Blog Tour

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare Blog Tour – Review and Exclusive Excerpt

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Praise for The Duchess Deal

‘The irresistibly provocative, classy love scenes set the bar high for other historical romance novels.’
Publishers Weekly

This book is funny, it’s charming, and the romance works so beautifully.’
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

A rollicking and passionate romp that is just what… fans will relish.’
Library Journal 

Wickedly funny and soul-satisfyingly romantic novel…Booklist

‘Prepare to Fall in Love’
Julia Quinn

***

I am a Duke. I’m not asking you to marry me. I am offering to marry you. It’s a different thing entirely.’

When the Duke of Ashbury returns from war scarred, he realises he needs an heir – which means he needs a wife! When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress visits wearing a wedding dress, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
They will be husband and wife by night only.
No lights, no kissing.
No questions about his battle scars.
Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has secrets and some rules of her own:
They will have dinner together every evening.
With conversation.
And teasing.
Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

Amazon UK / Amazon.com / Mills and Boon / Harper Collins

This is just gorgeous! I have been a fan of Ms Dare’s work for a while now, so I knew even before I picked this up that I was going to be in for a treat, and oh, boy! What a treat! This is laced with every emotion that you can think of, it is a ‘Marriage of Convenience’ both characters never went into this marriage with love in their minds they both wanted something from it, he an heir and she to help. But it becomes so much more than that, you know that as soon as the story open’s that there is something very special going to happen with these two and there does. It is as ever so beautifully written, it’s full of angst and the story builds and builds just as the sexual tension between them does until it comes to a too romantic to be true climax. Tessa Dare has a real skill with writing wounded character’s that make you all in love with them and this is by far one her best.

Seamstress Emma Gladstone is on the brink of destitution, her rent is due, and she knows that this time if she can’t pay she will be on the streets. She is desperate she will never go home and beg too much has happened for her to do that – there are too many skeletons in her dark closet, so she does the only thing she can to get the money she needs. Donning the wedding dress, she had been charged to make – the very dress that after hours and hours of pain and expense to make hasn’t been paid for – she goes and bangs on the door of the man whose bill it is to settle; the mighty Duke of Ashbury! But, the Duke has other ideas instead of settling up like a gentleman he gives her a choice – the full amount of what she is owed, there and then in cash or she marry him!

Emma can’t quite believe that he has asked her such a thing, and more than that his adamant that she will accept him. Especially when he turns up at her work – that is such a great scene – actually braving the outside world to come to her and basically tell her that she will be marrying him. Due to personal reasons, not just the fact that she is desperate but also the fact that by marrying the Duke she can help a good friend to avoid scandal, she does marry him – but after he has given her his own conditions of what would happen in their marriage, she presents him with her own conditions.

Conditions to their marriage that not only shocks her by confessing her deepest wishes to him, but also shocks him too that she isn’t as pliable as he first thought her to be.

Ash is needing an heir, he knows that he has to have an heir otherwise his title would pass on to another branch of the family – one he was determined that wouldn’t have his title. So when he first sets eyes on Emma, he is on the verge of asking his man of business to make arrangements to find him a bride when the unbelievably beautiful and proud to a fault woman barges into his office demanding a measly sum of money for a grotesque dress, he knows there and then that he has found his Duchess she is exactly what he needs. She is young, healthy and more importantly she is right there. He knows deep down she will accept him, how could she not? After all she is in need of money and he is a Duke, but he is quite taken back when she does accept him …but with conditions of her own!

Ash is such a fragile man, since he came back from the war severely scarred he has become a sort of recluse, he is ashamed of his appearance he thoroughly believes that no woman would ever love a ‘beast’ of a man like him, so he keeps himself locked up in his big house, becoming more and more depressed. I do like a vulnerable man and Ash is the epitome of vulnerability, he is a brooding hunk of a man that does really need some goodness in his life, he needs to feel loved and he needs to be treated like the good and sensual man we all know he is. This is where the kind, patient and strong Emma comes in, she is exactly what he needs – whether he knows it or not!

I absolutely love the very first scene, when Emma turns up at the Dukes house wearing a wedding dress she has made for his latest lady and demanding payment for it. In that first introduction to Emma you see a strong woman who won’t take no for an answer she is determined, somewhat stubborn, she has got just as much pride as him and she has no intention of leaving his house without payment for the hour’s and hours work she has done on this dress. He pushes and pushes her as he does with everyone, but this little seamstress is unnerved by his demanding presence she, is determined not to be refused. For me those first few pages, that one scene when they meet shows you exactly what these two are about. You know instantly that under both their too proud and business-like exteriors there are wounded hearts that need love and that love is standing right there in front of them. It is terrific intro to both of them and gives way to so much more.

I love this, it’s so romantic and it is a hugely satisfying read. The plot is a simple ‘Marriage of Convenience’ trope where the hero and heroine after a bit of a to-ing and fro-ing they finally get their HEA, but for me what really makes this is Emma and Ash’s budding relationship from the very first moment we meet them you just know that there is something special with these two, the way she brings him back from his dark place and makes him live again is really beautifully done.

I cannot recommend this enough, it is definitely a must read and one that will be read and re-read over and over again.

The Duchess Deal is out now and can be purchased at Amazon. (Links above)

This was a complimentary cop via Mills and Boon as apart of this blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

***

Exclusive Excerpt

Thump-thump-thump.

Emma jumped in her skin and crumpled the sketches into her pocket. “We’re closed.”

The rapping only grew louder. More insistent.

Thump-thump-thump-thump.

With a sigh, Emma went to the front of the shop. She turned the key in the lock and opened

the door just an inch.

“I’m sorry, I’m afraid we’re shut for the eveni—”

“You’re not shut for me.”

She found herself pushed aside as a man bulled his way through the door. He wore a dark

cape and a tall hat with its brim pulled low, concealing most of his face—but

she knew him at once. Only one man would have behaved in such a presumptuous manner.

The Duke of Ashbury.

“Miss Gladstone.” He inclined his head in the slightest possible nod. “I told you we’d meet

again.”

Oh, Lord.

Emma closed the door and turned the key. There was nothing else to do for the moment. She couldn’t leave it ajar and risk being seen alone with a gentleman.

“Your Grace, I can’t admit visitors after hours.”

“I’m not a visitor. I’m a customer.” He strolled around the darkened shop, prodding a headless dressmaking form with his walking stick. “I need a new waistcoat.”

“It’s a dressmaking shop. We don’t offer gentlemen’s attire.”

“Very well, I’m here to order a gown.”

“A gown for whom?”

“What does it matter?” He made an annoyed gesture. “For a particularly ugly woman, approximately my size.”

Good heavens, what could this man be after? Was his mockery yesterday not enough to satisfy him? He couldn’t actually want to retrieve Miss Worthing’s gown.

Whatever his aim, Emma meant to exact a price in return. Today, he was welcome to share

in the humiliation.

She drew a box to the center of the floor—the one ladies stood upon to have their hems

pinned—and waved him toward it. “Up you go, then.”

He stared at her.

“If you want a gown—”

“It’s not that I want a gown.”

“If your very ugly, duke-sized friend wants a gown, I will need measurements. Sleeve, torso,

hem.” She arched an eyebrow. “Bosom.”

There. Surely he would retreat from that.

Instead, the unscarred corner of his mouth tipped with amusement. He set his walking stick

aside. He removed his hat. Then his cloak. Next his gloves. And, finally, his topcoat. Without

breaking her gaze, he stepped onto the box and lifted his arms to either side, palms up. Like an

actor on a stage, expecting applause.

“Well?” he prompted. “I’m waiting.”

Emma retrieved her measuring tape. She’d begun this little farce, and she couldn’t back down from it.

***

About The Author

Website / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Amazon / Goodreads

Tessa Dare is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fourteen historical romance novels and five novellas. Her books have won numerous accolades, including Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® award (twice) and the RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence. Booklist magazine named her one of the “new stars of historical romance,” and her books have been contracted for translation in more than a dozen languages.

Mixing wit, sensuality, and emotion, Tessa writes Regency-set romance novels that feel relatable to modern readers. With her bestselling “Spindle Cove” and “Castles Ever After” series, she has had great fun creating heroines who defy the conventions of their time—engaging in “unladylike” pursuits that range from paleontology to beer-making—and dreaming up the strong-willed, sexy heroes who find their hearts ensnared by them.

A librarian by training and a booklover at heart, Tessa makes her home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband, their two children, and a trio of cosmic kitties.

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Review – Lord Ravenscar’s Inconvenient Betrothal (Wild Lords and Innocent Ladies) by Lara Temple, Blog Tour

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Wild Lords and Innocent Ladies miniseries

Lord Hunter, Lord Stanton and Lord Ravenscar.

Three wild rakes whose seductive charms and aristocratic titles have the ladies of the ton swooning behind their fans. United by their charitable foundation to help those effected by the war, these lords are the firmest of friend’s.

But they guard their hardened heart’s almost as closely as they do their riches…that’s is, until they encounter here very special women.

Could these innocent ladies be the ones to tame these wild lords one and for all?

#1 Lord Hunter’s Cinderella Heiress (Out now)
#2 Lord Ravenscar’s Inconvenient Betrothal (Released today)
#3 Lord Stanton’s Last Mistress (To be released)

***

“Women either ran from Lord Ravenscar or ran to him.”

A Wild Lords and Innocent Ladies story

Alan Rothwell, Marquess of Ravenscar, is furious when unconventional heiress Lily Wallace refuses him purchase of her property. He can’t even win her over with his infamous charm. But when fever seizes him and they’re trapped together, horrified, Alan realizes Lily’s attentions will compromise them both! His solution: take Lily as his betrothed before desire consumes them completely…

This is book two in was has fast become one of my favourite series; The Wild Lords and Innocent Ladies Series, this series is just amazing I have been hooked by it since reading book one; Lord Hunter’s Cinderella Heiress which grabbed my attention. The three lords Hunter, Ravenscar and Stanton are three of the most eye-catchingly sexy and golden hearted men you will ever meet, and I have been looking forward to reading Raven’s story since meeting him in the previous and all I can say it was well worth the wait. He and Lily are such a beautiful and remarkable couple.

Alan Rothewell – or Raven – is on a mission, he needs to find another house which can be used in the same way as Hope House; which is a bit of a rest home/help house for veteran’s who are in need. Because of an incident with his previous house he needs a new one and he finds the perfect property that would fit the job perfectly; Hollywell Cottage, all Raven needs is to persuade the new owner to sell it him – all before his grandmother finds out that he has returned to the village where he grew up. But he soon finds that the new owner isn’t going to be as accommodating as he initial thought especially when said owner is threatening to take off Raven’s head with a medieval spear. Raven cannot believe that the fiery – if in his view deluded – young red head is now the owner of the cottage, he tries all the tricks that he can muster to get the spilt heiress on side, but nothing works unbelievably this odd creature is immune to his charm.

He wasn’t used to being treated with such cavalier insouciance; Rakehell Raven usually caused a much more gratifying response. Women either ran from him or ran to him, they rarely held their ground…

…did she really think that mace would do an ounce of good against him?…

Heiress Lily Wallace want’s nothing to do with the man everyone calls ‘Rakehell Raven’ with living with his grandmother and his sister until she finds her feet she has heard all about the charming rogue. She knows first hand what men like him want and there is no way he is going to get that from her and she knows that if someone like him ever gets their hand s on Holly well it will be turned into some sort of brothel and from past experiences with that side of life she isn’t going to let that happen. Beside she has full intention to be living there herself, she doesn’t want to do what society bids her to do and marry -which would be giving up her freedom. No, that is not going to happen. So, when ‘Rakehell Raven’ turns up she is more than happy to say no to him.

But when Raven falls seriously ill she has no choice but to look after him, she thinks more of his welfare and the fact that the handsome as sin man with the sad eyes will die if she doesn’t help him then her reputation. As they are stuck completely alone together as she nurses back to health they soon learn that their first impressions of one another are not exactly accurate, she isn’t at selfish and spoilt she has got and independent stubborn streak that can reveal his own and he isn’t at all the rake that his reputation proceeds him to be, especially when they become betrothed to protect her reputation.

“If I were halfway a gentleman, I would point out that you shouldn’t be alone with me in a bedroom. Grim is not an adequate chaperone…”

Raven is such a complex man he has got so much buried in his past that he tries to keep at the back of his mind, he has got shadows lurking in every corner. He hasn’t had the best of starts after the death of his parent’s he and his sister were sent to live with their grandparent’s only for one thing to led to another and his grandmother ending up disowning him. To me Raven isn’t your stereotypical aristocrat, he has trued to distance himself from that as much as possible never really fitting in or being accepted that is until he joined the army and later when he met Hunter and Stanton. You can see just how much those two men mean to Raven, with Hunter and Stanton and their work with Hope House he has finally found something that he hadn’t thought he could ever have.

Lily understands him so much more than anyone else, she has been through her own trials and sadness, he carries around with him so much self-loathing and guilt that it took a very special woman to be able to tackle that part of him and Lily is just the woman for him, Temple has done a wonderful job at pairing these two together.

I particularly like the addition of Grim; Raven’s huge black dog, and the story behind how Temple came to put this lovable canine into to the story – all to do with dogs guarding graveyards, it is fascinating.

This series is just fabulous, it is getting better and better as we go along, the underlining story that connects these books is one of moving on and finding peace and second chances. Now I do love stories where veterans feature where the story really show case those that have served, that have done their duty and come home and once home that is where the real hard work starts. Temple for me is the go to girl for this trope, her genuine love and knowledge of these character’s and this story line really shines through, this series brings attention a topic that is very close to my heart and to read how these three aristocrats who have each got personal stories are helping those that are in need is as always tender and endearing.

“Alan, my Raven with his broken wing, I do love you. I am so glad you shoved me off my island,”

I just love that quote!

Mix that part of the story in with the fact that Raven is a blatant gruff, sex-god and Lily a wild, cunning fox then you have a stonking good romance. Temple really is my go to author for passionate, cleverly witty and sensitive books that grip you from the onset and keep you hooked.

I just love it and I cannot wait to see where Temple takes this series with the next instalment; Lord Stanton’s last Mistress. Very highly recommended!

This was an ARC from the author in conjunction with the blog tour, in exchange for an honest review.

Lord Ravenscar’s Inconvenient Betrothal is released today and can be found at Amazon .

***

Lara Temple writes strong, sexy regency romances about complex individuals who give no quarter but do so with plenty of passion. Her fifth book with Harlequin Mills & Boon, ‘Lord Ravenscar’s Inconvenient Betrothal,’ will be published in March 2018, and is the second in her Wild Lords series. Her four previous books are: Lord Hunter’s Cinderella Heiress, The Duke’s Unexpected Bride, The Reluctant Viscount, and Lord Crayle’s Secret World.

When she was fifteen Lara found a very grubby copy of Georgette Heyer’s Faro’s Daughter in an equally grubby book store. Several blissful hours later she emerged, blinking, into the light of day completely in love with Regency Romance but it took three decades of various fascinating but completely unrelated careers in finance and high tech before she returned to her first love.

Lara lives with her husband and two children who are very good about her taking over the kitchen table for her writing (so she can look out over the garden and dream). She loves to travel (especially to places steeped in history) and read as many books as possible. She recently went looking for that crowded little bookstore but couldn’t quite remember around what corner it was…hopefully it is still there and another girl is in the corner by the window, reading and dreaming…

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Amazon / Goodreads

 

Spotlight on A Little Christmas Faith by @KathrynFreeman1 @ChocLituk @rararesources #Spotlight #BlogTour

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I was born in Wallingford but have spent most of my life living in a village outside Windsor. A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also loves to write romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero…

I’ve two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to bother buying a card again this year (yes, he does) so the romance in my life is all in my head. Then again, my husband’s unstinting support of my career change goes to prove that love isn’t always about hearts and flowers – and heroes can come in many disguises.

Website / Facebook / Twitter

Little Christmas Faith

Is it time to love Christmas again?

Faith Watkins loves Christmas, which is why she’s thrilled that her new hotel in the Lake District will be open in time for the festive season. And Faith has gone all out; huge Christmas tree, fairy lights, an entire family of decorative reindeer. Now all she needs are the guests …

But what she didn’t bank on was her first paying customer being someone like Adam Hunter. Rugged, powerfully built and with a deep sadness in his eyes, Adam is a man that Faith is immediately drawn to – but unfortunately he also has an intense hatred of all things Christmassy. As the countdown to the big day begins, Faith can’t seem to keep away from her mysterious guest, but still finds herself with more questions than answers: just what happened to Adam Hunter? And why does he hate Christmas?

Purchase from Amazon UK 

The Right Kind of Rogue by Valerie Bowman Blog Tour

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Can two star-crossed lovers come together—until death do they part?

Viscount Hart Highgate has decided to put his rakish ways behind him and finally get married. He may adore a good brandy or a high-speed carriage race, but he takes his duties as heir to the earldom seriously. Now all he has to do is find the right kind of woman to be his bride—ideally, one who’s also well-connected and well-funded. . .

Meg Timmons has loved Hart, the brother of her best friend, ever since she was an awkward, blushing schoolgirl. If only she had a large dowry—or anything to her name at all. Instead, she’s from a family that’s been locked in a bitter feud with Hart’s for years. And now she’s approaching her third London season, Meg’s chances with him are slim to none. Unless a surprise encounter on a deep, dark night could be enough to spark a rebellious romance. . .for all time?

Valerie Bowman’s Playful Brides novels are:

Wholly satisfying.”—USA Today
Smart and sensual…readers will be captivated.”—RT Book Reviews “Smoldering.” —Booklist

💜💜💜

Exclusive Excerpt

CHAPTER TWO
“How in Hades’s name can you drink at this hour of the morning, Highgate?”

Hart tossed back his brandy, swallowed, and laughed at his brother-in-law’s words. The two sat across from each other at Brooks’s gentlemen’s club. It was decidedly before noon. The only reason Hart was up at this hour was because he’d promised to meet Lord Christian Berkeley. His brother-in-law rarely asked for favors and Hart suspected this meeting was his sister Sarah’s doing, but he would humor the viscount just the same.

“Berkeley, old chap, you don’t know the half of it.” Hart clapped the viscount on the back. “Helps with the devil of a head left over from last night, don’t ya know?”
Berkeley lifted his teacup to his lips. “No. I don’t. But I’ll take your word for it.”

That reply only made Hart laugh harder, which made his head hurt more. Hart liked his brother-in-law a great deal, but the man was decidedly humdrum when it came to amusements. Berkeley rarely drank, rarely smoked, and preferred to spend his time at his estate in the north of England or his hunting lodge in Scotland. Berkeley enjoyed quiet pursuits like reading or carving things out of wood much more than the amusements London had to offer. But Viscount Berkeley was a good man and one who clearly adored Hart’s sister, and that was what mattered.

The viscount had gone so far as to dramatically interrupt Sarah’s wedding to a pompous marquess and claim her for himself, thereby not only proving his commitment to Sarah but also saving Hart from having the self-involved Marquess of Branford as a brother-in-law. Overall it had been quite a fortunate turn of events for everyone. Everyone except Hart and Sarah’s enraged, thwarted parents, that is.

Berkeley tugged at his cravat. “How are your—ahem— parents getting on?”
Hart cracked a smile. “Still angry, of course, even after all these months. You and Sarah made a good decision, staying up north for the winter. Gave Father and Mother time to calm down.” His father’s anger at having a scandal mar his family name and his daughter marry a mere viscount as opposed to a marquess who had the ear of the Prince Regent had barely abated over the winter, but no need to tell Berkeley as much.
Berkeley leaned back in his chair and crossed one silk-stockinged ankle over an immaculately creased knee, his hands lightly clutching the arms of his chair. He shook his head. “They’re not calmed down, are they?”
“A bit.” Hart stopped a footman and ordered another brandy. “Don’t worry. They’ll be civil when they see you. For Sarah’s sake.”
“Well, that’s something. Are you seriously ordering another drink?”
“Are you seriously surprised?” Hart scratched his rough cheek. He’d been running late and hadn’t bothered to ask his usually drunken valet to shave him this morning. For Christ’s sake, that man drank more than he did. Not exactly someone he wanted near his throat with a straight razor. “Besides I have quite a good reason to drink today.”
“Really?” Berkeley tugged at his cuff. Ever since Sarah had taught him how to dress properly, the viscount was much more attentive to his clothing. He was downright dapper these days. “Why is that?”
“I’m getting married.” Hart emitted a groan to accompany those incomprehensible words.I t

Berkeley’s brows shot up. He set down his cup and placed a hand behind his ear. “Pardon? I must have heard you incorrectly. I thought you said married.”

The footman returned with the drink and Hart snatched it from the man’s gloved hand and downed nearly half of it in a single gulp. “I did,” he muttered through clenched teeth, wincing.

“You? Married?” Berkeley’s brow remained steadfastly furrowed, and he blinked as if the word were foreign.
“Me. Married.” Hart gave a firm nod before taking another fortifying gulp of brandy.
“Ahem, who is the, uh, fortunate lady?” Berkeley lifted his cup back to his lips and took a long gulp, as if needing the hot drink to banish his astonishment.
“I haven’t the first idea.” Hart shook his head. He was giving serious thought to the notion of ordering a third brandy. Would that be bad form? Probably.
“Now you’re simply confusing me,” Berkeley said with an unmistakable smile on his face. With his free hand, he pulled the morning’s copy of the Times from the tabletop next to him and scanned the headlines.
Hart took another sip of brandy and savored it this time. “I haven’t made any decisions as to the chit yet. I’ve merely announced to Father that this is the year I intend to find a bride. The idea of marriage has always made my stomach turn. After all, if my parents’ imperfect union is anything by which to gauge the institution, it’s a bloody nightmare.”
“Why the change of heart?” Berkeley asked.

Hart scrubbed a hand through his hair. The truth was, he wasn’t less sickened by the prospect of marriage these days, but he couldn’t avoid the institution forever. At some point he’d have to put the parson’s noose firmly around his own throat and pull. Wives were fickle, and marriages meant little other than the exchange of money and property. His own father had announced that fact on more than one occasion. His parents treated each other like unhappy strangers, and his father had made it clear that they were anything but in love. That, Hart supposed, was his fate. To live a life as his parents had in the pursuit of procreating and producing the next future Earl of Highfield. So be it, but was it any wonder he’d been putting it off?

“Seeing Sarah marry had more of an effect on me than I expected,” Hart admitted, frowning at his notquite-empty glass. “And if you ever tell anyone I said that, I’ll call you out.” He looked at Berkeley and grinned again.
“You have my word,” Berkeley replied with a nod. “But may I ask how it affected you?”
Hart pushed himself back in the large leather chair and crossed his booted feet at the ankles. “I started thinking about it all, you know? Life, marriage, children, family. I expect you and Sarah will be having a child soon, and by God I’d like my children to grow up knowing their kin. My cousin Nicole was quite close to Sarah and me when we were children. Nicole’s marriage isn’t one to emulate, either. She hasn’t even seen her husband in years. Last I heard, she’s living somewhere in France, childless. By God, perhaps I should rethink this.” Hart pulled at his cravat. The bloody thing was nearly choking him what with all of this talk of marriage.

Berkeley leaned back in his seat, mirroring Hart. “Perhaps you should focus on the positive aspects of marriage. I assure you, there are many.”
“Believe me, I’m trying,” Hart continued, reminding himself for the hundredth time of the reasons why he’d finally come to this decision. God knew it hadn’t been an easy one. “Whether I like it or not, it’s time for me to choose a bride. Sarah is my younger sister. While she wasn’t married, it all seemed like fun and games, but now, well, seems everyone is tying the proverbial knot these days what with Owen Monroe and Rafe Cavendish marrying. Even Rafe’s twin, Cade, has fallen to the parson’s noose.”

Just this morning when Hart had woken with a splitting head for the dozenth time in as many days, he’d thought yet again how he needed to stop being so reckless. He wasn’t able to bounce back from a night of debauchery nearly as quickly as he used to when he was at university. Seeing Sarah marry had made him consider his duties, his responsibilities, and his . . . age. For the love of God, he was nearly thirty. That thought alone was enough to make him want another brandy. It was his duty to sire the next Earl of Highfield, and duty meant something to him. What else mattered if he didn’t respect his duty? Hadn’t that been hammered into his head since birth by his father, along with all the dire warnings not to choose the wrong wife?

“It’s true that several marriages have taken place lately in our set of friends,” Berkeley replied, still leisurely perusing the paper while sipping tea. “But I thought you were immune to all of that, Highgate.”
“I have been.” Hart sighed again. “But I’ve finally decided it’s time to get to it.”

Berkeley raised his teacup in salute. “Here’s to the future Lady Highfield. May she be healthy, beautiful, and wise.”
“Thank you,” Hart replied. He tugged at his pythonlike cravat again.
Berkeley regarded Hart down the length of his nose. “Any ladies catch your fancy?”
Hart shook his head. He braced an elbow on the table beside them and set his chin on his fist. “No. That’s the problem. I’m uncertain where to begin.”
Berkeley let the paper drop to his lap. “What sort of lady are you looking for?”

Hart considered the question for a moment. What sort of lady, indeed? “She’ll need to be reasonable, well connected, clever, witty, a happy soul. Someone who is honest, and forthright, and who isn’t marrying me only for my title. Someone who doesn’t nag and has an indecently large dowry, of course. Father puts great stock in such things. Not to mention if I’m going to be legshackled, I might as well get a new set of horses out of the bargain. I’m thinking a set of matching grays and a new coach.”
“Oh, that’s not much of a list,” Berkeley said with a snort. “
I don’t expect the search to be a simple one, or a quick one.” The truth was Hart had no earthly idea who he was looking for. He only knew who he wasn’t looking for . . . someone like his mother. Or the treacherous Annabelle Cardiff. He wanted the exact opposite.

Berkeley tossed the paper back onto the tabletop. “Knowing your father’s decided opinions on such matters, I’m surprised he hasn’t provided you with a list of eligible females from which you may choose.”
Hart rolled his eyes. “He has. He’s named half a dozen ladies he would gladly accept.”
Berkeley inclined his head to the side. “Why don’t you choose one of them then?”
Hart gave his brother-in-law an are-you-quite-serious look, chin tucked down, head tilted to the side. “I’m bloody well not about to allow my father to choose a bride for me. Besides, after seeing you and Sarah, I hold out some hope of finding a lady with whom I’m actually compatible.”
“Why, Highgate, do you mean . . . love?” Berkeley grinned and leaned forward in mock astonishment.
“Let’s not go that far.” Hart took another sip of his quickly dwindling brandy. That’s precisely what confused him so much. He knew love matches existed. He’d witnessed one in his sister’s marriage. On the other hand, her choice had so enraged his parents, they still hadn’t forgiven her. Hart didn’t intend to go about the business of finding a wife in quite so dramatic a fashion. Love matches attracted drama. However, his parents’ unhappy union was nothing to aspire to, and he’d nearly made the mistake of marrying a woman who wanted nothing more than title and fortune before. It was a tricky business, the marriage mart, but he’d rather take advice from Sarah and Berkeley than his father. The proof of the pudding was in the eating, after all.

Berkeley laughed. “What if you fall madly in love and become a devoted husband? Jealous even. Now, that would be a sight.”
“Jealous? That’s not possible.” Hart grinned back at Berkeley. “I’ve never been jealous. Don’t have it in me. My friends at university used to tease me about it. No ties to any particular lady. No regrets.” He settled back in his chair and straightened his cravat, which was tighter than ever.
“We’ll see.” Berkeley took another sip of tea. His eyes danced with amusement.

“I was hoping you and Sarah might help me this Season.
Sarah knows most of the young ladies. She also knows me as well as anyone does. Not to mention, the two of you seem to have got the thing right.”
Berkeley glanced up. “Why, Highgate, is that a compliment on our marriage?”
“Take it as you will.” Hart waved a noncommittal hand in the air. He avoided meeting Berkeley’s eyes.

Berkeley settled further into his chair. “I shall take it as a compliment, then. I have a feeling Sarah would like nothing more than to help you with such an endeavor. She fancies herself a matchmaker these days.”
“Will you two be staying in London for the Season?”
“Yes. Sarah wants to stay and I, of course, will support her, at least as long as I can remain in the same town as your father without him calling me out.” A smirk settled on Berkeley’s face.

Hart eyed the remaining liquid in his glass. “I’ll be happy to play the role of peacemaker to the best of my ability.”
“I’m glad to hear that.” Berkeley inclined his head toward his brother-in-law.
“Who else is Sarah matchmaking for?” Hart sloshed the brandy in the bottom of the glass.
“She’s not merely matchmaking. No. To hear her tell it, she has an important mission this Season.”
Hart set down the glass and pulled another section of the Times off the table and began scanning it. He’d talked enough about marriage for one day. Odious topic. “A mission? What mission?” he asked, merely to be polite.
“To find Meg Timmons a husband.”
Hart startled in surprise, grasping the paper so tightly it tore in the middle. Tossing it aside, he reached for his glass and gulped the last of his brandy.

Meg Timmons. He knew Meg Timmons. She was Sarah’s closest friend, the daughter of his father’s mortal enemy, and a woman with whom Hart had experienced an incident last summer that he’d been seriously trying to forget.

Copyright © 2017 by Valerie Bowman and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

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As aways with Bowman’s Playful Bride series, this is another satisfying and highly charged Romance, Bowman’s charm ng wit con s through and her writing is strong, highly addictive and intelligently done. She makes you genuinely care and fall head over heals in love with the characters, The Right Kind of Rogue is fun and exhilarating and so romantic.

Hart has come to the point in his life where he cannot go on with his rakish ways he needs to put aside all his youthful fun and high jinx to settle down and find himself a Bride. But being an heir to a powerful earldom no ordinary Bride will do, he knows that he should marry well in other words he should marry money and that all very well and good but all the young ladies that Hart is introduced to are simpering fools he wants a woman who can match his own fiery intelligence and wit.
But what he doesn’t know is that the very woman he needs in his life is right under his nose.

Meg ha lived Hart forever he has idolised him for being a young child but being from the family who is basically the enemy she knows that she will never catch his attentions. Their family feud has been going on for too long for some to even remember what it’s about and as she hasn’t the dowry his family want in fact she hasn’t a thing she can call her own and she saddened that year after year she is being pushed aside.

She is a total sweetheart who just wants to find someone who will love her the way she can love them or in other words the way she loved s Hart.

But then something happens that could make both their dreams come true, they unwittingly share a moment of passion he doesn’t know its young Meg but he is drawn to her seduction innocence and wants to know more about his seductress even if he thinks she is someone else.

Meg cannot believe her luck that she has final got her dream even if it is for a few short minutes and now she has tasted what it could be like with Hart she wants more, can she get her wish?

I thoroughly enjoyed this, it’s so charming the plot is fast and playful and at time makes you catch your breath. Our two leads are a resounding success but at times I did feel that they needed to have their heads gang d together her, don’t they see that they are made for each other?

Bowman has done it again, I have really come to live this series and I cannot recommend it enough.

This was an ARC copy via the publisher as apart of the blog tour in exchange for an honest.

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Author Q&A

Tell us about your newest release.

The Right Kind of a Rogue is a Regency retelling of Romeo and Juliet only with a matchmaking duchess, a destitute debutante, and a much happier ending.

How long have you been writing?

I began writing on June 3rd, 2007. I remember because I told myself that day that if I was going to try to write a book, I wouldn’t stop until I got published. I’m happy to report that I did it!

What authors or friends influenced you in helping you become a writer?

Lisa Kleypas is an author who has been a huge influence on me. I love her books. As for friends, I love Anne Barton, Ashlyn Macnamara, Erin Knightley, and Sara Ramsay. We all started together and they’re the best.

Besides writing, what other interests do you have?

I also love traveling, reading, and watching crazy reality TV.

Can you tell us what is coming up next for you?

I’m writing the next book in the Playful Brides series. There will be eleven total and I’m almost finished. It’s been such a fun series to write. Every book is based on a famous play.

How can readers connect with you online?

I’m online at http://www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com. I’m also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ValerieBowmanAuthor and on Twitter at @ValerieGBowman. I also have a Pinterest page with pictures of the Playful Brides characters.

Who was your childhood hero?

I have to admit, I always wanted to be one of Charlie’s Angels. Or Marie Osmond.

Out of all your work, who is your favourite character and why?

Lucy Hunt, who is featured prominently in The Right Kind of Rogue, is definitely one of my favorites to revisit time and again. Her book is the first of the Playful Brides series and she’s a fun character to write.

Where does your inspiration for your books come from?

All sorts of things. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea. Sometimes I think of it when I’m driving. I’m always trying to pay attention to good ideas.

What three tips would you pass on to an aspiring author?

Join a writing group like Romance Writers of America. Read craft books and/or attend writing workshops. Find other writers. No one understands like they do.

If you were hosting a dinner party what three people would you invite? (They can be real/fictional, from any era)

I’d invite Lorelei Gilmore, Jane Austen, and Oprah.

What is your all-time favourite naughty but nice food?

Chocolate cake

How would you describe your style of writing to someone that has never read your work?

Racy Regency Romps!

What are some of your writing/publishing goals for this year?

I’m writing a contemporary romantic comedy called Hiring Mr. Darcy. I plan to finish it by the end of the year.

Do you feel that writing is an ingrained process or just something that flows naturally for you?

It can be both. Sometimes it feels like I’m taking dictation from heaven. Sometimes it feels like I can’t write another word to save my life. It depends on the day and the story.

Where would you spend one full year, if you could go ANYWhere? What would you do with this time?

Oh, I’d be over in England in a hot minute and I’d spend the entire year researching and enjoying the country. I love it there!

Can you share you next creative project(s)? If yes, can you give a few details?

The Playful Brides book I’m writing now is going to have a hot Bow Street Runner and a lady who wants him to do her a favor and take her virginity.

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About the Author

Valerie grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her mini-schnauzer, Huckleberry. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS. She is the author of the Secret Brides and Playful Brides series.

Social Links:
Website / Twitter: @Valeriegbowman / Facebook 

One Year Lady Alkmene; Review of Proposal to Die for by Vivian Conroy

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A murderous beginning!

With her father away in India, Lady Alkmene Callender finds being left to her own devices in London intolerably dull, until the glamorous Broadway star Evelyn Steinbeck arrives in town! Gossip abounds about the New York socialite, but when Ms Steinbeck’s wealthy uncle, Silas Norwhich, is found dead Lady Alkmene finds her interest is piqued

Because this death sounds a lot to her like murder…

Desperate to uncover the truth, Lady Alkmene begins to look into Ms Steinbeck’s past – only to be hampered by the arrival of journalist Jake Dubois – who believes she is merely an amateur lady-detective meddling in matters she knows nothing about! But Lady Alkmene refuses to be deterred from the case and together they dig deeper , only to discover that some secrets should never come to light…

The twenties have never been so dangerous…

My View

This is book one in the Lady Alkmene Mysteries and the first time I have read Ms Conroy and I love it, her writing is fresh and entertaining, it’s like an episode of Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries sprinkled with what I can only describe as a good old-fashioned Miss Marple.

With her father, out of the country until at least Christmas, Lady Alkmene has the freedom to do as she pleases the only problem is she bored with the usual amusements. She goes to all the functions, parties and the theatre and yet it’s the same over and over again, she wants something else to occupy her days. The answer to her prayers comes when at a party she unintentionally over hears an intriguing conversation between the beautiful American Evelyn Steinbeck and a mysterious man. They are discussing being together and eloping but Ms Steinbeck is more worried about money and living the life that she has become accustomed to and she is also worried about what her wealthy uncle will think especially as she is his sole heir. Alkmene is intrigued especially as mere days after she had heard their conversation Mr Silas Norwhich, the uncle to Evenlyn Steinbeck, is found dead in his home.

Well, obviously Alkmene thinks that this is highly suspicious, her over active and intelligent mind starts turning as she is caught up in the moment and the thrill of the case. This is just thing that she needs, it’s too good to pass up so, she decides to do a bit of digging. She knows that there is something not quite right about all of this, it’s just too much of a coincidence and more than that she is feeling excited about something.

Unexpected death always had an unhealthy appeal to Alkmene, and she perused the few lines underneath with great interest…..

On the first day of her case she meets charismatic, handsome and often gruff journalist Jack Dubois – who like her sees something more to this man’s death – soon team up and start to investigate together, but not before a few mishaps and her irritating him so much he can’t refuse her.Things don’t go as smoothly as Alkmene had originally thought as she and Jack find themselves deep into something that proves to be very dangerous, and things get tangled and confused with blackmailers and stolen precious heirlooms and there is something very fishy about Evelyn and her strange visitor.

Could she be in on her uncle’s murder?

It’s slick our leads just ooze sophisticated glamour of the era, Jack and Alkmene despite their difference in stations they make a great team. Alkmene is your stereotypical aristocrat, she has lived her entire life in the glitz and glamour and she really has no idea of how life is beyond her front door. Like a lot of aristocratic ladies of the time, she is spoilt and naive and too wrapped in cotton wool to be able to do anything for themselves – it is highly amusing when she attempts to launder Jack’s handkerchief and she makes a right pigs ear of it. Whereas Jack Dubois is a man of the world who has many skeletons in his closet that he is determined to keep well hidden, Monsieur Dubois has a certain Gaelic charm mixed with his slightly rough around the edge aura and you have a highly attractive and intriguing man. Between them they can get any information they want, have access to any home or authority as they both have connections in very different places which only aids their case.

Now this man made it sound like a crime that she didn’t know how to get this handkerchief cleaned up herself. Probably a communist dead set against English aristocracy…..

What I really like about this though is the relationship between Jack and Alkmene, they are as different as you can get, her being a sophisticated aristocrat and him a rough ex-convict and yet they find a common interest and they do rub along rather well.

A Proposal to Die for is a none taxing and cosy “who dunnit” which is thrilling, witty and oozes old school glamour. It is one of those books that can be read by any one, not matter what genre you favour this is very good and I very much recommend it.

Warm and cosy!

This was a Complimentary copy via the author in exchange for an honest review.

A Proposal to Die for can be purchased at Amazon.

Release Day Blitz of Hell Hath No Fury by Annabelle Anders

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The Hell Hath No Fury by Annabelle Anders, Release Day Blitz
Read on for an exclusive to the Blitz Tour Except, Get to know Annabelle  and an exclusive to the Blitz Giveaway and my Review of her debut Historical Romance, Hell Hath No Fury.

 

Title: Hell Hath No Fury
Author: Annabelle Anders
Genre: Regency
Publisher: Blue Tulip Publishing

Amazon 
iBooks
Barnes and Nobles
To keep the money, he has to keep her as well…

Cecily Nottingham has made a huge mistake.

The marriage bed was still warm when the earl she thought she loved crawled out of it and announced that he loved someone else.

Loves. Someone else.

All he saw in Cecily was her dowry.

But he’s in for the shock of his life, because in order to keep the money, he has to keep her.

With nothing to lose, in an attempt to goad the earl into divorcing her, Cecily sets out to seduce her husband’s cousin, Stephen Nottingham.

Little does she realize that Stephen would turn out to be everything her husband was not: Honorable, loyal, trustworthy…

Handsome as sin.

Stephen returned to England for one reason. Save his cousin’s estate from financial ruin. Instead, he finds himself tempted by his cousins beautiful and scorned wife.

He isn’t sure what to do first, strangle his cousin, or kiss his wife. His honor is put to the test, right along with his self-control.

Amid snakes, duels and a good catfight, Cecily realizes the game she’s playing has high stakes indeed.

There are only a few ways for a marriage to end in Regency England and none of them come without a high price. Is she willing to pay it? Is Stephen?

A ‘Happily Ever After’ hangs in the balance, because, yes, love can conquer all, but sometimes it needs a little bit of help.

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Exclusive Excerpt

“Stephen!” she gasped, shocked by what he seemed intent upon doing. “What on earth are you doing?”
He looked up at her, smiling lustily. “Nothing.”
And then he went about his business.
Not in a million years had she ever imagined allowing a man to do… this!
And with his mouth no less!
“Oh, my God! Stephen, you are wicked,” she said, feeling quite wicked herself as she grasped the sides
of his head.
He was not to be deterred. His tongue stroked and sucked in much the same way he’d done with her
mouth, causing a new multitude of sensations to spiral inside of her.
He paused only a moment to look up at her.
“Surrender, Cecily.” He said. Giving her a lazy, sensual smile, “And prepare to die.”

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Exclusive Trailer

A little about the music in the trailer by Annabelle Anders

The song for the trailer was written by myself and my sister, Marcie Stanley. Marcie’s beautiful voice is
featured while she plays the piano… Due to illness, Marcie doesn’t perform much anymore so it was
very special for me to be able to use the song that we wrote together, over twenty years ago.
The Song is titled “Disposable Relationship.” I have a few tweeks for the lyrics to fit Stephen and
Cecily’s situation. Next time Marcie is up to recording I’ll change them to this:

For you, I would have done anything.
For you, can NOT have my soul.
For once you looked at me with empty eyes, the consequences… began to roll…
You’re a disposable relationship, damn the ton I’ll see your body gone. I’m throwing away a piece of
my heart with you.
with the ash and the chamber pots of my life… you’re going down and I won’t cry… anymore…

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My Review

There is nothing more frightening then a woman scorned, and this really showcases just how far women will go for the revenge they so desperately want.

And that is exactly what Cecily wants. Revenge…

I have come across real bad egg before, but Flavian Nottingham is one real nasty piece of work. He is egotistical, self righteous pain in the backside, who unfortunately can charm the bird out of the trees with his golden looks and manners. But in actual fact he is anything but, he is exactly how Cecily describes him; as a toad! The way he treats Cecily is really terrible and this guy deserves everything that’s coming to him!

Cecily wasn’t born an aristocrat her father is a Merchant/Business man, who has built up his Empire from scratch h she grew up learning the ropes and ways of business, she knows her ways around the books and banking and even legal documents. There is nothing that she cannot have she has everything a girl would want, the only thing her father can’t seem to purchase for her is respect and social standing, he cannot buy her someone to love her.

Then came along handsome, charming Flavian Nottingham. This god took an interest her, he charming her and made her fall in love with him and she thought he loved her too. So contracts were signed, the marriage was sealed and then he told her the awful truth …that he only married her for her !money and he didn’t love or feel anything for her.

Obviously Cecily was devastated but the hurt from her husband wasn’t finished there, he goes out of his way again and again to ostracize her from society and humiliate by flaunting his mistress about adorned in Jewels he had bought with Cecily’s dowry.

This really is the last straw for her so she decided that she needs to rid of him, now this is where her fabulous three friends come in and basically tell her, she needs to bump him off and live as a lavish widow, but she isn’t keen on that idea so with help of her toadish husband’s cousin Stephen she comes up with a plan that will force him to divorce her.

There is only two issues, one that someone is trying their damdest to murder her and secondly she falls head over heals for the cousin.

Cecily is in her own right an intelligent, strong-minded women but I felt as soon as she married Flavian and learnt the horrible truth she did loose s lot of her spark. She returned into some kind of simpering mouse who cries and whines – a lot! But once she has got over that and her friends start coming up with hilarious ways to get rid of him she really comes into her own.

I like the fact that she is from a normal background, it is so refreshing to have a working class woman as the lead but this is what Anders has done perfectly, the social divide between then is as clear as a bell, the way she gets ostracized just for her back ground really is quote appalling and true for the time.

Stephen is an enigma he keeps his emotions and the thoughts under wraps, he is a powerful man in his own right as handsome as sin but what I like about him is he respects her and takes as she is. Being business man and one of her father’s competitors he has a good solid intelligent head on those impossibly wide shoulders.

The two of them as much as they try to keep those feeling under wraps and under control the atmosphere sizzles with a built up tension. I especially like when they are plotting both their revenge on Flavian and it is highly entertaining watching as Cecily plot revenge on him and when Stephen asks her what she wants the fist it me she says is her husband’s head on a silver platter is very funny.

I adore this it is by far the funniest Historical Romance I have read, the plot is enjoyable very fun and I can see some really good things coming from this author. Her writing flows she has created a story that has you laughing out loud, gripped to edge of your seat and shouting at the book wanting to know what comes next.

This is highly recommended, really very good and a fabulous debut.

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About the author

Married to the same man for over 25 years, Annabelle Anders is mother to three children and two
Miniature Wiener dogs. After owning a business and experiencing considerable success, she and
her husband got caught in the financial crisis and lost everything; their business, their home, even
their car.

At this point, she put her B.A. in Poly Sci to use and took work as a waitress and bartender.

Unwilling to give up on a professional life, she simultaneously went back to college and obtained a degree in Energy Management.

And then the energy market dropped off.
And then her dog died.
We can only be grateful for this series of unfortunate events, for, with nothing to lose and completely demoralized, she sat down and began to write the romance novels which had until then, existed only in her imagination.

She is happy to have found her place in life.

Finally.

You can find out more about Annabelle via the following links Website / Facebook / Instagram

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Giveaway

Annabelle is generously giving away some of her tasselled Hell Hath No Fury, Bookmarks. So to be in for a chance of winning one answer the question that Annabelle has set and follow the instructions… Over to Annabelle..

“I write under the name ANNABELLE ANDERS and my first book, Hell Hath No Fury released on 7-7-17. I love the date!

Anyway, my novel is an edgy Regency Romance. I say ‘ edgy’, because it’s a little off the beaten path. Whereas most heroines in Regency Romances begin the story NEEDING a husband, my character, Cecily, needs to get rid of one. The man she married (an earl) turned out to be a
complete and utter toad (not literally! LOL)”

To be in for a chance of winning a bookmark answer the following Question :

Does it bother you that the hero is not the man she is married to in the beginning?

E-mail your comment to andersannabelle@gmail.com along with your address and I’ll send you a Hell Hath No Fury tasselled Bookmark. (First 20 Respondents) Please include the name of the group or blog you are responding from ☺

I look forward to discovering your thoughts on this concept!

* I received this ARC copy from Love Affair With Fiction via the author in return of an honest review.

* The Promo including; Excerpt, Trailer and Author information were provided to Chick’s Rogue’s and Scandal’s exclusively for this Release Blitz.

 

Blog Tour ~ Never Trust a Pirate ( Playful Brides #7) by Valerie Bowman; Exclusive Excerpt, Q&A and Review

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I had the greatest honour to be invited to join The Never Trust a Pirate, Blog Tour I hope you all will stick around as I have all kinds of good stuff including an Exclusive Excerpt of this fabulous book, an Exclusive Q&A with Valerie and my review. So sit back and enjoy my part of this great Tour..

Publication Date: May 2 2017
St. Martin’s Paperbacks
ISBN-10: 1250121698
ISBN-13: 978-1250121691
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: Novel

The rules of engagement were never so scandalous. . .

A rumored pirate and the scurrilous black sheep of his well-to- do family, Cade Cavendish relishes his world of rebellion, deception, and seduction. Nothing and no one can hold him to be the duty-bound, honorable man he is expected to be. But when an unexpected run-in at his twin brother’s estate with a ravishing, raven-haired maid leads her to believe he’s actually a viscount, Cade’s renegade life is thrown wildly off-kilter. And even though a case of mistaken identity can be quickly set to rights, matters of the heart are quite different…

Miss Danielle LaCrosse is startled to learn that the handsome gentleman who radiates sin and has the devil in his eyes is not her employer the Viscount, but rather his infamous brother. A former heiress, orphaned and left penniless, Danielle has more than a few secrets of her own. Cade may be skilled at coaxing even the most hidden desires out of Danielle but can he earn her trust—and win her heart—as they embark on an adventure to confront a dangerous enemy from both of their pasts . . . and uncover the identity of the so-called Black Fox along the way?

Never Trust a Pirate is book 7 of the Regency-set Playful Brides series, you can find it at all of the following online outlets Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Books a Million / Indibound / Powell’s 

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Exclusive Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE
London Harbor, July 1817

Only three steps. Only three steps separated him from the map. It was there, laying on the rickety wooden table in the captain’s stateroom aboard a ship aptly named Le Secret Francais. The only sound in the cramped space was his own breathing. Sweat beaded on his brow. He’d come this far. Braved the murky, cold water, swam out to the ship moored at the London docks. Climbed aboard silent as a wraith, dressed all in black. Wrung out his clothing to keep it from dripping so there wouldn’t be a trail. Managed to steal into the captain’s quarters as the man slept, and now, now only three steps remained between him and the priceless map.

One water droplet fell to the wooden plank floor like a hammer against steel. The sound of his breath echoed to a crescendo. The blood pounding in his head became a distracting whirring noise.

One step forward. The ball of his foot ground onto the plank. Stealth and silence. Always. The calling cards of the best thief in London.

The captain stirred slightly in his bunk and began to snore.

He froze. One leather-clad foot arrested on the wooden plank. A pistol rested on two nails directly above the captain’s bunk. If the man awoke, he might shoot first at any noise. The captain well knew the value of the treasure he carried.

He counted to ten. Once. Twice. He had long since mastered the art of keeping footing on a ship. He waited until his heartbeats became steady again before taking the next step. A slight creak in the wood floor. A hint of movement from the captain. Another endless wait. Impatience was a roiling knot inside his belly.

Out of the shadows now, he stood only one step away from the table bolted to the floor. The moon shone through the window above the captain’s bed, shedding light on the man’s balding head. The map lay spread out, anchored by pins in the four corners. He would have to remove those pins. Ripping the paper would be too noisy.

Another interminable wait as the captain turned away from him in his sleep. His snores subsided.

He glanced over at the bunk. The pistol shone in the moonlight. One hard swallow. He never carried a pistol. Too loud. Pistols brought the crew, the wharf police, and anyone else interested in such activity. The only weapon he carried was a knife, tucked in the back of his breeches. A weapon of stealth.

Another count to ten before taking the final step. There was no time for an in-depth study of the map now, but a quick glance revealed the destination. The island of St. Helena, off the western coast of Africa, circled in bold scrawl. The map of the route planned for Bonaparte’s next escape. That bastard in the bed had been planning it.

All ten fingers itched to snatch the paper and run, but he forced himself to take a deep, silent breath. Carefully, he dislodged the first pin at the top right corner. It popped out easily. The top of the map rolled toward the center, making a slight flapping sound. Breath held, he glanced toward the captain again. No movement.

He stuck the pin back into the table to keep it from rolling, then his hand darted to the next pin at the bottom right corner. It also popped out easily. He quickly stuck it back into the wood. With two sides free, he carefully rolled the map toward the center. Reaching up to the top, he grasped the third pin. No movement. It was lodged deeply into the wood. Must pull harder. With one black-gloved hand, he clasped the pin between a thumb and two fingers, pulling upward with as much strength as he dared. His own breath in his ear was the only sound … that and the water lapping at the sides of the ship.

The pin finally gave way. He pressed a hand to the top of the map, to keep the freed top left corner from curling and making a noise. His chest and torso flattened against the map and the table, he pressed the third pin back into the wood.

Click. An unmistakable sound. One he had heard too often before. Another hard swallow. Damn it. He’d been so preoccupied with keeping quiet, he hadn’t realized the captain’s snores had subsided.

Half-splayed across the table, he contemplated his options. The door was ten paces to the left, the open window five paces to the right. Would he fit through the window? It’d be a hell of a time to learn the answer was no.

“Step away from zee map, if you don’t want a bullet through your back.” The captain’s voice was harsh and angry.

He slowly rose from his position hunched over the map, arms braced upright at right angles near his head to show the captain he had no weapon. “Ye wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man, now would ye, Cap’n?”

“I’d shoot a thief without thinking twice,” the captain replied with a sneer, nearly spitting the word thief.

He glanced down at the map. Studying it in case he was forced to leave without it. He had been in worse situations, more times than he could count. He considered the knife in the back of his breeches hidden beneath his shirt. It would be simple, easy and quick to snake it out and whip it into the bastard’s throat. But a voice in his head reminded him … justice must be served in proper course.

“Turn around,” the captain ordered. “Slowly.”

“Why?” he asked, trying to garner some precious time.

“Because I want to see zee face of zee man who would steal my secrets.”

He began his turn. Slowly. So slowly and so quietly that he could have sworn he heard a drop of sweat from his forehead hit the wooden plank of the floor. He finally stood facing the older man.

“Êtes-vous le Renard Noir?” the captain asked.

“Pourquoi veux tu savoir?”

Visible in the light of the moon, the captain narrowed his eyes. “Ah, perfect French? Why do I find zat difficult to believe from an obvious Englishman?”

“Obvious?”

“Who else would want zis map?”

His fingers ached to choke the bastard. He might not be able to kill him, but he could wound the scoundrel. Nothing wrong with a wound. He whipped his hand behind his back, grabbed the knife, and hurled it at the captain. It hit the arm that held the pistol. The captain howled. The pistol fired. Smoke filled the cabin with its acrid stench. He ripped the map and fourth pin from the table and ran to the door.

Steps sounded on the planks above the captain’s cabin. In the pitch black belowdecks, he forced himself to wait in the shadows under the stairs until the first group of rescuers filed down the steps into the captain’s cabin. He flattened the map’s scroll and folded it into a six-inch square.

“He’s escaped, you idiots! Find him before he jumps from the ship!” the captain yelled in French.

The group dutifully filed back up to spread across the decks. The captain came running out, clutching his injured arm, blood seeping between his fingers, crimson dripping down his nightshirt. He made his way up the stairs and ran off across the deck.

Springing from the shadows, he raced back into the empty cabin. He flew over to the window, said a brief prayer to fit through the tight space, hoisted up to the ledge, and pushed his upper body through. He ripped off his black tricorn, stuck the folded map to his head, and pulled down the hat as firmly as possible.

A rope swung outside the captain’s window two feet to the right. Thank God for small favors. He lunged at it and grabbed it. Noiselessly, he lowered himself down the rope, bracing both feet against the hull to rappel toward the water. Lowering quietly, he winked back at the figurehead of a saucy French woman carved beneath the captain’s cabin. As soon as he made it into the water, he let go of the rope and swam like a mackerel fleeing a shark toward the shore, careful to keep his head out of the foul-smelling drink. He counted on the black of night and the murky Thames to hide him from the searchers on the ship.

As he covered the distance between the French ship and the shore, he could hear the Frenchmen yelling and running about. He dared a glance back. Every lantern on the ship appeared to have been lit and the crew was scurrying about like a bevy of ants on an infiltrated hill.

He swam to the darkest spot on the far end of the docks, around the bend from sight of the French ship, and pulled himself ashore beneath a creaky dock using only his forearms. Exhausted, he rolled onto his back and lay breathing heavily in the pitch-black night. One hand went up to clap the top of his tricorn and a wide smile spread across his face.

He’d done it. He’d escaped from a French ship with the map detailing the planned route to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena. Of course he had. He was the Black Fox.

Copyright © 2017 by Valerie Bowman and reprinted with the permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

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My Review

I haven’t read any of this series and even though this is book seven, that took nothing away from it. I read it like a stand alone, but yet very quickly I easily picked up the theme of the series and who everyone was. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and an intoxicating swashbuckling, romance. There are thrills and perils at every turn and that is just the fiery relationship between Cade and Danielle.

After years away and thought dead, Cade Cavendish makes a surprise return to London, with no explanation where he has been for ten years and why he has suddenly come back, which makes his twin brother and spy Rafe very suspicious. Rafe knows his black sheep of a brother is hiding something, he knows that Cade is up to something and he wants to know what! But it’s not only him that is suspicious of the brutally handsome rogue, Danielle Lacrosse isn’t just a lady’s maid, she is actually a spy too. She works for the elusive and secretive spy master, Grimaldi, who is also suspicious of Cade so he plants Danielle into the Cavendish house to find out his secrets.

The problem with that though is the minute she sets her eyes on Cade she knows that this mission isn’t going to be as easy as she expected, with one charming smile and a bit of kindness Cade Cavendish could blow her a whole world apart. She has just as many secrets – maybe even more, then the brothers and soon it becomes apparent to her that she very may well be in danger. Not just from the spies in the shadows but in danger of loosing her heart and revealing her well protected secrets. It all comes to ahead as Danielle is suddenly pulled from her assignment at the Cavendish’s but it’s what she is faces on her new undercover assignment that blows her out of the water. She comes face to face with something she never would have expected.

Cade! They are thrown together on a ship heading to Spain, and in those precious few days together they learn far more than they would have ever expected.

She opened her eyes, surprised to feel them wet with unshed tears. He stood up straight and held out his arms.

“Do you have time for a dance?” That caught her entirely off guard as well. Did she have time for a dance? Almost as if it had read her mind, a clock somewhere within the house began to house began to chime the midnight hour. She and Cade stood stock-still , staring at each other, his hands in the air, reaching for her in silent invitation for a dance.

Once the chimes finished, she whispered, “There is no music.”

“Of course there is.” He dropped his arms and entered the room, shutting the door behind him. In three long strides, he’d crossed to the window and slid it open. The musicians played at the back of the ballroom near the French doors leading out to the patio. A lovely melody floated up through the summer air to filter prettily into Danielle’s fourth-floor bedchamber. It was a waltz.

Cade turned back to face her, his arms outstretched again. Danielle nearly choked on the lump in her throat this time.

“You don’t have to do this.” Along with the music , the breeze carried the scent of night-blooming jasmine. That, combined with the melody and the darkness of the room with only a single candle flickering on the bedside table, made the entire scene quite … romantique.
“Don’t have to do what?” Cade’s tone was unreadable. She glanced down at her slippers.

“Dance with a maid?” She hated how vulnerable her voice sounded. How small. How … lonely. He glanced over both shoulders.

“I don’t see a maid here.”

“No?” Her reply was faint.

“I see only a beautiful woman with whom I desperately want to dance….”

I really like Danielle she acts like a strong, independent woman, she has had to deal with a lot through her life she and been forced to grow up far too quickly then she should have and that has made her so self-reliant, but she craves love and kindness something she has never been shown. Her father was a Frenchman and died too soon and her English aristocratic mother is seriously ill, Danielle never had the extravagant Tonish balls and come out like all women of her station would, and that has implemented in how she carries herself now.

You can really relate in someway or another to Danielle, she is an extraordinary woman, beautiful as well as deadly, she knows her own mind she is brave, spunky and she is super smart. Immersed in a dark and dangerous world of espionage, she has to use all of her cunning to stay alive, she is a an unusual woman for the times, never happier then when she is walking around dressed like a boy in breaches. She is a skilful and very clever spy.

But the thing that I think Bowman has got so right with Danielle is how she has been holding her own in what is predominantly a mans world and proves herself again and again and again just what a woman can do. I’m all for strong woman and she isn’t afraid to confront danger and she does all of this for a good selfless reason.

To make her seriously ill mother live the last of her days in peace and comfort.

Cade is a real rogue! A proper cad or has he thinks of himself the black sheep of the family, but under all that charismatic cheekiness there is a really good man, a lovable rogue. He has so many secrets and so many alter ego’s, is he a spy? Is he a traitor? Is he a pirate? Or is he the elusive black fox? He is a man of many faces he even turns up at his brothers front door under an alias this is a man that has got many feathers in his hat. Plus atop of all that he is a sinfully sexy, scandalous rogue who can make the most solid woman go weak at the knees.

Cade also does the one thing that no one has ever done with Danielle, he sees her! He sees past the strong mask and he sees what is deep down inside which is something that Danielle desperately needs that in her life. She wants to be noticed for the woman that she is and not just the spy or cabin boy or servant and Cade does just that. There is a beautiful moment where they both finally realise just how much they mean to one an other, where Danielle and Cade do a secret moonlit waltz together just before she has to leave. That is beautiful!

What a stroke of genius it was, putting these two together. They are both highly volatile, extremely skilled at what they do and they are both hiding secrets and both highly adapt at being creative with the truth. Cade and Danielle both yearn for what others have, they want love and friendship and more than that they want someone to trust. Something that neither of them have been able to do. They are just perfect for each other.

Bowman is a highly skilful writer who knows her craft like the back of her hand. She is a remarkable author at setting the scene and building up to a climatic finish, the first scene in particular does a great job at grabbing you and keeping you gripped throughout the whole book. The more you read the further you get absorbed into the dark and murky world or secrets and spies, this is a terrific adventure which is so much more than your average Historical Romance. It’s fast thrilling and exciting.

This is a stonking good story which is marvellously engrossing and for me is a huge success. It is stylish and sophisticated, a real winner. I love it! It’s classy and sassy with an outstanding mix of romance and adventure.

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 Bowman grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her mini-schnauzer, Huckleberry. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS. She is the author of the Secret Brides series, starting with Secrets of a Wedding Night, Secrets of a Runaway Bride, and Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage.

WebsiteFacebook: @ValerieBowmanAuthor

Twitter : @ValerieGBowman PinterestGoodReads

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Exclusive Q&A with Valerie Bowman

What is your favorite scene in Never Trust a Pirate?

I truly do love the whole book but I think everything that happens after they get on the ship is especially fun. The book is sort of pre-ship and post-ship.

What’s your favorite underappreciated romance novel?

One of my favorite romances ever is Dark Future by KC Klein. It’s a futuristic scifi romance, which is not normally something I gravitate toward (I like to read historical romance!) but I picked up KC’s book and couldn’t put it down. It’s fantastic. She also has me reading contemporary cowboy stories.

Are you methodical in your writing, certain hours of the day, certain rituals you may perform before you sit down? Or are you one of those writers who binge write when the mood is upon you?

I’m a binge writer, but it’s not about the mood striking so much as it’s about having more time to write on the weekend because I’m not at my day job.

Are there particular tropes you are fond of using?

My favorite trope is probably reunited lovers or old friends who fall in love. I love the brother’s best friend trope, too. I’ve used all of those and am currently writing a story where a married couple (who haven’t seen each other in ten years) are forced to work together again. Of course hijinx (and romance) will ensue!

What lead you to writing historical romances?

My love of reading them. I read them a lot as a teenager. They made me so happy.

How would you describe Never Trust a Pirate using only three words?

Racy Regency Romp. That’s how I describe all of my books, actually.

What is your advice for other writers?

Write! It’s simple. I see a lot of would-be writers taking classes and reading books about writing but the best thing to do is just write, write, write. Worry about the mechanics later. You do need to study craft and learn the business but you’ve got nothing to improve if you’re not actually writing.

Do you, or your publisher decide on your beautiful covers? If your publisher, do you have any input?

My publisher makes the covers for the books and I love them. They send them to me for input but it’s usually quite minimal. They are gorgeous! I’m very lucky.

Why this setting and why pirates? 

I unabashedly love pirates! I love to read stories about them and when I was a kid I wanted to be one. Of course I get horribly seasick and am about the least adventurous person you’d ever meet. Swashbuckling would stress me out. I guess that’s why I have to write about it instead.

What do you do to relax, after a day of writing? And how, do you set your writing day in order to achieve your goal of a certain number of pages?

My favorite way to relax is to take a nap. I should have been born in a country that embraces the concept of siesta. That’s where I belong. Ha! I don’t count pages so much as I count words. So if I have to get twenty thousand words (about ¼ of a novel) written in a weekend, I would need to write about 6,600 Friday night, 13,000 on Saturday, and 6,600 on Sunday. I have a day job so weekends are very important to me as far as hitting my word count goals.

Approximately, how long does it take you to write a full length novel? How many books can you write in a year?

It takes me about two months to actually write the novel (working mostly nights and weekends around my full-time job) but it takes months to plot and think about the novel which is why I only write two novels per year.

Which Hollywood stars would you like to see as the main characters in NEVER TRUST A PIRATE?

I actually have a Pinterest board set up with my idea of who all the main characters in the Playful Brides series look like. For Cade Cavendish and Danielle LaCrosse it’s Chris Pine and Zooey Deschanel. You can find the board at: https://www.pinterest.com/valeriegbowman/playfulbrides/.

Do you write fulltime?

No and I actually have a theory that if I did write full-time I would get much less writing done. I think having to be so disciplined about my writing time forces me to focus. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Twitter or Facebook?

Both!

Favorite TV show?

Off all time? Gilmore Girls. As for what’s on today, I love Homicide Hunter: Lt Joe Kenda. I’m a sucker for true crime.

Who is your ultimate Book Boyfriend?

My book boyfriend is Jason Fielding from Judith McNaught’s Once and Always. Talk about the perfect tortured hero!

What are you reading right now or what’s on your TBR?

I’m currently reading Kerrigan Byrne’s, The Duke, and I can’t wait to dive into Anna Bennett’s, I Dared the Duke!

Which 2017 Movie you’re most looking forward to?

I just saw a trailer for Dunkirk and I got goosebumps! I can’t wait. I love WWII-era history almost as much as the Regency.

Give us the “elevator pitch” for your new book.

I caller Trust a Pirate: The Scarlet Pimpernel meets Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in Regency England.

Series or stand alone? If series do you already have a set number of books that you plan to write?

Series. When I began to write the Playful Brides series, I planned three books. I’m happy to say it’s going to be eleven altogether, plus a novella. Plans change!

If you could change anything in your past, what would it be and why? And how do you think it has affected your writing? 

I would love to go back to my twenty-two year old self and tell her to start writing romance novels right away. Alas, I have no time machine. Frankly, I don’t think my twenty-two year old self had the confidence or the patience to do it. I think life unfolds the way it’s meant to in due time. 

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I’ve been to Bath and seen the Jane Austen museum there. Does that count?

What are your future project(s)?

Right now, I’m editing book 8 in the Playful Brides series. It’s called The Right Kind of Rogue and comes out on Halloween. I’m also writing book 9 of the Playful Brides series. And I’m always plotting future books in my head. In this case I’ve already got a lot of ideas for how I’m going to end the series with book #11 (Delilah and Thomas’s book) in Spring 2019.

For novices who haven’t read a novel of yours what is it that they will find unique in your work?

I hope they will find a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is filled with humor and heart. Above all, I just want my stories to entertain. I’m not here to give anyone a history lesson. I just want readers to smile and sigh.

Do you find that you base any of your characters on people in your life? Have you gotten any inspiration for scenes in your novel from things that have happened to you in real life?

The entire Playful Brides series was conceived based on my friend’s terrible boyfriend. She wouldn’t break up with him and I kept telling her to let me call him and break up with him for her (I was kidding, sorta). On a drive home from dinner with her one night, after she’d filled my ear yet again with a bunch of stories of the awful things he’d done (forgot her birthday, asked her to pay his cell phone bill), I started thinking how funny it would be if there was a service that you could call to break-up with your boyfriend for you. The opposite of Cyrano de Bergerac. I decided that would be great story and immediately began to think about how I could set it in the Regency. That was the idea for The Unexpected Duchess, the first story in the series.

Are there any books or authors that have really influenced you and made you want to write? What about those authors inspired or influenced you?

Lisa Kleypas was a huge influence on me. I was snowed in at an airport in 2007 and picked up Scandal in Spring. Many hours later (I couldn’t put the book down) I considered giving romance writing a try. She is a brilliant writer and a lovely person both inside and out.

Have you read anything lately that you loved?

Julie Anne Long’s The Legend of Lyon Redmond was sheer perfection if you ask me.

Do you usually work off of an outline while writing or do you tend to just start writing and see where the story takes you?

I don’t have an outline per se, but I sketch out a few sentences for each chapter in my Word .doc so I know where the story is going. I’ve been working lately on making my stories more character driven so I may change this up a bit.

What other books or movies or music influenced this novel?

As with all of the stories in my Playful Brides series, Never Trust a Pirate was inspired by a play. In this case it’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. I loved the concept of a character with dual identities.

What advice do you have for pair wanting to get into the writing field?

you want to write romance, join Romance Writers of America (RWA.org). Hands down it was the best thing I did to learn how to write a romance novel. Leslie Wainger’s book, Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies, is also fantastic.

*The copy for my review was an ARC copy from the publisher At Martin’s Press, in exchange for an honest review. The excerpt and Q&A are exclusive to this blog tour and was given to me in good faith from the publisher in agreement it would be used only in this blog tour.