Genre: Historical Romance

Sunday Spotlight: Dare to Love a Duke by Eva Leigh

Posted December 16, 2018 by Rowena in Features, Giveaways | 5 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight

Dare to Love a Duke is the third book in Eva Leigh’s London Underground series. It features Thomas Powell, the new Duke of Northfield and Lucia, the owner of the Orchid Club, also known as Amina. This story looks pretty good with secret identities and masked Dukes in secret clubs.

We’re pleased to be featuring an excerpt from this book so read on to check it out…

Sunday Spotlight: Dare to Love a Duke by Eva LeighDare to Love a Duke (The London Underground, #3) by Eva Leigh
Series: The London Underground #3
Publisher: Harper Collins, Avon
Publication Date: December 24, 2018
Format: eBook
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 384
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For a dashing duke and the proprietress of a secret, sensual club in the London Underground, passion could lead to love… if they dare

Thomas Powell, the new Duke of Northfield, knows he should be proper and principled, like his father. No more dueling, or carousing, or frequenting masked parties where Londoners indulge their wildest desires. But he’s not ready to give up his freedom just yet. The club is an escape, a place where he can forget about society and the weight of his title… and see her, the woman he’s wanted forever.

Lucia—known as Amina—manages the Orchid Club, a secret society where fantasies become reality. But for Lucia, it’s strictly business, profitable enough to finance her dream: a home for the lost girls of the streets. Surrounded by lovers, she only observes, unwilling risk her future for any man. No member has ever intrigued her...until him, the masked stranger whose heated looks sear her skin. After months of suppressed longing, they dare to give in to temptation…

But the late duke’s legacy comes with a shocking secret, and the scandal threatens to destroy everything Tom loves… his family, the Orchid Club, and even Lucia.

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Excerpt

Tom took a glass of wine from a passing footman, then sipped as he surveyed the room. He took his usual place by the window. The moment a woman in a red dress began approaching him, he moved on. Over the course of the year, he’d fielded many offers of sex from interested parties, but he’d never accepted. That wasn’t why he came to the Orchid Club.

He crossed the threshold of the ballroom. This was where he’d first met Amina, a night he’d never forgotten. As always, the notes of a waltz drifted from the musicians as the guests on the dance floor surrendered to the seductive air of unfiltered desire. This was not sanctioned London. It was the secret, dark side. The place where people of all walks of life came for release, to cavort and be free.

He sensed a charge like unheard music, a subtle threading of awareness moving invisibly through his
body. Despite being engaged in watching the unfolding action, Tom became conscious of a new presence
in the room.

Amina had arrived.

She glided through the chamber, calm and assured, a small, unreadable smile playing about her lips as she stopped to chat with guests, making certain they had everything they needed. Tonight, her mask was emerald green, embroidered all over with gold thread and tiny pearls. The mask matched her richly hued gown, which hugged her curved body.

Tonight, her thick black hair was pinned up, though small brilliants seemed to twinkle in the dark waves. But it could have been his imagination. For surely whenever she was near, he had eyes for no one but her.

Riveted, Tom watched her glide through the ballroom, expertly weaving through the crowd. She kept that slightly removed smile on her face as she talked with the celebrants. Occasionally, she waved over a servant to provide more refreshments to the guests.

She checked with the musicians and adjusted the position of a candelabra on a table. This is my realm, she seemed to silently declare. The ruler of Bloomsbury. The empress of the Orchid Club. Regal and confident, her head held high, her shoulders back.

She caught sight of him, and he straightened to his fullest height. A thrum of excitement pulsed through him, all the way to his bones, as she approached. The lingering clouds of his unease lifted the nearer she came. This close, he could see the deep brown of her eyes shining behind her disguise. Her pupils were large, fathomless.

“Rogue,” Amina said when she stood before him.

“You chide me baselessly.” His heart took up double time to have her so close and to hear her low, throaty voice again. Every now and again, he caught a hint of an unknown accent in her words, yet he could never ask after her origins.

She had to be from somewhere warm, a place where, beneath a gleaming sun, dark-eyed beauties felt temperate breezes caress their tawny skin. The thought of all Amina’s flesh bared to the sunlight
made his mouth water.

“I’m not a capricious creature,” she said crisply. “I do nothing without reason.”

“If you are my judge, I’m entitled to know the offense for which I am accused.”

She clicked her tongue. “Even worse that you don’t know.” At his mystified silence, she explained, “Six weeks. It’s been six weeks since I’ve last seen you within these chambers. I thought you’d enlisted or run off to Argentina.”

He smiled to himself. “You think me an adventurer?”

“I think you dreadfully rude to have disappeared,” she said coolly.

He bowed. “Family obligations, unfortunately, have kept me away.”

A corner of her mouth lifted. “I forget, sometimes, that people have families.”

Despite her wry smile, a note of melancholy tinged her voice, making him contemplate her kin. Did she
have any, and did they know what she did to earn her bread?

Then, she said more lightly, “You’re here now. That’s all that matters.”

“Thinking of this night has been a balm to me these past weeks,” he said candidly. There was no need to dissemble or tell flattering half-truths. Not here. Not with her.

“If you’ve been troubled, I am sorry for it.” Sincerity firmed her words. Perhaps he was, to her, more than another masked guest, something beyond a means to keep a roof over her head. God knew she held greater significance to him than her role as manager of this establishment.

He bowed. “I’ll find my way through my difficulties.” Or so he hoped. Every step put him deeper and
deeper into unknown, perilous territory. “Good,” she said. “It would pain me to think of you
in distress.”

The London Underground

Giveaway Alert

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Sunday Spotlight: December 2018

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!


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What Are You Reading? (+ Manda Collins Giveaway)

Posted December 14, 2018 by Casee in Features, Giveaways | 8 Comments

WAYR-New

Casee: Not much has changed for me from last week. I’m still reading Too Far Gone by Christy Reece. I have had more time in the last two days to read than I’ve had in the past week. I’m almost finished with the book. It’s enjoyable, but predictable. Which is saying something coming from me. The next book I’m going to pick up is Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts. It’s the second book in her Chronicles of the One series. I’m curious to see where this series heads.

I DNF’ed Worth the Fight by Vi Keeland because the narrators were simply awful. I still might read it because there is a possibility that it may be good without the narrators. I started Hard Hitter by Sarina Bowen this morning on the way to work, which is book two in the Brooklyn Bruisers series. I’m already loving it and I don’t think I’ve listened to an entire chapter yet.

Holly: My reading has dropped off considerably this week. I ended up DNF’ing Jaxson (Riverwise Private Security #1) by Alisa Woods. I liked the premise, but the characters did a lot of things that didn’t make sense. Plus, the hero smirked a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. It was annoying. I might try to read it someday, rather than listening to the audio, but for now I set it aside. I listened to Never Enough by Lauren Dane but it basically took me the entire week. Things have just been crazy.

I’m currently listening to Feral Sins by Suzanne Wright. I read this years ago, but after a few books I lost track of the series. I wanted to catch up, but I felt like I needed a refresher first. I’m really enjoying the narration.

Rowena: Just like every year, my reading in December takes a hike. I read just one book this week and I read that because I had to get it read for book club tonight. When I first started the book, Hawke’s personality and the way that he talked to Gwen infuriated me. I didn’t care what happened in his past to make him the way that he was, I didn’t think it was okay to do ALL of the things that he did and said to Gwen. In the end, I didn’t HATE him but I didn’t exactly love him either. I felt his pain but still…the overall book was problematic as hell for me too. But yeah, that was the book I read this week. Mystery Man by Kristen Ashley. What did you guys read?

Giveaway Alert

We are very fortunate here at Book Binge. We have loads and loads of books to read and we want to share the wealth so each week, we’ll be tacking on a Freebie Friday giveaway to our What Are You Reading posts. This week, we’re giving away…

What Are You Reading? (+ Manda Collins Giveaway)Wallflower Most Wanted (Studies in Scandal, #3) by Manda Collins
Series: Studies in Scandal #3
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Format: Print
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Pages: 307
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THE PICTURE OF ROMANCE

A dedicated painter, Miss Sophia Hastings is far more concerned with finding the right slant of light than in finding Mr. Right. But when an overhead conversation hints at danger for another local artist, Sophia is determined to get involved. Even it means accepting help from an impossibly good-looking vicar who insists on joining her investigation—and threatens to capture her heart…

Reverend Lord Benedick Lisle knows that Sophia is no damsel in distress. But he won’t allow her to venture into peril alone, either. . .especially since he finds Sophia’s curious, free-spirited nature so alluring. But protecting her from harm is becoming more difficult than the vicar could have expected as he and Sophia confront their fiery mutual passion. Who could have known that the art of love would prove so irresistible?

 

What Are You Reading: Wallflower Most Wanted by Manda Collins
What are you reading this week? Any new favorites or books that drove you crazy? Share!


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Sunday Spotlight: Someone to Trust by Mary Balogh

Posted December 9, 2018 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 9 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight

Sunday Spotlight: Someone to Trust by Mary BaloghSomeone to Trust (Westcott, #5) by Mary Balogh
Series: Westcott series #5
Also in this series: Someone to Love, Someone to Hold, Someone to Wed, Someone to Care
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: November 27, 2018
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 400
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During a rare white Christmas at Brambledean Court, the widow Elizabeth, Lady Overfield, defies convention by falling in love with a younger man in the latest novel in the Westcott series.

After her husband's passing, Elizabeth Overfield decides that she must enter into another suitable marriage. That, however, is the last thing on her mind when she meets Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, at the Westcott Christmas house party. She simply enjoys his company as they listen to carolers on Christmas Eve, walk home from church together on Christmas morning, and engage in a spirited snowball fight in the afternoon. Both are surprised when their sled topples them into a snow bank and they end up sharing an unexpected kiss. They know there is no question of any relationship between them for she is nine years older than he.

They return to London the following season, both committed to finding other, more suitable matches. Still they agree to share one waltz at each ball they attend. This innocuous agreement proves to be one that will topple their worlds, as each dance steadily ensnares them in a romance that forces the two to question what they are willing to sacrifice for love...

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Excerpt

SOMEONE TO TRUST by Mary Balogh
Book Binge Exclusive Excerpt

“I hope,” Colin said later when he was standing at the bottom of the run watching the action and Elizabeth had just come down with the Reverend Kingsley, “I did not offend you with the snowball in the face?”

“Oh, let me see,” she said. “Was that the first one or the fourth?”

“Numbers two, three, and four were part of a fair fight,” he said. “The first one was not. I hope I did not offend you. Actually I meant to hit you on the shoulder.”

“What?” she said. “You are not such a star bowler after all, then?”

“As for numbers two, three, and four,” he said, ignoring the jibe, “you really need to learn how to duck, Elizabeth.”

“The third time I did duck,” she said, “and got it in the face anyway.”

Her cheeks were bright red and glowing. So was her nose. Her hair beneath the red-brimmed bonnet was wet and pulling free of its pins. Her eyes were sparkling, her lips curved into a smile. She looked really quite beautiful with animation to add to the usual smiling serenity. She appeared young and vibrant. But she ought to be offended. He had concentrated most of his attack during the fight upon her, perhaps because she was concentrating most of hers upon him and had been so very obviously enjoying herself. She had missed by a mile with every snowball but one, and that had shattered harmlessly against his elbow.

“Yes. Thank you,” he said when Dorchester offered him the sled he had just ridden down with his wife. The two of them wandered off together, hand in hand.
Colin turned to Elizabeth. “Shall we?”

“But can I trust you?” she asked.

“Always.” He clapped one gloved hand over his heart and they trudged up the hill side by side.

They did two runs together. The first was flawless. Colin’s only regret was that the slope was not longer, but this was the highest hill in the park and it really was not bad. The second run was not so successful. Bertrand Lamarr, on his way down with Abigail, swerved to avoid colliding with his twin and Boris, Molenor’s eldest boy, and Colin had to swerve to miss them both. He was on the outer edge of the run and hit soft snow before reaching the bottom. He tried to correct their course, but the sled had other ideas and went plowing farther in, veering wildly from side to side before upending its occupants into deep snow close to the bottom.

There were shouts from outside their cocoon of snow, though none sounded deeply concerned. Elizabeth was laughing and sputtering—from beneath Colin. He was laughing too as he raised his head and brushed foolishly and ineffectually at the snow covering her bonnet and shoulders.

“I will never live that one down,” he said.

“I forgot to ask in what ways I might trust you,” she said. “Foolish of me.”

“With your life, ma’am,” he said, grinning at her. “Behold yourself unharmed and only snow caked. At least, I hope you are unharmed.” It occurred to him that his weight might be squashing her.

And then the most ghastly thing happened.

He thought about it afterward—he could not stop thinking, in fact—and squirmed with intense discomfort every time. What the devil had possessed him? And what the devil must she think even though she had assured him that she would not think about it at all.

He kissed her.

Wescott

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: December 2018

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Mary Balogh

Mary Balogh's Headshot

Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Slightly novels: Slightly Married, Slightly Wicked, Slightly Scandalous, Slightly Tempted, Slightly Sinful, and Slightly Dangerous, as well as the romances No Man's Mistress, More than a Mistress, and One Night for Love. She is also the author of Simply Love, Simply Unforgettable, Simply Magic, and Simply Perfect, her dazzling quartet of novels set at Miss Martin's School for Girls. A former teacher herself, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada.


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Sunday Spotlight: The Duke I Marry by Cathy Maxwell

Posted December 2, 2018 by Rowena in Features | 5 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight

The Duke I Marry is the third book in Cathy Maxwell’s Spinster Heiresses series and it promises to be another historical adventure into the romance pairing of Miss Willa Reverly and Matthew Addison, the new Duke of Camberly. We’re stoked to be sharing a super cute excerpt from the book today so check it out…

Sunday Spotlight: The Duke I Marry by Cathy MaxwellThe Duke That I Marry (Spinster Heiresses, #3) by Cathy Maxwell
Series: Spinster Heiresses #3
Also in this series: If Ever I Should Love You, A Match Made in Bed (Spinster Heiresses #2)
Publisher: Harper Collins, Avon
Publication Date: November 27, 2018
Format: eBook
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 352
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Once upon a time there were three young ladies who, despite their fortunes, had been on the marriage mart a bit too long. They were known as "the Spinster Heiresses"...

Is it wrong for a woman to want more?

Not if she is a Spinster Heiress. They do not settle. Any young miss would be very lucky to find herself promised to a man like the Duke of Camberly. However, Miss Willa Reverly has watched her friends marry for love. Camberly may be the prize of the season, but she will not be "sold" to any man. She wants his devotion or she wants nothing at all.

When is a Marriage of Convenience inconvenient?

Newly named to the ducal title, Matthew Addison is determined to discover the secrets behind Mayfield, the bankrupt estate he has inherited. He doesn't have time to coddle a headstrong heiress who is determined to ditch him over something as silly as "love." Little does he know that his questions will place her in jeopardy. Now he must do what he must to save them both.

Could it be that in running from danger they might be racing headlong into a truly unexpected fate: falling in love?

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Excerpt

The time had come.

The moment everyone had gossiped about. Willa was going to let Camberly have her because he was her husband. Giving in to him was her duty. She wasn’t truly his duchess unless they did the deed.

She experienced a pang of regret that she’d overheard his words to his sister about not loving her. Willa was practical. In spite of the marriage vows, she wouldn’t even have thought of love if it hadn’t been for Kate’s words.

Now, it seemed all she could think about. Love. Having a husband who loved her. Just as Soren loved Cassandra, and Leonie’s husband, Rochdale, all but worshipped her.

And yet, everyone envied Willa. Matt was a prize. She had become a duchess. The point game had gone to her.

So why did she feel sad?

It might have to do with the kiss in the coach. Her first kiss. She hadn’t known what she was about, but he had apparently liked it because he hadn’t stopped touching her since she’d kissed him. For most of the afternoon, when she had been with him, his hand had been at her arm or her waist, guiding her and moving her along until he’d swept her up and carried her to his bed. Willa sat up on the mattress. His bedroom furnishings were dark brown against ivory walls. The bed itself had been made for a giant. It had a massive headboard that was almost black with age. The bedclothes were a dull gold. Someone, most likely Annie or Matt’s valet, had turned down the covers.

Rather bravely, she said, “What do you want me to do?”

He’d tossed his jacket onto a nearby chair and was tugging on the knot in his neck cloth when her question gave him pause. An uncertain look came into his eye, as if he, too, was feeling his way. And then he answered, “Let me take down your hair.”

The request was unexpected—and she couldn’t imagine anything she would more dearly love. The weight of it had added to her building anxieties. “Yes, please.”

He smiled and pulled his neck cloth free to join his jacket before offering his hand. “Well then, stand.” She thought he meant the floor until he helped her balance on the mattress. This way, she was taller than he was. He wasn’t so intimidating this way. Was that his intent?

He began removing the pearl­tipped pins.

She held out her hand to receive them just as she did with Annie. The familiar arrangement helped her relax. “There are plain pins in there as well.”

“I will find them.” His touch was gentle, his expression intent. He reminded her of a sculptor she’d once observed working on his art. The ten­ sion between Willa’s shoulders and neck began to unwind. “I’ve wanted to see your hair down since the moment we first met,” he said.

“I have too much of it.” He smiled. “We shall see.”

Her gaze took in the room. This was obviously his domain. Just as she noticed when she’d visited Mayfield several months ago, there were signs of neglect and wear. A huge wardrobe took up a good portion of one wall. There was a washstand, a desk, chairs—all the usual items in a bedroom, including a privacy screen in one corner.

However, Willa’s personal effects were here. She was surprised. She had assumed she would have her own room. In fact, beyond his shaving gear, there seemed to be nothing else of Matt’s in this room. What brushes and small boxes and bottles were on the washstand belonged to her.

He had collected all the pearl pins and was now searching for the plain ones.

“I was thinking this was your room,” she said, “but my things are here.”

“This is our room.”

She looked down at him. “We’ll share the same room?” She had never heard of such a thing. Her parents had separate suites of rooms.

“You are my wife, Willa. You sleep by my side.”

“Forever?”

“As long as our natural lives.” He pulled the last pin from her hair. It was as if that last pin held it all in place. Her hair tumbled down around her shoulders, flowing almost to her waist.

It was pure pleasure to have the weight of it off her neck. As she did every night when she took her hair down, she rotated her shoulders—and then stopped. Her breasts were at his eye level and they had his attention.

A warmth roiled deep in her lower belly and a curiosity in her mind.

His eyes had darkened with interest. He rested his hand on her waist. He raised his gaze to her. It was almost a sin for a man to have such dark lashes or such sparkling blue eyes.

“I want you, Willa. Do you understand exactly what that means?”

In this moment, it was as if they were the only two people in the world.

“I’m told to do what you tell me.” Her mother’s instruction didn’t seem daunting at all right now. “And I will, although I don’t know how good I will be at counting backward from a hundred.”

If she had popped him in the nose, he couldn’t appear more startled. “Count backward?”

Willa nodded, sinking down on the bed. She removed her kid slippers. It had bothered her to stand on the coverlet in them. “Mother suggested it. She said that way it will be all over before I know it.”

Matt burst out laughing. He sat on the bed beside her as if it was the most natural thing in the world. “Count backward?”

Willa wasn’t certain what was so funny. Should she not have told him? She nodded warily.

He caught her mood. “Please, I’m not laughing at you. I’m just . . .” He paused as if looking for a word and found it. “Charmed. I’m charmed to hear you say that. Your honesty, Willa, is a gift.” He leaned back, resting on one arm, and gently pulled her with him. “You were told to count to a hundred?”

“Backward,” Willa added. She caught her hair and pulled it over one shoulder so it wasn’t beneath her. His gaze met hers. He sobered. “My hope is that you are enjoying yourself so much, you can’t remember how to count.”

Her mother had not said anything about enjoyment. However, Cassandra had. “Is that why everyone claims you are a good lover?” An hour earlier she wouldn’t have dared to say such a thing. However, being with him—like this— seemed completely right. Why, they both were still dressed.

“Now the pressure is on,” he said in mock dismay followed by a self­deprecating smile. “That ‘lover’ gossip is stuff and nonsense. They prattle on like that because they have nothing else to talk about. The only opinion I am interested in is yours and, together, we’ll find what pleases us both.”

That was a very nice promise. Especially the word “together.”

He stroked her hair, watching it flow through his fingers. “So lovely,” he murmured before lifting his gaze to meet hers. “Willa, kiss me the way you did in the coach.”

How could she refuse such a simple request? Willa leaned toward him. Their lips met.

And she was kissing him.

Spinster Heiresses Series

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: December 2018

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Cathy Maxwell

CATHY MAXWELL spends hours in front of her computer pondering the question, "Why do people fall in love?" It remains for her the mystery of life and the secret to happiness.

She lives in beautiful Virginia with her children, horses, dogs, and cats.


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Sunday Spotlight: Kiss Me at Christmas by Valerie Bowman

Posted November 25, 2018 by Holly in Features | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight

Sunday Spotlight: Kiss Me at Christmas by Valerie BowmanKiss Me at Christmas (Playful Brides, #10) by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #10
Also in this series: The Right Kind of Rogue
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication Date: October 30, 2018
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 299
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Goodreads

A spirited lady facing spinsterhood. A common man with a noble mission. And a surprise that just might be waiting for them under the mistletoe. . .

Bow Street Runner Daffin Oakleaf abhors Christmas. Carol singing and holiday cheer only remind him of a dark time. When a close friend calls on him for help, Daffin is happy to capitalize on the distraction. But when he learns the lovely Lady Regina is the one in danger, he’s to become bodyguard to the captivating woman…

Regina has one mission: to find a night of passion in the arms of a gentleman. Considered firmly on the shelf, Regina has given up on marriage—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be denied the pleasure married ladies experience. Daffin has long captured her attention…and when a threat calls him to her side, the sparks between them ignite. But how can a hired bodyguard find his way into Regina’s noble heart?

I’m generally anti-Christmas until after American Thanksgiving, but I make an exception every year for holiday romances. I start stockpiling them in October. I’m a sucker for them. This is book 10 in the series, but I’m told it can stand alone well. There’s something really satisfying about historical holiday romances, don’t you think?

Order the Book:

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Excerpt

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

“But Daffin, it’s been days and there’s been no sign of anyone,” Nicole insisted the next morning. She was lying on the sofa in the middle of the green salon, her hand resting on her forehead, one foot rocking back & forth. “I cannot stay inside a moment longer or I’ll go mad. I merely want to have a short jaunt around the meadow on my horse. I need some fresh air. Desperately. Please, it’s Christmas Eve.”

Regina sat across from Daffin, nodding vigorously. “Yes, I agree. Please, may we go for a ride?”

“Should you be riding in your condition?” Daffin countered, addressing Nicole. His booted foot was crossed over his knee and he was eyeing her with a mixture of suspicion and tolerance.

“Racing, no,” Nicole replied, her voice still pleading. “But a quick jaunt will hardly hurt me, and Atalanta is a perfectly trained horse.”

“Grimaldi wouldn’t want either of you to go,” Daffin replied.

Regina paused and set the embroidery in her lap. She contemplated the question for a moment. “Yes, but in all these days, you’ve found no evidence we were followed here. I say it’s safe to believe the man who tried to hurt me is still in London.”

Daffin groaned and rubbed a hand across his face. His gaze bounced between the two ladies. “I have a feeling I’m going to regret this, but very well. I insist upon accompanying you, however.”

“I never doubted it,” Nicole said with a smug smile. She hoisted herself from the sofa and headed toward the door. “I’m off to dress in my riding habit.”

Less than an hour later, outfitted in his own riding gear, Daffin accompanied Regina and Nicole out the back of the manor house. As they set out on the path to the stables, Daffin glanced around uneasily. He didn’t like the idea of Regina being out in the open. It was true that he had seen no evidence of an intruder since they’d been here, but he didn’t like to take chances.

Nicole spun in a circle and sucked in lungsful of air. “It’s so good to be outside. I don’t even care that it’s so cold.”

Regina laughed. “I agree. It’s been positively stifling in that house.”

He was barely listening. He was focused on keeping his eyes and ears sharp, attuned to any noise or movement. The usual servants bustled about. He’d got to know them all over the last several days. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary.

“Honestly, Daffin, you cannot think the shooter could be here of all places. We’d see him coming a field’s length away,” Nicole said.

Daffin continued to scan the countryside. The meadow was clear and packed with untouched snow. Beyond it, a copse of trees. Nicole was right. No one could approach the house without being seen, and he’d had the footmen and groomsmen on watch round the clock. He stood watch daily himself. “Until we have a better idea who he is, I don’t know what he’s capable of, which means if you’re outside, you’re potentially in danger.”

They entered the stables and the smell of fresh hay, leather, and horses met their nostrils. Nicole waved to one of the groomsmen. “Good morning, Jacob. Did you saddle Atalanta?” They’d sent a footman to ask the groomsman to saddle the horses.

“Yes, my lady,” the groomsman replied. “She’s right there in the stall.”

“And Excalibur?” Regina added.

Daffin’s head snapped to the side to face her. He arched a brow. “Your horse is named Excalibur?”

“And she’s a girl,” Regina said with a nod. “I was a bit grandiose as a child.”

Daffin shook his head and grinned at her.

“Let me go greet my girl,” Regina said, on her way toward the stall. “I’ve missed her so much.”

Now that they were in the confines of the stable, Daffin relaxed a bit, but his guard remained up. They were about to ride through open fields, and that would be dangerous. Jacob should come with them for added protection. It couldn’t hurt to have another set of eyes. He turned to speak to the groomsman.

A gasp from Regina made him swivel. She stood by her horse’s stall, her hand over her mouth.

“What is it?” Daffin asked, quickly making his way to join her.

Regina pointed toward the saddle. Daffin turned his gaze in the direction she’d indicated. He narrowed his eyes. There was a small card sticking up between the saddle and the horse’s back.

He leaned closer and snatched up the card. Only five words were scrawled on it in a messy hand.

I’m watching you, Lady Regina.

Playful Brides

Giveaway Alert

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Sunday Spotlight: November 2018

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About Valerie Bowman

Valerie Bowman Headshot

Valerie Bowman’s debut novel was published in 2012. Since then, her books have received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus. She’s been an RT Reviewers’ Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance and Best Historical Romance Love and Laughter. Two of her books have been nominated for the Kirkus Prize for fiction.

Valerie grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English Language and Literature with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her mini-schnauzers, Huckleberry and Violet. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS.


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