Review: The Courtesan Duchess by Joanna Shupe

The Courtesan Duchess by Joanna Shupe

I’d like to thank Tasty Book Tours for letting me participate in this tour event and the publisher for providing a copy of this book for an honest review. For all the blogs involved in this event, please click on the banner above, murr! =^.^=

The Courtesan Duchess

Rating: paw4

Publisher: Zebra – Kensington

Date Published: March 31, 2015

Series: Wicked Deceptions #1

Goodreads Description:

Can a bold-faced lie lead to everlasting love? One by one, the impetuous heroines in the Wicked Deceptions series intend to find out, each in her unique way…

How to seduce an estranged husband—and banish debt!—in four wickedly improper, shockingly pleasurable steps…

  1. Learn the most intimate secrets of London’s leading courtesan.
  2. Pretend to be a courtesan yourself, using the name Juliet Leighton.
  3. Travel to Venice and locate said husband.
  4. Seduce husband, conceive an heir, and voila, your future is secure!

For Julia, the Duchess of Colton, such a ruse promises to be foolproof. After all, her husband has not bothered to lay eyes on her in eight years, since their hasty wedding day when she was only sixteen. But what begins as a tempestuous flirtation escalates into full-blown passion—and the feeling is mutual!

Could the man the Courtesan Duchess married actually turn out to be the love of her life?

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Review:

This was a rather difficult book for me to rate. On the one paw, I enjoyed the story, writing, and concept. On the other paw, both main characters really got under my fur! I really wanted to swipe them both multiples times with my claws. So I waffled quite a bit on whether to give it three paws and a tail wave of support or four solid paws. In the end I decided to give it a full four paws because giving it a “half star” as you humans call it seemed a tad petty simply because I disliked the main characters continual behavior in the book.

I tend to enjoy historical romance books, so any time I find a new series to try, I’m always curious to see what happens and who all the players may be. And I will say that as the first of an all new series by a debut author, Shupe has started off rather well. The idea of a woman seducing her estranged husband by posing as a courtesan was intriguing and promised to full of fun moments between the characters. Suffice it to say in this the book lived up to expectations. Toss in a bit of mystery and a few suspenseful  and I found myself turning each page in anticipation of how everything would be resolved. Shupe’s writing is solid, the pacing strong though there were a few moments where I felt it dragged just a bit, and the overall feel of the story was great. And for the most part the majority of the characters were likable and of interest. I particularly liked Winchester, Sophie, Fitz, Aunt Theo, and Quint. In other words, all the secondary characters who very well may end up with their own stories.

Were the book fell short for me was the main characters. This was one of those rare moments where the main characters just did not appeal to me despite my trying to keep an open mind throughout the book. I started off liking Julia quite a bit and questioning my initial feelings for Nick. I wanted to like him but found that he was rubbing my fur wrong at the same time. As the story progressed, I began to dislike Julia a bit with each chapter and strongly leaning toward disgust where Nick was concerned. Julia started off with so much promise toward being a strong, independent, intelligent character who contrived a cunning plan to get control and stability back in her life. Yes, she lies and manipulates Nick to get what she wants, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures, and overall I quite liked the idea of a woman feeling like she didn’t need a man in her life to raise a child. However, I felt like she steadily became a weaker character as the story progressed because she bounces between not wanting Nick in her life and then wanting to stay with him far too much for my liking. Meanwhile, Nick was just a pompous ass and he has a long way to go to redeem himself, in my opinion, regardless of the childhood he had.

Now as I said before, the overall story is a great one and it really is a promising start to a new series. Just because I didn’t particularly care for Julia and Nick in the end doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t like them. In fact, you may absolutely love them and see qualities in them that I didn’t see in this read through. And I truly hope you do. They just didn’t work for me at the time when I was reading.

So where does this leave things? Well, this is a book that I would recommend to anyone who loves historical romance with just a touch of mystery/suspense and also to those who are looking to try something new. I also definitely intend to read the other two books in the series because I did greatly enjoy the other characters in the book and am anxious to see what happens to them. Given what I know about the pairings for each novel, I expect them both to be fun reads. I only hope that Shupe includes an update on Fitz and Aunt Theo in one or both of the following books.

About the Author:

Joanna ShupeAward-winning author JOANNA SHUPE has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. While in college, Joanna read every romance she could get her hands on and soon started crafting her own racy historical novels. She now lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters and dashing husband.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

***Giveaway***

Three lucky winners will get a print copy of The Courtesan Duchess. To enter, simply click on the Rafflecopter link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/521ac4c8652/ 

Release Day Blast: Obsessed By Beth Ciotta

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Publisher: BC Ink

Release Date: April 13, 2015

Series: Starstruck

A showplace for talent. A playground for love. STARSTRUCK. A new contemporary continuity series by Beth Ciotta, Cynthia Valero, and Elle J Rossi. Three authors. One world. Launching with Ciotta’s sexy novella—Obsessed.

A Fallen Star…

A hot-mess of controversy and scandal, Dakota Breeze—tarnished pop star of fading fame and fortune—accepts a friend’s offer, taking refuge in a small Midwestern town in order to rehearse her comeback concert in secret. Starstruck is the perfect venue however rehearsals are marred by Dakota’s reluctance to resurrect her former bad-girl persona and complicated by an anonymous death threat.

A Haunted Bodyguard…

Enlisted by a mutual friend, Wyatt MacDermott—a seasoned protection specialist—agrees to act as Dakota’s temporary bodyguard. Forced to set aside a personal grudge in order to fulfill his duties, Mac’s stunned by his fierce and instant attraction to the reckless celebrity he’s long associated with his greatest regret.

Obsessed with conflicting needs and united passion, Dakota and Wyatt spin out of control, indulging in a whirlwind affair and tempting an avenger’s wrath.

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Excerpt:

Dakota palmed her aching chest, fought for an even breath as Mac steered the sedan through the gates to her temporary residence. She hadn’t meant to spew or to beg. She didn’t want his pity.
But she did want him.
For all his indifference, he made her feel safe. At this point she’d welcome anything, even the company of Ice Man, to minimize her stress. Stress messed with her concentration and judgment, undermining her on-stage performances and her pursuit of private serenity.
Feeling exposed and raw, Dakota pushed her agenda. “So are you with me or not?”
He didn’t respond. Of course, he didn’t respond. The man was a freaking robot.
The car stopped just shy of the house and, with a white-knuckled hold on her purse, Dakota pushed open her door. Her shoulder sang with the effort, but she didn’t groan or complain or even wince. Mac was right. She was lucky to be alive.
She blocked his cold rejection from her mind, focused on Maggie. She needed to check on her ailing assistant and she didn’t want to compound matters by looking like a frazzled mess.
A startled scream stuck in her throat as her new bodyguard backed her against the car.
“One,” he said, spearing her with steely grey eyes, “You don’t move without telling me first. Two: As soon as we get in the house, I want that letter. Three: I say jump, you jump. I’m talking unflinching trust, Dakota.”
It was the most he’d said to her since they’d met and even though he’d done nothing but issue arrogant orders, a strange sense of calm snaked through her tense being. Pinned between the tank of a car and her broad-shouldered bodyguard, Dakota held his gaze and raised onto her toes, her mouth a breath away from his own. “For me to jump, MacDermott, I need to know something other than ice flows through your veins.”
And with that she indulged in one last impulsive act. She pressed her lips to his, anticipating rejection. Anticipating Antarctica.
Instead, he blew her away, melting her bones with a deep, searing kiss. His touch, his taste, his passion dazed her far more than any spinning car. Who could think straight with his strong hands exploring her curves? With his massive erection raging between them?
Dakota gave over to the intensity, the wonder, the mind-blowing melding that obliterated morality. Just shy of her jumping his freaking bones, Mac cooled her jets by backing away.
“Now you know,” he said as he reverted to professional indifference. “And if you’re smart, you’ll leave it at that.”

Book Trailer:

About the Author:

Beth CiottaStorytelling comes naturally to award-winning author Beth Ciotta. Dubbed “fun and sexy” by Publisher’s Weekly, Beth specializes in contemporary, historical, steampunk, and paranormal romantic fiction.=
Beth lives in NJ with her husband, two zany dogs, and a crazy cat. A retired professional performer, Beth now pours her artistic passion into her writing. To learn more about her colorful life, visit her website at www.bethciotta.com

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

***Giveaway***

Beth is giving away an Upcycled Champagne Cork Bezel Necklace- shooting star – w/24 “chain to one lucky winner! To enter, simply click on the Rafflecopter link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/521ac4c8647/

Book Blitz: The Kill List & The Kill Shot by Nichole Christoff

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Today we are excited to be participating in the book blast for Nichole Christoff’s Jamie Sinclair series! To see all the blogs who are participating during the run of this event, please click on the banner above. =^.^=

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Publisher: Random House

Date Released: December 1, 2014

Series: Jamie Sinclair #1

In this taut debut thriller, Nichole Christoff introduces a savvy private investigator with nerves of steel—and a shattered heart.

As a top private eye turned security specialist, Jamie Sinclair has worked hard to put her broken marriage behind her. But when her lying, cheating ex-husband, army colonel Tim Thorp, calls with the news that his three-year-old daughter has been kidnapped, he begs Jamie to come find her. For the sake of the child, Jamie knows she can’t refuse. Now, despite the past, she’ll do everything in her power to bring little Brooke Thorp home alive.

Soon Jamie is back at Fort Leeds—the army base in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens where she grew up, the only child of a two-star general—chasing down leads and forging an uneasy alliance with the stern military police commander and the exacting FBI agent working Brooke’s case. But because Jamie’s father is now a U.S. senator, her recent run-in with a disturbed stalker is all over the news, and when she starts receiving gruesome threats echoing the stalker’s last words, she can’t shake the feeling that her investigation may be about more than a missing girl—and that someone very powerful is hiding something very significant . . . and very sinister.

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Publisher: Random House

Date Released: March 17, 2015

Series: Jamie Sinclair #2

In an explosive thriller for readers of Lee Child, Alex Berenson, and Brad Taylor, P.I. and security specialist Jamie Sinclair finds herself caught in a dangerous game of international cat-and-mouse.

Jamie Sinclair’s father has never asked her for a favor in her life. The former two-star general turned senator is more in the habit of giving his only child orders. So when he requests Jamie’s expertise as a security specialist, she can’t refuse—even though it means slamming the brakes on her burgeoning relationship with military police officer Adam Barrett. Just like that, Jamie hops aboard a flight to London with a U.S. State Department courier carrying a diplomatic pouch in an iron grip.

Jamie doesn’t have to wait long to put her unique skills to good use. When she and the courier are jumped by goons outside the Heathrow terminal, Jamie fights them off—but the incident puts her on high alert. Someone’s willing to kill for the contents of the bag. Then a would-be assassin opens fire in crowded Covent Garden, and Jamie is stunned to spot a familiar face: Adam Barrett, who saves her life with a single shot and calmly slips away. Jamie’s head—and her heart—tell her that something is very wrong. But she’s come way too far to turn back now.

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About the Author:

NicholeChristoff_authorphotoNichole Christoff is a writer, broadcaster, and military spouse who has worked on air and behind the scenes producing and promoting content for radio, television news, and the public relations industry across the United States and Canada. Christoff is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and the Jane Austen Society of North America. She also belongs to Private Eye Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and three of RWA’s local chapters where she’s served as an officer and a member of the board. In Christoff’s first year as a member of RWA, her first manuscript won the Golden Heart for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. Her second manuscript won a Helen McCloy Scholarship from Mystery Writers of America. Her last manuscript was a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Her latest novel, The Kill Shot, is a 2014 Killer Nashville Claymore Dagger finalist.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

***Giveaway***

One lucky winner will get a $25 Gift Card of their choice and a copy of both The Kill List and The Kill Shot! To enter, simply click on the Rafflecopter link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/235babe7207/

Release Day Blast: How to Lose a Groom in 10 Days & The Wedding Auditon

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Yesterday saw the release of Catherine Mann & Joanne Rock’s first two books in the Runaway Brides Series! =^.^=

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Publisher: Tule Publishing

Date Released: April 7, 2015

Series: Runaway Brides Series #0.5

He thought their love was a grand slam, until his bride calls foul…

After an impulsive courthouse wedding with one of baseball’s rising stars, Melanie Webb wonders if she’s fallen victim to lust at first sight. She hardly knows Grady Hollis, the Atlanta outfielder who swooped into her Florida hometown and charmed the socks—and more!—right off her. She couldn’t resist when he proposed under the stars right on the outfield. But when the aftermath means moving to Atlanta and following him around the country for his eight-month a year travel schedule, she gets cold feet.

But Grady has never been a man to give up on a dream and Melanie is everything he ever hoped for in a woman. He knows if only he can persuade her to come along for the ride, he’ll convince her that their forever can be something special… with a love every bit as fiery as the passion.

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Publisher: Tule Publishing

Date Released: April 7, 2015

Series: Runaway Brides Series #1

The tabloids call her the Hit and Run Bride after reality show star Annamae Jessup walked out on Atlanta’s favorite baseball player on cable television. Eager to escape her notoriety, Annamae takes a road trip to find the grandmother she’s never met and winds up discovering a whole lot more than a band of back woods relatives. There’s no escape from reality TV, even in Beulah, Alabama, population 3000.
The last thing Wynn Rafferty needs in his new life is a spoiled television princess who can’t even know his real name. He’s in temporary witness protection as an apple farmer after his undercover work put his life in danger. He needs to lay low until the heat dies down from his last case— even if he sucks at growing apples as badly as he sucks at relationships. But Annamae turns his new town into a media circus, unwittingly threatening the lives of him, her and most of Beulah. Wynn is an expert at keeping the world at arm’s length, but when it comes to Annamae, the only way he can keep her safe is too keep her very, very close.

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Excerpt:

Have a fling, Annamae.
She didn’t want her grandmother’s voice in her head right now. Not when Wynn looked at her like she was even more appealing than the strawberry pie she’d made. Yet she kept remembering Hazel Mae’s matter-of-fact prescription for getting over a bad breakup. Have a fling!
“What are we doing?” she heard herself ask, then winced since she sounded incredibly clueless. “I mean—I know where this is going. But—”
“I know what I want.” Wynn’s hands moved to her shoulders. “I’m one hundred percent clear on that. But I should make a run around the perimeter of the fences. Scan the camera feeds just to be safe. That’ll give you enough time to decide if we want the same thing.”
She opened her mouth then realized she had no idea what to say to that. She closed it again.
“But would you consider giving me five minutes to persuade the outcome of your decision before I go?” His palm shifted so he cupped her chin, his thumb running along her lower lip in a way that inspired wicked, carnal thoughts.
Her eyes fluttered for a moment before she realized how easily she played into his hands. Instead, she gave his thumb a bite.
His dark laugh didn’t sound at all deterred. “That works, too.”
Her cheeks burned. “I have no idea what you mean.”
“I hope you’re here when I get back, Annamae. I can’t wait to find out what a lie you’ve been living with this whole good girl thing.”
He strode away before she’d even caught her breath, the taste of his thumb still salty on her tongue.
Bagel barked at him as left, as if asking him to come back. If Annamae weren’t careful, she’d be panting after him soon too.
Oh wait, she already was.

About the Authors:

Joanne Rock

Three-time RITA nominee Joanne Rock has never met a romance sub-genre she didn’t like. The author of over seventy novels enjoys writing contemporary romance and medieval historicals alike, recently exploring Young Adult romance under a pseudonym. An optimist by nature and perpetual seeker of silver linings, Joanne finds romance–in all its forms– fits her life outlook perfectly. When she’s not writing, Joanne enjoys travel, especially to see her favorite sports teams play with her former sports editor husband and three athletic-minded sons.

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Catherine Mann

USA Today bestseller and RITA Award winning author Catherine Mann writes contemporary romance for Berkley, Harlequin, Sourcebooks and Tule. With over sixty books released in more than twenty countries, she has also celebrated six RITA finals, an RT Reviewer’s Award finalist, three Maggie Award of Excellence finals and a Bookseller’s Best win. Catherine and her flyboy husband live on the Florida coast where they brought up their 4 children – and still have 5 four-legged, furry “children” (aka pets).

Catherine is an active volunteer with an animal rescue, serving on their Board of Directors and fostering over 200 puppies, ill dogs, and dogs with service/working potential.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

***Giveaway***

US prize: For the Runaway Bride’s Great Escape–A heart-print tote, Scarf for going incognito, and cute dark sunglasses.

INTL prize: A print copy of Catherine Mann’s RESCUE ME and Joanne Rock’s NIGHTS UNDER THE TENNESSEE STARS.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/521ac4c8644/

Release Day Blast: The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose

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What the Cat Read is thrilled to be participating in the Release Day Launch celebration for M.J. Rose’s newest novel, The Witch of Painted Sorrows, murr! Be sure to swing by the blog on March 26th when we post our review as part of the tour event hosted by Media Muscle/BookTrib! =^.^=

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Publisher: Atria Books

Date Released: March 17, 2015

Series: The Daughters of La Lune #1

Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten–her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed byLa Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.

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Excerpt:

Four months ago I snuck into Paris on a wet, chilly January night like a criminal, hiding my face in my shawl, taking extra care to be sure I wasn’t followed.
I stood on the stoop of my grandmother’s house and lifted the hand-shaped bronze door knocker and let it drop. The sound of the metal echoed inside. Her home was on a lane blocked off from rue des Saints-Pères by wide wooden double doors. Maison de la Lune, as it was called, was one of a half dozen four-story mid-eighteenth- century stone houses that shared a courtyard that backed up onto rue du Dragon.
I let the door knocker fall again. Light from a street lamp glinted off the golden metal. It was a strange object. Usually on these things the bronze hand’s palm faced the door. But this one was palm out, almost warning the visitor to reconsider requesting entrance.
The knocker had obsessed me ten years before when I’d visited as a fifteen-year-old. The engravings on the finely modeled female palm included etched stars, phases of the moon, planets, and other archaic symbols. When I’d asked about it once, my grandmother had said it was older than the house, but she didn’t know how old exactly or what the ciphers meant. Where was the maid? Grand-mère, one of Paris’s celebrated courtesans, hosted lavish salons on Tuesday, Thursday, and many Saturday evenings, and at this time of day was usually upstairs, preparing her toilette: dusting poudre de riz on her face and décolletage, screwing in her opale de feu earrings, and wrapping her signature rope of the same blazing orange stones around her neck. The strand of opal beads was famous. It had belonged to a Russian empress and was known as Les Incendies. The stones were the same color as my grandmother’s hair and the high- lights in her topaz eyes. She was known by that name—L’Incendie, they called her, The Fire.
We had the same color eyes, but mine almost never flashed like hers. When I was growing up, I kept checking in the mirror, hoping the opal sparks that I only saw occasionally would intensify. I wanted to be just like her, but my father said it was just as well my eyes weren’t on fire because it wasn’t only her coloring that had inspired her name but also her temper, and that wasn’t a thing to covet.
It wasn’t until I was fifteen years old and witnessed it myself that I understood what he’d meant.
I let the hand of fate fall again. Even if Grand-mère was upstairs and couldn’t hear the knocking, the maid would be downstairs, organizing the refreshments for the evening. I’d seen her so many nights, polishing away last smudges on the silver, holding the Baccarat glasses over a pot of steaming water and then wiping them clean to make sure they gleamed.
Dusk had descended. The air had grown cold, and now it was beginning to rain. Fat, heavy drops dripped onto my hat and into my eyes. And I had no umbrella. That’s when I did what I should have done from the start—I stepped back and looked up at the house.
The darkened windows set into the limestone facade indicated there were no fires burning and no lamps lit inside. My grandmother was not in residence. And neither, it appeared, was her staff. I almost wished the concierge had needed to open the porte cochère for me; he might have been able to tell me where my grandmother was.
For days now I had managed to keep my sanity only by thinking of this moment. All I had to do, I kept telling myself, was find my way here, and then together, my grandmother and I could mourn my father and her son, and she would help me figure out what I should do now that I had run away from New York City.
If she wasn’t here, where was I to go? I had other family in Paris, but I had no idea where they lived. I’d only met them here, at my grandmother’s house, when I’d visited ten years previously. I had no friends in the city.
The rain was soaking through my clothes. I needed to find shelter.
But where? A restaurant or café? Was there one nearby? Or should I try and find a hotel? Which way should I go to get a carriage? Was it even safe to walk alone here at night?
What choice did I have?
Picking up my suitcase, I turned, but before I could even step into the courtyard, I saw an advancing figure. A bedraggled-looking man, wearing torn and filthy brown pants and an overcoat that had huge, bulging pockets, staggered toward me. Every step he took rang out on the stones.
He’s just a beggar who intends no harm, I told myself. He’s just look-ing for scraps of food, for a treasure in the garbage he’d be able to sell.
But what if I was wrong? Alone with him in the darkening court- yard, where could I go? In my skirt and heeled boots, could I even outrun him?

About the Author:

smaller MJR_WinkaNew York Times Bestseller, M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice… books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.

Rose’s work has appeared in many magazines including Oprah Magazine and she has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, WSJ, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – Authorbuzz.com

The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Reincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and currently serves, with Lee Child, as the organization’s co-president.

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

***Giveaway***

NecklaceDesigned by Cadsawan Jewelry, the silver pendant contains a labradorite, a magical stone excellent for awakening one’s own awareness of inner spirit, intuition and psychic abilities. And it can be yours by filling out the giveaway form found HERE! Good luck to everyone who enters, murr! =^.^=

 

 

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