Thursday, June 1, 2017

SMP Romance Book Tour for Duke With Benefits by Manda Collins


LADY + DUKE = TRUE LOVE?

Lady Daphne Forsyth is a brilliant mathematician with a burning passion for puzzles. When she learns that the library belonging to her benefactress houses the legendary Cameron Cipher—an encrypted message that, once solved, holds the key to great riches—Daphne is on the case. Unfortunately, her race to unlock the cipher’s code is continually thwarted by a deliciously handsome distraction she hadn’t counted on . . . and cannot resist.

Dalton Beauchamp, the Duke of Maitland, is curious as to why Daphne is spending so much time snooping around his aunt’s bookshelves. He’s even more intrigued by her bold yet calculating manner: She is unapologetic about her secret quest . . . and the fiery attraction that develops between them both. But how can they concentrate on solving a perplexing enigma once the prospect of true love enters the equation?

Duke with Benefits is the second in Manda Collins' Studies in Scandal series set in Regency England.

EXCERPT
“There you are, my dear,” said the Earl of Forsyth with a beaming smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
Maitland saw at once that Daphne favored him. Her green eyes were the same shade as his, though there were lines of dissipation bracketing the earl’s. And though his expertly cropped blond hair was shot through with silver, what remained of its original color was the same shade as hers. But whereas Daphne’s gaze was focused off to the left of whomever she conversed with, like a bird hovering just over a branch, Forsyth’s speared one with cold calculation. As he did to Daphne now.
“You are looking well, Daphne,” the earl continued, stepping forward to embrace his daughter, who looked as uncomfortable with the contact as Maitland had ever seen her. “The sea air agrees with you. As I knew it would.”
“The sea is very beautiful,” Daphne replied woodenly. “Why are you here, Father?”
“Is that any way to greet your Papa?” the earl chided, stepping back from her and wandering farther into the room, standing to stare out at the gardens below through the window. “I’ve traveled all the way from London to see you. And this lovely estate. I must admit that when I first learned of your inheritance, I thought it was all some sort of trick. But you would have your own way and leave the loving bosom of your family no matter what I said. Now that I’m here, though, and see it in person, I must admit that it’s a lovely spot. And your chaperone, Lady Serena, is quite beautiful, isn’t she? A widow, I take it?”
His jaw clenched at the man’s mention of Serena, and Maitland thought perhaps it was time to announce himself. Daphne seemed not to realize he’d followed her in, and the earl was too busy waxing rhapsodic over the beauties of Beauchamp House.
“I don’t believe we’ve met, Forsyth,” he said forcefully, stepping up to stand side by side with Daphne. He gave a slight bow, perhaps not quite as deep as was warranted, but not caring. “The Duke of Maitland. I am a friend of your daughter’s, you might say.”
What he meant by that last, he could not say, but the man made every bit of protective instinct within him go on the alert. He was her father, but all the same Maitland knew that Daphne was no safer with him than she would have been with Sommersby if he still lived.
At the sound of the duke’s voice, Lord Forsyth turned with almost comical haste from the window and stared. For the barest flicker, he looked angry. Well, if he were upset at the knowledge that his daughter was not without friends, then he would simply have to swallow it. Because Maitland was damned if he’d leave her alone with the fellow.
“Duke,” Lord Forsyth said with a tilt of his head, “I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I was a friend of your father’s, and had little notion I’d be meeting you here. He was a good man, your father.”
His father had been nothing of the sort, but Maitland was hardly going to discuss it with Forsyth.
“I am here visiting my sister, Lady Serena,” Maitland said coolly, letting the other man know in tone rather than words that he had not appreciated the older man’s speculative words about her earlier. “And of course my cousin, Kerr. He only recently married another of the heiresses here, and resides here with her.”
Forsyth’s eyes narrowed at the implication that Daphne was well protected should her father wish to cause trouble. At least that was the message Maitland was endeavoring to send. And by the looks of it, Forsyth read him loud and clear.
“Capital, capital,” the earl said with false cheer. “A merry party you must all make here. I had no idea you were in such fine company here, Daphne. No notion at all.”
“Because we have not spoken since I left,” Daphne said, looking from her father to Maitland then back again, as if wondering what went on between them. “And now, father, I really must ask you to leave. I have a great deal of work to do and . . .”
“Don’t be absurd, Daphne,” her father said with a shake of his head. “I only just arrived. And there is something very important I must speak to you about.” He turned to Maitland with a raised brow. “I’m sure you’ll excuse us, Duke. I’m afraid what I need to tell my daughter is private family business.”
Maitland was opening his mouth to tell the man he would leave Daphne alone with him when hell froze over, when Daphne did it for him.
“Maitland stays,” she said, reaching out to grasp him by the arm. It was as much of a cry for help as he’d ever thought he’d see from her. Wordlessly, he slipped her arm into his, as if they were about to promenade round the room. He covered her hand with his, keenly aware of the thread of tension in her.
Once more, the earl’s eyes narrowed, and he turned an assessing gaze on Maitland, perhaps realizing for the first time the threat coming at him from that direction.
His jaw clenched, Forsyth said grimly, “Very well. If you wish your friend to witness our dirty linen, so be it.” As if needing to be in motion in order to speak, the earl began to pace the area between the window and the fireplace. “You know, Daphne, you left me without any obvious means of recouping what I lost from years of paying that tutor of yours, old man Sommersby.”
“You agreed to pay him,” Daphne said tightly. “After I threatened to expose . . .”
Hastily, Forsyth continued, “And I am currently in need of funds. As such, I must insist you return to London with me for the time being and meet a particular gentleman who has expressed interest in marrying you. Though his birth is not as high as yours, he’s quite wealthy and will make you a good husband, I trust. He’s assured me he has no concern about your odd ways, if you’re as beautiful as your portrait.”
Before Maitland could burst out with the string of invectives the other man’s pronouncement inspired in him, Daphne said, “I cannot marry this person. I’ve never even met him. You promised me that I would not have to marry someone for money as long as I won enough at the tables. I did so. You promised me, father.”
“I never actually promised, Daphne.” Forsyth said with a shake of his head. “If you chose to interpret it as such, that is not my fault. Now, go pack your things.”
Daphne’s hand on Maitland’s arm gripped him tightly. And before he even knew what he was doing, he said, “I’m afraid that’s impossible, Forsyth. Daphne is staying here.”
“I don’t know who you think you are, Maitland,” said the earl through clenched teeth, “but I am her father, and I am well within my rights to take her back to London. Now, kindly take your hands off of her and let her go pack.”
“It might once have been your right, Forsyth,” Maitland said coldly, “but Lady Daphne is my betrothed now and as such, she will remain here. With me.”
Manda Collins is the author of several books, including Ready Set Rogue and The Lords of Anarchy series. She spent her teen years wishing she’d been born a couple of centuries earlier, preferably in the English countryside. Time travel being what it is, she resigned herself to life with electricity and indoor plumbing, and read lots of books. When she’s not writing, she’s helping other people use books, as an academic librarian.
SMP Romance Social Links: Twitter: @SMPRomance Facebook: @SMPRomance http://smpromance.com/

Tasty Virtual Book Blog Tour for Eva Leigh's From Duke Till Dawn




Blurb
Eva Leigh launches a seductive new series that sizzles with the dark secrets of London’s underworld...
Years ago, the Duke of Greyland gave his heart—and a princely sum of money—to a charming, destitute widow with unparalleled beauty. But after one passionate night, she slipped from his bed and vanished without a trace. And just when he’s given up hope of ever seeing her again, Greyland finds her managing a gaming hell. He’s desperate to have her… until he discovers everything about his long-lost lover was a lie.
In truth, Cassandra Blake grew up on the streets, picking pockets to survive. Greyland was a mark—to be fleeced and forgotten—but her feelings for the duke became all too real. Once he learns of her deception, however, the heat in his eyes turns to ice. When her business partner absconds with the gaming hell proceeds—leaving unsavory investors out for blood—Cassandra must beg the man she betrayed for help.
Greyland wants compensation, too, and he’ll assist her under one condition: she doesn’t leave his sight until her debts are paid. But it’s not long before the real Cassandra—the smart, streetwise criminal—is stealing his heart all over again.   
Buy Links:      AMAZON | B & N | GOOGLE | ITUNES | KOBO
Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Eva_Leigh_
From_Duke_Till_Dawn?id=1pj4DAAAQBAJ

iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/from-duke-till-dawn/id1151009573?mt=11

Eva Leigh is the pen name of a RITA® Award-nominated romance author who writes novels chock-full of smart women and sexy men. She enjoys baking, Tweeting about boots, and listening to music from the '80s. Eva and her husband live in Southern California.
Author Links:   WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS
Excerpt
London, England
1817

A woman laughed, and Alexander Lewis, Duke of Greyland felt the sound like a gunshot to his chest.
It was a very pleasant laugh, low and musical rather than shrill and forced, yet it sounded like The Lost Queen’s laugh. Alex could not resist the urge to glance over his shoulder as he left the Eagle chophouse. He’d fancifully taken to calling her The Lost Queen, though she was most assuredly a mortal woman. Had she somehow appeared on a busy London street at dusk? The last time he’d seen her had been two years ago, in the spa town of Cheltenham, in his bed, asleep and naked.
The owner of the laugh turned out to be a completely different woman—brunette rather than blonde, petite and round rather than lithe and willowy. She caught Alex staring and raised her eyebrows. He bowed gravely in response, then continued toward the curb.
Night came on in indigo waves, but the shops spilled golden light in radiant patches onto the street.
The hardworking citizens of London continued to toil as the upper echelons began their evening revelries. Crowds thronged the sidewalk, while wagons, carriages, and people on horseback crammed the streets. A handful of pedestrians recognized Alex and politely curtsied or tipped their hats, murmuring, “Good evening, Your Grace.” Though he was in no mood for politeness, responsibility and virtue were his constant companions—had been his whole life—and so rather than snapping, “Go to the devil, damn you!” he merely nodded in greeting.
He’d done his duty. He’d been seen in public, rather than disappearing into the cavernous chambers of his Mayfair mansion, where he could lick his wounds in peace.
The trouble with being a duke was that he always had to do his duty. “You are the pinnacle of British Society,” his father had often said to him. “The world looks to you for guidance. So you must lead by example. Be their True North.”
This evening, before dining, Alex had taken a very conspicuous turn up and down Bond Street, making certain that he was seen by many consequential—and loose-lipped— figures in the ton. Word would soon spread that the Duke of Greyland was not holed up, sulking in seclusion. His honor as one of Society’s bulwarks would not be felled by something as insignificant as his failed marriage suit to Lady Emmeline Birks. The Dukes of Greyland had stood strong against Roundheads, Jacobites, and countless other threats against Britain. One girl barely out of the schoolroom could hardly damage Alex’s ducal armor.
But that armor had been dented by The Lost Queen. Far deeper than he would have expected.
Standing on the curb, he signaled for his carriage, which pulled out of the mews. He tugged on his spotless gloves as he waited and adjusted the brim of his black beaver hat to make certain it sat properly on his head. “Always maintain a faultless appearance,” his father had reminded him again and again. “The slightest bit of disorder in your dress can lead to rampant speculation about the stability of your affairs. This, we cannot tolerate. The nation demands nothing less than perfection.”

Alex’s father had been dead for ten years, but that didn’t keep the serious, sober man’s voice from his mind. It was part of him now—his role as one of the most powerful men in England and the responsibilities that role carried with it. Not once did he ever let frivolities distract him from his duties.

Except for one time . . .
Forcing the thought from his mind, Alex looked impatiently for his carriage. Just as the vehicle pulled up, however, two men appeared and grabbed his arms on each side.
Alex stiffened—he did not care for being touched without giving someone express permission to do so. People on the street also did not normally seize each other. Was it a robbery? A kidnapping attempt? His hands curled instinctively into fists, ready to give his accosters a beating.
“What’s this?” one of the younger men exclaimed with mock horror. “Have I grabbed hold of a thundercloud?”
“Don’t know about you,” the other man said drily, “but I seem to have attached myself to an enormous bar of iron. How else to explain its inflexibility?” He tried to shake Alex, to little avail. When he wanted to be, Alex was absolutely immovable.
Alex’s fingers loosened. He tugged his arms free and growled, “That’s enough, you donkeys.”
Thomas Powell, the Earl of Langdon and heir to the Duke of Northfield, grinned, a flash of white in his slightly unshaven face. “Come now, Greyland,” he chided. A hint of an Irish accent made his voice musical, evidence of Langdon’s early years spent in his mother’s native County Kerry. “Is that any way to speak to your oldest and dearest friends?”
“I’ll let you know when they get here.” Alex scowled at Langdon, then at Christopher Ellingsworth, who only smirked in response.
Alex took a step toward his carriage, but Ellingsworth deftly moved to block his path, displaying the speed and skill that had served him well when he’d fought on the Peninsula.
“Where are you running off to with such indecorous haste?” Ellingsworth pressed. He held up a finger. “Ah, never tell me. You’re running back to the shelter of your Mayfair cave, to growl and brood like some big black bear in a cravat.”
“You know nothing,” Alex returned, despite the fact that Ellingsworth had outlined his exact plans for the rest of the night.
Ellingsworth looked at Langdon with exaggerated pity. “Poor chap. The young Lady Emmeline has utterly shattered his heart.”
Alex shouldered past Ellingsworth, only to have Langdon move to stand in his way.
“My heart is not shattered because of Lady Emmeline,” Alex snapped. At least that much was the truth.
“But why shouldn’t your heart be strewn in pieces throughout Regent’s Park?” Langdon mused. “You courted the young lady for several months, and you told Ellingsworth and I that you’d already received her father’s grateful acceptance of a marriage offer.”
“She never agreed to anything,” Alex said flatly.
“A modest girl, that Lady Emmeline.” Ellingsworth nodded with approval. “She wouldn’t have said yes right away. They never do. Nothing to be alarmed by.”
“How would you know?” Alex’s voice was edged. Ellingsworth had little experience with offering for ladies’ hands, committed as he was to a life of reckless pleasure.
Langdon added, “It’d be unseemly for an earl’s daughter to eagerly snap up a marriage proposal the moment it was offered.”
Alex scowled. Despite the fact that, at thirty-eight, he was sixteen years her senior, they would suit well as a wedded couple. Lady Emmeline had been perfectly trained in the responsibilities of an aristocratic wife. Though he wished she stated her own opinion rather than constantly agreeing with him, there were worse faults one could find in a prospective bride.
They could marry at Christmas, eight months from now. It would be a small but elegant wedding, followed by a lavish breakfast and a wedding journey in the Lake District. And then, if everything went well, in less than a year, Alex and Lady Emmeline might welcome their first child—hopefully a boy so the line would be secure. It would’ve been precisely the sort of match Alex’s
father would have approved, considering Lady Emmeline’s faultless background and her spotless reputation.
“Look at him now, mooning away,” Langdon sighed, smugly thwarting Alex’s attempts to step around him. “He looks poorly.”
It would be bad form to knock his friend to the ground. Damn the social niceties that dictated a man couldn’t punch another without repercussions.
“Perhaps he should be bled,” Ellingsworth suggested with his habitual smirk. It was his constant companion since returning from the War, as if he refused to take anything seriously.
“I am perfectly well.” Alex looked back and forth between these two rogues whom he called friends. “No need to call for a quack.”
“He’s already had an amputation,” Langdon noted, raising a brow as he always did. “One prospective bride—gone.” He made a sawing motion at his ankle, as if cutting the shackles of matrimony.
Alex glanced down at his own lower leg, as if he could see the invisible links that might have bound him to Lady Emmeline. He’d come so close to becoming a married man and sharing the rest of his life with one woman—the faultless duke his father had bred him to be. It hardly mattered that Alex felt nothing for the gel other than a sense of distant respect. She would have made a fine duchess.
“We were at White’s yesterday when we heard about what happened,” Langdon said with disapproval. “Didn’t even tell your two closest friends that Lady Emmeline had run off with a cavalry officer. No, we had to hear it from Lord Ruthven, of all people.”

Tasty Q&A with Eva Leigh

Describe yourself in five words or less. Feminist who believes in HEA.
Can you tell us a little about your book? Alexander Lewis, the Duke of Greyland, met a beautiful, destitute widow and lost his heart to her—but she disappeared. Two years later, the duke finds Cassandra again as she manages a gaming hell. Alex is prepared to offer Cassandra everything, even his name, until he discovers a gut-wrenching truth. Cassandra is not a genteel widow. She’s a confidence artist, targeting aristocratic men with her swindles. Heartbroken and furious, Alex wants nothing to do with her. Fate steps in when Cassandra’s business partner vanishes with the profits from the gaming hell, leaving Cassandra at the mercy of dangerous people. In desperation, Cassandra turns to Alex for help. Delving into London’s underworld, they form an uneasy partnership as they track down her partner. Yet the passion they’d shared two years ago is nothing compared to their desire now. Can Alex protect himself, or will Cassandra once again steal his heart?
How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story? As with my Wicked Quills of London series, I enjoy having characters that aren’t necessarily part of Regency High Society. I’m fascinated by confidence artists—their methods, their motivations—and thought it would be exciting to see what would happen when England’s most morally upright duke falls for a morally ambiguous woman.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Exploring the other, shadier side of Regency London was a lot of fun. That time period is so rich with possibility, with so many people of many different walks of life all living in one place. I also really enjoyed having Alex learn to lighten up a little and free his wild side. Nothing like a buttoned-up guy who loosens the reins of his control. (It turns out Alex likes talking dirty!)
What do you like to do when you aren't writing? Baking is one of my favorite things to do, because, unlike writing, you finish with a tangible result. Plus, you make something delicious. I read, of course, and spend too much time on the internet. When I’m feeling industrious, I crochet little soft toys called amigurumi and give them to friends.
A la Twitter style, please describe your book in 140 characters or less. Uptight duke. Beautiful con artist. Trouble and sexy times ahead.
Tell us all about your main characters—who are they? What makes them tick? Most importantly, what one thing would they need to have with them if stranded on a desert isle? ;)
Alex has been born and bred to be a duke. Everything he does falls within a strict code of responsibility and honor. He doesn’t fully understand degrees of morality. Having a brief, passionate affair with Cassandra two years ago was entirely out of character. Once she comes back into his life, he’s shocked and infuriated to learn that he was just another mark. He’s ready to write Cassandra off as a cold, calculating criminal—despite the fact that he still desires her. If Alex was stranded on a desert island, he’d need his walking stick. He doesn’t have an injury that requires it, but a walking stick can be a useful took for building shelters, using to hunt for food, or making it into a sundial. He’s a no-nonsense, practical guy!
Cassandra grew up alone on the rough streets of London. She had to learn how to survive in a brutal world. With no one to take care of her, she turned to crime as a way to keep from starving. Her life changed when she met a man who taught her the art of pretending to be a gentlewoman while swindling members of the gentry. Instead of sleeping on filthy hay, now she could rest her head on feather mattresses, and she had as much as she wanted to eat. She always thought of aristocrats as targets to be swindled, until she met Alex, who treated her with dignity and kindness. With Alex, she broke her rule of never sleeping with a mark, and later fled out of self-preservation. Cassandra is street wise, self-sufficient, and has learned to view everything with suspicion. Only Alex sneaks past her defenses. If she was stuck on a desert island, she’d be practical and take a small knife (which could also be used as a lock pick if she found buried treasure).
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers? Find a way to sit down in front of your computer and just start writing. Even when you doubt yourself, you have to keep going. It’s trite, but books really don’t write themselves. And also, enjoy the process of writing simply to write. Success isn’t a guarantee so we have to love what we do
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Monday, May 29, 2017

Review of An Affair With A Notorious Heiress by Lorraine Heath


This is book 4 in the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James Series brings us the story of Alistair Mabry, Marquess of Rexton, Son of Frannie Darling and Sterling Mabry (Surrender To The Devil,  Scoundrels of St. James #3).  Growing up Alistair had to endure insults and innuendo about his mother, who was not born into the Aristocracy until he was big enough to defend himself and his beloved mother.  He has always been the perfect Gentleman, never causing Scandal and living up to the standards of a Future Duke until the day he meets the woman who will turn his life upside down.

Mathilda, Lady Landsdowne is a walking Scandal.  An American who came to England to marry a Title.  When she met her future husband she was naive and innocent, no longer.  Her ex-husband was a man who treated her like a piece of property, spent her dowry, bedded other woman and couldn't care less about her feelings.  Instead of enduring marriage to a dissolute blackguard for the rest of her life she deliberately created a scandal with a footman so that her husband would have to divorce her. She is now a divorced woman who is not accepted anywhere, an outcast.

Alistair and Mathilda are instantly attracted to each other.  Neither of them thought it a good idea.  Tillie wasn't interested in marriage, she wants to leave England and never come back.  Rexton cannot be attracted to her,  who is completely the opposite of the woman who always knew he would fall in love with and marry.

Tillie is a strong independent woman who has definite ideas about how she is going to live the rest of her life.  She never thought she would ever feel this way about any man, but she cannot resist Rexton, and he is having the same thoughts about her.  The passion is amazing and the love that they share is compelling and wonderful to read.  Lorraine writes beautiful love stories with characters that are truly unforgettable.  Another great aspect is that you can catch up with some of your favorite characters from previous books in the series.  Lorraine is one of my go to authors because she never disappoints.   A really enjoyable read.




Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review of The Girl With The Make Believe Husband by Julia Quinn



This will be the first book I have reviewed by Julia Quinn since I started this blog four years ago.  I have read and kept the entire Bridgerton Series since I read "The Viscount Who Loved Me" which I adored and loved everyone of them.  My favorite is Colin and Penelope's story "Romancing Mr. Bridgerton".  I did read "Because of Miss Bridgerton" but did not review it, I don't remember why.  It was the first in her new Series "Bridgerton Prequels, Rokesby #1).  Now on to my review of this novel (Rokesby #2).

I have always enjoyed her writing and this book was no exception.  The story was original, her writing as beautiful and lyrical as always.  There wasn't a lot of laugh out loud moments that I am used to in a Julia Quinn novel, but to be fair, this book took place during War where both the hero and heroine were away from their homes.

Cecilia Harcourt found herself in an untenable position and had no choice but to take a chance and leave her home to travel across the ocean to find her missing brother.  What she finds is that her brother is no where to be found and his best friend is lying unconscious in an army hospital.   The only way she can see him and make sure that he is taken care of is to pretend to be his wife.  What happens when he wakes up and finds her there?  Will he go along with her story, or if he never wakes up, how will she find out what happened to her brother?

Edward Rokesby wakes up in an Army hospital confused and doesn't has no memory of the last few months.  Cecilia Harcourt is here, how and why is she saying she is his wife? Where is Thomas, her brother. He cannot remember what happened to him and doesn't remember marrying Cecilia.  He takes her at her word and accepts her as his wife.  Now they have to try to put together what happened and where is Thomas?

As a fan of Julia's books I did like this one.  It was different in that is was more serious in it's content. Edward is a great hero who brings out the best in Cecilia, who has never had much to be happy about in the life that she has led so far.  I think Edward was good for Cecilia in that she never really had much to enjoy about life until she met him.  Edward is the kind of man who is compelled to take care of other people, that is why I think he was better off with Cecilia than he would have been with Billie Bridgerton, who was the kind of girl to take charge.  In the end this was a good story about two people who find each other in a world of peril, strife and tragedy and make a life together.

Received a Complimentary Copy for an honest review.