Harlequin Books Presents: A Royal Kiss And Tell

A Royal Kiss & Tell
London, Julia 
FICTION/Romance/Historical/Victorian 
Mass Market | HQN Books | A Royal Wedding #2
On Sale: 5/19/2020 
9781335136978
$7.99
$10.99 CAN


SUMMARY:
Every prince has his secrets. And she’s determined to unravel his…

Every young man in London’s ton is vying for Lady Caroline Hawke’s hand—except one. Handsome rouĂ© Prince Leopold of Alucia can’t quite remember Caroline’s name, and the insult is not to be tolerated. So Caroline does what any clever, resourceful lady of means would do to make sure Leo never again forgets: sees that scandalous morsels about his reputation are printed in a ladies’ gossip gazette…all while secretly setting her cap for the rakish royal.

Someone has been painting Leo as a blackguard, but who? Socially, it is ruining him. More important, it jeopardizes his investigation into a contemptible scheme that reaches the highest levels of British government. Leo needs Lady Caroline’s help to regain access to society. But this charming prince is about to discover that enlisting the deceptively sweet and sexy Lady Caroline might just cost him his heart, his soul and both their reputations…



Please enjoy this excerpt from:
A Royal Kiss And Tell
by 
Julia London


Since the day of Eliza’s betrothal to Prince Sebastian, Caroline had also assumed, quite incorrectly, that she would be the principal bridesmaid. After all, she and Eliza and Hollis had been entwined in one another’s lives since they were very little girls. 

“I am content with flower girls, honestly,” Eliza said. “I’d be content with a very simple affair. I was content with the civil ceremony. But Queen Daria prefers otherwise.” 

“Naturally, she does. This is the wedding where you will be seen by all the people you will rule one day.” 
Eliza snorted. “I will not rule, Caroline. I’ll be fortunate if I can find my husband in this massive place.” She’d gestured to the decorative walls around them. It was not an exaggeration—Constantine Palace appeared to be bigger than even Buckingham. 
“Let me be the maid of honor,” Caroline had begged her. “I am much better equipped to see to your train than Hollis is.”
 “I beg your pardon! I am her sister,” Hollis reminded Caroline. 
“The train is thirty feet, Hollis. How will you ever manage? You’ve scarcely managed your own train since we’ve been in Alucia. And my gown should be seen. I spared no expense for it.”
 Eliza and Hollis looked at Caroline. 
“I mean, of course, after your gown is seen.” 
The sisters continued to stare at her. Caroline shrugged a very tiny bit. “Obviously,” she added. 
“I rather thought that’s what you meant,” Eliza said charitably. The three of them had gleefully adopted the Alucian style of dress since arriving a month ago in Helenamar. The English style of dress—full skirts, high necks and long sleeves—was hot and heavy. They’d admired the beautiful Alucian gowns that fit the curves of a woman’s body, with the long flowing sleeves, and, most of all, the elaborately embroidered trains…until they discovered that the unusually long trains were a bit of a bother to wear. 
“I will manage,” Hollis had insisted. “No one has come to this wedding to see your gown, Caro.” 
“Well, obviously, Hollis, they haven’t. But they will be delighted all the same, won’t they? And by the bye, there’s no law that says the attendant of honor must be one’s sister.”
 “There is no law, but she is my sister and she will be the attendant of honor,” Eliza said. “And besides, if you were to stand with me, I’d fret the entire ceremony that you were too enthralled with Leo to even notice my train.” She’d arched a golden brow directly at Caroline. 
As if Caroline had done something wrong.
 She most certainly had not. “Leo? Is that what we’re calling him now?” she drawled. Leo was Prince Sebastian’s younger brother. His Royal Highness Prince Leopold.
 Prince Leopold, as everyone knew, had spent the last several years in England, “attending” Cambridge, which meant, in reality, that he spent more time at soirees and gentlemen’s clubs and hunting lodges than studying. Caroline had encountered him last summer in Chichester at a country house party. They’d engaged in a charming little exchange that Caroline recalled perfectly, word for word. Prince Leopold, on the other hand, remembered it not at all. Worse, he didn’t seem to remember her
The archbishop’s voice suddenly rose into a chant of some sort, drawing Caroline’s attention back to the ceremony. Oh dear, she was thinking about Prince Leopold again when she should be watching her best friend marry a prince. At that moment, Eliza slipped her hand into Prince Sebastian’s hand and held on tightly as the archbishop asked her to repeat after him in English. To love, to honor, to protect and defend. 
So romantic. 
Caroline glanced to her right. She was seated next to her brother, the baron Beckett Hawke. He was older than her by half a dozen years and had been her guardian since she was eight and he was fourteen. She leaned against him. 
“Isn’t she lovely?” she whispered. 
Ssh.”
 “I think she is lovelier than even Queen Victoria on her wedding day,” Caroline whispered. “Her gown is beautiful. It was my idea to use the gold and silver thread on the train.” 
Beck pretended not to have heard a word. 
“Do you know, I think I could have made that train.” Her brother put his hand on Caroline’s knee and squeezed as he turned his pale green eyes to hers. He frowned darkly. 
Caroline pushed his hand away and glanced around her. It was massive, this Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Painted ceilings soared overhead with visions of angels and other godly images. All the fixtures were gold plated, particularly the pulpit, which looked more like a monument than a stand for the Bible. There was so much stained glass that the morning light fractured across Eliza’s long train, turning it into a moving rainbow as sunlight shimmered through the panes. 
Every seat in the massive cathedral was taken, filled with beautiful people of varying skin tones and colorful costumes and glittering jewels. They had come far and wide, Caroline understood, from countries she’d never even heard of.
 In a cove above the altar, a choir of young men and boys sang the hymns that had accompanied Eliza down the center aisle to meet her prince. It had sounded as if the heavens had parted and the angels were singing for this bride. 
The ceremony, almost an hour of it now, was filled with a lot of pomp and circumstance. Caroline wasn’t entirely certain what was happening, as the ceremony was conducted in Latin and Alucian and, for the parts Eliza had to say, in English. It seemed to her that Eliza and Sebastian were up and down quite a lot, one minute on their knees with their heads bowed, and standing the next, staring starry-eyed at each other. There was a somber moment when Eliza was directed down onto her knees alone. It looked as if she were knighted or anointed in some way, and when it was done, the archbishop put his hand to her head, the king and queen stood, and then Prince Sebastian lifted her up and pinned a gorgeous sapphire-and-gold brooch to her breast. 
“She’s a real princess now,” Caroline whispered to Beck. Predictably, he ignored her. 
Eliza looked like a princess, too, and Caroline wished Eliza’s father, Justice Tricklebank, could be here. Alas, his advanced age and blindness had made it impossible for him to attend. There had been a smaller, private ceremony in England—the first civil union—before Sebastian had returned to Alucia. That ceremony, which her father had attended, had been necessitated by the fact that Eliza and Sebastian could not seem to keep their hands from each other for as much as a few hours. 
There was another civil union once Eliza had arrived in Alucia so there would be no question of impropriety, as the heat between Eliza and her prince had only grown. It was embarrassing, really. 
But neither ceremony had been anything like this. This was a pageant, a feast for the eyes and hearts of romantics everywhere. 
Caroline’s mind drifted, and she wondered if all these people would be at the ball tonight. She hoped so. She had a beautiful blue Alucian gown trimmed in gold that was astoundingly beautiful. She’d made the train herself. The ball would be her moment to shine…next to Eliza, of course. 
Yesterday, Eliza had nervously counted out the heads of state that would attend the wedding and the ball and had turned a bit pale as the number mounted. Caroline’s pulse had leapt with delight. 
“I can’t bear it!” Eliza had exclaimed, unnerved by the number of dignitaries, of the many kings and queens. “What if I say something wrong? You know how I am. Have you any idea how many gifts we’ve received? Am I to remember them all? I’ve never seen so many gold chalices and silver platters and fine porcelain in all my life! What if I trip? What if I spill something on my gown?” 
“My advice, darling, is not to fill your plate to overflowing,” Hollis had said absently. She was bent over her paper, making notes for the periodical she published, the Honeycutt’s Gazette of Fashion and Domesticity for Ladies. The twice-monthly gazette covered such topics as the latest fashions, domesticity and health advice, and—the most interesting part—the most tantalizing on-dits swirling about London’s high society.
 Hollis could hardly keep up with the ravenous demand for society news now. She was planning to publish a gazette that would be twice the length of her normal offering with all the news of the royal wedding the moment she returned to London. She’d been busily dispatching letters to her manservant, Donovan, for safekeeping throughout the month they’d been in Alucia. 
She was so preoccupied that her advice, while offered freely, was not offered with much thought, and Eliza took exception. “I beg your pardon! I’ve hardly eaten a thing since I’ve arrived in Alucia. At every meal the queen looks at me as if she disapproves of everything I do! I’m afraid to do anything, much less eat,” Eliza complained. “They’ll all be looking at me. They’ll be waiting for me to do something wrong, or speculating if I’m already carrying the heir. You cannot imagine how much interest there is in my ability to bear an heir.”
 “Well, of course!” Caroline said cheerfully. “You’ll have to be a broodmare, darling, but after you’ve given them what they want, you may live in conjugal bliss for the rest of your days surrounded by wealth and privilege and many, many servants.” 
“They won’t all be looking at you, Eliza. At least half the room will be looking at your handsome husband,” Hollis had said with a wink. 
Caroline was once again jolted back into the present when the archbishop lifted a heavy jeweled chalice above the heads of Eliza and Prince Sebastian. Surely that meant they were nearly done? Prince Sebastian took Eliza’s hand, and they turned away from the archbishop, facing the guests with ridiculously happy grins on their faces. They were married! 
Hollis turned, too, and even from where Caroline sat, she could see Hollis’s dark blue eyes shining with tears of joy. The guests rose to their feet as the prince and his bride began their procession away from the altar. Rose petals rained down on the couple and their guests from above. The little flower girls fluttered around behind Eliza like butterflies, flanking her train as they followed the couple down the aisle. Prince Leopold offered his arm to Hollis, and she beamed up at him. Caroline felt left out. Hollis and Eliza were near and dear to her heart, the closest thing to sisters she’d ever had, and she longed to be with them now. 
Eliza and Prince Sebastian floated past Caroline and Beck without any acknowledgment of them. That was to be expected—the two of them looked absolutely besotted. They were so enthralled with each other, in fact, that Caroline fretted they’d walk into any one of the marble columns that lined their path. 
Oh, but she was envious, filled to the very brim with envy. In England, she rarely gave marriage any thought except on those occasions Beck complained she ought to settle on someone, anyone, and relieve him of his duty. But he didn’t really mind his duty, his protestations notwithstanding. Caroline rather suspected he liked having her underfoot. So she flitted from one party to the next, happy to enjoy the attentions of the many gentlemen who crossed her path, happy with her freedom to do as she pleased. 
But looking at Eliza, Caroline realized that she did indeed want one day to be in love with a man who would be as devoted to her as Prince Sebastian was to his bride. She wanted to feel everything Eliza was feeling, to understand just how that sort of love changed a person. 
Prince Leopold and Hollis passed by Caroline and Beck. Hollis’s face was streaked with happy tears. Prince Leopold happened to look to the guests as they passed, a polite smile on his face. His gaze locked on Caroline’s—well, not locked, really, as much as it skimmed over her—but nevertheless, she smiled broadly. She began to lift a hand but was suddenly jostled with an elbow to her ribs. She jerked a wide-eyed gaze to her brother. 
“Stop gawking,” he whispered. “You’ll snap your neck, craning it like that.”
 Caroline haughtily touched a curl at her neck.
 Beck turned his attention to the procession. The king and queen were passing them now. Beck leaned toward her and whispered, “He’s a prince, Caro, and you are just an English girl. You’re indulging in fairy tales again. I can see it plainly on your face.”
 Just an English girl? She very much would have liked to kick Beck like she used to do when she was just a wee English girl. “Better to dream in fairy tales than not dream at all.”
 Beck rolled his eyes. He stood dispassionately as the archbishop and his altar boys followed the king and queen. 
Just an English girl, indeed.



MY THOUGHTS:

A Royal Kiss And Tell is the very sweet tale of a prince finding his purpose.
Prince Leopold of Alucia, is a second son. A man never expected to hold an office, serve in the military, or do anything of note. Other than live the "good life," be attractive, and get married.
And now that his brother, Prince Sebastian, has finally found his "happily ever after" with his lady love, Eliza Tricklebank. In The Princess Plan (A Royal Wedding #1).
Choosing to marry for love instead of marrying for political gain.
Leo has now been called to the forefront by his parents.  And told that he must now take up the political marriage mantle.
Making matters worse for Leo.
The fact that he can't seem to get the opinionated, vivacious, and forthright, Coraline Hawke, out of his head.
And try as he might.  He can't seem to avoid her in his daily comings and goings either.

Leo is a man it seems;who can't when for losing.  Even when attempting to right the wrongs of human / sex trafficking.  After learning that young girls from Alucia, are being stolen, sold and traded in the brothels and private homes of the English aristocracy.
Forcing him to secretly...
Well...
As secretly as a prince can, anyway.
Set about the task of finding his endangered subjects.
But as news of his comings and going in the streets and byways of London's sketchy addresses becomes fodder for the news rags.
People are quick to assume that he is a man who has allowed his baser appetites to get the better of him.
And the doors of entree to all of the glitz and glamour that is English society are closing to him faster than he can blink.
And he must find out who the "source" of all of the scandalous information about him is.
And stop the flood of infamy.  Before it drowns not only his reputation.  But any hope that he might have of saving the lost girls of his country as well.

A Royal Kiss And Tell is the perfect blend of royal watching, mystery and intrigue, and "girl gets her guy" romance.
This is a very sweet and fast paced story as a whole.  Even though the back and forth between Caroline and Leo.  "Will he or won't he" of their romantic beginnings gets a little tedious.  Considering the fact that his private thoughts and unspoken reactions to Caro make it more than clear that she is the girl for him.

If you are looking for a fast, light, romance.  Full of characters that you are bound to fall for.
A Royal Kiss And Tell will ring all of those bells and more. 
Please be advised that this title is the second offering of the series.  It mat be read alone. Or as part of its intended series. 

*WTF Are You Reading would like to thank Netgally and Harlequin Books for providing the review copy on which this unsolicited and unbiased critique is based.



AUTHOR BIO:
Julia London is a NYT, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance. She is a six-time finalist for the RITA Award of excellence in romantic fiction, and the recipient of RT Bookclub's Best Historical Novel.


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Fated Love Wins The Day In "My Highland Rogue"

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Title:  My Highland Rogue
Series:  A Highland Fling #1
Author:  Karen Ranney
Format:  eARC
Length:  384 pages
Publisher: Avon
Rating:  3 Stars

New York Times bestselling author Karen Ranney takes readers back to beautiful Scotland in the first novel in her breathtaking new series.

Since she was a little girl, Jennifer Adaire, daughter of the Earl of Burfield, has loved Gordon McDonnell even though his station as the gardener’s son made him strictly forbidden to her. After Gordon was forced from Adaire Hall, taking Jennifer’s heart with him, he headed for London, intent on making a better life for himself. Though they’ve kept in touch through letters and Jennifer has waited patiently for him, it’s taken Gordon five years to return to Scotland. Now Jennifer doesn’t know if she can manage seeing again the man she loves—but can never have.

In the time since his departure, Gordon has achieved the success he’s always sought. When he learns that his father is dying, he returns home and discovers much to his surprise that the feelings he’s always had for Jennifer burn ever stronger.

But when a family secret surfaces, Jennifer and Gordon’s chance at a future together could be threatened…




Please enjoy this excerpt from
My Highland Rogue
(Highland Fling #1)
by
Karen Ranney


My Highland Rogue Excerpt
June, 1865

Adaire Hall, Scotland

“I’ll be damned if I know why she did it, but the Countess of Burfield left you a bequest.”

Gordon McDonnell turned from the window and stared at the man who’d just spoken.

Richard McBain was the advocate for the Adaire family. For a number of years he’d also served as the guardian for the underage Earl of Burfield who’d ascended to his title at the age of five.

Gordon had had a few encounters with McBain in the past. Whenever they happened to meet — or he was called into the study — it was never to his advantage.

At first he thought that McBain had somehow discovered his relationship with Jennifer Adaire.

Jennifer was Lady Jennifer, the daughter of the Earl and Countess of Burfield. Gordon was only the gardener’s boy, a title he’d been called ever since he was little. He’d grown to heartily despise it.

He had plans for his life, plans that didn’t include becoming a gardener like his father. Gordon didn’t care if anything bloomed or grew under his care. He preferred the wildness of the terrain surrounding Adaire Hall to the cultivated plants in the various gardens.

His mind registered what McBain said, but it still didn’t make any sense. “What do you mean, the countess left me a bequest?”

“Evidently, the woman saw something in you I don’t understand.”

McBain had always talked to him in that same tone. He’d learned to ignore it.

“I didn’t expect that,” Gordon said.

Perhaps he should have. The countess had always been kind to him and he’d always liked her. Their unusual relationship had begun when he was only seven.

One day, he’d seen her nurse wheel her out to the terrace so that she could enjoy the sunshine in the garden. He had dared his father’s anger and had plucked some flowers for her, then walked up the three steps and thrust them at her.

“It’s a bunch of posies, ma’am, to make you smile.”

“You’ll address her correctly, boy,” the nurse had said. “It’s Your Ladyship to you.”

Gordon hadn’t corrected himself, merely continued to stare at the countess.

The countess’s vision had been badly damaged in a fire. She saw shapes and some colors, but little more. That day she’d reached out and felt his face, placing her palms against his cheeks.

“What is your name?”

“Gordon, ma’am. Gordon McDonnell. Your Ladyship.”

“Sean McDonnell’s lad.”

“Aye, the same.”

“And you picked your father’s flowers to give to me.”

“I think they’re your flowers, ma’am. Your Ladyship. I merely borrowed them for a time.”

The countess had taken the flowers and brought them to her face, telling him that they smelled of spring.

From that moment on whenever the countess came to the garden Gordon went to see her. Their relationship was less that of the gardener’s boy and countess than it was friendship, of a sort. He told her of his dreams. She shared some of her thoughts with him. In addition, she taught him a number of things that he’d never have learned, otherwise, like how to handle his anger and how to speak properly.

He turned back to the window, unwilling to let McBain see his expression.

Her death hadn’t been any easier than her life. After she’d died he’d heard more than one person say that it was a blessing she’d finally been released. His first reaction to that comment had been anger. The world was less interesting because she was no longer in it. It was certainly less friendly.

“I tried to talk her out of it,” the advocate said. “I don’t know what you’re going to do with the money, but I doubt you’ll put it to good use.”

Then McBain mentioned an amount that had Gordon turning and staring at him incredulously.

“How much?”

McBain repeated the amount.

“And it’s all mine?”

“It’s all yours.”

He’d just been given a fortune.

“It’s the perfect time, I think,” McBain said, “to tell you that you’re no longer welcome at Adaire Hall.” The advocate smiled, an expression that reminded Gordon of a cat that had just devoured a plump mouse.

“It’s been brought to my attention, McDonnell, that you have ideas above your station. I’ve been asked to explain to you that any further advances to Lady Jennifer are unwelcome. Therefore, the easiest thing for everyone would be for you to leave Adair Hall immediately.”

He stared at McBain.

“It’s no secret that you’ve been causing Lady Jennifer trouble. You’ve been too persistent in your attentions.”

“I don’t understand.” Jennifer wouldn’t have made that comment.

“It’s simple enough,” the advocate said, standing. “That relationship is over.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Spare the young woman some embarrassment, McDonnell. Pretend, in this instance, that you have the manners of a gentleman. She’s just left for Edinburgh and expressly asked me to convey to you that she would like you gone before she returns. She’s not the only one who’s anxious for your departure. The Earl of Burfield feels the same way.”

The Earl of Burfield. That was a laugh. Jennifer’s brother had always been an idiot. In the past few years he’d coupled his idiocy with being an ass.

“I might add that your father agrees.”

Was he supposed to be surprised at that news? He and Sean had clashed ever since he was a child.

“Maybe my father and Harrison want me gone,” Gordon said, “but not Jennifer.”

Just last night they’d met at the loch, spent hours talking, and ended the night by kissing. She couldn’t have changed her mind in a matter of hours. Not Jennifer.

“She’s not going to return from Edinburgh until you’re gone. Your father has packed your belongings, McDonnell. The sooner you’ve left, the better for everyone. You’ve been a disruptive influence around here for too long. Unfortunately, the countess didn’t agree with my assessment of you.”

Evidently, he had one more reason to be grateful to the countess.

“Neither of your parents have expressed a wish to see you before you leave. Nor has the earl. There’s a carriage at the front door. It will take you to Inverness.”

“I’m not leaving until I talk to Jennifer.”

McBain approached him slowly. “Understand this, McDonnell, Lady Jennifer doesn’t want anything to do with you now or in the future.”

Gordon faced the older man down. He was nearly a foot taller and bigger than the advocate. He wasn’t intimidated.

When he didn’t speak McBain continued. “She regrets meeting you at the loch, McDonnell and allowing you to kiss her. Is that plain enough for you? Face it, man. You were an amusement and now you’re not.”

McBain’s tone had softened and there was something that sounded like pity in his voice.

Had he been wrong? Was it possible that Jennifer felt that way? No, McBain was an idiot to think he’d believe that of Jennifer.

The advocate returned to his desk, reached into the drawer and pulled out a stack of notes. Gordon immediately knew what they were. He and Jennifer left notes for each other all over Adaire Hall. In the coop, in the fork of a tree they’d learned to climb just beyond the house, in a loose brick in the fireplace in a room adjacent to the schoolroom — anywhere they could find that would be private. If Gordon couldn’t meet Jennifer after his work was done or if she couldn’t join him because of her obligations, they always communicated with each other.

Jennifer told him recently that she’d kept all of his notes to her, that she considered them precious.

No longer, evidently.

McBain amused himself by reading some of them aloud. The silly poetry Gordon had written for Jennifer seemed even more foolish now.

It was the ultimate act of betrayal.

McBain didn’t say a word as Gordon left the study. Less than an hour later he was in the carriage on the way to Inverness, a letter to the bank in his pocket detailing his bequest. For the first time in his life he had some wealth, but it was balanced by the empty feeling in his chest.

My Thoughts
Gordon McDonnell may have been just "the gardener's boy".  To all who knew him growing up in the shadow of Adaire Hall.  The great manor house belonging to the 5th Earl of Burfield.  But to a select few inhabitants of that great estate.  He was simply Gordon.  Playmate, confidant, friend, and even first love.
But there are those who believe that Gordon's time within the walls of  Adaire Hall have given him ambitions of life far above his humble station.
Particularly in regard the budding romance between he and Lady Jennifer Adaire.
And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the two are parted.
Even if it requires that two hearts be crushed by lies and deceptions in the process.

But fate it appears is a fickle mistress.  And the plans and machinations are but a fraying thread in the tapestry of time.  Needing only the slightest tug of circumstance to unravel.
Reuniting two bereft souls.  Bringing Gordon back to the place were love, pain, and lies combined to strip him of everything and everyone he once considered home and his.

Some five years have passed, and Gordon is far removed from the wounded young man that was sent to find his fortune.  With only the generous bequest of the late Countess of Adaire to his name.
In his place is a polished and successful business owner.
Returned at the behest of Jennifer.  To sit at the bedside of his dying father.

This slowly simmering romance has more to do with the drama surrounding Gordon and Jennifer. Then the lovers themselves.
So much time is spent explaining the back stories of the countess, her son, his wife, and their aunt.
That Jennifer and Gordon become little more than points of reference for a great portion of this read.
Their romance reduced to a few stolen moments and chaste kisses.
With promises of more.
Until....
BAM!
The drama bomb is detonated at a little more than mid-book
Living Gordon and Jennifer's relationship in tatters once again.
With no hope of salvation.
Save a last minute plot twist worthy of the cheesiest daytime soap opera.

Though there is no denying that this book is very well written.  The Prince And the Pauper-esque tale found here is nowhere near the caliber of story that this reviewer has experienced from Ms. Ranney.
Here's hoping that this series finds its footing in coming books.

WTF Are You Reading would like to thank Avon and Netgally for providing the review copy on which the above critique is based.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the reviewer. And are in no way influenced by any other party. This is an unsolicited review.





About Karen


I’m a writer who’s been privileged to have attained the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller Lists.

Although I've primarily written historical romance, I've also written contemporary romantic suspense, a murder mystery, and I'm having a wonderful time writing about a vampire who is being challenged by her new state of being. (The Montgomery Chronicles: The Fertile Vampire and The Reluctant Goddess coming March 12, 2015.)

I believe in the power of the individual, the magnificence of the human spirit, and always looking for the positive in any situation. I write about people who have been challenged by life itself but who win in the end.

Email: karen@karenranney.com
Twitter: @Karen_Ranney



Buy The Book Here!

"The Highwayman" Is A Story Tailor Made To Hijack Hearts

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Title:  The Highwayman
Series:  Victorian Rebels #1
Author:  Kerrigan Byrne
Format:  Library Book
Publisher:  St. Martin's
Rating:  5 Stars

They’re rebels, scoundrels, and blackguards—dark, dashing men on the wrong side of the law. But for the women who love them, a hint of danger only makes the heart beat faster…

STEALING BEAUTY
Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More, is a ruthless villain. Scarred and hard-hearted, Dorian is one of London’s wealthiest, most influential men who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance on those who’ve wronged him…and will fight to the death to seize what he wants. The lovely, still innocent widow Farah Leigh Mackenzie is no exception—and soon Dorian whisks the beautiful lass away to his sanctuary in the wild Highlands…

COURTING DESIRE
But Farah is no one’s puppet. She possesses a powerful secret—one that threatens her very life. When being held captive by Dorian proves to be the only way to keep Farah safe from those who would see her dead, Dorian makes Farah a scandalous proposition: marry him for protection in exchange for using her secret to help him exact revenge on his enemies. But what the Blackheart of Ben More never could have imagined is that Farah has terms of her own, igniting a tempestuous desire that consumes them both. Could it be that the woman he captured is the only one who can touch the black heart he’d long thought dead?   


What People Are Saying About...
The Highwayman
By
Kerrigan Byrne


 What people are saying
“A passionate, lyrical romance that takes your breath away. From the first page, you’ll fall in love.”
– Elizabeth Boyle, New York Times Bestselling Author
“Captured me from page one and never let go. Romantic, lush, and suspenseful.”
– Suzanne Enoch, New York Times bestselling author
4 1/2 STAR  “From the first page, the depth of emotion and sexual tension is perfectly matched by the strong characters and superb plotting. This marriage-of-convenience love story proves why Byrne is a force in the genre.”
– RT Magazine 
“A sensual, soul-searing story readers won’t want to see end. Fortunately, this is the first in a new linked series featuring men who live by their wits and the canny women who are strong and fearless enough to teach them to love. Brilliantly done.”
– Library Journal
“The romance is raw, edgy, and explosive.”
– Publisher’s Weekly              

My Thoughts
Dorian and Farah are two people who are and always will be tailor-made for each other.
Two souls forged in battle.  Shaped and polished against life's rougher edges.
She...
Serving on the right side of the law.  As a clerk of Scotland Yard.
He...
Taking a decidedly darker path.  As The Blackheart Of Ben Mor.  One of London's most wealthy and influential criminals.
Ever living as two sides of the same coin.
A coin forged in childhood.  Cast in the metal of love and innocence.  Ever cradled in the scarred hands of an orphaned boy.  And the hopeful heart of his golden haired "Fairy".

A coin seemly lost to the ravages of time. And marred by tragedy.
Forcing each of its halves to forge separate existences.  Lonely existences.  Clinging to the hope that they might one day be together.  In this life or the next.
Opening eyes to sunrises heralding days lived. But never really savored until the day that hungry eyes meet across an interrogation room in Scotland Yard.
Beginning anew, the process of melding two lives, two hearts, and two destinies.

What one might be quick to categorize as a "Beauty And The Beast" story.  With Dorian playing the scarred and tortured "dark knight".
Quickly becomes a case of  Scottish Bonnie And Clyde.  As we come to realize that Farah is truly the equal of her leading man.
Complimenting him as perfectly as the moon compliments the sun.
Matching him...
Strength for strength.
Secret for secret.
Pain for pain
Pleasure for pleasure.

Their "matched set" distinction made all the more valid.  When she becomes Dorian's willing submissive during their love scenes.
And they are "love scenes".  Because each encounter allows the reader to see Dorian's fear.
Fear of rejection,
Fear of his past.
Fear of  loss.
Fear of himself.
While allowing readers to simultaneously experience Farah's capacity for love, acceptance, trust, and surrender.
The very definition of "topping from below." 

 
Kerrigan Byrne is an authoress possessed of the rare and most extraordinary gift of layered story-craft.
A gift that she shares with her audience with a seeming effortlessness.  Which allows readers to become so immersed in the sights, sounds, sensations, and emotions experienced by each character.  That one literally seems inhabit him or her for a time.   Morphing, changing, growing, and learning just as their chosen host does.
It is the hope of this reviewer that every lover of a well told story, romance, or unforgettable "happily ever after" journey the road held captive by Kerrigan Byrne's The Highwayman.




About Kerrigan

Kerrigan ByrneIf you're anything like me, the best night is one spent with a brawny highlander, a mysterious werewolf, a conflicted vampire, or a hot-headed Irishman. My stories span the spectrum of romantic fiction from historical, to paranormal, to romantic suspense. But I can always promise my readers one thing: memorable and sexy Celtic heroes who are guaranteed to heat your blood before they steal your heart. Lose yourself in the enchanted Celtic Isles, you never know who, or what, will find you...
See Her Socially:  Web Instagram Twitter / Facebook

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Fun, Fantasy, Family,And Fur-ever Homes Are The Stuff Of Romantic Reality In "Puppy Christmas"


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Title:  Puppy Christmas
Series:  Forever Home #2
Author:  Lucy Gilmore
Length:  416 pages
Format:  eARC
Publisher  Sourcebooks Casablanca
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Lila Vasquez might not be the "fun one" at Puppy Promise―the service puppy training school she runs with her sisters―but she can always be counted on to gets things done. So when her latest client shows an interest in princess gowns over power suits, Lila puts aside her scruples, straps on the glittery heels, and gets to work.

If only the adorable six-year-old's father wasn't such an appealing Prince Charming.

Ford's whole life revolves around his daughter...until he meets Lila. Smart, capable, and amazing at helping Emily gain confidence with her new service puppy at her side, Lila is everything he ever wanted―but she's way out of his league. Good thing Emily and her new pup are up to the matchmaking task. This Christmas, it's all hands (and paws) on deck!
 






Please enjoy this excerpt from...
Puppy Christmas
by
Lucy Gilmore

She proved it by deepening the kiss. The assault of her tongue and the warm press of her mouth against his invoked every sense he had—taste and smell and glorious touch. She even released a soft moan into his mouth that made his head whir with possibilities.

And then she ended it as quickly as it began.

“Let’s skip the date,” he said before he’d even managed to open his eyes again. “I don’t care if we’re flying to the Eiffel Tower on a private jet run entirely on champagne. Let’s stay in this van and make out instead.”

She didn’t move. “You don’t want to see what I have planned?”

He’d opened his eyes by this time, but the parking lot lighting was dim, and what little vision he did have was obscured by the stars dazzling his vision. Actual g-o-d-d-a-m-n stars.



***

Excerpted from Puppy Christmas by Lucy Gilmore. © 2019 by Lucy Gilmore. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved      


My Thoughts
Lily, Ford, Emily, and Jeeves are a quartet that make for one h-e-l-l of a happy ending.
In this second volume of Lucy Gilmore's puppy powered Forever Home series.

As it turns out...
The aptly titled Puppy Christmas really is the holiday themed dose of romantic sweetness that serves as the gift that keeps on giving.
Whether it be as the story of the misunderstood loner who finally finds her tribe.
Lila...

Or the fun loving, self deprecating, flirty, single father. Who uses charm and wit to keep women at bay. While secretly longing for that one woman who will care enough to look for the depth of the lonely soul within.
Ford...

Or the sweet and intelligent six year old girl. Who loves fairytales, longs for real friends, and is struggling to make her way in a world that hearing loss has made both difficult to both hear and understand.

Or finally.
Jeeves...
The sweet, loyal, and utterly irresistible cock-a-poo that enters the lives of all interested parties. When Lila's company, Puppy Promise, gifts him and his training to Ford and Emily as part of a partnership with the Auditory Guild. A nonprofit organization specifically geared to assist the hearing impaired with training, funding, and assistance of various sorts. Designed to improve the lives of the hearing impaired and their families.

This is truly the story of 1-2-3 and fur makes a family and so much more.

Readers of this story will be very clearly surprised to find that the balance between Lila's learning that she is worthy of love and understanding in a relationship.
Ford's finding the love of both his and his daughter's lives in Lila.
And Emily's journey of self discovery. As her bond with both Lila and Jeeves grows.
Is well maintained throughout the story's progression. It's natural transition from both character to character and emotional depth to emotional depth.
Flawless!
And let's not forget that hallmark does of Lucy Gilmore cute quirk that each of her stories is loaded with.
This one being no exception.
Although it must be said...
That the trademark cuteness that is lauded here resides much more frequently within the context of Lila and Ford's interactions. Than the customarily assumed child and puppy placement.

This is also a very romantic story. Which uses humor and true bonding to establish a secure footing for the eventual physical relationship.
Causing the reader to become much more invested in the totality of the success of Lila and Ford's relationship as a whole. Long before they are even a couple.

The holiday theme of this read is also handled in such an unobtrusive manner. That it remains a setting. And does not become central to the plot in any other way.

There are in fact, very few detractors to this story as.a.whole. Aside from the very meager amount of time given to the issue of Emily's mother.
And the over use of the spelling of provocative or suggestive words.
Which goes from being cute when first introduced. To "oh no...here we go again." By book 's end.

Overall however. Puppy Christmas truly does offer reader a story whose romantic bark is definitely as big as its emotional tug at one's heartstrings.
And although it is the second book in a series and holiday themed. It may be enjoyed anytime of year. As a standalone or as part of its intended series.

WTF Are You Reading would like to thank Souorcebooks Casablanca and Netgally for providing the review copy on which the above critique is based.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the reviewer. And are in no way influenced by any other party. This is an unsolicited review.


About Lucy
Hello and welcome! If you’re visiting this website, it’s because you’re interested in Tamara Morgan, Tamara Berry, or Lucy Gilmore.

Good news! They’re all me.

I began my writing career in 2012 as romance author Tamara Morgan. Since that time, I’ve expanded to include cozy mysteries (Tamara Berry) and puppy-themed romantic comedies (Lucy Gilmore). No matter what you’re here for, my books are fun, lighthearted, and always come with a guaranteed HEA.

I graduated from Eastern Washington University with an English degree, where I learned about Very Important Literature and also that I vastly prefer to read about love and murder. I live in Washington state with my family and far more pets than any of us need.

Check out the email links below for how to contact me, or visit my individual author pages for more info on my books, my social media channels, and what’s coming next!   
See Her Socially:  Web / Facebook / Instagram / Goodreads 


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