Spotlight: A Curse of Fire (Book #1: Fae Academy Series) by Sophia Shade


A magical calling card, a murderous secret, and an ancient, dangerous realm.

The Fae have been hunting Imogen’s mother for nearly eighteen years. She has something they want: her daughter. Now they’ve caught up with her, and Imogen’s faced with a choice: attend their fae college by choice…or by force.

That should’ve been enough warning that Callador, school for the fae, is a manipulative and dangerous place. But it’s not until the school is under attack and the students are facing death by curse that Imogen realizes Callador’s darkest secret isn’t how they get their students to attend.

You won’t want to fall behind on the series readers are calling a “brilliant, magical new world.”

I feel the same calming feeling wash over me I felt earlier. Is Erick using magic on me? I don’t think so. I don’t see any of the sparks around him I usually see when he uses magic. He just has a calming presence, I suppose. Some people are like that. I often felt something similar from Mom. She could comfort me or calm me with just a touch. That’s all he’s doing, comforting a friend in her time of need.

Ella bursts into the room, Caleb right behind her, and I pull my hand away from Erick. Caleb doesn’t even seem to notice.

“I have it!” Ella says excitedly.

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Sophia Shade is the enchanting author of the Fae Academy world. She lives beyond the Shadow Veil with the students, teachers, and creatures who attend Callador: Academy of the Aos Sí. When not writing, she spends her time battling darkness to save her newfound friends and family from the mysterious force that wants to drain all magic from Faerie once and for all.

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Web of Frost (Book #1: Saints of Russalka Series) by Lindsay Smith

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Russalka is a proud empire, frozen and vast, protected for centuries by a royal family who works miracles from the saints. But rebellion stirs in the streets, and its war-hungry neighbors threaten to invade. The young princess Katza has been tormented by visions of her bloodied hands destroying Russalka—a clear message from the saints that she must never rule. So when tragedy places her next in line to the throne, Katza fears their warnings are on the verge of coming true.

Then she meets Ravin, a mysterious young prophet with visions of his own: visions of Katza as a regal empress with unimaginable power. All she has to do seize upon the holy magic of her bloodline. But the more Ravin whispers in her ear, the more Katza begins to wonder whether he has her best interests at heart. With a revolution boiling over and war looming at the border, the greatest threat to Russalka may be Katza herself.  

Excerpt from Web of Frost  (Book #1: Saints of Russalka Series):

“An incredible show of power,” Ravin said. “But you are capable of even more.” He paused, and turned his head, almost peering back at her over his shoulder. Again her gaze was drawn to the sharp line of his forehead, his nose beneath a dark sheaf of his hair where it had fallen across his brow. “Show me.”

Katza rolled her shoulders back. She had never before prayed to Saint Morozov; she’d never had reason to. She scanned the icons in the sanctuary, looking for his face—the blue eyes piercing with ice, the gray pallor of his skin as flecks of frost wreathed him. But all the colors were washed out on the ancient icons—he was hard to find. Saint Morozov. Her lips worked as she sought him out. Saint Morozov. Grant me the chill in your bones . . .

“No, no.” Ravin stalked toward her, shoulders bristling with cold fury. “You don’t need to focus on his icon. You must be able to draw the power anywhere. Anytime. Morozov is only a filter for turning the raw power into ice. You must reach past him.” He trembled with intensity. “Seize the power for yourself. It’s already there, just waiting for you to grasp it.”

“I—I’m sorry.” Katza bit her lower lip and looked down. Morozov. Let your cold envelop me . . .

And then she felt it, crawling inside her skin—the faintest threads of ice. If the saints were filters for Boj’s raw power, then Katza imagined herself reaching through that filter to grasp it at the source. Her breath crystallized before her as she exhaled, then twinkled like glass as it fell to the floor. Frost coated her hands, her face, and yet the cold was soothing, hardening around her like a shelter . . .

No. Like a tomb.

Katza thrashed, panicking as her skin became solid, stiff with cold. “O, Boj,” she cried. “I can’t—”

“You have to release it,” Ravin shouted. “Don’t keep it trapped inside you!”

Katza’s throat was closing up, turning into a block of ice. She tried to scream. Tried to move her arms—she had to force the cold away from her—

She flung her arms out wide.

Frost shot out from all around her, spinning fine as a spider’s web. It spread up the chapel walls, crunching and cracking as it went, riming the icons and choking the candles Ravin had lit. Katza’s breathing eased and she felt a tide surging through her. She was one with the ice, letting it into her as she spun it from her, a perfect symbiosis.

Katza’s chest rose and fell as she admired the ice thickening into columns and pillars and intricate lacework all around them. With a command, she could pull it all away. But she wouldn’t. She had made this, and she was in control, and everything was beautiful.

A voice inside her sighed happily and whispered in her ear, Yes.

“Incredible.” Ravin was breathing heavily too as he approached her once more, stepping around a pillar of ice. His dark eyes danced, reflecting the sunlight-kissed frost. “You are truly in control of it.”

Katza tested, fingers twitching; a column of ice thinned, melting, then thickened again at her command. “I am. I can feel that power you were talking about, that well. It’s just below the surface. But it’s rolling through me, a give and take . . .”

“Yes. You are in control of your power. But I, too, am blessed by Saint Morozov.” He drew closer and raised his palm. Ice sheathed his fingers, glinting with the menace of steel. “Can you stop it when someone else is using that blessing? Can you melt it all away?”

Katza staggered back from him, but backed into one of the columns of ice. She tried to melt it, but it was one he’d created—she had no power over it. Frost fringed onto her clothing, her hair, her neck, as if the column were consuming her, swallowing her up. Again she felt that burn in her chest, crystals sprouting and slicing her up, but it wasn’t in her control. She couldn’t push it away.

“Careful, tsarechka.” Ravin laughed behind pressed lips. “Or I’ll make a martyr of you.”

Panic spiked through her, a shard of ice in the warmth of the saints’ gifts. “Please, stop!”

His face loomed before hers. Gray washed over his features; his lips were deathly blue. “You must stop me.”

Katza swallowed. She couldn’t. She would never be strong enough—but she had to. It was what Russalka needed.

It was what she’d been craving, all along.

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About the author and where to find her:

Lindsay-Smith-credit-Julie-Murphy (1)Lindsay is the author of the young adult novels SekretDreamstrider, and A Darkly Beating Heart, and is the showrunner and lead writer for Serial Box’s The Witch Who Came In From the Cold. Her work has appeared on Tor.com and in the anthologies A Tyranny of Petticoats, Strange Romance Vol. 3, and Toil & Trouble, and she has written for Green Ronin Publishing’s RPG properties. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and dog.

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Scoring With the Wrong Twin by Naima Simone

 

Scoring With the Wrong Twin
by Naima Simone
Series: WAGS, #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC

Release Date: January 15, 2018

 

Shy, awkward Sophia Cruz has a hard time telling her vivacious identical twin “no.” But when her sister begs her to swap places for a modeling shoot, she caves … again. Then Zephirin Black walks onto the set. The brooding, aloof, and gorgeous tight end for the Washington Warriors. But she can keep it professional… She has to. Because the adorkable Cruz twin has no luck with guys once they compare her to her sister.

After a bad break-up, Zeph hasn’t been big on second chances—and even less with trust. But he finds himself giving please-call-me-by-my-middle-name-Sophia both. The woman he’d dismissed as a spoiled cover model is different from the first time he met her. Quirkier. Funnier. Definitely sexier. What started as one night turns into another…and another…and another…

Still, Sophia can’t go on keeping her secret from him. But telling Zeph the truth will mean losing him for good.

 

 

“I’m not having sex with you again,” Sophia stated, panic—if Zephirin wasn’t mistaken—edging her voice. Though he couldn’t help but notice that her gaze skimmed down his body, the arousal darkening her eyes unmistakable.“Who said anything about sex?” he asked, even as his mind and dick seemed to throb in protest. “Where’s your mind at, Sophia?”

The alarm evaporated from her expression, replaced by a scowl. “What are you doing here? I thought we agreed to one night.”

He shrugged. “We agreed to one night of sex. I’m not here for that. I want to invite you to dinner.”

“Dinner?” she repeated, skepticism soaking her tone like a wet, heavy blanket.

Her suspicion didn’t disappear. Smart woman. Because he—who despised lying—was doing it through his teeth. All he could think about was having her under him again. Hunger clawed at his gut like a caged beast demanding to be fed.

“Yes. Have you eaten?” Not exactly the kind of craving he wanted to satisfy, but maybe she would lower her guard if he played nice.

 “No,” she grudgingly admitted. She shook her head. “This is a bad idea. Just…bad,” she said in a low voice.

“Why?” He moved even closer, this time surrendering to the need to just touch. Pinching her chin between his thumb and forefinger, he tilted her head back as he shifted into her personal space. “What are you afraid of, baby?”

“That,” she whispered. Her lids lowered, hiding her eyes from him, and he almost demanded she open them. “Zephirin, I…” She exhaled a shaky breath and stepped back, dislodging his hand from her face. Pivoting, she crossed the living area and halted in front of an arched window. “I’m so not who you think I am,” she murmured, voice so low he barely caught her words.

“Then let me find out,” he said, staring at the rigid line of her spine. “Introduce me to Sophia. Introduce her to me.”

“And if you don’t like her?”

“I will, if you give me the chance. Trust me with her, and I won’t reject her.”

A sense of urgency vibrated under his skin like a forewarning that if he didn’t convince her now, he would lose the opportunity to discover all the hidden passion in this woman. Unable to remain where he stood, he traced her steps and didn’t stop until his palms flattened against the wall above her head, and his chest was pressed to her back. She stiffened but didn’t move away. He lowered his head, his mouth hovering next to her ear.

He swallowed the growl that rolled up his chest and into his throat. “Dinner. That’s it.”

She turned, facing him. He could easily read the indecision in the gaze that met his. “That’s it?”

“Yes,” he said. The urge to touch her surged within him, brutal and demanding. He surrendered to the need and brushed the full curve of her bottom lip with his thumb. But that was all he allowed himself. He shifted back a small step. “Sophia, you’re focused on your career, and so am I. Everything else takes a back seat to it. I’ve let relationships…” Fuck me up. “…distract me before, and I’m not willing to risk my career like that again. I can’t offer anyone a long-term commitment. I want to be as upfront with you as you were with me last night.”

She studied him for several long, quiet seconds. “And you don’t want to risk getting into a relationship with someone who could lie to you…again.”

He didn’t reply to her amazingly accurate assumption. But from the understanding that seemed to shadow her eyes, he didn’t need to.

Another moment passed. Then another. But finally… “Okay. Dinner.”

 

 

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USA Today Bestselling author Naima Simone’s love of romance was first stirred by Johanna Lindsey, Sandra Brown and Linda Howard many years ago. Well not that many. She is only eighteen…ish. Though her first attempt at a romance novel starring Ralph Tresvant from New Edition never saw the light of day, her love of romance, reading and writing has endured. Published since 2009, she spends her days—and nights— writing sizzling romances with a touch of humor and snark.

She is wife to Superman, or his non-Kryptonian, less bulletproof equivalent, and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They all live in perfect, sometimes domestically-challenged bliss in the southern United States.

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Return of the Lycan King (Book #1: Nicholas and Kristen) Candace Blackburn

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One life, one mate. Nicholas Konstantine has been waiting over a thousand years for his mate. But when he finds her, she’s completely unaware of her Lycan biology, and she’s battling her own personal demons.

Kristen O’Connor is a recovering addict, with some major trust issues. By not letting anyone get close, she won’t get hurt. Yet after one meetiing with Nicholas, her walls are crumbling, and she wants more with this man.

But Nicholas reveals his Lycan side, and hers as well. In addition, ghosts from both of their pasts come back to haunt them. Will they face everything together, or will Kristen’s fears be stronger than her love?

Excerpt from Return of the Lycan King (Book #1: Nicholas and Kristen):

“No.”  Repeating the word over and over, as if that would negate the reality, Kristen walked to the bathroom and turned on the lights. The fluorescent bulbs weren’t needed to highlight what was there.  Her pupils were, indeed, a deep yellow.  The color was framed by her thickened eyebrows.  She swung her hair around and…dear God.  Her hair was at least a foot longer than it had been that very morning.  Her fingers shook as she held a thick section of red hair.

All she saw were the claws.

The scream was primal and Kristen sobbed as she sank to the floor.  Nicholas was there instantly, wrapping his arms around her.

What is happening to me?

He rocked her back and forth, rubbing her back in circular motions.  “Your body is going through a change.”

“No shit, Nicholas.  But why me?  God almighty, I’m waving the freak flag high enough as it is.  Now I’m part animal?”  She held her arms in front of her face.  “I’ve got fucking claws!”

“I know, beautiful.  I’ve seen them.”

“Don’t!”

“Don’t what?”

“Call me beautiful.  I’m anything but.”

“You’re incredibly beautiful.  Even now, with all the things that are disturbing you so badly.”

“They aren’t disturbing to you?  You spent the night fucking a Lycan, werewolf, whatever and you’re perfectly calm.”  The sobs slowed as she turned to look at him.  “Why is that, Nicholas?”

“Because,” he said as he held out his hand.  Kristen gasped as claws extended from his finger tips.  “I’m a Lycan too.”

Copyright © 2018 Return of the Lycan King: Book 1 Nicholas and Kristen by Candace Blackburn

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About the author and where to find her:

Candace makes her home in North Carolina with her high school sweetheart husband and their two sons.  She’s an indie author who has published two previous romances (with a bit of fantasy in each), Tristan’s Redemption and Nate’s Forgiveness.  Her current works are all paranormal romance (her favorite genre to read!) and are set in her home state.  She loves coffee, cold weather, the Boston Red Sox, the Carolina Panthers, and hearing from fans.

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Excerpt and Sweepstakes: The Sea Devil by Eliza Knight

 

 

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ElizaKnight_TheSeaDevil_2500Thornley “Thor” MacLeod, captain of The Sea Devil and prominent member of the Devils of the Deep is out for one thing and one thing only—revenge against Santiago Fernandez, leader of Los Demonios de Mar. Tormented by the demons of his past, he knows the only relief to his pain will be spilling the blood of his enemy. When he learns that Santiago seeks to find a child he abandoned nearly two decades before, Thor is determined to find the precious treasure first. Which means, Thor may have to sacrifice his honor in order to exact the perfect vengeance.

Orphaned at a young age, Alesia Baird has grown up along the harsh coasts of Scotland, bearing witness to many a nightmare. With the hangman’s noose dangling ever closer to her neck, she has to find a way to escape the only life she’s ever known. When she overhears a pirate mention he seeks the child of Santiago Fernandez, Alesia takes the leap, knowing this could be her only way out.

Alesia must keep up the ruse long enough to escape with her life, and perhaps a sack full of jewels. But when it comes time to jump ship, she finds her destiny may have led her in a different path. Will the hardened Highlander allow a lass into his heart—or is she destined to be alone forever?

Excerpt from The Sea Devil:

“I’m a pirate, lass. What am I supposed to think when I come into my room and a lass has made herself at home, going so far as to take off her boots?”

She pushed against him more, and he did let go slightly, enough that she thought she might be able to draw a better breath, but it didn’t appear that his hold was what kept her from breathing. Struggling to speak without choking, she said, “I came here because I heard ye were looking for the bastard of Santiago Fernandez.”

“And ye claim to be that unfortunate offspring?”

She nodded solemnly. “I do.”

“Prove it,” he growled.

“How?” She wriggled against him. “Put me down first.”

“Say something to me in Spanish.”

He settled her in front of him, but not far enough away that she couldn’t still feel the heat of his body sinking into hers. Thinking quickly on her feet, Alesia frowned up at him. “My mother was Scots, and my father, the legendary Spanish pirate, abandoned me the moment he planted his seed, ye buffoon. Where would I have learned his language?”

“Point taken.” He studied her face, eyes narrowed. “Ye do have the look of him. In a feminine sort of way. Save for that hair. Tempestuous hair.”

Her mouth fell open at the insult. She moved to stomp on his foot but quickly found herself lifted off her feet, arms pinned to her sides by the steely strength of his own.

Fine, he wanted to play dirty. She’d already showed him once she knew how to take down a man. Alesia moved to kick him where she’d had the pleasure of socking him before, but Captain Thor clamped her legs between his thighs of steel.

“Uh-uh, princess,” he mocked.

Though she hated to head-butt anyone for the headache it always gave her, that was her next move. Alesia was fairly certain at this point she wasn’t going to be walking away with the silver, which meant she could at least walk away with her life—and figure out another way to escape the wharf.

Before she had the chance to make good on her decision to crack her head against his, she found herself flattened to the wood-planked floor, and his massive body on top of hers. Every hard plane pressed to the soft curves of her own. She sucked in a ragged breath, prepared to shout at him to leave off, but she found her throat too tight to speak.

“I’d have expected more from Santiago’s daughter, wee sprite.” His finger trailed over her cheek and along her jawline.

Alesia bared her teeth, trying to wriggle free but only managing to feel his body pressed harder to hers. “And I would have expected more from a pirate Captain.”

“Touché.” His grin was inviting. Unnerving. Disarming.

“Get off me,” she growled, trying keep her mind in the right place—the angry place. That was survival. To succumb to his disarmament was to lose.

His gaze shifted to her lips. “Not without a kiss.”

Alesia snorted and shoved at his unmoving shoulders. “I’d not kiss ye if ye were the last man on earth.”

“What if I were the second to last?” he teased.

She let out an exasperated groan. “Not then, either, ye ogre.”

He clucked his tongue. “Shame.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because, lass, if sparring with ye is this fun, kissing would be even better.”

Copyright © Eliza Knight 2018

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About the author and where to find her:

ElizaKnightAuthorPhotoEliza Knight is an award-winning and USA Today bestselling author of over fifty sizzling historical, time-travel and contemporary romance novels. Under the name E. Knight, she pens rip-your- heart-out historical fiction. While not reading, writing or researching for her latest book, she chases after her three children. In her spare time (if there is such a thing…) she likes daydreaming, wine-tasting, traveling, hiking, staring at the stars, watching movies, shopping and visiting with family and friends. She lives atop a small mountain with her own knight in shining armor, three princesses and two very naughty puppies.

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Review: Wheels Up (Book #4: Out of Uniform Series) by Annabeth Albert

Wheels UpLieutenant Dustin Strauss is a reformed man. No longer a twentysomething hell-raiser, he’s his SEAL team’s new XO-and a man with a secret. Or seven. He’s kept his bisexual identity under wraps for years, along with his kinky side and a fondness for the military-themed semianonymous hookup website Joe4Joe. His latest chat buddy is more than a sexy online distraction-they’re taking their very not-safe-for-work relationship into real time.

Petty Officer Wes Lowe has a smart mouth, a take-charge attitude and an uncanny ability for making things go boom. The life of an enlisted man isn’t always enough to satisfy him, but one wild, no-questions-asked weekend with his online love comes close. When a transfer order comes in, Wes feels ready and centered. He’ll make a good impression on his new SEAL team and keep his growing feelings for Dustin on the down low.

But as they log more time online and some very real emotions surface, Dustin and Wes struggle to pretend they’re just a harmless fling. And when his commander introduces Dustin to his team’s newest member, they’re in for the shock of a lifetime…and a crushing disappointment: their difference in ranks means even a friendship without sexual contact could end their navy careers for good.

With their hearts on the line, Dustin and Wes may not survive their next mission, let alone find a way toward a future together.

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 4½/5 stars

Some things in life simply aren’t fair.  For example, Lieutenant Dustin Strauss has finally accepted his bisexuality and begun a conversation (and a little fun) with an online companion only to find said companion transferred to his unit and under his command.  The military takes fraternization seriously which is why the relationship, such as it is, must come to an immediate end. 

Wes Lowe wants nothing more than to be off the west coast and back to the east coast with his family, where he can look after his ailing sister, relieve his parents from some of their burden, and be with his own, familiar SEAL team.  As an explosives expert, Wes’s skill set is in high demand which is how he has found himself in the one place he absolutely doesn’t want to be, on the west coast.  While the presence of Dustin Strauss should be a comfort, Dustin is now Wes’s superior officer and therefore, completely off limits. 

Life and love are funny creatures that are often unpredictable and surprising.  What started out as some casual guy on guy online flirtation and fun has slowly turned into a real friendship with real feelings and emotions. Because of their work situation, it isn’t even possible for Wes and Dustin to be anything other than co-workers to one another.  But, real feelings don’t just go away and as life throws more and more crap at both men, they find it harder and harder to stay away from one another.  Neither intends for a physical relationship to develop, but real feelings are tricky and often lead to physical expressions.  Comfort and emotional support take many forms, and Dustin and Wes quickly find themselves in a “this has to be the last time” situation neither counted on nor wants.

The Bottom Line:  Wheels Up may be the best book in the Out of Uniform series to date!  This one has such a tricky plot with the issue of fraternization coming into play.  The military really does take the issue quite seriously and Dustin and Wes are two fictional representations of what must be a very real-world situation.  Albert has navigated this tricky issue brilliantly with great care and concern taken for all parties involved, including the military.  Likely the best aspect of this entire read is how it all plays out in the end, and without giving anything away, I was so pleased with the caution, the very real sense of perception, and self-preservation.  Albert doesn’t pander to the crowd who want nothing but a neatly tied up HEA, but provides the reader with a real-world ending that fits the characters and the situation perfectly.  Make no mistake, it’s still an HEA, just not quite the one you may be expecting.

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Review: An Unsuitable Heir by K.J. Charles

HeirOn the trail of an aristocrat’s secret son, enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz finds his quarry in a music hall, performing as a trapeze artist with his twin sister. Graceful, beautiful, elusive, and strong, Pen Starling is like nobody Mark’s ever met—and everything he’s ever wanted. But the long-haired acrobat has an earldom and a fortune to claim.

Pen doesn’t want to live as any sort of man, least of all a nobleman. The thought of being wealthy, titled, and always in the public eye is horrifying. He likes his life now—his days on the trapeze, his nights with Mark. And he won’t be pushed into taking a title that would destroy his soul.

But there’s a killer stalking London’s foggy streets, and more lives than just Pen’s are at risk. Mark decides he must force the reluctant heir from music hall to manor house, to save Pen’s neck. Betrayed by the one man he thought he could trust, Pen never wants to see his lover again. But when the killer comes after him, Pen must find a way to forgive—or he might not live long enough for Mark to make amends.

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 3/5 stars

Well, here it is, the conclusion of the Sins of the City trilogy and I have long waited for this moment.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t all I had hoped it would be once the end came. 

For all intents and purposes, I liked every aspect of this book except the male lead, Pen.  From the moment the story opens, Pen is a whiny brat who very often thinks of no one other than himself.  He doesn’t want to give up being a trapeze artist, he doesn’t want to give up his lifestyle, he doesn’t want to be “out” as it were, and he absolutely doesn’t want a title, land, and the money that comes with it.  Please bear in mind, I have no idea what a “real Pen” would be dealing with emotionally and socially in this time and place so my previous assessment is based totally on this one fictional character. . . . .

Moving on . . . . .

Pen isn’t your ordinary man, and very often, he feels ill at ease in his own skin, but has found ways to help with the feelings.  Pen is absolutely aware his particular proclivities won’t be accepted in “polite” society which makes his hesitancy to accept his title and position even more pronounced.  To be forced into a role so watched, so judged would destroy Pen a bit more each day, and with all his being, he wants nothing to do with his family or their damnable title. 

As fate would have it, Pen’s family (other than his twin!) doesn’t want him to have the title either, but there doesn’t seem to be any legal way around the issue.  In fact, the family lawyer is intent on (dis)proving the claim, setting the whole thing to rights, and continuing his service to the family.  Trouble is, there’s a load of proof in Pen’s favor, there’s a killer on the loose intent on killing off the heir, and Pen has recently made the acquaintance of man he could easily fall for.  Yeah, there’s really nothing good about the whole hot mess.

The Bottom Line:  I enjoyed every aspect of this book except Pen.  Talk about a whiny human ☹  The story picks up just where the second left off, with nearly everyone in danger and a mad man on the loose willing to do anything to discredit Pen and his claim to the title.  Aside from Pen, every character in this book is so entertaining and interesting.  From Pen’s stern, strong twin to Mark with his mouth and rough manner to the completely wretched “proper” family members, everyone is full-bodied and engaging and keeps the story moving along at a fine pace.  There is plenty of danger and intrigue to match the characters, and if Pen hadn’t been so selfish and whiny, this would have been the perfect end to a fine trilogy.

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