Wednesday, 28 July 2021

New Publication Spotlight & Extract: Playing The Duke's Fiancee by Amanda McCabe

Playing the Duke’s Fiancee

A pretend proposal

For the unconventional heiress

When American heiress Violet Wilkins crosses paths with William, Duke of Charteris, she has extremely low expectations of the “Duke of Bore.” But when this seemingly stuffy aristocrat offers her escape from a dreadful arranged marriage, she leaps at the chance! To her surprise, the arresting Charles whisks Vi into an exhilarating make-believe romance. And as she gets to know the man behind the title, she can’t help wanting more…

     “Lovely, lovely,” the prince said, his beady eyes taking her in from feathers to shoes. She but she knew she was safe enough; they did say he only liked married ladies. “You are so like your fair sisters. We do like Americans here at Court.”

And then he turned away, and Lily and Violet made their obeisances to the other royals. At last they came to the bit Violet feared the most, walking backward out of the room.

She put her on her glove, held out her arm, and let the page drape her train back over her arm, neatly folded. Carefully, carefully, most especially to avoid that green-eyed man’s regard, hardly daring to breathe, she slowly backed out of the vast room and found herself in one of the anterooms with sherry waiting on silver trays.

Very well done, Vi!” Lily said.

Violet let her breath out with a great whoosh—as much as her tightly boned bodice would let her. She had done it! She hadn’t fallen or laughed loudly or made a gaffe. Even better, she’d seen several people she would love to photograph. Lord and ladies, princes and princesses.

The man with the green eyes.

Relieved, she let go of her long train and reached hungrily for a biscuit. As she followed Lily across the room, she heard a terrible loud noise, the rip-rip of satin cloth. But she was quite frozen in place.

So close to success, so close!

She clenched her gloved hands into fists and slowly turned.

A man stood behind her, and not just any man but the one from the throne room. The one from the garden. And he was far too close for comfort, yet he did not smirk and tease like all those annoying creatures who thought it such a good joke to tease her at parties. He looked terribly abashed, as if he was as shocked as she was. And, up close, he was even more handsome than her glimpse in the throne room. His hair so dark as to be almost black, his face lean and sun-browned, his eyes so vivid. Yet he seemed os much stiffer than when she first met him.

But the embarrassment quickly vanished, as if behind a gray, flat cloud, and he straightened to his full, very high-indeed height, and gazed down at her almost as if the rip was her own fault.

Violet prickled at the thought, at the way her looked at her out of those emerald eyes. How dare he regard her thus, like she was a stupid, clumsy creature! She was no ballet dancer, but she knew how to behave properly. He should be falling all over himself in apology. Instead he just kept watching, as still as a Greek statue and just as coldly handsome. Blast him! For he really was too gorgeous for her presence of mind.

Tall, slim, but with narrow hips and wide shoulders that rippled slightly with powerful muscles under his correct, beautifully-cut black superfine coat and a sparkling array of orders. The blush sash of the Garter lay like an azure river over one shoulder, so Violet knew he was someone very important indeed.

She peeked up at him carefully, and saw a face hard-carved in elegant, lean angles, like an ancient cameo of a god or emperor, cheekbones that could cut, a square jaw with a dimple just at one side (of course he had an adorable dimple, the blighter). Skin lightly sun-touched set off those bright green eyes and impossibly long, sooty lashes, with arched dark brows of glossy, black hair brushed back from his forehead in a slight widow’s peak.

Violet was quite enthralled. How she would love to photograph him! The shadows and angles of him would look so perfect. On the other hand, he was so perfect, so impeccable in every way, so very still, he made her feel quite blowsy even in the finest gown she had ever owned. She was just glad she wore gloves to hide the tremor of her hands.

She smoothed her hair beneath the feathers she feared now leaned quite precariously, and scowled up at him. “Pardon me, sir!”

Amazon US                Amazon UK 

Amanda wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen--a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject...)

 She's never since used algebra, but her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers' Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion.  She lives in Santa Fe with a Poodle, a cat, a wonderful husband, and a very and far too many books and royal memorabilia collections. 

 When not writing or reading, she loves taking dance classes, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network--even though she doesn't cook. 

Amanda also writes as Laurel McKee for Grand Central Publishing, the Elizabethan Mystery Series as Amanda Carmack, and the Manor Cat Mystery Series as Eliza Casey.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Publication Day Review: When A Duke Loves A Governess By Olivia Drake


by Olivia Drake

(St. Martin’s Paperbacks, July 27, 2021, $7.99).

Tessa James has worked and planned tirelessly to open her own millinery shop. All she needs now is a loan from the lord who sired and abandoned her. The only problem is, she doesn’t even know his name. What’s a woman to do to find him but enter the aristocratic world by becoming a governess?

Guy Whitby, the new Duke of Carlin, has returned to London after years abroad to discover that his young daughter Sophy has become a wild-child known for scaring away every governess who's crossed his doorstep. When Tessa James applies for the job, he hires her in desperation despite his misgivings that she’s too bold and beautiful–and that she might be fibbing about her qualifications.

Their blooming attraction leads them on a completely unexpected path to love that neither wants to deny. But when an old enemy threatens Guy's family, their forbidden romance goes up in flames. Can they still learn to love and trust each other as forces try to tear them apart?

Amazon UK               Amazon US

When Tessa James overhears insightful gossip about the Duke of Carlin, she immediately sees it as a sign to improve her own situation. As a milliners assistant, her dream is to save up and one day open her own hat shop to showcase her own designs. However, the duke needs a governess for his four-year-old daughter and she's not a suitable candidate for the job. As a woman determined not to let such an obstacle get in her way, she applies for the job…

When Guy Whitby returned from his research trip, he's dismayed his late wife's parents didn't follow his advice to hire someone suitable to look after his young daughter. The resulting consequence is a troublesome child and no subsequent governess has stayed in his employment long enough to change her behaviour. When Tessa James talks her way into taking on the task of becoming his daughter's governess, he knows she is lying about her past, only, he is desperate and takes a chance anyway, with unexpected results.

Tessa is a heroine who knows her mind and goes after what she wants. She's feisty and determined yet displays compassion and understanding regardless of whether others are fortunate or less fortunate than herself. Luckily for the duke, she is a woman who can make his life better, if only he could disregard his determination of not marrying again.

Guy Whitby isn't instantly likeable, but as we get to know more about him, we learn why he behaved as he did. I adore flawed characters and he plays this part very well. Both he and Tessa are well suited, as they both get used to their new ways of life, far different from what either expected, so it's no surprise these two make quite an exceptional couple, in a positive way.

Ms Drake is a new to me author and reading this third instalment of The Unlikely Duchesses series was a delight. The murder-mystery side plot provided an enticing twist and added an extra layer of drama to the well-written and thought out narrative.

Overall, this is a wonderful novel with a feel-good ending that's both satisfying and happy.

***arc received courtesy of St Martin's Paperbacks via NetGalley***

Olivia Drake is a New York Times bestselling author who lives in Texas. Her novels have won critical acclaim and numerous industry awards, including the prestigious RITA. Olivia is the author of Scandal of the YearNever Trust a Rogue, and If the Slipper Fits among others.