Review: When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare

When a Scot Ties the Knot (book cover)

As you now know, Tessa Dare is on my author auto-buy list. I will pre-order anything with her name on it and anxiously await the day it magically shows up on my Kindle. She could write a love story between a linen napkin and a teacup and I would devour what would likely be their witty, beverage-related banter for hundreds of pages. That said, I was so excited to get my hands on an advanced reader’s copy of her latest Castles Ever After release, When a Scot Ties the KnotIt’s out TODAY, so head on over to your favorite print or ebook seller and buy it already.

PurchaseHarperCollinsAmazon |  Barnes and Noble |  iTunes  | Google Play

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Portrait of a woman seated and reading possibly on board SS TANDA -- from the Australian Maritime Museum

Read-It-Again Romance Favorites

Earlier this month I re-read Pride & Prejudice for the first time in over 10 years. I had a completely different experience reading it as a 30-something historical romance reader than as a college-aged English Literature major. Somehow it was wittier, more romantic and subtle, more sly and tongue-in-cheek than I remembered it being. Of course I fell in love with Darcy and Elizabeth all over again and vowed to never again let so much time pass before re-reading Pride & Prejudice. 

It’s officially on my read-it-again romance list, and yes, I have a real list. It’s small at the moment, just a few select favorites that I turn to every year (sometimes less, sometimes more) when I need a little something that I know I can always find within its pages.

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The Maddening Lord Montwood – Blog Book Tour Stop

Tasty Virtual Book Tour - The Maddening Lord Montwood

I’m so excited for this book, y’all. As you know, I’m a super Vivienne Lorret fangirl. From her Wallflower Wedding series to Lord Everhart and Mr. Danvers, I can’t seem to get enough of her heartfelt historical romance. I’m delighted to be a stop on the Tasty Virtual Book tour for the final installment in The Rakes of Fallow Hall trilogy, The Maddening Lord MontwoodRead on for a review, excerpt, and giveaway.

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Guest Post: Realizing Epic Historical Romance Novels Make My Life

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I believe I’ve written about how I’m relatively new to romance novels, but that hasn’t stopped me from becoming a genre-vangelist, gifting unsuspecting friends and readers with surprise copies of my favorite historical romance novels and forcing recommending one favorite book after another. Not everyone has been convinced of the amazing writing to be found in romance, but of course, I can always count on my Book Sister, Heather, from True Stories & Make Believe to understand that good stories are everywhere. So I’ve asked Heather, as an even newer convert to historical romance, to write about one of her first historical romance loves, the swoon-worthy Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, by Sarah MacLean, as well as her burgeoning love affair with the genre overall.

I love reading about how people fell in love with romance, and I hope you do too. Take it away, Heather!

Hello everyone! If you don’t know me from my joint Outlander posts with Ronnie, my name is Heather De La Garza and I write over at True Stories & Make Believe.  A few weeks ago, Ronnie asked me if I wanted to guest post on her blog about one of my favorite books, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing A Rake and how I became a voracious historical romance book reader.  Given how much I like the genre I told her “Absolutely!”

Complete and total honesty:  I did not think I would ever become a historical romance reader, nor did I particularly want too.  Yup, that’s right: I judged these books on their over-the-top covers and titles.  I was utterly unfair and biased.  All I could see through my book reading tunnel vision was a collection of books unworthy of a serious reader like myself.  Yeah, I know, I sound like an awful, arrogant person.   So for my entire life I’ve ignored that section of the book store, believing I’d never find myself standing in front of those shelves.

I can’t help but note the irony of such an opinion because I aspire to be an “open-minded” reader.  What’s even worse is that part of the reason I love and cherish certain books is due in large part to their flawless romance plot lines.  I consistently say I’m a romantic. I never should have been so antagonistic about the genre in the first place (phrases like “put your money where your mouth is” come to mind).

This is where my dear friend Ronnie comes in.  True friends give you the TOUGH LOVE.  Most of the time they know you better than you know yourself.   She’d been singing the praises of historical romance for a while, but one day she finally took the bull by the horns and sent me Sherry Thomas’ Ravishing the Heiressall but mandating I read it.

Call it fate, a universal alignment of actions and events, or simple coincidence, but that little book arrived at a time when I had been searching for a new jolt of reading adrenaline.  I started reading it during the twilight hours on the day it arrived.  I’m going to make a cliché statement now: Four non-stop reading hours later I knew that my reading life would never be the same.  After finishing that book I couldn’t get my hands on other historical romance books fast enough!

I started making my way through Ronnie’s list of her favorites to get to know the genre and soon became acquainted with Sarah MacLean’s novels.  First I read her Rules of Scoundrels series which I LOVED.  While expressing my happiness to Ronnie about that particular series, she quickly interrupted me and said, “Girl, if you love those books, you have to read Nine Rules to Break While Romancing a Rake. Trust me. You are going to LOVE it.”  She’d been right about everything related to this new obsession so far, so I saw no reason not to take her advice now. I grabbed my iPad and bought the novel on iBooks.

And here’s where we talk about my favorite romance novel to date.  First, let’s dispense with the formalities and meet our hero and heroine.  You have Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston (“Ralston”) handsome, rich and, as the title so aptly puts it, a rake.  Lady Calpurnia Hartwell (“Callie”) is, at 28 years old, “on the shelf” and on her way to becoming a spinster with no marriage prospects.  She’s described as slightly plump and is looking forward to helping her mother plan her younger sister’s upcoming nuptials to a duke.   Okay before you say, “Really Heather, in the 21st century you want me to read a story about a girl who wants nothing more than a rich husband?”  No I don’t.  Because this is not that.  I can see where you might be rolling your eyes at me. But what makes Nine Rakes, and ultimately MacLean’s other novels so fantastic is that they are stories about two equals meeting each other at just the right moment, sometimes through hilarity or peculiar circumstances, and ultimately realizing they are mad for each other.

From the beginning Callie, realistic and pragmatic, has decided she’s going to stop wallowing in self-pity and give herself the life she’s always wanted.  And it has nothing to do with finding a husband. She makes a to-do list, that back in those days would cause scandal amongst the “ton,” sending all those ladies who lunch swooning and reaching for their smelling salts. Her first attempt to complete an action on the list brings her into Ralston’s orbit.  Ralston is far from perfect. He’s messed up after having been abandoned by his mother as child, and thus feels no need to enter into the institution of marriage, content instead to live his life with a series of mistresses. But like all great loves, Callie comes into his life unexpectedly.  He’s not initially attracted to her because of her looks or her money. He’s thoroughly bumfuzzled by her tenacity to engage in behavior that could see her ruined, and through his attempts to keep her from doing so, he discovers that maybe he could lose his heart to this woman after all.

Why eat a bowl of ice cream when you can read a historical romance novel?

This is not a story about a woman sitting around waiting for a man to come and sweep her off her feet. Callie is taking what she wants and in doing so may have just found the love of her life.  It turns all those Disney princess fairy tales on their heads.  Nine Rakes is just one of many historical romance novels that does this, making the genre so worthwhile of your time and money.  Of course not all the novels are great (as with any genre), but I can say with absolute certainty that all of the books on Ronnie’s list are A+’s and you can’t go wrong with any of those.  Another plus side to taking up this genre is that you are always going to get a happy ending. So if you need a pick-me up or are just feeling genuinely melancholy, these types of novels may just be the cough syrup you need.

So you see, epic historical romance novels now make my life.  I laugh about this because these books just kind of came to me out of nowhere (with a little help from my friend) and I fell in love with reading them.  If you’ve ever ignored this genre or are on the fence, I hope that this little essay convinces you to give it a chance.  I’m not going to guarantee you’ll love them as much as I do and that’s okay. But at the very least I hope this dispels some of your biases and stereotypes.  For if there is one thing I know it’s this; these books are the epitome of that old adage, never judge a book by its cover.

Blog Tour: The Elusive Lord Everhart by Vivienne Lorret

The Elusive Lord Everhart Tour BannerWhen I have a book hangover the night after a marathon reading session,  you can be sure the book in question in a keeper. Thank you, The Elusive Lord Everhart, for leaving me bleary-eyed, puffy-faced, and crabby on a Wednesday morning. Despite the mass quantities of caffeinated beverages I’ve just consumed I still want to crawl under a blanket with a nice cup of tea and read the next installment in this fantastic new series by Vivienne Lorret. Today’s stop on the Tasty Virtual Book Tour features a review in which I detail every reason you will want a Lord Everhart of your very own and a giveaway of Lorret’s previous novels (which I want to win as badly as a single gal fights for the bridal bouquet throwaway at a wedding).

The Elusive Lord Everhart, like so many amazing historical romance stories, begins with a secret. Five years ago, Miss Calliope Croft received an unbelievably romantic love letter containing everything you might hope for in a secret admirer’s correspondence: passion, love, and a proposal of marriage. What held the promise for a lifetime of happiness ultimately left Calliope alone, heartbroken, and firmly on the shelf…or so she thought. A fortuitous visit to a cousin brings Calliope face-to-face with the author of that letter, the devastatingly handsome and seductive Gabriel Ludlow, Viscount Everhart, who’s just bet a fortune on the promise that he’ll never marry. Kept apart by secrets, lies, and the always-present self-preservation instinct (gotta protect those hearts, folks), Gabriel and Calliope soon find themselves unable to stay away from one another.

Despite a slightly confusing start (the first chapter made reference to several previous novels I hadn’t read), Lorret’s latest tale has all of my favorite romantic tropes in one nuanced, well-written package. Everhart’s the perfect kind of rake–sexy and seductive, but with hidden depth and character. He’s nursing a broken ankle throughout much of the story, which seems to make him more approachable, less intimidating, and in just the right state of vulnerability to encounter the woman he’s spent the past five years pining over. Calliope is presented as a spinster by choice. Unable to stomach the idea of wedding anyone other than the author of the letter that stole her heart, she’s refused proposals, suitors, and a genteel lifestyle in favor of independence (or as much independence as a 24 year old regency woman could realistically possess). She’s the perfect foil for Everhart, and when they get together, they spark.

Lorret does something really special with Everhart and Calliope. Yes, there are all kinds of plot devices keeping them apart–the letter, the bet Everhart makes with his hot friends, Calliope’s overprotective brother and dreadful cousin, Everhart’s own childhood issues–but it’s obvious from the moment they reunite that they CANNOT. STAY. APART. Their attraction and sexual tension is INTENSE, but rather than give in to it immediately, as they both obviously want to do, they take the path of so many cowards in love before them: ANGER. Maybe I have some problems, ya’ll, but I adore novels with heroes and heroines who are so crazy about each other that they resort to angry outbursts, shameless teasing, and ridiculous challenges just so that they can stand in the same vicinity, and (if they’re lucky) maybe end up touching one another in the process. It’s a total kids-in-the-schoolyard approach to romance and I love it. (See my love of Not Quite a Husband, Tempting the Bride, and, in an upcoming review, I Loved a Rogue for reference). This kind of emotional self-preservation just makes for such a compelling, deeply moving romance, which is exactly what you’ll find in The Elusive Lord Everhart.

There are all kinds of tangential events and characters keeping Everhart and Calliope apart, but they are so secondary that I won’t even bother with the spoilers. I will say that “the bet” that begins the novel is less about Everhart and Calliope’s story and more about starting a new series, I think, so those of you with aversions to gambling men need not worry. There’s a great plot twist that reminds me a bit of the Elinor-Edward-Lucy debacle in Sense and Sensibility, but again the main driver of this romance is the amazing connection between Everhart and Calliope.

Rating: A, Those of you who like romance with just a little bit of angst: this one’s for you.

Purchase The Elusive Lord Everhart
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About Vivienne Lorret
USA Today bestselling author Vivienne Lorret loves romance novels, her pink laptop, her husband, and her two sons (not necessarily in that order … but there are days). Transforming copious amounts of tea into words, she is proud to be an Avon Impulse author of works including The Wallflower Wedding series and The Rakes of Fallow Hall series.

You can find Vivienne online: Website | Facebook | Twitter |Goodreads

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Enter this Rafflecopter Giveaway to win an ebook bundle including: Winning Miss Wakefield, Daring Miss Danvers and Finding Miss MacFarland.

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I Loved a Rogue (ME TOO, Y’ALL. ME TOO.)

Cover: I Loved a Rogue

Title: I Loved a Rogue
Series: The Prince Catchers, Book 3
Author: Katharine Ashe
Purchase: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Google Play

Startling Confession #1: This is the first Katharine Ashe book I’ve ever read.

Perhaps less startling, but, nonetheless, worth mentioning Confession #2: After finishing this novel, I immediately began my notorious author binge reading habit, complete with library book holds and Kindle purchases of ALL THE KATHARINE ASHE BOOKS.

This one was a stunner y’all. Last in the series, it totally stands on its own super sexy ultra-romantic legs. It has just right mix of angst, sexual tension, deep back story, and gypsies that make it a stop-everything-and-just-keep-reading tale.

Did I mention gypsies? If, like me, you adored Kleypas’ Hathaway series–particularly Merripen and Cam’s stories–you need to pick up I Loved a Rogue immediately.

As the conclusion to what I hear is a fantastic trilogy, I Loved a Rogue is Eleanor Caulfield’s time for love. The consummate vicar’s daughter, Eleanor is steady, responsible, and yes, a spinster. Despite her staid exterior, Eleanor has passion in abundance, and has spent the last eleven years hiding her adventurous spirit, as well as love and heartache. As a young girl she fell in love with Taliesin, the young gypsy boy who was part servant, sometime rival and eventually, lover. His abrupt departure left Eleanor in despair, but she’s picked up the pieces of her life…Or so she thought, until the day that Taliesin shows up again, no longer a boy but a man who stirs her heart in a way she never thought would happen again.

Oh yeah, and he helps her locate her missing parents whom she’s never known because she and her sister’s washed up on the English coast after a brutal shipwreck…and stuff.

I know, I make light of the driving plot of the entire series–three sisters trying to fulfill a gypsy prophecy that says they’ll discover their true parents when one of them marries a prince–but really, it’s all about the Eleanor-Taliesin romance. Yes, the mystery is the driving force behind these adolescent lovers’ reunion, and it’s quite engaging, but for most of the novel it takes a back seat to the unpacking of the love and pain Eleanor and Tali have suffered over the past decade.

There is angst aplenty, but it’s never oppressive or overwhelming. It’s just the right dose for heart-stopping sexual tension (I found myself doing the nail-biting thing) and a deeply emotional connection. As I’ve written before, I adore grand reconciliations in romance novels. As Sherry Thomas once brilliantly stated in an interview for the Popular Romance Project, “We all know shit happens,” and to reflect that in a romance novel (and do it well) takes what could be a good story and makes it so much more powerful. Ashe created two characters who, for various reasons (some valid, some eye-roll inducing), have stayed away from the love of their life for ELEVEN LONG YEARS. Their reunion is intense, awkward, and even a little painful at times. It’s a rebuilding of a relationship left in ruins. Couple that with all sorts of meddlesome secondary characters and you have all the right elements of a seriously engaging novel.

Ashe’s writing is lovely. Her allusions to various lovers from epic tales (Tristan and Isolde; Guinevere and Lancelot) is a signal that Eleanor and Tali’s romance isn’t this sort of fly-by-night, whirlwind romance. There is going to be trouble and there is going to be anger, but there is also going to be the kind of epic love that makes those stories so worth reading.

This one is just as worthy of a read.

Yes, I did find the ending a bit madcap and perhaps a little rushed, but that was in large part because I’d been so focused on Eleanor and Tali that I failed to realize the entire trilogy also needed its own resolution. Perhaps if I had read the first two novels I would have been more invested in the story of the Caulfield daughters’ parentage. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that if you’ve been reading hoping to find the answer to the gypsy prophecy, you will find satisfaction in the end.

Rating: A- (For many wistful sighs, gasps, and sessions of anxious nail-biting, thank you, Katharine Ashe!)

Brews and Brawny Dudes: In Which I Talk About How Much I Loved Say Yes to the Marquess

Say Yes to the MarquessTitle: Say Yes to the Marquess
Series: Castles Ever After
Author: Tessa Dare
Purchase: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | GooglePlay

My ridiculous love for Tessa Dare’s writing is no secret. I’ve rambled semi-coherently about her novellas on this blog and managed to extend my fanaticism into other awesome book blogs. That said, I still feel obligated to add a disclaimer to this review: I’m a fangirl, plain and simple, and this review of Say Yes to the Marquess isn’t so much a review as it is just me talking about why I enjoy reading Tessa Dare.

I’d been in a bit of a historical romance slump lately–one that started with a couple of Bridgerton novels and just kind of persisted through a few other books that I don’t think I’ll ever get around to reviewing. I was starting to feel sort of jaded and more than a little bored with historical romance. Some of it may have been the letdown after finishing up some amazing series (see MacLean; see also Milan) mixed in with more than a little Outlander withdrawal. Some of it I blame on my disastrous attempt to read 50 Shades of Grey (not historical romance, but it overshadowed a lot of what I read; more on that hot mess later). Some of it was maybe just my fickle reader mood. After getting my book-sister Heather’s permission to put down a few books that just weren’t doing it for me, I decided to pick up Say Yes to the Marquess and was immediately rewarded with exactly the kind of book that I needed at that moment. Call it a coincidence, but I like to think there’s something magical about a reader finding just the right book at just the right time.

Say Yes to the Marquess is the second installment in Dare’s Castles Ever After Series–a loosely tied together collection of novels with heroines who inherit castles, but have very little else in common. This novel is a substantial shift in focus from Romancing the Duke, but still carries with it Dare’s characteristic flair for romantic comedy, witty dialogue, and heartfelt romance.

Clio Whitmore is done waiting. After an eight-year engagement with a globe-trotting groom-to-be and no wedding date sight, she decides takes her future into her own hands.  Her unshakeable dream to open a brewery with a recently inherited castle and end her commitment to Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville, puts her squarely in the path of Rafe Brandon, Piers’ younger brother. As the designated black sheep of the family, Rafe is appropriately dark, brooding, and hulking. He’s a prizefighter determined to win back his title, and the only thing standing in his way is one very determined Clio.

Yes, the plot is a little bit of a stretch: Rafe wants to make sure Clio marries Piers because he’s afraid if she doesn’t, Piers will flee the country again and leave Rafe with the responsibilities of the Marquessate…which he already has…kind of…that part was sort of unclear. BUT AT ANY RATE…Rafe is determined to make this marriage happen, which you can already tell is a recipe for romance and romantic strife. I use the word strife lightly, though. Dare’s writing is never heavy, and Say Yes is no exception. Although Clio and Rafe have a history, it’s not one dripping with angst; there’s just enough sexual tension and longing to keep things interesting and push the love story along. The hero and heroine are as likable as all of Dare’s protagonists, and like those men and women in her previous novels they’re just a little different. They’re so charming that I was even able to suspend my epic dislike of the fiance’s sibling romantic trope, mostly because the sibling in question was a) absent for almost the entire novel and b) left poor Clio on the line for 8 years (not cool, Piers).

I’ve read a handful of reviews on Goodreads for Say Yes that claim the novel is anachronistic and so outside of the historical norm as to be really a contemporary romance novel with corsets and petticoats. I take issue with those critiques, because one thing I’ve always loved about Dare’s writing is her ability to give us something beyond the steady streams of blushing ladies and man-about-town lords who frequent ballrooms and gentleman’s clubs. Her Spindle Cove heroines were a riot of feminists, scientists, and oddballs, and her Castles Ever After ladies are no exception. I relish the change in setting from London to the countryside and find her quirky plotlines and characters to be a total breath of fresh air. What other novelist could take a pugilist, a budding brewer, an aging bulldog, awful relatives, and a bisexual fight promoter and throw them together into a story that just WORKS? Whenever I want to be completely immersed in regency manners and history I pick up an Austen novel. When I want a regency romance with humor, sex, and warmth, I pick up a Dare novel.

You should pick this one up, too (preferably with a lovely craft beer in your other hand).

Rating: All the stars, all the time.