Sara’s Review of My Fair Duchess by Megan Frampton

I’m thrilled to be participating in the tour for Megan Frampton’s newest novel, and would like to thank Tasty Book Tours for letting me share this post with you today. I’d also like to extend my sincere thanks to Avon Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, murr! =^.^=

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Rating:

Publisher: Avon Books

Date Released: February 28, 2017

Series: Dukes Behaving Badly #5

Goodreads Description:

In Megan Frampton’s most recent installment of The Dukes Behaving Badly series, an unexpected duchess proves that behaving badly isn’t exclusive to the Dukedom.

The Unexpected Duchess

Archibald Salisbury, son of a viscount, war hero, and proficient in the proper ways of aristocratic society, has received orders for his most challenging mission: Genevieve, Duchess of Blakesley. How she inherited a duchy isn’t his problem. Turning her into a perfect duchess is. But how can he keep his mind on business when her beauty entices him toward pleasure?

It was impossible, unprecedented…and undeniably true. Genevieve is now a “duke”, or, rather, a duchess. So what is she to do when the ton eyes her every move, hoping she’ll make a mistake? Genevieve knows she has brains and has sometimes been told she has beauty, but, out of her depth, she calls on an expert. And what an expert, with shoulders broad enough to lean on, and a wit that matches her own. Archie is supposed to teach her to be a lady and run her estate, but what she really wants to do is unladylike—run into his arms.

Review:

I’ve greatly been enjoying Frampton’s Dukes Behaving Badly series, so I knew when this book was announced that I would like it. As with the previous books in the series, this novel can be read as a stand-alone and contains just the right amount of humor, wonderful characters, slowly burning romance, and engaging plot. Fans of Frampton’s books will not be disappointed in this one, and new comers to the series will find this to be a delightful read.

Genevieve is one of those people who is much stronger than she realizes. While she may feel that she is not cut out and knowledgeable enough to be a Duchess and run a dukedom, I feel she knows quite a bit and simply lacks confidence in herself. Archie was a bit hard for me to get a solid read on personality wise when I first met him, and as I continued reading I still wasn’t entirely sure what my true thoughts were where he was concerned. He has a playful side that is enjoyable, especially when it comes out around Genevieve, but he’s also got a side of him that is guarded and prefers things to be ordered and regimented (unsurprising since he is a retired military captain). Together these two have a fun and slow burning chemistry that fully comes into its own toward the end of the book. I loved that Archie taught Genevieve to have confidence in herself and that she in turn taught him to let go and have fun by setting aside proper behavior from time to time.

This is one of those books that left me smiling periodically while I was reading, and sometimes even chuckling to myself. Genevieve just has this fun quality to her that you can help but love. Her grandmother and her godmother also bring a bit of mischief and humor to the reading; I’m reminded of a scene toward the end of the book that deals with “sparkling” sheep. It’s this quality to Frampton’s writing which I enjoy immensely and always look forward to when reading this series. They’re all just fun books, and I was happy to see this quality carry over into this novel.

There were only two things that kept me from fully falling in love with this title. The first was that there were issues that came up in the story that were never fully resolved. I don’t want to say that the ending felt rushed, but I do feel that one particular issue wasn’t as explored and dealt with as I would have liked. There’s a moment in the final chapter where you think you’re going to see something happen, but it’s left hanging there unresolved. Now this could be because Frampton plans to bring this particular character back in the next book in the series as an obstacle for the main characters in that story, at least that is my hope, but I was a tad disappointed with how easily this issue was handled. And actually, now that I think about it, this issue ties in with my primary problem with the book which was that the conflict was too simple, and we don’t see nearly as much of it as we could have. We have a character, a woman mind you, who has inherited the title of Duchess, something that in this time period was practically unheard of. She also hasn’t been trained to handle the proper running of an estate and all that the title entails. You would think that there would be more focus on the social stigma this would engender and more examples of Genevieve not knowing how to handle things, but we don’t really see that a whole lot in this story. Yes, we get some training, but what we primarily see is lessons in how Genevieve should act toward people, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t all that different from lessons young ladies receive prior to entering the Ton. Now, please bear in mind that I did find the overall plot of the story to be engaging, but I believe that there was more that Frampton could have done to truly let this book shine, and thus standout, especially since she chose to twist societal convention around.

Overall, I honestly feel that this was a wonderful addition to what is an enjoyable series, and I’m greatly looking forward to seeing what Frampton has planned next. Would I recommend this book to others? Most assuredly! As I said toward the start of my review, this book works well as a stand-alone, and I feel that anyone who hasn’t read Frampton’s books would enjoy this one. But I also would recommend the series as a whole for readers to enjoy because each installment in the series brings about its own bit of fun and wonderful characters. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with Frampton’s books, murr!

Excerpt:

1845, Lady Sophia’s Drawing Room

“There’s only one solution,” Lady Sophia said, passing the letter to Archie as he felt his stomach drop. And his carefully ordered life teeter on the verge of change. “You’ll have to go to London to sort my goddaughter out.” She embellished her point by squeezing her tiny dog Truffles, who emitted a squeak and glared at Archie. As if it was his fault.
He resisted the urge to crumple the paper in his hand. “But the festival is in a few weeks,” Archie said, hearing the desperate tone in his voice. He did not want to ever return to London. That was the purpose of taking a position out here in the country after leaving the Queen’s Own Hussars a year prior. His family was there, and his father, at least, had made it clear he never wanted to see him again. What’s more, he did not want to assist a helpless aristocrat in some sort of desperate attempt to bring order to their lives. Even though that was what he was doing in Lady Sophia’s employ. But working for her had come to have its own kind of satisfactory order, one he did not want to disrupt.
“There is work to be done,” Archie continued, hoping to appeal to his employer’s sensible side.
Although in the course of working for her he had come to realize his employer didn’t really have a sensible side, so what was he hoping to accomplish?
“Didn’t you tell me Mr. McCready could do everything you could?” Lady Sophia asked. “You pointed out that if you were to get ill, or busy with other matters, your assistant steward could handle things just as well as you.”
That was when I was trying to get one of my men work, Archie thought in frustration. To help him get back on his feet after the rigors of war. And Bob had proven himself to be a remarkably able assistant, allowing Archie to dive into Lady Sophia’s woefully neglected accounts and see into her investments, neither of which she paid any attention to.
Lady Sophia placed Truffles on the rug before lifting her head to look at Archie. Who knew, in that moment, that he was doomed. Doomed to return to London to help out a likely far-too- indulged female in the very difficult position of being a powerful and wealthy aristocrat.
Perhaps it would have been easier to just get shot on the battlefield. It certainly would have been quicker.
“It’s settled.” She punctuated her words with a nod of her head, sending a few gray curls flying in the air. “You will go see to the new duchess and take care of her as ably as you do me. Mr. Mc-Cready will assist me while you are away.”
Archie looked at the letter again. “This duchess is your relative?” he asked. That would explain the new duchess’s equally silly mode of communication. An “unexpected duchess,” indeed. What kind of idiot wouldn’t have foreseen this circumstance? And done something to prepare for it?
“She calls me aunt, but she is not my actual niece, you understand,” Lady Sophia explained. “She is my goddaughter; her mother married the duke, the duchess’s father. It is quite unusual for a woman to inherit the duchy.”
“Quite,” Archie echoed.
“But it happened, somehow, and since I don’t know anything about being a duchess . . .” Because I do? Archie wondered. But there wasn’t anybody else. She wouldn’t have asked Lady Sophia, of all people, unless there was nobody else.
Or if she was as flighty and confident as her faux-aunt. A scenario that seemed more and more likely.
“The only thing Mr. McCready can’t do is attract as much feminine interest as you do, Mr. Salisbury.” She sat back up and regarded him. “Which might make him more productive,” she added. She leaned over to offer Truffles the end of her biscuit.
Archie opened his mouth to object, but closed it when he realized she was right. He wasn’t vain, but he did recognize that ladies tended to find his appearance attractive. Lady Sophia received many more visitors, she’d told him in an irritated tone, now that he’d been hired.
Bob, damn his eyes, smirked knowingly every time Archie was summoned to Lady Sophia’s drawing room to answer yet another question about estate management posed by a lady who’d likely never had such a question in her life.
Archie responded by making Bob personally in charge of the fertilizer. It didn’t stop Bob’s smirking, but it did make Archie feel better.
“And you will return in a month’s time so you can be here for the festival.”
“Sooner if I can, my lady.” If this duchess needed more time than a month, there would be no hope for her anyway. Country life suited him; he liked its quiet and regularity. It was a vast change from life in battle, or even being just on duty, but it was far more interesting than being the third son from a viscount’s family. A viscount who disowned his third boy when said boy was determined to join the army.
Meanwhile, however, he had to pack to head off to a new kind of battle—that of preparing a completely unprepared woman, likely a woman as flighty and often confused as Lady Sophia, to hold a position that she was entirely unsuited for.
Very much like working with raw recruits, in fact.

About the Author:

Megan Frampton writes historical romance under her own name and romantic women’s fiction as Megan Caldwell. She likes the color black, gin, dark-haired British men, and huge earrings, not in that order. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and son. You can visit her on her website, @meganf, and at Facebook.

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***Giveaway***

If you would like to enter for your chance to win 1 of 3 print copies of Megan’s Why Do Dukes Fall in Love, book #4 in the Dukes Behaving Badly series, please use the Rafflecopter link below. This giveaway is open to US residents only.

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Release Day Blitz: The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins

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We’re excited to be participating in the release day event for Wendy Higgins newest novel and offer our thanks to Rock Star Book Tours for letting us share this post with you today, murr! =^.^=

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Publisher: HarperTeen

Date Released: March 7, 2017

Series: Eurona Duology #2

In The Great Pursuit, the dramatic sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Great Hunt, Wendy Higgins delivers another thrilling fantasy filled with dangerous enemies, political intrigue, searing romance, and a princess who is willing to do everything to protect her kingdom.

One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continues.

The kingdom of Lochlanach has traded the great beast that once terrorized the realm of Eurona for something far more dangerous: the ire of powerful Lashed woman Rosaria Rocato. Rosaria demands that Eurona overturn the laws prohibiting magic, or an innocent will be killed each day.

Despite the king’s resistance, Princess Aerity believes they must make peace with the Lashed, and though she’s accepted a betrothal to the man who took down the beast, she cannot help thinking about Paxton, the Lashed man who stole her heart and disappeared.

Aerity soon discovers that Paxton has joined Rosaria’s army in the war against her family. Though her feelings for him are still strong, her duty to her kingdom and her family is stronger—especially when her parents are kidnapped and she has to step up to the throne and once again put aside what’s best for her in order to do what’s best for her people. Paxton and Princess Aerity must fight to see what is more powerful: their love or the impending war between the magical Lashed and the non-magic humans.

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Excerpt:

Chapter 1 – The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins

A new beast roamed the kingdom of Lochlanach, killing at will. A second unnatural monster created by the hands of Rozaria Rocato, granddaughter of the most infamous and hated Lashed One of all time. Princess Aerity Lochson’s mind was a blur of piled-up worries as she rushed from High Hall of the castle, away from the frightened commoners and guests who’d come for her betrothal ceremony, and toward the office of her father, King Charles. She turned at the sound of heavy footsteps behind her and found both her childhood friend Lieutenant Harrison Gillfin and her betrothed, Lord Lief Alvi, following. Lord Alvi looked every bit the hero—his broad stature striking, with elk furs about his shoulders and a black kilt to his knees above leather boots. His blue eyes were filled with bright passion and hunger, but those emotions were not for her. They were for the beast. The new hunt.
He had killed the first creature, thereby earning her hand in marriage. The thought twisted Aerity’s stomach with discomfort and turned her mind to the man who’d disappeared weeks before when the beast was killed—the Lashed man who’d taken her heart with him and would likely never return. She clenched her jaw. This was no time to think of Paxton Seabolt or her drowned desires. The kingdom was suffering again—rendering everything she’d sacrificed to have been in vain.
Her eyes shifted from Lord Alvi’s to Harrison’s and found a fierce, protective comfort there. Harrison stood tall, lean, and capable. Never faltering. The thought of her noble friend fighting yet another beast filled her with sharp fear. So many lives had already been lost, including Harrison’s cousin Breckon, who’d been the true love of Aerity’s cousin Wyneth. Half a year was all it had taken to trample the dreams and futures of so many.
Aerity gave the men a nod to follow her. She lifted her long white skirts and moved quickly down the tapestry-lined hallway to her father’s office. Guards and soldiers ran past, shouting orders, fully armed with bows, swords, and lines of throwing daggers strapped across their uniformed tunics.
She opened the door without knocking. No fewer than twenty faces shot toward her. She recognized the burgundy red hair of her mother, along with her aunts and uncles, military elite, and royal advisers. Her father invited them in with a quick flick of his fingers.
When the door closed he asked her, “What is the state of things in High Hall?”
“The people seemed to have calmed for the moment, Father,” Aerity said. “And supper is being served.”
“Your daughter gave a rousing speech,” Lord Alvi pro- claimed in his rumbling voice. “She is to thank for the calm.” Aerity’s face flushed with heat at the unexpected compliment. Then he put a heavy hand on her shoulder and pulled her close. Aerity fought the urge to shrug away. For the sake of the kingdom, she had made a commitment to become his bride, and she would follow through regardless of what her heart wanted, and regardless of the fact that she was certain feelings had grown between Lief and Wyneth.
“Did she?” The king’s eyes softened with pride, and her mother, Queen Leighlane, smiled at Aerity and Lief, no doubt thinking what a lovely couple they were. If she only knew.
Behind them Harrison cleared his throat. “Are we to begin hunting the creature, Your Majesty?”
King Charles nodded, his face lined with anxiety. “Aye. But most of the hunters have dispersed.” Or been killed, Aerity thought with sorrow, remembering the men who’d come from all over Eurona and even a huntress who’d lost her life.
“I can have a message sent to Tiern Seabolt,” Harrison said. “I’m certain he would return with haste.”
Aerity’s abdomen tightened. Tiern was Paxton’s younger brother. He’d nearly been killed by the first beast and had been saved by Paxton’s Lashed magic. It was the very reason Pax had fled the kingdom—using magic was illegal, even to heal. Aerity didn’t want Tiern to hunt again. She didn’t want Paxton’s sacrifice to have been a waste.
“And his older brother?” the king asked.
“Nay.” Harrison paused. “He disappeared after the hunt. We don’t know his whereabouts.”
“Must you call Tiern back?” Aerity asked. When her father’s eyebrows drew together she emended, “He’s . . . so young.”
“He’s the same age as you, Daughter,” the king reminded her. “Seventeen. A man who’s already proven himself in the hunt.” Aerity pressed her lips together and nodded. She could not keep Tiern safe any more than she could force Harrison to stay out of harm’s reach. Their heroic hearts would urge them forward.
“Can we send word to the Zandalee?” Aerity’s uncle Lord Wavecrest asked.
The king shook his head. “I’m afraid not this time. The letter from the Rocato woman stated that her creatures have now been released in all the lands of Eurona. The Zandalee will be needed to fight in their own drylands of Zorfina.”
A fearful silence fell over the room. Each kingdom was on its own with its own beasts to battle now. Lochlanach was a quaint kingdom of fishermen and crop villagers, farmers, that had enjoyed many years of peace. The people had risen together to fight the first beast, but how much more could the king expect from them? It was too much. To imagine this kind of horror inflicted on innocent people all over Eurona sickened Aerity.
“Perhaps another proclamation?” Lord Wavecrest suggested carefully. At this proposal from Aerity’s uncle, the men in the room glanced around at one another, and the hairs rose on the princess’s arms. The queen caught her daughter’s eyes, and they both went still.
The last proclamation had offered Aerity’s hand in marriage to whoever killed the beast. The only thing left to give was the second princess, Aerity’s fifteen-year-old sister, Vixie. Her father stared down at his desk.
“No.” Aerity stepped forward, out of Lord Alvi’s embrace, her body trembling. “You cannot offer Vixie’s hand.”
The king’s hazel eyes, filled with regret, rose to hers. “I have nothing left to give.” With Vixie’s hand would come her dowry of lands. Using Vixie as a prize would surely smother her soul. Aerity wouldn’t stand for it.
“And why should you oppose it?” her uncle Preston asked haughtily. “The first proclamation provided you with a fine match. It can do the same for Vixie.”
Aerity stilled, forcing back the torrent of words that flooded her mind: unfair, poor match, confinement, no joy, no love. She was to endure those things for her kingdom, but the thought of Vixie losing her freedom to choose her future . . . it gutted Aerity. She knew how it appeared to the world—that she’d landed a handsome, noble, brave lord—but the heart didn’t care about appearances. It wanted who it wanted.
“And then what?” Aerity asked. “Who shall we offer for the next beast, and the one after that? Your own Wyneth? Or perhaps six-year-old Merity?”
Lord Wavecrest scowled.
“Enough, Aerity,” Queen Leighlane said quietly. Aerity met her mother’s eyes and felt an understanding there. No one knew better than the two of them how this would crush Vixie’s spirit. These men couldn’t possibly understand.
“Vixie’s nearly sixteen,” Lord Wavecrest pressed. Aerity wanted to claw out his eyes and force him to stop speaking.
“A proclamation offering Vixie’s hand will be my very last resort,” King Charles said, standing taller. “It is my hope that the people will rise of their own free will to protect their families and lands as they did in the last hunt. I will not hinder them with further curfews.”
Lord Wavecrest shook his head and crossed his arms. Aerity breathed a temporary sigh of relief.
“Sire, we should address the other part of the Rocato woman’s letter.” This was from the king’s oldest adviser, Duke Gulfton. This duke had been the closest adviser to Aerity’s grandfather King Leon. His views on the Lashed were legendarily conservative and strict, and he was a proponent of keeping the Lashed lists up to date. All persons with Lashed capabilities and their families were notated in the records and checked regularly for markings.
The stooped man wore a sea-green robe around his shoulders and a perpetual serious frown on his face. He leaned on his cane. “We cannot do as the Rocato woman demands. We cannot burn our records of Lashed Ones in these lands, or give them rein to take over our kingdom.”
A few of the other older men murmured their agreement.
Harrison stepped forward. “What if we made a copy of the list? Then it wouldn’t matter if one was destroyed.”
“I’ve got scribes copying pages as we speak,” the king responded. “But the Rocato woman has called for the records to be burned by sundown. The copy won’t be complete. There are thousands of names.”
Thousands of persons with Lashed blood in Lochlanach. Amazing, Aerity thought. Only a small percentage of those on the list actually had magic, though. Paxton’s family was not on the list. Aerity wondered how many others of magical blood had been able to elude the system.
“How will the madwoman know the difference?” Duke Gulfton asked. “Burn papers to appease her, then kill her and her monsters once and for all. End of story.”
“Here, here!” a few men shouted, as if it were that simple. As if they wouldn’t have done it by now if they could.
The king’s jaw was set. “I have a terrible feeling this woman has eyes and ears everywhere.”
The room quieted and a sense of unease spread as heads turned and everyone eyed the others present. Her father’s council was a small group of family and a mere handful of wise advisers, all landowners, who’d been loyal to the kingdom since her grandfather ruled. She couldn’t imagine this group being compromised.
“With all due respect, gentlemen,” Lord Alvi said to the room, “we will find every beast and even Rocato herself, but we cannot guarantee immediate success. The last hunt took two months.”
“Aye,” Harrison added. “And she’s threatening to kill seven men each week.”
“You’ll have to work faster this time,” Duke Gulfton told them.
The room tensed. During the last hunt they’d had a hundred men. They’d sought the monster nearly ten hours a night and spent the days scouting and preparing. The lands of Lochlanach stretched far and wide. Yet people like Duke Gulfton were expecting a miracle of the sea.
Queen Leighlane cleared her throat. “The fact of the matter is that we’re going to have to at least put on a show of honoring her wishes. We need to buy time as we plan.”
Another elder, Duke Streamson, asked, “What are you proposing, Your Highness? Rocato is demanding that all Lashed be allowed to freely work magic.”
Magic that wasn’t all bad, Aerity thought. Magic that had saved Tiern and could save others. If only she could get them to embrace that.
“I have an idea.” Aerity’s brain whirred as all eyes turned to her. “What if we set up a public area just outside the royal lands and invited Lashed from throughout the kingdom to come, and any Unlashed who wishes to seek their healing can receive it?”
Duke Streamson made a choking sound. “Round up the people of Rocato to turn against us in one place? That’s precisely what she wants!”
Aerity rushed on. “I don’t believe all Lashed are ‘her people.’ The entire area would be heavily guarded so that if any Lashed got out of line, they could be dealt with immediately.” The old dukes scoffed at her.
One of the military advisers stepped forward. “Our numbers are not as large as they once were. Our troop sizes have been modest in the past fifty years. I’ve got to keep men patrolling the seas and borders, and we’ve lost many in the past months. I worry that a large-scale showing of the Lashed will bring crowds.”
The room broke out into fervent debate. Those who were against Aerity’s idea were adamant, passionate in their fears. Those in favor seemed on weak, shaky ground.
“Given permission to put their hands on innocent people, it could be a massacre!”
“What if the Lashed overwhelm our guards?”
“They’ll rise up throughout the lands!”
“. . . commoner revolts . . . war . . .”
Aerity felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see Harrison, his light brown eyes showing the never-faltering respect he seemed to hold for her. She gave his hand a quick squeeze of gratitude before he released her. Aerity caught Lord Alvi watching the exchange with curiosity, so she turned her gaze forward again—she would let him think what he wanted.
“Enough!” King Charles’s voice silenced the room. “I will think on it. I must put safety first. I’m not ready to overturn our laws—” Aerity opened her mouth to argue that she wasn’t suggesting a complete overturn, but a one-time, enclosed, secure circumstance. Her father held up a hand to stop her. “This blasted parchment from Rozaria Rocato is bound to have our people in terror. If I take the stability of our rules away, it will cause chaos. Tonight on the lawn we will burn whatever pages my scribes have managed to copy, to keep Rozaria satisfied, but the original lists remain with us. I pray to the sea this works.”
He looked at the hunters. “Lord Alvi. Lieutenant Gillfin. Gather as many hunters as you can and begin hunting this new beast immediately.” They nodded and took their leave. Aerity watched them go, swallowing a dry lump in her throat. The king looked to his military advisers. “I want every soldier on duty, and round-the-clock patrolling of royal lands. I want Rozaria Rocato, dead or alive.” He turned to his top castle guard. “Send messengers to the other four lands to let them know of our new foe and to find out their circumstances.”
Without another word, the king swept from the room with Queen Leighlane and a line of advisers close behind.
Aerity felt the brush of velvet on her arm and peered
down at the old man beside her. It was Duke Gulfton, his eyes glistening. “I mean no disrespect, Princess, only a piece of advice. In times of fear and upheaval, absolute routine and stability in the law are called for. Any slight change can set the people off.”
“As I recall,” Aerity said steadily, “Mrs. Rathbrook healed your ailing heart last year.” Mrs. Rathbrook was the royal healer—the only Lashed allowed to work magic.
He grasped the top of his cane with both hands. “Aye.”
“Should we not allow the people of this land to benefit from magic as you have?”
He looked down at his hands, nodding solemnly. “Not all Lashed are as trustworthy as Mrs. Rathbrook. You saw the Rocato woman face-to-face. You know the evil of which she is capable.”
“I suppose everyone is capable of evil, Duke Gulfton. None of us is immune, Lashed or not. But I choose to believe the best in people until they show me otherwise.”
Duke Streamson, waiting in the doorway, cleared his throat. Duke Gulfton peered up at Aerity and patted her hand. “Once they show you otherwise, it is often too late. As a rule it is not safe to take such chances. Seas help Lochlanach in our time of need.”
As Duke Gulfton shuffled away, Aerity whispered in return. “Seas help us, indeed.”

***Grab The Great Hunt for just $1.99!***

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Publisher: HarperTeen

Date Released: March 8, 2016

Series: Eurona Duology #1

“Aerity…” Her father paused as if the words he was forming pained him. “I must ask you to sacrifice the promise of love for the sake of our kingdom.”

She could only stare back, frozen.

When a strange beast terrorizes the kingdom of Lochlanach, fear stirs revolt. In an act of desperation, a proclamation is sent to all of Eurona—kill the creature and win the ultimate prize: the daughter of King Lochson’s hand in marriage.

Princess Aerity knows her duty to the kingdom but cannot bear the idea of marrying a stranger… until a brooding local hunter, Paxton Seabolt, catches her attention. There’s no denying the unspoken lure between them… or his mysterious resentment.

Paxton is not the marrying type. Nor does he care much for spoiled royals and their arcane laws. He’s determined to keep his focus on the task at hand—ridding the kingdom of the beast—but the princess continues to surprise him, and the perilous secrets he’s buried begin to surface.

Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ tale “The Singing Bone,” New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins delivers a dark fantasy filled with rugged hunters, romantic tension, and a princess willing to risk all to save her kingdom.

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About the Author:

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Wendy Higgins is the USA Today and NYT bestselling author of the Sweet Evil series from HarperTeen, the high fantasy duology The Great Hunt, and her independently published Irish fantasy, See Me. She is a former high school English teacher who now writes full time, and lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with her veterinarian husband, daughter, son, and doggie Rue.

Wendy earned a bachelor’s in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford University. She is represented by Jill Corcoran of the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency.

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***Giveaway***

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Two (2) Winners will receive the grand prizes (The Great Hunt Paperback and The Great Pursuit hardback from HarperTeen, and signed swag from Wendy Higgins! Plus an ARC of ROAR by Cora Carmack!), US Only.

Five (5) Winners will receive signed sets of swag – International!

To enter, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

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Sara’s Review of The Beast of Aros Castle by Heather McCollum

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I’d like to thank Tasty Book Tours for letting me host Heather on the blog today! If you’d like to see all of the blogs participating in this event, please click on the banner above, murr! =^.^=

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Rating: paw4

Publisher: Entangled Publishing – Scandalous

Date Released: February 20, 2017

Series: Highland Isles #1

Goodreads Description:

On the run from a dangerous man, Ava Sutton flees to the Isle of Mull off the coast of Scotland. Masquerading as a titled, English lady, Ava must convince the cynical and darkly handsome chief of the Macleans of Aros to wed her before the devil tracks her down.

Tor Maclean, the new chief of Aros Castle, has sworn off marriage after his first wife tricked him into it. Despite his efforts to scare away the Englishwoman, his father arranged for him to wed, Tor is drawn to her fire, courage, and beauty. But when truths are revealed, and hearts as well as lives are on the dagger’s edge,  Tor doesn’t know if he can forgive or if he will truly become the solitary Beast of Aros Castle…

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Review:

This was an enjoyable read, and as the first in an all new series, I can say that I’m looking forward to reading more. If you enjoy historical romance novels, you’ll want to add this one to your TBR pile.

Ava was a fun character. She’s mischievous, got a bit of sass in her, loyal to those whom she loves, and will do what she has to to protect those closest to her, even if it means deceiving others in the end. Tor is guarded, he’s had his trust broken before and so is not as open when we first meet him. It took me a while to warm up to him, but once I started to learn about his character and what motivates him, my appreciation increased. Yes, there were times when I grew frustrated with him and his treatment of Ava, especially toward the end when the truth comes out, but those moments were tempered by ones where I couldn’t help but swoon for him. Together I felt they were a wonderful couple, each balancing the other out and making them stronger for it. I also really enjoyed Ava’s friend Grace and hope that she gets her own story in this series. She has some of Ava’s spirit about her, but is a bit more cautious and meek deep down. I’d like to see her end up with one of Tor’s men or maybe be the one to tame Tor’s friend Cullen, who strikes me as being a bit of a rogue. As for the antagonist, Vincent, talk about a disgusting soul. He’s vile, smarmy, and honest made my fur crawl. I will admit that I cheered when he got what he deserved.

For the most part I felt the story flowed nicely, but I do think that the ending was drawn out just a bit too much. There is one point where it feels like the book ends naturally, but McCollum adds in an extra little conflict at the end which slows the story down in my opinion. I can see a reason for adding this moment in the story as it allows you to see how much Tor has changed since the start of the book, I just have to wonder if there could have been a different way to show this without the extra bit of drama. Regardless of this, the overall pacing was great, the writing was easy to read, and the suspenseful scenes left me holding my breath in anticipation. This is definitely one of those books that you could read in a day if you were so inclined.

So when all is said and done, I have to give McCollum purrs for a wonderful start in what feels like a promising series. Can’t wait to discover who the focus is for book two and when I can expect to return to the Island of Mull in Scotland. =^.^=

Excerpt:

He ignored her pity. “If I am to choose a bride, she would have to be someone I deem worthy. Someone who wouldn’t perish during the first winter storm or hide under the bed if troops came to take the castle.”
“I am actually noted for my resistance to illness,” she said, intertwining her slender fingers together before her skirts. “As well as my reluctance to crawl under furniture.”
He moved closer, an idea forming. The woman was brazen, unpredictable, and she thought she had the upper hand with that bloody camp of English just across the way. But if she thought it best to break the betrothal, he would accommodate her. And the best way to scare off a virgin, even a brazen virgin, was to give her a taste of fire.
“How about passion, lass?” He leaned down to her ear. “Are ye reluctant to crawl under my sheets?” She inhaled quickly as he pulled her against his body, one hand guiding her head while the other pressed against her back. Her eyes widened as he descended for the kiss.
He met her mouth with every intention of being frightening and hard. How dare this Englishwoman come onto his island, demanding he drop his mountainous pile of obligations as chief and sacrifice his freedom to wed her? But the moment he felt the soft warmth of her lips, the ripe feel of her body in his arms, against his length, the kiss changed. She tasted of woman and innocence wrapped together with awakening heat. He threaded his fingers through her hair to cup her face without breaking contact. Her cheeks were smooth against his rough palms, and instead of yanking away, she remained rooted to the ground.
With a slight tilt of her face, their lips melded intimately as she met him with the same intensity, moving in rhythm with him like they’d been tupping for years. The thought made a low growl creep up his throat before he realized it, nearly escaping as a groan. But he wouldn’t give her that triumph.
Dainty but strong fingers curled into his shirt, holding her to him as he bent to surround her on three sides. Yet he gave her room to escape. If she’d just step back, surrender to the contest, but she didn’t. Were her heels dug into the floor?
His pulse thrummed as fire swept through his body, and thoughts of victory turned to smoke. Tor’s fingers loosened pins and curls as he slid his fingers through her bound hair.
A gasp. “Tor, unhand that lass this minute.” His mother’s voice doused his desire with ocean spray.
As if breaking through the surface of the sea, Tor released Ava’s lips, but he still held her body. Her eyes were closed, her lips damp, cheeks flushed, hair tumbling free around her shoulders. She blinked, waking to stare straight into his eyes. But instead of fear or better yet, barely controlled passion, he saw something that cooled his blood more thoroughly than his mother’s scolding.
Contempt.
Her words were a soft issue from kiss-swollen lips. “So then,” Ava whispered. “You are a beast.”

About the Author:

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Heather McCollum is an award-winning, historical and YA contemporary paranormal romance writer. She earned her B.A. in Biology, much to her English professor’s dismay, and was a 2009 Golden Heart Finalist. 

When she is not creating vibrant characters & magical adventures on the page, she is roaring her own battle cry in the war against ovarian cancer. Ms. McCollum recently slayed the cancer beast and resides with her very own hero & 3 kids in the wilds of suburbia on the mid-Atlantic coast.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

***Giveaway***

If you would like to enter for your chance to win a $15 Amazon Gift Card and an eBook of choice from Heather McCollum’s backlist, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/521ac4c81231

 

Caramel Beach by Audrey O’Connor – Excerpt & Promotional Post

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In Audrey O’Connor’s steamy, stormy follow-up novella to Lessons in Pure Life, Diego and Lia reunite after weeks apart for dance-floor revelations, midnight confessions, and a run-in with the law. Fans of Karina Halle’s Racing the Sun won’t want to miss this exciting new release published by Tryst Books!

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Publisher: Tryst Books

Date Released: February 27, 2017

Series: Lessons in Pure Life #2

In Audrey O’Connor’s steamy, stormy follow-up novella to Lessons in Pure Life, sun-soaked days melt into restless nights for Diego and Lia, kept apart for weeks by long hours and miles of coastline. When an A-list wedding reunites them in Caramel Beach, the tension is higher than ever.

Over the course of an electric twenty-four hours filled with sugar, sex, and magic, the couple faces their share of personal demons, angels, and unlikely prophets. While Diego confronts his problems with the help of a surf champ and a bottle of whiskey, Lia stumbles into a bathroom-stall seduction and possibilities she never knew existed. Amid the chaos, Lia and Diego try to reconnect. What comes after is a life-altering odyssey into uncharted territory.

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***Available for $0.99!***

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Excerpt:

We meander back to the hostel in the wet sand, the surf to our left. The moon is full and bright, bouncing off the gentle waves that roll into the bay.

My first few months in Costa Rica were rich with the exhilaration of my new environment. I landed in the lap of a whole new life, just like that. After working all month in Pacifica without him, being with Diego again sends those early memories bobbing up to the surface. He’s got this sharp energy beneath the layers and layers that make up a man. Intimidation is what he inspires, followed closely by strange physical sensations that spell your undoing. He triggers an energy in me that could tear the hood off a car. And I’m sure as hell not on flakka.

He slides his arm around my waist like he can hear me. We walk a few steps before he stops and turns to face me.

“I wouldn’t hate it if you’d let me hold you.”

The waves crash endlessly behind us, a soaking wet heartbeat. I’m still strung up in his words when he closes the empty space between us.

“You’re on fire,” he tells me, hands making a ring behind my back so we’re suspended in some kind of stained glass embrace.

“Hey, thanks.”

“You sure know how to put yourself together, gringa.”

Blush.

“I’m not the only one.”

He sighs and I wait patiently. Indecision slows his expression, crystalizing in his delay.

Whatever it is goes away.

“Did you enjoy your time, you know, without me distracting you?” he asks.

“It was busy, but we got a lot done at the new school. I can’t complain.”

“I wish you would.” He pulls me in closer.

That one gets me. His slow kiss disappears everything around me before I’m even sure it’s happening. Lips softer than I remember, the light scrape of his chin on mine. A rugged feeling so welcome it can stay for dessert.

“You’re trouble,” he breathes.

“The best kind of it,” I reply.

“There’s nothing I can do about it, is there?”

“I doubt it.”

Bowing his head, he lowers his eyelids.

“I forgot what this is like,” he laughs tiredly, rubbing his cheek with his hand. “You still take me by surprise.” He tilts his head, considering me tenderly but wincing, like it hurts to admit it.

Watch and see my defenses lower to unprecedented depths.

I press against him, not sure whether I’m teasing him or me. His palm is warm on the back of my leg.

“How’d you get your skin so soft, anyway?” he whispers, stroking my thigh gently until it evolves into a grasp, the tips of his fingers pushing into my flesh.

“Magic.”

“It’s working.”

I laugh, breathless. “So what do you wanna do?”

“Right now?”

I nod.

He pulls me in by the bottom with both hands. “Get to know you all over again.”

Copyright © 2017 by Audrey O’Connor

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***For a limited time you can purchase Lessons in Pure Life for $1.49! Don’t miss out on this spectacular deal!***

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Publisher: Tryst Books

Date Released: January 15, 2017

Series: Lessons in Pure Life #1

Freshly minted grad Emilia Noble arrives in Costa Rica to teach English in the tropical community of Pacifica. Its carefree, pura vida lifestyle is a welcome contrast to her dark and wintry origins. Tossing caution aside like an old winter coat, she plunges headfirst into an exotic cocktail of sensory pleasure.

Diego is a local whose surfer body and cool detachment make Lia buzz with a long-lost thrill. Fascinated by her new environment, she can’t help but wonder about the moody inner workings of the boy with triceps like Wolverine and a grimace to match.

Diego seems to have no problem ignoring Lia, though. Caught up in his family’s conflicted attitude toward foreigners, he notices her only when it’s convenient. But as Lia thrives in her new surroundings, Diego might just find reason enough to defy his embattled, insular father. When north and south are mixed together, the results are intoxicating.

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***Now on Sale for $1.49 for a LIMITED TIME!***

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About the Author:

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Audrey O’Connor is inspired by art, science, compassion, and rare moments of transcendence. She writes in Chelsea, Quebec, and enjoys river swims, woodsy gatherings, live music in Wakefield, and a deep, dark cabernet sauvignon.

Website  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads

***Giveaway***

Tryst Books is offering one (1) lucky winner a Kindle Fire! To enter, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b050ef29327

Can’t Wait for Books of 2017 – March

With so many exciting books coming out this year, the felines thought it would be fun to do a monthly post showcasing titles that they are anxious to get their paws on. Here are their picks for this month. =^.^=

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Sarah’s Choice: Silence Fallen (Mercy Thompson #10) by Patricia Briggs

Expected publication: March 7th 2017 by Ace Books

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In the #1 New York Times bestselling Mercy Thompson novels, the coyote shapeshifter has found her voice in the werewolf pack. But when Mercy’s bond with the pack and her mate is broken, she’ll learn what it truly means to be alone…

Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe…

Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise…

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Dancer’s Choice: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Expected publication: March 14th 2017 by HarperTeen

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Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

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Mimi’s Choice: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days (The Embraced #1) by Kerrelyn Sparks

Expected publication: March 7th 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

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Luciana grew up on the Isle of Moon, hidden away because of her magical powers. But when her father arrives, he offers her a choice: remain on the island or return with him and marry the Beast of Benwick in order to save their legacy—and her father’s life.

Lord Leofric, the Beast of Benwick, has not been touched since he was a child. Born with the power to harness lightning, he is a danger to everyone he touches. When he meets his betrothed, he expects a loveless, lonely marriage…until he discovers she’s vastly more powerful than he realized. But is she strong enough to withstand his touch?

If they can survive, their love will alter the future of the kingdom. But will their extraordinary powers cost them everything?

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Sammers’s Choice: Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Expected publication: March 28th 2017 by Tor Books

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A government special agent known only as the Signalman gets off a train on a stunningly hot morning in Winslow, Arizona. Later that day he meets a woman in a diner to exchange information about an event that happened a week earlier for which neither has an explanation, but which haunts the Signalman.

In a ranch house near the shore of the Salton Sea a cult leader gathers up the weak and susceptible — the Children of the Next Level — and offers them something to believe in and a chance for transcendence. The future is coming and they will help to usher it in.

A day after the events at the ranch house which disturbed the Signalman so deeply that he and his government sought out help from ‘other’ sources, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory abruptly loses contact with NASA’s interplanetary probe New Horizons. Something out beyond the orbit of Pluto has made contact.

And a woman floating outside of time looks to the future and the past for answers to what can save humanity.

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