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Posts Tagged ‘Tormented Heroine’

(Wicked Wagers, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

They Say Revenge is Sweet…

Marcus Danvers, the Marquis of Wolverstone, is renowned for his cynical demeanor. It’s rumored that long ago, a beautiful woman broke his heart. Now he lives life for pleasure. He’s the consummate, handsome rake. If anyone tries to get too close—let’s just say his bark is as bad as his bite. That is, until the beautiful, as she is deceitful, Contessa Orsini re-enters his life with a wager he cannot resist. When he wins, he’ll have Sabine exactly where he wants her—in his bed and at his mercy.

Forced to return to England and avenge her father’s death, Sabine knows the one person who can help her is the only man she has ever loved—Marcus. The man who hates her with as much passion as he once loved her. But Marcus doesn’t know that by winning the wager he’ll also be getting his revenge. For there are some secrets best left buried…

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This is the second novella in the Wicked Wagers series and, whilst I enjoyed it, I did have some issues with the heroine’s actions which affected my final star rating.

This was much darker than the first book with its theme of revenge. For ten long years, Marcus has never forgiven or forgotten  Sabine’s cruel betrayal of his love. He had been willing to sacrifice everything for her. When Sabine, now Contessa Orsini, a rich Italian widow, asks him for help in exacting revenge on the man who ruined her father and caused her parents’ deaths, he sees a way of gaining his own revenge…she will become his lover until he tires of her.

I could almost taste the anger and bitterness in Marcus’s crude and cruel words when Sabine approaches him at Lady Somerset’s ball and I thought this was such an evocative description.

His fury swarmed around her like a smothering sand storm— abrasive and deadly.

I really felt for Sabine. All her dreams destroyed and then forced to keep terrible secrets in order to protect those she loved. The only light in her lonely life over the past ten years has been her son, Alfredo…he gave her the will to live. I admired how much she loves her son despite the circumstances of his birth and will do anything to protect him. She has never stopped loving Marcus and I could feel the intense pain caused by his harsh words. It was heart-breaking to know that she longed for something she knew could never have…

Tenderness, love and his heart.

When it comes time for Marcus to take his personal revenge on Sabine, he doesn’t feel elated as he imagined he would. It is evident that he still has deep feelings for her.

He’d forced her to her come to him like a whore— bought and paid for.
“Bloody hell,” he muttered.
A sharp pang of regret sliced through him. What he wanted was for her to come to him of her own accord. To tell him she’d made a mistake all those years ago and that he was the only man she’d ever loved. Then he wanted to start to learn how to believe in her and trust her again.

He even gives her the option to leave but, of course, she chooses to stay. I enjoyed how they talked first and how the love scene was a combination of tenderness and raw sensuality.

I did have issues with Sabine’s actions where the villainous Lord Gower was concerned. It was almost a TSTL (too stupid to live) moment when she gloats over her success in causing his financial ruin, only to have him turn the tables on her and gain the upper hand. She took some foolhardy decisions which not only put her own life in danger but also the lives of those she loved, the one thing she had always been determined to avoid. I just wanted her to tell Marcus the whole truth and let him handle it!

I did like Lady Amy Shipton very much. She’s beautiful and intelligent but also compassionate and refuses to marry Marcus when she knows his heart lies elsewhere. She is deserving of her own Happy Ever After to a man worthy of her love.

FAVOURITE ROMANTIC QUOTE:

“I’m truly the luckiest man in the world now. I’m living proof that love conquers all; that love, with time and forbearance, overcomes all wickedness.”

Overall, although I did have some issues as mentioned above, I did enjoy this book but not as much as To Dare of Duke of Dangerfield.

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read March 2015

Wicked Wagers series (click on the book covers for more details):

To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield (Wicked Wagers, #1) by Bronwen Evans To Wager the Marquis of Wolverstone (Wicked Wagers, #2) by Bronwen Evans To Challenge the Earl of Cravenswood (Wicked Wagers, #3) by Bronwen Evans

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Genre: Contemporary Romance

Cover Blurb:

When opposites attract!

Damaso Pires should have known better than to get involved with Marisa—the scandalous princess of Bengaria! Yet soon he sees her true beauty and flawless virtue, which touches a place in him he thought ruthlessly destroyed by his childhood on the streets of Brazil.

But their brief affair becomes permanent when Marisa reveals she’s pregnant.

Damaso knows the sting of illegitimacy and, having fought tooth and nail to claw his way up to the dizzying heights of international success and financial infamy, he won’t let his child slip from his grasp. There’s only one way to claim his heir, and that’s marriage!

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I don’t read many contemporary romances but there are a few authors whose books I really enjoy and Annie West is one of them. Her books are always intense, emotional and sensual.

Damaso

Damaso is a survivor. Through a combination of determination, hard work and luck, he dragged himself up from the poverty of the Brazilian slums to become successful and fabulously wealthy, surrounding himself with beautiful things. In business, he is ruthless and single-minded, used to giving orders and having then obeyed. He has always been a loner and never indulges in long-term relationships…he guards his heart carefully.

When he meets Princess Marisa he feels an intense attraction and, with her wild reputation, she would be perfect for short vacation affair. However, he doesn’t count on the feelings she evokes in him that send him high-tailing it in the opposite direction.

Marisa

Princess Marisa is desperate to live her own life but her uncle, now King of Bengaria, after the tragic death of her beloved twin brother, controls both her life and her funds. The press have hounded her since she was fifteen, portraying her as “a little, slut, uncontrollable and without morals”. She has been stripped of everything except her pride. She feels lonely and isolated, longing to be wanted for herself and not because of her royal status. She had trusted men before and been sorely disappointed.

When she meets Damaso, she feels a bond between them and is willing to reach out and trust herself to a man again, only to be hurt and disillusioned. When she discovers that she is pregnant, Damaso is insistent that they marry.

Despite his dictatorial attitude towards Marisa, I admire Damaso’s determination that his child would not grow up abandoned and neglected like he was. The child would have a father and be cared for and nurtured

I like how their relationship develops gradually as they learn more about each other and how it changes each of them. Damaso sees that Marisa is very different to the picture painted by the media. He finds he actually likes her and sees the hurt and pain she tries to hide behind the wild party girl image. It is the first time Damaso has truly cared about anyone else and I love how all his protective instincts come to the fore when Marisa tells him about her uncle and the press vilification of her:

He wanted to grab her uncle and the media piranhas by their collective throats and choke some apologies out of them.

and the tender emotions he feels:

He wanted to crush Marisa in his arms and hold her until the pain went away.

When Marisa visits the community centre in the poor area, Damaso is furious but refuses to say why. It is only when he tells Marisa about his young life that I truly understood him, not just his fears for Marisa’s safety but also that Marisa’s reaction to discovering where he grew up would be one of disgust. The picture he paints of his life is heart-rending but it made me admire him all the more for rising above his origins. It was a world where emotions had no place if you wanted to survive but meeting Marisa made him re-evaluate his life.

Marisa is unique mixture of fragility and strength and I admire her determination to ensure that her child will not be a pawn in her uncle’s schemes. Her child would have what she never had, love. It was satisfying to watch her find a real purpose in her life and see her genuine warmth and sincerity shine through.

I enjoyed seeing the changes in Damaso and Marisa as they gradually fall in love.

He was Damaso Pires. Powerful, secure, in command of his world.
Yet he’d watched those men eat her up with their eyes and rage had consumed him. Rage and jealousy.
The realisation hit him with full force.
He didn’t do jealousy.
Damaso shook his head.
He did now.

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Damaso was inextricably part of her life now. As her child’s father and more, much more.

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“I love you, Marisa, with all my heart and soul. I want to be your husband, because there’s no other woman in the world more perfect for me than you. “

Overall, an emotionally satisfying and sensual love story.

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read March 2015

**My sincere thanks to Annie West for providing me with a copy of her book in return for an honest review.**

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(Wicked Widows, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb

IS IT A REASON FOR ROMANCE?

In Why Earls Fall in Love by Manda Collins, young widowed Georgina Mowbray is settling into her role as Lady Russell’s companion quite well—until the lady’s nephew Dominic, the Earl of Coniston, arrives in Bath for a visit. Georgie’s always found him shallow and too smooth, and trusts him as much as she trusts most men…which is to say, not at all. But Con turns out to be more intriguing than she remembers—and completely irresistible…

OR A PROMISE OF PASSION?

Pretty, practical Georgie is nothing like the women Con usually woos—especially since she seems blind to his charms. But his elderly aunt is so fond of her that Con is determined at least to be sociable…with the occasional flirtation thrown in just for fun. But things take a serious turn when a dangerous figure from Georgie’s unhappy past appears and threatens to bring her harm. Con will do whatever it takes to keep Georgie safe. And if he can show her that all men are not menaces, he might be able to keep her in his arms and never let go…

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This is the second book in the Wicked Widows series from Manda Collins.

The series centres on sisters, Isabella and Perdita, and their friend, Georgina… all widows of abusive husbands. They share a terrible secret concerning the death of Perdita’s husband, the Duke of Ormonde, but find themselves threatened by someone who obviously knows that secret and is out for revenge. The first book, Why Dukes Say I Do, told Isabella’s story and this is Georgina’s (Georgie’s) story.

 “…he has nothing more to concern himself with than the betting book or which opera dancer he’s going to bed.”

This is how Georgie sees Con at the beginning of the story. Not very flattering to a potential hero but, of course, Con gradually reveals those qualities that make a good romance hero. It’s clear that he adores his aunt, Lady Russell, and that he had helped her through a very painful time in her life. I love how protective he is towards Georgie when he learns of the potential danger she may be in; how fiercely he defends her honour when Mr. Gilloway, the investigator makes disparaging remarks about her. After hearing how Georgie suffered during her abusive marriage, he comes to fully appreciate how difficult it is for a woman, forced to obey a father or a husband without redress. He had wanted to put a stop to the abuse that Perdita had suffered but, as a duke, her husband was far too powerful for a mere earl. I liked that Con’s thoughts weren’t solely occupied with lustful thoughts of Georgie but he also ‘found her quick wit and kind heart just as alluring as her pretty face’.

Georgie had long ago mastered the art of keeping her emotions in check. It gave her the inner strength to survive the years of her abusive marriage. She also appreciated the well-ordered army life which helped form a welcome counterbalance to the volatile relationship with her husband. Understandably, she has a deep distrust of men and deters any unwelcome attention with her serious demeanour, drab clothes and severe hair styles. I like how she refuses to be intimidated by Con but eventually comes to trust him and recognises his innate sense of decency and goodness. Her fears about remarrying again are very real. She made a terrible mistake in her choice of her first husband and no longer trusts her own judgement as regards men. I love Con for understanding her fears rather than sweeping them aside.

“No one who has endured what you went through could emerge without some sense of scepticism about people around them. It would be impossible not to.”

The romance between them is witty, tender and passionate and Ms Collins manages to convey all the emotion and passion quite beautifully and without being overly explicit. I’m sharing two of my favourite moments:

And with each beat of her heart she felt the threads of their souls knitting knitting together in a fabric no amount of strife could unravel.

It was a kiss of reverence, as if she were as precious to him as a fragile treasure. And Georgie felt her eyes prick with unshed tears. How did he know that what she always wanted deep down in her innermost soul, was to feel valued like that.

I love their conversation in Lady Russell’s breakfast room the morning after they have made love. It sounds perfectly innocent but is full of naughty innuendo.

There is well-drawn supporting cast including Con’s friendLord Archer Lisle who is in love with Perdita but unwilling to tell her. There is some delightfully witty banter between Archer and Con. I also liked Lady Russell who treats Georgie more as a friend than an employee.

”I am an eccentric old woman who has more money than is good for her, who wishes to see her dear friend , who is also her companion, enjoy herself for a change”.

The scene where she gives Georgie a sapphire necklace to wear and reveals her tragic past is both poignant and heartrending. Later in the story, I did find it hard to believe that, given their close relationship, Lady Russell would readily accept, without any question, that Georgie would steal her jewellery.

In the theatre scene, I love how Ms Collins makes reference to her characters in the Ugly Ducklings series, when Con is pointing out some of the more notorious members of the ton to Georgie. Isabella, Trevor and Perdita also make a welcome appearance to offer their help in tracking down the person threatening Georgie.

One reviewer says that Ms Collins’s dialogue is stilted but I totally disagree and found it natural and not at all stilted. I also like how she emphasises the reality of being a wife trapped in an abusive marriage and the limitations on women in general.

There are enough red herrings so that I didn’t guess the identity of the person threatening Georgie until right before the climax. It’s evident there is a master villain at work, who has been using others in pursuit of his or her revenge. At the moment, I have no idea who this mysterious person might be and can only wait for all to be revealed in the final book.

This is a delightful, entertaining romance and I’m really looking forward to reading Perdita and Archer’s story in Why Lords Lose Their Hearts (29th July)

 

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read July 2014

 

The Wicked Widows series (click on covers for more details):

Why Dukes Say I Do (Wicked Widows, #1) by Manda Collins Why Earls Fall in Love (Wicked Widows, #2) by Manda Collins Why Lords Lose Their Hearts (Wicked Widows, #3) by Manda Collins

 

A special thank you to Manda Collins for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review. 

 

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(Dangerous Rogues, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb

In this dazzling Dangerous Rogues novel, a daring and dangerously handsome duke will do anything for the woman he loves—even if it sparks a scandal.

FRIENDS AND LOVERS…

As a wealthy young widow, Lady Jessica Heyer must endure the closest of scrutiny and most wicked of rumors from society gossips. Their whispers would be utterly unbearable if it weren’t for her oldest friend, the Duke of Alsborough. Jessica knows she can always count on Hayden. What she never could have expected, however, is that he is deeply, madly in love with her…

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD

For years, Hayden has kept his longing for his beautiful friend Jessica a secret. But now that she’s finally free to remarry, will she be willing to take their relationship to a more intimate level? He’ll get his answer soon—at a glittering masquerade, where identities are hidden, hearts are open, and true love is unmasked…in a single, shameless act of passion.

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I have been waiting for Hayden and Jessica’s story and Ms Clare brings her Scandalous Rogues series to a close with this lovely friends-to-lovers story.

Hayden is such a wonderful hero. Beneath that very proper exterior beats the heart of a very passionate man. He has been in love with his friend Jessica for ten years but was too honourable to have told her of his feelings while she was married. Now her husband is dead, Hayden has every intention of claiming her for his own. I love how he respects, adores, cherishes and protects Jessica and will do anything to ensure her happiness.

Jessica spent eight years married to man who was cruel, abusive and humiliated her at every opportunity but she has still retained an inner strength. Even under the most tragic of circumstances, she refuses to give society the satisfaction of seeing any weakness. With everything she is coping with following her husband’s death, I can understand that she needs time to adjust to the knowledge that Hayden has harbored feelings for her for so long. I also understood her reluctance to accept hi marriage proposal. She fears that, if her darkest secrets are revealed, Hayden’s reputation would be irrevocably damaged and she couldn’t do that to him. I admired her for that unselfishness.

There are a variety of secondary characters who contribute to the action and drama… Lord Fallon’s treacherous valet, Miller, who may hold dark secrets about Jessica’s past, Mr Warren, heir to the Fallon estate, who clearly dislikes Jessica, the mysterious person who is writing malicious gossip in the Mayfair Chronicles and Lady Randall, Jessica’s unlikely champion.

Leo and Genny (Wicked Nights With a Proper Lady) and Tristan and Charlotte (Midnight Temptations With a Forbidden Lord) all make an appearance in this book because this story runs concurrently with events happening in the first two books. I think anyone who hasn’t read those books might find certain aspects of The Scandalous Duke Takes a Bride confusing and, therefore, I would recommend reading the series in order.

Memorable Moments

He and Jez had known each other for nearly a decade, and looking at her now, he didn’t see one ounce of the vibrant woman she once was. What he saw in her gaze was eight years of a miserable marriage weighing down on her soul.

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And there was the crux of it: in her eyes he would always be just a friend. She really did make him believe that opposites attracted, for there was nothing similar in their characters, yet he wanted her to himself. She’d always been brazen and daring, him steadfast and cautious. Yet he still wanted to protect and cherish her as his own. And he would.

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He put his jacket around her shoulders and wrapped her tight in the safety of his arms as he dropped to his knees behind her. She fought him with tears on her face and nothing more than sorrow and sobs in her voice. Her fists pounded at his arms, his hands.
But he didn’t let her go.
He couldn’t.
“Hush. It’s all right. I’m here for you.” His
voice was jagged, raw with emotion.

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She felt like a wild bird stuck in captivity and under the scrutiny of too many eyes.

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“What do you want from me, Hayden?” “Nothing,” he whispered. “Everything. You make me question my every action and my every move. What I do know is that I want you and only you. I’ve always felt this way.”

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This was an engaging, poignant and sensual love story and a satisfying finish to this series.


REVIEW RATING:  4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING:  HOT

Read June 2014

Dangerous Rogues series (click on the covers for more details):

Wicked Nights With a Proper Lady (Dangerous Rogues, #1) by Tiffany Clare Midnight Temptations with a Forbidden Lord (Dangerous Rogues, #2) by Tiffany Clare The Scandalous Duke Takes a Bride (Dangerous Rogues, #3) by Tiffany Clare

 

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I am spotlighting Frances Evesham’s debut novel AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN which is released today.


ABOUT THE BOOK


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Genre: Historical Mystery Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb

With nothing left from her childhood except a tiny portrait of a beautiful woman, some skill with a needle, and the knowledge of a dreadful secret, Philomena escapes her tormentor, Joseph, and the dank fogs of Victorian London, only for a train crash to interrupt her quest for independence and freedom.

Trapped between the upstairs and downstairs occupants of a great country house, Philomena hears whispers of the mysteries and lies that lurk in empty corridors and behind closed doors. Her rescuer, the dangerous, enigmatic Hugh, Lord Thatcham, wrestles with his own demons and makes Philomena’s heart race, but she must fight her passion for she can never marry.

Haunted by her past, Philomena’s only hope of happiness is to confront the evil forces that threaten to destroy her.

Buy links:-

The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

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EXCERPT

A new light shone in the grey eyes as Lord Thatcham bent his head ever closer. She must move away. She begged her body to obey her. Instead, it leaned closer as though a magnet  pulled the two together. She could not resist.

“Philomena,” Lord Thatcham murmured. “Is that name real? Who are you? What brought you here to make me—” He stopped abruptly and straightened a little, searching Philomena’s face. He lingered on the black curls, the blue eyes, and then his gaze slid down to rest on her mouth. His lips parted. “You are very beautiful.”

Philomena could not speak. Her body, responding to the hitherto unknown power of male magnetism, yearned for the first touch. Lord Thatcham’s breath escaped in a rough gasp. He surrounded her, his arms gentle, and eased her body forward until Philomena felt his heartbeat in time with her own. Her eyes were half closed. His lips brushed gently, soft and warm, over her mouth. For an endless moment, she stayed quite still, beguiled by the spicy sharp taste of his lips. A charge electrified her body.

Then her head cleared. She gasped. Was she mad? This was Lord Thatcham, and she was nothing but a penniless waif in his power. He meant to have his way with her, just as Joseph had tried to do.

She tore herself away from the embrace. “How dare you.” Her voice shook with fury. “How dare you treat me so?”

Lord Thatcham’s arms fell away. Blood drained from his countenance, leaving the dark eyes aglow in a white face. He said not a word.


 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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I write, collect grandsons and Victorian trivia. I love to smell rosemary and garlic as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other.

I’ve visited the Arctic Circle and seen the Northern Lights. One day I’ll get to see the penguins at the South Pole.

A speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper in the past, I also work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs. I believe it’s possible to speak all known languages using nothing but gestures, pictures and signs.

Writing psychological thrillers, historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.

Social Media Links:

Website :http://francesevesham.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/frances.evesham.writer

Twitter: @FrancesEvesham

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THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED

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Frances is kindly giving away a digital copy of AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN for your Kindle (or other reader). Don’t worry if you don’t have a Kindle because Frances can provide a PDF copy instead. To be eligible for the Giveaway, just leave a comment and your email address.

 The Giveaway will run for one week from June 11-18.

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MY REVIEW

I was surprised how much I enjoyed Frances Evesham’s debut novel considering it is a clean romance and I’m sure you all know how I love plenty of heat in my romances. Perhaps I was just in the mood for this charming blend of mystery and romance.

How I imagine Philomena…
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Orphaned Philomena had been raised by her guardian and employer, the kindly Samuel Tailor but, when he dies, she finds herself the object of the unwanted attentions of his vile son, Joseph. Desperate to escape from London and Joseph’s clutches, she disguises herself as a boy and boards a train for Bristol, determined to gain her independence and fulfil her dream of having a business of her own. However, fate steps in when the train she is travelling on crashes and she is rescued by the stern but fascinating Hugh Dainty, Lord Thatcham.

How I imagine Hugh...
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Hugh is still living with the aftermath of his disastrous marriage to Beatrice and her death in a riding accident. He has sworn never to be fooled by a woman again. All his energy has been put into restoring the hall and his estates…a legacy to pass onto his son, John. When he rescues a young ‘boy’ from the wreckage of a nearby train crash, his life will change in ways he never anticipated.

I admire Hugh for his forward thinking. He understands that the world is changing and is keen to embrace new ideas and I could just picture him drawing his plans for new machinery. He also respects those who have worked hard and made something of themselves.

I enjoyed watching Philomena stand up to Hugh, something that he’s not used to. I also admired her for fulfilling her dream of setting up her own business and her resolve to stop running away and finally confront the demons of her past.

It was heart-warming to see how Philomema’s influence enables Hugh to build a warmer relationship with his son, John.

Love for his son welled up in Hugh’s heart. John beamed so proudly, his eyes so full of mischief: such a small, happy child. Raising the boy should be a pleasure. Why had Hugh never seen it like that before.

The romance between Philomena and Hugh is beset by various obstacles along the way…deceit, distrust, dark secrets and fiendish villains before true love finally conquers all. As previously mentioned, there are no explicit love scenes but Ms Evesham does create a lovely sense of intimacy, which fits perfectly with the mood of the story.

She was alone with this man. Lord Thatcham’s face, so close, made her pulses race. She had never known such desire. Her eyes travelled across every feature, as if she would learn it by heart. Strong, sharp planes angled below deep grey eyes. Lines ran from nose to mouth. Forbidding and frightening, Lord Thatcham fascinated her.

I took an instant dislike to Hugh’s snobbish, interfering mother, the Dowager Lady Thatcham and loved the scene where Hugh gives her an ultimatum.

You have overreached yourself for the last time. For the future, you will stay out of my affairs, or you will no longer be welcome at Thatcham Hall.” Hugh turned on his heel. The Dowager watched, speechless, as he left.

I soon warmed to Hugh’s high-spirited sister, Selena, because she becomes a true friend to Philomena. She cares nothing for rank unlike her mother. I adore Hugh’s son, John, and his mischievous antics raised quite a few chuckles…

“I should perhaps add, my lord, that Master John has broken three pudding basins and severely damaged a silver sugar bowl by swinging the sword in a dangerous manner.”

The mystery surrounding Philomena’s past adds another intriguing layer to the story and the villains are suitably venomous.

I appreciated the historical details that give the story an authentic Victorian feel and I was interested to read on Ms Evesham’s website that the train crash, which features in the book, is based on a real incident.

Overall, this is definitely a book which will appeal to those who enjoy a sweet, clean romance, likeable characters and a perplexing mystery to solve. 


REVIEW RATING:  4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING:  KISSES

Read June 2014

I would like to thank Frances Evesham for kindly providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review. 

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(A Wicked Games Novella)

Genre:  Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb

Victorian England is about to go wild…

Lady Ophelia longs to be independent, daring and bold, but her mother’s illness has stolen the last of her creative fire. Condemned to an isolated country cottage after the death of her idealistic father, she and her mother are forsaken by family and all of society. Disappointed by those she once trusted, Lady Ophelia lovingly nurses her dying mother knowing that her own dreams of being an artist will never be realized. That is until she meets a devilish aristocrat who reawakens her desire to be wild.

Viscount Stark has never known love. Reputed to be a rebel and a rake by all, at heart he is anything but. When he meets Lady Ophelia, he is struck by her haunting presence, dignity, and honor. Will he continue to play his wicked games and risk ruining the last of Lady Ophelia’s wounded heart? Or will he dare to be the gentleman he always wanted to be and unveil a love he never thought possible?

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I loved this novella. It was such a beautiful and moving story of heartbreak and grief but also hope, joy and love.

How I imagine Andrew Colton, Viscount Stark…
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Was he that transparent? Was it so clear that he searched for anything to fill the void that had become his life?

Andrew grew up in a world devoid of love, hardly ever seeing his parents, looked after by nannies. It left a void in his life, one he has filled with aimless pleasures but, deep down, he has always been seeking something more meaningful in his life.

How I imagine Lady Ophelia Darlington…
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She longed to feel it all. To feel anything but the imminent horror of her mother’s lingering illness. An illness that had slowly stolen her mother’s vitality and ensured that any dreams Ophelia had were but distant memories.

Cast aside by her half-brother, after her father died and shunned by society, Ophelia is living in poverty in a small, rundown cottage, caring for her dying mother. Her zest for life and her dreams of becoming an artist have slowly faded beneath the pain and sorrow of losing the person she loves most in the world.

How I imagine Lady Darlington…
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A soft smile played at her lips, one that bore all too much knowledge. No crushed flower was this woman. In that smile, in her withering gaze was an understanding of the world not many ever obtained.

For me, Lady Darlington is the linchpin of the story. She loves her daughter and wants only her happiness. She recognises the goodness in Andrew and knows he is perfect for her daughter. She gives him the mother’s love that he has never had.

Even within the constraints of this novella. Ms Claremont infuses her writing with such emotional depth. Ophelia and Andrew ceased to be simply characters on a page and became people I really cared about. Their journey was my journey. Their hopes and fears, their joy and tears were my hopes and fears, my joy and tears. It’s difficult for me to convey in words just how beautiful and poignant this story is and so here are some moments in the book that touched my heart.

In his eyes for one brief, holy moment, the world spun in a different direction, touched by beauty, touched by hope, touched by a strange sort of wonder.

To his absolute chagrin, to his utter perversity, he was overwhelmed with a dancing, boyish glee.
She’d come.

And so Andrew faced the piano with the mother of his heart, a little boy who finally knew he was loved, and was suddenly aware of how wonderful life could be.

And suddenly she was struck by an alarming realization. He was her other self. Her wild soul

“…I have lost my heart to you, piece by piece. Your strength, your kindness, your passion for life, they have all awakened what I had been so sure was dead. My soul. You have awakened my soul, Ophelia, because you are my other half. The joy to my cynicism. The passion to my jaded nature. You have taught me to live with hope again.”


How I imagine Marcus Trent, Marquis of Vane…
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Once, Vane had been the most mischievous, the most boisterous, and the first to laugh of their school set. Now? The man looked as if he might be suited for the position of undertaker. No. Not undertaker. . . executioner.

Oh yes, Andrew’s friend, the mysterious Marquis of Vane….what secrets is he keeping?  He promises to be an intriguing hero!

Lady Wild is a unique and beautifully written story that is both heart-breaking and uplifting. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING:   5/5 STELLAR STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read May 2014

From the Author

My Dearest Readers,

I have a big goal for Lady Wild. I’d like to raise $10,000 of profits for donation to Hospice. My mother died just a little under two years ago. She fought the battle with cancer and ultimately lost. Her last months were spent on Hospice. My father, too, died of cancer and spent his last 3 months on Hospice. It’s such an incredible organization and I don’t know how my mom or dad and I would have made it without the support of the staff. It’s wonderful that so many people raise money for cancer prevention! But I also think it’s important to help those who’ve sadly reached a point in which terminal illness is the reality. Hospice helps with nursing, counselors, medication, and sometimes even bills. They provide relief for the caretaker. I can’t tell you how huge that is. I’m sure many of you already know. So, together, let’s help make the crossing over of a terminally ill person a little more peaceful, a little more loving, a little more free of fear.

If you can snap up Lady Wild and spread the word??? I’d be over the moon! If you can leave a review after you’ve read it? Even better! This is for my parents, and on their behalf, I thank you. Love is a beautiful thing.

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THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED

ABOUT THE BOOK

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(Odin’s Shadow, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Viking – 876 AD)

Cover Blurb

Treachery.  Revenge.  Redemption.  Certain themes resonate across the centuries.

Odin’s Shadow is the first book in a series of three about an Irish woman and the two Viking brothers who love her.  The novel is set against the harsh backdrop of the Viking era in the 9th century, a time when the sight of a Viking longship sailing up the coast of Ireland would chill the blood of any man, woman or child.  One young Irish woman, however, is not afraid of these Northmen, and a fateful encounter with one of them changes the course of her life forever.

Selia is a girl on the verge of womanhood, frustrated by the confines of her gender and resentful of the freedom her brother boasts of.  She is intelligent and resourceful in a time when neither is valued in a female, and longs for an escape from her sheltered existence.  Selia is fascinated by the tales of Viking raids told by her maidservant, and her hunger for independence is fed through the stories of heathen ferocity she hears at the woman’s knee.

A decision to sneak to the city’s harbor to view the Viking longships leads to an encounter with Alrik Ragnarson, a charismatic Viking warlord whose outward beauty masks a dark and tortured mind.  With the knowledge that her father is about to announce her betrothal to a man she doesn’t love, Selia marries Alrik and within a day is on the longship bound for Norway and a new life.

As Selia’s relationship with her new husband grows, her friendship with his brother Ulfrik grows as well.  The tension mounts between the two men, and as Alrik’s character flaws come to light Selia begins to have misgivings about her hasty marriage.  Ulfrik’s desperate love for Selia causes him to reveal a secret from the past that threatens to destroy them all, and Selia is left to make a heart rending choice between the two Viking brothers.

Buy Links:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/412692
(VA95U — coupon code for 25% off on Smashwords website)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GZ446NM

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/odins-shadow-erin-s-riley/1118892412?ean=2940045742191

**Odin’s Shadow is among the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award quarter-finalists.**

 

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EXCERPT

Alrik’s mood remained foul that night. He kept his distance from the men, clenching his hands and muttering to himself. Selia sat with her knees drawn up and her cloak wrapped tightly around her body in an attempt to fade into the background. She kept her eyes on Alrik as he paced like caged animal. Someone was going to get hurt tonight and she could only pray it wouldn’t be her.

The men were restless as well; they too could sense that Alrik’s naturally volatile temperament had reached a dangerous level. They gave him a wide berth and kept their eyes lowered. The normally raucous laughter and bawdy jokes of the evenings were subdued this night. No one wanted to be the man who pushed Alrik beyond the point of no return.

Only Ulfrik dared approach him. He did so with an air of indifference, sipping his ale, as if he were accustomed to the task of having to talk Alrik back from the brink.

“What’s the problem, brother?” he asked quietly, looking at the fire instead of directly at Alrik.

“That’s none of your concern.”

Alrik’s voice had an edge to it that made Selia fear for Ulfrik’s safety. He wouldn’t hurt his own brother, would he? Ulfrik took a few steps away from the fire and motioned for Alrik to follow. He pulled out his sword and raised his eyebrows questioningly at Alrik.

Selia stared, openmouthed. Surely Ulfrik didn’t mean to fight him? No one in their right mind would even consider doing such a thing with Alrik in the state he was in. Alrik grunted and turned away, but then Ulfrik held out his broadsword and pressed the tip of it into Alrik’s shoulder.

Alrik turned back and pulled out his sword in one quick, angry motion. Selia clapped a hand over her own mouth to keep from screaming; she had no desire to watch Ulfrik die tonight. Apparently, Ulfrik had the same thought.

“Left hand, Alrik,” Ulfrik said. “Unless you do want me dead.”

Alrik’s eyes were blazing like the devil incarnate. He ripped off his cloak and slung it aside, and tossed the sword over to his left hand. “Ulfrik Child Lover,” he snarled as he picked up his shield.

“So this is about me, then?” Ulfrik eyed his brother warily.

Alrik lunged toward Ulfrik without answering, and Ulfrik parried the blow with his shield and pushed him back. And again. And again. They did this over and over, like a perilous dance, both sweating and grunting with exertion. Was this Ulfrik’s plan, then—to exhaust Alrik until his anger had dissipated? The brothers circled each other, eyes locked, and then Alrik abruptly spun around and slammed his sword into Ulfrik’s shield with such force that the clearing rang with the impact.

There was a splintering sound as the wooden shield cracked, and a large chunk of it fell away from the metal band that encircled it. The edge of Alrik’s sword met Ulfrik’s shoulder and drew a dark line of blood against his blue shirt.

Selia could take no more. She ran to them and grabbed Alrik’s arm in an attempt to restrain him, but he shook her free and Selia fell on her backside. Alrik stood over her with his sword in his hand, and his eyes were so wild she feared he didn’t even know it was her.

“Stop! Don’t hurt him because you’re angry at me,” she cried out in Irish, too distressed to remember to speak in Norse.

A mummer went through the men, as several quietly inquired what she had said, and someone translated, just as quietly. A man snorted with laughter, and his whisper could just be heard above the others. “I think she’s bedding them both.”

A stunned silence spread over the group. The joke, meant to be heard by only one or two men, had indeed been heard by all. Alrik turned to face them and his eyes locked onto Skagi Ketilson, the man who had spoken. The color drained from Skagi’s face, causing the red scratch marks left by Selia’s fingernails on the day of her abduction to stand out in stark contrast against his white skin.

Alrik lunged toward Skagi with his sword still drawn. Ulfrik tackled him to keep him from running the man through, and at Ulfrik’s urging several men were able to disarm Alrik while he was down. But Alrik somehow managed to pull Skagi to the ground by the legs. The men unsuccessfully tried to restrain their leader as he climbed on top of Skagi and began pummeling him with his fists, to the sickening sound of cracking bone.

Selia scrambled to her feet and cowered against a tree. The men were in an uproar, trying to pull Alrik away, as Skagi screamed and Skagi’s father, Ketill, implored Alrik to stop. But Alrik was a man possessed. He continued to hammer away at Skagi and at anyone else within distance; several of the men, including Ulfrik, had a bloody nose or a rapidly-swelling eye.

Selia caught a glimpse of Alrik’s face and she gasped. The whites of his eyes were visible all around the irises, like a mad dog. He looked wild, feral… inhuman. Berserker, a voice whispered in Selia’s head.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Erin S. Riley has an undergraduate degree in psychology and a graduate degree in clinical counseling. She is also a board certified lactation consultant. Since Erin was a child, she has been fascinated with human nature and what motivates behavior. She enjoys writing stories that reflect real life: Erin’s books feature complicated, imperfect characters who love deeply, make impulsive decisions, and try again until they get it right.

Erin has a bit of an obsession with all things Viking, and owns an embarrassing number of reference books on Vikings that she reads for fun. While reading about berserkers, she had an epiphany and realized that the crazed, shield-biting men of sagas were actually suffering from a mental illness. On that day the character of Alrik Ragnarson was born.

Erin is drawn to any creative pursuit, from making hand-stitched quilts to producing mini-movies for family and friends from home videos. But writing has always been her passion. When Erin isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her two children, reading anything she can get her hands on, watching football, and renovating her house with her husband of 16 years.

Connect with Erin at: erinsriley@outlook.com

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THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED


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Erin is kindly giving away an ebook copy of ODIN’S SHADOW. To be eligible for the Giveaway, just leave a comment and your email address.

The Giveaway will run for one week May 16-23.

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MY REVIEW

Ms Riley kept me totally riveted with this Viking tale of intrigue, betrayal, jealousy, hatred, dark emotions and powerful passions.

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 Alrik and Ulfrik

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   Selia

Alrik is a dark and seriously flawed hero…more of an anti-hero. He’s cold, cruel and devoid of all human compassion…a man who can kill in cold blood without remorse. As the story unfolds, Ms Riley gradually reveals the fears and insecurities that lurk beneath Alrik’s fearsome exterior; his fear of what he might do when he succumbs to the uncontrollable fits of temper; his fear of going mad like his father did; his possessiveness towards Selia and jealousy of her friendship with Ulfrik; his belief that he is unworthy of love; his fear of allowing himself to care about Selia and being rejected and humiliated. In the moment when he finally tells Selia he loves her, I felt there might just be a chance of redemption for this broken man.

He let his breath out and lifted his head to look at her. “I’m sorry,” he slurred, “for what I did to you… there is no way to make it right. I’m so sorry…” Selia nodded , stroking his hair, as Alrik lowered his head to her breast again. “I love you so much , Selia. Every day it was torture to not come after you.”

I like how Selia is conflicted in her feelings towards Alrik veering between attraction and revulsion when she learns exactly what sort of man he is. She questions the failings in her own character but recognises an affinity to this volatile, unpredictable man. She believes that there is something dark and uncontrollable inside herself which causes her blackouts and terrifyingly real waking dreams, not realising they are the result of traumatic events in her past. Her description of her love for Alrik seems to capture her emotional turmoil perfectly.

Her love for Alrik was a shadowy, desperate thing springing from the depths of her soul.

Ulfrik is the complete opposite of Alrik. He has a conscience about killing women and children. Due to the fate of his birth, he has never quite fitted in and isn’t truly accepted into the family circle. Although he is Alrik’s half-brother, theirs is an uneasy relationship and there is always that underlying tension simmering between them. This finally boils over when Alrik sees Ulfrik comforting Selia after one of her blackouts.

I really felt the pain of his unrequited love for Selia and her rejection of him when he offered to marry her and claim her child as his own.

The sharp little fingers that were wrapped around Ulfrik’s heart sliced deep, ripping and tearing, until the bloody thing was rent from his body in a brutal jerk.

The secondary cast of characters add dimension to the story; Ainnileas, Selia’s brother who can charm his way out of most situations: Hrefna, Alrik’s kind and understanding aunt; Ingrid, Alrik’s volatile daughter; Grainne, Selia and Ainnileas’s mother, so obsessed with revenge to the point of madness.

Ms Riley paints a vivid and often harrowing picture of the brutality of the era as in the blood-curdling attack on the merchant ship or Alrik’s ferocious and bone-shattering attack on Skagi. She also weaves fascinating glimpses of Norse customs throughout the story.

Hrefna paused. “Making clothes for a man can be… almost magic… it can bind him to you. A woman’s thoughts and the words she speaks while she is making the clothes will influence the wearer. It is a very powerful gift.”

This is an exciting and powerful debut novel and I look forward to reading the continuation of Selia, Alrik and Ulfrik’s story in the next two books – A FLAME PUT OUT (late 2014) and OATH BREAKER (2015).


REVIEW RATING:   4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read May 2014

My thanks to Erin S. Riley for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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