Harper Collins

#Review – Love and Lies at The Village Christmas Shop by Portia MacIntosh (@PortiaMacIntosh) #Blogtour #Christmas #Romance #LoveAndLiesAtTheVillageChristmasShop @HQDigitalUK

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I have the great pleasure to be the last stop on this great blog tour, and to be sharing my review of Love and Lies At The Village Christmas Shop by Portia MacIntosh.

Blast the Michael Bublé, wrap your hands around a cinnamon latte and enjoy this warm, hilarious Christmas novel!

Ivy loves Christmas. As owner of Christmas Every Day, the year-round festive store, you’d expect nothing less!

The only thing missing in Ivy’s life is a dash of romance – something her twin sister Holly will not let her forget…

When her mother passed away, Ivy vowed to take over the running of her mother’s store and keep the Christmas spirit alive in the idyllic seaside town of Marram Bay.

But all this changes when an enigmatic businessman moves to the town, threatening to bulldoze her beloved shop to make way for a holiday complex.

Can Ivy save her shop before Christmas? Could there be a different side to the newest resident of Marram Bay that would make all her Christmas wishes come true?

The brand-new laugh-out-loud romantic comedy from bestseller Portia Macintosh. Perfect for fans of Zara Stoneley and Tilly Tennant.

My View

Well this is splendid, what a great way to get yourself into the festive spirit! I will admit that this is ashamedly the first book I have read by Portia MacIntosh, where have I been to let this wonderful author pass me by? Anyway, I will definitely be seeking out more of Ms MacIntosh’s work because this was wonderful.

For Ivy there is nothing better in this world than Christmas, she loves it’s, breathes it and lives it everyday something that she shared with her dear late mother. So it will comes at no surprise that she runs a Christmas shop; ‘Christmas Everyday’ which used to belong to her mother. Situated in the little Yorkshire town of Marram, Ivy has vowed that she will always be here and run her mother’s shop as she would have wanted it to be run.

I really like Ivy, she gave up a lot for the Christmas shop and her family, she gave up a brilliant carer as a chef, everything she has done has been for the shop and her family. She is a glorified book worm, she is more than happy sitting quietly in a corner reading. She is by far one of the most selfless women, she has given up her dreams of being whisked of her feet by a handsome stranger, her entire life solely revolves around the shop and I for one can relate to her. At times Ivy was so real to me it was like reading about myself, I have never related to a character as much as I have Ivy she spoke to me on a level I have never experienced before, I understood her. This for me is what makes this book such a winner, Ms. MacIntosh has created this real and likeable young woman who is very normal. There are no airs and graces about Ivy she is a normal, working class young woman who is in need of a boost of self confidence.

But all is not fine in the shop, Ivy is struggling to get people through the door other then at Christmas. After all not everyone is like he and her late mother, some are like her Christmas hating twin sister; Holly. Honestly you never have though that these two completely different women were even related let alone, twin sisters, they are like chalk and cheese and in many ways I think people will relate to Holly just as much as Ivy. She believes that there is more to life then Christmas trees, decorations and carol singing and she worries that her sister has given too much for their mothers Christmas shop legacy, I can see her point of view too. When Ivy finds out that he land lord is selling the shop to a mysterious stranger who wants to turn her precious mothers shop into holiday lets she now must fight for her mother’s legacy and for herself, especially once she meets the very man who could change her whole life.

Seb and Ivy are such a cute couple, even though they are in competition there is a lot of flirting, giggles and good natured bantering between them. He is a sexy, confident and kind man who knows what he wants and will do what ever he can to get it, even though that does sounds as though he is ruthless, but to me I think it’s more the fact that he is a charmer and everyone falls under his spell.

I have to say that even though Seb is mightily attractive and a decent man, I was more drawn to the rough around the edges, heavily tattooed and a but scruffy Gaz, and it has nothing to do with the fact that as soon he appeared in the book I envisioned Tom Hardy, oh, alright it has more or less everything to do with that  😉 he’s a bit gruff, but there is something very enticing about him.

Love and Lies and the Village Christmas Shop is a light-hearted, witty and seasonally perfect romance. The plot is fun, easy to read and entertaining, there is a lot of laugh-out-loud moments to be had, especially from the witty banter from all character’s. The cast of character’s are each brilliant in their own way, each one has his/her own style and quirkiness that you will instantly love. Ms. MacIntosh’s writing is a real joy to read, there is a lot of passion for the story and the character’s that really comes through in the story.

An utterly charming and feel-good festive romance that will have you reaching for the hot chocolate and fluffy socks and settling in for the night.

This was an ARC copy via the publisher for this blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Love and Lies and The Christmas Village Shop can be purchased from Amazon.

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The Governess Game (Girl Meets Duke #2) by Tessa Dare, Release Day Review

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He’s been a bad, bad rake—and it takes a governess to teach him a lesson

The accidental governess.

After her livelihood slips through her fingers, Alexandra Mountbatten takes on an impossible post: transforming a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. However, the girls don’t need discipline. They need a loving home. Try telling that to their guardian, Chase Reynaud: duke’s heir in the streets and devil in the sheets. The ladies of London have tried—and failed—to make him settle down. Somehow, Alexandra must reach his heart… without risking her own.

The infamous rake.

Like any self-respecting libertine, Chase lives by one rule: no attachments. When a stubborn little governess tries to reform him, he decides to give her an education—in pleasure. That should prove he can’t be tamed. But Alexandra is more than he bargained for: clever, perceptive, passionate. She refuses to see him as a lost cause. Soon the walls around Chase’s heart are crumbling… and he’s in danger of falling, hard.

My View

This is book two in the Girl Meets Duke series, and it is just as wonderfully romantic and engrossing as the previous. Which is exactly what we all have come to expect from Tessa Dare, her skill at crafting a well-rounded, articulate and mesmerizing story is flawless and incomparable. Like every other Tessa Dare book I have read, this is amazing.

This time we meet down on her luck Clock Setter; Alexandra Mountbatten, who is a little down on her luck she has a handful of client’s but not enough to really be comfortable so when she organizes to tend to the clocks at one of the major houses in London she thinks that this will be the job to finally put her on her feet. It just happens that the lord of the manor is the very man she fell head over heels for in an accidental meeting in a book store, he however confuses her presence there as the new governess for his wild wards. One thing leads to another and after an incident she ends up faced with an uncertain future. She reluctantly takes Chase up on his offer of the post of Governess, even though she knows nothing about children.

Alex is a wonderful character, she real pulls you in and you instantly like her, she is warm, head-strong and has a resilient nature, she is hardworking and caring which you really see when she is working her magic on the stubborn, set in his ways Chase. I really like their relationship, he is supremely sexy and a little distant towards life and the way he is so taken with the little, caring Alex is so loving.

Chase wanted nothing more than to wile away his days in pleasure, no attachments, no responsibilities that is until he becomes the reluctant guardian of two practically feral children. I mean it too, these two little girls are wild and unruly, they repeatedly murder their little doll, so they can have a funeral for it every day. Beneath that wild behaviour there are two vulnerable and scared little girls who are confused by what has happened to them. Alex is really the making of them and their randy and somewhat broody guardian; Chase. He see’s himself as nothing but a reckless libertine, who is way out of his depth especially when he meets the intelligent, spirited and no-nonsense Alex.

I love the moment when Alex and Chase first meet, in a book shop. It is very normal, and a lot of people can relate to that moment, Alex has a bit of a tongue tied, clumsy moment in front of a devilishly attractive man with the greenest eyes. I can relate to that, and I can relate to Alex. She is a wonderfully down to earth and practical woman wo knows that life isn’t all beds of roses, it is hard, people struggle, and she is living proof of that. Ms Dare has this gift at creating ordinary, hardworking women who just do what they have to survive, and Alex is no different.

This is what I love about Tessa Dare she grab’s hold of your imagination and takes you on a delightful and endearing journey as we watch two completely different character’s fall in love. The Governess Game is another win, it is beautifully written, captivating with a mesmerizing and tender romance wrapped up with a thrilling and breath-taking story that will engage and enthral readers.

Utterly fabulous, I cannot recommend this highly enough!

This was an ARC copy via the publisher  in exchange for an honest review

The Governess Game is out today and can be purchased from Amazon.

Spotlight and Exclusive Excerpt on Unforgivable Love by Sophfronia Scott

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Jazz may be king, but heiress Mae Malveaux rules society with an angel’s smile and a heart of stone. She made up her mind long ago that nobody would decide her fate. Marriage, money, freedom… Mae wants complete control. To have the pleasure she craves, control is paramount, especially control of the men Mae attracts like moths to a flame.

Valiant Jackson is accustomed to getting what he wants—and he’s wanted Miss Malveaux for years. The door finally opens for him when Mae is slighted by her former lover Frank Washington, and she strikes a bargain: seduce her virginal young cousin, Cecily, who is now engaged to Frank, a man who values Cecily’s innocence above all else. If Val is successful, his reward will be Mae.

Unbeknownst to Mae, Val seeks another, even more valuable prize. Elizabeth Townsend is fiercely loyal to her church and her civil rights attorney husband. She is certain that there is something redeemable in Mr. Jackson. Little does she know her most unforgivable mistake will be Val’s greatest triumph. But Mae and Val are unprepared for what can happen between a woman and man when the thrill of the chase spirals wildly out of control.

Scott deftly tackles themes of love, faith, lost innocence, betrayal, and redemption in this stunningly original novel. UNFORGIVABLE LOVE introduces readers to both the café society and upper crust Harlem and takes readers from the grand town homes on Lenox Avenue to the lush woods of Anselm, North Carolina, in a whirlwind of passion.

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Exclusive Extract

Harlem, May 1947
MAE

Mae loved herself with a ferocity that came of feeding too hard and too long on her own exquisite beauty. She could smile in the rearview mirror of her car and see the alabaster beam reflected back from her picture in advertisements for Malveaux’s Magic Hair Pomade plastered on every billboard and in the windows of every drugstore starting from West 53rd Street, going all the way up Manhattan and through Harlem for the next hundred blocks.

Even now she gazed happily into her vanity as her maid, Justice, applied the French pomade and arranged the dark folds of her hair into thick Victory curls perfectly framing her face. She never used the concoction her mother had created and made famous. Tired of having it smeared on her head since childhood, Mae had thrown away her own grease-filled powder blue tin in the days after her mother’s death.

She held out her wrists and Justice dabbed on fragrant dots from the crystal bottle of Caron Fleurs de Rocaille perfume. Mae’s cold-creamed skin glowed bright and her eyes danced with the sparkle of a girl, making her seem younger than her thirty-three years. She knew this feature made her irresistible. Mysteriously, each man thought he had discovered this light for himself and believed only he could see it in her. They never noticed her well-hidden contempt for their arrogance.

Mae was vigilant about her expressions. She learned long ago the faces she wore would always be more essential than any dress she put on, no matter if it were a Christian Dior or a Pierre Balmain. Her beauty was a formidable instrument because people liked to stare at her as they would a motion picture actress and, in the same vein, she could tell them any story she chose to project and they would believe it. So she practiced the lift of her cheeks, the turnings of her mouth, the shapes of her lips, and the conjured emotions that she flitted across her eyes.

Her masterstroke came when she could wipe her face smooth and present a look of calm so luminous it bewitched her admirers into claiming her a goddess.

In rare instances, though, she suffered a rebellion to her visage of serenity. It was an errant twitch seated in the muscles of her lower-left eyelid. She always felt it right before it surfaced. It was as though the weight of all the folly the eye had beheld was suddenly too much for it.

She saw how, though small and fast, it unmasked her disdain. Not everyone would notice, but someone less foolhardy—someone like Val Jackson—would never miss such a telling detail.

Regina, her white Polish maid, brought in Mae’s long, satin Dior that had arrived from Paris the previous day. Mae stood, stepped into the gown, and enjoyed the feel of the gold fabric flowing down her body in a shimmering cascade. She replaced one hand on Justice’s shoulder and lifted her right foot with the grace of a ballerina. Regina took hold of Mae’s ankle, guided her into leather sling back pumps,then pulled the strap through the buckle.

Too tight. Too tight.

“Ouch!” Mae lit out with her right hand, landing a blow upon the woman’s earand side of her face. Regina’s arm rose in defense.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

Mae looked away while she finished. The stacked heel added nearly two inches to her height so she had to sit again. This allowed Justice to fasten the necklace of marquise-cut diamonds while Regina clasped the diamond-and-platinum bracelet around Mae’s thin wrist.

Mae occupied the largest brownstone on Sugar Hill. Designed by the noted architect Branford Waite, it featured a double width façade and a broad stoop from the front door to the street. Perfect white shades on the windows muted thesun’s glare during the day but let in plenty of light.

The flower boxes on the ledges contained enough nicotiana, tuberose, and alyssum so their combined sweet fragrance would greet Mae each time she walked out the door.

That night she came gliding out of the building like a new moon rising. All down the block she knew quick hands snapped shutters closed than reopened them a crack so their owners could spy on her floating down the steps to where her man,Lawrence, held open the door to her forest-green Packard. She knew this because she knew exactly how her world was situated—how every single person thought,including and especially what they thought of her. She choreographed each step,each motion, and she moved through Harlem exactly as she pleased because of it.

What good was money otherwise? She laughed at the predictability of society and how no one but her seemed to understand how to wield this delicious power. And since her mother died, and then her own husband, Mae reveled in the added sweet freedom of answering to no one.

She settled into the caramel cushions of the car’s backseat. Lawrence steered in the direction of the Swan, her chosen nightclub. Mae knew in particular how it would be there. Lately the bandleader would make sure they didn’t play Duke Ellington’s gorgeous new piece, “Lady of the Lavender Mist,” her favorite, unless she was in the room and ready to dance. Her usual party would be seated and waiting at her table. The air already hummed with the expectancy of an unseasonably warm Saturday night. The scene was set. It only needed her to make it come alive.

*******
VAL

Before Val Jackson had left for the Swan he’d sat in his office above his own club,the Diamond. The handsome walnut clock on the wall struck the half hour: nine thirty. He felt the bass throbbing in the floorboards under his feet. Half of Harlem danced beneath his good graces tonight but Val, pulling on his crisp white tuxedo shirt, thought only of Elizabeth Townsend, who was quietly situated at his aunt Rose’s Westchester estate. She would be getting ready for bed about now.

His aunt always insisted on dinner at six—ridiculously early. Then she and Elizabeth would walk in the rose garden. Auntie turned in well before nine and that’s when Elizabeth wandered the great house alone, sometimes reading in the library. Her husband called each night at nine, an annoying detail. Then she would dress in her night-clothes, a thin cotton gown sleeveless, the maid Annie had said and sit on the balcony outside her room and gaze up into the sky before going to bed.

One night the housekeeper thought she heard Elizabeth praying out there.

Val fastened the silver cuff links at his wrists and recited Elizabeth’s routine to himself twice more as he finished dressing. He knew all the details, thanks to his man Sebastian’s unfailing ability to bribe just the right people in his aunt’s household. Elizabeth would be in bed by ten p.m. sharp; that’s what the latest report had said. He loved the potential of those two succulent hours between eight and ten. Just now, in May, they would be filled with air so thick with humidity no one’s mind would want the trouble of thinking straight. The end of a hot summer day was when a woman’s guard might be down just enough to entertain latent thoughts.

But that’s what he enjoyed about this particular conquest.

Elizabeth Townsend didn’t have any latent, smoldering desires. He had watched her long enough to know this, seen her loving eyes trained on her straight-as-a-board husband and her arm looped through his.

Val would change that. He knew he would be the one to light the match, and whatever thoughts burned in her from their would be entirely his own creation. For a few sweet moments he paused and allowed himself the pleasure of imagining Elizabeth in her bed, her bare skin sliding between the cotton of her nightgown and the famously soft sheets his aunt’s home was known for.

The prospect made him ache with satisfaction.

A long, slow smile ignited from one corner of his mouth and spread to the other as he sat down behind his desk and leaned back in the enormous burgundy leather chair. Was this what Satchel Paige felt like, coming to the mound to meet afresh opponent after so many years? Was he rolling in the life of it, so excited that there was still someone worth pursuing even after he had bedded and tasted the best? Elizabeth Townsend was so damn perfect not one of these pants down, legs up women easily charmed by his name alone.

He would savor Elizabeth Towns end when the time came and it would be so fine the streets of Harlem would want to open up and swallow him, engulfing him in praise and awe.

“Sebastian.”
The butler answered so fast it was as though he’d come at Val’s very thought.Without a word, he took his employer’s left hand and, with a silver file, smoothed the nails and cleaned underneath them.

“Any news?” Val used his right hand to remove a Montecristo cigar from the mahogany humidor on his desk. Sebastian pulled a lighter from his pocket and lit it. The smoke encircled Val’s head like a gentle fog and the spicy wood aroma filled the office as Val settled into his feel-good body for the night.

“Miss Malveaux, they say, will be at the Swan, sir.”
Val drew on the cigar with a long, deep breath. Nice. He and his wayward love would play their game tonight. There was nothing better than when he and Mae gotto perform before an audience.

Only one question remained—who would be their targets?

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About the Author

Sophfronia Scott hails from Lorain, Ohio. She was a writer and editor at Timeand People magazines before publishing her first novel All I Need to Get By. Her short stories and essays have appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, NewYorkTimes.com, Killens Review of Arts & Letters, Ruminate magazine, Saranac Review, Numéro Cinq, Barnstorm Literary Journal, and Sleet magazine. She lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, with her husband and son.

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