Sunday Spotlight on Broken Things

Broken Things is Meg Henshawe’s book. Hers and Jake Cohen’s. If you’ve read the early books in Jessica Cale’s Southwark Saga (especially Virtue’s Lady), you’ll remember Meg. Loud, coarse, ready to trample over everyone to get what she wants, known far and wide for her beauty and her lovers. And if you haven’t read the earlier books, get them first, because this book will change everything you thought you knew about Southwark’s favourite whore.

Cale takes us into London’s worst slum in the years after the Great Fire. Her characters are irreverent, coarse, often violent, always real and compelling. Her training as an historian shows in the depth and texture of the life she portrays. Her skill as a novelist means we simply enter that life, never aware of Cale the scholar as we live the story with Meg and Jake.

What’s broken in this book? Meg and her hopes for the future. The Rose and Crown, the inn that she runs with those of her sisters still under her fierce protection. Her relationship with her son’s father. Jake’s hands, his job (for a second time—in the Great Fire, he had lost his family, his betrothal, and his future as a goldsmith), his sense of himself.

This book is about two people who have little to lose, and that about to be ripped from them. Alone, Jake is ready to give up and Meg can see no way out. Together, they find a reason to hope; a reason to keep fighting and to win.

If you read only one book this month, make it this one.

About Broken Things

Rival. Sister. Barmaid. Whore.

Meg Henshawe has been a lot of things in her life, and few of them good. As proprietress of The Rose and Crown in Restoration Southwark, she has squandered her life catering to the comfort of workmen and thieves. Famous for her beauty as much as her reputation for rage, Meg has been coveted, abused, and discarded more than once. She is resigned to fighting alone until a passing boxer offers a helping hand.

Jake Cohen needs a job. When an injury forces him out of the ring for good, all he’s left with is a pair of smashed hands and a bad leg. Keeping the peace at The Rose is easy, especially with a boss as beautiful—and wickedly funny—as Meg Henshawe. In her way, she’s as much of an outcast as Jake, and she offers him three things he thought he’d never see again: a home, family, and love.

After Meg’s estranged cousin turns up and seizes the inn, Meg and Jake must work together to protect their jobs and keep The Rose running. The future is uncertain at best, and their pasts won’t stay buried. Faced with one setback after another, they must decide if what they have is worth the fight to keep it. Can broken things ever really be fixed?

Content notes: Diverse characters, profanity, violence, graphic sex

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Sunday Spotlight on What the Scot Hears

Amy Quinton has produced another fun romp in her Agents of Change series. MacLeod, the Scot of the title is superb: gloomy, pessimistic, suspicious, and totally befuddled by the brash American woman who keeps stumbling across his work as a spy for the British Crown.

For all her cheerful outgoing personality, Amelia hides secrets of her own, not least her identity and her background.

Read this book to discover how this mismatched pair discover they are perfect for one another, while negotiating people determined to kill them and MacLeod’s reaction to Amelia’s lies. Better still, read the series. Two other couples already matched are in this novel, and it was fun to see them again. I very much enjoyed What the Duke Wants, and am now itching to read What the Marquis Sees, which I’ve skipped. See? The books can be read independently and out of order, but I want to see how Beatrice won her man. I’ve a suspicion she may be my favourite of the three heroines so far.

I’d have loved a bit more of a sense we were in 1814. The voice is very modern, and there’s little period detail. But still a rollicking good yarn, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

What the Scot Hears

Agents of Change, Book 3

England 1814: Reticent Scottish Lord pursues Mouthy, Independent, American Woman… She is an outspoken American orphan with a questionable past and a dubious purpose. He is a man of few words on the lookout for a traitor. How could they NOT get along?

Mrs. Amelia Chase is a highly-opinionated, 23-year-old woman from America on the run from her past with a penchant for self-preservation and a healthy love for Shakespearean insults. Much to a certain Scotsman’s dismay:

She isn’t:

  • Quiet – not with her tendency to talk to everyone about anything…
  • Demure – highly overrated if one cannot wear red and show off one’s curves…
  • Equine-savvy – she once fled some currish, toad-spotted, coxcombs – er, villains – in a stolen carriage at a pace slower than a meandering walk. Oh, and mistook a common mule for a thoroughbred. But other than that…

And she is:

  • Brave – Smart, Loyal, Witty. Er, charming. Plus, Modest, Lonely, Secretive – Um, forget that last part…
  • And In love – with a distrustful Highlander of all things…

Lord Alaistair MacLeod is an agent for the Crown and a man with secrets. He doesn’t speak of them, he doesn’t dwell on them, and he certainly doesn’t let them define his future. Much. One thing is for certain, he definitely doesn’t share his confidences with a peery, outspoken American woman who is obviously trouble, acts highly suspicious, and is far too nosy for her own good… No matter:

He is always:

  • Focused – men who cannot stay to task are foolish…
  • Pointed and Reserved – enough said…

And he isn’t:

  • Cheeky – like a certain American firebrand…
  • Led by his… ahem…even when following on the heels of a curvy, red-wearing… ahem
  • Or In love… especially not with a Troublesome, Meddlesome, so-called Independent American Woman…

Can he trust enough to embrace such an enigmatic woman? Can she awaken the passions of such an intensely private man?

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Spotlight on Nothing But Time

In today’s Sunday Spotlight is Sherry Ewing’s Nothing But Time.

This short Regency novel is the tale of Gwendolyn, married despite her protests to a nasty old man who bullies and abuses her, and cuts her off from contact with her friends. It’s also the story of Neville, the successful investor and rising aristocrat who falls in love, quite against his will, with another man’s wife.

Adultery is a daring topic for a romance. To keep our sympathy, the writer needs to give us extenuating circumstances, and Ms Ewing does so to the max. The story has it all: thwarted love, a villain,  a mad chase north, a heart-wrenching  separation, and a few passionate interludes to give us hope that all will be well.

I liked Gwendolyn’s compassion for her ungrateful spouse, and how hard she tried to be true to the vows she didn’t want to make. But Neville was my favourite of the two. He was not an innocent, but he was in love for the first time, and he was putty in Gwendolyn’s hands, as well as charming, determined, faithful, and brave.

The book was short and the characters only lightly painted. The horrible husband was a caricature, but the boorish elder brother and the mischievous younger one both show promise. I look forward to more stories of the Worth family.

They will risk everything for their forbidden love…

When Lady Gwendolyn Marie Worthington is forced to marry a man old enough to be her father, she concludes love will never enter her life. Her husband is a cruel man who blames her for his own failings. Then she meets her brother’s attractive business associate and all those longings she had thought gone forever suddenly reappear.

A long-term romance holds no appeal for Neville Quinn, Earl of Drayton until an unexpected encounter with the sister of the Duke of Hartford. Still, he resists giving his heart to another woman, especially one who belongs to another man.

Chance encounters lead to intimate dinners, until Neville and Gwendolyn flee to Berwyck Castle at Scotland’s border hoping beyond reason their fragile love will survive the vindictive reach of Gwendolyn’s possessive husband. Before their journey is over, Gwendolyn will risk losing the only love she has ever known.

 

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Neville’s first glance at Gwendolyn

He held her stare. How could he not when he had been admiring her beauty just a short while ago? He did not dally with women whose husbands were living, and certainly not one who was associated with a potential business associate. The last thing he needed was some man breathing down his neck challenging him to a duel, and that most assuredly included her brothers as well as her husband.

To say she was beautiful would not have done the lady justice. She was young, perhaps no more than twenty. Her light brown hair was swept up into a pleasing coiffure and one long curling ringlet cascaded down her left shoulder. He could not tell the color of her eyes from this distance but they were framed in a round face with a clear complexion. Neville should not let his gaze linger on those lips for long. They were meant to be kissed and kissed often.

Something about the lady continued to pull at his heart, and, for the life of him, he could not look away. She seemed sad, and he could only ponder the cause. Why her disposition was important to him he could not say, and yet, he had a sudden desire to sweep her away and fill her days with happiness. He squashed down the notion of what he would like to do with her nights.

They continued staring, one to the other, and he watched in fascination as her chest rose and fell as if she were attempting to catch her breath. Neville had been tempted long enough and he gave into the impulse by offering her the slightest of nods. She must have at last come to her senses at his gesture, for she quickly turned away, but not before Neville witnessed a lovely blush rising to color her cheeks.

Meet Sherry Ewing

Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical & time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. Always wanting to write a novel but busy raising her children, she finally took the plunge in 2008 and wrote her first Regency. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Beau Monde & the Bluestocking Belles. Sherry is currently working on her next novel and when not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist. You can learn more about Sherry and her published work at www.SherryEwing.com.

Website & Books: http://www.SherryEwing.com

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Sunday Spotlight on The Reluctant Wife

Caroline Warfield writes a superb book, and has had me as a devoted fan since Dangerous Works, the first in her Dangerous series. The Reluctant Wife is her best yet.

The hero, Fred, is one of the boys from Dangerous Nativity, all grown up and following his boyhood dream of being a soldier. But his dreams have turned sour. We meet him in a village in Benghal, drinking his sorrows after the sudden death of the local woman who was his housekeeper and mistress.

No better able to bear injustice and bullying than he was as a child, he has spoken for those without a voice, protected those without power, and been rewarded by demotion and sidelining. In his eyes, he’s a failure; a failure, furthermore, faced with responsibility for his two mixed-race daughters.

The heroine, Clare, bursts in on his life at that moment. She is the sister of his supervising officer, who is a pompous idiot, and bears deep scars of her own. In India only to get her brother’s signature on papers that will give her financial independence, she is still grieving the loss of her only child, and sees herself as a failed wife, and a failed mother.

From the first, Clare understands that what the girls need is their father.  Fred takes some more convincing: across the Indian Ocean and the Egyptian desert, and on into England, where he and Clare must confront their doubts and fears, as well as facing down a bully from Fred’s past in India; a bully who means murder.

Fred’s cousin Charles, Duke of Murnane, has an important role to play in this book, and we see some more healing from the damage his wife did years before to the relationship between Fred, Charles, and Fred’s brother Rand (hero of The Renegade Wife). Charles stars in The Unexpected Wife, due out later this year, and I can hardly wait.

Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Reluctant-Wife-Children-Empire-Book-ebook/dp/B06Y4BGMX1/

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Tea with Aleksandra

Aleksandra was surprised when she came out onto the wide verandah to see instead a stone-flagged terrace with steps down to formal gardens. She had stepped into another world

A small table was set for tea, and one of the two seats was already occupied by an older woman, richly dressed in a style long out of fashion. Mouth dropped open, Aleksandra approached the table.

“Good morning, I seem to have…ummm…where am I?”

The lady inclined her head, graciously. “This is Haverford Castle, in England. Allow me to introduce myself, my dear. I am Eleanor Haverford. Please, do take a seat and join me for tea?”

“Haverford? England?” Aleksandra stuttered. “Yes, thank you, I’d love that.”

She took the offered seat, looking around at the unfamiliar landscape. “I’m Aleksandra Lekarski. I’m from…California. From the Rancho de las Pulgas.” Behind her, grey stone walls loomed. When Xavier first took her to the rancho, the mansion, surrounded by its lush gardens and many smaller buildings, had impressed her with its size, and its sense of history and permanence. The castle before which they sat was ten times as large and many hundred years older.

“Haverford Castle,” the lady explained. “There has been a castle here since the Norman conquest, and when my husband’s ancestor was raised to a dukedom, he took his title from the castle. The lady was a duchess, then. Aleksandra tried to remember what her mother said about addressing a duchess.

The duchess offered several different types of tea, then milk and sugar, and passed the cup to Aleksandra with a small plate containing iced cakes, bringing a smile to Aleksandra’s face.

“OOooohh, my mother once made these!” Her brows drew together again. “But why am I here?”

The duchess tilted her head and gave a slight lift to one shoulder; not enough to be called a shrug. “It is most peculiar, is it not, Miss Lekarski? I do not know how it works, but every Monday afternoon I have a visitor, and I never know the place and time they will come from and return to. Please, do relax and tell me about yourself.”

Alexsandra began obediently. “I was born in Vienna, but my family ran to the United States when I was just an infant. We ended up trapping in the wilderness of Utah Territory, then after I met Xavier, I moved home to his family inheritance, the Rancho de las Pulgas!”

“Xavier is your husband? But no, the name you gave me is Polish. His name is surely Spanish.”

“Yes, he is.” Remembering her brother-in-law’s drunken ramblings, she frowned. “Or I I thought he was… until yesterday. We’re working on that. And, yes, it’s a Spanish name. He’s from an old Californio (yes, with a ‘o’ ) family, which has the Spanish Conquistadors as their origin, so he’s Latin.”

“That sounds like a story! You thought you were married and you found yesterday you were not?”

“Something my brother in law said…our marriage might not actually be valid…but as soon as he wakens from his drunken stupor, we’ll find out!

“How distressing for you. I hope it is just his drunkeness.  I can hear in your voice that you are happy with your Xavier. And what does Xavier think of you?”

“I really have to answer that?” Alexsandra gave a big sigh, but her eyes twinkled at the duchess. It was a pleasure talking to someone she would never meet again outside of a dream such as this. “He’d say (I’ve heard him say, anyway) I’m lovely (he can’t get enough of my golden curls that reach past my derrière), an unparalleled rider (I was trained by my father in dzhigitovka), smart (I speak five languages and do math in my head), sensitive, generous to a fault, and a lot of fun.”

She chuckled. “But…he’d also say I’m opinionated, bossy, inclined to always want to do things my own way, and difficult to get to know. But he loves me anyway. Dzhigitovka and horses are my greatest loves, other than Xavier, of course.”

The duchess had been listening intently. “Tell me, what is Dzhigitovka?”

“Oooohhh… Dzhigitovka originated with the Caucasians, long, long ago, and it was kept alive by the Cossacks, and now the Russians. It’s a form of riding we now call trick riding, but it evolved as a form of mounted warfare. Even the names are wonderful… the Cossack hang, the death drag, to name a few… My papa learned, back in Poland, from a Ukranian, Vladimir, who, incidentally, plays a large part in book One, A Long Trail Rolling!”

Alexsandra’s hostess opened her hazel eyes wide. “How exciting! You have led a very adventurous life, my dear.”

“It’s very adventurous. I’ve only just now begun wearing skirts. I had one muslin dress to my name, but several pairs of buckskins!”

“And your papa taught you. What does your Xavier think of your trick riding?”

“Xavier loves it,” Aleksandra said proudly. “I’ve taught him some, too! He a magnificent horseman, and rides a gorgeous gray Andalusian stallion. My mount of choice is Dzień, a mustang.”

“Then your man is a match for you, and Aleksandra (may I call you Aleksandra?) if you are not married yet, it will be simple enough to amend the situation will it not?”

“It should be a simple matter…if we’re not actually married, there should be no impediment. I’m sure my mother in law, Maria Arguëllo, will be ecstatic to not miss this wedding, and will go to great lengths to make it the most remembered ceremony of the year! The rancho is the biggest old Spanish land grant in the San Francisco Bay Area, after all! She will make sure it’s quite the fiesta!”

The duchess put down her cup and held out her hand, taking Aleksandra’s hand in a firm glass. “How I wish this afternoon tea portal worked both ways! I should love to see you as a bride, my dear. But I wish you all the very best, you and your Xavier both.”

“Thank you, I really enjoyed the cup of tea, haven’t had one like that since my mama died. I will try to write to you and let you know what happens. Thank you again, and…take good care!”

The Hills of Gold Unchanging

No one will stand in their way—

                                                and live.

As the Civil War rages, secessionists menace California.

Trying to get back home, Aleksandra and Xavier journey through the mining camps of 1860’s Nevada and California, the Sacramento floods and Old San Francisco to Xavier’s Californio Rancho de las Pulgas.

Embroiled in the Confederate’s fight to drag the new state from the Union and make it their own, can Aleks and Xavier survive? The secessionists mean business.

This is Book Two of The Long Trails Series of historical romantic thriller sagas, following Lizzi’s characters from the wilderness of 1860’s Utah to Colonial New Zealand

Meet Lizzi Tremayne

Lizzi grew up riding wild in the Santa Cruz Mountain redwoods, became an equine veterinarian at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, practiced in the California Pony Express and Gold Country before emigrating to New Zealand. When not writing, she’s swinging a rapier or shooting a bow in medieval garb, riding, driving a carriage or playing on her farm, singing, or working as an equine veterinarian or science teacher. She is multiply published and awarded in special interest magazines and veterinary periodicalsPhotos

BUY LINKS : 

Buy A Long Trail Rolling, and The Hills of Gold Unchanging

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EXCERPT:

June 1860, Echo Canyon, Wasatch Mountains, Utah Territory

His blade glinted in the sunlight as he lunged toward her, but she ducked and spun, her own sword flashing in figure eights while she retreated, and his strike met with only air. He recovered and set himself up for the onslaught he knew would come, coughing as the dust kicked up by their boots thickened.

Blade up, he parried the blows she rained down upon him. He managed to get in one of his own, and retreated for a moment, breathing hard. She stepped back as well, her breasts heaving beneath the thin linen. Blue eyes glittered below brows narrowed with concentration, before her sword returned to action with a vengeance. They circled, dodging and striking in turn. Her skill was far greater, but the girl’s injuries from her last fight, combined with his greater reach and fitness were beginning to tell. A movement tugged at the edge of his vision—he glanced up from her sword to see her hat tumble off. Her hair cascaded down in a tangle to her thighs, and his heart surged.

She’s mine now.

He offered the ghost of a smile as he moved in to disarm her with a passing lunge and struck at her sword arm.

The air left his lungs and he tasted dirt in his mouth as he hit the unforgiving ground face-first. He groaned and rolled over, expecting the worst.

Above him, her laughing visage met his eyes. Her glorious curls, molten gold, fell around his face like a veil as she bent to wipe his face and kiss his lips. She slid the hilt of his sword from his hand.

“All right, halte, hold, you two,” their instructor said, in his heavy Russian accent. “There’s still work to be done, Xavier, but you’ve done well.”

Xavier Argüello took the hand his opponent offered, hopped to his feet and dusted off his clothes.

“Well done, Querido,” said his intended, Aleksandra Lekarski, as she returned his sword.

“Xavier, come here, please,” Vladimir Chabardine said, from the doorway of the cabin, where he was propped up in his sickbed. “You have worked hard. I am impressed, and it is rare that I am compelled to say that. That shashka now belongs to you. Use it in good health.”

Xavier stared at him, then at the Don Cossack saber in his hand, its leather grip smooth with years of use. He was silent for long moments.

“But it’s yours, Vladimir,” he finally said.

“It was one of mine, yes. Now it is yours. Tatiana brought my other two shashkas with her from Russia. One is for Nikolai, when he is ready, and this one is for you. It’s the least I can do, after my part in,” he looked at Aleksandra and grimaced, “your papa’s death.”

She nodded, her face grim, in acknowledgement.

“Thank you, from the bottom of my heart,” Xavier said, shaking his head at the Russian, as he ran a finger from the tooled embellishment on the pommel through to the rawhide bouton and strip they used for their practice sessions. He slid the protectors off and his new shashka whispered into its scabbard. He turned to face Aleksandra, and bowed to her. “Thank you,” he said, then turned to Vladimir, “and again, to you.”

She returned the bow and smiled at them both.

“You’re not quite done,” Vladimir said. “Xavier, replace the guard.”

“What would you like?” Aleksandra asked.

“One more bout. En garde,” he said, and they prepared.

Prêt.” They nodded.

Allez,” Vladimir snapped, and they began.

Aleksandra feinted, then moved to strike, but Xavier saw a hole in her defense and lunged. She twirled way, with a laugh, then drew back, looking frightened, her body twisted strangely to the right.

Was she injured?

His gaze lifted to her face, but no pain resided there, though her brow was furrowed. What a chance! Her whole left side was unguarded, and he went for the opening.

Before he could alter his course, she unwound and her shashka flashed toward him. For the second time in his life, he froze as he found her blade across his throat.

¿Recuerdas? Remember this?” she said, her eyes merry.

“How could I forget, Querida,” he spoke for her ears alone, “our first meeting?”

Hands clapped behind them and they spun as one, hands on their sword hilts.

“No need fer that, no need fer that,” said a man, mounted on a chestnut horse. Beside the horse walked a black man, tied by the wrists to the rope in the rider’s hands.

“What do you wan—” Xavier began, then clamped his jaw, as his breath came short. Blood pounded in his ears and his face heated. “What can I help you with,” he finally managed, past gritted teeth, as he walked away from the house door, toward their callers.

“Well, hello theah,” the rider said, his Southern accent heavy. “Good fightin’, and fer a girl, too.” He looked sideways at Aleksandra.

“Aleks,” Xavier hissed, as he felt, rather than saw, her bristle beside him. He glanced at her knuckles showing white on the pommel of her saber. He reached out and covered her sword hand with his own and she took a deep breath and stilled.

“We’re yer new neighbors down th’road. Y’all wanna buy a slave? We’ve jus’ done come West ‘n now we’ve done finished buildin’ the house, he’s,” he nodded at the man at the end of his tether, “jus’ ‘noth’r mouth t’feed. Ca’int use ‘im to grow nuthin’ in this rock y’call dirt around heah.” He stopped and looked at the yard and cabin. “Nice place y’all got here.”

Xavier nodded, silent.

The man’s brows narrowed, then he continued. “Well, ah wondered if y’all had a breedin—ah, a woman slave I could trade fer him. The missus wants help in t’house, an’ I could use a little…too.” The glint in his beady eyes turned his grin into a leer.

Xavier closed his eyes and clenched his fists. “This territory may allow slavery, but nobody holds with it around here.”

The Southerner was silent for a moment, then answered with a voice dripping with sarcasm. “Now that’s mahty neighborly of ya. Are y’all some o’them ab’litionists we come West to git away from?”

“As you wish.” Xavier raised a brow at him, then shifted his gaze to the man on foot, staring at the dirt. “I apologize to you, sir, but you’ll have to go home with him again. May you find yourself a better life soon.”

The corners of the slave’s mouth lifted briefly. His eyes flickered up to Xavier’s, brightened, then dulled again as he dropped them to the ground.

“C’mon Jordan,” the rider growled, “we’re not welc’m here, by all accounts.” He jerked his horse around and they retreated the way they’d come.

Xavier stood silent, watching them go, then began to shake. He closed his eyes, willing himself to control the anger, and the deepening darkness. He inhaled sharply. When he opened his eyes, Aleksandra was staring at him.

“Are you all right?” she said, her brow furrowed.

“Yes.” Xavier nodded.

“More Southerners,” Aleksandra scowled as she wiped sweat from her brow with the back of her sleeve, “running from home before the government takes their slaves away?”

“That’ll never happen,” Xavier said, from between clenched jaws. “Too strong, too wealthy—cotton—slaves. Poor beggars down South.” He peered around. “Even here. I can’t believe it.”

“Believe it,” she said. “They’re coming.”

He shook his head. “I just wish we could stop it—the abuse, the owning.”

Aleksandra wrapped her arms around him, held him close until the tremors quieted. She leaned back in his arms and studied his face, then seemed satisfied with what she saw.

“Having you here makes it bearable, I think,” he said, and kissed her.

“I’m so used to you being the strong one…sometimes I forget the demons that still eat at you,” she said.

 

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Tea with Charles

The Duke of Murnane moved with ease in the highest circles. Few people set Charles off his confidence. The Duchess of Haverford was one of them. Standing now, hat in hand, in the anteroom to her inner sanctum while her bespectacled assistant announced his presence, he almost succumbed to the temptation to bolt for the door.

He had only come to town because his vote on one of the reform bills had been deemed vital, a vote that went against Haverford’s firmly held beliefs—the duke’s that is, not his lady wife’s. He intended to return to Eversham Hall as swiftly as he could, but he still had matters to attend to on behalf of his cousin’s… He had no words for what Clare Armbruster meant to his cousin since the two of them seemed intent on pretending their connection was entirely business. This summons had been inconvenient at best.

“The duchess will greet you, now,” the assistant said, her voice from the doorway pitched so low he almost missed it.

The lady smiled from her place on a gilt brocade settee. Without appearing to do anything so tasteless as “holding court,” she managed to reflect power wrapped in compassion. It was the latter that made his knees wobble.

“Charles,” she beamed at him when he bowed over her hand. “Thank you for find a moment for me.”

He took the delicate porcelain teacup she offered. What choice did he have? When she offered, he took a lemon cake as well, a small masterpiece from the Haverford kitchens.

“Tell me the final tally. Did the reform pass?”

“Just.” Had she asked him here to discuss politics? She must have better sources, he thought. “Two votes. Mine wasn’t strictly necessary as it turned out, but it might have been. Haverford will not be pleased,” he grinned, amusement getting the better of him.

“The duke is rarely pleased,” she replied tartly. “You’ve been in the country for weeks this time. We’ve missed you in London. Is it Lord Jonathon ‘s condition that keeps you away?”

The duke’s son suffered from a weakness of the heart. Episodes in which his lungs filled with fluid occurred periodically, coming more frequently this past year. He took a shuddering breath. “You know me well. Yes, Jonny has been failing. He rallied this week, however, and there are others to care for him while I’m gone”

“Forgive me for intruding Charles, but it is Lord Jonathon’s health that concerns me. He is your only heir, is he not?”

“Of course I have only one heir, Your Grace.” Unease prickled up the back of his neck.

She waved an irritated hand. “Do not try to flummox me, Charles. I’ve known you since Chadbourn brought you up to London when you were twelve years old. You have no other son, and, as you have made clear, Jonny, poor darling, is unlikely to outlive you. What do you plan to do about it?”

There it was. He looked around for escape and found none. “What can I do about it? If the worst happens, Fred is my heir after Jonny. What more do I need.”

The duchess put her cup down and reached for his hand. He had the oddest feeling—as if he were twelve again, and her warmth wrapped him like a blanket. “You deserve better, Charles.”

“Better than my cousin Fred? He is home from India, you know, at Eversham looking after Jonny.”

She shook her head sadly. “Don’t put me off. You deserve better than this half-life you live. Whatever they may say, not one person in London, their heart of hearts, would begrudge you happiness. Divorce that harpy you married and find a woman who will make you happy.”

He pulled his hands back. “And give me an heir,” he spat bitterly, immediately regretting it. The Duchess of Haverford, shrewd as she was, meant nothing but kindness.

“Fred Wheatly knows his duty and will do it if he must,” she said gently. “He has enough backbone and integrity to know the position is more than a title. However, the weight of it would not be his choice, I think. So, yes, better for all around if you had another son.”

“Jonny doesn’t deserve the scandal and I won’t have him thinking he isn’t enough for me.” He made a helpless gesture. “I would have to sue her lover first and I wouldn’t know where to start. It’s some German baron this time. She is back in Baden.”

“Nonsense. You could find any one of a number of barons, land stewards, or—”

“Enough! You’ve made my point. Isn’t it enough Julia has humiliated me every year we’ve been married? Do you really think my family wants me to drag it all out in the courts?”

“Don’t they?” She pinned him with the gaze that made even Aldridge quail.

He put the cup down with deliberate care. “My compliments to the chef, Your Grace. The cakes were exquisite and the company, as always, delightful.”  When he bowed over her hand, she didn’t try to prevent his departure.

_____________________________________

The story of Charles’s cousin Fred will unfold in Caroline Warfield’s The Reluctant Wife, to be published the end of April, 2017.

When Bengal Army Captain Fred Wheatly is forced to resign in disgrace, and his mistress dies leaving him with two half-caste daughters to raise, he reluctantly turns to Clare Armbruster for help. But the interfering, beautiful widow demands more of him than he’s ready to give. He’s failed so often in the past. Clare’s made mistakes as well. Can two hearts rise above past failures to forge a future together?

Charles also plays a key role in The Renegade Wife, helping his cousin Rand unravel his love life while protecting the crown from a nasty gang of counterfeiters.  It is available for purchase now or free with Kindle unlimited.

Reclusive businessman Rand Wheatly finds his solitude disrupted by a desperate woman running with her children from an ugly past. But even his remote cabin in Upper Canada isn’t safe enough. Meggy Blair may have lied to him, but she breached the walls of his betrayed heart. Now she’s on the run again and time is running out for all of them.

The Author

Bluestocking Belle and award winning author Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she works in an office surrounded by windows while she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

Links

http://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/the-reluctant-wife/

https://www.amazon.com/Renegade-Wife-Children-Empire-Book-ebook/dp/B01LY7IRT6/

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Shiny facts

tsundokuI’ve commented before that I have a jackdaw mind: I love shiny facts, and will follow the hint of one for miles through books and around the internet, until I can get my beak on it and carry it away into the recesses of my overstuffed memory.

It might amuse you to know the books and videos currently feeding this obsession (mostly Georgian and British focused, but a few reaching into other places and other eras):

Taste: Kate Colquhuon

Smallpox, Syphilis and Salvation: Sheryl Pearson

The Enlightened Economy: Joel Mokyr

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World: Peter Frankopan

The Secret History of Georgian London: Dan Gruikshank

Crown and Country (TV series on DVD): Edward Windsor as narrator

Ultimate Rome: Empire Without Limit (TV series): Mary Beard as narrator

The Story of China (TV series): Michael Wood as narrator

I’m intending to read (and have on my bedside table):

Redcoats Against Napoleon: Carole Divall

Europe under Napoleon: Michael Broers

In these Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars: Jenny Uglow

(Bit of a theme, there)

The Fortune Hunter: Peter James Bowman

Magpie, Squirrels and Thieves: Jacqueline Yallop

The Unruly Queen: Flora Fraser

Wilful Impropriety: Edaterina Sedia

Unquiet Lives: Marriage and Marriage Breakdown in England: Joanne Bailey

 

 

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Love is worth the risk…

The renegade wifeLove is worth the risk…

New cover, new release, new series! Coming in October

The heroes and heroines of Caroline Warfield’s DANGEROUS SERIES overcame challenges even after their happy ending. Their children seek their own happiness in distant lands in Warfield’s new CHILDREN OF EMPIRE SERIES. In THE RENEGADE WIFE, first of the new series, reclusive Rand Wheatly finds contentment in his remote cabin in Upper Canada, intent on making his fortune in timber, until his precious solitude is disrupted by a woman running from an ugly past. He quickly realizes she wasn’t what she claims, but now she’s on the run again and time is running out for him to save her.

Caroline is celebrating with a GIVEAWAY on her website.
http://wp.me/p5qiDD-vj

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Review: The Master of Strathburn

MasterOfStrathburnFINALFor her newest release, Amy Rose Bennett has returned to Scotland, this time in the years after the failure of the Jacobite rebellion that resoundingly defeated in 1746. I loved Lady Beauchamp’s Proposal, and this novel is even better.

The eldest son of the Earl of Strathburn has returned home. But it won’t be fatted calf on the spit if his stepmother and younger half-brother gets his way. Robert Grant was spirited away ten years ago, just ahead of arresting soldiers, after he led men in the disaster that was Culloden. And if Simon and the redcoats catch him, the charge of treachery still stands.

Jessie Munroe is in hiding from Simon, too. He is determined to make the lovely girl his mistress, and if she is unwilling, so much the better. In Simon’s view, that adds a bit of spice.

When Robert and Jessie both choose to hide in the same place, the sparks we’ve come to expect from Ms Bennett set fire to the page. Without giving away too much of the plot, I can tell you to expect misunderstandings, a noble warrior protector with a hot body, a determined intelligent heroine, and a couple of truly nasty villains. Simon is the kind of horrid person who pulled the wings of flies when he was a boy.

But his mother is well and truly worthy of the tradition of Lady Macbeth and the wicked stepmother trope. She is not at all concerned about her son’s fondness for raping the help, gambling and spending away the estate’s income, and drinking himself blind. He is her boy, and should be allowed to have what he wants.

Ms Bennett has given us a thrilling romance with an historical background that feels authentic, a couple of chase scenes with cliff-hanger consequences, some clever plot twists, and plenty of passion. I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to review an advance reader copy.

See Amy Rose Bennett’s New Sexy Novel for more about the book, and some buy links.

 

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Amy Rose Bennett’s new sexy novel

MasterofStrathburn1

Today, I welcome Amy Rose Bennett to my site on her blog tour for the Master of Strathburn. I loved this book, and encourage you to read my review, but meanwhile, read on.
About the Book:







Title of New Release: The Master of Strathburn
Publisher: Escape Publishing (Harlequin)
Release date: May 15, 2016

Blurb:
Robert Grant has returned home to Lochrose Castle in the Highlands to reconcile with his long-estranged father, the Earl of Strathburn. But there is a price on Robert’s head, and his avaricious younger half-brother, Simon, doesn’t want him reclaiming his birthright. And it’s not only Simon and the redcoats that threaten to destroy Robert’s plans after a flame-haired complication of the feminine kind enters the scene…
Jessie Munroe is forced to flee Lochrose Castle after the dissolute Simon Grant tries to coerce her into becoming his mistress. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious and handsome hunter, Robert, in a remote Highland glen, she throws her lot in with the stranger—even though she suspects he is a fugitive. She soon realizes that this man is dangerous in an entirely different way to Simon…
Despite their searing attraction, Robert and Jessie struggle to trust each other as they both seek a place to call home. The stakes are high and only one thing is certain: Simon Grant is in pursuit of them both…

Pre-order Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/102Xim
Google Play: http://ow.ly/102XJ1
About the Author:
Amy Rose Bennett has always wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. An avid reader with a particular love for historical romance, it seemed only natural to write stories in her favorite genre. She has a passion for creating emotion-packed—and sometimes a little racy—stories set in the Georgian and Regency periods. Of course, her strong-willed heroines and rakish heroes always find their happily ever after.
Amy is happily married to her own Alpha male hero, has two beautiful daughters, and a rather loopy Rhodesian Ridgeback. She has been a speech pathologist for many years but is currently devoting her time to her one other true calling—writing romance.
Connect with Amy:
Website and Blog: http://AmyRoseBennett.com
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