Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian

Can they find forever in the wreckage of their lives? 
THE LAWRENCE BROWNE AFFAIR
Cat Sebastian
Releasing Feb 7th, 2017
Avon Impulse
 

 

An earl hiding from his
future . . . 
 Lawrence Browne, the Earl of Radnor, is mad. At least, that’s what he and most of the village believes. A brilliant scientist, he hides himself away in his family’s crumbling estate, unwilling to venture into the outside world. When an annoyingly handsome man
arrives at Penkellis, claiming to be Lawrence’s new secretary, his carefully planned world is turned upside down.
A swindler haunted by his past . . .
Georgie Turner has made his life pretending to be anyone but himself. A swindler and con man, he can slip into an identity faster than he can change clothes. But when his long-dead conscience resurrects and a dangerous associate is out for blood, Georgie escapes to the wilds of Cornwall. Pretending to be a secretary should be easy, but he doesn’t expect that the only madness he finds is the one he has for the gorgeous earl.Can they find forever in the wreckage of their lives? Challenging each other at every turn, the two men soon give into the desire that threatens to overwhelm them. But with one man convinced he is at the very brink of madness and the other hiding his real identity, only true love can make this an affair to remember. 

Excerpt

Cornwall, 1816

CHAPTER ONE

All this fuss about a couple of small explosions. As far as Lawrence cared, the explosions were entirely beside the point. He had finished experimenting with fuses weeks ago. More importantly, this was his house to burn to the ground if that’s what he wanted to do with it. Hell, if he blew the godforsaken place up, and himself right along with it, the only person who would even be surprised was the man sitting before him.

“Five servants quit,” Halliday said, tapping Lawrence’s desk in emphasis. Dust puffed up in tiny clouds around the vicar’s fingertips. “Five. And you were woefully understaffed even before then.”

Five fewer servants? So that was why the house had been so pleasantly quiet, why his work had been so blissfully undisturbed.

“There was no danger to the servants. You know I keep them away from my work.” That was something Lawrence insisted on even when he wasn’t exploding things. The very idea of chattering maids underfoot was enough to discompose his mind even further. “And I conducted most of the actual explosions out of doors.” Now was probably not the time to mention that he had blown the roof off the conservatory.

“All I’m suggesting is a sort of secretary.” Halliday was dangerously unaware of how close he was to witnessing an explosion of the metaphorical variety. “Somebody to keep records of what you’ve mixed together and whether it’s likely to”—he puffed his cheeks out and made a strange noise and an expansive gesture that Lawrence took to represent explosion—“ignite.”

The Reverend Arthur Halliday did not know what was good for him. If he did, he would have fled the room as soon as he saw Lawrence reach for the inkwell. Lawrence’s fingers closed around the object, preparing to hurl it at the wall behind the vicar’s head. Sod the man for even suggesting Lawrence didn’t know how to cause an explosion. He hadn’t invented Browne’s Improved Black Powder or even that bloody safety fuse through blind luck, for God’s sake.

“Besides,” Halliday went on, “you said you need an extra set of hands for this new device you’re working on.”

Oh, damn and blast. Lawrence knew he shouldn’t have told the vicar. But he had hoped Halliday might volunteer to help with the device himself, not badger Lawrence into hiring some stranger. The vicar was convenient enough, and when he wasn’t dead set on sticking his nose where it didn’t belong, he wasn’t entirely unpleasant company.

“I’ve had secretaries,” Lawrence said from between gritted teeth. “It ends badly.”

“Well, obviously, but that’s because you go out of your way to terrify them.” Halliday glanced pointedly at the inkwell Lawrence still held.

And there again was Halliday missing the point entirely. Lawrence didn’t need to go out of his way to frighten anyone. All he had to do was simply exist. Everyone with any sense kept a safe distance from the Mad Earl of Radnor, as surely as they stayed away from rabid dogs and coiled asps. And explosive devices, for that matter.

Except for the vicar, who came to Penkellis Castle three times a week. He likely also called on bedridden old ladies and visited the workhouse. Maybe his other charity cases were grateful, but the notion that he was the vicar’s good deed made Lawrence’s fingers curl grimly around the inkwell as he plotted its trajectory through the air.

“I’ll take care of the details,” Halliday was saying. “I’ll write the advertisement and handle the inquiries. A good secretary might even be able to manage the household a bit,” the vicar said with the air of a man warming to his topic, “get it into a fit condition for the child—”

“No.” Lawrence didn’t raise his voice, but he slammed his fist onto the desk, causing ink to splatter all over the blotter and the cuff of his already-inky shirt. A stack of papers slid from the desk onto the floor, leaving a single dustless patch of wood where they had been piled. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a spider scurry out from under the papers.

“True,” Halliday continued, undaunted. “A housekeeper would be more appropriate, but—”

“No.” Lawrence felt the already fraying edges of his composure unraveling fast. “Simon is not coming here.”

“You can’t keep him off forever, you know, now that he’s back in England. It’s his home, and he’ll own it one day.”

When Lawrence was safely dead and buried, Simon was welcome to come here and do what he pleased. “I don’t want him here.” Penkellis was no place for a child, madmen were not fit guardians, and nobody knew those facts better than Lawrence himself, who had been raised under precisely those conditions.

Halliday sighed. “Even so, Radnor, you have to do something about this.” He gestured around the room, which Lawrence thought looked much the same as ever. One hardly even noticed the scorch marks unless one knew where to look. “It can’t be safe to live in such a way.”

Safety was not a priority, but even Lawrence wasn’t mad enough to try to explain that to the vicar.

“Villagers won’t even walk past the garden wall anymore. And the stories they invent…” The vicar wrung his hands. “A secretary. Please. It would ease my mind to know you had someone up here with you.”

A keeper, then. Even worse.

But Lawrence did need another set of hands to work on the communication device. If Halliday wouldn’t help, then Lawrence had no other options. God knew Halliday had been right about the local people not wanting anything to do with him.

“Fine,” he conceded. “You write the advertisement and tell me when to expect the man.” He’d say what he needed to in order to end this tiresome conversation and send the vicar on his way.

It wasn’t as if this secretary would last more than a week or two anyway. Lawrence would see to that.

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Cat Sebastian lives in a swampy part of the South with her husband, three kids, and two dogs. Before her kids were born, she practiced law and taught high school and college writing. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s doing crossword puzzles, bird watching, and wondering where she put her coffee cup.

The Black Sheep & the Rotten Apple by K.A. Merikan

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple: by K.A. Merikan
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Pages: 471 • Format: eARC
Published By: Acerbi & Villani ltd
Purchase Links: Amazon

“How does one start a relationship with another man when it is forbidden?”
“One needs to decide that the other man is worth dying for.”

Cornwall, 1785

Sir Evan Penhart. Baronet. Highwayman. Scoundrel.

Julian Reece. Writer. Wastrel. Penniless.

No one forces Julian Reece to marry. Not his father, not his brother. No one.

When he is thrust into a carriage heading for London to meet his future bride, his way out comes in the form of an imposing highwayman, riding a horse as black as night. Julian makes a deal with the criminal, but what he doesn’t expect is that despite the title of baronet, the robber turns out to be no gentleman.

Sir Evan Penhart is pushed into crime out of desperation, but the pact with a pretty, young merchant’s son turns out to have disastrous consequences. Not only is Evan left broke, but worse yet, Julian opens up a Pandora’s box of passions that are dark, needy, and too wild to tame. With no way to lock them back in, rash decisions and greedy desire lead to a tide that wrecks everything in its way.

But Julian might actually like all the sinful, carnal passion unleashed on him. How can he admit this though, even to himself, when a taste of the forbidden fruit could have him end up with a noose around his neck? And with highway robbery being a hanging offense and the local constable on their back, Julian could lose Evan before he can decide anything about the nature of his desires.

four-stars

 

 

Whoa. This book was super freaking long. I mean it seemed like it was never going to end. It was a good story, but I think it could have been cut my at least 50 to 60 pages at least for me. In the middle of the story I feel like I stalled out a bit. It definitely changed the pacing of the story, and I got kinda bored an felt like the skimming bug was going to hit me. It didn’t, and I’m glad for that sake, but yeah that’s a warning to some folks that it does get slower in the middle of the story.

Now where to start? For a first time historical fiction from these two, I think they did very well. I really liked the authentic feeling to the time of the story. I really like when authors do their research and bring authenticity into the story. You can tell they did their research by the tone of the story, the elements, and the way the characters talk as well. This duo did a fantastic job on these two.

Sir Even Penhart and Julian Reece were good characters. Each bringing a difference of background into the story. Evan is the last surviving heir to his family’s home. While it is ruin, it’s something in his soul that won’t let him depart from it, out of a sense of duty more then loving memories I’d say. He has no money left due to his brother’s wastrel ways, and the only that he knows how to make some is by becoming a highwayman, a modern day robber. On one unforgettable night he approaches Julian’s carriage looking to make away with their money & trinkets. Julian is looking for a way out of an arranged marriage. He’s young, likes to drink & gamble, and fantasized about becoming a published author. His father is tired of supporting the young lad, so he waits until he’s incapacitated himself enough and ships him out, along with his older brother to his suspected bride. Long before Julian can understand the circumstances, a robber in all black and a pistol happens upon them.

The chemistry between the two were just right from the beginning. Both skeptical of one another, and not knowing where to go from there. They do come up with a plan to ransom Julian by hoping his father cares from him enough to send money. They both learn things from each other. They are different in a lot of ways. We see Julian loves words, poetry, writing, his wine, and he’s a easy going guy. Evan is more reserved, believes himself to live a life of destitute. Sparks fly in the most inopportune time it seems. While they seem to have a different of a opinion on the matter of the physical attraction, it’s not something you can deny. This duo does have a way with pulling on your heartstrings. There was plenty of times where I found myself really connecting with these guys. I like how expressive Julian was. I liked how he thought out so many things, and thought about his emotions as well. Evan is so used to not winning in life, that small things brighten his day. It’s been a long time since he was able to feel something for someone, so he was willing to go above and beyond for Julian.

I will say the plot got to be a long winded journey for me. I get we needed it, but because the book was so long when the plot settled into something at the end it left me frustrated. I had doubts on the end for these two. I hated Pascoe with a passion, but someone needed to be a villain.

All in all I think this was a good, solid historical romance. It felt authentic for the time period. I loved the development of the relationship. That didn’t feel rushed at all, and I appreciated the authors letting the characters find themselves together in their own way. A definite recommend from me.

About K.A. Merikan

K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are taken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite pushing thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: The Black Sheep and The Rotten Apple by K.A. Merikan

Title:  The Black Sheep and The Rotten Apple:

Author: K.A. Merikan

Publisher:  Acerbi&Villani ltd.

Release Date: 7th of February 2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 140,000 words

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense, Historical – 18th Century Cornwall, Highwayman, Kidnapping, Forbidden love, Violence

Add to Goodreads

 

The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple is the kind of book that just needed to be written, despite our already tight schedule. The idea first came to us when we watched a documentary about highwaymen, but we promised ourselves to wait. And then we went to Cornwall for a month, and initial plans collapsed. As we walked through the woods, watching the lush nature and the old stone cottages peppered on both sides of a valley where we were staying, the characters and story steadily came to us. Our aim was to write a historical book that provides as much excitement as readers learned to expect from our contemporary romance.

RELEASE DATE: 7th February 2017

If you want to see our inspiration photos for this book, check out the ‘Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple’ Pinterest board:

BUY AN EBOOK COPY

BUY A PAPERBACK COPY

The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple is our baby. It’s been a year since we started working on this book, and to celebrate its release, we’re organizing a quiz for readers who follow The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple blog tour. Answers to all questions will be provided in the blog posts, and we will then randomly pick the lucky winners. You can win:

  • a signed paperback of The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple + a selection of Cornish treats (main prize – for one person)
  • 3 ebooks of choice from our backlist + a surprise treat from Cornwall (will go to 3 more people)

For a chance to win, follow the instructions in blog posts and solve the quiz, which will be published on our website on 1st February 2017. Please, send answers to kamerikan@gmail.com with ‘Black Sheep Quiz’ in the subject line of the email.

 

Winners will be randomly chosen from readers who sent us correct answers by 17th February 2017.

LINKS TO ALL POSTS:

02/01 THE QUIZ

02/03 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

02/06 We Three Queens

02/07 Boy Meets Boy Reviews

02/08 Prism Book Alliance

02/09 The Novel Approach

02/09 Joyfully Jay

02/10 The Zipper Rippers

02/10 The Book Bella

02/11 Divine Magazine

02/12 Bayou Book Junkie

Blurb

“How does one start a relationship with another man when it is forbidden?”
“One needs to decide that the other man is worth dying for.”

Cornwall, 1785

Sir Evan Penhart. Baronet. Highwayman. Scoundrel.

Julian Reece. Writer. Wastrel. Penniless.

No one forces Julian Reece to marry. Not his father, not his brother. No one.

When he is thrust into a carriage heading for London to meet his future bride, his way out comes in the form of an imposing highwayman, riding a horse as black as night. Julian makes a deal with the criminal, but what he doesn’t expect is that despite the title of baronet, the robber turns out to be no gentleman.

Sir Evan Penhart is pushed into crime out of desperation, but the pact with a pretty, young merchant’s son turns out to have disastrous consequences. Not only is Evan left broke, but worse yet, Julian opens up a Pandora’s box of passions that are dark, needy, and too wild to tame. With no way to lock them back in, rash decisions and greedy desire lead to a tide that wrecks everything in its way.

But Julian might actually like all the sinful, carnal passion unleashed on him. How can he admit this though, even to himself, when a taste of the forbidden fruit could have him end up with a noose around his neck? And with highway robbery being a hanging offense and the local constable on their back, Julian could lose Evan before he can decide anything about the nature of his desires.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS:

Themes: highwayman, abduction, ransom, forbidden love, self-discovery, danger, crime,
Genre: Dark romance, historical
Erotic content: Explicit scenes

Length: ~140,000 words (standalone novel)

WARNING: Adult content. Contains violence, distressing scenes, abuse, offensive language, and morally ambiguous protagonists.

Excerpt

The sun was high up in the sky by the time the desynchronized orchestra left Julian’s skull. There wasn’t enough space to properly lie down anywhere in the carriage, but he managed to obtain a comfortable position by resting his legs up the wooden wall while his upper body occupied one of the benches. He still felt like the filling of an enormous rattle as the carriage bent in all possible directions on the uneven road leading away from the coast.

Horace didn’t even make an attempt to hold back his disapproval, but after delivering several biting comments and a lengthy speech about duty, he at last leaned against the side of the carriage in the seat across from Julian and closed his eyes. It was difficult to say whether he was truly in need of a nap or if it was Julian’s face that he didn’t wish to look at.

With his headache out of the way yet not quite well enough to read, Julian opened the curtains in hope of amusing himself with the views, but so far, he merely got to see the side of a narrow gully—all dirt and grass.

He couldn’t understand why Father was being so implacable about having his youngest son marry a title. Couldn’t it wait a fortnight so that Julian could finish that new novel he came up with last night? This one could truly be the breakthrough Julian had been waiting for, the one that would make the Reece family known for more than fabric trade.

Inspiration was a moment in time when Julian’s friend Martin emerged from the darkness of an alley behind the tavern. In that very second he had not resembled himself but a man made of bronze, dreamlike and yet of substance, with strong hands that could crush Julian if they wanted. The novel would start with a similar encounter somewhere in the narrow back alleys, just off the Colosseum. Haunted by the ghost of an ancient gladiator, the protagonist would be believed to be slowly descending into madness, when in reality his awareness of the supernatural would become a vehicle for truth.

Julian was not yet certain of the exact message he wished to convey, but the events would be presented from several points of view, through letters written by the protagonist, his friends, and an official of some sort who’d represent the stale world order.

He’d already had several beautifully evocative ideas for metaphors describing the gladiator himself, but they became somewhat blurry after a night of cards and drink.

Oh, if only he could travel to Rome to let the atmosphere of the city soak him all the way to the bone—without a wife fighting for his attention and pulling him away from work because of feminine fancies.

He looked out of the window with growing disdain. Who in their right mind traveled on Sunday, and so early at that? Julian would have much preferred listening to a sermon at church to spending the day in what was effectively a hearse carrying one of the brightest literary talents just waiting to be discovered.

Now that Julian was feeling better, he was upset with himself about not asking for a day’s delay on religious grounds. He’d never been as devout about prayer as he was about his art, but if the Christian faith could postpone his commitment to a woman he never met, he would gladly kneel and pray. And Miss White wasn’t even a woman but a girl of fifteen, quite pretty in the portrait Julian had been shown, and a viscount’s only daughter at that, but surely as hungry for her intended’s attention as the bawdy house wench who’d become sweet on Julian some years ago.

Back then, he still visited Madame Canard’s establishment to do what everyone else did when they visited a school of Venus. These days, Julian had neither the overwhelming desire nor patience to handle a cunt, no matter how lovely the lady it was attached to. He still enjoyed having a drink with the harlots, and no card table within twenty miles was as lively as the one at Madame Canard’s, but at twenty-five he’d much rather handle needs of the flesh in solitude.

Sweet perfume made his nose itch, the act itself made him unpleasantly sticky—with his sweat and hers—and while he would not dare to ask, it was his suspicion that the friends who usually accompanied him to the brothel were only whoring so much because of pride and bravado. It was a sign of status to be able to afford women and decent wine daily, and so fucking and gambling was the thing you did as a social activity.

Julian’s eyes darted to Horace, who slept with his head thrown back and leaning against the side of the carriage. His wide-open mouth was asking for a distasteful prank, but Julian was far too upset to think of amusing himself at Horace’s expense. So far, the day’s joke was on him.

In the years past, he’d been mocked by his father and siblings over not taking on a profession that they deemed worthy of a gentleman, but with the family being very prosperous, Julian saw no reason to divert his focus from his one true calling.

Despite frequent threats, he’d hoped that Father—having four willing sons and three daughters—wouldn’t push Julian into marriage, but it seemed a lost cause. Soon it would be a wife nagging Julian to stop wasting his time following intellectual pursuits and instead turn his attention to practical matters. As the head of his own family, maybe he’d even be pushed to join the family trade, one step farther from traveling abroad to meet the great artists of the continent.

The carriage started a steep climb up a hill, and Julian cursed, pushing the soles of his boots against the wall to keep his body from rolling off the narrow bench. How long would it take for them to reach London at this pace? It was over two hundred miles away, so a week perhaps? The last time Julian had made the journey, he was so intoxicated most days that he couldn’t properly count them.

But out of nowhere, as the slope of the hill became gentler, the ugly dirt and grass that had been Julian’s only source of entertainment for the last half an hour were replaced by lush greenery of tree tops. He grinned and glanced at Horace, but the fat sod was too busy snoring to notice the change in scenery.

A wicked plan was starting to take shape in Julian’s head, and he quietly removed his feet from the side of the carriage and lowered them to the floor. Pulling himself upright was easy enough after that, and he stalled, eyes transfixed on the permanently flushed face of his brother that was an unappetizing contrast with the white wig he wore, and made him look like a man many years his senior. Julian might be less inclined to business, less sedate than his siblings, but at the very least he had good taste and flair most of Julian’s family lacked, buried deep in the stern world of pretense and money.

Horace didn’t even stir. The old pig was fast asleep, and if that wasn’t Julian’s chance to save his life, he didn’t know what was. Careful not to make any sound, Julian gathered his valise and the coat he’d earlier taken off because of the heat, stilling when the carriage came to a halt. His eyes immediately darted to Horace, but his brother only smacked his lips in his sleep. Hunt could have stopped to relieve himself. What an opportunity this was!

Julian could feel his heartbeat in his throat when he softly pressed on the door handle. Still distinctly aware of his brother being close enough for their knees to touch, were Julian not careful enough. He opened the carriage and left it in a soft stride before closing the door with care.

A warm breeze combed through his hair, wiping away the unpleasant wetness of sweat, and his lungs filled with fresh air, but he didn’t get to enjoy it.

The shining muzzle of a pistol was grinning at him from inches away.

Despite the warm weather, Julian’s whole body was shaken by a chill when his gaze met a pair of eyes so dark they might as well have been lacquered coals. The man had a tricorn hat pulled low over his forehead, and a black scarf obscuring the lower half of his face.

This can’t be happening.

“Don’t try to scream, or I will blow your brains out.” The man squinted and lowered his gun to Julian’s pupil. “Through the eye.”

Julian opened his mouth as his throat closed, robbing him of breath. He wanted to look back, suddenly wishing Horace weren’t such an easy sleeper, but Hunt was nowhere to be seen either. Heat washed over Julian’s body, making him stiffen as if he were made of clay. Had this man hurt their coachman? If so, where was the body?

“What do you want?” Julian whispered, resting his hand on the door handle when his knees softened.

“These.” A hand in a leather glove gripped Julian’s sweaty fingers and slipped off his rings. “And all your other valuables.” The man didn’t even blink, his voice dark as if dragged through tar.

Julian stared, and his mind finally came up with the answer for what this was. “You’re a highwayman…”

“And you’re cork-brained to travel on a Sunday when the roads are empty.” The man’s gaze drifted away to Horace for a split second, but he must have judged him as no threat, and when Horace snored from inside the carriage, the highwayman chuckled quietly.

Julian’s lungs emptied, and a silly grin emerged on his face, encouraged by the highwayman’s amusement. “Ah, I should have gone to church after all.”

The smile died on his lips when the robber poked Julian’s temple with his gun.

“Your valuables,” he urged.

Julian clenched his teeth when they threatened to clatter. He needed to keep calm. His father believed his friends to be villains, so he could handle one. “I’ve been taken out of the tavern this morning with nothing but the clothes on my back. I lost everything at the tables. You should try my older brother. He’s Father’s heir. He should have a healthy sum on him.”

The highwayman gripped the front of Julian’s waistcoat and pulled him forward so hard Julian stumbled straight into the man’s arms. He was much taller than Julian, with wide shoulders that were so strong their size couldn’t be just padding. His clothes smelled of leather and horse sweat, and Julian found himself staring into the eyes above the black scarf.

Before he could say a word, the man turned him around, and pressed the gun to the side of his head.

“Go on, wake up your brother.”

Julian breathed in and out, stiff with discomfort at the warm body pressed against his back as if the highwayman was seeking warmth. The gun provided some relief against heated skin. Its presence made Julian’s blood speed through his veins. It wouldn’t go off. Murder wasn’t in the robber’s interest, but if that was the case, then where the hell was Hunt?

Then an idea illuminated Julian’s mind. “I have a proposition, Mister—”

The highwayman stilled. He’d be lying. Of course. “Noir,” he said in the end. “What kind of proposition can you have, pretty boy? With no money in your pockets.”

Something about Noir’s tone sent a hot shiver through Julian’s ribcage, but he ignored the condescending words and slowly looked back into the blackest eyes he’d ever seen. “I don’t have much on me, but you must know my father. He’s William Reece, the cloth merchant. You could take me and ask for ransom. We could split it between us like two gentlemen,” he whispered and gave Noir a polite nod. Appealing to the highwayman’s self-importance should do the trick. His kind were known for a love of opulence and status they didn’t deserve.

He must have managed to surprise the thief, because Noir’s grip on him faltered. “How much could I ask for a son who hates his father?”

Julian exhaled in relief when he felt Noir’s aggression turn away from him. “A lot. He needs me. I’m worth more than you can imagine,” he said with a small smile.

Noir stole another glance at Horace sleeping in the back of the carriage, and his gloved hand slid to Julian’s neck, squeezing around his nape in a way that had Julian rising to his toes. “You better be. You scream, or try to run, and I will kill you.”

Julian swallowed against the warm, soft leather. It felt surprisingly expensive. Might have been snatched from a gentleman. “I don’t doubt that,” he lied. “However, we share a common goal, friend.”

“Call me ‘friend’ once this is all over.” Noir shook his head and pushed Julian behind the carriage, where a gloriously jet-black stallion awaited its rider, and watched Julian with eyes as dark as Noir’s.

“I hope you haven’t hurt our driver. He’s a good fellow,” said Julian, smiling at the huge beast in front of him.

“He’ll live. Your brother will find him once he wakes up.”

Julian was sure there had to be a hint of a smile under that black scarf. When Noir put the gun inside his coat, Julian tried to assess the man more thoroughly.

The black leather riding coat was worn but of good quality. Could have been stolen too, but the clothes underneath, as black as everything the man wore, were clean, suggesting the highwayman wasn’t sleeping rough somewhere. Unless he dressed up for robbery.

Julian opened his mouth to comment on the beauty of the horse, but Noir spun Julian around and pulled back his hands.

“Good heavens. We’re partners,” Julian whispered with distaste. Hot and cold sweats were hitting him in rapid waves, and he couldn’t tell whether he was scared or excited about this new development. Once he got out of this, he could write a novel about the peril of travellers attacked by rogues while driving through a dark, rainy forest, and with a bit of poetic license, call it a true story.

“I haven’t decided on that yet,” said Noir, and a cold shiver went down Julian’s back at the proficiency with which the man tied his hands. A former sailor perhaps? That wouldn’t bode well, as those types rarely possessed the intellectual capability for complicated schemes. His speech was also far too refined to have been only recently acquired. Damnation!

“Mr. Noir. I’d much rather ride with my hands free. You see, I’ve been incapacitated by gin just this morning, and I don’t feel secure enough without my hands to assist me yet. I assure you, I am harmless.”

Once Noir had tied Julian’s hands, he turned him around. “Now you are. Up.” And just as Julian was wondering how exactly he was supposed to climb atop the tall beast, the scoundrel grabbed his legs and picked him up. Julian barely refrained from screaming. It was no way to handle a gentleman, and yet he couldn’t help but be amazed by Noir’s physical prowess.

Definitely a sailor. A naval officer, perhaps.

Julian’s face flushed with heat when he imagined his bottom sticking out like a whore’s ass at a party. Good grief, what had he gotten himself into? What was next? Being kidnapped by pirates?

His foot found the stirrup, and he exhaled with relief, pushing his other leg over the horse’s hindquarters until he straddled its back. “I see no reason for this kind of treatment, considering it was I who came up with a most lucrative opportunity for you.”

“Keep that up, and I will gag you.” Noir was quick to get on the horse himself as soon as he’d attached Julian’s coat and valise to the saddle. Julian felt completely overwhelmed when the man reached for the reins, all but embracing him.

Julian shuddered and curled his shoulders to not be in the way, though no matter what he did, the shape of the saddle brought them close together. “You’re a scoundrel. Another man in your profession would have treated me right.”

Noir laughed darkly. “You are correct, sir. How could I have forgotten.” Even though the mockery had him exaggerate the polite accent, Julian was becoming certain that Noir’s natural speech was not that of someone uneducated.

Before Julian understood what was happening, Noir pulled a burlap sack over his head.

“I will scream,” whispered Julian, staring through the dots of light in the smelly thing. He squeezed his hands into fists and pushed them hard against Noir’s stomach. His mind was rattling again, as if the drunkenness returned with full force.

“No one will hear you where we’re going.”

“Julian?” came a sleepy voice from the carriage.

Noir’s thighs tensed, and he must have urged his mount to rush, as it went almost straight into gallop.

Julian screamed at the top of his lungs. “Horace!”

The stallion flew forward, and without the aid of his hands, Julian was forced to hang on to it with his legs alone, shaken like a rattle. The rapid gait moved him back and forth over the front of the saddle, making Julian stiffen and push back against the firm chest behind him. Without seeing where they were going, Julian tried to hold on to anything he had on hand, and as it happened, it was probably Noir’s waistcoat. If the horse tripped, at least they would stumble and break their bones together. Or maybe the villain would cushion Julian’s fall in a well-meaning act of God.

It was Sunday.

 

Meet the Author

K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are mistaken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite being over thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.

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What Happens At Christmas (Millworth Manor, #1) by Victoria Alexander

Series:
Narrator: Elizabeth Wiley
What Happens At Christmas Book Cover What Happens At Christmas
Millworth Manor #1
Victoria Alexander
Historical Romance, Victorian Romance
Kensington Books
October 16, 2012
audiobook
352

You are cordially invited to Christmas at Millworth Manor. . .

Camille, Lady Lydingham, requests the pleasure of your company at a festive house party, as she endeavors to coax a marriage proposal from Prince Nikolai Pruzinsky of Greater Avalonia.

The hostess's relatives will be in attendance--in this case, a troupe of actors hired to impersonate a proper English family in order to fool the Prince.

Gate-crashing, distractingly handsome first loves like Grayson Elliott are most unwelcome.

Games will be played.

Motives will be revealed.

Mayhem may ensue.

And hearts will be won--and lost--in the most romantic, magical season of all.

Please RSVP!

This was a very amusing Christmas story. It was just what I needed like a hot cup of chocolate on a cold winter night.

Camille, Lady Lydingham, wanted the fairy tale life so when she met a prince who was travelling. Camille put a plan into motion designed to charm Prince Nikolai Pruzinksy of Greater Avalonia into proposing to her and making her a princess.

The problem was that she didn’t feel that her family was the “right sort” to endear the prince to her, as they were quite eccentric. So Camille decided to hire a troupe of actors to portray a proper and respectable English family. While Camille and her married twin sister Beryl, Lady Dunwell, put their scheme into motion, Camille’s first love Grayson Elliot came by.

Grayson had decided that Camille was the one that got a way and he came to woo her back. Unfortunately he walks into this grand spectacle of a Christmas holiday with Camille’s faux family. Both Prince Nikolas and Grayson wanted to prove they were the right suitor. Her twin sister just wants her to be happy. The rest is just comedic genius.

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this story so much but it was funny. Camille was very likable even though she was a bit of a dreamer. I give her a A for the trying in earnest to pull of a ruse of this magnitude. It required nerves of steel and sheer willpower to remain committed when parts of her story were falling part. Camille and her sister improvised so well, I almost expected them to decide to go into the theater afterwards.

I liked the drama because it felt like watching a live play with the blunders, bloopers and improvisation. The romance was also sweet and heart felt. I was pleased with how the love story was resolved. The audiobook narrator did an awesome job with various voices. I was never bored in this story. If you want an entertaining Christmas story and a second chance romance, I highly recommend this one.

Ezi

From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)five-stars
From Sand and Ash Book Cover From Sand and Ash
Amy Harmon
Historical Fiction; Historical Romance
Lake Union Publishing
December 1st, 2016
audibook; e-book
386

Italy, 1943—Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.

As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.

Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva discovers she is just one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church.

But Eva can’t quietly hide, waiting for deliverance, while Angelo risks everything to keep her safe. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial, choice after agonizing choice, until fate and fortune finally collide, leaving them with the most difficult decision of all.

This book was a lyrical work of art.

Definitely Amy Harmon’s finest work and I have enjoyed all of her books thus far. There were so many things I loved about this book but writing stands out the most. Amy Harmon’s storytelling was so intense, visceral and poignant. This story was set in Italy starting before the German invasion and lasted for the Nazi occupation of the Italy. It was such a dark and depressing historical period, but the author managed weave a tale of love, hope, faith and loyalty.

Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were childhood best friends despite being her being Jewish and him being Catholic. Despite their affection for each other, Angelo decided that he could best serve God as a priest.

“God makes me strong. He gives me courage. He gives me peace. He gives me purpose.”

As Angelo joined the priesthood, Eva began navigating life in Italy where Jews were stripped of every conceivable right of citizenship despite the Jews “making up 1% of the countries population”. At her darkest hour, Angelo took in Eva and some other family friends to hid them, but it endangered all the priests around.

Angelo was forced to consider what his life would be like if the Nazi’s were to find Eva and the other Jews that the priests were protecting. While Eva struggles to survive, she was also forced to deal with the fact that the man she loved chose to be a priest over a life with her.

This story was both inspiring, enlightening and emotionally POWERFUL. Every time I felt despondent, a gestured or an event occurred that contributed some reason for hope and encouragement.

“Hope is the only thing resistant to the fear, and it is the hope that makes the next breath possible, the next step, the next tiny act of rebellion, even if that rebellion is simply staying alive.”

The author didn’t mislead the readers by painting a rosy picture of war times. But those tendrils of devotion and faithfulness kept me optimistic as I listened to tale. The narrator Cassandra Campbell was excellent in her various accented voices. She was a great choice for this book.

I loved both Eva and Angelo for different reasons. Both were strong characters, loving, honest and altruistic. Eva though just stole my heart. She had a clarity about almost everything. She was decisive and even stubborn. Angelo was so endearing because he truly tried to honor his faith even if he had to sacrifice his own heart. I admired his commitment and his perseverance. The author did an amazing job developing these characters as well as the overall plot. I never felt that the author sacrificed the historical plight of the people in favor of a love story. It made everything feel so much more authentic and genuine. I am always amazed at the blessings that occurred despite immense suffering during the tragedies of war. This story was one of the best written historical fiction novels I have ever read.

 **Special Thanks to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for the e-book given in exchange for an honest review.

About Amy Harmon

Amy Harmon is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in thirteen languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Levan, Utah.

Amy Harmon has written ten novels – including the USA Today Bestsellers, Making Faces and Running Barefoot, as well as The Law of Moses, Infinity + One and the New York Times Bestseller, A Different Blue. Her recent release, The Bird and the Sword, is a Goodreads Choice finalist in Fantasy.

Notorious Pleasures (Maiden Lane #2) by Elizabeth Hoyt

Series:
Narrator: Ashford MacNab
Notorious Pleasures Book Cover Notorious Pleasures
Maiden Lane #2
Elizabeth Hoyt
Historical Romance, Regency Romance
Vision; Hatchette Audio
February 1st 2011
audiobook
389

Their lives were perfect...
Lady Hero Batten, the beautiful sister of the Duke of Wakefield, has everything a woman could want, including the perfect fiancé. True, the Marquis of Mandeville is a trifle dull and has no sense of humor, but that doesn't bother Hero. Until she meets his notorious brother...

Until they met each other.
Lord Griffin Reading is far from perfect - and he likes it that way. How he spends his days is a mystery, but all of London knows he engages in the worst sorts of drunken revelry at night. Hero takes an instant dislike to him, and Griffin thinks that Hero, with her charities and faultless manners, is much too impeccable for society, let alone his brother. Yet their near-constant battle of wits soon sparks desire—desire that causes their carefully constructed worlds to come tumbling down. As Hero's wedding nears, and Griffin's enemies lay plans to end their dreams forever, can two imperfect people find perfect true love?

Ok. I am pleasantly surprised. The first book was somewhat enjoyable but Book 2 was much more passionate.

Hero Batten is the “perfect lady”. She was trained to be a wife of a Duke and now her brother the Duke of Wakefield has made a match for her with the Marquis of Mandeville. The problem came when Lady Hero meet her fiancee younger brother Lord Griffin Reading. It was nice meeting naughty.

I liked that Hero wasn’t so prim and proper and that Griffin wasn’t as degenerate as society believed. Their chemistry leaps off the pages and it was clear that there was almost no choice but to be together. I found implausibly was the lack of guilt or remorse Hero felt with Griffin and vice versa.
I also don’t understand why Griffin let his older brother believe the lies concerning the marquis’ first wife.

But the romance was very engrossing and I was listening with excitement as Griffin tried to woo Hero. Hero’s rational thinking made her personality seem she would be boring but she wasn’t. There was a lot of fire underneath all that facade. Griffin also used a facade of indifference to hide his vulnerability. I like how these opposites pulled the other towards a more balanced middle ground. Definitely a series to continue.

Audiobook Review: The Duke Is Mine (Fairy Tales #3) by Eloisa James

Series:
Narrator: Susan Duerden
The Duke is Mine Book Cover The Duke is Mine
Fairy Tales #3
Eloisa James
Historical Romance, Regency Romance
Avon
December 27th, 2011
audibook; e-book
10 hrs and 40 mins

He is a duke in search of a perfect bride.

She is a lady—but a long way from perfect.

Tarquin, the powerful Duke of Sconce, knows perfectly well that the decorous and fashionably slender Georgiana Lytton will make him a proper duchess. So why can't he stop thinking about her twin sister, the curvy, headstrong, and altogether unconventional Olivia? Not only is Olivia betrothed to another man, but their improper, albeit intoxicating, flirtation makes her unsuitability all the more clear.

Determined to make a perfect match, he methodically cuts Olivia from his thoughts, allowing logic and duty to triumph over passion…Until, in his darkest hour, Quin begins to question whether perfection has anything to do with love.

To win Olivia's hand he would have to give up all the beliefs he holds most dear, and surrender heart, body and soul…

Unless it's already too late.

I loved this audiobook. The narrator Susan Duerden was entertaining, light, flirtatious and just fun. She brought the authenticity to the English accents and really transported me to the Regency era. She increased my enjoyment of this book.

In this story, twins Olivia & Georgiana Lytton was daughters raised and trained to be duchesses. They loved each other, but they were opposites. Olivia was the “peach”, plumb and round while Georgiana was the celery, tall and lanky.
Olivia learned the crude jokes and Georgiana learned mathematics and science. But they still had each others back.Well, Georgiana took to her lessons, Olivia clearly had a rebellious streak that made her fight against all things proper. Olivia and Georgiana were both characters I enjoyed.
Georgiana ended up betrothed to the Duke of Canterwick, who went off to fighting in the war defending England. Now Olivia is trying to help her twin make a match with Tarquin, The Duke of Scones.

The only problem is that the Tarquin feels an attraction for Olivia and vice versa.

So what’s a girl to do? Should Olivia ignore her heart and push Tarquin towards Georgiana or should Olivia hold on to the passion she has found with Tarquin?

Olivia and Tarquin felt seamless as couple. They fit, they were fun and they had witty banter. I enjoyed the way the author worked them towards each other considering Olivia’s engagement, the mother etc. It made the book a tad angsty which added to the suspense. The sisters still retained her affection and support for each other. I was expecting feelings of betrayal but nope, Georgiana saw and understood that Tarquin didn’t cause butterflies in her stomach nor did he look at her the way he looked at Olivia.

I love historical romances because they are romantic. Eloisa James has a way of interjecting humor, a little history, and great interpersonal relationships. The only reason I am not giving this story a full 5-star is the last few chapters with Olivia’s fiance were superfluous. There could have been less dramatic ways of ending the engagement and Quinn not feeling like stole someone’s woman.

Still their love story made this book an awesome audiobook experience that I will be finishing the series soon.

Kill or Be Kilt (Highland Spies #3) by Victoria Roberts @tantoraudio

Kill or Be Kilt (Highland Spies #3) by Victoria Roberts @tantoraudioSeries: Highland Spies #3
on 2016-01-05
Pages: 352
AmazonB&NNarrator: Justine Eyre
Lady Elizabeth Walsingham pined after the same man for years. When she finally realizes the brawny Highland laird doesn't return her feelings, she decides to leave for London and start anew. It seems that her prayers are answered when she catches the eye of a charming actor at the Globe Theatre - a man who is the complete opposite of the Highlander she once loved.

Laird Ian Monroe spends his time avoiding the bothersome young girl who dreams of their union. But when he travels to London and discovers that she has a new love interest with a dishonorable agenda, his perspective changes. Ian soon realizes that Elizabeth is no longer a child with a crush, but a beautiful woman in need of his help. He may have what it takes to rescue Elizabeth from her scheming beau, but does he have the courage to reclaim Elizabeth's heart as well?
four-stars

In this third book, Lady Ruairi’s little sister Elizabeth is all grown up and catching the eye of Laird Ian Monroe whom she had a crush on since she was fifteen years old. When Elizabeth’s uncle and surrogate father was murdered, Elizabeth and her sisters returned to England to say goodbye. Ian and his brothers went to protect the Walshingham ladies as the London court was full of discord and conflict. While in London, some suitors began showing interest in Elizabeth. Laird Ian found something wrong with everyone who showed interest in Elizabeth. When an actor becomes the front runner for Elizabeth’s affections, Ian was forced to admit that his feelings for Elizabeth were no longer platonic.
How can Ian get Elizabeth to see that his feelings are genuine?

I liked this story but I definitely would have liked more romance and less historical fiction. The mystery of the murders and the court politics overshadowed Ian and Elizabeth’s journey to love. The characters were likable and the story as well written. I just didn’t care about the power struggle as much as I enjoyed the actualization of a love that had been brewing for a while.

Ian was an amusing hero and I liked his Scottish bravado. It took me a while to warm up to Elizabeth because she was immature at times, but I respect her for making Ian work for it. After all, he did dismiss her as a little girl when she liked him so he had to earn it and it was fun as he tried to undermine Elizabeth’s beaus.

This story was fun and would be a great read for readers who love Highlander romances that are more historical fiction and are lighter on the romance.

*Special Thanks to Tantor Audio for the audiobook given in exchange for an honest review

The Stolen Mackenzie Bride (MacKenzies & McBrides, #8) by Jennifer Ashley

The Stolen Mackenzie Bride (MacKenzies & McBrides, #8) by Jennifer AshleySeries: MacKenzies & McBrides, #8
on 2015-09-29
Pages: 336
AmazonNarrator: Angela Dawe
The New York Times bestselling author of Rules for a Proper Governess returns with an engrossing tale that promises to delight lovers of Outlander.1745, Scotland: The youngest son of the scandalous Mackenzie family, Malcolm is considered too wild to tame…until he meets a woman who is too unattainable to resist.Lady Mary Lennox is English, her father highly loyal to the king, and promised to another Englishman. But despite it being forbidden to speak to Malcolm, Lady Mary is fascinated by the Scotsman, and stolen moments together lead to a passion greater than she’d ever dreamed of finding.When fighting breaks out between the Highlanders and the King's army, their plans to elope are thwarted, and it will take all of Malcolm’s daring as a Scottish warrior to survive the battle and steal a wife out from under the noses of the English.From the Paperback edition.
five-stars

This is my second favorite MacKenzie book. This book felt more like Ian’s book which the romance, adventure, family and humor. I liked Mary Lennox as she reminded me of a mix of Beth, Eleanor and Isabella. Malcolm MacKenzie was definitely a rascal!

The author did a great job developing the characters, the plot and keeping the story so entertaining. I really appreciate that Jennifer Ashley threw in enough of the English versus the Jacobite rebellion to give the romance a historical backdrop, but made sure the romance ad family loyalty was front and center.

The Mackenzie clan comprised of Alec, Angus, Will, Duncan and Malcolm made a fiercely devoted group. I chuckled, I cried, I gasped and mostly, I loved this story. The war wreaked havoc on Mary and Malcolm’s relationship, but their love managed to overcome the obstacles. I can’t wait for the story regarding the other brothers.

*Special thanks to Tantor Audio for the audiobook, which was given in exchange for an honest review

Defiant (MacKinnon’s Rangers, Book 3) by Pamela Clare

Defiant (MacKinnon’s Rangers, Book 3) by Pamela ClareSeries: MacKinnon's Rangers # 3
on 2012-07-03
Pages: 384
AmazonNarrator: Kaleo Griffith
Charged with a crime they didn’t commit, the MacKinnon brothers faced a death sentence until they agreed to serve the British Crown in the colonies and take up arms against the French. Allied with the Indian tribes who lived beside them in the wilderness, the Scottish Highland warriors forged a new breed of soldier… MacKinnon’s Rangers Major Connor MacKinnon despises his commander, Lord William Wentworth, beyond all other men. Ordered to rescue Wentworth’s niece after the Shawnee take her captive, he expects Lady Sarah Woodville to be every bit as contemptible as her uncle. Instead, he finds a brave and beautiful lass in desperate peril. But the only way to free Sarah is for Connor to defeat the Shawnee warrior who kidnapped her—and claim her himself. Torn by tragedy from her sheltered life in London, Lady Sarah is unprepared for the harshness of the frontier—or for the attraction she feels toward Connor. When they reach civilization, however, it is she who must protect him. For if her uncle knew all that Connor had done to save her, he would surely kill him. But the flames of passion, once kindled, are difficult to deny. As desire transforms into love, Connor will have to defy an empire to keep Sarah at his side.
two-half-stars

Writing/Storyline was ★★★★, but my enjoyment was a ★½.

I really disliked this audiobook but I feel bad because the narrator Kaleo Griffith was awesome. It was a culmination of 3 books where I suffered through the English commander Lord William Wentworth and his cruel and despicable treatment of the MacKinnon brothers. I realize the author tried in a small way to redeem that vile English lord, but it was too little too late.

This book featured Major Connor MacKinnon whom was tasked with rescuing the commander’s niece Lady Sarah Woodville from the Shawnee tribe, who kidnapped her to force her to marry their chief. From the start, this book featured people being forced to do things against their will.
1. Sarah’s parents forced her to give up music, which she held dear to heart.
2. Sarah’s parents banished her and forced to live elsewhere…and later tried to force to her marry a fortune hunter.
2. Wentworth forced MacKinnons to fight for him. Also he forced Connor to rescue Sarah, then after Connor and Sarah fell in love, he forced Connor to give Sarah up because he was a stinkin’ Jacobite and Sarah was a lady.
3. Wentworth tried to force Sarah to lose her baby and later give up her baby

It was just too much for me. I liked Connor because he wasn’t an bitter as I expected him to be. I just found Sarah to annoying. She was everything she was supposed to be. She was a pure-bred, christian lady with a kind heart. She didn’t do much for me as a character. I enjoyed Joseph as a supporting character and the rest of the MacKinnon clan.

But the Historical part overshadowed the Romance in this Historical romance and left me bored and exasperated. I feel bad because the writing and the narration were A-plus. It is obvious the author really did her research and crafted a tight story. It just didn’t appeal to me and I wish it did.

In the end, it was truly a case of “It’s me, not you”.

**Special thanks to Tantor Audio for the audiobook, which was given in exchange for an honest review