Spotlight and Sweepstakes: The Lady Loves a Scandal by Christina McKnight

TLLAS_BadgeThe_Lady_Loves_A_Scandal_1800x2700Lady Sybil Anson thought she had it all. Even a match of the heart, despite so many London elite marrying for convenience. But the night before their betrothal was to become official, the love of her life vanished–with a hastily scrawled note and little more. She feared the worst as her heart ached for Gideon, and the scandal sheets simply made matters worse with their preposterous musings on the hows and whys of Viscount Galway’s disappearance. Now, more than a year later, he’s unexpectedly back, and Sybil will have her answers.

Many, many years ago, Gideon Lyndon made a grave mistake. One he’s spent most of his adult life trying to rectify. And despite the progress made, the sacrifices were extensive and damaging. On the verge of repairing one misdeed, he finds himself faced with his greatest challenge yet: winning back the woman he has loved since the moment he met her. But after a year of silence, convincing his headstrong paramour to take him back will not be easy. Especially since he can’t even explain why he left–not if he wants to keep her safe. 

Originally published in IT STARTED WITH A WHISPER Anthology

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About the author and where to find her:

christina-photoChristina McKnight is a book lover turned writer. From a young age, her mother encouraged her to tell her own stories. She’s been writing ever since.  Christina enjoys a quiet life in Northern California with her family, her wine, and lots of coffee. Oh, and her books…don’t forget her books! Most days she can be found writing, reading, or traveling the great state of California.

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Review: The Portrait of Lady Wycliff (Book #1: The Lords of Eton) by Cheryl Bolen

Lady Wycliff

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For the past decade Harry, the Earl of Wycliff, has worked feverishly to reclaim all that his father had lost. Only one item remains elusive: the Gainsborough portrait of his beloved mother. And the impossibly young, stunningly beautiful widow Louisa Phillips holds the key to finding it. If only he can persuade her to help him . . .

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Source: Author          My Raring: 5/5 stars

Let me tell y’all what!  If you aren’t familiar with the work of Cheryl Bolen and you’re a fan of historical romance, I highly recommend checking out her thoroughly engaging and entertaining offerings.  My latest read, The Portrait of Lady Wycliff, took me on an adventure from London through the English countryside and back to track down a scoundrel hellbent on destroying a good man and his family.  With romance, danger, and deceit, this one has a bit of everything for the historical romance enthusiast.  Here’s the skinny:

Plot: Harry, the Earl of Wycliff has spent the last decade recouping the vast fortune lost by his late father.  Though the money is certainly important, Harry is also interested in reclaiming all the property, both large and small lost through his father’s poor habits.  With a single-minded focus and determination, Harry has nearly reached his goal; all that is left to reclaim is his family home in London. 

Louisa Phillips is happily widowed, proudly outspoken, and in a world of financial trouble if her late husband’s solicitor is to be believed.  With little in the way of prospects, a life time ahead of her, and her younger sister coming to live with her, Louisa has nothing of value except her writing career and the home she shared with her late husband.

As it turns out, Louisa doesn’t own the home she lives in, she has no idea who does, and a very charming and certainly not-to-be-trusted man, Harry, Earl of Wycliff wants the home.  With nothing left to do but accept his offer, Louisa embarks on an adventure that will change to course of her life. 

Characters:  As always, Bolen has provided a cast of characters that is meant to enliven not just the present read, but the series as a whole.  Harry and his two friends, Sinjin and Alex are introduced in their last days at Eton together where they promise one another, no matter the circumstances, they will always be there should anyone of the trio need help.  Though Harry is the focus of this book, his two great friends have their role to play and certainly enrich the read as they do Harry’s life.  They are there when Harry calls and more than willing to run headlong into danger for their friend.

Louisa is a bit of prickly character, but that has everything to do with the circumstances of her life.  She hasn’t yet met a man, including her father, who has treated her well and has no expectations of ever doing so.  She is reveling in her widowhood and looking forward to spending the rest of her life fighting for social change.  Though she doesn’t initially trust Harry, Louisa understands her position is precarious, and she must take control of her own life and future rather than relying on a man.  As the plot and the danger unfolds, Louisa mellows just a bit and that makes her a far more likeable character.  Once her prickly edges are smoothed, Louisa is quite lovely and heroine well worth rooting for.

The Bottom Line: Once again, I fell into Cheryl Bolen’s book like the embrace of an old friend.  She is just my kind of historical romance writer with dashing and daring men, and women who are always confident, outspoken, and somewhat ahead of their time and place.  Bolen doesn’t write shrinking violets or uppity, wimpy aristocrats and that is one of the things I enjoy most about her books.   Louisa and Harry seem to be such an unlikely match, but everything about their relationship and its progression is absolutely natural and plays well with the overall plot.  The plot itself has just enough of all the things it needs: just enough romance, just enough intrigue, and just enough danger!  I am so excited for the next two books in this series and just can’t recommend this book enough to readers.

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About the author and where to find her:

Cheryl BolenSince being named Notable New Author for 1997, Cheryl Bolen has published more than 35 books with Kensington/Zebra, Harlequin, Love Inspired Historical, Montlake, and independently. She has broken into the top 5 on the New York Times and hit the USA Today bestseller list. Her 2005 One Golden Ring won Best Historical, Holt Medallion, and her 2011 My Lord Wicked was awarded Best Historical in the International Digital Awards, the same year her Christmas novella was chosen as Best Novella. Her books have been finalists for other awards, including the Daphne du Maurier, and have been translated into eight languages. She’s also been the number 1 bestselling historical romance author in Germany.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from the University of Texas and a master’s degree from the University of Houston. Her favorite pursuits are reading diaries of dead English women, traveling to England, and watching the Texas Longhorns play football and basketball. She and her recently retired professor husband are the parents of two sons. One is an attorney, the other a journalist.

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Email: cheryl@cherylbolen.com

Spotlight: Stumbling Into Him by Molly O’Hare

Title: Stumbling Into Him
Author: Molly O’Hare
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: May 15, 2018

 

Red Hatter Book Blog – “Stumbling Into Him is pure perfection!”

Rosa – “I have one warning though. Please be very cautious when reading this book as there will be a lot of laughing involved. This is a sweet romance and I highly recommend this book to all Rom-Com lovers.”

Sara – “I was giggling and laughing out loud throughout the entire story of Stumbling Into Him.”

Holly has spent her whole life as a walking disaster, from running into walls, tripping over invisible objects, and always being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When a seemingly normal outing taking her overly opinionated Corgi for a walk resulted in an object to the face, she didn’t think her day could get any worse. The moment she opened her eyes and saw the Adonis standing over her, she knew she’d been wrong. It was about to get a whole lot worse.

Ben’s lived his whole life disobeying his uptight, self-centered, shrew of a mother. Instead of going into the family business, he followed his dreams and opened his veterinarian clinic. One ordinary day at the dog park, and a rogue dog toy later, he found himself captivated by the curvy woman that had a feistiness which set him on fire.

It could only get better from here, right? Too bad his mother had other plans.
Much like any author out there, sleeping does not come easy to Molly. As it turns out, she has horrible insomnia . When she was younger, to help herself fall asleep she would recite stories. Each night she’d pick up where the story left off previously until the tale was complete. One morning, after she finished a particularly fun adventure, she decided she wanted to start sharing them with others. A few months later, here she is, sharing her lack of sleep with all of you. Who says the stories in our heads can’t be fun for others?
 
Also, she loves Fun Facts. New ones are at the end of each of her book. If you look close enough, some are hidden on her website too.
 
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Review: The Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner

Romanov EmpressBarely nineteen, Minnie knows that her station in life as a Danish princess is to leave her family and enter into a royal marriage—as her older sister Alix has done, moving to  England to wed Queen Victoria’s eldest son. The winds of fortune bring Minnie to Russia, where she marries the Romanov heir and becomes empress once he ascends the throne. When resistance to his reign strikes at the heart of her family and the tsar sets out to crush all who oppose him, Minnie—now called Maria—must tread a perilous path of compromise in a country she has come to love.
                 
Her husband’s death leaves their son Nicholas as the inexperienced ruler of a deeply divided and crumbling empire. Determined to guide him to reforms that will bring Russia into the modern age, Maria faces implacable opposition from Nicholas’s strong-willed wife, Alexandra, whose fervor has lead her into a disturbing relationship with a mystic named Rasputin. As the unstoppable wave of revolution rises anew to engulf Russia, Maria will face her most dangerous challenge and her greatest heartache.


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  Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 5/5 stars

**THIS REVIEW ASSUMES ALL HISTORICAL INFORMATION IS CORRECT**

The Romanov dynasty is perhaps one of the most famous in all of world history.  Their glorious downfall, the death of the tsar and his family, and the forever-changed face of Russia have all been rehashed again and again in everything from scholarly works to popular culture.  Their life, and particularly their deaths, have all but been immortalized, yet these accounts, especially those is popular culture often fail to lay the groundwork or simply gloss over the groundwork to get to the “sexy” bits.  Gortner doesn’t skip the groundwork at all but rolls around in it and really builds the entire narrative around one woman, Maria Feodorovana, mother to Russia’s last tsar, the ill-fated and completely inept, Nicholas II.   

Maria was the very definition of duty-bound!  From the moment she was born, Maria was always intended to marry well and increase the reputation and hopefully fortunes of her family.  As a princess of Denmark, Maria (her adopted Russian name!) understood her place in the world, and with some allowances by her parents, was able to choose her future husband.  As it turns out, she also chose a country on the edge of collapse. 

Despite little in the way of a formal education, Maria has a strong sense of common sense and for reading a situation.  She understands, inherently, if she is to be accepted as a foreigner, she must understand her new country, its people, and make herself known as a force among the nobility and aristocracy.  Maria does every bit of that and more, and over the course of her life, she works ceaselessly to advise and guide both her husband and her son.  Through uprisings, revolutions, and assassination attempts, Maria is at the forefront of the action, often risking her own life to preserve what she holds dear.  Unfortunately, for most of her life, Maria is fighting a losing battle and she is only ever able to scratch the surface of caring for a desperately lost country.

The Bottom Line: This was my first C.W. Gortner book and it will certainly not be my last!  The Romanov Empress is everything I look for in historical fiction and then some.  This is a sweeping tale, a saga really, that spans more than half a century and includes nearly every royal house/family in Europe.  At the center of it all is an indomitable woman determined to see her family and her monarchy survive.   There is a sense of impending doom from page one of this read and it kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.  Quite frankly, before this book, I too only really knew the History Channel version of the Romanov family, and I am so glad I now know far more than that glossy version.  This was an absolutely enthralling tale and I heartily recommend this one to any reader fond of truly excellent historical fiction.

Pre-order now for the July 10, 2018 release:

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Review: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The HistorianLate one night in 1972, as a 16-year-old girl, she discovers a mysterious book and a sheaf of letters in her father’s library — a discovery that will have dreadful and far-reaching consequences, and will send her on a journey of mind-boggling danger. While seeking clues to the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s puzzling disappearance, she follows a trail from London to Istanbul to Budapest and beyond, and learns that the letters in her possession provide a link to one of the world’s darkest and most intoxicating figures. Generation after generation, the legend of Dracula has enticed and eluded both historians and opportunists alike. Now a young girl undertakes the same search that ended in the death and defilement of so many others — in an attempt to save her father from an unspeakable fate.

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Source: Purchase          My Rating: 6 stars

As you all know, I only use a 5-star rating system, but every now and again, I come across a book that deserves just a little extra.  After reading Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian for the second time, I am still convinced it will always and forevermore be one of my favorite books.

What’s funny about this book and my intense love of it, is that it generally has a bit of everything that makes me crazy when reading.  The Historian is hugely long, it is filled with bunny trails, and details beyond all reason or necessity.  Yet, I loved every page, followed every bunny trail happily, and soaked up every minute, crazy detail from start to finish.  The Historian isn’t a story or a simple narrative, but a sweeping tale that takes the reader across time and the world, through history, through faith, through death and they beyond. 

The Historian is narrated by several voices, all of whom are educated, intuitive, inquisitive, and, often, quite scared of the events unfolding around them.  What’s more, each has been brought unwittingly into the search for an historical figure, a demented and evil figure who has endured through the ages as a myth of epic proportions.  Unfortunately, for all involved, the myth isn’t a myth at all, but a livingish being with nefarious plans for those intrepid enough to track him down.  Tracking this figure isn’t an easy task and though many have gotten close through the years, most have given up because of fear. 

As events play out, the group currently involved in the search are among the cleverest ever assembled. But, assembled isn’t quite the right word as the current search has stretched over a minimum of two decades.  Each member has a certain amount of knowledge related to the search and is wary of sharing too much with friends, colleagues, and loved ones for fear of putting them all in harm’s way.  Through a series of conversations, both current and recounted, and a plethora of letters and communications, the search for the evil undead unfolds for the reader.  The letters, the documents, the conversations all pull the reader further into the search just as the characters are pulled in.  With each new revelation, each new discovery, the tension and danger become even more palpable. 

The Bottom Line:  I have now actively read and listened to this book twice and will most certainly do so again in the future.  Hands down and without doubt, The Historian is my favorite vampire book of all time across all genres.  While I would generally balk at the length and amount of detail, I soaked it all up with this book and willingly followed every path, every new lead, and every strange twist and turn.  The writing is eloquent and exciting, and the characters and plot are absolutely engrossing!  With both the physical book and the audio, I found myself lost in the story and often forcing myself to stop reading/listening.  With all the gushing out of the way, I will absolutely acknowledge, this book isn’t for everyone and I can’t see it being anything less than a love it or hate it situation.  There isn’t going to ever be an in between as you can clearly see from the overall star rating.

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Mini-Review: Lethal Literature (Book #4: A Book Barn Mystery Series) by Kym Roberts

Lethal LiterauteRunning an independent bookstore in small-town Hazel Rock, Texas, doesn’t sound like a high-risk pursuit. But when a fundraiser reveals a story with a truly killer ending, Charli Rae Warren will need to scramble to sort out the deadly plot…  Sponsoring the literacy drive to benefit the foster care system should be a feel-good endeavor, but one of Charli’s helpers is definitely on another page. Charli’s dad is distracted and keeping something secret, which Charli suspects is a harmless flirtation with an attractive county clerk who offered to lend them a hand. It’s nothing to worry about—until the same clerk winds up dead…  When nosy locals begin pointing fingers, Charli finds herself entangled in a race to uncover the killer’s identity—and to get to the bottom of a shattering family secret that could rewrite her history in alarming ways. Suddenly Charli is facing her worst fears and her childhood nemesis in order to unmask a murderer—before he silences her for good…

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 4/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  I could go on and on about this book, its twists and turns, quirky characters, and witty banter, but it all boils down to one thing: this series just makes me happy!  I absolutely delight in the fact Charli keeps tripping into trouble, she has a pink armadillo, and her small Texas town is always up to its butt in drama.  I read this series because I know nothing is going to freak me out or creep me out, I’m going to be led down a weird, twisty road, and the big bad will always get what he/she has coming.  Most importantly, I read this series because of the personalities, the characters, and the quirkiness of everyone who populates these books.  Reading should always be about pure pleasure, enjoyment, and escape from reality, and that is what I always find in the Book Barn Mystery series.  Rock on, Kym Roberts, and keep ‘em coming ‘cause I’m on board for the long haul 😊

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Excerpt and Sale Alert: A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev

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a-distant-heartHer name means “miracle” in Sanskrit, and to her parents, that’s exactly what Kimaya is. The first baby to survive after several miscarriages, Kimi grows up in a mansion at the top of Mumbai’s Pali Hill, surrounded by love and privilege. But at eleven years old, she develops a rare illness that requires her to be confined to a germ-free ivory tower in her home, with only the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company. . . . Until one person dares venture into her world.

Tasked at fourteen years old with supporting his family, Rahul Savant shows up to wash Kimi’s windows, and an unlikely friendship develops across the plastic curtain of her isolation room. As years pass, Rahul becomes Kimi’s eyes to the outside world–and she becomes his inspiration to better himself by enrolling in the police force. But when a life-saving heart transplant offers the chance of a real future, both must face all that ties them together and keeps them apart.

As Kimi anticipates a new life, Rahul struggles with loving someone he may yet lose. And when his investigation into an organ black market ring run by a sociopathic gang lord exposes dangerous secrets that cut too close to home, only Rahul’s deep, abiding connection with Kimi can keep her safe–and reveal the true meaning of courage, loss, and second chances.

Infused with the rhythms of life in modern-day India, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s candid, rewarding novel beautifully evokes all the complexities of the human heart.

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Excerpt from A Distant Heart:

Freedom was a beautiful thing! Mumbai in all its grimy, gray, pre-monsoon glory flew past Kimi as her auto-rickshaw sped between cars and pedestrians with the zeal of a bastard child born of a Diwali rocket and an immortal god. She almost asked the driver to slow down, but with the wind whipping her ponytail and the driver’s mop of curls in a joint symphony she felt as recklessly brave as the whirring vehicle racing along on its three wheels.

Emblazoned across the dashboard of the rickshaw was the goddess Durga dancing on the corpse of a demon like the evil-hunting badass she was. Bowing to her was Bollywood’s favorite superhero, Krish, with his muscles bulging like fat rubber balls and his hair coiffed high. In a perfect background score to Kimi’s life’s drama, the techno-beat-laden remix of an old Bollywood number drowned out the cacophony of horns the driver left in his wake.

The combination was delicious and exactly worthy of what she had just done. What she was about to do.

Freedom!

You know who else was badass? Kimaya Kirit Patil, that’s who.

There had been one hundred and twelve instances over twelve years when each breath had been a fight and her limbs had turned to mist. She had fought. Not like a warrior, because that would involve the use of said limbs, but like someone drowning, where all you could do is keep the water out of your nose, so it wouldn’t keep the air from your lungs. Breathe out. Breathe out. She had followed those breaths. Grabbed on to those thin wisps of air like lifelines and made herself live one grip at a time.

Then the cure she had waited twelve years for in a sterile room had come. A heart had become available. Surely that meant something. Someone had died, after all, so she might live. Someone with the exact kind of blood and plasma that would let a foreign heart beat within her chest with the confidence of an indegene. Surely that meant she could now have what she never thought she would—all that she had gazed upon from the windows of her room, sealed tight with every technology known to man, so no germ, no pathogen would dare venture into her world, let alone an entire human being. Except Rahul—he had ventured. And then gone on venturing until he was all the way inside.

He’d helped her understand calculus and the nuanced stories of Premchand. He had known how atoms split, why Europe went to war twice within half a century, and the why and when of each invention that transformed the history of civilization. He had touched her, despite promises he’d made. Because it was exactly what she had needed. His gloved hand in hers. He had given her anything she had asked for when everyone else had been too afraid. And she had known that if she lived, if her parents got what they had sealed her in a room twelve years for—a daughter who lived—she would spend the rest of that life taking care of him. The way he had taken care of her.

Except she hadn’t considered the most important part of her plan: him. She had returned from Hong Kong with her new heart and he had looked at her with those dark-tar eyes turned even darker by all that emotion when she ran to him. “You’re running,” he had said, as usual choosing the least words to say the most.

“Yes,” she had said, knowing exactly why every single hard-won breath had been worth it. But then she had told him her grand plan: the two of them living happily ever after.

As always she had asked him for what she wanted. What she hadn’t for one moment considered that he didn’t also want.

He had thanked her for the offer to love him forever, and passed on it.

The person who had kept her from being alone when she was locked up in a room had finally shown her what loneliness was when he walked away from her, leaving her alone in the crowded world she had craved for so long.

No one had the right to that kind of power.

She leaned back into the overstuffed vinyl seat of the speeding auto-rickshaw feeling awfully light.

It only made sense that losing a part of yourself would bring lightness.

No. She wasn’t doing that. She was not going all morose and doing the Tragic Princess shit anymore. That wasn’t her. No matter how people saw her, that was not her. Not anymore.

Actually, it had never been her. Why the hell was she letting herself go down that path now?

She was past the Rahul-induced sadness. Done with it. He’d made his intentions clear. They were no longer—well, they just weren’t anymore. Nothing, anything, they just weren’t.

Plato would ask if the fact that they weren’t anymore meant they had never been. Or was it Aristotle? You know who would know? The one person who she could not, would not, call for a fact check. This wasn’t a Tragic Princess thought, but here it was anyway: She had to stop thinking of life in terms of thoughts she saved up for Rahul like seashells collected on a walk along the beach. It was time.

Copyright © 2017 Sonali Dev

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Praise for A DISTANT HEART:

“Dev crafts another thrilling story filled with intense drama, deep emotion, and well-developed characters; a can’t-put-down book.”—Library Journal, STARRED Review

“Thrilling action sequences and a complex, weighty romance propel this smart, sensitive story. A natural wordsmith, Dev dives into the psyches of disparate characters with voice-driven prose that includes both chilling insights and quirky humor… This poignant, sensual, and exciting tale captures a range of emotions and conflicts.”Booklist, STARRED Review

“Award-winning Dev returns with another of her emotionally resonating stories that explore, in depth, the intersection of friendship, love, sacrifice and desperation… There is a tremendous richness to this story… A truly captivating tale of friendship and love. Dev always delivers!”RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars, TOP PICK!

“Searingly asks its characters what they’re willing to do for the people they love… explores family dynamics, class issues, and many layers of guilt, hope, and determination in ways that are both distinctly Indian and universally luminous. Another beautiful, breathtaking novel from a not-to-be-missed author.” – Kirkus, STARRED Review

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About the author and where to find her:

Sonali DevSonali Dev’s first literary work was a play about mistaken identities performed at her neighborhood Diwali extravaganza in Mumbai. She was eight years old. Despite this early success, Sonali spent the next few decades getting degrees in architecture and writing, migrating across the globe, and starting a family while writing for magazines and websites. With the advent of her first gray hair her mad love for telling stories returned full force, and she now combines it with her insights into Indian culture to conjure up stories that make a mad tangle with her life as supermom, domestic goddess, and world traveler.

Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog.

Sonali’s novels have been on Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post, and Kirkus’s lists of Best Books of the year. She won the American Library Association’s award for best romance 2014, and is a RITA® finalist, RT Reviewer Choice Award Nominee, and winner of the RT Seal of Excellence. She was hailed by NPR.org as a ‘stunning debut’.

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