Thursday, 22 September 2016

New Release Spotlight & Review: The Soldier's Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian

The Soldier's Scoundrel
By: Cat Sebastian
Releasing September 20, 2016
Avon Impulse

A scoundrel who lives in the shadows 

Jack Turner grew up in the darkness of London’s slums, born into a life of crime and willing to do anything to keep his belly full and his siblings safe. Now he uses the tricks and schemes of the underworld to help those who need the kind of assistance only a scoundrel can provide. His distrust of the nobility runs deep and his services do not extend to the gorgeous high-born soldier who personifies everything Jack will never be.

A soldier untarnished by vice 

After the chaos of war, Oliver Rivington craves the safe predictability of a gentleman’s life-one that doesn’t include sparring with a ne’er-do-well who flouts the law at every turn. But Jack tempts Oliver like no other man has before. Soon his yearning for the unapologetic criminal is only matched by Jack’s pleasure in watching his genteel polish crumble every time they’re together.

Two men only meant for each other

Link to Follow Tour: HERE
Jack absently skimmed his finger along the surface of his desk, tracing a swirl through the sand he had used to blot his notes. Another case was solved and done with, another gentleman too drunk on his own power and consequence to remember to pay servants and tradesmen, too dissipated to bother being faithful to his wife. Nearly every client’s problems were variations on that same theme. Jack might have been bored if he weren’t so angry.
A knock sounded at the door, a welcome distraction. His sister always knocked, as if she didn’t want to interrupt whatever depravities Jack was conducting on the other side of the door. She did it out of an excess of consideration, but Jack still felt like she was waiting for him to do something unspeakable at any moment.
She was right, of course, but still it grated.
Come in, Sarah.
There’s a gentleman here to see you,” she said, packing a world of both disapproval and deference into those few words.
Really, it was a pity she hadn’t been born a man because the world had lost a first rate butler there. The butlers Jack had served under would have been put fairly to shame.
Tell him to bugger off.” Sarah knew perfectly well he didn’t take gentlemen as clients. He tried to keep any trace of impatience out of his voice, but didn’t think he quite managed it.
I have customers downstairs and I don’t want a scene.” She had pins jammed into the sleeve of her gown, a sign that she had been interrupted in the middle of a fitting. No wonder her lips were pursed.
And I don’t want any gentlemen.” Too late, he realized he had set her up for a smart-mouthed response. Now she was going to press her advantage because that’s what older sisters did. But Sarah must have been developing some restraint, or maybe she was only in a hurry, because all she did was raise a single eyebrow as if to say, like hell you don’t.
I’m not your gatekeeper,” she said a moment later, her tone deceptively mild. But on her last word Jack could hear a trace of that old accent they had both worked so hard to shed. Sarah had to be driven to distraction if she was letting her accent slip.
Send him up, then,” he conceded. This arrangement of theirs depended on a certain amount of compromise on both sides.
She vanished, her shoes scarcely making any sound on the stairs. A moment later he heard the heavier tread of a man not at all concerned about disturbing the clients below.
This man didn’t bother knocking. He simply sailed through the door Sarah had left ajar as if he had every right in the world to enter whatever place he pleased, at whatever time he wanted.
To hell with that. Jack took his time stacking his cards, pausing a moment to examine one with feigned and hopefully infuriating interest. The gentleman coughed impatiently; Jack mentally awarded himself the first point.
Yes?” Jack looked up for the first time, as if only now noticing the stranger’s presence. He could see why Sarah had pegged him straight away as a gentleman. Everything about him, from his mahogany walking stick to his snowy white linen, proclaimed his status.
You’re Jack Turner?”
There was something about his voice—the absurd level of polish, perhaps—that made Jack look more carefully at his visitor’s face.
Could it—it couldn’t be. But it was.

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I don't pick up historical romances as often as I should even though I enjoy reading them a great deal. I've read contemporary M/M romances before but The Soldier's Scoundrel is the first M/M Regency and this is a d├ębut novel by the author.

Jack Turner has a knack of making his own fortune. A good attribute because his abusive upbringing taught him to seize any opportunity at any time. He's like a chameleon, blending into any situation to 'help' solve problems for his discerning clients. When a distinguished young gentleman seeks him out at his office, he says, he's making inquiries for his sister. Whilst that may be true, it is obvious to Jack that Captain 'Oliver' Rivington isn't the gentleman he pretends to be.

Oliver Rivington is back in England after selling the military commission his father paid for when he was only seventeen years old. Now in London, he's trying to find a purpose in his life and looking into the affairs of his sister is a start. When he visits an office to query an account, he comes face to face with a man who is far more complex than the services he offers.

I didn't know what to expect when I dived in, but my inability to put this book down became quickly apparent; a hugely positive sign. I love the fact the protagonists' attraction is taboo with the obstacles they have to overcome to be together. A welcome surprise was the mystery element to the plot as Jack, with Oliver's assistance turn detectives. The whole plot is fun and aided with an entertaining cast of secondary characters. When I read the ending I felt that the author's expectations didn't match the feelings of the time (Regency) with regards to homosexuality...then I reminded myself that this is a fictional story of two men falling in love and there's absolutely nothing wrong with wishing them a happy ending.

The writing flows in this sexy tale of forbidden love. Both protagonists compliment each other perfectly despite their vastly differing social backgrounds. Despite his background, Jack is compassionate and incredibly perceptive whilst Oliver is romantic; believing they can find a way to be together permanently.

This is a wonderful first novel by Cat Sebastian and I can't wait to read more from her.

***arc generously received courtesy of Avon Impulse via Edelweiss+***

Cat Sebastian lives in a swampy part of the South with her husband, three kids, and two dogs. Before her kids were born, she practiced law and taught high school and college writing. When she isn't reading or writing, she's doing crossword puzzles, bird watching, and wondering where she put her coffee cup.
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New Release Spotlight & Review: Crushing On Love by Melissa Foster

Crushing on Love
The Bradens at Peaceful Harbor #4
By: Melissa Foster
Releasing September 21, 2016
World Literary Press
Crushing On Love

The Bradens at Peaceful Harbor

Steve Johnson is living his life’s passion watching over the Colorado Mountains as a ranger and wildlife consultant. But his peaceful life is upended when overzealous and insanely beautiful Shannon Braden flits back into his life after returning from a brief trip home to Maryland. He thought his attraction to her was under control—after all, she’s only in Colorado temporarily, and he doesn’t do casual affairs.
Shannon’s return to Colorado has as much to do with the game of cat and mouse she and Steve have been playing as it does the data she’s been hired to collect. But despite her efforts to explore the undeniable heat simmering between them, Steve’s intent on keeping his distance.

When a ranch abutting the national park goes up for sale, Steve will do whatever it takes to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. And when all his attempts fail, he’s left with no alternative but to follow Shannon’s guidance into the online world he abhors in order to raise the funds. The more time they spend together, the deeper their attraction becomes, and a game of cat and mouse turns into an unstoppable connection. But when Shannon’s assignment comes to an end, will it mean an end to them, too?

Link to Follow Tour: HERE

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The sweet sounds of her humming floated into his ears, and he tried harder to deny the thrum of heat racing down his spine. He heard the crunching of leaves and his smile widened further. Damn, he needed to get a grip.
Hey there, mountain man.”
He forced the foolhardy smile from his lips, replacing it with what he hoped was a less lustful one, and turned to find the all-too-chipper and insanely hot brunette. Her hair was piled on her head in a messy bun, a few dark tendrils curling past her shoulders. She held a mug in each hand. Curls of steam rose into the air. Her pink shirt hitched on her breasts, and he chalked that up to the list of things he was futilely trying not to react to. But his body wasn’t on board with the off-limits plan, and it brimmed with heat. It had been a hell of a lot easier to be around her when she was staying at her uncle’s house in town. At least then by the time he saw her she had a freaking bra on.
He dropped his eyes to avoid staring, but her flannel pajama pants hung low on her hips, revealing a sliver of taut skin just below her belly button. Christ, she was gorgeous. Striving for a safe view, he looked at her leather boots. Boots were safe. There was nothing sexy about boots. Bright pink laces hung loose over the dark leather, her pajama pants bunched around the tops, showing another flash of skin. He pictured her shoving her bare feet into them before jaunting out the door with her mind-blowing smile in place. There must be something wrong with him, because he found that sexy, too.
You should lace those up.” He ran a hand through his hair, grinding his teeth against the way his entire body was buzzing like a live wire.
Well, Mr. Safety. I missed you, too.” She thrust a mug toward him with a coy smile. “Just the way you like it. Bitter as weeds.”
She was too damn cute, too damn social, and too damn temporary for the likes of him.
He reached for the mug. “Thanks, Butterfly.” The nickname flew off his tongue without thought, just as it had the first time she’d flitted into his yard, turned his insides to fire, and flitted back out. He was surprised to realize he’d missed saying it while she was gone.
No prob, Grizz.”
Grizz. Hell if he hadn’t missed that, too. Her eyes dropped to his bare chest, lingering long enough for him to feel it lower. Much lower. Her cheeks flushed, and she slid those gorgeous hazel eyes to his ax—the one in his hand, not the one in his pants.
Preparing for a cold night, or thinking about becoming a serial killer?”
I wouldn’t have cold nights if you were in my bed. As if on cue, his body stirred again, reminding him it’d been far too long since he’d been with a woman.
As interesting as becoming a serial killer sounds, I don’t think I’m cut out for it.”
Right. It would require human contact.”
I missed that smart mouth of yours,” he said sarcastically. He’d been fantasizing about her full lips and sassy mouth ever since they’d reconnected at Rex and Jade’s wedding several months ago. But she was only there until her project ended, so sarcasm it was.
Heard you ride in with Cal last night. How long are you here for?” He hadn’t just heard her arrive. He’d gone out to see who was riding up the mountain and had seen her arms wrapped around Cal from behind as they rode past the overlook. In the moonlight they’d looked like a frigging Hallmark card.
A few weeks. Four and a half, I think. Something like that.” She stretched one arm, flashing even more of her midriff.
Torture. Pure, exquisite torture.
You could have called me to bring you up the mountain.” He shifted his eyes away, trying to figure out who had taken possession of his mouth. Called me? He had nothing against Cal. He was a nice guy and was one of the most respected horse trainers around. And he shouldn’t give a shit who Shannon was with. Sure, she was hot, smart, and he liked her ballsy attitude, but he liked his life just the way it was. The last thing he needed was a social butterfly like her bringing noise and chaos into his life, telling him what to do or how to live.
I know.” She kicked at the dirt, her eyes downcast. “Treat and Max stopped by in the afternoon and I went into town with them to visit my uncle Hal and my cousins. Cal was there and he offered to drive me back, since he lives in Preston. It was only once we got back to his place that he suggested we ride up on horseback. Besides, you don’t exactly love going into town.”
Great, now he was stuck envisioning her at Cal’s sprawling horse ranch.
He finished his coffee and handed her the mug. “Thanks. It was perfect.” He turned to set another log on the stump. “You ought to be careful bringing guys up to your cabin,” he said with his back to her.
I thought I left my overprotective big brothers at home.” She sighed. “I hardly think Cal is a threat. He’s known Rex forever.”
Steve rested the ax over his shoulder, weighing his response. The last thing he wanted to be was her big brother, and he’d known Cal forever, too. Cal wasn’t the kind of guy to take advantage of a woman, but that didn’t stop Steve’s gut from churning at the thought of them cozied up together.
He’s a friend, Steve.” She narrowed her eyes as he drew the ax back. “Don’t even try to pretend you don’t bring women up to your cabin.”
He arched a brow. That would be a big no fucking way. He liked his privacy.
Her jaw gaped. “What? Don’t you ever get bored? Lonely?”
Not really,” he said as he swung the ax. It was a damned lie, at least since Shannon had flitted into his life, making him feel things he’d once been adept at ignoring.
Why not? That’s not normal.” She finished her coffee and set the mugs on the ground as he split the log and set another one on the stump. “What do you do for sex?”
He laughed under his breath. “Seriously, city girl?”
I’d hardly call Peaceful Harbor a city. It’s a beach town, and you’re avoiding the question.”
Maybe because you’re asking questions you shouldn’t be asking.” He swung the ax and split another log.
She smirked. “Look at you, all big and brawny and afraid to talk about sex.”
What’s gotten into you?” He set the ax-head on the ground and leaned on the handle. Before she’d gone home, he’d gotten away with a strategically placed Uh-huh. “I’m pretty sure you weren’t this curious about my sexual habits the last time you were on the mountain.”
Her eyes rolled over him, and he couldn’t tell if she was assessing or enjoying the view.
I don’t know,” she said with a mischievous grin. “You’re standing there like a lumberjack. Six…what?”
Three,” he said with a sigh.
Right. Six three of shirtless, sweaty muscle, with your hair all tousled.” She moved her hands around her head, causing her shirt to lift up again. “You haven’t shaved in who knows how long, and you look like the guys on ‘Seriously Sexy Hot Guys’ Pinterest boards. A guy who looks like you can’t be going without.” She shrugged and her cheeks pinked up. “It made me wonder…”
How about you wonder a little less?” Because hearing you talk about my sex life makes me want you in it. Front and center
Pinterest? What the heck is Pinterest?”
Her eyes widened with disbelief. “I forgot you know nothing about the real world. Pinterest is this awesome social media site—”
Never mind. That’s so far from the real world it shouldn’t exist. People nowadays are content to sit inside and stare at screens, talking with people they don’t know instead of living their lives. Bodies are meant to move, Butterfly. Weather is meant to be experienced. If people were more like animals, the world would be a better place.”
He saw a hint of hurt in her eyes and felt bad. Sometimes he forgot that he wasn’t the only one protective of their lifestyle. He tried to change the subject to a lighter one.
What are you doing out here so early anyway?” he asked.
The company offered me a new project, and my boss at my real job gave me a leave of absence to do it. I thought that was pretty cool of him. I’m going to be comparing the habits of gray and red foxes, and I’m here to scout the grays. You know how red foxes prefer edge habitats and grays prefer mountainous forestland?” Edge habitats were the boundary of two habitats, like field and forest. She didn’t wait for him to respond before continuing with her explanation. “They’re similar in life and history in almost every way, except for grays being shier and slightly smaller and where they make their dens. I’m going to study them to see if their behavioral patterns reveal reasons for the difference in habitat preference. I was hoping you’d have time to show me where I can find them.”
The request took him by surprise. She’d spent weeks researching red foxes and hadn’t once asked him to help her.
No can do today, Butterfly.” He had a busy day planned. He’d caught a group of twentysomethings partying by one of the rock ledges last week and he’d spotted a few of them again yesterday. He needed to make the rounds to ensure they weren’t back and getting into trouble, and he had to head down the mountain to meet with his old buddies Mack and Will Cumberland. Yesterday he’d learned the Cumberland ranch was going up for sale: two hundred acres in Weston, adjacent to the national park where Steve had worked as a ranger and wildlife consultant for a decade. Steve had grown up in Weston, and though he lived two towns away now, his small-town roots ran deep. He wanted to try to convince his buddies to put the land into conservation instead of selling.
 “Bummer. I was looking forward to catching up on all the crazy shenanigans you were up to while I was gone.” She waggled her brows with the tease.
He smiled and shook his head. “Be careful out there. I caught some kids partying recently. They’re probably harmless, but guys and alcohol…Just be careful. You got that Mace I left in your cabin?”
That was you?” She narrowed her eyes and said, “You do realize I’m a grown woman, right?”
Christ, had he ever.

Solitude on the mountain. That's just how Steve Johnson likes his life as he literally lives where he works. He's a ranger and wildlife consultant and prefers a quiet laid-back lifestyle away from hustle and bustle of a town. When Shannon Braden comes back to spends time researching foxes, he can no longer deny his attraction to her, only she lives on the East Coast and is only here a short time. He doesn't do casual relationships plus, she just doesn't stop talking and shatters his peace! 

Shannon enjoyed the time staying at her Uncle's ranch so much whilst doing research that she seizes an opportunity to come back to Colorado again. Her motives are personal because she wants to know if there's a real attraction between the gruff man who lives on the mountain or not. This time around she's staying in a cabin close to his to tempt fate. Knowing she's only here a short time, a short fling is just what she needs, only the big man on the mountain doesn't do 'casual' hook-ups. 

I admit to feeling a little bit nervous about how Steve 'Grizz' Johnson would handle a woman like Shannon 'Butterfly' Braden. I strongly relate to his personality traits and know that this woman with her effervescent personality would be a bit too overbearing for him to deal with sometimes. Of course, I needn't have worried because the author has a knack of bringing together couples that don't instantly seem like a good fit. Easy banter flies effortlessly between the pair and it's adorable. Both are clearly attracted to each other, but both are on different pages when it comes to whether to act on their sizzling chemistry or not. Their mutual love of wildlife is their common bond and when Steve wants to protect a piece of land from becoming developed, Shannon uses her skills to show Steve how to make his wishes come true. A gesture which lays tentative foundations for a future together.

Compromise. This couple had it by the bucket load, but it took a time to get to the place they needed to be on the relationship front. Their ability to meet each other half way is palpable, as they get to know and understand each other's personal needs and adapt themselves accordingly. Steve is passionate, yet reserved. Shannon's need for personal company and be near to her personal creature comforts. It's important to her, but she realises she can have both. 

One of the biggest pulls for me with Melissa Foster's books is the strong sense of family and/or community within the beautiful stories she writes. The secondary characters never dominate, but always enhance an enticing plot. Crushed On Love is a very sexy read with fabulous dialogue exchange against a backdrop of the Colorado mountains.

Another first-class book finished and enjoyed. 

***arc generously received courtesy of World Literary Press via Tasty Book Tours***

Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance, new adult romance, and women's fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Melissa's emotional journeys are lovingly erotic, perfect beach reads, and always family oriented. 

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