‘The Highwayman’ by Judith James is here!

jj thBOOK BLURB: How Easily One’s Heart Can Be Stolen…Depends Upon the Thief

England, 1680
Known to some as Gentleman Jack and others as Swift Nick, Jack Nevison preys on the wealthy, stealing coin (and the occasional kiss) on England’s darkest roads. Jack’s dangerous deeds are legend but the thrill of a highwayman’s life is growing cold–until he meets the intrepid travel writer and spinster, Arabella Hamilton.

Beautiful and bold, Arabella may come from the world Jack despises but she’s a kindred spirit at heart. When circumstances bring them together the sparks ignite–yet they remain on opposite sides of society and the law and with each encounter they risk more. To be together, will one of them have to give up their world forever?

The adventures and exploits of real-life highwayman Swift Nick and the observations of 17th century travel writer Celia Fiennes are woven throughout this tale–which takes the reader from the privileged world of London’s aristocracy to the highways and byways, inns and hunting grounds of some of England’s most celebrated rogues. I hope you will enjoy it, and think it worth the wait.

PRE-ORDER: Amazon

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT:

I can find my own way home from here, Jack. I don’t need to be fetched and escorted about,” Arabella said as he took her by the arm and pulled her into a stairwell in the courtyard. She didn’t know why she should feel so out of sorts when home and safety were at last so close at hand, but there was a queer panic in her heart, and she was unaccountably close to tears at the thought of saying goodbye.

“Yes, you do, Arabella. It is safe inside the inn, but you mustn’t travel alone or even walk alone outside it. Trust no one but Nate and Mary. This is a dangerous area. A harbor for thieves and highway­men, most of whom don’t share my scruples about using violence.” He straightened her collar with his free hand. “They gather here to prey on travelers. The wiser customers meet at the bottom of St. John Street and make their way to the inn in groups under armed guard. Pray put my mind at ease. Stay here for tonight and in the light of day, Nate will find you men you can trust, and see you safely home.”

“Yes of course. You make them sound like fishermen lining the banks when the salmon are ready to run—all of them hoping to snatch a fine fish. You needn’t worry. I shall do as you recommend. It’s rather odd though. Most of my life I’ve felt safe and protected in my father’s halls, but I was often bored and lonely. I’ve never felt as frightened as I have in these past few days, but nor have I ever felt so gloriously alive. No sky has ever been so beautiful. No evening air has smelled as sweet. No ride has been so thrilling.” She looked at him with luminous eyes.

He smiled, and brushed his knuckles gently across her swollen cheek. “Those are dangerous thoughts, Bella.”

“Is danger always so exciting?”

“Yes…to some.” He wrapped his finger around a glistening tendril of her hair and drew it out its full length. “Will you allow me a keepsake of my adventure with the daring Belle de nuit?”

Breathless, she gulped and nodded. A wicked looking dagger appeared, and with a soft snick he cut one long lock, and put it in his pocket. It was a romantic gesture, but it filled her heart with sorrow. Soon he would be lost to the night, and something wonderful would come to a close. She didn’t want him to remember her. You remembered what was gone. She wanted this night to never end. She wanted him to stay.

“I suppose I should give you back your coat.” It was all she could think to say.

“That’s not necessary, Bella. Keep it. Let it keep you warm.”

But she was already struggling out of it. The coat was far too big for her and her arm caught in her sleeve as she tried to shrug it off.

“Here. Let me help,” he said with a low chuckle. The struggle to free her arm drew her closer, and his low laugh cut off abruptly as their eyes caught and held.

I thought his eyes dark and shadowed, but now they are amber in the torch light. At times, it almost seems like they’re aflame. Arabella was intensely aware of his parted lips, the feel of his fingers wrapped around her upper arm, and the rise and fall of his chest, just inches from hers. She watched, mesmerized, as he lowered his head toward her, holding her breath as he nuzzled the curve of her shoulder and neck. His breath was warm against her ear, sending shivers through her body, and she turned into him. His eyes gleamed and she made no protest as he lowered his mouth to hers. His kiss was careful, gentle, mindful of her bruises, but it thrilled her to her toes.

Heedless of all the lessons she’d been taught, she stood up on her toes, wrapped her arms around his neck, and hesitant, curious…she kissed him back. He groaned and hugged her tight against him, backing her into the wall, the fingers of one hand threading through her hair as his mouth claimed hers in a heated caress. Her lips, already swollen and tender, ached with pain and pleasure. The feel of him pressed against her, his arms around her…made her forget all else. She didn’t want it to stop, she didn’t want him to leave, and she sighed when he finally pulled away.

“My apologies, Lady Hamilton,” he said with a shaky laugh.

“Please don’t do that.”

“Do what? Kiss you?”

“Please don’t apologize. That was my first kiss, Jack. Do you regret it?”

His lips curled in a slight smile and he caught her chin between thumb and forefinger. “A starry night, a lady brave and bold, a first kiss. You have been an adventure well worth the risk, Bella, and I don’t regret a thing.”

The way he said her name warmed her like a caress. “I owe you so much. How can I ever repay you?”

“Come and find me if they ever catch me, and give me a kiss to warm my soul before I hang.” He brushed her bruised lips with a kiss as soft as a whisper, and she stepped fully into his embrace.

His fingers traced her neckline with a delicate touch, leaving shivers of sensation that rippled through her body and made her nipples ache and harden as if from the cold. He caressed her collarbone, and then spread his hand wide and slipped it under the cool rope of her necklace, to lie warm against her skin. Her heart thrummed beneath his palm. He deepened his kiss as his fingers toyed with the faintly glowing moonlit strand encircling her throat. Traveling its length, his knuckles brushing the tender skin peeping from her modest décolletage to linger a moment, barely touching, just below her ear.

He felt her tremble. He felt a moment of knee-weakening lust, surprising tenderness, and unexpected regret, and then he plucked her necklace from her neck, and dropped it in his pocket.

“Jack?” She stared at him in stunned surprise, clutching her throat. “What are you doing? That was my mother’s!”

“I warned you, Bella. I am a highwayman.” He let out a piercing whistle and Bess came galloping, with Nate not far behind. “Keep her safe, Nate,” he called as he caught the swift moving mare by the mane and swung easily onto her back. Wheeling about to face Arabella, he bowed from the waist and tipped his hat with a flourish. “Adieu, Bella! Until we meet again.” The black horse reared up, taking several steps backwards, and then leapt forward. A moment later horse and rider were swallowed by the night.

Arabella stood there, staring into the dark. She could hear the bustle from the inn behind her. Someone was playing a fiddle. An argument was growing heated on an upper floor. A carriage rumbled by on the road behind her and somebody slammed a door. They were ordinary sounds on an ordinary night. She felt for her necklace, but both it and her highwayman were gone. I have just awoken from a dream. Her overwhelming feeling was one of loss.

jjAUTHOR BIO: Judith James, award-winning author of IPPY gold medalist BROKEN WING, Historical Novels Reviews Top Choice and Barnes and Nobles best of the year HIGHLAND REBEL, and Booklist starred reviewed and Romantic Times 2010 best book nominee LIBERTINE’S KISS, is an avid reader and history buff who grew up in Montreal Quebec. She is a bit of an adventure junkie and has travelled, worked and lived in many places, including the Arctic, Ireland, London and France.

Variously employed as a trail guide, horse trainer, and clinical psychologist, she’s had the opportunity to live out many of her dreams. She has found the perfect place to write on the East Coast, with a view of the ocean from her window. Judith’s writing combines her love of history, romance and adventure with her keen interest in the complexities of human nature, and the heart’s capacity to heal.

She is currently getting ready to publish her Rakes and Rogues of the Restoration series. If you haven’t met them yet, catch up with the libertine, William de Veres and his childhood sweetheart Elizabeth Walters in Libertine’s Kiss. Meet the soldier and the courtesan in Soldiers of Fortune, previously known as The King’s Courtesan and prepare to be swept away by The Highwayman, a story based on the real highwayman Swift Nick and inspired by the intrepid 17th century traveler and journalist Celia Fiennes.

Ms James is always pleased to hear from fellow readers and writers and invites you to visit her on Facebook, her webpage or on twitter.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Website / Facebook / Twitter

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

“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:)