Wednesday, 5 July 2017

New Release Spotlight & Review: The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian

The Ruin of a Rake
By: Cat Sebastian
Releasing July 4, 2017
Avon Impulse

Rogue. Libertine. Rake. Lord Courtenay has been called many things and has never much cared. But after the publication of a salacious novel supposedly based on his exploits, he finds himself shunned from society. Unable to see his nephew, he is willing to do anything to improve his reputation, even if that means spending time with the most proper man in London.

Julian Medlock has spent years becoming the epitome of correct behavior. As far as he cares, if Courtenay finds himself in hot water, it’s his own fault for behaving so badly—and being so blasted irresistible. But when Julian’s sister asks him to rehabilitate Courtenay’s image, Julian is forced to spend time with the man he loathes—and lusts after—most.

As Courtenay begins to yearn for a love he fears he doesn’t deserve, Julian starts to understand how desire can drive a man to abandon all sense of propriety. But he has secrets he’s determined to keep, because if the truth came out, it would ruin everyone he loves. Together, they must decide what they’re willing to risk for love. 

London, 1817
Julian pursed his lips as he gazed at the symmetrical brick fa├žade of his sister’s house. It was every bit as bad as he had feared. He could hear the racket from the street, for God’s sake. He pulled the brim of his hat lower on his forehead, as if concealing his face would go any distance toward mitigating the damage done by his sister having turned her house into a veritable brothel. Right in the middle of Mayfair, and at eleven in the morning, when the entire ton was on hand to bear witness to her degradation, no less. Say what one wanted about Eleanor—and at this moment Julian could only imagine what was being said—but she did not do things by halves.
As he climbed the steps to her door, the low rumble of masculine voices drifted from an open second story window. Somebody was playing a pianoforte—badly—and a lady was singing out of key.
No, not a lady. Julian suppressed a sigh. Whoever these women were in his sister’s house, they were not ladies. No lady in her right mind would consort with the sort of men Eleanor had been entertaining lately. Every young buck with a taste for vice had made his way to her house over these last weeks, along with their mistresses or courtesans or whatever one was meant to call them. And the worst of them, the blackguard who had started Eleanor on her path to becoming a byword for scandal, was Lord Courtenay.
A shiver trickled down Julian’s spine at the thought of encountering the man, and he could not decide whether it was from simple, honest loathing or something much, much worse.
The door swung open before Julian had raised his hand to the knocker.
Mr. Medlock, thank goodness.” The look of abject relief on the face of Eleanor’s butler might have struck Julian as vaguely inappropriate under any other circumstance. But considering the tableau that presented itself in Eleanor’s vestibule, the butler’s informality hardly registered.
Propped against the elegantly papered wall, a man in full evening dress snored peacefully, a bottle of brandy cradled in his arms and a swath of bright crimson silk draped across his leg. A lady’s gown, Julian gathered. The original wearer of the garment was, mercifully, not present.
I came as soon as I received your message.” Julian had not been best pleased to receive a letter from his sister’s butler, of all people, begging that he return to London ahead of schedule. Having secured a coveted invitation to a very promising house party, he was loath to leave early in order to evict a set of bohemians and reprobates from his sister’s house.
The cook is threatening to quit, sir,” said the butler. Tilbury, a man of over fifty who had been with Eleanor since she and Julian had arrived in England, had gray circles under his eyes. No doubt the revels had interrupted his sleep. “And I’ve already sent all but the—ah—hardiest of the housemaids to the country. It wouldn’t do for them to be imposed upon. I’d never forgive myself.”
Julian nodded. “You were quite right to send for me. Where is my sister?” Several unmatched slippers were scattered along the stairs that led toward the drawing room and bedchambers. He gritted his teeth.
Lady Standish is in her study, sir.”
Julian’s eyebrows shot up. “Her study,” he repeated. Eleanor was hosting an orgy—really, there was no use in pretending it was anything else—but ducked out to conduct an experiment. Truly, the experiments were bad enough, but Julian had always managed to conceal their existence. But to combine scientific pursuits with actual orgies struck Julian as excessive in all directions.
You,” he said, nudging the sleeping man with the toe of his boot. He was not climbing over drunken bodies, not today, not any day. “Wake up.” The man opened his eyes with what seemed a great deal of effort. “Who are you? No, never mind, I can’t be bothered to care.” The man wasn’t any older than Julian himself, certainly not yet five and twenty, but Julian felt as old as time and as irritable as a school mistress compared to this specimen of self-indulgence. “Get up, restore that gown to its owner, and be gone before I decide to let your father know what you’ve been up to.” As so often happened when Julian ordered people about, this fellow complied.
Julian made his way to Eleanor’s study, and found her furiously scribbling at her writing table, a mass of wires and tubes arranged before her. She didn’t look up at the sound of the door opening, nor when he pointedly closed it behind him. Eleanor, once she was busy working, was utterly unreachable. She had been like this since they were children. He felt a rush of affection for her despite how much trouble she was causing him.
Eleanor?” Nothing. He stooped to gather an empty wine bottle and a few abandoned goblets, letting them clink noisily together as he deposited them onto a table. Still no response. “Nora?” It almost physically hurt to say his childhood name for her when things felt so awkward and strained between them.
It won’t work,” came a low drawl. “I’ve been sitting here these past two hours and I haven’t gotten a response.”
Banishing any evidence of surprise from his countenance, Julian turned to see Lord Courtenay himself sprawled in a low chair in a shadowy corner. There oughtn’t to have been any shadows in the middle of the day in a bright room, but trust Lord Courtenay to find one to lurk in.
Julian quickly schooled his face into some semblance of indifference. No, that was a reach; his face was simply not going to let him pretend indifference to Courtenay. He doubted whether anyone had ever shared space with Lord Courtenay without being very much aware of that fact. And it wasn’t only his preposterous good looks that made him so . . . noticeable. The man served as a sort of magnet for other people’s attention, and Julian hated himself for being one of those people. As far as he could tell, the man’s entire problem was that people paid a good deal too much attention to him. But one could hardly help it, not when he looked like that.

Another eagerly anticipated novel by Cat Sebastian.

The Brigand Prince of Salerno, a novel and the talk of the ton. It's this season's source of much gossip, as rumours circulate that the inspiration for Brigand Prince is Lord Courtenay, whose name and reputation are usually linked to scandals. He may have been back in London for a short time, but news of his ways have reached the father of his nephew; a boy he helped raise before the death of the child's mother; his sister. When Julian Medlock decides to assist the poor chap to regain his social status, he does not realise he will be the one to benefit most.

Julian Medlock's sister, Lady Eleanor Standish has befriended the scandalous Lord Courtenay. Much to his despair. He himself believing the dashingly handsome rake to be his sister's lover. When it becomes clear his assumption is wrong and discovers the gentleman needs accepting back into society, Julian begins a campaign to aid the man. However, despite his attraction to his subject, he wouldn't have believed that his feelings for him would ever be reciprocated.

I found The Ruin of a Rake a little slow in the beginning as we are introduced to the protagonists and the scene's set. Yet, I wasn't discouraged because Cat Sebastian's other novels are sufficient enough proof that once the pace of the narrative picks up, you're helpless to stop yourself from becoming fully engrossed in the storyline. With witty dialogue, comes highly entertaining, delightful protagonists. In addition, an equally colourful band of supporting characters add humour.

If you've read Ms Sebastian's other books, you'll see there's a cross-over of many characters and in this book specifically, it was a distraction for me because I was desperately trying to remember them from previous books, rather than concentrate solely on the current narrative. You don't need to read these titles to enjoy this one. Not knowing additional character information isn't relevant to this novel. Those issues aside (for me), I thoroughly enjoyed this steamy, Regency romance.

If you love historical romance and looking for something a little diverse, these M/M novels come highly recommended. All are standalone and are exquisitely written. They all have a gentleman and rogue romance and are all equally enjoyable.

***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 & Author Interview: Unmistaken Identity by Marie Johnston

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Unmistaken Identity
Fanboys #1
By: Marie Johnston
Releasing June 21, 2017

Mara Baranski is living the fangirl’s dream, running a comic book shop that supports her and her ailing mother. She is even given the chance to buy the building—for a dollar. That is, until her dear friend and landlord dies before the sale goes through. Now Mara has forty-five days to clear out her shop or convince the resentful son of the old owner to change his mind—if she can only corner him long enough to ask.
Despite being abandoned by his father years ago, Wesley inherited all of his dad’s assets and ambition—but not his gullibility. When the tantalizing woman at his nightclub turns out to be the woman who scammed his lonely father, he seizes the chance for a little revenge. But after using a fake name to get close to his target, Wes is soon coming up with excuses to keep his identity secret a little longer.
As the forty-five days count down, Mara’s loyal customers swoop in to help save her store. Even more, her handsome new boyfriend is making her believe in happy endings again. Too bad secret identities only last forever in comic books.
She had to hunt Wesley Robson down tonight, didn’t want to waste more time on her search. As it was, the night would be too short for decent sleep. Saturday was game day at her comic book shop. Participants showed early and played intensely for hours. Board games, card games, electronic games. She would jump in and play them all, or run around the store helping customers.
It was her favorite day of the week, but still a long one. 
What did Wesley look like, anyway? She would’ve seen him if she’d been able to go to the funeral. By the time she’d found out about Sam’s sudden death, though, he’d been gone and buried. There had to be a picture of his boy online. Just as she pulled out her phone to do a search, someone settled onto the barstool next to her. 
Macallan 12.”
The deep voice resonated through her bones. She almost groaned. He had the rumble of a rugged man, a primal mating call in her opinion. Admittedly, her last few dates had put the “boys” in fanboys, not men who knew their way around a woman.

She peeked at him from the corner of her eye. Her fingers tightened around the stem of her glass.
Holy hotness, Batman! He reminded her of one of her favorite superheroes. Jet-black hair, sky-blue eyes nearly glowing under the club lights, wide shoulders. If he wore a cape and had a large S on his shirt, she’d sit on his face. She’d still consider it, given his charcoal slacks and white-striped shirt, which likely had been cinched by a tie all day. The first two buttons were undone and his sleeves were rolled up. What was that style called? Industrial hot-as-hell businessman.

What’s your poison?”

She shot him a surprised glance. He gestured to her already half-empty glass.

What had the bartender said it was? “I think it’s named after some rapper.”

He chuckled with genuine humor. “Are you here with the bachelorette party?”

When hell froze over. “No.”

The bartender leaned over the counter to hand him his drink. “The lady said she was looking for the owner.”

Stay out of it, dude. Wait, he knew the total package next to her? Maybe the new arrival also knew the owner. “Do you know Mr. Robson?”

His eyes crinkled with his smile. Even the man’s teeth were perfect. “Why would you want to find him? I’ve heard he’s an ass.”

She rolled her eyes. “Tell me about it.”

Hotness savored a long sip of his…whatever a Macallan was. “You’ve gotta tell me what he did to you.”
The pink bangs that framed her face dropped into her eyes. She feathered them away. His gaze traced from her hand to her dual ponytails, the plain brown hair streaked with pink. Instead of blond highlights, or lowlights, or whatever stylish women did, she’d chosen pink—because it was fun and girly. One of the few splurges she allowed herself.

Her hair often drew attention, not always the flattering kind. But she enjoyed his. “He’s shutting down my store. Tearing down the whole damn building. ‘Upgrading.’” She gave the last word air quotes.
His right eye twitched and he stared at her for a heartbeat. Humor drained from his expression and his gaze narrowed slightly.

Her heart rate increased at being the object of such scrutiny. She wanted more, but she also felt like she’d done something wrong.

Finally, a grin curled his full lips. “That bastard.”
Marie Johnston writes paranormal and contemporary romance and has collected several awards in both genres. Before she was a writer, she was a microbiologist. Depending on the situation, she can be oddly unconcerned about germs or weirdly phobic. She’s also a licensed medical technician and has worked as a public health microbiologist and as a lab tech in hospital and clinic labs. Marie’s been a volunteer EMT, a college instructor, a security guard, a phlebotomist, a hotel clerk, and a coffee pourer in a bingo hall. All fodder for a writer!! She has four kids, an old cat, and a puppy that’s bigger than half her kids.

If you had to title your own life what would it be and why?
Tales of an Insecure Mom
What is their favorite place to visit? 
Favorite town: Fargo. It’s nothing like the show! We don’t want to admit it, but I’ve heard people talk exactly like the movie. Usually when I go there, all I want to hit up are restaurants.
Favorite place: Greasy diners. It brings me great joy to find a place that serves a perfect burger. I’m not talking about a fancy patty seasoned to the gills, with a whole wheat bun, served on a bed of lettuce. I want a plain burger with the grease that soaks into a buttered and toasted white bun and soaks into my mouth when I take the first bite. And nothing but ketchup decorates my burger.
Favorite writing place. 
There’s a Classic Rock coffee shop in town. The place is dark like a bar, but not as loud. Best of all, they have booths. I used to go there and write during preschool until my stomach said no more caffeine. I’m back together with caffeine, and when preschool resumes, my butt will be planted in one of those booths, and I will be happily typing away.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The little twist about halfway through. I was writing my critique partner about the plot and brought up a “what if…” She said OMG—DO IT!! The twist is subtler that I imagined it, but it’s a major factor in their character arcs.
What gave you the most trouble with this story?
I entered this manuscript into several contests and many judges felt the hero wasn’t likeable. My editor got her hands on it and said I had to peel him back like an onion. I panicked. I had such a solid picture of him—did I not translate it well? Of course, in my head, he’s clearly a guy torn up by his father’s rejection and riddled with righteous anger over the girl he thought was trying to con his dad. And in the beginning, he was a jacka$$ with devious intentions, so I didn’t want to soften him too much. So, I used a light touch in my edits and my beta readers approved, but I still worry my vision of Wes Robson didn’t translate and readers won’t root for like I do. I’ve started the second book in the series and Wes makes an appearance and I’m just really proud of the character he became.
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
I wanted to do my Midwest take on the billionaire bad boy romance. But I don’t travel much anymore, much less to any big cities. I haven’t lived in a city larger than 100K. And what do I know about being rich? So, I ruminated over different story lines and when the comic book shop came to mind—jackpot. I mean, it’s like I’ve prepared for this story my whole life. I’m a fangirl by proxy. My brother’s a Marvel guy and while growing up, I watched Star Trek with him. My husband is a DC guy and out-Treks my brother. Our date nights include superhero movies and I know to never, ever crinkle a comic book.
What do you like best about being a writer? What is the most challenging part?

As a career, I love the flexibility of being a writer. I’m the hub my family circles around and when I worked full-time and part-time, our chaos was almost unmanageable. As far as the craft, I just love writing, especially when I get into a groove and words are flowing and I don’t have to pop into constantly. It’s a gigantic challenge finding time to write because it feels like everyone else’s activities come before my work. But in the end, that’s why I do this, to be around for my family. 
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