2017 Book #42 – Never Trust a Pirate by Valerie Bowman

51HzyMz0VaL._SY346_Title: Never Trust a Pirate
Author: Valerie Bowman
Date finished: 5/8/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Pages in book: 321
Stand alone or series: #7 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:

The rules of engagement were never so scandalous. . .
A rumored pirate and the scurrilous black sheep of his well-to- do family, Cade Cavendish relishes his world of rebellion, deception, and seduction. Nothing and no one can hold him to be the duty-bound, honorable man he is expected to be. But when an unexpected run-in at his twin brother’s estate with a ravishing, raven-haired maid leads her to believe he’s actually a viscount, Cade’s renegade life is thrown wildly off-kilter. And even though a case of mistaken identity can be quickly set to rights, matters of the heart are quite different…
Miss Danielle LaCrosse is startled to learn that the handsome gentleman who radiates sin and has the devil in his eyes is not her employer the Viscount, but rather his infamous brother. A former heiress, orphaned and left penniless, Danielle has more than a few secrets of her own. Cade may be skilled at coaxing even the most hidden desires out of Danielle but can he earn her trust—and win her heart—as they embark on an adventure to confront a dangerous enemy from both of their pasts . . . and uncover the identity of the so-called Black Fox along the way?

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. I also participated in the Blog Tour for this book, you can see the post here.  This book tells the story of Danielle LaCrosse, a lady spy assigned to watch over Cade Cavendish, brother to Rafe from a previous book. Danielle is a pirate but is adaptable and therefore takes a post as a lady’s maid to Cade’s sister-in-law, Daphne. Cade is a bit of a mystery and Danielle doesn’t learn much from watching him other than he’s a first class rake. Danielle is on a mission to avenge her murdered father, and so when her boss informs her that the man she’s been hunting is within her reach, she leaves her post thinking never to see Cade again. Little does she know that fate, and her boss, have more in store for her.
Overall I liked this book. It was an easy and quick read with adventure and romance all in one. I liked how mysterious Cade stayed through the first half of the book, the reader really starts to wonder if he’s up to no good. I also liked how the setting changed halfway through the story, I think that added a great hook mid way through the book when it might have gotten dry otherwise. The supporting characters, including Mary and the housekeeper among others, are all really entertaining and I loved the little make-shift family that Danielle had made for herself within the household. The book had a great dramatic ending, I liked the pace of the story and I was interested throughout. I would recommend this one!

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

2017 Book #41 – The Bad Luck Bride by Janna MacGregor

51Fo7+8vc8L._SY346_Title: The Bad Luck Bride
Author: Janna MacGregor
Date finished: 5/6/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Pages in book: 349
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Cavensham Heiresses 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:

No one is left breathless at the imperious pronouncement of her engagement to Lord Pembrooke more than Claire. She hardly knows the dangerously outrageous man! But after three engagements gone awry and a fourth going up in glorious flames, she isn’t in a position to refuse…Alexander requires the hand of his enemy’s fiancée in marriage in order to complete his plans for revenge. It’s his good fortune that the “cursed” woman is desperate. However, what begins as a sham turns into something scandalously deeper…

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. I also participated in the Blog Tour for this book, you can see the post here. This book tells the story of Alex and Claire, who become Lord and Lady Pembrooke. Alex is looking for revenge against a friend who betrayed him, and an unfortunate victim in his plot is Lady Claire. In order to keep her from being scorned by society, he marries her by the end of the week. Fortunately for him, Alex and Claire seem to be a good match. Claire comes with her own set of issues too. Her parents died tragically when she was young and its left her deeply traumatized even after all these years.
Overall I liked this book. I thought it was a nice story and I liked the characters ok. I wasn’t crazy about the hero in the book, I just felt like he was kind of robotic and detached from the story. I couldn’t connect with him, though towards the end he did seem a little more romantic. I liked Claire’s family a lot, and to be honest I think some of my favorite characters in the book were the servants. Claire and Alex have a lot of ups and downs in their marriage but I liked that they were able to work things out and listen to each other. This was a sweet story with a romantic ending and I’d recommend it.

The bottom line: I liked this book, it was a sweet story. There were some pieces of the story that I didn’t love and the hero really didn’t appeal to me but I still liked this book. I would recommend giving it a try!

Link to author website

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

The Bad Luck Bride BLOG TOUR!!

Bad-Luck-Bride_BlogBanner

The Bad Luck Bride will be released this past Tuesday (May 2nd) and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! If you haven’t already seen it, you can find my review of the book here. See below for more information about the book, an excerpt, a short author bio, and author Q&A! This was a really good read and I would definitely recommend checking it out! 

SUMMARY

No one is left breathless at the imperious pronouncement of her engagement to Lord Pembrooke more than Claire. She hardly knows the dangerously outrageous man! But after three engagements gone awry and a fourth going up in glorious flames, she isn’t in a position to refuse…
Alexander requires the hand of his enemy’s fiancée in marriage in order to complete his plans for revenge. It’s his good fortune that the “cursed” woman is desperate. However, what begins as a sham turns into something scandalously deeper…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janna MacGregorJanna MacGregor was born and raised in the boot-heel of Missouri. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and two smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pugs. She loves to hear from readers. The Bad Luck Bride is her first novel.

AUTHOR Q&A

  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?

Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be a published author without Eloisa James and Maggie Robinson. They are both marvelously generous woman who helped me become the writer I am today. When I first came up for the idea of The Bad Luck Bride (back then it was called The Secret Affairs of a Duke’s Daughter), Maggie Robinson helped me with my plotting and taught me the basic craft of writing.

One summer I was lucky enough to take a seminar that Eloisa James was teaching on writing a romance novel. It was a wonderful experience. Her criticisms were tough, but she taught me about novel writing and digging into edits. Plus, she taught me about the business of publishing. I’ll be forever grateful.

Besides, just reading the lovely stories that Eloisa and Maggie write are wonderful influences not only to me personally, but also in how I craft a story.

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

When I first wake in the morning, I have at least 2-3 cups of coffee. I’ve always been a coffee drinker and would happily drink it all day if it weren’t for the caffeine. After I feed my dog, I answer emails.  Then with Pollie, my pug, by my side, I’m ready to write. Normally, the night before, I’ve got a good idea of the scene I want to get on paper. I plow ahead until I get my word count. I may or may not read the scene(s) in the afternoon. When I’m actively writing a new story, I try not to stray too much with this schedule. After I finish a novel, I’ll take a break as I try to plot the next story.

  1. Do you usually work off of an outline while writing or do you tend to just start writing and see where the story takes you?

I’m a total outline person. But I’m no so married to it that I don’t listen to my characters if they want to take the story in a different direction. It’s all part of the storytelling process for me.

  1. Is there a certain message that you hope readers are taking away with them after reading your recent release?

True love forgives our mistakes and encourages us to release our guilt while offering the sweetest absolution.

EXCERPT

51Fo7+8vc8L._SY346_Alex smiled in earnest. “I would never allow you to be humiliated in front of society. I’m trying to help you.” Somehow, he had to convince her of that fact, then the idea of marrying him would be much easier to accept.

She blinked rapidly, then turned back to him and, for an instant, appeared startled to see him there. “That’s very gallant, my lord. Truly, thank you for the effort. But I must leave.”

This night could not end with her escaping, so he tried another tactic. “You need to protect your Wrenwood estate and your wealth from lechers who would feed upon your vulnerability. Not to mention stop that ridiculous curse.”

“I have two.” She held up two gloved fingers.

“Two? Two what? Curses?” No one at his club had uttered a peep about another curse.

“Estates. I have two estates, Wrenwood and Lockhart.” She returned his stare.

Her answer was unexpected, but his business experience had taught him to show nothing. The report from his private investigator had not mentioned additional properties. Thoughts were percolating if she chose to disclose this information.

A razor of lightning split the sky. She flinched and took a step closer to him, but her reaction had nothing to do with him. It was the storm.

Her gaze darted to the exit of the alcove, then she returned her attention to him. With a slight shrug of her shoulders, his evening jacket fell into her hands. She offered it to him. “My lord, good night.” Outside their hideaway, the voices of a man and a woman floated in the air.

Alex put his hand on her shoulder to prevent her escape. “Will you give me some assistance? I seem to have lost my valet.” He quirked an eyebrow. “Besides, if you leave now, whoever is out there will see us.”

She ventured a halfhearted grin and held his jacket in two hands. With a little persistence, he wrestled his way into the evening coat. Her hands smoothed the material across his shoulders and back, causing a pleasant sensation to cascade through him at the slight touch.

Claire took several steps toward the pathway. In a flash, he moved beside her and grasped her elbow. When he brought her close, something flared between them as he gazed into her haunted eyes. Whether the desire to keep her next to him was passion or the need to protect a vulnerable woman made little difference. He pulled her into the shadows and brought his mouth to her ear. “Wait until they pass.” The warmth from her skin beckoned.

A flash of lightning lit the gardens and the alcove.

With a gentle hand, he pushed her against the wall and stood to the side so he blocked her body from view.

A clap of thunder cracked as if the sky were breaking. It rolled into a loud rumble that refused to die.

“Please.” Her whisper grew ragged as she struggled for breath. In one fluid motion, she pulled the lapels of his evening coat toward her. She buried her face against his chest and pressed the rest of her body to his, almost as if she sought sanctuary inside. “Don’t leave me.” Her voice had weakened, the sound fragile, as if she’d break into a million pieces.

“I won’t. I promise.” Alex pulled her tight. One hand sank into the soft satin of her skirts while the other slid around the nape of her neck to hold her close to his chest. It was the most natural thing in the world to hold her. Her body fit perfectly against his.

With the slightest movement, she pulled away. Her eyes wildly searched his. For what, he couldn’t fathom.

He lowered his mouth until his lips were mere inches from tasting her. Madness had consumed him. All he wanted was to kiss her thoroughly until she forgot her fear—until she forgot everything but him.

Her breath mingled with his, and the slight moan that escaped her was intoxicating. Nothing in his entire life felt as right as this moment. He bent to brush his lips against hers.

“Pembrooke? Have you seen Lady—”

Claire leaned back and released his lapels. Without her warmth, he experienced a sudden loss of equilibrium. He turned with a snarl to greet the intruders.

Immediately, Lord Fredrick Honeycutt and his sister, Lady Sophia, took a step back as their eyes grew round as dinner plates.

The first to recover, Honeycutt announced, “I see you found Lady Claire.” He bowed his head slightly, then lowered his voice. “The Duke of Langham is looking for his niece and is directly behind us.”

A sense of wariness flooded Alex’s mind when Claire’s uncle strolled forward and came into sharp focus. As he stood, his feet spread shoulder width apart, the duke’s presence commanded everyone’s attention. His visage held the hint of a smile, but the two large fists resting by his sides were the real barometer of his mood. “Claire, are you all right?” The affection in his voice was at odds with the fury flashing in his eyes.

Copyright © 2017 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press.

Never Trust a Pirate BLOG TOUR!!

Never-Trust-a-Pirate-Blog-Banner

Never Trust a Pirate was released TODAY (Tuesday, May 2nd) and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! I haven’t had a chance to finish my ARC of the book yet, I should be done with it later this week though so check back for my review!! See below for more information about the book, an excerpt, a short author bio, and author Q&A! 

SUMMARY

The rules of engagement were never so scandalous. . .
A rumored pirate and the scurrilous black sheep of his well-to- do family, Cade Cavendish relishes his world of rebellion, deception, and seduction. Nothing and no one can hold him to be the duty-bound, honorable man he is expected to be. But when an unexpected run-in at his twin brother’s estate with a ravishing, raven-haired maid leads her to believe he’s actually a viscount, Cade’s renegade life is thrown wildly off-kilter. And even though a case of mistaken identity can be quickly set to rights, matters of the heart are quite different…
Miss Danielle LaCrosse is startled to learn that the handsome gentleman who radiates sin and has the devil in his eyes is not her employer the Viscount, but rather his infamous brother. A former heiress, orphaned and left penniless, Danielle has more than a few secrets of her own. Cade may be skilled at coaxing even the most hidden desires out of Danielle but can he earn her trust—and win her heart—as they embark on an adventure to confront a dangerous enemy from both of their pasts . . . and uncover the identity of the so-called Black Fox along the way?

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 series, starting with Secrets of a Wedding Night, Secrets of a Runaway Bride, and Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage.

AUTHOR Q&A

Some of the questions below were from other bloggers, the publisher had put them all together for us so I figured I would share all the authors answers with you readers!

  1. What is your favorite scene in Never Trust a Pirate? I truly do love the whole book but I think everything that happens after they get on the ship is especially fun. The book is sort of pre-ship and post-ship.
  2. What’s your favorite underappreciated romance novel?
    One of my favorite romances ever is Dark Future by KC Klein. It’s a futuristic scifi romance, which is not normally something I gravitate toward (I like to read historical romance!) but I picked up KC’s book and couldn’t put it down. It’s fantastic. She also has me reading contemporary cowboy stories.
  3. Are you methodical in your writing, certain hours of the day, certain rituals you may perform before you sit down? Or are you one of those writers who binge write when the mood is upon you? I’m a binge writer, but it’s not about the mood striking so much as it’s about having more time to write on the weekend because I’m not at my day job.
  4. Are there particular tropes you are fond of using? My favorite trope is probably reunited lovers or old friends who fall in love. I love the brother’s best friend trope, too. I’ve used all of those and am currently writing a story where a married couple (who haven’t seen each other in ten years) are forced to work together again. Of course hijinx (and romance) will ensue!
  5. What lead you to writing historical romances? My love of reading them. I read them a lot as a teenager. They made me so happy.
  6. How would you describe Never Trust a Pirate using only three words? Racy Regency Romp. That’s how I describe all of my books, actually.
  7. What is your advice for other writers? Write! It’s simple. I see a lot of would-be writers taking classes and reading books about writing but the best thing to do is just write, write, write. Worry about the mechanics later. You do need to study craft and learn the business but you’ve got nothing to improve if you’re not actually writing.
  8. Do you, or your publisher decide on your beautiful covers? If your publisher, do you have any input? My publisher makes the covers for the books and I love them. They send them to me for input but it’s usually quite minimal. They are gorgeous! I’m very lucky.
  9. Why this setting and why pirates? Inquiring minds want to you, or me anyway. I unabashedly love pirates! I love to read stories about them and when I was a kid I wanted to be one. Of course I get horribly seasick and am about the least adventurous person you’d ever meet. Swashbuckling would stress me out. I guess that’s why I have to write about it instead.
  10. What do you do to relax, after a day of writing? And how, do you set your writing day in order to achieve your goal of a certain number of pages? My favorite way to relax is to take a nap. I should have been born in a country that embraces the concept of siesta. That’s where I belong. Ha! I don’t count pages so much as I count words. So if I have to get twenty thousand words (about ¼ of a novel) written in a weekend, I would need to write about 6,600 Friday night, 13,000 on Saturday, and 6,600 on Sunday. I have a day job so weekends are very important to me as far as hitting my word count goals.
  11. Another inquiring minds want to you, approximately, how long does it take you to write a full length novel?  How many books can you write in a year? It takes me about two months to actually write the novel (working mostly nights and weekends around my full-time job) but it takes months to plot and think about the novel which is why I only write two novels per year.
  12. Which Hollywood stars would you like to see as the main characters in NEVER TRUST A PIRATE? I actually have a Pinterest board set up with my idea of who all the main characters in the Playful Brides series look like. For Cade Cavendish and Danielle LaCrosse it’s Chris Pine and Zooey Deschanel. You can find the board at: https://www.pinterest.com/valeriegbowman/playfulbrides/.
  13. Do you write fulltime? No and I actually have a theory that if I did write full-time I would get much less writing done. I think having to be so disciplined about my writing time forces me to focus. At least that’s what I tell myself.
  14. Twitter or Facebook? Both!
  15. Favorite TV show? Of all time? Gilmore Girls. As for what’s on today, I love Homicide Hunter: Lt Joe Kenda. I’m a sucker for true crime.
  16. Who is your ultimate Book Boyfriend? My book boyfriend is Jason Fielding from Judith McNaught’s Once and Always. Talk about the perfect tortured hero!
  17. What are you reading right now or what’s on your TBR? I’m currently reading Kerrigan Byrne’s, The Duke, and I can’t wait to dive into Anna Bennett’s, I Dared the Duke!
  18. 2017 Movie you’re most looking forward to? I just saw a trailer for Dunkirk and I got goosebumps! I can’t wait. I love WWII-era history almost as much as the Regency.
  19. Give us the “elevator pitch” for your new book. I call Never Trust a Pirate: The Scarlet Pimpernel meets Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in Regency England.
  20. Series or stand alone?  If series do you already have a set number of books that you plan to write? When I began to write the Playful Brides series, I planned three books. I’m happy to say it’s going to be eleven altogether, plus a novella. Plans change!
  21. If you could change anything in your past, what would it be and why? And how do you think it has affected your writing. – From Judy at Long and Short Reviews, she says hi! Was in a writing group in FL that you spoke at! I would love to go back to my twenty-two year old self and tell her to start writing romance novels right away. Alas, I have no time machine. Frankly, I don’t think my twenty-two year old self had the confidence or the patience to do it. I think life unfolds the way it’s meant to in due time. (Hi Judy!)
  22. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? I’ve been to Bath and seen the Jane Austen museum there. Does that count?
  23. What are your future project(s)? Right now, I’m editing book 8 in the Playful Brides series. It’s called The Right Kind of Rogue and comes out on Halloween. I’m also writing book 9 of the Playful Brides series. And I’m always plotting future books in my head. In this case I’ve already got a lot of ideas for how I’m going to end the series with book #11 (Delilah and Thomas’s book) in Spring 2019.
  24. For novices who haven’t read a novel of yours what is it that they will find unique in your work? I hope they will find a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is filled with humor and heart. Above all, I just want my stories to entertain. I’m not here to give anyone a history lesson. I just want readers to smile and sigh.
  25. Do you find that you base any of your characters on people in your life? Have you gotten any inspiration for scenes in your novel from things that have happened to you in real life? The entire Playful Brides series was conceived based on my friend’s terrible boyfriend. She wouldn’t break up with him and I kept telling her to let me call him and break up with him for her (I was kidding, sorta). On a drive home from dinner with her one night, after she’d filled my ear yet again with a bunch of stories of the awful things he’d done (forgot her birthday, asked her to pay his cell phone bill), I started thinking how funny it would be if there was a service that you could call to break-up with your boyfriend for you. The opposite of Cyrano de Bergerac. I decided that would be great story and immediately began to think about how I could set it in the Regency. That was the idea for The Unexpected Duchess, the first story in the series.
  26. 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? Lisa Kleypas was a huge influence on me. I was snowed in at an airport in 2007 and picked up Scandal in Spring. Many hours later (I couldn’t put the book down) I considered giving romance writing a try. She is a brilliant writer and a lovely person both inside and out.
  27. Have you read anything lately that you loved? Julie Anne Long’s The Legend of Lyon Redmond was sheer perfection if you ask me.
  28. Do you usually work off of an outline while writing or do you tend to just start writing and see where the story takes you? I don’t have an outline per se, but I sketch out a few sentences for each chapter in my Word .doc so I know where the story is going. I’ve been working lately on making my stories more character driven so I may change this up a bit.
  29. What other books or movies or music influenced this novel? As with all of the stories in my Playful Brides series, Never Trust a Pirate was inspired by a play. In this case it’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. I loved the concept of a character with dual identities.
  30. What advice do you have for pair wanting to get into the writing field? If you want to write romance, join Romance Writers of America (RWA.org). Hands down it was the best thing I did to learn how to write a romance novel. Leslie Wainger’s book, Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies, is also fantastic.

EXCERPT

51HzyMz0VaL._SY346_CHAPTER ONE

London Harbor, July 1817

Only three steps. Only three steps separated him from the map. It was there, laying on the rickety wooden table in the captain’s stateroom aboard a ship aptly named Le Secret Francais. The only sound in the cramped space was his own breathing. Sweat beaded on his brow. He’d come this far. Braved the murky, cold water, swam out to the ship moored at the London docks. Climbed aboard silent as a wraith, dressed all in black. Wrung out his clothing to keep it from dripping so there wouldn’t be a trail. Managed to steal into the captain’s quarters as the man slept, and now, now only three steps remained between him and the priceless map.

One water droplet fell to the wooden plank floor like a hammer against steel. The sound of his breath echoed to a crescendo. The blood pounding in his head became a distracting whirring noise.

One step forward. The ball of his foot ground onto the plank. Stealth and silence. Always. The calling cards of the best thief in London.

The captain stirred slightly in his bunk and began to snore.

He froze. One leather-clad foot arrested on the wooden plank. A pistol rested on two nails directly above the captain’s bunk. If the man awoke, he might shoot first at any noise. The captain well knew the value of the treasure he carried.

He counted to ten. Once. Twice. He had long since mastered the art of keeping footing on a ship. He waited until his heartbeats became steady again before taking the next step. A slight creak in the wood floor. A hint of movement from the captain. Another endless wait. Impatience was a roiling knot inside his belly.

Out of the shadows now, he stood only one step away from the table bolted to the floor. The moon shone through the window above the captain’s bed, shedding light on the man’s balding head. The map lay spread out, anchored by pins in the four corners. He would have to remove those pins. Ripping the paper would be too noisy.

Another interminable wait as the captain turned away from him in his sleep. His snores subsided.

He glanced over at the bunk. The pistol shone in the moonlight. One hard swallow. He never carried a pistol. Too loud. Pistols brought the crew, the wharf police, and anyone else interested in such activity. The only weapon he carried was a knife, tucked in the back of his breeches. A weapon of stealth.

Another count to ten before taking the final step. There was no time for an in-depth study of the map now, but a quick glance revealed the destination. The island of St. Helena, off the western coast of Africa, circled in bold scrawl. The map of the route planned for Bonaparte’s next escape. That bastard in the bed had been planning it.

All ten fingers itched to snatch the paper and run, but he forced himself to take a deep, silent breath. Carefully, he dislodged the first pin at the top right corner. It popped out easily. The top of the map rolled toward the center, making a slight flapping sound. Breath held, he glanced toward the captain again. No movement.

He stuck the pin back into the table to keep it from rolling, then his hand darted to the next pin at the bottom right corner. It also popped out easily. He quickly stuck it back into the wood. With two sides free, he carefully rolled the map toward the center. Reaching up to the top, he grasped the third pin. No movement. It was lodged deeply into the wood. Must pull harder. With one black-gloved hand, he clasped the pin between a thumb and two fingers, pulling upward with as much strength as he dared. His own breath in his ear was the only sound … that and the water lapping at the sides of the ship.

The pin finally gave way. He pressed a hand to the top of the map, to keep the freed top left corner from curling and making a noise. His chest and torso flattened against the map and the table, he pressed the third pin back into the wood.

Click. An unmistakable sound. One he had heard too often before. Another hard swallow. Damn it. He’d been so preoccupied with keeping quiet, he hadn’t realized the captain’s snores had subsided.

Half-splayed across the table, he contemplated his options. The door was ten paces to the left, the open window five paces to the right. Would he fit through the window? It’d be a hell of a time to learn the answer was no.

“Step away from zee map, if you don’t want a bullet through your back.” The captain’s voice was harsh and angry.

He slowly rose from his position hunched over the map, arms braced upright at right angles near his head to show the captain he had no weapon. “Ye wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man, now would ye, Cap’n?”

“I’d shoot a thief without thinking twice,” the captain replied with a sneer, nearly spitting the word thief.

He glanced down at the map. Studying it in case he was forced to leave without it. He had been in worse situations, more times than he could count. He considered the knife in the back of his breeches hidden beneath his shirt. It would be simple, easy and quick to snake it out and whip it into the bastard’s throat. But a voice in his head reminded him … justice must be served in proper course.

“Turn around,” the captain ordered. “Slowly.”

“Why?” he asked, trying to garner some precious time.

“Because I want to see zee face of zee man who would steal my secrets.”

He began his turn. Slowly. So slowly and so quietly that he could have sworn he heard a drop of sweat from his forehead hit the wooden plank of the floor. He finally stood facing the older man.

Êtes-vous le Renard Noir?” the captain asked.

Pourquoi veux tu savoir?”

Visible in the light of the moon, the captain narrowed his eyes. “Ah, perfect French? Why do I find zat difficult to believe from an obvious Englishman?”

“Obvious?”

“Who else would want zis map?”

His fingers ached to choke the bastard. He might not be able to kill him, but he could wound the scoundrel. Nothing wrong with a wound. He whipped his hand behind his back, grabbed the knife, and hurled it at the captain. It hit the arm that held the pistol. The captain howled. The pistol fired. Smoke filled the cabin with its acrid stench. He ripped the map and fourth pin from the table and ran to the door.

Steps sounded on the planks above the captain’s cabin. In the pitch black belowdecks, he forced himself to wait in the shadows under the stairs until the first group of rescuers filed down the steps into the captain’s cabin. He flattened the map’s scroll and folded it into a six-inch square.

“He’s escaped, you idiots! Find him before he jumps from the ship!” the captain yelled in French.

The group dutifully filed back up to spread across the decks. The captain came running out, clutching his injured arm, blood seeping between his fingers, crimson dripping down his nightshirt. He made his way up the stairs and ran off across the deck.

Springing from the shadows, he raced back into the empty cabin. He flew over to the window, said a brief prayer to fit through the tight space, hoisted up to the ledge, and pushed his upper body through. He ripped off his black tricorn, stuck the folded map to his head, and pulled down the hat as firmly as possible.

A rope swung outside the captain’s window two feet to the right. Thank God for small favors. He lunged at it and grabbed it. Noiselessly, he lowered himself down the rope, bracing both feet against the hull to rappel toward the water. Lowering quietly, he winked back at the figurehead of a saucy French woman carved beneath the captain’s cabin. As soon as he made it into the water, he let go of the rope and swam like a mackerel fleeing a shark toward the shore, careful to keep his head out of the foul-smelling drink. He counted on the black of night and the murky Thames to hide him from the searchers on the ship.

As he covered the distance between the French ship and the shore, he could hear the Frenchmen yelling and running about. He dared a glance back. Every lantern on the ship appeared to have been lit and the crew was scurrying about like a bevy of ants on an infiltrated hill.

He swam to the darkest spot on the far end of the docks, around the bend from sight of the French ship, and pulled himself ashore beneath a creaky dock using only his forearms. Exhausted, he rolled onto his back and lay breathing heavily in the pitch-black night. One hand went up to clap the top of his tricorn and a wide smile spread across his face.

He’d done it. He’d escaped from a French ship with the map detailing the planned route to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena. Of course he had. He was the Black Fox.

 

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

 

2017 Book #38 – I Dared the Duke by Anna Bennett

51QomAefeLLTitle: I Dared the Duke
Author: Anna Bennett
Date finished: 4/25/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Pages in book: 365
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Wayward Wallflowers 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:

DARE TO FALL IN LOVE
Alexander Savage, the Duke of Blackshire, is known throughout the ton for three things: the burn scars on his neck, his ornery disposition, and the trail of broken hearts behind him. None of which would concern Miss Elizabeth Lacey in the least—if she weren’t living under his roof. As his grandmother’s companion, Beth is all too concerned with the moody and compelling duke. Incensed by his plans to banish the sweet dowager duchess to the country, Beth refuses to do his bidding. If Alex wants her help, he’s going to have to take her dare…and grant her three wishes.
Alex adores his grandmother, which is precisely why she must leave. A string of unfortunate incidents has him worried for the safety of everyone around him—including the dowager’s loyal and lovely companion, Beth. But the notorious wallflower isn’t as meek as she appears, and as their battle of wills heats up, so does Alex’s desire. He’s dangerously close to falling in love with her…and revealing secrets he’d rather keep hidden. How can he convince her that his darkest days are behind him—and that, for the first time in forever, his heart is true?

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 Elizabeth Lacey, the middle sister of the Wiltmore Wallflowers. Elizabeth has recently become a lady’s companion to the dowager duchess Blackshire in an effort to make herself feel useful. Having been a wallflower for three years and with one of her sisters recently married, Elizabeth has been looking for something to do with herself, and she has found the dowager duchess to be an engaging friend and conversationalist. When she meets the Duke though, she doesn’t find him as charming as the rumors claim him to be. Alex has recently found himself the target of a couple accidents that seem too odd to be coincidental. He has determined that his grandmother must retire to the country for her own safety until the whole situation gets sorted out. But he didn’t expect to find her being guarded by the fearsome Miss Lacey. Elizabeth is determined that Alex should not send his grandmother away, as it would surely break her heart, but in doing so Miss Lacey is walking right into the crossfires of whatever is threatening Alex.
Overall I really liked this book. Alex was just the right amount of surly and endearing. Beth was charming and kind-hearted. I especially liked how, when describing what Alex liked most about Beth, he admired her for her kindness towards his grandmother. There were numerous times in the book that Alex compliments Beth on things beside just her physical appearance and I really liked that, for a rogue, he wasn’t all that shallow. And I love Beth’s sisters, I especially can’t wait to hear brash Julie’s story. I liked this book a lot and I like the series overall too.

The bottom line: I liked this book a lot, the story line was interesting and the cast of characters was engaging. If you like historical romances especially, this is a good pick! It is a quick read with a romantic story, just what we all need.

Link to author website

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

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

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.

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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.
Connect with Darcy: Site | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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  • $10 Amazon Gift Card

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