Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Historical, romance, Spotlight, Western on October 5, 2016

to-love-a-texas-ranger-coverTitle: To Love a Texas Ranger

Author: Linda Broday

Series: Men of Legend

ISBN: 9781492630173

Pubdate: October 4, 2016

Genre: Western Historical Romance

Synopsis

Gravely injured on the trail of a notorious criminal, Texas Ranger Sam Legend boards a train bound for his family ranch to recuperate…only to find himself locked in battle to save a desperate woman on the run. Determined to rescue the beautiful Sierra, Sam recruits an unlikely ally. But can he trust the mysterious gunslinger to fight at his side?

Sam is shocked to discover his new ally is not only an outlaw, but his half-brother. Torn between loyalty to his job and love of his family, Sam goes reeling straight into Sierra’s arms. Yet just as the walls around his battered heart begin to crumble, Sierra is stolen away. Sam will risk anything to save her—his life, his badge, his very soul—knowing that some bonds are stronger than the law…and some legends were born to be told.

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Excerpt

“Stop, Weston! Stop, damn you!” Sam raised his gun and fired. A large tree trunk shielded the outlaw as he rode by, the bullet splitting the bark. Weston never looked back.

Only one thing remained—see if the outlaw had left them a horse, or untied and run them all off.

The overlapping branches had kept back much of the deluge. Though water dripped from the leaves, the ground was firmer here. He moved forward, afraid to hope. It wasn’t for him but for Sierra. She wouldn’t last long afoot.

He finally glimpsed movement through the leafy forest and made out the shapes of horses.

Sam gave a sigh of relief. At least they had a way to travel.

That Weston had again shown a smattering of compassion came as a shock. He’d done wrong but had turned around and tempered it with good. Just like the time he’d shot Sam in the leg then sent help.

Damn, if he could only figure the outlaw out!

A sound from behind alerted Sam Legend. Was it Luke doubling back and sneaking up behind him? He whirled, his finger tightening on the trigger, and shoved his Colt into the person’s face.

A jolt raced through him as he stared at Sierra.

She gasped, her eyes wide in fear.

“Thought I told you to stay in the shack.” He hated the angry words, but he reeled from the shock of how close he’d come to ending her life.

His jagged nerves had trouble settling for several beats of his heart. He could still feel his finger pulling back on the trigger that would’ve sent a bullet into her. Sam’s hand shook as he returned the Colt to his holster.

“I couldn’t wait. Something’s going on. What’s wrong, Sam?” A quiver in the words spoke of Sierra’s fear. “Where’s Andrew?”

“Andrew Evan is the outlaw Luke Weston, and I’ve been chasing him nigh onto a year.” At her soft cry, he put his arm around her and held her next to him. “I recognized him this morning when I finally saw him without his hat. Those eyes are burned into my memory.”

“I liked him. He seemed real nice. You suspected, didn’t you? That was the reason for the tension I kept feeling.”

“I knew he was familiar, but it’s been hard trusting my instincts lately.” He smoothed back her tendrils of dark hair. “Forgive me? I almost shot you. Lady, you scared me out of ten lives.”

“Of course. I should’ve done as you told me, only I heard shots. It’s my fault.”

Sam tried to drag his stare from her tousled hair and soft curves that the trousers did little to hide. She was a sight for sure. He swallowed hard, trying not to think about running his hands over her satiny skin and kissing her until neither had an ounce of breath left.

He felt more like his old self, and he realized it was because of her. She’d fixed him by pushing back the darkness and allowing light into his life. By giving him something—someone—to be a hero for. A swell of deep gratitude rose as he struggled to contain his emotions.

“No, no. I beg to differ, pretty lady. I see no fault at all with you.” He looked deep into her blue eyes that saw only goodness. “Since you’re here, can you help me bring the mounts to the shack?” Somehow, someway, he’d return the horses that didn’t belong to the Ford gang to their rightful owners.

“Sure, Sam.” Pride, and maybe a little sadness too, rippled in her pretty eyes. They reminded him of a pale blue sky. In fact, he wasn’t sure if they were blue or gray. Maybe a combination of both. Whichever, he loved looking at them.

Her softly parted lips beckoned like a light that guided sailors on a dark, storm-tossed sea.

Kissing her was the only thing on his mind. Not Luke Weston. Not the trials they faced ahead. Not the time he’d have to spend twiddling his thumbs on the Lone Star Ranch. He knew he had to taste her mouth or die wanting.

Placing his large hands below her jawline, Sam lowered his head and gently pressed his lips to hers. Heat pooled low in his gut as he tasted the tangy sweetness that did faintly resemble wild honey. Just as he’d imagined.

He tried to hold back, to make the kiss light and meaningless, but his need for her made it impossible. In seconds, the gentle kiss turned urgent, demanding a response.

And Sierra did answer his invitation. With a smoth­ered cry, she leaned into him, clutching a handful of his shirt, holding him to her. The passion and desire that filled Sam seemed to have swept her along.

That she didn’t pull away sent joy through him.

A low moan rumbled in his throat as he slid his hand into her dark hair. The satiny strands wrapped around his fingers, tethering her to him. Closing his eyes, he savored the feel of her soft curves molding against the hard planes of his body.

In that second he knew heaven wasn’t only golden streets and angels playing harps.

Heaven was Sierra Hunt in his arms.

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About the Author

At a young age, Linda Broday discovered a love for storytelling, history, and anything pertaining to the Old West. Cowboys fascinate her. There’s something about Stetsons, boots, and tall rugged cowboys that get her fired up! A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Linda has won many awards, including the prestigious National Readers’ Choice Award and the Texas Gold Award. She now resides in the panhandle of Texas on the Llano Estacado.

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Posted in 4 paws, excerpt, Review, romance on October 3, 2016

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Title: FAIRLY SAFE
Author: Deborah Ann Davis
Publisher: D&D Universe
Pages: 356
Genre: New Adult

Synopsis

When Mistaken Identity collides with Secret Identity, who wins?

JACOB HAS COME A LONG WAY FOR AN ORPHANED FOSTER KID. He has a mentor, a great job, and has finally fallen in love. Granted, she mistook him for a stalker when they met, but every relationship has its little problems. Unfortunately, for the past few years, as the object of his affection pops in and out of his life, she has refused to share any personal info, like where she’s from, or her real name. Regardless, Jacob is ready to take their relationship to the next level. Now, if only he can locate her so he can tell her.

CASEY’S FAMILY IS IN THE WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM. Safety has to be their only priority. Their cover has been blown before, so Casey knows at any given time they could be forced to disappear again. Obviously, a shy young man with hopeful eyes cannot possibly be added to the mix. You cannot build a relationship like that. Now, if only she can stop thinking about him.

JACOB’S AND CASEY’S WORLDS UNEXPECTEDLY COLLIDE when Jacob inadvertently helps hide her family. Exposed to their 24-7 vigilance, Jacob realizes he must come up with a plan to keep them out of harm’s way, because this time if Casey disappears, she will be taking with her Jacob’s heart, and his hopes of finally having a family of his own.

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Excerpt

Wipeout!

Jacob Kent stepped out of his car as he scanned the fair on the other side of the parking lot, his heart pounding. As with many country fairs, the parking lot was no more than an abused pasture. This one was about the size of two football fields. Fair employees decked in bright yellow directed the early trickle of cars to their temporary berths. Jacob ignored them, choosing instead a parking spot near the exit. Anticipating the possible need for a quick getaway outweighed a pimply teen’s futile attempts to redirect him.

He regarded the rides twirling and spinning above and around the strolling families. Despite the morning sun, the lights flashed merrily, beckoning to all. At 11 a.m. it wasn’t crowded, but he knew that would soon change. Locking his car, he slowly picked his way through the beaten grass, combing all directions for a clue the girls were there. As the unmistakable sound of carnival music floated toward him on the warm summer breeze, he reviewed his plan.

First, he would walk through the fair to familiarize himself with the layout they had printed out. Then he would adjust their escape route to where he parked the car. After assessing the grounds, he would plant himself somewhere along the concourse, and watch the crowd. That’s how he had always found Casey in the past, and that’s how he was going to find her again.

A voice came over the loudspeaker, momentarily dimming the carnival noise. “Would the owner of a red ford truck, license plate AIP537, please return to your vehicle? Your lights are on.”

Jacob tensed. Was that some kind of clue? He looked over the parking lot. No, he could see the lights of the red truck from here. He smiled ruefully to himself.

Get a grip, Kent, he thought as he watched a portly balding man march exasperatedly toward the truck.

He sighed. Intellectually, he had to acknowledge they might have pieced together a bunch of randomly forgotten items into a fantastical story, but emotionally, he couldn’t help but believe the items served an ultimate purpose. If The Herd was here, he was going to find them. He also knew if he wasn’t careful, he could spend the entire day jumping at shadows and following dead ends.

Like that little commotion over by the edge of the fair. To his over-active imagination, that game of tag could look like a child trying to escape from the evil clutches of—

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, WIPEOUT!” sang out over the loudspeaker.

His head jerked up. As the pounding drums from the familiar song drowned out the carnival music, all doubt was erased. The loudspeaker was sending out a warning. His eyes darted back toward the commotion he had noticed. That was no game of tag. That was a child trying to escape a man in hot pursuit. Jacob couldn’t be positive at this distance, but it sure looked like Robin.

With his heart in his throat, he broke into a run, zigzagging between cars, trying to intercept the fleeing child as it headed toward the side of the parking lot. In this surreal moment, the same song they had used for obstacle course training was being piped out like background music to a scene in a movie. But this scene was real, where a real menace was gaining. Caught in his own nightmare, Jacob was watching Robin run for her life, and he was not close enough to help.

As the predator and prey crossed the area between the fair and the parking lot, the longer legs of the adult closed the gap between them, but once they reached the cars, the advantage became hers. Robin’s small size and training put some distance between them as she dodged around vehicles. However, her constant change of direction made it difficult for Jacob to maintain a course of interception.

Watching Robin’s progress, Jacob realized she was trying to head back toward the fair. Silently applauding Robin’s decision to get closer to other people who could help her, Jacob altered his course accordingly.

So did Robin’s pursuer.

Suddenly, her stalker eliminated the space between them by clambering up and over two pickup trucks, and landing an arm’s length away. Skidding, Robin veered around another vehicle with the man on her tail. As Jacob frantically tried to reach her, a brunette Sam suddenly popped out from behind a car and neatly took the man out with one magnificent sweep of a skateboard to the head.

Where did she come from? A stunned Jacob skidded to a stop, gasping for breath, his chest burning.

With a quick high-five, the sisters raced back to the fair. Jacob tried in vain to get their attention, but he hadn’t quite recovered enough breath to formulate sounds louder than gasps. He shook his head as he tried to calm the burning in his lungs. He was a wreck, but they were able to run off.

And I was going to save them? He weakly chuckled. What was I thinking?

Sobering, he trotted over to the man who was staggering to his feet. With rage marshalling all of his strength, Jacob drew back and smashed his fist into the man’s face. The unexpected pain in his fist was nothing compared to the satisfaction of watching Robin’s former threat drop like an anchor.

Shaking the pain out of his hand, Jacob aimed a vindictive kick at the ribs of his girls’ attacker. Any qualms he might ordinarily have about hitting a man when he’s down were nonexistent when it came to someone threatening his family.

Satisfied the man was no longer a danger, he took off in the direction he had seen his girls disappear, trying to calm the fear rising in his chest. He doubted this man had come alone. The girls probably knew that, too, and would be hiding. How was he going to find them before their pursuers did?

The light glinting off the speaker perched atop a telephone pole caught his eye. Jacob skidded to a stop and stared at it. Of course. When Robin had been trying to escape, that speaker had been blasting out WipeOut, but now he only heard carnival music. With a grin, Jacob decided it was time to stop believing in coincidences. Someone at the fair must be helping them. If he found that person, he’d be able to find the fugitives.

Review

I loved the premise of this book – that at a kissing booth, if you kiss on your birthday you will be married by Christmas. The characters were diverse and it added different twists to the story. There were bits of humor throughout, and a little bit of mystery/suspense at different times, but it didn’t stay a mystery for very long. Man of the characters are keeping secrets which causes a lot of confusion for many of the characters, but it is all resolved in the end. There are many sweet moments too.

This is the 2nd in a series, so I’m not 100% sure what was in the first book and how it ties to this one (if at all other than the kissing booth).

I did receive a copy of this book so these comments are based on what I received, and not sure if it is a final copy or not. There were a few times where I felt like the story was disjointed and I felt lost or that the story didn’t flow well in a few spots. I didn’t quite get William Hatch’s age/marriage/timeline. I know the prologue is about him, and then the next chapter starts and says 60 years later, but I thought while reading that William said he had 60 years with his wife. Considering they met at 6 and 11, not sure if that part is right…because then I started questioning his age too. There is a part where they switch from Cassie to Casey for the female lead, and while it makes sense a bit later on, it seemed like all of a sudden her name changed with no explanation. Now I might have missed it, but it seemed weird to me.

Overall I enjoyed the book and will have to check out the first one and the next one which we got a sneak peek at the end of the book.

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About the Author

deborah-ann-davisDEBORAH ANN DAVIS has been writing since she was assigned to keep a Journal in her 5th grade English class. She began to look around for writing inspiration. Lo and behold, she found her world was full of funny stories just waiting to be told. As she grew older, occasionally she could manipulate one into some school assignment, but it never occurred to her to pursue writing, not even when she discovered her flare for telling stories at college parties.

After a string of college majors, she realized she could have a captive audience EVERY DAY in the public school system. As it turns out, teenagers love to laugh, and what could be more entertaining than Biology, Earth Science, and Environmental Science? Then there’s the added bonus that once kids know you like to laugh, they want to make you laugh.

Go figure.

In addition to Writing, she is also an Educational Speaker and a Certified Personal Trainer. She taught for 25+ years, although somewhere in the middle of all that educating, she stepped out of teaching for 6 years to do the Mommy Thing, and run the office for their family construction company.

Even though they had followed separate paths, Deborah reunited with, and married her childhood sweetheart, twelve years after their first kiss.  Together they coached their daughter’s AAU Basketball Team, which swept States two years in a row. (Yay!) Then, for several years their daughter and their money went to college.

They currently reside on a lovely lake in Connecticut. She enjoys dabbling with living a sustainable life, writing novels for her Love of Fairs series, dancing, playing outside, and laughing really hard every day. She promotes increasing the amount of movement throughout your day via Wiggle Writer posts on Merry Meddling.

Remember, you can do anything if you set your mind to it— including becoming an author at any age— but it’s way more fun if you are grinning back when the Universe smiles down on you.

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Posted in Book Release, Historical, romance, Western on October 2, 2016

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Title: Lies, Love & Redemption
Author: Kelli A. Wilkins
Genre: historical western romance
Publisher: Medallion Press
Publication Date: September 19, 2016
Print Length: 325 pages
Heat Level: 2

Synopsis

Shot and left for dead, Sam Hixton stumbles into a general store on the Nebraska prairie and collapses into the arms of Cassie Wilcox.
Cassie’s world is turned upside down when the handsome stranger drops into her life. Sam is another complication she doesn’t need: her business is dying and her trouble with the townspeople is escalating. Yet she’s determined to keep the store open — no matter what the cost.
As Sam recovers from his injuries, he hides the truth about his identity and convinces Cassie to let him work in the store. He’s attracted to her and admires her independent nature but quickly realizes Cassie’s in way over her head.
They fight their growing attraction, and Cassie questions whether she can trust her fragile heart to a mysterious stranger. Will he accept her once he knows about her troubled past?
 
Cassie resists Sam’s advances and represses her feelings until one fateful night when they give in to their fiery passion. Together, they work out a plan to save the store but find their efforts are thwarted—and their lives endangered—by the locals.
Sam’s secret returns to haunt him and pulls him away just when Cassie needs him the most. Will he regain her trust when she learns the truth? Cassie has everything invested in the store—can she save it and find true love with Sam before it’s too late?

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About the Author

Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 95 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels.

In 2016 Kelli began re-releasing her romances previously published by Amber Quill Press. Visit her website and blog for a full title list, book summaries, and other information. Her Medallion Press historical western romance, Lies, Love & Redemption, was published in September 2016.

Her writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative non-fiction guide based on her 15 years of experience as a writer. It’s filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.

If you like to be scared, check out Kelli’s horror ebooks: Dead Til Dawn and Kropsy’s Curse.

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Posted in Cover Reveal, romance, Spotlight on October 2, 2016

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Synopsis

Eight years after her fiancé was murdered, attorney Megan Kole has fully reconciled two areas of her life: her intelligent son, who never knew his father, and the thriving law practice that is her late father’s legacy. The remainder of Megan’s world stalled in a paralyzing grief that she effectively compartmentalized until a transfer to Seattle brings a handsome, mysterious billionaire into her life.

Daemon Ros has been an outcast since the day he was born. His parents’ lavish but emotionally-vacant lifestyle prompted him to assert his financial independence at a young age. His ailing brother is the only connection he allows to penetrate the vault he has built around his heart, until a devoted mom and her precocious son introduce him to the true meaning of family bonds.

But a chance legal encounter where Megan acts as mediator in a Ros family business dispute leads to far more than either expected. When a shocking truth leads to a love affair between Megan and Daemon that is forbidden in every conceivable way, the barely-restrained chemistry that scorches between them threatens an injunction on everything and everyone they hold dear. As pasts cross, memories threaten, and lies surface in a trial far more deadly than anything inside a courtroom, an arbitration of the heart could prove the only way for them both to make it out alive.

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★ Meet Daemon Ros

Age: 39

Birth Date: May 15

Height: 6’3

Weight: 172 Lbs.

Race: Black & Caucasian

Eye Color: Hazel

Hair Color: Dark

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

School: University of Oxford

Occupation: CEO – Ros Industries

Home: Zürich, Switzerland, Seattle, Washington

Traits: Protective, Brooding, Intense

Favorite Outfit: Black everything

Toys: Jaguar F-Type, Land Rover Defender & Evoque, Bugatti Veyron, Riva Boat

Sports: Football and soccer

Hobbies: Woodworking, hiking and boating.

Favorite Food: Mostly seafood and poultry, with the occasional steak.

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★ Excerpt – Their Very First Meeting

I knock on the Presidential suite door at the Four Seasons and wait. My palms are drenched, and I can’t seem to stay still. The door opens.

“You must be Ms. Kole, we’ve been expecting you. Please come in.”

The man is probably my age—early to mid-thirties, Asian, and his hair is in a neat ponytail.

He smiles politely. “I’m Min-jae Kang. Please have a seat. Mr. Ros is on a call. He’ll see you shortly.”

“Thank you. It’s a pleasure,” I respond. I’m too nervous to sit. Everything around me is still so foreign. I stop for a moment to take in the breathtaking water views. Mega cargo ships sail by. To the right, an island looms in the background.

In the distance, I hear indistinct talking. After my phone conversation with Daemon, I’m not sure what to expect. I have no clue how this man is going to behave, especially now that his father decided I should mediate on my own. I hate being so unprepared for this meeting. I am completely out of my comfort zone. Right now, I don’t even know what the man looks like.

Min-jae returns. “Ms. Kole, please follow me. Mr. Ros is ready to see you.”

As we approach the room, Mr. Ros’s voice becomes clearer. “They’re f*ing incompetent. Tell the legal department I want the whole management team fired immediately, and tell Schwartz he needs to get on a plane and head over there tonight to begin putting things in place. I’ll call you later. I have a meeting.”

The man whom I could only assume is Daemon Ros stands looking out to the view, his back is to me as he ends the call. Chills run through my body.

“Ms. Kole,” he turns to face me.

Blood. Air. Water. All that keeps me alive spirals into a vicious vortex and leaves my body.

Oh my God… it’s Zach!

 

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About Rebecca Rohman

Rebecca Rohman is a wife and designer currently living in the northeastern United States. She was a sales manager for a tourist magazine, and for many years prior, she was involved in marketing for a jewelry company and fine wine distributor.

About fifteen years ago, she started writing her first romance novel purely to entertain herself. In early 2012, she decided to complete and release it. Since then, she has released three additional novels and one novella. She is currently working on her second novella, Love, Lies & A Bleu Christmas, due to be released in November 2016.

 

Titles by Rebecca Rohman

A Problematic Love | Love M.D. | Love, Lies & The D.A. | Unravel | Uncorked

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Historical, romance, Spotlight on September 28, 2016

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THE PERKS OF LOVING A SCOUNDREL
By Jennifer McQuiston
Avon Books
September 27, 2016
ISBN: 9780062335142; $$7.99
E-ISBN 9780062335159; $5.99

Synopsis

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer McQuiston continues her enchanting Seduction Diaries series as a bookish spinster and an unrepentant rogue unite to unmask a traitor.

Every girl dreams of a hero….

No one loves books more than Miss Mary Channing. Perhaps that’s why she’s reached the ripe old age of six-and-twenty without ever being kissed. Her future may be as bland as milk toast, but Mary is content to simply dream about the heroes and adventures she reads about in her books. That way she won’t end up with a villain instead.

But sometimes only a scoundrel will do.

When she unexpectedly finds herself in the arms of Geoffrey Westmore, London’s most notorious scoundrel, it feels a bit like a plot from one of her favorite novels. Suddenly, Mary understands why even the smartest heroines can fall prey to a handsome face. And Westmore’s is more handsome than most. But far worse than the damage to her reputation, the moment’s indiscretion uncovers an assassination plot that reaches to the highest levels of society and threatens the course of the entire country.

When a tight-laced miss and a scoundrel of epic proportions put their minds together, nothing can stand in their way. But unless they put their hearts together as well, a happy ending is anything but assured.

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Praise

“McQuiston’s third Seduction Diaries novel is to be commended for its complex and unusual plot and for featuring characters the reader comes to care for. A surprising, readable story about healing, forgiveness, and trust.” — Kirkus

“The story is equal parts mystery and romance, and just when readers begin to feel cheated, the twists and turns navigate to a stunning ending.”— Publishers Weekly

“Pure Escapism. Ms. Mcquiston created a romance as epic as the characters who lived it. […] With easily identifiable main characters and a thrilling story, it was a no brainer for me to gift this book with 5 stars and a Top Pick.” — Night Owl Reviews

”McQuiston’s Seduction Diaries series captivates readers with clever plots and engaging characters. Incorporating plenty of sexual tension, bantering dialogue and a mystery into this installment delivers everything fans expect from McQuiston. This is truly a delightful addition to a reader’s library.”— RT Book Reviews

“THE PERKS OF LOVING A SCOUNDREL is full of interesting characters and their interactions, especially those between West and Mary. There is also plenty of suspense concerning the assassination. The era is also a change from the Regency that so Dominates British historical romances.”— Romance Reviews Today

“Regency romance fans will adore this addition to McQuiston’s Seduction Diaries series”— Booklist

Excerpt

From the Diary of Miss Mary Channing
May 24, 1858

Eleanor wrote today. I should have been glad to hear from her, given that she is my twin sister and I love her dearly, but it would be untruthful to say the contents of her letter pleased me. Her new husband, Lord Ashington, has been called away on business and she’s asked me to come to London to keep her company during the last two months of her confinement.

Can you imagine? Me, in London?

My family says I must get my nose out of my books and begin to live in the world around me. It is true I’ve never been further afield than a day trip from home, and that I have never slept a night outside my own bed. But why would I ever want to leave, when I have my books to keep me company? And a trip to London is not without its perils. I could very well end up like one of the characters in my beloved stories, snubbed by the popular crowd. Whispered about behind lace fans. Or worse . . . led astray by a handsome villain and then abandoned to my fate.

Yet, how could I not go? Eleanor is my sister, and she needs me. So I shall put on a brave face. Pack a trunk. Smile, if I must. But I can’t help but wonder . . . which worries me more?

The many things that could happen in London?

Or the thought of seeing Eleanor, with her handsome new husband, and her shining, lovely life, and everything I am afraid of wanting?

Chapter 1

London, May 29, 1858

The smell should have been worse.

She’d expected something foul, air made surly by the summer heat. Just last week she’d read about the Thames, that great, roiling river that carried with it the filth of the entire city and choked its inhabitants to tears. Her rampant imagination, spurred on by countless books and newspaper articles, had conjured a city of fetid smells, each more terrible than the last. But as Miss Mary Channing opened her bedroom window and breathed in her first London morning, her nose filled with nothing more offensive than the fragrance of . . .

Flowers.

Disconcerted, she peeked out over the sill. Dawn was just breaking over the back of Grosvenor Square. The gaslights were still burning and the windows of the other houses were dark. By eight o’clock, she imagined industrious housemaids would be down on their knees, whiting their masters’ stoops. The central garden would fill with nurses and their charges, heading west toward Hyde Park.

But for now the city—and its smells—belonged solely to her.

She breathed in again. Was she dreaming? Imagining things, as she was often wont to do? She was well over two hundred miles from home, but it smelled very much like her family’s ornamental garden in Yorkshire. She didn’t remember seeing a garden last night, but then, she had arrived quite late, the gaslight shadows obscuring all but the front steps. She’d been too weary to think, so sickened by the ceaseless motion of the train that she’d not even been able to read a book, much less ponder the underpinnings of the air she breathed.

She supposed she might have missed a garden. Good heavens, she probably would have missed a funeral parade, complete with an eight-horse coach and a brass band.

After the long, tiresome journey, she’d only wanted to find a bed.

And yet now . . . at five o’clock in the morning . . . she couldn’t sleep.

Not on a mattress that felt so strange, and not in a bedroom that wasn’t her own.

Pulling her head back inside, she eyed the four-poster bed, with its rumpled covers and profusion of pretty pillows. It was a perfectly nice bed. Her sister, Eleanor, had clearly put some thought into the choice of fabrics and furniture. Most women would love such a room. And most women would love such an opportunity—two whole months in London, with shops and shows and distractions of every flavor at their fingertips.

But Mary wasn’t most women. She preferred her distractions in the form of a good book, not shopping on Regent Street. And these two looming months felt like prison, not paradise.
The scent of roses lingered in the air, and as she breathed in, her mind settled on a new hope. If there was a flower garden she might escape to—a place where she might read her books and write in her journal—perhaps it would not be so terrible?

Picking up the novel she had not been able to read on the train, Mary slipped out of the strange bedroom, her bare feet silent on the stairs. She had always been an early riser, waking before even the most industrious servants back home in Yorkshire. At home, the cook knew to leave her out a bit of breakfast—bread and cheese wrapped in a napkin—but no one here would know to do that for her yet.

Ever since she’d been a young girl, morning had been her own time, quiet hours spent curled up on a garden bench with a book in her lap, nibbling on her pocket repast, the day lightening around her. The notion that she might still keep to such a routine in a place like London gave her hope for the coming two months.

She drifted down the hallway until she found a doorway that looked promising, solid oak, with a key still in the lock. With a deep breath, she turned the key and pulled it open. She braced herself for knife-wielding brigands. Herds of ragged street urchins, hands rifling through her pockets. The sort of London dangers she’d always read about.

Instead, the scent of flowers washed over her like a lovely, welcome tide.

Oh, thank goodness.

She hadn’t been imagining things after all.

Something hopeful nudged her over the threshold of the door, then bade her to take one step, then another. In the thin light of dawn, she saw flowers in every color and fashion: bloodred rose blooms, a cascade of yellow flowers dripping down the wrought iron fence. Her fingers loosened over the cover of her book. Oh, but it would be lovely to read here. She could even hear the light patter of a fountain, beckoning her deeper.

But then she heard something else above those pleasant, tinkling notes.

An almost inhuman groan of pleasure.

With a startled gasp, she spun around. Her eyes swam through the early morning light to settle on a gentleman on the street, some ten feet or so away on the other side of the wrought iron fence. But the fact of their separation did little to relieve her anxiety, because the street light illuminated him in unfortunate, horrific clarity.

He was urinating.

Through the fence.

Onto one of her sister’s rosebushes.

The book fell from Mary’s hand. In all her imaginings of what dreadful things she might encounter on the streets of London, she’d never envisioned anything like this. She ought to bolt. She ought to scream. She ought to . . . well . . . she ought to at least look away.

But as if he was made of words on a page, her eyes insisted on staying for a proper read. His eyes were closed, his mouth open in a grimace of relief. Objectively, he was a handsome mess, lean and long-limbed, a shock of disheveled blond hair peeking out from his top hat. But handsome was always matter of opinion, and this one had “villain” stamped on his skin.

As if he could hear her flailing thoughts, one eye cracked open, then the other. “Oh, ho, would you look at that, Grant? I’ve an audience, it seems.”

Somewhere down the street, another voice rang out. “Piss off!” A snigger followed. “Oh, wait, you already are.”

“Cork it, you sodding fool!” the blond villain shouted back. “Can’t you see we’re in the presence of a lady?” He grinned. “Apologies for such language, luv. Though . . . given the way you are staring, perhaps you don’t mind?” He rocked back on his heels, striking a jaunty pose even as the urine rained down. “If you come a little closer, I’d be happy to give you a better peek.”

Mary’s heart scrambled against her ribs. She might be a naive thing, fresh from the country, and she might now be regretting her presumption that it was permissible to read a book in a London garden in her bare feet, but she wasn’t so unworldly that she didn’t know this one pertinent fact: she was not—under any circumstances—coming a little closer.

Or getting a better peek.

Mortified, she wrapped her arms about her middle. “I . . .that is . . . couldn’t you manage to hold it?” she somehow choked out. There. She’d managed a phrase, and it was a properly scathing one, too. As good as any of her books’ heroines might have done.

A grin spread across his face. Much like the puddle at the base of the rosebush. “Well, luv, the thing is, I’m thinking I’d rather let you hold it.” The stream trickled to a stop, though he added a few more drips for good measure. He shook himself off and began to button his trousers. “But alas, it seems you’ve waited too long for the pleasure.” He tipped a finger to the brim of his top hat in a sort of salute. “My friend awaits.

Perhaps another time?”

Mary gasped. Or rather, she squeaked.

She could manage little else.

He chuckled. “It seems I’ve got a shy little mouse on my hands. Well, squeak squeak, run along then.” He set off down the street, swaying a bit. “But I’ll leave you with a word of advice, Miss Mouse,” he tossed back over one shoulder. “You’re a right tempting sight, standing there in your unutterables. But you might want to wear shoes the next time you ogle a gentleman’s prick. Never know when you’ll need to run.”

About the Author

A veterinarian and infectious disease researcher by training, Jennifer McQuiston has always preferred reading romance to scientific textbooks. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, their two girls, and an odd assortment of pets, including the pony she promised her children if mommy ever got a book deal.

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Posted in 5 paws, Review, romance on September 25, 2016

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Synopsis

Cassandra Webb’s every waking minute is devoted to being a great mother and wife. She takes five-year-old Noah to the library each week, volunteers in his kindergarten class, and even coaches his soccer team. She makes sure her husband’s uniforms are always laundered—even though he hasn’t worn them the last six years—always has his game day snacks on hand, and meets him for date night every Friday—which consists of one sided conversations at his bedside and watching his favorite take out remain untouched.

Pearl, a mysterious visitor at the care center, suggests that it is only Cassie’s love still tying Devon to Earth when he has been ready to move onto Heaven for quite some time. If Cassie will but open her eyes and heart, she will discover the path she should travel, one that will bring relief to Devon and much joy to her own life. But Cassie vowed never to give up on him. She never has and she can’t now, even after meeting hapless, single soccer-dad Matt.

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Review

This story touched me in so many ways, I was a blubbering mess in many parts. Not that I could personally relate to Cassie’s life, but because she was so strong for her son and had such faith that her husband, Devon, would come out of his vegetative state. She did all of this for over 6 years and she never lost hope.

Enter Pearl (the matchmaker) – who imparts her wisdom to Cassie. But don’t think that her advice was heeded immediately, that wouldn’t make an interesting story if she did what she was told right away. Matt is a single dad having lost his wife to an aneurysm and life without her isn’t easy because he raising 2 rambunctious boys (4 and 6). However, Matt and Cassie meet and become friends and help each other out and improve each others lives.

As in all romance books, you know they will get together eventually….but the story leading up to it is one of strength and fortitude and patience. And maybe even a little laughter.

We give this 5 paws up.
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Posted in Guest Post, Military, romance, Romantic Suspense on September 23, 2016

the-stranger-final-cover

Book Title: The Stranger

Author Name: Anna del Mar

Series: The Stranger, A Wounded Warrior Novel, Book Two

Genre: Romantic Suspense, Contemporary romance, SEAL romance, Military Romance

Publisher: Carina Press

Date of Publication: August 22, 2016

Synopsis

When a mysterious stranger is your only hope…

The scars of the past have left their mark, both physical and emotional, on former military pilot Seth Erickson. Off-grid in the far reaches of the bitter Alaskan wilderness, he wants only to be left alone with his ghosts. But he can’t ignore a woman in need—beautiful, stranded and nearly frozen with fear.

Summer Silva never imagined that the search for her missing sister would leave her abandoned on a wintry back road, barely escaping with her life from a cold-blooded killer for hire. Now, hiding out in the isolated cabin of the secretive wounded warrior who saved her, Summer knows she must do what she fears most. Putting her trust in a stranger is all she has left.

All defenses are down

After a fiery first night together, Seth and Summer are bound by a need as powerful as a Bering Sea superstorm—and vulnerable to enemies just as fierce. For Seth, reawakened by desire, there is no sacrifice too great, no memory too dark, to keep Summer safe. But murder and treason lurk everywhere and Summer may not survive Alaska’s ruthless winter.

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Guest Post

The Story Behind The Stranger

By

Anna del Mar

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I never really wanted to go to Alaska BAK, Before Adventuresome Kids. San Francisco and New York? Sure. London? Check. Rome and Paris? Absolutely. Alaska? Not so much. That is, until my daughter insisted on a trip that led to my son volunteering at Denali National Park. Each time I went back to Alaska, I fell deeper for it. So I kept going back for more.

From this personal, life-transforming journey comes my latest romantic suspense, The Stranger, the story of Summer Silva, a warmth-loving Miami architect who chases her reckless sibling to Alaska when her sister runs away with a guy she met on the internet. Summer is a tropical being, kind of like me, and yet as her story begins, we find her stranded on a desolate Alaskan road, having just survived a murder attempt with a Bering Sea superstorm bearing down on her.

The Stranger who reluctantly comes to her aid is Seth Erickson, an Alaskan tycoon with a quarreling family as complicated as Summer’s own. Seth is also a helicopter pilot, a wounded warrior struggling to recover from injuries he sustained while serving in Afghanistan. He’s got no time for a lady in distress and yet he can’t just abandon Summer to fend for herself. When they shelter in his high-tech cabin and she comes to his bed, he embraces her sweet seduction. Entwined in his arms, she becomes the superstorm of his lifetime.

But Summer has a secret. Dream chasing, the Native Athabaskans call it. You’ll have to read the novel if you’d like to know more about it. Yes, I’m grinning. And now two strangers from different worlds and opposite spectrums of the thermometer are caught in a vortex of passion that defies their differences and enrages their enemies. To survive, they must unravel the intrigues that threaten their lives and chase after a new dream in spectacular Alaska.

About the Author

Anna del Mar writes hot, smart romances that soothe the soul, challenge the mind, and satisfy the heart. Her stories focus on strong heroines struggling to find their place in the world and the brave, sexy, kickass, military heroes who defy the limits of their broken bodies to protect the women they love. Anna enjoys traveling, hiking, skiing, and the sea. Writing is her addiction, her drug of choice, and what she wants to do all the time. The extraordinary men and women she met during her years as a Navy wife inspire the fabulous heroes and heroines at the center of her stories. When she stays put—which doesn’t happen very often—she lives in Florida with her indulgent husband and two very opinionated cats.

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Posted in 5 paws, excerpt, Giveaway, Review, romance on September 17, 2016

King of the Friend Zone

The King of the Friend Zone by Sheralyn Pratt

Synopsis

Esme Taylor has an amazing fiancé, a lifelong best friend, and a problem.

The problem stems from the fact that her best friend is named Hunter and, well. . .he’s kind of (totally) hot. It’s hate at first sight when her fiancé, Jon, and Hunter meet. Jon’s convinced that Hunter is in love with Esme, and that Hunter must be out of the picture if their upcoming marriage is to succeed.

Esme thinks Jon is paranoid.

The truth is, Jon’s not that far off. Hunter is in love with his best friend and always has been. What Jon has wrong, however, is that Hunter never had any plans of ruining Esme’s happily ever after. Hunter wants what’s best for Esme, even if that’s not him.

When Jon pushes hard to end Esme and Hunter’s friendship, opposition comes from the most unlikely of places. It’s an eccentric lady with a cookie cart who suggests a different solution to Esme’s problem: Hunter and Esme should give each other a chance.

They’ve both thought of the possibility over the years—of course they have. But with a ring already on Esme’s finger and a heap of hurt feelings and broken trust in the mix, there hasn’t been a worse time to explore the depths of their feelings for each other.

Both Esme and Hunter think it’s time to move on and leave childhood crushes in the past. The question is: Can one woman and the taste of one cookie change their minds?
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Review

While the basic plot of the story is one you see often (boy and girl are good friends but hide their love for each other and finally get together in the end), this one is told in such an engaging way that I could not put the book down…or grumbled when I had to. This book is also part of the matchmaker series and I enjoy seeing the spin each author puts on Pearl and her contribution to the love story. In this book, she has a cookie booth but the last ingredient is a kiss between 2 people and if they truly love each other.

Esme and Hunter are such good friends having grown up together, it is understandable while neither would want to mess that up by trying a relationship. However, that core friendship led to both of them not being able to have a relationship with anyone else since their expectations were so high for anyone else. (as a side note, Hunter and many of his friends are fireman…so I enjoyed picturing the guys in my mind.)

While this is a love story, there is a bit of nail biting action tied to Kenny, a streetwise youth that Hunter is helping redirect his anger through boxing. There is also Jon, Esme’s fiance…yes I know that sounds odd that despite her love for Hunter, but sometimes you have to figure out what you don’t want before you know what you do want from life and love.

I’m hoping the author writes a book that features Luke, there is a hint at the end of the book that I hope does come to fruition!

We give this book 5 paws up!

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Excerpt

While everyone around Hunter ate and drank, Hunter swirled the liquid in his glass and watched his friends and family interact with Jon.

The man was suave when he wanted to be; Hunter would give him that. He wore the right suits, said the right words, and charmed the right people.

What a hero.

He was also several inches shorter than Hunter, which meant Esme fit neatly against his shoulder as they stood and spoke with all their guests. Esme looked so content as she reclined against Jon, and Hunter wasn’t the only one who had noticed. The last person who had commented on Jon and Esme within Hunter’s earshot had called them “two peas in a pod” as if there were awards to be won in the category.

Well, there weren’t.

In that moment, Hunter was very glad he hadn’t been drinking that night, because otherwise he might have gone so far as announcing that fact to everyone. There are no awards for being two peas in a pod, everyone. Oh, and by the way, you should meet this guy when he isn’t trying to impress you. He’s a bit of a prick.

But, of course, no one wanted to hear that. No one wanted to hear anything from Hunter tonight except for a glowing toast endorsing the golden couple.

He still hadn’t written anything, although he had googled a generic speech and printed it out. It was in his pocket now, but he hadn’t practiced it and reading the prepackaged speech was pretty much out of the question now, thanks to his dyslexia. Reading on the best of days usually didn’t go that well for Hunter, but when he was seething mad?

Yeah, that wasn’t happening.

So he sat and swirled and watched and tried to imagine what in the world he could say that wouldn’t earn him more frowns than his jeans had already earned him.

Then it hit him: Why try? Why not be honest?

There wasn’t a face at this party that he hadn’t known for the better part of twenty years—well, except Jon. His smug mug was as new as it was unwelcome in Hunter’s book. But everyone knew Hunter and they’d know if he vomited some fake, glowing speech their direction.

So why should he?

Why not be honest?

The idea grew on Hunter as the night went on and the praise for Jon became more and more abundant. The clincher was when Jon’s best man stood up and gave a speech that proved he’d probably met Esme all of once, and everyone in attendance nodded and beamed as the guy praised Esme in the most generic of terms.

According to whatever the best man’s name was, Esme was kind and compassionate and a joy to all those who met her.

Seriously? The guy had clearly never been within earshot of Esme when an ice cream truck passed in July playing Christmas music. That would redefine the guy’s definition of “joy to all those around her.” Yet everyone ooohed and ahhhhed and clapped until the guy sat and Jon gave his bestie an appreciative slap on the back with a look that said, Well done.

Then everyone in the future wedding party looked at Hunter expectantly. It was his turn.

In that moment, Hunter had a choice to make. He could either repeat the same lame puffery the best man had, or he could give the speech that had been building up in him like a sneeze all night.

Be nice now and freak out later, or let it all hang out? That was the question. And one quick glance at Jon’s arrogant face gave Hunter his answer.

 

SheralynAbout the Author

Some describe Sheralyn as a girl who’s been around the block and worked at every shop. This isn’t far from the truth. Writing is what she loves most, however. There’s a magical power in stepping into new perspectives time and again, and seeing the world through different eyes. Few things increase empathy more than walking in another’s shoes for 100,000 words or so. At least that seems to be the trend so far.
Some random things to know about Sheralyn:
* She’s a wanderer (geographically)
* She can write a novel, but doesn’t have the attention span for one page in a journal
* She vehemently disagrees with Stephen King’s stance that authors should not watch TV
* She is pretty much incapable of sleeping before midnight

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amazon or paypal$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Giveaway

Ends 9/23/16

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

 

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Spotlight on September 13, 2016

thelullabysky

Title: The Lullaby Sky
Author: Carolyn Brown
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Montlake Romance

Synopsis

After seven years of misery and abuse, it’s all over—Hannah O’Malley is officially divorced. Hallelujah. It’s like every Christmas in her life all rolled up into one glorious day. Not only does Hannah get to keep her grandmother’s spacious old house, but she has full custody of her sparky five-year-old daughter. All Hannah has to do now is put the past behind her.

And now that she’s free, she wants to make a difference. With the help of her warm, close-knit circle of friends—including her high school crush, Travis Wilson—Hannah begins turning her home into a safe house for other women who’ve endured the pain she’s known. But even as life and laughter return to Hannah’s home, she’s haunted by the memory of her dangerously unstable ex. With a second chance at love on the horizon, Hannah must face down her past in order to let the sunshine back into her life.

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Message from Carolyn Brown

Good mornin’, all y’all! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to listen to me talk about The Lullaby Sky. I’m so excited about this book and hope that it touches the emotions of every woman who reads it. Hannah has found joy in giving back to others and has a brand new and budding relationship with Travis.

I asked her to give us some advice about second chance love. This is what she had to say:

I’ve known Travis my whole life and down deep in my heart I knew he was a good person, had a heart of gold and was a wonderful man. But after what I’d lived through the past several years, trust was a major issue. I had to learn to trust my heart again, to open it up and give Travis a chance.

So I had a long talk with myself and decided that it was not fair to judge this good man, by another man’s short comings. It was time to let go of the past and move on to the future. Then I rememberd something that my grandmother used to tell me and applied it to my life: Never shut the door to an opportunity. It’s better to open the door, invite it in and feed it chocolate cake than to chase it down the road after it’s already a mile away.

If you’ve been blessed with a second chance, if opportunity comes knocking on your door and there’s a hero standing there with paint on his shirt, a quirky little smile and a twinkle in his eyes, just open the door wide and tell him to come right on it. Feed him chocolate cake and give him a chance. You never know, the second chance might be the stars that light up a lullaby sky.

Excerpt

Hannah had paid for her marriage to Marty in nerves, nausea and migraines. She wrapped her arms around her body and shivered–never would she have to worry about him arriving unexpected and finding things out of order. Never would she have to send Sophie outside to play so she wouldn’t witness his wicked temper.

“It really is over,” she whispered. “So why don’t I feel like it is?”

“Because it’ll take time,” Travis whispered.

Startled, she jumped and shivered. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you come out of the house.”

“It’s okay, Hannah. You never have to apologize to me.” He smiled.

The limo came to a slow stop in front of the house and Sophie shot out of the door and jumped into her mother’s arm for the second, or was it the third time that day? She wrapped her legs around Hannah’s waist and hugged her, planting dozens of kisses on her face.

“I liked the ‘tentious car, Mama, but it’s too big for us. I like our car and Travis’s truck and Aunt Birdie’s van better than the big princess car.” She leaned back and looked Hannah right in the eye. “Did I really get a new name today or was you teasin’ me?”

“You really did. So did I. We are now Hannah and Sophie O’Malley,” Hannah answered.

“Sophie O’Malley,” Sophie whispered. “I like it. Do you like it, Travis?”

“Oh, yes, I do. It sounds just like a princess name.”

“Sophie O’Malley, princess of Aunt Birdie’s castle and queen of Hannah O’Malley’s house.” Sophie’s pecan-colored eyes danced with merriment.

“Oh, no, you don’t, young lady,” Hannah said. “You might be princess of Aunt Birdie’s house and mine, but I’m the queen and don’t you forget it.”

Sophie hopped down and ran into the house, no doubt to tell Aunt Birdie all about the limo. Travis kept his distance but his eyes locked with Hannah’s.

“What?” She wiped her cheek. “Do I have chocolate pie on my face?”

“No, I was thinkin’ maybe you shouldn’t forget it,” Travis said.

“Forget what?”

“Who’s queen of your house,” he said.

“Are you saying that I spoil Sophie too much?” Hannah asked.

“No, I’m saying that you’ve been spoiled too little, Hannah O’Malley,” he grinned.

About the Author

carolyn-brownCarolyn Brown is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, as well as a RITA finalist. She has written several beloved and popular romance titles, ranging from historical to contemporary to cowboy-themed. She and her husband live in Davis, Oklahoma. They have three grown children, and enough grandchildren to keep them young.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Historical, romance on September 9, 2016

discovery-of-desire

Title: Discovery of Desire

Series: London Explorers, #2

Author: Susanne Lord

Pubdate: September 6th 2016

Synopsis

“If you like your romance with the sweetness of Mary Balogh’s novels or the anguish of Sherry Thomas’, this is one to cherish.” —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED Review

The one man who’s not looking for a wife

Seth Mayhew is the ideal explorer: fearless, profitable, and unmarried. There is nothing and no one he can’t find—until his sister disappears en route to India. His search for her takes him to Bombay, where Seth meets the most unlikely of allies—a vulnerable woman who’s about to marry the wrong man.

Discovers a woman who changes his dreams forever

Teeming with the bounty of marriageable men employed by the East India Company, Bombay holds hope for security for Wilhelmina Adams. But when the man she’s traveled halfway around the world to marry doesn’t suit, Mina finds instead that she’s falling in love with a man who offers passion, adventure, intimacy—anything but security…

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The second in Susanne Lord’s critically acclaimed London Explorers series, Discovery of Desire, is out this September. To give you a taste of her latest release, Susanne Lord has selected one of her favorite quotes from the book to share with us.

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Excerpt

Author’s Note: Seth has disembarked from the steamship, onto the crowded, bustling port of Bombay. The other passengers, including the four dozen lady passengers who had sailed to wed East India Company men, are rushed by the bachelors and huddled together in the chaos…

“Ladies?”

A woman’s voice. Sweet and low and nearly swallowed in the fray.

Maybe it was because his explorer’s senses were honed to seek the rare, the anomalies in nature, but Seth trailed that voice to a venture girl twenty feet away. She wore a trim white jacket and green skirt with starry, white flowers all over it. Her sun helmet concealed all but a bit of brown hair.

“Ladies, as no one has told us yet what to do, if you are to be met by someone, would you move to this end?” She gestured and the ladies shuffled to do her bidding, obedient as soldiers.

Seth jerked to follow, then paused. He was to meet someone. Should he wait with them?

A small wave of her hand and the ladies leaned forward in attention. He did, too.

“And the others can wait here for Captain Travers,” she said. “He will accompany you to the customs house.” The women sorted themselves, fear in every pair of eyes clinging to their officer.

Seth dragged in a lungful of air that didn’t ease the tightness in his chest. Wasn’t any of his business. And wasn’t a thing he could do to help.

He turned to plunge into the crowd, but then the little officer spoke again.

“We are here, ladies,” she said gently. “And we are fine.”

The words were plain, but it was like she’d hushed the whole world. He didn’t want to, but he looked again. The venture girls stood in two close circles, their small valises and parasols clutched to their chests, and watched the chaos around them with wide eyes.

But they kept their chins up now.

For the first time in months, a real smile curved his lips. People needed someone to depend on. Like those ladies depended on that little officer.

And she was little, at least to him. She wouldn’t stand any taller than his chin and his hands could span her waist. But little or not, she wore that dainty, braided jacket like a captain of the Eleventh Hussars. There wasn’t a wrinkle on her skirts or wayward crease in its folds. And that straight spine was all the sight he had of her—she didn’t fidget and she didn’t turn.

Composed, capable, orderly-like. He’d drive a woman like that to Bedlam.

But he fell a little bit in love with her anyway.

He was bumped from behind. The mustache-man angling for a closer look. “Give the ladies their breathing room, mate,” Seth said. “They might like a bit of time to repair themselves.”

The man swung about. “You traveled with them, didn’t you?”

“I suppose.”

“Did you learn any names? Which are the prime articles?”

“The prime—? Hell, I don’t know.”

The man turned around to survey the girls. “Not that I expect them all to be handsome. They couldn’t find a husband back home, could they? But taking an ugly wife…” He grimaced, then squared his shoulders. “I mean to have one, just the same.”

Seth stared down at the man and muttered, “There you go, mate. Words to set a lady’s heart aflutter.”

Irritated, Seth waded against the stream of bachelors closing in on the ladies. Wasn’t any of his business.

The men holding signs had formed a line and were shuffling toward the ladies to be claimed. They obeyed the little officer, too. His translator might be among them, so he read his way through the crush. MISS EUNICE SIMMS…MISS LOUISE ALPERT—

Ah, here! CLAIMING WILLIAM REPTON AND—and?—MISS W. ADAMS.

The man holding the card eyed him suspiciously. So this was his translator. Brown hair, spectacles, younger than he’d expected. But he looked clever. He’d do.

“Tom Grant?” Seth asked.

“I am. You’re Will Repton?”

Seth grinned. “For your purposes, I am.” He shook his hand. “I’m Seth Mayhew. You’ll be working for me instead.”

“I—”

“This explains it.” Seth handed him Will’s letter. “Will couldn’t leave England on account of his being leg-shackled and expecting a little baby. But Georgie’s my sister after all, and the orphan in Tibet is who she was after, so I’m here and Will’s not. It’s all a bit Hamlet-without-the-prince, but there it is.”

Tom Grant blinked behind his spectacles. “Who are you?”

Maybe he just looked clever.

“Seth May—” He never was skilled at explaining. “Read the letter, mate.”

Tom Grant passed the sign to him, cracked open the letter, and began to frown. That frown wasn’t how Seth wanted to start their partnership, but the man had agreed to the job, and would be earning a hell of a salary for the effort.

But Tom’s expression wasn’t growing any happier as he started page two.

Tom flipped the letter over and started reading from the beginning. Again.

With a sigh, Seth dropped his bag at his feet to wait—and remembered the sign: CLAIMING MISS W. ADAMS. Tom Grant was collecting one of the venture girls then.

W? The man couldn’t write her name in full?

Wasn’t any of his business.

Meaning to be helpful, Seth held the sign high and waited.

***

“Mina!” Emma clutched her arm. “I see him. I see your Thomas Grant.”

Mina’s stomach rolled. Thomas was here. Of course he was—of course he would be. If only the ground would steady. Her sister’s sudden grab had nearly toppled her. Ninety-nine days on a boat and she couldn’t seem to lock her knees.

Mina reached into her skirt pocket and squeezed the stone in her hand. Through her lace glove, the quartz was as cool as if it still held the weather of England within it…

 

About the Author

susannelord

Susanne Lord is a writer of Victorian-era romance and author of the London Explorer series published by Sourcebooks.  Originally from Okinawa, off-base and on, she now makes her home in Chicago where she is an active member of Chicago North RWA.  When not writing, attending theater or reading, she enjoys hiking the English countryside and visiting historic homes and gardens.

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