Love Saves The Day In "Cowboy To The Rescue"

Title:  Cowboy To The Rescue
Author:  A.J. Pine
Format:  Kindle
Publisher:  Forever
Rating: 4.5 Stars

From "a fabulous storyteller" (Carolyn Brown, New York Times bestselling author) comes a western romance about a cowboy who isn't afraid to break the rules.

All designer Ivy Serrano wants is a fresh start. But instead, her Meadow Valley homecoming includes an electrical fire, a trashed custom dress, and a very handsome fireman who knows how to push all her buttons. Lieutenant Carter Bowen may set off sparks of his own, but the last thing Ivy needs now is town gossip . . . or to risk loving another firefighter.

New to small-town living, Carter is determined to prove himself, both at the station and at the fledgling dude ranch where he volunteers. That means no mistakes, no distractions, and definitely no Ivy. Yet there's something about the sassy shop owner that he just can't resist. As things heat up between them, Carter's more certain than ever that she's the one. But can he convince her they have a future worth fighting for?

Look for the first novel in the all-new Meadow Valley series, MY ONE AND ONLY COWBOY, on sale December 2019!

Please enjoy this excerpt from
Cowboy To The Rescue

Ivy Serrano smelled smoke. Not the Ooh! Someone must be having a bonfire kind of smoke or the Mmm! Someone is grilling up burgers kind of smoke. She smelled the Shoot! Something’s burning kind of smoke right here, in her new shop, on the day of her grand opening. She glanced around the small boutique, brows knitted together. She’d been about to flip the CLOSED sign to OPEN for the very first time when it hit her. Something was burning. After two years of putting her life on hold due to a family tragedy from which she thought she’d never recover, here she was, back home, starting over. And of all things, she smelled smoke. It didn’t take long for the smell to be accompanied by sound, the high-pitched wail of a top-of-the-line smoke detector. Although, if anyone was keeping score, she’d noticed first. One point for the Ivy, zero for technology. Except then she remembered that each detector was wired to the next, which meant that in five, four, three, two, one…a chorus of digital, ear-splitting screams filled eight hundred square feet of space. Her senses were keen enough, though, that it only took a second to register that the first alarm came from the back office. Her design sketches! And samples! And Oh no! It was opening day! She sprinted through the door that separated the shop from her office and storage. The only appliance she had back there was a mini refrigerator, because every now and then a girl needed a cold beverage and maybe even a healthy snack and ohmygod this was not happening. She gasped when she saw the charred cord and the licking flames dancing up the wall from the outlet. Items on her desk were turning to kindling as the fire reached paper. She grabbed the extinguisher from its prominent space on the wall and, amid the incessant shrieking, snuffed out the fire in a matter of seconds. She yanked on the part of the cord that hadn’t been completely cooked and unplugged the appliance. Problem solved. Except the design drawing on her desk, the one she’d been working on for the past week, was partially burned and now covered in foam. No big deal. She’d simply start over—on the first piece she’d been brave enough to attempt that reminded her of Charlie. And now she had to muster that courage again after—of all things—a fire. Or it would be, once she remembered how to turn the alarms off. Did she rip the battery out of the first one and all the rest would follow? Or did she have to somehow reset each and every one? She spun in a circle, panic only setting in, because she knew what happened once the first alarm triggered the rest. She ran back to the front of the shop and pushed through the door and out onto First Street. Sure enough, an emergency vehicle had already pulled out of the fire station’s lot, siren blazing. She dropped onto the public bench in front of her store and waited the fifteen seconds it took for the truck to roll down the street. “It would have been faster if you all had walked,”she mumbled. Four figures hopped out of the truck in full gear. One who she recognized as her best friend Casey’s younger sister, Jessie, started to unfurl the hose while another—yep, that was Wyatt O’Brien—went to open the nearby hydrant. The third was Wyatt’s younger brother Shane. Ivy stood and crossed her arms. “Fire’s out already.”The last one—the one she hadn’t recognized yet—strode toward her, his eyes narrowed as he took her in. “Sorry, miss. But we still need to go inside and assess the situation, figure out what type of fire it was, and if you’re still at any sort of risk.”She shrugged and cleared her throat, trying to force the tremble out of her voice. “It was an electrical fire. Probably caused by faulty wiring in a mini fridge cord because I had this place inspected a dozen times and know it was up to code. Used a class C extinguisher. I have smart detectors, though. Couldn’t get the fire out before you guys were automatically called. Sorry to waste your time.”The fire was out. That wasn’t the issue. Fire didn’t scare her after the fact, especially now that she was so prepared. It was—them. She didn’t want them here, didn’t need them here, and certainly didn’t require anyone’s assistance. Just seeing their uniforms made it hard for her to breathe, made it impossible not to think of how Charlie wearing the uniform had cost him his life.

My Thoughts
Ivy Serrano and Lieutenant Carter Bowen could have the romance of a lifetime.  And they both know it.
They have in fact, known it since the day that the dashing fire fighter tried to fight the fire that our "not so damsal in distress" had already conquered.
Her fire.
To be exact.
In her shop.
Started by the faulty wiring in her mini fridge.
A fire that she then put out with her fire extinguisher.

Only to have Carter show up with rugged good looks, flashing blue-grey eyes, a no-nonsense demeanor, and softly accented purr.  Igniting a blaze of a different sort. And unknowingly opening doors that Ivy has been trying very hard to keep closed.

Carter too is haunted by his past.  A transplant to both the Meadow Valley Fire Department, and the newly opened dude ranch on which he volunteers.  A man seeking home, roots, and a place to belong.

A.J. Pine brings readers the perfect blend of small town romance meets second chance ever after.  In Cowboy To The Rescue.  The first offering of the Meadow Valley series.  And the first time that readers meet and fall in love with a couple that are doing all they can NOT to fall in love with each other.

Mostly due to the fact that Ivy has not yet healed from the death of her brother.  Veteran fireman, Charlie.  In a tragic building collapse.
A fate that Ivy fears will befall Carter.
A chance that she and her still devastated heart may not be ready to take.

This however is a case of "heart over head and body to follow."
And follow it does.
The sex here is steamy yet sweet.  Providing the perfect bridge between friendship and relationship in a very intimate way.

This is a very quick and enjoyable read.  Although somewhat predictable in places.  There is a slight issue with the transition from platonic to other.
It seems rather rushed.  But not to an extent that will detract too much from the overall quality of the story.

This is a wonderful story and this reviewer can't wait to read more.

About A. J.

A teen librarian by day and a romance writer by night, A.J. Pine can’t seem to escape the world of fiction, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s the author of the If Only series (Entangled Embrace), the Only You series (Berkley/Intermix), the Kingston Ale House series (Entangled Select), and the Crossroads Ranch series (Forever Romance). When she finds that 25th hour in the day, she might indulge in a tiny bit of TV where she nourishes her undying love of vampires, superheroes, and a certain high-functioning sociopath detective. She hails from the far off galaxy of the Chicago suburbs.

See Her Socially:  GR / Web / Tweet Her / Instagram

Buy The Book Here...

Fall In Love With Forever In "How To Love A Duke In Ten Days"

Series Title:
The Devil You Know Series, Book #1
Length: 348 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperback
Rating: 5 Stars

They call him The Terror of Torcliff
Piers Gedrick Atherton, the Duke of Redmayne, has one purpose. Revenge. To attain that, he must secure a legacy as old as the empire by claiming a wife.
Lady Alexandra Lane has a deadly secret. When the specter of her violent past threatens to expose her, Alexandra learns just how much she stands to lose.
If she sacrifices her body on the altar of marriage, the terrifying Duke vows to protect her, but she fears he’ll change his mind once he realizes what she’s hiding.
Ever suspicious, Redmayne knows his wife is concealing something, but he soon realizes that the truest terror is losing the woman who’s come to own him body, heart, and soul.

Links thus far:

Buy Links:


Books a Million:


Please enjoy this excerpt from
How To Love A Duke In Ten Days

Exclusive Excerpt:

Redmayne turned to her, looming closer. Larger.

“Don’t,” he whispered. “Don’t what?” “Don’t try to make me a good man.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, Your Grace.” When she should have retreated, she didn’t.

Instead, she finished her whisky, enjoying the warm languor spreading from her middle to her blood.

“Good.” He became very still, watching as she licked the last of the honeyed liquor from her lips. The cool of the night suddenly disappeared, the air turned heavy with salt, and moisture, and . . . something more illicit.

Possibly dangerous.

“Have you ever really been kissed, Alexandra Lane?”

She blinked. And froze. However, the usual paralyzing terror that would have cinched around her bones at such a predicament . . . didn’t. Fear was more of a faint shimmer through veins made sluggish with whisky. It was accompanied by another more curious emotion. Not excitement, but something adjacent to it. Why did he want to know? What did he hope her answer would be? Indeed, what should she say?

The truth, of course. A lie would not serve her here, and besides, she’d too many of those on her conscience to bother with a flippant fib in the dark.

“N-no.” She wished her voice were stronger. That she’d had a different, more worldly experience to share. But alas, she’d never allowed a man close enough to kiss her. As far as she was concerned, men had long ago ceased wanting to.

“I thought not,” he murmured, setting his glass next to hers on the banister.

Alexandra forced another swallow. “How—I mean— why thought you not?” And why was she suddenly speaking nonsense?

A faint hint of arrogance brushed at his lips. “Men like me can just tell.” Her heart kicked against her lungs, evoking shorter, shallower breaths.

“Men like you?”

“Hunters.” The vibration of the word spread down her spine and unfurled in the most alarming places. “Your lips, innocent as they are, beg to be kissed whenever I am near. Your tongue moistens them. Your teeth worry at them. And when I stare, as I am doing now, they soften and part, like an invitation . . .”

Stunned, Alexandra curled her lips around her teeth as if to hide them from him. Had he really gleaned all that from her mouth? Had her lips truly betrayed her so?

He paused, glancing up. “Your eyes are always afraid, though. I think it’s because you can sense I want to kiss you, too.”

“Y-you do?”

He nodded, his own lips melting into a soft smile at the abject astonishment in her question.

“Since the moment we met on the train platform, I’ve dreamt of kissing you in more than a dozen ways.”

 The sound she emitted was somewhere between a cough and a gasp. Were there more than a dozen ways to kiss? How many more?

“We . . . we shouldn’t be speaking of such things, Your Grace.” She turned away from him, suddenly trembling at the edge of an abyss, ready to leap into madness. He drew close, never once touching her. But the heat and strength of him stretched beyond his physical being, threading through the night toward her, endangering her composure.

Her resolve.

“It’s wrong, I know it,” he murmured, his voice containing an agony that tugged at her racing heart. “I’m to announce my engagement to your friend this very night, and all I can think of is what you’d taste like. I’m more of a monster than any scars or scandals I claim. But I’ve not kissed a woman since before the jaguar. I’ve not particularly wanted to until your lips drove me to distraction.”

Unable to hear any more, she whirled around.

“Would you marry me?” The idea had sparked like a fever, an idea that could fix everything. An idea that would release them all from the clutches of their sins. All it would cost was her soul

My Thoughts

There is one reason...
And one reason only, that this reviewer can and does drop everything when presented with the chance to read the latest book by Kerrigan Byrne.
In fact. It happens to be the same reason that said reviewer finds herself awake and penning this review at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m.
While still basking in the afterglow of Ms. Byrne's first offering of the Devil You Know series.
Entitled How To Love A Duke In Ten Days.
This book may be a Historical Romance at its core. But it is delightfully so much more.
1. A sisterhood built upon shared life altering childhood secrets.

2. Murder, mayhem, a marriage made by money.

3. One very, very, contrary bluestocking, Lady of a Doctor, Miss Alexandra Lane.
Determined to ply her mantra of head over heart against the ferociously tempting Duke of Redmane. One Piers Gedrick Atherton.
While doing her best to keep more than a few of the afore mentioned life altering secrets.
One of which could end up costing one or both of them their lives.
And one so horrid that its revelation could cost her the chance of a lifetime with a man that she never thought that she could bring herself to desire.

But wait...
It gets better.
Because it seems that the Piers has a few deadly secrets of his own.
Which threaten the already beleaguered couple just as doggedly as those of his leading lady.

Leading readers chomping at the bit to know.
Whose secrets will be the ones that toll the death knoll for both this couple and their future?
Will one of both of them be brave enough to trust the other with the spectors that haunt their tortured souls?
And most importantly...
Who wants Alexandra and Piers dead so badly?
And why?

To unearth (pun intended) the answers to these, and many more questions. While enjoying a happily ever after custom tailored to highjack any beating heart.
Don't miss How To Love A Duke In Ten Days. Or as this reviewer likes to call it. How To Devour A Book In One Sitting.
I would like to thank Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for granting my the privilege of reviewing such a wonderful book. The opinions found within this review have in no way been influenced by the publisher, its author, or any agents thereof. 

About Kerrigan
If 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

Take A Very Short Ride To A Very Long Happily In "The Sheikh's Wife Arrangement"

Title:  The Sheikh's Wife Arrangement
Series:  (Safar Sheikhs Series #1)
Author:  Leslie North
Length:  157 pages
Rating:  3.5 Stars

Ancient law dictates that Sheikh Fatim Safar has to marry or be disinherited by his 30th birthday. Fatim isn’t worried—he married years earlier and had two children with his wife before she died. But there’s a catch: the law states he must be married at age 30. Two weeks from his 30th birthday, there’s no time to change it or fight’s more expedient to marry.

Calla Clark is out to prove her parents wrong. Instead of marrying well like her mother wanted, Calla’s in the Middle East to prove her design prowess. And what better way to do that then becoming seamstress for the royal family and getting to drape fabric over the sexy Sheikh’s rock-hard body. She can’t act on her temptations, of course. She’s got goals to crush. Still, when she watches the way the Sheikh commands his tribe, and cares for his kids, she can’t help but feel an undeniable attraction.

Fatim has taken a liking to Calla, too. She’s smart, thoughtful, and good with his children. With his birthday right around the corner, Fatim offers her the position as his wife. It’s only temporary, and in return for marrying him and helping with his children, he’ll give her everything she needs for the upcoming Fashion Week. Calla long as he helps keep her dream alive.

With so many differences between them, Fatim and Calla’s powerful pairing could raise the tribe up to modern heights, or send it to the bin like last season’s cast-offs.

This novel contains sexual content and profanity.

Please enjoy this excerpt of
The Sheikh's Wife Arrangement 

Calla Clark tipped her head back to look up at the King of Amatbah. His crotch was technically in her face, and this wasn’t the first time. As the royal seamstress, she was often on her knees in front of King Fatim.
“Hrmmghhgm,”she mumbled from around the pins jutting out of her mouth. “Come again?”
He didn’t look down at her as he scrolled on his phone. This was so routine for him he probably didn’t even care that a twenty-something woman of child-bearing age was in the classic, submissive pose, eye-level with the royal jewels.
But for Calla, it was all she could think about every time they met to tailor his outfits. She’d tailored countless men’s slacks, caftans, and robes—enough that she no longer had feeling in her thumbs from sticking herself so often with pins but Fatim threw her decade of professional experience out the window. She ripped the pins out of her mouth and sat back on her heels.
“Could you, uh…”She hated correcting the king. Or anyone from his family. Really anyone. “Stand up straighter?”
Fatim sniffed and straightened his posture. His dark chocolate eyes swept her way, and for a moment their gazes locked. Electricity snapped through her. It always did when she looked at this man, or thought too much about him, or got within a ten-foot radius.
“Thank you,”she said, returning to the seam she worked on. Today’s project was a new pair of traditional linen pants—not her own design yet, but soon. Calla had the king’s measurements, but many of the fabrics she worked with in the Amatbah tribal kingdom were slippery, diaphanous, and billowy. These slacks were no exception. As she returned to her task, the door to the sitting room clanged open. Footsteps stormed their way, and before Calla could turn around to see who it was, Fatim spoke.
“Nasser,”Fatim said with a sigh. The king’s younger brother, the youngest of the three. Calla had only been working at the palace for a handful of weeks, but she’d come to learn the quirks of the three brothers very quickly. Fatim had been exasperated with Nasser of late. “Don’t start with the tone.
”Nassar let a disgusted groan. “Always the tone, with you.”Calla rolled her lips inward, fiddling with a seam that didn’t need fiddled. Really, she could have been done already. But she loved these quiet visits with the king—even better if she got the scoop on some drama. As the palace’s newest employee, she wanted to gobble up everything.
To establish herself as the royal seamstress, sure, but her path didn’t end there. The goal posts stood much further away than that. Calla aimed for the esteemed position of royal designer, which would hopefully lead her to the ultimate goal within the next five years: showing her designs at the world-famous Amatbah Fashion Week for the first time in her life.
She just had to keep her head down, work hard, and do an amazing job. And don’t let the king’s naughty area distract you.

My Thoughts

Calla and Fatim's story is in all honesty, one worthy of a full length book.
Both leading man and lady present as thoughtful, hard working, responsible, and emotionally complex people.  That readers want to know more about.  Both separately, and as the couple they later become.
That being said.
One of the two biggest detractors from the story is that it was NOT expanded into the full length book that it should have been.

Its author instead choosing to provide readers with an abridged version of an otherwise well written and for the most part, flawlessly executed premise.

While the arrangement \ marriage part of the story is admittedly more than a bit on the "been there...done that" side of the plot toss up.
The thing that sets this story apart is something that can't really be considered anything other than a background detail.  In the grand scheme of things.  But a story element which never ceases to strike a resounding emotional chord nevertheless.
Fatim's relationship with his children!

Here is a man tasked not only with the governing of a small nation.  But also with the task of finding a suitable wife and mother for himself and said children.  Within two weeks.
But he never once misses dinner with them.
He forgoes meetings with his attorney and dignitaries just to talk to them about their days.
And he goes so far as to fire "on the spot".  A nanny, whom he felt had disrespected his daughter in his presence.
Nominations for father of the year?
I know right!
But I digress.
O.K. Back to the review.

It seems our monarch's tender heart extends to his people as well.
With him doing all that he can to bring his country, its people, and traditions into the modern age.  While maintaining the validity of all concerned.
And working to make every romantic and supportive gesture that he extends toward Calla all the more believable.

At least until...
We, or they as the case may be.  Hit the bedroom.
Then all bets are off.  Chivalry dies a brutal death at the door. And it's all about the P's and D's.
Things go from royalty to raunchy in 3.2 seconds or less.
And our go-getter of a girl in Calla is strictly a yes woman in the bedroom.  It seems.
Even though she has known Fatim less time than she has probably been aquainted with the produce in her fridge.

O.K. I do conceed that if the cover is any indication.  Our leading man does bear a rather striking resemblance to a rather tanned Jude Law.
And when he speaks, the purr of his words most like serve to caress the ears in much the same way of the most expensive Mercedes.
But there is just no preparation for the transition.
Making the whole affair seem more tawdry and over done.
Than the frenzied passion that the author is going for.
Giving rise to a rating of 3.5 stars.

On a lighter note.
Ms. North does grace her readers with excerpts from the two subsequent stories in this series.  And they sound wonderful.
Here's hoping for greener pastures.

Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy upon which this honest critique is based.

About Leslie
New reader? My readers suggest starting with 'The CEO's Pregnant Lover' (

Or spend a wonderful weekend with SIX full-length, highly rated Leslie North novellas for FREE! Sign up for free books here:

Leslie North is the pen name for a critically-acclaimed author of women's contemporary romance and fiction. The anonymity gives her the perfect opportunity to paint with her full artistic palette, especially in the romance and erotic fantasy genres.

The truth of the matter is she loves her fictional persona, Leslie North, more than her normal, day-to-day persona! Her bestselling books focus on strong characters and particularly women who aren't afraid to challenge an alpha male. Inspired after years of travel, her stories are set all over the world, from the tough streets of Russia to the beautiful beaches of the middle east.

Leslie fell in love with romance when she first picked up a scrappy, dog-eared romance book from her local library. She began writing soon after and the rest, as they say, was history. She now lives in a cozy cottage on the British coast and enjoys taking long walks with her two Dalmatians, George and Fergie.

She LOVES reader feedback, and if you have any comments, don't hesitate to contact her on Goodreads.

I'm Social Too:
Twitter: @leslienorthbook

Buy The Book 

Inkslinger PR Presents: Home With You Release Blitz

Today is the release day of Claire Cain’s HOME WITH YOU! Check it out and be sure to grab your copy today!


Author: Claire Cain

Genre: Contemporary Romance


About Home With You:

I hadn’t seen Major Reese Flint in ten years—not since I was sixteen. Growing up, he was always kind to me despite our age difference and my role as the caretaker’s daughter. Our reunion forced me to see the gorgeous man he’d turned into. Reese was just as shocked by me, but evidently not in a good way since he then resolutely avoided me.

We’re forced back together when Reese’s mother hires me to help him recover from an injury since I still live in the garage apartment above the house I watched for him while he was deployed.   When Reese’s mom asks for more than that, I’m torn between my loyalty to the family who gave me so much during my childhood and my newfound feelings for Reese. Just when Reese stops resisting his interest in me and I have more than I could have hoped for, I discover I’m more at risk of losing everything than I could have imagined.


Grab Your Copy Today:

Amazon | Apple Books | Kobo | B&N


Exclusive Excerpt

I groaned as I stood and lumbered into the kitchen where Erin promptly let out a little yelp. She pressed her hands to her heart and took a few deep breaths before laughing hysterically. Really. She doubled over, her long hair waterfalling to the ground, leaving me to admire the nearly bare expanse of her back but for the two small spaghetti straps of her tank top. When she finally turned upright, her face was red and her green eyes were wet with tears. “I’m sorry,” I said, chuckling long with her since the sound of laughter was irresistible. “No, I’m sorry. I—I didn’t expect to see you. I thought you were in bed. And your beard is, like, wow, so I didn’t realize it was you, even though of course it’s you.” She pressed her lips together. “Anyway, I’m sorry for laughing hysterically. It was that, or cry, and I do enough crying so laugh it was.” “I’ve been sleeping down here so I’m upright. Did you need something?” I asked, and as soon as her face fell, I realized I’d done it again. She set the rag in her hand on the counter and moved to go, but I grabbed her wrist. “Please. I don’t mean that in a brusque way. I’m not trying to get rid of you. I want to help you find what you need, if you need something,” I said, lowering my voice because whenever she was this close, which was rarely lately, I wanted to say things to only her. I wanted things between us that only we knew about. She stared down at my hand on her wrist, then back at my face, her chest rising and falling. “I, uh… I came to check and see how the kitchen was. Your mom doesn’t always clean up, so I came to make sure everything was put away so you wouldn’t wake up to a mess.” She looked down like she was embarrassed and gently pulled her arm away. “That’s very kind of you, Erin.” Her lashes fluttered when I said her name, and I wondered if she preferred her nickname. I’d have to try it out next time. “Not really. I’m saving myself from more work tomorrow.” “Tomorrow?” I asked, stepping closer to her because apparently my body wanted more of her proximity. “I’ll be here to make you breakfast. I mean, if that’s ok, of course,” she said, red rising to her cheeks. “I’d like nothing more,” I said, catching her green eyes with mine to make sure she understood my sincerity. I was done fumbling around and failing to communicate with her. I’d bungled things between us enough already, and if my mother had obligated Erin to help me, I wasn’t going to make her feel unwanted. She returned my stare a moment longer, her eyes moving between mine every few seconds. And then it happened. Then the best thing of my week happened. The month. Sure, maybe the year. I’d made the promotion list for lieutenant colonel and I was pleased about that, but this? This probably topped that. Her focus moved from one eye, to the other, and then dipped down and caressed my lips. I kid you not, I could practically feel the brush of her lashes against my mouth. Then, of course, she jerked away and plastered a smile on her face, bid me goodnight, and excused herself. But it’d happened.

About Claire Cain:

Claire Cain lives to eat and drink her way around the globe with her traveling soldier and two kids, but is perhaps even happier hunkered down at home in a pair of sweatpants and slippers using any free moment she has to read and cook. Or talk—she really likes to talk. She has become an expert at packing too many dishes in too few cabinets and making houses into homes from Utah to Germany and many places in between. She’s a proud Army wife and is frankly just really happy to be here. 

About Claire Cain:

Claire Cain lives to eat and drink her way around the globe with her traveling soldier and two kids, but is perhaps even happier hunkered down at home in a pair of sweatpants and slippers using any free moment she has to read and cook. Or talk—she really likes to talk. She has become an expert at packing too many dishes in too few cabinets and making houses into homes from Utah to Germany and many places in between. She’s a proud Army wife and is frankly just really happy to be here. Enter

Claire’s Giveaway:
  a Rafflecopter giveaway  

Connect with Claire:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Website | Newsletter | Amazon


Pure Texuality PR Presents: The Rogue To Ruin + Giveaway

The Rogue to Ruin
by Vivienne Lorret
Misadventures in Matchmaking Series
Historical Romance
Avon Books
Publication Date
July 30, 2019
Purchase Your Copy Today!
Amazon  |  Avon Romance  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Google Play  |  iBooks

The Bourne Matrimonial Agency has one rule: Never fall in love with a client, which shouldn't be a problem when one’s faking an engagement to the rogue across the street . . .
Ainsley Bourne needs the family business to succeed. But one obstacle stands in her way—Reed Sterling, the huge, handsome, former prize fighter and owner of the gaming hell across the street.
 His scandalous customers scare off all her marriage-minded patrons and since the devilish brute has no intention of relocating, she sets out to ruin his unsavory establishment. Yet when a vile suitor from her past reappears, Ainsley hastily claims an attachment to the first man who comes to mind . . . Mr. Sterling, to be exact.

Reed doesn’t know who is more surprised by Miss Bourne’s declaration. She clearly hates him, and he’d never admit their arguments simmer with unrequited attraction. Something about the pleading look in her eyes calls to Reed, and against his better judgment, he quickly plays the part of the besotted fiancé.

Pretending to be in love requires a convincing charade. But with each tantalizing touch and every scandalous kiss, Ainsley starts to wonder if Reed was ever really the enemy at all.

Please enjoy this excerpt from:
The Rogue To Ruin
(Misadventures In Matchmaking #3)

“I hardly need your advice,” Ainsley scolded him in return, every word pushing her flesh against his. Almost as if . . . as if she had just kissed him.
But this wasn’t kissing, she assured herself. This was merely a new form of arguing.
Anticipating his next contradiction, she angled her head for closer contact and Reed growled in response.
The low, primal sound sent an unexpected thrill rushing through her.
“It would be a waste of breath to attempt to tell you anything,” he said, fitting his other hand over the curve of her cheek to cradle her face. “Even if I wanted to say that your lips are soft and plump and more luscious than wine-poached pears, I wouldn’t.”
Then he tilted her head back to cement his argument, opening her mouth with his own. He nibbled gently into her flesh, tasting the seam of her lips without hurry. The slow, thorough exploration caused her eyes to drift closed.
Her senses centered on the firm, enticing pressure of his mouth, the delicious rasp of his tongue. A wanton mewl tore from her throat, hungry and needy and urgent.
The unguarded sound brought her to an uncomfortable admission . . .
She might be kissing the enemy.

My Thoughts
Prizefighter turned gaming hell proprietor, Reed Sterling.  Has literally "fought tooth and nail" for the comfort and respectability that both his business and its coveted St. James address affords him.
But his new neighbor, Ainsley Bourne, and her family's matrimonial agency are about to change all that.  In ways that that could cost him both his business and his heart.

Ainsley Bourne may be a breed apart from the brawniest of bare-nuckle brawlers.
But make no mistake.
When it comes to protecting what or who she deems important. She is a force to be reckoned with.
A force that Reed Sterling is on course to release in both love and war.

The Rogue To Ruin may be authoress Vivienne Lorret's third in the Misadventures In Matchmaking series series.  But its enemies to friends and beyond story.  Is one that stands in a class by itself.
There is no one part of this tale that serves to carry any other. Instead...
Character interaction blends with storyline.  With both the scenic and continuity aspects acting as the perfect binder.  Allowing for a three dimensional tableau of sight, sound color and immense emotion.  In which readers are effortlessly transported into Ainsley and Sterling's world.  And given  "fly on the wall" access to every snarky quip, heated glance, and stolen kiss that these two share.

Technical perfection aside however.
The emotional impact of Reed's quiet patience.  In the face of Ainsley's struggle to overcome the unhealed wounds of her past.  In the face of the reemergence of the  villain who inflicted them.
Is the stuff that legendary romances are made of.

Just as any great boxer takes the time to learn their opposition.  Readers get to see Reed come to know Ainsley.  Strengths, weaknesses, warts, and all.
Not in the effort to destroy her.
But in the effort to prove himself a champion worthy of the prize that is her heart.
And yours...

In short...

To him, she’d seemed like a little queen with her stiff, regal bearing and he was already set on despising his new neighbors. Then she’d done something he didn’t expect. Once her sisters were inside, Ainsley stood on the pavement and lowered her umbrella. She tilted her head back, closed her eyes, and let the rain fall on her face. He’d been struck by her, fascinated in a way that he couldn’t explain. And since that moment, he’d wanted to see her like that again, wholly unguarded and serene as the rain bathed her skin. She was always going to be his, whether she knew it or not. Tilting her face up, he wanted to kiss away her tears, sip them from the thorn-shaped clusters of her eyelashes, drink them into his soul so he could take her pain away.
-Reed Sterling, The Rogue To Ruin

About Vivienne Lorret

USA Today bestselling author, VIVIENNE LORRET transforms copious amounts of tea into words. She is an Avon author of works including: The Wallflower Wedding Series, The Rakes of Fallow Hall Series, The Season’s Original Series, and the Misadventures in Matchmaking series. For more information on her books, sign up for her newsletter at

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon

Tour Wide Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of THE ROGUE TO RUIN by Vivienne Lorret, we’re giving away one paperback copy of Ten Kisses to Scandal!

GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS:  Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of Ten Kisses to Scandal by Vivienne Lorret. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance.  Giveaway ends 8/31/2019 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copy out to the winner directly.  CLICK HERE TO ENTER!

br />

Quiet And Enduring Love Paves The Way To Everlasting Happiness In "The Outlaw's Heart"

Title:  The Outlaw's Heart
Series:  Runaway Brides #3
Author:  Amy Sandas
Length:  384 pages
Expected Date Of Publication: October 29, 2019
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Casablanca
Rating:  5 Stars

Three runaway brides
Determined to escape their fates
Flee West to find freedom that can only be had
in a cowboy's arms...

Desperate to escape an unhappy marriage, Boston socialite Evelyn Perkins flees west in hopes of losing herself to the dusty frontier. But when her train is boarded by outlaws, Evelyn is taken for ransom. Despite her terror, Evelyn fears being returned to her husband more. Refusing to co-operate, she becomes the responsibility of a man whose steady gaze threatens to pierce her brave façade and reach the wounded heart within.

Gabriel Sloan has his orders, but the haunting shadows in the pretty young woman's eyes spark an intense protective instinct he can't deny. Every look, every touch brings them closer together. He would do anything to protect her, but dangerous men are on their trail, and soon the two must face Evelyn's darkest nightmare―or risk losing the unexpected joy they've found forever... 

Please Enjoy This Excerpt From:
The Gunslinger's Vow
*Runaway Brides #1

After knocking sharply, he lowered his chin, crossed his arms over his chest, and waited. He chose not to analyze why the idea of disturbing her sleep gave him a perverse sort of pleasure.

He was about to knock again, when the lock released and the door opened to reveal a very sleepy— and very undressed—woman blinking at him with wide blue eyes.

“Mr. Kincaid? Is something wrong?”

Wrong? Hellfire and damnation. Malcolm could barely think.

The foolish woman stood there in nothing more than a white towel wrapped around her body from chest to knee. The creamy skin of her limbs and shoulders was entirely exposed, and dark hair fell in heavy waves down her back. She looked soft and feminine and too damned enticing.

Lust swept hot and furious through him. He ground his back teeth hard to stop his body’s instant reaction to the sight of Miss Brighton in such a state.

“What the hell are you doing opening the door like that?” Malcolm growled, glancing down the hall to make sure no one else was about.

Her eyes grew wider as she looked down at herself. A swift blush pinkened her cheeks, and she tried to step back around the edge of the door. “I was in a deep sleep,” she explained. “I forgot I wasn’t dressed.”

“What if it hadn’t been me knocking?” he asked angrily.

It was probably his tone that had her lifting her chin and narrowing her gaze. “Well, it is you, isn’t it? And you still haven’t told me why you have come to bother me in the middle of the night.”

“It’s barely ten o’clock.”

Apparently over her embarrassment, she crossed her arms over her chest in a perfect copy of his own stance and lifted her brows in question. The action plumped the upper swells of her breasts, and Malcolm’s mouth went bone-dry.

Forcing his attention back to her face didn’t seem to help much. Not with her eyes all soft from sleep and those lips looking so damn kissable.

“I’ll take you to Montana,” he said abruptly, trying to shake himself free of the sensual snare he’d walked into.

Her mouth dropped open in surprise. “You will?”

Malcolm was tempted to back out then simply due to the strength of his unbidden desire. He did not want to entertain the idea that his attraction to her was growing stronger rather than fading. But it was the damned truth. The journey was going to be torturous in more ways than one. He had no intention of acting on the lust she inspired, but that didn’t mean he didn’t feel it, and it didn’t mean he’d always be able to hide it.

But he couldn’t in good conscience leave her stranded. Doing so would make him no better than Lassiter, and there was no telling what manner of character she’d end up in the hands of if he wasn’t there to keep her out of trouble.

“We do things my way,” he stated firmly. “No arguing.”

She nodded vigorously. “Of course. Whatever you say, Mr. Kincaid.”

Malcolm narrowed his gaze. Her ready agreement was suspicious, but he’d made his decision. “Malcolm,” he muttered.

Her eyebrows lifted in surprise. Then she smiled, and Malcolm’s gut clenched. The curve of that lower lip was going to be the death of him.

“All right, Malcolm.” She unfolded her arms to extend her hand. “And you may call me Alexandra.”

Malcolm knew he shouldn’t take her hand. Not there in the dark while she stood in nothing but a towel, not when desire ran rampant through his blood at the simple sight of her. But she kept her hand extended and lifted a brow as though in challenge.

He took her hand in his, noting its softness and how easily it became folded up in his larger grip. His bicep tensed with the urge to give a quick and forceful tug so she’d tumble toward him until her breasts flattened against his chest, her thighs bumped his, and her breath spread across his throat. It’d be so easy to take her in his arms and claim her mouth.

But she was innocent and far too trusting—not to mention way the hell out of his class—and Malcolm had never taken anything from a woman that wasn’t freely given. Miss Brighton was not for him.

Oblivious to his train of thought, she gave a surprisingly firm handshake. Her smile never wavered as she declared, “You won’t regret this. I promise.”

Malcom released her hand and stepped back. “Be downstairs by seven o’clock tomorrow.”

“I will. Thank you, Malcolm.”

“And ask who’s at your door before you open the damned thing.”

Malcolm held his position until the door closed and he heard the lock click into place. Then he stalked down the hall to his own room, taking slow breaths to rein in his body’s fierce and unwelcome craving. He’d need to see to his own relief tonight. There was no way he was going to start on the trail with that woman wound as tight as he was.

Not if he hoped to survive the journey.

My Thoughts

Amy Sandas offers readers a tale of innocence lost. And strength, freedom, and a love meant to endure all that would come to test it found. In The Outlaw's Heart. The third offering in her Runaway Brides series. And this reviewer's first encounter with her as an author.

Evelyn's story of abuse and escape was one that proved nothing less than riveting from word one.
But as the story progressed. With her consequent mistaken identity and kidnapping. I was sure that she would be harmed in some way. Or at least find herself back in the hands of her abusive alcoholic of a husband.

That was of course until she and Gabriel met in front of the outlaw campfire.
And he saw her fear, strength, and desperation to simply be free.
Emotions which called to longings within his own soul. Triggering memories of his own captivity, alienation, and quest for autonomy.

Though Evelyn's transition from battered wife, to fugitive, to captive, and finally to love interest happened quite rapidly. The sheer seamlessness of each progression locked in perfect step with like forward momentum in the storyline.
Drawing clear lines in the proverbial sand between the adventurous and romantic aspects of the tale. With none taking precedence over the other.

Speaking of romance. Can we just take a moment to admire the quiet, patient, and beautifully compassionate, leading man that is Gabriel.
As a man ripped away from his family at a young age. Having lived a life marred by scorn, ostricazion, abuse, and fear. To then turn such a quiet and often unspoken understanding toward his leading lady.
Simply phonominal.
In Gabriel's presence, Evelyn knew that she would always find safety.
Whether with in on horseback. In the seclusion of his valley cabin. Or protected by the warmth of the man himself.
Evelyn was never unsure of her value to him as a person, a woman, or a soul.
Seeing these two together was nothing short of a study of symbiosis. With a simple glance or touch conveying more depth of emotion than words could ever dare.
Long before any physical advances toward carnality were even a thought.
Theirs is a romance that is more of a joining of souls. A joining so profound that the joining of bodies; no matter how wondrous, pales in comparison.

This is a beautiful testament to the healing and fortifying power of true love. And what the gift of storytelling can bring to life. When exercised by an author talented enough to wield it.

Reviewer's Note: This is the third volume in a related series. It may be read as a standalone. Although it is strongly suggested that it be read as part of its intended collection.
I would like to thank Sourcebooks Casablanca and Netgally for the opportunity to review this book.

About Amy
Amy Sandas’ love of romance began one summer when she stumbled across one of her mother’s Barbara Cartland books. Her affinity for writing began with sappy pre-teen poems and led to a Bachelor’s degree with an emphasis on Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She lives with her husband and children in Wisconsin.

Website * Goodreads * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest

Buy The Book Here!

Secrets, Losses, And Undying Loves Spell Big Wins For Romance In "Marry In Secret"

Title: Marry In Secret
Series: Marriage Of Convenience #3
Author: Anne Gracie
Length:  323 pages
Date Of Publication July 30, 2019
Publisher:  Berkeley Romance
Rating:  5 Stars

A rugged and ruined naval officer comes to claim his bride in an unforgettable tale of love, revenge and redemption from the national bestselling author of Marry ein Scandal.

Lady Rose Rutherford—rebel, heiress, and exasperated target of the town's hungry bachelors—has a plan to gain the freedom she so desperately desires: she will enter into a marriage of convenience with the biggest prize on the London marriage mart.

There's just one problem: the fierce-looking man who crashes her wedding to the Duke of Everingham — Thomas Beresford, the young naval officer she fell in love with and secretly married when she was still a schoolgirl. Thought to have died four years ago he's returned, a cold, hard stranger with one driving purpose—revenge.

Embittered by betrayal and hungry for vengeance, Thomas will stop at nothing to reclaim his rightful place, even if that means using Rose—and her fortune—to do it. But Rose never did follow the rules, and as she takes matters into her own unpredictable hands, Thomas finds himself in an unexpected and infuriating predicament: he's falling in love with his wife.... 

Please enjoy this excerpt from
Marry In Secret 

Chapter One

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.”
           —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Lady Rose Rutherford was not a young lady who dithered and, having made up her mind, she generally stuck to it. It was, she had decided, high time she moved on.

She was not generally superstitious either. But after refusing twelve offers of marriage, the thirteenth . . . well, it was bound to make a girl think. Especially since it came from a duke.

Even if it was the most careless, most dispassionate offer of marriage that a girl could ever receive. “Oh, and by the way, if you want to put an end to all this nonsense . . .”

The truth was, she did.

Now it was the eve of her wedding and she’d planned a quiet night in, a nursery supper with just her sister and her niece—who was more like a sister, really—toasting bread and crumpets before the fire. But instead of a cozy, quietly intimate sisterly celebration, it was turning into an argument.

“It’s a civilized arrangement,” Rose said.

“No, it’s a mistake,” her sister, Lily, insisted.

“I can’t imagine why anyone would want to marry him,” Rose’s niece Lady Georgiana Rutherford said. “He’s rude, he’s arrogant and he doesn’t care two pins for anyone. Why would you imagine he could make you happy?” She peered at the slightly scorched crumpet on her toasting fork, then, deciding it would do, reached for the butter dish. Behind her a large hound watched mournfully, doing his best imitation of a Dog Who Hadn’t Been Fed in Weeks.

Rose threaded bread onto her toasting fork. “Nobody can make another person happy, George. The recipe for happiness lies within each of us and is unique every time.” And if she told herself that often enough, she might even believe it.

George snorted. “That’s as may be, but people can make other people unhappy—and he will, I’m sure of it.” Ever the cynic when it came to marriage, George had been betrayed by every man she’d ever known until her uncle, Cal, Rose’s brother, found her and brought her into the family fold—the family she’d never known she had.

Lily laid a hand on Rose’s arm. “Are you sureabout this, Rose? Because it’s not too late to back out.”

Rose’s expression softened. Her sister was such a dear, but really, there was no backing out at this stage. “No, Lily darling, I’m not going to back out. The contracts are signed, the banns have been called, the church is booked, my dress is finished, the guests invited. Discussion over.”

“But you barely know him.”

“And you hardly knew Ned Galbraith when you married him, and look how happy you are—not that I’m planning to fall in love,” she added hastily. “I leave that sort of thing to you, little sister.”


“The point is, I need to marry someone and the duke is more than eligible—the match of the year, they’re calling it.” She needed to marry and get the waiting, the endless, fruitless waiting, over and done with. To start her life instead of . . . dreaming.

“Why do you even need to marry? In five years’ time you’ll be in full control of your fortune and you can do what you like.” It was George’s plan, they all knew.

“She wants children,” Lily reminded her. She spread her toast with strawberry jam, cut it into four careful triangles and topped each one with a lavish dollop of cream.

Rose nodded. “I do, but it’s more than that. Five more years of waiting, George? I’d go mad. I can’t bear this life, where nothing interesting ever happens and everything I do is reported and monitored and judged. As a young unmarried miss, I am, oh”—she flung up her hands—“‘cabin’d, crib’d, confin’d.’ But as a dashing young matron I’ll be my own mistress.”

George shook her head and made a thumbs-down screwing motion. Under the thumb.

“Yes, but why the duke, Rose?” Lily persisted. “You don’t love him, and he doesn’t love you. I know you’ve turned twenty, but you still have plenty of time to find the right man and fall in l—”

“But I don’t want to fall in love, Lily dear,” Rose said gently. “Neither he nor I have any interest in that kind of marriage.” It was the very reason she’d accepted his offer.

“Enact me no emotional scenes” was how he’d put it, and wasn’t that a relief, when the others who’d proposed had vowed their undying love and devotion—and expected the same of her? Or said they did.

How dreadful it would be to marry a man who loved her, knowing that with the best will in the world, she could never return that love. She’d never been good at lying. She’d probably end up hurting such a man, and she didn’t want to hurt anyone.

The duke, on the other hand, had been very clear—quite adamant, in fact—that he didn’t love her, and that he wasn’t looking for love—quite the contrary. What he wanted, he told her, was a courteous, unemotional, rational arrangement. And children. An heir, in particular.

Rose had decided she could live with that, and so she’d accepted.

So what if the rest of the world thought her calculating, cold-blooded and ambitious. She knew who she was. A marriage was made between two people, and if she and the duke were content with—actually preferred—a lukewarm pragmatic arrangement, it was nobody’s business but theirs.

“But you don’t know what you’re missing,” Lily began. “Love is—”

“Not for me,” Rose said firmly. She knew exactly what she was missing. And was grateful for it.

“But you’ve never been in love, so how can you—”

“Drop it, Lily,” George interrupted. “If she doesn’t want to fall in love, she doesn’t. You don’t go on about love to me all the time. Why badger Rose about it?”

“I’m not badgering her,” Lily said indignantly. “Besides, you and Rose are different.”

“I know—you wouldn’t catch me putting my fortune and my future into the hands of a man I barely know and don’t much like. Or any man, for that matter.”

“On the contrary, I’ll be virtually independent. Cal has arranged the marriage contract and the settlements are very generous. And Aunt Agatha is over the moon.”

George snorted. “Call that a recommendation? Aunt Agatha would happily marry you to a . . . a cannibal, as long as he was rich and titled.”

Rose couldn’t help but laugh. It was pretty close to the mark. “Nonsense. A cannibal would never meet Aunt Agatha’s lofty standards of behavior. His table manners would be lacking, for a start.”

“As long as he had a title and a fat purse, she’d forgive his peculiar eating habits,” George said darkly.

“It’s not badgering,” Lily persisted. “When we were schoolgirls, Rose and I both dreamed of falling in love—we used to talk about it all the time, remember, Rose?”

Trust her little sister. Lily might not be able to read books, but she could read people, especially her sister.

But Lily didn’t know everything.

“Yes, well, that was a long time ago. A lot has changed since then. I’m not soft and sweet, like you. I don’t want the hearts and flowers. I just want to be married and get on with my life.”

“You know he won’t be faithful,” George said into the silence.

Rose dusted crumbs off her fingers.

“You don’t mind?” Lily said incredulously.

“It’s the price of freedom.”

“Freedom?” George echoed. “To be under a man’s thumb?”

“I won’t be under his thumb,” Rose said. “We have an agreement. I’m to give him an heir, and he will give me the freedom to do what I like, as long as I’m discreet.” Not that she had any intention of breaking her marriage vows. She took her vows seriously.

“That’s horrid,” Lily said, dismayed. “I can’t believe you’re being so . . . so cynical, Rose.”

“Cold-blooded,” George said.

“Practical,” Rose corrected her. “I used to want too much out of life. I’m more mature now.”

“Oh, but you should want more,” Lily exclaimed in distress. “I never believed I could have even half of what I dreamed of, and then I met Edward. You never know what—or who—is around the corner.”

Rose loved that her sister was so happy, but she knew it was not for her. She leaned forward and took Lily and George by the hand. “Please, my dears, let us drop the subject. I know this marriage is not what you hoped for me, but you’ll just have to accept that I’m a cold-blooded creature who will marry a man she doesn’t love for the sake of freedom, a beautiful home, and a very generous allowance. And babies.” She ached for a child of her own, and seeing her sister-in-law, Emm, so rounded and glowing, her child growing within her . . .

Lily shook her head. “You can’t have changed that much, I don’t believe it. I don’t understand why you’re doing this thing, and I wish you wouldn’t, but if it’s what you want—what you really truly want, I’ll say no more.”

Rose gave her sister a one-armed hug. “Don’t worry about me, little sister. I’m going to be just fine.” Dear Lily, so newly married and so deeply, joyfully in love. Of course Lily wanted the same for her sister.

But falling in love was the very last thing Rose wanted. She couldn’t explain why to Lily and George—or anyone else. Not without stirring up . . . things better left untouched.

Love was simply too painful.

* * * * *

Rose paused at the church door. Lily and George fluttered around her, straightening the circlet of flowers in her hair, arranging the lace train of her dress. Rose stood, lively as a statue, and about as warm. “Now, don’t be nervous,” Aunt Dottie had said a few moments before. “It will all work out perfectly, trust me, my love. I have one of my feelings.”

But Rose wasn’t the slightest bit nervous. It all felt strangely distant, as if it were happening to some other girl. She moistened her lips and waited.

George poked her head around the door, glanced in and pulled a face. “He’s there.”

“Well, of course he’s there,” Lily said crossly. Poor Lily. She’d been in a brittle mood all morning, trying to put a good face on a wedding she still had grave doubts about. Lily wasn’t very good at hiding her feelings.

What if the duke hadn’t come? He was notoriously unreliable about keeping engagements. What if he’d jilted her at the altar? Rose considered it briefly and decided that it would be embarrassing . . . and possibly something of a relief.

Nonsense. She needed to do this, needed to draw a line in the sand between her old life and her new. Cut the bonds of the old, and move on.

The church was full—Rose’s friends and relations come to see her married, the duke’s too, of course, and quite a few other members of the ton come to witness what some were calling the wedding of the season. Strangers had gathered in the street outside to watch and wait, in hope of some largesse in the form of a shower of coins from the happy groom.

It didn’t feel real.

“Ready?” her brother Cal asked. She nodded and took his arm.

Now. She took a deep breath and stepped inside the church and stood blinking as her eyes adjusted to the dim light of the interior. A hush fell, followed by a susurration of whispers and rustling silk as the congregation turned as one to look at the bride.

The church smelled of flowers, spring flowers, and beeswax, brass polish and perfumes, a hundred clashing perfumes.

At the end of the aisle, in the dappled light of a stained-glass window, stood her future husband, the Duke of Everingham, looking bored. He’d removed his gray kid gloves and was slapping them in his palm. Bored and impatient.

At least he’d turned up.

The organ played a chord that swelled to a crescendo, then died, and then the music started and she was walking, walking like an automaton, toward the altar, toward her fate.

She felt everyone’s eyes on her. She’d hardly slept. Did it show? Did she care if it did?

The duke stepped forward. Cal waited, his arm steady beneath her hand, ready to hand her over—like a parcel, like a possession, George had muttered once at another wedding they’d attended.

Rose glanced up and met the duke’s gaze. Dark eyes, gray-green, and cold as the winter sea. Perfectly good eyes, but the wrong color. The wrong eyes.

She regarded them bleakly. Time healed all wounds. Or so they said.

The bishop, resplendent in his robes of gold and purple, cleared his throat and they turned to face him. For the marriage of a duke and the daughter of an earl, their usual minister wouldn’t do, it seemed. Aunt Agatha’s doing, no doubt.

Rose hoped he wasn’t the kind of bishop who would give some long dreary sermon. She wanted this wedding over. Over and done with. No going back.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here . . .”

The familiar words washed over her. She was calm, quite calm. Coldly, perfectly calm. Not like last time.

The bishop continued, speaking in those melodic rises and falls peculiar to ministers. Did they teach them that singsong cadence at minister school? “. . . not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites . . . but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly . . .”

She shivered. Lord, but this church was cold.

“. . . for the procreation of children . . .”

Children. Yes, think of that. Imagine swelling like Emm, round and glowing with joy in the child she was carrying. Not long for Emm now. Would it be a boy or a girl?

“Therefore if any man can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak or else hereafter forever hold his peace.”

Her fingers were freezing. She should have worn kid gloves instead of these lace ones.

The bishop paused for a perfunctory breath, then continued, “I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that—”

“Stop the wedding!”

There was an audible gasp from the congregation, followed by a hush, as everyone waited to hear what would happen next. Rose’s heart jolted—feeling as though it stopped. Heart in her mouth, she turned to stare at the man who’d just entered.

After a long, frozen moment, she breathed again. For a moment she’d imagined—but no. She’d never seen this man before.

The church door banged shut behind him, the sound echoing through the silent church.

“What the devil?” Cal muttered.

Rose fought to gather her composure, shaken by the brief flash of—whatever it was.

The stranger stood in stark contrast to the smoothly groomed and elegant congregation. He was tall and gaunt-looking, but his shoulders were broad—a laborer’s shoulders. His clothes were ill-fitting, coarse, the trousers ragged and patched in places. He wore no coat. His shirt was too flimsy for the season and his shoes were of laced canvas, dirty and with visible holes.

If he knew he was grossly out of place in this, the most fashionable church in London, interrupting the most fashionable wedding of the season, he showed no sign, no self-consciousness.

He was heavily bearded. Thick hair rioted past his shoulders, wild and sun-bleached. The face above the beard—what she could see of it—was lean and deeply tanned, the skin stretched tight over prominent cheekbones. His nose appeared to have been broken at least once. The tattered shirt sleeves revealed tanned, powerful-looking muscles.

No, she’d imagined that fleeting resemblance. But who was he? And what was he trying to do?

“Is this a joke?” the duke demanded of his best man.

“Lord, no, Hart—of course not. Nothing to do with me.”

“Rose?” Cal asked.

Her heart was still pounding. She stared at the big ruffian who stood in the center of the aisle, shabby and confident, as if commanding it. He met her gaze with an assurance that shook her.

For a moment she wondered . . . But no. He was too brutal-looking, too rough, too wild.

“Rose?” Cal repeated.

She shook her head. “No idea.”

The bishop surged forward. “Ho there, fellow, by what right do you seek to disrupt God’s work?”

“By the right of law,” the stranger replied coolly. “Lady Rose is already married.”

A low, excited murmur of speculation followed his announcement.

Rose’s heart almost stopped. He couldn’t possibly know.

“Throw the dirty beggar out!” Aunt Agatha shook her stick at him.

“Rose?” Cal glanced at her, and despite the racing of her heart and the knotting of her stomach, again she shook her head. She did not know this man. How many times had she imagined—but no. No! It was some cruel, tasteless joke.

Cal snorted and raised his voice. “Is she now? And who is my sister married to, pray tell?”

A hush fell as everyone waited for his response.

“To me.” His voice was deep, a little rough. Faintly surprised by the question.

There was a universal gasp, then a babble of amused and outraged speculation. Several people laughed. There were a couple of catcalls.

“That’s a lie!” Dry-mouthed, breathless and suddenly furious, Rose moved forward.

“Stay here, Rose.” Cal caught her arm and thrust her toward the duke. “Look after her, Everingham. I’ll get rid of this madman. Galbraith?” Rose’s brother-in-law, Ned Galbraith, nodded, and the two men approached the rough-looking stranger.

“Back off, gentlemen,” the stranger warned with chilling menace. “I’m neither madman nor beggar. Lady Rose is indeed my wife.” His bearing was in stark contrast to his ragged appearance. And he spoke with the crisp diction of a gentleman.

Cal frowned and glanced at Galbraith.

“What rubbish! Who the devil do you think you are, coming here to disrupt my wedding?” Furious at the sight of her brother’s hesitation, shaken by the tall beggar’s confidence and the cruelty of his lies, Rose shook off the duke’s grip and marched forward. The duke tried to draw her back, but she evaded him and half ran, half stumbled up the aisle, almost tripping over her train. She pushed in between her brother and brother-in-law, ready to confront the big weather-beaten stranger who was trying to ruin her wedding.

“What nonsense is this?” she snapped. “I’ve never seen you before in—”

White teeth glinted through the beard. “Ahh, that temper of yours, Rosie.”

She froze. This man with the spare, rangy frame, the powerful shoulders, the crooked nose, and the wild sun-bleached hair, he wasn’t . . . He couldn’t be . . . He was nothing like . . .

She opened her mouth to repudiate him again—and met his gaze. Eyes of the palest silvery blue. She faltered. And in her memory the echo of her much younger self saying, Like a summer sky at twilight.

“Thomas?” she whispered, and fainted dead away.

My Thoughts

Lady Rose Rutherford has never been one keen on setting her sights on winning big in the "dog eat dog" world that is the English aristocracy's marriage market.
But with both her sister, Rose, and her brother, the esteemed Earl of Ashendon, ensconced in wedded and familial bliss.
And her battle axe of an aunt, one Lady Agatha Salter. Resident family matriarch and "grande dame" of the ton, declaring that she is to marry a duke.
Marry a duke she must.
Or so it seems...

But it also seems that fate and a secret marriage of some four years before, are about to foil even Aunt Agatha's best laid plans.
You heard right.
Rose was married before, and is in fact still married to...
Wait for it...
Commander Thomas Beresford, late of His Majesty's Royal Navy.
And quite miraculously having survived his ship going down at sea. The loss of all but five crewmen. Years spent as a slave. And the loss of fortune, home, and country. All to claw his way back from the Barbary Coast. Just in time to stop his wife pledging herself to another man.

It appears that our dear Rose just may have "a lot of explaining to do."
After she wakes up from her dead faint in the middle of the church first.
Readers pick their entire faces up off of their respective floors.
Of course.
And this is just the tip of the revelational iceberg that is Marry In Secret.

Author, Anne Gracie, wastes no time when spinning stories capable of compelling audiences to read on from word one until the last page. With Rose's story being no exception.
With both Rose and her Thomas proving again and again that both they and their love are causes worth fighting for.
Whether that fight be with society, Rose's family, or even themselves.
The most profound of those afore mentioned revelations though...
Thomas's time as a slave, and how it changed him as a man born of privilege.
Giving him the heartfelt sincerity with which he now approaches life, people, and Rose.
Add to this the heart-wrenching secret that Rose has carried from their their shared past.
And the emotional impact of this story is phenomenal.
But the hits just keep coming.
This time, in the form of a diabolical plot. By an unseen foe. Bent on destroying Thomas by any means necessary.
Because fate and Rose's long lost husband seem to have other ideas.
And so much more!
Ready to see if love truly conquers all?
And read what can only be described as a prime example of stellar romantic story craft.
Then run...don't bother walking to your e-reader, bookstore, library, or Kindle and get your copy of Marry In Secret today.
You will be so glad you did.

Reviewers Note: though this book may be read as a stand-alone. It is highly suggested that it be read as part of its interrelated series.
I would like to thank Berkley Publishing and Netgalley for providing me with the ERC on which my unbiased review was based. 

About Anne
I've always loved stories. Family legend has it that I used to spend hours playing in the sand pit, with a dog on either side of me and Rocka the horse leaning over me, his head just touching my shoulder, while I told them stories. I have to say, dogs and horses are great audiences, apart from their tendency to drool occasionally. But people are even nicer.

In case you imagine we were a filthy rich horse-owning family, let me assure you we weren't. The horse period was a time when my parents entered a "let's-be-self-sufficient" phase, so we had a horse, but no electricity and all our water came from the rain tank.

As well as the horse and dogs, we had 2 cows (Buttercup and Daisy and one of them always had a calf), a sheep (Woolly,) goats (Billy and Nanny) dozens of ducks, chooks, and a couple of geese, a pet bluetongue lizard and a huge vegie patch. I don't know how my mother managed, really, because both she and Dad taught full time, but she came home and cooked on a wood stove and did all the laundry by hand, boiling the clothes and sheets in a big copper kettle. Somehow, we were always warm, clean, well fed and happy. She's pretty amazing, my mum.

Once I learned to read, I spent my days outside playing with the animals (I include my brother and 2 sisters here) and when inside I read. For most of my childhood we didn't have TV, so books have always been a big part of my life. Luckily our house was always full of them. Travel was also a big part of my childhood. My parents had itchy feet. We spent a lot of time driving from one part of Australia to another, visiting relatives or friends or simply to see what was there. I've lived in Scotland, Malaysia and Greece. We travelled through Europe in a caravan and I'd swum most of the famous rivers in Europe by the time I was eight.

This is me and my classmates in Scotland. I am in the second front row, in the middle, to the right of the girl in the dark tunic.

Sounds like I was raised by gypsies, doesn't it? I was even almost born in a tent --Mum, Dad and 3 children were camping and one day mum left the tent and went to hospital to have me. But in fact we are a family of chalkies (Australian slang for teachers)- and Dad was a school principal during most of my life. And I am an expert in being "the new girl" having been to 6 different schools in 12 years.The last 4 years, however, were in the same high school and I still have my 2 best friends from that time.

No matter where I lived, I read. I devoured whatever I could get my hands on -- old Enid Blyton and Mary Grant Bruce books, old schoolboys annuals. I learned history by reading Rosemary Sutcliffe, Henry Treece and Georgette Heyer. I loved animal books -- Elyne Mitchell's Silver Brumby books and Mary Patchett and Finn the Wolf Hound. And then I read Jane Austen and Dickens and Mary Stewart and Richard Llewellyn and Virginia Woolf and EF Benson and Dick Francis and David Malouf and Patrick White and Doris Lessing and PD James and...the list is never ending.

This is me posing shamelessly on a glacier in New Zealand.
This is me in Greece with my good friend Fay in our village outfits. The film went a funny colour, but you get the idea. I'm the one in the pink apron.

I escaped from my parents, settled down and went to university.To my amazement I became a chalkie myself and found a lot of pleasure in working with teenagers and later, adults. I taught English and worked as a counsellor and helped put on plays and concerts and supervised camps and encouraged other people to write but never did much myself. It took a year of backpacking around the world to find that my early desire to write hadn't left me, it had just got buried under a busy and demanding job.

I wrote my first novel on notebooks bought in Quebec, Spain, Greece and Indonesia. That story never made it out of the notebooks, but I'd been bitten by the writing bug.
See Her Socially:  Web / Twitter / Goodreads /

Buy The Book Here!