Friday, December 15, 2017

Paula Quinn’s LAIRD OF THE MIST: Enemies Become Lovers

One of my favorite heroes can be found in Laird of the Mist, a worthy Highland romance and a great first in the MacGregor series. It introduces us to a fierce and proud clan, the MacGregors, who historically were officially denounced but eventually regained their position among the clans. Those MacGregor men who kept pride in their heritage and kept their name alive would be stronger than most and worthy of a woman's love.

The story begins as Kate Campbell, a feisty heroine who is good with a sword, rushes into fight alongside her clan when attacked by their enemies, the MacGregors. She is saved by Callum MacGregor, the man they call the Devil, when he sweeps her onto his stallion.

I loved the authenticity of this tale and the character development and the way Quinn built the attraction and love between Callum and Kate, who would otherwise be enemies. Quinn brings the Highlands to life. 

I did not want to put it down. I highly recommend it.

The MacGregors:

Laird of the Mist (Callum MacGregor and Kate Campbell) 
A Highlander Never Surrenders (Graham Grant and Claire Stuart)

The Children of the Mist (connected to and follows the MacGregors):

Ravished by a Highlander (Robert MacGregor and Davina Montgomery)
Seduced by a Highlander (Tristan MacGregor and Isobel Fergusson)
Tamed by a Highlander (Mairi MacGregor, Connor Grant) - reviewed in today's blog
Conquered by a Highlander (Colin MacGregor and Gillian Dearly)
A Highlander for Christmas

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cynthia Wright’s HIS MAKE-BELIEVE BRIDE – Aging Former Pirate Finds Love at Last

Set in Cornwall in 1818, this is the story of Justin St. Briac, an aging former smuggler (sometimes called a pirate) who has vowed to never marry. When his mother summons him to England to give him her “last wish” to see him wed, he decides to pretend to take a bride. And what better candidate than a woman he already knows, now a widow?

Mouette Raveneau is tarred by the crimes of her dead husband. Impoverished and worried as to how she will feed her two boys, she accepts her friend’s offer to come to Cornwall where she encounters Justin.

Justin, who by now has rented an estate to appear to be settling down, hires Mouette for her decorating skills to help him dress up the old place. Justin talks her into a fake marriage and agrees to pay her well, but both are soon lusting after each other. It appears they are not strangers to each other.
A well-written Regency that reflects the author’s research into the architecture and clothing of the period. It’s also a tale of second chances. We don’t get to see Justin at his smuggling or piracy as it’s all set in Cornwall and London, but references are made to his jaded past, during which he lost an eye and gained some scars. As the story features several characters from the 7-book series, I recommend reading them in order so you’ll know who is who.

The ending is sweet and satisfying. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll love this one.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Josephine Blake’s SARAH-JANE – A Sweet Tale of a Horsewoman’s Love

Set in America in 1888, this is the story of Sarah-Jane Brittler, a determined young woman when it comes to her horse. A horse who can win an important race, but only if Sarah-Jane is riding her.

When Carson Williamson stumbles across a woman in the ruins of his family’s ancient estate, he mistakenly assumes she is there to commit suicide. He decides to watch her closely to make sure she doesn’t harm herself. And soon finds he is smitten.

Blake writes well in this charming story of a young woman’s passion to win a race. And portrays well Carson’s decision to win the young woman’s hand.

This fourth in the The Brittler Sisters Series can be read as a stand alone. Lots of fun on the road to romance.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Author Joanna Bourne is my guest today!

My guest today is RITA-winning, bestselling author of wonderful historical romances Joanna Bourne. Joanna lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge with her family, a medium-sized mutt and a faux Himalayan cat. But I know she has also lived in England, France, Germany, Nigeria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. (Whew!)

It goes without saying that I love her work, but let me say it anyway. Joanna writes splendid historical romances set in England and France during the Napoleonic Wars. She's fascinated by that time and place (“such passionate conviction and burning idealism ... and really sexy clothes”). She is so right.

Welcome, Joanna.

For US readers: Do post a comment and leave your email as Joanna is giving one lucky winner their choice of her paperbacks! 

And now for the interview...

What drew you to write romance? And in the genre you write in?

I’ll be fairly frank about this – Of the several sort of books I might have written, Romance seemed to sell the best.  It seemed a more welcoming place. It seemed a practical choice in a wholly impractical endeavor. Is that a terrible thing to say?

[Regan’s note: Not at all; I admire your honesty]

I read Romance genre and loved it, but I’ve always loved and read all sorts of books. If Mysteries had been the major seller in town, maybe I would have tried a Mystery first. If SF&F (Science Fiction and Fantasy) had filled the shelves, I might maybe have turned my hand to that.

Why Romance? I love the optimism and the woman-centric nature of Romance. It lets me say some of the things I want to say. So maybe it wasn’t entirely a practical choice. Because you gotta do what you gotta do.

How do you pick the setting for your stories?

I love the Napoleonic War. Clashing ideals. High stakes. Men and women passionately devoted to their cause. Both sides showing the best and worst of humanity. Heroes and heroines thick on the ground everywhere.  

How could I resist?
As I count them there are seven works in the Spymaster series thus far:

The Spymaster’s Lady (France and England 1802) - 2008
My Lord and Spymaster (London 1811) - 2008
The Forbidden Rose (France 1794) - 2010
The Black Hawk (Paris. Frame story1818 with flashbacks 1794 to 1818) - 2011
Rogue Spy (England, 1802) - 2014
Gideon and the Den of Thieves, (London 1793) ( novella) - 2016
Beauty Like the Night (England 1819) - 2017

Do you have a favorite among them?

The Black Hawk is the book I like best. Well ... Hawker. The Forbidden Rose is maybe the best written and the book closest to straight Historical Fiction.

Will there be more in the series? And, if so, whose story comes next?

At this time I’m not planning on any more complete Spymaster novels. I might do some novellas. The time to stop writing a series is before folks get tied of it, I figure.

What are you working on?

I'm working on the first draft of a paranormal romance with a time travel component. Paris in the 1730s, mostly. If I can manage to sell this, I see a series with the same male and female protagonists and crew of secondaries.

Which of your characters would you most/least to invite to dinner, and why?

I’d be totally intimidated by most of the characters in the books. Maybe Jessamyn would be a good dinner companion. We could talk fabrics and the art of bribing custom’s officials.

I note that Sevie in Beauty Like the Night seems to have no maid most of the time? Didn’t she need help getting in and out of her gowns? Or was that Raoul’s job? (tee, hee)

I’ve taken my cue from re-enactors, who mostly can manage to dress themselves in period costume with a little squirming and stretching and a generous cut. I know I’ve had dresses that button up the back and dealt with them in that fashion.

The whole – “But they wore corsets that laced up the back” – issue has been debated with skill and knowledge by many folks elsewhere. I come down on the side of, “They could get into their clothes on their own. They generally did have a sister or housemaid to do the back buttons but that was convenience, not dire necessity.” And I’m writing well pre-Victorian. No metal grommets, just thread re-enforced buttonholes. No tight lacing that had to be forcibly pulled.

There’s this also ... I figger all of my female folks give some thought to the practical likelihood they’ll have to get ready for action in their ordinary working clothing at a moment’s notice. None of these adventurers drag a maid around with them. 

There are objections. There’s difficult, beautiful clothing that takes a team to assemble. When Sevie is to wear a red silk evening gown and priceless jewels, I see the nanny tuck her into that gown with the youngest kids watching. The most skilled maid in the house puts up her hair. (That’s not the ferociously skilled dresser Sevie shares with Maggie. That maid is in Scotland at the time, freezing her long-suffering butt off.)

If you were given a chance to travel to the past where would you go and why?

I’d like to be rich and beautiful in Paris in the 1920s and 30s.  Fabulous music, gorgeous clothes, exciting ideas, great food ...  (sigh).  Now I want to go there.

I once recall you saying that you can write in a coffee shop… is that still true?

I love writing in coffee shops.  There’s just enough distraction of just the right kind. Interesting people to watch, too. I’m a shameless eavesdropper.

What would you say is your most interesting quirk?

Quirk? I haz no ... what you call them? – the quirk. What is this quirk you speak of?

I will say this -- I’m old enough and have lived long and well enough that I’ve discarded lots of unnecessary concerns. I’m quite sure nobody notices or cares what you look like or what you do. Folks submit themselves to a tyranny of “What will people think?” when it’s really unnecessary.

So I pretty much ignore other folks opinions and do what pleases me.

[Regan’s note: Ah, ha! Is that a quirk?]

What do you love most about the place where you live (not the house but the setting, the town, the area)?
I live on the top of a mountain in the middle of a National Park far away from everyone. It’s very quiet, (though the road can be a bit challenging in the middle of the winter.)  A good place to write. A good place to kick back and think. And the view is splendid. I get up in the morning and watch the sun rise and the beauty of that lasts me the whole day.

Jo's backporch

I had a pair of Eastern bluebirds on my back porch today. Sometimes I need stuff like this.

Joanna’s latest is Beauty Like the Night (reviewed in my post below and highly recommended!)

  He doesn't trust the woman who sent him off to be hanged
She doesn't trust the man who showed up in her bedroom with a knife

Severine de Cabrillac, orphan of the French revolution and sometime British intelligence agent, has tried to leave spying behind her. Now she devotes herself to investigating crimes in London and finding justice for the wrongly accused.

Raoul Deverney, an enigmatic half-Spaniard with enough secrets to earn even a spy's respect, is at her door demanding help. She's the only one who can find the killer of his long-estranged wife and rescue her missing fourteen-year-old daughter.

Severine reluctantly agrees to aid him, even though she knows the growing attraction between them makes it more than unwise. Their desperate search for the girl unleashes treason and murder. . . and offers a last chance for two strong, wounded people to find love.

See it on Amazon.

Keep up with Joanna on Facebook, her Website and sign up for her Blog where she writes about all sorts of fun stuff. And don't forget to leave a comment!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Joanna Bourne’s BEAUTY LIKE THE NIGHT – Wonderful Installment in the Spymaster Series!

Great action, an intriguing plot and sizzling chemistry between the hero and heroine make this a fabulous installment in the series.

Be sure and come back on December 8th when Joanna is my guest, answering all my questions!

Set in London 1819, this is the story of Séverine de Cabrillac, orphan of the French revolution and sometime spy, who devotes herself to investigating crimes in London and finding justice for those wrongly accused. She is the adopted daughter of William Doyle (from The Forbidden Rose) and sister to Justine who married Hawker (in Black Hawk).

Raoul Deverney is a half-Spaniard French aristocrat who climbs up to Sevie’s bedchamber one night to accuse her of kidnapping a young girl, a girl she knows nothing about. Later, he demands she help him find his wife’s killer and rescue his missing twelve-year-old daughter, Pilar, who he claims is his daughter only in name.

I love Bourne’s stories, every one of them, and this is no different. Like an intricately woven tapestry with small threads carefully drawn together, she brings to life London’s underbelly and the spies who work for the British Service. Now there’s a thief to add to the mix, Raoul, who only steals to gain back his family’s jewels. It’s not surprising he is attracted to the beautiful, smart and wily Sevie, who he remembers from Spain where she spied on the French. And given his many talents, they seem a perfect match.

Despite her lack of trust, she cannot fight the attraction between them and so her common sense takes a walk. Bourne adroitly develops their mutual attraction and, in the midst of it all, someone is trying to kill Sevie as she searches for Pilar. From the beginning, the reader is made aware that Pilar, disguised as a boy named “Peter”, is working for Sevie who has no knowledge the one she seeks is so close.

Secondary characters include those from earlier stories in the series (including Lazarus who knows Raoul, and Doyle and Hawker. It was wonderful to see them again. Great job Joanna!

The Spymaster series:

My Lord and Spymaster (London 1811) - 2008
The Spymaster’s Lady (France and England 1802) - 2010
The Forbidden Rose (France 1794) - 2010
The Black Hawk (Paris, beginning in 1794 (seen in flashbacks), and London 1818) – 2011
Gideon and the Den of Thieves, London 1793 (novella)
Rogue Spy (England, 1802)
Beauty Like the Night (England 1819)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Why the Scots Didn't Celebrate Christmas by Regan Walker

It may surprise you to know that Christmas was not celebrated as a festival in Scotland for about four hundred years. This dates back to the Protestant Reformation when the Scottish Kirk proclaimed Christmas a Catholic feast.

While the actual prohibition, passed by Scotland’s Parliament in 1640, didn’t last long, the Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian, discouraged Yule celebrations beginning as early as 1583 and this continued into the 1950s. Many Scots worked over Christmas and celebrated the Winter Solstice at the New Year, which celebration came to be known as Hogmanay. 

Hogmanay fireballs in Stonehaven

It was not until 1958 that Christmas Day became a public holiday in Scotland; Boxing Day followed in 1974.
The most spectacular celebrations of Hogmanay are the fire ceremonies that take place in Stonehaven, south of Aberdeen. Giant fireballs are swung around as they are paraded up and down High Street. The celebration is believed to originate from the Norsemen’s Winter Solstice with the swinging fireballs signifying the power of the sun, purifying the world by consuming evil spirits.

In A Secret Scottish Christmas, my new Christmas Regency romance, Aileen Stephen and her brother and his wife play host to a gaggle of Londoners bent on celebrating Christmastide. And then they go to Stonehaven for Hogmanay.


Spies and Scots and Shipmasters, oh my!
Scotland 1819

Twin brothers Nash and Robbie Powell of Powell & Sons Shipping, London, sail with their fellow Agents of the Crown to Scotland for a secret celebration of Christmastide, a holiday long frowned upon by the Scottish Kirk. But more than Christmas is being kept secret. The two brothers have accepted an assignment from the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth to ferret out a fugitive fomenting rebellion among the Scots. 

Aileen Stephen, the only daughter of an Aberdeen shipbuilder, had to be clever, devious and determined to gain her place in the family business. She succeeded to become a designer of highly coveted ships. One night, a man’s handsome face appears to her in a dream. When two men having that same face arrive on a ship full of Londoners, Ailie wonders what her second sight is telling her. Is the face she saw a portender of the future, a harbinger of danger, or both? And which of the two Englishmen is the one in her dream?

Older than Nash by a mere five minutes, Robbie has always been protective of his twin. When he realizes Nash is attracted to the sister of their Scottish host, he thinks to help matters along. But Nash wants no help from his brother, not where Ailie Stephen is concerned because Robbie is attracted to the girl himself! 

Two brothers vie for the affection of the Scottish lass but only one stirs her passion. Which one will it be? And what will she do when she learns they are spies?

Celebrate Christmas and Hogmanay with the Agents of the Crown in A Secret Scottish Christmas!

“Walker stuns with her gift for storytelling, magically entwining historic fact and fiction to create a thought-provoking, sensual romance, one that will stay with you.” – Chicks, Rogues & Scandals 

On Amazon US, UK, Canada & Australia

Read an excerpt where Ailie and her brother, Will, talk about their expected guests: 

“So, how many are coming?”
Her brother reached for the letter he had set aside. “According to Ormond, their children are spending Christmas with the grandparents. So, in addition to the Ormonds and the dowager countess, all four of the Powell brothers have accepted the invitation, the two who are married bringing their wives. Nine guests in all.”
“Nine?” Her eyebrows rose. “’Tis fortunate you added that wing to the house after you married Emily.” Will had already possessed a grand house on the hill overlooking the shipyard when he took his English bride. In the year that followed, it had become a sprawling estate, complete with an orangery for Emily, whose constitution favored a warmer clime.
Will grinned. “I had to enlarge the house. I did not change the company’s name to William Stephen and Sons to remain childless. Emily and I expect to have many bairns. Come spring, Lord willing, we shall have the first one. Perhaps a braw lad with my auburn hair and brown eyes.”
“Or a lass with Emily’s black hair and thistle-colored eyes,” Ailie teased.
Her brother paused, his face taking on a look of bliss that told her he was thinking about the children he expected to have. “Aye.”
Resisting the temptation to roll her eyes, Ailie said, “Whatever the good Lord gives you, Will, I’m just glad we have the additional bedchambers for our visitors. Has Emily warned our cook?”
He shrugged his broad shoulders. “I believe so. She mentioned something about talking to Martha about the cook Muriel is bringing, but you can ask her at dinner.”
“The countess is bringing her cook?” Ailie envisioned sparks flying in the kitchen as roast goose, boar’s head and turkey replaced salmon, venison and steak pie.
“Emily thought Martha might need help with the English dishes for the Christmas feast.”
“I just hope you ken what you’re about. The Kirk does not abide Yule celebrations.”
Will’s expression took on the look of a determined Scot. “I have loved Christmas since my days at Cambridge and ’tis worth the risk of a frown from the parish minister to make Emily happy.”
“As you wish. Are we still going to Grandfather Ramsay’s for Hogmanay?”
“If the weather allows, aye. A short sail up the coast to Stonehaven could be great fun. Our guests might like to take a sledge through the snow to see the old castle. I’ll ask Grandfather to book the Ship Inn. Now that I think of it, we’ll need all their rooms. Perhaps Father will come from Aberdeen. What do you think?”
“Grandfather might not be pleased with so many Sassenachs descending on him, but he will expect us for Hogmanay. Once Father hears of our plans, he and Mother will be staying put in Aberdeen. Aside from the fact he doesn’t like to travel at this time of year, he’s still riled about what happened in Manchester. The last time I visited him, our uncle had just returned from Glasgow where the mood of the weavers is angry.”
William frowned. “There’s talk in the Arbroath taverns, too.”
That night, after she retired to her bedchamber, Ailie took out her diary, drew her shawl around her and opened a new page. Replacing the candle that had burned to a stub, she dipped the quill in the ink and began.

15 December
I am preparing for a storm (not the current one that has brought so much snow, but one of a different kind). Will says we’re to have guests from London to celebrate Christmas—in secret, of course, else Mr. Gleig, the parish minister, will have something to say about our celebrating a holiday banned by the Kirk for centuries. Bother. Father will be ever so displeased. And, after we sail our guests to Stonehaven for Hogmanay, Grandfather Ramsay might never speak to us again. Oh, did I mention the Countess of Claremont is bringing her English cook? Batten down the hatches.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Welcome to Favorite Heroes & Heroines Month!

Hello all! December on my blog is the month for favorite heroes and heroines (yes, I have a list for that~!) and when I play “catch up” in my reading and also share some seasonal posts.

I’m starting with one of the books that has both a favorite hero and a favorite heroine… 

THE OUTSIDER by Penelope Williamson, a moving Amish romance set in Montana.

Rachel Yoder is one of the Plain People (Amish), living in Montana in 1886. Her simple life of farming and taking care of her husband and young son were forever changed when a cruel cattleman killed her man. A year later, she is tending her sheep alone, and facing another year of hard work, when a gunslinger dripping blood stumbles into her life. Handsome Johnny Cain is a hard living, hard fighting man who has a reputation for killing. He is the antithesis of all Rachel stands for.

It’s a book of ironic contrasts as the Plain People fail to show God’s love to Johnny Cain, and Johnny Cain, the Devil’s own, shows them honor and honesty. Plain People who believe the grace of God doesn’t cover all sins but that one must be one of the Plain People to hope for salvation, and even then it isn’t guaranteed. A heartless gospel. THE OUTSIDER tells of young people who must choose between a life of conforming to a rigid society and a beckoning world of freedom. Rachel, loving and honest, tries to live in the middle and fails.

There are many things that distinguish Williamson’s work from other romance authors. Reading this one, a few come to mind: Her dialog is so genuine and rich she makes you feel like you know the Plain People. (Her writing is, in a word, superb.) Her attention to detail, as she describes the people, their surroundings and their culture... she paints such a vivid picture you actually feel like your living it and not just reading a good story. 

Williamson's ability to convey emotions had my heart in my throat as Johnny Cain saved Rachel’s son from a herd of stampeding cattle. Who wouldn’t begin to love such a man? And who wouldn’t love a mother who cries when a lamb dies at its birth? These are wonderful characters who will win your heart. Prepare for heart-rending action but, thankfully, since this is romance, we know we’ll get a happy ending.

In short, I highly recommend this one. It’s a keeper.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Leila Snow’s PROOF OF VIRTUE – Victorian Heroine Goes from Pit to Pinnacle

Set in Manchester, England in 1848, this is the story of Emma Belden, an orphan with two young siblings to care for as a result of a cholera epidemic that took their parents. Forced to enter a workhouse, they endure mistreatment and meager food. Emma’s beauty draws the unwanted attention of the master of the workhouse and, worse, Edward Wells, the owner of the local textile mill. Thus the story begins on a bleak note with the horrors of the workhouse and sniveling evil men grasping at goodhearted Emma.

Emma is forced to choose between the safety of her brother and sister and her own virtue. She makes the hard choice and endures the abuse that comes with it. But hope is at hand. Gideon, Lord de Monthaut, is smitten the moment he sees Emma, and thinks perhaps he might have Wells’ mistress for a night. But he is in for a surprise.

Snow’s good storytelling draws the reader into the hard life faced by those impoverished in the Victorian era. No doubt other young women were swept into the same terrible life as she was. But since this is romance, so Emma endures and finds love. A splendid, if sometimes troubling, story for the Victorian era aficionado.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Best Victorian Romances!

This list was new last year… It features romances set in the Victorian era, generally from 1837 (the year Victoria became Queen) to 1901 (the year of her death). The common perception of the period is that the Victorians were “prudish, hypocritical, stuffy and narrow-minded”.  But these perceptions are not always accurate, particularly when the British characters were traveling and learning much about other cultures, as you will see in these romances. All of those listed here have been rated 4 or 5 stars by me:

A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran
Bound by Your Touch by Meredith Duran
Bride of Pendorric by Victoria Holt
From Fields of Gold by Alexandra Ripley
Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran
Gentle From the Night by Meagan McKinney
Gypsy Jewel by Patricia McAllister
Harcourt’s Mountain by Elaine Dodge
If You Dare, If You Desire and If You Deceive, MacCarrick Brothers trilogy by Kresley Cole
Lady Sophia’s Lover and Worth Any Price, the Bow Street Runners by Lisa Kleypas
Lord Edward’s Mysterious Treasure by Lillian Marek
Lord of the Far Island by Victoria Holt
Mine Till Midnight, Seduce Me at Sunrise, Tempt Me at Twilight, Married by Morning and Love in the Afternoon, Hathaway Series, by Lisa Kleypas
Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt
On the Night of the Seventh Moon by Victoria Holt
Proof of Virtue by Leila Snow
Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley
September Moon by Candice Proctor
Silk and Shadows, Silk and Secrets and Veils of Silk, the Silk Trilogy by Mary Jo Putney
Sleep in the Woods by Dorothy Eden
Song for Sophia and The King of Threadneedle Street by Moriah Densley
Surrender the Night by Christine Monson
The Book of the Seven Delights and The Book of True Desires by Betina Krahn
The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran
The Last Bachelor by Betina Krahn
The Pride of the Peacock by Victoria Holt
The Scarlet Thread by Beck Lee Weyrich
The Secret Woman by Victoria Holt
This Fiery Splendor by Christine Monson
Where the Horses Run by Kaki Warner