<i>Christmas Brides</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Christmas Brides: Exclusive Excerpt Alexandra Hawkins, Suzanne Enoch, Elizabeth Essex and Valerie Bowman "She rushed up to him and brushed a kiss against his mouth." <i>Gentlemen Prefer Curves</i>: Excerpt Gentlemen Prefer Curves: Excerpt Sugar Jamison "It was him. Carter Lancaster. Her first and only love." <i>Night Sky</i>: Excerpt Night Sky: Excerpt Suzanne Brockmann and Melanie Brockmann "Oh God, I asked him, did I make you kiss me?" <i>Sweeter Than Sin</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Sweeter Than Sin: Exclusive Excerpt Shiloh Walker She can’t ignore the urgent heat between them
From The Blog
September 20, 2014
Immortal/Mortal Love in Cassandra Clare's Shadowhunters Series
Willa aka willaful
September 19, 2014
Friday Beefcake: Foxy Flannel
Team H & H
September 19, 2014
H&H Debriefing: Give a 'Ship
Team H & H
September 19, 2014
Addicted Authors and Characters
Ciar Cullen
September 17, 2014
Benedict Cumberbatch's Darcy Scene
Megan Frampton
Showing posts by: Janet Webb click to see Janet Webb's profile
Wed
Sep 17 2014 9:30am

First Look: Kristen Ashley’s Deacon (September 23, 2014)

Deacon by Kristen AshleyKristen Ashley
Deacon (Unfinished Hero #4)
Kristen Ashley / September 23, 2014 / $13.99 print, $3.99 digital

 Deacon has an ugly history, a history that broke him, leaving him a ghost of a man. Out of necessity, he left the normal world to descend into the criminal world and found he fit. So he stayed. Cold as ice and living off the grid, Deacon has no intention to connect, not with anyone.

Then he returns to some remote cabins in the Colorado Mountains and finds they have new owners. One of them is Cassidy Swallow, a young woman willing to work hard to live her quiet dream in a house by a river surrounded by aspen and pine.

Suddenly, Deacon finds he’s at war. Cassidy’s pull for him to connect is strong. He fights it, but he loses, always coming back for more. But when he does, he gives her nothing.

From the first time she sees him, Cassidy knows Deacon is dead inside. She knows he’s the kind of man who could destroy a woman. But one night when Deacon’s control slips, Cassidy takes a chance.

He might break her. He also might be her dream come true.

What’s an “unfinished hero”? Perhaps it’s a hero whose life is missing an essential element—a woman to love, who loves him back. Kristen Ashley’s unfinished heroes are quintessentially American, as well as handsome, taciturn, and mysterious. But her heroines aren’t sitting around waiting for a strong, silent man to make them whole; they have their own lives to live and their own dreams to fulfill. 

[You complete me!...]

Wed
Aug 20 2014 9:30am

First Look: Marilyn Pappano’s A Love to Call Her Own (August 26, 2014)

A Love to Call Her Own by Marilyn PappanoMarilyn Pappano
A Love to Call Her Own (Tallgrass #3)
Grand Central / August 26, 2014 / $8.00 print, $7.99 digital

It's been two years since Jessy Lawrence lost her husband in Afghanistan, and she's never fully recovered. Drowning her sorrows didn't help, and neither did the job she'd hoped would give her a sense of purpose. Now trying to rebuild her life, she finds solace in her best friends, fellow military wives who understand what it's like to love-and lose-a man in uniform . . . and the memory of one stolen night that makes her dream of a second chance at love.

Dalton Smith has known more than his fair share of grief. Since his wife's death, he revels in the solitude of his cattle ranch. But try as he might, he can't stop thinking about the stunning redhead and the reckless, passionate night they shared. He wasn't ready before, but Dalton sees now that Jessy is the only woman who can mend his broken heart. So how will he convince her to take a chance on him?

The initial aftermath of devastation is horrific. Sometimes it takes a while for the aphorism “time heals all wounds” to come true. In Marilyn Pappano's A Love to Call Her Own, Jessy Lawrence and Dalton Smith have grief and uncomfortable memories in common—each has lost a military spouse. Complicating their sorrow is the circumstances surrounding each death. At the time of her husband’s death, Jessy’s marriage was on the skids, and Jessy wondered if her marriage would even survive. How can Jessy talk about this, even with her closest friends, the members of The Fort Murphy Widows’ Club?

[Talk it out!...]

Sun
Jul 27 2014 12:00pm

First Look: Nicola Cornick’s Claimed by the Laird (July 29, 2014)

Nicola Cornick
Claimed by the Laird (Scottish Brides #3)
Harlequin HQN / July 29, 2014 / $7.99, print & digital

He will expose her as the criminal he seeks, or seduce her as the woman he desires…

An old maid—that's all Lady Christina McMorlan, daughter to the Duke of Forres, is to society now that she's past thirty. She hosts her father's parties and cares for her siblings, knowing she'll never have her own home and family. She has no time to pine, however. By night, she's The Lady, head of a notorious whiskey-smuggling gang that supports her impoverished clan. They're always one step ahead of the revenue man—until Lucas Black shows up.

Rejecting his title and the proper society that disparaged his mother, Lucas earns his living running a successful gambling house. He's also a spy, charged with bringing down the Forres Gang. He thinks The Lady's just a bored society spinster. She thinks he's a lost child playing at rebellion. And when the truth comes out, it's not just their love on the line.

What would a spinster daughter-to-a-duke and a smuggler on the edge of society have in common? More than you would think. They are both living in the shadows. Christina’s brother-in-law Jack tells Lucas that she is “easy to overlook.”

“Christina’s self-effacing, the old spinsterish sister. No one notices her.”

Lucas found that hard to believe when both Lucy and her sister Mairi McMorlan, Jack’s wife, were stunningly pretty, diamonds of the first order. He felt an odd, protective pang of pity for the colorless Lady Christina, living in their shadow, the duke’s unmarried daughter.

[She's about to step out of the shadow...]

Tue
Jul 15 2014 1:30pm

First Look: Amy M. Reade’s Secrets of Hallstead House (July 17, 2014)

Amy M. Reade
Secrets of Hallstead House
Kensington / July 17, 2014 / $15.00 print, $3.99 digital

Macy Stoddard had hoped to ease the grief of losing her parents in a fiery car crash by accepting a job as a private nurse to the wealthy and widowed Alexandria Hallstead. But her first sight of Summerplace is of a dark and forbidding home. She quickly finds its winding halls and shadowy rooms filled with secrets and suspicions. Alex seems happy to have Macy’s help, but others on the island, including Alex’s sinister servants and hostile relatives, are far less welcoming. Watching eyes, veiled threats…slowly, surely, the menacing spirit of Hallstead Island closes in around Macy. And she can only wonder if her story will become just one of the many secrets of Hallstead House…

The title, Secrets of Hallstead House, contains clues for the reader. “Secrets” suggests romantic suspense, but “Hallstead House” hints that this is a house book. Lauren Willig wrote about the appeal of the house book at Heroes and Heartbreakers. The phrase in the book description “sinister servants and hostile relatives” reveals the genre.

Welcome to the world of gothic romance.

[Step into my spooky parlor!]

Tue
Jul 8 2014 9:30am

First Look: Kristen Ashley’s The Promise (July 8, 2014)

The Promise by Kristen AshleyKristen Ashley
The Promise (The 'Burg #5)
Kristen Ashley / July 8, 2014 / $3.99 digital

Since his brother’s death, Benny Bianchi has been nursing his grudge against the woman he thinks led to his brother’s downfall. He does this to bury the feelings he has for Francesca Concetti, his brother’s girl. But when Frankie takes a bullet while on the run with Benny’s cousin’s woman, Benny has to face those feelings.

The problem is Frankie has decided she’s paid her penance. Penance she didn’t deserve to pay. She’s done with Benny and the Bianchi family. She’s starting a new life away from Chicago and her heartbreaking history.

Benny has decided differently.

But Frankie has more demons she’s battling. Demons Benny wants to help her face. But life has landed so many hard knocks on Frankie she’s terrified of believing in the promise of Benny Bianchi and the good life he’s offering.

Frankie’s new life leads her to The ‘Burg, where Benny has ties, and she finds she not only hasn’t succeeded in getting away, she’s doesn’t want to.

The Promise opens with our heroine in the hospital, recovering from a GSW (gunshot wound for the uninitiated). Ashley takes us right into Frankie’s head, which is teeming with memories, self-censure, longings, and a lot of common-sense sass. We learn,

So, although I used to sleep on my back all the time, I trained myself to sleep on my stomach or side so I wouldn’t snore.

Yes, I did this, even though I hadn’t had a man in my bed in seven years.

Seven years is a long time to have no man beside you in bed but Frankie’s drought is over. The Bianchi family, with Benny leading the way, is in the hospital waiting room; they’re pestering the nurses, and they’re not letting another moment go by in their zeal to make amends to Frankie. The phrase resistance is futile comes to mind. Certainly Benny sees right through Frankie’s pretense at falling asleep whenever a Bianchi is in the vicinity of her hospital bed.

[Get ready, there's cuteness ahead...]

Mon
Jun 30 2014 1:00pm

First Look: Mary Balogh’s The Escape (July 1, 2014)

The Escape by Mary Balogh

Mary Balogh
The Escape (Survivors' Club)
Dell / July 1, 2014 / $7.99 print / digital

After surviving the Napoleonic Wars, Sir Benedict Harper is struggling to move on, his body and spirit in need of a healing touch. Never does Ben imagine that hope will come in the form of a beautiful woman who has seen her own share of suffering. After the lingering death of her husband, Samantha McKay is at the mercy of her oppressive in-laws—until she plots an escape to distant Wales to claim a house she has inherited. Being a gentleman, Ben insists that he escort her on the fateful journey.

Ben wants Samantha as much as she wants him, but he is cautious. What can a wounded soul offer any woman? Samantha is ready to go where fate takes her, to leave behind polite society and even propriety in her desire for this handsome, honorable soldier. But dare she offer her bruised heart as well as her body? The answers to both their questions may be found in an unlikely place: in each other’s arms.

The catalyst of Mary Balogh’s Survivor’s Club series is the belief that by helping each other, a band of brothers (and one sister) can survive the vicissitudes and the aftermath of war. In the third book of the Survivor’s Club, The Escape, Balogh’s characters transcend survival and aspire to thrive. Freud’s definition of happiness, “to work and to love,” seems apt, since it moves the goalposts beyond simply enduring mental and physical trauma. For Sir Benedict Harper and Samantha McKay, happiness means living a life of self-worth and independence, with a partner to love being the potential icing on the cake.

[The cake is much better with icing, after all]

Mon
Jun 23 2014 11:00am

First Look: Miranda Neville’s Lady Windermere’s Lover (June 24, 2014)

Lady Windermere's Lover by Miranda NevilleMiranda Neville
Lady Windermere's Lover (Wild Quartet)
Avon / June 24, 2014 / $7.99 print, $4.99 digital

Damian, Earl of Windermere, rues the day he drunkenly gambled away his family's estate and was forced into marriage to reclaim it. Now, after hiding out from his new bride for a year, Damian is finally called home, only to discover that his modest bride has become an alluring beauty—and rumor has it that she's taken a lover. Damian vows to keep his wife from straying again, but to do so he must seduce her—and protect his heart from falling for the wife he never knew he wanted.

Lady Cynthia never aspired to be the subject of scandal. But with her husband off gallivanting across Persia, what was a lady to do? Flirting shamelessly with his former best friend seemed like the perfect revenge . . . except no matter how little Damian deserves her loyalty, Cynthia can't bring herself to be unfaithful. But now that the scoundrel has returned home, Cynthia isn't about to forgive his absence so easily—even if his presence stirs something in her she'd long thought dead and buried. He might win her heart . . . if he can earn her forgiveness!

Miranda Neville weaves a deft narrative that gradually reveals the dreadful mistakes of the past with this couple’s tentative bid for a happy future. In one of the early scenes, Neville uses the brilliant set piece of a night at the theater to reunite the Earl of Windermere and his Countess, after a year apart, each of them in a box, each of them with a partner who is not their spouse.

[Scandalous!...]

Wed
Jun 18 2014 2:15pm

First Look: Maisey Yates’s Rekindled (June 18, 2014)

Rekindled by Maisey Yates

Maisey Yates
Rekindled (A Silver Creek Romance)
InterMix / June 18, 2014 / $2.99 digital

Lucy Ryan got everything she thought she wanted, going from high school queen to Manhattan trophy wife. But none of it was worth staying in a loveless marriage. So now she’s back in Silver Creek—with no money and no place to stay, applying for a job cleaning someone else’s house. And her potential employer is the last person she ever expected to see again.

Mac Denton can’t believe the mean girl who once tormented him in high school is now his housekeeper. He looks forward to making her squirm for a few days before she runs back to her rich husband. But Lucy has changed, and he is surprised to find himself attracted to the beautiful, courageous woman she has become.

Lucy is finally ready to go after what she really wants from life. And what she wants more than anything is Mac. But is Mac ready to truly forget the past and embrace the future?

Thomas Wolfe’s memorable line “you can’t go home again” conjures up nostalgia, memories, and feelings of what-might-have-been. One interpretation is that once a country mouse leaves small-town roots behind and embraces a sophisticated city mouse lifestyle, neither the mouse nor the home are ever the same. Furthermore, any attempt to recapture, reframe or re-address youthful foibles is doomed to failure. Romance novels, however, do not embrace this approach.

[So you CAN go home again?...]

Fri
Jun 6 2014 3:00pm

The Louisiana Lust of Make You Mine (Dumont Bachelors #1) by Macy Beckett

Make You Mine by Macy BeckettIn Macy Beckett's Make You Mine, the first book in her Dumont Bachelors series, Allie Mauvais is a baker and a psychic. A vendor of voodoo, if you will. But Allie doesn’t believe she has any real psychic powers.

She could see all kinds of things—like facial expressions and body language. The kinds of things anyone could see if they paid attention. She could hear, too—the subtle changes of inflection or tone that often contradicted the spoken word. People didn’t need voodoo heritage to understand each other. They just had to turn off their iPhones and take their heads out of their asses every once in a while.

Allie has been dispensing advice and voodoo charms for years, operating on a do-no-harm basis and using her excellent powers of observation to help her clients get on the right path. No surprise that the vast majority of charms are “needed” for problems of the heart.

But what about Allie’s heart? She’s had her share of romantic relationships but she’s never forgotten Marc Dumont, the one who got away, or rather didn’t call after the prom and an earth-shattering kiss. How was Allie to know that when Marc woke up the morning after the kiss-but-otherwise-chaste prom his Johnson was at half-mast and sporting a dangerously virulent looking rash?

[How romantic...?]

Fri
May 23 2014 2:00pm

First Look: Jeffe Kennedy’s The Mark of the Tala: The Twelve Kingdoms (May 27, 2014)

Jeffe Kennedy
The Twelve Kingdoms: The Mark of the Tala
Kensington / May 27, 2014 / $15.00 print, $12.99 digital

The tales tell of three sisters, daughters of the high king. The eldest, a valiant warrior-woman, heir to the kingdom. The youngest, the sweet beauty with her Prince Charming. No one says much about the middle princess, Andromeda. Andi, the other one.

Andi doesn’t mind being invisible. She enjoys the company of her horse more than court, and she has a way of blending into the shadows. Until the day she meets a strange man riding, who keeps company with wolves and ravens, who rules a land of shapeshifters and demons. A country she’d thought was no more than legend–until he claims her as its queen.

In a moment everything changes: Her father, the wise king, becomes a warlord, suspicious and strategic. Whispers call her dead mother a traitor and a witch. Andi doesn’t know if her own instincts can be trusted, as visions appear to her and her body begins to rebel.

For Andi, the time to learn her true nature has come. . .

The fairytales we are told as children live on in our memories and in our collective unconscious. One of the most enduring themes is that of sisterhood, be it Snow White and Red Rose, or, the adult incarnation, King Lear. The Mark of the Tala, the first book of The Twelve Kingdoms trilogy, reframes an intertwined story of three royal sisters for a new audience.

[Does each sister get a handsome Prince?]

Fri
May 9 2014 1:00pm

These Mothers Will Go Down in History: Moms in Historical Romances by Roberts, Balogh, Heyer and More!

Rebellion and In from the Cold by Nora RobertsWhether married or widowed, rich or poor, mothers in historical novels are an interesting lot. Most of them wield influence within their family circle but they do not have the external power of a father or guardian. During the 19th century, mothers—even if they were widowed—did not typically have sole legal custody of their children. If they were heiresses, they usually did not control the money they brought to the marriage. Money or the lack thereof was a significant impediment to a mother’s ability to carve out a happy, safe childhood for her children, and to pave the way to a fruitful, satisfying adulthood. There are as many differences in historical motherhood as there are similarities. Here are some of the most memorable mothers in historical romance.

In from the Cold by Nora Roberts

Aristocratic Serena Langston is a strategic fighter, forcing her family to confront and achieve their deepest desires. Lady Serena prods, pokes, plots, and manipulates those she loves to swallow their pride, admit defeat, and fight for love. She is a take-no-prisoner, mother-knows-best kind of mother. Serena is an emotional tactician, extracting information that even Ian might not know is troubling him. It’s a joy to watch her at work.

[Love ya, Mom...]

Sat
May 3 2014 11:00am

First Look: Gemma Brocato’s Hearts in Harmony (May 5, 2014)

Hearts in Harmony by Gemma BrocatoGemma Brocato
Hearts in Harmony (Five Senses)
Lyrical Press / May 5, 2014 / $3.99 digital

Sometimes life’s most simple melodies become songs of love.

Pippa Sanders’ life is filled with songs of leaving, longing and loneliness. Since the death of her husband, her children have been her world. She’ll do anything to protect them, including encasing her heart in ice until they’re college age. She’s made a practice of shying away from any relationship that could break her heart when it ends. And it’s worked so far.

Clay Mathers has made a temporary move to Granite Pointe, Massachusetts to help with his mother’s Christmas tree farm while she recovers from a stroke. Although his long-range plans don’t include staying in the small town, a little female companionship during his short residency would be welcome. While on duty as sentry against protestors at a military funeral, he finds Pippa visiting her husband’s grave, and begins a campaign to make her into a friend–with benefits.

What starts as a simple affair evolves to something more, something that changes the soundtracks of both their lives…the beating of two hearts in harmony.

Reading Gemma Brocato's Hearts in Harmony made me think of the lyrics to “Wishing and Hoping”; the song has great advice for a single woman but not, perhaps, for a widow with twins. Pippa Sanders is a woman alone. She has two delightful children, a protective family, loving friends, and a challenging, meaningful job, but there hasn’t been a man in her heart since her soldier husband died. It’s complicated.

[She's wishing and hoping?...]

Thu
May 1 2014 3:00pm

Said Discreetly, Heard Everywhere: Eavesdropping in Romance Novels

Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenOne of the most disconcerting events that can happen to a romance hero or heroine is to overhear someone say something mean about them. Five examples, from books published between 1813 and 2013, demonstrate the potential damage. Are these characters eavesdroppers or are they simply in the wrong place at the wrong time? To clarify, here’s the Wikipedia entry for eavesdropping: “Eavesdropping is the act of secretly listening to the private conversation of others without their consent, as defined by Black's Law Dictionary. This is commonly thought to be unethical and there is an old adage that “eavesdroppers seldom hear anything good of themselves...eavesdroppers always try to listen to matters that concern them.”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, 1813. Is this the most famous put-down in literature? After dancing with Jane, the beautiful eldest daughter of the Bennet family, Mr. Bingley asks his friend Mr. Darcy if he would like an introduction to Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.
‘Which do you mean?’ and turning around, he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, ‘She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.’

Mr Bingley followed his advice. Mr Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him.

[Way to go, you smooth-talker, you...]

Fri
Mar 28 2014 9:30am

First Look: Jo Beverley’s A Shocking Delight (April 1, 2014)

Jo Beverley
A Shocking Delight
Signet Select / April 1, 2014 / $7.99 print / digital

David Kerslake, smuggling master from The Dragon's Bride, is now Earl of Wyvern and must survive the ton as well as the Preventive Officers.

Lucy Potter, daughter of a wealthy merchant, is more interested in trade than in the men after her dowry. When forced to have a London season, she sets out to enjoy herself rather than to find a husband. But once she meets the notorious Earl of Wyvern, her resolve weakens, and when they kiss, it dissolves—even though her instincts warn he’s dangerous.

Wyvern has a dark secret, which means he must win a rich bride. Lucinda Potter seems ideal. Not for her beauty and her lively charm, but because at first meeting she seems unlikely to realize the truth.

As he comes to know her, however, as they spar and kiss, he realizes she’s too clever and honest by far. Marrying Lucy would mean living a lie with the woman he has come to love....

Lovers of Jo Beverley’s Regency Rogue series have waited seven long years for David Kerslake’s story. Was it worth it? Oh, yes. Let’s reenter Beverley’s Regency world.

Lucinda Potter, like her late aristocratic mother, has “the sort of looks that made people think her empty-headed.” Looks are deceiving, however, because Lucinda is fascinated by business. Before her mother’s death, her lowborn father Daniel had risen to become an extremely successful London merchant, gradually permitting Lucy to “conduct some small pieces of business herself, choosing cargos at auction and finding good markets for them.” Lucinda hopes that after a period of mourning that her father will again invite her into his exciting City world, but then he announces that he plans to remarry a neighborhood widow. He wants conventionality, companionship and a male heir to his fortune. So even though Lucinda’s dowry of thirty thousand pounds is substantial, she foresees a life that is not to her liking, reduced to being an unmarried daughter in an altered family household. Seeing it as the lesser of two unpleasant options, Lucy wisely accepts her aristocratic Aunt Mary’s invitation to enjoy the London season.

[The lesser of two evils, hm?]

Mon
Mar 17 2014 12:10pm

Getting Your Irish Up: Irish Romance from Roberts, Heyer, and More!

Irish Thoroughbred by Nora RobertsWhether it’s a mystery with romantic elements, a historical, or a contemporary, commonalities persist when the story takes place in Ireland. An exploration of Irish romances shows that there’s often nostalgia and an old-world charm in the way Ireland is depicted.

Nora Roberts has written many best-sellers with Irish settings and/or Irish characters. According to her website, “In the summer of that year [1980], Silhouette bought Nora’s first book. Irish Thoroughbred was published in 1981.” Here’s a description of the story.

“COME TO AMERICA. YOUR HOME IS WITH ME NOW.” Adelia Cunnane's uncle had written her. So Adelia had left Ireland to join him on what he had described as the finest horse farm in Maryland. Adelia agreed with her uncle about the farm. But what should she think about its owner, Travis Grant? She knew that he could master his strongest horse. She had seen his eyes soften at the birth of a foal. Yet his lips on hers demanded a submission that she was not yet ready to give — at least not until he had spoken the words she had to hear.

And away we go! Nora lays down some themes we see over and over in Irish-based romance. Ireland is the land of horses, horse breeders, horse trainers, and the Irish racing fraternity. The Irish fan out all over the world, bringing their equine expertise to farms, ranches, and race courses. Next, there are Irish families: always close, even if a son or a sister emigrated to England or America decades earlier. Confidence in their abilities is a hallmark of an Irish character. Lastly, they don’t love lightly or fall easily. Particularly when it comes to an Irish colleen, the hero who hopes to win her love had better put a ring on it.

There’s more to Irish romance than gorgeous equine beauties and extended families. For every book or trope I suggest, I hope you’ll return with a thousand more (exaggeration, another charming Irish trait!).

[But seriously, we'll take them all...]

Wed
Mar 12 2014 4:30pm

Decision-Making in Callie Hutton’s The Duke’s Quandary

The Duke's Quandary by Callie Hutton

It is a truth universally to be accepted by readers of historical romance that a young woman, if beloved by the man of her dreams, will blossom under the sun of love and acceptance. This proves to be true for Boston-bred Penelope Clayton in Callie Hutton's The Duke's Quandary. After the death of her father, a noteworthy botanist and her frequent collaborator, Penelope moved back to England, where she lived a quiet life in the country. Surrounded by plants and books, Penelope’s sole interaction with the outside world is in her secret role as a male botanist—one with a growing reputation in the field. This pastoral existence, like Eden, cannot endure, and one day Penelope’s aunt writes to say that a London Season is a must.

I feel I would not be doing justice to my sister’s memory by allowing her only child to rusticate in the country, faced with no more of a future than life as a spinster.

Penelope is socially awkward and a bit clumsy as well, mostly because she has not been encouraged to wear her glasses in public. Who of us could glide through life if we couldn’t see where we were going? When Penelope arrives in London she does not make a particularly good impression on the young Duke of Manchester and his bevy of sisters.

[That's okay, first impressions aren't that important...]

Wed
Feb 26 2014 12:30pm

Delighted by Jo Beverley’s Rogues: Anticipating A Shocking Delight

A Shocking Delight by Jo BeverleyRemember that feeling of anticipation and delight that you felt for the holidays when you were a child? That’s how I feel about finally getting to read the April 1st release of A Shocking Delight, David Kerslake's own story from Jo Beverley's Rogues series—and I’ve been waiting for it for much longer than twelve months.

David Kerslake was first introduced in The Dragon’s Bride, and also plays an important role in Skylark, as well as popping up in other Rogue stories (Jo Beverley’s website, by the way, is immensely helpful in sorting out just who are all these Rogues and who are they to one another).

A Shocking Delight is the fourteenth book set in the Regency world of the Rogues. The last book of the series, Lady Beware, was published in 2007, so it’s been seven long years since readers have spent time with Nicholas and Lucien and Con and all the other Rogues. Let’s start with a description of the dilemma facing David Kerslake, taken from Jo Beverley’s website:

The man she shouldn't love. The woman he shouldn't marry.
At the end of The Dragon's Bride, the heroine's brother, David Kerslake, was left with two inherited burdens — the role of Captain Drake, leader of the smugglers on the south coast of Devon, and Earl of Wyvern, who should support law and order. To make matters worse, the earldom is broke. He sets out to find a richly-dowered bride who'll be too feather-witted to realize his secrets.

He chooses merchant's daughter Lucinda Potter, but soon discovers she's not at all the bride he needs, even though she's everything he desires. Lucy knows she should be wary of the mysterious and dangerous lord, but the power of love might overule her usual good sense.

[We definitely encourage good sense getting overruled...]

Sat
Feb 22 2014 1:09pm

First Look: Marilyn Pappano’s A Man to Hold On To (February 25, 2014)

A Man to Hold On To by Marilyn PappanoMarilyn Pappano
A Man to Hold On To (A Tallgrass Novel)
Forever / February 25, 2014 / $8.00 print, $7.99 digital

Therese Matheson doesn't know if she'll ever get over losing her husband in Afghanistan. Surviving Paul's death has been hard, but raising his sullen son and his thirteen-going-on-thirty daughter alone has been even harder. All they need is a fresh start, and Tallgrass, Oklahoma, could be the perfect new beginning . . . especially when Therese meets Sergeant Keegan Logan. The sexy combat medic and single dad soon awakens a desire she'd thought long buried.

Keegan always wanted to be a father . . . someday. So when his ex-girlfriend disappears, leaving her daughter in his care, Keegan's hands are tied. He has to find the girl's father. His search leads him to Tallgrass and to a beautiful brunette widow who has no idea her husband was ever unfaithful. What begins as a friendship soon ignites into something far more and gives him the courage to be the kind of man-and father-he always dreamt he could be. But his secret still stands between them. Can Keegan reveal the truth and convince Therese they share something too special to lose-a love that can bring two families together?

Oklahoma native Marilyn Pappano has written more than eighty books. After her husband retired from the Navy, they left the nomadic military life behind and returned to Oklahoma. Pappano’s experience as a military spouse, as well as the years she was a mother to a son in the Army, informs every page of this book. Small-town series are so ubiquitous it’s hard to find a believable fresh twist on the perennial favorite, but this one does it. A Man to Hold On To is the second of Pappano’s Tallgrass novels and the glue that binds the books together is the pain of widowhood. Therese Matheson is a member of the Tuesday Night Margarita Club, “the most exclusive club in Tallgrass, Oklahoma.”

[How will Therese's story unfold?...]

Fri
Feb 14 2014 5:30pm

No Substitute for Love: The Regency Valentines of Mary Balogh, Part 2

Tokens of Love by Mary Balogh et al.We're taking a look at Mary Balogh's Valentine's Day stories, just in time for the day itself. Part 1 is here.

Mary Balogh’s Regency Valentine story “The Substitute Guest” features a quiet dutiful spinster, living out her days with her brother and his family. This story is darker in tone than her earlier Valentine stories, more revelatory of the risks lovers take when they make themselves vulnerable to love.

“The Substitute Guest,” Tokens of Love, 1993

A jaded rake, a duke no less, and a “plain and placid” spinster: is that not the most enduring cliché of historical romance? Lady Florence has planned a playful orgiastic Valentine’s weekend for six gentlemen and six ladies.

Unfortunately, one of the ladies has begged off because she’s been laid low with migraines. In a pinch Lady Florence asks her neighbor Claire Ward, to join “a select group of the most prominent and respected members of society.” Claire is the right age—“very much closer to thirty than to twenty” although she’s “a confirmed spinster and a prude,” but fortunately for Lady Florence’s numbers, Claire accepts her invitation. Even though Claire is inclined to turn it down, her acceptance becomes an act of defiance against the overbearing advice of the visiting vicar and her sister-in-law Myrtle.

[Happy Valentine's Day!...]

Fri
Feb 7 2014 3:00pm

A Match Made in Balogh: The Regency Valentines of Mary Balogh, Part 1

A Regency Valentine by Mary Balogh, Emma Lance, Joan Wolf, et al.Valentine’s Day is not a day that is anticipated with unalloyed pleasure if there’s no Valentine to love and cherish. Without a beau or a loving husband, it can be a very lonely day indeed. Mary Balogh is the mistress of stiff upper-lip loneliness and despair, but her heroines never wear their hearts on their sleeves, no matter the circumstances. While Balogh is justly celebrated for her holiday stories, she also has penned a fair number of Valentine's Day tales.

“Golden Rose,” A Regency Valentine, 1991

Miss Emily Richmond, with her heart-shaped face and shining, smooth golden hair, is noticed immediately by her employer’s nephew, the Honorable Mr. Roger Bradshaw. Lady Copeland is a neighbor of Emily’s father, Sir Henry Richmond, and, as Lady Copeland gracefully explains, “They have such a large family that they were able to spare Emily to bear me company.” Two perennial themes of Balogh emerge—first, the poverty that would induce a gentlewoman to become someone’s companion and second, class differences. It’s all very well for Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet to say she’s a “gentleman’s daughter” and therefore worthy to marry anyone, but the gulf between the heir to a viscount and a poor eldest daughter is not insignificant. For fans of foreshadowing an author’s future books, Slightly Wicked has a similar plot. Emily had earlier refused two respectable offers of marriage and naively, had not realized that her large family lacked the resources to “send her anyplace where she was likely to meet a suitor to her liking.” It is a chastened and sensible young woman, who faces her circumstances forthrightly, that Roger meets:

She had come to Bath determined to find herself a husband just as soon as possible. And she was not going to be as foolish as she had used to be, looking for love, that special something that all girls dreamed of. Respectability would be enough.

[Anyone else think she'll find both after all?...]