Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Review of Noble Satyr by Lucinda Brant




This is the prequel to the Roxton Family Saga.  The story of Antonia and her Duke.

Antonia is an 18-year-old young lady living in the dangerous and depraved world of the French nobility at the palace of Versailles.
She is being pursued by a perverted older Lord, Comte de Salvan who wants to marry her to his opium-addicted son so he can take her innocence. Salvan is turned on my very young girls and is determined to have her.  To escape she forms a plan to get herself out of the palace and Renard, the Duke of Roxton is the one that she has decided to help her.  Renard is a distant cousin and Antonia's father noted in his will that he wanted the Duke to look after her.    Roxton is a rake of the highest order.  He cares for no one but his family. He is a master of intrigue and is widely known to be arrogant and dangerous.  Antonia is a fearless young lady who will do anything to escape the dangerous situation she finds herself in, even putting her trust in Roxton.  

She is fascinated and refuses to hear any word against him.  Roxton finds himself having to involve himself in Antonia's life which tries his patience but knows he cannot ignore her situation any longer.  Roxton takes her to Paris until he can get Antonia to her Grandmother in England.   He has never been tempted by innocent young ladies but Antonia is altogether different from typical debutantes.  Roxton restricts himself to unhappy wives and experienced widows. He is known to be heartless and has never liked any woman enough for a long-term affair.  Renard may be jaded and believes that his heart is untouchable, but his code of honor absolutely forbids seducing a young lady under his own roof.

Antonia may be young but she knows her own heart and she knows that she wants Renard.  She lies about her age to Renard telling him she is 21.  She succeeds in gaining access to his apartments and surprises him as he is exiting his bath and is naked.  She gets an eyeful and refuses to leave.  For the first time in his life, he is ruled by his emotions and he gives in to temptation and they make love.

Astounded to find himself in love for the first time in his life. Can he find a way to make Antonia his?  She believes that they are meant to be together and their age difference is not an obstacle to true love.

When Renard's honor is questioned he realizes he has to let her go.  Antonia is heartbroken and refuses to believe that he doesn't love her.  Can Antonia convince Renard that they are soulmates and belong together or will outside pressures force them apart?

This is a lovely heart-wrenching story of a young lady who believes that love is all that counts and refuses to bow to the rules that govern Society.  Will Roxton let her go or is his destiny with the only woman who has his heart?

Lucinda takes you on a journey of love and discovery.  Her stories are wonderous and her characters unforgettable.  I laughed and cried and you will too.  I am so glad that I read Antonia's and Renard's love story.  A love that endured for many years through laughter, tears and the love of a lifetime.

A must read by Lucinda.


Review of Hazard Audio Book by Stella Riley and Performed by Alex Wynhdam


Another wonderful book in the Rockliffe Series by Stella.  In this book, you have two love stories for the price of one.  If you have read the previous books in the series, this is Aristide's, Madeleine's and Nicholas's stories.  

Aristide Delacroix owner of a Sinclair's and his sister Madeleine will finally have their HAE's, along with Nicholas Wynstanton, Rockliffe's younger brother.

Before Aristide came to England to open his club he had a respectable position and was supporting his ill mother and his younger sister Madeleine.  A young man who's only mistake was agreeing to help a distraught young lady deliver a message that her maid would give him.  Which resulted in Aristide being beaten so badly by her brother's that he lost his position and was not present to comfort his young sister when their mother passed away.  It took him weeks to recover and forced his younger sister to find ways to support them until he was well enough to work again.  

Now he is a successful businessman with a wealth of good friends and the respect of those who matter to him.  Attending a social function with his friends he cannot believe who is there.  It's Genevieve, the woman who almost got him killed in Paris.  He is introduced to her and there is no recognition in her eyes, she doesn't remember him!  She has grown into a beautifully seductive temptress that he wants to bed.  He has never felt this kind of immediate attraction before but knows he has to have her.  She is a widow who may be open to having a love affair.  Or so he thinks.  

Genevieve is in deep trouble.  Her perverted cruel husband is dead and he left her destitute with no hope of ever receiving any money anytime in the near future. Her older brother, a wastrel and a bully wants her to marry a man of his choice who will help him become more respectable.   She knows that if she doesn't find a solution she will be forced into another miserable marriage. 

When she meets Aristide again after so many years she doesn't recognize him at first,  he reminds her that he used to work for her stepfather in Paris.   She remembers him but doesn't know what happened to him. She liked him when they were younger and now he is a handsome man who she is drawn to him as a woman, which has never happened to her before.  He is a gentleman who is being kind to her.  She sees him at other social event and comes up with a plan.  She knows it is mercenary, but if she can get him to marry her that will solve her immediate problem of staying out of the clutches of her brother.  She vows to herself that she will do anything to make Aristide content and hopefully have an amiable marriage.  

Aristide is surprised when she asks him to marry her.  He knows he wants her but she must be told what her brothers did to him before he can decide if they have a future.  He believes her when she says that she didn't know. Can they put the past behind them and have a mutually respectful marriage that will fulfill their desires and maybe turn into something that neither ever dreamed of?

Nicholas has been fascinated with Madeleine for a long time.  She refuses to have anything to do with him because he is a nobleman and the heir to a Dukedom.  She is the sister of a gaming club owner.  Madeleine is adamant that she will not be his mistress, she knows she can't be his wife and wishes he would just leave her alone.  She doesn't know how much longer she can hide her feelings for him.  Nicholas is insulted that she assumes he is offering her Carte Blanche and she refuses to consider any other option.  She is driving him crazy and his friends and brother are watching him make a cake of himself and laughing themselves silly.

When an enemy of Aristide's almost costs Nicholas his life, will they finally admit their feelings for each other or go on being miserable? 

The title Hazard describes this book to a T.  Taking chances and risking everything is scary and fraught with dangerous possibilities, but you can't know until you risk all for love and hopefully win the ultimate reward.

Another extraordinary addition to the Rockliffe Series.  I love catching up with the characters in the previous books, it's like meeting up with old friends.  I so adore Stella's love stories.  Intrigue, witty repartee, historically accurate with handsome honorable men and strong lovely woman make her books a joy to read or listen to.  Her heroes are larger than life and her villains are truly evil.  Let's not forget that Alex Wyndham brings her characters to life and you lose yourself in his performance and forget that it is just one actor playing all the parts.

I highly recommend this book and all of the others in this series.  Absolutely must reads.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Blog Tour for The Duke With The Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Bryne


THE DUKE WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
Victorian Rebels (Volume 6)
Kerrigan Byrne
St. Martin's Paperbacks

$7.99
Pub Date: 08/28/2018
ISBN: 9781250122568
384 Pages

Summary:
The bravest of heroes. The brashest of rebels. The boldest of lovers. These are the men who risk their hearts and their souls—for the passionate women who dare to love them…

He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival—and salvation—lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul…

A LEGENDARY LOVE

Lorelei will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms?



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kerrigan Byrne
Whether she is writing about Celtic Druids, Victorian Bad Boys, or brash Irish FBI Agents, Kerrigan Bryne uses her borderline-obsessive passion for history, her extensive Celtic ancestry, and her love of
Shakespeare in every book. She lives at the base of the Rocky Mountains with her handsome husband and three lovely teenage girls but dreams of settling on the Pacific Coast.  Her Victorian Novels include The Highwayman and the Highlander.

Buy Links:


Social Links:
Author Website: http://www.kerriganbyrne.com/
Twitter: @Kerrigan_Byrne
Instagram: @KerriganByrne

CHAPTER ONE


If Lorelai Weatherstoke hadn’t been appreciating the storm out the carriage window, she’d have missed the naked corpse beneath the ancient ash tree.

“Father, look!” She seized Lord Southbourne’s thin wrist, but a barrage of visual stimuli overwhelmed her, paralyzing her tongue.

In all her fourteen years, she’d never seen a naked man, let alone a deceased one.

He lay facedown, strong arms reached over his head as though he’d been trying to swim through the shallow grass lining the road. Ghastly dark bruises covered what little flesh was visible beneath the blood. He was all mounds and cords, his long body different from hers in every way a person could be.

Her heart squeezed, and she fought to find her voice as the carriage trundled past. The poor man must be cold, she worried, then castigated herself for such an absurd thought.

The dead became one with the cold. She’d learned that by kissing her mother’s forehead before they closed her casket forever.

“What is it, duck?” Her father may have been an earl, but the Weatherstokes were gentry of reduced circumstances, and didn’t spend enough time in London to escape the Essex accent.

Lorelai had not missed the dialect while at school in Mayfair, and it had been the first thing
she’d rid herself of in favor of a more proper London inflection. In this case, however, it was Lord Southbourne’s words, more than his accent, that caused her to flinch.

As cruel as the girls could be at Braithwaite’s Boarding School, none of their taunts had made her feel quite so hollow as the one her own family bestowed upon her.

Duck.

“I-it’s a man,” she stammered. “A corp—” Oh no, had he just moved, or had she imagined it? Squinting through the downpour, she pressed her face to the window in time to see battered knuckles clenching the grass, and straining arms pulling the heavy body forward.

“Stop,” she wheezed, overtaken by tremors. “Stop the carriage!”

“What’s bunched your garters, then?” Sneering across from her, Mortimer, her elder brother, brushed aside the drapes at his window. “Blimey! There’s a bleedin’ corpse by the road.” Three powerful strikes on the roof of the coach prompted the driver to stop.

“He’s alive!” Lorelai exclaimed, pawing at the door handle. “I swear he moved. We have to
help him.”

“I thought that fancy, expensive school was supposed to make you less of an idiot, Duck.” Mortimer’s heavy brows barely separated on a good day and met to create one thick line when he adopted the expression of disdainful scorn he reserved solely for her. “What’s a cripple like you going to do in the mud?”

“We should probably drive through to Brentwood,” Lord Southbourne suggested diplomatically. “We can send back an ambulance to fetch him.”

“He’ll need an undertaker by then,” Lorelai pleaded. “We must save him, mustn’t we?”

“I’ve never seen so much blood.” It was morbid fascination rather than pity darkening her brother’s eyes. “I’m going out there.”

“I’m coming with you.”

A cruel hand smacked Lorelai out of the way, and shoved her back against the faded brocade velvet of her seat. “You’ll stay with Father. I’ll take the driver.”

As usual, Lord Robert Weatherstoke said and did nothing to contradict his only son as Mortimer leaped from the coach and slammed the door behind him.

Lorelai barely blamed her passive father anymore. Mortimer was so much larger than him these days, and ever so much crueler.

She had to adjust her throbbing leg to see the men making their way through the gray of the early-evening deluge. Just enough remained of daylight to delineate color variations.

The unfortunate man was a large smudge of gore against the verdant spring ground cover. Upon Mortimer and the driver’s approach, he curled in upon himself not unlike a salted snail. Only he had no shell to protect his beaten body.

Lorelai swallowed profusely in a vain attempt to keep her heart from escaping through her throat as the man was hoisted aloft, each arm yoked like an ox’s burden behind a proffered neck. Even though Mortimer was the tallest man she knew, the stranger’s feet dragged in the mud. His head lolled below his shoulders, so she couldn’t get a good look at his face to ascertain his level of consciousness.

Other parts of him, though, she couldn’t seem to drag her eyes away from.

She did her best not to look between his legs, and mostly succeeded. At a time like this, modesty hardly mattered, but she figured the poor soul deserved whatever dignity she could allow him.

That is to say, she only peeked twice before wrenching her eyes upward.

The muscles winging from his back beneath where his arms spread were ugly shades of darkness painted by trauma. The ripples of his ribs were purple on his left side, and red on the other. Blunt bruises interrupted the symmetrical ridges of his stomach, as though he’d been kicked or struck repeatedly. As they dragged him closer, what she’d feared had been blood became something infinitely worse.

It was as though his flesh had been chewed away, but by something with no teeth. The plentiful meat of his shoulder and chest, his torso, hips, and down his thigh were grotesquely visible.

Burns, maybe?

“Good God, how is he still alive?” The awe in her father’s voice reminded her of his presence as they scurried to open the carriage door and help drag the man inside. It took the four of them to manage it.

“He won’t be unless we hurry.” The driver tucked the man’s long, long legs inside, resting his knees against the seat. “I fear he won’t last the few miles to Brentwood.”

Ripping her cloak off, Lorelai spread it over the shuddering body on the floor. “We must do what we can,” she insisted. “Is there a doctor in Brentwood?”

“Aye, and a good one.”

“Please take us there without delay.”

“O’course, miss.” He secured the door and leaped into his seat, whipping the team of fresh horses into a gallop.

As they lurched forward, the most pitiful sound she’d ever heard burst from the injured man’s lips, which flaked with white. His big arm flailed from beneath the cloak to protect his face, in a gesture that tore Lorelai’s heart out of her chest.

The burn scored the sinew of his neck and up his jaw to his cheekbone.

Pangs of sympathy slashed at her own skin, and drew her muscles taut with strain. Lorelai blinked a sheen of tears away, and cleared emotion out of her tight throat with a husky sound she’d made to soothe many a wounded animal on the Black Water Estuary.

His breaths became shallower, his skin paler beneath the bruises.

He was dying.

Without thinking, she slid a hand out of her glove, and gently pressed her palm to his, allowing her fingers to wrap around his hand one by one.

“Don’t go,” she urged. “Stay here. With me.”

His rough, filthy hand gripped her with such strength, the pain of it stole her breath. His face turned toward her, though his eyes remained closed.

Still, it heartened her, this evidence of awareness. Perhaps, on some level, she could comfort him.

“You’re going to be all right,” she crooned.

“Don’t lie to the poor bastard.” Mortimer’s lip curled in disgust. “He’s no goose with a defective wing, or a three-legged cat, like the strays you’re always harboring. Like as not he’s too broken to be put back together with a bandage, a meal, and one of your warbling songs. He’s going to die, Lorelai.”

“You don’t know that,” she said more sharply than she’d intended, and received a sharp slap for her lapse in wariness.

“And you don’t know what I’ll do to you if you speak to me in that tone again.”

Most girls would look to their fathers for protection, but Lorelai had learned long ago that protection was something upon which she could never rely.

Her cheek stinging, Lorelai lowered her eyes. Mortimer would take it as a sign of submission, but she only did it to hide her anger. She’d learned by now to take care around him in times of high stress, or excitement. It had been her folly to forget … because she knew exactly what he was capable of. The pinch of her patient’s strong grip was nothing next to what she’d experienced at the hands of her brother on any given month.

Ignoring the aching throb in her foot, Lorelai dismissed Mortimer, leaning down instead to stroke a dripping lock of midnight hair away from an eye so swollen, he’d not have been able to open it were he awake.

Across from her, Mortimer leaned in, as well, ostensibly studying the man on the floor with
equal parts intrigue and disgust. “Wonder what happened to the sod. I haven’t seen a beating like this in all my years.”

Lorelai schooled a level expression from her face at the reference to his many perceived years. He was all of twenty, and the only violence he witnessed outside of sport, he perpetrated himself.

“Brigands, you suspect?” Sir Robert fretted from beside her, checking the gathering darkness for villains.

“Entirely possible,” Mortimer said flippantly. “Or maybe he is one. We are disturbingly close
to Gallows Corner.”

“Mortimer,” their father wheezed. “Tell me you haven’t pulled a criminal into my coach. What would people say?”

The Weatherstoke crest bore the motto Fortunam maris, “fortune from the sea,” but if anyone had asked Lorelai what it was, she’d have replied, Quid dicam homines? “What would people say?”

It had been her father’s favorite invocation—and his greatest fear—for as long as she could remember.

Lorelai opened her mouth to protest, but her brother beat her to it, a speculative glint turning his eyes the color of royal sapphires. “If I’d hazard a guess, it would be that this assault was personal. A fellow doesn’t go to the trouble to inflict this sort of damage lest his aim is retribution or death. Perhaps he’s a gentleman with gambling debts run afoul of a syndicate. Or, maybe a few locals caught him deflowering their sister … though they left those parts intact, didn’t they, Duck?” His sly expression told Lorelai that he’d caught her looking where she ought not to.

Blushing painfully, she could no longer bring herself to meet Mortimer’s cruel eyes. They were the only trait Lorelai shared with her brother. Her father called them the Weatherstoke jewels. She actively hated looking in the mirror and seeing Mortimer’s eyes staring back at her.

Instead, she inspected the filthy nails of the hand engulfing her own. The poor man’s entire palm was one big callus against hers. The skin on his knuckles, tough as an old shoe, had broken open with devastating impact.

Whatever had happened to him, he’d fought back.

“He’s no gentleman,” she observed. “Too many calluses. A local farmhand, perhaps, or a
stable master?” It didn’t strain the imagination to envision these hands gripping the rope of an erstwhile stallion. Large, magnificent beasts pitting their strength one against the other.

“More like stable boy,” Mortimer snorted. “I’d wager my inheritance he’s younger than me.”

“How can you tell?” With his features beyond recognition, Lorelai was at a loss as to the man’s age. No gray streaked his midnight hair, nor did lines bracket his swollen lips, so she knew he couldn’t be old, but beyond that …

“He’s not possessed of enough body hair for a man long grown.”

“But he’s so big,” she reasoned. “And his chest appears to have been badly burned, the hair might have singed right off.”

“I’m not referring to his chest, you dull-wit, but to his coc—”

“Mortimer, please.”

Lorelai winced. It was as close to a reprimand as her father ever ventured. Mortimer must have been very wicked, indeed. It was just her luck that he did so on perhaps the first occasion Lorelai had actually wanted her brother to finish a sentence.

A rut in the road jostled them with such force at their frantic pace, Lorelai nearly landed on the injured man. His chest heaved a scream into his throat, but it only escaped as a piteous, gurgling groan.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she whimpered. Dropping to her knees, she hovered above him, the fingers of her free hand fluttering over his quaking form, looking for a place to land that wouldn’t cause him pain.

She could find none. He was one massive wound.

A tear splashed from her eye and disappeared into the crease between his fingers.

“Duck, perhaps it’s best you take your seat.” Her father’s jowly voice reminded her of steam wheezing from a teakettle before it’s gathered enough strength to whistle. “It isn’t seemly for a girl of your standing to be thus prostrated on the floor.”

With a sigh, she did her best to get her good foot beneath her, reaching for the plush golden velvet of the seat to push herself back into it.

An insistent tug on her arm tested the limits of her shoulder socket, forcing her to catch herself once more.

“Lorelai, I said sit,” Lord Southbourne blustered.

“I can’t,” she gasped incredulously. “He won’t let me go.”

“What’s this, then?” Mortimer wiped some of the mud away from the straining cords of the man’s forearm, uncovering an even darker smudge beneath. As he cleared it, a picture began to take shape, the artful angles and curves both intriguing and sinister until mottled, injured skin ruptured the rendering. “Was it a bird of some kind? A serpent?”

“No.” Lorelai shook her head, studying the confusion of shapes intently. “It’s a dragon.”


Copyright © 2018 by Kerrigan Byrne


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Review of The Laird's Willful Lass by Anna Campbell


Absolutely Stunning!!  I love handsome rugged Highlanders, especially if they are created by Anna Campbell.  The MacKinnon, Fergus is Laird and used to people obeying him without question.  His word is law, one tells him no or argues with him ever.  Until the day he rescues a  headstrong lass and her injured father from a carriage accident on his land.  Fergus has met his match.

Marina Lucchetti is a talented artist who has been independent for a long time.  She travels with her father as a chaperone, but she is the one in charge.  She has always been able to fend off unwanted advances from men who think she is available for seduction because she is unmarried and an artist.  She will never fall in love or marry.  Her art is her life and there is no room for a husband who would expect her to put him first over her art.

Of course, they are immediately attracted to each other.  Fergus doesn't see the harm in enjoying each other while her father's leg heals.  When he finds out she is an innocent he knows that she is out of bounds.  If Marina doesn't want him he will respect her decision even though it will be torture.

Marina is out of her depth with Fergus, she has never met a man like him, she has never been tempted before.  She is confused and uncertain for the first time in her life.  She knows that her art has to take precedence, but her body is telling her something else entirely.

Will Marina and Fergus be able to keep their hands off each other.  You have to read this book.

Anna is a master storyteller.  I loved Fergus and Marina.  Both are strong, stubborn and honorable.  The respect that they have for each makes this story so amazing.  Fergus recognizes Marina's vulnerabilities and will not take advantage.  Marina knows she is safe with Fergus, he will protect her with his life.

Anna's writing is witty and emotionally satisfying.  The sensual attraction is hot! She will keep you enthralled from the first page to the last.  I am a fan and will be adding this one to my keeper shelf with all my other Anna Campbell Historical Romances.  I highly recommend this book. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Review of An Earl Like You by Caroline Linden


Book two in The Wages of Sin by Caroline is officially my favorite of all her books, and I have read them all.  I absolutely love Eliza Cross.  She is an amazing heroine with a heart of gold.  Born as a commoner the daughter of a self-made man who is ruthless in his business dealings and is worth more than a half million pounds.  To Eliza he is her lovable Papa, she has no idea how merciless he can be.  She has every creature comfort she could ever want and her pet dog Willy.  Her father insisted that she would have all the advantages of a well-born young lady.  She went to a finishing school and had a Season, where she stood on the sideline with the wallflowers.  Her father was completed ignored by everyone unless there was business to discuss.  She has no idea how hated her father is by the Nobility. The only men who asked her to dance were the fortune hunters.  She is shy and awkward and glad when she can go back home and never enter Society again.  Papa is determined to find her a husband and she has no idea the lengths he will go through to achieve that goal.

Hugh Deveraux is an Earl with a bankrupt estate.  He had no idea that his father was a poor steward of the titles and estates that depended on him.  His mother and two sisters have no idea how broke they really are and he intends to keep it that way.  He will find a way to save his legacy and keep the Ton from finding out how broke he really is.  If it gets out he will be impaled on the sword of gossip that Society feeds on.  The only way to raise money without revealing the scope of his poverty is to play cards and win enough money to hold off the creditors.  One night when he is playing cards he attracts the attention of a man that offers him a drink and conversation.  The man is Edward Cross, and he is intrigued with Hugh and makes a point of investigating him. 

Hugh is surprised when he is invited to Edward's home to discuss a business arrangement.  Hugh doesn't have the money to invest and wonders why he was invited.   Upon entering the house he is witness to a scene right out of a farce.  A young maid is sliding across the foyer floor soaking wet and trying to catch an equally wet dog.  Finding out that the maid is the daughter of the house he is secretly amused.  When he is closeted with Edward he finds out that Edward has bought up all of Hugh's debts and his father's vowels and will give them back when Hugh marries his daughter.  Hugh is furious that he is being blackmailed but he doesn't have much choice.  Edward can call in the debts anytime and Hugh doesn't have a fraction of the money.  He agrees to court Eliza against the wishes of his sisters and mother.  He is only trying to protect them and this is what he gets.  

Eliza is incredulous that Hugh is interested in her and she feels like a Princess in a fairy tale.  She falls in love with him and marries him.  Hugh knows that he will have to keep the deal that he made with her father a secret.  She has a lovely spirit and is soft-hearted and he is coming to like her a lot.  The passion that they ignite in each other is all consuming and he can't seem to keep his hands off her.  He thinks he is coming to love her but with all the obstacles thrown up by his family and trying to keep so many secrets everything is unraveling and he is afraid that he will lose Eliza.

You have to read this book!!!  It is a perfect love story.  You will laugh and cry for Eliza and Hugh.  I have been reading Caroline's books for a long time and she has elevated her craft to an even higher level with every book she writes.  This one is the cream of the crop as far as I am concerned and I am going to buy the paperback so I can keep it on my shelf with all my other favorites of all time.