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Archive for April, 2017

Deadly Affair

(Alec Halsey Mystery, #2)

Genre: Historical Mystery (Georgian, 1763)

Cover Blurb:

Autumn 1763. Career diplomat Alec Halsey has been elevated to a marquessate he doesn’t want and Polite Society believes he doesn’t deserve. And with the suspicion he murdered his brother still lingering in London drawing rooms, returning to London after seven months in seclusion might well be a mistake. So when a nobody vicar drops dead beside him at a party-political dinner, and his rabble-rousing uncle Plantagenet is bashed and left for dead in a laneway, Alec’s foreboding deepens. Uncovering the vicar’s true identity, Alec suspects the man was poisoned. But who would want a seemingly harmless man of God murdered, and why?

Lucinda Brant’s Alec Halsey mysteries explore the darker side of her deliciously romantic 18th century world. Along with trademark wit and high drama there are deeper subplots and even quirkier characters that will have you shuddering and laughing in equal measure!

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the second book in the Alec Halsey Mystery series and, once again, Lucinda Brant’s superb writing and Alex Wyndham’s outstanding narration earned a Stellar 5 stars from me.

Ms. Brant weaves an intricate tale of murder, mystery and intrigue and the unexpected twists and turns kept me guessing as to the murderer’s identity and motive. It was like a dot-to-dot where you cannot see the complete picture until you have joined all the dots and I am in awe of her ability to keep track of all the various plot strands.

In addition to Alec, our handsome, honourable, intelligent and inscrutable hero, there is an extensive, well-developed and colourful cast of secondary characters. Some I had previously met in Deadly Engagement, Alec’s plain-speaking, irascible uncle, Plantagenet Halsey; the earnest, sincere Tam, Alec’s self-appointed valet and apprentice apothecary, and Selina Jamison-Lewis, the love of Alec’s life. Others, including the corpulent, drunken, appallingly vulgar Lord George Stanton, are new characters who provide an abundance of potential suspects.

As this is predominantly a mystery, the continuing love affair between Alec and Selina understandably takes a back seat but there is enough tension between the two to keep things interesting. Selina is harbouring secrets from Alec, which she is afraid to reveal for fear of losing his love, and her suggestion that she become his mistress rather than his wife, only creates a bigger wedge between them.

I love how Ms. Brant effortlessly transports me back to Georgian England, bringing to vivid life the elegance, opulence and decadence of this era as well as its darker aspects. Her extensive research is apparent, not only in the fashions, furnishings and etiquette of the day, but also in the political arena and the world of the apothecary.

The Epilogue promises more danger and intrigue for Alec and hopefully a happy resolution to the situation between him and Salina.

Yet another top-notch performance from the accomplished Alex Wyndham whose vocal range is so impressive, delivering distinguishable voices for each of the extensive cast, whether it is the super cool Alec, the crusty, old Plantagenet Halsey or the whiny, petulant Lord George Stanton. His ability to convey the drama, tensions and emotions kept me totally immersed in the story.

MY VERDICT: Simply superb!


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: SUBTLE

 

Alec Halsey Mystery series (click on book covers for more details):

Deadly Engagement (Alec Halsey Mystery, #1) by Lucinda Brant Deadly Affair (Alec Halsey Mystery, #2) by Lucinda Brant Deadly Peril (Alec Halsey Mystery, #3) by Lucinda Brant


**I received a complimentary copy from the author in return for an honest review**

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Proud Mary

(Roxton Family Saga, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian, 1777)

Cover Blurb:

The Roxtons are back! Romance. Drama. Intrigue. Family secrets. There’s never a dull moment for the 18th Century’s first family…

Widowed and destitute, Lady Mary Cavendish is left with only her pride. Daughter of an earl and great-granddaughter to a Stuart King, family expectation and obligation demands she remarry. But not just any man will do; her husband must rank among the nobility. Falling in love with her handsome and enigmatic neighbor is out of the question. As always, Mary will do her duty and ignore her heart.

Country squire Christopher Bryce has secretly loved his neighbor Mary for many years. Yet, he is resigned to the cruel reality they are not social equals and thus can never share a future together. Never mind that his scandalous past and a heartbreaking secret make him thoroughly unworthy of such a proud beauty.

Then into their lives steps a ghost from Mary’s past, whose outrageous behavior has Mary questioning her worldview, and Christopher acting upon his feelings, and for all to see. The mismatched couple begin to wonder if in fact love can prevail—that a happily ever after might just be possible if only they dare to follow their hearts.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I recently read a review of a Lucinda Brant novel which said that reading her books is like eating chocolates…you just can’t stop at one. That’s it in a nutshell for me because I love every book she has ever written and wait with eager anticipation for a new addition to her list, in this case PROUD MARY, book five in her acclaimed and addictive Roxton Family Saga.

Ms. Brant’s holistic approach is quite unique. Her books are wonderfully romantic but her stories are also very family orientated, a style which really appeals to me, and which I feel reflects life. Once that first flush of all-consuming, instalust/romantic love has waned then there must be something solid to build a life and family upon, and I like how she reflects that in this series. I’m also a sucker for a good epilogue and, with such a long, continuing saga, we have been privy to an epic one! With the Roxton family, Lucinda Brant has created a wonderfully complex Georgian aristocratic family whose story develops over a period of more than thirty years. The love and support they feel for each other is evident in every book throughout the series. Her remarkable talent for creating living, breathing people, who we remember vividly and with great affection, is where I feel Ms. Brant excels over so many others writing in this genre. I can think of only one other favourite author who has achieved this in an ongoing saga, with characters I adore and remember vividly.

Each book could be read and enjoyed individually but, quite honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it. This series is such a feast and so much of the pleasure of reading it comes from following her fascinating characters – experiencing their mistakes, loves, their growing families and their progress and maturing in later life. I also admire her skill in making her readers feel as though we are all members of the intriguing and loveable Roxton family.

In Proud Mary, it is the turn of the utterly gorgeous, Squire Christopher Bryce and Lady Mary Cavendish to find love and happiness within the Roxton clan. Having originally met eight years earlier, it was love-at-first-sight for Christopher but an over-bearing, unloving mother who had denigrated and bullied her all her life, a father who deserted her and marriage to the odious, sycophantic and obsequious, Sir Gerald Cavendish, have left Mary with a sad case of lack-of-self-esteem. It’s therefore difficult for her to believe that a man such as Christopher could find her attractive. Although secretly very attracted to him – who wouldn’t be? – she would never have considered showing it. So, the two have just worshipped each other from afar for eight years, even after Mary is widowed. The three components for love and a life together – the right person, the right place, the right time -were not initially aligned, but with the sudden appearance of a mysterious ‘ghost’ comes the catalyst for that alignment and the flame of Christopher’s and Mary’s secret love is finally ignited and is all the better for the waiting.

Ms. Brant is known for her subtlety in her ‘bedroom scenes’ but, in Proud Mary, she allows us a little more than a glimpse of the beautifully sensual connection between two people who deserve to find love. However, the course of true love seems unlikely to run smoothly because, although Christopher is a wealthy and innovative businessman and the much-respected local Squire, albeit with a few shocking secrets yet to be revealed, he is also Mary’s social inferior, as she is the daughter of an earl and the cousin of a duke. In addition, under Sir Gerald’s will, Christopher has been appointed to the lowly position of steward of the estate and lands held in trust for Sir Gerald’s underage heir, Jack Cavendish. He spends a couple of days per fortnight at the estate, which has been almost bankrupted by Sir Gerald’s excesses. Mary and her ten-year-old daughter, Teddy (Theodora) live on the estate under strict economies as Christopher works to increase and repair its fortunes. For spiteful reasons, Sir Gerald has also stipulated that Teddy becomes his steward’s ward, in effect denying Lady Mary any real control over her daughter, and he has also decreed that Teddy may not visit her Roxton relatives. This, however, has made little difference in Teddy’s world as she adores her ‘Uncle Bryce’ and likes to be nowhere better than in her corner of the Cotswolds and preferably with him.

Enter Antonia, arriving like a whirlwind as usual and making her presence known. She is the common thread that runs throughout the Roxton series and I just adore her character. In the first book of the series, Noble Satyr, Antonia is an intelligent but precocious seventeen-year-old, setting her cap at the dissolute Duke of Roxton, twenty years her senior, and her success in that quest is apparent in the ensuing books in the series. Over a period of thirty years, she has loved, lost, suffered and loved again and is still an incredibly beautiful, vivacious, fifty-year-old who is beloved by all and who loves fiercely in return. At some point in the series, pretty much every family member has sought her wise council and, as she puts her mind to resolving Mary and Christopher’s conundrum, we see her in all her splendid glory.

I do marvel at Ms. Brant’s clever and devious mind, because an apparently throwaway remark made a few books earlier in the series will suddenly take on great significance. I’ve had more than one light bulb moment when a character I vaguely remember suddenly becomes important. Christopher’s Aunt Kate is one such character and, if I hadn’t read the previous books, her significance would have been lost to me. I have wondered on more than one occasion how the author keeps everything straight in her mind – the intricate plotting and the intertwining lives of her characters. I think this is one reason why re-reading (or re-listening with the talented Alex Wyndham) her books is even more enjoyable because there is always something I’ve missed. Her books are great ‘keepers’ and much loved additions to my book shelves.

I must mention darling little Teddy, Lady Mary’s daughter, one of the stars of Proud Mary. She is such a beautifully developed and compelling little character who steals the show on more than one occasion. She has been encouraged by her mother and her beloved ‘Uncle Bryce’ to be a free spirit. She is never happier than when climbing trees or roaming the glorious Cotswolds hills and dales with Christopher’s dog, and Ms. Brant’s earlier career as a teacher in a girls’ school is very apparent in the intuitive way she brings Teddy’s character to life. There are some amusing moments when, in the way of a child who has heard or seen something they aren’t meant to, she unwittingly drops her guilelessly stored ‘bomb’ into a conversation with adults, causing havoc and often throwing those around her into uproar or helpless laughter while naively tucking into her dinner, completely unaware of the impact her innocent comments have made.

Lucinda Brant’s research is phenomenal, with nothing left to guess work, even down to the Blue Coat school Christopher attended as a boy which is only briefly mentioned but which Ms. Brant has researched extensively. I live in the Cotswolds where this story is set and now look at it with new eyes after reading Proud Mary. Perhaps I previously took it all for granted, but I can certainly confirm that Ms. Brant has perfectly captured the beauty and essence of this gorgeous area of the British Isles. As always, the sumptuous fashions and furnishings of the Georgian period are described in exquisite detail, bringing the opulence of this captivating period in British history to sparkling life. Ms. Brant’s Pinterest Boards contain all her research and they are works of art in themselves.

MY VERDICT: I shall be very sad when Lucinda Brant brings this series to a close and I know that time is looming. But I reassure myself with the fact that it’s all on my kindle, book shelves and audio library to reach for whenever I need a-love-and-fuzzy-feeling fix! I am so looking forward to SATYR’S SON which is a very apt title to bring this superb series full circle. 


RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS 

SENSUALITY RATING: SUBTLE


Roxton Family Saga – series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

 Midnight Marriage (Roxton Series #2) by Lucinda Brant Autumn Duchess (Roxton Series #3) by Lucinda Brant Eternally Yours Roxton Letters Volume One A Companion To The Roxton Family Saga Books 1–3 by Lucinda Brant Dair Devil (Roxton Series #4) by Lucinda Brant Noble Satyr (Roxton Series #1) by Lucinda BrantProud Mary A Georgian Historical Romance (Roxton Family Saga Book 5) by Lucinda Brant

 

 **I received a complimentary copy from the author in return for an honest review**

 

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Karen Hawkins

I’m delighted to welcome New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author KAREN HAWKINS to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

Hi! I’m delighted to be here! It’s nice to slow down and say hello as I’ve been crazy busy this last few months, which have included finishing a book, revising another, and moving across the country from subtropical Florida to snow-drenched Massachusetts.

~~~~~~~


R&R:

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

Karen:
I was born in the very edge of western Virginia in a tiny and charming town called Abingdon. When I was eight, we moved about twenty miles down the road into Tennessee beside a household of boys (there were six of them next door), and it was there that I learned how to play Kick the Can like a pro, jumped my hot pink bike over a series of increasingly high and unstable ramps, and found out that crawdads really, really love American cheese rolled into a ball.

 

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

Karen:
Easy-going. My parents took foster kids, so there were a LOT of kids in my house while I was growing up. You either became easy-going, or you went crazy. I decided to become easy-going. I’m probably the only person I know who moved away from home to a dorm for some peace and quiet.

 

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

Karen:
I love a mixture like salted caramel or yogurt dipped pretzels. Hmmm. Pardon me; I need a snack.

 

R&R:
What is your most treasured possession?

Karen:
Wow. That’s a hard one. I have a lot of antiques. Probably the one I love the best is a set of matching Victorian era wedding bracelets of turquoise and plated gold.

 

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

Karen:
An easy question! Scotland. On a beautiful loch. With purple moors and a towering mountain off in the distance.

Now I’m sad I ‘m not in Scotland. I need another snack.

 

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

Karen:
Nooooo! I can’t tell that! I’ll have to relive it!

Fine, fine. I’ll tell you. When I was in middle school, which was agony for me, I was late for class and ran across the courtyard and ran right into a telephone pole wire. I’m pretty sure 100% of the school saw it, and probably all still laugh about it today. I know I would, if I’d seen it, but all I saw was blue, blue sky after I landed on my back.

Now I need another snack AND a glass of wine. Thanks.

~~~~~~~

 

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

*mumbles around crumbs* You’re welcome.

 

 

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

Website
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter

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Her Enemy at the Altar

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

An unexpected end to the Wincanton–Stuart feud…?

Scandal broke last night when Lady Constance Stuart was discovered in the arms of Aaron Wincanton, the son of her family’s greatest enemy! But now we can reveal an even more shocking development. Our sources say a special license was obtained and the two were married before sunrise!

It’s been confirmed that Aaron has stolen his new bride away to the country to begin their unexpected marriage. We’ll be watching closely to see exactly what happens when a gentleman invites his enemy into his bed…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I really enjoyed this enemies-to-lovers story by new-to-me author, Virginia Heath. It combines an engaging and well-written story, interesting characters and an emotionally satisfying romance.

The Stuarts and Wincantons have been mortal enemies for the past three hundred years and Lady Constance (Connie) Stuart has every reason to loathe Aaron Wincanton with a vengeance. After he scathingly nicknamed her Ginger Amazonian during her come out six years ago, Connie endured hurtful and humiliating jokes about her unruly red hair, tall, unimpressive figure and long legs. In her second year, she decided that, if she is going to be compared to a mythical warrior, she will act like one. A haughty air and a razor-sharp tongue become her chosen weapons of defence; even her dresses are a statement of defiance.

They were no longer merely gowns; now each dress was a statement of defiance. She might well be an ugly wallflower, but that did not mean that she had to be a shrinking violet.

Having always been self-conscious of the bump on my nose, I found it was easy to relate to Connie and sympathise with her insecurities and understand how much she was hurt and humiliated by the constant cruel barbs. I so admired her courage in facing her tormentors with defiance.

Connie is now engaged to the Marquis of Deal and, although it is an arranged marriage, she hopes to find a measure of happiness, until she discovers his true motives. Feeling hurt and dejected, she finds comfort in the unlikely arms of Aaron Wincanton but, when they are caught in a compromising situation, Connie finds herself married to her sworn enemy.

To everyone, Aaron appears a charming, flirtatious rogue, but this is a mask he wears because the war had left an indelible mark on him. He had seen too much death to remain the carefree young man he once was.

The new Aaron Wincanton found no joy in balls or parties, nor did he find it in intimate gatherings or quiet solitary contemplation either. He did not deserve to feel joy any more. Most of the time he felt burdened. The rest of the time, if he was lucky, he just felt numb.

He has personal demons to fight, ones that conjure up terrifying, tortuous nightmares, night and day, convincing him that he is slowly going mad. He is a desperate to find peace but unable to, believing himself unworthy of love or forgiveness.

Aaron is shocked to find that the Wincanton estate has been brought to the brink of bankruptcy by his father’s mismanagement. All his father’s decisions have been motivated by one thing only – revenge against the Stuarts – without thought for the consequences. All Aaron wants to do is put an end to the pointless and costly feud and restore the family fortunes by marrying a wealthy heiress. But his plans go awry when he is caught in a compromising situation with Lady Constance Wincanton and his strong sense of honour compels him to marry her.

Everything about this marriage was wrong. At best they were strangers, at worst sworn enemies.

I appreciated how Ms. Heath takes the time to build the romantic relationship between Connie and Aaron. At first, there are a lot of angry words spoken but gradually, they begin to discover more about each other

Connie has always thought of Aaron as confident and charming- as though he tiptoed through life largely unscathed – but realises that he has hidden depths and feels things as deeply as she does. While Connie was feeling sorry for herself, she never realised the sacrifices Aaron made by marrying her.

While society regards Connie as a social oddity, Aaron sees her as striking, intelligent and witty and finds he enjoys her company. Recognising that she has many conflicting and contrasting elements to her personality, I like how Aaron compares her to a rainbow…

At one end of the spectrum she was indomitable, sharp-tongued and aloof. He had been on the receiving end of that with alarming frequency and they had only been together for such a short time. But then she was kind-hearted. Finally, buried beneath all of that, was a seam of vulnerability that she worked hard to hide—but he knew that it was there.

Connie’s kindness, gentleness and compassion shines through in her care for Aaron’s dying father, and her desire to do everything she can to comfort Aaron and convince him that he has no reason to feel any guilt for his actions during the war.

I adore Aaron for realising the extent of Connie’s grief and sadness at the loss of her family and for arranging a secret meeting with her mother and brother.

His throat felt tight with emotion. For the first time he truly saw all of her grief and sadness at the loss of her family until she had realised that they had come to see her, then the relief and desperation on her lovely face had moved him and he was glad that he had been able to do this one tiny thing for her.

Whether it is standing up to Aaron’s irascible father or Aaron himself, Connie is definitely a force to be reckoned with!

“Perhaps I did not make myself clear. When I said that I wanted to help I meant that I am going to help you, whether you like it or not. I am not some ornamental woman and I will not let you treat me like one.”

The sexual tension builds up deliciously so that their falling in love feels genuine and when they finally make love, it just seems right. Ms. Heath writes such lovely, romantic scenes and I love this one where just a touch of a hand conveys so much. Sometimes, I find it far more romantic than an overtly explicit scene.

When his eyes slowly drifted down to her lips and lingered there, Connie’s heart began to race. His palm was still cupping her cheek, making her skin prickle with an awareness that was both quite alien and intoxicating at the same time.

I also like how Ms Heath includes lovely touches of humour, and this is one of my favourites because it conjured up such a comical picture in my mind!

The door edged open slowly to reveal him standing there with the handkerchief of surrender in one hand while the other hand held a bucket over his head like a helmet. He surveyed the room with exaggerated wariness before he gingerly stepped inside, still holding his bucket armour about his head and looking, much to her utter consternation, quite delightful. ‘I come in peace, Connie. Put down your weapons.’

The Earl of Redbridge, Connie’s father, is a truly despicable man.  Not only does he threaten to put Connie and her mother out on the streets if she (Connie) refuses to marry Aaron, but he selfishly pursues his feud with Aaron’s father to the detriment of his daughter’s happiness.  A thoroughly dislikeable character whom I’m pleased to say gets everything he deserves.

I was disappointed in the lack of an Epilogue because I love seeing the hero and heroine enjoying their well-deserved Happy Ever After.

MY VERDICT: This was a lovely introduction to Ms. Heath’s books and I will definitely be reading more.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

 

**I received a complimentary copy from the author in return for an honest review**

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Erica Monroe Interview - author photo

I’m delighted to welcome USA Today Bestselling Author ERICA MONROE to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

Thanks for having me, Carol! I’m very excited to be here.

~~~~~~~

 

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

Erica:
I grew up in Maryland. I had a very sheltered childhood, and my parents encouraged and supported my desire to study writing. My mother was a school librarian and my father was a sci-fi fan, so from there you get my love for books and my love for science fiction, fantasy, and comic books. I was very fortunate to attend schools with very competent teachers—so much so that I still remember (and use in my books) much of what I was taught in my AP European History class!

I met my now-husband in my junior year of high school. We have been together now for fifteen years (as I am 30, this is half my life!) and married for ten. For me, returning to Maryland is more about remembering those early days of our relationship, as my immediate family lives in Florida now.

 

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

Erica:
I am ahem, very temperamental. I inherited my father’s fiery temper, and I prefer to approach conflict head-on. I am a very passionate person, and I very rarely do anything halfway. There is a line from Hamilton that basically summarizes my current view of life: “give me a position, show me where the ammunition is.” I do not back down from a fight if I think the cause is worthy. I believe strongly in my convictions, and I write books that often center around social issues and women’s rights. Suffice to say, I do not have an easy-going bone in my body 😉 You pretty much always know what I’m feeling or thinking.

 

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

Erica:
My husband used to be a chef, so he has introduced me to a wide variety of food I didn’t know existed. He’s also taught me how to cook, which is something I never did until about four years ago when I started working from home. Because of this, I definitely enjoy both sweet and savoury things, because now I can appreciate them both for what they contribute to our culinary spectrum.



R&R:

What is your most treasured possession?

Erica:
I have a lot of wonderful sentimental memorabilia collected throughout my life, so it would be hard to choose a most “treasured” thing. But I can tell you what I value most of my possessions – my Kitchenaid standing mixer! I have arthritis in my hands and wrists, and my upper body strength is very minimal from my autoimmune diseases. The mixer gives me autonomy I didn’t have before, because now I no longer have to ask my husband to stir things, etc. It makes cooking so much easier for me—I don’t just use it for baking, but also for stirring things for dinner or combining sauces. It is, bar none, my favourite thing in my kitchen and if we had a fire you’d see me trying to lug out this giant mixer, LOL.

Erica Monroe Interview - Mixer 

This is the model I have (photo from Everything Kitchens)

 

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

Erica:
Absolutely would choose London, because of the amount of research I’d be able to do. My series, The Rookery Rogues, is set entirely in London. I’d love to be able to actually go to Whitechapel, to Spitalfields, to the London Docks and gain first-hand knowledge. The ability to immerse myself so completely in the culture would be priceless.

 


R&R:

Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

Erica:
Ah, Carol, I have so many! I am very awkward, both socially and physically as I am exceedingly uncoordinated. On an average day, I embarrass myself approximately six times, so I don’t even keep track anymore. I’ve learned to just shrug it off and move on because inevitably in the next hour I will do something even more hysterically awkward. Also, I have a horrible habit of just yammering on when there’s silence, and I end up digging myself deeper and deeper holes…

For about three months when I was 21, I worked as a barista at Target. One day I woke up late for my 8 AM shift (I do not like mornings at all). Because I was so concerned with being late, I tried to run into work, and I jumped the curb—right into a sign. And I do mean right into the sign, like I hit it at such a speed that I fell to the ground, had to get stitches, etc. People kept going, “HOW DID YOU MISS THAT SIGN, IT’S HUGE!” and I had to just shrug and be like, “…these things happen.” They sent me to the ER; the whole staff of Target came out to watch. I’m pretty sure I am still known as the girl who walked into the sign.

There is now a scar on my forehead, and ANOTHER scar next to that because three months later I ran into an air conditioning vent. And that’s when I realized looking down at your shoes, no matter how adorable they are, is not the best practice when walking. (For the record, I still run into things because I am constantly thinking of plot elements and other things I need to be doing instead of watching where I walk.)

~~~~~~~

 

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

Thank you, Carol! I’ve enjoyed my visit here. 😊

 


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

Website
Goodreads
Facebook Page
Friend her on Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Follow Erica on Amazon

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Happily Bedded Bliss

(The Rakes of Cavendish Square, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bedding Proposal comes a seductive new novel about the most devilishly dangerous men in London…

When Lady Esme Byron happens upon a gorgeous naked man sleeping beside a secluded country lake, she can’t resist the impulse to sketch him. But when her highly improper drawing is mistakenly revealed at a party, she finds her once-pristine reputation in tatters.

Gabriel, Lord Northcote, may be a notorious rakehell, but he is still stunned to find himself accused of despoiling a duke’s sister—especially since he’s never set eyes on her. When Esme’s six irate brothers demand a hurried trip down the aisle, he has no choice but to comply. He thinks he can forget about his inconvenient bride but Esme Byron is no ordinary woman and Gabriel is about to learn just how unforgettable she can be.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I really enjoyed this second book in Tracy Anne Warren’s Rakes of Cavendish Square series, which features one of my favourite tropes where two strangers end up being compromised and are forced to marry under less than auspicious circumstances.

Lady Esme Byron is the youngest of the Byron siblings and her family have always supported her unconventional lifestyle, allowing her the freedom to pursue her love of drawing and painting as well as her penchant for rescuing and caring for sick and wounded animals. She also chooses not to eat meat.

All her siblings, bar one, are happily married and they want the same for Esme but she has no intention of marrying for a long time yet. However, one impulsive act is about to change everything. While out one day, she comes across a mysterious, naked man asleep by her neighbour’s lake and simply has to draw him, never imagining that her drawing will become the source of a public scandal.

The sketchbook flew out of Esme’s grasp, pages fluttering wide before the book spun and skidded to a halt on the floor.

She bent quickly to retrieve it, but Lettice Waxhaven’s loud gasp let her know it was already too late. Everyone else was turning and looking too. Breath froze in her chest, her thoughts tumbling wildly one over the other as she tried to think exactly how to explain the page with the gloriously bare, unforgettably gorgeous male specimen lying open for all to see.

Now her fate is sealed – marriage to a stranger.

The subject of her drawing is Gabriel Lansdowne, Viscount Northcote, an inveterate rake infamous for his debauched lifestyle and scandalous erotic art collection. He is at a total loss when six angry Byron brothers, including his next-door neighbours, Leo and Lawrence Byron, invade his house and threaten him. Having no idea what they are talking about, he proceeds to antagonise them even more but, eventually he convinces them that he has never actually met their sister, but unfortunately the die is cast and he has no choice but to marry Esme.

I love how the focus of the story is on Gabriel and Esme’s developing relationship. No distracting mystery to solve, just two people on a journey of discovery about themselves and each other and ultimately falling in love. During their honeymoon at Gabriel’s house in Cornwall, they enjoy each other’s company and their compatibility extends to the bedroom too. Esme had few expectations for the marriage but…

…day by day she fell deeper under his spell, enjoying more than his touch, but his company as well. His clever mind and his sharp wit. His unexpectedly generous nature and his willingness to share—everything, that is, but almost nothing about his past or his family, whereas he knew practically everything about her own.

Gabriel has never known the love and loyalty of a family like Esme’s. Knowing details of how he was abandoned, abused and betrayed by the people who should have loved and protected him made it easy to understand how those experiences shaped the man he became…a cynical man who is afraid of love.

Love was weakness and he would drive its nascent tendrils from his soul before it had a chance to dig in and take root.

So, when an old friend observes that he is in love with his wife, Gabriel realises that he is coming to care for Esme but fears becoming emotionally involved because he knows from experience it can only lead to heartbreak. So, he panics and, after leaving Esme at Ten Elms, his estate in Derbyshire, he heads for London.

He needed space, a bit of separation between them, so he could get his emotions under proper control again. This thing between them—whatever it might be—was dangerous and had to be stopped.

Although, at first, justifiably angry and hurt, I love Esme’s determination to get her husband back. She knows that Gabriel is a good man who hides his true self beneath a cynical façade.  She sees it in the kindness he shows his servants and his acceptance of her menagerie of animals and she feels it in his kisses and touches. She knows that he is capable of love but she must earn his trust first and I like how she compares Gabriel to one of her wounded animals.

She had worked with enough wounded animals in her time to know that you couldn’t smother and push them too fast to accept you or they would remain wary of even the most tender care. Gentle, consistent handling and affection were the keys to their hearts. She just prayed they would prove the keys to Gabriel’s heart as well.

Just as a HEA seems within their grasp, there is another obstacle to overcome. At this point, I wanted to shake some sense into Gabriel  when the fool believes Esme would betray him with another man, but I love how Esme stands up for herself and matters come to head, forcing Gabriel to finally admit his love for her.

I love the scene where a bold Esme sends Gabriel’s despicable uncle packing and gives his servant spies their marching orders. There is also a very poignant and emotional scene where Esme gives Gabriel a gift of a rare Cornish silver pocket watch which has special significance for him.

I enjoyed the humorous interactions between Gabriel and the Byron brothers, especially Leo and Lawrence.

MY VERDICT: Although not quite as good as the previous book, this is still a delightful, witty, entertaining and romantic story. 

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Rakes of Cavendish Square series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Bedding Proposal (The Rakes of Cavendish Square, #1) by Tracy Anne Warren Happily Bedded Bliss (The Rakes of Cavendish Square, #2) by Tracy Anne Warren Bedchamber Games (The Rakes of Cavendish Square #3) by Tracy Anne Warren



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Emily Larkin Interview - author picture

I’m delighted to welcome Historical Romance Author EMILY LARKIN to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

Hello, Carol! Many thanks for inviting me. It’s lovely to be here.

~~~~~~~

 

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

Emily:
I was born in Napier, the art deco capital of New Zealand, and grew up in Nelson, the sunshine capital of New Zealand. My father was a novelist, and when he started writing fulltime my parents moved to Nelson and bought an ugly little stucco house high up on a hill, with a wonderful view of the bay and the mountains. That hill was the bane of my school years (I hated climbing it every afternoon), but it left a lasting legacy; I now voluntarily climb hills every day. In fact, if I don’t have my daily hill walk, I get an itchy, frustrated feeling. Hills are in my blood…

This is a picture of my parents, my sister, and me, on our Nelson hillside. (I’m the one with the glasses.)

Emily Larkin Interview - picture 1.jpg.png

 

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

Emily:
Pretty easy-going, although I am a perfectionist, so I’m not easy-going about doing things right! I rarely lose my temper, but when I do … watch out.

 

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

Emily:
Definitely savoury. I love salty butter and gooey, stinky cheese on freshly baked bread. And chips. Chips are my downfall!

Here’s a rustic loaf still warm from the oven and some very smelly cheese, one of my favourite breakfasts.

Emily Larkin Interview - picture 2.jpg.png

 

R&R:
What is your most treasured possession?

Emily:
I was going to say that I don’t have many possessions and that most of them have been in storage for the past eight years, so I can’t really call them treasured … and then I thought about the few possessions that aren’t in storage and it was obvious: my yoga mats!

I had a back injury in my twenties, and if I’m not careful it still bothers me. Yoga really helps. I try to do 30-60 minutes a day, mostly stretches to increase my flexibility. It counteracts all the hours I spend at my computer. (Or at least, I hope it does!)

These are my two favourite mats: the thick, squishy black one, and the ultra-thin travelling one.

Emily Larkin Interview - picture 3.jpg.png.jpg.png

 

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

Emily:
I don’t actually have any home at the moment (unless the storage unit counts?), so for me this question should be: If you could afford a home anywhere in the world where would you choose? The answer is Scandinavia. I was an exchange student in Sweden in my teens and fell in love with that country, so Sweden would be my first pick, but maybe I’d choose Norway because it’s hillier and I need daily hill walks. My dream home also has to be near the sea. I love the coast! You remember that itchy, frustrated feeling I get when I haven’t climbed a hill? Well, I get that feeling when I haven’t seen the sea for a few days, too. So, somewhere in Scandinavia by the sea and with hills. That would be my dream!

This is a postcard someone sent me from the Lofoten archipelago, which is at the top of my list of places to visit. Who knows? I may end up living there!

Emily Larkin Interview - picture 4.jpg.png.jpg.png

 

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

Emily:
Oh, man. Did you have to ask? Well … picture a large university hostel with eight floors and several hundred students … and picture someone (me) in the shower on the eighth floor when the fire alarm goes off. Seeing as how there had been a real fire on the seventh floor only a few weeks previously (someone’s curtains caught fire), I didn’t stop to dress, just flung a towel around me and went running down the stairs. The firemen thought it was amusing; I can’t say that I did.
~~~~~~~

 

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

Thank you so much, Carol! I’ve loved talking with you. Hopefully one day we’ll meet face to face.

 


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

Website
Goodreads
Facebook

 

 

 

 

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Mother. Blogger. Southern Belle. Makeup geek. Avid reader. Books are my addiction. Highlanders are my passion.

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