Copper Ridge, Oregon's favorite bachelor is about to meet his match
If the devil wore flannel, he'd look like Ace Thompson. He's gruff. Opinionated. Infernally hot. The last person that Sierra West wants to ask for a bartending job—not that she has a choice. Ever since discovering that her "perfect" family is built on a lie, Sierra has been determined to make it on her own. Resisting her new boss should be easy when they're always bickering. Until one night, the squabbling stops…and something far more dangerous takes over.
Ace has a personal policy against messing around with staff—or with spoiled rich girls. But there's a steel backbone beneath Sierra's silver-spoon upbringing. She's tougher than he thought, and so much more tempting. Enough to make him want to break all his rules, even if it means risking his heart…
I have really enjoyed the Copper Ridge series, getting to know the people, and reading about their journeys to love. I was excited about this story, because of Ace seemed like a fascinating character. But somehow, this story and I didn't connect at all.
Ace and Sierra don't like each other. The banter between them is constant, but it is missing the humor and lightness, and fun in it, instead it is mostly rather rude, often mean, and mostly pointed out to bring the other one down, as a person. I have very low tolerance for mean people, and Ace just kept walking over that line again and again. And the redemption to correct past behavior, it wasn't enough for me, after everything that had happened, and had been said.
Sierra was a rather spoiled. She runs away from home, because of the disappointment in her father, but only to her brother's house. And from there, to Ace's house. Struggling and determined to get on her own? Not really. There are incidents, that made me shake my head, and her wondering why people see her as a little girl, she should have stopped acting like one.
So, when at 30% you realize, you don't like either character, it's going to be a task to finish the book, but I did. I really wanted to see, if there's a point where the boat turns, and they grow genuine feelings of love and caring for each other. Well.
I have to say, the epilogue does give some hope for this couple and their future. But overall, this story didn't work for me, on the level of characters and predictability.
~ Two Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
How to Manage a Marquess
Spinster House #2
By: Sally MacKenzie
Releasing April 26, 2016
In USA Today bestselling author Sally MacKenzie’s charming Spinster House series, love is always a welcome guest…
Two possible futures loom before Miss Anne Davenport. The first option: sharing an unhappy home with her father and soon-to-be stepmother. The second: a life of independence at the Spinster House—if only her friend, Cat, would vacate the premises and marry the Duke of Hart. A well-placed whisper about the pair’s secret tryst might speed the course of true love. But the duke’s stubborn cousin poses an obstacle. A ridiculously handsome, very persuasive obstacle…
Nate, Marquess of Haywood, has spent his life looking out for the duke, hoping to stave off a family curse. The only way to keep his cousin alive is to keep him single. That means convincing the intriguing Miss Davenport that her lovely lips could be put to far better use than gossiping. Kissing, for instance. In fact, Nate is beginning to hope that Miss Davenport’s destiny lies not in the Spinster House at all, but with him …
Haywood Castle, 1797
Ten-year-old Nate stopped with his hand on the library door.
“I just got word from Wilkinson,” he heard his father, the Marquess of Haywood, say from inside the room. “The Spinster House spinster has died.”
Something—a book?—slammed into something else. “God’s blood! And now poor Marcus will have to choose the new spinster. Oh, how I hate Isabelle Dorring. I hope she’s burning in hell.”
Nate gasped. His mother never talked that way.
His parents must have heard him, because the door swung open.
“Nate! What are you doing lurking there?” Father asked.
“I-I left a book in the library, Father.” Nate swallowed. His cousin Marcus lived with them because Marcus’s father had died from Isabelle Dorring’s curse. “Is Marcus all right?”
Father smiled, putting a comforting hand on Nate’s shoulder. “Of course he is. He just has to go to Loves Bridge and choose a new tenant for the Spinster House, that’s all.”
Nate didn’t like that. His mother had told him many, many times how her father and Marcus’s father, how all the Dukes of Hart since the third duke, had died before their heirs were born, all because Isabelle Dorring had cursed their line. He was certain Isabelle was an evil old ghost, haunting the Spinster House.
“Can I come, too?” He was two weeks older than Marcus. He was used to watching out for his cousin.
Father’s smile widened. “That would be splendid, Nate. I’m sure Marcus will be happier with you there.” He looked at Mum and said, with false enthusiasm, “We can make an outing of it.”
Mum frowned and shook her head. “No. No, I wish I could go with you. You know I do. But I can’t bear that place.” She came over to hug Nate. “Keep Marcus safe for me, Natey.”
Mum always said that. And Nate answered the way he always did.
“Of course I will, Mum.”
Haywood Castle, 1808, eleven years later
Nate sat by his mother’s bed, heart heavy. His father had died the month before; he was afraid his mother was dying now. It was as if she’d lost all desire to live in a world that did not include her Philip. Still, he hadn’t thought she’d fade this quickly. She’d been fine—well, sad, but still alert—last night. This morning, however . . .
She was so pale and shrunken. She’d been in and out of consciousness ever since her maid had called him to her bedside an hour ago.
He frowned. Marcus would want to be here. He’d sent word to London, but it was unlikely his cousin would arrive in time. Mum’s breathing was so labored—
Her eyes flew open. “Gerald,” she croaked, mistaking him for her long-dead brother.
“It’s Nate, Mum.” He leaned close so she could see his face. “Do you want a sip of water?”
“Nate! She grabbed his hand, ignoring his offer. “Nate.” She swallowed. “Keep Marcus safe.”
He patted her fingers to calm her, swallowing his brief annoyance that she was using her last breaths to talk about his cousin rather than him. “I will, Mum. You know I will.”
“I couldn’t”—she struggled for air. “I couldn’t keep Gerald safe.”
She was too agitated. He needed to calm her, but how?
He hated feeling so helpless.
“It’s all right, Mum.”
She acted as if she hadn’t heard him. “If I hadn’t been so selfish . . . if I hadn’t married Philip . . .”
“But you loved Father.” He’d never doubted that. His friends’ parents might have taken lovers, but not his. Their dedication to each other had been as much a constant in his life as the sun rising.
Her head moved fretfully on the pillow. “Yes, but Philip could have married anyone. Gerald had only me.” Her hold tightened, her nails digging into his skin. “Keep Marcus safe for me, Natey.”
“Of course I will, Mum.” The words flowed from long practice.
“The curse . . . it will get stronger. When Marcus turns thirty, you’ll have to watch him very, very closely.” She tried to sit up.
He pressed her gently back against the pillows. “Perhaps Marcus will fall in love, Mum,” he said soothingly, “and break the curse.”
For a woman who appeared to be on the verge of death, her grip was like iron. “No, he won’t.”
“But he might, Mum.” Love matches weren’t common among the ton, but they did happen. “He’s only twenty-one. He’s got time. And when he does find a girl to love, the curse will end. It will all be over.”
“No!” Her fingers convulsed, her eyes boring into his, a wild desperation in their depths. “Don’t you see? The curse can’t be broken.”
“Of course it can. If a Duke of Hart marries for love—”
Her face twisted. “That’s a lie. My father loved my mother. I know he did. And he still died.”
Mum had never said this before. She must be confused. It wouldn’t be surprising. No matter how strongly one believed in an afterlife, facing death must be terrifying.
And if love wouldn’t break the curse, Marcus was condemned to a long, lonely life.
Well, not a long life.
Nate made soothing noises. He didn’t know what else to do.
“Promise me—” Mum gasped for air. “Promise me you’ll keep Marcus safe”—she swallowed—“for as long as you can. Even if you have to put off marrying yourself. Nothing is more important than Marcus’s safety, Nate.”
Poor Mum. He would promise her anything if it would ease her passing.
He struggled to speak calmly. “Yes, Mum. Don’t worry. I’ll watch over Marcus. I swear I will.”
At last the stiff fear drained from her face. She let go of his hand, giving him a sweet smile. “You’re such a good boy, Natey. I know you’ll keep your word.”
And then she lay back, her eyes drifting closed. A look of peace flitted over her face just before the last bit of color left it.
His mother was dead.
A native of Washington, DC, Sally MacKenzie still lives in suburban Maryland with her transplanted upstate New Yorker husband. She’s written federal regulations, school newsletters, auction programs, class plays, and swim league guidance, but it wasn’t until the first of her four sons headed off to college that she tried her hand at romance. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. Please visit her home in cyberspace at sallymackenzie.net.
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads
Forever with You
Starlight Hill #6
By: Heatherly Bell
Releasing April 26, 2016
Tydandon Publishing and Heatherly Bell Books
She forgot something on the way to the courthouse …
Sophia Abella has a good life, even if she is a little stuck. Not quite single, not quite married, she keeps men at a safe distance. But when her ex-Marine husband returns to town and takes the job of chief of police, it might finally be time to get that paper work done once and for all. After all, most of her family already thinks she’s divorced.
They’re not actually, in the fullest sense of the word … divorced.
Years ago, Riley Jacobs chose the Marine Corp over his wife and has regretted his decision every day since. But once a Marine always a Marine, and he’ll use every tactical advantage he has to get Sophia to realize that she’s the only one for him.
Love and marriage … take two
Life is not always easy, and sometimes it doesn't matter how much you love someone, things still don't work out the way you wished.
Riley and Sofia still have the connection, even though very fragile by now, after years of separation. They weren't that long time together, but they seemed to know each other well, like they haven't forgotten a minute of the time they spent in each other's company. Do they still care about each other, no doubt, but is there too much hurt, pain, and hurtful memories, to keep them separated, and keep them from each other. Is there enough strength and courage to face the life together, with the possibility, that there might be hurt and pain in some level again.
The story is lovely and sweet, yet at times brutally honest with the feelings of a deployed soldier's spouse - the fear, the possibility of losing your loved one, the what if, the loneliness, the waiting. As emotionally involved I got while I was reading, it was inevitable, that it was going to break my heart a bit in the process. And it did. Because it gets real, raw, and genuine with the realities of life. But it also built it all back together, and even stronger, if you give it a chance.
The small town where it all happens, the problems of a new police chief, the trouble with his sister and her boyfriend, the restaurant, Sofia runs, her fear of losing a loved one, they all play a part in the tale, as well as her large family, and dear friends. The story goes back and fort in the past and in the present, but never was there any doubt of the time.
It was more than just a love story, it was more than just a tribute to all the military spouses, and what they sacrifice, it was a story about love, life, and growth, living to your full potential, recognizing the dangers of mistakes, but still embracing this thing called living. It is a story, that is so easy to fall in love with, the town, the characters, and the Italian food
~ Five Spoons
He didn’t answer but only studied her. “Eat.”
She took a bite somewhat automatically and felt immediately annoyed with herself for listening to him. “You’re bad for me.”
What she didn’t say, because she didn’t even want to voice it, was that he’d somehow become nothing but a constant reminder of loss. Pain. Of a fear so overwhelming and raw it threatened to take over everything in its path.
“I’m not. I’m what the doctor ordered.”
“You’re like eating Chunky Monkey every night instead of once a week. Not a good idea.”
He moved closer, so that his shoulder was touching hers. “So what do you want? Vanilla?”
“Not vanilla.” She took another sip, moved her legs and Hershee jumped off her lap, disgusted with Sophia for not sitting still enough for Her Highness. “Maybe Neopolitan. It’s good enough but not so much that I want it every day of the week.”
Riley stood up, took Sophia’s bowl and set it on the coffee table. He pulled her up off the couch, his hands on her elbows. The blanket fell to the ground at her feet. “Admit it. You’d like to have Chunky Monkey every day of the week. And sometimes you catch yourself thinking about it in the middle of the day. Wondering how you could get away with it.”
She’d forgotten how perfect it felt to be this close to him, their breathing comingled. Without a doubt, she’d once known he would have breathed for her if he could. He would have done anything for her.
“You want Chunky Monkey. Admit it.” He pulled her closer, until she could feel every hard ridge of his body and then closer still.
“Wait. Are we still talking about ice cream?”
“No.” He kissed her. Not a tender kiss at all, but rough and claiming.
Her hands fisted his shirt, and then with both hands she untucked it at his waist, letting her palms glide up his hard chest, touching the soft short hairs between her fingers. How she’d missed this, missed him. No matter what, they’d always had this part right. Touching, feeling.
Riley squeezed her ass, his other hand sliding under her sweater to tug her bra cup aside. But then just as suddenly as he’d kissed her, he stopped.
“Stay with me.” She pulled on his arm, directing him toward the bedroom.
“Slow down, baby.”
“It’s this way to the bedroom.” Sophia tugged on his hand again, a little like trying to move a mountain. “Just like your floor plan but reversed.”
“Wait.” He bit his lower lip and didn’t move.
“I don’t want to wait. I’ve waited long enough.”
“You can wait a little bit longer, can’t you?” He grimaced.
“Why should I?”
He chuckled and framed her face with both hands. “Because I need you to be sure.”
“Oh, that. I’m sure, Riley. I want this. I want you.”
“No,” he said and his hands dropped down. “I want you to be sure about us.”
“You and me. Us. Forever. Can you tell me you’re sure about that?” He studied her.
“Listen, you and I …”
“Yeah.” He moved away from her, picking his jacket up on the way to the door. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“But—” Was he seriously leaving her? Now? After all that talk about Chunky Monkey? Bastard!
“Eat your soup,” he called out and shut her front door.
When early onset stage fright dashed dreams of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame status, Heatherly tackled her first book in 2010, and now the people and voices that occupy her head refuse to leave. She no longer sings unless you count randomly bursting into song to annoy her children (and the dogs).
If she were not an author, Heatherly maintains she would be a detective and a criminal's worst nightmare. She watches Dateline every Friday night and takes notes.
She lives in northern California with her family, including two beagles, one who can say 'hello' and the other who can feel a pea through several pillows.
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads
A MAN WITHOUT A FAMILY IS NO MAN AT ALL
As soon as he was old enough, Ray McCullen left Horseshoe Creek and never looked back. It took his father's funeral to return, though his anger hadn't quite subsided. That's where he met Scarlet Lovett, who seemed to know more about his family's secrets than he did.
Secrets ready to explode.
Suddenly, Ray was at the center of a dangerous inheritance battle, with Scarlet caught in the middle. She'd only known kindness from the McCullens, but had enough pluck to stand her ground. And if Ray was to truly belong back home, he sure had to live up to the family name.
Action, mysteries, palpable attraction, and life threatening family drama are the key elements of this marvellous romantic suspense story, that kept me up at night.
The secrets start to pile up, as the brothers have buried their father, and the will is coming to the light of the day. Secrets that they never expected to be dealing with, things that could take apart that fragile treaty of peace between the brothers.
I loved how the story was built, how the flow of it kept me glued to my Kindle, my interest high on the story and its development.
Even though there's danger, threats, vandalism, attacks, and malicious action galore, the tension in the family, in between the characters, is what builds up, and turns to be explosive. Really well built momentums, that burst on a least expected moments.
Ray and Scarlet's connection is immediate, but their past, and the connection to Ray's father, is on the way, the dangerous events at the same time, pulling them apart, and pushing them together. Ray has an intense desire to protect and cherish Scarlet, but their whole lifetimes, and the history, is in between them, preventing and forestalling their connection. Not to mention the reaction of Ray's brothers, when they are clued in, to the recent events, and crimes...
I indulged in this tale, I wanted to savour it, yet at the same time inhale it. I love when that happens!
~ Five Spoons
Something More Than This
By: Barbie Bohrman
Releasing April 26, 2016
Katy Lewis has it all: a sports reporting job she loves, a great roommate, and two brothers who, while nosy, always have her back. But when Conner Roberts, Katy’s unrequited first crush, suddenly shows up—and shows interest—after nine years, she reverts to a sweaty, panicked sixteen-year-old once more.
And if trying to read Conner’s signals isn’t tough enough, Katy’s heart is sending some mixed messages of its own. When a beautiful blonde coworker starts pursuing Katy’s boss, Dylan Sterling—her longtime mentor and friend—she realizes she may have a problem with that. A reunion with Conner is what she’s dreamed of for so long…so why can’t she stop thinking about Dylan?
For the first time ever, Katy must fact-check her heart. Should she go after the guy she thought she always wanted or see if there’s something more with the one who’s been there all along?
Dylan stays completely still and quiet. If I couldn’t see the steady beat of his pulse on the side of his neck, I would swear that he was dead. It’s bad enough that my heart is jackhammering away inside its cage in my chest, making it nearly impossible to stay as calm on the outside as
I’m trying to be in front of him.
It’s a test, that’s all this is. Get it over with so you can move on.
I’m thinking this while reaching out to take Dylan’s hands in mine. He doesn’t resist, so that’s good. Then he lets me position them on my waist, leaving them there when I take my hands away. I feel a charge of excitement run through me at the warmth of his hands against my body. And it frightens me a little. So I keep my eyes trained on his throat and watch in fascination as it bobs up and then down, as if he is swallowing a breath. Not having to look in his eyes is enough to propel me an inch forward and loop my arms around his neck.
He says this so quietly that I can’t tell if it’s a plea or a question. So I move closer until our bodies are pressed together, like we’re about to start a slow dance. I’ve finally been able to clear my mind of all stray thoughts and focus on this moment, right here, right now, that I know will change everything. But I still can’t gather the nerve to look up at him, because if I do, I already know I won’t be able to stop.
In a voice so low, I ask, “If you were this close to me, like you are now, would you want to kiss me?”
He doesn’t answer, but I can tell that his breathing is becoming more rapid by the way his chest rises and falls. So I ask him again.
It’s then he moves his hand off my waist and underneath my chin to tip my face up to look at him. He skims over my features with his eyes until reaching my lips, where he holds them in his gaze for a moment too long to be considered merely friendly.
Then quietly, he says, “Yes.”
“Yes, I would kiss you.”
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Barbie Bohrman dreamed of becoming an author. Long after she had given up, a book club’s prologue contest encouraged her to give it one more go. What emerged were the beginnings of her debut novel, Promise Me. Now she’s living her dream and writing stories that entice readers to escape and break away from reality. When she’s not writing, you can find her trying to get through the books on her Kindle (more than a thousand at last count) or watching Sherlock or Homeland. She resides in New Jersey with her husband and two children.
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads
Return of the Bad Boy
Second Chance #4
By: Jessica Lemmon
Releasing April 26, 2016
He's a mess...
Asher Knight has three constants in his life: music, beautiful women, and a bottle of Jack. He lives for the next gig, the next city, and dreams only of a life spent in front of an arena full of screaming fans. But Asher's nomad ways come to a sudden stop when he learns he's the father of a three-year-old from a past relationship and suddenly this rock star bad boy is forced to put down roots.
Only she can clean up
Gloria Shields is no one's fool. Sure, the sexual chemistry between her and Asher has always been intense, but she'd never risk giving her heart to a man who has a perfect record for breaking them. Except the man desperate to make things right with his newfound son is nothing like the rock god she's guarded her heart against for years. And it isn't long before she starts to wonder if life with this bad boy might be the best thing that's ever happened to her.
Asher ate the tomato, sliding his gaze to Gloria and then peeling his body away from her. Before her brains could leak out of her ears and she did something horrifying, like swoon, she went on the offensive.
“What BS were you telling Evan out there?” she asked.
His smile held. “Don’t worry about it, toots.”
He rested a palm on her hip, leaned past her, and lifted her wineglass. Gloria most certainly did not watch as he took a drink, then licked his lips when a single red droplet clung to his mouth. No, she did not. And she did not feel every internal organ lean a little closer to him while she forced her feet to stay firmly planted on the exact spot of the kitchen’s tiled floor. Nope. That didn’t happen, either.
“I’m here for the main course,” he told Charlie, relinquishing the wineglass to Gloria and holding out his hands. Charlie handed over the tray holding the burgers and dogs.
“Sarge, follow me out.”
“Because Evan is opening the whiskey and we’re all doing shots.” He sent Charlie a sharp smile. “Ace, you’re invited, too.”
“I’ll stick with wine, thanks.”
“Me too,” Gloria said.
Lyon ran through the kitchen, Tank following. “We’ll go out!”
“No whiskey for him either,” Charlie put in. “Give me this.” She swiped the tray and walked out to the patio, leaving Gloria and Asher in the kitchen.
Alone. Intentionally, no doubt.
“Not like you to turn down whiskey,” he told her.
“I’m trying to be a good guest. We fight when we drink whiskey.”
“That’s not all we do when we drink whiskey.” His smile was penetrating.
No. He was right about that. They also kissed. And hugged. Full-body, no-clothing-necessary kind of hugs. The best kind. Gah.
A former job-hopper, Jessica Lemmon resides in Ohio with her husband and rescue dog. She holds a degree in graphic design currently gathering dust in an impressive frame. When she’s not writing super-sexy heroes, she can be found cooking, drawing, drinking coffee (okay, wine), and eating potato chips. She firmly believes God gifts us with talents for a purpose, and with His help, you can create the life you want.
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads | Pinterest
New Yorker Zoe Wilde is determined to bond with her half sisters and finally have the family she’s missed out on. First she has some loose ends to tie up. The family she’s inherited has been passing the buck for generations, now it’s up to her to dispose of the Wilde building she’s inherited; a remnant of the past. While she’s at it, she also has to restore the Wilde’s shredded reputation, win the hearts of the townsfolk of Eden and convince Luke Sterling to buy her out.
When she takes a miniature poodle and an alpaca to a cattle dog trial, local cattle baron Luke Sterling knows life will never be the same. However, he doesn’t think she’ll last longer than a week living in the small country town, especially if the thunderclouds that have been hovering over the horizon roll in. Her roof leaks.
A coffee overdose, some goats and a hankering for a baseball game prove Luke right, Zoe doesn’t belong in Eden. But springing to her rescue at a fundraiser, his feelings are exposed prompting him to break the stalemate between their families and prove Zoe’s found a place in his heart
Very well thought out plot, in a story that takes you to the breathtaking prairies of down under.
The small down dynamics in the story are hilarious, how the two families are given so much power, and set against each other, yet still cheering on the both sides. The twitter hashtags, and use of the social media to communicate, and for shenanigans, made me smile.
The three sisters have a fragile bond, even though there doesn't appear to be anything fragile about these social butterflies. The half sentences, and communicating by just one word, and reading each other's thoughts can be hilarious, unless you are the one looking from outside, or the reader, left a bit clueless.
Zoe, she is a caffeine addict, and it shows in everything she does, and says, and even in the rhythm she talks with. She is trying so hard to fit in, with the sisters, with the town, with Luke, and still built her own way, with the new life she has been given, the new chances with a different kind of future.
Luke, I not sure I liked him. He is attracted to Zoe, he acts upon it, but constantly thinks the worst of her, and expects her to fail. He is scared - scared of her, scared she will change his steady, yet a bit boring life, scared of how the town will change with the sisters there, scared of everything, it seems.
The staccato style dialog, hiked up on caffeine, grows on you, and is very much part of the characteristics of Zoe and her sisters. The power struggles in the small town, and the spontaneous new start the sister are creating, is fun and interesting. The romance between Luke and Zoe is on the front and center, yet the tale is kept relatively 'clean', and the heat factor low. Lots of amusing and comical situations, making the story lively and fresh
~ Three Spoons and a teaspoon on the side
The McBride Brothers #3
By: Scarlett Dunn
Releasing April 26, 2016
The heart always finds a home . . .
For British heiress Mary Ann Hardwicke, the Wild West is the perfect place to make her own life and escape the stifling privilege of an arranged marriage. Hard at work proving her independence, it's little wonder she has no time for handsome cowboy Luke McBride. No matter that he somehow understands the freedom she so badly needs—how could she trust such a wild spirit, much less find a way to love him?
Like the broncs he busts, Luke doesn’t see himself settling down in one place, let alone with one woman. So at first, Mary Ann is just an intriguing challenge. But her determination and bravery are sparking a longing to prove he can be the truly good man she deserves. Now as their enemies work to separate them, they will take a dangerous gamble on faith to claim an enduring love . . .
Reaching her room, Mary Ann hurried inside and quickly turned the lock. For the first time in months she felt like she could actually breathe. Since she’d left England she’d been forced to ward off the advances of strange men. She’d even been forced to strike one man with her parasol, holding him at bay until a constable came to her aid. She counted on God to protect her, but she also felt like He wanted her to do her part. She’d purchased a pistol in one town for her own peace of mind. She knew how to use it and she wouldn’t hesitate if she had no alternative.
She found the men in this new country crude and overall quite distasteful. Other than her last fateful encounter with Edmund Stafford, she had never been pressed to protect her person from unwanted attention.
And look how that had ended; with her running away so she would not be forced into a loveless marriage. She should have called Edmund out instead of expecting her father to exact satisfaction. Her father would not even listen to the truth of what happened that night. His mind was made up and he was going to force her to marry Edmund. Perhaps after she left, Edmund had told her father the truth about that night, but she wasn’t inclined to wait and see. She made the decision rather quickly to leave England, and told herself once she arrived in Wyoming she would live the life she wanted.
Her uncle George, the proprietor of this hotel, had written in his letters how much he loved this country and she’d been excited to find out for herself. Uncle George had failed to mention that America was filled with ruffians. Upon her arrival to this very town, the first person she sees is that miscreant brawling in the middle of the street. The man was truly fearsome with his large black hat and pistol riding low on his hip. He must be a . . . what did they call them out here . . . oh yes, a pistolier. Granted, she’d been startled by his twinkling blue eyes when he stared directly at her, but make no mistake, that man was a scoundrel if she ever saw one. Just the memory of him fighting those men made her shiver. And the way those two women were putting their hands all over him! By displaying such a lack of breeding, one could only conclude they were surely not ladies. The rogue didn’t seem surprised by their behavior,
she’d heard him promise to show those women a good time! Of all the nerve. If he lived in Promise, she prayed she wouldn’t encounter him often. Surely there were gentlemen in this town who understood proper comportment.
Aside from the ill-bred men in this country, she was mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the West. She’d never seen anything as magnificent as the mountains in the distance, or the thousands of stars twinkling in the infinite night sky.
Standing with her back to the door, Mary Ann inspected her quarters. It was a very well-appointed room and much larger than she expected. The four-poster bed was covered with a pristine white quilt embroidered with lilies of the field. Spanning one wall was an ornately carved wardrobe, and a writing desk filled one corner. A round mahogany dining table with four deep blue velvet upholstered chairs, along with a lovely crystal chandelier above, were cleverly positioned by a window overlooking the street below. The massive stone fireplace covered the wall nearest the bed, and she imagined it would be warm and cozy with a fire blazing in the hearth on a chilly night. She’d heard about the frigid Wyoming winters, and this room would be perfect for cold winter nights. All of the wood was polished to a glossy finish and the room was spotless, not a speck of dust could be seen. The room was lovely, and even though it was only a quarter of the size of her bedroom at home, she knew she would be comfortable here.
Her uncle had written he’d built a hotel that any Englishman would be proud to own in the new country. She certainly couldn’t disagree. When she’d hurriedly made her decision to depart England, this was the only place she thought she could go to escape the long reach of her father and Edmund Stafford. But as members of the peerage, they had vast resources at their disposal. She had to face the fact that if they wanted to track her down, she would be found sooner or later. She hoped it was later.
“Don’t you want me to stay, Uncle George?” The reunion with her uncle hadn’t gone as well as Mary
Ann had expected. After she’d told him of her reasons for leaving London, he seemed concerned her father would come to America to find her. Perhaps her uncle thought he might face her father’s wrath and be held responsible for her decision to come to Wyoming.
George’s sister, Coreen, had married Hardwicke for his money. Coreen was a great beauty in her day, just like his niece, and Hardwicke had been persistent in wooing her. George’s family were on the same social level as Hardwicke, but their estate was not nearly as large. George knew when his sister married Hardwicke it wasn’t a love match, but his sister wanted the life his wealth could provide. When George inherited the Granville estate he chose a different path than his sister. He gave control of the estate to his younger brother and he left England. He yearned for a different life, one filled with adventure and knew he would find what he was looking for in America. He could sympathize with Mary Ann for desperately wanting to get away from the life she was destined to lead. She feared her life would mirror Coreen’s if she stayed in England.
“Of course I want you to stay, but you know your father. He’ll send someone to find you, and I would expect if they are not already on their way, they soon will be. I just don’t want you to be disappointed if he forces you to return.”
“I left Mother a note and told her I was leaving. I didn’t say where I was going.”
She looked so devastated that George tried to relieve her concerns. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that it would only be a matter of time before they discovered she’d left England.
Hardwicke had a legion of detectives and barristers at his disposal. “Let’s not worry about it tonight. I certainly don’t mind if you stay forever. If your father’s agents appear on our doorstep, then we will deal with the situation when and if it happens. But if you decide you want to go home before then, I will escort you.” It troubled him that his beautiful young niece had traveled so far with no escort. Why, all manner of evil could have befallen her. Her guardian angel must have been keeping a close watch over her.
“I will not be going home. I have some funds, but I need to find a position, or a building where I can establish a business. Once I arrived in America, I discovered I could start a small shop. As a matter of fact, while I was waiting for you to return today I had time to look around your hotel and there is a perfect little spot I could utilize for a shop I have in mind.”
George couldn’t believe his ears. Mary Ann was nearly royalty in England, he wouldn’t hear of her looking for a position, or working for that matter. “My dear, that is impossible for someone of your position. If your father does show up here he will have me drawn and quartered if he finds you among the working class.”
“Uncle, I don’t need to remind you that this is a different country and I am determined to support myself. I am no longer dependent on Father and I have not come all this way to be a burden on you.”
“My dear, you have never been forced to earn a coin and I assure you I can certainly see to your needs. I do not consider you a burden.” Her desire to work was the last thing George expected out of a young woman who had been coddled her entire life.
“I want to work. I want to live life like everyone else. I’m sorry, but I cannot exist like Mother.” She’d given her future a lot of thought, and if her uncle wouldn’t assist in her effort, she would find another way.
They discussed this point for over an hour until George finally relented. If she was determined to do this, then he would help her in any way possible. He actually admired her resolve. “What kind of shop do you have in mind?”
“A small shop to carry products for women.”
“What kind of products?”
“On my journey here I noticed the farther west I came that there were fewer stores that sell items necessary for a woman’s toilette; powders, tinted rouges, perfumes, and such.
“You are so beautiful, surely you have no need of such potions.”
“Thank you, but I assure you all women will use such products if they are available. I will carry the finest perfumes, as well as undergarments from France. Such items are only found now in the larger towns.”
“You’ll not find the women here will buy such foolishness. I thought apothecaries mixed the powders for women. As far as undergarments, these are items that can be purchased at the mercantile.”
“I assure you it is not foolishness as all women enjoy looking their best. Apothecaries do mix various powders, but they are not equal to the products from Paris. The undergarments certainly are not what you will find in the local mercantile. They will be designed from the finest silks and satins.” She wasn’t comfortable discussing intimate apparel with her uncle, but he needed to know what she had in mind, and he seemed truly interested. “I am quite determined. If you do not have space to spare in the hotel I will find another spot.”
He quickly concluded his niece was not just a lovely woman, she also had a sharp mind. Far be it from him to know what interested the fairer sex. He would have to take her word for that. It seemed her mind was made up, and he wasn’t one to squash her dreams of independence. “What space did you see that you fancied?”
“The space to the right as you walk through the door. The alcove under the staircase is quite large and I can use a partition should the ladies prefer privacy while they are shopping.”
“Quite right. That is a space not utilized. While you are getting your shop underway, perhaps you would be interested to learn about managing the hotel. I am building a house on some land outside of town, and it is taking me away from my responsibilities at the hotel on a regular basis. You can register the guests when Eb is occupied with his other duties, and supervise the two ladies who handle the cleaning of the hotel. Mrs. Howe does the cooking in the restaurant. You may need to help her in the dining room when we are busy, nothing too demanding, maybe refill coffee cups, things of that sort.”
Mary Ann jumped up and threw her arms around his neck. “Oh thank you! I don’t know what I would do without you. I will pay you rent for the space.”
“Now, now, this is not something you need to concern yourself with. As I said, the space is not used at present. Let me know what you will need in the way of construction for shelving, painting, or whatever, and I will see to it. We will install a door to have a private entrance.”
Her uncle hadn’t mentioned the man who carried her luggage to her room. The man with the stunning blue eyes. “Uncle, you didn’t mention Mr. McBride. What is his position at the hotel?”
George gave her a puzzled look. “Mr. McBride?”
“Yes, he carried my luggage to my room.”
“I have no Mr. McBride employed here.”
“That is strange. I’m quite sure he said his name was Luke McBride. He’s a very tall man and quite the ruffian.”
George laughed. “Luke is not one of the employees. He is one of the owners of the McBride Cattle Company. He is the youngest of the three brothers. Fine men.” He furrowed his brow at her. “Ruffian, you say?”
“Indeed. He was brawling in the street when I arrived. I thought he was one of those pistoliers I’ve heard so much about.”
“Most men here carry guns and make no mistake, the McBride brothers know how to use them. But they are good men, certainly not gunslingers. I consider them friends, they’ve been very kind to me.”
She had tipped a man who didn’t even work for her uncle. “You say they have a ranch here?”
“They own one of the largest cattle ranches in Wyoming. And Luke carried your luggage?”
“Yes, I’m afraid I made a dreadful mistake. I thought he was in your employ and I tipped him.” She’d probably insulted one of her uncle’s friends.
“No worries, honey. I’m sure he took no offense. Luke is a good-natured man.”
She remembered when Mr. McBride was in the room she hadn’t been very friendly. He was such a large man that he made her nervous. “I will apologize, of course.”
“Don’t give it another thought. These men out here don’t consider such slights as serious transgressions.” He smiled at her. “Particularly if the transgressor is someone as lovely as you.”
She hoped her uncle was right and she hadn’t offended Mr. McBride. While she didn’t countenance his behavior, she wouldn’t want her uncle’s friends to think ill of him due to her mistake.
George stood and walked to the door. “You best get some rest, we will talk some more over breakfast and make plans for your shop. In the morning I’ll have Eb take your things to the
third floor. Those are my living quarters for a few more months until my home is completed. You will find the space more accommodating than this room.”
Mary Ann hadn’t realized he lived on the premises. “The entire third floor is your personal living quarters?”
“Yes, you will have all the room you require. Your bedroom is much larger than this room,” George informed her.
“This room is quite lovely. Why are you building a home?”
“I’ve an interest in trying my hand at cattle ranching. So perhaps your arrival will be most opportune for me if you find you enjoy managing a hotel.”
“I am sure I will enjoy it very much and I will start tomorrow.” She was anxious to get started now that she had a plan for her future.
“There is no hurry, take some time to rest.” George had made the trip from England and it was a grueling journey.
Mary Ann didn’t need rest. She was invigorated knowing she would no longer be forced to attend parties gossiping with bored women, or be forced into a marriage she didn’t want. “I do not need to rest. Tomorrow is the beginning of my new life.”
Scarlett Dunn lives in Kentucky surrounded by all manner of wildlife, and enjoys long "God walks" where most inspiration strikes. Possessing an adventurous spirit, and a love of history, particularly the pioneers of the West, she has a special place in her heart for all cowboys, past and present. Readers can visit her website: www.scarlettdunn.com.
Author Links: Website | Facebook | GoodReads
His Scandalous Kiss
Secrets at Thorncliff Manor #3
By: Sophie Barnes
Releasing July 26, 2016.
Thorncliff Manor is the perfect setting for a masquerade ball . . . where the heart’s secret desires are about to be uncovered in this scintillating Regency romance from Sophie Barnes
Richard Heartly has exiled himself from society since the war, plotting his revenge for a terrible betrayal. A masked ball at Thorncliff Manor is intended to be a brief diversion. Instead, he encounters a fascinating young woman as entranced by the music as he is. He can’t reveal his identity to Lady Mary. But her siren song keeps drawing him back, and their clandestine meetings could be hazardous to his plan—and to her virtue . . .
Avoiding an unwanted marriage was easy when Lady Mary was ignored by the ton. Thanks to her dazzling appearance at the masquerade, she’s a wallflower no longer. Eligible suitors abound, yet the only man she wants is the brooding, seductive companion who keeps his face hidden. A man who tempts her to disclose her own shocking secret, one that could divide them forever . . .
Thorncliff Manor, 1820
A gentle breeze stirred the air, carrying with it the smooth murmur of violins as Richard gazed out over the terrace of Thorncliff Manor. The grand estate and guesthouse where his parents and siblings had chosen to spend the summer while their own home was being renovated, sat solidly at his back—a welcome retreat for those who were wealthy enough to afford it. Standing to one side, Richard watched the guests, their gemstones scattering the torchlight while feathers bowed and swayed.
Although they wore masks, he was able to recognize a few of those present. Certainly, he had seen many of them from his bedroom window since arriving at Thorncliff a few weeks earlier. But there were those whose acquaintance he’d never had the pleasure of, like the young ladies who’d made their debuts since 1815—a year he would not soon forget. In any event, it was a long time since he’d spoken to any of these people. Some, he reflected, had been friends once . . . His heart beat slowly, dulled by the lead that now flowed through his veins.
It was briefly forgotten when a gentle voice spoke at his shoulder. “Your company is much appreciated this evening, Mr. Heartly.”
Turning his head, Richard glanced down at his hostess, the incomparable Lady Duncaster. “After all . . .” His words faltered—no doubt from lack of usage. Inhaling deeply, he took a moment to compose himself before trying again, more slowly this time. “After all the effort you have gone to on my behalf, it would have been rude of me to stay away.” Rigidly, he glanced in her direction, his nails digging against the palms of his hands as he clenched his fists. There was more to be said. “I . . .”
“Yes?” she queried.
“Please don’t use my real name, Countess. Tonight I am Signor Antonio.”
“Of course.” Her eyes gleamed with the mystery of a shared secret. “As to all the effort you mentioned, your presence here after so many years of absence has made it all worthwhile.” A wry smile appeared beneath the edge of her over-embellished mask. “Besides, I have always wondered what it might be like to restore the masquerade ball to its former glory.”
Dipping his head, Richard acknowledged her comment, the gesture encouraging her to continue.
“In my youth, my husband and I experienced a traditional one in Venice—before the Venetian Republic fell. . . . Masquerades have since become popular in other parts of Europe, though they generally lack the flamboyance that I initially fell in love with.” She shook her head somewhat wistfully, then straightened herself and earnestly asked, “What do you think, Signor? Is it grand enough?”
In Richard’s opinion the extravagance was overwhelming, but since he knew this was probably the effect Lady Duncaster was aiming for, he said, “I think you have outdone all other masquerades, my lady. I am certainly impressed.”
Chuckling, Lady Duncaster slapped his arm playfully with her fan. “You are quite the charmer. Do you know that?”
“It is accidental, I can assure you,” he told her dryly, belatedly realizing that he probably should have thanked her for the compliment.
She tsked in response. “I sincerely doubt that.” Taking him by the arm, she guided him slowly along the periphery of the terrace while the orchestra on the opposite side struck up a new tune. In no time at all, the center of the terrace had been occupied by guests who wished to
participate in a country dance, their theatrical garments a testament to originality rather than taste. “I know your parents, Signor, and I very much doubt that your mother would have raised a son capable of being anything but a perfect gentleman.”
Born in Denmark, Sophie Barnes spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She's lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish and Romanian. She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor's degree from Parsons. But, most impressive of all, she's been married to the same man three times—in three different countries and in three different dresses.
While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion: writing. When she's not busy dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
A BABY ON THE WAY—AND ON HIS DOORSTEP
When an infant shows up on Nick Slater's desk with a note, this case has the detective stumped. At which point beautiful Georgia Hurley shows up in his office as well, with an explanation for why she dumped him—and sporting a baby bump that dates back to their one night together four months prior…
Georgia knows she turned on Nick for his own good…but will Detective Daddy believe her? She offers to help care for his "temporary" baby for one week—surely the mother will turn up by then. But when the seven days are up, will they part ways and go back to their separate corners? Or will they find that a week of living as husband and wife, mommy and daddy, just made them hungry for the real thing?
This story really moved me, the way the past abuse has molded Nick's mind and attitude, and how he grows through the story, to see himself more as others around see him.
The story has a lovely small town feel to it, with caring and nurturing neighbors and families, that pull together at the moment of crisis.
Timmy is one special little boy, that teaches every adult around him something about life. The mystery of his mother, and who left him at the police station, gives another dimension into the sweet story.
Nick has more than just Timmy in his hands, there's also his sister Avery, and Quentin, the their future.
As Nick is trying to fix life for everyone else, and keeps telling Georgia he will be there for his child, he learns more about himself, he opens his eyes to see himself as an adult man, not his father's son, and he learns that he definitely is not his father. The attraction between them isn't something they can put aside, while taking care of Timmy, and trying to figure out their own future.
I admired Georgia's spunk, her willingness to stand for what she wanted, and work for, to get the future she desired.
There's so much emotion and turmoil in Nick's life, and everyone's around him. The life lessons are constant, and the importance of learning from our past, and letting it go, instead of letting it control our future is so clear in the message of the story. From the confusion and furor, the pain and shame of the past, is it possible to overcome all the turmoil, and built a new life, with love, happiness and joy of being a family?
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
MY GRADING SCALE:
5 Spoons - Amazing, memorable story that I loved, and want to read again.
4 Spoons - Fantastic, entertaining story
3 Spoons - Good story, but not much that stood out
2 Spoons - A story with some issues, that were a problem to me
1 Spoon - Not for me
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