Get into Bed with Laurel McKee (Author Interview)

two sinful secretsKeira: Why do the St. Claires hate the Huntingtons? Is it mutual – like in Romeo and Juliet? Montagues vs Capulets?

Laurel McKee: I have totally loved “Romeo and Juliet” ever since I saw a Shakespeare in the Park production when I was about 8!  Who doesn’t love the idea that love can overcome hatred?  Or the thrill of falling for the wrong person??  With the St. Claires and the Huntingtons it’s a bit more one-sided than with the Capulets and Montagues.  The St. Claires have long blamed the Huntingtons for ruining their family’s fortunes (through an ill-advised marriage 200 years ago!), but the Huntingtons, being a lofty ducal family, don’t even remember this little tidbit of history.  They’ve crushed so many of the little people, after all. :)  But when they find out and the two families finally have a confrontation, it should be quite explosive!

Keira: A heroine who gambles? What is she willing to wager for love?

Laurel: What a great question!  At the beginning of this story—not much.  She wagered on love once and eloped, only to have it all end in disaster.  She thinks she is done with love, but as we know love isn’t done with her…

Keira: He’s a cad – but we love him! Dominic plans on  eloping-and then abandoning his bride, Lady Sophia. But does he have the heart?

Laurel: LOL!  Much like Sophia, Dominic isn’t nearly as bad or hard-hearted as he thinks he is.  In fact, I think he is secretly a great romantic (though he would never agree).  He has just never met a woman who can match him like Sophia can, and make his see his true self.  I did love Dominic so much!

Keira: What would you be willing to wager on love? Could you ever fall in love with your fiercest enemy?

Laurel: I’m not sure I’ve ever had a fierce enemy!  Though I have definitely met people who annoyed me.  I think it would be great fun to see a different side to them and realize that we could understand, even love, each other.  But I just got married last month to a man I liked from the very moment I met him, so I guess I will never find out!  (It’s fun to read about though, isn’t it?)

Keira: What is next on your plate? What inspired you to start the project?

Laurel: I have a lot going on right now!  The most exciting project is a whole new project in a whole new genre.  “Murder at Hatfield House,” the first of the Kate Haywood Elizabethan Mysteries, will be out in October 2013.  And I am thinking about what might happen to the St. Claires next…

Buy: Two Sinful Secrets (The Scandalous St. Claires)

Get into Bed with Isobel Carr (Author Interview)

ripe for seductionKeira: How does one join the League of Second Sons? What credentials are needed beyond being a second son?

Isobel Carr: The way I pictured the whole thing starting was with a bunch of disgruntled younger sons forming a plan over a late night of drinking after the Hardwicke Marriage Act passed in the 1750s. The Act brought huge changes to England, especially when it came to clandestine marriages. It’s the reason all those Regency couples raced off to Gretna Green (the first town on the Great North Road after you cross the border into Scotland).

Suddenly, a runaway marriage with an heiress was a much harder thing to accomplish. This was a BIG deal to younger sons (and was one of the reasons it took forever to get the act through Commons, which was stuffed to the gills with younger sons).

So initially, the club was just the band of younger sons who formed it, but over the years, it would have expanded as they invited others to join, and then the membership was expanded from just second sons to all younger sons. They don’t take politics (Whig/Tory) into account, and they don’t take school (Eton/Harrow) into account either. Like all clubs, you’d need a sponsor (another younger son), but I don’t see it as something as formal as White’s, where you had to be voted in.

Keira: What juicy tidbit does Lady Olivia Carlow have on Roland Devere? Must be something huge to blackmail him into playing her betrothed during the London season!

Isobel: The tidbit is the letter he sends. It¹s rude. It¹s presumptuous. And it would be hugely embarrassing for him if his parents ever found out. I based it on a real life event from the mid-eighteenth century, where a young rake sent a starchy widow just such a letter. Furious, she went directly to his parents and introduced herself as their future daughter-in-law. The young man, who DID care about his parents’ good opinion, was trapped between a rock and a hard place. Call the lady a liar and let his parents see that letter, or accept her version and hope to plead his way out later. The lady in question did eventually brake off the engagement and let the man off the hook (I don’t think she ever had any intention of marrying him, given how horrible her first marriage had been), but I was really taken with the chutzpah it took to respond the way she did. So much better than just pitching a fit.

Keira: Which do you love better: blackmail romances or wager-based romances? Or in the case of Ripe for Seduction, both!

Isobel: I like anything naughty that can both bring a couple together while also serving as a hurdle for them to get past. I¹m not always a huge fan of the wager-based ones because they so often all take the same tack of having the woman find out and be hurt. I want to see something a little different. Something with a twist.

Keira: How do you define love and can love survive said blackmail and wagers?

Isobel: In real life, I define love (and friendship) by who gets a kidney. When I’m writing, it’s not much different. The person you love most, in that sweeping romantic way, may drive you nuts, may piss you off, may do things that make you want to cave their head in on occasion, but when push comes to shove, you¹d do anything for them.

Keira: What is next on your plate? What inspired you to start the project?

Isobel: I’d always planned The League of Second Sons as a six part series, so I have three books to go (Marcus Reeves, Anthony Thane, Dominic de Moulines). Next up is Ripe of Revenge (title subject to change, LOL!). It’s my take on the secret baby plot. I’m also tinkering with a few ideas for novellas. I love writing short!

Buy: Ripe for Seduction (The League of Second Sons)

Review: When You Give a Duke a Diamond (Jewels of the Ton, Book 1) by Shana Galen

when you give a duke a diamondHero: William, the Duke of Pelham requires an ordered, structured, planned life that runs punctually, right down to the very minute one begins to eat breakfast and the minute one finishes. So how did he earn the name Dangerous Duke? All William will reveal is that he does not want or need anything or anyone to disturbed his solid, steady, disciplined life… which he never knew was deadly dull until she showed up on his doorstep.

Heroine: Lackluster would never be the first word you thought of when thinking about Juliette, a celebrated courtesan in London, dubbed by Prinny as the Duchess of Dalliance. When the scandal sheets randomly link Juliette with William, she knows she must remain in the public eye just as he knows he must not. So when he snubs her, Juliette takes matters into her own hands and stir things up with the excitement the Duke so desperately needs.

Oh the Suspense: The Duke’s fiance, Elizabeth, is murdered on the night he snubs Juliette and the only eye witness? Juliette! Which begs the question, if a murder occurs in the middle of the social party of the year and the body goes missing, did it really happen? Juliette suspects Lucifer, the gambling hell owner, who scared her good the night before the party; but that doesn’t rule out Oliver Clifton, Juliette’s ex-husband.

Review: When You Give a Duke a Diamond… he’s going to want to marry her! Even if he doesn’t know it just yet. He’ll try to convince himself he doesn’t want her, love her, because she’s “spoiled goods” – a totally inappropriate candidate, even if she’s already used to being called a Duchess. She just won’t be his… or will she?

I liked the two villains, though you never knew how far either would go. I wish the hero and heroine has less tormented backgrounds, but they were a good match for each other despite it.

Conclusion: A fun romp! And a lovely twist on a classic romantic trope – the courtesan in name-only.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: When You Give a Duke a Diamond (The Fallen Ladies)

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Review: Too Wicked to Wed (Lords of Midnight, Book 1) by Cara Elliott

too wicked to wedHero: The Earl of Killingworth, Connor Linsley, is not your usual Earl of the Realm. He works for a living earning money from his gambling den and brothel that carters to men of the peerage. He hides this fact from others by pretending to be just any other high roller in the establishment. Like any alpha he keeps his heart guarded, but the fiery Alexa gets to him like no other could – when she lays claim to half of his business and refuses to give it back!

Heroine: Lady Alexa Hendrie is fierce. She tracks her brother to The Wolf’s Lair and demands of Connor his location. The price for that information is a kiss (and it will knock your socks off and Connor’s too). Later unbeknownst to her, Connor is robbed at the gaming tables and from his safe. When his pledge of half the business (which is exchanged for money from a friend) comes across her path–while she’s dressed as a man playing cards–she wins it and uses it to blackmail Connor into helping her locate her wayward brother.

Review: The story really picks up the pace when Connor gets shot and the two of them flee to Linsley Close, Connor’s abandoned estate by the coast. There they pose as newlyweds while Connor convalesces. It’s pretty funny when the housekeeper walks in on them to bring Connor sustenance. These two lovebirds have got some pretty blistering chemistry. There’s lots of kissing – the really hot kind!

I also like the other lords who are Connor’s friends: Gryff and Cam. Gryff is going to have to lay off the booze, it’s not that attractive, but his other qualities make up for it (for now). Cam is seriously hot and a thief. I want to read his book. Yum!

Favorite Quote:

“Why the devil does she feel she must take such awful risks?”

“Is that a rhetorical question,” asked Cameron. “Or do you wish for an honest answer?”

[…]

“Because she loves you. She’s willing to risk anything to win your heart.” Cameron crossed one booted leg over the other. “And you, you ungrateful cur, ought to have your teeth kicked out through your arse if you don’t appreciate what a rare and wondrous gift that is.”

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Too Wicked to Wed (Lords of Midnight)

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Review: The Wolf Who Loved Me by Lydia Dare

The Wolf Who Loved MeReviewed by Susan S.

Summary: Regency Werewolf Trilogy, Book One Have you ever wished for something you’ll never have? Like that Lamborghini Countach, or the eight bedroom beachside mansion. Well, Weston Hadley (hero) has grown accustomed to wishing for the unattainable. I know what you’re thinking. Pray tell, what does Hadley want that he can’t have? He wants… Lady Madeline Hayburn. What’s the idiom? If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

Hadley’s loved Madeline for years, but all the wishing and wanting won’t alter the facts. She’s a duke’s daughter and he’s a penniless nobody. Since he can’t have her, he just plows through life with reckless abandon. Living his carefree existence of no responsibilities and total frivolity.

Until the day that Madeline sees him changing. And I don’t mean his clothes. I mean shifting from man to wolf. Causing both man and wolf to face what they’ve tried so hard to avoid… responsibility!

Musical Review: Just Let Me Be In Love by Tracy Byrd. Only difference is that Tracy sings about finding a way to mess things up, whereas Weston did that from the get-go.

Traditional Review: I enjoyed it too much when Wes absconded with Madeline. It was deliciously exciting! My heart pounded when the heroine’s father was tracking them. And surprisingly I had no problems with the hero’s beta status which I thought was going to turn me off. I found his irresponsible and fun nature enjoyable. Especially, when that very nature led to some rather disastrous events. It’s also funny that this wolf has absolutely no people skills whatsoever! None. He’s completely untamed.

I’ve grown so accustomed to Lydia Dare’s strong-willed heroines that Madeline’s weaker/pampered character took me by surprise. I would’ve preferred her to be a stronger heroine to the hero’s beta, but still applauded the times the heroine did show a backbone.

If the curiosity bug bit you-read on: You can find out how Weston got his facial scar by reading In the Heat of the Bite. I guarantee it’ll leave you speechless! It did me.

Recommendations: Like scarred heroes? Wes is such a hero.

For readers who love reckless and handsome beta wolves, the opposites attracting tropes, and the good-girl gone-bad heroines. Also for anyone who enjoys siblings teetering from conflict to camaraderie, but who at their very core are still loving and loyal.

Disclaimer: I received this novel free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

What’s Next? Wolfishly Yours. (Grayson and Liviana’s story). Grayson is Weston’s twin brother.

Review-O-Meter Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: The Wolf Who Loved Me

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Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc., Copyright April 2012, Historical Regency Paranormal Romance, Mass Market Paperback, Print Pages 387. ISBN# 978-1-4022-6346-0.

Review: Tall, Dark and Disreputable by Deb Marlowe

tall dark disreputableSetup: Portia Tofton was rejected once by adventure seeking Mateo Cardea when their fathers tried to arrange a match. He runs all the way to another continent to ensure he wasn’t snared into a marriage with her and he’s stayed far away until now. Even from the grave his father is trying to throw him into her path by willing the shipping company into her lap. It’s a scheme he can see straight through and he’s going to give her a piece of his mind.

Goose Chase: Except everything he thought about grown up Portia is wrong and everything he remembered from their childhood was right. All Portia wants his Mateo’s help in securing her house, which her dead husband had gambled away without telling her about. But what should have been simple leads to a wild goose chase as more and more layers are woven and the new owner of Stenbrooke. If she gets it back, he can have his family’s company back too.

Review: I really liked the goose chase in this book. It was well set up. I really liked the little rendezvous that Mateo and Portia got up to in the woods along the way. Hot stuff! What I liked best was that there was a little of The Gift of the Magi at the end. Each was willing to give up what they loved most for the other to make them happy and if that isn’t love, what is?

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Tall, Dark and Disreputable

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Review: The Highest Stakes of All by Sara Craven

Heroine: Joanna Veron is somewhere around 19. In her father’s world she plays at being a high maintenance vapid beauty, but inside she’s really just a sweetheart looking for a way out of her father’s lifestyle (without having to go to her perfectly nice uncle) ever since a particularly bad incident when they were living in Australia where they swindled a youngish man named Peter out of a lot of money. She extracts a promise from her father to never use her in such a manner again, but of course Denys doesn’t hold to it for long.

Hero: Vassos Gordanis (I see his name and think vaseline) is somewhere in his 30s. He’s out for revenge against Denys and Joanna (though of course she’s clueless.) When he wins Joanna in a high stakes poker game he believes he has the chance to accomplish both punishments as he believes Joanna is Denys mistress. Obviously he’s not buying the “she’s my niece” they both claimed ever since Joanna joined her father on his jaunts around the gambling dens of the world. (Why does Joanna allow this? Gross.)

Favorite Moment: The first and second time they make love when he learns of her innocence (read virginity surprise!) and then tries to teach her about lovemaking which she tries so hard to hate … There’s flavors of Stockholm Syndrome in this, but honestly it worked for me because there’s also the play on the Persephone myth.

Missed Opportunity:
If I remember right they were talking about her real relationship to Denys, but it could also have easily alluded to her virgin state.

Vassos: Why didn’t you tell me?
Joanna’s answer should have been: Would you have believed me?

It seems like a perfectly standard response, but it never came up.

TSTL Ending: Why did the HEA have to include a flowery all is forgiven resolution between Joanna and Denys? What a crappy way to tie it off. Sometimes splitting family units is okay and in this case her dad is such a scumbag there’s really no way I’d buy his remorse and sudden “Oh shut up” speech to his new wife (whom he married right after Joanna was taken by Vassos to avoid his debts and to get the hell out of dodge, the bastard didn’t even look for her to get her back.)

Rating: ★★★★☆ – I know the rating seems incongruent with the story’s flaws, but I’m also factoring in the *guilty pleasure* I got out of it, because what worked, worked really well for me.

Buy: The Highest Stakes of All (Harlequin Presents)

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Review: Fortune’s Son by Emery Lee

Reviewed by Susan S.

Summary: Hero, Philip Drake, is the proverbial black sheep of his family. And an embarrassing disappointment to his father, the Earl of Hastings. Philip is a rebellious and impulsive young man; who’s spent the last four years drinking, bedding tavern maids, and gambling. Drake’s life is an unmitigated disaster; a reckless gamester locked in a cycle of wins and losses.

When Philip reluctantly agrees to teach a young widow to play cards, he turns a deaf ear to his friend’s cautionary warning. It’s not long after Susannah, Lady Messingham, enters his life that he finds himself in financial ruin.

Life is about to teach Philip and Susannah that when there’s nothing left to lose, there’s still something to be gained.

Review: I could pardon Philip’s impulsive nature in youth, but felt let down he reverted back to old patterns of behavior (after a ten year military career). His good intentions fell short. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect with the hero. And when he marries “another” lady for her dowry, I stopped sympathizing with his character. His sulking and self imposed pity also failed in endearing me to him.

Now, the heroine is a horse of a different color. She was more relatable. Here’s this young widow managing her finances for the first time, while trying to maintain her mode of living among societal circles. Sure, she makes mistakes. Some were monumental, but she learns from them. Matures.

I enjoyed the twelve year journey showing the evolvement of the main characters; with their highs and their lows. And think the author did a nice job with the story’s resolution. Her strength lies in presenting the reader with great imagery. Her details also appear to be accurate, seeing as I did verify a few out of sheer curiosity.

The story itself would’ve been much improved with the editing of the terminated near rape scene. It felt misplaced in this story, and would’ve fitted more comfortably within another genre. I would read Ms. Lee’s future novels, but am hoping for a stronger hero next time. As that does seem to be my preference.

Recommendations: This novel will appeal to those readers who enjoy the damaged hero/nurturing heroine as well as the older woman/younger man tropes. If you like card games (like Blackjack) and gambling, this is definitely “the” book for you. I’m also recommending it to those who like to read romantic historical novels, more specifically, during the Georgian era. Certain readers may not agree with the infidelity themes throughout, or with the capture of a young lady (near rape scene).

Disclosure: I received this novel free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Favorite scenes:

Favorite scene #1: After riding on horseback in the rain for almost four hours, Philip shows up at Susannah’s home completely drenched. LOVE that scene! Wanted more of them. Anyhow, she recommends he remove the wet clothes. Which he does. But he hit a snag; Drake’s having trouble with the wet boots. He can’t take them off. His instructions to her are absolutely hilarious. Picture his leg between hers, Messingham’s rear end facing him-while she’s yanking and yanking. `Course, he loves every minute of it. He’s turned on.

Favorite scene #2: You know what I love about Georgian romances? That there’s always a duel. Some man is always seeking satisfaction, and I love when he gets it! This novel has a duel. J

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Fortune’s Son

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Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc., Historical Romance, November 2011, Mass Market Paperback, Print Pages 445. ISBN# 978-1-4022-5644-8.