A MONSTER LIKE ME by Pamela Sparkman

Heart of Darkness series #2

HELLO STRANGER by Lisa Kleypas

The Ravenels series #4

THE BUTTERFLY PROJECT by Emma Scott

Companion to the Full Tilt series

PLAYING FOR KEEPS by Jill Shalvis

Heartbreaker Bay series #7

UNWRITTEN by Jen Frederick

Woodlands series #5

Cross My Heart by L.H. Cosway

Hearts series #5.75

MOONSHADOW by Thea Harrison

Moonshadow series #1

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Review: This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede


Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches. 


THIS VICIOUS GRACE
 by EMILY THIEDE

Series: The Last Finestra #1
Publication date: June 29, 2022
Published by: Wednesday Books
Genre: YA fantasy

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SYNOPSIS

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

Emily Thiede's exciting fantasy debut, This Vicious Grace, will keep readers turning the pages until the devastating conclusion and leave them primed for more! 

Purchase your copy now!
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Praise for This Vicious Grace:

Goodreads, "The 68 Most Anticipated YA Novels of 2022"

Nerd Daily, " Upcoming YA Book Releases to Add to Your TBR" and "24 Debut Releases To Get Your Hands On In 2022"

"This book is incredible! The banter, the romance, the tension! I couldn't get enough!" - Lauren Blackwood, New York Times bestselling author of Within These Wicked Walls

"Filled with witty banter, unlikely friendships, a swoon-worthy romance, and high stakes tension, Emily Thiede creates an immersive fantasy world inspired by the sun-drenched Amalfi coast that will captivate readers until the very last page. Sure to be a favourite for fans of Stephanie Garber, Leigh Bargudo, and Kerri Maniscalco." - Lyndall Clipstone, author of Lakesedge

"A richly imagined world featuring a slow burn, sizzling romance and a conflict that crackles with magic." - Elle Cosimano, award-winning author of Seasons of the Storm

"A remarkably fresh debut, This Vicious Grace is an absolute delight from cover to cover. Its rich, transportive world sparkles on every page, and I was spirited away by Thiede’s beautifully rendered cast. I would follow Alessa and Dante anywhere, and can’t wait for their next adventure." - Ayana Gray, New York Times bestselling author of Beasts of Prey

"From the lush setting to dire stakes and whip-smart banter, This Vicious Grace is romantic, suspenseful, and utterly unforgettable." - Sarah Glenn Marsh, author of the Reign of the Fallen series

"Riveting, passionate, and full of high stakes danger." - Tamora Pierce, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"The perfect blend of humor and heart, This Vicious Grace is a high-stakes romp that brims with deadly magic, sparkling chemistry, and the deep yearning for connection in an alienating world. Prepare to fall head-over-heels with Alessa and Dante!" - Allison Saft, author of Down Comes the Night

"Remixing all the best parts of a dark fantasy and a romantic comedy, This Vicious Grace is a wonderfully fun time from start to finish, with lush, complex worldbuilding, intensely relatable characters, and relationships that are easy to root for." - Hannah Whitten, New York Times bestselling author of For The Wolf

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Thiede is the author of THE LAST FINESTRA (Wednesday Books/MacMillan, summer 2022.) She grew up dreaming of becoming a dragon rider and now writes fantastical tales about magic, mayhem, and characters who flirt with their enemies while the world crumbles.

Born in New Jersey, Emily moved across state lines in high school like a true YA heroine, and now calls Virginia home. When she isn’t writing, you can find her fostering kittens, mentoring, and hosting writer social events.

You can find her on:



REVIEW

This Vicious Grace (The Last Finestra, #1)This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This Vicious Grace is an italian influenced fantasy world where magic gifted people must battle hordes of deadly demon bugs each generation. The Finestra and Fonte team is chosen by the goddess Dea who must marry and partner in the fight to conquer the insects that attack the city. Alessa Paladino is the Finestra and she must choose her partner wisely out of all of the Fonte who have been gifted elemental magic. The right Fonte will enable her to bring out her power and amplify it, the wrong choice will lead to his or her death. At eighteen, she has chosen incorrectly three times and has suffered through the guilt of three funerals. In this situation anyone would feel like a black widow picking off innocent victims rather than the savior of an entire island. Alessa takes it deeply to heart and becomes paralyzed with indecision.

What I noticed right off the bat was that this protagonist isn't your typical strong, confident, kickass female lead that saves the world with one hand tied behind her back. She's a more relatable teen with insecurities and doubts. She's overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy about the savior role that's been thrust upon her. Alessa sees herself as a failure and shrinks away from confrontation when challenged or threatened. I think many more readers could identity with that internal struggle at some point in their life. It gives the story a coming-of-age feel in a fantasy setting. This young woman must learn how to recognize her weaknesses and turn them into strength in a very short, finite time.

The other overwhelming challenge Alessa faces is that the very townspeople she is expected to save start to turn on her. While the chosen Finestra is typically revered and protected at all costs, many start to lose faith in her and want to do her harm. After all, if you can't believe in yourself, how can you expect others to do so? It doesn't help that there is a "priest" sowing seeds of doubt around town. He and his followers are pushing the idea that she should die in order for a better candidate to fill her shoes before it's too late. Even her own family and guards betray her, pushing her feelings of isolation and helplessness to a whole new level.

    She’d never realized quiet had weight to it, 
a pulse that somehow, paradoxically, 
made it difficult to hear anything else.

It was pretty frustrating to see the callousness of these people all around her, who so casually discussed murdering an innocent girl who was desperately trying to help them. They quickly formed a mob mentality and lost all sense of reason because of a silver-tongued con man.

  Blessed. Oh, yes, she was the luckiest 
girl in the world, 
fending off murderers 
on a daily basis for the right 
to live long enough to fight 
a swarm of demons 
slavering to chew on her bones.

When her situation becomes desperate, Alessa turns to a criminally marked, anti-social stranger who fights for money on the wrong side of town. Dante is rough around the edges and prickly, the complete opposite of her in many ways. I think being exposed to his unapologetic personality helps her reach for those qualities within herself. No matter how impersonal and distant he tries to be with her, when he sees the weight she's silently carrying, he begins to soften. It's gradual, but you can see how he grows an attachment against his better judgment. Against all odds, he becomes a confidant, a friend, and someone she finally feels safe with. However, Dante has a dark past and a secret that could bring ruin upon them both if discovered. The subtle romance growing between them is impossible for too many reasons but necessary for one: they make each other feel whole. They are seen for the first time in their life and supported in a way that defines partnership. And yet, it is her duty to marry another when the time comes to fulfill her destiny.

“I can’t change how I feel about you.” 
“It doesn’t matter how we feel. Some things 
aren’t possible.”

This was a unique fantasy world, however it was a little slower paced in the first half than I would have liked. It dragged at times, forcing me to push through sections where I was feeling the urge to set the book down. I'm very glad I did, because the second half picked up. Especially the battle scene at the end which was action-packed and filled with suspense. Obviously there is a bit of a cliffhanger here because this book is part of a duology, but it isn't too painful to handle. Alessa and Dante still have much to do until they can put this fight behind them. A new enemy is coming for them in the next installment that will culminate in the ultimate battle of good vs. evil. I for one am invested to see how it will all go down.

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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Blog Tour: An Affair at Stonecliffe by Candace Camp


In this delightful new regency romance from New York Times bestselling author Candace Camp, a feisty commoner and a ruthless aristocrat spar in all the right ways. 


AN AFFAIR AT STONECLIFFE
 by CANDACE CAMP

Series: Stonecliffe #1
Publication date: May 24, 2022
Published by: HQN 
Genre: historical romance

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SYNOPSIS

Noelle Rutherford will never be accepted by the London ton. Her late husband, Adam—a free-spirited aristocrat with bohemian tendencies—married her for love, much to the dismay of his well-heeled family.

In the wake of Adam’s death, Noelle is approached by Carlisle Thorne, who was raised as a brother to Adam. Noelle is horrified when the severe, irascible Carlisle offers her money in exchange for taking her young son, Gil, to be raised at the Rutherford estate, Stonecliffe.

Convinced that Carlisle will use any means necessary to take Gil from her, Noelle flees, hiding from Carlisle and the Rutherfords for five long years. But Carlisle never stopped looking for them.

When he finally catches up, it’s clear that each has made wrongful assumptions about the other, and grudging mutual respect gives way to a close bond that is both lively and tender.

And when Noelle and Gil find themselves in danger from someone after Gil’s inheritance, she and Carlisle must work together to protect what matters most—even if it means losing their hearts.

Purchase your copy now!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Candace Camp is a New York Times bestselling author of over sixty novels of contemporary and historical romance. She grew up in Texas in a newspaper family, which explains her love of writing, but she earned a law degree and practiced law before making the decision to write full-time. She has received several writing awards, including the RT Book Reviews Lifetime Achievement Award for Western Romances. Visit her at www.candace-camp.com.


You can find her on:


Excerpt

 PROLOGUE

Noelle gazed down at the sleeping baby. How were they to live?

At first she had been too numb to think, moving through the past few days in a dazed state, unable to believe that this was real. Adam was too young, too full of life to die. Why had he been so reckless? And why, dear God, why had she argued with him that night?

She shivered. Their home was still and silent, empty of his laughter, his words, even his scowls or curses when his work went badly. Noelle wished she could return to her earlier befogged state. But this morning, as she had stood at his graveside, the Paris sky fit­tingly gray and drizzling, her heart had accepted what her mind refused to the past three days. Never again would she see her husband’s smile or feel the touch of his lips on hers.

But she could not allow herself to sink into a morass of grief. She had a baby to care for. As she watched her child sleep, a fierce surge of protectiveness rose in her. She must face the harsh truths, the bitter reality, for Gil’s sake. There was no one to solve her problems—or even to give her advice.

Adam’s artist friends? His models? They were all as penniless as she was. Her father was far away in Ox­ford, and in any case, he was an impoverished academic who could barely manage to support himself. Even less likely to help was Adam’s aristocratic father, who had been so opposed to Adam marrying “beneath him” that he cut his son out of his life.

Noelle glanced around their flat, forcing herself to take stock of her situation. There was no money here. Noelle had used the pittance she had stashed away just to pay for Adam’s burial and the small headstone—and oh, how it hurt that a man of his artistry should have so little to mark his passing! The butcher refused to sell anything to her until she paid their bill. The wine merchant was already dunning them—that was what set off her argument with Adam and sent him storming out into the night. The flat itself was paid only through the end of the next week, and their landlord was a hard man who would not care that he was tossing a widow and a fatherless baby into the street.

It was enough to make her dissolve into sobs, but Noelle had cried so much the last few days that she was utterly drained of tears, and in any case, it would do no good. Crying never solved anything. She must think of what to do. Madame Bissonet would take her back at the millinery where Noelle had worked before Gil was born. Noelle had been a good clerk as well as an excellent model for Madame’s hats, not to mention the added benefit of being able to converse with English customers.

But how was she to work there—or anywhere—with a small baby? She could hardly carry an infant about the showroom with her or take time from making bon­nets to feed and tend to him. Even if she could find a way to do so, the money she could earn would be very little. They had always lived on the stipend Adam’s fam­ily sent him despite his estrangement from them. No­elle’s salary had merely helped make ends meet when Adam’s extravagant spending sent them into dun terri­tory. It wouldn’t be enough to live on. And she had no hope that the Rutherfords would continue to provide Adam’s much-disliked widow any aid after his death.

She could sell Adam’s work. She looked across the room to where his easel stood by the window. Finished paintings crowded all around it—the fruit of his genius, the rich glimpses into his soul—some dark and stormy, others visions of stunning beauty, and all of them com­pelling. It made her heart ache to think of letting them go, but she would have to try to sell at least some of them. That would bring in enough to live for a while, but he had been able to sell too few of them in the past for her to think she would be able to reap any great sums. They were worth far more to her than they ever would be to someone else.

Noelle turned away, going to the alcove that served as their bedroom, and began to take off the black dress she had worn to Adam’s funeral. Adam would have hated that; he had always said she was suited only for color. She had but one black dress. It was old and un­comfortably tight across her breasts, so full now since the baby was born. Tossing it onto the bed, she pulled on the bright silk wrapper Adam had bought her. It was far too extravagant, as were so many of the things that he bought, but it was soft and comfortably loose, and it made her feel closer to Adam.

Taking an ornate box from the dresser, she sat down on the bed and opened it. The jewelry Adam had bought her was the most valuable asset she possessed. She began to pull out the pieces, laying them out on the bed beside her. The diamond earrings Adam had given her when Gil was born. Gold bangles. An enameled brooch. A jeweled hairpin that looked like a dragon­fly. Pendants, earrings. That foolish narrow ruby-and-diamond tiara that Noelle would never attend anything formal enough to wear.

Indeed, she would never wear most of them. She had protested time and again that Adam spent too much on jewels and clothes for her; it would have been far more useful for him to pay the rent. But Adam was the son of an earl, and he’d never completely adjusted to his new financial circumstances. He would complain about his lack of funds and call the monthly payment he received from England “blood money.” He would make periodic vows to follow a budget. But then he would see some­thing he wanted, and he would buy it on the spot, with­out regard to the price.

That first bracelet he’d given her, she had promptly handed back to him, saying heatedly that she was not the sort of girl to accept such a present from a man. She smiled to herself, stroking her finger over the delicate chain of sapphire flowers. Adam had kept it and presented it to her again after they married, smiling in that irresistible, mischievous way of his and saying he believed she could accept it now.

Noelle swallowed the lump in her throat and fastened the bracelet on her wrist, holding her arm out to ad­mire it. She pulled out the matching necklace that he’d given her on their first anniversary. Going to the mir­ror, she fastened it around her neck. She smoothed her finger over the delicate stones, remembering the way he looked as he gave it to her. Tears welled in her eyes.

A thunderous knock sounded at the door, breaking into her reverie. Whirling, she ran for the door in the futile hope she might keep the visitor from waking the baby. But, naturally, Gil began to howl, his tiny face screwing up and turning red. In exasperation, she flung the door open.

A tall, lean man stood outside her door, his strong-boned face set in a stony expression and his eyes the cold gray of a winter storm. His brown hair had no sil­ver to it, but his fierceness gave him an authority that his age, and even his obvious peerage, didn’t.

Noelle took an instinctive step back. The man’s eyes flicked down her and beyond to the cradle. “I believe your child is crying.”

“Not until you started banging on the door.” Her tem­per flashed at his tone. Turning, Noelle scooped Gil up and held him against her chest, murmuring soothing noises. When she pivoted back to the door, she saw that the man had walked into the room uninvited and closed the door behind him. He stood there silently, his coolly assessing gaze roaming over the small living quarters.

His eyes fell on the unmade bed, the contents of the jewelry box spread across it, and his lips lifted in a sneer. “Sorry to disturb you. I can see that you are deep in…um, sorrow.”

His tone gave a sarcastic twist to the words that made them sting and brought a flush of embarrassment to No­elle’s cheeks even as they angered her. “Who are you? What do you want?”

Suspicion of the man’s identity was already tickling at the back of her mind. English, aristocratic, contemp­tuous…and surely she had seen a charcoal drawing of this man among Adam’s sketches.

“I am Carlisle Thorne. I am a friend of the Ruther­ford family.”

“I see.” Adam had spoken of him several times. Though not related to Adam by blood, Thorne had been the earl’s ward. He had lived with Adam’s family for some time and had been something of an older brother to him. When Adam first mentioned him, it had been with affection, but after their marriage, his references to the man had turned bitter. Adam had believed Thorne would intercede with his father, but instead he had, like the earl, opposed the marriage.

Noelle remembered well the letter Adam had re­ceived from Carlisle Thorne. He’d torn it up and flung it on the ground, but Noelle had pieced it together and read it: It is entirely understandable, even expected, that you should dally with the lasses while you are at university, but it is out of the question for a man of your heritage to marry one of these common girls.

It had only exposed the man’s arrogance and narrow mind, but the words had made Noelle feel ashamed. Even now, she could remember the pang of hurt, as­suaged only partially by Adam’s fierce denouncement of Thorne.

It was not surprising that this icy man was the au­thor of that missive. She felt sure his opinion of her had not changed. Certainly, she had no liking for him. But still, she could not help but feel a quiver of hope. Thorne had been something of an emissary between Adam’s father and his renounced son in the past; the earl had sent Adam his monthly stipend through Thorne. If the earl had sent Thorne himself to pay a visit, surely that meant he would help his son’s widow and child, no mat­ter what he thought of Noelle herself.

Thorne’s gaze went to the bundle in Noelle’s arms. Gil had once again fallen asleep against her chest. Thorne shifted awkwardly, tilting his head to look at the baby’s face. “Is this…”

“Yes. This is Gil. Adam’s son.”

He gave a short nod and turned away. For a moment Noelle thought he was about to simply walk out the door, but then he swiveled back to face her. “I am here to return Adam to his family.”

“Return him to his family! They would not accept Adam when he was alive, but now that my husband has died, they want his body?” Noelle flared. “It’s a trifle late, isn’t it?”

His eyes darkened and for the first time it was fire, not ice, that flared from them. “I am well aware that I did not arrive in time to save Adam from the disastrous consequences of his marriage to you.”

Noelle drew in a sharp breath, shocked. “Are you implying that I harmed Adam?”

“I am implying nothing. I am saying plainly what we both know—if he had not run off with you, Adam would be alive today.” His words pierced her, and Noelle could say nothing as he continued, “I will regret to my dying day that I did not keep him out of your clutches. But I am not too late to save his son.”

Tears sprang into her eyes, and Noelle turned away to hide them from him. She laid Gil back in his little bed, buying herself time to force down the pain and anger that threatened to swamp her. She hated this arrogant man. But she had to think of her son. She must take care of him, and Carlisle Thorne was the only person who might do that. If he was offering to provide sup­port for Adam’s baby, then she must accept it, no mat­ter how humiliating, no matter how much it galled her.

Not looking at him, carefully keeping her voice drained of emotion, she said, “And how do you pro­pose to do that?”

“Ah. Yes. Now we are at the heart of the matter, aren’t we? No need for any pretense; you are ready to bargain. What is your price?”

“My price?” She turned to face him, confused. Was she supposed to figure out how much it would cost to raise her child? And what an odd way to put it. “I—I’m not sure—”

“You must have a number in mind. What will you take to give me Adam’s son?”

Noelle stared at him, stunned. “You want to buy my baby?”

“If you want to call it that.” He frowned. “Did you expect me to hand over a pile of banknotes and leave him here with you? To let the earl’s grandson be raised in…” he gestured vaguely around the apartment “…in this? In the sort of life you will lead? No. I can assure you I will not. The earl is his legal guardian, as you must know. The child will be earl one day, and he shall be raised at Stonecliffe, just as Adam was, in the care of his grandmother and grandfather. You will take the money and be on your way. A thousand pounds.”

“No,” Noelle said weakly. She was too shocked to put her thoughts into order. He could not really expect her to sell him her child.

His mouth tightened. “Two thousand, then. You’ll have money, your jewelry, your clothes, and you won’t have the burden of a child. Even a woman of your face and form would find it difficult to attract a protector with a baby in tow. Here.” He reached inside his jacket to pull out a small pouch. “I haven’t that much in coin with me. I will have to visit the bank. But here is a de­posit on that.” He tossed the pouch down on the table. “I’ll return tomorrow for the boy.”

 

Excerpted from An Affair at Stonecliffe by Candace Camp. Copyright © 2022 by Candace Camp. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.




REVIEW

An Affair at Stonecliffe (Stonecliffe, #1)An Affair at Stonecliffe by Candace Camp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is my very first read by Candace Camp (I know, I know. It's like I've been living under a rock or something.) I'm so glad I decided to give this author a try because I really enjoyed her writing style and her attention to detail. The first half of the book I was so completely engrossed with what I was reading that I couldn't detach myself from the story long enough to make highlights and notes for the review. Not only was I laser focused and flipping through quickly, but I was able to connect to the book from page one. For those reasons, as well as my level of enjoyment, the first 50% was easily five stars. The second half of the book slowed down quite a bit for me personally because of the mystery heavily entering the forefront of the story. That's just my personal preference. I tend to get a little bored when characters are deeply entrenched in trying to solve a mystery. I find myself starting to skim through those sections to get to the action or character building scenes.

There were several things I loved about the couple's dynamic together. I liked that they came from completely different backgrounds. She was working class, and he is nobility. Although her late husband was nobility and marrying him gave her the title of "lady" she never put on airs or desired to be part of that world. Noelle is highly educated because of her scholar father and can hold her own in any intellectual conversation. She speaks multiple languages, she's well read, and well informed about art. Carlisle is equally well-educated, but unlike her, he's grossly snobbish and judgmental. There's also a degree of the forbidden love theme involved between Carlisle and Noelle because he views her as off-limits. She is his brother's widow and low-born which would cause scandal and gossip were they to get involved. Of course, in the beginning, there was no danger of a romance between them because he makes a disastrous first impression on her. Not only does he insult her character, but he thinks that he can offer her money and take her child Gil away to be raised at Stonecliffe manor. She instantly despises and fears him.

Carlisle Thorn was like a brother to her late husband but not a blood relation. He comes into the first meeting with Noelle being highly offensive, pushy, and condescending. He doesn't attempt to hide the fact that he thinks she's a social climbing, greedy, loose woman who brought ruin upon her husband. The man has zero tact, but you can't fault his honesty. You certainly know where you stand with him, that's for sure. The author did a great job creating friction and animosity between these characters that was so thick you could have cut it with a knife. It was so entertaining watching her outsmart and outmaneuver him time and again when takes her son and goes into hiding. After the smug way he treated her, I couldn't help but smirk at how she managed to keep slipping through his fingers. Noelle was a fierce mama bear when protecting her son Gil-she fought Carlisle savagely when backed into a corner. It made me absolutely adore this heroine.

It took quite a bit of effort to convince Noelle that she was safe at Stonecliffe, but eventually his sincerity and apologies broke through. He still had plenty of unfair preconceptions about her that he needed to let go of, but he was trying with everything he had to be accommodating and cordial. She began to see how protective he was of his family, and her son was no exception. Carlisle is Gil's guardian. If he wanted to, he could push her out of her son's life and take total control without any input from her. It's hard to believe there was a time when a mother was deemed inconsequential by law if a male of no relation was assigned to his care. Despite his legal power, he never once considers controlling her or taking her son away. He really redeems himself as they get to know one another. It doesn't take him long to discover how horribly he's wronged her and forced her to live a life of fear. An uncomfortable attraction begins to grow that neither is prepared for.

   He’d finally found her, ended the chase, achieved exactly what he wanted. 
He should be satisfied. Content. But the bloody woman 
still had him in a turmoil. She confused him. 
Worse, she made him confusing to himself.

They had such great tension as they tried to ignore their growing feelings. Moving beyond their tenuous friendship was a bad idea for many reasons, particularly the possibility of it not working out. They would still be constantly in each other's company but things would be uncomfortable and awkward. If anyone found out, the family's reputation could be tarnished. As much as they tried to stay away from each other, it felt inevitable. These two seemed like an unlikely pair in the beginning, but by the end, they absolutely adored each other and they fit. It took overcoming misunderstandings, and having the courage to choose what their hearts needed the most over society's expectations.

The mystery of the book involved figuring out who was attempting to kidnap and harm Gil. It became quite long and involved with lots of possible suspects. Noelle and Carlisle go to visit several people looking for information. While some of it was interesting because it allowed them to have alone time away from the family to grow closer, I wish the investigation didn't take up so much page time. Not everyone feels as I do about that subjective issue. For me, it did drag the pace down somewhat.

My first Candace Camp book was a success. I'll be very happy to continue on with the series, hopefully with Annabeth's story next. If you're looking for a new HR series to follow, and you love an element of murder mystery, An Affair at Stonecliffe could be the one for you!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Review: Desperately Seeking a Duchess by Christi Caldwell



What happens when an impoverished duke with a reputation for being a rogue collides with a strong-willed heiress who wants to explore the world? An unlikely friendship...and unexpected passion. 



DESPERATELY SEEKING A DUCHESS
 by CHRISTI CALDWELL

Series: All the Duke's Sins #2
Publication date: May 24, 2022
Published by: Berkley Romance
Genre: historical romance

 Add on Goodreads


SYNOPSIS

Cailin Audley doesn't fit in with Polite Society. A life spent among the working class taught her to value her independence in a way no newfound fortune or glittering ballroom could ever erase. When a major misstep sees the new heiress whisked away to the English countryside, Cailin soon realizes the vexing lengths her family will go to see her settled. But having risked her heart once before, Cailin has no interest in the men of the ton--especially not the frustratingly charming Duke of St. James.

Courtland Balfour, the Duke of St. James, devoted brother and notorious rogue, despises what he must become--a fortune hunter. But with the ducal coffers drained by his late, spendthrift of a father, Courtland knows his duty lies at the altar and he will do anything to ensure a future for his siblings. Just his luck that the one lady who could make this new fate bearable, who enflames him like no other, is the one woman who wants nothing to do with him or his title.

But when an act of desperation inadvertently lands he and Cailin at the heart of another scandal, Courtland knows better than to waste his chance. Surely he can convince Cailin to love him?

Purchase your copy now!
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Praise for Christi Caldwell:

“Packed with familial warmth and peppered with humor…An endearing romance.”—Kirkus

“Ribboned with subtleties about gender roles and class expectations that make this novel both thoughtful and delightful all at once.”—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author 
 
"Christi Caldwell's crisp, sparkling writing is infused with emotion, passion, and a belief in the healing power of love. This is terrific Regency romance!"—Amanda Quick, New York Times bestselling author

"Emotional, funny, and filled with passion—everything I want in a romance.”—Lorraine Heath, New York Times bestselling author of The Duchess Hunt

“What historical romance is meant to be. I devoured every word. Christi Caldwell has become one of my favorite authors.”—Laura Lee Guhrke, New York Times bestselling author

"A charming, romantic love story that shows Regency romance isn't just about dukes and duchesses and love isn't just for the upper classes."—Maya Rodale, USA Today bestselling author


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photo credit: Kimberly Rocha

USA TODAY Bestselling author CHRISTI CALDWELL blames Judith McNaught's "Whitney, My Love!" for luring her into the world of historical romance. While sitting in her graduate school apartment at the University of Connecticut, Christi decided to set aside her notes and pick up her laptop to try her hand at romance. She believes the most perfect heroes and heroines have imperfections, and she rather enjoys torturing them before crafting them a well deserved happily ever after! 

Christi makes her home in Charlotte, North Carolina where she spends her time writing her own enchanting historical romances, and baking surprisingly good cakes (almost 2 years in lockdown will do that) with her courageous son and twin daughters, each who with their daily antics provides limitless source material.

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Excerpt

Courtland gave his head a wistful shake, as for the first time since he'd arrived, he felt a frisson of . . . guilt, about asking anyone to give up the comfort of obscurity here for the garish opulence that was the Town.

 

Ace whinnied noisily, and Courtland absently stroked the loyal creature between the eyes. His nostrils flaring, Ace arched his head back into that favorite-of-his touch.

 

From the corner of his eye, Courtland caught a faint flutter, and he swung his attention to find a person watching him.

 

The less-than-furtive figure in the cottage pressed her forehead against the glass.

 

"It appears we have company," he murmured, patting Ace once more. "Which isn't terrible, as it means the sooner I finish, the sooner we're free to return to London."

 

Ace gave a toss of his head in clear equine disapproval.

 

"It appears we are of like opinions then, on that score," Courtland said, winking at his horse.

 

Once again, those curtains parted slightly, and a young woman peeked through the crack in the fabric.

 

Enormous, saucer-sized blue eyes, filled with mistrust, met Courtland's gaze.

 

The sister, then.

 

He grinned. "Good afternoon," he called, and sketched a bow. "I'm here to speak with Mr. Audley."

 

Judging by the stretch of silence to follow, the young woman was anything but impressed. Alas, while he was on the other side of a doorway, without a line of sight to his quarry, she was afforded an unhindered view that put Courtland at a distinct disadvantage.

 

Giving Ace another pat, Courtland started down the walkway.

 

"Stop there!" she shouted, a healthy dose of anger and suspicion freezing him halfway down the path.

 

Anger and suspicion, both of which, as a duke, he was unaccustomed to being greeted with.

 

"What do you want?" she called, her voice muffled by the oak panel.

 

What did he want? Or what did he need?

 

A fortune.

 

Security.

 

His siblings settled.

 

All of which indirectly accounted for his being here.

 

Bringing himself back to the matter at hand, Courtland offered another smile and held his empty palms up. "I want nothing more than to speak with your brothers . . . or you," he cajoled, using soothing tones meant to bring her outside.

 

At last, the wood panel swung wide, affording him his first full, unobstructed view. And Courtland went absolutely motionless.

 

Oh, hell.

 

The young woman, with her full, ivory-hued cheeks and golden blond hair, had the height of a child, but the hardened stare of a woman some three decades her elder. Unfortunately for Courtland, that flinty stare was leveled at him.

 

Along with her ancient-looking firearm.

 

Reflexively, Courtland's palms went flying up in surrender.

 

The late summer sun glinted off the end of the barrel. That enormous weapon looked all the more enormous when held as it was by one of her spritely size.

 

He swallowed hard and cursed long and harder inside his head.

 

The young woman flicked a derisive glance over Courtland's person, before settling it upon his face, her gaze bored; and his ears went hot, as for the first time in his life he knew what it was to have a woman find him lacking.

 

"Why does it not surprise me at all that a fancy London fellow like you would come here issuing orders to me?" she drawled, the lyrical, lilting quality of her voice in almost farcical juxtaposition to the threat hanging on her words, and the very real threat of murder she directed his way.

 

Courtland kept his smile firmly affixed, and when he spoke, did so in the careful, placating tones he used with his easily riled younger sisters. "Perhaps had you taken a moment to hear me out and discuss the business that brought me here, then I wouldn't have had to issue them, Miss Audley."

 

Her flaxen eyebrows went shooting up. "Are you . . . challenging me?" The rifle wavered on her arm.

 

Oh, bloody hell. He was usually better at speaking to the fairer sex. Much better. It should so happen that the one time he failed to charm would likely land him a bullet in the chest-and a swift end to his miserable existence.

 

"Well?" she demanded, dipping slightly and adjusting the weapon on her arm.

 

He winced. "I believe you've already determined that I was challenging you, and as such, it hardly seems necessary to confirm with a verbal statement, Miss Audley." He bit out each syllable, giving up on the gentle warmth he'd previously attempted.

 

She lowered the rifle slowly, and he took heart. "Now," he said, taking a step forward. "If you would be so good as to lower your weapon all the-"

 

A loud report thundered in the afternoon quiet, cutting off the remainder of his words, and he flew back, hitting the ground so hard the air was sucked from his lungs.

 

Bloody hell. This was how he would end his short reign as duke-by taking a bullet straight to the chest.

 


Excerpted from Desperately Seeking a Duchess by Christi Caldwell Copyright © 2022 by Christi Caldwell. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.





REVIEW

Desperately Seeking a Duchess (All the Duke's Sins, #2)Desperately Seeking a Duchess by Christi Caldwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars








   His was the manner of embrace that consumed: 
a spark that kindled into a fire until a woman was 
set ablaze in the happiest of conflagrations, 
which left one feeling born anew of the ashes 
of past heartbreaks and regrets.

Christi Caldwell has written some of my favorite five star historical romance books. She was one of my go-to authors in the genre a few years back, but I haven't picked up one of her stories in quite some time. I was very interested to see if I could recapture some of the old magic. I'm happy to report that Desperately Seeking a Duchess was a resounding success; in fact, I will be catching myself up to date on this series by reading book one in the near future. Rafe and Edwina, the couple from the previous book, play a strong supporting role here, as do the other siblings of the main couple. All of the secondary characters were brought to life so well that I can envision myself one-clicking any of their books in the future. That's not really that much of a surprise to me, knowing this author's talent for characterization in her previous titles.

Lord Courtland, the Duke of St. James shows up on Cailin Audley's doorstep in the hopes of convincing the Audley siblings to come to London at their father, the Duke of Bentley's request. Bentley fathered them but only recently learned of their existence. He wishes for them to be a part of his life and join his social life in the upper class. However, Cailin and her three brothers live a quiet life in a country mining town and a quite content with their humble working class station. They want nothing more than to be left alone, especially when it comes to their absent father. I enjoyed the fact that these siblings were not moved by his wealth and status. These brothers and sisters are a strong, loyal, family unit that would lay down their lives for each other. The love they have for their mother and her memory makes them very antagonistic towards the idea of ever allowing their father into their lives (With the exception of Rafe. Rafe met and married a woman named Edwina in the first book and they are now happily married.)

When Courtland arrives at Cailin's home, it is in the guise of his identical twin brother Keir. Keir works for Cailin's father, but is socially awkward so they agree to switching places for the day so that Courtland can wield his smolder and charm to their advantage. His charm was no match for the woman who greets him with a shotgun. Cailin is a no-nonsense, petite spitfire who turns the tables on him and immediately charms the man without even trying. There was shooting, flirting, and a bit of smooching. Followed by a little bit of bloodshed. This was no common meet cute-it was a meet shoot and so much more funny and entertaining. Although Courtland's visit was a flat out fail by anyone's standards, he did manage to plant a seed in her mind about the wonders of London. Her thirst for scientific knowledge and experiencing new things finally convinces her to give her father's world a chance. It doesn't take her long to figure out that "Polite Society" was incredibly hard to navigate and very unwelcoming towards an illegitimate child of an aristocrat.

   She’d come here wanting to explore a world different from her own. 
Only to discover her smaller, less grand world had proven greater in ways.

Courtland is such a cheeky, fun hero. He's described as a bit of a rogue, but he's 1000% committed to the safety and well-being of his family. He isn't one of those self-absorbed jerks who only cares for his own pleasure at the expense of everyone around him. Not only was his father that way, but he was also emotionally abusive to him and all of his siblings. The last thing he would ever do would be to follow in his father's footsteps. He is however, forced to step into his father's shoes, and that means taking on the massive debt the late duke acquired. If he doesn't come up with a plan to remedy their dire financial straits soon, he will most likely be sent to debtor's prison and his brothers and sisters will be left to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, due to his disaster of a day switching identities with his brother, they are even worse off than before.

Keir was fired when Courtland's actions were discovered and he may be backed into a matrimonial corner to save them all. Courtland is emphatically against fortune hunting, but he's not sure if there's any other course of action open to him that will save them all from ruin. And how could he possibly imagine a loveless marriage when he can't get the fascinating Cailin out of his head? I loved how drawn he was to her-not despite her unique qualities but because of them. She didn't fit into his world at all, but then again, neither do his sisters. He loves each one just as they are.

   He’d had relationships and dealings with 
all manner of women through the years. 
Many of them actresses. 
Some opera singers and ballet dancers. 
Others, widows. 
They’d been sexually inventive and brazen.
None of that overt sexuality, however, could hold a proverbial candle 
to the seductive sight of a woman wholly enthralled by a book in her hands.

Cailin and Courtland's personalities were so different but they fit so wonderfully together. She saw his fiercely protective and loving side and appreciated his fast wit. He saw her for the strong, independent female that she was and encouraged her to pursue her unconventional interests in science. She gave him the courage to seek happiness for himself while still working to provide the best life for his family. They don't have to be mutually exclusive if you allow your family to share some of the burden with you. This was a hard lesson for him to learn because of his strong protectiveness, but his siblings adore him and his sisters in particular have him wrapped around their little fingers. I just loved seeing the tight family dynamic on both sides. His sisters really cracked me up and I'm really excited to read about their HEAs in the future.

I enjoyed this one very much! There were lots of funny moments, the conflicts felt organic and well-paced, and the romance was highly engaging and full of chemistry. I can't wait to read more about these families in the future. I highly recommend this one if you're looking for a fresh, fairly new historical series to get hooked on.

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