Respect And Romance Allow Hearts To Soar In "To Wed An Heiress"

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Title:  To Wed An Heiress
Series:  All For Love #2
Author:  Karen Ranney
Format:  Kindle ARC
Length:  400 pages
Expected Date Of Publication:  March 26, 2019
Publisher:  Avon Books
Rating:  5 Stars


Rebellion drove Mercy Rutherford to Scotland to escape the possessive grip of her fiancé. But it’s fate that lands her in the crumbling highlands castle of Ross Caithart. A dreamer with visions of inventing airships, he’s most certainly mad. Handsome beyond words, he’s also causing an irresistible flutter in her stomach beyond reason. When Gregory arrives to see their arranged marriage to its bitter end, Mercy desperately turns to Ross with an offer of her fortune—and her hand in marriage.

The Earl of Morton has a reputation for being a daredevil eccentric, but even he is hesitant to engage in such a rash proposition—no matter how utterly beguiled he is by the wildly independent American heiress. And yet, with so much at stake, how can he possibly say no? But when their unconventional union grows into a passionate and inseparable love, more than Gregory’s obsession threatens them. Now, Ross and Mercy will have to risk more than their hearts to save it.




Please Enjoy This Excerpt From:
To Love A Duchess
All For Love #1


Chapter One
September, 1864
Marsley House
London, England
He felt the duke’s stare on him the minute he walked into the room.
Adam Drummond closed the double doors behind him quietly so as not to alert the men at the front door. Tonight Thomas was training one of the young lads new to the house. If they were alerted to his presence in the library they would investigate.
He had a story prepared for that eventuality. He couldn’t sleep, which wasn’t far from the truth. Nightmares often kept him from resting more than a few hours at a time. A good thing he had years of practice getting by with little sleep.
He’d left his suite attired only in a collarless white shirt and black trousers. Another fact for which he’d have to find an explanation. As the majordomo of Marsley House he was expected to wear the full uniform of his position at all times, even in the middle of the night. Perhaps not donning the white waistcoat, cravat, and coat was an act of rebellion.
Strange, since he’d never been a rebel before. It was this place, this house, this assignment that was affecting him.
For the first time he hadn’t borrowed a name or a history carefully concocted by the War Office. He’d taken the position as himself, Adam Drummond, Scot and former soldier with Her Majesty’s army. The staff knew his real name. Some even knew parts of his history. The housekeeper called him Adam, knew he was a widower, was even aware of his birthdate.
He felt exposed, an uncomfortable position for a man who’d worked in the shadows for years.
He lit one of the lamps hanging from a chain fixed to the ceiling. The oil was perfumed, the scent reminiscent of jasmine. The world of the Whitcombs was unique, separated from the proletariat by two things: the peerage and wealth.
The pale yellow light only lit the area near the desk. The rest of the huge room was in shadow. The library was ostentatious, a word he’d heard one of the maids try to pronounce.
“And what does it mean, I’m asking you?” She’d been talking to one of the cook’s helpers, but he’d interjected.
“It means fancy.”
She’d made a face before saying, “Well, why couldn’t they just say fancy, then?”
Because everything about Marsley House was ostentatious.
This library certainly qualified. The room had three floors connected by a circular black iron staircase. The third floor was slightly larger than the second, making it possible for a dozen lamps to hang from chains affixed to each level at different heights. If he’d lit them all it would have been bright as day in here, illuminating the sight of thousands of books.
He didn’t think the Whitcomb family had read every one of the volumes. Some of them looked as if they were new, the dark green leather and gold spines no doubt as shiny as when they’d arrived from the booksellers. Others were so well worn that he couldn’t tell what the title was until he pulled it from the shelf and opened it. There were great many books on military history and he suspected that was the duke’s doing.
He turned to look at the portrait over the mantel. George Whitcomb, 10th Duke of Marsley, was wearing his full military uniform, the scarlet jacket so bright a shade that Adam’s eyes almost watered. The duke’s medals gleamed as if the sun had come out from behind the artist’s window to shine directly on such an exalted personage. He wore a sword tied at his waist and his head was turned slightly to the right, his gaze one that Adam remembered. Contempt shown in his eyes, as if everything the duke witnessed was beneath him, be it people, circumstances, or the scenery of India.
Adam was surprised that the man had allowed himself to be painted with graying hair. Even his mutton chop whiskers were gray and brown. In India, Whitcomb had three native servants whose sole duties were to ensure the duke’s sartorial perfection at all times. He was clipped and coiffed and brushed and shined so that he could parade before his men as the ultimate authority of British might.
His eyes burned out from the portrait, so darkly brown that they appeared almost black, narrowed and penetrating.
“Damn fine soldiers, every single one of them. All mongrels, of course, but fighting men.”
At least the voice — surprisingly higher in pitch than Adam had expected — was silent now. He didn’t have to hear himself being called a mongrel again. Whitcomb had been talking about the British regiments assigned to guard the East India Company settlements. He could well imagine the man’s comments about native soldiers.
What a damned shame Whitcomb had been killed in a carriage accident. He deserved a firing squad at the very least. He wished the duke to Hell as he had ever since learning of the man’s death. The approaching storm with its growling thunder seemed to approve of the sentiment.
As if to further remind him of India, his shoulder began to throb. Every time it rained the scar announced its presence, the bullet wound just one more memory to be expunged. It was this house. It brought to mind everything he’d tried to forget for years.
Adam turned away from the portrait, his attention on the massive, heavily tooled mahogany desk. This, too, was larger than it needed to be, raised on a dais, more a throne than a place a man might work. A perfect reflection of the Duke of Marsley’s arrogance.
The maids assigned this room had left the curtains opened. If he had been a proper majordomo he would no doubt chastise them for their oversight. But because he’d been a leader of men, not of maids, he decided not to mention it.
Lightning flashed nearby, the strike followed by another shot of thunder. The glass shivered in the mullioned panes.
Maybe the duke’s ghost was annoyed that he was here in the library again.
The careening of the wind around this portion of Marsley House sounded almost like a warning. Adam disregarded it as he glanced up to the third floor. He would have to be looking for a journal. That was tantamount to searching for a piece of coal in a mine or a grain of sand on the beach.
This assignment had been difficult from the beginning.
One of the double doors opened, startling him.
“Sir?”
Daniel, the newest footman, stood there. The lad was tall, as were all of the young men hired at Marsley House. His shock of red hair was accompanied by a splattering of freckles across his face, almost as if God had wielded a can of paint and tripped when approaching Daniel. His eyes were a clear blue and direct as only the innocent could look.
He always felt old and damaged in Daniel’s presence.
“Is there anything I can do for you, sir?” the young footman asked.
“I’ve come to find something to read.” There, as an excuse it should bear scrutiny. He could always claim that he was about to examine the Marsley House ledgers, even though he normally performed that task in his own suite.
“Yes, sir.”
“I think we had a prowler the other night,” Adam said, improvising. “One of the maids mentioned her concern.”
“Sir?”
Daniel was a good lad, the kind who wouldn’t question a direct order.
“I’d like you to watch the outer door to the Tudor garden.”
“Yes, sir,” Daniel said, nodding.
“Tell Thomas that I need you there.”
“Yes, sir,” the young man said again, still nodding.
Once he, too, had been new to a position. In his case, Her Majesty’s army. Yet he’d never been as innocent as Daniel. Still, he remembered feeling uncertain and worried in those first few months, concerned that he wasn’t as competent at his tasks as he should be. For that reason he stopped the young man before he left the library.
“I’ve heard good reports about you, Daniel.”
The young man’s face reddened. “Thank you, sir.”
“I think you’ll fit in well at Marsley House.”
“Thank you, Mr. Drummond.”
A moment later Daniel was gone, the door closed once again. Adam watched for a minute before turning and staring up at the third floor.
The assignment he’d been given was to find one particular journal. Unfortunately, that was proving to be more difficult than originally thought. The Duke of Marsley had believed his every hour was worth memorializing and had written in a journal since he was a boy. The result was that there were hundreds of books Adam needed to read.
After climbing the circular stairs he grabbed the next two journals to be examined and brought them back to the first floor. He doubted if the duke would approve of him sitting at his desk which is why Adam did so, opening the cover of one of the journals and forcing himself to concentrate on the duke’s overly ornate handwriting.
He didn’t look over at the portrait again, but it still seemed as if the duke watched as he read.
At first Adam thought it was the sound of the storm before realizing that thunder didn’t speak in a female voice. He stood and extinguished the lamp, but the darkness wasn’t absolute. The lightning sent bright flashes of light into the library.
Moving to the doors, he opened one of them slightly, expecting to find a maid standing there or perhaps a footman with his lover. He knew about three dalliances taking place among the staff, but he wasn’t going to reprimand any of them. As long as they did their jobs — which meant that he didn’t garner any attention for the way he did his — he wasn’t concerned about their behavior in their off hours.
It wasn’t a footman or a maid engaged in a forbidden embrace. Instead, it was Marble Marsley, the widowed duchess. She’d recently returned from her house in the country, and he’d expected to be summoned to her presence as the newest servant on the staff and one of the most important. She’d hadn’t sent for him. She hadn’t addressed him.
He had to hand it to the duke; he’d chosen his duchess well. Suzanna Whitcomb, Duchess of Marsley, was at least thirty years younger than the duke and a beautiful woman. Tonight her dark brown hair was arranged in a swept up style, revealing jet black earrings adorned with diamonds. Her face was perfect, from the shape to the arrangement of her features. Her mouth was generous, her blue/gray eyes the color of a Scottish winter sky. Her high cheekbones suited her aristocratic manner and her perfect form was evident even in the many tiered black cape the footman was removing.
Did she mourn the bastard? Is that why she’d remained in her country home for the past several months?
From his vantage point behind the door he watched as she removed her gloves and handed them to the footman, shook the skirts of her black silk gown, and walked toward him with an almost ethereal grace.
He stared at her, startled. The duchess was crying. Perfect tears fell down her face as silently as if she were a statue. He waited until she passed, heading for the staircase that swooped like a swallow’s wing through the center of Marsley House before opening the door a little more.
Glancing toward the vestibule, he was satisfied that Thomas stationed at the front door couldn’t see him. He took a few steps toward the staircase, watching.
The duchess placed her hand on the banister and, looking upward, ascended the first flight of steps.
He had a well developed sense of danger. It had saved his life in India more than once. But he wasn’t at war now. There weren’t bullets flying and, although the thunder might sound like cannon, the only ones were probably at the Tower of London or perhaps Buckingham Palace.
Then why was he getting a prickly feeling on the back of his neck? Why did he suddenly think that the duchess was up to something? She didn’t stop at the second floor landing or walk down the corridor to her suite of rooms. Instead, she took one step after another in a measured way, still looking upward as if she were listening to the summons of an angel.
He glanced over at the doorway, but the footman wasn’t looking in his direction. When he glanced back at the staircase Adam was momentarily confused when he couldn’t see her. At the top of the staircase, the structure twisted onto itself and then disappeared into the shadows. There were only two places she could have gone: to the attic, a storage area that encompassed this entire wing of Marsley House. Or to the roof.
He no longer cared if Thomas saw him or not. Adam began to run.
Where the hell was the daft woman?
Adam raced up the first flight of stairs, then the second, wondering if he was wrong about Marble Marsley. He’d overheard members of the staff calling her that and had assumed she’d gotten the label because she was cold and pitiless. A woman who never said a kind word to anyone. Someone who didn’t care about another human being.
In that, she was a perfect pair to her late husband.
But marble didn’t weep.
He followed the scent of her perfume, a flowery, spicy scent reminding him of India. At the top of the staircase, he turned to the left, heading for an inconspicuous door, one normally kept closed. It was open now, the wind blowing the rain down the ten steps to lash him in the face.
He’d been here only once, on a tour he’d done to familiarize himself with the place. Marsley House was a sprawling estate on the edge of London, the largest house in the area and one famous enough to get its share of carriages driving by filled with gawping Londoners out for a jaunt among their betters.
Not that the Marsley family was better than anyone else, no matter what they thought. They had their secrets and their sins, just like any other family.
He kept the door to the roof open behind him, grateful for the lightning illuminating his way. If only the rain would stop, but it was too late to wish for that. He was already drenched.
In a bit of whimsy, the builder of Marsley House had created a small balcony between two sharply pitched gables. Chairs had been placed there, no doubt for watching the sunset over the roofs of London.
No one in their right mind would be there in the middle of a storm. As if agreeing with him, thunder roared above them.
The duchess was gripping the balcony railing with both hands as she raised one leg, balancing herself like a graceful bird about to swoop down from the top of a tree.
People didn’t swoop. They fell.
What the hell?
He began to run, catching himself when he would have fallen on the slippery roof.
“You daft woman,” he shouted as he reached her.
She turned her face to him, her features limned by lightning.
He didn’t see what he saw. At least that’s what he told himself. No one could look at the Duchess of Marsley and not be witness to her agony.
He grabbed one of her arms, pulling her to him and nearly toppling in the process. For a moment he thought her rain soaked dress was heavy enough to take them both over the railing.
Then the daft duchess began to hit him.
He let fly a few oaths in Gaelic while trying to defend himself from the duchess’s nails as she went for his eyes. Her mouth was open and for a curious moment, it almost looked like she was a goddess of the storm, speaking in thunder
He stumbled backward, pulling her on top of him when she would have wrenched free. He had both hands on each of her arms now, holding her.
She was screaming at him, but he couldn’t tell what she was saying.  He thought she was still crying, but it might be the rain.
He pushed away from the railing with both feet. He’d feel a damn sight better if they were farther away from the edge. As determined as she was, he didn’t doubt that she would take a running leap the minute she got free.
The storm was directly overhead now, as if God himself dwelt in the clouds and was refereeing this fight to the death. Not his, but hers.
He was a few feet away from the railing now, still being pummeled by the rain. Twice she got a hand free and struck him. Once, he thought she was going to make it to her feet. He grabbed the sodden bodice of her dress and jerked her back down. She could die on another night, but he was damned if he was going to let her do it now.
He made it to his knees and she tried, once more, to pull away. She got one arm free and then the second. Just like he imagined, she made for the railing again. He grabbed her skirt as he stood. When she turned and went for his eyes again, he jerked the fabric with both hands, desperate to get her away from the edge.
The duchess stumbled and dropped like a rock.
He stood there being pelted by rain that felt like miniature pebbles, but the duchess didn’t move. Her cheek lay against the roof; her eyes were closed, and rain washed her face clean of tears.
He bent and scooped her up into his arms and headed for the door, wondering how in hell he was going to explain that he’d felled the Duchess of Marsley.
Copyright © 2018 Karen Ranney

My Thoughts
This wonderful second offering in the All For Love series, is the perfect read for those fond of a romance built on "happy accidents".
For it is after all, one such accident that brings our leading couple together.
The collision of his experimental "airship".  With her very conventional carriage.
Resulting in a utterly unputdownable love story.

Both Lennox and Mercy are formidable, headstrong, and extremely likable characters.  Determined to live life on their own terms.
Lennox in his pursuit of flight.
Mercy in her quest to live a life free of others' well intentioned micromanagement of her life.

Add in the love-at-first-sight romance of her lady's maid, Ruthie, and his assistant Connor.
A very Hatfield and McCoy-esque feud that her family refuses to let die.
And a grandmother who is utterly impossible to please.
And one can't help asking if things couldn't possibly get any more complex for the two.
The answer.
In a word.
Yes.
But discovering how the complications arise and what the two have to do to surmount them.  While not managing to become victims of Lennox's inventions in the process.
Priceless!

The passion that the two share is one that is very sweet and takes a while to kindle.  With a great majority of their love story focusing on the mutual respect that the two come to share for each other.

This is a very sweet and spirited romance.  One sure to stoke the fire of every free spirit
And set hearts free.


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





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Conception And Commercialism Meet In Very Unsettling Ways In "The Farm"

41398025
Title:  The Farm
Author:  Joanne Ramos
Length:  336 pages
Expected Date Of Publication:  May 7th, 2019
Publisher:  Random House
Rating:  5 Stars

Nestled in the Hudson Valley is a sumptuous retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, private fitness trainers, daily massages--and all of it for free. In fact, you get paid big money--more than you've ever dreamed of--to spend a few seasons in this luxurious locale. The catch? For nine months, you belong to the Farm. You cannot leave the grounds; your every move is monitored. Your former life will seem a world away as you dedicate yourself to the all-consuming task of producing the perfect baby for your überwealthy clients.

Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines and a struggling single mother, is thrilled to make it through the highly competitive Host selection process at the Farm. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her own young daughter's well-being, Jane grows desperate to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she'll receive on delivery--or worse.

Heartbreaking, suspenseful, provocative, The Farm pushes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit to the extremes, and raises crucial questions about the trade-offs women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.





My Thoughts


In Joanne Ramoes' 2019 release entitled The Farm. She dares to shine a glaring light on the very sensitive subject of what has become the most highly prized boon in the world of 'human commodities '.
The womb.
Or more to the point.
The paid use of one's womb to carry the offspring of another.

In this case. The carrier being Jane. A young Filipino woman recently fired from her position as a baby nurse to an affluent Caucasian family.
Seemingly out of options, and desperate to make a better life for herself and her 6-month old daughter, Amalia.

Her solution...
Golden Oaks, a state-of-the-art, first of it's kind facility. Built to cater to those wealthy clients who due to infertility or for the sake of aesthetics; are willing to allow a woman of their choosing to carry their unborn.

For a price.
And while the cost to both Jane and her fellow surrogates, of time, freedom, personal autonomy, and personal relationships are all pretty much the same across the board.
The compensation rates vary according to race and education level. With the college educated Caucasian leading the list on all fronts.

Exploitation and manipulation of Jane and the others by the clients is just the tip of the iceberg however.
With the introduction of Mae Yu, Executive Director of Operations at Golden Oaks. We are presented a woman determined to make the business of buying and selling womb space. The gateway through which she ushers in her American Dream.

And what system of usury could be complete without it taking place even among those cast lowest on this convoluted totem pole.
That's right folks.
Even the surrogates are casting their lots in the "what's in this for me game." With unschooled Jane being their prime target.
And for her part...
Jane plays the unwitting "lamb to the slaughter" to perfection .
A part that leaves her with progressively more to lose as time goes on.
But one in which readers don't become aware of the magnitude of Jane's loses until story's end.

The truths told here are ones that have been experienced by minorities and disenfranchised peoples the world over.
And while this is an admittedly a difficult read. It is both very timely and extremely important.




About Joanne

JOANNE RAMOS was born in the Philippines and moved to Wisconsin when she was six. She graduated with a BA from Princeton University. After working in investment banking and private-equity investing for several years, she became a staff writer at The Economist. 



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Watch As The Dreams Of Happily Become One Woman's Reality In "While The Duke Was Sleeping"

28819876
Title:  While The Duke Was Sleeping
(The Rogue Files #1)
Author:  Sophie Jordan
Format:  Ebook
Length:  384 pages
Publisher:  Avon Books
Rating:  5 Stars


Sometimes the man of your dreams . . .

Shop girl Poppy Fairchurch knows it’s pointless fantasizing about the Duke of Autenberry. Still, dreams can’t hurt anyone . . . unlike the carriage Poppy spies bearing down upon the unsuspecting duke. After she pulls him to safety, the duke lapses into a coma and Poppy is mistaken for his fiancée. But one person isn’t fooled: his arrogant and much too handsome half-brother, Struan Mackenzie. Soon Poppy isn’t sure what she wants more . . . the fantasy of her duke or the reality of one smoldering Scot who challenges her at every turn.

. . . is not who you think.

An illegitimate second son, Struan may have built an empire and established himself as one of the wealthiest men in Britain, but he knows he will always be an outsider among the ton. Just like he knows the infuriating Poppy is a liar. There’s no way the haughty Duke of Autenberry would deign to wed a working class girl. It doesn’t matter how charming she is. Or tempting. Or how much Struan wants her for himself.




My Thoughts

Welcome dear readers to a much better done version of While You Were Sleeping.  You remember the movie that made you fall in love with Sandra Bullock in 1995.
Only this time around, the setting is Regency England.  The leading lady is a flower shop girl named Poppy Fairchurch.  The leading man.  At least the one in the coma, at any rate.  One very unfortunate Marcus Weatherton, Duke of Audenbury.

As for the other leading man...
Yes, you heard right.
I said 'other leading man'.
That would be one Struan McKenzie.  The richer than Midas, utterly irresistible, bastard half brother to the fallen duke.
The reason for the duke's coma.
And...
The one foil for all the best laid plans.

Because Marcus spends a great majority of the book incapacitated.  This story serves more as an introduction to both his family (both the wrong and the right of it) As well as his world.
As well as being an excellent romantic vehicle for Struan and Poppy.

The fact that both Struan and Poppy have known both loss and and are members of the working class; go a long way in solidifying their bond as a believable one for readers.  And the closer that they get to each other, the more that theirs is a union that the reader actually longs for.

Both Struan and Poppy have open and generous hearts.  In spite of, or perhaps because of the hardships of their pasts.
They also prove strong, fierce, and loyal beyond measure.  Making them read as fully grown adults.  Versus the spoiled, cosseted, and very entitled attitude of Marcus.

Marcus in this case, is truly an afterthought.  Only becoming relevant because of the tragic circumstances surrounding his absence.
Struan is clearly all the man that readers and Poppy will ever need.   



About Sophie 
 
Sophie JordanSophie Jordan took her adolescent daydreaming one step further and penned her first historical romance in the back of her high school Spanish class. This passion led her to pursue a degree in English and History.

A brief stint in law school taught her that case law was not nearly as interesting as literature - teaching English seemed the natural recourse. After several years teaching high school students to love Antigone, Sophie resigned with the birth of her first child and decided it was time to pursue the long-held dream of writing.

In less than three years, her first book, Once Upon A Wedding Night, a 2006 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Nominee for Best First Historical, hit book shelves. Her second novel, Too Wicked To Tame, released in March 2007 with a bang, landing on the USA Today Bestseller's List



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White Glove Service Takes On An Entirely New And Romantic Meaning In "To Love A Duchess"

36137565
Title:  To Love A Duchess
Series:  (All For Love #1)
Author:  Karen Ranney
Format:  Ebook
Length:  384 pages
Publisher:  Avon Books
Rating:  5 Stars

From New York Times Bestselling Author Karen Ranney comes the first book in a royally romantic and deeply emotional new series about taking risks and allowing the power to love satisfy the questions of the heart...

Undercover as a majordomo, spy Adam Drummond has infiltrated Marsley House with one purpose only—to plunder its mysteries and gather proof that the late Duke of Marsley was an unforgivable traitor to his country. At the same time, Adam is drawn to a more beguiling puzzle: the young and still-grieving duchess—a beauty with impenetrable secrets of her own. For Drummond, uncovering them without exposing his masquerade will require the most challenging and tender moves of his career.

That a servant can arouse such passion in her is too shocking for Suzanne Whitcomb, Duchess of Marsley, to consider. Yet nothing quickens her pulse like Drummond's touch. It's been two years since the duke lost his life in a tragic accident—and even longer since she's been treated like a woman. But when Drummond's real mission is revealed, and the truth behind Suzanne's grief comes to light, every secret conspired to tear them apart is nothing compared to the love that can hold them together.



Please Enjoy This Excerpt From 
To Love A Duchess

Chapter One

September, 1864
Marsley House
London, England

He felt the duke’s stare on him the minute he walked into the room.
Adam Drummond closed the double doors behind him quietly so as not to alert the men at the front door. Tonight Thomas was training one of the young lads new to the house. If they were alerted to his presence in the library they would investigate.
He had a story prepared for that eventuality. He couldn’t sleep, which wasn’t far from the truth. Nightmares often kept him from resting more than a few hours at a time. A good thing he had years of practice getting by with little sleep.
He’d left his suite attired only in a collarless white shirt and black trousers. Another fact for which he’d have to find an explanation. As the majordomo of Marsley House he was expected to wear the full uniform of his position at all times, even in the middle of the night. Perhaps not donning the white waistcoat, cravat, and coat was an act of rebellion.
Strange, since he’d never been a rebel before. It was this place, this house, this assignment that was affecting him.
For the first time he hadn’t borrowed a name or a history carefully concocted by the War Office. He’d taken the position as himself, Adam Drummond, Scot and former soldier with Her Majesty’s army. The staff knew his real name. Some even knew parts of his history. The housekeeper called him Adam, knew he was a widower, was even aware of his birthdate.

He felt exposed, an uncomfortable position for a man who’d worked in the shadows for years.

He lit one of the lamps hanging from a chain fixed to the ceiling. The oil was perfumed, the scent reminiscent of jasmine. The world of the Whitcombs was unique, separated from the proletariat by two things: the peerage and wealth.
The pale yellow light only lit the area near the desk. The rest of the huge room was in shadow. The library was ostentatious, a word he’d heard one of the maids try to pronounce.
“And what does it mean, I’m asking you?” She’d been talking to one of the cook’s helpers, but he’d interjected.
“It means fancy.”
She’d made a face before saying, “Well, why couldn’t they just say fancy, then?”
Because everything about Marsley House was ostentatious.
This library certainly qualified. The room had three floors connected by a circular black iron staircase. The third floor was slightly larger than the second, making it possible for a dozen lamps to hang from chains affixed to each level at different heights. If he’d lit them all it would have been bright as day in here, illuminating the sight of thousands of books.

He didn’t think the Whitcomb family had read every one of the volumes. Some of them looked as if they were new, the dark green leather and gold spines no doubt as shiny as when they’d arrived from the booksellers. Others were so well worn that he couldn’t tell what the title was until he pulled it from the shelf and opened it. There were great many books on military history and he suspected that was the duke’s doing.
He turned to look at the portrait over the mantel. George Whitcomb, 10th Duke of Marsley, was wearing his full military uniform, the scarlet jacket so bright a shade that Adam’s eyes almost watered. The duke’s medals gleamed as if the sun had come out from behind the artist’s window to shine directly on such an exalted personage. He wore a sword tied at his waist and his head was turned slightly to the right, his gaze one that Adam remembered. Contempt shown in his eyes, as if everything the duke witnessed was beneath him, be it people, circumstances, or the scenery of India.

Adam was surprised that the man had allowed himself to be painted with graying hair. Even his mutton chop whiskers were gray and brown. In India, Whitcomb had three native servants whose sole duties were to ensure the duke’s sartorial perfection at all times. He was clipped and coiffed and brushed and shined so that he could parade before his men as the ultimate authority of British might.
His eyes burned out from the portrait, so darkly brown that they appeared almost black, narrowed and penetrating.
“Damn fine soldiers, every single one of them. All mongrels, of course, but fighting men.”
At least the voice — surprisingly higher in pitch than Adam had expected — was silent now. He didn’t have to hear himself being called a mongrel again. Whitcomb had been talking about the British regiments assigned to guard the East India Company settlements. He could well imagine the man’s comments about native soldiers.
What a damned shame Whitcomb had been killed in a carriage accident. He deserved a firing squad at the very least. He wished the duke to Hell as he had ever since learning of the man’s death. The approaching storm with its growling thunder seemed to approve of the sentiment.
As if to further remind him of India, his shoulder began to throb. Every time it rained the scar announced its presence, the bullet wound just one more memory to be expunged. It was this house. It brought to mind everything he’d tried to forget for years.
Adam turned away from the portrait, his attention on the massive, heavily tooled mahogany desk. This, too, was larger than it needed to be, raised on a dais, more a throne than a place a man might work. A perfect reflection of the Duke of Marsley’s arrogance.
The maids assigned this room had left the curtains opened. If he had been a proper majordomo he would no doubt chastise them for their oversight. But because he’d been a leader of men, not of maids, he decided not to mention it.
Lightning flashed nearby, the strike followed by another shot of thunder. The glass shivered in the mullioned panes.
Maybe the duke’s ghost was annoyed that he was here in the library again.
The careening of the wind around this portion of Marsley House sounded almost like a warning. Adam disregarded it as he glanced up to the third floor. He would have to be looking for a journal. That was tantamount to searching for a piece of coal in a mine or a grain of sand on the beach.
This assignment had been difficult from the beginning.
One of the double doors opened, startling him.
“Sir?”
Daniel, the newest footman, stood there. The lad was tall, as were all of the young men hired at Marsley House. His shock of red hair was accompanied by a splattering of freckles across his face, almost as if God had wielded a can of paint and tripped when approaching Daniel. His eyes were a clear blue and direct as only the innocent could look.
He always felt old and damaged in Daniel’s presence.
“Is there anything I can do for you, sir?” the young footman asked.
“I’ve come to find something to read.” There, as an excuse it should bear scrutiny. He could always claim that he was about to examine the Marsley House ledgers, even though he normally performed that task in his own suite.
“Yes, sir.”
“I think we had a prowler the other night,” Adam said, improvising. “One of the maids mentioned her concern.”
“Sir?”
Daniel was a good lad, the kind who wouldn’t question a direct order.
“I’d like you to watch the outer door to the Tudor garden.”
“Yes, sir,” Daniel said, nodding.
“Tell Thomas that I need you there.”
“Yes, sir,” the young man said again, still nodding.
Once he, too, had been new to a position. In his case, Her Majesty’s army. Yet he’d never been as innocent as Daniel. Still, he remembered feeling uncertain and worried in those first few months, concerned that he wasn’t as competent at his tasks as he should be. For that reason he stopped the young man before he left the library.
“I’ve heard good reports about you, Daniel.”
The young man’s face reddened. “Thank you, sir.”
“I think you’ll fit in well at Marsley House.”
“Thank you, Mr. Drummond.”
A moment later Daniel was gone, the door closed once again. Adam watched for a minute before turning and staring up at the third floor.
The assignment he’d been given was to find one particular journal. Unfortunately, that was proving to be more difficult than originally thought. The Duke of Marsley had believed his every hour was worth memorializing and had written in a journal since he was a boy. The result was that there were hundreds of books Adam needed to read.
After climbing the circular stairs he grabbed the next two journals to be examined and brought them back to the first floor. He doubted if the duke would approve of him sitting at his desk which is why Adam did so, opening the cover of one of the journals and forcing himself to concentrate on the duke’s overly ornate handwriting.
He didn’t look over at the portrait again, but it still seemed as if the duke watched as he read.
At first Adam thought it was the sound of the storm before realizing that thunder didn’t speak in a female voice. He stood and extinguished the lamp, but the darkness wasn’t absolute. The lightning sent bright flashes of light into the library.
Moving to the doors, he opened one of them slightly, expecting to find a maid standing there or perhaps a footman with his lover. He knew about three dalliances taking place among the staff, but he wasn’t going to reprimand any of them. As long as they did their jobs — which meant that he didn’t garner any attention for the way he did his — he wasn’t concerned about their behavior in their off hours.
It wasn’t a footman or a maid engaged in a forbidden embrace. Instead, it was Marble Marsley, the widowed duchess. She’d recently returned from her house in the country, and he’d expected to be summoned to her presence as the newest servant on the staff and one of the most important. She’d hadn’t sent for him. She hadn’t addressed him.
He had to hand it to the duke; he’d chosen his duchess well. Suzanna Whitcomb, Duchess of Marsley, was at least thirty years younger than the duke and a beautiful woman. Tonight her dark brown hair was arranged in a swept up style, revealing jet black earrings adorned with diamonds. Her face was perfect, from the shape to the arrangement of her features. Her mouth was generous, her blue/gray eyes the color of a Scottish winter sky. Her high cheekbones suited her aristocratic manner and her perfect form was evident even in the many tiered black cape the footman was removing.

Did she mourn the bastard? Is that why she’d remained in her country home for the past several months?

From his vantage point behind the door he watched as she removed her gloves and handed them to the footman, shook the skirts of her black silk gown, and walked toward him with an almost ethereal grace.

He stared at her, startled. The duchess was crying. Perfect tears fell down her face as silently as if she were a statue. He waited until she passed, heading for the staircase that swooped like a swallow’s wing through the center of Marsley House before opening the door a little more.

Glancing toward the vestibule, he was satisfied that Thomas stationed at the front door couldn’t see him. He took a few steps toward the staircase, watching.

The duchess placed her hand on the banister and, looking upward, ascended the first flight of steps.
He had a well developed sense of danger. It had saved his life in India more than once. But he wasn’t at war now. There weren’t bullets flying and, although the thunder might sound like cannon, the only ones were probably at the Tower of London or perhaps Buckingham Palace.
Then why was he getting a prickly feeling on the back of his neck? Why did he suddenly think that the duchess was up to something? She didn’t stop at the second floor landing or walk down the corridor to her suite of rooms. Instead, she took one step after another in a measured way, still looking upward as if she were listening to the summons of an angel.
He glanced over at the doorway, but the footman wasn’t looking in his direction. When he glanced back at the staircase Adam was momentarily confused when he couldn’t see her. At the top of the staircase, the structure twisted onto itself and then disappeared into the shadows. There were only two places she could have gone: to the attic, a storage area that encompassed this entire wing of Marsley House. Or to the roof.
He no longer cared if Thomas saw him or not. Adam began to run.
Where the hell was the daft woman?
Adam raced up the first flight of stairs, then the second, wondering if he was wrong about Marble Marsley. He’d overheard members of the staff calling her that and had assumed she’d gotten the label because she was cold and pitiless. A woman who never said a kind word to anyone. Someone who didn’t care about another human being.
In that, she was a perfect pair to her late husband.
But marble didn’t weep.
He followed the scent of her perfume, a flowery, spicy scent reminding him of India. At the top of the staircase, he turned to the left, heading for an inconspicuous door, one normally kept closed. It was open now, the wind blowing the rain down the ten steps to lash him in the face.

He’d been here only once, on a tour he’d done to familiarize himself with the place. Marsley House was a sprawling estate on the edge of London, the largest house in the area and one famous enough to get its share of carriages driving by filled with gawping Londoners out for a jaunt among their betters.
Not that the Marsley family was better than anyone else, no matter what they thought. They had their secrets and their sins, just like any other family.
He kept the door to the roof open behind him, grateful for the lightning illuminating his way. If only the rain would stop, but it was too late to wish for that. He was already drenched.

In a bit of whimsy, the builder of Marsley House had created a small balcony between two sharply pitched gables. Chairs had been placed there, no doubt for watching the sunset over the roofs of London.
No one in their right mind would be there in the middle of a storm. As if agreeing with him, thunder roared above them.

The duchess was gripping the balcony railing with both hands as she raised one leg, balancing herself like a graceful bird about to swoop down from the top of a tree.
People didn’t swoop. They fell.
What the hell?
He began to run, catching himself when he would have fallen on the slippery roof.
“You daft woman,” he shouted as he reached her.
She turned her face to him, her features limned by lightning.
He didn’t see what he saw. At least that’s what he told himself. No one could look at the Duchess of Marsley and not be witness to her agony.
He grabbed one of her arms, pulling her to him and nearly toppling in the process. For a moment he thought her rain soaked dress was heavy enough to take them both over the railing.
Then the daft duchess began to hit him.
He let fly a few oaths in Gaelic while trying to defend himself from the duchess’s nails as she went for his eyes. Her mouth was open and for a curious moment, it almost looked like she was a goddess of the storm, speaking in thunder
He stumbled backward, pulling her on top of him when she would have wrenched free. He had both hands on each of her arms now, holding her.
She was screaming at him, but he couldn’t tell what she was saying.  He thought she was still crying, but it might be the rain.
He pushed away from the railing with both feet. He’d feel a damn sight better if they were farther away from the edge. As determined as she was, he didn’t doubt that she would take a running leap the minute she got free.
The storm was directly overhead now, as if God himself dwelt in the clouds and was refereeing this fight to the death. Not his, but hers.
He was a few feet away from the railing now, still being pummeled by the rain. Twice she got a hand free and struck him. Once, he thought she was going to make it to her feet. He grabbed the sodden bodice of her dress and jerked her back down. She could die on another night, but he was damned if he was going to let her do it now.

He made it to his knees and she tried, once more, to pull away. She got one arm free and then the second. Just like he imagined, she made for the railing again. He grabbed her skirt as he stood. When she turned and went for his eyes again, he jerked the fabric with both hands, desperate to get her away from the edge.
The duchess stumbled and dropped like a rock.
He stood there being pelted by rain that felt like miniature pebbles, but the duchess didn’t move. Her cheek lay against the roof; her eyes were closed, and rain washed her face clean of tears.
He bent and scooped her up into his arms and headed for the door, wondering how in hell he was going to explain that he’d felled the Duchess of Marsley.
Copyright © 2018 Karen Ranney



My Thoughts

When Adam Drummond's work for the English War Office demands that he take up a post as majordomo to Suzanne Whitcomb, Duchess of Marsley. While investigating suspicions of treason on the part of her late husband.
He has no way of knowing that the beautiful but seemingly distant duchess will help him discover much more about the mysteries of love, loss, and healing than he ever bargained for.

This first book in Karen Ranney's All For Love series. Is one that becomes deeper, richer, and more emotionally involving for the reader as the story progresses. But does not use the romance between its leading couple to do so.
Instead allowing for pain and suffering that each carries from their pasts, to be uncovered as separate entities. Apart from the romance, but still able to act as an important catalyst for Adam and Suzanne's common ground.

It must be said however, that even their shared pain is unearthed within the context of its relationships to other aspects of the story.
For Suzanne that context being the deaths which bring her to her overall state of being. At the time that she and Adam first meet.
And for Adam. The discovery of a shared connection between his past and the facts brought to light during his investigation of the Duke of Marsley's activities during their joint service as officers of Her Majesty's Army. During the war in India.

It is, in fact. The masterful way in which Miss Ranney intermingles mystery, discovery, memorable characters, and an ever escalating plot line. That makes Adam and Suzanne's transition from from friends to lovers so seamless.
While also diverting one's attention from the myriad of class disparities between the two.
At least.
That is...
Until Adam, the 'lesser' of the two. Makes it his business to make it an issue.

As heroes and heroines go. These two could not be more perfectly matched. With her emotional vulnerability and acceptance acting as much the lifeline for Adam, as his brawn, passion, and general 'white knight' behavior is for his leading lady.

The romance between these two is best described as a ' slow burn '. Almost taking a back seat to the ever increasing amount of revelations and non-romantic entanglements that the two share.
It acts as more a shoring of the bonds between two souls. Then the fulfillment of torrid longings.

In short...
This is a book that will appeal to readers of romance on all
levels.
With a mystery for your head. As well as a 'love after loss' romance for your heart. All tied up with a Cinderfella-style happily. That one will never want to end.

Reviewer's Note: The All For Love series is one in which each respective story stands alone.
Leaving it to readers' discretion to enjoy the series in whole or in part.

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


Gallery Books Presents: Prisoner Of Night by J.R. Ward


From #1 New York Times bestselling author J.R. Ward comes an unforgettable story of passion and vengeance in the Black Dagger Brotherhood world.                                                                            

When Ahmare’s brother is abducted, there is nothing she won’t do to get him back safely. She is unprepared, however, for the lengths she will have to go to save his life. Paired with a dangerous but enticing prisoner, she embarks on an odyssey into another world.                                                                                         

Duran, betrayed by his father, imprisoned in a dungeon for decades, has survived only because of his thirst for vengeance. He has been biding his time to escape and is shocked to find an unlikely and temporary freedom in the form of a determined young female.
       

Battling against deadly forces and facing unforeseen peril, the pair are in a race to save Ahmare’s brother. As time runs out, and the unthinkable looms, even true love may not be enough to carry them through.









Excerpt:
Twenty-One Years, Three Months, Six Days Ago . .
“Where is it! Goddamn you, where’s it at!”
Duran spit blood out of his mouth and spoke over the ringing in his ears. “I’ll never tell you—”
Chalen the Conqueror swung his open palm again, nailing Duran’s lacerated face like a bat hitting a fastball. But it didn’t hurt as much as the other shit they’d been doing to him in this castle’s great room. They’d already pulled out his fingernails, broken all of his toes, and whipped his back until strips of his own flesh flapped against his ribs. At the moment, he didn’t have the strength to keep himself on his feet, but no worries there—two guards, with grips locked under his pits, were holding him up off the floor.
               
As his head flopped back into its lolling hang, he shook it to get the sweat and blood out of his eyes. In the hissing, kicking light of the hearth, the male in front of him was stocky of build and ugly of feature, an oak stump with a bulldog’s muzzle and a hungry bear’s bad fucking attitude.
               
“You are going to tell me the location.” Chalen took Duran by the throat with one of his meat hands. “And you’re going to do it now.”
               
“Sorry, not . . . a big talker—”
                The conqueror grabbed onto the lower half of Duran’s face, squeezing so hard his jaw split and the inside of his mouth was forced between the hard-and-sharp of his molars. More blood welled, spilled, fell on his bare chest.
                “Why are you protecting the male who put you here?” Chalen’s opaque eyes searched Duran’s expression as if he were trying to extrapolate a map of Maryland in the features. “All you need to do is tell me where that facility is.”
                Duran waited for that grip to release. When it did, he spit more blood out. “I’m not . . . protecting him.”
                “Then what are you doing?”
                “Making sure you don’t cheat me of what’s mine.” Duran smiled, aware he must look deranged. “You kill him . . . I don’t get to.”
                Chalen crossed his strong-man arms over his barrel chest. He was dressed in weapons, whatever clothes he had on underneath the holsters of guns and knives largely hidden by metal. No daggers, though. He’d never been Black Dagger Brotherhood material and not just because he was a mutt according to his lineage: Even among black market thieves, there was a code of conduct.
                Not for Chalen. He had no code. Not in the Old Country, and not during his last century here in the New World.
There was only one male who was worse.
“I will break you,” Chalen said in a low voice. “And I will enjoy it.”
Duran laughed in a wheeze. “You have no idea what I’ve already been through—”
Chalen swung that palm wide again, the crack so heavy Duran lost his vision, everything going checkerboard. And then there was a drop in blood pressure, his brain emptying of oxygen, floaty disassociation riding in, a foggy savior buffering the suffering.
The sound of chains moving and gears shifting brought him back to reality. A section of the sweaty stone wall rose by inches, the great weight ascending like a gate, revealing a corridor . . .
Revealing a male who was naked but for a black hood that covered his head.
“I will make you pray for death,” Chalen said. “And when you give me what I need, you will think back to this moment. When you could have saved yourself from so much.”
Duran exhaled in a gurgle. His body was on fire, the pain burning through his veins, turning him into a semi-living, kind-of-breathing, sort-of-conscious incubator for agony.
But fuck Chalen.
“Do what you will,” he mumbled. “I’m not going to give you a goddamn thing.”
“I will make you wish you were never born.”
As the hooded male came forward, Duran was dragged over and slammed face-first down onto a table, his torso bent parallel to the floor. Turning his face to the side, he smelled the spoiled meat and rancid fat embedded in the fibers of the planks.
“Already there, asshole.”


My Thoughts
J.R. Ward presents fans of her acclaimed Black Dagger Brotherhood series with quite the irresistible treat.  In the form of ebook exclusive Prisoner Of Night.  Releasing January 7, 2019.
Though touted as a novella.  As most .5 editions of series are.
Book 16.5, to be exact.
Readers will be quite pleasantly surprised to find that this novella is in fact, a 300+ page novel.  Complete with a very mouth watering prologue.

As for the meat of the story.  What readers are presented with is pretty standard hunky vampire + tragic past + revenge + female that he can't live without + a little PTSD thrown in for good measure =
Been there.  Done that. Seen the movie.

With most of the really must-read parts of this book taking place in the prologue.  When the actual story begins, some 20 years in the future.  A great many things have changed.  Just not our hunky leading man, Duran.  Who has somehow managed to flourish amid the constant pain of unrelenting torture.  Being housed in subhuman conditions, and seething with anger and resentment for the people and years that his captivity has cost him.
Hmmmm...

Enter Ahmare.
Sister of yet another inmate of the same dungeon prison currently inhabited by our leading man.
Sentenced to kill a man as part of a bargain for her brother's release.
A bargain that will bring her face to face with...
Wait for it!

Duran.
And so, the book, the action, the carnage, a weird sort of story, and an even weirder romance begins.
In all fairness to both this book and its author.  It must be said that a great many of the historical details surrounding pivotal characters in this story are either missing altogether. Or scant at best.
A flaw that not even the heart-stopping action or break-neck plot speed seems to be able to compensate for.
A flaw that, as the story progresses actually serves to make the characters seem progressively less dimensional.

Not to mention that the plot of this book, though very well written.
For the most part.
Is one that has made its way around the vampiric romance block a time or 200.
Circa 2010+

In short.
While this reviewer is willing to bet that there are a great many BDB fans who will absolutely love book 16.5 of this seemingly endless series.
As a first and only foray into said series however.  It is blatantly clear that this book is one that can not stand alone.
       




About J. R. Ward
J.R. Ward is the author of more than thirty novels, including those in her #1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood series. There are more than fifteen million copies of her novels in print worldwide, and they have been published in twenty-six different countries around the world. She lives in the South with her family.