Review and GIVEAWAY: To Tempt an Heiress by Susanna Craig (Released Today!)

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To Tempt an Heiress
SUSANNA CRAIG
December 6th, 2016
(print $15.00, ebook $3.99)

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ENTER TO WIN A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK!!!

For anyone who has read this blog for more than…well, two minutes…it likely doesn’t come as a surprise that I, Elinor, am a nerd. I’m a nerd by profession, but before that I was a nerd because I just couldn’t be anything else. (Thanks, genetics!) I’ve always loved learning new things. As a kid I made my own dictionary of foreign words because I thought other languages were really cool. I wrote letters to famous historical figures (even though I knew they were dead…obviously) just because I wanted to tell them how much their lives meant to me. I read, read, and re-read every book I could get my hands on (and I still do!). Of all my brainy loves, history ranked at the very top. I was and still am captivated by times past and the cultures and societies that populated them.

At that same time that I was geeking out over ancient civilizations or the Napoleonic Wars I was also falling madly in love with other people falling madly in love. I’ve always found romance fascinating, and have been reading stories about how one person gets lost in another for almost as long as I can remember. From Jane Austen to Sappho to my dad’s letters to my mom, beautifully written expressions of love just slay me.

Imagine, then, how happy I was to find Susanna Craig’s To Tempt an Heiress, a novel that perfectly marries these two parts of myself, the history nerd and the lover of love!

To Tempt an Heiress is just THE BEST. Set in Georgian England and the Caribbean, it tells the story of Tempest Holderin, a young woman of fortune who grew up in the British colony of Antigua, and the happily ever after she finds with the dashing Captain Andrew Corrvan. Tempest is the most eligible of ladies—she’s beautiful, she’s intelligent, and, most of all, she’s rich. This makes her a source of desire for half the men on the island and plenty more throughout the Empire. Many of those suitors (most especially the handsy, way too old, all around creeptastic Lord Nathaniel Delamere) want to use Tempest’s money and her property—and Tempest herself—for less than savory ends.

Herein enters the handsome captain, who, despite his better judgment, accepts a proposition from a close friend of the Holderin family: Andrew must kidnap Tempest, haul her aboard his ship, and transport her to London, where she will be safe from the Delameres of the world. Little does Andrew know that his choice to take up this mad plan will change their lives forever. Far more than simple cargo, Tempest is a kind-hearted, headstrong abolitionist who ignites Andrew’s every passion. Far more than a pirate, Andrew is the Shakespeare quoting, storm-sailing man of Tempests’ dream. By the time the journey to London is over, the two are wildly in love, but unable to set aside their pride or ambitions to give their feelings voice. Thankfully, dramatic events force their hands, and the two are brought together in a wonderfully romantic conclusion.

To Tempt an Heiress has everything I want in a romance novel (or in any novel!)— a wonderful cast of characters, steamy sexual tension between the hero and heroine, exquisite period details, a commendable ethical sub-theme (in this case, an anti-slavery narrative) . . . I could go on for ages! In fairness to those of you who will surely want to read the book yourselves (and that should be pretty much everyone ever), I’ll just say these three things.

1: Everything in the story just fits. The characters are believable, their dialogue seems natural, and they do things that make sense for who they are (individually and together) and for their context.. The book follows its own careful, understandable logical, and I just love that. So many books I read are riddled with inconsistencies, which distract me from my pleasure in reading and often leave me frustrated or—the worst!—feeling like I’ve wasted my time. This book is the direct and most awesome opposite!

2: To Tempt an Heiress is, in many ways, a deceptive book. It seems easy.   You could read it in a few hours if you aren’t careful because it’s just that compelling. But then you realize that all that ease is the result of the hard work of an excellent writer. Craig’s prose and her close—but not labored!—attention to historical detail make everything flow together just as it should. You feel immersed in the world and the lives of the characters, so much so that real life fades away a bit. This is, I think, the most difficult of a writer’s tasks, and one at which Craig excels more than most.

3: The book is HOT. I mean, really: a sexy sea captain and a gorgeous, liberal-minded lady are trapped together in a tiny cabin for weeks on end? And they’re not supposed to get naked but they both really want to get naked? C’mon! What’s better than that?! While there aren’t extended intimate encounters in the book (there are just two bona fide sex scenes, actually), the tension between the characters and what our minds can do on their own is almost more steamy than the actual scenes themselves!

4: I said 3, but I lied.  I need to say one more thing, which is…the cover!

This is my first Susanna Craig novel, but it most certainly won’t be my last!  Needless to say, I’d recommend this book to all people with eyeballs, but especially readers who love great prose, admirable characters, and exceptional (really, exceptional) historical writing. If you’re into explicit sex, this isn’t the book for you, but if you like a good slow burn (as we said in a recent review), then you’ll love Andrew and Tempest.  Get thee to a bookshop, humans! Do not delay!

AND . . . get thee to our giveaway to enter to win your own copy of To Tempt an Heiress!!! You won’t regret it, I promise!

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Review: Married to Her Enemy by Jenni Fletcher

jenni-fletcher

Married to Her Enemy
JENNI FLETCHER
December 20, 2016
(print $6.50, ebook available Jan 1, $4.99)

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In a land torn apart by war and hate, two people are drawn together by an undeniable attraction…

In Married to Her Enemy, Jenni Fletcher’s absolutely fantastic debut novel, a Norman warrior and a Saxon noblewoman meet as deadly adversaries.  Aediva, our heroine, has plenty of reasons to hate the Normans: they took her homeland, they made outlaws of her people, and they murdered her beloved father.  When a band of their soldiers is sighted making its way toward her village, she knows she has only one choice: she must fight.

When the soldiers arrive, Aediva attacks the first one she sees: a giant Dane-turned-Norman called Svend du Danemark.  Svend, despite his stature and Norman allegiance, is kind to the beautiful and very feist Aediva, responding to her attempt to stab him to death with some ninja-style disarmament skills and only a bit of annoyance.  In classic romance fashion, Svend and Aediva’s tussle results in physical closeness that, despite the charged situation, ignites desire in them both.  *Elinor fans self with book.*

The story that follows this wonderful scene is a classic case of mistaken identity, in which Svend confuses Aediva for her sister, Cilla, whom King William has ordered him to capture.  Aediva continues the charade in an effort to protect her sister, and so off she goes as the hostage/guest of a very handsome, blue-eyed knight.  In the course of their travels the two face illness, rain storms, armed rebels, and a whole host of misunderstandings, arriving to their destination very much in love but still separated by past wounds and hidden truths.  Svend’s discovery of Aediva’s true identity almost destroys their chance at happiness, but a forced marriage and the eventual confession of their love for one another ultimately brings them together for good.  Hurrah for happy endings!

As you’ve surely already guess, I absolutely adored this book.  It’s a funny, poignant, profoundly romantic story set in a world about which I’ve always been very curious (I mean, who doesn’t want to know everything about the aftermath of the Norman invasion?!).  The historical details make that world come alive, as does Fletcher’s clear, precise prose.  I was instantly invested in the burgeoning affections of Aediva and Svend, and deeply moved by the pain they both felt after years of loss and struggle.  Their chemistry is off the charts, and the slow burn of their desire for each other was hugely appealing.   You really come to hope and worry for the hero and heroine and you’re overjoyed when they finally get together.  As a romance reader, there’s nothing I love more than that!

Another thing I love?  That I don’t hate anyone in this book!  (Well, except maybe the terrible King William, who’s referenced here and there.)  Instead, almost all the characters are surprisingly admirable, and may of them are even endearing.  Aediva and Svend are noble, reliable, and courageous, but not so much so they we can’t see them as real people.  The supporting cast is clever and caring, and even the conniving Earl FitzOsbern seems redeemable in his own way.  I was really interested in learning more about Aediva’s sister, Cilla, especially after we discover that (gasp!) she had a secret romance with a Norman nobleman!  (Pssst, Jenni: I really, really hope their story will become a book of its own!)

I would recommend this book to…well, basically everyone, but especially to readers who care more about the story and the characters than explicit sex scenes.  Fletcher does a lot with anticipation and building tension, and the sex scenes are definitely sexy, but if you’re the kind of person who wants graphic consummation this might not be the book for you.  I would also recommend this to lovers of historical romance, as the book is deeply steeped in period details.  I already want to read it again just so I can relish them!

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Also, did you know? We’re giving away a free copy of Married to Her Enemy, as well as FIVE other new releases from Harlequin!! Enter our giveaway here!!

Review: Pursuing Lord Pascal by Anna Campbell

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PURSUING LORD PASCAL
BOOK 4
THE DASHING WIDOWS SERIES
ANNA CAMPBELL
September 30, 2016
(.99 cent eb00k)

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You know that feeling you get when you’re at the very beginning of what you already know is going to be a good book?  The one that’s like the first flush of a new romance, when you’re so happy that someone (or some book) so wonderful exists in the world and that you–you!–get to be with him/her/it?  I LOVE that feeling.  It’s one of the best in all the world, right alongside the joy of jumping into a pile of autumn leaves.

I’m happy to say that this very feeling is immediately available to each and every one of you, and for the minuscule cost of 99 cents.  Interested?  Well, then!  Get thee to Anna Campbell’s Pursuing Lord Pascal, a delightful tale of “London’s handsomest man” and his (ultimately successful–yay!) attempts to win the heart of a beautiful, plucky widow.

When Gervaise Dacre, Lord Pascal lays eyes on Amy, Lady Mowbray, at yet another boring ball, he’s instantly captivated.  She’s gorgeous, she’s a grown-up (unlike all the simpering misses falling at his feet), and, most of all, she’s got a brain in her beautiful head.  Before he can blink, Pascal realizes that he must have her, even if it means putting aside his plan to marry for much-needed money.  Amy, however, can’t imagine that Gervaise is actually interested.  After all, her short marriage to Lord Mawbray (40 years her senior) was much more a meeting of the minds than the bodies, and she’s accepted that her life will be one largely devoid of the joys of the bedroom.  Gervaise makes it his mission to prove her wrong.  Thus ensues a wooing in which Amy, an agricultural genius who’s more at home in muck boots than ball gowns, falls head over heels in love with England’s most eligible libertine. Continue reading

Oldie but Goodie: Lisa Kleypas’ Hathaway Series

This isn’t so much a review as an opportunity for me to gush about an amazing, yet under-appreciated series: the Hathaway family series.  Recently, my contemporary romance-loving mom (Hi, Mom!) started reading historical romances (hooray, a new convert!).  Of course, she came to me for a recommendation and I immediately pointed her to Lisa Kleypas who is, in my opinion, the queen of historical (and contemporary) romances.

My mom started with the Kleypas classic, the Wallflower series.  This is hands-down one of the best historical romance series of all time (It Happened One Autumn is on my Forever Favorites Shelf!).  And, even better, Kleypas has revealed that fans will get to revisit some of the beloved Wallflower characters in her upcoming book, Devil in Spring (yay!!).  Mama Quirk (no, I don’t really call her that) was hooked by the Wallflower series and wanted to read more.  So, I pointed her towards Kleypas’ Hathaway series.  I wasn’t planning to re-read them myself, but we were on vacation and I (of course) read my books too fast and ran out of things to read, so I started reading the series again.

I’m so glad I picked Mine Till Midnight back up!  This is classic Kleypas- a strong female heroine and equally strong hero are irresistibly drawn together yet must learn to compromise and accommodate one another.  Although the Wallflower series dealt with people who were outsiders of the London ton, the Hathaway series confronts many similar issues even more explicitly.  In Mine Till Midnight, Amelia Hathaway falls in love with Cam Rohan, a man of Romany descent who straddles the fence between social outsider and society gentleman.  Cam is concerned about Amelia and her family’s reputation, but their attraction is too strong to resist!  After re-reading Mine Till Midnight, I was reminded of much I loved their relationship and how great a hero Cam is.  Amelia is a sensible, pragmatic woman who has taken charge of her siblings in light of their parents’ deaths.  She is strong-willed and resilient; at first she is worried Cam will diminish her independence, but he proves to her he can help shoulder her burdens without constraining her.  Cam is steadfast, and he augments all the great things about Amelia.  I like their story because, although it of course would satisfy any romance lover, it is, at its core, a story of two strong, practical people who learn to work (and love) together.

After Mine Till Midnight, I just couldn’t stop!  I also re-read Seduce Me at Sunrise, which differs from the first novel in the series in its lushness and drama.  Both Winifred and Merripen, the heroine and the hero, are characters of deep, often gut-wrenching emotion. Merripen is also of Romany descent and his troubled past leads him to believe he isn’t good enough for Win.  This novel takes place over the course of many years, as Merripen becomes part of the Hathaway family when he was a child.  Merripen and Win’s connection is primal; it’s a heart-stopping, overwhelming, all-encompassing kind of love that sweeps the reader along with it.  Kleypas is careful to make the obstacles to their love real enough that the story never feels melodramatic; instead, the drama and tension of the romance lends to a feeling of supreme satisfaction when Win and Merripen finally come together.  After reading this book, my heart was full (seriously, giddy tingles!) and I literally wanted to gush about it to everyone– hence, this post!  Just to give you some idea of how amazing this book is– and how opulent and lovely Kleypas’ writing is– here’s one of the most beautiful quotes:

I love you, he thought, looking at Win.  I love every part of you, every thought and word… the entire complex, fascinating bundle of all the things you are.  I want you with ten different kinds of needs at once.  I love all the seasons of you, the way you are now, the thought of how much more beautiful you’ll be in the decades to come.  I love you for being the answer to every question my heart could ask.”

I mean, COME ON.  If your heart isn’t warmed by that, you must be a robot.  Seriously, this is a gorgeous book of sweeping, passionate love.  It’s impossible to resist.

I’m glad to have the chance to talk about these two books side by side because although I love them both, it’s for very different reasons.  I love that Cam and Amelia are smart, hard-working people who are drawn to each other’s minds (and bodies) and have a sense of purpose and responsibility.  I love that they complement each other’s strengths and that they support each other’s weaknesses.  By contrast, I love Win and Merripen for their passion, their drama, the utter beauty of their love.  I can’t really pick which one I prefer, which is why I’m so glad they’re back-to-back in the series, allowing the reader to experience both kinds of love.  That Lisa Kleypas, she knows what she’s doing.

The rest of the series is equally great.  I highly recommend checking out any of the Hathaway books; fans of Kleypas, Julia Quinn, and Eloisa James will love the Hathaway series.  The family dynamics throughout the series are incredibly endearing and the romances are classically lovely.  Honestly, I can’t get enough.  I’m smiling as I think about them.  Now that I’ve finished this post, I should get back to my homework, but I’m probably going to get started on Tempt Me at Twilight!

Review: How the Duke Was Won

dukeLenora Bell
How the Duke Was Won
Published April 26, 2016
($7.99 paperback, $6.99 ebook)

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Filled with swapped identities, a recalcitrant duke, and a boisterous band of supporting characters, Lenora Bell’s How the Duke Was Won is a spectacular success.  The plot is innovative, the chemistry sizzles, and the happily-ever-after is all that a sappy reader like myself could hope for.  This isn’t a new release– it came out in April of this year, but it’s definitely worth looking back at.  The next book in the series was released a couple of weeks ago, and is definitely on my TBR list. 

Charlene Beckett, an earl’s illegitimate daughter, is in desperate straits– her mother is proprietress of a nearly-bankrupt brothel and a loathsome lord/loanshark is knocking on their door to collect his repayment, in the form of Charlene’s services.  Fortunately, her father’s wife, Lady Desmond, has come to hire Charlene to impersonate her own daughter, Lady Dorothea, at a house party hosted by the elusive Duke of Harland.  The two half-sisters, Charlene and Dorothea, are nearly identical; all Charlene has to do is obtain a proposal from the Duke and then allow Dorothea to take her place when she returns from an overseas voyage.  In exchange, Lady Desmond will pay off Charlene’s debt, freeing her from the clutches of the malicious lord.  Seems easy enough, no?

Continue reading

2 Devoted Readers Seeking Perfect Romance Heroine

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2 DR’s (Devoted  Readers) seek PRH (Perfect Romance Heroine) for LLA (Lifetime of Literary Adoration).

PRH must possess each the 6 following criteria.*, **  All others need not apply.

*Willing to accept 5 out of 6 under certain–very rare!–circumstances, such as: the heroine is too smart to be funny, too funny to be smart, or too independent to have character.  Please write back to inquire if you meet the requirements for an exception.

 1: Brains

There’s no denying it: we misses…errr, DR’s!…love a lady with intellect.  And who doesn’t?  (Not anyone we want to be friends with, that’s for sure!)  Whether she’s a Regency Duchess or an antebellum belle, we want our heroines to excel in the smarts department.  She doesn’t necessarily have to be a book nerd, or a nerd at all; intelligence comes in many forms, and we’re open to them all (a botanist? An engineer? A polyglot? An artist? A people person? All great!).  There’s nothing we admire more than a woman with brains, and that’s especially true for someone whose Happily Ever After we’re planning to hope for from page one.

2: Beauty

It’s true, our heroine must be beautiful.  That doesn’t mean, however, that she has to look like Connie Britton as Mrs. Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights (though this rare kind of shiny golden Southern bombshell angel beauty is always welcome).  Instead, beauty (like intelligence) has a wide range of definitions.  The heroine can be short or tall, curvy or slender, pale or tan, blonde or brunette or redhead.  The important thing is that she has an inner light that the hero finds alluring and that, as he gets to know her, he simply can’t resist.  We want the heroine to be exactly the hero’s type, no matter what that type is, and we want their chemistry to singe the sheets! Continue reading

Review: A Scot in the Dark

513pLOEbTfLSarah MacLean
A Scot in the Dark
Published August 30, 2016
($25.99 hardcover, $7.99 paperback, $6.99 ebook)

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Sarah MacLean’s books are absolutely delightful.  Full stop.  No qualification.  A Scot in the Dark, the second in her “Scandal & Scoundrel” series is no exception; MacLean has crafted a hero and heroine so compelling and so rightly matched, that you can’t help but smile when enemies are dispatched, obstacles overcome, and true love conquers all. Continue reading