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I’m thrilled to welcome renowned cover artist JON PAUL FERRARA to Rakes and Rascals today and I’m hoping we’ll discover more about the man behind those beautiful covers.

I thank you Carol for wanting to do an interview on me. I really enjoyed doing this interview and I hope your readers enjoy knowing a little more about me from a different perspective. I had fun doing it. Thanks!

~~~~~~

R&R:
Could you tell us where you were born and what it was like growing up there?

Jon Paul:
I was born in Jersey City which is in Northern part of NJ. At five years old my parents moved the family out to the suburbs in a small village called Ridgefield Park. I have two brothers, one 16 months older and an identical twin 2 minutes older :) So you can say I’m the baby of the family (lol) All I have is very fond memories of growing up in Ridgefield Park. I remember as a kid going to the ice cream parlor up town… it was the last of the old ice cream parlors that were very similar to a Norman Rockwell painting. In the front window they had a picture of Ozzie Nelson from the famous sitcom Ozzie and Harriet during the 50’s. (that was before my time). Also I was very proud to say that I grew up in the same town as the famous rock musician Ricky Nelson. Ricky Nelson was considered the first teen idol and he was the son of Ozzie and Harriet who also appeared in the sitcom with his brother David.

R&R:
How would you describe yourself – temperamental or easy-going?

Jon Paul:
I would say I am basically easing going person. My astrological sign is Libra and usually Libra’s are known to be easy going… they don’t like confrontation… I would also say I became more patient with age… When I was younger I would be more temperamental and less patient and would let more things get to me… If someone criticize me or my work I would be more defensive where these days I realize everyone is entitled to their opinion.

R&R:
When it comes to food do you like sweet or savoury or both?

Jon Paul:
When I was younger I would prefer at times more salty foods over sweet. These days I can say I love my sweets more so. Though like everybody else I do watch what I eat and keep a healthier diet… As far as what sweets … I love chocolate, chocolate chip muffins, New York Peppermint Patties and I do like ice cream every once in a while. But nothing beats the homemade baking of my mother. Growing up in a all Italian family I always looked forward to Christmas to my mother’s delicious butter cookies, fudge, short bread, and pound cake beside numerous other treats (lol)

R&R:
What is your most treasured possession?

Jon Paul:
That is a hard one to answer for there are so many things that I could be thankful for and that I do treasure. But I would have to say the thing I treasure most is the gift God gave me to make a living at doing the thing I love most which is my art. As they say the most precious things in life are things you can’t put a price tag on.

R&R:
If you were able to afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?

Jon Paul:
I would love to have a second home in Italy the land of my ancestors. Just the beautiful art alone is not just being in the Museums, it’s also in the streets as in all of Europe. So if I had a second home it would definitely be in Europe somewhere.

R&R:
Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

Jon Paul:
As I mention early I have an identical twin brother. The one question I am always asked if my brother and I have ever played a trick on anybody pretending to be the other…Well when I was younger my twin brother had two dates on one night and asked me if I could take the other date out…. I was very reluctant at first, but I had to get my brother out of an awkward situation… So I had play him all night, everything was fine until I slipped up at the end and mentioned my brother as James when I was supposed to be James… So when I was revealed it was very embarrassing to say the least (lol)

~~~~~~

Thank you for taking time out to be here today, Jon Paul and sharing these interesting facts about yourself.

It’s been my pleasure, Carol.

 

If you would like to find out more about Jon Paul and his work, here are the links:

Website
Facebook

(Brothers Sinister, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

Miss Jane Fairfield can’t do anything right. When she’s in company, she always says the wrong thing—and rather too much of it. No matter how costly they are, her gowns fall on the unfortunate side of fashion. Even her immense dowry can’t save her from being an object of derision.

And that’s precisely what she wants. She’ll do anything, even risk humiliation, if it means she can stay unmarried and keep her sister safe.

Mr. Oliver Marshall has to do everything right. He’s the bastard son of a duke, raised in humble circumstances—and he intends to give voice and power to the common people. If he makes one false step, he’ll never get the chance to accomplish anything. He doesn’t need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn’t need to fall in love with her. But there’s something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can’t resist…even though it could mean the ruin of them both.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I have nothing but praise for Courtney Milan’s books. Her stories are beautifully written, original and thought-provoking, her characters are compelling and her historical research is meticulous.

Jane is such a wonderful heroine with her selfless love for her sister and her overwhelming desire to protect Emily even when it means exposing herself to ridicule. I love her self-awareness. She knows how awful she is but uses it to her advantage. Beneath those garish dresses is a smart, determined woman. Talking of dresses, Ms Milan’s descriptions conjured up the most vivid images. I could just picture Jane in that ghastly creation with the yards of multi-coloured lace. The scene where she politely insults everyone is so funny.

She asked Whitting about his studies, and when he made a wry comment about preferring to concentrate his efforts on the study of liquids, she stared at him.
“How surprising.” Her eyes were very round. “I had not thought you to have the capacity of intellect to read physics!”

Sometimes the façade would slip to reveal a lonely woman with dreams and seeing this vulnerable side made me adore Jane even more.

I love Ms Milan’s analogy between the broken little cactus and Jane…

Can you save it?” Jane asked.
“It’s a cactus,” the other woman replied absently. “They grow in deserts. They’ve evolved to withstand sun and slicing sandstorms.” She sounded proud. “You can kill a cactus, but it takes a sustained effort—consistent overwatering and the like. This piece of vandalism?” She shrugged. “This is just an act of propagation.”

While still remaining true to herself, I love how Jane reshapes her life, channeling all her money and energies in something very close to her heart.

Oliver isn’t the perfect hero; he has flaws and that, to my mind, makes him far more interesting and all too human. In his determined pursuit of his political ambitions, he has lost sight of who he really is. Once radical and outspoken, along the way he has come to the realisation that the “that the only way forward was to keep quiet until he grew so tall they could no longer shove him down”. Now, although he doesn’t realise it, he has become a prisoner of his own silence and his journey to finding himself again isn’t an easy one; he stumbles and falls along the way but finally…

…with a great effort—with the effort of a man uprooting everything he had made of himself—Oliver put one foot outside into the warm May sunshine.

I knew that Jane and Oliver would reach their HEA but it is the journey they have to take and the obstacles they have to overcome that made the romance so satisfying. Ms Milan has a way of drawing you into the hearts and minds of her characters so that you experience every twist and turn of their journey. It’s one filled with tenderness, passion, heartbreak and humour and I’m sharing some of my favourite moments. They also provide a showcase for Ms Milan’s brilliant writing.

She felt a sense of pure awareness. A frisson. She felt a real live frisson just from looking into his eyes.

~~~~

“I fear it may be contagious,” he continued. “It is setting all my preternatural urges on edge, whispering that the color must be catching. I feel an uncontrollable urge to run swiftly as far as I can in the other direction, lest my waistcoat fall prey next.”

~~~~

He couldn’t change her past. He refused to let go of his future. That left only the present: the warmth of her kiss, that sweet taste of something that might have been…and the bitterness of a love that would not be.

~~~~
It was as if their bodies held a conversation that whispered along every nerve ending. All thought vanished. What remained was pure light, engulfing her.

~~~~~

“I don’t need that quiet wife. I need you. Someone bold. Someone who won’t let me stand back from myself, and who will tell me in no uncertain terms when I’ve erred.”

~~~~~

You are probably asking yourself what on earth is a pink (or should I say fuchsine) waistcoat doing in the middle of my review. Well, all I will tell you is that it relates to my favourite moment in the whole book.

There are other intriguing threads woven throughout the story. There is a sweet secondary romance between Jane’s sister, Emily and a young Indian barrister and we meet Free, Oliver’s youngest sister, a staunch advocate of women’s suffrage (The Suffragette Scandal). If you have read The Governess Affair or The Duchess War, you will remember Oliver’s cousin, Sebastian Malheur, a renowned scientist and his friend Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury. I must confess that Sebastian’s outburst towards the end of the book certainly makes me want to read The Countess Conspiracy.

I had to leave Oliver’s elderly, acrophobic Aunt Freddy until last because her story is so moving. When the secret she has been keeping is revealed, it brought tears to my eyes.

If you are a lover of Epilogues like me, Ms Milan delivers a thoroughly heart-warming one and I loved the reference to the little collection of cactus.

My Verdict: I can only think of one word to describe this book – SUPERB!

REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALTY RATING: WARM

Read August 2015

The Brothers Sinister series to date (click on cover for more details):
The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister, #0.5) by Courtney Milan The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister, #1) by Courtney Milan A Kiss For Midwinter (Brothers Sinister, #1.5) by Courtney Milan The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister, #2) by Courtney Milan The Countess Conspiracy (Brothers Sinister, #3) by Courtney Milan The Suffragette Scandal (Brothers Sinister, #4) by Courtney Milan

Tessa Dare is one of my favourite authors and I always have to read her books as soon as they are released.   Personally, I don’t think she can surpass her “Spindle Cove” series but this series comes a very close second.

(Castles Ever After, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I’m delighted to welcome bestselling author of fast-paced adventurous Regency historicals SHANA GALEN to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

Thanks so much for inviting me!

~~~~~~

R&R:
Could you tell us where you were born and what it was like growing up there?

Shana:
I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We moved around quite a bit when I was young, so I also lived in Flint and Flushing, Michigan. I loved living in Flushing because it was a small town. I could ride my bike to Main Street and get root beer floats with my friends. All the kids in the neighborhood would ride bikes and play outside until dark, when our parents would call us to come in.


Me in 2nd Grade

R&R:
How would you describe yourself – temperamental or easy-going?

Shana:
Probably somewhere in the middle. I’m pretty flexible and accommodating, but there are a few things I get testy about. I don’t like being interrupted when I’m working, and I don’t like surprises.

R&R:
When it comes to food do you like sweet or savoury or both?

Shana:
Sweet. I haven’t met a food too sweet yet.

R&R:
What is your most treasured possession?

Shana:
My daughter’s first little outfit that she wore home from the hospital. It symbolizes all my excitement about having a new baby and the start of being a mom.


My daughter’s first outfit

R&R:
If you were able to afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?

Shana:
London. I love the UK. It would be wonderful to visit the places I write about more often. I only get to England once every decade or so.

R&R:
Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

Shana:
I used to be a teacher. Once I was at a conference with other teachers, and I was asking another teacher if her jerk of a principal was helping her in the classroom more. She smiled and introduced me to her principal, who was sitting right beside her!

~~~~~~

Thank you for taking time out to be here today, Shana and sharing these interestingfacts about yourself.

Thank you so much for having me, Carol.

 

If you would like to find out more about Shana and her books, here are the links:

Website
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter

(An American Heiress in London, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Late Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

What happens when a carefree, disreputable, stone-broke bachelor is forced to find a wife in a hurry? He hires a matchmaker, of course. What happens when the matchmaker doesn’t want to help him? Well, that’s when the fun begins…

Nicholas Stirling, Marquess of Trubridge, loves his life just as it is: dissolute, scandalous, and deuced good fun. His father, the Duke of Landsdowne is not amused, and when he cuts off Nicholas’ trust fund, the fun-loving marquess is forced to find an alternate source of income—in other words, he has to marry an heiress.

Every new-money American heiress knows Lady Belinda Featherstone is the key to social acceptance. Once a new-money nobody herself, Belinda discovered first-hand how heart-breaking the game of love and matrimony could be after a reprobate British earl married her for her money. Now a respectable widow, Belinda has become England’s most successful matchmaker, guiding young American heiresses through the hazards of the London season and helping them to find husbands worthy of them. To her mind, the Marquess of Trubridge is nothing but a fortune-hunting scoundrel and she has no intention of allowing him to charm his way into any American girl’s heart, including her own.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is a beautifully crafted love story from the talented pen of Laura Lee Guhrke. I particularly like Ms Guhrke’s books because they are set either in the late Victorian or early Edwardian eras. I love the Regency period but sometimes it’s just refreshing to read a book set in an era of social and economic change.

The late Victoria era saw the erosion of the wealth of many of the great country estates. American heiresses, who were shunned by New York high society because their family’s wealth came from trade, were highly sought after by impoverished members of the British aristocracy. The heiresses provided the much needed cash to restore their crumbling estates in return for a title and social status, but not always happiness as Lady Belinda Featherstone, the heroine of this book, discovers. At seventeen, after a whirl courtship, she marries the dashing Earl of Featherstone, only to discover the man she had fallen madly in love with was nothing but a fortune hunter who had never loved her.

Only after the wedding had she learned of her new husband’s four mortgaged estates, two mistresses, and three hundred thousand pounds of debt.

During the five years since her husband’s premature death, she has carved out a successful place for herself in British society and gained a reputation for being the finest marriage broker in England. She is determined to ensure that no young lady will not make the same mistake that she did.

At the age of twenty one, Nicholas Stirling, Marquess of Trubridge finally escaped the influence of his domineering, tyranical father by going to Paris. His reputation already in tatters, he spent his time living up that reputation by drinking, gambling and consorting with women of low moral character. Things change drastically when his father cuts off monies from his trust fund. He will restore them as soon as Nicholas marries someone whom his father approves off. Nicholas has no intention of succumbing to his father’s demands but needs to find a wealthy wife. His only option is to seek Lady Featherston’s help in finding a suitable wife.

“I shall make sure that any young lady you are considering knows just what sort of man you are, of your scandalous past, the dishonorable reasons for your courtship, the mercenary quality of your intentions, and just what a horrible husband you would make.

I could relate to Belinda’s initial feelings towards Nicholas and her refusal to help him. From her perspective, he is a carbon copy of her late husband…a rake and self-confessed fortune hunter who is bound to break the heart of any impressionable young wife, just as her heart had been broken. But I liked how, as she comes to know him better, she is willing to admit that her harsh judgement of Nicholas was wrong.

I loved how the romance developed… their initial witty, sarcastic banter, the simmering sexual tension, their undeniable passion for each other and the deliciously sensual love scenes.

One of the best scenes is where Belinda makes Nicholas realise that he has never truly broken free of his father’s control…he has never been master of his own life. It is a life-altering moment for Nicholas because he realises that to earn Belinda’s love, he must first earn her respect. It’s the impetus he needs to turn his life around.

And now, as he thought of being something more than a lily of the field, he felt hope stirring inside him, something he hadn’t had since he was a boy. He wanted to find a purpose for his life.

Nicholas’s father, the Duke of Lansdowne was truly odious and I loved the scene where Nicholas confronted him, only to discover that Belinda had already been there before him. I couldn’t agree more with Belinda when she says….

“What an odious man. I had no idea. Really, if he’d been my father, I think I’d have had to shoot him.”

The exchanges between Nicholas and his friend Denys were funny especially the scene in which Nicholas asks him for a loan.

I was really intrigued by the situation between the Duke and Duchess of Margrave whose marriage Belinda considers to be her “most colossal failure”. Luckily their story is next in the series.

My Verdict: Overall, a delightful start to a romantic, entertaining and witty new series.

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read August 2015

An American Heiress in London series (click on the book covers for more details):

When the Marquess Met His Match (An American Heiress in London, #1) by Laura Lee Guhrke How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days (An American Heiress in London, #2) by Laura Lee Guhrke Catch a Falling Heiress (An American Heiress in London, #3) by Laura Lee Guhrke

READING FUN QUICK FIVE

This was quite a popular post last year and so I thought I would bring it back again.

You simply have to answer the following five questions. The questions are somewhat different from last year’s.

1. Which book are you currently reading and the author?
2. Why did you choose this particular book?
3. What are the hero and heroine’s names?
4. What is the opening paragraph of the book?
5. What is the title of the book you intend to read next and the author?

Here are my answers:

1. The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan.

2. I absolutely love Courtney Milan’s books and this is the third book in her ‘Brothers Sinister’series.

3. Miss Jane Fairfield and Mr. Oliver Marshall

4. Cambridgeshire, England, January 1867

MOST OF THE NUMBERS THAT Miss Jane Victoria Fairfield had encountered in her life had proven harmless. For instance, the seamstress fitting her gown had poked her seven times while placing forty-three straight pins—but the pain had vanished quickly enough. The twelve holes in Jane’s corset were an evil, true, but a necessary one; without them, she would never have reduced her waist from its unfashionable thirty-seven inch span down to the still unfashionable girth of thirty-one inches.

5. Once a Wallflower, At Last His Love by Christi Caldwell.

I’m delighted to welcome Bestselling Regency author MAGGI ANDERSEN to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Carol!

~~~~~~

R&R:
Could you tell us where you were born and what it was like growing up there?

Maggi:


Wikipedia: Dee Why cliffs and Beach by Terovian.

I was born in Sydney, Australia, and grew up beside the Pacific Ocean. Our beachside suburb was a rather sleepy place when I was a child. My brother and I roamed the bush and were swimming before we were five. It was an adventurous childhood. We are only 18 months apart, and while we argued we also played together well, inventing great games. Once we climbed up into the roof of the house through the manhole, and Dad was afraid we’d fall through the ceiling. We were often reprimanded for climbing on top the garden shed where we could reach the best grapes on the vine, and swinging from the clothes line. We sat in the mulberry tree and emerged stained in juice, ate wild strawberries, and fished, somewhat unsuccessfully, for yabbies’ in the local creek. Although we don’t live near each other now, my brother is very dear to me.

There was a great library in the village, and I was a keen reader. I remember my favourites: Enid Blyton’s fabulous Far Away Tree series. I used to create my own stories standing on the garden wall and related them to the birds. I still talk to the birds and feed them. I now have a plaque.

R&R:
How would you describe yourself – temperamental or easy-going?

Maggi:
I don’t believe I’m temperamental, although I’ve been accused of being too dramatic at times. :) You might need to ask my nearest and dearest whether that’s an accurate description.

R&R:
When it comes to food do you like sweet or savoury or both?

Maggi:
Depends on my mood, but I love savoury food like cheese, olives and sausage. It might be my Scandinavian origins.

R&R:
What is your most treasured possession?

Maggi:
Apart from my family, it would be photos of loved ones who have passed away, and the wonderful paintings my mother left me. She was an award winning artist.

R&R:
If you were able to afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?

Maggi:
I adore London. My mother’s family are English and I’m an anglophile through and through.

R&R:
Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

Maggi:
The day of our wedding was freezing. I was shaking, more with nerves I think, but I put a spencer under my gown. At our wedding reception, the zipper on my dress broke. Fortunately, we held our reception at home, and I was able to clutch the gown together and slip away from the guests. A friend sewed me back into it. Thank goodness it didn’t happen at the church!

~~~~~~

Thank you, Maggi, for taking time out to be here today and sharing these interesting facts about yourself.

It has been a pleasure, Carol!

If you would like to find out more about Maggi and her books, here are the links:

Blog
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter

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