will put it up,  along with the first three chapters, but to say much more about it now might ruin the surprise at the end.

b2b: I’m really looking forward to the next one. It sounds so good! It’s really hard for me to choose my favorite book you wrote. I will forever love Gabriel and ‘Broken Wing’, but all the others are close to my heart as well. Which of those were the hardest and the easiest to write and which couple did you like the best?

JJ: Oh my the hardest was definitely Libertine’s Kiss! I was rather ambitious with that story, weaving in the story of Charles’ Restoration, a childhood romance, Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queen, and Rochester’s and other 17th century poetry. There were a lot of threads in that story and weaving them together was very painstaking at times. Broken Wing was the easiest because I didn’t know any better and I had the luxury of time. I hope anyone who’s writing and not yet published takes the time to enjoy that first manuscript. There were no expectations but my own, and no deadlines but my own. That’s a luxury you only have with your first book. As for favorite couples, I think as a writer you love all your characters, but you always feel closest to and most protective of the ones you are just releasing into the world, and the ones you are trying to help find each other now.

b2b: Do you let someone read your work during your writing process? Who and why? Or do you wait ‘till it’s finished, then you let someone read it…and who?

JJ: In the past, for Broken Wing and Highland Rebel, I did have some people I used as Beta readers, but not until I felt I had the story I wanted. I wanted to get my vision if you will, out there first, without being influenced by other’s opinions. Once I had that, I offered the first draft to people I knew to be choosy, open-minded, and eclectic readers. I asked them to tell me if there was anything that jolted them out of the story, seemed to ring false, seemed inconsistent, etc. and it was a tremendous help. They were all readers rather than writers. I wanted to know their experience of reading the story, not suggestions as to how to write it.

I don’t use Beta readers anymore. Not because it wasn’t helpful but because there just isn’t the time for this extra step. When I get finished my first draft my editor is already waiting. She is now the first reader, and of course she gives suggestions too. I know many writers use critique groups but I think there’s a danger that you can lose confidence in your own voice or mute it if you are not in the right one. I highly recommend Beta readers though, if you have enough time. There’s nothing more helpful I think, then getting a feel for how a range of different readers will respond to your story.

b2b: Do you have a hard time writing the intimate scenes?

JJ: Mmmm.  Let me turn on the fan. Well…it depends on my mood. I never write them when I have a headache. I’m laughing but it helps to be in the right mood.  Looser, relaxed, yet very focused too. I sometimes have a glass of wine and close my eyes and….well I like my heroes and find them pretty sexy. Sometimes I find a certain song will get me in the mood. Tom Waits ballads  often take me there. 

Seriously though, my intimate scenes tend to be quite  organic to the story. Robert’s and Hope’s first encounter is a result of lust, loneliness, anger and alcohol,  and is not emotionally intimate though it is emotionally desperate. In the end, it makes them both uncomfortable with themselves and each other. To me, intimate scenes mirror the progression of the relationship, and as a couple’s relationship changes, it changes the nature and tone of those interactions and how they feel about them and relate to each other after. If I’m getting that right, generally they  flow with the rest of the story.

b2b: Tell me about the cover art of your books. I’m again very partial to ‘Broken Wing’ cover. Who came up with it? What about the other ones?

JJ: I have two favorite covers. Broken Wing, which was my first, and Libertines Kiss with it’s gorgeous colors and that necklace. I’ve been very lucky with covers and  have them all up on my wall. Broken Wing was with Medallion, a smaller independent press at the time, and they were justifiably proud of their covers. Obviously someone in the art department had read the manuscript and really tried to make the cover reflect the feel of the book and the actual story. I know they did a photo shoot for it with a model named Ryan. I thanked the art department and the artist, Arturo Delgado in my acknowledgements for that one.

b2b: Let’s talk titles…How hard is it to ‘name’ your ‘baby’?

 

JJ: Well…it is and it isn’t. Broken Wing came to me after my first chapter. I was listening to a cover of Willie Nelson’s Angel Flying to Close to the Ground. It really captured the feel and theme of the story for me and acted as a kind of guide or beacon in way, keeping me on track. It really resonated with me.  Medallion loved it too so it stayed. Since then I’ve learned not to grow too attached to titles as they are often changed. Now I find a working title that resonates for me as I’m writing, and when the time comes I work with the production team to find one we are all happy.

b2b: We all have favorite books, authors… How about you? Are you willing to fess-up?

JJ : Ok you almost made me spill my coffee laughing there. I have too many to mention and that’s not avoiding your question. If you check me on Goodreads I have rated 165 books and the average rating I give is 4.48. That’s because I only list and rate books that I have read and loved. I have a ton of them by many different authors in many different genres. I don’t get the chance to read much lately though, except for research, so I am way behind and there are probably many more that will be favorites when I get the chance to read them.

b2b: What’s on your TBR right now?

JJ: I have three books there right now. Two are the monster doorstoppers. One is George R.R. Martin’s latest which I waited I think 5 years for, so it can wait a little longer. The other is one I bought as a present for my sister’s birthday and a one sentence tagline hooked me hard so I bought a copy for myself. The book is called The Passage and the hook, by Entertainment Weekly was “The Stand meets The Road”  I won’t be getting to either of them for a couple of months at least though. The third book is one by Bev Pettersen. I read a book of hers for a cover quote a while ago. She writes a kind of Dick Francis with romance blend but from a more female perspective. She tells a great story, and having worked on a racetrack I got hooked pretty quick. I’m leaving her latest for a treat when my final draft is done.

b2b: I’ve yet to read George R. R. Martin, although I did catch the HBO series “Game of Thrones” based on his book “A Song of Ice and Fire” and I’ve fallen in love with the world he created.

Now, that ends up our ‘professional’ portion of this interview. Are you ready to get personal? Or are you going to chicken out on me?

JJ: Oh oh!

b2b: …Let’s get Personal:

So, tell us a bit about yourself, something personal that you’d like us to know…anything that makes you comfortable…or not…like how many times did you fall in love? What’s your favorite meal of the day (food)? Flannels or Silk? Do you like to cook? What’s your favorite spot in the house? Cats or Dogs? Champagne or Beer?  Your favorite time of the year? What are your fears? Your Joys?

JJ: Oh! This is a bit like those questions James Lipton asks on Inside The Actor’s Studio.

Favorite meal… breakfast, favorite food, Eggs Benedict. By the way does anyone know where that name came from?  Love to bake bread, cook roasts and make soup in winter. Summer is for salads and microwaves. Silk in summer or when company is coming, flannels when it’s snowing and you’re all alone.  My favorite spot in the house is the by the window overlooking the harbor, with a nice glass of wine in my silk robe, or cocoa in my flannels. I don’t like beer or champagne (unless it’s at brunch with orange juice). I love dogs but have cats, and my favorite time of year has been the fall ever since I saw a school bus and realized I never had to go back to school again. My greatest joy is my daughter and my family, and just being alive. Good days or bad a look out the window can always remind me it’s a wonderful gift. 

As for love…I have a soft spot for bad boys and wounded heroes and I’ve  fallen in love with all of my men, Gabriel, Jamie, William, Robert, and now, fickle woman, I’m falling for Jack. My first crush was…well never mind. Suffice to say I was thirteen, he was older and the neighborhood bad boy, and he stood up for me and walked me home when some neighborhood boys were calling me four eyes and toad on account of my admittedly horrid glasses. Come to think of it he reminds me a lot of William. My first kiss was on the end of a dock on a summer night, and no it wasn’t with him.

b2b: Judith, you’ve been such a trooper and I’ve had so much fun getting to know you a bit better. Thanks for ‘coming over to play’ and I hope you come back next year!

JJ: Thanks so much for inviting me Melanie, and thanks for everyone who dropped by today. I’m happy to answer any questions and I have one for you.

Where was your first kiss?

I really hope you remember.  I’m going to be giving away a signed copy of The King’s Courtesan and one other book of your choice to one lucky commentator so don’t be shy! 

“The King’s Courtesan” by Judith James

STORY: Lady libertine, judgmental lord. HER BODY IS A BATTLEGROUND

Sensuous, beautiful and determined, Hope Matthews is a favored mistress of the king. Her many charms have helped her rise from the gutter to the king’s bed. But with the new queen’s impending arrival, her nights in the royal chamber— and her hopes for security—will swiftly come to an end.

HIS HONOR A DISTANT MEMORY

Haunted by his past, hardened by the recent civil war, Captain Robert Nichols lives only for revenge. When told he must marry the king’s courtesan to provide a cover for their affair, he’s faced with a new low. Both are pawns of a great man, but married to their dreams of independence, their clash is inevitable. Can these two wounded souls realize the answer to all their dreams might lie in each other’s arms?

REVIEW: I’ve now come to look forward to Ms. James’ books with a sort of nervous anticipation like a child looking forward to digging into its Christmas or Birthday gift. And what a gift it was!

Through her (dare I dub it Restoration Trilogy?!) she has introduced me to a period that before “Libertine’s Kiss” I knew very little, and thanks to her wonderful writing, I now am eager to learn more about.

The hero of this tale is none other than Captain Sir Robert Nichols, who we’ve met in the previous book. In that story, I’ve thought him cool, subdued, calm and a bit opinionated. Oh, how I loved getting to know him better in this story. The author has allowed our heroine Hope Mathews to slowly peel off our heroes layers and as the last layer fell away, I found myself enchanted with the Captain.

This story opens in 1651 London as young but not so innocent to the world, Hope Mathews is rescued by a young soldier from being trampled by other soldiers who were in a parade. She feels that maybe, just maybe her dreams might come true and her knight in shining armor could rescue her from the life she’s known all her life. Alas, it wouldn’t be this man and until that day comes, she’s destined to go back to the brothel and her mother who owns it. Little does she know of her mother’s plan to auction her off.

It is now 1662 and Captain Sir Robert Nichols hasn’t had a decent nights sleep in years. The reason behind this man’s nightmares goes way back to his childhood and after years of seeking revenge for the wrong done to his family he is on the verge of finally getting the last man responsible for all his heartache.

Charles Stuart is about to marry his Portuguese bride, and our heroine Hope who against all odds has risen to the rank of Mistress to the King, knows that she needs to move on and that the time has come for her to leave the court. She knows the world is ruled by men, so she feels the pressing need to approach the King in regards to her future.

While Robert is baffled by King’s decree to give up all of his wealth and properties one day, the summons to appear in court the next stuns him even more.

As she enjoys her May Day celebration, which Charles asked her to host with him, Hope is full of happiness and pride at her accomplishment. In her wildest dreams, or nightmares for that matter, she would have never imagined herself betrayed and married all at the same time.

Robert is given no choice by the King. In order for him to keep his home from his mortal enemy, who requested it from the King, he must marry the King’s whore.

The relationship between these two was electrifying from the get-go. Both exuded sexuality and the attraction they felt for each other even when arguing, was palpable.

In Hope, Ms. James has created a character that’s a mix of innocence, sexuality and charm. I was touched by this woman-child who managed to keep her identity and use her own perception of the world to her advantage.

Her life was not an easy one, yet she never lost her humanity. She stayed true to herself, and that is what our hero needed. He couldn’t help but be drawn to her sweet and idealistic nature. His tormented soul craved her light and not even a King could stand in the way of these two lovers. The road to their happily ever after is paved with lust, arguments, intrigue, some more arguments, danger and then some more arguments…You get the picture!

Judith James can paint with her words the picture of Restoration period and bring to life King Charlie and his court for me any time! Reading her novels is the closest I can come to living them.

*To buy this book, click on its cover and to find out more about the author, click on her name*

* I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

May RRAH reviews (part 1)

This months reviews I’m starting with Historical Fiction, which to be honest, I always thought it too much history and not so much romance. Guess what? I was proven wrong! I’m broadening my horizons, as it were, and venturing out of my ‘comfort zone, as of late and I’m glad of it. This year I’ve read three so far, and all three have proven me wrong.

THE COUNTESS AND THE KING is my first time reading an author I’m starting to like a lot. Her name is Susan Holloway Scott and she’s written  a few Historical Fiction’s that I feel compelled to get my hands on after I was done with her latest one. I’ve found out that she’s also blogging with Loretta Chase at TWO NERDY HISTORY GIRLS and they’ll crack you up along with giving you a treasure trove of history information on anything and everything from Regency Dances to wives for sale! I love these girls!

THE SECOND DUCHESS is by Elizabeth Loupas, one more author I’m happy to say, is just brilliant! This is her début book, set in the Renaissance Era, which I’m not so familiar with, but I’m going out of my way to find out more about it. For her first book, she’s outdone herself and I see only good things coming from this author. If you love good mystery, peppered with romance and intrigue, you HAVE to read this one. This story’s plot will keep you guessing who the villan is until the end.

IMPROPER LADIES is from Amanda McCabe and it’s two stories for the price of one, so right there you can’t go wrong! This is my fourth book by this author, but I read her books under her other pen name of Laurel McKee and I ADORED her work. I’ve enjoyed these two stories so much that I went the next day to stock up on six more: SPIRITED BRIDES, SCANDALOUS BRIDES and ROGUE GROOMS. All them feature two stories each, and I loved them all.

THE CHIEF was written by Monica McCarty an author I’m not so familiar with. This is book one of her  Highland Guard series. It’s basicly Navy SEALs in kilts. To some of you, this will appeal, but to me, it just made me laugh. I couldn’t take this book seriously. Not after “Braveheart” movie.

So, there you have it. Please remember, these are just my personal opinions and they in no way, shape or form should reflect on these hard-working authors. These reviews reflect what I like, my preferences, my personal likes and dislikes. We’re all different, and what I like, you might not. Hope you enjoy my reviews, and happy reading from one bookworm2another:)