Blog Tour // Review + Excerpt: War of Hearts by Samantha Young

War of Hearts by Samantha Young
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: October 1st 2019
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Thea Quinn has no idea what she is. All she knows is that her abilities have been a plague upon her life since she was a child. After years of suffering at the hands of a megalomaniac, Thea escaped and has been on the run ever since.

The leadership and protection of his pack are of the utmost importance to Conall MacLennan, Alpha and Chief of Clan MacLennan, the last werewolf pack in Scotland. Which is why watching his sister slowly die of a lycanthropic disease is emotional torture. When Conall is approached by a businessman who offers a cure for his sister in exchange for the use of Conall’s rare tracking ability, Conall forges an unbreakable contract with him. He has to find and retrieve the key to the cure: dangerous murderer, Thea Quinn.

Thea’s attempts to evade the ruthless werewolf are not only thwarted by the Alpha, but by outside dangers. With no choice but to rely on one another for survival, truths are revealed, intensifying a passionate connection they both fight to resist. At war with themselves and each other, Conall and Thea’s journey to Scotland forces them to face a heartrending choice between love and betrayal.

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This was my first paranormal romance of Samantha Young’s and I really did enjoy it! PNR holds a special place in my heart so when I heard SY would be writing a new book in this subgenre, I was jumping for joy. And not only is it PNR, it’s SHIFTER PNR! War of Hearts dives us into a fantastic, new paranormal world that I’m really hoping we get more of. I loved the main characters (there’s even a scene where they’re forced to share a bed in a hotel) and even though the book wasn’t perfect, I definitely say give it a try if you love this author or PNR!

Thea Quinn is on the run from her abuser. She’s indestructible, has insane healing abilities, but doesn’t fit into the vampire/werewolf/witch/etc mold, and has no idea what she is. Conall MacLennan is the alpha of the Scotland werewolf pack, and in order to save his dying sister, he makes a deal to deliver Thea to a man in exchange for her healing blood. He’s told Thea is a lying, manipulative murderer, so why is it when he finds her and the more time he spends around her, the more he doubts that that’s who she is?

Thea and Conall are BADASS. Thea can kick ass like nobodies business – she’s had to learn to defend herself since being on the run for years. I also felt for her too. She’s been through so much awful things that you can’t help but hurt for her. As the alpha of one of the most powerful werewolf packs in the world, obviously Conall can hold his own too. He’s gruff and intense and 6 1/2 feet of gorgeousness. I loved all the action and fight scenes Thea and Conall get into. Samantha Young did a fantastic job at keeping you on the edge of your seat and glued to the pages with all the action!

As much as I loved Thea and Conall’s characters, I had some issues with the romance, particularly with the pacing of it. It’s pretty much non-existent for a good chunk of the first half of the book, except for some underlying chemistry. But that was fine, because I was loving the slow burn. But then the “oops, there’s only one bed in this hotel room” thing happened (which I’m a sucker for), and things moved at a warped speed. Yes, it is a fated mates kind of romance, which normally I love, but in this case I think it was a bit too fast for them to start saying “I love yous” so soon. Also, it was pretty obvious what Thea was pretty early on in the book. But I don’t know if it’s because I read a ton of PNR/fantasy romance?

Still, this is a solid read I would recommend if you love shifter romances. It’s full of action, with great main characters. We get to travel all across Europe along with Thea and Conall. We’re left with a little tease at the end and I do actually want more books from this world. I also have a feeling that many of SY’s contemporary readers will want to give this a try, and I say go for it!


lacey

Now here’s an excerpt from War of Hearts! ❤

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Stepping back inside the motel room, Thea halted as Conall came out of the bathroom. His height caused a logistical problem for her next move.

Although his color hadn’t fully returned to normal, the wolf was looking much stronger. She didn’t know if she could take him in a fight when he was at full strength, which was more than a little concerning. As if he’d read her mind, he cut her an expressionless look. “You should have left me to die, lass.”

“Probably. I guess I’m just going to have to take the chance you were bluffing.”

He frowned and opened his mouth to question her, but Thea had already made her move.

Before he could comprehend it, she was on the bed behind him and reaching for his head before his weakened reflexes could catch up.

The crack of his neck echoed around the room, causing a sick lurch in Thea’s stomach.

For some reason, stupid tears stung her eyes as she watched his body hit the ground with an almighty thud. Why should she care? It wasn’t like he was dead. She’d knocked him out. For … however long he took to heal.

And he had stuck her with that goddamn injection.

Speaking of …

Thea jumped off the mattress, avoiding Conall’s body. Earlier when she’d been treating his wounds, she’d spied the syringes in the first aid kit. Grabbing them, Thea hurried out of the motel room and toward the fields beyond. Quickly she dug a hole with her bare hands and buried the syringes. Hurrying back, she avoided staring at Conall because he looked very much dead.

She grabbed his wallet and as she took his money, leaving him his credit cards, a folded-up photograph caught her attention. Curiosity got the better of her and she pulled it out. Smoothing her fingers across the picture, she spotted who she thought was Conall only to realize it wasn’t. The man who looked like him was standing next to a much younger Conall, and Thea deduced it was his father. The younger Conall had his arm around the waist of a small, redheaded girl buried into his side. And beside the man she’d mistaken for Conall was a beautiful redheaded woman.

Was this Conall and his family?

They were standing on a rocky beach, a beautiful lake and mountains behind them.

Thea wondered which one of them was sick. Which of these people was he willing to sacrifice her for?

Memories of her own parents swelled in her throat, burning and screaming to get out. But Thea shoved them back down as she shoved the photograph into his wallet.

There were times she pulled those memories out and let herself swim in the pain because it was worth it to remember the happy moments.

But now was not the time.

With a ruthless supernatural sure to wake up from a broken neck wanting to kill her, and some unknown entity out there hunting her too, now was very much the time to go.

about the author button

Samantha Young is a New York Times and #1 International bestselling author from Stirlingshire, Scotland. On Dublin Street was Samantha’s first adult contemporary romance series and has sold in thirty countries. She has since published over thirteen romance titles including the New York Times Bestsellers Into the Deep, Hero, and her most recent contemporary romance Fight or Flight. When writing Adult Paranormal romance she writes under the pen name S. Young.

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Blog Tour // Review + Excerpt: When the Marquess Was Mine by Caroline Linden

When the Marquess Was Mine by Caroline Linden
Series: The Wagers of Sin #3 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: September 24th 2019
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In the game of love…

Georgiana Lucas despises the arrogant and cruel Marquess of Westmorland even before learning that he’s won the deed to her friend Kitty’s home in a card game. Still, Georgiana assures Kitty the marquess wouldn’t possibly come all the way to Derbyshire to throw them out—until he shows up, bloody and unconscious. Fearing that Kitty would rather see him die, Georgiana blurts out that he’s her fiancé. She’ll nurse the hateful man back to health and make him vow to leave and never return. The man who wakes up, though, is nothing like the heartless rogue Georgiana thought she knew…

You have to risk it all

He wakes up with no memory of being assaulted—or of who he is. The bewitching beauty tending him so devotedly calls him Rob and claims she’s his fiancée even as she avoids his touch. Though he can’t remember how he won her hand, he’s now determined to win her heart. But as his memory returns and the truth is revealed, Rob must decide if the game is up—or if he’ll take a chance on a love that defies all odds.

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So this was my first Caroline Linden book! I was intrigued by the amnesia plot and had to give it a try. I’ve been wanting to read one of her books for a while, and I’m glad to say I liked this one. There were a couple things I struggled with but I enjoyed the main characters and am curious about the previous two books in the Wagers of Sin series. If you’re going into this as a standalone like I did, you won’t miss anything even if you haven’t read the others in the series.

There’s something about amnesia romance plots that get me so invested. I HAVE to find out how the character with amnesia regains their memories and what happens when everything is revealed. In When the Marquess Was Mine, Robert loses all memory of who he is after an assault to the head. He’s taken in by Georgiana, who knows exactly who he is – the cruel, arrogant Marquess of Westmorland. But to save his life, she lies to her friend’s family and pretends he is her fiancé, who coincidentally shares the same name. When Rob awakens though, he’s not the insufferable man Georgiana expects. Rob’s charming, sweet, and very much into Georgiana.

Rob and Georgiana have a sweet and slow romance. There’s plenty of longing and tension between them, though the lies about Rob’s identity puts Georgiana in a sticky situation. I adored Rob and was thankful that he had quite the personality change because of his amnesia. No longer is he the mean, callous man who would make terrible remarks about others. He’s a lot more honorable, kind, and shows so much adoration and affection for Georgiana. I loved how determined he was to win her heart!

The main characters and the romance were the highlight of this book for me, but it was everything outside of it that had me struggling. We’re introduced to a heap of characters in the beginning, many who are involved in the gambling aspect of the story that doesn’t come up again until the end, which felt pretty overwhelming. The plot surrounding the gambling fell flat for me and the mystery towards the end felt like it came out of the left field. I was also really looking forward to Rob recognizing and atoning for who he was in the past (his cruelness) but that was never really discussed even after he regained his memories.

Overall, I’d say this was a good intro to Caroline Linden’s books for me. The pacing of the story was slow for me, but I liked the writing and the characters and am really hoping we get stories for Rob’s brothers!


lacey

Now here’s Chapter One from When the Marquess Was Mine! ❤

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Chapter One
1819

It was to be a bacchanal for the ages.

As Heathercote remarked, a man only turned twenty-nine once. Marlow pointed out that a man also only turned twenty-eight, or thirty, once as well, but they were well used to ignoring Marlow’s odd points of reason, and this one was promptly forgotten.

Heathercote planned the entire affair, inviting the most dashing, daring rogues and scoundrels in London. He declared it to be the invitation of the month, and that he’d turned away several fellows for lacking wit, style, or both. “You mean they aren’t up to your standard of mayhem,” said Westmorland, whose birthday it was, to which Heathercote mimed tipping his hat in acknowledgment.

After a raucous dinner at White’s, they decamped for the theater. The production was well under way when they invaded the pit in search of amusement. By the time the show ended, they had drunk a great deal of brandy, thrown oranges at the stage, and lost Clifton to the company of a prostitute.

Everyone’s memories ran a bit ragged after that, with vague recollections of singing in the streets and Marlow casting up his accounts somewhere in Westminster, but eventually they settled at the Vega Club. It was so late, the manager tried to dissuade them from play. Mr. Forbes knew every one of them could wager for hours, and the Vega Club closed its doors at dawn.

But Heathercote persuaded him to let them in and to give them the whist salon all to themselves. “We’ll leave by noon,” he promised, patting Forbes on the chest as he slid a handful of notes into the man’s hand. His words were remarkably steady for a man who’d been drinking for eight hours. Grim-faced, Forbes let them in, where they commandeered the main table and called for yet more wine.

A few intrepid souls followed them from the club proper. Forbes tried to stop them at the door, but Forester recognized one and waved them in. “We don’t mind winning their money,” he said with a hiccup.

They played whist, then switched to loo. One loser was dared to drink off the contents of his full flask in one go, which he did. The room filled with cigar smoke and ribald language, and the wagers grew extravagant. Marlow won a prize colt off Forester. Heathercote wagered his new phaeton and ended up with someone’s barouche. Sackville won the largest pot of the night, and everyone pelted him with markers.

And then one of the hangers-on spoiled it. He had the look of a country fellow new to London, with an arrogant bluster that was initially amusing but eventually turned annoying. He’d played well enough, winning a bit and losing with colorful curses that made the rest of them roar with laughter. But it became abruptly clear that Sir Charles Winston was in over his head when he wagered his house.

Marlow laughed. Heathercote picked up the scribbled note Winston had put forth and read it with one brow arched. “Can’t wager property, Winslow.”

The man was already ruddy from drink, and now he turned scarlet. “Can so! Your fellow wagered a horse.”

“Horses are portable,” said Forester, his Liverpool accent bleeding through. “Houses are not.”

“Houses are worth more!”

“Aye, too much more.” Heathercote flicked the note back across the table. “Markers.”

“I haven’t got any more markers,” muttered the younger man. For a moment everyone focused in surprised silence on the empty space in front of him. None of them had run out.

“Then fold your hand,” Forester told him. “You’re out!”

Winston’s chin set stubbornly. His mate tried to slide some markers toward him, but he angrily shoved them back. “Give me a chance to win it back.”

“All the more reason to walk away, if you’ve lost ‘em all.” Marlow waved one hand, nearly toppling out of his seat. Mr. Forbes, watching grimly from the corner, came forward. “Forbes, Windermere is done.”

“Sir Charles,” murmured the manager. “Perhaps it’s time to go.”

“Not yet!” Winston scowled at them all, shaking off his friend’s quiet attempts to get him to fold. “Not now, Farley! They got a chance to turn their luck. Why shouldn’t I?”

“Luck is like the wind,” said a new voice. Nicholas Dashwood, the owner of the Vega Club, stepped out of the shadows. “It rarely turns propitiously.”

Winston stubbornly sank lower in his seat. “I deserve ‘nother chance.”

Heathercote slung his arms over the back of his chair. “Well, West? What say you? Shall we let him stay and wager away everything he’s got?”

Lounging in his seat, the Marquess of Westmorland looked up in irritation. “Really ought to go, Winsmore.”

“Wins-less, more like,” snickered Marlow.

Winston sat up straighter in his seat. “Please, my lord.”

“Oh, let him ruin himself,” muttered Forester, shuffling his cards restlessly.

The marquess lifted one shoulder. “Damned if I care.”

“Sir Charles,” said Dashwood evenly, “do not wager what you cannot afford to lose.”

Winston scooped up the scribbled paper and added a line, signing his name with a flourish. “I won’t, sir.”

But he did. Within four hands, he’d won a bit and then lost it all—including the deed. Suddenly he did not look so belligerent or so stubborn. He looked young and quite literally green, staring at the winning hand, lying on the table.

“Should have listened,” said the unsympathetic Heathercote. “Should have left.”

Winston puffed up furiously. “Should have known better than to play with the likes of you!”

“Di’n’t y’know that before you sa’ down?” Marlow’s words slurred together. “Stupid bloody fool!”

“That’s my home!”

“And you risked it at loo!” Heath made a derisive noise. “Idiot.”

Winston was the color of beets. “Don’t call me that.”

Sackville raised one brow. “No? ’S not your home anymore.” He reached out and plucked the scrawled paper from the pile of markers and examined it, although his eyes never quite managed to focus on it. “It ‘pears to be West’s.”

His friends howled with laughter. “He doesn’t need it,” cried Winston. He made a convulsive grab for the paper before his lone remaining friend caught his arm. “He’s got a dozen houses!”

“Set it up as a brothel, West,” suggested Forester. “And give all your mates discounted fees.”

“Free!” yelped Marlow with a wheezing laugh.

Winston drew a furious breath, but instead of continuing the fight he turned and rushed from the room, rather unsteadily; he wrestled with the door, and then almost tripped on his way out, causing more howls of laughter from the table. His friend helped him back onto his feet before the door closed on them both.

“Who invited him?” asked Heathercote in disdain.

“Marlow.”

“Ballocks,” mumbled Marlow, putting his head down on the table. “Never did. Was Forester.”

Forester made a rude gesture. “I vouched for the other man, Farley.”

“Your friends are all bad ton,” said Sackville.

Forester’s face tightened. He rose and swung his wineglass into the air in a toast, spilling some. “Thank you all for a most exciting evening, gentlemen.” Pointedly he bowed only to Viscount Heathercote and Lord Westmorland. Sackville repaid him with a rude gesture at Forester’s back.

Heathercote protested, but Forester waved him off and left. With Marlow asleep on the table and Sackville still giggling drunkenly to himself, Westmorland placed his hands on the table, hesitated as if gathering strength, then heaved himself to his feet. “The carriages, Dashwood.”

Stone-faced, the owner left. Westmorland surveyed the table. “Did I win the last?”

“Aye,” said Heathercote with a wide yawn.

“Credit it all, Forbes,” said the marquess. “God above, I’m tired.”

As expressionless as his employer, the manager stepped forward. With an air of distaste, he picked up the deed promise and held it out. “I cannot credit this, my lord.”

West stared at it. “Damn. Right.” He stuffed it into the pocket of his jacket and staggered out into the morning sunlight with Heathercote, never guessing the trouble that wagered deed was about to cause him.

Reading Order: The Wagers of Sin series

 

#1 ~ My Once and Future Duke: Ebook • PaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#2 ~ An Earl Like You: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ When the Marquess Was Mine: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads

about the author button

Caroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a degree in mathematics from Harvard University and worked as a programmer in the financial services industry before realizing writing fiction is much more exciting than writing code. Her books have won the NEC-RWA Readers’ Choice Award, the JNRW Golden Leaf, the Daphne du Maurier Award, and RWA’s RITA Award, and have been translated into seventeen languages around the world. She lives in New England.

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Blog Tour // Review + Excerpt: Broken Knight by L.J. Shen

Broken Knight by L.J. Shen
Series: All Saints High #2 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: August 20th 2019
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From USA Today and Washington Post bestselling author L.J. Shen comes a new, standalone romance about first loves, betrayal and loss.

Not all love stories are written the same way. Ours had torn chapters, missing paragraphs, and a bittersweet ending.

Luna Rexroth is everyone’s favorite wallflower.
Sweet.
Caring.
Charitable.
Quiet.
Fake.
Underneath the meek, tomboy exterior everyone loves (yet pities) is a girl who knows exactly what, and who, she wants—namely, the boy from the treehouse who taught her how to curse in sign language.
Who taught her how to laugh.
To live.
To love.

Knight Cole is everyone’s favorite football hero.
Gorgeous.
Athletic.
Rugged.
Popular.
Liar.
This daredevil hell-raiser could knock you up with his gaze alone, but he only has eyes for the girl across the street: Luna.
But Luna is not who she used to be. She doesn’t need his protection anymore.
When life throws a curveball at All Saints’ golden boy, he’s forced to realize not all knights are heroes.
Sometimes, the greatest love stories flourish in tragedy.

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God. I don’t even know how I feel about this book, if I’m being completely honest. Broken Knight is raw, emotional, gutting – every word you can think of that means a hit to the feels, perfectly describes BK. I enjoyed it, but at what emotional cost? The part near the end had me so conflicted, because I don’t know whether I loved it or hated it. And of course LJ Shen would do this to her readers – I love and hate her equally for doing this to us! LOL.

They used the word smitten because batshit crazy wasn’t cute. But everyone knew I was smitten with chicken wings and vintage Tumblr porn, not with Luna. With Luna, I was in fucking everything. Love. Lust. Obsession. Take your pick.

Finding out who Luna would end up with, Knight or Vaughn, has been a question since Pretty Reckless released. Well, maybe even before then. But now that Broken Knight is here, we all know that Luna’s hero is the one and only Knight Cole, her very best friend, protector, and love. Luna and Knight have a very unconventional friends-to-lovers romance. They grew up together, the mute and the popular, charming jock, and have been in love with each other since forever, but don’t want to risk losing their friendship for more. But it’s Knight’s last year of high school and Luna’s first year of college, and Knight doesn’t want to wait anymore. He wants to claim the one woman he knows is meant for him… but Luna doesn’t make it easy. And because Knight gets hurt in the process, he wants to hurt Luna back.

I loved Luna’s character. She goes through a whole transformation throughout BK and I couldn’t help but be so proud of her by the end. Knight makes her go through some pretty awful things – there is a lot of annoying OW/OM drama. It’s immature, over-the-top, angsty… everything you expect from such young characters who are trying to grow up. But I loved Luna and Knight was such a mini-Dean I couldn’t help but slowly grow to love him too.

“There was never any doubt you were a Cole, Knight. You weren’t a choice; you were destiny.”

The main reason why I can’t give this full 5 stars is because I feel like Luna and Knight’s romance was overshadowed by more of the heavier, emotional aspects of this book. Knight goes through substance abuse because he is dealing with his mother’s illness. Because of this, BK felt more like Knight’s story than Luna’s, which was a little disappointing since I loved her character so much. But just because the romance was overshadowed doesn’t mean the story itself was bad. It was well-written, with great character development, and I truly couldn’t put the book down. The good, the bad, the ugly, all of it is beautifully written and I applaud LJ Shen for doing so.

If you enjoyed Pretty Reckless, you will most likely enjoy Broken Knight. They are similar in terms of angst and drama. BK can be read as a standalone, but I’d suggest reading Ruckus and Scandalous from the Sinners of Saint series to get a better sense of Luna and Knight’s families. Right now, I can’t wait to get my hands on Vaughn’s book, and I’m crossing my fingers that his heroine is who I hope it will be!


lacey

Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.

Now here’s an excerpt from Broken Knight! ❤

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Right now I wanted to just be here in silence with my best friend. And somehow, I don’t know how, but Luna sensed it. So we sat there for what felt like two hours but was probably a lot less, until I opened my eyes again. Her eyes were closed, too. I watched her for a while.

When she opened her eyes, it felt like she took something away from me.

“Let’s jump,” she said.

“I’m quite fond of my limbs, Moonshine.”

“Stop being such a big baby.”

“Big, quarterback baby who just finished a football season in one piece and would like to keep all his body parts intact.”

She crawled out of the treehouse and settled on the branch. It was thick, but I doubted it could carry my muscular ass for more than a few seconds before snapping. I rolled my eyes and settled next to her. She slipped her hand in mine.

“Three, two, one.”

It was a short, sweet way down.

Reading Order: All Saints High series

 

#1 ~ Pretty Reckless: Ebook • PaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#2 ~ Broken Knight: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ Angry God: Goodreads (2019)

about the author button

L.J. Shen is an International #1 best-selling author of Contemporary Romance and New Adult novels. She lives in Northern California with her husband, young son and chubby cat.

Before she’d settled down, L.J. (who thinks referring to herself in the third person is really silly, by the way) traveled the world, and collected friends from all across the globe. Friends who’d be happy to report that she is a rubbish companion, always forgets peoples’ birthdays and never sends Christmas cards.

She enjoys the simple things in life, like spending time with her family and friends, reading, HBO, Netflix and internet-stalking Stephen James. She reads between three to five books a week and firmly believes Crocs shoes and mullets should be outlawed.

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Blog Tour // Review + Excerpt: Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean

Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean
Series: Bareknuckle Bastards #2 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: July 30th 2019
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New York Times Bestselling Author Sarah MacLean returns with the next book in the Bareknuckle Bastards series about three brothers bound by a secret that they cannot escape—and the women who bring them to their knees.

The Lady’s Plan

When Lady Henrietta Sedley declares her twenty-ninth year her own, she has plans to inherit her father’s business, to make her own fortune, and to live her own life. But first, she intends to experience a taste of the pleasure she’ll forgo as a confirmed spinster. Everything is going perfectly…until she discovers the most beautiful man she’s ever seen tied up in her carriage and threatening to ruin the Year of Hattie before it’s even begun.

The Bastard’s Proposal

When he wakes in a carriage at Hattie’s feet, Whit, a king of Covent Garden known to all the world as Beast, can’t help but wonder about the strange woman who frees him—especially when he discovers she’s headed for a night of pleasure . . . on his turf. He is more than happy to offer Hattie all she desires…for a price.

An Unexpected Passion

Soon, Hattie and Whit find themselves rivals in business and pleasure. She won’t give up her plans; he won’t give up his power . . . and neither of them sees that if they’re not careful, they’ll have no choice but to give up everything . . . including their hearts.

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes & NobleIndieBound

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I really, really wish I didn’t struggle with this series like I do. Sarah MacLean is one of my favorite historical romance authors (she gave us the Rules of Scoundrels series, which I worship), but the Bareknuckle Bastards series just doesn’t seem to be working for me. It’s not BAD, but it’s not that great either. I found myself bored more than anything with Brazen and the Beast, which was the same issue I had with book one, Wicked and the Wallflower. The plot moved too slowly that I had to skim parts of the book. The only saving grace to this book was Hattie, but even she wasn’t enough to make me love this one.

Henrietta “Hattie” Sedley decides to make her 29th birthday the start of “The Year of Hattie,” in which she claims control of her life in terms of fortune, business, home, and future. I LOVED Hattie in the first half of this book. She was an awesome, head-strong woman who took charge of her life and didn’t look back. Unfortunately, one major bump in the road to The Year of Hattie is Whit, the second half of the Bareknuckle Bastards and co-ruler of the darker side of London. He sees Hattie and wants her, though he thinks he’s not good enough for her. What he will help her out with is her body – he’s determined to show her all the carnal pleasures of life, but nothing more.

The first half of this book went great – I was excited for Hattie, excited to see how she’d manage her new life with the addition of Whit. She is very much an endearing, relatable heroine. The second half of the book however, went a little downhill for me. The plot felt like it stalled – Hattie claiming her father’s business didn’t go anywhere, Whit kept going on and on about not being good enough for Hattie and going hot and cold with her. The only thing that happened was more and more sex – which is great, but I also wanted to see more of The Year of Hattie besides her learning about her body.

So yeah, I struggle with this. I think by the end of the book I was reading it for the secondary characters more than anything. I liked Hattie but didn’t care for Whit. SM tried to make Whit (and his brother) seem dark, dangerous, and broody, and while he is broody, he’s just not the dangerous character she writes him out to be. SM’s writing is great, and I did enjoy seeing little snippets of past characters from the Scandal & Scoundrel series. I’m clinging onto this series for the couple in the third and final book – Grace and Ewan’s story. They have been teased and hyped throughout the series and I am PRAYING that it won’t disappoint!


lacey

Now here’s an excerpt from Brazen and the Beast! ❤

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September 1837
Mayfair

In twenty-eight years and three hundred sixty-four days, Lady Henrietta Sedley liked to think that she’d learned a few things.

She’d learned, for example, that if a lady could not get away with wearing trousers (an unfortunate reality for the daughter of an earl, even one who had begun life without title or fortune), then she should absolutely ensure that her skirts included pockets. A woman never knew when she might require a bit of rope, or a knife to cut it, after all.

She’d also learned that any decent escape from her Mayfair home required the cover of darkness and a carriage driven by an ally. Coachmen tended to talk a fine game when it came to keeping secrets, but were ultimately beholden to those who paid their salaries. An important addendum to that particular lesson was this: The best of allies was often the best of friends.

And perhaps first on the list of things she had learned in her lifetime was how to tie a Bosun knot. She’d been able to do that for as long as she could remember.

With such an obscure and uncommon collection of knowledge, one might imagine that Henrietta Sedley would have known precisely what to do in the likelihood she discovered a human male bound and unconscious in her carriage.

One would be incorrect.

In point of fact, Henrietta Sedley would never have described such a scenario as a likelihood. After all, she might have been more comfortable on London’s docks than in its ballrooms, but Hattie’s impressive collection of life experience lacked anything close to a criminal element.

And yet, here she was, pockets full, dearest friend at her side, standing in the pitch dark on the night before her twenty-ninth birthday, about to steal away from Mayfair for a night of best-laid plans, and…

Lady Eleanora Madewell whistled, low and unladylike at Hattie’s ear. Daughter of a duke and the Irish actress he loved so much he’d made her a duchess, Nora had the kind of brashness that was allowed in those with impervious titles and scads of money. “There’s a bloke in the gig, Hattie.”

Hattie did not look away from the bloke in question. “Yes, I see that.”

“There wasn’t a bloke in the gig when we hitched the horses.”

“No, there wasn’t.” They’d left the hitched—and most definitely empty—carriage in the dark rear drive of Sedley House not three-quarters of an hour earlier, before hiking upstairs to exchange carriage-hitching dresses for attire more appropriate for their evening plans.

At some point between corset and kohl, someone had left her an extraordinarily unwelcome package.

“Seems we would’ve noticed a bloke in the gig,”

“I should think we would have,” came Hattie’s distracted reply. “This is really just awful timing.”

Nora cut her a look. “Is there a good time for a man to be bound in one’s carriage?”

Hattie imagined there wasn’t, but, “He could have selected a different evening. What a terrible birthday gift.” She squinted into the dark interior of the carriage. “Do you think he’s dead?”

Please, don’t let him be dead.

Silence. Then, a thoughtful, “Does one store dead men in carriages?” Nora reached forward, her coachman’s coat pulling tight over her shoulders, and poked the dead man in question. He did not move. “He’s not moving,” she added. “Could be dead.”

Hattie sighed, removing a glove and leaning into the carriage to place two fingers to the man’s neck. “I’m sure he’s not dead.”

“What are you doing?” Nora whispered, urgently. “If he’s not dead, you’ll wake him!”

“That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world,” Hattie pointed out. “Then we could ask him to kindly exit our conveyance and we could be on our way.”

“Oh, yes. This brute seems like precisely the kind of man who would immediately do just that and not immediately take his revenge. He’d no doubt doff his cap and wish us a fine good evening.”

“He’s not wearing a cap,” Hattie pointed out, unable to refute any of the rest of the assessment of the mysterious, possibly dead man. He was very broad, and very solid, and even in the darkness she could tell that this wasn’t a man with whom one took a turn about a ballroom.

This was the kind of man who ransacked a ballroom.

“What do you feel?” Nora pressed.

“No pulse.” Though she wasn’t precisely certain of the location one would find a pulse. “But he’s—”

Warm.

Dead men were not warm, and this man was very warm. Like a fire in winter. The kind of warm that made someone realize how cold she might be.

Ignoring the silly thought, Hattie moved her fingers down the column of his neck, to the place where it disappeared beneath the collar of his shirt, where the curve of his shoulder and the slope of…the rest of him… met in a fascinating indentation.

“Anything now?”

“Quiet.” Hattie held her breath. Nothing. She shook her head.

“Christ.” It wasn’t a prayer.

Hattie couldn’t have agreed more. But then…

There. A small flutter. She pressed a touch more firmly. The flutter became firm. Slow. Even. “I feel it. She said. “He’s alive.” She repeated herself. “He’s alive.” She exhaled, long and relieved. “He’s not dead.”

“Excellent. But it doesn’t change the fact that he’s unconscious in the carriage, and you have somewhere to be.” She paused. “We should leave him and take the curricle.”

Hattie had been planning for this particular excursion on this particular night for a full three months. This was the night that would begin her twenty-ninth year. The year her life would become her own. The year she would become her own. And she had a very specific plan for a very specific location at a very specific hour, for which she had donned a very specific frock. And yet, as she stared at the man in her carriage, specifics seemed not at all important.

What seemed important was seeing his face.

Clinging to the handle at the edge of the door, Hattie collected the lantern from the upper rear corner of the carriage before swinging back out to face Nora, whose gaze flickered immediately to the unlit container.

Nora tilted her head. “Hattie. Leave him. Let’s take the curricle.”

“Just a peek,” Hattie replied.

The tilt became a shake. “If you peek, you’ll regret it.”

“I have to peek,” Hattie insisted, casting about for a decent reason—ignoring the odd fact that she was unable to tell her friend the truth. “I have to untie him.”

“Not necessarily,” Nora pointed out. “Someone thought he was best left tied up, and who are we to disagree?” Hattie was already reaching into the pocket of the carriage door for a flint. “What of your plans?”

There was plenty of time for her plans. “Just a peek,” she repeated, the oil in the lantern catching fire. She closed the door and turned to face the carriage, lifting the light high, casting a lovely golden glow over—

“Oh, my,” she said.

Nora choked back a laugh. “Not such a bad gift after all, perhaps.”

The man had the most beautiful face Hattie had ever seen. The most beautiful face anyone had ever seen, she imagined. She leaned closer, taking in his warm, bronze skin, the high cheekbones, the long, straight nose, the dark slashes of his brows and the impossibly long lashes that lay like feathers against his cheeks.

“What kind of man…” she trailed off. Shook her head.

What kind of man looked like this?

Reading Order: Bareknuckle Bastards series

 

#1 ~ Wicked and the Wallflower: EbookHardcoverPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Brazen and the Beast: EbookHardcoverPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ Daring and the Duke: Goodreads (June 30, 2020)

about the author button

A life-long romance reader, Sarah MacLean wrote her first romance novel on a dare, and never looked back. She is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical romances and a columnist for The Washington Post, where she writes about the romance genre. She lives in New York City. Visit her at http://www.sarahmaclean.net.

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Blog Tour // Review + Excerpt: One Fine Duke by Lenora Bell

One Fine Duke by Lenora Bell
Series: School for Dukes #3 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: July 23rd 2019
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Ready.

Raised in the countryside by her overprotective uncle, Miss Mina Penny’s dream of a triumphant London season is finally here. She determined her perfect match long ago: Rafe Bentley, the wickedest rake of them all. There’s only one very large, very unyielding obstacle: Rafe’s brother Andrew, the reclusive Duke of Thorndon.

Aim.

This was supposed to be simple. Duke goes to London. Duke selects suitable bride. Love match? Not a chance. But when Drew meets Mina, she complicates everything. How can a lady armed with such beauty and brains fall for his irresponsible degenerate of a brother? Drew vows to save her from heartbreak and ruin, no matter the cost.

Desire!

But Mina is no damsel in distress. She’s daring, intuitive, passionate…and halfway to melting Drew’s cold heart. And although Mina thought she knew exactly what she wanted, one breathtakingly seductive kiss from Drew changes everything. Now Mina must decide between long-held dreams and dangerous new desires. Could her true destiny lie in the arms of a duke?

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes & NobleIndieBound

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One of my 2019 reading goals is to read more debut/new-to-me authors, and I’m so glad I’ve found another author to add to this list! This was my first book from Lenora Bell, who has been on my TBR for ages, and it definitely won’t be my last. I adored the heroine, Mina, the hero, Drew, and their story. Though this is the third book in the School for Dukes series, it can be read entirely as a standalone, which was what I did, and didn’t feel lost at all.

Mina is headstrong young woman who wants the freedom and adventure she never had growing up under her overprotective uncle. And being the crafty, clever woman that she is, she also wants to become a spy for the crown like her uncle. In order to prove to her uncle she has what it takes, she plans to marry Rafe, a rake and secret spy working for Mina’s uncle. Unfortunately for her plans, she is more drawn to Rafe’s brother Drew than Rafe himself.

Drew suffers from PTSD from when he was kidnapped and held for ransom as a boy, so he lives in seclusion in the country. He arrives in London with the sole purpose of finding a suitable, ladylike, quiet bride who won’t bother him too much so he can head straight back to the country. But the fiery, disrespectful, unladylike Mina Penny is what catches his attention.

“You want danger. You want excitement and adventure,” he whispered. “I’ll be your adventure. Explore me, Mina.”

Mina and Drew couldn’t want more different things in life, but somehow, these two just click together. I fell hard for these characters and the way they brought out the best and most out of each other. One Fine Duke is sweet, sexy, hilarious at times (Mina gets trapped in a sex chair!) and overall a fun historical romance everyone should read. I’m off to read more of Lenora Bell’s books now!


lacey

Now here’s an excerpt from One Fine Duke! ❤

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“There he is, Wilhelmina,” Grizzy whispered, staring reverently across the crowded ballroom. “The Duke of Thorndon.”

Holy hell he’s handsome, thought Mina.

Jaw-dropping-on-the-floor handsome. Drool-on-your-lace-fichu handsome.

Distract her from her plan with his brother, handsome.

Her uncle had been right. Thorndon was a fine figure of a man. Objectively speaking, the finest she’d ever beheld.

Tall as a doorframe, with a face hewn from the same granite as the rugged Cornish coastline.

A face rendered seductive by contrasts: sharp cheekbones and curved, sensuous lips. Gleaming ebony hair brushed his collar. His eyes were a light, gold-tinged brown—the only warm thing about him.

He owned this ballroom. Literally. And he owned everyone in it by dint of his oversized presence and the cold, unsmiling arrogance scrawled across his face.

He didn’t even follow the dictates of fashion, preferring plain black attire to the white pantaloons and gaily-colored waistcoats of the other gentlemen.

Why should he follow the dictates of fashion? Everyone should follow him.

“When you’re introduced to Thorndon, pray speak as seldom as possible,” Grizzy whispered. “Attempt to appear biddable and do try to recall my decorum lessons. Remember, no one in London knows anything about you, thank the Lord.”

Mina had seen several polished, elegant young ladies staring at her, nudging each other and whispering. She was an outsider, a usurper, her proper place in the social hierarchy not yet established.

They needn’t worry. She had no designs upon their prize duke. And she was about as unpolished as a debutante could be—as rough as an un-sanded plank. If anyone touched her they might get splinters.

She longed to shed her country skin swiftly and emerge as the sophisticated social butterfly her mother had been. But she knew that it would take time, observation, and experimentation.

Her first flirtatious conversation, first kiss, first taste of brandy, first adventure…it was all ahead of her.

She couldn’t wait to taste it all.

Reading Order: School for Dukes series

 

#1 ~ What a Difference a Duke Makes: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#2 ~ For the Duke’s Eyes Only: Ebook • PaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ One Fine Duke: Ebook • HardcoverPaperbackAudibleGoodreads

about the author button

Lenora Bell is the USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of historical romances with Avon Books. A teacher with an MFA in Creative Writing, Lenora has lived and worked on five continents. She currently lives in New Zealand with her carpenter husband and two tiger-striped rescue kitties. She loves to hear from readers! Sign up for her mailing list to hear about new books, sales, and giveaways!

Website • Twitter • FacebookInstagram • Goodreads


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