2020 Book #84 – A Season of You by Emma Douglas

Title: A Season of You
Author: Emma Douglas
Date finished: 11/15/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Pages in book: 298
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Cloud Bay series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In A Season of You by Emma Douglas, it’s Christmastime in the quaint island town of Cloud Bay, where love is always in season…

Will Fraser has believed in love at first sight since the day he first laid eyes on Mina Harper five years ago. There was only one problem: She was happily married. Then, when Mina’s husband was killed by a drunk driver, Will figured she’d want nothing to do with a guy who owns a whiskey distillery. So he’s kept his feelings locked away, knowing that not even a Christmas miracle would be enough to melt Mina’s heart. . .

Mina believes her days of true love are behind her. Since losing her husband she’s kept to herself, content to do her own painting and stay out of the limelight that comes with her famous family. But when, after a freak accident, Will comes to her rescue, Mina can’t quite get him out of her mind. As curiosity turns into a fling during Cloud Bay’s first Christmas Festival, she finds it harder to convince herself that her feelings for Will are just mistletoe-inspired. Could Mina be ready to lay the past to rest and finally admit that what she really wants for Christmas—and forever—is Will?

My rating:  3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I really loved the cover on this book – I should’ve realized it was centered around Christmas but I didn’t til I was already into the book. It was a great book to start getting me into the festive spirit with the holidays coming up! The Christmas contests that they participated in were super fun sounding. The characters in this book were good, Mina was a little self-destructive for me and Will definitely set himself up for failure with putting a time limit on the relationship, but they had a sweet enough romance. I think one of my favorite parts of the book was when Angie got her just desserts and got in trouble with her Dad because she was being a big big butt head. The book overall was sweet if a little cheesy for me. There was a good build up of tension but I had trouble getting into the story. I did love the Christmas festivities piece of it though! Good seasonal read.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #67 – Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey

Title: Tools of Engagement
Author: Tessa Bailey
Date finished: 9/25/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: September 22, 2020
Pages in book: 367
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Hot and Hammered series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In Tessa Bailey’s latest rom-com, two enemies team up to flip a house… and the sparks between them might burn the place down or ignite a passion that neither can ignore! 

Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.

When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.

As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.

My rating:  5.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had read the second book in this series and really enjoyed it so I was interested in reading this newest release. A 5star review is rare for me but I loved absolutely everything about this book. Bethany & Wes’s chemistry BURNED up the pages of this book. And they’re banter and quick zings at each other were off the charts entertaining. I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing the entire time I was reading this book. And Wes struck a personal note for me because, like Bethany, I also deal with a lot of anxiety, and Wes’s calm demeanor and unwavering acceptance were so very appealing to me. I haven’t always related to the “book boyfriend” concept but my gosh Wes was everything that I need! I immediately wanted to start reading this book again the second I finished it, that’s how wonderful it was. I liked the previous book I’d read in the series (Love Her or Lose Her) but I LOVED this book. I am going to be reading more by this author, that is for sure. I would highly recommend everyone go out and read this book, you’ll thank me later!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #62 – Nowhere to Hide by Leslie A. Kelly

Title: Nowhere to Hide
Author: Leslie A. Kelly
Date finished: 9/7/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Pages in book: 382
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Hollywood Heat series
Where I got the book from: Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A cold case is suddenly too hot to handle in the second installment of the Winchester Brothers romantic suspense series from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Leslie A. Kelly.

Police officer Rowan Winchester wants nothing to do with his celebrity family’s legacy. Working with the LAPD is his way of atoning for the Winchesters’ dark and secretive past. And, right now, the last thing Rowan needs is true-crime novelist Evie Fleming nosing around the most notorious deaths in Los Angeles — including the ones that haunt his own family. To make things worse, he’s torn between wanting the wickedly smart writer out of his city . . . and just plain wanting her.
While researching her latest book, Evie suspects that a dangerous new killer is prowling the City of Angels. Now she just has to convince the devastatingly handsome cop that she’s right. Soon Evie and Rowan are working together to try to find the killer, even as their attraction ignites. But when the killer hones in on Evie, she and Rowan realize they’ll have to solve this case fast if they want to stay alive.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I haven’t read anything by this author before but the synopsis sounded really interesting. I ended up really liking it! The plot line of this book was very good – there were some great plot twists included that caught me by surprise! The characters didn’t quite come to life for me but I still really enjoyed the story. The pacing seemed good to me and I like the back-story plot about a previous murder. I’d be interested to find out the resolution with that (and I’m guessing hear Raine’s story) if it was available. Overall it was a good book and I think it’s worth a read.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

Incognito Ex BLOG TOUR!!

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Harlequin is featuring their category romance in an August 2020 series blog tour! Incognito Ex will be released August 1, and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! I recently read this novel and while the plot didn’t appeal to me personally there was a lot to like about this novel and it is still a great example of a Harlequin series novel! See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt: 

Image_blog tour banner_August 2020 Summer Reads Blog Tour

SUMMARY

When she is targeted by a vicious mobster, a past love is her only hope.

When a Russian gangster targets Coral Staufer, she is desperate for help. Coral stumbles across an undercover agent none other than the man she loved and lost, Trevor Stone. Trevor will risk anything to stop her from becoming a mob casualty…even risk his career to protect Coral. But when their past love reignites, their entire mission—and very lives—are at stake.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author photo_Geri Krotow

Geri Krotow is a Naval Academy graduate and Navy veteran. She has traveled to and lived in many places abroad, including South America, Italy and Russia. Her family has finally settled down in Central Pennsylvannia but Geri still writes about all the places she’s been. An awardwinning author, Geri writes the Silver Valley PD for Harlequin Romantic Suspense

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BUY IT HERE!

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EXCERPT

3D cover_INCOGNITO EX by Geri KrotowTrevor Stone never took his eye off the ball while undercover. Never. But as he fought to keep these thugs from harming Coral while processing the fact that he still had to get her out of here, he was distracted. The last several days, working alongside ROC gang members, he’d felt her nearby, as if the invisible thread that connected them had come alive again.

He’d known she lived here, knew this was the farm she’d inherited. He knew what one rogue ROC member had done to the barn last January and hadn’t been able to fight his protective instincts toward his ex, years after they split. He’d volunteered for the mission, stupidly thinking that he’d be able to ensure her safety while not coming into direct contact with her.

What he could never have predicted was how he’d react when face-to-face with Coral again.

His hands clenched painfully tight, and all he wanted was to throw Coral over his shoulder and run for the Appalachian Mountains that surrounded Silver Valley. Take her far from this night, to a place where ROC couldn’t touch her. And yes, away from seeing him again, especially like this.

The raw fact that she was about to be assassinated by one of the two lower-level ROC crooks was all that kept him focused. The complication that she’d just blown his cover, carefully cultivated over the past two years, was a sideshow. One he’d have to address, but later, after he got her out of here alive. When he was far from her, and knew she was safe.

“What did she call you? Who is Trevor?” Disbelief, suspicion, anger snaked across the ground as the two other men cried out, and he figured he had about two seconds to act.

“Stupid girl took a hit to her head.” He spoke as Grisha, the undercover identity he’d adopted to help the Trail Hikers, the secret government agency that he worked for, and his sole focus was to break up the ROC’s hold on the East Coast.

“I’m not a girl, and my head isn’t that messed up. It is you, isn’t it?” At least she’d lowered her voice. It wouldn’t be a surprise to her to know he was still doing undercover work. How could she forget? It had been the death knell of their marriage.

Coral’s initial appearance of frailty after the conk on her head had morphed into righteous anger. He didn’t blame her, but he couldn’t keep looking at her. Three long years without one glance at her, without her eyes on him, without the sound of her voice, threatened to destroy any focus he had left.

He gave himself a quick mental shake. If she didn’t get them killed with her words, he was going to blow it with his inability to block out the distraction that was Coral.

“We have to get out of here.” He addressed the other two men, both young and not the brightest, working for Ivanov, the ROC head honcho. “The cops are com-ing. You two take off. I’ll meet up later. I’ll take care of her, trust me.” He nodded at the road, and the two men craned their necks to verify his claim. The sirens screamed in the night, and he saw the flashing lights move down the highway in the distance. He took the opportunity to lift Coral from her bent position and pulled her up against him, his arm raised as if he was going to strike her.

“Don’t talk. Follow my lead. And don’t say my name again.” He murmured into her ear, his lips against her skin out of necessity. He couldn’t risk the others hearing him. “Now yell when I move my arm, like I’ve hit you.”

Coral’s strangled gasp nearly threw him out of his reality as an undercover agent posing as a working ROC stiff. Her voice tried to drag his mind back to hazy, hot California days when they’d spent all day in bed, getting up only to eat. It wasn’t fair that a single sound from her still did this to him. That the sur-real connection they shared hadn’t perished with their marriage.

“Kill her now, Grish.” Adam was pissed, in pain from the gunshot wound, and wanted Trevor to prove he wasn’t Trevor, that Coral really was suffering from a severe head trauma. ROC agents weren’t high on trust, and Trevor, as Grisha, was new to their local group.

“It’d be stupid to do it here. She’s easier to move while she can still walk. Let me take care of her, then I’ll come back for you both. Stay low, don’t use your flashlights. The police will stop at the farmhouse first. We’ve got time.” He wrapped his arm around Coral’s waist—she was thinner, but still steely strong—and half dragged, half ran with her to where he’d seen her car earlier in the day, when he’d made his own excursion out here.

Self-recrimination threatened to stop him in his tracks as he knew he should have made doubly sure she wouldn’t be on the property when ROC came looking for Markova’s treasure. But he’d run out of time to verify his source who’d told him she’d be out tonight. Even with her being here, he’d never have expected she’d catch them—usually his ROC associates were somewhat competent. Unlike these two.

Thank God for inept thugs.

When they were what he estimated was halfway to her car, he pulled out his pistol and held her tight with his other arm. “Hang on. I’m going to shoot at the ground, to let them think it’s you.” He quickly fired two shots at the dirt, making sure the bullets had nothing to bounce off, making it sound like he’d just eliminated a witness.

The sirens were close, and he saw the patrols turn into the long drive leading to the barn area.

“What are you doing here, Trevor?” Her voice shook, but he couldn’t tell if it was shock or anger. Probably both.

“I’ll explain later. Right now we can’t be seen by anyone.”

“But that’s the police—I called them.”

“I can’t be spotted, and for now you’re with me.” He had no way of knowing which officers were re-porting, and he couldn’t risk being taken into custody. Only two SVPD officers were cut in on his deep undercover work.

Now the woman on his arm was one more added to the list of people in the know. The woman he’d never forgotten, whom he’d still go through hell and damnation for. His ex-wife, Coral.

 

 

 

 

 

2020 Book #51 – The Highlander’s Princess Bride by Vanessa Kelly

Title: The Highlander’s Princess Bride
Author: Vanessa Kelly
Date finished: 7/19/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Zebra Books
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Pages in book: 432
Stand alone or series: Improper Princesses series Book#3
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In Vanessa Kelly’s enchanting series, three young women descended from royalty overcome their scandalous beginnings to win the hearts of the ton’s most eligible men . . .

The illegitimate daughter of the Prince Regent might be expected to pursue various dubious professions. Actress, perhaps, or artist’s model. Even courtesan. Victoria Knight, however, has become a governess—a respectable choice, until she travels to Scotland to meet her new charges. The younger brothers of Nicholas Kendrick, Earl of Arnprior, aren’t children at all. They’re brawny, wild Highland men. As for the Earl, he’s handsome, guarded, and far too compelling . . . especially for a woman hiding a dark secret.

Nick needs a proper teacher to transform his unmarriageable brothers—and a sensible,
straight-laced wife for himself. Miss Knight seems to fit the bill on both counts. But he soon discovers there is more to Victoria than he thought. It’s not just her notorious origins, or the danger that’s followed her all the way to Scotland. It’s the fiery loyalty beneath that sedate façade. This, the real Victoria, is the woman Nick is starting to desire so desperately. And what an earl wants, he’ll use every seductive means to get . . .

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have read a book or two in the past by Kelly and enjoyed them, and the description for this book really intrigued me. I really liked the characters in this novel. There was so much personality in not only the two main characters but also in the side characters as well. With a family full of boys there were of course a lot of hijinks, which definitely made for an entertaining read! The banter between all the characters was really great too. It just stinks that the “system” at that time was such a failure in protecting women who were victimized. Victoria shouldn’t have been harassed and persecuted the way she was but because she was a woman she wasn’t considered innocence worthy unless she had a rich husband. Crazy! Anyways – the author did a great job of developing the story line and the progression of Nick and Victoria’s relationship was really well done. There were some parts that I thought were a little slow and / or cheesy but overall this was an enjoyable romance with a great cast of characters. I’d recommend giving it a read.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #45 – Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean

Title: Daring and the Duke
Author: Sarah MacLean
Date finished: 6/28/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: June 30, 2020
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Bareknuckle Bastards series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: 
I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean returns with the much-anticipated final book in her Bareknuckle Bastards series, featuring a scoundrel duke and the powerful woman who brings him to his knees.

Grace Condry has spent a lifetime running from her past. Betrayed as a child by her only love and raised on the streets, she now hides in plain sight as queen of London’s darkest corners. Grace has a sharp mind and a powerful right hook and has never met an enemy she could not best…until the man she once loved returns.

Single-minded and ruthless, Ewan, Duke of Marwick, has spent a decade searching for the woman he never stopped loving. A long-ago gamble may have lost her forever, but Ewan will go to any lengths to win Grace back…and make her his duchess.

Reconciliation is the last thing Grace desires. Unable to forgive the past, she vows to take her revenge. But revenge requires keeping Ewan close, and soon her enemy seems to be something else altogether—something she can’t resist, even as he threatens the world she’s built, the life she’s claimed…and the heart she swore he’d never steal again.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I loved the start of this book – there was so much tension and the characters had such strong personalities right from the start. The heroine especially was a badass, I loved how violent she was, which I didn’t expect. And I loved the turnaround from the normal plot ending where Grace was the one that had to chase after Ewan and Ewan was the one in danger. The gender roles in this book were reversed in a number of different areas and it made for a really interesting story. The story went on a tad long for me, I thought there were a couple areas that felt superfluous. I think what really made this book as much of a hit for me was Grace. She was so bright – with her wardrobe and her hair and just her personality, she felt so vibrant and alive. I really enjoyed the book and I would recommend it!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #32 – The Princess Plan by Julia London

Title: The Princess Plan
Author: Julia London
Date finished: 5/31/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: HQN Books
Publication Date: November 10, 2019
Pages in book: 400
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Royal Wedding series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Princes have pomp and glory—not crushes on commoners

Nothing gets the tongues of London’s high society wagging like a good scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefited from an anonymous tip about the crime, prompting Sebastian to take an interest in playing detective—and an even greater interest in Eliza.

With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more salacious than a prince dallying with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And when things heat up behind closed doors, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart.

My rating:  3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I realized after I finished my most recent read (A Royal Kiss and Tell by Julia London) that I had been scheduled to read the first book in the same series last year and just hadn’t gotten to it. I just loved the covers in this series, I have to say in both cases the covers definitely influenced me in requesting the books for review. I have to say I enjoyed the second book in the series a little bit more. However, this book was still good! Eliza was a really fascinating character and I loved her enthusiasm and how opinionated she was and just fierce. Bas on the other hand fell a little flat for me. He just didn’t feel as alive as Eliza did and the contrast between their two characters was really striking. The one thing I can say about him that felt alive were his feelings for Eliza, which I really was struck by how strong his feelings for her were and that piece really appealed to me. I thought the ending was a little rushed and there were some things that I thought should have been addressed that weren’t. Like I get the Eliza really likes him but there wasn’t hardly any discussion until like the last page that she’d be leaving behind her entire family. Overall though it was a sweet story and had a romantic (if somewhat rushed) ending. Even though it wasn’t my favorite, I’d still say it’s worth the read!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

A Royal Kiss and Tell BLOG TOUR!!

A Royal Kiss and Tell was released last Tuesday (May 19th), and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! You can also see my review of the book here. See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt: 

SUMMARY

Every prince has his secrets. And she’s determined to unravel his…

Every young man in London’s ton is vying for Lady Caroline Hawke’s hand—except one. Handsome roué Prince Leopold of Alucia can’t quite remember Caroline’s name, and the insult is not to be tolerated. So Caroline does what any clever, resourceful lady of means would do to make sure Leo never again forgets: sees that scandalous morsels about his reputation are printed in a ladies’ gossip gazette…all while secretly setting her cap for the rakish royal.

Someone has been painting Leo as a blackguard, but who? Socially, it is ruining him. More important, it jeopardizes his investigation into a contemptible scheme that reaches the highest levels of British government. Leo needs Lady Caroline’s help to regain access to society. But this charming prince is about to discover that enlisting the deceptively sweet and sexy Lady Caroline might just cost him his heart, his soul and both their reputations…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janna MacGregor_Photo credit Hilary Hope Photography

Julia London is a NYT, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance. She is a six-time finalist for the RITA Award of excellence in romantic fiction, and the recipient of RT Bookclub’s Best Historical Novel.

BUY IT HERE!

EXCERPT

Since the day of Eliza’s betrothal to Prince Sebastian, Caroline had also assumed, quite incorrectly, that she would be the principal bridesmaid. After all, she and Eliza and Hollis had been entwined in one another’s lives since they were very little girls.

“I am content with flower girls, honestly,” Eliza said. “I’d be content with a very simple affair. I was content with the civil ceremony. But Queen Daria prefers otherwise.”

“Naturally, she does. This is the wedding where you will be seen by all the people you will rule one day.”

Eliza snorted. “I will not rule, Caroline. I’ll be fortunate if I can find my husband in this massive place.” She’d gestured to the decorative walls around them. It was not an exaggeration—Constantine Palace appeared to be bigger than even Buckingham.

“Let me be the maid of honor,” Caroline had begged her. “I am much better equipped to see to your train than Hollis is.”

“I beg your pardon! I am her sister,” Hollis reminded Caroline.

“The train is thirty feet, Hollis. How will you ever manage? You’ve scarcely managed your own train since we’ve been in Alucia. And my gown should be seen. I spared no expense for it.”

Eliza and Hollis looked at Caroline.

“I mean, of course, after your gown is seen.”

The sisters continued to stare at her. Caroline shrugged a very tiny bit. “Obviously,” she added.

“I rather thought that’s what you meant,” Eliza said charitably. The three of them had gleefully adopted the Alucian style of dress since arriving a month ago in Helenamar. The English style of dress—full skirts, high necks and long sleeves—was hot and heavy. They’d admired the beautiful Alucian gowns that fit the curves of a woman’s body, with the long flowing sleeves, and, most of all, the elaborately embroidered trains…until they discovered that the unusually long trains were a bit of a bother to wear.

“I will manage,” Hollis had insisted. “No one has come to this wedding to see your gown, Caro.”

“Well, obviously, Hollis, they haven’t. But they will be delighted all the same, won’t they? And by the bye, there’s no law that says the attendant of honor must be one’s sister.”

“There is no law, but she is my sister and she will be the attendant of honor,” Eliza said. “And besides, if you were to stand with me, I’d fret the entire ceremony that you were too enthralled with Leo to even notice my train.” She’d arched a golden brow directly at Caroline.

As if Caroline had done something wrong.

She most certainly had not. “Leo? Is that what we’re calling him now?” she drawled. Leo was Prince Sebastian’s younger brother. His Royal Highness Prince Leopold.

Prince Leopold, as everyone knew, had spent the last several years in England, “attending” Cambridge, which meant, in reality, that he spent more time at soirees and gentlemen’s clubs and hunting lodges than studying. Caroline had encountered him last summer in Chichester at a country house party. They’d engaged in a charming little exchange that Caroline recalled perfectly, word for word. Prince Leopold, on the other hand, remembered it not at all. Worse, he didn’t seem to remember her.

The archbishop’s voice suddenly rose into a chant of some sort, drawing Caroline’s attention back to the ceremony. Oh dear, she was thinking about Prince Leopold again when she should be watching her best friend marry a prince. At that moment, Eliza slipped her hand into Prince Sebastian’s hand and held on tightly as the archbishop asked her to repeat after him in English. To love, to honor, to protect and defend.

So romantic.

Caroline glanced to her right. She was seated next to her brother, the baron Beckett Hawke. He was older than her by half a dozen years and had been her guardian since she was eight and he was fourteen. She leaned against him.

“Isn’t she lovely?” she whispered.

Ssh.”

“I think she is lovelier than even Queen Victoria on her wedding day,” Caroline whispered. “Her gown is beautiful. It was my idea to use the gold and silver thread on the train.”

Beck pretended not to have heard a word.

“Do you know, I think I could have made that train.” Her brother put his hand on Caroline’s knee and squeezed as he turned his pale green eyes to hers. He frowned darkly.

Caroline pushed his hand away and glanced around her. It was massive, this Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Painted ceilings soared overhead with visions of angels and other godly images. All the fixtures were gold plated, particularly the pulpit, which looked more like a monument than a stand for the Bible. There was so much stained glass that the morning light fractured across Eliza’s long train, turning it into a moving rainbow as sunlight shimmered through the panes.

Every seat in the massive cathedral was taken, filled with beautiful people of varying skin tones and colorful costumes and glittering jewels. They had come far and wide, Caroline understood, from countries she’d never even heard of.

In a cove above the altar, a choir of young men and boys sang the hymns that had accompanied Eliza down the center aisle to meet her prince. It had sounded as if the heavens had parted and the angels were singing for this bride.

The ceremony, almost an hour of it now, was filled with a lot of pomp and circumstance. Caroline wasn’t entirely certain what was happening, as the ceremony was conducted in Latin and Alucian and, for the parts Eliza had to say, in English. It seemed to her that Eliza and Sebastian were up and down quite a lot, one minute on their knees with their heads bowed, and standing the next, staring starry-eyed at each other. There was a somber moment when Eliza was directed down onto her knees alone. It looked as if she were knighted or anointed in some way, and when it was done, the archbishop put his hand to her head, the king and queen stood, and then Prince Sebastian lifted her up and pinned a gorgeous sapphire-and-gold brooch to her breast.

“She’s a real princess now,” Caroline whispered to Beck. Predictably, he ignored her.

Eliza looked like a princess, too, and Caroline wished Eliza’s father, Justice Tricklebank, could be here. Alas, his advanced age and blindness had made it impossible for him to attend. There had been a smaller, private ceremony in England—the first civil union—before Sebastian had returned to Alucia. That ceremony, which her father had attended, had been necessitated by the fact that Eliza and Sebastian could not seem to keep their hands from each other for as much as a few hours.

There was another civil union once Eliza had arrived in Alucia so there would be no question of impropriety, as the heat between Eliza and her prince had only grown. It was embarrassing, really.

But neither ceremony had been anything like this. This was a pageant, a feast for the eyes and hearts of romantics everywhere.

Caroline’s mind drifted, and she wondered if all these people would be at the ball tonight. She hoped so. She had a beautiful blue Alucian gown trimmed in gold that was astoundingly beautiful. She’d made the train herself. The ball would be her moment to shine…next to Eliza, of course.

Yesterday, Eliza had nervously counted out the heads of state that would attend the wedding and the ball and had turned a bit pale as the number mounted. Caroline’s pulse had leapt with delight.

“I can’t bear it!” Eliza had exclaimed, unnerved by the number of dignitaries, of the many kings and queens. “What if I say something wrong? You know how I am. Have you any idea how many gifts we’ve received? Am I to remember them all? I’ve never seen so many gold chalices and silver platters and fine porcelain in all my life! What if I trip? What if I spill something on my gown?”

“My advice, darling, is not to fill your plate to overflowing,” Hollis had said absently. She was bent over her paper, making notes for the periodical she published, the Honeycutt’s Gazette of Fashion and Domesticity for Ladies. The twice-monthly gazette covered such topics as the latest fashions, domesticity and health advice, and—the most interesting part—the most tantalizing on-dits swirling about London’s high society.

Hollis could hardly keep up with the ravenous demand for society news now. She was planning to publish a gazette that would be twice the length of her normal offering with all the news of the royal wedding the moment she returned to London. She’d been busily dispatching letters to her manservant, Donovan, for safekeeping throughout the month they’d been in Alucia.

She was so preoccupied that her advice, while offered freely, was not offered with much thought, and Eliza took exception. “I beg your pardon! I’ve hardly eaten a thing since I’ve arrived in Alucia. At every meal the queen looks at me as if she disapproves of everything I do! I’m afraid to do anything, much less eat,” Eliza complained. “They’ll all be looking at me. They’ll be waiting for me to do something wrong, or speculating if I’m already carrying the heir. You cannot imagine how much interest there is in my ability to bear an heir.”

“Well, of course!” Caroline said cheerfully. “You’ll have to be a broodmare, darling, but after you’ve given them what they want, you may live in conjugal bliss for the rest of your days surrounded by wealth and privilege and many, many servants.”

“They won’t all be looking at you, Eliza. At least half the room will be looking at your handsome husband,” Hollis had said with a wink.

Caroline was once again jolted back into the present when the archbishop lifted a heavy jeweled chalice above the heads of Eliza and Prince Sebastian. Surely that meant they were nearly done? Prince Sebastian took Eliza’s hand, and they turned away from the archbishop, facing the guests with ridiculously happy grins on their faces. They were married!

Hollis turned, too, and even from where Caroline sat, she could see Hollis’s dark blue eyes shining with tears of joy. The guests rose to their feet as the prince and his bride began their procession away from the altar. Rose petals rained down on the couple and their guests from above. The little flower girls fluttered around behind Eliza like butterflies, flanking her train as they followed the couple down the aisle. Prince Leopold offered his arm to Hollis, and she beamed up at him. Caroline felt left out. Hollis and Eliza were near and dear to her heart, the closest thing to sisters she’d ever had, and she longed to be with them now.

Eliza and Prince Sebastian floated past Caroline and Beck without any acknowledgment of them. That was to be expected—the two of them looked absolutely besotted. They were so enthralled with each other, in fact, that Caroline fretted they’d walk into any one of the marble columns that lined their path.

Oh, but she was envious, filled to the very brim with envy. In England, she rarely gave marriage any thought except on those occasions Beck complained she ought to settle on someone, anyone, and relieve him of his duty. But he didn’t really mind his duty, his protestations notwithstanding. Caroline rather suspected he liked having her underfoot. So she flitted from one party to the next, happy to enjoy the attentions of the many gentlemen who crossed her path, happy with her freedom to do as she pleased.

But looking at Eliza, Caroline realized that she did indeed want one day to be in love with a man who would be as devoted to her as Prince Sebastian was to his bride. She wanted to feel everything Eliza was feeling, to understand just how that sort of love changed a person.

Prince Leopold and Hollis passed by Caroline and Beck. Hollis’s face was streaked with happy tears. Prince Leopold happened to look to the guests as they passed, a polite smile on his face. His gaze locked on Caroline’s—well, not locked, really, as much as it skimmed over her—but nevertheless, she smiled broadly. She began to lift a hand but was suddenly jostled with an elbow to her ribs. She jerked a wide-eyed gaze to her brother.

“Stop gawking,” he whispered. “You’ll snap your neck, craning it like that.”

Caroline haughtily touched a curl at her neck.

Beck turned his attention to the procession. The king and queen were passing them now. Beck leaned toward her and whispered, “He’s a prince, Caro, and you are just an English girl. You’re indulging in fairy tales again. I can see it plainly on your face.”

Just an English girl? She very much would have liked to kick Beck like she used to do when she was just a wee English girl. “Better to dream in fairy tales than not dream at all.”

Beck rolled his eyes. He stood dispassionately as the archbishop and his altar boys followed the king and queen.

Just an English girl, indeed.

2020 Book #31 – A Royal Kiss and Tell by Julia London

Title: A Royal Kiss and Tell
Author: Julia London
Date finished: 5/24/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication Date: May 19, 2020
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Royal Wedding series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss/ Publisher
NOTE: 
I received this book for free from Edelweiss / the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Every prince has his secrets. And she’s determined to unravel his…

Every young man in London’s ton is vying for Lady Caroline Hawke’s hand—except one. Handsome roué Prince Leopold of Alucia can’t quite remember Caroline’s name, and the insult is not to be tolerated. So Caroline does what any clever, resourceful lady of means would do to make sure Leo never again forgets: sees that scandalous morsels about his reputation are printed in a ladies’ gossip gazette…all while secretly setting her cap for the rakish royal.

Someone has been painting Leo as a blackguard, but who? Socially, it is ruining him. More important, it jeopardizes his investigation into a contemptible scheme that reaches the highest levels of British government. Leo needs Lady Caroline’s help to regain access to society. But this charming prince is about to discover that enlisting the deceptively sweet and sexy Lady Caroline might just cost him his heart, his soul and both their reputations…

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I haven’t read many books by Julia London in the past but I loved the cover on this one so I wanted to try it. I really didn’t like Caroline at first, she was so flighty and inappropriate. And full of herself! Leo too wasn’t my favorite character at first either, he wasn’t all that nice to Caroline at first but I liked him a bit better than Caroline. I was surprised at how much I ended up liking both characters by the end of the book. Both Leo and Caroline grew so much through the book, both characters were generous and loving by the end of the book. I do wish that there had been a little more detail on what happened to the bad guys at the end since they were doing such despicable awful things. And I didn’t like that the king didn’t even get rid of the advisor that was involved. Other than that the book was good, I liked the plot and the characters. It was a sweet love story and I would recommend it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #18 – Marriage on Madison Avenue by Lauren Layne

Title: Marriage on Madison Avenue
Author: Lauren Layne
Date finished: 4/26/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: January 28, 2020
Pages in book: 285
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Central Park Pact series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Can guys and girls ever be just friends? According to Audrey Tate and Clarke West, absolutely. After all, they’ve been best friends since childhood without a single romantic entanglement. Clarke is the charming playboy Audrey can always count on, and he knows that the ever-loyal Audrey will never not play along with his strategy for dodging his matchmaking mother—announcing he’s already engaged…to Audrey.

But what starts out as a playful game between two best friends turns into something infinitely more complicated, as just-for-show kisses begin to stir up forbidden feelings. As the faux wedding date looms closer, Audrey and Clarke realize that they can never go back to the way things were, but deep down, do they really want to?

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I’ve read other books by this author in the past and really enjoyed them. I hadn’t read any of the books in this series so far but luckily there was some crossover and I got to see Alexis again from To Love and to Cherish. I am tempted to read the other two in this Central Park series also as the characters are so fun and entertaining to read about. I love the three main ladies: Claire, Naomi, and Audrey and the way their friendship came about is so different and unusual. Audrey and Clarke were very endearing characters, they were both so sweet and had such a great friendship from the start that it is difficult for the reader to not be rooting for them. I really enjoyed reading their story, it made me feel many things but the main one was happiness. There were some pieces of it that were a little predictable but nothing too annoying. And it was just such a touching story with entertaining characters and a romantic plot line, it was hard to find anything not to like! Clarke was necessarily my favorite hero but he was sweet and he proved in the end that he really cared for Audrey. This was an entertaining and quick read – I’d definitely recommend it!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page