2017 Book #96 – Deja New by MaryJanice Davidson

517ZtT8pyKLTitle: Deja New
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Date finished: 11/29/17
Genre: Fiction, fantasy
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Insighters 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:

Leah Nazir lives in a world where the past can and will come back to bite you in the ass. No, not teething ghosts—reincarnation! As an Insighter, it’s Leah’s job to delve into the murky and (often) deadly former lives of her patients. And she knows a thing or two about danger after killing her mother’s murderer with the help of new beau, Archer Drake.

Isn’t he the best?

Now, it’s time to take their relationship to the next level, but not in any way Leah could have predicted. She and Archer head to Chicago to meet his parents—and try to figure out why Archer’s dad killed his brother decades ago. When someone tries to sabotage their investigation, Leah must decide if the Drake family past is a deal breaker…

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 continues the story of Leah Nazir and Archer Drake, whose relationship began in the last book in the series, Deja Who. It’s hard to pin down exactly but it sounds like this book picks up a few months to a year after the last book left off. Leah and Archer are visiting Archer’s family, hoping that Leah’s Insighter ability will be  what makes the difference in solving a years old mystery: why Archer’s father (Dennis) killed his brother (Donald – Archer’s uncle). Angela Drake is Archer’s cousin and is thrilled that he’s bringing Leah home to meet the family. An Insighter herself (but with far less strength to her abilities than Leah’s) Angela is having a bit of celebrity shock over meeting one of her heroes. It’s this and the new detective on the case, Jason Chambers, that Angela hopes will finally help settle the family’s questions once and for all. But Dennis does not want to cooperate. He’s serving what he feels is a just sentence and has no interest in being freed. The family is quite convinced that he didn’t kill his brother though, so why is he so determined to stay in jail? And why is Angela’s mom been a ghost ever since that fateful day so many years ago?

Overall I liked this book a good amount. Similar to the last book in the series this book has a really creative plot, and this book has a great twist ending! Also similar to the last book, the conversations can get a bit confusing since they’re so fast paced and there’s usually multiple people involved. But that’s part of the charm of the book, I think, is that there is so much going on in it. And the characters are all really funny too, and the situations they all get into are pretty comical as well. I liked that we got to hear more about Leah and Archer, while also seeing a relationship develop between Angela and Jason in this book. I thought this was a great continuation of the story line and I love meeting the different members of the Drake family. I would be interested to see what happens with Leah and Archer’s situation in the future or to hear more about one of the brothers/cousins, I hope for the possibility of more books in the series! I’d recommend giving this one too try, it’s fun and light and I think very interesting.

The bottom line: I liked this book a lot, it was funny and fast-paced and has a very interesting plot. I would recommend giving this one a try!

Link to author website

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

Advertisements

2017 Book #95 – Deja Who by MaryJanice Davidson

51bXz8Oea-L._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Deja Who
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Date finished: 11/24/17
Genre: Fiction, fantasy
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Pages in book: 285
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Insighters series
Where I got the book from: I bought this book, I’m a huge fan of this author

Blurb from the cover:

You couldn’t arrest for murder someone who had killed in his last life. You couldn’t bring a civil suit against such people, either. They could only be legally penalized for what they did this time around—and what a dark circus the legal system had been before that legislation passed! (It was still a dark circus, but perhaps not as dark.)  But you could spot them, and watch them. You could set traps for them.
 
Leah Nazir is an Insighter. Reincarnation is her business. But while her clients’ pasts are a mess, Leah’s is nothing short of tragedy. She’s been murdered. A lot. If left to that bitch, destiny, it’ll happen again. Leah wants to know who’s been following her through time, and who’s been stalking her in the present…

P.I. Archer Drake has been hired by Leah’s mother to keep an eye on her. But the more time he spends watching, the more he finds himself infatuated. Before long, he even finds himself agreeing to help find the person who wants her dead. Over and over again.

Now going full-on “rewind,” Leah hopes it can stave off the inevitable. After all, she’s grown fond of this life—and even fonder of nerdy Archer. But changing her pattern means finding out who her killer is today. And as Leah fears, that could be anyone she has come to know and trust. Anyone.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was approved to read the second book in this series on NetGalley and I had (coincidentally since I really enjoy this author’s previous books) purchased the first book when it was released so I decided to read this so I’d know what was going on going into the second book. And I’m sure glad I did because the plot line in this book is so creative and different that I think I might have had a little more trouble just jumping into the second book, though I’m sure there is enough background info in the second book to get readers up to speed. This book is about Leah Nazir, an Insighter who is trying not to get murdered during this lifetime. An Insighter is a certified person, almost like a therapist but in this world they can also help the person discover who they were in past lives (using a specific medication) and hopefully help them figure out how to break the cycle of their wrongdoings in this lifetime. I thought this was a really creative and interesting plot.

Overall I liked this book. As I’ve said I thought it was a creative and interesting plot. The characters tended to babble a little though, which I didn’t love all the time. And the way their conversations jump around can sometimes be confusing and hard to keep up with. For the most part I stayed engaged throughout the whole story, although in a couple points it did get a little dry. One of the parts that I found particularly interesting was that the author used a lot of real historical references for people’s past lives, including Westley Allan Dodd and Gilles de Rais. I always like when a book can tie in a historical aspect. This was a pretty good book, though dark at times. I would recommend it though, it was very interesting.

The bottom line: I really liked this book, the story line was creative and interesting. I always love seeing an author’s out of the box idea about life and how they can create a whole new reality. There were a few drawbacks but overall it was in interesting read and I would recommend!

Link to author website

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

2017 Book #94 – Romancing the Scot by May McGoldrick

51HC8Rw+H2LTitle: Romancing the Scot
Author: May McGoldrick
Date finished: 11/16/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Swerve
Publication Date: November 14, 2017
Pages in book: 284
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Penningtons 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:

Hugh Pennington—Viscount Greysteil, Lord Justice of the Scottish Courts, hero of the Napoleonic wars—is a grieving widower with a death wish. When he receives an expected crate from the continent, he is shocked to find a nearly dead woman inside. Her identity is unknown, and the handful of American coins and the precious diamond sown into her dress only deepen the mystery.

Grace Ware is an enemy to the English crown. Her father, an Irish military commander of Napoleon’s defeated army. Her mother, an exiled Scottish Jacobite. When Grace took shelter in a warehouse, running from her father’s murderers through the harbor alleyways of Antwerp, she never anticipated bad luck to deposit her at the home of an aristocrat in the Scottish Borders. Baronsford is the last place she could expect to find safety, and Grace feigns a loss of memory to buy herself time while she recovers.

Hugh is taken by her beauty, passion, and courage to challenge his beliefs and open his mind. Grace finds in him a wounded man of honor, proud but compassionate. When their duel of wits quickly turns to passion and romance, Grace’s fears begin to dissolve…until danger follows her to the very doors of Baronsford. For, unknown to either of them, Grace has in her possession a secret that will wreak havoc within the British government. Friend and foe are indistinguishable as lethal forces converge to tear the two lovers apart or destroy them both.

My rating:  3.0 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. I also participated in the Blog Tour for this book, you can see the post here. This book tells the story of Grace Ware, the daughter of one of Napoleon’s most trusted military men. Grace’s only family is her father and she has traveled with him throughout her life, even as far as the battlefields. Grace’s amazingly perfect memory has made her a valuable asset to her father as well, she can remember literally everything – everything she reads, sees, and hears and exactly where it originated and can even sort these items chronologically. Its quite amazing. Anyways after her father is murdered, Grace ends up hiding in a crate and ends up being shipped to Scotland, where she arrives 5 days later almost dead. She’s been shipped to Hugh Pennington, a decorated war veteran himself only on the British side. After nursing Grace back to health, Hugh begins to have feelings for her without knowing who she is. But can they overcome their differences and find happiness together?

Overall I thought this was an ok book. The plot like was fairly interesting and I liked both the main characters. There was a little bit too much mush-y stuff for me, the hero and heroine profess their undying love, multiple times. Which is fine but just not something I usually go for. Other than that though it was a sweet story and I found it interesting. It was a fairly quick read and I would recommend giving it a try!

The bottom line: I liked this one, I thought it was a good and quick read. It got to be a little too cheesy for me but if you’re looking for over the top ooey gooey love this one definitely has it. I would still recommend it though, it was a sweet story!

Link to author website

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

Romancing the Scot BLOG TOUR!!

RomancingtheScot_Banner

Romancing the Scot was released TODAY Tuesday, November 14th, 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 (hopefully within the next day!). See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt! This was a good read and I would recommend checking it out!

SUMMARY

Hugh Pennington—Viscount Greysteil, Lord Justice of the Scottish Courts, hero of the Napoleonic wars—is a grieving widower with a death wish. When he receives an expected crate from the continent, he is shocked to find a nearly dead woman inside. Her identity is unknown, and the handful of American coins and the precious diamond sown into her dress only deepen the mystery.

Grace Ware is an enemy to the English crown. Her father, an Irish military commander of Napoleon’s defeated army. Her mother, an exiled Scottish Jacobite. When Grace took shelter in a warehouse, running from her father’s murderers through the harbor alleyways of Antwerp, she never anticipated bad luck to deposit her at the home of an aristocrat in the Scottish Borders. Baronsford is the last place she could expect to find safety, and Grace feigns a loss of memory to buy herself time while she recovers.

Hugh is taken by her beauty, passion, and courage to challenge his beliefs and open his mind. Grace finds in him a wounded man of honor, proud but compassionate. When their duel of wits quickly turns to passion and romance, Grace’s fears begin to dissolve…until danger follows her to the very doors of Baronsford. For, unknown to either of them, Grace has in her possession a secret that will wreak havoc within the British government. Friend and foe are indistinguishable as lethal forces converge to tear the two lovers apart or destroy them both.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

May McGoldrick author pic.jpgAuthors 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 for Penguin Random House, Mira, HarperCollins, Entangled, and Heinemann. Nikoo, an engineer, also conducts frequent workshops on writing and publishing and serves as a Resident Author. Jim holds a Ph.D. in Medieval and Renaissance literature and teaches English in northwestern Connecticut. They are the authors of Much Ado About Highlanders, Taming the Highlander, and Tempest in the Highlands with SMP Swerve.

BUY IT HERE! 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0746MLYFZ
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/romancing-the-scot-may-mcgoldrick/1126839723
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/isbn9781250166906
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/romancing-the-scot
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=7v8tDwAAQBAJ

EXCERPT

51HC8Rw+H2LExcerpt: Romancing the Scot by May McGoldrick

Looking the shipping crate over for damage and seeing none, he retrieved an iron crow from a workbench. Jo was standing inside the doors, eyeing the box doubtfully from a safe distance.

“Come closer. It won’t bite.”

“Not a chance. From the smell of that thing, a person would think you’re importing cadavers. Have you also taken up being a Resurrectionist as a hobby?”

He patted the crate affectionately. “This sweet thing has been sitting in the bowels of a ship from Antwerp. You know what the hold of a ship smells like?”

“Actually, I don’t.” She held a handkerchief to her nose and drew closer. “But I think you’re correct with the reference to ‘bowels.’”

Hugh took the first nail out. “Well, stand back, since you’ve become so prissy. Though I recall a younger version of you leading the rest of us through bogs and marshes that smelled no better.”

“Of course! But as I recall, we had frogs and turtles and the occasional dragon that needed hunting,” she replied with a smile. “Very well. Open it and let’s see this treasure of yours.”

Prying off the top took him only a moment. Throwing it to the side, he pulled back the tarp that covered the basket and then stared curiously at the dark green rags bundled at the bottom.

Leaning in, Hugh’s enthusiasm evaporated as a horrid realization settled in. This was no pile of old clothing. A shock of blond hair. A shoe. A hand. The body of a dead woman lay curled up in the gondola.

“Bloody hell.”

“What is it?” Immediately, Jo was at his side. “Good God!”

Hugh climbed in and crouched beside the body. He took her hand. She was cold to the touch. His heart sank. The crate had been shipped from Antwerp. To be trapped for so many days with no water, no food, in the cold and damp of the ship’s hold. He had no idea who this woman was or how she came to be in here.

The thought struck him. Perhaps it wasn’t an inadvertent act. Perhaps she was murdered and her body had been dumped into the crate.

Dismay and alarm clawed at him as he pushed away the matted ringlets of golden hair. She was young. He lifted her chin. The body had none of the stiffness of postmortem. He stared at her lips. He may have imagined it but they seemed to have moved.

“Bright . . .” The whisper was a mere rustle of leaves in a breeze.

The fingers jerked and came to life, clutching at his hand.

“She’s not dead,” he called to Jo, relieved. “Send for the doctor. I’ll take her to the house.”

His sister ran out, calling for help, and he lifted the woman. She emitted a low groan. Her limbs had been locked in the same cramped position for so many days. Hugh propped her over the side of the gondola.

“Stay with me,” he encouraged. “Talk to me.”

Holding the woman in place, he clambered from the basket and then gently lifted her out, cradling her in his arms. She weighed next to nothing.

As they went out into the rain, he feared she was about to die. The exertion of trying to breathe showed on her face. He’d seen this on the battlefield. The final effort before death.

Starting up the path, he stumbled, not realizing the woman’s skirts were dragging on the ground. He staggered but caught himself before they went down. Her head lolled against his chest, her face gray and mask-like. She appeared to be slipping away. It would be a shame that she’d survived the crossing only to perish now.

A dagger point of anger pierced Hugh’s brain as he recalled another dismal day when he’d lifted two other bodies, wrapped in burial shrouds, from a wooden box.

“Talk to me,” he ordered. “Say something.”

As he made his way up the hill toward the house, a bolt of lightning streaked across the sky above Baronsford. Thunder shook the ground and the sky opened, unleashing fierce torrents of rain on them.

His wife. His son. Hugh hadn’t been there for them. They’d died as he and the British army were being chased by the French across Spain. He’d been trying to save his men’s lives, not knowing that those most precious to him were suffering.

“You’ve survived a horrifying ordeal. Give me the chance to save you.”

The woman struggled weakly in Hugh’s arms, and her head tipped back. He watched as her lips parted, welcoming the wetness of the falling rain.

“We’re almost there.”

“Bright . . .” she murmured.

He looked into her face and saw she was trying hard to open her eyes.

“Yes, brighter than that crate,” he said, encouraged by her effort. Any movement, however small, gave him hope. “And you’ve been in there for Lord knows how long.”

2017 Book #92 – The Scandalous Flirt by Olivia Drake

514OabNnicLTitle: The Scandalous Flirt
Author: Olivia Drake
Date finished: 11/5/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Pages in book: 349
Stand alone or series: #6 in the Cinderella Sisterhood 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:

Scandal begins with just one kiss…

Aurora Paxton was once the belle of the ball, the most sought-after debutante of the season—until a scandalous mistake ruined her. Shunned by her family, Rory was banished to the country to live in disgrace. Now she’s been summoned back to London by her stepmother, who is being blackmailed by the least likely person Rory can imagine: Lucas Vale, Marquess of Dashell.

Lucas is someone Rory’s known for years—a man as devastatingly handsome as he is coldly disapproving of her. What in the world could he want from her or her family? Rory intends to find out as soon as she comes face to face with her old foe. What she never expects, however, is that the icy aristocrat has a soft spot for her—and a secret plan to redeem her status. Could it be that Lucas has been in love with Rory all along. . .and has finally found a way to win her heart?

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 a young woman (Rory) who was caught by her parents with a man in a compromising position 8 years ago and was subsequently scuttled off to the country to try and save her from making any future dire mistakes. Now though, she is back in London to help her selfish and jerk of a stepmother (Kitty) figure out who is blackmailing her. Kitty apparently has some love letters from years ago that have been taken and someone is now using them to force substantial payments from Kitty. Believing the son of the author of the letters to be the culprit (Lucas), Rory gets a position in his household as his mother’s companion. The more time she spends with Lucas however, the more she realizes that he could never have done this. And the more she falls a little bit in love with him everyday. Unfortunately Lucas needs an infusion of cash to help save his debt-ridden properties, and since Rory comes with no dowry, their relationship is doomed to fail. This doesn’t stop the feelings of passion that ignite when they’re together.

Overall I liked this book a good amount. There are some pieces of the story line that didn’t fit super well. I kept forgetting about the shoes because it it wasn’t well highlighted in the story and kind of didn’t fit within the plot line. Lucas’s character was brooding and romantic and I liked him but he was a little too proud for my tastes. Some of the supporting characters in the book were ridiculous, like Lucas’s mother who was so obnoxious I wanted to punch her. Other than that it was a sweet and romantic story. I would have like to know what happened to Alice but maybe she’ll be featured in a future book even. This was a cute story with interesting characters and I would recommend it,

The bottom line: This was an ok book for me. I thought the ending was a little anticlimactic and there were some pieces of the story line that didn’t quite fit for me. Other than that this was a sweet story and I would recommend it.

Link to author website

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

2017 Book #91 – The Right Kind of Rogue by Valerie Bowman

51nxLUiM5GLTitle: The Right Kind of Rogue
Author: Valerie Bowman
Date finished: 10/30/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Pages in book: 314
Stand alone or series: #8 in the Playful Brides 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:

Can two star-crossed lovers come together—until death do they part?

Viscount Hart Highgate has decided to put his rakish ways behind him and finally get married. He may adore a good brandy or a high-speed carriage race, but he takes his duties as heir to the earldom seriously. Now all he has to do is find the right kind of woman to be his bride—ideally, one who’s also well-connected and well-funded. . .

Meg Timmons has loved Hart, the brother of her best friend, ever since she was an awkward, blushing schoolgirl. If only she had a large dowry—or anything to her name at all. Instead, she’s from a family that’s been locked in a bitter feud with Hart’s for years. And now she’s approaching her third London season, Meg’s chances with him are slim to none. Unless a surprise encounter on a deep, dark night could be enough to spark a rebellious romance. . .for all time?

My rating:  3.0 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. I also participated in the Blog Tour for this book, you can see the post here.  This book tells the story of Meg (Margaret) Timmons, a wallflower who desperately wants to be noticed by her friends brother. Hart Highgate, Sarah’s brother (Sarah was the heroine of The Legendary Lord, where we first meet Hart and Meg) has recently decided its high time he settle down and find a wife. Even though Meg knows that Hart hates a scheming manipulator, she enlists Lucy’s help (Lucy was the heroine of the first book in the series) to at least get Hart to notice her. Lucy, of course, takes things a bit too far and ends up ensnaring Meg and Hart in a sticky situation. Plus even though they both have feelings for each other, their families hate each other and have refused a match between the two. So do they really have any hope of being together?

Overall I liked this book ok. I thought that both Meg and Hart’s characters could have been developed a little more than they were but their story was still a sweet love story. Lucy in the story compares Meg and Hart to Romeo and Juliet, due to them being star crossed lovers, which I mostly understood except for how hard-headed and not in love Hart was for most of the book. It got to be a little frustrating that no one could talk about their feelings or tell the truth. And the few times someone actually told the truth they weren’t listened to. It got to be quite irksome after awhile. They (obviously) worked it out in the end though and it was a sweet ending. This one wasn’t my favorite but it was a sweet, easy and quick read so I’d recommend it.

The bottom line: I liked this book, it was a sweet story and a quick, light read. I would recommend it!

Link to author website

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

The Right Kind of Rogue BLOG TOUR!!

BLOG TOUR BANNER

The Right Kind of Rogue will be released this Tuesday, October 31st, 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 (hopefully within the next day!). See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt! This was a good read and I would recommend checking it out!

SUMMARY

Can two star-crossed lovers come together—until death do they part?

Viscount Hart Highgate has decided to put his rakish ways behind him and finally get married. He may adore a good brandy or a high-speed carriage race, but he takes his duties as heir to the earldom seriously. Now all he has to do is find the right kind of woman to be his bride—ideally, one who’s also well-connected and well-funded. . .

Meg Timmons has loved Hart, the brother of her best friend, ever since she was an awkward, blushing schoolgirl. If only she had a large dowry—or anything to her name at all. Instead, she’s from a family that’s been locked in a bitter feud with Hart’s for years. And now she’s approaching her third London season, Meg’s chances with him are slim to none. Unless a surprise encounter on a deep, dark night could be enough to spark a rebellious romance. . .for all time?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Valerie BowmanVALERIE BOWMAN grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her mini-schnauzer, Huckleberry. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS. She is the author of the Secret Brides and Playful Brides series.

BUY IT HERE! 

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million
Indie Bound
Powells

EXCERPT

51nxLUiM5GL CHAPTER TWO

“How in Hades’s name can you drink at this hour of the morning, Highgate?”

Hart tossed back his brandy, swallowed, and laughed at his brother-in-law’s words. The two sat across from each other at Brooks’s gentlemen’s club. It was decidedly before noon. The only reason Hart was up at this hour was because he’d promised to meet Lord Christian Berkeley. His brother-in-law rarely asked for favors and Hart suspected this meeting was his sister Sarah’s doing, but he would humor the viscount just the same.

“Berkeley, old chap, you don’t know the half of it.” Hart clapped the viscount on the back. “Helps with the devil of a head left over from last night, don’t ya know?”

Berkeley lifted his teacup to his lips. “No. I don’t. But I’ll take your word for it.”

That reply only made Hart laugh harder, which made his head hurt more. Hart liked his brother-in-law a great deal, but the man was decidedly humdrum when it came to amusements. Berkeley rarely drank, rarely smoked, and preferred to spend his time at his estate in the north of England or his hunting lodge in Scotland. Berkeley enjoyed quiet pursuits like reading or carving things out of wood much more than the amusements London had to offer. But Viscount Berkeley was a good man and one who clearly adored Hart’s sister, and that was what mattered.

The viscount had gone so far as to dramatically interrupt Sarah’s wedding to a pompous marquess and claim her for himself, thereby not only proving his commitment to Sarah but also saving Hart from having the self-involved Marquess of Branford as a brother-in-law. Overall it had been quite a fortunate turn of events for everyone. Everyone except Hart and Sarah’s enraged, thwarted parents, that is.

Berkeley tugged at his cravat. “How are your—ahem— parents getting on?”

Hart cracked a smile. “Still angry, of course, even after all these months. You and Sarah made a good decision, staying up north for the winter. Gave Father and Mother time to calm down.” His father’s anger at having a scandal mar his family name and his daughter marry a mere viscount as opposed to a marquess who had the ear of the Prince Regent had barely abated over the winter, but no need to tell Berkeley as much.

Berkeley leaned back in his chair and crossed one silk-stockinged ankle over an immaculately creased knee, his hands lightly clutching the arms of his chair. He shook his head. “They’re not calmed down, are they?”

“A bit.” Hart stopped a footman and ordered another brandy. “Don’t worry. They’ll be civil when they see you. For Sarah’s sake.”

“Well, that’s something. Are you seriously ordering another drink?”

“Are you seriously surprised?” Hart scratched his rough cheek. He’d been running late and hadn’t bothered to ask his usually drunken valet to shave him this morning. For Christ’s sake, that man drank more than he did. Not exactly someone he wanted near his throat with a straight razor. “Besides I have quite a good reason to drink today.”

“Really?” Berkeley tugged at his cuff. Ever since Sarah had taught him how to dress properly, the viscount was much more attentive to his clothing. He was downright dapper these days. “Why is that?”

“I’m getting married.” Hart emitted a groan to accompany those incomprehensible words.

Berkeley’s brows shot up. He set down his cup and placed a hand behind his ear. “Pardon? I must have heard you incorrectly. I thought you said married.”

The footman returned with the drink and Hart snatched it from the man’s gloved hand and downed nearly half of it in a single gulp. “I did,” he muttered through clenched teeth, wincing.

“You? Married?” Berkeley’s brow remained steadfastly furrowed, and he blinked as if the word were foreign.

“Me. Married.” Hart gave a firm nod before taking another fortifying gulp of brandy.

“Ahem, who is the, uh, fortunate lady?” Berkeley lifted his cup back to his lips and took a long gulp, as if needing the hot drink to banish his astonishment.

“I haven’t the first idea.” Hart shook his head. He was giving serious thought to the notion of ordering a third brandy. Would that be bad form? Probably.

“Now you’re simply confusing me,” Berkeley said with an unmistakable smile on his face. With his free hand, he pulled the morning’s copy of the Times from the tabletop next to him and scanned the headlines.

Hart took another sip of brandy and savored it this time. “I haven’t made any decisions as to the chit yet. I’ve merely announced to Father that this is the year I intend to find a bride. The idea of marriage has always made my stomach turn. After all, if my parents’ imperfect union is anything by which to gauge the institution, it’s a bloody nightmare.”

“Why the change of heart?” Berkeley asked.

Hart scrubbed a hand through his hair. The truth was, he wasn’t less sickened by the prospect of marriage these days, but he couldn’t avoid the institution forever. At some point he’d have to put the parson’s noose firmly around his own throat and pull. Wives were fickle, and marriages meant little other than the exchange of money and property. His own father had announced that fact on more than one occasion. His parents treated each other like unhappy strangers, and his father had made it clear that they were anything but in love. That, Hart supposed, was his fate. To live a life as his parents had in the pursuit of procreating and producing the next future Earl of Highfield. So be it, but was it any wonder he’d been putting it off?

“Seeing Sarah marry had more of an effect on me than I expected,” Hart admitted, frowning at his notquite-empty glass. “And if you ever tell anyone I said that, I’ll call you out.” He looked at Berkeley and grinned again.

“You have my word,” Berkeley replied with a nod. “But may I ask how it affected you?”

Hart pushed himself back in the large leather chair and crossed his booted feet at the ankles. “I started thinking about it all, you know? Life, marriage, children, family. I expect you and Sarah will be having a child soon, and by God I’d like my children to grow up knowing their kin. My cousin Nicole was quite close to Sarah and me when we were children. Nicole’s marriage isn’t one to emulate, either. She hasn’t even seen her husband in years. Last I heard, she’s living somewhere in France, childless. By God, perhaps I should rethink this.” Hart pulled at his cravat. The bloody thing was nearly choking him what with all of this talk of marriage.

Berkeley leaned back in his seat, mirroring Hart. “Perhaps you should focus on the positive aspects of marriage. I assure you, there are many.”

“Believe me, I’m trying,” Hart continued, reminding himself for the hundredth time of the reasons why he’d finally come to this decision. God knew it hadn’t been an easy one. “Whether I like it or not, it’s time for me to choose a bride. Sarah is my younger sister. While she wasn’t married, it all seemed like fun and games, but now, well, seems everyone is tying the proverbial knot these days what with Owen Monroe and Rafe Cavendish marrying. Even Rafe’s twin, Cade, has fallen to the parson’s noose.”

Just this morning when Hart had woken with a splitting head for the dozenth time in as many days, he’d thought yet again how he needed to stop being so reckless. He wasn’t able to bounce back from a night of debauchery nearly as quickly as he used to when he was at university. Seeing Sarah marry had made him consider his duties, his responsibilities, and his . . . age. For the love of God, he was nearly thirty. That thought alone was enough to make him want another brandy. It was his duty to sire the next Earl of Highfield, and duty meant something to him. What else mattered if he didn’t respect his duty? Hadn’t that been hammered into his head since birth by his father, along with all the dire warnings not to choose the wrong wife?

“It’s true that several marriages have taken place lately in our set of friends,” Berkeley replied, still leisurely perusing the paper while sipping tea. “But I thought you were immune to all of that, Highgate.”

“I have been.” Hart sighed again. “But I’ve finally decided it’s time to get to it.”

Berkeley raised his teacup in salute. “Here’s to the future Lady Highfield. May she be healthy, beautiful, and wise.”

“Thank you,” Hart replied. He tugged at his pythonlike cravat again.

Berkeley regarded Hart down the length of his nose. “Any ladies catch your fancy?”

Hart shook his head. He braced an elbow on the table beside them and set his chin on his fist. “No. That’s the problem. I’m uncertain where to begin.”

Berkeley let the paper drop to his lap. “What sort of lady are you looking for?”

Hart considered the question for a moment. What sort of lady, indeed? “She’ll need to be reasonable, well connected, clever, witty, a happy soul. Someone who is honest, and forthright, and who isn’t marrying me only for my title. Someone who doesn’t nag and has an indecently large dowry, of course. Father puts great stock in such things. Not to mention if I’m going to be legshackled, I might as well get a new set of horses out of the bargain. I’m thinking a set of matching grays and a new coach.”

“Oh, that’s not much of a list,” Berkeley said with a snort. “

I don’t expect the search to be a simple one, or a quick one.” The truth was Hart had no earthly idea who he was looking for. He only knew who he wasn’t looking for . . . someone like his mother. Or the treacherous Annabelle Cardiff. He wanted the exact opposite.

Berkeley tossed the paper back onto the tabletop. “Knowing your father’s decided opinions on such matters, I’m surprised he hasn’t provided you with a list of eligible females from which you may choose.”

Hart rolled his eyes. “He has. He’s named half a dozen ladies he would gladly accept.”

Berkeley inclined his head to the side. “Why don’t you choose one of them then?”

Hart gave his brother-in-law an are-you-quite-serious look, chin tucked down, head tilted to the side. “I’m bloody well not about to allow my father to choose a bride for me. Besides, after seeing you and Sarah, I hold out some hope of finding a lady with whom I’m actually compatible.”

“Why, Highgate, do you mean . . . love?” Berkeley grinned and leaned forward in mock astonishment.

“Let’s not go that far.” Hart took another sip of his quickly dwindling brandy. That’s precisely what confused him so much. He knew love matches existed. He’d witnessed one in his sister’s marriage. On the other hand, her choice had so enraged his parents, they still hadn’t forgiven her. Hart didn’t intend to go about the business of finding a wife in quite so dramatic a fashion. Love matches attracted drama. However, his parents’ unhappy union was nothing to aspire to, and he’d nearly made the mistake of marrying a woman who wanted nothing more than title and fortune before. It was a tricky business, the marriage mart, but he’d rather take advice from Sarah and Berkeley than his father. The proof of the pudding was in the eating, after all.

Berkeley laughed. “What if you fall madly in love and become a devoted husband? Jealous even. Now, that would be a sight.”

“Jealous? That’s not possible.” Hart grinned back at Berkeley. “I’ve never been jealous. Don’t have it in me. My friends at university used to tease me about it. No ties to any particular lady. No regrets.” He settled back in his chair and straightened his cravat, which was tighter than ever.

“We’ll see.” Berkeley took another sip of tea. His eyes danced with amusement.

“I was hoping you and Sarah might help me this Season.

Sarah knows most of the young ladies. She also knows me as well as anyone does. Not to mention, the two of you seem to have got the thing right.”

Berkeley glanced up. “Why, Highgate, is that a compliment on our marriage?”

“Take it as you will.” Hart waved a noncommittal hand in the air. He avoided meeting Berkeley’s eyes.

Berkeley settled further into his chair. “I shall take it as a compliment, then. I have a feeling Sarah would like nothing more than to help you with such an endeavor. She fancies herself a matchmaker these days.”

“Will you two be staying in London for the Season?”

“Yes. Sarah wants to stay and I, of course, will support her, at least as long as I can remain in the same town as your father without him calling me out.” A smirk settled on Berkeley’s face.

Hart eyed the remaining liquid in his glass. “I’ll be happy to play the role of peacemaker to the best of my ability.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Berkeley inclined his head toward his brother-in-law.

“Who else is Sarah matchmaking for?” Hart sloshed the brandy in the bottom of the glass.

“She’s not merely matchmaking. No. To hear her tell it, she has an important mission this Season.”

Hart set down the glass and pulled another section of the Times off the table and began scanning it. He’d talked enough about marriage for one day. Odious topic. “A mission? What mission?” he asked, merely to be polite.

“To find Meg Timmons a husband.”

Hart startled in surprise, grasping the paper so tightly it tore in the middle. Tossing it aside, he reached for his glass and gulped the last of his brandy.

Meg Timmons. He knew Meg Timmons. She was Sarah’s closest friend, the daughter of his father’s mortal enemy, and a woman with whom Hart had experienced an incident last summer that he’d been seriously trying to forget.

Copyright © 2017 by Valerie Bowman and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.