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THE DUKE WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
Victorian Rebels (Volume 6)
Kerrigan Byrne
St. Martin’s Paperbacks

$7.99
Pub Date: 08/28/2018
ISBN: 9781250122568
384 Pages

Summary:

The bravest of heroes. The brashest of rebels. The boldest of lovers. These are the men who risk their hearts and their souls—for the passionate women who dare to love them…

He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival—and salvation—lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul…

A LEGENDARY LOVE

Lorelei will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kerrigan Byrne

Kerrigan ByrneWhether she’s writing about Celtic Druids, Victorian bad boys, or brash Irish FBI Agents, Kerrigan Byrne uses her borderline-obsessive passion for history, her extensive Celtic ancestry, and her love of Shakespeare in every book. She lives at the base of the Rocky Mountains with her handsome husband and three lovely teenage girls, but dreams of settling on the Pacific Coast. Her Victorian Rebels novels include The Highwayman and The Highlander.

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Social Links:

Author Website: http://www.kerriganbyrne.com/

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***Be sure to visit this site often. The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo will be featured in September’s Hot Reads post. 

In the meantime, below is an excerpt for your literary pleasure:

CHAPTER ONE

If Lorelai Weatherstoke hadn’t been appreciating the storm out the carriage window, she’d have missed the naked corpse beneath the ancient ash tree.

“Father, look!” She seized Lord Southbourne’s thin wrist, but a barrage of visual stimuli overwhelmed her, paralyzing her tongue.

In all her fourteen years, she’d never seen a naked man, let alone a deceased one.

He lay facedown, strong arms reached over his head as though he’d been trying to swim through the shallow grass lining the road. Ghastly dark bruises covered what little flesh was visible beneath the blood. He was all mounds and cords, his long body different from hers in every way a person could be.

Her heart squeezed, and she fought to find her voice as the carriage trundled past. The poor man must be cold, she worried, then castigated herself for such an absurd thought.

The dead became one with the cold. She’d learned that by kissing her mother’s forehead before they closed her casket forever.

“What is it, duck?” Her father may have been an earl, but the Weatherstokes were gentry of reduced circumstances, and didn’t spend enough time in London to escape the Essex accent.

Lorelai had not missed the dialect while at school in Mayfair, and it had been the first thing she’d rid herself of in favor of a more proper London inflection. In this case, however, it was Lord Southbourne’s words, more than his accent, that caused her to flinch.

As cruel as the girls could be at Braithwaite’s Boarding School, none of their taunts had made her feel quite so hollow as the one her own family bestowed upon her.

Duck.

“I-it’s a man,” she stammered. “A corp—” Oh no, had he just moved, or had she imagined it? Squinting through the downpour, she pressed her face to the window in time to see battered knuckles clenching the grass, and straining arms pulling the heavy body forward.

“Stop,” she wheezed, overtaken by tremors. “Stop the carriage!”

“What’s bunched your garters, then?” Sneering across from her, Mortimer, her elder brother, brushed aside the drapes at his window. “Blimey! There’s a bleedin’ corpse by the road.” Three powerful strikes on the roof of the coach prompted the driver to stop.

“He’s alive!” Lorelai exclaimed, pawing at the door handle. “I swear he moved. We have to help him.”

“I thought that fancy, expensive school was supposed to make you less of an idiot, Duck.” Mortimer’s heavy brows barely separated on a good day and met to create one thick line when he adopted the expression of disdainful scorn he reserved solely for her. “What’s a cripple like you going to do in the mud?”

“We should probably drive through to Brentwood,” Lord Southbourne suggested diplomatically. “We can send back an ambulance to fetch him.”

“He’ll need an undertaker by then,” Lorelai pleaded. “We must save him, mustn’t we?”

“I’ve never seen so much blood.” It was morbid fascination rather than pity darkening her brother’s eyes. “I’m going out there.”

“I’m coming with you.”

A cruel hand smacked Lorelai out of the way, and shoved her back against the faded brocade velvet of her seat. “You’ll stay with Father. I’ll take the driver.”

As usual, Lord Robert Weatherstoke said and did nothing to contradict his only son as Mortimer leaped from the coach and slammed the door behind him.

Lorelai barely blamed her passive father anymore. Mortimer was so much larger than him these days, and ever so much crueler.

She had to adjust her throbbing leg to see the men making their way through the gray of the early-evening deluge. Just enough remained of daylight to delineate color variations.

The unfortunate man was a large smudge of gore against the verdant spring ground cover. Upon Mortimer and the driver’s approach, he curled in upon himself not unlike a salted snail. Only he had no shell to protect his beaten body.

Lorelai swallowed profusely in a vain attempt to keep her heart from escaping through her throat as the man was hoisted aloft, each arm yoked like an ox’s burden behind a proffered neck. Even though Mortimer was the tallest man she knew, the stranger’s feet dragged in the mud. His head lolled below his shoulders, so she couldn’t get a good look at his face to ascertain his level of consciousness.

Other parts of him, though, she couldn’t seem to drag her eyes away from.

She did her best not to look between his legs, and mostly succeeded. At a time like this, modesty hardly mattered, but she figured the poor soul deserved whatever dignity she could allow him.

That is to say, she only peeked twice before wrenching her eyes upward.

The muscles winging from his back beneath where his arms spread were ugly shades of darkness painted by trauma. The ripples of his ribs were purple on his left side, and red on the other. Blunt bruises interrupted the symmetrical ridges of his stomach, as though he’d been kicked or struck repeatedly. As they dragged him closer, what she’d feared had been blood became something infinitely worse.

It was as though his flesh had been chewed away, but by something with no teeth. The plentiful meat of his shoulder and chest, his torso, hips, and down his thigh were grotesquely visible.

Burns, maybe?

“Good God, how is he still alive?” The awe in her father’s voice reminded her of his presence as they scurried to open the carriage door and help drag the man inside. It took the four of them to manage it.

“He won’t be unless we hurry.” The driver tucked the man’s long, long legs inside, resting his knees against the seat. “I fear he won’t last the few miles to Brentwood.”

Ripping her cloak off, Lorelai spread it over the shuddering body on the floor. “We must do what we can,” she insisted. “Is there a doctor in Brentwood?”

“Aye, and a good one.”

“Please take us there without delay.”

“O’course, miss.” He secured the door and leaped into his seat, whipping the team of fresh horses into a gallop.

As they lurched forward, the most pitiful sound she’d ever heard burst from the injured man’s lips, which flaked with white. His big arm flailed from beneath the cloak to protect his face, in a gesture that tore Lorelai’s heart out of her chest.

The burn scored the sinew of his neck and up his jaw to his cheekbone.

Pangs of sympathy slashed at her own skin, and drew her muscles taut with strain. Lorelai blinked a sheen of tears away, and cleared emotion out of her tight throat with a husky sound she’d made to soothe many a wounded animal on the Black Water Estuary.

His breaths became shallower, his skin paler beneath the bruises.

He was dying.

Without thinking, she slid a hand out of her glove, and gently pressed her palm to his, allowing her fingers to wrap around his hand one by one.

“Don’t go,” she urged. “Stay here. With me.”

His rough, filthy hand gripped her with such strength, the pain of it stole her breath. His face turned toward her, though his eyes remained closed.

Still, it heartened her, this evidence of awareness. Perhaps, on some level, she could comfort him.

“You’re going to be all right,” she crooned.

“Don’t lie to the poor bastard.” Mortimer’s lip curled in disgust. “He’s no goose with a defective wing, or a three-legged cat, like the strays you’re always harboring. Like as not he’s too broken to be put back together with a bandage, a meal, and one of your warbling songs. He’s going to die, Lorelai.”

“You don’t know that,” she said more sharply than she’d intended, and received a sharp slap for her lapse in wariness.

“And you don’t know what I’ll do to you if you speak to me in that tone again.”

Most girls would look to their fathers for protection, but Lorelai had learned long ago that protection was something upon which she could never rely.

Her cheek stinging, Lorelai lowered her eyes. Mortimer would take it as a sign of submission, but she only did it to hide her anger. She’d learned by now to take care around him in times of high stress, or excitement. It had been her folly to forget … because she knew exactly what he was capable of. The pinch of her patient’s strong grip was nothing next to what she’d experienced at the hands of her brother on any given month.

Ignoring the aching throb in her foot, Lorelai dismissed Mortimer, leaning down instead to stroke a dripping lock of midnight hair away from an eye so swollen, he’d not have been able to open it were he awake.

Across from her, Mortimer leaned in, as well, ostensibly studying the man on the floor with equal parts intrigue and disgust. “Wonder what happened to the sod. I haven’t seen a beating like this in all my years.”

Lorelai schooled a level expression from her face at the reference to his many perceived years. He was all of twenty, and the only violence he witnessed outside of sport, he perpetrated himself.

“Brigands, you suspect?” Sir Robert fretted from beside her, checking the gathering darkness for villains.

“Entirely possible,” Mortimer said flippantly. “Or maybe he is one. We are disturbingly close to Gallows Corner.”

“Mortimer,” their father wheezed. “Tell me you haven’t pulled a criminal into my coach. What would people say?”

The Weatherstoke crest bore the motto Fortunam maris, “fortune from the sea,” but if anyone had asked Lorelai what it was, she’d have replied, Quid dicam homines? “What would people say?”

It had been her father’s favorite invocation—and his greatest fear—for as long as she could remember.

Lorelai opened her mouth to protest, but her brother beat her to it, a speculative glint turning his eyes the color of royal sapphires. “If I’d hazard a guess, it would be that this assault was personal. A fellow doesn’t go to the trouble to inflict this sort of damage lest his aim is retribution or death. Perhaps he’s a gentleman with gambling debts run afoul of a syndicate. Or, maybe a few locals caught him deflowering their sister … though they left those parts intact, didn’t they, Duck?” His sly expression told Lorelai that he’d caught her looking where she ought not to.

Blushing painfully, she could no longer bring herself to meet Mortimer’s cruel eyes. They were the only trait Lorelai shared with her brother. Her father called them the Weatherstoke jewels. She actively hated looking in the mirror and seeing Mortimer’s eyes staring back at her.

Instead, she inspected the filthy nails of the hand engulfing her own. The poor man’s entire palm was one big callus against hers. The skin on his knuckles, tough as an old shoe, had broken open with devastating impact.

Whatever had happened to him, he’d fought back.

“He’s no gentleman,” she observed. “Too many calluses. A local farmhand, perhaps, or a stable master?” It didn’t strain the imagination to envision these hands gripping the rope of an erstwhile stallion. Large, magnificent beasts pitting their strength one against the other.

“More like stable boy,” Mortimer snorted. “I’d wager my inheritance he’s younger than me.”

“How can you tell?” With his features beyond recognition, Lorelai was at a loss as to the man’s age. No gray streaked his midnight hair, nor did lines bracket his swollen lips, so she knew he couldn’t be old, but beyond that …

“He’s not possessed of enough body hair for a man long grown.”

“But he’s so big,” she reasoned. “And his chest appears to have been badly burned, the hair might have singed right off.”

“I’m not referring to his chest, you dull-wit, but to his coc—”

“Mortimer, please.”

Lorelai winced. It was as close to a reprimand as her father ever ventured. Mortimer must have been very wicked, indeed. It was just her luck that he did so on perhaps the first occasion Lorelai had actually wanted her brother to finish a sentence.

A rut in the road jostled them with such force at their frantic pace, Lorelai nearly landed on the injured man. His chest heaved a scream into his throat, but it only escaped as a piteous, gurgling groan.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she whimpered. Dropping to her knees, she hovered above him, the fingers of her free hand fluttering over his quaking form, looking for a place to land that wouldn’t cause him pain.

She could find none. He was one massive wound.

A tear splashed from her eye and disappeared into the crease between his fingers.

“Duck, perhaps it’s best you take your seat.” Her father’s jowly voice reminded her of steam wheezing from a teakettle before it’s gathered enough strength to whistle. “It isn’t seemly for a girl of your standing to be thus prostrated on the floor.”

With a sigh, she did her best to get her good foot beneath her, reaching for the plush golden velvet of the seat to push herself back into it.

An insistent tug on her arm tested the limits of her shoulder socket, forcing her to catch herself once more.

“Lorelai, I said sit,” Lord Southbourne blustered.

“I can’t,” she gasped incredulously. “He won’t let me go.”

“What’s this, then?” Mortimer wiped some of the mud away from the straining cords of the man’s forearm, uncovering an even darker smudge beneath. As he cleared it, a picture began to take shape, the artful angles and curves both intriguing and sinister until mottled, injured skin ruptured the rendering. “Was it a bird of some kind? A serpent?”

“No.” Lorelai shook her head, studying the confusion of shapes intently. “It’s a dragon.”

Copyright © 2018 by Kerrigan Byrne

When I think of authors whose story lines are fun, smart and clever, Valerie Bowman is always at the top of my list. In her latest novel, THE RIGHT KIND OF ROGUE, Ms. Bowman has, yet again, penned a regency romp bound to make your heart flutter. THE RIGHT KIND OF ROGUE is the eighth installment in her popular Playful Brides Series published by St. Martin’s Press.1_18_RightKindofRogue-final-e1499385141743

Since childhood, Meg Timmons has loved Hart. The daughter of Hart’s father’s sworn enemy and without a dowry, the shy wallflower must admire Hart from afar. After years of yearning to be the object of his desire, Meg takes desperate measures, enlisting the help of one of the tons most successful matchmakers.

Even a notorious rake must settle down sometime. Viscount Hart Highgate has decided to assume his duties–get married and produce an heir. Bored by the superficial, uninspiring woman that vie for his affections, Hart tries to stifle his growing attraction to his sister’s best-friend, Meg Timmons. A marriage to the penniless daughter of his father’s rival, would be sure to become a disaster.

If you’re a fan of historical romance, Valerie Bowman will not disappoint. THE RIGHT KIND OF ROGUE is sure to keep you entertained from start to finish with its silly antics and heartwarming emotion. Happy Reading!

BLOG TOUR BANNER CHAPTER TWO

“How in Hades’s name can you drink at this hour of the morning, Highgate?”

Hart tossed back his brandy, swallowed, and laughed at his brother-in-law’s words. The two sat across from each other at Brooks’s gentlemen’s club. It was decidedly before noon. The only reason Hart was up at this hour was because he’d promised to meet Lord Christian Berkeley. His brother-in-law rarely asked for favors and Hart suspected this meeting was his sister Sarah’s doing, but he would humor the viscount just the same.

“Berkeley, old chap, you don’t know the half of it.” Hart clapped the viscount on the back. “Helps with the devil of a head left over from last night, don’t ya know?”

Berkeley lifted his teacup to his lips. “No. I don’t. But I’ll take your word for it.”

That reply only made Hart laugh harder, which made his head hurt more. Hart liked his brother-in-law a great deal, but the man was decidedly humdrum when it came to amusements. Berkeley rarely drank, rarely smoked, and preferred to spend his time at his estate in the north of England or his hunting lodge in Scotland. Berkeley enjoyed quiet pursuits like reading or carving things out of wood much more than the amusements London had to offer. But Viscount Berkeley was a good man and one who clearly adored Hart’s sister, and that was what mattered.

The viscount had gone so far as to dramatically interrupt Sarah’s wedding to a pompous marquess and claim her for himself, thereby not only proving his commitment to Sarah but also saving Hart from having the self-involved Marquess of Branford as a brother-in-law. Overall it had been quite a fortunate turn of events for everyone. Everyone except Hart and Sarah’s enraged, thwarted parents, that is.

Berkeley tugged at his cravat. “How are your—ahem— parents getting on?”

Hart cracked a smile. “Still angry, of course, even after all these months. You and Sarah made a good decision, staying up north for the winter. Gave Father and Mother time to calm down.” His father’s anger at having a scandal mar his family name and his daughter marry a mere viscount as opposed to a marquess who had the ear of the Prince Regent had barely abated over the winter, but no need to tell Berkeley as much.

Berkeley leaned back in his chair and crossed one silk-stockinged ankle over an immaculately creased knee, his hands lightly clutching the arms of his chair. He shook his head. “They’re not calmed down, are they?”

“A bit.” Hart stopped a footman and ordered another brandy. “Don’t worry. They’ll be civil when they see you. For Sarah’s sake.”

“Well, that’s something. Are you seriously ordering another drink?”

“Are you seriously surprised?” Hart scratched his rough cheek. He’d been running late and hadn’t bothered to ask his usually drunken valet to shave him this morning. For Christ’s sake, that man drank more than he did. Not exactly someone he wanted near his throat with a straight razor. “Besides I have quite a good reason to drink today.”

“Really?” Berkeley tugged at his cuff. Ever since Sarah had taught him how to dress properly, the viscount was much more attentive to his clothing. He was downright dapper these days. “Why is that?”

“I’m getting married.” Hart emitted a groan to accompany those incomprehensible words.

Berkeley’s brows shot up. He set down his cup and placed a hand behind his ear. “Pardon? I must have heard you incorrectly. I thought you said married.”

The footman returned with the drink and Hart snatched it from the man’s gloved hand and downed nearly half of it in a single gulp. “I did,” he muttered through clenched teeth, wincing.

“You? Married?” Berkeley’s brow remained steadfastly furrowed, and he blinked as if the word were foreign.

“Me. Married.” Hart gave a firm nod before taking another fortifying gulp of brandy.

“Ahem, who is the, uh, fortunate lady?” Berkeley lifted his cup back to his lips and took a long gulp, as if needing the hot drink to banish his astonishment.

“I haven’t the first idea.” Hart shook his head. He was giving serious thought to the notion of ordering a third brandy. Would that be bad form? Probably.

“Now you’re simply confusing me,” Berkeley said with an unmistakable smile on his face. With his free hand, he pulled the morning’s copy of the Times from the tabletop next to him and scanned the headlines.

Hart took another sip of brandy and savored it this time. “I haven’t made any decisions as to the chit yet. I’ve merely announced to Father that this is the year I intend to find a bride. The idea of marriage has always made my stomach turn. After all, if my parents’ imperfect union is anything by which to gauge the institution, it’s a bloody nightmare.”

“Why the change of heart?” Berkeley asked.

Hart scrubbed a hand through his hair. The truth was, he wasn’t less sickened by the prospect of marriage these days, but he couldn’t avoid the institution forever. At some point he’d have to put the parson’s noose firmly around his own throat and pull. Wives were fickle, and marriages meant little other than the exchange of money and property. His own father had announced that fact on more than one occasion. His parents treated each other like unhappy strangers, and his father had made it clear that they were anything but in love. That, Hart supposed, was his fate. To live a life as his parents had in the pursuit of procreating and producing the next future Earl of Highfield. So be it, but was it any wonder he’d been putting it off?

“Seeing Sarah marry had more of an effect on me than I expected,” Hart admitted, frowning at his notquite-empty glass. “And if you ever tell anyone I said that, I’ll call you out.” He looked at Berkeley and grinned again.

“You have my word,” Berkeley replied with a nod. “But may I ask how it affected you?”

Hart pushed himself back in the large leather chair and crossed his booted feet at the ankles. “I started thinking about it all, you know? Life, marriage, children, family. I expect you and Sarah will be having a child soon, and by God I’d like my children to grow up knowing their kin. My cousin Nicole was quite close to Sarah and me when we were children. Nicole’s marriage isn’t one to emulate, either. She hasn’t even seen her husband in years. Last I heard, she’s living somewhere in France, childless. By God, perhaps I should rethink this.” Hart pulled at his cravat. The bloody thing was nearly choking him what with all of this talk of marriage.

Berkeley leaned back in his seat, mirroring Hart. “Perhaps you should focus on the positive aspects of marriage. I assure you, there are many.”

“Believe me, I’m trying,” Hart continued, reminding himself for the hundredth time of the reasons why he’d finally come to this decision. God knew it hadn’t been an easy one. “Whether I like it or not, it’s time for me to choose a bride. Sarah is my younger sister. While she wasn’t married, it all seemed like fun and games, but now, well, seems everyone is tying the proverbial knot these days what with Owen Monroe and Rafe Cavendish marrying. Even Rafe’s twin, Cade, has fallen to the parson’s noose.”

Just this morning when Hart had woken with a splitting head for the dozenth time in as many days, he’d thought yet again how he needed to stop being so reckless. He wasn’t able to bounce back from a night of debauchery nearly as quickly as he used to when he was at university. Seeing Sarah marry had made him consider his duties, his responsibilities, and his . . . age. For the love of God, he was nearly thirty. That thought alone was enough to make him want another brandy. It was his duty to sire the next Earl of Highfield, and duty meant something to him. What else mattered if he didn’t respect his duty? Hadn’t that been hammered into his head since birth by his father, along with all the dire warnings not to choose the wrong wife?

“It’s true that several marriages have taken place lately in our set of friends,” Berkeley replied, still leisurely perusing the paper while sipping tea. “But I thought you were immune to all of that, Highgate.”

“I have been.” Hart sighed again. “But I’ve finally decided it’s time to get to it.”

Berkeley raised his teacup in salute. “Here’s to the future Lady Highfield. May she be healthy, beautiful, and wise.”

“Thank you,” Hart replied. He tugged at his pythonlike cravat again.

Berkeley regarded Hart down the length of his nose. “Any ladies catch your fancy?”

Hart shook his head. He braced an elbow on the table beside them and set his chin on his fist. “No. That’s the problem. I’m uncertain where to begin.”

Berkeley let the paper drop to his lap. “What sort of lady are you looking for?”

Hart considered the question for a moment. What sort of lady, indeed? “She’ll need to be reasonable, well connected, clever, witty, a happy soul. Someone who is honest, and forthright, and who isn’t marrying me only for my title. Someone who doesn’t nag and has an indecently large dowry, of course. Father puts great stock in such things. Not to mention if I’m going to be legshackled, I might as well get a new set of horses out of the bargain. I’m thinking a set of matching grays and a new coach.”

“Oh, that’s not much of a list,” Berkeley said with a snort. “

I don’t expect the search to be a simple one, or a quick one.” The truth was Hart had no earthly idea who he was looking for. He only knew who he wasn’t looking for . . . someone like his mother. Or the treacherous Annabelle Cardiff. He wanted the exact opposite.

Berkeley tossed the paper back onto the tabletop. “Knowing your father’s decided opinions on such matters, I’m surprised he hasn’t provided you with a list of eligible females from which you may choose.”

Hart rolled his eyes. “He has. He’s named half a dozen ladies he would gladly accept.”

Berkeley inclined his head to the side. “Why don’t you choose one of them then?”

Hart gave his brother-in-law an are-you-quite-serious look, chin tucked down, head tilted to the side. “I’m bloody well not about to allow my father to choose a bride for me. Besides, after seeing you and Sarah, I hold out some hope of finding a lady with whom I’m actually compatible.”

“Why, Highgate, do you mean . . . love?” Berkeley grinned and leaned forward in mock astonishment.

“Let’s not go that far.” Hart took another sip of his quickly dwindling brandy. That’s precisely what confused him so much. He knew love matches existed. He’d witnessed one in his sister’s marriage. On the other hand, her choice had so enraged his parents, they still hadn’t forgiven her. Hart didn’t intend to go about the business of finding a wife in quite so dramatic a fashion. Love matches attracted drama. However, his parents’ unhappy union was nothing to aspire to, and he’d nearly made the mistake of marrying a woman who wanted nothing more than title and fortune before. It was a tricky business, the marriage mart, but he’d rather take advice from Sarah and Berkeley than his father. The proof of the pudding was in the eating, after all.

Berkeley laughed. “What if you fall madly in love and become a devoted husband? Jealous even. Now, that would be a sight.”

“Jealous? That’s not possible.” Hart grinned back at Berkeley. “I’ve never been jealous. Don’t have it in me. My friends at university used to tease me about it. No ties to any particular lady. No regrets.” He settled back in his chair and straightened his cravat, which was tighter than ever.

“We’ll see.” Berkeley took another sip of tea. His eyes danced with amusement.

“I was hoping you and Sarah might help me this Season.

Sarah knows most of the young ladies. She also knows me as well as anyone does. Not to mention, the two of you seem to have got the thing right.”

Berkeley glanced up. “Why, Highgate, is that a compliment on our marriage?”

“Take it as you will.” Hart waved a noncommittal hand in the air. He avoided meeting Berkeley’s eyes.

Berkeley settled further into his chair. “I shall take it as a compliment, then. I have a feeling Sarah would like nothing more than to help you with such an endeavor. She fancies herself a matchmaker these days.”

“Will you two be staying in London for the Season?”

“Yes. Sarah wants to stay and I, of course, will support her, at least as long as I can remain in the same town as your father without him calling me out.” A smirk settled on Berkeley’s face.

Hart eyed the remaining liquid in his glass. “I’ll be happy to play the role of peacemaker to the best of my ability.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Berkeley inclined his head toward his brother-in-law.

“Who else is Sarah matchmaking for?” Hart sloshed the brandy in the bottom of the glass.

“She’s not merely matchmaking. No. To hear her tell it, she has an important mission this Season.”

Hart set down the glass and pulled another section of the Times off the table and began scanning it. He’d talked enough about marriage for one day. Odious topic. “A mission? What mission?” he asked, merely to be polite.

“To find Meg Timmons a husband.”

Hart startled in surprise, grasping the paper so tightly it tore in the middle. Tossing it aside, he reached for his glass and gulped the last of his brandy.

Meg Timmons. He knew Meg Timmons. She was Sarah’s closest friend, the daughter of his father’s mortal enemy, and a woman with whom Hart had experienced an incident last summer that he’d been seriously trying to forget.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Valerie Bowman and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

 

Once again, Kerrigan Byrne has penned a raw and emotional page turner. THE SCOT BEDS HIS WIFE, book five in the Victorian Rebel’s series, is the story of two lost souls who desire redemption from the sins of their past.cover116253-medium

Samantha “Sam” Masters is forced to flee from America after saving the life of Scottish heiress, Alison Ross, during a botched train robbery. Wanted for the murder of her husband, Sam is given an offer she cannot refuse when Alison proposes she travel overseas in her stead. Afraid for her own safety, Sam sets sail to another continent anxious to begin her life anew in Scotland under the guise of Alison.

Gavin St. James, Lord Thorne, needs to wash his hands of the evil MacKenzie blood. Driven to rid himself of his notorious family, he makes a bargain with Sam. Marriage for her land. Unlike any woman he’d ever known, Sam’s smart mouth and sassy attitude offer him a challenge that fuels his desire.

Ms. Byrne excels at writing in-depth characters that overcome difficult pasts. She isn’t afraid to expose the ugly side of her characters leaving them vulnerable to the readers of her historical romances.

Happy Reading!

I’ve got some very exciting news to share…

As of today, Anna Harrington’s latest historical romance, When the Scoundrel Sins, is available for purchase at all of your favorite book sellers. I’ll be posting my review this Sunday, September 3, 2017.

In the meantime, I’ve posted an excerpt for your enjoyment.

Happy Reading!

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“You look much more like your father now,” she commented, nervously licking her suddenly dry lips but only serving to draw his attention to her mouth. Which made her even more nervous, so nervous that she couldn’t stop the trembling of her fingertips as they wrapped into the skirt of her night rail. “But you’re still a troublemaker.”

A faint smile played at his mouth. “And you’re still a bluestocking,” he countered. Unintentionally simmering a slow heat low in her belly, he reached up to tuck a stray curl behind her ear. “Still retreating to the sanctuary of your library.”

“Because books are usually more pleasant than most people,” she answered, swallowing hard when he trailed his fingers down the side of her neck. She forced out, not at all as firmly as she’d hoped beneath the soft touch of his fingers,

“And more trustworthy.”

Ignoring that jab, he slid his hand lower to let his fingers play at the edge of her shawl. “Yet there are things that people can do that books can’t.” His fingers tugged gently at the shawl and pulled it down her shoulder to reveal the scooped neck of the nightdress beneath. His gaze flicked to the small patch of revealed skin at the base of her throat, then back to her eyes. “All kinds of interesting things.”

She should stop him, swat his hand away, shove him back—but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Just as she couldn’t hold back the hot shiver that swept through her or the gooseflesh that formed on her skin. His touch was proving to be as equally intoxicating now as that night six years ago.

“Then I have no interest in learning them,” she countered, although from the way her blood hummed, her body was very interested.

Madness—that after what he’d done to her, she could ever want to be in his arms again. Yet she desired just that, although that could never happen. Kissing him once had ruined her reputation. Kissing him again might destroy her entire future.

She thrust her chin into the air. “I know of your reputation.”

“Thank you,” he half purred.

His finger hooked beneath the wide shoulder strap of her sleeveless nightgown and slid it slowly down her arm. But this time, with a stretch of bare shoulder revealed to his eyes, he didn’t bother feigning propriety by looking away and instead flamed a prickling heat beneath her skin everywhere he gazed.

She pulled in a deep breath to steady herself. Oh, why did she always go light-headed when she was alone with him?

“That was not meant as a compliment.”

“Wasn’t it?”

 

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For those of you who cannot wait until this Sunday’s review of DUKE WITH BENEFIT’S, I’ve included an ex·cerpt from the exciting new novel in the Studies in Scandal Series written by Manda Collins.  

Happy reading!

“There you are, my dear,” said the Earl of Forsyth with a beaming smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.

Maitland saw at once that Daphne favored him. Her green eyes were the same shade as his, though there were lines of dissipation bracketing the earl’s. And though his expertly cropped blond hair was shot through with silver, what remained of its original color was the same shade as hers. But whereas Daphne’s gaze was focused off to the left of whomever she conversed with, like a bird hovering just over a branch, Forsyth’s speared one with cold calculation. As he did to Daphne now.

“You are looking well, Daphne,” the earl continued, stepping forward to embrace his daughter, who looked as uncomfortable with the contact as Maitland had ever seen her. “The sea air agrees with you. As I knew it would.”

“The sea is very beautiful,” Daphne replied woodenly. “Why are you here, Father?”

“Is that any way to greet your Papa?” the earl chided, stepping back from her and wandering farther into the room, standing to stare out at the gardens below through the window. “I’ve traveled all the way from London to see you. And this lovely estate. I must admit that when I first learned of your inheritance, I thought it was all some sort of trick. But you would have your own way and leave the loving bosom of your family no matter what I said. Now that I’m here, though, and see it in person, I must admit that it’s a lovely spot. And your chaperone, Lady Serena, is quite beautiful, isn’t she? A widow, I take it?”

His jaw clenched at the man’s mention of Serena, and Maitland thought perhaps it was time to announce himself. Daphne seemed not to realize he’d followed her in, and the earl was too busy waxing rhapsodic over the beauties of Beauchamp House.

“I don’t believe we’ve met, Forsyth,” he said forcefully, stepping up to stand side by side with Daphne. He gave a slight bow, perhaps not quite as deep as was warranted, but not caring. “The Duke of Maitland. I am a friend of your daughter’s, you might say.”

What he meant by that last, he could not say, but the man made every bit of protective instinct within him go on the alert. He was her father, but all the same Maitland knew that Daphne was no safer with him than she would have been with Sommersby if he still lived.

At the sound of the duke’s voice, Lord Forsyth turned with almost comical haste from the window and stared. For the barest flicker, he looked angry. Well, if he were upset at the knowledge that his daughter was not without friends, then he would simply have to swallow it. Because Maitland was damned if he’d leave her alone with the fellow.

“Duke,” Lord Forsyth said with a tilt of his head, “I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I was a friend of your father’s, and had little notion I’d be meeting you here. He was a good man, your father.”

His father had been nothing of the sort, but Maitland was hardly going to discuss it with Forsyth.

“I am here visiting my sister, Lady Serena,” Maitland said coolly, letting the other man know in tone rather than words that he had not appreciated the older man’s speculative words about her earlier. “And of course my cousin, Kerr. He only recently married another of the heiresses here, and resides here with her.”

Forsyth’s eyes narrowed at the implication that Daphne was well protected should her father wish to cause trouble. At least that was the message Maitland was endeavoring to send. And by the looks of it, Forsyth read him loud and clear.

“Capital, capital,” the earl said with false cheer. “A merry party you must all make here. I had no idea you were in such fine company here, Daphne. No notion at all.”

“Because we have not spoken since I left,” Daphne said, looking from her father to Maitland then back again, as if wondering what went on between them. “And now, father, I really must ask you to leave. I have a great deal of work to do and . . .”

“Don’t be absurd, Daphne,” her father said with a shake of his head. “I only just arrived. And there is something very important I must speak to you about.” He turned to Maitland with a raised brow. “I’m sure you’ll excuse us, Duke. I’m afraid what I need to tell my daughter is private family business.”

Maitland was opening his mouth to tell the man he would leave Daphne alone with him when hell froze over, when Daphne did it for him.

“Maitland stays,” she said, reaching out to grasp him by the arm. It was as much of a cry for help as he’d ever thought he’d see from her. Wordlessly, he slipped her arm into his, as if they were about to promenade round the room. He covered her hand with his, keenly aware of the thread of tension in her.

Once more, the earl’s eyes narrowed, and he turned an assessing gaze on Maitland, perhaps realizing for the first time the threat coming at him from that direction.

His jaw clenched, Forsyth said grimly, “Very well. If you wish your friend to witness our dirty linen, so be it.” As if needing to be in motion in order to speak, the earl began to pace the area between the window and the fireplace. “You know, Daphne, you left me without any obvious means of recouping what I lost from years of paying that tutor of yours, old man Sommersby.”

“You agreed to pay him,” Daphne said tightly. “After I threatened to expose . . .”

Hastily, Forsyth continued, “And I am currently in need of funds. As such, I must insist you return to London with me for the time being and meet a particular gentleman who has expressed interest in marrying you. Though his birth is not as high as yours, he’s quite wealthy and will make you a good husband, I trust. He’s assured me he has no concern about your odd ways, if you’re as beautiful as your portrait.”

Before Maitland could burst out with the string of invectives the other man’s pronouncement inspired in him, Daphne said, “I cannot marry this person. I’ve never even met him. You promised me that I would not have to marry someone for money as long as I won enough at the tables. I did so. You promised me, father.”

“I never actually promised, Daphne.” Forsyth said with a shake of his head. “If you chose to interpret it as such, that is not my fault. Now, go pack your things.”

Daphne’s hand on Maitland’s arm gripped him tightly. And before he even knew what he was doing, he said, “I’m afraid that’s impossible, Forsyth. Daphne is staying here.”

“I don’t know who you think you are, Maitland,” said the earl through clenched teeth, “but I am her father, and I am well within my rights to take her back to London. Now, kindly take your hands off of her and let her go pack.”

“It might once have been your right, Forsyth,” Maitland said coldly, “but Lady Daphne is my betrothed now and as such, she will remain here. With me.”

Copyright © 2017 by Manda Collins and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press.