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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe

Beach House for Rent
by Mary Alice Monroe
☆☆☆☆
 
The title gives away the location.
But the story is much more than a place.
The tale reminded me just how important
we all are to each other. We do tend to 
close ourselves off. From our neighbors.
But how important the whole ''village'' 
really is to all of us. We all need each other.
Heather has lived with the trauma of a
serious accident since she was very young.
She has overwhelming anxiety issues.
Cara experiences a drowning tragedy over
the summer.
 
The two of them are taken under the wings
of a group of beach people. Beach people
with great big hearts and willing to do
whatever it takes to be the best friends
they can be.

There is so much happiness and peace
coming from this story, the place and the people.
Beach House for Rent is the place everyone
wishes they could spend a summer. Or a life.
 
 
 
Review written by Lisa Hutson 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Something like Happy by Eva Woods

☆☆☆☆
Something Like Happy
by Eva Woods
 
A story of future. When Annie finds herself in such a deep
dark unhappy place that she cannot find a ray of sunshine.
When you are in such a sad place that you don't clean
your house. That you don't care about anything in your
life. It's a very sad place. Annie is so deep that she does
not even have thoughts about how to make things better.
No thoughts of how bad her life is.
 
 
Do you believe in angels?
Because an angel crashes into Annie. Into her life. Into her
sadness. Into her depression. Into her darkness and despair.
This bright shining energetic lady named Polly, slides right
in. Polly breaks Annies life wide open.
 

 Its 100 days to be happy. 
Something Like Happy is an interesting
thoughtful novel. You cant know what you are
getting into as you read along.
 
I won this book from
Review by Lisa Hutson
 
 
 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Susan's Review of At The Christmas Wedding





Snowed in at a castle full of handsome lords, three young ladies are about to have the holiday of their lives…

From the authors of At the Duke's Wedding.







Loved this anthology! The authors took the time to create a fabulous house party theme and crafted three wonderful stories about the couples who are snowed in for the holidays at Kingstag Castle.

The Duke and Duchess of Wessex leave their holiday house party in the hands of their daughter Serena and Viola Cavendish, the duchess’s secretary. Serena and Viola must supervise the duke’s troublesome sister Bridget, keep an eye on the mischievous Lady Sophronia and Serena’s friends.

Each story contains enough character and plot cross over to make for an enjoyable, delightful read! I felt that I was reading a book, not three separate stories.

Bridget’s play was woven throughout each of the three novellas. Loved that each author understood the character and her desire to write the play. I enjoyed reading every paragraph devoted to Bridget and her zany play and the unscripted ending was perfect!!

Caroline Linden’s Map of a Lady’s Heart is my favorite story within the anthology. I thought that the all of the characters were relatable and appealing. Ms. Linden did a fabulous job setting the scene and introducing all of the castle’s guests to the reader. The scene where Wes asks Viola to go outside to view the stars at night was exquisitely written. Loved that Wes understood that his love for Viola was the treasure he'd spent a lifetime looking for.

Maya Rodale’s piece features Lady Serena, Lord Gosling, Greyson Jones and Bridget’s play. Grey has loved Serena for years. He did not pursue her because she was engaged to his best friend. Grey views the house party at his opportunity to see if he is really in love with Serena. Loved the hysterically funny scenes when Lady Bridget and her aunt cast Grey as Serena’s love interest in the play. The witty dialogue, laugh out loud scenes from the play and pacing in this novella are superb.

And Bridget’s play? Will the Lonely Spinster choose the Lord Captain Pirate or the Lovesick Swan?The conclusion to this story was very romantic and perfect for the happy couple and playwright!

Katharine Ashe’s descriptive voice and the back and forth banter between Charlotte and Frye make the third novella in the anthology a charming read. I could feel how cold it was outside, understand Charlotte’s feelings towards Frye and understand why Frye loved the feisty Charlotte beyond words. The romance between the couple was delicately paced as Charlotte truly believes that Frye has jilted her best friend. Loved the added touch of the couple celebrating Christmas Eve at the inn. My favorite scene occurred when Charlotte tells an unconscious Frye that he is “forbidden to die’. It’s touching, perfectly executed and yes….made me cry! Ms. Ashe treats us to several fun plot twists and turns before the couple arrives at Kingstag Castle.

I enjoyed this fabulous anthology. It’s filled with great characters, fun and games and so much romance!

Reviewd by Susan Gorman

Book purchased via Amazon




Friday, November 17, 2017

Susan's review of Say I Do in Good Hope by Cindy Kirk



Sometimes love is right on your doorstep...

Eliza Shaw has never met a crisis she couldn’t manage. If her father thinks she’s going to take his attempt at selling the family home out from underneath her, then he clearly doesn’t know her at all. She‘ll chain herself to the banister if she has to...

Kyle Kendrick doesn’t have time for the hassle of an eviction. He definitely doesn’t have time for Eliza Shaw’s drama – even if she does look distractingly gorgeous when she’s furious. His sister is arriving in Good Hope and he needs a home. Now.

Neither Kyle nor Eliza is thrilled at the idea of sharing the house, but it’s the only sensible solution. Now if they could each just stop fantasizing about their new roommate this crazy plan might just work. And if they’re lucky, what started out as playing house could end up giving them the home and family they’ve both desperately yearned for.



Sometimes a secondary character creates a spark in the storyline and catches the reader’s attention. The character might resonate with readers or be the one character that readers dislike with a passion. Eliza Shaw is the character many readers disliked in the Good Hope series. Her feisty, take charge attitude, community spirit, sense of style and her rivalry with Bloom sisters caught my interest—and I began to look forward to reading about her. I felt sorry for her when her “more than friends” relationship with Jeremy Rakes ended. Although Eliza was originally cast as the antagonist to the Bloom sisters, her character developed beyond that one dimensional role in the last two Good Hope books.

Cindy Kirk took a huge risk in pairing the determined Eliza with easy going Kyle Kendrick in this well- paced story. Eliza Shaw is devastated when she learns that her father has sold her home to Kyle and she has no intentions of moving! Her grandmother promised that Eliza would inherit the beautiful Victorian home. The fun begins when Kyle and Eliza compromise and agree to share the house until the legal paperwork is resolved.

The couple begins to bond when Kyle’s sister Lolo comes for an extended visit. Lolo has been through a tough time and needs a change of scenery. Eliza remembers that she felt alone was teased in junior high. Loved when Eliza saw Lolo’s first fashion faux pas and transformed her outfit for church in 10 minutes. I liked how Eliza and Kyle worked together to make sure Lolo felt secure in Good Hope.

Family is important to both Eliza and Kyle. Cindy Kirk provides Eliza’s backstory through conversations with Eliza’s cousin Katharine and several heart to heart conversations between Eliza and Kyle. Eliza’s relationship with her father explains her determination to succeed. Kyle’s situation is different from Eliza’s. His parents have been supportive but, much to his surprise he has learned that he may have a sibling in Good Hope. I loved the speed dating questions when Eliza and Kyle talked about honesty and trust in a relationship—it was a turning point in their relationship.

Say I Do in Good Hope has all the small town warmth and charm that I adore in this series. Cindy Kirk’s descriptive voice shines in this novel. She includes so many details that make this novel relatable; birth, death, weddings and new beginnings. This is my favorite story in the series. I feel the friends to lovers romance between the strong willed Eliza and easy going Kyle was perfectly written. The last few chapters had a few surprises for the couple—and the ending - -especially the grand gesture made me cry!

Reviewed by Susan Gorman

Book purchased from Amazon by Susan Gorman

Author photo and biography from http://www.cindykirk.com



Cindy Kirk is a lifelong Nebraska resident who started writing after taking a class at a local community college. But her interest in the written word started years before when she was in her teens. At sixteen she wrote in her diary, “I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t be a writer.”

Not until her daughter was heading off to college did Cindy return to her first love---writing. Unlike some writers, Cindy wasn’t interested in newspaper or magazine articles, short stories or poetry. When she decided to start writing, she jumped feet first into book length fiction. She loves reading and writing romance because she believes in the power of love and in happily ever after. An incurable romantic, Cindy loves seeing her characters grow and learn from their mistakes and, in the process, achieve a happy ending.

Someone once told Cindy that to know a writer you just have to read what she's written; she hopes that once you read her books you can tell she is an eternal optimist, one who truly believes in the power of love. She invites you to kick off your shoes, pick up one of her books and get to know her. Cindy and her high school sweetheart husband live on an acreage with two dogs and two cats—Oreo--a friendly feline who loves to sit next to the computer and supervise her writing and Leo, a white devil with a raccoon-like tail.



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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Cover Reveal-- A Reckless Redemption by Laura Trentham


A Reckless Redemption
by Laura Trentham
Series: Spies and Lovers, #3
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: December 5, 2017



Can a single night’s deception lead to a lifelong love?

On the eve of her wedding to a man she detests, Brynmore McCann can think of only one way to escape—by ruining herself—but the local lads leave her wholly uninspired. Just as she’s ready to accept her fate, she spots Maxwell Drake, home after nearly a decade. Even though he had loved her sister when they were young, Bryn has always considered him hers and she can’t think of anyone she’d rather have bed her for the first time. Only she never intends for him to find out who she is.

Upon returning home, Maxwell is stunned by the news that his father may have left him an inheritance. As the unacknowledged by-blow of a local nobleman, Maxwell struggles with resentment over the way he and his mother were treated by his father and the village. To add to his troubles, he discovers the lass he spent an incredibly satisfying night with was not the village whore, but the high-born sister of his first love. He insists Brynmore travel with him to Edinburgh until they determine if she is with child. Because if she is, she’ll marry him whether she wants to or not.

Along the road to Edinburgh, they are attacked by persons unknown. As the list of suspects who want them dead grows longer and his worries deepen, Maxwell prepares for an even more personal battle—how to keep from surrendering his heart to Brynmore.

Warning: Contains a broody Scotsman, a fiery-haired lass, and a night of passion that changes everything. Readers are encouraged to bring a fan.




A man’s murmur rose through the occasional nicker and whinny. For a long moment, Bryn stood still, letting the cadence soothe her like a wild pony. The deep, rich voice mesmerized her, and she found herself under its spell, moving inexorably closer to the open stall. She peered around the door to see a man rubbing down his horse with sweeping, graceful strokes of a blanket.

He exchanged blanket with brush and methodically groomed the horse’s flanks, all the while talking nonsense to his besotted mount. The low timbre of his voice lilted with a Scot’s brogue. The horse nuzzled the man during his ministrations. A greatcoat and brimmed hat kept his identity a secret.

The edge of his coat and boots were muddy and road-worn but of excellent quality. How had such a fine gentleman ended up in such an out of the way village as Cragian? For her wedding? Why then wasn’t he at the house with all the other kowtowers?

He circled to the horse’s opposite flank, and she caught sight of the lower half of his face. Weakness crawled into her knees, and her stomach took a fearless leap. She knew him.

Dark stubble covered a strong, square jaw. In juxtaposition, his mouth was sensuous, the bottom lip full and curled up in a smile as if caring for his horse was a pleasure and not a chore. Something deep inside of her, something she hadn’t even known was lying dormant, stirred to life after almost ten years.

It would be this man or no one. The man who’d once loved her sister. The man she’d loved from afar for too many years. Maxwell Drake. The Fates had made her decision.




Book 1: An Indecent Invitation

Book 2: A Brazen Bargain


An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although, she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.

She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. KISS ME THAT WAY, Cottonbloom Book 1, won the Stiletto Contest for Best Long Contemporary and finaled in the National Readers Choice Award. THEN HE KISSED ME, Cottonbloom Book 2, was named an Amazon Best Romance of 2016 and was a finalist for the National Excellence for Romance Fiction. TILL I KISSED YOU, Cottonbloom Book 3, is a finalist in the Maggie contest. LEAVE THE NIGHT ON, the latest Cottonbloom book, was named an iBooks Best Book of the Month and a Recommended Read from NPR.

When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she's shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.

Visit her at www.LauraTrentham.com or connect on Twitter at @LauraTrentham or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/LauraTrenthamAuthor) or Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/lauratrentham/)


Email:  laura@lauratrentham.com





Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Highland Ruse by Madeline Martin

Highland Ruse
by Madeline Martin
☆☆☆☆☆

Mercenary Maidens Series
Book Two
 
Delilah is much more than she appears.
But by the time Kaid realizes that, he is in
over his head. Can he come to his senses in time?
 

Delilah has had to make her own way. She is 
willing to do whatever it takes. However hard
she must work. Any danger she must face.
She has her first mission. Delilah is prepared.
Kaid has his family to protect. There are many
people counting on him. He comes up with a
plan that he believes will end the destructive
and dangerous revenge. It's a complicated
plan but if it is successful, it will bring peace.
Both Delilah and Kaid have everything at stake.
Can they find a way to make it work for everyone?
Will they have to give up any hope of a happy
ending for them together?
 
 
Highland Ruse is a story of fighting to give
romance a chance to come to life.
Madeline Martin has written characters that
are not afraid to know what they want and
do what they must to succeed.
 
Review by Lisa Hutson


Monday, November 13, 2017

Susan's Review of A Season of You by Emma Douglas







It’s Christmastime in the quaint island town of Cloud Bay, where love is always in season... Will has believed in love at first sight since the day he first laid eyes on Mina Harper five years ago. There was only one problem: She was happily married. Then, when Mina’s husband was killed by a drunk driver, Will figured she’d want nothing to do with a guy who owns a whiskey distillery. So he’s kept his feelings locked away, knowing that not even a Christmas miracle would be enough to melt Mina’s heart. . .

Mina believes her days of true love are behind her. Since losing her husband she’s kept to herself, content to do her own painting and stay out of the limelight that comes with her famous family. But when, after a freak accident, Will comes to her rescue, Mina can’t quite get him out of her mind. As curiosity turns into a fling during Cloud Bay’s first Christmas Festival, she finds it harder to convince herself that her feelings for Will are just mistletoe-inspired. Could Mina be ready to lay the past to rest and finally admit that what she really wants for Christmas—and forever—is Will?



 


A Season of You by Emma Douglas is set in the small island town of Cloud Bay during the Christmas holiday season. The characters in A Season of You appealed to me. The novel features bar owner Will Fraser and widow Mina Harper.

Will has been attracted to Mina for years. He has not acted on his feelings because he understands that Mina is still grieving for her late husband. Mina keeps busy with her family, job and her dog. Will finds an unconscious Mina by the side of the road and takes her and her dog to the local clinic. He offers to drive Mina home and stay the night. The couple begins a tentative friendship when Mina brings Will thank you cookies and discovers that her dog chewed the leather seats in Will’s car while she was in the clinic.

A talented artist, Mina has been obsessed with painting the ocean since her husband died. Mina’s work reflects her solitary nature and her deep emotional feelings about her husband’s death. The paintings depict crashing waves and stormy seas. Loved the symbolism used in the novel as there are no paintings with calm seas or people in the studio. The author crafted a perfect “AH HA” moment for Mina and a turning point in the novel when she asks Will if she can paint him.

Enjoyed the pace of the story, although there was chemistry between the couple, the romance between them developed slowly. Will let Mina set the tone and tempo of their relationship. He truly cared for Mina and did not want to rush her or make her feel uncomfortable. Emma Douglas crafted this important piece of the couple’s journey perfectly. I loved their first date- painting plywood Christmas trees and candy canes for the town’s holiday celebration. The conversations between Mina, her sister Faith and her step mother Lou were fabulously written. Am hoping the author has a story for Lou planned.

The conclusion to the novel caught me by surprise! There were several unexpected plot developments which were woven in the last few chapters. I am looking forward to seeing them resolved in the next Cloud Bay book.

I enjoyed A Season of You very much. It’s the perfect blend of romance, family, friendship and new beginnings.

Reviewed by Susan Gorman
ARC provided by St Martin's Press





Holiday Q & A with Emma Douglas

When do the holidays official start for you?
After my mom's birthday which is early December!

What's your favorite thing about the holidays?
Getting together with my family and friends and just having a good time with the people I love.

Are there any holiday traditions you do every year without fail?
Making the plum pudding with my mum and watching Carols by Candlelight which is broadcast on TV here in Oz on Christmas Eve.

What's your favorite holiday movie?
Die Hard 

Do you have a favorite holiday book?

The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R Tolkien. Gorgeous illustrations and funny! They're letters he wrote to his kids (as Father Christmas) each year, telling the stories of what had been happening at the North Pole that year.

What's your all-time favorite holiday song?
O Holy Night because I love the melody.

What's your favorite activity during fall or winter?
I do Christmas in summer here in Oz so that makes it swimming or otherwise avoiding the heat. But in winter I have a weird liking for walking in the cold, as long as I can thaw out with a good book afterward.

What's your favorite gift you've ever received or given?
Both my current cats I gave myself for Christmas but that probably doesn't count. I got a membership to the local zoo which was fun as I like to wander around there. Other than that, like a true bookworm, every year I love getting books.

Do you have any items on your wish list this year?
Nothing big but I'm sure I'll come up with a list of books and art supplies that would be great to get.

Any resolutions or goals for next year?
Both to write more and to have more time for non-writing things. Maybe I need a clone for Christmas?



Emma Douglas would love to live in a world where professional napping was a thing. But until then, she thinks writing books is a pretty awesome alternative. When not writing about imaginary people, she can be found reading, doing something crafty, binge-watching TV, playing her latest song crush on repeat, or singing badly in her car. She lives in Melbourne, Australia in a tiny house stuffed full of books, too many craft supplies and two cats who take up more space than you would expect. Find out more about Emma at www.emmadouglasbooks.com.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Caught by the Scot by Karen Hawkins - Audible version

Caught by the Scot
by Karen Hawkins
Made to Marry Series, Book I
☆☆☆☆

I have to admit, it was the cover that sold me on this one.
I have read and liked Karen Hawkins before. But this one,
it was the cover and the Scottish accented narrator.
I am so glad to be able to put this audible clip on here.
 
 

 
 
 
Theodora & Conner have grown up knowing each other.
Theodora has long been in love with Conner. But he is a man after all.
They aren't always the most observant. He has been off living a
silly, wasteful life. Theodora is finally tired of waiting for him.
So she finds herself a predictable, kind man to marry.
Conners beloved sister has died and her only wish was for her
brothers to marry.  She wanted each of them to marry a good woman.
Conner knows he must follow his sisters final wish. But where
will he find such a woman willing to marry him in a short time?
Well, of course, it would be his old friend, Theodora. He likes
her. They get along well. She knows him so she would not have
high expectations. Perfect.
He goes to find her only to find out she has
run off to marry her predictable land owner.
Now, Conner has competition. Not only does another man
want to marry Theodora. But she has decided he is not worth
the certain heartache that would come with marrying him.
She has no intention of being Caught by the Scot.  
She does not want him.
 Conner isn't even sure what he would be willing to give up.
But Theodora is certain about what she is willing
to settle for. Can Conner get it all together before
it's too late? Can he convince her that he is serious?
Will Theodora be willing to take a chance on Conner?
 
The narrator is Gary Furlong. I hope you will enjoy the
audio clip above. You can make up your own mind.
 
I bought my copy from Audible.com
Review by Lisa Hutson
 


Monday, November 6, 2017

Susan's Review of Wilde in Love by Eloisa James



Book 1 in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series


Lord Alaric Wilde, son of the Duke of Lindow, is the most celebrated man in England, revered for his dangerous adventures and rakish good looks.

Arriving home from years abroad, he has no idea of his own celebrity until his boat is met by mobs of screaming ladies. Alaric escapes to his father’s castle, but just as he grasps that he’s not only famous but notorious, he encounters the very private, very witty, Miss Willa Ffynche.
Willa presents the fa├žade of a serene young lady to the world. Her love of books and bawdy jokes is purely for the delight of her intimate friends. She wants nothing to do with a man whose private life is splashed over every newspaper.

Alaric has never met a woman he wanted for his own…until he meets Willa. He’s never lost a battle.

But a spirited woman like Willa isn’t going to make it easy…

The first book in Eloisa James’s dazzling new series set in the Georgian period glows with her trademark wit and sexy charm—and introduces a large, eccentric family. Readers will love the Wildes of Lindow Castle!

ABOUT THE BOOK

by Eloisa James
Series
The Wildes of Lindow Castle #1
Genre
Adult
Historical Romance
Publisher
Avon Books
Publication Date
October 31, 2017
Buy from HC
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Barnes   Noble
Buy from Google
Buy from Walmart
Buy from iBooks

About Eloisa James

ELOISA JAMES is a New York Times best-selling author and professor of English literature who lives with her family in New York, but can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. She is the mother of two and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight. Visit her at http://www.eloisajames.com.



Author Links


website facebook twitter goodreads Amazon icon







Wilde in Love captivated me from the first page! The opposites attract romance between the famous Lord Alaric and the very private Willa Ffynche was exquisitely written-- it’s romantic, funny and charming!

Alaric Wilde has returned to England to discover that he’s a famous celebrity. He is amazed that the books he wrote about his adventures are best sellers, ladies are enamored of him and that they swoon when they read about his escapades. He’s not amused when he learns there’s a sold out play entitled Wilde in Love which features his fictitious romance with a lovesick missionary’s daughter and his escapades with a pack of cannibals!

His desire? To travel home to Lindow Castle to see his father, stepmother and assorted brothers and sisters.

Willa Ffynche and Lavinia Gray are invited to a house party at Lindow Castle in honor of the engagement of Lavinia’s cousin, Diana, to Alaric’s older brother, North. Lavinia has read all of Alaric’s books and wears a much coveted Lord Wilde gold locket while Willa has no interest in Lord Wilde or his adventures. Although Willa is very smart and well read, she is a very private person. She is not impressed with Lord Wilde believes that Alaric enjoys his celebrity status and all of its’ perks.

Her decision? To avoid the handsome, charming man that intrigues her.

Alaric and Willa’s romance appealed to me because even though the chemistry between the couple sizzled, the passion between the couple developed slowly. Alaric took time to show Willa that he was Alaric Lindow, not Lord Wilde. He understood that there was more to Willa than the ladylike image she portrayed to the public. The conversations between the couple were witty, honest and at times poignant.

Wilde in Love is a fantastic read; the characters are multi-faceted, the romance between the hero and heroine is relatable and there is just enough social commentary woven through the storyline. Loved both Alaric and Willa and enjoyed reading their romantic journey. The secondary characters of North, Parth, Diana and Lavinia are fabulous. I enjoyed the relationship between Lavinia and Parth---she annoyed him—or was it attraction? (I can’t wait for their story!) There are many characters in the novel and each of them played important roles in the story. The last few chapters of the book are suspenseful and contain several surprising plot twists. I loved that Alaric never wanted to be a hero, but was given the chance to be a hero to the woman he loved.

The epilogue is perfect for Alaric and Willa—it made me smile! I adored the teaser for the next book in the series.

Reviewed By Susan Gorman

ARC provided by the publisher



Chapter One

June 25, 1778

London

There wasn’t a person in all England who’d have believed the boy who grew up to be Lord Alaric Wilde would become famous.

Infamous? That was a possibility.

His own father had given him that label after Alaric was sent down from Eton at the age of eleven for regaling his classmates with stories of pirates.

Piracy wasn’t the problem—the problem was the uncanny way young Alaric had depicted his small-minded Etonian instructors in the guise of drunken sailors. These days he avoided portraying self-righteous Englishmen, but the impulse to observe had never left him. He watched and summarized, whether he was in China or an African jungle.

He had always written down what he saw. His Lord Wilde books were a consequence of that impulse to record his observations, a drive that appeared as soon as he learned to write his first sentences.

Like everyone else, it had never occurred to him that those books could make him famous. And he didn’t think any differently when he rolled out of his berth on Royal George. All he knew in that moment was that he was finally ready to see his family, all eight siblings, not to mention the duke, duchess, and a stepsister or two.

He’d stayed away for years, as if not seeing his eldest brother Horatius’s grave would make his death not true.

But it was time to go home. He wanted a cup of tea. A steaming hot bath in a real bathtub. A lungful of smoky London air.

Hell, he even missed the peaty smell that hung over Lindow Moss, the bog that stretched for miles to the east of his father’s castle. He was drawing back the curtain over the porthole when the ship’s boy knocked and entered. “There’s a mighty fog, milord, but we’re well up the Thames, and the captain reckons we’ll be at Billingsgate Wharf any minute.” His eyes shone with excitement. Upon on deck, Alaric found Captain Barsley standing in the prow of the Royal George, hands on his hips. Alaric started toward him and stopped, astonished. Through the fog, the dock glimmered like a child’s toy: a blurry mass of pink, purple, and bright blue. It separated into parts as the ship approached.

Women.

The dock was crowded with women—or, more precisely, ladies, considering all the high plumes and parasols waving in the air. A grin tugged at the corners of Alaric’s mouth as he joined the captain.

“What in the devil is going on?”

“I expect they’re waiting for a prince or some such foolishness. Those passenger lists they print in the Morning Chronicle are utter rubbish. They’re going to be bloody disappointed when they realize the Royal George hasn’t a drop of royal blood aboard,” the captain grumbled. Alaric, who was related to the crown through his grandfather, gave a shout of laughter. “You have a noble nose, Barsley. Perhaps they’ve discovered a relation you never heard of.”

Barsley just grunted. They were close enough now to discern that ladies were crowded as far back as the fish market. They appeared to be bobbing up and down like colored buoys, as they strained to see through the fog. Faint screams suggested excitement, if not hysteria.

“This is Bedlam,” Barsley said with disgust. “How are we supposed to disembark in the midst of that?”

“Since we’ve come from Moscow, perhaps they think the Russian ambassador is on board,” Alaric said, watching a rowboat set out toward them, manned by a dockworker.

“Why in the devil’s name would a flock of women come looking for a Russian?”

“Kochubey is a good-looking fellow,” Alaric said, as the boat struck the side of the ship with a thump. “He complained of English ladies besieging him, calling him Adonis, and sneaking into his bedchamber at night.”

But the captain wasn’t listening. “What the devil are those women doing on the wharf?” Captain Barsley roared, as the dockworker clambered over the side from the rowboat. “Make way for my gangplank, or I won’t be responsible for the fish having a fine meal!”

The man dropped to the deck, eyes round. “It’s true! You’re here!” he blurted out.

“Of course I’m here,” the captain snarled.

But the man wasn’t looking at Barsley.

He was looking at Alaric.