Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Release Day Spotlight & Review: A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian

A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian
Series A Seducing the Sedgwicks Novel
Genre Adult Historical Romance
Publisher Avon Impulse
Publication Date July 10, 2018


Once beloved by London's fashionable elite, Hartley Sedgwick has become a recluse after a spate of salacious gossip exposed his most-private secrets. Rarely venturing from the house whose inheritance is a daily reminder of his downfall, he’s captivated by the exceedingly handsome man who seeks to rob him.

Since retiring from the boxing ring, Sam Fox has made his pub, The Bell, into a haven for those in his Free Black community. But when his best friend Kate implores him to find and destroy a scandalously revealing painting of her, he agrees. Sam would do anything to protect those he loves, even if it means stealing from a wealthy gentleman. But when he encounters Hartley, he soon finds himself wanting to steal more than just a painting from the lovely, lonely man—he wants to steal his heart.

As one of my go-to M/M authors, it's always a pleasure to pick up one of Cat Sebastian's novels and this second book in the Seducing The Sedgwicks is a welcome treat. Although we have previously met Hartley Sedgwick in It Takes Two To Tumble, this novel can be read as a standalone.

Hartley Sedgwick is like a prisoner in his own house; one he inherited from his godfather. Along with his inheritance came a souring of his reputation as rumours circulate about the circumstances surrounding his bequest. One evening after noticing a man loitering near his house, he decides to challenge the stranger...a meeting which changes the course of his future as they work together to right a wrong for differing reasons and an unexpected outcome.

Samuel Fox works hard running his pub in the East End of London. Working alongside his brother, he has done well after using his winnings as a boxer to secure his future. When his future sister-in-law asks for his help, he agrees to try to solve the issue on her behalf and leads him to a man he never would otherwise have met.

An unlikely pairing, yet Hartley and Sam are a convincing couple. Both struggle to be accepted in society, albeit for far differing reasons. Hartley comes across as slightly aloof, whereas Sam is caring and attentive. However, over time, Hartley explores his compassionate side as he becomes more comfortable in his surroundings and more importantly; his own skin.

Although the main focus is on Hartley and Sam, the secondary characters mainly Alf, Sadie, Kate and Nick are integral to the overall feel of the narrative. Unlikely friendships are forged to create an unconventional family of sorts.

As I've come to expect, the writing from Ms Sebastian is impeccable. Set during the Regency period, I'm always surprised by how the narrative unfolds making her one of my favourite historical romance writers. There's always an element of surprise and Hartley and Sam's unlikely friendship turned relationship certainly meets that expectation.
***arc generously received courtesy of Avon Impulse via Edelweiss+***

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Now that he had this stranger in his library, Hartley was having misgivings about the soundness of his plan.
First, this man was significantly larger than anyone needed to be. The Hepplewhite chair hardly contained him. Hartley had good reasons for not feeling particularly at ease around large men, but this man didn’t seem threatening. He sat in that chair as if it were a church pew, his hat politely on his lap. Hartley started to lower himself into the matching chair beside his guest, but then thought better of it and perched on the edge of a table, enjoying a false but comforting sense of height.
Second, it was unwise to trust strangers with his secrets. But Hartley had no secrets anymore; he had nothing to lose. It occurred to him for the first time that he could perhaps take advantage of his situation. He might as well behave fearlessly, if it meant getting a bit of his own back.
He was aware that Will would say he ought to put his grievances to rest, that making peace with the wrongs that had been done him was the only way forward. And he had to concede that Will knew something about that topic. But Will was also kind and decent, and Hartley was neither; he was petty and vindictive, because those qualities were all the sword or shield he had.
He poured some brandy into two glasses and handed one to his guest. “The long and short of it is that I would like nothing more than to do a grand disservice to Martin Easterbrook. If you’d like to join forces with me, then I’m interested. If not, so be it. We can pretend tonight never happened.”
And if I don’t want anything to do with you? If it turns out this Martin fellow is my best mate and I tell him you’re set against him? What if I tell a gossip rag that you tried to approach me?” The man spoke with a rough London accent that was laced through with something else that Hartley couldn’t identify.
You’re welcome to,” Hartley said lightly. “My name is Hartley Sedgwick. Hartley with an E. Be sure to have the paper spell it correctly.” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his card case with a flourish that was marred by the hinge being stiff from want of use. “For reference,” he said, holding out a card between two fingers.
Something went wrong because the man palmed the card but then politely shook Hartley’s hand. Hartley froze. The man wasn’t wearing gloves and Hartley had removed his own—gentlemen didn’t eat or drink with gloves on, and Hartley couldn’t bring himself to abandon the rules he had worked so blasted hard to master. Hartley didn’t much care for being touched, least of all being touched skin to skin. He felt like he was being flayed alive. Were other people’s hands always so warm, or was this stranger about to succumb to the ague?
Samuel Fox,” the man said as he finally let go of Hartley’s hand.
A pleasure, Mr. Fox.” Hartley tried to sound like someone who wasn’t in danger of becoming unglued.
Mr. Fox took a sip of the brandy, and Hartley realized belatedly he ought to have offered ale or cider. Fox wore trousers that were worn at the knees and a coat that strained badly across his broad shoulders; his hands were rough with work. He was plainly not of the brandy drinking classes, and to have presented him with the drink now seemed farcically affected.
Who is Easterbrook to you?” Fox asked. “I thought this was his house.”
It was. It’s mine now. Sir Humphrey Easterbrook was my godfather.” Hartley’s voice only caught a little on that designation. “He died a few years ago and left this house to me. Your turn,” he said briskly. “What was Easterbrook to you?”
He has—had—something that belongs to a friend of mine.”
Hartley raised his eyebrows. “I’m not going to ask whether you intended to walk in and help yourself to—to what, may I ask?”
He took a sip of brandy as he watched Mr. Fox decide whether he could be trusted. Hartley wondered what it must be like to be able to judge trustworthiness on sight. No, he wondered what it must be like to even want to. It was much easier to simply not trust people at all. Hartley trusted Will. He also trusted his older brother, Ben, but that wasn’t any great accomplishment because Ben was utterly incapable of malice. He supposed he also trusted his youngest two brothers, but they were far away so he didn’t have to put it to the test.
It’s a painting,” Fox said.
Hartley’s glass dropped to the parquet, shattering into bloodred shards. He squeezed his eyes shut. He didn’t want to see Fox, didn’t want to see the mess he had made, didn’t want to see the empty spaces on the walls. A second passed, and he willed his composure to freeze him over into something cold and solid and impenetrable. When he opened his eyes, he knew he had mastered himself, at least as far as it was possible for him to do so.

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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Release Day Spotlight & Review: I Think I Love You by Lauren Layne

Click on the above image to follow the book tour.

I Think I Love You
Oxford Book 5
By: Lauren Layne
Releasing July 10, 2018

A game of seduction between two best friends goes deliciously wrong in an irresistible Oxford Novel that brims with wit and sexual tension. Library Journal hails Layne’s work as “exemplary contemporary romance.”

Brit Robbins knows that dating in New York City is hard—she just hoped to have it mastered by age thirty. But after yet another promising suitor says they have no sparks, Brit decides it’s time to torch her dating game and try a new plan. And who better to coach Brit through the art of seduction than the guy who first gave her the “let’s be friends” card?

Hunter Cross has always figured there’s nothing his best friend Brit can do to surprise him. But Brit’s request is a surprise he doesn’t see coming—and one he’s definitely not prepared for. Hunter and Brit have always been careful to keep things perfectly platonic, but the fake dates and faux flirting are starting to feel like the real deal. And soon Hunter realizes he has taught Brit too well. Not only has she become an expert at seduction, the man becoming thoroughly seduced is him.
 Reading the final book in the Oxford series is such a bitter-sweet feeling as Hunter and Brit come under the relationship spotlight in this friends to lovers romance.

Living and working in Manhattan's fast-paced environment is a long way from Hunter Cross' roots in Kansas. He enjoys his life in 'the city that never sleeps', but it isn't home. He has always viewed his time here as a temporary phase in his life. As a result, his only permanent relationship is his friendship with Brit; it simplifies his daily routine until the time is right to move back west. That's until she asks him for a favour resulting in emotional turmoil and the end of their relationship as they know it.

Brit Robbins has a problem. She wants what her friends have...whisked off her feet except she always ends up in the friends' zone. The men she dates only hang around for a short while until they may their excuse and leave. What is her problem? She decides to enlist her best friend and boss Hunter to resolve her dilemma and is grateful when he reluctantly agrees to help. Only, his assistance triggers feelings neither of them can ignore.

For me, this series is pure escapism. The employees at Oxford and Stiletto are polished and professional in their designer suits and shoes. They work hard and play equally hard but maintain friendships with their work colleagues. The banter is humorous and fun as they enjoy their glamorous lifestyles. I Think I Love You ticks all those boxes as Brit's plan takes an unexpected turn as she and Hunter get emotionally closer to each other. It's tricky uncharted water for them both as employee and boss. Yet, somehow, it works, until it doesn't and the consequences are life changing.

The end felt a little rushed as Hunter finally comes to his senses, and Brit meets him halfway by deciding to take matters into her own hands. It gets Hunter 'off the hook' but I would have liked him to grovel significantly more. However, I respect Lauren's decision for two people who otherwise know each other so well, both are sufficiently mature to realise there isn't any point making mountains out of molehills...even if I wanted slightly more drama. (wink)

I've loved every Oxford novel. Each couple featured compliment each other perfectly and it's been entertaining to keep track of them all throughout the series. The epilogue is a little sugary for my taste but I wholeheartedly appreciate the author's sincere sentiment as we say goodbye to characters we love.

***arc generously received courtesy of Loveswept via NetGalley***

Lauren Layne is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than two dozen romantic comedies. Her books have sold over a million copies, in nine languages. Lauren's work has been featured in Publishers WeeklyGlamourThe Wall Street Journal, and Inside Edition. She is based in New York City.

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Gifted Amazon e-copy of I KNEW YOU WERE TROUBLE (2 winners))

Release Day Spotlight & Review: Murder Girl by Lisa Renee Jones

MURDER GIRL by Lisa Renee Jones 
Montlake Romance | On sale July 10, 2018 
Paperback ISBN: 978-1503902619 | $9.99 US | 263 pages | Ebook ASIN: B077PQ9LR1 | $4.99 US

After immersing myself within the first novel of the Lilah Love series and couldn't wait to dive into this latest instalment. The narrative picks up where we left off in book one but not before the author does a quick recap on what has previously happened. It's important to read Murder Notes first before picking up this title because many relevant details need to be known before you continue with the story.

However, I struggled to get back into the swing of the narrative despite the summary. With many names to remember, it took time for the details to sink in. Somehow after a few chapters, I went from overwhelmed to absorbing everything. Once I reached this point, I was totally consumed within the narrative again as new information comes to light and dangerous conclusions are made.

Lilah and Kane are dancing around each other but I don't feel the pull between them is serious when it comes to romance...at least not at the moment. Yes, lustful sexual chemistry flows but it's more akin to a mutual mind game with no real conclusion in sight. Intellectual equals, in a world where Lilah is struggling to trust everyone around her, including her family. Kane, the man who shares her secret is the only one she trusts. Their relationship is intriguing none the less and I wonder where the author will take them as both are embroiled in life or death situations.

The author does an excellent job of keeping the plot exciting. Not knowing the good guys from the bad keeps the details enthralling. Mysteries, secrets and betrayals...unlikely connections and their implications keep the narrative addictive. It's fast-paced, engaging and a touch grisly as dead bodies appear at an alarming rate.

Overall, I can't wait to find out 'what happens next' in the life of Lilah Love. Unlike the previous book there's no cliffhanger this time around...only plenty of expectations as she begins her new role surrounded by family, friends...or are they, enemies?

***arc generously received courtesy of Montlake Romance via NetGalley***

About Murder Girl It’s Lilah Love’s job to inhabit a killer’s mind. The unapologetically tough FBI profiler is very comfortable there. But her latest case is making her head spin. It’s a string of brutal assassinations carried out across the country, each tied to a mysterious tattoo. Body by body, she’s followed the clues all the way back to her hometown. And every step of the way, the killer has been following her. Here, beneath the glamour of the privileged Hamptons community, is a secret long buried but never forgotten. It’s bigger than Lilah. It’s powerful enough to escape the reach of the FBI. And it’s more personal than anyone can imagine. Because it’s hiding in Lilah’s own past. To fight it, she’s forced to turn to her lethally tempting ex, Kane Mendez. He’s an expert at bringing out Lilah’s darkest impulses. If she plans to survive, she’s going to need them. 

Lisa Renee Jones is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the highly acclaimed Inside Out series; the Dirty Money series; the White Lies duet; the Tall, Dark, and Deadly series; The Secret Life of Amy Bensen series; and Murder Notes. Murder Girl is the second book in the Lilah Love series. Visit her at www.lisareneejones.com.