Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: Laurie McBain’s TEARS OF GOLD –Love in Old California Ranchos, San Francisco and New Orleans

Set in 1848 (prologue) and the early 1850s, this is the story of Mara O’Flynn and her brother Brendan, who live with the stigma of being bastards of an Irish nobleman father who left them to survive on their own. Both Mara and Brendan, like their mother before them, are actors. Mara’s mother died in poverty after her wealthy lover cast her aside, and Mara will never forget it. She has no desire to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

In her private revenge, Mara intentionally makes noblemen fall in love with her only to send them away brokenhearted. In one such encounter the young man shot himself. Unbeknownst to Mara, she made an enemy of the young man’s uncle, a Creole Frenchman from New Orleans, Nicholas Chantale—who vows revenge.

In pursuit of a new future, Mara and Brendan set sail for California on a clipper ship. Ever the Irish optimist, Brendan hopes to find gold. While on the ship, however, Brendan gambles away what little money they have, and they are forced to agree to the plan of another passenger, Don Luis, a Spanish Californian. Don Luis wants Mara to act the part of his half English niece who, from her youth, has been the fiancé of another ranchero in the Sierra Nevada. Mara and Brendan become involved in the lives of the rancheros even as they long to leave for San Francisco. Then one day a stranger shows up--Nicholas Chantale.

The beginning takes a bit of patience as McBain meticulously brings to life old California when gold was discovered and the Californian ranchos were beginning to disappear. As is typical of her novels, she includes much historic detail adding richness to the story. It’s a tale of people fleeing their past hoping for a better tomorrow. Tara flees poverty and shame and Nicholas flees his aristocratic family that cast him out when they thought he murdered his brother.

The story moves from London to California to New Orleans as Tara and Nick are continually thrown together and Tara resists the love she feels for the man who only wants her to share his bed. Once the story picks up in San Francisco, it moves along at a fast pace and will definitely keep you turning pages with some great action scenes, mystery and intrigue and a heartwarming ending. I recommend it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: Shirlee Busbee’s LOVE A DARK RIDER – Murder and Love in Old Texas

This story will put you in the Old West with a tale of ambition, betrayal and murder.

The story begins in 1860 in Texas where Sara Rawlings, left alone and destitute by her father’s death, goes to live with a cousin, Sam Cantrell, a man her father’s age. Sam has a son, Yancy, by his first wife—a woman of noble Spanish linage—and he has a young wife, Margaret—the woman he stole from Yancy.

As might be suspected, Margaret is threatened by the younger, 16-year-old Sara. And Sara is captivated by Yancy, a man Margaret was once engaged to and now thinks to seduce. The one thing Margaret wants for her unborn child is Casa Paloma, a thousand-acre parcel in the middle of the land Yancy’s Spanish ancestors have owned for generations. Yancy vows he will kill her before she can have his land. And then Margaret turns up with a Spanish dagger in her chest.

Much of the book is taken up with the machinations of the family and its history that has led to the distrust, if not dislike, between its members, all of which Sara must suffer through. In the midst of it, Sara and Yancy find love, albeit like two prickly people coming together. 

Original cover

Busbee’s descriptions of Texas and the hacienda are superb. You will feel you are in the old West. Yancy is a drool worthy hero and Sara finds him so. Oh yes, the murder mystery remains unsolved until the end. Busbee will keep you guessing. Very well done.

For Busbee fans, it will not disappoint.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Review: Brenda Joyce’s THE DARKEST HEART – Exciting Western with a Half-Apache Hero

I was really excited to read this story as I loved Joyce’s Fires Of Paradise. In that book, the wonderful hero, Shoz Savage, who is part Apache, remembers his parents with great fondness and speaks of their continuing love for each other. Now we have their story.

Set in the New Mexico Territory in 1860, beautiful blonde Candice Carter, a rancher's daughter, has made a foolish decision, eloping with one of her suitors against the wishes of her father and brothers. But the man has no intention of marrying her. He is a despicable cad out to take her virtue. When she realizes he intends to rape her, she shoots him and flees.

Dying in the desert, she is found by Jack Savage, a half-breed Apache, who brings her back to life. Though the attraction is immediate, Jack is honorable and intends to return her to her family unscathed. But when he is wounded, she steals his horse and leaves him. He will rescue her twice more before it's all over in this fast-paced romance that kept me up reading late into the night.

This is a great story of the American west where prejudices against Indians and children with Indian blood ran high. This tells the story of the Apache culture and the wars between Cochise and the white men who betrayed him. Our hero gets caught in the middle, neither white nor red. He is torn.

Joyce weaves a complex tale of love, lies and betrayal. I highly recommend this one.

The Darkest Heart is a prequel of sorts for Joyce's Bragg Saga:

Innocent Fire (Derek Bragg and Miranda)
Firestorm (Storm Bragg and Brett)
Violet Fire (Rathe Bragg and Grace)
Dark Fires (Nicholas Bragg and Jane)
The Fires of Paradise (Lucy Bragg and Shoz)
Scandalous Love (Nicole Bragg Shelton and Hadrian)
Secrets (Regina Bragg Shelton and Slade Delanza)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Review: Carla Kelly’s THE DOUBLE CROSS – Charming Western Historical Love Story

Set in 1780 in the Spanish colony of New Mexico and Texas, this is the story of Paloma Vega, orphaned and forced to live on her uncle’s charity, which is grudgingly given (her uncle treats her like a servant, nearly starving her). At 18, she meets 31-year-old Marco Mondragón, a widower and rancher, who is also a brand inspector. Marco lives on the edge of Comanchería, the domain of the Comanches.

Each autumn, Marco takes cattle, wool and his records of livestock transactions to the governor in Santa Fe. After his wife died eight years ago, her little dog kept him company, but the dog has died, so this year, he is looking for a new dog to keep his feet warm. When he stops at the hacienda of his friend’s future father-in-law, Marco finds a yellow dog he likes. And he meets Paloma.

This is a well-told story of loss and a second chance at love as Marco acquires not only a dog, but also—very quickly—a wife. Both Marco and Paloma are near perfect people, honorable, courageous, caring and clever. He sweeps her away from her lonely cruel existence and she fills the void left by his wife. Together, they make a home in his hacienda. I did like their characters, but who wouldn’t?

Perhaps the most compelling relationship in the story is that of Paloma and the Comanche she saves, Toshua, particularly since Comanches slaughtered her family.

Kelly provides a rich array of characters and an excellent portrayal of life in the Spanish colony of New Mexico where a man’s brands were very important. It is obvious she has done considerable research and knows her subject well.

This is an unusual romance as there is no conflict, no angst, no misunderstanding and no black moment. (The “double cross” is a reference to Marco’s brand.) They frequently make love but we see little of that. Still, historical fans will enjoy it, especially if you like historical authenticity, as I do. At the end, the story had an unfinished feel to me with a few loose ends, but then I discovered this is the first in the series in which Marco and Paloma’s story continues. So, here’s the list:

The Spanish Brand series:

The Double Cross
Marco and the Devil's Bargain
Paloma and the Horse Traders
The Star in the Meadow

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Review: Sally Platt’s ANNIE’S AUTUMN – Unique Western Historical Romance is Delightful

Set in Sweetwater Springs, Montana, presumably in the last quarter of the 19th century (no date is given), this is the story of Annie Fitzgerald, one of three Fitzgerald daughters orphaned and raised on a ranch by a good woman. When Annie is just a kid, she has an encounter with 10-year-old Luke Barstow, who tries to help her land a fish and ends up being scolded by Annie. So he puts a frog down her dress.

Ten years later, after living in South Carolina with her sisters, Annie returns to Sweetwater Springs to run the ranch that is now hers. Luke has become a respected and wealthy man and when he encounters Annie, he sees a feisty gal, but one who has grown into a beauty with a lady’s manners.

The first thing I noticed about this story was the author unique “voice”. She repeats names and “head hops” between characters in rapid succession to give you a sense for all that is happening. Flitting through everyone’s head was confusing at first. And the failure to have any paragraph breaks between dialog or different characters’ thoughts made reading the story a challenge. But once I overcame all that, I quite liked the story and it held my interest. I would even say I have become a fan of Ms. Platt.

The back and forth between Luke and Annie is priceless and, at times, funny. Both are strong characters. And there are many exciting passages as bad guys, who want Annie’s ranch, use various methods to try and take it from her. But Luke is her constant protector, always there in the background, helping her. The chemistry is very subtle.

Some of the author’s comparisons made me laugh out loud. I particularly liked the one where she said the slow-moving coach traveled at the pace of a sick snail. Ha!

Now that I’ve adjusted to her style, I would look forward to reading another by this author. There are two more in the Fitzgerald series: Elaine’s Escape is out now and the story of the third sister, Louisa, is planned.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: Dorothy Wiley’s LOVE’S NEW BEGINNING – Charming Tale of Love on in Kentucky when it was “the West”

In the ship bringing Daniel MacKay to Nova Scotia, the 13-year-old boy loses both his father and mother to sickness. Comforted by Margaret MacDonald, the two young ones make love and a child is conceived. Turned away by Margaret’s father, Daniel grants his dying mother’s wish and travels to New Hampshire to make his living as a hunter. There he meets the Wyllie family and they adopt him as one of the Wyllie brothers and give him the nickname “Bear”.

Years later, it's 1800 and the child of their one night of love has grown up, unbeknownst to MacKay. In Philadelphia, Daniel Armitage loses his entire family to Yellow Fever. On her deathbed, his mother, Margaret, tells him his real father is Daniel MacKay. She urges Daniel to find him. Stunned, Daniel agrees and sets off on a long journey that takes him to Kentucky—the “West” at the time.

In Kentucky, Daniel meets his real father, “Bear”, now a respected frontiersman, and he meets a young woman, Ann Byrd, the daughter of the officer in charge of the fort. Daniel seeks to court Ann, but her father won't allow it because Daniel is a bastard. In the background lurks a sniveling coward, Charles Snyder, the bank owner’s son, who wants Ann for himself.

This is a charming story of love on America’s frontier with lots of historical details reflecting the author’s considerable research into the era. I loved the scenery and the homespun nature of the relationships. I loved the sense of building a future in a new country. There are some exciting scenes, too, as Snyder makes his presence known.

One caveat: I do recommend reading the author’s Wilderness Series first as all the characters in that series are in this one and, if you don’t know their stories, what they look like, etc., you might be confused.

The Wilderness Series:

Wilderness Trail of Love (Stephen and Jane)
New Frontier of Love (Sam and Catherine)
Whispering Hills of Love (William and Kelly)
Frontier Highlander Vow of Love (Bear and Artis)
Frontier Gift of Love (apparently more of Sam and Catherine)
The Beauty of Love (Edward and Dora)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

ON SALE! 99¢ - To Tame the Wind and Racing with the Wind from the Agents of the Crown!

For a limited time, To Tame the Wind and Racing with the Wind, the prequel and book 1 in the Agents of the Crown series, are ON SALE for 99¢. (For To Tame the Wind, it's US and UK only.)

Winner of the 2017 International Book Award for Romance Fiction! 

“A sea adventure like no other, a riveting romance!”  NY Times Bestselling author Shirlee Busbee 

  “Daring sea battles, roguish lurkers, ill-treated prisoners of war, and deceitful dandies add dashes of spice to this historical romance, making it one readers will savor long after they turn the last page.”  – Pirates & Privateers 


All Claire Donet knew was the world inside the convent walls in Saint-Denis. She had no idea her beloved papa was a pirate. But when he seized Simon Powell's schooner, the English privateer decided to take the thing his enemy held most dear...her.


The waters between France and England roil with the clashes of Claire's father and her captor as the last year of the American Revolution rages on the sea, spies lurk in Paris and Claire’s passion for the English captain rises.

Racing with the Wind!
...a dazzling mix of passion, adventure, mystery and love.” —Breath of Life Reviews


Hugh Redgrave, Marquess of Ormond, was warned. Prinny had dubbed Lady Mary Campbell “the Swan,” but no ordinary man could clip her wings. She was a bluestocking hoyden, an ill-advised match by every account. Luckily, he sought no bride. His work lay on the Continent, where he’d become legend by stealing war secrets from Boney. And yet, his memories of Lady Mary riding her stallion were a thorn in his mind. He might be the son of a duke and in the service of the Prince Regent, but he would not be whole until he had won her hand. 


It was unheard of for a Regency debutante to postpone her first season, yet Lady Mary had done just that. Far more interested in politics than a husband, she had no time for foolishness or frippery. Already she had assisted her statesman uncle in Paris, and she swore to return to the court of Louis XVIII no matter the danger. Like her black stallion, Midnight, she would always run free. Only the truest heart would race beside her.

 Get it on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords.
“...a superb historical romance, filled with passion, political intrigue, and a worthy hero and heroine!” — Award-Winning Author Cynthia Wright

“A dashing spy and an intrepid English lady romp through Regency England and Paris. A must read!”  — USA Today Bestselling Author Shirl Henke

Read an excerpt from Racing with the Wind:

The Prologue
The outskirts of Paris, 1811
     A tall figure stood among the trees, another shadow in the gloomy night. Swirling mist covered the ground around him like a soft gray carpet. A chateau loomed ahead, a dim monument in the light of a pale half moon that revealed only shades of gray.
     He waited for a drifting cloud to obscure the moon’s faint glow before daring to steal across the wide expanse of lawn. His boots made no sound as he crossed the stone terrace and became one with the wall of the elegant mansion. There he paused and listened. All was quiet save the rustle of the leaves stirred by the gentle breeze.
     Looking up, he peered though the mask that covered his face and fixed his eyes on his goal, a window high above. Barely disturbing the mist, he reached for a thick vine and climbed.
     His dark hair was loose at his nape and he was clad all in black, moving like a wraith. The clouds continued to drift in the night sky, uncovering the half moon. A glimmer of silver reflected from his chest where he wore a brace of pistol daggers; the weapons were unique and of a French design, and he had used them before to great effect. A smile came to his lips as he considered the legend that had spread about him—a larger than life figure who successfully stole secrets from places believed safe from intrusion.      They called him L’Engoulevent, the Nighthawk. He came only at night, swooping down and disappearing before anyone roused. An occasional glimpse by a servant or a guard had provided only partial descriptions. Some said he flew with a cape. Others said he wasn’t human at all but rather a dark and ghostly apparition. But the Nighthawk was very real. Tonight his target was the home of a French general believed to be the author of Napoleon’s plans to invade Russia.
     Perched above the ground, clinging to the vine, he reached for the edge of the leaded window. The latch gave way with a quiet click. He slipped through the opening and dropped into a low crouch on the thick rug. Surveying the bedroom before him, he could see the sleeping form of a young woman in a white poster bed, her dark hair spread upon the pillow. She did not stir as he moved past her and toward his destination.
     At the end of the hall he located the study reported to hide the secret documents he sought. Cautiously he entered the spacious room lined with traditional dark wood cabinets and tall book-filled shelves, and stealthily moved to the carved wood desk facing a marble fireplace. Reaching into his shirt he pulled out a small black velvet case. Inside were the delicate tools that had opened the most secure locks in France.
     Working with only the pale light from the windows behind him, he opened the locked drawers and captured his prize. Placing the correspondence and map inside his shirt, he surveyed the room. He knew there would be more.
     His gaze came to rest on an old painting of a French military officer in dress uniform hanging over the fireplace. The officer’s white breeches reflected the room’s meager light, but he cared not for the painting, only for the secrets it might guard. Silently he crossed the room and lifted the gilded frame. The cast-iron safe set behind it made him smile as if encountering an old friend.
     He set the painting on the floor to once again work his magic with the lock. Again he was successful. Ignoring the velvet jewelry cases and money, he reached instead for the letters and papers. Not bothering to decipher the words in the dim light, he added these documents to those in his shirt, closed the safe, and returned the painting to its original position. His mission complete, he crept down the hall to the bedroom where he had first entered the house.
     The young woman stirred in her sleep, restless in her dreams. He should have departed without disturbing her, but something made him pause. Perhaps it was her beauty. Her face, with its delicate features and well-shaped lips, was turned slightly to the side. Upon closer inspection, she looked to be about eighteen.
     He bent to hover for a moment, breathing in the fragrance of lavender. Her lips were warm as he bestowed his kiss. He knew he was keeping alive the legend, and there was no benefit to a legend when one’s purpose was to remain unknown. Yet, he could not resist. There were few enough pleasures in the life of duty that he’d chosen for himself.
     Her pale eyes opened slowly, heavy with sleep. Placing his finger on her lips to quiet any words, he whispered to her in the perfect speech of the French aristocracy, “I leave you my kiss and a wish for a good life, beautiful mademoiselle.”
     She gasped as she took in his masked appearance, but then a faint smile came to her lips. “The Nighthawk,” she whispered, and reached for him, entwining her fingers in the hair at his nape.
Without saying a word, he gently pulled her hands from his neck and moved to the window and back into the night. He had accomplished his mission. The Nighthawk might be a thief, but he was not a despoiler of innocents.
     More’s the pity.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Review: Elizabeth Awbrey’s RECKLESS ANGEL – A Keeper of a Western Historical!

This was Awbrey’s (aka Elizabeth Stuart) first novel, published in 1988, and her only Western. She wrote four more novels (all of them great) before retiring in 1995 to raise a family. All of her novels have garnered 5 stars from me; one won the RITA award.

Set in Texas in the late 1800s, RECKLESS ANGEL tells the story of Katherine (“Kat”) Bennett, an independent beautiful young woman raised by her father, Judge Bennett, a respected rancher. Sent to Philadelphia to become a lady, she returns home years later, anxious to resume her involvement in the family ranch, “Three Creeks,” that will one day be hers. While she was away, her father hired a new ranch hand, now her father’s right arm—a gunslinger named Jason Cain (“Jase”). Jase bears many scars from a tortured past but he’s a fair man and loves Kat’s father, who treats him like a son. When Kat and Jase meet, the chemistry and the conflict are immediate. Kat resents Jase’s place in her father’s heart and she believes Jase has nothing but disdain for her. She is so wrong.

Awbrey is a superb storyteller and weaves in historical information so seamlessly you do not even realize you’ve traveled in mind back to the period she is writing about. Her characters are richly drawn and each one unique. Jase is an interesting man, a strong, tortured hero yes, but also intelligent, charming and endearing. Kat is a girl trying to find her way in a world in which she does not feel at home—neither a lady nor a tomboy, but somewhere in between. What amazed me is that I was totally engrossed in this story and yet I never traveled far from the Three Creeks Ranch and the nearby town. The detail in speech and descriptions is so meticulous you don’t realize how much work went into crafting this tale. Only a master storyteller can do that.

Trust me when I say you won’t regret getting this author’s whole backlist, including this Western historical—novels to curl up with on a rainy day…all keepers!

Here’s the list of novels she wrote as Elizabeth Stuart, save for the first:

Reckless Angel (1988, under the pen name Elizabeth Awbrey)
Heartstorm (1989)
Where Love Dwells (1990, RITA winner 1991)
Without Honor (1994)
Bride of the Lion (1995, Romantic Times’ best Medieval Historical Romance)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Albert Bierstadt: Supreme Painter of the American West

Since it's Western month on Historical Romance Review, allow me to introduce you to one of my very favorite painters of the American West... Albert Bierstadt of the Hudson River School of American artists.

Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Albert Bierstadt was among the most internationally honored American artists of the nineteenth century, best known for his huge, panoramic landscapes that depicted the unsettled American West of the 1800s. He brought the West to the people and, I daresay, we are still falling in love with the romantic images he portrays.

Born in Solingen, Germany, he emigrated at age two to America with his parents and his two brothers. The family settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where his father became established as a barrel maker. Little is known of his early training. However, in his early 20’s, Bierstadt traveled back to Germany to study in Dusseldorf, returning a few years later to paint scenes of New England and the mountains of New York.

Although he had entered that period of formal training with only rudimentary capabilities, he emerged from it an ambitious, technically proficient master whose tastes for European scenery and society had been considerably enhanced in the process.

In search of ever more wild and dramatic vistas, Bierstadt took several journeys west, one of them on the wagon train sent to chart a path for the Transcontinental Railroad. He would return to a studio in New York, a studio with exceptionally high ceilings that would accommodate his enormous canvasses, and he would translate his sketches and small paintings into grandly dramatic scenes that proved to be tremendously popular.

In 1858, he joined the expedition of Colonel F. W. Landers to survey an overland wagon route to the Far West. This trip to the west including the territories of Colorado and Wyoming was to procure sketches for a series of large-scale landscape paintings of the American West. Back in New York, he painted a sequence of canvases that secured his reputation as a "Western" artist. He made two additional western journeys, one in 1863, the other from 1871 to 1873.

Bierstadt was part of the Hudson River School, a group of like-minded painters whose style involved carefully detailed paintings with romantic, almost glowing lighting, sometimes called luminism. Bierstadt painted the West as one who loves its beauty. His paintings evoke romantic images and stir feelings in us even if we have lived our lives in the American West.

Here's a sampling of his wonderful art:

The Oregon Trail

The Golden Gate

Looking Up Yosemite Valley

The Rocky Mountains and Lander's Peak

You can see his complete works HERE.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Review: Kaki Warner’s TEXAS TALL – Charming, Sometimes Exciting, Story of Love in Small West Texas Town

Set in 1875 in West Texas, this is the story of Charlotte (“Lottie”) Weyland, who has been on her own since she was fourteen, and Tyree Benton who joined the Texas Rangers seeking revenge.

The story begins with a scene where Lottie sets fire to her home where she lived with her grandfather and a barn in which there is a man before she flees on horseback to Greenbroke. In the small Texas town where now Lottie lives, Ty and some rangers come to town with a prisoner. Ty gets wounded in a shootout and Lottie rushes to help him.

So the romance begins.

As always, Warner writes well with clever dialog, vividly creating life in a small town in 19th century Texas. She obviously knows her subject well, perhaps because she is a Texan. We feel the heat of the hot summers and learn what it meant to take any small job just to survive.

This story is a bit different from Warner’s other books. The first half of the book is in Lottie’s point of view and we don’t see much of Ty, who is in and out of her life. Only in the second half do we get some of Ty’s inner thinking.

Lottie has used her talent for “figuring” to grow a bookkeeping business, serving the town’s businesses and growing  a nest egg to buy a ranch.  She also learns investing in land and mineral rights from the town’s banker. To have a ranch is Ty’s dream, but, proud man that he is, when Lottie offers to help, Ty refuses her money. While they are in love, they can’t seem to make their dreams come together. The, into the mix comes her past.

The end of the book has some exciting scenes and brings happiness for some of the endearing characters. A charming and sometimes exciting story from the Old West.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: Alexandra Ripley’s FROM FIELDS OF GOLD - The American South and Aristocratic London in late 19th Century

June is Western Historical month on the blog so I’m starting with one on my best list. Not exactly the West as we think of it today, but certainly the West in spirit. This one begins in the South in 1875.

Francesca (“Chess”) Standish, was raised to be a lady but the Civil War left her at 30 with only a rundown plantation and a patent on her grandfather’s machine to make cigarettes. Once her life was filled with laughter, now she is gray and glum. She wants to be married, but she has given up hope until Nate Richardson comes along.

Nate is smart, handsome and has ambition, and desperately wants to gain the patent for the machine that makes cigarettes. When Chess, who is 8 years his senior, tells him he can have the patent if he will marry her, he agrees. Ever since he was a teenager, Nate has been in love with the girl who became his brother’s wife. He shows Chess no passion, believing she is not interested. He finds his pleasure elsewhere. Chess is so in love with him, she is willing to take the crumbs he offers her. (We can relate, no?)

Chess is a heroine to love, brave, smart and willing to wait for what she wants. She knows Nate doesn’t love her but she vows to become the business partner he will respect. And she does, sharing with him his dreams and his passion for the tobacco industry. Though he admires her, Nate is not faithful. But a trip to London will show her the affection she has missed and awakens in her the girl she once was.

The story reflects the author’s deep research into the tobacco industry and the era of the late Victorian period in America, both in the South and in London. She captures the life of the idle rich as well as the Americans who were leading the development of new industries and discoveries. It was the spirit of the west, even if not the location.

Ripley have given us a great tale that is rich in detail, even as to fashion, with splendid characters and some actual historical figures. You must wait till the very end for that happy ever after, but I assure you, it’s coming.

I didn’t want to put it down!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review: Cordia Byers’ SILK AND STEEL – Absorbing Tale from 14th Century Scotland with a Wonderful Heroine!

I didn’t have to read very far into this story to know Byers had delivered another great romance. Set in the Borderlands of Scotland in 1333, it tells of a Scottish clan that is decimated by a battle with King Edward’s knights. Left in charge is the young 18-year-old heir who leads the clan in a last desperate attempt to retain control of their castle, Raven’s Keep. But they are unsuccessful; and though the young heir fights hard, Edward’s knight, Justin St. Claire, wins the day and claims the castle. It is only when he goes to have the young heir flogged that he realizes Lord Cregan’s heir is a woman.

Jamelyn (“Jami” to her men) is a courageous young woman who was raised as a son by her uncle, Lord Cregan. When King Edward, for his own purposes, commands Justin to wed the rebellious girl, who understandably hates the English, the real battle begins. Jamelyn means to outwit the arrogant Englishman who is critical of her and her people.

From the very beginning, I loved this heroine and finding out what would happen to her had me turning pages way past my bedtime. However, I have to say it was a bit of “loved her, hated him” story. Jamelyn was manipulated by every man she’d known, first her uncle, then Justin, then Anthony (Justin’s friend) and even King Edward. Justin acts the cur time and again, even flaunting his mistress in front of his wife. I was (at least at one point) tempted to feel sorry for his mistress because though she was a bitter, vengeful woman who would stop at nothing to have the man she wanted, she had loved Justin since she was 15.

It is an absorbing story that I was unwilling to put down. Byers brings many threads together at the end for a satisfying finish. I recommend it!

The sequel is Desire and Deceive.