Marie Lavel

Review – Miss Moonshines Emporium of Happy Endings; A Feel Good Collection of Heart-warming Stories

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Sometimes what you need is right there waiting for you…

Miss Moonshine’s Wonderful Emporium has stood in the pretty Yorkshire town of Haven Bridge for as long as anyone can remember. With her ever-changing stock, Miss Moonshine has a rare gift for providing exactly what her customers need: a fire opal necklace that provides a glimpse of a different life; a novel whose phantom doodler casts a spell over the reader; a music box whose song links love affairs across the generations. One thing is for certain: after visiting Miss Moonshine’s quirky shop, life is never the same again…

Nine romantic novelists from Yorkshire and Lancashire, including best-selling and award-winning authors, have joined together to create this collection of uplifting stories guaranteed to warm your heart. This intriguing mix of historical and contemporary romances will make you laugh, cry, and believe in the happy-ever-after.

Authors On The Edge

Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings is an anthology put together by a group of romantic novelists and short story writers from Yorkshire and Lancashire in the north of England. The group meet regularly in the little town of Hebden Bridge, and this location, lying as it does on the moors near the border between the two counties, led to the group name Authors on the Edge.

Authors on the Edge members are Mary Jayne Baker, Sophie Claire, Jacqui Cooper, Helena Fairfax, Kate Field, Melinda Hammond, Marie Laval, Helen Pollard, and Angela Wren.

Much cake was consumed by these authors in the making of this anthology.

This anthology is the creation of nine amazing authors, women who know their craft. Some are new to me; whose work I will be reading more of from now on and some I have read before and those have become firm must read authors for me. Ok, I will admit that as soon as heard about this anthology I was really exited about reading it and Yes, I was jumping up and down like a toddler who had eaten too much sugar when I got offered the chance to read it. And it exceeds my expectations, I was hooked. It really is seriously good!

I have decided not to write about each different part of the book like I usually would, as each one are short stories and I really don’t want to give too much away as this is a book that needs to be read for yourself to truly appreciate just how good it is.

Miss Moonshine’s Emporium is basically a Bric-a-Brac shop sitting in the heart of a little Yorkshire village called Haven Bridge, it’s like one of those shops that you don’t necessarily know it’s there until you need it, and whatever it is you need you will find it – which doesn’t necessarily mean object’s that you can buy. This is a wonderful place and the heart of the community, even if said community doesn’t even realize how much they have need of Miss Moonshine’s Emporium – I really need to find myself in Miss Moonshine’s! The real appeal to this wondrous shop is the owner; Miss Moonshine!

She is a fascinating woman who knows what each of her customer’s want before they even know it, she has this talent to read people and she knows thing’s about a person that astounds. I have never known a character like her before she is unique, other worldly and mysterious. She is timeless, no matter what era each story is set in Miss Moonshine is her usually mystical, kind and compassion self. Like myself, each character who encounter’s Miss Moonshine is intrigued by her, there is a magical quality about her that draws you in and you are engulfed by her serenity and simplistic views.

There are multiple eras from post Waterloo to present day, no matter what genre you read, whether that is historical, contemporary or supernatural, this caters for all romance reader. Ever reader will find something they love about this book.

Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Ending’s is a nine-story anthology, there are nine completely different stories and yet each one is connected with the others via the mesmerizing Miss Moonshine and her Emporium. Each story has its authors unique writing style, I really like how each of the author’s personalities really comes through their story. Each is as different as the authors are, this book just blends seamlessly together and flows from one story to the next, the transition is flawless and perfectly done.

Each story is heart-warming, fun and engaging to read. It is beautifully compiled to create a one of those rare books that is literally un-putdownable (Is that a word?). It is joyous, uplifting it leaves you on a high. It is joy incarnate, pure blissful escapism! It’s just so good, I really cannot say enough good things about it (I think I have probably over gushed as it is) and I know for a fact, that I will be reading this again. It is a fun, witty and above all very romantic book and I am hoping that ‘The authors on the Edge’ write another.

An absolute joy to read and very highly recommended!

Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings is to be released on 18th May and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

This was an ARC copy via the author’s in exchange for an honest review.

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Review – Little Pink Taxi by Marie Laval

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Take a ride with Love Taxis, the cab company with a Heart …

Rosalie Heart is a well-known face in Irlwick – well, if you drive a bright pink taxi and your signature style is a pink anorak, you’re going to draw a bit of attention! But Rosalie’s company Love Taxis is more than just a gimmick – for many people in the remote Scottish village, it’s a lifeline.

Which is something that Marc Petersen will never understand. Marc’s ruthless approach to business doesn’t extend to pink taxi companies running at a loss. When he arrives in Irlwick to see to a new acquisition – Raventhorn, a rundown castle – it’s apparent he poses a threat to Rosalie’s entire existence; not just her business, but her childhood home too.

On the face of it Marc and Rosalie should loathe each other, but what they didn’t count on was somebody playing cupid …

Oh, my word! What an incredible read, I absolutely love this book. I have recently re-discovered contemporary again and this is by far one of the best I’ve read. I literally devoured this, from page one I couldn’t put it down. I just needed to know what happened next. Laval has become a firm favourite author of mine, every book is journey you never know where it’s going to take you, with her mixed blend of romance, intrigue and that ever present Gaelic allure. This is my first contemporary by Laval and it is striking, it flows effortlessly. The story envelopes you in a mysterious blanket, swirling mists circulate as you are drawn deeper and deeper into the story and it all comes to a surprising and climatic finale.

Rosalie Heart – Heart by name, heart by nature – is the pink anorak wearing, driver and owner of taxi cab firm; Love Taxi’s. Rosalie isn’t just a taxi driver though, she and her little pink taxi are vital for the community; whether that be chauffeuring around the mother and toddler group, taking the elderly shopping and to their doctor’s appointments or just being a friendly face in a lonely person’s life. She hold’s her community together, she helps and is there when needed. She never over charges, that’s if she charges at all she understands the people of Irlwick far better than anyone. So far everything is going fine, that is until the cold, unfeeling yet, devilishly handsome Marc Peterson arrives and turn’s her well laid out life upside down.

Rosalie is a vibrant, honest and caring young lady. She genuinely cares for the people in the village, she has had a tough time which has mad her stronger then even she would care to admit. She is a bright and cheerful woman with a penchant for bright pink – which does match her sunny disposition. She tries very hard not to like Marc, there is a real struggle for her. She doesn’t want to even like him, for who he is yet she can’t get enough of him.

Cold and ruthless business man; Marc Peterson after the death of his father has inherited Raventhorn Castle, he fully intends of swooping in ascertaining what to do about the old Castle and then flying out to get on with his emotionless and lonely life. Only he soon realises that his usual approach isn’t going to work with this case, as everything goes wrong. He finds himself stuck in Scotland with a beautiful, if far too cheerful, pink wearing nymph who sings dreadful songs while driving badly.

Marc is an enigma, as the story evolves we get more and more glimpses of this charismatic man. Over and over again he proves that there is a heart beating beneath his icy exterior. Marc has a troubled mind, with so much that has gone on his life, I don’t think he has quite figured out what he wants – or more than that, who he is. Yet Rosalie gets under his skin, he feels himself being pulled towards her, With the little help from the mysterious ghostly lady!

As soon as they meet (which is such a funny scene, as he initially thinks she is a stripper) fireworks start exploding everywhere, they butt heads at every turn. When it comes to light that he isn’t merely a business acquaintance of her oldest and closet friend, he is actually the new owner of her home; Raven thorn Castle. She is shocked and confused, but more than that she is worried about not just her future but that of the village. With various mysterious things going on and the sudden appearance of a ghostly Raven Lady who seems to have taken a shine to our equally mysterious hero it all makes for a compelling and intriguing story.

This has everything and much, much more than a regular romance. There is intrigue and puzzles popping up at every turn, a myriad of ghostly goings on that keeps you guessing right to the final page. And it is all set with the most amazing Scottish backdrop. This is one of the things that I particularly love about Laval’s books is the detail in the setting’s, she captures your attention with building up the scene, layering up the human emotion and what is going on with the most exquisite setting. Her detail of Irlwick is breath taking, you can see the town, countryside and the Victorian-esque Raventhorn Castle in your mind as though you are actually there.

Little Pink Taxi is an absolute joy to read! Fun, exciting and romantic, with the most memorable plot and interesting character’s. I cannot say too many good thing’s about this, except that this has the potential to take this story further and there are so many more stories that could come out of this little village. I love Ms Laval’s Historical’s and now I do hope that she takes another trip into contemporary. I love it!

Very highly recommended, this is just pure joy wrapped up with a big pink bow.

Little Pink Taxi can be purchased from Amazon.

Chicks, Rogues and Scandals Best Books of The Year, 2017

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It’s that time of year again where I look back through the year and pick out my favourite books that I have featured on Chicks, Rogues and Scandals, it has been especially hard this time to pick my favourite’s as this year has been full of the most amazing books you can imagine. I have found new author’s that are now go to authors for their genre, new style books and series’ it has been an amazing year of reading. I have ditched my usual formula of best Hero/Heroine/Plot but I have still got a book of the Year – right at the bottom of the post. There are others books that I have loved this year, but if I kept adding books it would end up being my top 50 – I have already added more then I intended, as I only intended on doing my top ten, but there were some books that I couldn’t possibly leave off.  So, in no particular order here are my favourite Books of 2017 followed by my Book of the Year!

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14 Best Books of the Year; 2017

Echo in the Wind by Regan Walker

Echo in the Wind is a beautifully written story, its thrilling and exciting but yet the love story is so tender. Jeán Donèt really steals every scene he is featured in. He is a hero who can make any woman swoon with just a smouldering look, he is an enigmatic and suave individual who has a breath-taking Gaelic confidence and charisma. A heroine, who is not a wilting wallflower she is a vibrant and strong-willed, independent woman who has her own beliefs and views on the world and she isn’t afraid of voicing them. Together these two are a force to be reckoned with, but they compliment each other too. There isn’t anything about this that I don’t like!

The Viking Warriors Bride by Harper St George

This is so sexually charged, the chemistry between Vidar and Gwendolyn is red hot, any hotter and your eyes would smoke with just reading it, they are made of the same stuff. I love when they start getting to know each other, there is a real spark between them and the respect he shows her is sweet and uplifting. As always the writing is strong and articulated as we have come to expect from St. George. When I read an historical I like the historic detailing within the story and St George doesn’t disappoint, she has got it all spot on, everything is crystalized and explained to a high degree from the smells of our characters to the actual Viking marriage ceremony – which I found absolutely enchanting, the trading of the swords is a beautiful ritual.

Angel Comes to the Devils Keep by Regina Jeffers

This is highly enjoyable read, the romance between Angelica and Hunt simmers and sizzles nicely, Ms Jeffers has done a lovely job at building up their relationship from when Hunt gets injured right to the end, you never know in which direction their story is going to take as there is so much that stands in their way. Yet, that connection that they share, that Hunt has especially, is tender and loving and at times you are just as agonised as he is. I really like how Jeffers has mixes a romance novel with a murder, kidnapping an espionage thriller, I found it exciting, romantic and one that I highly recommend.

The Unexpected Countess by Laurie Benson

This is great read, there is the perfect amount of romance and adventure with a huge, fabulous twist that is so unexpected. The Unexpected Countess is a huge success, a thrilling jaunt with an original plot. It is just so good! Benson has really out done herself with Hart and Sarah she has done such a great job with them, especially Hart who is a seriously great man to get to know I like Benson’s work her fun and charming personality just oozes off the page. But what I particularly like about her writing is that you get a real feeling of a writer who loves what she does, she puts her heart and soul into her work, her warmth is so palpable, her work is comforting as well as thrilling which I find so rare.

The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews

Now I loved this book, I do love my heroes to be trouble and vulnerable and wanting a strong women to help them back to happiness and this is just that, this is truly breath-taking and I loved every single moment of it, the plot is gorgeously written. The simplicity of the story is what gives it real back bone, there isn’t twists turns at every corner so you lose track of the initial story. The Lost Letter is a beautiful, romantic and emotionally shattering, as the writing is so well-defined that you feel every emotion and I just love it to bits. For me this is one of those books that you keep on the bookshelf for ever, you will read and re-read it and you will never tire of Sylvia and Sebastian’s love story.

Besieged and Betrothed by Jenni Fletcher

What a terrific read, I will apologise for the amount of gushing I will most likely be doing about this book, but I have so much to say about it. Jenni Fletcher has real out done herself with this, it is such a compelling and highly charged romance that grips you from that very first page where our bulking, tank of a hero spots the fiery haired, tomboy on the battlements. I was literally hooked, and I was eager to finish and yet when I did turn the last page it was a sobering moment as that was it, done. I could’ve read this again as soon as I had finished. It’s fun, witty and at times heart-breaking, and fabulously engrossing. I just love it.

The Lions Embrace by Marie Laval

The Lions Embrace follows on from Angel Heart in the last book we met Marie-Ange and Hugo Saintclair who are the parents of our hero in this one; Lucas Saintclair and oh, my word what a man! He is simply delectable! Lava’s talent at entwining history of area and the cultures and languages, with a thrilling game of cat and mouse plus the tantalizing love story is faultless. She sprinkles The Lions Embrace with her customary Gaelic charm and she enhances your reading with detailing the sights, aromas and culture of each area we visit during the book and it enhances the reading experience. You become transported to this hot, dusty and dangerous place and it is utterly exhilarating.

 The Knights Scarred Maiden by Nicole Locke

I love this, this is absolutely superb! It sticks with you and gets under your skin, but in a very good way you become absorbed in their dark and dangerous world. I have read Historical Romances​ that has stuck with me long after finishing the book, but this is right up there with some of the best books I have read. It’s beautiful, heart wrenching and you get tingles while reading it. I do genuinely love this book, the plot is fast, complex and thrilling. Rhain and Helissent take you on this sensual, nerve wrecking journey as they find their feet and try to survive and move on with their lives.

The Last Gamble by Anabelle Bryant

This is the third instalment of “The Bastards of London Series” and I do think this is the best one yet. I have been really looking forward to reading this one, after meeting the dark and shadowy Luke Reece in the previous book’s he intrigued me. I wanted to know his story, his past and what in the hell his happening with his lost son and Bryant doesn’t disappoint. This series caught my attention from day one and it’s gone from strength to strength, Bryant has yet again created an entertaining, thrilling and sensuously attractive story. The thing that does set this one apart from the others has to be Luke, we have had snippets of this shadowy man’s turmoil in the previous two books “The Den of Iniquity” and “Into The Hall of Vice” and to finally get to see his story unfold and see his Happy Ever After is very satisfying

No Rest for the Wicked by Cora Lee

No Rest For The Wicked is apart of the “Heart of a Hero” series and it is a series I am looking forward to reading more of. The chemistry between out estranged couple is heated, the tension just ripples as well as the distrust for each other. This is fast, fun and exciting a fabulous read. I do really like this, it is smart, sexy and so well written but the more than that it makes you think. It is really lovely watching as these two get to know each other all over again and as their defences lower and they get closer and closer. They are both very reluctant to reveal their hearts, so it’s quite sweet when they finally do.

lord Hunter’s Cinderella Heiress by Lara Temple

This is book one in this new series; The Wild Lords and Innocent Ladies Series by the highly talented Lara Temple, and one that I have been looking forward to reading. But nothing prepared me for the huge emotion that surges through you as you read it. I know that Temple has said that this series is her baby, this is a personal story for her and you can really understand as you are reading it just how much of herself she has put into this. I have always liked her work but this really resonates with me, this touched a cord with me more than any other book I have read before, you can feel Temple’s heart and soul running through this, it is very emotional and it packs a real punch and it stays with you long after the last page.

The Crown Spire by Catherine Curzon & Willow Winsham

On first meeting their highway men our ladies fall for their irresistable and roguish charm in a heartbeat, not unsurprising really! They are saved and taken to an inn where they meet the cheeky, charming Innkeeper Ed Hogan and the shy, gentlemanly Doctor James Dillingham. There is something irresistable and provoking about these two handsome Scotsmen, not to mention something very familiar, could it be that Alice and Beth may have met these two rogues before? I love this, the chemistry between both our couples is rich and sensual and very sexy, like all Historical Romance fan’s I do particularly like a good rogue and The Crown spire doesn’t disappoint, in fact we are spoilt as there are two highway men to get to know and adore. It’s going into the super market and getting a two for one deal. Curzon and Winsham have created two strong and charming heroes, that you are bound to fall for.

A Warriner to Rescue Her by Virginia Heath

Move over Heathcliffe there is a new gruff, monosyllabic, tormented hero in town in the form of Captain Jamie Warriner. Oh my word! I was warned I would love him and he has more than lived up to the hype, he really is something special. He is a proud man who after serving his country with courage facing down more horrors than any man should face he is back and he is in pain, not just physically but he is trying adjust to civilian life but like a lot of soldiers today poor Jamie is struggling. I was drawn to him the moment I met him in the previous book “A Warriner to Protect her” there is just something about this gruff but hugely sensitive man, that draws you in. Yes, he may be as stubborn as an OX – as well as built like one – but he has a good and kind heart, who needs a little love.
Proof of Virtue by Leila Snow

Ms Snow is was a new to me author and I can say this is simply stunning, there is pure and honest anguish which oozes of the page, It’s raw and immensely real to the era and really shows what life in the Victorian era was like for regular, working-class people. It’s so realistic, it’s like you are in the work house and mill alongside Emma, and you are experiencing her turmoil and suffering. It is gloriously detailed and graphic, some may think that for a historical romance it is too graphic of their suffering, but for me that is what makes an historical. This is how they should be, it has real meat on the bone. I can absolutely say for certain that Ms Snow is going to go very far in this genre, her way with language and fact is mesmerizing. If you’re like me and you like grittier, brutally honest and very real historical where the romance is hard fought for genuinely deserved, than this is the book for you.

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So Chicks, Rogues and Scandals all time Book of the Year, 2017 is…

The Captains Disgraced Lady by Catherine Tinley

Tinley has captured the mixed emotions of Waterloo war is mesmerizing. You feel the sadness and despondency of the men and the civilians. Those chapters that cover the battle are superb, the detailing of what was going on and how everyone was coping and the actual battle scenes where Harry is in hand to hand combat is brutal and engrossing. This is atmospheric and so beautifully written and from reading this, I do think Tinley has a gift for capturing those little nuances in human thought and feeling and placing on the page. I had been looking forward to this story and it was so much more than I expected, you’ve probably guessed by my gushing how much I love this book and that I cannot recommend this enough, this is a must read! If you like your charming yet fragile heroes, feisty independent heroines all brought together with a stonking good plot and tied off with some beautiful romantic scenes and moments then this is the book for you.

So there you have my favourite books of 2017, have you read any of them and if so what you think? I’d love to know what your favourite’s have been from the past year.

Review – Dancing For The Devil by Marie Laval

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Can her love heal his haunted heart?

Cape Wrath, Scotland, November 1847 Bruce McGunn is a man as brutal and unforgiving as his land in the far north of Scotland. Discharged from the army –where he was known as the ‘Claymore Devil’–haunted by the spectres of his fallen comrades, and convinced he is going mad, he is running out of time to save his estate from the machinations of Cameron McRae, the descendant of the McGunns’ ancestral enemies.

When the clipper carrying McRae’s new bride is caught in a violent storm and docks at Wrath harbour, Bruce decides to revert to the old ways and hold the clipper and the woman to ransom. However, far from the spoilt heiress he expected, Rose is genuine, funny and vulnerable –a ray of sunshine in the long, harsh winter that has become his life.

But Rose is determined to escape Wrath and its proud master –the man she calls ‘McGlum’.

This is the third story from the Saintclair family, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this charming family through Angel Heart then The Lion’s Embrace and finally this one, this time we focus on Rose Saintclair’s story, which is just as romantic and intriguing as the previous. This one is filled with ghostly appearances, tortured minds and a murderer on the loose, plus a psychological game of cat and mouse between Rose and Bruce.

Rose having secretly married Scotsman Cameron McRae she is sailing from her homeland in Algiers to Cameron’s Highland home, to announce their marriage and to meet her new family. After being caught in a storm her ship is forced to pull into a cove in Cape Wrath; the ancestral home of the Laird; Bruce McGunn! Rose having only heard what her husband has told her does not wish to spend any time at all in Wrath, she would happily keep going to her new home especially once she sees the castle at Wrath and all she can think is that she has landed in hell.

The minute her and the extraordinarily large Scotsman meet there is fireworks, it is like a battle of wills between them and she is adamant that she is not staying. But her attraction to him has other idea’s…as well as the Laird himself.

Never had a man deserved his nickname more than Lord McGunn, and even though she’d never seen him fight, she sensed that his nickname of ‘Claymore Devil ’ suited him like a glove.

Since returning from the war in India after being discharged from the army in somewhat questionable circumstances, Bruce is now trying to save his estate from bailiffs and collectors all working on the behalf of his families, enemy, one Cameron McRae. The McRae’s and the McGunn’s have been at logger heads for as long as anyone can remember, which all came about with one McGunn seducing the wife of a McRae and since then the two-powerful clans have been mortal enemies. Bruce is determined that the manipulative and ruthless McRae will never get his hands-on Wrath, so on hearing that McRae’s ship has pulled up in his cove and that on ship is one of McRea’s women. Bruce decides to take the spoilt little madam captive and hold her for ransom, so he can finally get the threat from his home lifted off his wide shoulders.

All goes according to plan, that is until he meets Rose!

She isn’t what he was expecting her to be, he had immediately thought of a posh, spoilt and ninny brained young woman who he could easily subdue, how wrong he is. Rose is the complete opposite, she is feisty, argumentative and as stubborn and as unrelenting as Bruce himself. She fight’s him and his authority tooth and nail at every turn, even when she is helping him in his hour of need she does it her way. Their love/hate relationship is stirring stuff and there is times when you think that they are too different and there is a moment when you wonder if this is it for them, if he has pushed her away for good.

I absolutely love their interactions’ between each other especially when they are arguing and both of their stubborn and argumentative personalities comes to the surface, like when they first meet on the beach and he tells her in no uncertain terms that she is going with him and of she doesn’t like it he threatens to throw her over his shoulder and carry her – which he actually does later on in the book – but she gives just as good shouting and swearing at him calling him a stinking old macaque.

‘Here. Please don’t cry,’ he said in a hoarse voice. She nestled closer, and it felt like she was melting, warm and pliant in his arms. Heat shot throughout his body and suddenly he didn’t want to comfort her at all, but kiss those lips and breathe in her sweet female scent until he was drunk..

Once Rose is settled in his castle at Wrath thing’s take a very unexpected turn for both of them, in the first few days of her stay there Rose is woken by a mysterious woman in black who is talking French to her, telling her that he needs help that they are coming for him and only Rose can help, she has no idea what the lady is talking about and after following the lady on both occasions she is led to Bruce, who first she finds him having a nightmare where he is back on the battlefield with his men and the second time he is standing on the edge of a cliff saying that they are coming for him. Rose has no idea who Bruce is talking about or even who the woman in black is, but she knows something is going on in the castle, every time she mention’s the woman she is told point blank that she must have been imagining things.

So, Rose not only has to manage being held captive by the brutish, sinfully handsome Bruce – or as she likes to call him McGlum. She has a strange woman in black waking her in the middle of the night, plus there something funny going on in the village when two young women turn up brutally murdered. It’s all go and right in the middle of all this is our hero and heroine battling each other in every way that you can imagine.

These two are a match made in fiery heaven and hell, the chemistry between harsh and tormented Bruce and exotic and feisty Rose is sizzling, it’s a real love hate relationship at times, yet they share so much, they share so many of the same characteristic’s, they are both loyal, kind and both in dire need to love. Rose is just as complex and thought provoking as Bruce, who is a fantastic character. He is a true star, he completely believes that he is going mad and that he is being haunted by his dead comrades, but the truth is far more shocking then that.

 ‘I did warn you this afternoon that I’d toss you over my shoulder, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do now if you don’t come with me.’ ‘Never!’ ‘Then you leave me no choice.’ He lifted her up and flung her over his shoulder..

As ever Laval intrigues with her thought provoking and romantic writing, the story is just seamless, it draws you into the mysterious, dark and dangerous lives of our character’s. I loved the previous two books, but I think that this one is my absolute favourite, the story is thrilling and romantic it keeps you guessing as to what is going to happen. This has everything that we have come to expect from Ms Laval, fabulous storyline, amazing complex and adorable characters and I cannot recommend this and her work enough.

Definitely a must read for any who loves historical romance with a thrilling and mysterious twist.

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

Dancing with the Devil can be purchased from Amazon.

  

New Review – The Lion’s Embrace by Marie Laval

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Arrogant, selfish and dangerous, Lucas Saintclair is everything Harriet Montague dislikes in a man. He is also the best guide in the whole of the Barbary States and the only man who can rescue her archaeologist father, from kidnapping by a gang of Tuareg fighters. As Harriet embarks on a perilous journey across Algeria with Saintclair and Archibald Drake, her father’s most trusted friend, she discovers a bewitching but brutal land where nothing is what it seems.

Who are the men intent on stealing her father’s ransom? What was her father hoping to find in Tuareg Queen Tin Hinan’s tomb? Is Lucas Saintclair really as callous as he claims – or is he a man haunted by a past he cannot forgive? In the heat of the Sahara, dangerous passions engulf Harriet. Secrets of lost treasures, rebel fighters, and a sinister criminal brotherhood threaten her life and the life of the man she loves.

Does forever lie in the lion’s embrace?

My View

The Lions Embrace follows on from Angel Heart in the last book we met Marie-Ange and Hugo Saintclair who are the parents of our hero in this one; Lucas Saintclair and oh, my word what a man! He is simply delectable!

It is thirty years on from when we last saw the Saintclair’s and Lucas is a fearsome but talented guide in Algiers, and he is also a bit of a pirate – Once you’ve met him you will understand why I say that. He is known as a selfish, devilishly dangerous and sinfully attractive man who knows the terrain better than any other man, he is handy with a dagger and speaks a dozen languages – Which it not only helps him in his trade but also when he’s seducing tavern wenches and charming aristocratic women into his bed. But under all that rock-solid rakish exterior he is a damaged soul, there is something lurking in his past something that he carries the guilt of it around with him every day, and it pushes him on to be the man he is now. A dark, hollow self-absorbed shell of what is a good man.

“Love? What’s that?” Sainclair shrugged. Darting his blue gaze straight at Harriet, he added in a low voice, “Isn’t it just a fancy word for lust?” Her heart skipped a beat and she looked away, annoyed to feel she was blushing.

Harriett’s archaeologist father has been kidnapped by the ruthless and dangerous, Tuareg fighters gang they claim he was desecrating one of their sacred tombs and now they are holding the elderly archaeologist captive with the promise of release once his ransom had been paid. Harriett tracks down the one and only man in the whole of Algiers who can take her to the Tuareg territory and get her father back, the only problem is that the ruthless, manipulative and selfish but too handsome for his own good, man refuses.

He claims it is a waste of time as the Tuareg fighters will have already killed her father and his team, this was all said in his typically rather brusque and straight to the point way, Lucas doesn’t believe in tip toeing around matters. Hurt by his blatant words but not put off by his brusque and rude manner, she promises him the one thing that she knows a man like him will want.

The famous map or Barbarossa, a map that on its own is worth a fortune but it is what the map leads to that has caught his piratical eye. A treasure so big that he would be rich and famous, she knows by the calculating gleam in his blue eyes that she has hooked him. She had heard of his ruthless reputation and she knows a treasure hunter when she sees one – and Lucas Saintclair is just that! But she has a feeling that he is so much more than what he first appears to be, he has secret’s hidden with his black heart.

“Why should I worry indeed, when my life is in the hands of a second rate Casanova and his band of merry men?…..”

Harriett is really smart and savvy she knows that to get him into doing what she wants him to do, she has to dangle big bait in front of him. She isn’t a fool, no matter what Lucas may think, she has got brains she knows exactly what she wants and she is not going to give up, she will succeed and I really like her tenacity she is courageous and spirited and she is just so charming that where ever she is she is instantly liked and respected. It is especially funny how she first meet’s Lucas, which literally involves her jumping on his back and biting him. Something which he never lets her forget!

Lucas knows that this slip of a girl is going to be nothing but trouble and when she flaunts the legendary map of Barbarossa in front of him, how can he say no? The thing what Lucas isn’t telling anyone is that he had privately decided to take on the job anyway though, he has his own motives for accepting and not just the map. This fool hardy trek will give him the chance to follow his prey, the swindler and conniving Rashid, who has a very important document that if it lands in the wrong hands could mean death to so many. And Lucas wants it! He is quite a man, he just sizzles with pent-up tension, and he has an extraordinary good heart. He is a man who has just lost his way.

“A knife? I think I prefer these sharp teeth of yours.” He stepped back, a smirk on his face. “Come on, give it to me. You’re going to hurt yourself.”
“Move back right, now. If you don’t, I will…”
“Kill me? I don’t think so.” He caught her wrist and shook the dagger out. It felt to the ground with a metallic sound. “Can we start again where we left off? I’m getting a little impatient…..”

So off they go into the hot, humid mountains making their way towards where her father is being held but Lucas and his best friend Ahmed soon realise that there is evil in the hills around them, and things keep happening on their trip causing a lieutenant from the hated French army to begin watching their movements more than they should. Lucas and his little band are not only being followed but watched and preyed on and it is up to him and Ahmed to keep them all safe, but things aren’t what they seem.

At first all Lucas does think about is money and how things can benefit him but soon his true thoughtful, I heroic self comes to the front and we see him in another, entirely different light. He does have a secret heartache one that has made him into brooding, dark man he is now but Harriet’s presence is calming influence on his tormented mind. She soothes his wondered heart and she makes him learn to be the man we all know he can, their relationship is such a beautiful thing to witness happen.

At first they do genuinely hate one and other they bicker and fight, she thinks of him as a bully, an arrogant Lothario and he thinks of her as a spoilt little madam, and yet there is so much sensuality and sexual feeling and tension that just sizzle and crackles. They do take their time about things, but I can tell you that they are so worth the wait because when they are on speaking terms they are a match made in heaven.

“What kind of life could you possibly have with me?” Her smile just grew wider.
“The most magical, wonderful life I could ever dream of.” She put her hand on his cheek in a soft caress then stood on her tiptoes to kiss his lips. He stiffened, willing to remain cold and unresponsive under her gentle touch, and stepped back.
“I have nothing for you,” he repeated.
“Yes, you have,” she whispered as she carried on kissing him. “You have this.” She put her hand on his heart. “That’s all I’ll ever want….”

The Lions Embrace is a thoughtful and fascinating tale that takes us on a journey not just as our little group make their way across and through deadly terrain, but you got on an emotional one with our lead’s.

Since reading Angel Heart I knew that there was something special about this Laval, her talent at entwining history of area and the cultures and languages, with a thrilling game of cat and mouse plus the tantalizing love story is faultless. Laval sprinkles The Lions Embrace with her customary Gaelic charm and she enhances your reading with detailing the sights, aromas and culture of each area we visit during the book and it enhances the reading experience. You become transported to this hot, dusty and dangerous place and it is utterly exhilarating. The twists and surprises in the plot are so unexpected and make you really think.

You close the last page and its saddening that this is the end of a beautiful story but yet you get a really warmth and happy feeling in the pit of your stomach, it’s an uplifted tale about moving on after things get bad and its exactly what you expect from Ms Laval. She is fast becoming one of my top shelf authors and I cannot recommend her work and The Lions Embrace enough.

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

The Lions Embrace can be found at Amazon.

 

 

Review – Angel Heart by Marie Laval

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Devonshire, January 1815.

Marie-Ange, the young widow of an English officer, accepts an inheritance in France only to find that everything in Beauregard is not as it seems. Why is the sinister Malleval so obsessed with her family? And could her darling Christopher still be alive? Marie-Ange finds herself trapped in a dangerous web of lies, intrigue, and mystical possession, and the only person to whom she can turn for help is Capitaine Hugo Saintclair.

Yet the enigmatic Hugo represents a danger of a different kind …

Angel Heart is a lavish mix of romance, adventure, and a hint of the supernatural, largely set in France against the turbulent background of Napoleon’s return from Elba

 

Brief Preview

Marie-Ange received word from the mysterious Malleval, a distant relation of hers, who has a bequest for her from her mother’s family all she has to do is go over to France to sign to the paperwork. Malleval has sent  cavalry officer, Capitaine Hugh Saintclair, who has his own more personal reasons to have taken on the job of being a Madame Norton’s escort.

Hugh is in debt, deep debt and the only way he could repay his gambling debt’s without sacrificing his family was to do as Monsieur Malleval wants and travel to England and deliver Madame Norton for what ever reason. Hugh knows that there is more to Malleval’s explanation that just getting a document signed. But Hugh is a good soldier and he has never shirked his duty.

Once Marie-Ange reaches France her whole life is turned up side down, firstly while out in Paris she comes across none other than her husband, Christopher who was declared dead six years ago. He is alive and well and for some unexplained reason using a different name and meeting up with the nefarious spy master Fouche. Secondly on reaching Beauregard she soon realises that there is so much more going on than she expected. This Malleval is obsessed with her mother and her history, she knows that there is more than meets the eye but she isn’t expecting the all the danger and twists and turns that she is thrown into.

As well as very personal dramas going on, she also has to contend with her growing feelings for the gruff but charming Capitaine Saintclair.

My View

This is the first book I have read by this author and it won’t be the last, I haven’t read a lot of books which has a supernatural undertone and those that I have, haven’t been my cup of tea so I started this with an open mind. But I really didn’t need to worry, Marie Lavel has done a great job at building the story up and not over powering the reader with too much paranormal, in fact I found that side of the story very subtle.

I like how the story is spread over three years with lots of unexpected twists and turns that keeps you ripped to edge of your seat wondering where on earth this is going and what if our couple are going to get their so much deserved happy ending.

“Whatever are you doing, Capitaine ? You forget your place,” she snapped, shocked as much by his gesture as by the way her body had responded.
“And where would that be, Madame? Of course, I forgot. The stables.” He shot her an amused glance. “Don’t worry, I’m going,”

The minute that Marie-Ange and Hugh meet there is an instant attraction between them, the chemistry sizzles between them even when they are bickering, they are a fascinating couple. They are very much chalk and cheese her from a well to do aristocratic French family, and Hugh from a good, hard-working and honest family. They couldn’t be more different, but yet they really work.

Everything that Marie-Ange has been told about her parents and her past is false, she feels like she has grown up in a lie and she doesn’t know who she is. She sets out find out more about exactly what happened to her mother and on top of that she, by chance she comes across her husband who has been pronounced dead for six years.

She has always believed her husband was out there somewhere, even when she was told he was dead when his ship went down. But when she sees him living in France under another name and working for the evil man and spy master that is Fouche, she begins to conclude that there is more than meets the eye.

Marie-Ange is emotionally conflicted, she wants to know the truth about not just her past but her husband and what is going on with the mysterious Malleval but she is also conflicted over her feeling for Hugh.

His throat tightened and he swallowed hard. There were other things he longed to do, too…
The woman was a mass of contradictions, a fascinating, tempting puzzle.
Too tempting…..

Hugh is a brooding roguish Cavalry officer under Napoleon rule, Hugh does, at first actual prefer the little ruler, Napoleon – that is until he comes to his senses. Because during Napoleonic rule normal men like Hugh were able to prove their worth and gain higher ranks, respect and homes, something that couldn’t be done while the King ruled. Now that the King is back all the aristocrats are coming back out of hiding and they are taking everything back that ordinary people like him have gained and that is a very sore point for Hugh, and not really surprising he doesn’t like aristocrats that much.

I do like Hugh, and in some ways you can really see his point of view he is exactly what you see and what you expect him to be. He is a life long soldier and a hardworking man, your heart really aches for him when he keeps coming up against aristocratic, spoilt men who treat him like mud of their shoes. He is so much better than them, he is a good man who unfortunately has a gambling problem.

He looked down at her.
Barefoot and swamped in an old dressing gown, the woman hardly reached his shoulder.
He wondered what she wore underneath, if anything.
His pulse quickened and a sudden rush of heat coursed through his veins….

I really like this, the story flows effortlessly. It intrigues you with all the various twists that keeps you guessing right to the last page, it has got so much more than a regular Historical Romance the plot keeps you on you toes and gets you thinking. It has everything from highway robbery, Templar secret codes, spies and a baddie that may be completely off his rocker but he really does steal the show all mixed in with a charming love story, that has a bit of magic.

I really like Lavel’s work her attention to detail is flawless especially when it come to the French areas and customs, she writes with such passion and there is tender, atmospheric charm to her writing that I have completely been drawn in to and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

I highly recommend this.

I his was a complimentary copy from the author in return for an honest review.

This is out now and can be found at Amazon.