Tag: St. Martin’s Press

Throwback Thursday Review: Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas

Posted June 3, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 8 Comments

Throwback Thursday Review: Love in the Afternoon by Lisa KleypasReviewer: Holly
Love In The Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas
Series: The Hathaways #5
Also in this series: Tempt Me at Twilight, Married By Morning
Publisher: Macmillan
Publication Date: June 29th 2010
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 352
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four-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

As a lover of animals and nature, Beatrix Hathaway has always been more comfortable outdoors than in the ballroom. Even though she participated in the London season in the past, the classic beauty and free-spirited Beatrix has never been swept away or seriously courted...and she has resigned herself to the fate of never finding love. Has the time come for the most unconventional of the Hathaway sisters to settle for an ordinary man—just to avoid spinsterhood?

Captain Christopher Phelan is a handsome, daring soldier who plans to marry Beatrix's friend, the vivacious flirt Prudence Mercer, when he returns from fighting abroad. But, as he explains in his letters to Pru, life on the battlefield has darkened his soul—and it's becoming clear that Christopher won't come back as the same man. When Beatrix learns of Pru's disappointment, she decides to help by concocting Pru's letters to Christopher for her.

Soon the correspondence between Beatrix and Christopher develops into something fulfilling and deep...and when Christopher comes home, he's determined to claim the woman he loves. What began as Beatrix's innocent deception has resulted in the agony of unfulfilled love—and a passion that can't be denied...

I’ve been really into re-reading Lisa Kleypas recently. I enjoyed this book just as much this time around. Beatrix is so wonderful.

This review was originally published on July 20, 2010.

I have to be honest and say I wasn’t really looking forward to this book until the very end of the last book. Up until that point, Beatrix still seemed very young to me. Even after the last book I still had reservations about her as a heroine.

I should have had more faith in Kleypas. Both Beatrix and Christopher were delightful. I loved the premise behind their romance. The letters they exchanged really set up the romance beautifully. It was easy to see how they’d fallen in love with each other as Christoper was at war, and Beatrix waiting at home for him. Those first few chapters were so emotionally charged they pulled me in completely.

But Christopher doesn’t realize it’s Beatrix he loves. Because Beatrix has been writing her letters in the name of her friend, Prudence Mercer. Pru shared Christopher’s first letter with Bea and it was obvious to her that he needed someone to correspond with. The selfish and shallow Pru didn’t want to hear tales of war, and refused to respond to him. So Bea offered to do it instead, agreeing to signing Pru’s name to the letters.

When Christopher returns home he expects to find Miss Prudence Mercer waiting for him. He knows she loves him, just as he loves her. But Pru isn’t there waiting, and he realizes he needs time to decompress before going to her in London. That’s when he runs into Beatrix Hathaway. He’s always thought Beatrix was unconventional, and not in a good way. He’s surprised to see she’s grown into a beautiful woman, one he desires. Not that it matters, since it’s Prudence he loves. But still, he’s a man and he noticed. He also starts noticing other things about Beatrix – how comfortable she is to be around, how understanding she is, and how much she challenges and frustrates him.

Once he reaches London it isn’t long before he realizes Prudence Mercer did not write the letters he received. She’s nothing like the woman he corresponded with. But who then? Certainly not..Beatrix Hathaway?

Christopher is a young, foolish, vain boy when he leaves for war. He’s what you would expect a spoiled, entitled man to be. But the things he sees in battle change him. He comes home with darkness in him, and a better understanding of himself and the word. It was really interesting seeing the way he matured. He also suffers from PTSD. I think Kleypas did a really excellent job of showing how that effects a soldier.

Beatrix was everything I expected from the earlier novels – loving and caring, helpful and more interested in animals than humans. She was also stronger and much more mature than I expected. I guess I always saw her as the youngest Hathaway, always into mischief and taking care of animals, so I didn’t think of her as a woman. She feels terrible guilt over writing letters to Christopher as Pru, but she just couldn’t not write to him. It was easy to see how something that started innocent got out of hand the longer it went on.

I loved that they admitted their feelings for each other early on. Neither of them play coy, or try to deny what’s between them. Christopher is worried that he’s too damaged for Beatrix. Not in a “I’m a martyr” kind of way, but he has very real concerns that, as a result of his PTSD, he might hurt her at some point. He’s against marrying her because he’s afraid of himself. But he doesn’t deny that he loves her, or try to pretend his feelings aren’t what they are, or try to push her away. I loved that.

I also loved how Beatrix stood beside him and pushed him to get better. She didn’t let him wallow in his misery, or fall into depression. She was just exactly what he needed.

Though this was a darker novel than some of the others in the series, it still had moments of great humor. There’s one scene in particular where I was literally laughing out loud. I won’t spoil it, but it has to do with squirrels. You’ll have to read it yourself to see what I mean.

It was lovely to see the Hathaway’s again, as always. The family is so quirky and strong. I adore them. Kleypas once again managed to include scenes with them without taking away from the main romance, which was great.

One last thing I have to mention: Beatrix’s animals. I loved all her pets. The goat scene was hilarious, and I loved the hedgehog. But it was Albert, Christopher’s terrier, who really stole the show. It was heartbreaking to see how much he was suffering, and delightful watching Beatrix work with him.

While I enjoyed Married by Morning more than many others, I’d have to say Love in the Afternoon was deeper and more emotionally compelling.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The Hathaways

four-half-stars


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Guest Review: Hit Me With Your Best Scot by Suzanne Enoch

Posted February 8, 2021 by Tracy in Reviews | 3 Comments

Guest Review: Hit Me With Your Best Scot by Suzanne EnochReviewer: Tracy
Hit Me With Your Best Scot by Suzanne Enoch
Series: Wild Wicked Highlanders #3
Also in this series: It's Getting Scot in Here
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication Date: February 9, 2021
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 352
Add It: Goodreads
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

The MacTaggert brothers have one task:Find English brides or lose their land!

Coll MacTaggert, Viscount Glendarril, is a big, brawny Highlander who doesn’t like being told what to do—not even by his exasperated English mother who is determined to see her eldest son wedded and bedded. However, when he comes to the rescue of an irresistibly beautiful woman, Coll discovers that he may have found his perfect match…

The challenge isn’t that Persephone Jones is famous, wealthy, independent, and smarter than anyone he knows. The problem is that she is not interested in marrying any man---especially not a hot-headed Scot—even if he is the only man who seems to understand who she really is even when she’s not sure herself. When Coll learns that Persephone is actually a lady-in-hiding and someone is willing to kill her for what she stands to inherit…Well, Coll has never been one to turn down a fight. When hearts are involved, nothing comes between a Highlander and his lady.

Coll McTaggert is trying to escape his mother’s matchmaking, once again, at the theatre.  He escapes backstage after greasing the doorman’s palm.  There he witnesses the amazing Persephone Jones.  The couple of times he’d been to the theatre he’s been running away from his mother so had never seen a production. Viewing it from the side stage gave him an interesting view of the woman he can’t take his eyes off.

Coll soon finds out that she’s “spoken for” but when he finds that she’s not as spoken for as the gentleman made it seem, Coll comes to the rescue.  He then devises a plan to protect her from her many admirers and keep his mother off of his back by telling her that he’s engaged to an actress. Oh, the horror!

What starts off as just a bit of a jest ends up turning to true protection when Coll and Persie find out that someone’s trying to kill her.  Not only do they have to find a killer but Coll has to figure out what his true feelings for Persie are the more time they spend together.

Ms. Enoch did not disappoint in this book.  I have to admit that throughout the series I wasn’t a huge fan of Colls.  I mean, I get why he’s so upset.  He’s being forced into marriage in order to save his people, which might be fine if it didn’t have to be an Englishwoman!  That’s the part that sticks in his craw.  Maybe if it was a Scottish woman he would be slightly less antagonistic, but probably not. Lol  Despite the fact that he wasn’t my favorite McTaggert, I liked this story a lot.

Persie and Coll were great together and their story was intriguing.  Their relationship and the mystery of who was trying to kill Persie kept me turning pages.  Top that with Coll’s mother’s reaction to Coll and an actress?  Fireworks. 😊

In the end I was quite happy with how the story turned out and I had a very enjoyable time reading it.

Rating 4 out of 5

Wild Wicked Highlanders

four-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: All Scot and Bothered by Kerrigan Byrne

Posted September 27, 2020 by Holly 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. 🙂

I haven’t read a lot of historical romance in the past few years, but Kerrigan Byrne is one of the few I’ve tried to keep up with. I haven’t read the first book in this series yet, but it’s close to the top of my TBR pile.

Sunday Spotlight: All Scot and Bothered by Kerrigan ByrneAll Scot and Bothered by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Devil You Know #2
Also in this series: How to Love a Duke in Ten Days
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 416
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-stars

They are a dangerous duke, a fierce lord, and an infamous earl—dark, bold, brave men who know exactly what they want. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees...

He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who's made his own way in the world through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London's most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he's ever met.

IN THIS GAME OF LOVE, THE RULES DO NOT APPLY

Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother's scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips...Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment.

Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women...and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?

Excerpt

From All Scot and Bothered by Kerrigan Byrne. Copyright © 2020 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.

Chapter 3

An unsettling awareness paralyzed Cecelia as she stared into the eyes of her enemy.

Awareness of the child hiding at her feet. Of the book containing possibly lethal secrets clutched in her innocent hands. Of the expectation and caution in Genny’s demeanor.
Of everyone’s gaze glued to her, waiting to see what she’d do next. What she’d say to the brutishly large and powerful man leaning over her desk.

His nostrils flared and a vein pulsed at his temple be- fore disappearing into his thick, luminous hair.

She could almost feel the heat of his breath, like that of a dragon. A dragon, she noted, who’d dined on something sweet for his last meal and washed it down with coffee rather than tea.
Strange that they should both prefer coffee in the morning. What else did they have in common, she and her adversary? Must they be adversaries at all? If she revealed herself, explained her situation, might he soften?

No. No, his expression was diamond-hard and uncompromising, as was his reputation. He was the Vicar of Vice, the sworn enemy of her aunt. And just because his brother was a good man didn’t mean he was.

As she well understood, so many men used piety to disguise their cruelty.

In that case, she decided, if this man insisted upon being her adversary, she’d have to kill him.

With kindness.

Drawing on every bit of her finishing school education, she did her level best to smother her panic with politeness. She pressed her hands flat on the desk and forced herself to remain still.
“You may call me Hortense Thistledown.” She plucked her mother’s name out of pure desperation, hating that it would become a blasphemy on this man’s tongue.

What would her name sound like in that graveled brogue of his? Cecelia.

As soon as the unwanted thought filtered into her mind, she shook her head to be rid of it.

“Might I invite you to sit down, my lord, whilst I peruse your documents?” She gestured to one of three dainty chairs facing her desk, belatedly concerned for their structural integrity against his impressive bulk. “Genny, would you please fetch His Worship and associates some tea and refreshments?”

Genny looked as though she’d asked her to consume the contents of a chamber pot.

A few of the constables brightened at the mention of food and tea, immediately deflating when Ramsay put up a staying hand. “Doona be absurd. This isna a social call, madam.” His eyes flickered around the room, his expression suggesting he would rather be surrounded by a Whitechapel cesspool than her aunt’s tasteful décor. “I’m inclined to touch as little in this place as possible. Who kens what depravities have occurred on which surfaces?”

“Oh come now, what sort of wickedness could possibly be conducted upon such dainty furniture?” She gestured to the Louis XIV settee and chairs, genuinely stunned when a few of the constables muffled a chuckle or two.

Heat spread to Sir Ramsay’s eyes as he glanced at the furniture in question and then back to her. Her question had angered him. She read something else in the heat, as well. A banked emotion beneath the anger, something leashed. Chained.

Dangerous.

“It is not in yer best interest to mock me, woman.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, sir,” she answered, bemused. “But I vow the only blasphemies this room is subject to are taxes and paperwork.” She summoned what she hoped was a charming smile, though her mind whirred with unknowns—she couldn’t have said for certain the surfaces hadn’t been sullied.

“And whilst this visit of yours might not be social,” she added, “we can still be civilized, can we not?”

His eyes narrowed. “Search everything.”

The constables made quick work of the room. They pulled books from shelves, turning them upside down to leaf through pages; took drawers from sideboards, looking beneath them; and upturned the furniture.

Ramsay stood with his arms locked behind him, completely still in the midst of the chaos, his eyes never leaving her. “Civilized,” he scoffed. “Nothing about ye belongs in a civilized society.”

“Upon that, we must disagree.” It was perhaps the most argumentative statement she’d ever made in her life, but the circumstances of the day had frayed her nerves to the snapping point. “As most of civilized society seems to spend their leisure time here.”

His glare was so full of enmity, Cecelia couldn’t bring herself to look at him any longer. How strange, that a man possessed of such a savage countenance could accuse her of being uncouth.
To cover her cowardice, she reached for the warrant, swallowed a lump of trepidation, and began to read.

“Hortense Thistledown,” he said, echoing her pseudonym, thus calling her attention before she’d gotten through the first line. “Ye are related to Henrietta, then? I was unaware she had family. Hid you away in France, did she?”

Smythe had been their family name. Thistledown must have been another of Henrietta’s facades, much like the wigs and masks and makeup.

Cecelia wasn’t ready to answer the question, and so she didn’t. She searched through the legal documents until reaching the appropriate charge.

According to the warrant, the police were searching her property for evidence in connection with the disappearance of a young girl named Katerina Milovic. A Russian immigrant who’d been taken from the streets of Lambeth just yesterday. She was the sixth in a string of missing maidens. All aged about thirteen.

“How did ye come to be in charge after Henrietta’s death?” Ramsay demanded. “I’ve not seen ye on the premises before. I always assumed Miss Leveaux would take up the mantle of the Scarlet Lady once Henrietta—”

Cecelia held up one finger as she scanned the rest of the warrant, her eyes snagging on the distressing pertinent information.

From All Scot and Bothered by Kerrigan Byrne. Copyright © 2020 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.

Devil You Know

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: September 2020

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 Kerrigan Byrne

Kerrigan Byrne headshot

Kerrigan has done many things to pay the bills, from law enforcement to belly dance instructor. Now she’s finally able to have the career she’d decided upon at thirteen when she announced to her very skeptical family that she was going to “grow up to be a romance novelist.” Whether she’s writing about Celtic Druids, Victorian bad boys, or brash Irish FBI Agents, Kerrigan uses her borderline-obsessive passion for history, her extensive Celtic ancestry, and her love of Shakespeare in almost every story.

She lives in a little Victorian coast town on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State with her wonderful husband. When she’s not writing you can find her sailing, beach combing, kayaking, visiting wineries, breweries, and restaurants with friends, and hiking…okay…wandering aimlessly clenching bear spray in the mountains.


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Review: Smitten by the Brit by Melonie Johnson

Posted December 30, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Smitten by the Brit by Melonie JohnsonReviewer: Holly
Smitten by the Brit by Melonie Johnson
Series: Sometimes in Love #2
Also in this series: Getting Hot with the Scot
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 376
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
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three-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

DEFINITELY, MAYBE...OR LOVE, ACTUALLY?
English professor Bonnie Blythe expects her life to play out like her favorite novels, especially now that her long-term boyfriend has finally proposed. So when a shocking discovery leads Bonnie to end her engagement, she decides to close the book on love. But the plot thickens when a brand-new character enters the scene—and quickens Bonnie's heart.
With his brilliant blue eyes, sexy accent, and irresistible charm, Theo Wharton is like a romantic hero straight out of a Jane Austen novel. When fate places Bonnie in England for a summer—conveniently close to Theo—she realizes a hot friends-with-benefits fling is exactly what she needs to start a fresh chapter. Just as Bonnie begins to believe she's falling in love, an eye-opening revelation into Theo's life makes Bonnie feel like she's wandered into one of her favorite books. Will Bonnie have the courage to risk her heart and turn the page with the dashing Brit to find her true happy ending after all?

I didn’t love the first book in this series, but I was very interested in finding out more about Bonnie and Theo, whom we met in Getting Hot with the Scot. I really liked the chemistry between them, but overall I found the romance lacking. There wasn’t the emotional pull I expected after their scenes in the previous book and the early part of this novel.

They didn’t spend a lot of time together on page, and I think that’s why the romance didn’t pull me in. I enjoyed their personal journeys, but overall I was pretty underwhelmed. Johnson shows flashes of brilliance here, and I’m sure she’ll only improve as time goes on. In the meantime, I think I’ll hold of on continuing the series for now.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5

Sometimes in Love

three-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: Forever My Duke by Olivia Drake

Posted December 29, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 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: Forever My Duke by Olivia DrakeForever My Duke by Olivia Drake
Series: Unlikely Duchesses #2
Also in this series: The Duke I Once Knew
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: three-stars

“I find Miss Fanshawe to be quite charming—for an American.”—The Prince Regent
Hadrian Ames, the Duke of Clayton, needs a bride. He even has the perfect one picked out. That is, until he meets the lovely, free-spirited Natalie Fanshawe. She’s the opposite of what a man of his high rank should desire in a wife—an outspoken American who has never even set foot in a London ballroom.
But Natalie doesn’t have time to be swept off her feet by a handsome duke who must be a spoiled scoundrel like every other British lord. And she couldn’t care less about Hadrian’s title. After all, it’s not as if he actually worked to attain his wealth and status. He surely can’t understand what it’s like to be a busy woman, planning to open a school while trying to reunite a six-year-old orphan with his English relatives. Nevertheless, Hadrian launches his campaign to win her heart. Can the utterly delightful American beauty ever find a way to love him…despite his being a duke?

Excerpt

Excerpt from Forever My Duke by Olivia Drake

Reaching up, the boy tugged the tablecloth back down to conceal himself. Hadrian was tempted to haul him out by his ear and frog-march him out of the room. But it was too late, for the door was already opening. A woman stepped into the parlor.

His heart rocked in his chest. The world faded as he stared at the vision standing before him.

Pretty seemed too tame a word to describe her. Appearing to be in her mid-twenties, she had a frank gaze and an aura of distinction that set her apart from the ladies of his acquaintance. She was tall and willowy, her chin held high, as if to take pride in her height. In the glow of the firelight, several curls of dark sable hair had escaped her chignon to frame her face with its pert nose and rosy lips. Her skin had a healthy glow as if she’d spent a good deal of time outdoors without a parasol. The cinnamon-hued gown with its long sleeves and plain scoop neckline would be considered pitifully drab by London standards, yet it skimmed her feminine curves in a way that lent her a natural flair.

Hadrian tried to put his finger on precisely why she fascinated him. He had seen plenty of other lovely women over the years, but none of those others had affected him on quite such a visceral level. Perhaps it was her eyes. They were a deep, vibrant green that lit up like sunlight on emeralds when she smiled.

As she did now. “Pardon me for intruding, sir. I’m looking for a little boy.”

Her melodious voice held a faintly foreign flavor which he tried to place. Not Welsh or Irish or Scottish or even Cornish. It was as mysterious and appealing as the woman herself.

As she gazed inquiringly at him, Hadrian realized he was still sitting and gawking like a dolt. He shot to his feet. If that scruffy imp belonged to her, he could not imagine she was one of the upper ten thousand, yet he felt compelled to show her the respect afforded a lady.

He bowed. “Ma’am.”

She gave him a distracted look and then ventured closer, gazing around the small parlor. “Leo? I know you’re in here. I saw you go through this door when I was coming down the stairs.”
Hadrian held an inward debate. As much as he admired this splendid creature, he had a gentleman’s distaste for tattling. It was an unwritten rule that males did not betray one another’s secrets. Especially not to the female of the species.

Or did that honor exclude disobedient cubs like Leo? Fortunately the dilemma was resolved without any duplicity on his part. With a small cry, she sprang forward and lifted the edge of the tablecloth to peer underneath it.

“There you are, you naughty child!” she said on a trill of laughter. “That’s quite the clever hiding spot.”

“It wasn’t very clever since you found me,” Leo griped. “Well, come out of there at once,” she said, watching as he scrambled to his feet. “And next time, mind that your toes don’t stick out.

Now, pray make your apologies to the gentleman for disturbing his dinner.”

“Sorry, mister.”

“There’s no harm done,” Hadrian said, forgetting that he’d chastised the lad for that very thing only moments ago.

“Sometimes Leo doesn’t stop to think about his actions,” the woman said ruefully. “It is a trait we are working on modifying. In the meantime, I must thank you, sir, for being so understanding.”

Her mouth curved in that appealing smile, she leaned over the table and extended her hand to Hadrian.

Startled, he realized that she meant for him to shake it as a gentleman would do to his equal. Not even the grandest grande dame of society would commit such a faux pas with a man of his rank. A lady might offer the back of a gloved hand to be kissed, but only after having curtsied to him. Nevertheless, he found himself clasping her hand, keenly conscious of the warmth of her slim fingers.

“It was my pleasure,” he murmured.

The feel of her bare silken skin heightened the intensity of her effect on him. He felt as giddy as a school- boy meeting his first pretty girl. It made no sense, for he prided himself on being a man in firm control of his emotions and somewhat jaded by the allures of the fairer sex.

She must have sensed his reaction, for her gaze widened slightly and a rosy blush tinted her cheeks. Her expression held a frank curiosity about him, as if she, too, were puzzled by the unseen energy of attraction. As they stared at each other for timeless moments, Hadrian felt as if he were drowning in those gorgeous eyes. He had the strongest urge to reach out and unpin her hair, to see those sable tresses tumble around her shoulders and bosom.

It was only when she gave a tug that he realized he was still gripping her hand. He loosened his hold, and she stepped back, the sparkle of warmth on her features dimming to a mask of politeness. She lowered her gaze to the boy, who had wandered to the hearth and picked up a stick of kindling to poke at the fire.

“Put that away, Leo, and come along. Your bath is growing cold.”

He abandoned the stick, but dug in his heels. “Don’t want no bath.”

“Proper grammar, please. And the bath is necessary, for tomorrow you are to meet your grandfather.” She took hold of Leo’s hand and guided him away, pausing only to toss a quick, heart-stopping smile over her shoulder. “Good evening, sir. Do pardon us again for the intrusion.” A moment later, they disappeared out into the corridor and shut the door. The muffled grumble of Leo’s protests gradually died away.

It took a moment for Hadrian to feel like himself again. A trace of her alluring feminine scent lingered in the air. Now that she was gone, it seemed ludicrous that a stranger could affect his equilibrium to such a degree. Her poised manner did not fit the lower orders, so he had been wrong about the boy being the offspring of servants. Rather, she must be an overnight lodger here, another traveler stranded by the freezing rain. He hadn’t noticed a wedding ring, yet it seemed reasonable to assume that a husband awaited her upstairs.

Logic dispelled the remainder of Hadrian’s undue reaction. She was the very opposite of his preferences, for he liked women who were dainty and sophisticated. Her appeal perhaps could be explained away by the fact that he’d discharged his latest mistress a fortnight ago and had been on the lookout for another to catch his interest. But he strictly confined his liaisons to willing widows and discreet courtesans.

Not mothers with young children.

He resumed his seat at the table and took up his newspaper, though the printed words failed to hold his attention. Instead, he frowned into the dying flames of the fire while his mind continued to mull over the intriguing encounter. Despite the faint accent, she had a refined mode of speech, possessed a natural grace, and displayed a charming blush.

Yet the handshake was curious behavior, indeed. She was clearly a rustic who was unfamiliar with the protocol of curtsying to a gentleman. Even if she was unaware that he was the Duke of Clayton, she ought to have recognized him as a man of consequence. He wasn’t offended, only baffled as to what it might reveal about her background.

Devil take it. She would have to remain a mystery. Tomorrow, they’d each set forth to different destinations, never to cross paths again. He wouldn’t waste another thought on a fleeting encounter with a nameless beauty.

Especially not when he was on his way to acquire the perfect bride.

Unlikely Duchesses

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 2019

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 Olivia Drake

Shortly after graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism, Olivia Drake sold her first novel two weeks after sending it to a publisher. She now lives in Texas in a cozy cottage with a feisty cat, a loving husband, and two wonderful daughters who still come back whenever they want a home-cooked meal.

Many of you already know Olivia as Barbara Dawson Smith, author of 24 historical romance novels. She is a New York Times bestseller and winner of numerous honors, including the Golden Heart Award and the coveted Rita Award for excellence in the historical romance genre.


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