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Please welcome Anne Cleeland back to the blog! She is promoting her latest book, Murder in Hindsight. Naturally, she will give a copy of the book to one of you. All you have to do is leave a comment telling her you want it.

We’ll start with the intriguing cover!

 

Murder In Hindsight2

Now the blurb.

There’s an unusual killer combing London’s streets—a vigilante is at work, killing suspects from prior cases who were never convicted; those who’d gotten away with murder, in hindsight.

It’s a puzzler, though; this vigilante is staying to the shadows, and covering his tracks so that Detective Sergeant Kathleen Doyle is left to guess at his motivation.  Is the killer guilty about his own role in helping murderers get off, or is it someone who’s just had-it-up-to-here with the imperfect justice system?

Meanwhile, the crises keep piling up; Chief Inspector Acton, her husband, is up to something having to do with brassy female reporters and the heir to his estate, and when Acton is up to something, murder and mayhem are the certain result.  Not to mention she’s needed to quash a messy little blackmail plot, and do battle with the dowager Lady Acton.  All in all, it will make for a busy few weeks; now, if only the ghosts that haunt the manor house would leave her alone. . .

And an excerpt.

Detective Sergeant Kathleen Doyle was fretting; fretting and stalling until Detective Chief Inspector Acton could make an appearance whilst she tried to appear calm and composed in front of the Scene of the Crime Officers. As a newly-promoted DS, she should maintain a certain dignity and display her leadership abilities, even though she was longing to bite her nails and peer over the hedgerow toward the park entrance.   The various Scotland Yard forensics personnel were impatiently waiting because Acton was delayed, and Doyle had a good guess as to why he was delayed.  One of these fine days, someone else may make the same guess, and then the wretched cat would be among the wretched pigeons—although the mind boggled, trying to imagine Acton being called on the carpet by Professional Standards.  Pulling out her mobile, she pretended to make a call just to appear busy.

“I’ll lose the light soon, ma’am.”  The SOCO photographer approached, cold and unhappy, and small blame to her; Doyle was equally cold and unhappy, but with better reason.

“Ten more minutes,” Doyle assured her, holding a hand over her mobile so as to interrupt her pretend-conversation. “Then we’ll move forward—whether DCI Acton makes it or no.”  She wanted Acton to have a look before the corpse was processed and removed, but she could always show him the photos.

The woman immediately plucked up. “No hurry; we can wait, if the DCI is on his way.”

Has a crush on him, the brasser, thought Doyle.  Join the club, my friend; the woman probably had some private photographs she’d be all too happy to show Acton in her spare time.  The SOCO photographer used to treat Doyle with barely-concealed contempt, but her attitude had improved remarkably after the bridge-jumping incident. A few months ago, Doyle had jumped off Greyfriars Bridge into the Thames to save a colleague, and was now a celebrated hero.  All in all, it was a mixed blessing, because Doyle was not one who craved the spotlight and now she was perceived as sort of a female version of St. George—except that she’d rescued the dragon instead of the maiden, when you thought about it.

Irish by birth and fey by nature, Doyle had an uncanny ability to read people, and in particular she could recognize a lie when she heard it.  This perceptive ability had launched her career as a detective, but it also made her reclusive by nature—it was no easy thing, to be able to pick up on the currents and cross-currents of emotion swirling around her. The SOCO photographer, for example, was lusting after the vaunted Chief Inspector but bore Doyle no particular ill-will for being married to him, since she was the heroic bridge-jumper and thus above reproach.

With a nod of her head, the photographer gestured toward the victim, being as she didn’t want to take her hands out of her pockets until it was necessary.  “Is there something special about this one, then?”

There was, but Doyle did not want to say, especially before the loose-lipped SOCOs who were notoriously inclined to blather in their cups—it came from wading knee-deep in guts all the livelong day. So instead, she equivocated, “There are a few details that are worrisome, is all.  I wanted the DCI to have a quick look.”

Buy links: Amazon

About Anne.

Anne CleelandAnne Cleeland is a lifelong Southern California resident, and currently makes her home in Newport Beach. An attorney by trade, she’s been reading mystery stories since her Nancy Drew days, and especially loves Agatha Christie and the other Golden Age British mystery writers.  The Acton & Doyle series features two Scotland Yard detectives, and if you are a fan of Masterpiece Mystery, you may enjoy their adventures.

Anne also writes a historical series set in 1814 because she loves historicals, too. Being a romantic at heart, all her stories have a strong romantic element.

She has four grown children, three wonderful grandchildren, and one nutty dog.

www.annecleeland.com @annecleeland

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Please welcome back the fabulous Barbara Monajem!! Barbara is here to tell us about her latest book, Lady of the Flames!! And she will give away a copy to one of you! All you have to do is leave a comment saying you want the book.

Before we get to Barbara’s post, we’ll take a look at the lovely cover!

Lady of the Flames Cover LARGE EBOOK

Now to Barbara’s post.

And the moral of the story is….

I never meant to write a story with a moral! Not that I have any objection to fables and such, but that’s not how I think of a romance. A romance is centered around love and what that means to the hero and heroine, and what they have to overcome to get their happily ever after.

So it took me by surprise when reviewer Eileen Dandashi said Lady of the Flames has a moral. I’m paraphrasing her a little, but basically, it’s, “Don’t be in a hurry to believe gossip about someone you know and trust, even when the confidante is your closest friend.”

Um, yeah. A misunderstanding is bad enough, but when it’s due to gossip or downright lies, it’s harder to combat. Both Lord Fen, the hero, and Andromeda, the heroine, base their actions over a number of years on lies told by family and friends. Add a touch of magic, and more complications ensue!

(Anyone who knows my books also knows I love slipping in a little magic. Or in this case, a lot!)

Here’s the blurb:

Magic is fraught with peril—but so is love.

Lord Fenimore Trent’s uncanny affinity for knives and other sharp blades led to duels and murderous brawls until he found a safe, peaceful outlet by opening a furniture shop—an unacceptable occupation for a man of noble birth. Now Fen’s business partner has been accused of treason. In order to root out the real traitor, he may have to resort to the violent use of his blades once again.

Once upon a time, Andromeda Gibbons believed in magic. That belief faded after her mother’s death and vanished completely when Lord Fenimore, the man she loved, spurned her. Five years later, Andromeda has molded herself into a perfect—and perfectly unhappy—lady. When she overhears her haughty betrothed plotting treason, she flees into the London night—to Fen, the one man she knows she can trust. But taking refuge with him leads to far more than preventing treason. Can she learn to believe in love, magic, and the real Andromeda once again?

And an excerpt:

Years ago, she’d felt no need to talk when with Fen, but now it was uncomfortable, like conversing with a stranger. Then, they’d had more in common; now they lived in different worlds. She took a sip of coffee and ate a sausage roll. She sipped some more coffee. She gazed around the room and finally found something to say.

“Did you carve the figures on your looking-glass frame?” she said. As a boy, he had whittled constantly. “They seem so…familiar somehow.”

“They should,” he said with a sudden smile. “I carved it from my memories of the fairies and hobgoblins back home.”

“Fairies and hobgoblins?”

“At your father’s estate,” he said. “Surely you remember Cuff the bedchamber hob, and Heck the buttery spirit, and all the rest.”

“My mother told stories about them,” Andromeda said, nostalgia filling her again. “I must say, I like the way you’ve imagined them.”

Fen frowned at her, his smile fading, his eyes perplexed. “I didn’t imagine them,” he said. “I saw them.”

Andromeda rolled her eyes. “That sounds like something my mother would have said.”

“Because she saw them, too.”

Andromeda began to be annoyed. “Don’t be ridiculous, Fen. She made up stories based on tales she’d been told as a child.”

Fen shook his head. “You saw them when you were small. You saw Cuff and Heck and the others. We both did.”

“No,” Andromeda said. “We saw movement out of the corners of our eyes and said they were fairies, but we were just playing games.”

Fen’s expression was pained. “You really don’t remember, do you?”

“There’s nothing to remember,” she insisted, wolfing down another cream puff. “As a matter of fact, that happened to me this morning. I had the impression that one of the creatures on the looking-glass winked at me, but of course it didn’t really do so.”

“What a pity,” Fen said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“That you’ve forgotten. That wink was Cuff’s way of saying good-day to you. He’s somewhere hereabouts. He’s the only one I didn’t have to carve from memory, because he came with me when I left home.” He glanced toward the tin cup and plate by the wall. “He ate the bread and milk I put out, and I gave him the rest of your brandy, too.”

She couldn’t stand any more of this. “Fen, stop this nonsense! We’re in danger from traitors and spies who murder people, and all you can talk about is hobgoblins.”

He went on as if she hadn’t spoken. “I wondered why he came with me when I left, but it’s because he enjoys human company.” He grimaced. “Your father and aunt aren’t his sort of humans. I thought you were, and so did your mother, but evidently you’re not.”

That struck her like a blow. “What do you mean, my mother thought I was. Was what?”

“She had a sizeable amount of fairy blood, so she thought you must have some, too—but perhaps she was wrong.” He paused. “I know I have some. It’s not uncommon for children to see fairies, but I didn’t lose that when I grew up. Not only that, it’s their magic that guides my knives and tools, and inspires me when it comes to furniture design.”

She couldn’t bear it. “Stop it! You’re as—as mad as my mother was.”

“She wasn’t mad, Andromeda.” He sighed. “And whether or not you see the fairies, they’re still here.”

She put her hands to her ears and shut her eyes. After all the chaos of yesterday, this was too much. When he said and did nothing, she opened her eyes again. “Why did she discuss me with you?”

“Who else was there to speak to? Your father and aunt, although worthy people, wouldn’t have understood. They already found her far too strange.”

This was true—but it was because Mama’s mind was unbalanced.

“She knew I cared for you,” Fen said.

His eyes were kind but dispassionate; his use of the past tense meant that he didn’t care anymore, except perhaps as an old friend. Why couldn’t she become accustomed? Every single reminder hurt.

“You believed in them at the time your mother died,” he said. “She gave you that heart-shaped locket, didn’t she?” It still hung at her breast, but she resisted the urge to clasp it in her hand.

“I was nine years old. I believed in many foolish things then,” she retorted. Such as magic, but a household run by her aunt was no longer vibrant with promise or belief in anything much at all. And then, when she was seventeen, Fen had destroyed what little belief remained. She didn’t try to keep the bitterness from her voice. “I learned soon enough what utter nonsense it all was.”

He watched her, head cocked to one side, as if she were some strange, incomprehensible creature. “As a matter of interest, when did you stop believing?”

How dare he ask such a personal question? “What business is that of yours?”

“None, I suppose.” He shrugged and stood. “Stay away from the windows. I’ll see if my valet has found you something to wear.” He took the last of the beignets, set it on a saucer, and left it on the floor by the wall.

As if prying into her business wasn’t enough, now he was mocking her. Did he seriously expect her to believe that a hobgoblin would eat the beignet? Anger stirred and grew within her. “If you must know, it was at the same time I gave up other foolishness, such as believing in love!”

Fen stared at her, his expression incredulous. He left the room, slamming the door behind him. By what right was he upset? Not content with playing stupid games with her, did he really not remember what he’d done to her five years ago?

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About Barbara.

BarbaraMonajem300x400I grew up on the west coast of Canada among the mountains and cedar trees. I’m not much into putting down roots–I love moving around–but roots have minds of their own. Mine go deep into those mountains and are entwined with the cedars, and no matter where I live, there’s a part of me that always, always longs for home. It’s a magic place which never lets go, and that’s all there is to it. I’m pretty sure that magic is what started me writing paranormals, because I wrote my first at only eight years old.

I lived in Oxford, England for a year when I was twelve, and I have roots there, too, but they’re mostly cultural. My ancestors are English, with some Scots and Irish farther back. Oxford is heavy with the magic of centuries. I loved it there–everything from playing twosy-ball against the school wall, to helping out at an archaeological dig, to spending my pocket money in Blackwell’s bookshop. I think it’s that year in England, coupled with all the Brit lit I read as a child, that inspired me to write historicals.  My foray into teen melodrama, best forgotten, also sprang from that year in England.

I spent several years in Montreal, and now and then I miss the winters–they’re long, but nothing beats the cold, bright, silent magic of a winter’s night. And the French spoken all around me–I miss that, too. Sometime during the years in Quebec and on into the move to Georgia, I started writing paranormals again, in the form of fantasy for my kids. This resulted in my middle grade novel, The Secret of the Stolen Mandolin.

I live in Georgia and spend a lot of time in south Louisiana, so now I have roots in the southern U.S. as well. I love the dense, humid air (well, usually), the lightning bugs and kudzu (so spooky), the live oaks and resurrection fern. On my first trip to Louisiana, I succumbed to the magic of New Orleans. I love it all: Bourbon Street, beignets and the levee, the Mardi Gras parades, the spicy food and hot nights, the dark and lovely moods of the French Quarter, and the swamps to the north. New Orleans is my inspiration for the funky little town of Bayou Gavotte, with its fetish clubs… and vampires… and who knows what else.

 

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Yes, I know it’s Sunday, but Cheryl caught in a transportation strike and could not get her information to me until yesterday. Also, I promised you that I’d put the post up as soon as I had her stuff. So here we go. As always, Cheryl will be giving away a copy of her book to one of you who leaves a comment saying you want it.

First the cover!

Duchess by Mistake

Now the blurb.

Another of Cheryl Bolen’s classic marriage-of-convenience stories

An innocent visit to the Duke of Aldridge’s to request a donation for her war widows puts Lady Elizabeth Upton in the midst of a most shocking scandal. . .

The Duke of Aldridge offers for his best friend’s sister, Lady Elizabeth Upton, after a mix-up sends her to his bedchamber—just as he’s emerging from his bath. She most certainly does not want to force the duke’s hand, but how can she bear the shame her scandalous behavior has cast upon her dear brother, the Marquess of Haverstock?

Once she agrees to marry her childhood heartthrob, Elizabeth realizes she wants nothing more than to win her husband’s love. But capturing his heart is no easy task when former loves threaten to destroy the fragile bonds of their marriage.

And last, but not least, an excerpt.

Some time after donning a dress which matched the periwinkle colour of her eyes and topping it with matching pelisse suitable for calling at Aldridge House, Lady Elizabeth Upton found herself knocking upon the door of the Duke of Aldridge’s fine house on Berkeley Square. She wondered how many times Charles had passed through this door during his two and thirty years. Since she had only come out three years previously, she had never had the opportunity to pay a call upon the duke, owing to his long absence from England.

The white-haired butler who answered her knock looked as if he’d been in the employ of the Aldridges for at least two generations. He quickly offered her a tight smile and spoke before she had the chance to offer her card. “Please come in. His grace awaits. If you will just follow me up the stairs.”

She supposed with this being the duke’s first day back, he was entertaining callers in the drawing room. She had not considered that she would not have him all to herself. It would be difficult to beg him for the significant donation in a room full of people. Her brother had once said the duke did not like to have his charities acknowledged, preferring anonymity.

Her gaze lifted to the massive chandelier that glistened above, then she began to follow the stooped-over butler as he mounted the stairs, his movements slowed by age. All the way up the impressive, iron banistered staircase portraits of long-dead Aldridges stood almost one on top of the other and seemed to be staring at her.

To her surprise, when they reached the first floor he did not stop but continued mounting stairs to the next level. Though her experience with ducal residences was limited, she was unaccustomed to finding a drawing room so far removed from the home’s entrance. In most of the houses with which she was familiar, the third level was reserved for bedchambers.

They reached the third level. It was slightly less formal than the second level, actually looking remarkably like the third–bedchamber–level at Haverstock House. The butler turned to the right and shuffled along another corridor until he reached the first paneled and gilded door. It was closed. He teetered to a stop and turned to face her with a somber countenance. “You will find his grace in here.” Then he began to retrace his steps.

She drew in a breath, reached for the door handle, and opened it.

She heard a splashing sound before the door was fully open. How peculiar. When she had clear view of the room, she gasped. There in its center, framed by the fireplace behind him, the Duke of Aldridge was emerging from his bath. His long, glistening, gloriously formed body was completely naked.

In her entire life Lady Elizabeth Upton had never seen a naked man in the flesh. Though her first instinct should have been to run screaming from the chamber, she was frozen to the spot, unable to remove her gaze from . . . the manly part. And so much more. From his wide shoulders along his burnished skin and muscled limbs, the dark-haired duke exuded a masculinity like nothing she had ever seen.

A flood of memories of her former adoration of this man many years ago walloped her. She felt the heat climbing into her cheeks and knew she should flee from the profligate duke. Yet, like a compulsion to watch a grim sight not suitable for female sensibilities, she was incapable of turning away.

“You’re not Belle!” he said, snatching his toweling and covering the lower portion of his statue-worthy body. His voice held a note of incredulity.

No doubt, Belle was a lady of the demimonde. What a wicked man he was! To think, his first day back in the kingdom he chose to spend with a woman of that sort.

At the sound of his voice, she realized how shameless she must appear. And how very improper it was for her to be there. She came to her senses, let out a full-fledged scream, turned on her heel, and fled down the stairs.

And came face to face with her brother.

“Haverstock!” she cried.

His brows lowered with concern. “What’s the matter, Lizzie?”

She tossed her head back in the direction of the duke’s private chamber. “That man! He’s thoroughly debauched.” Then she scurried down the stairs. Never again would she come to this . . . this temple of profligacy.

***

Aldridge was having the devil of a time trying to remember where he had seen that chit before. No doubt, she was a lady of Quality. He’d likely scared the poor thing senseless. There had obviously been a serious misunderstanding.

As soon as he called for Lawford, Haverstock came striding into Aldridge’s bedchamber. When he saw that Aldridge was without clothing, his facial expressions thundered. “What in the hell were you doing with my sister?”

Oh, damn! That’s why she looked familiar! The duke grimaced. “It’s not what you think.”

Haverstock’s gaze raked over him from the top of his wet head down the full length of his nakedness. “Oh, isn’t it? My god, Aldridge, she’s an innocent! How could you?”

By then Aldridge’s valet had come striding in with fresh clothing for his master, and Aldridge began to dress. “It seems I owe her an apology. I assure you I have no dishonorable designs on your sister.”

Haverstock regarded him thoughtfully for a long, silent moment. “Then are you saying your intentions toward Elizabeth are honorable?”

“But of course. What do you take me for?”

“It appears I shall now take you for my brother-in-law.”

Buy links.

Amazon ~ Barnes & NobleSmashwords ~ iTunes ~ Kobo

 

About Cheryl.

Cheryl BolenCheryl Bolen is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of over 20 romances, both historical and contemporary mystery. Many of her books have placed in contests, including the Daphne du Maurier (romantic suspense) and have been translated into ten languages. She was Notable New Author in 1999. In 2006 she won the Holt Medallion, Best Historical, and in 2012 she won Best Historical in the International Digital Awards and she’s had four other titles place in that competition. Her 2011 Christmas novella was named Best Novella in the Romance Through the Ages. She invites readers to www.CherylBolen.com, or her blog, www.cherylsregencyramblings.wordpress.co or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cheryl-Bolen-Books/146842652076424.

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Please welcome the wonderful Lauren Smith back to the blog!! She is here today with her latest release, His Wicked Seduction, The League of Rogues, Book 2, and she’ll be giving away a copy of the book! All you have to do is tell her you want it.

First the cover.

his wicked seduction

 

Now the blurb.

Can the League’s most wicked rakehell be tamed? Or has this Rogue fallen too far?

Horatia Sheridan has been hopelessly in love with Lucien, her brother’s best friend, ever since he rescued her from the broken remains of her parents’ wrecked carriage. His reputation as London’s most notorious rakehell doesn’t frighten her, for under his veneer of cool authority she has glimpsed a man whose wicked desires inspire her own.

Lucien, Marquess of Rochester, has deliberately nurtured a reputation for debauchery that makes every matchmaking mother of the ton quake with fear. His one secret: he is torn between soul-ripping lust for Horatia, and the loyalty he owes her brother.

That loyalty is put to the test when an old enemy of the League threatens Horatia’s life. With Christmas drawing near, he sweeps her away to his country estate, where he can’t resist granting her one wish—to share his bed and his heart.

But sinister forces are lurking, awaiting the perfect moment to exact their revenge by destroying not only whatever happiness Lucien might find in Horatia’s arms, but the lives of those they love.

Warning:  This book contains an intelligent lady who is determined to seduce her brother’s friend, a brooding rake whose toy of choice in bed is a little bit of bondage with a piece of red silk, a loyal band of merry rogues and a Christmas love so scorching you’ll need fresh snow to extinguish it.

And an excerpt.

She is going to be the death of me.

“Lucien! You’re not even listening to me, are you? I’m in desperate need of a new valet and you’ve been woolgathering rather than offering suggestions. I daresay you have enough for a decent coat and a pair of mittens by now.”

Lucien Russell, the Marquess of Rochester, looked to his friend Charles. They were walking down Bond Street, Lucien keeping careful watch over one particular lady without her knowledge and Charles simply enjoying the chance for an outing. The street was surprisingly crowded for so early in the day and during such foul wintry weather.

“Admit it,” Charles prodded.

Lucien fought to focus on his friend. “Sorry?”

The Earl of Lonsdale fixed him with a stern glare which, given that his usual manner tended towards jovial, was a little alarming.

“Where is your head? You’ve been out of sorts all morning.”

Lucien grunted. He had no intention of explaining himself. His thoughts were sinful ones, ones that would lead him straight to a fiery spot in Hell, assuming one wasn’t already reserved for him. All because of one woman: Horatia Sheridan.

She was halfway up Bond Street on the opposite side of the road, a beacon of beauty standing out from the women around her. A footman dressed in the Sheridan livery trailed diligently behind her with a large box in his arms. A new dress, if Lucien had to hazard a guess. She should not be out traipsing about on snow-covered walkways, not with these carriages rumbling past, casting muddy slush all over. It frustrated him to think she was risking a chill for the sake of shopping. It frustrated him more that he was so concerned about it.

“I know you think I’m a half-wit on most days, but—”

“Only most?” Lucien couldn’t resist the verbal jab.

Charles grinned. “As I was saying, it’s a bit obvious our leisurely stroll is merely a ruse. I’ve noticed we’ve stopped several times, matching the pattern of a certain lady of our acquaintance across the street.”

So Charles had been watchful after all. Lucien shouldn’t have been surprised. He hadn’t done his best to conceal his interest in Horatia Sheridan. It was too hard to fight the natural pull of his gaze whenever she was near. She was twenty years old, yet she carried herself with the natural grace of a mature and educated queen. Not many women could achieve such a feat. For as long as he’d known her, she’d been that way.

He’d been a young man in his twenties when he met her, and she’d been all of fourteen. She’d been like a little sister to him. Even then, she’d struck him as more mentally and emotionally mature than most women in their later years. There was something about her eyes, the way her doe-brown pools held a man rooted to the spot with intelligence—and in these last few months, attraction…

“You’d best stop staring,” Charles intoned quietly. “People are starting to notice.”

“She shouldn’t be out in this weather. Her brother would have a fit.” Lucien tugged his leather gloves tighter, hoping to erase the lingering effects of the chill wind that slid between his coat sleeves and gloves.

Charles burst out into a laugh, one loud enough to draw the attention of nearby onlookers. “Cedric loves her and little Audrey, but you and I both know that does not stop either of them from doing just as they please.”

There was far too much truth in that. Lucien and Charles had known Cedric, Viscount Sheridan for many years, bonded during one dark night at university. The memory of when he, Charles, Cedric and two others, Godric and Ashton, had first met always unsettled him. Still, what had happened had forged an unbreakable bond between the five of them. Later, London, or at least the society pages, had dubbed them The League of Rogues.

The League. How amusing it all was…except for one thing. The night they’d formed their alliance each of the five men had been marked by the Devil himself. A man by the name of Hugo Waverly, a fellow student at Cambridge, had sworn vengeance on them.

And sometimes Lucien wondered if they didn’t deserve it.

Lucien shook off the heavy thoughts. He was drawn to the vision of Horatia pausing to admire a shop window displaying an array of poke bonnets nestled on stands. Her beleaguered footman stood by her elbow, juggling the box in his arms. He nodded smartly as Horatia pointed out a particular bonnet. Lucien was tempted to venture forth and speak with her, possibly lure her into an alley in order to have just a moment alone with her. Even if he only spoke with her, he feared the intimacy of that conversation would get him a bullet through his heart if her brother ever found out.

Charles had walked a few feet ahead, then stopped and turned to kick a pile of snow into the street. “If this is how you mean to spend the day then consider me gone. I could be at Jackson’s Salon right now, or better yet, savoring the favors of the fine ladies at the Midnight Garden.”

Lucien knew he’d put Charles out of sorts asking him to come today, but he’d had a peculiar feeling since he’d risen this morning, as though someone was walking over his grave. Ever since Hugo Waverly had returned to London, he had been keeping on eye on Cedric’s sisters, particularly Horatia. Waverly had a way of creating collateral damage and Lucien would do anything to keep these innocent ladies safe. But she mustn’t know he was watching over her. He’d spent the last six years being outwardly cold to her, praying she’d stop gazing at him in that sweet, loving way of hers.

It was cruel of him, yes, but if he did not create some distance, he’d have had her on her back beneath him. She was too good a woman for that, and he was far too wicked to be worthy of her. Rather like a demon falling for an angel. He longed for her in ways he’d never craved for other women, and he could never have her.

The reason was simple. His public reputation did not do justice to the true depth of his debauchery. A man like him could and should never be with a woman like Horatia. She was beauty, intelligence and strength, and he would corrupt her with just one night in his arms.

Within the ton, there was scandal and then there was scandal. For a certain class of woman, being seen with the wrong man in the wrong place could be enough to ruin her reputation and damage her prospects. These fair creatures deserved nothing but the utmost in courtesy and propriety.

For others, the widows still longing for love, those who had no interest in husbands but did from time to time seek companionship, and that rare lovely breed of woman who had both the wealth and position to afford to not give a toss about what society thought, there was Lucien. He seduced them all, taught them to open themselves up to their deepest desires and needs, and seek satisfaction. Not once had a woman complained or been dissatisfied after he had departed from her bed. But there was only one bed he sought now, and it was one he should never be invited into.

He glanced about and noticed a familiar coach among the other carriages on the street. Much of the street’s traffic had been moving steadily and quicker than the people on foot, but not that coach. There was nothing unusual about it; the rider was covered with a scarf like all the others, to keep out the chill, yet each time he and Charles had crossed a street, the coach had shadowed them.

“Charles, do think we’re being followed?”

Charles brushed off some snow from his gloved hands when it dropped onto him from a nearby shop’s eave. “What? What on earth for?”

“I don’t know. That carriage. It has been with us for quite a few streets.”

“Lucien, we’re in a popular part of London. No doubt someone is shopping and ordering their carriage to keep close.”

“Hmm,” was all he said before he turned his attention back to Horatia and her footman. One of her spare gloves fell out of her cloak and onto the ground, going unnoticed by both her and her servant. Lucien debated briefly whether or not he should interfere and alert her to the fact that he and Charles had been following her. When she continued to walk ahead, leaving her glove behind, he made his decision.

Lucien caught up with his friend still ahead of him on the street. “I’ll not keep you. Horatia’s dropped a glove and I wish to return it to her.”

“Plagued by a bit of chivalry, eh? Go on then, I want to stop here a moment.” He pointed to a bookshop.

“Very good. Catch me up when you’re ready.”

Lucien dodged through the traffic on the road and was halfway across the street when pandemonium struck.

Bond Street was turned on its head as screams tore through the air. The coach that had been shadowing him raced down the road in Lucien’s direction. Yet, rather than trying to halt the team, the driver whipped the horses, urging them directly at Lucien.

He was too far across the street to turn back; he had to get to safety and get others out of the way. Horatia! She could be trampled when it passed her. Lucien’s heart shot into his throat as he ran. The driver whipped the horses again, as if sensing Lucien’s determination to escape.

“Horatia!” Lucien bellowed at the top of his lungs. “Out of the way!”

Buy links:

Amazon ~ Barnes and NobleiTunesKoboSamhainGoogle Play Store

About Lauren.

Author PhotoAmazon Best Selling author, Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets: a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.

 

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Please help me welcome historical author, Jane Ashford, to the blog!

We’ve decided to do something a little different today. Jane has written a post. She will also be giving away a copy of her book, Married to a Perfect Stranger. To be eligible, please leave a comment saying you want the book.

We begin with the lovely cover.

Married to a Perfect Stranger-m

 

Now the blurb.

Time and distance have changed them both. Quiet and obliging, Mary Fleming and John Bexley married to please their families. Almost immediately, John was sent on a two-year diplomatic mission to China. Now John is back, and everything they thought they knew about each other seems to be wrong… It’s disconcerting, irritating, and somehow very exciting.

Buy links.

AmazonBarnes and NobleIndieboundBooks a MillionIndigo

 

“Recognizing” True Love

True love is at the heart of every romance, and I imagine those two words can mean different things to different people. For me, and the books I write, the key to finding it is recognition.

Of course love often begins with physical attraction. As Springsteen sings, “You can’t start a fire without a spark.” We can all be rendered breathless and stammering by an incredibly handsome, gloriously built, fashionably dressed, extremely rich, insanely witty stranger. : ) Sexual tension adds lovely sizzle to a story.

But there’s more to true love. I think couples have to discover, and come to cherish, each other’s real nature before they can find their happy endings. Both have to be truly seen and valued by another.

This is particularly important in my new book Married to a Perfect Stranger. The hero and heroine have been defined as the less promising, less accomplished son and daughter by their families. They’re the “white sheep” from whom not much is expected. They have to fight these limiting labels in order to succeed, and their journey together in the story helps each of them do that. It’s not easy; there are many bumps and misunderstandings along the way. In the end, though, each recognizes and supports the amazing person the other has come to be. I think that’s true love. And with this strong foundation, their marriage will be strong and sweet.

What word means true love for you?

Thanks for having me on the blog!

About Jane.

JaneAshfordJane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was entranced by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. That delight was part of what led her to study English literature and travel widely in Britain and Europe. Jane’s historical romances have been published in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Spain, as well as the U.S. She has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews.

 

Website www.janeashford.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jane-Ashford/154028944714495?ref=bookmarks

 

 

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Please welcome historical author Erin Satie! Erin will be giving away a copy of her book, Lover’s Knot to one of you. Just leave a comment telling her you want it.

Now the cover.

The-Lovers-Knot-Ebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The blurb.

Memory is his weapon. Forgetting is her armor.

Sophie Roe was once a wealthy young lady, with an adoring fiancé. But that was ten years ago. Now Sophie barely scrapes a living in trade. Her benefactor, the Duke of Clive, is dead. And the man she jilted is the new duke: rich, powerful, and determined to think the worst of Sophie. Julian has never been able to forget Sophie. He intends to find out just why she rejected him—and why she’s lying about the old duke’s death.

Sophie is hopelessly entangled in the past. But as long-buried secrets and betrayals come to light, Julian may be the man to set her free…
Spring, 1839 Derbyshire             Julian Swann had been born seventh in line to inherit the dukedom of Clive. That gap ought to have expanded over the years, as the six who came before him sired sons who would grow up, take wives, and beget more sons.

But instead of adding new branches to the family tree, Fate had hacked away at the old. Age, war, disease. Everything that could have gone wrong had. The gap narrowed coffin by coffin, then finally closed.

And so, newly ennobled, Julian exchanged one name for another. One residence for another. One set of problems for… another. That much he could guess from the moment he arrived at High Bend, the duchy’s grandest holding.

Now his grandest holding.

His predecessor’s widow greeted him in the high front hall, young and fresh against a background of weathered stone and moth-eaten tapestries. She wore a gown that flaunted her curves rather than her grief, mourning black fitted tight around her full bosom and trim waist, crepe pleats flaring with her hips. She looked, he thought, like a nun in an erotic drawing.

“Are you ready? I’m about to perform my last act as mistress of the castle.” Gloria, Dowager Duchess of Clive, eyed Julian the same way he might admire a friend’s horseflesh, her regard frank and almost clinical. “My husband’s rooms have been cleaned and aired in preparation for your arrival. They’re yours now.”

She paused, and Julian felt a certain bitter satisfaction when she added, “Welcome home, Your Grace.”

Despite everything, he knew he had come home. As a child and young man, he’d kept his little room in High Bend while the title tumbled down the family tree. He might as well have been part of the entail: each new duke inherited the pastures, the mines, the factories, and the child.

Julian squeezed the young Dowager’s hands and leaned in to kiss her cool cheek. “I hope you know that you’ll always have a place here. You’re welcome to stay on at High Bend for as long as you wish.”

“I do not wish.” She grimaced. “I am sick unto death of this old pile. I’ve always hated living so far from Town, and now…”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t attend the funeral.” Julian settled a hand at the small of her back and urged her out of the front hall, with its drafts and echoes, and into the first of High Bend’s two central courtyards. Overhead, a latticework of iron and glass kept out the worst of the weather. “By the time I heard the news, there was no chance of arriving in time.”

“The news.” The Dowager laughed, low and throaty. “But, Julian, you haven’t heard the news. I’ve tried to keep it quiet—I didn’t dare write it down in a letter, though God knows the coroner’s told every shopkeeper and washerwoman in the county.” She took a deep breath and stared straight ahead. “Clive didn’t die of an apoplexy. He took his own life.”

Julian froze. “That’s not possible.”

She turned around to face him. One corner of her mouth, thin-lipped and deep red, turned up. “I would have said the same. And yet it was so.”

“For no reason? With no warning?” Julian shook his head. Men like Clive did not commit suicide. He’d been wealthy, esteemed. A duke, with a beautiful daughter only a few years younger than his even more beautiful second wife. “I don’t believe it.”

“He left no room for doubt,” said the Dowager Duchess. “Come along. I’ll show you.”     The stiff crepe of her skirts rustled on the granite as she strode purposefully out of the courtyard and into a wide corridor. Lit sconces cast flickering orange haloes against the stone walls, and an oriental carpet swallowed the noise of their footsteps. She led him up one of the spiral staircases tucked into High Bend’s turret towers and down another corridor to a small sitting room, elegantly if impersonally furnished.

“I didn’t think you’d like my staying on in my old rooms, with the connecting door.” The Dowager opened up a small bureau and extracted a piece of paper from the bottom of a pile. “So I’ve moved all my things here until I can manage a permanent move. Here.” She held the paper with the tips of her fingers. “Proof.”

Julian took the sheet and read.

I know what I am doing, and I will not apologize. I have no confession to make but this. I meted out the poison and I drank it of my own free will. I am so sorry. I never did have the courage to do the right thing until it was too late. Please forgive me for asking you to remember the man I wished to be rather than the one I was.

Brief. To the point. And fake.

“What is this?” Julian traced the letters with his fingertip. He knew who’d written this note, and it hadn’t been his predecessor—though the ninth Duke of Clive’s signature did appear at the bottom.

“He left a note.” Her voice was low, furious. “He wanted us to know.”

“I suppose it would have been suspicious otherwise,” Julian murmured. He sniffed the paper, but the only perfume he detected was the dowager duchess’. “For a man to die of poison without any explanation.”

“How soft-hearted you are,” marveled the duchess.

Julian looked up, startled. It had been a long time since anyone had accused him of undue kindness.

“He wasn’t trying to protect us.” She slapped the table. “Who would have guessed? Who would’ve sounded the alarm? He was trying to punish us. To make us feel guilty.”

“And do you?” Julian asked.

The dowager duchess blushed.

But no. She hadn’t the skill to copy her husband’s hand. Clive the Ninth, only one rung ahead of Julian in the ladder of succession, had worked as a solicitor for more than a decade before inheriting the title. He’d developed a tidy, precise, legal hand. Hard to duplicate without similar training—or a talented forger’s skill.

And in these frozen hinterlands, he could only name one person whose abilities matched the task. Sophia Roe, Julian’s former fiancée. As a young man, he’d been astonished by her talent. On more than one occasion, he’d seen her forgeries fool the very individuals whose handwriting she had copied. They would take their own memories to task rather than doubt the evidence on the page.

In later years, after he’d started working for the Foreign Office, he’d been more impressed by her restraint. To his knowledge, Sophie had never attempted to profit from her ability.

But he’d read Clive’s will. The ninth duke had left her a handsome bequest—a bundle of properties guaranteeing her a revenue of some twelve thousand pounds a year. Perhaps, threadbare as her pockets were, she’d decided to hasten her benefactor’s demise?

Perhaps it hadn’t been the first time she’d succumbed to temptation.

The thought chilled him, but why? She wasn’t his wife. Her crimes couldn’t blacken his name. He hadn’t even seen her in ten years. And yet…

Julian drew the tip of one finger over a majuscule I. Ink had pooled at the base of the downstroke and left a small blot, because Sophie had paused over a letter that would have been a clean, quick line in his cousin’s hand. A small flaw.

He thumbed the curled flourish that crowned a small o, the line thinner and lighter than Clive the Ninth’s heavy fingers could have managed. Sloppy. Sophie must have written this in a rush. He knew her work. When she took her time, she could fool anyone.

Why hurry? Unless she meant these little flaws as a message to him. Because only he would look at this note and see the truth. He knew her abilities, and he’d been trained—first by Sophie herself, later by experts at the Foreign Office—to recognize such small irregularities.

“I have to go,” Julian announced.

“What?”

“I have to go,” he repeated, handing the letter back to the dowager duchess.

“You’ve only just arrived,” she protested. “There’s nothing to be done. Take the afternoon to rest. There will be plenty of time in the morning—”

But he didn’t wait to hear her suggestion. If Sophie wanted a confrontation, he’d give her one. A decade ago, she’d sent her uncle to break their engagement rather than confront him herself. She’d denied him any chance to plead his case. But he wasn’t small-minded. He’d teach her a lesson just by making an appearance.

Julian retraced his steps to the front hall. He donned a thick scarf and his greatcoat before stepping out into the chill spring air. High Bend stood atop a windswept tor, perilously steep on three sides with a narrow road winding up the fourth. The gray stone of the building blended with the gray sky, melted into the Derbyshire hills. Weak sunlight glinted off the windows, black as dark water.

When the stable boy led his horse around to the front drive, Julian heaved himself into the saddle and urged his mount to a trot. Down they went, the road a pale crease dividing rows of rocky mountains, down to a shallow valley where the village of Padley spread from slope to slope.

Julian left his horse at the inn, flipped a coin to a stable boy, and clicked open his pocket watch. Iron & Wine Writing Fluid, read the label he’d glued to the inside face, 21 Halftail Road. He’d lifted it from a bottle of Sophie’s ink years ago, when she’d just started out. Soaked the bottle in water, peeled off the paper, and… kept it.

Most men carried a portrait of their beloved, but Julian never had to worry about forgetting what Sophie looked like. He did have to prod himself to remember what he knew in the abstract, but had never seen or felt or tasted: the woman she’d become, the things she’d gone on to do without him.

Her shop looked much as he’d imagined it, a small cottage only a block away from the row of shops lining Padley’s main street. A sturdy wooden sign with Iron & Wine spelled out in polished brass letters hung from a bracket over the lintel. A woman bent at the waist in front of the whitewashed front door, the ribbons of her apron billowing out from her waist.

She had the fine, balanced figure of a Greek caryatid. Supple curves crafted by a deity who preached moderation in all things and possessed skill enough to prove his point in the shape of a woman’s body. Sophie had always been just lush enough, just slim enough, just soft enough. Just right, in every way.

A woven shawl slipped down her shoulders. In his memories, she wore silks and fine woolens, muslin and velvet. Not gray serge and undyed homespun. At least her hair had stayed the same—it snarled and frizzed, skeins twisting loose from pins and bonnet to snap in the breeze.

Even after ten years, the sight of her moved him. He wanted to fall to his knees, rub his face in the dirt. Why didn’t you want me? Why did you turn me away?

She reached out with her white, white arms, a crystal phial tipped neck-down between ink-stained fingers. A single drop of sunny golden fluid formed at the lip and then, ever so slowly, fell to the ground.

Poison?

Sophie tucked her elbows into her waist and murmured something in a voice too low for him to understand. Sweet words, so gentle and warm that his bone-dry soul wept with envy.

Then the rage came back, and he could move again. “What have you got there, Sophie?”

His voice startled her so much that she staggered, looking up and reeling away as she recognized him.

Her cheeks had hollowed dramatically since he’d last seen her, as though someone had scooped out all the baby fat with a spoon. With her pointed chin, her face now formed the perfect shape of a heart, marred only by a dark mark high on her left cheek.

The last time they’d been face to face Sophie had been distraught, more than a little drunk, and gushing blood from just that spot. He had gone to find help, and then he’d never seen her again.

But he wasn’t looking at a scar, now. It resembled a puncture wound, yes, but this mark was deep black. Inky. It had been made. Stamped, branded, tattooed onto her flesh.

It… didn’t surprise him. He could imagine it so easily. While he’d been beating down her door, out of his mind with heartbreak and rage, she’d been boxed up inside, savage with anger of a different kind. She had the strength of a snake eating its tail, self-immolating and infinite.     Could a woman like that commit murder? Oh, yes. Absolutely.

“wonderfully compelling” — Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

“smart, somber, totally engaged me through every page with great suspense and a lovely romance” — Mandi of Smexy Books

“readers who like Courtney Milan would like this book” — Jane Litte of Dear Author

Buy Links:

Amazon ~   iTunes ~  Barnes & NobleKobo

About Erin.

IMG_0055Erin Satie was born in California, but she’s lived all over the world. She went to college in New York, studied in Morocco and Egypt, worked in France. She endeavors to always have visited more countries than she’s lived years. But when she’s not traveling, she lives on a farm in Kentucky with a hound dog and a lovebird and writes historical romance novels.

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Please welcome historical author Andrea Stein!! I first met Andrea at an RWA conference and it turns out we have a lot in common. We both snow ski, sail, and write historical romance! So when I discovered that she had a book coming out, I had to have her come visit. Andrea will be giving away a copy of her book, Fortune’s Horizon, to one of you who tell her you want the book.

We will, of course, start with the cover.

AndreaKStein_FortunesHorizon200

Now the blurb.

She risks everything to deliver gold to the Confederacy.

Lillie Coulbourne marks time in Paris while the Civil War rages back home. While translating dispatches for the French Finance Ministry, she accepts a spy mission through the Union blockade. When the captain of the only blockade-runner headed back to a Southern port won’t deal with women, or spies, she sneaks aboard as his cabin boy.

He refuses to risk his ship, or his heart.

Blockade runner Captain Jack Roberts has never been caught and he’s not about to let a spoiled American heiress ruin his perfect record. After he discovers her deception, he fails miserably at keeping her at arm’s length and vows to send her packing on the first mail ship back to England.

When she surprises him with her skill as a seaman and navigator, he grudgingly allows her to finish the run. But ultimately, he has to choose what is closer to his heart – Lillie or his ship.

And an excerpt.

After Martha swept out of the room, Lillie jumped off the bed to find Giselle laying out her clothes. A steaming tub of water tempted her in the far corner. She shed her mud-soaked traveling dress and sank into the water with a sigh of relief. Her maid held her hair up and began skillful spot repair of the mud damage in her heavy, dark curls.

Nothing like a short nap and hot water to lift a girl’s spirits. She had begun to rally her strength when there was a knock at the door. Her maid adjusted the screen around the tub and went to investigate.

“Lillie, you’ll never guess who we’ve drawn for partners.” Sarah’s bright, annoyingly chipper voice floated across the top of the screen.

“Please,” she groaned. “Tell me it’s not the ‘odious one.’”

“Yes, and I’m to go in with his friend, Edward.”

“Is there a gun anywhere out there?”

“Of course not. Why would you ask such a horrible question?”

“I was hoping you could just shoot me and get it over with. At the rate this whole affair is going, I’m probably going to be shot as a spy eventually, anyway. If we do it now, then I won’t have to endure all the torture in between.”

“It’s only dinner,” Sarah said. “We can maneuver them between us at the table so they’ll talk to each other and ignore us.”

Lillie stood, reached for the drying sheet her maid handed her, and moved resolutely toward her clothing.

 

Buy Link

Amazon

 

About Andrea.

author snapAuthor Andrea K. Stein lives and writes at 9,800 feet in the Rocky Mountains, just fifteen minutes from the Continental Divide. A retired newspaper editor, she is a USCG certified sea captain who spent a number of years delivering yachts out of Charleston Harbor to destinations up and down the Caribbean. Many nights her ships were moored near the site where blockade-runners took on loads of cotton for the run back out through the Union blockade during the Civil War.

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