Exclusive Excerpt

The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo (Victorian Rebels #6) by Kerrigan Byrne Blog Tour; Review & Exclusive Excerpt

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About the Book

THE DUKE WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

The bravest of heroes. The brashest of rebels. The boldest of lovers. These are the men who risk their hearts and their souls—for the passionate women who dare to love them…

He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival—and salvation—lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul…

A LEGENDARY LOVE
Lorelei will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms?

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Books-a-Million / IndieBound / Powells

Exclusive Extract

CHAPTER ONE
If Lorelai Weatherstoke hadn’t been appreciating the storm out the carriage window, she’d have missed the naked corpse beneath the ancient ash tree.

“Father, look!” She seized Lord Southbourne’s thin wrist, but a barrage of visual stimuli overwhelmed her, paralyzing her tongue.

In all her fourteen years, she’d never seen a naked man, let alone a deceased one.

He lay facedown, strong arms reached over his head as though he’d been trying to swim through the shallow grass lining the road. Ghastly dark bruises covered what little flesh was visible beneath the blood. He was all mounds and cords, his long body different from hers in every way a person could be.

Her heart squeezed, and she fought to find her voice as the carriage trundled past. The poor man must be cold, she worried, then castigated herself for such an absurd thought.

The dead became one with the cold. She’d learned that by kissing her mother’s forehead before they closed her casket forever.

“What is it, duck?” Her father may have been an earl, but the Weatherstokes were gentry of reduced circumstances, and didn’t spend enough time in London to escape the Essex accent.

Lorelai had not missed the dialect while at school in Mayfair, and it had been the first thing she’d rid herself of in favor of a more proper London inflection. In this case, however, it was Lord Southbourne’s words, more than his accent, that caused her to flinch.

As cruel as the girls could be at Braithwaite’s Boarding School, none of their taunts had made her feel quite so hollow as the one her own family bestowed upon her.

Duck.

“I-it’s a man,” she stammered. “A corp—” Oh no, had he just moved, or had she imagined it? Squinting through the downpour, she pressed her face to the window in time to see battered knuckles clenching the grass, and straining arms pulling the heavy body forward.

“Stop,” she wheezed, overtaken by tremors. “Stop the carriage!”

“What’s bunched your garters, then?” Sneering across from her, Mortimer, her elder brother, brushed aside the drapes at his window. “Blimey! There’s a bleedin’ corpse by the road.” Three powerful strikes on the roof of the coach prompted the driver to stop.

“He’s alive!” Lorelai exclaimed, pawing at the door handle. “I swear he moved. We have to help him.”

“I thought that fancy, expensive school was supposed to make you less of an idiot, Duck.” Mortimer’s heavy brows barely separated on a good day and met to create one thick line when he adopted the expression of disdainful scorn he reserved solely for her. “What’s a cripple like you going to do in the mud?”

“We should probably drive through to Brentwood,” Lord Southbourne suggested diplomatically. “We can send back an ambulance to fetch him.”

“He’ll need an undertaker by then,” Lorelai pleaded. “We must save him, mustn’t we?”

“I’ve never seen so much blood.” It was morbid fascination rather than pity darkening her brother’s eyes. “I’m going out there.”

“I’m coming with you.”

A cruel hand smacked Lorelai out of the way, and shoved her back against the faded brocade velvet of her seat. “You’ll stay with Father. I’ll take the driver.”

As usual, Lord Robert Weatherstoke said and did nothing to contradict his only son as Mortimer leaped from the coach and slammed the door behind him.

Lorelai barely blamed her passive father anymore. Mortimer was so much larger than him these days, and ever so much crueler.

She had to adjust her throbbing leg to see the men making their way through the gray of the early-evening deluge. Just enough remained of daylight to delineate color variations.

The unfortunate man was a large smudge of gore against the verdant spring ground cover. Upon Mortimer and the driver’s approach, he curled in upon himself not unlike a salted snail. Only he had no shell to protect his beaten body.

Lorelai swallowed profusely in a vain attempt to keep her heart from escaping through her throat as the man was hoisted aloft, each arm yoked like an ox’s burden behind a proffered neck. Even though Mortimer was the tallest man she knew, the stranger’s feet dragged in the mud. His head lolled below his shoulders, so she couldn’t get a good look at his face to ascertain his level of consciousness.

Other parts of him, though, she couldn’t seem to drag her eyes away from.

She did her best not to look between his legs, and mostly succeeded. At a time like this, modesty hardly mattered, but she figured the poor soul deserved whatever dignity she could allow him.

That is to say, she only peeked twice before wrenching her eyes upward.

The muscles winging from his back beneath where his arms spread were ugly shades of darkness painted by trauma. The ripples of his ribs were purple on his left side, and red on the other. Blunt bruises interrupted the symmetrical ridges of his stomach, as though he’d been kicked or struck repeatedly. As they dragged him closer, what she’d feared had been blood became something infinitely worse.

It was as though his flesh had been chewed away, but by something with no teeth. The plentiful meat of his shoulder and chest, his torso, hips, and down his thigh were grotesquely visible.

Burns, maybe?

“Good God, how is he still alive?” The awe in her father’s voice reminded her of his presence as they scurried to open the carriage door and help drag the man inside. It took the four of them to manage it.

“He won’t be unless we hurry.” The driver tucked the man’s long, long legs inside, resting his knees against the seat. “I fear he won’t last the few miles to Brentwood.”

Ripping her cloak off, Lorelai spread it over the shuddering body on the floor. “We must do what we can,” she insisted. “Is there a doctor in Brentwood?”

“Aye, and a good one.”

“Please take us there without delay.”

“O’course, miss.” He secured the door and leaped into his seat, whipping the team of fresh horses into a gallop.

As they lurched forward, the most pitiful sound she’d ever heard burst from the injured man’s lips, which flaked with white. His big arm flailed from beneath the cloak to protect his face, in a gesture that tore Lorelai’s heart out of her chest.

The burn scored the sinew of his neck and up his jaw to his cheekbone.

Pangs of sympathy slashed at her own skin, and drew her muscles taut with strain. Lorelai blinked a sheen of tears away, and cleared emotion out of her tight throat with a husky sound she’d made to soothe many a wounded animal on the Black Water Estuary.

His breaths became shallower, his skin paler beneath the bruises.

He was dying.

Without thinking, she slid a hand out of her glove, and gently pressed her palm to his, allowing her fingers to wrap around his hand one by one.

“Don’t go,” she urged. “Stay here. With me.”

His rough, filthy hand gripped her with such strength, the pain of it stole her breath. His face turned toward her, though his eyes remained closed.

Still, it heartened her, this evidence of awareness. Perhaps, on some level, she could comfort him.

“You’re going to be all right,” she crooned.

“Don’t lie to the poor bastard.” Mortimer’s lip curled in disgust. “He’s no goose with a defective wing, or a three-legged cat, like the strays you’re always harboring. Like as not he’s too broken to be put back together with a bandage, a meal, and one of your warbling songs. He’s going to die, Lorelai.”

“You don’t know that,” she said more sharply than she’d intended, and received a sharp slap for her lapse in wariness.

“And you don’t know what I’ll do to you if you speak to me in that tone again.”

Most girls would look to their fathers for protection, but Lorelai had learned long ago that protection was something upon which she could never rely.

Her cheek stinging, Lorelai lowered her eyes. Mortimer would take it as a sign of submission, but she only did it to hide her anger. She’d learned by now to take care around him in times of high stress, or excitement. It had been her folly to forget … because she knew exactly what he was capable of. The pinch of her patient’s strong grip was nothing next to what she’d experienced at the hands of her brother on any given month.

Ignoring the aching throb in her foot, Lorelai dismissed Mortimer, leaning down instead to stroke a dripping lock of midnight hair away from an eye so swollen, he’d not have been able to open it were he awake.

Across from her, Mortimer leaned in, as well, ostensibly studying the man on the floor with equal parts intrigue and disgust. “Wonder what happened to the sod. I haven’t seen a beating like this in all my years.”

Lorelai schooled a level expression from her face at the reference to his many perceived years. He was all of twenty, and the only violence he witnessed outside of sport, he perpetrated himself.

“Brigands, you suspect?” Sir Robert fretted from beside her, checking the gathering darkness for villains.

“Entirely possible,” Mortimer said flippantly. “Or maybe he is one. We are disturbingly close to Gallows Corner.”

“Mortimer,” their father wheezed. “Tell me you haven’t pulled a criminal into my coach. What would people say?”

The Weatherstoke crest bore the motto Fortunam maris, “fortune from the sea,” but if anyone had asked Lorelai what it was, she’d have replied, Quid dicam homines? “What would people say?”

It had been her father’s favorite invocation—and his greatest fear—for as long as she could remember.

Lorelai opened her mouth to protest, but her brother beat her to it, a speculative glint turning his eyes the color of royal sapphires. “If I’d hazard a guess, it would be that this assault was personal. A fellow doesn’t go to the trouble to inflict this sort of damage lest his aim is retribution or death. Perhaps he’s a gentleman with gambling debts run afoul of a syndicate. Or, maybe a few locals caught him deflowering their sister … though they left those parts intact, didn’t they, Duck?” His sly expression told Lorelai that he’d caught her looking where she ought not to.

Blushing painfully, she could no longer bring herself to meet Mortimer’s cruel eyes. They were the only trait Lorelai shared with her brother. Her father called them the Weatherstoke jewels. She actively hated looking in the mirror and seeing Mortimer’s eyes staring back at her.

Instead, she inspected the filthy nails of the hand engulfing her own. The poor man’s entire palm was one big callus against hers. The skin on his knuckles, tough as an old shoe, had broken open with devastating impact.

Whatever had happened to him, he’d fought back.

“He’s no gentleman,” she observed. “Too many calluses. A local farmhand, perhaps, or a stable master?” It didn’t strain the imagination to envision these hands gripping the rope of an erstwhile stallion. Large, magnificent beasts pitting their strength one against the other.

“More like stable boy,” Mortimer snorted. “I’d wager my inheritance he’s younger than me.”

“How can you tell?” With his features beyond recognition, Lorelai was at a loss as to the man’s age. No gray streaked his midnight hair, nor did lines bracket his swollen lips, so she knew he couldn’t be old, but beyond that …

“He’s not possessed of enough body hair for a man long grown.”

“But he’s so big,” she reasoned. “And his chest appears to have been badly burned, the hair might have singed right off.”

“I’m not referring to his chest, you dull-wit, but to his coc—”

“Mortimer, please.”

Lorelai winced. It was as close to a reprimand as her father ever ventured. Mortimer must have been very wicked, indeed. It was just her luck that he did so on perhaps the first occasion Lorelai had actually wanted her brother to finish a sentence.

A rut in the road jostled them with such force at their frantic pace, Lorelai nearly landed on the injured man. His chest heaved a scream into his throat, but it only escaped as a piteous, gurgling groan.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she whimpered. Dropping to her knees, she hovered above him, the fingers of her free hand fluttering over his quaking form, looking for a place to land that wouldn’t cause him pain.

She could find none. He was one massive wound.

A tear splashed from her eye and disappeared into the crease between his fingers.

“Duck, perhaps it’s best you take your seat.” Her father’s jowly voice reminded her of steam wheezing from a teakettle before it’s gathered enough strength to whistle. “It isn’t seemly for a girl of your standing to be thus prostrated on the floor.”

With a sigh, she did her best to get her good foot beneath her, reaching for the plush golden velvet of the seat to push herself back into it.

An insistent tug on her arm tested the limits of her shoulder socket, forcing her to catch herself once more.

“Lorelai, I said sit,” Lord Southbourne blustered.

“I can’t,” she gasped incredulously. “He won’t let me go.”

“What’s this, then?” Mortimer wiped some of the mud away from the straining cords of the man’s forearm, uncovering an even darker smudge beneath. As he cleared it, a picture began to take shape, the artful angles and curves both intriguing and sinister until mottled, injured skin ruptured the rendering. “Was it a bird of some kind? A serpent?”

“No.” Lorelai shook her head, studying the confusion of shapes intently. “It’s a dragon.”

Copyright © 2018 by Kerrigan Byrne

My Review

I have only no word’s adequate enough to convey how much I loved this book, this is by far one of the best book’s I have read. It really is astoundingly good! This has everything that I personally look for in a historical romance; complex and flawed character’s in need of love, intricate and intriguing storyline, secondary character’s that are as brilliant as the lead’s all sprinkled with history and romance. I have only recently discovered Kerrigan Byrne’s work, and this is only the second book of hers I have read, but I know that I have found an author’s whose work I will be reading and re-reading for years to come.

While on her way home with her abusive and manipulative brother and father, fourteen-year-old Lorelei (I absolutely love that name, it’s beautiful) spot’s a man laying beside the road, forcing her father and brother to do the right thing and stop to check on him. Finding that he is still alive Lorelei takes it upon herself to nurse the intriguing young man back to health. To her he is like a breath of fresh air in her dark oppressive life with her bullying family, she takes pleasure in nursing her broken angel back from the underworld. Even once he regained consciousness she took pleasure in trying to help him regain his memory, without much luck. She was inexplicably drawn to the damaged and devilishly attractive young man she named Ash, she had fallen in love with him. She senses deep down there is a dark and somewhat dangerous being that she yearns to help. Even at such a tender age she knew that there was something very special between them, then one day he was gone with a promise that he would he would come back for her, always.

I love those tender and careful moments between them as she helps him heal, he can’t remember anything about himself yet he feels like he has darkness in him but that seems to ebb away whenever she is around. His annoyance and confusion is heart-breaking, I love the way how she tries to bring him out of himself and that first kiss….so sweet!

Fast forward twenty years, Lorelei on the morning of her forced marriage with a man old enough to be her grandfather she is kidnapped by the deadliest, most ruthless Pirate that has ever sailed the sea’s. But it isn’t the kidnapping that has shaken her, it is who has taken her. The tall formidable, tattooed man before her telling her that she is now to marry him, the man who calls himself; The Rook is none other then the young man she gave her heart to and who left her all those years before.

Rook after a lifetime of hardship since he was forced to leave her he has been through torture and torment to become the ruthless, dark and deadly man he is now. Yet the one thing that has always kept him alive was the thought of Lorelei and knowing that he would find a way to return to her and claim her as his own. He has set out to avenge her; his golden angel, his saviour from those that wish to or have harmed her. But his well laid plan takes a bit of an unexpected turn as when he finally gets the women he has loved for all those years in his grasp, she appears to hate him. Which a well-placed knee in his family jewels seems to confirm. Can he bring her round to his way of thinking or will her golden touch and kindness make the phantom of the seas soften?

Well what can I say about Rook? What an amazing man, I will admit that while reading it I had this image of Tom Hardy in my head as Rook. Tattooed, huge, rough a bit deadly and yet with a kind heart, he has a lot of love in his cold black heart especially for Lorelei. She is the reason why he is standing breathing, his love for her is absolute and I think that if any man looks a woman the way Rook looks at Lorelei is a good man and so swoon worthy! I love this guy! He is charming in a brutal, in your face kind of way but what drew me to him rom the start was his vulnerable side, Rook has secrets and darkness that envelopes him, and yet he may be a blood thirsty pirate, but he is a good principled man.

This is book six in the Victorian Rebel’s series, now I haven’t read them all or the first in the series, but that doesn’t matter as I saw this as a stand-a-lone. These books are sexy, smart and so engrossing. The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo is a thrilling, edge of your seat highly sensual romance that will keep you glued from the very first page. You are gripped by the stylish writing, the sizzling chemistry between Rook and Lorelei. I do have a real soft spot for Victorian era romances and this one is amazing, it is fresh and atmospheric, yet at the same time it is dark and dangerous.

Absolutely fabulous, I cannot wait to read more from the Rebels.

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

About the Author

Whether she’s writing about Celtic Druids, Victorian bad boys, or brash Irish FBI Agents, Kerrigan Byrne uses her borderline-obsessive passion for history, her extensive Celtic ancestry, and her love of Shakespeare in every book. She lives at the base of the Rocky Mountains with her handsome husband and three lovely teenage girls, but dreams of settling on the Pacific Coast. Her Victorian Rebels novels include The Highwayman and The Highlander.

Author Website / Twitter: @Kerrigan_Byrne / Facebook: @KerriganByrneAuthor / Instagram: @KerriganByrne

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Christmas Special With Helen J Rolfe – Exclusive Interview, Guest Post and Excerpt @HJRolfe @rararesources #Exclusives #AuthorInterview #Blogtour

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Today I have the huge pleasure of chatting with Helen J Rolfe; Author of Women’s Contemporary Romantic Fiction including, Christmas at Little Knitting Box, plus exclusive Guest Post, Spotlight, Excerpt and Giveaway.

About the Author

Helen J Rolfe writes contemporary women’s fiction with an emphasis on relationships and love. She enjoys weaving stories about family, friendship, secrets, and characters who face challenges and fight to overcome them. Helen enjoys creating strong female lead characters and although her stories often deal with serious issues, they always have a happy ending.

Location is a big part of the adventure in Helen’s books and she enjoys setting stories in different cities and countries around the world. So far, locations have included Melbourne, Sydney, New York, Connecticut, Bath and the Cotswolds.

Born and raised in the UK, Helen graduated from University with a business degree and began working in I.T. This job took her over to Australia and it was there that she studied writing and journalism and began writing for women’s health and fitness magazines. She also volunteered with the PR department of a children’s hospital where she wrote articles and media releases. Helen began writing fiction in 2011 and hasn’t missed the I.T. world one little bit, although the I.T. skills have come in handy of course, especially when it comes to creating and maintaining a website.

After fourteen years of living in Australia, Helen returned to the UK and now lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and their children.

Website / Facebook / Twitter

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Guest Post

Favourite Christmas Memories by Helen J Rolfe

I think my first favourite memory would have to be when I was little and it snowed. It was years ago but I still believed in Santa and that year he gave me a bike. I insisted I went out on it – my parents must’ve enjoyed the experience! – and I didn’t let the weather stop me at all. That year we built an igloo with our nextdoor neighbour and a snowman too, and it was completely magical.

I also remember at school, that we had a homemade postbox into which you put Christmas cards. Then every day the cards would be left on your table in class for you to open. Cards aren’t sent as much nowadays and it’s a real shame.

My next favourite Christmas memory has to be my first Christmas in Australia. I had a friend staying with me and we were in a 15th floor apartment with no air conditioning and it was so hot! But we were determined to have the full roast dinner. We went out shopping the day before but on Christmas day found we had no potatoes, so went out in search for them. We never envisaged getting stuck in a traffic jam! In the UK roads tend to be quite deserted, so this was a first. Anyway, we had a good laugh about it, but every year when I roast the potatoes it reminds me of that time.

Over the years I’ve always loved Christmas but even more so once I had my own children and they believed in Santa too. Shopping in secret was always interesting, returning to the house and hiding everything away. The problem was, I’d then forget where I’d hidden it so it would take me forever to find everything. I remember it was always a case of late nights wrapping, my husband keeping watch in case either of the children came out of their rooms and caught me, and one year we were up until well after midnight assembling a cubby house in the back garden and a toy kitchen. It’s actually far easier now they’re older, but there’s something about kids at Christmas that makes it so special.

Every year I think my favourite memory is the Christmas dinner and cooking it. It takes forever, but it’s the only time we have all the trimmings, with the pigs in blankets, the mince pies afterwards, if we have any room, and all sitting around sipping champagne.
Roll on Christmas!

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Interview

Frankie Hi Helen, Welcome to Chicks, Rogues and Scandals! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. Firstly, what five word’s would you use to describe yourself?

Helen Organised, curious, friendly, reliable, independent

Frankie If you could live in any era and place, When and where would it be? And Why?

Helen I think I’d love to go back to the 2000’s in Australia. It’s when I first went over there and I fell in love with the country. I was in my twenties too, with a good job and free weekends, so I’d like to do a lot more exploring!

Frankie Who was your childhood hero?

Helen Wonder Woman! I think growing up with two brothers meant I watched a lot of programs with male characters – batman, spiderman, superman. Wonder Woman was something else entirely and she was also beautiful.

Frankie What is your favourite time of the year?

Helen I would say I’m much more of a summer person than a lover of winter. When the sun shines it makes me feel so much more energetic and I love the long days and evenings too. It means we can get outside as a family which is one of my favourite things to do. I think I’m very much in love with the idea of winter rather than actual winter itself. I love photos of snow covered landscapes, log cabins, cosy fires and a small amount of that is wonderful, but not too long or I get fed up. Christmas is a fantastic time but once it’s over, I’m really, ready for the sun to come out again!

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

Helen I think I’ll always have a soft spot for Evan in Handle Me with Care. He has such a battle on his hands but he’s a gorgeous man inside and out. He’s also from Melbourne, my favourite city in the world!

Frankie Where doe’s your inspiration for your books come from?

Helen Everywhere! People I meet, places I visit, things I read. When I’m out and about I’m forever putting notes into my phone and then sending them to myself in an email. I have lots of ideas stored away in an email file so when it’s time to plan a new book I have lots of information.

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

Helen 1. Read lots. I think we learn a lot by osmosis. We widen our vocabulary, learn about character and plot development and can see how other authors put together a story.

2. Start! Sit down and get writing, and give yourself permission to write rubbish. The first draft is always messy but you can always edit a messy draft. You can’t edit a blank page!

3. Surround yourself with other authors. Writing is a lonely occupation but by talking with other writers online or in person, it can really help. It’s good to know the struggles you have are often the same as others are experiencing, and it encourages you to keep going.

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

Helen Judy Blume because I love, love, love her books. I found them to be refreshingly honest.

Nicholas Sparks, because he is a brilliant storyteller, and I would love to ask him about his writing process and where his ideas come from.

Lianne Moriarty because this woman can weave a brilliant plot! I would love to know how she does it, how she plans and finally makes a start.

Frankie Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me today, I have just one more cheeky question, just for fun . . . What is your all-time favourite naughty but nice food?

Helen Chocolate! Especially dark…

Thank you for chatting with me Helen, it was lovely having you visit.

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New York Ever After Series

Christmas at the Little Knitting Box; Book 1

Christmas is coming and New York is in full swing for the snowy season. But at The Little Knitting Box in the West Village, things are about to change …

The Little Knitting Box has been in Cleo’s family for nearly four decades, and since she arrived fresh off the plane from the Cotswolds four years ago, Cleo has been doing a stellar job of running the store. But instead of an early Christmas card in the mail this year, she gets a letter that tips her world on its axis.

Dylan has had a tumultuous few years. His marriage broke down, his mother passed away and he’s been trying to pick up the pieces as a stay-at-home dad. All he wants this Christmas is to give his kids the home and stability they need. But when he meets Cleo at a party one night, he begins to see it’s not always so easy to move on and pick up the pieces, especially when his ex seems determined to win him back.

When the snow starts to fall in New York City, both Cleo and Dylan realise life is rarely so black and white and both of them have choices to make. Will Dylan follow his heart or his head? And will Cleo ever allow herself to be a part of another family when her own fell apart at the seams?

Full of snow, love and the true meaning of Christmas, this novel will have you hooked until the final page.

Purchase From Amazon UK / Amazon US

Snowflakes and Mistletoe at the Inglenook Inn; Book 2

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but is it the time to fall in love?

As the flames on the log fire flicker and the snowflakes swirl above the New York streets, maybe this Christmas could be the one that changes everything…

When Darcy returns to Manhattan, she’s put in charge of the Inglenook Inn, a cosy boutique hotel in the heart of Greenwich Village. The Inn needs a boost in bookings if it’s to survive the competition, so Darcy is convinced that hosting Christmas this year is the answer. What she doesn’t expect is to meet a face from the past, which can only spell trouble.

Myles left England behind and took a job in New York. It’s a step forwards in his career, and has the added bonus of being nowhere near his family. He’s also hoping to avoid Christmas, the worst time of the year. But when his company puts him up at the Inglenook Inn and he recognises Darcy, it isn’t long before they clash.

When disaster strikes, can Myles and Darcy put their differences aside to make Christmas at the Inglenook Inn a success?

Purchase from Amazon

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

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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 

Release Day Celebration with Lara Temple; Exclusive Interview, Excerpt and Giveaway

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Today I have the great pleasure to have the lovely and hugely talented, Historical Romance Author; Lara Temple visiting again. To celebrate the release of her brand-new book; Lord Hunter’s Cinderella Heiress – which is out today, I have an exclusive Interview with Lara, an exclusive excerpt and Lara has come to Chicks Rogues and Scandals baring gifts, she is very generously giving away a copy of Lord Hunter’s Cinderella Heiress to one lucky winner so make sure you stick around for that.

About Lara

When I was fifteen I found a very grubby copy of Georgette Heyer’s Faro’s Daughter in an equally grubby book store. Several blissful hours later I emerged, blinking, into the light of day completely in love with Max Ravenscar and with Regency Romance.

But the love remained one-sided as I progressed through various fascinating but completely unrelated careers in finance and high tech until my mother gave me a firm shove by entering one my many drawer-directed novels into Harlequin’s annual writing contest. To my shocked surprise I not only made it to the top ten but Harlequin commissioned me to write five Regency romances.

I write strong, sexy, and suspenseful regency romances about complex individuals who give no quarter but deliver plenty of passion.

Like every (or most) writers, I would love to hear from you about books (not only mine) and history and whatever you find that makes you love this period and genre.

I live with my husband and two children who are very good about my taking over the kitchen table for my writing (so I can look out over the garden and dream). I love to travel (especially to places steeped in history) and hike and read as many books as possible (which just about sums up my dream vacation).

I recently went back to look for that grubby 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…

Facebook / Twitter: @laratemple1 / WebsiteAmazon author page Goodreads

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Interview

Frankie Hi Lara, Welcome to Chicks Rogues and Scandals, Thank-you for taking the time to chat with me today.

Lara Thanks for inviting me, Frankie. So glad to be here again!

Frankie It’s a pleasure, congratulations on your newest release; Lord Hunter’s Cinderella Heiress. Can you tell us a little about the book?

Lara Thanks, Frankie. Anyone who knows me knows I have trouble telling ‘a little’ but I’ll try.

When Hunter and Nell first meet they are both at a low point – Hunter’s brother committed suicide after the war despite his efforts to help him, and Nell is subject to her aunt’s bullying and her father’s indifference. In a moment of pity Hunter agrees to marry Nell when she reaches her majority. But when Nell turns 21 and discovers the betrothal she has no intention of going through with it – she has finally drummed up the courage to go seek out her childhood sweetheart at the Wilton Horse Fair and she won’t let an announced betrothal stand in her way. Hunter is only too happy for an honourable way out of his long-regretted gesture and promises to accompany her to the Horse Fair but along the way (of course) they discover they share not only a love of horses, a sense of humour, and a growing and often disconcerting attraction, they also understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Still, they have to face guilt, pain, and their own needs to reach their well-deserved HEAs.

Frankie All your books are set during the Regency period, what is it about that era that interests you so much to write about?

Lara From the age of 15 I was hooked on Regency romance and history by the incomparable Georgette Heyer. I went so deep into her world I ended up turning my back on studying physics to pursue a degree in 19th century British History. I can’t even explain what dragged me in so deeply – it isn’t just the glitz and glamor of the ballrooms, but more that it is a time of almost hidden transition. The Regency period feels to me like a twenty year old on the brink of ‘real’ life – everything is about to change dramatically and you can feel it coming but don’t know what it will all amount to. The Napoleonic Wars set in motion political developments that shaped the world we know today, some of the most amazing scientific discoveries were being brewed during this period but also weren’t fully understood. The Regency is a world poised on the brink… I love that tension.

Frankie Do you have a writing ritual? And if you do can you share it with us?

Lara Until recently I had a very demanding job so writing was recreational for me – something I did when I ‘felt like it.’ That changed completely when I got the amazing chance to become a published author (thanks to Harlequin’s SYTYCW contest!). Since then I sit down and write every weekday, from the moment I take my children to school (well, after making a big pot of tea but that’s obvious, right?) and until I have to work at my other (now less demanding) job.

Because I have so little time, even when I hit a writing wall I force myself to keep writing – I might start editing or put my WIP aside to work on another project (I often have two going at the same time precisely for this reason), but I never stop completely and wait for ‘the muse’ to strike.

Frankie If you could have one of your books made into a movie, which one would it be? And who would play your two, leading character’s?

Lara Oh, no, that is a hard question because it’s almost like choosing a favourite child. If I must choose, I’d love to see a version of my The Duke’s Unexpected Bride with Tom Hardy and Emma Watson as leads. You might think the reason is trivial – it started when I saw/received the book cover and thought the hero looked like Tom Hardy which was perfect because one of the stars of the book is Marmaduke the pug, and Tom Hardy is known not only for being an gorgeous (you know what I mean, Frankie!) and a good person, but also a dog lover. My duke of Harcourt to a T! And I chose Emma Watson to play Sophie after seeing her in Beauty and the Beast and because I think she can play sassy and smart like Sophie. I just don’t know who is good enough to play Marmaduke the pug…

Frankie Wow! That’s brilliant, I absolutely agree. What is your most treasured possession?

Lara Now that I have kids I can realize there are some things my parents did I never fully appreciated. My mother recently gave me a notebook she prepared during my first five years which is an amazing gathering of anecdotes and first words, photos and little titbits, including the first ever story I dictated to my mother (an adventure story about a city under the sea, with an HEA of course!), Ribena badges I collected, and first locks of hair. It was a true labour of love.

Frankie What I love about Lord Hunter’s Cinderella Heiress is how the Hero; Hunter and his friend Raven set up Hope House, the charity home for veterans who are in need, can you tell us why you chose that subject to play such a prominent role in the plot?

Lara I’m an army veteran myself and I am closely acquainted with people who have suffered PTSD because of combat experiences, sometimes with tragic results. I know how it affects the families of survivors as well – they have to deal not only with a loved one’s trauma or loss but also often with their own guilt and sense of failure. I found myself thinking what did people do two hundred years ago? How did they and their families cope, both emotionally and financially with almost none of the awareness and support systems that exist today? That was where the idea of Hope House came from and I specifically chose heroes who faced different aspects of the upheaval of the times and coped with them in different ways. I try to deal with this difficult topic without sacrificing tenderness and humour and I hope I strike the right balance.

Frankie You definitely do, Lara. Your Regency books are brilliant, would you ever consider setting one of your books in a different era, and if so which one?

Lara I love this period but I also love the Edwardian period because the whole world is teetering on the brink of change, both good and bad – you can see how women are demanding more freedom and stretching their limits and really pointing the way in which the world would go, even if much of the upper echelons of society were in deep denial. I love periods steeped in tension, there is so much to write about.

Frankie Animals always play such a big role in your books whether that be Pugs or Horses, is there any animal that you would like to feature in your books, if you could?

Lara I really don’t mean for it to happen but it just does! In my next Wild Lords book, Lord Ravenscar’s Inconvenient Betrothal there is a large wolfhound named Grim (named after “church Grims” – a tradition of burying black dogs in cemeteries to protect the dead) and my heroine’s best childhood friend is a manatee named Rupert (I think I can safely say that’s an unusual pet in a Regency romance).

Since I loves dogs I’m certain they will appear again but perhaps it’s time for a cat – In fact you’ve given me an idea – in my WIP the heroine asks a fake Gypsy to show her how to be an occultist so she can gather information about her godfather and I think an indolent cat will do very well in some of those scenes. Thanks, Frankie!

Frankie Ooh, That’s interesting. Thank you for talking with me, Lara. I have just one last sneaky question. What is your perfect girly night?

Lara I’m not a big party animal (those days went the way of the dodo when my children were born). Now my idea of a perfect girly night starts in the afternoon – I would meet two or three (max) good friends, maybe do a little shopping (I’m a hopeless tomboy and have a hate/love relationship with shopping but with a friend it’s great fun) then find someplace nice, a bottle of good wine, and just talk Life, the Universe, and Everything (oh, and receive no phone calls from children wondering where their football/fluffy pony/toothbrush is or from Mr. T wondering where we keep our spare lightbulbs). I know it sounds disgustingly tame but I think it’s perfect…

Frankie That sound’s perfect to me.

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About the Book

Betrothed…to the wrong man!

Building a life away from her bullying family, schoolmistress Helen Tilney now needs to convince her childhood sweetheart she’s a worthy bride. Standing in her way is Lord Hunter—the man Nell has just discovered she’s betrothed to!

Hunter’s offer of marriage to Nell came out of guilt, and now seems less than appealing! So when she asks for his help to win another man, he agrees. Until their lessons in flirtation inspire a raging desire that has Hunter longing to keep Nell for himself…

Purchase the book HERE

Firstly I must warn you that I will probably do a great deal of gushing throughout my review, but when you read something that is as superb as this, then I hope you will forgive me. This is book one in this new series; The Wild Lords and Innocent Ladies Series by the highly talented Lara Temple, and one that I have been looking forward to reading. But nothing prepared me for the huge emotion that surges through you as you read it.

I know that Lara has said that this series is her baby, this is a personal story for her and you can really understand as you are reading it just how much of herself she has put into this. I have always liked her work but this really resonates with me, this touched a cord with me more than any other book I have read before, you can feel Temple’s heart and soul running through this, it is very emotional and it packs a real punch and it stays with you long after the last page. ~ Chick’s Rogues and Scandals

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Exclusive Excerpt

Hunter’s grin widened.

‘Very amusing, Saxon. Now come down before I decide to put all this hay to good use.’

Nell really should get down but she didn’t want to, not yet. As she remained unmoving the raffish quality of his grin shifted, mellowed, his lashes dipping slightly.

‘You do look like a Saxon queen up there; about to bestow her favour on her knight.’ He observed and Nell planted her feet more firmly as the bale quivered beneath them, or maybe that was just her legs that had wobbled. She was used to looking down at men, but very contrarily looking down at him made her feel dainty. Dainty?

‘She would probably be a Norman queen if there were knights,’ the schoolmistress corrected, and then, more to the point and in a less resolute voice. ‘I don’t have anything to bestow.’
‘Yes you do.’

How could three words turn a quiver into a blaze? He might as well have touched a match to the hay the heat was so intense. And the sense of danger. He was making love to her in the middle of a stable yard without raising a finger and she didn’t want it to stop. This is not making love, just flirting, the schoolmistress pointed out and was kicked off the bale of hay.

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***Giveaway Closed, Winner’s Post can be found HERE****

It’s giveaway time, we have a copy of Lord Hunters Cinderella Heiress to giveaway to one lucky winner, to be in for chance just answer Lara’s question and leave your answer in the comments below or on the Chicks Rogues and Scandals Facebook Giveaway post.

Giveaway Question 

Animals are always cropping up in my novels. For example, Nell and Hunter have a shared passion for horses. What was your favorite pet or what animal would you like to see make its appearance in a novel?

Good luck! 💜

*Giveaway closes at midnight GMT on 8th November 2017 and is open internationally, winner will have the choice of format; Print or Ebook. Only comments on this post or on the Facebook Giveaway post will be counted.

Author Interview, Exclusive Excerpts and Review of The Pirates Bride by Cathy Skendrovich;

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Today I have the great pleasure of teaming up with Cathy Skendrovich, author of Historical Romance/Pirate Romance The Pirates Bride to celebrate the release of her up and coming Christmas Pirate Romance Novella; The Pirate Brides Holiday Masquerade. I have an exclusive Interview with Cathy, two exclusive Excerpts plus my reviews for both of the Pirate Bride stories.

Cathy Skendrovich has always loved a good story, and spent her formative years scribbling what is now called Fan Fiction. The current heartthrob of the time featured heavily in all her stories. Unfortunately, once she went to college, her writing took the form of term papers, written on typewriters instead of computer keyboards.

Upon graduation, Cathy took a job as an English teacher in a middle school. Along the way, she married her husband of now thirty-three years, had two sons, and moved to southern Orange County, California. She chose to work part-time in the school system there.

Now she has returned to writing. Prisoner of Love is her first published novel, followed closely by The Pirate’s Bride. The sequel to The Pirate’s Bride, The Pirate Bride’s Holiday Masquerade, is due out Oct. 1. Another contemporary romantic suspense, entitled Protecting the Nanny, is due
out in 2018.

She likes writing romance because she feels it’s lacking in today’s technological world. While she enjoys writing contemporary stories, creating romance in bygone times fascinates her. She hopes
her ability to write in both genres will be the beginning of a long and satisfying writing career.

Interview

Frankie Hi Cathy, Welcome to Chicks, Rogues and Scandals! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today.
Firstly, what five word’s would you use to describe yourself?

Cathy Introvert, smart, cautious, creative, funny

Frankie If you could live in any era and place, When and where would it be? And Why?

Cathy I love the Old West. I find that men were strong, yet courteous, and women were ladylike, yet smart and fearless. I like the Tombstone area of Arizona, as well as Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Frankie Who was your childhood hero?

Cathy My dad. He could do anything, and solve any problem.

Frankie What is your favourite time of the year?

Cathy Fall. I love the changing leaves, the autumn breezes.

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

Cathy Captain Andre Dubois from The Pirate’s Bride, because he’s such an Alpha male, yet he’s surprisingly gentle and understanding, in or out of the bedroom.

Frankie Where does your inspiration for your books come from?

Cathy Everywhere! My first book’s inspiration came from seeing a prison work crew working along the freeway. Its entire premise popped into my head then. My pirate series came from the POTC movies. I wanted Jack Sparrow to get a love interest, and he didn’t, so I wrote my own pirate novels. I like to write about strong women, so my ideas usually showcase them.

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

Cathy 1. Start sending your manuscripts to publishers earlier than I did. I was too worried about
rejection, and wasted a lot of time.
2. Build up your social media base!
3. Make sure you keep your author’s voice throughout edits. Don’t let your book be edited to the point you don’t recognize it anymore.

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

Cathy Hmm. There are so many different possibilities. My mom, because she died so suddenly and I’d like to say I love you; my aunt, because she threw the best dinner parties; and Shakespeare, because I think he could entertain us all.

Frankie Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me today, Cathy. I have just one more cheeky question, just for fun . . .
What is your all-time favourite naughty but nice food?

Cathy Chocolate-covered strawberries. Naughty in so many different ways. 😉

Oh, yumm! Delicious, Thank you!

If you want to find out more about Cathy and her work then why not follow her on social media and check out the links below?

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Instagram / Amazon

Excerpts

The Pirate’s Bride

All Sophie Bellard wants is her freedom, freedom to sail the seven seas, and freedom to be her own person without interference from some controlling husband. But an arranged marriage to handsome and dangerous Captain Andre Dubois derails all her hopes. After a disastrous wedding night where a ruinous secret is discovered, the two go their separate ways with hopes of never meeting again.

Sophie becomes a pirate, while Andre sets off for the Orient where he makes a murderous enemy. After escaping with his life, Andre returns to home waters, and in an unexpected twist of pirate fate, reunites with his estranged and unwilling wife. 

When Andre’s murderous enemy threatens Sophie’s life, he vows to protect what is his, and attempts to win his wife’s forgiveness and love, once and for all.

Excerpt

“No, Papa, I do not want to marry. You know that.” Sophie Bellard stamped her foot in the salon of her father’s house on St. Charles Street, outside of the decadent Vieux Carre.
Tall, with alabaster skin and ebony hair, Sophie Bellard knew she was a beauty at twenty years of age, but the strong-minded personality she’d inherited from her father lessened her chance of a good matrimonial match. Not that she wanted one. After four coming out seasons,
one disastrous, Sophie resolved to hang up her dancing shoes and become a captain in her father’s fleet. He didn’t agree.

“No Bellard woman has ever gone pirating and you will not start. I understand your lack of interest in marriage, but this is one decision I must enforce. Our family has always had arranged
marriages. I gave you the chance to choose a husband—”
“Papa, please.” She teared up at the very thought of giving herself to a stranger, a pirate. Forget the fact that she came from a pirate family herself, that the house she stood in had in fact
been purchased with pirate booty.

She didn’t know the man her father had chosen for her. What would happen if he were mean-spirited? A drinker? A womanizer? Sophie knew Papa needed money, but why did she have to sacrifice herself for his transgressions? It wasn’t fair. She stamped her slippered foot
once more.

“Papa, it’s just not fair. I do not want a man to boss me around. Why can’t we simply charge more percent from the plunder you already get from your captains? Please?”
Her father wouldn’t be swayed. “The deal has been struck, ma chère. From what I know of the Commandant’s son, he is not a man prone to excesses. In addition, he will afford you more protection than I can give you.

“The two of you will meet this evening at a soiree at your Tante Michelle’s, the bans will be read, and you’ll marry within two weeks. I’ve gotten the good Father’s blessing ahead of time.”
Sophie looked down. “But he may find out about—you know, Papa.” She heard her father shift his stance; come to pat her shoulder awkwardly.
“Once you’re married, he will definitely find out. But it will be too late then, my sweet, for him to do anything

Who doesn’t love Pirate? I for one am not immune to their dangerous and roguish charm and this filled to bursting with sinful Pirates.

The most feared and lethal Pirate to ever sail the sea’s, Andre Dubois is summoned by the Confederation of Pirates to attend a meeting none only than the Commandant himself, or more commonly called to Andre; Father! Andre and his father have never been on the best of terms, so he’s not ecstatic about having to see the great Luis Dubois but he knows that his father holds all the cards and Andre has no choice but to go and see what the old man wants with him this time or more importantly how much more of Andre’s plunder does his father want to take from him this time?

But what his father actually wants from his son is more horrific than Andre could ever imagine, Luis Dubois is being challenge for his Commandant position in the Confederation and the only way for him to keep his position he has to have heirs to hand the title down to which mean that Andre has to marry and bear heirs. But the good news is that Louis and the very man who is challenging his position have made a deal, that both their children marry each other. Andre has no choice but to do as his father and Commandant tells him and he must marry Anton Bellard’s daughter; Sophie.

Sophie doesn’t want to be forced into this marriage any more than Andre does, she would much rather follow in her magnificent father’s footsteps and become a pirate. She wants her own ship, her own crew and she wants the independence to do and go where she likes, she doesn’t want to be tied down to a man she hasn’t ever met. But she also has another reason that she cannot marry and one that shames her, her dirty little secret could be found out if she marries. But her father firmly put’s his foot down and she has no choice but to do as she is told.

Within a two week’s Sophie and Andre are man and wife and Andre and he finds out her secret, and he without waiting to hear her explain he runs out and sails off on the Jade Princess without a backwards glance at his innocent young bride. Just weeks later after being deserted by her so called husband Sophie’s papa passes away, leaving her alone. She decides now is the time she can finally do what she has always wanted to do, be a Pirate! So, she goes to the one man who can help her do just that her father-in-law; Louis Dubois.

Nearly a year later Andre returns to his old stomping ground after being around Asia only to find that he is being challenged for his rights to plunder his part of the ocean by a new ship; the Phoenix. He is furious that this new Captain would be so brazen and dare tread on his ground but what the real surprise is when he meets the Captain.
Who just happens to be his wife!

Captain Sophie Ballard Dubois at first wanted revenge on her estranged husband for his callous behaviour but once they come face to face all things change, she has transformed herself from the meek little abandoned young girl to this proud, brave and ruthless pirate who in her own right has won over her crew of equally ruthless pirates and has taken her estranged husband’s place on what he claims as his part of the sea. She has done all this with shear brazen gut and intelligent, she has never shown fear and always done what is best for her and her men but when she comes face to face with Andre she is in a bit of bother. She may have been forced to marry him but she began to have feelings for him, feeling that she has squished and now have come to the surface.

Can she hold her own as she has done so many times before, with her own husband?

He is just in pure shock that the lying little hoyden who turned his world upside down has the nerve to do this to him, she has been nothing but trouble the minute he met her but his body and his senses are responding to this brazen female. He hates to admit that she has got under his skin and he is drawn to her more than he has ever been with any other woman, Andre has always prided himself on being able to have his fun and move on but everything is different with her.

I like Sophie and Andre’s complicated relationship it started off rough as they were forced to marry one another and then when he finds out her dark secret the gap between them grows and over the months they grow further and further apart and they also grow as people. Yet, you do sense that sexual tension between them they are both so reluctant to trust the other. They have both built up this wall around them – which does make them the great Pirates they are, but once they reunite those barriers slowly come down.

Sophie went through an awful ordeal and the way that Andre has treated her is just as bad as what she went through to begin with, he wouldn’t give her the chance to explain he just saw what he wanted to see and that gave him the opportunity to leave again. The way Sophie has gone and rebuilt her life and come out the other side as this strong, ruthless woman who gets what she wants, she is quite the inspiration!
Whereas Andre, he did take some time to come to like. I at first thought him to be very callous and harsh and he was very cold, but once all that was stripped away and they start getting to know one another he is genuinely a very attractive and interesting man.

Over all, I did really like this it isn’t your regular Historical Romance and I like how different it is to other book’s in the genre. Skendrovitch is a charming and imaginative author who takes the reader on a thrilling ride across the sea’s, with the most intriguing and complicated couple you will come across.

If you like handsome Pirates, thrilling adventure, and twists and turns that can make your head spin than this is perfect for you and I do very much recommend it.

This was an ARC copy vis the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Pirates Bride is out now and can be found at Amazon

The Pirate’s Bride Holiday Masquerade

This sequel to The Pirate’s Bride is a fun piratey romp!

Pirate captains Sophie and Andre Dubois have finally reunited and are enjoying marital bliss. However, their good fortune wanes when Sophie contracts a mysterious illness. Andre is at a loss for how to help his wife, so when she asks to return to La Nouvelle-Orléans to throw a ball for Christmas, he doesn’t hesitate to acquiesce.

Once on land, Sophie regains her strength, and preparations for the party begin. Those plans take a dark turn when an old enemy appears. Sophie is left to make the choice between her honor and her husband’s life. Will she have the strength to make the right decision?

Excerpt

“Sophie? Sophie Bellard? Is that really you?”
Sophie’s head snapped up at the sound of the unforgettable voice from her past, while her purse fell to the cobbled street from suddenly nerveless fingers. Her body began to shudder and vibrate at the nightmare that was Gilbert Harrington’s silky voice. She felt faint, in danger of collapsing, her past hurtling toward her like an out-of-control mining cart threatening to jump its track. She reached out a steadying hand against the brick wall of the flower shop.

No longer did she occupy a cobbled street of the Vieux Carré during Avent. She’d been
transported, trembling and afraid, to that time, five years ago, when she’d lost her innocence. Her
innocence, and her youth. Just the sound of his voice, the timbre and its cadence, was enough to
catapult her into a shivering mass of fear and dread.

She had no defense, carried no weapon. How could she? Gone was her pirate garb, her protective armor. In its place, she wore silk and brocade, gilt buttons and a feathered hat. There was no hiding place for a deadly dagger or a one-shot pistol. Just as there was no devilish pirate
to come swinging in on a line, clenching a curved blade between his teeth and racing to her rescue. She was his defenseless prey.

As she continued to stare dumbly at the man before her, one part of her mind, not frozen in fear, noticed that Gilbert Harrington hadn’t changed much in five years. He’d bulked up slightly, bore a man’s frame instead of a youth’s, and his eyes glittered like hardened chips of ice.
Gone was the thin, gentlemanly veneer he’d used to woo a star-struck young girl experiencing the first throes of romance. In its place stood a man used to getting what he wanted with little or no resistance; a man stimulated and aroused by feminine defiance. She recognized these traits after living in the company of men for those same five years. Recognized, but could not articulate a properly scathing response.

Like a predatory shark, he moved in, grabbing hold of her upper arm in a tight grip and leaning forward until his mouth rested mere inches from her ear. “I remember you, Sophie. I remember every moment we were together like it was yesterday. Every touch, every sound,
every movement.”

His hand began to smooth up and down her brocade-covered arm in an unsettling caress. She remained statue-still, incoherent whimpers erupting from her throat. This could not be happening. He could not be standing here, in her present life. But he was, she acknowledged
through the haze of fear blanketing her, as she stared straight into his smiling visage. He stepped back a short pace.

The Pirate Bride Masquerade is the sequel to “The Pirate’s Bride” it is years later from where we last saw our couple and I am pleased to say that Sophie and Andre Dubois have gone from strength to strength they have got over their initial complicated relationship of each other and now they have got to know each other they are finally living as man and wife.

It is nearly Christmas and as always Andre has set a course to one of their island to spend the holiday on the “Jade Princess” as they always have done but for some reason – that will be understood at the end of the book – Sophie wants to spend the holiday on land, Andre has become quite the doting husband since we last saw him. Gone has the manipulative and selfish man that dominated the previous book and in his place, is a really endearing, protective man who loves his wife with all his heart and he will do anything she asks of him. Even risking his life by going back to home and possibly being caught by the British for Piracy, something he would never have contemplated before.

They land at La Nouvelle-Orléans where hey set to celebrate the festive season with the Commandant; Louis Dubois, who I am pleased to say is as fun and dashing as he was in the previous book. Louis is so pleased to have his son and daughter-in-law with him for Christmas that he decides to hold a festive masquerade party, but all doesn’t exactly go to plan as two things happens that could ruin everything, firstly Sophie becomes seriously ill and Andre is in turmoil as he can’t help his sick wife. He is on the edge and all his power and fierceness cannot help her all he can do is watch and hope and pray that whatever ails her will leave her.

Secondly a blast from Sophie’s past makes an unexpected and unwanted appearance that could ruin Christmas, now this creature who raped his wife thinks he can get away with what he did all those years ago but what he doesn’t realise is that the fierce and deadly Pirate is on the edge and this is one thing that Andre can help with.

Will Sophie recover and will Andre settle old scores? But more importantly, will they have their masquerade?

This is a sweet and festive Novella and like The Pirates Bride it is hugely enjoyable, The Pirate Bride Masquerade is perfect for those that are first starting out in Historical Romance, with it being a Novella it’s not taxing to read but very enjoyable.

I highly recommend Both the Pirates Bride and The Pirate Brides Holiday Masquerade.

This was an ARC copy via the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Pirate Brides Masquerade is released on 1st October and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

* Excerpts, Cover Pictures and Profile Picture were provided by the author to Chicks Rogues and Scandals in conjuncture with this Interview and Spotlight.

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.

💜💜💜

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?

💜💜💜

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.

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Amazon

Spotlight Post of Daughters of Ireland by Santa Montefiore

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I am very pleased to have been asked to host an Exclusive Spotlight on Best Selling  Author; Santa Montifiore and her newest release Daughters of Ireland, so sit back and enjoy.

About the Author

Santa Montefiore has written fourteen bestselling novels, which are translated into thirty languages. She is a fascinating person herself, as sister of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, the former British Socialite, and personal friend of the Royal Family.

Santa grew up on a farm in Hampshire and was educated at Sherborne School for Girls. She read Spanish and Italian at Exeter University and spent much of the 90s in Buenos Aires, where her mother grew up. She converted to Judaism in 1998 and married historian Simon Sebag Montefiore in the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London. They live with their two children, Lily and Sasha in London.

With my novels, I hope to carry you away to sunnier shores, while at the same time remind you of all that is wonderful about England. Above all, they are love stories, because love is more important to me than anything else. I hope you laugh and cry in equal measure, but most vitally, escape for a while. Santa x

You can find it more about Santa by following the links

Website | Facebook | Amazon | Goodreads

About the Book

In Ireland 1925, the Anglo-Irish war is long over, but life will never be the same. Castle Deverill has been home to the Deverill family in West Cork for hundreds of years, until it fell prey to a devastating attack during the war. Young Celia (Deverill) Mayberry and her husband bought the estate, determined to restore it to its former glory. But not everyone is elated. Although Kitty is grateful to her cousin for ensuring the castle will remain in the family, she cannot help but be wistful for the days when she was the mistress of Castle Deverill. While she is content in her new life, her heart still yearns for Jack O’Leary. As Kitty struggles with her choices, she must make a heartbreaking decision that could hurt those closest to her.

Wealthy and the toast of the town in New York City, Bridie Doyle has come a long way since she was the daughter of one of the cooks at Castle Deverill. But all her money cannot ease the pain over having given away her baby or from seeking revenge upon the woman who wronged her all those years ago.

As Celia wastes no time, or expense, in hiring workers to renovate Castle Deverill, dark shadows are gathering once more, as the financial markets begin to shake. Now everything that felt so certain is cast into doubt as this daughter of Ireland must find the inner strength to build a new future.

Exclusive Excerpt

At last the castle came into view. The western tower where her grandmother had set up residence until her death was intact but the rest of it resembled the bones of a great beast gradually decaying into the forest. Ivy and bindweed pulled on the remaining walls, crept in through the empty windows and endeavored to claim every last stone. And yet, for Kitty, the castle still held a mesmeric allure.

She trotted across the ground that had once been the croquet lawn but was now covered in long grasses and weeds. She dismounted and led her horse around to the front, where her cousin was waiting for her beside a shiny black car. Celia Mayberry stood alone, dressed in an elegant cloche hat beneath which her blond hair was tied into a neat chignon, and a long black coat that almost reached the ground. When she saw Kitty her face broke into a wide, excited smile.

“Oh my darling Kitty!” she gushed, striding up and throwing her arms around her. She smelled strongly of tuberose and money and Kitty embraced her fiercely.

“This is a lovely surprise,” Kitty exclaimed truthfully, for Celia loved Castle Deverill almost as much as she did, having spent every summer of her childhood there with the rest of the “London Deverills,” as their English cousins had been known. Kitty felt the need to cling to her with the same ferocity with which she clung to her memories, for Celia was one of the few people in her life who hadn’t changed, and as she grew older and further away from the past, Kitty felt ever more grateful for that. “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming? You could have stayed with us.”

“I wanted to surprise you,” said Celia, who looked like a child about to burst with a secret.

“Well, you certainly did that.” Kitty looked up at the facade. “It’s like a ghost, isn’t it? A ghost of our childhood.”

“But it will be rebuilt,” said Celia firmly.

Kitty looked anxiously at her cousin. “Do you know who bought it? I’m not sure I can bear to know.”

Celia laughed. “Me!” she exclaimed. “I have bought it. Isn’t that wonderful? I’m going to bring back the ghosts of the past and you and I can relive the glorious moments all over again through our children.

“You, Celia?” Kitty gasped in astonishment. “You bought Castle Deverill?”
“Well, technically Archie bought it. What a generous husband he is!” She beamed with happiness. “Isn’t it a riot, Kitty? Well, I’m a Deverill too! I have just as much right as anyone else in the family. Say you’re happy, do!”

“Of course I’m happy. I’m relieved it’s you and not a stranger, but I admit I’m a little jealous too,” Kitty said sheepishly.

Celia flung her arms around her cousin again. “Please don’t hate me. I did it for us. For the family. The castle couldn’t possibly go to a stranger. It would be like giving away one’s own child. I couldn’t bear to think of someone else building over our memories. This way we can all enjoy it

You can continue to live in the White House, Uncle Bertie in the Hunting Lodge if he so wishes and we can all be terribly happy again. After everything we’ve suffered we deserve to find happiness, don’t you think?”

Kitty laughed affectionately at her cousin’s fondness of the dramatic. “You’re so right, Celia. It will be wonderful to see the castle brought back to life and by a Deverill no less. It’s the way it should be. I only wish it were me.”

Celia put a gloved hand on her stomach. “I’m going to have a baby, Kitty,” she announced, smiling.

“Goodness, Celia, how many more surprises have you in store for me?”
“Just that and the castle. How about you? Do hurry up. I pray we are both blessed with girls so that they can grow up here at Castle Deverill just like we did.” And Kitty realized then that Celia had placed herself here within these castle walls for more than merely the annual month of August.

She was one of those shallow people who rewrote their own history and believed in the absolute truth of their version. “Come on,” Celia continued, taking Kitty’s hand and pulling her through the doorframe into the space where once the great hall had been. “Let’s explore. I have grand plans, you know. I want it to be just the same as it was when we were girls, but better. Do you remember the last Summer Ball? Wasn’t it marvelous?”

Kitty and Celia waded through the weeds that grew up to their knees, marveling at the small trees that had seeded themselves among the thistles and thorns and stretched their spindly branches toward the light

The ground was soft against their boots as they moved from room to room, disturbing the odd rook and magpie that flew indignantly into the air. Celia chattered on, reliving the past in colorful anecdotes and fond reminiscences, while Kitty was unable to stop the desolation of her ruined home falling upon her like a heavy black veil. With a leaden heart she remembered her grandfather Hubert, killed in the fire, and her grandmother Adeline who had died alone in the western tower only a month ago

She thought of Bridie’s brother, Michael Doyle, who had set the castle ablaze, and her own foolish thirst for recrimination, which had only led to her shame in his farmhouse where no one had heard her cries. Her thoughts drifted to her lover, Jack O’Leary, and their meeting at the wall where he had held her tightly and begged her to flee with him to America, then later, on the station platform, when he had been arrested and dragged away. Her head began to spin

Her heart contracted with fear as the monsters of the past were roused from sleep.

Full book list can be found on Santa’s website, link above.

*The Excerpt, Author Photo and Cover were provided by Publisher Harper Collins for exclusive use by Chick’s Rogue’s and Scandal’s Blog for this post.