Friday, October 9, 2015

When Authors Wine & Sign

A couple weeks ago I gave myself an early birthday present: an evening with a group of friendly, funny, talented authors. Carolina Romance Writers, the Charlotte chapter of Romance Writers of America, is a group that boasts several published authors and I feel fortunate to be living among them. Some I know casually, a couple are good friends, and others I met for the first time Saturday night. What they all have in common is a love of romance and a burning desire to tell a story and, let me tell you, there are some darn good stories being told! When they announced their book signing, complete with cupcakes, wine, and twelve published authors, well, there was just no way I was going to miss that! 

Elizabeth Michels is a historical romance author who sparkles with wit and charm, just like her stories! Be sure to check out Elizabeth's Tricks of the Ton series! For more information about Elizabeth, visit her website and connect with her at Facebook.

On the night of the signing, Sophia Henry celebrated both her birthday and the publication of her debut contemporary romance, Delayed Penalty. Set in Detroit and centered around the minor-league Detroit Pilots hockey team, reading this book was like taking a step back in time to my college years and my own hockey-playing boyfriend. Delayed Penalty is filled with plenty of angst, sizzle and heart-tugging emotion. Check out Sophia's website and connect with her at Facebook.

Left to Right: Darynda Jones, Tracy Brody and Kieran Kramer. Talk about an awesome trio!

Darynda Jones, a NYT and USA Today bestselling author, isn't from Charlotte but was the guest speaker at CRW's monthly meeting held the same day as Wine & Sign. Jones won both a Golden Heart and a RITA for her debut book, First Grave on the Right, the story that introduced her enormously popular Charley Davidson series. The most recent book in the series, Eighth Grave After Dark was released in May. An upcoming novella, Brighter Than The Sun will be released October 6th. Read more about Darynda and her books at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

Tracy Brody is the 2015 Golden Heart winner for her romantic suspense manuscript, "A Shot Worth Taking." Follow Tracy's writing journey on Facebook.

USA Today bestselling author, Kieran Kramer writes feel-good contemporary romance with plenty of Southern sass, humor, and charm. Her newest book, Trouble When You Walked In, pits a romantic librarian against the town mayor/football coach who tries to shut down the library. Sparks are flying in Kramer's Kettle Knob, North Carolina! For more information about Kieran and her books, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook.

The ladies from Park Road Books in Charlotte love their romance! I know it's easy to order books from home on our computers but if you have the chance to support a local independent book store, please consider doing so.

Have you read Nancy Northcott's books yet? I love her modern-day, paranormal world set in southern Georgia. Renegade, the first full-length book in her Light Mages series remains one of my favorite paranormal romances. Nancy recently unveiled her (non-para) romantic suspense talents in the multi-author anthology, Capitol Danger. For more information on what Nancy has coming up, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook.

When J.A. Coffey isn't busy writing steamy, romantic, contemporary romances, she can often be found in the kitchen making cupcakes and other mouth-watering desserts. Check out her recent visit to TRD for a delicious salted caramel cupcake recipe. For more information about J.A. Coffey, visit her website and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Cupcakes and Cake Pops. Sweet treats! 

Jeni Burns writes paranormal romance, women's fiction and fantasy novellas with a splash of romance. She is also the wearer of fabulous shoes! Check out Jeni's books at her website and follow her busy life at Facebook and Twitter.

Right: Jeni with Darynda Jones. As you can see, she was having a devilishly good time! :)

If you've been looking for historical romances set in America, look no further than Caroline Lee. Her Sweet Cheyenne Quartet is set in Wyoming Territory during the late 1800's (read about the four books here). The first book in the series, A Cheyenne Christmas has more than 140 reviews with a 4.5 average rating and is currently FREE for Kindle.  Her new Brothers of Baird's Cove trilogy takes readers to Charleston, South Carolina during the years following the War Between the States. The first book in the series, Renegade was released in August. Learn more about Caroline and her books at her website and connect with her online at Facebook and Twitter.

A lover of both food (she's won cooking competitions sponsored by Food Network, Cooking Channel, and more) and romance, debut author Andria Gaskins has combined the two into a contemporary romance novel about "the joys and frustrations of getting older, starting over, and falling in love for the second time." I just bought a copy of A Second Helping and can't wait to read it! Get to know Andria by visiting her website (she shares recipes!) and connect with her online at Facebook and Twitter.

Reagan Phillips writes steamy romantic suspense. Her debut, Confess, the first book in her Blue Line series matches a hot homicide detective with a sexy bartender who has sworn off cops and, oh yeah, just happens to be the police chief's only daughter. Discover more about Reagan and her books at her website and connect with her online at Twitter and Facebook.

Left to Right: Missy Lynn Ryan and Nancy Northcott

If  you enjoy Urban Fantasy or sexy New Adult romance, check out the books of Missy Lynn RyanForbidden Alpha, the first book in Ryan's Urban Fantasy, Love Sex Magick series was released in August and is getting good reviews. You can find Missy online at her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Do you have an independent book store in your area? Are they romance friendly? Do they host book signings?

Does your local library host book signings?

Have you attended a book signing this year? What did you enjoy most about it?

What's your favorite sub-genre of romance? Have you discovered any new authors in that sub-genre that you would recommend?

What are you currently reading?

Two randomly selected people leaving a comment will each receive two books from Wine & Sign. (U.S. only)

One winner will receive autographed copies of Renegade by Caroline Lee and Trouble When You Walked In by Kieran Kramer.

One winner will receive autographed copies of Seventh Grave and No Body by Darynda Jones and Renegade by Nancy Northcott.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Paula Quinn Winner

The randomly chosen winner of a copy of

Seduced by a Highlander by Paula Quinn is:



Please send your full name and mailing address 

(or email address if you prefer a Kindle copy) to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Review - - Good Earl Gone Bad

Good Earl Gone Bad
By Manda Collins
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Release Date: October 6, 2015


Lady Hermione Upperton is elated to have reached her goal of membership in the Lords of Anarchy Driving Club, the first woman elected to the notorious group, but what was to have been her moment of triumph is turned into humiliation. In Hyde Park, shortly before Hermione is to drive in her first procession as a club member, the matched grays she purchased with her own money are claimed by Lord Saintcrow, who won them the previous evening from Hermione’s father, a compulsive--and unlucky--gambler. 

Fortunately, Hermione’s friends possess the loyalty and affection that her father lacks. Later, Leonora, now happily married to Lord Frederick Lisle, and Ophelia Dauntry accompany Hermione to the home of Saintcrow, all three disguised as ladies in heavy mourning, hoping to persuade Saintcrow that the horses were not the Earl of Upperton’s to wager. But Saintcrow is quite literally deaf to any reasoning; he is lying dead on the floor of the library.

Japer Fawley, Earl of Mainwaring, although less foolish and without Lord Upperton’s obsessive need, is almost as fond of gambling as the older man is. The evening before Hermione and her friends visited the Saintcrow home, Mainwaring, concerned about how far Upperton would go when he was prey to gambler’s fever, manipulated Hermione’s father into a card game in which Upperton staked his daughter’s hand. When Mainwaring calls on Hermione, expecting her father to have seen to it that the lady was home in readiness for a proposal, he learns about her visit to Saintcrow and goes in search of her. Even so intrepid a heroine as Hermione is pleased to see him after the shock of finding a dead body.

Mainwaring speeds the women on their way, and after removing evidence of Hermione’s presence, reports the death to the magistrate. He believes that Saintcrow’s murder is connected to the horse theft ring he is investigating for the Home Office, but his most immediate concern is Hermione’s reaction to their upcoming nuptials. Initially antagonistic, Hermione eventually accepts the necessity of the marriage and even concedes that Mainwaring’s household will be preferable to her father’s. Also, she cannot deny the power of Mainwaring’s kisses nor the real bond of friendship that has developed between them. But family fireworks and external danger must be dealt with before this earl and his countess can find their HEA.

I said when I read A Good Rake is Hard to Find, the first book in the Lords of Anarchy trilogy, that I thought it was Manda Collins’s best book yet, but I think that this one is even better. My heart belongs to Freddy, but Hermione and Jasper are more complex, layered characters. Intelligent, independent, and unconventional, Hermione is also flawed and vulnerable. She is stubborn and at times persistent to a fault. Her feelings for her father are a complicated mix of anger, resentment, disappointment, hurt, love, and understanding. She sees his weaknesses clearly, but she remembers the man he was before her mother’s death. I particularly appreciated that Hermione is not a feisty contemporary heroine in historical dress. She is a woman of her time, frustrated by the limits society imposes on her as a woman, using her considerable gifts to challenge those limits, and refusing to be cowed by a father’s betrayal, a lover’s demands, or a reluctant dowager’s harsh words. I adored her.

Despite Mainwaring’s rationale that “he was very likely saving Hermione from marriage to any one of the other men who sat at other tables . . ., their eyes bloodshot, concentration on the cards they held before them,” I had difficulty moving past his gambling for Hermione. He proposes the stake, and he loses himself, albeit briefly, in the gambler’s moment. But I did love the Benedick/Beatrice tones in the exchanges between him and Hermione, and he does show that he values Hermione for who she truly is. And I admit this passage left me sighing:

          Unable to look away, he stepped into her, liking the way she held her own with him. “The         truth is, I was afraid he’d lose you to someone else,” he admitted. “And I couldn’t have endured knowing you belonged to anyone else.”

Collins always does an excellent job of balancing mystery and romance in her books, and this one is no exception. Body count is low, but the nefarious ways of the hydra-headed Lords of Anarchy continue.  (I wonder if I am alone in seeing a nod to Mary Stewart in some details of the horse theft ring.) The Lords of Anarchy trilogy is a winner, and I highly recommend both this book and the previous one to readers who enjoy romantic suspense in historical romance.

The conclusion to the trilogy, Good Dukes Wear Black, will be available April 5, 2016. I am eager to see Ophelia Dauntry throw off her caution and to learn more about the somewhat enigmatic Duke of Trent.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Today's Special - - Adrienne Giordano's The Rebel Book Tour

I'm happy to welcome Adrienne Giordano's The Rebel book tour to The Romance Dish!  I read The Rebel today and thoroughly enjoyed both the love story between David and Amanda and the mystery in which they find themselves enmeshed.  The Rebel is the fifth book in Giordano's Harlequin Intrigue series but stands well on its own. Several characters from the previous books have minor roles in this book but I didn't feel like I was missing anything by not having read those books. However, now that I've sampled Giordano's writing, I want to download the others...and I will! 

USA Today bestselling author Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery.  She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane's Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction. 

Connect with Adrienne:  Website / Newsletter / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Street Team

Harlequin Intrigue
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Blog Tour Dates: October 1, 2015 – October 9, 2015
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Book Summary:

Bad to the bone…in all the right ways 

A brilliant civil lawyer, David Hennings has always been the outsider—at odds with his wealthy family, shunning relationships, defying convention as a sexy leather-jacketed biker. Which is why sculptor Amanda LeBlanc agrees to his request to reconstruct a skull from a cold case murder. The instant heat between them is scorching. 

But once Amanda takes the job and gets too close to the rebellious attorney, her carefully balanced life is upended by a series of methodical attacks. Someone doesn't want her to finish the job. Now David will risk everything not to lose the woman he unknowingly put in jeopardy.

* * *

Inside the stairwell of the hundred-year-old building on the city’s West Side, David climbed the last few steps leading to the landing of Amanda’s second-floor studio. He loved these old structures with the Portland stone and brick. The iconic columns on the facade urged the history major in him to research the place. Check the city records, see what information he could find on who’d built it, who’d lived here or which companies had run their wares through its doors.
Structures like this had a charm all their own that couldn’t be duplicated with modern wizardry. Old buildings, this building, had a life, a past to be researched and appreciated.
Or maybe he just wanted to believe that.
He rapped on the door. No hollow wood there. By the scarred look and feel of its heavy weight under his knuckles, it might be the original door. How amazing would that be?
The door swung open and a woman with lush curves a guy his size could wrap himself around greeted him. She wore jeans and a graphic T-shirt announcing he should make love, not war—gladly, sweetheart—and her honey-blond hair fell around her shoulders, curling at the ends. The whole look brought thoughts of lazy Sunday mornings, hot coffee and a few extracurricular activities, in a bed and out, David could think of.
To say the least, she affected him.
And she hadn’t even opened her mouth. Please don’t be an airhead.
Yep. That was the voice from earlier. Soft and sweet and stirring up all kinds of images right along with Sunday mornings and coffee. With any luck, more than the coffee would be hot.
Hokay. Mission Pam Hennings getting derailed by wicked thoughts. Time to get serious.
“Hi. Amanda?”
“Yes.” She held her hand out. “Amanda LeBlanc.”
David grasped her hand and glanced down at her long, elegant fingers folding over his. Her silky skin absorbed his much larger hand, and he might like to stay this way awhile. Nice hands. Soft hands. He’d imagined a sculptor’s hands to be work-hardened and rough. Not that she swung an ax all day, but he’d expected…different.
“Um.” She pointed at their still joined hands. “I kinda need that hand back.”
Epic fail, Dave. He grinned and regrettably slid his hand away. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but where have you been all my life?”
As recoveries went, it wouldn’t be listed among the top hundred in brilliance, but a man had to work with what he had. Still, her lips, those extraordinary, shapely lips, twisted until she finally gave up and awarded him with a smile.
“Good one,” she said. “Come inside and we’ll talk about your project.”

 * * *

Check out the other books in Giordano's Harlequin Intrigue series!

Readers, do you enjoy romantic suspense?

Do you read Harlequin Intrigue?

Do you enjoy a bad boy hero who's a really good guy as much as I do?

There is a tour-wide giveaway of a $25.00 eGift Card to an online book retailer of winner’s choice and three swag packs.

Blog Tour Stops

October 1, 2015

October 2, 2015

October 3, 2015

October 4, 2015

October 5, 2015

October 6, 2015

October 7, 2015

October 8, 2015

October 9, 2015

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review - - Evergreen Springs

Evergreen Springs
By RaeAnne Thayne
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Release Date: September 29, 2015

Cole Barrett has a wild past to live down and a full quota of problems to deal with in his present. A former rodeo cowboy as well known for his hard drinking and his womanizing as for his wins on the circuit, Cole wound up in prison after one too many bar fights. Now an ex-con, he has returned to his family’s ranch outside Haven Point, Idaho, trying to restore the ranch to what it once was and trying to ignore his estranged father. Cole cannot forgive his father for leaving him and his younger sister with their grandparents after their mother’s death, and he fiercely rejects all his father’s attempts at reconciliation. His ex’s recent death in an automobile accident left Cole struggling as the single parent of six-year-old Ty and eight-year-old Jazmyn. Cole loves his kids, but he doesn’t know them well, thanks to his ex’s efforts to cut him out of their lives. Ty is a happy spirit, but Jazmyn, an old soul with a heart full of anger and distrust, challenges Cole at every turn.  Then, there is his sister Tricia who showed up at the ranch pregnant with twins and estranged from her husband.  When Tricia sprains an ankle and goes into premature labor, Cole rushes her to the hospital where Devin Shaw is working in ER.

Devin, a childhood cancer survivor, is the golden girl of Haven Point. Not only is she a beloved family physician who returned to her tiny hometown to practice, but she also volunteers to sub in ER, to teach yoga to a group of senior citizens, and generally to lend a helping hand wherever one is needed.  She and Tricia were high school friends, so, of course, when Tricia is admitted to the hospital, Devin is there for her as physician and friend. When Tricia is placed on bed rest, leaving Cole with one more problem, Devin enlists the community to see that the family has meals prepared, she serves as babysitter for Ty and Jazmyn (who fall hard for her), and she eventually finds just the right housekeeper for the Barrett family.

To call the reclusive cowboy and the humanitarian doctor opposites is an understatement, but despite their differences, the attraction between them is strong. Not only does Cole find the lovely physician eminently kissable, but with her in his life, he understands his kids better, he participates in the community, and he even allows Devin’s senior citizens to visit the hot springs on his property. But when Cole realizes how important Devin is becoming to him, he is terrified. No more able to forgive himself for his past than he is to forgive his father, Cole brutally cuts Devin loose, convinced she deserves a worthier man. Even if he comes to his senses and realizes what he is losing, can Devin forgive him and trust him again?

Thayne’s website characterizes her books as “stories of hope, healing, and heart,” a description that certainly proved fitting for her popular Hope’s Crossing books and so far appears just as appropriate for the Haven Point books. Cole stands in need of all three qualities, and although, Devin is less complicated and needy than her hero, she has her own issues that seem hopeless and require a healing touch.

I’m a long-time Thayne fan. In addition to these two series, I’ve been reading her Cold Creek categories for years, and her Women of Brambleberry House trilogy is a favorite comfort reread. Thus, it is painful for me to say that while I found Cole an interesting, engaging character, thought the kids were adorable, and liked the secondary romance enough to wish that Tricia and her husband had their own book—and even though I love Christmas romances as much as I love Christmas chocolates--Devin was so sweetly perfect that she set my teeth on edge. This is the same Devin who we are told in Redemption Bay (book 2) joyously welcomed her father’s illegitimate daughter as the sister she had always wanted. Doesn’t she ever make a wrong move? I know some people are generous spirits for whom giving is the natural choice, but even these people have faults. For me, Devin would have been more likeable and more believable if she had had a few flaws mixed with all that sweetness and light.

If you have enjoyed other books in the Haven Point series (Evergreen Springs is the third) or in the Hope’s Crossing series or if you are a mega fan of small-town romances with Christmas settings and themes, you will probably like this book enough to forgive a weakness in the heroine. I promise Cole’s family alone is enough to squeeze your heart a time or three, and he is a captivating hero. And Haven Point is not far removed from the reality of those of us who live in small towns where people really do prepare meals for the family when babies are born and when family members fall ill or die and friends call around for recommendations when someone needs a nurse or a maid. If things are more ideal in fiction, perhaps that’s a forgivable flaw.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Today's Special - - Paula Quinn

I'm delighted to welcome historical romance author Paula Quinn to TRD today. It took Paula's family a while to convince her to submit her stories but I am so glad that she did! She's been publishing her highlander romances since 2005 and her MacGregors of Camlochlin are one of my favorite fictional families. Her newest book, The Taming of Malcolm Grant is a second generation story that stole my heart. A few fun facts about Paula from her website:

 My character who... 
...I fell the most in love with: Callum MacGregor. 
...made me smile the most: Finlay Grant 
...I found the sexiest: Dante Risande, Prince Gareth and Tristan MacGregor 
...I wanted to slap a few times: Claire Stuart 
...affected me in a profound way: William the Conqueror 
...I want to be friends with: Maggie MacGregor and Davina Montgomery 
...I find distractingly handsome: Connor Grant scenes were the easiest to write: Connor Grant and Brand Risande 
...I hated: all of my villains

For more information about Paula and her books, visit her website and connect with her online (links at the end of this post). 

Welcome, Paula! Congratulations on the release of The Taming of Malcolm Grant. I’ve been looking forward to this story for the longest time. Please tell our readers what they can expect from Malcolm and Emma’s book.

Thank you so much for inviting me! It’s a pleasure to be here!

Hmm, what can you expect from Malcolm and Emma’s book? You can expect sizzle! Lots of swagger from a hero who has basically had every thing, including women, handed to him with the slant of his smile. You can expect him to fall flat on his handsome face when he meets a woman who isn’t affected by what she sees. You can expect romance and action and even a seeing eye dog.

Emma is one of my favorite heroines from the MacGregor/Grant series. What inspired you to create a blind character and why did you feel she was the right woman for Malcolm?

I already knew Malcolm from my precious books and I knew he needed someone to set him straight,
someone who wouldn’t be moved by his physical appearance. I knew Malcolm was changing from his earlier days, but it wasn’t enough to win the heart of someone like Emma. 

Emma doesn’t see with her eyes but with her heart, her intuition, her hands. Malcolm’s appearance doesn’t mean a damn thing to her. She’s looking for a good man with a good heart, a man of honor.  Lucky for Malcolm, the first “glimpse” she has of him is him rescuing her beloved dog.

Dogs play a pivotal role in many of your books. What role do they play in your real life?

Oh, gosh, there isn’t enough time! I grew up with dogs. My dad brought home my first dog when I was three, a black lab/terrier, who shared my life for fifteen years. I currently am owned by six Chihuahuas whose collect weight is twenty-three pounds. They are the light of my life and bring joy to me everyday.

Malcolm is so much more than he appears to those who take him at face value. In what ways did he surprise you while creating his story?

When Malcolm first appeared in The Seduction of Miss Amelia Bell, he was a careless rake whose only mission in life was to fight and bed women. He did both often and well.  I saw changes in him when he appeared in The Wicked Ways of Alexander Kidd. When he sided with his sister, Caitrina ‘s decision to stay with her pirate and leave Camlochlin, I saw traces of regret that he hadn’t known love. Before I began writing his book, I sensed him as a lonely man in a mask with a very complex heart and a fear of never finding what his heart truly wanted.

You’re very skilled at creating a sense of time and place within your books. What draws you to the medieval era and to Scotland in particular?

Thank you for the huge compliment! I’ve always been drawn to the past, especially the medieval era. Much like my characters, I grew up on stories of King Arthur and his knights.  If there is a king or a knight involved, I’m in!  Scotland began to tug on my heartstrings about six years before I wrote the book that started it all, Laird of the Mist. I’d cry at the sound of bagpipes, fall into a dreamy daze looking at pictures, etc. It took a long time to tackle a Scotland set story because I thought it would be too emotionally draining. It was. Researching and writing about the MacGregors and the proscription against them had me crying more than I was writing.  They are the clan of my heart and I’m so honored to tell their stories.

What’s the last book that made you laugh out loud?

I have to say—mostly because I don’t have much time to read—that it was one of my own. Seduced By A Highlander. Tristan and Tamas. J

October is the month when changing leaves, college football and homemade soups bring me joy. What are you looking forward to this month?

Ah, sweaters and boots and scarves. Scarves are my weakness. Not sweating will be nice too!

Where can readers connect with you online?

I love to connect with my readers. I can be found on Facebook
And on Twitter @Paula_Quinn

What’s next from Paula Quinn?

I’m currently working on book 1 of 4 of my Highland Heirs Part 2 series. Cailean Grant, Malcolm’s younger brother gets his own story!

Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Paula. Would you like to ask our readers a question?

Thank you so much for having me! I had a blast!

Readers,  describe your perfect Highlander.

Readers, you know how much I enjoy sharing books I've loved. Leave a comment on today's post for a chance to win a copy of one of my favorite MacGregor books, Seduced by a Highlander.

Read my review of Seduced by a Highlander here.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Review - - Forever Your Earl

By Eva Leigh
Wicked Quills Of London-Book 1
Release Date: September 29, 2015

Forever Your Earl is the first book in The Wicked Quills of London series by Eva Leigh. In this book, we meet Eleanor Hawke, founder, creator, and editor of The Hawke’s Eye, a notorious scandal sheet that reports and skewers the goings-on of the upper classes of London. One frequent target of the paper is the notorious Daniel Balfour, the Earl of Ashford.  When the earl walks into her office, she thinks he’s there to confront her about what the Hawke’s Eye has written about him. Instead, he issues an irresistible proposal-he will allow the Hawke’s Eye exclusive access to his life and let them report on his comings and goings.  What happens next is a fast paced story as we follow Eleanor and Daniel on a madcap adventure.

However, it quickly becomes apparent that Daniel has an ulterior motive for making his offer to Eleanor. He is on a secret mission, and is hoping to throw Eleanor off the scene by keeping her attention, and the attention of the ton, off his true objectives.  Daniel is in the middle of a desperate search for one of his best friends, the heir of Duke of  Holcombe. I liked that Daniel doesn’t live up to his “rakish” reputation. Instead, Eleanor and the reader come to see Daniel as a man of depth, sincerity, and most of all, loyalty. Daniel is a man Eleanor comes to respect and admire.  Instead of being another careless pampered spoiled aristocrat, Daniel is a man who is searching for meaning and purpose.  I love that the romance and attraction between the two characters wasn’t just based on looks and the physical. Eleanor and Daniel fall in love because they respected the other’s intellect and abilities. This was a meeting of the minds and heart, not just bodies.

I really loved the character of Eleanor and she is someone who’d I want as a friend in real life. She is hardworking, ambitious, talented, loyal, and takes pride in her work and all that she has accomplished.  She is proud of building The Hawke’s Eye from almost nothing, and will not allow anyone to insult or dismiss it, even Daniel.  I liked that this book actively celebrates women’s ingenuity, creativity, and perseverance in a society that almost actively goes out of its way to stymie and stifle them at every turn.

The relationship between Eleanor and Daniel was great. There is a slow burn as they both deal with the obvious chemistry and attraction between them. It was interesting to see how both dealt with it. While Daniel rather quickly comes to accept his feelings and becomes determined to be with Eleanor, no matter what, Eleanor has more doubts.  Eleanor hasn’t had anything permanent in her life that she hasn’t built herself, that couldn’t be yanked away at a moment’s notice. It becomes very difficult for her to reach out and depend on anyone but herself. However, the way Eleanor comes to see that the leap of faith is worth is was truly lovely. I like that to the end, Eleanor and Daniel decide to be the master of their own fates, to shape their own lives the way they want, to what makes them happy instead of what society expects of them.

One of the aspects of the book I enjoyed was that the author writes from a specific and definite point of view.  Leigh discusses gender identity and politics, class, and privilege, and sharply questions and criticizes societal norms that disadvantage Eleanor for simply being who she is, while elevating Daniel for the exact same reason.  For example, when Eleanor disguises herself as a man and Daniel is coaching her on how to pull off the deception, Eleanor notes the immense difference in carriage and attitude. Men are taught to take up space, stride and act as if they own the world. Women, by contrast, are restricted (sometimes literally by the clothes they wear) and are taught to shrink themselves and be as inconspicuous as possible.  But instead of ramming the message down our throats, Leigh frames it as a learning opportunity.  Daniel learns to question his beliefs and assumptions as his eyes become opened to issues he’d never considered before.

I recommend Forever Your Earl to anyone who enjoys smartly written romances with strong heroines who aren’t afraid to blaze their own path and create their own futures, and heroes who steadfastly refuse to give up despite the odds.