Tag: Harlequin Spice

Guest Review: The Lovers by Eden Bradley

Posted December 3, 2011 by Ames in Reviews | 0 Comments

Ames’ review of The Lovers by Eden Bradley.

It seemed ideal —two months at a charming writers’ retreat, surrounded by kindred souls. But Bettina Boothe wasn’t prepared for just how long eight weeks truly was. Or that in the process, she would have to open up and reveal the most secret places in her body and soul.

Fortunately, her fellow authors do not share Bettina’s self-consciousness and begin to draw her out of her self-imposed shell. One in particular—Audrey LeClaire—seems to ooze confidence and self-assuredness. Dark and petite, Audrey’s potent sensuality draws the men and women in the workshop to her like flies to honey. Bettina is just as vulnerable, finding herself overwhelmed by a very unexpected attraction to Audrey who makes Bettina her special project.

But when Jack Curran arrives at the retreat, everything changes. Jack is tall, beautiful, masculine. A writer of dark thrillers, he is as mysterious and alluring as his books. He and Audrey are obviously an item, but they eagerly welcome Bettina into their bed. Suddenly Bettina finds herself swept up in a maelstrom of lust, obsession and jealousy, torn between her need for two very different people in a love triangle where she will either be cherished…or consumed.

I was intrigued by this book just due to the fact that it was a menage a trois featuring two women and one man, whereas the majority I’ve read in the past feature two men and one woman.

Bettina Boothe is a solitary sort of person. She’s extremely shy and her therapist has advised her to get out into the world more. Bettina decides that this writers’ retreat would be just the thing, because she knows all the fellow authors via an online group which she has been a part of for the last few years. The retreat is hosted at one of the writer’s beach front property.

From the get go, Bettina is strangely drawn to Audrey. Audrey just oozes sexuality and for someone as bottled up as Tina, she is oddly compelled by the other woman. Tina doesn’t believe that Audrey is actually attracted to her but doesn’t turn her away when Audrey does make a move. Everything about being with a woman appeals to Tina and she can’t help but fall for her.

Then a week things, another author joins their group and right away Tina knows that Audrey has a thing with him. Tina is jealous when Audrey drops her like yesterday’s news but is further conflicted when she realizes that she’s attracted to Jack as well.

A week after Jack’s arrival, Tina goes to her cabin to find both Audrey and Jack in her bed. Tina joins them, acting first, knowing the questions and repercussions will come later. She’s going to live! But things aren’t as awkward as Tina thinks they’d be because the very next day, Audrey has found a new conquest, leaving the field wide open for Tina and Jack to play.

Jack is upfront and candid about the fact that he is not a relationship guy. Tina is equally not looking for anything serious, simply because she’s wanting to experience new things. And she’s never been in love. But there’s always a first time for everything!

The Lovers is told from Bettina’s point of view so I did feel like there was a lot of navel gazing, which is to be expected with Bettina’s personality and her new experiences. Despite the fact that she is more attracted to Jack than Audrey, Tina still feels the burn a second time when Audrey ditches her and Jack for her new lover. She is still attracted to Audrey and the feelings are still there. Jack is equally torn, having gone through this three summers in a row with Audrey. That’s just her way, like a butterfly, landing, flitting from one love to the next. But when her full focus is on you alone, she takes up your entire universe. She’s larger than life and catches everyone up in her energy. So when she takes it away…you miss it. And despite being with Jack, Tina still misses Audrey.

Then there’s the development of Jack and Tina’s relationship. Tina tends to question everything and she’s trying to just go with Jack’s flow. But she does get caught up in beginning to question certain things he says. And yes, a lot of the things he says can lead a girl to think that he might stick around. And Tina in the past only ever slept with people she cared about, so she’s starting to wonder if she can really be this casual, to have a summer fling.

I enjoyed the Lovers. There were some steamy love scenes and I like the other writers as well. There’s more to the story than just Tina and Jack in bed. It was more about Tina’s journey and self-discovery. She also learns to stand up for herself, which had me cheering by the end. 3.75 out of 5.

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

You can read more from ~ames~ at Thrifty Reader.

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Guest Review: The Harlot by Saskia Walker

Posted May 24, 2011 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 1 Comment

Judith’s review of The Harlot by Saskia Walker.

It is a Dark Era, one when a lusty lass will do what she must to survive. Even if it means bartering flesh for a palmful of coins…

Forced to watch her mother burned at the stake and separated from her siblings in the aftermath, Jessie Taskill is similarly gifted, ripe with a powerful magic that must stay hidden. Until one night when she’s accused by a rival, and Jessie finds herself behind prison walls with a roguish priest unlike any man of the cloth she has known.

In reality, Gregor Ramsay is as far from holy as the devil himself, but his promise of freedom in return for her services may be her salvation. Locked into a dubious agreement, Jessie resents his plan to have her seduce and ruin his lifelong enemy. But toying with Gregor’s lust for her is enjoyable, and she agrees to be his pawn while secretly intending to use him just as he is using her.

Set in a very turbulent time in Scotland’s political history, this romance is an unlikely encounter with a woman known as The Harlot of Dundee and a man bent on revenge stemming from an old anger over the destruction of his family’s heritage and the subsequent suicide of his father. The prostitute in question was a charismatic individual who was in great demand and who was saving every penny she earned in order to return to the Highlands, her home territory, in order to find her twin sister and her brother, both of whom had been taken in to a kind of foster care when their mother was hanged for being a witch. Now Jessie is being accused of the same crime and has been thrown into jail awaiting a trial before the local magistrate. Gregor sees in her the kind of enthusiasm and intelligence he needs to complete his plan to thwart the ambitions and plans of his enemy, the man who stole his family’s land for no other reason than he could.

Gregor now embarks on a program of “training” to make sure that Jessie can appear to be a “good girl” from the local village and who will seduce her master–the man Gregor hates and would ruin. Over the course of a couple of weeks, Gregor not only takes advantage of Jessie’s availability as a bed partner but also begins to see below the surface and realizes that this is a woman of deep emotion and is totally committed to finding her family and returning to her home territory where she can establish herself as an ordinary citizen. He does not realize yet that she has “The Gift” which she seldom uses but which, because of their growing emotional involvement, is becoming more powerful in her. By the time Gregor puts his plan into action and Jessie manages to get hired as a serving wench, he is quite attached to her but still believes that it is best that she fulfill her contract with him and then go North.

This novel is, at its core, a deeply emotional tale and the story is driven by Gregor’s obsession to retaliate for his father’s suicide and to once again restore the land taken from his family, not even planning to live there, but to know that he has restored what was once lost. He has the where-withal to do so as he is now a prosperous ship owner and knows that his enemy is having to sell land to pay his son’s gambling debts. Yet he cannot seem to find a way to really keep his eye on his vengence–wavering from time to time as his involvement with Jessie becomes increasingly important.

This story is about the lessons all must learn about the futility of vengence, the emptiness that persists even when one successfully reaches that goal fully, and how the greater gain is knowing the security emotionally that one can love and be loved. Gregor is compelling in his intensity while Jessie’s engaging and whimsical personality comes through in the telling. She is aware that Gregor is opening to her, yet when she seems to get too close to the sensitive memories that drive him, he pulls away reminding her she is just a whore. One can almost feel her hurt as a human being, even though she has become emotionally tough when that term is hurled at her. Yet as her attachment to Gregor grows, her vulnerability also grows in direct proportion.

Ms Walker’s writing skill is so evident as this story unfolds. She woos the reader into the inner thoughts and feelings of the character without overwhelming with inner dialogue or introspection that goes on for pages and pages. The supporting characters are vivid and well-crafted, and it all comes together in such a way that it just works. The fear and suspicion that is attached to the term “witch” is palpable and while to 21st century readers this may be so foreign, living as we are in the scientifically enlightened age, yet Jessie knew that deep, gut curdling fear for her life and which caused her to fear that Gregor would turn from her in disgust.

This novel is one more delightful addition to Ms Walker’s literary portfolio and is one of those books that entertains as it educates. A reader cannot help but be better aware of the culture of those bygone days, yet the timelessness of the power of love to overcome the greatest of prejudices stands tall. I liked this novel a lot and wholeheartedly recommend it for the lovers of historical romance fiction.

I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5.

You can read more from Judith at Dr. J’s Book Place.

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

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Publisher Spotlight Excerpt:The Master and the Muses by Amanda McIntyre

Posted May 29, 2010 by Holly in Features, Promotions | 0 Comments

The Master & the MusesRead an excerpt of The Master and the Muses by Amanda McIntyre, available on June 1st by Harlequin Spice.


Leicester Square, 1860

There he was, the same man again, watching me as I walked to work. His formal frock coat he wore over an ill-fitting shirt, tucked into rumpled trousers, giving the appearance that he’d just been roused from bed. I assumed he was local by manner of his dress, perhaps not of great wealth, but respectable, except for his deplorable habit of staring. Perched on his head, he wore a too-small brown derby that looked as if it had seen better days. These things I noticed since I’ve been a milliner’s apprentice in one of London’s premier hat shops from a young age. It was my job to be acquainted with the most current chapeau styles.

I must admit, I was not at all accustomed to being the subject of a man’s interest. It intrigued me, but I chose to ignore my admirer, as any respectable lady would do. He was a persistent fellow, however, and for three days, I passed him standing on the opposite side of the street, daring only to glance at him as I arrived for work at Tozier’s hat shop. My overactive imagination, a fault of which I’m reminded often by my mother, soon had me pondering whether he was planning something sinister against my employer.

On the third day just before the noon hour, he entered the shop. I was preparing a hat for display, pretending not to notice the strange thudding in my heart. He hung near the front door for a time, perusing the lady’s handkerchiefs and lace gloves, ever so slowly inching his way over to where I stood. Perhaps I had misjudged him and he was simply debating what to buy for his spouse or mistress. Mrs. Tozier kept a private list of the men who often needed a “little something” for the special woman in their lives–most often not their wife. Discreet and professional, Mrs. Tozier would take their money, wrap their gift and offer them her smile.

“Pardon, mademoiselle,” the mysterious man said in a smooth, baritone voice.

I looked up and met his startling blue-green eyes, clear as the sky and sparked by a mischievous curiosity that sent a shiver through me. His hair was a light brown, slicked behind his ears and dipping just to his collar. The firm line of his jaw, which looked as if it could use a barber’s razor, was accentuated by a wicked dimple when he smiled. Perhaps I was mistaken and he was a foreigner? It might explain his hesitancy to approach me if he was unable to speak any English.

“Are you French, sir?” I enunciated my words clearly. He had an aristocratic air about him, a rather regal, pleasant face and, at closer look, he was quite handsome. Had he been dressed more appropriately, he might have passed as a baron or a duke.

“No, I am not French, mademoiselle.”

Although I was relieved that I would not need to draw on my minimal skills in the French language, his admission raised a new bevy of questions. “Nor am I, sir. Why then, do you pretend to be something you are not?”

He took off his silly brown derby, and, with a sheepish grin, smoothed his palm over his locks in a vain effort to bring them under control. “My apologies for assuming you might speak French, working at a French hat shop.”

“What brings you to our shop, Mr.–?” I waited for his name.

“Rodin. William Rodin. Perhaps you’ve heard the name?”

I studied him evenly and gave no reply.

He waved his hat. “Well, I am confident that one day you will.” His smile would have charmed a snake. “Are you familiar with the world of art, by chance? It is possible you may have heard of my brother, the famous artist, Thomas Rodin.” He fingered his derby as he spoke. I noted by the appearance of its tattered edge that if he, too, was in the business of art, it was not doing very well these days–at least not for him.

“No, Mr. Rodin. I am afraid I have not heard of either you or your brother. My time is quite full with my duties here in the shop.” I turned the hat stand this way and that, as if studying the display. The truth was, I had but a few times actually engaged in conversation with a male since Mrs. Tozier allowed me to work out front. Certainly not one who seemed interested in my thoughts.

He brought his hand to the collar of his coat, taking on a dignified stance as he tossed me a wide smile.

“Then, dear woman, our meeting is your good fortune, for now you will be able to say, ‘I knew Thomas Rodin personally while he was in the prime of his artistic greatness.'”

I dipped my head to hide my smile. I did not wish to offend his pride.

“Are you interested in a hat, Mr. Rodin?”

He placed his bowler on the counter and leaned close. I glanced around the shop and prayed that Mrs. Tozier would not appear. She was a robust woman, with a thick French accent. Not one to tangle with, her grandfather had immigrated to London to open this milliner’s shop. I could not afford to lose my job over some strange man and his absurd interest in telling me about his famous brother. I held up my hand politely. “Mr. Rodin, my apologies, but I do have work to do. If you are not looking to buy a hat, then I must excuse myself and return to my duties.” I turned to leave, and he reached for my arm.

“Let me get right to the point.”

“Just as soon as you remove your hand from my arm, sir,” I said. However, I could not deny the pleasant warmth of his palm.

His mouth lifted at the corner, as if he knew his touch jarred me. Slowly, he removed his hand.

“I have come to offer you a proposition.”

“Excuse me, sir? Perhaps you’ve forgotten just where you are. If you are here to seek companionship for the evening, the Ten Bells Pub is down the street. I’m sure you’ll find what you seek there.”

He looked at me in surprise. “No–I mean, of course not. I’ve come to offer you honest employment. You have the potential to become quite famous.”

He liked to use that word with great frequency. “Famous, you say? As you are famous, Mr. Rodin?”

His eyes narrowed, studying me before he resumed his amiable expression. “My fame is in knowing the genius of the brotherhood. I am a designer, not an artist in the true sense of the word. However, presently being between projects, I have offered my services to my brother.”

“That is quite thoughtful of you, Mr. Rodin. Now if you’ll excuse me.”

“Wait, I beg you to listen. The artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood are looking for new models to pose for them. They have a very specific type of woman in mind and you fit the criteria brilliantly.”

“Criteria, for your ‘brotherhood’? Really?” I did not hide my skepticism.

“Indeed. You are what we would call a ‘stunner.'”

The word made me sound like the type of woman one would pick up at the Cremorne on a Saturday evening. His eyes raked over me, unashamed.

I pulled a display between us and I busied myself with adjusting the feather on the band of the hat. He continued to stare. No man had ever seen me as a model before.

“Your hands are quite lovely,” he said, leaning against the counter.

“Please, you’ll smudge the finish. If Mrs. Tozier–“

At that moment, I heard a heavy clomp-clomp coming across the wood floor from the back room.

“There, now you’ve done it. If I lose my position–“

“I’ve just offered you another.” He straightened and offered a pleasant smile.

“Miz Bridgeton, eez there a problem? Are you able to assist the geentleman?”

Mrs. Tozier came to my side. She was two inches shorter than I was, but more than made up for her height with her stern demeanor.

I started to explain, but the tenacious Mr. Rodin interrupted me with a slight lift of his hand.

“Madame Tozier.” He bowed, taking her hand, placing there a quick kiss. “Je suis un artiste de design et de poésie,” he attempted in broken French.

Mrs. Tozier looked at him with a wary eye. She was quite capable of spotting a fake–whether a hat or an accent. She frowned at me, and then at the man. “You are a design artist and a poet. How nice. So, you’ve come to buy a hat, oui?” she stated plainly, tugging her hand from his.

I bowed my head, pretending to be engaged in repositioning the ribbon on the hat in front of me. Mrs. Tozier had little patience for wasting time. And if one had no interest in purchasing a hat then, to her way of thinking, they were wasting her time.

He paused, clearing his throat. “Madame, I would like to discuss the possibility of borrowing your fine clerk, Miss Bridgeton, to hire as an artist’s model.”

Mrs. Tozier’s hand flew to her mouth and her expression changed to blatant anger. “Geet out, geet out of my shop! You…you should be ashamed of coming in here and harassing a young girl, so sweet and innocent. Out,” she snapped, waving her arms, chasing him to the front door. “You will ruin her reputation! That is what you will do.”

I looked down and realized Mr. Rodin had left his hat. Carefully, I tucked it behind the counter. I watched as Mrs. Tozier slammed the door, causing the bell to clatter wildly. With a huff, she pulled down the lace shades that kept out the afternoon sun. She faced me and shook her finger as she stamped back to me.

“Do not speak to such men, Helen. They will only beguile you. Use you like tissue paper and toss you away with as much ease.”

I wondered how she knew of such men. “Merci, Mrs. Tozier. He has been watching me for several days.” Oddly, my heart beat with a fierce and dangerous thrill. In part from her tone, in part from remembering how Mr. Rodin had looked at me. “Do you think he will be back?”

“Non, he won’t if he knows what eez good for him,” she huffed, smoothing her hands down the front of her skirt as if ridding his scent from her hands.

I waited until she disappeared beyond the curtains to the back room before daring to hurry to the front window and peer out.

To my strange delight, he was there, leaning against the corner of the building across the street. He caught me looking at him and placed a finger to his brow in salute, stuffed his hands in his trouser pockets and strolled down the street.

Later that night at supper, I spoke to my family about the incident. My papa knew immediately with whom the young man was associated. His words echoed Mrs. Tozier’s.

“Bad seeds, the lot of them. They condemn the teachings of the scholars at the Royal Academy, claiming they teach rubbish. Then they carouse the streets, preying on young girls to lure into their studios, promising who knows what and, once there, the poor things cannot defend themselves.”

My sisters, fascinated by the conversation, turned their collective wide-eyed gaze to me, waiting for my response.

“But Papa.” I carefully chose my words. It had taken a great deal of effort to convince him to let me apprentice at Tozier’s, and I did not wish to jeopardize that small bit of freedom I had.

“Mr. Rodin did not appear to be a deceitful man.” I popped a dumpling in my mouth, slowly raising my eyes to meet my father’s.

“You heard me, Helen Marie. You are to stay away from that riffraff. No good will come of it, I tell you that. Concentrate on your duties and learn the trade. That is what making a real living is–it is not about slapping paint on a canvas and living hand to mouth.”

With one last effort to keep the conversation alive, I glanced at my mama, seated across the table from me. Her expressionless face spoke to me in greater volume than if she’d opened her mouth. The conversation was over. It was not to be brought up again.

I was old enough to make my own decisions but, due to my meager wages, was forced to live with my family because I had no husband. My papa and mama were of the belief that a man was the breadwinner and the woman the keeper of the hearth and home. They did not understand that if I met the right man, I would gladly work hard beside him, just as Madame Tozier worked with her husband at the shop. But according to my parents’ wishes, until some wealthy gent swept into the shop and asked for my hand in marriage, I was destined to become a spinster with a very good knowledge of making hats. Was this my only opportunity to start a life of my own? Was it a chance to get my poetry in front of another creative soul?

As I helped to clear away the supper dishes, my mother placed her hand on my cheek.

“You are a beautiful girl. You will find a good man, like your father. A man who is not afraid of hard work.” She patted my cheek as if that would magically make all my cares disappear.

Later, in the sanctuary of my room, I placed Mr. Rodin’s hat inside a round hatbox that I’d found stacked near the refuse bins outside the shop. I tied it with a brown ribbon and tucked it beneath my bed, hoping that I would be able to give it to him on my way to work tomorrow.

For a long time I stared at the pale moonlight on my ceiling, remembering the look in his eyes as he studied me. I imagined reaching out to touch his unshaven cheek, feeling his warm breath on my face as he drew near. Strange sensations made my body tingle. For the first time in my life, I saw myself as a grown woman instead of a child.

It was odd to see my shadow as I walked along the cobbled lane to work. Between the constant downpours and the stench from the river that hovered over the city like a hazy specter, the sun was a strange sight. Its warmth lifted my spirits, but the idea of seeing Mr. Rodin had improved my mood long before I set foot outdoors.

I turned the corner, scanning the block before me, disappointed when I saw only the familiar store managers putting out their wares.

“A fine day to you, miss.”

I took a step back, taken by surprise at Mr. Rodin’s sudden emergence from a closed storefront. “Are you always this forward when in pursuit of potential models, Mr. Rodin?” I squared my shoulders, making sure he thought I did not appreciate him accosting me in this manner. In truth, however, butterflies had taken flight inside me.

This book is available from Harlequin. You can buy it here.

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