Joanna Schupe Interview - author picture

I’m delighted to welcome Award-Winning Historical Romance Author JOANNA SHUPE to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

Hi Carol! I’m so excited to be here.



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

I was born in Ohio and it was a very idyllic Midwestern upbringing, full of family and comfort foods. I spent most of my childhood playing sports and reading books. I went to Florida for college, and then I spent my adult life in Chicago and New York. Though I now live in the suburbs, I’m a city girl at heart.


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

Definitely easy-going. It takes a lot to get me riled up! I’m also the first person to laugh at myself when I do something stupid (which is often).


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

Sweet. I’d much rather have a cookie or piece of candy than just about anything else. Toblerone and Cadbury products are my weakness.


What is your most treasured possession?

If we’re not talking about my kids or family, I would have to say my Dad’s wedding band. My parents eloped right out of high school (age eighteen) and didn’t have much money starting off. They exchanged simple gold rings at their wedding and have been happily married for more than fifty years. When I married my husband, we decided we didn’t want to exchange rings (we’re not really into jewelry). My mom surprised me by giving me my Dad’s wedding band, sized for my finger, engraved with their initials and my and my husband’s initials inside. I never take it off.

If you could afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?

Hawaii. I’m not a beach fanatic but it’s like nowhere else on earth. My husband and I honeymooned there and I have fond memories of snorkelling, eating macadamia-nut pancakes, and feeding stingrays.

Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

Gah, there have been so many…and most revolve around food! One time, I tried to make a new soup for a guy I had just started dating (now my husband). While sprinkling a touch of cayenne pepper into the soup the lid came off the container and the entire bottle of cayenne pepper dumped in. What makes it embarrassing is that I thought I could just scoop out the extra spice with a spoon. He was napping in another room and came out to see why the apartment smelled like cayenne pepper. The smell was so strong that it woke him up. J

Although my high school prom dress is pretty embarrassing, too. I’ve included a photo for giggles.

Joanna Schupe Interview - school prom dress.png



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

Thank you so much for having me!


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




(Season for Scandal, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency – London, 1820)

Cover Blurb

Their love was always in the cards.
He should have thrown her out. But when club owner Alexander Lavoie catches a mysterious blonde counting cards at his vingt-et-un table, he’s more intrigued than angry. He has to see more of this beauty—in his club, in his office, in his bed. But first he’ll have to devise a proposition she can’t turn down.

Gossip said he was an assassin.
Common sense told her to stay away. But Angelique Archer was desperate, and Lavoie’s club offered a surefire way to make quick money—until she got caught. Instead of throwing her out though, the devil offers her a deal: come work for him. Refusing him means facing starvation, but with a man so sinfully handsome and fiercely protective, keeping things professional might prove impossible.


Kelly Bowen really impressed me with the first two books in her Season for Scandal series. I love her original, engaging and deeply romantic stories, her smart heroines and sexy heroes. This is the third book in the Season for Scandal and definitely my favourite.

I liked Alex in the previous two books but I never anticipated that he would be such a wonderful hero. I found the combination of his roguish charm, intelligence, sex appeal and wit irresistible.

He left her where she stood and retrieved a long, flat box from the back of his office. He returned to place the unwieldy package across the top of his desk.
“What is that?” she asked warily.
“A gown.”
“For me?” Intelligence
“Yes. I’ve discovered the color doesn’t complement my complexion. And the skirts show too much of my ankle. The ladies might riot.”

He is fiercely protective and honourable but his reputation as a dangerous man is well founded when it comes to defending those he loves.

Angelique has such strength of character and I admire her devotion and loyalty to her family, even though I felt her eldest brother, Gerald, was undeserving of it. To conform with society’s expectations, she has hidden her mathematical prowess and I really loved seeing her trounce that obnoxious, bosom-ogling Baron Daventon at vintage-et-un!

“The electricity between them was not to be believed. It was so tangible you could feel it in the air. I knew something was going to come of it.” – a quote about Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the ‘To Have and to Hold from the film’s publicist Mickey Seltzer.

This quote perfectly describes how I felt about the chemistry between Alex and Angelique because the air positively sizzles with sexual tension whenever these two are together and the romance is both tender and sensual.

I love the fact that Alex is not only attracted by Angelique’s beauty, but also by her extraordinary intelligence. His reaction when she discusses possible gaming strategies, after he offers her a job in the club at the vingt-et-un table, is priceless. Alex is a man who has never given his heart to a woman and watching him falling deeply in love with Angelique was delightful. Angelique does not trust Alex at first, and I could understand her reasons given her past experience with her former fiancé and Alex’s rumoured reputation as an assassin and spy. However, she cannot help finding him both fascinating and exciting and, as she comes to know him, discovers that he is both a gentleman and honourable.

Their relationship is one I could believe in because that are so well matched in intelligence, wit and passion. They are able to confide their inner most thoughts to each other and, for Alex, who has always been so aloof, it brings a feeling of contentment he has never known before.

He’d revealed more about himself to her than to anyone. Which seemed natural and right, because she had done the same. And instead of the regret and disquiet that he had expected with such exposure, he felt…content

With Alex’s encouragement, I enjoyed seeing Angelique gain in self-confidence and realise that, regardless of her past, she can be whoever she wants to be.

Angelique felt her pulse roaring in her ears, felt the breath slowly being squeezed from her lungs.She had come this far. She would not hide anymore. She needed to step out onto the floor.
“Because this is me.” She gazed around the office. This is what I’m good at. Numbers. Books.

The mystery – a tale of revenge, blackmail and murder – surrounding the missing fortune and who is trying to destroy Angelique’s family and why, was intriguing enough to keep me guessing right up until the culprit’s identity is revealed.  Ivory Moore, her husband, the Duke of Alderidge, the enigmatic King and Gilda, all characters from the previous books, make a welcome return to provide invaluable assistance to Alex in his efforts to solve the mystery. Like so many other reviewers, I do hope King gets his own book.

MY VERDICT: If you love an engrossing story, excellent characterisation and a captivating, sensual romance, then I can definitely recommend this book.





Season of Scandal series (click on the book covers for more details):

Duke of My Heart (Season for Scandal, #1) by Kelly Bowen A Duke to Remember (Season for Scandal, #2) by Kelly Bowen Between the Devil and the Duke (Season for Scandal, #3) by Kelly Bowen The Lady in Red (Season for Scandal, #3.5) by Kelly Bowen

Cat Sebastian Interview - author photo

I’m delighted to welcome author of steamy, upbeat Historical Romance CAT SEBASTIAN to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

Hi Carol! Thanks for having me.



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

I was born in New Jersey and that’s mainly where I grew up, with detours in New York and overseas. I basically spent my entire childhood reading, watching cartoons, and also failing to learn the rules of social engagement, which it turns out is how most people I know spent their childhoods, so I guess my childhood was pretty standard.


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

I’m easy-going 90% of the time. But honestly now I’m imagining my husband, parents, and kids reading that and laughing their heads off, so maybe I’m a bit temperamental? Slightly?

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

Savory, with the following exceptions: chocolate chip cookies, brownies, Nutella. But usually I’d rather eat scrambled eggs than cake or ice cream. But I like to bake.


What is your most treasured possession?

Ooh, this is hard. We’ll stipulate actual inanimate objects, not people or dogs or whatever. I have a few bits of jewelry that belonged to my grandmother, including her engagement ring. I never wear any of it (because I pretty much never wear any jewelry beyond my wedding ring, which I don’t take off, because I’d lose it immediately) but occasionally I have to check that it’s where it belongs and I’m very happy when I see it.

(Ok but also my phone, I love my phone, I would suffer without it.)

If we’re counting animals, here’s a picture of my beloved dogs, one of whom is a very smart and savvy rat terrier type of thing, and the other who has his head stuck in a bag of chips.                                                                                                                                                                                           

If you could afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?

Until recently I’d have said I wanted a place in New York, because I periodically get homesick. But, realistically, I think at this point in my life an hour in a crowded subway would make me catatonic. I’d like a house in the mountains of North Carolina or eastern Tennessee, someplace isolated and quiet but with excellent internet. And grocery delivery. And less than an hour’s drive from where I live. (This place does not exist.)

Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

I…honestly can’t think of the most embarrassing moment, probably because I embarrass myself routinely and now my embarrassment rating system is irretrievably messed up. Once I fainted while getting a very tiny and silly tattoo, which was not my finest hour. It was at this Very Serious Tattoo Parlor in Alphabet City in New York in the 90s, and there were snakes in tanks and Very Serious Tattoo People milling around and I passed out after about twenty minutes of work. When I came to, the tattoo artist was staring at me in horror and I said “Oh, I bet that happens all the time,” and she was like “uh, NOPE.” So, let’s go with that, final answer.


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

Thank you for having me!


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


Someone to Hold
(Westcott, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A reversal of fortune befalls a young woman in the latest Westcott novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Only a Kiss and Someone to Love.

Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family – sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery…

With her parents’ marriage declared bigamous, Camille Westcott is now illegitimate and without a title. Looking to eschew the trappings of her old life, she leaves London to teach at the Bath orphanage where her newly discovered half-sister lived. But even as she settles in, she must sit for a portrait commissioned by her grandmother and endure an artist who riles her every nerve.

An art teacher at the orphanage that was once his home, Joel Cunningham has been hired to paint the portrait of the haughty new teacher. But as Camille poses for Joel, their mutual contempt soon turns to desire. And it is only the bond between them that will allow them to weather the rough storm that lies ahead…


SOMEONE TO HOLD, the second book in Mary Balogh’s Westcott series, is a beautifully written and emotional story of self-discovery and finding love.

In SOMEONE TO LOVE (book 1), Camille appears downright dislikeable, especially in her hatred towards her half-sister Anna, but such is Ms. Balogh’s skill as a writer that I not only came to like Camille but also sympathise with her.

As a girl, Camille desperately wanted her father’s love, but the Earl of Riverdale was a selfish man and only ever loved one person – himself. It broke my heart to think of the seven-year-old Camille painstakingly embroidering her father’s initials and ‘I love you, Papa’ on a handkerchief, only to find it crumpled on his desk and covered in ink stains, where he had used it to clean his pen. She dedicated herself to becoming the perfect lady in the hope that, at least, he might be proud of her. I think the pain of her father’s rejection had a profound emotional impact on Camille because, in her search for perfection, she has become the prim and proper, haughty Lady Camille Westcott, for whom any show of strong feelings is considered unladylike.

I could understand how devastated Camille feels when she discovers her father’s betrayal. Her well-ordered life has crumbled around her and she no longer knows who she is or what her future will be.

The future yawned ahead with frightening emptiness and uncertainty.

I enjoyed following Camille’s journey of self-discovery and I like how Ms. Balogh doesn’t change Camille; she is still fundamentally the same person but with a different focus in life. She still displays the same strength and determination she applied to becoming the perfect lady, but it is now focussed on forging a new life for herself and a single-minded determination to succeed.

I especially enjoyed the scenes where Camille is teaching the children in the orphanage because they reveal what a tender-hearted, compassionate and intelligent person she is beneath that prickly exterior. I love how, despite her initial fears, she has a real aptitude for teaching and makes her lessons instructive, creative and fun too, capturing the children’s hearts in the process. Watching Camille’s relationship with baby Sarah slowly develop was really touching because she had never allowed herself to form an emotional attachment before.

I like Joel very much. He is good-natured, intelligent, dependable, talented and honest, all qualities I love in a hero. Although raised in the orphanage, Joel has been supported by an anonymous benefactor, thus enabling him to attend art school and pursue his passion for portrait painting. I love how his honesty extends to his portrait paintings. He refuses to flatter his subjects but studies them carefully so that he can capture their true essence on canvas. His unique style has gained him a prestigious reputation and numerous commissions from wealthy clientele. He also teaches art a few afternoons a week at the orphanage. He was in love with Anna and is still heartbroken over her marrying the  Duke of Netherby.

I love the slow building romance and watching Camille and Joel gradually move from dislike and distrust to friendship, attraction and finally falling in love. It seems both natural and believable. I particularly like how, with his artistic eye, Joel is able to see the real person beneath Camille’s protective shell.

“You are an incredibly strong person, Camille,” he said. “But sometimes you build a wall about yourself. You are doing it now. Is that the only way you can hold yourself together?”
She was about to utter an angry retort. But she was feeling weary. Her feet were sore. “Yes,” she said.
His eyes continued to search her face. “Yet behind the wall,” he said, “you are amazingly tenderhearted. And loyal hearted.”

I enjoyed seeing Camille realise that she had previously suppressed everything that made her human and now…

…she wanted to live. And she wanted to love, even if that word was a mere euphemism for desire. She would live, then, and she would enjoy. She would not stop to think, to doubt, to feel.

There is a point, early in the story, where Camille asks Joel to hold her and, when Joel has to cope with life changing events himself, it is Camille to whom he turns for support. This mutual respect and support further convinced me that their love would endure.

The story is very much about family too, because Camille comes to realise that her family’s love is unconditional. I love the poignancy of the moment when Camille finally calls Anna her sister rather than her half-sister.

I enjoyed seeing the other family members especially Avery who always appears cool and aloof, but beneath that facade is someone who takes a keen interest in what’s happening and can demonstrate great kindness. He is always guaranteed to bring a smile to my face with quips like this.

“My dear Camille,” he said, “I hope I never admonish anyone. It sounds as if it would require a great expenditure of energy.”

After receiving a bloody nose courtesy of Avery in SOMEONE TO LOVE, I was delighted to see the odious Lord Uxbury receive a bloody mouth courtesy of Joel’s fist in this book!

MY VERDICT: Once again, Mary Balogh delivers a beautifully written, emotional character driven romance. Highly recommended.





Westcott series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

Someone to Love (Westcott, #1) by Mary Balogh Someone to Hold (Westcott, #2) by Mary Balogh Someone to Wed (Westcott #3) by Mary Balogh Someone to Care (Westcott #4) by Mary Balogh Someone to Trust (Westcott, #5) by Mary Balogh

The Sins of Lord Lockwood - Meredith Duran

(Rules for the Reckless, #6)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian – Scotland 1857, England 1861 and the Isle of Rawsey 1869)

Cover Blurb:

Steamy romance sizzles between a resurrected earl and his repentant bride in USA TODAY bestselling author Meredith Duran’s latest historical romance.


Liam Devaliant, Lord Lockwood, was born into a charmed life. Charismatic, powerful, and wild, he had the world at his feet—and one woman as his aim. His wedding to Anna was meant to be his greatest triumph. Instead, in a single moment, a wicked conspiracy robbed him of his future and freedom.


Four years later, Liam has returned from death with plans for revenge. Standing in his way, though, is his long-absent bride. Once, he adored Anna’s courage. Now it seems like a curse, for Anna refuses to fear or forget him. If she can’t win back Liam’s love, then she means at least to save his soul…no matter the cost.


Liam Devaliant, the Earl of Lockwood, Julian’s friend and Emma’s patron in DUKE OF SHADOWS, certainly sparked my interest. I was intrigued by Liam’s mysterious four-year absence from society and the obvious tension between himself and his estranged wife, Anna. Once again, I was totally riveted to every page of this dark, compelling and emotionally charged love story.

While at home on the Isle of Rawsey in Scotland, Anna, Countess of Lockwood, discovers from a newspaper headline that her husband, who abandoned her on their wedding night four years earlier, has been back in London for the last eight months but has never bothered to contact her. Furious, she heads for London.

Liam never abandoned Anna. His jealous, scheming cousin and heir, Stephen, had arranged to have Liam abducted and put on a prison ship bound for a penal colony in New South Wales. Certain that he would never survive, Stephen planned to have Liam declared dead and claim his title. After a hellish three years, with only the thought of revenge to keep him going, Liam escaped with a small band of fellow convicts and returned to England. With the help of his friends, Julian, Duke of Auburn, and Crispin Burke MP, Liam has set in motion his plans to wreak revenge on Stephen. With no direct evidence to implicate Stephen to his abduction, Liam must use devious methods to bring about Stephen’s complete financial and social ruin. Then Liam will kill him.

His wife’s unexpected arrival stirs up feelings he would much rather forget because he is no longer the man she married – that man is dead.

She was looking at him as though she knew him, when in fact the boy she’d married was dead now.

His years in the prison colony have left Liam profoundly changed but he will never tell Anna what really happened on that night – he simply couldn’t bear her pity. So, he does and says everything to convince her that he is nothing more than the uncaring fortune hunter she clearly believes him to be, but if he hopes his attitude will drive Anna away, he is seriously mistaken. As Countess of Forth, a Scottish title she holds in her own right, Anna needs a legitimate heir to the earldom which is something only her husband can give her and she has no intention of leaving.

“I am here. I am certainly staying.”
He blinked several times—seeming confused by how closely she suddenly loomed. For she was not a small woman; on her tiptoes, she was nearly eye level with him, which gave her an opportunity to deliver him a fulminating glower.

I loved the complexity of Liam’s character. The brutality and humiliation he suffered at the hands of his guards have left him profoundly scarred, both mentally and physically. Tormented by dark, harrowing memories, he is convinced that he is mad. Ms. Duran conveys his emotional turmoil with such realism that I could feel his pain, fear, anger and desperation.

Anna is independent and out-spoken but also vulnerable. After her mother’s death, her father could not cope with raising a young daughter and sent her to live with her aunts. She never had real home and the abandonment by her father, whom she loved, left her believing that anyone she loved would leave her. It isn’t difficult to understand why she readily accepted, without question, that Liam had abandoned her just as her father had, especially given the terms of their marriage.

Ms. Duran employs a series of flashback chapters which show how Liam and Anna met, their courtship and gradual falling in love. Neither one was willing to confess their true feelings, pretending that theirs was just a marriage of convenience. We see Liam as a charming, affable young man who manages to capture the heart of the independently minded Anna. These delightful flashbacks provide a poignant contrast to their current painful relationship. It is heart-breaking to know that their lives were irrevocably changed by envy and greed. I think that, without these flashbacks, it would have been impossible to appreciate the extent to which Liam was changed by his experiences and how deeply Anna was affected by Liam’s ‘abandonment’.

It is obvious that Liam and Anna are still very much in love, but Liam’s belief that he is a broken man, his feelings of shame and his thirst for revenge all seem impregnable barriers. But when Anna discovers the truth of what really happened, she becomes a veritable tigress. I love her strength, her unflinching belief in Liam and her determination to show him the man he truly is.

How was it that all the world saw Liam’s courage, his strength and his worth, save he?

He is a survivor; a man who was willing to protect his fellow prisoners regardless of the cost to himself. He promised to take care of those who escaped with him and provide them with a home and work – a promise he keeps. The loyalty and respect this rag-tag band of prisoners show Liam goes a long way to affirm his true worth.

The love scenes are sensual but they also reveal so much of Liam’s and Anna’s emotions, fears, vulnerabilities and their overwhelming desire for each other.

I like how Julian and Emma (Duke of Shadows) both play an important role in Liam and Anna’s story. Borne of their own personal experiences, they are able to offer wise counsel which is so significant in Liam’s journey to healing. But, before he can finally exorcise the past, Liam needs to exact his revenge on Stephen and I love how Ms. Duran handles this scene in a way that leaves Liam and Anna free to find their Happy Ever.

…this was life, his life, like a gift delivered unto him, which he would guard henceforth for her sake, for their family’s sake, for his own sake. This was his. “I love you,” he said into her mouth.

I know Epilogues are an anathema to some readers, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I love them. Revisiting characters, especially ones who have overcome tremendous odds to find happiness, leaves me with a feeling of contentment as I close the final page of the book.

This is the sixth book in the Rules of the Reckless series but I think it can be easily read as a standalone.  However, I would recommend reading Ms. Duran’s debut book, DUKE OF SHADOWS first, because, not only is it a fabulous book in its own right, but I believe it would enhance the reader’s enjoyment of THE SINS OF LORD LOCKWOOD.

MY VERDICT: If you enjoy a superbly written, compelling, angst-filled romance with unforgettable characters, then I can definitely recommend this book.




Rules for the Reckless series (click on the book covers for more details):

Your Wicked Heart (Rules for the Reckless, #0.5) by Meredith Duran That Scandalous Summer (Rules for the Reckless, #1) by Meredith Duran Fool Me Twice (Rules for the Reckless, #2) by Meredith Duran Lady Be Good (Rules for the Reckless, #3) by Meredith Duran Luck Be a Lady (Rules for the Reckless, #4) by Meredith Duran A Lady's Code of Misconduct (Rules for the Reckless, #5) by Meredith Duran The Sins of Lord Lockwood (Rules for the Reckless, #6) by Meredith Duran

Laurie Benson Interview - author picture

I’m delighted to welcome Historical Romance author LAURIE BENSON to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

Hi Carol. Thanks so much for inviting me to Rakes and Rascals.



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

I grew up in New York City, which is a great place to live if, like me, you love art and history. When I was in elementary school, our annual class trips were always to The Museum of Natural History. As I got older, I had homework assignments that involved going to The Metropolitan Museum of Art where I’d have to analyse a particular exhibition that related to a topic we were studying in one of my classes. I think exposure to these cultural institutions at an early age helped to develop the interests I have now.

When you grow up in the city, you can’t really get bored since there’s so much to do. My parents regularly took me to Broadway shows, and I learned to ice skate and roller blade in Central Park. When I was in high school, I would travel two hours north to the Catskill Mountains in the winter with my friends and try to ski. I was never really good at it and probably would break a leg if I tried to do it now. And, before any of us we able to drive, we’d hop on the subway in the summer and go to Rockaway Beach for the day. Once we had cars, we’d drive out to Jones Beach on Long Island or head further out to the Hamptons to visit my family and spend time on the beaches there. New York City is a wonderful place to grow up and now I enjoy exposing my two sons to all the fun things that the city has to offer.


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

I’m usually a pretty easy-going person, but I have been known to stand up for my family, my dearest friends, and myself when the need arises.


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

Since I have a deep love of chocolate, I’ll say I prefer sweet over savoury. I could very easily exist on a diet of Lindor truffles, chocolate cake, and hot chocolate.


What is your most treasured possession?

I treasure my family and friends above all else. If you’re asking about things I own, there really isn’t one item that stands out over the others. The handmade cards that my boys made for me when they were little are very dear to my heart and we have a number of antique family heirlooms that are also very special to me. If I had to pick one of our antiques, I’d say my favourite is a china cabinet that had belonged to my grandmother. We were very close and each time I look at it, it reminds me of her. It now holds my collection of antique books.
Laurie Benson Interview - grandmother's cabinet
My grandmother’s china cabinet                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

If you could afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?

I love the ocean, so I’d have to say a house at the beach. There ‘s something about the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore and the smell of the salty sea air that immediately relaxes me. I’d want the house to be fairly close to my home, this way I could hop in my car and drive there whenever I needed to decompress.


Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

I couldn’t say. It’s much too embarrassing.



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

Thanks, Carol, for inviting me to chat with you today. It’s been fun.

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


Hazard - Stella Riley

(Rockliffe, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian – Paris, 1770 and London, 1777 )

Cover Blurb

Hazard: a game of Chance and Luck, made riskier when Fate is rolling the dice.

For Aristide Delacroix, the first throw summons shades from his past. A man he had met, just once, over a card-table … and the lovely girl indirectly responsible for plunging his life into catastrophe.

For Lord Nicholas Wynstanton, tired of waiting for Madeleine Delacroix to make up her mind, it slyly suggests he begin a whole new game with loaded dice; while for Madeleine, it devises a terrifying lesson in missed opportunities and the uncertainty of second chances.

And for Genevieve Westin, hoping widowhood will be happier than marriage, it brings a rude awakening – leaving a single, wild gamble her only option.

A cardsharp turned businessman, a duke’s charming brother, a stubborn, razor-edged beauty and a desperate widow.

Four players in a game of Hazard … all playing for very high stakes.


In HAZARD, the 5th book in Stella Riley’s wonderful Georgian Rockliffe series, Ms. Riley gives her readers two equally captivating romances which play out in tandem but are very different in tone. The tender romance between Aristide and Genevieve forms a nice contrast to the volatile one between Nicholas and Madeleine.

From their first meeting in The Player, the attraction between the charming, good-natured Lord Nicolas Wynstanton, the Duke of Rockliffe’s younger brother, and the stubborn, prickly Madeleine Delacroix, Aristide’s sister, has been palpable. It is obvious that Nicholas is head over heels in love with Madeleine but she pushes him away at every opportunity with her sarcasm. Although she has deep feelings for Nicholas, Madeleine sees their unequal stations in life as an insurmountable barrier, despite Nicholas’ protestations to the contrary. The situation comes to a head at the end of The Wicked Cousin when a thoroughly frustrated Nicholas issues Madeleine with an ultimatum…

…this is the last time I’ll ask. I’ve made a cake of myself over you for long enough. If you don’t want to know me, say so and I’ll walk away.’
Colour bloomed along her cheekbones. ‘That sounds like an ultimatum.’
‘It is an ultimatum.  Choose.’

Nicholas has given Madeleine the opportunity to cut him out of her life completely but she simply cannot do it. The knowledge that she is not indifferent to him makes Nicholas determined to break down the defences she has built around herself and claim her as his wife.

Madeleine’s attitude towards Nicholas annoyed me so much at times, that I was beginning to believe that perhaps Nicholas deserved someone better. However, the Prologue in Hazard gave me a real insight into both Madeline and Aristide’s characters and events in their pasts which were to affect each of them so profoundly. I saw the insecurity and vulnerability beneath Madeleine’s tough exterior and understood the reasons why…

She surrounded herself with an invisible thicket of thorns and a big ‘Keep Out’ notice for good measure.

I love how Madeleine, with no thought for her own safety, protects Nicholas when he is attacked. She is just magnificent!

 ‘Like a tigress, she was – and not a thought for her own safety.  You’ve got to admire a woman like that.’

I couldn’t help but be touched by her heart-felt words as Nicholas lies unconscious. All her defenses are down and the barriers she has erected around herself have finally fallen.

Nicholas has always been regarded as loveable and good-humoured with a dislike of dancing because of his unfortunate habit of stepping on ladies’ toes. Now we see a man who is relentless in his pursuit of the woman he loves.

It has been a bumpy ride, with lots of ups and downs, but I was delighted to see Nicholas and Madeleine finally get their hard-won Happy Ever After.

Ms. Riley creates a truly heart-warming romance between Aristide and Genevieve. Like his sister, past events have led Aristide to build emotional barriers around himself and I enjoyed seeing those barriers gradually start to crumble as he falls under his wife’s spell.

His awareness of his wife increased with every passing day and not merely when she was within touching distance.  He’d developed a habit of watching her across a room and thinking about her when she wasn’t there.

He may not be aware of it himself, but his love shines through in the patience, understanding and kindness he shows Genevieve. The scene where he buys her the little puppy is particularly telling because he realises just how devoid of kindness her life has been. Her late husband’s emotional and mental cruelty had destroyed Genevieve’s self-esteem but Aristide gradually restores her confidence in herself as a beautiful and desirable woman.

Genevieve gradually discovers that lurking behind that reserve, Aristide is a very different man …honourable, kind, patient, understanding, and someone she can trust; not to mention the other benefits!

That cool, business-like façade hides all manner of things … such as when he’s teasing or joking … and the wickedly seductive Frenchman who knows exactly where to touch me and how.

I admired Genevieve for her courage when she stands up to her odious brother, Ralph, and champions her husband…

‘Birth and title don’t make a gentleman, Ralph. Character and manners do that and Aristide has both.  Also, although you sneer at him from your aristocratic pedestal, he’s already achieved more than you will in a lifetime.  He started with nothing and made it into something.  You started with every advantage – and wasted all of them. In short, he’s worth a dozen of you

Sir George Braxton’s accusation of cheating with regard to Aristide is resolved in a satisfying way and also adds some dramatic events to the story which are integral to moving one of the romances forward. It also provides one of my favourite scenes where Aristide and the unflappable Rockliffe confront Braxton and the duke scares him (Braxton) half out of wits with just the tone of his voice.

One of the highlights for me in this series is the mutual love, loyalty and friendship between the Rockliffe circle of family and friends. I am always guaranteed some delightful scenes, memorable moments, and witty banter. Among my favourite moments are:

  • Cassie’s warm and unquestioning acceptance of Genevieve.
  • Nicholas teasing Sebastian about arriving late to Adrian’s party…

My apologies.  We were … delayed.’
‘Yes – and I can guess by what.’
Sebastian didn’t reply but the look in his eyes said something along the lines of, Shut your mouth before I put my fist in it … which only increased Nicholas’s amusement.

  • Aristide’s embarrassment and his friends’ knowing looks when they hear the story of him saving the puppy for his wife.

: Beautifully written, with memorable characters, a well-plotted story and two captivating romances, this is another wonderful addition to this addictive series. Highly recommended.




Rockliffe series so far (click on the book covers for more details):
The Parfit Knight Volume 1 (Rockcliffe) by Stella Riley The Mésalliance by Stella Riley The Player (Rockliffe, #3) by Stella Riley The Wicked Cousin Volume 4 (Rockliffe) by Stella Riley Hazard by Stella Riley




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