2017 Book #36 – Highland Barbarian by Hannah Howell

51IxrMFU04L._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Highland Barbarian
Author: Hannah Howell
Date finished: 4/21/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Zebra
Publication Date: March 28, 2017 (Reprint)
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: The Murrays series book #13
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:

Sir Artan Murray was right when he decided that the dying old man who bid him collect his niece didn’t know her at all. The furious woman facing him is neither “sweet” nor “biddable.” She demands the brawny Highlander return her to the wedding party from which he took her. But Artan has no intention of allowing so spirited and bewitching a creature to endure a loveless marriage to a ruthless lord for her clan’s sake. He aims to woo the lass and to show her that true love also yields unforgettable pleasure. . .
Cecily Donaldson knows a bond forged by danger and desperation cannot endure. But Artan’s touch leaves her breathless, and she knows this to be her one chance to experience true passion before an arranged marriage seals her fate. Yet once begun, passion cannot be denied. . .nor can a love with the promise to change everything. . .

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 tells the story of Sir Artan Murray and Miss Cecily Donaldson. Artan’s foster father, Angus, who is as healthy as they come, takes to his bed and claims to be near death. His dying wish is that Artus go to the Lowlands and bring his niece Cecily to see him. With no other heirs, Angus also hopes that Artus will marry Cecily and inherit his estate. Cecily’s parents and brother died when she was young, leaving her under the care of her guardians, who are cousins of her father. Raised her whole life thinking she was a burden to her cousin’s family, Cecily is set to wed Sir Fergus Ogilvey at their request. But when Artus shows up two weeks before her wedding she starts to wake up and realize that this may not be the path she wants. And as she spends more time with Artus, she sees how little respect she’s been treated with over the years. Artus has been doing some observing of his own and he sees how abominably everyone seems to treat Cecily, who is the sweetest woman he’s ever met. And when he learns that Cecily’s guardians might have had a hand in her father and brother’s death, he knows that he has to get her back to Glascreag in order to keep her safe, whether she’s willing to come with him or not.
Overall I really liked this book. The plot was interesting and I loved the tension and the drama of the story. I especially liked Cecily’s character, she was fierce but also feminine and I just loved how fearless she was. And I loved the community that surrounded Cecily once she made it to the Highlands, it was touching to see that she had finally found the family she had always looked for. This was a sweet but fierce story and I liked it very much, I’d be interested to read other books by this author and in this series.

The bottom line: I liked this book a lot, it was a good story and the heroine was fierce and amazing. I would love to read more in this series!

Link to author website

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

2017 Book #34 – The Lady and the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall

51Xw01CMWjLTitle: The Lady and the Highlander
Author: Lecia Cornwall
Date finished: 4/18/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Swerve
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Pages in book: 277
Stand alone or series: Highland Fairy Tales series #3
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:

Laire MacLeod’s father has married a mysterious widow who is a vain beauty that deals with potions and spells. Laire does not drink them with the rest of her family and is the only one who could see through her stepmother’s games. When Laire flees to find help from her Uncle, the Lady’s huntsman follows her with orders to kill. Laire must survive in a dangerous new city and find the antidote to a poisonous potion before it is too late.
Iain Lindsay is cursed. He is bound for seven years to be the hunter of a Lady who uses him to bring back birds to use in her potions. When Laire MacLeod escapes the Lady’s nets, Iain tracks her to Edinburgh, where she’s found shelter with an unusual band of thieves, but he cannot bring himself to harm her. Instead, he finds himself falling in love with the MacLeod beauty.
But a Highlander’s oath is his bond, and the price for helping her is death, both his own, and of those he loves.

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 tells the story of Laire MacLeod, sister to the other MacLeod girls from the first two books in the series. Laire is one of twelve sisters, and one of the ten that still live at home. It is this plethora of innocence and beauty that draws in an evil witch disguised as a stepmother, Bibiana. Bibiana puts everyone in the castle under a spell by dosing their wine. Laire is the only one who is able to keep her wits about her, solely because of a traumatic experience in her youth that left her with a fear of drinking anything but water. And after a dangerous encounter with Bibiana, Laire flees for her life with the unexpected help of Bibiana’s hunter, Iain. Iain has his own scars from the past and serving Bibiana in her evil endeavors has not helped in the least. But when he meets Laire he knows he can’t turn a blind eye to this young woman’s fate as he has done so often already. He knows he must do everything in his power to save her or be lost in the process.
Overall I really liked this book! It was interesting and intriguing and scary. It was a great take on the classic Snow White tale. There were pieces that did get a bit repetitive, it seemed like every one and their mothers were out to do harm to Laire, but that was probably realistic for a beautiful young woman traveling entirely alone. Iain’s character was pretty dark, but as his character develops you can see the softer sides to him. And the relationship between Iain and Laire, while complicated, was touching and heart-felt. I felt so bad for Laire through the story, to be so powerless against this daunting evil force. It made her character seem even more strong and resilient though which was an important piece of the story. I especially liked the ending of this one, I thought that it was a creative/neat way to resolve the last issue of the plot line.

The bottom line: I liked this book a lot, it was a good story and I liked the Snow White based story line. A couple frustrating parts but overall I liked it. I like this series as a whole so far and I’m interested to learn more about the other sisters. I would love to have a documented list though so I could keep track of which ones share which mothers and the order they were born in!

Link to author website

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

COVER REVEAL – The Duke of Defiance by Darcy Burke

DoD Cover Reveal.jpg

We are so excited to bring you the cover reveal for Darcy Burke’s The Duke of Defiance, book 5 in The Untouchables series. We hope you love the cover as much as we do!

Release date: June 27, 2017

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.

Pre-Order: AmazonBarnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

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Meet the Author:

Darcy 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.
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2017 Book #30 – My One True Highlander by Suzanne Enoch

51EzZN-jfOLTitle: My One True Highlander
Author: Suzanne Enoch
Date finished: 4/4/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Pages in book: 319
Stand alone or series: #2 in the No Ordinary Hero 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:

Scotland, 1812—Rugged Highlander Graeme’s loyalty to his clan means that their enemies are his own—even when that includes his neighbor, the Duke of Lattimer. It’s a fight he doesn’t relish, but when Graeme’s reckless younger brothers foolishly kidnap Lattimer’s younger sister, all bets are off…
Lady Marjorie Forrester may be aligned with the enemy, but capturing her puts Graeme squarely in the middle of a war. If he turns Marjorie over to his clan chief, she could be killed. If he lets her go, his brothers could face prison. In addition, the woman can’t stop trying to civilize the lot of them! What’s a Highlander to do, then, but keep the stubborn lass close…and explore the unexpected passion that develops between them? But how can Graeme protect Marjorie and his brothers when both Lattimer and his own clan are on the warpath—and will do whatever it takes to tear these two star-crossed lovers apart, in My One True Highlander, the next No Ordinary Hero Scottish romance from New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Enoch.

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 Lady Marjorie Forrester, sister to Gabriel Forrester from Book 1 in the series, No Ordinary Highlander. Lady Marjorie receives a letter from her brother informing her of his upcoming marriage, which he plans to celebrate with her in the spring when the weather has improved for traveling. Having missed out on most of their lives though with her brother being in the army and her being in boarding school, Marjorie decides this is one event she won’t be missing and immediately departs for the north. Unknown to her, she’s walking right into the middle of a clan war between the Maxwell clan and her brother’s newly established clan. Graeme Maxton is a laird who lives about 6 hours south of Gabriel. After his parents died when he was 20, he was left to raise his 3 younger brothers and also care for a whole herd of people. Maxwell usually ignores his existence, however his proximity to Gabriel has brought Graeme right into the crossfire of this clan war. And when his younger brothers kidnap Marjorie to try and “help,” Graeme then has to figure out what to do with her. And as Lady Marjorie spends more and more time with Graeme and his family, she finds herself fitting into this wild Highland place in a way she never expected.
Overall I really liked this book. I thought that Graeme was a really interesting character and he was so generous and thoughtful and just a great hero for this novel. And his youngest brother is just adorable and I loved the farm yard of pets that they have adopted into their household. While for some authors this plot line might have been unrealistic or unromantic or both, this author does a great job of making the whole thing seem less like Stockholm Syndrome and more like.. fate. The tension and the romance between the two main characters was just perfect. The book also had great supporting characters and plenty of drama with the clan war goings-on.

The bottom line: I really enjoyed this book, I always like a good historical romance novel! I would definitely recommend, especially if you enjoy Highlander novels.

Link to author website

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

2017 Book #29 – Windswept by Sabrina Jeffries

51EBNNsn5ZLTitle: Windswept
Author: Sabrina Jeffries (Originally published under pen name Deborah Martin)
Date finished: 4/3/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: February 28, 2017 (Reprint, originally published April 1996)
Pages in book: 368
Stand alone or series: #2 in (Reworked) Wales 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:

Originally written under the pseudonym Deborah Martin, this unforgettable tale of mystery, treasure, and passion is back in print at last and newly revised for today’s audience—and available as an ebook!
Welsh widow Catrin Price is haunted by a family death curse. Any man whom she marries without first drinking from an ancient Druid chalice sold by her ancestor long ago is unquestionably doomed. But when she hunts it down to purchase it, the chalice’s former owner ends up dead. Who will believe her innocent with the man’s treasure in her hands? Now she lives in fear of discovery, afraid to trust, afraid to give away her heart…
Even Newcome, a scholar struggling to overcome a difficult past, travels to Wales to find the mysterious woman last seen with his murdered friend. So when the lady proves to be a beautiful yet shy creature who shares his love of Welsh mythology, he’s torn between believing her guilty and trusting the passion blazing between them. But as unscrupulous men seek the chalice for their own devious purposes, will Catrin and Evan let their wall of mistrust stand between them? Or will they defeat their enemies together and embrace the love intended for them since time immemorial?

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. This book tells the story of Catrin Price, a widow who is a direct descendant of The Lady of the Mists and believed to be a witch. While having no supernatural powers, Catrin does believe that her family is under a curse from hundreds of years ago when The Lady of the Mist’s daughter wanted to marry an English merchant. Over the years Catrin’s family lost an important family heirloom, and when Catrin tries to get it back, Evan Newsome’s best friend is somehow murdered in the process. We met Evan in the last book, Stormswept, when he was a younger lad. Now Evan is all grown up and is determined to find out what happened to his friend that night. And so he hunts down The Lady of the Mists, only to discover that she is a beautiful and shy young woman. Determined to get answers without scaring her off, Evan decides to deceive her and gain her trust until he gets the truth out of her.
Overall I liked this book ok. Evan was kind of an ass in the first half of the book. And you can definitely tell that this book was from a different time period (it was originally printed in the mid-90’s) because Evan was not very good at respecting Catrin’s wishes when she said no. As the reader and knowing Catrin’s internal monologue as well its easy for the reader to see that she liked Evan and did actually want to, you know, kiss him and stuff but even still it got a little creepy at a couple points. Other than that though I liked the book a lot. The supernatural element always draws me in and the way the book ended was really great. This was a good book but it was a little outdated I think.

The bottom line: I liked this book. Catrin, like Julianna from book #1 in the series, was an immensely sweet, patient, and generous heroine. I liked Evan a lot, especially since we meet him as a young boy in book #1, Stormswept. You can tell this book is from a different era though, as Evan was a bit heavy-handed and heard “yes” a lot of the time when Catrin was saying “no.” Other than that issue, I found the book to be engaging and heartfelt. I would recommend it but with a caution that you will be annoyed by certain points in the book.

Link to author website

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

2017 Book #28 – Stormswept by Sabrina Jeffries

51r+upTVeTLTitle: Stormswept
Author: Sabrina Jeffries (Originally published under pen name Deborah Martin)
Date finished: 3/30/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: June 28, 2016 (Reprint, originally published July 1995)
Pages in book: 401
Stand alone or series: #1 in (Reworked) Wales 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:

New York Times bestseller Sabrina Jeffries reignites a daring love affair in this intriguing tale of desire and deception—originally written as Deborah Martin and newly revised for today’s audience.
The first wedding night that Lady Juliana St. Albans spent with the dark and daring Rhys Vaughan was intoxicating, the heady culmination of her new husband’s driving hunger and her own awakened sensuality. When he mysteriously disappeared the next morning, she waited for him in hope and desperation. And when he was finally proclaimed dead in a shipwreck, she bitterly mourned the loss of her love.
The second wedding night that Juliana spent with Rhys Vaughan was six years later, after he returned to claim her just as she was about to wed another. This Rhys was different—bolder, harder, and convinced that she’d betrayed him. Only their blazing passion remains from their years apart. But is it enough to light their way through the maze of mystery, menace, and mistrust—to the love they once shared and would have to find again?

My rating:  3.25 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 Juliana St. Albans, who falls in love with Rhys Vaughan. Juliana is the daughter of an earl and Rhys is the son of a squire, and their match is an unusual one. It is made even more unusual due to the fact that Juliana’s father recently took ownership of Rhys’s father’s estate after winning it in a game of cards. Nothing can keep these two apart though, so despite the evidence that they should be enemies they decide to run away together and get married. Only on the night of their wedding (after it though) Juliana’s brothers kidnap Rhys and force him (through impressment which apparently was an actual thing) to join the Navy. After 7 long years, Juliana decides that its time to give up hope and re-marry, and that’s when Rhys comes waltzing back in. Not to save the day though! To punish Juliana for “her part” in his impressment. But still despite the odds, neither Juliana nor Rhys can deny the attraction between them. Can they resolve the issues of their past in order to move forward though?
Overall I liked this book ok. Juliana was such a lovable character and I really admired how patient and forgiving she was. At the same time I thought Rhys was pretty pig-headed and not as appealing as I’d hoped. And the plot line, while riveting, was slightly horrifying. I can’t believe that impressment was something that was actually allowed to happen. And while they are still her brothers, I can’t believe that after her brother had her husband literally banished and then lied to her about it that she could even say that a relationship could attempt to be repaired. I would’ve just been like “Bye have a nice life you suck.” If you can get past those couple pieces though and overlook the glaring awfulness that happened to Rhys, this book was pretty good.

The bottom line: I liked this book, Juliana was an immensely sweet, patient, and generous heroine. I wasn’t a huge fan of Rhys or the plot for the most part (impressment sounds barbaric) but I still found the book to be engaging and heartfelt. I would recommend it but with a caution that you will be frustrated/saddened by certain points in the book.

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 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. 


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.


©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.


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.


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.