‘House of Shadows’ by Nicola Cornick

hos ncSTORY: London, 1662:

There was something the Winter Queen needed to tell him. She fought for the strength to speak.
‘The crystal mirror is a danger. It must be destroyed – ‘
He replied instantly. ‘It will’.

Ashdown, Oxfordshire, present day:

Ben Ansell is researching his family tree when he disappears. As his sister Holly begins a desperate search, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to an ornate antique mirror and to the diary of Lavinia, a 19th century courtesan who was living at Ashdown House when it burned to the ground over 200 years ago.

Intrigued, and determined to find out more about the tragedy at Ashdown, Holly’s only hope is that uncovering the truth about the past will lead her to Ben.

REVIEW: Queen Elizabeth is married to King Frederick who is a member of the Order of the Rosy Cross. From this group she was given a crystal mirror surrounded by diamonds plus a large pearl known as the Sistrin pearl. Both of these things are said to be powerful and while the force was once used for good, the power has now been corrupted by the greed of men. Thus begins the story of how this mirror and pearl have affected the lives of people from 1596 to the present day.

William Craven was a loyal courtier to Queen Elizabeth for many years. It is said that they had married after the death or King Frederick. Craven did the Queen’s bidding in many different ways. Knowing that the mirror and pearl have now become symbols of evil, Craven thought he had destroyed them. But they resurfaced many years later.

Today, we find Holly whose brother, Ben, has gone missing from their vacation home called Ashdown Mill. The area was once part of a home that Craven had built for Elizabeth. Holly decides to move into the house while the search is on for Ben. When she starts researching the area and the history of Craven and Elizabeth, she uncovers information about the mirror and pearl. In addition, she finds an old diary written long ago with ties to this significant past.

This was an interesting book, but a bit too long and detailed for my taste. It goes back and forth from the 1600’s to present day. History buffs will probably love it.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Dangerous Duke of Dinnisfree’ by Julie Johnstone

tddod jjSTORY: Justin Holleman, the Duke of Dinnisfree, is used to being wanted—in bed, for missions, and even dead. He’s protected his country more times than he can remember, gaining enemies along the way, but he failed to defend himself from the past that hardened his heart. Instead, he became an expert at shutting people out. Yet now, in order to save the king, Justin needs to let go of his old ways and let someone closer to him than ever before. He approaches the mission with his classic cold calculation, but his fiery new ally upends his ordered world and entices him at every turn. Suddenly he’s in danger of compromising his assignment and losing his heart, two things he swore never to do.

Desperate to protect her parents from poverty, among other things, Miss Arabella Carthright unwittingly becomes a pawn in a dangerous political battle when she agrees to aid an enigmatic stranger. Having learned long ago to count only on herself, she’s surprised when time and again the duke actually aids her. But when his true assignment becomes clear, Arabella realizes the man she’s come to care for poses the greatest threat to those she loves.

As Justin and Arabella face their feelings and their web of deception falls away, they must decide how high a price they are willing to pay for love and loyalty.

REVIEW: London – 1820

Miss Arabella Carthright works as a seamstress. Although she was adopted, her parents have always shown her much love. Sadly, her mother is in a mental hospital and her father is confined to a wheelchair following a stroke. Arabella is doing all she can to try and make enough money to provide care for her mother and cover someone to be with her father while she is working, in addition to paying for their food and rent. She has just made four dresses for Lady Conyngham, rumored to be the mistress of King George IV, a.k.a., Prinny. When Arabella arrives with the dresses, the woman is throwing a temper tantrum and haughtily tells Arabella that the dresses arenot what she wants and refuses to pay for them. In anger, she also kicks a beautiful jewelry box encrusted with expensive jewels across the room demanding that someone remove it from her sight. A man who was visiting the Lady encourages Arabella to take the box and sell it. He says he fells sorry for her and she can get some money if she sells it. Desperate for money, she agrees.

A little background on this story. Queen Caroline is seeking a divorce from Prinny and has spies watching him to prove adultery. However, Prinny is a man who enjoys his drink and has stupidly sent love letters to Lady Conyngham who is holding them to use as blackmail. Prinny’s trusty friend, Justin, the Duke of Dinnisfree, has been tasked with getting the letters back. Oh, but others know about the letters and the race is on to see who can get them. It turns out that they have been hidden in the bottom of the jewelry box and it is known that Arabella has it.

Without giving away any spoilers, let me add that we have innocent Arabella desperately in need of money to support her parents and Justin intent on getting those letters returned to Prinny. The story is sweet, sexy, suspenseful and one you do not want to miss.

Once again, the author, Julie Johnstone, has written a well-researched novel with a tremendous plot. Enjoy!

Connie for b2b


‘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

‘My Seductive Innocent’ by Julie Johnstone

msi jjSTORY: Miss Sophia Vane, a hoyden of the first order, makes an unlikely match when she weds Nathaniel Ellison, the rich and wary Duke of Scarsdale. What starts with an unexpected friendship soon blooms into a fiery passion.

But a betrayal plunges Sophia into the thorny world of London Society and entangles her in a labyrinth of manipulation and jealousy that will test the strength of her marriage. Behind her husband’s sudden icy facade, Sophia believes dwells the caring, passionate man she loves. To break through the barriers and reclaim their happiness, they must do more than simply cast away their pride. They must fight for their very lives.

REVIEW: London 1820

Nathaniel (Nathan) Ellison, Marquess of Deering and fifth Duke of Scarsdale, is a very wealthy and handsome man.  He became Duke when his parents died in a carriage crash 12 years ago.  His widowed aunt, Harriet, and his cousin, Hughbert Ellison, live with him.  Hughbert (simply known as Ellison) walks with a limp from a carriage accident some years ago where Nathan was driving.  Nathan has always felt guilty and Ellison feeds on his guilt.
Sophia Vane, age 19, is a young woman who works for her father, Frank, a drunk and a gambler, at the Breeding Tavern.  Her mother died when she was young.  In addition, she has a younger brother, Harry, age 8, who was born as the result of a liaison between Frank a barmaid who left Harry on his doorstep right after he was born.  Sophia has always cared for and protected Harry from Frank’s rages and viciousness.  Many are the times that Frank has beaten her.  Sophia has been saving up so she and Harry can run away.  Frank has said he is going to sell Harry to be a chimney sweep which terrifies Sophia.
When Nathan stops by the tavern one day looking for a man in the area who sells horses, he sees Sophia being mauled by a man and he rescues her by beating up the man.  As Sophia shows him where the man lives, they are accosted by robbers and Nathan is shot.  Back at the Tavern, Sophia takes care of him and his wounds.  She is puzzled at his refusal to take laudanum for his pain.  (There is a reason which readers will learn about.)  When Frank steps in unjustly accusing Nathan of seducing his daughter, Nathan proposes to her to save her and Harry.  Thus begins their life together.
How will Sophia, a tavern wench, fit into Nathan’s life and become a Duchess?  Will she be accepted by his family and the ton?  Sophia is a very strong young woman and the story of watching her learn to become a Duchess is great fun.
Without giving out any more spoilers, I think readers will truly enjoy Julie Johnstone’s latest novel.
Connie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘After Forever’ by Julie Johnstone

af jjSTORY: A year after her husband’s tragic death, all Lady Julianna Barrows wants is to be left alone and forget that most of her heart went with him when he passed. Instead, she finds herself the subject of many a matchmaking scheme and lurid offer to ease her widowhood, as well as save her fading fortune. Desperate to avoid having to remarry, she takes on a position as a tutor, only to discover that the man she’s helping unexpectedly stirs her heart and passion.

Nash Wolverton boxed his way out of the London slums and into immense wealth, but he couldn’t care less about Society’s approval. Except he has his by-blow daughter’s future to consider. To ensure her acceptance into Society, he’ll endure anything―including procuring a tutor to transform him into a gentleman so he can secure a suitable, boring wife.

Yet what he wants changes the moment he hires Julianna. She may be a lady, but she’s far from tedious. Bold and compassionate, she is nothing like the women of the ton. Suddenly, she’s elicited a simmering desire in him, and even a longing to love and be loved that he always thought out of his reach. Knowing what he planned to settle for can now never be enough, he vows to win her love. But as the walls she’s built begin to crumble, Julianna’s fears threaten to tear them apart and she alone must decide if protecting her heart trumps breaking Nash’s.

REVIEW: 1819 London England

Lady Julianna Barrows, a red-haired, green-eyed beauty, lost her husband, Henry, 18 months ago to consumption.  Her grief has been extreme and the only thing that keeps her going is her little daughter, Liza.  Her friends and family have tried to get her back into society but she finds no happiness in doing so.  When she is informed by her husband’s brother, David, that funds for her and Liza’s keep are minimal, Julianna is shocked.  It appears that Henry had a penchant for gambling and lost most of their monies.  Thus, it is imperative that Julianna find a job.  As she has always been a lady of the ton, few opportunities are available to her.

Nash Wolverton, an ex-boxer and former street urchin owns a gaming hell and has become quite well-to-do.  He was left on a doorstep as a foundling.  He was discovered and raised by a woman named Esther who still lives with him.  He will also soon become a partner with Mr. Sutherland’s shipping company.  Nash is a widower with a young daughter, Maggie.  In his business adventures he will be joining society and as such, he and his daughter need to be tutored in proper manners.

When Julianna and Nash are introduced to one another, it is agreed that she will work for him in instructing he and his daughter in the proper ways of society.  Julianna and Liza will stay in Yarmouth at the home of her friends, Lord and Lady Davenport, the Marquess and Marchioness of Davenport.  Nash has a home nearby and they will meet each day for instruction.

As with most children, Liza and Maggie become instant friends, sharing secrets and playing games. Thrown together for hours a day, Julianna and Nash soon get better acquainted and an attraction is sparked between them.

Will Julianna be able to finally emerge from her veil of grief and start to live life again? Could these two people so different in the eyes of society be able to become a couple?

Come read this delightful novel.  Again, author Julie Johnstone has proven her ability to entertain readers with her wonderful stories.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

Fan2Author Interview with Julie Johnstone!

b2bConnie: Julie, before I start with the questions, how about you tell us a bit about your writing career?


Julie Johnstone: Picture a college graduate who is fresh off a breakup with her boyfriend of five years and headed out-of-town via the New Orléans Airport after spending the weekend mingling with her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend because the ex boyfriend’s sister was getting married and had asked me to be in the wedding.

There I was standing in the airport thinking love was possibly overrated when I decided I needed something to read on the airplane for my short trip to Houston, Texas. I had never read a romance up to this point and I was twenty-five. Oh, wait, I did read Sweet Valley High Growing up so I do need to count that! But I had never read a grown up romance! I skimmed through the books bypassing what I would usually read and the cover of Ransom by Julie Garwood caught my eye. I flipped that baby over and was instantly captivated. It was exactly what I needed in that  moment in my life to remind me true love, the kind that wraps around you and lifts you up, does exist. I spend the rest of the weekend reading at the lake instead of skiing! I knew after that weekend that someday I wanted to write books that made people happy and gave them hope when they needed it the most. 

b2bC: How have your characters and their stories come to you and which one/s whispered the loudest for their story to be told?

JJ: I’ll tell you a secret, they come to me in the shower most the time! I think it’s because it is the only time I am ever alone and it’s quiet. I have two rambunctious boys! Sometimes, though, stories will hit me right in the middle of conversations with people or when they are telling me something about their life. Now as to who whispered to me the most, I’d have to say it was Madelaine from What A Rogue Wants. That book had so many rewrites I lost count, but she never kept pestering me to get her story right!

b2bC: What was your favorite book as a child?

JJ: Are You There God It’s Me Margaret.

b2bC: Is there a book you’re never tired of reading over and over?

JJ: This is an easy one – Ransom by Julie Garwood!

b2bC: Do you like reading classics and is there one that you’re embarrassed to say you’ve never read?

JJ: Oh, I love classics!!! I’ve never read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen and considering what I do for a living and what I write I am totally embarrassed that I haven’t’ read that one yet!

b2bC: Is there a book that you recently read that you wish you had written?

JJ: The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes. I stayed up until two in the morning to finish this book and it left me breathless with anticipation and burning with the desire to go write!!

b2bC: What’s a movie adaptation of a book that you loved or that you wish it is made?

JJ: I loved The Notebook!

b2bC: Which book we might be surprised to learn that you loved?

JJ: I love fantasy! I devoured all of The Lord of the Rings books.

b2bC: If you were given only one genre to read for the rest of your life, what would it be?

JJ: That’s so hard! I read outside of what I write all the time and love it, but I’m going to have to say romance. In the end, romance is my true love and can always lift me when I need it.

b2bC: What was the last book that made you laugh out loud, and what was the last one that made you cry?

JJ: A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James has so many hilarious lines that I found myself laughing out loud quiet a bit. The Last Letter from Your Lover made me cry!

b2bC: Do you read your books post-publication?

JJ: Parts of them sometimes, but really I don’t like to because I’m so critical of what I have written.

b2bC: During a thunderstorm – stay inside or sit on porch watching the show?

JJ: Definitely, sit on the porch watching the show!

b2bC: Flannels or Silk?

JJ: Silk in the summer and flannel in the winter!

b2bC: Sports car or SUV?

JJ: SUV! Two kids, remember.

b2bC: Cats or Dogs?

JJ: Both! I have a cat named Cupcake and a dog named Iris.

b2bC: Champagne or Beer?

JJ: Champagne. I detest beer.

b2bC: Movies or TV?

JJ: Movies.

b2bC: What’s your favorite TV show or movie?

JJ: My favorite TV show right now is Outlander. My favorite move is the Last of the Mohicans.

b2bC: Julie, thanks so much for stopping by b2b and we wish you great success with your novels.


AUTHOR BIO: Julie first fell in love with romance fifteen years ago when she picked up her first romance novel in an airport gift shop on the way to Conroe, Texas for a family reunion and spent her whole weekend reading rather than water skiing, which up until then was one of her favorite things to do.

Julie is staying up way too late and typing furiously on her keyboard to finish her next book or blog with her fellow authors at Ladyscribes. Julie is married to an amazing lawyer and when she is not running her two precocious children to one activity or another she is trying to eek out some time to stay in shape and see her dearest friends.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook / Twitter


jj mfdBOOK BLURB: After years of playing the rake to hide a dark family secret, the Duke of Aversley feels tainted beyond redemption and cynical beyond repair. Never does he imagine hope will come in the form of a quirky, quick-witted lady determined to win the heart of another gentleman.

Thanks to a painfully awkward past, Lady Amelia De Vere long ago relinquished the notion she was a flower that had yet to blossom. But when her family faces financial ruin and the man she has always loved is on the verge of marrying another, she’ll try anything to transform herself to capture her childhood love and save her family―including agreeing to participate in a bet between her brother and the notorious, dangerously handsome Duke Of Aversley.

Bound by the bet, Amelia and Aversley discover unexpected understanding and passion beyond their wildest dreams, if only they can let go of their pride, put trust in each other and chance losing their hearts.


‘My Fair Duchess’ by Julie Johnstone

jj mfdSTORY: After years of playing the rake to hide a dark family secret, the Duke of Aversley feels tainted beyond redemption and cynical beyond repair. Never does he imagine hope will come in the form of a quirky, quick-witted lady determined to win the heart of another gentleman.

Thanks to a painfully awkward past, Lady Amelia De Vere long ago relinquished the notion she was a flower that had yet to blossom. But when her family faces financial ruin and the man she has always loved is on the verge of marrying another, she’ll try anything to transform herself to capture her childhood love and save her family―including agreeing to participate in a bet between her brother and the notorious, dangerously handsome Duke Of Aversley.

Bound by the bet, Amelia and Aversley discover unexpected understanding and passion beyond their wildest dreams, if only they can let go of their pride, put trust in each other and chance losing their hearts.

REVIEW: In 1795 when Colin Sinclair, Marquess of Nortingham, was born, he and his mother, Camilla, almost died during the birth.  His father, the Duke of Aversley, does not want his wife to go through another pregnancy so he decides to stay away from her to avoid another pregnancy.  Hurt and angry at her husband, Alexander, Camilla chooses to ignore her son Colin and begins having blatant affairs with other men.

In 1812 when he turns 17, Colin and his best friend, Philip de Vere, Viscount Rhetford, are students at Cambridge.  As they are young and carefree, Colin vows that he will be a rake when he grows up.

London, 1820 finds Colin, now age 25 and the new Duke of Aversley.  His father had passed away a year earlier.  When Colin decides to visit his old friend, Philip de Vere, he finds that the family has become quite impoverished since Philip’s father died. Philip’s sister, 22-year-old Amelia is a tall young woman striving to keep the family together and help her mother through her grief.

Amelia fancies herself in love with Charles Stanhope, Baron Worthington.  However, Charles is looking for a woman with a large dowry to supplement his small income. When Colin sees Amelia foolishly throwing herself at Charles, he becomes angry on her behalf for Colin has gotten to know the real Amelia and all that she has to offer.

Colin strives to help Amelia become a lady and coaches her to prepare her for a London season, including providing funds to dress her.  In addition, Amelia is invited to stay with Colin’s aunt, Lady Langley, while in London.

Will Amelia continue her pursuit of Charles Stanhope?  How will she take in her London season?  But most of all, will Colin be able to resist his attraction to Amelia?

This is a sweet story with some humorous parts.  The characters are all well-developed and believable.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author