ONCE UPON A MAIL ORDER BRIDE by Linda Broday – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

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ONCE UPON A MAIL ORDER BRIDE
Outlaw Mail Order Brides, #4
by
Linda Broday

Categories: Western / Historical Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date of Publication: November 24, 2020
Number of Pages: 352 pages
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Accused of crimes he didn’t commit, ex-preacher Ridge Steele is forced to give up everything he knew and make his home with outlaws. Desperate for someone to confide in, he strikes up correspondence with mail-order bride Adeline Jancy, finding in her the open heart he’s been searching for. Upon her arrival, Ridge discovers Addie only communicates through the written word, but he knows a little of what trauma can do to a person and vows to stand by her side.

Addie is eager to start a new life with the kind ex-preacher and the little boy she’s stolen away from her father―a zealot priest of a terrorized flock. As her small family settles into life at Hope’s Crossing, she even begins to find the voice, and confidence, she’d lost so long ago.

But danger is not far behind, and her father will not be denied. While Addie desperately fights the man who destroyed her childhood, a determined Ridge races to the rescue. The star-crossed lovers will need more than prayers to survive this final challenge…and find their way back to each other again.

PRAISE FOR ONCE UPON A MAIL ORDER BRIDE:

“An awesome culmination to a great western romance series!”
~ Fresh Fiction 
“Broday concludes the Outlaw Mail Order Bride series with a sizzling finale that features a tantalizingly slow build to intimate trust that catapults into adrenaline packed ardor.”  ~Booklist
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What a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to an action-packed and love-filled series! I’ve read and reviewed all of the Outlaw Mail Order Brides books these past two years and I can honestly say I’m  going to miss the extraordinary citizens of Hope’s Crossing.
Ms. Broday has created some amazing characters in these books. These outlaws and their mail-order brides are not your typical heroes and heroines in romance. They’re ex-convicts, fugitives, thieves. They have blood on their hands. Yet, readers can’t help but root for them to have a fresh start, find love, build a family, belong to a community. They’re fighters, survivors, exemplifying the best of the old West. Even as I say goodbye to Clay and Tally, Jack and Nora, Tait and Melanie, and Ridge and Addie, I have hope that I’ll see them — and characters just like them — in future books by Ms. Broday.
Life is 10 percent made up of what happens to you. Everything else is how well you cope with the events. Don’t waste time being bitter. A mistake is not a life sentence. We learn, we grow, and we move on—hopefully as better people.
I’ve been waiting for Ridge’s story since Saving The Mail Order Bride and Once Upon a Mail Order Bride did not disappoint. This preacher-turned-outlaw’s back story is as fascinating as any of the others before him. So is Adeline’s. Their story consists of breathtaking action and slow fall into love. They not only try to escape from bounty hunters and vindictive fathers, but also from natural disasters. Ms. Broday spent a good bit of time having Ridge and Addie adjust to each other, gain each other’s trust, and develop their attraction to make their growing love believable. I’m happy that there’s neither instalove nor excessive push-and-pull.
There were updates on previous couples and storylines were tied up neatly, including those of minor characters and new people introduced to the community. A few of them might not have been necessary and could have been cut to tighten the story even more. While I didn’t agree with some of Ridge and Addie’s decisions and wasn’t entirely convinced with the about-face of some of the characters, I still really enjoyed this series-ender and recommend these books and other titles in Linda Broday’s backlist to lovers of historical western romance.
Huge thanks to Lone Star Lit and Ms. Broday for providing me with copies of these books I’m proud to display in my personal library.
4 out of 5 stars
I’m a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thirty historical western romance novels and short stories. I reside in the Texas Panhandle on land the American Indian and early cowboys once roamed, and at times if the breeze is just right, I can hear their voices whispering in the wind. Texas’s rich history is one reason I set all my stories here where cowboys still remain caretakers of the land. I’m inspired every day by their immense dedication and love for the wide-open spaces. I combine those men with the love of family in all my stories and hope to continue to give readers books that entertain and fulfill.
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FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY,
or visit the blogs directly:
12/1/2020 Book Trailer StoreyBook Reviews
12/1/2020 BONUS Post Hall Ways Blog
12/2/2020 Excerpt Forgotten Winds
12/3/2020 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
12/4/2020 Review Momma on the Rocks
12/5/2020 Character Interview All the Ups and Downs
12/6/2020 Excerpt The Clueless Gent
12/7/2020 Review Missus Gonzo
12/8/2020 Guest Post The Page Unbound
12/9/2020 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
12/10/2020 Review Reading by Moonlight
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PRICELESS by Catherine Stein – Featured New Release

priceless graphic

Happy Release Day to Catherine Stein’s Priceless, Book 2 in her Sass and Steam series.

BLURB

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He’ll pay any price to win her. But her artist’s heart is not for sale.

Raised in a squalid factory, Evan Tagget has battled his way to the top. Now a multi-millionaire, he runs a global empire of telecommunication devices, mechanical dragons, and clockwork gadgets. Evan can buy anything he wants. Except the love of the brazen artist who barges into his life.

Violet Dayton has made her living painting forgeries, scrimping and saving toward her true passion: a grand Paris art exhibition to display her work and the art of the friends who have always looked out for her. But a corrupt police inspector knows her secrets, and the only way to escape his clutches is to track down the master art thief plaguing museums across Europe.

With the aid of Evan’s money and connections, Violet knows she can catch her thief, but she hadn’t counted on her powerful attraction to the arrogant millionaire, or the complex, passionate layers beneath his cool exterior. With enemies everywhere, she’ll have to trust Evan with her life. Her heart, though, she guards closely. And the only way he’ll ever win her is to prove he knows the true value of love.

Buy Links: 

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EXCERPT

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“I have a proposition for you, Mr. Tagget.”

His neatly trimmed eyebrows twitched. “Excellent!”

Ack, that smug smile. The man was too handsome for his own good, and he knew it. Vi didn’t know whether she’d rather kiss that mouth or punch it.

The grainy magazine photograph she’s scrounged up hadn’t done him justice. It made him look older, more serious. It didn’t show the single stray lock of hair curling across his forehead or the dimples at the corners of his mouth, too prominent to hide beneath his short goatee. It failed entirely to capture that wicked glint in his eye. He wasn’t the cold, merciless industrialist she’d imagined. His blood ran hot.

She’d also imagined him to be quite a bit taller. Standing here, staring at him, they looked exactly the same height.

“You and I are going to enter a partnership, Mr. Tagget.”

“Oh, are we?” He managed to both leer and sound suspicious.

“You have heard, I assume, of the rash of art thefts over the past few months?”

“That fool who styles himself ‘l’Exploiteur’? Is he the mastermind he claims, or just a braggart?”

“I’m told he has stolen near to fifty works of art, mainly from private collections and small galleries. His thefts grow bigger and bolder, and he has begun to taunt major galleries and museums with the promise of the greatest heists ever seen.”

“Well, that does sound dire, though I fail to see how it is of relevance to myself.” His dark brows quirked again. “Unless you are this Exploiter? If so, then I absolutely agree to join you on your next heist. What are we stealing?”

“No!” Vi put both hands on her hips. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, I’m not an art thief.”

“More’s the pity. I could use an interesting challenge.”

“I’m an artist,” Violet huffed. “I create, I don’t destroy. I want my work on display, where it can be enjoyed by all.”

Tagget stroked his beard. “Hmm. What, then, is your concern with this pilferer of cultural treasures?”

“I’m trying to learn his identity and put a stop to his crimes.”

“How noble,” he chuckled. “Standing up for the dead masters who can no longer defend their works?”

Obnoxious ass. She really was going to punch him right in his pretty mouth, then storm out and find herself a different assistant.

Violet clenched her fingers. Rich businessmen with questionable ethics and worldwide communications networks couldn’t be found loitering on any street corner. She was lucky to even have the opportunity to speak with him.

“I was asked to help in this case because of my own connections in the art world,” she explained, trying not to glower.

He frowned at her, causing a small furrow in his brow. “Your connections? What sort of connections would a lady artist have that would be of any use in this situation? Unless…” The frown twisted into a smile. “You’re involved in illicit dealings yourself, naturally. A forger, perhaps?” He twitched. “Well, I’ll be damned. Are you Vérité? But of course you are. ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty.’ Though you look rather youthful for someone who they say has been working for fifty years and faked three hundred paintings.”

“Ten years, twenty-seven forgeries. Many haven’t been discovered, and many works have been incorrectly attributed to me.”

With her police file as thick as a Bible, Violet didn’t see any need to hide her deeds, and she was proud of the work she had done. Tagget looked momentarily surprised by her admission, then his smile returned.

“Fascinating. You made a deal with the authorities, I presume? But you need assistance. Why me?”

“I heard you were kicked out of the United States for spying.”

Tagget’s green eyes twinkled. “Now, my lovely blossom, you mustn’t believe every rumor you hear. I bent some laws, perhaps, but didn’t precisely break them. People did take exception, however, so I thought it best to focus on my European interests until the furor dies down.”

Violet turned up her nose at him. “I don’t care about the details. I care that you’re a teletics expert. Can you or can you not record information over a telephone or telegraph line?”

“I can. Most of it is irrelevant chatter. Sifting through is usually a waste of time.”

“And you’re an inventor?” she pressed on. “You can build things, and understand how machines work? You could dismantle them if necessary?”

A smile of a different sort touched his lips. More boyish, maybe even happier. “I could break through that mechanical door behind me with no more than a screwdriver, given enough time.”

“Then you’re the man I need.”

He fixed her with a heated stare. “I’m pleased you think so.” The husky timbre of his voice sent a shiver down her spine. “I accept your proposal. When do we begin?”

REVIEW

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Catherine Stein maintains her impressive streak of high-quality work with this latest installment in the Sass and Steam series. Strongly-drawn characters, exhilarating adventures in the sky and on land concerning great works of art, intricate gadgetry, diverse cast, and emotion-packed plot characterize Priceless.

While I respect their uniqueness, I took a long while to warm up to Evan and Violet. They’re not easy people to relate to or like upon introduction. Once their backgrounds are revealed, understanding comes easier as well as rooting for their happy ending.

4 out of 5 stars

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Stein

Award-winning author Catherine Stein believes that everyone deserves love and that Happily Ever After has the power to help, to heal, and to comfort. She writes sassy, sexy romance set during the Victorian and Edwardian eras and full of action, adventure, magic, and fantastic technologies.

Catherine lives in Michigan with her husband and three rambunctious girls. She loves steampunk and oxford commas, and can often be found dressed in clothing that was purchased at a Renaissance Festival, drinking copious amounts of tea.

Follow Catherine here: 

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THE LOVE NOTE by Joanna Davidson Politano – Book Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway

THE LOVE NOTE
by
Joanna Davidson Politano
Genre: Christian / Historical Fiction / Romance
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Number of Pages: 400
Scroll down for the giveaway!

Focused on a career in medicine and not on romance, Willa Duvall is thrown slightly off course during the summer of 1859 when she discovers a never-opened love letter in a crack of her old writing desk. Compelled to find the passionate soul who penned it and the person who never received it, she takes a job as a nurse at the seaside estate of Crestwicke Manor.

Everyone at Crestwicke has feelings—mostly negative ones—about the man who wrote the letter, but he seems to have disappeared. With plenty of enticing clues but few answers, Willa’s search becomes even more complicated when she misplaces the letter and it passes from person to person in the house, each finding a thrilling or disheartening message in its words.

Laced with mysteries large and small, this romantic Victorian-era tale of love lost, love deferred, and love found is sure to delight.

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In this highly engrossing, totally original Christian historical romantic fiction, Ms. Politano mixes science and faith to show the power of words. Words both expressed and unspoken, written words, careless words, honest words all have the power to affect lives. They hurt feelings, break hearts, change events. They also heal, give hope, and express love in various forms.
… that’s what words do, when you choose ones with eternal impact. They are remembered, repeated, embraced. They burrow deep and remain, outliving short human lives and becoming a legacy.
The Love Note is a departure for me from my usual reads. Its prayer-filled content is a far cry from the steamy stories I myself write. Nevertheless, I find myself enjoying this tale of how a mysterious unsent love letter transforms the lives of everyone in Crestwicke Manor.
Written in multiple points of view (first-person for the heroine Willa, third-person for others), the story takes shape in intriguing, unpredictable, and surprising ways.  The named characters are so well drawn and properly developed that the sheer number of them doesn’t confuse the reader. There’s a strong theme of feminism that’s assertive but not too aggressive to be controversial. And the romance is not confined to one couple. At least three more found love restored or newly-discovered.
Matched souls always find their way back to one another, for they seek refuge in the same place.
While I mostly enjoyed the story, I wish that humor was more consistently employed throughout the book. It was present in the beginning but was gone in the second half. As a romance writer, I want more focus on the romance between Willa and Gabe. There were lovely moments, but I always wish for more.
Thanks to Lone Star Literary Life and Revell Books for providing me with the review copy of this fantastic book.
4 out of 5 stars
Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears and A Rumored Fortune. She loves tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear anyone’s story.
She lives with her husband and their two kids in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan. You can find her at www.jdpstories.com.
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FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY,
or visit the blogs directly:

10/27/20

Book Trailer

Hall Ways Blog

10/27/20

Review

Jennifer Silverwood

10/28/20

Character Interview

Reading by Moonlight

10/29/20

Review

Rainy Days with Amanda

10/30/20

Top Five

Story Schmoozing Book Reviews

10/30/20

Review

Carpe Diem Chronicles

10/31/20

Excerpt 1

All the Ups and Downs

11/1/20

Excerpt 2

Book Bustle

11/2/20

Author Interview

The Adventures of a Travelers Wife

11/2/20

Review

The Clueless Gent

11/3/20

Guest Post

Max Knight

11/4/20

Top Eight List

Chapter Break Book Blog

11/4/20

Review

Missus Gonzo

11/5/20

Review

Jennie Reads

11/5/20

Review

StoreyBook Reviews

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REVEALING A ROGUE by Rachel Ann Smith – Release Day Feature

REVEALING A ROGUE

by

Rachel Ann Smith

How do you safeguard your heart from the rogue you’ve sworn to protect?

As secretary at Neale & Sons barristers, an unusual job for a woman, little surprises Miss Bronwyn Cadby. But nothing could prepare Bronwyn for the day Landon Neale, the Earl of Hadfield, waltzes into the office and proposes marriage — to her.

Ready to fulfill his duty and marry, Landon decides the only woman who suits his needs is the brilliant and fiery Miss Bronwyn. But the woman is no blushing debutante. Rather than accept his proposal outright and marry properly, she insists they elope to Gretna Green.

Landon has one carriage ride to reveal his inner rogue and convince Bronwyn she is worthy of being his countess. With every scandalous mile that passes, he will work to win over his reluctant bride.

But will her plan to divert him from the altar succeed?

Revealing a Rogue is a fun, steamy regency romance. If you like unconventional heroines and rogues in disguise, then you’ll adore Rachel Ann Smith’s fast-paced series-opener.

Buy Links:

Universal link          Amazon          Barnes & Noble          Kobo          Apple

Review to follow.

Rachel Ann Smith writes steamy historical romances with a twist. Her debut series, Agents of the Home Office, features female protagonists that defy convention.

When Rachel isn’t writing, she loves to read and spend time with her family. She is frequently found with her Kindle by the pool during the summer, the soccer field in the spring and fall, or curled up on the couch during the winter months.

She currently lives in Colorado with her extremely understanding husband and their two very supportive children.

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ANY ROGUE WILL DO by Bethany Bennett – Featured New Release

ANY ROGUE WILL DO

Misfits of Mayfair #1

by

Bethany Bennett

He ruined her reputation—now he’s the only one who can save it

For exactly one season, Lady Charlotte Wentworth played the biddable female the ton expected—and all it got her was society’s mockery and derision. Now she’s determined to be in charge of her own future. So when an unwanted suitor tries to manipulate her into an engagement, she has a plan. He can’t claim to be her fiancé if she’s engaged to someone else. Even if it means asking for help from the last man she would ever marry.

Ethan, Viscount Amesbury, made a lot of mistakes, but the one he regrets the most is ruining Lady Charlotte’s reputation. Going along with her charade is the least he can do to clean the slate and perhaps earn her forgiveness. Pretending to be in love with the woman he’s never forgotten is easy. What isn’t easy is convincing her to give him a second chance.

Buy links:

Hachette     Amazon     B&N     Kobo     Google Play     Indiebound     Apple

Publisher’s Weekly starred review:

“In [a] splendid Regency-set debut . . . Bennett turns a spotlight on the class distinctions and gender restrictions of 1819 England, with a formidable leading lady and a swoon-worthy hero with lower-class roots. Filled with gripping drama, strong characters, and steamy seduction, this tantalizing story is sure to win the hearts of Regency fans.”―Publishers Weekly

Employing some of my favorite tropes of second-chance romance, enemies-to-lovers, and fake engagement in her debut Any Rogue Will Do, Bethany Bennett offers a well-crafted historical romantic fiction with an engaging storyline, fully fleshed-out characters, and steamy sexy times.

I like that Charlotte Wentworth is a capable, smart heroine who thinks on her feet and saves herself from dire situations without waiting for someone else to rescue her. I admire her independence and her desire to take control of her life while still working within the boundaries of the aristocratic society she belongs to. That means a marriage of convenience with a man who is willing to live off her dowry in London while she takes care of her estate in the country. She doesn’t require love as she has seen how it could devastate a person when somebody dies like with her parents.

I like that Ethan Ridley is a truly repentant hero who has matured into a responsible and hardworking man. I admire that although not born into the nobility, he genuinely cares for his tenants, wants his lands to prosper, and he doesn’t care to be looked down by society for engaging in trade to achieve his goals. His apologies to the people he wronged because of his past behavior are sincere with words backed by action. That’s how he finds himself offering a temporary fake engagement to Charlotte. Except, he quickly wants the relationship to be more permanent and more real.

I love that both of them maintain strong friendships with people from all classes. Charlotte with her godmother Agatha and her maid Darling. Ethan with his steward Connor and his best friend Cal. These secondary characters brought much of the humor in the story.  

While I enjoyed most of the story, I found Charlotte’s pushing Ethan away to stick to her plans frustrating and a bit unfair. I guess it’s Ms. Bennett’s fault for redeeming Ethan so thoroughly that he gained my sympathy and became less understanding of Charlotte’s reluctance to fight for their love.

The fact that I’m talking about these characters as if they’re real people should tell you how engaged I was with this story. A fantastic debut for Ms. Bennett. I’m looking forward to Book 2. 

Bethany Bennett grew up in a small fishing village in Alaska where required learning included life-skills like cold-water survival, along with several other subjects that are utterly useless as a romance writer. Eventually settling in the Northwest with her real-life hero and two children, she enjoys mountain views from the comfort of her sofa, wearing a tremendous amount of flannel, and drinking more coffee than her doctor deems wise.

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Chapter One

Somewhere in Warwickshire, Late August 1819

Ethan Ridley—Mac to his friends, Lord Amesbury to everyone else—lounged outside the Boar and Hound. With his face lifted toward the sky, he closed his eyes, taking in the familiar smells of horses and the hearty breakfast served at the inn. Scents of perfectly cooked sausages and fresh bread had him considering a second helping.

Thin wisps of fog would soon give way to the warm August sun, but for now, they clung, hovering in the trees like wraiths. The cool brush of a breeze lifted goose bumps on his throat, where yesterday’s cravat hung in a haphazard knot, the linen limp from a second day of being

tied. When packing, he’d forgotten a second cravat but remembered the book he was currently reading, so Ethan wasn’t terribly upset about the lack of fresh accessories. He shifted from one foot to the other. Not for the first time this morning, he considered leaving Calvin behind.

They’d traveled all the way from London to visit a highly regarded brewery to see how its processes could be applied to his own budding business venture. After waiting for over thirty minutes past the agreed time, he suspected at least another quarter hour would pass before Calvin

appeared looking fresh and annoyingly rested. Running a hand through his hair, Ethan winced as the strands snagged on calloused fingers. No doubt the unruly curls were assuming their usual vertical position, so he jammed his hat down over the mess. One of these days he’d get a haircut, but today was not that day. Tomorrow didn’t look promising either.

The clattering of hooves caught his attention as a wreck of a woman barreled into the stable yard. “There’s been an accident! I need a surgeon.”

It was the blood that stopped him from acting right away. God, so much blood. It covered her face and the top half of her traveling gown. She rode astride with her skirts hiked up and had the fiercest expression he’d ever seen on a woman. Like a warrior goddess hell-bent on dragging the next poor sod who got in her way into the afterlife, she didn’t rein in the mount until they were nearly upon him.

Forcing his legs to move, he shouldered through the taproom’s doorway. “We need help out here!” Without waiting for the occupants to jump to attention, he returned to the woman. Ethan swiped a palm over his brow, clearing away fear-ridden sweat, then placed a steadying hand on the heaving chest of the horse. For a moment, his mind had tried to retreat to another accident five years before.

Blood had soaked a different roadside while he held his friend, calling for aid until his voice failed. But the past, with its dark, clawed memories, would have to wait.

“My coachman has a broken leg.” The woman slid off the horse’s back. She touched her forehead, and her fingers came away wet and red. With a grimace, she wiped them on her skirts. One eye had swollen shut, and a cut near her hairline seemed the probable source of most of the blood. “He was unconscious when I left. My maid is with him.”

“Where’s the accident, miss?” a man from the inn asked, taking the long leather traces she’d used as reins.

Men spilled out of the taproom to lend their aid while grooms readied mounts and gathered carts to form a rescue party.

“By my best guess, they are perhaps three miles away. Directly down this road. You can’t miss them.” She pointed back in the direction from which she’d ridden.

Waving over a fellow whom he’d seen eating with the locals at the morning meal, Ethan said, “We’ll need the surgeon. Sir, do you know where tae find him?”

“Yes, milord. I’ll fetch ’im.” The man donned his hat and scurried down the road toward the village.

The woman swayed on her feet, appearing less warriorlike by the minute and more like a maiden about to faint from blood loss. Before Ethan could say something, Calvin arrived and offered his arm to escort her inside. Just as well. Ethan may want to help, but Cal’s particular skill set would be more useful to a damsel in distress. She went with his friend willingly enough, no doubt won over by his charm. Charm wasn’t Ethan’s strongest trait.

Better to stay in the stable yard until everyone had a job and was on their way.

A gentleman with hair that glowed like a halo grasped her elbow, speaking in the same tone Lottie would use with a frightened horse. “Perhaps you should sit. Your head wound is still bleeding. Frankly, you need help as much as your coachman.” Her escort offered Lottie a seat in

the public room, which she took, moving with precision to avoid further irritating the bruises making themselves known.

After crawling out of the wreckage, she’d not thought beyond flinging herself atop a carriage horse, then praying she’d stay seated long enough to find a doctor. The shaking in Lottie’s legs began, and she feared the rest of her body would follow suit until twitchy, useless

nerves overtook her. Lacing her fingers together steadied her somewhat while she waited for her vision to clear.

Dear Lord, one of her eyes wasn’t working correctly. No wonder her face hurt.

She tried to focus on the man who’d helped her. His striking features and perfect attire seemed more suited to a London drawing room than a Warwickshire country inn.

“What brings a pretty fellow like you to a town like this?” A disconnect between her ears and mouth made the words come out slow and slurred. Mercy, her head hurt.

Following his gaze to a sparkling window overlooking the yard, she spied the behemoth of a man they’d left behind deploying volunteers and taking control of the situation with an air of command no one questioned. Ah, he must be here with the man using his impressive presence to get things done. The man’s confidence amidst an emergency didn’t hurt his aura of competence.

Fresh blood seeped past her lashes. Wincing, she turned from the scene and wiped an already filthy hand over her eyes.

The innkeeper’s wife arrived with water and a stack of cloths. “I’m Mrs. Pringle, dearie. Let’s look at your head and see what we’re about, shall we?”

Lottie waved a hand. “It’s nothing. Nothing serious at any rate. I’m sure I’ll be fine after a bath and rest. My coachman needs a doctor far more than I do.”

Clean tables and the scent of fresh bread made the inn warm and cozy. Hopefully, the rooms upstairs would be as welcoming. She desperately wanted to get her bearings, then find a tub and a bed. A bath would be heaven.

The elegant stranger pushed, “Please, miss, let her clear away the blood—”

Chilly air danced over her cheek as the commanding man from the courtyard entered the room. With a blunt “Give me the rag,” he once again took charge, swiping the cloth from Mrs. Pringle’s hand.

Her charming escort rolled his eyes. “Fine, Mac. Take over. I’ll see if I’m needed outside.”

The giant grunted an acknowledgment. Really, were actual words too much to ask? A few moments before he’d been kind, but now surly impatience colored his demeanor. The sheer size of him overwhelmed her—an unusual circumstance for a woman her own father referred to as “sturdy.” Even sitting, he dwarfed everyone in the room. Only one other man of her acquaintance had made her feel delicate in comparison, but that had been a lifetime ago.

The man tossed his hat on the table, revealing a mass of dark curls. Another wave of dizziness swamped her as recognition hit. Please, God, let her be wrong. And if she didn’t humiliate herself by fainting, she’d tithe double the next time she found herself near a church.

Maybe the head wound caused the buzzing in her ears—it couldn’t possibly be because this man still affected her after so long. But no. Even seven years later, Lord Amesbury, the one who had saved her, then callously ruined her, evoked a visceral response. If he thought to save her again, she’d best remember what he’d done the last time they’d met.

Amesbury leaned forward, sparking an almost forgotten heat of awareness in her belly. His dark brows were broody slashes under a disobedient lock of hair that fell over his forehead, providing the only softness on his face. Shadows played in the hollows under his cheekbones,

where at least a day’s growth of beard made him look as roguish as she knew him to be.

“I know your concern is for your coachman. ’Tis commendable. But you’re useless if you don’ see tae yourself.” That lilting brogue did something funny to her chest, creating flutters she’d rather not ponder. “Now please hold still so you don’ make a bigger mess on this good woman’s floor.”

Mrs. Pringle didn’t seem sure if she should leave or stay. The older woman stared at the floorboards while holding the water basin, no doubt wishing to be anywhere else. Lottie could relate.

Although his exasperated tone rankled, Lottie allowed the examination. Knowing this man, of all people, saw her in such a state set her cheeks aflame with a mix of embarrassment and fury. Fate, that fickle fiend, always tossed her in his path at her worst, casting him as a hero.

With a finger under her chin, Amesbury raised her face toward the morning light streaming through the window. His gruff words were at odds with gentle fingers as he brushed the blood-soaked hair off her brow and prodded at a painful area near her hairline.

How had he grown more attractive while she’d merely gotten older? Every year her body grew softer, rounder, despite daily rides all over the estate. As the butterflies in her belly would attest, the small lines at the corners of his eyes and a new hardness to his jaw didn’t diminish his appeal. Grossly unfair, in her opinion.

Over the years, she’d imagined a different meeting. In her version, she always wore a stunning new gown—the picture of intimidatingly competent femininity. Lord Amesbury would stop in his tracks, recognizing her in an instant. Then his striking face would flood with regret, evoking her pity—but only for a moment. A strong cup of tea would help the sensation pass once she snubbed him and went on her way.

No matter the scenario, Lottie served witty set-downs while looking ethereally beautiful, then left the man with an unrelenting grief to haunt him for the rest of his natural life. Really, was that too much to ask? In her imagination she would marry a gorgeous duke—even though young available dukes weren’t exactly thick on the ground.

Especially for spinsters.

Logic had no jurisdiction in daydreams and fairy tales.

Reality was sorely lacking. Her traveling gown’s tattered bodice barely clung to modesty, she’d just dripped blood on his boot, and any fool could see Viscount Amesbury didn’t remember her.

Perhaps it was immature to wish the circumstances of their meeting were different, but the fact was that she found herself in another embarrassing situation requiring his help and he didn’t even have the decency to remember her. Inhaling deeply, she searched for calm and instead filled her head with the scent of him—not the wisest course of action. If only Amesbury favored the usual perfumes or bottled tonics, or smelled of rotten onions with a trace of dock water. Instead, he smelled like a man who bathed, then gave no further thought to his appearance. It reminded her of fresh air, leather, and an underlying warmth she couldn’t place. Now her heart pounded for a different reason.

The one thing her old suitor-turned-nemesis did well was confuse her. He always had.

Some things didn’t change, even after seven years.

Lottie exhaled his essence, pushing the tangle of emotions from her body. A man she hated so thoroughly shouldn’t smell so comforting.

THE RETURN OF THE DISAPPEARING DUKE by Lara Temple – New Release Feature

THE RETURN OF THE DISAPPEARING DUKE

by

LARA TEMPLE

 

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A scarred mercenary … Or the Disappearing Duke of Greybourne?

Rafe has spent years running from his true identity. He’s a lone wolf, living far from aristocratic England and his violent father. Then unconventional Cleopatra Osbourne requests his protection as she crosses the Egyptian desert. In Cleo he discovers a fellow outcast—and a fierce desire! Cleo must return to London, and here lies Rafe’s dilemma—because following his heart means claiming the title he’s avoided for so long!

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ABOUT LARA 

Lara Temple

Lara Temple writes strong and sensual Regency romances about complex individuals who give no quarter but do so with plenty of passion. She lives with her husband, two children, and one very fluffy dog and they are all very understanding about her taking over the kitchen table so she can look out over the garden as she writes and dreams up her Happy Ever Afters.

Social Media links:
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/LaraTempleAuthor
Facebook: www.facebook.com/LaraTemple1
Twitter: @laratemple1
Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2mWin9R
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/LaraTemple
Website: www.laratemple.com

 

REVIEW

The Return of the Disappearing Duke is my new favorite among the Lara Temple books I’ve read so far.  This book gave me respite from my sadness upon a good friend’s much-too-early passing.

Ms. Temple’s signature lyricism is at full display in her vivid descriptions of the characters’ travels through exotic Egypt, their turbulent sea voyage, and eventful arrival in England. Her command of languages, whether English or Arabic, is masterful in both narration and dialogue. The unpredictable nuances of her characterization for both Rafe and Cleo make them easy to love and root for. The fluidity with which she tells their story is highly admirable.

What places this book over the top for me is the delightful humor that I’d only seen flashes of in Lara’s previous works but which is amped up here. The witty banter between Rafe and Cleo, Rafe’s nicknames for Cleo, her love for Shakespeare, his verbal exchanges with both friends and villains provided many smiles and grins from me if not actual bursts of laughter. 

I finished reading The Return of the Disappearing Duke feeling light and excited to share my love of it with Romance readers everywhere. 

CONFESSIONS OF LADY GRACE by Rachel Ann Smith – Release Day Feature

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CONFESSIONS OF LADY GRACE

by

Rachel Ann Smith

 

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She sacrificed her future to save his life.
His life means nothing without her.
Will her confessions set them both free to love?

Lady Grace’s bargain with the devil guaranteed the life of the man she will always love, but the price was giving him up forever. Now Matthew has returned to England, and she finds it impossible to let him go.

Freed from a hellish prison on the Continent, Matthew Stanford, Marquess of Harrington, retreats to his country manor. His days obsessed with thoughts of exacting revenge upon the man responsible for his captivity. His nights are plagued by memories of Lady Grace, the woman whose image spurred him to survive—and who replaced Matthew with another as soon as he was out of her sight.

Once they worked together, as close as two people can be. Now jealousy and wounded pride keep them apart. When Lady Grace’s confessions compel them to look past their broken hearts, they join forces to exact the revenge they both desperately crave—and perhaps find their way back to love.

Confessions of Lady Grace is the final book in the Agents of the Home Office series. An intriguing, heartwarming novel with unexpected twists and surprises. Guaranteed to tug on your heartstrings.

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An exhilarating finish to a fantastic debut series. With powerful female leads and the men who are their match in every way, the Agents of the Home Office books provide hours upon hours of engaging reading.

Confessions of Lady Grace ties everything up neatly in a story loaded with twist-filled adventures and schemes yet still leaves room for interest in the upcoming spin-off series. While Ms. Smith makes an effort to summarize the events that lead up to the current time in this book, I strongly recommend reading all of the books starting from the prequel novella to have a deeper understanding of the over-arching plot and appreciation for the characters. 

I like that the agents are interconnected by blood and friendship. I approve them all coming together to ensure Grace and Matthew are reconciled. I appreciate the sensitive and respectful handling of an elderly character with cognitive impairment.  I also like the involvement of servants in accomplishing the missions. Finally, I like the unexpected twists and turns the plot has taken to reach its satisfying conclusion. 

 

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Rachel Smith

Rachel Ann Smith writes steamy historical romances with a twist. Her debut series, Agents of the Home Office, features female protagonists that defy convention.

When Rachel isn’t writing, she loves to read and spend time with her family. She is frequently found with her Kindle by the pool during the summer, the soccer field in the spring and fall, or curled up on the couch during the winter months.

She currently lives in Colorado with her extremely understanding husband and their two very supportive children.

Follow Rachel Ann here: 

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A SHOT TO THE HEART By Catherine Stein – Happy Release Day Review

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Happy Release Day to Catherine Stein’s A Shot to the Heart, a Sass and Steam novella.

 

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The best shot of these Olympic Games is coming from Cupid’s bow.

Competitive archer Cora Maxwell will let nothing stop her quest to compete at the 1904 Olympic Games. Not even a devastating injury to her arm. With the help of a mechanical device known as the Electro-Flex, Cora has worked her way back to top form—and she’s found a long-distance friend in the machine’s inventor. She’s ready to shoot for gold and she’s thrilled to have a fan to cheer her on.

Inventor Adam Levett harbors a secret love for his athletic friend, but he values their friendship too highly to risk revealing his feelings. When they meet in person for the World’s Fair and the Olympics, he plans to cheer her to victory, but he won’t allow himself to hope for more. Until a searing kiss makes him suspect the attraction might not be as one-sided as he’d believed.

As the days tick down to Cora’s competition, strange disturbances at the Fair threaten both Adam’s career and her Olympic dream—as well as their evolving relationship. But these friends are no quitters, and together they square off against rogue dragons, electrical mishaps, and vicious competitors. Because in these Games, only true loyalty can win the heart of a champion.

Buy Links: 

Amazon          Universal          Barnes & Noble          Google Play          Kobo

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REVIEW 

A fast-paced Olympic romantic adventure

Another winner from the highly creative mind of Ms. Stein. She seamlessly integrates the technology of the future with events from the past to tell her brilliant love stories in the age of steampunk. Subtly feminist, A Shot to the Heart celebrates a strong heroine and a hero who supports her wholeheartedly.

I liked the cameos and I especially appreciate the note about the World Fair. Ms. Stein really did her research and wrote an imaginative tale around a real-life event.

4 out of 5 stars

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Stein

Award-winning author Catherine Stein believes that everyone deserves love and that Happily Ever After has the power to help, to heal, and to comfort. She writes sassy, sexy romance set during the Victorian and Edwardian eras and full of action, adventure, magic, and fantastic technologies.

Catherine lives in Michigan with her husband and three rambunctious girls. She loves steampunk and oxford commas, and can often be found dressed in clothing that was purchased at a Renaissance Festival, drinking copious amounts of tea.

Follow Catherine here: 

Facebook page        Facebook group        Twitter        Instagram        Pinterest               Bookbub        Goodreads        Amazon        Book + Main        Newsletter

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE OUTLAW’S DAUGHTER by Margaret Brownley – Book Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

 

THE OUTLAW’S DAUGHTER

HAYWIRE BRIDES, BOOK 3

by

MARGARET BROWNLEY

Western / Historical Fiction / Clean and Wholesome Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date of Publication: May 26, 2020
Number of Pages: 384

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Synopsis

TOD book coverHe may be a Texas Ranger, but he only has eyes for the outlaw’s beautiful daughter . . . 

Texas Ranger Matt Taggert is on the trail of a wanted man. He has good reason to believe that Ellie-May’s late husband was involved in a stagecoach robbery, and he’s here to see justice done. But when he arrives in town, he discovers the thief has become a local hero . . . and his beautiful young widow isn’t too happy to see some lawman out to tarnish her family’s newly spotless reputation.

Ellie-May’s shaken by her encounter with the ranger. Having grown up an outlaw’s daughter, she’ll do anything to keep her children safe—and if that means hardening her heart against the handsome lawman’s smiles, then so be it. Because she knows Matt isn’t about to give up his search. He’s out to redeem himself and find proof that Ellie-May’s husband wasn’t the saint everyone claims . . . even if it means losing the love neither expected to discover along the way.

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Whenever I read a book by Margaret Brownley, it’s always exactly what I needed at the time. Cowboy Charm School provided a humorous break from the controversies in the fall of 2018. In 2020, when there is widespread distrust against those who work in law enforcement, The Outlaw’s Daughter allows the readers to visit a time when people in the profession were like Texas Ranger Matt Taggert — honest, honorable, determined to fulfill his sworn duty while caring deeply for the innocent family members whose lives will be affected adversely by the justice he seeks.

From the first chapter, the stakes were set high for Matt and Ellie-May. Matt was investigating her husband for a possible connection to a crime. Ellie-May was resolute in trying to keep her children’s father’s reputation sterling. She didn’t want them to suffer as she did from society’s ill-treatment because of who her father was.

The two main characters were at cross purposes for most of the book, I wasn’t sure how the author would bring about their happily ever after. Of course she did and it was a satisfactory resolution as far as I’m concerned. Such is Ms. Brownley’s writing prowess that my belief regarding Neal’s innocence closely matched Ellie-May’s in that there was a point that it wavered slightly.

There’s a lot to love in this book. The characters, including secondary ones like Lionel and Alicia, Anvil, and Jesse James, are sympathetic, the storytelling is topnotch, the romance is sweet and natural. If not for some repetitive elements that lengthened the story unnecessarily, a bit of an ineffectual villain, and parroting of oppressive gender roles  Ellie-May had to adhere to, I’d have given this the full marks.

Content advisory: six-year old child in peril and handled firearm, alcoholism, child neglect

4 out of 5 stars

AboutTheAuthor

Margaret Brownley

New York Times bestselling author Margaret Brownley has penned more than forty-six novels and novellas.

A two-time Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist, Margaret has also written for a TV soap and is a recipient of the Romantic Times Pioneer Award. Not bad for someone who flunked eighth-grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.

 

  WEBSITE    FACEBOOK    TWITTER  
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—————————————

GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!

TWO WINNERS each receive signed copies of the first two books in the Haywire Brides series, Cowboy Charm School and The Cowboy Meets His Match
May 26-June 5, 2020
(US ONLY)

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CLICK TO VISIT THE LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE TOUR PAGE
FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY.
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5/26/20 Promo All the Ups and Downs
5/26/20 Review Missus Gonzo
5/27/20 Review StoreyBook Reviews
5/27/20 Review Book Bustle
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5/28/20 Review That’s What She’s Reading
5/29/20 Review Books and Broomsticks
5/29/20 Review The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
5/30/20 Review Book Fidelity
5/31/20 Review Bibliotica
6/1/20 Review The Page Unbound
6/1/20 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
6/2/20 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
6/3/20 Review It’s Not All Gravy
6/4/20 Review Forgotten Winds
6/4/20 Review Momma on the Rocks

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THE SCOUNDREL’S NEW CON By Catherine Stein – Excerpt And Review

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Happy Release Day to Catherine Stein’s The Scoundrel’s New Con, a retelling of The Emperor’s New Clothes, part of the Lady Goosebury’s Tales series from various authors.

 

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He’s pulling the con of a lifetime. Unless she exposes the naked truth.

Conman Jack Weaver has his eyes on the prize. The arrogant Earl of Bardrick has offered five thousand pounds to anyone who can prove his castle is haunted. With money like that, Jack can ensure he’ll never end up on the streets or in prison again. And his spirit photography skills are just the trick needed to convince all of the earl’s houseguests to believe in something unseen.

Investigative journalist Tess Cochran believes in one thing: the truth. She’s not going to let phony ghosts and trick photographs swindle anyone, even a snobbish aristocrat like Bardrick. And she’s certainly not going to let herself be swayed by Jack Weaver’s charming smile and mischievous antics.

When Jack and Tess stumble upon one of the castle’s many secrets, they realize something nefarious lurks behind the earl’s competition. To solve the mystery, these rivals forge a reluctant partnership. As they strip down the facts, Jack and Tess begin to find that the deepest truths may be concealed in their hearts.

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EXCERPT

Weaver slid into the empty seat beside Tess as silently as the ghosts he supposedly photographed. Goosebumps rose on her flesh. The air seemed to hum with energy. And none of it had anything to do with the spiritualist at the front of the room. No, this was far too corporeal.

You did this to yourself, Tess.

A few single empty places remained in the rows closer to the performance. She could have taken any of them, and given herself a better view. Instead, she’d chosen the empty back row. It gave her the chance to slip away at any time, she’d told herself.

“Good evening, Tess,” he murmured. On his lips, her name sounded sensual. Illicitly enticing.

“Not photographing any longer?” she whispered.

“It’s past sunset. All the candles in this castle would give me nothing more than a blur on the plate.”

She looked at him just long enough to give him a sweet smile. “And here I thought that’s exactly what you wanted.”

“On the contrary.” He edged closer, until no more than an inch separated his body from hers. “I prefer a crisp, sharp photograph. One that exposes every detail.”

Thank the Lord the entire room was fixated on Rowland and his little pile of burning papers, or they might have noticed Tess combusting in the back row. Her simple dress felt stifling, and she wanted to tear it from her body to cool her heated skin. The thought of Jack Weaver seeing that skin only made her warmer.

Tess bit her lip. Enough was enough. She was tired of him having control of the situation. She was going to show him she could match him jab for jab.

“Oh, I would love to expose you, Jack.” Her whispered words were far too breathy, but she pressed on. “I intend to strip you bare for all the world to see.”

“My room, midnight.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Stein

Award-winning author Catherine Stein believes that everyone deserves love and that Happily Ever After has the power to help, to heal, and to comfort. She writes sassy, sexy romance set during the Victorian and Edwardian eras and full of action, adventure, magic, and fantastic technologies.

Catherine lives in Michigan with her husband and three rambunctious girls. She loves steampunk and oxford commas, and can often be found dressed in clothing that was purchased at a Renaissance Festival, drinking copious amounts of tea.

Follow Catherine here: 

Facebook page        Facebook group        Twitter        Instagram        Pinterest               Bookbub        Goodreads        Amazon        Book + Main        Newsletter

 

REVIEW

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Catherine Stein continues to show tremendous growth in her craft with her latest excellent offering.

The Scoundrel’s New Con is an incredibly original work in a subgenre that is often flooded with stories centered on the nobility. Here, as in most of Catherine’s books, the main characters are “ordinary” but remarkable people in the Victorian era. Tess is a news reporter, intent on exposing the truth about spiritualists and their ilk who seek to divest the gullible of their money. Jack, a spirit photographer and con man, is one of those she plans to discredit. There’s only one problem, she’s deeply attracted to him. The better she gets to know him, the weaker her determination to strip him of his livelihood.

I love that their flirtation is frank and sensual. I appreciate the slow reveal of their respective pasts to explain their present choices. I like the proper amount of push and pull that made me anticipate the eventual happy payoff.

I enjoyed the dialogue, pacing, action, and photography competence porn. I adored the cat Phantom. And, best of all, I admire the matter-of-fact feminism that was laid out in a manner that came naturally to the characters and not at all preaching to the readers. Brava!

4 Four-half-stars