Sunday, August 25, 2019

Early Review of Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4) by Ilona Andrews

Title: Sapphire Flames: A Hidden Legacy Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Hidden Legacy (Book 4)
Format: Paperback; 400 pages
Publisher: Avon (August 27, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0062878344
ISBN-13: 978-0062878342
Author's Website:
Notes: I received and eARC loan from the publisher. This in no way affected my rating.

A century and a half ago, the Osiris serum was discovered by scientists which unlocked a person's magical abilities. The serum was given to soldiers so that wars could be won, but scientists didn't comprehend what they'd truly done until much later. The serum was locked away, but the damage had been done because it was soon found that magical talents could be passed from parent to child. The world, as we knew it, was changed forever as a restructuring of power occurred. Money no longer guaranteed power, influence, and prestige in this magically oriented new world, rather, one's magical abilities did. For with the power of magic, one could acquire the rest.

Talents varied among people, but each person who gained magical abilities from the serum showed potential toward one specific type of magic. Among the varying classifications, ranges of talent were soon noted, and magic users were categorized into five different ranks: Minor, Average, Notable, Significant, and Prime. The highest and strongest being Prime. Soon magical dynasties, as the most powerful of magical families came to be called, were broken into Houses and attempted to manipulate and enhance their family's magical potential by arranging marriages which would bring about the most gifted and talented of offspring. Certain magics, it was found, complimented one another and had a high potential of producing offspring with stronger and greater magical abilities. Still others, when their magics were mixed, were found to be incompatible and produced offspring with no magical talents whatsoever.

Three years ago the Baylor family had undergone the trials to prove that their family possessed at least two Primes, and were granted permission to declare themselves a House. The family talents were verified by the Panel of Prime judges, and their records were sealed, so no on outside the trials could find out what the family talents were. Being a new house, they were granted the courtesy of immunity from attacks by other houses for three years. That reprieve is about to expire, and that is when the fun (I say in jest) will begin.

Catalina Baylor has recently taken on the position of head investigator of her family's business--Baylor Investigative Agency. A position her sister, Nevada, held until she married into another House. The firm specializes in small-time investigations, but lately, since their house was declared, a new clientele has emerged with more difficult and magically inclined cases. Catalina's just been asked by Augustine for a favor. He wants her to help him stop Ragnar Etterson, a Prime, from committing suicide by jumping off the top of a building. Catalina has a talent which has deemed her a siren because she can call people to her and make them love and become obsessed with her to a disturbing level. That means once she unleashes her power Ragnar will do anything she asks just to please her. The question is, can she reach him in time?

Two days ago, Ragnar's mother and sister died in a fire. He is not taking the loss well. What Catalina has yet to discover is that the deaths are very suspicious, and are most likely the result of a feud between houses. When she realizes which family Ragnar is a part of, she'll become embroiled in something that could get her and her family killed. The Baylors owe Ragnar's family a debt and will do all they can to get down to the bottom of what happened, and do all they can to keep the two remaining siblings safe.
This is the fourth book (fifth story--there is a novella, Diamond Fire, you should also read) of the Hidden Legacy series. I highly recommend you don't jump in the deep end with this one if you've not read the previous books. There is a lot of history between characters as well as family dynamics from the previous stories that will be missed if you do. You'll most likely feel a bit lost. Plus, the other stories endear you to the Baylor's because you'll know what they've been through, what they've dealt with, and how far they've come. Additionally, you'll miss out on seeing each of the Baylor family, especially Catalina in this book, come into their own because you won't have witnessed their transformations. At the very least, read the novella. It is not to be missed, and gives you an idea of what you're in for. Side Note: If you haven't read the novella, but have read the first three books, read the novella. It gives you a frame of reference as to why and how Catalina changed so much.

Usually when a series changes main characters after having several books I tend to get upset. That was not the case with this one. Perhaps this had something to do with the novella, Diamond Fire, where Nevada voices the prologue, but Catalina voices the rest of the novella. All I know is that I was all in from the beginning, and loved seeing how Catalina had become a strong and confident young woman. While she is still finding her footing, the expression, "You've come a long way baby!" whispered in my head. She understands what she's up against and will do what she needs to to accomplish it. Family is everything to her, and she'd do anything for them even if that means selling a bit of her soul.

Alessandro Sagredo was a real surprise. While there was no doubt he'd be Catalina's love interest, he was a twist I never saw coming. He is so very different from who I knew him to be, or rather thought I knew him to be. Everything I thought I knew about him was wrong. I loved learning a little of his back story, and look forward to learning even more about him. I loved how he always had Catalina's back and he's so much more than just a pretty face. We quickly learn, he's a multifaceted character with many secrets and layers.

The mystery of what happened to Sigourney Etterson and her daughter kept me glued to the pages from start to finish. There were twists and surprises at every turn. The story had depth and layers to it which Catalina had to uncover one secret at a time in order to unravel the mystery of it all. Drama, suspense, and questions abound as what is being hidden comes to light.

I couldn't help but give this story 5 out of 5 roses. The world the writing team of Ilona Andrews has created is fun, complex, complicated, and dangerous on a grand scale. The mystery kept me guessing but unable to solve whodunit until all was revealed. I love when that happens. I enjoyed the romance that is slowly blossoming between Alessandro and Catalina. I loved how the Baylor women make their men work for their favor. I also loved how almost everything isn't all what it first appears to be. It's like one giant puzzle box that once one puzzle unfolds, another is unearthed. On the Lisarenee Romance Scale, this one earned a BLUSH rating--at the beginning stages of romance where something is just starting to be stirred. Like many urban fantasy stories, this romance will take its time to increase in intensity and come to full bloom, and I can't wait for when it does. I HIGHLY recommend this series. I love where Ilona Andrews is taking us! It was so good.

Order of the Hidden Legacy series:

Monday, August 19, 2019

Early Review of The Duchess in His Bed (Sins for All Seasons #4) by Lorraine Heath

Title: The Duchess in His Bed: A Sins for All Seasons Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Sins for All Seasons (Book 4)
Format: Paperback; 400 pages
Publisher: Avon (August 20, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0062676067
ISBN-13: 978-0062676061
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my review. Any quotes used will need to be checked against the final version as ARCs are subject to change.

Selena Sheffield, Duchess of Lushing, is in a bind. Her husband of seven years has passed away before the two had started a family. With no heirs to be found, the dukedom, which her husband's family had held for ages, is about to become extinct unless Selena can produce an heir. The problem is there is no chance that she is with child. While Selena could live a rather nice life from the provisions her husband made for her in his will, her siblings could not for she would not have the means to provide for them. 

Enter Aiden Trewlove and the Elysium Club--a club which caters exclusively to the desires of women. A place where, if she has the nerve, Selena may be able to find just the man who can make all her troubles go away, and she know exactly who she wants that man to be...

Aiden Trewlove is a self made man who owns both the Elysium and Cerberus Clubs. The former is a new acquisition which he took over from his brother. Aiden has a strict policy of never mixing business with pleasure, but when he catches sight of an alluring woman wearing a mask, he starts to wonder if perhaps he should make an exception?
This is the fourth book in the Sins for All Seasons series. While this story could probably be read as a standalone, I strongly encourage you read the previous books in the series. If you don't, you'll end up missing out on some of the Trewlove family dynamics, and that would be a shame. The series revolves around the Trewlove siblings which consists of four brothers and two sisters. The siblings were all born out of wedlock to various members of the ton. Finn, Aiden, Beast, Gillie, and Mick were taken in by Ettie Trewlove. Fancy is the only one of the lot born to Ettie, and her conception is another story altogether. The Trewloves are a fierce lot. They are extremely smart, very resourceful, and fiercely loyal to one another. They have all worked hard to achieve success, and that work is beginning to pay off as the family is coming in to their own. In this book it's Aiden's turn to find true love.

Aiden is loyal to a fault and, despite owning clubs for sin and vice, he actually is not one to participate in either. This, of course, is much to the dismay of the women who frequent the Elysium club. You see Aiden is very handsome and has a way of making every woman who crosses his club's threshold feel special. Between the two clubs, he's been working hard to make sure he and his family will never want for anything, and hasn't taken any time to enjoy his success.

Selena is an admired and respected member of the ton. During her first season she was deemed the most beautiful debutante, and seven years later she's just as beautiful. Selena loved her husband, but she had not been in love with him. She'd married him out of duty, and whilst he been a good man, there'd been no passion between them. If she plays her cards right, going to the Elysium club will not only satisfy her curiosity, but also be a means to an end. Though she may still be young, she has no plans of ever marrying again, but even if she did her prospects would be limited because she never bore her husband an heir. The fear would be too great that she is barren. Without the support of her husband her ability to help her sisters find a good matches is unlikely. Yet if she produces an heir, she'd retain the power, status, and respect that the position of duchess commands. Additionally, the thought of having a child appeals to her, however, there's always the possibility that the blame for the couples inability to produce an heir lies with her. If that's the case, everything would be for naught.

I loved so many things about this book. I loved that Aiden immediately realizes there is something different and special about Selena. He is aware that he wants to explore the feelings he has for her right from the moment they first met. He instantly discerns that if he handles things incorrectly she'll bolt out of his life just as quickly as she entered it, and that is something he doesn't want. I also loved the fact that Aiden really didn't have a clue as to what Selena looked like during their initial meeting because she wore a mask. I liked that he could care less if she were old or ugly. He just felt a strong connection and wanted to explore it despite the fact he'd vowed to run the other way if he ever felt the desire to enter into a serious relationship with anyone. To me, that the mask spoke volumes. At one point Selena even stated, "I'm discovering that you can't look at someone and know the trials they face. We all wear masks. They just aren't as visible as the ones worn at your club." Ironically, I felt it was symbolic of how Selena and others in the book had and were living their lives. In order for anyone to truly be happy, they need to shed the mask they wear and not try to be someone they aren't. They need to be true to themselves and not live for others even though that is a scary prospect. The risks associated with such a decision could ultimately lead to a person's ruin or their salvation. In Selena's case, she just doesn't know which and she'll have to take a leap of faith or not.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
- "It's an odd thing, how one's life can seem all out of kilter, and yet the world carries on as though nothing is amiss."
- "A life lived in shadows was no life at all."
- "Love is all that matters. Find someone deserving of you."
- "The heart did as it wanted, loved who it would love. And seemed to have a penchant for choosing those who provided the most difficult of challenges. But then if love were easy, the poets would hardly be heralded for putting into words what most found indescribable."

Overall, I gave this one 5 out of 5 roses. The chemistry between these two was potent, and I loved the angst and tension that existed between them. I loved how Aiden empowered Selena to see her situation for what it really was and allowed her to choose what she ultimately wanted. He slowly seduced his way into her heart by showing her all the things she could have with him and then letting her decide if she was willing to take a chance on him. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a SHOWER rating--a cold shower is necessary (need I say more?). Some books should come with a warning - make sure your significant other is handy or your shower is in working order. lol I HIGHLY recommend this one! It was the perfect blend of naughty and nice.

The Order of the Sins For All Seasons series:

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Giveaway/Sneak Peek/Review of The Wallflower Wager (Girl Meets Duke #3) by Tessa Dare

The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare 

They call him the Duke of Ruin.

To an undaunted wallflower, he's just the beast next door.
Wealthy and ruthless, Gabriel Duke clawed his way from the lowliest slums to the pinnacle of high society—and now he wants to get even.

Loyal and passionate, Lady Penelope Campion never met a lost or wounded creature she wouldn’t take into her home and her heart.

When her imposing—and attractive—new neighbor demands she clear out the rescued animals, Penny sets him a challenge. She will part with her precious charges, if he can find them loving homes.

Done, Gabriel says. How hard can it be to find homes for a few kittens?

And a two-legged dog.

And a foul-mouthed parrot.

And a goat, an otter, a hedgehog . . .

Easier said than done, for a cold-blooded bastard who wouldn’t know a loving home from a workhouse. Soon he’s covered in cat hair, knee-deep in adorable, and bewitched by a shyly pretty spinster who defies his every attempt to resist. Now she’s set her mind and heart on saving him.

Not if he ruins her first.

She circled back, standing before him. “There now. Better?”

He gave a reluctant nod.

“Can you move your arm in all directions?”

He rolled his shoulder to prove it. “Yes.”

“What about your grip?

“My grip is strong.”

“Perhaps I should wrap the arm in a sling.”

“I do not need a sling.”

“Wait here. I’ll dash upstairs to fetch some linen and—”

“For the love of God, woman. My shoulder is fine.” He took her by the waist and lifted her straight off the floor, until they were eye to eye. “There. Believe me now?”

She nodded, wide-eyed.


In his hands, she was delicate, breakable. Her hair was a golden treasure he should never, ever touch. And oh, how he hungered for those soft, pink lips.

The familiar voice echoed in his ears.

Don’t touch, boy. She’s not for the likes of you.

Put. Her. Down.

But before Gabe could lower those beribboned pink slippers to the floor, she captured his sooty, sweaty face in her hands—

And kissed him on the lips.

Tessa Dare

Tessa Dare is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty historical romances. Her books have won numerous accolades, including Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® award (twice) and the RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence. Booklist magazine named her one of the “new stars of historical romance,” and her books have been contracted for translation in more than a dozen languages.

A librarian by training and a booklover at heart, Tessa makes her home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband, their two children, and a trio of cosmic kitties.

  • Title: The Wallflower Wager: Girl Meets Duke
    Classification: Adult Fiction
    Genre: Historical Romance
    Series: Girl Meets Duke
    Format: Paperback; 368 pages
    Publisher: Avon (August 13, 2019)
    ISBN-10: 0062672169
    ISBN-13: 978-0062672162
    Author's Website:
    Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher. This in no way affected my review.

Lady Penelope Campion is young, beautiful, and a recluse, but the latter is about to change. Her brother has decided it is time for her to return to the family ancestral estate. When her aunt comes to inform her of his decision, Penelope pleads with her to help her change his mind. A wager is set, if Penelope can 1) acquire a wardrobe 2) reenter London society by attending the opera, dinner parties, balls, etc. 3) get rid of her animal menagerie, then her aunt will do her best to convince her brother to let her stay in London.

Gabriel Duke, is known as the Duke of Ruin, a moniker he acquired by financially ruining those in the ton and leaving them practically penniless. He is a self made man who has spent a lot of time and money restoring the house next to Lady Penelope's and has plans to sell it for a king's ransom to a commoner wishing to rub elbows with London's elite. If Lady Penelope moves, however, his plan will be thwarted, and he can't have that. So together they form an alliance so each can get what they want.

What neither realizes is they'll get more than they ever bargained for, but in a good way.
This is the third book in the Girl Meets Duke series. While it can be read as a standalone, I recommend reading the other books in the series first. There are friendships that come into play in this story that would be underappreciated and not fully understood if you don't. 

I simply adored this book. It tickled my funny bone and, at times, had be rolling my eyes, laughing like a fool, and grinning from ear to ear. I kept thinking "Oh no she wouldn't." but yes, the author did. She created situations that were just too funny, and I couldn't have kept a straight face if I tried. Some may call the humor cheesy, but it totally worked for me.    

Now there was a darker side to this story, and I felt the author used the humor to her advantage. She padded the darker parts with that humor which helped to softened the blow a bit. Be forewarned that a case of childhood molestation is discussed, although not in extreme detail. While nothing can ever right such a wrong, justice is served in a rather surprising and unique way in this book.  

While the romance between Penelope and Gabriel seemed very unlikely, I enjoyed seeing Penelope basically seduce her way into Gabriel's heart. A heart he was convinced he didn't have or, at the very least, was frozen to the core. Penelope tends to believe there's good in every person, and she believes there's more to Gabriel than what the rumors running rampant about him would suggest. She's determined to find the good in him.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. I loved that the heroine who starts out as a recluse blossoms into a strong woman right before our very eyes. Penelope brings out the best in Gabriel while he helps her to find her inner strength and courage. While these two get to know one another the chemistry between them builds until there's no denying it. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed. 

Order of the Girl Meets Duke series:

Enter for a chance to win 'one' print copy of  'The Wallflower Wager'  by Tessa Dare 
(Open to those living in the United States or Canada)
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Saturday, July 27, 2019

The 2019 RITA® Award winners

The 2019 RITA® Award were held last night. The following is a list of the winners. If you'd like to purchase one of the books, click on the book's cover image, and you'll be instantly transported to Amazon:

The winner for best Romance Novella goes to 
M. Malone for:

Bad Blood by M. Malone

Georgina Kingsley is off-limits. It’s better this way, really. Her brother is my best friend and business partner, the closest thing I have to family. Plus, she’s engaged to another man, one better for her than I could ever be.

But when Georgie is ditched on her wedding day, she needs someone to get her out of town. There’s bad blood between us but I’d do anything for her.

Except give her hot, rebound sex to get back at her cheating ex.

Tough choice. Loyalty to my best friend who has been more like a brother? Or to a woman with a history of driving me crazy and making me want things I have no right to ask for?

It’s a hell of time to realize I’m in love.

Note: BAD BLOOD is a standalone enemies-to-lovers romance. You’ll recognize some characters from BAD KING.

FYI, The LEFT AT THE ALTAR series, of which Bad Blood is a part of, is a collaboration of six New York Times Bestselling Authors: J. S. Scott, Ruth Cardello, Raine Miller, Sawyer Bennett, Minx Malone, and Melody Anne--each author writing their own book.

The winner for best Contemporary Romance Long goes to 
Kennedy Ryan for:

 Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan


Think you know what it’s like being a baller’s girl?
You don’t.
My fairy tale is upside down.
A happily never after.
I kissed the prince and he turned into a fraud.
I was a fool, and his love – fool’s gold.

Now there’s a new player in the game, August West.
One of the NBA’s brightest stars.
Fine. Forbidden.
He wants me. I want him.
But my past, my fraudulent prince, just won’t let me go.

The winner for best Young Adult Romance goes to 
Nisha Sharma for:

My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma

Winnie Mehta was never really convinced that Raj was her soul mate, but their love was written in the stars. Literally, a pandit predicted Winnie would find the love of her life before her eighteenth birthday, and Raj meets all the qualifications. Which is why Winnie is shocked when she returns from her summer at film camp to find her boyfriend of three years hooking up with Jenny Dickens. As a self-proclaimed Bollywood expert, Winnie knows this is not how her perfect ending is scripted.

Then there's Dev, a fellow film geek and one of the few people Winnie can count on. Dev is smart and charming, and he challenges Winnie to look beyond her horoscope and find someone she'd pick for herself. But does falling for Dev mean giving up on her prophecy and her chance to live happily ever after? To find her perfect ending, Winnie will need a little bit of help from fate, family, and of course, a Bollywood movie star.

The winner for best Historical Romance Long goes to 
Mia Vincy for:

A Wicked Kind of Husband by Mia Vincy

It was the ideal marriage of convenience ... and then they met.

Cassandra DeWitt has seen her husband only once—on their wedding day two years earlier—and that suits her perfectly. She has no interest in the rude, badly behaved man she married only to secure her inheritance. She certainly has no interest in his ban on her going to London. Why, he’ll never even know she is there.

Until he shows up in London too, and Cassandra finds herself sharing a house with the most infuriating man in England.

Joshua DeWitt has his life exactly how he wants it. He has no need of a wife disrupting everything, especially a wife intent on reforming his behavior. He certainly has no need of a wife who is intolerably amiable, insufferably reasonable … and irresistibly kissable.

As the unlikely couple team up to battle a malicious lawsuit and launch Cassandra’s wayward sister, passion flares between them. The day must come for them to part … but what if one of them wants their marriage to become real?

The winner for best Romantic Suspense goes to 
Elizabeth Dyer for:

Fearless by Elizabeth Dyer

A broken man. A desperate woman. And a love that could save them both.

William Bennett lost everything to a Special Forces operation gone wrong. A year of captivity and torture has stripped him of his strength and decency. At the edge of losing all hope, the one woman he's never forgotten storms back into his life, giving him more than just his freedom. All Will wants now is to put the agony and violence behind him . . . but he won't go home until she can, too.

Cooper Reed has been a lot of things--soldier, sniper, spy--but she never thought traitor would be one of them. Now she can't stop running. Not from the partner sent to kill her, or from the CIA who used her to cover up a dangerous experiment. Cooper needs help, she just never expected to find it in the one man with every reason to hate her--even if he doesn't know it yet.

As Will and Cooper race to stay one step ahead of those who want them dead, they'll each have to decide what lines they're willing to cross and what price they're willing to pay . . . and if love really is worth dying for.

Author Note: Fearless is a stand-alone novel in the Somerton Security series, complete with a damaged hero, a take-no-prisoners heroine and an HEA.

The winner for best Paranormal Romance goes to 
J. R. Ward for:

Dearest Ivie by J. R. Ward

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In an exclusive ebook novella set in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, J. R. Ward tells the story of a fiery couple . . . doomed by an undeniable passion.

The last place Ivie expects to be approached by a devastatingly handsome male is in a crowded, smoky cigar bar rarely frequented by vampires—yet here he stands. Silas is flirtatious, gallant, and, above all, mysterious. Ivie is anything but. A nurse at the healer’s clinic and the daughter of a biker, Ivie is accustomed to speaking her mind. So she does. Since aristocrats rarely pick up females of her class, Ivie asks Silas just what kind of game he thinks he’s playing.

Despite her guarded exterior, Ivie surrenders to the fierce desire she feels for Silas. And yet, just as their courtship is heating up, he reveals that it cannot last, for he is bound to return to the Old Country. Their bond only deepens as they make the most of their precious time together. But when she learns the truth, Ivie must find a saving grace—before all is lost. . . .

The winner for best Erotic Romance goes to
Elia Winters for:

Three-Way Split by Elia Winters

Hannah Stewart knows what she likes, and it doesn't include relationships. She has enough on her plate with her fledgling adult novelty shop, Yes Please. But even with an arsenal of sex toys at her disposal, she's hit a dry spell—one she wishes the sexy Mitchell Fredericks would help her out with.

There's just one snag. His sexy roommate and business partner, Ben Harrington.

The last thing she wants to do is come between their friendship—even though she'd like to come between them in other ways. Instead, she comes up with a proposition for them, one that might lead to a very hot, very unexpected outcome.

The winner for best Historical Romance Short goes to 
Kelly Bowen for:

A Duke in the Night by Kelly Bowen

Duke. Scoundrel. Titan of business. August Faulkner is a man of many talents, not the least of which is enticing women into his bedchamber. He's known-and reviled-for buying and selling companies, accumulating scads of money, and breaking hearts. It's a reputation he wears like a badge of honor, and one he intends to keep.

Clara Hayward, the headmistress of the Haverhall School for Young Ladies, on the other hand, is above reproach. Yet when she's reunited with August all she can think of is the way she felt in his arms as they danced a scandalous waltz ten long years ago. Even though her head knows that he is only back in her life to take over her family's business, her heart can't help but open to the very duke who could destroy it for good.

Winner for best Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements goes to 
Carla Laureano for:

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard Award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant. But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back . . . even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life—and love—outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

The winner for best Contemporary Romance Short goes to 
Teri Wilson for:

The Bachelor’s Baby Surprise by Teri Wilson

Okay, Evangeline Holly!

You. Can. Do. This.

Put that bad breakup behind you. And stop obsessing over the subsequent superhot one-night stand. Focus on your future. It’s the first day of your new job! Just ignore the fact that your boss, Ryan Wilde, was your former one-night lover. (He’s so hot!) Oh, and—surprise!—you’re pregnant with Ryan’s baby. And your job hinges on keeping it secret. You’ve got this! Right?

The winner for best Contemporary Romance Mid-length goes to

Susannah Nix for:

Advanced Physical Chemistry by Susannah Nix

After a string of lousy boyfriends, chemical engineer Penny Popplestone swears off men until she can figure out why they keep cheating on her. But her no-men resolution hits a snag when the mysterious and superhumanly hot barista at her favorite coffee shop strikes up a friendship with her. 

Penny strives to keep things platonic, but when Caleb gives her the kiss of her life, she realizes he wants to be more than just friends. Tired of always being “good little Penny,” she throws caution to the wind and pursues a no-strings fling with the hottie barista. It’s not like they have anything in common beyond scorching physical chemistry, so what does she have to lose? 

Her heart, it turns out.

Now, this fanfic-reading, plus-size heroine faces an unsolvable problem. What do you do when being apart is unbearable…but being together is impossible?

Advanced Physical Chemistry is the third in a series of standalone rom-coms featuring geeky heroines who work in STEM fields.

The winner for best Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance goes to 
Sarah Morgan for:

How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan

When three generations of women are brought together by crisis, they learn over the course of one hot summer the power of family to support, nourish and surprise

Lauren has the perfect life…if she ignores the fact it’s a fragile house of cards, and that her daughter Mack has just had a teenage personality transplant.

Jenna is desperate to start a family with her husband, but it’s… Just. Not. Happening. Her heart is breaking, but she’s determined to keep her trademark smile on her face.

Nancy knows she hasn’t been the best mother, but how can she ever tell Lauren and Jenna the reason why?

Then life changes in an instant, and Lauren, Mack, Jenna and Nancy are thrown together for a summer on Martha’s Vineyard. Somehow, these very different women must relearn how to be a family. And while unraveling their secrets might be their biggest challenge, the rewards could be infinite…

Heartwarming and fresh, Sarah Morgan’s brilliant new novel is a witty and deeply uplifting look at the power of a family of women.

The winner for Best First Book goes to 
Marie Tremayne for:

Lady in Waiting by Marie Tremayne

She wants to escape her present . . .
When Clara Mayfield helps her sister elope, she’s prepared for the scandal to seal her fate as a spinster. What she doesn't expect is to find herself engaged to the vile Baron Rutherford as a means of salvaging her family's reputation. Determined not to be chained to a man she loathes, Clara slips out of Essex and sheds her identity: she becomes Helen, maid at the Earl of Ashworth’s country estate. After all, below stairs is the last place anyone would think to look for an heiress . . .

He wants to forget his past . . .

William, Lord Ashworth, is attempting to rebuild his life after the devastating accident that claimed the lives of his entire family, save his beloved sister and niece. Haunted by memories of what was and determined to live up to the title he never expected to inherit, William doesn’t have time for love. What he needs is a noble and accomplished wife, one who can further the Ashworth line and keep the family name untarnished . . .

Together, can they find the perfect future?

From their first encounter, the attraction between them is undeniable. But Clara knows William is falling for Helen, a woman who doesn’t even exist. The question is, if she reveals the truth about her identity, can she trust the broken William to forgive her lie and stand by her side when scandal—and the baron—inevitably follow her to his door?

Congratulations to all the winners!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Giveaway/Sneak Peek/Review of Brazen and the Beast (The Bareknuckle Bastards, #2) by Sarah MacLean

 Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean

New York Times Bestselling Author Sarah MacLean returns with the next book in the Bareknuckle Bastards series about three brothers bound by a secret that they cannot escape—and the women who bring them to their knees.

The Lady’s Plan

When Lady Henrietta Sedley declares her twenty-ninth year her own, she has plans to inherit her father’s business, to make her own fortune, and to live her own life. But first, she intends to experience a taste of the pleasure she’ll forgo as a confirmed spinster. Everything is going perfectly…until she discovers the most beautiful man she’s ever seen tied up in her carriage and threatening to ruin the Year of Hattie before it’s even begun.

The Bastard’s Proposal

When he wakes in a carriage at Hattie’s feet, Whit, a king of Covent Garden known to all the world as Beast, can’t help but wonder about the strange woman who frees him—especially when he discovers she’s headed for a night of pleasure . . . on his turf. He is more than happy to offer Hattie all she desires…for a price.

An Unexpected Passion

Soon, Hattie and Whit find themselves rivals in business and pleasure. She won’t give up her plans; he won’t give up his power . . . and neither of them sees that if they’re not careful, they’ll have no choice but to give up everything . . . including their hearts.

Chapter One

September 1837

In twenty-eight years and three hundred sixty-four days, Lady Henrietta Sedley liked to think that she’d learned a few things.

She’d learned, for example, that if a lady could not get away with wearing trousers (an unfortunate reality for the daughter of an earl, even one who had begun life without title or fortune), then she should absolutely ensure that her skirts included pockets. A woman never knew when she might require a bit of rope, or a knife to cut it, after all.

She’d also learned that any decent escape from her Mayfair home required the cover of darkness and a carriage driven by an ally. Coachmen tended to talk a fine game when it came to keeping secrets, but were ultimately beholden to those who paid their salaries. An important addendum to that particular lesson was this: The best of allies was often the best of friends.

And perhaps first on the list of things she had learned in her lifetime was how to tie a Bosun knot. She’d been able to do that for as long as she could remember.

With such an obscure and uncommon collection of knowledge, one might imagine that Henrietta Sedley would have known precisely what to do in the likelihood she discovered a human male bound and unconscious in her carriage.

One would be incorrect.

In point of fact, Henrietta Sedley would never have described such a scenario as a likelihood. After all, she might have been more comfortable on London’s docks than in its ballrooms, but Hattie’s impressive collection of life experience lacked anything close to a criminal element.

And yet, here she was, pockets full, dearest friend at her side, standing in the pitch dark on the night before her twenty-ninth birthday, about to steal away from Mayfair for a night of best-laid plans, and…

Lady Eleanora Madewell whistled, low and unladylike at Hattie’s ear. Daughter of a duke and the Irish actress he loved so much he’d made her a duchess, Nora had the kind of brashness that was allowed in those with impervious titles and scads of money. “There’s a bloke in the gig, Hattie.”

Hattie did not look away from the bloke in question. “Yes, I see that.”

“There wasn’t a bloke in the gig when we hitched the horses.”

“No, there wasn’t.” They’d left the hitched—and most definitely empty—carriage in the dark rear drive of Sedley House not three-quarters of an hour earlier, before hiking upstairs to exchange carriage-hitching dresses for attire more appropriate for their evening plans.

At some point between corset and kohl, someone had left her an extraordinarily unwelcome package.
“Seems we would’ve noticed a bloke in the gig,”

“I should think we would have,” came Hattie’s distracted reply. “This is really just awful timing.”
Nora cut her a look. “Is there a good time for a man to be bound in one’s carriage?”

Hattie imagined there wasn’t, but, “He could have selected a different evening. What a terrible birthday gift.” She squinted into the dark interior of the carriage. “Do you think he’s dead?”

Please, don’t let him be dead.

Silence. Then, a thoughtful, “Does one store dead men in carriages?” Nora reached forward, her coachman’s coat pulling tight over her shoulders, and poked the dead man in question. He did not move. “He’s not moving,” she added. “Could be dead.”

Hattie sighed, removing a glove and leaning into the carriage to place two fingers to the man’s neck. “I’m sure he’s not dead.”

“What are you doing?” Nora whispered, urgently. “If he’s not dead, you’ll wake him!”

“That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world,” Hattie pointed out. “Then we could ask him to kindly exit our conveyance and we could be on our way.”

“Oh, yes. This brute seems like precisely the kind of man who would immediately do just that and not immediately take his revenge. He’d no doubt doff his cap and wish us a fine good evening.”

“He’s not wearing a cap,” Hattie pointed out, unable to refute any of the rest of the assessment of the mysterious, possibly dead man. He was very broad, and very solid, and even in the darkness she could tell that this wasn’t a man with whom one took a turn about a ballroom.

This was the kind of man who ransacked a ballroom.

“What do you feel?” Nora pressed.

“No pulse.” Though she wasn’t precisely certain of the location one would find a pulse. “But he’s—”

Dead men were not warm, and this man was very warm. Like a fire in winter. The kind of warm that made someone realize how cold she might be.

Ignoring the silly thought, Hattie moved her fingers down the column of his neck, to the place where it disappeared beneath the collar of his shirt, where the curve of his shoulder and the slope of…the rest of him… met in a fascinating indentation.

“Anything now?”

“Quiet.” Hattie held her breath. Nothing. She shook her head.

“Christ.” It wasn’t a prayer.

Hattie couldn’t have agreed more. But then…

There. A small flutter. She pressed a touch more firmly. The flutter became firm. Slow. Even. “I feel it. She said. “He’s alive.” She repeated herself. “He’s alive.” She exhaled, long and relieved. “He’s not dead.”

“Excellent. But it doesn’t change the fact that he’s unconscious in the carriage, and you have somewhere to be.” She paused. “We should leave him and take the curricle.”

Hattie had been planning for this particular excursion on this particular night for a full three months. This was the night that would begin her twenty-ninth year. The year her life would become her own. The year she would become her own. And she had a very specific plan for a very specific location at a very specific hour, for which she had donned a very specific frock. And yet, as she stared at the man in her carriage, specifics seemed not at all important.

What seemed important was seeing his face.

Clinging to the handle at the edge of the door, Hattie collected the lantern from the upper rear corner of the carriage before swinging back out to face Nora, whose gaze flickered immediately to the unlit container.

Nora tilted her head. “Hattie. Leave him. Let’s take the curricle.”

“Just a peek,” Hattie replied.

The tilt became a shake. “If you peek, you’ll regret it.”

“I have to peek,” Hattie insisted, casting about for a decent reason—ignoring the odd fact that she was unable to tell her friend the truth. “I have to untie him.”

“Not necessarily,” Nora pointed out. “Someone thought he was best left tied up, and who are we to disagree?” Hattie was already reaching into the pocket of the carriage door for a flint. “What of your plans?”

There was plenty of time for her plans. “Just a peek,” she repeated, the oil in the lantern catching fire. She closed the door and turned to face the carriage, lifting the light high, casting a lovely golden glow over—

“Oh, my,” she said.

Nora choked back a laugh. “Not such a bad gift after all, perhaps.”

The man had the most beautiful face Hattie had ever seen. The most beautiful face anyone had ever seen, she imagined. She leaned closer, taking in his warm, bronze skin, the high cheekbones, the long, straight nose, the dark slashes of his brows and the impossibly long lashes that lay like feathers against his cheeks.

“What kind of man…” she trailed off. Shook her head.

What kind of man looked like this?

What kind of man looked like this and somehow landed in the carriage of Hattie 

Sarah MacLean

A life-long romance reader, Sarah MacLean wrote her first romance novel on a dare, and never looked back. She is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical romances and a columnist for The Washington Post, where she writes about the romance genre. She lives in New York City. Visit her at

Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Bareknuckle Bastards (Book 2)
Format: Paperback; 560 pages
Publisher: HarperLuxe; Larger Print edition (July 30, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0062911503
ISBN-13: 978-0062911506
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my review. 

She is determined to get what she has always dreamt of...

Lady Henrietta 'Hattie' Sedley is firmly on the shelf, and that is okay with her for she has a plan. A four-point plan to captain her own fate... Business. Home. Fortune. Future. It is the eve of her twenty-ninth birthday and at this point anyone who wishes to marry her will be after her dowry, and she does't want to be married to someone who only wants her for her dowry. After years of going to ball after ball, suffering through one Season after another, she's decided it is time to take fate into her own hands. She is convinced if she can prove herself, her father will let her manage and takeover the family business. She believes there is only one obstacle in her way, that once removed will clear the way for what she desires, and that is to do away with the one thing that is prized about her, her innocence. That brings us to the fifth point on her list--Body. She is determined this will be her year. The Year of Hattie!

He is determined to find the person who'd been stealing from him...

Beast, one of the brothers known as the Bareknuckle Bastards, has had four shipments stolen on route to his customers. The latest being taken from underneath his very nose. While riding with his crew, they are set upon by thieves, and minutes later he awakes in a carriage to a woman's voice. When she dispatches him from her moving carriage, he quickly rights himself and sets about finding her. Something easily accomplished when one has spies all over the city. She is his only lead. 

    "They call me Beast."
     She shook her head. "That's"--she searched for the word--"ludicrous."
     "'re the most beautiful man I've ever seen."(...)"I imagine it's meant to be ironic?" 
     "It's Not," he said, lowering his hand. 
     She blinked. I don't understand." 
     "You will."
     The promise sent a thread of unease through her. "I will?"
     He reached for her again, cupping her cheek in her palm, making her want to turn into the heat of him. "Those who steal from me. Who threaten what is mine. They see the truth of it." 
This is the second book in The Bareknuckle Bastards series and, oh my goodness, if there's one romance you have to read this year, this is it. The book is devilishly delicious, or dare I say, Bewitchingly Beastly? Either way, this one turned up the heat, and whoever dared Ms. MacLean to write her first novel has my sincere thanks.  

This series centers around three brothers and a sister. The brothers were all born on the same day, in the same hour, at the same minute to different women, but to the same father. The sister was born on the same day, in the same hour, at the same minute, but to a Duchess of whom the Duke was not the father. The daughter, ironically, was the only one considered legitimate of the lot. The boys would have been forgotten if the Duke could have sired more heirs or his daughter, who wasn't really his, had been born a boy. The Duke, however, needed an heir so he replaced the daughter with one of the brothers who then became the Duke's heir while the "sister" and other two brothers, then fourteen, fled to the streets to get out from under the thumb of the cruel man they dared not call father. There they made their own way, on their own terms. They are the base for the series, and Beast is one of the siblings who fled. 

Saviour Whittington, aka Beast, is a man of few words. He, his brother, Devil, and their sister, Grace, grew up on the darkest streets of London doing what they needed to survive. They clawed their way up, bringing those around them with them, and are recognized and revered in the Rookery of Covent Garden which they claimed as their own. Known as the Bareknuckle Bastards, they are said to be the most powerful men in East London. They are not the types one messes with. They are smugglers by trade, but also own several above board businesses, and have secured the loyalty of all who dwell in Coven Garden through money, might, and, most importantly, the way they do business. 

Hattie is the daughter of an Earl, however, she grew up on the docks. Her father wasn't born into the aristocracy, he earned his title from the King for nobility at sea. He owns one of the biggest shipping companies in London, and Hattie knows the workings of it inside and out. She's smart, keen, and clever, but unfortunately was born female in a man's world. She feels she doesn't fit in anywhere and is determined to prove to her father she should inherit the company, and not her brother who undoubtedly would ruin it. When she finds an unconscious man in her carriage she immediately knows who to blame--her brother--and wonders what he's gotten himself into. She soon finds out.

When Hattie and Beast meet, sparks fly. They are well matched in many ways even though they seem to be complete opposites, and most would think them to be an unlikely pair. They both feel a bit like misfits who don't quite fit in anywhere. As they get to know one another, however, she appears to be the yin to his yang and vice versa. Though they come from different worlds, the biggest hurdle they have to overcome is Hattie's brother's ill planned scheme to steal from the Bareknuckle Bastards. An action which could get him killed.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. Ms. MacLean never disappoints, and this book is another example of why she is one of my favorite romance writers. It was a fun and sexy romance that was enjoyable in the extreme. This is my favorite story of the year thus far. The chemistry between these two was so thick you could practically cut it with a knife. The way Hattie seems to fascinate Beast, against his better judgement, made me smile. The first couple of chapters had me grinning from ear to ear while ensnaring me hook, line, and sinker. I was a total goner, and couldn't put the book down until I finished. For the record, I've read this one twice--something I rarely do especially in quick succession! On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a  SHOWER rating--a cold shower is necessary (need I say more?). Some books should come with a warning - make sure your significant other is handy or your shower is in working order. lol I HIGHLY recommend this one!

Order of the Bareknuckle Bastards Series:

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