Friday, May 1, 2015

Book Trends and Fashions: Amazon's Kindle Scout Program

Who has heard of the Kindle Scout program?  It’s something Amazon launched last year that lets the readers decide who gets published.  It’s an interesting concept.  Authors sign their stories up with the program.  Kindle Scout readers (just a sign up away for most people) can then read the story for free and decide if they want to recommend it for publication through Amazon’s KDP program.   Sounds like a win-win for both authors and readers, right?

So, with the first few batches of Kindle Scout books published and the program making news and waves again, I thought it was the perfect time for it to be labeled a “Book Trend and Fashion”.  Now, I’m not going to go into the details of whether or not Amazon’s contract is good or bad.  I don’t know what other contracts out there are like, so I would be a horrible judge of that.  This is just my opinion as a reader on how the program seems to be working.

The How It Works page for Kindle Scout lays it out as pretty simple for both readers and authors.  An author loads a book (it’s available for 30 days), the readers browse and read through the ones they think are interesting, and if the reader thinks it deserves to be published they recommend it.  The books with the highest recommendations are offered a KDP contract.  If you recommended a book that is then published, you get a free copy of the final product.  Seems very straight forward and Amazon is benefiting from free screening and scouting services from the readers. 

What bothers me is this:

When an author posts a giveaway, but you have to go recommend their book in order to qualify – it seems a bit like buying votes.  Now, how is this different than requesting people like a Facebook page or Follow a blog.  Neither of those actions really contributes to a revenue stream for a blogger or author.  It may help them get some attention that could lead to good things, but there’s no direct pay out.  A publishing contract (with a $1500 advance) definitely has monetary value.  I have no problem with an author requesting their fans to go vote for their book – people ask this all the time of their readers.  But they shouldn’t require it in order to enter a giveaway. 

This type of giveaway also drives down the integrity of Amazon’s publishing division.  If I know books are being published through this program because authors are buying votes – why would I ever buy one of those books?  They must not have been “good enough” to make it on their own, right?

It seems like what was a great idea is being manipulated by a handful of authors.  I don’t think the giveaways have been very successful though. The giveaways I’ve see with this type of entry are, thankfully, fewer and fewer every day.

I think overall the program sounds pretty interesting, but with a lot of potential to do well or go horribly wrong.  I’ve scanned through the selected books a handful of times, and I haven’t really seen one that catches my eye yet.  So, have any of you readers or authors tried the program? What do you think of it?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Kilts and Daggers by Victoria Roberts Spotlight and Giveaway

To celebrate the release of KILTS AND DAGGERS, the second title in Victoria Roberts’ Highland Spies series, Fagan Murray, the strong and handsome captain of Laird Sutherland’s guard has agreed to sit down with us and answer our questions so you can know more about this rugged Highlander!

What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of the fact that I wed an Englishwoman and we haven’t killed each other yet.

Who do you look up to the most?
My laird. Ruairi is a good man.

Kilts and Daggers
By Victoria Roberts
My Highland Spy, Book 2
Sourcebooks Casablanca
Scottish Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781402292033
May 5, 2015
$7.99 Mass Market Paperback

About the Book

“This book begs to be read and reread.”—RT Book Reviews, 4 1/2 stars on My Highland Spy

Ever since Lady Grace Walsingham discovered her uncle and sister are spies for the Crown, she has yearned for adventure. She’s counting the days until she can leave barbaric Scotland behind, even if she must endure Highland captain Fagan Murray’s company for weeks. 

Fagan has a simple mission: escort the haughty Lady Grace back to England. But nothing is ever easy. The sharp-tongued woman needles him at every turn. But when a menacing threat follows them on their journey, Fagan’s grudging tolerance for Grace turns to respect…and into a perilous attraction that could seal their fate.

More praise for My Highland Spy:
“Beautiful! This book has it all.”—Night Owl Reviews, 4.5 Stars, Reviewer Top Pick
“One of the best... an outstanding Scottish romance.”—Romance Reviews, 5 Stars
“An exciting Highland tale of intrigue, betrayal, and love with a braw Highland hero and strong English heroine any reader will love.”—Hannah Howell, New York Times bestselling author of Highland Master

Highland Spies series:
My Highland Spy (Book 1)
Kilts and Daggers (Book 2)

Plaids and Petticoats (Book 3)

My Highland Spy (Book 1)

Kilts and Daggers (Book 2)

About the Author
Victoria Roberts writes sexy, award-winning Scottish historical romances about kilted heroes and warriors from the past. Prior to ever picking up a single romance novel, she penned her first young adult novella at 16 years old. Who knew her leather-studded motorcycle hero would trade in his ride and emerge as a kilt wearing Highlander wielding a broadsword? Victoria lives with her husband and their two beautiful children in western Pennsylvania.

Connect with Victoria Roberts

Excerpt from KILTS AND DAGGERS by Victoria Roberts
“Mister Murray, I don’t feel at ease discussing these subjects with you.”
“Then call me Fagan. Mister Murray was my father’s name anyway.”
Grace looked around and then softened her voice. “Now is that truly appropriate?”
“I told ye before. Ye’re a long way from England, lass. Lest ye forget, ye’re in the Highlands now. We do things differently here.”
She lifted a brow. “How could I forget?”
“Ruairi said ye’ll be staying with us for a few weeks. More to the point, I already call Ruairi’s wife Ravenna.” He turned up his smile a notch. “Ye and I are practically like family. Ye will call me Fagan, and I will call ye Grace, or I could always call ye bhana-phrionnsa. I’ll be kind enough to give ye a choice.”
“Ravenna may permit you to call her by her Christian name, but I certainly do not, Mister Murray. Although you do make me laugh, I’m afraid you and I are far from family.”
When Grace’s eyes smoldered, Fagan knew he shouldn’t get too close to the flame for fear of getting burned. There was still enough time to take his leave. Otherwise, he’d be verbally sparring with a lass in the middle of the great hall. Ruairi would no doubt have his head for causing mischief with his kin so soon after the wedding.
Fagan slapped both hands on the table and casually stood. Instinctively, he took another step back in case the lass suddenly had a strong urge to reach across the table and throttle him—or worse. Nevertheless, once she heard what he was about to say, the table wouldn’t provide enough space between them.
“Verra well then. I think bhana-phrionnsa suits ye quite nicely.” When Grace’s cheeks turned scarlet, Fagan smiled. “Donna say I didnae warn ye. Remember I did give ye a choice.” He winked at her and then turned on his heel.
He had a hard time trying to mask his smile. He turned around slowly and lifted a brow. “Aye?”
Grace flew to her feet, walked around the table, and closed the distance between them. She lifted her head, and by the way she was unsteady on her feet, he swore the daft lass was standing on the tips of her toes in a futile attempt to look him level in the eye.
“England and Scotland have been warring for centuries, Mister Murray, yet somehow Scotland has never won.” Lifting her skirts, she brushed his arm with her shoulder and took a few steps away from him.
That was until he called after her and stopped her dead in her tracks. “Cuine a chì mi a-ris thu, Grace?” When will I see you again? He made certain he said the words as though he spoke to his lover, which obviously had the desired effect because her whole body stiffened, and then she left him without a backward glance. Fagan’s mood was suddenly buoyant. He wasn’t exactly sure why he loved to unnerve Princess Grace, but he had one hell of a time doing it.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: Enticed (Holloway Pack #4.7) by J.A. Belfield

Title: Enticed (Holloway Pack #4.7)
Author: J.A. Belfield
Source: Author Request
Genre: Erotic Fiction
Length: Short Novella
Release Date: April 16, 2015
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Rating - 4
Sexual - 4

Happy Birthday to Ethan.

Or is it?

Gifts aside, Ethan’s morning hasn’t been anything to write home about. Sure, life is good, the pack is staying out of trouble, he finally has a mate who boils his blood ... in a good way.

Except Shelley hasn’t called. Hasn’t come by. Didn’t even bother to join her son and his girlfriend for Ethan’s annual I’m-a-year-older breakfast.

What Ethan doesn't know is that Shelley has plans. Plans that have been in progress for weeks. Ones that Ethan will never see coming, and that she’s banked on him not knowing a thing about.

She can only hope her secrecy doesn’t force his inner wolf to the surface—at least, not too early.
This was a fun sexy short novella.  The characters have a romance going on that carries over from other parts of the series, and it's Ethan's birthday.  I think every man out there would want to have his surprise present!  And Shelly definitely enjoys giving it to him, I really loved the little notes and clues.

You can really see some of the tension in their lives come out a few times, and it was kind of fun to see the play back and forth between them.  Definitely a nice quick read at bedtime.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Kilts and Daggers by Victoria Roberts Teaser Tour and Giveaway

Fagan Murray and Grace Walsingham, the hero and heroine in Victoria Roberts’ new Highland romance, KILTS AND DAGGERS, have a very interesting relationship. In their first meeting, the stubborn guard of Laird Ruiari ends up with a black eye from the sharp-tongued and hot-headed sister of Ravenna, a spy for the English crown.

You won’t want to miss the hilarious banter between Fagan and Grace that begins in My Highland Spy (Highland Spies, book 1) and fills the pages of Kilts and Daggers (Highland Spies, book 2).

Will these English-Scottish enemies ever see eye-to-eye?

Excerpt from My Highland Spy by Victoria Roberts

She tipped her head back to look up at him and placed her hands on her hips. “I demand to speak with Laird Sutherland, and I’m not leaving here until I do.” Every curve of her body quivered with defiance.
“Ye’re out of luck, lass, because he is rather indisposed at the moment.” Fagan regarded the woman with subtle amusement, which clearly infuriated her even more.” That’s when he decided to do the only thing that came to mind.
He winked at her
Her body stiffened. “How dare you! I am a lady, and you are most definitely not a gentleman.”
“Aye, well, I ne’er claimed to be.” He shrugged with indifference. “I suppose there is nay changing me now. Besides, ye’re a verra long way from England. We do things differently in the Highlands.” He gave her a roguish grin. “Fàilte gu Alba.”
“Welcome to Scotland, lass.”

Kilts and Daggers
By Victoria Roberts
My Highland Spy, Book 2
Sourcebooks Casablanca
Scottish Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781402292033
May 5, 2015
$7.99 Mass Market Paperback

About the Book

“This book begs to be read and reread.”—RT Book Reviews, 4 1/2 stars on My Highland Spy

Ever since Lady Grace Walsingham discovered her uncle and sister are spies for the Crown, she has yearned for adventure. She’s counting the days until she can leave barbaric Scotland behind, even if she must endure Highland captain Fagan Murray’s company for weeks. 

Fagan has a simple mission: escort the haughty Lady Grace back to England. But nothing is ever easy. The sharp-tongued woman needles him at every turn. But when a menacing threat follows them on their journey, Fagan’s grudging tolerance for Grace turns to respect…and into a perilous attraction that could seal their fate.

More praise for My Highland Spy:
“Beautiful! This book has it all.”—Night Owl Reviews, 4.5 Stars, Reviewer Top Pick
“One of the best... an outstanding Scottish romance.”—Romance Reviews, 5 Stars
“An exciting Highland tale of intrigue, betrayal, and love with a braw Highland hero and strong English heroine any reader will love.”—Hannah Howell, New York Times bestselling author of Highland Master

Highland Spies series:
My Highland Spy (Book 1)
Kilts and Daggers (Book 2)

Plaids and Petticoats (Book 3)

My Highland Spy (Book 1)

Kilts and Daggers (Book 2)

About the Author
Victoria Roberts writes sexy, award-winning Scottish historical romances about kilted heroes and warriors from the past. Prior to ever picking up a single romance novel, she penned her first young adult novella at 16 years old. Who knew her leather-studded motorcycle hero would trade in his ride and emerge as a kilt wearing Highlander wielding a broadsword? Victoria lives with her husband and their two beautiful children in western Pennsylvania.

Connect with Victoria Roberts

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

New Releases in Romance - Week of April 26, 2015

Historical and Contemporary seem to be the theme for this week.  Feel free to post other new releases you may know of!



Friday, April 24, 2015

ARC Review: Sebastian's Lady Spy by Sharon Cullen

Title: Sebastian's Lady Spay (Secrets & Seduction #5)
Author: Sharon Cullen
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Historical Fiction - Regency
Length: Novel
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Rating - 3
Sexual - 3

Sebastian Addison has a powerful secret. To society he is the Earl of Claybrook, the
patriarch who raised his siblings after the death of their parents. But to the king, Sebastian is Britain’s top spy—a position that has taken an emotional toll on him. Contessa Gabrielle Marciano has also been living a lie, her title a cover devised by the Office of Intelligence. The femme fatale was plucked from a life of crime and prostitution and trained to restrain her passionate nature. Until she meets the earl.

For three deeply sensual days and nights, Sebastian and Gabrielle drop their masks, indulging in pleasures that seem too good to be true. Then the lovers go their separate ways. Seven months later they reunite when inside sources report that an English aristocrat has been aiding France in a plot to topple the Crown. Their objective: to find the turncoat. Their greatest challenge: to keep their wild, wounded hearts from derailing a mission of life and death.
 I like a good mash-up of genres.  Sebastian's Lady Spy did a great job of putting together a historical with a really nice suspenseful element mixed right in.  We have two spies being "forced" to work together.  The problem is that they have very strong feelings towards each other, and that seems to be getting in Sebastian's way.  It was nice to see a guy getting all emotional and the girl keep their head and get the job done for a change.

I really liked Gabrielle.  The more I found out about her, the more I liked her.  The only exception to this was that she thought she wasn't "good enough" for Sebastian as more than a passing fancy.  I wish she had been as confident her herself as she was in her syping skills.  Sebastian is a bit of a jerk for a little too long.  He refuses to let Gabrielle do her job and he refuses to really have anything to do with her - all because he cares.  *eye roll*

OK - once Sebasian gets his head out of his butt, the story really takes off with quite a good mystery spy chase theme.  Our characters find out that they each have a piece of the puzzle and really learn to trust each other to get the job done right.  There was an incredible ending where I thought everyone was going get snuffed, but whew - thank goodness I was reading a romance.  A great HEA to wrap it all up.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

Thursday, April 23, 2015

ARC Review: Kiss the Earl (Geek Girls #3) by Gina Lamm

Title: Kiss the Earl (Geek Girls #3)
Author: Gina Lamm
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Time Travel Romance, Historical Romance - Regency
Length: Novel
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Rating - 4
Sexual - 3

On the eve of her first comic book release, Ella Briley has a problem: no date to the
launch party. Things go from bad to worse when she stumbles into the past . . . and straight into the arms of her very own Mr. Darcy.

Patrick St. John, Earl of Meadowfair, is too noble for his own good. To save his friend from what is sure to be a loveless marriage, he's agreed to whisk the girl off to wed the man she truly loves. But all goes awry when Patrick mistakes Ella for the would-be bride . . . and finds this modern girl far too tempting for even the noblest of men to resist.
This was a fun time-travel romance.  It really didn't look at what happens to the time line when you go back, it just assumes that it all works out somehow.  I think what I liked most about the time-travel aspect was Ella's reaction to the living conditions.  She has to use a chamber pot - super embarassing.  I loved seeing the reaction of a modern woman to Regency times.

Ella was not at all happy to find herself stuck in the past with Patrick, but she'll have to work with him in order to get back to London and find her way home.  Patrick was quite a gentleman, and seemed to be truly worried about the strange crazy girl he accidently kidnapped.  I loved his thoughfulness and he really was just about everything I would hope to see in a romantic hero.

Of course, they do find themselves in all sorts of trouble a few times.  But it really gave the story a light-hearted feeling between more serious scenes.  The ending was a bit of a surprise, but I really love it - espcially the part about the toilet.  You'll just to read to find out what I mean!

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

Goodreads - Amazon - Barnes & Noble

Sunday, April 19, 2015

New Releases in Romance - Week of April 19, 2015

Be-still my heart.  There are TWO sci-fi romances out next week.  Someone go hide my wallet.


Science Fiction



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

ARC Review: My Highland Lover (Highland Hearts #1) by Maeve Greyson

Title: My Highland Lover (Highland Hearts #1)
Author: Maeve Greyson
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Time Travel Romance - Scottish Highlands
Length: Novel
Release Date: March 24, 2015
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Rating - 3
Sexual - 3

Maeve Greyson unleashes a thrilling tale of magic and desire as a feisty Southern gal falls into the arms of a rough-hewn Highland chieftain.

As the proprietor of a homeopathic store in rural Kentucky, Trulie Sinclair knows that her neighbors think she’s strange—but they have no idea how strange she really is. Trulie was born in Scotland in the thirteenth century to a line of time-traveling Highlanders. When Trulie’s grandmother convinces her to return to their homeland,Trulie jumps back in time, right onto the powerful chest of Gray MacKenna. Just as his steely good looks send ripples through her body, their fierce attraction will send ripples through the ages.

After his parents murdered, Gray is consumed by thoughts of revenge. As the new chieftain of the MacKenna clan, he has reason to believe that there’s a traitor in his midst, and nothing—not even the bonny lass who suddenly drops from the sky—can distract him from his single-minded pursuit of the culprit. But when Gray learns that this sassy beauty possesses gifts beyond the sparkle in her eye, he allows his gaze, and his heart, to linger. While he hunts for the murderer, Gray finds in Trulie a precious companion—and a timeless love.
This was a really fun time travel romance.  I really enjoyed Granny's role in the whole thing and that portion just really stood out to me for some reason.  When Granny takes Trulie back in time - for several reasons - Trulie isn't too happy about it.  She swears she is going back to the present day and nothing Granny can do will stop her.  The part I really didn't quite understand, was the complete acceptance that Gray has of the fact that Trulie is a time traveler.  It just didn't ring very true to me.

So moving past that, Gray and Trulie's romance was fun and sweet and alpha male meets alpha female.  At one point I think he basically orders her to marry him and I just laughed - right along with Trulie.  You really can't order that girl to do anything. He realizes that he needs to treat her a bit different than he's used to treating women.

There is also a bit of a murder/mystery hovering over the clan and really adding a bit of excitement to the plot. It really helped tie Trulie to the time and the people as she tried to help them find out what had happened in the past.  The topic of messing with time lines is also addressed, and while I don't think there will ever be an explanation that completely satisfies me, Maeve Greyson handles it very well.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

Cover Reveal: No More Black Magic by A.L. Kessler

Title: No More Black Magic (Here Witchy Witchy #1)
Author: A.L Kessler
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: June 16,2015

Explosions, body parts, and black magic are all part of Abby Collins’ typical day. As the top Paranormal Investigation Bureau agent, she only gets the best cases, but when the Cult of Ra comes to play she might in be over her head. Finding a murderer while up against a hex, an overprotective coven, and a stubborn werewolf reminds her that nothing in the paranormal world is easy. As the death toll rises and a decades old crime, linked to Abby, is uncovered, disturbing information is brought to light. Abby must unlock an ancient language steeped in black magic to uncover the truth before the murderer comes for her.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Guest Post: Traits of a Gentleman by Sally Orr

Traits of a gentleman: Wit

London 1824

My name is Lord Boyce Parker, and I was present when the Earl of Stainthorpe challenged London’s finest bachelors to a race to Paris. The five winners of the earl’s race would be chosen by the gentleman whose journey best reflected one of the English traits of: courage, intelligence, sportsmanship, service to the king or service to a lady.

Of course, we all know that the English gentleman possess many other traits as well. You cannot be called a true gentleman unless you also have wit and a sense of humor, a trait that is unique to the English.

Take that Sheridan fellow, the playwright. I laughed so hard during a production of School for Scandal that my brother felt it was necessary to elbow me in the ribs. Never has a more amusing line has been written than, “You had no taste when you married me.”

Come to think of it, Sheridan was Irish. Well, goes without saying that, besides the English, those Irish fellows have an abundance of wit too.

Actually, now that I consider all of the bachelors of my acquaintance entering this race, I believe they all have the trait of wit in abundance. So I may have a tough challenge to best my friends in the race for the gentleman with the greatest sense of humor. Since I’m a long shot in the wit challenge, in order to win I plan to be circumspect and, to quote Sheridan, “Never say more than is necessary.”

If you entered the earl’s race, which trait would you chose to win?

When a Rake Falls
By Sally Orr
Sourcebooks Casablanca
The Rake’s Handbook, Book 2
Historical Regency Romance
April 7, 2015
ISBN: 9781492602149
$7.99 Mass Market Paperback

About the Book

He’s racing to win back his reputation
Having hired a balloon to get him to Paris in a daring race, Lord Boyce Parker is simultaneously exhilarated and unnerved by the wonders and dangers of flight, and most of all by the beautiful, stubborn, intelligent lady operating the balloon.

She’s curious about the science of love
Eve Mountfloy is in the process of conducting weather experiments when she finds herself spirited away to France by a notorious rake. She’s only slightly dismayed—the rake seems to respect her work—but she is frequently distracted by his windblown physical magnificence and buoyant spirits.

What happens when they descend from the clouds?
As risky as aeronautics may be, once their feet touch the ground, Eve and Boyce learn the real danger of a very different type of falling…

Praise for The Rake’s Handbook:
“Orr debuts with a charming romp. The witty repartee and naughty innuendos set the perfect pitch for the entertaining romance. Though there are serious themes and carefully researched historical details, it’s the banter and sensuality that are sure to enchant readers.” --RT Book Reviews, 4 stars

Buy the Book
The Rake’s Handbook: Including Field Guide (Book 1)

When a Rake Falls (Book 2)

About the Author
Sally Orr worked for thirty years in medical research, specializing in the discovery of gene function. After joining an English history message board, she posted many, many examples of absolute tomfoolery. As a result, a cyber-friend challenged her to write a novel. Since she is a hopeless Anglophile, it's not surprising that her first book is a Regency romance. Sally lives with her husband in San Diego, surrounded by too many nerdy books and not enough old English cars.

Connect with Sally Orr

Excerpt from WHEN A RAKE FALLS
London, 1825
Lord Boyce Parker felt a sudden urge to sing. The brisk morning air, the glorious sunshine, and the presence of a hundred or so excited gentlemen milling around him could only mean a remarkable day ahead. Boyce knew he’d be mocked if he broke out in song, but sometimes happiness just bubbled up from somewhere down in your toes and overwhelmed a fellow. “My candle burns bright—-”

“Goes without saying you learned to sing by reading a book,” said George Drexel, one of Boyce’s oldest friends. “Right now I could be in bed with the lovely Widow Donhurst. Instead, I’m standing here amongst the rabble of London, far too early for any sane man, following another one of your bacon--brained schemes.”

Boyce ignored him and kept his gaze fixed on the balcony of Stainthorpe House. Yesterday, the Earl of Stainthorpe had placed an advertisement in all of the newspapers inviting London’s finest bachelors to gather in Royston Square. Although the details in the advertisement were few, it hinted fame and five thousand pounds might be gained by winning one of several “challenges.” As the son of a wealthy marquess, Boyce had no need for the money, but he longed for a chance to impress his father. “It’s not my bacon--brained scheme; it’s the earl’s. Cheer up. You will be the friend of the victorious Lord Boyce Parker.”

Drexel turned to glare at the pressing horde of eager young gentlemen behind them. “You don’t even know what the old man’s challenges are. They could all be a hum, like a scavenger hunt to find his great--uncle’s tricorne hat or his aunt’s lost poodle.” Drexel dressed in somber colors without fancy cravats or fobs, so his words had the gravity of a humorless man no one would willfully cross. This morning, his rumpled clothes, dark whiskers, and obvious lack of sleep—-no doubt due to a long night of amorous adventure—-made him appear grumpier than normal. “I hardly think the earl’s tomfool challenges will make you famous.”

“You don’t sound cheerful.” Boyce grinned at his old school friend. “I’m confident the earl’s challenges will be significant and my assured victory will pave the way to restoring my father’s esteem.”

Drexel spat on the ground. “Chasing your brother’s fame? Richard is a glorious war hero. I’m sure winning some silly challenge won’t compete with his elevated consequence.”

“You’re wrong. When my name is printed in the newspapers, my father will have to speak of me with the same admiration he gives Richard.”

“I don’t think winning a challenge will change the marquess’s opinion of you—-”

“Look.” Boyce pointed upward.

The Earl of Stainthorpe stepped to the edge of his balcony overlooking Royston Square. “My friends, I understand there are no great men left in England.” Silver wisps of hair escaped the earl’s old--fashioned queue and blew over his forehead, but he ignored them as he squarely confronted the men below.

The audience surged forward and yelled retorts to the earl’s audacious remark.

Boyce had arrived an hour early so he would be close enough to hear his lordship’s every word. But if this hubbub continued, he might not catch what the earl had to say. He turned to the man yelling behind him. “I’ll give you a pound, my good fellow, if you can shout louder.”

The man smiled and shouted.

“Definitely not louder, unfortunate loss indeed,” Boyce said. “Now I suggest you hush and let his lordship speak.”

Standing two steps behind his master, the earl’s butler vigorously rang a handbell to gain the attention of the boisterous crowd.

“The earldom of Stainthorpe owns numerous and diverse holdings,” the earl bellowed. “Therefore, upon my death, my daughter will be the richest woman in England.”

The crowd cheered.

The earl waited for them to settle down. “What I’m trying to say is, Lady Sarah Stainthorpe needs a husband. But so far, none of the Eligibles paraded before her will do. She refuses to marry and claims all the gentlemen in London are rogues, dandies, or worse. The point is, she’s a bluestocking and might fall in love with some bloody…a poet. I tell you, my friends, that Byron fellow has a lot to answer for.”

As the youngest son of a marquess, Boyce was considered an Eligible. Only, Lady Sarah had rejected him, and all the other Eligibles, seconds after they had presented themselves at Royston House—-an unfortunate circumstance, since he believed Lady Sarah would make an excellent wife and a very pretty one too. After a moment of reflection, he realized every lady of his acquaintance would make a pretty wife. One or two may have a feature some might call “unfortunate.” Nevertheless, he always found something pretty in every female countenance.

“Are all the gentlemen I see before me rogues or dandies?” the earl shouted. “Of course not. One or two maybe, and several of you are shockingly loose in the haft.” His lordship pointed to a young man wearing a violet greatcoat, hanging by one arm on a streetlight. “Especially you, sir.”

With his free hand, the man doffed his top hat.

“Yes, I mean you,” the earl said. “My condolences to your poor father.”

All of the Parker men possessed a fine figure, so he knew even a poorly tailored coat hung well upon his shoulders. The many compliments he received had gained him a reputation as an expert in masculine fashion. Therefore, Boyce felt his lordship should show more sympathy to a man wearing a lamentable violet greatcoat, since the earl wore an old square coat and baggy breeches.
“Where was I?” The earl paused to scan the crowd. “Besides an obvious bone--breaker or two, you gentlemen are the embodiment of the character traits that make Englishmen the greatest people on earth. So I am challenging you—-the finest Englishmen alive—-to a race. A race to Paris!”

The crowd cheered.

“This is not a race where the winner arrives first,” the earl said. “No, it is a test to discover the gentlemen who possess England’s greatest traits.”

“Gin drinking, gov?” someone shouted.

The crowd laughed and called out a few additional “traits.”

The earl ignored their comments. “And I mean English character traits—-not British. That country was some tomfoolery created by meddlesome politicians. This is a race for Englishmen only. Now, my race will have five challenges and five winners. Each winner will win a prize of a gold cup and five thousand pounds.”

The mob erupted in huzzahs; top hats flew into the air.

Under his sky--blue waistcoat, Boyce’s heartbeat escalated. This race presented him with his best opportunity to distinguish himself. He would win at least two of the earl’s challenges and earn a reputation as a prime example of English manhood. “Huzzah!” He too threw his beaver hat in the air.
The butler rang the handbell for a full minute before the crowd settled down.

The earl held up his hands. “Here are the details of the five—-count them—-five challenges. You have one month to reach Stainthorpe House in Paris. Each gentleman will write about his journey and provide the name of a witness. The man whose travels provide the best example of an English trait wins a challenge. Once the winners promise to spend the remainder of the summer in our company, they will be rewarded with a gold cup and five thousand pounds. With such excellent examples of true English manhood escorting Lady Sarah around Paris, she must certainly fall in love with one of you unlicked cubs.”

The assembled men danced in circles. Each one of them was probably dreaming about how he would spend his winnings.

Eager to hear the details, Boyce frowned at the clamorous riffraff behind him. The earl was right; they all appeared to be a lot of rag--mannered coves, so he gained complete confidence that he could best any of their English traits—-whatever those traits may be. Once he reached Paris, Lady Sarah would discover he was the finest of fellows and they would fall in love. Women seemed naturally to favor him over other gentlemen—-wonderful creatures, women.

The earl’s voice boomed across the square. “What are the character traits that make Englishmen so great, you ask?”

The young men below the balcony tendered several improper suggestions.

“No.” The earl waved his hand. “Not physical features. Traits like courage and intelligence. So the challenges are thus: The first gold cup will be given to the gentleman who represents English courage. We are the country of Nelson, so bravery and courage course through every one of our veins.”

Someone shouted the nature of what was coursing through his veins.

The earl continued without hesitation. “The second gold cup will be given to the gentleman whose journey represents classic English sportsmanship. Any Englishman alive can out hunt, out fish, and out ride all other races of men. So to win the second cup, some outstanding feat of sportsmanship will rule the day. Extra consideration will be given to the best example of a journey completed under difficult circumstances.”

Boyce huffed. “Well, his lordship is wrong. The true nature of English sportsmanship is not victory over adversity, but our support for the dark horse and sense of fair play. We are, by nature, a generous people.”

Drexel slapped him on the back. “For once I agree with you. But considering your history in the field, I suggest you don’t try for the sportsmanship cup.”

“Sportsmanship can be demonstrated by means other than fishing or shooting every magnificent creature—-for example, by boxing or gaming. I practice my pugilistic skills at Jackson’s twice a week now. You cannot tell me his place is not full of sportsmen. Or how about when a fellow loses a fortune gaming at White’s and faces his loss with the grace and good humor of a gentleman? That’s sportsmanship under pressure, if you ask me.”

“Yes, but the earl believes boxing is for professionals and only women play cards.”

Boyce widened his eyes. “In my opinion, his lordship’s definition of sportsmanship is rather limited.”
The handbell sounded again before the earl continued his speech. “The third gold cup will be given to the gentleman whose journey best exhibits loyalty to the king or service to a lady.”

One man yelled, “I’d be delighted to service all the ladies on my way to Paris.”

Others in the crowd shouted similar generous offers.

“If you do so, sir,” the earl replied, “you will be shown the door. Loyalty means old--fashioned manners, being polite, and keeping your distance from your betters. Of all the challenges, I believe service to the Crown is the greatest honor any man could desire. And considering the manners I’ve witnessed here today, I’d say the challenge of this cup will remain unmet.”

Jeers filled the air.

Boyce wondered how a fellow could show loyalty to the king in a race. He supposed a gentleman might salute the king’s profile on a sovereign with every step of his journey, but dismissed it as an absurd notion. No, he’d be better off trying to provide a service to some lady.

His lordship nodded, and the handbell rang again. “Now quiet down. The fourth cup will be given to the man whose journey provides the best example of our English intelligence. We are the land of Newton and Davy, so the greatest brains of civilization are English. Except for that da Vinci fellow and one or two Greeks, but we can afford to be generous and let the rest of the world have a little luck now and then.”

Boyce elbowed his friend. “Yes, yes, that’s the cup for me. Bet I’ll win too. What do you say, fifty?”
“Agreed,” Drexel said. “I will also wager by the end of this whole flummery, Lady Sarah will reject all the winners out of spite. I would, if I were her.”

Boyce refused to believe Lady Sarah would object to any of the winners, once she knew them well. The lady wanted to be married, didn’t she? “No, no, young women are full of tender affection. I have never met one who did not want to fall in love and make her family happy.”

Drexel rolled his eyes. “I suspect that is because there are so many unmarried ladies dangling after you, you cannot imagine one refusing. And from the stories I heard yesterday, I’ll wager that if I throw a pebble into the crowd at the next assembly, it will hit a widow who has, or wants to be, in your bed. And believe me, those ladies are not expecting marriage.”

“You’re being vulgar in public,” Boyce said. “All of the widows I have ever…met were delightful. Deep in their hearts, they want to be married again, I’m sure.”

“So why haven’t you married one of these delightful ladies?”

“Never understood how fellows choose one to fall in love with.”

“If I know the marquess, the best way to impress him is to give him grandchildren. My father becomes unhinged with even the thought of grandchildren.”

“Grandchildren? Grandchildren are far in the future. A great public achievement is my best and only chance to regain my father’s respect. You’ll see. When I am crowned the victor of more than one challenge, my achievements will be the toast of London. Then all of England will think of me differently. I will no longer be just one of the seven anonymous brothers of the war hero Richard. Worse yet, if people do recognize me, they remember I’m the Parker son who published a scandalous book and then received the cut direct from his father—-his own father. After my victory in the challenges, everyone will have to refer to me as the intelligent, courageous Lord Boyce. Don’t you understand?”

Drexel winked at his friend. “Tell me, which of the great English traits do you represent best? Sounds like only Service to a Lady, and believe me, your service is the wrong type as far as the earl is concerned.”

“Ah, that’s my secret. But you will be a witness to my victory, won’t you?”

After pulling off his hat, Drexel took a full minute to smooth the beaver nap on the brim. “I’ll consider it.” A wide smirk broke across his dark, handsome face. “You’ve persuaded me to join the race too.”


The handbell clanged, and everyone faced the balcony again. “Gentlemen, there is one last challenge, the fifth cup. Since this was my daughter’s idea, perhaps in jest, you never know with females, let us call it the Lady’s Favorite.”

Shouts and laughter rose from the rabble.

The earl leaned forward over the mob. “Perhaps there are no gentlemen in England, and my daughter is right?” His lordship waited until the crowd quieted. “Lady Sarah has a funny notion that the greatest achievements of the English race are their sense of humor, wit, and eccentricities. I mean, now really, she is fond of Sheridan’s plays.” The earl held up his right hand to quiet the laughing crowd. “For this cup, Lady Sarah will be the final judge.”

The mob tendered several humorous jests of questionable wit.

The earl coughed several times but remained unmoving. “So there you have it. The five greatest English traits are courage, sportsmanship, intelligence, wit, and service to a lady. Now to business. I expect all who plan to take up the challenges to gather in our vestibule below. There, we will compile a list of the participants. You do not have to choose which cup you aspire to, and you may switch to another challenge at the end of your journey. Finally, you may win more than one challenge. Oh, and you must provide an acceptable witness. Anyone who observes your achievement and can testify on your behalf may be an official witness. The only exclusions are people who cannot be trusted, like paid companions or dear old mums.”

Several groans were heard, and one person clapped.

The earl nodded in the direction of the man who clapped. “Good man. The race will officially start after I stop speaking and will end a month from now on the second of July. On that day, you will present your written story describing your journey to Stainthorpe House at Rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin. There, I will choose the five best stories for each challenge, and those finalists will be asked to recite their adventures aloud. Indeed, everyone here today will be invited to attend this party and hear my pick of the winners. Lastly, the five thousand pounds and gold cups will be presented at the end of the evening. It goes without saying that the victors will be appropriately recognized in all of the newspapers.”

Boyce elbowed Drexel. “Yes, yes, my father reads every paper.”

The crowd’s cheers erupted again after the mention of the winnings.

The earl held his arms out. “I tell you, my friends, I’m excited about this race. To help defray the cost of your journey, any man who takes up our challenges will receive a hundred pounds after reaching Paris.”

Shouts and applause echoed around the square.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen, Lady Sarah and I look forward to hearing the adventures of England’s finest men. I am positive that once my daughter is acquainted with you fine fellows, she will fall in love. With such excellent examples of the greatness inherent in the English, how could she not? We also anticipate the pleasure of your company during our summer in Paris. The only other thing I can say is…” The earl lifted his quizzing glass to his eye and scanned the crowd. “Ready, steady, go!”

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Review: How to Master a Millionaire by Talia Hunter

Title: How to Master a Millionaire
Author: Talia Hunter
Source: Author Request
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: Novel
Release Date: March 9, 2015
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Rating - 4
Sexual - 4

She’ll learn to tame him…

When he scores the lead role in a feature film, millionaire model-turned-actor Max Oberon won’t let anything mess up his big break. But there’s a problem. His character’s submissive relationship is a big part of the movie, and Max can’t seem to make it convincing. Solution? Five days with a dominatrix should help him overcome his need for total control.

Ally’s life is one hot mess. A broke blogger, this story could be her chance to get back on her feet. If Ally can pass herself off as a dominatrix, she can publish a tell-all article and get the money she needs to keep from losing everything. So what if she’s clueless about anything kinky, and her abusive ex left her with a self-confidence problem?

Although Ally can’t give orders and Max hates taking them, together they discover new ways of commanding pleasure. But will Ally’s deception destroy their one chance at love?
The whole idea behind this book was pure genius.  Seriously...what would a somewhat shy girl do if they had to pretend to be dominatrix for a week?  Ally somehow manages to convince Max that she is on - I never would have been able to pull it off without giggling.  Watching her take on this new role was really fun and it showed how strong she was and her ability to overcome her nerves.

Max is all alpha male so trying to learn to like submission is pretty hard for him.  He's glad that Ally seems to make it easier and you can really see the chemistry growing between them from the moment they meet.  I wish we had seen a little more of his softer side earlier in the story - but he hid it away until a bit later and then just let it loose.

So...why not five stars.  Well, romances based on lies can be tricky to wrap up.  Max is really pissed at Ally when he finds out she lied about be a dominatrix, but he still loves her.  What to do?  Not gonna give it away, but Talia Hunter did a pretty dang good job wrapping it up.  One of the better post-lie make ups I've seen.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

Monday, April 13, 2015

ARC Review: The Lady Meets Her Match (Midnight Meetings #3) by Gina Conkle

Title: The Lady Meets Her Match (Midnight Meetings #3)
Author: Gina Conkle
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Historical Romance - Georgian
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Rating - 5
Sexual - 3

Locating Her Is Only Half The Battle...

Cyrus Ryland didn't become England's wealthiest bachelor by being a pushover, but the mysterious beauty he discovers sneaking around at his grand ball enflames his curiosity. When the clock chimes midnight, and she's nowhere to be found, Cyrus vows to scour all of London to uncover who she is. Little does he know that not only does Claire Mayhew not want to be found, but she wants nothing to do with him at all...
Claire Mayhew has jumped to the top of my favorite historical romance heroines.  She is an independent woman that refuses to accept that she needs a man to life her life.  But she does need a man to approve the lease of her store, and that man doesn't believe that women can be in business on their own.

Cyrus isn't a bad guy - he just holds view that most men of his time held.  Women need to be married or living with a male relative to keep the out of trouble and protected.  It may sound sweet, but I couldn't imagine actually living that way.  When he falls for Claire and finds out who she really is, he makes it his mission to find a way to show her he's right.

Well, saying that doesn't go as planned would be quite the understatement.  This may sound like a fluff plot, but dig just a bit deeper and we have a mystery, sabotage, and threats on people's life going on at the same time.  All this is woven so beautifully together.  One of the best and most original historical romances I've read in a long time

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

Sunday, April 12, 2015

New Releases in Romance - April 12, 2015

Some great new releases to choose from this week.  Just look at all those goodies!






Friday, April 10, 2015

The Newlywed Game with Noah Winter, Duke of Anselm and His Bride Lady Thea by Grace Burrows

I love the Newly Wed Game with some great characters.  Let's see what Noah Winter and Lady Thea have to say this time.

What is your spouse’s favorite food indulgence?

Thea: Anything on my breakfast plate. The more I desire it, the more likely His Grace is to pilfer it. 

Noah: And then I bring you more of any treat you desire, admit it. 

Her Grace loves her first cup of tea in the morning, so I make it a point to share that, and thus, she has more like two first cups of tea--or three. 

Thea: Or four, what with His Grace's generous, pillaging nature. 

How would your spouse describe the perfect Sunday off?

Thea: His Grace's perfect Sunday off is spent--Anselm stop glowering--counting my toes. 

Noah: With my lips. 

Her Grace's perfect Sunday off is spent with me. 

Thea: And without his clothes. 

After a fight, who is the first to apologize?

Thea: His Grace and I have yet to find out. 

Noah: [Kisses his wife's knuckles.] I am. 

Thea: I notice the apologies, but I never realized we'd had a fight. What did we fight about? What? I'm serious.... Anselm.

Which drink will your wife say best describes your kisses after you have settled down to married life?

Noah: A fine, fiery brandy that soothes as it burns as it brings heat to the blood. 

Is your husband more romantic, less romantic, or about the same as he was before you were married?

Thea: My husband is perfectly, utterly, endlessly romantic now. He was a mere duke before we wed. 
Title: The Duke’s Disaster
Author: Grace Burrowes
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Historical Romance

Noah Winters, Duke of Anselm, exercises the pragmatism for which he's infamous when his preferred choice of bride cries off, and her companion, Lady Thea Collins, becomes his next choice for his duchess. Lady Thea's mature, sensible and even rather attractive-what could possibly go wrong?
As a lady fallen on hard times, Thea doesn't expect tender sentiments from His Grace, but she does wish Noah had courted her trust, lest her past turn their hastily arranged marriage into a life of shared regrets. Is His Grace courting a convenient wife, or a beautiful disaster?

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Author Biography

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes' bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish and Lady Eve's Indiscretion. The Heir was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010, The Soldier was a PW Best Spring Romance of 2011, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish won Best Historical Romance of the Year in 2011 from RT Reviewers' Choice Awards, Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight was a Library Journal Best Book of 2012, and The Bridegroom Wore Plaid was a PW Best Book of 2012. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.

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