Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Laird of the Black Isle (Review)








This Highlander will risk everything to find his daughter...

Lachlan MacKenzie has nothing left to lose since his wife and daughter were killed. But when a shadowy figure reveals his little girl might still be alive, Lachlan will do whatever it takes to find her—even abduct a lass from the MacGregor clan for an exchange. Being caught would mean certain death. But the laird of the Black Isle won't let anything—or anyone—interfere with his mission...not even his beautiful, stubborn captive.

Even his heart

All Mailie MacGregor wants is to return home to her family. And the Highland beast who captured her can go to the devil. Her plan: to thwart him at any cost and win her freedom. But she never expected to be so drawn to the fierce warrior and the desire in his eyes.

Laird of the Black Isle
The MacGregors: Highland Heirs #7
Paula Quinn
Pub Date: 5/29/18
Forever
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Amazon | B&N | Kobo


Laid Of the Black Isle takes readers to Scotland where a young man, trapped in darkness, is tasked with kidnapping a beautiful young girl for a rejected suitor. Paula Quinn puts Mailie MacGregor in a dangerous situation, but this heroine is no pushover! When she realizes the cause of Lachlan MacKenzie's actions she does everything in her power to help him, despite the suffering he's caused. Along the way a precious bond forms between Lachlan, Mailie, and two orphans that will be tested as forces circle to tear them apart and destroy what's left of Lachlan's crushed heart.

I absolutely love Scottish historical romances! What I love most about Laird of the Black Isle is that it has familiar romantic themes with a refreshing twist that made me wish the story would never end. Lachlan and Mailie are perfect for each other. They're polar opposites that can't help but come together by the end, but what's really intriguing about them is the path to their happily-ever-after. It's filled with anger, tears, desperation and most importantly, joy. With such initial animosity between them I wondered how they would be able to attract one another. Paula Quinn eases into it one scenario after another until you realize you can no longer imagine the moments when Lachlan never smiles or Mailie constantly provokes him. I'm amazed at how the story builds up layer by layer until you really don't know what lays ahead for the main characters and you can only hang onto the edge of your seat waiting for everything to happen. Then, when it's over you can finally breathe again. You know it's a fantastic story when you're pulled in so easily and the story comes alive!

This is the first novel of the series that I've read, but I was easily able to jump in and understand the family connections of the characters featured in the story. I have no doubt that the stories before were just as colorful and enticing as Laird of the Black Isle! If you're a Judith McNaught or Jana MacGregor fan, you will not want to miss out on Paula Quinn's next historical romance!
*ARC provided in consideration for review*



Up Next: HIGHLANDER EVER AFTER (DEC 2018)

Monday, May 28, 2018

BLOG TOUR: All The Little Lights + Message from Elliot Youngblood


From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jamie McGuire comes a riveting tale of first love that starts young but runs deep.
The first time Elliott Youngblood spots Catherine Calhoun, he’s just a boy with a camera, and he’s never seen a sadder and more beautiful sight. Both Elliott and Catherine feel like outcasts, yet they find an easy friendship with each other. But when Catherine needs him most, Elliott is forced to leave town.
Elliott finally returns, but he and Catherine are now different people. He’s a star high school athlete, and she spends all her free time working at her mother’s mysterious bed-and-breakfast. Catherine hasn’t forgiven Elliott for abandoning her, but he’s determined to win back her friendship…and her heart.

Just when Catherine is ready to fully trust Elliott, he becomes the prime suspect in a local tragedy. Despite the town’s growing suspicions, Catherine clings to her love for Elliott. But a devastating secret that Catherine has buried could destroy whatever chance of happiness they have left.
All The Little Lights
Jamie McGuire
Pub Date: 5/29/18
Montlake Romance
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5/5
Amazon | B&N


From Beautiful Disaster to All The Little Lights, Jamie McGuire proves she is an author who can write for a wide variety of readers. This thoughtful novel captures the beauty and heartache of first love against the extraordinary trials of life. Both Elliott Youngblood and Catherine Calhoun have unique situations, but the bond they forged at a young age pulls them through the worst of their senior year of high school.

The last time that Catherine saw Elliott her life fell apart in just one moment. When Elliott finally makes his was back to his best friend she's facing the hardest trial of all, yet she won't allow his help or friendship. His loyalty to Catherine, despite her efforts to push him away, is so invigorating and refreshing. I love that the hero of this story is a knight without coming across as sappy or one dimensional. Elliott has issues of his own starting with his dysfunctional parents, but despite his flaws he only wants to protect Catherine. Catherine has someone she wants to protect as well, but secrets she must keep weigh heavily on her.

Throughout the story I wondered what could be so horrible that Catherine would sacrifice a chance at love and a normal high school experience. The truth was astounding and made reading All the Little Lights worth the loss of sleep! I was really excited to read Elliott and Catherine's story, because the blurb had an air of foreboding. I had absolutely no idea where this story would end up, but I must say that I was pleasantly shocked. I was literally scratching my head in confusion during certain scenes not realizing that the words are carefully crafted to keep you guessing and in the dark.

Jamie McGuire is expert in creating well-rounded stories that feature exceptional characters and a setting that readers can easily jump into. All the Little Lights is compelling and emotional from start to finish! It has so much more depth than a typical fluffy teen romance, so you really feel as though you're reading something worthwhile. I highly recommend to readers of Catherine Bybee and Courtney Cole.
*ARC provided in consideration for review*

Message from Elliott 


My name is Elliott. You don’t know my story yet, but you will. I spent my summers with my aunt and uncle just down the street from Catherine. She lives in a looming, rickety bed and breakfast called the Juniper, and spends most of her time outside, away from the memories that live between the Juniper’s walls amidst more tangible dangers that I never knew existed until now.

It’s not so much that I fell in love or even that I fought for it, but that a war is waging inside Catherine’s home—one I can’t fight for her. It doesn’t matter how strong I am, or how determined I am to stay. I can only get close enough to observe her pain in detail. And, so I stay, and wait, and help her the only way I know how; to do what I couldn’t for her before.

I hope you’ll understand.

Excerpt: All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire


Elliott began to speak, but a small group of girls approached our table. 

“Aw,” Presley said, dramatically touching her chest. “Catherine got herself a boyfriend. I feel so bad that all this time we thought you were lying about him being from out of town.” 

Three carbon copies of Presley—Tara and Tatum Martin and Brie Burns—all giggled and tossed their bleached-blonde tresses. Tara and Tatum were identical twins, but they all strived to look like Presley. 

“Maybe just outside of town,” Brie said. “Like a reservation, maybe?” 

“Oklahoma doesn’t have reservations,” I said, appalled by her stupidity. 

“Yeah, they do,” Brie argued. 

“You’re thinking of tribal land,” Elliott said, unfazed.

“I’m Presley,” she said to Elliott, smug. 

I looked away, not wanting to witness their introduction, but Elliott didn’t move or speak, so I turned to see what was holding up their exchange. Elliott offered me a small grin, ignoring Presley’s outstretched hand. 

She made a face and crossed her arms. “Is Brie right? Do you live in White Eagle?” 

Elliott raised an eyebrow. “That’s the headquarters for the Ponca tribe.” 

“And?” Presley sniped. 

Elliott sighed, seeming bored. “I’m Cherokee.” 

“So that’s an Indian, right? Isn’t White Eagle for Indians?” she asked. 

“Just go away, Presley,” I pleaded, worried she would say something even more offensive. 

Excitement sparked in Presley’s eyes. “Wow, Kit-Cat. Are we getting a little big for our britches?” 

I looked up at her, anger blazing in my eyes. “It’s Catherine.” 

Presley led them to a booth across the room, continuing to tease Elliott and me from afar. 

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered. “They’re just doing it because you’re with me.” 

“Because I’m with you?” 

“They hate me,” I grumbled. 

He turned his spoon upside down and stuck it in his mouth, seeming unaffected. “It’s not hard to see why.” 

I wondered what about my outward appearance made it so obvious. Maybe that’s why the town hadn’t stopped blaming Mama and me for my grandparents’ mistakes. Maybe I looked like someone they should hate. 

“Why do you look embarrassed?” he asked. 

“I guess I was hoping you didn’t know about my family and the smelter.” 

“Oh. That. My aunt told me years ago. Is that what you think? That they’re mean to you because of your family history with the town?” 

“Why else?” 

“Catherine.” My name sounded like a soft laugh tumbling from his mouth. “They’re jealous of you.” 

I frowned and shook my head. “What could they possibly be jealous of me for? We barely have two pennies to rub together.” 

“Have you seen yourself?” he asked. 

I blushed and looked down. Only Dad had ever complimented my looks. 

“You’re all the things they’re not.” 

I crossed my arms on the table and watched the warm hue of the corner streetlight blink between the branches of a tree. It was a strange feeling, wanting to hear more and hoping he’d talk about anything else. “What they said doesn’t bother you?” I asked, surprised. 

“It use to.” 

“Now it doesn’t?” 

“My uncle John says people can only make us angry if we let them, and if we let them, we give them power.” 

“That’s pretty profound.” 

“I listen to him sometimes, even though he thinks I don’t.”

“What else does he say?” He didn’t hesitate. “That you either get good at rising above and meeting ignorance with education, or you get really good at being bitter.” 

I smiled. Elliott spoke his uncle’s words with respect. 

“So you just choose not to let what people say get to you?” 

“Pretty much.” 

How?” I said, leaning in. I was genuinely curious, hoping he would unveil some magical secret that would end the misery Presley and her friends loved invoking in me. 

“Oh, I get angry. It gets old when people feel the need to tell me their great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess, or that stupid joke about if I got my name from the first thing my parents saw after they walked out of a teepee. I can get heated when someone calls me chief, when I see people in headdresses outside of our ceremonies. But my uncle says we should either be compassionate and educate or leave them alone in their ignorance. Besides, there’s too much ignorance in the world to let it all get to me. If I did, all I’d ever feel is anger, and I don’t want to be like my mom.” 

“Is that why you were punching our tree?” 

He looked down, either unwilling or unable to answer the question. 

“A lot bothers me,” I grumbled, sitting back. I glanced at the clones, dressed in cutoff denim shorts and floral blouses, just variations of the same shirt from the same store. 

Dad tried to make sure I had the right clothes and the right backpack, but year after year Mama watched as more of my childhood friends faded away. She began to wonder what we’d done wrong, and then I began to wonder, too. 

The truth was, I hated Presley for hating me. I didn’t have the heart to tell Mama that I would never fit in. I wasn’t vile enough for those small-town, small-minded girls. It took me a long time to figure out that I didn’t really want to, but at fifteen, I sometimes wondered if it was better than being alone. Dad couldn’t be my best friend forever. I took a bite of my sherbet. 

“Stop,” Elliott said. 

“Stop what?” I asked, the cool orangey-goodness melting on my tongue. 

“Looking at them like you wish you were sitting over there. You’re better than that.” 

“We should probably, um . . . we should go.” 

Elliott stood, waiting for me to slide out of the booth. He followed me out, so I wasn’t sure if he noticed Presley and the clones covering their insults and giggles with their hands. 

When he stopped next to the trash can behind their booth, I knew he had. “What are you laughing at?” he asked. 

I tugged on his T-shirt, begging him with my eyes to keep walking. 

Presley rolled her shoulders and lifted her chin, thrilled to be acknowledged. “Just how cute is Kit-Cat with her new boyfriend? It’s precious how you don’t want to hurt her feelings. I mean . . . I have to assume that’s what”—she gestured to us—“this is.” 

Elliott walked over to their table, and the girls’ giggles quieted. He knocked on the wood and sighed. “You know why you’ll never outgrow the need to make others feel like shit so you can feel better, Presley?” 

She narrowed her eyes at him, watching him like a snake ready to strike. 

Elliott continued, “Because it’s a temporary high. It never lasts, and you’ll never stop because it’s the only happiness you’ll ever have in your sad, pathetic life that revolves around manicures and highlighting your hair. Your friends? They don’t like you. No one ever will because you don’t like yourself. So every time you give Catherine a hard time, she’ll know. She’ll know why you’re doing it, just like your friends will know. Just like you’ll know that you’re overcompensating. Every time you throw insults Catherine’s way, it’s that much less of a secret.” He made eye contact with each clone and then Presley. “Have the day you deserve.” 

He returned to the door and held it open, gesturing for me to walk through. We navigated the parked cars until we were on the other side of the lot, and headed back toward our neighborhood. The streetlamps were on, the gnats and mosquitoes buzzing beneath the bright bulbs. The quiet made the sounds of our shoes against the pavement more prominent. 

“That was,” I began, searching for the right word, “legendary. I could never tell someone off like that.” 

“Well, I don’t live here, so that makes it easier. And that wasn’t entirely mine.” 

“What do you mean?” “It’s from a scene in Detention Club Musical. Don’t tell me you didn’t watch it when you were little.” 

I stared at him in disbelief, and then laughter erupted from my throat. “The movie that came out when we were eight?” 

“I watched it every day for like a year and a half.” 

I giggled. “Wow. I can’t believe I didn’t catch it.” 

“I’m just glad Presley didn’t. That would have made my monologue much less intimidating.”


***

Giveaway

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Jamie McGuire is the #1 New York TimesUSA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Walking Disaster, the Maddox Brothers series, the Providence trilogy, and the international bestseller Beautiful Disaster, which paved the way for the new-adult genre. She was the first independent author in history to strike a print deal with retail giant Walmart, and her work has been translated into fifty languages. She lives in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with her husband, Jeff, and their three children. To learn more about Jamie, visit www.jamiemcguire.com, or follow her on Twitter @JamieMcGuire.
Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

BLOG TOUR: The Sugarhouse Blues

Allie, Des, and Cara, each having her own reasons for wanting a share of their father's estate, meet in the grand Victorian home in which he grew up, only to be greeted by another secret he purposely hid from them: his sister Bonnie. The women reluctantly band together to take on Fritz's challenge, working with a local contractor to begin the renovations financed by an account Fritz had set up for the task. While the restoration appears to go smoothly at first, it soon becomes apparent that the work will be more extensive than originally thought, and Des, elected to handle the money, needs to find ways to stretch out the remaining savings while searching for new sources of funding.


As strangers linked only by their DNA try to become a family, the Hudson sisters also try to come to terms with the father they only thought they knew. In the process, each woman discovers her own capacity for understanding, forgiveness, love, and the true meaning of family.
The Sugarhouse Blues
The Hudson Sisters #2
Mariah Stewart
Pub Date: 5/15/18
Gallery Books
Genre: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Amazon | B&N | Kobo


Mariah Stewart returns to the Sugarhouse Theater restoration in Hidden Falls with Allie, Des, and Cara. The three sisters have been working together to restore a piece of their family's history while also getting to know each other and the truth about their father's past. The Sugarhouse Blues dives deeper into their family history while also expanding the connection the sisters have with the community.

The story picks up quickly from where readers were left in The Last Chance Matinee. Work on the theater is progressing, but Des realizes that more money will be needed to properly complete the project and save them from unexpected issues. While all the sisters play major roles in the book, this story singles out Des to explore her thoughts on the project and whether she'd be willing to leave her old life behind for a permanent stay in Hidden Falls. I really enjoy the way the story flows because it's not just about the Hudson sisters honoring their father's will. Mariah Stewart digs deep into the hearts of these characters to make them vulnerable and rise to the occasion despite their fears and past disappointments. They're so real you can feel their hurt and the joys that come from finding something, or someone, that helps them heal.

I've enjoyed these first two stories so far, but I honestly think the next one will be the best. Allie's been somewhat in the background as Cara and Des find their rhythm in town and draw closer to their aunt Barney, but she seems like someone with a problem that's more serious than not knowing what her future holds, or whether she can find a better man than her ex. So far she's hidden behind a mask and hasn't really connected with other people like her sisters have. Whatever comes next will be just as filled with exciting new aspects of the theater restoration and more drama to bring the Hudson sisters closer than ever before!
*ARC provided in consideration for review*

Read book 1:

EXCERPT

Dad was the late Franklin—Fritz—Hudson, Hollywood agent and father to Des and her sister, Allie, via their mother, Honora—Nora—Hudson, the actress, who’d died four years earlier. Unbeknownst to them until recently, he’d also been father to Cara, whose mother, Susa, may or may not have been Fritz’s legal wife. Things were a bit fuzzy where his marriages were concerned. Had he divorced Nora before marrying Susa? The paper trail was spotty, and Fritz’s best friend and attorney, Pete Wheeler, hadn’t been able to shed any light on the situation when it came time to sort out the legalities. After Fritz died, it had fallen to Pete to introduce Des, Allie, and Cara to each other, and to break the news to all three daughters about their father’s dual families. Once the shock had begun to subside, Pete’d dropped the other shoe: To inherit Fritz’s estate, the three women had to live together in their father’s family home in Hidden Falls, Pennsylvania, until they completed the restoration of the family’s boarded up, run-down theater. If any one of the three refused or left before the restoration was complete, the entire estate would be donated to a charity of Pete’s choice. Since Fritz’s daughters each had her own reason for needing the money, they’d agreed to the absurd terms.
But it turned out that Fritz had kept other secrets. 
There was that little matter of Fritz’s sister, Bonnie—known to everyone in Hidden Falls as Barney—who’d been living in the Hudson family home. While Fritz’d never told  his daughters about her, Barney had known all about them and the terms of her late brother’s will, and was waiting for them with open arms when they arrived. It had been impossible not to love Barney, and they’d all taken to her immediately. Barney was not only smart, she was wise, loving, and had a heart of gold. She’d cheerfully filled in her nieces on the family history their father had neglected to share. Des knew her life was so much richer for having Barney in it. 
And the more Des got to know Cara, the more she cared about this half sister who was down-to-earth and fun, and had been blessed with common sense, a logical mind, and an abundance of heart. She and Des even looked a little alike, both having the same curly auburn hair and heart-shaped face. Together they’d studied the family portraits displayed in Barney’s front hall, trying to figure out which ancestor they resembled. 

Cara was easy to get along with, certainly more so than Allie, who was the oldest of the three, and the tallest. She was slim, and her blond hair was long and straight. She had cheek bones that a model would envy, and features that guaranteed that more often than not, she’d be the most beautiful woman in the room. Allie had an innate sense of style that Des admittedly lacked. And while as a child Des had been the star of her own TV show, Des Does It All, she’d always felt invisible when Allie was around.

About Mariah Stewart: 

Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas and short stories. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors country life and tends her gardens while she works on her next novel. Visit her website at MariahStewart.com, like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AuthorMariahStewart, and follow her on Instagram @Mariah_Stewart_Books.

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Second Chance Romance for Cowboy Fans! (Review)












Once a cowboy, always a cowboy 

Ten years ago, Jack Everett left his family's ranch without a backward glance. Now, what was supposed to be a quick trip home for his father's funeral has suddenly become more complicated. The ranch Jack can handle---he might be a lawyer, but he still remembers how to work with his hands. But turning around the failing vineyard he's also inherited? That requires working with the one woman he never expected to see again.

Ava Ellis broke her own heart the night she let Jack go. She was young and scared---and secretly pregnant with Jack's baby. Now that he's back and asking for her help, Ava sees her opportunity to right the wrongs of the past. But how will he feel about the son he's never known? Could this be their second chance---or their final heartbreak?

“Cross my heart, this sexy, sweet romance gives a cowboy-at-heart lawyer a second chance at first love and readers a fantastic ride.” 
Jennifer Ryan – New York Times bestselling author


Don't miss this second chance love story, the first book in an all-new cowboy romance series by A.J. Pine! 
Second Chance Cowboy
Crossroads Ranch #1
A.J. Pine
Pub Date: 2/27/18
Forever
Genre: Western Romance
Rating: 5/5
Amazon | B&N | Kobo


Second Chance Cowboy is a second chance romance and then some! A.J. Pine introduces the Everett brothers in the first Crossroads Ranch novel. Jack Everett, the eldest brother, returns home after ten years for his father's funeral to find that things back home aren't how he imagined they'd be. His relationship with his brothers is strained and now he has an unexpected piece of land to maintain. The plot thickens when Ava Ellis, the girl who broke his heart, enters the picture along with the son he never knew about.

Any story is immediately intriguing when there's a cowboy involved, but the dynamic between Ava and Jack was absolutely compelling. Their story from past to present was so sweet and endearing that I couldn't help but become eager to get through it. There's something about stories with children involved that adds a touch of vulnerability to the characters and makes them more realistic. Ava was a self-sacrificing, loving mother who only thought about what was best for her son and even for Jack. Jack not only has to deal with the relationship he had with his abusive father, but his desire to stay away and leave his loved ones behind. The story is written in a way that highlights the best about these characters and also sheds light on their challenges, whatever  it is holding them back from moving forward in their lives. What I love about this story is that it's not just romantic angst, but family drama that keeps the story interesting. Both Ava and Jack have to resolve issues with their families so that they can all come together for the sake of their child.

Second Chance Cowboy is heartache, happiness, and steamy romance combined into one hot read perfect for the beach! For fans of R.C. Ryan and Sara Richardson, don't miss out on this endearing western romance!
*ARC provided in consideration for review*

Thursday, May 10, 2018

BLOG TOUR: Fast Ride (Review + Giveaway)


Jen Appleton is the woman who always says yes. To her boss. To her employees. To charity. To everyone except herself. But when she rear-ends a red Porsche on her way home from a nasty day at work, and the man driving the midlife-crisis cliché turns out to be hot, hot, hot, Jen decides tonight’s the night to say yes to things she’s never said yes to before.

Yes, to a one-night stand in a motel.

Yes, to the hottest night on record.







Yes, to anything Garrett Tracy wants to do to her body.

Garrett knows the chemistry between them can only be described as extreme. But it’s just one night. And then he can get back to work convincing his ex-girlfriend to give him another shot.

When Jen approaches Garrett as the only person in Chicago who might solve her massive work problem, he agrees to help—on the condition that Jen will coach him in winning back his ex. As they work on their projects, Jen and Garrett can’t resist the incredible attraction sparking between them. It’s the perfect friends-with-benefits situation. Until Jen’s heart finally forces her to start saying no...

Sensuality Level: Sensual
Fast Ride
Tracy Brothers #1
Michelle Dayton
Pub Date: 4/30/18
Genre: Romance
Rating: 5/5
Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks


Michelle Dayton captivates her audience with Fast Ride, the first in a new series featuring the Tracy Brothers. Garrett Tracy and Jen Appleton are complete opposites, but after one night of passion they find their attraction goes far deeper.

Fast Ride has an emotional depth I wasn't expecting for a story of this length. It's fast-paced, but long enough to form a connection with the characters and get involved in their dreams and desires. Jen is someone who always does more for others than for herself, but Garrett brings out an inner strength. Even though Jen is helping Garrett win back his ex, their attraction pulls them closer and closer together. The dialogue in this story is easy going and humorous. It makes it feel like you're looking in on real-life drama. Fast Ride is definitely a story a variety of readers will be able to relate to.

Jen and Garrett's story grows from a chance encounter to a tentative friendship. If they can understand the powerful chemistry between them, they may even have a chance at forever. This isn't the typical one night stand turned true love story. There are a lot of twists and turns and emotional roadblocks that keep the plot fresh and interesting. Through super steamy scenes and sexy escapades readers will enjoy the start of the Tracy Brothers series!
*ARC provided in consideration for review*

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About Michelle Dayton
There are only three things Michelle Dayton loves more than sexy and suspenseful novels: her family, the city of Chicago, and Mr. Darcy. Michelle dreams of a year of world travel – as long as the trip would include weeks and weeks of beach time. As a bourbon lover and unabashed wine snob, Michelle thinks heaven is discussing a good book over an adult beverage

Follow Michelle: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | BookBub

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

BLOG TOUR: A Duke Like No Other (Review + Giveaway)


First comes love, then comes marriage. Unless it’s the other way around. . .
General Mark Grimaldi has sacrificed everything for his military career, working his way through the ranks without the benefit of a nobleman’s title. Now, his years of dedication are about to pay off—with an offer for a prestigious promotion to Home Secretary. There’s only one condition: Mark must be married. Aside from the small matter of not actually wanting to be wed, Mark faces another troubling problem: he already has a wife.


Nicole Huntington Grimaldi has spent ten contented years in France without her husband—and without regret. When Mark asks her to return to London and play the part of his beloved wife, she sees her chance. But neither of them is prepared for news that will throw Mark’s future into chaos…nor the undeniable desire they’ve rekindled. Maybe happily-ever-after can happen the second time around in A Duke Like No Other, the next Regency romance from Valerie Bowman. 
A Duke Like No Other
Playful Brides #9
Valerie Bowman
Pub Date: 5/1/18
St. Martin's Press
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 4/5
Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | BAM | IndieBound | Powells


Perfect for fans of Amelia Grey and Suzanne Enoch, A Duke Like No Other gives readers a taste of a whirlwind romance pitted against separation and issues of trust. With a twist on a familiar romance trope, Valerie Bowman's power couple in the latest Playful Brides novel are playing the loving husband and wife in order for Mark to obtain a promotion to Home Secretary. After 10 long years of separation, Mark and Nicole may have a delayed chance of a happy ever after but first things first, they have to solve a murder.

One of the things I truly appreciated about this story was the smidgen of mystery. Murder was perfect to open they way for Mark's secrets to be revealed and a little investigation never worked against a story! Sometimes I find historical romances to be wordy or more focused on drawing the readers' attention to scenery but this story is a great balance of heartfelt memories and fast-paced romance. Valerie Bowman doesn't waste any time diving into Mark and Nicole's story. In passages that tell their story from the moment they met, readers dive into their cores to reach their secret desires and hopes for the future. The story is tender in its ability to make you crave for a first love that can withstand so much hurt, and curious for it's unique ability to make you wonder 'what if'.

The story would not be compelling if it weren't also for the characters. Nicole particularly stood out to me because she was independent for a woman of that time period. In a time when London didn't yet have an actual police force, a young lady risked danger and a damaged reputation to help in the fight against crime. Nicole knows her mind and has a backbone of steel that any reader will admire!

Certainly, there isn't anything routine about A Duke Like No Other. If you like the fake dating theme then you'll enjoy Bowman's twist. Mark and Nicole are already married, but have to pretend to be reconciled for the sake of Mark's career. I must admit that was a new one for me, but it's so well written that I can definitely see myself seeking out similar stories in the future.
*ARC provided in consideration for review*

Read on for a sneak peak and giveaway!

EXCERPT:



CHAPTER THREE

Mark quirked his mouth into a half smile. Nicole had always been direct. It was one of the things that had first drawn him to her. She wasn’t about to let him get away with arriving unannounced without admitting that he wanted something. Good, because he liked to be direct too. “You’re right. I do want something from you.”
“Say it.” She crossed one leg over the other and for the life of him he couldn’t stop staring at how those breeches hugged her long legs. Outside, he’d been slightly obsessed with how they hugged another part of her anatomy. And that shirt . . . the one that was exposing her chest in a way that made the back of his neck sweat. Leave it to Nicole to have her hair down and to be wearing breeches while riding around a French château on a horse named Atalanta. She’d been besting the comte in the race they’d been engaged in. That was also like her. She adored competition and hated to lose at anything. If he had any hope of her saying yes to his proposal, he needed to make certain he didn’t become her adversary . . . again.
He glanced around the drawing room. Outfitted in rose and cream silks with the occasional hint of green, the room was tastefully decorated. The château itself was large and well appointed without being ostentatious. She had access to his money but had never spent a shilling of it. No, this was all a result of her own money or her family’s.
He spread his arms wide along the back of the settee. “No reminiscing? No catching up? No discussing the good times?”
Her dark red eyebrow inched even higher. “Were there good times? I seem to recall those being few and far between.”
“There were a few.” In bed. He tugged at his collar.
She poked at the chignon on the back of her head. Only she could make a quickly put-together hair arrangement look effortlessly gorgeous. Several tendrils of the long red locks fell to frame her face, which wore a decidedly disgruntled look. “Out with it. I’m quite busy. I’m attending a dinner party this evening and I must dress.”
Mark bit the inside of his cheek but ultimately he couldn’t keep the comment that had sprung to his lips to himself. “A cleaner pair of breeches?” Damn, she looked good in those breeches. She looked good altogether. Better than good. The years had been kind to her. The fresh-faced plumpness of her cheeks had given way to a slenderness that made her cheekbones prominent. Her lips were still full and pink and inviting. Her hair luxurious, soft and smooth. Her eyes looked more world-weary, to be sure, but their sea-foam-green depths were still astute and intelligent. Her body was still trim and fit. Her thighs looked even fitter, probably from riding astride. Ahem. What he wouldn’t give to see those thighs once more, to have them wrapped tightly around his—
“Despite my present appearance, I do own a gown or two.” Her words snapped him out of his indecent line of thought. She gave him another tight smile.
He stood, crossed to the nearby sideboard, and poured himself a brandy. “Going to meet the comte again?”
“Careful,” came her throaty voice from the settee. “It’s nearly sounding as if you’re jealous.”
Still facing the sideboard, he cocked his head to the side. “Jealous? Whatever does that word mean?”
“The comte is a friend, nothing more.” Her voice sounded dismissive. He didn’t believe her, however.
Mark splashed more brandy into his glass. “I’m certain you’d tell me if he weren’t.”
“I’m certain you’d care.”
Mark turned back toward her and took a healthy swig of his drink. “A man doesn’t like to think of his wife in the bed of another.”
She actually rolled her eyes at that comment. “Oh, you’ve been celibate all these years then?” she countered, her voice dripping with skepticism.
He had been, but he’d die a slow death back in the French prison camp before he told her that. However, he wasn’t so unrealistic as to think Nicole would have remained untouched. They had agreed to part ways, hadn’t seen each other in ten years. She was a beautiful woman in the prime of her life. Still, the notion of punching the comte dead in the face held a great deal of appeal at the moment. “I’ve never been one to kiss and tell, love.”
She gave him a tight smile, which clearly indicated she didn’t believe him, either. “You’re a general now?” she asked abruptly, clearly ready to change the subject.
“I am.” He moved to the window and looked out across the lavender fields, one arm held behind his ramrod-straight back as if he were surveying a battlefield. The stance was still comfortable for him even after all these years of working for the Home Office.
“I suppose congratulations are in order.” The tea arrived and Nicole poured a cup for herself and splashed in a liberal amount of cream. He remembered that about her. She took her tea with no sugar, just cream.
“No congratulations needed,” he intoned, taking another swig of brandy.
The silver spoon she used to stir her tea clinked against the delicate china teacup. “I must admit, I’ve often wondered when I’d get a missive that you’d been killed.”
His chuckle was humorless. He turned to face her. “Such little faith in me? Or wishful thinking?”
“Neither,” she replied, lifting the cup to her pink lips. “Just a profound knowledge of how reckless you are.”
He inclined his head. “Used to be.”
“Really?” She raised a brow. “Is that why you’ve come? To tell me you’ve changed?”
He chuckled. “I haven’t changed that much.”
“I’m not surprised.” She set down her teacup and crossed her arms over her chest. “Tell me, Mark, why have you come?”
He saluted her with his glass, the amber-colored liquid shining in the afternoon sunlight. “You were right. I need a favor from you.”
She didn’t so much as bat an eyelash. “Of course you do. What’s the favor?” She picked up her cup once more and took a sip.
He downed the final splash of brandy and met her gaze. “I need you to return to England with me for a few months and pretend to be my loving wife.”



Copyright © 2018 by Valerie Bowman in A Duke Like No Other and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks. 

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VALERIE BOWMAN grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her mini-schnauzer, Huckleberry. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS. She is the author of the Secret Brides and Playful Brides series.

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