Saturday, 29 September 2018

Release Day: A Laughing Matter of Pain by Cynthia Hilston

A Laughing Matter of Pain by Cynthia Hilston

Harry Rechthart always knew how to laugh, but laughter can hide a lot of pain that’s drowned by the bottle and good times. He grew up the joker in the early 1900s in Cleveland, Ohio, but as he enters adulthood, conflict splits him. His once close relationship with his brother, Erik, breaks as they come into their own and Erik goes off to college. No longer under Erik’s shadow, Harry feels he might finally shine and make others see him as someone to be proud of. Harry finds an unlikely comrade who understands how he feels–his younger sister, Hannah. Once free of high school, Harry and Hannah double date sister and brother, Kat and Will Jones, attending wild, extravagant parties during the years of Prohibition. Harry thinks he’s won at life–he’s found love in Kat, in a good time, and in the bottle. But all the light goes out fast when Harry’s alcoholism leads to disastrous consequences for him and Kat.

Harry thinks the joke’s on him now that he’s sunk lower than ever. He’s in jail. He’s pushed away his family. He’s a broken man, but in the darkest depths of a prison cell, there is hope. Can Harry rebuild his life and learn that true laughter comes from knowing true joy, or will he bury himself once and for all in this laughing matter of pain?

 Cynthia Hilston is a thirty-something-year-old stay at home mom of three young kids, happily married. Writing has always been like another child to her. After twenty years of waltzing in the world of fan fiction, she finally stepped away to do her debut dance with original works of fiction. Hannah's Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful is her first original novel. She's currently working on more books. Visit her website for more information.

In her spare time - what spare time? - she devours books, watches Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, pets her orange kitty, looks at the stars, and dreams of what other stories she wishes to tell.

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New Release Spotlight: Corruption by Elizabeth Ducie

Corruption! by Elizabeth Ducie

Out of fear. Out of greed. Out of evil. Corruption springs from many roots.
Teenagers fall prey to a deadly new drug craze sweeping across Russia. Pharmaceuticals destined for Africa turn up on the backstreets of Moscow, St Petersburg and Vladivostok. Regulator Suzanne Jones and her sister, Charlie, fight to stop the pushers before more kids die.
But will their discoveries mean a friend goes to prison? And are they putting their loved ones in danger?
With old adversaries and surprising new allies, the Jones sisters face their toughest challenge to date. The heart-stopping final episode in the Suzanne Jones series of thrillers set in the sometimes murky world of international pharmaceuticals

Amazon     Books2Read 

When Elizabeth Ducie had been working in the international pharmaceutical industry for nearly thirty years, she decided she’d like to take a break from technical writing—text books, articles and training modules—and write about some of her travel experiences instead. She took some courses in Creative Writing and discovered to her surprise that she was happier, and more successful, writing fiction than memoirs or life-writing. In 2012, she gave up the day job, and started writing full-time. She has published three novels, three collections of short stories and a series of manuals on business skills for writers.

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Thursday, 27 September 2018

New Release Spotlight & Review: The Winter That Made Us by Kate Field

The Winter That Made Us by Kate Field

When Tess finds herself unexpectedly alone and back in Ribblemill, the childhood village she thought she’d escaped, she’s sure she can survive a temporary stay. She’s spent a lifetime making the best of things, hasn’t she?
Determined to throw herself into village life, Tess starts a choir and gathers a team of volunteers to restore the walled garden at Ramblings, the local stately home. Everything could be perfect, if she weren’t sharing a cottage and a cat with a man whose manner is more prickly than the nettles she’s removing…
As winter approaches, Tess finds herself putting down her own roots as fast as she’s pulling them up in the garden. But the ghosts of the past hover close by, and Tess must face them if she’s to discover whether home is where her heart has been all along.

A thoughtful empathetic story about two people struggling to overcome difficult problems in their lives and yet find a common connection; "There's no place like home".

Ribblemill, where Tess grew up, is a far cry from the life and home she's left in Sussex. Her parents still have a home in the village, but finding her own temporary place to live is preferred. When she views a cottage for rent, she instantly loves the place however, someone else has already agreed to rent the place too. The solution? Both will share the two-bedroomed cottage. It's an awkward agreement to agree too, but she's only back temporarily, isn't she?

A quiet life, that's all Noah is asking for, but when someone else shows an interest in the cottage he's agreed to rent, he reluctantly agrees to share. It's only a temporary arrangement but life as Noah wants is about to change.

I felt sorry for Tess and the burden she's carried around all her life. The weight of expectation dragging her down until she hit rock bottom. Far from perfect, I respect how she finally faces her problems and simultaneously re-builds a new life by dropping the pretence. Noah is a gentle soul who manages to show his feelings rather than say them out loud. I'm not a fan of silent heroes but particularly liked how the author uses a secondary character to help to draw him out of his dark place.

The author has written relatable protagonists with heart-breaking and tragic back-stories. Somehow circumstances throw them together in a positive way leading to a new beginning neither could have envisaged. Before their introduction, each view their own situation as rather hopeless, so it's wonderful to see how each can see the positives in the other's situation.

A wonderfully written novel by a new to me author. As someone originally from Northern England, it always comforting to read a story set close to home, even if on the occasion, it is on the opposite side of the Pennines ;-) The warm community spirit of the folk from Ribblemill shines through and provides a heart-warming backdrop to Tess and Noah's relationship.

***arc generously received courtesy of the publisher Accent Press***

Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire,
where she lives with her husband, daughter and hyperactive cat.
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers in 2017.

Twitter: @katehaswords

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

New Release Spotlight: Hot Winter Nights by Jill Shalvis

Hot Winter Nights
Heartbreaker Bay – Book 6
By: Jill Shalvis
Avon Books – Sept 25th, 2018

Hot Winter Nights

Heartbreaker Bay series
Who needs mistletoe?
Most people wouldn’t think of a bad Santa case as the perfect Christmas gift. Then again, Molly Malone, office manager at Hunt Investigations, isn’t most people, and she could really use a distraction from the fantasies she’s been having since spending the night with her very secret crush, Lucas Knight. Nothing happened, not that Lucas knows that—but Molly just wants to enjoy being a little naughty for once . . .
Whiskey and pain meds for almost-healed bullet wounds don’t mix. Lucas needs to remember that next time he’s shot on the job, which may be sooner rather than later if Molly’s brother, Joe, finds out about them. Lucas can’t believe he’s drawing a blank on his (supposedly) passionate tryst with Molly, who’s the hottest, smartest, strongest woman he’s ever known. Strong enough to kick his butt if she discovers he’s been assigned to babysit her on her first case. And hot enough to melt his cold heart this Christmas . . .

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis writes warm, funny, sexy contemporary romances and women’s fiction. An Amazon, BN & iBooks bestseller, she’s also a two-time RITA winner and has more than 10 million copies of her books sold worldwide.

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Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Release Day Spotlight & Review: The Lady Is Daring, The Duke's Daughters #3 by Megan Frampton

Fantastic reviews for Megan’s previous books include:
  • “A passionate Regency romance of uncommon depth and heart.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred) for Lady Be Reckless

  •  “With the second dazzling installment in her Duke’s Daughters series, Frampton once again works her distinctive brand of literary alchemy by taking superbly nuanced characters, plenty of potent passion, and a generous measure of delightfully tart wit and distilling all these ingredients down into another irresistible romance.”—Booklist (starred review) for Lady Be Reckless

  • “Frampton’s talent shines in building a slow heat between Marcus and Lily, allowing them to work together to overcome their shadowed pasts and reach something neither has had before: a family.”—Washington Post for The Duke’s Guide to Correct Behavior

“An intelligent, practical heroine who will do anything for her daughter and an arrogant, lonely hero finally give in to passion and, eventually, completely “illogical” love in a story made sweeter by the presence of a charming child and a wonderful lummox of a dog.”—Library Journal (starred review) for Why Do Dukes Fall in Love?

  • “Heartwarming and delightful, Frampton’s latest Dukes Behaving Badly is a perfect example of her strong storytelling skills. [...] The pitch-perfect dialogue and pacing enhance readers’ enjoyment.”—RT Book Reviews for Put Up Your Duke

A Victorian romance between two people who found love on their terms.

As the daughter of a Duke, tired of the expectations placed on her, Lady Ida Howlett wants to be free, to explore and satisfy her thirst for knowledge and adventure. However, with two sisters married it was her turn to fulfil her parent's marry a man she barely knows.

Bennett, Lord Carson has successfully avoided getting married twice. On each occasion, his intended brides ended up marrying men better suited to them, namely his best friend and his younger brother. With family responsibility weighing him down, he wonders if he would ever find and love a woman who meets his personal requirements. Only, the woman he desires is far different from what he thought he wanted in a bride.

Ida is definitely a woman who stands out in a crowd, and justly so. She's highly intelligent and very outspoken. She is a breath of fresh air and stands out like a sore thumb. In contrast, Bennett is a swoon-worthy gentleman with a far differing temperament to the Duke's youngest daughter yet, common interests spark an attraction neither can ignore. He encourages Ida to seek out her sister but also is cautious to make sure she is aware of her actions always. He is her protector but he respects her wishes too.

What drew me to both the protagonists is their individuality. Both don't fit into their roles within society, so instead, they made their way in life on their terms, even though it was looked down upon by their families. With both families having an existing connection and experience of scandal between them, the path for the daring pair runs smoother than either could have expected, even though many bumps appear along their journey to a happy ever after.

The Lady is Daring is the third book in the Duke's Daughters series and Megan Frampton is a new author to me. Although characters from the previous books appear in this novel, the narrative's written as a standalone. I appreciated the humour and wit in the author's writing and heartily enjoyed the comical setting. It made a refreshing change to read a historical romance set in the middle of the nineteenth century and I'll look out for more soon.

***arc generously received courtesy of the publisher Avon via Edelweiss +***

It was easy for society to overlook Lady Ida Howlett; they found her bookish, opinionated, and off the marriage mart. But little did they know that behind a calm exterior beats the heart of an adventuress, one who, determined to discover her runaway sister’s whereabouts, steals a carriage and sets off on a daring mission. Then she discovers she’s not alone! Bennett, Lord Carson, is inside, and he refuses to leave.
Lord Carson’s plans had always been to find a soft, gentle wife who would run his home and raise his children. Still, he makes a bargain with Ida—he won’t desert her during her mad adventure. He’ll make sure she’s safe, and then find a suitable lady to fall in love with. But when rules (and garments) become discarded during this long, intimate journey, it’s soon clear that this surprisingly daring lady is the woman he’s needed all along.

Megan Frampton writes historical romance under her own name and romantic women’s fiction under the name Megan Caldwell. She likes the color black, gin, dark-haired British men, and huge earrings, not in that order. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and son. You can visit her website at She tweets as @meganf and is at

Monday, 24 September 2018

New Release Spotlight: Summer of Scandal by Syrie James

Summer of Scandal by Syrie James
Series Dare to Defy Series
Genre Adult Historical Romance
Publisher Avon Impulse
Publication Date September 11, 2018

Madeleine Atherton is no typical American heiress, sent to England to marry an English lord. A brilliant college graduate who secretly dreams of becoming a published author, she wants to marry for love. After receiving a proposal from a future duke, Madeleine flees the London Season for Cornwall to seek her sister’s advice, never expecting her decision to be complicated by a charming, handsome earl she’s certain she dislikes—even though his every touch sets her blood on fire.
Charles Grayson, the Earl of Saunders, has secrets and ambitions of his own. Although under pressure from his mother and gravely ill father to marry his cousin, Charles cannot find the words to propose. But this fascinating American visitor does not figure into his plans, either.

Thrown together unexpectedly at Trevelyan Manor, Madeleine and Charles struggle to rise above their intense attraction. But as things heat up between them over a summer that becomes increasingly scandalous, Madeleine and Charles will both be forced to make a difficult choice. Can two dreamers dare to defy convention and find their own happily ever after?

Avon Romance
Barnes & Noble
Google Play

Chapter One

Bolton, Cornwall, England
June 21, 1889

The brisk wind bit Madeleine Atherton’s cheeks as she stepped down from the train. Cornwall might be known for its temperate climate, but it felt more like November than June. At least the rain had stopped—for the moment.
The rural station at Bolton was much smaller than Madeleine had remembered. Just a redbrick building that resembled a cottage, with a single wooden bench facing the tracks. The platform was empty. Beyond the station stretched a single street lined with small houses and shops. Beyond that, wide green meadows were bisected by a narrow road as far as the eye could see. There was no sign of an approaching carriage.
Where was Alexandra?
Madeleine had spent the entire seven-hour train ride from London thinking about this moment, how wonderful it would be to see her sister again, and how happy Alexandra would be that Madeleine had dared to come. But no one was here to meet her.
Madeline pulled her velvet cloak more closely about her, worried. She had sent a wire yesterday to inform her sister of her plans. I’m stealing away, she had written, just like you did last year. Well, stealing wasn’t exactly the right word. She had simply left a note, packed a trunk, donned her best green traveling suit, and slipped out of Brown’s Hotel early that morning while her mother was sleeping.
As the second of three daughters of one of the richest men in the United States, Madeleine understood that she was expected to make an exceptional match. The quest for a titled husband might be her mother’s ambition, to further the family’s standing in New York society, but Madeleine had agreed to give it a try. It had worked out so well for her sister, after all. Alexandra had fallen madly in love with Thomas Carlyle, the seventh Earl of Longford, and was now happily married and a countess.
Madeleine wasn’t actually opposed to the man her mother was urging her to marry. In fact, she rather liked him. The problem was, unlike most of the girls unleashed on the London Season, Madeleine wasn’t a wide-eyed, immature debutante. She was twenty-four years old. She was a college graduate. This was her second Season in London, taking into account last year’s half Season, when she’d hastily crossed the Atlantic to take part after Alexandra’s impromptu exit.
And Madeleine had specific goals in mind.
Like her sister, Madeleine wanted love to figure into the equation in any match she made. And not just any love. Madeleine wanted a man who adored and respected her, but who also understood her and would be supportive of her dreams.
Was Lord Oakley that man? She wasn’t certain.
Her abrupt departure from town would no doubt enrage her mother, but Madeleine desperately needed a few weeks away to clear her head. She had a life-altering decision to make. And she needed her sister’s advice.
Is this everything, then?” The query from a mustachioed porter broke into her thoughts. He and another man had deposited Madeleine’s trunk and two bags onto the platform.
Yes, thank you so much.” Madeleine tipped both men, who touched their caps in thanks.
She was trying to decide what to do, when she caught sight of an approaching carriage on the horizon. Thank goodness. Alexandra was coming at last!
Just then, from another car further along the train, a tall, well-dressed gentleman descended, carrying a leather satchel. Madeleine’s breath caught in her throat.
It was Charles Grayson, the Earl of Saunders. The best friend of her sister’s husband.
A man she had no desire to see, much less speak to.
But he had already spotted her. His eyes widened in surprise as he closed the distance between them, then greeted her with a bow. “Miss Atherton!”
Madeleine gave him a terse smile and a dutiful curtsy. “Lord Saunders.”
I had no idea you were on this train.” His voice was just as deep as she’d remembered, just as cultured and refined. He regarded her with calm detachment and a hint of something like curiosity, as if unsure where he stood with her or what to make of her. “I spotted you last month at the Fitzhughs’ ball,” he added, “and another time at the races. But each time I sought you out, you seemed to disappear.”
Did I? I’m sorry,” Madeleine replied noncommittally. There was a good reason he hadn’t connected with her on either of those occasions. She’d gone out of her way to avoid him.
Looking around, he asked, “Did you travel alone?”
Yes.” She knew it wasn’t the “done thing” for a woman to travel by train unaccompanied, but she’d had little choice in the matter. She and her mother were sharing the same lady’s maid while in England, and Madeleine couldn’t very well have robbed her mother of her only servant. She silently dared Lord Saunders to reprove her. But he only said:
So did I. My man Evans came up yesterday with most of my things. But why have you left the Season? I pray you are in good health?”
I’m fine, thank you.”
A cloud of steam emanated from beneath the great locomotive, and the smokestack belched a dark, filthy blast.
I hope you are not here to see your sister?” he further prodded.
His expression and tone sparked another dash of worry within her. “Why do you say that?”
Because I received a wire from Longford yesterday morning. He and his wife and sisters are away at Bath.”
Oh!” Madeleine’s spirits sank. “Then Alexandra never received my telegram.” What a fool she’d been to leave London on such short notice, without waiting for a reply! But it had never occurred to her that her sister wouldn’t be home. Alexandra was seven months pregnant, and had said she intended to remain at home until her child was born.
A new thought worried her. “People go to Bath for their health, don’t they? Do you know if my sister’s all right?”
I haven’t heard otherwise. Bath is also a popular holiday destination.”
Madeleine wished she felt more reassured. The train whistle blew, a bell clanged, and the huge wheels began to turn. With a rhythmic chug-chug-chug, the locomotive moved out of the station. Leaving Madeleine alone on the platform with Lord Saunders.
Do you know how long my sister and Lord Longford intend to be away?” she asked.
A fortnight, I believe.”
Two weeks! Madeleine’s mind worked on the problem. If she could learn where Alexandra was staying in Bath and contact her, maybe her sister would return earlier. Assuming—praying—that she was all right. If not, Madeleine would go to Bath. In the meantime, she could wait at the Longfords’ estate, Polperran House. The carriage she’d noticed earlier was making its approach.
Well,” Madeleine observed, “it looks as though the staff at Polperran House opened my telegram, and have sent a coach for me.”
I am afraid that is my coach, Miss Atherton,” Saunders pointed out.
Indeed, as the coach—a smart equipage, painted red and black, with large glass windows—drew up, Madeleine recognized the Trevelyan coat of arms and the coronet of a British marquess emblazoned on the side.
I see.”
Please, do not distress yourself.” Saunders’s smile was polite. “It would be my honor to escort you to Trevelyan Manor. You will be most welcome to stay there until Longford and his family return from Bath.”
Thank you, but no,” Madeleine replied quickly. She had no desire to spend time with this man, nor to stay at his family’s estate. “I would not wish to impose.”
It would be no imposition, I assure you.”
I appreciate the offer, my lord. But I would rather find a way to get myself to Polperran House and remain there, while I send word to my sister.”
He nodded. “In that case, pray allow me to offer you a ride thither.”
Madeleine considered. It was a two-hour drive from the Bolton station to Polperran House. She could try to find a cab, but she knew it would not greatly inconvenience Lord Saunders to do her this favor. Although she’d never been to Trevelyan Manor, Alexandra had told her that it was situated near the coast some five miles beyond Polperran House, which was more or less on the way.
Still. Did she want to be cooped up in a carriage with this man for such a long period of time? It was bad enough that she’d traveled unaccompanied all the way from London. But to ride in a closed carriage with a man to whom she wasn’t related or engaged? An Atherton girl, her mother would insist, did not behave that way.
Noticing her hesitation, Saunders added: “There are no more trains today. Your only alternative is to take shelter at the Inn at Bolton—and I would not wish my worst enemy to stay at that establishment, nor even have a meal there. Unless you are absolutely famished?”
I had something to eat on the train,” Madeleine admitted.
Well, then?” He quirked an eyebrow. His eyes, she noticed, were an arresting shade of hazel. As he looked at her, it seemed as though he was working hard to take the measure of her, as if she were a problem that needed to be solved. Despite herself, she felt a ripple of sudden interest run the entire length of her body from her head to her toes.
Don’t let him charm you, Madeleine.
She’d spent the past two months at endless balls and parties, subjected to the calculating scrutiny of every fortune-hunting bachelor in London. She’d learned to grin and bear it, and after meeting Lord Oakley, to actually enjoy it. But Lord Saunders’s gaze made her feel self-conscious somehow. And . . . rattled.
A low rumble of thunder rent the air, recalling her attention to her predicament. Raindrops began to patter against the pavement. It was quite apparent that no one was coming for her. It seemed she had little alternative but to accept his offer.
Madeleine swallowed a sigh. “Thank you. I’d very much appreciate a ride to Polperran House.”
Lord Saunders directed two porters to load Madeleine’s luggage onto the back of the carriage. As the men struggled under the weight of her trunk, Saunders asked her, “What have you got in here? Bricks?”
He eyed her with amusement as the coachman secured the trunks and covered them with a tarpaulin. “Did you bring an entire library?”
Not quite.” She’d only packed two dozen or so of her favorites novels in with her clothes. All the other books she’d brought from New York, she’d been obliged to leave at Brown’s Hotel. In truth, she felt a bit bereft without them. But, she reminded herself, this was a short trip. She’d be back in London in a few weeks.
May I assist with your satchel?” Saunders gestured toward the tapestry bag Madeleine carried.
Instinctively, she clasped the carryall to her chest, feeling the weight of the precious cargo within. “No thank you.”
He smiled agreeably, then offered his gloved hand to help her board. She took it. His grip was strong and firm, and once again, she felt a sizzle of sparks dance up her arm. Drat the man for being so charming.
She climbed inside, withdrawing her hand and settling on the forward-facing upholstered seat. Saunders took the seat opposite. As the carriage pulled out of the station, rain began pouring down in earnest. Saunders removed his top hat and set it down beside him. Madeleine dared a glance at him across the carriage.
She had to admit, he was very good-looking. His nose wasn’t perfect, but its slight bend gave it character. His cheekbones were, well, high. His curly hair looked soft and was a lovely shade of dark caramel brown. His three-piece suit was perfectly tailored to his broad shoulders, trim waist, and long legs. It was too much, really. No wonder the debutantes had called him “swoon-worthy.”
Madeleine had no intention of swooning before any man, however. Especially this one. No matter what the other ladies had said about him, as they tittered and gossiped behind their fans.
It is a shame that he makes such infrequent appearances during the Season, and is so skittish about settling down,” one of her acquaintances had intoned breathlessly at a dinner party. “He is still young, just a year shy of thirty, and he will one day inherit the title of Marquess of Trevelyan. The way he flirts! Why, he almost married an American heiress a few years ago! Thank goodness that did not come to pass.”
Madeleine knew all about that scandalous affair. It was the reason she disliked him.
So,” Saunders quipped, breaking into her reverie as his eyes lifted to hers, “have you run away from town as your sister did?”
His voice held a teasing lilt to it. Madeleine realized she’d been caught staring and in embarrassment looked away, the question setting her on the defensive. “No! I haven’t run away. I have merely taken . . . a small break.”
In the middle of the Season? How unusual. What prompted your departure? Other than a sudden impulse to visit your sister?”
What prompted yours?” she challenged.
His smile fled. After a pause, he replied: “My father is unwell.”
Oh!” Madeleine had only met Lord Trevelyan briefly, the summer before, but had the impression that he was well-liked and respected in the community. “I’m so sorry.”
He has been ill on and off for years, but never this seriously. It is why my parents remained in the country this Season. The physician and my mother are very concerned.”
I’m very sorry,” Madeleine said again. “I do hope he recovers fully and quickly.”
Thank you.”
Saunders sat in worried silence as the carriage rumbled along, rain beating against the windows. Madeleine felt bad that she’d deflected his question with one of her own. Hoping to fix her mistake and lighten the mood, she said, “You asked my purpose in coming to Cornwall.”
He replaced his frown with a look of genuine interest. “I did.”
I’ve come because I’ve had an offer of marriage.”
Congratulations! Who is the lucky gentleman?”
The Marquess of Oakley, eldest son of the Duke of Courtenay.”
Ah! I know him well.”
Do you?”
We roomed together for a year at Oxford. Philip is an excellent fellow.”
Madeleine hesitated. “Yes, he is.”
You sound uncertain.”
I don’t mean to. I’m honored by his proposal.” Lord Oakley was handsome, upright, intelligent, thoughtful. Everything Madeleine wanted in a husband. Her mother was thrilled with the match, and Madeleine knew that where titles were concerned, she couldn’t do better than the eldest son of a duke. “But it’s a big decision,” she added.
Indeed it is.”
He’s gone off on a tour of the Continent, so I have time to consider the matter. I didn’t want to accept until I’d discussed it with my sister.”
I understand why. The Countess of Longford is a paragon among women. I should very much like to consult with her myself before making a decision, were I a woman.”
The comment made Madeleine’s hackles rise again. “Were you a woman?”
Her tone seemed to take him aback. “Er . . . Yes.”
Madeleine reminded herself to see the humor in the situation. He was, after all, a man. Most men viewed the world as though it were their exclusive dominion, convinced that women were a weaker, less worthy, less intelligent gender. “Are you saying that a man can only turn to another man for advice? That you would never seek a woman’s counsel on any matter?”
I . . . did not say that.”
Yet you implied it.”
Forgive me, Miss Atherton. That was not my intention.”
If you think about it carefully, you will see that what you said was condescension, thinly veiled.”
He nodded solemnly as he considered her remark. “Perhaps it was. Again, forgive me. I see that I shall have to mind my p’s and q’s with you.”
P’s and q’s. That is such an interesting expression.”
It is, isn’t it? Now that I said it, I realize I have no idea what it actually means.”
It’s thought to be a schoolroom phrase,” Madeleine told him. “When pupils were taught to write the alphabet, they were reminded to place the letters in the proper order. P comes before Q.”
That makes sense.”
There are two other theories, though, that I recall.”
Please enlighten me.”
One is that it’s short for ‘mind your pleases and thank-yousthe latter of which sounds a bit like the letter Q. My favorite insists that the phrase derives from English pubs of the seventeenth century, when bartenders were obliged to keep an eye on the pints and quarts their patrons consumed.”
Saunders chuckled. “How on earth did you come to know all that, Miss Atherton?”
I had a rather remarkable English professor in my second year at Vassar.”
He paused. “Ah, yes. Your sister mentioned that you just graduated from college. May I congratulate you on your accomplishment?”
Thank you.”
He cocked his head slightly, regarding her with what appeared to be a mixture of esteem and curiosity. “I find you most unusual, Miss Atherton.”
Do you? Why?”
Your father is one of the wealthiest men in America. You have no need to work. Yet you chose to attend university.”
Every member of the peerage goes to college,” she pointed out, “and you don’t engage in a profession.”
His brows furrowed at that and he seemed perturbed. After a moment, he commented, “Yes, but that’s different.”
Why is it different? Why shouldn’t I educate myself? Because I’m a woman?”
An awkward laugh escaped him now and he seemed incapable of a reply.
Madeleine leaned forward in her seat, passion fueling her words. “Women are just as smart as men, my lord, and sometimes smarter. We are equally as capable. We can do anything men can do.”
He studied her. “Is that so? Anything?”
Anything. Women are doctors and surgeons now—highly skilled ones. And we have women lawyers now in America.”
So I have heard,” he admitted. “But you must admit, there are some limits as to what women can do.”
Name one.”
Well, for example, a woman could not dig ditches.”
Give me a shovel, and I will prove you wrong.”
His eyes twinkled. “Something tells me you would. All right, then. A woman could not be a police officer.”
Why not?”
She does not have the physical prowess the job requires.”
I beg to differ. You’d be surprised how strong a woman can be, my lord, when the circumstances demand it.”
He took that in, seemingly considering it, but shook his head. “I do not see it. In the same vein, a woman could never serve in the military or go to war.”
Untrue!” Madeleine protested. “Absolutely untrue.”
How so?” He pointed a finger at her. “And pray do not use Joan of Arc as an example. She was an anomaly.”
Joan of Arc was not an anomaly. Women have served in combat since the dawn of history!”
Have they? Who?”
Chinese General Fu Hao, for instance, a woman, led thousands of people into battle in the thirteenth century BCE, and defeated the Shang. In the eleventh century CE, Matilda of Tuscany, an accomplished archer, commanded armies to defend the pope and made kings kneel before her. In our American Civil War, hundreds of women concealed their gender so they could fight alongside their Union and Confederate counterparts. And that’s barely scratching the surface of the—”
Truce! Truce!” Lord Saunders laughed again and raised his hands in defeat. “I stand corrected. This is clearly a subject which you have studied and I have not.”
Given the opportunity, women can accomplish great things, Lord Saunders. And one day—I hope to see it in my lifetime—we will have that opportunity. When we have the vote, men like you will be obliged to accept us as your equals.” She paused, conscious that she’d put a somewhat negative emphasis on the words men like you, and worried that she’d gone a bit too far. After all, she was a guest in his carriage, and beyond expressing doubts about women’s physical capabilities, he hadn’t said anything too terribly chauvinistic.
He went quiet for a moment as he stared at her. “Miss Atherton, since the first time we met, I have had the sense that you do not like me very much.”
Oh, my dislike for you began long before we met, Lord Saunders.” The words tumbled from Madeleine’s mouth before she had a chance to stop them. She stifled a gasp at their brazenness, instantly regretting them. “Forgive me, I should not have said that.”
No, I appreciate honesty, Miss Atherton,” was his astonished reply. “But pray tell me, what did I ever do to give you offense, before we had even met?”

Syrie James is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Nocturne; Dracula, My Love; The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (Great Group Read, Women's National Book Association; Audie Romance Award, 2011), and the international bestseller The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (Best First Novel 2008, Library Journal.) An admitted Anglophile, Syrie loves paranormal romance and all things 19th century. She lives in Los Angeles and is a member of the Writer's Guild of America.