DREAM CRATE – LootCrate

download (1)

About a month or so ago I learned about a fan-related project being run by Loot Crate. If you haven’t heard about LootCrate, it’s a monthly subscription box. Similar to other subscriptions offered through various sites, it’s based around a theme and filled with various fandom items particular to that theme. Here’s a list of their past boxes and the items. As you can see it varies from crate to crate what kinds of items you’ll receive. What’s also great about LootCrate is that there are a variety of crates to choose from, whether you like gaming, anime, things for your pets, or just a crate filled with items to wear. The variety I think is one of the awesome things about LootCrate since it pretty much has something for everyone. So anyways, Loot Crate has been reaching out to various fans to put together their very own “dream crate,” which would have a particular theme, items, etc., and I have to say I was definitely intrigued. It wasn’t until this past week though when I read If We Were Villains that I was really inspired on what my Dream Crate theme would be!

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

download.jpg

Like I mentioned, I was really inspired by one of my recent reads, If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. I loved the book and I thought it would be a great addition to a subscription fandom box about William Shakespeare. And since I actually enjoy Shakespeare’s works myself, I thought that this would make for a really interesting “Dream Crate”!! Researching for this crate got to be a little overwhelming because there were just SO MANY things I really wanted to include. I wanted some staple pieces (necklace, candle, etc) but I also wanted to include some interesting pieces that you might not usually find in your average book subscription box. It was really hard to narrow it down, but if I were in charge of crafting the make-up for this crate, this is what I would include:

  1. TWO Books: The first book has to be A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare – This is one of my favorites by Shakespeare and I’ve re-read it over the years. I just love the tongue-in-cheek humor and the two sets of lovers who get all turned around by the fairy’s spells. The second book in this crate would be a recent read for me, If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio – I read this book during March and just loved it. I thought it incorporated Shakespeare so well into the story and it was dark and mysterious and just a great read.
  2. An “A-Z SHakespeare” T-shirt from Woot.com I saw this on Woot one day and thought it was such a cute piece and the little characters on the shirt are so funny.Tshirt
  3. A Romeo and Juliet inspired necklace by LiteraryGiftsUK This piece is just gorgeous and I love that it comes with such a long chain. And the quote is touching.il_570xN.1073964411_fh0k
  4. This funky bracelet with a Macbeth quote made by WickedWordsmithCo I love the shape of this bracelet and the quote on it, this is such an interesting piece. And since Macbeth was so prevalent in the If We Were Villains novel, I thought this piece would pair great with the book as well. il_570xN.819912967_tojc
  5. A light-weight summer scarf with Romeo & Juliet quotes on it from Storiarts I have a different scarf from this company and I love the quality of their products. And I think the summer scarf is really stylish with the ribbon bow. rj_summer_01_580x@2x
  6. This “fandom” candle for A Midsummer Night’s Dream created by PretAGeek –  I love how many new candle places are popping up on the internet that sell candle scents inspired by books. This candle sounds like it would be great, and I’d be interested to see how it would evoke different thoughts on the play it was inspired by. il_570xN.1129020309_ihax
  7. This cat-Shakespeare mug from CatapostropheShop I know this is probably super dorky but I thought this mug was hilarious and adorable. I just wish it came in a different size since I like soup-bowl mugs to fit extra coffee!! il_570xN.1024369029_9alg
  8. And last but not least! I saw these thank you notes by ArteOfTheBooke and I thought they were really nice. I’ve been kind of collecting different designs of thank you cards lately and I thought these would be great and give the person being thanked a bit of a laugh. il_570xN.645749986_or7h

So! That is my DREAM CRATE, inspired by a recent read. Thank you to LootCrate for reaching out to me with this opportunity, I had a lot of fun finding different pieces for my Dream Crate!

2017 Monthly Status Update: March

update-1672346_960_720

Monthly Stats:
# books read this month: 15
# pages read this month: 2,722
# books read year-to-date: 28
# pages read year-to-date: 7,156

Favorite Books I Read:

51jEpw+Dl0L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio – 4.5 stars

Other Posts this month:

Last Night with the Duke BLOG TOUR!!
The Enemies of Versailles BLOG TOUR!!
Wine and Cocktails – New Releases!

Status of 2017 Reading Challenges:

  1. Finish 2016 ARC’s from NetGalley that I missed – I got a chance to read one this month, so one down! Only 27 to go
  2. Participate in 2 reading challenges – Scheduled for May and August
  3. Other goals:
    1. Write shorter reviews – I’m trying! I think this past month I was able to get out a few shorter ones
    2. Continue establishing relationships – I think I’m doing it, we’ll see how it goes I guess!

Next Month TBR List:

-Windswept by Sabrina Jeffries (part-way through now)
-My One True Highlander by Suzanne Enoch
-I Sared the Duke by Anna Bennett
-The Lady and the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall
-Geekerella by Ashley Poston
-Hannah’s Moon by John A. Heldt
-The Young Widower’s Handbook by Tom McAllister
-Running With Scissors by Auguston Borroghs
-Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse
-The Whole Art of Detection by Lyndsay Faye
-The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo
-Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens
-Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach
-The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

That’s the general reading plan. Fortunately, tax/busy season will be ending for me in less than 3 weeks (only 16 more workdays!!!!!!) and then I have about a week and a half off where I will be spending a lot of time reading. So I am hoping to read everything in the list above and maybe catch up on a few other ones I missed in March as well!! Plus my husband and I are taking a couple trips that I’m really looking forward to, including a new quilting retreat in Ogunquit, ME! So stay tuned for some serious reading in April!

2017 Book #26 – If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

51jEpw+Dl0L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Title: If We Were Villains
Author: M.L. Rio
Date finished: 3/26/17
Genre: Fiction, suspense
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Pages in book: 354
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE:I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.
As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.
Intelligent, thrilling, and richly detailed, If We Were Villains is a captivating story of the enduring power and passion of words.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of a group of fourth year theater students attending Dellecher Classical Conservatory, an elite college for the arts that has a slightly unorthodox approach to advancement. Each year only certain students are allowed to advance to the next year’s level, which for this particular story resulted in a group of 7 unusually close senior year theater students. In this particular group, the line between friend and enemy is continually blurred and tensions reach new heights. The story is narrated by one of these seven students, Oliver Marks, who when we first meet him is at the end of his 10 year prison sentence. We meet him as he begins to tell the story of what actually happened a decade ago to Detective Colborne, his arresting officer. Colborne has been haunted by this case the past ten years because he never believed that Oliver was actually the killer. And as the story of that year unfolds, there are many layers to be peeled back before the truth can be uncovered. There are heroes and damsels, tragedy and comedy, lovers and friends. And in the end, there is more than one villain.
Overall I really liked this book a lot. I thought it was so different and so interesting. As the theater student’s curriculum centers mostly around Shakespeare, there were many different passages from his various works woven into the story line and the conversations, and I just loved it. You could feel how young the group of them were, even though they were dealing with such intense adult problems. And Oliver was perhaps the most innocent of them all, and seeing the story through his eyes added that extra layer of naivete. After the murder Oliver and his remaining friends fall to pieces, each of them dealing with their own feelings of guilt and responsibility in different ways. Centered within Oliver’s story is his best friend, James, and his love interest, Meredith. The roles here even are oftentimes blurred, as Oliver’s feelings for James are not so easily categorized into the label of “friends.” That was one of the things I loved most about this book was how well it portrayed that love and hate are on the same spectrum of emotion, and if you feel one it is very easily turned to the other side of the spectrum when a person is pushed to their limit. I also thought the character development in this novel was really well done, I could feel everything that Oliver felt with such strength that I felt sucked into the story itself. The story was heart-warming and heart-breaking all in one and while I was a little surprised at the ending I really just enjoyed this book so much. I would most definitely recommend and I can’t wait to see more from this author in the future!

img_1200

This is the coat of arms for Dellecher Classical Conservatory mentioned in the novel. I found this picture on the author’s website and thought it was a neat addition!!

The bottom line: I really liked this book a lot. I loved that quotes from Shakespeare’s plays were interwoven so skillfully throughout the text and I loved the strength of emotions portrayed by all the characters in the book.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

Wine and Cocktails – New Releases!

So I have some wine and cocktail books that I was approved to review through NetGalley recently. I don’t really count these as “books read” since when I read a collections of information like this, I don’t necessarily read every single page. But I thought I would still share these books with you guys in case something snags your interest!

The Periodic Table of Cocktails by Emma Stokes – 4.75 stars

41VZ4n1CyBL._SY346_I really enjoyed this book a lot, I actually added it to my Amazon wishlist to purchase in the near future! This was a really creative way to present groups of cocktails with similar characteristics. There was a great chapter on martinis that I learned a lot from. There’s too much information in this book to really retain everything long-term but this would make a great reference book for cocktails, both classic and modern recipes. I loved too that there was so much information included on the background/history of the cocktail and how it originated. This book gave me some great ideas on new cocktails to make and I can’t wait to try them!

The Periodic Table of Wine by Sarah Rowlands – 4.0 stars

41Cpv3xCVALThis was a good book about a lot of different kinds of wine, and it includes a great general description of flavor characteristics and different wine-making styles of grapes and regions. Again, this isn’t something that you can retain all the information but it is a great reference text for types of wines. I also really liked that the grapes were grouped into similar categories and each wine gave recommendations for other wines to try if you liked that wine, making it easy to find a new wine that you might like!

Rose All Day by Katherine Cole – 3.5 stars

414mPAa8SRL._SY346_This book had a great amount of history included as to how Rose as a wine came about and also how it became popular, there was much more history there than I ever realized. I also didn’t realize there was quite so many variations of Rose from the different regions of the world. This is, again, not something that you can retain all the information from but is a great reference text for a Rose lover.

The Enemies of Versailles BLOG TOUR!!

S. Christie Banner

The Enemies of Versailles will be released this Tuesday (March 21st) and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! If you haven’t already seen it, you can find my review of the book here. See below for more information about the book, an excerpt, a short author bio, and author Q&A! This was a really good read and a great conclusion to the series, I would definitely recommend checking it out! 

SUMMARY

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.
“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute is quite another kettle of fish.”
After decades of suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.
Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches irrevocable change.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

4957310Sally Christie was born in England of British parents and grew up around the world, attending eight schools in three languages. She has spent most of her career working in international development and is currently settled in Toronto. A life-long history buff who wishes time travel were a real possibility—she’d be off to the eighteenth century in a flash!—The Enemies of Versailles is her third novel. Learn more about Sally and the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy at www.sallychristieauthor.com

 

AUTHOR Q&A

What about the topic of the mistresses of King Louis XV captured your attention? What made you want to write about this?

I was initially drawn to the incredible tale of the five Nesle sisters, four of whom became his first mistresses. I was amazed that their story was virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, and I remembered being so excited that I had found it and that I would be the one to tell it!

I was initially only focused on the sisters, but when I discovered that his more famous mistresses – the Marquise de Pompadour and the Comtesse du Barry – also hadn’t been the subject of any English fiction, the trilogy was born.

Which mistress was your favorite? Or alternatively which character in the books was your favorite?

Hmmmm…. A hard question! I really loved all my characters – each of the five Nesle sisters has a place in my heart and I adored Jeanne du Barry – I think she was perhaps overall the kindest, most genuine woman. Pompadour was a little trickier, because she is (and was) such an enigma – she was the perfect woman that became exactly who the king wanted her to be, and trying to discover her real persona and her real motivations was fascinating.

There is a soft spot in my heart for Madame Adelaide, Louis XV’s eldest surviving daughter and the nemesis of Jeanne du Barry in The Enemies of Versailles. It was really interesting researching about the daily lives of her and her sisters, and all of the constraints and boundaries around them as unmarried royal princesses in the stultifying world of Versailles.  She became a figure of fun in her later years, and in my book I do lampoon her a bit – it’s easy to make fun of fusty old spinsters and I certainly fell into that trap. In reality I think she was an intelligent woman who no doubt suffered quite a bit in her life, both before and after the Revolution.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author and did you have another profession before this?

I’ve been writing since I was 8 years old and writing has been my constant companion and hobby throughout the years. Even though I wasn’t published, I always considered myself a writer (because that’s what I did!), and when a change in my circumstances a few years ago left me with some space and time to write full-time, I thought: “Okay, let’s test this assumption that you are a writer.” Luckily everything worked out and I did become a writer!

Between graduating from university and writing the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, I worked at a whack of other jobs, including financial services, headhunting and international development, and also got an MBA. I like having had lots of varied, real-world experiences before writing full-time; I definitely think it helps in terms of character development and motivations.

I also found working in different cultures overseas helped with writing history: in different societies you get to experience remnants of the past, for example more overt sexism than what we might deal with today in North America, or attitudes about poverty or handicapped people that might mimic some of what existed in the 18th century.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

The best piece of advice I read when I was dedicating myself to writing full time was: “Write the book you’d want to read.” And I did, and I loved the book I was writing (at that time my first book, The Sisters of Versailles) and it helped me to keep the faith during the nerve-wracking querying and selling process – if I liked it, surely someone else would too!

EXCERPT

5154lvfkqgl-_sx320_bo1204203200_“I am in the arms of an angel,” he declared, over and again. “What kind of angel are you?” he asked me, then answered himself: “A saucy, dirty, lovely, kind angel. But an angel, my dearest: never have I awoken to such delights.”

I savor his words and the memories, trying to catch every little detail before they disappear. That look of delight when I showed him the way; how he turned from a jaded old man into one filled with tenderness and energy; his doting words (I have been waiting for you all my life); the feel of his skin; the smell of verbena on the pillows; the softness of the down mattress; and his childish delight in all that I offered him.

“I have been wandering in the desert for four years,” he murmured. “Not forty, as Moses did, but four years is a long enough time. Now I have found you.”

I stayed two days and two nights nestled in a room under the eaves of the palace. Then Louis—as he says I must call him—had to prepare for the imminent death of the queen, and I was sent here to this discreet little house in town, just steps from the palace.

Barry joins me, flustered and nervous. He promised me—the king, I mean, not Barry—that he would send for me soon. “As soon as I can, my angel,” he said, holding me tighter than any man has ever held me. And now I sit, and wait, and remember. The house is small, but clean and smartly furnished. I wander through the rooms and look at the naked nymphs painted on the salon walls, smile in recognition at a gilded chair with straps, now sitting in an empty bedchamber. It is so quiet here, after all the noise and bustle of Paris—almost like being in the countryside.

I sigh in contentment. The King of France said he loved me! Me.

“He is so kind and has the nicest eyes and his voice is so soft and deep, as soft as . . . as . . . a cushion.” My eyes fasten on the sofa, then on the delicate tortoiseshell box that arrived that morning, containing a beautiful pearl necklace. “And, oh,” I continue, jumping up onto a chair and sticking my tongue out at Barry:

“Did I mention he is the king? The King of France?” Barry puffs his cheeks and watches me silently. He’s worried; it’s been three days now, and apart from the necklace, no word from the palace.

“Three days,” he says sharply. “Three days—you’re a fool to be dancing around like you own him. He’s forgotten you already.”

“Oh, la, shut up!” I cry, jumping down and going over to ruffle his hair. “The king loves me. Loves me,” I repeat. “Don’t be worried. Now,” I say, leaning down to peck Barry on the cheek, “instead of worrying, you should be planning which government post you want! Or would you like another five supply contracts? Ten?” Or maybe an ambassadorship, I think, twirling away and going to sit by the window; it might be nice to have Barry firmly gone.

“I did consult my lawyer about purchasing a house on the rue de Varennes,” he says, puffing out another long sigh. “But perhaps that was premature, two nights is a flimsy foundation for a lifetime of dreams to hang upon.”

“Oh, poof, Barry, you do talk nonsense sometimes. I’m going out for a walk.” I grab my cloak and hurry out the door, eager to get away from his sour mood. I want to walk forever and absorb the amazing turn my life has taken, but instead my footsteps lead me toward the Place d’Armes, the giant esplanade in front of the palace. All roads lead here. Ahead of me the palace sits in its golden, spreading glory, hundreds of windows glinting back their secrets, the majestic iron and gold gates hung with great black cloths for the queen’s mourning. He is in there, somewhere . . . What is he doing? Is he thinking of me?

Versailles is a fairyland, a land of mythical beings, one that spreads for miles and miles. That is the life that I want. Barry always accuses me of being lazy, and without ambition, but suddenly I feel it, a craving so intense and so sharp it stops my heart with longing.

I want that life, and all that it offers.

2017 Book #16 – The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

61ZHJ5oDCfLTitle: The River at Night
Author: Erica Ferencik
Date finished: 3/10/17
Genre: Fiction, thriller
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Pages in book: 304
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A high-stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction.
Winifred Allen needs a vacation.
Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.
What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare: A freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.
With intimately observed characters, visceral prose, and pacing as ruthless as the river itself, The River at Night is a dark exploration of creatures—both friend and foe—that you won’t soon forget.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of four girl-friends who decide to go on a white-water rafting trip in the Maine wilderness. Wini, Pia, Rachel and Sandra get together one week every year to spend time together and catch up over lost time. Pia, ever the adventurer, is always looking for more reckless ways to test her meddle. She convinces her girl-friends to try out a rafting experience where they will get to fight their way along a river that has before then been untouched by man. But along the way, their guide Rory is killed and their raft is lost, leaving the women susceptible to the unflinching wilderness of Maine. While trying to find refuge, they come across an unexpected discovery that puts them in more danger than ever.
Overall I liked this book a lot. It was sad but also really interesting and scary. I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book and I didn’t want to put it down. The author did such an amazing job of making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on edge, putting you in the Maine wilderness and making you wonder if you’ll survive this trip. And I love the author’s view of the relationships in this novel. These women are pushed to the brink of their humanity and are left to make some hard decisions. This was a good read and I would definitely recommend.

The bottom line: I really liked this book a lot. It was interesting and kept the reader on the edge of their seat throughout the book. I would recommend it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

Last Night with the Duke BLOG TOUR!!

Last-Night-With-the-Duke-Tour-Banner-900x337

Last Night with the Duke will be released this Tuesday (tomorrow, March 7th) and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! If you haven’t already seen it, you can find my review of the book here. See below for more information about the book, an excerpt, a short author bio, and author Q&A! This was a good read, I would recommend checking it out! It was a quick, light read and exactly what I needed to read right now. 

SUMMARY

Could finding love be his greatest scandal of all?
The Duke of Griffin has never lived down his reputation as one of the Rakes of St. James. Now rumors are swirling around London that his twin sisters may bear the brunt of his past follies. Hiring a competent chaperone is the only thing Griffin has on his mind–until he meets the lovely and intriguing Miss Esmeralda Swift. In ways he could never have expected, she arouses more than just his curiosity.
Esmeralda Swift considered herself too sensible to ever fall for a scoundrel, but that was before she met the irresistibly seductive Duke of Griffin. His employment offer proves too tempting for her to resist. She can’t afford to be distracted by his devilish charms because the stakes are so high for his sisters’ debut Season. . .unless one of London’s most notorious rakes has had a change of heart and is ready to make Esmeralda his bride in Last Night with the Duke, the first novel in the brand-new Regency Rakes of St. James series by New York Times bestselling author Amelia Grey.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

©2013GulfReflectionsStudioIncNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Amelia Grey read her first romance book when she was thirteen and she’s been a devoted reader of love stories ever since. Her awards include the Booksellers Best, Aspen Gold, and the Golden Quill. Writing as Gloria Dale Skinner, she won the coveted Romantic Times Award for Love and Laughter and the prestigious Maggie Award. Her books have sold to many countries in Europe, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia, and most recently to Japan. Several of her books have also been featured in Doubleday and Rhapsody Book Clubs. Amelia is the author of twenty-five books. She’s been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over thirty-five years and she lives on the beautiful gulf coast of Northwest Florida. Her first book with St. Martin’s was The Duke in My Bed.

AUTHOR Q&A

Welcome Amelia, thank you so much for joining me in this Q&A session.

Thank you for having me at your blog, Rebecca.  I’m happy to be with you today.

  1. Do you have any special rituals that you find yourself following when you’re writing? OR Take us through your typical work day.

I start every morning by putting on make-up, either straightening or curling my hair, and dressing nice.  No bathrobes or gym clothes for me.  I have an office in my home and my husband’s office building.  I can and do work at both places.  I usually start my day at the computer about 9:30 by checking emails, snail mail, and any family or friends stuff that needs to be done.   I don’t actually get to my writing until about 10:30 or 11:00.

When writing, I have books on furniture, clothing, and terminology on my desk, and I always have Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary handy so I can look up the dates to words.  I’m a sunshine kind of girl and I need lots of light.  I have a comfortable chair at my desk and a cozy chair where I will sit and read over what I have written after I print it out.  I take a very short lunch break and then usually work until about five in the afternoon when it’s time to start family stuff again.

  1. What (if any) research did you have to do for this novel? What was your favorite piece of research you did for this novel?

LAST NIGHT WITH THE DUKE is my fifteenth Regency set historical romance so I didn’t have to do a lot of in depth research for this one.  I researched dogs to see what breed I wanted Napoleon to be.  I needed him to have long hair instead of short fur so I went with a Skye terrier.  In this book I have a gardener who is growing a flower for the Royal Horticulture Society so I needed to know what flowers would be blooming for the Mayfair Floral Show.  I decided on a Persian Iris.

  1. Are there any books or authors that have really influenced you and made you want to write? What about those authors inspired or influenced you?

Every author I have read has influenced me on some level.  But I do have favorite authors that I have read for years and continue to read.  My first thirteen books were American set historicals but after I read several Amanda Quick books, I wanted to change to writing in England.  I also liked her style of dialogue.  She was a huge influence as to the way I write Regencies and it’s very different from the way I wrote American historicals.

  1. What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to read, watch movies, and polish my nails.  I love girly stuff.  My husband and I travel a lot so we plan trips together.  I enjoy having friends over for dinner and setting a beautiful table.  I’m not a great cook but my husband enjoys helping me in the kitchen.  It’s the friends I enjoy not the cooking.  I love the arts and have season tickets to all the culture events that come to our city.

  1. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

You have to start by completing that first book and once you do—never give up your dream to publish it.  I have a tip sheet that I always look at before starting a new book.  I’m happy to email it to anyone who would like a copy.  My email address is ameliagrey@comcast.net.

  1. Is there anything else about you that you’d like your readers to know?

I write what I love and I love what I write.  If I don’t love the story, no one else will.  I write because I enjoy reading and historical romances are my favorite books to read.

EXCERPT

51kTVBj0gSLHis praise pleased her. She smiled and remained quiet. “Most of our guests would end up being so flustered by seeing double that they wouldn’t try to get their names

right. They would just say ‘my lady.’ ” “Unfortunately, I wasn’t given that option.”

“After you’ve been around for a few more days, you’ll be able to tell them apart no matter how they are dressed.”

“It’s already getting easier.”

“Good. They may look exactly alike at times, but they have different natures. Vera’s nature is more forceful and cantankerous. Sara’s sweeter.”

Esmeralda started to say she agreed completely, but then thought better of it, and simply replied, “But both are lovely.”

The duke faced her. “Did Miss Fortescue teach you how to be so diplomatic?”

“No,” she answered with a teasing smirk. “It’s my nature.”

His smile was natural as he said, “And a temperamen- tal nature it is at times.”

She frowned. “I’ll ignore that comment.”

“But you know it’s true. I’m glad you suggested bring- ing the girls to the park and so is my aunt. And I see you brought Josephine and Napoleon along too.

“You don’t mind, do you? I supposed I should have cleared it with you first.”

“I don’t mind. I can see you aren’t neglecting Sara and Vera. They are enjoying the show too.”

“I think so. Vera showed Josephine how to play throw and fetch with a stick. Napoleon was already quite famil- iar with what to do, so his former owners must have taught him. And the twins were very accommodating to him on our walk over here. They didn’t get upset when Napoleon wanted to check out every doorway, hitching post, and tree along the way.”

He chuckled. “Living a protected life at Griffin for so many years, Sara and Vera have had few occasions to en- joy friendships or relatives their own age. It will be good for them to have you as their chaperone. Except for me, my aunt, and the servants, they’ve had only each other to get to know. It’s made them close, but it also, regrettably, causes a fierce competitiveness from time to time.”

Including the pianoforte and Lord Henry, Esmeralda wanted to say but decided that Griffin didn’t need to know about the earl’s son.

“I’m rather glad they have someone else in the house to interact with now other than each other.”

“And that will change after they meet young ladies at the various parties.”

“Which reminds me,” he added. “I looked into your suggestion of finding out which young ladies who were a part of the wager hadn’t married and also had brothers, uncles, or fathers.”

“Who did you come up with?” she asked anxiously. “Only two names.”

“But didn’t Sir Welby think there were more than two at White’s?”

He nodded. “He did but admitted he couldn’t be sure of anything other than the comments that perhaps the way to get back at me was through my sisters. If you listen carefully enough in a taproom, you can overhear a lot of conversations.”

“But you’re saying we have two young men to watch carefully, right?”

“Yes. For now, anyway. Sir Charles  Redding  and Mr. Albert Trent are the only gentlemen who have sisters who received a secret admirer letter but never married.”

Esmeralda repeated the names in her mind. They weren’t on any of Lady Evelyn’s lists. And they wouldn’t be. She wouldn’t consider either of them high enough in the heel to offer for the twins.

Why did Esmeralda keep forgetting all she’d been taught when she was living in her uncle’s home? She knew all about the snobbery of Polite Society. She just hadn’t been a part of it for a long time. And now she was on the other side of it.

“I will keep a steady eye on the two should they get near Lady Sara or Lady Vera even for a dance.”

The duke’s eyes swept up and down her face. Fluttering began in Esmeralda’s chest. It was madness that when- ever he looked at her with that intimate intensity radiating from him, she wanted him to pull her into his strong arms, nestle her to him, and kiss her eager lips. She knew he was attracted to her. He had admitted that. But surely she was more aware of his every breath than he was of hers.

“Did you know that out in the sunlight your eyes lose all their brown coloring and are golden?”

With that question, Esmeralda felt the atmosphere change. The noise of the crowd faded away, the cool breeze stilled, and the sun heated her face. It was as if she and the duke were the only two people in the park.

“How could I possibly know that? I have never seen my eyes outside a house.”

“I thought perhaps someone might have told you—your parents, possibly a beau?”

“I’m sure you’ve had countless ladies tell you that your eyes are as blue as a summer sky.”

He ignored her comment and said, “You skillfully de- flected my question, but I’m not going to let you get by with that.”

She evaded him again by saying, “Did you ask one? I thought you were making a statement.”

He gave her an amused smile. “It’s always a challenge with you, Esmeralda. I like that.”

She gasped. “You can’t call me by my given name.”

“I can and will when we are alone and no one around to hear but you. Now, here is a direct question for you, Es- meralda. Have you ever been kissed?”

Her immediate instinct should have been to shy away from such intimate conversation once more and insist he call her Miss Swift at all times. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him she was outraged he’d ask her some- thing so personal, but staring into his striking gaze as it

brushed down her face to her mouth, she knew she didn’t want to resist him in that way or any way.

Maybe she wanted him to call her Esmeralda and to know that her lips had never been touched by another’s. Maybe she wanted him to know she’d welcome his kiss.

Still, her practical, survival nature came to her rescue and she resisted what her heart desired and said, “I’ve not had time nor opportunity for such things as hugs and kisses.”

“Twenty-five and never been kissed.” His voice was low, and soft. “I find that very intriguing.”

His hold over her intensified. There was something about his unobtrusive interest in her that stirred her wom- anly passions to an anticipation she couldn’t have known existed.

Her throat ached with an increasing need that was al- ways denied—to feel his lips caress hers. Perhaps he found it intriguing she’d never been kissed, but she found it dis- couraging that she’d never had the opportunity to know what it felt like to be kissed. She wanted to know.

Putting all her sensible, inner declarations aside, and willing her voice not to quiver, she asked, “Are you offer- ing to change that, Your Grace?”

Copyright © 2017 by Amelia Grey and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press.