Review of new book: HIGHLAND AVENGER by talented Julie Johnstone

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Title: Highland Avenger Renegade Scots, Book 3
Author: Julie Johnstone
Genre: Historical Romance
Story Setting: Prologue 1296; Chapter One 1306 – 10 years later
Pages: 284
Published by: Darbyshire Publishing LLC
Published Date: July 9, 2019
ASIN: B07SY9HVZT

Renegade Scots Series: (Each stands alone)
Outlaw King, Book 1
Highland Defender, Book 2
Highland Avenger, Book 3

 

Publisher’s Summary:

Duty drove him to possess her, but love will drive him to his knees.

Eight years ago, savage Scots invaded Eve Decres’s home, murdering her family and plunging her into a nightmare. As sole heir to a strategically located castle on the border between Scotland and England, Eve became a prize to be wedded and bedded, and she fled into hiding. She survived by clinging to two dreams: one day reclaiming her inheritance and finding love to build a new family from the ashes of her loss. But on the verge of beginning her journey to make her dreams reality, she makes a fatal error that alerts her enemies to her whereabouts.

Now, Eve is catapulted into a world of feuding clans and warring kingdoms where she’s forced to make a choice that threatens to destroy her chance at freedom and shatter her heart. Amid treachery and violence, she soon discovers her only hope dwells in tying herself to Grant Fraser, a noble, fierce Highland warrior. Though passion smolders between them, Grant is bent on vengeance and sworn to a duty that would thwart her own plans.

Bound by desperation but separated by conflicting desires, the spitfire lass and the determined laird must relinquish what they’ve long held sacred in order to overcome their foes and claim a glorious, unconquerable love.

My Review:

Highland Avenger is excellently paced, thoroughly action-packed with characters who were easy to love, others easier to hate!

Author Julie Johnstone’s story read itself.  I mean, there was no hardship staying with the read. Additionally, Johnstone’s writing voice, along with the scene pacing had me flipping the pages!

I whole-heartedly recommend this story to reader’s who love their heroes braw, sensitive and clever, and their heroines determined and savvy enough to get what they want.

A Little About What I Liked:

The story began with a prologue set in the middle of action, one of desperation for safety. Two young children are taken from home (Eve and Mary), their parents killed. The prologue leaves you, along with Eve Decres, launching over a cliff for certain death! My heart pumped with fear, loving every minute of where the story was heading.

In chapter one, we are introduced to Grant Fraser and his brother Simon. Simon was the laird of the Fraser’s. Again, more action in the upcoming scene. The enemy is Laird MacDougall, who is responsible for Simon’s death in a gruesome display of evil.

Laird MacDougall is the kind of man who makes decisions for his own gain, not for what is right for his people or country. This is the guy you’ll love to hate.  Laird MacDougall is a greedy, and unfortunately, powerful man. The wrongs he is committing against the Fraser clan aren’t his first.

Eve Decres’ family has also been touched by MacDougall’s malevolent character. Stay tuned.

Eve spent 10 years in a convent waiting until her 18th birthday to reclaim her birthright of Linlithian castle. She barely escapes the convent just as her enemies find her. She’s kind-hearted and is a force to be reckoned with, by enemy and want-to-be friends. You’ll enjoy how she makes Grant’s world topsy-turvy.

The burgeoning trust between Grant and Eve takes center stage by mid-section of the tale. You’ll find humor, plenty of bantering and decisions made, not because of love, but because of necessity–from both sides.

A totally delightful read. I imagine book 1 and 2 in the Renegade series are just as enjoyable.

Posted in Action/Adventure, Book Reviews, Highland Romance, Highland Stories, Historical Romance, New Book Release, Romance | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Releases Today: HIGHLAND AVENGER by Julie Johnstone

Book Lovers!  Reading this right now.  The story begins with a jolt!  Much like the girls who are being abducted, the reader, too, is left in the dark!  Great beginning.  Should have it read in a few days and reviewed for you.  Julie Johnstone writes engaging, action-packed stories sure to boast your Highland Scot passion!

 

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Highland Avenger
Renegade Scots, Book 3
By Julie Johnstone

Publisher’s Summary:

Duty drove him to possess her, but love will drive him to his knees.

Eight years ago, savage Scots invaded Eve Decres’s home, murdering her family and plunging her into a nightmare. As sole heir to a strategically located castle on the border between Scotland and England, Eve became a prize to be wedded and bedded, and she fled into hiding. She survived by clinging to two dreams: one day reclaiming her inheritance, and finding love to build a new family from the ashes of her loss. But on the verge of beginning her journey to make her dreams reality, she makes a fatal error that alerts her enemies to her whereabouts.

Now, Eve is catapulted into a world of feuding clans and warring kingdoms where she’s forced to make a choice that threatens to destroy her chance at freedom and shatter her heart. Amid treachery and violence, she soon discovers her only hope dwells in tying herself to Grant Fraser, a noble, fierce Highland warrior. Though passion smolders between them, Grant is bent on vengeance and sworn to a duty that would thwart her own plans.

Bound by desperation but separated by conflicting desires, the spitfire lass and the determined laird must relinquish what they’ve long held sacred in order to overcome their foes and claim a glorious, unconquerable love.

Buy Links:

Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07SY9HVZT
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/highland-avenger-julie-johnstone/1132027788?ean=2940163118083
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/highland-avenger/id1467997439
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/highland-avenger-3
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Julie_Johnstone_Highland_Avenger?id=PdGcDwAAQBAJ
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46268284
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/highland-avenger-renegade-scots-book-3-by-julie-johnstone

Author Bio:
Julie Johnstone is the USA Today bestselling author of historical romances including the Once Upon a Rogue series, the Whisper of Scandal series, the Lords of Deception series, the Danby novella series, the Highlander Vows: Entangled Hearts series, and the Renegade Scots series. Her books are focused in the Regency and Medieval period. Julie’s books have hit the USA Today bestseller list multiple times. She makes her home in Birmingham, Alabama with her lawyer husband, two boys, one quirky Australian Shepherd and one snooty cat. When Julie is not deep in research, she’s lost in another time period writing. She loves to do yoga, cook, travel, and go to music concerts!

 

Posted in Action/Adventure, Highland Romance, Highland Stories, Historical Romance, New Book Release, Romance | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Recently Released: ROGUE MOST WANTED by Janna MacGregor a tender love story where justice is served

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Title: Rogue Most Wanted
The Cavensham Heiresses Series, Book 5
Author: Janna MacGregor
Genre: Historical Romance
Story Setting: Prologue –1804, London; Northumberland, near the Scottish Border
Pages: 380
Published by: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Published Date: June 25, 2019
Sold by: Macmillan
ASIN: B07H7C1YZV

 

Publisher’s Summary:

Wanted: an engagement of convenience. Found: A noble suitor.

Raised on a remote Scottish estate by her adoring grandfather, Lady Theodora Worth has inherited an earldom as well as the land itself. But when an upstart duke challenges her claim to the title and the Ladykyrk estate, Thea is suddenly in need of a husband—in name, at least. An elderly neighbor with a thoroughly modern sensibility and a dashing great-nephew just might be the answer to Thea’s prayers. Except she has no intention of marrying the first man she meets. That would be utterly ridiculous.

It just can’t be him. . .

Lord William Cavensham is entirely too devoted to his family’s estate—ever since he was jilted as a lad–to wed, but he agrees to meet the woman his aunt has taken under her wing—and introduce her to possible suitors. But after just one meeting with beautiful, spirited Thea, Will is determined to help her reclaim her title. And even more so, he can’t stop thinking that perhaps marriage to this bold, passionate woman may be the one thing he’s been missing all along?

My Review: The heroine, Lady Theodora, becomes Countess of Eanruig, after the passing of her beloved grandfather. The title and property are being questioned by a distant cousin. He works toward taking the property and title for himself.

Theo’s grandfather raised and loved her, wanting to leave all to her when he died.  It is her birthright. Two charters are not to be found which prove the property’s true lineage and acknowledged by the king of England. Death took him after he was ill with senility for seven years. Although she ran the estate, she had never seen the charters. Would she be able to convince the authorities of her claim without those?

More is dogging Theo’s steps.  She holds guilt she was relieved when her grandfather passed away. The gossip column in London hints at her killing her grandfather. She has been caring for her grandfather since she was young and doesn’t know the rules of the ton, the manners necessary to ‘play’ the part of her lineage.

Her desire is to continue caring for the people on her lands who are dependent on her, and she considers them family. She is a young woman who wants to succeed but doesn’t have the tools or know-how to make it happen. Her solicitor tells her to study some books on etiquette and marry or at least be betrothed before she is called to appear in front of the House of Lords.

Self-doubt, low self-esteem and not knowing how to be a proper noble lady will derail anyone’s path to happiness. Theo turns to her neighbor, Lady Stella Payne, an old friend of her grandfather’s. Theo asks for assistance and guidance. Stella suggests she can help…on many fronts—one includes having Theo marry her great nephew. I enjoyed Stella very much. She added lots of levity to the story.

Will Cavensham has his own life and past woman problems, making him keep his distance. He loves his great aunt very much. He decides to help her help Theodore keep her title—not marry her, only help her. He finds her refreshing, with upstanding character, honest, as well as beautiful.

The story has scenes which are remarkably tender, easily had me in tear, others, all out crying. Hard decisions must be made. Once Theo and Will’s hearts are connected, it only makes them harder.

The author has done her job. Great reading. It is a Regency novel with many layers and secondary plots creating a rich environment and character interplay; pacing was perfect. More than one character became a friend. With the happy-ever-after, I somehow felt vindicated.

 

 

Posted in Book Reviews, New Book Release, Regency Romance, Romance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Releases June 24, 2019: THE HIGHLAND EARL by Amy Jarecki

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Title: The Highland Earl Lord of the Highlands, Book 6
Author: Amy Jarecki
Genre: Historical Romance, Scottish
Story Setting: London, 1713; The Highlands
Pages: 385
Published by: Forever
Published Date: June 25, 2019
Sold by: Hachette Book Group
ASIN: B07J556QS1

 

Publisher’s Summary:

Mr. & Mrs. Smith meets Outlander in this action-packed Scottish romance where a marriage of convenience leads to secrets that could be deadly.

With two young sons to care for and a large estate to run, John Erskine, the widowed Earl of Mar, needs to remarry as quickly as possible. And beautiful Lady Evelyn Pierrepont would be the perfect match. But there’s more behind the English lass’s calm demeanor than she’s letting on, including a smoldering allure not even John can ignore.

Evelyn has no desire to wed the rugged Scottish earl, but at least she’ll be able to continue her work as a spy-as long as her husband never finds out. Yet the more time Evelyn spends with John and his boys, the fonder she grows of their little family, and the last thing she wants to do is put them in danger. As alliances shift and enemies draw closer, soon everything they hold dear is at risk: their lands, their love, and their very lives.

Lords of the Highlands series:
The Highland Duke
The Highland Commander
The Highland Guardian
The Highland Chieftain
The Highland Renegade
The Highland Earl

 

My Review:

This Regency read has the setting of all the makings of a civilized society, but… when underpinned with the turbulence of its time, the characters have the opportunity to show what they truly are made of.

Evelyn, Lady Mar, is a young woman who is emotionally challenged when she finds out her father leads a path of greed. She, then, is encouraged, by Monsieur Dubois, who lives his life in duplicity,  to spy on her own father and prevent him from reaping the rewards of his schemes.  However, Dubois, too, is a schemer who dups many.

As Dubois’ spy, she marries John, the Earl of Mar, a widower of only a few months. He has worked for the Crown for years. He’s known as Bobbin’ John for a reason which I’ll let you ferret out as you get into the story. The earl marries for two reasons: He has two young children who need a mother and he needs the dowry which comes with his titled wife to pay debts his father left on the property when he passed away. This marriage has all the markings of a marriage of convenience – Evelyn has easy access to spy for France through Dubois. In so doing, she thinks to support Scotland and the Jacobites.

Matters of the heart arise, taking this marriage of convenience toward an engaging emotional journey. Will Dubois’ conniving for his King and his own pocket destroy Evelyn’s marriage? Will John’s loyalty to family and home take center stage verses the Crown? Can John love another when his heart belongs to his dead wife?

If you like your Regency reads with fewer steamy scenes (I do), dangerous encounters and more character development, this story is an easy choice. Jarecki always writes a well-balanced story, one full of entertainment.

Posted in Book Reviews, Highland Romance, Highland Stories, Historical Romance, New Book Release | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New Release: THE GIRL IN RED by science fiction writer Christina Henry. A heart-pumping thriller!

Title:  The Girl in Red
Author: Christina Henry
Genre:  Science Fiction
Pages: 304
Published by: Berkley
Published Date: June 18, 2019

Publisher’s Summary:

From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a postapocalyptic take on the perennial classic “Little Red Riding Hood”…about a woman who isn’t as defenseless as she seems.

It’s not safe for anyone  alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods….

My Review:

This is quite the riveting story.  It gets weirder, scarier and more believable as I read!

Red is a pegged-leg, petite woman.  She is by no means frail, quite the opposite.  With courage, intelligence and caring heart she manages to live through true terror—a terror where no one is safe.  She has watched so much Sci-Fi, she identifies with many scenes on TV through her ordeal. She’s a planner, likes control and has a ruthless sharp-wit about her that does her in good stead. 

When the Cough comes to town, she is prepared for the worst; she has been carrying her knapsack with everything neatly packed for weeks (a quick getaway, if necessary), getting in shape to carry all the weight, and keep herself balanced.

All hell breaks loose just a day before her family and her want to leave to travel by foot, some 350 miles through forests and backroads to her grandmother’s house. Tragedy strikes. Decisions are quickly made. The Cough follows, dogging Adam, her brother, and her every step.  Can she outrun the Cough?  Can she outrun desperate men?  Can she keep Adam from giving up? Is there anyone she can trust?  All these questions had me coiled on my chair.

Adam, Red’s brother, appears to be very shallow, but surprisingly, he eventually gets my admiration.

I haven’t read anything from this author before.  I notice she tends to take fairy tale stories and creates a Sci-Fi thriller from it. This is one story I could read again.  I’m hoping to read a sequel—the ending could be just a catch-your-breath moment.  Red may be safe, but is the world?  Well written, a real thriller with just the right amount of humor that I didn’t pass out holding my breath! 

Posted in Book Reviews, Dark Fantasy, New Book Release, Science Fiction, Thriller | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Debut Novel by Margot Kinberg: PUBLISH OR PERISH — a crime mystery

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Title: Publish or Perish
Author: Margot Kinberg
Genre: Crime Mystery
ISBN13: 9781606937471

The Joel William’s Series:
Publish or Perish
B-Very Flat
Past Tense

 Publisher’s Summary:

One night, Nick Merrill, a graduate student in the Department of Educational Studies at Tilton University (Tilton, PA), is killed. When Joel Williams, a former police officer, finds out about his death and becomes curious about the circumstances, deciding to find out who killed the student and why. With Williams’ help, the Tilton police discover evidence that links Merrill’s death and the death of another person and subsequently, to the murderer.

My Review: I really enjoyed the way the book flowed–quickly paced and well thought out. It showed how careful investigators are when sifting through possible suspects, weighing the motives each suspect could have had.

The characters were an interesting lot; Kinberg fleshed them out amazingly well.   Joel Williams has his hands in academia and policework.  You can take a good police officer out of the force, but you can’t take the police office instinct out of the man. The characters, the plot and a well-paced story kept me reading and entertained.

One other aspect of the story I enjoyed was the setting. One doesn’t expect to find the academia in such hot competition. The group of students who decided to try to solve the murder mystery themselves let the reader see and hear things the main characters didn’t.

Kinberg dropped hints of plausible candidates who could have killed Nick. This had me shifting my ‘who dun it’ view several times. As each piece of evidence was uncovered, it became clearer who the murderer should be. I was expecting a twist of surprise who the murderer truly was and was slightly disappointed that I was right and not wrong.

Since writing this debut novel, Kinberg has written two others in the series.

Author:

Margot Kinberg was born and raised in Pennsylvania, where she graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and later, received her Master’s Degree from LaSalle University. After teaching at the University of Delaware for several years and earning her Ph.D. there, Kinberg moved west. She taught at Knox College in Galesburg, IL, and is currently an Associate Professor at National University in Carlsbad, California. Kinberg currently lives in southern California with her husband, daughter and two dogs.

Posted in Book Reviews, Mystery | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Releases Today! Review: DESTINY OF A WARRIOR by Mary Morgan

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Title: Destiny of a Warrior Legends of a Fenian Warrior, Book 5
Author: Mary Morgan
Story Setting: Fae Realm, Scotland, 1986
Pages: 220
Published By: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Published Date: June 5, 2019
ASIN: B07RBQC8VC

See the source imageSee the source imageSee the source imageSee the source imageSee the source image  RATED FIVE GREEN DRAGONS

Publisher’s Summary:

“You met him in the Order of the Dragon Knights. Now, journey to the realm of the Fae and witness their greatest legend!”

As leader of the Fenian Warriors, Aidan Kerrigan’s accolades are many and his loyalty to the Fae unwavering. When an unexpected mission sends him to the human world and a chance encounter with Rose MacLaren, he’s tempted for the first time in his existence to discard duty and claim what is forbidden.

Rose MacLaren, a Society of the Thistle member, yearns to expand her botanical knowledge with her love of history. After her rescue by a handsome stranger, she is compelled to look beyond what her rational mind comprehends and unravel the secret of the standing stones, as well as the man who captivates her.

In a mystical world ruled by ancient laws and edicts, can a fierce warrior choose a path destined for love? And will a woman honoring the ways of the land believe in a myth only spoken of in legends? If they do, will their love be enough to defy death’s punishment?

My Review:

A love story that rivals the best! It plucked all my heartstrings.

The story captures the light of love, its purity of heart and its strength to endure when all appears lost. By following their hearts, Rose and Adrian must overcome unsurmountable dictates of the Realm.

If you have been following Mary Morgan’s two series, Destiny of a Warrior will encourage another go-around reading both.

Morgan’s world building puts you in the thick of things—caught between the Fae Realm and earth. It’s fast-paced with snappy dialogue, and rich scenes making her world so believable, it is no longer fantasy.

Rose MacLaren is a determined, intelligent character with her feet on the ground and her mind searching for aliens who might be among us. She also has seizures which produce visions she can’t make sense of. Rose belongs to a society of women learning about herbs used in the past which brings her very close to a dig she gets to see, while her sister takes plenty of pictures. This is Rose’s opportunity to pursue a theory she has  involving some etching she saw on one of the stones in a stone circle. Could it be more than etchings, perhaps the ancient writing Ogham?

Travel between realms with Aidan, a Fenian Warrior and Fae, to Scotland and Ireland discovering his destiny in the arms of Rose MacLaren.

You will be in the depths of despair when the Fenian Warrior breaks Fae rules. Love is paramount and punishment must be endured. Make sure to add tissues to your grocery list. You will empty a box in sympathy for their plight. And I loved every minute!

Posted in Action/Adventure, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Fantasy Romance, Highland Romance, Highland Stories, New Book Release, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Releasing Soon! FORTUNE’S DRAGON by Meara Platt ~ Be charmed by destiny’s call for true love!

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Title: Fortune’s Dragon Fortune’s of Fate Series, Book 5
Author: Meara Platt
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency
Story Setting: Scarborough, England, 1805; 1815
Pages: 151
Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
ASIN:
B07PP3XP2W

 

Publisher’s Summary:

You will meet a dragon who will eat your heart. This is the fortune young Faith Boscombe believes she is told by a fortune teller at the Scarborough fair. But Caleb Brayden, the boy who finds her and returns her safely to her governess after Faith runs off through the fair in tears, gives her a dragon amulet as protection. He’s made up a fable about the power of the amulet, but when he happens to return to the Scarborough fair ten years later, this time as a battle-hardened general in the king’s dragoons, he realizes their fortunes are bound to each other… and so are their hearts.

My Review: A story of charm and enchantment set in the small town of Scarborough.

Prologue: Caleb Brayden, a 14-year-old boy finds a little girl on the fairgrounds while there with his brother and cousins who are slightly older than he. He leaves the boys and goes out of his way to soothe a weeping girl of eight who had been separated from her nanny. She ran away from the fortune teller’s tent because of her future laid out in her palm.

Young Caleb purchased a talisman for the girl, saying she should wear it all the time and she would be protected from dragons, for that is what the fortune teller predicted—she would be eaten by a dragon. Locating the nanny and taking a side trip to the fortune teller to tell her she shouldn’t scare young girls, he joins his brother and friends. The episode is quickly forgotten.

Story: Fifteen years have past. For Faith she had never forgotten the kind boy, Sir Caleb, who soothed a crying child making her feel safe by purchasing a necklace pendant of a dragon.  She never took the amulet off.

Fate intervenes; General Caleb Braden is back in Scarborough. Not as a young boy, but a man highly respected. Upon arriving he sees the fair is back in town triggering the memory of a pretty little girl. His mission involved a meeting with Faith’s father, Lord Bascombe.  Caleb finds his niece still in Scarborough — an angelic person in place of a little girl. Indeed, a woman on the verge of marriage to a titled lord.

Caleb is drawn to Faith’s pureness of heart and beauty, a woman who hadn’t figure into his future, but snags his heart.

He grapples with his feelings and eventually decides to try to win the lady’s hand, right from under her present suitor. Time is not on his side for he will soon be reassigned elsewhere. Last, but not least, he must convince Faith that she is destined for him while not exposing that he is the boy all those years ago whom she knew and seemed to put on a pedestal. He wants her to choose the man—not the boy.

Caleb and Faith are pure hearts who find happiness nudged along by a fortune teller’s reading. It is an easy-read, very little violence, with a charming happily-ever after which I enjoyed very much.

Posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy Romance, Historical Romance, New Book Release, Regency Romance | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

I admit it! I’m scared to share and scared not to. Could I hear from you?

Fellow readers and writers:

I hesitate to share, because I know it will be ripped apart. I hesitate not to share because I know this will be a great vehicle for learning.

I take the plunge.  Would you please leave comments on the good, bad, and ugly of this chapter.  Don’t be too kind, don’t be too hard.  But be critical.  In a good way and bad.

My process? I’m a pantser at this point.  I cook the story for a few days looking at various scenes I could use to further the plot.  Then I write.  Read it through and tweak it.  Think on it, tweak a bit more, then move to the next chapter.

Title of Book:  Unknown

Chapter One

Skye stretched awakening; a lazy smile followed when she saw the sun streaming through the curtains while a gentle breeze of orange blossoms fluttered the curtain. Her smile quickly turned to a scowl with remembrance of how little time left she had stateside. How could she leave Riverside, her friends, the work she loved and go traipsing off to Scotland for a grandmother she barely knew? With an audible sigh she tried to put herself in a better mood.

Just like clockwork the humming began. Ever since Skye turned 16, her collection of gem stones had serenaded her. Her lips quirked in memory. She remembered the shock, then fear that followed when she first heard them. The humming would have scared her more if it hadn’t been soothing. The stones would begin the same way. The lower humming started first and like a song of multiple instruments in various ranges the additional hummers would harmonize with the lower notes. Eventually the room filled with its sweet song, energizing and filling Skye with feelings of love, protection and strength. Her precious necklace, gifted by her nanna would chime in, octaves above the others.

When it had happened, she ran down the stair as if the devil was after her looking for her mother who only answered her with raised eyebrows and widening eyes, muttering to ask her grandmother. Nanna never did answer the question to her satisfaction. Her letter said the fairies had blessed her. Right, yeah. From that day forth, the stones had sung to her. When Skye would add stones or gemstone jewelry to her collection, they would hum in synchronized, perfect harmony with the others.

Somehow, the continued serenaded from the stones had grown on her. She looked forward to hearing them. But now her life would be ruined, as far as she was concerned. She and Bellone had been in Riverside long enough to have a group of friends texting and into each other’s lives, working hard and appreciating the life southern California provided.

Skye and her twin sister, Bellone, had delayed the trip to Nanna Skye for several years. It had been hard living without their parents who were killed in a car accident when the twins had just turned 18.  They sold the family home one year later moved into a small apartment close to work, working at a up-and-coming shop called Crystal Cove. Clientele had increased, word getting round what great quality of semi-previous gemstones they had.  The girls had managed without their parents, leaning on each other, one consoling the other as they grieved, but they knew it was now time to leave Riverside, California.

Nanna said she needed them, time was passing, and their futures were at stake. The only futures messed up would be Skye’s and her sisters. Sure it would be nice to visit Scotland, see the sights, visit their Nanna, but it wasn’t a place Skye wanted to live. The winters were excruciatingly cold and windy with too much rain all year-round. Nanna had become more insistent, verging on the frantic side with her request. Ugh!

The family had visited Nanna Skye when she and Bellone were ten. She remembered it as a small town far from the bussel of life, very far from the bussel! Who would want to plant themselves in the middle of nowhere?

Heading to the shower, stumbling over the ever-increasing pile of clothes to sort through, the humming lessened, until the gem, which started the orchestra of melodious sweet sounds, purred its last refrain.

The jasmine fragrance of the shower gel had Skye refocused on her grandmother. She remembered a wrinkled face with large pale green eyes, very like her own and Bellone’s eyes. She had her long hair braided wrapped above the nape of her neck. Even at ten, Skye could see she was small-boned. The amount of necklaces, bracelets and rings should have taken her to the floor! When she gave her grandma a hug, she remembered she smelled like a field of flowers.

Stepping out of the shower and quickly drying off, Skye’s hand slipped over her necklace, the one she’d been wearing those 11 years. The necklaces her grandmother had given her granddaughters on that trip remained around their necks.

Dressed in shorts and tee, Skye followed the aroma of coffee rafting from the kitchen. Her nose detected bacon and eggs. Skye appreciated her twin in so many ways. She had taken up household duties since their parents had died. Gulping her coffee, she scooped her half-portion of the omelet sprinkled with bacon bits into some pocket bread and headed to the shop to touch basis with her sister.

****

Bent over the table of gems, Bellone finished the cleansing ritual. This had always been a fun part of her job. She would use burning sage, sometime frankincense, even putting them on a shelf where the sun came in through the window, but today she used Frankincense. She recalled how diligent the owner of the shop had been training sweet Skye and herself. She now knew so much about gems, she felt like a walking encyclopedia! It had been a win-win situation for the twins, both had full-time work once graduated from high school, letting the owner come when it was time to order and receive new inventory.

Bellone had picked rose quartz and celestite for the woman who was having a strenuous time in a relationship. She crooned a Gaelic song her mother had taught them many years ago. She felt love in return. Carefully she put them in a soft velvet bag. Boxing it and inserting instructions on how to use, she weighed, added postage and address label to the box then tossed it into the bin for the postman.

“You need to be ready for your next journey and with someone who needs all your energy and purity, my wee ones. Enjoy your new life and may you bring light and happiness.” Bellone sighed. She would miss working at Crystal Cove. But she didn’t feel such need to stay in Riverside. She knew she’d enjoy the new adventure. It was good to know the boss would welcome them both back with open arms if it didn’t work out in the Highlands.

The bell chimed and the door swung open. Bellone turned from her workbench to see Skye had come to visit. “Good morrow, sweet sister. Please don’t say you miss the work after just two days away,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes.

“Hey sis. No, I’m not yet, although I’m sure I will. I wanted to see the gemstones you told me about that came in yesterday.” Her eyes shifted to the workbench. Chuckling slightly Skye said, “It’s ironic to think they have just come from Scotland and we are heading there.”

“The boss really outdid herself this time. Twenty-four stones came in, three of eight different gems. Sweet sister, they are so beautiful, you will love them. You may want to purchase a few for your own collection. I haven’t put them on the shelves just yet. They are here on the workbench.”

Bellone looked at her work table. “I have five more orders to send out.” She picked up another paper with her sketches of a necklace and bracelet design already approved by the client. “The boss asked to have this expedited. Sweet sister, would you walk this envelope over to Josh?”

“Sure, sis. No problem.” Taking the envelope from her sister, she tucked it into her backpack.

The door chimed and opened. This time Bellone and Skye looked up. A customer stood just inside the entrance panning the room, looking at each wall sparkling with gemstones on glass shelves. Eventually, his eyes returned to the girls.

Bellone moved. “Good morning, sir. Is there a particular gem you were looking for today?”

The man was rough looking, certainly not the typical client. The rather bulky-built man only grunted and shook his head no.

Bellone arched one eyebrow while she watched the man pace the shop, favoring his right leg. She glanced at her twin, mouthing “What is wrong with him?”

Skye shrugged. Her eyes shifted to the gemstones left on the workbench, the ones that came from Scotland. With a furrowed brow and cocked head, she stood still.

Bellone could see Skye’s attention had gone elsewhere. Returning hers to the man she breathed with relief when the door chimed his departure. “Not a smile. Not a thank you. Not even a goodbye,” Bellone muttered.

She walked over to her twin. She now saw what had captured Skye’s attention. “There are no words for their beauty, are there? They are pure and as smooth as a baby’s cheek.” She picked up two of them and rubbed each on her cheeks.

“A gorgeous piece of God’s creation,” Skye managed to say in a voice that didn’t quite sound like her own. Skye picked up each stone, curling her fingers around each, with eyes closed in deep concentration.

Skye opened her eyes, turned to her sister with eyes as green as the last stone she held. Bellone could see so many emotions in them but the one she saw foremost was confusion. “I’ll take 13 of the 24. They’d make some cute jewelry.” She turned back to the table picking up the 13 she wanted with assurance.

Bellone didn’t question her. She knew Skye’s love for gemstones, but she questioned the strange look she saw on her face. She would wait until later to ask. Here and now was not the place. “Sure. I’m sure you’ll love them. I immediately thought of you when the shipment came in yesterday. I’ll get them cleansed and packaged up.”

While Bellone worked on removing any negative energy from the stones and any imprint of any other impurities, she thought again about the man who was a bit creepy with shifty eyes. She hoped never to see him again. But since she’d be in the shop for two more days and then on a plane to Scotland, she knew the odds were very improbable.

Bellone ran Skye’s debit card through the swiper. “Here sister mine.” Smiling she said, “I won’t add any cleansing or how-to-use instructions.”

“Thanks, sis. I’ll run the design over to the fabricator, then I need to make an appointment for our landlord to come see the apartment and furniture. After that, back to packing. I’m sure happy it all is coming together. We’ll turn in the leased car the same day we vacate the apartment.”

“When I get home this evening, I’ll finish cleaning the apartment. Should be able to have the landlord in for inspection day after tomorrow. Does that work?”

Nodding Skye, agreed. With a backward wave and clutching the package to her chest, she left the shop.

****

Holy Fairy Wings! What just happened? For appearances sake, not to scare Bellone, she had tried to appear as normal as possible. When she had walked into Crystal Cove, she had heard some commotion, little voices with what only could be in tones of joy. Thinking it to be kids playing behind the shop, she refocused on Bellone.

Just as the grumpy man entered the shop the voices got louder which drew her attention. This time she heard them from the workbench! Stepping closer she saw the most beautiful gemstones she had yet to see. They were all lined up as if for inspection. They continued to rattle on with excited animation. Happily, Bellone was busy with the customer, or she would have seen the dumbfounded look she must have had on her face. They were gorgeous, yes. But what the heck? They were communicating and it sounded like Gaelic. I’m totally losing it! Could. Not. Be. Possible.

Skye’s mouth fell open. She had to physically close it. She couldn’t help it. Her heart was creating its own drama–fight or flight. Okey-doke. Let’s get this under control. She decided to breathe deeply and look at this logically, if such a term could be used in a moment like this. Her gems at home hummed to her, so was it conceivable that they could talk? She raised her head in a prayer-like move, closing her eyes. I mean, really. Could I be losing my mind?

With a less chaotic mind, she squinted at the stones with curiosity, rather than fear. Not all the stones were ‘talking’. She counted 13 of 24 were. All those chattering were perfectly symmetrical with one side flat. She felt her mouth drop open, again, and knew her eyes were saucers.

She heard a voice in her head. It didn’t scare her—this was all a dream anyway, right? It isn’t really happening. Just a nice dream before she woke. It told her to take all the stones that spoke. They had come for her. Okey doke! Sure, stones just get themselves on transport, shipped to this shop waiting for me? That’s a little rich to swallow, she thought!

She played along, purchased the 13. That’s going to put her back a little, but then this is a dream. Clutching the small packet of stones, she headed to the fabricator to drop off the bracelet design.

****

Skye pushed the door open, heading toward the area she knew the fantastic designs were created. “Hey, Josh. How are you?” She could see he was soldering some pieces together and waited patiently until he looked up.

He pushed up his eye guard. “Skye! Nice to see ya.”

“Thanks. You, too.” Josh was part of the group of friends she and Bellone hung out with. “As I mentioned my last day at work was Tuesday. My sis is still there until tomorrow. I can’t believe we’ll be airborne Friday. I’m so not ready to go, but hope to be back in six months and start where we left off.”

“I have roots of my own in Scotland and love to visit. In fact, just because, let me give you the names and addresses of my great aunt and second cousin. They’re the part of family who keeps in touch.”

Skye smiled her thanks. “That’s great. I’d love to meet them. Skye dug into her backpack and pulled out the design.

“This is from the shop. It’s a design for bracelet and necklace. The boss wanted it expedited, so if you could, she’d be happy.”

Josh glanced over the design, nodding said, “This shouldn’t be too long in the making.”

An idea struck Skye. “I just purchased these gems.” As she unwrapped the package, she was again stunned by their absolute beauty.

Josh whistled. “Those are absolute beauties.” As they both looked at the gems it almost seemed the stones were purring with happiness.

Can gems do that? Definitely losing it.

“I know this is short notice since we’ve leaving on Friday afternoon, but do you think you could make a bracelet and necklace set out of these with a clever Celtic design? The stones aren’t too big so I don’t think it would be clunky.”

Josh considered a moment. Skye could see his mind already in design mode. This is the stuff he loved. He enjoyed being given free rein to design. He looked up at her. She saw him looking at her neck, her arm, then wrist,. Nodding slowly, he asked, “Would Friday morning delivery be good? It’ll take me at least that much time. I don’t mind working a little extra to get this done for you.”

“Josh, that would be perfect! I’m so fortunate to have you as a friend.”

Josh just grinned. “And because these are such beauties, it would be a privilege to design it for you and give as a gift. A going-away gift. Not a good-bye one because I hope to see you again.”

“Wow!” Skye responded with her own grin. “That is way too much to ask, but,” she lowered her voice in a whisper, “don’t be surprised if the stones tell you how they want to be set in the design.” Skye seemed to be coming out of shock if she could joke about the whole incident.

Josh laughed. “So it’s like that, is it? They must be Scottish. They are a stubborn lot of people.”

Yes, they be Scots, alrighty. You have no idea. “I’ve got to run, Josh. A few more errands and then packing.” I’ll drop by Friday morning at 9. Again, my thanks.” As she left the desk, she heard the gems squealing and saying in Gaelic. Haste ye back!  If Skye remembered what little Gaelic she knew from her mom, she thought they said hurry back and don’t forget us. As if! With a sigh, she accepted her lot—she wasn’t dreaming. This was real. She hoped Nanna Skye could help her understand what was happening.

 

Okay, please have at it!  And I thank you!  Hugs from Spainimg_0118

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Blog Tour with Valerie Bowman! NO OTHER DUKE BUT YOU ~ get your funnybone tickled with this tale.

No Other Duke But You Banner

Buy-Book Links: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250121684

Synopsis:

A lady with a love potion. A Duke who takes it by mistake. Romance and mischief ensues when plans go awry in No Other Duke But You by Valerie Bowman.

SINGLE LADY SEEKS DUKE Lady Delilah Montebank has her marital sights set on theNo Other Duke But You Cover Duke of Branville. There’s just one problem: he barely knows she exists. But no matter, she’s got a plan to win him over with her charm, her wit—and perhaps the love potion she has in her possession wouldn’t hurt her cause…

Lord Thomas Hobbs, Duke of Huntley, thinks his best friend Delilah’s quest to become a duchess is ridiculous. He’s always said he’d rather give up all the brandy in London than commit to one person for life. Besides, he knows that Delilah’s love potion can’t possibly win over Branville…since she accidentally gave it to him instead. But perhaps this is the excuse he needs to show her he’s always loved her…

Delilah can’t believe she gave the potion to the wrong duke. Then again, Delilah could do a lot worse than win the hand of her handsome best friend. Could it be that the right duke has been before her eyes all along?

 

Excerpt:
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Delilah glanced up and down the dim hallway. It was well past three in the morning, she was still dressed in the pink ball gown she’d worn to the party, and she clutched the small vial of Cupid’s Elixir in her sweaty, guilty palm. She pressed her back against the shadowed wall not far from the Duke of Branville’s bedchamber. She could do this. More importantly, she would do this. She’d come this far, hadn’t she? What did a little sneaking about in the middle of the night matter?

She’d got detailed instructions to Branville’s room from Derek, who thankfully hadn’t asked any questions about why she wanted to know. According to him, the room was four doors to the right, just past the staircase on the third floor. The third floor was where all the bachelor gentlemen were sleeping. It would be a complete scandal if she was found lurking about alone at this time of night, but she’d waited until the household seemed quite asleep and then waited a bit longer for good measure. Anyone who saw her now would be skulking about themselves, which meant they would hardly be in a position to judge her. She briefly wondered if she’d run into Lavinia.

It was not as if she was out to do anything particularly scandalous. It was more silly and frivolous than anything else. She’d simply die, however, if Branville woke up and asked her what she was doing sprinkling pixie water in his eyes. She’d already decided to pretend as if she were dreaming, thinking she was Puck in the play. Sleepwalking. That would make all the sense in the world. Wouldn’t it? She swallowed hard. Probably not, but she wasn’t about to let the fear of being caught stop her. Besides, all of her and Lucy’s matchmaking had turned into a colossal mess. If a spray of perfume could sort it out, so be it. Of course, Delilah’s conscience reminded her that she hadn’t offered any of the perfume to Rebecca to use on Thomas. She didn’t want to even contemplate that. She’d already shared it with one other person, and that made her guilty enough. The image of Madame Rosa’s disapproving, craggy face had haunted her all evening.

Delilah shook off the thought and turned her attention back to the matter at hand. Pressing her empty palm against the darkened wall, she inched her way along until she came to Branville’s door. She felt like a spy. This was how professional spies did such things, wasn’t it? Too bad she was too embarrassed by her actions to ask the veritable house full of professional spies who happened to be asleep behind other doors right now.

She transferred the vial into her opposite hand and slowly reached to grasp the door handle. The metal was cold in her bare hand. She’d discarded her gloves, deciding that they would make her actions more clumsy. The last thing she needed tonight was to be more clumsy than usual. Decidedly, she needed to be less so.

She clutched the door handle like a lifeline and closed her eyes, steadying her shaking fingers on the knob. She was close, so close. Praying that the door wouldn’t squeak, she turned the handle slowly. The only sound was the thumping of her own heart in her ears.

When the handle was turned as far as it would go, she pushed it, praying fervently that it wasn’t locked. It took a moment before she realized the door was opening. Its hinges silent, merci a Dieu. Completely silent.

She slipped inside the cool, dark room. Steady, deep breathing came from the bed. Thank goodness, she hadn’t woken the duke with her entrance. She could barely see a thing, but she didn’t dare light a candle. A tiny stream of moonlight filtered into the room through a small opening in the curtains on the far window. She used that to identify the hulking bed in the center of the room. She tiptoed over to it slowly, taking care in case there was anything to trip over. No doubt she would find it if there was.

She made it to the foot of the bed without incident and paused, trying to quell her nerves and dispel her guilt. She clutched the vial more tightly in her palm, shaking with fear and anxiety. Now that she was here, she had no earthly idea how to drop liquid on a man’s eyes without awakening him. Besides, how much of it was she supposed to use? Surely not much. She would employ the tiniest drops possible so as not to disturb him, but she also needed to ensure the perfume touched his eyelids. Tricky business, this being a fairy. She had a sudden appreciation for Puck.

Holding her breath, she lifted her skirts with her free hand and tiptoed to the right side of the bed. Because it was summer, the bed curtains weren’t drawn. The window was open, and a slight breeze blew through the crack in the curtains.

The outline of the duke’s body was barely visible in the moonlight. He was turned away on his side, his back to her, his face toward the window. She would have to lean over his body to sprinkle the elixir on his eyes. The bed was tall. She must carefully climb up to do this task properly. She only hoped she didn’t jostle the mattress enough to wake him.

She waited in silence for a few moments to ensure his breathing remained steady, then she carefully lifted first one knee and then the other, bracing them on the mattress and pulling herself up, still clutching the vial. She winced as he moved slightly in his sleep, but he kept his face turned away. Blast it.

Once she was fully atop the bed, she paused and hoped the hammering of her heart didn’t wake him. He smelled good, a combination of soap and maleness that she wanted to breathe in. There was something vaguely familiar about his scent.

Shaking away that unhelpful thought, she moved gingerly across the mattress on her knees until she came to a stop at his side. His shirt was off. The beam of moonlight hit his smooth, muscled arm. She swallowed. The man’s chest was positively swoon-worthy. She took a deep breath to calm her nerves and uncorked the vial. Then she carefully leaned over as far as she could to locate his eyes. They remained shrouded in the dark, but she took a guess as to their general direction and tipped the little vial as slowly and carefully as she could. He turned then, and she was afforded enough light to see that the first tiny drop of liquid did indeed fall directly onto his eyelid.

He blinked, and she held her breath. When he settled back into sleep, she closed her eyes and said a brief prayer that she would get away with it a second time before tipping the vial once more to allow another tiny drop to fall on his other eyelid.

He blinked and rubbed at his eyes while Delilah held her breath again, paralyzed with fear. Soon, he settled back into his pillow and his breathing returned to its steady pace.

She pressed a hand to her throat. It was over. She was done. All she had to do was extract herself from the bed and the room without being seen or heard. The difficult part was behind her.

Still praying he wouldn’t stir, she backed away from the duke. Slowly. Slowly. She’d nearly made it to the edge of the bed when he flipped over to face her. A beam of moonlight slid over his sleeping features.

Delilah gasped.

From No Other Duke But You. Copyright © 2019 by Valerie Bowman and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

Author Bio:

Valerie BowmanValerie Bowman grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her mini-schnauzers, Huckleberry and Violet. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PB

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