2017 Book #59 – Together by Linda Lael Miller

9780062005908_5b5a4Title: Together
Author: Linda Lael Miller
Date finished: 7/15/17
Genre: Historical romance, contemporary romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: July 25, 2017 (Reprint; originally published 1996)
Pages in book: 432
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss 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:

For the first time in over ten years comes New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller’s breathtaking stories filled with the promise of love. Five unforgettable tales, Together in one volume…

Together…for a second chance at life and love—THAT OTHER KATHERINE

Together…when misdirected desire unexpectedly leads to lasting happiness—STORE-BOUGHT WOMAN

Together…as mistrust turns into steadfast devotion—THE SCENT OF SNOW

Together…a couple once torn apart by greed is now reunited by a vow of eternal love—IN ALL SEASONS

Together…a cat in the family way helps ignite love in two sparring neighbors—FAMILY AFFAIR (Interestingly enough, this story is not included in the book. Switch is included instead about two twin’s switching lives for a few months)

My rating:  2.5 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 is a compilation of 5 short stories all by the same author. In order within the book: In All Seasons: This story is of Melissande Bradgate, the daugher of a wealthy shipping merchant, and Christian Lithwell, the second son of an Earl. These two fall in love but tragic events tear them apart. When they are brought back together it takes a lot of time to see if they can be together again. I thought this story was ok but, like the other stories in the novel, I couldn’t really get into the story line and characters I couldn’t see any development. The Scent of Snow: This story is about Rebecca and her two half-sisters Annabelle and Susan. Rebecca thought her friend Lucas Kiley died but when he shows up after she’s told the whole town they had been married so now they have to pretend to be married. I particularly didn’t care for this one, it was unrealistic and puritanical. That Other Katherine: This story is about Katherine Hollis, who realizes that she is dying in a hospital in 1991 and after begging to live wakes up in the body of Katherine Winslow in the year 1895 during the midst of childbirth. Her husband Gavin hates her and the whole town knows about her most recent affair. This story was really interesting and I thought it had a lot of potential but then the ending kind of lost me, everything was wrapped up too quickly. Store-Bought Woman: Bess Campbell travels across the country to marry John Tate, only his brother Will is the only one she finds. They basically figure out how to make it work. This one was really cheesy and made me roll my eyes a bit. I didn’t particularly like it. Switch: This book weirdly enough is not listed in the description, but anyways this story is about Jamie Roberts, who switches places with her twin sister, Sara, at Sara’s request. Unknown to her she’s walking into a world of danger. Luckily she finds she can count on Sara’s previous lover, Rowan Parrish, to help her out. The concept behind this was weird, the whole Rowan + Sara and then Rowan + Jamie thing. Other than that there were some ok points to the story but I wasn’t engaged much at all.

The bottom line: I didn’t particularly like this book. There wasn’t much character or plot development, even for short stories. I wouldn’t recommend.

Link to author website

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

2017 Book # 57 – Duke with Benefits by Manda Collins

51hiXwy2TSLTitle: Duke with Benefits
Author: Manda Collins
Date finished: 7/10/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Studies in Scandal series
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:

LADY + DUKE = TRUE LOVE?
Lady Daphne Forsyth is a brilliant mathematician with a burning passion for puzzles. When she learns that the library belonging to her benefactress houses the legendary Cameron Cipher—an encrypted message that, once solved, holds the key to great riches—Daphne is on the case. Unfortunately, her race to unlock the cipher’s code is continually thwarted by a deliciously handsome distraction she hadn’t counted on. . .and cannot resist.
Dalton Beauchamp, the Duke of Maitland, is curious as to why Daphne is spending so much time snooping around his aunt’s bookshelves. He’s even more intrigued by her bold yet calculating manner: She is unapologetic about her secret quest. . .and the fiery attraction that develops between them both. But how can they concentrate on solving a perplexing enigma once the prospect of true love enters the equation?

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 Daphne Forsyth, daughter of the Earl of Forsyth, and Dalton Beauchamp, the Duke of Maitland. Daphne is one of the recent inheritors of the Duke’s aunt’s estate, left to a group of four woman scholars. Daphne’s scholarly focus is  mathematics, which is why Lady Celeste left Daphne with a specific task. Lady Celeste knew of a clue to a hidden treasure, a cipher dating back hundreds of years. Knowing of Daphne’s skills with ciphers, Lady Celeste left it to Daphne to unravel the clue and find the treasure. But not before trying to play matchmaker once again in asking her nephew (Maitland) to help Daphne find the clues to the hidden cipher. Lady Celeste had been similarly stealthy in Book 1 (Ready Set Rogue) in getting Ivy and Kerr together. But when someone else finds out about the cipher, someone who is willing to do anything to obtain it including murder, Daphne must solve the mystery before anyone else gets hurt. And along the way, Maitland discovers that beneath Daphne’s brusque exterior, there is a heart of gold.
Overall I liked this book. It was a quick and easy read, but was full of romance and danger and mathematical challenges. I love this series overall because the heroines are all so strong and intelligent. I loved that Maitland’s character understood Daphne’s need for independence and respected it, acting more as a support for her than a driver. Some heroes in historical romances can get a little heavy-handed, so it was refreshing to see this change of pace. And Daphne’s character as well was slightly unusual for a historical romance, I think she might be diagnosed with something similar to Asperger’s in today’s day and age based on her inability to look people in the eye, her dislike at being touched, and her difficulties with understanding social interactions. Altogether made for a pretty interesting read. I liked this book and I look forward to reading more in the series. I would recommend!

The bottom line: This was a really good book, I liked the story line and it was a quick and easy read. I like the series overall too, I would recommend!

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

The Duke of Defiance BLOG TOUR!!

DB_DoD Tour Banner

The Duke of Defiance was released last week (June 27th) 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 under Book Reviews on my site. See below for more information about the book, an excerpt, a short author bio, and a giveaway!!! This was a really good read and I would definitely recommend checking it out!

GIVEAWAY INFO

$25 Amazon Gift Card!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DoD FB AD1

SUMMARY

Difficult and defiant as a child, Bran Crowther, Earl of Knighton left England as a young man to pursue independence and adventure. He never expected to inherit the title and when duty calls him home, he still finds Society’s codes constricting and others’ expectations oppressive. Nevertheless, he needs a wife to be a mother to his young daughter, preferably a woman of intelligence and warmth who is, above all, immune to his idiosyncrasies–and to falling in love.

Widow Joanna Shaw isn’t interested in a second marriage, not after the loveless, passionless union she endured. She’d much rather dote on her young niece and nephew since they will likely be the only children in her life…until she meets a precocious girl, in desperate need of a mother. But her father, the so-called Duke of Defiance, is as peculiar as he is handsome, and Jo won’t take another risk with her heart. Their rules, however, are made to be broken, even when the consequences could destroy them both.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Darcy BurkeDarcy Burke is the USA Today Bestselling Author of hot, action-packed historical and sexy, emotional contemporary romance. A native Oregonian, Darcy lives on the edge of wine country with her guitar-strumming husband, their two hilarious kids who seem to have inherited the writing gene, and three Bengal cats. Visit Darcy online at www.darcyburke.com and sign up for her newsletter, follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/darcyburke, or like her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/DarcyBurkeFans.

BUY THE BOOK HERE

Amazon: http://smarturl.it/dodefamztw
B&N: http://smarturl.it/dodefnooktw
iTunes: http://smarturl.it/dodefibkstw
Kobo: http://smarturl.it/dodefamztw
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34751383-the-duke-of-defiance

Vintage cup of coffee, mobile phone and flowers on a wooden table.

EXCERPT

She sank into a curtsey. “Good morning, my lord. My sister wishes to convey her deepest apologies, but her son is ill, so she asked me to come in her stead.”

Bran registered the tidy upsweep of her dark brown hair and the green-brown of her earnest eyes as well as the simplicity of her modest slate-gray gown. She was rather monochromatic, except for that hint of green in her eyes, and the tiny gold flecks that danced near the pupil. He recalled that she was widowed, which perhaps explained her somewhat dour appearance. Or maybe it was just that he was used to warmth and vibrancy and colors that defied possibility in England. Barbados seemed like an imaginary world now.

“I see. Do you have children of your own?” he asked.

Pale swaths of pink highlighted her cheeks. It was the barest bit of color, but he caught it. How could he not against the dull palette she provided?

Dull?

No, that wasn’t an apt description. Her attire was dull, her hair a bit too severe, but she possessed an attractive, feminine form. Indeed, her breasts were perhaps spectacular. And she was pretty, with long, dark lashes framing her eyes and rose-colored lips that were just a bit too full. Not too full, he amended.

“I do not,” she said, drawing his attention back to his question about whether she had children.

“Then how can you be qualified to help me with this endeavor?”

“My sister sent a list of characteristics and requirements you should seek.” She straightened her shoulders and looked him in the eye. “She also sent me with her express confidence.”

He liked her fortitude. “Well then, I suppose you will suffice. Come along.”

Her nostrils flared slightly, and her eyes widened just the tiniest bit, the gold flecks seeming to brighten. As he turned to lead her to his office, he considered that he might have just offended her again. He had called her abilities into question, but why wouldn’t he?

He strode toward the back corner of the house, where his office was located. It was a large chamber with a wall of bookshelves and windows that looked out to the garden. He moved behind the desk and indicated for her to take a chair on the opposite side.

She slowly sat, her gaze wary and her mouth tight.

He frowned. “My apologies if I insulted you.”

“If you’d rather I didn’t stay, you have only to say so.” There was a steely set to her shoulders and a clipped edge to her tone as she spoke. “Nora wanted to help you, but I’ll understand if you decide I won’t suffice.”

He dropped into his chair. She had cheek to go with her fortitude. He liked that too. He’d been prepared to deal with milksops and featherbrains when he’d returned to England—people like his mother and brothers. Not that they really were milksops or featherbrains, but they liked to put on as if they were, thinking it was somehow attractive. He supposed it wasn’t fair to assume an entire population shared the same characteristics as his family.

“I’m afraid I must also apologize for the other day. I meant no offense. Sometimes… I speak without realizing how my words might sound.”

One of her dark, slender brows arched. “Forgive me for saying so, but I’ve found that’s a trait shared by most men.”

2017 Book #56 – The Duke of Defiance by Darcy Burke

514MtChy0OLTitle: The Duke of Defiance
Author: Darcy Burke
Date finished: 7/7/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Self-published
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Pages in book: 265
Stand alone or series: The Untouchables series Book #5
Where I got the book from: Author’s Pal
NOTE: I received this book for free from Author’s Pal 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:

Difficult and defiant as a child, Bran Crowther, Earl of Knighton left England as a young man to pursue independence and adventure. He never expected to inherit the title and when duty calls him home, he still finds Society’s codes constricting and others’ expectations oppressive. Nevertheless, he needs a wife to be a mother to his young daughter, preferably a woman of intelligence and warmth who is, above all, immune to his idiosyncrasies–and to falling in love.
Widow Joanna Shaw isn’t interested in a second marriage, not after the loveless, passionless union she endured. She’d much rather dote on her young niece and nephew since they will likely be the only children in her life…until she meets a precocious girl, in desperate need of a mother. But her father, the so-called Duke of Defiance, is as peculiar as he is handsome, and Jo won’t take another risk with her heart. Their rules, however, are made to be broken, even when the consequences could destroy them both.

My rating:  3.5 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. Be sure to check out my BLOG TOUR post on this book as well! This book tells the story of Bran Crowther, the newly inherited Earl of Knighton, and Joanna Shaw, a widow looking for a new purpose in life. Bran’s family life was pretty rough growing up, his family was downright cruel to him because of his idiosyncrasies. Bran seems to me like he might be slightly autistic or have some other psychological condition, based on his aversion to clothing or people touching him and not being able to eat certain foods. Joanna comes with her own emotional baggage, having survived an extremely verbally abusive marriage and being recently widowed. Bran’s daughter, Evie, befriends Joanna’s niece, Becky, and through their friendship (and also their meddling) Bran and Joanna are continually thrown together. But even as the sparks fly, can they each over come their own obstacles to them being together?
Overall I enjoyed this book. I wouldn’t say the book “wowed” me necessarily but it was a good story and a good read. Bran’s character and his quirks were particularly interesting to me as they weren’t common characteristics for a hero in a romance novel. I love when authors manage to do something a little different like this, it is very refreshing. Bran’s character actually reminded me a little of Ian from The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie, which is a favorite of mine. I love when a hero can be that vulnerable and find a heroine who will love him not in spite of but because of his quirks. The young girls in this book were adorable too and I loved them and all the other supporting characters in the story. The conversations at first seemed a bit stilted, but I think that may have been partially due to Bran’s character’s oddities. I did enjoy this book and I’d be interested to read more by this author, I would recommend this one!

The bottom line: I really liked this book. The characters and plot line are interesting and romantic. I would be interested to read more in the series, I would recommend checking this one out!

Link to author website

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

2017 Book #54 – Say Yes to the Scot by Various authors

51d+0xRp1GLTitle: Say Yes to the Scot
Author: Lecia Cornwall, Anna Harrington, May McGoldrick, and Sabrina York
Date finished: 7/3/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Swerve
Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Pages in book: 410
Stand alone or series: Many of the stories are part of other series
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:

You are formally invited to the Highland wedding event of the year. These four lasses are about to meet their matches in an original digital anthology featuring stories from New York Times and USA Todaybestselling author Sabrina York, Lecia Cornwall, Anna Harrington, and May McGoldrick.
HOW A LASS WED A HIGHLANDER by Lecia Cornwall
In this retelling of The Princess and The Pea, Laird Alex Munro of Culmore has just five weeks to find a bride and marry her…or else the clan will be cursed with ill luck. Cait MacLeod finds herself caught in a clan feud, and when she tries to stop a deadly raid, she ends up as Alex Munro’s prisoner. With timing running out, is this couple meant to be?
A MATCH MADE IN HEATHER by Anna Harrington
She was the laird’s daughter. He was nothing more than a penniless, nameless Scot with nothing to offer but his heart. Fate tore them apart, but now he’s back in her life with status, money and a title. Can they let go of past hurts and find love?
A MIDSUMMER WEDDING by May McGoldrick
Their marriage was two decades in the making. The young, educated woman and her highland, pirate husband, betrothed when they were still children. But on the day of their wedding, Elizabeth Hay and Alexander Macpherson are in for a surprise.
THE SCOT SAYS I DO by Sabrina York
Catherine Ross’s world is turned upside down when her brother gambles away every penny they own. But to make matters worse? He’s lost everything to none other than Duncan Mackay, the rugged Scot who Catherine loved for years–but he never noticed her, and now she positively loathes him. But her brother’s in danger of going to Newgate, and the despicable Duncan has a plan– she can claim back the money and save her brother. If she marries him…

My rating:  4.0 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 is an anthology of 4 books by 4 different authors. The first book, How a Lass Wed a Highlander by Lecia Cornwall, was pretty good, although it got to be pretty frustrating that no one would listen to or believe Cait about who she was. The ending was very romantic, although it wrapped up pretty neatly in a short time. I liked the magical aspect of this story as well. The second story, A Match Made in Heather by Anna Harrington, was ok, although the ending was a little too cheesy/mushy for me. And I didn’t like how the heroine couldn’t seem to admit her part of the issue from the past. Other than that there was great tension/chemistry between the main characters and a good plot line. The third book, A Midsummer Wedding by May McGoldrick, was one of my favorites in this collection. There was a great amount of chemistry between the main characters and the plot line was romantic and interesting. It was noted after this story that this was the prequel to a series by this author, I’d definitely be interested to read books in this series! And the fourth book, The Scot Says I Do by Sabrina York, was a sweet story and I especially liked the hero in this one. Overall all of the stories were quick, heart-warming reads and I would recommend this book!

The bottom line: This was a great collection of stories, I would definitely recommend!

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

Say Yes To The Scot RELEASE BLITZ!!

SayYestotheScot_Blitzbanner

Say Yes To The Scot is out TODAY (June 20th)!! This is a great anthology with some really great looking authors. I haven’t gotten to read it yet but it is next on my list and I can’t wait to read this collection of stories. You’ll also see my review of this book later this week so make sure to check back. See below for more information about each of the books, a short bio for each author and an excerpt from each book as well!  

SUMMARY

Description

You are formally invited to the Highland wedding event of the year. These four lasses are about to meet their matches in an original digital anthology featuring stories from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Sabrina York, Lecia Cornwall, Anna Harrington, and May McGoldrick.

HOW A LASS WED A HIGHLANDER by Lecia Cornwall
In this retelling of The Princess and The Pea, Laird Alex Munro of Culmore has just five weeks to find a bride and marry her…or else the clan will be cursed with ill luck. Cait MacLeod finds herself caught in a clan feud, and when she tries to stop a deadly raid, she ends up as Alex Munro’s prisoner. With timing running out, is this couple meant to be?

A MATCH MADE IN HEATHER by Anna Harrington
She was the laird’s daughter. He was nothing more than a penniless, nameless Scot with nothing to offer but his heart. Fate tore them apart, but now he’s back in her life with status, money and a title. Can they let go of past hurts and find love?

A MIDSUMMER WEDDING by May McGoldrick
Their marriage was two decades in the making. The young, educated woman and her highland, pirate husband, betrothed when they were still children. But on the day of their wedding, Elizabeth Hay and Alexander Macpherson are in for a surprise.

THE SCOT SAYS I DO by Sabrina York
Catherine Ross’s world is turned upside down when her brother gambles away every penny they own. But to make matters worse? He’s lost everything to none other than Duncan Mackay, the rugged Scot who Catherine loved for years–but he never noticed her, and now she positively loathes him. But her brother’s in danger of going to Newgate, and the despicable Duncan has a plan– she can claim back the money and save her brother. If she marries him…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lecia Cornwall is the author of steamy Regency romances set in England and Scotland including the Highland Fairytale series for SMP Swerve, starting with Beauty and the Highland Beast. Her books are known for their layered plots and intriguing characters. Lecia lives in Calgary, Canada with four cats, two teenagers, a crazy chocolate lab and one very patient husband.

Anna Harrington is the author of The Secret Life of Scandals series with Forever romance. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time trying not to kill the innocent rose bushes in her garden. She is the author of The Secret Life of Scoundrels series, including Along Came a Rogue.

USA Today bestselling authors Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick (writing as May McGoldrick) weave emotionally satisfying tales of love and danger. Publishing under the names of May McGoldrick and Jan Coffey, these authors have written more than thirty novels and works of nonfiction. Nikoo, an engineer, also conducts frequent workshops on writing. Jim holds a Ph.D. in Medieval and Renaissance literature and teaches English in northwestern Connecticut. They are the authors of Much Ado About HighlandersTaming the Highlander, and Tempest in the Highlands in the Scottish Relic Trilogy with SMP Swerve.

Sabrina York is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of more than twenty hot, humorous written works. Her stories range from sweet and sexy to scorching romance. She’s the author of Hannah and the Highlander with St. Martin’s Press.

BUY LINKS

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XFTN88N

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/say-yes-to-the-scot-may-mcgoldrick/1125898259

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/isbn9781250158383

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/say-yes-to-the-scot

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=sXNFDgAAQBAJ

EXCERPTS

How a Lass Wed a Highlander by Lecia Cornwall

 

Alex opened the door of the little storeroom on the third floor of the old tower.

Moonlight filtered in through the arrow slit and illuminated the pile of mattresses. Alex stared it. “Ye sleep . . . up there?” he asked.

Cait nodded.

He leaned on the doorframe and took note of the stacked crates. “And ye climb up?”

“Yes,” she said. She shrugged. “I’ve grown quite used to it. I don’t mind. I may have a similar bed made when I get ho—” she paused. “At Rosecairn.”

He looked at her. She stood in the center of the floor, her russet hair bright copper in the moonlight, her eyes luminous. He couldn’t look away. Desire flared all over again. Hector was one of his own, his clansman. His captain. But the thought of giving Cait to Baird tore at him.

“I mind,” he said, his voice thick as he looked at her sky-high bed again. “I find I mind very much.”

He looked back at her. She waited silently, her eyes on his.

“Alex? If I must marry Baird, I would like . . . that is, just once, I want—you.” She held out her hand to him. It was white in the moonlight, pure and pale, and for a moment he stared at her long fingers without moving. “I want you as a woman wants a man. I want to know what it’s like to be loved, because I can’t imagine wanting Baird like I want you. Will you stay with me tonight, while we are both still free?”

He wanted it too, wanted her, before he had to marry Fiona, or Nessa, or Coria, or Sorcha. He stepped into the room and kicked the door shut. He took her hand and pulled her into his arms. He kissed her once, gently, and stood looking down at her upturned face. “You’re beautiful,” he whispered. “I wish—” She put her finger to his lips.

“Just this, now.”

He took her hand, kissed her fingers, her knuckles, then claimed her lips. She pressed herself to him, kissed him back, and he moaned softly and wrapped his arms around her, claimed her mouth, deepened the kiss.

She was his. If only for this night.

 

A Match Made in Heather by Anna Harrington

 

“We would have lived in a cottage just like this,” she whispered, barely a sound passing her lips, “if we’d married.” Her belly tightened at the glimpse of the life they might have shared, spreading out before her. Once she’d wanted nothing more than to be his wife, keep his home, have his children . . . “We would have been happy here.”

“You would have been miserable,” he corrected gently.

She whispered, “Not with you.”

“Especially with me.” He shook his head at the futility of what she was suggesting. “Can you honestly tell me that you would have been happy living in a place like this, two rooms so poorly furnished that we would have been lucky to have a table to eat from, let alone any food on the plates? No pretty dresses or beeswax candles, no books, certainly no tea or sugar, no velvet or ribbons.” He reached out and tugged at the shoulder of her riding habit, adding, “No Rowland tartan for you or our bairn. Your father would have made certain of it.”

“I would still have been a Rowland by birth.” Resentment began to pulse inside her. “Entitled to wear the tartan.”

“You would have become a McGuiness. You would have been nothing.” His jaw tightened. “Just as I was.”

“Don’t say that! I loved you, more than—” The words choked in her throat. When they came, they were little more than a breath. “More than I’ve loved anyone else in my life.”

He froze, stunned at her unexpected confession.

“Not going with you that night was the most difficult choice I’ve ever had to make.” Her voice shook from the emotion of her admission. “I loved you, Garrick, but I loved my family, too. They needed me to be here with them, to face together all the terrible things that were about to happen to us.”

“A gambling debt?” he bit out. He shook his head, disdain darkening his features. “Terrible for Samuel, surely, but nothing you had to take on yourself.”

She hesitated, wanting nothing more than to tell him everything, to spill her heart and all the dreadful events of that summer—

But she couldn’t. Even now, the pain was still raw, still too difficult to share.

“I wanted to go with you that night,” she answered instead. “I wanted to be your wife and share a home with you, just like this one.” She glanced around her, unprepared for the rush of sadness that swept over her when her eyes landed on the empty cradle in the corner. “And fill it with our own children. There would have been love and happiness . . .” Her voice trailed off, and she drew in a deep breath, pressing her hand against her chest to fight back the memories of the past. The ghosts of a life that would never be. “I had to choose, and I chose my family. But not one day went by that I didn’t regret having to make that decision, not one night when I didn’t wonder what our life would have been like.”

Her gaze met his, and as she stared into his eyes, the rest of the world fell away around them. Just as it did ten years ago whenever his attention was on her, when it seemed only the two of them existed.

“I made the right decision, Garrick, I know I did,” she breathed out in a trembling whisper. “If I had to relive that night, even knowing now what would happen—” Her eyes began to sting as tears blurred his handsome face. She whispered softly, “I would make the same choice.”

He shook his head. “Arabel—”

“But that doesn’t mean I didn’t love you. That I didn’t want a life with you.” All the emotions roiled inside her so fiercely that she had to press a fist against her chest to keep breathing. The pain was unbearable, but the only way to end her misery was to sear the wound completely, to stir up the desolation and grief until no more pain was left. To answer the question that had been haunting her for ten years . . . “Why did you leave, Garrick? You left Kincardine when I . . .” When I needed you most.

“I didn’t have a choice,” he finished with a cutting iciness.

She flinched at the accusation, and old wounds bled anew. “Neither did I,” she admitted. “I’d thought . . .”

“You thought what?” he pressed.

Somehow she found the resolve inside her to not look away. “That you loved me enough to understand,” she whispered as the memories of that night spiraled through her, all the pain and panic, the desperation . . . “That you loved me enough to wait.”

 

A Midsummer Wedding by May McGoldrick

 

Elizabeth suddenly felt the need to talk. If she was going to make good use of this time together, she needed to correct any misunderstandings now.

“I want to explain why I came to you at the tavern,” she began. “Why I pretended to be Clare Seton.”

His gaze was fixed on the fire.

“It was a foolish plan, I know that now. But . . . but the idea was to make you see Clare and her intended and think she was me and . . . and to make you believe that my heart belonged to someone else.”

He looked up at her. “Why? What did you hope to accomplish?” His tone was civil, but his expression was indecipherable.

“I wanted you to walk away from our marriage bargain.”

“What was wrong with meeting me in person? Why couldn’t you simply tell me?”

Reason. Of course, that would have been the logical thing to do. But how could she explain to him that such a thing took courage and at the time she didn’t trust him to initiate the break? That the stakes were so high and she wasn’t thinking straight?

“I should have,” she said finally. “That would have been the wiser course of action. I don’t want to marry you.”

There. It was out. She’d told him the truth. At least, part of it. She didn’t tell him about not wanting to defy her father, about the future she imagined for herself. He was staring again at the fire. She studied his face. There was no change in the relaxed way that he sat against the wall.

He glanced up at her, and something in his expression told Elizabeth that the man was relieved.

“Then . . . you’re fine with this?”

His eyes sparkled in the dark. “Aye,” he said, lifting a knee and resting an arm on it. “Why do you think I was so impatient to see you these past two days? I even sent a letter to you with my squire this afternoon. He passed you with it when you came into the tavern.”

“What did the letter say?” she asked, wanting him to say it. She didn’t want to assume anything.

“I feel no sense of duty toward the agreement binding us together. That deal was made decades ago, and both families have already profited by it. And in return for my freedom, I’ll provide a sizable sum of gold for you to do with as you please.”

“You don’t want to marry me?”

“Blast me if I do. You don’t want to marry me, and I don’t want to marry you either,” he responded, looking like he’d just won the prize pig at the fair. “You can choose anyone you please, so long as it’s not Alexander Macpherson.”

 

The Scot Says I Do by Sabrina York

 

“Why do you want to marry me?”

“Oh! That!” He huffed a laugh and then sobered. His lips closed as he pondered the question.

And, really? Did he need to ponder the question?

“Don’t you know?” she snapped.

“Of course. Of course I do. I . . . need a wife.”

He nodded and stepped back, looking rather pleased with himself.

She shook her head and his smug smile deflated like a soufflé. “Any woman will do if you simply need a wife.”

“I need heirs. I have an estate now”—she assumed he meant Peter’s—“and I need heirs.”

“Again. Any brood mare will suffice.”

His brow furrowed. “You are hardly a brood mare.”

“Well, thank you very much for that. But you still have to answer the question. Why do you want to marry me?”

His throat worked again. “Isn’t it obvious?”

She crossed her arms. “Apparently not.”

Another thing it was not, was even remotely romantic, but she supposed a woman in her position knew better than to expect such fribbles.

“Well, you are . . .” He waved at her person. Up and down in an illustrative manner that was not illustrative in the slightest.

“I believe we have established the fact that I am a female of child bearing years.” A brood mare, if you will.

“You are more than that, Catherine.” Ah. Now we were getting somewhere.

“Such as?”

“You are elegant. Genteel. Trained in the art of social niceties. You would make a proper wife.”

She sniffed. She was hardly proper. And she certainly did not care to be proper. “There are a thousand debutantes in London who fit that bill.”

He made such a face that she was tempted to laugh. Had she not been so adamant about discovering his true motives, she might have. “Debutantes? London debutantes? What a revolting thought.”

“I, sir, am one such creature.”

“You are nothing like them, my wee Cat.” His adamant tone stirred her, as did his intent stare. She insisted those feelings recede. “You have a highland heart. You love heather. You ride bareback. You run barefoot in the grass at dawn—”

“Good Lord, Duncan. None of those things are proper. And I did those things when I was a child.” She hadn’t known such joy since her father locked her up in Miss Welles’ Finishing School for Girls in Kent. Despite Elizabeth’s friendship, the school had done much to squeeze the wild child from her soul—a loss she felt deeply, even now. But, apparently, she was a proper English lady doomed to marry a proper English lord, and—

But no. She wasn’t. Not anymore, was she?

How strange that this thought filled her with unaccountable joy.

“You are no’ like them,” Duncan, oblivious to her epiphany, continued on. “You are clever and funny and interesting. Those girls have nothing of interest to say.”

“Most likely because I was ruined early,” she “said, tongue in cheek. “I did spend my formative years with savages, I’m told.”

It took a moment for him to realize she was jesting, and then his glower turned to a smile. “Aye.”

“So you want to marry me because I am better disposed to tolerate your unrefined manners?” She was teasing him now, but frankly, he deserved it.

His face went ruddy and he began to sputter.

“Or because I can converse with you on lower subjects, such as offal and breeding?”

“Catherine!”

“Or is it—”

“Stop.”

“I would stop if you would tell me why you want to marry me—so much that you would blackmail me into saying my vows.”

“It was never my intention to blackmail you.” He seemed offended at the suggestion.

“Really? What were those threats about Newgate for then?”

His brow lowered. “Those were a statement of fact. And to be sure, I doona want a wife who felt compelled to wed me, one who felt trapped with a lesser soul as a husband. In fact, if that is the case, I firmly rescind my offer.” He stared at her for a moment, his eyes red-rimmed, then whirled around to leave the room.

Oh dear. Perhaps she had gone too far. She had not intended to insult or wound him, or disparage his person.

“Duncan.” Her voice was small, but he heard her. He stopped stock still, but did not look at her. “I do not feel that you are a lesser soul. You have to know better than that. You are and always have been one of the finest men I’ve met.” It cost her to admit that because of the bitter waters between them, but it was true.

Duke With Benefits EXCERPT BLITZ!!

Duke_With_Blog_Benefits_Excerpt Blitz Banner

Duke With Benefits will be released later this month (June 27th) and after reading the first book in the series (Ready Set Rogue) I can’t wait to read this one!! You’ll also see my review of this book later this month. See below for more information about the book, an excerpt, and a short author bio!  

SUMMARY

Lady Daphne Forsyth is a brilliant mathematician with a burning passion for puzzles. When she learns that the library belonging to her benefactress houses the legendary Cameron Cipher—an encrypted message that, once solved, holds the key to great riches—Daphne is on the case. Unfortunately, her race to unlock the cipher’s code is continually thwarted by a deliciously handsome distraction she hadn’t counted on. . .and cannot resist.

Dalton Beauchamp, the Duke of Maitland, is curious as to why Daphne is spending so much time snooping around his aunt’s bookshelves. He’s even more intrigued by her bold yet calculating manner: She is unapologetic about her secret quest. . .and the fiery attraction that develops between them both. But how can they concentrate on solving a perplexing enigma once the prospect of true love enters the equation?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Manda CollinsManda Collins is the author of several books, including Ready Set Rogue and The Lords of Anarchy series. She spent her teen years wishing she’d been born a couple of centuries earlier, preferably in the English countryside. Time travel being what it is, she resigned herself to life with electricity and indoor plumbing, and read lots of books. When she’s not writing, she’s helping other people use books, as an academic librarian.

EXCERPT

51hiXwy2TSL“There you are, my dear,” said the Earl of Forsyth with a beaming smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.

Maitland saw at once that Daphne favored him. Her green eyes were the same shade as his, though there were lines of dissipation bracketing the earl’s. And though his expertly cropped blond hair was shot through with silver, what remained of its original color was the same shade as hers. But whereas Daphne’s gaze was focused off to the left of whomever she conversed with, like a bird hovering just over a branch, Forsyth’s speared one with cold calculation. As he did to Daphne now.

“You are looking well, Daphne,” the earl continued, stepping forward to embrace his daughter, who looked as uncomfortable with the contact as Maitland had ever seen her. “The sea air agrees with you. As I knew it would.”

“The sea is very beautiful,” Daphne replied woodenly. “Why are you here, Father?”

“Is that any way to greet your Papa?” the earl chided, stepping back from her and wandering farther into the room, standing to stare out at the gardens below through the window. “I’ve traveled all the way from London to see you. And this lovely estate. I must admit that when I first learned of your inheritance, I thought it was all some sort of trick. But you would have your own way and leave the loving bosom of your family no matter what I said. Now that I’m here, though, and see it in person, I must admit that it’s a lovely spot. And your chaperone, Lady Serena, is quite beautiful, isn’t she? A widow, I take it?”

His jaw clenched at the man’s mention of Serena, and Maitland thought perhaps it was time to announce himself. Daphne seemed not to realize he’d followed her in, and the earl was too busy waxing rhapsodic over the beauties of Beauchamp House.

“I don’t believe we’ve met, Forsyth,” he said forcefully, stepping up to stand side by side with Daphne. He gave a slight bow, perhaps not quite as deep as was warranted, but not caring. “The Duke of Maitland. I am a friend of your daughter’s, you might say.”

What he meant by that last, he could not say, but the man made every bit of protective instinct within him go on the alert. He was her father, but all the same Maitland knew that Daphne was no safer with him than she would have been with Sommersby if he still lived.

At the sound of the duke’s voice, Lord Forsyth turned with almost comical haste from the window and stared. For the barest flicker, he looked angry. Well, if he were upset at the knowledge that his daughter was not without friends, then he would simply have to swallow it. Because Maitland was damned if he’d leave her alone with the fellow.

“Duke,” Lord Forsyth said with a tilt of his head, “I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I was a friend of your father’s, and had little notion I’d be meeting you here. He was a good man, your father.”

His father had been nothing of the sort, but Maitland was hardly going to discuss it with Forsyth.

“I am here visiting my sister, Lady Serena,” Maitland said coolly, letting the other man know in tone rather than words that he had not appreciated the older man’s speculative words about her earlier. “And of course my cousin, Kerr. He only recently married another of the heiresses here, and resides here with her.”

Forsyth’s eyes narrowed at the implication that Daphne was well protected should her father wish to cause trouble. At least that was the message Maitland was endeavoring to send. And by the looks of it, Forsyth read him loud and clear.

“Capital, capital,” the earl said with false cheer. “A merry party you must all make here. I had no idea you were in such fine company here, Daphne. No notion at all.”

“Because we have not spoken since I left,” Daphne said, looking from her father to Maitland then back again, as if wondering what went on between them. “And now, father, I really must ask you to leave. I have a great deal of work to do and . . .”

“Don’t be absurd, Daphne,” her father said with a shake of his head. “I only just arrived. And there is something very important I must speak to you about.” He turned to Maitland with a raised brow. “I’m sure you’ll excuse us, Duke. I’m afraid what I need to tell my daughter is private family business.”

Maitland was opening his mouth to tell the man he would leave Daphne alone with him when hell froze over, when Daphne did it for him.

“Maitland stays,” she said, reaching out to grasp him by the arm. It was as much of a cry for help as he’d ever thought he’d see from her. Wordlessly, he slipped her arm into his, as if they were about to promenade round the room. He covered her hand with his, keenly aware of the thread of tension in her.

Once more, the earl’s eyes narrowed, and he turned an assessing gaze on Maitland, perhaps realizing for the first time the threat coming at him from that direction.

His jaw clenched, Forsyth said grimly, “Very well. If you wish your friend to witness our dirty linen, so be it.” As if needing to be in motion in order to speak, the earl began to pace the area between the window and the fireplace. “You know, Daphne, you left me without any obvious means of recouping what I lost from years of paying that tutor of yours, old man Sommersby.”

“You agreed to pay him,” Daphne said tightly. “After I threatened to expose . . .”

Hastily, Forsyth continued, “And I am currently in need of funds. As such, I must insist you return to London with me for the time being and meet a particular gentleman who has expressed interest in marrying you. Though his birth is not as high as yours, he’s quite wealthy and will make you a good husband, I trust. He’s assured me he has no concern about your odd ways, if you’re as beautiful as your portrait.”

Before Maitland could burst out with the string of invectives the other man’s pronouncement inspired in him, Daphne said, “I cannot marry this person. I’ve never even met him. You promised me that I would not have to marry someone for money as long as I won enough at the tables. I did so. You promised me, father.”

“I never actually promised, Daphne.” Forsyth said with a shake of his head. “If you chose to interpret it as such, that is not my fault. Now, go pack your things.”

Daphne’s hand on Maitland’s arm gripped him tightly. And before he even knew what he was doing, he said, “I’m afraid that’s impossible, Forsyth. Daphne is staying here.”

“I don’t know who you think you are, Maitland,” said the earl through clenched teeth, “but I am her father, and I am well within my rights to take her back to London. Now, kindly take your hands off of her and let her go pack.”

“It might once have been your right, Forsyth,” Maitland said coldly, “but Lady Daphne is my betrothed now and as such, she will remain here. With me.”

Copyright © 2017 by Manda Collins and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press.

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/?index=books&keywords=9781250109880&tag=macmillan-20

B&N: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?EAN=9781250109880&afsrc=1&lkid=J29980420&pubid=K239557&byo=1

BAM: http://www.booksamillion.com/product/9781250109880

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/duke-with-benefits/id1183035057?mt=11%E2%80%9D

Indiebound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250109880

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/duke-with-benefits

Powells: http://www.powells.com/partner/33241/biblio/9781250109880