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Archive for July, 2015

Valerie Bowman author photo hi res

I’m delighted to welcome Award-winning author VALERIE BOWMAN to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

Thank you so much for inviting me, Carol. I’m thrilled to be here.

~~~~~

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

Valerie:
I grew up in a small town in the U.S. in east-central Illinois called Rantoul. My father was in the U.S. Air Force and there was an Air Force Base (Chanute) there then (though my father was out of the service by the time I was born). I can’t say I ever felt as if I truly belonged in the farmlands of Illinois. It’s a beautiful place but both of my parents were originally from the South (Oklahoma and Florida) and based on our family vacations, I always dreamed of moving to Florida. I went to college in Massachusetts but after that I moved to Florida the first chance I got. I’m happy to say I’m still here!

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

Valerie:
I like to refer to myself as a Type B+ personality. I’m not quite Type A because I love to take naps and relax but I’m about as organized, detail-oriented, and perfectionistic as a Type B can get, I think. So, I’d have to say I’m both temperamental (at times) and easy-going (at times). I don’t know. Somehow it works for me.

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

Valerie:
Both! I devour carbs. My favorite part of Thanksgiving here in the States is the dressing (aka stuffing) but cake is also one of my personal weaknesses. It’s not a great combination for someone trying to watch her weight. Sigh.

R&R:
What is your most treasured possession?

Valerie:
What a terrific question! I’m really not very sentimental when it comes to items. But I’d have to say my most treasured possession is my collection of the books I’ve written. They sit in a special case in my front room. They amaze me every time I see them. I always think, “I can’t believe I wrote them!”

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

Valerie:
This one is easy! New England. I would love to live half of the year in Florida and the other half in Maine or somewhere remote and snowy with maybe a view of a lake and lots of trees. My father grew up in Florida but the Bowman family was originally from Maine. I think that mix is still in me.

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

Valerie:
Oh, I’ve had some doozies, believe me, like the time I wore two different shoes to work, but the most embarrassing in recent memory was at the Romance Writers of America national conference last year when I mistook Sara Jane Stone for Caroline Linden and gushed about what a big fan I was. Sara said, “Valerie, we’ve met.” And I said, “Oh, no, I think I’d remember it if we had.” I finally realized my mistake and spent the rest of the conference following Sara Jane around and apologizing for being such a doofus. She was lovely and forgiving, thank goodness. (NOTE: I did get to meet Caroline and gush too!)

~~~~~

Valerie, thank you so much for taking time out to be here today and sharing these interesting facts about yourself.

Thanks so much, Carol. It was great fun to answer the questions. It brought back some terrific memories.

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

Website
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter

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(Must Love Rogues, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A Lady Ready for Battle:
Miss Harriet Manning once made the mistake of falling completely, totally, and irreversibly in love with a duke’s son. It’s a mistake she won’t repeat twice. Truly. Especially since he abandoned her just when they were about to elope to Gretna Green. Five years later, Harriet hasn’t forgotten the way Lord Garret’s smoldering gaze and wicked sense of humor touched her soul. Still, there’s no way she’ll forgive the traitorous libertine, no matter how he stirs her passions. Now, Harriet is determined to show him she doesn’t care, and never did, by making merry right under his nose but a tragic turn of events at her cousin’s wedding has her wondering if just maybe, love deserves one last chance.

A Lord Who Lost His Heart:
Lord Garret Hart, second son of a duke and now brother to the present Duke of Huntsdown, is never ever EVER getting married. Bachelorhood is for him. After all, women are the very devil. Especially one woman. Miss Harriet Manning is Garret’s own personal Medusa and she has turned his heart to stone. Indeed she has, but not before she absolutely ripped it to shreds, leaving him a complete wreck. Nothing will ever induce him to matrimony or nauseating protestations of boyish love again. But when he is forced into close proximity at his brother’s wedding with the woman who first taught him to dream and see the world as a wondrous place, sparks flash and passions explode. Still, Harriet is not to be trusted. She callously betrayed him once. So how can he ever allow himself another chance at love when love always seems to hurt so much?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I remember seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company’s excellent production of “Much Ado About Nothing” at Stratford upon Avon in 1976, starring renowned British actors Judi Dench and Donald Sinden. You are probably asking what this has to do with my review. Well, Ms Devon draws inspiration for her book from that play…a story of misunderstandings, betrayal, deceptions and enduring love.

As I have come to expect from Eva Devon, THE ROGUE AND I, the first book in her Must Love Rogues series, is funny, emotional, romantic and sensual but also tinged with sadness.

The flashbacks that are interspersed throughout the first part of the book allow us to see Garret and Harriet as romantic young lovers with hopes and dreams before the pain of betrayal shatters their love. These flashbacks made it easy for me to understand the hurt and anger Harriet and Garret feel and why, whenever they meet, they engage in such biting verbal duelling.

“How ever did you survive without me to criticize you these past months? He asked cheerfully.

“Never doubt my ability to sharpen my wit without you about, easy target that you are.”

He tsked. “How sad that you must always be so sharp. “ He crossed towards her, his powerful legs eating up the short space. At last, he stood before her, looking down several inches, his dark eyes glinting. “Someone will soon clip your claws.”

Harry met that gaze and tilted her chin up. With a surprising gesture even to herself, she planted her hands on her hips. “Not before I scratch their face.”

The witty skirmishes between these two strong and stubborn people certainly provide plenty of laughs but also expose their vulnerabilities. It is these vulnerabilities that make Harriet and Garret such endearing characters.

Despite all this hostility, I could feel the sexual tension between them and it’s obvious they still have deep feelings for each other although wild horses wouldn’t drag the truth from them. Family machinations do more harm than good and it takes an act of malice to unite them in a common cause, allowing them to finally admit their love for each other. It does take Garret a little longer to realise how much he loves Harriet but his declaration of love is well worth waiting for…definitely sigh-worthy.

“You are the love of my life and I will never be content in this life without you. How can I live without my happiness anymore, my Lady of Shalot, my Harry.”

There is a secondary romance between Emmeline (Harry’s cousin) and Edward (Garret’s brother) but what happens on their wedding day is truly heart-breaking. I cheered Emmeline when she rises from the ashes stronger and more confident and Edward deserves every harsh word she throws at him. I loved Garret for believing in Emmeline even when his brothers refuse to.

I hated John, Garret’s half-brother, for all the heartache he caused but I was intrigued by his character and his motivations. I just wonder whether redemption is on the cards for him.

I was delighted by Garret’s words in the Epilogue which suggest more books to come…

But none of them are at the end of their story, so happily ever after may yet await them,” Garret said brightly.

How I imagine Garret and Harriet –


Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson in
“Much Ado About Nothing ” (1993)

My Verdict: A great start to a new series. Definitely recommended!

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read July 2015

**My thanks to Eva Devon for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review. **

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(How to Marry a Highlander, #1)

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Cover Blurb:

American lass seeks brawny Scot...

As if being newly single isn’t brutal enough, Sloane Chatfield’s friends are getting obnoxious about setting her up. When Sloane insists she’s waiting for a certain sexy fictional Highlander to come along, her friends surprise her with a trip to Scotland to find her a new boyfriend. She’d rather have a root canal. But if she can find a Highland hunk to “break her heart” before her friends arrive…

In a remote Highland village, Galen Buchanan is struggling to keep the family pub afloat. Everything is falling apart, he’s running out of money, and now there’s an opinionated American lass parked at his best table, driving him mad. But then Sloane asks Galen to be her pretend Highland boyfriend…and offers him enough money to save the pub. It’s only for a few days, he figures. What’s the worst that could happen?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Contemporary romances aren’t my usual fare but Julia London’s pairing of a prim American heroine, a hunky Scottish hero, a charming Scottish setting, some great secondary characters, plenty of humour and a sexy romance made this most enjoyable.

It’s impossible not to like Galen. He’s handsome, sexy and funny…a winning combination. He’d given up an unsatisfying career in agricultural law to return home to the small village of Gairloch to run the Black Thistle, the local pub. When his grandfather died, the family had wanted to sell the pub but it was where he had grown up and it represented everything that had been good about his life. He sees it as the family legacy and I like his determination to keep the pub going. He obviously cares about the village and the villagers. So when he doesn’t have the necessary funds for repairs that are desperately needed to the pub, Galen finds himself accepting a strange proposition from the prim and opinionated American woman who has been frequenting his pub recently.

Sloane’s self-worth takes a real blow when she is jilted by her fiancé who accuses her of being a “cold fish”. She has all sorts of insecurities about herself and the last thing she wants is her well-meaning friends trying to fix her up with a new man. She has the perfect plan to derail their schemes…a fictitious holiday in Scotland…only to find it becomes a reality when her friends insist on going too! Sloane reverts to plan B – fly to Scotland earlier; announce she has found her own highland “hottie”; break up with said boyfriend; cue one broken heart…no more meddling friends. Great plan or it would be if her friends weren’t going to arrive earlier than expected. Sloane is desperate to find a temporary Scottish boyfriend and the only possible candidate seems to be the shaggy-haired, local pub owner.

I do love an opposites attract theme because it generally leads to some witty dialogue and amusing scenes as the hero and heroine each try to get the upper hand. The initial bickering between Galen and Sloane is delightful…

“Can you cook?”
“Cook? I’m not going as your slave.”
“You’re going as my girlfriend, aye? My girlfriends cook. They can dig a ditch and they donna fear getting dirty.They donna worry about fingernails and hair. My girlfriends desire only to please me.”
“Well, that certainly answers the mystery of why you don’t have one,” she said, and folded her arms.

It was fun watching city girl Sloane coping with life in the Scottish Highlands. I had to laugh when she and Galen are riding out to repair a fence on Galen’s brother’s place and Sloane appears wearing jodhpurs and an equestrian shirt. Then there’s the bath scene which is hilarious.

I enjoyed the slow building romance between them. They actually talk and begin to enjoy each other’s company and Galen is surprised to realise he actually likes Sloane.

He liked her. How was that possible? He was a practical man, a no-nonsense man. But he liked her grit and good cheer when he made her work on the fence. He liked her determination to live up to her part of the bargain. He liked her smile and her bum and the way her eyes shone with delight at the strangest things.

It’s also a journey of self-discovery for Sloane from which she emerges a much stronger and more emotionally stable person. It was satisfying to see her enjoying life again and falling in love with not only Galen but also with everything around her.

It was all so delicious. All of it. The sea, the scenery, the man.

The secondary characters – Sloane’s interfering friends, the assorted regulars at the Black Thistle and Galen’s family – all add vibrancy to the story.

My only gripe was Galen’s Scottish dialect. I found myself concentrating on the actual words rather than what was being said and, at times, this pulled me out of the story. It’s a personal preference but I would rather the speech were written with just the hint of an accent. However, this is only a minor point and overall it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story.

My Verdict: Fun, entertaining and romantic. The perfect holiday read.

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read July 2015

**I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Entangled Publishing: Lovestruck, in return for an honest review.**

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I’m thrilled to welcome US Today and New York Times bestselling author, GRACE BURROWES to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

Thank you, Carol, and it’s a pleasure to be here!

~~~~~

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

Grace:
I was born in Centre County, PA, an unusual place. It’s mostly farmland, but also home to the Pennsylvania State University (and about 35,000 undergraduates), where my father taught for 35 years and where I attended college. My upbringing was thus rural, with many summers spent on my godparents’ farm, and academic. This was perfect for an imaginative introvert, keeping me in touch with both nature and ideas.


Me, aged eight

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

Grace:
Interesting question. One of my sisters once remarked that it’s fortunate I’m kind-hearted, because I also have a ruthlessly analytical side. I get worked up over injustice—a fine quality in a child welfare attorney—but I have no killer instinct. I want us all to get along, and so I pull my argumentative punches outside the courtroom, and write happily ever afters. So maybe, neither temperamental nor easy going, but something in-between?

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

Grace:
Oh, I do love food! I’d say I like sweet or savory, but not dishes that combine them. No pineapple on my pizza, no sweet and sour anything. No chocolate-bacon-chili pepper gourmet anything.

R&R:
What is your most treasured possession?

Grace:
A compassionate heart, closely followed by a vivid imagination.

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

Grace:
A second home sounds like unnecessary complication and expense. I’d live in Scotland if the immigration laws allowed me to (they don’t). I love the scenery and climates, the culture, the proximity to the rest of Europe, the commitment to constructive public dialogue on major issues, the tolerance of outsiders, and the commitment to renewable energy sources…. There’s much to admire there, and a fascinating past.

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

Grace:
I’d have to think about that, but I know when I make a mistake in a book, I’m mortified. In my June release (Thomas—The Jaded Gentlemen, Book I), I referred repeatedly to Brighton when I meant Portsmouth. For a US reader, it probably made no difference, but I have many readers in the UK. Fortunately, a UK reader pointed out the boo-boo, and I can fix it once the sales slowdown.

I’ve been to both cities, I know Brighton has no harbor while Portsmouth does, but I get like some people with a weed whacker. They fire up that thing, get their head downs, and start working their way around the property. They won’t look up, won’t notice that they’ve wandered halfway down the neighbor’s driveway as long as more weeds fall within their line of sight. They become the Weed Terminator, until they run out of gas.

I get like that as a writer, so consumed with the story that I lose sight of the words, and even an egregiously wrong word won’t stand out to me in review. ARGH!

~~~~~

Grace, thank you so much for taking time out to be here today and sharing these interesting facts about yourself.

Your questions made me think, Carol—always a good thing—and it was a pleasure to join you today.

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

Website
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter: @GraceBurrowes

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“You will always be my love. I fought an army of dragons to win my beautiful lady. I intend to spend the next fifty years enjoying the spoils of victory.”

(Elias Thorne, Baron Wilmot to Lady Marianne Seaton)

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Anna has selected the winners who will each receive an ebook copy of her novella, THREE PROPOSALS AND A SCANDAL.

JOHN HENNESSY

CHARLOTTE LITTON

MICHELLE CUNLIFFE


Congratulations everyone! Anna will be contacting each of you shortly regarding your prize.

Happy reading!

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(The Duke of Strathmore, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

The Favourite Heiress…

Once engaged to the future Duke of Strathmore, the beautiful Lady Clarice Langham now finds herself in the humiliating position of celebrating his marriage – to another woman. As a result of the scandal, it seems her reign as London’s most eligible debutante has come to an end. But things begin to look up when handsome and charming rake David Radley makes it clear that, at least as far as he’s concerned, she’s still the catch of the season.

The Illegitimate Son…

The eldest son of the Duke of Strathmore, David Radley has been raised alongside his father’s legitimate children. But while he is generally received as part of the family, not everyone thinks he should be, and especially not Clarice’s father, the Earl of Langham, who forbids her from having anything to do with him.

An Unsuitable Match…

David’s been in love with Clarice for years, and it isn’t long before the attraction between them develops into something deeper. Yet he senses Clarice is hiding something and until she reveals her secret, she won’t be free to follow her heart. Despite everything, David will not give up on Clarice, not even when another seems set to claim her…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Let me say straightaway that I’m sure I would have liked this book much more had I read LETTER FROM A RAKE (book 1) first. It’s clear that events occurring in that book have a direct impact on the story and characters in AN UNSUITABLE MATCH. At times I felt a little adrift, as though I should already know something about the characters but didn’t. So it took me some time to really immerse myself in the story but when I did, I enjoyed it.

At first, I found it hard to relate to Clarice because there was so much negativity about her – her drab, ill-fitting clothes; the grief and guilt she feels over her mother’s death; her belief that she is totally undeserving of love; her desire to be punished and suffer for her actions. It was only when she starts to come out of her shell and embraces life again that I warmed towards her. I enjoyed seeing her finally having the courage to face her past and lay the ghosts to rest.

I liked David from the start. Although he is the bastard son of the Duke of Strathmore, his father and step-mother make no distinction between him and their other children.  However much they might insult each other,  the Radley brothers are fiercely loyal and I adored this tight-knit, loving family. The scene where David’s father hands him the deeds to Shambrook Grange is very emotional and reveals the deep love between father and son. David’s desire to be a good and fair employer to those working on the Shambrook estate and the way he ensures that needy families in the village are housed in the empty estate cottages shows what a deeply caring person he is.

As with all good romances, the course of true love doesn’t run smoothly. Clarice and David’s happiness is threatened not only by Clarice’s disapproving father but also by his heir, the devious and menacing Thaxter Fox. It’s lucky they have stalwart champions in the form of David’s sister Lucy and Clarice’s grandmother Lady Alice. Lucy is such a live-wire and I love her matchmaking efforts and tendency towards amateur dramatics. The larger-than-life Lady Alice is a delight with her “magical” walking stick.

I was all set to dislike Clarice’s father until I discovered that he was only testing David’s worthiness because he loves his daughter and only wants her happiness and I couldn’t fault him for that.

There are some nice touches of humour interspersed throughout the story and the Epilogue provides a teaser for Lucy’s book and I am definitely looking forward to reading it.

My Verdict: Overall, a delightful story enhanced by some memorable secondary characters.

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read July 2015

The Duke of Strathmore series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

Letter from a Rake by Sasha Cottman An Unsuitable Match by Sasha Cottman

**I received a copy of this book from the author via NetGalley in return for an honest review.**

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