Friday, December 16, 2016

A Most Unlikely Duke - Excerpt

A Most Unlikely Duke – Chapter One
London, 1818
Thick clouds darkened to shades of grey as they rolled across the London sky. Beneath them, standing in the middle of the Black Swan courtyard, Raphe Matthews drew back his fist, his muscles bunching tightly together—just long enough for him to assess the angle and speed with which to release all that power. Instinct made it a brief calculation. Less than a second, and then he sent his fist flying.
The punch snapped his opponent’s face sideways, producing a spray of spit and blood that painted the air with specks of crimson. A cheer erupted from those who’d come to witness the fight—a motley selection of hardened individuals. This place was not for the weak or the wealthy. It reeked of filth and the daily struggle to survive. This was St. Giles, but it might as well have been the bowels of hell for all the difference it made.
“Come on!” someone shouted.
Raphe’s other fist met a hard chest with a crunch. His knuckles ached, the force of the punch vibrating through him.
“Matthews, Matthews, Matthews…” The chant shook the air while Raphe shifted his footing, regaining his balance just in time to accept the blows that followed. He didn’t mind, for it only revealed his opponent’s sudden desperation.
Raising his fists to block the attack, Raphe bobbed to the side, turning away, just out of reach. And yet, he was close—so close he could smell the sweat on the other man’s skin, see the fear that shone in his eyes, the beads of moisture clinging to his hair that dripped onto his brow.
More shouts flooded the air, drowning him in a cacophony of unintelligible noise. The wave of encouragement shifted, alerting him that support had changed—no longer in his favor.
Forcing it into the background, Raphe focused on the man he was meant to beat. Today his name was Calvin Butler. Raphe launched himself forward, surrendering to the rage and let the punches fly, beating back pain and anger until Calvin Butler lay stretched out on the ground, hands covering his face in surrender. A fleeting second of silence passed, just long enough to be sure of the outcome, and then the spectators sent up a roar in response to Raphe’s victory.
Exhausted, he stumbled back, a light drizzle dampening his skin. A coat was draped over his shoulders while Butler was helped to his feet—a sorry sight, with his blackened eye and swollen lip distorting an otherwise handsome face.
Turning away, Raphe pushed his way in the direction of the taproom. All he wanted right now was a drink.
“Butler ain’t lookin’ too good,” Raphe’s friend, Benjamin Thompson, said as he came up beside him. A couple of inches shorter than Raphe, his green eyes were a handsome compliment to his ginger hair and freckles. He was without a doubt the kindest and most dependable person Raphe knew, besides his own sisters. Together, they made their way to the bar, where Ben promptly called for a server. “Give us a couple o’ pints.”
Resting his elbows on the counter, Raphe grunted his response to Ben’s question. “He knew what ‘e was in fer.”
Ben nodded. The beer arrived, and both men took a healthy swig. “Ye could ‘ave been gentler, though. The man was done. No need to keep beatin’ at him like that.”
Stilling, Raphe slid his gaze toward his friend. “I couldn’t ‘elp it.” The rage had burned its way through him, driving him forward and filling his mind with one singular purpose: The need to win. “I don’t know ‘ow to fight any other way.”
“I know,” Ben said softly.
No, you don’t. You have no bloody idea.
In this, he’d never been completely honest, not even with Ben. “In any case, the blunt’s pretty good—lets me keep a roof over me sisters’ heads.”
“Aye, an’ a decent one at that.”
Raphe couldn’t argue. He’d visited Ben’s home once—an overcrowded single room that he shared with his parents and five siblings. By comparison, Raphe and his sisters lived like royalty. “Have ye ever thought of gettin’ out of this place? Out of St. Giles?”
Ben shrugged his shoulders. “An’ go where?”
“Somewhere better. Christ, Ben, anywhere’s better than this. Ye’re a likeable man. Ye could probably snatch up a job at one of ‘em fancy ‘ouses in Mayfair.”
His friend snorted. “An’ ‘ave some nob lookin’ down on me, demandin’ I polish ‘is boots—or worse, empty ‘is chamber pot? I’d rather stay by the docks, thank ye very much. At least there I can take some pride in me work.”
“Understood. But the pay there’s never goin’ to afford ye with yer own home. Don’t ye wish to marry one day?”
“Sure. But there’s a limit to what I’m willing to do for a bit of blunt, Raphe.” He took another sip of his beer. “I’ll not lose me dignity by workin’ for a class o’ people I can’t abide, ‘nor by lowerin’ meself to doin’ demeanin’ work.”
The words speared Raphe to his soul, filling him with shame. “I know,” he muttered with admiration. If only he could be more like him, not wanting anything beyond what life had tossed his way. Perhaps, if he didn’t have his sisters to consider, he wouldn’t care so much.
“Ye fought well today, lad,” a man’s voice suddenly spoke from directly behind him.
Bristling, Raphe set down his beer on the counter and turned to face his handler, whose attire—a purple velvet jacket and matching top hat—lent an air of flamboyance unmatched by anyone else. And yet, in spite of the fine attire, there was nothing cultured about this man, a scoundrel who’d gained his wealth through illicit deals and by taking advantage of others. His origins were questionable, but rumor had it he’d killed more than once in pursuit of power. Raphe didn’t know what to believe. All he knew was that in spite of his own prejudices, crime in St. Giles had decreased since Carlton Guthrie’s arrival eighteen years earlier. Or so he’d been told.
“Mr. Guthrie. Good to see ye.” A blatant lie, if ever there was one.
Guthrie’s moustache twitched. “Likewise.” He sounded jovial, but only a fool would mistake that for kindness. Least of all when his henchman, a scarred boulder of a Scotsman by the name of McNeil, stood at his right shoulder. Guthrie nodded toward Ben, who returned the salutation.
“Come. Share a drink with me,” Guthrie said, addressing Raphe. “We’ve much to discuss, you ‘n I.”
“And Thompson?” Raphe asked, not wanting to abandon his friend.
“I’m sure he’ll be willin’ to wait for ye till ye get back.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a gold coin and dropped it in front of Ben. “For yer trouble. What I ‘ave to say to Matthews ‘ere doesn’t concern ye. Understand?”
Raphe glared at Guthrie for a moment before looking at Ben. “I’m sorry. I—”
“No worries,” Ben said, pocketing the coin that would keep his family fed for the next few days. “I’ll see ye tomorrow at work, aye?”
Nodding, Raphe watched him go.
“Well?” Guthrie’s voice drew Raphe’s attention back to him. “’Ow about that drink then?”
Eyeing first Guthrie and then McNeil, Raphe gave a curt nod. “By all means.”
Guthrie’s eyes sparkled. “Excellent.” His lips stretched into a smile. “Follow me.” Turning away, he led Raphe through the taproom, where tobacco smoke mingled with the smell of roasting meat and beer. Dice rolled across one table in a game of Hazard. A hand touched his thigh, inappropriately stroking upward until he pushed it away.
“No’ in the mood, Luv?” the woman to whom it belonged asked. She was sitting down, her legs spread across the lap of a man who was busily burying his face between her half-exposed breasts.
Pitying the life she’d been dealt, he told her gently, “I’ve not the time.”
“La’er then?” she called as he strode away, not answering her question. Blessedly, his sisters had managed to avoid such a fate.
“’Ave a seat,” Guthrie said moments later as they stepped inside a private room at the end of a hallway. It was sparsely furnished, with just a plain wooden table and four chairs. On top of the table stood a pitcher and a couple of mugs. “Some ale for me champion?” Guthrie asked, indicating the pitcher.
Grabbing a chair, Raphe dropped down onto it and poured himself a drink, while Guthrie claimed the other chair with more finesse. “Will ye ‘ave some?” Raphe asked, indicating the same pitcher.
Guthrie beamed. “Don’t mind if I do.” He waited for Raphe to pour before reaching for the mug and raising it. “To yer victory today.”
“To me victory,” Raphe muttered, downing the bitter resentment he felt with a brew to match.
“I’ve ‘igh ‘opes for ye,” Guthrie said, tapping a finger against his nose. “Unbeaten for the fifteenth time. That’s unprecedented, tha’ is.”
Raphe saw the spark that lit his eyes, like the promise of treasure or some such thing. “Wha’ do ye want, Guthrie?”
“So cynical, Matthews.” Guthrie’s upper lip drew up, revealing an uneven row of yellow-stained teeth. “Must a man always want some’in? Can’t ‘e simply enjoy a drink wi’ an old friend?”
Old friend?
“Not when ‘e’s got ‘im by the bollocks.”
Guthrie’s mouth tightened, his eyes darkening just enough to offer a glimpse of his true nature. “Is tha’ ‘ow ye see our relationship, laddy?”
His demeaning tone made Raphe’s muscles flex. He glanced at McNeil, who stood by the door, running his thumb along the edge of a wicked blade, and was instantly reminded of the punishment he’d suffered the one time when he’d been foolish enough to try and thwart Guthrie’s wishes. Shoulders tensing, Raphe returned his gaze to the man who owned him. “’Ow else should I see it? I’m yer puppet, ain’t I?”
Guthrie nodded. “Aye, but ye’re me favorite one. Which is why I’d like to offer ye a deal.”
Raphe stiffened. “What sor’ of deal?”
“The sor’ that could set ye free, laddy.”
A tempting notion, but surely too good to be true. Still, he couldn’t help but ask. “What do ye have in mind?”
Leaning forward, Guthrie placed his elbows on the table, the fingers of his right hand reaching up to stroke his chin. “Ye see, there’s goin’ to be an opportunity soon—a grand one, at that.”
Raphe crossed his arms. “Ye don’t say.”
The corner of Guthrie’s eye flinched. “No need to get cocky, now.” Snapping his fingers, he drew McNeil closer. “Give the laddy ‘is earnin’s.” There was a pause, and then a pouch dropped onto the table with a jangling thump. “Naturally, we’ve kept our share.”
A fat ninety-percent.
“Naturally,” Raphe echoed. He didn’t bother to hide his displeasure.
“But…” Guthrie took another sip of his ale. “Word ‘as it, The Bull will be comin’ to town in a month or so.” Raphe straightened in his chair, while Guthrie swiped his mouth with the back of his hand, removing a line of foam. “If ye figh’ ‘im and ye win, ye’ll be debt-free. The winnings are gonna be that huge.”
Raphe didn’t doubt it. The Bull was, after all, the bare-knuckle boxing world champion—undefeated since beating Tobias Flannigan several years earlier. Since then, he’d crippled several of his opponents. The man was a legend. “I’ll do it,” Raphe said without blinking.
“But if ye lose…”
“I won’t,” Raphe assured him.
“But if ye do…”
Grabbing the pouch that still sat on the table, Raphe pocketed his money. “I know the risk, Guthrie, an’ I’m willin’ to take it.”
It was past eleven o’clock in the evening by the time Raphe returned home, his knuckles tender and his body still sore from the fight. Glad to get out of the cold, he closed the door on the rain that now poured from a thunderous sky, shrugged out of his coat, and hung it on a hook behind the door just as his sister, Amelia, entered from an adjoining room that served as a small parlor.
“Good evenin’,” she yawned, leaning against the doorframe.
Squinting through the darkness, Raphe echoed her salutation. “I thought ye would be asleep by now.” Stepping past her, he entered their tiny kitchen and snatched up the tinder box.
“I was,” Amelia said, following him into the chilly room.
A threadbare shawl was draped across her shoulders, and as she pulled it tighter with pale and trembling fingers, Raphe felt his heart lurch. This wasn’t right. His sister did not deserve to live like this. None of them did.
Pushing aside such fruitless ponderings, he found a candle, struck a flint and held it to the wick until a flame began to bloom, driving the darkness toward the walls where it struggled against the light.
“If it makes any difference, Juliette’s safely tucked into bed.” Amelia said, referring to their younger sister, whose weaker disposition was a constant cause for unease. When Raphe lifted the lid of a nearby pot and peered inside, Amelia added, “I made soup for dinner.”
“Smells delicious,” he dutifully told her.
“We both know ‘ow untrue that is, bu’ I appreciate yer optimism.”
Meeting her gaze, Raphe made a deliberate effort to smile. “Per’aps I can manage some meat for us tomorrow.” It would certainly be a welcome change from the potatoes and turnips they’d been eating for what seemed like forever. Christ, he was so tired of having a sore belly all the time, and his sisters…they never complained, but he knew they needed better nourishment than what they were getting.
“That’d be nice,” Amelia said. Her tone, however, suggested that she doubted his ability to manage such a feat.
Bothered by her lack of faith in him, he grabbed a chunk of bread and tore off a large piece. “A chicken ought to be possible. If we make it last a few days.”
Amelia simply nodded. Grabbing a cup, she filled it with water and placed it before him. “I miss the smell of a bustlin’ kitchen.”
The comment threw him for a second. “Wha’?”
“Meat roastin’ on the fire, bread bakin’ in the oven.” She shook her head wistfully. “It’s funny. I can’t picture Mama, but I remember Cook—plump cheeks an’ a kind smile. I remember bein’ ‘appy in the kitchen back ‘ome.”
The sentimental thought made Raphe weary. He didn’t bother to point out that she’d only been six when they’d lost their parents and there’d been nothing left for Raphe to do but turn his back on the house in which they’d spent the early years of their childhoods and walk away, taking his siblings with him. He’d been no more than eight years old and with a mighty burden weighing on his shoulders. “I know this isn’t the sor’ of life that any of us ever imagined.” Feeling his temper begin to rise at the memory of what their parents had done to them all, he added, “Hopefully, in time, things‘ll get better.”
“I’m sure ye’re right.” Could she possibly sound any more unconvinced? 
He ate a spoonful of soup, the bland flavor just a touch better than plain hot water. Amelia took a step forward. “The reason I didn’t retire with Juliette earlier, is ‘cause of this letter.” She waved a piece of paper in his direction. “It arrived for ye today while ye were out.”
Frowning, Raphe stared at her. “Do ye know who sent it?” He couldn’t even recall the last time he’d received a letter. Nobody ever wrote to him or his sisters.
“The sender’s name’s smudged. So’s the address. It’s a miracle it arrived here at all.” Handing the letter to Raphe, she watched as he turned it over and studied the penmanship. Sure enough, the only legible part of the address, which even appeared to have been altered once or twice, was his name: Mister Raphael Matthews.
Curious, he set down his spoon and tore open the seal.
“What’s it say?” Amelia eagerly asked.
Reading it slowly to ensure he understood it correctly, Raphe sucked in a breath. He looked up at his sister, blinked, then bowed his head and read the letter again. Silence settled. Amelia’s feet shifted, conveying her impatience. It seemed impossible, yet there it was—an extraordinary pronouncement staring him right in the face. Raising his gaze, he leaned back in his seat, the letter rustling between his fingers. “According to this…” He shook his head, unable to fathom the absurdity of it. “I’m the new Duke of Huntley.”
The silence that followed was acute. Amelia stared at him, eyes wide with a strange blend of surprise, uncertainty, and hope. She wanted to believe him, and yet… “Really?”
“If this is to be believed, then yes.”
“But as far as I know. Papa ‘ad no title, so I don’t—I don’t understand.”
“I know. It seems inconceivable. Preposterous. But…” He handed her the letter. “Do ye think it might be a hoax?”
Amelia shook her head. “I daren’t suppose such a thing. It looks authentic enough with this seal right ‘ere and a stamp at the bottom. Squinting, she read the small print that Raphe had missed in his surprise. “Mr. Rupert Etheridge, Solicitor to the Duke of Huntley.” Amelia drew a deep breath. Expelled it again. “Bloody Hell!”
Raphe quietly nodded. “It’s the damndest thing, don’t ye think?” He stared up at Amelia, still trying to process the news.
“Yes. It is. In fact, I wouldn’t ‘ave thought it possible at all. Not ever.”
“Me neither.” Raphe set the letter on the table next to his bowl of soup and jabbed it with his finger. “But our great grandfather was the Sixth Duke of Huntley.”
“I’m aware of that. But when ‘e died, the title passed to our great uncle an’ split off from our side of the family.” She hesitated, as if trying to understand. “I thought succession ‘ad to be lineal—that it ‘ad to go from son to son. So ‘ow can it possibly jump to ye?”
“That’s just it. Says ‘ere that—” leaning forward, he carefully read what had to be the most significant part, “the letters patent generally include a limitation pertainin’ to the heirs of the body, but in this instance it ‘as been left out. With this taken into consideration, we’ve looked fer the late duke’s nearest kin, and ye, Mr. Matthews, appear to be it.”
“Ye’re it?” Amelie’s eyebrows were raised, her lips parted with dumbfounded surprise.
“Apparently so.”
“Bloody hell,” she said again as she slumped down onto another chair with a dazed expression. “I can’t believe ‘e ‘ad no sons. Don’t aristocrats always ‘ave an heir an’ a spare for these situations?”
“Yes, but accordin’ to this, the Eighth Duke of Huntley’s sons perished at sea a couple o’ months ago. The shock of it was apparently too much for their father. It killed ‘im.”
“God.” Amelia paused for a moment before saying, “So there’s nobody else but ye to fill ‘is shoes.”
“No. Only problem is, I ain’t so sure I’ll be able to manage it. It’s been fifteen years since…” His shoulders stiffened and his chest tightened. He couldn’t speak of the event that had plunged them all into destitution. Refused to do so—refused to open the door to the darkness.
Thankfully, Amelia spoke, filling the silence. “Ye can ignore the letter if the thought of being a duke disagrees with ye.”
“True.” He considered the ramifications of showing up at Huntley House. And then the door to the darkness creaked open, quite unexpectedly, and he was faced with the faith that Bethany had placed in him. She’d believed in his ability to save her. He’d been her older brother, and she’d looked to him for help. Except he’d failed her, and now she was dead.
He slammed the door to the darkness and stared at Amelia. This was it. The chance to do what he wished he could have done for Bethany—a chance to get his surviving sisters out of St. Giles and back to the world where they belonged. “I can’t ignore this opportunity. I can’t deny ye the things ye deserve.” I can’t take the risk of losing you because of my own apprehensions and prejudices. “Think of it, Amelia. No more ‘ungry bellies, or worryin’ about money. No more scrapin’ to get by.”
“No more Mr. Guthrie,” she murmured.
The uplifting thought spilled through him, immediately halted by another. “Ye know, we’ll never fit in.” They’d spent too long amidst the lower classes – could barely recall what it meant to live in a fine house and to have servants. Fox Grove Manor where they’d grown up had not been overly large, and most of the servants had been gone at the end, but he a vague recollection of tin soldiers and the sound of piano music playing while Molly dusted the china. It seemed so peculiar now, the thought of hiring someone to do the simplest task.
He shook his head at the absurdity of it all and wondered if he would be capable of becoming such a person after growing accustomed to the working-class ways. And that was just the beginning. It did not take into account the ridicule they were bound to face with every misstep they made. Because if there was one thing he knew about the aristocracy, it was their cold, hard censure of those who didn’t belong.
“Here at least we ‘ave friends.” He thought of what Ben had told him earlier. Of Ben, in general. He’d never understand the decision Raphe now considered making. Worse than that, Raphe knew in his gut that claiming the Huntley title would destroy that friendship—that in order for him and his sisters to stand any chance at all of making a life for themselves in Mayfair, they’d have to sever all ties to St. Giles.
“True. There are surely people I’ll miss – people who’ve been kind to us over the years, like Mary-Ellen’s family an’ the ‘aroldsons.” She reached for Raphe’s hand and squeezed it tight. “But we also ‘ave no future ‘ere. At least none that I can see.”
“I know. It’s me greatest regret.”
“It’s not yer fault.”
“No, but I ‘ave the chance to change things now.” Mind made up, he said, “I’ll claim the title an’ make things right fer both of ye.”
She pressed her lips together and nodded agreement. “It’ll be an easier life than the one we ‘ave now.”
Even though he knew she underestimated the task that stood before them, he didn’t argue, happy with the knowledge that his sisters would soon be living the lives to which they’d both been born. But the truth of it was that they faced a daunting struggle – one in which their pride and dignity would be tested at every turn. Steeling himself for the battle ahead, Raphe bid his sister a good night, aware that the dawn would bring turbulence with it.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Earl Takes All by Lorraine Heath

First of all, I feel as though I should say that I was very reluctant to read this book because of the premise. After briefly encountering Albert, the Earl of Greyling in Falling Into Bed With A Duke, and his scapegrace brother, Edward, I just didn't see how I could possibly find this to be a satisfying read. I must now admit that I was so completely and utterly wrong!

During Albert and Edward's travels to Africa, Albert is suddenly killed, and as he lies dying, he begs his twin brother Edward, "Be me." The purpose is to prevent Albert's wife, Julia, who is pregnant, from miscarrying - which is what Albert fears might happen if she receives the shocking news of his death. Reluctantly, Edward determines to carry out his brother's last wishes - a task that proves increasingly difficult as he becomes immersed in his brother's life and has to figure out habits, mannerisms and what Albert might have said in the past. And with a sister-in-law who longs for her husband to reassure her of his love for her, Edward soon finds himself caught up in a passion that becomes increasingly difficult to escape.

Hearts will break and mend over the course of this story as the past becomes more tightly intertwined with the future. Toward the end of the book, you will wonder how this unlikely pair will ever find their happily ever after, but you mustn't fret, because this stellar author has a brilliant solution lined up. The Earl Takes All proves what an impressive story-teller Lorraine Heath is, because this was one tough plot to pull off. She did it so well though that I was crying by the end of it and feeling both sympathy and love for all of the characters involved - a truly unforgettable romance - and one of the best I've ever read!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

'Tis The Season with Sophie Barnes

I'm visiting Romancing Rakes For The Love Of Romance today and giving away one $10 Amazon gift card. Just comment about your favorite holiday music and enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win. You can also find out what my favorite winter activities are and share your own :)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt

Since reading Artemis' story in Duke of Midnight, I've been looking forward to finding out more about her brother, Apollo, and to seeing his happily ever after unfold. As expected, Hoyt has penned another wonderful Maiden Lane novel - a fine addition to an unforgettable series. 

Filled with intrigue, this story involves the hunt for a murderer. Accused of once killing his friends in a tavern, Apollo Greaves, Viscount Kilbourne has been labeled a madman. Freed by his brother-in-law, he now hides away at a pleasure garden, disguised as a gardener who keeps to himself and mute from a beating he once received in Bedlam. But then he meets Lily Stump, an alluring actress who soon makes him long for more as passion begins to erupt whenever they meet. Determined to find the real villain and clear his own name, Apollo stirs up a past that risks putting Lily in danger. 

Lily's primary objective in life is to protect her son. But when she meets the hulking giant who works in the pleasure garden surrounding the theater where she's now living, her life is thrown into disarray. Initially, she thinks him a fool, for he plays that part well, but as she gets to know him better, she realizes that he's not at all the man he pretends to be. And as their relationship starts to evolve and she discovers that he's an aristocrat - above her in every way - she knows that their romance can't possibly last, least of all when her son's life is threatened. But since love is worth fighting for, perhaps there's a way - one that Lily and Apollo might find if they choose to work together.

If you haven't read any of the other books in this series, I strongly advise starting at the beginning. There are eleven books in total so far with the next one on my list being Duke of Sin.

Thursday, November 24, 2016



This holiday season I’m giving away five paperback romance novels along with the Harlequin Holiday issue, filled with Christmas themed stories, recipes and more.
To enter for a chance to #WIN please visit my Facebook page HERE and:

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This giveaway ends on December 1st, so don’t miss your chance to enter. One winner will be selected at random. AVAILABLE TO U.S. RESIDENTS ONLY.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean

My biggest problem with finishing this riveting read, is having to wait until June 27th 2017 for the next book in this series to go on sale - sigh. Truth is, I cannot get enough of Sarah MacLean! Her story telling is delightful and the pages always turn with incredible speed whenever I'm devouring one of her books. A Scot in the Dark was no different.

Lilian Hargrove has made a mistake - she has posed for a nude portrait, and now the artist whom she trusted and loved turns out to be a complete and utter scoundrel. He intends to reveal the painting at an art exhibit for all the world to see. Scandal and ruination are imminent, until her guardian arrives on the scene, intent on saving her.

Alec, the Duke of Warnick - only duke by incredible chance - is a Scott who hates all things British. But he will endure a trip to London in order to play the hero for a woman whom he didn't even know existed until his lawyer informs him that she has done something very inappropriate. Fixing her situation ought to be simple enough until Alec lays eyes on his stunning ward and a serious attraction starts building between them.

Sarah MacLean knows how to set the pages of her novels on fire! This was a captivating story of blooming love that would not be denied no matter how much the hero tries to resist it...Filled with entertaining dialogue and a heroine who knew her own mind and chose to fight for what she wanted, this romance is a definite must read.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Cover Reveal - Avon Books & Sophie Barnes present: A Most Unlikely Duke

When work began on the cover for A Most Unlikely Duke – the first book in my new Diamonds in the Rough series – I was asked to provide character descriptions of the hero and heroine (who were actually inspired by Lilly James and Christian Bale). This was to be conveyed to the art department so they could scout for models. A few headshots were sent my way and I was allowed to take my pick, eventually settling on the gorgeous couple pictured below. And yes, they are in fact a couple in real life! Hence the fantastic chemistry between them =)
A time was set for a photo shoot and when my editor and her assistant stopped by for a look, they took all of these brilliant pictures – pictures that show a romance cover’s development from start to finish.

Clothes are selected and the models dress for the shoot.

Deep purple – exactly what I asked for!

Don’t worry about the shirt…it’s going to come off…

Shooting begins!

Similar poses, different expressions, lots of shots.

Instructing the model on mood and adding wind for effect…

Let’s take his shirt off now…


Here’s the final picture that I selected. The background was added along with the title, author font and Avon logo. Pretty spectacular, don’t you think?!?

A Most Unlikely Duke 
~available online and in stores on June 27th 2017~

He never thought he'd become a duke, or that the secrets of his past would cost him his greatest love...
Raphe Matthews hasn’t stepped foot in polite circles since a tragedy left his once-noble family impoverished and in debt. The bare-knuckle boxer has spent the last fifteen years eking out an existence for himself and his two sisters. But when a stunning reversal of fortune lands Raphe the title of Duke of Huntley, he’s determined to make a go of becoming a proper lord, but he’ll need a little help, and his captivating neighbor might be just the woman for the job…
After her sister’s scandalous match, Lady Gabriella knows the ton’s eyes are on her. Agreeing to tutor the brutish new duke can only lead to ruin. Although she tries to control her irresistible attraction to Raphe, every day she spends with him only deepens her realization that this may be the one man she cannot do without. And as scandal threatens to envelop them both, she must decide if she can risk everything for love with a most unlikely duke.

Pre-order today via:

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Christmas Romance by Harlequin

If you want to treat yourself to a really great holiday magazine, then I'd recommend considering Harlequin's Christmas Romance. Filled with three captivating stories (a prince who falls for an architect's assistant, a crime lab technician who's being threatened and seeks help from a co-worker, and a widower who reconnects with a lost love) this magazine has substance! There is no ad content to distract you, just romance goodness - fairy tale magic, suspense, wholesomeness - and a few tasty recipes to boot. As a bonus, you get an article about the creation of the magazine cover with many photos showing how the models and setting were prepared. It's fun, it's interesting, and it will put you in a holiday mood. So although the price might be a bit steep at $12.99, I definitely recommend adding this to your wish-list, shopping cart, or maybe advent calendar...Each story took me about one hour to read and the quality was excellent - a definite keepsake - I purchased my copy from my local Shoprite.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Rogue by Katharine Ashe

An intriguing start to a new series! Katharine Ashe is one of my favorites. Her penmanship is masterful, proving the point that words, when strung together correctly, can lead to a truly sublime reading experience.

Before I go any further, I should mention that this book, while being the first book in its own series, is actually the fourth book in The Falcon Club series. I realized this when I was half way through it and did a bit of research because I felt as though there were characters that I was supposed to know from other books. I've only read the first book in The Falcon Club series and that was a really long time ago, so I would certainly recommend grabbing all of those books first as I'm sure it will lead to a more satisfying read.
That being said, the suspense Ashe created in The Rogue - the mystery that the hero and heroine had to solve - kept the pages turning late into the night!

Lady Constance is a member of a secret society that specializes in gathering information in order to find missing people. Six years before the story's setting, she meets Saint, and loses her heart. But there are obstacles in the way of this couple's happiness - a manipulative father, a couple of fiancees, and Saint's inferior birthright. The two part with broken hearts and resentment, only to meet again when Saint is hired by Constance's father as her fencing instructor.
The two engage in a cat and mouse tug-of-war scenario because of all the emotions at play. Both felt hurt and betrayed by the other, and yet there's that irresistible pull that neither can deny. Watching them come to terms with their feelings and start trusting each other again, was extremely satisfying. And as they unite to find a villain responsible for the sudden disappearance of several young women, they form a partnership that gradually takes them to that happily ever after that neither dared hope for.

In short, this was a wonderfully romantic read from an exceptional author!

Saturday, November 5, 2016


We’re celebrating USA Today Bestselling Author Christy Carlyle's RULES FOR A ROGUE release with a fun and exciting Historical Facebook Hop! Join us for a 48 hour Flash Facebook Hop of pure goodness! At my stop, I’m giving away an e-book copy of HIS SCANDALOUS KISS.
There are over 20 stops on this hop and over 20 chances to #WIN prizes from AMAZING ‪#‎Authors — including one AWESOME GRAND PRIZE: a $40 Amazon gift card! PLEASE be sure to read the instructions at each stop and follow through with your entry methods to increase your chances of winning!

To enter to #WIN my prize:
➤ LIKE my Facebook page here:
➤ COMMENT on this post.
➤ JOIN my newsletter here:…
➤ SHARE this post so your friends can join in the fun!
This is a 48 hour hop and ends at midnight, Sunday November 6th, so don’t miss your chance to enter.
★ The next stop on this hop is Alyssa Alexander:
Thanks for stopping by, have a great time, and don’t forget to pick up RULES FOR A ROGUE, book 1 in the Romancing the Rules series, by Christy Carlyle:
To enter for your chance to #WIN the GRAND PRIZE of a $40 Amazon gift card, just click this link and fill out the Rafflecopter form!
✧ This hop is in no way sponsored or affiliated with Facebook ✧

Saturday, October 29, 2016

His Wicked Reputation by Madeline Hunter

This is the first book that I've ever read by Madaline Hunter - I was actually planning to grab The Wicked Duke when I saw it advertised a while back, but changed my mind once I realized that there were two previous books in this series. Well written and with an art-mystery to be solved, His Wicked Reputation was a fast-paced and satisfying read full of entertaining dialogue and a couple of unexpected twists and turns.

Gareth Fitzallen is the bastard son of a duke. But in spite his illegitimacy, he enjoys a good relationship with his surviving half-brothers. Doors to ballrooms are open to him, and the women can't seem to get enough! But when he inherits a run-down property and becomes involved in the search for a missing art collection, it's not a wealthy society lady who draws his attention, but a spinster struggling to ensure her sister's future.

Eva Russell's life has been a struggle since her brother's death. Especially since she's determined to keep her property and get her younger sister suitably settled. A passionate artist, she scrapes her income together by copying famous paintings with no expectation of ever doing anything more. But then Gareth arrives in town and her world turns upside down, not only because of her undeniable attraction to him, but because the paintings she's be copying are his - borrowed from the attic of the house he's just inherited.

I found this to be a delightful read. Gareth and Eva were wonderful characters, and I especially liked them at the end when they owned their mistakes and trusted each other instead of getting angry and throwing accusations around, because it could easily have gone that way too. Instead, I found the resolution to be perfect and Madeline Hunter's writing style and plot extremely enjoyable. I will definitely be grabbing the following books in this series!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Proposition by Judith Ivory

This was a delightful story about a rat-catcher receiving lessons in speech and etiquette from a lady who, in perfect Pygmalion style, transforms him into a gentleman.

Mick Tremore is a man of limited means who makes an honest living for himself by catching rats in shops and homes throughout London. When an incident brings him to the notice of the wealthy Lamont brothers, they instantly view Mick as an opportunity to make a wager. And with proclaimed spinster and linguist, Edwina Bollash present, the scene is quickly set for a fun and fast-paced romance.

I really enjoyed this read. I thought the characters were well crafted and interesting. Ivory did an excellent job of showing Edwina teach Mick how to talk properly and how to behave in polite company until he's finally able to get away with pretending to be a viscount at a ball. And Edwina was the very proper lady who longs to let go a bit and live a little - an endeavor that Mick is more than happy to help her pursue.

Their romance was gradual, initially based on a physical attraction that eventually grew into undeniable love.
A wonderful read that I would highly recommend to any historical romance enthusiast.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Win more than 50 Regency Romance novels + a Kindle Fire

There's such a great GIVEAWAY happening right now!

To celebrate the beginning of fall, I've teamed up with more than 50 fantastic regency romance authors to give away a huge collection of novels, PLUS a Kindle Fire to one lucky winner!

You can win my novel HIS SCANDALOUS KISS, plus books from authors like Rachel Van Dyken, Sara Ramsey, Ava Stone, and Vanessa Kelly

Enter the giveaway by clicking here:

Good luck, and enjoy!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday featuring Julia Quinn's Romancing Mr. Bridgerton

Here is a book that's very close to my heart. It's the first historical romance novel that I ever bought - at a small bookshop in Ghana, of all places. After reading it I immediately googled who Julia Quinn was and what other books she'd written, only to discover that historical romance was an actual genre (I had no idea) with so many wonderful authors that I would later have the pleasure of meeting in person.
But Romancing Mr. Bridgerton is the book that encouraged me to give writing a historical romance novel of my own a shot. I loved Quinn's style and sense of humor.
Last year, when I traveled to Dallas for RWA, I took that first copy I'd bought with me and asked her to sign it - which she did, so yay!!!
If you haven't read it, please do - it's a delightful novel - though I would suggest starting with the first books in the series since this one does have a big reveal in it :)

On the sixth of April, in the year 1812 - precisely two days before her sixteenth birthday - Penelope Featherington fell in love. But Colin Bridgerton certainly didn't fall in love with her in 1812 (and not in 1813, 1814, 1815, or - oh blast, not in all the years 1816-1822, either, and certainly not in 1823, when he was out of the country the whole time, anyway..' Penelope Featherington has secretly adored her best friend's brother forwell, it feels like forever. After half a lifetime of watching Colin Bridgerton from afar, she thinks she knows everything about him, until she stumbles across his deepest secretand fears she doesn't know him at all.
Colin Bridgerton is tired of being thought of as nothing but an empty-headed charmer, tired of everyone's preoccupation with the notorious gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, who can't seem to publish an edition without mentioning him in the first paragraph. But when Colin returns to London from a trip abroard he discovers nothing in his life is quite the same - especially Penelope Featherington! The girl haunting his dreams. But when he discovers that Penelope has secrets of her own, this elusive bachelor must decideis she his biggest threat - or his promise of a happy ending?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Avon Romance - RWA 2016

RWA 2016 has begun in San Diego. I'm so sad not to be able to participate this year, but I've been following the Avon Authors who are there and the wonderful Avon Team as they talk about their experiences and offer advice.
They were LIVE today on Facebook. If you missed it, you can take a look below. Did you know that historical romance author Lenora Bell used to be a lounge singer in China? Just one of the fun facts you can pick by watching this video :)

Saturday, July 9, 2016


There is *one* copy of HIS SCANDALOUS KISS up for grabs - US residents only. 
This is a paperback copy and should arrive at the winner's doorstep before release day (provided the postal service doesn't let me down). The winner will be selected at random on Wednesday, July 13th.
For a chance to win, please comment below. If you would like to help spread the word about this release, you can do so by supporting my Thunderclap campaign here: 
Don't worry if you can't or don't want to since this will not impact your chance of winning. And finally, I hope you have a really wonderful weekend 

To participate in this giveaway, please click HERE

Friday, July 8, 2016

His Scandalous Kiss Release - Thunderclap Campaign

So, I've started a Thunderclap campaign for HIS SCANDALOUS KISS with a message that will be sent out on social media July 26th, 2016. If you would like to help support this and let people know about my new romance novel, just click to support via Twitter, Facebook and/or Tumbler.
Thank you so much for taking the time to help out! I really appreciate it!!! Have an awesome day :)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt

After reading several of the Maiden Lane books in random order, I decided that it was time to start at the very beginning. So I headed on over to Amazon and ordered the books that were missing from my collection, including Wicked Intentions

What a wonderful introduction this turned out to be! Filled with intrigue as the dashing (and somewhat mysteriously dangerous) Lord Caire searches Saint Giles for a murderer together with widowed Temperence Dews, this story contained the brilliantly crafted characters, vivid setting, and entertaining dialogue that makes Elizabeth Hoyt's novels as compelling as they are.

This book features a hero who stands apart from all the rest and who is therefore sure to leave a lasting impression. And if you'd like to catch a glimpse of the tarnished Regency slums cast against the opulence of Mayfair ballrooms with startling contrast between the social classes of that time, this is the series you've been looking for!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Lady of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle

The characters in this story were extraordinarily well crafted and real. The heroine was both sweet and funny, her devotion to the man she loved incredibly endearing, while the hero invited endless amounts of sympathy throughout, due to his tragic past.

When Caroline Arabella Starling meets her brother's best friend, Ronan Henry Dearborn, the fourth Marquess of Caldwell, for the first time at the age of thirteen, she takes an instant liking to him. In spite of the twelve year difference between the two, they become close friends, meeting once a week - every Thursday - for a game of piquet.  And as the years go by, Caroline falls hopelessly and madly in love with him, still holding out hope when he insists she's too young for him.
But it isn't just the age difference that prompts Caldwell to keep Caroline at arm's length. After losing his investment to a fire, he's penniless and desperate, completely unworthy of any lady's affection. Humiliated by the choices he's forced to make in order to get by, he puts distance between himself and the girl who has always idolized him.
Three years go by until they meet again, and Caldwell finds that Caroline has transformed into a stunning beauty. Her feelings for him are unchanged, and so she sets about trying to win him again, with greater success than before. But secrets from his past are destined to get these two tangled up in a series of terrible misunderstandings that only an open heart and absolute honesty can hope to undo.

I found Caldwell's story to be absolutely heart-wrenching! It is filled with so much angst, and just when you think it can't get any worse, something else is revealed. But the interaction between him and Caroline is wonderful, their conversation wrought with humor as their relationship gradually progresses from simple friendship to so much more. 
Delilah Marvelle is a fantastic storyteller. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and was very relieved when Caroline and Caldwell finally got the happy ending they both so thoroughly deserved.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt

I've enjoyed several of Hoyt's Maiden Lane novels so far, and although I know I haven't read them in order, it has quickly become one of my favorite romance series.
Sweetest Scoundrel offers so much of what I love about Hoyt's writing - a grittiness that sets it apart from most other romances as she dives fearlessly into a rougher way of London life during the early 1800's, exploring a difference between class and position that's wonderfully engaging.

Untitled Asa Makepeace, is the owner of Harte's Folly, a pleasure garden  with a theater that he has devoted himself to rebuilding with the help of his investor, the Duke of Montgomery. But Montgomery has traveled and left his sister in charge, and she insists on knowing how Asa is spending her brother's money - indeed, she demands to go over his books. To Asa's mind, she's stubborn and annoying, reserved and standoffish. He argues with her at every turn until gradually, he gets to know her, and discovers a kind a loving woman, imprisoned by her past, and takes it upon himself to try and set her free.

Eve Dinwoody, Montgomery's illegitimate sister, is shocked when her first meeting with Mr. Makepeace finds him keeping company with a nude opera singer. But, determined to know how he's spending her brother's money or cut him off, she stands her ground. Burdened by terrible memories that make her terrified of dogs and men, she shields herself behind a hard exterior, accompanied always by her loyal footman who has sworn to keep her safe from harm. But as she becomes better acquainted with Asa, temptation sneaks in. He is unlike any man she has ever met before. But can she overcome her fears and pursue the love she desires when threats begin to target the theater and she finds her life in danger?

This novel offered wonderful character growth, an intriguing story between a working class scoundrel and a lady, that I found both refreshing and authentic. I cannot wait to grab another Maiden Lane novel to enjoy.