New Release: The Tempting of Thomas Carrick by Stephanie Laurens


**I was provided an Advanced Reader Copy by the publisher in exchange for my honest review**

Title: The Tempting of Thomas Carrick
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Series Info: A Cynster Novel (Cynster Next Generation, #1)
Release Info: Available in Print and e-Book on February 23, 2015 (Harlequin MIRA)
Where to Buy:
Goodreads  |  Kindle  |  Barnes & Noble Nook  |  iTunes/iBooks  |  GooglePlay  |  Kobo

Cover Blurb:

The Tempting Of Thomas Carrick coverThomas Carrick is determined to make his own life in the bustling port city of Glasgow, far from the demands of the Carrick clan, eventually with an appropriate wife on his arm. But disturbing events on his family’s estate force Thomas to return to the Scottish countryside—where he is forced to ask for help from the last woman he wants to face. Thomas has never forgotten Lucilla Cynster and the connection that seethes between them, but to marry Lucilla would mean embracing a life he’s adamant is not for him.

Strong-willed and passionate, Lucilla knows Thomas is hers—her fated lover, husband, protector, mate. He is the only man for her, just as she is his one true love. How can he ignore a bond stronger than reason and choose a different path? She’s determined to fight for their future, and while she cannot command him, she has enticements of her own to wield when it comes to tempting Thomas Carrick.

My Rating:

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My Thoughts:

Within the first 100 pages of The Tempting of Thomas Carrick we encounter two unexplained deaths, a family felled by a mysterious illness, shady goings-on with Carrick clan farms, and a Fated couple with opposing relationship goals.

Lucilla Cynster is the heir to her mother’s position as Lady of the Vale, healer and figurehead for the worshippers of a local ancient Celtic deity, known as the Lady.  Lucilla’s serene confidence and faith in the Lady’s prophecy that Thomas Carrick is her Fated mate is tested by Thomas’ stubborn refusal to embrace love and his Fate at Lucilla’s side as her consort, her protector and future manager of her family’s ancestral estate, the Vale. Thomas clings to his plan to embrace the quiet, comfortable life as a Glaswegian businessman, which includes finding a wife he will be in no danger of falling in love with – basically, any woman who isn’t Lucilla Cynster. Unfortunately for Thomas’ master plan, but fortunately for readers, his connection to and passion for Lucilla cannot be tamed, especially once she sets her mind to fanning the flames of their desire.

Thomas and Lucilla work well together trying to sort out the problems facing his clan, including the ailing health of his uncle, laird of clan Carrick.  Despite his efforts to push Lucilla away, Thomas comes to rely on her intelligence and partnership in dealing with his family’s mysteries. The chemistry between the protagonists is palpable and their communication is open and mature. Thomas is honest with Lucilla regarding his future plans and she pursues a relationship with him knowing he has no intention of making their bond permanent.  The problem is, Thomas isn’t being honest with himself.  Lucilla must learn to let Thomas embrace his free will and he must learn to accept his true self. The journey to making these revelations is satisfying – and beyond steamy.

The novel faltered for me once it dropped the threads of the mysterious deaths and nefarious ‘accidents’ that occurred at Carrick Manor.  Once Thomas and Lucilla escape to her home, the Vale, they leave their investigations into the Carrick clan secrets behind. Hopefully the unresolved questions will be addressed in the second Cynster Next Generation novel, A Match for Marcus Cynster, featuring Lucilla’s twin brother Marcus and Thomas’ cousin Niniver Carrick.

The mystical undertones of the Lady added an interesting layer to this charming tale of Fated love and acceptance.

Q&A with Author Stephanie Laurens:

The Cynster series has been going strong for years!  What do you think is key to the success and longevity of the series?

From an author’s point of view, it’s simple enough—figure out what story elements drew readers to the stories in the first place and then work to keep delivering what readers clearly want. This doesn’t mean “tell the same story only differently.” It does mean delivering the same experience around the same core values, which for the Cynster series were a) a certain style of romance with a certain type of hero and heroine, and b) family. Consistently delivering to readers what readers want and expect of a particular series is the key to continued success and longevity.

This book is the first of the Cynster Next Generation Novels, and will be followed by Lucilla’s twin brother, Marcus’s story in June. Are there more Cynster Next Generation Novels to come?

Yes, indeed! As By Winter’s Light was in essence a pivotal volume, shifting focus from the original Bar Cynster generation to the lives of their near-adult children, and within the tale of By Winter’s Light were the seeds of Lucilla’s romance, then her book had to come first, in The Tempting of Thomas Carrick. And within Lucilla’s story lie the seeds of Marcus’s story, and as he is her twin, his book, A Match for Marcus Cynster, had to come next. It will be released on May 26, 2015.

But at the end of The Tempting of Thomas Carrick, and even more definitely at the end of A Match for Marcus Cynster, we catch up with the other Cynsters now facing up to the challenge of marriage and finding a suitable spouse. We see and appreciate that all is not going to be smooth sailing for such very robust individuals, neither the males nor the females. There are at least 6 more Cynster Next Generation novels to come—the romances of Devil’s three children, Sebastian, Michael, and Louisa, and those of the remaining “older group”—Prudence, Christopher, and Antonia Rawlings. After that…well, I’m sure that by the time I finish Louisa’s tale, we’ll know a lot more about Annabelle, Juliet, and Therese. And I already know what Calvin and Carter get up to, which should prove a lot of fun. Lots more to enjoy!

Readers first met Thomas Carrick in the Cynster holiday special By Winter’s Light. Did his earlier meeting with Lucilla described in that book affect the pair’s actions in this book?

That earlier meeting in By Winter’s Light sets the stage for Thomas and Lucilla’s romance. Both of them leave that first encounter with the knowledge that the other could be their future spouse. Lucilla is ready to accept that Thomas is her fated future husband, lover, and consort, but Thomas, having experienced a complementary visceral connection to Lucilla, concludes that, as he wishes to avoid love, then she is someone he would be wise to avoid.

So from the instant they part after that first encounter, they are set on opposing tracks—Lucilla expecting and waiting for Thomas to return to her side and claim her hand, and Thomas doing his level best to stay far away.

It’s a standoff, until the actions at the start of The Tempting of Thomas Carrick force—literally force—them together again.

Lucilla’s position as healer to the Vale community, and, indeed, all people under The Lady’s protection, features strongly in this book. How common were such healers?

Despite the rise of more formal medicine and the doctors who practiced it, traditional folk healers—those we might now term homeopathic healers or herbalists—were not uncommon into the late 1800s in England. In country areas, they would almost always be the first consulted, even by those living in the larger, wealthier houses. The history of herbal remedies is very deep and broad throughout the British Isles, and the more isolated the community, the greater the distance from a major town, the more likely that the people would turn first to the local “healer.” Midwifery and the treatment of common ailments remained largely the province of such healers even into the 1900s.

That said, as mentioned in this book and the next, in this period, when it came to interacting with the apparatus of law and order, for instance in formally reporting a death, the “doctor”—meaning a man formally trained in the western medical tradition—would be the one sent for.

About Author Stephanie Laurens:

Stephanie Laurens#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens began writing romances as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career when her first novel was accepted for publication, and with entirely becoming alacrity, she gave up writing about facts in favor of writing fiction.

Laurens’s novels are set in the time period of the British Regency, and her settings range from Scotland to India. Laurens has published fifty works of historical romance, including 29 New York Times bestsellers. All her works are continuously available in print and digital formats in English worldwide, and have been translated into many other languages. An international bestseller, among other Stephanie’s email contactsaccolades Laurens has received the Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA Award for Best Romance Novella 2008, for The Fall of Rogue Gerrard.

Her continuing novels featuring the Cynster family are widely regarded as classics of the genre. Other series include the Bastion Club Novels and the Black Cobra Quartet. For information on upcoming releases and updates on novels yet to come, visit Stephanie’s website.

Connect with Stephanie’s Social Media:

Website  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads

Excerpt from The Tempting of Thomas Carrick:

Somewhat to his surprise, she made no demur at his taking control; instead, she walked beside him, courtesy of the narrowness of the corridor rather close, her velvet riding skirt brushing the material of his trousers. Once he was sure she was, indeed, consenting to leave the scene, he eased his grip, then released her altogether.

He would have increased the distance between them, but there was no space.

Lucilla found herself dealing with a rather odd fracturing of her awareness. On one level, she was increasingly exercised over the matter of the Burns sisters’ deaths, and very conscious of the tug of duty on that score, yet simultaneously her sensual awareness was reveling in Thomas’s nearness. In his touch, however brief.

The toe of her riding boot hit something, and she stumbled. “Oh!” She pitched forward—

Thomas caught her and hauled her upright. Hauled her to him.

She ended in his arms. Locked against him, her palms flat against his chest.

The first thing she registered was the heat of him, the warmth that seeped through the layers of fabric and sank into her.

Into her flesh, feeding her senses.

They came alive on a giddy rush of anticipation.

She raised her gaze to his eyes. In the same instant registered the sudden tension that had gripped him, that had turned taut, resilient muscle into granite and steel. The arms that held her so securely felt less malleable than iron.

But it was his eyes that most gave him away; the gold-flecked amber burned.

She didn’t stop to think. To question.

To give him time to snap his shields back into place.

The Lady might help and create the chance, but it was up to her to seize it.

Stretching up on her toes, she barely paused to whisper “Thank you” before she pressed her lips to his.

For one instant, her confidence wavered. What if he didn’t respond?

Then she sensed it—a sharp hitch in his breathing, a leaping, uncontrollable, barely reined impulse to seize.

She’d felt that reaction in herself—she recognized it in him.

All doubt evaporated. All caution fell.

She pressed her kiss on him, sure, certain.

Stepping boldly into him, she slid her hands up his chest and over his shoulders, savoring the heat and the strength beneath her palms, then she reached further, to his nape, and slid her fingers into the thick, heavy locks of his hair.

The feathery touch caught her, steadied her.

All her senses alive, she turned her mind from conquest to persuasion.

Drawing one hand from the silk of his hair, she placed her palm against one lean cheek and gave herself over to the communion of the kiss.

Thomas was lost, his anchor gone, swept away by a tide of ferocious yearning. His, but equally hers. Her longing had poured into him, inciting a response he had no hope of reining back. Of taming. Of restraining.

He wanted her; he always had.

But the part of him that wanted her—still, regardless—was the part of him he normally kept leashed, controlled. Hidden.

It hadn’t been her kiss, the sharp and shocking pressure of her lips against his, that had shattered the chains, that had broken the lock and flung wide the doors of his inner prison.

It hadn’t been the searing heat of her touch as she’d slid her hands up his chest and over his shoulders, an evocative, provocative come-hither act that yet had felt curiously innocent.

Even her fingers tangling in his hair—he was more than experienced enough to set all such temptations aside.

But the feel of her palm, her fingers, lightly riding against his cheek…

It was as if by that touch she’d tamed him. Slayed all resistance and claimed the man he truly was.

He’d always known she was dangerous. That she and she alone could rule him.

He hadn’t wanted that. He still didn’t want that. Yet…

Her lips tasted of a heady blend of rose and nectar. He couldn’t resist the temptation to sip.

Just a little. A bit.

New Release: Below the Belt by Sydney Halston

Sidney Halston Below The Belt

**I received an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review**

Title: Below the Belt 
Author: Sidney Halston
Series Info: Worth the Fight #3 (Against the Cage #1, Full Contact, #2)
Release Date: February 10th, 2015
Where to Find Below the Belt:
Goodreads  |  Kindle  |  Nook  |  iTunes/iBooks  |  Google Play  |  Kobo

Cover Blurb:

Once one of the most sought-after names on the mixed martial arts circuit, Antonio “Scarface” Marino watched his career go down for the count as he chased skirts and made tabloid headlines. Now he’s finally making a comeback, and it’s all thanks to Francesca Silva, a Brazilian bombshell as tough as any of her fighters. But who’s the real Francesca: the trash-talking trainer who rides him hard, or the vulnerable woman who blushes at his touch?

Francesca went to the mat to sign Tony because she believes he still has the potential to bring big success to her gym—if she can keep his head in the cage and out of her personal life. After a short-lived marriage soured her on love, a one-night stand is all she can handle. Now Tony’s kisses are stirring up complicated feelings—especially when he agrees to face her ex in the ring. Francesca’s used to freezing guys out. But Tony’s tempting her to give in to the heat.

My Rating:

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My Thoughts:

At it’s heart, Below the Belt is a tale of two people learning to let go of others expectations of them and opening themselves up to love. Unfortunately, issues on the periphery of the main story distracted me from fully enjoying the potential depth of this novel.

Past pain closed Francesca Silva off to the possibility of falling in love. Setting aside her black belt, she used power suits and stillettos as her armor protecting her heart. Successful MMA fighter Tony Marino started  the novel boardering on A**hole Alpha male status but was soon discovered to have a gooey inside (hint: kittens are involved).  Tony and Francesca are open with each other and communicate well (with some minor stumbling blocks). It was important that Tony let Francesca express her emotions at her own pace and her eventual acceptance and acknowledgement of her feelings felt earned.

I was disappointed that the issue of safe sex was inadequately addressed. One expects contemporary romances to address this real life concern. The characters briefly touched on the topic of birth control – only after engaging in unprotected sex. There was never any further mention of preventative measures and I kept waiting for that to be a plot point (i.e. unexpected pregnancy). I was more worried about Francesca getting pregnant that the two of them seemed to be, not to mention contracting an STD.

Some readers may find Tony’s habit of speaking in heavily accented English when emotional endearing, however I felt it was off-putting. The inconsistently written dialect caused the Miami born Cuban-American fighter to come across as a bit of a caricature at times. The way the dialect was written was not necessary to establish Tony’s Hispanic heritage. Other characters openly mocked Tony inconsistent accent, including  referring to him as ‘Ricky Ricardo’. Sorry, but the continued use of pharses such as “ju goin’ do something?” and “ju don’t do chit” kept me from enjoying this story as much as I could have.

And don’t get me started on the lack of a scar on the cover pic supposedly of Tony “Scarface” Marino …

About Author Sidney Halston:

Author Sidney HalstonUSA Today bestselling author, Sidney Halston lives her life with one simple rule: “Just Do It” Nike, and that’s exactly what she did. After working hard as an attorney, Sidney picked up a pen for the first time at thirty years old to begin her dream of writing. Having never written anything other than very exciting legal briefs, she found an outlet for her imaginative romantic side and wrote Seeing Red, among four other novels currently in the works, including the sequel to Seeing Red. That first pen stroke sealed the deal and she fell in love with writing.

Sidney lives in South Florida with her husband and children. She loves her family above all else, and reading follows a close second. When she’s not writing you can find her reading and reading and reading… She’s a reader first and a writer second.

When she’s not writing or reading her life is complete and utter chaos trying to balance family life with work, and writing (and reading). But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Connect with Sidney’s Social Media:

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

About the Worth the Fight Series:

Against the Cage (Worth the Fight #1)

9780553390964_p0_v1_s260x420For Chrissy Martin, returning to her Florida hometown always seems to bring bad luck. The day starts with a breakup text, followed by a jailhouse phone call from her troublemaker brother. Now a routine traffic stop has ended with her accidentally punching an officer . . . in a delicate place. Then Chrissy realizes that the hot cop on the receiving end of her right hook is none other than the man from her teenage fantasies.

Jack Daniels knows how to take a hit. After all, when he’s not chasing reckless drivers, he’s kicking ass in a mixed martial arts ring. So what takes his breath away isn’t the low blow, but the woman who dealt it: a gorgeous knockout with legs Jack wouldn’t mind being pinned under—who just so happens to be his best friend’s nerdy little sister, all grown up. Soon their instant chemistry leads to a sizzling affair, but Jack and Chrissy are fighting an uphill battle if they want to make love last beyond the final bell.

Goodreads  |  Kindle  |  Nook  |  iTunes/iBooks  |  Google Play  |  Kobo

Full Contact (Worth the Fight #2)

Full Contact by Sidney HalstonHow could she have been so stupid? When Jessica Cross decides to give her violently jealous boyfriend—the otherwise influential and charming Dennis Stavros—a second chance, she very nearly becomes a statistic. After weeks of healing from a broken rib and collapsed lung, and with Dennis behind bars, Jessica finally feels ready to come out of hiding. But will she ever be able to take a chance on love again with someone new?

Mixed martial arts fighter Slade Martin knows he has a bad reputation. Hell, he’s probably earned it. So it won’t be easy to convince beautiful, vulnerable Jessica that she can trust him—that from the moment she walked into his life, she’s been the only one he’s wanted. Powerful and confident, Slade knows he can honor his vow to protect Jessica body and soul. Winning her heart will be another matter . . . but a woman like Jessica is worth the fight.

Goodreads  |  Kindle  |  Nook  |  iTunes/iBooks  |  Google Play  |  Kobo

Q&A with Jessica Lemmon, author of new release, Bringing Home the Bad Boy

I’m really excited to share my Q&A with one of my favorite authors. Jessica Lemmon, in celebration of her  new book out this week: BRINGING HOME THE BAD BOY. Readers of Jessica’s earlier books will recognize protagonist Evan Downey and his adorable son Lyon (YES! Evan gets his HEA–and some lovin’!!!)
If you aren’t familiar with Jessica’s other books WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?! Just kidding (sorta). If you like authentic dialogue, original characters, hot guys, strong women, and fantastic writing, you’ll love Jessica’s work! I bet you’ll find at least one new book boyfriend (I know I did ;)). Check out the Giveaway link at end of this post for a chance to win ALL of Jessica’s books, including #1-3 of Love in the Balance series (Tempting the Billionaire, Hard to Handle, The Millionaire Affair).
Pick up BRINGING HOME THE BAD BOY today, you won’t be sorry!
Author: Jessica Lemmon
Publisher: Forever (Grand Central Publishing)
Availability: NOW! Ebook and mass market
Series: Second Chance, #1
Where you can buy BRINGING HOME THE BAD BOY:
Amazon |  BAM |  B&N  |  IndieBound  |  GooglePlay  |  iTunes  |  Kobo
Bringing Home the Bad Boy by Jessica LemmonCreativity is his drug, painting is his escape, but she’ll be the addiction that brings him to his knees. 
Evan Downey buried a part of his soul when put the love of his life in the ground. He knows he needs to get his shit together for the sake of their son, but escaping into his art is the only way he can begin to cope with Rae’s death. When the chance to move back to Evergreen Cove, one of the few places that has ever felt right to him, he knows it’s a chance he has to take.
For his sake, and his son’s. Charlotte Harris would give anything to have her best friend back. But if she can’t have Rae, then she vows she’ll at least be there to support the family Rae left behind. So when she learns that Evan is looking to move home, she does everything she can to help him and Lyon re-build their lives at the Cove. But when sparks start to fly between Charlotte and Evan it’s the first glimpse of something bright and beautiful either of them has seen in far too long. And they start to wonder if fate has offered them a second chance at happiness– if only they’re brave enough to take the risk and let love back into their lives.
Q&A with author Jessica Lemmon:

Is there a message you’d like your readers to take away from BRINGING HOME THE BAD BOY?

That there is life for those of us left behind after someone we love passes away. It will be different than the life we had while they were here, but it will get good again.

What books do you curl up with when you need a comfort read?

Lori Foster, Jill Shalvis, Kristin Ashley, and Roxanne St. Claire to name a few. I also love to try new authors. Some of the recent ones I have discovered are Shannon Richard, Lauren Layne, and Rachael Lacey. They are fantastic!

What is your guilty pleasure?

Anything fried. Specifically, potato chips and french fries.

If you could write yourself into any book, what would it be?

I wanted to be Bella from Twilight so bad I couldn’t see straight! I think there is always a part of us, as women, that feels very plain and unnoticed. When the hottest guy around takes notice, likes you back… well, that’s every high school dream come true, isn’t it?

Which of your books was the most fun to write?

Tempting the Billionaire. I knew there was something special about Shane August, and that book was just a joy to write.

Which the most challenging?

Without a doubt, Rescuing the Bad Boy. Donovan and Sofie’s book was originally written back in 2010. Then rewritten in 2011. And, just because I was a masochist, before I handed it into my agent, I rewrote it one more time in 2012. Then, guess what? Once my editor and I talked about the direction of the Second Chance series, I decided to write it ONE. MORE. TIME. Yep, I wrote it again. And while I wondered if this rewrite just might kill me, I have to admit that the story is exactly as it should be.

About author Jessica Lemmon:
jessicalemmon_author photoJessica Lemmon has always been a dreamer. At some point, she decided head-in-the-clouds thinking was childish, went out, and got herself a job . . . and then she got another one because that one was lousy. And when that one stopped being fulfilling, she went out and got another . . . and another. Soon it became apparent she’d only be truly happy doing what she loved. And since “eating potato chips” isn’t a viable career, she opted to become a writer. With fire in her heart, she dusted off a book she’d started years prior, finished it, and submitted it. It may have been the worst book ever, but it didn’t stop her from writing another one. Now she has several books finished, several more started, and even more marinating in her brain (which currently resides in the clouds, thankyouverymuch), and she couldn’t be happier. She firmly believes God gifts us with talents for a purpose, and with His help, you can create the life you want. (While eating potato chips.)
Inspiration for Evan Downey, actor Ian Somerhalder Photo found on author's Pinterest board

Inspiration for Evan Downey, actor Ian Somerhalder
Photo found on author’s Pinterest board

Connect with Jessica’s Social Media:
Twitter: @lemmony  |  Website  |  Goodreads  |  Facebook

You also HAVE to check out Jessica’s Pinterest boards. She includes tons of amazing pictures that inspire and/or relate to her stories. Her board for BRINGING HOME THE BAD BOY (found here) has lots of steamy pics of Ian Somerhalder, her inspiration for Evan Downey.


“Know why I moved here?” he asked, keeping his voice low.

She wrenched her eyes from his and focused on a spot over his shoulder.

“Because you didn’t want to live in Columbus anymore.” That’s what he’d told her. That he wanted a change. That he and Lyon had outgrown the house. And, she imagined it’d be hard to live in the house where Rae had passed.

“But why here?”


His fingers grazed her jaw and turned her head, his palm moving to her neck where he cupped her nape and forced her eyes to his.

Reluctantly, she met them.

“Rae’s more alive when you’re around, Ace.”

Her heart, oh her heart. Kicking against her chest in a confusing, hectic rhythm.

“You bring her to life for Lyon—more than anyone else. I need him to remember her because he can’t remember her alive.” His hold stayed, his palm warming her neck, his gaze unwavering.

She tried to separate the two feelings she was having—one that she was now talking about Rae with Evan and two, that he was touching her while talking about Rae.

Before she could, his lips closed over hers.

Her thoughts short-circuited.

This wasn’t anything like a soft peck hello. This was his lips moving over hers, slanting over hers, warm and firm and then his mouth opened and—

Oh my gosh!

His wet, warm tongue slid along the seam of her lips and she stopped being passive and started kissing him back. When she would have touched her tongue to his, he relocated it, running along her bottom lip instead and tugging with his teeth.

If she’d been standing, her knees would have given out and dropped her right on her butt.

And then there was the palm on her neck, now spearing up through her hair and clutching onto a handful of it. He held her captive, his hand fisting her hair as he angled his mouth again. In response to the soft whimper escaping her throat, he swept his tongue into her mouth. He tangled his tongue with hers once, twice, and released her.

When he pulled his mouth away, a long, satisfied sigh escaped her lips. Because that was a kiss. A kiss to rival all other kisses.

She opened her eyes to realize A) she’d closed her eyes and B) she’d at some point wrapped both hands around his forearms where she was holding tight and C) Evan looked as pleased as she felt.

“God damn, Ace. Your mouth.” His eyes flicked to her lips. Lips still tingling from the rough scrape from the stubble surrounding his.

She concurred with that sentiment. Not that she said anything. She’d gone dumb; completely mute.

He backed away, but held onto her chin and tweaked it lightly with the rough pad of one thumb. “That’s the way this is gonna go from now on.”

Her breathing went shallow, her thoughts went muzzy and her head blurred as her heart palpated to the point of panic attack.

“Sorry, Rae.”

She didn’t mean to say it, and it had only been a whisper, but by the look twisting Evan’s face—the angry look twisting his face—he’d heard. And he hadn’t liked what he’d heard.

“Sorry,” she said to him this time. “I should go.”

Unbelievably, he leaned closer. She pulled her chin back until she realized she likely had a double chin, then settled her head on her neck in a more reasonable position.

Gosh. He was making her crazy.


Giveaway Kitty!

Enter the giveaway hosted on Rafflecopter: (1) One lucky winner will win a collection of Jessica Lemmon novels!

Click on the link here or on the Giveaway Kitty to enter. Good luck and happy reading!

Blog Tour, Review & Giveaway: Never Surrender to a Scoundrel by Lily Dalton


Author: Lily Dalton
Publisher: Forever Romance (Grandcentral Publishing)
Series: One Scandalous Season, #3 (Never Desire a Duke, #1; Never Entice an Earl, #2)
Release Info: Available January 27, 2015!
Where to Buy: 
Amazon |  BAM |  B&N |  IndieBound |  GooglePlay |  iTunes |  Kobo


unnamedA Reckless Desire . . .
Lady Clarissa Bevington is in trouble. A reckless indiscretion has left her with two choices: ruin her family with the scandal of the Season, or marry Mr. Kincraig, the notorious scoundrel mistaken as her lover. Desperate and disgraced, Clarissa vows to love and cherish a veritable stranger, a man whose eyes smolder with danger-and undeniable desire . . .
An Unexpected Arrangement . . .
As an agent for the Crown, Lord Dominick Blackmer has spent the last two years guarding Clarissa’s grandfather from an unknown assassin while disguised as the rakehell Kincraig. His mission may now be over, but his duty has just begun. Salvaging his beautiful, impetuous wife’s virtue will cost him his fortune and his position as an officer-but it might save him from the ghosts that haunt his own past. When their marriage “in name only” leads to exquisite seduction, Dominick must risk the only thing he has left to lose . . . his heart.

My Rating:

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My Thoughts:

Never Surrender to a Scoundrel by Lily Dalton is the third novel in the One Scandalous Season series. However, this final installment of the trilogy detailing the romantic lives of the Bevington sisters easily stands on its own. You need not have read Never Desire a Duke or Never Entice an Earl in order to enjoy this novel, although I would urge you to, since they are both delightful. Lady Clarissa and her future husband appear in each of the pervious novels and its fun to catch glimpses of their future friendship. Check out the Giveaway link at the bottom of this post for a chance to win all three books!

The marriage of convenience between Lady Clarissa Bevington and Lord Dominick Blackmer (originally known to her as Mr. Kincraig) wasn’t very convenient for either party. Clarissa had given her heart –and her virtue– to another and Blackmer was anxious to return to foreign duty as an spy for the Crown. When Clarissa’s beau unexpectedly marries another, Blackmer is caught up in her scandal when her family mistakenly assumes he’s to blame for her ‘interesting condition’. Rather than forsake the kind young lady, and out of deep respect for her grandfather, Blackmer agrees to marry Clarissa, keep her secret and raise her child as his own. I particularly enjoyed when Clarissa discovered her groom wasn’t actually Mr. Kincraig, the rake she’d presumed him to be.

I found Never Surrender to a Scoundrel to be a perfectly lovely read, one of those books that leaves you smiling and satisfied (and in this case, anxiously awaiting Lily Dalton’s next book). Clarissa and Dominick have a wonderful, mature relationship. Despite the circumstances at the beginning of their marriage, they quickly grow closer and become friends. Clarissa’s defense of Dominick against her family’s unfounded vitriol was especially touching and exemplified her respect and appreciation for his sacrifice. Friendship soon develops into much more, as they give into their mutual attraction. What could have felt rushed or forced in the hands of a less talented author felt like natural and organic character development. There is plenty of Blackmer family drama and secrets from Dominick’s past missions to add excitement and mystery. These plotlines add to, rather than detract from the story of Clarissa and Dominick, and highlight the strength of their partnership.

About author Lily Dalton:
unnamedLily Dalton grew up as an Army brat, moving from place to place. Her first stop after relocating was always the local library, where she could hang out with familiar friends: Books! Lily has an English degree from Texas A & M University and after graduation worked as a legal assistant in the fields of accident reconstruction and litigation. She now lives in Houston, Texas, with her family. When she isn’t at work on her next manuscript, she spends her time trying out new recipes, cheering on her favorite Texas football teams and collecting old dishes, vintage linens and other fine “junque” from thrift stores and flea markets.

Connect with Lily’s Social Media:

Twitter: @LilyDalton  |  website |  Facebook

Excerpt (steamy and funny!):

He set the nightshirt back on the bed, and spoke over his shoulder.

“I think it’s time you returned to your room.”

He spoke the words without passion. She could only assume he’d had enough talking and wanted her to leave. The night air chilled her skin, and she wrapped her arms around her waist for warmth. She felt rebuffed by him. Stung. Her husband, the man with whom she would spend the rest of her days, did not have the slightest interest in spending a moment more in her company.

She knew she ought to calmly say ‘Very well then, I bid you good night,’ and quit the room, but she feared with a certainty that if she opened her mouth and attempted to utter a single syllable, her voice would falter and reveal the confused tumult of her emotions.

Not because she cared for him. Of course she didn’t. Clearly he did not care for her.

They’d been thrown together, and no amount of wishful thinking or good intentions would create a spark between them, when such a spark was never intended to be. She blinked away tears. Foolish tears! As if he had hurt her, but he hadn’t.

It had just been a long day, and a long night before that, and she’d made a terrible mess of everything, and she hated Quinn. And perhaps still loved him. And she was lonely. So very lonely and frightened of what the future held.

So instead she nodded jerkily, her chin outthrust, and turned on her slippered foot to escape into the dark dressing closet, taking care to close the first and the second door firmly behind her. Miss Randolph reclined in her sleeping gown and robe on the chaise with her book open and steepled across her forehead, snoring, which was just as well because Clarissa could not face the woman’s questions or her pity.

She doused the lamps and, in darkness, with only the scant light from behind the fire grate to see, crawled into bed and lay on unfamiliar sheets, her mind tangled with thoughts of… Mr. Blackmer.

Suddenly, the door swung open, and a shadow moved toward her, stealthily and swift, with only the faint white swath across his hips visible in the night. She recognized Blackmer instantly and desire ignited inside her.        He crouched above her, breathing hard, his skin still damp and the tight flex of muscles in his shoulders darkly illuminated. The scent of the soap from his bath filled her nostrils. Her pulse raced, her heart near exploding.

“You,” he growled deep in his throat. “Are my preference.”

A second later, he kissed her hard, pressing his thumb against the side of her jaw, commanding her lips to part while his tongue boldly entered and teased. She gasped for breath, stunned into half-senselessness…and surrendered, her mouth opening fully to accept each deep, possessing stroke.

He gave a husky groan. His large hands caught hers by the wrists, pinning her to the mattress. She squirmed beneath him—but with no intent to escape.

Moments before he had dismissed her coldly, and made her feel invisible and unwanted and yet in this moment, he revealed his true feelings, ones he’d tried to conceal. She knew without a doubt that her husband desired her. Something about that made her weak, and—

His mouth moved to her cheek…her neck, leaving her skin hot and awakened wherever his lips touched. Sensations she’d never experienced spiraled up from inside her, delicious and achingly sweet, awakening a need in her body and rendering her unexpectedly wild.

God help her, she didn’t understand, but she wanted him as well. The moment he released her hands she moaned and seized his shoulders, sliding her hands upward over his neck, finding unexpected appreciation in the powerful contraction and flux of his muscles beneath her palms. He exhaled, filling her mouth with his breath, and sucked her bottom lip—

Only to groan and twist away.

No. She reached, her hands trailing over his shoulders and his arms, desperately wanting more. More of his kiss, and his warm, firm skin. And yes, for him to ravish her so she would forget—

Then nothing.

The bed creaked, relieved of his weight. She heard his sharp exhalation of breath–a laugh, perhaps?

“Good night then, Mrs. Blackmer,” he murmured.

Silence filled the room.

“Good night,” she answered breathlessly.

He crossed the room, disappearing into the dressing closet, gone the way he had come. She heard the door close.

After a long moment of silence, Miss Randolph’s voice came from the direction of the chaise. “Well that was rather thrilling.”


Giveaway Kitty!

Enter the giveaway hosted on Rafflecopter: (5) Lucky winners will receive the complete ‘One Scandalous Season’ trilogy by Lily Dalton

Click the link here or on Giveaway Kitty to enter. Good luck and happy reading!

Freezeray: A mother learns to let them grow, inspired by ‘If I Fall, If I Die’ by Michael Christie

if i fall

This post was inspired by the novel “If I Fall, If I Die” by Michael Christie, about a boy who’s never been outside, thanks to his mother’s agoraphobia, but ventures outside in order to solve a mystery. Join From Left to Write on January 22nd as we discuss “If I Fall, If I Die“. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

I’d like to think I know a wee bit about mother-son relationships, though I hope mine with my sons’ are healthier than Will and his mother’s.

When my eldest son was six months old I wrote him a letter. I was sitting in my office, missing him with an ache only a parent can feel, and I needed to somehow express my sense of longing for him. Granted, I was only gone for the duration of the work day, but those first few weeks back at work were a challenge for this first time mom. I wrote of the love his father and I have for him and how I wished I could freeze time. I went on to explain that because he was loved so much I would never truly want to keep him from growing up; I’d never want him to miss out on the opportunity to find love or to experience the joy of becoming a parent.

I think the desire to freeze our children for a moment in time isn’t an unusual one, we want to hold on to them as long as we’re able. Infants grow and change so rapidly, it can feel like you are constantly playing catch up. Babbling becomes talking and crawling becomes walking. Soon that perfect baby you have swaddled and protected is running around getting bruises and scrapped knees. With physical independence comes the expression of emotional independence.

Before you know it, you’re sending your little one off by themselves to school and they begin taking those first hesitant steps toward independence. The inevitable, “I can do it myself” is often heard from the same child who doesn’t want to go to sleep by themselves. Soon children discover the sense of accomplishment that comes with “doing it myself” and they begin craving independence. Time alone or with their friends becomes the norm, texts and group dates replace family time and actual conversations. If you manage to survive all this, you find yourself faced with a teenager, who not only desires independence, but demands it.

These steps of growing up and letting go are difficult enough on their own, imagine experiencing them all at once. That’s what I’m going through! I’ve been blessed with four very different, very independent sons, all experiencing their own paths and desires.

I’ve found no matter how much I have tried to limit access to certain T.V. shows or games, once kids are off to school, all bets are off. I have a Kindergartener who never watched an episode of Power Rangers but within the month of school he announced his desire to be the Red Power Ranger for Halloween. I put him on the bus everyday and I can no longer control what he’s exposed to as much as I’d like. As the youngest, he’s stuck between wanting to do for himself and having a house full of people at his beck and call. Maybe I’m guilty of babying him, or maybe I’m just too tired to deny him (or clean up the mess that’s sure to follow him pouring his own drink).

Next I have a 10 year old who’s convinced he’s more independent than he is actually ready to be. He wants to walk to the bus himself, he doesn’t need us escort him to the public restroom anymore, he’s ready to order from the adult menu (to my husband’s annoyance – but not the dog’s). This is one of the most difficult stages for me as a parent. Maybe I watch too many criminal procedurals on Netflix, but I can’t help but see the dangers of the world and how his premature independence makes him vulnerable. I can’t share the details of my concerns for fear of frightening him. I have to balance my worries with his needs and do all I can to protect him. Let him order the ‘big’ meal but insist he takes someone older to the restroom and never walks home alone.

Ahh, the joys of parenting a teenager… I’m cursed blessed with two at the moment. My thirteen year old has always been an independent sort, I consider him an ‘old soul.’ Lately he’s started wanting to be alone in his room more (who can blame him with the chaos of our house). Texting and time on his phone have become more common. I know group dates and wanting to go alone with friends to the movies, etc. are soon to follow. Luckily son #2 is too lazy to push the boundaries as much as his older brother did. ;)

All these stages are just training for the big leagues: High School. Putting a 5 year old on the bus for the first time is NOTHING compared with handing over the car keys for the first time. Clashes are a daily occurrence, over curfews and grades and social plans. My son tells me, “You have to trust me, Mom,” when he thinks I’m being overprotective. I have explained to him time and again, I trust him implicitly – it’s the rest of the world that worries me. I know I have done my best to raise him to have good judgment and values but that won’t protect him from some idiot drunk driver who runs a red light. I can’t wrap him in bubble wrap, as much as I’d like to. As hard as it is for kids to grow up, they ought to realize how difficult it is on their parents too. There’s a lovely quote in “If I Fall, If I Die” by Michael Christie that sums up the challenge all parents face:

Loving a person meant needing them to stay: alive, around. But the shadow that love can’t help but cast is fear: fear they won’t stay alive or around–fear they’ll be reckless or doomed, or just walk away and not consider you again.With love, you’re scared it will disappear. With fear, you’re scared it never will. The trick … was getting used to both of them at the same time. It was living in between.

In hindsight, perhaps I should have invested in a freezeray.

If I Fall, If I Die is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Want to learn more about our Canadian author? Visit Michael Christie at his website,Facebook, and Twitter.

New Release: I’VE GOT MY DUKE TO KEEP ME WARM by Kelly Bowen

I've Got My Duke Blog Tour**I was provided an e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion**

Author: Kelly Bowen
Availability: December 16, 2014 (Forever, Grand Central Publishing) e-Book and Mass Market
Series Info: Book #1 The Lords of Worth Series
Where to Buy:
Amazon |  B&N |  iTunes  |  Kobo  |  BAM!   |  Goodreads


I've Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm by Kelly BowenWHERE SECRETS SMOLDER . . .
Calm. Cool. Collected. Gisele Whitby has perfected the art of illusion-her survival, after all, has depended upon it. Years ago, to escape an abusive husband, Gisele “disappeared.” Now she must risk revealing her new identity to save another innocent girl from the same fate. But she needs a daring man for her scheme, and the rogue in question shows a remarkable talent . . . for shattering Gisele’s carefully constructed facade and igniting her deepest desires.

This isn’t the first time Jamie Montcrief has awakened naked and confused from a night of drinking. It is, however, the first time a stunningly beautiful woman offers him payment afterward. Gisele has a business proposition for him, a mission involving cunning thievery and a brazen rescue.  How can he say no to a plot this dangerous . . . and a woman this delectable?

Giveaway Info: 5 winners to receive a copy of  I’VE GOT MY DUKE TO KEEP ME WARM hosted on Rafflecopter (or click on Giveaway Kitty for your chance to win!)

Giveaway Kitty!

Author Kelly Bowen’s Top Five Literary Heartthrobs:

1.)   Jamie Lost  (Defiant – Kris Kennedy) (e-Book on sale for $1.99 at various retailers)

2.)   Griffyn Renaud (The Last Arrow – Marsha Canham)

3.)   Godric St.John (Lord of Darkness – Elizabeth Hoyt)

4.)   Jamie Fraser (Outlander series – Diana Gabaldon)

5.)   Connor Riordan (The Runaway Duke – Julie Anne Long)

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About Author Kelly Bowen:

Kelly Bowen grew up in Manitoba, Canada. She worked her way through her teenage years as a back country trail guide and ranch hand and spent a year working on a cattle station in Australia.  She attended the University of Manitoba and earned a Master of Science degree in veterinary physiology and endocrinology.

But it was Kelly’s infatuation with history and a weakness for a good love story that led her down the path of historical romance.  When she is not writing, she seizes every opportunity to explore ruins and battlefields.

Currently, Kelly lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two boys, all of whom are wonderfully patient with the writing process.  Except, that is, when they need a goalie for street hockey.

Connect with Kelly’s Social Media:

WEBSITE  |  TWITTER: @kellybowen09  |  FACEBOOK

Ciate London Mini Mani Manor: Day 2

Send those winter blahs away with today’s nail polish selection from the Ciate London Mini Mani Manor ‘Cha Cha Cha’. It’s a festive nearly neon orange that makes me want to paint my toes and head to the beach. *sigh*