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

2020 Book #17 – Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey

Title: Love Her or Lose Her
Author: Tessa Bailey
Date finished: 4/24/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Pages in book: 347
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Hot and Hammered 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:

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippie. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.

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 heard a lot of good things about this author’s previous novel Fix Her Up. It was a very popular novel last year so I wanted to try reading the upcoming release (which is now a few months in the past). Bailey’s voice as an author was playful and endearing and if the previous book was anything like this one I can see why it was so popular. I procrastinated on reading this for awhile since I wasn’t sure how I felt about a romance novel featuring an already married couple whose marriage is on the rocks. And when I did start reading the novel, some of it hit a little too close to home for me: husband in the marines, comes home and can’t communicated how his tour in Afghanistan and subsequent return to civilian life is affecting him, and overall just a couple that has trouble communicating. Some of the emotions it brought out in me weren’t necessarily good ones but holy monkeys this book brought out so many emotions. The author did an amazing job of drawing the reader into the story and trapping them in the minds of the characters and their lives. I didn’t want to put it down, I felt so invested in the characters. Some pieces of the story didn’t feel realistic to be and/or they felt a little cliched but overall I really enjoyed the book so much – I would definitely recommend it!

Link to author website

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

Wild, Wild Rake BLOG TOUR!!

Wild_Wild_Rake_Tour_Banner_AVAILABLE_NOW

Wild,Wild Rake was released last Tuesday (February 25th), and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! I’m hoping to have my review up soon, I’ve been reading it and have been really enjoying it! See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt: 

SUMMARY

Wild, Wild Rake, the next sweeping, emotional, witty, and sharp romance in the Cavensham Heiresses series from beloved author Janna MacGregor.

Her first marriage was an epic fail.

Lady Avalon Warwyk never did love her husband. Arrogant, selfish, and cruel, it’s a blessing when she’s widowed and left to raise her son all by herself. Finally, Avalon can live freely and do the work she loves: helping fallen women become businesswomen. She’s lived these past ten years with no desire to remarry—that is, until Mr. Devan Farris comes to town.

Can he convince her to take another chance at happily ever after?

Devan Farris—charming vicar, reputed rake, and the brother of Avalon’s son’s guardian—is reluctantly sent to town to keep tabs on Avalon and her son. Devan wishes he didn’t have to meddle in her affairs; he’s not one to trod on a woman’s independent nature and keen sense of convictions. But she’ll have nothing to do with a vicar with a wild reputation—even though he’s never given his heart and body to another. If only he could find a way to show Avalon who he really is on the inside—a good, true soul looking for its other half. But how can prove that he wants to love and care for her. . .until death do they part?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janna MacGregor_Photo credit Hilary Hope PhotographyJanna MacGregor was born and raised in the bootheel of Missouri. She is the author of the Cavensham Heiresses series, which begins with The Bad Luck Bride. Janna credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and two smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pugs.

BUY IT HERE!

EXCERPT

Wild, Wild Rake_coverAvalon read the first line in the letter from her son’s guardian, Gavin Farris, the Earl of Larkton. By all appearances the words resembled something innocuous, purely designed to lull a person into thinking it contained real concern with a touch of whimsical affection.

My dearest lady, I do hope this finds you and your intrepid son well.

“Avalon, did you hear the news?” Seventeen, on the cusp of eighteen years of age, Avalon’s sister, Lady Sophia Cavensham, looked up from her embroidery and smiled. Her gaze darted to her friend Miss Penelope Rowley, the one and only niece of the wealthiest gentry landowner in the shire. Though she was two years older than Sophia, Penelope had become somewhat of a fixture at Warwyk Hall over the last six months since she’d moved to her aunt and uncle’s home. The two women were inseparable.

Penelope let out a dramatic sigh then collapsed in a swoon across the pink-and-gold brocade sofa. In the process, she kneed the table, upsetting the delicate pink china cup and saucer. “Oww.”

Avalon tried to ignore their chatter. The Earl of Larkton’s correspondence had increased in frequency over the last several months. The weekly letters were turning into biweekly posts. Each one wanted more and more control over the Warwyk estate and more decision-making control over her ten-year-old son, Thane Pearce, the Marquess of Warwyk. She doubled her concentration on the letter as she read the entire first paragraph.

The purpose of my correspondence is to inform you that I’ve appointed a new vicar for the village of Thistledown. The man comes with impeccable standing and experience. In addition, his educational training is second to none. He’s a protégé of Lord Bishop Marlowe.

“He’s extraordinary.” Sophia’s dreamlike whisper floated through the air like a dandelion seed.

“He’s . . . simply exquisite.” Penelope’s voice joined Sophia’s in a chorus of dazzled fascination.

My dear Marchioness, it’s my pleasure to announce that my brother—

Avalon swallowed the sudden onrush of bile that marched up her throat. It couldn’t be. Fate was not that hateful.

“Mr. Devan—” Sophia sighed.

“Farris.” Penelope finished the sentence and slowly drew her hand against her forehead as if saying his name caused her to faint.

“No. Not him.” Avalon murmured the words aloud. The sanctimonious prig had arrived to make her life a living hell. Avalon grimaced to keep from casting her accounts. Now she was just exaggerating like the girls. She wasn’t really physically sick, but the news could make a person ill. “When did he arrive in the village?”

Clueless as to how the news affected her older sister, Sophia scooted to the edge of the crimson-and-white striped club chair that sat adjacent to Avalon’s matching one. “Two days ago. Penelope and I just happened to be walking in front of the vicarage when we saw the Earl of Larkton’s coach arrive. The new vicar followed behind on horseback.”

Penelope nodded vigorously as if Sophia’s story needed affirmation.

Avalon wanted to roll her eyes. The two women “never just happen” to do anything. They orchestrated and connived everything from shopping to men. God save anyone who crossed their paths. If one of the girls took a shine to any of the ton’s marriageable men, then London’s finest would soon understand what it meant to be hunted.

As the girls continued their chatter, Avalon devoted her full attention to the rest of the letter. Better to finish the horrid task, then take a long walk through her gardens. Though it was January and bitterly cold outside, a brisk hour of exercise would help Avalon clear some of her unease at the news that Mr. Devan Farris had invaded her village.

I’ve considered your request that the young marquess continue his studies at home, but at the age of ten, his interests would best be served by attending Eton sooner rather than later. That’s where boys turn into men. Your suggestion that he attend Harrow won’t do. His father had insisted that I promise he attend Eton. However, since his Latin skills are somewhat lacking, I’ve decided to hire my brother, Mr. Farris, to tutor him in the subject.

Her blood simmered at the words. The earl’s declaration was nothing more than gilding the lily. Everyone within fifty miles of London knew that Devan Farris sought to marry an heiress. Until he found one, the fortune-hunting vicar thought to use her son’s marquisate to pay double for his services. Since her son’s estate paid for the vicar’s wages, Mr. Farris would receive another wage from the coffers for tutoring lessons.

But what really brought her blood to boil was that the smug vicar would be nosing into her business, and that wouldn’t do at all. She and only she ruled the parish with a fair and impartial hand. No one, including Devan Farris, would upset her world.

2020 Book #9 – Witness Protection Widow by Debra Webb

51SmVhNgeJLTitle: Witness Protection Widow
Author: Debra Webb
Date finished: 2/1/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Publication Date: February 1, 2020
Pages in book: 256
Stand alone or series: Winchester, Tennessee Thriller book #5
Where I got the book from: Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from Harlequin 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 the witness protection program keep her identity secret?

After Allison James finally escapes her marriage to a monster, she becomes the star witness in the case against her deceased husband’s powerful crime family. Now it’s up to US Marshal Jaxson Stevens, Ali’s ex-boyfriend, to keep the WITSEC widow safe. But as the danger escalates and sparks fly, will Jax be able to help Ali escape her ruthless in-laws?

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’m reading this book in connection with Harlequin’s February blog tour series to highlight releases of their category romances. I used to read these category series romances a lot and I was glad to be able to read some more recent releases. Category romances are a great place to find a quick read and are true to the category they’re published in. Looking for some thrills? Read an Intrigue! And for an Intrigue this one was really good! Ali and Jax were both interesting and endearing characters. I especially liked Ali’s dog Bob, he was great! The ending was a little anti-climactic only because I kept thinking that something more awful was going to happen. Other than that it was a pretty good book – I was interested in the story line throughout and I wanted to find out what was going to happen.

Link to author’s website

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

(Harlequin series) Witness Protection Widow BLOG TOUR!!

Harlequin Series Spine ShowcaseHarlequin is featuring their category romance in a February 2020 series blog tour! Witness Protection Widow was released TODAY, and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! I enjoyed the book – my review should follow shortly after this post! See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt: 

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SUMMARY

Can the witness protection program keep her identity secret?

After Allison James finally escapes her marriage to a monster, she becomes the star witness in the case against her deceased husband’s powerful crime family. Now it’s up to US Marshal Jaxson Stevens, Ali’s ex-boyfriend, to keep the WITSEC widow safe. But as the danger escalates and sparks fly, will Jax be able to help Ali escape her ruthless in-laws?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author photo_Debra WebbDEBRA WEBB is the award winning, USA Today bestselling author of more than 150 novels, including reader favorites the Faces of Evil, the Colby Agency, and the Shades of Death series. With more than four million books sold in numerous languages and countries, Debra’s love of storytelling goes back to her childhood on a farm in Alabama. Visit Debra at www.DebraWebb.com

BUY IT HERE!

EXCERPT

51SmVhNgeJLShe shivered. The fire had gone out. She kept on her jacket while she added logs to the fireplace and kindling to get it started. Within a couple of minutes, the fire was going. She’d had a fireplace as a kid, so relearning her way around this one hadn’t been so bad. She went back to the kitchen and turned on the kettle for tea.

Bob growled low in his throat and stared toward the front door.

She froze. Her phone was in her hip pocket. Her gun was still in her waistband at the small of her back. This was something else Marshal Holloway had in­sisted upon. He’d taught her how to use a handgun. They’d held many target practices right behind this cabin.

A creak beyond the front door warned that some­one was on the porch. She eased across the room and went to the special peephole that had been installed. There was one on each side of the cabin, allowing for views all the way around. A man stood on the porch. He was the typical local cowboy. Jeans and boots. Hat in his hands. Big truck in the drive. Just like Marshal Holloway.

But she did not know this man.

“Alice Stewart, if you’re in there, it’s okay for you to open the door. I’m Sheriff Colt Tanner. Branch sent me.”

Her heart thudding, she held perfectly still. Branch would never send someone to her without letting her know first. If for some reason he couldn’t tell her in advance, they had a protocol for these situations.

She reached back, fingers curled about the butt of her weapon. Bob moved stealthily toward the door.

“I know you’re concerned about opening the door to a stranger, but you need to trust me. Branch has been in an accident, and he’s in the hospital undergoing surgery right now. No matter that his injuries were serious, he refused to go into surgery until he spoke to me and I assured him I would look after you, ma’am.”

Worry joined the mixture of fear and dread churn­ing inside her. She hoped Branch wasn’t hurt too badly. He had a wife and a daughter.

She opened her mouth to ask about his condition, but then she snapped it shut. The man at her door had not said the code word.

2020 Book #7 -Scot Under the Covers by Suzanne Enoch

51Qs0av7xSLTitle: Scot Under the Covers
Author: Suzanne Enoch
Date finished: 1/23/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: January 28, 2020
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Wild Wicked Highlanders series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley / Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley and 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:

In Scot Under the Covers, a resourceful English lady and a hot-blooded Highlander join forces to trick a scoundrel, and every rule will be broken!

Miranda Harris is known for her charm, wit, and ability to solve any problem she encounters. But when her brother lands neck-deep in gambling debt to a crafty villain and Miranda is subsequently blackmailed into marrying him, she must enlist the help of the devil himself to save the family honor—and herself.

“It’s time to fall in love with Suzanne Enoch.” — Lisa Kleypas

Devilishly handsome Highlander Aden MacTaggert knows next to nothing about the ways of the ton, but he most certainly knows his way around gaming halls and womens’ hearts. Still, Aden is not sure how he’ll manage to find a Sassenach bride in time to save his family’s inheritance. When his almost sister-in-law Miranda comes to him for assistance, he proposes a partnership: She will help him navigate London society and he’ll teach her everything about wagering…and winning back her freedom. The beautiful, clever lass intrigues Aden—but is she playing her own game, or are the sparks between them real? He is accustomed to risking his pocket. But betting on Miranda’s love is a game he can’t afford to lose. . .

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 had read the first book in this series early last year and really enjoyed it. It took me a minute to pick back up with who the characters were and what not but I was excited to get back into the series! And while I always enjoy Enoch’s writing and characters’ relationship development, the plot line on this one didn’t hit me right. I was really upset with Matthew’s actions and I didn’t really feel like he got punished at all. I mean I’m sure he was upset, maybe even distraught, but his role in the story was pretty damn awful and Eloise didn’t even pretend to be mad at him for like 5 minutes. So anyways, that piece of the plot made me pretty angry, but other than that I liked the book. I especially liked the ending, I thought it was very forward-thinking and very romantic. Great cast of characters and some entertaining banter between the hero and heroine. I would still recommend it! And I can’t wait for Coll’s novel, which I hope is next!

Link to author website

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