Exclusive Excerpt

#BlogTour : This Is Me by @ShariLow #Review #ThisIsMe @aria_fiction

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Hello everyone! I have the huge pleasure to be today’s stop on this amazing blog tour for; This is Me by Shari Low. Not only am I sharing my review of this gorgeous book, I also have an exclusive extract for you, so with out further ado, enjoy.

This is…Denise.

Married to Ray, her first and only love, Denise has never for one moment regretted putting the husband she idolised on a pedestal above everyone and everything else. But, after forty years of marriage, he is gone, leaving Denise to discover that their perfect marriage was fatally flawed. Now she faces a future alone, but first she must face the betrayals of the past.

This is…Claire.

The estranged daughter of Denise, the woman who put her husband before her children, Claire took the opposite path and devoted her life to raising her family, sacrificing her marriage along the way. With her teenage sons about to flee the nest, she realises she may have left it too late to find her own happy ever after.

This is the story of two women, both alone, both cautionary tales of one of motherhood’s biggest decisions.

Who is more important, your partner or your children? And what happens if you make the wrong choice?

Buy links: Amazon / Kobo / iBooks / Google Play

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Exclusive Excerpt

Of course she’d lost people before. Her parents. Ray’s parents. But in those cases, their houses had filled with family and friends who came to offer sympathies, to share the loss, to bring casseroles and bread and tales of the times they’d had with the person who’d passed. Mourning was a time for gathering, for coming together to celebrate a life and share the sorrow of a passing.

No one was knocking on her door.

No one had come in the week since she’d returned home from the hospital, bereft, clutching only his bloodstained clothes, his watch and his wedding ring.

She snatched up her phone again, the second glass of red wine making her bold, pushing her to take action, to find someone – anyone – to share this grief. She scrolled through her contacts. When was the last time she’d talked to her siblings? Five years ago? Ten? Had she really not spoken to anyone else in her family in all that time? Of course, they had so little in common, and hadn’t been close for years before that anyway.

No, she couldn’t call them now. What would be the point? So they’d feel obliged to come, to sit awkwardly in her kitchen, giving fake sympathy and platitudes about a guy they’d never particularly liked in the first place? No. Ray would hate that. He hadn’t liked them when he was alive, so he wasn’t going to want them there in death.

She flicked through more numbers on the screen, then stopped when one name brought on another flash of pain. Doug. Her son. She could hear Ray’s roar of rage if she called that number. It had been many years since she’d heard his voice, seen his face, but that was his loss. She knew that. Hadn’t she and Ray discussed it so many times? Claire and Doug had walked out of their lives for the same reasons. She didn’t even want to think about that now. Hadn’t Ray told her again and again that they weren’t worthy of her? Only Ray deserved her time and her love.

Numbers exhausted, she threw the handset on the bed, her eyes drawn to Ray’s mobile phone, which had been sitting on the charging dock on his bedside table since the morning she’d called the ambulance.

Reaching over, she picked it up, switched it on, then watched as the screen came to life with the image of the two of them, toasting each other with champagne on the deck of the Queen Mary 2 as it set sail from Southampton en route to New York just a few months ago. Their fortieth wedding anniversary. The captain hadn’t believed them, said she looked far too young to have been married that long.

She punched in the code to open the phone, realising it was the first time she’d ever done that. She’d seen Ray doing it so many times that she knew the code by heart, but he’d have been furious if she’d ever looked through his phone, so she never had.

She went to contacts, the names coming up in alphabetical order. Restaurants. Hotels. Car valet. Architects. The tradesmen who sub-contracted for him on bigger jobs. Joiners. Landscapers. Painters. Plumbers. X. Y. Z. The end.

Or not.

The ‘Z’ category was empty, but there was one number in the preceding group, identified with only a Y. That was it. Just Y. It was all Denise needed to identify who it belonged to. That woman. Her.

He’d kept that bitch’s number.

A guttural sob escaped her. A whole fucking set of contacts and there was not a single person she could call for comfort, for help, to listen to her pain, until the very last contact in his phone. Y. It was a cruel bastard irony. The only person who might have just a glimmer of understanding about how she was feeling right now. And it would be a cold day in hell before she made that call.

She quickly searched his messages and past calls for any contact with Y, but there was nothing. Small consolation. He still shouldn’t have saved that bloody number.

She tossed the phone across the bed, the thud as it hit the duvet breaking through her red mist of anger, then she picked up her wine again and climbed into bed, still fully clothed, hoping that the warmth of the duvet would make the shivering stop.

She reached over to Ray’s side and picked up the tie that she’d left there, wrapping it around her neck, desperate to have a part of him touching her.

How was she to live? What was she to actually do with her days? Her dreams had been their dreams. Her plans had been their plans. How was she to move forward on her own, to have a purpose in a life without him in it?

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First confession time; I haven’t had the pleasure to read any of Shari Low’s work before, but from reading this one I will be reading more of her work in the future. I was fascinated by the sound of this and that was enough to draw me and want to read it and am I so pleased that I did, this is a hugely emotional and very poignant book that is so relative to our times and our lives.

This is Me is such a heart-warming story that so many women can relate to, it’s bursting with huge amounts of emotion. Its real and at times haunting, and it will certainly make you evaluate your own life and the choices you have made. It’s all about the two women; mother and daughter Denise and Claire and their choices in life; motherhood and relationships, the choices they have to make and the consequences that arises because of those decisions.

Denise has always put her husband; Ray first above all else, which did include her daughter Claire. Denise idolized her husband and when he passes she soon realises that her marriage was the idyllic haven she had always thought it to be. She sees that over the years her and daughter Claire have drifted further and further apart and they are at the stage that their relationship may never be fixed. Claire has always resented how her mother treated – or not treated her and she vowed that she would never be like that with her own children. She has always put her sons first, even at the cost of her own marriage but now they have flown the nest she starts to see that she has isolated herself and worries that she may missed her chance for happiness for herself.

This is a powerful, thought provoking read that so many can relate to in one way or another, it really focus on the estranged and fragile relationship between mother and daughter. Questions arise throughout that really make you think, and look at your own relationships through fresh eyes.

This is written through both Denise and Claire’s POV, you see both sides of the story and see the damage that has been caused on both sides. The question of who was in the right does pop up many times during the book, and to be honest I think both were wrong in ways, but This Is Me is one of those books that will open conversations and make people talk. The characters are perfectly written, they are real and relatable and I thoroughly enjoyed going on their personal journeys with them and when we find out what kind of man ray really was….well he was horrid!

There is sadness, tears, laughter, confusion, frustration, honestly you will go on a roller-coaster ride of emotions with this, the writing is so clear and vivid that you will feel every emotion as thought your are living it yourself.

Very highly recommended!

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About the Author

Shari Low is the No1 best-selling author of over 20 novels, including One Day In December, A Life Without You, The Story Of Our Life, With Or Without You and her latest release, Another Day In Winter. And because she likes to over-share toe-curling moments and hapless disasters, she is also the shameless mother behind a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. Once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, a labradoodle, and two teenagers who think she’s fairly embarrassing except when they need a lift. For all the latest news, visit her on Facebook, twitter, or at http://www.sharilow.com

Follow Shari : Website / Twitter: @ShariLow / Facebook: @sharilowbooks

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Blog Tour Schedule

Do have a look at the over great blogs on this tour.

Follow Aria : Website / Twitter: @aria_fiction / Facebook: @ariafiction / Instagram: @ariafiction

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#BlogTour : No Other Duke But You (Playful Brides #11) by Valerie Bowman #Review & Exclusive #Extract #NoOtherDukeButYou #PlayfulBrides @StMartinsPress

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Hello my lovely readers! Do I have a great post for you today?! I have the huge pleasure to be today’s stop on this great blog tour for No Other Duke But You by Valerie Bowman, no only will I be sharing my review of this No Other Duke But You, with you all, but I have an exclusive extract for you all to feast your eyes on. So, do grab yourself a cuppa, take a seat and enjoy.

SINGLE LADY SEEKS DUKE

Lady Delilah Montebank has her marital sights set on the Duke of Branville. There’s just one problem: he barely knows she exists. But no matter, she’s got a plan to win him over with her charm, her wit—and perhaps the love potion she has in her possession wouldn’t hurt her cause…

Lord Thomas Hobbs, Duke of Huntley, thinks his best friend Delilah’s quest to become a duchess is ridiculous. He’s always said he’d rather give up all the brandy in London than commit to one person for life. Besides, he knows that Delilah’s love potion can’t possibly win over Branville…since she accidentally gave it to him instead. But perhaps this is the excuse he needs to show her he’s always loved her…

Delilah can’t believe she gave the potion to the wrong duke. Then again, Delilah could do a lot worse than win the hand of her handsome best friend. Could it be that the right duke has been before her eyes all along?

Purchased Here

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Exclusive Extract

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Delilah glanced up and down the dim hallway. It was well past three in the morning, she was still dressed in the pink ball gown she’d worn to the party, and she clutched the small vial of Cupid’s Elixir in her sweaty, guilty palm. She pressed her back against the shadowed wall not far from the Duke of Branville’s bedchamber. She could do this. More importantly, she would do this. She’d come this far, hadn’t she? What did a little sneaking about in the middle of the night matter?

She’d got detailed instructions to Branville’s room from Derek, who thankfully hadn’t asked any questions about why she wanted to know. According to him, the room was four doors to the right, just past the staircase on the third floor. The third floor was where all the bachelor gentlemen were sleeping. It would be a complete scandal if she was found lurking about alone at this time of night, but she’d waited until the household seemed quite asleep and then waited a bit longer for good measure. Anyone who saw her now would be skulking about themselves, which meant they would hardly be in a position to judge her. She briefly wondered if she’d run into Lavinia.

It was not as if she was out to do anything particularly scandalous. It was more silly and frivolous than anything else. She’d simply die, however, if Branville woke up and asked her what she was doing sprinkling pixie water in his eyes. She’d already decided to pretend as if she were dreaming, thinking she was Puck in the play. Sleepwalking. That would make all the sense in the world. Wouldn’t it? She swallowed hard. Probably not, but she wasn’t about to let the fear of being caught stop her. Besides, all of her and Lucy’s matchmaking had turned into a colossal mess. If a spray of perfume could sort it out, so be it. Of course, Delilah’s conscience reminded her that she hadn’t offered any of the perfume to Rebecca to use on Thomas. She didn’t want to even contemplate that. She’d already shared it with one other person, and that made her guilty enough. The image of Madame Rosa’s disapproving, craggy face had haunted her all evening.

Delilah shook off the thought and turned her attention back to the matter at hand. Pressing her empty palm against the darkened wall, she inched her way along until she came to Branville’s door. She felt like a spy. This was how professional spies did such things, wasn’t it? Too bad she was too embarrassed by her actions to ask the veritable house full of professional spies who happened to be asleep behind other doors right now.

She transferred the vial into her opposite hand and slowly reached to grasp the door handle. The metal was cold in her bare hand. She’d discarded her gloves, deciding that they would make her actions more clumsy. The last thing she needed tonight was to be more clumsy than usual. Decidedly, she needed to be less so.

She clutched the door handle like a lifeline and closed her eyes, steadying her shaking fingers on the knob. She was close, so close. Praying that the door wouldn’t squeak, she turned the handle slowly. The only sound was the thumping of her own heart in her ears.

When the handle was turned as far as it would go, she pushed it, praying fervently that it wasn’t locked. It took a moment before she realized the door was opening. Its hinges silent, merci a Dieu. Completely silent.

She slipped inside the cool, dark room. Steady, deep breathing came from the bed. Thank goodness, she hadn’t woken the duke with her entrance. She could barely see a thing, but she didn’t dare light a candle. A tiny stream of moonlight filtered into the room through a small opening in the curtains on the far window. She used that to identify the hulking bed in the center of the room. She tiptoed over to it slowly, taking care in case there was anything to trip over. No doubt she would find it if there was.

She made it to the foot of the bed without incident and paused, trying to quell her nerves and dispel her guilt. She clutched the vial more tightly in her palm, shaking with fear and anxiety. Now that she was here, she had no earthly idea how to drop liquid on a man’s eyes without awakening him. Besides, how much of it was she supposed to use? Surely not much. She would employ the tiniest drops possible so as not to disturb him, but she also needed to ensure the perfume touched his eyelids. Tricky business, this being a fairy. She had a sudden appreciation for Puck.

Holding her breath, she lifted her skirts with her free hand and tiptoed to the right side of the bed. Because it was summer, the bed curtains weren’t drawn. The window was open, and a slight breeze blew through the crack in the curtains.

The outline of the duke’s body was barely visible in the moonlight. He was turned away on his side, his back to her, his face toward the window. She would have to lean over his body to sprinkle the elixir on his eyes. The bed was tall. She must carefully climb up to do this task properly. She only hoped she didn’t jostle the mattress enough to wake him.

She waited in silence for a few moments to ensure his breathing remained steady, then she carefully lifted first one knee and then the other, bracing them on the mattress and pulling herself up, still clutching the vial. She winced as he moved slightly in his sleep, but he kept his face turned away. Blast it.

Once she was fully atop the bed, she paused and hoped the hammering of her heart didn’t wake him. He smelled good, a combination of soap and maleness that she wanted to breathe in. There was something vaguely familiar about his scent.

Shaking away that unhelpful thought, she moved gingerly across the mattress on her knees until she came to a stop at his side. His shirt was off. The beam of moonlight hit his smooth, muscled arm. She swallowed. The man’s chest was positively swoon-worthy. She took a deep breath to calm her nerves and uncorked the vial. Then she carefully leaned over as far as she could to locate his eyes. They remained shrouded in the dark, but she took a guess as to their general direction and tipped the little vial as slowly and carefully as she could. He turned then, and she was afforded enough light to see that the first tiny drop of liquid did indeed fall directly onto his eyelid.

He blinked, and she held her breath. When he settled back into sleep, she closed her eyes and said a brief prayer that she would get away with it a second time before tipping the vial once more to allow another tiny drop to fall on his other eyelid.

He blinked and rubbed at his eyes while Delilah held her breath again, paralyzed with fear. Soon, he settled back into his pillow and his breathing returned to its steady pace.

She pressed a hand to her throat. It was over. She was done. All she had to do was extract herself from the bed and the room without being seen or heard. The difficult part was behind her.

Still praying he wouldn’t stir, she backed away from the duke. Slowly. Slowly. She’d nearly made it to the edge of the bed when he flipped over to face her. A beam of moonlight slid over his sleeping features.

Delilah gasped.

From No Other Duke But You. Copyright © 2019 by Valerie Bowman and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

This is book eleven in the ‘Playful Brides’ series, and even though I haven’t read them all, I have thoroughly enjoyed all that I have read, these books are a lot of fun to read Valerie Bowman has a real witty way with words that never fails to amuse. She has genuine gift for her play on words and her imaginative storylines ….plus, not to mention her amazing heroes!

Delilah has come to the point in her life where she really must wed, after all she can’t very well keep going around like a feral child for the rest of her life now can she? She knows who she wants to marry, the only problem is to catch his attention. So, she devises a ‘not so’ brilliant plan to lace her intended with a love potion that will have him falling to his knees in love with her, then she can live happily ever after. Sounds like a good plan, right?

Unfortunately for Delilah her great plan doesn’t go to plan as the man she wanted doesn’t end up drinking her potion, but instead the man she has always seen as a best friend does. Oops!

Thomas has always had feelings for Delilah, he has never had any inclination to get stuck in the parsons mousetrap himself, yet when he sees his friend so adamant on becoming a duchess and her infatuated with another man he starts to have stirrings which shows themselves as true love for her. So, he starts to show her exactly how much she means to him.

Will Thomas finally prove to her that he has always loved her? And will they finally have their happily ever after?

The story which follows is a fun, clever and imaginative and quirky; friends to lovers romance. Even though this is a very fun, light-hearted and easy to read book and there is a real playful element to it which I found very entertaining, yet for me it wasn’t the best I have read of the series. It did feel as though there was something lacking, it didn’t quite have the same magic as the other books did. It has all the ingredients of a brilliant Valerie Bowman book; imaginative and fun plot and sensual, charismatic and lovable characters. But whether because it’s the last book, it has lost some of that much loved sparkle.

Overall this is a charming, little story that has a real warmth and wit to it that will entertain, those who love Ms Bowman’s work will devour it in one.

This was a complementary copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review as apart of this blog tour.

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About The Author

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

#BlogTour : The Earl’s Runaway Governess by Catherine Tinley @CatherineTinley #Review, Exclusive Extract & #Giveaway #TheEarlsRunawayGoverness @MillsandBoon @HarlequinBooks via @rararesourses

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Hello my lovelies, I am so excited to be one of the blogs to be kicking off this smading blog tour, for the beautiful; The Earl’s Runaway Governess, the new realease by Catherine Tinley. Not only will be sharing my review of this amazing book, but I also have an exclusive extract and a giveaway. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a cuppa and let me tell you about this marvellous book.

The Earl’s Runaway Governess by Catherine Tinley

Genre : Historical Romance

Publisher : Mills and Boon/Harlequin

Who knew living with an Earl…

would lead to such temptation?

Marianne Grant’s new identity as a governess is meant to keep her safe. But then she meets her new employer, Ash, Earl of Kingswood, and she immediately knows his handsome good looks are a danger of their own! Brusque on first meeting, Ash quickly shows his compassionate side. Yet Marianne doesn’t dare reveal the truth! Unless Ash really could be the safe haven she’s been looking for…

Purchase Here

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Extract

The interior of the inn was dark, cosy, and well-maintained. A fire burned in the grate, for the January day was chilly. Marianne made her way towards the wooden counter at the far end of the room, where a woman who must be the landlady was busy pouring ale. As she walked, Marianne found herself warily assessing the strangers in the room. Since the day and hour she had left home she had not felt truly safe, for even a minute. She had no experience with which to assess where danger might lurk, so she found herself constantly on edge.

Her fellow passengers were already seating themselves in various parts of the taproom, and there were also two men who looked like they might be farmers, each with a mug of beer in front of him.

Then she saw him. Her heart briefly thumped furiously in her chest, and the hairs at the back of her neck stood to attention.

He was seated with his back to her, at the table closest to the counter. She could see his dark hair, swept forward in a fashionable style. He wore a driving cloak with numerous capes. She could also see long legs encased in tight-fitting pantaloons and gleaming black boots. He looked like any one of a dozen London bucks. Except this time, she reminded herself, you have no reason to fear him.

She kept walking, soothing herself with calm thoughts. As she reached his table, she turned her head, compelled to confirm it was no one she knew.

This man was a few years older than Henry – perhaps in his late twenties or early thirties. His hair was similar – thick, dark, and luxuriant. But the face was totally different. This man was handsome – or at least, he would be if he were not scowling so fiercely. His strong bones and lean features contrasted with Henry’s slight pudginess and rather weak jawline. And, now that she could see all of him, she realised that his body shape was totally different to Henry’s. He was lean and muscular, with no sign of a paunch. The clothing was similar to that favoured by Henry – and indeed, by all the young bucks of London. There the resemblance ended.

Sensing her there, he looked up from his mug and their eyes met. Stormy blue eyes bore into hers and Marianne felt a slow flush rise. My, but he was attractive! – and, she realised, his gaze was doing strange things to her. Breaking away from that endless, compelling contact, she bit her lip and took the final four steps to the counter.

Yes, Miss?’

Marianne summoned a polite smile. She felt slightly lost and shaky, and she could feel the man’s gaze boring into her back. Still, she managed to reply to the landlady. ‘I am expecting someone to meet me here. I have travelled from London on the mail coach.’

Who is it you are expecting, miss?’

Marianne’s brow creased. ‘I am not exactly sure.’ Inside, panic was rising. What if there has been some mistake? What if there is no governess position? ‘I am to take up a position as governess at a place called Ledbury House. I was told to travel here by mail coach today.’

Ledbury House? This gentleman –’ she indicated the fashionable buck ‘– is also travelling there. Perhaps you are expected to travel with him?’

Heart sinking, Marianne swung round to face him. His scowl had deepened as he listened to their exchange, and he now raised a quizzical eyebrow. ‘Curious’ he mused. ‘And to think I was unaware of the delights this day would hold.’

Marianne was taken aback. She was unsure how to take this. The man’s words were perfectly polite, but something about the tone suggested the possibility that he was not, in fact, delighted. Accustomed as she was to straightforward politeness, his words and tone felt disconcerting. Something of what she was feeling must have shown on her face because, as she watched him, his expression changed to one of chagrin.

I have no doubt,’ he murmured cryptically, ‘that this is a mess of Fanny’s making, and I am expected to fix it. Well, I shall do so this one time, but no more.’ With this enigmatic statement, he drained his mug, then stood. ‘You’d best come with me.’

Not waiting for her reply, he swung away towards the door.

Marianne stood rooted to the spot, uncertainty bedevilling her. Should she go with him? A stranger, and she was to travel with him unaccompanied. Miss Marianne Grant, a lady, would never have done so. Miss Anne Bolton, governess, could.

Conscious that all eyes were all on her, Marianne was surprised to find determination rising within her. Surprised, because she did not often need to be brave. She was normally a placid, timid creature, most at home with a book in her hand and harmony and peace all around.

This unknown gentleman was expecting her to simply climb into a carriage beside him – without any chaperone, maid, or footman accompanying them. Perhaps he had a groom? Well, even if he didn’t, it was clear that everyone expected the governess to go with him and be grateful for the ride.

Although he was handsome and strangely compelling, she was almost relieved to be wary of him – being guarded would be much, much safer than being attracted to him.

Torn between the surprising temptation to sit down somewhere safe and wait for an unknown rescuer, and the (even stronger) temptation to run, to get as far away as she could from the danger inherent in being alone in a carriage with a man, Marianne recognised that instead, her best option was simply to get into the carriage and hope she would be safe with him.

*Extract was provided and used with permission from the author as apart of this blog tour post.

Well this is a beautifully written, hopeful and very loving story that really instils in the reader that love really can appear in the most surprising of places when you least expect it. I have said it before but I will say it again, that Catherine Tinley wondrous writer, she takes the reader on an emotional journey to find that elusive happily ever after, I have always felt that she genuinely loves the era and the stories she writes about as her passion just jumps of the page with every word.

Marianne runs away from home after her lecherous, foul and drunken step-brother makes it abundantly clear exactly what he expects from his ward; Marianne. She knows that for as long as she is under his roof she will never be safe, so she flees and takes a position as a governess under the alias of ‘Anne Bolton’. She hopes that as her position is in the country and far away from London she will be safe, but as we all know nothing is ever as it may appear in historical romance and there is always road blocks in the way. That said road block just happens to be the rakish, rude and society loving new Earl Kingswood; Ash.

Ash neither expected the Earldom or wanted it, he has been raised to live life free and basically to do as he pleases with no responsibility, something which he loathes more than actually having the title. So, you can imagine what a kick in the rump it was that the notorious playboy must put others before himself for a change. He had planned to settle what needs to be settled with the estate and then hop it back to London as fast as his beautiful horses will take him, but things tend to always get in the way especially when h meets Marianne.

You can see that there is a spark between them, there are little glances but in all essence it is a will they, wont they love story; which I found utterly charming. But with Marianne having deep secrets and Ash not ready to commit himself, there is a wall between them. What will happen when Marianne’s true identity comes out? – when that does happen it is a fabulous piece of writing.

Even though I did end up falling in love with Ash, I will admit that it took me a while to warm to him. I can’t explain why, I just didn’t feel as drawn to him at first as I usually do with heroes. There was something very self-centred about him that put me of. He did have to work all that much harder to win me over, but I am pleased to say he did. This is what I love and admire about Catherine Tinley, to be able to completely change the readers initial opinion of a character from; ‘Hmmm, I’m not sure I even like this guy.’ to ‘Oh, my goodness! I’m in love!!’ that is a real gift in writing and there are few authors out there who can so easily accomplish it. So, I whole-heartedly applaud you Catherine!

Whereas I instantly connected with Marianne, she is this an amazing young women, to leave home and everything she knew; her whole life is such a strong act. Yes, she had no choice about leaving she knew that if she stayed something terrible would have happened to her at the hands of her foul, lecherous step-brother. Knowing that one must leave is one thing, but for her actually to do it without even a shred of thought of what would happen to her is another. But, yet she takes the bull by the horn and plunges into her secret life as a governess.

This book really conveys just how powerless women were, not just with Marianne having her awful step-brother becoming her guardian, meaning in the eyes of the law she is his and can basically do as he wishes with. But you also see that power being flaunted in the case of the Dowager Countess of Kingswood and her daughter, I won’t say too much about the details as it would give too much of the plot away but there were times when I did feel a pang of pity for the Countess. This is what makes Ms Tinley’s writing pure, realistic and so brilliantly powerful, that us reader go through a monopoly of emotions as we read.

Overall this is a definite must read, I love the personal journey Ash and Marianne go on through out the story, they both have to get past their own personal issues, but I also like that there is an undercurrent of suspense that runs throughout the story. It’s alike a tingling of what is to come, of something more. I have loved every book of Ms Tinley’s that I have read so I knew that I would be in for something great and it doesn’t disappoint.

Very highly recommended!

This was an Arc copy via the author in exchange for an honest review as apart of this blog tour, Thank you Catherine and Rachel.

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About The Author

Catherine Tinley writes witty, heartwarming Regency love stories for Harlequin Mills & Boon. She has loved reading and writing since childhood, and has a particular fondness for love, romance, and happy endings.

After a career encompassing speech & language therapy, NHS management, maternity campaigning and being President of a charity, she now works in Sure Start. She lives in Ireland with her husband, children, and dog and can be reached via the links below.

Website / Twitter / Facebook

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Giveaway

To be in for a chance of winning one of three signed copies of The Earl’s Runaway Governess, plus a mystery book by another romance writer. The enter via the Rafflecopter form/Link below.

Rafflecopter Giveaway – Enter Here

Open Internationally – 2 x UK winners and 1 x International Winner.

*T&C’s : Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

#BlogTour : The Woman In The Lake by Nicola Cornick @NicolaCornick #Review & Exclusive Extract #WomanInTheLake @HQstories

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Hello my lovelies, I have the great pleasure to be todays stop on this great blog tour. I will be sharing my review of The Woman In The Lake, plus I have an exclusive extract. So grab a cuppa and let me tell you a wee bit about the great book.

About The Book

From the bestselling author of House of Shadows and The Phantom Tree comes a spellbinding tale of jealousy, greed, plotting and revenge—part history, part mystery—for fans of Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley and Barbara Erskine

London, 1765

Lady Isabella Gerard, a respectable member of Georgian society, orders her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it, its shimmering beauty tainted by the actions of her brutal husband the night before.

Three months later, Lord Gerard stands at the shoreline of the lake, looking down at a woman wearing the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this was not his intended victim…

250 Years Later…

When a gown she stole from a historic home as a child is mysteriously returned to Fenella Brightwell, it begins to possess her in exactly the same way that it did as a girl. Soon the fragile new life Fen has created for herself away from her abusive ex-husband is threatened at its foundations by the gown’s power over her until she can’t tell what is real and what is imaginary.

As Fen uncovers more about the gown and Isabella’s story, she begins to see the parallels with her own life. When each piece of history is revealed, the gown—and its past—seems to possess her more and more, culminating in a dramatic revelation set to destroy her sanity.

Exclusive Extract

Prologue

Eustace April 1765

I know what they will say of me when I am dead. I will be cast as a madman and a fool. They will blame the divorce, so scandalous for a peer of the realm, and claim that it drove me to misery and delusion, that it turned my mind. They will rake up all the old gossip and call my wife a whore. It pleases me that society will slander Isabella over again. I will gladly tolerate being painted a cuckold and a weakling if it hurts her. I wish I could hurt her more but she is beyond my reach now, more is the pity. There are those who call me a wicked man. They are wrong. True evil requires intent and I never had the will or the cunning to be truly wicked.

Only once was I tempted to commit murder and even then it was not my fault, for I swear I was possessed. It was the golden gown that moved me to evil and the gown that led to that most terrible mistake. I remember the horror of it to this day. I still see the scene so clear before my eyes. She was walking ahead of me, through the dappled moonlight, and I recognised the gown and hastened my step.

I swear I had no fixed intention, no thought of murder, not at that moment. I wanted to talk, to reason with her. Then, on the path by the mill, she seemed to stumble and fall and all of a sudden I was seized by the thought that this was my chance to be rid of the threat for ever. I could not bring myself to touch her directly so I nudged her body with my boot and she rolled gently, so gently, over the edge and into the pool. I see it all again: the silver moon swimming beneath the water and the golden gown billowing out about her like a shroud slowly unfurling. I needed to claim that gown but my fear made me clumsy and I ripped it from her body when it would not yield to my hands.

And then…

I break out into a cold sweat whenever I remember. Everything is so vivid. The sweet scent of lime blossom mingled with the stink of dank weed from the millpond, the endless roar of the water over the sluice like the rush to bedlam. And then…

The body rolled over in the water and I saw her properly for the first time in the moon’s reflected glow. It was not the face of my nemesis. I stood there with the gown dripping in my hands and then I was sick; sick with revulsion, sick with fear, sick with disappointment. Binks came upon me as I knelt there, retching up my guts.

I will attend to this, Lord Gerard,’ he said, as though he were my butler tidying away a glass of spilt wine.

You should have left it with me, as we agreed.’ Binks was a damned impertinent fellow but a useful one and I was not going to argue with him. I took my carriage back to Lydiard House and I sat here in my study and drank more than I had ever taken before.

I was out cold for three days. When I came to my senses the first thing I saw was the golden gown draped across the end of my bed like a reproachful ghost. I wanted to be rid of it, to burn it, rip it to shreds or give it to the first beggar woman I saw but at the same time I was too afraid; afraid that somehow, some day, it would return to haunt me.

My only safety lay in keeping it close to me. Wherever I went the gown came with me, wrapped up tightly, hidden away to contain its poison, but with me all the same. And that is how it haunted me for ever after. That is how it has possessed me, in mind and body. I have no notion what happened after I left Binks to do the work that I dared not do. I heard reports of the tragedy of course, for the servants were full of the story and it was in all the local newspapers. It was a famous scandal that respected Swindon banker and businessman Samuel Lawrence had drowned his wife in the millpond and then apparently taken his own life, following her down into those dark waters.

In time I almost came to believe those stories myself. Except that for as long as the gown is with me, I will remember the truth. I will remember Binks, who disappeared like a will-o’-the-wisp once the deed was done, and I will remember Binks’s men, the Moonrakers, hard men, smugglers, criminals. I have lived in fear of them these past twenty years for I know they hate me for killing one of their own.

My life is so much more precious, infinitely more important than theirs, and yet I live in fear of a gang of felons. From the drawing room window I can see the lake here at Lydiard Park glittering in the morning sun. On the days when I am too drink-sodden and addled to walk, the steward places me here, telling me that it will raise my spirits to see the world outside. Little does he know that nothing could cause me more pain than to look upon the shining water. Or perhaps he does know it, and places me here to torment me. Perhaps he hates me too.

The Moonrakers will come for me soon. This morning I received a token from their leader. It was such a beautiful gift, an inlaid box. I unwrapped it with greedy excitement until I saw the tiepin inside with the design of a hanged man, the word ‘remember’, and the initials C. L. Then I dropped it and it went skittering away across the floor propelled by my revulsion. She need have no fear. I shall never forget that day. The gown will remind me. It will possess me to my last breath. The sun swims under the rippling water and the day turns dark.

The Moonrakers are ready. Ready to fish for their fortunes again, ready for time to repeat itself, ready for the secrets to be told.

Chapter 1

Fenella 2004

She could never forget the day she stole the gown. Twenty-three of them visited Lydiard Park that day. It should have been twenty-five but Emily Dunn had chickenpox and Lauren Featherstone’s parents had taken her on holiday to Greece despite the fact that it was still term time, and Mrs Holmes, the headmistress, disapproved. Mr Featherstone paid the fees, though, so Mrs Holmes kept quiet. There were three teachers as well, not that many to keep them all under control. Two of them looked harassed – Miss Littlejohn always looked harassed, and Mr Cash didn’t really like children much – they all knew it even though he never said so – but Miss French was all relaxed and smiley. Miss French was cool, more like a big sister than a teacher.

Just one more room to visit, girls,’ she coaxed, when they all started to drag their heels due to heat and tiredness and endless stately home corridors, ‘and then we can go to the tearoom and the shop.’ Fen didn’t have any money to spend in the shop because her grandmother had forgotten again. She wasn’t sure if anyone remembered to pay her school fees either but until someone said something she was stuck at St Hilda’s and that was fine. She’d been to worse schools, plenty of them, some of them boarding, some not. She made friends quickly and easily because she’d learned how. It was either that or forever be the loner, the outsider, the one who came and went without leaving a trace.

Fen,’ Jessie, her best friend, all brown curls and bossiness, was pulling on her sleeve. ‘Come on.’ But Fen lingered in the state bedroom as the gaggle of schoolgirls in their red and white summer dresses and red blazers went chattering through the doorway into the drawing room.

As soon as they were gone the silence swept back in like a tide, cutting her off. It was odd, as though a thick door had slammed somewhere separating her from the rest of the world. She could hear her own breathing, feel the sun on her face as it fell through the high windows to speckle the wooden floor. It wasn’t a room that appealed to her at all.

Her bedroom in her grandmother Sarah’s house in West Swindon was quite small, painted pale green and had an accumulation of vintage bits of china and glass and other small pieces that Sarah had encouraged her to buy on their trips to the flea markets and car boot sales. This huge space with its flock allpaper, soaring white pillars and four poster bed with its embroidered hangings seemed completely lifeless. It was no one’s room, merely a museum. The whole place felt empty to her and a bit creepy; the other rooms held waxwork figures in period dress that had made her shudder. The other girls had giggled over them but Fen had imagined them as zombies or automatons come to life, stalking the corridors of the old house.

There was a door in the corner and beyond it a room that looked to be full of light. It beckoned to her. Fen peeped inside. It was small, oval-shaped, painted in blue and white like the Wedgwood vases that her grandmother collected. What caught her eye, though, was the stained glass window with its tiny little painted panels depicting colourful pictures of fruit, flowers, animals – was that an elephant? – something that looked half-man half-goat, a ship to sail away in, a mermaid…

The window enchanted her. She stretched out a hand towards the light, wanting to touch those bright panes and experience that vivid world but before her fingers touched the glass there was the sound of running footsteps behind her.

Fen! Fenella! Where are you?’ It was Jessie’s voice, anxious and breathless now. Fen dropped her hand and turned quickly, hurrying back through the door of the closet into the bedroom beyond. Jessie was not there. Everything looked the same, as empty and lifeless as before. And yet on second glance it did not. It took Fen a moment to realise what was different. The shutters at the windows were now closed and the lamps were lit; they smelled unpleasantly of oil and heat.

Perhaps one of the curators had come in whilst she was in the blue closet and had decided to block out the bright sun in case it damaged the furnishings. That was not the only difference though. The bed was rumpled, covers thrown back, and the wardrobe door was half-open, revealing shelves of clothes within that looked as though they had been tossed aside by an impatient hand. All of a sudden the place looked lived in rather than frozen in time. It was an unsettling feeling; instead of making the house seem more real, it gave Fen the creeps. Looking straight ahead, she was aware that her heart was suddenly beating hard but was not quite sure why. She walked quickly through into the drawing room to find the rest of the pupils. In the drawing room the differences were even more marked.

There was a fire burning fiercely in the grate even though here the shutters were thrown back and the room was in full sunlight. It was so hot and airless that Fen felt the sweat spring on the back of her neck and trickle uncomfortably beneath her collar. The whole house was as quiet as a sepulchre. It was uncanny. Over the high back of one chair, shimmering in the light with a soft, golden glow, was the most beautiful dress Fen had ever seen. She stared at it. It felt almost impossible to tear her gaze away. She did not even realise that she had started to move towards it; her hand was on the material and it felt as soft as clouds, lighter than air, a trail of silver and gold spangled with stars.

Pound? Where the hell are you, man?’ Fen had not seen the figure sitting before the window, almost hidden by the high curved back of a wing chair. She jumped at the crack of his voice and spun around. He was fair, florid, dressed in a wig and poorly fitting jacket with some sort of scarf wound carelessly about his neck and a waistcoat flapping open. He looked bad-tempered and drunk. Fen was only thirteen but she knew an alcoholic when she saw one. She could smell the fumes on him from where she was standing. Nevertheless she opened her mouth to apologise. He was probably a re-enactor of some sort, or a room steward, although really it didn’t seem appropriate to have drunks in costume wandering about the place.

I got lost—’ Quick, facile lies came easily to Fen, they were her survival tactics. But the drunk wasn’t looking at her, more over her shoulder towards the doorway.

Pound!’ the man roared. ‘Damn you, get in here now and pour me more wine!’ There was a bottle on the table, Fen saw, cruelly placed either by accident or design just out of his reach. He lurched forward and almost fell from the chair, clutching at the sides to steady himself. She saw his face clearly then; the vicious lines drawn deep about the mouth, the pain and frustration and anger in the eyes. Panic seized her. She wondered if she had unwittingly stumbled into some sort of performance put on for the visitors. Yet that didn’t feel right. There was no audience apart from her and the intensity of the man’s fury and desolation seemed all too visceral. She needed to get out of there.

Take me…’ The golden gown seemed to call to her. She felt the allure of it and was powerless to resist. The impulse was so strong and so sudden that she reacted instinctively. She grabbed the gown and ran, fumbling to push it into her rucksack, her feet slipping and sliding on the wooden floor. She was panting, her heart thumping, and she stopped only when she burst through the doorway into the hall and saw the startled faces of staff and visitors turned in her direction.

Fenella Brightwell?’ A woman with iron-grey hair and an iron demeanour, a museum piece herself, marched up to her.

Yes,’ Fen said. Her mind was still grappling with what she had seen; with the violence and the anger. Were they making a film? How embarrassing if she had accidentally wandered onto the set mid-performance. She would never live that down. Everyone would be laughing at her. No doubt the iron woman was about to tell her off.

We’ve been looking for you everywhere,’ the woman said. Her grey eyes snapped with irritation. ‘The rest of your group have gone back to the coach. If you run you might catch them.’

What? Oh, thank you.’ Fen was still distracted by the scene in the drawing room and the old man. There had been something pathetic about his impotent desperation. ‘Excuse me,’ she said, very politely, ‘but is there some sort of film being made in the drawing room? Only there was an old man sitting in a chair by the window and I thought—’

It’s forbidden to sit on the furniture,’ the woman said. ‘How many times do I have to tell people?’ And she stalked off towards the drawing room. Fen hoisted her rucksack onto her shoulder and went outside. It was a relief to be out in the fresh air. There had been something smothering about the room and its occupant, brim-full of anger and misery.

She started to walk up the wide gravel path through the woods. She had no intention of running all the way back to the car park. The coach wouldn’t go without her. The teachers would get into too much trouble if they did. She looked back at the house. There were visitors milling around in the drawing room. She could see them through the glass of the sash windows. The chair looking out over the gardens was empty. It was odd that the drunk had disappeared but perhaps the iron-grey woman had thrown him out already. He was probably homeless or care in the community, or something. She had more pressing things to think about anyway, such as the need for a plausible excuse for where she had been so that the teachers didn’t get cross with her.

You got locked in the lavatory!’ Miss French said, eyes lighting up with amusement, as Fen clambered aboard the coach and made her apologies. ‘Oh, Fenella! Only you!’ Even harassed Miss Littlejohn relaxed into a smile. Mr Cash didn’t; he looked hot and annoyed and had been searching the gardens for her. He didn’t look as though he believed her either but Fen didn’t care.

I looked for you everywhere,’ Jessie whispered, as Fen slid into the seat next to her. ‘How did you get out?’

They had to break the door in,’ Fen said. ‘The lock had jammed. They sent for a carpenter.’ She smiled. ‘He was cute.’

Fen was rescued by a cute carpenter,’ Jessie said, giggling, to Kesia, who was sitting across the aisle. Word went around the coach. Soon everyone was hanging over the back of the seats or crowding the aisle, wanting to know what her rescuer had looked like.

Sit down, girls,’ Mr Cash snapped. ‘You’re a health and safety hazard.’ There was more giggling at that. The coach dropped Fen off at the end of her grandmother’s road. No one else from school lived in The Planks, although the houses were very nice. Most of the girls lived in the picture postcard villages outside Swindon rather than in the town itself. There was always a slight drawing back, eyebrows raised in surprise, when Fen mentioned that she lived in town so she never told anyone.

When she pushed open the back door she could hear the sound of the television, very loud. It was four thirty. Her grandmother would already be halfway down her second bottle of wine by now, watching the afternoon soaps with her spaniel, Scampi, sleeping next to her. Fen didn’t interrupt her. Her grandmother was a happy drunk but not if someone disturbed her when she was watching TV. Anyway, she had homework to do, an essay on the visit to Lydiard Park, but that could wait. She rummaged in her coat pocket and took out a battered copy of Bliss magazine that she had found under Kesia’s seat in the coach and lay back on her bed with a contented sigh. She thought that Kes had probably dropped the magazine accidentally rather than finished with it but her loss was Fen’s gain. She’d give it back when she had read it since Kes was her friend. At five o’clock the living room door banged and there were footsteps on the stairs.

Fenella!’ Her grandmother never called her Fen. She thought it was common to shorten people’s names. ‘Darling!’ Her grandmother rushed in and wrapped her in a wine and patchouli scented hug. ‘How was the trip? Did you have fun?’

It was great, thanks.’ Fen never told her grandmother anything significant. She had learned long ago only to give adults information on a need-to-know basis. Perhaps the lesson had been learned when she had first tried to explain to her mother about her grandmother’s drinking. ‘We all like a glass of sweet sherry now and then, Fenella,’ her mother had said on a crackly telephone line from Patagonia, where she had been leading an archaeological dig. ‘Don’t worry about it. Your gran is fine.’

It was then that Fen had realised she was on her own. Her father had run off with one of his PhD students when she was only seven; they didn’t talk anymore, in fact she had no idea where he was, or even if he was dead or alive. One of her brothers was at boarding school, the other on a gap year in Malawi. Her elder sister, Pepper, was with their mother in Argentina, working as an unpaid assistant on the dig. Fen couldn’t tell either Jessie or Kesia about her gran, even though they were her closest friends at school. They might laugh at her or tell other people. It was too much of a risk.

I must show you the bracelet I bought in a charity shop this afternoon,’ Fen’s grandmother was saying. ‘I’m sure they’re real rubies, and nineteenth century too!’

Well, you never know,’ Fen said, squeezing her hand. She felt a rush of affection for Sarah. Her grandmother had been there for her when everyone else had buggered off and left her, and that counted for a lot even if it meant that Fen was looking after Sarah most of the time rather than vice versa. Besides, she knew that Sarah was sad. Fen didn’t remember her grandfather, who had died when she was only three, but by all accounts he had been a wonderful man as well as a rich one. Once widowed, Sarah had had plenty of suitors, as she quaintly called the men who were after Granddad’s money, but none of them held a candle to him. ‘What’s for tea?’ her grandmother asked now. With a sigh, Fen put aside the magazine and stood up. She knew she had better find something or it would be a tin of baked beans again.

It was only later that she opened her rucksack. The golden dress from Lydiard Park was bundled up inside. Fen had known it was there, of course, but she had deliberately ignored it because to think about it was too difficult. She didn’t know why she had stolen it. She wished she hadn’t. Sometimes she took small things: sweets from the post office, a pair of tights or some lipstick or face cream. She didn’t do it for the excitement. It was weird really. It scared her but at the same time she needed to do it. The impulse was uncontrollable. She had no idea why. It wasn’t as though she needed to steal.

Her grandmother was generous with pocket money when she remembered. It wasn’t even as though Fen wanted the things she took. She usually threw them away. The golden gown, though… That had felt different. The impulse to take it had been more powerful than anything she had ever previously known. It had been totally instinctive and irresistible, which was very frightening.

She wondered if anyone had noticed that it had disappeared. Surely they must and tomorrow there would be a message waiting for her to go to Mrs Holmes’s office and she would be arrested for theft, and then she would need to make up another story and convince them that she had taken it by accident. She screwed her eyes tight shut. She wasn’t a bad person. She did her best. But sometimes she just could not help herself. She should give the gown back. She should own up before anyone asked her. Fen stood irresolute for a moment in the middle of the bedroom floor, clutching the gown to her chest. She did not want to let it go. Already it felt too precious, too secret and too special. It wasn’t the sort of dress she would ever wear but, even so, she knew how important it was. She just knew it.

Her palms itched. Was it guilt? Greed? She was not sure. She only knew that it was essential that she should keep the gown. It was hers now.

She laid it flat on the desk and looked at it in the light from the anglepoise lamp. The material felt as soft as feathers, as light as clouds, just as it had when she had first touched it. It was so fine. She had never seen anything so pretty. The gold glowed richly and in the weave there was a bright silver thread creating elaborate patterns. Lace adorned the neck and dripped from the sleeves. Then she noticed the tears, two of them, ugly rips in the material, one at the waist, one on the bodice. She felt a sense of fury that anyone would damage the gown. She would have to sew it up and make it whole again. She felt compelled to repair it at once. The sensation was quite uncomfortable. It was urgent, fierce, as though the dress possessed her as much as she possessed it. She did not like the way it seemed to control her and tell her what to do. It felt as though she should go and find the needlework box and start work on the repairs at once.

Fen didn’t like anyone telling her what to do. She fought hard against the need to do as the dress demanded and folded it up again, very carefully, and placed it in the bottom drawer of the battered chest in the corner of the room. She didn’t like the chest much but Sarah had bought it at an antique fair in Hungerford and had sworn it was Chippendale. There was nowhere in the house for it to go so it had ended up in Fen’s room, the home for homeless objects. She pushed the drawer closed and the golden radiance of the gown disappeared. Immediately she felt a little easier, safer in some odd way. Out of sight, out of mind. She could forget that she had stolen it now, forget the drunken man and his fury, the over-heated room, the smothering blanket of silence. She wanted to forget and yet at the same time the gown would not allow it… The phone rang downstairs, snapping the intense quiet and freeing her. Fen waited for Sarah to answer it but there was no sound, no movement above the noise of the television. The bell rang on and on. It would be her mother, Lisa, Fen thought, checking the time. It was early evening in Patagonia.

She could tell her all about the visit to Lydiard House and how she had got locked in the lavatory even though she hadn’t. At the end her mother would say ‘only you, Fenella,’ like Miss French had, and laugh, and they would both be happy because everything seemed normal even if it wasn’t really. Her mother never wanted to know if there was anything wrong. She certainly would never want to know that her daughter had stolen a gown from a stately home, a gown that even now Fen itched to take from its hiding place and hug close to her. It felt like a battle of wills, as though she was possessed. Which was weird because at the end of the day it was only a dress. She went to answer the phone and when she had finished chatting to her mother and had roused Sarah, grumbling, from the ten o’clock news, she went to bed.

She half-expected to dream about the gown since it was preying on her mind but in the end she didn’t dream about anything at all and in the morning she got up and went to school and she wasn’t called into Mrs Holmes’s office and no one talked about the visit to Lydiard at all. On the way home she went into town with Jessie, Kesia, Laura and a few others, and when they weren’t watching, she pocketed a silver necklace from the stand on the counter in the chemist shop. It was only a cheap little thing and when she got back and put it on the desk it looked dull in the light. One of the links was already broken. She knew she wouldn’t wear it so it didn’t matter. That wasn’t why she had taken it. There wasn’t a good reason for her actions. The dress, the necklace… She just had to take things. It made her feel better for about five minutes but then afterwards she felt worse.

Fenella!’ Her grandmother was calling her. Fen wondered if they had run out of milk. She hadn’t had chance to do the shopping yet. ‘Jessie’s mother’s here,’ Sarah said when Fen came downstairs. ‘She wonders if you would like to go over for tea?’

That would be lovely,’ Fen said. At least that way she would get a meal she hadn’t had to cook herself. Through the window she could see Jessie in the back of the Volvo and Jessie’s older brother – a thin, intense boy with a lock of dark hair falling across his forehead – in the front. He looked impatient. She grabbed her bag and ignored the coat Sarah was holding out to her. Old people always thought you had to wear a coat or you’d catch a chill but she never felt the cold.

For a moment she wondered what sort of state Sarah would be in when she got home but she pushed the thought away. It would good to be part of a proper family even if it was only for one evening. Perhaps Jessie’s mum would make shepherd’s pie and they could all sit around the telly and maybe she might even be asked to stay over. She sat in the back of the car beside Jessie and looked at the little silver charm in the shape of padlock that was attached to Jessie’s mum’s handbag. It was a pretty little thing and Fen badly wanted to take it, so badly it felt as though her fingers were itching. In the end she never got the chance but when she went to the cloakroom later she found another silver charm just lying on the windowsill, this one shaped like a letter A. She took that instead. She didn’t like taking things from Jessie’s house but the urge was just too strong and in the end there was nothing she could do to resist.

By the time Mrs Ross took her home she had also taken a little leather notebook and a nerdy-looking digital watch that probably belonged to Jessie’s brother. She didn’t like the watch; it was ugly, so she threw it in the bin as soon as she got home.

This is the first Nicola Cornick book I have read in ages, why I don’t know as she is a wonderful author, an author who grabs your attention right from the first page. I can only put it down to way too many books on my over flowing TBR pile, but I will definitely be squeezing in more Nicola Cornick books in the future.

This is a dark, mysterious, gorgeous, edge-of-your-seat story that will grab you the moment you open the first page. With the exciting, supernatural undercurrent and a great twisty tale The Woman In The Lake is a fantastic read that you will devour in one.

The Woman In The Lake is a time slip story, set in both the Georgian era and in the present. It tells the stories of three women, Isabella, Constance and Fenella all mysteriously linked together across the centuries via a beautiful golden dress that appears to have other-worldly powers. The dress was given to Lady Isabella by her malicious and abusive husband, really he is a nasty piece of work. Constance is Lady Isabella’s maid, who tries her best to look after Isabella and protect her as best she can and finally we have Fenella (Fen) who once in the possession of the dress she finds that the dress has dark powers which seem to control her very actions and makes her do things she wouldn’t normally.

I can’t really go into too much detail with this review as I wouldn’t wish to give too much away about the plot, I am not one to give spoilers. But I will say that this is brilliant and the real pull for me was the character’s which are wonderfully complex and at times flawed individuals, who you will become fully absorbed into each of their stories.

I was fascinated by this the moment I saw it, and I knew that I had to read it. I am so glad that I got the chance as it is a real edge of your seat, breath-taking book which not only takes you on a thrilling foray into the past but also keeps you guessing with the mystery. I loved how the story was told through the eyes of three women; Lady Isabella, Constance in the past and Fenella in the present, the way the story jumps from one era to the next with the past and present so intricately entwined is expertly written, not once was I confused as to who was who and which era I was reading. There is a real skill in time slip stories and Ms Cornick has got the gift of writing them with confidence and surety.

Over all an engaging, compelling, atmospheric and at times chilling story that you won’t be able to put down.

This was an Arc copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review as apart of this blog tour, thank you Lucy.

The Lady In The lake is available now and can be purchased from Amazon.

*Images and extract were provided by publisher who gave permission for the use of in this post.

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

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

Posted on Updated on

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

Posted on

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