Tag: Laurel McKee

Guest Review: Two Sinful Secrets by Laurel McKee

Posted January 10, 2013 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Another wonderful guest review by Judith!

Every good novelist will testify that the main ingredients in a story are always the same: good characters, a workable plot, and a crisis that brings the story to its most intense point. Almost always that crisis will rest on a bed of dishonesty or secrecy. It never fails to amaze me how many people fear opening up their hearts, their histories, their deepest feelings, always recognizing that most of us have come through some turbulent times relationally and thus, we protect ourselves. Yet, keeping secrets can often be far more destructive than most people anticipate.

It is no secret that this novel involves some fairly hefty secrets—both the hero and the heroine are awash with realities about themselves that are hidden and hidden for a bunch of good reasons. There is no doubt that given the times—the pre-Napoleonic period of European history—and understanding the social norms and rules of male/female interaction, these two characters felt they had viable reasons for partitioning off their lives into the “public” section and the “private” section. No doubt we all do that as most of us are fairly cautious about letting the casual acquaintances we know to have entre into the private sectors of our inner selves. But these two characters have lots that goes waaaaaay back in family history and both find themselves mired in emotions that seemingly have no way of becoming permanent.

Lady Sophia was, for all intent and purpose, a square peg in a round hole. I was almost expecting that the reader would find out she was adopted. She was so out of sync with her family, their expectations of her, their view of how she should behave and fit into the aristocratic social circles that were so important to her parents. Yet this young lady wrecked havoc from her earliest years and all that came to a head when she eloped with a charming and persuasive military retiree who turned out to be far less of an honorable man than Sophia thought. Now she is alone, making her way as best she can, using her considerable card-playing skills to eek out a living, always hoping that in some way and at some future time she could be restored to her family’s good graces. The further I got into the novel the more I became convinced that 1) she really didn’t believe in the deepest parts of herself that such would ever become reality, and 2) she wasn’t really sure she could survive that kind of “death” to who she was.

Dominic, on the other hand, was a man who was very comfortable with himself and his family, with his chosen profession in the theater and as part owner of a gambling club. He was a man who functioned well and was more than pleased to finally find Sophia—a woman who he had met and who had claimed his attention to such an extent that for two years following their one stolen kiss he couldn’t forget her. What she didn’t know about him was that their families had long nurtured a deep antagonism toward one another based on a “legend” that was more than two hundred years old and which fueled their anger toward one another. Sophia had no idea that she had stumbled onto the one man who could cause her heart to race, her blood to heat, and who had stolen her heart before she even knew it was gone—the one man who would do anything to destroy the family she loved even though they didn’t appear to love her in return.

It’s easy to see that these two certainly didn’t have any kind of easy future together if, in fact, they had any future at all. Yet this book is about the power of attraction, the discomfort of struggling with feelings that made no sense in the face of the ancient angers between their two families. Yet it seems that the sexual chemistry was so strong, the attraction so magnetic, that Sophia and Dominic had little hope of resisting. What they were going to do in the long haul remained to be seen.

This novel is beautifully crafted and Sophia and Dominic’s story is couched in the context of an ancient diary, a journal written by the woman whose experience lay at the heart of the old animosity. The reader is aware of all the stresses, the pushes and the pulls that make up their situation, aware that they were either destined to be together or doomed to break each other’s hearts. The flow of the story was such that the reader moves seamlessly from scene to scene, with the author laying out the facets of the story with a deft hand. As with all good novels, there’s also the “bad guy” who has determined that Sophia will be his, and his determination to take her hostage to his plans and desires become more and more cruel and destructive. So all in all, there’s lots going on in this book, lots that will hold the interest and imagination of the reader captive so that most readers, like me, will be sorry the story ends.

I read a lot of books and like most of them. But once in awhile one comes along that really piques my interest beyond the others. This novel is one of those. I can’t say it’s my most favorite novel ever. But it was a truly enjoyable and satisfying reading experience, one I accomplished in one sitting. It’s one I just didn’t put down until the final page. It’s a book that deserves to be read and appreciated and I hope that those who like historical romance will come to enjoy it as much as I did.

I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5. 

Laurel McKee

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Sinful Seduction Blog Tour (+ a Giveaway!) with Isobel Carr & Laurel McKee

Posted December 5, 2012 by Tracy in Reviews | 10 Comments

I’m more than happy to welcome both Isobel Carr and Laurel McKee to the blog! They are currently on their Sinful Seduction Blog Tour promoting their new releases, Ripe for Seduction (The League of Second Sons #3) & Two Sinful Secrets (The Scandalous St. Claires #2).

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your road to becoming an author.

Isobel: I come from the snooty white tower of academia. I got my MFA in poetry (and won a very prestigious national poetry award, the Intro Journals) before turning my hand to genre fiction. Writing romance is a LOT more fun!!!

Laurel: My road to becoming an author is probably a lot like other writers—I started as a big reader!! And I started young too. My grandmother was a voracious reader, and was always bringing home huge boxes of books from garage sales and used bookstores. When we visited her house in the summers, I would drag those boxes into a closet and hide in there reading. I found all kinds of things there—Barbara Cartlands and Georgette Heyers (my “starter” romances, that also got me hooked on history!), some Austen and Bronte, some random old-school Westerns, a few old Harlequins. I loved them all, and started making up my own stories when I ran out of reading materials and had to wait for the next garage sale run.

2. You write historical romance novels. What is it about history that draws you to write it?

Isobel: I like the challenge of crafting a historically feasible story that is still interesting, unique, and exciting.

Laurel: I’ve been a history nut ever since those long-ago novels! I also got hooked on a series I found in my elementary school library, about famous women in history as children (the childhood of Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, Abigail Adams, stuff like that). I was fascinated by a world so very different from my own, where people dressed and spoke and ate so differently from me and yet were also so similar. I love being immersed in those worlds.

3. How much time do you spend doing research for each book/series?

Isobel: I’m never not doing research, so that’s a hard question to answer. I’m constantly buying new books and expanding my knowledge about the period. I rarely need to do intensive research for my books though, as I’ve been studying the period for twenty something years now. Mostly I have to look up small, fiddly bits like who was the ambassador to France in X year or double check a word in the OED.

Laurel: It depends on the book! A straightforward Regency story, which doesn’t involve plot points of politics or real historical events, doesn’t take a great deal of time, while a story set in a time period I don’t know as much about can take longer. I’m always reading history books and biographies, even when I’m not actively researching a certain story, so the atmosphere is always there in my mind. I loved The Scandalous St. Claires book since I got to dive into the Victorian period for the first time!

4. If you have time to read what are some of your favorite books?

Isobel: I read everything. Right now my favorite authors are Miranda Neville, Carolyn Jewel (both her historicals and her paranaomals), Seanan McGuire, Ilona Andrews, C.S. Harris, Tracy/Teresa Grant, Julia James, Victoria Dahl, P.G. Hodgell, and Alison Sinclair.

Laurel: I will read anything and everything that catches my attention! Romance and mysteries, literary fiction (I just finished “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” and have been running around raving about it to everyone!), history and biography, fashion magazines. I like to re-read Austen, the Brontes, and George Elliott when I have the time. Right now I’m re-reading “Anna Karenina” before I go see the new movie version.

When I was helping to run the Desert Island Keeper blog we had some “About Me” random questions we asked. I’m going to borrow a few today.

5. If you could be in any book/series/world which would you pick and why?

Isobel: Pern. I want a dragon!!!

Laurel: This might sound weird, but when I was a very little girl I loved the “Eloise” books! I’ve always thought it would be wonderful to live at the Plaza hotel and run wild there. But if I have to be grown-up about it, I wouldn’t mind living at Austen’s Pemberley, or maybe be an intellectual aristocrat in mid-18th century France.

6. What fictional hero would you like to be your significant other?

Isobel: That is so hard. At the moment though, Sebastian St. Cyr would win out (though I might elope on him with Curran or Damerel or F’lar).

Laurel: I’ve loved Mr. Rochester ever since I read “Jane Eyre” when I was about 10! (I stayed up all night reading it, and was shocked—shocked–by the wife in the attic!) He’s so complex and broody, and so in love with Jane, though in real-life I might not be quite as understanding as she was. It was fun to bring something of their Victorian world into the St. Claires stories.

7. Best love song?

Isobel: When it comes to music, I like the broken hearted stuff more, Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know, everything by Adele and Depeche Mode.

Laurel: I really love “La Vie En Rose”! But maybe that comes from my love of all things Parisian.

8. Favorite sex song? (I have to ask as this is the Sinful Seduction blog tour!)

Isobel: Anything by Barry White (I’m a traditionalist).

Laurel: Hmmm, that is a tough one. 🙂 I really like the Black Keys’ “Next Girl”…very sexy.

9. Favorite Heroine?

Isobel: Of mine? Beau. She gets what she wants by whatever means necessary and she’s a fighter.

Laurel: Jane Eyre! Or if you mean my own heroines, I really found myself liking Sophia Huntington from “Two Sinful Secrets” more and more as I wrote the book. She was a character who just sort of ran away from me and made her own personality…I just followed along.

10. What heroine is most like you?

Isobel: Probably Margo, the secondary heroine of RIPE FOR SEDUCTION.

Laurel: From my own heroines, I think Lady Caroline from “Lady of Seduction” is most like me—bookish and studious, having to be pushed out into the world! When I was younger I felt a lot like Marianne Dashwood, sort of romantic and idealistic and not very realistic in many ways.

11. What heroine would you like to be?

Isobel: Oh, Margo. Definitely Margo. Once you see Philip, his house, and his dogs you’ll understand why. *grin* I love her so much I even wrote their reconciliation scene, even though it’s not in the book. It’s up on my website though, so that anyone who feels like they missed out can go read it.

Laurel: I’d like to be Elizabeth Bennet (like so many other romance authors!)

12. How old is your inside voice?

Isobel: I think she’s perpetually somewhere between 27-33.

Laurel: About 17, I think. See Marianne Dashwood above 🙂

13. What do you like best about being a writer?

Isobel: There’s really something amazing about knowing that something you created from nothing provided joy and entertainment to people. It’s like being able to perform magic.

Laurel: A lot of writers say this, but it’s very true—working in my pajamas! I love just getting up, having a cup of tea, and diving right into a story without worrying about putting on my makeup. It’s nice being able to work with my pets taking naps around me and some classical music on the stereo. But I also like all the friendships I’ve made, both the imaginary ones with the characters inside my head and the real ones with other writers. It’s a wonderfully supportive field to be in. Plus I get to put my English lit degree to work, which my dad said would never happen! 🙂

Ladies, thank you so much for stopping by and letting us get to know you a bit better.

Giveaway:  I have print copies of both Ripe for Seduction and Two Sinful Secrets to give away to one lucky winner.  Leave a comment on this post, along with your email address, no later than 12/12/12 (hey, look at that!!) at 7:00pm to enter to win.

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Guest Review: Lady of Seduction by Laurel McKee

Posted June 13, 2011 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Tracy’s review of Lady of Seduction (Daughters of Erin #3) by Laurel McKee

It’s a mad, ill-advised journey that leads the usually sensible Lady Caroline Blacknall to the legendary isle of Muirin Inish, off the windswept coast of Ireland. Even so, she doesn’t expect to find herself shipwrecked and then rescued by a man she believed she would never see again. A man who, long ago, held her life in his hands . . . and with it, her heart.

Reformed rake Sir Grant Dunmore knew he could never forget the beautiful woman he once endangered nor will he ever forgive himself. But history seems doomed to repeat itself, for as long as Caroline stays on the island, she is trapped in a secret plot that could forever free Ireland-or turn deadly for all. And yet, now that she is in his arms again, how can he dream of ever letting her go?

Caroline had one experience with Sir Grant Dunsmore when he kidnapped her but she seemed to bond with him in some strange way. Since that time, 4 years, she’s not been able to get the man out of her head. Telling herself that she’s going to see him on his desolate island to see a book, when she’s really going to see him, she heads off to his island home. But when she gets there things are not as she thought they would be. There are rumors of ghosts in his castle and the townspeople are more than scared of their Lord.

Grant is not happy to see Caroline as he’s expecting “guests” soon and he didn’t want her there when they arrived. But deep down he’s thrilled that she’s there as Grant couldn’t stop thinking about Caroline while they were parted. Their eventual coming together is quite engrossing and a bit magical and they both find themselves falling hard for each other.

But Grant is involved in something that he can’t involve Caroline in and when danger comes knocking at his door he needs to get Caroline to safety.

Like book two I really liked the setting for this story. I think the desolation and isolation of Muirin Inish had just the right feel for these two very different characters to find what they were looking for in each other.

Unfortunately the story itself, besides the romance, fell a little short for me. Though there was quite a lot going on in the story at any given moment it just didn’t have a great pace to it and I felt my mind wandering while I read and that’s never a good thing. I know that the slower parts of the book were meant to have Grant and Caroline get to know each other better but they just weren’t enough at times.

In the end the story was pretty good and I do feel like I want to go back and read book 1, which I haven’t done yet and see how it all began. If you love a good romance with lots of Irish history involved then this one would be great for you.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Series:
Countess of Scandal (The Daughters of Erin)Duchess of Sin (Daughters of Erin)Lady of Seduction (Daughters of Erin)

You can read more from Tracy at Tracy’s Place

This book is available from Forever. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

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What I Read Last Week

Posted May 30, 2011 by Tracy in Features | 8 Comments

It’s sad when on a holiday I have to send my hubby and kids to the movies just so I can have a computer to work on. lol  Seriously – we have 2 computers and a laptop and between my oldest and her friend chats and youtube, my hubby’s war games and my youngest playing games on barbie.com and disneychannel.com I couldn’t get on at all today.  Oh well, at least they were having fun, right?   Of course now I not only have a computer but a completely quiet house – woohoo! lol

It was a pretty peaceful week.  I only worked 4 days as I took Thursday off to attend my youngest’s family picnic that her school has each year.  It was a lot of fun for the kids and I got to chat with friends that I don’t often get to see.  After the picnic my oldest talked me into dying the underside of her hair black.  Not fun to do, but it looks pretty cool.  My youngest now says that I’m going to dye the underside of her hair purple when school ends.  I just keep laughing at her but she keeps insisting.  Funny girl.

Diet and exercise.  I know those words should mean something but this past week they didn’t to me…at all.  I only exercised once and it was pretty half-assed if do say so myself.  Then food wise – ug.  From Wednesday to Sunday I ate like I was condemned and it was my last meal….for every meal.  If it was in my pantry and not super-glued to the shelf I was eating it.  I actually gained 1.2 pounds this week so now I’ll have to lose that weight again and keep on going.  I started being good again today so I’ll keep on keeping on.

It was a good reading week overall – here’s how it went:

I started off with Primal Passions by Stephani Hecht.  I had read about the Lost Shifter series on Chris’s blog but hadn’t gotten any of the books.  I was lucky enough to meet Stephani at RT and she talked me into it (not too difficult as I loves me some shifters).  20 years prior the Ravens had attacked the cat shifter families and killed everyone – or so the surviving family members thought.  They later found out that the Hawks (who were supposed to be helping the Ravens but really weren’t) had taken tons of children, erased their memories and then placed them in human foster care.  Now the alpha cat is looking for 4 of his missing siblings along with many, many other shifters.  The first book in the series tells us the story of Logan who is looking for one of the alpha’s siblings, Jacyn. Jacyn has no clue as to what he is and when he’s attacked by the Ravens he doesn’t have any idea why.  Logan is out to save him and take him to his family but in the meantime they fall in love.  This was a good start to the series and I very much enjoyed it.  4 out of 5

Next was the second book in the series by Stephanie Hecht called A Feral Christmas.  Brent, one of the alpha’s brothers (one who wasn’t lost) goes after the alpha of the Hawk’s in order to find out if they can get the information about where the lost shifters are.  But the alpha, Daniel, has been on the run from the Raven’s and doesn’t have the information the cats seek.  But he knows where to get it.  As Daniel and Brent run from the Ravens to the HQ of the cats the two fall in love.  I liked this story as well but it was very similar to book 1 with one of the characters going to retrieve another and on the road trip back to HQ they fall in love.  3.5 out of 5

The third book in the series by Stephani Hecht was Savage Awakenings.  This was Rat’s story (whose real name is Carson) who gets a distress call from lost shifter Keegan and goes to help.  Keegan is great for Rat’s self-confidence and Rat/Carson finds the one man he can be with forever.  Again, very similar to the first two stories in theme (Chris assures me this changes in subsequent books) with the finding/road trip/fall in love, but still good.  3.5 out of 5

Next I tried to read The Homecoming by JoAnn Ross.  I read about half of the book and just couldn’t read any longer.  The story was about a SEAL who has gone back to his hometown in Oregon and wants to get together with the woman he always had a crush on in high school but she was one of his friends’ girlfriend and later, wife. The story wasn’t really keeping my attention in the fact that some of the conversations just seemed so irrelevant to the story and I just wanted things to move on.  It definitely felt more like a women’s fiction novel than a romance.  I think I’m in the minority with disliking this one but it just didn’t work for me. DNF

Lady of Seduction by Laurel McKee is book 3 in the Daughters of Erin series. I read book two and really enjoyed the writing, the romance and the setting of the book.  In this book Caroline goes looking for Grant Dunsmore on a pretty desolate island in Ireland.  Grant had kidnapped Caroline four years prior but she never thought of him as truly bad and after her husband died she couldn’t get him out of her thoughts.  But as much as she wants Grant and he wants her there are more sinister plans that Grant has – are they truly bad…or not?
This was a good story and I liked the romance although there were times where it wasn’t completely keeping my attention as the story dragged in a few places. 3.5 out of 5

Kiss a Falling Star by Barbara Elsborg is the story of Ally who leaves London after a series of accidents – one being pushed in front of the train – and she thinks to hide at her brothers country estate from whoever is trying to kill her (and no one believes her).  There she meets Caspar who is an ex-con who once worked for the Foreign Office.  Caspar is pretty much shunned from the community but Ally sees something under all the belligerence that Caspar spews and becomes his champion – as well as his lover.  I loved seeing Ally stand up for Caspar and see all the good in him – despite what all the villagers were telling her about him.  She didn’t judge him based on talk but was willing to get to know him and make her own decisions and that’s always nice to see in a heroine. lol  There was a lot going on in the book but it worked pretty well overall and the romance and sex scenes were great. Elsborg always has great humor in her books and some of the lines that Ally had – as well as some of Caspar’s – had me laughing out loud. 4 out of 5

My Tracy’s TBR Challenge read for the week was Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews.  I’ve had this one for forever and tried to start reading it a year or so ago and I just couldn’t get into it.  I love the Edge series by Andrews though so I thought I’d give it another shot. With Kate being a kick-ass heroine but not being completely stoic and invulnerable the story ended up really working for me.  I know from reading reviews about subsequent books that Kate and Curran start a relationship so the romantic in me is looking forward to reading the next books. 4 out of 5

Last for the week was Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey which is the 3rd book in the Kowalski series and it was a good one!  This is about Sean Kowalski who has just returned from Afghanistan and has been discharged from the army.  His first day back he meets a woman who says that he is her “fake” fiance and she would like him to pose as such while her grandmother is town – for a month.  This includes living with her and acting the part.  Needless to say he send the hot yet batshit crazy woman on her way.  But Sean ends up taking the role as well as changing his life forever.  I’ll be posting my review of this one later this week – keep your eye out.

My Book Binge reviews that posted last week:
Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

Happy Reading!

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Guest Review: Duchess of Sin by Laurel McKee

Posted November 30, 2010 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 0 Comments

Tracy’s review of Duchess of Sin (Daughters of Erin #2) by Laurel McKee.

Blonde and beautiful Lady Anna Blacknall is in the mood for mischief. Entering Dublin’s most notorious den of vice, she finds herself in the arms of a mysterious, emerald-eyed Irishman. And although he is masked, his tender kiss is hauntingly familiar.

Conlan McTeer, Duke of Adair, has come to Dublin to fight for a free Ireland. But he’s suddenly reunited with the young Englishwoman who had once claimed his heart, and his passion turns from politics to pleasure. When their sizzling encounter brings danger to Anna’s door, she must decide where her loyalties lie-and quickly. For someone will do whatever it takes to destroy Conlan . . . and anyone he dares to love.

Anna is the daughter of an Earl. She’s been trained in deportment, dancing, music and of course will be the perfect hostess when she becomes a wife and has a house of her own. But Anna is decidedly unhappy. Not that she doesn’t appreciate what she has in life, but she’s tired of the hollow feeling that’s inside her with no idea how to fill it. Everyone around her thinks that she’s this vapid woman when really she hides quite an intelligent person under the whole façade.

When she sneaks out of her house and goes to a private club with a friend she meets the one man who has ever made her feel. He is the Duke of Adair but he is not just a pretty face. Conlan McTeer is a fighter. He fights for himself, for the tenants on his land and he fights for Ireland. He has to do this all under cover but he works quite hard, and stealthily, against the union debate of 1799. Anna had met Conlan two years prior, in a stable, during the uprising in 1798 and she had never forgotten him.

After the initial meeting at the club the pair can’t stay away from each other. She sought him out and he loved it. The two felt so comfortable together but there was always tension due to politics lurking in the background. But Anna was expected to marry an English Lord and the one that was looking to marry her was none other that Conlan’s cousin Grant, and there was no love lost between the two men. Anna must make a decision for her future, but will she choose duty or love?

I have to say that I very much enjoyed the relationship between Conlan and Anna. Though their meetings were mostly on the down low they managed to really spend quality time together. They would talk and yes, have sex, but it was so sweet and romantic that never once did I think that they shouldn’t be together. It was more a case of “I know I shouldn’t be here but I just love being with you so much that I just can’t help myself” and I loved that!

Now I have to admit that I was not familiar with the whole Irish plight back in the 1700’s so that did throw me off a bit at first, but the story was told in such a way that you really didn’t need to know all of the history to enjoy the book.

I only had a couple of niggles with the book:
* I never found out how old Conlan was. Anna’s 18 and he didn’t’ seem that old, but really, how can you tell in books unless they give you a telltale sign? IDK
* The initial meeting between Conlan and Anna was mentioned more than a few times but we never found out exactly what happened back then. I still have no idea what went on in the stable two years prior to this book. I would have liked to have gotten a bit more information about that initial meeting but I guess I’ll have to read book 1 and jut find out for myself.

During the book there was also a small side love story between Anna’s mother, Katherine, and the drawing teacher, Nicolas, that had been hired for Anna’s sister. It was not played up too much but it was very sweet.

Overall I really liked this book. I will definitely be reading the next book in this series when it releases.

Rating: 4 out of 5

This book is available from Grand Central Publishing. You can buy it here.

You can read more from Tracy at Tracy’s Place.

The series:

Book CoverBook Cover

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